On campus
In the harbour


1. Sawmill River

“There are significant property, technology and construction challenges to constructing a daylight solution over the entire length of Sawmill Creek or over discreet (sic) sections,” declares a city staff report on daylighting the river.

Confusingly, the report calls the waterway “Sawmill Creek” but historically it was known as “Sawmill River.” Perhaps downgrading the nomenclature is a conscious decision to discount the importance of the stream.

2. Plebiscite

City councillor Linda Mosher wants a plebiscite:

The questions could include whether or not residents would like municipal funding to be used to construct a stadium. Other questions could include, but not be limited to: whether residents would like a performing arts centre, or sidewalk snow clearing to continue, and any other questions as deemed appropriate by council. The funding for this could be included in the next year’s budget. However, the exact questions to be used in a plebiscite do not have to be determined until June of 2016.

Well, maybe. But what is it that councillors are supposed to be doing, if not making such decisions themselves?

3. Toilet

Someone stole the solar panels and a battery from a composting toilet on McNabs Island.

4. Hard times on PEI

Visitors Guide

“The Government of P.E.I. was forced to quickly redesign their 2015 tourism guide after locals noticed that the booklet’s cover appears to feature a man with a visible erection,” reports the National Post.

The boner was the topic of conversation on Facebook, and then discussed by Charlottetown’s Guardian newspaper on Saturday. “By Sunday,” says the Post, “an online version of the guide had been rejigged to feature a cover image of a lighthouse. An earlier press release featuring government officials posing amid boxes of the new guide had apparently been deleted. The Prince Edward Island government has already printed 180,000 travel guides featuring the image, however, and their fate remains unclear.”

Um, aren’t lighthouses phallic?


1. Gaelic

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Parker Donham points us to Na Gàideheil Agus an Ainmeanàite an Albainn Nuaidh, an interactive map of Gaelic place names in Nova Scotia. Click on the icon and a little embedded audio recording comes up, and you can hear how to pronounce the Gaelic name.

But, writes Donham, “are these really the names Gaelic-speaking settlers used two centuries ago, or are they merely Gaelic translations of 20th Century English place names?”

Donham goes on to discuss the constructed history of Nova Scotia, largely influenced by Angus Macdonald. Seven or eight years ago, I think, Waye Mason wrote something very similar, but I can’t find it this morning. As I recall, Mason, like Donham today, cited folklorist Ian MacKay, who detailed the creation of Nova Scotia’s Scottish heritage in his book The Quest of the Folk: Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia. Wrote MacKay (via Donham):

However, none of this evidence of Scottish settlement made Nova Scotia a “Scotland of the New World.” According to the 1921 census, the 148,000 Nova Scotians of “Scottish origin” represented just over 28 per cent of the provincial population of 523,837. They were outnumbered by 202,106 Nova Scotians of “English origin,” representing about 39 per cent of the total population. The remaining 173,731 Nova Scotians were assigned a wide range of “principal origins” by the census: Irish, French (i.e. Acadian), German, Black, “Indians,” and others. Not only was Nova Scotia not predominantly Scottish, but it was also not the most Scottish of Canadian provinces: Prince Edward Islanders of Scottish origin accounted for a larger percentage of their province’s population; 465,400 Ontarians of Scottish origin were about three times more numerous than those of Nova Scotia….

But by happenstance Gus Reed made me aware of the 1861 census this weekend (see next item), and I started flipping through it. Early on, the census takers relate the national origins of the populace:

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In 1861, 45 per cent of Nova Scotians who were born elsewhere claimed Scottish origin, but in 1921, 28 per cent of the entire population claimed Scottish ancestery. MacKay formed his thesis around the latter figure, but surely the earlier figure is more important for any discussion of “origins,” no?

I’m not arguing against MacKay — in fact, as we’ll see presently, I agree with his most important finding about demographics — but our past myth-making is part of our current myth-making. History is not some concrete artifact, once identified unchanged forever except by further details found through better and better microscopes. Rather, history is a modern endeavour, as people today continually rejig the past for their own purposes.

“We risk selling short the rich mix of cultures — Yiddish, Caribbean, Eastern European, Newfoundlander, South Asian, Yankee, African-American, Mi’kmaq, Acadian, English, and Hessian—who contributed to modern Nova Scotia,” writes Donham. “To say nothing of the Farsi, Mandarin, and Tagalog speakers we fervently hope will contribute to our 21st Century.”

