1. Northern Pulp’s environmental assessment fail

This is where the treated Northern Pulp wastewater currently flows from Boat Harbour into the Northumberland Strait, just a few hundred metres from Pictou Landing First Nation.

“There is much to wade through in the documents Northern Pulp submitted to Nova Scotia Environment on February 7, 2019, when it registered its ‘Replacement Effluent Treatment Facility’ for a 50-day, Class 1 environmental assessment (EA),” reports Joan Baxter:

For citizens who want to comment to the government on the proposal, as is their right, they need to slog through 1,586 pages in 17 registration documents, and they need to do it quickly. The public was given only one month — until March 9, 2019 — to comment. Environment Minister Margaret Miller has until March 29 to decide on the project.

Not surprisingly, the EA submission starts on a very encouraging note. In the Executive Summary, Dillon Consulting, which developed the project documents on behalf of Northern Pulp, provides a table indicating the “significance of project-related residual environmental effects” on 18 items, everything from the atmosphere to marine fish and fish habitat at every stage of the project, during construction, operation and maintenance, or because of accidents or malfunctions.

Every single one of them is assessed as “NS”, or “No Significant Residual Environmental Effect Predicted.”

Every. Single. One.

This could mean either of two things.

One, there is nothing to worry about. Citizens of this province, and all those who fish in or depend on the Northumberland Strait for their livelihoods or just care about its health, can suspend their disbelief and have faith that Northern Pulp’s plans for treating its effluent and disposing of it in the Strait are foolproof.

For this scenario to work, we have to trust that Northern Pulp and its consultants, working with the $6.1 million that taxpayers chipped in for the studies for the project, have ensured that it’s all good, there really will be “no significant” environmental effect of anything.

In other words, the on-site Activated Sludge Treatment system will effectively treat millions of litres of toxic pulp effluent a day, every day, without a hitch. The 36-inch diameter pipeline that will run 11.4 km across the causeway and then overland beside Highway 106 to Caribou Harbour will never leak or spill its contents in the Pictou watershed, or negatively affect the scenic landing point for the PEI ferry that brings tens of thousands of visitors to Nova Scotia each year. The 4.1-kilometre pipe into the Northumberland Strait that will dump millions of litres of effluent a day into the rich fishing grounds will not harm fish habitat or the ecosystem. The “dewatering process” of the sludge from the treatment facility will work well, and there is no need to worry about burning it in the mill’s power boiler, even though that boiler has already caused many emissions problems.

There is, of course, an alternate interpretation…

Click here to read “Northern Pulp’s environmental documents: missing mercury, a pulp mill that never was, and oodles of contradictions.”

We kept Baxter’s article in front of the paywall because the response to the environmental assessment is so time-sensitive, but of course that doesn’t mean you can’t help us pay for Baxter’s work by subscribing. Click here to subscribe.

2. Holly Bartlett

Holly Bartlett

Ryan Delehanty, who runs the Halifax office of Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), sent me the following AMI press release yesterday:

Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) announces its newest series What Happened to Holly Bartlett, debuting Thursday, March 28, at 9 p.m. Eastern on AMI-tv.

Holly Bartlett, a 31-year-old Dalhousie University graduate student who was blind, was found unconscious under the MacKay Bridge in Halifax, Nova Scotia, early one morning in March of 2010. She died in hospital the next day from injuries identified as blunt force trauma, and hypothermia. While local authorities determined Holly’s death was accidental — stating she simply became disoriented and fell — there remain several unanswered questions, compelling evidence, and many theories about how she may have died.

Each of the six episodes — hosted by orientation and mobility specialist Peter Parsons — include interviews with family, friends and subject matter experts. The series uses computer animation and dramatic recreations to explore the various theories about what may have happened.

I told Holly’s story in 2013, when I worked at The Coast, in an investigative piece headlined “Holly Bartlett’s unlikely journey.” I’m beyond happy that that article drew attention to Holly’s life and death, including of late to Ocean Entertainment, which has produced the series for AMI. I had a very small contributing role in the Ocean series; Maggie Rahr did the heavy lifting.

Here’s the trailer for What Happened to Holly Bartlett:

YouTube video

I never met Holly. I wish I had. From researching her story, I feel like I got to know her spirit.

I’ll never forget working on that story, not just because I learned about Holly (and hopefully told an important story), but also because I got to meet her family and friends. All of them are fantastic people. Honestly, I was and remain stirred by their integrity and their hard work. A wonderful group of people.

There are too many in that group to name them all, but I want to point out a few. First and foremost is Holly’s mother, Marion Bartlett. Marion has seen far too much grief, and yet carries herself with grace. She is simply a rock of a woman.

And Holly’s sister, Amanda, who took a chance and met a nosy reporter in a Bedford Starbuck’s; I was immediately taken by her intelligence and honesty. I left our half hour meeting determined to get Holly’s story right.

