1. Yarmouth ferry

The Alakai. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“The [U.S.] federal border protection agency has offered a reprieve that may allow the Portland-Nova Scotia ferry to return to Maine next year, if the city can find up to $2 million for upgrades to its ferry terminal,” reports Jake Bleiberg for the Bangor Daily News:

The Cat ferry’s 2018 season appeared to have been sunk last month, when the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it would end operations at Portland’s international ferry terminal because the facility needed roughly $7 million worth of work to meet government standards.

But the agency is now saying that if the city can complete a less costly batch of upgrades to the Ocean Gateway terminal, agents will be available to conduct the required customs screenings for passengers disembarking the ferry next spring.

It’s uncertain where the funding for this work will come from and city officials have been clear that local taxpayers cannot foot the bill. But both the city and Bay Ferries Ltd. are committed to bringing The Cat back to Portland, a city official and company representative said.


The city and Bay Ferries have jointly brought forward a plan for between $1.5 and $2 million worth of work to the Ocean Gateway. But many major issues, including where the money would come from and how the work would be completed before ferry is set to return in May, have not yet been sorted out.

Everyone knows where the money will come from: Nova Scotian taxpayers. Two million, seven million, eleventy-hundred million, it doesn’t matter — cost is no consideration for the continuation of the ferry service, and the provincial government will pay whatever is required.

2. Power outages

Power outages in the Halifax area Wednesday morning.

A Christmas Day windstorm resulted in power outages affecting about 80,000 people across Nova Scotia. As of 8am this morning, there were still 764 power outages affecting 8,115 people. See Nova Scotia Power’s outage map here.

3. Delilah Saunders

Delilah Saunders

“An Inuk activist from Labrador whose struggle with acute liver failure sparked a national discussion about an Ontario transplant policy is being released from hospital in what her friends and family are calling a ‘Christmas miracle,’” reports Adina Bresge for the Canadian Press:

Delilah Saunders, 26, has been discharged from Toronto General Hospital’s transplant unit and is returning to Newfoundland to live with family for the next few months while she recovers.

Saunders said she has made a “miraculous” turnaround since being diagnosed with acute liver failure about two weeks ago, and doctors told her it doesn’t look like she’ll need a transplant in the immediate future.

4. Bicyclist struck

Kim Watson

A police release about an incident last Friday evening:

At 7pm, east patrol members responded to a motor vehicle accident at the corner of Portland St at Highway 111 Dartmouth. The adult male driver of the car attempted to turn left from Portland Street to Highway 111 (northbound), when he struck an adult female cyclists (sic) travelling westbound on Portland Street. The cyclists (sic) was taken by ambulance to hospital with minor injuries. The motorist was charged with Failing to Yield the Right of way under the Motor Vehicle Act.

According to a GoFundMe page created to raise money to help with her recovery, the cyclist was Kim Watson:

Everyone who knows Kim will tell you that she’s one of the hardest working people they know, and one of the most enthusiastic cyclists around. Kim works two jobs to get by — and still manages to cycle 14,000 to 16,000 km per year in all weather.

On the day of her accident she had multiple bright headlights and taillights and reflective clothing and could be seen from miles away. But not, apparently, by the person who made a left turn directly into her turning off Portland Street onto the Circumferential Highway.

Kim needs some help to cover living expenses due to lost wages while not able to work, and needs to get her bike fixed or replaced too. She can’t wait for a possible insurance settlement — her friends need to help her out now.

5. Methadone and Gottingen Street

Direction 180. Photo: Global

This is a good news story from Elizabeth Chiu at the CBC:

This year saw the introduction of Nova Scotia’s opioid strategy to stem the deaths from opiate overdoses. A key plank was $800,000 announced in November to expand methadone treatment, with the goal of eliminating the wait-list within six months.

At Direction 180, the change from the funding boost has been swift. Three new staff have been added, helping to bring down the wait-list for people to start methadone to tame their addiction to opioids such as hydromorphone or fentanyl.

Before the new money, there were as many as 60 people waiting. That number is now down to 12, and it won’t be long before they begin treatment because the clinic has already been in touch with them.

There’s a larger story about how the public perception of addiction, as seen through various moral and racial prisms (alcoholism betrays a weak character, crack is the failure of the Black community, and so forth) may be shifting a bit as opioid addiction cuts deeply into the white middle class. I found this part interesting:

With the expansion of methadone treatment and the increase in clients, Direction 180 is now searching for a new home. It’s bursting out of its cramped, outdated space next to the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre on Gottingen Street.

MacIsaac said the organization would prefer to stay in the north end, where many of the clients access other services.

But finding a location that is affordable and willing to accept a methadone clinic as a tenant is proving to be a challenge. She said she’s received three rejections so far. It’s an echo of the backlash the clinic received five years ago when it announced plans to open a new location in Fairview.

