I moved to Halifax in December 1, 2004. At the time, there was a strong journalism industry locally — two daily newspapers, the CBC, The Coast altweekly, a bevy of TV and radio stations, a beefy Canadian Press bureau… I’d guess there were something like 300 people working in newsrooms across the city.

Over the intervening 15 years, I’ve watched one disaster after another befall the local journalism scene: the closure of the Daily News, repeated layoffs and then a devastating strike at the Chronicle Herald, the move of backend newsroom operations at a number of outlets to Toronto, the slashing of the Halifax bureau of the Canadian Press, and most recently the shutdown of Metro.

I’d be surprised if there are now more than 50 or 60 people working in newsrooms in Halifax.

The simple fact is the old business model for local journalism doesn’t work anymore. Advertising cannot support local journalism. I’m not even sure advertising can support national and international journalism but they at least have a shot of obtaining enough readers/watchers/clickers to give it a go (CNN seems to be profitable?).

There is no way a few hundred people reading a story about Halifax City Hall can attract enough advertising dollars to pay for that story. Advertisers have too many better options: they can microtarget desired demographics with Google and Facebook ads, or better — blanket the town with the advertising flyers dropped on every porch without having to bother paying for a reporter to produce real news.

And so, local journalism enterprises that are advertiser-supported are collapsing.

There is, however, another potential business model for journalism that has promise: subscriber-supported journalism.

As I wrote on Twitter, all the Examiner’s income is subscription revenue. Nothing else pays for this operation. There is no advertising income, no George Soros money, no TD Bank “project,” no anything else. It’s subscribers, and only subscribers.

Moving forward, I think that’s going to be the best model for local reporting. People who care about local reporting will be willing to pay a small amount to sustain that reporting, without the gatekeepers of big finance, big advertising, and so forth. Potentially, it makes for better reporting.

The collapse of StarMetro/ Star Halifax is devastating in terms of an informed community. I’d like the Examiner to be able to pick up some of the pieces, but I’ll make that decision based on solid financial projections, not a wish and a prayer. The very last thing we need is for the Examiner to over-extend itself and also collapse. Steady as she goes.

But I’d urge readers to subscribe to something. Obviously I’d like you to subscribe to the Examiner, but if for whatever reason, you don’t want to give this operation money, please subscribe to something else, even if it’s the Herald. We’ve got to support working journalists in Halifax.


1. Amanda Assoun

Glen Assoun. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Canadian Press reporter Michael Tutton has beat me to a story I’ve been sitting on for months:

As she was fitted for a crisp new uniform in 2017, Amanda Assoun thought her lifelong dream of becoming a Halifax police officer was coming true. But five days later, a one-line note confirmed for her that there was no escaping her last name.

The Nov. 22 message from Insp. Reid McCoombs to the daughter of Glen Assoun, a man wrongfully convicted of murdering a Halifax woman in 1995, rescinded her job offer.

The reason, revealed in later correspondence obtained by The Canadian Press, was that she hadn’t volunteered information to police about her agreement to post bail and provide housing in Halifax for her mentally ill father, who was living in British Columbia at the time.

“It was like something had been ripped away from me that I’d worked my entire life for,” recalled the 37-year-old Halifax woman, who has since taken her wife’s surname and goes by Amanda Huckle.

Her father’s conviction, officially reversed by a court earlier this year, had in the past led to her being taunted by schoolmates and refused apartments by landlords. Now it was scuttling her hope of becoming a police officer.

Good for Tutton for getting the story out there.

I guess I need to re-think how I’m approaching the podcast/website distillation of the Assoun story.

2. Wray Hart

Wray Hart. Photo: Gary Julien

“Nearly two years after he was charged in connection with the death of Wray Hart, Dennis Donald Patterson is headed to a federal prison,” reports Natasha Pace for CTV:

Patterson previously pleaded guilty to a charge of causing death by driving with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.

On Thursday, a provincial court judge sentenced Patterson to two years in prison and three years of probation.

3. Women and war

The Halifax International Security Forum is this weekend. El Jones points me to the Sunday session on “Security Solutions, Women’s Contributions,” with the following speakers:

Actual women will be washing the dishes or some such.

