News

1. Weather

There’s weather. Everything’s closed or will open late.

2. Premier Iain Rankin

New Liberal leader and soon to be premier Iain Rankin addresses an almost empty convention centre Saturday night. Beside him, his wife Mary.

“Iain Rankin is the new Liberal leader and will be sworn in as Nova Scotia’s 29th Premier,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The 37-year-old former minister of the Environment won on the second ballot with 52.4% of the total weighted vote. Halifax MLA and Labour Minister Labi Kousoulis was second with 47.59%t. Former Health minister Randy Delorey finished third.

“This is about the next generation and what people want to see next,” said the red-haired winner whose cousins include Cape Breton’s musical Rankin Family and whose father Reg was a long-serving HRM councillor. 

“They want to see action on climate change and see us continuing on the path to right historic wrongs.”

Rankin is the second youngest premier; Conservative Rodney MacDonald was in his twenties when he was elected. Rankin has an ambitious agenda which includes moving the province off coal by 2030 (10 years earlier than forecast), investing more in long-term care, and tackling systemic racism.

Rainkin was the only one of the three leadership candidates to publicly disclose his campaign contributions, which totalled $130,000.

His campaign cochairs were Joanne MacRae and Dale Palmeter; Palmeter has years of experience campaigning for former Liberal MP Scott Brison.

Rankin says his first priority is to work hand-in-hand with Dr. Robert Strang to curb Covid-19.

“My colleague, Jennifer Henderson, summed it up best,” comments Stephen Kimber:

“This was perhaps the dullest political leadership convention in Nova Scotia history,” she wrote. “I’ve been to wakes that were more fun.”

My wife and I chose to have dinner at a pub instead. All the screens in the pub showed sporting events. No one seemed to notice the absence of a feed from the Nova Scotia Liberal leadership convention. I checked my phone only occasionally.

And yet the changing of the Liberal guard was — and will be — consequential for all of us.

The winner, of course, automatically becomes the premier of all he surveys — at least until he chooses to let us have our own say on the matter.

For now, we’re in the middle of a pandemic that — absent enough doses to vaccinate all of us — will continue to require strong political leadership and a willing public will to keep it at bay until…

After that worst has passed, of course, there will be a new and worse worst: a post-pandemic hangover deficit pushing half a billion dollars, coupled with a battered economy that will need time and patience to recover.

But looming realities — the onrushing climate crisis, the legacy of systemic racism — will leave little possibility for patience.

Welcome, Iain Rankin, to the main event.

Click here to read “Is Iain Rankin the voice of ‘the next generation’?”

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3. COVID-19

One new case of COVID-19 was announced in Nova Scotia yesterday (Sunday, Feb. 7), after two consecutive days of zero new cases.

The new case is in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone; it is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

There are now eight known active cases in the province. One person is in hospital with the disease, and that person is in ICU.

The active cases are distributed as follows:

• 2 in the Halifax Peninsula / Chebucto Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 2 in the Dartmouth/ Southeastern Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 1 in the Bedford/ Sackville Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 1 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network in the Western Zone
• 1 in the Cape Breton Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone

Nova Scotia Health labs conducted 867 tests Saturday.

Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (now at 0.7) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

And here is the active caseload for the second wave:

Nova Scotia Health issued the following potential COVID exposure advisory Saturday night:

Out of an abundance of caution and given the current testing capacity available, anyone who worked or visited the following locations on the specified dates and times should immediately visit covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate while you wait for your test result. If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 you do not need to self-isolate while you wait for your test result.

• Walmart New Minas (9097 Commercial St, New Minas) on Feb. 3 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Feb. 17.

When it comes to risk from the plague, Nova Scotia remains one of the safest jurisdictions on Earth. The only cases of the disease are travellers coming in from pestilence-ridden places, which is basically anywhere outside of Atlantic Canada, and those cases are being quickly identified and isolated so as not to further spread the virus. It’s a fantastically good news story, although as we’ve recently seen in New Brunswick, it can change on a dime.

We’re now in a race between further spread of the virus and deployment of vaccines. We’d do well to continue all the practices that brought us to this enviable place.

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4. The problem with giving public money to Sandpiper Ventures

Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

On Friday, I reported on what is perhaps one of Stephen McNeil’s last official acts as premier: giving $5 million in public money to the woman-led venture capitalist organization Sandpiper Ventures:

The lack of detail on the venture capital announcement — just as McNeil is leaving the job — is worth comment.

And comment I did, at length. I also took a cursory look at Sandpiper Ventures, but I was rushed for time, so I’ll this morning expand on that analysis.

Who is Sandpiper Ventures?

Its website lists its founding partners. They include:

Amy Risley. Photo: Sandpiper Ventures

Amy Risley: the former Amy Gordinier-Regan, long-time girlfriend of billionaire John Risley (they have apparently recently married, hence the name change, although that’s news to me), and owner of Skinfix. John Risely sits on Skinfix’s board of directors.

