On campus
In the harbour


1. $100 million refund for Exxon Mobile

Paul Withers reports:

A Nova Scotia government royalty refund owed to Exxon Mobil and its partners in the Sable Offshore Energy Project jumped by nearly $100 million late last year when the oil company unexpectedly increased the estimated cost of abandoning the project, the province’s energy minister says.


The estimate was booked as an expense in 2015-16 and was a major hit on the province’s bottom line, contributing to the increased deficit forecast by the McNeil government. 

The province will not release the total royalty refund obligation to the Sable operators, claiming it and the abandonment estimates are commercially privileged information restricted by confidentiality provisions in its 1997 royalty agreement with the operators.

2. Boatless ferry

Back in the day, the Yarmouth ferry service used actual boats.
Back in the day, the Yarmouth ferry service used actual boats.

Bay Ferries has still not acquired a boat for the Yarmouth–Portland ferry run, and that’s beginning to turn into its own disaster, reports Michael Gorman:

The uncertainty about what ferry will operate between Yarmouth and Portland has chased away one tour bus company that planned to use the service this summer and at least one more is having doubts.

Natalie Flint of Friendship Tours in Bloomfield, Conn., confirmed Wednesday that the company has cancelled rooms it had booked at a hotel in Yarmouth and won’t be making the trip to Nova Scotia this summer. The company reserved rooms for two nights in each of June, July and September.

3. More Bragging

I was in such a rush yesterday I overlooked the billionaire Bragg family’s most direct connection to the provincial Liberal Party; a reader reminds me:

Two younger Braggs (Courtney & Peter) work for the Liberal Party. Peter is Executive Assistant to Leo Glavine and Courtney works in the Liberal caucus office.


1. Geezergate

Grandma's going to march in front of Province House, just as soon as she figures out her pills.
Grandma’s going to march in front of Province House, just as soon as she figures out her pills.

Graham Steele on Geezergate:

One last, last thought on Seniors’ Pharmacare.

Late last March, Nova Scotia’s film community got only about a week’s notice that changes were afoot with the film tax credit. Finance minister Diana Whalen hinted at it in her pre-budget speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. Even then, film reps weren’t sure what was coming. Did they really hear what they thought they heard? Hadn’t the premier promised to extend the credit? It was only on budget day that they realized that the worst had happened. At that point, it became 100 times harder to get the government to change its mind. It’s a credit to the tenacity of the film industry that they got the government to walk the FTC back as far as they did, even though it wasn’t very far.

Today, seniors who are concerned about changes to the Seniors’ Pharmacare program have two full months’ notice. The changes come into effect on April 1, 2016. The way the pharmacare system’s set up, any changes to premium and co-pay don’t need to go to the legislature, or even to the Cabinet. They just need to be approved by the minister (see the Seniors’ Pharmacare regulations under the Fair Drug Pricing Act). The same would go for any postponement or scrapping of the changes. It’s all in the minister’s discretion.

Now I’m not inside the Liberal caucus, but I’m guessing that many of their MLAs are fairly close to apoplexy. None of them wants seniors calling them with complaints about pharmacare. That’s not the kind of “making a difference” that caused them to run for office. I’ll bet that the Liberal MLAs weren’t consulted about the changes. They read about it at the same time as everybody else. In fact, they probably got fed the same spin that everybody else did. It was only later that they realized, with dismay, that things were not quite as they seemed.

Let’s face it: the Liberal MLAs, especially in metro Halifax, took a smacking about the film tax credit. They’ve gamely defended it, even though they know in their hearts it was a mistake. Here’s the thing: they’re not going to go through that again. No way. Not with angry seniors. The MLAs are annoyed that they weren’t consulted again, and this time they won’t put up with it.

MLAs need help to do their jobs. It’s not easy standing up to the premier, who basically controls everything that’s important to them in their work as an MLA. MLAs need a push. They respond to constituency-level contact, from people they know and have to face in their community. 

So if someone were to ask me how to put the brakes on the Seniors’ Pharmacare changes, I’d say: Go see your MLA. Write. Call. Visit. Then do it again. Write. Call. Visit. Let them know that they’re your elected representative, and this is not what you want. Write. Call. Visit. Persistence is the most powerful force in politics. You have two months. Go.

