1. SNC-Lavalin

“There is an unanswered, barely whispered question at the heart-attack centre of the SNC-Lavalin scandal now dumping buckets of freezing rain on Justin Trudeau’s sunny ways/sunny days parade,” writes Stephen Kimber:

And that question is this: what would Andrew Scheer or Jagmeet Singh have done differently?

Click here to read “What would Andrew do? Jagmeet?”

Just for kicks, I left Kimber’s column in front of the paywall, so it’s available for everyone to read. Still and all, your subscription dollars allow us to pay Kimber (and Jones, and Henderson, and Pannozzo, and Baxter, and…), so please consider subscribing.

There’s a hyper-partisanship around the SNC-Lavalin scandal, which is absolutely fine: we live in a political world, and people should definitely debate such issues.

But it’s been weird for me to watch this play out from Halifax. I generally don’t report on Ottawa unless there’s some local angle, and I don’t know much about the ins-and-outs about personalities in federal politics. It’s not my beat.

Yet I became a tiny footnote in the Trudeau–JWR conflict through my reporting on the exoneration of Glen Assoun. A part of that story touched on the federal justice minister; you’ll recall I wrote:

In court, although he didn’t mention her by name, [Assoun’s lawyer Phil] Campbell also offered implied criticism of former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould. “The case proceeded slowly, painstakingly…” Campbell told Chipman, “and the order that initiated today’s proceedings was signed by the [Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti] yesterday after he had been in office about a month and a half. The registrar thanks him for his swift, decisive action on it.”

Non-lawyers associated with Innocence Canada told me yesterday that the Justice Department lawyers who reviewed Assoun’s case — the Criminal Conviction Review Group — had a recommendation for an order for a new trial on Wilson-Raybould’s desk a year and a half ago, but she took no action on it. By contrast, Lametti moved on the file almost immediately — the “swift, decisive action” Campbell praised.

This is no small matter. Glen Assoun has suffered greatly throughout this ordeal. Besides the anguish of being wrongfully convicted, he suffered two heart attacks in prison, and while living through the legal limbo that was his parole — that is, while waiting for the Justice Minister to act — he suffered a mental health crisis.

That reporting was just the facts. I reported what I heard in open court and what had been told in interviews. But it quickly got sucked into the partisan scat-throwing around the Trudeau-JWR conflict — Trudeau supporters have pointed at my reporting to bolster their argument that JWR was an incompetent and downright evil justice minister; JWR supporters have called me a “partisan hack.”

Like I said, I don’t know much about the insider game of federal politics. I couldn’t have picked Jody Wilson-Raybould out of a line-up three weeks ago. My suspicions are that, like all politicians, indeed, all people, she is flawed. She has strengths and weaknesses, excels at some things and has blindspots about other things, can rise to the occasion and fail on the basics.

Which is to say, in this world of blurry morality, she both screwed up on the Assoun file and did the right thing in the SNC-Lavalin case.

Writing for the National Observer,

For 16 years the global engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin cultivated a close relationship with the Muammar Gaddafi family, particularly his son Saadi.

According to criminal charges, for almost a decade of that period, up until the fall of the regime, SNC paid Saadi Gaadafi almost $50 million in exchange for billions of dollars in airport, pipeline, and water infrastructure projects.

Oh, and prisons.

Let’s go over that again.

A Canadian company is charged with bribing a family infamous around the world for murder, torture, rape, abductions, and widespread human rights abuses, and doing it for its own profit. They didn’t stop until the regime collapsed in 2011 and Swiss authorities came knocking. Charges were laid in April 2015.

Because of corruption’s profoundly oppressive impact on the Libyan people, the SNC-Libya charges are vastly more serious even than the McGill hospital bribery scandal, in which SNC paid bribes of $22.5 million to secure the contract.

Yet repeatedly and overwhelmingly from the prime minister and his advisors, the hand-wringing has focused on Canadian jobs, without substantiation of what the real job losses might be.

Not a whisper for the innocent civilians trampled under a dictator’s boot.

