On campus
In the harbour


1. Gary Burrill

Gary Burrill
Gary Burrill

Gary Burrill won the NDP’s leadership race Saturday. The victory, notes Michael Gorman in Local Xpress, “was the best possible outcome” in terms of party cohesion:

While no one will acknowledge it on the record, there was growing friction between [Dave] Wilson’s and [Lenore] Zann’s supporters in the final month or so of the campaign. Some campaign team members went as far as describing the situation as toxic.


And so it’s reasonable to think that had either Wilson or Zann won, a good portion of party supporters might have taken a step back from the NDP, which picked up 900 new members during the leadership campaign.

In Burrill, however, the party has a leader whose beliefs line up very closely with the other two camps and whose supporters were mostly removed from backroom fighting.

Which may be true, but the real reason Burrill’s victory is the best possible outcome is because he is on the right side of the most important issue of our time: austerity. As soon as he won the leadership race, the NDP sent out a press release with just a two-line quote from Burrill:

“The Liberals only have one idea for Nova Scotia — austerity — and it’s wrong. We believe in something so much better: public investment for public purposes, especially the purpose of decent incomes and widening opportunities for people,” said Burrill.

“Burrill says he sees no evidence there’s any fundamental conservatism in Nova Scotia,” reports Gorman, quoting Burrill:

“I think we see lots of evidence in the last couple of years that there is a burgeoning and a simmering hunger for a politics that talks straight about the fact that the one per cent in this city make $330,000 while the average income for 90 per cent of the people in Nova Scotia is under $27,000.

“Something’s wrong somewhere, I think there’s a general understanding about this.”

It’s unlikely we would have such talk were Dave Wilson, a Dexter government holdover, the party leader. Zann is finding her ideological legs, and I like a lot of what I hear from her, but she couldn’t possibly match Burrill’s reputation as a dyed-in-the-wool progressive.

Interestingly, here’s something Burrill wrote in 1984 that’s been floating around Facebook the last couple of days:

We are all acquainted with the contradictory phenomenon of the right-wing, conservative person who is, for all that, a pretty nice guy. Many people are also familiar (though, understandably ashamed, they usually keep it to themselves) with the opposite problem — the socialist who, despite the importance of basic decency in the outlook we share, has the social skills of an amphibian.

It is, sad to say, quite common. All things considered, would you want to be stranded on a desert island with most of the people you’ve met over coffee and doughnuts during breaks in the action at solidarity symposia on the struggle in Central America? Is discussing “late capitalism” over cocktails with delegates at the Learned Societies’ Committee on Socialist Studies your idea of a good time? Likely not. And if you’re like many others on the left, you choose the people most important to you personally from the ranks of those who are unconcerned whether capitalism is late, early, or right on time.

There’s a good reason for this. Too many socialists are like Peter Sellers’ Panther — they’re great at being pink, but not much else, especially when it comes to personability. Instinctive character warmth, though it ought to be, is not always the left’s strong suit.

This is a big problem. Niceness, after all, is not without its political economy. Working-class culture is to a great extent made up of the ways working-class people contrive to celebrate their socialness in the midst of circumstances that are both isolating and difficult. In the Maritimes this is made especially clear in the distinctive style (nonetheless real for being inaudible to the untrained ear) that people have of talking to one another. It’s characterized by a certain self-deprecatory grace, an easy weaving of conversation around sidetrips into the inconsequential.

Middle-class conversation has its own style, too. It’s a battle zone. Each response is carefully assessed before being sent forth as a bargaining chip in negotiations over esteem, prestige, and power. And, though packaged with the measured amiability of the herbal-tea-and-salad, so-nice-to-meet-you world, it is by very nature spoken through clenched teeth.