And of course Peter Parsons, the Orientation and Mobility specialist at CNIB, who patiently explained to me how blind people work in the world. Peter is the narrator of the TV series. I happened upon Peter a few weeks ago as he was teaching a young woman O&M skills on Spring Garden Road. He didn’t see me — he has a visual disability himself — and I didn’t want to interrupt in any event, but it made me think about how he did the exact same training, at the exact same spot, with Holly all those years ago.

There are others: Brian Parsons, Peter’s father and a private investigator; Nova Herring, another O&M specialist (with the perfect Nova Scotia name); the group of people who met regularly to strategize about how to push the police to better investigate, the lawyer…

I have my own theory about Holly’s death, but Holly’s story is so much larger than that frigid morning under the MacKay Bridge. It’s a story of an astonishing young woman who brought joy to everyone she met, and about a group of amazing people who loved her. That’s the real story.

3. Tidal turbine

A photo of the tidal turbine.
The abandoned tidal turbine. Photo: Cape Sharp Tidal

“The future of a massive, five-storey high tidal turbine sitting on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy off the coast of Parrsboro continues to represent a financial sinkhole for Nova Scotia taxpayers,” reports Jennifer Henderson.

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

4. Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park

The Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness. Photo: Tim Bousquet
The Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness. Photo: Tim Bousquet

“The municipality is buying more land to create a long-promised regional park and this time, the federal government is pitching in,” reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax:

Halifax regional council approved a cryptic motion on Tuesday after an in camera discussion, and reading through the lines, one advocate likes what he sees.

“Based on what we know, regional council has authorized an additional land purchase for Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes regional park,” said Chris Miller, executive director of the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Once completed, it would be the second land purchase toward the park, which has been in the works for more than a decade.

Several readers asked me about the secrecy. Councillors will undoubtedly say that the purchase and purchase price needed to be kept secret so the city can get the best price for more land needed for the park that is held by other property owners in the area — that is, if those property owners knew what the city was paying for the property council approved yesterday, they could argue for similar prices.

But that’s just silly. Land sale prices are public record, so those property owners will be aware of the sale price as soon as the sale is finalized, as will I and any other curious citizen.

It’s just secrecy for secrecy’s sake.

5. Saint John computer failure

The city of Saint John had a massive computer security fail.

6. Norwegian Escape

In the fall, the Norwegian Escape cruise ship departs New York for an Eastern Canada cruise, including stops in Halifax; this time of year, however, the ship departs New York for a Caribbean cruise. The most recent cruise had a scare, report Eric Rogers and Rick Neale for USA Today:

Several passengers aboard the Norwegian Escape cruise ship were injured Sunday when what cruise officials described as a “sudden, extreme gust of wind” made the ship list.

In a series of tweets, Norwegian cruise officials said the 20-deck ship suddenly tilted just before midnight Sunday under the force of an unexpected gale topping 100 knots, or about 115 mph. 

The offshore incident happened as a strong weather front moved across the eastern seaboard of the U.S., generating a string of tornadoes across Georgia and Alabama. The ship had departed from New York hours earlier on Sunday. 

Montreal resident Rhona Pervin got tossed out of the shower in her eighth-level cabin — “the door opened, and the water sloshed out onto the floor.” Another Montreal resident, Jennifer Anthony from the fifth deck, said children and adults were crying after the incident. 

They could have had the same excitement had they flown.




No public meetings.


I haven’t yet had time to read through the agendas for tomorrow’s meetings…

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) —  agenda

Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — agenda

Halifax and West Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, City Hall) — agenda

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — agenda

Youth Programs Community Information Session – Dartmouth (Thursday, 6:30pm, Dartmouth North Community Centre) — Facebook event



Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)


Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)

On campus



Understanding Synthetic Media (Wednesday, 10am, University Hall, MacDonald Building) — Carl Miller will explain how “synthetic media” can harm democracy, followed by a discussion and Q&A with Howard Ramos and Karen Foster. Register here.

Women and the Canadian Military (Wednesday, 2:30pm, Room 305, Weldon Law Building) — a panel with Brigadier-General Josée Robidoux, Canadian Armed Forces; Gaëlle Rivard Piché, Defence Research and Development Canada; and Andrea Lane, Dalhousie University.

Controlling DNA end resection and strand invasion during DNA double-strand break repair (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Jean-Yves Masson from Laval University Cancer Research Center will speak.

The Aftermath of the Cannabis Act: New Opportunities to Promote Harm Reduction and Criminal Justice Reform (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Archie Kaiser will speak with Cindy MacIsaac from Direction 180 and Gillian Mitts and Doug Earl from Halifax Area Network of Drug Using People (HANDUP).

The War on Gaza and Mizrahi Feminism (Wednesday, 7pm, Room W204, Weldon Law Building) — Smadar Lavie will speak.


