1. No 2017 patio season for Argyle Street

Wednesday morning, I saw that the city had posted a tender for the “streetscaping” of Argyle and Grafton Streets, but they wanted 150 bucks to view the thing, and I decided to instead spend the money on beer. Thankfully, the CBC has deep pockets and followed through on the tender:

Halifax won’t issue patio permits for a busy part of the downtown bar district this summer while construction crews revamp the streetscape


Crews will lower the sidewalks to street level and put in paving stones to mark the sidewalk from the street. The municipality is considering construction tenders now and expects to start work on June 1 and finish in late September.

This is all being done in preparation of the opening of the Nova Centre, supposedly on January 1 (but I’m hearing rumours of yet another construction delay). The city published this YouTube vid of the streetscaping project:

YouTube video

Here’s what I learned from the video:

• no one will care about climate change, and we’ll allow outside patio burners blowing so hot that people can sit outside in short sleeves

• trees can grow straight out of concrete with only about six inches of dirt allowed for watering and root balls

• no Black people will visit downtown

• all the parking meters will be removed except for (weirdly) three pairs of meters, one in front of the Neptune Theatre and two on Grafton Street across from Freeman’s

2. $500 million is now $219 million

Speaking of the Nova Centre… I’m old and forget things and sometimes remember them wrong, so I spent a bit of time this morning googling around to see if I remembered right that the Nova Centre was purported to be a $500 million project.

It turns out, those particular synapses haven’t yet burned out, and I was right: The Halifax Convention Centre calls it a $500 million project. The Chronicle Herald called it a $500 million project. Joe Ramia’s unofficial publicist Roger Taylor calls it a $500 million project. The Globe & Mail calls it a $500 million project.

Seems like the only one not calling it a $500 million project is EllisDon, the contractor building the Nova Centre, which calls it a $219 million project.

Funny, that.

There are no doubt non-construction costs for architectural services, government fees and so forth, but $281 million worth?

Considering that the various governments are paying $161 million into the project for the convention centre, this is looking like a sweetheart deal for developer Joe Ramia.

3. Prince as the “Dionysian Christian”

“Eli Diamond was seven years old when he bought his first Prince and the Revolution album,” writes Chris Lambie:

It was Purple Rain.

“And then I bought every single subsequent Prince album on the day it came out. So I’m a bit of a Prince geek,” Diamond, an associate professor of ancient philosophy in Dalhousie University’s Classics Department, told more than 100 students Wednesday night at the University of King’s College.

Dressed in purple academic robes, Diamond schooled the King’s Foundation Year Program audience — many of whom were still in diapers when Prince was partying like it was 1999 — on the musician, songwriter, lyricist, and cultural icon.

Click here to read “Prince as the ‘Dionysian Christian.’”

Enjoy the pleasure of reading this article with a paid subscription to the Examiner.

(That rewording of the throw to the subscription page comes via Evelyn White, who suggested “flipping the message.”)

4. Flight 624

“Airbus’s negligence contributed to a crash landing at Halifax Stanfield International Airport two years ago, Air Canada claims in a lawsuit against the French aircraft manufacturer,” reports Aly Thomson for the Canadian Press:

In a statement of claim filed in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Air Canada (TSX:AC) said Airbus SAS failed to identify shortcomings of the Airbus 320.

The document said it did not advise that in certain conditions, the plane’s flight path angle could be affected by external forces.

It also claims Airbus failed to incorporate a warning system to alert pilots to a deviation from the planned flight path angle.

5. Experts

In another CP article, Aly Thomson, perhaps channelling Parker Donham, wanted to write about the number of snow days called by local school boards. Thomson evidently uses the one size-fits-all Rolodex of experts that’s for sale at Lazy Reporters R Us, and so called up self-styled “education expert” Paul W. Bennett:

He said research shows that more than five lost days per school year is detrimental to student performance.

“We have evidence from Massachusetts that it affects math scores significantly,” said Bennett, citing a report from Harvard public policy professor Joshua Goodman.

