On campus
In the harbour


1. Bloodworms and the Avon River

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Last month, I linked to an article written by Yarmouth Vanguard reporter Tina Comeau about problems faced by bloodworm diggers in the Yarmouth area:

David Fevens, an owner of G&B Fisheries in Yarmouth County, says licensed harvesters from this area need access to more mudflats because many flats around here have changed, and they’re not sure why.

“Something has happened in the flats, not all, but most,” Fevens says. “The mud has gone black and gooey. There’s no sand fleas, there’s no worms, there’s no clams, there’s nothing.”

The harvesters say it’s not a case of overdigging, something else [is] at play. Whatever it is, Fevens says, it has decreased the areas bloodworms can be harvested in.

The solution, as the Yarmouth harvesters (who dig in “Area 1”) see it, is to allow them to dig in the mud flats along the Minas Basin (Area 2). That suggestion, however, is being met with opposition in the Minas Basin area, reports Wendy Elliot for the King’s County News:

But a field ecology professor at Mount Allison University who studies shorebirds says the mudflats are important and shouldn’t be disturbed – especially at certain times of the year.

Over 1.5 million semipalmated sandpipers on a southward migration feed on the mudflats in late summer, Dr. Diana Hamilton says. In 1988, the Bay of Fundy, including the Minas Basin, was listed as a site of hemispheric importance within the Americas-wide Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

Hamilton says that the implications of harvesting during periods when birds are present should be considered.

Bloodworms are a big industry in Nova Scotia. They were the subject of a fascinating 2009 report written for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and in 2013 the Ecology Action Centre weighed in:

Since the drastic decline of the bloodworm stocks along the coast of Maine, there has been an increase in demand for Nova Scotia’s bloodworms. In Yarmouth County, where bloodworms have been a lucrative export business since the 1950s, one long-time bait dealer observed that the worms have almost disappeared from his area.

Many people feet that the species may be at risk. This has led to an increased interest in conservation. In 2002, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) began issuing exploratory licenses to commercial marine worm harvesters.

Along the Hants Shore of the Minas Basin, some local residents have become increasingly concerned that the recent influx of commercial harvesters into their coastal region not only puts the bloodworm at risk, but also jeopardizes the habitat for certain fish species and migratory birds.

Science is only beginning to comprehend how tidal ecologies function. What is known is that the bloodworm and the many other marine invertebrates that inhabit the mudflats and subtidal zones of the Avon River and Minas Basin are integral to a finely tuned system of biological diversity.

The main bloodworm harvesting areas in the Minas Basin are just beyond the Avon River, which plays a role in the ecosystem. This brings us to a citizens’ group called Friends of the Avon River (FAR), which is trying to raise awareness of what it calls “one of Canada’s biggest man-made disasters”:

The concerns revolve around the infamous Avon River Causeway, where in 1968 an ill-advised ‘letter of approval’ was given for the construction of a barrage barrier across the mouth of the Avon River, home to the highest tides in the world. Within a few years, many alarming changes occurred, becoming an ecological embarrassment which changed forever the way projects like these would be approached. The most visible changes are the formation of the huge Windsor-Mudflats immediately below the causeway, the rapid decline of the endangered Atlantic Salmon and American Eel, as well as desecration of their ‘critical habitat’ on the lower and upper reaches of the river.

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The causeway is where Highway 101 crosses the river. A similar causeway, also constructed in 1968, ran across the Petitcodiac River in New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy, a close-to-perfect mirror image of the Avon River, and is now being removed at a cost of $70 million.

And now plans are moving forward to “twin” Highway 101 across the river. FAR sees this as an opportunity to put in a proper bridge, remove the causeway, and restore the Avon as a naturally flowing river.

Read more here and here.

2. Spring Garden Road

Google Street View
Google Street View

“Dexel Architecture plans to rebuild the area of Spring Garden between Robie and Carlton streets into a mixed-use building with retail, office space and two towers, one 28 storeys and the other 16,” writes Jeremy Mutton for Metro.

This is the block that contains Mary’s Place diner, the Efes Turkish restaurant, and the upstairs cannabis cafe.

