On campus
In the harbour


1. Police Commission

In February, city councillor Linda Mosher got herself appointed chair of the police commission, even though an election for chair wasn’t on the commission agenda for that day. As chair, Mosher sets the agenda and determines what is discussed in camera.

Linda Mosher.
Linda Mosher.

At the in-camera session of the commission’s very next meeting, on March 9, a document was distributed. Former deputy chief of police Tony Burbridge obtained the document a few days after the meeting, explains the Chronicle Herald:

Burbridge said the document related to policing costs and did not meet the criteria laid out under Section 52 of the Police Act to go in camera.

Whether the document should’ve been discussed in camera or in the open meeting before reporters — I was there — is one question. The propriety of releasing a secret document is another. Burbridge won’t say who gave him the document, but says it wasn’t a police commissioner. Still, there’s obviously a leak somewhere in the system, and it’s a good bet that it ultimately springs from a commissioner.

I’m told that Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais is quite irate about the leak. The Chronicle Herald reports that Blais has brought in Bridgewater’s chief of police to conduct an investigation.

Burbridge’s direct concern is what he says is a budgetary error in the document, so “he contacted two councillors on the board of police commissioners to point out the budgetary error,” says the Chronicle Herald.

Both Mosher and councillor Stephen Adams had been newly appointed to the commission, and the pair often seem to act in tandem.

2. Cod

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has cut the cod quota in half:

The cod stock remains in poor shape on the Scotian shelf from Halifax to Digby, leading Fisheries and Oceans to spread the annual 1,600-tonne quota over two years.


Cod is a by-catch, meaning fishermen seeking species such as haddock can keep cod that are caught accidentally. In some areas, trawlers use separator nets to let cod escape.

For more than 20 years, a moratorium has prevented cod fishing off the eastern shore, but a limited amount was allowed off the southwestern shore.


At its peak in the mid-1980s, Canadian fishermen were hauling in 266,000 tonnes of cod each year under continuously more generous federal quotas.

3. Flu

Twenty-seven Nova Scotians have died from the flu this past winter, up from eight the previous year.

4. Film subsidy

The provincial economist, Thomas Storring, writes to clarify what I had written yesterday:

In your analysis of my remarks you stated: “I think what’s happened is that the provincial economist told the legislature that the film tax credit has been accounted for incorrectly…” 

To be clear, I did not suggest that the value of film and other tax credits had been accounted for incorrectly. I was referring to recent change in guidance from the Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) about such tax expenditures, stating: “we are actually supposed to be reporting tax expenditures separately and not actually taking them as a net from the revenues that are earned”. I further stated that: “…we actually do report them separately.” By that remark, I was indicating that we had made a change to our presentation of tax expenditures as a result of the new PSAB guidance. 

The Province’s financial statements comply with PSAB standards and we make changes whenever PSAB guidance changes. That was exactly the case in this situation. Our financial statements do characterize tax expenditures as PSAB recommends.


1. Life


From his exile on a warmer planet, Stephen Archibald discusses one legacy of Ben’s Bakery — the sculpture on Quinpool Road:

In 1968, Josef Drapell, a 28 year old artist and recent immigrant from Czechoslovakia,  was visiting Halifax. He noticed that Ben’s had a boring fence along the edge of their property that fronted on Quinpool and approached the company about producing a work of art that would enhance the streetscape. Ben’s accepted the proposal and Drapell created a curving concrete wall gesture entitled Life


I think this was a smart and appropriate intervention on what was and is a very conventional street. It was bold of Ben’s to commission the piece.  It has been a gift to the street for 47 years, even if the street has not always recognized its riches.

Be sure to read to the end of Archibald’s post, where there’s a mini-essay about serpentine walls.

2. Detroit

On March 31, the Chronicle Herald published an op-ed piece Roberta Hawkes had written, headlined “Is Nova Scotia the next Detroit?” The next day, April Fool’s Day no less, I derided Hawkes’ piece as “the stupidest thing on the internet today” and left it at that — Halifax Examiner readers are smart and discerning, and I felt there was no need to further elaborate.

But, alas, links to Hawkes’ op-ed have continued to be reposted, apparently approvingly, on social media, so I guess someone had to get specific about just how stupid it really is. And that someone is Matthew Halliday, who recently moved to Halifax from points west. Halliday’s retort is headlined “Talk of Nova Scotia as ‘next Detroit’ is absurd“; in it, he details how there is no meaningful comparison between the two jurisdictions — not in terms of declining population, not in terms of unemployment, and especially not in terms of debt.