He said Goodman’s research was based on up to five lost days, and the professor was shocked to hear from Bennett that Nova Scotia schools regularly meet or exceed that number.

“Nobody understands how extensive it is here,” said Bennett.

Problem is, Goodman was having none of it:

In an op-ed in Local Xpress, Grant Frost has more.

I’m more curious about how certain people get on the Rolodex. Paul Bennett is one; Kevin Lacey is another. It seems one trick is simply to name your organization correctly — Bennet runs something he calls Schoolhouse Consulting, while Lacey is employed by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Does either organization have any legitimacy? Do they represent anyone at all besides the organization itself? Those are the kinds of questions that reporters should ask before calling up an “expert.”


1. No 4. Engine House

Peter Ziobrowski follows the 1905 construction of the old No. 4 fire station on Bedford Row. I found this part interesting:

The proposed construction material — concrete block — was also addressed. It was initially thought that brick would be cheaper, and a petition against the use of concrete was received from the bricklayers’ union. Concrete block was a modern material and felt to be unproven, and was considered to be a cheaper material then stone (though concrete block was in wide use in cities west of Halifax). The blocks were proposed to be made by city labour, and laid by union masons.

In the end, Council accepted the tender of Edward Maxwell at a cost of $17,764 for a brick building with concrete trimmings. The building was complete by May 1906, and the final payment was released to the contractor.

2. Partisanship

Graham Steele writes a final column for the CBC, lamenting partisanship.

Steele has contributed to the civic education in Nova Scotia, and his columns have often provided important insights into what is going on in the legislature and premier’s office.

I gotta say, though, I’m not buying this disdain for partisanship.

Yes, party politics in Nova Scotia can be remarkably childish. I’ve seen party workers, who are otherwise intelligent people with broad views of the world and humanity, reduce themselves to unthinking foot soldiers for their party when discussing other parties. It’s annoying.

But no amount of hand-waving can make that go away. We can’t just say, “oh, let’s leave party politics behind and follow the Ivany report recommendations” because the Ivany report recommendations will have to be interpreted, and that will inevitably lead to differing opinions, which will lead back to … partisanship.

Before he started his CBC columns, Steele wrote an op-ed piece for the Chronicle Herald that called for a “unity government.” I commented at the time:

I joke that we’re all supposed to drink multiple shots of Jagermeister every time someone says “Ivany report” because the report is held up to support whatever political viewpoint any politician or commentator has, even if those viewpoints contradict each other. For example, Bill Black today makes a head nod to the Ivany report to support fracking, which it doesn’t.

This is the problem with Steele’s call for a unity government: What are we supposed to be unifying about? Steele says simply that “The Ivany report would, in its entirety, become a ‘unity platform’ for the peacetime coalition. It would anchor the government’s public-policy agenda.” But who gets to define what the Ivany report says? Bill Black says it supports fracking, I say it doesn’t — who decides? A while ago someone suggested that I interview each of the Ivany report’s authors separately and ask them specific policy questions and document how they disagree with each other. I think that’s a good idea, but probably they’ll refuse to answer direct questions about policy. It’s open to, ya know, interpretation.

In practice, a unity government means whoever wins the rhetorical battle to define what the shared purpose is gets to dictate what happens, and the rest of us are supposed to sit in the corner and shut up.

Today, Steele takes the focus off politicians and puts it on citizens:

Effective citizens — engaged, knowledgeable and persistent — are, when united in common cause, the most powerful political force that ever was.

I agree that an informed and engaged citizenry is important (although I note that Steele has said that demonstrations outside Province House are useless…), but we’re back to this “united in common cause” thing. Here’s the thing: people disagree about stuff. The citizenry will never be “united” unless you have a dictatorship forcing them to be united. The whole point of the democratic system and the resulting partisanship is to have one section of the disagreeing public prevail over another section of the disagreeing public, for a while at least. “Continued muddling through,” which both the Ivany Report and Steele decry, is a hell of a lot better than the alternative, which is forced compliance to one group’s dictates.

