1. Zane Woodford
Tim Bousquet wrote this item.
After a month covering City Hall for the Halifax Examiner, Zane Woodford is leaving to write for SaltWire. He’ll be working on their new weekly newspaper, SALT.
[Insert your joke here.]
While we’ve seen good subscription growth from Zane’s writing, the Examiner is unable to hire him full-time right now, and he’s got a kid to feed.
I have nothing but respect for Zane, and I wish him the best of luck.
Zane asks that I publish the following note from him:
I can’t thank Tim enough for giving me a platform (and a paycheque) for the last month. I’m also grateful to the subscribers who told us they were subscribing to support my work, many of whom added that they “don’t always agree” with Tim.
All of that love helped me through a really tough time. If you subscribed to read my work, even if you “don’t always agree” with Tim, I’d urge you to continue subscribing. Even if you never agree with Tim, it’s important to support independent local media to give writers like El Jones and Joan Baxter a voice. I’ve subscribed for years and will continue to do so.
We’re happy we could help Zane bridge the gap between his lay-off from StarMetro and his new job at SaltWire, as we did for Michael Gorman and Chris Lambie during the Herald strike. Gorman is now working at CBC. Lambie is back at the Herald.
While we’re not yet quite able to hire a full time reporter, I’m proud that the Examiner has been able to provide for reporters when they’re facing difficult times. I think there’s value in that.
Zane’s coverage of City Hall over the past month has underscored for me the importance of the City Hall beat. I can’t say more right now, but I’m in discussions to get another reporter to provide continued coverage of City Hall for the Examiner. We’ll get there soon, I think, but we’ll need your continued support to make that happen. Please subscribe.
2. Province issues bids for baby biomass plants
Jennifer Henderson reports on a tender sent out by the province looking for companies to build and operate six small biomass plants around Nova Scotia. The plants could provide a new market for wood chips that previously were purchased by Northern Pulp.
This article is for subscribers. Please subscribe.
3. Owls Head
Joan Baxter wrote this item.
On Friday, January 31, the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association and well-known wildlife and forest biologist Bob Bancroft filed a motion with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for an extension of time to file a judicial review of the government’s de-listing of Owls Head from the 2013 Parks and Protected Areas Plan.
Respondents are named as Iain Rankin, Minister of Lands and Forestry, and the Attorney General.
A quick recap.
In December 2019, based on information he obtained through a Freedom of Information request, the CBC’s Michael Gorman broke the story that the provincial government had use a “minute letter” protected by cabinet confidentiality, to secretly de-list the 285 hectares of land known as Owls Head provincial park, which had been managed as a park reserve and was slated for legal protection.
But that changed last March when, after several years of lobbying by and discussions with a private developer who wants to acquire the land as part of a plan to build as many as three golf courses, the Treasury Board quietly removed the designation, according to records CBC News received in response to an access-to-information request.
Since then, there has been considerable outcry about the delisting and the secrecy with which it was done – with petitions and social media campaigns to try to get the government to reverse its decision. Concerned citizens have set up a Facebook page: “Save Little Harbour/Owls Head Nova Scotia From Becoming A Golf Course”.
The Eastern Shore Cooperator has created an “Owls Head resource page” on its website.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has launched an action page urging people to sent letters to the Nova Scotia government to:
- stop the sale of public lands at Owls Head, and
- immediately protect these lands using the Wilderness Areas Protection Act.
According to lawyer Jamie Simpson, who submitted the motion on behalf of Bancroft and the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association, the only legal recourse for those opposed to de-listing is to try to get an extension on the six month limit for a judicial review to be made, as the de-listing occurred almost a year ago in March 2019.
In his affidavit, Bancroft outlines his case against the de-listing:
I understand from provincial government documents … that Owls Head contains a globally rare coastal habitat ecosystem that is home to several species of conservation concern.
I understand from an article by CBC reporter Michael Gorman, which came to my attention on or about December 28, 2019, that the Minister of Lands and Forestry requested the Provincial Treasury and Policy Board to remove Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan of 2013 on or about March 13, 2019, and that the Treasure and Policy carried out the Minister’s request on that day.
