In the harbour


1. Basketball courts

Twitterer @HalifaxChris alerted a bunch of us media folk about the ridiculous situation at the St. Joseph’s A. McKay School basketball courts, and the CBC’s Brett Ruskin took the issue and ran with it:

Developers of a nearby condominium project have built a plywood wall to protect the public while workers excavate the lot. 

But there’s one big problem: The wall cuts off one end of the court beside St. Joseph’s A. McKay School and runs right up underneath the basketball nets.


The strip of land being negotiated isn’t owned by the parents, the school board or the developer. It’s municipal property.

“It’s hard to have a deal when the property is actually owned by HRM,” says District 8 Coun. Jennifer Watts.

She says the city served an order to comply to the developer, explaining the building codes required for them to construct the plywood wall. The codes dictate the construction method and distance the wall should be from the construction site.

The developer followed those codes, which meant the wall was built in a space that interferes with the playground’s basketball nets.

Ruskin posted photos of the debacle on Twitter:

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Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 7.30.57 AM

2. Sawmill River

“An engineering report on replacing an aging Dartmouth culvert appears to challenge claims by Halifax Water and the municipality that unearthing the buried Sawmill River is too costly and complicated,” reports the Chronicle Herald’s Brett Bundale.

Halifax Water has consistently refused to make public the CBCL report examining options for Sawmill River, saying that the report was only in draft form. Still, the utility maintained that bringing the river partially above ground was too costly. But, reports Bundale:

The 361-page CBCL report delves into multiple options for replacing the pipe and settles on both a box culvert and an open channel.

This is recommended as the “lower-cost, least-risk and most technically viable solution,” the report said, adding that it also has “a lower project life-cycle cost and the shortest construction schedule.”

The old steel pipe would be replaced with a roughly four metre-by-four metre box culvert — significantly larger than the existing steel pipe to accommodate increasing storm surges and sea-level rise — and include a fish passage from the harbour to Irishtown Road.

From there, the Sawmill River would once again become an open “daylighted” channel to Sullivans Pond, with needed bridges along the way.

The total project would come with a price tag just under $14 million.

Bundale obtained the report through a Freedom of Information request. Realizing that the release of the report completely contradicts its past public statements about the river, Halifax Water is back-tracking:

Halifax Water spokeswoman James Campbell clarified Friday that the utility has always been on board with an open channel.

“I think there seems to be some confusion with daylighting,” Campbell said. “There is a distinction between a naturalized daylighted channel and an engineered open channel.

This is what we in the business call “not true.” Bundale continues:

Jocelyne Rankin, Ecology Action Centre’s water co-ordinator and an advocate for daylighting Sawmill River, said the CBCL report is extremely detailed and thorough.

She said it covered off many questions related to unearthing Sawmill River, including costs, design, engineering, geology, fish passage, archeology and history.

“Halifax Water has been quite dismissive of daylighting  but this report provides a very different take on it,” Rankin said.


But the municipal staff report, released in May, shot down the option of daylighting based on property, technology and construction challenges. In fact, the report cast doubt on whether any fish passage would work at all.

3. Confederate flag

The Confederate flag is displayed on the back of a pickup truck seen driving around Turro. Photo: Lynn Jones
The Confederate flag is displayed on the back of a pickup truck seen driving around Turro. Photo: Lynn Jones

A group calling itself Nova Scotian Citizens Against White Supremacy is advocating for banning the Confederate flag in Nova Scotia.

I’ve been quite clear with my views about the Confederate flag, but I think banning is a step too far. People should be educated about the explicit racism embedded in the flag, and should be shamed for flying it. But while certainly governments and organizations shouldn’t display it, outright banning gets us into a different territory, where the flag becomes the perverse banner of “free speech.”

4. Mother Canada™

Mother Canada™
Mother Canada™

About 50 people who used to work in Cape Breton Highlands National Park have signed a letter in support of the proposed Mother Canada™ monument, disagreeing with 28 former Parks Canada managers who have panned the project.

The supporters all appear to be Islanders. One, Ingonish resident Cliff Robinson, told the CBC the monstrosity would help the Island economy:

It does carry some great things — potential improvements to the Cabot Trail. I’m sure if we can get some more people here, it will improve accommodations. Restaurants will be busy, service stations, convenience stores. So I think there is some great spin off.

And Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who grew up on the Island, mocked the proposal in a tweet this weekend:

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5. Group homes

Whoops. Halifax councillor Darren Fisher, who represents North Dartmouth and who is also running as a Liberal candidate in this fall’s federal election, perhaps should’ve thought about the political implications of questioning the process of siting group homes, which are administered by the provincial government, now governed by the Liberals.

This pops up from time to time in most cities. Some residents have vague but unfounded fears of group homes — they are perhaps confusing group homes, which house people with disabilities, with half-way houses, which house people involved in the criminal justice system — and start demanding “action” from their councillor.

Thing is, higher levels of government have long ago prevented local governments from zoning or regulating the siting of group homes, for a very good reason: doing so would discriminate against people solely on the basis of their disability. (As with all properties, local governments can regulate for numbers of residents in a dwelling, bylaw issues, and so forth; they just can’t pass a blanket rule against group homes.)

In Fisher’s case, he cited the unnamed concerns expressed by unnamed residents in an unnamed neighbourhood about unnamed group homes, and said he would bring the issue to the next council meeting, and request a city report on the issue. Had such a report been written, it would no doubt say that the city had no right to regulate group homes, but Fisher would perhaps earn some brownie points from the unnamed residents for “at least trying.” It is election season, after all.

But Fisher didn’t factor in the response from provincial politicians who, as reported by Metro’s Stephanie Taylor, responded appropriately:

“Fear always comes from the unknown,” Department of Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said of the issue Tuesday.

Bernard explained these homes are run by either non- or for-profit organizations, not by the province.

Each service provider must follow a “rigorous process” to obtain a licence, meet departmental standards and undergo inspections, she added.

“We are a caring society. We have an obligation to provide the best possible services and quite frankly, people deserve where they want to live. They have the same rights,” she said Tuesday.


1. Shubie Park

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

“I’ve walked in [Shubie] park perhaps once before, but not in this century,” writes Stephen Archibald, but then on Sunday returns to the park and notices a bunch of stuff that’s escaped my attention even though I’ve been there probably 25 times this year alone.

2. Pan Am Games

Jan Wong disses the entire experience:

In a completely unscientific poll of my friends, only two said they were going to events. Another was a volunteer driver. That worried me because the last time she backed out of my Toronto driveway, she hit my oak tree.

Most people, myself included, couldn’t figure out what was on or where to go, and we were too lazy to find out. In our defence, finding Pan Am venues was like ordering coffee at Starbucks: you had to speak the lingo. Corporate sponsors had renamed existing fields and arenas. Pan Am disorganizers increased the confusion, identifying sites with mystery initials such as MRT, HEN, CEP, TTS and WFC.


Toronto spent $2.5 billion it didn’t have on the Pan Ams. When we finally surpassed one million tickets at the midpoint, the city declared the Games a success. But that meant 400,000 tickets were still unsold.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

For the past three years, my daughter has studied at Auburn University in Alabama. On July 21, I flew to Atlanta to join her and begin the long drive home to Nova Scotia. I booked passage on the Nova Star for July 24 (an overnight voyage from Portland). We reserved two seats plus kennel space for her cat: total cost $540 Cdn. (If we had reserved an inside cabin, the 12-hour voyage would have cost in excess of $1,200 — way too rich for our budget.)


The Nova Star website offers little information on amenities, so we were surprised at what we experienced while on board.

After parking our car on Deck 5, we were instructed to leave her cat in the kennel before accessing the stairs to the upper decks. The “kennel” is actually several wire cages mounted on the wall of the vehicle area. There are no walls between the cages, so the animals are face to face unless they’re in their own carriers. Water is available from a hose. Passengers are responsible for cleaning up after their pets, but it was obvious that previous passengers had failed to do so, as empty water dishes and food containers littered the area. The animals are locked in for more than 12 hours and their owners cannot access the area during the voyage.

Our assigned seats on Deck 9 were not together, but it soon became clear that few passengers would be travelling “cheap,” so we were at least able to sit together. Showers are available, but one has to ask for towels. As the evening progressed, Deck 9 became very cold and we had to demand blankets which were reluctantly given. Pillows were refused to us, with the comment that passengers in seats are not allowed such luxuries. Lights in the seating area are not dimmed during the night. To get some sleep, my daughter resorted to lying on the floor.

The website also fails to mention that passengers cannot bring food on board. Fortunately, we had supper before boarding.

