News

1. Forest review redux

WestFor clearcut on the former Bowater lands, 2016, St. Margaret’s Bay. Photo: Raymond Plourde.

The province announced yesterday “an independent review of forest practices in Nova Scotia“:

University of King’s College president William Lahey will review forest practices and evaluate market access for private forest owners. Prof. Lahey is an associate professor at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law and a former deputy minister of environment.

“The sustainable management of our natural resources is vitally important to all Nova Scotians,” said [Natural Resources minister Margaret] Miller. “I welcome Prof. Lahey to the task of leading a thorough and independent review that examines the forest practice issues that are so important to Nova Scotians.”

Prof. Lahey will carry out a review of existing forest harvest practices including strengths and weaknesses and the overall role of Crown wood supply throughout Nova Scotia. He will provide recommendations for improvement regarding how Nova Scotia balances long-term environmental, social and economic interests in managing the province’s forests.

Nothing against Lahey, but we’ve already done this.

First, the background, as explained by Linda Pannozzo:

In 2010 the NDP government, with John MacDonell as DNR minister, did commit to a target, one to reduce clearcutting to 50 per cent of all harvesting, and it received all party support. He also made the commitment to prohibit the removal of whole trees from forest sites harvested for biomass. But around the time MacDonnell was vying for the whole-tree prohibition, hearings were underway at the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board with Nova Scotia Power asking for permission to undertake a $200 million biomass plant — a capital investment that would be passed on to Nova Scotia ratepayers. It made the bogus argument that biomass was renewable and would help them meet the legislated targets of the province’s Renewable Energy Plan. Despite the serious concerns raised about the prospect of more clearcutting to feed the boiler, the plant was approved.

That same year, the DNR also commissioned Peter Woodbridge, a consultant and advisor to several forest industry companies in Canada and abroad, to write a report about what the economic impact of a 50 per cent reduction in clearcutting would look like for the forest industry.

It would be speculation for me to say the removal of John MacDonell from the Natural Resource portfolio in early 2011 had anything to do with forest industry pressure, but the optics certainly support the claim. For years MacDonell expressed deep concerns that the forests were being overharvested in the province and he was extremely vocal about it. As minister he was finally acting on views about clearcutting that he, like the public, held for many years. If nothing else, his removal was a sign of things to come.

To the surprise of many, in 2011 the DNR under the new minister, Charlie Parker, released its Natural Resources Strategy — and true to the previous Conservative government’s word, it more or less represented the public will. The Strategic Directions set a target for reducing clearcutting to no more than 50 per cent of all harvests, to be phased in over five years, and set in regulation; prohibit the removal of whole trees from forest sites harvested for biomass; and eliminate public funding for herbicide spraying.

So they fired the guy who implemented the public’s will. That seems to be a recurring theme.

Anyway, here’s the Natural Resources Strategy. Note these sections…

Page 42:

Clearcutting

Currently, 96 per cent of all forested lands are harvested by clearcutting. An ecosystem-based analysis of the province’s forests showed that about 50 per cent of these lands are suited for uneven-aged management, or non-clearcutting. The policy framework set a target for reducing clearcutting to no more than 50 per cent of all harvests. The target, to be phased in over five years, will be set in regulation.

With the release of this strategy, the province’s definition of clearcutting, in non-technical terms, is this: The removal of all trees in an area at one time, except those required to be left uncut under the Wildlife Habitat and Watercourses Protection regulations. At the time of publication, a technical definition of clearcutting was being developed.

Page 43:

Weed control

Public funds will continue to be available to support sustainable weed control practices, such as manual weeding, so that naturally and artificially regenerated areas will survive and thrive. However, public support will no longer be extended to the use of herbicides. Woodland owners and operators may use herbicides at their own expense and in compliance with all safety and environmental regulations.

Forest biomass for energy

In Phase 2 of the strategy development process, the steering panel urged government to exercise great caution in the use of biomass (wood fibre) for power generation. It also urged government to encourage the exploration and expansion of other sustainable methods to generate power, while continuing to conserve energy and reduce demand.

The cap set for new consumption of forest biomass for renewable electricity generation has been reduced to 350,000 dry tonnes per year, from the original 500,000 dry tonnes per year. The earlier cap was set as part of the Renewable Electricity Regulations, released in October 2010. Those regulations require that the Department of Natural Resources advise the Minister of Energy when any new forest biomass-based applications have a fuel procurement plan that will meet sustainable harvesting requirements.

In its Renewable Electricity Plan, the government of Nova Scotia committed itself to a cautious approach to the use of forest biomass for electricity production. The natural resources strategy reaffirms that commitment.

