1. In Nova Scotia, pulp rules

The stabilization basin of Boat Harbour. Photo by Joan Baxter

Linda Pannozzo’s latest is a commentary on the ongoing Northern Pulp story. While we wait for the premier’s announcement tomorrow, Pannozzo gives us some background on how we got here, and thoughts on how the process has created an unnecessary “environmentalists vs forestry and mill workers” dichotomy:

By 1998, I was living in Nova Scotia and I heard about a group of inshore hook and line fishermen who had chained themselves to a flagpole on the lawn of the provincial legislature in Halifax and had posted a sign on their tent that read, “We need fish.” It was the culmination of months of protests by hundreds of fishers across the province over new DFO rules they say were squeezing out the little guy. “The Flagpole Four,” as they were called, said the government wasn’t giving them enough quota to feed their families. One of those men was Scott Nickerson and later that year, in an act of desperation, he killed himself with a rifle.

The tragic story of “The Flagpole Four” is for me, proof that simple dichotomies — like the ones that have formed in Pictou between fishermen and forestry workers, between forestry workers and the Mi’kmaq — don’t even begin to address the complexity of the issues at hand.

The truth is, while these issues make easily digestible sound bites, in reality they don’t break down over neatly defined lines like these. The pressures facing people who depend on a steady supply of “resources” for their livelihood are real, and sometimes tragically so.

But just as real is the pressure we put on the “resources.” The broader analysis of the economic system in which the fishery or forestry takes place — one that demands limitless growth on a finite planet — and one that often pits big business and profits against small communities, is noticeably absent from the discussion. The real battle hardly ever makes it onto our radar screens.

Read her piece, “In Nova Scotia, pulp rules; it always has and until the forests have nothing left, it always will” here.

Also, can I just say how fucked up this whole process is? I have not immersed myself deeply in this issue as people like Pannozzo, Joan Baxter, and others have. On this story, I’m just a guy who reads the news. But we’ve got legislation saying the company has to stop pumping waste into Boat Harbour, and that legislation gives a hard deadline. The company doesn’t exactly snap to attention when faced with this deadline, and then comes up with a half-assed plan that meets lots of opposition. The plan is the only option, so now the choice is bad situation, worse situation, or shut ‘er down. Then, after all that, we just wait for one guy, the premier, to decide how it’s going to go? Do I have that right?

Clear process, bad planning, sowing divisions among neighbours, the union tying itself up in knots over jobs, environment, racial justice, and democracy, coming down to whatever the premier decides. This is not good, to put it mildly.

2. PLFN lawyer thinks Boat Harbour won’t get an extension

A Pictou Landing First Nation painting of Boat Harbour counts down the days to mandated end of the dumping of effluent into Boat Harbor. Photo: Matt Dort

Brian Hebert, a lawyer representing the Pictou Landing First Nation, doesn’t believe Northern Pulp is going to get an extension.

In a piece for the Chronicle Herald, Andrew Rankin says Hebert thinks the province will respect the January 31 deadline laid out in the Boat Harbour Act. That’s because, Hebert says, the province has a constitutional duty to consult Pictou Landing over an extension, and there has been no consultation.

[Hebert] said the province has not informed him or anyone else in the First Nation community about a possible extension. Hebert also said he had a meeting at the Office of Aboriginal Affairs on Nov. 12 and was told by Department of Justice lawyer Diane Rowe that she hadn’t been advised that the province was moving to extend the deadline.

“There’s an agreement with Pictou Landing from June 2014 and that is protected under Section 35 of the Constitution Act. You can’t change that without consulting us. … She said we are not aware of any initiative by the province to extend the deadline. She said if they became aware of any she would let me know. We haven’t heard anything and there hasn’t been any further consultation.”

Hebert said the time the premier is taking is warranted given all that’s at stake. Hebert predicts that McNeil’s announcement will include a plan to deal with the hundreds of workers at the mill and others in the forest industry that would be impacted by the mill closing.

Rankin also quotes Hebert on how the choice should not be as simple as extending the deadline or shutting down the mill.

3. Sweetheart deal for Digby Pines buyers

Digby Pines

This item is written by Tim Bousquet.

Yesterday, the province issued a news release with the headline “Province Sells Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa.”

“Sells” is an interesting word. “Gives away” would be more accurate. The details:

Besim Halef, Glenn Squires, both from Halifax and Bear River First Nation in Digby County have purchased the tourism landmark and will invest $6.9 million over five years in the property. Pacrim Hospitality Services Inc., based in Halifax, will manage the property on behalf of the partners.

Government sold the property to the partnership group for $1 million. During the sale’s due diligence phase, engineers discovered the main building needed substantial mechanical, electrical and structural upgrades. The province provided $1 million credit on closing to be used towards that work. The province will also be responsible for closing costs and brokerage fees of approximately $500,000.

