News

1. The Halifax Examiner and Cape Breton Spectator’s exposé on the security failure

Yesterday, the Halifax Examiner and Cape Breton Spectator went to court to ask Justice Gregory Lenehan to unseal a search warrant Halifax police executed on the house of a 19-year-old Halifax man suspected of illegally downloading information from the FOIPOP website. We were successful. As a result, we published an exposé detailing that:

• Provincial government employees who were made aware of the security failure with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) website told Halifax police that the site had been “hacked” and that nearly 10,000 files “were taken” — which clearly overstated the nature of the case.

• The 19-year-old who was subsequently arrested for the supposed “data breach” had made a payment to access information on the FOIPOP website before he downloaded the private information that had been mistakenly placed on the public-facing website, which means provincial authorities had his name and address before going to police.

• The security failure was discovered by a Nova Scotia Archives employee who had mistyped the URL for a document he had accessed previously on the FOIPOP site.

• Halifax police assigned to investigate the security failure seem not to have basic knowledge of IT security and simply accepted the province’s IT security experts at their word.

• Police then made an application for a search warrant to a Justice of the Peace who had previously overstepped in a “cyberbullying” case.

Click here to read “Documents show how provincial employees misled Halifax police in the FOIPOP security failure.”

This article took a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of money. We got into the details of the reporting in an accompanying article, “How we obtained the search warrant documents.”

And just as we were in court yesterday, Premier Stephen McNeil was saying that he won’t apologize to the teenager who was arrested in the security failure case, reports Elizabeth McMillan for the CBC.

I’ll be publishing the documents we obtained later today. I want to first carefully redact info that can be used to identify the 19-year-old, who I view as a hapless victim in this fiasco.

We went to court asking for the documents related to the search of the teenager’s house, but we ended up getting the documents related to a production order to Eastlink to produce the home address associated with the teenager’s IP address. The two batches of documents are connected — police first had to get the production order to confirm the address, then go back to court and get a warrant for the actual search — but we didn’t get the latter, so I can’t say what information those documents would contain.

Several readers have already asked whether we’ll go back to court to get the search documents. I don’t know. I’m talking with our lawyer about it, and we’ll see where it goes. I’m weighing the possible benefit — my guess is that the same general police narrative was used in both sets of documents, so we won’t likely get much that’s new — against the cost of returning to court.

Put frankly: it costs a hell of a lot of money to hire a lawyer to go to court. We already did it once, and our bank accounts are significantly lighter because of it. There’s gotta be a hell of a compelling reason to do it again.

All of which is to say, please subscribe. That’s how we pay for this work.

2. Inglis Street fire

Photo: Tim Krochak / Chronicle Herald

Chronicle Herald reporter Ian Fairclough details the firefighting efforts, cleanup, and losses suffered by the residents of the Inglis Street building that caught fire early yesterday morning.

And yet again, photographer Tim Krochak is showing the importance of photojournalism to local news. I was worried that Herald management was going to demand the complete elimination of photographers from staff (as has Brunswick News) as a condition for resolving the strike, but while some photographers (I think, two) were laid off, there’s still some excellent work being done.

3. Cop stabbed

Halifax police releases from yesterday:

A Halifax Regional Police (HRP) officer was stabbed this morning while responding to a stolen vehicle call.

At 5:49 a.m. an HRP officer located a stolen truck on Highway 102 adjacent to School Avenue. Another officer approached two people who were seen fleeing from the vehicle and located them on a trail near the Ashburn Golf Course. As the officer attempted to speak with the suspects, one of them stabbed him and then both suspects fled the area.

Officers, with the assistance of a K-9 team, conducted a track and located a female youth believed to be one of the suspects. She was taken into custody. A male youth believed to be the other suspect was located nearby and taken into custody a short time later.

The officer was transported to hospital where he underwent surgery. He is in stable condition and recovering in hospital.

Halifax Regional Police, with the permission of the officer and his family, are now able to confirm that the officer wounded in this morning’s incident near Joseph Howe Drive and the Ashburn Golf Course is Cst. Andrew Gordon. He has been with HRP for 8 years.

We ask the media and the public to respect the privacy of Cst. Gordon and his family during this sensitive time.

4. Racism at City Hall

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“More than 20 African Nova Scotian municipal employees and supporters protested outside Halifax City Hall on Tuesday, calling for action on a two-year-old confidential report that found anti-Black racism within the municipal workforce,” reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax:

The 139-page Employment Systems Review report looked into HRM’s Municipal Operations Programs (MOPS) business unit, which mainly includes transportation and public works employees.

