1. Dirty Dealing, Part 3

Northern Pulp mill, Pictou County, Nova Scotia. Photo courtesy Gerry Farrell. Credit: Dr. Gerry Farrell

“In a study published in 2017, Dalhousie University researchers reported that air levels of three volatile organic compounds (VOCs) near the Abercrombie pulp mill in Pictou County exceeded cancer risk thresholds and ‘are of primary health concern in terms of population risk,’” reports Linda Pannozzo, who goes on to explore the contents of the Dal study and how it’s been ignored by policy-makers.

This is Part 3 of Pannozzo’s “Dirty Dealing” series, which deals with environmental issues with the Northern Pulp Mill and the province’s response to them. In Part 3, Pannozzo zeroes in on the air pollution generated by the plant.

Besides those serious — alarming, even — concerns, Pannozzo raises two other issues of note.

First is this:

[I]n Nova Scotia the government sets polluters’ emission limits on a case-by-case basis. So this means there is no across-the-board limit for particulate matter emissions, for example, but limits are set for each facility. This piecemeal approach is preferred by provincial governments because it can weigh the economic benefits of a plant against the environmental impact.

In other words, it could be decided that the harm to human health and the environment are warranted because of the social or economic benefits.

Second, Pannozzo attempted to contact all six coauthors of the air quality study, and each declined to speak with her. She explains:

In an effort to understand their silence, the Halifax Examiner has filed a Freedom of Information Request with the government and will report back when that information is released. However, it is worth noting that a number of university professors from Dalhousie University, Acadia University, Cape Breton University, and Saint Francis Xavier University are part of the Boat Harbour Advisory Committee, which was formed in January 2016, to assist with the Boat Harbour remediation project. Some of the professors might have signed agreements and are engaged in research projects funded by the province, through Nova Scotia Lands, with Ken Swain as the project leader.

While it is not unusual for a professor to enter into an agreement and agree not to speak on an issue in order to secure funding, it does seem incredulous that they would be prohibited from discussing an already published, publicly funded, peer-reviewed study that sheds important light on a public health issue.

Click here to read “Dirty Dealing Part 3: Elevated Levels of Cancer-Causing Air Emissions Coming from Abercrombie Pulp Mill, Peer-Reviewed Study Reveals”

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I interviewed Pannozzo yesterday for this week’s Examineradio podcast, which should be published later today.

And just a gentle reminder… it’s great that readers recognize that Pannozzo’s work is essential reading. I know that because each time I publish an investigative piece by Pannozzo, I get multiple requests to take the article out from behind the paywall because “it’s so important.” Indeed, it is important work. But your subscriptions are how we pay Pannozzo, and how we pay to host her work. She can’t work for free, and neither can I. (Publishing a lengthy and detailed piece like this takes a lot of my time as well; I did nothing else yesterday but work on this article and interview Pannozzo.) So, please subscribe!

2. Bill 72

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“The Nova Scotia Liberal government’s sweeping legislation to reform education administration passed on Thursday, exactly one week after it was introduced at Province House,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:

Bill 72 passed 25-21, with all government MLAs voting in favour and all opposition MLAs voting against the legislation. Among other things, the bill dissolves all elected English language school boards, removes administrators from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, creates an appointed advisory committee and essentially places all accountability on the Education Department.

Both opposition parties spoke against the bill, and especially against the dissolution of the school boards, but I haven’t heard either party say that if they form government they will reestablishment the school boards.

Which is odd. A reader points out that the former Liberal government in New Brunswick had dissolved that province’s school boards, but when the Conservatives formed government they reestablished them. Reported the Canadian Press last March in 2000:

New Brunswick is returning to a system of elected school boards.

Premier Bernard Lord released a discussion paper yesterday looking for ideas and suggestions for a new, more effective structure to govern public education — one that will involve a return to elected representatives.

The Liberal government of former premier Frank McKenna scrapped elected school boards several years ago in favour of a complex system of parent advisory groups and superintendents under the authority of the Minister of Education in Fredericton.

But the Conservatives are in office now and Mr. Lord said New Brunswickers never accepted the parent advisory groups.

“We want to ensure greater participation of parents and communities in the school system,” Mr. Lord said.

