News

1. NDP keeps Cape Breton Centre, but loses Truro to PCs

Unofficial results of March 10, 2020 by-election from Elections Nova Scotia.

By-election results are in and Progressive Conservative candidate Dave Ritcey will fill former NDP MLA Lenore Zann’s seat in Truro-Bible Hill, while NDP candidate Kendra Coombs will take over from her NDP predecessor in Cape Breton Centre.

The Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly is now made up of 26 Liberals, 18 Progressive Conservatives, five New Democrats, and two independent members.

“Voter turnout in Cape Breton Centre was 51.6 per cent, while in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River it was 35.7 per cent,” reported Michael Gorman for the CBC.

2. High-production forestry zones

Jennifer Henderson dives into a discussion paper on “high-production forestry zones,” which is up for public comment until Friday. The paper proposes using 18% of Crown lands for intense tree farming with high rotation of three Spruce species designed to maximize wood yield. The proposal, writes Henderson, is rooted in the 2018 Lahey report, but proposes different methods and intensity levels for the high- production zones.

Read Henderson’s report here, for subscribers only.

3. Atlantic Gold’s incommunicative communications

Atlantic Gold’s booth at PDAC. Photo: Joan Baxter

This item is written by Joan Baxter.

A week ago, on Day Three of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention in Toronto, I made the rounds of booths in the “Investors Exchange” hall, seeking out the gold exploration or mining companies currently working in Nova Scotia, as I wrote here.

The representatives of four companies — Transition Metals, Anaconda Mining, Meguma Gold, Northern Shield Resources — were helpful and willing to answer any questions I asked. So were prospectors I met in the so-called “Prospectors Tent” — John Shurko, president of 21Alpha Resources, and Perry MacKinnon, VP Exploration of Osprey Gold.

One company, however, refused to answer questions, and that was Atlantic Gold.

Atlantic Gold operates the Touquoy open pit gold mine in Moose River (or what used to be, since the village was razed for the mine and doesn’t exist any more), and the company is planning to open no fewer than three more open pit gold mines along the province’s Eastern Shore — at Beaver Dam, Fifteen Mile Stream, and most controversial of all, on the banks of the St. Mary’s River at Cochrane Hill, a few kilometres north of Sherbrooke.

It happened this way.

Dustin O’Leary’s LinkedIn page.

One of the three people in the booth when I happened by last Tuesday was Dustin O’Leary, communications manager for Atlantic Gold. We are familiar to each other from that ill-fated public information session in Sherbrooke last May, which O’Leary hosted and at which John Perkins was brutally arrested, which the Halifax Examiner covered here and here.

O’Leary and I are also old email pals. Basically, every time I write an article that refers to Atlantic Gold, I email him questions. And every time, he writes back with a standard response that Atlantic Gold has “elected not to participate in the series of articles you are writing.”

But this was a public venue, the “world’s premier mineral exploration and mining” convention meant to showcase the industry, and here was the Atlantic Gold communications manager right before me in person. So after O’Leary and I exchanged pleasantries, I said I hoped he would answer a few questions.

He replied that they didn’t have anybody who was going to answer questions.

I responded that he was the communications guy, so surely …

He said they were not going to do it at “the show,” and said I could email him.

“But you always write back that you’re not going to participate in my articles,” I replied.

I persisted, ever-so-politely, asking if anyone had come from Australia to PDAC 2020. Last summer, the Australian company St. Barbara acquired Atlantic Gold for $722 million. I was curious as to whether someone from St. Barbara had come to Canada for the mining convention, given that the company has only one gold mine in Papua New Guinea and another in Australia, and seems to be putting more of its eggs in Canada. It has one operating mine in and three new ones planned for Nova Scotia, in addition to thousands of exploration claims it holds in the province.

O’Leary replied that no one had come from Australia. But when I tried to ask another question, this one about the provincial government’s decision to open public consultation on a new protected wilderness area that would overlap with Atlantic Gold’s proposed open pit gold mine at Cochrane Hill, O’Leary replied that he was not going to answer that there.

Once again, he said I should email him and he would see what he could do.

I asked him who made the decision about whether he could speak with me, and he said it was a “decision made internally,” before repeating, “you can email me.”

My last words to him were a plea for genuine answers, and not an email with that same line about “electing” not to “participate” in my “articles.”

“Okay,” he said. “If nothing else, I will change it up.”

On my return to Nova Scotia, I emailed O’Leary:

As you recommended, I am sending you the questions I had hoped to ask the Atlantic Gold team at PDAC.