I also understand from this article by Mr. Gorman … that the Minister’s decision to de-list Owls Head from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan of 2013 was made in order to enable the Province to sell this piece of Crown land to a private developer who has indicated a wish to build three golf courses on this property.
I also understand from this article by Mr. Gorman … that the de-listing of Owls Head from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan of 2013 was made using a minute letter, which I understand from Mr. Gorman’s article is protected by Cabinet confidentiality and thus is hidden from public view.
I have reviewed the Freedom of Information package concerning the de-listing of Owls Head released by the Freedom of Information Office, and noted that the minute letter concerning the de-listing of Owls Head is redacted.
I saw no announcement by the Province regarding the de-listing of the Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan of 2013 at the time the Province delisted the Park Reserve or at any time before or since. I have searched the internet for any indication that the Province made such an announcement and have found none. I believe that the Province made the decision to de-list Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve without public notice or consultation.
In her affidavit, representing the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association, Barbara Markovits outlines how she became involved in the case, noting that when she first saw the CBC report, she thought perhaps it was wrong. She then started asking questions:
In order to confirm the state of the Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve, I contacted Premier Stephen McNeil, my MLA Kevin Murphy, and Minister of Lands and Forestry Iain Rankin by email on January 1st, 2020. I received only a “form letter” in reply.
On January 20th, 2020, I again contacted my MLA Kevin Murphy seeking information whether Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve had been officially de-listed. Mr. Murphy responded to my inquiry with an email stating that the decision to de-list Owls Head had been made by way of an Order in Council and, on that basis, had been published on the Province’s website as all Orders in Council are.
I searched the Province’s listing of Orders in Council and could find no Order relating to Owls Head. I then wrote again to Mr. Murphy explaining that I could not find any indication that the Property had been de-listed by way of an Order in Council.
Mr. Murphy then responded that he believed that the de-listing had occurred by way of a “minute letter” issued by the “Cabinet/Treasury Board” and that because minute letters are confidential, it would not be available to the public.
To the best of my knowledge, at no time has the Minister of Lands and Forestry issued a statement that the decision to de-list Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve had, in fact, been made. In essence, neither I nor the general public has been informed of the Minister’s decision by the Minister or his department.
I believe that Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve was protected because it contains a globally-rare intact ecosystem, pristine undeveloped shoreline, and species of conservation concern. I and the Association fully supported the listing of Owls Head in order to protect these ecological values.
Jamie Simpson told the Halifax Examiner that he believes the government has “broken their common-law duty to provide procedural fairness” in the de-listing, and on that basis, is asking the Supreme Court for “an extension of time to file a Notice of Judicial Review” of the government’s de-listing of Owls Head from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan.
The motion is to be heard by a judge on March 24, 2020 at 2pm.
4. Email from city’s CAO says gag order on QEII plans lifted
Michael Gorman at CBC reports on an email sent out by Jacque Dubé, the city’s CAO, to the mayor and council that they now can talk about the development of the QEII hospital redevelopment.
CBC got a copy of the email, which was sent out Friday, where Dubé makes reference to the information provided by the province was subject to a gag order.
Last week, councillor Waye Mason said the city was forbidden to tell other tenants around the new hospital site about the plans, including the parking garage. Stephen McNeil and deputy transportation minister Paul LaFleche both denied that the information was to be kept confidential.
5. A date turns bad for man in Dartmouth
A man showed up for a date in a Dartmouth park on Saturday, but then became the victim of a robbery, reports Alexander Quon with Global. The man met with a woman in a park at Cranberry Crescent around 9:30 p.m. and then was approached by a man, who asked for his wallet or he’d be stabbed.
The victim took off, while being chased by the man and woman, until he found a cop car on patrol nearby. The man was later arrested in a home on Lapierre Crescent, while the woman turned herself in. Both will appear in court at a later date.