Seems a straightforward campaign platform: “Elect us, and we’ll reestablish the school boards.” And yet neither the NDP nor the PCs have adopted that position. NDP Leader Gary Burrill could simply make it party policy. As for the PCs, now that various candidates are jockeying for the leadership position, this would be a great platform to run on. But, silence all the way around. (Unless I’ve missed something.)

3. Lohr

Speaking of the PC Leadership race, wannabe Leader John Lohr is playing footsies with the anti-political correctness crowd:

Universities should foster free speech, not cower to political correctness. No Free Speech = No Funding. Universities Sign my petition if you agree. #nspoli #nspc

— Hon. John A Lohr (@JohnLohrPC) March 8, 2018

There you have it, folks. If any university puts restrictions on student groups backing the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid, or if a student is disciplined for daring to post “#whitefragilitycankissmyass” on Facebook, John Lohr will personally intervene and de-fund the entire university.

Or is some free speech less allowable than other free speech?

As I’ve noted before, the so-called “free-speech advocates” only seem to do their advocating when nazis, misogynists, and other assorted reprehensibles come out of the woodwork. The everyday silencing of the anti-apartheid movement, or restrictions on the speech of prisoners, or the climate of fear that makes every assertion of rights by any student of colour an act of bravery… well, that all passes without comment from the “free-speech advocates.”

4. Threats made against schools

“Police were present at three schools in the Halifax area Thursday after they received a report of threats towards the schools,” reports the Canadian Press:

Police say they learned of the alleged threats towards Rocky Lake Junior High School in Bedford, and Ian Forsyth Elementary School and Caledonia Junior High School in Dartmouth, at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

“There was a threat received here in the mail (Wednesday) that was specific to Ian Forsythe school and Caledonia,” says Halifax Regional School Board spokesperson Doug Hadley. “There was also a letter received in the mail at Rocky Lake Junior High, so in both cases that information was turned over to police immediately.”

Hadely didn’t disclose the nature of the threats, but said once Halifax police were notified they did a threat assessment and determined there was no need to cancel classes for the three schools.

“To provide assurance to people, we asked that if there was going to be an ability to have a police presence at the schools (Thursday) they said they would absolutely have police on site,” says Hadley.

5. Pedestrian struck

A police release from last night:

At approximately 8:40 pm police responded to the area of Nantucket Avenue near the entrance to the bus terminal in Dartmouth. A 38 year old female had been struck by a vehicle at this location. The female was struck in the pedestrian walkway. Investigation was unable to determine who was at fault in the incident and at this point no charges have been laid. The female was treated at the hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

6. Maritime Centre

The artist’s rendering of the Maritime Centre shows that all utility wires will be removed and the St. Mary’s Glebe House across the street will be torn down.
The artist’s rendering of the Maritime Centre shows that all utility wires will be removed and the St. Mary’s Glebe House across the street will be torn down.

“The Maritime Centre’s face-lift, expected to lessen the impact of wind on a major downtown Halifax street, was approved by the municipality’s Design Review Committee on Thursday,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro:

When the 22-storey tower was built in the 1970s, the effect of wind from tall buildings didn’t factor into development decision-making. Buildings going up now are required to have podiums to catch and divert the wind blowing down from towers like the Maritime Centre.

Municipal planning staff and the project’s lead designer, Ron Burdock, described the current wind conditions as “notorious,” and Burdock said wind on part of the sidewalk on Barrington Street is actually dangerous during certain times of the year.

The addition adds a three-storey podium, and a study found that it would improve wind conditions around the building, making the area more comfortable for pedestrians.

I didn’t have time to dive into the staff report on the expansion or to attend yesterday’s meeting, so… maybe? But I have my doubts about all claims from wind studies. For instance, back in 2016 I commented on the wind study for the Nova Centre:

Oh, it’s worth noting that RWDI [the wind consultant] employed a bit of a hedge:

A 20% exceedance is used in these criteria to determine the comfort category, which suggests that wind speeds would be comfortable for the corresponding activity at least 80% of the time or four out of five days.

So when the wind’s not blowing, there won’t be wind problems. But when the wind is blowing, well, all bets are off.

The city should now hire another wind consultant to conduct a post-construction study of the Nova Centre area to see if RWDI’s forecasts hold up. My entirely anecdotal experience is that they do not — Argyle Street seems far windier than it was before the Borg was plopped down on the street, but to be fair, that might just be the hot air of the bloviating and bullshitting politicians patting themselves on the back for the wonderful success of the thing.

