There are two CBC stories from yesterday involving Nova Scotia Business Inc.

The first is from Paul Withers:

The Nova Scotia Crown corporation responsible for economic development in the province says it needs to be more ‘inclusive’ when it refers potential clients to commercial real-estate brokers.

Nova Scotia Business Inc. called in brokerage industry leaders this week to develop a process for referrals following reports in the business website that the agency referred clients looking for office space ‘almost exclusively’ to Halifax-based commercial brokerage Partners Global.

Partners Global vice-president Geof Ralph is married to Angela Ralph, NSBI’s director of corporate projects and partnerships.


[NSBI president Laurel] Broten said Angela Ralph has no role in helping potential clients secure office space.

“I think it’s a coincidence that someone at NSBI is married to someone at a real estate brokerage firm. Angela does not work in the investment-attraction group.”

The second is from Jack Julian:

Business Minister Mark Furey said he was caught off guard by the elimination of 45 assembly jobs at LED Roadway Lighting and added that talks are underway to sell the company.

“I was certainly aware there was some discussion around the sale or change of ownership of LED Lighting,” he said.


The company still employs between 90 and 100 people in Amherst.

Nova Scotia Business Inc., the province’s business development corporation, has invested $11 million in the company since 2009.

“These are unfortunate circumstances,” said Furey. 

“We do have to respect the business entity. But at the same time we have a financial interest and obligation to taxpayers.”

What’s $11 million between friends?

2. Canada Games Centre roof

Canada Games Centre. Graphic: DSRA Architecture

Yesterday morning I wrote about the problems with the Canada Games Centre roof that were detailed in a tender offer for repairs to the roof. When city offices opened, I asked the communications people some questions about the roof, and heard back from spokesperson Nick Ritcey:

This project is for both routine and preventative roof maintenance. The building has had some periodic leaks over the past couple of years, but this isn’t uncommon for a building of this size. The ice storm in 2015 accelerated some of the wear and tear, but there was no major damage. The weight of the solar panels have also put some extra stress on the roof, but nothing significant. They were installed using industry best practices and this roofing project will address some of the weight issues.

The project is estimated to cost less than $50,000. The Canada Games Centre is a $45 million building, so this repair is an appropriate amount for a building of this size and age. The building is now seven years old. The roof, installed by Flynn Canada had a warranty of two years labour and five years material, so this project will not be covered. It will also not be covered by insurance. The project has been put to tender because the Halifax Regional Municipality does not have roofers on staff.  

There are no deficiencies in the roof and no safety issues. This project will not interrupt operations or programming.

I don’t know anything much about roof repair, but I’ll be amazed if this project comes in under $50K. We’ll see I guess.

3. Suspicious Packages

Another appearance of the Suspicious Packages yesterday. A police release from 10:27am:

Halifax Regional Police are currently on scene investigating a suspicious package in Halifax.

At 9:25 a.m., police responded to Miller Waste Systems located at 20 Horseshoe Lake Drive for a report of a suspicious package that was located by staff. Officers are on scene with the Explosive Disposal Unit to examine the package. The investigation is ongoing.

The business has been evacuated as a precaution, and Susie Lake Crescent at Chain Lake Drive and Chain Lake Drive beyond civic 59 has been closed to traffic.

And from 11:23am:

Officers with the Explosive Disposal Unit determined there was no threat and the streets have been re-opened to traffic.