4. Bullshitters of the day: Dal’s Faculty of Management and Scotiabank

On Saturday, Dalhousie’s Faculty of Management is presenting the “2019 Scotiabank Ethical Leadership Award” to Louise Arbour, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

I have no comments about Arbour.

But FFS, “Scotiabank Ethical Leadership Award”? They’re trolling us.

Where to start? How ’bout fossil fuels. The Rainforest Action Network tells us that since the Paris Accord, Scotiabank has financed the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $92.16 billion. Last week, the bank announced $100 billion in “green projects” over the next six years, but this raises concerns of “greenwashing.” “You need to have coherence and consistency; otherwise, the investments in fossil fuel expansion will cancel out any goodwill or positive environmental impacts that you’d get from today’s [green investment] announcement,” Nathan Lemphers, a campaigner at Oil Change International’s Energy Transitions and Futures Program, told the National Observer.

Then there’s the way the bank treats its own employees. In 2014, Scotiabank settled a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 5,000 employees. The Canadian Press reported that the lawsuit claimed that Scotiabank created “a working environment and circumstances in which the class members are required to work overtime hours in order to carry out the duties assigned to them, actively dissuaded from claiming or obtaining compensation for their unpaid overtime, failing to maintain accurate records of all actual hours worked by the class members and imposing on the class members an overtime policy that purports to create an unlawful barrier to payment of over time.”

Cindy Fulawka was the representative of the class:

According to her claim, she worked on average between five and 15 hours per week of additional work to meet work and sales requirements, but wasn’t paid beyond her agreed maximum standard hours, and was discouraged from claiming overtime in what was a “uniform, consistent and system practice” at the bank.

I’m particularly annoyed that Scotiabank splashes its name and logo on every damn thing, publicly financed arenas, public university facilities, privately owned theatres, literary prizes, community events, what have you.

There’s so much of this branding that it gets confusing. I’m told of visiting prof staying at the Lord Nelson who was to give a talk a the “Scotiabank Theatre” at Saint Mary’s University, and so asked the hotel staff to call him a cab, which then deposited him at the “Scotiabank Theatre”-branded space at the Cineplex complex in Bayers Lake.

Oh, and then there was that time the bank sought (unsuccessfully) to own the former Caribana festival website domain.

The branding exercise is possible only because the bank is awash in cash. With profits running $8 to $10 billion annually, you’d think it’d be able to pay its employees decently without requiring them to work unpaid overtime. But, to be fair, it did pay chief executive Brian Porter a cool $13.3 million in 2018. Think of that, Scotiabank customer, when the bank charges you a $48 NSF fee because your paycheque didn’t arrive in time to cover your rent payment.

And understand that this comes on the backs of everyday people. Scotiabank sits on the top tier of the ponzi scheme that is the international finance industry, extracting the hard-earned income of people around the planet through rent-seeking at every opportunity, getting a piece of every financial transaction without providing anything of real value in return.

Truly, as practiced and (un)regulated, the finance industry is a crime against humanity.

But Scotiabank is handing out ethics awards.

And it’s hilariously sad that people paid $100 to watch the spectacle.


1. Animal law


Halifax lawyer Barbara Darby reviews the case law around animal attacks:

As I wrote recently, law is fixated with timing; it is also obsessed with categories, the more Latin, the better. A key requirement when it comes to determining liability for animals is how the creature is categorized:  there are “ferae naturae,” animals that are naturally dangerous, and “mansuetae naturae,” the naturally harmless.

If you own a “naturally dangerous” animal that hurts someone, you are strictly liable (a version of “no questions asked”) for the harm it causes. For instance, you’re liable when your 5′ tall, 200 lb pet chimpanzee, Heidi, bites a small child while you have Heidi out for a walk in Toronto (R. v. Petzoldt, 1973 CanLII 1446).

Wait, what? I had to look that one up:

The accused is an animal trainer and performer who has been on public welfare for two years. He is the owner of two chimpanzees, a male called Seppi and a female called Heidi, both of which he keeps in the basement of his home. They are about nine years old and apparently of a special large size genus. The female Heidi with which we are primarily concerned is about five feet in height and weighs about 200 lb. On June 27, 1972, at about 4:00 p.m., the accused took Heidi for an exercise walk on the north side of Queen St. in the City of Toronto, using a rope leash. It started to rain, which led him to stop in front of a chain food store where an overhanging roof provided shelter.

