Your correspondent was surprised to learn today the warrant used to search the family home of a 19-year-old in connection with the alleged breach of Nova Scotia’s access to information website has been — literally — sealed.
According to Halifax police, the search
was executed April 11 at a Connaught Ave. home where the 19-year-old lives with his parents. The son was arrested for “unauthorized use of a computer” but has not been charged.
Search warrants become public documents once they have been executed and a report has been made to the issuing judge. It’s part of the public scrutiny that the courts actually welcome.
But police can apply to have a warrant, and the associated documents, sealed, sometimes forever. The term is literal: all the relevant documents are placed in a “packet” which is then, yep, sealed.
A police spokesperson said it was done in this case to “protect the integrity of the investigation”.
For detail-lovers, here’s an excerpt from the Criminal Code’s Section 487.3, which Turpin Labs’ legal division believes is relevant to the case:
A judge can seal a warrant …
(a) if disclosure of the information would:
(i) compromise the identity of a confidential informant, (ii) compromise the nature and extent of an ongoing investigation, (iii) endanger a person engaged in particular intelligence-gathering techniques and thereby prejudice future investigations in which similar techniques would be used, or (iv) prejudice the interests of an innocent person; and
(b) for any other sufficient reason.
NOTE 1: Section 487.3 is silent on the issue of provincial governments creating a circus by incorrectly saying they had withheld news of the “breach” at the suggestion of the police.
NOTE 2: To the clerks at Hfx provincial court — why didn’t you simply tell me the documents had been sealed instead of putting me through hoops?
A lot of folks have trouble getting numbers right, including yours truly, who transposes digits more often than a concert pianist. So it’s best not to get too righteous when people speaking off the cuff fumble the figures.
Nonetheless, the family doctor crisis in Metro Halifax is so serious it’s worth setting the record straight. Fifty-two per cent of Nova Scotians who need but cannot find a family doctor live in the heart of Halifax, not 40 per cent, as Health Minister Randy Delorey told Allnovascotia.com this week. A department spokesperson says Delorey was speaking from memory in the House and later corrected his error.
While Delorey came in low, PC backbencher Pat Dunn came in high, stating that 100,000 Nova Scotians are without family doctors. His interim party leader, Karla MacFarlane, told CTV: “We have a crisis happening in rural Nova Scotia and we know there are 100,000 people without a doctor,” she said.
In fact, 45,555 Nova Scotians cannot find doctors. And the worst crisis is in the heart of HRM, where 23,754 people are doctor-less. That’s 52.1% of the provincial problem visited upon 40% of the population. If you include all of HRM, the numbers become 53% and 42% respectively.
“Oversight” left Halifax out in the cold without enough docs
Health authority came to the rescue
The family doctor crisis in Metro Halifax occurred because government assumed that the capital city didn’t require its attention as it set about managing the MD supply in rural Nova Scotia.
Wendy Walters, Senior Communications Advisor, Physician Relations for the NSHA, describes it as a bureaucratic “oversight”. I can think of less charitable words, but people do make mistakes (I may have made a mistake once, but the details have grown fuzzy.)
Political interference, on the other hand, would have been be unacceptable. Walters says it didn’t occur: “(The direction was) a policy decision from the Department of Health and Wellness which at the time hosted the New MD approval committee. It was in response to perceived challenges in recruiting to rural areas and came from a reasonable place with the data available at the time.”
In fact, the information was there, but you had to dig for it.
The family doctor issue acquired a public profile sometime around 2009, but was assumed to be a strictly rural issue until 2016, when the Nova Scotia Health Authority brought Halifax in from the cold.
The deliverance of Metro Halifax (along with the rest of the Central Zone) began in 2011, when the Department of Health and Wellness created the “New MD” committee.
Halifax remained off the committee’s radar until 2016, when the freshly minted NSHA joined the group. The NSHA was handed “accountability” for the province-wide physician supply problem. (See Turpin’s Law, Section 33 subsection 9(a),(1),(ii),(ab), which states “Woe unto whosoever is last to join a committee, for surely he will be assigned the heavy lifting.”)
Walters wouldn’t say so, but I think the NSHA is the hero of the piece, leaning into the task to discover there was a problem in Metro Halifax, too. So, in fiscal 2017, Metro and the rest of the Central Zone received a physician recruiter and incentives matching those enjoyed by the other zones.
The beleaguered Western Zone got a recruiter, too.
Bottom line, Metro was left twisting in the wind for five years or so while government was busy implementing policy for the rest of the province. Today we have 23,709 people who cannot find a doctor.
I combed DHW publications for the origin of the “oversight” and I believe I have found it.
