[ICS comment, written 22 June 1998]
It's an interesting contrast.
When Ontario Hydro released its report Ice Storm '98: A Report On The Electricity Supply Impacts Of The January, 1998 Ice Storm In Eastern Ontario in May 1998, a copy was posted immediately on the Internet, thus being available to anyone who wanted it.
The Executive Summary was posted at http://www.hydro.on.ca/OHNewSit.nsf/public/NewsIceStormExSum and, within that page, there was a one-click link to the complete report. Full and immediate and free public access was provided.
And a media release was issued on 22 May 1998, saying the report had been completed and was available on the Internet, with the Internet address at which it could be found. (It was through that media release that I heard about the report and where it was available.)
Ontario Hydro also prepared a report on the Management Response to the Recommendations and made it publicly available by posting it online.
Compare that to the treatment given to the comparable report on the Nova Scotia power failures in November 1997. This report was available to the public – sort of. It was available to the public if you knew where to go to get it and had the time to fetch it. I got my copy by driving to Halifax and going, in person, to the office of the Utilities and Review Board. The UARB staff gave me a copy quickly and without any hassle.
But if you wanted a copy (1) you had to know that it was available at the UARB office, and (2) you had to know where that office is located, and (3) you had to want it enough to go to that office and get a copy.
It was much easier for me, in rural Nova Scotia, to obtain a complete copy of the Ontario Hydro report, than it was for me to obtain a copy of the Nova Scotia report.
Our government's attitude was pretty much like this — We will hide the copies of this report at some obscure location that most people have never heard of. If you can find this place, we will let you have a copy. But it is entirely up to you to find it. You will get no help of any kind from any government source. We hide it, then you find it (if you can).
There was never any attempt to tell the public how to get a copy. And there was no acceptance, or even awareness, of the demand, in 1998, to make information like this easily and widely available. The one and only place in all Nova Scotia where that report was available was that one office on Lower Water Street in Halifax. No public library anywhere in the province was given a copy.
This is a failure by Premier MacLellan's government. The Nova Scotia power failure report was prepared by the UARB, an agency of the provincial government, in response to a direct request from the Premier. If the UARB did not see the need — as it did not — in 1998, to use the Internet to make government information easily and widely available to the public, it was and is up to our provincial government to get with it.
But, while provincial cabinet members are only too happy to gather on the platform when announcements are made about spending government money to buy computers and Internet connections for communities all over the land, they have not the slightest notion that they should also be looking at providing content on the Net.
Consider the recent [29 May 1998] announcement of $62,100,000 for Nova Scotia's schools, universities and communities, "which will put thousands of new computers and technological links at the fingertips of students, teachers, businesses and community members across Nova Scotia." The announcement was made at Dalhousie University in Halifax by Premier Russell MacLellan and John Manley, federal Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. They were joined by Senator Al Graham, Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister responsible for Nova Scotia; Manning MacDonald, Minister of Economic Development and Tourism; and Robbie Harrison, Minister of Education and Culture; as well as education, business and community representatives. "This is the single largest injection of technology in Nova Scotia's history," said Premier MacLellan. "Communities from Neils Harbour to Yarmouth will benefit from increased access to information technology. This project will help business in every part of the province to compete in new markets, lead to a highly trained workforce and create opportunities for all Nova Scotians."
All that is laudable. But computers, by themselves, are merely expensive toys. There has to be useful content available somewhere for those computers to find and bring to the viewer. Part of that useful content should be government reports, placed on the Internet by the government for easy access by the public. Ontario Hydro understands this simple but vital point. The Nova Scotia government ministers who participated in the announcement of the $62,100,000 have no grasp of this. If they do, there has been no whisper of a hint of it.
