1. More nursing home rooms

A blonde white woman with glasses and wearing a dark blazer over a grey turtleneck sweater laughs while sitting at a table. Next to her is a white man with grey hair. Behind them is a video screen and a few Nova Scotian flags.
Barbara Adams, Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care, left, and Paul LaFleche, deputy minister, at an announcement on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

“The Houston government announced Wednesday it will fund an additional 1,200 new single rooms in nursing homes by the end of 2027,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The province currently has 8,000 beds in 133 facilities, so the expansion represents a 15% increase in the total number of rooms available to Nova Scotians who need them. 

Last February, the Progressive Conservative government issued tenders to build 500 new rooms in metropolitan Halifax. 

On Wednesday, the government announced that Gem Healthcare, Shannex Inc, Northwoodcare, and Rosecrest Communities have not only been awarded that work, but will also build an additional 300 rooms at undisclosed locations in Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, and Sackville. 

Northwoodcare president Janet Simm confirmed Northwood will build about one-quarter of these new rooms. 

Meanwhile, the wait for nursing home placements will continue to put pressure on hospital beds as well as family caregivers. Most of these new 800 beds are targeted to open between 2025 and 2027. In addition, the government plans to convert rooms at assisted-living complexes and some residential care facilities.

Click here to read “1,200 new beds coming to Nova Scotia nursing homes by end of 2027.”

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2. Shocker! Police want lots more money

A photo of the Halifax Regional Police headquarters sign at their building on Gottingen Street in June 2021.
Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

“Halifax’s Board of Police Commissioners will host a public meeting on the police budget in Dartmouth next week,” reports Zane Woodford:

Both Halifax Regional Police and Halifax-district RCMP are looking for budget increases for the coming year.

As the Halifax Examiner reported last month, HRP is seeking a 6.8% increase for fiscal 2023-2024. Chief Dan Kinsella has proposed an operating budget of $95.264 million. That’s $6.07 million more than the current year’s budget of $89.195 million.

The RCMP made their case to the board on Wednesday for adding 16 officers over the next three years. As the Examiner reported last month, that would cost an extra $716,208 in 2023-2024 for four new officers, and then more than $1 million each in 2024-2025 and 2025-2026 for six officer in each of those years.

The current year RCMP budget is about $32.9 million, including $642,500 added through the year based on officers’ new collective agreement.

Click here to read “Halifax Board of Police Commissioners to hold public meeting on budget.”

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3. Medical privacy

A white woman with brown hair and brown eyes.
Allison Holthoff Credit: Facebook

On Friday, several days after Allison Holthoff died, MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin posted a message on Facebook:

I’m reaching out on behalf of residents of Cumberland North regarding the recent death of Allison Leah Holthoff at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre on Dec. 31, 2022. Our community is reeling from the unexpected death of this young wife and mother of three and are looking for answers. Specifically, why she waited so long for care despite showing medical distress while waiting in the Emergency Department.

Smith-McCrossin was acting at the behest of Allison Holthoff’s husband Gunter Holthoff. There’s nothing inappropriate about Smith-McCrossin’s action.

But that’s not how the Department of Justice saw it. Friday night “about midnight,” Smith-McCrossin received an email from the Justice Department, reports Aaron Beswick for Saltwire:

I am writing because I understand that the correspondence, which contains personal health information, has been shared on social media.

As I am sure you would agree, protection of personal information, and in particular health information, is critically important. While the aspects of the letter that contain personal health information in the correspondence to the Minister are protected under the Personal Health Information Act and Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, these details are now accessible to the public on social media. I am drawing that to your attention so you can consider whether you would like to remove personal health information details from your posted correspondence and limit further disclosure of this personal information. If the personal health information continues to be disseminated on social media, we will consider all available legal options.

This is asinine.

First, Allison Holthoff is deceased. That is, of course, tragic, but a deceased person has no right to privacy.

