November Subscription Drive


I’m excited to announce that Examiner contributor Linda Pannozzo has written a book: About Canada: The Environment. Here’s what Fernwood Publishing has to say about the book:

The environmental history of Canada is a bleak one. Resource extraction has always put profits before conservation. Settlers exploited both the land and the Indigenous peoples for commercial gain, and big business continues that policy with forests, fish, minerals, tar sands and pipelines. As the Earth veers toward a biological tipping point, as resources become scarcer, and as climate change threatens our survival, how is Canada responding? What kind of future can Canadians expect? What changes need to be made?

In About Canada: The Environment, award-winning author Linda Pannozzo examines the philosophical, economic and ideological landscape of our current environmental worldview. She connects our faith in the free market and our adherence to an economic system based on endless growth to illustrate the critical situation of Canada’s environment. Regulations and protections, where they did exist, have been eroded to benefit the bottom line, and industrial expansion and resource extraction, fueled by cheap energy and consumers’ insatiable demand for goods, have taken an unprecedented environmental toll — one that will only be worsened by the realities of climate change.

Ultimately, Pannozzo argues, the solution requires a profound shift in thinking — personally, politically and economically. The inherent value of nature must be recognized, for we cannot continue to destroy nature without ultimately destroying ourselves.

This is a slim (176 pages) book, but full of heady content. I’m still making my way through it, but I’m impressed at Pannozzo’s grasp of, well, everything. She ranges from the history of capitalism to detailed descriptions of migratory patterns with the same authoritative and studied voice found in the series of investigative articles she has written for the Examiner.

(Speaking of which, I’ll be posting something from Pannozzo later today.)

And Fernwood has graciously made five copies of the book available for the Examiner’s subscription drive. Five randomly selected people who subscribe in November will be contacted and mailed a free copy of the book. So, just one day left for a chance to win the book.

Click here to purchase a subscription.


1. Work-to-rule

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union yesterday announced a work-to-rule job action starting Monday. From the union’s press release:

This action will include classroom teachers, administrators, school psychologists, speech language pathologists, school board consultants, and other NSTU public school members who work for school boards and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

During work-to-rule, teachers will focus exclusively on teaching students in a safe learning environment, preparing and implementing lesson plans, and maintaining appropriate contact with parents/guardians of students who are at risk and/or have special needs. Nova Scotia students will continue to receive the best education we can give them.


Teaching and preparing for lessons will continue.

This action will demonstrate the scope of activities that teachers do for students that go above and beyond, and those that prevent them from directly teaching students.

Specific things that will be impacted during work-to-rule include:

• Teachers will arrive 20 minutes before school and leave 20 minutes after.
• Teachers will not engage in the collection of money from students.
• Teachers will not perform clerical duties or perform data entry tasks. Attendance will be monitored on paper.
• Extra-curricular activities like concerts, team coaching, and clubs will stop during the work-to-rule.
• Field trips will not go ahead.

In response, Education Minister Karen Casey said she is “disappointed” that teachers have decided to work to the terms of their contract, but then told CTV she was prepared to live with a work-to-rule situation indefinitely.


Michael Gorman, reporting for the CBC, breaks down the province’s claim that the teachers’ work conditions demands will cost $171 million a year. I’d take those figures with a grain of salt… but one thing that jumped out at me is this:

Data entry: The union no longer wants teachers to have to enter data into software programs TIENET or PowerSchool. The government estimates this would cost $13 million based on hiring one new person for each school.

When I talk to teachers privately, they almost always bring up the PowerSchool programs — and two teachers have separately asked me to investigate how PowerSchool was adopted, suggesting that there were kickbacks or worse involved in the procurement. But the point is, teachers really, really hate PowerSchool. They feel it is micromanagement to an absurd degree, that it takes from their teaching time, and is insulting of their professionalism.

Such continuously increasing data collection and mechanization of the schools inevitably led to a breaking point for teachers. My sense is this explains the collapse in negotiations. Pay and benefits were always negotiable, they didn’t like classroom sizes but could deal with them, but once they were treated like replaceable cogs in an education machine, compromise was off the table.

As I see it, there are only two ways out of the morass we’re now in. Stephen McNeil can start treating teachers like human beings, not mechanistic cogs in an education factory, and respect their professionalism, or he can double down on the attacks and Nova Scotia becomes the Wisconsin of Canada, and McNeil will become a Canuck version of Scott Walker.

