1. Cod

Gulf of St. Lawrence

“DFO has issued a stark warning linking the demise of codfish in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to an exploding seal population,” reports Paul Withers for the CBC:

It’s contained in the most recent stock assessment of Atlantic cod in the southern gulf, which was released earlier this month.

“At the current abundance of grey seals in this ecosystem, recovery of this cod population does not appear to be possible, and its extinction is highly probable,” the report states.

I’m not buying the “blame the seals” argument. Obviously, the seals are eating cod, but that’s a simplistic understanding of the ecosystem. Linda Pannozzo provided a much more nuanced explanation back in 2012, in “Sealfall, licence to cull,” an article she wrote for The Coast:

According to Dal’s cod expert, Jeff Hutchings, it is possible that grey seals are contributing to the high natural mortality of cod in the southern Gulf, but, he stresses, “that says nothing about what you do about it.” He explains: “This is only happening because of what we did. We’re at fault for making cod an endangered species. We’re at fault for reducing these populations to levels where they appear to be unable to sustain the natural mortality levels that they’re currently experiencing.”

Hutchings says the ecosystem is complex with many species interacting, not just seals and cod, so there’s no way to predict the outcome of a cull.

“I don’t think any scientist with any integrity would want to make that kind of forecast,” he says. “If you remove grey seals, then other things that grey seals consume, like herring and mackerel might increase and they consume cod eggs, and young cod,” he says. “You remove one predator [of cod] but you might increase the abundance of two others.”

Hutchings points to the common misperception that a predator can only affect its prey negatively — essentially by eating it. But studies show that when you factor in everything else that grey seals eat — including predators of young cod and fish they compete with —they may be having an overall positive impact.

2. Selling Cape Breton

A Tree Walk.

People: Mary Campbell is a treasure.

Yesterday, Campbell published an article, “Seeing the Forest from the Trees,” that is just eight different ways of wonderful.

The article concerns the sale of 162 hectares of land at Ski Cape Smokey to “Czech-born, New York-based developer Joseph Balaz (né Josef Baláž).” It’s helpful that Campbell lived in the Czech Republic for many years.

Campbell starts with what has become a depressingly regular story: the entire deal is clouded in secrecy, and the Department of Business refuses to make public the sales agreement for the property. And Campbell unearths a number of choice quotes from Balaz about the importance of secrecy to him and his clients:

His bio on the website of the American Friends of the Czech Republic, of which he is a director, states:

JBA does not advertise in any form and intentionally maintains a low profile in the industry.  For new projects the firm relies solely on exclusive private introductions.

(I presume some academic has already looked into the startling similarities between Communist-style information control and corporate-style information control, but if not, someone really should.)

But things start going into somewhat new bizarre territory when Campbell reveals Balaz’s plans for the property:

But the developer also plans to build a “Tree Walk” — a form of tourist attraction that doesn’t seem designed to attract rock stars and titans of industry. And one that seems to have blossomed and multiplied in the Czech Republic (CR) since I left in 2010. The picture used to illustrate Balaz’s concept was of a tree walk in Lipno-nad-Vltavo in the CR’s (lovely) Šumava region:

You’ll have to read Campbell’s post in its entirety to get the full low-down on Tree Walks, but I especially like this part:

And while both [Czech Tree Walks] are much higher than Cape Smokey (skiable elevation: 305 meters), they suffer by comparison to the nearby Alps. I remember from my time in the Czech Republic that my serious skiing and snowboarding friends would go to a Czech or Slovak resort for a weekend, but for an actual ski vacation, they almost inevitably ended up in Austria or France.

It’s a drawback the Czechs turned into a feature, as illustrated by this 2012 Guardian article about skiing in the CR:

The Czech Republic is probably better known for the thousands of ornamental plastic gnomes it produces each year than for its ski resorts. But nowhere looks after shocking skiers and very poorly dressed tourists better than the Czechs. More often than not “relentlessly incompetent” skiers such as the mayor of London, and myself, are ignored by the mainstream ski destinations. The opposite is the case in the republic, which, as one of its winter activities brochures proudly proclaims, “offers numerous ravishing sceneries” where “you can enjoy the nature while struggling to ski”. It openly vaunts itself as the ideal place for “not very capable skiers”, and is also something of a bargain.

This is one of the things I love about Czechs, they don’t claim even their highest mountains are “world class” ski destinations. Compare that to Cape Breton, where supposedly hard-nosed businessmen slap that label on the 154-meter Ben Eoin ski hill. (Sadly, as you will see later, Balaz has developed a liking for the phrase “world class.” I guess that’s what happens when you leave the CR as a student.)

[Self-referential interruption: What is it about “world-class” in Nova Scotia?]

But you’ve gotta stick around for the full-on hilarity, complete with long quotes and Campbell’s footnotes:

Once I’ve found someone to undertake that study of Communist vs Corporate information control, my next goal will be to encourage some anthropologist or sociologist to study the incredible effect Cape Breton scenery has on successful businessmen.

