On campus
This date in history
In the harbour


1. Yarmouth ferry

Yarmouth ferry terminal. Photo:
Yarmouth ferry terminal. Photo:

Tina Comeau, editor of the Yarmouth Vanguard, has a thorough and alarming report on the Yarmouth ferry:

YARMOUTH – Bay Ferries has yet to secure a vessel for ferry service running between Yarmouth and Portland for the 2016 season but the province’s minister of transportation says he isn’t concerned.

When the province announced at the end of October that Bay Ferries was the preferred candidate to operate the ferry service this season and beyond, it said the company had 45 days to secure a vessel.

“Technically, based on the announcement of the negotiations with Bay Ferries, the 45 days has lapsed. That is certainly not a concern for us,” Geoff MacLellan said in an interview late Monday with the Yarmouth Vanguard.


But what about marketing? How can you market a service set to begin in six months when you don’t yet have a vessel? It’s a question members of the public are asking.


MacLellan adds you won’t see expectations of 100,000 or 80,000 passengers coming and going set for this year as Nova Star Cruises had done in its two years of operating the service.

“One of the takeaways now from those years is we understand what the relative baseline could be, in the high 50,000 range. We don’t think it’s reasonable to raise expectations past that point now because that’s all we have to go on,” he said. “If we do have an increase of 10 or 15 per cent, well that’s good news and we’ll build on that the following year, but it’s been relative consistency of the ridership.

2. Cogswell interchange


The city is looking to hire a “fairness monitor” for the Cogswell interchange project. “The Cogswell Redevelopment Program is a multi-year strategic infrastructure initiative for the urban design, sustainability and economic objectives of the Halifax Regional Municipality,” explains the city. “The program will deconstruct the Cogswell Street Interchange, re-establish the street grid to allow for improved transportation flow and connectivity to the downtown and north end of Halifax. The scope will incorporate the urban design features of walkable communities and green spaces while maximizing the land that is available for mixed-use development in the heart of downtown Halifax’s business and commercial district.”

Continues a tender offer issued this morning:

One of the key initial requirements for project start-up is the engagement of the Prime Design Consultant. Due to the high visibility of this procurement initiative, it has been determined that an independent Fairness Monitor be brought on to provide assurance that the procurement management practices are of the highest standard, and ensure that fairness, objectivity, impartiality, openness and transparency of the RFP process has been maintained.

If someone is going to examine “fairness” in the Cogswell project, the first thing they should do is tell us why the Hardman Group’s proposal to build the convention centre on the site was secretly killed in a backroom deal. How was that fair?

As I’ve explained, the Hardman proposal scored higher than a competing proposal by developer Joe Ramia to build a convention centre at his Nova Centre project on  Argyle Street, but the Hardman bid was squashed at a secret meeting of the Halifax council, and miraculously the stars aligned for Ramia:

Through 2008, Joe Ramia had a fortunate run of luck with his Nova Centre proposal. A judge ordered the sale of the Midtown property to Ramia the day before he had to demonstrate ownership. The EOI evaluation team scored the competing Hardman proposal for a convention centre on the Cogswell Interchange higher, but failed to notify anyone about the scoring and didn’t move on to the next step in the process. The concept of using the Cogswell property as a land bank for downtown was adopted by bureaucrats without first being tested in the realm of public opinion. And, contradicting its public vote of just 10 months before, Halifax council secretly voted to deny Hardman the use of the Cogswell land for a convention centre, leaving Ramia with the sole viable convention centre proposal.

This thing stinks. And let’s name names here: Andy Filmore, now the MP for Halifax but then the city planning guru, knows the real story. Peter Stickings, the city’s real estate manager, knows the real story. Dan English, the former city CAO, knows the real story. And there must be a handful of city middle managers and planners who know what really happened.

For some reason auditor general Larry Munroe, who has subpoena power, hasn’t touched this. We need a whistleblower. If that’s you, I’ll protect your identity.

3. Abortion on PEI

“An abortion advocacy group is launching a constitutional challenge against the only Canadian province with a policy against providing abortions,” reports Vice’s Hilary Beaumont:

Despite abortion’s legal status federally, Prince Edward Island has maintained a strict policy of sending women outside the province to receive abortion services, which the province covers under medicare. But on Tuesday, Abortion Access Now PEI (AAN PEI) notified the province of its intent to sue, arguing the policy violates PEI residents’ rights to equal access to healthcare under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

“PEI’s Abortion Policy is a state-imposed barrier to the right and ability of individual women to exercise control over matters fundamental to their physical, emotional and psychological integrity,” the group said in a release. “Difficulty, uncertainty, delay, lack of access and stigma cause PEI women physical and psychological harm, including harm to conscience and dignity.”


