1. Surgical wait times

Two white women stand in front of a stairway.
Deputy Health Minister Jeannine Lagassé (left) and Nova Scotia Health CEO Karen Oldfield in April 2022 Credit: Jennifer Henderson

“Sixteen months ago the Houston government was elected on a promise to reduce surgical wait times to meet national standards within 18 months of taking office,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

But the health care leaders appointed to solve the problem now say it will take three years — until the end of 2025 — to deal with a stubborn backlog of patients. 

Click here to read “Health officials punt surgical wait time fix three years down the road.”

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2. Short-term rentals

The airbnb logo with a little red house and lowercase letters, is seen on a sign posted on a brick building.
AirBnB is the most popular short-term rental platform in HRM. Credit: flickr/opengridscheduler

“Years in the making, Halifax’s short-term rental regulations will have to wait another few months,” reports Zane Woodford:

Short-term rentals listed on sites like AirBnB exploded in popularity between 2016 and 2019, adding strain to the city’s growing housing crisis. People in some areas of HRM complained about entire buildings being bought up and turned into “ghost hotels” full of short-term rentals.

In 2019, council’s Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee asked for a staff report on regulating short-term rentals. And in 2020, staff brought that report back with a plan to regulate the industry.

Municipal planners Jill MacLellan and Brandon Umpherville brought proposed bylaw amendments to council on Tuesday to enact those regulations.

Click here to read “Halifax council defers short-term rental regulations, accepts transit funding, and more.”

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3. Heat pumps

A grey box with a fan inside and hoses leading away from it is mounted to the side of a home.
A heat pump is seen on a house in Dartmouth on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. Credit: Zane Woodford

“Low-income homeowners in Nova Scotia are eligible to receive a free heat pump through a $140 million provincial outlay announced today, and middle-income homeowners are eligible for financial assistance to install a heat pump,” I reported yesterday:

For purposes of the program, “low income” is defined as a two-person household making less than about $50,000 annually, said Tory Rushton, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables. And “middle income” includes those two-person households making up to about $66,000.

If fully used, the funding will help about 13,500 low-income households and about 30,000 middle-income households. 

Click here to read “Nova Scotia to pay for free heat pumps for low-income households.”

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4. Nora Bernard Street

An older woman is seen in a black and white photograph.
Nora Bernard Credit: YouTube/MacEwan University

“Cornwallis is out, and Nora Bernard Street is official,” reports Zane Woodford:

Halifax regional council voted unanimously on Tuesday to rename the street. Once named for the city’s so-called founder, who issued a bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaw men, women, and children, it will now bear the name of a Mi’kmaw activist who fought for justice for residential school survivors across the country.

Click here to read “Halifax council confirms Nora Bernard Street as new name for Cornwallis Street.”

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5. Cathie O’Toole named new Halifax CAO

A woman with blond hair and glasses, wearing a blue blazer, is seated at a table with a tablet and a name plate in front of her.
Cathie O’Toole, the new chief administrative officer at Halifax Regional Municipality, at a Halifax Water Board of Commissioners meeting in 2019. Credit: Zane Woodford

“Cathie O’Toole, the general manager of Halifax Water, will transfer back over to Halifax Regional Municipality to become its new top bureaucrat,” reports Zane Woodford:

The municipality announced O’Toole as its new chief administrative officer in a news release Wednesday morning. Her first day is Jan. 1, 2023.

O’Toole has been general manager of Halifax Water since 2019. Before that, she was the chief financial officer at the utility since 2011. O’Toole, an accountant, worked for HRM for 10 years before that, in roles including chief financial officer.

Click here to read “Halifax hires new chief administrative officer.”

This is a very, very good hire. O’Toole is probably the most capable bureaucrat I know.

She’s also ethical. This is what I wrote in 2011:

The Common concert financing scandal is tainting the reputation of nearly everyone involved: mayor Peter Kelly, now-former acting CAo Wayne Anstey, Anstey’s predecessor Dan English, Trade Centre Limited’s Scott Ferguson and the city itself.

But one person will come away from this scandal with her reputation intact. That’s Cathie O’Toole, the city’s finance director…

O’Toole did exactly what she was supposed to do. My understanding is events played out like this: Anstey showed up sheepishly in O’Toole’s office with an invoice from Trade Centre Limited for $359,550, and explained what had happened. O’Toole then 1) immediately castigated Anstey, 2) next, called city attorney Mary Ellen Donovan and alerted her to the improper loan program, 3) arranged a meeting between herself, Donovan and auditor-general Larry Munro and 4) brought the issue to council’s audit committee. 

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6. Heritage battle set at Dal

An Italianate mansion is seen on a bright day. Trees are still green, suggesting it's summer. The mansion has a grand staircase at the entrance, curved windows, a widow's walk on the roof, and three brick chimneys.
The Dalhousie President’s Residence at 1460 Oxford St. in May 2022. Credit: Halifax Regional Municipality

“Halifax regional council has voted to add two more Dalhousie University properties to the municipal heritage registry,” reports Zane Woodford.

Heritage designation for both properties was requested by third parties — that is, groups that aren’t Dalhousie University and don’t own the properties.

The university opposed the designation.

Click here to read “Halifax council adds two more Dalhousie properties to the heritage registry.”

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7. UbU4U

A black woman wearing a black head wrap and beige hoodie with UbU4U logo on it. Behind her are other hoodies in orange, yellow, and black that have Black Lives Matter logos on them.
Jessica Bowden, fashion designer and owner of UbU4U, opened a new location of her store in Scotia Square. Credit: Matthew Byard

“A Black-owned clothing company is moving its store from Bedford to downtown Halifax where its owner said they will continue to offer ‘fashion with a purpose,'” reports Matthew Byard:

Jessica Bowden is a fashion designer and owner of UbU4U. The clothing store sells items from her line Teens Now Talk Apparel, named after the award-winning quarterly magazine she founded and publishes.

“Our objective is to empower our community while making you look good,” Bowden said in an interview with the Halifax Examiner.

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Argyle Street is a filthy disgusting mess

Here’s the Planifax video from 2017 celebrating the new “shared street” project around the Halifax Convention Centre:

YouTube video

Note how nice and white and clean the streets are.

Here’s the same street today:

Black splotches and dots on a dirty white tiles.
Oil stains and gum on Argyle Street Credit: Tim Bousquet

Shared streets are nothing new. There are pedestrianized zones in pretty much every European city, and some of the streets in those zones allow cars and delivery trucks, much as Argyle Street does.

And many of those European streets have the same basic design as Argyle Street, using paving stones and trenched drains, trees placed here and there.

But in Europe, each night an army of cleaners heads out with brooms and pressure washers to remove the gook and gunk. Most cities have a dedicated gum removal crew as well, circling the city every few months to get rid of the splotchy dried gum stains.

The result is that decades, and even centuries, after the streets were constructed, they are still shiny and clean, and a visitor gets the feeling that the city government really cares about the place.

But in Halifax, the shared street can’t last five years without looking like this:

More grime and gunk, on filthy white tiles next to a wall
This grime and gunk is typical along the entire length of Argyle Street Credit: Tim Bousquet

There are also clear signs the the city has no interest in maintaining the streetscape. The government is just letting the street fall apart. Consider this:

A square hole in white paving stones, next to a black pole.
A treeless tree well on Argyle Street Credit: Tim Bousquet

Next to the light pole, that used to be a tree well, with an actual tree growing out of it. Someone who works nearby tells me the tree died in the summer, and has never been replaced. Instead, there’s a hole in the street, perfectly situated to injure blind people, or drunk people, or just people who don’t expect a hole in the middle of a pedestrian zone.

Maybe the procuring of trees is limited by supply chain problems, or maybe someone made the decision to wait until spring to plant a new tree. OK. But in the meantime, couldn’t someone fill the hole with gravel or dirt to create a level pathway? Or even just put an orange warning cone atop the hole?

And in the Planifax video, they talk of argyle patterns being on Argyle Street, and you can see them. But now I don’t see any argyle patterns. They might be there, but if so, the street is so oil stained and grimed up that they’re undetectable.

dark spots, spit, and cigarette butts along filthy dirty white tiles
Some disgusting shit on Argyle Street Credit: Tim Bousquet

I understand that bar patrons are a dirty lot and they drop cigarette butts, spit out gum, and generally leave their filth everywhere. But this is not unique to Halifax. In cities that care about their pedestrian zones, such filth is swept away long before mid-afternoon, when I took these photos.

Sure, all streets in Halifax suffer from neglect and people leave their disgusting shit everywhere. But all streets in Halifax weren’t celebrated as a super attractive draw for conventioneers and tourists who would go back to Brampton or wherever and tell their friends and workmates how super cool Halifax is.

Consider the Bramptoner who comes to Halifax for the International Society of Widget Salespeople convention and takes a break from that asshole speaker from Maple Ridge and decides to flirt with the hawt middle manager from Saskatoon instead because you never know, you play your cards right you might get lucky, and so they head outside to sit on this:

A black slab bench with black stains on it adjacent to filthy dirty white tiles
Nobody wants to sit on this filthy bench on Argyle Street Credit: Tim Bousquet

“On second thought, I think I’ll head back in and listen to that asshole from Maple Ridge,” says the hawt middle manager.

What’s that widget salesperson going to tell their friends and workmates back in Brampton about Halifax then?

“I didn’t get laid because the city of Halifax doesn’t give a shit about maintaining its streets.”

That’s some great civic promotion.

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Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall and online) — agenda

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda

Board of Police Commissioners Special Meeting(Wednesday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — agenda

Regional Centre Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — agenda

Public Information Meeting – Case 24278 (Wednesday, 7pm, Black Point and Area Community Centre) — application for a development agreement for 5 four-unit dwellings and 14 townhouses on Conrads Road, Hubbards


Budget Committee and Halifax Regional Council continuation (Thursday, 9:30am, City Hall and online) — if required; agendas here and here

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, One Government Place) — Report of the Auditor General – 2022 Financial Report, with Kelliann Dean from the Department of Finance and Treasury Board 

On campus



The Australian dingo is an early offshoot of modern breed dogs (Thursday, 2pm, Theatre B, Tupper Building) — seminar by Matt Field from James Cook University, Australia

In the harbour

06:00: ZIM Luanda, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
06:00: AlgoCanada, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Imperial Oil
11:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Philipsburg, Saint Croix
13:30: Sunda, bulker, sails from Pier 28 for sea
15:00: AlgoCanada sails for sea

Cape Breton
10:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Halifax
10:00: CSL Koasek, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea
20:00: Dubai Brilliance, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from Mongstad, Norway


I’m not feeling great, but the COVID test came up negative.

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

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  1. Looking at those pictures of the Argyle Street mess, one remembers the arguments about handwashing and accessible washrooms in restaurants we made for our human rights case in 2018. A person in a wheelchair is in hand contact with all that shit, as you so accurately call it, and people in wheelchairs won their human right case for washrooms to be accessible. Meanwhile, we have had 3 years of Covid to learn the basics of public health, yet the fickle and feckless Chief Inspector of Health, the Department of Justice, the Restaurant Association and the useless Human Rights Commission have managed to avoid doing anything. Why is it that the Government is able to discriminate so openly? Systemic it is. Ableist it is.
    Thanks for bringing this up Tim. My single life goal is to shake the hand of the premier in the middle of Argyle St. And then make him eat without basic hygiene. Wheelchair users are safer in Wuhan……..

  2. Regarding Argyle Street… I am finding some sad humour in the knowledge that the city did not purchase all those pavers locally, instead paying a premium to bring them in from Ontario or Quebec, because local producers do not use white cement, and they didn’t want them to be grey. As usual, in our “culture of no” we paid extra to not buy local for a reason that ended up making no sense whatsoever. They sure don’t look very white, do they?

  3. Argyle Street is a mess, and Spring Garden Road is already starting to look just like that. Those big concrete ‘flower boxes’ are just giant ashtrays. The owners of the Lord Nelson had a man pressure washing the sidewalk several times last summer, trying to remove the gum and other stains. I’m coming to the conclusion that HRM planning does not do thorough assessments of new ideas before implementing them, and do-overs are becoming more and more common. Again, Spring Garden Road: the ‘flower pots’ were surrounded by broken cobblestones which made a very uneven hard to walk on surface. They are now being removed and replaced with flat pavers. How much money has been wasted just on those few city blocks?

  4. On a vaguely related matter (Streets),
    I noticed that the recently installed stupid annoying useless bumps at Joe Howe and Bayer’s Road have been removed.
    Anyone know what happened?
    Have the ones at other locations also been removed?

  5. I wonder if this is a Nova Scotia thing? I’ve been to city centres in several European countries and the USA and have an impression of clean, welcoming plaza areas. In NS, on the other hand, I note that we are very quick to build new projects (especially if another level of government is funding it) but there is never a maintenance plan let alone a preventive maintenance plan. Let it fall apart and then go with hand out to another level of government to fix it or replace it, repeat. And out Department of Transportation motto must be: “We build highways, we don’t maintain them.” It seems to be an attitude that new things are good – for a day.

  6. Re: Argyle Street. At least the hole on Argyle left by the dead tree doesn’t have sharp, raggedy, edges like all of the metal signposts that have been cut down all over town and left to tear at the feet of dogs, children, and other unsuspecting pedestrians. And then there are the random temporary metal sign holders that (sometimes) display “construction zone” signs. These are left on sidewalks, hidden — or not — in the right of way, and otherwise splayed dangerously in the path of walkers, runners, and those using mobility help.

  7. I agree entirely with the article about the filth of Argyle St. and the city’s careless attitude toward it. The same holds true to Spring Garden Rd, which after a year of work to beautify it now looks disgusting. It is shocking to me that the city would spend so much money and then do so little, in fact nothing, to maintain these “assets”.