On campus
This date in history
In the harbour


1. CTV charged

“CTV Atlantic is facing a charge of breaching Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act for broadcasting video showing two youths accused in a 2014 violent home invasion in Cole Harbour, N.S.,” reports the CBC’s Jack Julian:

Christa Thompson, a Nova Scotia Legal Aid lawyer for one of the underage accused, said her client called her Aug. 25, one day after he appeared in Halifax youth court to enter a guilty plea. 

“He had been seen on the news by various people in his life. The client reported to me, questioning me, basically wondering if he actually had been broadcast,” Thompson said Thursday. 


“It showed my client, along with one of his co-accused, walking out of the courtroom with sheriffs, being escorted to the elevator where they would be taken down to cells,” Thompson said. 

Police spokeswomen Theresa Rath refused to discuss details of the case until after a court date in February. She confirmed police investigated the complaint and ordered a corporation to appear in court in relation to an alleged breach of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

If the charge is true, it was a jaw-droppingly dumb decision on CTV’s part.

Will CTV itself report on this? Steve? Jackie?



Yesterday, the city’s Design Review Committee approved the design of the two proposed buildings at the corner of Sackville and South Park Streets, despite a staff recommendation that the committee reject the design. The new buildings will replace the old CBC and YMCA buildings; the northern 13-storey building will host a new YMCA facility with condos above, while the southern 16-storey building will be ground-floor retail with condos above.

The height of the buildings wasn’t an issue for the committee — city council gave an exemption to height restrictions on the site so long as the buildings hosted a YMCA facility. At issue was the bulking of the buildings, especially the lack of a “step back” from the Paramount building behind. The staff report goes into great detail (scroll to the end) about staff’s problems with the proposal.

I was there for most of the meeting but had to leave just before the committee voted. It was clear to me, however, that the committee would accept the design. The short of it is that anything at all would’ve been acceptable to the committee because the YMCA will get what the YMCA wants.

Understand I’m not personally expressing an opinion about the building design. Honestly, I see pluses and minuses in it.

But it’s clear that the buildings reflect a financing scheme for the YMCA facility: the buildings had to be higher, and had to be bigger, to sell enough condos to pay for the expanded gym facility. I wonder, though, will any of that YMCA money go towards improvements over at the hardscrabble Y facility on Gottingen Street? Or does the money just go to subsidize southenders’ rec time?

I understand why the Y pursued this financing scheme. It makes sense: real estate is where the money is.

Many years ago, when interest rates were sky-high, I helped a little nonprofit get its books together. Back then, many nonprofits could live on their endowments — with a sufficiently large amount of money in the bank or in stocks, interest alone could pay for operational costs. (The same thing applied to many universities in the US.) I came to see this as a bad thing: it led to institutional drift, sloth, and getting away from the nonprofits’ mission. Far better, I thought, for nonprofits to have to continually go to the public and ask for grants and donations; that would keep the nonprofit on purpose, and if the public didn’t want to continue to fund a nonprofit, maybe it no longer served a social function. Moreover, I saw nonprofit administrators and other charity workers embrace what I now call “the financialization of everything” — that is, they adopted the world view of neoliberalism. This world view, I thought, would do much social damage and in the end negate the social good brought about charities.

I have some of the same thoughts now when I see nonprofits chasing real estate money. It’s a far more complex discussion than the bloated endowment funds of old (which evaporated thanks to the Greenspanization of the world). I wouldn’t expect nonprofit managers to even understand, much less think about, the long-term implications of a condo overbuild, or funding their operations on a simple land deal. Still, I don’t think this bodes well down the line.

Obviously I’ll have to expand on that some time.

3. Yarmouth Vanguard

Jennifer Vardy Little, managing editor of the Transcontinental Media’s papers in the south of the province, announced yesterday that the Yarmouth Vanguard, the Digby Courier, and the Shelburne Coast Guard will soon be merged into one paper to be called the Tri-County Vanguard.

Litte promised no cuts to editorial staff, but didn’t mention advertising or production staff.

It’s sad to watch these old local papers go into history.


1. Stimulus

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

Tuesday, I castigated the Liberals for their disconnect between the federal and provincial wings of the party in regards to austerity:

To his credit, Justin Trudeau campaigned against the failed policies of austerity, and his election was widely understood to be a reflection of popular rejection of austerity.

