On campus
In the harbour


1. Tariffs

“The United States Department of Commerce has upheld tariffs placed on American imports from Port Hawkesbury Paper,” reports Aaron Beswick of the Chronicle Herald:

In a decision released Wednesday evening, the department ruled that a $124.5-million aid package the province granted to Pacific West Commercial Corp. in exchange for restarting the Point Tupper mill in 2012 constituted a subsidy that resulted in harm to American mills. “(The countervailing duties) law provides U.S. business and workers with a transparent and internationally accepted mechanism to seek relief from the market-distorting effects caused by injurious subsidization of imports into the United States, establishing an opportunity to compete on a level playing field,” reads the ruling.

“Commerce determined that imports of supercalendered paper from Canada have received countervailable subsidies ranging from 17.87 per cent to 20.18 per cent.”

As well, the department upheld an earlier ruling that reduced power rates granted to the mill also constitute a subsidy.

The political class in Nova Scotia seems to think it operates in a vacuum, that decisions they make will not provoke responses from the rest of the world. Of course the US was going to contest the subsidies to the paper mill, just as the state of Maine was going to react to the subsidies by refusing to give financial support to the Yarmouth ferry.

There’s no easy answer to the collapse of the forest industry. Most of the big mill jobs are probably gone forever. There’s opportunity in the forests, but it involves added-value products and careful management of the forests over the long-term, not quick fixes like mill bailouts.

2. Winter operations manager

Photo: Jerry West via the CBC
Photo: Jerry West via the CBC

Bruce Zvaniga, the city’s Director of Transportation and Public Works, sent out the following email yesterday:

I am pleased to announce that Trevor Harvie has accepted the offer to become the Acting Superintendent, Winter Operations, Training and Compliance effective October 19, 2015. He will remain in this position throughout the entirety of the 2015/2016 winter season.

Trevor joined Halifax in 2009, bringing 16 years of experience in heavy construction, snow removal operations and contract management. Over the past six years, Trevor has worked in a supervisory capacity for Service Truck Operations, Litter Collection and Winter Operations in Halifax and Dartmouth. In the Spring of 2014, Trevor took on the role of Senior Works Supervisor overseeing a 24/7 operation of the capital district and the downtown core for all summer and winter operations.

Trevor currently represents TPW on the Special Events Advisory Committee and has managed several events on TPW’s behalf. Trevor has also represented TPW in the Municipal Coordination Centre during emergency and severe storm events.

Trevor moves into this role with a diverse background of experience which will contribute to the success of the program for the upcoming season.

“The success of the program,” eh? I think Zvaniga may have just jinxed it.

3. Prisoner vote

Imprisoned people are voting in record numbers, reports Metro:

As Elections Canada permits, prisoners at the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility had a chance to vote last Friday with about 75 per cent of the inmates taking the opportunity.

“It was a very high turnout which was good,” said Tim Caroll, superintendent of the facility.

He said the turnout is high and could be based on a number of variables.

Examiner contributor El Jones says there’s a significant Anyone But Conservative movement in the prisons: “I heard the committees have been active in informing people about the changes in the laws affecting incarcerated people under Harper and have been mobilizing the vote inside and encouraging each other to participate,” she writes.

4. Macdonald Bridge


If the weather cooperates, the first of 46 Macdonald Bridge deck sections to be replaced will be installed this weekend.

5. Whoops

Car crashes into building housing driver training offices.”


1. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

The Oct. 13 letter by Linda Weeks about the policy of the provincial SPCA on group housing and exercising of cats is disturbing. Before retiring a few years ago, I was involved in animal care and use for over 35 years. This experience included various animals used in research and teaching, also rescue dogs and cats.

I have visited the Truro SPCA and seen their standards. As part of their veterinary technician program, our students from Nova Scotia Agricultural College (now the Dalhousie agricultural campus) visited the shelter. The Truro SPCA has always appeared to be doing an excellent job with its limited resources.

If Linda Weeks’ story is complete, and I have no reason to doubt it, then the provincial SPCA seems to be operating from a code book that became out-of-date around 1980. Given certain important guidelines, group housing and exercising of cats has been proven safe and, in fact, better all around for the physical and mental health of cats. By the way, those guidelines do not include swabbing the decks with Javex before and after every excursion.