A community rallies to save Owls Head
I’ve been following the community response to the news about Owls Head. I’ve said this before, but the Eastern Shore is one of my favourite parts of the province. I was in Musquodoboit Harbour on Sunday, but I’ve never been to Owls Head. I follow a Facebook group called Highway 7 Online-Eastern Shore Nova Scotia, which certainly got fired up on Dec. 18, the day CBC published Michael Gorman’s story on negotiations between the province and Lighthouse Links to purchase the 285 hectares of land for the development of a golf course.
The day after that story broke, a new Facebook page, Save Little Harbour/Owls Head from Becoming a Golf Course, was started by a group of residents. That group now has more than 2,500 members. I reached out to Chris Trider and Sydnee Lynn, two of the admins for the group, who put me in touch with Sheila Martin (Martin and I chatted back in December; she’s part of a group working to recruit doctors to Sheet Harbour). Martin grew up in Little Harbour, although she left there about 40 years ago. She still has a cottage there, though, and spends time there between April and October.
She’s hiked through the land on Owls Head. She picks bakeapples in a few secret spots and enjoys seeing the hundreds of pitcher plants, bug-eating shrubs that are common in Nova Scotia, but more plentiful at Owls Head. Martin also kayaks along the shoreline between Little Harbour and Owls Head. She says the sale of that land could mean not one piece of that shoreline would be accessible to the public. The land at Owls Head is covered in peat moss, which Martin says “goes on and on.” In between those bedrock cliffs are bogs. People at Owls Head and Little Harbour, she says, simply call that land the barrens or the bog.
It’s hard to explain the uniqueness of it. You don’t see it any other part of Nova Scotia. You don’t go without boots.
Chris Miller, executive director of the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. He’s been speaking up to protect the land at Owls Head too. He’s done research on lands on the Eastern Shore and says there could be smarter investments here like in ecotourism or those for the inshore fishery. As for the secretive deals the province to sell the land for the development of a golf course:
I think that’s bad government and it’s shameful, to be honest.
He says the public outcry is putting pressure on the province and needs to continue.
What the government needs to do is not sell off the land, restore the protected status, and do it right away. I know it’s not easy for a government to admit it’s made a mistake, but it’s what they need to do.
Caitlin Porter is a biologist and research associate at Saint Mary’s University. She’s done studies at Owls Head in 2011 along with Jeremy Lundholm, biology professor and department chair at Saint Mary’s. The two sent a letter to Labi Kousoulis, Stephen McNeil, Iain Rankin, Gordon Wilson, Gary Burrill, and Tim Houston outlining some of the diverse features of the land at Owls Head. There are the bedrock ridges that run parallel to the shoreline. Such ridges are also found near Blue Rocks in Lunenburg, but that’s not a protected area. There are the broom crowberry plants here that are endemic in northeastern North America, but in the Maritime region are most common in Nova Scotia. The marine environment around Owls Head is a habitat for eel grass, which Porter says is sensitive to pollutants and smothering from sediment. That eel grass provides a nursery for fish species and protects the shoreline from storms.
Porter says she enjoys the dramatic views at Owls Head and its striking geology, including the patterns of straight lines of bedrock. She says you don’t see those kind of straight lines often in nature. And that land in Owls Head already fits in with the 100 Wild Islands network.
It’s an important component of that broader area. Excising that area from that system would be quite a loss. It should be available to all people, not just elite golfers.
Porter and Lundholm point out in their letter that previous development in the area hasn’t been successful, but also put the ecosystems at risk.
It is further noteworthy that due to the difficult terrain, other developments nearby have rarely succeeded. There are few residential developments in this type of terrain on adjacent private lands and those that exist were established at great expense. There are also ample examples of failure, such as one effort to develop an airstrip on the adjacent Borgles Island. Such failed development efforts have a lasting ecological impact. The exposed coastal forests in the footprint of the airstrip have not regenerated despite decades passing since the land was abandoned. Owls Head and adjacent sites are extremely wind-exposed and their situation along the high-energy Atlantic shoreline means they are both vulnerable to erosion and difficult or unfeasible to restore once their ecological integrity has been affected.
