1. Close calls with a killer

the Portapique road sign wiith a tartan sash on the post
The Portapique sign on Highway 2 was adorned with a Nova Scotia tartan sash following the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

On a spring evening back in 2020, Dave Brown was falling asleep on the couch and decided to turn in. Before heading to bed, he thought he’d go have a smoke on his balcony. When he stepped out, he noticed an odd-looking police car parked across the road. 

Brown noticed that the police car had “no lights, no nothing on,” but he didn’t think much of it — he’d see RCMP cars come around from time to time, loop through the business park across the way, and sometimes come into the apartment parking lot because “sometimes you get the odd person around there, right and then.” And besides, “if you see an officer comin’ here, you, you don’t think, you know, like, I wonder if that’s uh, someone with a mocked-up car.”

Brown went to bed.

The next morning, he woke up to the horrible unfolding news of the murders in Portapique. And then, that a friend of his wife was killed. And then, the news came that the killer was driving a mocked-up police car.

Brown wasn’t the only one who had a run-in with the shooter that day. Two kids and the owner of a welding shop have their own accounts.

Tim Bousquet continues the Examiner’s coverage of the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry and the aftermath of the April 2020 mass murders this morning with this report, describing multiple encounters with the mass murderer on that tragic day.

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2. Mass Casualty Commission: transcripts of interview with RCMP District Commander reveal indecision and miscommunication factored into police response at Portapique

Replica police car with arrow pointing to unofficial decals
The killer’s replica police car. Photo: RCMP

Jennifer Henderson’s Tuesday report has the latest from the public inquiry into the mass murders of April 2020.

A newly released 56-page transcript of an interview with Colchester County RCMP District Commander Al Carroll reinforces the notion that while the first RCMP officers to reach the scene at Portapique performed their duties bravely and professionally, their leaders missed or failed to act on key pieces of information that might have helped alert the public or get ahead of the killer.

Carroll was a month away from retirement on April 18, 2020. The 40-year veteran of the RCMP would later call this “the worst night of my life.”

Shortly after 10pm that night, he received a call at home from Sgt. Andy O’Brien, the Bible Hill detachment’s Operations NCO, indicating a man had been shot in Portapique. In an interview with Mass Casualty Commission (MCC) investigators in November, more than a year and a half after the shootings that left 22 dead, Carroll said Sgt. O’Brien had called him from home and told him he didn’t want to go out because he’d “had a couple of glasses of wine” and didn’t want someone “to smell it off him.”

In the interview, Carroll said he was later “surprised” to hear O’Brien’s voice over the radio issuing instructions to the first three constables who had gone down the dark Portapique Beach Road and discovered bodies and burning buildings.

From there, that first phone call, Carroll described a night of confusion and miscommunication as he and other senior officers scrambled to monitor and contain the situation from the detachment office in Bear River, and later at the command post set up at the Great Village fire hall.

Aside from the confusion over who was in charge of the initial situation at Portapique that night, which Henderson first reported last week, Carroll told investigators he hadn’t been aware of the Alert Ready system, operated by Nova Scotia’s Emergency Measures Organization, that could have warned people there was an active shooter in the area. Nor did he seem to know how four children in Portapique had been rescued after spending more than an hour alone in a family home.

It seems a number of radio calls over the Colchester County police channel never reached the District Commander, who didn’t have a portable radio in his office. Some of those missed radio calls came in before midnight and identified the killer, described his fake police car, and pointed out a possible backroad exit in the neighbourhood.

The interview also shed more light on how police delayed relaying information about the killer and his car to the public as the situation continued.

Click here to read Henderson’s full story. 

