1. Teachers

NSTU President Liette Doucet

“Nova Scotia’s 9,300 public school teachers could launch job action as early as Thursday if they endorse an illegal strike, the president of the province’s teachers’ union says,” reports the Canadian Press:

Liette Doucet said the union executive will meet Wednesday to review Tuesday’s strike vote and decide whether to release the results publicly.

She said job action, including work-to-rule activities, a rotating strike or a walkout, are all options that would be on the table if teachers vote in favour of a strike.

Yesterday, the NSTU released a “third party review” of the Glaze report. The review was authored by Greg Thompson, from the Queensland University of Technology (Australia), and David Rutkowski, from the University of Oslo. From my quick read of their CVs, both men are qualified to conduct such a review; both have worked and published extensively in the fields of educational theory, policy, and assessment; and neither appears to be particularly radical or outside the mainstream of the discipline.

Thompson and Ruthkowski’s review is an interesting document. At just four pages long, it is not a polemic, and it almost falls over itself to praise Glaze’s efforts, if not her conclusions. Its basic premise is stated in the opening paragraph:

When the public or policy community deems an education system to be under achieving, the proposed interventions are often a conglomeration of “fixes,” some of which have potential while others do not. When embarking on a radical, systemic restructure, we expect policy makers to use the best information available to inform their policy decisions. That said, education reform has become a ‘marketplace of ideas’ with policy soothsayers plying their trade in a lucrative international market. Against this backdrop, we want to stress that there is some benefit to advising caution when claims are made to justify significant policy change, particularly where strong evidence based relationships have not been established.

Perhaps backhandedly calling into question the political motives behind the Glaze report, Thompson and Ruthkowski continue:

Those of us that have conducted similar studies can appreciate the amount of time and resources this design required. But, given the high stakes of the report’s findings, the evidence presented in the report falls short of establishing how the recommendations will improve student achievement, equity and excellence and their global citizenship. We want to reiterate that this is not necessarily a fault of the author or the resulting report — although in hindsight more caveats may have been prudent. In fact, it is unclear if the author was aware of the gravity that her recommendations held. Again, many of us that work in policy and evaluation are often excited that someone reads our reports and become increasingly excited when at least one of our recommendations is adopted, let alone all 22! Unfortunately, considering the high stakes associated with this report we contend that the robustness of the evidence requires further examination. At the very least the collected evidence should be independently re-analyzed to ensure both the validity and reliability of the recommendations are sound and linked to the evidence collected.

Their review of the Glaze report was of course commissioned by the NSTU, so beware of at least the potential for funding bias, but Thompson and Ruthkowski’s conclusion makes a lot of sense to me:

As a final point, it is worth highlighting that when reforming education systems building a shared commitment across multiple stakeholders is critical. There is a common trend of ‘policy borrowing’ emerging where jurisdictions simply borrow policies from other jurisdictions. This policy borrowing assumes that what works in one context or jurisdiction must work in another. Before importing policy solutions to complex problems, it would be advisable to engage the diverse communities that have a stake in Nova Scotian education and build consensus, informed by a strong evidence base, as to which reforms will be most beneficial. Given the extent of the recommendations, one aspect of building consensus should be to demonstrate exactly how each recommendation will improve student achievement.

2. Asterix

MV Asterix on Maiden Voyage from Quebec City to Halifax (20171225) (CNW Group/Federal Fleet Services Inc)

“While the Royal Canadian Navy is champing at the bit to start using the newest addition to its fleet, a senior officer says the MV Asterix has some limitations — notably that it can’t sail into harm’s way,” reports Lee Berthiaume for the Canadian Press:

But the Asterix isn’t a true military vessel, [Commodore Craig Skjerpen, commander of Canada’s Atlantic Fleet] said, which is why it won’t be allowed to operate in dangerous environments.

That may not be an issue now, as the navy is not operating in any areas that would be classified as overtly dangerous, but Skjerpen said: “All of our capabilities and everything we design and everything we need is about operating in that threat environment.”