Martin says there are some residents in the area who are okay with a golf course being developed, saying the land at Owls Head is unused and the province can do what it wants with it. She’s says some residents talk about working the jobs at the course, even at minimum wage, instead of travelling to the city for work. Still, Martin says others are thinking about what else would benefit the area economically while protecting the land. The population has declined here since Martin was young. She says there are maybe 100 people living in Owls Head and another 50 in Little Harbour. There are about half a dozen children now; there was a busload of kids living here when she was young. As for ideas for development, Martin says maybe there could be accessible trails that would give more people access to that land at Owls Head, like those at Taylor Head Park, which she’s hiked for years. She remembers hiking there and seeing no one. Now, she says, there are about 30 cars during each of her visits.
People are coming from everyone because this is a unique place. I can’t believe the change in the last 10 years at Taylor Head.
Martin says the someone could build chalets and cottages and a restaurant in Little Harbour. There could be sea kayaking tours or other boating tours that would take visitors out to explore the wilderness. Martin says the golfers who’d play at the course aren’t likely to spend time in the area, visit the stores like Webbers in Lake Charlotte or Memory Lane Heritage Village. When Martin is staying at her cottage at Little Harbour, she often takes people around the area herself.
I believe a golf course would see people come in and out and offer nothing for the community. That golf course isn’t being made for the Sheila Martins of the world.
On Saturday morning, I was out taking photos of several signs along the Bedford Highway because this is what I now do on Saturday mornings. Anyway, each sign marks one of the historic communities there such as Rockingham, Prince’s Lodge, and Kearney Lake. All the signs were installed by the Rockingham Heritage Society. I shared the photos of the signs on Facebook and Matt Dagley mentioned the sign for Fairview seemed to be in an odd place, in front of the Icon Bay building, which isn’t very historic. The location of the sign marks the boundary of Fairview and Rockingham, but genealogist Pamela Wile else pointed out the sign was likely placed there because that spot was once where Middlemore Home stood.
I hadn’t heard of Middlemore Home, so I started digging.
There are good writeups on Middlemore Home, including this one by Devonna Edwards at the Fairview Historical Society and this website on Canadian British Home Children.
Sir John T. Middlemore, a wealthy Briton, started opening the first of such homes in London, Ontario in 1875. Middlemore then opened homes in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. The home in Fairview opened in 1897. More than 5,000 children came from Britain to these homes between 1873 and 1932. Some of the children came from workhouses, industrial schools, reformatories and private sponsors in England.
As Edwards points out on the Fairview Historical Society website, Middlemore defended taking these children to Canada by saying, “No, I am taking away what would only be diseased tissue if it were left in England, but in Canada it grows into healthy flesh and blood and sinew.”
Still, the Middlemore Home wouldn’t be a home for all the children who arrived in the city. Says Edwards:
When the ship carrying these children arrived in Halifax, it docked at Pier 2, where they were taken to a shed to be cleared medically. If any of the children were found to have a contagious disease, they were quarantined at a hospital within the immigration sheds. If they had a deformity that was severe enough, they were returned to England.
Edwards says there was a plaque commemorating the children who lived here, but that seems to have disappeared during construction of one of the hotels on the site before Icon Bay was built.
Last week, I just noticed a mural painted on a wall along Main Avenue in Fairview not far from where I live. It’s similar to other murals painted in the area, including one along the Dunbrack. I took at look at that wall again after my research on Middlemore and noticed this house. It’s not Middlemore, but the Protestant Industrial School on Quinpool Road, bordering Quinn Street, from 1880. Edwards tells me many young boys from the Fairview area were sent to this school.
That mural was painted by Curphey Forestall, son of Tom Forestall, a few years ago and was inspired by Edwards’ book, The Little Dutch Village, which tells the story of Fairview (the book is available at the Halifax Public Libraries). The mural also includes a painting of a train. There were several stops for the train, each located where those new signs stand.
The mural here is quite something and I am not sure why I didn’t noticed it before. Maybe I should get out and take more photos of signs every Saturday morning.
