1. Boat Harbour

PLFN marchers. Photo: Joan Baxter

“The day-by-day countdown to the closing of Boat Harbour happens on a large painting erected in front of the Pictou Landing First Nation band council office, reports Joan Baxter:

The painting depicts Boat Harbour as it was before it was dammed (and damned) in 1966, transformed from a healthy tidal estuary to a stinking lagoon for the toxic effluent from the pulp mill on Abercrombie Point.

On Friday, October 4, 2019, the number at the top of the painting was 118.

After more than 19,300 days of suffering with the stench and pollution of Boat Harbour in their back yard, the people of Pictou Landing First Nation (PLFN) had just 118 more to wait until it would be closed, and they could start looking forward to the remediation and restoration of the estuary they know as “A’se’K ” — and then start to heal from more than half a century of environmental racism.

On the same day, hundreds of people — I’ve heard numbers ranging from 300 to 600, but estimated myself that there were about 500 — assembled on the PLFN reserve for a one-kilometre walk in support of the legislated closure date.

The Boat Harbour Act, passed unanimous by all three parties in April 2015, stipulates that the mill cease using the existing facility by January 31, 2020. However, there is growing pressure on the government to amend the legislation to give Northern Pulp time to get a new effluent treatment facility approved and constructed.

Click here to read “Pictou Landing First Nation to Stephen McNeil: Honour the Boat Harbour Act and No Pipe in the Strait.”

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2. Voting as a progressive

Writes Stephen Kimber:

Thanks to our first past the post system — thanks, Justin — progressives in Halifax still face a Hobson’s choice when it comes to the federal election

Click here to read “The perils of being progressive.”

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3. Pregnant in prison

“How many infant deaths, stillbirths and untreated miscarriages will incarcerated people have to experience before we recognize prison is an unacceptable place for pregnant people and end the practice entirely?” asks Martha Paynter:

We should not incarcerate pregnant people because a just society does not deliberately harm and abuse pregnant people and their future children. Prisoners’ human rights to security of the person, to protection from torture, and to freedom from gender discrimination do not stop at the prison gates, yet we have ample evidence that these rights cannot be upheld in prison contexts.

We have to stop thinking we are going to achieve adequate health care for incarcerated pregnant people.

This is especially true in Canada. Our country is geographically enormous. Our prisons are rural and dispersed. Incarcerated women are tiny populations, often located in a small separate unit within large men’s jails. Prison health services are understaffed and overwhelmed by the needs of populations with incomparably complex health histories including trauma, substance use disorders, mental illness, infectious disease and chronic pain. In this context adequate pregnancy care is impossible. The registered nurse who was disciplined for failing to call for help for Julie Bilotta did not know the signs of labour and was reportedly caring for 200 prisoners by herself.

We need to stop incarcerating pregnant people, period.

Click here to read “We need to stop incarcerating pregnant people.”

4. Melford Railway

“This is a tale of two railways: neither has trains rolling over it and both are being eyed to serve container terminals that don’t exist,” writes Rick Grant for the Cape Breton Spectator:

Nova Scotians pump thousands of dollars — up to $60,000 — a month into the Cape Breton section of Genesee and Wyoming’s (G&W) Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway (CBNS) so the company won’t rip up tracks that trains can’t run over, all in the hope of a container terminal being built in Sydney. We hear that tale regularly.

But there’s another rail tale few have heard. About six years ago, we Nova Scotians sold part of a railway we owned in Antigonish and Guysborough Counties. We were paid for it but, at this point, we don’t know how much. The money was for sections of a rail corridor that hasn’t seen a train in almost 65 years — and that has no tracks.

This article attempts to piece the story together, but the relevant documents aren’t entirely clear. What we know is that the section of rail corridor was sold by the province to Melford International Terminal, which in turn sold it to Melford Railway Company. And the paper trails for both the railway and container terminal companies lead to the same addresses in Halifax and Seattle, Washington.

Click here to read “A Tale of Two Railways.