Make no mistake about it. When a person who’s used to talking in the first of these two styles hears so much as a hint of the intrusion of the second, he is gone. The distancing language of self-protection — unfriendliness — lands on the ears of most working-class people in the Maritimes like frost-bite, rendering forever inaccessible that part of a person that extends enough trust for anyone ever to be able to change their minds on anything. This has always been the source of a great deal of confusion, as the poet Milton Acorn pointed out, since the working-class person always continues in these situations to ‘weave a tissue of talk’ around his insensitive associate, who is hardly ever aware of the disappearance that has just taken place.

The phenomenon of the likeable conservative is the result of the near-total dominance in our society — stretching into all kinds of cultural nooks and crannies where it has no natural home — of capitalist ideology. The dilemma of the diffident socialist is the flip side of that process.

Socialists have no business wearing calculating looks. Distancing phrases like “quite frankly” and “to be quite honest” should cleave our tongues to the roofs of our mouths. Our conversations cannot afford the quasi-competitive air of the upwardly mobile.

Rooted radicalism scares the powers-that-be to death, and its heart and soul is an easy-going, sincere humility. Do the class struggle a favour — lighten up. Unkindness is the enemy within.



I’m still working on the DEAD WRONG series, and am making good progress on Part 5. To recap, let me summarize the series.

Part 1: The War of the Roses looks at the murder of Brenda Way, and the relationship between Brenda, Glen Assoun, and Robin Hartrick. Towards the end of Part 1, I discuss how Glen is arrested for Brenda’s murder.

Part 2: Trial and Error follows the trial and conviction of Glen Assoun.

Part 3: If Glen Assoun Didn’t Kill Brenda Way, Who Did? asks that question, and introduces us to a rogue’s gallery of the violent men who surrounded Brenda. Part 3 also draws some conclusions about why and how Glen was convicted and served 16 years in prison for a murder he probably didn’t commit.

Part 4: Channelling Kimberly McAndrew shows how Dave MacDonald, the lead investigator in the Brenda Way murder, was also assigned to investigate the disappearance of Kimberly McAndrew. Frustrated with an investigation that was going nowhere, MacDonald hired a psychic; I obtained and published the recordings of the psychic’s sessions with MacDonald, and show how MacDonald’s apparent belief in the power of psychics not only side-tracked the investigation of Kimberly’s disappearance, but also may have led to the wrongful conviction of Glen for Brenda’s murder.

I’m still working on Part 5, but when complete, it will show that MacDonald investigated still another murder that may have resulted in yet another wrongful conviction. It’s important that I not rush into publication before I track down all the important relevant details. This is taking longer than expected, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

I’ve also outlined Part 6, which as of now is the last planned part of the series. Part 6 will tie up some loose ends and show how indifference to the murders of women and girls living on the margins of society leads to continued tragedy.

Today, the Canadaland podcast features DEAD WRONG, and so I’m expecting new interest in the series. Between that and the delay of publication of Part 5, I’ve taken Part 1 from behind the paywall. I hope people who read Part 1 for the first time will find the series engaging and will want to subscribe in order to read the rest of the series.

3. Examineradio, episode #50

Evelyn C. White
Evelyn C. White

This week we’re excited to welcome noted journalist and author (and semi-regular Halifax Examiner contributor) Evelyn White. She talks about a career that includes a stretch at the San Francisco Chronicle and her time as Alice Walker’s biographer.

Erin Moore, Kristen Brown, Tim Bousquet
Erin Moore, Kristen Brown, Tim Bousquet

We also speak with NSCC journalism instructor Erin Moore and student Kristen Brown about the program’s groundbreaking investigation into land titles in the predominantly African Nova Scotian community of North Preston.

Also, Gloria McCluskey announces her retirement, prominent Chronicle Herald reporters flee for better gigs, Andy Fillmore is still MIA, and Examineradio turns 50, so we engage in a bit of navel-gazing and back-slapping.

