This date in history
In the harbour


1. Rebranding


I see that the Dartmouthians and others opposed to the “Halifax” signs going up in their communities are upset. I hear them, talk with them, get their press releases.

I agree that there are financial implications to the rebranding, and that a lot of this was done behind closed doors. And I agree that PR contracts are suspicious. But, honestly, I just don’t get the visceral anger about the rebranding.

I live in Dartmouth, and I couldn’t care less what the sign at the duck pond says — I’ll still say I live in Dartmouth. I have friends who live in the North End, in Spryfield, in Sackville… and they all say they live in those places, no matter what the political jurisdiction is. I think, though, that when most of us travel through Canada, we say we live in Halifax. When we travel outside of Canada, we have to give geography lessons and usually say something about the east coast of Canada or the Maritimes.

Don’t worry, Dartmouth, Halifax won’t destroy your identity. But when the first Starbucks opens on Portland Street, there goes Dartmouth for sure.

Starbucks is the real enemy.

2. A late bus for Halifax?

OC Night Bus, Geoff LMC (CC BY-NC 2.0)
OC Night Bus, Geoff LMC (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Erica Butler has moved her transportation column from Metro to the Halifax Examiner. She’ll appear here every Monday afternoon.

Yesterday, in her first column for the Examiner, Butler examined the success of the late night New Year’s transit offerings, and asks:

What would it take to provide that means on other nights of the year, when downtown is also packed with partiers (and the workers that serve them), even if not on the scale of New Year’s Eve?

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

3. Calling Vernon Wormer


Mount Saint Vincent University is looking for a new president.

4. Dog bites man

Slow news day at the ceeb.


1. Details

“Some of you are not fond of year end reviews or 10 best listicles,” writes Stephen Archibald, speaking directly to me, I think. “This blog is really not one of those. All I did was skim through my photos from last year and realized there were some little developments around Halifax that I was pleased to recall. Common elements of the projects were good design (from my point of view) and bursts of positive energy.”

Archibald somehow manages to really see the stuff that I’ve passed a hundred times without notice. Like in Spryfield:

Below is a detail from a long mural that surrounds a skate park in Spryfield. I hope there are all sorts of other great artwork out in the suburbs. You should tell me about them.

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

2. Housing

It’s interesting to watch the biases and unexamined assumptions that go into news reporting. Take, for example, today’s Metro article about the housing market in Halifax:

While the Halifax real estate market likely won’t have a “banner” year in 2016, it’s not all doom and gloom according to one realtor.

Although the market is still below 2013 numbers, the president of the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors said Halifax saw an eight per cent jump in housing starts in 2015 over the year before.

“This coming year is going to be a better year,” Gordon Burns said Monday.

Reporter Haley Ryan uncritically repeats that a booming housing market with increased prices and increased sales is “better,” a good thing, period. Logically, a depressed market is therefore a bad thing.

As with any market, however, there are winners and losers. For sure, when the market is booming realtors and the associated real estate professionals win — they’ve got more business and are making more money. And, arguably, when house prices go up existing home owners benefit — at least on paper, they’ve got more equity in their homes, from which they can borrow to put a kid through college or whatever, and when they eventually sell, they’ll get more money.

But what about people looking to buy a house? What about young people thinking of moving up from apartment living to become first-time home buyers, hoping to buy a starter house or condo? Clearly, a booming real estate market is bad for them, because houses and condos are more expensive. Just ask any 20-something or 30-something trying to get established in Halifax what they think of the booming real estate market. I don’t know her, but I assume Ryan herself fits into this category, so the lack of self-awareness is interesting.

And what happens when, as it eventually must, the real estate market collapses? People who have taken out loans collateralized with inflated equity are going to be shit out of luck. That retirement plan based on selling the pricey family home? Poof.

I guess we’ve gotten to the point where even newspaper reporters identify not with their own interests but rather with the unquestionable interests of the financiers.

I’ve sat through too many presentations from dim-witted economic development “experts” and the academics who support them. Their basic line is that the FIRE industries — finance, insurance, and real estate — are growing and so we should put all our eggs in that basket. As FIRE grows, the thinking goes, the industries will need more workers to service them and those who have invested in them will see increased yields. That’s the reason why Nova Scotia Business Inc. is giving payroll rebates to Cayman Island tax avoidance operations, and that’s the reason reporters uncritically report on the booming real estate market.

But while the FIRE industries are essential — we can’t run a modern economy without them — they don’t provide any real value in and of themselves. A portfolio of stocks, a collateralized debt offering, or a real estate investment trust are worthless without an underlying economy to prey on. The FIRE industries are essentially leeches — to put it in Marxist terms, they suck off the surplus labour value of those who do meaningful, socially useful, and worthwhile work.