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5. Stadium

Councillor Sam Austin is putting a motion before the entire city council tomorrow that if passed will kill any further city involvement with stadium analysis or planning. His motion reads:

That Halifax Regional Council:

  1. Rescind its motion of October 30, 2018 directing staff to, among other things, bring a detailed analysis back to Council on the Schooner Sports and Entertainment proposal for a stadium at Shannon Park.
  2. Directs that staff take no further action on the stadium proposal submitted by Schooner Sport and Entertainment.


The proposal for a stadium at Shannon Park has been submitted to HRM by Schooner Sport and Entertainment. It will take considerable staff time to complete a detailed analysis of the proposal. Now that the broad outline of what’s being asked is known, Council should clearly decide whether we want to commit the time and resources to advancing the analysis.

Procedurally, Austin needs a two-thirds vote for the motion to even be considered, and then a majority vote for it to be passed. I don’t know that he’ll get either, but it’s good to put each councillor on record on the stadium. At least we’ll know who to blame the ensuing disaster on, should Austin not prevail.

6. Paul Russell is new HRM councillor for Lower Sackville

Paul Russell. Photo: Twitter

Paul Russell has won the byelection for the HRM council seat for Lower Sackville, which was vacated when former councillor Steve Craig moved on to the legislature. Russell pledges to “make Sackville an amazing place to live.” I can find no reference to city issues like a stadium on his blog. He does, however, implicitly reject the idea that we’re facing a climate emergency:

The carbon tax is hard to justify, especially in Nova Scotia where we are expected to pay the highest carbon tax in the country. By 2022 we are expected to pay more than $1,120 per household per year in this tax. This estimate is based on the current cost of oil that we get from Saudi Arabia. But the carbon pricing is expected to increase, and so once it crosses $100 per tonne of CO2 we will be expected pay $2,240 per year.

If the price of oil goes up, because we have to truck it in from Alberta, then the carbon tax will go up as well.

Russell has uncritically bought the Albertan oil industry line. This doesn’t bode well for further council action on climate issues.

7. Dal researcher accused of conflict of interest

Bradley C. Johnston. Photo: dal.ca

“A surprising new study challenged decades of nutrition advice and gave consumers the green light to eat more red and processed meat,” report Tara Parker-Pope and  for the New York Times:

But what the study didn’t say is that its lead author has past research ties to the meat and food industry.

The new report, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, stunned scientists and public health officials because it contradicted longstanding nutrition guidelines about limiting consumption of red and processed meats. The analysis, led by Bradley C. Johnston, an epidemiologist at Dalhousie University in Canada, and more than a dozen researchers concluded that warnings linking meat consumption to heart disease and cancer are not backed by strong scientific evidence.

Parker-Pope and  get into the battling views of conflict-of-interest, and be sure to check out Johnston’s defence on the Dal website, but what I found particularly interesting was the discussion of methodology in the NYT article:

Critics of the meat study say that it has similarities to the industry-funded sugar study and uses the same standard to evaluate evidence. Dr. Frank Hu, the chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said he was stunned when he realized that Dr. Johnston was both the leader of the meat study and the same researcher who led the industry-funded review that attacked guidelines advising people to eat less sugar. He said that in both cases Dr. Johnston undercut sugar and meat recommendations by using a tool called GRADE that was mainly designed to rate clinical drug trials, not dietary studies.

“You can’t do a double-blinded placebo-controlled trial of red meat and other foods on heart attacks or cancer,” Dr. Hu said. “For dietary and lifestyle factors, it’s impossible to use the same standards for drug trials.”

Drug trials are primarily designed to look at efficacy and safety, Dr. Hu said, while the main goal of diet studies is to identify risk factors that influence obesity and chronic diseases. That is why scientists use data from large observational studies and randomized trials to look at the health effects of different eating patterns and other behaviors that cannot be studied like pharmaceutical therapies.

Dr. Johnston said the real problem is that people don’t want to accept findings that contradict long-held views. “People have very strong opinions,” he said. “Scientists should have intellectual curiosity and be open to challenges to their data. Science is about debate, not about digging your heels in.”

But Dr. Hu said Dr. Johnston’s methods were not very objective or rigorous and the tool he employed in his meat and sugar studies could be misused to discredit all sorts of well-established public health warnings, like the link between secondhand smoke and heart disease, air pollution and health problems, physical inactivity and chronic disease, and trans fats and heart disease.

