News

1. Emergency preparedness

L to R: Ahsan Habib, Andrew Easton, Erica Fleck, Bob Robichaud. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“This Saturday, Sept 29, marks 15 years since Hurricane Juan ripped through Halifax in the middle of the night toppling trees, smashing boats and knocking out power for many days and even weeks in some neighbourhoods,” writes Jennifer Henderson:

Wind speeds of up to 178km an hour were recorded at McNabs Island in Halifax Harbour and the storm surge hit 2.9 meters at Prospect where the Category 2 hurricane made landfall.

What have we learned since Juan and how prepared are we to face another disaster?

Click here to read “It’s been 15 years since Hurricane Juan; are we ready for an even bigger storm?”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

2. Facial recognition

I lost my driver’s licence, so a couple of weeks ago I had to bus it out to Bayers Lake to get a new one. This of course took most of a day because bus service to the BLIP is horribly inadequate.

I’m told the placement of Access Nova Scotia out in the BLIP is the result of a bureaucratic screw-up. Once upon a time, there was an Access NS on the peninsula, on Young Street near the Superstore. When the lease expired, a tender offer was issued that called for bids from landlords within a certain distance of the existing Access NS, I think three kilometres.

The radius requirement is standard in such tender offers. The existing landlord often wins the tender offer and the office stays where it is, but there’s still opportunity for others to compete. In the case of the Access NS lease renewal, the three-kilometre radius would still place the new office on the peninsula, and sure enough it landed out in West End Mall. That was super-convienient to bus riders, as it was just a walk across the parking lot from the Mumford Terminal.

But fast-forward to the end of the lease at the West End Mall in 2010, and another tender issued for the Access NS office. But, I’m told, rather than drawing a new map, with distinct geographic boundaries that would require the office to remain on the peninsula, whoever wrote the tender just went back to the old tender offer from when the Young Street lease was up, and copied and pasted the three-kilometre language from the old tender offer to the new one, and so suddenly the geographic possibilities for the new office excluded downtown locations and included Bayers Lake.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I slogged out to Bayers Lake for a replacement licence. I gotta say, the staff was super helpful and friendly, and I was in and out of the office in about 15 minutes. So nothing against them; the front line workers aren’t responsible for what follows.

Before, when I went to get a new licence, the clerks would ask me to stand in front of the camera, I’d smile, they’d snap a pic and show it to me and if I didn’t like it they’d take another. No longer. Now, it’s like a passport photo: I had to take off my glasses and put on a dour face — I mean even more dour than usual, no smiling allowed.

Moreover, it used to be I’d just sit down for two minutes and wait for the machine to spit out a driver’s licence, and Bob’s your uncle, all done. Now, however, they mail the licence to you; mine arrived about a week later.

Blurry Tim.

And something’s not right about this thing. I mean, sure, I should probably comb my hair every now and then, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Rather, the photo is blurry, like I’m standing in a cloud of smoke, and even my more-dour-than-usual features seem non-distinct. I’d have a hard time identifying myself from the photo in a crowd, and I look at the mug in the mirror every day; I don’t know how a cop is supposed to make heads or tails of it.

I had to rent a car yesterday, and the clerk at the rent-a-car place told me that all the new licences are like that, and every one who has one complains about the photo.

I bring this up because while I had been vaguely aware that the licence-making had been farmed out to some profit-leaching corporation, I didn’t know the full extent of this operation until I attended yesterday’s talk at Dal by Janet Burt-Gerrans. Burt-Gerrans is with the Information and Privacy Office, and was giving an overview of Nova Scotia’s freedom of information laws for Right To Know Week.

Burt-Gerrans also talked about issues her office is dealing with, including the new driver’s licences. She explained that the licence-making has been farmed out to the profit-leaching corporation (my term, not hers) in part so that the photos of every driver will end up in facial recognition database (the blurriness of the photos, it seems, somehow makes the facial recognition software work better). And that database, said Burt-Gerrans, is stored somewhere that’s not in Nova Scotia (she didn’t say where, exactly). Moreover, she said, there are no rules or policies in place to guard privacy or to regulate who can have access to the database and what they can use it for.