The victim, Mary Maloney, is a child about eight years old. I received her evidence, though not given upon oath. I found her to be possessed of sufficient intelligence and of an understanding of her duty to speak the truth to justify its reception. In fact, I was quite impressed with her as a bright, truthful little girl. There is ample other material evidence to corroborate her testimony, in accordance with the requirements of s. 586 of the Criminal Code including the statement given by
the accused to the investigating officer. Returning from the public library to her home, in the rain, she was running on the sidewalk, on the north side of Queen St. and passed in front of the accused and his chimpanzee, Heidi. The animal reached out, grabbed the little girl and bit her on the head and shoulder. She was treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital for lacerations on the left side of her scalp and abrasions and lacerations on her left shoulder. These injuries constitute bodily harm.

Back to Darby, she winds around some other animal cases until getting to Sullivan’s Pond:

A gaggle of “Sullivan’s Pond geese” are well-known Dartmouth summer residents. As noted by CTV, the geese are symbols of Dartmouth, appearing on merch and featuring on websites of Dartmouth attractions.  CTV notes here that there was an “outpouring of grief” two years ago when two of the geese were killed by drivers. Indeed, I was on the scene, and eulogized the geese myself after serving briefly as a goose ambulance driver, if not chaser. And of course reasonable people discuss the ethics of memorializing geese while pedestrians are regularly hit, sometimes killed, by drivers in the HRM, with less acknowledgment.

This month one of the gaggle, a “rogue goose,” attacked and badly injured an 87 year old woman.  The offending goose and its gaggle have been given an “early winter time-out” and removed to Hope For Wildlife for “assessment.”   Particularly so for the one identified as the “problem goose.”  The geese are owned by the HRM.

18th century Nova Scotia had laws to deal with roaming livestock, including “Swine, or goats, going at large in the lanes, streets or suburbs, of Halifax”.  Two-thirds of the confiscated (presumed butchered carcasses) went to the poor.  Later legislation permitted municipalities to “make by-laws for the … going at large of dogs or vicious animals and of geese and may fix penalties for breach of such by-law.”  

HRM By-Law A-700 “Respecting Animals and Responsible Pet Ownership” deals with geese:  “livestock” includes “poultry” and “poultry” includes both “goose” and “gander.” “Animal” includes “any living bird.”  It is an offence for owners of an animal “not being a cat or dog” to allow said animal to roam untethered, to defecate on, or to do damage to, public or private property.

This bylaw does not apply to bees for obvious enforcement reasons.

Under A-700, the owner of any animal that attacks a person is guilty of an offence.  So in this case, is the HRM called upon to enforce its bylaw against….itself?  Naturally harmless and entitled to one bite? Or Ferae Naturae? What did the owners know and when did they know it?  From the observation of Hope Swinimer, this goose was acting exactly as could be anticipated, and removal of the goose will not solve the problem:  “‘Another goose will just step up and take the leadership role…. It’s just how nature works.’”

I believe we call it the pecking order.

Click here to read “Take a Walk on the Ferae Naturae Side.”

2. Windsor

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald walks around Windsor and finds a bunch of guys with their noses missing.


No public meetings.

On campus



Noon Hour Piano Recital (Friday, 11:45am, Room 406, Dal Arts Centre) — with students of Peter Allen.

Dalplex Christmas Craft Market (Friday, 12pm, Dalplex) — vendors from the Atlantic region and across Canada exhibit their handcrafted pottery, jewelry, art, woodwork, toys, handmade treasures, delicious treats and more, until Sunday at 5pm. $5.

The Impact of the Child Welfare System on Maternal Health (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Meaghan Thumath from the University of Oxford will talk.

Metal catalysts, clusters and surfaces: Catalytic preparation of chiral biomolecules and the chemistry of carbonbased monolayers (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Cathleen Crudden from Queen’s University will talk.

Thesis Defence, Computer Science (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Sara Khanchi will defend “Stream Genetic Programming for Botnet Detection.”

