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1. Still no regulations for Coastal Protection Act

two pickup trucks and an excavator at a construction site
Construction has begun on a small parcel of land at Eagle Head Beach owned by former Halifax mayor Peter Kelly. Photo: Tim Bousquet / Halifax Examiner

You would think implementing the Coastal Protection Act would be a no-brainer. The legislation has already been passed, and our changing climate means our coast is under more threat than it used to be.

But, Jennifer Henderson reports, for the second year in a row the Houston government has declined to bring in the regulations needed for the act to have an effect:

The Coastal Protection Act was passed in 2019 after a period of public consultation by the McNeil government. The Houston government came to power in August 2021. Environment Minister Tim Halman told the fall sitting of the Legislature in September 2022 that the drafting of regulations to implement the Act was nearly complete. 

The purpose of the regulations is to protect sensitive ecosystems and make sure construction is carried out at a safe elevation and distance from the province’s coastline. 

The regulations would help protect the coast not only from climate change, but also “irresponsible development”:

We should have had these regulations years ago,” said Will Balser, the coastal adaptation coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre. “Hurricane Fiona was a clear sign that the implementation of the Coastal Protection Act is long overdue. Now we are seeing the results of irresponsible development in the face of a changing ocean climate, and the impacts are startling.” 

Click here to read “Houston government once again delays implementation of Coastal Protection Act.”

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2. Residents concerned about Halifax construction garbage being dumped at North Mountain site

A satellite view of a fan-shaped dump site.
The Arlington Heights Construction & Debris dump on North Mountain. Credit: Google Earth

Jennifer Henderson also brings us the story of the Arlington Heights Construction & Debris dump on North Mountain, which, she writes, has “irked and alarmed” nearby residents. The dump is owned by Dexter Construction, and a lot of debris from construction and demolition sites in Halifax winds up there:

Last January, St. Croix Cove resident Kip McCurdy, a founder of the [Annapolis] Waterkeepers, made a presentation to Annapolis County council in which he voiced growing frustration at being unable to convince the Department of Environment to investigate concerns about runoff and potential leaching. 

“Faraway bureaucrats know little and care less,” McCurdy told the council. “The result of that indifference now means Annapolis County hosts a disposal opportunity for business that has become the dump of choice for HRM shippers with illicit loads because there is amenable management and zero oversight.”

The Waterkeepers hired a hydrogeologist to go over the 2004 studies, which said the geology of the dump site was “impermeable.” To find out the results, read Henderson’s full story.

Click here to read “City construction waste going to North Mountain dump is ‘a threat to public health,’ say residents.”

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3. Emera executive compensation

Three red and white smoke stacks are seen behind trees on a blueksy day.
Nova Scotia Power’s Tufts Cove Generating Station, as seen from Halifax on Nov. 21, 2022. Credit: Zane Woodford

Jennifer Henderson reports on the latest compensation packages for Emera executives:

The top five senior executives at Emera Inc. received total compensation worth more than $16.5 million last year. 

Leading the pack was Emera CEO and president Scott Balfour who took home $8.248 million through a combination of salary and long-term incentive payments including stock options, restricted share units, and performance share units…

By comparison, the compensation provided to Nova Scotia Power president and CEO Peter Gregg is much lower. 

According to information contained in Nova Scotia Power’s management information circular, Gregg earned $519,596 in 2022. Just under half that amount — $254,602.04 — was picked up by ratepayers. Nova Scotia’s Public Utilities Act restricts how much salary can be paid through power rates. 

Remember: If you are poor, money makes you lazy, but if you are rich, it motivates you.

I think Nova Scotians have typically thought of Emera and Nova Scotia Power as being roughly synonymous, but as Henderson’s story points out, NSP is just one part of the company’s holdings, and it seems to be of decreasing importance to them.

Click here to read “Emera CEO Scott Balfour received $8.2 million in compensation last year; top 5 corporate execs received more than $16.5 million.”

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4. After terrible loss, family promotes organ donation

A family photo taken in front of a lighthouse. The son has his arm around his smiling bearded father while a daughter in a purple rain coat smiles at the camera alongside her mother in a pink jacket.
Credit: Contributed

Yvette d’Entremont writes about Angela Tomkinson and her family, and how they were spurred by the death of James Tomkinson — Angela’s husband — to encourage organ donation.

