1. Immigration

Suzanne Ley, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration. Photo: CBC

Writes Stephen Kimber:

Reading news accounts of last week’s meeting of the legislature’s committee on economic development, you could be forgiven for assuming the much fooforahed Ivany Report’s call to action on immigration had already become a neatly gift-wrapped fait accompli, topped with a pretty government-tied bow. Not so fast…

Click here to read “What if they created another immigration program and nobody came?”

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2. Examineradio, episode #142

Auditor General Michael Pickup. Photo: Jessica Flower / UNews

In November, Auditor General Michael Pickup was accused of overstepping his authority. His report chastised the province for doing a “poor” job of communicating its strategies on doctor recruitment and primary health care. In turn, the premier chastised the auditor general, saying Pickup should run for elected office if he wanted to criticize policy matters.

It did raise questions about the role of the auditor general. Did the premier have a point?

This week, I sat down with Pickup to talk about it.

[iframe style=”border:none” src=”//″ height=”100″ width=”480″ scrolling=”no” allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen]

Plus, we talk about the case of Abdoul Abdi, the 23-year-old man who spent most of his childhood as a ward of the province and now faces deportation to Somalia, a country he fled when he was only six years old. Abdi was convicted of a violent crime in Canada and served his time. He doesn’t have Canadian citizenship because the people who were responsible for him — the province — never filed for it. He’s currently in an immigration detention centre in Toronto.

Check out this piece by El Jones to learn about others facing this very same situation.

Also, Terra Tailleur and I talk about the Nova Scotia connections in the Paradise Papers.

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3. Calvin Clarke

Calvin Clarke

Calvin Clarke has won his constructive dismissal suit against the Chronicle Herald, I reported Friday afternoon:

Justice Suzanne Hood has ruled that the Herald must pay Clarke $77,761.87, which is the equivalent of 16 months’ pay ($103,616) minus money Clarke owed the Herald and income Clarke earned at other jobs after he quit the Herald. Additionally, Hood ordered the Herald to pay two per cent interest and Clarke’s legal costs.

“Constructive dismissal” is when an employer changes an employee’s pay and/work conditions such that the employee finds the job untenable.

I reported on the trial and Clarke’s claim in November.

I’m assuming that allnovascotia has reported or will report this — it had a reporter in the courtroom, but it won’t let me subscribe, so I don’t know for sure. But the silence from other media is interesting. After all, Clarke’s constructive dismissal came after Mark Lever took the reigns at the Herald and instituted a series of cost-cutting moves that ultimately led to a showdown with the reporters’ union.

At the heart of the Clarke story is the reality of declining ad sales at the Herald, which reflects the challenge facing all advertising-supported media. It’s a business story worth covering, but for whatever reason most local media outlets are ignoring it.

4. Police evidence room audit

The final report into the police department’s evidence room problems will be presented to the police commission today. The summary of results in the Executive Summary reads:

Cash: Of the missing 293 cash exhibits, 255 have been located. The 38 not located totalled $8,083.87 Canadian currency (CAD) and $20 United States currency (USD).

Large Drug Exhibits: Of the missing 331 large drug exhibits, 263 were not located. Issues related to the outstanding drug exhibits were consistent with the 2016 secondary review and the full inventory cash. Based on in-depth research and the consistencies with all researched files, the team believes that the outstanding exhibits have been destroyed.

Small drug, paraphernalia and non-drug exhibits: Of the missing 2,628 exhibits, 2,488 were not located. The digital research of these exhibits showed errors consistent with the 2016 secondary review, the full inventory cash, and the full inventory large drug exhibits. Based on the research and noted trends, the outstanding 2,488 exhibits are believed to have been destroyed.

The summary notes that “For the purpose of this review, ‘located’ is defined as:
a. the exhibit was physically found in court or police custody,
b. the exhibit was proved destroyed through documentation and proper continuity in Versadex,
c. the exhibit was proven returned to owner through legal documents and Versadex entries.”

