On campus
In the harbour


1. Union battle and a possible election

Writing for Local Xpress, Michael Gorman has this bit:

Finance Minister Randy Delorey said repeated delays in a vote by civil servants on a contract offer from the province have more to do with “poor administration on the side of the union” than an attempt to goad the government into proclaiming Bill 148, which would impose a contract. The Nova Scotia Government & General Employees’ Union has delayed its vote at least three times so far, each for a different reason, but the union leadership says it has members’ backing on the approach. The union now says a vote might not come until the fall. Delorey said he has no drop-dead date by which unions need to vote on contract offers before the government might consider proclaiming the controversial bill, passed in December.

I keep hearing from people in the NDP that they expect a fall election. The thinking goes that Premier Stephen McNeil’s approval ratings are falling — never mind that I’ve seen no evidence of that — and so the Liberal premier will want to call an election while he’s still riding the wave of Trudeau mania. I don’t know if there’s any logic to that or not, but the belief is held strongly in NDP and union circles, so the unions may be delaying a vote on the Liberals’ contract offer in hopes that the issue can be put to a new government.

This could backfire, of course. If there is a fall election, and if the Liberals win another strong majority, the unions will be in an even worse position than they are now.

2. McNeil babble

Premier Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Premier Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner

I found this exchange between Stephen McNeil and CBC host Bob Murphy yesterday interesting:

Murphy: One of those core responsibilities is, in fact, protecting the most vulnerable and maintaining a social safety net. How do you square that with a decision to cut funding to organizations that help the blind, the deaf, people with AIDS, people with mental health issues and addiction issues? 

McNeil: Well part of that is, when you get to a point of funding that was coming — without specifically talking about one of them — you look at how that funding is being administered. Is it at a administrative level? Is it directly into core services? We’ve gone back and looked at all of the things we’re doing.

At the end of the day, is the money getting to the client? Is it making a difference? And then the other question is, how do you get back to fiscal health? 

It’s extremely difficult. I’ve said this many times to people. 

It’s not hard for me to make a public policy position. But it does affect me when I’m impacting the lives of individuals. 

There’s a real concern about government-funded nonprofits actually delivering services to clients, and it’s absolutely appropriate for government to demand proper accounting and efficient delivery of services from the organizations it funds. If nonprofits are wasteful, or inefficient, or if the administrative staff is living high on the hog while neglecting their jobs, funding should be cut. No one has a problem with that.

But here’s where McNeil loses it: “without specifically talking about one of them.” Well, that’s the problem, see? Defunding any one nonprofit with the argument that agencies generally are administratively top-heavy is accusing each and every nonprofit of malfeasance or incompetence.

Do the work! Audit them. Make the results public. If a nonprofit is inefficient, spending money on the director instead of the clients, etc, call them out, defund them, sure. But this mealy mouth, “without specifically talking about one of them” doesn’t cut it.

And the premier can’t walk it back with “it does affect me when I’m impacting the lives of individuals.” (McNeil comes from a family of cops, so speaks in coptalk, using “individuals” instead of “people.”) It’s not clear which “individuals” he’s talking about. If it’s the individuals who are clients of the nonprofits, then he’s admitting that the nonprofits were delivering useful services. If it’s the individuals who are managing the nonprofits, those are the people he essentially just accused of being crooks.

3. Lobster boats

There are record lobster catches and high prices for lobster fishers, so the boat-building business is booming, reports Paul Withers for the CBC:

“I have eight men working and I need 16,” said Jimmie Doucette of Docuettte’s Boat Building. The northern P.E.I. yard produces the distinctive Gulf lobster boat. “I just can’t find the workers.”

Louis Dugay of Cap Pele Enterprises Inc. in New Brunswick runs a much smaller operation. He says a surge in prices has put more money in the pockets of fishermen.

“It’s motivated the fishermen to refurbish, rebuild or get brand new boats,” Dugay said. “I’m booked two years solid.”

