1. More on the education battle

• The work-to-rule job action is resulting in cancelled school bookings for artistic productions around the province, reports Katy Parsons for the CBC, resulting in financial difficulties for arts organizations:

The contract dispute has meant cancellations and empty seats for other school theatrical performances, such as Eastern Front Theatre’s Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Artistic producer Jeremy Webb said one school had booked the entire Neptune Theatre for a performance on December 14th. He’s now trying to refill those 180 seats. 

There’s some irony there in that the Neptune Theatre is on the Halifax Typographical Union’s list of companies to boycott because the theatre advertises in the Chronicle Herald.

Update, Thursday morning: The above comment was just stupid on my part. Eastern Front is not the Neptune.

• I didn’t catch the show, but retired union worker John McCracken says that Corporate Research Associates’ Don Mills made false claims on Sheldon MacLeod’s show yesterday:

It’s really not helping matters when a major pollster — who is supposed to be in the business of selling truth and facts — makes false statements such as the one he made to Sheldon today that “public sector wage settlements have been outstripping those in the private sector.”

This is patently false. It may be what our premier and Karen Casey would like Nova Scotians to believe, but it is simply not true.

McCracken links to a chart produced by the federal Department of Labour comparing union agreements with private companies and union agreements in the public sector. (See the whole chart here.) The relevant numbers are the wage increases each year, as follows:

• Students for Teachers are embarking on a “mini campaign” on social media:

Students, starting tomorrow, we are asking that you take a picture with your teacher(s) and post it in this group and on Twitter/Instagram using #family. This can be a picture of just you & a teacher, your friends & a teacher, your class & your teacher, a picture with a few of your teachers, etc etc etc. (Just ensure you are respecting the rules of Work to Rule). Caption it with why this teacher(s) has made such a big impact on your life, how much they mean to you, and be sure to use #family & #students4teachers in the posts. We hope this shows the NS government how much our teachers go above & beyond for their students, and that our bond will not be broken – we will not stop fighting alongside them for better working and learning conditions in our schools. More importantly, we hope it shows teachers how much we love them, how much they mean to us, and how much we support them throughout this stressful & emotional time.

• “After asserting the Fire Marshall deemed a planned teachers’ job action unsafe and despite no evidence to the contrary, Liberal MLA Iain Rankin is being accused of “making stuff up” by the opposition,” reports Andrew Pinsent for News 95.7.

2. Diana Whalen

Diana Whalen
Diana Whalen

A press release from the premier’s office yesterday:

Diana Whalen will take a brief leave from her cabinet duties as justice minister and attorney general, and deputy premier, after being hospitalized on Monday, Dec. 5. 

Ms. Whalen is expected to make a full recovery.


While Ms. Whalen is on leave, Energy Minister Michel Samson will be the acting justice minister and attorney general, and deputy premier.

The last few days must have been a very stressful day for all cabinet ministers. Whalen didn’t appear at Province House Monday. The Canadian Press reports that Whalen suffered a heart attack.

3. Benjamin Weir house

“Halifax regional council approved a significant addition to a downtown heritage building on Tuesday,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro:

The municipality’s Heritage Advisory Committee couldn’t come to a decision on the addition to the historic Benjamin Wier House at 1459 Hollis Street last September. Municipal staff wrote that the project failed to meet six of 12 standards for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, but recommended the project anyway. The municipality’s Design Review Committee approved the project as well.


Council voted 16-1 in favour of the development, with only Coun. Steve Streatch voting against it.

“I looked at that picture, and I didn’t like it,” he said.

I don’t like that picture either, because it doesn’t reflect reality. Let’s compare the architectural rendering of the proposal (top) to the Google Street View image of the existing house and environs (bottom):

Now let’s play a game of Spot the Difference:

• the architect envisions a rare sunny day, with a blue, blue sky not seen in Halifax since the day after creation, and where the trees from the Government House yard across the street cast shadows three-quarters of the way across Hollis Street but the street trees on the east side of the street cast no shadows at all;

• speaking of street trees, there are currently no such trees, so if the developer is proposing them, he should pay for them;

• the architect also fails to show the telephone pole and wires, so apparently the developer is also going to pay for under-grounding the utilities on Hollis Street;