The conclusion in the summary reads:

While many exhibits could not be physically located, we were able to identify issues consistent with the earlier phases of the audit, leading us to a reasonable but inconclusive belief that the missing or misplaced drug exhibits were destroyed and the missing or misplaced cash exhibits were deposited in the SES bank account. The main issues related to lack of policy adherence and in many cases process gaps over the past many years. That is why considerable effort has been made not just on completing the inventory and reconciliation, but also on policy and process improvement in the future.

This issue came to light as a follow-up to an allegation of mishandling of exhibits. We took this matter seriously and dedicated full-time resources and conducted a multi-faceted review. We have conducted a current assessment and reconciliation of the exhibits as well as came up with ways to significantly improve the processes going forward. We are confident that these measures will help significantly improve exhibit handling and accountability as well as ensure our organizations maintains public trust.

Presumably, the “allegation of mishandling of exhibits” is a reference to Constable Gary Basso, who was accused of stealing a chemical used to dilute drugs from the evidence room. The alleged theft happened sometime before May 21, 2015; that’s the date the department contacted the Serious Incident Response Team “with information regarding a potential theft, breach of trust, and obstruction of justice committed by one of their officers.”

SiRT filed charges against Basso in January 2016. But in the summer of 2015 — that is, after the allegations against Basso were handed to SiRT but before his arrest — the police department conducted an audit of the evidence room. That audit, reported Jacob Boon at The Coast in March 2017:

… found a nearly 90 percent failure rate within the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) for evidence continuity.

Drug exhibits are often stored in unsealed Ziplock bags, with incomplete paperwork, which makes them impossible to locate. The initial audit sample found 90 percent of the exhibits in CID’s drug vault couldn’t be located, along with close to a quarter of the evidence exhibits that were supposed to be inside police headquarters. Over half (55 percent) of the items in the department’s seized money vault also couldn’t be located.

A follow-up search conducted in May dropped some of those numbers, but the results remain significant. The department still can’t locate 52 percent of the sample exhibits in CID, 12 percent in HQ and 32 percent of the money vault. Two full-time employees are currently working to track those 67 exhibits down, according to police public relations manager Theresa Rath.

But a month before Boon made public the evidence room story, the charges against Basso were dropped. Reported Blair Rhodes for the CBC:

The Crown stayed the charges against Basso last spring. Then last week, it decided that due to delays in prosecution, the charges would not be reinstated.

The Crown has been under intense deadline pressure since the Supreme Court of Canada imposed limits on how long cases can take to make it through the courts.

Understand that when Rhodes reported that the charges against Basso had been dropped, the public had no knowledge of the problems at the evidence room.

The open question here is: Did SiRT know about the evidence room audit? If SiRT was aware of the audit, why did it proceed with charging Basso? Even more troubling is the opposite possibility: that the police department had conducted the audit, found that there were serious issues at the evidence room, and failed to notify SiRT, which was at the very moment considering charges against Basso.

Regardless, the “delay in prosecution” excuse for dropping charges against Basso in retrospect looks like a total fabrication, a bullshit cover story. This is especially alarming because it left the public impression that Basso actually was guilty but was being let go on a technicality, when in reality the situation at the evidence room was so muddled that the crown couldn’t get a conviction — that is, there was no evidence against Basso that would stand up in court.


1. Fracking ain’t what it’s cracked up to be

Shale gas potential in Nova Scotia, from the newly released Atlas.

(I’ve been looking for an excuse to write that headline for years.)

“There was a media flap this past week when the dynamic duo of the CBC’s Paul Withers and the website acquired the “Onshore Atlas” from the Nova Scotia Department of Energy showing locations of deposits of natural gas and coal bed methane in the province,” writes Richard Starr:

Withers’ report contained some big numbers. “Onshore natural gas resources in the province are worth between $20 billion and $60 billion,” it said, and much of the bonanza is in the form of shale gas — which would have to be recovered through f-r-a-c-k-i-n-g.

Cue another round in the fracking debate.