There’s long been a fear that the social service agencies in the Gottingen Street area — the Salvation Army shelter and addiction centre, Direction 180, the Mainline needle exchange, and so forth — would be forced out as the area gentrifies. I always assumed this would play out as condo owners and young professionals moving into the area used their political clout (relative to previous residents) to demand that governments move the agencies out.

But there seems to be something else going on: the agencies are moving on their own. In each case, there appears to be a different reason, or different set of reasons. Some have found new funding or opportunities and are moving out of the neighbourhood completely — Stepping Stone left earlier this year, and now it looks like Direction 180 may follow suit. Others are just shifting locations in the neighbourhood — the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship will be moving a few blocks up the road into the old police forensics building, while the North End Community Health Centre is taking over space in the Donald MacDonald building vacated by Community Services (I still don’t understand why the client interface point for Community Services left the neighbourhood where so many of its clients live).

I don’t have a point here. Just marking the changes in the neighbourhood.

6. Right whales

Right whales. Photo: NOAA

Kate Allen, the science and technology reporter for the Toronto Star, has written a lengthy article headlined “Here’s why 12 right whales died in Canadian waters — and why more will die if nothing is done.”

In the article, Allen catalogues each of the whale deaths discovered in 2017, and speaks with marine biologists working against time to get governments to act before the species goes extinct:

This month, U.S. government officials said that extinction is a real possibility for the species if action is not taken soon. At the meeting in Halifax in October, scientists broadcast the same urgency — and while the problem is international, all eyes are on Ottawa.

Mark Baumgartner, a marine ecologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the consortium’s chair, opened the meeting with a sobering calculation.

Just 100 or so breeding females are left alive, and if mortality rates stay what they have been even before 2017’s deadly assault, all of them could be gone in just over 20 years.

“We don’t have decades to fix this problem,” Baumgartner said. “Because of the pace of regulatory changes, we only have a couple years. And the longer we wait, the harder the problem will be to fix.”

7. Coyotes

A citizen filed a freedom of information request asking for the province’s analysis of the coyote pelt bounty, which ran for five years from 2010 to 2015. The data are incomplete — biologists want to look at the number of coyotes five years past the end date of the bounty to see what, if any, long term effect the bounty had on coyote populations.

But what the citizen received is interesting. The province paid $20 a pelt, which “increased recruitment of new trappers and also the likelihood of trappers increasing effort to target coyotes and to continue to do so over more than one year [and] increased the distance trappers were willing to travel to trap coyotes,” wrote provincial biologist Mike O’Brien in a confidential memo to Zach Churchill, who was the minister of Natural Resources in 2015.

And, the number of “incidents requiring a response” declined over the period the pelt bounty was in place:

However, it’s not as simple as “the bounty reduced the number of incidents.” Alongside the bounty was an education program in schools (people are especially concerned about coyotes near schools) and “a team of specially trained Aggressive Coyote Trappers who are contracted by DNR to deal with aggressive coyote situations,” wrote O’Brien. So it’s probably impossible to know whether heightened public awareness of the program initially led to more reporting, or if the education program subsequently led to less reporting as people became less alarmed, or if coyotes changed their behaviour in response to the program, or if coyotes changed their behaviour for some reason entirely unrelated to the program, or if there was a combination of all or some of those reasons.

In any event, the bounty was discontinued, although the education program — called “Be Coyote Smart” — has continued and the “specially trained Aggressive Coyote Trappers” still get called out for incidents.

There was also a downside to the pelt incentive, as more dogs got caught in the things:

8. Moose

In yet more animal news, Rose Courage has sent a letter to the Inverness Oran in which she details data she has gleaned through Access to Information requests related to moose populations in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park:

Another head-shaking moment came when I read the latest numbers about the moose population numbers. Now we are told there are “close to 5,000 in Cape Breton with close to 40 per cent of those found in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.”  That would now mean about 2,000 moose there.

My ATIP research turned up interesting information regarding moose population numbers in the CBHNP. The population has been stated as being 1,800 as far back as 2011. When trying to justify the population in a Hyperabundant Management Plan, the number used was “~ 2500,” with a target population of “<1000.” Now it seems there are about 2,000 moose in the National Park. So, what can we believe? It is almost as if numbers are picked out of the air to suit the occasion.

Numbers can sometimes be made to appear in a way people want them to appear. For instance, the latest aerial survey information I could find through ATIP research for the national park included the CB highlands, and was done in March 2015 by CBHNP, with NS DNR. In the six months it took to share those numbers with DNR, there were discussions within CBHNP about the survey numbers. Some quoted comments with regard to survey data results were:
– “We are having a bit of problems with our new SCF method…we are getting lower numbers of moose observed overall…” (SCF appears to mean sighting correction factor).
– Regarding moose estimates, old school, it was stated “I played around a little bit.”
– “Confusing to change too many things at once.”
– “The more I look in to it, the more troubling the intensive data seem. Almost half the data are problematic…”
– “I adjusted the numbers in all sections that referred to the aerial survey results. The new numbers are the latest we came up with …”
– “…we tested a different sighting correction factor this year and also did some work on improving the analysis. This has changed how we might report on the results in the future…”

How can anyone can have faith in the 2015 survey numbers ?