And yet every one of those goals has been ignored. Clearcutting has continued apace, albeit the definition of “clearcut” has been changed to marginally lower the reported rate (even with that statistical lie, it still far exceeds the 50 per cent called for in the Strategy); the province continues to fund the spraying of herbicides on crown land; and biomass has been embraced whole hog — as Raymond Plourde puts it:

Ray Plourde, of the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, said Nova Scotia’s forest is getting younger and scrubbier with each clearcut, which he said is how about 90 per cent of wood is harvested.

He said wood is now being cut almost exclusively for pulp mills and for electricity-generating biomass operations like the one run by Nova Scotia Power in Port Hawkesbury.

He said that simply produces “low-value, high-volume commodity products.”

“Our future cannot be in shipping chips and pellets to Europe, we don’t have a forest that can sustain that.”

Understand what’s going on here. The Natural Resources Strategy was published in 2011 — six years ago. It reflected the public will as reflected by the thousands of people who participated in the Voluntary Planning process. It had all-party political support. But, reported Pannozzo:

But about a month ago [i.e. August 2016] when the DNR released its progress report, on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 Natural Resource Strategy, any hope that a new vision had been put into practice was dashed. Instead of reporting on its progress toward meeting the citizen-led targets, including a significant reduction in clearcutting and prohibiting whole tree biomass harvesting, it has instead abandoned them.

We have a Natural Resources Strategy. It should be implemented. Full stop.

The Natural Resources Strategy hasn’t been and isn’t being implemented because the Department of Natural Resources has been “captured” by the forest industry. The DNR actively works against the public’s will and for the quick, short-term profits of the industry, and never mind the health of the forests or the long-term environmental consequences.

So yesterday’s announcement of an independent review is just another bureaucratic delaying tactic, designed to take the public’s eye off the ball.

2. Tidal turbine

Tugboats pull a barge containing the OpenHydro turbine into position near Parrsboro Nova Scotia on Thursday 12th November 2009. Cape Split is in the background. Photo: CNS/Len Wagg

“The Bay of Fundy’s acclaimed ‘highest tides in the world’ have long been a tourist attraction, but the powerful natural phenomenon is proving to be one of the most challenging places on Earth to produce electricity,” reports Jennifer Henderson for the Halifax Examiner:

On June 15, the Cape Sharp Tidal demonstration project retrieved its five-storey high turbine from the ocean floor before barging it to Saint John, New Brunswick for repairs and upgrades. But no date has been set for the 1,000-tonne unit to return to the waters of the Minas Passage near Parrsboro, or for when a second turbine completed last year will be deployed.

Click here to read “No date set for return of tidal turbine to the Minas Basin.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall. Click here to subscribe.

3. Homicides

Jim Matthews (CBC):

Financial planner and real estate developer James David Matthews has been identified as the victim of Tuesday’s homicide in Sydney, N.S.

Matthews’s body was found at 54 Prince St. at the apartment where he lived.

[…]

Matthews worked at Matthews McDonough Financial Planning Inc. in Halifax. He also owned some real estate developments in Sydney such as the Prince Street Market. His home was on the top floor of the building.

Nadia Gonzales. Photo: GoFundMe

Nadia Gonzales (Halifax Police release):

Investigators in the Special Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division have arrested a third person in relation to the homicide of Nadia Gonzales.

At 7:42 p.m. on June 16, Halifax Regional Police, including Patrol, K-9, Emergency Response and Quick Response officers, responded to Hastings Drive in Dartmouth‎ for an assault in progress. Upon arrival, officers discovered an injured man outside a residential building. He was transported to the Dartmouth General Hospital by EHS with what appeared to be life-threatening injuries. Officers also located 35-year-old Nadia Gonzales, who was unresponsive, inside a residential building. EHS pronounced her deceased at the scene and the Medical Examiner ruled her death a homicide. 

Through the course of the investigation, four men and a woman were taken into custody. Three of the men were released without charges on June 17, and the other man and woman were charged in relation to the homicide. Twenty-three-year-old Calvin Maynard Sparks of Dartmouth was charged with one count each of first degree murder, attempted murder and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, numerous other weapons-related charges not related to the homicide and three counts of breach of probation. Nineteen-year-old Samanda Rose Ritch of Halifax was charged with one count each of first degree murder, attempted murder and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, numerous other weapons-related charges not related to the homicide and breach of recognizance. 

Through the course of the investigation, officers identified a third suspect, who was not one of the people previously taken into custody. Investigators arrested the man without incident at a residence on Hastings Drive in Dartmouth yesterday at 9:10 a.m. The man was transported to Police Headquarters at 1975 Gottingen Street and remanded into custody overnight. 