Here’s the ongoing chronicle of Suspicious Package sightings in Halifax:

April 2013: police closed Barrington Street after someone called in a suspicious package that turned out to be a briefcase full of bricks. This is the first use of the police robot, I think.
May 2013: a suspicious package full of something that vaguely looked electrical was discovered at the Halifax Shopping Centre, causing much mayhem and worry until a sheepish salesman explained that he had accidentally left his bag of hearing aids behind.
May 2013: a suspicious package is reported in a parking lot near Stadacona. I later wrote: “The very best in anti-terrorism technology — a water cannon-wielding robot! — is employed to blast the innocent bag someone left next to a car to smithereens. Freedumb!”
June 2014: unidentified package found near Dockyard.
May 2015: a suspicious package that closed Robie Street turned out to be a suitcase full of clothes.
May 2015: someone left a gym bag on George Street, and so the downtown core had to be shut down for two hours.
September 2015: unidentified package exploded by military police at Rainbow Gate at HMC Dockyard.
July 2016: An empty briefcase was left near the corner of Almon and Gottingen Streets, which required the efforts of the bomb squad, the closure of various streets, and police thanking everyone for being forever watchful.
July 2016: A “vigilant” citizen alerted authorities to a lunch pail left a block from where dozens of construction workers are building the Nova Centre, and so Brunswick Street was closed, ironically at lunchtime.
March 2017: two days after an attack on the British parliament, someone left something in Gorsebrook Park, and so access to and from the IWK and the Special Education Authority was limited for three hours.
May 2017: during the Youth Run associated with the Bluenose Marathon, a woman left an empty picnic basket near the fountain in the Common. Somebody mistook the basket for a suitcase and then that became a big hullabaloo, with police issuing a release looking for the woman so they could ask her why she littered.
May 2017: someone left a backpack on a bench outside Pier 21, The bomb-sniffing dog was employed and found only undescribed “personal items,” but evidently not a personal bomb.
June 2017: someone left something at the Miller Waste recycling facility in Bayers Lake that spooked some easily spooked person, so 50 employees were given an early lunch break, the bomb squad was called, and the streets were blocked off, but it turned out the package was nothing dangerous — presumably just recycling.

4. Does Legal Pot = Bigger Police Budget?

I had to rush off for an early morning court appearance yesterday (as a reporter, not a participant), so rushed through Morning File. One of the things I wanted to get to but didn’t have time for was this article by Tom Ayers in Local Xpress:

The national legalization of cannabis will cost the Cape Breton Regional Police Service more money for equipment, training and enforcement, but officials aren’t yet sure how much more.

Chief Peter McIsaac told the Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s board of police commissioners Tuesday that federal legislation on recreational pot use is expected to kick in July 1, 2018, but the details on growing, retailing and enforcing regulations are still being worked out.

“There’s a lot of moving parts in relation to this … but it’s going to impact on the provinces and it’s going to impact on the municipalities and our communities here,” he said.

“I just wanted to put this on your radar, because it’s going to impact us in so many ways.”


“I can tell you, as chief of police in this jurisdiction here, it concerns me in other areas, too, because when uptake happens … I’m going to have more people tied up that are not on the streets, doing evaluation tests, to the point where we may be coming back to this council asking for an increase in officer funds.”

This is patently ridiculous, but I didn’t have time to spell it out. Thankfully, Mary Campbell unpacks it in this week’s edition of the Cape Breton Spectator:

First, the CBRM already has more police officers than it needs and despite falling crime rates and an aging (and shrinking) population, it hired eight new officers between 1 February 2017 and 31 May 2017 to “maintain” the force’s “complement of officers.” That complement, as of 2015, was 201.

And second, won’t legalizing pot also free up some officers? The ones who are busy now busting people for possession? Something McIsaac says they’ll be doing right up until legalization eve:

The laws are on the books right now and we don’t have any other option. If someone is in possession of marijuana, or a certain amount of over 30 grams for trafficking … yeah, it’s business as usual.

Why didn’t McIsaac say anything about possible savings associated with marijuana legalization? (JK! What self-respecting police chief would suggest he needs less money?)

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator.

5. Old stuff and the tunnel delusion

On Tuesday, I was walking down what used to be Argyle Street and saw the work crews unearthing something, so tweeted about it:

An old-looking brick structure under Argyle Streer

— Tim Bousquet (@Tim_Bousquet) June 13, 2017

I knew not to get too excited about this — I presumed it was just an old culvert, a leftover from the days before the street was levelled off and all traces of the swales and streams that carried water from Citadel Hill were buried.

