Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Paying for Information

Maybe public information in Nova Scotia is of a slightly better quality than public information elsewhere. Maybe Nova Scotia Land Registry documents are carefully stored and aged and contain undertones of citrus and hints of oak that set them apart from generic land registry documents.

Maybe the special resolutions and change of directors forms from the NS Registry of Joint Stock Companies (RJSC) are written by Giller Prize-winning authors. Maybe the originals are still recorded in the form of illuminated manuscripts, with hours of work (and gold flake) going into the drop caps.

Or maybe we’re just getting ripped off.

Having recently paid $88.10 to the RJSC for electronic documents pertaining to one company  and $25 to the NS Land Registry Office for a handful of print-outs related to ownership of the building at 90 Esplanade in Sydney, I’m leaning toward “we’re just getting ripped off.” Public information that costs over $100 to access is not public information.

In the case of the Land Registry information, the costs are compounded by the inconvenience: I had to go to the office at Access Nova Scotia in Sydney and sit at their computer to search their database — and I can consider myself lucky because I live near a Land Registry Office. If I lived in Baddeck or Port Hawkesbury or Neil’s Harbour or Mabou or Arichat I would be served by the same office in Sydney.

The information is available online through Property Online (POL) to subscribers, so were I willing and able to pay $99.65 (plus tax) per month for five hours of search time and $19.93 per hour for any additional search time, I would be able to access this “public” information from the comfort of my own home — although if I were paying $100 a month for a POL subscription, I might not also be able to pay for internet. (I think there’s an access-to-information version of The Gift of the Magi lurking in there, Della cancels their POL subscription to buy Jim an internet connection while Jim cancels the internet connection to buy Della a POL subscription. Somehow, they manage to have a Merry Christmas anyway.)

I get that the Nova Scotia government can’t resist charging for the information it gathers because a) it’s a source of revenue and b) it stops people accessing information. That’s a 21st century governmental win/win.

But what it actually does is stop cash-strapped people (or online newspapers) from accessing information. If you have the money, you can fill your swimming pool with information and roll around in it all day long with the Nova Scotia government’s blessing.

If we must suffer the slings and arrows of Big Data (Google tracking my every waking breath, Netflix insisting I should watch the One Day at a Time reboot, Facebook “curating” my interactions with my “friends) then we should reap some of the rewards — for me, that means accessing public information from my own computer free of charge.


3302009 Nova Scotia Limited

The money I was just bellyaching about paying the Registry of Joint Stock Companies was to get information about the memorably named 3302009 Nova Scotia Ltd — the company formed by local businessman and Business Cape Breton (BCB) director Danny Ellis to own and operate an open-air eatery on municipally owned waterfront property in Sydney.

I discovered that the company was registered in October 2016, with Christin Lamey, a legal assistant at Sampson McPhee Lawyers (and a different person from Christina Lamey, the mayor’s “political” staffer) as sole shareholder and president. In April 2017, documents were filed naming Danny Ellis as president/secretary. A lawyer of my acquaintance tells me it would not be unusual for a law clerk to be shown as the sole shareholder/president of a shell company for the purposes of incorporation — it might even be a law firm’s practice to have such shell companies registered and waiting for clients looking to incorporate. The delay between the company being incorporated and the change in directors being registered is apparently unusual, but could simply mean there were hitches in planning or financing.

3302009 Nova Scotia Ltd registered a related company, Portside Beer Garden, on 4 August 2017. (The only name associated with it in the registry is its recognized agent, Robert Sampson, QC, of Sampson McPhee Lawyers. Sampson is also the recognized agent for 3302009 Nova Scotia Limited.)

I’m not pretending this is earth-shattering information, but it’s public information and it should be readily available to the public. So here it is public — here’s what $88.10 will buy you at the RJSC these days:



Reader’s Digest

Reham. (Photo by Scott Munn via The Deep

Reham. (Photo by Scott Munn via The Deep)

I thought I’d share with you some of the interesting articles I’ve read in Nova Scotia’s independent media this week:

Writing in the Victoria Standard, Anne Farries tries to find out which area businesses received money under the $1.8 million 2016 Cabot Trail Facade Improvement Grants program and runs straight into a brick wall (otherwise known as Tom Wilson, the director of recreation and tourism for Victoria County). Wilson insists he can’t reveal the names of grant recipients without the permission of the business owners. As the program was largely funded by public monies — from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and Victoria and Inverness Counties, with Cabot Trail businesses kicking in $675,000, I really don’t see how Wilson can refuse to name names. And I’m delighted to see the Victoria Standard give him a hard time about it. (Note: to access the online version of the Victoria Standard you need a subscription.)

They Call it Syria Town” is the latest article from The Deep, a new online Atlantic Canadian publication dedicated to longform journalism. Written by Kate Wallace with lovely photography by Scott Munn, the article focuses on Syrian refugees in Saint John, New Brunswick — a province that has received more Syrians per capita than any other in Canada. Wallace does a remarkable job of contrasting the harrowing experiences of the refugees — in particular, two sisters named Reham and Rozam — in Syria with the less harrowing but equally real stresses of life in a new country and culture. You can read the article now (The Deep allows you to read a number of articles free of charge) but at just $29.95 (more if you can manage it) for a year’s subscription, you can go one better and make sure more articles like it are written.

Alex Kronstein writes about “The autism research that’s really needed” in The Nova Scotia Advocate. Kronstein, who is himself autistic, champions a type of research known as autoethnography. If you don’t know what that is (and I didn’t) let Kronstein explain it to you. And let him explain why autistic people “by and large are fed up” with non-autistic researchers claiming to have “discovered” things about autism that autistic people have long known. It’s a good read — and it points the reader to a number of other articles that also look interesting, so added bonus. The Advocate may be accessed free of charge, but subscriptions are welcomed.





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