The “preliminary results” of the survey numbers were “…estimated 4775 + / – 1200 for the greater highlands ecosystem and 1750 + / – 500 for CBHNP.” Depending on how something is to be perceived, the variance could be added or subtracted. It seems that CBHNP has decided to portray the numbers in such a way that they show a hyperabundance of moose in the CBHNP at 1,800 (or close to 2,000 as was recently stated), and as a higher, rather than a lower, number in the CB highlands. But if one was to instead subtract the variance, there may be many fewer moose throughout CB and possibly no hyperabundance. It appears easy to use data to give a certain perception.

Courage is opposed to the moose cull.

9. Mass hysteria

A bald eagle and northern raven appear to enjoy each other’s company over a field at the former Sydney Steel coke ovens site, a rare occurrence according to experts. Photo: Steven McGrath

“Could it be that the bald eagle and northern raven were truly touched by the Christmas spirit?” asks Andrew Rankin:

Could it be that on a beautiful Sunday morning in Sydney, two arch-rivals mutually agreed to embrace their kindlier sides, to put aside their longstanding differences and together indulge in the joyous occasion of Christmas Eve?

Well, Steven McGrath has photographic evidence that suggests so. The photos he posted on the Nova Scotia Birds Society’s Facebook page are hard to dispute.

Like dogs and cats living together, this will surely lead to mass hysteria:

YouTube video

secret words

10. Asterix

MV Asterix on Maiden Voyage from Quebec City to Halifax. Photo: CNW Group/Federal Fleet Services Inc.

The MV Asterix is arriving in harbour today from Quebec City’s Davie Shipyard to “begin its integration into the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN),” according to a press release:

The Asterix is a Resolve Class Naval Support Ship that will be leased to the RCN, commencing service January 1, 2018. The MV ASTERIX will provide the RCN with fuel, cargo, ammunition, a floating hospital, a platform for two helicopters and quarters for humanitarian and rescue operations.

“Asterix is an oddity, a ship in naval service that isn’t in the navy,” reported Dan Leger back in September:

Rather than being purpose-built by Irving Shipbuilding, Asterix is a commercial container ship converted to military use by Irving’s Quebec rival, Davie Shipyard.

It won’t be commissioned as HMCS Asterix and will remain a private vessel owned by an entity called Federal Fleet Services.

Asterix is the product of a $667-million, sole-sourced contract ordered by the former Conservative government in 2015. 

The boat will be tied up behind the Seaport Market for the next few days.


No public meetings.

On campus

No public events.

In the harbour

5am: Itea, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
6am: Otello, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
6am: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
7:30am: Fagelgracht, cargo ship, moves from Bedford Basin anchorage to Fairview Cove
8:30am: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Pier 20 from Quebec City

East Coast. Photo: Halifax Examiner

8:30am: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Saint John
10am: Fagelgracht, cargo ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
11am: Viking Queen, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
11am: Otello, car carrier, moves from Pier 31 to Autoport
4pm: Aristomenis, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
4pm: Otello, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4:30pm: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
5pm: Itea, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
8:30pm: Viking Queen, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea


Hey! Santa! Pass me that bottle, will you?

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

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  1. We get excited about our power failures in NS; but I read the other day that Puerto Rico, after the hurricane which occurred a few months ago, only has power going to about 67% of its communities, which works out to about 50% of their population being without power… around 1.6 million people. Sure it is warm there in the Caribbean, but no power means no water services, no refrigeration and all the other niceties that come with reliable electric power services. So we are not doing so bad here in NS. That does not mean that NS Power should not be putting more money into maintenance and ensuring reliable service… NS’s power transmission infrastructure is in need of a lot of TLC… without it, a Puerto Rico moment could be just around the corner.

  2. Community Services is still on Gottingen, it never moved. The North End clinic is on the fifth floor, DCS is on the second, the MacDonald building has several tenants.

  3. UK naval vessels are supported by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) and crewed by civilians.
    The power outage number refers to ‘customers’ and I usually double that number to arrive at the number of people affected. An apartment building generally has 1 meter and most homes have more than 1 occupant.
    We had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner at home with 3 Chinese students from Dal. One had been taught English by our son in China and the highlight of the evening was my explanation of how an LP record is played on a turntable. The first request was for the Beatles ‘Here comes the Sun’. They had heard of records but had never seen an LP or an LP jacket. Very polite young people and 2 were quite able to speak and understand our Scottish and English accents. They want to stay in Canada after graduation.