But of course, any time something old is found beneath a Halifax street, people start going on about those damn tunnels again. As Alexa MacLean reports for Global:

The discovery of an 1800s piece of infrastructure at a downtown Halifax construction site has created quite the “buzz” on social media.

“When they [construction workers] first exposed it, someone took a photo and said, ‘oh my god it’s a tunnel entrance,’ and it’s very much blown up on social media,” said Laura de Boer, the site archaeologist for the Argyle and Grafton Shared Streetscape project.

Underground tunnels have been a topic of fascination for many Nova Scotians for decades.

“It’s a very cool story. We would love to find a tunnel, as a student I was very hopeful,” de Boer said.

“We do have some short length tunnels that certain businesses would have used historically to get goods in. There would be like a hatch in the sidewalk to bring it in underground,” de Boer said.

The discovery made on Argyle Street turned out to be a manhole estimated to be built in the late 19th century.

[This is me shaking my head, sighing, and muttering about people.]

People: first off all, “underground tunnel” is ridiculously redundant. All tunnels are underground. Second: there are no secret tunnels. Get over it.

As I wrote back in 2015:

Every place I’ve ever lived has myths of “secret tunnels” running under the town, and Halifax is no different. Sunday, CBC is airing Halifax Underground, a documentary by filmmaker Scott Simpson and Tell Tale Productions, which explores the tale of myriad tunnels under Halifax, including the absolutely absurd notion that there’s a secret tunnel running from Citadel Hill to Georges Island.

Recently, a Facebook page that discusses my old hometown of Chico, California was discussing the “Chinese tunnels” that supposedly exist under that town, and I went and dug up something I wrote about the tunnels in 2000:

Old Town, on Flume Street between Fifth and Sixth, was a center of the various vice trades — gambling, prostitution, and above all, opium— and the police would periodically raid the houses. The Chinese soon learned to connect their basements, and even to extend new tunnels under Flume Street, so that when one building was raided the occupants could safely emerge down the road and escape out the back of another. This is the origin of the legendary “Chinese Tunnels” in Chico. Many decades later, at the turn of the twentieth century, competing and non-cooperating utility companies established an elaborate network of tunnels beneath the streets in the business district of town — one for water, one for gas, another for sewers, and a fourth for electricity — none of which had anything to do with the Chinese, but in the common mind the earlier labyrinth beneath Chinatown was confused with business district tunnels, such that nowadays every utility service duct in town is referred to as a “Chinese Tunnel.”

It was easy to dig through the loam of the Sacramento Valley. Not so much in Halifax.

Still, I suspect that much the same sort of conflation of past events is at work here in Halifax. Early on, there may have been a handful of tunnels dug for military purposes, especially on the drumlin of Citadel Hill, where it was relatively easy to dig through the clay. But beyond inter-connecting basements, any hard-dug tunnels through the slate in the business district were for profit-driven utility companies, and would be as short and narrow as possible. Such tunnels are only “secret” because who pays attention to utility lines? I bet most readers don’t even know where their own water meter is. Do you know where the sewer flows outside your house? Which direction the water main comes from?

And to Georges Island? Please. With all our modern technology, explosives, and detailed geologic maps, we’d have a hard time digging a tunnel through the slate beneath 18 metres of ocean today, and such an enterprise would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. There is no way people in 18th or 19th century Halifax would even seriously contemplate such a project, never mind successfully complete it, and in secret no less. That’s just delusional.


1. Cycling

“Last week, Halifax’s active transportation team presented their vision for the future of cycling in Halifax to a packed room at the Central Library,” reports Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:

There was not much new in the presentation, more a summation of the latest in bike planning soon to be released as part of the Integrated Mobility Plan, which goes to council this summer.

