1. Inaccessible schools

At least 72 schools in Nova Scotia are not accessible to students who use wheelchairs, reports the CBC.

2. Brain mapping for language

Scientists at the IWK are doing cool work looking at how our brains process language. And Global’s Julia Wong should be congratulated for tackling a science-heavy subject and reporting at length on it.

3. Shannon Park rink to close

CFB Halifax has announced the abrupt closure of the Shannon Park rink effective September 6. The Chronicle Herald story on the closure touches all the important issues, except one: The Anchor City Rollers, Halifax’s own roller derby league, uses the rink, and is desperately looking for a new place for practices and bouts. The space doesn’t have to be a rink: a large (empty) warehouse or similar space with concrete floors would work well. If you have such a space, drop them an email at

Update, 9am: The Anchor City Rollers write to say they just yesterday secured a new spot, at the Spryfield Lions Den. Great news! (So no need to contact them about your space.)

4. SMU no longer chanting about rape

A good idea.

5. We’re not drinking enough

NSLC profits are down 3.7 percent. One interesting stat in the crown corporation’s press release is that sales of craft beer have increased 29.9 percent over the last year. That’s astounding growth for local microbreweries.

6. Wild Kingdom

Chico the Dog, the canine attached to Shawn Jack, the homeless man who was beaten behind the Superstore in Sydney and is now recovering in a Halifax hospital, is moving to a Porters Lake doggy day care so he can take the Metro X in and visit Shawn.


1. McNabs Island ferry

Picnickers board the ferry at McNabs Island, in 1885.
Picnickers board the ferry at McNabs Island, in 1885.

Sam Austin argues that McNabs is an underutilized resource:

McNabs is 5 kilometres long and about 1.5 Kilometres wide with approximately 1,000 acres of land. The island boasts several old military fortifications, impressive views of the harbour and the Halifax skyline, two beautiful sand beaches, a lighthouse and several cultural sites including aboriginal middens, historic houses, a Victorian garden and a cemetery. McNabs is largely forested with a network of trails linking its main features together. It’s a great place to go for a walk, do some cultural/historic sightseeing or spend a day at the beach. Despite its charm and sights, few Haligonians ever visit. Estimates from the Department of Natural Resources pegged visitation at just 15,000-20,000 a year in 2001 and there is no reason to suspect this number has seen any significant change. In comparison, Point Pleasant Park on the other side of the water from McNabs sees an average 1,850 people a day (Point Pleasant Park Comprehensive Plan). More people visit Point Pleasant in two weeks than visit McNabs in a whole year.

The solution, says Austin, is to bring back the 19th century ferry that once regularly stopped at McNabs. He notes that Boston, Toronto, and San Francisco all have regular ferry service to their harbour islands, but I suspect our merchant class would have concerns about anything that diverts cruise ship visitors from the trinket shops downtown.

2. The Chronicle Herald agrees

Rape chants are a bad idea, says the paper of record.

3. Woo-woo Express

Tim Merry reflects on who he is and what he stands for, so he can “best align myself with the people and organizations I’m working with.” Just skip to about 4/5 through the video for the rhyming couplets, and see why Merry gets paid the big bucks. Damn right that’s worth $200,000.


No public meetings.

On this date in 1781, two American schooners attacked and plundered Annapolis Royal, and captured two hostages. In his book Plunder and Pillage: Atlantic Canada’s Brutal and Bloodthirsty Pirates and Privateers, author Harold Horwood explains that the Americans were able to skirt British defences around Digby Gap thanks to the assistance of an unnamed Acadian

…who had been convicted of petty theft at Annapolis Royal two or three years earlier and had been branded on the right hand—a common sentence in those days. According to law, the red-hot iron was to be withdrawn after the victim had screamed out “God save the King!” three times.

One of the two hostages taken was John Ritchie, the justice of the peace, who possibly had passed the branding sentence on the Acadian. The other was Thomas Williams, the town magistrate. They were subsequently exchanged for American prisoners of war held at Halifax.

On Campus


Centre for Comparative Genomics & Evolutionary Bioinformatics seminar (10:30am, Room 3-H1Tupper Building)—Georgina Hold, from the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen in Britain, will talk on “IBD, the Microbiome and Beyond.”

Planetarium show: Downtown Milky Way (7:15pm, Rm. 120, Dunn Bldg)—Five bucks at the door.

Daily Plug

Peter MacKay can’t have it both ways: either the justice minister wants to legalize the possession of semi-automatic rifles, or he doesn’t.

As reported by the Huffington Post, MacKay was possibly set up by members of Canada’s National Firearms Association, who brought a wounded vet to a Conservative fund-raising event, and asked MacKay to pose for a photo op with the shirt seen at the top of this post, which is emblematic of the group’s aims:

MacKay was photographed alongside NFA employee Ericka Clarke and Canadian Forces veteran Kurtis Gaucher.

