1. How many pink shirts will it take to fix this?

Zach Churchill

A few days ago, the news broke that two former NDP cabinet members had complained about Zach Churchill’s behaviour while they were in office. One was Ramona Jennex, but the other wasn’t named. Now we know who it is: Denise Peterson-Rafuse (formerly my MLA).

Taryn Grant and Zane Woodford get into details of the allegations in The Star Halifax.

Jennex wrote to House Speaker Kevin Murphy, saying Churchill approached her outside the main chamber of Province House on April 13, 2012, swearing and verbally berating her.

“Mr. Churchill poked me in the shoulder, pushing me backwards while threatening me with his face very close to mine,” the letter reads.

Meanwhile, Peterson-Rafuse told the Star she remembers an incident with Churchill from “roughly” 2014.

In a letter dated April 1, 2019, she described an interaction with Churchill inside the main chamber of the legislature. She wrote that the minister approached her “after a heated Question Period.”

“Suddenly from behind me I felt this very rough yank on my shoulder, which was totally unexpected, and it frighten (sic) me. After a few tense moments and words, he left, and I reported the incident to my caucus and leader. The premier was made aware of the incident and asked to ensure it didn’t happen again.”

Both women are now out of politics. Their accusations come on the heels of PC leader Tim Houston reporting that he was accosted by Churchill last week.

The story quotes Premier Stephen McNeil as putting all this down to “the enthusiasm of the debate and it spilling out beyond the main chamber.”

Speaking to Diane Paquette on CBC Radio, McNeil denied any knowledge of the allegations, said that it was up to the two women “to explain their experience” and seemed to think the biggest issue was Churchill’s tone. “Tone matters,” he said.

It does. And McNeil is being tone deaf.

2. Examiner gets 3 AJA nominations

El Jones, Joan Baxter, and Stephen Kimber

The Atlantic Journalism Awards announced their 2018 finalists yesterday, and I’m happy to see that Team Examiner earned three nominations.

Joan Baxter’s four-part Fool’s Gold series is nominated in the “Excellence in Digital Journalism: Enterprise/Longform” category. The exhaustively researched series (it took her about five months) is a look at the push to expand mining in Nova Scotia, and the resulting environmental and financial consequences. Spoiler alert: The consequences are not good.

Both El Jones and Stephen Kimber are nominated in the “Commentary: Any Medium” category. (Which, unfortunately, means they are competing against each other.)

Jones’s nomination is for her piece I don’t want to be a role model, I just want to be allowed to be human, published last July. Jones looks at the influence of her childhood and her life as a high-profile activist in a small city.

It’s weird, because Halifax is such a small place, really, that you wonder how many people who hate you see you walking around, or taking the bus, or buying toilet paper. And I wonder if they see me as a person then — a person who reflects, and thinks, and worries, and tries to do the right thing, and who feels nervous afterwards, and who second guesses myself, and doubts, and cares for people (a human, like them).

Stephen Kimber’s nomination is for Christopher Garnier’s PTSD: right policy, wrong result, better outcome… published last September. Garnier, you may recall, was being treated for PTSD, which his lawyer claimed resulted from the act of murdering Catherine Campbell. You may also recall the widespread outrage last summer when it turned out Garnier’s treatment was being paid for by Veterans Affairs.

The Atlantic Journalism Awards recognize “journalistic excellence and achievement in print and electronic news media in Atlantic Canada.” Good luck to all.

3. Opt-out organ donation

Sign here if you do not want to donate your organs.

The provincial government announced earlier this week that it will consider all Nova Scotians presumed organ donors. In other words, rather than checking a box if you want to donate your organs when you die, you’ll have to check the box if you do not want your organs donated.

While much has been made of our being the first jurisdiction in North America to adopt this approach, it has been tried elsewhere, including Spain, Portugal and Wales.

A CBC story following-up on the announcement notes that 90% of Canadians support organ donation but only about 20% have signed up as donors.

The story gets into the ethics of presumed consent (how do you square presumed and informed consent?) and how various religions and cultures may approach organ donation.

The question is whether it’s a good fit for Canadian society, said Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto.

“My first concern would be, this is a multicultural society and there are cultures and religions that really have a lot of concern about either organ donation or the steps before organ donation or the definition of death,” Bowman said.

For instance, Bowman said, the Catholic Church is very supportive of organ donation but sees presumed consent as problematic because it reduces the autonomous decision to give.

I have to say I’ve been a bit taken aback by some of the reaction to this story. I know you should never read the comments, but I did. Some readers seem to think that “presumed” means “compulsory” — which is obviously not the case.

My understanding is that even when people have agreed to become organ donors, their organs do not always get transplanted because of objections from family members. And doctors, I imagine, do not want to pressure or upset people at their most vulnerable, when a loved one has just died. I suspect that even with presumed consent these conversations will continue.

4. Unregulated massage therapy

Crashed car
After I crashed my car I went for massage therapy.

Elizabeth McMillan follows up for CBC on the effects of Nova Scotia’s lack of regulations for massage therapists.