“Some people may be wondering what his next target will be,” Dr. Hu said. “But I’m concerned about the damage that has already been done to public health recommendations.”

There is a lot of academic research being done in various Halifax institutions, and just about zero reporting on it; it took the New York Times to bring Johnston’s paper to my attention.

Rightly, we should be taking a harder look at the research being done at our universities. A lot of it will prove to be beneficial and useful, or even just interesting, and that should be celebrated. I don’t entirely fault the media here — academics themselves seem to want to hole up in their ivy towers and not engage with the public that funds their research.

And then there’s the problematic and/or questionable research that our money is funding.

I’m aware of quite a few instances of the published work of local researchers being subsequently retracted. Some of these seem like relatively minor affairs, but a couple appear at least on the surface to rise to the level of academic fraud. Frankly, I haven’t had the time or resources to further investigate these instances, and so I won’t yet detail them here.

Still, “explore academic research” is on my long list of the things that are not adequately covered by news media. I’d like to return to it in a systematic fashion one day.

8. Truro council to consider

Lynn Jones

As a result of Lynn Jones’ “watching deer while Black” letter, today the Truro town council will consider this motion:

Be it resolved the Town of Truro work collaboratively with the African Nova Scotian Community in Truro to enhance our relationship through historical recognition of their contribution to the community, improved communications to open dialogue on other community concerns, and to support the community as it seeks justice and development through the provincial and federal governments. 

9. The rich famous among us

Aaron Carter, who is… well, I’m not sure what he is, but he’s famous, at least among the pre-teen set, and now he claims he’s bought Kaulbach Island, which he misidentifies as being in Halifax (it’s off the coast of Chester). We could do without the drama.

10. Bridge closure

The Extinction Rebellion group have closed the Macdonald Bridge this morning.

I’m ambivalent about this. On the surface, it seems like people speaking past each other. On the one hand, the local Extinction Rebellion group is clearly familiar with and tied into the broader Extinction Rebellion movement; in Europe, bridge closures to raise awareness of the climate emergency are a regular occurrence, and have more or less become normalized, part of the everyday fabric of life.

On the other hand, a lot of people in Halifax aren’t familiar with that larger movement and its tactics, and are angry. Supposedly, the angry people will therefore not get on board with climate emergency protests and, I dunno, suddenly want to destroy the planet. Like we all are anyway, by living our lives as usual.

I live in Dartmouth. I’m looking out my window right now and seeing the bridge traffic back up. Just like I did for a year and a half when bridge closures were a regular occurrence for the bridge redecking project. I got to the point where the bus-around, or drive-around, to the MacKay Bridge didn’t even phase me anymore. One more closure isn’t a big deal.

Still, I don’t know if a bridge closure is the very best and most effective climate emergency action. But if we sit around and wait for only the perfect climate emergency actions, we’ll soon be experiencing the nightmarish reality of unabated climate change.

I have sympathy for climate emergency protestors: something has gotta be done! It’s an emergency!

I’m the first to say that the responsibility for addressing the climate emergency rests primarily on the institutions that run our society — governments, corporations, universities, etc. But what does an emergency look like that inconveniences no one? We can’t have carbon taxes, as people will suffer at the gas pump. We can’t put tighter restrictions on power production, as electricity rates will go up. We can’t take the bus, because it doesn’t take us precisely from our front doors to our places of work with no stops in between. We can’t stop mining oil because our brothers-in-law works in the oil fields. We can’t have protests in the streets, as our commutes will get longer.

We appear to want a climate emergency that doesn’t affect our lives. Which is to say, we want to do nothing at all.


I travelled to Toronto last week for Wrongful Conviction Day, which is hosted by Innocence Canada. (Innocence Canada was formerly known as the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted.)

The main event was Thursday night. It was a dinner in which many exonorees were honoured, and people who work to free the wrongfully convicted are celebrated.

It was moving. It’s good to give the exonerees the spotlight, to let them know that there is a community that cares for them, that recognizes the injustices done to them, that validates them as worthy people, deserving of our respect. That hopefully helps these often-broken people on their journey towards healing.

It’s also good to celebrate the many people who work to overturn the injustices perpetrated by our police departments, our crown prosecutors, and our judges and courts. There are so many unsung heroes in the movement, people who devote untold hours to right these wrongs. It was good to see them recognized.