Burt-Gerrans said her office is working to develop recommendations for such rules, policies, and regulations, but it seems to me that’s closing the barn door after the horse has flown to Churchill Downs and spent my life savings wooing the slow pony.

I never consented to my more-dour-than-usual features being placed in a facial recognition database, but I guess I have no choice about the matter if I want to drive. And as I understand it, as of right now, my mug could be in the hands of any number of nefarious commercial enterprises who are chomping at the bit to personalize advertising to me while I’m walking down the street, à la Minority Report, or is being cross-checked by CSIS or the NSA or the Ministry of State Security, or all three, and I’ll inevitably be mistaken for some terrorist who has the misfortune of sharing some of my blurry facial characteristics.

3. Sackville fire

https://t.co/kRXvGv5bWJ

— Halifax Fire (@hfxfire) September 26, 2018

Halifax Fire posted dramatic footage of a Sackville fire on Twitter last night. The fire at 361 Springfield Lake Road destroyed a house, but no one was injured.

4. PTSD

Chris Garnier. Photo: Safety P.A.T.H.

“The Trudeau government sought to defuse weeks of outrage by ordering officials to adopt a more critical eye before approving funds and services for the family member of veterans — particularly relatives convicted of serious crimes,” reports Lee Berthiaume for the Canadian Press:

Yet it wasn’t immediately clear what impact the order will have on the case of Christopher Garnier, the Halifax man convicted last year of killing an off-duty police officer whose receipt of financial assistance for PTSD treatment from Veterans Affairs Canada has sparked widespread anger.

A Halifax court heard last month that Veterans Affairs Canada was covering the cost of Garnier’s psychologist because his father was a veteran who has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

5. We’ll be PRed to death

Recent interview my colleague ⁦@MichaelTGorman⁩ did with ⁦@GeoffMacLellan⁩ The 4 women in this pic are all comms people. 3 work for the caucuses and the 4th is a ⁦@nsgov⁩ employee. #nspoli pic.twitter.com/ESlqNxJkyC

— Jean Laroche (@larochecbc) September 26, 2018


Government

City

Wednesday

Sewage Plant Estates

Sewage Plant Estates (Wednesday, 1pm, Council Chambers, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — since they don’t seem to want to blow up the casino and parking garages, I’m left naming that new neighbourhood by its biggest defining feature; you can register here for any of the following sessions:
1 – 3 pm: Design of Trails, Greenways & Connection to Water
3:30 – 5:30 pm,: Streetscape Features and Gateways
6 – 8 pm: Building Design Rules

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — the recommendation is to give St. Paul’s Church $150,000 towards fixing the ironstone wall and cast iron fencing surrounding the church.

Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Art Room, Prospect Road Community Centre) — no action items are on the agenda.

Thursday

Port Wallace PPC Meeting (Thursday, 6:30pm, HEMDCC Large Meeting Room 1, Alderney Gate) — no agenda posted.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21927 (Thursday, 7pm, Gym, Ocean View Elementary School, Eastern Passage) — application by Gary Edwards, who wants to build some commercial buildings behind the two apartment buildings that have already been approved at 1490 Main Road in Eastern Passage. This is to the left as you’re driving into Eastern Passage, just before the fork in the road.

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 10am, Province House) — I don’t know what they’re discussing, but I know what they’re not discussing.

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)

Thursday

Human Resources (Thursday, 11am, One Government Place) — a per diem meeting.

Legislature sits (Thursday, 11am, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Thesis Defence, Biology (Wednesday, 10:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Carolyn Marshall will defend her ​​thesis, “Green Manure Termination Method Impact on Soil Carbon and Soil Biology Dynamics.”

