I’m Philip Moscovitch, taking a break from the book I’m writing on Nova Scotia fermented foods and drinks to bring you today’s Morning File.


1. Northern Pulp and us

The Chronicle Herald begins a four-part series by Aaron Beswick on Northern Pulp today. The series looks at “what a permanent closure of the Northern Pulp mill would mean for government and taxpayers, Pictou County’s business community, the Northumberland Strait’s ecosystem and the province’s forest industry.” In part one, Beswick reviews some of the history of money the province has lent or given the mill’s owners (spoiler alert: the province is not exactly forthcoming with figures) and the contracts involved.

If you’re an Examiner reader, you’ll know this site has covered Northern Pulp’s environmental impacts and the various forms of taxpayer largesse the mill has received in considerable detail, including here, here, here, and here.

One of the maddening threads running through Beswick’s story is (no surprise here) all the secrecy involved. How much money has the province loaned the company? How much are we on the hook for when it comes to environmental cleanup costs? Who knows?

2. First we let them burn tires

A pile of garbage collected from the shores of McNabs Island in the annual shoreline cleanup back in 2014.

Both CBC and Halifax Today have stories about new rules allowing for “thermal disposal” of waste, including plastic and newsprint. I’ve read the stories and tried reading up on thermal disposal, and I still can’t tell you exactly what it is — but it’s definitely, absolutely, not the same thing as incineration apparently.

CBC’s Jean Laroche quotes Andrew Murphy, executive director of Nova Scotia’s Environment Department, who calls it “a more technological process.”

 3. No strike at SMU

The McNally Building at SMU.
The McNally Building at SMU. (Photo: Saint Mary’s University)

Back in October, members of the Saint Mary’s University Faculty Union, which represents faculty and professional librarians, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike. A release from the union said 80 percent of members voted yes. The main issues were money and workload. The union was certified 44 years ago and members have never been on strike.

And they aren’t walking out now either.

Late yesterday morning, SMU president Robert Summerby-Murray sent out a brief email announcing a deal:

“Dear Members of the Saint Mary’s University Community,

I’m pleased to announce that the University has reached a tentative agreement with the Saint Mary’s University Faculty Union on contract negotiations. Further details will be forthcoming. In the meantime, we express our gratitude to both bargaining teams for their thoughtful work.”

Congrats to both sides. The deal means we are spared a round of media pieces worrying that students might lose their year if the strike goes on long enough — even though, as far as I know, this has never actually happened in Canada.

4. Teeth are important

The province is making a tiny step towards improving dental care for kids.

Taryn Grant reports for Star-Metro Halifax that the province will now provide annual preventative fluoride treatment for kids, along with molar sealants (these are plastic coatings that prevent food from getting stuck in some teeth and causing cavities).

Until now, only kids who already had cavities were eligible for the fluoride treatment.

One of the books I am really looking forward to reading this year is Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America, by Mary Otto.


1. Food inspections and the shutdown

Dal prof and frequent media commentator Sylvain Charlebois has an opinion piece in today’s Chronicle Herald on how the US federal government shutdown could affect food safety in Canada.

Because of the shutdown, the FDA has suspended “routine safety inspections,” Charlebois says. But individual inspections are not the main issue.

“When it comes to food safety, most of us tend to zero in on the number of inspections as a performance metric…. In food safety, things are more complicated than that. The current gridlock in the U.S. is affecting a fundamental aspect of food safety governance.

Food safety regulators are likely unable to verify and validate data or to offer a systemic view on trends and potential threats to food industry.”

Nearly half of Canada’s imported fruit and more than 60 percent of our imported vegetables come from the US.


On the futility of banning plastic straws while throwing out everything else

I recently spent a week in Manhattan’s Financial District. (No, I am not a finance guy;  I was there as part of the degree requirements for the MFA in creative non-fiction I’m doing at King’s.)

I am originally from Montreal, but I’ve lived in Nova Scotia long enough, that certain things make me feel like a hick when I’m in a big city.

In New York, one of those things was quaintly saying “for here” when I ordered a meal or coffee at most places. Why? Because whether it’s for here or to go, everything is going straight into the garbage when you’re done. The lone Starbucks I went to had some proper mugs on a shelf, but they were just for display. My drink came in a throw-away cup, even though it was “for here.”

Hand-ripped noodles with cumin lamb. Rice salad with meat and veggies. Taiwanese steamed buns and fried noodles. A full-size bento meal served in a solidly constructed six-section tray. All meals in which every single item went straight into the garbage. (The bento place also served soup and had several signs exhorting people not to throw out their black spoons.)

And don’t talk to me about recycling. There, like here, every single set of recycling/garbage bins was a piled-up confusing mess. I think I generated more garbage in a single week than I do in a month at home.

I looked at all this–at the piles of garbage on the narrow streets every night, the thrown-out Christmas trees festooned with coffee cups people had tossed into their branches, the thick cardboard bowls and trays, and the sturdy plastic lids all going into the garbage after every meal — and I thought, really? The problem is straws?




Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — agenda


Budget Committee – contingency date (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall) — agenda



No public meetings today or Friday.

On campus



Newfangled Rounds: ESCF as an Enabler of Ideas to Products to Exit: Experiences from Panag Pharma (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune Ballroom, Bethune Building, VG) — from the listing:

Panag Pharma is focused on development of a new generation of pain management therapeutics based on exploiting the endocannabinoid system. Join us to learn about Panag and how Innovacorp’s ESCF grants have supported their evolution.

Register here.

Architecture Lecture (Thursday, 9am, Cineplex Theatre 7, Park Lane Mall) — Monica Adair, co-founder of Acre Architects and Regional Director of Building Equality in Architecture Atlantic Canada (BEA) will speak. More info here.

Architecture Lecture (Wednesday, 6pm, Auditorium, Design Building, 5257 Morris Street) — John Mayer from MASS Design Group, Boston, will speak. More info here.

The Art and Craft of Multi-Sector System Change (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Ian Prinsloo will speak.

The Memorialist (Thursday, 7pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — D’Arcy Wilson’s installation of her new research project. From the listing:

Andrew Downs’ Zoological Gardens opened in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the edge of town in 1847. They stretched over one hundred acres in the area adjacent to what is now known as the Armdale Roundabout, and for more than 20 years, housed regional and exotic animals in sprawling wooded enclosures. The proprietor, known to care deeply for the animals in his keep, was also a master taxidermist, supplying specimens to the world’s leading scientific institutions of the time. Downs’ Gardens were the first public zoo dedicated to the study of nature in North America, and yet, these gardens also signalled the broken bridge between colonial settlers and the natural world, becoming a “living museum” of wildlife in a patch of forest just off the Halifax Peninsula.

The Memorialist — a term with which Downs self-identified in his practice —departs from this story, following the undercurrents of colonialism that permeate Western Culture’s understanding of nature, while retracing the complex geography of care and harm that characterized nineteenth century efforts to collect and preserve natural specimens (and occasionally their habitat) under the context of an expanding dominion. In this installation of her ongoing research driven project, D’Arcy Wilson presents a combination of still photography, video projections, a 14-ft diorama, a selection of museum and archival objects, and performances that tease out the contradictions at play behind the preservationist impulse and the museological framing of the natural world.


Architecture panel discussion (Friday, 9am, Cineplex Theatre 7, Park Lane Mall) —  with Jennifer Corson from Solterre Design and Roger Lewis from the Nova Scotia Museum. More info here.

Cannabis Legislation: Past, Present and Future? (Friday, 12:10pm, Room 104, Weldon law Building) — Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Public Health Officer, will speak.

Geometric Deformation in the Design of Organophosphorus Catalysts (Friday, 1:30pm, room 226, Chemistry Building) — Alexander T. Radosevich from MIT will speak.

Welcome Reception for Peter MacKinnon (Friday, 2pm, Riverview Room, Jenkins hall, Agricultural Campus, Truro) — interim President & Vice-Chancellor Peter MacKinnon will serve as Dalhousie’s interim president while the search process for Dal’s 12th president continues.

‘Paul Best, Prisoner in the Gatehouse’: Socinianism and the toleration of radical heresy during the English Civil War (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Stephen Snobelen from King’s College University will speak.

Saint Mary’s


No public events.


Lori Wilkinson

Starting Over: An Examination of the Resettlement Experiences of Yazidi Refugees in Canada (Friday, 12pm, MM227) — Lori Wilkinson from the University of Manitoba will speak. From the listing:

Over half the Yazidi arriving to Canada in 2017 are single-female headed households. Trauma is, unfortunately, a common occurrence for the Yazidi; almost all of them have immediate family members who have experienced sexual assault, kidnapping, and murder. As a group, they have also been exposed to inter-generational trauma. In addition to the 2014 genocide in Sinjar Iraq, the Yazidi have survived 73 other genocides over the past 1200 years.

This presentation provides a brief overview of the results of a qualitative study of 35 Yazidi refugees living in Toronto, London, Winnipeg and Calgary. Focus topics include pre-arrival orientation, reception centre experiences, housing needs, language classes, and settlement service use. Initial observations indicate that the low level of educational attainment, lack of English knowledge, together with coping with traumatic experiences, will have an influence on various aspects of the integration of Yazidi refugees. Despite the challenges they face, the Yazidi in Canada and worldwide are working to create new structures that will facilitate the future growth and health of their community. The presentation ends with some recommendations for changes to the resettlement program in Canada that will benefit not only the Yazidi, but other refugees and newcomers.

Mount Saint Vincent


No public events.


The rise of the Chinese dragon: Thoughts on doing business with the People’s Republic of China (Friday, 2pm, Keshen-Goodman Library) — Michael Whalen will speak.



No public events.


