News

1. The shameful and cowardly political non-response to the Assoun case

Glen Assoun. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“No one in authority wants to talk about the wrongful murder conviction of Glen Assoun,” reports Blair Rhodes for the CBC:

On Tuesday, Mark Furey, Nova Scotia’s attorney general and minister of justice, said he cannot comment on the Assoun case at this time.

There’s been some suggestion that my previous employment may compromise my abilities to make impartial decisions, so I’ve asked the conflict of interest commissioner to review the circumstances,” Furey told reporters.

Monday, I sent a series of questions to Furey about the Assoun case, and he never responded.

It’s not just the Justice minister who is silent; it’s also Halifax city councillors who haven’t said a word about the wrongful conviction and police misconduct that their agents perpetuated.

Cowards. The lot of them are cowards.

It’d be one thing if this were simply the everyday cowardice we’ve come to expect from politicians — the hemming and hawing and passing the buck in order to avoid taking responsibility for anything that isn’t a new playground.

But in this instance, a man’s life hangs in the balance. Their agents destroyed Assoun, and the politicians are too lily-livered to take responsibility, or to do right by him.

Either the politicians are going to stand up and take responsibility and make it possible for Assoun to have some semblance of comfort for what’s left to his life, or by their inaction they’re going to impose further suffering on him.

They’re obviously choosing the latter. The frail egos of the politicians are more important than a man’s life.

There are times when one must stand up to the plate and do one’s duty, no matter how difficult or personally distasteful it is. Because right is right, and right requires decent people doing what is required.

This is that time. But Justice Minister Mark Furey is failing. Premier Stephen McNeil is failing. Mayor Mike Savage is failing. Police commissioners Lindell Smith and Tony Mancini are failing. The rest of the Halifax council is failing.

They are hiding behind the skirts of their legal and financial advisors, afraid to stand tall and be responsible people.

It’s shameful.

2. The Archaeology of Loss

We’ve taken Linda Pannozzo’s June 14 article, “The Archeology of Loss,” out from behind the paywall. Wrote Pannozzo:

“We were in wonderful moose country now.”

At least this is how Albert Bigelow Paine described the Nova Scotia landscape he and three others journeyed through in his 1908 book The Tent Dwellers. The book tells the true story of a June trout fishing trip led by two Mi’kmaq guides, Charlie Charlton and Del Thomas, who take Paine and his friend Eddie Breck on a journey that began and ended at Kejimkujik Lake with the ultimate goal of reaching Little Tobeatic Lake.

The four hiked, portaged, and paddled through a chain of lakes — Mountain, Peskowesk, and Peskawa — in what later became Kejimkujik National Park, the Tobeatic Wildlife Management Area, and Tobeatic Wilderness Area. Paine described the “uninvaded wild” and “trackless” bogs and swamps “on the borders of the unknown.”

A lot has changed in a little over 110 years.

It was into some of the same landscape that I recently ventured with Jeff Purdy, the deputy chief of the Acadia First Nation. But instead of portaging and paddling, Purdy navigated his hefty pickup truck over badly potholed logging roads, and instead of describing the Nova Scotia wilderness in contrast to “conventional luxury” and the “comforts of living,” as Paine often did of his trip into the backwoods, Purdy described his relationship to the land in terms its historical and cultural significance.

For Purdy, as we drove over the Mersey River to the western side of Lake Rossignol heading toward the Tobeatic Wildlife Management Area, or “the sanctuary” as he calls it, we were smack dab in the middle of the Mi’kmaq heartland: the beating, life-giving, sylvan domain of his ancestors. Only now, it bears little resemblance to what he remembers as a child.

Today the mainland moose are nearly disappeared, the lakes and rivers are being invaded by chain pickerel — a voracious fish-eating fish that threatens the area’s native aquatic fauna — and the landscape itself — even within the “sanctuary” itself — is mangled and scarred by industrial logging and fragmented by roads.

But it’s not just the ecosystems and species at risk that are threatened by the recent spate of clearcutting on crown land. Purdy believes an untold number of highly significant archaeological sites dating back thousands of years are also at risk of being destroyed.

Pannozzo toured the forests with Purdy, and showed us how industrial logging is decimating not just the trees, not just history, but also the future.

Click here to read “The Archaeology of Loss.”

3. Zane Woodford and City Hall

Photo: Halifax Examiner

Star Metro reporter Zane Woodford has been doing the yeoman’s work on City Hall coverage over the past couple of days, following the Monday night public hearings into the Spring Garden Road/ Robie Street development late into the evening, then getting back to City Hall early yesterday morning for meetings that went again into the evening.

I’ve been working on the Assoun story, so haven’t had the ability to get to City Hall; it’s great that Woodford and the other reporters have been there to follow along. Covering government meetings, especially back-to-back meetings with no break between, is exhausting. It’s not just being present at the meetings, but also all the prep work before and the mental energy required to follow what’s going on at the meeting and then to convey that to readers in a comprehensible fashion afterwards.