On March 27 of last year, soon after the family had fulfilled their dream of moving to Nova Scotia, James had a catastrophic stroke. He died on April 2, at age 46. d’Entremont writes:

“He was a helper by nature. It was his job, it was who he was. He would give you the shirt off his back. It was just a no-brainer that it was something he would do in a heartbeat. I knew that and the kids knew that,” Tomkinson said.

“The only good that could come out of this was organ donation, was helping so that other families didn’t have to go through what we’re going through. Knowing there is a legacy for him, above our children, above the things that we did and he did in his life, that is really special.”

A social worker was brought in to sit with her children while she discussed details with the organ donation coordinator in another room. But her daughter and son insisted on participating.

“They said, ‘Well, can we talk to her too? We want to know how many people dad can save.’ My kids are so resilient and they’re just amazing,” she said.

Click here to read “‘A special gift’: Nova Scotia woman advocates for organ donation in husband’s honour.”

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5. Tim Houston and the no good, very bad week

A white man with grey hai and wearing a plaid suit with a white shirt and pink, blue, and black striped tie talks to reporters with microphones.
Premier Tim Houston. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

In his column this week, Stephen Kimber writes that Tim Houston understandably wants to “move forward” from his very bad week:

Move forward­ from what seemed clear enough.

To what was less obvious.

Kimber reminds us of the events of last week, surrounding the supposed NDA tabled by Independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, and says many questions about the affair remain unanswered:

Smith-McCrossin did acknowledge in a scrum with reporters that the document she’d tabled didn’t prove the PC caucus had entered into an NDA with Saxton, but then added, reasonably enough: “The question, is who then did create that non-disclosure agreement? It is unsigned. I do not have the answer.”

No one has answered that one…

I’ve examined a number of legal non-disclosure agreements in my time, and this doesn’t read like a lawyer-created one. For starters — and enders — there are no benefits to her for signing and no clear consequences for violating it beyond the vague “very serious adverse consequences… both personally and legally.”

It reads more like something drawn up by a non-lawyer, perhaps as a prelude to a legal version.

That said, Kaitlin told her parents she’d been coerced into signing an NDA. And Smith-McCrossin says Kaitlin told her the same thing.

Click here to read “Tim Houston wants to ‘move forward’ from his very bad week. Our columnist has a suggestion.”

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6. Car charging station fees

A vehicle with "Zevvy" and "I'm electric" written on the side, along with the CAA logo, is seen plugged in in a parking lot.
An electric car charging. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

Halifax’s municipal Environment Committee has endorsed the staff-recommended fees for electric car chargers. The municipality has also announced the sites of several new charging stations, Zane Woodford reports:

“Each of the 18 sites will have a fast charger and one or two Level 2s … depending on the parking space,” Kevin Boutilier, manager of community energy, told the Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee on Thursday.

Those fast chargers output 175kW, and should provide an 80% charge in 20 minutes, according to the staff report to the committee. The Level 2 chargers’ output is lower, at a maximum of 19.2 kW, and those are designed to charge a vehicle over a longer period of time.

Under bylaw amendments before the committee on Thursday, the charging fee for fast chargers would be $45 per hour, or 75 cents per minute. The Level 2 chargers would cost $1.80 per hour, or 3 cents per minute.

Click here to read “Halifax council committee debates fees for new electric vehicle chargers.”

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7. 12 more COVID deaths

A person wearing blue medical gloves holds a COVID-19 rapid test in one hand and places a drop of liquid in the test's well with the right hand.
COVID-19 rapid antigen test photo illustration. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

“Nova Scotia is reporting 12 deaths from COVID recorded during the most recent reporting period, March 28-April 3,” Tim Bousquet reports:

All of the 12 deaths occurred before the reporting period (i.e. before March 28). That doesn’t mean that there weren’t deaths in the reporting period — there likely were, but they won’t be recorded until future reports.

For example, in the previous reporting period, there were 0 deaths recording during that reporting period, but more likely than not, some, perhaps all, of the 12 deaths reported today occurred during that reporting period.

In any event, through the pandemic, 832 Nova Scotians have died from COVID, 346 of whom have died since July 1, 2022.

Click here to read “12 more COVID deaths announced in Nova Scotia.”

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8. Deforestation Inc out from behind paywall

A red chainsaw cuts into a stump with the words "Deforestation Inc" on it.
Credit: Ricardo Weibezahn / ICIJ

All seven of Joan Baxter’s Deforestation Inc series (plus one follow-up story) are now out from behind the paywall, meaning they are free for everyone to read.