The next day, Friday, I stopped by the Innocence Canada office to talk with some people, and Win Wahrer, who holds the title of “director of client services” but additionally organizes all the Innocence Canada events and pulls the community together, showed me a proclamation signed by none of than Halifax Mayor Mike Savage. I took a bad photo of it (above). I can’t find the 2019 proclamation on the city’s website, but there is an identical proclamation from 2018 — you can see a better version of it here; it reads:

Whereas, the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to identifying, advocating for and assisting individuals convicted of a crime they did not commit;

The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted helps innocent individuals obtain their exoneration and freedom;

A wrongful conviction impacts a person’s quality of life and the quality of life of the individuals family members and society.

THEREFORE, be it resolved that I, Mayor Mike Savage, on behalf of Halifax Regional Council, do hereby proclaim, October 2~, 2018 as “Wrongful Conviction Day’ in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Dated at Halifax, Nova Scotia this 2~ day of October 2018

This is rich. The city, and indeed every council member, every police commissioner, and every one else at City Hall, has been utterly silent about the wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun, which was in part perpetuated by the Halifax police and agents at the RCMP contracted by the city. As far as any official or public action taken by any representative of the city goes, Assoun’s wrongful conviction never happened and the city need not address it. And yet here’s the mayor celebrating the work of Innocence Canada.

Proclamations are nice. Actually doing something to address the wrongful conviction you’re responsible for would be even nicer.




No public meetings.

Oddly, five out of six regularly scheduled city governance meetings have been cancelled this week. They are the North West Community Council, Appeals Standing Committee, Design Review Committee, Regional Watersheds Advisory Board, and a special meeting of the Police Commission. I’d like to think that’s because all the councillors, committee members, commissioners, and board members have set everything else aside so they can focus like a laser on the climate emergency. Who am I kidding?


City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — see #5 above. And here’s the rest of the agenda.



No public meetings.


Health (Tuesday, 9am, Province House) — Department of Health and Wellness, 811 ProgramDr. Todd Howlett, Medical Director; Natalia Gallant, TeleHealth Manager of Quality and Privacy; Wendy Boutilier, TeleHealth Manager of Operations and Clinical Services.

Committee page here.

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)

On campus



Thesis Defence, Biology (Monday, 10:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) —PhD candidate Qi Liu will defend “Photoperiod and Growth Manipulation Reduced the Problem of Unwanted Sexual Maturation in Arctic Charr, Salvelinus Alpinus.”

Evaluation of Public Policies to Address the Opioid Crisis: What Works? (Monday, 12:30pm, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Neil MacKinnon from the University of Cincinnatti will

provide an overview of the current state of the opioid crisis in the US, with a focus on Ohio. Sharing examples from his own research and from other researchers, he’ll provide an update on some of the latest trends of this epidemic. Strategies and policies used by the Ohio Department of Health and others, and the effectiveness of these strategies, will be shared and reviewed. An example of a university and health system (the University of Cincinnati and UC Health) working together to address the opioid crisis through a joint task force will be reviewed as a case study.

Anyone with an interest in the opioid crisis, including those who wonder how we can best address this epidemic, will benefit from this seminar, whether a researcher, clinician, policy maker, health advocate or other.

CAFE Atlantic – Canadian Architecture Forum on Education (Monday, 12:30pm, Exhibition Room, School of Architecture) — a one-day event looking at the role of architectural education and research in shaping Canada’s future. More info here.

Integer Valued Polynomials and Division Algebras (Monday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Keith Johnson will talk. His abstract:

A 2012 paper of Loper and Werner described the integral closure of the ring of rational polynomials preserving nxn integer matrices in terms of integer valued polynomials on number fields. We connect this with integer valued polynomials on maximal orders indivision algebras and show how this leads to explicit calculations of the polynomials involved.


