1. Cops are more important than your sick grandmother
The saddest Nova Scotia COVID news is that a woman in her 80s has died from the disease. It’s a terrible loss for her family and loved ones. I suspect that she was one of the three new cases reported Wednesday, and was a close contact of a previously announced case; hopefully her death came quickly and without too much suffering. She is the 66th person to die from the disease in Nova Scotia, and the first since August.
The most infuriating Nova Scotia COVID news from yesterday is that against Public Health’s publicly stated policies, and against Dr. Strang’s assurance that they wouldn’t be, police officers were quietly moved up the vaccination queue, in front of people with underlying health conditions, teachers, frontline hospitality industry workers, and EMTs and many other health care workers.
As I reported yesterday:
On March 8, Zane Woodford reported that Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella and Halifax-district RCMP Chief Superintendent Janis Gray had met with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang to ask him to prioritize frontline police offices in the vaccination sequencing.
At the COVID briefing the next day, March 9, I asked Strang about this, and he explicitly said police officers would not be moved up the vaccination queue. “If you look across the country, we are not seeing frontline police officers being a group that jumps out as having excessive amounts of COVID cases,” explained Strang.
Strang has been consistent on this: besides health care workers who may deal directly with COVID patients, Nova Scotians will be vaccinated by age cohort, because the highest risk factor for death or serious illness from the disease is age. Moreover, Strang has said repeatedly, carving out exceptions based on profession or even underlying health issues would slow down the entire vaccination pipeline such that it would delay the province reaching herd immunity. The best approach, said Strang, was to quickly vaccinate as many people as possible, and the best way to do that is by age cohort.
So it came as a surprise to me when over the weekend, it was brought to my attention that the province had quietly moved frontline police officers to Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout plan, before the mass vaccination of Phase three, effectively moving them up the vaccination queue.
The issue was underscored today when Health Minister Zach Churchill rejected repeated requests that people with underlying health issues be moved up the vaccination queue, but then quickly defended doing exactly that for frontline police officers.
I went on to quote from an exchange yesterday between Churchill, Canadian Press reporter Keith Doucette, and myself, in which Churchill blamed it all on Strang:
Churchill: The police officers made a case. And it was, as I understand it, again, I wasn’t in those meetings, but it was around the points of contact that they had where there’s no control over social distancing with members of the public. There’s, you know, volatility in terms of who they’re interacting with, so they made a case for front line police officers who are working on the streets and interacting with the public. And in that case, was compelling for Public Health. But because we, you know, we don’t want there to be someone that contracts that and then inadvertently through their work.
Bousquet: That’s a reversal of what Dr. Strang said. Why wasn’t there an announcement made or a release made related to it?
Churchill: I mean, I believe we’ve we’ve discussed that. But maybe that’s a question better asked Dr. Strang on that one.
Click here to read the entire exchange, and for yesterday’s new case numbers.
Strang and Premier Iain Rankin have scheduled a COVID briefing for 1pm today. I’ll be live-blogging it via my Twitter account.
2. Supposed environmentalist premier parrots “natural gas is a transition fuel” bullshit
Yesterday, I asked Premier Iain Rankin whether he supports the Goldboro LNG plant proposal. Here’s our exchange:
Bousquet: Pieridae Energy asking the federal government for over nine hundred million dollars in assistance. I realize the province doesn’t have a say in that, but are you supportive of that Goldboro project? And if so, what do you say about how it will affect the province’s greenhouse gas emission targets?
Rankin: I am supportive. I think that it’s important that we look at economic development in the province. I’m encouraged to see an agreement with the Mi’kmaq. They benefit from employment and it does help the international community get off coal. I’ve said that was my priority as well in this province. So to help Germany and others with natural gas as we transition, there would be an uptake of carbon here in the province. But internationally, it makes sense environmentally and it makes sense economically for our province.
Bousquet: You just referred to natural gas as a transition fuel. Environmentalists would very much disagree with you. They say that’s dated language to begin with, more corporate PR than than reflecting reality, especially given the lowering costs of renewables. Might you revisit that opinion?