Sixty-year-old Wayne Andrew Bruce of Dartmouth has been charged with one count of first degree murder, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and numerous other weapons-related charges not related to the homicide. He is scheduled to appear in Dartmouth Provincial Court today. 

Unnamed victim (police email to reporters):

The victim of an aggravated assault that occurred last month in Halifax has died. Our thoughts are with the victims family and loved ones.

On July 20 at 7:30 p.m., police responded to an injured person call at the corner of Buddy Daye and Gottingen Streets. The victim, a 51-year-old man from Halifax, was located at the scene with a head injury and transported to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The victim remained in hospital where he later died on August 28. An autopsy was conducted yesterday by the Medical Examiner’s Office; however, more in-depth testing is required to determine the manner of death.

Through the investigation, officers obtained information that the victim had been assaulted by another man. At this point in the investigation, it is believed that the victim and the suspect are known to each other. The suspect is described as a man, between the ages of 40-50, approximately 5’5”, medium build with facial hair.

On the morning of July 26, police interviewed a 50-year-old man from Halifax in relation to the assault. He was not charged in relation to this incident.

4. Elites

Danny Chedrawe. Photo: http://anchorliving.ca

“Danny Chedrawe doesn’t think Bob Bjerke was up to the challenge of leading HRM’s planning department,” reports Jacob Boon for The Coast:

He claims the incredible amount of development happening in HRM has caught the planning department off-guard. Regional council has a “moral obligation” to “open the pipeline” and allow more housing development, Chedrawe says, but the city has been hijacked by “elitists” like the planning advocates in the Willow Tree Group.

Whoa. Let’s think about this.

First of all, council has a “moral obligation” to rig the system so Chedrawe can make millions of dollars? I don’t think so. Perhaps council has a moral obligation to require multimillionaire developers to build lots of affordable housing units into their projects. Perhaps the province has a moral obligation to increase housing subsidies to poor people. Perhaps our society has a moral obligation to build a non-market housing stock by better funding cooperatives and other housing systems that don’t enrich a very few at the expense of people who just need a roof over their heads. But making sure Danny Chedrawe makes millions of dollars is not an obligation, nor is it moral.

More to the point, Chedrawe is one of the half-dozen biggest developers in Halifax. He is a multimillionaire who controls billions of dollars worth of development projects and demands that bureaucrats meet with him personally. Bjerke was fired in response to criticism from developers like Chedrawe, so by definition, Chedrawe is part of the ruling elite.

And yet he calls a tiny and poorly funded community group “elitists.”

You gotta admire Chedrawe’s brazen hypocrisy, I suppose.

Like Medieval monks contemplating an Earth-centric solar system, Chedrawe has evidently constructed a moral universe that orbits around himself; everything is defined by its gravitational relationship to his enormous ego. Should someone claim that Chedrawe has the physics of it wrong, that he isn’t the centre of the universe, that there are relative values and other forces at work, that person will be accused of heresy, of being an affront to morality. The Church of Danny understands the proper order of things, and it is not for mere congregants to question it; our duty is to worship, to trust the infallible pope, and to understand, the best our sinful minds can, that the Church of Danny is the the fount of righteousness, the source of all things good.

Just for shits and giggles, let’s repost a piece I wrote in May 2016:

Suppose you are Danny Chedrawe, the developer who just tore down the Doyle Block, and you have arranged a business meeting across the street, in the cafe in the new library, overlooking the now-empty lot where you plan to build your new development.

In such a situation, you might want to pepper your conversation with details about the demolition you just completed. You might tell the two businessmen that it cost $750,000 — $250,000 for the demolition itself, the remainder for asbestos removal and other hazmat costs.

You might go on to discuss prospective tenants for the new building. You might say that Telus has already committed to leasing space, you’re in discussion with BMO, and you expect to have 80 to 90 per cent of the ground floor retail leased by completion of construction, but you aren’t ready to sign leases because that would lock you into a construction schedule. You might also talk about the second floor of the project, which is planned to be commercial or office space. You might mention that you think you can rent it at $17 a square foot, $2 more than the second floor of Park Lane, but you’re configuring it such a way that should the commercial market be soft, you can make the second floor residential.

You might also talk about the development industry generally. It’s hard to ignore the giant Nova Centre going up downtown, so you might want to talk smack about the Ramias, who are developing that property. “I don’t have much faith in them,” you might say. “They’re much better developers and business people than I am because they cut corners.”

You might go on to discuss the Centre Plan now working its way through the city bureaucracy. You might say about the city planners and development people overseeing the Centre Plan, “all these guys are very arrogant.” You might complain about taxes and bureaucracy. “The biggest threat to our economy right now is the municipality” you might say. “They’re in total chaos.”