This is a monumental series that’s part of an international investigative effort into the dealings of Paper Excellence, among others, and well worth your time. The easiest way to access the stories is through Baxter’s author page here at the Examiner.

To support this kind of investigative journalism, and all of the Examiner’s work, please subscribe.

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It’s not just you. Online advertising really does suck

Online ad showing before and after pictures of a woman's face. Text reads: The Best Rated Anti-Aging Serum. Remova all Wrinkles, Scars & Eye Bags Permanently. Learn More.
Totally not a scammy product.

We live in an age of surveillance capitalism, in which our movements, preferences, purchases, and relationships are tracked and stored, largely in the service of selling us stuff.

So, why are the online ads we see so bad?

We’re all familiar with the phenomenon of the ad that follows you around everywhere. I make one or two Amazon purchases a year. Last year, I was trying to order Thermacell refills from Canadian Tire, and its website was acting up. In a fit of pique, I just ordered them from Amazon. I’m still seeing ads for the thing I bought, nearly a year later. Ditto the robot vacuum I looked at on Amazon, but did not purchase there.

But what I’m more interested in isn’t the ads that follow you around, but the ineptitude and garbage quality of online advertising generally.

I don’t see a ton of online advertising, because I generally use a privacy-forward browser, often with a VPN. I uninstalled Instagram from my phone mostly (seriously) because all the scammy ads from online marketers and people promising that you could use AI to write a book and then earn $15,000 a month from it were getting to me.

However, for years I have used the Scrabble app to play against a friend who consistently beats me. I’m logged in to the game through Facebook (I know, I know…) so I would assume it has some basic information about me.

Like, say, the fact that I have a Facebook account.

But no, I regularly am served ads encouraging me to join Facebook. While playing a game I’ve logged into with my Facebook account.

You would think location would be another relatively basic piece of information. Yet I regularly get ads that say things like “Now available in your area” when they are most clearly not.

I should note here that all these examples come from times when I have had my VPN turned off. (A VPN is a tool that can, among other things, make your location appear to be different from your real location.)

Ad showing cinnamon rolls and the words "Cinnabon Delivers."
Cinnabon Delivers. Just not anywhere within a couple of thousand kilometres of here.

Ha ha, I thought, sure it does, when I saw this Cinnabon ad. I’m sure they are coming to the western side of St. Margaret’s Bay.

Screen showing no Cinnabon delivery available nearby.

The closest Cinnabon delivery is in Toronto. I am assuming that the issue here is that the ad buy involved treating Canada as one local area.

Poor targeting is one thing. The other is the sheer ineptitude of some of the advertising. Video ads can be closed after five seconds. You would be shocked at how many give you absolutely no idea what the product being advertised is within five seconds. There are the obvious bandwagon jumping ads, like the ones promising “the best metaverse game” the week after Facebook announced it was changing its corporate name to Meta and going all-in on the metaverse (that’s a story of ineptitude for another time).

When ChatGPT hit, I was inundated by an ad from a Toronto outfit promising “News by AI” with the idea that AI-written stories were more objective. They only ever promoted one boring story about how the demand for electric vehicles would increase demand for lithium.

Meaningless graph with the words News by Ai: EVs drive lithium demand

Check out that graph too, eh?

A shocking number of times I will actually press the “learn more” button on an incomprehensible ad, out of curiosity, only to be taken to this:

Text on a black screen saying Something went wrong. Try again. Try again.

Try again. Try again. No thanks.

There’s some cutesy animated forestry ad, probably from an organization that engages in wholesale destruction of forests. Who are they? Who knows? They certainly don’t seem capable of hiring an agency that can centre text or make their name visible.

Ad with text that is not centred. Text says Learn more - forestry for the future. Our forests have a crucial role to play in supporting a more sustainable future. But how we manage... the text ends there.

And I never managed to figure out what the one below was, but I assume that I am not the target market. Here it is in all its glory:

An extremely busy screen with an image of a young woman surrounded by tons of different emojis, icons, and texts.

I desperately wish I had a screenshot of the ad that informed me I was tired because of toxins, and that I could solve the problem by putting detoxifying strips on my feet.

Last week, investigative journalist Julia Angwin wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times called, “If It’s Advertised to You Online, You Probably Shouldn’t Buy It. Here’s Why.”

Angwin uses the example of Jeremy’s Razors, a company that sells “anti-woke” razors as an example of a low-quality product being targeted to people online, as part of a larger phenomenon:

Last year, researchers at Carnegie Mellon and Virginia Tech presented a study of the consumer welfare implications of targeted ads. The results were so surprising that the researchers repeated the study to make sure their findings were correct.

