Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Free the information

CBRM Municipal Clerk Deborah Campbell Ryan got back to me Tuesday night about another FOIPOP I submitted back in April looking for information about a matter before council.

Her original estimate of the fee I would be required to pay for this (public) information was $215 and I was required to pay half up front, which I did — $107.50.

She had, of course, warned me that there could be additional charges and on Tuesday night she hit me with them (at 5:42 PM, just before going off to a council meeting.)

I owe her an additional $450.80 (the total charge for the information was $558.30) which I am expected to pay, in full, before the information (which they have already collected) is released. (This is separate from my other, $390 FOIPOP request.)

So I will pay — because I have a right to this information (and because I can, thankfully, get the funding from the joint Spectator/Examiner investigative fund) but I will appeal.

Because this is outrageous.

letter to applicant signed re balance fees to be paid- May 21-19 File 135



Prince Andrew

His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, Duke of York, paid a “private working visit” to Halifax to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Princess Louise Fusiliers regiment of which he apparently serves as colonel-in-chief.

I received notification of the event on Tuesday with instructions that “for security reasons” his upcoming visit was “not to be shared with the public.”

I understood, of course — when you are eighth in line to the British throne, danger lurks around every corner.

He received “military honors” and attended “several private engagements” related to the anniversary. It must have been a treat for him — I bet nobody called him “Air Miles Andy” or “His Buffoon Highness” or “cheerleader in chief for the arms industry” or brought up any of his awkward friendships with dictators or convicted sex offenders or asked if it’s true he and Fergie are about to re-marry.

He doesn’t know it, but he is very glad I did not attend the ceremony.

Which is not to say I didn’t mark the occasion — I did. I rewatched a few episodes of The Windsors on Netflix.




McConnell Library, Sydney, NSA spectator (you know who you are) sent along an article published in The Atlantic this week that says that:

…living near community-oriented public and commercial spaces brings a host of social benefits, such as increased trust, decreased loneliness, and a stronger sense of attachment to where we live.

The article, written by Daniel Cox and Ryan Streeter of the American Enterprise Institute, is based on a study they also authored which found that people living near markets, libraries and coffee shops “are more trusting, are less socially isolated, and express greater satisfaction with their community.”

Obviously, I read this and immediately thought about the campaign for a new central library in the CBRM and I would say this could certainly be used as an argument in its favor, but there’s an added bonus for any elected officials out there:

Access to more community-oriented spaces is also associated with increased confidence in local government. Even though we are bitterly divided by politics, and confidence in federal and state governments is in decline, people in vibrant neighborhoods have a greater level of confidence in their local government than those living in amenity-poor places. Americans living closer to neighborhood restaurants, bars, parks, and libraries are nearly twice as likely as those living in places where these things are largely absent to say they trust local government (39 percent versus 22 percent). Having access to neighborhood amenities also correlates with how we think about our capacity to make a difference in politics.

I’m just going to leave that there…


Hate speech

Kevin J Johnston (Source: YouTube)

Kevin J. Johnston, a former Mississauga mayoral candidate and online media personality, was ordered to pay $2.5 million in damages to Mohamad Fakih, the owner and founder of Toronto-based Paramount Fine Foods, after publicly accusing him of funding terrorism. As the CBC explains:

Johnston, who most recently ran for mayor in 2018 when he lost out to current mayor Bonnie Crombie, placing second with 13.5 per cent of the vote, was charged in 2017 for offering a $1,000 reward in exchange for videos of Muslim students praying in schools. He, his website, and Ron Banerjee were named as defendants in Fakih’s original lawsuit, filed Aug. 4, 2017.

In awarding damages to Fakih, an Ontario Superior Court judge wrote:

At its core, the horrific behaviour of the Johnston defendants has been a grievous injustice to a valued member of the Canadian community who deserves nothing less than our respect, but it is more than that.

Adding that Johnston’s behavior

…reflects a contempt for Canada’s judicial process, an abuse of the very freedoms this country affords them and a loathsome example of hate speech at its worst, targeting people solely because of their religion.

Jesse Brown of Canadaland discussed the case from a variety of angles in this week’s episode, including exploring whether a decision like this could have a dampening effect on journalism and whether Johnston counts as a journalist.

As I listened, I couldn’t help but think of our port “developer” Barry Sheehy’s recent anti-Muslim tour of Poland, which led me to go and see whether the website run by his tour guide was back up and I’m fascinated to report, it is. With all its most questionable contact intact.


Ports America

Ports America logoThe US-based container terminal operator Ports America was conspicuously absent from the press release issued last week by Sydney port “developer” Albert Barbusci about his new financial backer for a proposed Port of Sydney terminal.

Ports America, you’ll recall, was supposed to have signed on in December 2016 to manage said terminal, should it ever be built, so I found it funny they wouldn’t even warrant a mention.

And given that two Ports America reps had been equally conspicuous in their absence from Sydney’s Port Days festivities in 2018 (after being included prominently as speakers on the agenda), I began to wonder if the company was still in the picture.

So I emailed Ports America spokesperson Colby Haines last Friday to ask if Ports America still had an agreement with Sydney Harbour Development Partners (SHIP), Barbusci’s company. I told him my deadline was the coming Tuesday at 5:00PM. Haines replied that day:

Let me see if someone is available to provide commentary for you on this.

Then later that afternoon he wrote again:

I’m sorry to report that we won’t be submitting any commentary given the busy travel schedule.

This puzzled me, as you can imagine. I had no idea that Ports America’s entire C-suite traveled together, en masse. But I had good news for Haines, I wrote him back saying I could extend the deadline to Wednesday at noon, that I actually didn’t need “commentary” just a yes or no answer, and that if I received no response, I’d assume the answer was “No.”

Haines, who is an unfailingly polite person, thanked me for the extension and promised to “work toward getting an answer” to me by deadline.

And he did. And the answer was:

In response to your question, yes, we still have an existing agreement.

Which is not, I have to say, the answer I was expecting because SHIP has expunged almost all reference to Ports America from its website — as in, the press release announcing the agreement is no longer available (although Ports America’s Peter Ford appears in a picture on the site), there are no articles about Ports America listed on its “press articles” page,” nor does it appear as one of the project’s “partners,” even though Barbusci’s definition of “partner” is loose enough to include Denton’s, Jean Chretien’s law firm which has been paid thousands of dollars for its involvement in the project.

Is it possible Barbusci’s need for secrecy is so great he cancelled the agreement with Ports America without telling Ports America?


Farley Mowat Chair

Farley Mowat (Andrew Fare)

I received an email from Silver Donald Cameron this week:

I’m thrilled to tell you that a Chair has been established at Cape Breton University to honour the late great Farley Mowat — and that I’ve been appointed the first Chairholder. 

Not only that, but the appointment will be celebrated at an event where an honorary doctorate will be conferred on my old friend Graeme Gibson.

We’ll round out the celebration by doing the first Green Interview ever done live, on stage, with an audience — with Graeme’s lifelong partner, the astonishing Margaret Atwood.

Furthermore, you can join us no matter where you are, because we’ll be broadcasting it live on CBC Radio in Sydney, NS — and livestreaming it on the web. 

I’m delighted for Cameron whose Green Interview is a real trove of information on all things environmental. I really can’t recommend it enough. (I’m delighted for me, too, because I suspect this means Cameron will spend more time in Sydney and I may finally get to meet him in person.)

The event with Margaret Atwood is scheduled for June 7, from 4:00 to 6:00 PM, and I for one will be sure to tune in.