There is, however, a complete disconnect between the federal Liberal Party and its provincial counterparts in terms of austerity — while Trudeau wisely rejected the austerity policies that swept the western world’s governments after the financial collapse, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has double-downed on the same discredited policies. McNeil is slashing social spending, increasing university tuition, attacking unions, and otherwise implementing the austerity policies that work for the benefit of the 1% and impoverish everyone else.


Liberals, figure it out. You can’t both reject austerity and embrace it at the same time. Either Trudeau is right and McNeil is wrong, or vice-versa.

But it’s not just the Liberals who have this problem. The Chronicle Herald editorial board, which has been rah-rahing McNeil’s austerity agenda (see here, here, here, and here, for example), today lends support to Trudeau’s anti-austerity budget with a editorial headlined “Bring on the stimulus spending“:

For most Nova Scotians, the sooner stimulus spending begins, the better. We heard positive news on that front after a meeting this week between Premier Stephen McNeil and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

While political watchers warn that the pair’s common Liberal roots don’t necessary mean a flood of federal money is headed this way, we are optimistic that the federal government’s spending will translate into help with much-needed infrastructure projects in Nova Scotia.

Chronicle Herald editorial board, figure it out. You can’t both reject austerity and embrace it at the same time. Either Trudeau is right and McNeil is wrong, or vice-versa.

And if you maintain that you can do that — that somehow it’s OK to support austerity provincially and reject it federally, please show us your tortured logic. At the very least, you should acknowledge that that is in fact what you’re doing.

2. Dartmouth High

Photo: Halifax Regional School Board
Photo: Halifax Regional School Board

Lezlie visits her alma mater.

3. Protests

Graham Steele thinks protests are pointless:

I’ve been watching Nova Scotia politics very closely for 18 years, and I can’t think of a single example where a straight line can be drawn between a placard-waving, flag-flying, bullhorn-blaring protest at Province House and a change in government policy.

I think most such protests are a waste of time, if the objective is to try to get a government to do something, or to stop doing something.

I can’t help feeling that certain frequent flyers, especially the public-sector unions, organize protests at Province House only because it’s what they’ve always done.

They do it out of habit rather than conviction.

As Steele tells it, legislators either politely talk with protestors while ignoring their message, or skip right over the “politely talk with” part and get right on to the ignoring. Better, he says, for people upset about policy to, well, politely work in the shadows:

Persistence is the steady tap-tap-tap of interactions between citizens and politicians that tell the politicians they’re doing the wrong thing.

On the street, in the grocery store, in the coffee shop, in their office, over the phone.

Nothing flashy or loud, but repeated.

Not just one person, but many.

Not rude or aggressive, but firm.

Not just one phone call, but regular phone calls.

Not just one e-mail, but a steady stream over time.

I don’t have time to get into this this morning — I slept in to 6:30, yikes! — but some day I will expand on my thoughts about how the street protest has always been a bit unseemly for the prim and proper. Check out the comments on Steele’s article lambasting dirty protestors and the like — the exact sentiments were expressed against, say, the suffragettes.

Since stiff lip legislators and the equivalent of soccer hooligans among the rabble don’t see value in street protests, does that mean they’re a waste of time? Hardly. It’s precisely the uncomfortable presence — the women in black, or hippies, or filmmakers, whoever — publicly, rudely breaking out of socially acceptable rules of conduct and speech, that legitimizes the movement.

Street protests are annoying, to be sure. They’re the burr under the social saddle — but no one gets rid of the pain to the horse by ignoring the burr; sooner or later, you have to take the saddle off and address the problem, or you shift your weight to accommodate it, or just accept it and hope horse and rider can hobble along a bit farther without doing anything about it. But ignoring the burr isn’t an option.

Steele is wrong: you can drop your head and look elsewhere or get a police escort to avoid the crowd, but you can’t ignore the street protest. It’s impossible.

Does that mean street protests work? In terms of immediately affecting pending legislation, most often not. But in terms of legitimizing a political view over time, most definitely. This has been the lesson over and over and over again, from the anti-slavery Quakers to the suffragettes to union organizers to the Algerian revolutionaries to the anti-war hippies to Occupiers inserting language about the 1% into the social discourse: no legislator ever passes a demonstration and changes his mind to vote the way the protestors want. But over time, the protests shift the social gestalt, and sooner or later the protestors’ views become mainstream, and the responsible, prim-and-proper upper crust legislators either accede to the protestors demands, shift the legislative balance to accommodate their point of view, or figure out to hobble on for a bit, all the while deriding the protestors.