The new study, published online this week, confirmed the results: The targeted ads shown to another set of nearly 500 participants were pitching more expensive products from lower-quality vendors than identical products that showed up in a simple web search.

The products shown in targeted ads were, on average, roughly 10 percent more expensive than what users could find by searching online. And the products were more than twice as likely to be sold by lower-quality vendors, as measured by their Better Business Bureau ratings.

At this point I should probably confess that I did once buy a Floppy Fish for the cat on Instagram. The Floppy Fish was terrible and the cat mostly ignored it.

Angwin continues:

“Both studies consistently highlighted a pervasive problem of low-quality vendors in targeted ads,” wrote the authors, Eduardo Abraham Schnadower Mustri, a Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. student; Idris Adjerid, a professor at Virginia Tech; and Alessandro Acquisti, a professor at Carnegie Mellon. They posited that targeted ads may be a way for smaller vendors to reach consumers and that “a sizable portion of these vendors may in fact be undesirable to consumers because they are of lower quality.

While the products sold online through ads like these may be of dubious quality (you mean the anti-aging serum isn’t real???) and expensive, Angwin argues their social cost is even higher:

Microtargeting also allows politicians to deliver divisive messages directly to niche groups. In 2019, President Donald Trump’s campaign team flooded Facebook with targeted ads bearing inflammatory messages. In 2016, a Senate inquiry found that Russian operatives spread ads on Facebook targeting Black Americans that were aimed at discouraging them from voting.

We’re destroying democracy for the sake of anti-woke razors and non-existent Cinnabon delivery?

On the Bongo Fury album (1975), Frank Zappa introduces a song by referring to the upcoming American bicentennial:

This is a song that warns you in advance that next year everybody is gonna try and sell you things that maybe you shouldn’t ought to buy, and not only that, they’ve been planning it for years.

Still relevant.

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More dystopian heartwarming stories

An old bandsaw in a wooden barn. It looks like it has not been used in many years. A row of mounted speakers is visible in the background.
It’s a bandsaw at the Full Circle music festival in 2013, not an orphan-crushing machine, but it will do. Credit: Philip Moscovitch

In my Morning File last week, I mentioned heartwarming stories that aren’t so heartwarming after all. Instead, they reveal just how messed up things are. I wrote:

Maybe you know the kind: this guy walks five hours to and from work every day because he is poor and there is no public transit, so his neighbours got together and bought him a car. This kid’s lemonade stand has raised $5,000 for his mother’s cancer treatment, etc.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that there is a whole subreddit for these kinds of stories. (A subreddit is essentially a forum.) It’s called Orphan-Crushing Machine, and its slogan is “less inspiring, more dystopian.”

The term “orphan-crushing machine” comes from a 2020 tweet:

Every heartwarming human interest story in america is like “he raised $20,000 to keep 200 orphans from being crushed in the orphan-crushing machine, and then never asks why an orphan-crushing machine exists or why you’d need to pay to prevent it from being used.

There is a lot of complaining on the forum over what constitutes an actual orphan-crushing machine story (this is the internet, after all, and what would it be without people getting pissed off that your orphan-crushing machine story is not in fact an orphan-crushing machine story but just a general sign of the crappiness of late capitalism), but there are still some excellent examples of the genre to be found.

For instance, a CNN story running under the banner “Tomorrow’s Hero” called “At 7, this boy runs a company and saves for college.” The image accompanying the story shows a child with two of his bottom baby teeth gone, sitting surrounded by recycling bins and brandishing an empty bottle of Barefoot wine.

It looks like the story was originally covered by The Capistrano Dispatch, which ran a piece called “Ryan’s Recycling: Innovative 6-year-old Founds Recycling Startup.” The pic for this one shows him wearing work gloves and bent over bags of recyclables on the street. Some stories about the child refer to him as an “entrepreneur.”

Yeah, the kid likes to sort stuff, and he has a dream of one day owning a garbage truck (Ellen DeGeneres gave him $11,000 for a college fund, but apparently he’s more interested in the garbage truck right now, because he is seven.)

But I find it fascinating how we can recast activities based on whatever our current biases and cultural perceptions are. You can imagine many different approaches to this story:

  • Child labour is emblematic of a broken system
  • Child works with potentially dangerous garbage
  • Child has hobby that makes him a bit of cash and parents support it
  • Nobody should have to work at six years of age to start saving for their dreams

But in late capitalism, we’re celebrating another startup entrepreneur.

