1. Liberal Majority

Stephen McNeil and Joanne Bernard. Photo: Halifax Examiner

It was a nail-biter of an election. When I went to bed at half past midnight, the CBC was projecting a Liberal victory two seats short of a majority, but an hour later that had flipped to a two-seat Liberal majority. Points to note:

• Voter turnout was 53.55 per cent, down from 58.2 per cent in 2013 and 57.9 per cent in 2009.

• Liberal support is most solid in Mainland rural areas. The party also did well in suburban HRM, and Labi Kousoulis kept his seat in Halifax Citadel – Sable Island. (Does the district name really have to include the residence of one voter? Does Zoe Lucas even vote? She seems uninterested in non-horse related affairs. And did any candidate knock on Lucas’s door?)

• the Liberals lost three seats  on Cape Breton Island, retaining only Glace Bay and Sydney-Whitney Pier. The NDP took Cape Breton Centre, while the PCs hold the other four seats on the island.

• despite lower-than-expected total vote counts, the NDP did better than expected on the seat count front, increasing from five to seven. Importantly, Leader Gary Burrill won in Halifax Chebucto, which will finally give him a presence on the floor of Province House. Another big NDP victory was in Dartmouth North, where Susan Leblanc defeated Liberal cabinet minister Joanne Bernard.

• Brad Johns is in the legislature. Just think about that for a while. Maybe he’ll bring his talking Christmas tree.

In his book Reflections of a Siamese Twin, John Ralston Saul makes the point that the voters collectively sometimes make a wiser statement than any individual voter. Saul was speaking of the Quebec referendum, where the razor-thin “no” vote served to frustrate all politicians and pundits who wanted a clear and decisive takeaway; as Saul tells it, by not decisively defeating the independence movement, Quebeckers sent a message that they while they weren’t ready to separate, they weren’t satisfied with the status quo either. This forced a new political deal, one that no one was speaking of before the referendum.

I don’t know what the collective zeitgeist is telling us in Nova Scotia, but I think it leaves everyone a little unsatisfied. The Liberals maintain their majority, but not with the convincing mandate from 2013. The PCs scored big, but not by enough to threaten a deal with the NDP. The NDP weren’t pushed off the stage entirely, but they’re still a long way from being a real electoral threat outside the urban areas.

Basically, the voters kicked the can down the road a bit.

Had the Liberal majority been just one seat, I think we would’ve seen someone cross the floor within a year or so. Two seats makes deal-making more complicated, and will probably have to wait until after a byelection changes the electoral makeup, assuming it does. Otherwise, it will take a major scandal or an unexpected political event to break the Liberal stronghold; either is possible, if unlikely. Most likely, the Liberals will keep government for four years.

2. North Preston

Photo: Tim Bousquet

Some asshole scrawled racist graffiti on the campaign signs erected just at the entrance of North Preston, at the corner of Lake Major and Johnson Roads.

The PC sign had “Sieg Heil” and a swastika on it. The Liberal sign had “1488,” a white supremacist reference. And the NDP sign had a monkey drawn on it.

I happened to be in Cole Harbour when I heard about the graffiti so drove up to have a look. Right as I arrived, two Liberal campaign workers were taking down the Liberal sign, explaining that it was illegal for them to even touch the other parties’ signs. But they said that the PCs and NDP knew about the graffiti and were on their way to remove the signs as well.

3. Elections Nova Scotia

On Election Day morning, scores of people were reporting problems with the “Where and When Can I Vote?” web tool on the Elections Nova Scotia website. Some people put in their address, only to be kicked back to the main page with no results, while others were given incorrect polling information.

Around noon, Elections NS posted that “the tool is housed on a government-based server and IT personnel in government and Elections Nova Scotia are working to resolve the issue.” It appears to have been fixed by mid-afternoon, but that of course would be far too late for voters who had work and other responsibilities to attend to.

The web tool was a major screw-up and entirely unacceptable. The department had four years to plan for the election and evidently didn’t put the resources required into it. Such tools regularly work as designed in much more populous provinces. There’s simply no excuse for this.

4. Tank

Photo: New Glasgow Police

New Glasgow is trying to get rid of its tank, reports Preston Mulligan for the CBC.

