On campus
In the harbour


1. Purcells Cove Backlands

Colpitt Lake in the Purcells Cove backlands. Photo: Tim Bousquet
Colpitt Lake in the Purcells Cove backlands. Photo: Tim Bousquet

Yesterday, I took a look at city staff’s recommendation that city council approve the purchase of a parcel in the Purcells Cove Backlands from the Shaw Group. The proposed sale price is secret because we wouldn’t want the public to know how much it is being asked to pay for the land, but with a careful analysis of the staff report, I concluded that the city is probably being asked to pay at least $3.6 million:

The city would get just 170 acres of the 379-acre parcel. The remaining 207 acres will be purchased by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, but we’re not told at what cost. 


Assuming that the city is going to buy 170 acres of the Shaw land for $3.6 million and that the NCC values their portion of the land (the other 202 acres) at the same rate (either through a tax write-off or purchase), then the entire 379 acres is being valued at just over $8 million…

Shaw bought its 379 acres in August 2011 for $4,704,221 on speculation, hoping that it could get the city to change the zoning of the property and run utilities by it. It lost that bet; in May 2014 council deadlocked on a vote to open the land up for development. Until 2013, the Shaw land was assessed for tax purposes for $3,371,500, but after council’s 2014 decision, the assessment for property tax purposes was dropped 55 per cent, to $1,512,200. Shaw’s annual property tax bill on the property is now $18,298.

The 379 acres isn’t even all the backlands — it’s about half, with the remaining property owned by three other development companies.

Click here to read “Council preview: It looks like the Shaw Group is over-charging for the Purcells Cove Backlands.”

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What I neglected to say yesterday is that in addition to cold hard cash, Shaw also wants… naming rights. Yep, in return for not bulldozing the wilderness, the company wants it called “The Shaw Group Purcells Cove Backlands” or some such bullshit.

Given the (apparent) outrageous price for the property, and the audacity of demanding naming rights, council should say “no thanks” to Allan Shaw and the Nature Conservancy, and then do nothing with the land, just refuse to rezone it for all eternity.

2. Water restrictions in Dartmouth

A Halifax Water press release:

The prolonged hot, dry weather has resulted in historic low water levels in Lake Major. Lake Major serves the communities of Dartmouth, Cole Harbour, Westphal, North Preston and Eastern Passage (see map, below, for affected service area).

In order to conserve water, Halifax Water is instituting mandatory water conservation restrictions for all residents and businesses supplied by the Lake Major Water Treatment Plant, until further notice. The water conservation measures include:

• No lawn, garden, plant watering or other outside water usage
• No car/RV or other vehicle washing at home. Commercial car washes remain available for the time being

Here’s the map:


Spokesperson Jamie Campbell told the CBC he didn’t know if the removal of the pipe from the Macdonald Bridge , which connected the Halifax and Dartmouth distribution systems, was a contributing factor to the problem.

People should conserve, but I don’t see that Halifax Water has the legislative authority to order “mandatory” restrictions. That power isn’t named in Halifax Water’s enabling act, in any event. And, reports Ian Fairclough at Local Xpress:

[Campbell] said enforcement of the restrictions isn’t a police matter.

“Usually the way it works is one resident will call on another and say ‘so-and-so at such-and-such an address is watering his lawn,’ ” and we would drop by and have a chat with him,” Campbell said.

“Ultimately, we can shut down a person’s water service, but we’re not in the business of shutting off people’s water,” he said. “But we want people to realize that we have a critical situation here and it’s in the best interests of everybody to conserve water where we can.”

It’s raining today and we’re moving into the wet season, so the restrictions probably won’t be needed much longer, but climate change is here and we can expect more dry weather in coming years. In anticipation of future droughts, there should probably be in place a legislative process — something more than a guy in a hardhat knocking on your door — for enforcing water restrictions.

3. Booze

A January 2014 Guysborough municipal Visa card receipt, via the CBC.
A January 2014 Guysborough municipal Visa card receipt, via the CBC.

“Councillors in a Nova Scotia municipality are being criticized for acting ‘like school kids out on a high school trip’ after expensing thousands of dollars worth of alcohol and travel to taxpayers,” report Susan Allen and Pam Berman for the CBC:

Every winter, councillors and senior staff with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough travel to Pictou County to draft a plan for the next budget year. Before the two-day meeting, they stock up on supplies.