Newly-opened Atlantic Boat Builders in Caraquet, N.B. has more ambitious plans. The company of 10 says it’s about to double its workforce. It is selling a new design — a hybrid lobster and crab boat. 

“We have accommodated our facility and staff for the demand,” said Jean Pierre Robichaud.

It’s anyone’s guess if this super-charged lobster industry is sustainable.

4. Basic income

Tomorrow there is a free, all-day conference, “Basic Income Guarentee: the time is right,” at the Halifax Central Library.


1. Benches

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald, who has odd and fascinating obsessions about a great many things, has long been obsessed with the benches in the Public Gardens, which he notes are of “a very plain design with a cast iron frame and wooden slats.” In the 1970s Archibald learned that the benches were something called the “Central Park Pattern”:

A couple of years ago I used the wonders of the internet to see if the design was really associated with Central Park in New York. Turns out it was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who created the plans for Central Park and who is considered the father of landscape architecture in North America. Could be the most noteworthy park bench design of that century. A true classic!

Olmsted designed the benches to “define the edge of a landscape without drawing attention to themselves.”

Be sure to read down to the photo of a younger, sullen-faced Archibald amongst a sea of benches.

2. Boring

Graham Steele explains why political speeches are so boring. Even the explanation is boring.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

Let’s talk again about vehicle traffic in Sydney.

For a city this size we are overrun with cars and in order to try to control this problem we need traffic lights. Stop signs do not fix the problem.

One of the most travelled intersections is Inglis and Prince Street intersection where each corner is full of business buildings. At one corner, there is the Steel City Credit Union, the French school is at the second corner, the Steelworkers Hall is at the third corner and the Bank of Montreal is at the fourth. We need lights on this corner.

We also need lights on Sheriff Avenue and Prince Street.

To the traffic people in power, please take a good look at this problem before someone gets killed.

Stop signs don’t work.

George Tomie, Sydney

The Government and On Campus sections are compiled by Kathleen Munro.


No public meetings.

On Campus

Exploring the properties of neutron-rich nuclei with Argonne’s ATLAS facility (3pm, Atrium 101, Saint Mary’s University) — Robert V.F. Janssens from the Argonne National Laboratory will present recent developments in the ATLAS and CARIBU facilities.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, information on nuclei with large proton-to-neutron asymmetries has grown almost exponentially and this has lead to a renaissance in low-energy nuclear physics. We have come to realize, for example, that nuclear shell structure- the way protons and neutrons are arranged within the nucleus- is not as immutable as once thought. In fact, “magic numbers” appear to come and go and their presence seems to depend on neutron excess. A large neutron excess also appears to impact global properties such as the nuclear shape or the nuclear mass for example. Much of this progress has been simulated, on the one hand, by the advent of new facilities and experimental techniques and, on the other, by the development of new theoretical approaches. This presentation will review new developments at the Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator (ATLAS) aimed at addressing this science. Thus, the Californium Rare Ion Breeder Upgrade (CARIBU) will be described and first results from this facility will be presented. The presentation will also discuss results on the structure of the neutron-rich nuclei obtained at ATLAS with other techniques.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:35am Friday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:35am Friday. Map:

BBC London, cargo ship, arrived at Pier 9 from New Orleans this morning
NYK Constellation, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove this morning from Rotterdam
Dinkeldiep, cargo ship, arrived at anchorage this morning from Saint-Pierre, awaiting berth at HalTerm
Bremen Express, cargo ship, Savannah, Georgia to Pier 42 at 3pm. The ship will wait in the harbour until ZIM Constanza sails from Pier 42 at 4:30pm. Bremen Express has a mechanical problem; its bow thruster is not working.

