On campus
This date in history
In the harbour


1. Macdonald Bridge bikeway

The city this morning issued a Request for Proposal for the preliminary design of Macdonald Bridge bikeway connections. The successful bidder will be required to complete the design work by September.

2. Michael Gorman on a slow news day

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Sometimes not much happens that’s really newsworthy. But daily newspaper reporters have to feed the beast… they can do that with nonsensical non-stories, or they can bring us up to date with ongoing stories. Chronicle Herald reporter Michael Gorman chose the latter strategy yesterday, and produced three informative articles moving three provincial news stories along, interviewing five people, trying to interview two more, and bringing his contextual knowledge into the stories. It’s good work.

I used to work as a reporter for a daily newspaper, and I had a quota of two stories a day and a weekly “enterprise” piece. I can tell you: that kind of work load is exhausting. So I have a lot of respect for Gorman, who every day is pumping out two, three, sometimes four stories, and few of them are throw-away pieces.

My record for one day was six articles, the day some guy held up the local grocery store, shot someone, and was involved in a wild police pursuit. But three of those articles were about the same thing, as I got more updates on the story.

Nowadays I spend much of my time on longer term projects. It can take a lot of time to do a proper investigative piece. Very soon I’ll begin publishing the results of an investigation that has taken over a year to bring to completion. That’s a year spent not doing other stuff.

Gorman of course doesn’t have the luxury of taking a year to pursue a story. Other Chronicle Herald reporters have told me that in the past the paper’s management was OK with letting reporters take three or four days to pursue a story, but increasingly it’s about getting as many stories out as quickly as possible.

I wonder what’s going to happen to Gorman in the upcoming lockout of Chronicle Herald reporters.

3. Boosterism

Someone at CBC management seems to have given the order out that reporters are to be more business-friendly. Over the last couple of weeks the ceeb has been publishing uncritical puff pieces on provincial companies. Today it’s a ass kiss for Acadian Seaplants Limited.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s perfectly legitimate journalism to profile a local company and put it in the context of provincial policies and economic development. But this un-bylined piece is basically supporting Acadian president Jean-Paul Deveau’s line that governments should invest more money into companies like his.

Well maybe. Or maybe not. You know what would be helpful here? Some context. How much government “investment” has Acadian already gotten, and what kind of returns has that brought us?

A good place to start — it took me less than 10 seconds — would be to pull up the ACOA page on grants to Acadian over the years. Here’s what that says:

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That’s about $8 million since 1995. Most of that money came in the form of no-interest loans, some of it forgivable, and there’s a $99,999 outright grant.

The province, too, has helped Acadian along financially. In 2009, the province offered the company  $270,000 in payroll rebates.

You can argue the government money was all for the good. But you can’t make the argument that we should give more government money to Acadian if you don’t first disclose how much it has already received.


1. Fire and GPS

Sam Austin argues that the decision to redeploy fire assets should be delayed:

The big flaw in the Fire Department’s analysis? A lack of high quality data. Only six of the Fire Department’s trucks are equipped with GPS data (automatic vehicle location, aka AVL). In the absence of GPS data from actual fire trucks responding to calls, the Fire Department planners calculated response times based on speed and distance on a map. The Department’s modelling concluded that Downtown Dartmouth, North End Halifax and Sackville were adequately covered by multiple stations and that the King, Lady Hammond and Patton Road stations were, therefore, redundant. After council rejected the proposed station closures, an outside consultant, Pomax, was brought in to assess response times. Pomax indicated that the Fire Department’s model was a bit optimistic in the urban core, but was generally sound. Pomax’s conclusion, however, came with an important caveat:

“Scarce AVL (GPS) data meant that other factors which can impact response times, such as time of day or seasonal conditions, could not be taken into account to the extent that we would prefer.”

Of course, the very first recommendation in fire chief Doug Trussler’s analysis of the department was to equip all trucks with GPS. Yep, the same fire chief who critics say wants to watch old people die in downtown Dartmouth highrises.

We wouldn’t even be having a discussion about GPS on fire trucks if Trussler hadn’t showed up on the scene. The reason the trucks don’t have GPS is because previous fire chiefs sat on their hands while 25 years of technological development passed them by. I can’t stress enough to readers just how horribly mismanaged the department was before Trussler arrived.

This whole discussion is getting ridiculously emotional. The other day I pointed out that I live close to the King Street fire station and don’t have a problem with its closure, and someone told me that’s just because I don’t want sirens passing my house. Yes, there you have it: I too am OK with old people burning to death, so long as my sleep isn’t disrupted. You’re on to me.

2. Snow and ice

“Quit the sidewalk snow-clearing contracts for the peninsula,” writes Lezlie Lowe. “Save the millions and get people back out moving their own snow, connecting with their neighbours and helping them if needed. The peninsular sidewalk snow scheme has never worked the way it was intended to. I know it. You know it. My cats know it. Give the people back their shovels, already.”