Incidentally, something I learned from the Students for Teachers Facebook page (see below) is that there is a “Breakfast Club” at Dartmouth High, now cancelled. An organizer for the group wrote:

Broke my heart to tell the breakfast club volunteers that we are officially cancelled as of next Monday. 40+ students a day at DHS rely on the breakfast program for free healthy breakfast to get them through the day. This barrier to education is unacceptable and just shows how much impact teachers make on the school. Our schools working conditions just became a lot worse with students now going hungry throughout the day.

2. Students For Teachers

On October, students Kenzi Donnelly (2nd from left) and Che Morales (3rd from left) went to the legislature and met with MLAs Keith Colwell (left) and Joyce Treen (right). Photo: Students for Teachers Facebook page
On October, students Kenzi Donnelly (2nd from left) and Che Morales (3rd from left) went to the legislature and met with MLAs Keith Colwell (left) and Joyce Treen (right). Photo: Students for Teachers Facebook page

A group of high school students have formed a Facebook group called Students for Teachers and have announced a student walkout. Organizer Kenzi Donnelly, 17, explains:

Students for Teachers are leading a student walkout this Friday the 2nd. Students will respectfully leave classes at 12:45, and go to their area/schools respective rally/march. Students who are taking part are expected to organize and communicate these plans amongst fellow classmates in the area. My school for example, Prince Andrew High, will be marching with signs down Main Street. Dartmouth High will be rallying outside their school parking lot. We are making flyers to spread the word, and please make signs for your event afterwards. This is to protest the government, not Teachers.

It’s fantastic that young people are getting involved politically, and this may be the best thing that comes out of the labour dispute. We’re interviewing Kenzi for Examineradio this week.

3. Roseate terns

Roseate terns. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service via the CBC
Roseate terns. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service via the CBC

The number of breeding pairs of roseate terns in Nova Scota has dropped by about half over the past decade, to 73, report Cassie Williams and Richard Cuthbertson for the CBC:

Adult roseate terns have a black cap and black bill with red at its base, and a long white and forked tail that resembles long streamers when it’s in the air.

The birds live on the coasts and islands along the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. The Canadian population can be found almost exclusively off Nova Scotia, though they also live on Machias Seal Island in the Bay of Fundy and the Magdalen Islands.

There are existing protected areas for the birds on Sable, Country, North Brother, and South Brother Islands, but the federal government has extended those areas 200 metres out to sea in an attempt to further protect the birds.

Williams and Cuthbertson interview Andrew Boyne, head of conservation planning for the Canadian Wildlife Service, who explain that no one is quite sure why the bird population is declining. He notes that one stopover for the birds is Cape Cod, but also that:

Another threat to the population is mink. According to the [Species At Risk Ac] registry, a single mink killed almost the entire population of chicks from the Brother islands colony in 2003. The animal was captured, but another mink devastated the colony in 2004. 

The Brothers Islands are just off the Yarmouth County coast, where many mink farms are located. The CBC article doesn’t say if the mink that destroyed roseate terns had escaped from a mink farm.

4. Saint Patrick’s Church

Saint Patrick's Church. Photo: Payge Woodward
Saint Patrick’s Church. Photo: Payge Woodard

Writing for The Signal, the student publication at the King’s Journalism program, Payge Woodard has an interesting article on efforts to save the 131-year old Saint Patrick’s Church on Brunswick Street.


1. Greek key

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

In yet another episode of “Stephen Archibald teaches us how to really see stuff that’s all around us,” Archibald discusses the Greek key:

It is an ancient pattern that comes in many variations. In the west it is associated with Greek and Roman arts and architecture and is often found on buildings inspired by classical design.

Archibald then goes on to show us lots of local examples, including on City Hall; “looking appropriately ancient on the crumbling terracotta facade of the 1911 Pacific Building on Barrington Street” (above); on the railing of the Lord Nelson; even on Kleenex packages. Read through and contemplate how the Greek key merged with the ancient Asian design that we now know as the swastika.


Construction of the hotel above the convention centre is nowhere near completion, and an operator of the hotel has not been announced. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Construction of the hotel above the convention centre is nowhere near completion, and an operator of the hotel has not been announced. Photo: Halifax Examiner

I have some random thoughts on the Nova Centre.

I criticized what I still think will turn out to be a horrible business model for the convention centre part of the complex, but never thought construction of the project would be an issue. I assumed the public subsidy (and exemptions written into HRM By Design) made the whole thing a money-maker for developer Joe Ramia.

I still think the project will be finished, and everything will proceed, albeit later than thought… but some doubts are beginning to creep in, and I can’t shake them.

A projected three-year construction project is now a five-year construction project. I’m told the province is supplying the financing for Ramia (I’m not sure how that works, to be honest), so that’s not the issue, but in government circles they talk about “construction inflation” running at 10 or even 15 per cent annually, so total costs of the project must be going up, no? And the government subsidy is a fixed dollar amount, not adjusted for inflation or for Ramia’s increased costs.