For the January 2014 meeting, municipal Visas were used to buy more than $400 in wine, beer, rum, vodka and lemon gin, according to receipts obtained through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Staff also picked up $73 worth of snacks and drinks, and spent nearly $1,400 dining at The Bistro restaurant in New Glasgow.

Sigh. Buying booze on the public dime is an issue, I guess — we’ve all become Carrie Nations apparently, but I’m not really opposed to it, within reason.

What upsets me is that the councillors tap the public purse only to turn around and buy Miller and Keith’s beer and the dogawful Captain Morgan’s rum. Come on, councillors, you’ve got the Rare Bird Brew Pub right around the corner from town hall, and Sea Fever rum is distilled (conveniently) behind the hospital. If you really need to go to the metropolis of Pictou, there’s Uncle Leo’s.

That should be the rule: you can drink on the taxpayers, but only if you buy local.

4. Vandalism times four

On Cornwallis Street

Photo: Stephanie vanKampen / CBC
Photo: Stephanie vanKampen / CBC

“Halifax’s newest bike parking has been vandalized repeatedly since it was installed on Cornwallis Street last week,” reports Stephanie vanKampen for the CBC:

The five-piece bike corral weighs around 120 kilograms and would be extremely difficult to move, according to Kesley Lane, executive director for the Halifax Cycling Coalition. 

Lane said the bike corral was moved off of the street and on to the sidewalk three times in five days. She said nearly every time, a silver Volkswagen station wagon was parked in its place. 

In Upper Onslow

Photo: Francis Campbell / Local Xpress
Photo: Francis Campbell / Local Xpress

“A well-grounded Jim Lorraine says the weekend vandalism that occurred at his RiverBreeze Corn Maze is both senseless and unnerving,” reports Francis Campbell for Local Xpress:

“What could happen if those pets are out on the road?” Lorraine mused about the llama and two sheep that were spotted by the Onslow Road near his Upper Onslow home and farm early Sunday morning.

“A lot of people panic and swerve to avoid large llamas, and what do they hit — a telephone pole or flip upside down in a ditch or hit a bridge abutment? Those are all things that are possible and then a family member is dead. Is that what you want? That part frustrates me. It’s really disturbing that they chased our pets off.”

They —  according to an RCMP investigation at and near the nearly five-hectare corn maze and its five kilometres of trails — were three people who stole onto the property through a well-worn path from a nearby railway crossing overnight Saturday. The culprits damaged fences, set animals loose and left behind a Jack Daniels whisky bottle and a Schooner beer bottle.

In office towers

“A strange vandalism spree appears to be hitting office towers in downtown Halifax — someone is throwing objects down elevator shafts,” reports Brett Ruskin for the CBC:

Four elevator shafts were suddenly shut down last week at 1801 Hollis St. after tenants on multiple floors reported a loud banging coming from inside.


Similar incidents have happened in at least three other buildings in the city.

On Wentworth Drive

A police release:

Just after 9 p.m. on September 18, officers responded to the intersection of Wentworth Drive and Eliza Ritchie Crescent in Halifax for a report of a large excavator being operated by several people. Officers located the excavator unoccupied with the bucket resting on a damaged fire hydrant that was releasing a large amount of water onto the street. Halifax Water was able to control the leak and Halifax Regional Fire attended the scene to respond to a number of alarms in the area due to the lack of water pressure. Officers checked the area but didn’t locate any suspects.The suspects were last seen leaving the area in a small white car. The investigation into this matter is ongoing.


1. Local elections

We should pay attention, says Stephen Kimber.

2. Atlantic Film Festival

Carsten Knox is all over it.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

I’d like to comment on the CBC compass story on Sept. 15th re the Oxford dictionary. Dictionaries have always fascinated me. I recall buying my first Oxford in September 1981 at the Holland College Book Store. I was entering the journalism program and the book was required. Being, [sic] (now, by my own admission) a poor speller, my instructor told me to keep it handy. That dictionary is now in two pieces, the hard covers long gone, but it still gets used. In January 2005 I received a “newer” Oxford dictionary as a gift from my work place at the time. While I did begin to use that new dictionary, we do have spell check at our fingertips. 