• the architect places two buildings that do not exist on either side of the house. On the plans for the proposal that was approved last night, the buildings are labeled “future development by Halkirk Properties,” but so far as I know, such developments have been neither proposed nor approved. So those fictional buildings serve to (falsely) reduce the visual impact of the proposed addition;

• the newly created fictional buildings and the real existing buildings have no identity of their own — no doors, windows, steps, dormers or roof shingles — and are simply white blocks. Were there actual white blocks on the street, anything at all — garbage dump, billboards, flashing airport beacon lights — would be an improvement to the street, and so the weirdly cantilevering structure looming over the house gets a pass;

• one of those non-descript white blocks that represents a building that doesn’t exist is see-through;

• did I mention the blue sky?

4. Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly. Photo: Tim Bousquet

The Albertan government has agreed to conduct a “municipal inspection” of Westlock County, reports Olivia Bako for the Westlock News:

Although [County reeve Don Savage] didn’t know when the inspection will start, he said that he looked forward to getting the matter settled and laid the cause on former CAO Peter Kelly, Charlottetown’s current chief administrator.

“Peter was the instigator of it,” Savage said. “He’s the one that created the thing there with Horizon. And really, all of us are still in the dark. We have no idea what went on there. Peter had a month there and apparently he shredded a lot of paper, so it’s something they’ve got to get into it and then the information will start coming out, I hope.”

Peter Kelly

Trouble bubbled up during Kelly’s stint as CAO from Sept. 2014 to Feb. 2016, during which he approved more than $375,863 worth of work to prepare an eight-acre industrial park belonging to Horizon North without council’s approval.

Under Section 248(2) of the MGA, council approval is required for any expenditure of a non-budgeted amount of $10,000 or greater.

About three months after Kelly stepped down after his contract expired, council learned June 14 that it was on the hook for over $202,000 for funds they wouldn’t recover from the Horizon North deal.

County expenses on the site, including recent improvements and original development costs totalled $465,000, while current market value of the site was assessed at $263,000. Council was forced to write-off the difference.

In August, the News reported that an eight-page legal opinion from Reynolds, Mirth, Richards and Farmer Barristers and Solicitors dated June 13 found Kelly had breached his duties as administrator and was liable for damages.

Breaches included selling the lots for below market value, expending unbudgeted funds, withholding information from council, continuing to deal with Horizon North after his tenure as CAO and failing to maintain appropriate paperwork.

I published the legal opinion on August 2. The review is expected to take nine months.


1. IMP

Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler continues her review of the Integrated Mobility Plan:

The IMP sets a clear tone for transit, basically that we need to allot space and traffic priority for buses on our streets. The plan documents map out a network of transit priority corridors criss-crossing the centre, then reaching out to Bedford, Burnside, Main Street Dartmouth, Portland Hills, Woodside, Armdale, and Clayton Park. The measures put in place along these corridors would vary from added turning lanes, to special advance signals for buses, to fully dedicated transit lanes.

What’s not included, so far, is a timeline to achieve all this. Will we be getting these buses out of traffic in the next five years? Or will we take our sweet time and aim for 15?

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

Wouldn’t you think that we had enough qualified people here to serve as Eastlink employees? 

I phoned Eastlink for assistance and the responder was a person living in Kingston, Jamaica. I find the world gets more bizarre.

Hilary Prince, Stratford



Audit & Finance (10am, City Hall) — mostly, the committee is just getting up and running after the recent council elections. Also, $25,000 for the Army Museum.

Centre Plan exemptions (12pm and 6pm, Atlantic Hotel, Halifax) — The Centre Plan is going to be awesome! Therefore, we’re going to exempt 19 properties and a bunch of gigantic buildings from it.

Integrated Mobility Plan Workshop (12pm and 6pm, Bedford-Hammonds Plains Community Centre, 202 Innovation Drive, Bedford) — read Erica Butler’s piece above.

Environment & Sustainability Standing (1pm, City Hall) — this committee, too, is just getting up and running.


Public Accounts (9am, Province House) — Auditor General Michael Pickup will be asked if he’ll send his kids to the new Stephen McNeil Memorial High School.

On campus


Intestinal Cells (9:30am, Room B-A3, Sir Charles Tupper Building) — Abdul Zetrini will speak about how “Phosphatidylcholine Biosynthesis is Involved in Autophagy Regulation in Ras-Transformed Intestinal Epithelial Cells.”