Relatedly, you might talk about how the people in the city planning department don’t have a clue about development. You might point out that the sidewalk in front of your development is the busiest pedestrian zone east of Montreal, but they didn’t even consider trying to widen the sidewalk in exchange for concessions to you. “They didn’t have any real estate or development people” in the group that met with you about your development proposal, you might say, but there was that woman who took up an hour of your time discussing what the civic address of the new building would be. “That’s what they find important,” you might say, shaking your head in disbelief. “Couldn’t she just send an email?”

You might go on to slag suburban developers. Bedford West isn’t dense enough, you might say, and the city doesn’t charge high enough development fees — the city should’ve demanded that the suburban developers provide school sites as part of the deal, and because that wasn’t there, the school board had to pay millions of dollars to acquire the sites. You might also say that given the current climate, suburban developers are coming downtown. “They don’t know what they’re doing,” you might say. They’re used to bulldozing everything, and building many hundred feet away from streets and sidewalks. It’s a completely different game downtown, you might say.

Here’s a small piece of advice: If you are Danny Chedrawe, developer of the Doyle Block, and you are thinking of having such a business meeting at the cafe in the library across the street, and having the discussion related above, you might want to make sure there’s not a reporter at the next table, dutifully following along with his laptop open, typing in your words.

Bob Bjerke. Photo: Twitter

Undoubtedly, city councillors on the developer-boot-licking side of the spectrum will either applaud Bjerke’s firing or try to sidestep any controversy by claiming their hands are tied. But, says Bill Turpin, we shouldn’t let them get away with it:

Council hasn’t met since Aug. 15, the week before Bjerke got the ax, and won’t meet again until Sept. 5, two weeks after. It’s possible councillors will say nothing on that occasion because staff hiring and firing are outside their purview. But they ARE answerable if the planning process goes off the rails, again, so they may have some pointed questions about whether they are being well-served by senior staff.

Staff will remind Council and the public that the topic is a “personnel matter” and so, according to the city charter, it must be debated in secret. That is wrong: the charter gives council the OPTION to meet in secret, but does not REQUIRE it.

Next, we’ll be told council can’t discuss it publicly because of solicitor-client privilege. Again, this is wrong. Solicitor-client privilege binds the SOLICITOR to secrecy, but the client is perfectly free to discuss her own business, even if her lawyer is opposed to the idea.

We may also be told open discussion would prejudice the city’s position in the (likely) event of litigation, again costing taxpayers more money. Me, I think it’s worth the price just to get a peek at City Hall’s inner workings.

5. Fence

Graphic: People for a Clean Ocean Facebook page

People in Shelburne were complaining that fish farm operator Cooke Aquaculture was throwing a bunch of junk on its property, ruining the neighbours’ view of the harbour. So Cooke is responding by… building a four-metre high fence that entirely blocks the view of the harbour.

Maybe that four-metre fence should’ve been used at Cooke’s west coast operation:

A fish farm’s net pen failed Saturday afternoon when an anchor pulled loose and metal walkways twisted about. Onlookers said it looked like hurricane debris.

The pen, in the state’s northwestern San Juan Islands, contained about 305,000 Atlantic salmon. Now, owner Cooke Aquaculture and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are trying to determine how many escaped.

Kurt Beardslee, the director of the Wild Fish Conservancy Northwest, called the escape an “environmental nightmare.”

6. Accessible boat ramp

The city this morning issued a tender for an adoptive boat ramp at Lake Banook, such that people who use wheelchairs can deploy canoes and kayaks.


Government

No public meetings this week.


On campus

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

Thesis Defence, Computing and Data Analytics (Thursday, 11am, AT 216) — Matt Triff will defend his thesis, “Automatic Inventory Identification Through Image Recognition.”


In the harbour

1am: Sichem Challenge, oil tanker, sails from anchorage for sea
4:30am: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
4:45am: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
6am: NYK Artemis, container ship, moves from anchorage to Fairview Cove
7am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney
8:45am: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship with up to 3,000 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John
2pm: Silver Cloud, superyacht owned by gazillionaire Alexander Dreyfoos, sails from Tall Ships Quay for sea
3:30pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Bar Harbor
7pm: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for New York


Footnotes

We’re recording Examineradio today.

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. Chedrawe’s moral obligation bullshit sounds a lot like Wall Street Master of the Universe, doing god’s work bullshit.

    Morality is farness and equity not just enriching those who have so they can have more.