3. Marieke Walsh

Marieke Walsh. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday, Global reporter Marieke Walsh made an announcement via Twitter:

I am thrilled to announce that I am moving to Toronto to cover the #onpoli election for @ipoliticsca. This is a dream come true and only possible because of the amazing opportunities I’ve had at @globalnews. I am forever grateful to the team and my #nspoli press gallery crew.

— Marieke Walsh (@MariekeWalsh) February 20, 2018

Walsh is a smart, talented, and energetic reporter. I remember the first time I saw her working — I was at Province House for something or another, and like the rest of the reporters, I was kind of hanging back as MLAs were exiting chambers. Walsh, alone, jumped forward and yelled questions at passing MLAs, not letting whatever the issue was go. She made me feel lacklustre, and lagging.

Since then, I’ve seen her time and again doggedly pursue questioning, not letting politicians get away with evasion or half-answers. She’s become the local standard for such things.

Walsh’s departure is a significant loss to the reporting pool in Halifax, and to the public’s ability to understand what’s going on. And Walsh is leaving right when her talents are most needed — during the current battle between the teachers and the government.

Undoubtedly, Walsh will succeed wherever her career path takes her, and I wish her nothing but the best.

4. Pedestrian struck

A police release from 10:30 last night:

Police are currently on the scene of a motor vehicle accident at Main Street and Hartlen Street in Dartmouth. A Metro Transit bus was making a turn from Hartlen Street on to Main Street and struck a pedestrian in the cross walk. The 20 year old male pedestrian received non-life threatening injuries and was transported to the hospital as a precaution. The driver of the Metro Transit bus was issued a ticket for failing to yield to the pedestrian.

5. The incident of 1916

“Ryerson University professor Hyacinth Simpson is in Halifax to deliver her first full account of the dramatic story involving 1,040 men of the Third Jamaica Contingent left stranded in Halifax during a severe snowstorm in March of 1916,” reports Yvette d’Entremont for Metro:

The story unfolded after a cargo ship carrying the men was sent to Halifax by London’s War Office.

The problem was, the old ship was open on all sides, had no heating, and the men were not equipped with clothing necessary to keep warm in Nova Scotia’s March temperatures.

In addition, no one in Halifax was told to expect them.

Simpson said of the 1,040 aboard, 600 had serious medical issues due to the cold and 106 were so severely frostbitten they required full or partial limb amputations upon arriving in Halifax.

There are additional issues of race and other social issues involved.

Simpson’s talk is tonight at 7:30pm at the Nova Scotia Archives.

5. 1981, pt. 2

Yesterday, I discussed how in 1981 Halifax council changed the name of Gottingen Street north of Young Street to Novalea Drive. But I omitted the bigger context of that story.

To begin, there were other forces affecting Gottingen Street and the Black community as well.

The Gottingen Street Sobeys. Photo: Eric Lewis/ Gottingen St. Neighbourhood Facebook page

For instance, throughout the year, council was dealing with zoning and site design issues related to a Sobeys store to be constructed at Windsor and North Streets. The new store would replace the older Sobeys on Gottingen Street, which was torn down in 1986, leaving a gaping hole in the business district that wasn’t filled until this year.

But by far the larger issue was the Police Strike of 1981. I mentioned yesterday that Halifax council prepared for the eventuality of a police strike at its March 26 meeting by asking the Justice minister to request the assistance of the RCMP should Halifax police walk off the job. This followed the breakdown of talks between the city and the police union in early March.

The union’s demands were:

The union sought a 50-percent wage raise over three years, to increase the annual salary of a first-class constable to $30,000 from the current $20,000.

The city’s last reported offer was a 37-percent increase, which would take a constable’s annual pay to $26,500.

The union also sought a change from 8-hour shifts to 12 hours, proposing a work week of three days with four days off.

On Friday, April 17, police constables were in a legal position to strike, and on Monday night April 20, the police union met to consider its options. The two sides kept negotiating for over a month, but talks broke down and constables went on strike on May 30.