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9am Wednesday. Map:

4:30am: Maule, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
5:30am: Auriga Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
11am: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Belledune, New Brunswick, and watch out!: Ellen O’Neill is stowing away
11am: ZIM Haifa, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
3:30pm: Auriga Leader, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
7:30pm: Atlantic Huron, bulker, arrives at anchorage from Port-Daniel, Quebec
11:30pm: ZIM Haifa, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica

6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
7:15am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre


I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm. Really, I will be.

Sorry to do this to you:

YouTube video

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

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  1. I’m curious how you think rectifying the points you made about the Weir House illustration would materially impact your perception of the project?

    I wholeheartedly agree that architectural illustrations and renderings generally lack accuracy and rigour, and as Prof. Steve Parcell has pointed out they can be downright deceitful. Now, this is not the most beautiful rendering (or building) I have ever seen – but as someone who works in the field, I know how challenging, time consuming, and expensive these images can be. I think they’ve done a decent job. Your comments may be a little unfair.

    A few things to consider:

    – Just two days ago we had a clear, sunny day with less clouds in the sky than this image shows. So…come on.
    – Your point about shadows is fair. But I wonder if it is really material to an evaluation of the building.
    – Similarly, your point about the power lines is fair. They may be underground-ing them. It’s not the most likely scenario – but it is possible. And if they aren’t they should have included them in the image. But again, I’m not sure it would materially impact the evaluation of the building.
    – You criticize the author for adding the buildings to either side, obscuring the scale and presence of the addition; then later criticize them for making one of the buildings transparent so you can actually see the scale and presence of the addition.
    – Again, on the white box/houses: the point of these is to give a sense of scale and relationship to a street wall. It would be irresponsible of them to nit consider this in their design and a representation of the project. Surely there will be something there in the next decade. I can’t really speak to the details because I have no knowledge of the firm or their process. But I did attend the DRC meeting where this was approved and I seem to remember the architect saying they are based on some preliminary proposal. I could be wrong. Hopefully they used the mandated street wall heights at the very least. As for the detail (dormers, etc), you can’t draw what you don’t know. The point here is mass and scale.

    Architectural renderings/illustrations are not photographs of buildings that do not yet exist. It’s possible to get very, very close to reality but what is involved in achieveing that is wildly time consuming and expensive. More importantly I’m not convinced it actually improves our ability to evaluate projects. There’s a lot of discussion within the discipline of architecture about the validity of “photorealistic” renderings. They often obscure the fact that they are still abstract representations of a fictional building – there’s lots of room to lie in a photorealistic rendering.

    As part of the centre plan we should be having an in depth conversation about architectural representation and the kind of drawings/images we should require of projects. This is a simple thing that could actually have a huge impact on the quality of design we see in our city. It is a lot harder to sell the idea of a 30 storey tower when you have to draw the whole city block of two storey salt boxes next to it.

  2. Why did Council go in camera to discuss this :
    2. Private and Confidential In Camera (In Private) Information Report – re: HRM Pension Plan (HRMPP) Update

    Members of Council are in the HRM Pension Plan. Pension Plan minutes are public.

  3. This new architectural rendering business is essentially fake news. Here’s something bold for HALIFAX to take on, start punishing developers for what is essentially fraud. Give them a one year ban for submitting misleading documentation.

  4. As far as I know, Eastern Front Theatre Company is distinct from the Neptune (even if they have their shows there), so your comment on the list of CH advertisers is in my opinion not correct. It seems to me rather that Jeremy Webb and other theatre companies (other than Neptune) had decided not to advertize in the CHerald anymore, as they are supporting the journalists on strike. They have been relying entirely on other outlets and social media. So these things have hit them several times over… CH strike first, and now no school outings for them neither,,,

    1. Plus, for its recent production of Tompkinsville in Neptune’s Studio Theatre, EFT invited the Halifax Typographical Union to have a table in the lobby with information about the strike at the CH, and HTU members on hand to talk to attendees about the nearly-11-month long dispute.

  5. The Neptune advertising in the Herald doesn’t really have anything to do with the Eastern Front show. Presumably Neptune are advertising their own productions, and Eastern Front is putting on a show and renting the Neptune studio space to put it on.

