1. Donkin mine “plagued by safety violations”

The Donkin headland. Photo: Morien Resources Corp.

The newly opened Donkin mine has been “plagued by safety violations ,” reports Frances Willick for the CBC:

Inspectors with the province’s Labour Department carried out six inspections between the first day of production at Donkin on Feb. 27 and June 15.

During the mine’s first 3½ months of operation, the department issued 10 compliance orders and 29 warnings for violations of workplace safety and underground mining regulations.

And just three weeks after miners started digging for coal, the province ordered the entire operation closed because of ventilation problems.

The stop-work order came during a power outage during a storm on March 22, which knocked out power to the mine’s ventilation system. A backup generator was not yet hooked up. Continues Willick:

Without proper ventilation, methane can build up to dangerous levels and cause an explosion.

According to Nova Scotia Power, the outage began just before 10 a.m. and power was restored to the mine at about 10 p.m. The province caught wind of the power outage at about 3 p.m. and issued a stop-work order.


Scott Nauss, the senior director of inspection and compliance with Nova Scotia’s occupational health and safety division, told CBC News the company assured the province that workers were pulled from the mine immediately after the power went out, but said the government has no way to independently verify that.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Westray Mine Disaster, which was caused by the buildup of methane in the mine.

The opening of the Donkin mine just as the world is abandoning coal-fired power generation reflects the economic desperation in Cape Breton. And as we’ve learned time and again, when big economic development projects are launched to address such desperation, corners are cut, regulations are relaxed or ignored, sketchy and irresponsible companies are contracted, and disaster looms. That was the recipe for Westray.

Willick’s report is thorough, and should be read in full. It’s good, solid reporting.

2. Chronicle Herald

Mediation between the Chronicle Herald and its striking newsroom employees begins today.

As you’ll recall, the province has called an Industrial Inquiry Commission inquiry into the strike, an extraordinary process that hasn’t been invoked since 1994.

Toronto lawyer William Kaplan has been brought in as the commissioner. Kaplan will attempt to mediate between the two sides; I believe those mediation sessions will take place at the Holiday Inn in Dartmouth (the Holiday Inn is used for labour negotiations because it is the only unionized hotel in HRM). (See comments; also, I’m told the hotel has been sold and rebranded — something I’ve failed to notice even though I pass it every day. I don’t know if it’s still unionized.)

Kaplan has subpoena powers, so if he can’t get the two sides to agree, then he can force the Chronicle Herald to turn over their books so he can make a recommendation for a settlement. The law doesn’t require the Herald to agree to Kaplan’s recommendation, but the threat of peering into the privately owned company’s books may be incentive to reach an agreement before Kaplan uses the power.

I discussed the Chronicle Herald strike with Danny Cavanaugh, the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, for today’s Examineradio.

3. Argyle Street reconstruction delayed three to six weeks

The plan to pretty up the Borg is running behind schedule. Photo:

Yesterday, the city told downtown businesses that the Argyle Street reconstruction project is taking longer than expected. This letter was sent to businesses:

Dear Business Operators,

At nine weeks in, we’ve seen a lot of progress in constructing our new streetscape.

It’s exciting to see the new paving stones on Grafton Street and the south portion of Argyle Street — a glimpse of what’s to come when the project is complete.

Many challenges were anticipated, and planned for, in the delivery of such a significant construction project in one of the region’s oldest city blocks. However, the scope and scale of these challenges has (sic) been beyond our initial expectations and, as a result, our targeted completion will be delayed by 3-6 weeks.

Our construction contractor has encountered substantial amounts of unknown and disused underground infrastructure, which had slowed progress. Elements of the design have had to be relocated or re-engineered to accommodate what lies beneath the surface. The next phase of construction, involving the sidewalks may bring new challenges and it is with this in mind that we must prudently prepare for a delay.

We’re working closely with the contractor to identify all possible opportunities to expedite progress without compromising on the commitment to deliver a high standard of quality.

Thank you for your continued patience, optimism and proactive efforts to promote the district in the midst of this project. Many of you are actively engaged in showcasing Argyle and Grafton during construction through the Downtown Halifax Business Commission’s marketing efforts, through your own social media feeds, and through creative sidewalk signage.

We appreciate your ongoing feedback and remain committed to providing regular updates on the progress of the project over the coming weeks and months.

Hanita Koblents
Principal Planner, Urban Design – Streets

I’m additionally told that the Prince Street part of the reconstruction project, which was supposed to start June 1, hasn’t begun at all. The problem is that the Prince Street-facing part of the Nova Centre construction is behind schedule. If the start of the work is delayed much further, winter will interfere with the project and the contractor may have to wait until spring.

Oh, by the way, I missed my first-of-the-month update on the Nova Centre hotel. We’re now five months away from the Nova Centre supposedly being open, and there’s still no hotel operator named. I interviewed councillor Waye Mason for last week’s Examineradio, and he agreed with me that it seems unlikely the hotel will open on time. Developer Joe Ramia doesn’t get paid the government money for the project until the hotel reaches “substantial completion” — a technical term that I don’t pretend to understand. Whether he gets paid or not, it will be strange to have a brand new convention centre hosting delegates who won’t be staying in the hotel above it.