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(direct download)
(RSS feed)
(Subscribe via iTunes)

4. Dogs

Photo: Jeff Harper/ Metro
Photo: Jeff Harper/ Metro

“A new sign at a Dartmouth dog park is getting a rough reception,” reports Zane Woodford in Metro:

“If your dog barks it can disturb neighbours and other park users,” reads the sign at the off-leash area at Shubie Park, which dog owners at the park say was put up a few weeks ago.

“Please do not use this area if you can’t control your dog’s barking.”

At the top of the sign are the words, “Courtesy Matters,” and at the bottom of the sign is a hashtag, #Respect, and the Halifax logo.

Also, if you could please keep your kids from babbling on nonsensically and repeatedly asking “Why? Why? Why?” it’d be much appreciated.



1. Irrelevant

Chronicle Herald

Noting that striking journalists Dan Arsenault and David Jackson have left the Chronicle Herald for more security and respect elsewhere, Stephen Kimber comments that:

If the Halifax Herald’s owners don’t soon make peace with what’s left of their newsroom, the newspaper that traces its own ink-on-paper beginnings back 142 years, will disappear or — perhaps worse — become totally irrelevant.

I’d say we’re already past that point. After a decade covering Province House, Jackson had moved up to an editing position at the Chronicle Herald and no doubt shaped the news coverage in all sorts of important ways not readily observable from the outside.

Arsenault’s departure, however, is already noticeable. He was an old-school police beat reporter, hitting the pavement in the middle of the night, working his cop sources, digging through court documents. That work is rarely glamourous, but it’s needed. And now it’s gone: Arsenault has taken a job at’s Newfoundland bureau.

Already there’s a hole in police and crime reporting; the CBC’s Blair Rhodes is on the court beat, but he doesn’t much dig into the police side of things, and no one has the local knowledge and experience that Arsenault had.

As the Chronicle Herald implodes, we’ll see more and more gaps in reporting. Scab freelancers simply can’t replace professional, experienced journalists.

2. Hiring people with disabilities

“There are a ton of rather desperate efforts to re-envision the Nova Scotia economy, with sort of pathetically hopeful notions of Nova Scotia’s future and their ability to change it,” writes Gus Reed “It’s like listening to Donald Trump without the bad language. We’re going to make Nova Scotia great again.”

Reed goes on to look at the makeup of the four organizations that purport to be changing the way we do things:

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 7.46.40 AM

Reed points out that hiring people with disabilities saves taxpayers money. But beyond that, ignoring them as a recruitable pool of people is simply wrong.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

I recently received a phone call from an 86-year-old lady.

She asked me to write a letter for her and some of her friends who said they’re lonely as family and friends don’t spend much time with them.

In addition, some family and grandchildren who do visit spend most of their time texting. Technology never gets out of their hands. It’s everywhere, even at funerals and churches. There’s no respect or communication anymore.

Adults, children, people in nursing homes and hospitals and others alone in their homes are neglected. It’s an addiction. People don’t go out to visit or go to dances or phone family.

More attention should be given to family, spouses and especially children and friends. People should put their thinking caps on and spend more time with family and friends. I feel sorry for the lonely people. 

When people read this letter they may realize life is too short. When a person is gone, they’re gone.

If you go to a seniors and pensioners club you will meet nice people. Even if it’s just to sit and listen to music.

There are some people in their homes alone with a disability. Family and friends should be there more for them. Try being warm instead of cold-hearted. Some people can’t even eat at a restaurant without texting. Try sitting and talking for a change. I know a lady in a nursing home who sits at the front entrance to see if somone comes in she can talk to.

I find people today just think of themselves and don’t even realize how much they can hurt people. I hope this letter helps the 86-year-old lady and her friends who called me and anyone else who is lonely.

Mrs. Mickey Bushnik, Sydney Mines



North West Community Council (7pm, that four-pad arena in Bedford with the name of a fucking bank plastered on it) — a public hearing on proposed zoning changes in Bedford West.


No public meetings.

