On campus
In the harbour


1. Yarmouth Ferry

Nova Star

Thirteen million more dollars more down the hole.

I’m ambivalent about the ferry. Public works, including transportation links, cost money. We’re gearing up to spend a hell of a lot more money on Highway 102 widening — at least a billion, with a B, dollars, so $13 million looks like chump change in comparison. For a billion dollars, we could run the Nova Star for 75 years, long after the BiHi has crumbled to dust. Or, as someone put it to me this way yesterday: It’s two Bluenose IIs. Probably not the best example.

But there doesn’t seem to be an end to the Yarmouth ferry money hole. I don’t know; maybe I can be convinced otherwise, but it doesn’t feel like the return on investment justifies the expense.

2. Torture in NS prisons

Jacob Boon of The Coast takes a much needed look at the barbaric use of solitary confinement in prisons.

3. Robert Summerby-Murray

Robert Summerby-Murray

Saint Mary’s announced yesterday that its new president is Robert Summerby-Murray, who is leaving the position of dean of the faculty of arts and social sciences at Dalhousie University to take the SMU job.

The announcement was made at a bizarre “town hall meeting” in which reporters were kicked out of the room because they weren’t part of the “Saint Mary’s community,” but what does that mean? Is an alumnus who’s now a reporter part of the SMU community? I bet they ask such a reporter for money. Is the reporter spouse of a faculty member part of the SMU community? What about a student reporter?

Kicking reporters out of such an event just breeds distrust. It’s a dumb move.

4. Don’t be this guy


The photo above was posted with the accompanying tweets from @RCMPNS:

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 6.54.36 AM

5. Mess

It’s a mess out there. I give city crews and contractors a pass on most of it — the last couple of days have been horrific conditions in terms of ice removal. And now, more snow.

It’s depressing.


1. Still more on reservoirs

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald looks at the Robie Street reservoir and compares it to one in Bangor, Maine, visually. About the latter (pictured above) he notes, “I was most charmed by the little eyebrows over windows that express the route of the staircase — very much part of the Shingle Style that was popular at that moment (220,000 cedar shingles used said the plaque).”

Archibald then points us to an incredibly detailed 1921 aerial photo of the far north end (click on the link and go to full resolution to see the greatest detail), the Hydrostone bringing order to the neighbourhood, the reservoir off in the middle of nowhere, Rockhead Prison to the far north.

Source: Nova Scotia Archives
Source: Nova Scotia Archives

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

In the final intense minute of the Super Bowl, a brief melée between the players occurs. The fans boo to show their displeasure and the player is ejected for the rest of the game.

In an NHL game of no importance, a fight occurs. The fans cheer to show their approval and the player is in the penalty box for a few minutes and then back in the game. When will the NHL ever learn that its model of “sports” will eventually lead to its demise?

Derek Mathers, Halifax



Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (1pm, City Hall)—the committee will take another look at what to do about weeds in Lake Banook. Later today, I’ll post a full report from Chris Benjamin.

Harbour East–Marine Drive Community Council (6pm, Nantucket Room, Dartmouth Sportsplex)—the council will hold a public hearing about a proposed “internally lighted sign” at the Irving Oil station across the street from the duck pond. The station is now only allowed to have an externally lighted sign.


No public meetings.

On campus



A sucker born every minute (Thursday, 11:30am, McCain 1170)—Luc Bridet, from the Toulouse School of Economics, will talk about “Selling dreams:  Entrepreneur optimism and collateral use in financial contracting.”

Big data (Thursday, 2:30pm, Dunn Building, Room 302)—Osvaldo N. Oliveira Jr., from the São Carlos Institute of Physics, University of São Paulo, Brazil, will talk about “Nanosciences in the Convergence of Technologies:  From Reductionism to the Use of Big Data.”

Symbiont-Mediated Social Immunity (Thursday, 3:30pm, 5th floor Biology Lounge, LSC)—I have no idea what that means, but Rebeca Rosengaus, from the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences in the Department of Biology at Northeastern University in Boston, will be talking about it.

Resistance and change (Thursday, 6pm, Room 224 Student Union Building)—the Black Student Advising Centre presents “three phenomenal diverse Black men from the Diaspora, Dr. (Rev) Lennett Anderson, Mr. Sobaz Benjamin, and Dr. George Mbamalu as they share their stories of struggles, challenges and triumphs in Canada.”

“Now or Never” six months later (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain building)—oh boy. A panel will talk about the Ivany Report. The panel includes: Susanna Fuller, Marine Conservation Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre and member of the oneNS Commission; Marty Janowitz, VP Sustainable Development, Stantec and Chair, NS Roundtable on Environment & Sustainable Prosperity; Chief Sidney Peters, Glooscap First Nation and member of the oneNS Coalition; Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, Medical Officer of Health, Capital District Health Authority and member of the oneNS Coalition. BYOB.


Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 8.13.20 AM

Forget about Marco Polo, the Portuguese sailing around Africa, and Columbus, this is the age of discovery. In the last decade or so, scientists have discovered entire worlds, and lots of them. As of today, 1,888 planets circling other stars have been discovered. Above is a representation of 786 of them, drawn to scale. An Earth-sized planet is barely visible on the image.

It’s a good guess that most stars have planets around them, and so there must be hundreds of billions of planets, just in our galaxy. And, there are hundreds of billions of galaxies.