Fireplaces (and Stoves) as Icons of Comfort: Picturing Early Modern Domestic Energy Transitions (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Jack Crowley will talk.

Mount Saint Vincent

Multicultural Night 2019 (Friday, 6:30pm, Multi-purpose Room, Rosaria Student Centre) — featuring a globally-inspired sit-down dinner, a showcase of cultural performances, and an after-party at Vinnie’s Pub. Tickets $37, available at the International Education Centre or (cash only) at the Hub in the Rosaria Student Centre. More info here and here.


Reporting the Voiceless: Stories from the Margins (Friday, 12pm, KTS Lecture Hall, New Academic Building) — Patricia Evangelista, documentary and long-form multimedia journalist with the Philippine online publication Rappler.com will talk. More info here.

Hamlet, Puppet Prince of Denmarke (Friday, 8pm, The Pit, Arts and Administration Building) — and again Saturday. $5 / 10, more info and tickets here.

In the harbour

05:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
07:30: AOPS1 (the future HMCS Harry DeWolf) moves from Irving Shipyard to Bedford Basin
12:00: Elka Glory, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
14:00: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Reykjavik, Iceland
16:00: AOPS1 has sea trials in the Bedford Basin
16:00: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
16:30: RHL Agilitas sails for Kingston, Jamaica
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
22:00: JSP Levante, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea


I had an interesting podcast interview yesterday. There are so many of these scheduled the next little bit that I should stop mentioning them. But we’re developing a full story about Glen Assoun’s wrongful conviction, and I believe it’s going to be quite compelling.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. I make it a personal crusade to never call the former Metro Centre anything but the Metro Centre, the multi pad rink in Bedford is the Bedford Rink, the Dartmouth Sportsplex etc. Nobody pays me to advertise those institutions. Everytime the media refers to the corporate sponsorship name, they should bill the company appropriately.

  2. Driving is not a human right. Call me an unforgiving fascist, but I think if you kill someone with a car you should lose the privilege of driving FOREVER.

        1. I know everything is absolutes these days, but if you can kill someone with a car accidentally, a lifetime ban for driving doesn’t make sense.

  3. Mr Porter at Scotiabank was not paid $13.3 million. in 2018.
    He was paid $3.7 million in cash and deferred compensation of $7.5 million and of that amount 80% was in performance share units and 20% in stock options.
    Details of executive compensation are provided on page 78 of the proxy circular sent to shareholders.
    On page 83 of the same document you will find details of the compensation given to a senior executive
    who ‘retired’ and his annual incentive reward declined 18% from the previous year.

  4. While I agree that subscriber-supported journalism is now a better economic model than the advertising-supported kind, it could use some outside help in smaller places where there aren’t as many potential subscribers as there are in bigger ones such as Halifax. In Britain, for example, the BBC already funds 150 journalists who cover local government while working at smaller media outlets. The Beeb has just announced plans to expand this local news partnership https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2019/lnp-expansion.

    Variations of this idea could work in Canada, but would require federal financial support for such an initiative from the CBC. (And, I suspect, the CBC would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into it.) I don’t buy the argument that such indirect and arms-length government support would corrupt journalism any more than the inadequate Parliamentary grants it receives has corrupted the CBC.

  5. Oh dear. I was involved with the organizing committee for the event you mentioned, where the visiting lecturer had to attend “the “Scotiabank Theatre” at Saint Mary’s University” – actually, it’s the one at Dalhousie University in the McCain building. And yes, I cringed every time I saw the damn bank’s name….

  6. Louise Arbour was instrumental is squashing an investigation in the Rawandan Patriotic Front’s actions in sparking the Rawanda genocide. This is documented in Judi Rever’s book “In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rawanda Patriotic Front”. https://www.amazon.ca/Praise-Blood-Crimes-Rwandan-Patriotic/dp/0345812093?SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-vivaldi-ca-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=0345812093

    I guess ethical leadership is letting a murderous regime get away with killing hundreds of thousands?

    1. In Arbour, the US found something very useful to them: an obedient, lawless and corrupt judge willing to preside over international show trials set up to whitewash US-backed war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. She fulfilled her function very well which is why she’s probably the perfect recipient of the Scotiabank Ethical Leadership Award.