In 2016, CTV’s Bill Dooks produced a retrospective of the strike, in which he noted:

The walkout by constables, however, almost immediately led to violence and looting, with most of the action taking place near the central police station on Gottingen Street.

As officers picketed, hundreds of people gathered near the police station where it eventually became a free-for-all.

While the rest of the city was relatively quiet, the crowd there turned into an unruly mob, fueled by booze and a sense of anonymity. Things got ugly.

Windows were smashed, stores on Gottingen were looted, drivers were pulling doughnuts and racing outside police headquarters — all the while, striking officers stood by and watched.

The disorder lasted only a night or two before settling down.

But the strike lasted 53 days. On Tuesday, July 21, the union ratified a proposed contract, and the strike ended on Wednesday, July 22. The new contract

included a three-year collective agreement starting Jan. 1, 1981 and running until Dec. 31, 1983.

A lump sum pay-up and wage reopener for 1980 that was included in the patrolmen’s previous contract was set at $550.

Salaries, the main point of contention in seven-week strike, were set at $23,000 as of Jan. 1, 1981, $25,650 in 1982, $28,000 on Jan. 1, 1983 and $29,000 on July 1, 1983.

The 196 patrolmen, scheduled to return to their beats Thursday, also won a shift differential in the last two years of the deal which would give them an extra 10 and 20 cents an hour for hours worked between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. during 1982 and 1983 respectively.

What’s interesting is the timing of events. The Gottingen/Novalea name change came right in the middle of the police strike — on June 17, just two weeks after the street racing and vandalism on Gottingen the night night the strike started.

I’m making a hunch here — I’m not a historian, and haven’t done the hard research needed to document this — but it looks like events of the weekend of May 30 were enough to remove most of the political resistance to the renaming of the street. The residents north of Young long wanted to disassociate themselves with “Gottingen,” and here was the perfect reason why.

But was that fair? Who exactly was street racing, doing donuts, and breaking store windows in the blocks around the police station? Was it residents of the neighbourhood, or outsiders who dropped in for the “fun” of a police-less city?

The people at the Dog Island Podcast addressed exactly this issue, when they spoke with Jason Eisener about Paul Donovan’s 1982 classic film Siege (released as In Self-Defense in the US), set in the police strike. Everyone should subscribe to the podcast, but you should at the very least listen to this episode, where the events are considered less sensationally than did Dooks.

The IMDB storyline of the film:

A bunch of selfrighteous bullies want to set some “new rules” in town while the police in Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) are on strike. They try to scare all the gays and lesbians in a bar, but by accident the owner of the establishment is killed, and the leader of the bullies then decides to execute all witnesses. One guy, though, escapes and takes refuge in an isolated block of flats. The young tenants in the house refuse to hand over the survivor, and the bullies then decide to get rid of all the residents in the house. This turns out to be not so easy, because the young people in the house barricade their apartments, set up traps and arm themselves in order to fight back, and this inevitably leads to more bloodshed and killings.

As the Dog Island folks point out, in the film, the “bullies” are from Colby — the suburbs — and used the opportunity of the police strike to come to Gottingen Street to prey upon the residents. That is, the people of Gottingen Street are victims of, not the purveyors of, violence and disorder.

(You can find Seige/In Self-Defence uploaded illegally on YouTube easily enough. So far as I know, the only surviving news footage of the May 30 “riots” appear at about the 3:00 mark of the film.)


1. Walls

Photo: Stephen Archibald

“Do you like stone walls as much as I do?” asks Stephen Archibald:

I think you might, so we are in for a treat, searching out and acknowledged some of the old walls of Halifax. I’ve been noticing walls around town for the last 40 years and there are enough examples for two blog posts.

This stunning wall [seen above] disappeared without a whimper in the 1980s or 90s. It was on the Gottingen Street edge of the Canadian Forces Base. Every time we lose a feature like this the energy level of the city drops (and a kitten cries in pain).

2. Consumer protection

The Case of the Itchy Underwear.

“People sue over all kinds of things. As a lawyer, I endorse this,” writes Halifax lawyer Barbara Darby.

