This is Tim again; I’m back in the Morning File saddle. I’d very much like to thank Joan Baxter, Philip Moscovitch, and Erica Butler for filling in for me last week. I enjoy the fresh voices and perspectives, and they bring attention to issues that I lack the skill to properly address or that have passed me by. Thanks also to Iris, who shepherded the business (even more than she usually does) while I was AWOL; truly she makes this entire enterprise possible.


1. Health care

Randy Delorey.

“Last week’s expert-panel report into the province’s flat-lining long-term care system offered a clarion call for the government to finally fix our ailing long-term care system,” writes Stephen Kimber:

But the panel didn’t provide a clear, costed pathway to do that, in part because the government didn’t provide it with enough useful data about the existing problems and in part because the government wrote the panel’s job description precisely to make it difficult for them to talk about the only issue that will ultimately matter: money.

Click here to read “Health minister promises to fix long-term care, but offers no money to actually fix it.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

2. Burned

We’ve taken Linda Pannozzo’s article, “Burned: Are Trees the New Coal?,” out from behind the paywall for everyone to read.

3. Sisterly love

I’m busy with stuff and have limited time, so with her permission, I’m reprinting two items (#3 and #4 in today’s Morning File) written by Mary Campbell in her Cape Breton Spectator.

Both come from a feature Campbell publishes every Friday called “Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things.”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so Fast & Curious is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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This item is written by Mary Campbell.

A sharp-eyed Spectator drew my attention to an odd little fact in that terrible story of the Canadian sentenced to death in China.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a 36-year-old from Abbotsford, BC, was arrested in 2014 and found guilty in 2016 of participating in a drug ring that sought to smuggle more than 200 kilograms of methamphetamine out of a Chinese port city and into Australia.

In November 2018, Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years in jail and had 150,000 yuan (US$21,800) worth of his assets seized. Schellenberg appealed the sentence, but during the appeal hearing at the Lioning Provincial High People’s Court, prosecutors argued the sentence was too lenient — that Schellenberg, tried as a drug-ring accomplice, was actually a king pin. The high court ordered the case returned to the Intermediate People’s Court for a one-day retrial which resulted — last Saturday — in the death sentence for Schellenberg.

Most of the media coverage has centered on the timing of the retrial — and the harshness of the sentence — suggesting Schellenberg is a victim of an ongoing diplomatic dispute between Canada and China, sparked by Canada’s arrest of the chief financial officer of the Chinese technology giant Huawei.

But what struck my informant was the name of the port city where the smuggling — and the retrial — took place:


You know, the CBRM’s SISTER CITY.

The one Mayor Cecil Clarke visited in December 2015 — here he is signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with an unidentified representative of Dalian, while port promoter and municipal matchmaker Albert Barbusci looks on:

And here he is singing the praises of Dalian:

“This is a wonderful opportunity to partner with one of the largest port cities in the world. It fits our long term aim of participating in China’s exciting global maritime trade strategy. In addition to port cooperation, we see very real opportunities to promote mineral, manufacturing and fisheries exports. From our months of preparatory work with them we know that City of Dalian and Liaoning Province will make terrific partners. This was made possible by Harbor Port Development Partner’s strong global network”, said CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke.

Our “sister” is about to execute a Canadian — who may well deserve prison but does not deserve death. I don’t know about you, but, “Likely to put your fellow citizens to death” is not high on the list of qualities I like to see in a “partner.”

Perhaps we should rethink this relationship.

4. Backstory NS

This item is also written by Mary Campbell.

Greg MacVicar, a reporter and editor based in Marion Bridge whose by-line is no doubt familiar to you (from The Cape Breton Post, The Chronicle Herald, Cape Bretoner MagazineSaltscapes and other places) has launched an online publication called Backstory NS and you really need to check it out.

MacVicar being a writer means I can just sit back and let him tell you about it:

Backstory NS is a digital publication which presents the stories of notable Nova Scotians from all walks of life in their own words. Biweekly, on Saturday mornings, Backstory NS publishes a long-form, compelling story accompanied by eye-catching photographs. Each story is based on an old-fashioned visit with the storyteller, and the result is an interview that delves far beneath the surface—in search of the backstory—and is meant to be read and reread at one’s leisure. Backstory NS is not a tourist or promotional magazine. The stories are by turns gritty, funny, scary, sad, insightful and inspiring. They’re told with wit, humour and pathos. In this age of “branding,” “content creation” and “strategic communications,” these stories are refreshing. They’re the real deal.