Just a thought.

Steele has done an excellent job detailing just how badly the Liberals have mangled the Pharmacare file: it’s bad policy, it was implemented poorly, and it’s bad PR. And Steele’s right: the broad public may not care about the Film Tax Credit, but start mucking around with the price of retirees’ drugs and holy shit people will pay attention.

I’m amused, however, that Steele’s solution to this is for people to politely call their MLA, and maybe write a sternly worded letter. Whatever you do, though, don’t take to the streets!

Screw that. What we need right now is 10,000 old folks descending upon Province House and shaking their canes at and spraying spittle on every passing legislator until the politicians rue the day they dared fuck with Grandma.

Three years from now, I think, people will look back at Stephen McNeil’s grab at pensioners’ pocketbooks as the turning point that led to the Liberals’ electoral defeat in 2018.

But let’s seize the moment. While the public’s attention is focused on Pharmacare funding, let’s begin a discussion about publicly funded drug coverage for everyone.

The McNeil government is trying to frame the changes it’s making to Pharmacare as a way to better means test the program. But as I’ve explained before, means testing is a neoliberal strategy to do away with the social support for government programs so that they can ultimately be destroyed or privatized.

And while Pharmacare itself might be based on some degree of means testing for old people enrolled in the program, for everyone else, the better your job, the less you pay for drugs.

We’re a two-tiered society. People who work for government or are of the managerial and professional classes mostly have decent drug plans such that the price of medicine isn’t a huge concern. But for working stiffs with no drug coverage, not so much.

Instead of using the Pharmacare program as a means for increasing government revenue, we should be doing the exact opposite: we should broaden the program so everyone is covered, regardless of age or income.

And here’s how we pay for universal drug coverage: we tax people. And here’s how we means test universal drug coverage: we tax rich people and rich corporations more, and we tax poor people less.

2. Stephen McNeil’s Twitter police

“Last Thursday, the bureaucrat in charge of the McNeil government’s communications agency warned the province’s civil servants to be circumspect on social media,” notes Parker Donham.

“’Some types of personal use [of social media],’ wrote Tracey Taweel, ‘can result in discipline, up to and including dismissal, if they are damaging to the Government’s reputation.’”

As Donham notes, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made welcome pronouncements telling civil servants that “they were free to communicate with the media and the public — thus putting paid to the previous government’s muzzling.”

Meanwhile, however, the provincial Liberal party has set lose a team of PR goons to troll government employees’ Twitter accounts and round up those who question Dear Leader.

3. Striking journalists

Chronicle Herald

Scott Gillard draws our attention to journalists’ pay:

Real journalism triumphs over opinion, talking heads, and spin. There’s not a person among us who can cut through all the garbage that is thrown at us each day. That’s why we have journalists. They cut through the crap and provide some balance. They ask tough questions when we can’t. They see the spin and present the alternatives we may not otherwise know about. There’s no doubt that having people whose job it is to inform us is more important now than ever.

How then, with such an important job, is the top of the scale salary at the Herald only $80,000? That’s about $13,000 less than top-of-scale for Nova Scotia’s teachers. In 2012, Nova Scotia doctor’s made, on average, $258,000 (doctors’ remuneration is structured differently; they pay costs associated with their practice from their income). The base salary for registered nurses ranges between $60,000 and $85,000. An MLA makes no less than $89,000, and most of those folks take a pay cut to do that job. But the people who keep us informed about what those MLAs are up to? Max $80,000 and I hear only two of them are actually paid top-of-scale at the Herald.

4. Cranky letter of the day

To The Coast:

Dear Steve MacDonald,

After reading your letter in last week’s Coast, I hope you haven’t spent all your money on groceries, because you’ll need some cash for a good pair of glasses (“Buy two, get bent,” Reply All, January 28). I hate to spring this on you, but it’s Sobeys that’s your culprit, not Atlantic Superstore. For years now Sobeys has been advertising buy one, get one free.

I know you’re now in shock, Steve, so I’ll repeat. Sobeys of Atlantic Canada is the grocery chain that offers buy one get one free. Superstore offers Dollar Days—tons of items for $1. That’s right, Steve, $1. And you don’t have to buy two.

