On campus
In the harbour


1.  The Chronicle Herald unfairly maligns kids in its attack on refugees

Chronicle Herald

On Saturday, the Chronicle Herald published a despicable piece attacking two Syrian immigrant boys attending Chebucto Heights Elementary School. The boys were accused of “brutality” on the basis of one unnamed parent. Many of the details reported in the story were later deleted in a revised article posted on the paper’s website, presumably because the details were false. Then the article was removed from the site entirely, and an apology offered.

Yesterday, I detailed just how unethical the story was, and explained how it got so many things so very wrong.

Click here to read “The Chronicle Herald unfairly maligns kids in its attack on refugees.”

Later in the day, the Halifax Typographical Union, which represents striking newsroom workers at the Chronicle Herald, issued a statement:

This article emphasizes the need for real journalists to write, edit and photograph accurately the real stories that are important to Nova Scotians. Herald CEO Mark Lever referred to editors as “backroom clerical workers” in an open letter to newspaper readers several weeks ago. Later, the Herald targeted 18 newsroom employees for layoff, more than half of whom are editors. The refugee bullying account would have benefited from the expert editing skills of those “backroom clerical workers” targeted for layoff.


The anonymous writer of the refugee bullying story was presumably hired as a replacement worker. The editor who worked on the story was put in place by Herald management. Both were hired and assigned according to the skills and abilities that management deems appropriate for the job. Can we really rely on that same management team to decide who has the best skills and abilities to do a job should a contractual seniority provision be abandoned?

The refugee bullying article drives home the points that we striking newsroom workers have been accentuating for more than 10 weeks. Unsubstantiated drivel does not a news story make. Neither do alleged skills and abilities make a journalist.

2. Biomass, Freedom of Information, and the Silence of the DNR Company Men


Since her exhaustive examination of Nova Scotia’s biomass-to-power policies last month, reporter Linda Pannozzo has used the Freedom of Information Act to track exactly how provincial bureaucrats ignored her questions. In particular, she calls out the Department of Natural Resources spokesperson, Bruce Nunn.

Click here to read “Biomass, Freedom of Information, and the Silence of the DNR Company Men.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

3. Examineradio, episode #56


This week we’re pleased to welcome Halifax Mayor Mike Savage as our special guest. This marks the first time we’ve recorded Examineradio in front of a live audience, and our thanks to the Company House for hosting the event and Erin Costelo for providing a great musical interlude.

The live taping was part of CKDU’s Spring Fring, the station’s quarterly sustainer drive. CKDU is Halifax’s only campus and community radio station. This means that the sound of the station is shaped by the volunteer programmers who are on-air every day, and their funding comes from our listeners as opposed to advertising revenue — much like the Halifax Examiner, which is also ad-free and relies on its subscribers.

The station offers the most diverse radio content in the province, both music and current affairs. And if you’re not currently a monthly CKDU sustainer, just head over to their website and you can sign up. They’ve got different sustainer levels and some snazzy incentives to throw your way. Simply put, if you appreciate independent media — like the Halifax Examiner — you should try to support it financially.

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4. Bees

“Nova Scotia’s minister of agriculture says new measures to import bees from Ontario are a necessary compromise to balance the needs of the blueberry and bee industries, but some beekeepers say it’s a risk that could hurt their livelihood,” reports Elizabeth McMillan for the CBC:

Without the proper pollination, it would substantially reduce the yield in the blueberry fields, which would be a huge economic impact on the province,” said Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell, adding this year the province is only importing half as many bees as last year.

“We’re not really prioritizing one over the other. There’s a need to satisfy demand in the industry, the blueberry industry, that the bee industry can’t satisfy.”

Colwell is putting the entire provincial bee industry at risk for the rest of history in return for increased blueberry yields for one season.

It shows who has clout in this province. Clearly, billionaire and Liberal-connected John Bragg, who has cornered the blueberry market, has more political pull than the hard-working but less-connected bee-hive owners.

5. McNabs Island

Global News reporter Steve Silva found an interesting engineering report on the shifting sands on McNabs Island.


1. Stephen Kimber

I’ve missed Stephen Kimber’s last two Metro columns. The columns used to be published by around 5am on Monday, but no more, it seems. I don’t know if someone in Winnipeg or wherever they put together the website is sleeping in or what, but the column isn’t being published by the time I get Morning File out. When it is published, Kimber will mirror it here.