So yes, I’m going to criticize Trudeau for cozying up to a horrible corporation doing horrible things, and I’m going to criticize Wilson-Raybould for needlessly keeping an innocent man caught up with the justice system for a year and a half. That doesn’t mean they both can’t do other useful and even praiseworthy things — for example, Trudeau by encouraging the acceptance of refugees, Wilson-Raybould by standing firm on SNC-Lavalin.

2. Mining

“The Mining Industry Association of Nova Scotia and its members have been lobbying the McNeil government in favour of a $20-million proposal to survey and map the province in the hopes of finding mineral-rich deposits,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:

The results of that aerial work would then be shared, in an effort to entice mining companies to explore further and possibly open new mines.

Sean Kirby, the mining association’s executive director, said the project was modeled on similar work undertaken by the Nova Scotia government to promote offshore oil and gas exploration.

“The government invested $15 million in surveys related to the offshore oil and gas sector and that resulted in over $2 billion in investment in the province’s economy and the province’s offshore industry,” said Kirby.

“It’s about attracting more investment to the province, creating more jobs,” said Kirby. “So at the end of the day our provincial and municipal governments have the resources they need in order to give us the services that Nova Scotians all want.”

One of these people is a saint who places serving the public above their own self-interest; the other is Mother Teresa.

Oh yes, the mining companies have the wants and needs of the people of Nova Scotia foremost in mind. When you think about it, Sean Kirby is exactly like Mother Teresa.

Meanwhile, last week a Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruling came down illustrating just how much the mining companies care about regular people in Nova Scotia.

“Atlantic Mining expropriated Wayne Oakley’s residential property in 2012,” wrote Justice Peter Bryson in a decision that Justices Linda Lee Oland and Cindy Bourgeois concurred with:

In addition to out-of-pocket expenses, Mr. Oakley claimed he should be paid non- pecuniary “losses” for disturbance. The Utility and Review Board agreed with him and awarded the maximum statutory amount of 15% of the market value of the property taken (2018 NSUARB 37). Atlantic appeals, arguing that the Board’s decision was unreasonable in two respects. First, it was unreasonable to interpret disturbance “losses” in the Expropriation Act, R.S.N.S. 1989, c. 156, as including non-economic “losses” for such things as anxiety, disquiet, inconvenience and the like. Second, the 15% global award was arbitrary and therefore unreasonable.

Atlantic owns and operates a gold mine in the rural Nova Scotia community of Moose River Gold Mines. Atlantic acquired some surface title by negotiation. In other cases, Atlantic resorted to expropriation.

Mr. Oakley purchased his property in 1997. He built a small single-story home on the property. Atlantic wanted the property for its mine. Negotiations were unsuccessful. So Mr. Oakley’s property was expropriated by a vesting order issued by the Minister of Natural Resources under s. 70 of the Mineral Resources Act, S.N.S. 1990, c. 18. Section 70(5) of that Act deems Atlantic to be the expropriating authority. Expropriation occurred by the filing of a vesting order with the Registry of Deeds on June 18, 2012.

Ultimately the parties agreed on the market value of the property taken. They settled on $305,000. Because they could not agree on disturbance losses, that issue went before the Utility and Review Board.

Justice Bryson went on to note that the UARB laid out the following claims for Oakley:

The Board finds that from August of 2004 to when Mr. Oakley was resettled in his new home after the expropriation of 2012, he experienced reasonable costs, expenses and losses arising out of or incidental to his disturbance caused by the development of Gold’s mine for which his Lands and home were ultimately expropriated. These included:

• Expenses and losses to move after the expropriation; • Legal costs of migrating the Lands;
• Loss of fully enjoying his home and property;
• Other losses including:

▪ Having his life interrupted;
▪ Losing his Lands and home;
▪ Being deprived of the calm, order and quiet of his life; ▪ Being agitated, worried and unsettled; and
▪ Experiencing disadvantages and detriments;

• Expenses and losses for the initial steps to relocate after the 2008 meeting; and
• Lost time:

▪ Attending at Gold’s offices after the March 2008 meeting;
▪ Finding another property;
▪ Initial steps to relocate his home, shed and personal items in 2008;
▪ Negotiations with Gold;
▪ Migrating the Lands; and
▪ Moving after the Expropriation.