Bill Freedman’s Plant Collection (Wednesday, 2pm, Wooded Area behind Sherriff Hall, 1355 Oxford Street) — register here.

Global Health Day (Wednesday, 3pm, panel discussion at 5pm, Tupper Medical Building) — displays and presentations about Global Health Day.

Iron Acquisition in Bacterial Pathogens: Structural and Functional Studies of Siderophore Biosynthesis (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Andrew M. Gulick from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, will speak.

Science, Technology and Society in the 21st Century: Ethics, Debates, and Collaboration (Wednesday, 6:30pm, in the auditorium named after a bank, Marion McCain Building) — postdocs Michael Halpin, Tamara Sorenson Duncan, and Colin Bellinger will talk.

Thursday

Getting to the Heart of the Matter: Having Non-defensive Conversations (Thursday, 9am, Room 224, Student Union Building) — “one full-day foundations session and eight weekly half-days of practical applications.” Register here.

Ingrid Waldron

Examining the Relationship Between Structural Pathology and Clinical Pathology: Envisioning a Communitybased Health Research Mandate for Diverse Black Canadian Communities (Thursday, 11am, Room 2L7, Tupper Link) — Ingrid Waldron will speak. Info here.

Reflections Of An International Alum: Voyages In Maritime Affair (Thursday, 3pm, Room 204, Weldon Law Building) — Jay L. Batongbacal will speak.

Complex Event Recognition for Maritime Monitoring (Thursday, 4pm, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — George Paliouras from the National Centre of Scientific Research “Demokritos” in Greece will speak. His abstract:

The aim of this talk is to present research results of the Complex Event Recognition lab (http://cer.iit.demokritos.gr/) of NCSR Demokritos (Athens, Greece), focusing on maritime applications. Maritime monitoring systems support safe shipping, through real-time detection of dangerous, suspicious and illegal vessel activities. We have been developing a complex event recognition system for maritime monitoring in the Event Calculus, allowing both for verification and real-time performance. The basic system is being developed through collaboration with domain experts, constructing effective patterns of maritime activity. In order to refine these patterns, we have developed online, relational learning techniques and applied them on AIS data streams. More recently, we have also been developing complex event forecasting techniques, allowing for predictive maritime analytics. In the talk, we will show results of our techniques on real AIS streams, covering large geographical areas.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin (Thursday, 4pm, Alumni Theatre, Cumming Hall, Agricultural Campus, Truro) — the talk is sold out, but it’s being livestreamed here.

Company Law and the Promotion of Social Policies (Thursday, 4:30pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Paul L. Davies from Harris Manchester College, Oxford, will speak. (Registration was required by September 7.)

White Coat Ceremony and Honorary Degree Conferral (Thursday, 5pm, Rebbecca Cohn Auditorium, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — the Faculty of Dentistry is giving Peter Cooney, the Chief Dental Officer of Canada, an honorary degree.

Our Energy Future: Lithium-ion Batteries and Electrochemical Energy Storage (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Jeff Dahn will speak. Register here.

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

Lyuov Zhyznomirska

The Routledge Handbook of the Politics of Migration in Europe (Thursday, 1pm, Room LI135, Patrick Power Library) — co-editor Lyubov Zhyznomirska will speak.

Doing the Right Thing at Home and Abroad: Why Values Matter (Thursday, 7pm, in the theatre named after a bank) — Bob Rae, who in addition to being, well, Bob Rae, is also Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, will speak. Info here.

King’s

Wednesday

Amanda Jernigan and Darren Biford (Wednesday, 5pm, Senior Common Room, Arts and Administration Building) — a reading from the poets.