In 2016, the province asked Develop Nova Scotia to find a buyer for two of its Signature Resorts – Digby Pines and Liscombe Lodge. The province has owned Digby Pines for about 30 years.

So the government “sold” the property for $1 million, but then is giving $1 million back in credit to the buyers, and is additionally covering closing costs. See if you can get that deal next time you buy a house, even a fixer-upper.

Maybe the resort can be salvaged, and the new owners are said to be dumping a bunch of money into it — $6.9 million over five years. I wonder if that will be the new owners’ money, or if we’ll soon see various government economic development agencies coming to the rescue. It looks like the typical ACOA project — rich connected men get zero interest financing and flat-out grants in the name of jobs!

Speaking of rich connected men, consider the players in this deal.

Besim Halef is none other than the developer who sold 15 acres in the Bayers Lake Business Park to the province for the new Community Outpatient Centre. As Marieke Walsh reported:

The Nova Scotia government purchased a 15-acre plot of land for nearly 12 times the land’s assessed value, according to a real estate company.

The land was bought for a new outpatient clinic that will be part of the QEII hospital redevelopment. According to the website ViewPoint, the entire 178-acre plot is worth just under $7.5 million. The Liberals bought 15 acres for $7.5 million.

And as Jennifer Henderson recounted:

CBC reporter Jean Laroche asked the Premier what he thought about the fact the province paid $7.5 million for property owned by Besim Halef of Banc Developments. Halef is a successful developer who also contributed $3,000 to the provincial Liberal party in 2013 and is a board member of the QE2 Health Sciences Centre Foundation, the fundraising arm for the hospital.

The other partner in the deal is Glenn Squires, who is the past chair of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) and current CEO of Pacrim Hospitality, which operated Digby Pines for some years.*

The effective $0 Digby Pines sale must come as some surprise to Squires, as back in 2015, he contested the zero valuation of the resort:

The resorts have been for sale for years, but with little publicity. This May, the provincial government decided to actively promote the sale of both resorts, which have not made a profit in recent years.

Some critics have said the effective value of the facilities is zero.

TIANS is disputing that valuation and says that with the right operating model and private sector partner, Digby Pines and Liscombe Lodge could again be iconic draws from a tourism perspective.

Glenn Squires, TIANS chairman and CEO of Pacrim Hospitality, said that as a hotel operator, he understands the current valuation of the operations may not be favorable.

“However, the assets themselves are critically important to the communities from an economic and social perspective,” he said.

“While TIANS appreciates the need to look at new operating models for assets owned by Nova Scotians, the language being used in the current Request for Proposals is concerning, raising questions related to the ongoing operations of the provincial resorts.

Squires was also a founder and for seven years CEO of Holloway Lodging, a firm on which George Armoyan is a director.

Hey, they’re saving an old decrepit resort, and maybe there will be some jobs! maintained. But it feels like a sweetheart deal all the same.

4. Fire destroys fish plant

Corey Beals, Assistant Chief for Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Services/Rural Operations

Yesterday, the Abriel Fisheries processing plant in Tangier, on the Eastern Shore, was destroyed by fire.

At CBC, Anjuli Patil quotes Corey Beals of the fire service:

“The first arriving crews were faced with a large commercial building, a fish plant, which had a working fire venting through the roof, and crews immediately went in defensive mode,” Beals said.

The building is a “total loss,” he said, and crews were still fighting the fire as of 4 p.m.

Patil also quotes Anglican Rev. Lorraine Otto, on the effects the loss of the plant will have on the wider community:

Many parishioners at her church are employed at the plant, she said, and the fire is a “huge loss” for the community.

“Abriel’s is incredibly generous in supporting the communities and all the churches in the area,” she said, adding it not only employs many people but it also buys a lot of lobster from local fishermen.

We can be grateful nobody was injured, but the building was completely destroyed and this is a huge blow to the community. The fact that it’s just before Christmas makes it that much worse.

5. Turkey vulture pried out from under dead seal

Turkey vulture on a table
The rescued turkey vulture. Photo: Hope for Wildlife.

In a happier story involving the Eastern Shore, the CBC’s Paul Palmeter writes about a turkey vulture’s journey from Brier Island to Hope for Wildlife.

The bird was found pinned under a dead seal by Robert J. Galbraith and Jeff Gratto, two men walking the shoreline. The men thought it was dead too, until it blinked. They freed the bird, then contacted Hope for Wildlife, who arranged transport.

First, the bird was transported from the area near the Brier Island lighthouse across the island to Westport, then onto a ferry crossing the Grand Passage to Freeport.

It was then picked up by a Hope for Wildlife volunteer and driven another 15 minutes to Tiverton, where the turkey vulture went on its way for another ferry ride to Digby Neck.

