On campus
In the harbour


1. Voter turnout


CBC’s Information Morning interviewed Dal prof Jeffrey Roy about the low turnout in the Halifax election, and Roy went on to spread some misinformation:

There are lots of reasons why people didn’t get out and vote this time around, according to Roy. He said the popularity of Mayor Mike Savage and four incumbents running unopposed suppressed voter turnout.

He said when people don’t think a race is competitive they don’t head to the polls.

“There’s always a correlation between the competitiveness of a race and voting turnout. For example you’ve seen in a few districts, my own in Dartmouth, where you have multiple candidates running and a new person elected. There were actually more votes cast then (sic) in the previous election.”

This is not true. As I reported Sunday morning, the vote count went down in Dartmouth Centre, not up:

Voter turnout also dropped in races with no incumbent and lots of candidates. In 2012, 7,517 people cast ballots in Halifax North; yesterday, 6,627 did so. In Dartmouth Centre, 8,973 ballots were cast in 2012; yesterday, 7,752 were cast.

I’m of two minds about voter turnout. I come from the United States, where people — lots of people — were straight-up murdered for their efforts to gain the right to vote. So not voting out of apathy or disinterest seems like a betrayal of those brave men and women.

And yet, I understand apathy and disinterest, or at least cynicism. As I wrote in 2013 in an essay headlined “The politics of bullshit“:

Is it any wonder voter turnout is dropping like a lead balloon? Contrary to common wisdom, potential voters aren’t stupid or apathetic. Rather, they’re onto the game. People know that elections are just one big marketing gambit, like Coke trying to take some of Pepsi’s market share at the Superstore. Every potential voter is just a demographic data point, to be appealed to, or not, depending on the value of the tiny wedge of society they represent. There’s no broader vision. No concept of the greater good. No community. No shared future, no collective responsibilities. We are just atomized voters, to be manipulated, spun, appealed to or ignored and packed together, this way or that, in whatever arrangement best serves the goal — the only goal — of electoral victory.

I was writing about provincial politics in that essay, but the point applies generally to municipal elections as well.

As an example, I’ll raise just one issue: development. As I wrote in a series of tweets yesterday:

There wasn’t a coherent and explicit anti-development position from candidates.

People disagree about development! That’s fine. But one entire segment of the spectrum of opinion wasn’t be spoken to. It’s simply a fact that development is the most important city issue right now. The city is being transformed before our eyes; the transformation is as big, and as impactful, as when horses were replaced by cars. It’s that big of a change.

There are pluses and minuses with development, but many, many people see unbridled development as lowering their quality of life. Some people want a complete stop to it. Others aren’t that radical, but want strict controls that aren’t now present. Others still simply view the game as rigged, and while not explicitly anti-development, want a fairer regulatory regime.

But by and large, NONE of the candidates were speaking directly to those views. Instead, we heard a lot of mealy mouthed talk of planning and the Centre Plan, the same sort of mealy mouthed talk we’ve been hearing all along.

It’s not unreasonable for voters to think that in terms of the most important issue, we’re just going to get more of the same. So why vote?

I’m not endorsing this view, and I’m not saying it explains the entire drop in turnout, but it’s definitely a large contributing factor.

(As I wrote in yesterday’s Morning File, the Borg descending upon downtown Halifax gives the complete lie to the value of city planning. Anyone who held hope that HRM By Design was going to bring a better downtown is a an utter fool to now believe that the Centre Plan will bring better design to the rest of the peninsula.)

So here’s the most important issue facing residents, development, and nary a council candidate would advocate in strong, unequivocal terms about restraining the beast. Some spoke of half measures: their campaigns declined accepting developer contributions; they really, really want that Centre Plan to do, well, something…. but not one candidate pointed out that this development frenzy is a train wreck. No one suggested a moratorium (Jennifer Watts, who wasn’t running for reelection, unsuccessfully attempted to get a short pause imposed on development in the Maynard Street corridor, but no candidate looking to replace her took up the issue). No candidate suggested that the past council’s decision to override city staff’s rejection of monster buildings overlooking the Common be reversed. No candidate advocated for a cap on development, nor even a points system to approve the best developments while rejecting the crap developments.