In the harbour

6am: Victory II, cruise ship with up to 220 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor
6am: ZIM Yokohoma, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
6am: Star Pride, cruise ship with 254 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Charlottetown. The Star Pride is on a nine-day cruise from Montreal to Boston.
7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at anchorage from Saint-Pierre
4:30pm: Carmen, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
5:30pm: ZIM Yokohoma, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
10pm: Star Pride, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for Portland


Footnotes

I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

I have no copyeditro today. Please be kind.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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13 Comments

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  1. I’m calling bullshit on the ID card photo being blurry in service of facial recognition software. If the database needs a blurry photo because it works better, it should be no problem to make a blurred copy and store it alongside the original. Why would you then print a blurry mess on the card itself?

    If the “for the software” explanation was just a guess, then it was a fair guess but doesn’t seem to hold up. If it was a line fed to someone, though, then I suspect it’s not the whole story.

  2. Why would you go to the Bayers Lake Access Location instead of the much closer Baker Drive one? Why would you rent a car when you live in the Carshare Atlantic Flex zone? (Ok Ok I’m a Carshare zealot but you can pick up a car within a few blocks, drive it wherever you want and leave it in front of your house.)

    1. I was recently in a car accident, and my car was totalled (no one was injured). While I search for a new car, my insurance company covers car rental, but only from its list of approved companies, so I used one of those. As for going to BLIP, I had other non-licence related business to conduct en route, so I doubled up.

  3. The same change happened with New Brunswick licenses too. I wonder if both provinces made a deal with the same company? For NB, it was just within the last year.

  4. I must be mis-remembering, I thought data collected by the provincial government had to be stored in Nova Scotia or at least Canada? Wasn’t that the deal with IBM?

  5. I read an article (can’t remember where) that indicated the facial recognition was to be used to ensure one person didn’t apply for more than one licence under different names. I can’t imagine that’s such a big problem that all that money and privatization could be justified to address it. Your research seems to put the lie to that story anyway. My licence shows me what I’ll look like a couple of hours after I have died. I’d guess this has nothing to do with security and everything to do with the drive to know all that can be known about citizens and, possibly as you suggest, assisting corporate marketing.

  6. More dour than usual. Love that. And great research on how the hell the ironically named Access office ended up in an obscure location at BLIP. And it’s not “neither here nor there”; it’s most definitely way out there, even though there is no there there in BLIP, to be sure.

    The Access NS people do indeed do a great job, so now the horror of going to what we all used to call the DMV is not the interminable wait and disgruntled clerks, it’s once again Big Brother stealing and selling your soul, Crazy Horse.

    Speaking of horses, you really beat that metaphor to death (“wooing the slow pony”), including “chomping at the bit.” Strictly speaking, it’s champing, though it’s debatable: http://grammarist.com/usage/champing-chomping-at-the-bit/

  7. Couple of interesting things going on in the municipal world these days (driven by provincial governments) that Examiner readers might find interesting:

    1) NS Gov has cleared the way for future amalgamation of Windsor and West Hants.
    2) NS Gov has started the process of requiring minimum planning standards. Currently there are many areas of the province with no planning at all, or extremely basic planning. Importantly, minimum planning standards means these communities will have to meet statements of provincial interest on things like drinking water protection and agricultural land protection.
    3) A little further afield, but the PE Gov has just amalgamated a whole bunch of communities on the eastern end of the province. Some of them wanted this amalgamation, and some were forced into it.

  8. I lived in Halifax in the late 70s and took a long bus ride and a long walk to a far distant location to get a liquor card that would get me into bars, because believe it or not they not only wouldn’t accept driver’s licences or student cards in bars as proof of age, they would not accept passports in the bars in those days. Only this damned liquor control card would do. It was the only place in Halifax you could do this, and it was a huge pain because I didn’t have a car. Luckily I was much younger and much more fit in those times. And much more patient.

    The irony is that I was never asked for ID until I had turned 19.

    As for the new driver’s licences, we have identical ones in New Brunswick. My photo on it makes me look like the dead guy on a mass card. Awful.

  9. Maybe we could put some of the government communications people in charge of securing our personal details. They seem to be excellent at suppressing information.