Perhaps you just have an axe to grind with Superstore. Maybe they kicked you out of the 10 items or less lane when you tried to put through that $12,000 worth of groceries. I personally think you should try Dollar Days at least once, because you are spending way too much on groceries.

Ken Weston, Calgary



Environment & Sustainability Standing Committee (1pm, City Hall) — organics processing is the topic of the day.


No public meetings.

On Campus


Thesis defence, Biology (10:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Garima Kulshreshtha will defend her thesis, “The use of Selected red Macroalgae (Sea Weeds) for the Reduction of Salmonella Enteritidis in Poultry.”

Data mining (11:30am, Slonim Conference Room, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Ricardo J. G. B. Campello, from the University of Sao Paulo and a visiting prof at the University of Alberta, will speak on “the evaluation of unsupervised outlier detection“:

The evaluation of unsupervised outlier detection algorithms is a challenge in data mining research. Little is known regarding the strengths and weaknesses of different detection models, and the impact of different choices for their parameters. The scarcity of appropriate benchmark datasets with ground truth annotation is a significant impediment to the evaluation of outlier methods. Even when labeled datasets are available, their suitability for the outlier detection task is typically unknown. Furthermore, the biases of commonly-used evaluation measures are not fully understood. It is thus difficult to ascertain the extent to which newly-proposed techniques improve over established ones. In this talk we elaborate on some these issues, aiming to shed some light on the problem of benchmarking of unsupervised outlier detection methods. 

The ‘environment’ of environmental sciences in Canada (3:30pm, 5th Floor Biology Lounge, Life Science Centre) — Ian Stewart, from King’s College, will speak on “The ‘environment’ of environmental sciences in Canada: reflections on recent socio-political developments, and why scientists should care.”

Racism is killing us softly (6pm, Room 303 Dalhousie Student Union Building) — from the event listing:

In commemoration of the African Heritage month, the Black Student Advising Centre in collaboration with the School of Social Work, Association of Black Social Workers and the JRJ chair of the Black Canadian Studies present an evening of story telling by Black Young Men. These young men will share their stories of struggles, challenges, success and future aspirations. 

Foucault, Post-Politics, and Counter-Security: Art and the Aleatory (7pm, Alumni Hall, New Academic Building, University of King’s College) — Ronjon Paul Datta, from the University of Windsor, will speak. The abstract of his talk:

This paper develops Foucault’s work on  government, security, and art to critically analyse “post-politics.” Contemporary social and political thinkers (e.g., Slavoj Zizek, Wendy Brown, Ernesto Laclau, and Erik Swyngedou)  characterize post-politics as the reduction of politics to the ways and means of expert social administation, involving the acceptace of liberal, representative parliamentary democracy and capitalism as the “only game in town.” This conception of post-politics however, misses the contingent formation of post-politics, it’s distinctive teleology of “development,” its dependence on apparatuses of security, and its unintended consequences, populist resistance to “experts” in particular. On each of those counts, Foucault’s analytics of power are instructive. Yet, while Foucault gives us the tools for understanding the emergence and effects of “postpolitics,” his own conception of power relations and transformative practices are inadequate to theorizing the conditions of its transformation. By way of contrast, Foucault’s considerations of aleatory practices in the arts (e.g., Raymond Roussell, Georges Bataille, and Pierre Boulez), open the door for considering alternatives to postpolitics, elaborated here as “counter-security,” as the collective art of differently problematizing futures.

COP21 (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — from the event listing:

Panelists Anders Hayden (Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Dalhousie), Meinhard Doelle (Director, Marine & Environmental Law Institute, Dalhousie) and Katie Perfitt, (Organizer, Canadian Youth Delegation to COP21 and Divest Dal) provide political, legal, and activist perspectives on the outcomes of COP21 and its implications for climate politics. 

