Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Owl’s Head

Thank you Michael Gorman of CBC Halifax for this story about Owl’s Head, the provincial park whose pending protected status was removed by the former Liberal government to open the way for its sale to a golf course developer.

Owls Head provincial park, NS

Owls Head provincial park. (Photo by Peter Copus via CBC)

Gorman FOIPOPed documents that show that in late 2019 and early 2020, even as the Liberals — including then-Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin — were downplaying the park’s significance as a potential protected area, staff within the Environment Department were worried about the way the government was spinning the deal:

“Some of the messaging we have seen from our department and [Lands and Forestry], and more recently from individual MLAs in correspondence with their constituents, has implied that Owls Head is not considered to be an area of high biodiversity value, nor a priority for protection, compared to other sites being considered/sites in the plan,” Kermit deGooyer wrote to Andrew Murphy in a Feb. 3, 2020, email.

“These claims lack context and leave the impression that staff share this view despite previous staff input to the contrary and new information from L&F and non-government researchers that speak to the site’s unique ecology.”

Gorman notes that deGooyer’s comments were initially redacted from a package of information the CBC received in April, but the broadcaster was able to get its appeal to the privacy commissioner expedited on the grounds the matter was of high public interest and if they waited the usual two to three years, the land would be sold before the public knew what deGrooyer had said about it.

The commissioner agreed and recommended earlier this month that the Environment Department turn over the documents and on Tuesday, the department did. (Note to self: the first months of a new provincial government is a good time to look for documents relating to last provincial government.)

The sale of the park — to a company called Lighthouse Links — is still a possibility. Gorman says Tony Rushton, the new natural resources minister, is reviewing the way the Liberals handled the delisting and waiting to see if a group that sought a judicial review of the deal appeals the decision of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge who ruled against it (that window remains open until early October).


Joan Baxter is marking ‘Right to Know” week in Nova Scotia with a two-part series in the Halifax Examiner about our broken access-to-information system. Baxter recounts her — much less successful than Gorman’s — experience with the Department of the Environment and notes that the province ranks lower than Russia when it comes to respecting the public’s right to information.


Buy and Sell

In the market for an “explorer yacht?”

Wait, let’s start that again, since I don’t know what an “explorer yacht” is or if it’s even a thing. I used the term because YachtWorld did to advertise a former Canadian Coast Guard vessel — now docked in North Sydney — on sale for a mere $2.5 million (Canadian).

This isn’t actually a news story, I will admit that right off the top — this vessel, the former CCGS Matthew has been for sale since 2019 — but Fridays aren’t for news, Fridays are for writing about anything that catches my fancy and this Friday, I’m all about “explorer yachts.”

Miss MJ, former CCGS Matthew, for sale on Yacht World

Source: YachtWorld

The “mid-shore scientific research and survey vessel” was used chiefly for hydrographic survey work but also used for stock assessment using sonar. It was built by the Versatile Pacific Shipyards in North Vancouver and named for John Cabot’s ship Matthew from his second voyage to North America. Wikipedia provides a list of the vessel’s career highlights:

In 1998, Matthew was among the Canadian Coast Guard vessels assigned to the search for Swissair Flight 111, mapping the wreckage off the coast of Nova Scotia. The ship participated in the mapping of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, in co-operation with Natural Resources Canada and the Canadian Hydrographic Service in April 2004. The vessel was used for mapping the coastal sea floor and harbour entries, which allowed smaller craft to keep closer the shoreline rather than sail out in the heavier seas. The vessel spent much of its time updating nautical charts that had not been reviewed since the time of Captain James Cook. Matthew was also detailed to investigate sinkholes in Bras d’Or Lake of Cape Breton Island.

Interior, Miss MJ, formerly the CCGS Matthew

Source: YachtWorld

According to this 2017 article by Tom Ayers, now of the CBC, then of the Chronicle Herald, the Matthew was retired in 2012:

…because the government changed its approach to mapping and is using a variety of more cost-effective survey methods to cover more areas, including shore parties, ship-based surveys and airborne hydrography.

The vessel was decommissioned in 2016, renamed 2015-03 and put up for sale five times unsuccessfully — even after the minimum bid, set initially at $2.5 million, was reduced to $1 million.

In 2019, the Matthew was sold to a numbered company in Newfoundland and Labrador (I can’t find the number so can’t look it up and tell you who was behind it which I find very frustrating) for $279,000, renamed the Miss MJ and towed to North Sydney for a refit. It’s apparently been up for sale since then — Peter Ziobrowski noted when the sale was first announced that the vessel had been listed with TriNav Marine Brokerage in Newfoundland for $2.4 million, a price he judged “a bit optimistic.”

TriNav is still listed as the broker but the price has actually inched up to $2.5 million.

The Miss MJ looks much more like a working than a luxury vessel, but I’ve watched enough HGTV shows to be able to imagine some couple buying it and turning it into their dream yacht — all granite countertops, “statement walls” and open-concept helicopter decks. The final shot would be them, sailing the high seas, drinking champagne, indulging their shared passion for recreational hydrographic surveying.


Speaking of HGTV couples, I’ve found a Twitter account that does a wonderful job mocking their weird occupations and improbable budgets:


Marlowe Update

And finally, in case you were wondering, Sydney Call Centre owner Anthony Marlowe is still out there, living his best life in peach-colored pants: