1. One step closer to glamping near McGrath’s Cove

Small tent in the woods
Our camping setup at Mira River last weekend. We are not glampers. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Zane Woodford reports on Halifax and West Community Council approvement last night for a camping/glamping park.

Woodford writes:

David Cahill, owner of Wilderness Stays, proposed a “a low impact tourist development” at the corner of Prospect and McGraths Cove roads on Eastern Lake — located roughly between Peggy’s Cove and Prospect, about 30 km from the peninsula….

He told the council the glamping sites could include yurts, tipis, treehouses and other non-traditional tent-like structures that he said would be sustainably built.

I am generally a bare-bones camper, but I get the appeal of sleeping in a tent on a platform and not having to pack a whole bunch of stuff to do it.

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2. Don’t violate anyone’s privacy, but just tell us what’s going on

Dr. Robert Strang speaks at the Friday, June 5 COVID-19 update. — Communications Nova Scotia
Dr. Robert Strang speaks at the Friday, June 5 COVID-19 update. — Communications Nova Scotia

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.

Tim Bousquet reports on yesterday’s COVID-19 briefing, in which the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, offered more details on the recent clusters of cases in the province. In a press release, Strang also announced new exemptions to the public gathering rules that apply to two race tracks, the former Metro Centre (I refuse to call it you-know-what) and Centre 200.

Bousquet asked for some additional information on how people were infected, but Strang declined, citing privacy and wanting to avoid speculation. Bousquet writes:

For the life of me, I cannot see how saying, “the people who caught the disease at the restaurant were sitting a few tables away from the infected person” (or whatever) identifies anyone at all. What it would do, however, is inform the public about how the disease can spread.

You want speculation? Let me tell you about speculation. Over the past week, precisely because Public Health didn’t provide any details about the recent spread of COVID in the Northern Zone, I’ve been bombarded with emails, DMs, Facebook messages, etc., from people who purport to have the “real story.” I’ve been told with certainty that the disease was spread at a Sobeys warehouse, at the Michelin plant, at a wedding, at another private party (not the wedding). So far as I can determine, none of that was true. But again, it’s precisely because Public Health and Strang are withholding information that people are spreading falsehoods, rumours, and speculation. They’re filling the information vacuum.

For myself, I want to know: if I go to a restaurant, and I’m not a close contact with a positive case, how exactly would I catch the disease? Can I get it from buddy four tables over talking loud about sports? Will the server give it to me? How ’bout the toilet seat? Knowing the particulars will very much change my behaviour, and in ways that will help limit the future spread of the disease.

Earlier this week, someone told me with confidence that all the cases were related to someone who did not self-isolate and then went to a wedding. Speculation!

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3. Bar Harbour terminal for the CAT still not finished

Desktop version of Tourism NS website, featuring the CAT.

Would the CAT ferry have run this summer if the pandemic hadn’t intervened? The government says yes. The opposition points to the fact that the ferry terminal in Bar Harbor still has not been completed and says really?

Tina Comeau reports for the Chronicle Herald on the state of the Bar Harbor terminal.

Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal spokesman Gary Andrea says the facility may not be finished, but that’s only because work slowed down once it became clear the ferry wouldn’t be running this year anyway.

Comeau writes:

On Wednesday, the PC Caucus issued a media release saying photographs it has seen of the ongoing construction at the Bar Harbor ferry terminal in Maine “have cast doubt on whether the Nova Scotia government was ever prepared for the 2020 ferry season.” Photographs it attached to its media release were taken about two weeks earlier, a caucus spokesperson said. The party said photos showed heavy machinery parked under exposed beams of the incomplete toll both with construction supplies and temporary fencing spread across the property…

In the government’s current budget – which was prepared prior to the pandemic and prior to the cancellation of the ferry service – the provincial subsidy for the ferry this year was projected to be $16.3 million had it been operating. It is unknown at this time what will be paid towards the service.

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4. Black Lives Matter picnic at Hutt Lake

Sign reading "Silence is Violence BLM MMIWG"
Sign on the Peggys Cove Road in Tantallon. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Nicole Munro reports for the Chronicle Herald on a picnic planned for this weekend at Hutt Lake, organized by Lauryn Guest and Peter Fisk. The event is partly in response to teenagers swinging a noose at a biracial couple at the lake last weekend.

Munro writes

“Before this, I wasn’t as vocal just because I wasn’t as comfortable with my race back then as I am now because there was, and still is, a lot of racism around here and I didn’t feel safe for me or my family to do something at this level at that time,” Fisk said.

“But now is the perfect time for us to do something. You see the Black Lives Matter movement bigger than it’s ever been and people are talking about it.”

Guest and Fisk, who are both Black, said they have experienced racism and discrimination “very regularly” on the South Shore and want to use this as an opportunity to speak up.

“A lot of people are in denial about these things,” Guest, 20, said. “So we want Black folk and Indigenous folk to get together and know that they’re not alone and we’re not going to tolerate this type of violence and hate in our community.”

If you go, the organizers ask that you wear a mask and maintain proper distancing.

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5. We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when… (OK, we do know where)

Province House
Photo: Halifax Examiner

Jean Laroche reports for CBC on talks to get MLAs to return to Province House.

The House leaders for Nova Scotia’s three political parties continue to meet to determine a plan that will allow a fall legislature sitting to go ahead that’s as close to normal while respecting public health guidelines…

Government House leader Geoff MacLellan said he and his counterparts from the Progressive Conservatives and NDP, along with staff in the office of the Speaker of the House, continue to discuss ways to get people back in the legislature in a safe way.

There are inherent challenges to doing that in a building that is 200 years old, has no real air circulation and can be extremely cramped when MLAs, political staff, the public, reporters, security and Province House staff are all present.

I would not be the first to point out that these are many of the same challenges facing schools.

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1. Psychosis, police, violence, and locked wards

Orange shoes on a table inside the East Coast Forensic Hospital
Inside the East Coast Forensic Hospital. Photo courtesy Senate of Canada.

Filmmaker Rebeccah Love published a piece in the Globe and Mail last Saturday called “A police officer is not the best person to help someone in psychosis.”  I guess because I was away camping and being pretty good about not keeping up with what was going on in the world I missed it when it came out. In case you haven’t read it, I’d like to draw your attention to it now.

Love lives with bipolar. She writes:

[In 2009,] I would be experiencing my first episode of psychosis, admitted into St. Michael’s Hospital Emergency Room. I would spend the next four years going in and out of psychiatric wards in states of serious mania and psychosis.

The thing you have to remember about a person experiencing psychosis is that they do not interpret their surroundings in a normal way: in my episodes during these years, all things and people around me became metaphors. Police officers or paramedics or hospital security guards were not just people to me: they represented force, harm and danger.

A couple of months ago I quoted Adrienne Power in an Examiner story on the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Unit. From the story:

“When someone’s in a crisis, who knows what people’s experiences are? What state they’re in?” She added, “Also, someone who has a psychotic disorder might have some delusions or paranoia about the police. So the police might just be coming to take you for treatment, but who knows what your fears are around that?”

Love says we’ve become aware of the harm police can do when apprehending — or even checking up on — people with mental illness. But the public still has no idea what goes on behind the locked doors of psychiatric wards:

I was never a violent patient: a little stubborn and eccentric, maybe, but mostly just terrified, not in any kind of position to do anyone any harm. So when the men in uniform grabbed me, or slammed me against a wall, wrestling me to the floor, in my delusional state, they were not just hurting me, they were killing me. I screamed out for my brother to come save me. It was not just a little jostling: in those moments, it felt very much like my life was coming to an end…

We have seen video footage of the bottom of the Mariana Trench and the surface of Mars, but the general public is totally unaware of what goes on inside the locked doors of Toronto psych wards: news cameras are not allowed on these floors, and patients are not allowed to record on their phones. As a result, the general public does not see how much violence is done against psych ward patients.