1. Can you send me — or direct me to — an organizational chart that shows the corporate structure of St. Barbara? 

— You mentioned that Atlantic Gold is a wholly-owned subsidiary of St. Barbara, but where is it domiciled? 

— Are there other subsidiaries?

2. On January 10, 2020, Nova Scotia Environment Minister Gordon Wilson announced public consultations on six new protected wilderness areas, including Archibald Lake Wilderness Area that would “protect 684 hectares (ha) of woodlands, lakes and several small wetlands in the watershed of Archibald Brook, an important tributary of the St. Mary’s River.” And: “Archibald Lake is also identified in Atlantic Gold’s description for the proposed Cochrane Hill Gold Project: https://ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/evaluations/proj/80159?culture=en-CA. The company’s proposed use of Archibald Lake cannot be permitted within a wilderness area.”

— How would this affect Atlantic Gold’s proposed Cochrane Hill Gold project?

— Has the company developed an alternative plan for the proposed Cochrane Hill Gold project, to accommodate the possibility that the Archibald Lake Protected Wilderness Area could be proclaimed?

3. With its extensive exploration licences in Nova Scotia, is Atlantic Gold doing any advanced exploration (drilling, etc) that might lead to another gold project? If so, where?

4. Does Atlantic Gold have any exploration properties outside of Nova Scotia … anywhere else in Canada?

5. I understand that Atlantic Gold has secured some historic mine tailings at the Touquoy site. Can you elaborate on that — how many T[onnes] of tailings, and how are they secured? 

6. Have there been any spills or leaks at Touquoy since the one that was reported in January 2019? 

7. Now that Atlantic Gold is owned by St. Barbara, which is not on a Canadian stock exchange, it is no longer reporting its payments to government to ESTMA [Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act]. For the sake of transparency, however, would you be able to provide the information that would have gone to ESTMA for 2019 — royalties and taxes paid to all levels of government in Canada? 

Thank you for your help with the above, looking forward to hearing from you. 

This is how Dustin O’Leary replied to my questions:

I thank you for the interest you have in Atlantic Gold’s operations, however, our company is declining to participate in the article(s) you are writing.

4. PDAC and Covid-19

This item is written by Tim Bousquet.

Last night, Public Health Sudbury and Districts announced that a Sudbury man has tested positive for Covid-19. The man in his 50s has been sent home and told to self-quarantine for 14 days.

While the Public Health investigation is ongoing, it is known that on March 2 and 3, this individual attended the PDAC (Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada) 2020 convention in Toronto. Public Health Sudbury & Districts is actively engaged in follow up and is collaborating with the Ministry of Health and the local health system.

“Having a confirmed case in our area is not unexpected given the transmission of this virus around the world,” Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Sudbury & District Medical Officer of Health. “Although this is concerning, as a community and as a health system, we have been preparing for COVID-19. Our focus is on breaking the chain of transmission to limit the spread of infection and as a precautionary measure, we are asking those who attended PDAC 2020 to monitor for symptoms for 14 days,” said Dr. Sutcliffe.

“This is the second instance of community transmission of COVID-19, which refers to local human-to-human spread not linked to travel outside of Canada,” reports Carly Weeks, the health reporter for the Globe & Mail. “The first instance was confirmed by B.C. officials last week in a woman who works in a long-term care facility. Officials have declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility and one person who lives there has died.”

The Sudbury man attended the very same PDAC convention that Joan Baxter attended and reported on for the Halifax Examiner.

Baxter had warned of this very scenario in an article on Feb. 28, and of the mixed messaging from the Public Health Agency of Canada and Toronto Public Health around the risks for PDAC attendees.

Once at the conference, Baxter related the lax attitude among convention organizers, in an article headlined “Coronavirus Convention“:

As for precautions, I wish I could say I say I thought I saw enough of them. But I didn’t. I went from washroom to washroom, washing my hands long and hard and noticing that only a few others seemed to be doing the same (although the vast majority of attendees are men, so I don’t know what was going on in their washrooms). I looked for signs of the “increased cleaning,” and saw no sign of it.

Health advice at the PDAC meeting. Photo: Joan Baxter

There were a few signs with some tips to “help stop the spread of germs,” but those tended to be overshadowed by the giant corporate advertisements everywhere you looked.

Nor did PDAC itself provide an abundance of “alcohol-based hand sanitizer.” Although many individual exhibitors did have sanitizers in their booths, PDAC Hand sanitizer stations in the large public spaces are few and far between, and I saw only one person using one.

I guess some attendees are too caught up promoting mineral exploration and mining — and eyeing the profits to be accrued — to remember to pay attention to such details. After all, in his opening address, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister O’Regan did say that everyone should be “behind this industry,” declaring that “Mining’s moment is now!”

