1. Axelrod to Liberals: “Know who you are”

Left to right: Gerald Butts, David Axelrod, Justin Trudeau. Photo: Liberal Party of Canada

Reporter Jennifer Henderson attended the Liberal convention in Halifax Friday night, when Obama advisor David Axelrod appeared on stage with Trudeau advisor Gerry Butts:

Both advisors discussed the importance of making and sticking with long-term goals, and not being distracted by problems that emerge and then churn through too many news cycles — in Trudeau’s case, the impasse involving the TransMountain pipeline or the gaffes during his recent trip to India come to mind.

“The BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico became a huge issue for us,” recalls Axelrod. “There was a sense it was a referendum on the government. We solved it in 2012 and it didn’t come up once in the runup to election day. You just have to play through it — you have to know who you are.”

I’m not sure the BP disaster was the best analogy to bring up just as a BP rig is starting to drill off the Halifax coast, but that’s why I’m not paid the big political consulting dollars.

Click here to read “Obama advisor David Axelrod’s advice to Canadian Liberals: ‘Know who you are’.”

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2. Progress

Stephen Kimber is about as pessimistic as I’ve ever seen him. He writes:

You know the way progress traditionally happens in politics: slowly, incrementally. And then you wake up one morning to the latest news from the Ontario provincial election campaign trail… or the White House. Progress, as Barack Obama once said, may not always be a straight line or a smooth path. But is there still a line? A path?

Click here to read “Progress isn’t easy. Sometimes it just isn’t.”

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3. Liberal MP Francis Drouin accused of sexual assault

Francis Drouin. Photo: Facebook

Just before noon on Saturday, Halifax police issued the following release:

The Halifax Regional Police Integrated Sexual Assault Investigative Team are currently investigating an incident that occurred on April 21, 2018 shortly after 2 a.m. [that is, early Saturday morning] in the 1700 Block of Brunswick Street, Halifax.

Sexual assault investigations are very complex. As part of our victim-centered, trauma-informed approach to sexualized violence, we work closely with victims to ensure they’re willing to proceed with a police investigation, which includes giving a statement about the incident and providing a description of the suspect if possible. Police must also ensure the victim’s privacy is upheld and well-being is fully considered; sexual assault investigators have been taking these measures since first speaking with the victim.

We now know that the assault allegation was against Liberal MP Francis Drouin, who was in town to attend the Liberal convention and was partying at the Halifax Alehouse. Reports Andy Pinsent for News 95.7:

Drouin’s office wouldn’t confirm any details of the allegation but in a statement Sunday afternoon said no charges have been laid and he is fully co-operating with an investigation.

Citing an unnamed Liberal Party source, The Canadian Press reports Drouin was telling party members a woman accusing him of groping her backside at the bar and that he was “rattled” by the accusation, but fully denied it.

Alexander Quon, reporting for Global, added:

Drouin was in a crowded bar when a woman became agitated because she believed someone in the bar grabbed her buttocks, a source who was present at the time and who was near Drouin told Global News.

Drouin allegedly approached the woman to see what had agitated her and was accused by the woman of inappropriately grabbing her buttocks, the source said.

The source believes Drouin did nothing wrong and was mistakenly accused by the victim.

Because Quon doesn’t say, we don’t know why the “source” in Quon’s article was granted anonymity. There are a range of possible reasons: the “source” could have been a cop speaking without authorization, or a Liberal Party staffer trying to spin the incident, or a girlfriend of the alleged victim who didn’t want to be attacked by the trolls who inevitably come out when allegations of sexual assault are made, or… any number of other reasons. Some of those scenarios are valid reasons to grant anonymity, but others aren’t — if this is just a Liberal staffer spinning, no way in hell should anonymity be granted. The point is, Quon should say why anonymity was granted, so readers can judge the source’s statement in that context.

In any event, as we learned in depressingly horrible detail during the Christopher Garnier murder trial, the Alehouse has video cameras pointed this way and that throughout the joint, and so the cops will learn soon enough what actually happened.

4. BP approved to drill

The Seadrill West Aquarius is the platform being used for the BP well.

Two weeks ago, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) granted BP permission to prepare to drill an exploratory well on the Scotian Shelf, at a depth of 2,800 meters. On Saturday, CNSOPB okayed the actual drilling.


This guy, who is responsible for information security for the province, doesn’t like accurate reporting on the province’s information security screw-up.