I interviewed Love in May for a piece I was writing for the University of King’s College magazine. Love had only been at King’s a year, but it had an outsize influence on her, she said. I asked her why she had left after a year, and she said:

I loved King’s, but I got very sick with bipolar disorder, and I had to come home [to Toronto] to be with my family.

When I interviewed Love for the King’s story, we talked a lot about mental illness, and most of that didn’t make it into the story, because it wasn’t the focus of the piece. She said:

I’m not supposed to use the word psych ward. That’s the term I’m familiar with, though, and I find it very empowering to just use all the language that we’re not supposed to use. But yeah. So the new term is mental health unit… I went sort of touring around the Toronto hospitals and sharing my work and giving talks about my my life as a filmmaker and my experiences with mental illness…

You know, when I was in the hospital, I felt very down about myself or I felt very small or insignificant… And I just I just think that people who are mentally ill see the world through a very unique lens. And there’s a power to that. There’s a power in that. And psychiatric patients in mental health units shouldn’t be dismissed as incapable of making important contributions to the world.

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Roller coaster with car that's empty except for the last seat.
The roller coaster at Upper Clements Park in 2016. Photo: Martin Lewison/Flickr

The Upper Clements Park rides are for sale. The park has shut down, and construction is slated to start soon on a campus for Scottish prep school Gordonstoun. The school was founded in 1934, on an estate of the same name. The school’s “history” web page includes this wild paragraph:

In the 1600s Gordonstoun was owned by the eccentric Third Baronet, Sir Robert Gordon, who was also known as The Wizard because of his fascination with alchemy and his mystical reputation amongst the local population. It was his idea to build Round Square, a distinctive building constructed in a perfect circle. Legend has it that Sir Robert, while a student in Italy, sold his soul to the Devil in return for knowledge. The Devil’s price was Sir Robert’s soul at some time in the future. The legend states that he built Round Square to protect himself when the time came, as there were ‘no corners for the Devil to hide behind’. Unfortunately, Gordon lost his nerve and decided to seek sanctuary in Birnie Kirk. He never reached the Kirk as hounds accompanying the Devil are said to have killed him before he arrived. In reality he died in his bed in the year 1704 and his widow erected the Michael Kirk, a small church on the school grounds, in his memory.

Wikipedia tells me that Sean Connery and David Bowie’s kids both attended the school, and so did Prince Charles and Prince Philip.

Now, Gordonstoun is coming to Nova Scotia, and it’s goodbye Upper Clements Park.

A couple of days ago, Saltwire’s Kings County Register ran a piece by Ashley Thompson on the sale of the parks’ rides and other assets. (I will take the carousel please.)

Thompson says the flume (aka the Sissiboo Sizzler — I don’t know, a fire image for a water ride?) is probably the hottest property. It debuted in 1986 at Expo in Vancouver as the Cariboo Log Chute. Municipality of Annapolis County spokesman Larry Powell tells Thompson the school might use some of the  assets, like the Evangeline Express train — something a fancy British prep school needs, I guess, for that Hogwarts flavour.

Steam locomotive
The Upper Clements locomotive was built in 1905 by Montreal Locomotive Works. Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

Thompson writes:

[Powell] said he shares the sense of loss of many Nova Scotians with fond memories of family trips to Upper Clements Park, but he finds comfort in the silver lining.

“We understand how people can be conflicted about this … but, at the same time, the prospect of a world-class international boarding school choosing this location is exciting,” said Powell.

“It means this property will continue to be used by children.”

That last sentence. Really? Come on.

I am one of those people who has fond memories of trips to the park with the family.

