Category Archives: InvestigativeAssignmentThree

That’s the way the Wedding Cake crumbles: How a successful developer won his biggest prize yet – and devastated a community along the way

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A controversial Halifax developer gets to have his “Wedding Cake” – and eat it too – at the doorstep of Halifax’s most prestigious neighbourhood: Young Avenue.

In late April, developer George Tsimiklin applied for a permit to tear down the avenue’s historic Cleveland estate – better known as “The Wedding Cake House.”

Despite explosive opposition by the neighbourhood’s “movers and shakers,” less than three weeks later it was gone.

“It seems like this whole block is gonna be chopped up,” a neighbour said bitterly as he glanced at the gaping wound of the demolition site.

But the deflated spirit of the community is little more than collateral damage as Tsimiklis’ development empire charters new frontiers.

A FAMILY LEGACY

Tsiliklin’s father, Dimitrios, shortly after immigrating from Harakopio, Greece in 1964. In Canada he hoped to “achieve his dream” of starting a family and finding success in business. Source: Family Photos, JA Snow Funeral Home
Tsiliklin’s father, Dimitrios, shortly after immigrating from Harakopio, Greece in 1964. In Canada he hoped to “achieve his dream” of starting a family and finding success in business.
Source: Family Photos, JA Snow Funeral Home

Following in the footsteps of his late father, Tsimiklis has cultivated a strong presence in the business community.

Since 1994, Tsimiklis has accumulated over 30 properties, peppered throughout the HRM.

(You can see the properties by clicking on the red dots on the map below)

Source: Property Online, Nova Scotia

Their combined valued is more than $28.7 million.

 

The majority of his businesses are concentrated in Dartmouth, but this year Tsimiklis made a decisive – albeit unwelcome – move into Halifax’s deep South End.

[HEAT MAP]

CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE

Single mother Tylisha Way says she lacks water and heat, and was unwittingly evicted by Tsimiklis. Credit: Chronicle Herald
Single mother, Tylisha Way, says she lacks water and heat, and was unwittingly evicted by Tsimiklis.
Credit: Chronicle Herald

Tsimiklis’ presence across the coast may be impressive, but his record as a landlord isn’t.

His properties have preoccupied a disproportionate amount of police attention, and attracted the scrutiny of resentful and allegedly mistreated tenants.

Sean Drohan, Tsimiklis' tenant in 2010, accused his landlord of bullying and "threatening" him. To be fair, the judge found that both men played a role in their toxic relationship.

He has also been flagged by regional council for failing to comply with city Bylaws.

George Tsimiklis was prosecuted in 2010 for failure to respect by-law S-600: Solid Waste: "to ensure commercial containers accommodate source-separated waste."

When he set his sights on 851 Young Avenue, he added one more influential enemy to his list.

“SAVE YOUNG AVENUE”

Alan North, an architect who lives two doors down from the contentious property, co-founded “Save Young Avenue;” the Facebook group in resistance to the developer’s plans.

Its leading strategy was to petition the Heritage Advisory Committee to designate heritage status to the historic estate. But only one address on Young Avenue is on the registry – and 851 Young Ave didn’t make the cut.

Council of Women House is Young Avenue's only registered Heritage property.
Council of Women House Credit: Nicoletta Dini
Council of Women House
Credit: Nicoletta Dini

David Hendsbee, committee member and District 2 councillor, said that since the previous owner of “the Wedding Cake House” didn’t register the property as a heritage site, the “current owner can do what he wishes.”

What remains of the Cleveland Estate: nothing Credit: Nicoletta Dini
What remains of the Cleveland Estate: nothing
Credit: Nicoletta Dini

The building that had survived a century of change finally crumbled, survived by nothing more than an empty lot and a barbed-wire fence.

THE FIGHT CONTINUES

A desperate campaign Credit: Nicoletta Dini
A desperate campaign
Credit: Nicoletta Dini

 

Even though the “Wedding Cake house” is gone, North warns that the developer still plans to replace it with “tract-style houses on narrow 40 foot lots.”

This threatens the “historically wide properties [,] designed to complement and enhance […] Young Avenue as the main entrance to Point Pleasant Park,” he said in a petition to change the city’s Bylaws.

