On campus
This date in history
In the harbour


1. Victoria General

Photo: Stewpendous / Flickr
Photo: Stewpendous / Flickr

The province has budgeted just $1.5 million this year for planning to replace the Victoria General hospital.The CBC’s Jean Laroche attended a briefing with an unnamed civil servant who provided background on the province’s plans; Laroche outlines the plans as follows:

• The possibility some services will be moved from the VG site before the Centennial Building is permanently closed, with the exception of cancer treatment and surgeries.
• Some services or programs might move into a renovated space at the Halifax Infirmary.
• Services might be transferred to other locations within Halifax or even outside the city.
• The Centennial Building won’t completely close until new facilities are ready or all services have found a new home.
• The possibility some services currently offered at the VG will be delivered differently.
• The Centennial Building will either be demolished or “repurposed” after it’s vacated.

2. Capital plan

While there’s not much money budgeted for the hospital replacement, the province’s capital plan outlays $222.5 million for highways and $56.4 million for the new Halifax Convention Centre.

Obviously, we need to put money towards maintenance of existing highways, and the bulk of the highway funds are for necessary re-asphalting and bridge replacements. But the province continues to expand the highway system — there’s money set aside for the Sackville Connector and bridge and interchange replacements on the 102, apparently in preparation for the widening to six lanes — all while making no capital investment in rail or transit systems.

As for the Convention Centre… well, don’t get me started.


1. The Last Art College

“On Friday, we went to an opening at the Art Gallery of NS of a big exhibition with a long name: The Last Art College: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1968-1978,” writes Stephen Archibald:

If you are unfamiliar with the art produced during that  period you may not instantly ‘enjoy’ the exhibit but if you want to understand a time when Halifax was a centre of the contemporary art world, this is your big chance.

At the opening many folks of my generation were remembering with Boomer grade nostalgia the confusion and energy of that moment. Made me look for pieces of ephemera I’d saved  and I’ll use those to try and give a little context.

Archibald goes on to show us some of Conceptual Art pieces that made the College famous, and then notes that:

One of the most accessible units of the  current show has 36 photographs of corner stores in Halifax… Allan MacKay the director of the Anna Leonowens Gallery had the idea of photographing these stores all from the same angle and my buddy Lionel Simmons took the pictures. It felt like a very clever art concept at the time and the meaning of the collection becomes more valuable as time passes. The photos were printed in a treasured little publication. Here is a sample spread:


There’s a lot packed into Archibald’s post, so go read the whole thing, but I was especially pleased to see his own contribution to a 1971 exhibit called Attitudes Towards Photography, which Archibald’s friend Ian Murray organized. Explains Archiblald:

I really don’t remember what was in the show but I suspect there was as much “attitude” as there was “photography.” Here is one of the photos I showed that Ian particularly liked.


2. Are the Dennisses preparing to sell to the Irvings?

CBC’s New Brunswick reporter Jacques Poitras surveys the labour battle at the Chronicle Herald and observes:

I was told on Friday that rumours are again circulating in Halifax that the tough stance by the company may be in advance of a sale of the Herald by its owners, the Dennis family, to Irving-owned Brunswick News Inc.

I have no idea whether BNI is exploring such a purchase now, and I’m not advocating for it or against it. But based on my two years of research on the Irvings and their newspapers for my book Irving vs. Irving, it would make sense for many reasons.

Poitras goes on to detail eight such reasons, and then summarizes:

In short, an acquisition of the Herald would take Brunswick News into a new market, allowing it to broaden its advertising (and perhaps paywall) revenue, while avoiding many of the operational costs once associated with taking over a new newspaper.

This is pure speculation: there’s still no indication the Irvings are talking to the Dennises. But I wouldn’t bet against it.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

Dear Mr. Snow Plow Driver: I hope you are having a rest since the work from the last storm is done and the next snowfall has not arrived yet. You take your job very seriously, which is certainly necessary with these monstrosities of machines.