Predictably, a lobbyist for the energy industry, along with a candidate for the leadership of the Nova Scotia Tories said the report justified revisiting the fracking ban that has been in place since 2014. The lobbyist, Ray Ritcey of the Maritimes Energy Association is quoted as saying “I think that’s too large of an opportunity to dismiss outright.”

Starr goes on to say that in actuality the Atlas shows a lower expectation for shale oil than was considered by the Wheeler Commission, and that potential returns are nowhere near what is being hyped:

Chapter two in the Wheeler report written by Brad Hayes and Ray Ritcey (small world, eh) estimated shale gas reserves ranging from 17 to 69 trillion cubic feet (TCF) in the Windsor-Kennetcook basin alone. As discussed in my 2015 post, the high end of that estimate was a tad dubious. That skepticism seems to have been in order, given that the atlas estimates the reserve at only 32 TCF — not a reduction from the low end of the estimate but certainly a lowering of expectations.

Measurements like Trillion Cubic Feet (TCF) are unlikely to attract much attention. To turn heads, you need dollar signs, and Withers’ report had that metric — the estimated $20 to $60 billion as the market value of the gas. That seems like a lot of value to leave in the ground — at least until you take a closer look.

First, note that only two-thirds of this headline grabbing number – $13 to $40 billion — would be from fracking shale gas. The remaining value would be in coal bed methane and non-fracked natural gas. The second thing to note is that these big numbers are spread out over 80 years — so the annual range would be from $250-$750 million, not nearly as exciting as a headline. And for fracked gas it would be two-thirds of that — $170-$500 million. And of course that’s the total value of the gas — royalties on the fracked gas at 10 per cent would range from only $17 million to $50 million per year.

Now compare the fracked gas numbers with those being discussed when the Wheeler panel reported in the summer of 2014. Chapter three in the final report by Brad Hayes and Michael Gardiner ran several “plausible scenarios” for development of fracked gas. Their “lower medium” scenario assumed a resource of 100 TCF, with 10 per cent recovery – more than twice what the Atlas now presents as top of the range for recovered fracked gas. The Hayes-Gardiner “lower medium” scenario runs its numbers over 66 years, at a value of $60.61 billion and royalties at $5.88 billion. Annualized, that works out to about $920 million a year in revenue and $89 million a year in royalties.

2. Tips

Judy Haiven explores service industry workers’ rights vis-à-vis their tips.

3. Ugly buildings

This morning, Tristan Cleveland points at what he says are some darn ugly buildings in Halifax: the Bank of Nova Scotia on Quinpool Road (contrasting it to the “dignity” of the bank’s Hollis Street headquarters building), the new Ikea (which “just made one of the main entrances to our city look like a gravel quarry with a horrendous wall of rocks”), the Killam Library (“the worst of brutalist buildings”), and the Maritime Centre.

Cleveland gets into the psychology of people’s reactions to ugly buildings — in essence, most people aren’t cognizant of their own negative gut responses to the buildings — and makes the claim that “most architects today, I suspect, have terrible taste, because they are trained to think abstractly about buildings, and to ignore their gut feelings.”

This isn’t a new observation. It was perhaps best and most famously illustrated in James Kunstler’s 1993 book The Geography of Nowhere, which, as the book blurb tells us:

… traces America’s evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where every place is like no place in particular, where the cities are dead zones and the countryside is a wasteland of cartoon architecture and parking lots.

In elegant and often hilarious prose, Kunstler depicts our nation’s evolution from the Pilgrim settlements to the modern auto suburb in all its ghastliness. The Geography of Nowhere tallies up the huge economic, social, and spiritual costs that America is paying for its car-crazed lifestyle. It is also a wake-up call for citizens to reinvent the places where we live and work, to build communities that are once again worthy of our affection. Kunstler proposes that by reviving civic art and civic life, we will rediscover public virtue and a new vision of the common good.

Kunstler has since taken a neo-connish world view and become a borderline end times prepper, writing essays decrying the wearing of blue jeans and castigating the stupid American consumer. But the observations in The Geography of Nowhere stand up.