One of the North's proposed amendments to the city's Land-use By-law is a minimum 10-foot side yard rather than the four feet specified here. He's also advocating for a "minimum lot frontage" of 80 feet, in order to preserve "the spirit...of the planning intent of the avenue."

314 people have signed it, but North still has 185 signatures left to go.

MORE TO COME…

Although he continues to fight for his neighbourhood, North will soon be fighting for his neighbouring house as well.

On the same day Tsimiklis purchased 851, he claimed the adjacent property, 825 Young Ave.

The city approved its demolition permit last month.

825 Young Avenue Credit: Google Street View
825 Young Avenue
Credit: Google Street View

Tsimiklis is vacationing in Greece until September and was not available to comment. His lawyer, Michael Moore, said out of an “ethical consideration” to his client, he would not speak for him.

Organisations plan to educate police on response to special needs persons

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“I think you would find most individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs are fearful of the police,” said Cindy Carruthers of Peoples First Nova Scotia

Brenda Hardiman wants to prevent more special needs individuals from being unfairly criminalized.  She is the Chairperson and co-founder of Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia (APNS), a non-profit organization that aides and support parents who have children with physical and/or intellectual disabilities.

“We decided that Nova Scotia needed something like Advocating Parents with families that were having problems navigating community services and health,” she said. “They could contact us and we could help them with that because both of us have already been through it.”

Hardiman founded the organization with another parent in 2014 after her daughter, Nichele Benn, was charged with assault by a staff member at the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre where she was a resident. Benn has since been moved to a small options home, but Hardiman says it’s a lack of compassion and understanding that causes people to criminalize persons with special needs.

“In today’s world, people with intellectual disabilities are quite often segregated and isolated from the general public,” she said. “People are not exposed enough to various abilities and disabilities, so when they do see somebody or have contact with somebody who has an intellectual disability, it frightens them.”

To resolve this, Hardiman is partnering with Peoples First Nova Scotia (PFNS), an advocacy group for people with intellectual disabilities, and Archie Kaiser, a Dalhousie law professor who specializes in mental disability law. They plan to create educational literature for local police, lawyers, judges and others who regularly interact with special needs individuals.

The idea was inspired by Dave Kent, President of the Board at PFNS, and his experience with the local Truro police two months ago. He was stopped on the street by police officers who accused him of drinking and refused to believe Kent when he explained it was his medication for bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia that affected his walking.

“They gave me a breathalyzer and nothing showed up. Then they followed me home,” said Kent. “What they put me through that night made me nervous. I thought they were taking me to jail.”

Cindy Carruthers, the executive director of PFNS, says Kent’s story is one of many that happen daily and it’s not just with law enforcement.

“Many lawyers struggle with these cases when they have people with intellectual disabilities coming to them, needing support,” said Carruthers. “Through lack of knowledge, they often suggest ‘just plead guilty’ because they don’t know how to support them. Whether they’re innocent or guilty, it’s often just the recommendation to plead guilty.”

Though Halifax Regional Police train officers on how to respond to calls that involve individuals with special needs, Hardiman believes there’s still a lack of knowledge in the policing community.

The training program was made with the assistance of Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team (MHMCT).

According to the Department of Community Services, in 2015 there were 1,153 clients in small option homes and 189 clients in regional rehabilitation centres. Individuals with complex needs can cost upwards of $250K-$1M every year for each case. These cases has increased by an average of 17% every year in the last 4 years.

Individuals with complex needs can cost upwards of $250K-$1M every year for each case. These cases has increased by an average of 17% every year in the last 4 years.

Hardiman said although people with intellectual disabilities can commit crimes, incidences involving special needs individuals should be viewed as a health issue and not a criminal issue.

“The legal system is meant to be punitive for people, but for the people that can’t learn a lesson there’s no point in making it punitive,” Hardiman said. “If people could just stop and think how they would treat their own family member if they had an intellectual disability, they would be a little bit different.”

Though the educational package is still in the beginning stages, Hardiman and PFNS are confident it would be a success. They plan on launching the package next spring.