The first issue features an in-depth conversation with Mary Janet MacDonald of Mabou, “best known in Nova Scotia and around the world as one of the top practitioners and teachers of the highly engaging style of step dancing that the Scottish Gaels brought to northeastern Nova Scotia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and fostered in the New World.”

The conversation with MacDonald is interesting and wide-ranging and generously illustrated with photos. The format will put you in mind of Ron Caplan’s Cape Breton’s Magazine, which MacVicar cites as an inspiration. I asked him why he’d decided to launch Backstory NS and he told me in an email:

I didn’t launch the publication because I necessarily felt there was a need for it as much as I felt it was something I would like to do. If I can earn part of my living from this, all the better. I enjoy travelling around Nova Scotia, especially in the late spring, summer and early fall. I enjoy visiting and interviewing interesting and intelligent people. I enjoy the food they offer me! I’ve had some great meals but one that really stands out was at Mary Janet MacDonald’s in Port Hood. I visited in early June and lunch was a fresh lobster sandwich made with Mary Janet’s homemade bread, homemade ginger cookies and a perfectly brewed cup of tea. But I digress. I enjoy editing the stories. I’ve come to learn that I enjoy designing, laying out and managing an online publication. I also enjoy reading and rereading the finished product complete with photographs. I hope others do, too.

(Note to self: try to arrange more interviews in Mabou during lobster season.)

I also asked him what he hoped to achieve with his publication and he said:

I’d simply like to offer a publication that’s entertaining and engaging through its stories and photographs. Anything else is a bonus…Although I’m a journalist, I don’t really consider the content in Backstory NS to be journalism. However, its in-depth stories and photos are more satisfying than the general interest stories found in most conventional newspaper, which I feel should focus more on hard news. It’s dangerous to generalize, but I think we’re more curious about our neighbours in Nova Scotia than in many other places around the world. I think that’s why we like reading obituaries so much!

As for how he chooses his interview subjects (which, full disclosure, particularly interested me because I am one of them), MacVicar said:

It’s hard to nail down how I pick the people I ask for interviews. But one saying comes to mind: they’ve “been through the mill.” They don’t have to be old or well-known but they will have struggled to achieve something of note or to simply have survived. They’re intelligent, open and good storytellers. And they tend to be humble, have a good sense of humour and be progressive, whatever that mean. They’re often people who question and challenge the status quo.

The key, clearly, is that the people MacVicar interviews don’t have to be old.

A subscription will cost you $40 for the year ($80 for businesses and government agencies) which, if you calculate it on a per-word basis is a fantastic bargain. I’m delighted to welcome Backstory NS to the brave new world of online publishing in this province — and, hand to heart, I would extend the same welcome even if I wasn’t one of the not-old people interviewed.

Tim again: I also have subscribed to Backstory, and encourage readers to do the same.

5. Meth


“Methamphetamine has crept into Nova Scotia disguised as another street drug,” reports David Burke for the CBC:

“Originally, they were ice pills and kids thought they were similar to ecstasy,” said RCMP Cpl. David Lane. “Unfortunately, now people know they’re meth and they take them fully aware that they are methamphetamine.”

Even with meth moving in, and the popularity of party drugs, the main drugs abused in Nova Scotia remain opioids and crack cocaine.

The demand never wanes whether it is in urban or rural areas. Lane said people need to rid themselves of the fantasy that small town Nova Scotia is immune to the province’s drug problems. 

“The illicit drug trade is everywhere in Nova Scotia,” he said. “People might want to think it doesn’t happen in rural Nova Scotia, but it does.

It’s strange, to me anyway, that meth has been relatively rare in Nova Scotia. When I lived in rural California, meth was ubiquitous, probably because it is so easy to make and doesn’t have to involve long chains of international supply. College students took it casually, to help them cram for exams. Shift workers too. One sure way to find meth users was just to drive around at night — a lot of meth users would stay up all night working on their cars, garage doors open. It was explained to me that on meth, a backyard mechanic will seek engine perfection, tuning and retuning but never reaching the desired end point.

