News

1. Furey on Assoun

Glen Assoun. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Justice Minister Mark Furey continues to not really weigh in on Glen Assoun’s wrongful conviction.

Jennifer Henderson reports that the Minister of Justice thinks an apology is premature:

“An apology would be premature at this time until I have an opportunity to review the full scope of the file,” said Furey. “It’s a complex file and I need to understand all of the circumstances.”

Given the botched police investigation and admission by the RCMP there was tampering with evidence, I asked the minister what more he needed to know.

“I think we all recognize that elements of this demonstrate a miscarriage of justice,” said Furey, whose previous career included 32 years as an RCMP officer. “That’s the area we have to focus on.”

Henderson also notes that the minister has all the authority to call an inquiry, and doesn’t have to defer to the feds.

Click here to read the full story.

2. Provincial budget

Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday, the provincial government announced it had unexpectedly run a $120 million surplus for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. When I heard this on the radio yesterday, I thought about all the things for which the province supposedly has no money. The $120 million is totally insignificant in relation to the overall debt, but it does represent money that could have been spent on much-needed services instead.

Jennifer Henderson digs into the reasons for the surplus and looks at some unexpected expenditures, including money for cleaning up the mercury and arsenic from old gold mines. Come for the budget news, stay for Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines’ stand-up routine:

Amazingly, Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines remains both confident and hopeful The Cat will sail this season. The Minister says it’s “possible” the season could be extended into October if the boat gets on the water. The timing of that is totally in the hands of the US Customs and Border Patrol. The minister said the US Service has rules regarding how much physical space it requires to conduct its affairs and the footprint or design of the Bar Harbor terminal falls somewhat short in that regard.

Click here to read “Provincial budget update: increased surplus and debt reduction, but also large bills for cleaning up historic toxic mines and the Yarmouth ferry.”

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3. Not answering the questions

Premier Stephen McNeil. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

The ever-busy Jennifer Henderson also reports on Stephen McNeil’s meeting with reporters following yesterday’s cabinet meeting. McNeil took questions on the Inverness airport proposal and the ‘conquered peoples’ case. Guess what? Answers on the latter were not particularly forthcoming.

The story has been updated to reflect yesterday’s announcement by Bernadette Jordan, the federal minister of Rural Economic Development, that the federal government will not consider funding the proposed Inverness airport.

Click here to read “Stephen McNeil dodges questions about the proposed Inverness airport and the ‘conquered peoples’ case.”

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4. McNeil decries (some) racism

This is actually a thing.

At The Star Halifax, Taryn Grant reports on Premier Stephen McNeil’s, er, boldish stand against racism.

McNeil took to social media on Wednesday to decry “several acts of racial and religion-based discrimination” which he called “disappointing and disheartening.”

When asked how the individual incident of alleged racism in Berwick differed from the racism evidently perpetrated by Nova Scotia police, McNeil deferred to a separate issue.

“I apologized for the home for coloured children,” he said, referring to a former Halifax orphanage that faced allegations of child abuse and neglect spanning from the 1920s to the 1980s.

5. That Dal logo

The new Dal social media brand.

At Global, Alexander Quon digs into 250 pages of documents released under a Freedom of Information request, to find out how Dalhousie University rolled out its new social media avatar (above) and responded to criticism.

One alumnus said he believed Dalhousie could create a better logo than something that looked like it had been “done in MS paint 99.”

Another said he and fellow alumnus felt the new icon looked like a logo a “no-name brand or dollar store would have.”

Others simply called it “hideous” and that Dalhousie deserved a logo that reflects “how awesome the university is.”

At its core, this is a story about communications. The university was changing its social media branding, not its official logo. But that message didn’t seem to get through. Quon notes that some of the backlash came after the logo appeared on LinkedIn, in place of the Dal crest. The idea seems to be that if you want to mess around with the image on Twitter, that’s one thing, but LinkedIn is more corporate and sober. (Also hellish, but that’s another issue.)

(Disclosure: I do some writing on contract for Dalhousie’s communications and advancement offices.)

6. Everything is a market

Don’t call 911 if your parents are serving you a salad you don’t like.
Don’t call 911 if your parents are serving you a salad you don’t like.

In his Chronicle Herald Entrevestor column, Peter Moreira gushes this time about Eli technologies.

Aiming to revolutionize the 911 emergency call market, Halifax-based Eli Technologies is in discussions with three countries and some of the world’s largest companies about the release of its platform in the next nine months.