Remember the way Green Cove turned packaging magnate Tony Trigiani’s head? Remember what he wrote to Cape Breton Highlands National Park Superintendent Helene Robichaud after he’d visited the site with the general manager of his company? …

I thought it was just Trigiani, but listen to Balaz on the subject of Red Head Peninsula:

Red Head Peninsula… a magical place within the boundaries of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. After more than a decade of looking all over the US and Canada for that one special site, a property that would mirror my dreams and images, I literally stumbled onto it. What initiated this quest was a desire to find beauty, wilderness, comfort and privacy that would lend itself to year-round escapism in a four-season climate. It was important for me that the property should offer respite from the clamor of the daily world and yet be located in a safe, sophisticated area with world-class golf and cuisine a mere 15 minutes away.

Finally, my search led me here and I venture to assert that there is no better coastal property in this part of the world. I fell in love with it straight away – it met all my practical requirements, but just as importantly, it is unbelievably beautiful. It is also a genuine privilege to carry on the stewardship of four generations of the leading local family who received the property as a grant from Queen Victoria in the 1800s.

I can think of no better way to describe this land than to cite the words of Tom Childs (an artist, traveler, philosopher, businessman and real estate specialist), who introduced me to Red Head:

“Having trodden a good proportion of the 204 (+/-) acres for which Red Head provides its name, I am keenly aware of just how unusual and frankly ‘one-of a- kind’ this property truly is. The extraordinarily majestic 150-feet-high cliffs along the entire eastern and southern sides of this property are each about a kilometer long, with the Atlantic shoreline of about the same distance, and dominate any views of the land from the sea and across Ingonish Bay. Once on the property, the views are empyrean! To the south is Cape Smokey, with its multitude of moods from glowering to stormy to calmly majestic. The beaches below the cliffs, one of which is exclusively part of this property, are sandy and secluded, the rocky headland providing a natural 20-foot barrier to incursions from beyond the property.”

See? Two wealthy men who have made their fortunes doing practical things — one designing wrapping for chicken, one building houses for titans — reduced to florid nonsense by the Cape Breton coastline.

It’s a phenomenon worthy of study, I tell you.

Click here to read “Seeing the Forest from the Trees.”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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3. Cabot Links Airport

“According to Infrastructure Canada it was the province that wanted an airport in Inverness and then didn’t include enough information in its proposal,” reports Aaron Beswick for the Chronicle Herald:

“(Infrastructure Canada) was aware of the province’s interest in receiving funding for the project, and asked the province to submit a formal business case that could be evaluated against the terms and conditions of the funding stream,” reads a written response to The Chronicle Herald received Wednesday from the department.

“Ultimately, as announced by (Rural and Economic Development) Minister (Bernadette) Jordan, it was determined that there was not enough information from the province to demonstrate how the Inverness airport project would respond to Cape Breton’s needs.”

But according to the province, an $18 million taxpayer-funded airport long sought by a privately owned golf course was Ottawa’s idea.

“The federal government requested that we submit this project for consideration,” reads a response to Infrastructure Canada’s assertion by premier’s office spokesman David Jackson on Wednesday.

“Airports are a federal responsibility…”

4. Public money for the Irvings

Irving Shipyard in Halifax. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“An Irving-owned company is off the hook on repaying the balance owed on two multimillion-dollar federal loans it received to open a drywall plant in Saint John, N.B.,” reports Kevin Bissett for the Canadian Press:

The two conditionally repayable loans, totalling $7.4 million, were issued in 2011 and 2012 under an Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency program aimed at offsetting the impact of the closing of the Irving-owned Saint John shipyard.

According to a government memo dated March 27, Atlantic Wallboard LP, a subsidiary of East Coast business giant J.D. Irving Ltd., met its obligations under the terms of the loan agreement.

In total, Atlantic Wallboard got more than $40 million in funding from ACOA under the shipyard redevelopment fund, but the company was not required to repay at least $35 million.

There’s always public money for multibillionaires, but we can’t afford [insert your favourite government program here].

5. Abdilahi Elmi

Abdilahi Elmi
Abdilahi Elmi

“‘It is a violation of international law to deport someone in circumstance like Mr. Elmi’s,’ [lawyer Benjamin] Perryman said in a phone interview Tuesday, the same day Elmi’s supporters were rallying outside the office of Halifax Liberal MP Andy Fillmore,” reports Taryn Grant for Star Halifax:

Perryman referred to a third case of a former Somali child refugee who was a long-term resident of Canada and, like Elmi and Abdi, built up a criminal record before any attempts were made to secure his citizenship.

Jama Warsame took his case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2010 and the committee instructed against his removal. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper ignored that order and Warsame was deported.

“Canada should not be in the business of violating international law. Canada is supposed to be a leader in international law and the current government I think needs to stake itself out as a champion of international law, unlike its predecessors.”