I think that’s right, but we seem to want to consciously delude ourselves by missing the most important cultural influence of our past.

I’m reminded of the Drum! event, which announces that it is celebrating Nova Scotia’s four founding cultures:

Before the Tall Ships came, there were the drums of the Mi’kmaq…

Then came the others. Displaced people all, carrying their faith and their music as holy relics of their homelands, so far away.

First the French, who settled and farmed…

Then came the Celts — the Scots and the Irish — forced across the sea by war and despair…

North from the Thirteen Colonies and the Caribbean came the black settlers, twice dispossessed, weaving tales of African sun into the raw rhythms of the winter wind…

And the Mi’kmaq watched as their land was transformed by these exiles from faraway lands.

Er, aren’t we forgetting someone? You know, the English? The English, whose unquenchable thirst for empire and penchant for violence recreated the world. The English, who brought themselves and other settlers to Halifax as an act of war. The English, who broke every society they came in contact with, destroying indigenous languages and religions.

This “origins” game is a lot of fun — I play it myself, with my Quebecois (on my father’s side) and Irish (and a bit of German we all ignore, on my mother’s side) roots. But let’s not kid ourselves. Nova Scotia was an English enterprise, and the Gaelic and Acadian and all the rest just give local colour.

I guess a festival focused on Morris dancing would be rather boring, but we can’t talk about “culture” without talking about the political, economic, and above all military aspects of society. And in those regards, this place is unmistakably English.

2. 1861 Census

“The 1861 Census of Nova Scotia, available on-line, is a goldmine of information about our province 150 years ago,” writes Gus Reed. “In 330 pages, Honourables Archibald, McCully and Annand leave nothing uncounted or unsummed. Lunatics, Lutherans, Boats, Oats, Alewives, Widows — you name it and it’s enumerated, and accurately totaled.”

“Probably the most striking difference lies in the age structure,” he continues. “In 1861 the distribution is a classic for an expanding population. In 2011, it is a classic for a contracting population:

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Reed has exhaustively sliced and diced the data, coming up with all variety of charts to better understand it. Be sure to also catch “70 ways to die.”

3. Outstanding Citizen Living with a Disability

Speaking of Reed, he also tells me that the James McGregor Stewart Society has created an annual award to recognize an outstanding citizen living with a disability. The organization’s press release:

The Community Foundation of Nova Scotia is pleased to announce the launch of the James McGregor Stewart Award to recognize the achievement of a Nova Scotian living with a disability. The Award is named for James McGregor Stewart who overcame many barriers, despite a reliance on crutches throughout his life as a result of childhood polio. Mr. Stewart was a founder of one of Atlantic Canada’s leading law firms, Stewart McKelvey.

The Fund was established by friends of the James McGregor Stewart Society to recognize Nova Scotians living with a disability for their leadership, personal accomplishment or effective advocacy.

The Award recipient will be selected through a nomination process and nominees will evaluated for determination and achievement in conquering personal or externally imposed boundaries, with emphasis on leadership, personal excellence and advocacy.

The Award of $1,000.00 will be presented annually on June 30, the anniversary of the birth date of James McGregor Stewart.

The Community Foundation of Nova Scotia works with funders to make smart and caring investments in communities and people; we enable effective philanthropy. To learn more about this award and the others supported by the CFNS, please visit the website at

4. Geezerdom

“This generation,” writes John DeMont, “is redefining geezerdom…Which is why I would like to suggest a rethink of the whole ‘an older Nova Scotia is a doomed Nova Scotia;’ as self-serving as that might be coming from a man sitting smack dab in the middle of the baby boomer demographic.”

5. Barbecue

Stephen Kimber bought a barbecue.



Police Commission (12:30pm, City Hall)

Public consultation meeting (7pm, Halifax Forum, Maritime Hall)—plans for a five-storey building at the corner of Chebucto Road and Beech Street will be presented.


Legislature sits (9am–midnight, Province House)

In the harbour

The seas off Nova Scotia, 8:20am Monday. Map:
The seas off Nova Scotia, 8:20am Monday. Map:

Grande Roma, car carrier, arrived at Autoport this morning, will sail to sea this afternoon
Dionysos Leader, car carrier, Milford, New Jersey to Autoport


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

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  1. I remember one time when Tim was doing his annual evaluation of the councillors and said something to the effect that Linda Mosher was a very had worker, but managed to be on the wrong side of just about every issue. She’s wrong about plebescites, too. We elect a Council to make decisions and accept the responsibility on how to implement them.

    It’s instructive that Councillor Mosher and her development friends were not calling for a plebescite on the convention centre project.

    Given that we were not allowed to vote on something as substantial as municipal amalgamation, why should we vote on a stadium.

    If we want to encourage people to vote, we should find someone to run who might have a chance of beating Councillor Mosher.

  2. Small quibble but Ian McKay is almost certainly not a folklorist. He’s a marxist social historian who at various points has taken the political uses and ideology of Nova Scotian folklore and as an object of study, but he isn’t particularly interested in folklore as such. Most folklorists (and even more so Nova Scotian “story tellers” and antiquarians) I have run into don’t much care for McKay.

    He also co-authored a newer book (Quest is now 20 years old) on Nova Scotian tourism/culture called In the Province of History:

  3. Re. Gaelic:
    “History is not some concrete artifact, once identified unchanged forever except by further details found through better and better microscopes.”
    True, just curious that you would completely forget to mention the Foreign Protestants (mostly Germans) who came to Nova Scotia between 1749 and 1752 — way before the Scottish and the Irish. Many descendants of these original settlers still make up a large part of the Nova Scotia’s South Shore’s population, while over a million others now populate both Canada and the United States.
    Due to the two world wars their heritage has not been deemed as acceptable as the contributions of other immigrant groups. After a century of discrimination it would be nice to see some change.
    Kind regards,
    A Foreign Protestant

  4. One more note on Sawmill River.

    From the City’s PR piece: “The goal of the project is to restore, where feasible, the historic features to circa 1862. In 1862, the water from Sullivan’s Pond was contained in an elevated flume, not in a stream. Water exited from the mechanical workings below the tailrace.”

    As you can see from this map from 1878, counter to their findings, there is indeed a stream seperate from the inclined plane:

  5. They should leave the PEI tent alone – the guy looks happy. You want tourists to be happy.

  6. I’d like 15 minutes with the authors of that sawmill River study. Have they stopped to think that putting the regular day in day out storm flow in a new service channel (i.e. a daylighted sawmill river) would free up flood management capacity in their already limited piped diversion?

    One thing we now know – our design storms are too small and will be changing more as the current trend to greater intensity rainfall events continues.

    Even their plans for fish passage in the pipe make little sense. Creating the hydraulic conditions to allow passage will decrease capacity of the pipe, increasing flood risk, and to allow many species to use this route, will require some intermediate open top for – you guessed it – daylight.

    It would be refreshing, one day, to see a government staff report that is focussed on how to achieve what the public wants, instead of creating a tenuous list of excuses for not doing something. This also sounds,, once again, like the subject matter expertise is resident in the public group, and lacking at the staff level.

    1. If you want reports that say how something can/should/must be done, you’ll have to get Planning and Development (the Developers’ Best Friend) to write them. If Fares Inc. was proposing the daylighting, the HRM report would call it the Sawmill World-Class Cascade.

  7. RE: Plebiscite

    Not that I think I’ve ever agreed with Linda Mosher, but I’ll agree with the premise that we in this city/province need more decision making offloaded to citizens via plebiscites.
    In fact, I agree with it so much I am reading between the lines of the statement looking for the devil in the details.

    We have one x, once every four years, and only for our local rep all across this country. That is the totality of direct democracy for our citizens – effectively, one x away from dictatorship.

    I would welcome more chances to have my voice heard as a citizen, to have it recorded, and to have it count for something. It may help to stem the tide of ineptitude coming out of city hall – though I’m sure the city’s PR department will be working overtime to create talking points to get their message out weeks before any plebiscite to ensure it goes the way they want it to…

  8. RE: Sawmill ‘Creek’

    You hit the nail on the head, Tim. The city’s PR Department was clearly pulling overtime on this one, changing a river to a creek so it can be buried into a drain for another 50 years.

    How many thousands of cubic meters of water runs through, and lies behind this ‘creek’?

    A creek is defined as ‘a stream, brook, or minor tributary of a river.’ , whereas a river is defined as ‘a large natural stream of water flowing in a channel to the sea, a lake, or another such stream.’

    Clearly, since there are at least eight lakes on the Dartmouth side of the Shubenacadie flowing from/through lakes to the sea, it is better classified as a river and not a creek, brook, or stream.

    Silly me, letting the facts get in the way of a good narrative from the city…