How about it, Russell MacLellan, Manning MacDonald, and Robbie Harrison? (These three are those named in the press release about the $62,100,000.) As far as can be determined, none of them has ever spent so much as one hour looking at the Internet with a browser. None of them has a personal website. None of them has a personal e-mail address (that is, an e-mail address of their own, aside from that which came attached to their current office and is in effect only while they hold their current offices). They are happy to participate in the spending of $62,100,000 to buy computers, but they won't lift a finger to make government reports available as Internet content.
What access has been provided by the government, for people in "communities from Neils Harbour to Yarmouth," to the Power Failure Report? The people who experienced the power failures are far from Halifax. As far as the government is concerned, that is of no consequence. What has the government done to make that report readily available to people in Neil's Harbour, and Yarmouth, and those other mostly-rural places where those multi-day power failures occurred?
It is a most interesting contrast between those two announcements, of 22 May (Ontario) and 29 May (Nova Scotia), just seven days apart on the calendar but decades apart in the comprehension of a government's responsibility in using modern electronic information technology to make public information genuinely available to the public. To a large extent, the government of Nova Scotia still accepts the 1930s view of public access to government information.
[ICS followup comment, written 16 October 2010]
The following now appears in the UARB's website:
Power Outage Report
The frame capture (below) shows how this appears in the UARB website today. This is the only mention in the UARB's website of the Power Outage Report on the severe winter storm of 27-28 November 1997. The report itself is not now, and never has been made available online by the UARB.
Compare this weak performance, by the UARB in keeping earlier information available online, with the much better performance by Ontario Hydro in keeping its information available online. Even today, late in 2010, the Nova Scotia government just doesn't get it!
Halifax - Montreal
Published schedule, January 1998
ICS (webmaster) — At this time, there were seven small independent electric utilities in Nova Scotia. "Independent" means independent of Nova Scotia Power Incorporated (NSPI), the big provincial utility. All seven of the independents were municipally-owned and all were decades older than NSPI. Each of these electric utilities operated an electric distribution system within its own government-defined monopoly territory, and anyone located within one of these territories was required to buy their electric power from the local utility.
In alphabetical order, these independent utilities were:
Town of Antigonish
Berwick Electric Commission
Town of Canso
Kentville Electric Commission
Town of Lunenburg
Town of Mahone Bay
Riverport Electric Light Commissioners
Six of the seven were members of this new co-operative. The seventh was Kentville Electric (KEC), owned by the Town of Kentville, which had decided, by a majority vote of the Town Council on 9 July 1997, to sell KEC to NSPI. KEC had been involved in the preliminary discussions which led to the formation of the Municipal Electric Utilities of Nova Scotia Co-operative, but the decision to sell KEC kept it from becoming a member. As of late February 1998, the sale of KEC was in the final stages — a series of public hearings by the Utilities and Review Board, which, under the laws of the province, had to give its approval to the sale.
East Bay/Big Pond
St. Joseph du Moine
Upper Big Tracadie
Community Access Program sites
in Nova Scotia were:
Everyday geometry tells us that doubling the width of a rectangle will increase the area only by four times (when the shape, or 'aspect ratio', remains the same) so — how does twice the width produce a frame area ten times as large? On standard movie film, the frame is placed with its width parallel to the film width (that is, the frame's longest linear dimension has to fit the film's 35 mm width). On Imax film, the frame is turned 90 degrees, so that its width is parallel to the film's length (that is, the frame's shortest linear dimension has to fit the film's 70 mm width).The viewing screen surface is 18 × 22 metres, about five storeys high and six storeys wide. The Halifax Imax theatre, limited to 271 seats "so there isn't a bad seat in the house", opened with two films made specially for Imax — The Living Sea, "a voyage to an underwater world accompanied by music by Sting and narration by Meryl Streep", and The Dream is Alive, "in which an Imax camera accompanied 14 astronauts on a space mission". Screenings begin every day at noon. The Living Sea begins at 12:00, 2:00, 6:00, 8:00, and 10:00; The Dream is Alive at 1:00, 3:00, 7:00, and 9:00. Films will change every four months; in all there are about 170 large-format films available in the Imax inventory.