Rankin: Well, I think that’s debatable. I’m focusing on renewables where possible. So wind, solar. You’re going to see a lot more on our grid. But the reality is coal is the most carbon intensive fuel to be burned. It has more particulate matter, mercury and so on down the line. That’s why Canada has been working to to get off coal. That’s why I want to get off coal 10 years earlier. So this facilitates the world getting off coal. And I think it’s a very important environmental initiative to be part of and impacts our economy here and allows us to bring in more revenue to spend on fighting climate change, transitioning to electrifying our transportation system, bringing our buildings to net zero. So I acknowledge there’s differences of opinion and natural gas is something that is cleaner than coal.
Well, there you go. I don’t have time to get into it this morning (I must leave at 10am), but I’ll return to this Monday.
3. Child care
“The authors of a national report released today highlighting COVID-19’s impact on Canada’s child care sector are sounding the alarm about the need for sustained, substantial operational funding to transform child care ‘before it’s too late,’” reports Yvette d’Entremont:
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study, titled ‘Sounding the Alarm: COVID-19’s impact on Canada’s precarious child care sector,’ found “dramatic” drops in enrollment at full-time licensed centres across the country while revenue-generating parent fees remain “unaffordably high.”
The report’s authors also found that child care centres in Canadian cities offering lower fees due to provincial funding — notably Quebec’s set fee system — are “holding their own” during the pandemic.
In many cities outside P.E.I, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, and Quebec, child care services are forced to rely on parent fees. As parents continue to struggle with the economic impacts of COVID-19, many can no longer afford child care.
4. Mass murder search warrants
The Halifax Examiner has been part of media consortium that has been pursuing a lengthy and costly court battle to get the search warrants related to the mass murder investigation unsealed.
This week, we got to the end of the first seven (of I think 26) warrants, and that’s laid the court process for the rest of them, so hopefully we’ll soon start getting a lot more — I expect to receive the next six in coming weeks.
But those first seven were only revealed in dribs and drabs as the lawyers wrangled over processes and law, briefs flew this way and that, the judge made preliminary rulings, and the legal bills piled up.
As I say, this week’s ruling set the process for the rest of the warrants, but it revealed just two bits of new information from the first seven: the name of the anthropologist hired to look for human remains on the killer’s property (it was Dr. Kathy Gruspier, a prof at U of T) and the password for the lock on the killer’s garage in Portapique.
I was particularly angered by the password issue. That’s because early on, in July, the Crown had submitted to the court a giant spreadsheet identifying each paragraph in each search warrant document (technically, Informations to Obtain, or ITOs), and an explanation for each redaction. According to the spreadsheet, the paragraphs containing the password were to be redacted “temporarily,” until the police investigation was complete.
But, in this week’s ruling, Judge Laurie Halfpenny MacQuarrie noted that “the Crown sought permanent redaction” of the paragraph. No explanation was given for what had changed between July and March, and so far as I’m aware (maybe I missed it in the tsunami of court briefs), no legal argument was put forward to justify a permanent redaction.
In any event, the judge overruled the Crown on this tiny, tiny item, so we now know the password was… [drumroll] … GOLD.
Why on Earth this had to be kept secret is beyond me. The garage is burned down. The lock is destroyed and will never be used for anything else. The killer is dead. But the Crown made an argument that the password should be kept from the prying eyes of the public, and the judge had to, as they say in the courts, “turn her mind” to the issue and make a ruling.
This would all be ridiculous and not worth comment, except that all these procedures are costing an awful lot of money. I can’t determine exactly how much of the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on this court battle relate exactly to the password issue, but it wasn’t nothing. And, as another reporter commented to me recently, most of the players in these legal proceedings — the judge, the court assistants, the Crown, the RCMP, even the CBC [which is part of the media coalition] — are going through these absurd legal maneuverings at public expense. Unlike, say, me, none of them have to weigh spending money on writing a brief about a password on a broken lock to a burned out building owned by a dead man against, for instance, hiring a freelancer to investigate the environmental issues related to a gold mine proposal. It’s just public money, who gives a shit?, right?
Anyway, should you ever stumble upon some other overlooked property that was owned by the killer and it has a lock on, try using the password GOLD and maybe you can steal the killer’s stuff.
“The company planing to build Canada’s first spaceport in northeastern Nova Scotia has been granted an 18-month extension to begin construction,” reports the Canadian Press:
Nova Scotia’s Environment Department confirmed Wednesday it had granted the extension request by Maritime Launch Services on Monday.