Planetarium show (7:15pm, Room 120, Dunn Building) — “Bright Stars on Cold Winter Nights in a Warm Planetarium!” Five bucks at the door. Leave kids under eight years old out in the car. Wait! The show is fully booked. But you can RSVP for the next show here.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:20am Thursday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:20am Thursday. Map:

Dinkeldiep, ro-ro cargo, Saint-Pierre to HalTerm
Elektra, car carrier, Southhampton, England to Autoport
Atlantic Cartier, container ship, Liverpool, England to Fairview Cove
MSC Cristiana, car carrier, Sagunto, Spain to Autoport
BW Cougar, oil tanker, Houston to Imperial Oil


We’re recording not one, but two podcasts today. In the first, I’m being interviewed by Jesse Brown of CANADALAND about the DEAD WRONG series; that interview will be published on February 15. In the second podcast, I’ll be interviewing people about Geezergate for Examineradio; that podcast will be published tomorrow.

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

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  1. Excellent comment about Pharmacare Tim – coverage should extend to everyone and be paid through higher taxes on higher earners & corporations.

  2. Given the disparate range of self-destructive, self-inflicted government policies, executed and delivered in what simulates party hari kari, plus the equally broad and deep dissatisfaction of we the people, I think it’s reasonable to conclude government finances are much, much worse that any of us know or can even guess. The cumulative aggregate of time and media reports seem to paint a picture akin to a child building an ever-higher tower that becomes increasingly unsteady and unstable. Gloomy and negative? Yes. If and until we receive unspun, plain, accurate financial truth from government and those who would aspire to it, the tower grows ever higher and shakier.

  3. Great comment about pharmacare coverage Tim. It needs to be expanded to cover everyone and it needs to be paid for by higher tax rates on higher incomes and corporate incomes.

  4. It’s not just employee twitter accounts. Employees have been reprimanded for postings on their private Facebook accounts that question government policy, and not even in their department. Apparently, public servants are supposed to buy whatever their masters are selling them. The NDP put the clamps on free communication within government, and the Liberals have just added the veneer.

    1. From my own work experience I can say that the policy about social media has always been or has become the norm for civil service, serving members of the CAF and I bet Police (of all branches) etc. If I had been critical of government policy while representing myself as a member of any of those services or even if I was offering uncritical commentary on the politicians, policies or what not I could have been facing some form of discipline. I was also expected to only offer comment (if asked) on areas in which i had experience with. To stay in my lane as it were. I have in the past in social media or conversation been very critical of some government policy or my own organization but only as a private citizen, never telling anyone that I was a member of the organization or in the civil service. The policy didn’t keep me from exercising my right to bitch and complain, just to be sure I don’t represent myself on social media as anything but a private citizen. The scientits can now talk all they want about their work and how they interpret the impact their work has on policy. But I think you can be sure they aren’t getting carte blanche to stand up as a scientist civil servant and tell JT he’s an idiot if he pulls fighters out of the Middle East. A civil service, military, police agency has to be neutral as an organization serving the country or province. As private citizens chat away on whatever media you choose, nothing wrong with that.
      Probably didn’t say what I meant to say very well, and I apologize for spelling punctuation….I hate touch screens. But I like two spaces with my periods.
      Keep it up Tim. You too, fellow subscribers. Enjoy your commentary alot.

  5. Re: protest vs. direct MLA contact, I’d suggest that both you and Graham have it half right. Public demonstrations by “the usual suspects” will have little to no impact on government action UNLESS the demonstration is an ignition point for broader public support (or part of a bigger strategy to gain said support). Sometimes that happens but, all too often, I see average Jane’s and Joe’s tune out around the time when they see those usual suspects on the news grinding the latest axe. Sad but true. Through a combination of living on the modern economic hamsterwheel, consuming enormous amounts of establishment spin/junk media, and a good dose of (sometimes willful) ignorance, it’s really hard to get a lot of people exercised enough to take any kind of action. I don’t know what the solution is but I know it has to involve engaging more than the usual suspects. 10,000 grannies in the streets would be novel and notable. How do we make it happen?