Angelina Amaral, Cindy Blackstock, and Naiomi Metallic

Human Rights and Reconciliation: Indigenous Child Welfare (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1020, Rowe Management Building) — panel discussion featuring Angelina Amaral, Cindy Blackstock, and Naiomi Metallic. From the listing:

Events in the last four years have brought significant attention to the issue of Indigenous child welfare. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) stated that “Canada’s child-welfare system has simply continued the assimilation that the residential school system started,” and its Calls to Action aimed to fix this broken system. In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) found that the federal government has been knowingly discriminating against First Nations children by underfunding the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) Program. Since that time, Canada has been the subject of seven non-compliance orders, including failing to fully implement Jordan’s Principle.

In 2018, the Liberals committed to addressing the CHRT’s orders. Finally, in June 2019, Parliament gave royal assent to Bill C-92, to recognize Indigenous People’s jurisdiction over child and family services, as part of an inherent and Aboriginal right to self-governance; to establish national standards in this area, and to contribute to the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The bill has received mixed reactions from Indigenous communities. In this panel discussion, three experts in child welfare legislation will discuss these events and what can still be done.

Free; seating is first come, first served. More info here. Live streamed here.

The Spectre of Populism in Europe: a Threat to Liberal Democracy? (Tuesday, 1pm, Room 1014, Rowe management Building) — Oliver Schmidtke from the University of Victoria will talk.

TeachIn on Islam & Islamophobia (Tuesday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — with Afua Cooper, Rodica Firanescu, Syed Adnan Hussain, Colin Mitchell, and Howard Ramos.

In the harbour

05:30: Bishu Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
05:30: Antonia, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Invergordon, Scotland
06:30: Ocean Force, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
06:30: Silver Whisper, cruise ship with up to 466 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney, on a 15-day cruise from London to New York
07:00: Star Pride, cruise ship with 254 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Bar Harbor, on a 10-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
08:00: Pengalia, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
08:00: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor, on a seven-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
10:00: Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
11:30: Pengalia sails for Argentia, Newfoundland
11:30: Ocean Force moves to anchorage
13:30: Antonia sails for sea
15:30: Bishu Highway sails for sea
16:00: Augusta Mars, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea
16:30: Silver Whisper sails for Boston
16:30: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Palm Beach, Florida
17:45: Veendam sails for Sydney
21:00: Budapest Bridge sails for Rotterdam
21:30: Star Pride sails for Charlottetown

Where are the Canadian military ships?


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  1. Continue to be astonished that anyone thinks blocking bus traffic across the bridge is part of a progressive message. Did anyone think this through? Or has brainless passion on one hand opened the way to a vindictive shutdown by the authorities?

  2. It seems obvious at this point that any effective solution to climate change will require sacrifices, but few seem to be willing to make such sacrifices.

    Rhetoric about The Greatest Generation seems to be very popular – almost no one would ever dare criticize those who made enormous sacrifices to keep the world from falling into oblivion, and with good reason. I often wonder if current younger generations will be forced to make such sacrifices to stave off climate change, and if they’ll be viewed in the same light as the children of the 1920s, or if they’ll continue to be vilified.

    1. Dare I say that a good proportion of the surviving “Greatest Generation” are also the true believers in the hoax of climate change or would that be sacrilegious?

  3. That limit of 12 bikes per voyage needs to be examined – it’s ridiculously low. I was one of those fuming cyclists at the ferry terminal this morning, and one who finally gave up in disgust after watching numerous ferries come and go without being allowed to board one.

    1. Yeah, I was lucky in that the last thing I heard on the radio was “The bridge is now closed, including the walking and cycling lanes”…

      My understanding re: the 12-bike maximum is that it’s based on available rack space. Any more than 12 and the fear is the loose bicycles might impede walking aisles or could be unsecured (and potential threats to fall over, I guess?) on those rare days with whitecaps in the Harbour.

  4. Can people from Dartmouth who bike to work take their bikes on the ferry? I assume that is permitted. I understand pedestrians and people with bikes were stopped from using the bridge today, not by protesters by the police.

    (And it is “faze’, dammit,…)

      1. There’s a limit of 12 bikes per voyage, however, so there was a lengthy lineup of cyclists this morning, whereas foot traffic was getting aboard without an issue.

        Pedestrians and cyclists were barred by HRP / the Bridge Commission only when the bridge closure took effect this morning. There was no advance notice that the walk way and bike path would be shut down. Hence the volume of fuming cyclists at the ferry terminal earlier on.