Public Information Meeting – Case 22396 (Tuesday, 7pm, Lakeside Community Centre, 1492 St. Margarets Bay Road) — Ramar Developments Ltd., which is owned by Larry and Darrel Marchand, wants to build a 66-unit subdivision they’re calling Elm Grove (presumably, that means they’ll first bulldoze an elm grove), in Timberlea, next to the Brunello golf course. More info here.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall ) — the Police and Fire Department budgets are up for discussion.
Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place ) — CCH, 1588 Society, Bus Stop Theatre, and Eye Level Gallery Re: Funding for Community Arts Organizations.
Natural Resources and Economic Development (Wednesday, 10am, One Government Place) — discussion of the Forestry Transition Team.
Robert S. Rodger Lecture Series (Tuesday, 7pm, McInnes Room, Student Union Building) — Ray Larkin will deliver the keynote address, followed by an panel discussion on governance featuring Julia Wright and Rohini Bannerjee. More info here, RSVP here.
Third‑Year Devised Theatre Project (Tuesday, 7:30pm, David Mack Murray Studio, Dal Arts Centre) — directed by Matthew Thomas Walker. Runs evenings until Saturday, with a sensory-friendly Saturday matinee at 2pm. $15/$10, more info here.
Guitar Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, MacAloney Room, Dal Arts Centre) — more info here.
Book Launch (Wednesday, 1pm, Room 219, MacRae Library, Agricultural Campus, Truro) — Patricia Cove, Chris Hartt, Kathleen Kevany, and Deborah Stiles will read from their newly published works. More info here.
A genomic investigation into the evolution of microbial eukaryotes (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Shannon Sibbald will talk.
Third‑Year Devised Theatre Project (Wednesday, 7:30pm, David Mack Murray Studio, Dal Arts Centre) — directed by Matthew Thomas Walker. Evenings until Saturday, with a” sensory-friendly Saturday matinee” at 2pm. $15/$10, more info here.
Faculty Author Series (Wednesday, 12:15pm, Room 135, Patrick Power Library) — Jean-Blaise Samou discusses editing his recently released book African Cultural Production and the Rhetoric of Humanism, and the concept of African humanism as distinct from European humanism.
Satyricon (Wednesday, 6pm, Burke theatre A) — free screening. Bring your popcorn.
African Heritage Month (Wednesday, 6:30pm, North Branch memorial Library) — Rachel Zellars, Lynn Jones, and community guests will discuss local history, archival material and grassroots activism in establishing a basis for reparations for African Nova Scotians.
Black Cop (Wednesday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, New Academic Building) — free screening of Cory Bowles’s film, and a Q&A with the director. More info here.
In the harbour
04:45: YM Essence, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Rotterdam
06:00: ZIM Yokohama, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
07:00: Markab, supply vessel, arrives at Pier 9 from Wilhelmshaven, Germany
08:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
09:00: NACC Quebec, cargo ship, sails from Pier 33 for sea
11:30: ZIM Yokohama sails for New York
I have to go to Owls Head soon. Note to self: Bring boots.
I have a couple of things to offer regarding Owl’s Head. The Treasury Board Meeting where the Owl’s Head Delisting was dealt with was on March 13, 2019. This was occurring while the NS Liberals were passing the Coastal Protection Act. First Reading was March12, Second Reading March 14. Off to Law Amendments, etc, and Third Reading was April 11, Royal Ascent April 12. So while this government was publicly taking action through legislation to protect our most crucial coastal areas, they were offering up one of our most crucial and globally rare, biodiverse coastal areas for a private capitalist venture that would alter and destroy habitats, the ecology, etc – https://nslegislature.ca/legc/bills/63rd_2nd/3rd_read/b106.htm
At the same time they introduced the Biodiversity Act, on March 14, but that was never followed through on. It sits in Limbo between two readings, without reason, and despite much persistence from various groups and associations across the province. I wonder if it was way too hypocritical for them to pass this legislation considering the Owl’s Head secret.
