1. Testing the Limits: Critical Boreal Felt Lichen Habitat in Halifax County Slated to be Wiped Out

Adapted from DNR’s Harvest Plans Map Viewer; Lichen location data and buffer lines inserted. The areas in black are the “new” forest blocks adjacent to Twin Lakes that Northern Pulp recently posted on the Harvest Plans Map Viewer — they are slated to be clearcut, and are “open for comment” until March 20, 2017. The beige areas to the east of these are areas previously posted by Northern Pulp and were clearcut in 2016. The black dots indicate the endangered vole ears lichen and orange circles indicate the location of trees with endangered boreal felt lichen. The yellow lines indicate where Northern Pulp is leaving the required – but scientifically inadequate – buffer of 100 metres around the boreal felt lichen sites. The red dotted line indicates the 500-metre buffer recommended by the recovery team.

“Last week, several new forest blocks totalling 171 hectares (422 acres) appeared on the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources’ Harvest Plans Map Viewer,” reports Linda Pannozzo:

The blocks, posted by the Abercrombie pulp giant Northern Pulp, are located in the Twin Lakes area of Halifax County, roughly 2.5 hours from Halifax, an hour inland from Sheet Harbour.

According to Brad Toms, the wildlife biologist at the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI), an organization that leads a government- and industry-funded research and monitoring program for the endangered boreal felt lichen, the planned cuts could sound the death knell for a number of these lichen.

Click here to read “Testing the Limits: Critical Boreal Felt Lichen Habitat in Halifax County Slated to be Wiped Out.”

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2. Is fascism coming to Canada?

David Green. Photo: Chris Lambie

The rise of right-wing populist movements world-wide is the product of economic malaise that Canada has been able to ward off due to its resource economy. Now that’s changing, says economist David Green.

Click here to read “Is fascism coming to Canada?” by reporter Chris Lambie.

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

3. The McNeil government’s carbon-reduction plan probably won’t work, say experts


“Most participants in yesterday’s panel discussion called “Cap-and-Trade 101” at Dalhousie University expressed concerns about the first draft of a policy released by the provincial Environment Department Wednesday,” reports Jennifer Henderson. “If enacted, that will put a price on carbon next January in compliance with a directive from Ottawa”

The problems are, as proposed, the cap-and-trade system doesn’t provide a high enough price incentive to change the way we consume energy and doesn’t protect low-income households from the price increases that do come.

Click here to read “The McNeil government’s carbon-reduction plan probably won’t work, say experts.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

4. Police didn’t tell taxi regulator of earlier allegations against Al-Rawi

“Halifax Regional Police have acknowledged that when they investigated a sexual assault allegation against taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi in 2012, they didn’t tell the people in charge of granting him his licence,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:

The admission from police that they did not contact the city comes on the same day they confirmed they are reviewing the file from 2012 in which a woman alleged she was sexually assaulted by Al-Rawi at an apartment after he picked her up in his cab.

The decision to review the file is “based on consultation between the complainant and a sexual assault investigator,” Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. Dianne Penfound said in an email.

Municipal spokesperson Brendan Elliott said the taxi licensing office has no record of having been informed by police of any incidents with Al-Rawi other than the one that led to the charges in 2015.

5. Economic development in Cape Breton: give all the money to the grifters

I attended yesterday’s meeting of the legislature’s Economic Development committee, which was to discuss “Barriers and Opportunities for Economic Development in Cape Breton.”

Guests were Eileen Lannon Oldford, the CEO of Business Cape Breton; Parker Rudderham, the chair of BCB and owner of Frank Magazine; John Phalen, the Economic Development Manager at Cape Breton Regional Municipality; and Keith MacDonald, the CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership.

The meeting started with a presentation by MacDonald, who basically said that the Cape Breton Partnership was mostly duplicating stuff the Halifax Partnership is doing. This isn’t surprising — why reinvent the wheel? — and I came away with some sympathy for MacDonald, who seemed reluctantly to drop buzzwords (he very much likes “interconnectedness”), perhaps because he just wants everyone to leave him alone so he can do his job.