Evidently, all the candidates were basically on the same development page, with slight but effectively meaningless differences in emphases.

And so, while candidates aren’t addressing the issues that matter most to voters, we get gimmicky about increasing voter turnout. Remember when E-voting was going to solve everything? In just two elections we’ve gone from “e-voting will increase voter turnout!” to “we can’t get rid of e-voting now because turnout would be even worse!” (Never mind that neither statement can be supported by anything other than whimsy.)

And now we’re hearing  about other gimmicks: move the election date, or require voting by force of law.

Here’s an idea: how ’bout taking strong stands on issues that matter to voters? There’s nothing wrong with being voted down for an opinion that’s real. It’s better than being elected as a representative milquetoast middle 25 per cent.

2. The election glitch and a recount

Andrew Curran
Andrew Curran

Late Saturday night, as election results were coming in, there were three very close council races: Brad Johns vs Lisa Blackburn in Sackville, Shawn Cleary vs Linda Mosher in Armdale, and Andrew Curran vs Russell Walker in Fairview.

As the ballots were being counted there was one point in the evening, with five tables still to be counted, when Cleary and Mosher were separated by just two votes. It was precisely then that the Elections Office stopped updating its webpage with results.

What happened?

Here’s how city spokesperson Brendan Elliott (two Ts, CBC) explained it to me in an email yesterday:

As far as what happened Saturday night, there were 60 ‘exceptions’ flagged by our quality control checkers who are responsible for validating the results before they are included in the overall totals for each polling table. The returning officers in each polling station type in the ballot results into a form on an iPad, using in-house software created for our elections. The returning officer than captures a photo of the hand-written results page, and our checkers cross reference the attached photo with the data that has been transmitted electronically. If the numbers on both platforms (the form and the numbers in the photo) match up then the numbers are fired up on the website. If there is a discrepancy, then that table’s results are put in an exceptions queue for further examination.

In the case of Saturday night, of the 2,000 or so files sent to our quality control checkers, 60 stood out for further examination because either the photo wasn’t attached to the file, or the photo was too blurry to make out the numbers. When our supervisors at HQ started sifting through the exceptions to resolve them, they tried calling out to the polling stations but the returning officers had already packed everything up and were making their way back to Election HQ with the ballot boxes. So, we waited for the physical evidence to arrive, checked out the results, and when satisfied they were accurate, the results were then added to the totals.

Nothing nefarious. In fact, it proves we were taking a cautious approach to ensuring the results were accurate and could hold up to any scrutiny. It shows the integrity of the results had several layers of testing/checks and balances, in order to confirm accuracy.

In any event, in the end Cleary bested Mosher by 107 votes, Blackburn edged out Johns by 47 votes, and Walker just nudged by Curran by a mere 15 votes. Now, as is his right under the Elections Act, Curran is asking for a recount. As he should. “Sometimes the numbers change and sometimes they change quite a bit,” Curran told CTV. “It makes the spread bigger or perhaps it will make it in my favour.”

3. Good Robot

Photo included in the complaint.
Photo included in the complaint.

The Centre for Islamic Development and the Ihsan Academy have filed a complaint with Utility and Review Board concerning their next door neighbour, Good Robot Brewing. The gist of the complaint is:

We observe all five daily prayers, which have their specific timetables, and we are open to those members of our community who wish to come by and spend some quiet time of religious observance, be it prayers, contemplation or Quran reading (our religious book) and classes of religion for adults at different times, as well as having a full scale library, social counselling, multi faith dialogue. All of them require a noise-controlled and peaceful environment, currently being denied by our neighbour’s business practices and clientele. Our children attend daily classes and represent the most promising and busiest of our ongoing efforts.

Generally speaking, we have had no disruptions or distractions worth mentioning, until The Good Robot Brewing Company came to the neighbourhood.


Being a drinking establishment, they make use of music for all to hear. The conversations include language which is not appropriate for a temple nor a school and, being a party atmosphere, they became loud and careless in nature.


It shall not be surprising to the reader that an alcohol drinking establishment attracts all sorts of customers, the quiet and caring ones, as well as the uncaring.