Right now, anyone can call themselves a massage therapist, and there is nothing to stop massage therapists from practicing — even if they are facing multiple counts of sexual assault.

McMillan notes that the absence of regulations isn’t just bad (and dangerous) for patients — it also harms practitioners, because they don’t have recognized credentials when they move to another province.

A College of Massage Therapists could act on those types of public complaints, said Amy-Lynne Graves, president of the Massage Therapists Association of Nova Scotia. Legislation would also bring the province in line with the rest of Atlantic Canada.

“Because we are the only unregulated province in the Maritimes, it’s very much limiting the scope of practice and the migration of the individual therapists,” she said.

Jenn Stuart, who heads the Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy in Halifax says regulation of the profession in Nova Scotia is “way past due.”

It seems very odd to me that this is a completely unregulated field here.


1. Art vs Sport

Like many of you, I’ve been following the Halifax stadium story. I won’t rehash the arguments for you. Tim has written extensively about this and so have others.

The other day, I was driving in and around Highfield Park, frustrated with Google Maps’ inability to get me to my location. (Hint: If you are visiting John Macneil Elementary School do not count on Google Maps). As I circled tantalizingly closer to my destination, I was listening to callers on the Rick Howe show expressing their opinions. One stadium supporter, as I recall, had concerns and said he could understand why others would be opposed. He also said he pays taxes for things he never uses, like bike lanes, and that he was fine with that. So he didn’t see an issue with people who would never use the stadium have to put some of their tax dollars towards it either.

Then, before signing off, the caller said spending money on a stadium would be a lot better than an art gallery.

I titled this “Art vs Sport” but that’s not really accurate. We can enjoy both art and sports. I love sports. I’ve travelled to Florida, Montreal, Toronto, and Boston to watch baseball games, and to Montreal for hockey. I enjoy going to the occasional Mooseheads game, I’m looking forward to seeing the Wanderers, and if we do wind up building a stadium I’ll most likely take in a CFL game or two as well.

And, of course, I love the arts as well.

Somehow, we’ve gotten the perception that sports are an economic driver and the arts are an elite, tax-dollar-sucking activity.

But the numbers tell a different story.

On February 27, Statistics Canada released a report called Economic importance of culture and sport in Canada.

In 2016, culture gross domestic product (GDP) and sport GDP combined for a total of $60.3 billion and equated to over 765,000 jobs in Canada. The largest contributors to culture GDP and jobs were the audio-visual and interactive media and the visual and applied arts domains, which include, among others, activities related to design, broadcasting, and film and video. For sport, the largest component was organized sport activities, including the hosting of sporting events.

But culture dominates in terms of both employment and economic activity.

Culture GDP in Canada totalled $53.8 billion in 2016, a 1.5% increase from the previous year, while economy-wide GDP increased 1.8%. Culture accounted for 2.8% of Canada’s overall GDP. The importance of culture varied considerably across provinces and territories, ranging from a share of 1.3% of GDP in Saskatchewan to 3.5% in Ontario.

Sport GDP rose 3.2% in 2016, totalling $6.5 billion and representing 0.3% of the total economy. The GDP of all sport domains grew with the exception of informal sport, which declined 0.2%. (Emphasis added)

What about Nova Scotia? Well, here it’s pretty much the same story:

Culture GDP in Nova Scotia… accounted for 2.3% of the total provincial economy. The live performance domain (+4.7%) contributed the most to the growth in culture GDP.

In 2016, there were 13,719 culture jobs in Nova Scotia…

Sport GDP totalled $151.7 million in 2016… Sport contributed 0.4% of the total provincial economy, which rose 2.9%. Nova Scotia had 2,760 sport jobs in 2016.

Interestingly, Statistics Canada tracks what both domestic and foreign tourists spend on sports and culture. (Or, in Stats Canada-ese, “sport products” and “culture products.”)

In 2016, tourists spent $1.7 billion on culture (led by spending on concerts and plays) and $915.6 million on sports (with about half this spending related to professional sports).

It’s worth looking at one of the tables accompanying the report to see the detailed breakdown of activities.

2. You can’t have a bully as education minister

I didn’t want to use the same image of Zach Churchill twice, so here is another Churchill. (Image from
I didn’t want to use the same image of Zach Churchill twice, so here is another Churchill. (Image from

Herald columnist Jim Vibert weighs in on the Churchill affair, saying that Premier Stephen McNeil’s usual approach is not appropriate in the face of three different allegations against his Minister of Education.

Nova Scotia can’t have a bully as education minister at any time, but particularly in the current environment where bullying is a sometimes lethal problem confronting kids. Surely, the education minister needs to model a higher standard of behaviour than that of a schoolyard bully.

The premier needs to satisfy himself, and us, that the minister is not a bully.

Except that he won’t. He won’t because his government’s standard operating procedure when it finds itself or one its own in a tough spot is denial, bluster and counter-accusation, until the matter eventually and inevitably runs its course.

I also note Vibert spells Churchill’s first name correctly (Zach) while the headline writer gets it wrong (Zack).