Yes, we can ask for a more worldly (and importantly: forgiving) view among politicians, party workers, citizens, and even reporters, but let’s not turn our backs on partisanship: it’s the only thing that keeps us from blowing the place up.

That aside, Steele has been an important and needed voice, and I’ll miss his CBC columns.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

We often take our little dog, complete with a poop bag, to Peakes Quay.

And on Sunday we were disgusted with all the poop that people can’t be bothered to clean up.

Come on people, love your dogs but clean up their mess so that we can all enjoy this lovely city.

Doreen Cook, Charlottetown


No public meetings.

On campus



Spider Silk (1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Jan K. Rainey will speak on “Unraveling the Nanoscale Basis of Spider Wrapping Silk Toughness.”

Accents (3:30pm, Windsor Foundation Room, CHEB 170) — Michael Kiefte and Bonita Squires will speak on “Accent and Communication: The Speech-Language Pathologist’s Perspective.”

Cold War Matsu: Three Time-Spaces and a Fisherman (3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Song-Chuan Chen of Nanyang Technological University will speak.

Research Presentations (4pm, 3H, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Day 2 of this year’s research presentations from the honours students of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

In the harbour

3:30am: ZIM Alabama, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
7:20am: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
11:30am: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
11:30am: Zenith Leader, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
3:30pm: Triton Leader, car carrier, arrives at berth TBD from Zeebrugge, Belgium
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre



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

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  1. As an education prof at the Mount, I am very disheartened that media and politics seem to be forgetting that we have three fully staffed schools of education that could be called upon for any matters regarding education… but no, the Freeman Commission was free of academics, the more recent commission of classroom conditions did not call on us, and so the list goes on… we are researchers in the field and paid partly by public money, so we would be happy if people drew on our expertise. That’s what we are here for…

    1. Connie makes a point that I agree with. NS seems to completely ignore its Faculties of Education and its researchers in ways I’ve not seen in other provinces….that goes to commissions, curriculum development & revision groups, advisory committees, workshop provision and on and on. The NS taxpayer pay our salaries but the formal structures of education in the province typically ignore us and don’t utilize our expertise….in point of fact they often dismiss it.

  2. Erica Butler, read the Twitter exchange between Paul Bennett a d Joshua Goodman. His study (which is full of holes by the way) deals with board that have ~5 snow days. It has no application to boards that have 19 snow days, like CBVRSB. That situation is more like an absence, which Goodman’s non-peer-reviewed paper clearly shows does harm learning outcomes. Bennett is correct, you and Linda Ponnozzo are incorrect.

    On a wider point, it is so tiresome the way Halifax lefties so often fail to engage on ideas but go immediately to personal attacks. Instead of trying to mount an argument to justify the scandalous number of snow days that occur in Nova Scotia–I admit, it would be hard–supporters of these expensive disruptive holidays denounce their adversaries because they are old, or not sufficiently “expert,” or once wrote for AIMS.

    When you hear this kind of crap, it’s a Shore sign that the argument is weak on the merits.

    1. I disagree that 19 snow days is more like an absence than a closure. I would suggest the core property of an absence would be a difference in learning: the class learns something that an absent student doesn’t, unless s/he undertakes an individual catch-up effort. In a closure, everyone learns the same content, and there is a collective catch-up effort.

      Flaws with Goodman’s paper don’t make Bennett’s interpretation of it correct. Goodman’s paper does not support the point Bennett was making.