Mutton goes on to report that Dexel is being represented by none other than rhyming coupleteer Tim Merry, who famously led the public consultations that resulted in the original Nova Centre plans being thrown out and now that building is the most beautiful development in the history of Halifax!, or not. Mutton also notes that neighbour Frank Palermo is opposed to the project, seemingly unaware that Palermo is also an architectural prof at Dal and chair of the Planning and Design Centre.

Development plans have not been submitted, so at this point it’s just talk. But, I wonder, who is supposed to live in all these new buildings going up? Assuming six units a floor, that’s 264 more units of residential. It’s a student neighbourhood, but there are only so many loaded-with-cash Chinese students to go around, and the Saudi students are AWOL. The proposed development is also close to the hospitals, so maybe sick people and their families are a market, but there’s a lot of competition for them.

I’ve said it again and again: there’s a false economy underpinning the development boom in Halifax (well, in much of the world, but also in Halifax).


1. Henry Busch

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald recreates his Jane’s Walk, which looked at buildings designed by architect Henry Busch, with a collection of photos, including the one above:

Until the mid 1870s Busch was in partnership with Edward Eliot and their firm was responsible for the group of commercial buildings on Prince Street between Hollis and Bedford Row. The more I looked at these buildings the more fond of them I grew. Consider the arcade of arches on the ground floors and that this is the last complete block in the downtown with shop fronts on a down street.

2. Health budget

“Last week, for four hours every day except Wednesday (opposition day), some members of the legislature, sitting as a committee, examined the spending estimates of the Department of Health and Wellness,” notes Richard Starr:

At $4 billion, that department spends 40% of the provincial budget and accounts for over 10% of the provincial Gross Domestic Product. Health care is usually number one when pollsters ask people about the issue most important to them. Last week’s review of the health estimates came against a backdrop of media reports on violent homicides in long-term care facilities, chronic concerns in various communities about emergency room closures, inadequate mental health services and availability of family doctors. But if members of the public wanted to seek insight into how the budget impacts on these and other issues their only option was to sit in the public gallery for hours on end or watch abysmally-produced legislative television. If there was any news media coverage of the 16 hours of health estimates debate I could not find it.

With no media coverage of the debate, Starr provides his own reporting:

I watched nearly three hours of proceedings on legislative TV last Monday as examination of the health estimates was beginning. In my humble opinion the Health minister made news when he provided more detail about how the Trudeau government plans to meet (or not) its commitment to provide additional funding for home care some time in the near future. This home care money is meant to partly compensate the provinces for the Liberals’ decision to keep in place the harsh health transfer regime imposed by the Harper government. (For those who have not been following the story, increases of 3% are in store for next and subsequent years, not the 6% increase that have been the rule since the well known 2004 Health Accord.)

Leo Glavine advised the House that the Trudeau government’s health offer (he called it an accord, maybe for old time’s sake) will provide the provinces with annual increases of that 3% a year “with a little bit more for home care, shared across the country.” On the question of whether provinces with older populations could expect more of the “little bit more” — a request from regional leaders for at least the last five years – Glavine said maybe. He provided insight into how the home care money may be distributed across the country. It will be on a per capita basis, although some provinces may get more if they can come up with “innovative” ways for providing home care. He also advised that Nova Scotia is working with the other Atlantic provinces to come up with such an “innovative” proposal to attract federal dollars — sort of a political version of “Dragon’s Den.” Looks like news to me — something along the lines of “Liberals tell provinces to sing for their supper.”

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

I am 30 years old, I have a wife and two children, and I’m the vice president of information technology for a Dartmouth-based financial technology firm.

My job allows me to work from anywhere, so it was a no-brainer — I chose to move home in the hope that we could help contribute to Cape Breton’s shrinking economy. Outmigration is slowly killing the Island and we wanted to help buck that trend.

Well, since moving home last October things haven’t gone quite as planned.

It seemed surprising when we couldn’t get high speed Internet, especially since we live a few seconds from Eskasoni and its thousands of people, but that was a minor inconvenience. The shoddy cell phone service? That wasn’t entirely surprising. We can make it work, we love being home and having the kids grow up here.

The roads you say? Well, this is Cape Breton, after all. Nobody expected miracles.

But then it got worse.

Have you tried getting a family doctor (or even someone qualified to update your children’s vaccinations) here lately? If not, here’s an update: we’ve given up on even trying to get on a waiting list for a family doctor here. Your only option is taking a day off work and going to one of the clinics (they take 30 patients a day, show up early!) in the hopes of maybe seeing a doctor.