Woodford has written several stories about the meetings; you can also follow him on Twitter.

4. There’s always public money for billionaires

John Bragg

Nova Scotia Business Inc. yesterday announced $2.135 million in payroll rebates for Oxford Frozen Foods Limited, the firm owned by billionaire John Bragg. This comes atop an “innovation rebate” for Oxford of $702,205 announced last week.

Bragg built an effective monopoly on blueberry exports, much as fellow billionaire John Risley built an effective monopoly on lobster exports (and who is also the recipient of considerable government largesse). Are we seeing a theme?

There’s always public money for billionaires, the people who least need it. Since 1998 Oxford Frozen Foods Limited has received over $7.5 million in financing through the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and NSBI previously awarded Oxford $1.5 million in payroll rebates in 2016.

I’m going to pull up something I wrote after the 2016 announcement, but first let me remind readers that the president of NSBI is Laurel Broten, the ultimate Liberal insider, a former Ontario cabinet minister who in 2014 was hired for the NSBI  by the Liberal McNeil government because, well, she needed a job and Liberals help Liberals.

Consider that Liberal connection as I repeat myself, where I was quoting a misguided CBC article:

The next bit is especially rich:

The business development agency says it only approves rebates when the tax revenue generated is more than the amount spent on the rebate.

You know, I pay payroll taxes. Kim Stacey (see below) paid payroll taxes. The owner of the local tavern pays payroll taxes. And if we all got payroll rebates, we too would be generating tax revenue that is more than the amount spent on the rebate. Where’s my payroll rebate, dammit?

But of course if every employer got payroll rebates that would be… a tax cut. And we can’t have that (seriously, we can’t).

So instead the select few get a payroll rebate, and then a gigantic government bureaucracy has to justify them as wise “investments” or some such bullshit. In this case, Ray [Carolyn Ray, the CBC reporter] continues:

Burkhardt says the company plans on creating “a vast number of jobs,” from management right through all levels of the business.

[…]

NSBI says Oxford Frozen Foods would spend an additional $18.7 million in salaries through the program.

The jobs will focus in expanding the company’s value-added division and creating new products, but Burkhardt wouldn’t specify what those products are because they don’t want to tip off the competition.

Yeah, and if the government will give me $1.5 million in payroll rebates, I’ll spend eleventy million dollars on salaries for a special secret, er, pet project I’m working on. Can’t tell you what it is, because I don’t want Haligonia stealing the idea (oremay atcay ideosvay).

No doubt, NSBI will say the “value-added” exports justify the subsidies to Oxford Frozen Foods, but who are we kidding here? Commercial wild blueberries grow in the Maritimes and Maine, and that’s it. There is no real geographical competition, and Oxford tycoon John Bragg, owner of Oxford Frozen Foods, has cornered the market.

Ray doesn’t mention it, but it’s time to point to the elephant in the room: the billionaire John Bragg is one connected mofo.

Generally speaking, I don’t make a big deal out of the campaign contributions people make. A business owner should be able to be a member of the local riding political association and kick down a few dollars for favoured candidates without having that political involvement (which we should encourage) being held against the business owner.

But the Bragg family takes the political involvement to a whole ‘nother level, and the beneficiary of their largesse is the provincial Liberal Party. Let’s review:

Election contributions from Bragg family members to the Liberal Party

2011
John Bragg — $1,346.80
Lee Bragg (John’s son, who runs Eastlink) — $1,354.88
Matthew Bragg (John’s son, head of logistics & sales at OFF) — $846.80
Judy Bragg (Matthew’s wife) — $846.80
Cathy Bragg-Gilmore (widow of Ross Bragg, John’s nephew) — $70
Other people named “Bragg” in Oxford area — $2,202.32

2012
John Bragg — $1,000
Judy Bragg — $920.20

2013 (an election year)
John Bragg — $1,000
Amy Bragg (wife of Lee) — $5,000
Patricia Bragg — $5,000
Carla Bragg — $5,000
Judy Bragg — $5,000
Lee Bragg — $1,000
Matthew Bragg— $1,000
Cathy Bragg-Gilmore —  $265

(I only put Cathy Bragg-Gimore on the list because she’s one of the owners of the new Halifax Hurricane basketball team, which for some reason I find hilarious.)

Well, that’s all I have time for this morning, but you get the point: The Braggs give a shitload of money to the Liberal Party. And now the Liberal government is giving a shitload of money to Oxford Frozen Foods.

Oh, and let’s not forget that John Bragg is Speaker of the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, the right-wing (non)think-tank that supposedly promotes the free market. Well, the free market for me and you, but not for Oxford Frozen Foods.

5. Blue seats

Halifax Transit to retrofit the worst of its slippery seat fleethttps://t.co/V3xLFf7hvg #nspoli pic.twitter.com/bksUnm2XDa

— Jean Laroche (@larochecbc) July 17, 2019

“Regular Halifax Transit riders who dread climbing aboard one of the fleet’s newest buses because of their slippery plastic seats are glad to hear the transit provider is planning to buy and install cushions for the worst of its blue-seated fleet,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:

The plastic seats on 69 Nova Bus vehicles may be durable, but they’re hard to stay on, say frequent users.