“It’s probably the first turkey vulture that’s ever taken two ferries in its life,” Galbraith joked in an interview with CBC’s Maritime Noon.

After a brief layover in the town of Digby, it was a three-hour ride to Hope for Wildlife.

The bird looks like it will recover.

Galbraith is a long-time photojournalist who has covered the Oka crisis, the war in Afghanistan, and who does great nature photography too. Palmeter says he’s worked on Brier Island fishing lobster for the last five years.

6. SaltWire sells printing operation

Someone with a sense of humour uploaded this image of a “Natural Himalayan Salt Wire Mesh Basket Lamp” to represent SaltWire.

I cannot keep track of all the goings-on at SaltWire (though we’re going to have some fun at their expense in the “Noticed” section below). They seem to go all-in on printing presses, then start selling them? I have not followed closely.

Anyway, Brett Bundale, with the always-unenviable job of reporting on her employer, tells us that the company “has sold the Nova Scotia arm of its printing subsidiary, Bounty Print Ltd., to New Brunswick’s Taylor Printing Group Inc.”

SaltWire CEO Mark Lever tells Bundale, “We did a good job managing that (printing) business and turning it around when we bought it,” and I guess we’ll have to take his word for it. The company, he says, now wants to “focus… on our media business.”


Losses before the holidays

Young shirtless man on a log
My dad, Bernard Moscovitch, I believe back when he worked in a logging camp on Vancouver Island in the 1930s.

Today is the 10th anniversary of my father’s death. I didn’t think I would be particularly emotional about this, but I am feeling somewhat morose.

My dad had a good life and a good death. He had come to visit us in early December, and was fine. He was suffering from moderate dementia, but was well enough that he could travel alone. His mother had ended her days in a nursing home, and that was a fate that horrified him. He had a heart attack, lived long enough for my brother and I to get to Montreal and see him, and he got to be with his kids when he passed away, age 88. What could be better, really.

My mother is Greek, and she lives in a culture in which the death of a close family member is cause for public mourning, and puts any celebrations on hold. I never knew my maternal grandmother to wear anything other than black clothing (well, occasionally she’d wear something brown around the house) because she was in lifelong mourning for her son, who died from complications following a tree-cutting injury when I was just a few years old. After my father’s funeral (I think, the whole thing blurs in my memory) my mother said something like, “There won’t be any Christmas for you this year.” But we had kids between the ages of 10 and 16, we had extended family here, and we weren’t going to cancel Christmas. It actually seemed like a great opportunity to celebrate, bring us closer together, and remember my dad.

Grief and loss are complicated, and when they happen at this time of year it seems to add an extra layer of complexity. CBC this morning has a follow-up on the story of the funeral home that cremated the wrong body and how the family are suing.

Yvonne Colbert writes:

The statement of claim alleges that [Sandra] Bennett’s husband, Gary, and their son, Tim, were shocked when they went to a visitation on Dec. 27, 2017, at the Berwick Funeral Chapel and discovered it was not their wife and mother in the casket.

The lawsuit said funeral home director Ted McCreadie “repeatedly attempted to convince the plaintiffs that the casket contained the body of the late Sandra G.T. Bennett, but that the plaintiffs were too upset to recognize her.”

My dad had a couple of skin tags above his left eye, and when the funeral home workers prepared him for burial, they removed them. My daughter noticed it right away and said it felt wrong. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be looking at the wrong body and having a funeral director try to convince you that it is indeed your loved one.

Like so many things in life, grief and loss are cyclical. I hear a lot from people who feel pressure to be over it, to carry on, to celebrate the life of their loved one, and so on. But grief comes and goes. Every so often I still want to call my dad. Damn, I remember thinking, he would have loved knowing there was an NDP government in Alberta.

And our loved ones aren’t perfect. I learned things about my father that made me angry after he died, and that led to a complex stew of feelings. Meanwhile, because he passed away during the winter in Montreal, he couldn’t be buried until spring, and the idea that he was just sitting there in cold storage for months would haunt me. I am not a person who has nightmares, but this caused me to wake up in dread repeatedly.

So here I am sitting in my office, 10 years later, with my dad’s old briefcase behind me, boxes full of his papers piled on my floor, and a bunch of his books nearby. I still haven’t decided what to do with most of this stuff. And I thought I would be perfectly fine today. And I am mostly fine. But also kind of emotional.


Are you ready for SALT? No, not the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, or the Angelina Jolie movie, or even the little-known NFB documentary (fun fact: it features Amber Goodwyn, whose dad is Myles Goodwyn of April Wine fame).

No, this SALT is a new non-alt weekly brought to us from the folks at SaltWire. Yesterday, the Coast tweeted the image above, saying, “Daily paper’s parent co confirms weekly newspaper model is the best by announcing a weekly of its own.”