As I have a job and simply cannot do this, I now have to take my entire family to Halifax for quarterly business meetings so I can also get them vaccinated.

Our son has a slight speech delay, a common family trait easily corrected … that is, in a place where you can actually obtain speech therapy for children. Cape Breton isn’t one of those places – there’s a 10-month waiting list. But hey, at least they still have a list!

Yet all of this would go down a little smoother if these were growing pains in a time of economic recovery and reform … except we aren’t in a recovery, and no reform is coming.

We’re losing more and more people every month, slowly dooming the Island’s future. Our mayor is chasing the same container terminal-based dreams that are a waste of money while our unpainted roads crumble around him. Our MLAs aren’t much better. How can they call themselves our representatives if they can’t even ensure basic health care for their constituents? Or roads that aren’t a subject for mockery across Canada?

But more than anyone else, I think we as Cape Bretoners are to blame. Each and every one of us. As much as we all would like to blame our current situation on others in the end we are all responsible, as a society, for the state we find ourselves in. Who votes these politicians in? We do. They’re our responsibility. As you can no doubt see for yourselves, we aren’t theirs. Too often you hear Capers saying things like “They’re all crooks” or “You can’t trust any of them” with regards to local politics. These statements aren’t true. Of course there are some politicians you can trust. Know how I know? Because with a little effort and some support, you or I could be one of them – and that’s especially true at the municipal and provincial level. We can, in fact, make a difference here. Maybe the time has come to stop joking about the roads and to start fixing them.

Ryan Campbell, Island View


“It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see one possible future for the Maine lobster industry. All it takes is a look south,” writes the Portland Press Herald’s editorial board:

Warming water temperatures, the result of man-made climate change, have for decades been the primary factor in pushing the lobster population farther and farther north, first decimating the industry off the coasts of Rhode Island and Connecticut, then off Cape Cod.

And even though the industry has been booming in Maine, with record landings the last three years, the focal point of the catch has changed through the years, from Casco Bay to Penobscot Bay and, now, Down East, a signal of its vulnerability to change.

One of the state’s iconic industries, indispensable to and inseparable from so many communities, is being disrupted. The question is: How far will it go?


And even though the industry has been booming in Maine, with record landings the last three years, the focal point of the catch has changed through the years, from Casco Bay to Penobscot Bay and, now, Down East, a signal of its vulnerability to change.

One of the state’s iconic industries, indispensable to and inseparable from so many communities, is being disrupted. The question is: How far will it go?


The record landings — $495 million in 2015, more than four times the catch of 20 years ago — have come despite no growth in lobster population in southern Maine, once the center of lobstering in the state. The haulings off York County have actually shrunk, mirroring the changes off Cape Cod and further south.


That is, in large part, attributable to the warmer and more acidic waters in the Gulf of Maine, which since 2004 has been warming faster than anywhere on Earth, with the exception of an area northeast of Japan.

The warming water helped kill the population of cod — formerly the fishery’s kingpin – and acidic water is particularly bad for shellfish. The effect on mussels, oysters and clams is already apparent. It’s not hard to see trouble ahead for the lobster.

“We’re definitely seeing this geographic shift, and it’s in keeping with the warming of the gulf,” said Robert Steneck of the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center. “Unless something changes in terms of ocean temperature trends, the Gulf of Maine will not likely remain a great place for high lobster abundance. How long this takes to play out, whether it’s decades or centuries, nobody knows.”

(direct link to this section)



Appeals Standing Committee (10am, City Hall) — the only hearing concerns Khaled Gawdet’s house under construction at 1358 Shore Drive in Bedford. The building site was the subject of an unsightly premises complaint last summer. Minutes of the meeting note that:

Mr. Cam Sampson, Project Manager for 1358 Shore Drive, Bedford, representing the property owner, Mr. Khaled Gawdet, circulated photos of the house under construction and an architectural rendering of the completed house to members of the Committee. Mr. Sampson commented that this is not a typical house, indicating that it will be a 15,000 sq. ft. post and beam home with a pool and a 40 foot sunroom on the back. He noted that a time consuming part of the process was acquiring a piece of property and obtaining provincial approval for an engineered septic system.