Similarly, I have my doubts that the three-storey expansion/addition to the Maritime Centre will solve any of the wind problems (again: shouldn’t we check after-the-fact?); it just looks like an excuse to get more office space into the building. (Because there’s such a shortage of office space, I guess.)

The Maritime Centre was built on the site of the old Capitol Theatre:

So we went from something with a bit of class to… the Maritime Centre.

A reader points out that the expansion fills in the patio space that is used by Niche restaurant. She writes:

The steps and triangle that is the outside patio for the restaurant will be gone supposedly to reduce the wind. Pre-Maritime Centre this was the location of a pathway between Barrington and Hollis (I read it on a plaque right there). I wasn’t around when this was built but I imagine the triangle was to meet a 30% public open space requirement. More vibrant, walkable, pedestrian oriented, world-class city BS. Comes with a rubber stamp.


1. Stephen Archibald’s house

Photo: Stephen Archibald

“Do you have a favourite house? ” asks Stephen Archibald:

The one you go out of your way to walk by because it’s an essential element of your rich fantasy life. I’ve heard that a big, old house on Inglis Street in Halifax excites the imagination of many people in this way. Now I can offer them and you a glimpse inside, because we lived there in the 1980s. (A few years ago I did a post showing drawings of the exterior of the house).

A builder constructed the double house in the 1870s. In my mind, the highly ornate stone carving over the entrance is a developer’s attempt to maximize curb appeal. The attached, mirror image of our house was destroyed by fire about 1960, and is the present location of the Resolutes Club.

The pictures of Archibald, his wife, and their friends in all their 1980s get-up are adorable.



No public meetings.


Legislature sits (9am–1pm, Province House)

On campus


Thesis Defence, Civil and Resource Engineering (Friday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Naznin Sultana Daisy will defend her thesis, “Microsimulation of Activity Participation, Tour Complexity, and Mode Choice Within an Activity-Based Travel Demand Model System.”

Piano Recital (Friday, 11:45am, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — students of Peter Allen and Lynn Stodola will perform.

Cross-electrophile Coupling: Principles and New Reactions (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Daniel J. Weix from the University of Wisconsin-Madison will speak.

The Colten Boushie case (1:30pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — Schulich School of Law Professors Stephen Coughlan, Richard Devlin, and Naiomi Metallic comprise a panel to discuss the case, while Dean Camille Cameron will moderate. Properly speaking, I think, it’s the Gerald Stanley case.

Professional Anxieties: 18th Century British Military Engineer William Booth in Gibraltar and Nova Scotia, 1774-1789 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Bonnie Huskins from the University of New Brunswick will speak.
Update: Cancelled due to the weather.

Neural Mechanisms of Age-dependent Memory Loss: Depends on Where You Look (Friday, 3:40pm, Room 5260, Life Sciences Centre) — Carol Barnes from the University of Arizona will speak.

IDEALaw 2018: Law’s Human Impact (Friday, 5pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — register here.

Guitorchestration (Friday, 7:30pm, The Music Room, 6181 Lady Hammond Road) — Dalhousie’s guitar students and faculty perform works by Bach, Beethoven, Miles Davis, and many more.

In the harbour

The approach to Halifax Harbour, 9:30am Friday. Map:

Midnight: Itea, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
8am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 9 from Saint-Pierre
10am: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Mariel, Cuba
10am: Roald Amundsen, Norwegian military ops ship, arrives at Dockyard
3pm: Pantonio, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
6pm: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Pier 25 from Sydney
8pm: Columbia Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Jacksonville, Florida
8pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 36 for St. John’s
10pm: ZIM Alabama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain


More snow, they say.

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

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  1. Democracy works if the electorate is engaged. How many people vote for school board officials? How many participate in any election?

    Based on turnout alone the Liberals can justify dissolution. One wonders what might be next and how little protest there will be when it comes.

  2. “Both opposition parties spoke against the bill, and especially against the dissolution of the school boards, but I haven’t heard either party say that if they form government they will reestablishment the school boards.”

    No big surprise here, opposition parties often wish they had the intestinal fortitude to make certain changes in legislated policy, but knew they never would for fear of the backlash; so they protest when they see a siting government enact necessary but unpopular legislation because it works as ammunition to possibly get them elected… but do not expect them to roll back the clock if they got into power; I mean that would be stupid right?

    1. While PEI did get rid of English school boards, the French school board still exists and is elected. Nova Scotia just did the same thing.

  3. “…the hot air of the bloviating and bullshitting politicians…”
    I can’t find “bloviating” in Webster’s or Canadian Oxford. Enlighten us.

  4. Many of us support equally the right of Acadia University professor Rich Mehta to espouse foolish views on the wage gender gap and the right of Masuma Khan to post rude, racist taunts on Facebook. We opposed McCarthism in the 1950s. We oppose the left’s lamentable drift toward totalitarianism in the 2010s. It’s the same fight. How dismaying that you, whose work depends on respect for free speech, won’t stick up for this principle when your ideological allies find momentary advantage in attacking speech rights.

    1. Free speech in America is a direct result of the overthrow of British colonialism.
      Apparently Tim and too many others prefer the remains of British colonialism and French Catholicism.
      On the one hand Tim rails against government and establishment secrecy, rightly so, and then supports the suppression of words he dislikes. How very colonial.

    2. Actually Parker, although you may be (or at least think of yourself as) consistent in your free-speech advocacy, most people are not. This is why supporters of BDS are blacklisted by every major political party in Canada while folks like Lindsay Shepherd find themselves on speaking circuits with newfound fame, cashing in on alt-right resentment. The left has little to no actual power to suppress anyone’s speech on any matter of consequence.

      I don’t know about Rick Mehta’s views on the gender wage gap, but I do know his views on residential schools essentially deny their reality. Should a professor be allowed to spout this stuff from his pulpit of authority? Should Holocaust deniers?

      Similarly, should Parker Donham be given a pulpit to preach lies about Nova Scotia’s education system repeatedly, even after they’ve been debunked, or does he have some responsibility to the public to correct factual errors?

        1. I agree, bsichel, many people are not consistent in their free speech advocacy. In the words of the great progressive critic Nat Hentoff, it’s “free speech for me but not for thee.” That’s why it’s dismaying to see the left, which used to be a bastion for defense of freedom, veer off into speech policing.

          I agree that, in the long run, progressives have little actual power to suppress speech, although they’ve had a pretty good run at it in universities recently. That’s why, even if they are comfortable shutting up people they disagree with, they would be wise, on a purely utilitarian basis, to support institutional guarantees of free speech.

          By the phrase, “folks like Lindsay Shepherd,” I gather you mean to impute a right wing ideology to her. I don’t believe that’s correct. She seems to have been a fairly typical progressive or small-l liberal who suddenly found herself in an Orwellian Star Chamber based on hyperventilated claims of injury from students who have been taught, by progressives, they they can shut down any discussion they deem “uncomfortable.”

          This is the opposite of what the academy should be teaching. Shame on progressives for abetting it.

          As for teachers (or really, not teachers, but supporters of the deeply conservative and reform-averse NSTU), no one can say they did not fulsome opportunity to express their views, entirely free of suppression.

          PS: Why do you hide your comments behind a pseudonym?

          1. From Chomsky: “Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.” I would err on the side of Chomsky any day.

          2. No hiding; I just never bothered to edit my profile when I log in. I’m Ben Sichel and my screen name was bsichel. There are no other Sichels in Nova Scotia so I figured it was pretty recognizable anyway to anyone who cared to look, which was probably a bit presumptuous. I changed it now though just to be clear.

            The so-called leftist suppression of free speech on campus is BS. Like Tim says, the actual suppression, by those with the power to suppress, of any advocacy for Palestinian human rights is a far more real problem.

            Re the NSTU (of which I’m a proud member), no one’s said you can’t express your views. Some of those, including your critiques about hiring practices, definitely have some merit. The issue which you consistently refuse to address (including here) is the fact that several of the premises of your arguments are just plain wrong, and you refuse to acknowledge that when pointed out repeatedly. I’m thinking of your assertions that the NSTU is in charge of teacher certification and discipline, neither of which is remotely true. Yet, you still get invited onto CTV. You abuse your status as a former journalist and commentator when you are given such a platform and use it to make stuff up.

      1. Like I said, one problem with standing up for BDS advocates, whether you believe in their cause or not, is the power that an accusation of anti-semitism has to destroy lives and careers. Of course none of our federal parties allow pro-BDS positions, because that would be anti-semetic.