But the Business Cape Breton folks left me dumbfounded. Where MacDonald dropped a few buzzwords, Oldford unleashed a tsunami of them, and managed to talk for 20 minutes without saying anything meaningful.

Oldford had two major, well, “points” might be overstating it; let’s just say she spouted out a bunch of nonsense about two things. The first was that the Cape Breton economy could be boosted by taking money from old people: “our goal is to turn silver into gold!” she told the committee, where by “silver” she meant old people, as in their silver hair. As an example of a business profiting from people with one step in the grave a case of a nurse who is selling hearing aids.

I think I was the only one in the room who was offended by the notion of mining old people for their wealth. Maybe that’s because I have allowed my hair to naturally express my aged wisdom without colouring it. But what was Alfie MacLeod’s excuse?

The subject of Oldford’s second spouting of nonsense was… hemp. Hemp? Yeah, hemp.

It turns out that Rudderham, who has somehow weaselled his way into becoming the chair of the Business Cape Breton board, is also president of (and presumably, owner of) a private company called Highland Hemp. Which is all fine and good — good luck! — but the plugging of the board chair’s private business by the CEO seemed, well, unseemly.

Rudderham himself told the committee that hemp “will be to Cape Breton what potatoes are to PEI” and that “there’s more money growing hemp than there is in growing potatoes.” Maybe — what the hell do I know about the hemp industry? — but this convolution of the hemp industry, Rudderham’s private business, Business Cape Breton, and the legislature left me feeling ill at ease. I wanted to roll and smoke a doobie.

Interestingly (to me, anyway), Rudderham went on to tell the committee that “I don’t believe government should be providing capital for private businesses.” I think that was off-script.

Some hilarity entered the discussion when Denise Peterson-Rafuse, the NDP MLA on the committee, asked the presenters if they were suffering from the Liberals’ abolition of the old Department of Economic Development (which they replaced with the Department of Business), to which Phelan responded gleefully in the affirmative. MacDonald, knowing who butters his toast and with more sense than to turn a bureaucratic dog-and-pony show into a political firestorm, kept trying to walk back Phelan’s criticism, but then Phelan would take it to a new level, which MacDonald again had to walk back.

Phelan, who is the Economic Development Manager at Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said he wanted the CBRM to have its own city charter (as does Halifax) so it can implement three policy changes not allowed under the Municipal Governance Act:

  1. the creation of special tax districts — that is, reduce commercial tax rates in some areas (downtown New Waterford came up).
  2. to be able to enter into long-term (over 20 years) leases of municipal land
  3. to be able sell municipal land for less than its assessed value.

This is insane.

Phelan, evidently with broad approval of his co-presenters and with no objection from any of the committee members or anyone else in the room besides the lone reporter, who was tweeting up a storm of indignation, is saying outright that the aim of “economic development” policies is to loot the collectively owned wealth of the community and sell it off at fire sale prices.

Reflecting back on the meeting, I keep coming back to the word “loot.” This seems to be the aim of The Powers That Be everywhere, but it is rarely so baldly expressed as was by Phelan, and I understood that Oldford was pretty much on the same page, a grifter looking to pillage whatever isn’t nailed down and to pry up anything that is.

Woe be Cape Breton.


No public meetings.

On campus


Book Sale (Friday, 11am, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — Sale of exhibition catalogues, monographs, books on art, and posters.

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard (Friday, noon, Council Chambers, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — A conversation with the senator. We interviewed her for Examineradio, which you can find here.

End-of-Life (Friday, 12:10pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Barbara Noah speaks on “End-of-Life Decision-making in the US, with Some Canadian Comparisons.”

Electrons (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226 Chemistry Department) — Volker W. Blum speaks on “Scalable All-Electron Theory — from Molecular Spectroscopy to Materials for Energy Harvesting.”

Pythian Games (Friday, 5pm, Scotiabank Auditorium, McCain Building) — Students perform poetry, song, theatre and music, in the hope of winning “prizes and glory.”

Saint Mary’s

Molecular Mysteries (Friday, 11:30am, Science Building S310) — Jennifer van Wijngaarden speaks on “Resolving Molecular Mysteries: High Resolution Spectroscopy in the Microwave and Far Infrared Regions.”

In the harbour

1am: UASC Zamzam, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York

NYK Diana. Photo: Halifax Examiner
NYK Diana. Photo: Halifax Examiner

4am: NYK Diana, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, moves from anchorage to Pier 36
7:30am: NYK Delphinus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
7:30am: Agios Minas, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
8am: Michelle C, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 27 from Philadelphia
1pm: Asian Moon, container ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea
1pm: Michelle C, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea
4pm: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
4:30pm: Juliette Rickmers, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre


King’s Journalism student Allie Graham caught me working on the #1 yesterday. If you zoom in you’ll get all my bank account info.

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

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  1. The municipal council here in Inverness has issued a statement that they don’t want any more services reduced or removed by the province for the next four years. Could this finally be the start of a push-back on the austerity that the liberals have been practising? Also, for those who will claim that’s not what they are doing clearly do not reside outside the HRM.
    I’m hopeful that gestures like this will encourage the steps that need to be taken to maintain and improve rural areas, we can’t have people move here or grow old if our services are constantly being centralized.

  2. I am not sure that I agree that it is always a form of looting for a municipality to sell land at below market value or even give it away, if it is going to lead to development on which taxes will be paid and if they contribute to growing a small community. After all, 200 years ago almost everyone got a grant of free land (which actually was looted, from the local First Nations) with broadly similar policy objectives on the part of the Crown. And for the most part, those objectives were achieved..

    Some municipalities, particularly small rural ones, are trying this to encourage residential development. They want the taxes, they want the people. Some places have expanded this to include vacant commercial or industrial lots the municipality has ended up with one way or the other. These places are desperate, and whatever the land is assessed at for tax purposes, it is unlikely to find a buyer anyway. Such a scheme is being tried in a community near where I live with a forested lot the town owns.

    My bigger concern is operating such a scheme competently or honestly. This being the Maritimes, I strongly suspect that these schemes will be secretive and opaque, there will be more than land handed over, and that those who get the cheap or free land will the the usual set of insider good ole boys. Even with good intentions, I am not entirely confident small towns have the expertise to get a square deal from a savvy developer. Whenever I hear of something being given away to developers I immediately get suspicious, although I confess that it is possible that the numbers may add up favorably for the municipality in the long term. The trouble is we never have enough of the numbers to know; they never release all details because they claim it would endanger the developer’s private business interests.

    Also, trying to attract older residents comes with a cost too, as I’m sure they must have factored in. You are going to have more demand on your health services, for one thing. Do you have enough doctors, and the right kind of doctors; do your hospitals have enough beds and do they offer the right services either in the hospital or extramural? These are huge issues where I live, where we don’t even have to import an old population — they are here already and we have the oldest population in New Brunswick. And presumably these imported older residents aren’t going to up and move to Halifax when they get much older and infirm and in need of constant medical care, as my late mother ended up in her final days. They are going to need it where they are.

    Also are other infrastructure and amenities in place suitable for the needs of an older population? The place I live now has an older population, but almost everything is designed for the days when the vast majority of residents were under 40. Cape Breton is a beautiful place with a great deal to offer, but I think you have to take a hard look at the specifics of what you need if you want to attract that demographic.

  3. Its not surprising to hear that the CBRM is looking for means to sell the only good things in CB off. Its the CB Economic Development Cycle.

    Take public holdings. Sell public holdings to connected Capers like Chernin. Lease holdings back/pay for access to holdings. But holdings back for inflated price. Repeat.

    Im glad you noticed that MacDonald seemed to be the only one there with self awareness. Kieth has always appeared to be a good person and I personally don’t have any questions about his ethics.