Marguerite Deslauriers

Patriarchy as Tyranny in Seventeenth-Century Venice (Friday, 7:30pm, KTS Lecture Hall) — Marguerite Deslauriers from McGill University presents the keynote lecture of the 7th Annual Conference of the Early Modern. A reception will follow in the Senior Common Room.

In the harbour

01:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
01:00: Alexandra, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
05:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:30: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Saint John
06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
06:00: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Mariel, Cuba
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
09:00: Horizon Enabler, offshore supply ship, moves from Old Coast Guard Base to Bedford Basin for trials
15:30: Atlantic Star sails for Liverpool, England
17:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Argentia, Newfoundland
21:30: RHL Agilitas, sails for Kingston, Jamaica
21:30: Ef Ava sails for Portland
22:00: Augusta Unity sails for sea


Back before Christmas, playwright Hannah Moscovitch (we are not related, though I have written about her) wrote a couple of tweets about buying theatre tickets online.

Oh my God, yes.

For the most part, these sites are truly awful. I originally wrote a blow-by-blow (complete with screenshots) walk-through of buying tickets from a couple of different local theatres, but I felt it would single them out unnecessarily when so many of them are so bad: Unnecessarily confusing, asking for info they don’t really need, making all kinds of marketing questions mandatory fields, refusing to let you list only a cell number… and all while the little clock is ticking down to the time your tickets will vanish from your cart.

I’ve had terrible online ticket-buying experiences on the sites of venues in New York, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax, so it’s not a question of the locals falling short.

I know money is tight for arts organizations, and money spent on the website is money not spent on productions, marketing, and so on. But at a certain point it’s time to just make it easier for people to buy tickets.

YouTube video

Here is a song from More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads.

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Philip Moscovitch is a freelance writer, audio producer, fiction writer, and editor of Write Magazine.

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  1. I think a lot of people are missing the point of the straw ban. Sure, banning straws is helpful in a minuscule way, but it is also a means to get people thinking about the whole array of single use plastics we unconsciously sanction every day,
    I am sure most of us drink coffee and tea at home in cups without lids. Does every single coffee we buy need a lid? Do we need all of our produce in single use plastic wrap? It starts a chain of thinking and conversation that eventually – hopefully – leads to policy change.

    1. Agreed. Many of the province’s hospital cafeterias only have disposable plastic cutlery. Ridiculous.

  2. Nice Morning Phile!

    Your garbage piece is a good one (see what I did there :P). I’ve been writing a bit about ocean garbage recently, and one of the takeaways I keep hearing is that what’s in the ocean is bad, but we have to “turn off the tap” of garbage getting INTO the ocean, which means primarily reducing our use of disposable things generally (related, see carbon dioxide emissions, etc etc). Straws are a particular issue because of their durability and size/shape, but even a lot of the adamant ocean-garbage people that I know don’t think that a straw ban is the panacea that many think it is (it would also have some serious accessibility issues, since a non-zero number of people rely on plastic straws for consuming food and drink).

    1. But a ban looks good and optics trumps sense.
      How much does one of those plastic wheelie bins weigh ?
      Cereal comes in a plastic pouch inside a cardboard box, will the plastic bag ban apply ?

  3. On Online Theatre Tickets: selling tickets is THE basic business function of any theatre, more important than marketing, productions, even paying artists… right up there with Grants writing. IMHO. So calling out a theatre for your bad ticket buying experiences is doing them the greatest possible favour: you are showing them that you care about them, want them to do better in extracting money from paying customers, and improving customers’ experiences even before they walk in your doors.

    And buying online should be no more expensive than buying at the box office: yes it costs money to use the online software, but it also costs to staff a box office, process credit cards, deposit cash, etc…

    1. The Dal Arts Centre online ticket site drives me nuts. It costs $10 to purchase tickets online. I want to buy a $15 ticket to a play (actually $10 because I get the student rate), and doing it online DOUBLES the cost. I refuse to do this as long as I can turn up in person. Seriously, end this practice.

        1. And you’re screwed even further if you want to exchange tickets for another performance or hand them back for a refund. The Dal Arts Centre won’t do anything for you unless you show up with the tickets in person or leave the tickets at the box office for collection on the night (which they actually advocate to season ticket holders as the best practice…. leading to long line ups on the nights of concerts as people wait to collect the tickets they bought). If you can get on a plane with a bar code ticket on your phone, why can’t you do the same at Neptune or the Rebecca Cohn?

    2. While I don’t disagree with any of this, it is worth noting this is one example of how the services offered by large companies (airlines, banks, major sports franchises…) drive our user experience expectations. These expectations carry over to organizations of all sizes, many of which aren’t equipped to recognize the importance of the problem, let alone launch a project to fix it.

      Services like Shopify fixed the “why does your online store suck?” problem for small businesses; I’m not aware of a comparable solution for ticket sales, though Eventbrite and its ilk are in the ballpark.