It is, I think, necessary reading if for no other reason than it shows us how an entire profession — in this case, architecture — can go off-track. I often think of that case study when I observe other industries and professions. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t generally trust expertise and professionalism that have developed over the decades and centuries — the most absurd example of such lack of trust is the legions of armchair scientists babbling on about how climate change is a hoax — but neither does it mean that we should completely set aside our gut reactions and skepticism.

4. Willow Tree

Speaking of ugly buildings and bad city design, architect Steve Parcell outlines his and The Willow Tree Group’s objections to developer George Armoyan’s proposal for a tower at the Willow Tree intersection. “Unfortunately,” writes Parcell, “recent City Hall debate about this development has diminished to one issue: the number of storeys: 20, 25, or 29.”

But, he continues:

APL would be only the beginning. The draft Centre Plan calls for APL’s tower to be followed by 15-storey buildings along Quinpool. These high-rises would extend west to Monastery Lane (replacing Canadian Tire), north to the Quingate Place condos and Quinpool Court Apartments, and south to Pepperell Street. (For comparison: The Keep, still under construction, is eight storeys.)

Parcel would like to see a much broader discussion of the entire Quinpool strip:

The draft Centre Plan regards the east end of Quinpool as a high-rise “density dump” for population. Its ambitions for our district are quite low:

– no research on what to protect in our neighbourhoods or what they need to become more complete
– no attention to developing Quinpool as a continuous, vibrant, walkable, mid-rise main street for the neighbourhoods
– no attention to family housing, affordable housing, or community facilities

The east end of Quinpool would become a high-rise canyon, like Brunswick Street between Duke and Cogswell. With big developers targeting the taller and more profitable parts first, finite demand would leave the rest of Quinpool undeveloped. This is hardly a way to make a public street.

There’s a public hearing about the tower at City Hall Tuesday evening at 6pm.




Police Commission (Monday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — see #4 in News above.

Accessibility Committee (Monday, 4pm, City Hall) — no action items, but here are the discussion items.

Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (Monday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — just an organizational meeting for the new year.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21490 (Monday, 7pm, St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Dartmouth) — St. Luke’s Anglican Church wants to build a three-storey shelter “for emergency accommodations for women and children fleeing intimate partner violence” on its property at 9 Veterans Avenue in Dartmouth, facing Tacoma Drive.


City Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.



No public meetings.


No public meetings.

On campus



Economic Growth (Monday, 3:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Roman Smirnov speaks on “Towards a New Paradigm for Mathematical Modelling of Economic Growth.” His abstract:

We will discuss an extension of the work by Ryuzo Sato (NYU Stern Department of  Economics) devoted to the development of economic growth models within the framework of the Lie group theory and propose a new growth model based on the assumption of logistic growth in factors. It is employed to derive and introduce respectively new production functions and a new notion of wage share. We will use statistical tools (in particular, R Programming) to show that these new  functions compare reasonably well against relevant economic data. As for the new notion of wage share, we will explain in mathematical terms why Bowleys law in economics no longer holds true in post-1960 data and how it could be reformulated.

Architecture Lecture (Monday, 6pm, Halifax Central Library) — Pavel Getov from the Southern California Institute of Architecture will speak on collaborative practice and seeking integration between architecture, arts, and environment.

Black Lives Matter: The Discussion Continues (Monday, 6pm, Room 307 Dalhousie Student Union Building)  — Panelists Barb Hamilton-Hinch, Tiffany Gordon, Amina Abawayj, and Sonnobia Williams-Pelley and moderator Isaac Saney will talk about Donald Trump’s presidency “through the lens of Martin Luther King (pacifism), as well as the protests against the statues, police brutality, and continuing Islamophobia/xenophobia (re: building a wall) and how this has affected us in Canada.”


Architecture Lecture (Tuesday, 9am, Theatre 4, Park Lane Mall) — Brady Peters from the Daniels School of Architecture, Toronto, will speak on computational design and digital fabrication, architectural acoustics, and environmental simulation.