6. Gold mines

“A standing-room only crowd of over 150 people crammed into the Sherbrooke Lions Hall for a meeting organized by the St. Mary’s River Association and concerned members of the community,” reports Rob Wolf for the Guysborough Journal:

The meeting was organized to discuss plans for the Cochrane Hill gold mine proposed by St Barbara, the Australian company that recently acquired Atlantic Gold. A number of speakers detailed their concerns about placing the mine near the environmentally sensitive St. Mary’s River and its surrounding watershed.

While there were few answers about how the mine might impact the landscape and fish habitat in the St. Mary’s River watershed, there were plenty of questions raised as to how to best mitigate the potential risks that open pit gold mining and a huge tailings pond would present to the river.

Mosquodoboit native and Provincial NDP Leader Gary Burrill was on hand, noting that he had first-hand experience when still a United Church Minister and then MLA in the area, with how mining has impacted the wildlife, fish and waterways of his community. He encouraged attendees to direct their concerns to Premier MacNeil and continue to push for more and better answers. Burrill said, “In some ways Sherbrooke has more to lose than Mosquodoboit did. There, it was a case of a dying community receiving a boost. The future of Sherbrooke is vibrant and the St. Mary’s River is central to its health and vitality going forward.”

7. HCMS Toronto

HMCS Toronto. Photo: Government of Canada

Yesterday evening, several readers were sending me messages about a fire aboard the MCMS Toronto, but I was recovering from an exhausting planning meeting (i.e., I was drinking), so besides having a look-see from the bus on the bridge on the way home, I didn’t do the kind of independent reporting that Anjuli Patil did for the CBC:

No one was injured in a fire aboard HMCS Toronto on Wednesday evening in Halifax.

The fire was reported on the starboard funnel of the warship around 6:50 p.m. local time.

According to Maritime Forces Atlantic, the ship’s company immediately attempted to put out the fire and the CFB Halifax Fire Department was called as well.

The fire is the second within a year aboard HMCS Toronto following another in October 2018.

8. George Canyon

YouTube video

“One of Nova Scotia’s best-known country music stars is walking on to the political stage,” reports Stephanie Levitz  for the Canadian Press:

George Canyon has announced he’s running as a Conservative candidate in the riding of Central Nova in the upcoming federal election.

When Sheldon MacLeod told me yesterday that Canyon was running, I asked first of all, “Who is George Canyon?” and when MacLeod told me Canyon is a country musician, I asked a second question: “Is it cowboy music or Jesus and family music?”

MacLeod told me that Canyon wears a cowboy hat, which didn’t really answer my question, so I spent a bit of time this morning watching YouTube videos of Canyon.

The good news is that Canyon isn’t producing that dog-awful “I’m a real man and love my truck and my momma and Jesus too” shit so typical of corporate country music today.

Unfortunately, neither is Canyon a potential headliner at an alt country festival, nor a cowboy poet. He’s no Guy Clark.

It’s more like, “I’ll sing about love and loss and such, not in any profound or moving way, but maybe the lines will rhyme so there’s that.”

I’m not saying Canyon is bad. I’m just saying he ain’t landing on my Spotify playlist.

I have no idea what his politics are.

This ends my career in music criticism.


No public meetings this week.

On campus



Thesis Defence, Computer Science (Thursday, 1:30pm, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Sima Sharifirad will defend “NLP and Machine Learning Techniques ​to Detect Online Harassment on Social Networking Platforms.”

Thesis Defence, Interdisciplinary PhD Program (Thursday, 2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Crystal Sweeney will defend “Investigation of Carcinogenic Pesticide-Associated N-Nitroso Compounds in Human Serum and Urine in Prince Edward Island.​”

In the harbour

East Coast. Photo: Halifax Examiner

02:30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
06:00: Pictor J, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
06:00: Tombarra, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 27
06:00: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
11:00: FP Wakaba, wood chips carrier, arrives at Sheet Harbour from Foynes, Ireland
11:30: Pictor J sails for Portland
11:30: Tombarra sails for sea
13:30: East Coast sails for sea
21:30: Jennifer Schepers sails for Kingston, Jamaica
22:00: Asian Moon, container ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea


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

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  1. George Canyon wants to be a conservative party candidate because he has a history of singing below average country music songs while wearing a cowboy hat? I don’t think that qualifies him to comprehend legislation, community development or economics. But I’m quite sure his songs and hat are more than enough for the Conservative Party of Nova Scotia.

    1. I’d say he is as qualified as anyone else elected or trying to get elected. Is there actually a test you have to pass iot run for office?

  2. The feds and the province are getting lobbied by a company that wants money to build an airport. The feds are responsible for airports but don’t want to say no directly. They ask the province to send info on the benefits of the airport. The province sends skimpy information, the feds say it is inadequate, and deny the request.

    This is how bureaucracy works. Now the province can blame the feds and the feds can blame the province.