3. NDP leadership race

Graham Steele has a good primer on the three candidates vying for the NDP leadership.


No public meetings.

On Campus


The ethics of human milk exchange and sale (noon, Mona Campbell, room 2107) — Robyn Lee, from Brock University, will speak and lead a discussion.

This date in history

William Duff Forrest
William Duff Forrest

At the January 8, 1925 meeting of the Halifax city council, Alderman Stephen Rains put forward the following motion:

WHEREAS the Board of Health has ordered the pasturization (sic, throughout) of the whole milk supply of ‘the City of Halifax to take effect in June 1925;

AND WHEREAS many citizens are opposed to this arbitrary action of the Board, in saying in effect as it does, that after the above date house-holders and their families must drink pasturized milk and none other;

AND WHEREAS many citizens have a preference for “raw milk”‘ delivered to their homes in as short a space of time as possible after production and have a decided disinclination to the pasteurized product;

AND WHEREAS many if not the majority of our medical practitioners are strongly opposed to the compulsory pasturization of milk and contend that such legislation is not in the best interests of the public and in fact may be detrimental to the health of infants, children and invalids, who are the largest consumers of milk;

AND WHEREAS the enforcement of such legislation will necessitate the employment of a staff of trained milk inspectors, to be paid for by the City and will undoubtedly raise the price of milk and thus add an increased burden on the poor who under present economic conditions are unable to procure anything like an adequate quantity of this necessary commodity for their children; 

THEREFORE RESOLVED that in the opinion of this Council the Board of Health should reconsider their action before forcing on the people suoh a drastic and radical piece of legislation as the compulsory pasturization of our whole milk supply;

AND FURTHER RESOLVED that in the event of the Health Board failing to reconsider their action a request be made by this Council to the Governor in Council or to the Legislature when in session for disallowance of said by-law or ordinance respecting such compulsory pasturization.

On February 25, council minutes record that:

Alderman Daw asks for the indulgence of Council before the regular business of the meeting is taken up, to ask if the Resolution passed by this Council on January 8th last in re By Law of the City Health Board for pasturization of Milk has been forwarded to the Governor in Council.

His Worship the Mayor informed the Alderman that this request has been complied with.

It was moved by Alderman H. W. Cameron, seconded by Alderman Rains, that a Comrittee of six Aldermen, one from each Ward, be appointed to confer with the Governor in Council when this matter would be taken up for consideration. Motion passed.

I’ve been unable to find what happened next, but I’m guessing that the council was successful in its anti-pasteurization efforts and that those efforts led to the removal of the president of the Board of Health — with disastrous consequences. Again, that’s a guess; the Board of Health minutes for this period are in the city archives, but it will have to wait for some future time before I can inspect them. Still, I’m basing my guess on a passage found in Halifax at War: Searchlights, Squadrons and Submarines 1939-1945. Author William Naftel explains that as late as 1940, Halifax was suffering from skepticism of modern medicine. In particular, notes Faftel, diphtheria became a problem that year when the crew of two Norwegian ships entered town:

Although inoculation existed and was practiced, it was a strictly voluntary process and in the initial stages of public acceptance.

The situation was worse in Halifax than anywhere else in the Dominion, because the Chairman of the Halifax Board of Health from 1925 to 1939 had been Dr. William Duff Forrest (son of John Forrest, the former President of Dalhousie University), a firm, vocal and effective opponent of immunizations against disease and other innovations such as TB testing and the pasteurization of milk, in spite of ready acceptance in the rest of the province. During his tenure Halifax earned the unenviable reputation of “Diphtheria capital of Canada.”

As for diphtheria, there were 291 cases in Halifax in 1940, 640 in 1941, 633 in 1942, and 527 in 1944. Seventy people died in this period, all of them children.

City officials suddenly got over their fear of modern medicine. The Board of Health was disbanded in 1940 and replaced by a newly created Public Health and Welfare Committee. Wrote Faftel:

Although a massive campaign of free inoculation was rapidly instituted, particularly for school children (at least 10,000 children went through the required three doses), it was not enough…

It took until 1944 until officials considered the epidemic vanquished. In 1945 with the prospect of the return of troops from war-ravaged Europe, the now-alert public health authorities initiated a massive publicity campaign to encourage the civilian population of the Halifax area to have themselves and their children tested or inoculated.

The epidemic was analyzed at length by John Farley in his 2002 paper, “The Halifax Diphtheria Epidemic (1940 to 1944): A Disaster Waiting to Happen or a Blessing in Disguise?” Wrote Farley:

In this paper I shall argue that this epidemic should not have happened.

That it did so was the result of the deplorable state of Halifax’s public health system, compounded by overcrowded housing in war-time Halifax, brought on by the huge increase in population, estimated to have been between 20,000 and 50,000. Complacent politicians, physicians and public health leaders had created a situation in which a disaster, such as the diphtheria epidemic, was waiting to happen.