In Chico, I stumbled upon an interesting privacy issue involving meth when I was looking at search warrant documents. It seems an amateur scientist and entrepreneur went over to his local Safeway to buy a needed ingredient for his product, namely a half dozen bottles of something called Red Devil Lye. The scientist/entrepreneur discretely paid cash for his purchase, but being in the consumer paradise of America, he dutifully used his Safeway rewards card to get discounts on future purchases. Safeway was more than happy to make the sale of something they evidently knew was going to be used for illegal purposes, but they also felt the need to notify law enforcement of the purchase, so they called up the local drug squad, providing them with the name and address of the scientist/entrepreneur as it was listed in their rewards card records. That was enough information for a successful application for a search warrant, and so at 5am one day the SWAT squad came a-calling. I don’t know, but I’m guessing our scientist/entrepreneur was working on his car. I do know, however, that he was arrested on various charges that could land him in prison for many years. The incident raised a lot of issues for me, but mostly What the fuck, Safeway? Either sell the drug-making supplies or not, and happily profit from the sale or not, but don’t be calling the cops on customers who are otherwise making legal purchases. Safeway never responded to my request for comment; I have no idea what happened to the scientist/entrepreneur, but I’m sure hoping that he hired a lawyer who knew to challenge how the evidence was obtained. But that’s why to this day I don’t use grocery store reward cards.

Likewise, when I lived in rural Arkansas, meth was everywhere. The bumbling sheriff would call out the Hazmat team three or four times a week to clean up after raids of meth labs. He told me that on his first such raid after he was elected he didn’t know anything about meth and so simply carried out open buckets of various chemicals and put them in his truck, then drove down the dirt lane back to department headquarters, the chemicals sloshing and splattering around the whole way. This apparently raised alarm among his more experienced underlings, who uncharacteristically demanded better procedures from their boss, hence the constant call-out of the Hazmat team.

I guess my point is that you’d have to be extremely naive to think rural areas are free of drugs. My experience is the exact opposite: there’s far more drug usage in rural areas than in cities. There are no doubt a lot of economic and social reasons for that, but my sense was that much of it reflects simple desperation: large swaths of rural North America consist of dead and dying towns with little opportunity and less hope. May as well get stoned.




Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and the Recognition and Commemoration of Indigenous History Special Advisory Committee (Monday, 6pm, City Hall) — agenda


Public Information Meeting/Workshop – Case 20871 (Tuesday, 6:30pm, Maritime Hall, Halifax Forum) — WSP Canada Inc. wants to build five buildings on five acres at the corner of Robie and Almon Streets (6016-6070 Almon Street, which is everything from the corner to the old bus terminal site). If approved, the buildings will range from two to 22 storeys in height.


No public meetings Monday or Tuesday.

On campus



What is Universal Design? Unravelling the myth from the reality (Monday, 10am, Room B400, Killam Library) — Kirsten Jones will speak. From the listing:

Often, Universal Design in classrooms is considered too hard, too difficult, or too challenging to implement in academic settings. In reality, this is far from the truth. Universal design is an extension of our teaching styles, not an opposition to them. This workshop is intended as an introduction to universal design principles. It will help to provide context on what universal design is, what it means to students, and how to incorporate it into existing course design.

I dunno, I’m not hopeful; billions of dollars have gone into new classrooms and they still haven’t solved the left-handed desk problem.

Inequalities in Psychological Distress and Suicidal Behaviour Between Indigenous and NonIndigenous Population in Canada: What Explains the Differences? (Monday, 12:30pm, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Mohammad Hajizadeh will speak. His abstract:

Inequalities in the psychological distress and suicide rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous population continue to exist in Canada. Using data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health (n= 25,113) we investigated demographic, socioeconomic, sociocultural and geographic factors underlying the variation in the prevalence of moderate-to-serious psychological distress (10-item Kessler Psychological Distress Scale [K10] scores > 24) and lifetime suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide plan between Indigenous populations living off-reserve and non-Indigenous population in Canada. An extension of the Blinder–Oaxaca (BO) technique to non-linear models was used to decompose the differences in the prevalence into two parts: the proportion attributable to the different levels of the covariates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations (the endowment effect or explained part) and a proportion attributable to those covariates having different effects on psychological distress and suicidal behaviours in Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations (the response effect or unexplained part). The prevalence of moderate-to-serious psychological distress, lifetime suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide plan among the non-Indigenous population in Canada were found to be 5.8, 9.5, 2.4%, respectively. The corresponding figures for Indigenous peoples were 10, 18.6 and 7.8%, respectively. We found that the variation in psychological distress is mostly explained by the differences in the sociodemographic, socioeconomic and sociocultural factors between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Canada. The results indicated that if covariates (e.g., income and employment status) were made to be identical in Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, the difference in the psychological distress between these populations would have been reduced by 77%.  The differences in the prevalence of lifetime suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide plan, however, were mainly explained by the response effect. Improving covariates among Indigenous peoples through plans like income equalisation or education subsidies may reduce the gap in psychological distress between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Canada. Since the response effect chiefly explains variations in suicidal behaviours, further research is required to understand these differences in Canada.