However, I wonder if you ever thought of us, the property owners who live along the streets you plow. For us, the snow plows are the worst part of winter. Yes, you heard right: the snow plows. You ask, why? Well, we start shovelling or snow-blowing as soon as the storm stops. We help each other in the neighbourhood until everybody is dug out. Then we go back into our houses for a rest.

But it doesn’t take very long before one of those monsters shows up and blocks us completely in again. Tell me, what good is a clean street if you can’t get on it? So, the shovelling and blowing start again. People have to go to work or seniors have medical appointments or might even have an emergency. Finally, we make it out and are busy at whatever is planned for the day.

But lo and behold: What greets us when we come home tired and looking forward to a relaxing evening? Another wall of snow blocking our driveways! More shovelling!

Are you surprised people have a definite allergy to snow plows? That they don’t greet you with open arms? I know, it’s not really your fault, or not entirely. Whose then? The system’s? The city’s?

Every year, we are told about all the improvements that were made, but the basic problem remains: the plows create a lot of extra work for us, for which we are not paid, like you. That doesn’t make sense.

Has anybody ever thought about a solution for this problem? I think it is always approached from the wrong side.

What about having the Bobcats open the driveways when they clear the sidewalks? Or have a truck follow the plow to remove the snow as is done in some other cities. There must be a workable solution to replace this impossible mess we face every winter.

Tell your boss and everybody you meet to put their thinking caps on and come up with a solution because we don’t want to hate you any longer.

Elisabeth Ackermann, Halifax



City council (9:30am, City Hall) — budget deliberations continue; today council will look at the Planning and Development Department.


Public Accounts (9am, Province House) — the topic of the day is Auditor General Michael Pickup’s June 2015 report on 2011 and 2012 Performance Audit Recommendations; to be questioned are Jeff Conrad, Deputy Minister of Internal Services; Dan McDougall, Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs; and Tracy Kitch, President and CEO of the IWK Health Centre.

On Campus

RING-Ankyrin ubiquitin E3 ligases (4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link) — Sophia Stone will speak on “Control of plant stress signalling by RING-Ankyrin ubiquitin E3 ligases.”  Bring your own RING-Ankyrin ubiquitin E3 ligases.

Stand up, speak out: The art of not selling out (5pm, Potter Auditorium, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — The event listing:

Have you ever felt the pressure at work to do something that you didn’t want to do, in order to advance your career? Have you ever felt that your own personal beliefs conflicted with your organization’s corporate values? Guest speaker, educator and award-winning author of Giving Voice to Values, Mary C. Gentile empowers you with the skills to voice and act on your values under opposing pressure in the workplace. A panel discussion with renowned business leaders will follow, offering you the chance to gain insight from experts who have faced ethical dilemmas in their own careers.

I thought we’re all supposed to be independent contractors and set our own rules?

How does anyone really know what the temperature is? (7pm, Goldberg Computer Science Building, Room 127 ) — “Science Ambassador” Michael de Podesta, from the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, England, will talk “about measuring, talking about temperature, and talking about sound. There will also be demonstrations.”

I hope the ambassador tries to ease tensions in the Wind-Chill War. The two camps — Those Who Believe in Wind-Chill and Those Who Think Wind-Chill is a Crock — have found no common ground and hostilities threaten to boil over into armed conflict. We could use some science diplomacy.

This date in history

On January 20, 1842, Charles Dickens visited the Nova Scotia legislature. Dickens was en route to points south, but his ship headed for a routine stop for provisions in Halifax. The fog was thick, the captain perhaps inebriated, and the charts misread, so the crew mistakenly tried to navigate up the eastern side of McNabs Island. At low tide, you can almost walk across the channel, so it’s no surprise the boat got grounded on a sandbar until the morning tide came in. Well, no loss, once floated, the merry passengers made their way to Halifax. Wrote Dickens:

Charles Dickens

I suppose this Halifax would have appeared an Elysium, though it had been a curiosity of ugly dullness. But I carried away with me a most pleasant impression of the town and its inhabitants, and have preserved it to this hour. Nor was it without regret that I came home, without having found an opportunity of returning thither, and once more shaking hands with the friends I made that day.