Thesis Defence, Engineering Mathematics and Internetworking (Thursday, 10:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Danielle Dempsey will defend her thesis, “Explaining Changes in Fish Community Biomass using Pressure Indicators: Comparison of Data Analysis Methods and Regional Results.”

Thesis Defence, Economics (Thursday, 2:45pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Min Hu will defend his thesis, “Three Essays on Labour and Health Outcomes of Vulnerable Populations in Canada.”

Maggie Little. Photo:

Pregnant Women: The Moral Imperative for Medical Research (Thursday, 7pm, Lindsay Children’s Room, Halifax Central Library) — Maggie Little from the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University will speak.

Eating Wild in Eastern Canada and Other Tales of Environmental Law (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, Marion McCain Building) — author, teacher, and environmental lawyer Jamie Simpson will talk about his latest book.

Oisín Curran (Thursday, 7pm, Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, 1113 Marginal Road) — winner of the 2018 Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award for Blood Fable.

Maine, 1980. A utopian community is on the verge of collapse. The charismatic leader’s authority teeters as his followers come to realize they’ve been exploited for too long. To make matters worse, the eleven-year-old son of one adherent learns that his mother has cancer.

Taking refuge in his imagination, the boy begins to speak of another time and place. His parents believe he is remembering his own life before birth. This memory, a story within the story of Blood Fable, is an epic tale about the search for a lost city refracted through the lens of the adventures the boy loves to read. But strangely, as the world around them falls apart, he and his parents find that his story seems to foretell the events unfolding in their present lives.​

Saint Mary’s


Canada’s Food Guide (Wednesday , 12pm, MM320) — Melanie Ingram will talk about the new guidelines on what to eat regularly and what to avoid. Register here.

In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
11:00: CMA CGM Pellas, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
11:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
16:30: Ef Ava sails for Portland


I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

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

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  1. Tidal and wave energy projects can work effectively; but these are marine infrastructure projects that require laws, regulations and financing arrangements that insulate provinces and countries from the errors of owners and operators. There are already is much law that could be applied to these projects if tidal and wave turbines could be incorporated as “vessels” or ” ships” under the maritime laws. In some countries, posted drilling barges ( which are submerged), semi-submersible drilling rigs, floating offshore oil platforms and other non-propelled vessels without crews are included in the maritime laws for purposes of regulating engineering and construction, insurance, pollution control, salvage and other provisions designed to protect the marine environment.

    However, the Nova Scotia departments overseeing these projects seem to be reluctant to have these projects come under federal maritime law. One wonders why there is such a need to reinvent legal structures and procedures when there is an appropriate set of laws, which have been developed over hundreds of years to deal with the very issues faced by Nova Scotia now. Failure of underwater assets and bankruptcy of operators was clearly predictable and both will happen again. Time to learn from the mistake and work with the federal authorities to bring these assets under the applicable provisions of the maritime laws.

  2. I was acquainted with Holly Bartlett, and knew enough about her and her abilities to know that the story of her simply becoming disoriented and accidentally falling down a steep embankment made no sense at all. The police investigation was cursory. There was the assumption that a blind person easily becomes disoriented. That is patently false and if the police had bothered to do a real investigation, they would have learned that visually impaired people have a very refined sense of location and they should have investigated further. Did they even interview any visually challenged people or experts who work with them? I am not saying foul play is the only possibility for what happened to Holly. I am saying that the superficial police investigation did absolutely nothing to rule that out. Holly’s memory deserves more than this half-baked write off from the police of this being a case of a drunk blind person getting lost and having an accident of their own creation.

  3. The HRM treatment plants seem to work well. No reason to think the pipeline will leak. How many HRM water and sewage lines leak ? Does the town of Pictou have a sewage treatment plant ?

    1. In the UK, 3.1 billion litres of water per day is lost to leaks in pipes. Just as one example.

      1. A small amount considering the consumption in Britain, not to mention that an offshore pipeline is completely different and usually located in a purpose made trench and covered with gravel. I assume the proposed pipeline would be installed in the same manner.
        Any examples of the Sable offshore gas line leaking ?
        Any examples of N Sea oil and gas lines leaking ?
        I don’t recall oil leaks from the offshore lines in the Persian Gulf.
        Offshore oil and gas leaks are predominantly natural.
        A proper environmental assessment would establish the levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in the fish and lobsters which are being harvested in the Northunberland Strait and adjacent coastal waters to the east and west.

      2. Water is cheap and environmentally friendly. There is very little economic incentive to deal with leaks. Water is also not fungible in the way that fossil fuels are because we use many times more (by volume) water than we do fossil fuels.

  4. Great work by Joan Baxter on that EA. Without the FOIPOP info, much of what she raises would not be known. That is distressing.

    Also, the Holly Bartlett story is very compelling, and I am glad to see it is being turned into a mini-series. This will shed more light and reach more people, which may result in finding out what really happened,