This is a work in progress. As time goes by, I hope to add more publications, fill in lots more details, and give some sense as to what these publications were all about. Please contact me if you can help.
The Atlantic Advocate
The Atlantic Advocate was published by leaders of Halifax’s Black community during World War 1. The Nova Scotia Archives has four issues online.
Cape Breton Highlander
The Highlander was a wonderful paper, always getting into trouble. I remember Sandy Campbell, the big, bluff, cigar-smoking publisher, responding to one of his prominent critics with, “What can you expect from a pig but a grunt?” There was a kind of informal network of alternative publications in the region at the time (and beyond the region, too). We at The Mysterious East often ran stuff that had appeared elsewhere (e.g. in The Last Post, in Montreal), and my own writing (I wasn’t Silver yet) occasionally appeared in The Highlander, The Fourth Estate, The Square Deal (in Charlottetown) and The Alternate Press (St. John’s, NL). It was a great period. Keith Davey’s Senate Committee on Mass Media dubbed the alternative press across the country “the Volkswagen Press,” viewing us as a challenge to the mainstream not unlike the challenge to mainstream automakers posed by the Beetle. I think the only survivor is The Georgia Straight in Vancouver. I’m really happy Katie Campbell is digitizing The Highlander. It shouldn’t be forgotten.
Katie Campbell’s description of The Highlander reflects its earliest years, when a broad group with diverse views guided the publication. Unfortunately, control gradually shifted to the Campbell brothers, who were ardent Liberal partisans. For the last 3-4 years of its existence, the paper shilled incessantly for the Liberal Party, which was by then the government of the day in Nova Scotia. This was hardly radical, let alone subversive. By the end, it was pro-government, utterly predictable, and boring. Still, it would be great to see it digitized and on line.
The 4th ESTATE
The Maritime Labour Herald
Archie Kennedy wrote about the paper in 2007:
The Maritime Labour Herald, the first of Cape Breton’s working class papers, was set up in the fall of 1921 by two militant trade unionists –, J.B. McLachlan and D.N.Brodie. The initial capital was raised among the locals of the UMW and privately. The first issue, published on October 14, 1921, launched the paper’s remarkable five-year career with a clear statement of where the paper’s heart lay:
The Maritime Labour Herald is different from other papers. The other papers have their nice clothes on and wear a collar and tie. The Maritime Labour Herald is a paper with its shirtsleeves rolled up and its neckband turned under. We are ..the workingman’s paper and wear no frills.
Quickly, the paper got a warm response from Cape Bretoners. Circulation climbed to well over 6,000, which meant perhaps ten times as many people actually read it. Its pages are filled with letters from workers describing working conditions and daily problems. One of the goals of the paper was to have the workers themselves write as much of the paper as possible. Crammed with lively humour and a clear grasp of economic problems, the paper won the respect and sympathy of working people.
On the front page of the first issue the basic theme was set in this brief analysis of the economic crisis of the time:
The workers produce a great deal more wealth than the wage they receive will enable them to buy back, and the surplus left over fills warehouses, cold storage plants, etc. There are more ships, more engines, more steel products, more food and clothing than is needed but these things are in the hands of the capitalists who cannot sell them, and because the workers are unemployed they cannot buy the food they so badly need, and hence go short amid plenty… Capitalism and capitalism alone is the evil tree that bears such bitter fruit.”
For, five, hard years the paper fought bravely for these principles.
Via email, Ken Clare says that:
Both the Dalhousie Killam and Saint Mary’s libraries have what look like complete runs, from October 1921 to July 1926, on microfilm. The Saint Mary’s holdings are part of a larger collection of Canadian labour newspapers, several others also from the Maritimes no doubt, ordered many decades ago to satisfy the research needs of some ancient historian.
Andrea Patterson points me to the MicMac News:
The Micmac News (1965-1991) is an important example of Mi’kmaw print culture; it was first developed by Roy Gould in Membertou in 1965 and later published until 1991 by the Union of Nova Scotia Indians and the Native Communications Society of Nova Scotia, respectively. This invaluable research tool covers historical and contemporary issues and events, including Aboriginal rights cases, social and labour history, material and intangible culture, and celebrations of Mi’kmaw life. The newspaper provides a means of language preservation; prayers and myths were printed in the paper, and simple language lessons in Mi’kmaq were also a regular feature.
The MicMac News is found online here.
Via email, Stephen Kimber writes:
The late Scott Milsom was the editor of New Maritimes. I profiled him for the late Daily News back in the mid-1990s, and there’s a bit about the magazine’s beginnings. You’re welcome to use any or all of it.