Under the Risleys’ leadership, Skinfix has been quite successful in obtaining government financing, including:

From ACOA
• Nov 9, 2012: a grant of $50,000 to “Hire an accounts/production manager and a graphic designer.”
• Jan. 10, 2013: a loan of $500,000 for “Marketing activities.”
• July 17, 2013: a grant of $50,000 grant to “Hire a marketing manager and a retail operations and office manager.”
• Dec. 23, 2012: a loan of $500,000 for “Brand expansion across Canada.”
• Dec. 10, 2014: a loan of $500,000 to “Support US marketing of Skinfix Inc.”
• Feb. 13, 2019: a $50,000 grant to “Hire graphic designer” (I guess the last one didn’t work out).
• Jan. 13, 2020: a $250,000 loan to “scale up export to the US.”

From National Research Council Canada:
All grants fall under a category that “support[s] a firm in the All other miscellaneous chemical product manufacturing.”
• Feb. 13, 2013: a grant of $41,310
• Sept 18, 2013: a grant of $281,097
• Sept. 18, 2013: a grant of $236,222
• Sept. 18, 2013: a grant of $194,397

Karen Hutt. Photo: Sandpiper Ventures

Karen Hutt: former President and CEO of Nova Scotia Power, and current Executive Vice-President of Strategy and Business Development at Emera, Nova Scotia Power’s parent company. I don’t think I need to overly detail the fundamental conflict when a government that regulates Nova Scotia Power is also funding the non-profit controlled by its executive.

Sarah Young. Photo: Sandpiper Ventures

Sarah Young: Managing Partner, responsible for Atlantic Canada, at NATIONAL Public Relations, the PR firm that is cozy with Liberal governments across the country.

Young is the communications director for the Joint Public Inquiry in the mass murders of April 18/19. The public inquiry is charged to investigate (among many other things) the role the government of Nova Scotia played before and after the murders, the policy shortcomings, and the tangled relationship between the provincial Department of Justice (including Minister Mark Furey) and the RCMP. And just as the inquiry begins its work, the provincial government gives $5 million to an organization controlled in part by the inquiry’s communications director. If nothing else, the optics of this are horrible; I would think that the board of inquiry would want to distance itself from these potential conflicts immediately.

Cathy Bennett. Photo: Sandpiper Ventures

Cathy Bennett: a former Liberal Party MLA in Newfoundland and current CEO of TaskForce NL, a non-profit that connects companies that sell PPE to the Newfoundland health care system.

Chère Chapman. Photo: Sandpiper Ventures

Chère Chapman: CEO of DGI Clinical, a biotech firm in Halifax, which like Skinfix, has been quite successful in getting government grants, including from the National Research Council Canada and from ACOA (I’m not sure when Chapman joined the company, but many of those grants and loans are quite recent). DGI is also supported financially by the provincial crown corporation Innovacorp, but the size of that investment is hard to discover.

Nicole LeBlanc. Photo: Sandpiper Ventures

Nicole LeBlanc: on the board of Innovacorp.

I could go on. In general, there’s a nexus between Sandpiper and Innovacorp and Volta Labs, with money — a lot of it public — switching this way and that.

Is this mean-spirited? Certainly I could collect a much-longer list of intertwined connections of men who run venture capital firms and the various government agencies. So the ol’ boys network is now an ol’ boys and new girls network, and I suppose that’s progress of a sort. So what’s my point here?

Well, McNeil’s announcement Friday gives me the opportunity to once again show how problematic all these arrangements are. Do any of them — Volta, Innovacorp, private venture capitalism, etc. — bring actual value to the people of Nova Scotia?

For example, Volta’s primary goal seems to be to support a start-up company to the point that a bigger firm in Silicon Valley or Ontario buys it up. Maybe they keep a back office in Halifax, but often not — they just whisk the founder and the business away, outtahere. The founder is richer, and Volta points to a success. But what did we, the people who funded this thing, get for our money?

I have the same general questions about the angel investor racket: their goal is financial success. There’s no particular goal of hiring a lot of people, or paying them well. It’s just financial return to the company and the angel investment org. I guess some of the new wealth is supposed to trickle down upon we mere proles, but I’ve been hearing that line for 40 years, and we proles keep getting poorer and poorer.

And don’t get me started on how the Risleys and other venture capitalists preach the merits of bootstraps and the free market while taking government money at every opportunity.

What really ticked me off, however, was how McNeil couched the $5 million gift of public money to the non-profit but privately held Sandpiper as support for women. There’s something just so smarmy about that, it rankles. As I wrote Friday:

This is, well, horseshit.

In the real world, child care is the primary obstacle for women entering the workforce, and successfully advancing their careers. There are other issues, but Issue #1 is child care. Period.

Five million dollars would do a lot on the child care front — it could open up more than 1,500 new child care spaces. It could reduce the cost of existing child care.

Providing more — and less expensive — child care is a far, far better generator of economic success for women than venture capitalism can provide.

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5. Slow streets

Signage and traffic barrels on one of the slow streets — Maynard near Cornwallis. — Photo: HRM

“City staff plan to switch up the materials they use to slow down traffic this year as the municipality plans to continue its active transportation response to COVID-19,” reports Zane Woodford:

While the report considers the response a success generally, there is room for improvement.

