1. Pollution

A boy wearing a green helmet sitting on a white bicycle on a wharf in Pictou harbour with the Northern Pulp mill belching out clouds of emissions before it was closed in 2020. Photo: Dr. Gerry Farrell
A boy on a bicycle on a wharf in Pictou, with the Northern Pulp mill belching emissions in the background. Credit: Dr. Gerry Farrell

“If there were any lingering doubts that the Northern Pulp mill was in a polluting league of its own in Pictou County, a new peer-reviewed study should lay those to rest for once and for all,” reports Joan Baxter:

The study looked at a several different sets of publicly available data on the concentrations of fine particulate matter in the area between 2004 and 2021, and at the emissions of three large industrial plants near Pictou — the Northern Pulp mill, the coal-fired Nova Scotia Power plant in Trenton, and the Michelin tire plant in Granton.

The study, by Gianina Giacosa, Daniel Rainham, and Tony Walker, all at Dalhousie University, found that not only was the Northern Pulp mill responsible for more emissions of fine particulate matter than the other two large industrial facilities in the Pictou area, but that during times of high particulate matter emissions, the pulp mill emitted 10 to 80 times more of the air contaminant than either the power or tire plant.

“Walker believes the mill’s environmental record seriously harms its ‘social licence to operate,'” continues Baxter:

“It’s lost all credibility, both scientifically and with members of the public,” he said. “It claims to be a sustainable industry and being clean and all this kind of stuff. But based on this data and other data which we’ve worked on up to now — and it’s publicly available data, even data that this mill even puts out itself and gets signed off by the government — it should be ashamed of itself.”

And if the mill does ever re-open, Walker said, “It has to be held to account. Its past performance is not impressive.” 

Click here to read “Dalhousie study finds Northern Pulp Mill was by far the biggest polluter near Pictou.”

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2. Shore Club

In a nighttime scene, silhouetted people are seen outside a building with neon lights and an all-caps sign: SHORE CLUB.
People outside the Shore Club in Hubbards in August 2017. Credit: Zane Woodford

“Neighbours of the Shore Club in Hubbards have appealed the municipality’s approval of a new patio for the restaurant and concert venue,” reports Zane Woodford:

The club applied to HRM to build a new patio with an outdoor kitchen and bar area and washrooms, but its planned patio didn’t meet the requirements of the land-use bylaw.

Susan McCann appealed in a letter to the municipality. She outlined four concerns: added noise, an accessible ramp coming too close to an intersection, parking, and drunkenness.

Click here to read “Neighbours appeal Shore Club’s approved patio plan.”

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3. 14-day legislature

A white man with grey hai and wearing a plaid suit with a white shirt and pink, blue, and black striped tie talks to reporters with microphones.
Premier Tim Houston. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

Stephen Kimber contrasts statements Tim Houston made when he was in opposition to the McNeil government to statements Houston has made in defence of his government’s own short legislative sessions, and notes:

Tim Houston hasn’t managed to reduce his spring legislature obligations down to 17 minutes yet — but it is clear the fewer minutes he spends inside the chamber with the opposition political parties the happier he is.

That’s a problem. The world is a far more complex, complicated and confounding place than it was in the days of G. I. Smith and Gerald Regan.

We need more accountability. Not less.

Click here to read “The 14-day legislature: Tim Houston’s idea of accountability, then and now.”

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4. Michael MacDonald: ‘do right by the people whose lives were taken and all the other suffering and heartache’

Commissioner Michael MacDonald, chair, leaves the stage after delivering the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry’s final report into the mass murders in rural Nova Scotia in Truro, N.S. on Thursday, March 30, 2023. Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

After the Mass Casualty Commission released its final report, I had two opportunities to speak with the chair of the commission, Michael MacDonald.

The first was during a press conference all three commissioners held with reporters from around the county. I managed to get in one short exchange:

Bousquet: We just heard from Miss Zita [Lisa Banfield’s lawyer] — she praised the report on its analysis of what happened with Lisa Banfield and also the suggestions moving forward. I have a specific question, though, which is what I did not read in the report — it’s long, maybe I missed it. Was anything that could be done to make Ms. Banfield whole. Now, specifically. 