Nova Scotia has a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)… who knew? His name is Robert Samuel, and last year he was paid $79,614.04 by the provincial Department of Internal Services, but he might have other income, as he also calls himself an “entrepreneur.”

I don’t know what CISOs do entirely, but Samuel says he is “currently leading an enterprise-wide cybersecurity program, assisting government and healthcare sectors in managing cyber-related business risks to digital infrastructure, digital services, information systems, applications and assets that 60,000 clients and approximately one million citizens rely upon.”

I have no clue if that means Samuel was responsible for security oversight (in both senses of the word) of the province’s Freedom of Information website, but apparently his job also involves posting screeds on LinkedIn saying “the media sensationalize information to increase readership,” in reference to bad, bad journalists accurately reporting on the province’s information screw-up on said Freedom of Information website.

Here’s Samuel’s post:

Kudos to Troy Hunt for this article. It’s the first written about this incident without dogmatism or unfounded bias. As you contemplate incidents and breaches across the world, heed these assumptions:

— you may not have all of the facts;
— the media sensationalize information to increase readership;
— determining attribution is one piece of the puzzle, determining intent is another.

If you’d like to responsibly report potential security bugs in any Nova Scotia public facing services, please feel free to DM me and we’ll work with business owners to mitigate their risks.

The first response is from Scott Walsh, a “Senior Threat Intelligence Researcher” at Dalhousie University, who says simply:

Hey, I’d be publishing a post like this if I was the CISO of Nova Scotia, but it wouldn’t be because it’s what I believed, but rather because it was required.

Evan d’Entremont and a few others chime in as well.

Let me just say this: If we don’t have all the facts, who the hell’s fault is that? The government and its Chief Information Security Officer are the ones who should be informing us about what’s really going on, instead of issuing vague assertions that the media is somehow getting it wrong. And if reporters are somehow getting it wrong, rather than tossing out unclear and unsupported allegations of sensationalism, the Chief Information Security Officer should give us a specific and detailed account of the problem.

I mean, we’re paying you nearly 80,000 bucks, dude; maybe you could earn some of that pay by sharing your great knowledge with your bosses — that is, with us, the public.

Also, that attribution/intent framing is simple misdirection, and you know it.

Lastly, “If you’d like to responsibly report potential security bugs in any Nova Scotia public facing services, please feel free to DM me and we’ll work with business owners to mitigate their risks” is… rich. Who even knew this CISO position existed before today? Is there like a website or something? Do you have an honest provincial phone number or an honest provincial email address, or do you just communicate through LinkedIn DMs? And how does using LinkedIn DMs comply with the province’s record keeping protocols and public information laws? Is LinkedIn FOIPOP-able? I kinda doubt it. Dude. You’re breaking policies left and right here.

Moreover, I’ve contacted communications staff twice in the last two weeks about “security bugs” on provincial websites, and they never mentioned you or your office, and neither did they say I should stop bothering them and instead privately DM some random dude with a LinkedIn account. And again, dude, you’re paid nearly 80,000 bucks — this is your job, not ours.

6. Productivity

Last week, we learned of some not-great comments from PM MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin about cannabis use and productivity:

I worry for the future of our province and our country. I grew up surrounded by hard-working people who were clear-mined, sober, and productive. I have a best friend in Amherst who is from Jamaica. She said to me, Elizabeth, smoking marijuana in Jamaica is completely accepted, and there’s a completely different work ethic and very low productivity in Jamaica. I think we already have a productivity problem here in Nova Scotia. We do not need something else making it worse.

Smith-McCrossin has apologized, and I don’t have any reason to continue beating her up over it, but her comments underscore an ignorance about “productivity,” which is an economic term that basically means value of output per worker. Who knows what Smith-McCrossin was actually thinking, but I think in some sort of muddled way she was getting at “motivation,” which is a psychological term that basically means the ability to initiate action. So, two different things.

I slept on it, and Saturday woke up and blurted out my thoughts on this distinction via a Twitter rant. I’ve cleaned up the grammar, misspellings, and formatting, as follows:

The “low productivity from smoking marijuana” thing is stupid, not just because it is racist, although of course it’s primarily that. But just on the productivity side, let’s consider some other issues:

1. Worker productivity is largely a reflection of owner investment in machinery, computers, and new processes. When labour costs are high, owners tend to invest more in productive capacity, increasing worker productivity; when labour costs are low, there’s little incentive to invest in machinery, etc to increase productivity.