If memory serves, Rick Williams (of the Dexter government) was also one of the major contributors to the magazine back then.
Here’s the column:
Today, Scott Milsom, one-time federal candidate for the Communist Party of Canada and longtime social activist, is editor of New Maritimes, the critically acclaimed bimonthly regional magazine that offers its several thousand readers an alternative take on Atlantic Canada’s politics and culture.
But his life, as he is the first to admit, could have turned out quite differently. His father, the owner of a successful Halifax insurance agency, was a Conservative candidate in the 1956 provincial election that first brought Robert Stanfield to power. If his father had won — he lost in Halifax Centre by just 400 votes — he probably would have ended up in Stanfield’s first cabinet.
“And then, who knows?” marvels Milsom. “If he’d won, I probably be a lawyer today.”
He laughs, a hearty smoker’s laugh/cough. It’s clear he has no regrets. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he say. “I get paid for being a shit disturber.” He pauses, then adds: “Not too well, mind you. But I do get paid.”
He laughs again, coughs again.
Seven days tomorrow,” he tells me, rolling up his T-shirt to show off the shoulder “patch” he wears to help him quit smoking. We are sitting in Jenny’s Place, a north-end pub near his home that Milsom says boasts “the best deal in the city” for weekend brunch. For $1.39, plus beverage, you can get two eggs, bacon or sausage, as well as home fries and toast. “Put that in your article,” he says.
We’re a long way from Rosebank Avenue now.
Scott Milsom was born in the south end of Halifax in 1952 in what he decorously describes as “upper middle class circumstances.”
One of his earliest memories, he says, is of that 1956 election campaign. He and his parents were in their car and young Scott, who’d been listening to his parents’ front-seat political shoptalk from the back seat, finally asked, “What’s a CCF?”
“The CCF,” explained his mother, sounding almost like a character out of Mou’s fifties’-style family cartoon strip, “wants to take your father’s job away.”
“She was talking about the party’s policy of public auto insurance,” Milsom explains today, “but for a long time that was the only thing I thought about the CCF — they’re the party that wants to take my dad’s job away.”
Instead, in the early sixties, his father sold his successful insurance brokerage business to a British multinational that agreed to keep him on as its regional manager for five years.
At the end of the five years, they fired him.
Shortly after that, in 1968, Scott’s father and mother split up. (His father died in a car accident in 1983.)
The divorce led to a dramatic change in family circumstances. “My mum had led this sheltered middle class existence, the wife with the maid, everything,” he recalls. “Then suddenly, it was mum and five kids in a three-bedroom apartment in Fairview. My mum — she’s a really incredible woman — spent the next 20 years working as a secretary and raising five kids. It broadened my perspective.”
In truth, Scott had begun broadening his social and economic perspective even before his parents’ separation. “When I was 11 or so, I remember I spent the summer hanging out at the Waeg (the south end Halifax boating club) but then, a year later, I was hanging out on Cornwallis Street instead.” Why? “My first puppy love,” he says with a shrug. “I met her at a bus stop. I was 12, she was 13. She lived at the corner of Barrington and Cornwallis Streets.”
After graduating from high school in 1970, Milsom spent a year “mopping floors” at local hospitals, a year “majoring in snooker” at Dalhousie University and what was supposed to be another year working as a deckhand on a coastal freighter.
“Me and a buddy planned to get together some money and go backpacking through Europe.”
His plans almost went awry in Baie Comeau, Quebec, where his ship was lying at anchor waiting to dock. He’d been part of a small group of crewmen who’d occasionally “discreetly toke up behind the funnel.” No one paid much attention. But when a new crew member joined the ship, flaunting his drug use, the captain finally called in the RCMP to check for contraband. As the mounties’ speedboat pulled up alongside, Milsom says, everyone dropped their stash overboard — except for Milsom, who was asleep in his cabin between watches at the time. He was busted for having one gram of marijuana. “The captain was shocked it was me,” Milsom says. “He told me he was sorry but he had to fire me to make an example.”
Back home — he was fined $75 on the possession charge — Milsom became “the best pizza deliverer in Halifax” for just long enough to get the money he needed to buy his $199 open return ticket to Amsterdam. He and a friend spent the next eight months wandering through Europe and north Africa. Once he recalls visiting twin cities that straddled the border between Morocco and Algeria. “In one city, you had beggars who poked out their eyes so they wouldn’t have to do military service,” he says. “It was a dirty, awful place. On the other side, it was clean, beautiful, the kids all went to school. No one would ask you for money. Instead they asked you how you liked their country. It was an eye-opener.”