It happened to be the opening of the Legislative Council and General Assembly, at which ceremonial the forms observed on the commencement of a new Session of Parliament in England were so closely copied, and so gravely presented on a small scale, that it was like looking at Westminster through the wrong end of a telescope. The governor, as her Majesty’s representative, delivered what may be called the Speech from the Throne. He said what he had to say manfully and well. The military band outside the building struck up “God save the Queen” with great vigour before his Excellency had quite finished; the people shouted; the in’s rubbed their hands; the out’s shook their heads; the Government party said there never was such a good speech; the Opposition declared there never was such a bad one; the Speaker and members of the House of Assembly withdrew from the bar to say a great deal among themselves and do a little: and, in short, everything went on, and promised to go on, just as it does at home upon the like occasions.

The town is built on the side of a hill, the highest point being commanded by a strong fortress, not yet quite finished.  Several streets of good breadth and appearance extend from its summit to the water-side, and are intersected by cross streets running parallel with the river.  The houses are chiefly of wood. The market is abundantly supplied; and provisions are exceedingly cheap. The weather being unusually mild at that time for the season of the year, there was no sleighing: but there were plenty of those vehicles in yards and by-places, and some of them, from the gorgeous quality of their decorations, might have “gone on” without alteration as triumphal cars in a melodrama at Astley’s. The day was uncommonly fine; the air bracing and healthful; the whole aspect of the town cheerful, thriving, and industrious.

We lay there seven hours, to deliver and exchange the mails. At length, having collected all our bags and all our passengers (including two or three choice spirits, who, having indulged too freely in oysters and champagne, were found lying insensible on their backs in unfrequented streets), the engines were again put in motion, and we stood off for Boston.

Dickens, incidentally, is credited* with coining the word “boredom.” It first appeared in print in Bleak House, published in 1852. Academics say the word was created to express a new kind of ennui specific to living in an industrial society, but I like to think that Dickens’ subconscious had been wrestling with his memories of the Nova Scotia legislature for a decade, and it finally found fruition in the characters of Lady Dedlock and Sir Dedlock’s cousin, Volumnia.

Is it strange the that “boredom” needed to be invented to explain the state of mind of not one, but two characters? I think that just shows how convoluted and, well, boring Bleak House is, but here are the six uses of the word “boredom” in the book, because why not?:

Sooth to say, they cannot go away too fast, for even here my Lady Dedlock has been bored to death. Concert, assembly, opera, theatre, drive, nothing is new to my Lady under the worn-out heavens. Only last Sunday, when poor wretches were gay—within the walls playing with children among the clipped trees and the statues in the Palace Garden; walking, a score abreast, in the Elysian Fields, made more Elysian by performing dogs and wooden horses; between whiles filtering (a few) through the gloomy Cathedral of Our Lady to say a word or two at the base of a pillar within flare of a rusty little gridiron-full of gusty little tapers; without the walls encompassing Paris with dancing, love-making, wine-drinking, tobacco-smoking, tomb-visiting, billiard card and domino playing, quack-doctoring, and much murderous refuse, animate and inanimate—only last Sunday, my Lady, in the desolation of Boredom and the clutch of Giant Despair, almost hated her own maid for being in spirits.

My Lady [Dedlock], whose chronic malady of boredom has been sadly aggravated by Volumnia this evening, glances wearily towards the candlesticks and heaves a noiseless sigh.

The cousin [Volumnia], who has been casting sofa-pillows on his head, in a prostration of boredom yawns, “Vayli,” being the used-up for “very likely.”

The Dedlock town house changes not externally, and hours pass before its exalted dullness is disturbed within. But Volumnia the fair, being subject to the prevalent complaint of boredom and finding that disorder attacking her spirits with some virulence, ventures at length to repair to the library for change of scene.

The fair Volumnia, being one of those sprightly girls who cannot long continue silent without imminent peril of seizure by the dragon Boredom, soon indicates the approach of that monster with a series of undisguisable yawns.