On the income side, Ramia has announced exactly two tenants: the convention centre and BMO. The vast bulk of the project is as of now empty. There’s not even a hotel operator. Sure, Ramia can give away leases for next to nothing to fill the buildings — I’m told government offices lease some downtown space for nothing but the utilities cost — but how does this make money? Or enough money to pay for the project?

Like I said, I still think the thing will be finished, but I am increasingly thinking there’s some chance that it won’t be. Or maybe Ramia’s company Rank, Inc. goes bust and the project is picked up in an asset sale by some other company?



Public Information Meeting (7pm, Cafeteria, Leslie Thomas Junior High School, Halifax) — Amadesco Canada to rezone lands of Sack A Wa Canoe Club located at 159 First Lake Drive, Lower Sackville from R-1 (Single Unit Dwelling) Zone to P-2 (Community Facility) Zone.


Human Resources (10am, Province House) — the subject is “School to Success: Clearing the Path.”

On campus


Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (9:30am, Room B-A3, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — PhD candidate Sarah Aboushawareb will defend her thesis, “Recognition of ‘Minimal’ Ligands by Enolase Superfamily Enzymes.”

Topological space  (2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Marzieh Bayeh will speak on “Orbit Class and Invariant Topological Complexity.” Her abstract:

Let G be a compact, Hausdorff, topological group acting on a Hausdorff topological space X. In this case X is called a G-space. It has always been interesting to develop equivariant versions of topological invariants for G-spaces; these would be invariants that are compatible with the G-action and preserve the orbit structures. One of these invariants is topological complexity. The topological complexity (TC) of the configuration space of a mechanical system was introduced by M. Farber, to estimate the complexity of motion planning algorithms. W. Lubawski and W. Marzantowicz developed an equivariant version of TC, called the invariant topological complexity.

In this talk we first define a new concept, called the orbit class, to study G-spaces. Then using this new tool, we study the invariant topological complexity. In particular, we introduce condition that ensures that the invariant topological complexity is finite.

Thesis Defence, Engineering (3:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Masoumeh Sharafimasooleh will defend her thesis, “Effect of High Chloride Concentrations on Cast Iron Corrosion and Water Quality in Drinking Water Distribution Systems.”

The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fundraiser (4pm, The Pub at Dalhousie) — Live streamed silent auction and fundraiser prior to Gord Downie’s performance of The Secret Path at the Dal Arts Centre.

YouTube video

He Named Me Malala (6pm, McCain Building) — screening hosted by the International Development Education and Awareness Society as part of Dal’s 16 Days of Activism.

In the harbour

The approach to Halifax Harbour, 9:30am Tuesday. Map:
The approach to Halifax Harbour, 9:30am Tuesday. Map:

5:30am: Oberon, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England
11am: Ningbo Express, container ship, arrives Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
1pm: Vera D, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Mariel, Cuba
3pm: Algoma Mariner, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Port-Daniel, Quebec
4pm: Oberon, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea

1am: Ningbo Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
6am: Asian Moon, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Mariel, Cuba
6am: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Valencia, Spain
4pm: Oberon, car carrier, sails from Pier 31 for sea


Come back for Linda Pannozzo’s piece.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Invite the Liberal MLAs to administer the school Breakfast Clubs.
    They don’t have to be at ‘work’ until, what, 10am?

  2. As a parent of a kid with special needs it’s abundantly clear to me that my son’s school is struggling to support its students. Classrooms are much more child-friendly places than when I attended elementary school back in the seventies in Manitoba but while we’re more aware of students’ complex needs (related to disabilities, poverty, or run-of-the-mill child development) our school system isn’t funded well enough to properly attend to this needs. I support the Teachers’ Union and its members.

  3. Re: Roseate terns

    It is great to once again see government scientists free to speak. We as taxpayers invest a lot in science and we should be allowed to learn and understand what such investment is giving us. I hope we see a lot more science stories coming out.

  4. I don’t know, data entry doesn’t seem to be helping kids any, I don’t see much improvement from when I went to school. Sometimes applying more technology where it isn’t needed is harmful. I know several teachers who complain about how much data entry there is and the specific sequence it has to be entered in and parents calling if a grade isn’t up immediately. I think talking to your kids and attending parent teacher is more valuable. My parents would quiz me on subjects they saw in the syllabus, simple as that. I’m no expert on education but I know teachers are.
    Also, the ask for full time photocopying help makes sense, they used to have at least one person doing that in my elementary school in the 90’s, that’s a decent amount of work on any given day.