Let’s hope it’s not also Covid-19’s moment.

I hope Baxter’s repeated hand-washing was effective in warding off an infection, and we’ll obviously keep in touch.

5. Documenting global warming

It might not feel like it in Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada, but the last five years have been the warmest on record, in terms of global average temperatures.

Reporting in The Conversation, climate scientists Blair Trewin and Pep Canadell write about a statement released yesterday by the World Meteorological Organization documenting the global climate in 2019.  They summarize the highlights:

Global average temperatures in 2019 were 1.1℃ above pre-industrial levels. Only 2016 was hotter, but that year came at the end of an extreme El Niño, which typically has a warming influence on global temperatures.

The last five years were the world’s five warmest on record. Areas which were especially warm, with temperatures in 2019 more than 2℃ above average, included parts of Australia, Alaska and northern Russia, eastern Europe and southern Africa. Central North America was the only significant land area with below-average temperatures.

This map shows where average surface-air temperatures around the world in 2019 went above or below the average for the period 1981-2000, from the World Meteorological Organization’s Statement on the State of Climate in 2019.

6. A new crossing for Quinpool

A new half-signal crossing is slated to go in near this point on Quinpool, where Google captured a man trying to cross in July 2019. Source: Google Street View.

Many have observed before that Quinpool Road is unfriendly to pedestrians, so it’s worth noting that this summer, the city has plans to take a small step in the friendly direction, actually adding an extra signalized crossing along the busy commercial street, according to a letter to neighbours tweeted out by councillor Waye Mason.

The new half-signal (similar to lights at Harvard and Beech) will go in mid-block, near the entrance to Quinpool Centre, breaking up a massive 400-metre stretch between Vernon and Preston where there are currently no safe crossings.

Sadly this single new crossing will still leave Quinpool in need of crossings. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), of which HRM is a member, recommends much shorter distances between crossings, in the 40-60 metre range. NACTO’s urban street design guide reads, “Designers should take into account both existing as well as projected crossing demand. Frequent crossings reinforce walkability and have the potential to fuel greater demand.”

If Halifax decided to provide crossings just every 100 metres along busy Quinpool, that would mean adding three crossings between Preston and Vernon.

Meanwhile the unmarked crosswalk at the Monastery Lane intersection, where many including councillor Waye Mason has pushed for a marked crossing for years, will continue to go unmarked, making it impossible to use for Quinpool pedestrians. That practice is a no-no for NACTO:

The practice of discouraging pedestrian crossings by leaving uncontrolled crossings unmarked is not a valid safety measure. Instead, it encourages unsafe, risk-taking behavior and discourages walking citywide.

Susan Stacy, an instructor at the Nova Scotia College for Early Childhood Education, a private college on Quinpool, agrees. The college’s student council quoted her on their Change.org petition asking for a safe Quinpool crossing:

To say that it is difficult and dangerous for students and staff to cross this street would be a huge understatement. At times, it is life-threatening. Traffic lights with crosswalks are spaced very far apart on Quinpool. People will not walk the distance required to go far out of their way to get to the lights, and so simply take the risk, and cross. I have seen many ‘near-misses’ as people try to navigate the heavy traffic.

The new half-signal will likely be timed like its Harvard and Beech cousins, which is to say, it will have abnormally long waits between button pushing and the walk signal. Councillor Shawn Cleary, who submitted a petition requesting the crossing signed by 700 people back in January 2020, says he is trying to convince the Traffic Authority, Taso Koutrolakis, to reduce wait times for pedestrians at all Quinpool half-signals. Currently the Beech and Harvard half-signals are timed with much larger neighbouring intersections like Oxford and Connaught.

NACTO’s urban street design guide would appear to back up Cleary’s request:

Where used, actuated signals should be timed to be as responsive to activation as possible, with delay kept to a minimum.

Many existing traffic signals controllers have the capacity to reduce delay, but remain in coordination rather than a free setting. Coordination, paired with long signal cycles, can result in delays of 80 seconds or more, reducing pedestrian compliance, increasing risk-taking behavior, and creating the impression that a push button is either non-responsive or malfunctioning.

7. COVID-19 on public transit

Nicole Munro over at the Chronicle Herald spoke to assistant chief of community risk reduction, Erica Fleck, to find out if plans were afoot to suspend bus service in the event of COVID-19 appearing in Halifax, which Fleck said would happen “only if absolutely necessary.”

“The provincial health authority is the lead for (COVID-19 response in Nova Scotia), so the municipality looks at internal services with feedback, but if they direct us to shut down certain services then we would,” Fleck said.