Halliday ends by noticing Nova Scotians’ seeming bottomless reserve of navel-gazing:

I moved to Nova Scotia last year, from Toronto. I was warned by an expat Nova Scotian that “You have to leave to be successful.” I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t now. But Nova Scotia’s capacity for spinning self-defeating, self-pitying fables runs deeper than I imagined. The more we dwell in them, the truer they may become.

Any place can have a prosperous economy if, like Newfoundland or Alberta, it’s built atop an oilfield or, like Ontario before the Americans decided to dismantle their manufacturing plants and ship them to China, a short truck ride to the world’s biggest economy. Nova Scotians are unlucky in that we’re stuck out in the middle of the ocean with not much in the way of natural resources, and those natural resources we did have were badly mismanaged. While we can certainly work to improve our lot in life, from a structural standpoint and relative to most of the rest of Canada, our economy will probably always be weak. That’s just the way life is.

We can respond to that reality in any number of ways. We can more equitably split up the wealth we do have. We can help those most in need. We can set out to improve our institutions of self-reliance and cooperation. We can better value the immeasurable wealth of our quality of life and better protect our environment for future generations.

Or, we could point fingers and blame each other for not thinking to build a city atop an oilfield, attack ourselves for vague cultural failings, throw around alarmist and stupid comparisons to Detroit, and sloganeer nonsensically — Now or Never! Bold!

Our choice.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

There are two words some individuals refuse to employ: Thank you.

It’s a very elementary act that even a two-year-old can perform, provided the child has parents who possess the skills necessary to teach their children the importance of saying thank you.

When someone devotes a considerable amount of effort and thought to give someone else something, wouldn’t you think a simple thank you is in order?

It takes only two seconds to print “thank you.” It takes only one second to say “thank you.”
There are sometimes legitimate reasons for failing to follow through with a thank you.

On the other hand, some recipients have no appreciation or regard, making no acknowledgment of a sender’s kind act. Or they may use the silly excuse that they were too busy and didn’t have the time.

Forgetting is a common excuse, but it’s inexcusable, as it suggests laziness.

Neglecting to say “thank you” indicates a lack of courtesy and manners.

It should give one great pleasure both to say “thank you” and to hear “thank you.” It’s music to the ears.

I guess a belated thank you is better than no thank you at all, but there is a reasonable time limit involved.

In closing, I thank you for reading this letter and the editor for publishing it.

Garry Watson, Baddeck



Appeals Standing Committee (10am, City Hall)—this committee, which hears appeals from citizens convicted of bylaw infractions, is the committee most hated by councillors. How much do they hate it? Well, a month or so ago council was making appointments to the various committees and since no one present wanted to sit on the Appeals Committee, they appointed councillor Brad Johns to it, as Johns was missing from council that day.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 9.01.26 AM

Fireworks—The city is tendering for “Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Services” for the next three years. While fireworks can be fun, they lose their appeal when there are too many fireworks displays. It’s like eating ice cream every night — at some point you just get sick of it and want to go to bed without the howling dogs and the brain freeze. Which is to say, we have entirely too many fireworks displays. Here’s this year’s schedule:

June 25, 2015 Bedford Days Kickoff
July 1, 2015 Bedford Days – Canada Day
July 1, 2015 Halifax-Dartmouth Canada Day
August 1, 2015 Natal Day – Halifax Harbour
August 2, 2015 Natal Day – Halifax Common Fireworks
August 3, 2015 Natal Day – Lake Banook Fireworks
November 28, 2015 Halifax Christmas Tree Lighting
December 5, 2015 Dartmouth Christmas Tree Lighting
December 31, 2015 New Year’s Eve – Salty Fog Oval Fireworks
December 31, 2015 New Year’s Eve – Grand Parade Fireworks

That’s right, we’ll have fireworks three nights in a row, just in case you aren’t annoyed enough the first night, you can catch them again the next and the next. And what’s this New Year’s Eve deal — do we really need two fireworks displays five blocks apart from each other? Couldn’t we just have one display fired off from the roof of the police department and split the difference?

There was one year — I forget what fake holiday we were celebrating, Baptismal Day or King Richard’s Birthday or some such — I was trying to watch a perfectly good Law & Order rerun but there was so much racket outside — dogs howling, people oohing and ahing, things blowing up — that I couldn’t properly hear Olivia express her concerns for justice. I went to see what all the commotion was about, looked out my front window to see fireworks over the Halifax Harbour, and then out my back window to see fireworks over Lake Banook. “What nonsense is this?” I thought, closed the blinds, and turned up Olivia a notch.


