In the harbour


1. Finally: justice for Inebriates

Overlooked in the hoopla over the Film Tax Credit is that the Liberals are repealing the Inebriates’ Guardianship Act, a discriminatory piece of legislation that denied basic civil rights to those citizens with a libation orientation. The Act declares that:

When any habitual drunkard by reason of such drunkenness

(a) squanders or mismanages his property;
(b) places his family in trouble or distress;
(c) transacts his business prejudicially to the interests of his family; or
(d) uses intoxicating liquor to such an extent that he thereby incurs the danger of ruining his health and shortening his life,

any judge of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court may pronounce the interdiction of such habitual drunkard and appoint a guardian to manage his affairs and control his person.

2. Atlantic Gateway

Remember the Atlantic Gateway?

This was one of the economic development fads that characterize the deep thinking of serious people in Nova Scotia. I think the trend line goes something like this: fancy stereos, nuclear water, Love Boat, call centres, biomedicine, Atlantic Gateway, financial centre. I’m probably missing a few.

The Atlantic Gateway was the notion that we were going to get rich because of geography. I don’t have time to dig it up this morning, but there’s a hilarious report written by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies that explained how we could build a superhighway from Lower Water Street to Buffalo, New York, employ a bunch of Mexican truck drivers on the cheap, and thereby corner the market on widgets shipped from Sri Lanka to Chicago. I’m not making any part of this up.

Buried in the multiple press releases surrounding this week’s budget announcement was a single line noting that the Liberals are “phasing out the Nova Scotia Gateway Office,” so I guess the dream has died. Ah, its OK, AIMS got a bunch of free publicity, and Dal prof Mary Black got paid to write scores of non-peered-reviewed studies, so it’s all good. Pushing various economic development schemes is its own sort of full-employment act, at least if you’re plugged in.

The only piece that remains from the Gateway nonsense is our celebrated time zone. It’s the best in the world, ya know.

3. Local prosperity

Economist and writer Michael Shuman spoke Thursday evening at the Local Prosperity Conference in Annapolis Royal. He gave the Ivany Report failing grades and said he would do the opposite. Photo: Michael Power, TC-Media
Economist and writer Michael Shuman spoke Thursday evening at the Local Prosperity Conference in Annapolis Royal. He gave the Ivany Report failing grades and said he would do the opposite. Photo: Michael Power, TC-Media

The dominant theme in the Ivany Report (all bow) is that politicians and economic development officials should prioritize efforts to expand exports. But economist Michael Shuman says this is all wrong, relates TC-Media reporter Lawrence Powell:

Shuman said the Ivany report actually discriminates against small, locally-owned businesses by suggesting that the economic development powers-that-be not be biased about businesses supported for economic development.


“The possibility that local and small might actually generate more growth … is not even considered,” Shuman said.


“My criteria on how one builds a local economy is basically to go exactly the opposite direction of the Ivany Report on the first two points,” Shuman said. “We need to maximize the percentage of jobs in locally-owned businesses because they are superior contributors to economic development. And we need to maximize local self-reliance. Not as a way of defecting from the global economy but it’s the only coherent way of participating in the global economy.

Shuman was the keynote speaker at the Local Prosperity Conference held in Annapolis Royal last week, and the TC-Media papers gave Powell room to fully relate Shuman’s arguments. The entire article is worth a read.

Robert Cervelli
Robert Cervelli

Oh, one more interesting point about the conference: Robert Cervelli opened the conference with a talk titled “Setting the Stage: Next-in-class Tools for the New Economic Model.”

Cervelli was the founder of Origin BioMed. Nova Scotia Business Inc, the province’s economic development agency, holds a $7.9 million equity stake in the company, and NSBI’s federal counterpart, ACOA, has lent the company $2.8 million. In 2011, Cervelli resigned from Origin Biomed’s board of directors after a disastrous coupon promotion lost the company $1.8 million. Last month, Origin Biomed was forced into receivership, and it looks like the entire government investment will be lost.