So, worker productivity tends to increase when workers are highly paid and unionized, which is an environment that is anathema to the Conservative politicians spouting bullshit about cannabis.

2. Even with that, the argument is all wrong. There’s mixed evidence about the effects of cannabis on *motivation* (a psychological term) as opposed to *productivity* (an economic term). I won’t go through all the literature here, but the short of it is that some people who use a lot of cannabis suffer from “Amotivational Syndrome,” but some might also suffer less from psychosis. Others have more complicated reactions, or none at all.

More to the point, from an employer’s perspective, depending on the work desired from workers, you may want a more docile workforce, one that is happy to do repetitive or otherwise boring tasks, as opposed to one that, say, is angry and looking to be disruptive.

In effect, alcohol is already used as a depressive that serves employers well. You may have a shit job and an asshole boss, but if at the end of the day you can blow off steam at the tavern with your buds, you get up the next day and do it all over again.

There’s no reason to think cannabis won’t have the same effect…. more important…

3. Even if it were true (it’s not) that cannabis had negative effects on worker productivity, so what? In recent years, increases in worker productivity have almost entirely resulted in higher profits for owners and very low, no, or even negative increases in wages. So why the hell should any one worker care about their productivity if it won’t be reflected in wage increases? Not their problem. They may as well be happy as they can be in life, and if that means using cannabis, so be it.

4. Lastly, the “cannabis use = low productivity” argument is, in fact, inherently racist. White people, and especially rich white people with the means to buy lots of it, use cannabis with abandon, and constitute the owner class that considers itself “productive.” White people, and especially rich white people, suffer no significant legal consequences for using cannabis.

It is, in effect, already legal for rich white people to use cannabis, so long as they stay within certain legal and social lines. Joe Fratboy, son of the insurance salesman, can smoke all the weed he wants, still go through university and end up with an OK enough job, and then point at all the brown/black people as lazy potheads.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia politicians toss around negative stereotypes about Jamaicans, just as over 1,000 Jamaican nationals are working as Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada, doing the jobs Canadians refuse to take. Those jobs the TFWs do, incidentally, are the definition of low-paying jobs, and therefore they reflect low productivity. You know, the very thing our industry depends on. If we didn’t have that low productivity, our economy would collapse.

7. “I’m not dead yet!”

How much time must pass before we can laugh at death?

On Friday, I saw Armando Iannucci’s new film The Death of Stalin. The film chronicles the power struggles among the Communist Party’s Central Committee in the days after Stalin’s death.

Even as the opening credits run we see scenes of the mass murders that characterized Stalin’s purges, and we soon learn that Lavrentiy Beria, the head of the secret police, is a child rapist.

The film is… hilarious. To be sure, it’s a dark satire that painfully reflects our own Trumpian times back at us, but there are plenty of opportunities for plain gut-ripping guffawing.

Is this distasteful? Is it wrong to laugh at circumstances surrounding such dismal horrible events that happened just 50 years ago? I don’t know, but I laughed and laughed all the same.

What about Mel Brooks’ The Producers, with the hilarious play-within-the-film called Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden? Too soon?

YouTube video

Or Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail, with its comedic “Bring out your dead!” scene? Is it OK to laugh at the Black Death, a horrible pestilence that killed maybe half of Europe? Plenty of people have.

As I see it, laughing is an entirely appropriate response to the absurdity of the human condition.

But some people get… touchy. The Russians have banned The Death of Stalin, and now some people in Halifax are getting upset at actor Rob Lowe, for joking with Jimmy Kimmel about Canadian “niceness” in the context of the Halifax Explosion. Government minister Labi Kousoulis even sent Kimmel a letter demanding an apology.

For a place that so craves outside attention, we sure do get worked up about it when it comes our way. We just spent a gazillion dollars remaking Fort Needham in order to encourage Explosion tourism, and here we are trying to tell potential tourists not to crack jokes.

8. Nature, red in tooth and claw and tow truck

Though it has few natural enemy’s, this harbour hopper has fallen victim to the Ruggles, and is dragged back to its lair to be disemboweled

— KjipuktukShippingNews (@HfxShippingNews) April 22, 2018




Executive Standing Committee (Monday, 10am, City Hall) — nothing much on the agenda.

Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (Monday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — Rob Steele’s company, Dynamic Properties, wants to have seven properties on Stairs and Livingstone Streets between Massachusetts Avenue and Kempt Road rezoned to allow for “a proposed motor vehicle dealership and service facility.” One of the properties is 6054 Stairs Street, now the site for Granite Brewery. Another of the properties, 6031 Livingstone Street, is the site of Discount Car and Truck Rentals. The other five are now parking lots.

Also, the committee is voting on whether to establish the Schmidtville Heritage Conservation District.

Public Drop-In Session for Case 20102 (Monday, 6pm, Conference Room 3, Captain William Spry Community Centre) — FH Construction Ltd. wants to build a seven-storey apartment building at 383 Herring Cove Road, the site of a former gas station just down from the South Centre Mall and across the street from Spryfield Central Elementary School.

The proposed building exceeds the current 35-foot height limit on the property. This is, however, scaled down from a previous 10-storey proposal from FH Construction for the property.

Public Information Meeting- Case 21440 (Monday, 7pm, Gymnasium, Ross Road School, Westphal) — Halifax Construction & Debris Recycling Ltd. wants to expand its C&D transfer station at 188 Ross Road into the adjoining property at 206 Ross Rd.


City Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — uggh. Councillors will approve (there’s no doubt about this, because they can’t even understand the counter-argument) allowing the Dartmouth Sportsplex to sell naming rights to some usurious bank or price-fixing supermarket chain or conniving phone company or toxic waste spewer or some other dog-awful corporation. The staff report LIES! with the following justification:

The sale of external naming rights of publicly owned facilities is a practice which has been widely adopted to finance construction and/or maintenance of facilities, and is the subject of Administrative Order 56. HRM has pursued opportunities related to a few of its assets with the sale of naming rights for the BMO Centre in Bedford, Emera Oval and Molson Plaza; and, more recently, Scotiabank Centre and the Dartmouth 4- Pad. Regional Council also directed staff to explore opportunities for the Dartmouth Sportsplex (DSP) as part of the revitalization project. [emphasis added]

The Sportsplex renovation is costing the city — which is to say the public, which is to say you and me — $22 million; so unless Dog-Awful Corporation is ponying up $22 million, then anything it pays for naming rights is simply advertising on a public building, which you and I are subsidizing.

“Oh, but anything we can do to reduce government’s costs!” say unreflective people everywhere, not realizing that we could simply increase the commercial tax rate a few pennies and pay for all the rec centres needed without plastering Dog-Awful Corporation’s name onto our buildings and into our minds and common discourse.

Councillors and much of the public have been so indoctrinated into corporate framing that they can’t even conceive of a different understanding of naming rights. It’ll be the end of us.

Council will also approve the Wanderers Ground stadium agreement with Sports Entertainment Atlantic and debate hurting Mark Lever’s fee-fees.



No public meetings.


Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — a review of child care services and the Pre-Primary Program.

On campus



Classification and Quantification of Batch and Stream Data (Monday, 11:30am, Room 430, Goldbert Computer Science Building) — Gustavo Batista from the Universidade de São Paulo at São Carlos will speak. His abstract:

In this talk, I will discuss the main challenges in the classification and quantification of batch and stream data. Classification and quantification (counting) are two different, but intimately related data mining tasks. Classification assigns a class label to an individual and unknown example. Quantification estimates the class distribution for an unlabeled sample of instances. I will discuss how these tasks can benefit from each other, and the main research gaps in the literature, including one-class and open-set quantification. I will also present some real-world examples, including a deployed insect surveillance system my team has developed in the last years.

Healthy Ocean, Healthy People (Monday, 7pm, St. Andrew’s United Church, Coburg Road) — when Boris Worm talks, you listen.


Thesis Defence, Earth Science (Tuesday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate John Evangelatos will defend his thesis, “The Genesis and Evolution of Makarov Basin, Arctic Ocean.​”

In the harbour

5:30am: Viking Conquest, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
7am: Don Juan, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
9:30pm: Viking Conquest, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea


I’ve got nothing.

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

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  1. Halifax: We’ll whore anything out for a buck or two. Literally.

    Here’s how much the average HRM resident benefits from the naming game.

    – Scotiabank: 650K/year, divided among 400,000 residents. $1.63 per.
    – BMO: 0.13 per.
    – Emera: 0.13 per.
    – Molson: 0.10 per.

    Making a grand total of…$1.99 per year, per resident.

  2. The “naming rights” corporate scam is yet another way that politicians and bureaucrats and well-meaning non-profit boards sell or give away precious parts of the public domain. One glaring example is here in Birchtown at the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, where Emera was the largest private donor to the multi-million dollar project. What they got is renaming the project “Black Loyalist Heritage Centre – presented by Emera”, plus a nice, big logo on the front of the Centre.

  3. I long for the days of Reefer Madness when the simple argument was over whether or not middle-class white people would murder one another after smoking dope.

  4. “Meanwhile, Nova Scotia politicians toss around negative stereotypes about Jamaicans, just as over 1,000 Jamaican nationals are working as Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada, doing the jobs Canadians refuse to take.”

    Really? There’s no wage level that Nova Scotians would find acceptable in exchange for doing agricultural work in the valley? Do you not think the Jamaicans would not try and find easier or better paid work if they were citizens or Permanent Residents of Canada?

  5. Those Harbour Hoppers must be getting old. Are they not repurposed Viet Nam era US military vehicles (requiring double-clutching too)?


      Apparently some militaries still operate them. 968 were made, about 500 were destroyed in Vietnam, mostly by Americans to prevent their capture after the war went south. About 200 are left in military service and about 100 are privately operated.

    2. I seem to recall a story last year that they are indeed getting old and scarce, so the Harbour Hopper crew is getting into building them new, both for their own uses and for sale to other tourism operators. This would come with an ability to make them barrier-free (accessible), and to not have them so loud and stinky.

  6. My comments on cannabis use and low productivity last week were inappropriate – I should have included all recreational drugs, and of course the various digital time sinks we’ve invented so that we don’t go crazy with boredom because of all the productivity we have. A little cannabis use is mostly harmless, and less harmful than alcohol in just about any dose, but it is not the consequence free drug that many people pretend it is, but that’s because getting high isn’t a good way to solve problems (even though it’s fun and easy). I agree completely with Tim’s idea that recreational drug use benefits the owners of capital because it’s a steam valve, thereby increasing productivity and preventing substantive change, but only in the narrow sense measured by economists. I will admit that I’ve done exactly that, far more than I would like to admit – got high after work every day to deal with an intolerable (and illegal) situation on the job.

    However, there are other ways to measure productivity – like Bobby Kennedy’s famous speech. A question that we will have to grapple with in the 2020s is “what are people for?”. Most of us will be effectively obsolete in the future – AI is getting frighteningly capable and will soon start gobbling up middle-class white collar jobs and isn’t going to say sorry. Some new jobs will be created as a result of this process, but most people will not be intelligent enough to do them and fewer will have the skills. People will still be able to get jobs that do things which it is too expensive to build robots to do, and of course an even greater share of our wealth will be controlled by less people.

    Politically, one of the most significant changes coming down the pipeline will be AI censorship & perception management of social media content. At first, the censorship will begin with hate speech, but if you think that it is where it is going to stop, I’ve got a computer with 640 K of RAM to sell you. Right now social media uses the behaviour of its users to choose what content is good content in order to deal with the staggeringly low signal to noise ratio of the internet in general, combined with reporting tools and human moderators to filter content. In the future, it will be possible to use AI to completely drown out any sort of ideas that the people who control the AI don’t want said. The future is a monoparty coalition of media & technology companies. I’m perhaps being too conspiratorial, but I can imagine that cannabis will make the “tittytainment” go down better.

  7. Regarding Robert Samuel. He, like all other government employees are at the whim of the government of the day. The auditor General identified the shortcomings in security, the government did not implement any of those recommendations. Whatever Samuel earns and his job title are irrelevant to the fact that he does what Big Steve says he can do. The buck stops with the premier.

    The SWAT response to the person downloading the info is a good example of how you do not cross the premier without consequences.

    About the salary references. Will the examiner be picking up other silly things from Frank Magazine? Maybe you could call it your organ or refer to women as toothsome next daily report.

    1. I don’t think his job description includes yelling “FAKE NEWS” about what appears to be accurate reporting of the technical issues involved. I get that he has to tow the government line and cannot be openly critical of his employers but there’s a gulf between that and supporting a (to put it politely) dubious description of the event while pulling a Sarah Sanders impression. If he hadn’t decided to post this, would anyone even know who he was?