      1. Goodman acknowledges in his tweets that his study dealt with 1 to 5 snow days. It purports to show that snow days improve performance (this result should have given him pause) but that “absences” – i.e., non-attendance by a student, which tend to be of greater duration, harm performance. It’s very hard to extrapolate from a board that had 1-5 snow days to CNVRSB, which has had 17 so far, not counting strike- or lockout-related days or professional development days. There are only 19 scheduled school days in Nova Scotia in the month of February. So students have lost the equivalent of a month of school. It is not a big leap to say this is more like the “absences” in Goodman’s study than the “snow days.” In any case, it is preposterous to cite Goodman’s study in justification of Nova Scotia’s insane refusal to keep schools open during normal, moderate winter weather events. Schools across Canada take these weather events in stride. Nova Scotia took them in stride until the epidemic of weather-hysteria hit a decade or two ago.

        1. PS: I do take your point about the aspect of stuff everyone misses vs. stuff only one student misses. But when the numbers rise from 15, any application of the Goodman study goes out the window.

    2. This is confusing. Do you like his study and its conclusions because it backs you up, or is it not well done and not applicable in our context? Pick one (only).

      1. Sorry, I’m going to pick two:

        (1) Goodman’s study is very narrow in that it looks at only one tiny part of the manifold harms caused by snow days — their effect on student learning. I don’t like the study.

        (2) Goodman’s study concerns a school board with what I would call normal school closures, i.e., 1 to 5. In Nova Scotia, board routinely have more than 10, and in the case of CBVRSB this year, 17 and counting. So it has no application.

    3. Parker, I’m not the one who cited Goodman’s study, Paul Bennett did. Do you think he should be quoting non-peer reviewed studies in the media? Do you think he accurately represented the study results? If you have complaints, maybe name him in your comments.

      Again, I have no idea why you are singling me out as some sort of “lefty” defender of snow days. (Are snow day policies even left/right? That seems preposterous to me.) As mentioned in the first comment I made on this article, HRSB’s loose snow day policies tick me off, personally, as parent who has to scramble to cope with them.

  3. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again… Paul Bennett calls himself an independent consultant, but I don’t buy it. If you take a look at his reports over the last few years they’ve all be funded by AIMS — the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies — a right wing “think tank” funded and run by the corporate sector in the Maritimes. John Risley is the current chair. Paul Bennett may not have an agenda, but AIMS sure does and it probably has a lot to do with privatizing education.

    1. ‘Privatizing education’ !!!!
      Please provides numerous footnotes and links to citations to support your notion.
      I like your articles re forestry because you refer to and cite scientific studies and departmental documents.
      I have never heard anyone promote ‘privatizing education’ in Nova Scotia since I moved here in 1974.
      I don’t know how students have coped with snow days, March break and PD days during the first 90 days of the year.

      1. Without weighing in on the goodness/badness of AIMS, private schools, or public education, a cursory Google reveals AIMS has advocated for charter schools and “school choice” in Atlantic Canada.

        (“School choice” is the idea of providing parents with a scholarship / grant / voucher / whatever you want to call it to allow them to choose a private school instead of a public school, if they wish, and because it transfers public funds to private institutions it does not have a say in operating is generally considered to be privatizing education.)

        A 2016 press release on the AIMS website begins:
        “Through AIMS first 15 years, education policy has been a key driver of our research. Our annual Report Card on Atlantic Canadian High Schools has changed the way people think about education and student performance. We have consistently talked about the importance of testing and accountability and school choice in education reform.”

        The AIMS website has an e-book they authored, “Charter Schools in Atlantic Canada: An Idea Whose Time Has Come”.

        A CH (pre-strike) op-ed in 2014 debates a year-old Slate article. “Private schools don’t sabotage public ones”

        These were just from the first page. There are many, many, many more, which I leave as an exercise for the reader.

        Of course, since you’ve not heard about it, it seems they’ve not been doing an especially good job at making this part of the public conversation, but I think their stance on the issue is clear.

        1. If the education expenditures were distributed to parents I doubt the per student amount would be enough to buy a private education at Halifax Grammar or Sacred Heaart.We have many private schools in HRM.
          We already have school choice in the public system. Parents in Dartmouth can choose early French immersion and have Dartmouth taxpayers foot the transport costs, a cost that could be better spent in schools which offer the mandated within the catchment area. Personally I believe all children should attend the school in their catchment area. For those children with parents who do not want a child to attend the local school their parents can pay for a private school or pay the cost of a home in the catchment area of a so called ‘better school’.
          The AIMS stance is not privatizing, it is about choice for all parents. The horror of some poor kids taking the voucher and showing up at a ‘good school’ in metro !!

          1. Hopefully the moderator will just delete the half-finished comment I submitted accidentally.

            Like I said, I’m not saying whether what they advocate is good or bad. But they advocate for a set of principles (charter schools, school choice) that is broadly characterized as “privatizing education”, because it moves decision-making about education out of the public sector. It’s a reasonable characterization broadly accepted.

            If your comment to Linda was semantic quibbling over using this broadly accepted terminology instead of the “school choice” branding AIMS has focused on more intently lately, I also have no interest in that conversation. My goal was to provide the references you sought on the assumption you sincerely did not know AIMS’ stance on education.

  4. Wow, did Paul Bennett ever misinterpret Joshua Goodman’s study. Like, 180 degree. Here’s a clip from Goodman’s abstract. Please note, he defines absences as separate from closures:

    “Student and school fixed effects models using Massachusetts data show a strong relationship between student absences and achievement but no impact of lost instructional time due to school closures.”

  5. We get a lot of snow days here in northern NB. They manage to get everything done that has to be done. I don’t know the situation in Nova Scotia, but it can’t be extended here as per the collective agreement with school staff, not just teachers. Nor does the government seem interested in negotiating anything to the contrary. But unless we lost a whole month or something, I agree that what has to be done, will be done. And I don’t believe that losing 5 days will make you a math failure.

  6. I am confident that the professionalism of our teachers allows them to overcome a few snow days and still meet curriculum outcomes.

      1. Assuming you want an answer to your I suggest you send each one an email and ask the question….and try to be polite.

    1. One of the issues many public school teachers have with Bennett is that his on-the-ground educational experience seems to be almost entirely in some of the wealthiest private schools in Canada. His resume seems to say he worked in schools “public as well as private” in his career, but I’ve never been able to get a straight answer from him as to when the last time was he worked in a public school, and when I dug around on-line a bit it seemed that his private school tenure goes back at least to the mid-80’s.

      Nothing against people who teach in private schools, but the conditions are very different from the public system.

  7. With all the lawyers suing whoever they think has deep pockets (so far they haven’t hit the weather guys for forecasting weather but it could happen), I will be interested in seeing what financial settlements result and how little if any is left for the victims after the legal folks take their no doubt massive cut. I was told once by a legal expert that in the case of these kinds of actions, those involved are lucky to get 1% of the settlement.

  8. the snow day policies (or their interpretation) make no sense.
    this week the day school was open was arguably a worse day the the day classes were canceled. When i was a kid, Schools stayed open – the buses were canceled, and it only happened when it ice rained, or there was a massive blizard and everything was shut down (i went to school in Ottawa)

    we had a few blizzards this year that warranted a closure – most employers also stayed closed those days, but for the most part I am shocked at the mildly bad weather that causes a shutdown.

    1. I agree that HRSB’s trigger-happy snow day policies don’t make much sense. Ottawa still works the way you described. They might cancel buses, but if it’s reasonable to walk to school and if the city is still functioning, they are open. This will still create problems for teachers, because large numbers of their students will be absent, but I would argue it’s worth it compared to the problem created for 100% of parents on these tenuous weather days. (It was well over 5 this year, I think the CP article quoted 9.5 days for Halifax.)
      The other issue I have with HRSB policy is that it seems to be based solely on bus or vehicle transportation. Plenty of kids in our neighbourhood walk to school, and they seem to be discounted by this policy. Walking to school has huge benefits, for behaviour and educational outcomes. HRSB should be actively pursuing policies (including school locations and sizes!) that encourage it.