A must-read weekly review of the policy news, issues and events that are driving change in Atlantic Canada

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PPF: Atlantic Momentum Newsletter

PPF’s Atlantic Canada Momentum Index offers proof that the region is on the upswing, outpacing the rest of the country in several key economic indicators. Each week, this newsletter looks at factors either driving or impeding that momentum. Here’s everything you need to know:

Critical conditions

The Newfoundland and Labrador government approved the final environmental impact assessment of World Energy GH2’s massive green hydrogen project last week, attaching some 60 conditions the project will have to meet in order to proceed.

As well as covering water use and noise issues, the conditions included a requirement that World Energy submit a plan to make sure bridges and roads can handle the transport of huge turbine components, and establish a community liaison committee for public and government oversight. It also demands a one-kilometre buffer zone between any turbine and a home or cabin, to address concerns about noise and shadow flickering, which happens when a spinning turbine casts moving shadows.

Project Nujio’qonik will see 328 wind turbines installed on the province’s west coast to feed power to a hydrogen/ammonia plant in Stephenville. The first phase alone will cost some US$4.5 billion and create about 2,200 construction jobs, with another 400 or so permanent full-time operations jobs. The company aims to be producing hydrogen by the end of next year, with ammonia exports starting in 2026. That may put it just behind Everwind Fuels’ Point Tupper project in Nova Scotia, which announced completion of design and engineering work in early April, but it’s fair to say the race to be first to market is now on.

Not everyone is cheering, however. Members of the Environmental Transparency Committee, a group of local residents, have protested the project and are now subject to a court injunction keeping them away from it. “I can tell you everyone that’s going to be impacted by this is stressed to the max,” said spokesperson Zita Hinks.

Nick Mercer, co-chair of Enviro Watch N.L., said his group is “gravely concerned” about the approval: “It’s our position that these gargantuan wind-to-hydrogen projects that are being imposed on these communities do not meet that bar for true sustainability,” he said, citing the inefficiency of using wind power to create hydrogen, which is turned into ammonia and then often back into hydrogen.

Bernard Davis, the province’s environment minister, said he’d taken into account all concerns raised during the 174-day consultation period and was confident they’d been addressed. “As an environment minister, I love the idea of hydrogen … as the new battery for the world. But as the environment minister I have to also make sure that we protect the environment and mitigate as many of the concerns as we possibly can from the people and from the government agencies.”

LISTEN: On the podcast WONK, the new chief economist of the OECD, Álvaro Santos Pereira, on solving the productivity crisis

Other alternatives

Hydrogen is not the only renewable energy source seeking a foothold in the region. Simply Blue Group, an Irish offshore wind developer, is looking to locate a facility in Nova Scotia to produce sustainable jet fuel using wind and solar power, and biomass from forestry and sawmill operations. The European Union is demanding all jet fuel contain two percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by next year, rising to 70 percent by 2050, a mandate that should make it easier to find financing for the project, said Michael Galvin, Simply Blue’s director of hydrogen and sustainable fuels.

Last week, allNovaScotia reported that Calgary-based Pieridae Energy has applied to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to transfer a tract of industrial land in Goldboro to a company associated with Simply Blue. The property is located where subsea pipelines from now-decommissioned offshore gas wells made landfall, and it had been earmarked for a proposed LNG facility that’s now been shelved. Simply Blue has completed some of the design and engineering work for its proposed facility and expects to make a final investment decision in early 2026.

Meanwhile, NB Power recently conducted a test burn of “biocoal” at its Belledune generating station. The burn was done in partnership with Quebec’s Airex Energy, which produces the low-emission renewable fuel — made of sawdust dried by extreme heat — at a plant in Becancour. NB Power wants to convert Belledune from coal to biomass in order to meet the province’s net-zero obligations and has earmarked $5.5 million to study alternative fuels this year.

So all is forgiven?

Danny Williams, the outspoken former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, has reportedly expressed interest in buying The Telegram from SaltWire Network Inc., currently in the midst of insolvency proceedings. Several sources told allNovaScotia that Williams, who now owns real estate developer DewCor, is considering an offer, though it’s not clear whether he has a partner or whether he’s after just The Telegram or the whole of the media company, which includes the Chronicle Herald in Halifax and The Guardian in P.E.I., among others. Williams declined to comment.

SaltWire entered bankruptcy proceedings earlier this year with more than $60 million in debt and decidedly strained relations with its biggest creditor, Fiera Private Debt. Williams himself had a famously combative relationship with The Telegram. He sued the paper for defamation in 2014 over an editorial that linked a subsidy given to St. John’s Sports & Entertainment to political donations made by the St. John’s Ice Caps, an American Hockey League team for which Williams served as president and CEO. The subsidy was used to help defray arena rental costs for the hockey team. The suit was settled out of court in 2019.