[emphasis added by the judge]

“It follows from the analysis of the meaning of ‘losses’ that the emphasised language describes alleged losses for which compensation is not available,” wrote Bryson. In the end, the court allowed Oakley just two per cent in additional costs, or $6,010.

So mining companies can come and kick you off your land, causing all sorts of disruption and hassle, and you won’t even be able to charge them a reasonable amount for that disruption. But you know: jobs.

It’s what Jesus would do.

3. Mary Campbell

Mary Campbell.

I subscribed to Greg MacVicar’s Backstory NS the moment I learned about it, because of MacVicar’s excellent work.

And today, I’m especially glad I did, because I got to read the Backstory about Mary Campbell. Everything about this piece is delightful. Just to pick one thing out randomly, there’s this about Campbell’s first journalism job, with the Eastern Graphic in PEI:

No, it was all crazy. I had to go there and I had to go fast. My [previous] job… ended and I had to leave the next week for Prince Edward Island and I flunked my driver’s test just before I left because I didn’t know how to drive. I wasn’t ready. I took it way too early. I’d had no interest in learning to drive. I didn’t tell them that I’d flunked and just let on that I hadn’t actually done it yet. Which meant that I got to do my driver’s test in Montague, which was excellent because there were no traffic lights. There was one one-way street and only one place in the town where you could change lanes and there was no parallel parking involved. And backing up just meant literally back the car up until the instructor tells you, ‘Stop.’

I bought a car. I remember because I went to the shopping mall in Montague and I came out and I got into the passenger side. I sat there for a minute and then I remembered, ‘Oh yes, I’m driving.’

And I flipped it on its roof and took a picture of it on one memorable occasion. I was driving in the winter and I flipped into a snowbank. That was fine. I did the classic thing you’re not supposed to do — undid the seatbelt and fell onto the roof of the car. And then I’m trying to get the door open and this person, who had seen the car flip over and who obviously was terrified at what he might find inside, was outside peering in. ‘Are you OK?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m fine, I’m fine.’ And he said, ‘Can I give you a drive somewhere?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, could you give me a drive back to the Graphic?’ And he said, ‘Yes, sure.’ So I get out. I’m out of the car and then I think, if I had passed this, if I had seen this happen — once I’d ascertained the person was OK — I would have taken a picture. Because that’s a lot of what the Eastern Graphic was during the winter, pictures of cars off the road. So I said to the gentleman who was going to drive me back to the office, ‘Just one sec, I have to get my camera and take a picture.’ And he looked at me like I had a concussion. And so I took the picture and it ran in the paper.

I strongly encourage everyone to subscribe and read… you’ll be glad you did.

4. We’re on the map!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation quite correctly bills itself as “the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world.” Annually since 2015, EFF has awarded the annual EFF Follies, which “call out attempts to block transparency, retaliation against those who exercise their rights to information, and the most ridiculous examples of incompetence by government officials who handle these public records.”

Guess who won this year?

Yep: Nova Scotia and Halifax law enforcement take top honour in the “What the SWAT?” category:

One Wednesday morning in April, 15 Halifax police officers raided the home of a teenage boy and his family. “They read us our rights and told us not to talk,” his mother would later tell CBC. “They rifled through everything. They turned over mattresses, they took drawers and emptied out drawers, they went through personal papers, pictures. It was totally devastating and traumatic.”

You might well wonder, what was the Jack Bauer-class threat to geo-political stability? Nothing at all: The Canadian teen had just downloaded a host of public records from openly available URLs on a government website.

At the heart of the ordeal was some seriously terrible security practices by Nova Scotia officials. The website created to host the province’s public records was designed in such a way that every request and response had a nearly identical URL and placed no technical restrictions on the public’s ability to access any of the requests. This meant that regular public records requests and individuals’ requests to access government files about them, which included private information, were all stored together and available on the internet for anyone, including Google’s webcrawler, to access. All that was necessary was changing a number identifying the request at the end of the URL.

What Nova Scotian officials should have done upon learning about leaks in their own public records website’s problems was apologize to the public, thank the teen who found these gaping holes in their digital security practices, and implement proper restrictions to protect people’s private information. They didn’t do any of that, and instead sought to improperly bring the force of Canada’s criminal hacking law down on the very person who brought the problem to light.

The whole episode — which thankfully ended with the government dropping the charges — was a chilling example of how officials will often overreact and blame innocent third parties when trying to cover up for their own failings. This horror show just happened to involve public records. Do better, Canada.

It’s fantastic that this wannabe tech and innovation centre — just the other day a city councillor said Halifax could be the next Silicon Valley — is getting the international attention it so richly deserves.

5. Better than The Trailer Park Boys

Damien Roy, (left) and Bailey Roy. Photo: Halifax Regional Police

“Bailey Roy, 21, and Damien Roy, 22, both pleaded guilty in a Woodstock, N.B., courtroom to a charge of obstruction and were sentenced to time served,” reports Shane Fowler for the CBC:

The day before their Oct. 26 arrest, the brothers bought a blue 1967 Buick Skylark. Although they didn’t have legal documents for the car, the brothers planned to drive it to Mexico without having to stop at any U.S. gas stations.

They filled 21 jugs with gasoline, which they placed in the back seat of the vehicle and in the trunk.

The brothers had no GPS, so they plotted their route using paper maps. Having no passports or IDs, the two planned to cross the border into Maine illegally, apparently by using a road without a border checkpoint.  

Instead, they found themselves at the Houlton-Woodstock border crossing, one of the largest checkpoints in the province, west of Woodstock, N.B., and east of Houlton, Maine.

Realizing their predicament, Bailey, who was driving the Skylark with no plates or tags, and his brother, who was in the passenger seat, “froze,” Munn said.




Investment Policy Advisory Committee (Monday, 12pm, City Hall) — if you wanted to, you could get into the weeds about how the city manages its money.

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Sackville Heights Community Centre) — a couple of small developments in the Tantallon area.


Public Information Meeting – Case 21971 (Tuesday, 7pm, Rockingham United Church) — Linda Liao, who owns three existing child care centres under the “Future Stars” name, wants to open a child care centre in Clayton Park; it’s not clear to me if this is a relocation or consolidation of some of the other ones or a fourth operation. Liao was profiled in this 2013 Chronicle Herald article; I’m not sure if that’s an advertorial or not.



Law Amendments (Monday, 3pm, Province House) — before the committee:

Bill No. 84 – Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Appreciation Act
Bill No. 90 – Boxing Authority Act (amended)
Bill No. 91 – Nova Scotia Museum Act
Bill No. 92 – Municipal Government Act (amended) and Halifax Regional Municipality Act (amended)
Bill No. 95 – Emergency “911” Act (amended)
Bill No. 97 – Credit Union Act (amended)
Bill No. 99 – Assessment Act (amended)
Bill No. 101 – Tourist Accommodations Registration Act


Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)

On campus



Some polynomial and geometric Diophantine equations​ (Monday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Karl Dilcher talks about his work with Maciej Ulas and John Cosgrave. Their abstract:

This talk consists of two fairly independent parts, with the common theme of Diophantine equations.

In the first part we consider the unique polynomials P, Q with rational coefficients and of smallest degree n that are solutions of the equation P(x)x^{n+1} + Q(x)(x+1)^{n+1} = 1. We derive numerous properties of these polynomials, including explicit expansions, differential equations, recurrence relations, generating functions, discriminants, irreducibility results, and their zero distribution. We also consider some related polynomials and their  properties.

The second part of this talk begins with Heronian triangles, that is, triangles with sides of integer length and with integer area. While equilateral Heronian triangles cannot exist, it has been known for over 100 years that there are infinitely many “near equilateral” Heronian triangles with side lengths x-1, x, and x+1, and that the admissible integers x can be given by a certain very simple 2nd-order linear recurrence relation.