In New York City, people are being asked to avoid very full buses and trains, though some have made the point that a better strategy might be to maximize peak hour capacity, getting more buses on the road, and reducing crowding that way.

8. NSHA assessment centres opening

From an NSHA release yesterday afternoon:

Nova Scotia Health Authority has opened COVID-19 assessment centres across the province. These assessment centres will further support efforts to identify and contain COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Nova Scotia where, to date, no cases have been confirmed. 

The dedicated assessment centres are intended to help lessen current pressures in emergency departments, while also decreasing the possibility of transmission among the public. 

“We expedited opening these COVID-19 assessment centres to respond to increased assessment demand as a result of the change in national screening protocols,” said Dr. Todd Hatchette, Chief of Microbiology, Nova Scotia Health Authority. 

The change in national screening protocols means that anyone who has travelled outside Canada may have come in contact with the novel coronavirus and should closely monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the country. Travellers who start to feel unwell should stay at home/self-isolate from the public. 

Nova Scotians who have travelled out of country and who develop a fever with a temperature of 38°C or higher, and/or cough, should call 811.

811 will provide direction on what to do next. If there is a need for in-person assessment, 811 will refer to a COVID-19 assessment centre.

Please do not go to a COVID-19 assessment centre without having been referred by 811. We are working to be able to book specific appointment times in the coming days.

Those directed to an assessment centre by 811 will then have a physical assessment on site and based on that a swab will be taken for patients for whom it is appropriate.

In the event a person requires more urgent care, 811 will provide advice on accessing emergency departments. 


Views

Halifax has a bike mayor and she wants to know what you think “all abilities” cycling means

Halifax Bike Mayor Jillian Banfield outside the Central Library. Source: @BikeMayorHfx on Twitter.

Jillian Banfield is Halifax’s Bike Mayor, one of a global network of Bike Mayors & Leaders created by BYCS, an Amsterdam-based social enterprise with a goal of getting us all to make 50% of our trips by bike by 2030. Banfield has arthritis, and finds riding a bike easier on her body than walking, a fact she has to repeatedly defend on Twitter, to those incredulous that bikes can help anyone with a physical disability or barrier.  “My bike is my mobility aid and I believe cycling can open up mobility for many more people,” writes Banfield on BYCS.org.

Banfield is hoping to hear, “the stories of people who cycle in Halifax and the stories of people who want to cycle but don’t. I want to meet the people we don’t usually see represented in cycling and help elevate their voices. I want to find out what they need to be supported to cycle here. Many people in Halifax want to cycle but are scared to do so because our infrastructure and culture do not support them.”

Lately, Banfield is asking people to answer a short survey on the theme of “all abilities” cycling, and what it means.  You can put in your two cents here.


Noticed

The Mayor, in addition to announcing that he will run for re-election, has been online demo-ing how to greet people without shaking hands. But in terms of PSAs for COVID-19 transmission avoidance practices, this is my favourite so far featured recently on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight:


Government

City

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9am, City Hall) — no action items are on the agenda.

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — Auditor General Evangeline Colman-Sadd will present her report on “Fleet Vehicle Use, Car Allowances, and Mileage Audit.”

Halifax and West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — a 12-storey building on Joe Howe Road.

Public Information Meeting – Case 22704 (Wednesday, 7pm, Basinview Drive Community School, Bedford) — Lydon Lynch Architects wants to change the interior layout of a previously approved building on Fourth Street in Bedford. More info here.

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — Zane Woodford wrote about the appeal of taxi driver Donald Charles Swinimer here.

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — among other things, the board will be discussion Joan Baxter’s recent series, “Port Wallace Gamble: The Real Estate Boom Meets Nova Scotia’s Toxic Mine Legacy.”

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — a discussion of contaminated sites; we think this refers to old mining sites.

Thursday

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Saxophone Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, MacAloney Room )

Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Wednesday, 1pm, Room 14B02, Tupper Medical Building) — Dane C. Sands will defend “Investigation of the Amyloid Properties of Winter Flounder Antifreeze Protein (AFP6) and the Application of Aqueous Curcumin in the Detection of this Protein.”

Phytoplankton in a changing world (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Zoe Finkel will talk.

3 Minute Thesis (Wednesday, 6:15pm, McInnes Room, Student Union Building) — grad student finalists share their research in just 180 seconds. More info here.

Thursday

Dalhousie Reading Circle (Thursday, 9:30am, Indigenous Student Centre Community Room, 1321 Edward Street) — weekly meeting for “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” More info here.

Thesis Defence, Medical Neuroscience (Thursday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Refa’t Ahmad Abo Ghazleh will defend “The Role of Cortical Spreading Depolarizations in Traumatic Brain Injury Outcome.”