  6. Why would someone be surprised that Eastlink is paying for a call center in Jamaica?
    The average call center salary there is about 73,000 JMD a month, or around $750 Canadian dollars.

    Another article talks about new Xerox call center jobs coming to Kingston and paying “The Salary isn’t bad either, now averaging about JA$300 per hour, which is good money for anyone”.
    This works out to just over $3.00/hour Canadian.

    So Eastlink can pay $3.00/hour or $10.70/hour for salary, and I’m sure there is much less regulation on other facets of costs in Jamaica compared to here. My guess? They’re just outsourced through Advantage Communications:

  7. While it’s important to get the facts right, the argument over whether union workers are getting better deals in the private sector or the public sector obscures the fact that less than 1/3 of workers are in unions. Non-unionized workers are not necessarily opposed to good wages for union workers, but some of them surely envy those steady wage increases, public sector or private, and might not be terribly worried over which group of union workers are doing better.

      1. That sounds like an endorsement of more money for the rich – if only CEOs were paid less we’d all be rich.
        If NSTU spoke out against the elimination of free bus passes for those on social assistance we would all be better off.
        If NSTU spoke out on anything other than teacher pay and benefits we’d all be stunned.

      2. This is a logical fallacy of Argument from Adverse Consequences. Simply stating that some people have less to complain about in terms of wages than others doesn’t imply that everyone believes they should be paid less. It is more about ensuring comparability between public and private sectors as if everyone only wanted a public job due to vast difference in salary gap, no one would work in the private sector. The inverse would also be true. And given we need some level in-between everyone works for the Government or no-one works for the Government, highlighting a lack of balance is perfectly justifiable.

        Point not taken.

    1. Nova Scotians on the whole are doing better. Average weekly earnings across all sectors rose 9.1% from 2012-2015 according to Statistics Canada, compared with about 8.7% for members of public sector unions (that assumes they received a four-year settlement in 2012). Sure, private non-union employees don’t necessarily get a pay bump each year, but their wages are somehow going up – maybe from bouncing around to new jobs, or maybe within the same job.

      1. This is begging the question. If we have comparable data sets, I would accept this, but the assumption made to too vast and board to be applicable.

        Point not taken.

      2. Average weekly earnings. Does that stat include wages earned from out of province? Just curious as I think there are a lot of numbers that have been greatly skewed from 2012-2015 by Nova Scotians working in the hydrocarbon industry, mainly Alberta. Also, how has the permanent job stats within NS done over the same period, If those numbers exist? It’s not much good if less people are making more money. My 2c.

        1. Well, you are on top of this one. He is begging the question, as you seem to be alluding. These are not comparable sets of data and more factors like the Oil crash of 2015 are not included.

          Point taken.

        2. It would include out-of-province wages, but as of 2011, only about 4.5% of wage earners in Nova Scotia earned their primary wages in other provinces, as opposed to 3.1% nationwide. So not very significant. and I’d bet that percentage fell in the past two or three years due to the oil bust out west.

          It’s hard to say for certain, but I’d be pretty shocked if out-of-province wages were substantially behind recent provincial wage increases. If anything, out-of-province wages probably had a depressing effect, due to the oilpatch’s problems.

          1. But there was a significant change in employment numbers beginning around 2011, so I’d like to see the numbers from that point until the end of 2015. Out of province wages are still somewhat high, it’s just that there is far less of the jobs now, but his is 2016. Again, looking at the data above from 2012 to 2015, that’s was in the sweet spot for abnormally high employment and wages out west, so in that time frame, it’s probably not going to be depressing. If you look at the bankruptcy trend, there’s certainly some issues now. How significant, I’d don’t know, but am curious if data is collected to measure these effects. Also consider the ‘knock-on’ effects of those high wages out west to high wages in province for local services during the period 2012-2015.

  8. FOR CONTEXT: The Labour numbers posted show are ONLY for people in a Union. This is not made very clear. Significantly more Private sector people are not in Unions and my understanding was Don Mills’ analysis was for ALL Private sector employees, not just ones in Unions. Calling him a liar is a tad much, given Public sector employees, like myself, get significant and varied benefits that their private sector rivals do not, which is unfactored in THEIR very limited analysis. Access to free tuition, use of Government services and other benefits, etc. The lack of such usually accounts for the differences in wages and this is from my experience as a private and public sector employee, who was also on a bargaining committee discussing wages at the table.