W. Bruce Ramsay, Truro



Community Planning and Economic Development Committee (9am, City Hall) — the committee will look at the Fort Needham Mast Plan proposal I discussed yesterday. People who live in the neighbourhood are organizing against the plan; yesterday I was forwarded an email Barbara Hart wrote to city council:

As a public park, the new plan impinges on the use of the area as a place for the steady stream of Haligonians who take time for recreation and seeks to make it a tourist attraction. Unless one already lives in Halifax or is a history aficionado, it is unlikely that one would be aware of the event and make the pilgrimage to the park. It seems unwise to prepare for large numbers of tourists over a long time span when the local reality is that new condo and apartment towers are under construction and residents will need this park. 

The initial budget is $7.9 million dollars. None of that is allocated for new ice surfaces on Devonshire, which appears on the plan but not on the list of deliverables. 

How will expense be recouped? There is nowhere in the plan for tourists to spend money. The cost of staffing an interpretation centre and maintaining a pavilion will outweigh sales of Halifax Explosion hats and t-shirts.

Tax dollars are to be spent principally on ripping out grass and tree and inserting concrete. This hill park is glacial drumlin. A drumlin is a heap of stones covered with a thin layer of soil, unstable, and riddled with natural springs that appear in different places during different years. The idea that poured concrete will look good for more than a year or two is unlikely as soil erosion is continual. Expect high maintenance costs. 

The final version of the master plan is not the same as earlier versions. It doesn’t match feedback from the surveys. When the planners claim they sought input, they did. They just did not use it. 

Why does the surrounding community love the Hidden Gem of Halifax? There are tennis courts without waiting lines, hidden enough for beginners and parents teaching their children to have a quiet spot to practice. In earlier versions, they would be improved. Now, they will be removed. 

Caring parents watch youngsters practice football, baseball, and soccer. In earlier versions, the field was intact. Now, the Halifax Football field house is off the map and the field is shortened. Instead of a fence to protect passersby from foul balls and keep the players from continually losing balls down the slope to Novalea, all fencing is removed. There is a concrete esplanade at the top of the slope, instead. 

Daily double lines of youngsters cross the park, safe on the path, guided from daycare to the recreation center. It is one of the most charming sights in the park. Sometimes they stop in the new play area. That will end as the play area will be a Park Pavilion and the community centre will be the Explosion Interpretive Centre and the Tower of Resilience. A ‘nature play’ area is planned. The plan does not say how long the children will wait during the two-year plan to have a slide and a swing again. 

The plan expects to maximize views. The idea late as the recent expansion of the Irving Shipyard has effectively blocked the view of the explosion’s harbour location from the park. There is a view of white factories. Perhaps the plan will simply deforest the hill, despite the lack of view. Deforesting could be silently accomplished by managing ‘storm water’, also on the master plan. Past park projects piped more and more of the water flowing from natural springs in the earth into the storm drains and hence into the harbour. The groundwater level dropped, the trees died and were removed. It gets difficult for wildlife, mainly songbirds, to find places to drink water inside the park. The water there is a precious resource. Why do the planners think it is storm water? Why is it dumped in the harbour? Why increase this waste?

Birdwatchers come to see the song sparrows, hairy and downy woodpeckers, and migrant robins and warblers. Eagles fly overhead. Merlins hunt for pigeons. After windy storms, accidental ravens and harrier hawks seek shelter, mobbed by local crows. The plan puts numerous paths through the small forested area, disrupting the quiet that wildlife must have to thrive. These paths will be very difficult to build, impassible half the year, and costly to maintain on the steep slope. The two-year construction plan with resultant lack of peace and privacy might effectively end nesting cycles forever for some species. 

Dogs play in designated areas. Every day of the year, in all weathers, the dog owners bring pets for fresh air and exercise. The year-round area is near the Memorial tower. The seasonal area is the sports field, from November to May. Every day, dozens of family pets from the surrounding homes have a much-needed break to run and play with dogs they know while their owners socialize and build a community. The Fort Needham Dogs Facebook page has 186 members. They are a fraction of the total of pet owners who daily use this hill. That fraction have organized and performed park cleanups to remove trash to benefit all park users. The coming and going of owners and pets gives safety to the other park users, who might be too alone on this hidden hill. The former proposed plans kept the off-leash intact. On the final master plan, it is gone. Simply disappeared with no reason given. The year-round off leash area is covered in concrete in the plan. Until October 1, the off leash area was included. This is bait-and-switch at its worst. The number of local pet owners will increase as the apartment and condo buildings are completed. Where will the dogs play? What will become of the community formed by the owners? Why sacrifice it for tourists, here for a day? 