The big vision: By 2020 (three construction seasons from now), HRM will have a network of protected bike lanes and local street bikeways that looks something like this:

The idea, and the fact that it’s made it this far in the planning process, signals a big change for Halifax. Up till now, our cycling infrastructure has gone in based on where other road work was planned. That’s a great way to stretch a buck, but it offers up an absurdly piecemeal network of infrastructure, which doesn’t really get people from A to B, and therefore doesn’t much increase the number of people taking to two wheels.

But building a connected, mostly protected network in a short time frame (yes, 2020 is just around the corner, in city-building timescale,) represents a whole new way of thinking.

Click here to read “The future of cycling in Halifax may be bright, assuming we get around to it.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

2. Expo67

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Continuing his Centennial theme, Stephen Archibald recalls visiting Expo67. I particularly like the photo above, of which Archibald comments:

I saw the Minister of Handicrafts from a forgotten country, flanked by some serious heat.

I’ve now spent too much time analyzing that photo. There’s a hell of a lot going on there: the befuddled Mountie; the put-upon G-man seemingly thinking he’d rather be assassinating someone and for some reason wearing an argyle tie; the unexplained art plastered on a indistinct brick wall; the minister warily looking at some potential threat out of frame, his traditional garb offset by a wristwatch lest anyone think he doesn’t know what this game is all about. It’s like six or seven worlds coming together in one instant of time. Archibald should do this for a living.




Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — Kelsey Lane will talk about cycling in winter.

On campus



Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Thursday, 7:45am, New Cineplex OE Smith Theatre, IWK) — “Research Priority Setting in Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease: The Powerful Impact of Engaging Patients and Families in Research.”

Interdisciplinary Thesis Defence, Interdisciplinary Studies  (Thursday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Jules Fauteux will defend his thesis, “Career Experiences of Canadian Information and Communications Technology Executives: Understanding Career Advancement Barriers and Enablers for Women and Men.”

Dogs and ponies (Thursday, 1pm, the theatre named for a fucking bank, Marion McCain Building) — Richard Florizone continues with his travelling road show.


Thesis Defence, Chemistry (Friday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Brandon Groves will defend his thesis, “The Synthesis of Prodigiosene-Based Anticancer Reagents and Development of Reactions for Dipyrrin-Based Molecules.”

Ponies and dogs (Friday, 10am, Room B310, B Building, Sexton Campus) —Richard Florizone continues with his travelling road show.

Fluorescence Imaging (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Gonzalo Cosa, from McGill University, will speak on “Chemoselective Fluorescence Imaging of Nucleophiles, ROS and Redox Processes: From High Throughput to Single Particle to Single Molecule Events.”

Saint Mary’s


Violence on Campus (Thursday, 7pm, Sobey Building) — a panel discussion about violence on university campuses, with Constance Backhouse from the University of Ottawa, Kelley Castle from the University of Toronto, Farrah Khan from Ryerson, and the CBC’s Senior Investigative Correspondent Diana Swain.

In the harbour

East Coast. Photo: Halifax Examiner

1:30am: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Saint John
2:30am: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
4am: NCC Sama, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Antwerp
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
7am: Maasdam, cruise ship with up to 1,510 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney
8am: Wylde Swan, sailing ship, arrives at Pier 19 (Tall Ships Quay) from St. George’s, Bermuda
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
3pm: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
3:30pm: Maasdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
4:30pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport back to Pier 41


It’s a slow news time.

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

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  1. NSBI. Tim covered the Tanya Shaw weeks connections with her Unique solutions and her man being at NSBI and now this one very similar. HEY this is not new at NSBI with the wink wink nudge nudge. I know many business people who would get excited about new companies coming to Nova Scotia as being new potential customers who followed up contacting the new companies only to find that their needs were already fulfilled. This was going on long before the new CEOs time. typically its the whole if I sit on your board you sit on mine and give the inside scoop. I gave up trying. Halifax is NOT open for business. It is closed to a small group of the very same people – think Black ties. its more of the same. unless you have done business in other provinces you have no idea how incestuous this place can be

  2. The problems with the Canada Games Centre are the same as the BMO CENTRE, for their age, the buildings are falling apart because the city doesn’t operate them itself. They will continue to fall apart until Halifax council decides to take direct operational control of them which will stop the band aid fixes.