“I think you would find most individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs are fearful of the police,” said Carruthers. “We would like to try to change that a little bit so that they can see them as someone who can help them and not someone to be feared.”

A case of misconduct back in the day, may not keep the doctor away

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Dr. Leo Wisniowski practices at the ScotiaMed Family Practice and Walk in Center in Bedford after losing his license for having sex with a patient
Dr. Leo Wisniowski practices at the ScotiaMed Family Practice and Walk- in Clinic in Bedford after he lost his license for having sex with a patient

A small sign sits on the corner of the front desk at a Nova Scotia medical clinic.

The greeting card sized sign reads, “Dr. Leo Wisniowski does not provide counselling or psychotherapy “

But if patients ask why, they won’t hear about Dr. Wisniowski’s sexual relationship with a patient that resulted in him being banned from providing the services.

“It’s pretty self-explanatory, just the fact that he doesn’t offer to do it,” says Carla Livingston, officer manager at ScotiaMed Family Practice and Walk-in Clinic in Bedford.

Livingston says, if asked she would only tell patients that Dr. Wisniowski doesn’t provide those services but so far, no patients have inquired about the sign.

But patient advocate and owner of Patient Pathways, Connie Jorsvik, believes patients have a right to know the full story.

“If people don’t know then they go into a doctor’s office trusting that they’re going to get the best care possible and that a doctors not going to do something like that,” Jorsvik says.

Dr. Leo Wisniowski is no longer able to provide counselling after a sexual relationship with a patient
Sign at the ScotiaMed Family Practice and Walk- in Clinic in Bedford

The Case

In 2005 The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia suspended Dr. Wisniowski’s medical license for a year, after a complaint from the female patient.

“They discussed her childhood, her relationship with her family and friends,” the doctor’s settlement agreement with the college reads. “During one session during which [she] began crying and feeling helpless Dr. Wisniowski offered her a hug.”

The hugs grew longer and eventually lead to the sexual relationship that Dr. Wisniowski says occurred during a stressful time in his life.

Benjamin Capps, a professor in the department of bioethics at Dr. Wisniowski’s alma mater, Dalhousie University, says the school covers the topic of appropriate boundaries and sexual relationships with patients in its professional competencies program.

Capps says having sex with a patient creates an inappropriate relationship.

“Ethically it raises issues about power and exploitation,” says Capps.

Dr. Carol Leet, the former president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario discussed sexual relationships between doctors and patients in a recent article from the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“There is no such thing as a consensual sexual relationship between a doctor and a patient,” says Dr. Leet states in the article. “There is a power imbalance that makes it impossible for a patient to actually be consenting to having that relationship.”

The family doctor now has restrictions on his license including being prohibited from engaging in marriage counseling and any form of psychological counselling and being restricted to treating patients only within his regular office hours, which must not be in the evening.

The doctor also had to undergo psychotherapy treatment.

Restriction’s on Dr. Wisniowski’s license



‘Every woman has the right to feel safe’

Jorsvik has dealt with several cases involving doctors and sexual misconduct and says she doesn’t think the cases are rare.

“I feel there are a lot of doctors who are sexually assaulting their patients and getting away with it,” Jorsvik says.

A study, published in the journal Open Medicine, found 606 Canadian doctors had been disciplined from 2000 to 2009.

Sexual misconduct was the most common violation, making up 20 per cent of the types of violations disciplined.

Jorsvik says her biggest concern is the safety of female patients.

“Every woman has the right to feel safe when they go into a doctor’s office,” says Jorsvik. “Women especially are very vulnerable to being complaint, so they get into situations with people in power, who they think know best.”

The new face in town: Dominick Desjardins and the race for Halifax South Downtown

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Dominick Desjardins is the youngest candidate in a three person race for Halifax's District 7 (Provided by Dominick Desjardins)
Dominick Desjardins is the youngest candidate in a three person race for Halifax’s District 7 (Provided by Dominick Desjardins)

Even by his own estimates, first time politician Dominick Desjardin has a hard path ahead of him in the race for Halifax Downtown South.

The Rosethay, New Brunswick native is up against former councillor Sue Uteck and the man that dethroned her four years ago, incumbent councillor Waye Mason.

