In the harbour
1. Joseph Cameron
“A 17-year-old has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a man in Halifax,” reports the Canadian Press:
The arrest comes months after 20-year-old Joseph Douglas Cameron was found dead on a Dartmouth sidewalk.
2. Examineradio, episode #69
This week we speak with Jonathen Brigley of Nova Scotia ACORN about that organization’s push for mandatory landlord licensing in Halifax.
Also, Peter Kelly’s cross-Canada tour of fiscal malfeasance continues. After improper loans to concert promoters and the mismanagement of a dead woman’s estate here in Halifax, he’s now accused of overstepping his authority money-wise in the Alberta town of Westlock.
Listen as Charlottetown councillors discuss the “inbreds” in Alberta and ask, “Why would we google [Peter Kelly’s name]?”
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(Subscribe via iTunes)
3. Peter Kelly
Last Wednesday, I broke locally the news of former Halifax mayor Peter Kelly’s alleged financial malfeasance in Westlock County, Alberta (the story was first reported in the Westlock News Tuesday evening). On Friday, I obtained a memo from that county’s staff to the county council detailing the matter.
You can read the entire eight-page memo here. The “former CAO” mentioned in the memo is Kelly. The issue involves a company wanting to set up an operation in the Westlock Industrial Park; that company is referred to in the memo as both Horizon North, or Horizon for short, and as “Swamp Mats,” the Horizon subsidiary that would operate in the industrial park.
The details in the memo appear to have been collected through a search of the county’s email, presumably as collected on a server, and through interviews with county employees.
As outlined in the memo, at some earlier point the county council had voted to put a price on land in the industrial park at $35,000/acre, but when Horizon expressed interest in buying 8.55 acres of the land, the price dropped to $30,000/acre — about $256,500 total — on the approval of Kelly but without the approval of council.
According to the memo, in addition to the purchase, Horizon wanted site improvements; Kelly estimated those improvement would cost between $55,000 and $75,000. Kelly asked the county’s director of Engineering & Infrastructure if the Public Works department could do the job, and the director responded “that Public Works could start the job after the landfill project and the remediation at the Maykut gravel pit was completed” — evidently, the county has limited Public Works staff and these two large projects were taking up all resources. Despite that, according to the memo, Kelly “insisted that we start the Horizon Project. Operation Supervisor pulled the rock trucks out of the Maykut pit and directed staff to proceed with the Horizon site project.”
Problem was, according to the memo, Kelly had no authority to direct that the Horizon site work be done — there were no funds budgeted for the project, and the provincial Municipality Act says money can only be spent on projects approved by council as part of its annual budget.
It gets worse. When the work was started, Horizon agreed to sign a purchase order for $55,000, the low end of the estimated cost of the work. But those costs were merely a back-of-the-envelope guess as the project wasn’t fully scoped; as the work progressed, the costs quickly escalated, first to $100,000, but even then “the project was not near completion.” According to the memo, Kelly “informed Director of Engineering & Infrastructure that he had an open purchase order [from Horizon for the work],” but in reality, “there was no signed contract in place. There was no indication that the cost overruns were communicated to Horizon North.”
Kelly was so insistent that the work be done that “this resulted in putting smaller Westlock County jobs on hold or not completed in 2015.”
As this was playing out, the purchase of the land was formalized via a three-year lease/buy agreement, where Horizon agreed to pay $5,500/month, or $198,000 total, with subsequent rights of first refusal to purchase the land. Council approved that agreement at its July 28 meeting, but according to the memo, Kelly did not complete and sign the agreement until September 9 — six weeks later.
In the meanwhile, the work at the site was finished in August. A councillor asked for an accounting of the work costs, but was put off. Kelly was asked directly at a subsequent council meeting for the full costs of the project: “the question was not answered,” reads the memo.
In September, Horizon asked for an invoice for the work, expecting a bill for $55,000. The memo explains what happened next:
September 25, 2015 at the end of the day, [Kelly] asked a staff member to create an invoice to Horizon. There were discrepancies among different line items for the quantity of clay being supplied versus the amount being dried. There was another error around the quantity or unit price. Once the invoice was completed, two copies were given to [Kelly] and one invoice was kept for filing in Finance. No backup was provided to Finance for their backup to the invoice. The staff member was going to the post office for the County mail and offered to take the registered mail. [Kelly] declined the offer. When the staff member was leaving the post office, [Kelly] arrived with the registered mail. This was just prior to post office closing at 5pm. Finance Management was not consulted or informed.
Evidently, Horizon never received the invoice, as nearly a month later, on October 23, a Horizon official contacted Kelly to ask about it. Eventually, Kelly sent a bill for $190,000. Horizon refused to pay anything more than $55,000, saying it had given no authorization to any greater expenditure.