Second, her next-of-kin, Gunter Holthoff, wants Allison Holthoff’s health information released publicly; he has made repeated public appearances in the media to discuss it himself.

Third, it’s absolutely in the public interest to discuss Allison Holthoff’s death and the circumstances around it, as it is relates to the state of our medical system, which serves everyone.

All protection of privacy laws have an exemption related to an overriding public interest, and this case is clear cut. There’s no legitimate argument whatsoever to keep Allison Holthoff’s medical information secret.

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4. Fiona hit Dartmouth 110 days ago; Thistle Street has been dark ever since

A fallen light pole is leaning against a fence
On September 24, 2022, Hurricane Fiona came ashore in Nova Scotia. Among considerable other damage, the storm winds broke this light pole on Thistle Street, next to the Dartmouth Common. The lights along the street have been out ever since. Credit: Tim Bousquet

Hurricane Fiona packed a punch. When the storm came ashore in Nova Scotia on Sept. 24, hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses lost power, some for as long as two weeks. Obviously, the first priority was to clear the roads and sidewalks of fallen power lines and to restore power to those homes and businesses. No argument from me.

But one of the other casualties of the storm was a light pole on Thistle Street, next to the Dartmouth Common. When the pole came down, it brought with it an electrical line that ran to other light poles along the street, and so the entire stretch of Thistle Street between Wyse Road and Victoria Road went dark.

It’s been dark ever since — for 110 days as of this morning.

This is important. This stretch of Thistle Street includes both Halifax Transit’s Bridge Terminal and the Dartmouth Sportsplex. Hundreds, if not thousands, of pedestrians walk along the street each night. The heavily used crosswalk leading from the Sportsplex across to the Dartmouth Common is especially dangerous, as drivers simply cannot see people in the crosswalk. Further up the hill, the sidewalks are also quite dark, and this presents danger to pedestrians both from potential criminals and because they can’t see icy patches on the steep hill.

About a week after the storm, as cleanup progressed to the point that it seemed reasonable that the fallen pole could be addressed, I contacted the city about it and was told that the city was aware of it. I was concerned about the electrical line, which was then simply lying on the sidewalk, but apparently there was no power running through it. As well, the pole was still leaning against the fence around the Dartmouth Common. A couple of days later, some orange cones appeared around the pole, and then a couple of days after that, both the line and the pole were removed.

But the lighting along the street never returned.

On Dec. 11 — a month ago yesterday — I had the following Twitter exchange with Dartmouth councillor Sam Austin:

A Twitter exchange between Tim Bousquet and Sam Austin: Bousquet: Hey, @SamAustinD5 , I know it wasn't a priority in post-Fiona cleanup, but the street lights leading up Thistle Street from the Bridge Terminal have now been disappeared for almost three months. Hundreds of people use those sidewalks each night. Austin: Yes. It's very frustrating. HRM staff are engaged in pressuring, but @nspowerinc needs to fix the pole that was snapped off (stump just in front of Bicentennial is all that's left of it) before the lights can be turned back on. We're awaiting that work.

Bousquet: Hey, @SamAustinD5, I know it wasn’t a priority in post-Fiona cleanup, but the street lights leading up Thistle Street from the Bridge Terminal have now been disappeared for almost three months. Hundreds of people use those sidewalks each night.

Austin: Yes. It’s very frustrating. HRM staff are engaged in pressuring, but @nspowerinc needs to fix the pole that was snapped off (stump just in front of Bicentennial is all that’s left of it) before the lights can be turned back on. We’re awaiting that work.

In recent weeks, the lights along the street adjacent to Bicentennial School and Dartmouth High have returned — this is the stretch of the street closes to Victoria Road. That’s something. But it’s still pitch black from the Dartmouth High football field, down the hill past the bus terminal and on down to Wyse Road, including at that very dangerous crosswalk.

It’s very, very dark. And this is a stretch of sidewalk where there are lots of bushes and brush where criminally inclined people could await unsuspecting people.