Between the two of them they have nearly 16 years of political experience; all of it as representatives of the district Desjardin is trying to make his own in the upcoming municipal election.

According to Desjardin, his opponent’s prior experience doesn’t worry him. He thinks it’s time for change in a district that has stagnated under its past representatives.

“If you look back, they’re saying the same things that they’ve said all along,” he says. “So my question is why are we only saying it and not doing it?”

A Youthful Candidate

Almost a year ago, Desjardins had his sights set on a much smaller prize than the seat for District 7. One of the few obstacles in front of him was finishing his bachelor’s degree in political studies from Saint Mary’s University.

Now, the recently graduated 24 year old is only focused on the competitive race ahead of him. One of the cornerstones for his campaign is keeping graduates in Halifax.

“Both of my opponents have said ‘Keep graduates in Halifax’,” Desjardins said. “But they’ve had [16] years between them to do something about it and now they’re making it an issue? That really burns my bridge.”

In addition to his education in political studies, the council hopeful has strong ties to the Nova Scotia Liberal party. He served as the President of Saint Mary’s University Young Liberals during 2015 and is currently listed as the Vice President, Provincial for the Nova Scotia Young Liberals.

If elected, Desjardins says his provincial political affiliations will not affect his decisions in municipal politics.

To assist him in his campaign Desjardins has gathered a mixture of student activists, volunteers and political operatives familiar with federal and provincial campaigns.

“[Regional Council] needs an upgrade of minorities, age difference and gender difference and I think we’re going to see that this coming election.”

On the Trail

Although he officially launched his campaign with an event on May 21, Desjardins says he’s been knocking on thousands of doors and laying the ground work for the campaign since January.

“It’s been a very positive reception,” he said. “And even the youthful aspect [of my campaign] has been welcomed with open arms.”

Desjardins has been called naive for his youthful approach to politics but he says his experiences in life allow him to bring something different than his opponents.

“I’ve been a student, I’ve lived in low income apartments,” he said. “My opponents seem to be focused on getting reelected and that’s something that turns me off.”

Although he lived in Dartmouth until at least 2014 – no property records exist in his name – Desjardins says that he’s always felt like Halifax’s South End has been his home.

A candidate does not have to reside in the polling district of the Halifax Regional Municipality in which they are seeking election.

Business Experience

According to records from Nova Scotia’s Registry of Joint Stock Companies, Desjardins and business partner Shawn McGee created Profalco Construction in early 2014. Focused on construction and painting, the company’s registration was revoked in 2015 as a result of non-payment.

A spokesperson for the registry says the non-payment was a decision by the partners of the business.

Desjardins says juggling school, running a company and having a social life was too much as a full time student and that’s why the business ended. But he’s taken a lesson away from his time as a business leader.

“It’s important to take time for what really matters,” he says. “Making changes to our community and growing our community is what matters to me.”

Glace Bay Doctor can now re-apply for medical licence after losing it

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A Nova Scotia doctor can now apply to reinstate his medical licence after it was revoked in February.

Dr. Mohsen Yavari has a family medicine practice in Glace Bay, NS. He lost his licence earlier this year after the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia found that he had under-reported his qualifications to the college.

Dr. Yavari came to Canada in 2013 through the Clinician Assessment for Practice Program, to work as a family doctor in rural Nova Scotia.

On his program application, Dr. Yavari left out his six years as an Emergency Medicine Specialist in Dubai. He told the committee he had not shared the information on purpose.

Dr. Yavari told the committee he had withheld his experience intentionally.

Clinician Assessment for Practice Program

The Clinician Assessment for Practice Program was a provincial program used to recruit International Medical Graduates as general practitioners and family doctors to Nova Scotia.

Recruiting International Medical Graduates is common in Canada. The Canadian Medical Association says the “top five suppliers of physicians new to Canada” in 2012 were; South Africa (58), India (53), Libya (37), USA (36), and Pakistan (33).

In 2012, the top five countries Canada recruited doctors from were; South Africa, India, Libya, USA, and Pakistan. Nigeria and Iraq weren't in the top five, but recruitment numbers for those countries were increasing in 2012.