After some negotiation, in December Kelly said he was ready to rework the entire agreement. The $190,000 bill for the site work was completed changed — an invoice was created to reflect that an $9,000 administrative fee was dropped, while $56,000 was billed for clay. But then a second invoice for $125,000 was created for gravel; “Finance was not informed or advised,” reads the memo. At the same time, the lease/purchase agreement was recalculated at about $6,500/month over the three years, or about $5,000/month over five years.
My read on this is that Kelly was trying to make the lost $125,000 go away by rolling it into the amount Horizon would spend on the entire land purchase amount in the lease agreement.
As county staff sees it, the deal amounted to an illegal loan.
It’s not clear what happened over the next few months because Kelly appears to have been speaking out of both sides of his mouth, telling council things were proceeding as planned, but giving conflicting information to Horizon.
Kelly’s last day as CAO was March 24, 2016, but he continued to contact Horizon “as if he were still CAO,” says the memo.
County staff are now left cleaning up the mess. Budgets have been re-aligned to reflect financial reality and proper accounting. In all, $390,570.29 was spent on the project, even though it wasn’t budgeted for and Kelly had approval to spend only up to $10,000 without council’s approval. And the county has written off $205,683.30.
We’ve seen all this before, of course — Kelly exceeding his authority, keeping the Finance department in the dark, and signing illegal loan deals were the hallmarks of Halifax’s concert scandal. In that instance, HRM lost about $400,000, which was easily subsumed into the city’s billion-dollar budget. Westlock County, however, is a tiny place, with just 7,700 residents. A $200,000 hit to the county budget will be felt for years to come.
“Known as Chalkmaster Dave, [David] Johnston was commissioned by Oland Brewery to commemorate the completion of a $1.9-million facelift of the Alexander Keith’s brewery,” reports Remo Zaccagna for Local Xpress:
Johnston was tasked to draw two chalk art pieces, one by the Halifax Public Gardens and the other in front of the Lower Water Street brewery.
But after the Public Gardens piece was done, he received a call and a cease-and-desist letter from Halifax Regional Municipality informing him that he was not allowed to do so, despite having obtained a permit from the city through the Spring Garden Area Business Association.
Municipal spokeswoman Tiffany Chase said Johnston’s art at the Public Gardens is considered commercial advertising in the right-of-way, which is only permitted for licensed sandwich board signs for an annual $80 licence.
“It appears there was a miscommunication in this instance between the advertiser, the Spring Garden Area Business Association and municipal staff,” Chase said in an email.
“A new report from Statistics Canada shows Nova Scotia still has some of the lowest weekly wages in the country and is below the Canadian average,” reports Lisa Blackburn for the CBC.
Of course, if we were talking about the wages of CEOs of crown corporations, or of government ministers, or of politicians, we’d be putting together remuneration committees that would collect exacting data on the wages of CEOs, ministers, and politicians in other places, weight those wages by population and immediately institute steep pay raises in order to reach a “fair” wage scale.
But since we’re only talking about regular working people, well, screw ’em.
1. Barbara Hannigan
“Barbara Hannigan has been awarded the Order of Canada for her achievements in singing and conducting classical music in some of the world’s most important venues,” writes Ron Foley MacDonald:
Hannigan was born in Nova Scotia in 1971 and raised in Waverley, at the time a small village just outside of Dartmouth.
To think that the East Coast’s classical music scene produced one of the world’s great contemporary music talents provides one of those sobering moments in the arts out here. Hannigan may be less well known to casual listeners than Waverley’s other great musical export, April Wine’s Myles Goodwyn, but there is no question about her monumental achievements.
Hannigan studied in Nova Scotia until she was 17. She moved on to the University of Toronto before plying her trade mostly in Europe. Still, this should prove something of a rallying point for Halifax’s under-reported classical music scene, as well as the often neglected cause of teaching music in the school system.
Districts 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee (4pm, City Hall) — there are two issues before the committee. First is the St. Pat’s High School site:
A potential site specific zone has been drafted that would implement the policy changes suggested above. The zone would regulate the following:
• Residential, commercial, and institutional uses permitted
• Maximum height requirements ranging from 7 storeys to 18 storeys
• Maximum gross floor area of 41,000m2
• Maximum building depth of 30m
• Setbacks ranging from 1m to 3m
• Streetwall heights of 3 – 4 storeys
• Maximum floor plate area of 650m2 for buildings over 7 storeys
• Parking and Signage provisions
Second is a proposal for a seven-storey, 68-unit apartment building on Agricola Street overlooking the glorious new expanded Colonial Honda parking lot.