The report by Turner Consulting Group issued 90 recommendations to the municipality. It was tabled in January 2016 after the consultants reviewed HRM policies, conducted an online survey of employees and interviewed supervisors and human resources staff between September and November 2015.

Speaking on behalf of the municipal employees gathered at city hall on Tuesday, Raymond Sheppard told reporters that nothing has changed since the report came out.

“The anti-Black racism and discrimination within HRM is at 1950s levels,” Sheppard said.

I can’t this morning find the Employment Services Review online. If anyone has it, please send me a link or a PDF.

In response to the protest, CAO Jacques Dubé issued a statement.

5. Jennifer Keesmaat, Andy Fillmore, and the Cogswell interchange

Jennifer Keesmaat. Photo: Twitter

“Toronto’s former chief city planner says preserving Halifax’s heritage will be one of the keys to success as the municipality implements the long-awaited Centre Plan,” reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax:

Jennifer Keesmaat has completed a review of Package A of the Centre Plan — the first half of the document that will guide the development growth of Halifax for the next decade and beyond.

Keesmaat’s review, commissioned by the Urban Development Institute of Nova Scotia, in partnership with Waterfront Development, the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, and the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, makes 28 recommendations aimed at improving the plan. She was known when she worked for Toronto for her progressive visions and channeling the Jane Jacobs doctrine of city building.

Her report comes just as public consultation wraps on the first half of the plan, and Keesmaat is presenting her findings to the public on Wednesday night.

I don’t have much hope for the Centre Plan because, like HRM By Design before it, I believe so many exemptions will be “grandfathered” into it at inception and politicians will grant so many exceptions in the future that no matter how well-intended the planners, no matter how grandiose the wording of the document, and no matter how pretty the pictures it contains, the Plan will be all but meaningless in practice. Prove me wrong, I guess, but I’ve been burned dozens of times by planners promising the sky. “Don’t blame me,” they say afterwards; “you trusted us.”

But I want to talk about Keesmaat and the role she played, or rather didn’t play, in the Cogswell Interchange demolition.

I called Keesmaat back in 2010 when I was writing an article for The Coast headlined “The Convention Centre Tower Play.” If I say so myself, I think that article holds up to this day and that it explains completely why and how we got the Nova Centre. Everyone go read it.

Anyway, I liked Keesmaat. She was a good interviewee, unguarded and forthcoming.

Keesmaat was instrumental in HRM By Design — she even came up with the name — and helped write the part of the plan that called for tearing down the Cogswell Interchange. After HRM By Design was adopted by city council, Keesmaat was hired by the Hardman Group to help draft its plan to build a new convention centre on land that would be opened up by tearing down the Cogswell.

As you know, that didn’t happen. Among other things, my 2010 article explained why that didn’t happen:

“I spent three years working on HRM By Design,” says Keesmaat. “It was a huge part of my life. So when the Hardman Group called me up and said this would be a good idea, would I be interested in being a part of their proposal, I said, ‘Absolutely!’ At that point we were done our work on HRM By Design, and my feeling was that [Hardman’s] proposal was a brilliant way of responding to a whole variety of city-building objectives, and a brilliant way of providing that impetus for the redevelopment of that interchange. And I think the risk is that the interchange sits there for an extended period of time, and the city keeps throwing money at maintaining it, when really it ought to be removed.”

Keesmaat was so excited about the idea that she volunteered her time to work on the Hardman proposal, flying to Halifax on her own dime to give a presentation to the EOI evaluation team.

But Keesmaat wasn’t the only one excited about the Hardman proposal. In fact, when the evaluation team compared the Rank [Joe Ramia’s proposal for the Nova Centre] and Hardman proposals, Hardman’s came up on top. “The Hardman proposal has easier access to the existing Pedway system, potentially greater opportunity for future expansion, somewhat better approach to public consultation and slightly better quality of submission and innovation resulting in a marginally higher score than the Rank proposal,” wrote [then-Halifax planner Andy] Filmore in the secret report to council.

There was an amazing and telling, but secret, moment in 2008 that exemplifies how this town works. Thanks to a secret report written by Andy Fillmore, and a secret council meeting orchestrated by Andy Fillmore, the better-scoring proposal to build a convention centre on the Cogswell land was silently and secretly killed, and Joe Ramia’s lower-scoring proposal for the Nova Centre elevated as the only proposal for a convention centre that would be entertained by the city and province.