Mulligan reminds us that “[t]he New Glasgow police department acquired the Cougar back in 2013, when former Conservative MP Peter MacKay was serving as national defence minister.”

Turns out, however, that the tank is hard to drive, expensive to maintain, and kind of pointless from a logistical standpoint. Moreover, it’s really bad PR:

Plus, having the imposing vehicle in the small town is worrisome for residents “in the sense that it sort of seems somewhat of a militarized kind of piece of equipment,” [Mayor Nancy] Dicks added.

Ya think?

So what’s going to happen with the tank? The Halifax PD is talking about taking it. Oh joy.


1. Making highways safer without twinning

Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler reviews transportation studies that suggest small-dollar safety improvements to the province’s highways that don’t involve twinning. Butler isn’t arguing that the highways shouldn’t be twinned, but rather these cheap fixes can be implemented quickly — within a year or two — while even on the quickest timeline, twinning will take a decade or more, and won’t address the majority of highways in any case.

Click here to read “Making highways safer without twinning.”

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

I pushed Butler a bit on the recessed reflectors — they’re recommended in the studies, but not as enthusiastically as I would like. I contrast two experiences.

The first is driving the 102 from Truro to Dartmouth in the rain at night. The roadway is a complete mystery. I can’t find the lanes most of the time, and when I’m not following behind another vehicle or trying to find the white line on the right side of the road, I’m just phoning it in.  I’m sure I’m careening back and forth over the unseen white lines, and I worry I’m going to stray right off the road. It’s stressful as can be.

The second is driving in California, especially over the mountain passes. These used to be just as bad as the 102, but with more curves and blind crests. But about five years ago the highway department installed the recessed reflectors (they’re recessed so snow plows won’t take them out), and the difference is like night and day. The mountain passes are now a stress-free joy to drive, the lanes clearly delineated. I’ve never seen such a dramatic improvement in driving conditions.




Halifax Green Network | Final Phase Development (Wednesday, 7pm, Sir John A. Macdonald High School, Upper Tantallon) — info here.


No public meetings.

On campus



Atlantic Salmon Farms (Wednesday, 11:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Gregor McEwan, from UPEI, will speak on “Using Agent-based Modelling to Explore Evolution of Resistance to Chemotherapeutants on Atlantic Salmon Farms.” His abstract:

Simulation modelling in biology is about asking “what if?” questions. In this talk, I will describe how my colleagues and I have been using an Agent-Based Model to explore “what if?” alternatives on Atlantic salmon farms. Atlantic salmon farming is the largest aquaculture industry in the world, worth over $14 billion annually. However, one of the biggest problems facing salmon farms is infestation by sea lice. These parasites cause substantial damage to the farmed fish, and potentially to wild salmon in the area. To add to the problem, sea lice populations in most areas around the world have evolved some level of resistance to common treatment chemicals. Our work focuses on exploring influences on sea louse resistance evolution. First, I will describe salmon aquaculture and our model with more enthusiasm and detail than seems warranted. Second, I will talk about our past projects exploring some alternatives in environment and management and their effects on sea l! ouse resistance evolution. Third, I will discuss our current work on extending and calibrating the model. I will finish with some thoughts about how the model could find a place in a wider use context.

Diabetic Cardiomyopathy (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Brian Rodrigues of UBC will speak on ““Endothelial Cell-cardiomyocyte Crosstalk in Diabetic Cardiomyopathy.”

YouTube video

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of Ana Lily Amirpour’s 2014 vampire flick/ spaghetti western/ art film.


The Dalhousie University Club’s AGM (Thursday, 4pm, Dining Room, Dal University Club) — drink with the bartenders.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:30am Wednesday. Map:

11am: Orca I, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
11am: ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
1pm: Thorco Luna, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Becancour, Quebec
4pm: Columbia Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
11:30pm: Orca I, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
11:30pm: ZIM Monaco, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York


I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

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

Join the Conversation


Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.

    You have got to make it clear that there is room in the socialist movement for human beings,
    or the game is up.
    George Orwell
    Road to Wigan Pier

    To make men Socialists is nothing, but to make Socialism human is a great thing.
    Oscar Wilde
    “Poetical Socialists”

    Socialism was not on offer in yesterday’s election. But even if it had been it would not have mattered because what is called socialism here still suffers from what George and Oscar identified–as do all organized political parties: there is still no room in any of them for human beings.