North West Community Council (7pm, Acadia Hall) — Sackville issues.
No public meetings.
No campus events.
In the harbour
3:30am: Ningbo Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Cagliari, Italy
5:30am: Capricornus Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Antwerp
9am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor with up to 1,350 passengers
3:30pm: Macao Strait, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Leixoes, Portugal
4pm: NYK Delphinus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
6pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Sydney
11:30pm: Macao Strait, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
1:30am: NYK Delphinus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southhampton, England
11am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
11am: Capricornus Leader, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
2pm: Seoul Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
5:30am: Mignon, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England
6pm: Mignon, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 31
9pm: Mignon, car carrier, sails from Pier 31 for New York
It’s 9am Monday morning and I’m already hopelessly behind for the week.
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Like a Broten LeBarge moving east when the political winds blow, so does the Kelly ship sail all over our faces. How does this happen? I thought I wasn’t supposed to think of the movers and shakers in their secret meetings, as to keep the furrow off of my Stoic brow. Keep on Rockin’ in the Journalism realm.
Peter Kelly is a white-collar psychopath; his long-term, factually-documented pattern of behaviour graphically illustrate it.
Sadly, there are too many folks in PEI who’re wilfully insular, ignorant and trusting, preferring to invest total unquestioning judgment and responsibility in their elected representatives. History, including recent, demonstrates illusive accountability, so the cycle keeps repeating. Peter Kelly’s hiring is emblematic of it, in addition to the level of competence, diligence and judgment of the selection panel who recommended him, and those who rubber-stamped it. Audio comments from Messrs. Rice and Duffy speak for themselves – loudly. I’d hide my head if I were either.
I have mixed feelings about regulating landlords. A lot of landlords are shitty, in fact, given that they have economic incentives to do so, it’s a wonder more aren’t. On the other hand, people should be able to consent to any sort of economic transaction they want, as long as both parties have other options and are fully informed. Maybe what would be fairer would be a publicly accessible database of landlord reviews, protected from libel lawsuits and false claims, so that if say, a landlord is renting out a drafty shithole with four(plus)-legged undocumented tenants, the market can choose a fair price for that unit.
The fallacy of Nova Scotia is in decline or below average meaning that Halifax is in decline or below average needs to end. Halifax is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities (faster than Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and New York City, proportionally), and our wages are above the national average while our unemployment rate is below average.
Sure, much of our growth is attributed to rural emigration, and rural Halifax is in a free fall, but Halifax as a whole is doing quite well.
Despite this, there have been at least two CBC stories this week that use Nova Scotia stats to paint Halifax with a bad brush. Even the Halifax Partnership used the Nova Scotia numbers to paint a critical picture in the Halifax Index.
All of this is to say, when linking to a CBC article about wages it’s important to point out that they are misleading us by not providing the Halifax context.
I would like to see stats on Halifax’s wages compared with its cost of living. Also, when we discuss wages, we can’t just focus on wages per hour: we have to focus on actual total wages. Sure, you can have a minimum wage that’s fairly high in comparison to other cities. But if the cost of living is high, and if a large percentage of companies do not offer full-time positions, people’s weekly total wages won’t get them very far here. I lived in Saint John, NB. The minimum wage there was lower, yes, but compared with the cost of living, Saint John was a more affordable city. I realize I’m focusing on wages in the lower-earning sector. I don’t know how they compare in other sectors.
Very good T. Wages as lump sum are of little value. What is required is hours worked to get those total wages to the point of being able to have a life that has some form of balance. But nobody wants to talk about that, because it’s a very ugly picture at the bottom end.
Two thoughts on Peter Kelly:
1) This really shows the importance of locally focused, locally run news outlets. The only reason people in PEI have any idea what is happening is because a story in tiny Westlock County (or “West County or whatever” if you’re on Charlottetown city council) dug into it and it was noticed by a reporter/editor of a website in Halifax. National media like CP, the G&M or CBC just can’t cover these sorts of municipal stories they way local reporters can.
2) I desperately hope that within the next few years Peter Kelly has an interview where he really explains honestly and openly why he does the things he does. Some things like the problems with money in an estate seem obvious, but whatever happened in Westlock County makes no sense to me. I know he’s likely incapable of being honest or explaining why he keeps falling into this behaviour but it is such bizarre pattern that I honestly just want to try to understand what’s going on in his head.
Oh, for heaven’s sake, leave Kelly alone.
He has to live with himself.
That might be punishment enough, I would think.
As a man who never seems to own up to his misdeeds I think it more than appropriate that Peter Kelly should become a cautionary tale.
The more people know about his deception and incompetence the better off we’ll all be.
Unfortunately this didn’t come to light in time for the poor people of Charlottetown.