Cervelli might seem like an odd choice for a speaker at the Local Prosperity Conference, but he’s a vice-president of the Centre for Local Prosperity, which sponsored the conference. His bio explains:

Robert has been a life science tech start-up entrepreneur for over 25 years, and understands the issues related to new business creation and the health of resilient local economies. He has founded, or co-founded, biotechnology companies developing diagnostics, cancer therapy, vaccine enhancement technologies, neurological drug discovery and consumer health products. He has become particularly knowledgeable in the commercial develop of botanical extracts and natural active compounds.

Origin BioMed’s main product is a quack homeopathic “medicine” called Neuragen. It appears that the collapse of Origin BioMed is related to the US FDA’s insistence that the company’s advertised claims about Neuragen required it to go through extensive testing as a prescription drug, testing that was unlikely to validate those claims.

But worry not about Cervelli. After he left Origin BioMed he started a company called Neurodyn, and you’ll be forgiven if you think that sounds an awful lot like Neuragen. Neurodyn is based in Charlottetown. Explains the company’s website:

Neurodyn utilizes a portfolio approach to identify, validate, and develop bioactives for neuroprotection and the early treatment of neurological diseases. Neurodyn identifies bioactive compounds within historically-proven natural treatments with the goal of validating therapeutic candidates and ultimately developing treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS and chronic nerve pain. Neurodyn will out-license or sell validated therapeutic candidates to pharmaceutical and consumer health players, as well as explore faster alternatives to traditional drug development, such as the US FDA Medical Food designation.

Neurodyn’s unique insight into the discovery, validation, and development of new bioactive compounds comes from a strong development capacity based on international partners with demonstrated historical knowledge of natural compounds, in-house medicinal chemistry capability, and proprietary animal models of neurological disease.

Given the Origin BioMed history of selling a “medicine” with zero medical value, someone should probably investigate the “natural compounds” Neurodyn is hawking.

But it should surprise no one that the Chronicle Herald’s walking conflict of interest, Peter Moreira, has been uncritically promoting Neurodyn. In 2013, for example, Moreira trumpeted some investments into Neurodyn, but somehow failed to give the Origin BioMed backstory.

Sometimes I think the entire “economic development” industry in the Maritimes is one gigantic grift, with the same set of bullshitters, scammers and self-promoters repeatedly coming to the trough, and no one’s swatting them away.


1. Bridgetown

The Archibalds' summer cottage in Bridgetown. Photo: Stephen Archibald
The Archibalds’ summer cottage in Bridgetown. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald recounts his memories of growing up in Bridgetown, where his family had a “cottage” right in the middle of town. This is a delightful look at a bygone era when rural Nova Scotia was thriving. Says Archibald:

A doctor recently explained to me that there are two things that kill most older people. Either they die of a catastrophic disease like cancer or succumb to  progressive dwindling. I realize that what I was witnessing from the 50s on was Bridgetown caught up in a process of progressive dwindling that has just now killed it as a town.

When we closed up our house after the Labour Day Parade and returned to Halifax we were a little part of this dwindling process. We paid our taxes but we were not around to be a part of the community.  We were as bad as the folks that chose to drive to the new mall in Greenwood instead of supporting their local merchants.

Around 2000 we sold the family house for about $30,000.  That’s what it was worth.

Best sure to stick around to the end of the piece, where Archibald shows us a couple of photos taken by Georgie Cunningham, the town photographer — “photography was one of the new professions that women could enter,” he explains:

On the left is a portrait of my mother in 1923. On her way to have her picture taken she apparently found the kitten in the street and took it into Georgie’s studio.  Georgie also took a number of portraits of my brothers and I. She used a big view camera that could take 8 by 10 negatives. I remember she  would disappear under the blackout cloth behind the camera to adjust the focus. I’m in the centre of the photo from about 1948. 

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 7.33.24 AM

2. Film tax credit

Parker Donham relates what appears to be almost universal criticism of the Liberals’ gutting of the film tax credit. “This is not over,” concludes Donham.

3. Business Department

Rachel Brighton calls out the creation of the Business Department on two fronts. Like me, she recoils in fear at the notion of a “Brilliant Labs” in schools:

There are Orwellian undertones in the new Business Department — and not just its name.

First up is its mandate to “align” P-12 education with “economic development plans.”