If the last eight years have taught us anything, it should be that an over-reliance on the FIRE industries can destroy the world. But that cat is out of the bag. We think we can’t reel in the global finance industry because doing so will lead to economic collapse, so we’ve doubled down on it — the derivative market is now approaching a quadrillion dollars, compared to the $75 trillion global GDP, the real economy on which derivatives sit. We cheer on the urban real estate boom — and no, Halifax is not unique, the urban building boom is happening on the entire planet — because there’s no other place to park capital and we can’t see any other option for “growth” and employment.

None of this is a good thing. There will be a day of reckoning.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

New Year’s resolution: Let’s stop calling each other taxpayers.

The word “taxpayer” reinforces the idea that our relationship with government is based on the taxes we pay. It reduces our role as citizens to a source of money. It implies that the more taxes any one of us pays, the more authority we should have over how it’s spent.

Newsflash: once you pay taxes, it’s not your money anymore; it belongs to all of us. And whether you pay $100 a year in tax or $100,000, your opinion is equally valid.

And anyway, when you stop and think about it, who isn’t a taxpayer? Somewhere, somehow, we all pay taxes — and that’s the way it should be. After all, taxes are a fundamental way in which we use our collective resources to organize ourselves and provide for each other.

In 2016, let’s put the word “taxpayer” to rest and start referring to each other as what we really are: people.

Matt Spurway, Dartmouth


No public meetings.

This date in history


On December 5, 1911, Halifax council accepted several letters regarding horses:

Read reports Committee on Works and City Engineer re width of horse stalls.


Halifax, NS, November 28th, 1910

His Worship the Mayor, Halifax, NS

Dear Sir — An investigation has been made by our agent, together with a veterinary regarding the narrowness of the stalls for the horses in the Bedford Row Engine House and the new City Stables adjoining the Wanderers’ Grounds. The stalls in the new City stables are only four feet five inches broad. For some of the large horses, which measure at least sixteen hands, the stalls are very inadequate, as is evidenced by the fact of the way in which the horses’ hoofs mark their stables in their struggle to be comfortable. The general principle is that no stall should be narrower than the height of the horse from the ground to the top of the shoulder, together with about two inches to give a little more room. A horse sixteen hands high, therefore, calls for a stall five feet six inches, and taking these measurements as the criteria, you will note that the adequate arrangements are not to be found in the stables referred to. The same argument applies to the Bedford Row Engine House, where, we understand, the stalls vary from four feet six inches to four feet eight inches, and the horses here are even larger than those found in the other stables. Would you kindly see if these conditions cannot be remedied at an early date, and oblige.

R.H. Murray, Secretary

N. B. An inspection of any up-to-date stable in Halifax will endorse the statement we have made.



City Engineer’s Office, Dec. 7th. 1910

His Worship the Mayor:

Sir — I beg to report on the accompanying letter from Mr. R. H. Murray, Secretary of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty.

Mr. Murray alleges that our stables are not wide enough to accommodate the horses. He claims that the general principle is that no stall should be less than the height of the horse from the ground to the top of the shoulder plus two inches,‘and states that an inspection of any up-to-date stable in Halifax will endorse the statement.

l have never heard of a stable for working horses in which the stalls were designed in accordance with the principle which Mr. Murray lays down. I have seen a good many stable designs, not only in Halifax but in technical journals, the latter giving the best practice all over North America. I know of no veterinary surgeon in Halifax who has a stable designed in accordance with Mr. Murray’s principle.

The accompanying letter from an official at the government model farm in Truro shows that the practice there is to make the stalls four feet ten inches wide for draft horses. He states that these dimensions are commodious for any horse up to 1600 pounds, and that for light horses, he would, in all probability, make them few inches narrower. I think I may safely conclude that the government experts at the model farm know as much about this matter as Mr. Murray.

Our horses are not as heavy as the weight for which the government stables provide and they are not as active or restless. They are also lighter than the Fire Department horses. Our horses are hard working, quiet in the stalls and slow and clumsy in movement.

Our old stalls were about the width mentioned by the government official. We had a good deal of trouble, however, in consequence of the heavy horses getting partially turned in their stalls and getting “cast.” They were then compelled to lie in at cramped position, partially on their backs, from which they could not move, until the stable foreman arrived in the morning. In order to prevent them from getting “cast” we made the stalls a few inches narrower so that our clumsy horses could not get partially turned around and get caught in attempting to roll.

The marks which Mr. Murray mentions as being on the sides of the stall will be made with any width of stall, even the width which he states as being absolutely necessary, as a horse lies where he goes down. It would be absurd to imagine that a horse would be so careful in a stall wider by two inches than his height to lie down so that he would clear both sides of it exactly one inch and stay there for the night.

We buy good horses and keep them in good condition. They are well cared for and our stable is as good as any in the City if not better than any other. It is high, well lighted, well ventilated and clean and will compare favorably with Mr. Murray’s stable, which has been inspected within the last week by City officials.

We were not hampered by lack of room in designing the stalls and sick horses will be kept in a loose box. As already stated, we made our stalls a little narrower than we had had them in the old stable for the benefit of the horses, and not for their inconvenience.

If Mr. Murray desires to make a regulation governing the width of stalls, he should apply for legislation, but I believe that it would be opposed by every stable owner in the city as not only unnecessary but really dangerous for heavy or lively horses. If wide stalls must be used, then I believe they must be loose boxes to be safe for heavy horses.

I do not claim to be an expert in these matters, but I have had the supervision of horses for twenty-five years, and therefore do not speak in total ignorance.

F. W. W. DOANE, City Engineer.


Truro, N. S., Nov. 30th, 1910.
Jas. S. Edwards, Esq.
Chairman Halifax Board of Fire Commissioners

Dear Sir —Yoor favor of Nov. 28th, addressed to Dr. Standish, has been handed to me for attention, owing to the fact that Dr. Standish is unwell.

In our horse barn, the dimensions of our stalls are as follows :

Length of still, 10 feet.

Width of stall, inside dimensions, 4 ft., 10 inches.
Width of manger at bottom, 20 inches.
Width of manger at top, 28 inches.

Height of division at back of animals, 3 ft., 6 inches.
Height of division at head of animals, 6 ft., 6 inches.
Height of front over manger, 4 ft., 6 inches.

These stalls are for draft horses, and were we using them for light horses, would, in all probability, make them a few inches narrower. However, as you know, we have no very heavy draft horses, and these dimensions are commodious for any horses between 1000 and 1600 pounds

E.S. Archibald.


City Works Office, Dec 7th, 1910.

To the City Council :

GENTLEMEN — At a meeting of the Committee on Works held this day the attached report of the City Engineer on letter from R. H. Murray, Secretary of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty in re size of horse stalls in the stables of this department was read and recommended to Council for adoption

J. A. Chisholm, Mayor and Chairman.

Filed and a copy ordered to be sent to R. H. Murray, Secretary of the S. P. C.

Out of curiosity, I wondered what the modern standard for horse stalls is. I don’t pretend to know anything about this, but a quick google search brings this result:

How Big Should a Horse Stall Be?

The standard size for a horse stall tends to be twelve feet by twelve feet. But is that the right size for every horse?

The twelve-foot wall standard comes from a simple calculation for the average 1,000-pound horse: the wall is about one and a half times the horse’s length. It accounts for allowing a horse to walk in a circle, to lie down and roll, and to sleep without getting cast constantly (although some horses just cast themselves no matter what you do!). This size is also a modular dimension of lumber and stall equipment, but that is a whole other post.




NASA explains:

On the Moon, the Earth never rises — or sets. If you were to sit on the surface of the Moon, you would see the Earth just hang in the sky. This is because the Moon always keeps the same side toward the Earth. Curiously, the featured image does picture the Earth setting over a lunar edge. This was possible because the image was taken from a spacecraft orbiting the Moon — specifically the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). In fact, LRO orbits the Moon so fast that, from the spacecraft, the Earth appears to set anew about every two hours. The featured image captured one such Earthset about three months ago. By contrast, from the surface of the Earth, the Moon sets about once a day — with the primary cause being the rotation of the Earth. LRO was launched in 2009 and, while creating a detailed three dimensional map of the Moon’s surface, is also surveying the Moon for water and possible good landing spots for future astronauts.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Tuesday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Tuesday. Map:

East Coast, oil tanker, arrived at Imperial Oil this morning from Saint John
Paganino, car carrier, New York to Autoport, then sails to sea
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, St. John’s to HalTerm
Berlin Express, container ship, Cagliari, Italy to berthing TBD
Fremantle Highway, car carrier, Emden, Germany to Autoport

Xin Hong sails to Ghent, Belgium
Travestern sails to sea


I’ve finally gotten the $100 annual subscription level button installed!

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

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  1. R.H. Murray was also a judge of the NS County Court, for what it’s worth. And a proud Dartmouthian!

  2. Re: Cranky letter of the day. I agree with Matt Spurway on citizens vice taxpayers. I would add that while corporations are taxpayers (notionally at least) they are not citizens.

    Here’s an interesting piece of linguistic research on the subject: In summary,

    “the use of taxpayer, rather than attempting to expand the category of people whose interests the government should be concerned with, the term is actually intended by Republicans to narrow it to that class of people who are imagined to contribute meaningfully to society and who therefore have earned the right to have their interests attended to.”


  3. so what is considered a ‘starter’ home? I have seen 2 bed condos listed, older building in Dartmouth, overlooking the harbour, decent shape, parking, laundry, elevator and bus service at the door for under 90K. reasonable strata fee. Looks like a great starter to break into the market. A new build, with stainless & granite is not a starter.

  4. Tim – you need to go see The Big Short. It’s illuminating. Actually, everyone should see it.