We will see that this sequence, and a closely related 3rd-order linear recurrence, occur in an unexpected way in the study of certain factorials. In particular, we will consider the multiplicative order of ((p-1)/4)! modulo a prime p = 1 (mod 4). The question of when this order can be a power of 2 leads to the concept of a “Gauss prime”, the study of which is closely related to the sequences mentioned above. Apart from explaining these various connections, I will derive some divisibility properties of the sequences in question.

Senate meeting (Monday, 3pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — divestment is on the agenda.


PhD Defence, Microbiology and Immunology (Tuesday, 9:30am, room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Eric Pringle will defend his thesis, “Translational Efficiency Of Herpesvirus Messenger Ribonucleic Acids.”

Margaret Livingstone. Photo: brain.harvard.edu

The Development of Specialized Modules for Recognizing Faces, Scenes, Text, and  Bodies : What You See is What You Get (Tuesday, 11:30am, Room 238, Life Sciences Centre) — Margaret Livingstone from Harvard Medical School will speak.

Healthcare Systems Engineering @ Industrial Engineering, NWU, South Africa (Tuesday, 12pm, MA 310) — Fanie Terblanche from North-West University, South Africa, will speak.

Campus Budget Session (Tuesday, 5pm, Room 1110/1111, Mona Campbell Building) —  More info here.

Hope and Despair About Democracy (Tuesday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Eli Diamond will speak. From the listing:

Recent political developments have led many to lose confidence that democracy is the best possible political system.

In light of this crisis of confidence, it is good to clarify why democracy has been viewed as the best way for humans to organize themselves in community.

This talk will travel back to the world’s first democracy, Athenian democracy in the 5th century BCE, to consider the philosophical and political arguments for and against democratic regimes.

Atlantic School of Theology


No public events.


Grad Project Presentations (Tuesday, 10am, Saint Columba Chapel) — students in the Graduate Project & Seminar class will present their research. Info here.

In the harbour

10:00: CMA CGM Chennai, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka

Where are the Canadian military ships?


This moving-the-sun around thing gets more disruptive the older one gets, and I never quite understood the point of it in the first place. But if it’s really necessary, now that all the clocks change themselves, can’t we do the time change in smaller increments — 15 minutes for each of four months, or a minute a week one direction for 60 weeks and then a a minute a week back the other direction for the next 60 weeks, or some such? An hour all at once is just too much.

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  1. Could someone explain why a poverty-supporting fraudster like Mother Teresa is our go-to example of a good person?

  2. Still unbelievable about that police raid to cover up Liberal incompetence.

    I’m not the litigious type but that family should sue the shit outta the province and the police.

  3. Speaking of things Trudeau has accomplished, I’m glad he didn’t let the Chinese buy Aecon – which would be one of the big winners if SNC-Lavalin loses the ability to bid on federal contracts.

    1. I worked with Jim about 10 years after this film was made. He hadn’t changed that much but everything around him had changed. This little film is so dated it’s cringe-worthy in spots. And when I say he hadn’t changed I don’t mean that he was inflexible. In all the years I knew him, he was fundamentally — at his core — the same person with the same values and ethics and methods. But he was convince-able on some issues when he could see a good argument. 🙂

      1. Wow, that took me back. Smoking everywhere, men the only ones with Important Opinions, brimmed hats and Brylcreem – and everyone was so much thinner.

  4. At Law Amendments the politicians will consider the changes to municipal spending including this
    section 15 ” The municipality may expend money provided for in an operating budget or capital budget for a purpose other than that set out in the operating budget or capital budget for that fiscal year if the expenditure does not affect the total of the amounts estimated for the operating budget and the capital budget.”
    Translation : You can spend money on things you never mentioned in the budgets provided the money is taken from items you put in the budgets.
    Sounds like bait and switch to me. Tell the public you want money for roads and parks on then change your mind and spend the money on …….(fill in the blank)


        1. I am at a loss as to why this change is being made. Municipal budgets are estimates and quite often a department ends up spending more or spending less in the course of the year.
          I don’t know if it is a request from the municipalities or an attempt by the province to impose fiscal discipline ahead of probable downturn in the global economy.