Where is the money coming from for this monster plan to smash the hidden gem of Halifax? Will funding for infrastructure, police and fire services, snow clearing, or school programs be cut? Consider that it is not only the cost of installation but also the cost of maintenance. This will be a money pit for years to come. Are we willing to pay and pay? There is little need to increase access for tourists in winter. The wind howls across the hill, unrestrained, as there is no barrier on any side for a windbreak. Only the pet owners are there, in windproof clothing.

This Master Plan should be not final. The planners have ignored the needs of the community and seem to overlook local needs for the hope of tourism. It should not be done. The Halifax Explosion was a horror and a disaster. It was an industrial accident, destroying homes and lives and bringing great hardship. We remember, we have a memorial and a ceremony. Why must we glorify it by destroying the park that is dedicated to this sad event? Can we never look away from the wreckage and lift our faces to the future? 

The city of Halifax has solemn sites for the dead from the old city, the dead of the Titanic, and the immigrants. The city has military sites and memorials at the Citadel and at York Redoubt, with numerous small memorials at the waterfront. The original planners who decades ago made the existing memorial filled the mandate of remembering their dead, who we the living do not recall due to the passage of time. Could Fort Needham be a monument to the living?

Please do not fund this project. Once damaged, the gem may not recover. The community who uses this park is happy with its natural state. Please do not fund the smashing of the hidden gem of Halifax.

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (4pm, City Hall) — nothing new is on the agenda.

Community Facility Master Plan Information Meeting (6:30pm, Acadia Hall, Sackville) — more info here.


Standing Committee on Resources (9am, One Government Place) — Will Martin, chair of the Community Forest Pilot Project, will be questioned.

On campus


Information Showdown (12:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room) — Tom Henheffer, Executive Director, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, will speak:

Journalists are under siege. Once objective purveyors of information, they’re now targeted and attacked by insurgent groups around the world. At the same time, authoritarian governments are using security as an excuse to crack down on press freedom and arrest journalists simply for doing their jobs. Even in developed democracies secrecy has become endemic in government, and a lack of financial resources and the changing media landscape has left the job of journalism more challenging than ever. This talk will examine strategies governments and other power players use to quash journalistic inquiry, and the stories of journalists struggling for press freedom around the world and in our own backyard. 

Thesis defence, Psychology (2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Ainsley Boudreau will defend her thesis, “Peer-Mediated Pivotal response Treatment for School-Aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.”

Environmental Racism (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Ingrid Waldron will speak.


KIC8462852 and its companion star.
KIC8 462852 and its companion star.

There are hundreds of millions of stars in our galaxy. As part of the search for exoplanets (planets circling other stars), the Kepler Space Telescope collected data from about 150,000 of those stars. Researchers, primarily non-scientists working on their home computers, examine the tiny fluctuations in light emitted by the stars for evidence of planets passing in front of the star. It’s a really exciting field, and thousands of planets have been discovered — 1,642 confirmed planets, out of a possible 5,429 suspected planets, as of this morning. More are added almost daily.

But in all that data, there is one star, a star called KIC 8462852, that does something weird. Writes Ross Anderson in The Atlantic:

In 2011, several citizen scientists flagged one particular star as “interesting” and “bizarre.” The star was emitting a light pattern that looked stranger than any of the others Kepler was watching.

The light pattern suggests there is a big mess of matter circling the star, in tight formation. That would be expected if the star were young. When our solar system first formed, four and a half billion years ago, a messy disk of dust and debris surrounded the sun, before gravity organized it into planets, and rings of rock and ice.

But this unusual star isn’t young. If it were young, it would be surrounded by dust that would give off extra infrared light. There doesn’t seem to be an excess of infrared light around this star.

It appears to be mature.  