On Campus


Thesis defence, Pharmacology (9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Robert Laprairie will defend his thesis, “Biased Agonists and Allosteric Modulators of the Type 1 Cannabinoid Receptor: Potential Treatments for Huntington Disease.”

Phylogenetics (3:30pm, Colloquium Room #319, Chase Building) — Bui Quang Minh, from the University of Vienna, will speak on “Stochastic approaches for phylogenetic inference and sequence evolution”:

Despite having been studied for a long time phylogenetics is still facing major challenges. The rapid accumulation of phylogenomic data slows down computer-intensive approaches to infer maximum likelihood trees and to estimate the reliability of clades via phylogenetic bootstrapping. Moreover, this data accumulation increases the need for more realistic models of sequence evolution, which, for example, capture heterogeneous evolutionary processes along genomic sequences. 

To address these challenges I will present a new efficient tree sampling method (implemented in IQ-TREE), that reduces the risk of being trapped in a local optimum and at the same time estimates trees even for large data sets. Moreover, during the tree search we estimate the bootstrap probabilities, by applying the so-called UFBoot approach. While UFBoot is surprisingly fast it also appears to be less conservative than the standard bootstrap. 

In the second part of the talk I will present a versatile model selection procedure that searches among commonly used evolutionary models and also non-standard models like the free-rate model for the best fitting model. I will discuss some results and their biological implications. Finally, I will give perspectives for future researches. 


Kris Bertin
Kris Bertin

Bartender/ author/ great guy Kris Bertin is having a release party for his book Bad Things Happen tonight, 7pm, at Bearly’s. Writes Parker Donham:

This just might be the 2016 Nova Scotia event you’ll want to brag about having attended 30 years from now, when Bertin is a celebrated Canadian of letters.

Bad Things Happen is edited by Alexander MacLeod, published by Biblioasis, and celebrated in the Toronto Star, which named Bertin one of 10 young Canadian writers to watch.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Monday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Monday. Map:

Clipper Macau, cargo ship, arrived at Pier 31 this morning from Boston
Algoma Dartmouth, oil tanker, Port Hawkesbury to Imperial Oil

Dallas Express sails to sea
Jasper Arrow sails to sea
Asian Moon sails to sea


We’ll publish Erica Butler’s transportation column early this afternoon.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Am I the only one chuckling at the irony of the overwrought pseudo-literary tone of Mr. Burrill’s essay on the herbal tea-drinking ‘middle class’?

  2. This is a good piece overall, though I do think it’s unfair to say that Lenore Zann is still finding her ideological legs. Her areas of focus are a bit different, but she’s just as much a dyed-in-the-wool socialist as Burrill.

  3. RE: Loss of the police beat reporter for the Chronicle Herald. Covering “night cops” as a rookie reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle provided invaluable training for me at the beginning of my career. I was dispatched to the “press room” (can you say TAWDRY) at police headquarters where I kept my ear to the squawk box re: various and sundry crimes happening throughout the city. Also, had to periodically phone every police station in San Francisco to find out what they were investigating. Juicy stuff. Was mentored by an old-timer at the paper (nicknamed “Mr. Suave”) who, upon hearing that I’d been assigned night cops, opened up the bottom drawer of his metal file cabinet and showed me a REAL Magnum 357 revolver. “Kid, this is all you’ll need to cover night cops,” he chortled before slamming the drawer shut. This, in the middle of the newsroom (before cubicles!), as I made my way to police headquarters — in pink culottes! And do not get me started on the free flowing bottles of booze among the “brotherhood” (I was made honorary member) of police beat reporters. To be sure, a bygone era. Sad, like so much these days in the “mainstream” media.

  4. Well, after hearing Gary Burrill on 95.7fm repeat the word austerity 20 times, without having the slightest clue as to what real austerity is, I’d say the new NDP is no wiser than the old NDP. Quite an accomplishment lol. There is literally no intelligent party to vote for in this province.