As well, there is policy to be followed by the government, when considering the sale of crown land – https://novascotia.ca/natr/land/pdf/Sale-of-Crown-Land-Policy.pdf, and this instance… it simply does not fall into any possible spin on how it might adhere to the policy.
Ecological arguments aside (all of which are valid). the biggest thing that should disturb all Nova Scotians about the Owl’s Head issue is that the Government deliberately and with malice of forethought tried to hide this deceitful de-listing of this piece of land. There had already been extensive public consultation, and universal agreement on the natural value and protecting this unique landscape. A single person somewhere decided that public process should be overidden by self interest. That person should be named and publicly brought to task (but that wont happen as we all know).
If the Province can do this in the case of Owl’s Head, they could do it anywhere, with any decision on anything. In fact they probably have already. That is what should have us all enraged.
There’s far too much secrecy in ALL levels of government. Government is accountable to the people, not the PR hacks and lawyers.
Call your MLA/Councillor or ask for a meeting and keep hammering away at the ‘secrecy’ issue.
It needs to be the top issue in the next two elections.
It really should be an election issue. However don’t forget that Stephen McNeil promised to give Nova Scotians the most open and transparent government ever and then proceeded to deliver exactly the opposite. This betrayal didn’t stop Nova Scotians from electing him a second time. Let us hope the next election comes soon and that people will inform themselves and vote more wisely.
I assume Mr Dube has retained all the correspondence and notes from the province re the QE2 expansion and will release them to council members and the public. The people of HRM deserve nothing less than full disclosure.
I can’t see how they think they’ll make a golf course at Owl’s Head—it will cost an absolute fortune to clear that land of rocks and scrub and put down sod.
Fill for shaping, topsoil and then sod. Modern courses have irrigation lines and they have to be about 18 inches deep at a minimum. So you’re looking at an average of about a metre of imported material over the playing surface area. Let’s say that’s about 30 hectares of maintained turf. At one metre deep, that is 300,000 cubic metres. In that location, trucking in the dirt and topsoil, that is about $9,000,000 alone for one course, They plan three. This is before grass (best grown, not sodded) environmental protection, irrigation (where is the fresh water coming from?), paths, clubhouse, roads, parking, specialty items, cart bridges, design fees, equipment, maintenance building.
Regarding this Owl’s Head land sale: Has anyone in the Provincial government stopped to look at the overall track record of golf course development from outside investors, as they relate to the quality of the land proposed for that development? Since the early days when CP Rail built Digby Pines and the Federal Government built Highland Links and Green Gables in National Parks, only one such project has been a success. The list of failures is long and recent (you’ve already forgotten the ill fated Louisbourg development of just a few years ago? https://www.capebretonpost.com/news/local/land-from-failed-resort-project-to-be-auctioned-12304/ . That was proposed on lands that were actually better suited to making a golf course than Owl’s Head. In fact, just about anywhere is better suited. Currently, Forest Lakes in west hants is struggling, and that course is designed to avoid a lot of wetlands, winding in and out between them. The one success – at Inverness with the Cabot Links and Cliffs? I walked that land around 2002 with a golf course architect, looking at a potential Provincial/Municipal initiative to build a golf course on those same lands, and we were joking that we should have brought our clubs, as the place was almost a golf course already, the way the mine tailings and works had been shaped prior to abandonment. So, the one success we have had with golf (and I am not arguing it is a success even if it is unaffordable for 95% of Nova Scotians) was on a site in need of remediation (golf is, indeed an acceptable way to accomplish this) and was stupidly easy to build a course on, not to mention being a spectacular landscape for any tourism, including golf. Plus, an existing town was there, one with a hospital, grocery store, tourism accommodations and, well, people to hire right there who could literally walk to work. Owl’s Head is mostly rock barren and bog/wetland. There are basically no local support services. Yes, it is a beautiful place, but as someone who plays golf on that same coast now, it is often a nasty climate to play golf in. I can’t believe there is a viable business plan here that adequately considers golf course construction costs and the maintenance thereof. Show me the money.
And if you’re going there, bring your boots.