The realignment will extend into post-secondary education, internships and co-operative learning placements as well. This makes sense in later grades and in training courses.

But do we want six-year-olds learning a curriculum that originates in the Business Department?

Additionally, Brighton mourns the loss of a rural focus:

Thursday’s budget address only mentioned “rural” in the context of health and education. Coupled with this departmental restructuring, it would appear that rural communities — as communities of people, and not merely as centres of production of higher-value commodities — are off the policy radar for the time being.

4. Cranky letter of the day

To the Port Hawkesbury Reporter:

The Catholic Diocese of Antigonish has recently sent out a survey to evaluate the use of music used in its churches.

I am not a musician and I am retired, but I am a priest and I love to sing, so I wish to share some of my thoughts on church music in Cape Breton from these perspectives.

As an Acadian, I spent the first 15 years of my work life in Acadian parishes, and for many years now, I have presided at a monthly French mass for the Acadian population of the greater Sydney area. My experience is that the French music is more melodic and has more life, more passion to it than that used in Anglophone churches in the diocese and that the congregations are much more easily engaged by the French hymns.

When I travel on holidays, I travel mostly to Spanish speaking countries such as Mexico, Spain and Cuba. There too I have a sense of being easily engaged by the type of music used in churches. Is it the Latin blood that the Acadians share with the Hispanics?

I confess to having had an experience of church singing in English that I have found engaging. I have attended services in an evangelical church in the Boston area.

Their service, a two-and-a-half hour service (including a coffee break), begins with one full hour of music. It is very rhythmic (some people actually get up and dance), creating a sense of physical community, so that after that first hour, I have lost my self-consciousness and am fully receptive to the message.

While our own congregations may never have danced in church, I think we did have the beginning of engaging church music in English here in Cape Breton. I was ordained in 1966, just when music in the vernacular was first being developed. For a while, we did have enthusiastic congregational singing. I don’t know what the sources were, but I can still sing hymns that we sang then. They were melodic, robust, easy to sing and easy to remember.

For the many years now that I have not been in parish work, I have attended and presided at mass in many churches throughout Cape Breton. Generally speaking, I have not had that experience of being engaged by the music. I certainly have committed very few hymns to memory and there are few that I enjoy singing.

There appears to me to be a disconnect  here. Cape Bretoners in general have a tremendous history and sense of music. They know music and are not hostile to being engaged. They are engaged by their music in the public domain.  They respond to the lyrics of their local composers, many of whom exude a deep spirituality in their own compositions. Who would question the depth of Rita MacNeil, Allister MacGillivray, or J.P. Cormier, to name only a few? We could be writing our own Books of Worship.

Recently, I watched the RCMP funeral from Calgary on television. I was amazed that The Rankin Family was part of the musical tributes. They did a stunning rendition of “Fare Thee Well, Love” for the thousands there and the millions watching at home. The people of Alberta, who retained the Rankins, seem to know something we don’t know. And on that note, why is our fiddle music only considered for funerals? And have we considered a dialogue with the theatre community, which, like the music, exudes richness?

I have a vision of our churches booming with song. The argument that our congregations are made up of old people does not hold. Our nursing home communities are booming with song.

Daniel Doucet
Retired Priest

In the harbour

The seas off Nova Scotia, 10am Saturday. Map:
The seas off Nova Scotia, 10am Saturday. Map:

Zim Alabama, container ship, arrived at Pier 42 this morning
Maersk Palermo, container ship, arrived this morning at Pier 36, will sail to sea
Quadriga, container ship, arrived this morning at anchorage


I’m late and behind, again. Will figure that out soon, I hope…

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

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  1. “Sometimes I think the entire “economic development” industry in the Maritimes is one gigantic grift, with the same set of bullshitters, scammers and self-promoters repeatedly coming to the trough, and no one’s swatting them away”

    Me too!.

  2. The repeal wasn’t done out of any form of goodwill to towards the Intoxicated Rights Movement but instead for the banks to feast on our blood!

  3. The Atlantic Gateway grifters have a strange idea of geography, as per the title of this piece of pseudo-journalism: “Atlantic Canada is now on the Pacific Rim.” Halifax Chronicle-Herald (4 November 2005).