A more likely danger is that this stretch of sidewalk is often very icy. After snow falls, the wind crosses the football field and brings with it snow that is deposited on the sidewalk. The snow on the sidewalk can be quite deep even when the sidewalk has been plowed (which is why this sidewalk should be, but isn’t, repeatedly plowed, but that’s an issue for another day). And then, when the daytime sun melts the snow, the melt runs down the sidewalk and refreezes. Sometimes the sidewalk is an entire block-long stretch of ice — down a hill! Often the ice is patchy. Either way, it’s imperative that people be able to see their footing. Mark my words: if the lights don’t come back on, people will slip and fall and break bones.

Frustrated by the inaction, yesterday, first thing in the morning, at 8:13am, I contacted both the city and Nova Scotia Power to ask about the lighting.

I heard back from city spokesperson Laura Wright: “We have been working with Nova Scotia Power to resolve this issue, as it falls under their jurisdiction,” she wrote in an email.

Nova Scotia Power acknowledged my question at 10:21am and said they’d get back to me. As of this writing, I’ve had no further contact from the power company.

This is absurd. The street is dark and people are at risk. The power company was able to replace thousands upon thousands of fallen poles after Fiona, but not this single pole. It’s been 110 days. Winter and the accompanying ice is upon us.

And Nova Scotia Power wants a steep rate increase.

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5. The evils of colonialism. Or, not.

White men in red coats approach black people. Elephants are in the background.
U.S. spies teach the natives how to write. (Actually, this is a printed entitled “The English inform the Africans of the Peace Treaty of the Allied Powers of October 20, 1815 on the abolition of the slave trade.”) Credit: Bibliothèqe nationale de France

Retraction Watch is a blog started by Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus that, as it title suggests, tracks retractions issued by academic journals (Oransky and Marcus explained their mission here).

As a publisher, I’m quite aware of the need for the occasional correction, and thankfully rarely, the full apology and retraction. We strive to do our best, but we are fallible humans. But, as Oransky and Marcus write:

Unlike newspapers, which strive for celerity as much as accuracy, science journals have the luxury of time. Thorough vetting, through editorial boards, peer reviewers and other filters, is the coin of the realm.

And yet mistakes happen. Sometimes these slips are merely technical, requiring nothing more than an erratum notice calling attention to a backwards figure or an incorrect address for reprints. Less often but far more important are the times when the blunders require that an entire article be pulled…

Retractions are born of many mothers. Fraud is the most titillating reason, and mercifully the most rare, but when it happens the results can be devastating. Consider the case of Scott Reuben, a prodigiously dishonest anesthesiologist whose fabrications led to the retraction of more than a score of papers and deeply rattled an entire medical specialty. (One of us, Adam, broke that story.)

I’ve long been fascinated by academia and the accompanying research and debate, and I often see what academics at our local universities are up to by reading their papers. I have Retraction Watch bookmarked.

Before this week, one local academic was named by Retraction Watch. That was in 2018, when it was revealed that Jianyong Yao, a Dalhousie prof, along with three other researchers based in Asia, were part of a problematic peer review process that led the journal SAGE to retract 10 papers it had published in 2016. The papers were included in a special issue the four had guest edited in November 2016, “Advanced control and analysis of mechatronics systems with modelling uncertainty.”

“SAGE is no stranger to the damage caused by fake reviews,” wrote Retraction Watch. “In 2014, one of its journals busted a ‘peer review and citation ring’ that took down 60 papers, and prompted the resignation of Taiwan’s education minister. The following year, it retracted 17 more papers from five different journals, all affected by faked reviews.”

Yao is no longer associated with Dalhousie.

I consider what Yao did as outright fraud.

This week, Retraction Watch named another writer associated with Dalhousie. In this case, the retraction doesn’t look like intentional fraud, but rather the product of overly zealous and non-critical ideology.

