1. Transportation data

Ahsan Habib, director and founder of the Dalhousie Transportation Collaboratory (DalTRAC), wants to bring evidence to our transportation decision-making.

“The numbers have been in for a few weeks, and they are… unimpressive,” reports Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:

Naturally, I mean the 2016 census “journey to work” survey numbers, part of the long form census that 1/4 of us are asked to complete. Here’s how our mode share breaks down:

Transit mode share: 11.8% (down from 12.5% in 2011)
Walk mode share: 8.2% (down from 8.5% in 2011)
Bike mode share: 1.0% (down from 1.1% in 2011)
Auto (driver) mode share: 70.4% (up from 68.7% in 2011)
Auto (passenger) mode share: 7.3% (down from 7.9% in 2011)
Combined auto mode share: 77.7% (up from 76.6% in 2011)

Butler spoke with Ahsan Habib, the director of the Dalhousie Transportation Collaboratory (DalTRAC), about the numbers and about his difficulty in getting better numbers. Interestingly, Haligonians see taking surveys as an intrusion into their privacy. Continues Butler:

To really up Halifax’s data game, everyday Haligonians just need to be up for playing. Habib says in his seven years collecting data in Halifax, he’s noted what he politely calls a “familiarity issue.”

Jurisdictions like Toronto have been doing personal travel surveys for so long they are an accepted part of being a citizen there. [Fun fact: my mother’s first job when she moved to Toronto in the mid-60s was to call random people, ask them how they got to work, and then actually draw their commute on a paper map.]

“It’s not as difficult as when I first started in 2014,” says Habib. “It’s getting better, but we need more openness to complete these types of surveys. Haligonians should really understand that scientific enquiries and collecting data is important for them. It can help decision-making.”

Click here to read “Transportation data is ‘our wake-up call.’”

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2. McNeil’s “low point”

Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday morning, I noted that:

I read [Auditor General Michael] Pickup’s audit of Family Doctor Resourcing, and I came back from it thinking, What’s the big deal?


I can’t see this as anything other than an auditor looking at a government process, finding shortcomings and inefficiencies, recommending some improvements, and having those recommendations accepted by the agencies that were audited. Isn’t this how it’s supposed to work?


The proper response would have been for Premier Stephen McNeil to read the audit and say, “thanks very much for pointing out the minor problems in our doctor recruitment process. You’ve made good recommendations, and our government has accepted them and will implement them. You’ve helped make our policy an even stronger one, and Nova Scotians can rest assured that we are adequately addressing the doctor shortage.”

Instead, McNeil went off like some crazed lunatic, threatening to sic his underlings on Pickup at a Public Accounts session of the legislature. (The Liberal backbenchers didn’t criticize Pickup at all at the meeting.)

What the heck set McNeil off?

Later in the day, Marieke Walsh reported that:

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says his swipe at the province’s auditor general and the loss of some colleagues during the May election were both “low” points in 2017.


In November, McNeil picked a fight with Pickup over his office’s reports on gaps in health care.

“If he chooses and wants to do public policy, there will be 51 ridings for him to run in,” McNeil told reporters at the time.

Now he says that was offside.

“I’m usually much better at controlling the level of my frustration than that,” he said. “I don’t think that reflects who I am. So, I think anyone who’s ever dealt with me would know that I am a consensus builder, at the end of the day I’m not afraid to make a decision.”

“My job as the premier is not to express frustration, my job is to deliver on the mandate that Nova Scotians have given me,” McNeil said.

“He has a job to do, and I have a job to do. He’s doing his job… and I need to do my job.”

I guess we’re all on the same side now.

There’s a joke about the very tall McNeil and “low points” in there somewhere, but I can’t find it.

3. China and the Nova Scotia fishery

Jellyfish salad.