Children's magician in a wizard outfit
My kids used to love this guy. Photo: Martin Lewison/Flickr

Upper Clements opened in 1989 (Wikipedia, again — the park’s website is no longer up), which I would guess is around the time that parks like this started dying across North America. Decades ago, when highways ran closer to towns and flying was relatively far more expensive than driving, North America was full of roadside attractions and small-time amusements. I particularly remember loving Frontier Town in upstate New York, which we enjoyed completely uncritically, although it was obviously a revisionist history nightmare.

Here’s what Atlas Obscura has to say about it:

Founded by Arthur Bensen, an enterprising phone technician from Staten Island, the park had a Pioneer Village (lots of calico dresses and butter churning), Prairie Junction (modeled after a Wild West main street), an Indian Village, a rodeo arena, and even a narrow gauge railroad. It drew steady crowds to the decidedly un-Western part of the world that is upstate New York, until a combination of factors led to financial troubles in the mid-1980s, including a waning interest in Westerns and easier access to bigger and grander theme parks in sunnier climates.

You can see some 1956 home movie footage from Frontier Town here. I remember particularly enjoying the thrill of riding the train and then having it brought to a halt by brazen outlaws.

Note the timing here. Frontier Town was shutting down the year before Upper Clements Park opened. It was in financial trouble soon after. Other small theme parks and roadside attractions hung on — they seemed to be particularly popular in PEI, but eventually access to air travel and more spectacular attractions won out. Why would you drive to some rinky-dink park when you could fly south on points and visit some mammoth park with roller coasters that will spin you upside down multiple times or drop you from terrifying heights?

Upper Clements, on the other hand, was low-key fun: a roller coaster through the trees. The flume. The Zipper was probably the scariest ride in the place, and that was fine. The crowds mostly seemed to be families with young kids anyway. Unlike some roadside attractions, it was out of the way, and I assume that was intentional — a way to attract visitors and promote the local economy. If these schemes work out, the proponents are geniuses. If they fail, there’s a lot of “what were they thinking?”

Contemplating the end of Upper Clements prodded me to go back and look at what I consider to be one of the funniest spots on the internet: the TripAdvisor page for the now defunct Magic Valley Fun Park in Pictou County.

The park has 28 reviews, of which one is in the “excellent” category and 15 are in the “terrible” category. The park closed in 2016, and the reviews from its final couple of years would indicate that it limped to an ignominious end.

Two reviews from 2014:

None of the rides work, their ‘petting zoo’ has one rabbit.. seriously, who has one rabbit? Their storybook village half of it is closed.. complete waste of money!

Only 2 of the little kids rides worked, There were no animals in the petting zoo. No one told us when paying, i wouldnt have taken my 3yr old. There is geese feces everywhere. The slide water is being pumped in from a river so its disgusting brown color. The train worked so that was a plus until you got to drive by all the garbage they have put in the woods and tunnel. Would never go back, they have really let it go down hill.

From 2012:

save yourself the time and just throw your money in the garbage. horrible… costs about the same to get into crystal palace where you can actually have a fun time. horrible


The train ride through garbage and piles of debris was delightful as we sat in a rusty train and sucked in a tremendous amont of fumes from the train. The pool was cold, and dirty, and there was so much chlorine in it , it hurt your nose to breathe. The kids did like the waterslides which was the only saving grace. There were 4 broken pedal boats. There was 1 broken bumper boat …and the line for the bumper boats was the same employee also drives the train. Our kids rode the water slides right until closing . When they shut the slides off we noticed that the water in the pool area at the bottom of the slides was green ..YUCK

Some of the Magic Valley rides and other items (do you need a fiberglass cow?) are still for sale on Kijiji.

Footnote: While looking for Upper Clements Park pics on Flickr, I came across some by one Martin Lewison, then checked out his Flickr profile and saw it was full of pics of theme parks from around the world. Turns out he is an associate professor of business management at Farmingdale State College, with an interest in the business of theme parks. In 2018, the Columbia University alumni magazine profiled him, and at the time he and his wife, Cheryl, had ridden 1,665 roller coasters:

Ask Lewison why the couple devotes so much time to roller coasters and he’ll talk about the thrill of defying gravity, the intellectual stimulation of learning the technology behind them, the variations in style, size, color, layout, and sensation. He’ll talk about the idea of “collecting” rides, of having a reason to travel the world.

“But mostly, not much has changed since I was a ten-year-old kid on the boardwalk,” he says. “I like roller coasters because they’re fun.”

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No meetings.

In the harbour

06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
15:30: Tampa Trader, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
15:30: Maersk Mobiliser, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from the Sable Island field
18:00: Maersk Mobiliser sails for sea


One thing I love about Nova Scotia is the low-key claims made by so many businesses. For years, the Tony’s Meats slogan was (and perhaps still is) “Among the finest meats.” I hope I’m recalling that correctly. Not the finest, but happy to be among the finest.

Last weekend, by the side of a highway entrance ramp near Sydney, I saw a sign for a detailing place which made this modest claim: “Better than average detailing.” Not the best, but better than average. You know, good enough.

I like it.

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Philip Moscovitch

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

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  1. Re the Footnotes, it’s always wise to “under-promise and over-deliver.” I like the motto on the welcome sign for New Minas: “a good place to live.” Not better, not best, good. Or is that “good enough”? : – )

    1. The superlatives politicians and other self-promoters in suits have to attach to everything are really goofy. We shouldn’t celebrate mediocrity, but maybe we should try and imagine a Halifax that is pretty okay for most people instead of pretending that one day we will be a WORLD CLASS city like Shanghai or London if only we click our heels and build more stupid buildings for rich people.

  2. Proud to go for the small potatoes

    “That’ll do pig, that’ll do.”

    A friend who was a campaign consultant for the NDP once came up with my favourite suggestion for a candidate slogan: Vote Joe Blow. He’ll do.

  3. Upper Clements Park was really nothing more than a glorified playground. It was premised on a fake “business plan” that lied about big numbers of tourists coming there as a destination from all over which of course never happened. It fits into the long list of bogus projects foisted on Nova Scotia’s taxpayers as being economic stimuli like the Nova Centre and the Yarmouth ferry.

  4. If and when the NS Legislature reconvenes at the Convention Centre ask yourself how can this be possible without more toilets? Not enough toilets was the excuse given by some HRM councillors as to why it couldn’t repurposed during COVID for homeless, victims of domestic violence, or affordable housing. More BS that doesn’t flush as many other cities around the world figured out creative and purposeful use for their convention centres and other public buildings during COVID. As our public tax dollars pay for the Nova Centre to sit empty it really it time to gear it up for a better public use.

  5. Upper Clements Park opened with fists full of government moolah – it was in the right person’s back yard, apparently. Meanwhile, Magic Valley had been operating for years under private ownership. I used to take my kids to it, back in the day. It was clean with a variety of rides and imaginative activities. It offered teenage employment, local crafts for sale, and the owners were good corporate citizens, in my view. The kids loved it – but there wasn’t room for two such places in Nova Scotia. The government-funded place put the privately-operated place out of business, about the same time the highway was rerouted away from Magic Valley. It still makes me grit my teeth.

  6. Why has the legislature not sat since the pandemic broke out? There is no good reason. Why does it have to sit in a “200 year old building” ? There are plenty of public buildings where they could hold sittings, buildings that are under utilized. Think the convention centre, think Pier 21, 23 or 24 or whatever. There are other auditoriums which should be available. I think our opposition MLAs should make some noise about this.

  7. For years there was a sign outside of a Sydney hotel (now the Harbourview Inn) boasting that their restaurant was “Surprisingly Good!”
    Always gave me a chuckle. My parents did eat there once and confirmed it was, indeed, surprisingly good.

  8. Re: low-key claims, the Sign on the old Vesta Diner on DuPont street in Toronto proudly announced “Reputable Since 1955” – I guess don’t ask them what happened in ’54…