Zeros and irreducibility of some classes of special polynomials (Monday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Karl Dilcher will speak. His abstract:

In the first part of this talk I will define a sequence of polynomials resembling the Chebyshev polynomials of the first kind, and present results on their irreducibility and zero distribution. I will also consider $2\times 2$ Hankel determinants of these polynomials, which have interesting zero distributions. Furthermore, if these polynomials are split into two halves, then the zeros of one half lie in the interval $(-1,1)$, while those of the other half lie on the unit circle.

If time allows, I will also talk about various other number theoretic polynomials, in particular polynomials with gcd powers a coefficients, and once again consider their irreducibility and zero distribution.

Let’s hope time allows!

Welcome Reception for interim President & ViceChancellor Peter MacKinnon (Monday, 3:30pm, Sculpture Court, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — how many times is Dal gonna welcome this guy? (He was welcomed up in Truro on Friday.) Get to work already.

Living while Black: Criminalization, Exclusion and Human Rights (Monday, 6pm, Room 303, Student Union Building) — a discussion with speakers Robert Wright, El Jones, Tiffany Gordon, and moderator Isaac Saney. 

Saint Mary’s


From The Novel To The Essay: Dynamic and Generic Classification in Francophone Literatures – A reading of Emile Ollivier’s Repérages (Monday , 2:30pm, L181) — Awah Sidjeck  from Memorial University will speak.

Sexual Violence Awareness Week (Monday 3pm to Friday 3pm) — information booths, workshops, lectures, and events. Info here.

The Impoverishment of Ethical Consciousness (Monday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Argentine-Canadian anthologist, writer and translator Alberto Manguel will speak. Info here.


The Bayers Lake Mystery Walls (Tuesday, 7:30pm, Burke Theatre A) — Jonathan Fowler will talk.

In the harbour

The Tropic Hope, Maersk Penang, and Algoma Integrity were all supposed to arrive last night (17:00, 17:30, and 19:00 respectively). As of 06:30 this morning, however, Tropic Hope is anchored in St. Margarets Bay, and Maersk Penang and Algoma Integrity are under power but going nowhere about 40 kilometres south of the entrance of Halifax Harbour. I could speculate that there are weather delays or a lack of a pilot, but I don’t know what’s going on.

Time uncertain: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Time uncertain: Maersk Penang, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
Time uncertain: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from New York
14:00: APL Detroit, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Colombo, Sri Lanka
19:00: Delhi Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany


Be careful today. The sidewalks were quite icy last night.

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  1. Can’t thank Erica Butler enough for the referral for the NFB doc Encounter on the Urban Environment. Watched over the weekend.

    Absolutely amazing what has not changed in 49 years…..and some things that have. Thank Christ.

    The segment on the Africville should be essential viewing for anyone who doubts the legacy and present day existence of racism in Halifax.

  2. Fact free comments on January 17 on twitter re HRM :
    ” J.., I usually agree with your takes but not on this. In terms of management/governance, city was a dumpster fire for literally decades esp under that clown Peter Kelly. Run by idiots with anti-urban, anti-growth, anti-HfX bent. It’s literally turned a corner in last 10 years ”

    “D…I agree overall that governance is much improved under the current Council with Mike’s leadership. We still have serious cost management issues including pensions and transit that need to be addressed.”
    The facts : The last 5 years of council under Mayor Kelly racked up surpluses totalling $39 million.
    The first 4 years of council under Mayor Savage racked up surpluses of $12.8 million.
    Neither man was responsible for the surpluses or the deficits.

  3. ships are on Weather watch – That means its too rough to board a pilot.
    currently Gusting winds to 29 Knots, with 11′ waves.