“I get nervous every time I hear someone talk about Nova Scotia supplying pulp or fish to the Chinese market and Thursday’s CBC report about us potentially supplying them with jellyfish did nothing to allay my fears,” notes Mary Campbell:

As Kathleen Martin of the Canadian Sea Turtle Network told the CBC:

China is a huge market. The idea they have fished out other sources for jellyfish, that they have to look other places to provide them, should be chilling to us. It’s not sustainable, clearly. If it were, they would not have to do that.

Leatherback sea turtles, which migrate here each year and are considered an endangered species, eat jellyfish.

Before you dismiss me as a turtle hugger (jellyfish hugger seems so unlikely), let me just say that the problem is one of sustainability and sustainability is not a bleeding heart idea, it’s actually a pretty sound business idea. If the Chinese had taken sustainability more seriously, they’d probably still have jellyfish. And don’t get me started about us and the cod…

China has a population of 1.4 billion people, that’s 40 times the population of Canada. Are we disciplined enough to know when we’ve met as much of their demand as we reasonably can? Will Canadian regulations protect us? Clearly, it’s time for me to stop asking myself questions and speak to someone who knows about these matters. Maybe speak to a few people. Maybe read some more. (Anyone got any suggestions? I’m open.)

Click here to read “Take my jellyfish, I’m not sellyfish.”

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This is something that has bothered me since I heard GPI Atlantic’s Ron Coleman give a presentation to the old PC government, back in… it must’ve been 2008 or so.

Coleman was discussing the then-booming lobster industry in Nova Scotia. I remember he had a PowerPoint slide containing two graphs: one representing the annual increase in the catch of cod before the collapse of that fishery, and the second representing the annual increase in the catch of lobster over the previous decade. And they were identical curves.

Coleman had all sorts of caveats — there isn’t enough scientific knowledge to say if the lobster fishery is even capable of collapsing, lobster fits in a different ecological niche, the pressures on the two industries differ, and so forth. But there were those identical curves.

In the decade since Coleman gave his presentation, the lobster industry has not collapsed. In fact, it’s done the exact opposite. The catch curve just keeps zooming skyward.

“In the past five years, Canada’s total catch has increased by around 35 per cent,” reports Terra Ciolfe for Macleans:

There are a couple reasons for the general increase in lobster landings, according to Geoff Irvine, the executive director of The Lobster Council of Canada. Lobster main predators have decreased (namely cod and other groundfish), which means more lobsters grow big enough to catch. A warming ocean has made it easier for lobsters to survive.

I think it’s more complex than that. First of all, that “warming ocean” is shifting the lobster fishery northward. Long stretches of the Maine coast that used to be productive lobster ground now have no lobster at all. Additionally, if I understand it correctly, lobster in Nova Scotian waters have also changed their migration patterns, coming into near-shore areas earlier than they used to, which increases the catch for near-shore lobster boats.

And then there’s demand. Continues Ciolfe:

Despite the larger lobster catch, supply hasn’t kept pace with demand, and shrewd marketing is partly behind that rising demand.


North American lobsters have also started to gain prominence in other countries.

Exports to Asian countries, most notably in China, have skyrocketed over the past several years. China is now the second-largest buyer of Canadian lobster (behind the United States).

This is regularly celebrated as success, which is understandable: more exports will help the provincial economy (unless all the new profit is parked in the Cayman Islands), lobster fishers are finally making a buck after some very lean years, processing plants are busy…

And yet, nary a word of caution is uttered by those promoting the industry or by politicians pandering to it.

There are some other worrying threats to the lobster fishery — Linda Pannozzo reported on how effluent from the Northern Pulp Mill could threaten the entire Northumberland Strait fishery, and pathogens carried by invasive green crabs could take out the south shore lobster fishery — but at what point does over-fishing lead to collapse? Does anyone even hazard a guess? Shouldn’t we have an idea about this before increasing the catch even further?

It’s not a crazy idea that a lobster fishery could collapse. It happened in Australia. As I wrote in May 2016:

Again, consider the collapse of the Australian rock lobster fishery. Back in 2014, the following forecasts were made:

China has emerged as a key market for Western Australian rock lobster, accounting for close to 100% of exports, said a Rabobank report on the Australian seafood industry.

