1. Everything is closed

A good day to read Dead Wrong, Part 3: If Glen Assoun didn’t kill Brenda Way, who did?

2. Bullshitter of the day: Stephen McNeil

Bullshitter of the day Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday afternoon, Premier Stephen McNeil announced that last night’s planned sitting of the legislature to start the process of imposing a contract on teachers would be postponed to tonight. McNeil issued the following statement:

We have closely monitored the storm and it is clear now that conditions will not improve before this evening’s sitting of the legislature. 

After updates from the Emergency Management Office and Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, it is clear the speaker cannot ask staff to report to the legislature this evening. I fully support this decision, made in consultation with senior government officials and emergency management staff.

EMO officials continue to closely monitor the storm as it develops and moves across the province. Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal has plows out in communities throughout Nova Scotia. First responders are on alert.

We owe our thanks to the hard-working employees today as they keep us safe.

Tomorrow we will proceed with our plans so the lives of students and their parents can return to normal as soon as possible.

The technical term for McNeil’s statement is what learned Princeton University philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt calls “bullshit.”

If we are to take McNeil’s statement at face value, we must assume at least the following:

• He was unaware that even before he called the legislature into session Saturday, Environment Canada had already forecast over 50 centimetres of snow for Monday.

• On Sunday afternoon he feared that Halifax and Dartmouth area MLAs would be incapable of travelling to Province House on Monday evening so he encouraged them to get downtown hotel rooms Sunday and Monday nights on the government’s dime, but at the same time he had complete confidence that staffers and support workers would have no problem getting to Province House and back home in a blizzard and so there was no need to house them in hotels.

• By Sunday night decisions had been made that on Monday all provincial government offices, city offices, malls, and transit would be closed, and McNeil’s Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan had issued a statement saying that “motorists are advised to stay off the roads if possible for their safety and to allow plow drivers to safely clear the roads,” but McNeil still thought it wasn’t unreasonable for Province House staffers and support workers to travel to work.

• When on Monday morning he assured Don Connolly that the House would meet as scheduled that night, McNeil still believed staffers and support workers could get to Province House safely.

• Something changed between Monday morning’s forecast and Monday afternoon to cause the Emergency Management Office to issue an “update,” even though the weather was proceeding exactly as forecast.

No one would have cared had McNeil simply said “hey, we’ve listened to the concerns voiced for workers, so we’re going to hold off for a day,” and left it at that. But instead he issued a farmload of rank bullshit.

Besides that, can we acknowledge once more that Stephen McNeil’s pricey PR people suck at their jobs?

Between [Laurie] Graham and [Laura Lee] Langley alone we’re talking $350,000 annually. Throw in 106K for [Marilla] Stephenson and (I’m guessing) 100K each for [Jackie] Foster and [David] Jackson, and we’re talking ballpark $650,000 for just the first year, and all we got was this failed communications strategy T-shirt and red-washed ads threatening to kneecap us.

And the announcement came too late for some workers:

Staff try to leave @nsleg, they eventually made it #nsstorm #halifaxstorm

— Marieke Walsh (@MariekeWalsh) February 13, 2017

3. What’s it all about?

You can’t understand the current attack on teachers without the context of the last 40 years of neoliberalism. There has been a broad attack on liberal democracy in the west, with the aim of redistributing wealth away from the people generally into the hands of a tiny economic and political elite, the 1%, if you will. That’s been the stated purpose of right-wing think tanks and policy outfits for decades.

At every instance, the powerful have been able to divide people. We’re atomized and pitted against each other, told that if someone else had a good job and a decent pension it comes at our expense. All while the 1% are looting the public treasury and the collective wealth.

That’s what’s behind my satirical comment “if only everyone were paid less, we’d all be rich.” The goal is to shift our allegiances away from each other and a common and collective general prosperity, and to get people to identify not with their neighbours, but with the ultra rich: Money will trickle down! If we stop taxing them, the rich will bring us good jobs! It’s nonsense.

There are plenty of people willing to be foot soldiers for the 1%. The disingenuous op-ed mills knowing exactly what they’re doing, the politicians who will retire to well-paid consulting jobs after undermining unions, the self-styled “contrarians” who in the end always side with the powerful, and, sadly, the people who don’t understand the broader context but get a rush by puffing their chests out and attacking other working people.

Know which side you’re on.

YouTube video

YouTube video

YouTube video


1. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

There is a situation in CBRM involving two racehorses which are left to spend all their time in what is basically an open field surrounded by an electrically wired fence. There are a few trees at the bottom of the field, but not enough to get shelter.

The horses have been there since the fall, enduring the October flood with only a lean-to for shelter. Only one of the horses will go in. They are constantly enduring high winds, frigid temperatures and freezing rain.

The authorities were notified but the bottom line, I’ve been told, is this. The law states that horses don’t need a barn. They just need shelter from the elements that meets certain requirements.

The horses’ food is on the outside of the fence and they depend solely on the owners for food. They have been zapped more than once trying to get the hay. Most times their water is frozen in a bucket, forcing them to lick the ice on the ground.

There are only two animal inspectors in Nova Scotia from what I understand. When I asked why so few the reply was there are not enough complaints to warrant more staff.

What do we as human beings consider to be abuse to our animal friends? Apparently in this case nothing will be done until the horses’ ribs are sticking out and they are on their last legs, if, indeed, they don’t break a leg on the ice. So much for exercise that any normal horse requires to stay healthy.