DHW had reports noting “… almost 60 per cent of physicians (are) located in Halifax.” True, but that number included specialists, and NS had 30 per cent more specialists than the Canadian average (see Physician Supply, Environmental Scan, Page 14, and Shaping our Physician Workforce, Page 4). I’m guessing that no one thought to ask how many of those doctors in Halifax were specialists and how many were family MDs.
If I may borrow a medical term, we had an “occult” family doctor shortage in Halifax, i.e., hidden by all the specialists and clouded by the exhaust from their Porsches.
I am Halifax-centric, but I do not minimize the effect all this has had outside Metro; it’s just that the worst problem is here in the middle of the Central Zone. For example, an acquaintance in Musquodoboit with a life-threatening disease has no family doctor to tell him whether a new symptom is benign or possibly something more dangerous.
Note to insiders: The NSHA’s Walters says the accreditation and privileging system was never used to control the number of doctors. That was accomplished simply by managing the number of available positions. However, the NSHA took over physician supply management at about the same time it got responsibility for accreditation and privileging, and I think the two activities became associated in the public mind.
2,280 Haligonians lose their family physicians in two months
The number of citizens in Metro who want but cannot find a family doctor has passed the 23k mark, a notable but dubious achievement.
The March accountability report from the NS Health Authority showed 23,007 metro-dwellers without a family doctor, an increase of 2,280 from 20,727 in January. The NSHA says that kind of increase is not necessarily unusual. The next update is expected soon.
The provincial total rose to 44,158 from 41,877, an increase of 2,281. That means Metro Halifax effectively took the whole hit and now accounts for 52% of the entire family doctor shortage in the province. No NSHA zone or Community Health Network even approaches that number. (For these purposes I’m defining Metro as Bedford/Sackville, Dartmouth/Southest, and the Peninsulas of Halifax and Chebucto.)
In percentage terms, Metro citizens without doctors are 6.2% of its population, up from 5.6% in January. It’s the second-worst area by this measure after the hapless counties of Annapolis and Kings at 8.1% (6,390 out of a population of 78,507). But in raw numbers, Metro is the worst disaster in the province.
This is consistent with the instinct of successive governments to put rural Nova Scotia votes ahead of all else. Meanwhile, local MLAs and councillors stand around with their thumbs in their pockets.
Below is a chart highlighting the changes in Metro Halifax (yellow and red), the four NSHA management zones (white), and the Community Health Networks found in each (blue).
Negative numbers on the chart mean fewer people in the area are without family doctors, which is good; positive numbers mean the opposite. The problem seems to be that, likely at the end of the 2017 tax year, a lot of doctors jumped ship or retired.
There is a belief in some quarters the cause of Halifax’s misery was a government decision to steer new doctors toward the countryside and away from Halifax by making it impossible to work here. In other words, government may have gone beyond mere rural incentives to actually barring new doctors from the capital city.
If you’d gone to the Atlantic Superstore on Easter Sunday, you’d have found the doors closed, but not for the reason you think. True, it’s a holy day for observant Christians but, unlike Good Friday, Nova Scotia law does not consider it a paid holiday. However, the law DOES require big retail stores to close, which means their employees, who are not unionized, can’t work and therefore don’t get paid.
For them, it’s Bad Sunday.
Confused? The link above is the government’s attempt to explain it, but it can be head-scratcher. It helps to remember this: government can force stores to close whether or not it’s a paid holiday.
The workers affected are in retail stores greater than 4,000 square feet (370 square metres). That means the most useful stores, selling goods such as groceries and hardware, are closed on Bad Sunday — with no legal requirement for holiday pay.
Many retail employees are not even aware of this because they’re on shift work, so the bosses simply avoid scheduling anyone for Bad/Easter) Sunday. That means the loss of an outrageous number of paid shifts, a loss obscured by the scheduling process.
Retail folks not doing shift-work, however, are well aware they’re getting docked and they don’t like it.
The unions don’t care because their members are covered by collective agreements and therefore exempt from this law. In addition to Good Friday, they typically get Easter Monday off with pay. Some of the larger non-union shops follow suit because management would rather not take a stand.
This is what the Nova Scotia government does with its non-union employees, most of whom are managers. The union long ago negotiated Good Friday and Easter Monday as paid holidays. Managers get the same deal without having to bargain for it.
Adding to the confusion is a long list of very specific exceptions to Bad Sunday. It includes taverns, prefabricated home sales and fish stores, to name a few. Detail lovers can find more here, under “Exceptions”.
As for consumers, well, they can get drunk on Bad Sunday, but they can’t buy a hammer.