4. Victoria Henneberry

Victoria Henneberry and Blake Leggette. Photo: Twitter

In April 2015, Blake Leggette pleaded guilty to a first degree murder charge in the death of Loretta Saunders, which comes with a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

Leggette’s girlfriend, Victoria Henneberry, was also charged with first degree murder but negotiated a guilty plea for second degree murder with a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for 10 years.

Their guilty pleas avoided a lengthy trial and the additional emotional anguish it would have entailed for Saunders’ family.

But Henneberry subsequently appealed her conviction, saying her plea was invalid due to her mental health and because she is innocent.

Yesterday, Justice Duncan Beveridge rejected Henneberry’s appeal. “There is nothing in the record of the trial proceedings that gives any credence to the suggestion that her plea was anything but voluntary, unequivocal and informed,” wrote Beveridge in his decision:

The appellant had a choice on April 22, 2015. Plead guilty to second degree murder or proceed to trial. As explained before us by trial Crown attorney, Ms. Driscoll, the entry of pleas by Mr. Leggette and the appellant were not connected. It was not a package deal. Mr. Leggette made his decision. The appellant, with the assistance of counsel, made hers.

The appellant was free to continue to trial on the charge of first degree murder where she could test the power of the circumstantial evidence arrayed against her and testify as to her now claimed innocence.

But what was the legal landscape in front of her? The defence forensic psychiatrist’s report dated April 21, 2015 was apparently unhelpful. Mr. Leggette, who had admitted to committing a planned and deliberate murder, would be a competent and compellable witness against the appellant. The choice to plead guilty was hers. It was conscious, voluntary and unequivocal.

5. Harbour Queen

Photo: Flickr

Murphy’s on the Water and Waterfront Development are being sued by Halifax resident McKayla Thomas for an incident she says happened on the Harbour Queen on June 25, 2015.

While on a two-hour cruise, Thomas “was struck on the head by a speaker which fell from a platform affixed to the ceiling,” reads the suit.

Thomas does not detail her injuries or specify damages.

The Harbour Queen is owned by Murphy’s on the Water, part of Dennis Campbell’s near-monopoly of waterfront businesses  — he owns Ambassatours, Murphy’s, the Silva, the Harbour Queen, Theodore, the Harbour Hopper, etc. Undoubtedly that near-monopoly results in higher prices for tourists, but I guess no one cares about that.

Waterfront Development is named in the suit because it is Murphy’s landlord and leases wharf space to the Harbour Queen.

The allegations have not been tested in court.

6. Erik the Red

The Maritime Museum posted an obituary on its website yesterday:

An era came to an end on Tuesday, August 1st when Erik the Red, the much-loved Rodent Control Officer of CSS Acadia passed away quietly at home after a brief illness. A fixture on the waterfront since 1997, Erik was the last of the four Rodent Control officers who so proudly served aboard ship and officially retired in 2015.

7. Laser strike

A police release from yesterday:

Officers assigned to the Aviation Security Unit’s (sic) of Halifax Regional Police are investigating an incident of a laser being pointed at an aircraft that occurred Tuesday in the Bedford area.

On August 1 at approximately 10:54 p.m., a Diamond DA20 small single engine aircraft was flying above the area of Hammonds Plains Road and Highway 102, when the pilot’s vision became temporarily impaired due to a laser beam pointing into the cockpit. 

Halifax Regional Police patrol members conducted several patrols in the area where the beams were though (sic) to have originated but were unable to locate any suspects. The investigation is continuing. 

This is an extremely serious offence that imposes danger upon the pilot, passengers and any citizens on the ground. The maximum penalty under the Aeronautics Act for aiming a laser into a cockpit is a $100,000 fine, five years in prison or both.

I haven’t updated the Icarus Report in a while because I’ve been too busy with other stuff. It’ll return soon.


No public meetings.

On campus

Saint Mary’s

Thesis Defence, Applied Psychology (Friday, 10am, Sobey 255) — Krista D.E. Wright will defend her thesis, “To Lead or To Follow? The Impact of Sexual Orientation, Race, and Gender on Leadership Evaluations.”

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:15am Friday. Map:

2:30am: ZIM Chicago, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
3:30am: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Point Tupper
5:30am: Ningbo Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
6am: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Halifax to Saint-Pierre
11am: Hollandia, general cargo, sails from Pier 31 for sea
11:30am: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
4pm: Ningbo Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
8pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
9pm: YM Movement, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka


I don’t yet know if El Jones will be back tomorrow or not. Otherwise, I’m taking the long weekend off, sort of — won’t be publishing, anyway, unless something unexpected happens. See you Tuesday.

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

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  1. Occupational Health and Safety Inspection reports should be posted without the need for a freedom of information request. Withholding this kind of information smells of the same kind of government protection that contributed the Westray explosion, along with countless assertions that “safety is our priority.” Bullshit. Profit is the priority for the company and political gain is the priority for government. Miners being afraid to unionize was another feature of the Westray disaster. Every member of the current government should be put on notice they are morally responsible if lives are lost at Donkin. Media need to remember that they ignored the opportunity to cover the warnings that preceded Westray the way they should have. I hope the CBC coverage inspires other reporters to get on Donkin’s case and stay there. History is being repeated here.

    1. Yes, my friends at the Delta Halifax have enjoyed union representation going back to its founding as a CP Hotel, the Chateau Halifax, opened in 1974.