  2. Re “Danny Chedrawe has constructed a moral universe that revolves around his enormous ego”… there seems to be a plethora of these punks. Just replace “Chedrawe” with “Trump”… each in his own way destroying communities, and dare I say Planet Earth. They don’t have enough genuine sadness in their lives to wake them up to the suffering they create for others. Mr. Chedrawe, may you be genuinely sad, soon.

  3. Billion dollar multinational firm Cooke Aquaculture has had a bad week and it appears to be getting worse. The Granville Road community near Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia has shouted a loud, unanimous “NO” to Cooke’s plans to install a massive industrial fish farm and hatchery on protected heritage marshlands there and the escape of 300,000 salmon from Cooke’s salmon feedlot on Puget Sound near Seattle – which they originally blamed on the solar eclipse – has been described as “disastrous”, resulting in a civil lawsuit, investigations by several agencies and postponement of an application for another large, industrial salmon feedlot nearby. In the Shelburne “wall” story, the deputy warden said to me looks to him like an act of retribution by Cooke’s local tough guy for a complaining neighbor. Aquaculture minister Colwell said a few months ago that Cooke needs to up its community communications game. This is true only if they want results not obtained from pissing in the face of every community in which they do business.

  4. I am really confused about the Bjerke firing because the news stories and opinion pieces are all over the place on why it happened.

    I have not seen a news story that contains a statement of why Bjerke was fired. In fact, CBC, Global and Jacob Boon writing for The Coast say that Bjerke has not disclosed the reason and the City has said it will not disclose it as they don’t talk about personnel matters.

    Yet Bill Turpin writes “One of the truly loathsome things you can legally do in a workplace is fire someone without giving them notice or a reason, which is what the City of Halifax did to planning chief Bob Bjerke…”. How does Turpin know Bjerke was not given a reason? Who told him that? If that is true, it is indeed outrageous! But I would like to know the source.

    On the other hand, Tristan Cleveland writes in Metro “The official reason for firing Bjerke makes no sense.” Why is it that Tristan Cleveland knows the official reason and no-one else seems to, including (according to Turpin, Bjerke himself)? And why didn’t Cleveland disclose the official reason in his column so we could make our own conclusions about it? I suppose we are to take his word that 1) he knows the reason and 2) it makes no sense.

    Jenny Lugar, writing for the Coast, starts her opinion piece with “I’ll preface this article by admitting that I don’t yet know the details of chief planner Bob Bjerke’s quick exit (read: dismissal) from his role at HRM. No one does, not even the rest of HRM’s planning staff or apparently Bjerke himself (according to media interviews).” Perhaps I missed it, but I have not seen an interview with Bjerke where he said he was not told why he was dismissed. The quotes I have seen say he will not discuss it.

    So which is it? Was Bjerke fired without being told why? Or is there an “official reason” that doesn’t make sense?

    1. This is the reason I like this site. It’s a place where the state of a
      beat can be debated. Excellent questions, all.

  5. How does Mr Chedrawe control ‘billions of dollars worth of development projects ‘ ?
    I hope you have asked him for an interview to allow him to expand on his views of the development industry and the interaction with staff.
    And how many councillors hold secret meetings with a developer before a project reaches council and/or staff for decision ? And why do councillors meet with developers before a project is scheduled for a Public Information Meeting ? Same question re the Mayor.
    A jury doesn’t meet in secret with prosecutor/defence counsel before a trial, and a council meeting to decide the fate of a development proposal acts in a quasi judicial role but a councillor has already met in secret with a developer and heard evidence.
    Finally, reporters should ask CAO Dube if Bjerke received performance bonuses in the past 3 years.
    HRM needs legislation to require the Mayor and each councillor to disclose all meetings where a member of council is being lobbied to support a project or change of policy.

    1. Excellent questions and points, including court analogy and Council’s quasi judicial function. Past time for more transparency. Will be interesting and instructive whether Mr. Chedrawe agrees to an interview, assuming one is sought, as well as eventual depth and scope of other answers.

      1. I have known him for over 20 years and he is very open and approachable. He had a good relationship with Phil Pacey regarding heritage buildings and preserving streetscapes.

          1. He listened to people who wanted to save the streetscapes of Sackville at the old Irving Station and Brunswick next to the old school board office.
            And he met with and listened to Christ Church and adjacent residents when he purchased the old police station from the City of Dartmouth and then built a building that fitted in with the neighbourhood.
            He has heard the objections to his tower on Robie and has thrown that plan in the dumpster in favour of a much lower building.
            Perhaps you could interview him and write an article.

  6. Excellent piece on forestry. It puts a lot of information I have read into one place where it is easier to follow. Thanks.

    One thing though, Miller is Minister of Natural Resources, not the Minister of Environment.