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3. Big boost coming to NS film industry

A young blond woman sits on an old rusty tractor in a shed. In the foreground, a camera operator looks through a camera viewfinder, filming the woman.
Still from the set of the Nova Scotia film Dawn, Her Dad, and the Tractor. Photo: Dan Callis

Seven years ago, Stephen McNeil’s government drew the ire of Snoop Dogg, Captain Kirk, and the Trailer Park Boys — and a whole host of local professionals in movies and television — by axing the Nova Scotia film tax credit. The cut came in spite of a commissioned study that found the tax credit cost the province $24 million in 2014, but contributed $180 million to the provincial GDP that same year. The lost incentive led a number of professionals in film and TV to look for work elsewhere.

“[S]ince that time,” Laura Mackenzie, executive director of Screen Nova Scotia told Yvette d’Entremont Tuesday, “the industry has worked hard to recover and rebuild.”

“We are seeing record production numbers. Last year, we doubled our production volume, contributing $180 million investment into this province and putting 2,000 Nova Scotians to work.”

Now the recovery is getting a boost.

The province is putting $23 million toward Nova Scotia’s film industry. Premier Tim Houston announced the new Nova Scotia Content Creator Fund Tuesday. It will be administered by Screen Nova Scotia and will provide $3 million per year over five years to eligible Nova Scotia-led productions.

The funding will also go toward the construction of a new 50,000-square-foot sound stage for filming. And it’ll make the film production season in Nova Scotia year round; right now, production shuts down in the winter months, meaning film workers have had to go elsewhere if they want to continue working for those three months.

Yvette d’Entremont looks at what else this new funding could mean for film and television in Nova Scotia here, in her report from Tuesday.

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4. Redesigning Water Street

photo of a street with bike lanes, old buildings, and an intersection.
Water Street. Photo: Zane Woodford

Already missing the days of construction and roadwork around Queens Marque on your drive home? Don’t worry, more work could be coming to the area soon.

Zane Woodford reports that HRM is looking for public feedback on a plan to redesign Water Street, the one-way road divided into Upper and Lower that runs beside the harbourfront from Terminal Road to Historic Properties. It’s a busy street; HRM says more than 5,000 vehicles and pedestrians use it each day, and it’s got some issues.

“It’s a typical congestion point in the city,” writes Woodford, “with transport trucks using the street to leave the terminal, and the pedestrian infrastructure is inconsistent, with some narrow choke points, uneven brick paving, and one spot where the sidewalk just ends.”

So what’s being proposed? First, the new bike lane that was added in 2020 will be fully separate from traffic, preventing delivery vehicles from parking on the curb and blocking cyclists. The sidewalks will be widened a bit, too.

The debate, however, on which HRM is asking for feedback, revolves around the rest of the street. Should we redesign the street to be more transit focused, or “pedestrian-enhanced”? (The city’s term, not mine). You can find out more about what two directions Halifax is considering for the busy downtown one-way by reading Woodford’s full article here.

Seeing as the street could be underwater by century’s end, we’d better redesign it fast.

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Life goes on, but at what cost?

A closeup of an empty wallet being opened by a woman's hands
Photo: Unsplash/Emil Kalibradov

Anyone else fill up the tank on Tuesday and think it might finally be time to drive electric?

Around suppertime Monday night, I heard a radio report saying gas was going up again. Prices rose 10.9 cents/litre, as it turned out ⁠— a 30 cent jump since last week. My car was parked at the mechanic’s a few blocks away. It was sitting in a parking lot, with an empty tank, about 20 feet from a gas pump. But the garage was closed and my spare keys were in the Valley; I had no way of running over and fueling up before midnight.

So I wept.

Then I tried to console myself. I should drive less anyway. These prices are good for the planet. I read Morgan Mullin’s piece in The Coast yesterday, and started to see the gas spike as an opportunity: we could double down on transit. If people are less inclined to burn fuel right now, why not build some healthy commuting habits that’ll help ease traffic and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time? There’s got to be a silver lining.

No word from HRM on that yet, but the province had something to say about gasoline yesterday.

“What I would say to Nova Scotians,” the premier told reporters Tuesday, “is we understand the pressure that this is putting on you and we’re looking at different options.”

