Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Hello hydro?

Did you hear about the new Star Trek series? Star Trek: Atlantica?

Here’s a still from the pilot. It shows the commander and crew of the starship Enterprise (now the Regional Enterprise) receiving communications from the Imperator of the Irving Hegemony. Inter-galactic protocols require they turn their backs to him as he speaks:

Sadly, as you can see from the caption, none of this is true.

But the recent meeting between the men who run Atlantic Canada did include discussion of a subject that might once have been termed “futuristic.” According to the Chronicle Herald:

Early portions of the meeting discussed upgrading the electric transmission system throughout the region to allow Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to move away from carbon-intensive energy sources, such as coal, and move toward renewable-energy sources, specifically hydroelectricity…

There were no on-paper agreements on upgrades to the transmission system throughout the region from the most recent meeting, but the premiers agreed to “move forward in an expeditious manner on new clean, reliable, sustainable and affordable electricity generation, improving transmission networks, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the region.”

Between Quebec and Newfoundland there is going to be so much hydro-electricity floating around Eastern Canada that the idea that Nova Scotia needs to keep generating its own from coal (the source of 55% of our electricity in 2017) should be a non-starter.

It reminds me of a story about the Russian author Tolstoy (stick with me, I know where I’m going with this), an aristocrat who liked to play at being a peasant to the point of making his own shoes. Except he was really bad at making shoes and when he’d appear on his estate wearing footwear fashioned from birch bark and squirrel pelts, the peasants would be like, “Why doesn’t he just buy shoes?”

We are kind of crap at generating electricity — ours is really dirty. Why don’t we just buy it?

I know this is more complicated than I’m making it sound — I know, for instance, that before we buy any electricity from Muskrat Falls we need the Newfoundland and Labrador government to mitigate human exposure to methylmercury as a result of the flooding.

I also know that traditional transmission lines are taking a beating now and are likely to take an even greater beating as storms become more severe, which is why the real futurists imagine a world where we all generate our own electricity.

And what I absolutely know is that unlike Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and PEI, all of which have publicly owned power utilities, Nova Scotia faces a speed bump to any progress in this area in the form of Emera, the private company that owns Nova Scotia Power Corporation (NSPC) which generates and distributes our electricity.

Here’s a futuristic idea for you: let’s take NSPC back.


All the way to the bank…

I know that you’ve probably been distracted this week by the terrible new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCCP) that shows Nova Scotia has basically made zero progress toward eliminating child and family poverty since 1989 (a subject about which the Spectator will have more to say next week) but there is one ray of hope in all this gloom: one child of Nova Scotia is doing very well for herself

As the Canadian Press reported last Friday:

I am so glad she’s found a job that meets all the criteria she laid out in that interview on the Canadaland OPPO podcast last fall:

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.

Who builds, creates or does more than investment bankers? Or gets paid better?

And she’ll be in such good company — Scott Brison at the Bank of Montreal, Rona Ambrose at TD Securities, Frank McKenna at TD Bank Group — I like to picture them all hanging out and comparing notes on their trips through the revolving door between government and corporate Canada (especially as Ambrose — who maintains a website that makes it look like she never left government —  is rumored to be plotting a return trip).


Give a man a rocket?

What would Moses Coady say if he could come back and read the memorandum of understanding just inked between St. Francis Xavier University, home of the Antigonish Movement, and Maritime Launch Services (MLS), the US-based company that hopes to build a spaceport in Canso?

I figured he might start with “What’s a spaceport?” but I just checked his dates and he died in 1958 — a year after the Russians put Sputnik 1 into orbit — so he may have cut straight to the chase with  “Why?”

Screenshot of an MLS C4 cyclone rocket via Halifax Examiner.

Screenshot of an MLS C4 cyclone rocket via Halifax Examiner.

The business model — a group of foreign companies (American and Ukrainian) establishing a business nobody wants in their back yards in Canso’s back yard — seems antithetical to the whole “Masters of their destiny” ethos.

I know about the MOU because Joan Baxter, who, along with Tim Bousquet, has been keeping an eye on the spaceport project for the Halifax Examiner, spoke with Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX vice president of research and graduate studies, this week. She discovered the answer to “Why?” is the same one given whenever a Nova Scotia university agrees to direct its research activities toward the private sector: because IVANY.

Baxter walks us through all the questionable aspects of the MLS scheme — including the accusations of corruption against the Ukrainian companies, Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash and the fine levied against an MLS subcontractor for submitting false claims to NASA — aspects Isnor apparently knew nothing about. He told Baxter the MOU involved no money and was simply an “enabling document” (as though those aren’t two of the most terrifying words in the regional development lexicon).

Moreover, he told Baxter:

I don’t think that signing an MOU like this will cause the company to use the university’s name.

If this were a movie, I’d now cut to a shot of a rocket with the famous St.FX “X” on the nose. Because if our experience with Albert Barbusci has taught us anything, it’s that the whole point of signing MOUs (or hiring contractors) is to claim the co-signers as “partners” and paper your website with their logos.

Marie Lumsden of AACS, the citizens’ group opposing the spaceport project, gets it. She told Baxter:

My concern is that MLS, in an effort to drum up support and increase any kind of positive press, is taking advantage of the good will and reputation of STFX.

Baxter’s article is for subscribers only but for only $15 a month, you can have access to this — and all the other good stuff published by the Examiner — with a joint Spectator/Examiner subscription!


Getting situated

I had the pleasure of speaking to Russell Green for the latest episode of the Cape Breton Situation Podcast, a project of the Nova Scotians for Equalization Fairness (NSEF).

Best moment? Discovering I have nicknames I didn’t know I had (I mean, other than “crackpot” which I don’t really think qualifies anyway.)