The agricultural minister should have the laws changed to help protect animals from abuse. These animals have suffered enough. Can you imagine walking around with snow on your back and ice on your tail? But as long as you look healthy you will be ignored.

It hurts me to watch this, which is only minor to what these horses have to suffer. They need help.

Ed (Mario) Hogan, New Waterford


Here’s a really cool picture of Jupiter taken from the Juno spaceship:




Tonight’s meeting of the Halifax & West Community Council has been cancelled.


City council (9:30am, City Hall) — budget deliberations rescheduled from two snowstorms ago; topic is street recapitalization.

Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Advisory Committee (3pm, Alderney Gate) — here’s the agenda.



The Law Amendments and Economic Development committee meetings have been cancelled.

Legislature sits (8pm, Province House) — the McNeil government will introduce legislation to force a contract on teachers.


Legislature sits (12:01am, Province House) — an all-day meeting to show how tough Stephen McNeil is.

On campus



The university remains closed and all events are cancelled.


Wheezy Illness (8am, WeatherWatch Room, 5th Floor Dixon Building) explains the event listing:

Over 2,000 children per year are seen at the IWK Emergency Department with a wheezy illness. In 2008, the IWK changed their clinical practice, by delivering salbutamol by puffers instead of masks. This resulted in decreased length of time in the emergency department and an estimated cost avoidance of $260,000 per year. Four linked multi-disciplinary research projects assisted with the implementation and evaluation of this practice change. Opportunities and challenges in engaging academic researchers and trainees in community engaged scholarship will be discussed. These projects were part of Dalhousie University’s Drug Use Management and Policy Residency where 39 graduate trainees contributed to research in Nova Scotia from 2000-2016.

Brachytherapy (11:30am, Morroy Building, MA 310) — Ege Babadagli will speak on “A Mixed-integer Linear Programming Optimization Model for Capturing Expert Treatment Planning Style in Low-dose Prostate Brachytherapy.”

Gels, Droplets, and Fibers (4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — John Frampton will speak on “Gels, Droplets, and Fibers: Designing Advanced Materials for Biotechnology.”

Corporate Citizenship (4:30pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — Kent Greenfield will speak on “The Dilemmas of Corporate Citizenship in the Private Marketplace and the Public Square.”

YouTube video

Sebastiane (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of Derek Jarman’s 1976 film.

Rotten Tomatoes says:

Filmed entirely in vulgar Latin, this experimental film recounts the life of Sebastiane, a puritanical but beautiful Christian soldier in the Roman Imperial troops who is martyred when he refuses the homosexual advances of his pagan captain. When this film was released, it was the only English-made film to have required English subtitles, and it is an early film by the noted experimental and outspokenly homosexual director Derek Jarman, who died in 1994.

In the harbour

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

1pm: AHS Hamburg, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from San Juan, Puerto Rico
9:30pm: Ningbo Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
10:30pm: Metis Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
10:30pm: NYK Constellation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
10:30pm: Saimaagracht, cargo ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Jacksonville, Florida


I’m still stranded in the US. I might make it home tomorrow.

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

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  1. Politically, I am a social liberal, but a somewhat fiscal conservative.I am not a teacher nor have I ever been a teacher but I have been closely following the dispute with N.S. teachers. Well I have just read a copy of the government’s proposed legislation…which by the way they are calling – An Act respecting A Teacher’s Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvements. As if including the words “Classroom Improvements will fool anyone who doesn’t read past the title.

    My question is, if the government didn’t already know that this legislation was in violation of teacher’s rights under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not to mention certain Labour laws, then why would they include this in the legislation:

    #14 (PAGE 5) reads:

    No arbitrator or arbitration board established under any Act of the Legislature or in accordance with a collective agreement and no board or tribunal, including the Labour Board established under the Labour Board Act, has jurisdiction to

    (a) determine the constitutional validity or constitutional applicability of this Act:

    (b) determine whether a right conferred, recognized, affirmed or otherwise guaranteed by the Constitution of Canada has been infringed on by this Act.

    Stephen McNeil and Karen Casey seem to think they can make a law saying the law doesn’t apply to them… That sounds a lot like the egotistical, orange haired buffoon south of the border. Nova Scotians need to stop watching CNN and joking about the political disaster in the US and start paying attention to the civil liberty and human rights violations in their own backyard.

    1. The bill says : “If you sue, do so in the courts’ which is where it will be set down very quickly because NSTU will use the SCOC decision in their pleadings to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. No point messing about at the Labour Board.

  2. Here’s hoping the Trump travesty and subsequent citizen resistance is the death nell of neo-liberalism.

    Government is not business, citizens are not customers and refugees are not a risk to a balanced budget.

  3. Re: #3 What’s it all About? I gather that neoliberalism suggests among other things that we as individuals are units of capital, not citizens, as and a consequence all units of capital are in competition with all others, and like any other form of capital people are expendable. Everything must be governed by “market rules” and priced, and if it can’t be priced (clean air, clean water, etc) it can be ignored. There should be nothing commonly owned – everything should be in private hands so that rents can be extracted (like the waterfront now owned by Queen’s Marque).

    The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies has neoliberalism as their core value, IMHO.

    Here’s a link to a talk on the subject given by George Monbiot, a public intellectual from the UK: