Instead of actually working yesterday, I spent much time, probably too much time, watching the horror show down in the U.S. I don’t have anything intelligent to say about that, and can add nothing that people more qualified than me can say much better.

And I got up this morning and scanned the local news and government websites and found nothing much I wanted to comment on. I could have feigned interest, but it’s just not in me. So besides the campus and ship stuff — everyone act quaint today! There are 10,000 cruise ship tourists in town — I’m only going to write about one thing this morning: John Risley and the pergola-damaged Celica.

John Risley and the pergola-damaged Celica

John Risley

John Risley is richer than god. He owns two islands off Chester, with a mega mansion on one of them. He’s also got a big house in the south end. He used to own a $130 million yacht, which was worth more than my entire neighbourhood, but he downsized and sold it, so he could buy a $30 million yacht, worth more than just my block.

Risley made his money by cornering the lobster market, which to no small degree entailed getting a bunch of government grants and loans and buying up fishing licences so no one could compete with him. He now flies around the world as a self-styled “elite,” and chairs the board of the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, where he lectures the proletariat on how to pull themselves by their own bootstraps and attacks a business owned by his girlfriend’s ex-husband for receiving government grants. If you think that last is a bit hypocritical of Risley, you are right; it is.

I’ve got a friend who works as a personal assistant for a gazillionaire in New York; my friend basically takes care of all the day-to-day stuff involved in managing the gazillionaire’s properties — overseeing the maintenance, the sales and purchases, and so forth — while the gazillionaire talks on the phone all day and moves money around and does other gazillionaire stuff. And my friend is just one of several PAs working for the gazillionaire. Gazillionaires have better things to do than bother themselves with their own minutiae. What good is it being a gazillionaire if you have to load the dishwasher and haggle with the contractor?

But apparently gazillionaire John Risley does haggle with the contractor. A Small Claims Court verdict published yesterday relates how Risley showed up at court on August 23 to defend himself against a $2,965.62 claim filed by Ralph Spares.

To put that in context, $2,965.62 isn’t even pocket change for Risley. It’s not even the change he’d find under his couch cushions. It’s like the maybe half the change he’d find under one end of one couch cushion. And yet there he was, spending his valuable time fighting Spares in court.

Spares works for G & S Renovations, which Risley’s people hired to do some renos on his house at 1462 Thornvale Avenue, in south-end Halifax. Thornvale is a little lane that extends off Coburg Avenue on the other side of the railroad tracks; the house is assessed at $1,895,300. Consider it a cottage for Risley.

In contrast, working people have hard lives. You can often tell just how hard their lives are by what kind of car they drive. In Spares’ case, that would be a 24-year-old Toyota Celica.

As Adjudicator Erik Slone explained in his decision:

Many of the workers on the [Thornvale reno] project travelled to the work site by car, and needed a place to park their vehicles. The large property allowed quite a few vehicles to be parked on site at any given time. One of the areas that workers parked was under a wooden pergola structure. There is no dispute that the pergola looked to be structurally sound, and that the Claimant had permission to park there.

Wikipedia tells me that a “pergola” is “an outdoor garden feature forming a shaded walkway, passageway, or sitting area of vertical posts or pillars that usually support cross-beams and a sturdy open lattice, often upon which woody vines are trained.”

Slone continued:

On the day in question, June 5, 2017, the Claimant parked his 1994 Toyota Celica under the pergola. When he came to get his vehicle at the end of the day, he found that a 2 X 6 section of wood had apparently come loose and fallen from the top of the pergola, doing some damage to his car.

The Claimant takes pride in this vehicle. He has not yet had it repaired because he cannot afford the $2,965.62 cost that has been estimated. He continues to drive the car but wants to have it fixed and seeks to hold the Defendant responsible.

The Defendant does not accept that he should be 100% responsible. He also questions whether it makes sense to pay almost $3,000.00 to fix a car that is worth no more than about $5,000.00, according to the “Blue Book.”

Slone sensibly found mostly for Spares, a working stiff just trying to get by in this vale of tears with his now scratched-up and dented 24-year-old Celica, which he is driving around, scratches and dents and all, because he  can’t find the $2,965.62 he needs to fix it under his couch cushions.

Slone did, however, assess Spares with 20 per cent responsibility of the cost because he “had a duty to ensure that he was parking in a safe place,” but come on — if a gazillionaire’s pergola isn’t a safe place, I don’t know what is.

Risley must now pay Spares $2,372.50 for damages, $99.70 in filing costs, and $100 to cover Spares’ costs in serving Risley. On that last, Slone notes:

The Claimant also seeks compensation for the multiple trips that he made in an attempt to locate the Defendant at his home in Chester to serve the Claim. These trips were in vain as the Defendant was not there at the time. In the end an order for substituted service was made.

The Defendant pointed out that he was often available in his Halifax office, and that no one contacted him to arrange for him to be served.

I believe that the Claimant acted unreasonably in making multiple long drives in the hope of finding the Defendant at home. I will allow $100.00 as the reasonable cost of service.

See, the $1,895,300 Thornvale home isn’t even Risley’s main residence.

There are a lot of things I don’t understand about this story. Like, doesn’t gazillionaire John Risley have insurance? Maybe gazillionaires are self-insured?

But, also, what about Risley’s costs to attend court? Figure a half-hour travel back and forth to the Spring Garden Road courthouse, an hour while sitting on the wooden benches in the courtroom court and playing Angry Birds while other put-upon people present their cases, and then a half-hour to argue about the pergola-damaged Celica. So, two hours. I’d think two hours of a gazillionaire’s time is worth more than $2,965.62.

But mostly I don’t understand why Risley bothered. Is he really so petty and mean-spirited that he couldn’t cover the damage incurred on his property to a worker’s car who was, after all, working for him?

I guess he is.



Sewage Plant Estates Expo (Friday, 12-5pm, Centre Court, Scotia Square) — see what was produced by the “charrette” all week, and then tell them to blow up the casino and the parking garages.


Legislature sits (Friday, 9am-1pm, Province House)

On campus


Madeleine Redfern (Friday, 11:30am, Room 127, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern will talk about the Qikiatani Truth Commission.

Faculty of Dentistry Clinic Grand Opening and Renaming (Friday, 1pm, Level 2 Waiting Area, Dentistry Building)

Thesis Defence, Chemistry (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Lin Ma will defend his ​​thesis, “Development of Novel Electrode/Electrolyte Systems for a Li-ion Cell with Higher Energy Density and Longer Lifetime.”

Dentist! (Friday, 3pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Bill MacInnis will  get a Distinguished Services Award and then explain how to get paid to be inhumane.

Gauss Factorials, Jacobi Primes, and Generalized Fermat Numbers (Friday, 3pm, Room 227, Chase Building) — Karl Dilcher will present his joint work with John B. Cosgrave.

Terry Anders Memorial Lecture (Friday, 3:30pm, Room P5260, Life Sciences Centre) — Richard Brown will talk about “What have I done in the last 48 years? How coming to Dalhousie as a graduate student shaped my life.”

Circled in with Enemies’ Countries: Privateers and Local Politics in Restoration Jamaica (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — John Coakley from Merrimack College will speak.

Ignite: Dal’s Third Century (Friday, 6pm, Halifax Convention Centre) — reception and dinner. For just $149.50 (solo) or $1,495 (for a table of 10; this isn’t Costco, you don’t get a bulk purchase discount), you can listen to a bunch of people prattle on during “an evening of inspiration and discovery”:

Through immersive storytelling with three of our leading researchers, we’ll explore extraordinary perspectives on some of the greatest challenges facing humanity — food security, debilitating diseases and sustainable energy.

Weirdly, none of the event descriptions I have found say who the three speakers are. Maybe it’s the hockey coach, the groundskeeper, and the sadistic dentist above. No offence to the speakers, whoever they are, but the people who would pony up $149 for such an event are exactly the barrier to solving the greatest challenges facing humanity.

But if you want to pay $149.50 for a single ticket or $1,495 for a table of 10, no bulk purchase discount, you can do so here.

Oh, the dress code is business/cocktail with black and gold encouraged.


Canada in 2050: the Economy We Want (Saturday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Panelists Lisa Roberts, Susanna Fuller, Dale Prest, and Robert Bernard will talk about “Economic Prosperity.” Register here.

Saint Mary’s

Inviting Engagement with Paradox: How Leaders of Social Enterprises Communicate Complexity (Friday, 11am, Sobey 260) — Natalie Slawinski from Memorial University will talk about the Shorefast Foundation, which is that Fogo Island thing started by Zita Cobb, the gazillionaire who is bringing prosperity forever, amen to the island by teaching formerly poor people how to service the obscenely wealthy.

This is the perfect encapsulation of our age: only obscenely wealthy people can save us.

Annabel (Friday, 12pm, Room LI135, Patrick Power Library) — Kathleen Winter will read from her book.

Mount Saint Vincent

Technologies of Unease (Friday, 2pm, Keshen Goodman Library) — Karen MacFarlane will speak.

In the harbour

5am: Bilbao Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Fos Sur Mer, France
6:30am: Mein Schiff 6, cruise ship with up to 2,700 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Saint John; the ship is on a nine-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
6:45am: Insignia, cruise ship with up to 800 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Sydney; the Insignia is on a 10-day cruise from Montreal to New York

Zuiderdam. Photo: Halifax Examiner

7:15am: Zuiderdam, cruise ship with up to 2,364 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney; the Zuiderdam is on a 10-day cruise from Quebec to New York
7:15am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, moves from anchorage to Pier 36
8am: Akademik Sergey Vavilov, cruise ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea
8:45am: Norwegian Escape, cruise ship with up to 5,218 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John; the Norwegian Escape is on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
10am: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
10:30am: Genius Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
10:30am: Dependable, cable layer, sails from Pier 9 for sea
10:30am: Bucco Reef, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage for bunkers from Quebec City
3:30pm: Insignia, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for Saint John
3:30pm: Zuiderdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Bar Harbor
4pm: Crete I, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
4pm: Bilbao Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
4pm: Bucco Reef, oil tanker, sails from anchorage for sea
4pm: Genius Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4pm: YM Movement, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
5:45pm: Mein Schiff 6, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for New York
7:30pm: Norwegian Escape, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for New York


I’m totally going to check out the Sewage Plant Estates exhibit at Scotia Square.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Nothing worse than a self righteous gazillionaire. I bet he tips 14% when the service is exceptional.

    Also, I love that the contractor takes pride in his 94 Celica… atta-boy

  2. Hey – there’s always another circle of pettiness – Risley could have hired an expert who probably could have won the case – obviously this would cost more than the 3000 dollars the contractor wanted – but its not like he needs the money.

  3. I know this is totally petty and shallow, but every time I see Risley’s photo I can’t help but think, all those millions and yet he won’t pay someone to wax that unibrow?