Understand that, and you understand everything about Halifax.

As a result of those secret mechanizations, the city spent a half-million dollars to shore up the Cogswell Interchange instead of tearing it down — a project that kept the interchange in service for a few more years (it’s going to be torn down next year). And we got the Nova Centre, and all the financial calamities that are coming with it.

Thank Andy Fillmore for both.

Someone should ask Jennifer Keesmaat about all this. She’s talking about the Centre Plan at Ondaatje Hall at 6:30pm tonight.


Government

City

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9am, City Hall) — grant time.

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Wednesday, 5pm, HEMDCC Large Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — no action items.

Thursday

No public meetings.

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Lynn Hartwell, the deputy minister at the Department of Community Services, and Denise Perret, the deputy minister at the Department of Health and Wellness, will be asked about services and supports for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder/Complex Needs.

Select Committee on Establishing an Electoral Boundaries Commission – 2018 (Wednesday, 3:30pm, One Government Place) — an organizational meeting.

Thursday

Economic Development  (Thursday, 10am, One Government Place) — somebody or somebodies (the calendar doesn’t say who) from the Departments of Business and Labour and Advanced Education will be asked about “Building a Newfangled Economy.”


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Newfangled Rounds: Virtual Reality Can Put the Patient at Ease While Capturing Unprecedented Data (Wednesday, 8am, Weather Watch Room, Dickson Building, VG) — Ryan Cameron, CEO of Electric Puppets, will demonstrate “how virtual reality and eye tracking can create a diagnostic tool that has never been possible before.”

Thursday

Gut Microbiome Dynamics in the World of Bone Marrow Transplantation (Thursday, 10am, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Ying Taur from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, will speak.

The Eye and the Sky (Thursday, 7:15pm, Planetarium, Dunn Building) — $5, reductions for families (minimum age 8 years). Reservations: astronomynovascotia.ca.


In the harbour

6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
6am: ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
6:30am: Hoegh Chiba, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from New York
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Pier 36
Noon: Arsos, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Tampa, Florida
4:30pm: ZIM Monaco, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
6:30pm: Crete I, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
8pm: Rosaire A. Desgagnes, cargo ship, sails from Pier 25 for sea
11pm: Eastern Confidence, bulker, arrives at anchorage from Havana, Cuba


Footnotes

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

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Racism is endemic throughout the bureaucracy at HRM.

    What I find truly sad is that those CUPE members stood alone. Where are the other unions, NSUPE for jnstance.

    There was a time when union membership and leadership meant standing up for justice and equality. Sadly that no longer seems to be the case.

  2. Is it normal for an academic to write a book and not mention/thank her/his researchers ?

  3. ” …Premier Stephen McNeil was saying that he won’t apologize to the teenager who was arrested in the security failure case”

    Not surprising. This is the same devious character who still refuses to apologize for almost destroying the Nova Scotia film industry after promising to continue the Film Tax Credit in the 2013 election. He never makes mistakes.

  4. And the beat goes on. The planning department should b renamed The Developers Assistant Group. In my neighbourhood, Bloomfield,,an exception was granted to a developer to allow for a particularly ugly building. The first developer subsequently sold the property to a second developer who immediately put forward a new proposal for an even larger building covering a hundred present of the lot and a number of other features even more detrimental to the neighbourhood.. Sure says the planning department well recommend that. After public hearings where the community made known it’s not concerns the proposal was rejected by the Community Council. One concern was the developer had started work on the building as if there new proposal had already been excepted. After this was brought to the attention of the planning department by community members a stop work order was issued for that part of the work but no other action, such as a fine, was taken. Shortly after the rejection of the proposal the developer was back with a very slightly modified new proposal. After another public meeting and more expressions of concern by the neighbourhood the planning department said sure we’ll be glad to recomend this new proposal to council. The neighbourhood has become increasingly active in opposing this new proposal, however there have been some indications that Community Councillors will accept it this time. I see this project and the way it has proceeded as a microcosm of how development works in this city.

  5. Losing Megan Leslie as MP was a tragedy. Shame on those who pressured NDP voters to switch support Andrew Filmore; hubris and lack of wisdom.

    Oh, lucky creature beneficiaries of the Wild Life Fund- at least you will be lovingly, intelligently, and far-sightedly cared for. With “leaders” like Filmore in office, one cannot say the same for the human citizens of Halifax.