Maybe one of those planets is warm.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8am Thursday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8am Thursday. Map:

Dalian Express, container ship, Cagliari to Fairview Cove West, then sails for New York
CSL Thames, bulker, Boston to National Gypsum
Overseas Sifnos, tanker, Port Arthur, Texas to Imperial Oil
Asphalt Sailor puts to Sea.


Unless the snow prevents travelling, I’ll be at the OneNS thing at Dal tonight.

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

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  1. Let’s do a little math here. The subsidy of the ferry over a two year period is 41.5 million. The amount of days the ship will be working including last year is about 285 days. If we divide 41.5 million in 285 days we get $145,000.00 subsidy a day over two years. I don’t know about others but I think a million a week is just a little excessive. Surely we could find a way to invest in the local businesses that would be hurt by eliminating the subsidy to a private company (North Star).
    This is just another Sydney Steel where the politicians are more concerned with buying votes “with our money” than doing the right thing. Even with all the doubletalk/doublespeak about the increase in tourism the masses are not buying it.
    I would also like to see the contract that was signed that allowed all the money for seven years and 7.5 million more, allocated in one year. Who would sign such a contract. It just looks like the original amount of money was just a ruse to open the door for more. Once the ferry is here it is hard to cancel it right away, so more money starts to flow into the hole in the water.
    There is one thing for sure it would take a long time as well as a lot of people to convince me we are getting a million a week from those American tourist.
    Maybe we should go back to a bottle of rum on the way to the polling station; it would be cheaper.

  2. I loved the photo of the hydrostone. It shows beautifully the ‘desire lines’ cut into the lawn at Young and Gottingen/Novalea, showing where most people walked. I had a look at a modern google earth image but it is hard to make out for the growth of trees. There appears to be one remaining at least (the western-most nearly vertical line in the picture above). It is cool to think that even after nearly 100 years the need to walk across that park hasn’t stopped and still there is no formal path.

  3. The Cranky Letter of the Day is fast becoming my favourite feature of the Morning File. In this world of obligatory positive thinking they are deliciously refreshing. Keep cranking, people.

  4. Of course public money should subsidize transportation infrastructure, but why should it go to a private corporation? What are the fees going to company management? The books should be open. After this money pit sails away, we will not even own the boat.

    1. Uh, Bay Ferries is private, too. And we gave them a boat (actually two, since they got the Princess of Acadia for virtually nothing and we have subsidised its continual repair). Will we own it afterwards? Who owns the Northumberland ferries we subsidize? .

  5. Government takes money and then gives it to people who promise they will make more money with it. Banks do this, but they put a price on it.

    A ferry would be critical infrastructure if it was really required, if people needed to get to Maine from Yarmouth over water – but they don’t. We don’t trade furs for English goods anymore and trying to “create a market” for this traffic is silly vote-buying.

    Think critically about this Yarmouthians. Just because other ferries are subsidized doesn’t mean you should get one too.

    I would rather see this money spent on education geared towards sustainable economic production (software, e-commerce, innovative production methods like 3-d printing, etc.). But it doesn’t matter what I think because goddammit that ferry will solve everything.

    1. No need to have a ferry to get to PEI – we paid for a whopping long bridge after all. And I am sure the folks in Cumberland County would happy to have the traffic that takes the 101 to Digby to catch the $65 million ferry (actually a lot fewer people than there used to be) drive along the 104 instead. Neither of those ferries are any more needed than the Yarmouth-Portland ferry.

  6. I forgot all about the billion dollar highway (peninsula destroying) widening. Are they really still planning to go ahead with that? I haven’t heard a peep about it in a year or two.

  7. When people complain about the subsidy for the Yarmouth-Portland ferry why do they never mention the huge subsidies given Bay Ferries for the Digby-Saint John (the feds GAVE them a $65 million boat after all) and the PEI-Pictou runs ($58 million over two years from the feds for both services; I couldn’t track down how much Nova Scotia tosses in)? The people of southwestern Nova Scotia already help fund a lot of services in Nova Scotia that we never use; Halifax Transit, for example, gets $2 million annually (and, yes, that’s a lot less than $13 mil, but it’s just one example). No busses run in Yarmouth, but provincial tax dollars from here still subsidize transit services.

    There is no doubt that the Nova Star is the wrong boat for the service. Graham Steele can claim he is on the high road on everything, but the original contract for the Nova Star is his to bear. (And there will never be $5 million from Maine.)

    My real concern is how much effort the Nova Star people will put into the service this year. They must know that this will almost certainly be the last year they get to operate the route whatever claims they make to the contrary. Let’s hope that when Sampson issues his RFP for the next contract that actually knowing how to operate a ferry service is a requirement.

  8. I support the investment in the ferry. We need this link and it has made a difference in the lives of those who live in the surrounding area. Though it is a spend it is not as wasteful as say… Communications Nova Scotia, the Lt. Governor or buying Irving a shipyard so we could be a part of the story. It is as you pointed out transportation infrastructure and as with roads, airports and rail there are heavy government investments.

    Having said that I am glad to see the government putting out an RFP for next year to ensure we have the right ship and the right company running this. I am not sure that the ferry selected is appropriate for the job. Do we need a cruise experience? I don’t have the answer to that but hopefully the government will ensure we are getting value for money.

  9. I heard Kevin Lacey on the radio yesterday, talking about the ferry, and couldn’t believe my ears. Said he supports a subsidized ferry as part of transportation infrastructure, but that the costs seem to outweigh the benefits here. Made a few other points you likely would have agreed with too. And there I was about to turn off the radio as soon as I heard his voice.

    1. If you say that you want to stop spending on everything eventually you’re going to get something right.