1. The casino crapshoot

Halifax’s waterfront casino. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Rob Csernyik has an incredible investigative piece on the casinos in Nova Scotia and how locals, not high-rolling tourists, became the big spenders.

Csernyik looks back before the first casino opened by ITT Sheraton in the summer of 1995. A poll from 1993 showed that 57.7 respondents were against the casino, while a petition from People Against Casinos in Nova Scotia gathered 50,000 signatures. But the province thought a casino could attack the deficit, while creating jobs and boosting tourism. So did that happen?

Writes Csernyik:

[ITT Sheraton] estimated that out-of-province gamblers would each generate $67 in revenue per visit, and that in its first year, 427,266 out-of-province visitors would produce a total of $28,626,826 in gaming revenue just from the Halifax casino. That represented 28% of the total estimated revenue — the rest being made up by locals playing the slots, blackjack and the other games on offer.

So, the casinos were supposed to bring $50 million to provincial coffers (in mid-1990s dollars), with a significant chunk coming from out-of-province gamblers. How is that working out?

For the fiscal year ended March 31, 2019, gaming revenue from both casinos was $77,925,000. It averaged $81,272,550 between 1997 and 2019. But that’s before paying the operator and tallying operational costs. The average the province kept was $28,366,000 during that period — just over half of the projected $50 million.

We don’t know how much of this comes from tourists today. Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation (NSGC), the Crown corporation managing regulated gaming in the province, turned down an interview request for this story, forwarding it instead to the casino operator, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC). GCGC didn’t respond to multiple interview requests.

Csernyik also looks at the marketing of the casino:

While ITT Sheraton’s original vision offered some unique elements, they were stripped away one by one before opening — from the crystal palace design to the proposed Vegas-style entertainment. NDP researcher Jane Wright (who years later operated Jane’s on the Common restaurant) went through six boxes of Sheraton’s proposal, unearthing the details of “Barnacle Pete’s Wharfside Revue” — which has been described as “a seafaring version of a Disneyland show” and would have featured “rowdy sailors, comedic acrobats, lively pirates and beautiful, buxom wenches.”

After this article was published last night, Wright later shared this article from her scrapbook on Twitter:

That last line, “See Nova Scotia heap no end of embarrassment on itself” just really sums up a lot so well.

This article is the first in a series from Csernyik and for subscribers only. Investigative pieces like this take a lot of time and work and your support. Please consider a subscription.

2. Calling police when someone is suffering a mental health crisis can have horrific consequences; what is the alternative?

Photo by Taymazvalley via Flickr.

Philip Moscovitch writes about the mobile crisis unit, which offers phone support 24/7 to anyone in the province, but which also has teams that will respond to calls within HRM, between 11am and 1am. The team includes a mental health clinician and a plainclothes Halifax Regional Police officer, who arrive at calls in an unmarked vehicle. The program is lead by Matt White, who is a social worker by training, and it’s run in partnership by the NSHA, the IWK, and HRP. The service also has service agreements with EHS and 811.

As Moscovitch writes, having police answer calls to people in a mental-health crisis can be deadly. Since May, there have been the deaths of Regis Korchinski-Parquet in Toronto, and killings of Chantel Moore and Ejaz Ahmed Choudry, who were both shot by police during wellness checks.

Moscovitch talks with White about the mobile crisis team not sending cops out to calls.

That wouldn’t be anything that we’ve discussed as a team. You know, we really value our partnership with the regional police. For our service, that partnership with the police allows us to to attend higher acuity [ie, greater state of crisis] calls where normal clinical staff wouldn’t attend, and our police partners that you have through the HRP, the four officers who are seconded to our unit… I just can’t speak highly enough of both a) the additional training they have, and b) the mindset and how they want to work with our population. That has really shone through.

But as Moscovitch learns, not everyone thinks mobile crisis is the best model.

Read the full story here.

3. One dead after shooting in west-end Halifax

There was a shooting in Halifax’s west end last night. This morning, Halifax Regional Police sent out a news release saying one person is dead and two others are in hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The shooting happened at the 6300 block of Cork Street.

CBC reports that residents walking in the area this morning said they heard banging last night, but thought the sounds were from fireworks. Traffic was blocked off in the area this morning.

4. Uncover: Dead Wrong, Episode 4

Episode 4 of Tim Bousquet’s podcast Dead Wrong on CBC’s Uncover is now online. You can listen to it here. In this episode, a new lawyer and an ex-RCMP private investigator find new evidence that could help get Glen Assoun a new trial.