Update: Kimber emails to say the column now runs on Tuesdays.

2. Selling the Nova Centre

I attended the Design Review Committee meeting when the committee was considering whether the city should sell a block of Grafton Street to developer Joe Ramia. During the presentation, various architectural renderings were shown, including a view from the south, looking at the proposed Nova Centre; the slide showed how Grafton Street would become a pedestrian walkway, essentially a wide hole through the building.

“This is an impossible view, of course,” one of the committee members noted, and I spent the next couple of minutes analyzing it. The view was from about the corner of Blowers and Argyle Street, but were you actually standing on that corner, you wouldn’t be able to see the Grafton Street hole at all because a bunch of buildings would block the view. Another glance at the slide showed that there were no other buildings besides Nova Centre; all the densely developed downtown was gone.

Since then, I’ve been noticing (and commenting about here) how misleading architectural renderings of proposed developments can be. All the surrounding buildings are either missing completely or of a single colour so the proposed building stands out; actual street life — parking meters, overhead wires, blowing garbage, that guy asking for spare change — is missing; trees are ridiculously large; people ridiculously happy.

But I hadn’t realized that there was a complete science of creating misleading architectural renderings until I read Steve Parcell over the weekend.

You’ll recall that last week Parcell put together a rendering of what he said would be the blocked view of Citadel Hall from the fourth floor of the Central Library should the proposed Doyle Block building be built. In response, the developers said Parcell’s rendering was incorrect, and offered their own renderings. Parcell responded with a detailed, step-by-step deconstruction of the developers’ renderings, utterly destroying the developers’ argument.

Over the weekend, Parcell published another detailed deconstruction of architectural renderings, this time those of the Nova Centre when it was being proposed. It is something of a primer on that science of misleading architectural renderings. Parcell makes 14 points of analysis; here are the first two:


1. Cropping the View

This perspective of Nova Centre was generated from a digital model, so its geometry is liable to be internally accurate. The trick here is in the tight cropping of the image. It shows only the building, so you’d never know it’s in the middle of historic Halifax, near the Grand Parade, or that its building mass is much larger than anything else downtown. To estimate its height, you could count the number of storeys, but there are no neighbouring buildings to help you understand what that means.

Did you notice the leaves in the upper left corner? That’s a common trick. The tree doesn’t exist, of course. This is downtown, not a pastoral landscape where buildings are lower than trees.


2. Altering the View

Here’s a rendering of Nova Centre that includes some neighbouring buildings. We can recognize the brick-clad Marriott hotel on the left and the 1960s Centennial Building on the right. But wait – both of them have been moved away half a block so that we can see the whole Nova Centre. This composition suggests that its urban surroundings are spacious, not the narrow city streets of Halifax.

Now have a closer look at the ground level below. It shows how the architect tried to cover up this graphic lie with another graphic lie, by adding two wide pedestrian malls along the south side of Sackville Street (on the left) and the east side of Argyle Street (on the right). In fact, these malls don’t exist and they aren’t part of the Nova Centre project.

Parcell goes on to make a dozen more points, and then asks readers to apply what they’ve learned to renderings of other proposed developments. I encourage you to read his entire post.

I’m especially interested in Parcell’s take on the ethics of architecture:

Isn’t it unethical for Big Developa to try to fool the public? Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect this sales paradigm: a seller, a buyer, a product, and a sales pitch that promotes certain features while hiding – or even lying about – the rest. The primary motivation, of course, is profit. If we accept this paradigm as the way things are done, our only recourse is to adopt a defensive position: “Buyer beware.”

Big Pharma – at least, in the States – uses the same sales paradigm but has to convince two buyers: the patient and the doctor. Fortunately, the doctor is bound ethically by the Hippocratic oath to do no harm, so this provides some resistance. Consumer groups – think Consumer Reports – provide an extra layer of protection.

Unfortunately, there is no ethical gatekeeper to protect the public from Big Developa. The architect who was hired by the developer to produce the design and/or the renderings is complicit.

The Nova Scotia Association of Architects publishes a “Canons of Ethics,” which includes just one line on architects’ “obligations to the public”:

Members shall act in the best interest of the public.

I guess that makes it OK to lie to the public.

3. Cranky letter of the day

People are just too damned pleasant this morning.

The Government and On Campus sections are compiled by Kathleen Munro.