  5. An unfinished convention centre would be a perfect monument to the politics of Nova Scotia. There could be a wall dedicated to buzzwords: world class, globalization, Ivany, efficiencies, the glorious private-sector, etc. Open floor areas could be used for skateboarding (because we really care about the children…) and bus tours could pull into the Grafton Glory Hole where tourists take selfies in front of the monument to bad ideas (like Memento Park in Budapest, a collection of Soviet-era statues). The glass facade, until it crashes to the ground one sheet at a time, allows us to see an endless reflection of nothing.

  6. I too am a professional, and spend a lot of time filling out time cards, expense reports, and personal development journals then I care to think about.

    Its why its called “work”, and its why they have to play me to do it.

    The only thing I can imagine worse then using very very annoying tools to do that data entry is to write it down on dead trees, and then hand it off to someone else to input it *wrong*, and then have to verify it, and/or accept the ramifications of someone else’s human error.

    1. As a tax payer you should be expecting teachers to be paid to teach. I’m sure you’re a professional and have paperwork to fill out. I’m also sure you are paid for that time to do so. Teachers are not.

  7. According to the NS gov’t website parents should be able to use powerschool:

    “What is the student-parent portal?

    By logging on to your own private online account, the student-parent portal gives you real-time access to attendance, grades, assignments, teacher comments, and school bulletins.”

    As a step-parent I wish I could. It makes complete sense to me that I should be able to see attendance and grades.

    After all, don’t teachers enter these into spreadsheets to keep track of and calculate grades? I used to be a school teacher and entered my grades and student attendance into a spreadsheet each day, and that was in the 90’s. Isn’t Powerschool just an online spreadsheet?

    But here in NS? My kids marks are never available, for neither of them in either jr high or high school. Nor is their attendance ever up to date. Why not? Good question. But if that’s what teachers are supposed to be doing — and my understanding is that they are — then they’re not doing their job, nor have they ever in either of my kids schools.

    My sense is they don’t like Powerschool because it is a way of parents holding them **accountable** for actually doing the marking in a reasonable time, because rather than just adding numerators and denominators (an old, ineffective and educationally poor form of grading because it often overly privileges tests over other forms of assessment) they have to think of marking in relation to weighting of different types of school work, because marks have often been a form of ‘black magic’ control over students and having them publicly available demystifies them and reduces teacher control (a type of control they arguably shouldn’t be exercising anyways).

    Using Powerschool is the same as asking doctors to keep e-records and pharmacists to have online, collaborative drug control systems…all 21st century practices that are common to professionals in other fields that force them to engage in better practices….and in this case it gives parents a way of monitoring their kids’ progress, and don’t we want that?

    1. When I was in school, before the advent of Powerschool, marking schemes and weighting were outlined in the course sheet at the very start of term. All very transparent. So I can’t see how, as you suggest, having Powerschool would change that, or why teachers would be concerned about Powerschool because it would force them to be transparent.

      1. I’ve never seen a marking scheme or weighting scheme handed out by public school teachers in ten years of being in Nova Scotia, nor have either of my step-kids ever had them in their binders or any document handed out by a teacher that I’ve seen….and ya, I pay attention to that stuff.

    2. Never had a problem seeing my kids’ attendance and grades on Powerschool. The pity is that this results from *additional* data entry on top of the old time paper record keeping.

      1. Easy-peasy, don’t do the old-time paper record keeping….just enter your marks directly into Powerschool.

        Nice that you haven’t had a problem seeing their grades, must be the school your kids are in.

        I used to be a teacher btw….let me describe my “normal” week as a teacher….on weekdays I’d go to school at 8am, work there until at least 4pm (later on days I was supervising a student activity), do my shopping and meal prep, cook and eat dinner, and then work for two to three hours at least 4 nights per week doing marking and class prep. On weekends at least one afternoon and one evening was “school work” of some sort. That’s a “normal” teaching week….most of Monday to Friday are full and most of a weekend day, for at least 8 months of the year….and ya, most of it isn’t prescribed in a contract, but that is what the job entails. But if you go into teaching expecting it to be anything other than that then you’re not paying attention…that’s “the job” no matter what the contract says. If you want to “work to rule” you’re asking to have the contract redefined in a way that will NOT be in your favour….that’s what’s happened all over the US.

    3. Regarding your final paragraph – your analogy to doctors and pharmacists might work if they had to design the tests, create them, administer them, examine and evaluate the results and determine the follow-up care – all before inputting the results using an unwieldy program so that patients and their parents could see the results for themselves online. And, of course, within the parameter of what any individual parent defines as a reasonable time. How many patients does a typical doctor see and test in a typical day? Using the above extension of your analogy, how might this impact her/his workload? Now compare that to a typical teacher’s daily workload before s/he even gets to the extra-curricular stuff.