With her typical deadpan humour, Darby reviews a number of consumer protection cases, including those of a snail and mouses in bottles of Coca-Cola, a case of itchy underwear, a suspiciously rotten sofa, and glass in bread, among others.

To pick two at random, there is the Case of the Defective Dog:

In Vincent c. 9121-2308 Québec Inc., 2010 QCCQ 2869 the plaintiffs sued Centre d’animaux Safari for a dog they bought that became ill. They sought reimbursement for the full veterinary fees; the company offered to reimburse only the cost of the dog. The sales contract provided that in these circumstances, the seller would “accept the animal back and, as soon as it can be arranged, deliver a similar animal of equal value to the Purchaser at no addition cost.” I guess one dog’s as good as any other.

The Court’s main issue is whether this dog suffered from a “defect” at the time of sale. The conclusion was that “the animal sold was not fit nor was it durable.” The company was liable for full veterinary costs to restore the dog to health. On a side note, though, I doubt whether any dog is truly “durable”: “able to withstand wear, pressure, or damage; hard-wearing.” Maybe the bestest dogs are, but that’s a lot to ask of a dog.

As for the Case of the Itchy Underwear:

Dr. Grant bought two pair of singlets and two pair of long woolen underwear in 1931. He put the first pair on, without washing them, and wore them for a week, and developed what turned into acute general dermatitis within 9 hours. He put on the second pair the following week, and washed the first pair.

The court found there was a breach (get it? — seriously, that’s the actual word in the decision) on the part of the manufacturer, because the underwear contained some irritants — sulphites — not fully washed out after the underpants were made and before they were sold. 

This was no laughing matter. The plaintiff had skin irritation on his entire body and was bedridden for 17 weeks with continuous intense and painful itching. The frequency by which he changed his underwear is part of the evidence. No one wants this type of information into the public record:

If it be thought (but in fact it was not suggested) that he wore the same garments for an unreasonably long time, the answer, I think, is that in changing his underwear only once a week he was following the ordinary custom of ordinary people.

The Court does not comment on the underwear changing habits of extraordinary people. One can only imagine and strive for such bliss.




Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — the Halifax Hospice is asking for a million dollars, and the new YMCA is asking for a million and a half. I wrote about the Y’s ask yesterday.


Downtown Halifax Plan Review – Open House (Thursday, 9am to 6pm, Downtown Halifax Business Commission office, 1546 Barrington Street) — it worked so well the first time around, they’re going to do it again.

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — the committee is being asked to approve a northbound bus lane on Gottingen Street, from Cogswell Avenue to North Street. Many of the business and property owners in the area oppose the plan, and have offered a contrary proposal.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21321 (Thursday, 7pm, Ward 5 Neighbourhood Centre, 5540 Russell Street, Halifax) — the owners of the about-to-be-constructed seven-storey apartment building at Gottingen and Bilby Streets (across from Stadacona) have acquired an adjacent lot and want to extend their building onto that lot.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21439 (Thursday, 7pm, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, 3844 Joseph Howe Drive, Halifax) — “Troy Arsenault is applying to add lounges to the list of permitted uses in the C-2C (Dutch Village Road Mixed Use) Zone in the Halifax Mainland Land Use By-law. The zone currently permits brew pubs, micro-breweries and restaurants but does not permit stand alone lounges. Lounges are permitted to sell alcohol without being required to also sell food.”



Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Tracey Taweel, the DM at Communities, Culture and Heritage, will talk about why the department doesn’t use the Oxford comma. Also, grants.


No public meetings for the rest of the week.

On campus



No public events.


Cosmic Clockwork (Thursday, 7:15pm, Planetarium, Dunn Building) — $5, minimum age 8 years, reservations:

In the harbour

6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
5pm: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Sydney
6:30pm: Ijsselborg, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea


I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

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

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  1. The workplace has become very toxic within schools and its heading towards getting even worse. First a contract was legislated and now more rushed sweeping changes to the entire system… There’s some great things in the glaze report but the government has focused on those which centralize power and take away elected and community voice… If their intentions are true, let the public and teachers see what these changes will actually look like before going ahead full steam.