NOTE: This meeting is Wednesday, not today. Public Open House- Pre Application Downtown Halifax — Representatives of Argyle Developments are opening themselves to questions concerning the construction of the Nova Centre:

Pre-Application by Argyle Developments for changes to façades, loading areas, and mechanical equipment enclosures for the Nova Centre, a mixed use development located on the lands bounded by Argyle, Market, Prince, and Sackville Streets, Halifax, through an amendment to an existing approval, under the Substantial Site Plan Approval process for Downtown Halifax.

Executive Standing Committee (10am, Council Chamber, City Hall) — the committee will appoint four people to the newly created Halifax Convention Centre Board of Directors.

North West Community Council (7pm, Waverley Fire Hall) — A full agenda for Monday. Council will discuss the rezoning of lands on Montague Road and Montague Gold Mines. There will also be a presentation to update residents on The Status of the Centre Plan:

The Regional Centre is defined as the urban core of the Halifax Regional Municipality. It is composed of the Halifax Peninsula and Dartmouth within the Circumferential Highway on either side of the Halifax Harbour, and has a total of 33 square kilometres.

The plan would see updates to Secondary Municipal Planning Strategies and Land Use Bylaws. Photos and a lively discussion forum can be found at Shape Your City Halifax.


No public meetings.

On Campus

Industry Liaison and Innovation (9am, Room 3H, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Ken Hughes, CEO of iTP Biomedica Corporation, will be presenting.

In the harbour

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

Asian King, car carrier, arrived at Autoport this morning from Southhampton, England; sails to sea at 4pm
CMA CGM Vicaldi, container ship, Port Klang, Malaysia to Pier 41 at 11am, then sails to sea at 9:30pm
CSL Metis, bulker, Sydney, Nova Scotia to National Gypsum at 10pm

OOCL Kaohsiung sailed from Fairview Cove at 8am for Cagliari, Italy
Nanny sails from Pier 9 to sea at 2pm


We’ll have a news story up this morning, just as soon as I can turn my attention to it. Check back on the homepage.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. It’s indeed troubling that the Nova Centre renderings exceed the usual exaggeration of “eyewash” and venture into outright lies by moving surrounding buildings half a block away, etc. Speaking as an architect and design critic, this level of manipulation is not at all common practice. Still, the developers gave the architects very little choice under the circumstances. An architect rarely has control over the basic “givens” of a project – area/height/massing, function, and location – least of all when the client is a developer. I’m not pleased at all with the elevations or the massing – and that’s no pedestrian way, that’s the dark and soon to be dingy underbelly of a behemoth! – but if you give a cook bad ingredients, don’t be surprised and angry when the meal is inedible. There is virtually nothing an architect can do to make good architecture (or urban design) out of bad ingredients, other than to reject the commission outright.

    While many architects do take on the thankless task of “educating the client”, this effort requires a good deal of patience, hours and hours of unpaid time, and a developer with an open mind. For public buildings and mega-projects, architects often spend extra time taking the client to visit similar projects in other cities and even other countries. This requires great powers of persuasion, and sometimes lasts years. And, being outside the architects’ scope of work, few are in a position to take on the risk and wind up without a commission (one of many reasons why ethical guidelines must differ). It can pay off big, though. A friend of mine spent several tense (and broke) years trying to “educate” a member of the family that owns the Chicago Bears on stadium design, with trips to Munich and other Olympic stadiums, plus endless dinners, whiskies, and cigars. Fortunately, he and his partner eventually won over the whole family.

    The problems Purcell dissects in graphic form, which are now unfolding before our eyes in the wretched Nova Centre itself, all stem from the profound wrongheadedness of these basics – and thus the current list of woes was quite foreseeable. Ask an architect to shoehorn an excessive amount of massing onto a site wildly unsuited for it in size and character, for an outmoded function with little or no chance of economic success to begin with, and what you get is a perfect storm of “bad” everything. Go from bad financing, bad planning, bad siting, and bad programming, and, quell surprise, you get bad architecture!

    And, though just as some lawyers will take an unwinnable, not to say vexatious case, there are architects ready to take on a doomed commission. But alas, we don’t have quite the sort of professional ethics as lawyers, because we don’t have the same degree of control and in turn responsibilitl, particularly for major public buildings, because the critical decisions are made way before the architect enters the room.