Not just hard to stay on, but uncomfortable and just downright cheap looking. I get on a bus with the seats and I think, “what’s this plastic shit?” It’s yet another example of the people who manage the bus system not actually riding the bus, so they don’t understand the first thing about it, such as passenger comfort.

Here’s another example: those buses where the window frame is exactly at eye level, so you can’t look out the window without cranking your neck into contortions. It’s as if someone bought the buses without getting on them and riding around on one to see what the experience would be like for passengers.


Views

1. Landscape design

Oqwa’titek Amphitheatre. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald travelled through the province recently and came across three examples of landscape design he found interesting, including the Mersey Skatepark, the Oqwa’titek Amphitheatre in Annapolis Royal, and the interpretive panels at Kentville Research and Development Centre.

Comments Archibald:

To tell the story of our architecture and planned landscapes, old and new, it is important to know who the architect or designer was. I’m pleased that these exemplar projects are not anonymous.

These projects have young plantings that will improve with age. As I’m writing this post the city of Halifax is planning to remove a mature planting of rose hedges that they never seemed to understand. What was once a huge collection of delightful rose hedges along the Dunbrack ring road has been much diminished over the years and now the city proposes to uproot more. I forget who proposed the roses (I believe it was a landscape architect in the 80s) but they were a character defining element for an area that did not have much character at the time.

I also don’t know the name of the designer for the new planting of trees that will replace the roses.


Government

City

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9am, City Hall) — agenda

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda

Board of Cowardly Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — the commission is going in camera to discuss “a matter relating to the security of police operations.” Not on the agenda: police misconduct in the Assoun case.

Thursday

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — agenda

Province

No public meetings this week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Robust Gear Pitting Detection for Condition Monitoring of Gearbox (Wednesday, 10am, room 310, Industrial Engineering Building) — Ashish Darpe from IIT Delhi will speak.

Thursday

Community Day (Thursday, 10am, Agricultural Campus, Bible Hill) — BBQ, ice cream, and tractors. Rain or shine. More info here.

Studley Campus Pride Week Flag Raising (Thursday, 12pm, Lower Studley Quad) — Elder-in-Residence Geri Musqua-LeBlanc will open the event; smudging ceremony, speakers Jasmine Walsh and Faiza Nauman, and cake.

Gen Silent (Thursday, 5pm, in the auditorium named after a bank) — a screening of Stu Maddox’s 2010 documentary.


In the harbour

Wednesday
05:30: Viking Constanza, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Veracruz, Mexico
08:00: John J. Carrick, barge, with tug Leo A. McArthur, arrives at McAsphalt from Montreal
09:15: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,446 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a nine-day roundtrip cruise out of Baltimore
15:30: Viking Constanza sails for sea
16:00: Gerhard Schulte, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
18:30: Grandeur of the Seas sails for Baltimore

Thursday
01:30: Gerhard Schulte, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
04:00: Columbia Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
05:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
05:30: Olympian Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
06:30: Bandura, cargo ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Baltimore
11:00 Tombarra, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
15:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails for New York
19:00: Tombarra moves to Autoport


Footnotes

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


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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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  1. It seems like every big company gets a break of some sort in NS. Bay Ferries, The Bragg family and Northern Pulp to name a couple of recent recipients. I don’t think the NS Liberal party cares.
    They seem to give our money away. Sad.
    I need a break, when am I going to get mine?

  2. The money to the Bragg outfit is a huge hypocrisy on the part of the Liberal spin doctors. First, the “innovation” money is going to lead to fewer jobs by creating “efficiencies” on the production line. Second, the Liberal government is prepared to give money to Brag in the form of “payroll rebates” – essentially paying the salary of Bragg’s employees – but won’t give raises to health care workers and other public servants. This stuff should be criminal.

    1. True he did not get immediate full compensation. But why not agree almost immediately now that this is all out in the open, that compensation is required and pay out something while the big shots negotiate an appropriate figure? Why make him wait, or have to file in court? Do the right thing and get the process started with some compensation. Maybe even eventually an apology? Or hey, some accountability on the part of the HRP, RCMP, Crown?

  3. So if the province feels constrained for some legal reason NOT to talk about the case of Glen Assoun, it should be pressed to spell out its policy for the redress of people unjustly convicted of crimes they did not commit.
    The appropriate procedure is spelled out in a The Federal/Provincial Guidelines on Compensation for Wrongfully Convicted and Imprisoned Persons, adopted by the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Justice Ministers in 1988.

    For its part, Quebec, has adopted the exact language of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 14(6):

    “When a person has, by a final decision, been convicted of a criminal offence and when subsequently his conviction has been reversed or he has been pardoned on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a miscarriage of justice, the person who has suffered punishment as a result of such conviction shall be compensated according to law, unless it is proved that the non-disclosure of the unknown fact in time is wholly or partly attributable to him.”