Violin Masterclass (Thursday, 12:30pm, Room 111, Dal Arts Centre) — Kerson Leong will perform, a warmup to his performance with Symphony Nova Scotia tonight at 7:30pm. More on his website.

Hilary Doda. Photo via facebook

Nostalgia and the Shuttle: Weaving Stories of Place and Belonging in Cape Breton (Thursday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Hilary Doda will talk.

Cuts for Cancer (Thursday, 6pm, Tupper Medical Building) — free haircuts, bake sale, children’s games, and a silent auction in support of the Children’s Wish Foundation.

Krista Hatfield. Photo provided

Theory Sustainability and the Politics of Consumption: A Materialist Feminist Approach (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Krista Hatfield from Carleton University will talk.

Ethical consumerism (‘green’ consumption, fair trade, buying local etc.) generates polarizing debates regarding how neoliberal capitalism either empowers or disempowers the consumer, enables or cofounds consumer activism. This lecture will explore a more expansive vocabulary and new approaches of inquiry in order to understand the many contradictions. strengths and weaknesses of sustainable modes of consumption, including the power and limits of consumer agency.

Lissa Skitolsky. Photo provided

“Mazel tov, now I’m hotter than a Molotov.” Reflections on Hip-Hop and Jewish Culture (Thursday, 7pm, Room 1011, Rowe Management Building) — Lissa Skitolsky will talk.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

SMU Campus Store clearance sale (Wednesday, 10am)

Mount Saint Vincent

Wednesday

Dinner at Vincent’s (Wednesday, 4:30 – 7pm) — Tourism & Hospitality Management students will make you dinner at this student-run teaching restaurant. Reservations required. For menu options, pricing, and alternate lunch and dinner dates click here.

A History of Food (Wednesday, 7pm, Keshen Goodman Library, Halifax) — Jonathan Roberts talks about “Cows and Wheat: The agrarian and pastoral revolutions (haggis).” The second of a lecture series — a survey of hunting, gathering, preserving, and manufacturing food, from the archaeology of Paleolithic diets, the geography of crop and livestock domestication, the production of foods as commodities, gourmet tastes versus fast food, and the return to local diets. More info here.

King’s

Wednesday

Little Death(Wednesday, 8pm, The Pit) — written by Daniel Sarah Karasik, directed by Daniel Halpern. Until Saturday, more info and tickets here.

Thursday

Alden Nowlan: Poetry and Song (Thursday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, New Academic Building) — performances by Stranger Still and Al Tuck, and a talk by Brian Bartlett. More info here.

Little Death (Thursday, 8pm, The Pit) — see Wednesday’s listing. Until Saturday, more info and tickets here.


In the harbour

03:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Saint John
05:00: YM Essence, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:30: Columbia Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
08:00: CLI Pride, cargo ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
15:30: Columbia Highway sails for sea
16:00: YM Essence sails for Norfolk
16:00: CLI Pride sails for New York


Footnotes

Yes, let’s push the hell back on the new coronavirus, shall we?

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  1. So poor Mayor Mike never got the call for the April 9 vacancy in the Senate. Justin decided he didn’t need another chubby white male. I guess a woman will be appointed and that will mean the 10 Nova Scotia senators comprise 5 women and 5 men. He can now devote some time to worrying about the state of the HRM pension plan and the impending increase in cost for taxpayers.

  2. Dustin O’Leary – what an asshole.

    Sad thing is this is exactly how our governments would like to operate. You’ll take our answers as we give them. You want more, FOIPOP it or better yet journalists, just F••K OFF.

  3. And now Minister O’Regan is in self-isolation with a cold, while he waits for the results of his COVID-19 test….

  4. Metro Transit’s use of the phrase “In the event that COVID-19 arrives in Halifax” seems pretty optimistic to me. COVID-19 is about as transmissible as the common cold, and there are no travel restrictions in place – it wouldn’t be very World Class to do that.

    Maybe we need to rethink the terrible way we build buildings – the Japanese have learned that building schools out of wood instead of modern materials reduces flu-related cancellations by 60%: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/05/national/wood-the-material-of-choice-at-schools/

  5. The Halifax Covid-19 testing centre is at the Cobequid Health Centre in Sackville. You know the one with the ridiculously tiny paid parking lot? It’s located on the 3rd floor, both waiting and testing areas. So don’t go to the ER if you are sick, but by all means visit the rest of the hospital on your way to the testing area. Oh, and my sister-in-law, a retired nurse, knows the staff operating the testing centre. They weren’t given any special training.