Doctors in Nova Scotia

According to the Canadian Medical Association, Nova Scotia has the highest rate of doctors based on 100,000 population.

Source: Canadian Medical Association

Director of Strategic Partnerships at Doctors Nova Scotia, Kevin Chapman says, the rate of doctors in the province is “disproportionate” to the number of doctors actually seeing patients. He insists that Nova Scotia “absolutely” has a doctor shortage.

“Some folks would say we are ‘over doctored’,” says Chapman. “But we know there are a number of Nova Scotians without a family doctor and we still have long wait times for certain services.”

He says, doctors at IWK and QEII have Maritime, or Atlantic responsibilities and shouldn’t be included in the Canadian Medical Associations numbers. Chapman also points to physicians teaching at medical schools as misrepresenting the number of practicing doctors in the province.

Recruiting doctors to rural Nova Scotia

Head of Family Medicine of Western Zone for Nova Scotia Health Authority, Dr. Crystal Todd, says doctors in Nova Scotia tend to stay in urban areas.

“Recruiting has always been a problem for certain areas,” says Dr. Todd. “The more rural the area, the smaller the niche of people who are going to be attracted to that area.”

Chapman agrees with Dr. Todd.

He says Nova Scotia’s aging and disperse population creates its own challenges for recruiting doctors.

“Some doctors in rural areas have two, three, or four thousand patients,” says Chapman. “These are incredibly big practices that takes one and a half, or two people to fill the role after a doctor retires.”

Recruiting vs. retaining

Dr. Todd says recruitment isn’t the only challenge in rural Nova Scotia.

“In many areas of Nova Scotia it’s not recruitment that’s the problem, it’s actually retention,” she says.

Dr. Todd says the Nova Scotia Health Authority knows that what’s been done in the past to recruit doctors hasn’t worked.

“We’re not just plugging holes with bodies, so to speak,” says Todd. “We’re trying to have conversations with graduates and communities to find the right matches, because that will make retention significantly more successful than it has been.”

Chapman says the Clinician Assessment for Practice Program brought doctors, like Dr. Yavari, to parts of the province that had “challenges” recruiting.

Provincial program ends

The program ended in March 2015. According to the college’s website, the decision was “based upon the results of the program’s annual evaluation.”

The College of Physicians & Surgeons of Nova Scotia declined to comment on why the program ended. A spokesperson redirected all questions to the group’s website and the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority said it couldn’t comment on the program, because it was a program by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Nova Scotia. A spokesperson suggested talking to the college.

The website mentions “new pan‐Canadian standards”, but the provincial program has not been replaced yet.

Joe Metlege, Templeton, and landlords of an “unscrupulous” nature

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Templeton Properties is currently renovating Fenwick Tower, after which it'll have a new name: The Vuze. Photo: Mikkel Frederiksen
Once renovations are finished, Fenwick Tower will have a new name: The Vuze. Photo: Mikkel Frederiksen

In late May, Nova Scotia’s Small Claims Court found Joe Metlege, as president and representative of Templeton Properties, to be in violation of the Residential Tenancies Act when the company made a tenant pay three months’ rent up front at the beginning of a lease.

The violation was mentioned as part of a ruling that saw to put an end to a dispute between a tenant and Templeton Properties. In his ruling, adjudicator Michael J. O’Hara, thoroughly explained his reasons for finding Templeton in violation of the Act.

The court documents described how the landlord had defined the sum of money as neither a security deposit, nor a application fee. Instead, it was defined as prepaid rent. A cosmetic distinction that did little to disguise the actual nature of the sum, according to O’Hara, who then went on to explain why, citing the Act’s definition of a security deposit.



With that in mind, O’Hara made clear how the sum exceeds the legal limit of a deposit.



As he summed up his reasoning, O’Hara further commented on the practice of demanding rent upfront under the guise of being “prepaid”, and how the practice, if left unchecked, could leave “unscrupulous” landlords free to circumvent the rules of the Act.



The reminder from the legislature is timely with a new school year on the horizon. As summer begins to cool off, students move back to the city to continue their studies, and many will be taken advantage of as they look for housing.