  5. I’m willing to bet that most of the 900 new NDP members – myself included – voted for either Burrill or Zann first and put Dave Wilson emphatically in the number 3 spot. The vote was as much a repudiation of the entrenched old guard who continue to live in denial. No, the NDP government was not defeated because McNeil lied about them or, “we didn’t communicate well about all the good things we did for Nova Scotia”.
    The challenge now for Burrill and Zann is to keep the party membership engaged and to add to their ranks.

  6. Wow. Not a partisan myself but by the looks of this Burrill fellow, I could be persuaded to throw a few bucks at the NS NDP in the years to come. Sounds like the real deal.

    While I’m here, I do have one little quibble with Gus Reed’s table. Disability often isn’t visible to the naked eye so I’m a bit uncomfortable with some of the conclusions being drawn around that issue in particular. I’m sure it’s not intentional (and the conclusions might even be valid) but it certainly could be alienating to people afflicted with invisible disabilities.

  7. One definition of “Austerity”: “Difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure”.

    Most austerity programs have an end goal of balanced budgets and reduction of deficits; the process is supposed to ensure essential services remain funded while being honest when it comes to determining if other programs really deserve government funding. “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t” is another definition for austerity programs. It really matters little whether the party in power is Liberal, Conservative, NDP or whatever… what we need is a government that can create a solid plan and weather the torrent of opposition, news media and public outcry when they try to implement it… good luck with that… a 4 year term is never enough time to get the job done, 8 years if one is really lucky, but no government in the past few years has effectively communicated to the public what a solid economic plan for the future looks like and the way we are going, we may never see one. All opposition parties want to do is oppose everything the sitting party does and in the end, the public invariably becomes dissatisfied, because all they ever hear in the news is the failures or the “perceived” failures of the sitting government. Does unbiased oversight exist anywhere today?

    There is no business in the world that could survive if it operated using the governing structure followed by our present political system, so why should we be surprised when almost every subsequent government apparently “fails” to meet expectations after they are elected? Is there an alternative governing solution that has a hope of success?

  8. Is anyone in Nova Scotia reporting on the story that the NDP did not allow CH strikebreaker reporters into its convention? (I assume it was so, based on what I read on Twitter, but it isn’t like I’ve called the party to confirm.)

    I don’t think a political party should be deciding who is, and who isn’t, a valid journalist. You’d think they would have learned that from Alberta and the Rebel thing. Possibly they could have let them in, and refused to speak to them in individual interviews (as opposed to scrums) but to my mind it is a bad precedent to bar them entirely, no matter what one may think of of the labour situation.

    This also does not work well for the striking journalists. There could be a perception that they are beholden to the NDP for a favour since the NDP supported them in their labour dispute. Public perception of the objectivity of the reporting of the convention, and of the NDP in future, can be influenced by this.

    Consider the flip side: what if the Conservatives decided they didn’t like unions and refused to let unionized journalists into a convention because they wanted to support the employer rather than the union? How would that be any different? Would anyone accept that they should have the right to do so, as a political party?

    I agree that it is likely that the strikebreaker would do a shittier job than someone who has covered politics for years (and I’ve only read the Express coverage here) Fine. Give him/her enough rope to hang herself. Let the shitty coverage be printed. If your restaurant sells shitty food, you either end up paying more for a skilled professional cook, or you go out of business. Same with newspapers.

    I’m rather innocent in these affairs – I haven’t attended a provincial political convention since I was a teenager in the 70s – but I had assumed that the doors were open to anyone who wanted to go in and just watch and listen. It seems to me to be very lacking in transparency to be otherwise, particularly for a political party that hopes to form a government. Someone said on Twitter (again, not always a reliable source in and of itself) that the NDP was charging for observer status. Not sure what that means though…might get you places and services not available to just freely walking in and taking a seat.

    I wish the them all well (both strikers and the new NDP leader) but I think this is a terrible precedent.