“Our approach this year, informed and inspired by other [National Association of City Transportation Officials] cities, was to use lightweight materials like signs, traffic barrels, and barricade fencing to designate spaces like temporary sidewalks and Slow Streets,” [municipal transportation demand management coordinator Eliza] Jackson wrote.

“While this allowed us to implement something quickly, they did not have the impact that we wanted on safety and comfort for people using active transportation and were difficult to maintain.”

Click here to read “‘Lightweight materials’ hampered Halifax’s slow streets project, staff report says.”

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6. SANE is expanding

The Department of Health and Wellness has announced the province’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program (SANE) is expanding to Shelburne, Cumberland and Colchester counties. Photo: Change.org

“The provincial co-ordinator of a program providing specialized care for survivors of sexual violence says its expansion is ‘momentous,’” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

On Friday, the Department of Health and Wellness announced the province’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program (SANE) is expanding to Shelburne, Cumberland, and Colchester counties.

As of Feb. 1, SANE services have been available at Roseway Hospital in Shelburne and at Colchester Regional Health Centre in Truro.

Effective Feb. 8, Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst will also offer SANE services.

“As of Monday when Cumberland goes live, we will have coverage to every regional hospital in the province and many other health care sites in between, so we’ll have 18 sites operational,” Susan Wilson, provincial SANE coordinator with Nova Scotia Health, said in an interview.

“That fifth and final program really filled in that gap in the Cumberland, Colchester, Eastern Shore area. That’s the momentous piece. That we’re finally officially in my opinion, provincial.”

Click here to read “Nova Scotia’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program is expanding.”

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Government

City

Monday

Board of Police Commissioners (Monday, 12:30pm) — live webcast

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm) — live webcast with live captioning on a text-only site

Tuesday

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm) — live webcast with live captioning on a text-only site

Province

Monday

No public meetings

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 1pm) — video conference to discuss emergency mental health care / services. With Francine Vezina, Department of Health and Wellness; Samantha Hodder and Andrew Harris, Nova Scotia Health Authority; Maureen Brennan and Alexa Bagnell, IWK Health Centre; and Marie-France LeBlanc and Megan MacBride, North End Community Health Centre.


On campus

Saint Mary’s

Monday

No public events

Tuesday

The Librarian Is In: Citing (Tuesday, 3pm) — online workshop


In the harbour

10:30: NOCC Oceanic, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
13:00: Atlantic Condor, offshore supply ship, arrives at IEL from St. John’s
16:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
18:00: NOCC Oceanic sails for sea
20:00: Baltic Mariner I, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands


Footnotes

I’m going to go move the snow; if I’m not back in two hours, send out the hounds.

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Tim Bousquet

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

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15 Comments

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  1. How in the world can one company – Skinfix, get so many loans and grants from ACOA, NRC ??? I guess when you’re married to a billionaire – his companies has had a few over the years and it’s about connections ! Does it give the status of the ACOA loans – outstanding or been paid off ?

    1. Governments *are* the winners. Politics is about friend/enemy distinctions and power, not right or wrong.

  2. The province is now so desperate for money that you have to pay to see the names of directors of a business or a registered organisation. A few months ago a list of directors was available online at no cost.
    In the UK you can search and obtain such information as well as the latest accounts at no cost.
    Perhaps we can persuade Rankin to roll the clock back a few months.

    1. You don’t, Colin. I had that wrong myself, after 2 readers alerted me to it. It’s a design problem, but you can get the info: just go to the “relationships” tab on the right, and it’s all there, for free.

      1. Thank you. I fiddled around the site but never thought to press the ‘relationships’ tab. What an unusual word to use. When a government changes a website it is supposed to result in an easier interface.

        1. I know, right? I emailed the communications people all indignant, and they explained it. It’s certainly counter-intuitive. Happy to help.

  3. The Sandpiper venture is still the “good ole boys” reigning the fiefdom. Placing wealthy, connected women in these ventures does NOTHING to bolster the plight of real women with real talent and integrity in the pursuit of real change in the real world! I despair of our province and its repetitive history of backwater colonial preoccupation with power for greedy, grubby elitist club members. We women need to rise up and expose these greedy little mites who get everything at our expense!

  4. We know that the COVID-19 infections we are seeing in Nova Scotia come from travelling. But that’s just the numerator. It would be nice to get a sense of the denominator. That way we might have an idea of how dangerous travel really is.

    1. That would be good to know. I think it would also be interesting if that number were broken down farther so that we could know the difference, if any, between domestic and international, with international broken down by country. I have no idea if any of that data is available, but I bet the capable reporters at The Halifax Examiner know. Time for another cup of coffee and a more in-depth read of the Morning File while I await building maintenance’s clearing of the entrance to my building. I want to go outside and enjoy the blue sky and sunshine I see out there. I might even lift a shovelful of snow or two if a neighbor needs some help.

  5. The sandpiper ventures thing reminds me of how Google in-sourced security and catering services on its campuses so they would have more PoC employees.