According to John Ferrell, an associate director of the IHD, the public health situation in Halifax since World War I had been undermined by factions working at cross purposes. “The health officer who served for fifteen years or more until a year or two ago,” he wrote, “was not progressive. It is reported he opposed pasteurisation of milk and immunization against disease. Neither the officers of the provincial department of health nor the faculty members of the medical school engaged in preventive medicine were able to correct conditions.”

That health officer was Dr. William Duff Forrest (1873-1939), son of John Forrest, former president of Dalhousie University. From 1925 until his death he had been chairman of the Halifax Board of Health. He had graduated from Dalhousie’s medical school in 1898, and started his Halifax practice in 1901 after gaining his MRCS and LRCP in London. Forrest was a classic example of a public health officer of those years. The job was part-time, with his own private practice taking the priority; he had received no training for it; he owed his position to his Tory party connections — he was a long-time Conservative and past-president of the Halifax Conservative Association. He was also something of a maverick. During the eight year interregnum of Conservative rule under Edgar Rhodes and Gordon Harrington (1925-1933), Forrest became a leading voice against bovine tuberculin testing, a major platform in the Tory calendar and one which almost cost them the snap election of 1928. He also opposed milk pasteurisation and the “bottling act” whereby all milk in Halifax had to be delivered in sterile sealed bottles. With the defeat of the Tories in 1933, he switched parties and in the 1937 election carried the Halifax centre seat as a Liberal, announcing that the Liberal government had been “the most progressive government we have had in Nova Scotia during my whole life,” and attacking his former colleagues for having not yet “been on the penitents bench long enough. They have to wear sack cloth a while longer.” Dr A.C. Jost, a leading member of the Nova Scotia Tuberculosis Commission and an avid supporter of bovine testing, whom Rhodes had fired following the 1928 election, was blunt in his assessment of the Halifax situation. “I do not know of any place where there is so much opposition to health work and where the opposition so nearly approaches organization. The medical side of it is carried on by Dr. W. Forrest of Halifax. He is able, determined and treacherous, ready to consort with anyone to carry his point… he almost completely nullified the work of the Halifax Health Commission.”


With the liberal election victory of 1933 and the death of Forrest in 1939, the public health situation in Halifax began to improve.


YouTube video

In the harbour

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

Atlantic Progress, general cargo, arrived at Pier 41 this morning from Muriel, Cuba; sails to sea this afternoon
Dinkeldiep, ro-ro cargo, arrived at Pier 42 this morning from Saint-Pierre
Morning Margareta, car carrier, Sagunto, Spain to Autopor
OOCL Kuala Lumpur, container ship, Norfolk to TK
ZIM Piraeus, container ship, New York to berth TBD


Examineradio, episode #43 will be published later today, or listen to an abridged version on CKDU, 88.1 FM, at 4:30pm.

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

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  1. The question of pasteurization was, as you note, a major political issue and one that divided the province in interesting ways. In neighbouring New Brunswick, pasteurization was also a big issue (I touch on it in my second book, Labour in the Laboratory). An interesting analysis has been done by Jane Jenkins of St. Thomas University (

    I would, however, note that Halifax was considered to be a leader in public health, albeit briefly, in the early to mid-1920s. I sometimes teach about this because it is such a contrast to the idea that the province was inexorably in decline, was always following other provinces, etc. In public health, at least for a short time, Nova Scotia and Halifax were considered to be leaders.

  2. Re Herald and newspapers :
    In Britain The Guardian is losing $40 million a year, asking online readers to voluntarily pay $100 to support the paper. It is the 5th most read online newspaper in the world, the print edition has just 150,000 readers.
    The Telegraph had a pop-up online ad during Christmas and New Year offering 12 weeks for 12 pounds with a deadline of January 3rd. The offer remains available without a deadline.
    The Independent has lost money since inception and is kept alive by a wealthy Russian.
    I read all of them, a paywall is not a hindrance as it is easy to get around the limit of free views.
    The demographics of Nova Scotia don’t favour survival of the Herald, and lower quality may well be the final nail in the coffin.
    An enterprising journalist would try to convince the union to provide the latest actuarial valuation of the Herald pension plan. The union knows the financial status of the pension plan but refuses to put the information in the public realm, something they would not do in other business/union disputes.

  3. Interesting with Forrest.
    Show how much of an impact 1 person can really have on the lives of others and most not even know it.
    My great aunt had a daughter who died in Halifax area at that time from diphtheria. Thanks mr Forrest. There’s always a reason
    Thanks for looking in to all those reasons.

  4. All subsidies issued by ACOA, etc should be followed up by regular reports on the actual benefits the public received as a result of such loans and disbursements…. there must be a real ROI for the NS economy and the taxpayer, else it is money wasted, IMO.

  5. Trussler drove to downtown Dartmouth from the West Street, Highfield and Woodside stations at different times to test the response time. The results are on the public record.

  6. “Yes, there you have it: I too am OK with old people burning to death, so long as my sleep isn’t disrupted. You’re on to me.”

    Spits out coffee in laughter!