But often spell check offerings are just not what I’m looking for. And there is [sic] times while on certain websites spell check is not easily accessible … I lose my patience and grab my Oxford from the shelf under my desk. Hanging onto my old Oxford and having the newer version on hand, (printed 2001) I still sometimes pull out the two pieces of the old one to get a more in-depth meaning. But lately, I’m Googling. I’m (finally) catching up with technology.  I know the Oxford is available on line but having a book in my hand means more; what can I say? I’m old school and love that beaten up old dictionary. As for all those new “slang” words. [sic] Maybe they are needed for future generations.

Kathy Birt, Mount Stewart


I’m gearing up to do a gazillion interviews of council candidates. What would you like me to ask them?



Halifax Regional Council (10am, City Hall) — I hate 10am meetings, but I’ll be there and live blogging via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.


Community Services (10am, Province House) — Delores Feltmate, chair of the Cape Breton – Victoria Child Advocacy Society, will be questioned.

Veterans Affairs (2pm, One Government Place) — Maya Eichler, the Canada Research Chair in Social Innovation and Community Engagement at Mount Saint Vincent University, will be asked about research, and innovation. Don’t forget the innovation.

On campus


Bike Lane (11:30, on the median between the McCain Building and the SUB) — A big to-do about the new bike lane down University Avenue. The Dalhousie Bike Centre will have loaner bikes so people can glory in the Dawgfather-free experience.

Scotian Shelf (11:30am, Room 3655, Life Sciences Center, Oceanography Wing) — Shiliang Shan will talk about Eulerian and Lagrangian Studies of Circulation on the Scotian Shelf and Adjacent Deep Waters of the North Atlantic with Biological Implications.”

Marine Conservation (3:30pm, 5th floor Biology Lounge, Life Sciences Centre) — Aaron MacNeil will speak on “Sacred Livelihoods in Sacred Nature: Finding Sustainable Solutions in Marine Conservation.”

Saint Mary’s

Financial Advice (5pm, Scotiabank Theatre, Sobey School of Business Building) — Globe & Mail columnist Rob Carrick and editor Roma Luciw will explain why they have giant mansions, while you will never escape from your crushing student loan debt.

In the harbour

5:30am: Tosca, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England
6:15am: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney with up to 2,808 passengers

Acadian. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Acadian. Photo: Halifax Examiner Credit: Halifax Examiner

6:30am Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
8am: Crystal Serenity, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from New York with up to 1,070 passengers

Maule. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Maule. Photo: Halifax Examiner

10:30am: Maule, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy

Oceanex Sanderling. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Oceanex Sanderling. Photo: Halifax Examiner

11am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
Noon: Pearl Mist, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 23 from Charlottetown with up to 210 passengers
4:30pm: Crystal Serenity, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Magdelan Island, Quebec
4:30pm: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
7:30pm: Pearl Mist, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for Lunenburg
11:30pm: Maule, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
Midnight: Tosca, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 31


I’m not sure how it works, but we get an extra day of summer this year. Of course it’s raining.

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

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  1. Ask candidates for council if they have accepted money from developers and if they will make a commitment not to do so if elected. Of course, some of the incumbents have not had a problem in accepting money from such sources. Is it just a coincident that so many applications for developmentv agreements get approved?

  2. yes, Laine, never Booze and Budget, if you have a surplus, you will buy more booze, if you have a deficit, you will be depressed and buy more booze. “As long as it sells beer” is a saying in the entertainment biz, and us all bein’ the last of barrets privateers. You cant do much innovation with a bunch of drunk persons.

  3. “guy in a hard hat”? Ugh. The guys sometimes let us little ladies wear hard hats now, so we prefer the word “person”.

  4. I dunno, anytime I’ve been drinking whilst trying to draw up a budget it’s only led to grief. Maybe they let the llamas loose – check their booze receipts for matching product.

  5. The secret Guysborough council budget meetings are a violation of provincial legislation that requires public and open meetings.