MacDonald: Well, we were limited, Mr. Bousquet, in terms of our mandate. Our mandate was to determine what happened to causes context and circumstances. We spent, as you know, a lot of the report dealing with intimate partner violence, family violence, and domestic violence. And we have provided a lot of detail involving Ms. Banfield’s experience, and unless you have something specific in mind, our our work is over as far as our mandate is concerned. Whatever other recourse Ms. Banfield would have would be between her and her counsel, if I’m understanding your question correctly. 

Bousquet: I suppose even just a broad statement to the public about, you know, how we as a society should be treating and dealing with Ms. Banfield. I often hear similar statements coming from judges after wrongful convictions, that sort of thing, saying ‘we should embrace this person, we should accept them into our community.’

MacDonald: We identify as the first victim on the 18th of April and in no uncertain terms. Absolutely. 

Later, I was given the opportunity for a short one-on-one conversation with MacDonald. I was rushing off to an appointment in Halifax, and had just a quick exchange with MacDonald, as follows:

Bousquet: I don’t have a lot to ask you. First, I’ll just say I was, I don’t know if surprise is the right word, but on that spectrum, that the final report is as challenging as as it is. I’ve been in this business for a long time and such reports usually pull their punches. And I didn’t I didn’t feel that way, scanning this final report.

MacDonald: No, we didn’t pull any punches.

Bousquet: So, you know, we both been kind of in this world for a long time. There’s been a bunch of previous reports. How confident are you that anything substantial will come out of this? And I know that you have a political answer to that, but I’m, you know, could you put a number on? Is there a 1 to 10? 

MacDonald: Sure. Context. Just immersed in it for two and a half years, which is going to make me more optimistic than maybe someone who hasn’t been immersed in it. But I truly believe that — I try to portray a message this morning that you can’t let this sit on the shelf. I mean, there are 22 lives taken here, one of whom was expecting a child at the time. You cannot. If you’re a leader in this province, this country, you have to ground your response to honour and do right by the people whose lives were taken and all the other suffering and heartache. That’s what drove us. And call me optimistic, but that’s what has to drive the response. 

Bousquet: I have a very specific question, and that’s about the recommendation about closing the Depot and instituting a three-year university program. When I saw that, my first response was they’re not going to be able to recruit enough members if they did that. Did that factor into your considering? I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but a three-year university program is a bit much for a lot of the young police recruits. 

MacDonald: I would’ve thought just the opposite. I would have thought it would be an opportunity for the right recruits. I thought it would help in recruiting in the sense that you would get somebody who really wants to be a police officer and will be a very good police officer. It’s essentially modeled on the on the Finnish model. And as Leanne Fitch said in the press conference, six months at Depot was the 1800s, and it’s got to change. I don’t know. I guess it’s the optimism that I was born with. But I would like to think that that’s a nice career opportunity for the right people. And I look at it the other way. Tim — the chances of getting the wrong people are greatly increased and it’s like, ‘ah, six months, I’ll put up with it. Give me a gun.’ So, I think three years is a commitment. 

Bousquet: Okay, good answer. A philosophical question. Through this whole process since the murders themselves to the present, I found — in my reporting through my career, I’ve covered children dying, horrible deaths and, you know, fires and all sorts of horrible stuff — and the murders were certainly horrible. But, and I’m probably lying to myself, but I don’t think I was affected so much by the fact of the murders as I was by the sort of societal response to them. And frankly, I was I was downright dispirited in that I found that people were really lashing out, looking for people to blame. I mean, Lisa Banfield is one element of that. But it’s much larger than that, creating crazy conspiracy theories and just losing their fucking minds, pardon me. But and I’m wondering if you if you share that sense.

MacDonald: I think that’s just profound pain with social media superimposed. And I’m not a social media person, but I yeah, I kind of learn the effects of social media. And how many are those voices? And they certainly are disheartening. But I think we disagree if you interpret society at large’s response to the mass casualty was cynical. I think there are conspiracy theorists out there who are buoyed or bolstered by social media and attention. It would be irresponsible for us to go down those rabbit holes, which we did not go down. But, no, I wasn’t dispirited. 

Bousquet: I mean, you underlined it with the Lisa Banfield situation. She was vilified, made into a monster. So, it’s not just social media. That’s the real world. 

MacDonald: Yeah, we called it. We called it in our report. She was the first victim.

Bousquet: What was the most difficult part of your job? 

MacDonald: That’s a very good question. There were a lot of difficult moments. Hearing Heidi Stevenson’s last words. Just a snapshot of rural Nova Scotia on a Saturday night and Sunday morning going so horribly wrong and just the anecdotes of who was doing what. And superimposed COVID 19. And a lot of people are out there putting their lives at risk from COVID, but also from the perpetrator, depending on the circumstances, and to see their fate is heartbreaking. And just hearing certain, realizing certain moments like both Heidi Stevenson and Joe Webber, going to the furnace oil, you know? And if you look at the evidence regarding that roundabout where…

Bousquet: Just such dumb luck. 

MacDonald: Yeah, but citizens — I remember one witness I don’t remember her name, but she knew it was dangerous but, you know, she was going to try to help until she realized she really shouldn’t. And yeah, those who had luck and those who didn’t was just heartbreaking for me. And I think that was just the the most difficult thing — the spontaneity and the lack of predictability. How so many suffered, but so many were more lucky. 

Bousquet: One one last question. You’re done now. What are you up to next? 

MacDonald: Hanging out with my grandkids. But I’m also on the going to chair the board of Phoenix Youth to give back a little bit. But I am interested in men stepping up for intimate partner violence. I think that’s really — if I can help there, I’m going to help.

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5. Lawsuit: medical implement left in woman’s body

A hand holds onto a yellow medical instrument.
According to a court claim, a SurgiFish Viscera Retainer was left in the abdomen of a Middleton woman after she gave birth via C-section. Credit: Greer Medical Inc

“A Middleton woman is suing three doctors, Valley Regional Hospital, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority after a surgical device called a SurgiFish viscera retainer was discovered in her abdomen nearly six years after she had a C-section,” I reported this morning:

According to a claim filed with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, the woman gave birth to a baby girl in May 2016 and “continued to experience medical complications for years.”

“After undergoing various treatments and procedures, including a hysterectomy in 2016,” continues the claim, the woman still experienced “excessive bleeding and severe pain” and so received a CT scan in November 2018. The scan showed a foreign object in her abdomen, which “Dr. Michael Dunn, the radiologist who completed the scan, suggested that it could be ‘an appliance from previous hernia repair.’”

The woman “tried to get it removed as soon as possible but scheduling issues caused a delay,” and it wasn’t until March 2022 that a surgery was performed. “It was determined that the object in question was a SurgiFish viscera retainer, used in C-sections.”

Click here to read “Middleton woman sues doctors, hospital because a medical device was discovered in her body nearly 6 years after a C-section.”

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6. St Barbara’s toxic assets in Nova Scotia

Aerial view of Moose River open pit gold mine showing deep pit with turquoise water in the bottom and gravel roads spiralling down into it, flat silvery surface of the tailings facility in the background as well as the massive waste rock storage pile with forested area and Moose River in the foreground. Photo by Raymond Plourde/ Ecology Action Centre
The Australian-owned Touquoy open pit gold mine at Moose River, Nova Scotia. Credit: Raymond Plourde / Ecology Action Centre

This item is written by Joan Baxter.

In 2019, Australia’s St Barbara Ltd bought Atlantic Gold and its assets in Nova Scotia — one open pit gold mine in Moose River, three more planned for the province’s Eastern Shore, and a lot of properties and exploration claims for $722 million.

Four years later, it seems those assets have turned into major liabilities for the company, and it seems now St Barbara can’t even give them away — at least it can’t convince fellow Australian miner Genesis Minerals to take a share of them. 

In a statement today, St Barbara announced that it had “agreed to new terms for a proposed transaction with Genesis Minerals,” which would see St Barbara selling its mining assets in Leonora, Australia, to Genesis for the equivalent of about $538 million (Canadian), with upfront cash of about $331.6 million. 

This puts an end to — and is a far cry from — the original plans, announced in December 2022, for St Barbara to merge with Genesis to form a new company that would be called Hoover House, and the spinning off of St Barbara’s unhealthy gold mining assets in Nova Scotia and Papua New Guinea to a new junior company to be called Phoenician Metals. The Halifax Examiner reported on that proposed deal here.

In that scenario, Hoover House would have held 20% of Phoenician Metals and St Barbara 80%. Under today’s agreement, St Barbara will retain 100% of the Nova Scotia and Papua New Guinea assets, and sell off its Gwalia mine in Australia to Genesis.

The proposed new entities Hoover House and Phoenician Metals are no more. 

As the Examiner reported in January this year, St Barbara has a litany of environmental responsibilities to take care of in Nova Scotia — not least of which is that giant open pit in Moose River and a massive tailings facility that requires constant monitoring and maintenance. 

There is also a lot of waste rock that needs to be taken care of. In March, Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change spokesperson Mikaela Etchegary told the Halifax Examiner that in January 2021, the department granted permission to Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia, the St Barbara subsidiary that operates the Touquoy gold mine, to store up to 2.65 million tonnes of waste rock in the open pit.

But that is temporary and the company will eventually have to remove the waste rock. To do that, the company still needs permission to expand its waste rock facility, and to store mine tailings in the pit, permission that so far — and in spite of three tries — Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change Minister Timothy Halman has not granted.

The big question that emerges from today’s announcement is how exactly St Barbara’s environmental liabilities in Nova Scotia will be taken care of, and how — in spite of all this shape- and debt-shifting — the company will finance these offshore operations. 

Today’s statement from St Barbara says the original plans for the merger were terminated because of a “material increase in funding requirements.” These, says St Barbara, are “driven in part” by the fact that on March 2 this year, Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change did not approve its proposal to store mine tailings in the open pit at Touquoy, which resulted in “materially lower cash flow” from Atlantic Mining NS. 

St Barbara’s statement also blames the increased funding requirements on what it calls the $40.1 million “Environmental Performance Bonds” at Atlantic Mining NS, which “are supported by Letters of Credit from syndicate banks.”

“There is potential,” says St Barbara, that the value of those bonds would increase to $70 million, and the face value would “likely need to be cash backed.” 

The increased funding requirements would have caused an “expected breach of St Barbara’s existing banking covenants” in June this year, and the company would have had to pay down a “significant portion of its senior debt facilities.” 

So if the deal announced today is approved and goes ahead, St Barbara will be hanging on to its problematic properties in Papua New Guinea and Nova Scotia, and plug away on plans that so far have proved unworkable.

Among them, it will keep trying to get approval for its proposed gold mine at Fifteen Mile Stream so it can start production in 2026, and continue exploration at Cochrane Hill, Mooseland, South-West and Goldboro East in Nova Scotia, and complete processing stockpiles at Touquoy by the end of 2024. 

Under the new deal, St Barbara shareholders will own nearly 20% of Genesis 

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7. Measles

Nova Scotia Health issued an alert Friday evening about a case of measles in the HRM:

As part of the routine investigation and follow up of any measles case, Public Health is directly notifying family members and friends, who are known to have had close contact with the case. This will allow us to ensure up-to-date immunization and identify further cases as quickly as possible. However, there may be members of the public that were exposed that we are not aware of and should monitor for symptoms. People at the following locations, on the dates and times specified, may have been exposed to measles:

Tanoor Restaurant
771 Bedford Highway, Bedford
Thursday, April 6 from 7:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Family Focus Medical Clinic
667 Sackville Drive, Suite 207, Lower Sackville
Monday, April 10 from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. 

IWK Health Centre Emergency Department
5941 South Street, Halifax
April 10 from 6:15 p.m. – 2:30 a.m. (April 11th)
April 11 from 8:00 p.m. – 11 p.m.

People at these locations who may have been exposed could expect to develop signs and symptoms of measles as early as 8 days and up to 21 days later (April 14-27 for Bedford location; April 18- May 1 for Lower Sackville location and IWK exposure 1; April 19 – May 2 for IWK exposure 2).

It is important to note that anyone who may have been at the IWK Health Centre Emergency Department during these times and is pregnant, immunocompromised, or under the age of 12 months should contact Public Health immediately (902-481-1697).

There’s more information here.

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Grants Committee (Monday, 10am, online) — agenda

Advisory Committee on Accessibility in HRM (Monday, 4pm, online) — agenda

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Sackville Heights Community Centre) — agenda


No meetings

On campus


Opening Reception (Monday, 5:30pm, Anna Leonowens Gallery) — exhibitions by Andrew Harris, Lachlan Sheldrick, and Maryon Bouchard

In the harbour

11:00: CSL Metis, bulker, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Baltimore
16:00: Ocean Pearl, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
16:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, moves from anchorage to Gold Bond
16:30: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Palm Beach, Florida

Cape Breton
13:45: Endurance, barge, arrives at Mulgrave from sea


I’m a bit distracted by all the exciting things happening in the Second Amendment paradise south of the border.

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Tim Bousquet

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

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Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is an award-winning Nova Scotian journalist and author of seven books, including "The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest." Website:;...

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