      2. Climate deniers use their freedom of expression to spread their mistaken, out of date, and misinformed opinions. That’s their right. Research does not support what they say.

        Worn out old internet trolls use their freedom of speech to spread nonsense about how dangerous “the left” has become. But the fact that they are still allowed to have an opinion, even though their integrity is long past its best before date does not make them right.

        Anyone actually interested in what research into support for free speech says can look at the links in the excellent Twitter thread below. Spoiler alert: actual facts do not provide the same satisfying rush of self-righteous anger that unsupported opinion does.

  5. We have District Education Councils in New Brunswick, and their territories are much more vast than the school board boundaries in Nova Scotia. (The Anglophone North School District, for instance, runs from Tide Head in the north to Rexton in the south.) There is overlap because there are separate ones for Anglophone and Francophone school, as the two systems have a wall between them.

    They have retained the parental advisory councils.

    The district education councils are made up mainly of elected people, although there are a few government appointees. It is usually the case that nobody can be bothered to run either for a seat on the council or for chair, which is a directly elected position. There is always at least one First Nations representative. Nobody gets worked up about the DECs.

    I cover the meetings on the rare occasion they meet up my way. Rarely do i see members of the public in attendance — the only time that has happened special meetings about closing or amalgamating schools.

    The DEC meetings are run with quiet efficiency. in the days of my youth, school districts were much more local. Each town had at least one, even though in New Brunswick education is entirely a provincial concern and has been since Louis Robichaud’s Equal Opportunity reforms in the 1960s. Schools have been funded by provincial taxes since 1967 at least, and not by local property tax or local school levies. As there are fewer children and fewer schools now, it make sense to me that there should be fewer school boards.

    Even so, well into the 70s and 80s the school board members meddled in the affairs of the schools, in matters in which they had no expertise, pushing their own social agenda and morality.( I know, because as a high school student in the 1970s I was personally threatened by the school board because I wrote about their antediluvian ways in the local newspaper.) Quarrelling about the library books, quarrelling about this and that, why can’t the world be like it was in 1950, give them all a haircut and send them to church, etc etc. And the school board meetings in those days were a thing to behold for sure.

    Yes, those numerous little local school boards were more democratic and grassroots. But they added little or nothing to the quality of education. If anything, they usually detracted from it with their meddling. I am not sad to see them gone. I question whether we even need the current DECs here, as tame as they are, and whether it would be better just to have parental advisory councils working directly with the department of education.

  6. Not to be picky or anything, but doesn’t “credulous” mean nearly the opposite of “incredible” which would be the appropriate word to be used in the article about Northern Pulp pollution?

  7. I’m tired too of the free speech crowd. I get it why they are wary of supporting the BDS movement, because few organizations have the ability to ruin your life (especially if you aren’t just a nobody internet commenter) like the ADL or the SPLC. I still didn’t see groups like FIRE supporting Khan, although that issue blew over pretty fast once the university caved anyway.

    On the other hand, I am pretty skeptical that ideologues like Khan would tolerate any dissent if they were the ones in charge of our country. So maybe free speech people shouldn’t be helping her.

    I still think it’s best for free speech people (I’m one, but think the cause of free speech is hopeless) to take the principled stance and support people like Khan even though they should know damn well people like her aren’t likely to return the favor.

    I thought this was interesting:

    One reason why we need free speech is so that the definitions of the various ‘isms’ that people use to dismiss others without having to use their brains can’t grow to the point of near-meaninglessness.

    Another thing to consider is that with the increase in polarization we are seeing across the world, politicians cannot really change people’s minds. All they can do is get their supporters to actually vote, and the best way to do that is to turn up the rhetoric.

    1. And, as Lenny Bruce once so succinctly observed;

      “Take away my right to say FUCK and you take away my right to say FUCK THE GOVERNMENT.

  8. Tim, that Globe story is from 2000–it says updated last year, but Bernard Lord hasn’t been premier since 2006. Just thought you’d like that bit of fact-checking (as I’m in fact-checking depths for our magazine right now).

    1. In the 1960’s,I used to live in Stephen archibald’S favourite house. I remember sliding down the Bannister leading down to the main hall. We lived in the top flat, my grandmother on the second floor, an art teacher and her daughter on the first floor and a an older couple in the basement.

      It is so great to see what a beautiful remodeling job he and his family did. I hope it is still as beautiful today.