One of those options is to remove the province’s fuel tax, as Alberta recently did, meaning residents of that province are now saving 13 cents on every litre. I know it’s just meant as financial relief, but there’s something that just doesn’t sit right about the Alberta government making it easier to buy gasoline, and Nova Scotia following its lead. Desperate times, I suppose.

I swallowed my concerns, told myself I’d start biking more, and returned to my day-to-day life with the same vague anxiety that’s been pulling me through my 20s up until now.

Then I got hungry.

If I could park my stomach in the garage until the supply chain, international conflict, and inflation settle down, I would. But I can’t.

The Examiner reported in December that food prices would be going up this year, so you’d think I’d have been prepared. I don’t think I’ll eat a blueberry again until the spring when I can sail out to McNabs (no way am I gassing up a motor) and forage some wild berries for free.

Look at this grocery haul from last week. $63 for two days’ worth of meals. And there’s not even any meat in there.

A small pile of groceries sits on a kitchen counter
Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

It’s not just food and gas, of course. As an article from CBC’s new national series on cost of living, Priced Out (catchy name), finds housing prices and rent are also on the rise. And wages aren’t keeping up.

I can’t say that’s news exactly. Minimum wage isn’t expected to hit $15/hour in Nova Scotia until 2024 and a living wage for Halifax was estimated at $22.05/hour back in November (if I were making $15/hour, I’d have to work a five-hour shift to gas up my car right now). As for housing, I’m sure if you’ve been paying to live somewhere in the past few years you might have noticed prices have been a touch high and options have been scarce.

But the problem’s got so bad that the CEO of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC told CBC that governments need a serious paradigm shift:

Governments have to decide if they’re willing to allow housing to continue to be an asset class in someone’s investment portfolio or if they’re interested in creating market conditions in which housing can just simply be a home for someone.

You know things are bad when people are bashing capitalism while Russia re-enters the public psyche as the West’s number one enemy.

My girlfriend, and fellow Examiner contributor, Leslie Amminson recently won a scholarship that will take her to Toronto for the summer, so we’ve been looking at short-term rentals in the city. If you don’t absolutely have to look at the rental market in Toronto right now, I’d suggest you pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s best for your blood pressure.

I actually saw a hallway for rent for close to $1000. The sad thing is, it’s only slightly worse than Halifax right now.

If you’ve never read Walter Scott’s hilarious takedown of the Toronto arts scene, Wendy, Master of Art, you’ll find a pretty accurate depiction of the rental market in the Big Smoke here:

A comic panel shows a woman looking through a decrepit apartment. She is then asked for 5 references and $1600 in rent
A panel from Walter Scott’s graphic novel, Wendy, Master of Art. (Drawn and Quarterly)

Going back to Tim Houston saying he understands the pressure people are facing as life becomes less affordable — it’s a good thing he’s “looking at different options.” The status quo won’t sustain.

Is it still free to breathe? I think I’ll go hyperventilate now.

End of rant.

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Maxine Tynes. A middle-aged Black woman's face in closeup. White background. She is smiling with her eyes and is wearing purple makeup. Her hair is black. The tops of her shoulders peak out of the bottom of the frame, showing floral cloth
Maxine Tynes. Photo: Albert Lee

Writer and frequent contributor to the Examiner Evelyn C. White was on CBC’s Main Street on Tuesday to talk about the poetry of Maxine Tynes. (White’s written a piece on Tynes for the new anthology, AfriCANthology: Perspectives of Black Canadian Poets). Check out the full piece from Mainstreet here to hear some great recordings of Tynes reading her work; she’s wonderfully expressive and adds so much life to her words.)

White has previously written about Tynes for the Examiner, publishing a piece about women and the publishing industry back in May 2021, when the first Maxine Tynes Nova Scotia Poetry Award was about to be handed out (here’s the inaugural winner).