Officially, no abortions are provided in the province, which has a Liberal government but a strong pro-choice presence. By word of mouth, though, women are able to find doctors willing to prescribe them abortion pills to induce miscarriage. But if the pills don’t work, they can be left in limbo.

The story of one such woman, Courtney Cudmore, gained international attention in early 2015 after medication she took to induce an abortion failed, and a doctor subsequently refused her medical treatment. The doctor told her “we are not comfortable” dealing with her situation, and instead directed her to a clinic in Halifax, a four-hour drive away.

4. BMO


Efforts to save the historic BMO building in Amherst have been futile, and the Town of Amherst has issued a tender for the demolition of the building. The bank building was built in 1903, but BMO moved out in the 1920s.

5. Lobsters

“Federal fisheries scientists say their most recent sampling of juvenile lobster in southwest Nova Scotia indicate a decade-long trend of abundant populations is holding steady,” reports the CBC’s Paul Withers:

“We’re optimistic because things have continued to trend up and we haven’t seen any indication of things moving downward quickly. That is where some of our optimism is coming from,” [Adam Cook, a federal research scientist,] said.

Huh. Where have I heard that before? Oh yea:

This was not an isolated incident: DFO routinely suppressed politically inconvenient research into the causes of the cod decline. An internal government report, based on meetings with almost every member of DFO’s Science Branch in 1992, charged that “Scientific information surrounding the northern cod moratorium, specifically the role of the environment, was gruesomely mangled and corrupted to meet political ends.” It noted that the department routinely gagged its scientists, leaving communication with the public to ill-informed spokespersons. “Management is fostering an attitude of scientific deception, misinformation and obfuscation in presenting and defending the science that the department undertakes and the results it achieves,” the report said. “It appears that science is too much integrated into the politics of the department . . . It has become far too convenient for resource managers and others to publicly state that their decisions were based on scientific advice when this is clearly not the case” (Canada 1993, 34, 44, 54, 55).


1. If you read nothing else today, read this

On New Year’s Day, Mary Campbell, a freelance journalist in Sydney, wrote an incredible history of the backroom deals and insider games involving the port of Sydney. A quote or two from the piece doesn’t do it justice. Read the whole thing, and weep.

2. Doyle block

The current view from the library.
The current view from the library.
The view from the library if the proposed development on the Doyle block is built.
The view from the library if the proposed development on the Doyle block is built.

Don’t block gorgeous view of Citadel from new library,” reads the headline of an op-ed piece written by Steve Parcell, an architect who teaches at Dalhousie:

The library is not just a building to look at; it’s a building to look from. One of the guiding principles for the library design was to become “a civic landmark and a source of pride and inspiration for all residents.”

Can we agree that this elevated promontory and its view of Citadel Hill is a remarkable addition to the city?

Westwood Developments (Danny Chedrawe, president) is planning to erect a seven-storey apartment building (plus a rooftop restaurant-bar) that would fill the whole block across from the library. Unfortunately, the western part of this building would block the library’s view of Citadel Hill. This would turn the library into just another building on Spring Garden Road, hemmed in by its neighbours. So much for the library’s status as a civic landmark on par with the Citadel.

I’m not against razing the Doyle block and constructing new buildings on the site. But the proposed development is too big, especially on its western end, and clumsily bulky. I think the developer should come back with a proposal for two or three buildings on the block.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

As a Cape Breton resident, I’d like to answer the Jan. 4 letter from the spokesman for “People North of Smokey Who Agree to Have Our Monument at Green Cove” regarding the proposed war-memorial statue.

In it, the writer cites various other designations that Parks Canada allows on park property. He further compares this proposed memorial with the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.

Here’s my problem: the Vietnam Memorial is subtle and tasteful — in fact, it will bring one to tears.

The proposed Green Cove memorial is a hideous eyesore. It shouldn’t be allowed in a junkyard, much less our beautiful park. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but it looks suspiciously like a blown-up dashboard Virgin Mary.

Jim Austin, Margaree Forks



City council (9:30am, City Hall) — budget deliberations continue. Today, council will look at the Parks and Recreation and Library budgets.


No public meetings.

On Campus



Microalgae-derived chemicals: opportunity for an integrated chemical plant (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link) — Azadeh Kermanshahi-pour will speak about, well, microalgae-derived chemicals.