The brewery has brought us people who sit to smoke tobacco and marijuana (its smell permeates through the building leaving a stench for a long time after the drug users have left) and drink on our front door step, who park cars, trucks — one of them being the property of one of the brewery’s partners — and motorbikes on the sidewalk right in front of our building, not the brewery’s, at all hours. We have filed many parking complaints.

In one instance, a brewery employee was smoking while leaning against our wall, close to the entrance, and was asked to stop doing it; his reaction was to throw the cigarette butt to the floor and walk away.

We know these activities are not permitted but there is no effort on the part of the brewery to contain these actions by their customers, and very limited presence by the municipal authorities to enforce the different Bylaws being broken: Loitering, Littering, Parking, Sidewalks, etc. 

You can read the entire complaint here.

Good Robot has not yet responded.

Good Robot is actually two businesses — the microbrewery, which is regulated by the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, and the beverage room, which is regulated (ultimately) by the UARB. According to a letter the Department of Alcohol and Gaming sent the UARB:

A person may request in writing that the Executive Director cancel a permanent license or place conditions on a permanent license on the basis that the operation of the licensed premises is interfering with the quiet enjoyment of neighbouring properties.

On receiving a request under subsection (1 ). the Executive Director may make inquiries of, or request documentation from, the licensee or any other person for the purpose of determining the matter.

If the Executive Director is satisfied that the operation of a licensed premises is interfering with the quiet enjoyment of neighbouring properties, the Executive Director may do any of the following:

• impose conditions on the licensee’s license or rescind or amend existing conditions on the license;

• cancel all or any part of the licensee’s license.

• The Executive Director may refer a matter under this Section to the Review Board in accordance with subsection 47(3) of the Act.

The Executive Director of the UARB is Paul Allen. A hearing date has not been set.

4. (Allegedly) creepy clown

Klutzy the Clown
Klutzy the Clown

“A Cape Breton man who has entertained children for more than 20 years is facing four sex-related charges involving a person under the age of 16,” reports CTV:

Dale Rancourt, also known as Klutzy the Clown, is facing two counts of sexual interference, one count of sexual exploitation and one count of sexual assault.

“The last charge is as a person in authority, did touch the same person for a sexual purpose.  These are very serious charges,” said Crown lawyer Sheldon Nathanson.

The charges have not been tested in court.

5. Countdown

Death candy!
Death candy!

Fourteen days until the first bogus Halloween candy tampering report.

Also, Halloween decorations are cancelled this year.


1. Cranky letter of the day

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

I am writing in response to Gary MacDougall’s column about automobiles in Saturday’s Guardian. My purpose is to explain to him why he has so little affection for cars. It’s because of the Fords. Too many Fords in your young life. Or, as a local, long-time car collector explained in a message to me today, “In childhood Gary was apparently deprived of some of the important things in life, such as the Chrysler automobile. He should seek counselling before it’s too late.” So there you have it Gary, it’s apparently not too late to join the ranks of those who cherish their cars.

P.S., this letter is not sponsored.

David Weale, Charlottetown


A deer peeing on the lawn at the Mount while a duck watches. Photo credit, such as it is, goes to El Jones
A deer peeing on the lawn at the Mount while a duck watches. Photo credit, such as it is, goes to El Jones



Legislature sits (1-6pm, Province House)


No public meetings.

On campus


Garbage Part 2 (12pm, Sexton Campus Alumni Lounge) — More about trash.

Cartesian Double Categories (2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Evangelia Aleiferi will speak. Her abstract:

A double category is said to be Cartesian if the diagonal double functor and the unique double functor to the terminal double category have right adjoints. We will give examples of such and we will compare with Cartesianness in the bicategorical sense. We will especially talk about fibrant Cartesian double categories and some of their properties.

Board of Governors  (3pm, University Hall, MacDonald Building) — here’s the agenda. I’ll pop by to say hello. Hope they have snacks.

Saint Mary’s

Elizabeth Hay

Elizabeth Hay

Elizabeth Hay (Tuesday, 7pm, Library) — Elizabeth Hay, author of Late Nights on AirA Student of WeatherGarbo Laughs, and His Whole Life, will speak.