Legislature sits (1pm, Province House)—the provincial budget will be introduced today. Expect it to be a bow to the Austerity gods.

On campus


Three Minute Thesis (10:00am – 3:20pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building)—this is an annual competition for students. Details here.

Things in the ocean (11:30am, Slonim Conference Room, Goldberg Computer Science Building)—Mark McIntyre will talk on “Tracking things under, on and over the ocean: lessons learned from 35 years of trying.”

Missing microbes (7pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building Link)—Martin J. Blaser will talk about “Missing microbes and modern plagues.”

Saint Mary’s

Climate change (7pm, Scotiabank Theatre Auditorium)—Nancy Tuana, from Pennsylvania State University, will speak on “The Ethics of Climate Chanage: Broadening the Scope of the Dialogue.” Her abstract:

Nancy Tuana
Nancy Tuana

The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change documents that climate change is happening. There are now direct observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level. Climate change raises complex ethical issues regarding our obligations to future generations as well as issues of climate justice as many of those countries most severely impacted by climate change are among those least responsible for causing it. However, less attention has been paid to important ethical issues relevant to how best to respond to climate change. This presentation will discuss the variety of ethical issues relevant to climate change, including the importance of broadening the scope of the ethical dialogue to include attention to the development of ethically informed climate decision support science.


Is it cynicism or simply realistic world weariness to think that although it’s probably unlikely, it’s still possible that the South Carolina cop who was caught on camera shooting a man dead in cold blood and planting evidence might walk free?

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Thursday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Thursday. Map:

Fusion, cargo ship, arrived from Saint-Pierre this morning, at Pier 37


Apparently, Frank Magazine has scooped me on the Mary Clancy affidavit story I’ve been working on. Maybe I’ll have some thoughts on it later.

The permalink thing was a big failure. People either didn’t understand it or they wanted the section headlines themselves to be the permalink — but I don’t have time to do 15 minutes of coding every morning in addition to actually writing this thing. I’ll come back to it in a couple of days and rethink it.

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

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  1. Fireworks

    Yes, how much do the too many fireworks shows cost, separately and in total? I’d trade a few fireworks displays for a bus along Purcell’s Cove Road any day, with improved service so more people can use it, even to go and see a fireworks display!. (HRM’s proposed new plan calls for removal of the bus to York Redoubt). .

    And thank you for pointing us in the direction of Matthew Halliday’s piece in the Chronicle Herald. What Halliday doesn’t say is that all this moaning and wringing of hands about Nova Scotia’s bleak future comes from the political class and the journalists who report on them without checking the stats. It suits the purposes of keeping wages low, destroying our neighbourhoods by pleasing the developers, foreign excursions chasing after foreign investments, bribes to large and incompetent corporations, clear cutting our forests. You get my gist…

  2. “we are actually supposed to be reporting tax expenditures separately and not actually taking them as a net from the revenues that are earned”. I further stated that: “…we actually do report them separately.” By that remark, I was indicating that we had made a change to our presentation of tax expenditures as a result of the new PSAB guidance.

    Exactly, and therein, as I said yesterday, lies a good part of the problem.

    Hey, we have an economist! Who knew. You should do an interview with this guy now that you’re buds.

  3. If it’s taking you 15 minutes of coding to make headers into permalinks, then Wordpress may need to work on its functionality. I do this in Microsoft documentss many times a day and it takes a few seconds for each one.

    1. Now starts the “let’s all lecture Tim about how he’s an idiot because he hasn’t mastered the internet” part of the day.

      1. But Tim, seriously, it should only take you a few seconds and it’s very simple once you get the hang of it and lookit me telling you all about my superior linking skillz in public rather than shooting you a quick email because, you know…

        *ducks and runs*

        1. I’ll think it through some other day, but right now I can’t see how to do it without changing each and every anchor tag every morning, unless I further clutter up the page with “link” written next to every headline.

          But I’m tired and cranky this morning, evidently, so I’ll come back to it when I’m in better spirits.

      2. I say we just insult you, like “Tim’s permalinks perma stink.” How’s that? If it’s any consolation, I didn’t even understand what a permalink was until now. (No, that’s a lie. I still don’t understand them.)

    2. I recently switched to WordPress after 18 years of hand coding, because I wanted to spend more time creating content and less time coding. Ninety percent of the time I’m thrilled with how quick and easy it is, and ten percent of the time I miss being able to quickly accomplish certain tasks.

  4. Too many fireworks displays? Can there be such a thing? Unless they are relatively expensive, why not? They’re fun community events, and compared to almost any other urban annoyance, rare and brief.