  9. Regarding point number 2, the argument that we should hire more disabled people because a tax credit will pay part of their salary is well, suspicious. Government funds come from taxes, they are not the manna from heaven that lots of people and businesses in Nova Scotia pretend they are. If it’s federal tax money, well, I guess that’s good for NS at the expense of Canada.

    The average (not median) income in Nova Scotia is $43000. However, if you factor in the unemployed and those outside the labor force, it likely falls to about $35000-$37000. I don’t know what the numbers are.

    Unless we either spend less money on imports, get more money from exports, or get more money from Ottawa, or lower taxes Nova Scotians are going to keep getting poorer. Maybe one thing we should look at is the issue of rent-seeking in Nova Scotia – how much money leaves the province (or goes to the upper echelons of the 1% and effectively leaves the real economy of goods and services and goes into the world of investments and power) in the form of rent checks? What could we do with that money as a province?

    North America is in the final stages of imperial collapse, when the real economy (tangible products and services) gets destroyed in favour of an abstract, financial economy that only benefits a tiny fraction of people. I suspect most of our politicians understand this, and are either going to try and play ball to increase or maintain their power and privilege or they are going to try and get power by promising change.

    There is a massive bubble right now because huge amounts of printed or hallucinated money are chasing stocks, overvalued real estate, overvalued tech companies, all stuff that doesn’t really exist. That money is going to go somewhere – a lot of it is simply going to disappear, but a lot of it will make it into investments in the real economy – which means inflation of real goods and services. This will likely happen in Q2 or Q3 of this year.

    Something is going to change, and it might not be pretty. The problems are bigger than Nova Scotia, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do here in the province.

    1. No, you want to hire people with disabilities to get them off the social assistance rolls. A person can move from a $10k Provincial liability to a taxpaying wage-earner with a little accommodation. A ramp,an accessible bathroom – we should find a way to make these necessities available so people can lead fulfilling and self-reliant lives. It’s precisely the lack of government imagination that perpetuates dependency.
      Here are some details

  10. Re Gus Reed: What a telling piece! There is great irony here. These organizations claim to upset the status quo, and yet operate squarely within the status quo.

    Besides the issue with the lack of representation of people with disabilities, I am also disappointed, but not surprised, about the lack of representation of women.

    It’s as if these groups are saying, “We are going to make the future of our province better by being BOLD enough to keep the same people in power who have always been in power.” They claim to be gamechangers; they claim that the status quo is not an option; but if changing the status quo means giving up their own power, then that’s another story.

  11. Re Gus Reed: What a telling piece! There is great irony here. There organizations claim to upset the status quo, and yet operate squarely within the status quo.

    Besides the issue with the lack of representation of people with disabilities, I am also disappointed, but not surprised, about the lack of representation of women.

    It’s as if these groups are saying, “We are going to make the future of our province better by being BOLD enough to keep the same people in power who have always been in power.” They claim to be gamechangers; they claim that the status quo is not an option; but if changing the status quo means giving up their own power, then that’s another story.

  12. Austerity? hahahahahaaaaa

    What does anybody in this province know about austerity? Very little obviously if they think that austerity is the condition we are living with in Nova Scotia. You want to see austerity, try Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Greece. The use of that word in this province is nothing short of needing a boogeyman to blame. It’s catastrophization.

    In Nova Scotia, the real economic issue of our present time, past time, and likely future time, is the growing inequality of wealth.

    As a side note, it’s curious that a person who preaches to others what many people would call a book of fairy tales, would be considered as sound character for a commander-in-chief.

    1. The main item driving Gary Burrill’s leadership campaign was the growing inequality of wealth and how it stands in the way of addressing austerity.

      And the so-called free market is not a “fairy tale”?

      1. There is no austerity to address in Nova Scotia.

        Answering a question with a question is a waste of time.

  13. Loved Gus Reed’s piece.

    The more we call out the self-perpetuating, elitist charlatans the greater the chance we will have a society we ALL can be proud of.