In the harbour

The sea around Halifax, 9:30am Tuesday. Map:
The sea around Halifax, 9:30am Tuesday. Map:

6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
10am: Agios Minas, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
11am: Tortugas, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 27
2pm: Saldanha Bay, bulker, arrives at anchorage for bunkers from Rocky Point, Jamaica
4pm: Tortugas, car carrier, sails from Pier 27 for sea
5:30pm: Saldanha Bay, bulker, sails from anchorage for sea
10pm: Hollandia, general cargo, sails from Pier 31 for Rotterdam


YouTube video

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  1. Robie Street is not where I would have set up an institution expecting to find a place for quiet contemplation, reflection, and study.

    Normally, zoning deals with this. Although there are plenty of examples which predate modern zoning, like the churches and bars next to each other downtown, you tend not to have noisy bars and other potentially bothersome businesses near residences or institutions. Everyone knows that bars are noisy, that drunks spill out of them smoking and vomiting and cursing, so they are put in areas that take that into account. It is impossible for a bar to police all its customers wherever they wander outside the bar. Just look at downtown Halifax and the Pizza Corner commotions.

    If a use, whether a mosque or a bar, can’t be accommodated in a neighbourhood, then it generally isn’t allowed to begin with. I can think of a specific example in the town where I live, where even a modest quiet cafe that wanted to sell beer and wine with meals, and have live music at night, got turned down for a zoning change because of neighbours who assumed it would be Babylon every night of the week. .

    I’m not sure what happened here but it is unfortunate it got this far. The Islamic centre is within its rights to complain, but as I say, if you are in a commercial zone you have to expect some disruption. Its other option is to hire a lawyer launch a civil suit against the bar, something that is routinely done in Ontario but seems less common on the east coast where people seem to prefer to complain to government authorities.

    Loud music in bars used to bother me, but now that I am mostly deaf from years of loud music in bars, and have no-one I want to talk to or drink with anyway, it doesn’t make any difference.

  2. The mosque on Robie was originally a 2 storey commercial building and next door there was a Peak Audio discount outlet where music could be heard every day.
    The location has high visibility but I doubt any other religion would choose to locate in a such a busy area.

  3. Tomorrow, October 19th, marks the 25th anniversary of the election of Douglas Sparks to the Dartmouth District School Board in a city wide election with a field of about 20 candidates. A young man who went on to become Executive Director,Black Educators Association.

  4. Truly, if people have to go outdoors to smoke, then they need to be mindful that their rights end where others begin. One of the stupidest pieces of legislation is one that cannot be enforced. The smoke-free places act does not seem enforceable.

    It will only become worse once pot is legalized, we’ll all have to breathe that too.

    I feel for those who were there first.

    1. Whoa. First does not make right. Secondly, there is a giant brewery down the road who’s odour permeates the neighbourhood at various times, and it’s accepted. Just the smell of car exhaust on that street should be far more alarming health wise than anything else. Unless we are judging morals, as opposed to legitimate complaints about health, in which case…

      I would tend to lean towards the Centre on some issues off the top of my head just from intuition. But I’m catching a whiff of something else in some of these arguments.

  5. On voter turnout

    There could be an argument made to throw out the election results due to the absolutely dismal voter response. That of course wont happen, but we are left with:
    a) A council which does not have a true mandate from the majority of voters
    b)…oh, yes, there was something called a “school board” elected too.
    This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed on a priority basis. Why did people not vote and what would it take to get them to vote? certainly it isn’t access as it has never been easier in history to vote. Also there is something wrong with the statistics. There cannot possibly be 7,000 fewer voters this year than 4 years go. Either the last tally was wrong or this one was.
    We also need to do something with the school board. Burying school board elections beneath an already ignored municipal election is doing a serious disservice to the education system. That is our future at risk and it is being swept under a rug.

    1. People may well be disaffected by the current voting system. All the more reason to stop trying to get them to vote in the same manner every time. We’ll keep getting the same results. Time for ranked ballots at the municipal level.
      Very important that an educated electorate be engaged. Otherwise we end up with the fiasco which the US election has become. And if you listen to the cheers at Trump rallies, and imagine you are hearing a soundtrack from a Hitler rally, well, just goes to show how easy it is to get enough vulnerable people to support a questionable agenda.