I confess I’d never thought of offering 911 services as a market, but I guess the technology has to come from somewhere.

Someone I know was telling me that she was one of the first crop of 911 operators hired in a small Ontario town when the service was introduced. They worked out of the police station. All the cops were men and all the 911 operators were women. Young, blond women. Their boss called them “the girls.”

Oh, and the existence of the Entrevestor column continues to blow my mind. You can read a press release that’s almost identical to the Chronicle Herald story on the Entrevestor blog.


Views

Future-proofing Lockeport

Future Proofing Lockeport flyer. Photo: Facebook

Last Monday, I gave a talk on home fermentation at the Sable River Community Hall. I’ve passed through Sable River many times, but am sorry to say I had never noticed it before. (It’s between Liverpool and Shelburne and, in my defence, there is not a lot to notice from the 103.)

The talk was at the Sable River Community Hall, built in 1903 by volunteers and recently renovated. A woman in a t-shirt that said “Future Proofing Lockeport” caught my eye, so after the talk I asked her about it. (I called her a couple of days later too, to ask her more questions.)

Her name is Becky Williams, and she’s lived most of her life (she’s 53) in Lockeport. Becky remembers when the town had around 1,500 year-round residents. She says it’s down to about 450 now. Of course, the numbers go up in summer, and some retirees have chosen to move (or move back) to the town. Young people? Not so much.

As I was talking to Becky, I was struck by her resourcefulness. Like so many people in rural and small-town Nova Scotia, she’s had to figure out how to make a living so she can live in the place she loves. Becky started out as a hairdresser nearly 34 years ago, but she started to lose regular customers when the Alberta oil boom came along, and as some of her older customers passed away.

“I lost nine monthly clients, who would pay $100 a month, because they were moving out west to the land of milk and honey as I call it, or they passed on. That’s $900 a month gone. Holy smokes! I needed to find something else!”

She opened up Becky’s Knit and Yarn shop, where she sells yarn, including yarn specially dyed for her with custom colours. Then she bought an RV so she can take her yarn sales on the road to local festivals, markets, and events. Oh, and she’s started an annual knitting festival too. She still cuts hair one day a week “to pay my phone bill and my light bill and my RV payment.”

I’ve met a lot of people like Becky. They are passionate about their communities, they want to stay there, and they want to figure out ways to help young people make a life there. I asked her if it bothered her to see the government potentially spending money on projects like the Inverness airport (it hadn’t been killed yet). She said, “Yeah, it does… And personally, I think the ferry is beyond — it’s absolutely ludicrous. We’re paying for it and it’s not even running.”

“And you’re the people it’s supposed to help,” I said.

When I asked her about Future Proofing, she told me, “We are a citizen-led coalition that is basically about revitalizing and future-proofing Lockeport for generations to come.” The group is a non-profit society, which she chairs. For now, they are holding weekly meetings — an hour long, every Tuesday, near the beach, where residents are working on a wish-list of items they’d like to see. Some are infrastructure-related, some have to do with attracting more tourists, some are about dealing with climate change and making the town attractive to young people and tradespeople (apparently if you’re a carpenter you can do well in Lockeport).

The group did invite Robert Cervelli, head of the Centre for Local Prosperity down to facilitate a couple of meetings. You may remember Cervelli from Tim’s stories on Origin BioMed, a company that went bust, but not before getting millions in government funding. Tim wrote:

One of my concerns with NSBI’s involvement with Origin BioMed is that the company is selling a socially worthless product. Neuragen is a homeopathic cream with exactly zero medical value, and the company preys on desperate people looking for pain relief.

On the Centre for Local Prosperity website, Cervelli, the organization’s executive director, describes himself as “a life science tech start-up entrepreneur for over 25 years” who “understands the issues related to new business creation and the health of resilient local economies.”

The town of Lockeport allocated $849 to the Centre for Local Prosperity in its 2019-2020 budget. Town councillor Dayle Eshelby is also on the board of the Centre for Local Prosperity.

There is a whole cottage industry in Nova Scotia of non-profit groups working on sustainability and local economic development, and I’d love to dig into what they do a bit more in the future.

But that’s for another time.

For now, I’ll give the last word to Becky: “You need the right kind of person to come here who appreciates the natural beauty and doesn’t have to be entertained every night of the week. I walk on the beach, that’s my entertainment.”


Noticed

Window boxes on Birmingham Street. Photo: Stephen Archibald

When I’m waiting at the garage or dealer for my car to be done, I sit around drinking the coffee (sometimes to my regret), look through the magazines, if there are any, or scroll through stuff on my phone. Sometimes I read a bit. If it’s a longer wait I bring my laptop, optimistically thinking I’ll get some work done.