Let’s dive into this announcement.

What is the mission of SALT?

SALT gets you smarter, faster with the news and information that matters.

Is the sentence above properly punctuated? No, it is not.

All right. So who is SALT for?

Targets young, urban residents, ages 24 to 44, who are engaged in their community.

Anti-poverty advocates, climate justice advocates, that sort of thing? (Narrator: No.)

OK, now we get to the really good part. SALT’s raison d’être:

Sometimes stories are too long. Or too dense. We get it. We are sharing SALT with the simple intention that a dash of smart, efficient information keeps us curious. And analog is just nice sometimes. SALT mixes long (and short!) reads on with our own blend of weekly recaps to get you through the week-in-the-know. When starting a conversation, a little goes a long way.

As more than one person pointed out in this Twitter thread, the duelling messages here are: We want to appeal to young people, and young people are not too bright.

There’s more:

Every piece of content we produce will be broken down and narrated with a keen sense of the reader – summarized and concise for on-the-go up-and-comers.

It will also feature “interviews from anyone with a cool story to tell” and “hyper local east coast content.” Yes, hyper-local should have a hyphen (unless it is extremely active and excitable content) and east coast should probably be capitalized.

At least this doesn’t use the words “vibrant” or “world-class” anywhere. Points for that. (“A dash of” is good copywriting too.)

We’re off to a good start on the hyper-local front, at least when it comes to images. There are some very good photographers who work for SaltWire, so, silly me, I assumed some of their photos would be used in this announcement. The image below of the young woman caught my eye. At first I thought there was a pinball machine in the background, but then I realized I was mistaken, and she was standing in a tattoo shop. Oh, I wondered, which one? Well, there’s a name in the background: Tower Classic Tattooing. It’s a real place… in St. Louis, Missouri.

Young woman looking over her shoulder in a tattoo parlour.
“First tattoo.” Stock photo by Jordan Bauer from

The image is from, which offers free stock photography. (In case you’re wondering, Tower gets excellent Google reviews.)

The photo of buddy with the camera is from a digital marketing agency in Vegas. Also sourced from unsplash.

Man with camera taking photo in mirror
Photo: Digital marketing agency NeONBRAND

I couldn’t find the source of the top image, but I did learn that if you look up “jeans” on a stock photography site you get lots of images of women’s butts in tight pants.

Time will tell if Halifax’s on-the-go up-and-comers will embrace this new weekly. I’m guessing not, but who knows?

By the way, there is another paper called SALT Weekly. It’s out of Nashville, and it sounds very much in the alt-weekly camp (even though it doesn’t actually come out every week):

Exploit the cavernous niche vacated locally by those that are seeking more MOR (middle-of-the-road) BS (yep) fluff click-bait. Not afraid to throw punches but not petty (when to allow nom-de-plumes vis-a-vis nom-de-guerres when the casus belli IS the M.O.?). Tough question when you’re being asked to fork it over, but you really have to spoonfeed.

Combining critical with the satirical, visual and literary arts, reviews, write-ups, intelligent discourse.

We’re the salt in the uninformed wound, curing the dead meat, lining the sweet wet rim for your total palate pleasure.

It’s a different flavour of SALT, I guess.


No public meetings for the rest of the week.

On campus



Carol Sing (Thursday, 12pm, Sculpture Court, Dal Arts Centre) — with students of the Fountain School of Performing Arts. Christmas carols, Hanukkah songs, and other holiday favourites. Free light lunch.


No public events.

In the harbour

Midnight: Cabrera, bulker, arrives at Pier 28 from Saint John
05:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
05:30: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
15:30: Atlantic Sky sails for Liverpool, England
16:30: RHL Agilitas sails for Kingston, Jamaica


I hope today’s Morning File provided you with efficient information.

* This has been corrected to reflect that Pacrim is not the current operator of Digby Pines.

Philip Moscovitch is a freelance writer, audio producer, fiction writer, and editor of Write Magazine.

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    1. The turkey vulture was transported to Hope for Wildlife, which is on the Eastern Shore. I thought this was clear, but you’re the second person to read it this way, so maybe not.

  1. LMAO!!! The concept they describe as “Salt” is exactly the same as the Herald used to describe the Mayflower weekly supplement they published 40 years ago. History repeats itself.

  2. Northern Pulp will close. The premier made his mind up long ago.
    Why did the Premier spend so much time in China, that is where you will find the answer to the future of Pictou.

  3. The ploy is obvious isn’t it? The Minister of the Environment says more study (time) is needed for his decision. All the while knowing the deadline for Boat Harbour will force the company to close. Where is the blame on January 31 – not with the government of Nova Scotia (who need your vote remember?) – it’s with the company. Wasn’t that the plan?