Noticed: Schlocky old fountains

Illustration of a cast iron fountain design
Illustration from the 1885 MacFarlane catalogue

Following up on Tim’s post about blowing up instead of refurbishing the Boer War memorial fountain in the Public Gardens, self-described decorative cast iron fan Stephen Archibald looks at similar schlocky fountains around the world.

Archibald notes that fountains similar to our “South African Memorial Fountain” appear in provincial colonial towns around the world, and that many of them were churned out by the Walter MacFarlane Ironworks in Glasgow.

MacFarlane shipped their products around the world. At the beginning of the last century, if you were a Nova Scotian sailor washed up in Singapore and nostalgic for home, you could gaze upon those familiar horn blowing cherubs on the fountain in front of the Orchard Road Market.

I really enjoyed this post. I don’t know if I imagined local artisans casting these fountains and monuments, but I certainly did not realize a Scottish factory was building them on an industrial scale and shipping them all over the empire.




Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — councillor Richard Zurawski wants a report on reducing GHG emissions from city buildings.

Accessible Parking Public Engagement (Thursday, 2pm and 6pm, Halifax Central Library) — info here.

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, Gym, Lake Echo Community Centre) — the site of the old country bar/ strip club/ animal hospital on Wyse Road has a new development proposal, much scaled down from the previous but failed proposal. The new proposal calls for a six-storey building on the site.


No public meetings.


No public meetings this week.

On campus



Social Interaction and Youth Mental Health (Thursday, 10am, OE Smith/Cineplex Theatre, IWK Health Centre) — Sandra Meier will speak.

ESS Student Showcase (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — students, alumni of the ESS program, and TAs will show off their social action initiatives, undergraduate theses, and experiential learning projects from the College’s internship and capstone courses.

Dal Jazz Ensemble Featuring Mike Murley (Thursday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — info here. $15.


ProtonCoupled Electron Transfer in Organic Synthesis (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — a talk by Robert Knowles from Princeton University.

Corporeality and Princely Sovereignty in the Early Modern Persianate Sphere (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Colin Mitchell will speak.

Signature Event: The Grand Parade (Friday and Saturday, 7:30pm, Pier 21, Marginal Road) — Tickets $15. From the listing:

18th century opulence in costume! Fourth year students of the Fountain  School’s Costume Studies program join with the Dal Wind Ensemble for our annual historical costume show. Join us for an evening of unique exploration in an unexpected setting. This event will showcase the creative pairing of rhythmic and colourful music with lush historical dress, design, and choreography by Fountain School students. We are proud to present this exciting collaboration with the help of the Traves Performance Excellence Fund.



Night FYP Lecture: Prince and the Revolution (Thursday, 7:30pm, KTS lecture hall) — Eli Diamond will speak. Followed by a dance party in the Wardroom.

In the harbour

10:00: Morning Conductor, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
11:00: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York


Photo of a hamburger and fries.
One of the burgers. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Burger Week just finished. My relationship to this promotional event has gone something like this over the years:


Oh my God, I’m so sick of hearing about burgers.

You realize Burger Week is a local marketing campaign, and not something that just happened organically, right? I am above this foolishness.

I’m observing Lent and not eating meat. No burgers for me.

This year: Seems kinda fun. Let’s try some burgers.

I only hit up three spots, and the best of the trio was the burger from Canvas. I had never even noticed this restaurant and I probably would not have eaten there if one of my kids didn’t work at the adjoining hotel. Can’t vouch for the rest of the menu, but the burger was a winner.

I wonder how I’ll feel about the whole thing next year.

The Halifax Examiner is an advertising-free, subscriber-supported news site. Your subscription makes this work possible; please subscribe.

Philip Moscovitch is a freelance writer, audio producer, fiction writer, and editor of Write Magazine.

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  1. Sports are big because of moneyed interests and old men trying to recapture old glories.

  2. Thank you for the piece on art and sport. I care about sport but this needed to be said. (“Culture GDP in Nova Scotia… accounted for 2.3% of the total provincial economy.” and “Sport contributed 0.4% of the total provincial economy, ” It would be interesting to compare salaries for men and women in each area. I wonder if women are paid less for similar jobs?

  3. The future is now and that means replacing BURGER WEEK ! with VEGETABLE WEEK!
    The journal “Science” published a study that created a huge dataset based on almost 40,000 farms in 119 countries and covering 40 food products that represent 90% of all that is eaten. It assessed the full impact of these foods, from farm to fork, on land use, climate change emissions, freshwater use and water pollution (eutrophication) and air pollution (acidification).”

    THE RESULTS: “Avoiding meat is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet.
    The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.
    The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other recent research shows 86% of all land mammals are now livestock or humans. The scientists also found that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.”

    1. I’m not vegetarian but 100% agree. I know what burgers taste like and I’ve never had a good one in Canada. I assume it has something to do with the Overcooking aspect regulations. I’d love to see a vegetable or seafood or sustainable food week.

  4. Congrats on the nominations – well deserved. McNeil is a bully too, so he will defend the bully next to him.