  3. Well I guess if the HRM spokesperson says everything is hunky-dory with that leaking, structurally deficient roof that was not designed and built adequately to withstand the weight of the solar panels that were installed on it, and that it is not uncommon to have these problems only 6 years after construction, then all of us taxpayers should just shut up and be happy to pay for it. Again.

    1. Let’s see. Homeowners can expect to budget 1% of the purchase price of their homes for annual maintenance. This item represents zero point one percent (0.1%) in seven years.

      But complex public buildings must different, eh? They must be flawless, totally free of maintenance problems, functioning perfectly for 40-60 years. If anything ever goes wrong with them, such as damages caused by 1-in-100-year ice loads, it is prima facie proof that the government owners are irresponsible knaves, no doubt pocketing kickbacks from corrupt contractors.

  4. What are you trying to say with this line? “…his traditional garb offset by a wristwatch lest anyone think he doesn’t know what this game is all about.”

    So he’s a minister, from a country in West Africa (based on his clothing, dubbed here disparagingly as “traditional garb”), a country that Archibald may have “forgotten” but citizens of that country probably haven’t….suggesting that the “forgotten” is misplaced in the sentence.

    And so what that he’s wearing a watch? OMG. The nerve, wearing a watch at the same time he’s wearing clothing that is normal in his country and culture.

    1. I saw it as the perfect representation of a post-colonial moment, as one form of bald empire evolved into a more sophisticated but just as devastating world order. It was 1967, and I thought that one photo captured all those transitions, good and bad, going on. Undoubtedly I can’t express it adequately.

      1. More like undoubtedly no one can write anything anymore without some ultra sensitive snowflake seeing offence where there is none. Have another coffee, Tim, and keep doing what you do.

        1. Well, there is a legitimate point. It’s like the whole idea that there is some contradiction in poor people living in remote regions having cellphones. Tim is doing a close analysis of the photo, Joan is doing an analysis of what Tim said. I don’t see how name-calling helps anyone.

          1. I wasn’t saying there’s a contradiction. I don’t think the guy is poor at all. I think there’s a lot of representation going on, on all sides. It’s theatre. And it’s theatre set in a particular and yet changing geopolitical context, with each player having a different script in mind, and with an ever-changing stage. The world was coming undone in 1967, and being recreated… oh well, I should’ve just said it was a cool photo and left it at that. We’ve evolved a tiny bit since then, and that’s a good thing, but today’s sensibilities can’t capture what was going on 50 years ago.

      2. This is exactly the kind of commentary that is applied to photography critiques as people try to interpret an image for what the image could mean as a piece of art beyond the simple documentation of a moment in time. I think your analysis was spot on, Tim.

  5. When I lived in Windsor, Ontario there were all kinds of absurd rumours of secret tunnels leading to the Detroit River from Prohibition smuggling days. I never did see one of these tunnels, and all the historical evidence indicated that the smugglers moved their liquor fairly openly, at least on the Canadian side.

    I don’t know about Halifax, but in cities road work sometimes digs up long-closed public washrooms. These often had entrances on either side of the street, with the washrooms situated under the street. I remember a particularly large one being dug up in Windsor ON when I lived there, and even the city had forgotten it was there.

    Also, sometimes buildings had rooms that extended under the street, often for storing coal. When no longer needed the entrances were bricked up and the rooms forgotten. Then road work digs them up, and the tall tales start as to their purpose…used by Al Capone for secret meetings and such.

    I think there was a “tunnel” found near the waterfront in Halifax a few years back, no? It was found to be a very old sewer or drain, I think. Plus think of downtown Halifax — nearly all solid rock not far under the surface. If you were going to build a tunnel there, secret or otherwise, you’d probably need a damned good reason to go to the trouble.