      One additional thought – the greater the disruption caused by teachers’ withdrawl of non- contractual services, the more clearly can be seen how much they give above and beyond what their contract stipulates.

      Expect to see either or both of the following scenarios when parents start complaining to the government about all their children are missing as a result of the job action. The government will respond by forcing the teachers into a full strike action by locking them out of the schools on some trumped up health/safety issue.

      Rationale #1: Locking the schools will disrupt parents’ lives to the degree that they shift their anger from the government, which will be still cranking on the fogging (we want to talk) machine, to the teachers. Teachers being the types they are will eventually cave in under the weight of negative public pressure and financial hardship.

      Result #1: The government wins.

      Rationale #2: Locking the scools will allow the government to stop paying the teachers for as long as it takes the teachers to cave in or as long as it takes the government to accrue the money from stopped salaries to pay for what the teachers are asking for and they go back to work.

      Result #2: The government wins and laughs at how easily the teachers were duped.

      How lovely for Nova Scotia to have the Chronicle Herald workers and the teachers out on the streets. Maybe we can load them all on the Bluenose and scuttle it in the harbour. Three fewer pesky problems.

      1. What you’re missing is that it might not be “what they give” it might be a problem with “what the contract stipulates”….my point is that the actions they’re choosing might end up with “contract stipulations” that constrain them more and deprofessionalize them more (and deprofessionalization leads to a decrease in monetary compensation….always).

      2. By the way if you’re arguing that teachers work longer hours and harder than doctors do I’m not sure that the available data supports that at all. Doctors generally spend their evening hours doing paperwork related to their daytime practice….

    4. Lets just go back to the old days of requiring signatures from parents on tests and stuff. Added a bit of responsibility for the student and kept parents informed. I’m not really serious, but it was a good system.

      I did a research project on New Public Management recently. It’s all about application of private sector practices to public organizations (neo-liberalism). One of the main critiques of the approach is the development of an auditocracy, where we measure way too much stuff. I couldn’t help but relate this to what many teachers have complained about with these data entry tasks.

      The other issue here is involving teachers in these projects required data entry. What is the data being used for? Why is it useful (outside of keeping parents informed)? What long-term gains will be realized by this extra work? The top criticism of of these types of programs is that change in imposed on workers by management or politicians. Teachers should be involved in designing the changes to the curriculum. They know what’s working and what isn’t. I’ve heard plenty of complaints about the current system and ideas on how to improve the system. They want change. They just need something that they see as beneficial to the students and themselves.

      Sorry if that wasn’t articulate, I wrote it rather quickly.

  8. Very proud of these students for getting engaged, and disappointed that they’ve had to face many accusations that I or other teachers have been somehow directing them. They’re completely self-organized.

  9. Why are people upset that a ‘Breakfast Club’ at a school will not be operating ?
    I am upset that such ‘clubs’ exist. Everyone should be upset that they exist.
    I lived through rationing in Britain, ended circa 1953. Milk, eggs, bread, meat, clothes, fuel, furniture were rationed from September 1939. We didn’t have a ‘breakfast club’.
    Giving teachers more money does not solve the poverty and problems that walk in the school doors. The problems in classrooms are the same problems kids face when they are not in school; and I don’t recall the NSTU trashing McNeil for scrapping free transit passes for people receiving social assistance.

    1. You’re upset that youth in Canada in 2016 don’t have to live through the same hardships you endured in Britain during WWII?

      1. No.
        I’m upset that children from low income homes don’t have a proper breakfast at home.
        I’m upset that governments don’t care about poor people.
        I’m upset that governments only care about ‘the middle class’.
        I’m upset that many children have worse living conditions than I had 60-70 years ago.
        I’m upset that I had better phys-ed facilities at school in the 1950s than kids have today in Nova Scotia.
        I’m upset that commenters can read but not comprehend.
        I suggest you read ‘Austerity Britain’ , I learned a great deal about what I regarded as ‘normal’

        I was born in 1945, and I didn’t regard my early life as a hardship. I had 3 good meals every day. We had free medical care and drugs from July 5 1948, first proposed by Churchill in February 1943. Medicare in Canada started 20 years later.

    2. “Why are people upset that a breakfast club at a school won’t be operating”

      I’m upset they exist too. But unfortunately they do, and the fact that they do speaks volumes as to the situations that many kids are coming from.

      Giving teachers more money will probably not solve it, you’re right. But then again, neither will politicians who give themselves raises while preaching austerity and sinking millions of dollars into projects that serve no purpose other than to get votes.