In 2014, Students Nova Scotia, a student right’s advocacy group, published a report that investigated off-campus housing in the province. They found a pervasive trend of landlords taking advantage of unwitting students, especially those from outside Canada.

They noted “landlords often capitalize on international students’ unfamiliarity with local laws by asking for several months rent in advance.” The report further landlords’ reason for doing so, claiming it to be “assurance against international students leaving the country and breaking their lease.”

At Saint Mary’s University, almost a third of the student body is international. Overseeing them all, as part of Saint Mary’s Board of Governors, is Joe Metlege, here listed as Joseph. He was appointed in 2012, the same year he received his MBA from Saint Mary’s, according to his LinkedIn-page.

Sophie Helpard, Executive Director of Students Nova Scotia, confirms the widespread unlawful practice of demanding rent in advance. She also says more needs to be done to educate students.

“A large part of protecting students from these kinds of, essentially abuse, would be to look at knowledge campaigns and make sure that students understand their rights,” she says. “A lot of partners have the responsibility to educate students, whether it be the universities themselves or the municipal government, specifically. Even landlords, the police, bylaw enforcers and student unions. I think everyone has a role to play.”

Despite the illegality of the practice, there’s nothing in the Residential Tenancies Act that explicitly forbids it. A symptom of a legislative shortcoming in regards to students, says Helpard.

“One thing that’s highlighted throughout the report is looking at the issue that students are rarely legislated for. There is a large gap in things like policy that looks at affordable housing. Student access is not as protected, and so I definitely think that’s prevalent,” she says.

Templeton Properties owns apartment buildings all over Halifax. An overview of the properties can be here.

Former NS politician known for ‘dropping out of contact’

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A Nova Scotia politician who made headlines after being convicted of fraud is keeping a low profile, prompting friends and colleagues to wonder what he’s up to.

An eight-month RCMP investigation in 2010 charged former Liberal and Independent Russell MacKinnon, along with three other politicians, with fraud after pocketing money meant for an assistant at his constituency office.

The former representative for Cape Breton West plead guilty to eight charges of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust in 2013, according to media reports. He served four months under house arrest in his $1.5 million dollar home on the Northwest Arm in Halifax, property records show.

This infographic outlines the charges placed against him by the RCMP in 2011 and which ones he plead guilty to. 

The 3.2 acre home that he shares with his wife, former NDP provincial representative Michele Raymond, was at the centre of a dispute between the couple and a development company back in 2012, media reports state.

The matter was resolved in 2014 when MacKinnon and his wife agreed to the development in exchange to easy access to Purcell’s Cove Road over IMP property, according to a right of way document.

The last the public heard from MacKinnon was in an interview with CBC about the trial in which he said he believed he didn’t do anything illegal.

But where is he now?

MacKinnon has stated to the media that he intends to go back to his private life, but even friends haven’t heard from him.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality councillor Ray Paruch, who considers himself a friend of the former politician, said that he doesn’t know what MacKinnon is doing these days.

“I haven’t spoken to him in five years,” he said, before abruptly hanging up.

No political fundraising? No consulting? No community organizing?

Not really.

Documents show that MacKinnon did donate $300 to the re-election campaign of city councillor for Spryfield Stephen Adams in 2012, but Adams said that he isn’t close to MacKinnon, “not at all.”

The reason for the donation came because Adams had worked with MacKinnon’s wife back when she represented Spryfield in the provincial legislature.

“He appreciated the way I worked with his wife,” he said.

Adams last saw MacKinnon at a community event two months ago.

Before that, Adams saw MacKinnon on only two separate occasions over two years.

No land surveying either

After his exit from politics, MacKinnon went back to work as a land surveyor.

He was president of the Association of Nova Scotia Land Surveyors in 2008, according to a publication released by the group.

MacKinnon officially retired in 2013 while serving house arrest.

However, under the online list of land surveyors, MacKinnon is listed as ‘resigned’ instead of ‘retired.’

Current executive director Fred Hutchinson said this was because a resignation means losing the right to practice as a surveyor.

Like others, he wasn’t sure what MacKinnon was up to nowadays. However, he isn’t too concerned because “we didn’t get along very well.”