  6. Tim, I agree with your analysis of the pharmacare issue, people should be out in the streets protesting. Yet I disagree with your image and ageist remarks about older people. ‘Geezer’ by the way, is defined as a term applying to men, in the US, it’s usually means ‘cranky old men’. Given how angry you often are, with reason, the term could apply to you! I know you wouldn’t write racist comments, so why ageist, which is one the worst forms of discrimination. For example, this comment ( What we need right now is 10,000 old folks descending upon Province House and shaking their canes at and spraying spittle on every passing legislator until the politicians rue the day they dared fuck with Grandma) if you had written something like: ‘What we need right now is 10,000 people who quality for pharmacare, and who must take drugs, descending upon Province House with signs saying: ‘Don’t screw with me” or you’ll regret it”. I wish you’d write about the despicable state of the ‘sick-care system’ and how it’s getting clogged with the people who because of a learned way of eating badly, and moving little, in NS, are now diabetic, obese or have hypertension, and need drugs to keep them alive. Yet nothing of any consequence is being done to assist people in becoming aware of how to stay healthy. There are lots of ways to eat well and stay fit and avoid taking drugs, if only one would take responsibility for their own health, which doesn’t happen much.

      1. The use of the word “geezer” is inaccurate and sloppy. The use of the term “geezergate” is just lazy journalism. Why do journalists insist on adding the suffix “gate” and calling it a story?

      2. For the record, I am a geezer and I embrace the term whole heartily. And I totally reject the term “ageism”. I grew up in a middle class home and I am white. By definition therefore, I have lived a privileged life. There are many more “isms” for us to legitimately complain about.

    1. The implication that individuals can somehow bootstrap their way to good health is, at best, a classist assumption and at worst, an abdication of the social contract.

      Social assistance dollars rarely are adequate to cover even the basics of life, let alone fruits, vegetables, and heart-friendly proteins. Carbs and processed foods are the majority of what the food bank provides – assuming the food bank has enough supplies to operate.

      When should a single mother working full-time at a minimum wage job schedule her run?

      Community rec teams/sports for kids? Better hope there’s enough subsidy to go around and that you’re not earning $1 over the threshold. Public school phys ed barely exists and is no longer the PE of years gone by when modules were based on sustainable healthy living.

      Many people – not only those living below the poverty line – have limited access to their family physician. Many more no longer have a GP and are served by walk-in clinics, and only for immediate issues. There’s no continuity of care, which leads to diseases such as diabetes and hypertension not being caught and managed in hopes of staving off a worse outcome. With the existing poor Pharmacare coverage, those with incomes low enough to qualify are held to a strict formulary that often covers only one or two “proven” medications, with little recourse for alternatives when the mainstream meds don’t address the issue.

      There’s no arguing the fact that a majority of current-day health problems are due in part to so-called “lifestyle choices”. The solution isn’t to blame individuals but to improve the composition of the social safety net so that those who need it the most aren’t being disadvantaged by the meager (and often begrudging) help we provide.

      1. I wasn’t blaming individuals who do not eat right. I believe that we (government and citizens) need to be concerned enough about terrible eating habits to insist that we start education on proper eating in school – daily, teaching kids how to eat fresh vegetables, as a start – even how to make a soup out of basic vegetables that will keep a family going for a long time. I know that having to go to food banks is a disgrace, yet somehow or other we accept that – which is even a bigger disgrace – and that starts if it hasn’t started already, the cycle of eating processed foods, which are the killer.

    2. I can’t agree. This image made me laugh out loud. As I approach geezer-hood, I look forward to becoming a raging granny. Punx not dead just aging!

  7. Everyone seems to want to be paid “top dollar” for the work that they do… no one seems to understand that that is one of the root causes of inflation. The more the workers get paid, the more the products they produce cost to manufacture and it does not matter which industry we talk about from street sweeping, education, rocket science,brain surgery, welder, nanny… it does not matter the profession or service. It is a never ending desire to reach for the top and the “wage asks” spiral ever higher as the years go by. Is there a reasonable solution to this unsustainable wage envy cycle… not likely; but at some point one prices oneself out of the competitive marketplace and that usually leads to job losses and business failures. It is easy to understand why everyone aspires to be paid what the feel they are worth. Unfortunately, the reality of the marketplace may not always agree with those aspirations…. in the real estate and stock market sections this type of scenario triggers a market correction…. when it happens in industry, some people call it union busting, bankruptcy or whatever.

