Wednesday Short Takes

Hail to the chief

Robert Walsh, erstwhile acting chief of the Cape Breton Regional Police Service (CBRPS) has been named chief.

I’m filing that under “O” for “Of course.”

On the plus side, if they ever launch a Family Feud: Municipal Edition, we’re ready.


Something’s brewing

We’re getting our Cappucci Gastro Pub!

You remember the Cappucci Gastro Pub, right? It featured prominently in Ekistics’ 2017 design for downtown Sydney:


I’m sort of kidding — we’re not actually going to get a Cappucci Gastro Pub on Charlotte Street, but we may get something better.

Breton Brewing, which operates a brew pub (gastro pub?) on Keltic Drive, is considering moving to downtown Sydney. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what co-founder Andrew Morrow wrote to CBRM planners Karen Neville and Michael Ruus on March 23:

We are considering a downtown location for Breton Brewing. We believe that having a Brewery located downtown will benefit the atmosphere and energy of downtown, for both locals and tourists who are visiting Sydney.

The location they are eying is 278 Charlotte Street, which is currently occupied by Oak Hall (and which is a block further south than Cappucci’s).

Morrow wrote council to ask for an amendment to the Parking Meter By-Law to allow for a loading Zone on the Esplanade side of the building. As he explained:

At Breton Brewing we produce beer, which requires our by-products to be discarded. These by-products would attract unwanted attention from pests and would eventually have an odor if left unattended on the sidewalks of downtown. We are proposing to have a loading zone from 8AM – 11 AM Monday to Friday in order to remove said by-products.

Council has asked staff to prepare an Issue Paper on the subject.


Official secrets

Confidential TOP SECRETHalifax-based CP reporter Michael Tutton spoke this week to Kevin Walby, a University of Winnipeg researcher looking into prison responses to COVID across Canada. Walby, who has been requesting information of all provinces, said that Nova Scotia’s access to information system “stands out for fee estimates dwarfing those asked by larger provinces.”

And he means “dwarfing” — Nova Scotia’s projected costs for responding to requests are 20 TIMES HIGHER than Ontario’s:

For example, Walby’s team asked all governments at the provincial, territorial and federal level for policy directives documenting the screening for prisoners, staff and others. Ontario provided the information for $213.90, while Nova Scotia is estimating it will cost $5,418.

Walby also asked for overviews of the number and nature of so-called “use of force” incidents during the pandemic, broken down by race and gender. Ontario asked for $585 to find and process information of use-of-force relevant to COVID-19; Nova Scotia is estimating a $14,472 fee for the same time period, from March to the end of August.

To add insult to injury, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are offering the information “with no fees, though after delays.”

Walby says Nova Scotia has been “the most difficult to work with in the entire country.” (There’s a phrase for the license plates.)

Walby can appeal the fees but, as Tricia Ralph, the province’s information and protection of privacy commissioner told Tutton:

If there was a request for a review, the applicant would have to wait upwards of three years before our office would get to that review.

The rules governing access to information in NS are probably familiar to you, dear readers, because I’ve complained about them so often, particularly in relation to the CBRM. You pay $5 up front and are entitled to two free hours of processing time, but then must pay $30/hour for any additional time required.

If you’re thinking a charge of $14,472 suggests poor record-keeping on the part of the government, you are not alone. Ralph’s predecessor, Catherine Tully, in a 2017 report said:

[W]e frequently find that higher fees are associated with poor records management and public bodies and municipalities do not have a good understanding of when to waive fees in the public interest.

If you think the poor records management and inability to comprehend the term “public interest” is willful, then welcome to my club.


Off the list

Speaking of government record keeping, the Cape Breton Spectator apparently fell off the media distribution list for the CBRM.

I noticed the Post quoting a press release about the appointment of a new police chief and double checked my inbox to be sure I hadn’t just missed it, but no, I had not received it.

I wrote CBRM spokesperson Christina Lamey asking for a copy and she sent it and promised to add my email “to the distribution list,” although I was on the list on when Jillian Moore was the communications person. Maybe Moore took her list with her when she left?


COVID Update

Dr. Robert Strang

Dr. Robert Strang, update, 20 April 2021.

Tim Bousquet at the Examiner has a good summary of yesterday’s COVID briefing with Dr. Robert Strang and Premier Iain Rankin.

The province is tightening restrictions on entry as of tomorrow morning at 8 AM. The new rules will be in place until May 20 and could potentially be extended beyond that.

I was going to write something about “variants of concern” and figures out of Ontario and the latest from Dr. Theresa Tam, but I’m guessing there’s no need. I’m guessing my readers are as up-to-date on all this as I am.

I suspect most of you, like me, are holding your breath, hoping we can hold the variants at bay long enough to get everyone vaccinated.

(Unless, of course, you’re the anonymous Twitter person who has identified me — quite erroneously, as it happens — as the type of person who “wears three masks” and “watches CNN 24/7” and needs to do some “research” and discover this disease has “a 99% recovery rate” and therefore it’s time to “end the lockdown.” If you’re that person, I have no idea what you’re doing right now and I don’t think I want to know.)