Rock lobster is Australia’s second largest seafood export after salmonids.

This higher market share has come hand in hand with a change in the type of product exported, said Rabobank.

In the 12 months leading up to August 2011, 66% of production was in live form. This had increased to 92% for the 12 months up to August 2014.

Australian rock lobster exports are forecast to reach AUD 476 million ($418m) in 2014-2015, a jump from the near AUD 400m of 2009-10.

But in reality:

It seemed just a few years ago that West Australia boasted some of the healthiest fisheries in Australia and the world. The Western Rock Lobster fishery was the jewel in the crown, being Australia’s highest value fishery and the first in the world to gain Marine Stewardship Council certification as an allegedly environmentally sustainable fishery. Managed since the 1960s, the rock lobster fishery has the longest-running management plan of any fishery in Australia. It was the pride and (financial) joy of the WA Department of Fisheries.

But all this changed recently as the number of juvenile lobsters plummeted to the lowest in 40 years of study. And still worse, this recruitment failure remains unexplained scientifically.

The Fisheries Minister, Norman Moore, responded to this dive in juvenile lobsters by cutting lobster catches to only 5,500 tonnes for this year and the next two — by restricting the number of pots and days fished. Catches usually average 11,000 tonnes each year. The drop in catches has lead to a 40% fall in the number of lobster boats since 2006-7 and communities up and down the WA coast are feeling the effects.

I understand the enthusiasm in Nova Scotia for lobster exports. The fishery employs a lot of people. It brings in needed export revenues (supposedly, but my guess is that most of the dough is parked in Cayman Island banks and on John Risley’s yacht). And, moreover, there’s nothing else much left to fish.

Still, we’re seeing the southern limits of the Atlantic lobster habitat move northward at an alarming rate. Right now this is benefitting Nova Scotia, but in the long run, could the fishery skip over the province entirely in its ever-northward march? And, even if the fishery doesn’t move, is collapse or near-collapse possible? Our own history with ground fish and the Australian experience with rock lobster suggest it is.

And lobster is just one fishery. As Campbell notes, anything that lives in Nova Scotian waters, jellyfish included, is being promoted as a potential export to the bottomless pit of the Chinese market.

We don’t exactly have a good track record with this.

4. Macdonald Bridge

Ironworkers prepare to raise the last deck segment on the Angus Macdonald Bridge in Halifax. Photo: Tim Krochak / Local Xpress

The reconstruction of the Macdonald Bridge is wrapping up, reports Pam Berman for the CBC, which means that the regular night-time closures end Friday. There will be one more short closure some time in the spring.

5. Labour standards for the holiday season

Writing for the Nova Scotia Advocate, Judy Haiven reviews workers’ rights to days off and overtime pay over the holiday season. Here’s one to tell your overworked underpaid pal:

Myth: I am working New Year’s Day, since I work at a bar and it’s open. I should get time and a half, right?

Reality: You get more — if you are entitled to be paid for the holiday in the first place (see above). You get your regular pay for your shift on New Year’s Day plus time and a half. For example, if you work eight hours on New Year’s Day, you get paid for 20 hours.  


No public meetings for the rest of this week.

On campus



No public events today.


Child Maltreatment (Thursday, 9am, Cineplex OE Smith Theatre, Children’s Building, IWK Health Centre) — Steve Kisely from the University of Queensland will speak on “The Lasting Physical and Psychological Harms of Child Maltreatment – Prospective Data Through to Adulthood from a Birth Cohort of Babies Born in the 1980s in Brisbane, Australia.”

