In the harbour


1. CMA divests from fossil fuels

Courtney Howard. Photo: Pat Kane / CMAJ
Courtney Howard. Photo: Pat Kane / CMAJ

Citing health concerns related to climate change, the Canadian Medical Association’s General Council voted yesterday to divest from fossil fuels. The CMA was holding its annual conference at Dalhousie University; after the vote, the CMA issued the following press release:

Canada’s doctors take bold step in supporting renewables and recognizing the health impacts of fossil fuels

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) took a big step towards our reduced dependence on fossil fuels at this summer’s annual meeting, deciding to divest its invested reserves from fossil fuel companies. Recognizing the health impacts of fossil fuel burning in causing climate change and creating air pollution, the CMA voted to move its reserves of investments out of energy companies whose primary business is based on fossil fuels.

The motion was brought by Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) board member, Dr. Courtney Howard. “As a Northern doctor, working for action on climate-health is one of the most important things I can do for my patients,” said Dr. Howard, also Northwest Territories representative to the Canadian Medical Association General Council meetings. “We are seeing respiratory effects from forest fire smoke, decreased stability of ice roads and changes in the availability of traditional foodstuffs. There is great stress associated with such rapid changes in the landscape. I am so happy that Canada’s doctors have taken such clear steps to demonstrate to Canadians that climate change is a health issue that requires urgent action.”

The Medical journal, The Lancet, has called climate change “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century,.” The World Health Organization has estimated that by 2030, the direct health costs of climate change could be between US$ 2 billion and US$ 4 billion a year. We must leave between 2/3 and 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground to stay within the international target of limiting worldwide surface temperature warming to 2 degC.

“The British Medical Association led the way, ending all its investments in fossil fuels,” said Dr Kapil Khatter, Past President of CAPE and General Council delegate. “It is great to see the Canadian Medical Association joining other progressive medical organizations.”

The CMA also passed motions recommending a new fund so Canada’s doctors can move their investments away from fossil fuel companies, and to explore investments in renewable energy and to promoting the positive health impacts of pricing carbon emissions.

Next year’s Canadian Medical Association meetings will include a focus on the health effects of climate change.

An article in last week’s CMAJ explained that:

The international divest–invest movement, which has been gaining momentum since it began in 2012, is making in-roads into the medical community. In 2014, the British Medical Association committed to divesting from fossil fuels and The Royal Australasian College of Physicians followed suit in June.

The CMA has over $29 million in investments with 6% ($1.77 million) in the energy sector. More than 43,000 physicians invest with CMA’s subsidiary, MD Financial Management, including Dr. Courtney Howard, an emergency doctor in Yellowknife. She is spearheading the move for divestment alongside the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), which has over 6000 members. Right now, physicians can choose socially responsible investing through third-party funds, but for Howard and others that doesn’t go far enough. 

“We’re looking to ask the CMA to divest its reserves from fossil fuels and to invest in renewable energy as a bit of an informational sign post for Canadians that Canadian physicians do view climate change as a human health issue and prioritize climate action.”


In the summer of 2014, Howard said she witnessed the effect climate change when Yellowknife was cloaked in heavy smoke from area wildfires and she noted more patients wheezing in her emergency department. She intends to research the health effects of wildfires.

The increasing instances of wildfires in North America can be linked to climate change, says Dr. Trevor Hancock, cofounder of CAPE, the Canadian affiliate of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment. “We have an ethical duty not to create conditions or support the creation of conditions that will harm our patients.”

Relatedly, the Divest Dal movement continues to work to get Dalhousie investments pulled from companies with large carbon footprints. Last November, the Dalhousie Board of Governors rejected calls for the university to divest; as reporter Rachel Ward explained (behind paywall):

Dalhousie’s Board of Governors has rejected divestment, at the recommendation of its investment committee. The committee report said divesting would make no impact on climate change and in fact hurt relationships the university has with fossil fuel companies that fund research on campus.


The investments in question make up 4.3 percent of the endowment fund, totalling about $20 million. The divestment movement, organized worldwide through, tries to stop institutions from investing money in the top 200 carbon-emitting companies, including BP and ExxonMobile. Here in Halifax, Divest Dal has collected 2,000 petition signatures in support of its proposal and presented three reports to the committee.

But activists have kept working on the issue. Dalhousie’s Committee of Senate on Fossil Fuel Divestment last week asked “all academic units who self-identify as potentially affected by fossil fuel divestment to submit to the ad hoc committee a two page summary statement outlining possible pros and cons from either divesting or not divesting to their academic programs and research. Units are encouraged to provide evidence where possible.”

2. Nova Dock

Photo: Halifax Examiner
Photo: Halifax Examiner

The Nova Dock, the floating drydock at the Irving Shipyard that has long been a fixture on the waterfront, was moved yesterday to Woodside, where it will be cut in two and then towed to Florida. Miami-based International Ship Repair has bought the dock, and will reassemble it.

The move to Woodside took five hours. During the move, I happened to be travelling over the MacDonald Bridge and took the above photo.

3. Bikers

“An outlaw motorcycle club aligned with the Hell’s Angels has opened a clubhouse on Fern Lane in Halifax’s north end,” reports Jack Julian of the CBC:

Const. Scott Morrison is with the RCMP Criminal Intelligence Service in Nova Scotia. He says neighbours’ sightings of bikers wearing Gate Keepers insignia are correct.


Stephen Schneider is an associate professor in the department of sociology and criminology at Saint Mary’s University.

He believes the Gate Keepers have entered Halifax to counter a move last summer by the Bacchus club into Harrietsfield.

He says while the Bacchus are also aligned with the Hell’s Angels, they are rivals to the Gate Keeper organization.

“As far as urban planning is concerned, it’s probably not the best spot for the city. But again it doesn’t matter, it’s not the point. The point is the Bacchus moves one of their clubs into Halifax, the Hell’s Angels have to do the same thing with the Gate Keepers.”

This is neither here nor there, but while researching something else last night I came across a June 6, 1993 Daily News article about then-Justice Minister Joel Matheson’s decision to revoke exemptions that had been bureaucratically granted to eight gun clubs around the province. The exemptions would have allowed the gun clubs to skirt gun control regulations that limited rifle magazines to five rounds and handguns to 10. But, reported the newspaper:

David Grantham, vice-president of the Nova Scotia Rifle Association, said revoking the exemption is “against the spirit of the federal law,” adding that he hopes the next minister is more “open minded and reasonable.”

He said revoking the exemption only hurts responsible gun owners and won’t affect criminals at all. Grantham said the crowd he shoots with is “patriotic, law-abiding and not a bunch of rednecks.”

“I’ve never even had a speeding ticket. What do you think the chances are that I’m going to take my guns out on Barrington Street and shoot someone? It’s ludicrous,” he said.

“The criminals, the Hell’s Angels, are down there in their clubhouse tonight in Porters Lake where they’ve got a whole roomful of weapons quite likely, laughing their bloody heads off at this.”

That last line seems to have engendered some private discussion between the Hell’s Angels and Grantham, and two days later the Daily News printed a letter to the editor from Grantham:

Sorry to Hell’s Angels

To the editor:

I and the Nova Scotia Rifle Association sincerely regret the erroneous impression given the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club and its activities in an article which appeared Friday in this newspaper.

My remarks were totally unfounded and based on personal misconception. We sincerely apologize for any embarrassment we caused to the Hell’s Angels members, their families and associates.

David Grantham Vice-President NSRA

4. Ship of Theseus

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 7.13.31 AM

“A sailing industry veteran says it borders on negligence for the government to allow people to sail on Bluenose II in light of a second failure of the ship’s steering system,” reports Michael Gorman:

“It can be fixed, but you’ve got to do it right,” said Lou Boudreau, an experienced schooner captain who runs a consulting business.


Boudreau predicted problems will persist with the hydraulic-assisted steering system, made necessary by the massive weight of the ship’s steel rudder.

“They’re just Band-Aid-ing it one time after another. The government has to recognize that it won’t work.”

It’s particularly concerning, said Boudreau, that the failures have happened during harbour cruises, in what would be the least challenging conditions the ship could possibly face.

“It’s absolutely clear to everybody except the people running the show that they’ve done it wrong,” he said of the steel rudder.


1. Accessibility and ice removal

Gus Reed. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Gus Reed. Photo: Halifax Examiner

I’m late on this because I’m behind on everything, but accessibility advocate Gus Reed wrote the following piece as a letter to the Chronicle Herald, but for whatever reason it wasn’t published, so he sent it to me:

Two hours and eight minutes into the lengthy Committee of the Whole meeting on August 4, held to discuss the report on winter operations, Councillor Gloria McCluskey said this:

“…and one of the big problems too, for residents; the buses were hauled off the road so often. You know, I never heard of that, and I guess that told us something, when buses were not able to operate. Residents couldn’t get to work. They were docked pay and even lost their jobs sometimes.”

Even allowing for hyperbole, that is a startling admission. People lost their jobs because HRM didn’t do theirs. To the credit of Council, the meeting laid bare a fault line in the way HRM is governed.

Because the Winter Operations Report was conceived and executed as an administrative exercise, practical considerations like getting to work take a back seat to accounting problems like the capacity to handle 311 calls. You or I would think first of removing the reasons for the 311 calls. More shoveling means less calling. But the report’s primary recommendation is increasing 311 staff. If only we could count our mistakes better…

In a similar way, the report discusses standards without reference to purpose. As the Accessibility Advisory Committee pointed out, main arterials cleared in 12 hours and adjacent sidewalks in 48 makes no sense if the goal is getting people to work. It makes sense if the goal is to force people to take automobiles and increase traffic congestion. When snow removal is just a public relations problem, we hardly remember why we’re doing it in the first place. Like the snow report, HRM policy is often framed in terms of administrative detail, never referencing overarching goals.

Welcome to my world. For a month this winter you were ‘mobility-challenged’ as they say, not because of some inherent problem you have, but because of someone else’s ineptitude. Never mind the snow and ice, people with disabilities face needless barriers every day, even in mid-August, 2015. Generally speaking, anything that works for wheelchairs works for everyone — seniors, kids, strollers — so it’s a useful point of view.

The disconnect between practicalities and purpose is a real problem in Halifax. Take the pedestrian / vehicle encounters, which we blithely blame on bad drivers, bad pedestrians and bad alignment of the planets, never considering the bad design that is the biggest problem. We paint lines to use up the paint supply, not aware that the two parallel lines of a crosswalk are nearly invisible to oncoming traffic. We renew curb cuts seemingly to meet a quota. We should use paint so drivers can see the crosswalk. Our curb cuts should expedite safe crossing and allow easy snowplowing.

Over the years, wheelchair users in particular have come to understand that the reason so little changes in Halifax is because there is so little accountability. Leadership is thwarted. Our form of government seems to discourage the kind of cross-departmental discussion that can solve complicated problems. We throw up our hands when our right-of-way bylaw runs headlong into the need for access to business. We’re smarter than that, we can figure it out.

People have very simple goals: personal safety, health, getting ahead, getting around, fair treatment. Everything government does should advance those goals. A well-designed sidewalk or transit system is not only a way to get around, but they enhance public safety, and further commerce. When a snowy sidewalk is just an accounting problem, its purpose is forgotten.

We have an expensive, segregated and badly conceived parallel transit system for people with disabilities. It continues to exist not because it works, but for its own sake. Our auditor managed an extensive performance review of Metro Transit in 2013 without even a mention of this failure of purpose.

People with disabilities have unconscionable unemployment rates. Our municipal services actually make it worse through lack of transportation and misguided regulation.

We should take the opportunity to re-examine the basic structure of city government. Without laying blame, we need to figure out how to get our operations to match our aspirations.

Our Councillors, are elected to execute our wishes. When they don’t, we usually get around to electing someone else. This is accountability. Departments need to report to Council, so they can report to us. No one likes to fire anyone, but when no one is fired, no one is held accountable and citizens are let down. World-class cities don’t disappoint their citizens.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

This summer, while driving along the Sunrise Trail (Route 6) and taking in the beautiful North Shore, I glanced to my left to view more scenery, and it happened. In a split second, my car hit a deep pothole, bursting a front tire.

Later, upon checking the Nova Scotia government website, I learned I could call a 1-800 number to file a claim for damages. (A replacement performance tire cost me $300.)

Speaking with a person at Internal Services, Risk Management, I was told a claim form would be mailed to me and to fill it in with all the pertinent details (copies of the new tire invoice, car registration, car insurance details, where this pothole is located, etc.). This I did in due course and mailed it to them.

A few weeks later, after a phone call to this same person inquiring about the status of my claim, I received a letter informing me that I would not be reimbursed for my ruined tire. The reason was that Nova Scotia government “cannot always anticipate and is not required to anticipate all road hazards as they manifest on every kilometre of road in the province.”

If this is the case, why was I not informed of this policy on their website, and also during my first phone call to them? And my second call as well?

All along, I received sympathetic responses for what occurred to my car — and well-rehearsed, I might add.

In summation, this is another example of government waste of resources. I wasted a stamp and my time filing of all those pertinent copies, as requested. How optimistic I was.

Phil McLaughlin, Halifax


No public meetings.

The city is jumping on the standing desk fad and ordering three “Sit-Stand Adjustable Electric Work Surfaces” for the Planning office at Alderney Gate.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Thursday.
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Thursday.

Reykjafoss, general cargo, arrived at Pier 42 this morning from Rotterdam, sails to sea just before noon
Hollandia, general cargo, Punta Delgada, Portugal to Pier 31

Three cruises ships are in port today: Veendam (up to 1,350 passengers), Maasdam (up to 1,258 passengers), and Carnival Splendour (up to 3,006 passengers). Dust off your trinkets!


We’re recording the next episode of Examineradio today.

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

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  1. Gus Reed’s excellent letter should get out to the greater public. Will he consent to post it on Facebook? At the very least, it should be sent to all councillors and the mayor.

    1. Gus Reed:

      Gus Reed’s letter

      Gus Reed’s letter

      Indeed! Shame on the Chronicle Herald for not publishing this.

      Canadian Medical Association

      Congratulations to the CMA for highlighting the relationship between climate change and health and “for putting their money where their mouth is” by disinvesting in fossil fuels. I hope that I will find a poster promoting the disinvestment campaign on my doctor’s wall the next time I need to visit. Thanks for telling us about this, Tim.

  2. Ah, finally someone mentions the “A” word. No, not that one – accountability. That’s the word that needs to be used more often in this province. I agree that no one likes to see people get fired, however… People should not be fired as a form of retribution or as punishment or even to serve as an example. People (and entities) should be fired so they will not be in a position to screw up again. I could stand corrected, but I’m guessing that the genius who recommended that Tourism oversee the construction of the Bluenose III – it wasn’t actually a re-build of Bluenose II – instead of a more appropriate department such as Infrastructure Renewal or, whatever they are calling it these days, is still sitting in their corner office. And the folks that were responsible for the initial cost overruns and steering issues and for hiring the contractors… Yes, I’m sure most of them are not only still on the job, they are probably still on the Bluenose III file. This province (and this city) is rife with examples of incompetence ignored and, in many cases, rewarded. The city snow removal debacle is just one example of how incompetence is ignored within the municipal bureaucracy.

    We regularly fire our politicians, but to no avail. We still get the same dismal results in terms of provincial and municipal governance. Until our politicians come to understand the importance of embracing the concept of accountability, we are doomed to travel down a road built by incompetents and paid for by us.

  3. I’m so pleased they are ordering sit-stand desks for the presumably able-bodied workers at the planning office. Perhaps they could leave them at the standing position and sit down and thus get a taste of what the non-able bodied face each and every day in this backward province. I recently toured several of our world class Unesco world heritage sites with a guest with a walking disability. It was an exercise in torture for him and me – everyplace bounded by stairs, impossibly long walking routes with no accessible access, no identification of the access when it was rarely available, no way to enter attractions without using stairs or unfriendly lumpy cobblestone passages….honestly. I was ashamed. I have MS myself and note as I go around how very little of our city even is accessible to those with different abilities. I love it here, but bloody he**, what does it take to get a little sensitivity to those with needs????