I say, Bring on the protests.

4. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

The Jan. 14 opinion piece by Cape Bretoners Andrew Parnaby and Lachlan MacKinnon revolved around the mural in Whitney Pier — the steel plant silhouetted against a fiery sky, painted on the side of the old Dollar Store.

But nowhere was the name of the artist given.

Would you run a column describing or reviewing a book without giving the name of the author?

Taiya Barss, Halifax

EDITOR’S NOTE: Created by local artist Keith Baldwin, the mural was funded by the Friends of Neville Park Society.



Audit & Finance (10am, City Hall) — Auditor General Larry Munroe will release his “Performance Review of the Management of Halifax Regional Municipality’s Reserve Funds.”


No public meetings.

On Campus

Charlie Hebdo (3:30pm, McCain 2116) — “A panel discussion marking the one-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Speakers include Christopher Elson, Vittorio Frigerio, Amal Ghazal, Vincent Masse, and Jerry White.” The discussion will be in English.

This date in history

On January 15, 1792, 15 ships carrying 1,196 Black Loyalists left Halifax for Sierra Leone. Sixty people died in the crossing.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:45am Friday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:45am Friday. Map:

Dinkeldiep, Saint-Pierre to Pier 42



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

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  1. Graham Steele probably knows that protests do work on occasion, especially when coupled with:

    “Persistence is the steady tap-tap-tap of interactions between citizens and politicians that tell the politicians they’re doing the wrong thing.

    On the street, in the grocery store, in the coffee shop, in their office, over the phone.

    Nothing flashy or loud, but repeated.

    Not just one person, but many.

    Not rude or aggressive, but firm.

    Not just one phone call, but regular phone calls.

    Not just one e-mail, but a steady stream over time”

    Never throw out a tool because it is rough around the edges… just smooth out the impairments and fine tune the process.

  2. Asking one-dimensional, yes or no questions about complex issues assumes that social movements have clear, simple goals.

    When I participate in a boycott, I’m often asked if I think boycotts work. My usual reason for participating in a boycott is to refuse to take part in some morally reprehensible system or to withdraw my own financial support for something I don’t like. In the 80s, when I boycotted South African goods, my goal was not to shut down apartheid, but to withdraw my own support for it. So by those measures, the boycott is 100% successful the moment I participate in it.

    I prefer the word “demonstration” over the word “protest”. A public political demonstration is not always aimed solely at achieving a simple, measurable goal outside of itself. It is often a means to show that a lot of people feel in a similar way about a particular issue. Letters, emails, private conversations: These things do not occupy public space, and are therefore easy to ignore or to never see in the first place. Temporarily occupying public space is a way of becoming harder to ignore.

    The french word for political demonstration is “manifestation,” which means “to make clear or obvious to the eye.” If a lot of people come to a demonstration, that demonstration has already succeeded.

  3. The right to assemble and the right to protest are both limited by Supreme Court rulings. The right to go about your business supercedes my right to protest. :
    ” The freedom of the individual to communicate in apublic place must be compatible with the principal purpose of that place. The purposes underlying our constitutional protection of free expression were defined in Irwin Toy as: the seeking and obtaining of truth; participation in social and political decision-making; and the encouragement of diversity in forms of individual self-fulfilment and human
    flourishing by cultivating a tolerant, welcoming environment for the conveyance and
    reception of ideas. If the use of a particular public place does not promote one of these principles, expression in that forum will not warrant constitutional protection. ”

    The 2011 occupation of Grand Parade and Victoria Park violated the rights of other citizens and closing down such occupations would have been constitutional.

  4. “I’ve been watching Nova Scotia politics very closely for 18 years, and I can’t think of a single example where a straight line can be drawn…” Steele should have ended his sentence there!

  5. Re: Stimulus. When they start handing out the money, I hope Trudeau and co are paying attention as McNeil and co get ready to pass the bucks along to their friends by way of numerous P3 projects. I wouldn’t be surprised if the provincial Liberals even tried to turn the badly needed new hospital into a public, private partnership.

    On the municipal front, I have a feeling that our municipal politicians have not even started to think about what to do with the Trudeau Bucks earmarked for transit and infrastructure. We’ll probably end up with some last minute, silly submissions that will become money wasters (if we get all the money allocated at all) similar to that wonderful Washmill thing we got a few years ago.