NYK Diana sailed from Fairview Cove to sea this morning
Freemantle Highway sails from Autoport to Emden, Germany at 3:30pm
ZIM Constanza sails from Pier 42 to sea at 4:30pm
Atlantic Star sails from Fairview Cove to New York at 8pm
Fritz Reuter sails from Pier 36 to Muriel, Cuba at 9pm


We had great fun last night at the “live-taping” of Examineradio. Thanks to Mayor Mike Savage for attending and being a great sport, to Tempa and Iris for selling the gear, to the CKDU volunteers, to Erin Costelo, and to Russell Gragg. The podcast will be published later today and will air at 4:30pm on CKDU 88.1 FM.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. I asked the premiere about financial malfeasance among non-profits. He said: “…without talking specifically about one of them…” A mealy-mouthed response.

  2. Excellent point that salaries for staff at non-profits needs to be understood as direct support for clients, not some sort of administrative baggage.

  3. Premier McNeil’s uneducated and uninformed inference that formerly funded nonprofits are wasteful, or inefficient, with administrative staff who living high on the hog while neglecting their jobs is shameful. And if this is what his bureaucrats are telling him — shame on them too.
    You are correct that cutting funding to any one nonprofit with the argument that agencies generally are administratively top-heavy is accusing each and every nonprofit of malfeasance or incompetence.

    Having spent almost 50 years working for charities, I can tell you most are efficient, honest and offering services that are far better quality and at a lower cost than could ever be offered by government departments.

    Yes, if McNeil really believes this then direct an audit of the suspected offenders.Understand what they really do. Don’t assume that because a salary is paid, the money is not getting directly to those in need. (Should social workers, toil for free? No. So don’t describer their salaries as “administration”) Make the results public.

    Mealy mouth for sure. Uninformed and showing a total lack of understanding.

    1. I’m not sure if he actually believes this or is just using as his excuse to get to a balanced budget, which seems to be their only goal (as they’ve heavily tied it to their chances of re-election).

      There are some good articles about charities and non-profit organizations’ funding and how the stigma of “overhead is bad” is generally wrong. I forget where the last one I read was, but generally if you have a solid admin staff you can amplify donations many times, while if you are forced to “push all incoming money to the clients” the organization will be less effective.

  4. The union needs to use all the strategies at its disposal, and if that includes delaying the vote then so be it. Any comments from the province on this is designed to weaken the union position.

    1. They definitely need a plan b after their disaster with Pinkie. The vote was essentially a catastrophe – you can’t go to war when 30% of your membership is against a fight.

    2. The Union shows its weakness by not believing in its membership’s ability to appropriately accept or deny an offer on the table… unfortunately, the Union executive actually seems to believe that only they know what is best for their members.

  5. Why has the Union delayed voting three times? Either they want to carryout a vote of they do not… the Unions always talks about wanting fairness in the collective bargaining process… they should lead by example.

  6. Stephen Archibald is THE BEST. Without Tim & Examiner I would never have encountered his work.I would live my life in Ohio without his pithy observations, quirky links, historic and architectural insights and wonderful seventies selfies. The photos often make me homesick but without them I’d be more so. Thanks both!

  7. I was frustrated by the way he spoke about the pharmacare changes in the that interview. He admitted they made a mistake but never really said what that mistake was. Did someone mess up the calculations? Did they fail to consider how couples with lower income are affected? The way they went about unveiling those changes was very deceptive. The overall principle seemed sound, but they botched it so bad we’re now stuck with the old system which leans working individuals to support drug costs for retirees who may make more from their pension than workers do in salary (emphasis on the may). I really like Jamie Bailey’s criticism of the government on this issue.

    Secondly, I’m not sure I understand McNeil’s point on reaching a balanced budget so we can invest in services. It sounds like the whole point is to get to a balance by cutting spending, then suddenly pull a U-turn and increase spending again. Do we not need to maintain a balance/surplus to reduce debt to be able to afford to increased spending down the road? I don’t get it.

    1. So out of character for Mr. Steele to be loud and ungrammatical. Could someone please check on him?

      1. Don’t worry. I was just trying to make Tim laugh by doing my best imitation of an internet troll. Now I’m back to my calm, grammatical self.