5. Dartmouth development unanimously approved after city’s first virtual public hearing

An architectural rendering showing the proposal from the other side of Portland Street. Rendering: T.A. Scott Architecture + Design Credit: T.A. Scott Architecture + Design

Three new buildings will be built on Portland Street in Dartmouth after the developer got approval from council on Tuesday night, Zane Woodford reports. T.A. Scott Architecture + Design Limited, on behalf of property owner LMNO Properties Limited, which is owned by Dartmouth real estate agent and developer T. Chandler Haliburton, proposed two six-storey apartment buildings with commercial space, and a third four-storey apartment building.

The three buildings will include 110 residential units plus 6,000 square feet of commercial space.

Several people joined the virtual council meeting to speak on the project and only one was in favour. Other speakers say the project will tower over their homes and gardens and remove privacy in the neighbourhood.

Woodford reports that the properties aren’t subject to the Centre Plan because the application was submitted before the cut-off. But planner Jamy-Ellen Klenavic wrote in the staff report that the project was “generally compatible” with the plan.

The proposed buildings would be the tallest buildings in the neighbourhood, but are still of moderate height, and would be compatible and consistent with the existing development form while also adding infill residential density in an area where the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy calls for increasing density.

This article is for subscribers. Please subscribe here.

6. Delorey announces review, but opposition still wants full inquiry

Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey has ordered a review of Northwood’s Halifax facility, but the opposition is unimpressed and wants a full inquiry.

Jennifer Henderson reports on the announcement made by Delorey, who appointed infectious disease consultant Dr. Chris Lata from Sydney, N.S. and former British Columbia associate Deputy Minister of Health Lynn Stevenson to a quality-improvement committee established under the Quality-improvement Information Protection Act.

The only information the public will learn from the review are the recommendations made by Lata and Stevenson. Their report, which will cost $80,000, is due September 15. As Henderson reports, the review has its limits. Under the Quality-improvement Information Protection Act, none of the information gathered from interviews or data collected from workers, public health officials, managers, and representatives of families is admissible in court. Northwood and the province are the targets of a class-action suit filed on behalf of the families of those at Northwood who died from COVID-19.

Says Delorey:

This legislation allows us to get the review started and completed in a very timely fashion. It provides a framework to get the experts on the panel and to get them to work as soon as possible. It also protects personal health information, and, for lack of a better word, protection for people who might be considered ‘whistle-blowers.’ There are limitations in terms of what information can be made public, but the focal point here are the recommendations. The recommendations will lead us to make changes to help us avoid and minimize infections from COVID and other diseases in the future.

But both Tim Houston, Progressive Conservative leader and Gary Burrill, New Democratic Party leader, want a full public inquiry. Houston says,”this review should be about saving lives — not about saving the premier’s reputation,” while Burrill says Delorey’s “announcement falls short of what families who lost loved ones at Northwood have been calling for.”

Read the full story here.


1. Take this volunteer “job” and shove it

Now hiring, but are they paying a salary or do they want you to work for free? Photo: Marcel/Unsplash

On Monday, Yvette d’Entremont sent me this job posting. You all know I love to collect and share postings for jobs that pay terribly but this one is something else.

The job is for a public relations director with the STEM Montessori Academy of Canada, “a registered not for profit regional STEM program open to all students with the mission to deliver top-notch STEM literacy and application.” The academy is looking for a candidate who has a BSc in Marketing, Communications, Journalism or relevant field and a minimum of five years of experience as a public relations manager. The contract is for six to 12 months, working 20 hours for the first four to six weeks, with an additional 10 hours a week after that. The academy wants the person in this job to “design, implement and manage the Public Relations strategy to align with business goals” and “build, manage and train the rest of the PR team.”

Here’s the kicker: The salary? $0.00 /year. This is a volunteer role.

Oh, but it’s not the only one the STEM Academy is offering. They’re also looking for a volunteer digital marketing director and a volunteer social media director, which have similar requirements, experience, and time commitment. They do have one job for which they’re paying the person. It’s a certified teacher for online classes and the pay is $16/hour to $20/hour.

I especially love how they’re offering volunteer hours as a benefit. Candidates will also get a reference letter, but only if required. If you have the kind of experience they’re looking for, wouldn’t you already have at least one reference letter? And they’re offering on-the-job training and experience in the field. Again, wouldn’t the person applying with that education and experience already have these?

I looked up the academy on LinkedIn and several of the its staff are volunteers, including its HR generalist, a recruiter, marketing coordinator, and human resources team lead. I won’t share that link here because I don’t want to shame the people volunteering in these roles, but rather shame the academy for not paying these people in the first place.

I reached out to the academy asking about this gig, but didn’t hear back. But a lot of these jobs with no pay will be done by young people, who are looking for experience but are saddled by student debt. How many jobs with no pay do young people need to take before they have enough experience to get paid? Or women will take these gigs because working for free is just an extension of the emotional labour women already do at home. Members of the old boys’ club aren’t working for free. In fact, they’re probably getting paid more for what they do now and have fewer qualifications than the people looking at these volunteer roles.

This is not the first time I’ve seen a job with lots of expectations and no salary. Last year, I shared this one for volunteer sports writers and editors. The job required writing one article a week in exchange for references, a byline, which you should get anyway, and “exposure.” Remember, exposure kills people.

Volunteering is great and has a lot of value for the volunteer and the organization they’re volunteering for. But working for free is not the same as volunteering. Also, never work for free for the promise of future work. The people asking you to work for free aren’t working for free. Families registering their children to the STEM Montessori Academy for classes or summer camps have to pay tuition, so the school isn’t offering their services for free, and neither should you.


Last week, the Colchester Historeum in Truro shared this post and photos on its Facebook page:

Newspaper article about the KKK setting up a branch in Truro. Photos: Colchester Historeum

Here’s the post:

Let’s talk. During these turbulent times regarding the fight for equality and the Black Lives Matter movement, we feel it is important to contribute to this discussion and speak from a historical perspective of the struggles and challenges that our Black Communities in Colchester have always faced, and continue to face on a regular basis.

Less than 100 years ago, in 1932, the KKK organized a branch in Truro. A report from the Truro Daily News on August 10 states “the fiery cross of the Ku Klux Klan burned in a fiery manner on Foundry Hill late last night, near midnight.” (Foundry Hill being one of three of Truro’s historic Black communities). The article continues “the blaze could be seen for miles around while near at hand a couple of hundred or so people watched in silence as the emblem passed into ashes marking the culmination of the first step towards the formation in Truro of a branch of the Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” Several days later an article reports that a public lecture was given by the KKK where “about one hundred people signified their interest in the Klan by filling in cards and depositing them in a box.”

These events took place less than 100 years ago. We’re talking about our grandparents and great-grandparents here. It’s not always comfortable to talk about these rather shameful things but it is crucial to remember these events throughout history so that we have a better understanding of the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and question our own pre-conceived notions of race.

Based on the comments under the post, a lot of people didn’t know about the KKK’s attempt at starting a branch in Colchester. But others shared stories of racism in the community, including cross burnings.
This post shows the importance of museums in putting our history into context and connecting our past to our present. Last month, the historeum shared posts about accessioning, the process of adding new items to its collection, and recognizes it has gaps. On Monday, the historeum shared another post asking for documents, or objects about the LGBTQIA+ experience of living, working, and calling Colchester County home.
The Colchester Historeum is a great little museum. I’ve visited a few times and you should, too, when it reopens on July 14.


No meetings.

In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:00: Tampa Trader, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
06:00: Atlantic Kestrel, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 27 from sea
08:45: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Montreal
09:00: Atlantic Kestrel sails for sea
10:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
15:00: Atlantic Sky sails for Liverpool, England
16:00: Yantian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
16:00: Julius-S, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Setubal, Portugal
16:00: Tampa Trader sails for Kingston, Jamaica
22:30: Julius-S sails for sea


Don’t work for free.

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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  1. Have you ever seen an ad for a dentist, lawyer, accountant etc. offering no salary? Funny how certain things seemed to be offered to people with “experience” being the only compensation. I don’t know if any grocery store that accepts experience as payment for food.

  2. Barnacle Pete’s??? So we really are living inside an episode of The Simpsons.

  3. The STEM talent shortage is a myth made up by big STEM employers who are mad they can’t get competent people for $35K a year – there is in reality a massive oversupply of STEM graduates already. So it doesn’t surprise me that people are taking unpaid internships in the area to get a leg up.

  4. It is impossible not to wonder if any family members put their names in that box in 1932. 🙁

  5. In the last almost 30 years of working in Halifax, I have been approached many times by recent graduates embarking on their careers who have offered to do free volunteer work to get experience they could put on their resume.

    I never took any of them up on their offer. If I needed some help, I would offer them the hours I could, and pay them. But to some I just said sorry but I can’t help just now.

    I often wondered if I might have been more helpful if I had said yes, despite my discomfort with it. After all, they were approaching me, and maybe some experience and a reference might have helped them out at a critical time.

    Nonetheless, I would never post an unpaid job. To me that is exploitation, especially when done by for-profit organizations,