CBC North had one of these stories just two days ago: “10-year-old entrepreneur in Yukon raises $210 for local food bank.”

Again, the child is an “entrepreneur.” And one of the things entrepreneurs do is shower us with their benevolence.

Ten-year-old Angus MacLean set up a stand at a hockey rink in his hometown of Watson Lake, Yukon, and sold hot chocolate. The money he raised went to the food bank.

I have no issue with Angus doing this! Good for him! But he’s a kid doing a nice thing, not an entrepreneur, and the nice thing he is doing is for the benefit of something that should not exist — because it is emblematic of our failure to do anything meaningful about poverty and hunger.

These stories are everywhere. You’ve got the father and son who “lovingly craft[ed] a custom casket for each of the children killed in [the] school shooting in Uvalde, Texas,” for instance. The dad in this story visited every one of the families, learned about the children, and obviously put a ton of effort into making these caskets. I am not suggesting he should not have done this. But we should not need heartwarming stories about children being the victims of mass murders perpetrated while they are at school.

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No meetings


Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — agenda



Health (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place and online) — agenda setting

Private and Local Bills (Tuesday, 11:15am, One Government Place and online) — two bills

Bill No. 274 – Catholic Cemetery Company Act (no representation
Bill No. 292 – An Act to Incorporate Mount Saint Vincent University Student Union (no representation)

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) 


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, One Government Place and online) — Accountability Report and Business Plan, with a representative from the Department of Public Works

On campus


Mining at the Tip of the Bayonet: The Western Miners’ Struggle Against the State, Coal Operators, and the UMWA – 1943 (Tuesday, 3:30pm, Room 1102 McCain Building and online) — Mike Bjørge will talk; get-together afterward at the Arms, Lord Nelson Hotel


Silenced Spaces: Tactile & Aural Legacies of the Dutch Atlantic (Tuesday, 7pm, online) — Anuradha Gobin will talk; info and registration here

In the harbour

06:30: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
07:00: IT Intrepid, cable layer, arrives at Pier 9 from St. George’s, Bermuda
10:30: FS Fulmar, French military ops ship, sails from Tall Ships Quay for sea
11:30: Lagrafoss sails for Portland
13:00: Decisive, cable layer, sails from Pier 25 for sea
13:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
15:00: Harbour Fashion, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from New York

Cape Breton
22:00: Sheila Ann, bulker, arrives at Nova Scotia Power (Sydney) from Baltimore


Black-and-white image of Leonard Cohen, an older white man in a fedora, playing the guitar and standing at a microphone. The words #singer-son gwriter appear below him.
Love me some singer-son gwriter music.

Apparently Spofity wants to be more like TikTok. (Everyone wants to be something they are not, dammit). Anyway, in Spotify’s case, I guess this means irritating animated videos on the search page, and absurdities like the image above. How about instead of being like TikTok you fix the queue feature that hasn’t worked properly in years, huh?

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

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  1. This 1995 PhD thesis re employment of children in British coal-mining industry 1800-1872 :
    https://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/24960/1/296852.pdf (362 pages with extensive details. The author is now a professor at the University of Manchester.)
    During the Industrial Revolution in Britain boys and girls as young as 5 were working in cotton mills and down coal mines. It is well known that the wealth of Manchester and Liverpool was built on the backs of slavery in America. What is much less known is the ‘slavery’ of children working long hours in mines and mills.

  2. In retrospect, the phrase, “public consultation by the McNeil government” reminds us of how shallow this process was under the leadership of the estimable Premier Steven. He’s gone on to consult with various private enterprises which was always more his thing.

  3. Often, when I’m trying to find out how to do something, or looking for a product recommendation, I google something like “What mechanical leprechaun reddit”. I do this because if you just google “best mechanical leprechaun 2023” or something, you get a bunch of crappy highly search-engine-optimized sites with no real information. For all its flaws, Reddit has a subreddit for just about anything and there is often good information about niche subjects like mechanical leprechauns, because those subreddits tend to be populated by people, not bots. In the crappy new AI future, someone with a GPT-whatever API key and a Python script can generate as many comments on social media as they want, about literally anything.

    My bold prediction is that the only good social media in the future will be social media that costs money to use – but how much money will it cost to keep bots off? $8 USD doesn’t seem like enough.

      1. Yes, I think you’re right. ChatGPT is much more useful than Google already if the thing you are interested in exists in its training data.