Changing the wheels on the bus (Thursday, 11:30am, Slonim Conference Room, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Elaine Lau, a senior user experience and user interface designer at Oracle, will speak on:

Elaine Lau
Elaine Lau

Working in commercial software is like changing the wheels of the train while the train is going down the track. Better wheels make a faster and smoother train ride but the change will always be disruptive to passengers and train workers. So even as we think of how to improve and upgrade our product, we also consider the impact to our users, customers, and internal teams that depend on it. Being part of a product team that has a real impact on people is exhilarating and fraught with complexity at the same time. 

Forum on fossil fuel divestment (Thursday, 4–6pm, McInnis Room, Student Union Building) — the Ad hoc Committee of Senate on Fossil Fuel Divestment has released its preliminary report. Divest Dal, the student group advocating for divestment, has issued the following press release:

2016 will be the Year of Divestment

In 2014, the Dalhousie Student Union and the Dalhousie Faculty Association both supported our call for Dalhousie University to divest, and the DSU began divesting its own holdings.

In 2015 the Dalhousie Senate released an interim report showing that the consensus from Dal’s academic units was to divest.

On January 7th, 2016, you have the chance to support this Senate report, and demand that 2016 be the year Dalhousie finally divests. Join us at the SUB (McInnes Room) at 6136 University Avenue between 4 and 6 PM. Your presence is seriously needed – we need to pack this 300 person room!

Contact or message us on Facebook (Divest Dalhousie).

YouTube video

This Changes Everything (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — A screening of Avi Lewis’s documentary, which is inspired by Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate.

This date in history

On January 6, 1781, press gangs grabbed scores of men and boys off the streets of Halifax. Historian Keith Mercer tells the story:

While the Admiralty conceded that too much impressment was counter-productive, the squadron continued to press sailors in Nova Scotia, without seeking colonial permission. This prompted Lieutenant-Governor Richard Hughes to issue a proclamation in December 1778. The terms of the debate had now shifted: the issue was no longer the impressment of citizens, who had been protected since 1775, but rather jurisdiction over press gangs on shore. Admiralty warrants permitted impressment in Nova Scotia’s harbours and on the high seas, but sending press gangs into town sparked outrage and provincial resistance. [Lieutenant-Governor Richard] Hughes, a former naval officer, condemned the Navy’s disregard for colonial authority, especially since press gangs on shore were “frequently attended with Quarrels and Bloodshed and the loss of Life.” Unlike the Assembly in 1775, Hughes did not lobby for unrealistic goals, such as a prohibition on impressment or immunity for domestic shipping. He established regulations instead, to protect Halifax from social unrest in the future. Press gangs were forbidden to operate in town without colonial permission, and searches for deserters were illegal unless sanctioned by the magistracy, according to a provincial statute. Hughes wanted impressment confined to Halifax harbour and he threatened criminal prosecution for non-compliance.

In January 1781 the Grand Jury issued a presentment against the Navy. It came in response to a riot sparked by press gangs marching through Halifax “in Contempt of all civil Authority”, tying people’s “Hands behind their Backs, [and] carr[ying] them through the Streets like Malefactors”. Naval officers were reinforced with marines and soldiers, which became common in Nova Scotia in the early nineteenth century. According to [Liverpool merchant Simeon] Perkins, who heard about the [earlier pressing] incident in Liverpool, the Navy instigated a hot press to man HMS Richmond; but unlike most presses on land, which occurred at night, “Marines and Saylors Drove all before them in the Streets in the day time.” The victims were from Halifax and Lunenburg, and many were kept as prisoners in a guard house before being sent onboard the Richmond. While the pressing of citizens was at the centre of this case, and likely accounts for the Grand Jury’s intervention, the issue was jurisdiction over impressment on land.

The Grand Jury argued that it was illegal for press gangs to operate in Halifax without permission. It declared its disapprobation for the violence that had occurred and lamented the Navy’s lack of respect for provincial authority. Although the Halifax Sessions could have prosecuted the officers involved, it decided to make reforms instead, to prevent violence for the duration of the war. Nor did the Grand Jury contest the legality of impressment in Nova Scotia; it even declared that it was “truly sensible of the Necessity of procuring Seamen and others for His Majesty’s Service,” and offered to “point out the People that are proper for such Purposes.”

Press gangs would continue to occasionally raid Halifax for seamen. “In 1805 Halifax played host to the most deadly press gang riot in its history,” explains Mercer.

I was especially interested in Mercer’s account of earlier, 1740s-era impressment in the lower colonies, and how that played out through the American revolution. The entire essay is worth a read.


YouTube video

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Wednesday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Wednesday. Map:

CSL Atlas, bulker, Portsmouth, Maine to Bedford Basin anchorage
Atlantic Star, ro-ro cargo, Liverpool, England to Fairview Cove, then sails to sea
NYK Delphinus, container ship, Rotterdam to Fairview Cove
ZIM Monaco, container ship, Valencia, Spain to Pier 42
Atlantic Cartier, ro-ro container, Norfolk to Fairview Cove

Fremantle Highway sails to sea


I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm today.