“Maritime Launch Services is expected to satisfy all conditions of the environmental assessment approval that are required to be completed in advance of project commencement by Dec. 3, 2022, at the latest,” the department said in an email.
Nova Scotia’s government originally set a deadline of this June when it granted conditional environmental approval for the project in 2019.
Evidently, even though the financial world is awash with trillions of dollars of loose cash and people are dropping money into all sorts of bizarre schemes — imaginary money, imaginary driverless cars, imaginary retail gaming opportunities, imaginary art — there doesn’t seem to be the appetite to invest in an imaginary spaceport that relies on a hybrid rocket produced by “a dubious, nearly-bankrupt Ukrainian company using Cold-war technology” whose factory could at any moment be overrun by the Russian army.
Maritime Launch Services should link to this item on WallStreetBets so the day traders can prove me wrong. That’s probably a better investment strategy than going hat-in-hand to Richard Branson.
And to think people in Canso spent good money remodelling their houses in anticipation of renting out rooms to tourists from Jupiter.
6. John Risley owns the Canadarm
Speaking of space investments, how did I miss that John Risley bought the Canadarm?
MDA Inc., maker of the iconic Canadarm, plans to file for an initial public offering in coming days as its private equity owners tap investor interest in space-based technology plays.
Two Canadian banks lent Northern Private Capital the money it needed to buy MDA for $1-billion in December, 2019, from Colorado-based Maxar Technologies Inc. On Wednesday, MDA and its backers declined to comment on their plans.
Northern is owned by Nova Scotia-based billionaire John Risley and chief executive Andrew Lapham, formerly at Onex Corp. and Blackstone. MDA’s investors also include former BlackBerry Ltd. chairman and co-CEO Jim Balsillie, Senvest Capital and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ. When Northern acquired the company, Mr. Lapham said MDA “is highly likely to be a public company again. I don’t know the exact timeline, but it’s not [as long as] 10 years.”
1. The Eastern Shore
“In 1972 I got a job at the Nova Scotia Museum,” writes Stephen Archibald:
My first assignment was a year in Guysborough County working on the Sherbrooke Village restoration project. The previous year had been experience rich, going to museum school in England, and my time in Sherbrooke was equally special, but different.
Archibald digs through his photos from the period to compile “Old Album, Number Seven.” His pics of Sherbrooke are interesting, and it’s really cool that a then-young man was employed to learn about the history of various crafts and about restoration, but I was especially pulled away by Archibald’s landscape photos.
AIDS Quarantine in BC: Metaphor or Reality? (Friday, 12:10pm) — Eli Manning will give this Health Law Institute seminar via Zoom.
Mary Bibb Cary: Nineteenth-Century Transnational Teacher, Abolitionist, Publisher, Artist (Friday, 3:30pm) — Afua Cooper will talk. Email here to get the link.
Counter Memory Activism Speaker Series (Friday, 7pm) — online discussion with visual artist, editor, community activist, youth advocate, and educator Syrus Marcus Ware.
In the harbour
06:00: ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
14:45: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Wilmington, Deleware
15:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
16:00: Taipei Trader, container ship, arrives at Piere 42 from New York
16:30: ZIM Constanza sails for New York
18:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
People do the internet differently. No matter how I compile Morning File, somebody complains about it. A lot of people don’t like the format. People complain that the headline doesn’t match the first item, or they complain that there’s too much in Morning File, or that there’s no index, or that… well, there’s always something to complain about. I put the link tags in hoping that would help people, but hardly anyone understands them (they link directly to the URL so you can share any particular item without saying “scroll down to number 8”), so that just sows more confusion.
I started Morning File with the idea that it would be a combination news aggregator and vehicle for my own whimsy, and the other writers have used it that way as well. We write longer, stand-alone articles for more substantive new pieces, but I can’t imagine having a stand-alone article just to make a joke about GameStop or whatever. And if we have 14 tiny bits on the homepage, nobody would read them anyway.
So I’m inclined to keep with Morning File, but I get so many complaints about it that it often discourages me. Maybe I should chuck the whole thing and sleep in, I sometimes think, but then I come up with a joke about a Serbian swimmer’s name, and I jump right back in.