Fortunately for us, Stephen Archibald does none of these things. He goes for a walk.

Recently, Archibald ambled his way from the dealership on Robie over to Schmidtville, stopping for some ice-cream on the way, and noticed the window boxes as he went. I’m shocked to learn he’d never paid any particular attention to window boxes before. Archibald shares photos of a variety of boxes with many different plants in them, including a series of house-front boxes and mini-gardens on Bauer he calls “a generous gift to the street.”

Window boxes and mini-gardens. Photo: Stephen Archibald

I like what Archibald has to say about the window boxes at the conclusion of his walk:

I’m not particularly excited by window boxes, but as I did my little survey they began to feel like code for something bigger: citizens saying, we love our neighbourhood and we want others to see our affection. And on blocks where many people had created front of house gardens, the series of generous gestures made me sense their good will. Also made me think about the many modern developments that crowd sidewalks but offer no pleasure to the eye, or sense that they care about their community.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

No public events.

Next week

Town Hall: The Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts: Building, Concert Hall, and Governance (Tuesday, 7pm, Faith Tabernacle, 6225 Summit Street) — from the event listing:

There are over 7000 signatures of concern on a petition launched in June 2019 regarding the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts and the historic building in which it is situated. There has been public demand for a town hall to discuss the future direction of the Conservatory’s building and concert hall and the Conservatory’s governance structure. The Conservatory Faculty Association feels there is enough information to host a town hall on all of these issues, and therefore invites the general public, the Conservatory’s Board of Governors, staff, faculty, parents and students, and other stakeholders to a Conservatory town hall.


In the harbour

05:30: Hoegh Seoul, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Dundalk, Maryland
06:00: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Valencia, Spain

The Queen Mary 2. Photo: Halifax Examiner

06:15: Queen Mary 2, cruise ship, with up to 2,620 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Cornerbrook, on a 12-day cruise from Liverpool, England to New York
06:30: Queen Elizabeth, cruise ship with up to 2,503 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York on a 18-day cruise from For Lauderdale, Florida to Southampton, England
07:15: Dalian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
10:00: AIDAvita, cruise ship with up to 1,582 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Sydney, on a 14-day roundtrip cruise out of Montreal [St. John’s]
11:30: Hoegh Seoul sails for sea
16:30: ZIM Qingdao sails for New York
17:30: Queen Mary 2 sails for New York
18:00: Queen Elizabeth sails for St. John’s
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for Saint-Pierre
20:00: Dalian Express sails for Dubai
20:30: AIDAvita sails for St. John’s

Cruise ship on Sunday: Zuiderdam, with up to 2,364 passengers


Footnotes

Headline this morning at CBC Nova Scotia.

I understand the importance of the word “alleged.” But if someone has spray-painted hateful, anti-gay words and phrases on the outside of an apartment building, what’s alleged about it? I don’t get the use of the word in this headline. If there is a good reason for it that I’m missing, please let me know.


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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. A police force destroying exculpatory information goes far beyond ticket-fixing. It’s an assault on the heart of democracy. However, the Halifax police commission and SIRT completely lack the tools to properly investigate malfeasance by a public body as powerful and tight-lipped as the RCMP.

    Justice Kennedy’s decision that Justice Minister Mark Furey’s time with the force does not put him in conflict was naive. There is a difference between conflict and bias, but the results are often the same. The RCMP is known for its pride and loyalty, but those virtues constitute a bias when public accountability is involved and there’s no reason to presume veterans such as Furey are free of it.

    The justice minister, for the sake of his own integrity if nothing else, needs to step aside from this issue and let the premier call a public inquiry with the power to compel testimony. Anything less is the equivalent on bringing a knife to a gunfight.

  2. really, come to Lockeport. It’s incredibly beautiful. I am from Vancouver, spent a week at a cottage on the beach here years ago and moved heaven and earth (and my job) to get back. Now I am a CFA . Your kids can run across the road from school to the beach for gym class.

  3. The Government bragging about having a surplus is like bragging about having extra money in your pocket because you didn’t pay the rent this month. Governments love to pander to their audience when they run a surplus. What such as surplus really means is that during the fiscal year money did not get spent on priorities like health care, education, and other needed programs. A good fiscal budget should ideally show an exact balance. A surplus like that being bragged about by the Premier should be seen as a failure not any kind of success.