Oh… I’m this close to being able to hire an admin person. Please subscribe! I’ve made the $100 annual subscription a permanent offer, but there are also basic $10/month options and $5/month low income and student options. Click here to subscribe. Thanks!

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

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  1. Re Backroom Deals: Excellent expose, but, unfortunately, our movers and shakers have no shame and even with this concise chronology the absurdity of these deals will go right over the heads of our politicians.

    Just so people don’t think it’s only in a Cape Breton thing, we have our very own absurdly stupid real estate deal: Back in November, the province (on behalf of Trade Centre Limited, the owner of record) sold the Exhibition Park (112 acres) to Banc properties for $ 2.5 million. That’s just over $ 13,000 per acre for prime commercial/industrial land with a perfectly serviceable – once deferred maintenance is taken care of – exhibition building. The assessed value of that property is $ 8.2 million or $ 73,000 per acre. And if you subdivide off the land not required to operate the building and adjacent parking, you could see sales of the remainder well over 100K per acre.

    My favourite quote from the minister Geoff MacLellan in the CBC article I read kind of sums it up, “This is a good business opportunity — we’re moving out of the way to let the private sector take the lead.” I think there is a typo in this story. I believe minister MacLellan meant to say, “…to let the private sector take us to the cleaners”.

  2. I am going to continue to do my monthly subscription … you can put the $20 extra I will pay each year toward a half-hour of someone’s time.

  3. It is great to see PEI being challenged to provide abortion services. I have taught about the variability of access to abortion across the Atlantic Region in my Health and Social Policy class at Saint Mary’s and in my grad class on Canada’s Health Care System. (Yep, a white man teaching this but I will leave that aside for now). I also now have a graduate student who will be doing her thesis on the issue of the access to abortion across the Atlantic Region. Today’s Globe and Mail has a good article and LEAF put this out yesterday:

  4. A “fairness monitor”? Really?
    Does this mean that until now procurement hasn’t been all that fair?!

    Real shame about the Amherst BMO building.
    Surely there is an innovative solution.

    1. Mary Campbell’s article on Sydport combines a smart-alecky tone that seems popular with Halifax Examiner readers with the assumption that all of the business people she mentions are crooks with no care for the community where they live and build companies.

      Campbell’s piece is also riddled with errors, especially her 2012 recapitulation of CBRM’s outrageous decision to buy — not the industrial park at the centre of her article — but an adjacent piece of land some believe will someday be the site of a container pier (a questionable assumption).

      At the time of the sale, CBRM was massively in debt, and a group of private business people had specific plans to develop part of the site as a bulk shipping pier. They had actual clients, ready to go, and there was no government money in their bid for this land. CBRM stepped in on two day’s notice and spent taxpayer money it did not have to “save” the site for a future container pier. It was a crazy thing to do, but it kept alive the dream of a container pier on which a generation of mayors and mayoral candidates have sought and won office.

      At the time, I attempted to unpack the details in two posts at

      Campbell’s inaccuracies are bad enough, but really, it’s the knee-jerk sneering at business people she doesn’t know that’s truly offensive. I know most of the people she slangs personally, and all of them by reputation. I have done business with some of them. They are good people who grew up in the community and who have built lasting businesses that have been good for Sydney. Along the way they have had a few failures, too. That doesn’t make them knaves or swindlers.

      CBRM could use 100 more like them.

      1. Aside from the CBRM purchase error what other errors “riddle” the article. My sense of outrage wasn’t exactly stimulated to hear that a group of local business people would play pass the property amongst themselves and local governments/development agencies. It’s not all that unusual and likely not criminal in any sense, and certainly isn’t unique to CB. You seem bent about the article which does seem to put some people in a sinister light. Is it because the people named did not do what the author claims?

  5. So, hold up.

    The idea of a successful year with the Yarmouth ferry is to now reduce the expectations by 50%, and then if they see 5-10% more than that, they consider it a success? In what world does that make mathematical, let alone, business sense?

    Assuming the handouts continue (and let’s be real, they will), doesn’t this also mean that the subsidy per passenger, that you and I are paying for, is going to be significantly higher?

    1. I’ve lost track of the ins/outs of the story. Are we still paying the same amount of subsidy? If the ship is more suitable for the service given the reduced expectations aren’t the costs to the province reduced?

      1. I am assuming the handouts will likely continue. The fixed costs of running a boat back and forth half empty won’t change that much.