The Writing Center Journal has retracted a paper it published in November, “Writing Centers and Neocolonialism: How Writing Centers Are Being Commodified and Exported as U.S. Neocolonial Tools,” co-authored by Brian Hotson, of Dalhousie, and Stevie Bell, of York University.

Retraction Watch writes:

Are academic writing centers agents of US hegemony, spreading the evils of colonialism as they work to topple rogue syntax and rehabilitate failing grammatical states?

So argued a pair of authors in Canada in a now-retracted 2022 article which claimed that such centers have been used as “neocolonial tools” to push American foreign policy goals. 

But according to critics, that claim –  which seems like it might have emerged from a cross between Don DeLillo’s “White Noise” and Graham Greene’s, well, lots of his books — suffered from a fatal flaw or two, as we’ll shortly see. 

[W]e received a tip about the article on our database submission form, which claimed: 

The authors were obliged to acknowledge major factual errors in the article, which included baseless claims that the US Department of State were responsible for “exporting” writing program initiatives to Brazil and Russia in a “neocolonial” fashion when, in fact, those initiatives were created by scholars in those countries. With those false claims refuted, the article lost much of its validity and the editors felt compelled to retract. 

Among those who objected to the paper were Ron Martinez and his colleagues at the Universidade Federal do Paraná in Brazil.

On his website, Martinez says that he is “a U.S. Department of State English Language Specialist with expertise in areas concerning the internationalization of higher education. He is currently especially interested in supporting international research publication, and also faculty development for English Medium Instruction within universities around the world. He is advisor to the President on internationalization and language policy at the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), where he also founded and currently directs the the Academic Publishing Advisory Center, or the Centro de Assessoria de Publicação Acadêmica (CAPA) , a unique writing center that supports scholarly research publication.”

So, reading between the lines, Hotson and Bell were in effect accusing Martinez of being a U.S. spy.

Retraction Watch continues:

Martinez confirmed the details in the tip, which he and several colleagues left, we received and told us the matter has “caused many people a great deal of stress” – one of those people being himself. Among his lengthy list of beefs with the article, as he wrote to the journal in a December 12 email, was its allegation that the: 

“writing center Centro de Assessoria de Publicação Acadêmica (CAPA) at the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) in Curitiba, Brazil, as well as the organization Writing Centers of Brazil (WCB) were created and are currently directed by the Department of State.” This is false. The CAPA writing center was created by Dr. Ron Martinez as a professor of UFPR, initially directed by him and vice director Eduardo Figueiredo (also of UFPR), completely independently of any government involvement (US or Brazilian). The center was opened in October of 2016 within the School of Humanities of UFPR, without any influence by the Department of State whatsoever, and never directed by anyone outside of UFPR. There is no source of information anywhere, including the bibliographic and media sources cited by the authors, in which CAPA is said to have been “created” or “directed” by the Department of State. Indeed, there is a notable lack of rigor with which basic facts —facts essential to the article’s entire thesis— were checked by the authors.  

In the end, he wrote: 

the mischaracterizations and prevarications presented here are serious. Under normal circumstances, it would behoove us to simply write a rebuttal to the article. However, there is no point in debating when the basic facts are unquestionably wrong, and can be proved to be so. In their own words, the authors of the article posit that writing centers are being “commodified” and “exported” by the US government —their central thesis. However, the data on which they base that assertion largely rests on the precarious examples provided from Brazil, especially. It has been established in this letter that CAPA did not originate in the US and therefore could not have been “exported.” Likewise, the Russian NWCC was created in Russia, by Russians, for Russians. These are verifiable facts that would have been easily discoverable by the authors. Indeed, all of the Brazilian initiatives mentioned in the article emerged endogenously in Brazil. Throughout —but especially in pages 55-57— most of the examples the authors provide to support their thesis are either outright falsehoods or, at best, half-truths. In that light, the entire thesis of their article is undermined. It means that readers of Writing Center Journal are being persuaded to sympathize with a position based on spurious information. 