However, Volumnia, in the course of her bird-like hopping about and pecking at papers, has alighted on a memorandum concerning herself in the event of “anything happening” to her kinsman, which is handsome compensation for an extensive course of reading and holds even the dragon Boredom at bay.

If we really want to stretch the Nova Scotia analogy, we could note that Dickens’ first bored character, Lady Dedlock, sees herself as refined and a woman of culture, but who must block out her own history, lest her true identity be revealed to the world. It’s been probably 35 years since I read Bleak House, so I don’t remember if Lady Dedlock’s reunification with her hidden past (her abandoned child Esther) goes well or not. I think there’s a BBC TV miniseries series that spells it all out. I wonder who plays Stephen McNeil.

perhaps incorrectly, but there is a difference between the verb “bored” and the noun “boredom.”


There’s cool stuff on Mars:


Explains NASA:

What is that dark sand dune doing on Mars? NASA’s robotic rover Curiosity has been studying it to find out, making this the first-ever up-close investigation of an active sand dune on another world. Named Namib Dune, the dark sand mound stands about 4 meters tall and, along with the other Bagnold Dunes, is located on the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp. The featured image was taken last month and horizontally compressed here for comprehensibility. Wind is causing the dune to advance about one meter a year across the light bedrock underneath, and wind-blown sand is visible on the left. Part of the Curiosity rover itself is visible on the lower right. Just in the past few days, Curiosity scooped up some of the dark sand for a detailed analysis. After further exploration of the Bagnold Dunes, Curiosity is scheduled to continue its trek up the 5-kilometer tall Mount Sharp, the central peak in the large crater where the car-sized rover landed.

In the harbour

The approach to Halifax Harbour, 8:15am Wednesday. Map:
The approach to Halifax Harbour, 8:15am Wednesday. The green ships from left to right are the Atlantic Star and Hoegh Bangkok heading to Halifax and Berlin Express leaving Halifax for Cagliari, Italy. The red ship is the oil tanker East Coast, bypassing Halifax en route from Saint John to Charlottetown.  Map:

Atlantic Star, ro-ro container, New York to Fairview Cove, then sails to sea
Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, Liverpool, England to Fairview Cove, then sails to sea
Hoegh Bangkok, car carrier, Emden, Germany to Autoport, the sails to sea
Nanny, oil tanker, Come By Chance, Newfoundland to Pier 9

Yantian Express sails to sea


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

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

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  1. Jesus H Christ. We can’t keep the sidewalks and bus stops cleared* but a Halifax resident thinks we should assign clearing of private driveways to city/contracted equipment? Here’s a thought: if you can’t or don’t want to shovel after a storm, you’ve got three options:
    1. Move to a warmer climate;
    2. Change residences to a condo or apartment building where snow removal is provided by your landlord; or
    3. If neither of the preceding two options are viable, #SupportLocal – hire a neighborhood kid or small business to shovel your driveway (and sidewalk).

    *After the last two storms, I am cautiously impressed with the sidewalk clearing. Hopefully, the trend will continue as we approach the worst of the winter.

    1. Exactly.

      Your point #1 enters my mind many times over a winter, when people who live here by choice or by long years of habit (apparently) complain about the cold and the snow.

  2. Re: Transit and rail alternatives. I asked my MLA, Chuck Porter to ask why rail options were not being studied in addition to twinning and tolling highways. Geoff MacClellan’s replied in part:

    “The quick answer to that is no.

    With respect to the capital costs associated with our railbeds, we’re having a tough time keeping those we have in place on the ground now and, as the member knows, there are a number of processes for that in place.

    With respect to any commuter travel or passenger travel, Mr. Speaker, my personal opinion is that we just don’t have the critical numbers. I haven’t received any of those suggestions or any ideas that there is – outside of downtown here in metro, I don’t know if there’s a commuter model that would be viable. I certainly haven’t heard that.”

    They have no interest in alternatives, I wonder if in the Liberal party donations one might find lots of money from people who work for paving companies.