In the morning, all passengers are mustered to common areas before disembarking. We went to one of the pubs where coffee and pastries were offered. A small muffin and coffee cost $7.40, tax and gratuity included. We sat beside two seniors who were on a bus tour. One had considered breakfast in one of the restaurants until she learned that egg, toast and coffee would cost her $13.50. She also mentioned that her cabin was adequate as a place to sleep, but nothing more — in other words, hardly worth the cost.

As a Nova Scotia taxpayer, I am highly offended that the $30 million we have contributed to the Nova Star gives us little in return. The crew did not engage with us in a friendly, welcoming and helpful manner, and public areas such as bathrooms and the kennel area had not been cleaned prior to our boarding. 

At no time during the voyage did any crew check to see if those of us on Deck 9 were comfortable or in need of anything. I sincerely hope that a decision regarding the Yarmouth-Portland ferry service does not include the Nova Star and that an alternative carrier can be engaged who will offer exemplary passenger service to all on board.

M.J. McMaster, Gaspereau


No public meetings.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:20am Wednesday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:20am Wednesday. Map:

ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrived at Pier 41 this morning, sails to sea before noon
Baltic Mercur II, general cargo, arrived at Pier 42 this morning, sails to sea this afternoon
ZIM Savannah, container ship, New York to Pier 42

Asphalt Sailor sails to sea

The tug Ocean Arctique arrived at Pier 9 last night, and is awaiting a permanent berthing assignment. It is here to work on the Macdonald Bridge reconstruction project.

Am I the only one who dislikes the “Big Lift” branding? It’s a clunker to my ears, and why does a construction project need to be branded?


A reminder that on Thursday, at the Central Library, at 6:30pm, author Philip Slayton will be discussing his new book, “Mayors Gone Bad.” I was interviewed for and am quoted in the book.

Later today, I’ll publish an article by Moira Donovan about environmental racism in Nova Scotia.

Despite the sparsity of new material on the site, I’ve been quite busy researching and interviewing people for a larger project I’m working on. I have no idea when that’s going to start rolling out, but I’m making progress.

Today and tomorrow, we’re working on the next two Examineradio podcasts.

Headline reference:

YouTube video

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. The first rule of banning something is that everyone will (and IMO should) wonder what all the fuss is about. We don’t need to be Rednecks™ to wish to avoid vituperous values valuation virulence.

  2. This will be the least important thing you’ll learn today but hey, not everything is earth-shaking.

    When you use the word “Islander,” most people would read “Prince Edward Islander.” Likewise, “the Island” . . . Prince Edward Island.

    People from Cape Breton are often/sometimes called “Capers.” As for Cape Breton itself, I think it’s just called Cape Breton. I’ve seen some people refer to it as “the Cape” but I don’t think that ever caught on. It sounds a bit like someone trying to find a nickname that sticks — a nickname that doesn’t really work.

  3. I love that there is a group home on my street. I love seeing the staff coming and going as they head to and from work, and as they accompany residents on outings. I enjoy greeting and chatting with the residents and their caregivers, as I enjoy doing so with all of my neighbours. We are new to the neighbourhood and have been invited to drop by the group home, and I am looking forward to doing so and getting to know them better. I was surprised and a little shocked to hear this news story, disappointed to learn that people object to sharing their neighbourhoods with this kind of home. Not so surprised and shocked to learn that my councilor is clueless.

    1. We have had a group home on our street for several years now. I couldn’t agree more with the statements above. The staff are usually alert in the wee hours of the morning and the plow contractor is often the first tracks on a snowy street. All good.

  4. I’m a biker and so far have zero complaints about the redecking. The shuttle is very reliable, and if anything it’s a bit better than biking across the bridge, because you get to avoid the insulting corkscrew down to Barrington.

    That said, I also find “The Big Lift” slightly off-putting, and I think it’s because, like you said, why brand a bridge renovation? The faux-enthusiasm of trying to pass off what is essentially a big inconvenience as something exciting feels silly. It is necessary maintenance, and the fact that someone thought it had to be branded, marketed and sold to us is a bit sad.

    “It may be inconvenient, but we have to do this” isn’t enough. We live in a time when it is just assumed that people have to be essentially tricked into supporting necessary work.

  5. The problems with the educate-don’t-ban argument are that it ends up meaning “just be patient and wait” for people to see the light and come around. The hateful and ignorant comments on the Facebook group that brought this issue to light are a pretty clear indication that this would be a long time coming in Nova Scotia. Also, the burden of doing this kind of education tends to fall on the shoulders of those most affected by the hate, i.e. African Nova Scotians. I agree that banning it gives ammo to the so-called “free speech” nuts, but it might still be an arm worth brandishing.