    So Purcell is, well, not correct, when he says, “Unfortunately, there is no ethical gatekeeper to protect the public from Big Developa. The architect who was hired by the developer to produce the design and/or the renderings is complicit.” The architect isn’t by any means the sole “ethical gatekeeper”. There were a few other gates before him. In fact, at this stage of the Nova Centre game, calling out the architect is a bit like shutting the barn door after you fling it open and drive out all the horses.

    Purcell’s deconstruction is no more than an illustration of the project’s overall wrongheadedness. The poor light it casts falls squarely on the collective stupidity of its progenitors. And a lot of it grazes the developers’ heads and hits the cobwebby heads of our dear public officials. They are more than “complicit”. They’re instrumental in setting up the project for failure. And in this case, I can’t even excuse any of them for being “laypeople”, not given the availability of literature on the futility of convention centres as “economic engines” (and the list of defaults), not to mention the incongruity of its function and comparatively mammoth scale in the midst of a few small-grained blocks too weak to be said to surround it – a mismatch immediately obvious to any four-year-old, even before you take a gander at the horrendous circulation problems it creates.

    I guess HRM Council members never played with building blocks. Sigh. I sure don’t envy the people running the Argyle meeting tonight, and I’m a little embarrassed for them, if their job is apparently to try to persuade the public the Centre design can be made palatable.

  2. I have to take issue with part of your commentary on the Chronicle-Herald’s story.

    The CH has most assuredly not apologized. Their blurb on page 2 weasels around some of the things they did wrong but never actually comes out and apologizes for this egregious lapse in ethics and journalism. In essence, they blame the public/journalists/jihadists for how the article was received and disseminated, and wag their finger at those who used social media to speak out against this wrong.

    (I also think their offer to print commentary and letters shows bad judgment; bigots don’t need another soapbox to proclaim their xenophobia.)

  3. The second rendering of the convention centre is especially deceitful.

    Anyone who has walked down the narrow street of Argyle knows the lurking, hulking presence that is the monstrosity being built.

    The wide space of the rendering is a pure misleading fiction as the new building is being built right up to the sidewalk with no set back and will loom over anyone sitting in a sidewalk cafe.

    Truly horrible. Truly deceitful.

    1. Agreed. However, it’s moot, really. The big hulk is fleshed out and standing there for all to experience.
      I really can’t believe there was no setback on those narrow streets. Then again, because the whole project just doesn’t compute, I’ve been deliberately ignoring it.
      Forget cafes. No one wants to sit anywhere near waiting tour buses, delivery trucks, and cab stands that hover around convention centres

  4. Thank you for the note re Nova Centre proposed amendments – Public Open House – Pre Application Downtown Halifax (7pm, Brunswick Room, 1583 Brunswick Street) at 7PM this evening.

    The link to the Nova Centre site shows some portions of the proposed changes alongside some of the previously approved designs, however, as noted in your item 2. Selling the Nova Centre, the renderings are not telling the whole story.

    During my time on the Design Review Committee, there was much discussion about how important it is to comply with the Design Guidelines to improve the effect of the ‘back side’ of the Centre on Market Street, In my opinion, these proposed amendments do not comply with the intention of the Guidelines and take a serious step back from the decisions made at that time. These changes, particularly the extremely large mechanical louvres, the overhead service doors and the replacement of the punched windows with advertising (hotel sign) will have a devastating and longlasting effect on Market Street, and on the 2 corners at Sackville and Prince Streets.

    Better solutions for the new operational issues that have come up for the convention centre and hotel (as stated on the website) should be found – solutions that do not change the previously approved design.

  5. RE Biomass: Thanks for engaging Linda Pannozzo to write on the biomass issue. Her articles are insightful and well researched and provide important information to many people who probably haven’t given the issue much thought. Many people don’t realize that deforestation in this province is a very serious problem. Her writing, along with the recent petition may have, to some degree, influenced the government’s decision to change the status of the Port Hawkesbury generator.

    It’s worth noting that, while value added hardwood manufacturers have shut down in recent years in this province due to a lack of raw materials, we continue to ship wood chips to China – and possibly Turkey – out of Sheet Harbour. These wood chips are manufactured into MDF board, some of which, could actually show up at your local building material store. Setting aside the absurdity of shipping chips overseas and then importing MDF board, there is also the question of what in the hell do they use to glue the fibers together to make the product. It is quite possible that construction workers are ingesting… oh never mind, no more time for a rant today. Thanks again for covering this important issue.