When asked to elaborate, Hutchinson declined before adding “Russell is Russell.”

Typical Russell MacKinnon behaviour

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to people who know MacKinnon that he dropped off the radar, said Sydney Academy teacher Harold Kyte who worked on MacKinnon’s 1998 election campaign.

MacKinnon had served as a Liberal representative from 1988 to 1994 before getting expelled from the Liberal caucus after not voting for a municipal services bill.

He ran as a Liberal in 1998 after a brief departure from provincial politics and served as labour minister.

“The word around was that he just dropped out of contact,” he said.

Kyte lost contact with him years ago and generally stopped getting involved in politics.

Still, he thinks it’s unusual that so many people have lost touch with him.

“That’s really weird and kind of interesting.”

Click through and read the public records on Russell MacKinnon before and after his guilty plea.  


Robert Batherson – Consummate PR wizard and networker

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Robert Batherson is a native Cape Bretoner who has held a high profile presence in political and business circles for the past two decades. A Halifax resident, he is a 1997 graduate of Mount Saint Vincent University’s Public Relations program. His LinkedIn profile showcases a vast network of political connections, starting with a stint in Ottawa shortly after his graduation as a Special Assistant within the Parliament of Canada.

Political roles

After a year-long term as a Special Assistant, he served as an Ottawa Legislative Assistant prior to returning to Nova Scotia in 1999. He joined the newly-elected Hamm government as Press Secretary. His public relations training was put to further use when he was appointed Deputy Communications Director to Premier John Hamm in 2003. A loyal Conservative Party supporter, he established his credentials as a communications specialist while immersing himself in the world of provincial politics.

Other roles

While serving the Hamm government Batherson took on additional roles including Principal Secretary with the provincial Progressive Conservatives (PC) . Current PC MLA Chris D’Entremont worked alongside Batherson during the Hamm era. He recalls the many ways Batherson was involved in Party politics. He was a PC candidate in the Sackville-Cobequid riding during the 1998 provincial election, D’Entremont said.

Post-Hamm era activities

Following his tenure as Premier Hamm’s spokesperson, Batherson was well-placed to consolidate his role as key political organizer for the Tories, and to put his political acumen to use as an analyst for CBC supper hour news. He appeared as a frequent commentator on provincial politics on CBC televised newscasts between 2005 and 2007. Batherson was a familiar face to CBC supper hour viewers, often appearing with well-known political columnists such as Marilla Stephenson. He also established a career with a local public relations firm. In addition to his ongoing contributions to the PC Party, Batherson became a well-known community networker in Halifax business circles, serving on HRM committees and gaining positions on various Boards of Directors, including the Halifax Chamber of Commerce and Neptune Theatre.

Directorships

Rob Batherson seamlessly integrated his political, community and business contacts in forging a reputation as a highly-engaged community supporter. He is involved with his local PC Constituency Association in Armdale. In 2013 he was selected by HRM Councillors as the Halifax citizen representative on the Halifax International Airport Authority Board of Directors. The May 2016 edition of Business Voice toasts his recent appointment as Honorary Director of the Neptune Foundation, following his distinguished service as a member of the theatre’s Board of directors. Alongside his business interests Rob Batherson served as President of the provincial PC Party between 2010 and 2011.

Political donor and lobbyist

A search of registered lobbyists in Nova Scotia reveals that along with his public relations practice, Batherson has a wide selection of clients in lobbying circles. His clients number well over a dozen and range from the telecommunications and pharmaceutical industries to payday loan companies. He is a financial supporter of the PC Party and his local PC candidate, having contributed to Irvine Carvery’s 2013 campaign together with a 2014 donation of $1,437.00 to the N.S. Tories. His west-end Halifax residence is listed at an assessed value of $341,800.00.

An engaging personality

Linda Mosher is a long-serving HRM Councillor in whose district Batherson resides. She mentions Batherson’s enthusiasm for his community and his astuteness in budget management as two of his notable qualities. “He takes transit everywhere” Mosher says of her constituent who, at a moment’s notice, was willing to hop on an HRM Christmas float with his young son. D’Entremont credits Batherson as “well-spoken, personable and a terrific dad” to his son.