On Facebook, Clarke wrote that she told MacKay that “gun owners were sick of false promises and things MUST be done for us to show up to the next election and get them back into power. I mentioned repealing c68/c17 and making the AR-15 platform non-restricted. We will see if he was just blowing smoke or not.”

The AR-15 is one of the most controversial weapons on Earth and has been at the centre of the gun control debate in the United States. The weapon is essentially the semi-automatic version of the U.S. military’s M16. Sandy Hook gunman Adam Lanza used an AR-15-style Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle when he shot and killed 20 children and six adults in December of 2012.

Clarke posted that MacKay did not know what an AR-15 was “but was very kind and may attend an event the NFA is putting on for MPs.”

MacKay, for his part, seconded the claim to his own ignorance:

MacKay told HuffPost in an email that Gaucher, who lost half of his left leg in Afghanistan, handed him the shirt and asked if he would pose for the photo.

“Having spent a great deal of time with members of the Canadian Forces, I have never shied away from an opportunity to demonstrate my support for them and their families,” MacKay said.

“I have always been clear, I support safe and sensible firearms policies.”

Predictably, and not entirely unfairly, Tom Mulcair’s aide Karl Bélanger “questioned on Twitter whether MacKay would jump off a bridge if a veteran asked him to.” (The question packs more of a sting in the original french.)

Sure, politicians can get duped into things, and no harm if they simply admit to it and carry on, but MacKay is trying to play both sides of the fence, which makes him look either stupid or evil.

There’s a reasonable place for firearms in society, and by and large gun culture promotes respectful and safe hunting practices. As a teenager, I knew lots of kids who were raised into that culture; they’d wake up at 5am and go hunting for ducks before school, and spend their weekends out in the woods, hunting deer and such. They are good and decent people, and their experience as hunters has informed their world views, for the better I think. There’s no need or desire to take away their rifles and shotguns (but why they would object to sensible regulation of their firearms is beyond me).

But something else entirely is going on with gun culture south of the border, and it’s beginning to come to Canada. American blogger TBogg grew up in that old gun culture, and started using guns when he was eight years old. He nostalgically recounts his experience in a post titled “I was the NRA.” He recalls the exact moment when the culture shifted:

As I grew older I began to notice a different breed of hunter; men who showed up with multiple shotguns as if they were golf clubs needed for specific shots. While most of us wore jeans, t-shirts and hunting vests, these newcomers dressed like they were going on safari, wearing bush hats, shooting jackets (in the 100 degree heat), and cargo pants with more pockets than there existed implements to fill them. You would see them walking the fields; shotgun draped over one arm, can of beer in the other hand. We learned to stay away from them.

For these men hunting was a manhood thing, a way to get in touch with their alpha male, a way to prove they weren’t soft city dwellers and what better way to do that than to get together with some buddies and shoot some guns at whatever moved.


The last time my father, my brother, and I hunted together was pheasant hunting in Imperial Valley. We walked the short-grown alfalfa fields hoping to kick up a pheasant, or watched to see our German Shorthaired Pointer, Candy, go on point. When she did we would instruct her to chase the bird until it flew, at which time it was considered “fair game” to shoot it.  Rule of thumb: you do not shoot a bird not in flight. Not cool.

Having worked the field, we returned to our truck to get water. By our truck were several other cars and trucks with hunters standing around talking and smoking and looking for shade in the ninety-degree heat. While we sat on the truck’s tailgate, Candy — ever the worker — kept sniffing around and doing what came naturally to her. Somewhere, possibly by one of the canals that separate many of the fields, she kicked up a pheasant and gave chase, the pheasant running several feet in front of her, refusing to fly.  A large man, decked out in a bush hat, cargo pants, and vest with no shirt — his white skin blotchy and red in the heat — immediately swung his shotgun up despite standing amongst of hunters in all directions and fired off two quick shots at the running bird.  Poor shot that he was, he missed the bird but sent up two large explosions of dirt no more than two feet in front of Candy’s nose as she skidded to a stop.

It was deathly quiet afterwards as everyone looked at him, stunned by what he had done.

My father quickly walked over to him, cursing all the way, grabbed the shotgun out of his hands by grabbing it by the barrel — no doubt burning his hands — and broke it open ejecting the spent shells.  He then threw it end over end into the field. My father berated him, using words I wasn’t well acquainted with at the time with but have learned to love since then. His friends looked away and shuffled their feet, no one daring to come to his defense. I have no doubt, had the man shot and killed Candy, my father would have shot him if he’d had a loaded shotgun in his hand.