    1. So that’s why we are in such a pickle, upper management and CEO’s are being paid ever more. This same argument could be applied to the growth of profit in companies. Co-ops seem like one way of putting a damper on this.

    2. Laughably simplistic free market bullshit. Blame wage earners for inflation?

      What about the unending need to increase corporate profits at the expense of wages, customer service or a quality product?

      1. I all works under the same umbrella, a corporation makes more profit and the workers feel entitled to great returns because they drive the production. Slice it anyway you want, workers, corporations, whatever… everyone one wants more and if it does not lead to inflation when everyone gets what they want, then you need to define what drives inflation? I am not picking on the workers, I am saying that no one is ever satisfied with what they have; but likewise no one is willing to be told what they are worth…. the employment industry does not accept market corrections with respect to wage rollbacks… it does not happen very often… but perhaps it should. Corporations and workers alike all contribute to inflation, say it ain’t so?

        1. “workers feel entitled to great returns because they drive the production”

          They might feel entitled, but the workers that largely benefit from demanding more are managers. Most people get cost of living increases, IF THAT, which represent a fraction of the overall profits that go straight into management and shareholder pockets.

          The cause of most inflation is the arbitrary profit increases expected by shareholders. Incremental increases over the long term are not sustainable, and usually mean NO increases to workers as a cost containment measure. Prices go up, costs stagnate or are forced down, and the winners are the upper echelons of the company and shareholders. Period.

          Blaming the workers who have zero influence over any of that is patently false. And asking them to continue to make the same wage (or less) when costs are rising all around them to the benefit of NOT them, is outrageous.

          1. I do not blame workers for wanting higher wages, but a job is a job, a welder is worth whatever skill level that welder has, better that there should be a profit sharing process applied rather than raising the basic wage level for a given skill set. I believe that pay based on skills is a better way to mange worker pay levels. Additional benefits can then be negotiated based on the more local environmental and profit related issues. Wage scales today have been altered today not based solely on skill levels and that cause wage negotiation problems. Worker wages are not the only thing that stimulates inflation,but because wages are a large proportion of most businesses operational expenses, wages do greatly affect inflation.

  8. Cranky letter – Am I seeing that right? A person from Calgary is disputing what a local man saw in a local grocery store? And then took the time to write a local paper ALL the way across the country to ‘correct’ him? Oh Wow!
    Weston last name… maybe related to Galen? Cranky Uncle?

    1. Seems to also have misunderstood the original letter, buy one get one is upfront. What Superstore does is not.

  9. I’m excited to hear you’re again on the Canadaland podcast! Your interview with Jesse last summer was great and what turned me on to the Halifax Examiner. Looking forward to episode 3 this Saturday!

    1. I was just about to comment the same, excited that two things I like will be having a crossover episode again! (Is it nerdy that there are a LOT of podcasts I listen to that I want to have crossovers?)

    2. I am also happy to see the news about the CANADALAND podcast. The Examiner and CANADALAND are two media organizations I am proud to support. I look forward to hearing the episode.

  10. The Twitter police is just a good indication where we are headed as a society under a corporatist, journalism-free future.

    Control the message in old and new media. How long will it take for a Flint, Michigan mercury scandal to happen here and no one would be the wiser as some corporate/government leech would deny responsibility and deny it’s even happening.

    1. Re: Flint, Michigan – Irving spraying pesticides in NB for decades, statistical analysis shows related (?) cancer clusters outside of accepted metrics. The gov’t starts investigating, and the person doing the investigating is fired in short order. Irving owns all the newspapers there, not much news coverage, it’s all swept under the rug a few weeks later….something like that?

  11. PETER Bragg is Executive Assistant to Leo Glavine, not Josh. Joshua Bragg is Executive Assistant to the Minister at Department of Energy, Acadian Affairs, & Communications Nova Scotia.

    1. Thousands of struggling young people in this province looking for work, and Leo hires the son of a billionaire. Thanks for nothing douchebag.

  12. What if Josh Bragg is the one who put together Glavine’s weird threat binder, AND wrote the shitty threatening pharmacare letter? What if it’s Braggs the whole way down?

      1. This story infuriates me. It will be a long time before I ever consider voting for the NS liberals because of this.