  6. Re: Question to ask council candidates

    I would really like to know what re-elected and newly elected councillors will be doing to rein in the overzealous and often malicious enforcement actions of the planning and development department which is essentially killing small start-up businesses (ie. Sailor Bup’s Barbershop, Darkside Café and countless others). No one is arguing that development should be left to run willy nilly, but common sense and reasonable accommodations will help the community. Our elected people seem to be powerless to control the actions of planning enforcement. If police acted the way the planning department did, the courts would be plugged with people charged with exceeding the speed limit by 1 KPH, parking too close/far from the curb, failure to sound their horn when backing up etc.

  7. I agree that it is unnecessary to keep the price for the backlands secret until the deal is consummated. You will recall that when the Shaw Group dropped in on Council and were granted an audience (no-one else gets that kind of backscratching) they wanted to meet in camera. They have been trying to keep this deal secret from the beginning.

    You will also recall that there was some discussion about Council looking into putting provisions into the contract for the next CAO when Butts left and went into the welcoming arms of a developer. Said the Mayor, despite saying that he could not see even a perceived conflict of interest: “There was nothing in this contract. I think we need to at least look at that the next time that we hire a CAO, what the options are for having provisions for post-employment with the city. I don’t know what those options are, what the legalities are, but I think council will be looking at that.”

    The involvement of the former CAO, meeting in secret, and keeping the details from the public until the deal is done does not pass the smell test. Deal with this out in the open so we can see the merits, and the value, of the proposal.

    The naming rights proposal is plain stupid. It will not look good on Council if it entertains it, and it looks bad on Shaw for proposing it.

    The history of the company is very interesting. Alexa McDonough is a Shaw.
    Check it out – their Board of Directors appears to be all male and all white – diversity is not a priority . The Mangement team, 10 men, two women, all white.

  9. Questions for Councillors in General, but in particular Russell Walker.

    1) There have been four major developments in the Fairview area, an area widely known for it’s traffic issues. Each building was put up only after a traffic study. Each study claimed that adding several new businesses and dozens if not hundreds more cars would have zero impact on traffic, and that is per building. a) Is that rating due to the traffic issues being so bad, that the rating of impact could not be lowered, therefore, it is zero impact? b) Given you live nowhere near Fairview and never have to deal with the constant traffic issues, should you really be making decisions for the people of Fairview, in terms of development? Also, given the spat of issues in the city, should councillors be force to recuse themselves when developments in their area come up and the developer is a large donor to your campaign? (Given the massive conflict of interest)

    2) Given you have stated that you felt you “deserved” a raise each year as councillor and you rejected a universally declared “fair” system that rates councillors based on performance, rather then the performance of other districts, how “fair” would the system need to be for you to accept it? Given the mounting evidence that the previous raises you received were far above that of the average citizen, do you think it is “fair” that you are compensated at a rate around double than the average citizen of your district and on top of that raises that have been greater than average for over a decade? As a public servant, shouldn’t you accept what the public deems your service as being worth instead of demanding more, like a spoiled child?

    I have a lot more, but those are the ones I would like to see answered.

    1. “b) Given you live nowhere near Fairview and never have to deal with the constant traffic issues”

      kirkoconnell, Walker actually lives in Fairview off of Evans Ave., so he’s definitely familiar with the traffic. (I was door knocking for an environmental campaign a couple of years ago.)

  10. You know, talking about the CBC, spellcheck and the Oxford dictionary reminded me of this from a few days ago. The CBC sent an art expert to the TIFF premiere of “Maudie” and then interviewed them on their review.

    Nice idea and article, but for this glaring, outrageous typo, which spellcheck might not have caught, but any editor sure as hell should have:

    “Ha! OK, fair enough, which is as good a segway as any! I want to hear all about your experience at the movie…”

    I tweeted them when they first posted this, and then I emailed them the typo from their page, but I guess they’ve got bigger fish to fry.

  11. Seriously, buy local booze if you buy local anything. Nearly everything in NSLC comes from Anheuser-Busch Inbev or Diageo Spirits.

    I’m in favor of just leaving the land as is, it’s nice to just go in the woods without paths and signs everywhere. It really is special that aside from airplanes or satellites at night, you can’t see civilization.

    1. in fact, the NSLC just named Miller Lite the “Beer Product of the Year 2016” so their recommendations are obviously suspect.

      1. Maybe they’re just helping people switch to water?

        I suspect they just picked the boring white-bread beer with the biggest profit margin and went with that.