In the harbour

5:30am: Adriatic Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Veracruz, Mexico
6am: ZIM Texas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
11:30am: Adriatic Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
2pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
4:30pm: ZIM Texas, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
9pm: NYK Atlas, container ship arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk


I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm

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

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  1. There is no doubt that the lobster industry will collapse. A large part of the success is the total absence of cod which you mentioned. It is the last fishery without a quota, and you can bet all the dough on Risley’s yaught that the cowboys of the sea will fight tooth and hook to prevent a quota system to ever be implemented. Make no mistake, the fishermen and women are going full throttle on lobster until it busts. Then, just like the cod we will say goodbye and have to stock the space with storm chips where the aquariums used to sit.

    Now, since we’re on to fishery talk, how about a story on Butchie Macdonald’s boat and lobster pound getting torched in Digby?

  2. How many people of Lebanese origin in HRM have Arabic as the mother tongue ?
    Census 2016 does not list Lebanese Arabic as a language.

  3. What Mandate? Voters had little choice; Stephen McNeil is contemptibly dense and …protests too much. This very Provincial Liberal machine is too like another party once headed by a Stephen… Ucccck and Infuriating. Dumb.

  4. Tim, I’m kind of disappointed that you don’t have a YouTube video of the B-52’s singing “Rock Lobster” in the Footnotes section.

  5. Once I can get from Clayton Park, to Burnside, on a bus, and have it not take 75-90 minutes, I will gladly switch to public transit. But for now, I will continue driving the 18-22 minutes that it takes in my warm car.

  6. The NDP should have tackled these NS labour standards when they were in power. They could have done it and chose not to. When I emailed them about it before moving to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick (who has better overtime and holiday labour standards than we do), I got a B.S. answer.

    It’s bad enough that people are underemployed, fighting for full-time hours and making crap wages–and then to subject them to the 15-out-of-30-day rule is another blow. Hypothetically—or not—if an employer wanted to get the cheapest labour, they’d simply make sure to schedule some employees for less than 15 days in the month and make all of those people work the holidays Luckily, I don’t think the majority of major corporations are competent or organized enough to implement this, but the labour standards do nothing to dissuade them.

    You’d think the majority of part-time, low-wage earners would care about this stuff, but they’ve been drinking the cheaper, no-name version of the same Kool-Aid as everyone else. Or perhaps they’ve just given up. I’ve discovered that many (or arguably most) people working secure, 9-5, well-paying, full-time jobs are blissfully ignorant of the working conditions of those who service them.

      More hocus pocus, jigerry pokery, now-you-get-it/now-you-don’t double talk on paid holidays is all part of a design to get workers to give up on ever trying to work out if the boss owes them or not. And it works!

  7. If one really wants to effect a change in people’s attitude towards public transit, one has to implement a long-game plan. Issue all students 12 years old and over a free bus/transit pass… that includes College and University students as well. Get the youth involved from the start, get them hooked and give them a reason to see how public transit can work for them once they are in the workforce and become paying riders.

    Also give free bus/transit passes to those on income assistance and anyone over 70 years old.

    Plus lower the price for bus/transit fares for the public today.

    Yes this means that subsidization costs will increase and not for a short term, because it will probably take many years to get bus/transit ridership up substantially when one looks at the paying riders. The buses zoom around HRM mostly empty, Might as well fill the public transit vehicles up with a bunch of free-riders as well to try to stimulate future ridership numbers.

    If one really wants to effect a significant public transit ridership change, then one needs to give residents a reason to embrace public transit. Someone who grows up using the system throughout their youth, is more likely to keep using it once they become worker-bee adults.

    1. All your suggestions are good. But, as a long time Halifax Transit rider, I can say with confidence that free incentives aren’t enough. I live in the North End Hydrostone area and there are many places in Halifax proper that take the same time to walk as it does to take the bus. The route system is a ridiculous mess. Over an hour to Burnside or Bayers Lake, when you can drive there in 15? If I could afford a car, a free or cheaper bus fare is would not be enough for me to want to take the bus. Public transit should be faster, not wayyyyyyyyyy slower and wayyyyyyyyyyyyy less convenient to use.
      The Mayor and Halifax councilors have been asked if they’d be willing to take the bus for a day or week so they could see what it’s like and they’ve always declined to. Even they know the bus system sucks.
      Until our transit system is seen as more than just the only option for poor people to get around, not a whole lot is going to change for the better.

      1. You are absolutely right about transit times. They need a big improvement. HRM can keep wasting money on road widening and such or they can look skyward and start building overhead transit-ways such as have been built I Japan and other locations where they recognized that the existing ground transportation network would never allow for a truly fast and reliable public transit solution. It will be expensive to implement, but HRM is planning on being here for a thousand years,; so stop worrying about costs and look at the long-term benefits to be had in making the investment. Councillors will say “where will the money come from” and the answer is creative financing and putting a stop to wasting money on road widening projects that only really benefit personal vehicle transportation.

        Remember when HRM coined the new branding strategy with the phrase “Be Bold”… well it is time for City Planners and HRM Council to step up and actually Be Bold.

        1. It is 50 years since I used transit in Tokyo & Yokohama, cheap and easy to understand – the signs were also in English. Large population helps. The metro was frequent and usually packed. Spent 2 months there and really enjoyed the culture. Spent my money on photo equipment and Fujichrome. The cost of trains varied according to speed and comfort. More people would use transit if there was greater availability.

    2. If you ride the bus twice a day, without being eligible for transfers, it costs $120 a month if you aren’t eligible for any means-tested subsidies, a child, or a senior. It’s the cheapest way to get around other than riding a bike or walking.

      I could take the bus to work, but waiting for it to actually arrive on both ends plus taking a less direct route means it would cost me about an hour a day, and I have the added benefit of almost never getting colds like I used to when I rode the bus to get to university. Although maybe the problem was the university. Most of my car expenses are fixed (parking, insurance, depreciation) and because I don’t drive much the car is probably going to rust away before any expensive repairs need to be done. I would be tempted to take the bus if it were free, but even then, in exchange for $80 a month I would be giving up 20 hours of time. One $40 tank of gas, and allowing another $40 for additional maintenance gets me to work for a month. So I drive to work.

      1. Nick, your analysis is spot on and further exemplifies why the existing road-based public transit system is a failure. People will not change their transportation habits unless there is a solid reason to do so… money is not always the most important factor; quite often it is the overall time it takes to complete a transit from home to work/school and back again that is the deal breaker. Not to mention hours of operation to support extracurricular/recreational activities.

        Be Bold HRM, Be Bold… time to implement a real solution… it will not happen overnight and it will take a real commitment from HRM Regional Council.

        1. To get transit moving faster, we need a network of HOV lanes which buses can complete their entire journeys on in the downtown, and the inner ring of suburbs needs HOV lanes on all the high traffic streets which connect to them. This obviously means a lot less space for cars – but at the same time, lots of those cars came from places where there is no useful bus service. Not only can the drivers of those cars vote, they also still generally need to get where they are going. We can build park and ride infrastructure, if we kicked the car dealerships off the peninsula there probably would be space for it too. There would need to be higher-capacity and faster connectivity between the 102 and the car dealership wasteland, but it would make the rest of the peninsula so much nicer. Halifax is an awkward size city built on awkward land – too small to afford public transit other than busses and ferries, too big to have a functional bus system without high-speed point to point links that don’t make 25 stops along the way.

          1. HRM suffered from a lack of proactive planning from its conception and they still only plan 5 years at a time… the Regional Planning Strategy has a 25 year focal look ahead but it is not a “25 year plan”. Things like public transit and road networks need a true 50 year plan… even 100 years is not out of the question when it comes to long-term infrastructure requirements.

            HRM staff say they do not need another bridge or tunnel yet; but likely, they will wait so long that the bridge/tunnel will be long over due when they finally decide to implement the change and then it will take another 5 or more years to actually build the bridge/tunnel. They should get stared now and it may be ready just in time. HRM should also build a bridge across to the Northwest Arm to service the Spryfield area ASAP… it would do wonders to reduce the Quinpool and Spring Garden Road bottlenecks.