    I hope I’m wrong on both counts.

  6. RE: Graham Steele and if protests do any good
    If ever there was a time for us to be out in the streets protesting it’s now. For nearly four decades we’ve been marinating in free market ideology — aka neoliberalism — and it’s no surprise that ex-politicians like Graham Steele would hold the view that “protests are a waste of time.” After all, we’ve all been steeped in the right wing idea that anything “public” is suspect. In fact, a large segment of Canadian citizens (and nearly all politicians) believe in the free market mantra, which goes something like this: governments should get their noses out of business; they should stop spending on the public good; where possible they should turn anything and everything over to the private sector; and they should remove all barriers and regulations to maximize profits. But here’s the big one, the one that gets at the heart of what bothers me so much about Steele’s view: the very concept of public good and community should be done away with. I’m not saying Steele believes this. I’m saying that to argue that protests, civil disobedience, dissent, or demonstrations are a waste of time is like saying that neoliberalism has won.

    Let’s face it: It’s already true that communities don’t have a say over their futures. For instance, it’s nearly impossible to stop a development if you don’t like it and that’s because the whole process — the whole regulatory system that allows a proposed project to go ahead — is undemocratic. If you don’t believe me maybe you’ll believe David Boyd, he’s an environmental lawyer in B.C who says that Corporations get permits to do “awful things that harm human and environmental health, and local governments and communities don’t have the jurisdiction or the power to stop them.” He says it’s because of economic and political clout and because our current system is “flawed” and assumes that property rights are paramount.

    Back to Steele and protests: Civil disobedience and direct action aimed at interfering with unsustainable projects, unjust laws, and policies can be very effective ways to grapple with the structural issues that underpin what’s wrong with the world. When they don’t work it’s likely because they are too diffuse, scattered, and not connecting all the dots. It could also be — and this is where I might agree with Steele — because they weren’t “persistent” enough. The protests that tend to work are the ones that are sustained for a long period of time. They require commitment on the part of the protester and this kind of unwavering dedication and sacrifice often only comes when one feels they or their community is threatened. Think of the success of the prolonged anti-fracking protests by Elsipogtok First Nations in NB, to name a recent example.

    What’s more, the magnitude of the problems we face today — climate change, species extinction, inequality — require an effort so massive and unprecedented that it MUST be a collective one, not a polite and quiet one, as Steele suggests. Movements like the abolitionists and the suffragettes were not only long term and generational, they were, well, movements. The movements we need now will need to demand that governments stand up for the public good through strong regulations, laws and policy. Of course that will require individual persistence, as Steele says, but it will also require collective dissent.

  7. Thanks for your comments on my CBC column. Weirdly, I think your comments reinforce my point, rather than undermining it. The examples you give of effective protests are of persistent protests. That’s exactly my point. Persistence is what pays off. My column is about the other kind of protest, the “one-and-done”, where a clutch or protestors shows up for a couple of hours, then goes home.

    This week was the fifth anniversary of the Tunisian revolution that saw a longstanding dictator fleeing the country. What pushed him out? Sustained street protests, day after day, night after night. Emphasis on “sustained”. Once the dictator saw the breadth and persistence of the protests, he knew he was done.

    1. What’s your view on the Dartmouth Fire Station saga? I’d say the last meeting ventures into a form of public protest…

  8. Graham is right that steady communication over time is what wins legislators over. All his points about effecting good legislation are valuable, and I’ve seen it in my own non-profit efforts. With that said, it goes both ways. As an example, when the minister of transportation, without any consultation whatsoever with anyone outside his office, decided to raise pedestrian fines to $697.50, there was immediate protest. He violated the social contract of many years’ communication with advocates working to improve the safety of our roads. He did it in a way that made it clear that the time for negotiation was over, and protests ensued (if not on the grounds of the legislature – it was more digital in nature, with phone calls, emails, and tweets).
    Protesting is ineffective as a first resort, in my opinion, but as you note it is a legitimization of a movement, showing that there is sufficient support to bring people out. Protests are an important tool for when constructive dialogue is refused. When both sides are listening, respecting each other, and negotiating, protests don’t seem to happen.

  9. I always thought Graham Steele was a bit of a dick. This just proves it.

    What a truly insider perspective.

    What could be a truer expression of a free society than people peacefully, yet loudly protesting in the streets without being clubbed by police?

    Does it change a politician’s ossified mind? Maybe not. Is it good for democracy?