Retraction Watch attributes the problem to a lack of editors and peer reviewers at the Writing Center Journal.

The Examiner contacted Hotson for comment. He wrote via email:

A revision has been submitted. I would refer you to the editors of the journal for questions regarding the publication process of the piece.

This piece does not represent Dalhousie University in any way or work I have done or am doing at Dalhousie. I do not represent Dalhousie University in this work. This is personal work outside of Dalhousie University. The application for submission to the journal asks for an institution, thus the affiliation.

Unrelated to the above, yesterday Halifax police charged two people — Stephen David Assoun, 43, and Zatora Sofia Lee Hines, 32 — with various firearm charges. It’s the kind of story that usually doesn’t get much media coverage, but the “Assoun” name gained my attention. So far as I know (and I think I’d know), Stephen Assoun isn’t closely related to Glen Assoun, the man wrongly convicted of murdering Brenda Way, and who spent 17 years in prison while consistently professing his innocence, before he was eventually exonerated.

But I went down a rabbit hole with Stephen.

In 2017, a man named Stephen David Assoun was charged with calling in a bomb threat to the RBC bank on Spring Garden Road. I don’t know what became of that — there are no published court decisions related to this charge, so possibly it was dropped.

Since I was in the court decision database anyway, I searched for the name “Assoun.” Predictably, many of the decisions in the database relate to the original murder charge against Glen Assoun, and the subsequent long string of decisions that led to his exoneration.

Among those many court cases was a 2002 decision related to Glen Assoun’s first appeal of his 1999 conviction, in which Assoun argued that he was improperly denied a lawyer in his trial. Those who have listened to the Dead Wrong podcast have heard how that played out, and the disastrous result for Assoun. In my opinion, the issues he raised in the 2002 appeal were absolutely correct, but Justice Thomas Cromwell ruled against him.

I think it’s fair to say that subsequent events have proven Assoun correct, and Cromwell’s 2002 decision is one of a series of injustices done to Assoun. But here’s the thing: that 2002 decision has been repeatedly cited in other decisions related to accused people’s access to lawyers.

I haven’t read the particulars in any of these other cases, and so I can’t say if their arguments were worthy or if the 2002 decision cited was instrumental in their decisions. But it worries me that such a decision can remain as a judicial citation.

I wonder, and maybe lawyers reading this can answer: is there some legal equivalent to the retraction of an academic article? That is, should a decision that subsequently is shown to problematic or at least questionable be able to continue to cascade through court citations without some sort of flag attached to it?

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Could art save Mabou?

Two reddish metallic pieces are arranged in a grove of trees.
Richard Serra’s The Gate in the Gorge sculpture is at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. Credit: Stephen Archibald

“It’s exhausting,” writes Stephen Archibald:

Another golf course merchant imagines that we the people could be persuaded (with a little money) to give up a chunk of West Mabou Provincial Park, so some folks can propel a small ball through an incredibly beautiful landscape.

You can probably guess that I have no enthusiasm for giving away parks. Also golf has some issues.

Archibald then gives us a tour of the work of three celebrated artists who have a deep connection to the Mabou-Inverness area: “Richard Serra described as ‘one of America’s most esteemed artists'”; Robert Frank, who the New York Times describes as “one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century’; and Philip Glass, “widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century.”

“Are you noticing a theme here?” asks Archibald:

If we use our imagination all attractions don’t have to be golf courses

Like many Nova Scotians who lack self confidence, I’m charmed that great artists choose my province as a place to spend large chunks of their creative lives. And since a sense of place is so important to them I can imagine providing folks opportunities to hear Glass’s trance educing music in the Mabou Highlands, or view some of Frank’s challenging photographs in a gallery sited on a stark hillside, or walk beside a site specific Serra sculpture. After those experiences I’d be ready to lounge on Mabou Beach and be nourished by the surroundings. And I’m going to imagine this can be done without fear of being dinged by a stray golf ball.