  6. It is a carefully cultivated myth that Elizabeth May “grew up in Cape Breton.” She grew up in Connecticut, lived here for a couple of years as a teenager before moving on briefly to Halifax and, for the last 35 years, Ottawa.

    1. Spent some of her formative years, would have been better I guess. I’m guessing you’ve lived your whole life in the area….is she wrong?

    2. Funny, I first heard Elizabeth May’s name referenced in regard to the fight by Cape Breton land owners to stop indiscriminate spraying of soft wood forests (spruce bud worm, I believe) and the resultant spraying of crops and homes on nearby farms and villages. And yes, she was a teenager at the time. And she still hasn’t grown out of her silly, lets save the planet mentality. Think of the good she could have done if she had just focused on building golf courses.

  7. Darren Fisher could be the poster boy for the “I know nothing, don’t have to know anything, what’s the Google? the City has a web site?” kind of councillor our city has been electing for as long as I can remember. Unused, the human brain begins to atrophy and our councillors only recourse is to sit around council chambers and say to staff, “can we have a report on that?”
    Councillor Fisher could have avoided all this silliness, had he been conversant with city zoning by-laws and provincial laws and regulations regarding the various types of housing available (and not available) to the disadvantaged in our society. Now I don’t expect the average citizen to know this stuff, but, as a taxpayer, I am paying Mr. Fisher a very good salary to know this stuff.
    The only thing more annoying than the afore mentioned councillor, is the councillor who believes they are the smartest person in the room and still demands report after report, because they are too busy using their computer to do endless self promotion on social media instead of doing their own research in order to make sure that staff is giving them the straight goods in the endless stream of reports relied upon by our “decision makers”.

    1. Couldn’t agree more.You articulately reflect my reaction and thoughts when the issue and Councillor Fisher’s response were reported/linked on Twitter.

    2. That guy is really annoying!

      Admin Order 1 requires a staff report before council can debate an action. It isn’t a choice, its a requirement.

      1. Then do some of your own research, and read the reports critically, instead of just taking staff’s information and recommendations as gospel. And please don’t point to council’s rejection of the Sawmill Daylighting report as an example of critical thinking and great work by council. The fact is that the only reason that report was sent back was because of a very vocal, well researched and well reasoned critique presented by the proponents of daylighting – particularly by the Ecology Action Centre and the Sackville Rivers Association.

  8. The residents of Cape Breton who believe the “Mother Canada” thing will bring economic benefits will, I think, be sadly disillusioned. A large percentage of tourists do the Cabot Trail in one day. If they do stop in Green Cove to see the thing, they will most likely buy a souvenir, maybe some snacks, and go on. The most locals could hope to sell them is a meal. The only people who will benefit are the rich Torontonians who dreamt up this ridiculous idea.
    (The people who spend time in the national park are hikers, campers, who go for the natural beauty, and would avoid the thing like the plague.)

    1. RIGHT ON! It,s a typical opportunist scam. Why is it that we can’t seem to learn from the continuous stream of goofy pipe dreams which ultimately blow up in our faces and drain our pocketbooks? Finally, LET THE PROPONENTS OF THIS OBSCENE COMMERCIAL CRAP P-A-Y FOR IT — NOT THE TAXPAYER!

  9. I hope Ms Donovan has noticed the dangerous/polluting/enviro threats on the eastern shores of the harbour :
    DND magazine, gypsum terminal,Tufts Cove, CN train shunting yard,wastewater treatment plant,Imperial refinery, another wastewater treatment plant, Texaco refinery..
    Last night was a science free event and the Crichton Avenue dump and incinerator never merited a mention. Here is an excellent thesis from a former resident of what was known as ‘The Avenue’, an area I canvassed during an election some time in the early 1990s

  10. Nothing today about the fact that corporate welfare to Port Hawksbury Paper has backfired so spectacularly such that it threatens the paper industry across the Maritimes?

    1. I can’t be aware of everything in the world. I always encourage people to alert me to stuff.

    2. Adding, this news broke at around 8am, just as I was finishing up writing Morning File. Seriously, I can’t be plugged in constantly.

    1. There are worse cities we could aspire to emulate … Big Dig aside, Boston seems to have managed to combine the old and the new – history and development – in ways that work. Supporters and opponents of development in Halifax tend to compare us to either Toronto or Paris, but Boston is a more appropriate and relevant model.