Tynes, who passed away in 2011 at age 62, wrote with an easy, approachable style that had the power to move. She often wrote about her experience as a Black woman in the Maritimes. 

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Over at The Coast, Victoria Walton looked at some of the IWD messages “that missed the mark,” including Maritime Forces Atlantic honouring a man as “champion” of its Defence Women’s Advisory Organization, and Canadian TV show Letterkenny celebrating the day by sharing a picture of a woman’s tight-fitting jeans. 

In an effort to belatedly celebrate the day without getting added to Walton’s list, I thought I’d finish today’s Morning File with a few words from Tynes on the subject of womanhood.

Seeing as it’s always nice to fit a poem in before lunch ⁠— nature starts the day with a sunrise and birdsong; why shouldn’t we start the day with a little poetry too? ⁠— I thought I’d make it an excerpt from one of Tynes’s best known pieces, “Mirrors”:

Women are always looking into mirrors, looking for a mirror to look into, or thinking about, regretting, sighing over or not quite believing what they’ve seen in the mirror.

We’re looking at ourselves; looking for ourselves. The girls we were, the women we are, and what we will become. Searching, always searching in mirrors.

Then, as I often do, I look into my poet’s soul to find there the route to self and personhood, both Black and female. That looking is not a lament but the greatest of joys.

My poems, my poetry are like mirrors reflecting back in great or subtle beams and shafts of light and words and images that are womanly and Black and brown and tan and full of the joy and pride in femaleness and in Black womanhood that I am.

My poems are great shouts of the joy that I feel and share; the deep passion that rocks and caresses and embraces me and all that is part of my world and my life. The laments for lost heritage are there; but, then, so are the feelings of having found a centre and a self-acceptance and an identity in this Black and woman’s skin that I so joyfully wear.

I wear it joyfully. I wear it big. I wear it womanly. And I wear it Black. Black. Black. As night, deep and soft and endless with no moon. Just black and perfect splendour in life and in being a woman in this world.

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Audit Committee and Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am) — virtual meeting;

Audit Committee agenda here; Audit and Finance Standing Committee agenda here

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual meeting

Board of Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 4pm) — virtual meeting

Public Information Meeting – Case 23923 (Wednesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting; development agreement for an apartment building at the intersection of Beaver Bank Road and Windgate Drive


Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm) — virtual meeting


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Economic Impact of Homelessness and Return on Investment of Housing Provision; with representatives from Departments of Community Services and Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia

On campus



Engineering Culture and how it relates to Defining Design Problems (Wednesday, 1pm) — Scott Flemming will talk


Problematizing Eurocentric Social Work Education (Thursday, 5:30pm) — online panel discussion with AI-generated captions

In the harbour

03:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Hamburg, Germany
05:30: Seamax New Haven, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
08:30: Boheme, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
15:30: Boheme sails for sea

Cape Breton
02:00: CSL Kajika, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Belledune, New Brunswick
02:00: Algoma Victory, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
03:00: Garibaldi Spirit, sails from Point Tupper for sea
15:00: Cherokee, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Jubilee, Ghana


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Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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  1. Thank you so much for including the Signal article. When I moved to Halifax over a decade ago, I looked at the NS government projections for climate change. On the peninsula, Barrington and all the land below it to the harbour was expected to be taken over by the sea. But even before sea level rise, storm surges have the potential to cause huge issues, especially when Halifax is riddled with rocks. Halifax should take a warning from looking at what happened to New York during Sandy. Superstorm Sandy shorted out circuits in buildings that were well above the storm surge because the water flowed through the rocky ground and through tunnels to reach the basements of buildings on Third Avenue. Similarly, electric rail lines and other municipal services were altered when the power switching stations were shorted. So this begs the question of why HRM is allowing development along the waterfront and has HRM got a backup plan if power is disrupted to the sewage treatment plant, or worse the plant is flooded due to a climate induced storm surge.