Click here to read “Can art save Mabou?”

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Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda

Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda

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


No meetings

On campus


Panel Discussion on Interrogating Whiteness (Thursday, 5:30pm) — online discussion; with Ajay Parasram, Dalhousie University: Building Racial Resilience as Therapy for White Fragility; Harjeet Badwall, York University: Care, Competency and Civility: Interrogating White Liberal Normativity in Social Work; Jeff Halvorsen, University of Calgary: White (men) Allies Conspiring with The Institution to Re-assert Whiteness; Dana M. Olwan, Syracuse University: Anti-Muslim Politics and Practices in North America and Transnational Feminist Resistance. Moderator: Eli Manning, Dalhousie University

With AI-generated captions; register here



No events


Jesse Wente in conversation with Trina Roache at Afterwords Literary Festival (Friday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — rescheduled from an earlier date; info about tickets here

In the harbour

06:00: AlgoNorth, oil tanker, moves from Imperial Oil to Pier 28
11:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
12:00: Nord Superior, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Barcelona
19:00: Neptune Koper, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany

Cape Breton
14:00: CSL Kajika, bulker, arrives at Coal Pier (Sydney) from Point Tupper


Late again, sigh.

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  1. >I wonder, and maybe lawyers reading this can answer: is there some legal equivalent to the retraction of an academic article? That is, should a decision that subsequently is shown to problematic or at least questionable be able to continue to cascade through court citations without some sort of flag attached to it?<

    Unlike academic publishers, publishers of case law don't generally have a role in assessing the quality of what's published–the public has a right to access a decision whether or not the publisher considers it to be right or wrong.

    However, most legal publishers offer some kind of "citing up" function for legal researchers, which allows you to access subsequent cases which mention the case in question. And the editors typically add some kind of filtering indicating whether the case was endorsed, distinguished, criticized, or overturned in a subsequent case. But the crux of legal research is really to get into all of that and arrive at a legal opinion as to whether case X represents good law or not. In that sense, it's like academic publishing–presumably the interested reader is able to do further research and determine whether or not article X is sound or not. But unlike with academics, a legal publisher would never "retract" a case that's overturned. It's still an important document, and the legal publisher's job is to get everything out there for the public to digest.

    1. Thanks. This is helpful. I’m not familiar with these legal publishers… I assume they’re subscription-based services?

      1. The Thomson Reuters products are the most commonly used for legal research, at least here on the East Coast, and their products are, indeed, subscription-based.

        CanLII is an excellent (free) reference and courts are increasingly requesting that submissions and briefs etc. offer hyperlinks to CanLII, based in large part on accessibility to all. Decisions on CanLII do offer helpful tabs such as “History” (has this same matter been heard at a different level?) and “Treatment” (how many subsequent decisions have mentioned this particular decision?). Unfortunately, CanLII (a) isn’t as comprehensive as Westlaw (though it’s always getting better and is really quite thorough for decisions in the last couple decades) and (b) doesn’t ‘flag’ decisions in the manner Kevin describes, i.e. there’s no quick indication whether the decision we’re reading has been overturned, upheld, remains authoritative, has been questioned on any specific ground, etc.

      2. Some are: Like Quicklaw or Westlaw but, CanLii is free, and the “cited documents” function in CanLii will link to subsequent cases that either rely upon a case as being sound law or question the case’s persuasiveness – but you have to read the subsequent cases in detail to figure that out. Your link is to Justice Cromwell’s decision refusing Mr. Assoun’s first application to the NSCA to have the court appoint counsel to act for him on his appeal, which was refused. Justice Freeman , about 6 months later, did grant Mr. Assoun’s second request to the NSCA to have the court appoint counsel for him. Mr. Assoun was, by then, able to present evidence that addressed the concerns raised by Justice Cromwell. Perhaps you meant to link to the actual decision of the NSCA dismissing his appeal from conviction? Which is here: