Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Any port in a storm?

Lisa Raitt was a guest on Canadaland’s OPPO podcast this week (OPPO is sort of like Crossfire for millennials, pitting left-of-center reporter/pundit Justin Ling against right-of-center reporter/pundit Jen Gerson to discuss Canadian politics.)

You can listen to what Raitt had to say about why she lost her seat in Milton, why she doesn’t like the carbon tax and how she can both support Andrew Scheer as leader and offer helpful advice to those out to replace him.

What jumped out at me was her discussion of her “next job,” listening to which I was forcibly reminded that her last job was head of the Toronto Port Authority.

She talked about problems with the Liberal government’s infrastructure spending (and her criticisms seem fair) but then she singled out three particular projects she hopes to see realized: “dedicated highways in and out of the ports of Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver, so that you’re getting the trucks off the local roads.”

Then she reminded us that:

It was by no mistake that during the recession, the Harper government sent the infrastructure money out through the ports and the airports in the country.

Then she ended with her description of what she plans to do next:

I am looking to do something that gives change…I want to do something, I don’t want to go out and do advisory capacities. I want to build, I want to create, I want to do. I’ve got a lot of experience that I think can be utilized and I want to put it to good use to continue to drive our country forward.

Just get paid better for it.

First, for the record: Raitt’s salary, as an MP in 2019, was $178,900 which, according to 2016 Census figures, put her in the top 5% of income earners in this country. And because she was in Parliament for 11 years (and in Cabinet for seven), she will be entitled to a pension of $80,000 a year when she hits 55 (in 2023) and in the meantime qualifies for severance of $89,000.

Second, is it just me, or does it sound like she might be coming soon to a port near you?


Warm reception

I sometimes miss the “social notes” that used to appear in newspapers, telling you what happened and who was there and what they wore, so it is with no little excitement that I write this social note of my own:

Irwin Simon, CEO Aphria on CNBC.

Irwin Simon, CEO Aphria on CNBC.

On 20 November 2019, CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke and Irwin Simon, owner of the Cape Breton Eagles hockey team and purveyor of “medical cannabis powered by sunlight,” will co-host a “reception” in downtown Toronto on behalf of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation capital campaign.

I have no idea what they will be wearing and I am afraid the event will not be a “high tea,” even though it obviously should be.

Foundation head Brad Jacobs told me the reception is not a fundraiser per se but “an opportunity to launch our capital campaign to a Cape Breton audience in Toronto.” That audience will be invitation only — Jacobs says the foundation will invite people who have supported it in the past and Simon will invite, well, whoever he wants to, I guess.

In all, they expect to entertain 75-100 guests at the Toronto headquarters of Aphria, Inc, the Leamington, ON-based company where Simon has served as interim CEO since March. (And where, according to BNN Bloomberg, he earns an annual compensation package worth $9.6 million. I hope Lisa Raitt is taking note.)

Jacobs says the foundation hosted a similar reception in Halifax in June, although Mayor Clarke was not a co-host.

I asked if the CBRM would be covering the mayor’s travel expenses and Jacobs suggested I ask the mayor, which I did — via his spokesperson, Sheilah MacDonald — and while I was at it, I asked if any other CBRM personnel or officials would be attending this reception and if they would be traveling on the municipality’s dime.

MacDonald, who actually answered the last question I asked her, chose to ignore this one. (I’m not sure how it works but I’m beginning to suspect she employs an even/odd day system in deciding which queries she will answer.)

I maintain that my questions are perfectly reasonable and I’m hoping I will get an answer soon, rather than having to wait until March 2020, when the mayor’s Q4 2019 travel expenses will be posted online because, let’s face it, you simply cannot run a social notes column on a three-month delay.



It’s that time of year again — my inbox is overflowing with Nova Scotia government press releases about the Tree for Boston, the large Christmas tree we cut down and ship to the Boston States each year to thank them for their assistance in the aftermath of the Halifax explosion of 1917.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin kicked things off on Wednesday at a cutting ceremony in Trenton, during which, in a gesture I’m sure will make up entirely for that spot of bother in Boat Harbour, students from the Pictou Landing First Nation School were invited to perform in Mi’kmaw.

I’m surprised the premier didn’t try to squeeze representatives from a few more disgruntled constituencies into such a feel-good fest — have Chief Electoral Officer Richard Temporale pick out the tree and a group of angry crown prosecutors cut it down and a team of people without family doctors load it onto the truck. If they try to complain about anything, say, “Well at least your house wasn’t flattened by flying debris from an exploding munitions ship” and watch them struggle to find an answer to that.

Communities and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine is hosting a public “send-off” for the tree on the Grand Parade in Halifax today and the tree will appear in the Chronicle Herald Holiday Parade of Lights in Halifax tomorrow. At some point shortly after that (I hope) it will actually be sent to Boston, where I presume it will be installed in a town square, not taken to a Bruins game.

In a fascinating twist this year, the Tree has its own Twitter account which, in a single tweet, sums up all the problems with anthropomorphizing things you plan to kill:

Still, I suppose spending your final days in a whirl of social activity is better than being chipped immediately and burned in the biomass plant in Port Hawkesbury.



Writing in both the Chronicle Herald and on his Halifax Shipping News blog,

Ziobrowski traces the company’s current woes to the loss of two of its three vessels — the Akademik Ioffe and the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, owned by Russia’s P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanography — and says that OOE had asked to renew the vessels for the 2019-2020 season back in November 2018 but Terragelida, the Cyprus-based company that managed the leases, was unable to renew because “they had lost use of the ships as they were needed by their owners.”

Ziobrowski hypothesizes that OOE, which had sold cruises into 2021 and seemed to use money from the sale of future cruises to pay for past cruises, “likely decided to end the charters early, at the end of the Antarctic season, as they would not have the vessels for the entire coming Arctic season, and attempted to save face by blaming the Russians.”

The piece is based on interviews with former OOE staff to whom Ziobrowski has given anonymity (to the point of not even differentiating between them according to their job descriptions, simply quoting “staff” as though they’d all responded in chorus to his questions). The concerns he documents track with what Adam Hammond, a former OOE employee who did go on the record, told me earlier this year, “staff,” said Ziobrowski:

…claimed the company had a laissez-faire attitude to safety. Expedition Zodiacs were frequently in poor repair and lacked required survival equipment. Boat operators didn’t have proper Transport Canada qualifications to operate the vessels. On Resolute, Zodiacs and kayaks had to be lowered from the eighth deck, a task that could not really be done safely. On shore excursions, firearms carried as part of polar bear protection protocols were handled by inexperienced individuals.

Ziobrowski ends by noting that:

One Ocean, so far, has only released vague statements that they are restructuring. The latest, dated Nov. 7, stated they foresee no further cancellations.

I will be very curious to see if the Port of Sydney — which was so excited about OOE potentially home porting here it announced it twice — ever offers a comment on the situation. My bet is that it will not, and the promises of OOE will end up — along with the promises of Sydney Harbor Investment Partners — in Davy Jones’ Locker.


Thanks be to pod

 James Reese Europe and the 369th Regiment band, also known as the Harlem Hellfighters (1918) (U.S. National Archives and Record Administration)

James Reese Europe and the 369th Regiment band, also known as the Harlem Hellfighters, 1918. (U.S. National Archives and Record Administration)

I seem unable to accomplish quotidian things like house cleaning or grocery shopping or extended road trips without the aid of podcasts. I recognize this is not an entirely healthy state of affairs and may even ask someone to perform an intervention at some point, but right now it’s working for me.

Last night, for example, I needed some groceries, but it was cold out and I found myself trying to reason my way out of walking to Sobeys (“I could put butter in my coffee tomorrow morning, people actually do that, I hear”) before shaking my head (butter? in coffee?) and pulling on my coat and boots.

I also downloaded one of my favorite podcasts — WNYC’s On the Media (OTM) — without noticing that the episode was actually one showcasing another WNYC podcast, the Fishko Files with Sara Fishko. Entitled “Shell Shock 1919: How the Great War Changed Culture” it was so fascinating I took a longer-than-usual route home so I could finish listening to it without distraction.

The OTM website describes it this way:

World War I presented civilization with unprecedented violence and destruction. The shock of the first modern, “industrial” war extended far into the 20th century and even into the 21st, and changed how people saw the world and themselves. And that was reflected in the cultural responses to the war – which included a burgeoning obsession with beauty and body image, the birth of jazz, new thinking about the human psyche, the Harlem Renaissance, Surrealism…and more.

WNYC’s Sara Fishko and guests sift through the lingering effects of the Great War on modern art and life in Shell Shock 1919: How the Great War Changed Culture.

I highly recommend it, especially if you need groceries.