Having verbally unloaded on the man who didn’t dare to look upset that his gun was laying  in the field somewhere, my dad said, “Get in the car boys. We’re going home.”

I don’t remember if he said another word during the two-hour drive back to San Diego.

When we got home, we released Candy to the yard while my dad went into the garage and cleaned the pheasants we had shot. Afterward he cleaned the shotguns before sticking them in his bedroom closet without a word.

He never took us hunting again, and we never asked to go.

This crazed gun culture south of the border is what leads to an eight-year-old boy killing himself with an Uzi, and a nine-year-old girl shooting her instructor to death, also with an Uzi. It leads to the Open Carry yahoos in Texas carrying arsenals no sane person will ever need into restaurants and black neighbourhoods, just to provoke people. I don’t think Bill Maher coined the term “ammosexual,” but he brings it to good comic effect.

Why, why oh why, would Canadians want to court these crazed psychopaths? MacKay should admit he was duped, condemn the NFA, mutter a few words about responsible gun ownership and hunting, and come back into the fold of the Canadian mainstream.

In the harbour

(click on vessel names for pictures and more information about the ships)


Zim Virginia, container ship, New York to Pier 42
Fusion, con-ro, St. Pierre to Pier 36
Maasdam, cruise ship, Charlottetown to Pier 22
Nor’easter, oil/chemical tanker, St. John’s to Imperial Oil #3
Mainport Pine, research/survey vessel, BP Exploration to Pier 25


Mainport Pine to BP Exploration
Maasdam to Portland
Zim Virginia to Kingston, Jamaica
Zeelandia to Rotterdam

Of note

It’s interesting and fun to chronicle the ships coming in and out of Halifax Harbour, and I’m glad I’ve included this information in Morning File. Some port in Nova Scotia (I don’t believe Melford will ever eclipse Halifax, but who knows?) will always be a useful stop for vessels, but as I’ve argued before, the glory days as a port are in the past, and Halifax will never become the megaport dreamers suppose. Simply put, Halifax’s proximity to Europe is more often than not a disadvantage, not an advantage: shippers would rather get their vessels as close to their ultimate destination as possible, and not get their goods stuck in a remote port in the middle of the ocean.

To demonstrate my argument, take a look at the ship traffic bypassing Halifax at any moment. Here’s a snapshot from this morning at 6am:

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 4.58.40 AM

Those are a lot of ships! And yet, very few of them are stopping in Halifax. The ships heading south are going to New York or Pennsylvania, and the ships going north are either going mostly from New York to Quebec, where there are lots of people and businesses buying goods, or to Europe. Most ships bypass Halifax completely, because there’s not a lot of people or businesses to buy goods here.


School starts next week, and so this is the last gasp for relaxation before the crazy begins. So it’s been a slow news week, and I too have been slowing down a bit before diving back into things in a major way next week. Please forgive my relative meagre offerings this week. I might have one or two freelance-written pieces the next couple of days, and of course Morning File, but otherwise it’ll be next week before we’re back at full capacity.

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

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  1. “Peter MacKay can’t have it both ways: either the justice minister wants to legalize the possession of semi-automatic rifles, or he doesn’t.”

    Hold on there, semi-automatic rifles are legal in Canada.

    The vast majority of target shooting type guns, and a lot of lower caliber modern hunting rifles, are semi-automatic. (Semi-auto = One trigger pull, one bullet.) These guns are legal to own with a PAL, easily obtainable by almost anyone.

    The restricted (not illegal) AR-15 is also a semi-automatic rifle. It has the exact same functionality as your Grand-pappy’s .22 repeater, and all the other millions of other legal semi-auto’s in Canada.

    But it is scary looking and black, so it is classified as a restricted weapon and you need an RPAL to possess, and have to jump thru hoops to get it to a (qualified) range.

    So – “Peter MacKay can’t have it both ways: either the justice minister wants to de-restrict the possession of AR-15 rifles, or he doesn’t.”

    Doesn’t really pack the same punch, eh?

    (sub’d to respond to this! thx)

    1. I’ll let Duncan Black respond to this:

      Take That, Stupid Libturds!
      Gun nuts and military fetishists both get very upset if you stray outside their jargon. And, yes, the distinction between an automatic and semi-automatic weapon is, for most normals, irrelevant jargon. Sure it’s important to make these distinctions if we’re making laws about these external death penises, but conceptually, for most of us, a gun that can shoot a large number of rounds fast is an automatic weapon.

      1. If you imply something is illegal, when clearly it is not, expect a response, no matter the subject. Judging from following your writings for years, you would hang a fellow journalist out to dry for the same offence. But I do enjoy the snark.

        All caught up on the firewall articles. Great job!