    It is much harder to compare union to non-union work. And regardless of your opinion on Unions, it does seem clear that being in one essentially means that you will do better than someone left to free market for salary, which again, is the vast number of people. But that conversely means the vast majority of people are left looking to pay more taxes to support a group that start above the National Average, whose average wage is 22k dollars (or roughly 50% more NA 44-46, Ave NS Teacher 67k) than the National average (which is made up of mostly non-union, private sector employees).

    1. What part of “reflected in union agreements” isn’t clear? My readers generally have reading comprehension skills.

      1. You offered a quote that someone declaratively stated that Don Mills is a liar. Then he points to numbers that are rated against things that are not comparable. Then you say, we looking at the numbers, he has a point never stating that he is comparing apples to apple sauce directly, THEN calling someone a liar, I feel that is out of context. Maybe I am wrong.

        Instead of explicitly stating their incompatibility, you let the comparison go with those four words. Those four words parse out THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE FROM THE COMPARISON. Yet, you make no attempt to highlight that, in what I can only assume is an attempt to make this guy’s mis-information appear comparable, if not, justified. It isn’t comparable nor a justifiable attack on Don Mills, whom I do not know but I am sure doesn’t like being called a liar over bullshit.

        You are in the wrong here. I just think your Echo chamber is affecting your viewpoint.

        1. Just re-read the article, it says several times it’s about union wages and settlements. It’s very obvious. I don’t think anyone, other than yourself, is under the illusion it’s talking about all people in the workforce.

          1. You mean besides the other guy who made a similar comment below? I was talking about the summery provided, not the article, as the article does not include John McCracken’s ad hominem attack of Don Mills nor HIS posting of the numbers, which were re-produced here. My comments were explicitly directed at the coverage of the article and the commentary around it, not the article itself, which *I* feel is obvious to the average Examiner reader.

            Point not taken.

    2. “it does seem clear that being in one essentially means that you will do better than someone left to free market for salary, which again, is the vast number of people.”

      This statement is WAY to broad to be considered credible.

      1. Is it? It is too broad to say that people in Unions do better than people not in them? It just so happens, the vast majority of people are not in them?

        Hmm. I disagree.

        1. You can disagree until hell freezes over. But you have provided no evidence that what you say is true. As somebody who has worked both sides, I can tell you that your ‘do better’ statement is incorrect for myself and a good number of my cohorts.

          WAY too broad. And in the context of the statement ‘does seem clear’, factually incorrect on the ‘will do better statement’. Fake news.

          1. So you are stating that you do not believe the absolute fact that most people are not in Unions?

            Or are you stating you do not believe in the quoted regularly by Unions absolute fact that people in Unions are generally better off than those not?

            I apologise. I am confused over which absolute fact you state we can disagree on forever, the one that is provably true or the one that appears true by all metrics and is promoted by Union leadership. Either way, point not taken.

    3. There’s no easy way to separate public earnings from private sector earnings in many datasets (that I am aware of – experts in this probably have a way), but a good substitute appears to be the Statistics Canada weekly payroll earnings data, which show average payroll across all workers increasing by 3.0 percent in 2012, 1.2 in 2013, 2.8 in 2014, and 1.8 in 2015. So it is fair to say that average payroll earnings in Nova Scotia are increasing faster than the pay public unions accepted.
      For example, from 2012-2015, average earnings in the province increased by 9.1%, while average earnings for a member of a public union that reached a settlement in 2012 went up by 8.7%, and average earnings for a private union that reached a settlement in 2012 went up 9.7% (assuming four year settlements).
      So, it is in fact fair to blast Don Mills for not doing his research. Payroll earnings across the province are on the rise, and they are on the rise faster if you are not working for a public sector union than if you are.
      And yes, it would be great if we had data on the non-salary earnings for employees. Like office christmas parties with free booze, which public sector employees never get (they don’t even get a non-booze end of year party from their employer), or free tickets to Mooseheads games (or other events).

  9. The numbers in the McCraken table don’t jive with data used for Nova Scotia, from the ‘whole chart’ link.