Take a (relaxing) seat

The Atlantic provinces have tried many things to take the stress off jammed-up health-care systems and overwhelmed workers. They’ve eased restrictions on foreign doctors to bolster their ranks, funded transportation subsidies and social events to make newly arrived health-care professionals feel welcome and even paid for expensive, though not well-audited, travel nurse programs to keep the system from collapsing in the wake of COVID.

Now New Brunswick is trying big comfy chairs. Its two biggest health agencies are installing 19 Recharjme “relaxation cabins” at hospitals, health centres and ambulance depots. Health-care workers will be able to book a 25-minute session through an app and climb in. Manufactured in Montreal and used in several hospitals in Quebec, the cabins look like a cross between a giant vending machine and an isolation tank. Stressed-out health-care workers can relax in a reclining, heated massage chair in the soundproof chamber, using a touchscreen to access a meditation playlist or soothing music.

Justin Surette, the health and safety adviser at Vitalité Health Network, said he uses them twice a week, or more. “When I came out, I was feeling like a new person,” he told the CBC. “It is kind of like waking up in the morning.” Though you can’t get too relaxed, or spend the night. Access is limited to one session every 24 hours.

Timely arrivals

The first cruise ship of the season arrived in Atlantic Canada last week, an early start to what could be a record year for landings. The MSC Poesia stopped in Halifax, Sydney and Charlottetown more than two weeks earlier than it did last year, and the cruise season will go eight months in 2024, the longest ever. Halifax has 203 “cruise calls” booked so far this year, with landings in June, July and August running 37.5 percent above last year’s number. Sydney will see a record 115 cruise calls in 2024, with summer numbers up 17 percent. Charlottetown is expecting 96 visits, and Saint John 75.

Another early seaborne arrival last week in Newfoundland, meanwhile, bodes well for that province’s tourism industry. Some of the first icebergs of the year were spotted near Twillingate, driven by north winds. “We had a record year last year for icebergs, but I think it’s still going to be a great season,” said Chris Scott, owner and operator of Twillingate Adventure Tours. “When you’re seeing icebergs this early, it’s a good sign,” he said.

Save the date: PPF Frank McKenna Awards 2024 celebrates leaders making Canada and the Atlantic region richer through their ingenuity and initiative. This year’s event will take place on Oct. 10 at Pier 21 in Halifax. Register now and stay tuned for announcements about our 2024 honourees.

More protests in the forecast

Snow crab fishers in Newfoundland are promising to protest at the legislature again this week, hoping the provincial government might step in to force an increase in the price they get for their catch. The tactic worked last month when demonstrations shutdown the legislature on budget day and helped convince the province to open up the industry to outside buyers and increase processing limits — two key demands of the harvesters. But the Food, Fish & Allied Workers Union (FFAW), which represents the fishers, is still angry.

That’s because a government-appointed panel set this year’s price at $2.60 a pound — the price proposed by the Association of Seafood Processors (ASP) who own the plants. It’s too low for them to make a living, the union said, and they’ve left their boats tied up since the season started in early April.

The two sides spent last week trading accusations of bad faith. The harvesters claim the price-setting panel ignored a formula proposed last year in the Blackwood Report, the result of a commission set up by the province following a similar dispute. More importantly, they claim the ASP is refusing to increase their share of the bounty as prices rise — capping their return at 37 percent of market revenue — which means they can miss out on higher returns as prices go up later in the season.

The ASP said the union’s proposal ignored the Blackwood Report as well, and its offer was really more like 53 percent, once the loss in weight that comes when the crab is processed is taken into account. The union’s number is based on whole crab, it said, which is not how it’s priced in the markets. In any case, it offered to pay $3 per pound for the first three weeks of the season, which the union turned down.

And so it’s back to the bullhorns for a dispute that looks headed, once again, for a short-term solution and a possible replay next year. Meanwhile, there were more warnings of hard times ahead. Bonavista MHA Craig Pardynoted 450 fish plant workers were out of work in his constituency. Many have had their EI benefits expire and are now applying for income assistance. Jeff Loder, executive director of the ASP, said each passing day spent tied up will mean a less lucrative season for everyone. “Japanese buyers are interested in buying crab now, not later in the year,” he said.

On the horizon


  • April 10, Building permits (February)
  • April 12, Home Price Index (March)
  • April 15, Housing starts (March)
  • April 16, Federal Budget 2024 (released at 4 p.m.)
  • April 30, GDP (February)


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This newsletter is produced by journalists at PPF Media. It maintains complete editorial independence.