And yet, there is this mess of objects circling it. A mess big enough to block a substantial number of photons that would have otherwise beamed into the tube of the Kepler Space Telescope. If blind nature deposited this mess around the star, it must have done so recently. Otherwise, it would be gone by now. Gravity would have consolidated it, or it would have been sucked into the star and swallowed, after a brief fiery splash.

Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoc at Yale, wrote a paper about the star, examining several possible explanations for KIC 8462852’s behaviour, but ultimately coming up empty in terms of likely natural explanations. Continues Anderson:

When I spoke to Boyajian on the phone, she explained that her recent paper only reviews “natural” scenarios. “But,” she said, there were “other scenarios” she was considering.

Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.

This is no longer science fiction or fringe science. Wright and other astronomers are working to get a radio telescope pointed at KIC 8462852, and if the data hold up they will then book time on Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, which will be able to tell whether the radiation coming from the star is natural or comes from “a technological source” — that is, somebody out there doing something like we humans do. Says Anderson:

Assuming all goes well, the first observation would take place in January, with the follow-up coming next fall. If things go really well, the follow-up could happen sooner. “If we saw something exciting, we could ask the director for special allotted time on the VLA,” Wright told me. “And in that case, we’d be asking to go on right away.”

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:40am Thursday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:40am Thursday. Map:

CSAV Rio Grey, car carrier, Emden, Germany to Autoport

The cruise ships Saga Sapphire (arrived around midnight, up to 1,158 passengers), Regatta (up to 650 passengers), Liberty of the Seas (up to 3,634 passengers), and Veendam (up to 1,350 passengers) are in port today.


An earlier design of the Nova Centre. I use this rendering because it really annoys people.
An earlier design of the Nova Centre. I use this rendering because it so annoys people.
An earlier design of the Nova Centre. I use this rendering because it so annoys people.

Neither here nor there, but I walked by the Nova Centre the other day and noticed that construction seems to be progressing more or less on (the delayed) schedule. The buildings are supposed to open in about a year, but still no tenants have been announced. I guess with the lure of a brand new building and discounted rents, developer Joe Ramia can always poach existing tenants from other downtown buildings, but shuffling office space around downtown doesn’t really generate any additional economic activity. My guess: Nova Scotia Business Inc. will offer a ridiculously outrageous super-payroll rebate deal to some tax-avoidance offshore hedge fund to put back end offices in the building. Then we’ll all be rich.

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

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  1. Kudos to W. Bruce Ramsay for speaking up for the cats.

    Who thought that caging them was a good idea? I thought that the SPCA stood for the prevention of cruelty to animals. Guess not.

  2. My dog and I visit the city 5 or 6 times a year. While there we walk up to the park at least twice a day and it is wonderful. So of course the powers that be are going to mess with it. That they can’t just sell it to the lowest bidder must be really annoying.

    As Tim often says, we can afford what we want, so who asked for this? And where will they park?

  3. KUDOS to Barbara Hart for her long but eloquent defense of Fort Needham against opportunist community destroyers.


    Corollary to the avoidance of wasted millions for no useful purpose, one should remember HISTORIC BUILDINGS, spawned by the Explosion, which are being destroyed one after the other for lack of imagination and pressure from in-the-back-pocket of HRM «developers» more correctly termed LAND SPECULATORS whose ONLY interest is the uglification and destruction of the city to fatten their already overstuffed wallets.

    UNITED MEMORIAL CHURCH has a unique set of historical firsts (easily discovered with a Google search) and is in danger of becoming (along with Spirit Place) the next victim of unbridled opportunist greed. This architecturally significant part of the Explosion Reconstruction is in very good condition and is a prime candidate for re-purposing as an acoustically-excellent Concert Hall, with ACRES of additional ACCESSIBLE space to serve as a Community Centre and other worthwhile PUBLIC uses.

    Loss of this community resource (worth, as a good-condition standing building, in excess of TEN MILLION DOLLARS) would be just one more thoughtless cave-in to a Halifax becoming more and more UN-liveable, and increasingly ugly and bereft of cultural resources.

  4. What is important to keep in mind about KIC 8462852 is that it’s almost 1500 light years away, so whatever were seeing now, actually occurred around 500AD. Even if there is some advanced civilization out there watching us, they’re only seeing us at the time of the end of the Roman Empire, and the height of the great Mayan civilization