    What choice does the nstu have….??

  2. I look forward to reading additional articles, in the future, that focus on how the Liberal’s new plan for managing education without regional School Boards will benefit or detract from improving education in the classroom.

    In the classroom is where it matters, the students need to “like” going to school and enjoy the challenge of learning their lessons. This means the teachers must also “like” doing their jobs. One is definitely related to the other. Nothing defeats the learning process like students being bored in the classroom or teachers who dread going to work each day.

    I find the negativity that the NSTU continually generates to be counterproductive to the mental well-being of the teachers they supposedly represent. The NSTU only gives lip service to improvements in the classroom learning environment…. strikes and work to rule does nothing to make that environment less toxic.

    The students are used as a bargaining chips by the NSTU and that practice must stop. Our students are the future of Nova Scotia, their welfare should be paramount.

  3. Oh no, we need Marieka Walsh to stand firm while Stephen McNeil blames her for trying to tell him how to run his province.

  4. I’m glad you reported on the Thompson and Ruthkowski review of the Glaze Report. We are seeing lots of opinion in the media on the report and on the government’s decision to immediately implement 11 of the 22 recommendations. I’d like to see more analytical and investigative reporting into what will potentially amount to a huge policy change for one of the biggest sectors of the provincial government. In such a polarized environment, the unbiased (or at least less biased) voice of the press is needed.

    1. Agree totally.

      The unholy rush with which the Liberals intend to implement all 22 recommendations feels suspicious to me. Some of them could have significant long term consequences and deserve a decent, inclusive public hearing from all involved – especially the teachers who will have to work under them. One wonders if this might be another McNeil union-busting exercise, this time by means of a Trojan report commissioned to legitimize it.

      I’m open to a teachers professional association akin to those of doctors, dentists, nurses etc.

      I support getting rid of the unnecessary expense of the extra layer of bureaucracy between the schools and the Department in the form of school boards that insulates the government from the consequences of their policy (who do angry parents scream at when their local school gets closed?)., However their replacement with some new body that might well end up packed with Liberal patronage appointees to ‘advise’ the government definitely needs more public airing.

      I’m not so sure about forcing administrators out of the NSTU, and that too needs proper public consultation. Some principals also teach.

      So if Premier McNeil and Minister Churchill’s intentions are so honorable, why the mad rush?

      1. The biggest issue is ….who decides to close a school ?
        Also, who votes for a school council…the parents/guardians of the students or the eligible voters within the school boundaries ?
        Also, will school council meetings be open to the public ?
        Will students within the school boundaries be required to attend the school or will parents be allowed to continue the prejudiced and racist practice of parents who don’t want their children to mix with poor kids and black kideto transfer a child out of bounds to another school, as clearly decried by Melinda Daye during the CBC Radio town hall last week. Ms Daye described white people moving into her area when she was principal at Joe Howe elementary school and immediately asking for a transfer of their child out of bounds to another school. Eventually she asked a parent to come into the school and have a guided tour to see what she and her staff offer children. The parent complained to HRSB and she was told to stop making such an offer and to grant such requests. The practice is the dirty secret of parents across HRM and the rest of Canada. She describes the issue on the video available on the website of The Current,

  5. If ever we needed a better example of silos at city hall, four years after Metro Transit was rebranded “Halifax Transit” no one has told the cops.

  6. The police strike resulted in a significant number of on strike officers behaving as under the influence louts and committing offences in an attempt to influence the council. Fortunately Ken Rowe was chair of the Police Commission and he made sure the council stiffened their backbone and resisted the disgraceful bullying behaviour of ‘peace officers’. The drunks and the donut drivers were the on strike boys in blue. All captured by TV reporters and other local media.

  7. Ditto on the tenaciousness of Ms. Walsh. I’ve seen politicos get jittery (literally) in her presence. And rightly so. A major loss for the Halifax press corps.