Evidently impressed by a rich man with a big house, the committee allowed the appeal:

MOVED by Councillor Hendsbee, seconded by Councillor Adams, that the Appeals Standing Committee allow the appeal.

Members spoke in support of allowing the appeal, and asked the contractor to be sensitive to the neighbourhood during the remainder of construction.

Presumably, not enough neighbourly sensitivity has been applied, and the property is back before the committee today.

Environment & Sustainability Committee (1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Design Review Committee (4pm, City Hall) — the (so far as I know) uncontroversial Green Lantern building renovation will be discussed, and plans for the ridiculously hyped and overly large (at 450,000 square feet, it’s nearly half the size of the Nova Centre) Queen’s Marque project on the waterfront will be revealed.


Legislature sits (1-10pm, Province House)

On Campus

Open Social Scholarship (4pm, Rowe 505) — as part of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute conference, Jon Saklofske, from Acadia University, will speak on “NewRadial: Prototyping Networked Open Social Scholarship”:

[Saklofske’s] specialization in the writing of the British Romantic period and continuing interest in the ways that William Blake’s composite art illuminates the relationship between words and images on the printed page has inspired current research into alternative platforms for open social scholarship as well as larger correlations between media forms and cultural perceptions. In addition to co-leading and actively researching for INKE’s Modelling and Prototyping group, he is exploring the usefulness of incorporating virtual environments and game-based pedagogy into undergraduate courses. Other research interests include environmental storytelling in Disney theme parks, the critical potential of feminist war games, and representations of agency and self in video games.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9am Thursday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 9am Thursday. Map:
The Cuauhtemoc will be tied up at Cable Wharf today.
The Cuauhtémoc will be tied up at Cable Wharf today.

9:30am: the Mexican Navy’s Cuauhtémoc, a sailing ship used as a “Mexican ambassador,” arrives from New London, Connecticut.
10am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney with up to 1,350 passengers
3:30pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 to sea, each of its 1,350 passengers spiritually enriched and intellectually edified by their five and a half hours in the Warden of the North
5pm: NYK Demeter, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
5:30pm: ZIM Texas, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
11pm: Audacia, pipe layer, sails from the mid-harbour anchorage to somewhere that needs a pipe


We’ll be recording Examineradio today.

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

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  1. “Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 to sea, each of its 1,350 passengers spiritually enriched and intellectually edified by their five and a half hours in the Warden of the North”


    Last summer I took the Nova Star to Portland. Boarded as a walk-on around 8 AM. There were a bunch of Damp Americans on deck peering hopelessly through the fog hoping to see the wharf, never mind Yarmouth.

    Talking to a couple, turns out they were on an overnight cruise. Enriched by hangovers, they were not edified when I told them that the only thing open was Tim Horton’s.

    Farewell, nova Star! Don’t let the door hit you…

  2. When I see development of hastily built, cardboard wall, apartment complexes out the Bedford highway, CP West, BLT, etc, I think to myself “why the fuck would anyone want to live there, and where are they finding people to live in these shitty buildings in a stupid part of town?”

    When I hear of a building being proposed for SG&Robie, well, it has jobs, entertainment, schools, transit, services… give ‘er.

    One can’t be against sprawl, which is to say, for higher urban density, and also against every single urban development that is proposed.

  3. Re the proposed (not approved) development on Spring Garden Rd., I find this all so appalling. Last night I attended one of HRM’s ‘Centre Plan’ discussions. When my friend brought up the concern about ‘over-building’ and the potential it has for negative results, one of the head planners explained that there was no over building, that the # of units may seem large because construction of new units has moved from being built in areas further afield in HRM – into the downtown/peninsula etc., but overall doesn’t represent any great increase in units being built over the years. He claimed that with the population increasing in HRM, this level of building is just fine….!!!!

    I agree with you Tim, that all these ‘towers’ cannot bode well. I just learned the other day that one of the high rises on South Park St., that’s been there for many years, houses a large # of students from other countries who rent the apartments on an annual basis, leaving them vacant when they go back home for the summer. In other words the vast majority of the building sits vacant for 6 months of the year. I know that students need housing, but something is just not balanced about this way of being….doesn’t seem to be a great use of space in the city. I don’t have answer for how it could be different, not yet anyway.