Architecture Lecture (Tuesday, 6pm, Room B225, B Building [Engineering], Sexton Campus — after hours, enter via the link west of the Sexton Gymnasium) — John Brown from the University of Calgary will speak on combining professional architectural services, construction management, real estate brokerage, interior design, and product retailing.

Mount Saint Vincent


Melanie Authier, Groundseeker   Photo: squarespace

Melanie Authier: Contrarieties and Counterpoints (through March 4, MSVU Art Gallery) — here’s her website.

In the harbour

5am: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
9:30am: Sarah Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Valero Dock from Saint John
4:30pm: Tirranna, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
9pm: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York


Monday again.

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

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  1. Re: Ugly Buildings: Tristan Cleveland is right – the Killam Library is one of the ugliest building anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, it should be given heritage status and preserved forever as the best example of the worst architectural style ever.

  2. Is there still a willow tree at the Willow Tree? I know there had been a replacement planted for the original, but I can’t remember if it is still there.

  3. Re: Fracking
    It is my understanding that there is still a pond full of used fracking fluid located not far from the village of Kennetcook, that was left by the nice folks who did the last round of gas exploration. Does anyone know if this is the case?

    To Mr. Cascadden’s suggestion that a referendum with a simple yes or no choice for fracking be used to determine fracking policy, I have two simple answers; can’t happen and won’t happen. The petro industry and their supporters in government will want to add the phrase “yes or no, keeping in mind that fracking will make every Nova Scotian rich beyond belief”. My preferred explainer would be, “keeping in mind that there is an undeniable history of resource extractors walking away from contaminated extraction sites without even trying to clean up the contaminants, let alone return the land, water and air to their original condition and that you, the taxpayer, will be expected to pay for the cleanup”.

    Of course, it goes without saying that once the ground water is contaminated with toxic chemicals it can never be cleaned up, no matter how much public money is spent.

    1. The fracking residuals pond in question originated during a 2007-2008 drilling event and clean up was/is a fiasco.

      But we should not give credence to the likelihood that a referendum on a simple question would not happen due to petroleum industry interference. The government needs to listen to the electorate for their mandate.

      We should only recommend that the Nova Scotia Government do the right thing; ask the public a clearly stated & simple question and then act accordingly.

      This not an abrogation of the governmental decision making process; this is using the best governance tool available to determine the will of the public today.

      1. I appreciate the sentiment, but rest assured that, even if it were a simple yes or no question, there would be a lot of petro and government money spent on convincing voters that fracking is the silver bullet to fix all that ails the provincial economy.

  4. Frack this, frack that, what the frack is going on? We have heard from experts on both sides of this issue for years. The newly released Atlas does nothing to answer the only questions that matter.

    What do the residents of Nova Scotia want to do when it comes to fracking?

    When is the government of Nova Scotia going to comprehensively ask the residents of Nova Scotia?

    A representative government has the occasional responsibility to actually directly interact with its residents when a truly divisive policy decision needs to be made. I would venture that fracking deserves to be dealt with in an open and transparent manner. When a government has a clear understanding of the will of the people, it is accepted that the government need not spend much time trying to test the waters when they already know the temperature of the pond. But that is not the case today; no one can say with certainty what the significant majority of the residents of Nova Scotia desire when it comes to fracking.

    It is time for the petroleum industry talking-heads and all the third party interest groups to step aside and do nothing other than to urge the government to truly determine what the public desires. Doing it by a referendum would not be a bad way; but no cleverly worded questions please. I would suggest an example of the simple question could be:

    “Do you want to allow fracking for methane in coal beds and fracking for gases trapped within the shale deposits located within Nova Scotia’s provincial boundaries to occur? Yes or No

    Do not muddy the water by tying the question to also having appropriate safe-guard regulations…. those regulations would be expected to be put in place if fracking was allowed to occur.

    Answer a simple Yes or No question, and let the government get on with doing the right thing.

    This is not rocket science or brain surgery; just ask a question and get a clear answer.

  5. So is Withers report horse shit oil lobby propaganda of alternative facts?

    If we can’t trust the public broadcaster who can we trust?