1. Poor parenting

“Consider the case Mr. S and Ms. C, and their toddler, D,” writes Stephen Kimber:

And the question of how much of what gets referred to as poor parenting is simply the result of being parents who are poor. And what that means — or should mean — for public policy.

Which brings us to Justice Elizabeth Jollimore’s written decision last week in the case of the Minister of Community Services v S.C and M.S.

Kimber goes on to detail the circumstances of the family, the arguments the Department of Community Services made in an attempt to make the toddler a permanent ward of the state, and how “Judge Jollimore effectively eviscerated each of the minister’s arguments with simple common sense”:

“The parents,” she added, “cannot be faulted for their inability to afford homes in better neighbourhoods.”

The reality, the judge concluded, was that S and C were being punished not for anything they’d done, but for what they couldn’t be: middle class.

Click here to read “When being poor equals poor parenting…”

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2. Fish farms

“In addition to ice and snow, remnants of Nova Scotia’s first major winter storm are all over the shore of Jordan Bay, N.S. in the form of buoys and plastic pipes,” reports Anjuli Patil for the CBC:

The debris, which came from the Cooke Aquaculture fish farm, is concerning to commercial lobster fisherman Ricky Hallett. He suspects many of the fish died.

“Seventeen out of 20 of the pens have the tops off them and most of them have the sides smashed down,” Hallett said. “I live just adjacent to the site and I can look right out on it.”

3. Peter Kelly’s little helper

Peter Kelly. Photo: Tim Bousquet

“The City of Charlottetown has created a new position it says will take some of the workload off its chief administrative officer, Peter Kelly,” reports Dave Stewart for the Charlottetown Guardian:

Scott Messervey spent his last day as audit director in the province’s auditor generals office on Friday and will assume his new responsibilities as Kelly’s deputy chief administrative officer on Jan. 22.

Since Kelly arrived two years ago, he had been taking care of the tasks done by four former directors positions that haven’t been filled — director of public services, director of corporate services, director of human resources and director of fiscal and development services. Those positions weren’t filled when they were vacated by attrition.

“Since I’ve been here there have been no directors so I have been, basically, co-ordinating the tasks that need to be done daily,’’ Kelly said Friday.

“Due to the workload, and it is a busy place to work which is a good thing, and for several reasons, you want to make sure you have the right structure in place and council agreed that it was time that we brought forward a deputy CAO position to make up for the others we had taken away and just try and redistribute the workload a bit.’’

Messervey has been in P.E.I. since 2009. In the auditor general’s office, he served as the audit director of financial statements and the audit director of professional practice and quality assurance. He has also worked in the private sector and spent nine years with the auditor general in Nova Scotia.


Coun. Terry MacLeod, chairman of the human resources committee, said Kelly has been putting in 60- to 70-hour weeks and that was too much.


“If I got hit by a bus then somebody is going to have to continue onward,’’ Kelly said. “We do need the redistribution of the workload. I don’t mind putting in my time and I have.’’

I remember when…. ah, never mind.

4. Anthony LeBlanc’s history of playing hardball with governments in order to get a stadium

Anthony LeBlanc. Photo: ABC15 Arizona

The Chronicle Herald has yet another in its series of stories about the possibility of a CFL team setting up shop in Halifax — this one on the name of a potential team.

This makes article #8 in the series, which made me wonder, Does Chronicle Herald prez Mark Lever have skin in this game? If so, I can’t find it — reporter Francis Campbell writes that the wannabe franchise, Maritime Football Ltd., is “fronted by Anthony LeBlanc, Gary Drummond and Bruce Bowser,” and a quick look at the Registry of Joint Stock Companies finds those three men, and no one else, listed as directors. That doesn’t mean there aren’t silent investors, however.

The company is using the mailing address of Bruce Browser’s AMJ Campbell Van Lines in Dartmouth.

The other two principals are LeBlanc and Drummond, who were execs and part-owners of the Arizona Coyotes NHL team. They were bought out last June by majority owner Andrew Barroway.

The circumstances that led to that change in ownership ought to raise some eyebrows locally.

A year-and-a-half before the buyout, in September 2015, journalist Neil deMause explained the situation with the Coyotes and its stadium. (deMouse is a co-author with Joanna Cagan of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit. “Since 1998,” they write, “we have been casting a critical eye on the roughly $2 billion a year in public subsidies that go toward building new pro sports facilities.” )

The story so far: The Coyotes owners had a crazy-sweetheart lease deal with Glendale that paid them almost $8 million a year just to run the arena, then Glendale officials found a loophole that would let them terminate the lease, then the two sides agreed on a new lease that expires in 2017, then Glendale announced it would put in place a competitive bidding process for who’d get to run the arena. Which sounded like a great idea — at least it would determine once and for all what the market will bear in terms of an arena management fee — to everyone except the Coyotes owners, who now say if they have to compete for the right to be paid to manage their own arena, they want no part of it.

Now, there’s nothing stopping the Coyotes from continuing to play in Glendale under someone else’s arena management, but Arizona Sports speculates that the team’s owners have other ideas:

So what does it mean for the Coyotes’ future in Glendale? LeBlanc wouldn’t comment other than to say: “We are committed to Arizona.”

Glaring in its omission from that statement was the word, “Glendale.”

While it is likely the team will remain in Glendale for the remainder of its agreement with the city, the efforts to find another home in the Valley are likely in overdrive now.

Speculation on the possibility of a new downtown arena for the Suns and Coyotes has existed for at least a year. So has the idea of building an arena along the 101 corridor in Scottsdale.

Old arena not working out financially? Just build a new one! Surely that will be the solution, and if it’s not, hopefully you’ve worked out a way to walk away from it debt-free, like you did with the previous one.

By March 2017, that “build a new stadium” idea had morphed into… a public-private partnership, reported David Baker and Dennis Welch for 3TV/CBS 5:

The head of the National Hockey League sent a strongly-worded letter to Arizona Legislature leaders that said the Arizona Coyotes need a new arena to thrive in the desert.

Gary Bettman wrote in the letter addressed to Senate President Steve Yarbrough and Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard that said the Coyotes can’t and won’t remain in Glendale.

“The Arizona Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed,” Bettman said in the letter.

He said Glendale isn’t “economically capable” of supporting an NHL franchise. 

The team echoed Bettman’s opinion in its own statement.

“The Glendale location is wrong — both geographically and economically — given its distance from much of the Coyotes’ fan base and, in particular, premium ticket holders and corporate sponsors,” Arizona Coyotes Majority Owner, Chairman and Governor Andrew Barroway said in the statement.

Bettman threw his support behind Senate Bill 1149, which would use taxpayer dollars to partially fund their new arena.

The measure would let the team use half the new sales tax generate[d] from the new arena and business district it wants built to pay off bonds.

The Coyotes have said it would invest $170 million in the area and expects the same amount from bond sales.

“The public-private partnership enabled by this legislation creates absolutely no financial risk or debt for the state nor will it make use of any existing state tax dollars,” Bettman said.

“This legislation will not require taxpayers to contribute a penny to this project out of existing state tax dollars,” Barroway said.

See what they did there?: Existing state tax dollars. The stadium would be financed by future tax dollars paying back debt in the form of bond sales secured by… well, not much.

So to recap: we know that LeBlanc has played hardball with governments, first to get a sweetheart no-bid deal to manage a stadium the city government owns and then, when that city government finally balked, pulling out all stops to put political pressure on the state government to finance a new stadium.

But politicians south of the border are learning. In April 2017, Bill 1149 died in the Arizona legislature, reported Darrell Jackson for the Glendale Star:

The bill, which would allow for the creation of a Community Entertainment District (CEG), where all sales inside the district would be taxed by an additional 2 percent, is the groundwork for the arena, once funding is set in place, with the agreement working for whatever Valley city would ultimately be home for the venue.


[Arizona Governor Doug] Ducey fired back at Bettman after his ultimatum to legislators that the Coyotes could not remain in Glendale and they needed tax breaks for a new arena in the state.

“I don’t know if delivering an ultimatum letter is the most productive thing that can be done,” Ducey said on a local radio appearance.

Two months later, Barroway bought out his partners, and a few months later, LeBlanc and Drummond showed up in Halifax… looking for a stadium deal.

This history should give Haligonians pause, but you know the drill: instead we’ll get a steady stream of boosterism, critics will be called “naysayers,” and no financing deal will be looked at critically.

Go Schooners.


1. What, in the name of dog, is this?

The most charitable Caper.

“CBC Cape Breton’s annual Light Up a Life campaign to raise money for Feed Nova Scotia makes me awfully uncomfortable,” writes Mary Campbell:

In fact, I get so uncomfortable, I start quoting scripture — and believe me, that doesn’t happen very often. (Chiefly because I hardly know any scripture. I’m much more likely to quote Steve Martin’s Cruel Shoes, most of which I committed to memory in the summer of 1979: “Ducks, wonderful ducks!”) But listening day after day to people making their donations live in studio always makes me think of this line from the Sermon on the Mount:

But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…

Your left hand is going to know what your right hand is doing if your right hand insists on announcing it on the most popular morning radio show on the Island.

And I get it, I do — donations probably wouldn’t be as generous without the live radio component. That’s just the way we humans are, we like credit (and gifts from the gift table) for our good deeds and it probably makes more sense to roll with human nature as it is than to rail against it and leave the food bank cash-strapped for the holiday season.

But it always strikes me that if the public broadcaster is free to advocate for food banks during the entire month of December, it should be equally free to explore options that would render food banks unnecessary. Why not ask everyone who comes in to donate to make one suggestion for fighting poverty? That could make for an interesting pre-Christmas discussion.

Instead, this year’s campaign took a turn that left me positively cringing in my kitchen: people making donations in the names of their dogs.

Yes, you read that correctly: making donations to the food bank in the names of their dogs and challenging other people’s dogs to match those donations.

In their defense, I don’t believe they called in thinking, “People always find it so much easier to accept charity when it comes from an animal.” I believe they just weren’t thinking. They can’t have been, because if they’d thought about it for a fraction of a second, they’d have realized how utterly insulting and inappropriate it is to make a donation to a food bank for humans in the name of the family pet.

I really hope it was a one-season-only phenomenon.

Click here to read “Doggone generous” and other random thoughts from Campbell.

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White space




Grants Committee (Monday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Acadia Hall, Lower Sackville) — agenda.


No public meetings.



No public meetings.


Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Lynn Hartwell, deputy minister at Community Services, will be asked about children in care. Probably that court case in #1 above will be discussed.

On campus



Thesis Defence, Biology (Monday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate John O’Brien will defend his thesis, “Processes Reinforcing Regime Shift to Turf-Forming Algae in a Kelp Bed Ecosystem.”

Swarna Weerasunghe   Photo:

Air Pollution Risk (Monday, 12:30pm, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Swarna Weerasinghe will speak on “Predictive Modelling of Complex Health Outcomes: Air Quality Health Risk Assessment for Asthma Hospital Admissions.”

Senate (Monday, 3pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — here’s the agenda.


Introduction to Double Categories (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Bob Paré will speak, explaining that “I will define double categories and their morphisms and give some examples. I will speculate on why I think they may be useful.”

In the harbour

Halifax Harbour, 7am Monday. Map:

I think this is the busiest day on the harbour since the Examiner started tracking ship arrivals and departures in 2014.

3:30am: CMA CGM Loire, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
5am: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
5:30am: Hoegh Beijing, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from sea
7:15am: ZIM San Diego, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
7:45am: Em Kea, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
10:30am: Polaris, Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Portbury, England
11am: Hoegh Beijing, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
1pm: Asterix, replenishment vessel, moves from Pier 9 to Dockyard
1:30pm: IT Intrepid, cable layer, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
3pm: Grand Phoenix, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
3pm: YM Essence, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
4pm: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
4pm: Polaris, Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4:30pm: ZIM San Diego, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
10pm: Grand Phoenix, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea

And this is about as far afield as we can get from Halifax, but over the weekend, the Associated Press reported:

An Iranian oil tanker that caught fire after colliding with a freighter off China’s east coast is at risk of exploding and sinking, Chinese state media reported Monday as authorities from three countries struggled to find its 32 missing crew members and contain oil spewing from the blazing wreck.

State broadcaster China Central Television, citing Chinese officials, said none of the 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis who have been missing since the collision late Saturday have been found as of 8 a.m. local time Monday. Meanwhile, search and cleanup efforts have been hampered by fierce fires and poisonous gases that have completely consumed the tanker and surrounding waters, CCTV reported.

The Panama-registered tanker Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided late Saturday with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal in the East China Sea, 257 kilometres off the coast of Shanghai, China’s Ministry of Transport said.

China, South Korea and the U.S. have sent ships and planes to search for Sanchi’s crew, all of whom remain missing. The U.S. Navy, which sent a P-8A aircraft from Okinawa, Japan, to aid the search, said late Sunday that none of the missing crew had been found.

All ships use GPS positioning and sophisticated radar and satellite technology, and yet there has been an alarming number of ship collisions recently.

It brings to mind a scene in Andrei Konchalovsky’s 1985 film Runaway Train. The train is, well, running away, uncontrolled, hurtling the three people on board (played by Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, and Rebecca De Mornay) to their certain deaths (well, except for a stunning plot twist where Voight saves the other two, but let’s not worry about that here). Meanwhile, back in the railway company’s control room, Frank Barstow (Kyle Heffner) is looking hopelessly at the millions of dollars worth of safety equipment he had the company install. A nearby television is showing the landing of the space shuttle. (The Challenger disaster would occur a year after the film’s release.)

Turning to his boss, company owner Eddie MacDonald (Kenneth McMillan), Barstow says, “I still don’t understand. How did this happen? Why couldn’t we stop it, with all this junk? I mean, with all this high technology?”

MacDonald answers back, “Some things just can’t be explained.”

Of course, such disasters can be explained, or at least the chain of events leading to them can be explained. But MacDonald was channelling Konchalovsky, who was making the much more interesting point that no matter how much we think we can control the world, the world has its own opinion on the matter.

In other words: shit happens. And shit will always happen. We can certainly minimize risk, learn from mistakes, improve systems… but so long as there are humans and human-created systems in place, there will be disasters.

This American Life looked at recent collisions involving U.S. naval craft and came to the startling suggestion that the cause of the collisions was fatigue, exasperated by a culture of sleep deprivation. Think about that: the most sophisticated military machine on Earth, with billions of dollars worth of equipment, state-of-the-art computer technology, a bureaucracy built on risk-reduction, a military command system of accountability… all that, and 17 sailors are dead because of a culture of sleep deprivation.

I think the lesson should be one of humility: shit can and ultimately will happen, so we should keep the risk of catastrophe at a minimum. A hundred years and some days ago, this city was partly destroyed and thousands died because of a series of human errors involving ships. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it couldn’t happen again.


I finally found my snow boots.

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

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    1. Three levels of government threw millions at the new convention centre with little likelihood of it making a profit. Now promoters will probably ask for significant contributions of taxpayers’ money for a football stadium. This at a time when Nova Scotia has disgraceful levels of childhood poverty, and a time when Halifax Water is going to have to find millions of dollars to improve infrastructure to deal with flooding of residents homes resulting from infrastructure inadequate to deal with climate change. It’s time for some commonsense.