Not that Milsom wasn’t already politically aware. For reasons he can’t readily explain — “mum always encouraged inquisitiveness, I guess” — he was always intrigued by left-wing politics. “I wrote about the Sino-Soviet split in Grade 7. And I was politicized by Vietnam even before it was cool to see it that way.”
When he returned to Nova Scotia in the fall of 1974, he became active in direct political action.
He joined the Communist Party in 1975, ran for them federally in 1979 then quit the party in 1981. “They had a policy of democratic centralism,” he remembers. “but it turned out there was a lot of centralism and not much democracy.”
He became involved in an ad hoc group called the Halifax Coalition for Full Employment which fought Ottawa’s plan to collect millions of dollars in accidental overpayments to unemployment insurance recipients. “We scared hell out of Bob Coates,” Milsom recalls with a laugh of the time he and some others briefly occupied the MP’s office.
He also was “in on the ground floor” of the founding of the Red Herring Co-op Bookstore and the establishment of a local anti-apartheid lobby called the South African information Group.
To finance himself, Milsom took a job at Dalhousie’s medical computer centre where he coded electro-cardiograms for a long-term epidemiological heart research project. “It’s a tedious, boring highly-skilled job,” says Milsom who still works there one day a week to “make ends meet. I’ve been lucky,” he adds. “I’ve been able to work there on and off as I need to, and they’ve been very good about it. They even gave me a leave of absence in 1987 so I could spend four months backpacking through Africa.”
Although he seemed to end up as the editor of various newsletters, Milsom says he never gave much thought to journalism until a friend named Gary Burrill told him about his plans to start a biweekly newspaper called New Maritimes in 1981. He asked Milsom if he’d be interested in writing “an international column” for the new publication.
Instead, Milsom, along with Lorraine Begley, an activist from Prince Edward Island, became co-founders of the new venture.
Burrill, who had managed to get a government grant to explore his idea, calculated that they would need $57,000 to properly launch the new publication, so they each borrowed $3,000 personally from a local credit union, created a non-profit corporation and then cobbled together a prototype and a mimeographed prospectus to convince others to invest in their scheme. In just four months, they raised a surprising $ 29,000 from “trade unions, progressives in the church and the blah-blah-blah left.”
Incredibly, many of the magazine’s original supporters — who all became charter subscribers — are still subscribers today.
“But since we only raised about half of what we figured we needed for the biweekly, we decided to become a monthly.” He laughs. “We were naive.”
Just how naive quickly became apparent. The original plan was for Burrill to be the full-time editor and Milsom and Begley to work half time at the publication. Within three months, “we had to lay ourselves off, put Gary on half time and begin working as volunteers,” he says. “And monthly soon became 10 times a year.”
The magazine went through its only major restructuring in 1988 when Burrill’s wife became pregnant with their third child “and it became clear that this was no longer a tenable career path for them.”
Milsom took over as managing editor — he’s now just called the editor, but “I still empty the garbage” — and the magazine changed from tabloid to magazine format and from paste-up to computerized layout even as it switched publishing frequency to six times a year instead of 10. Perhaps because the new format included a book review section — “we’d always done reviews anyway” — New Maritimes that year also finally got its first $10,000 Canada Council grant after four rejected applications.
Today, the magazine, which just published issue number 101, gets 35 per cent of its annual revenue from a variety of public and private grants as well as from a successful annual fund-raising letter to its core of loyal supporters. “One guy in Chester Basin I’d never heard of sent us $500. You feel responsible when people do that.”
Despite its critical success — the magazine has won three Atlantic Journalism Awards, is frequently singled out for recognition in the Canadian Association of Journalist annual awards and has won several plaques for its work from the Goodwin’s Foundation — funding is always tenuous.
Two years ago, the Canada Council tried to cut off its grant for not being “cultural” enough, but the Canadian Magazine Publishers’ Association — Milsom is a member of the board of the organization, which also includes such publishing heavyweights as James Warrilow of Maclean Hunter — and others lobbied hard to force the agency to back off.
“We’re in a holding pattern right now,” Milsom says.
A cheerful man who takes part in weekly shuffleboard nights at the Oasis bar (“I never miss a magazine deadline but that’s because I make sure the deadline doesn’t interfere with shuffleboard”), enjoys birdwatching and makes an annual pilgrimage to Fenway Park (his license plate reads R SOX) to prevent “magazine editor burnout,” Milsom says he can’t imagine doing anything but what he’s doing right now.
The trick is to keep it going.
The magazine currently has about 1,000 subscribers; the numbers have been as high as 1,500, but Milsom says it’s difficult to maintain those numbers with costly direct mail marketing campaigns.
“We figure there’s a potential audience out there of about 7-8,000 but they’re very difficult to reach.”
He brightens suddenly. “Only $19.95 a year for a subscription. Post Office Box 31269, Halifax. Postal Code B3K 5Y5. Don’t forget to put that in your article. Every subscription helps. Okay?”
On Scott Milsom’s death, Parker Donham noted that:
Scott Milsom, reporter, editor, communist, chain smoker, Red Sox fanatic, wordsmith, author, and one of the nicest guysI ever knew, died this morning from cancer of the lungs.
From 1988 to 1996, Scott edited New Maritimes, an ambitious quarterly journal about the struggles and triumphs of working people in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI. When a policy change at the Canada Council killed the magazine, Scott went on to publish and edit the Coastal Community News, which featured beautifully written profiles of the villages and hamlets that dot our coastline.
Scott was a dedicated leftist. Although he decamped from the Communist Party of Canada 30 years ago, he retained a profoundly radical view of our world. His publications rarely felt radical, however. Instead, they felt authentic. He had a knack for seeking out, finding, and telling stories about real people’s lives. He treated story subjects with respect, and people from all walks of life instinctively trusted him. Their trust was never misplaced.
As Donham says, “a working class hero is something to be.”
The Mysterious East
Sharon Fraser explains in the comments yesterday:
Pandora was a feminist newspaper that was published from the mid-’80s into the early ’90s. It was a huge education for many people — including women who had identified as feminist many years before. (I was editor of Atlantic Insight and an enthusiastic volunteer for Pandora.) It was there that many women (I was one of them) were made aware of the enormous gaps between white and black feminism, gay and straight feminism. It wasn’t always pleasant but it was necessary and important.
Pandora was taken before the Human Rights Commission after being accused of discrimination by a well-known anti-feminist crusader. Pandora refused to publish submissions from men.
Anne Derrick — now a judge — was our lawyer and we won the case. It took its toll, however, and Pandora folded in 1994.
The GayHalifax website gives more information, including where copies of Pandora reside, and adds:
The legend goes that it all started from a dare. BettyAnnLloyd? (“Bethen”??) was interested in working with women to produce a feminist paper, BrendaBryan was interested in the myth making potential and graphic design and CarolMillett? was interested in working with group process. There was heated discussion about starting a feminist newspaper and finally one of the women threw out a challenge; ‘why not just go ahead and do it! First published in September, 1985 as a one year project, Pandora was to be a paper written by women, for women and about women.
The Plain Dealer
Says Skip Hambling via email:
Check out the Plain Dealer June1976 to Dec 1977. Founded by Bert Deveaux and Skip Hambling. Went head to head with the Irving owned dailies.
The NB Media Co-op internet site reports that the Plain Dealer shut down because of lack of advertising. This in NOT TRUE. The fact is when we shut down we were in the black because of strong sales of advertising — an extremely encouraging note for all of us who want to tell the truth about the way things really are and work. People want to know and will pay for the truth — even business people. We had large corporate advertisers too because we had identified and connected with a real “niche” market and readers equals advertising.
We closed down because we were bad business managers. We came up against the classic problem many small startups face: a cash flow shortage. We got ourselves into too much debt early on and, even though we had turned the corner, our income was not enough to pay our creditors and also meet ongoing operating expenses. Tellingly, it was our printer who refused to extend us more credit and so closed us down. He tried to start his own weekly to capture the market we had, but failed. He had no interest in challenging the powers that be and so people had no interest in one more paper toadying to the Irving line.
The New Brunswick Archives, the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, and the New Brunswick Legislative Library all have original copies of the Plain Dealer.
Archives are here.
The Square Deal
The Square Deal, which began publication on June 10, 1970, sought to provide indepth reporting on P.E.I. politics and culture. It acted as a forum for opinions and creative writing more than as a source of current news. The Square Deal published political commentary, interviews with Prince Edward Islanders, poetry, reviews of happenings in the P.E.I. artistic community, articles about P.E.I. institutions and articles on current social issues, such as drugs and education. Photographs were published in the paper. The Square Deal apparently ceased publication in July of 1971.
The UPEI library has copies of The Square Deal, but it has not yet been digitized.