  6. the Centre seems to be behaving with a great deal of patience. They did not make an ad hoc objection to the license being granted beforehand, but now that the beverage room is running the disruptions are getting out of hand. Heavy bass music will permeate walls and windows. Anyone close to the source hears music, lyrics but those just getting the bass notes ‘feel’ it in their bodies. It makes glass vibrate, it disrupts your innards (for want of a better term). it would be very upsetting to any kind of prayer, meditation, classes or activities. The smell of ‘skunk’ is something else that travels, and since smoking of any kind is no longer allowed within the premises people go outside and off to the side. In other words, right next to the centre’s doorway. The front area is littered with butts, spit and guys being guys, piss and vomit. If the robot wants to be a GOOD robot, their staff must monitor the customers better. And turn down the bass.

      1. Robie is all C-2.
        The block of Almon,Robie and St Albans is all C-2 and almost all of that part of Halifax is C-2; begs the question why any group would build a church, synagogue,mosque or temple in that area. At the back of the mosque you will see the old Acadian bus terminal, now owned by Danny Chedrawe with plans for a large residential development.

      2. Totally agree. Someone dropped the ball or wasn’t paying attention. They should close the bar. No place for such next to a place of worship and school.

  7. I don’t think the duck is watching the deer peeing. I think it’s looking away politely. Maybe El should have done the same.

  8. Would there not have been an application and hearing before the bar went next to the Islamic place, with neighbours asked to file objections? Or do they do those hearings any more? At one time you couldn’t have a bar within a certain distance of a school or place of worship, probably for the very reasons complained of here, but I don’t know if that is a thing any more. Maybe they just go by zoning and don’t have hearings or filing of objections these days.

    I know where I live, you probably wouldn’t be able to establish a new mosque or church or academy in an existing commercial zone without some kind of special spot zoning permission from city council, which is frowned upon by planners – this example being a case in point why – but the actual zoning in Halifax could allow for both uses, bar and institutional, for all I know.

    1. There was indeed an application and hearing, and notice of said was spread around the neighbourhood.

  9. The folks who run Good Robot seem to have a decent marketing skill – hopefully they see the best way forward here is to work with their neighbours. Not a hard thing to do and to me, the only real option.

  10. Just when our last batch of puritans started to croak, we get new ones.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    That being said, Good Robot does tend to be a bit of a shitshow, but on the other hand, it is nice having nightlife somewhere other than downtown – it’s unfortunate that these two buildings ended up next to each other. I hope they can reach a reasonable resolution.

    1. Yeah, that’s a toxic mix. But aside from that issue, something else now interests me. We all know who Good Robot is, or can easily find out. But who is the Centre for Islamic Development? According to an ‘awful news source’ (half joke):

      “In 2014, the group had completed a multi-million-dollar renovation to their aging facility.”

      Seem to have come up with a lot of money since buying the property in 2001.

      1. Yeah, I have to wonder where the money comes from. However I’ve glanced in while walking past there and on one occasion saw them at prayer – there were quite a lot of people there. So it could be just from dues and private school fees. However it is a matter of fact that a lot of mosques are funded by foreign entities, especially in Europe (The Saudis need political support in Europe for when their oil runs out).

        Regarding classes, I have no idea what time their classes run. Last (Islamic) prayer of the day is supposed to be right after sunset, which on the summer solstice occurs at 9 pm (although it doesn’t get fully dark until ten). So there’s definitely a conflict.

        I do hope that the chilling effect of potentially being called an Islamophobe or a Hitler does not affect the people who have to make the decision and the centre and the brewery can come to a mutually satisfactory conculsion.

        1. Heaven forfend anyone should hesitate to speculate about where all these Muslim foreigners get their loot for fear of being branded Islamophobic? Where do Catholics get their money? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Shambhala Buddhists?

          1. You’re confusing two points to make me sound like a conspiracy theorist. I never said that they *should* be investigated, I did say that it’s an impressive building and it’s quite a lot of money to raise over a period of several years, especially if they didn’t go into debt to pay for it, which I understand some sects of Islam (and others) are against. I wrote out the counterargument, that an ‘impressive number’ of people pray there, which would make raising the money through dues more feasible.

        1. Wondering why this Microbrewery / lounge hasn’t reached out to the Islamic group. The brewery are the newcomers and are disrupting a peaceful neighbourhood. Who ever approved this drinking establishment in the first place?