1. Kool-Aid, hot dogs, and Cheesies

The new offices in Bayers Lake for execs with the Nova Scotia Health Authority cost $500,000 to furnish. Photo: Pace Group

Yesterday, the election campaign focused on nursing homes and senior care, with NDP Leader Gary Burrill promising to “invest $60 million over four years to establish approximately 500 new nursing home beds and increase the food budget for seniors in long term care facilities,” reports Jennifer Henderson for the Halifax Examiner.

Henderson quotes Jessica Dauphinee, a nurse at Northwood Manor, who says that residents are regularly fed with Kool-Aid, hot dogs and Cheesies. “Food budgets should never be allowed to be cut to this level,” she said.

And then there’s the new offices for the Health Authority:

Burrill went on to say that while McNeil told seniors and nursing home operators the province didn’t have any more money, the government approved nearly $500,000 to finish and furnish new offices for top executives with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. That information was reportedly accessed through a Freedom of Information request filed by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. The offices rented by the Health Authority were carved out of 6,600 square feet of space at 90 Lovett Lake Court in the Bayers Lake Business Park. The building is also home to 89.9 The Wave owned by the Pace Group.

Stephen McNeil was campaigning in Cape Breton on Wednesday, where an increasingly elderly (and vocal) population is concerned there are too few doctors. The Halifax Examiner emailed the premier asking for a response to Gary Burrill’s critique of spending health care money on office space while funding for seniors was being cut.

“I don’t know the size of the renovation,” replied the Liberal leader via email, “but I can tell you when it comes to the cost of the furniture, that absolutely makes no sense to me. We’re trying to provide care to our citizens and spending that kind of money on office furniture in my view is excessive and inappropriate. ”

Click here to read “Kool-Aid, hot dogs, and Cheesies.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so only available to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

2. No straight dope on legal dope

None of these people are stoned. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Legal, recreational toking is a little more than a year away,” reports Jennifer Henderson, “but all three party leaders say it’s ‘too early’ to offer a glimpse (let alone a ‘vision’) of where cannabis might be sold in Nova Scotia, who will sell it (public, private, or both kinds of vendors), how much it might cost (taxes included), or how new rules will be enforced to keep it out of the hands of under-aged users (and we don’t even know the legal provincial age yet).”

Click here to read “The missing election issue: What are we going to do about legal weed?”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so only available to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

3. RDM

Brendan Maguire took to Facebook Live last night to say that “The provincial government has commited to working with the city to clean up the RDM site in Harrietsfield,” and that a press release to that effect was sent to the media.

The Halifax Examiner didn’t get any such press release, so I can’t give you any details, if they exist at all. But “working with the city” doesn’t sound very specific.

4. Living Wage

Sackville Sports Stadium. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Once again the city is contracting out services at the Sackville Sports Stadium in order to get around paying workers a decent wage.

You’ll recall that in 2014, city council approved a cleaning contract for the facility. As I noted at the time, the winning bidder pays its workers minimum wage with no benefits, where a city worker doing the same job at a city-operated rec facility is paid $20/hour plus benefits.

And today, the city has issued a tender for landscaping services at the Sackville Sports Stadium. As I wrote in December:

I don’t have any problem with managers and others getting paid over $100,000 for their work. But to then turn around and pay the people cleaning the toilets and locker rooms 12 bucks an hour is just unconscionable. It’s obscene, really.

Someone making $12 an hour is someone with two or three jobs. It’s someone who lives hand-to-mouth, who has no financial security, is a pay cheque away from disaster. It’s someone whose life collapses if they have to take off work to tend to a sick kid.

Working with the United Way, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has pegged a living wage in Halifax at $20.10/hour, and that still doesn’t allow for any savings. Most, but not all, people who work directly for the city get somewhere in that ballpark. But because there is no living wage ordinance, council can contract out work and avoid paying people working at city-owned facilities or on city-directed projects a decent wage. And that’s exactly what’s happening with the rec centres.

It’s true that in February council voted to direct staff to prepare a report on including living wage conditions in tender offers:

MOVED by Councillor Smith, seconded by Councillor Nicoll:

THAT Halifax Regional Council direct staff to return with a report that addresses options for scoring of local preference, social economic benefit, employee compensation/living wage, and environmental impact when evaluating proposals, and recommend any supporting amendments to the procurement policy as a result.


Not present: Councillors Streatch and Whitman

That was, however, in February, over three months ago, and still no staff report. It appears staff is trying to sneak in more contracting out of services before the report is returned to council.

Council should reject all contracting out of services that can be done in house until a living wage ordinance is adopted.

5. Red Swing

In the Halifax Examiner’s very first Morning File, on June 23, 2014, I mentioned the “red swing (non)controversy”:

Hoping to encourage people to get out and enjoy public spaces, in early June, the 20-something networking group Fusion hung a dozen red swings around the city. People seemed to enjoy the swings, which garnered no controversy until a CBC story Friday  revealed that unnamed “[l]awyers with the municipality” were “worried someone will get hurt and sue the city; crews have been told to take the swings down if they spot them on city land.”

But Sunday, Halifax’s chief bureaucrat Richard Butts and city lawyer John Traves went to the Hydrostone Park and plopped some random girl from the neighbourhood (Ashley Morton’s daughter Gwen) on a red swing, tweeting a picture [above] of the event approvingly. Saturday, CBC followed up on its Friday article, updating readers that the supposed swing-hating city lawyers had been overruled by saner superiors.

Commenting on a Facebook discussion about the swings, councillor Waye Mason said the entire controversy was manufactured by CBC. “I suspect this was just an in passing remark turned into a story,” wrote Mason, “and it was ‘too fun’ to run with it and ruin it by emailing Waye or Jennifer and having us say ‘no one has actually decided anything, no one has asked they stay either.’”

Well, not to be a killjoy, but I wouldn’t dare place Gwen on the swing today. Here’s the photo I took yesterday:

Danger Swing!

6. Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway

The Cape Breton stretch of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway is out of service.

“The Sydney Subdivision of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway (CBNS) must be the most studied stretch of unused track in the country,” writes Mary Campbell for the Cape Breton Spectator:

The Subdivision was the subject of three different reports (with a total price tag of $152,600) in 2015. It’s to be the subject of a $460,000 study for which the Port of Sydney Development Corporation is now seeking funding (although admittedly, that study will include an active portion of track, from Truro to Port Hawkesbury).

And the St. Peters Junction-Sydney line is also being studied, even as we speak, by the provincial government.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) has engaged consultant Neil MacNeil … to look into the situation of landowners along that stretch of the track.

As with the Examiner, the Spectator places its articles behind a paywall. You can subscribe here.

7. Grubs and crows

“Lawns in north-end Dartmouth are under attack by crows ripping up the grass to get at an infestation of beetle larvae, also known as grubs,” reports Pam Berman for the CBC.

The crows do seem even more animated than usual this year. They’re obviously very intelligent animals, and it’s weird that there’s an entire crow society with complex languages and customs, even art, grafted on to our own society, and the two rarely interact. Well, except in Jim Dewolfe’s yard on Moira Street:

He has a bucket handy with pebbles that he throws at the crows to try to keep them at bay.




Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — Westwood development wants to amend its approval for a building at Spring Garden Road and Barrington Birmingham Street.


No public meetings.


The legislature and its committees won’t meet until after the election.

On campus



Sea changes (Thursday, 7:30pm, Room 1020, Rowe Building) — Ted Cavanagh, Aldo Chircop, Shelley Denny, Sue Goyette, and Eric Mills will talk about “the economic, ecological, social, and cultural ties that have long shaped our interactions with oceans.”


Thesis Defence, Electrical and Computer Engineering (Friday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Mohamed Eldlio will defend his thesis, “Semiconductor-Based Hybrid Plasmonics.”

Thesis Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Friday, 10am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Hera Schlagintweit will defend her thesis, “Expectancy as a Mediator of Drug and Placebo Effects: Methodological and Clinical Considerations for Human Research of Nicotine and Tobacco Effects.”

In the harbour

6am: Octavia, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York

Veendam. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Veendam. Photo: Halifax Examiner

7am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney with up to 1,350 passengers. The Veendam is a regular visitor to Halifax; I’ve been following its travails:

In 2011, a 61-year-old woman passenger on the ship died, as 86 other passengers were suffering from a gastroenteritis illness on the ship. The cruise line claimed that the woman died from other causes, but a Brazillian newspaper said that she died from “suspected food poisoning.”

In 2012, the Veendam flunked a US Centres for Disease Control inspection, although it has passed more recent inspections.

That fall, 70-year-old Sarah Tessier Powell went missing from the ship, somewhere in Canada, maybe in Quebec, or Charlottetown, or Sydney, or Halifax. “Police said they do not suspect foul play in Powell’s disappearance and think she may have walked off the ship without being checked by security,” reported the CBC. “How on earth is that possible? ” asks lawyer Jim Walker. “Passenger gangways are supposed to be heavily monitored by security with each passenger’s sea pass card scanned and the gangways always covered by closed circuit television cameras.”

In 2013, a crew member on the Veendam was arrested on child porn charges in Halifax. Soon after, the ship was hit with another bout of norovirus, with 60 passengers falling ill.

In February 2014, the Veendam was struck with norovirus, affecting 114 of 1,273 passengers, about nine per cent of those on board.

In October 2014, the ship’s propeller failed, causing the cancellation of three cruises that would have included stops in Halifax.

In December 2015, the Veendam was again struck with gastrointestinal illness, this time affecting 73 of 1,429 passengers, more than five per cent of those on board.

In January of this year, the Broward County, Florida Sheriff’s office arrested a Veendam 26-year-old waiter named Gede Sukrantara for receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old passenger.

Other than that, the ship seems like a great time.

3pm: Otello, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
3:30pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor

Oceanex Sanderling. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Oceanex Sanderling. Photo: Halifax Examiner

4pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
430pm: Octavia, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica


We’re recording Examineradio today.

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

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  1. Legal weed issues pale in comparison to the plight of workers who keep recreational centres operational. A living wage and employment benefits are the very least competent cleaners deserve. Sweeping them under the contract-out mat proves Halifax city council’s contempt for the working poor.

  2. My lawn is surviving the spring tho my neighbours on both sides have had theirs dug up by crows or racoons?

    We have top-dressed our lawns for a decade with composted soil made from green bin material mixed with dead leaves. Save on artificial fertilizer and throwing away that wheelie-bin chore every couple of weeks! HRM was giving away black round composters a couple of years ago!

  3. The lawns aren’t just being torn up in Dartmouth. I saw a lawn in the Flamingo Drive area where there was several square meters of someone’s lawn that were mostly just now exposed soil with a crow actively digging away in the grassy bits…..and other surrounding grass bits had notable small chunks ripped out.

  4. and with respect to number 7., if the crows are eating white grubs, for the love of gawd let them! Those are June bug larvae just waiting….for your lights!

  5. Regarding the Design Review Committee meeting, the site in question is at Spring Garden and Birmingham, not Barrington.

  6. When election candidates are asked to speculate on things that have not been implemented, such as cannabis distribution for public consumption, they are being ask to give an insight to their ability to problem solve and perhaps a window into their social outlook. For them to say it is too soon to make comments is a cop-out. We want to understand if they have intelligence and moral fibre between their ears. We want to see if they can think on their feet, saying no comment simply show they do not have the confidence to have their personal values and concepts for the future made public. Openness and transparency begins before the votes are cast and one would hope that the public is watching and listening. What you see before the election is an indication of what you will get once the election is over.

    Ask all of the candidates the questions you wants answers about and do not let them get away with a no comment or excuse for not answering… they all should have ideas and some knowledge concerning all relevant topics before the election occurs… we need to know what they are thinking… once the election is over, it is too late to change your ballot choice.

  7. Council agendas should include a list of outstanding requests for reports. Staff routinely delay them. I can think of one report that was requested by Council almost 18 months ago and still has not been written. Members of Council have often complained about waiting and waiting for staff reports they have requested.

    Putting the list of outstanding reports on the agenda each week might foster a sense of urgency in the bureaucracy.

    1. A excellent concept… from your comment to the Mayor and CAO’s ears… if they are not listening, one of their staff should tell them… we know someone in the municipal authority reads these comments. Maybe they think we don’t know, eh?

  8. OMFG!!!!!! Richard Butts!!!!!!! Here’s hoping he has returned to the swamp from whence he came.

    Speaking of HRM CAOs. Where’s Jacques Dube?

  9. Tim, do you have a link to anything about crows and art? It’s tricky to google for – you get a bunch of stuff about the native American tribe but not the birds.

      1. Interesting, thanks. It seems to me like crows must have as long a history with humans as rats and other creatures that thrive on the margins of human habitat. They’re clearly smart enough to figure out that almost nobody will hurt them – and yet they forgo feeding opportunities that less intelligent birds will go for.

      2. More pressing, how did the crow know the child was lost? And how does the child get home without one sandal?

  10. Heh – the only reason that red swing is still hanging is because Gwen and I have been patching it up together from time to time. She was on it on Saturday, and it works fine. The rope that looks horrible isn’t load-bearing (listen to me, I’m an electrical engineer 😉 )

  11. On Monday in Toronto I saw an ad for a crosswalk guard – $11.67 an hour. The city provides a whistle. I didn’t stop to read the whole ad as our 1 year old granddaughter is not for stopping en route to a park.
    And the DRC meeting is to consider the completed building at Spring Garden & Birmingham.