    This explains the large number of people who don’t vote. That is, those who in effect vote for “none of the above”.

    They are not children, fools nor dupes. They are not a “huge basket of deplorables”. (It amazes me how often those who flatter themselves on being the most righteous defenders of Democracy will chastise the majority of those who they would speak for as too stupid to see the peril they are in.)

    I believe those who don’t vote know exactly the peril they are in. They know the game is rigged for the privileged. They know they can’t win. So they don’t play. In other words: don’t piss on my shoes and tell me it’s raining.

    To believe they “can’t be reached” is to manifestly miss the point, to blame the victim.

    The point is, we who would seek to make government a true force for good for all, have got to work harder–much harder–at learning how to reach all those who daily experience that it is not.

    They are out there waiting to hear from us. Waiting to hear the good news that they count. Waiting to hear how life–their life at work, their life on the street where they live, where their kids go to school, at the Tim Horton’s where they hang out, down at the fire hall and rink–how that life is going to quickly and directly change for the better in ways they can see, hear, touch and taste should they opt in to our game of politics.

    They didn’t hear anything like that in this election. Instead they got freeze-dried sermonettes and Moses-like policy pronouncements full of flannel-mouthed rhetoric signifying nothing that any human being could warm to.

    As long as that is all they ever hear our politics will remain what it is: a calculated exercise meant to convince us that to hold out for things that make immediate sense to us as something human and good is unreasonable and, even worse, not fiscally responsible. And our politics will remain no fit place for human beings.

    Change that and a true change for the better will soon follow.

    1. Agree with most of what you’ve said/written; in fact, passionately, but strongly disagree with and object to folks opting out, i.e. not voting, because they don’t like the system, the game, or what they’re not hearing, or because they’re not individually being reached and/or touched by political messages. Incalcuable numbers of us hear, question, suspect, dislike, even reject what we’re hearing from politicians who’re the vehicles of our political system, but we stay in the game because it’s the only one in town. To justify copping out for the reasons you’ve given is immature and irresponsible, but unquestionably, a collective right.

      1. What if they held an election and no one voted. Would it be a crisis?

        Would our various leaders carry on as if nothing bad happened just as Stephen McNeil is about to even though 60% of the polulation did not vote for him?

  2. There are eight seats on Cape Breton Island, not seven. Standings after the election are PC 5, Lib 2, NDP 1. PC Alana Paon’s victory in Cape Breton – Richmond will almost certainly be contested, although her 20 vote margin over 18-year incumbent Michel Samson is at the outer limits of what typically gets overturned. The challenge is unlikely to succeed.

    In any case, eight seats on the island.

  3. I got confused in item #4. Was “hard to drive, expensive to maintain, and kind of pointless from a logistical standpoint” referring to the tank, or MP Peter MacKay?

  4. With respect to highway marking I have much the same issue on rainy nights. I have driven in Florida where there are yellow line reflectors, although they are raised (something about no snow plows). They make night driving much easier, and safer.

  5. Fixed elections and proportional representation–you got it, Gord.

    It would be great if you could profile some of the different kinds of prop rep, Tim, or get a submission from Springtide to do so.

  6. Majority said “Right on!” to McNeil’s style, management and effect, especially his high-profile treatment of unions, health care, and the vulnerable. And more citizens opted out of the electoral process. No amount of spin or Pollyanna attitude will change these toxic truths. McNeil will accelerate his meaner, leaner, authoritarian style facilitated by the very majority he’s been given. The already-comfortable will take sadistic pleasure in the result while “little people,” the voiceless, the vulnerable, those without power, will be squeezed more forcefully into silence, despair and anger. But it’s democracy, right? The majority. Our system. “Can’t argue with that” will be the unspoken answer.

    1. 39.5% said “Right On” to McNeil, not the majority. That’s a crucial moral difference, even if in our broken system the impact is the same. Other than that I agree with what you’ve said.

  7. Results from Elections NS

    Registered Parties No. of candidates fielded No. of elected Total votes % Popular vote
    Atlantica Party Atlantica 15 0 1,641 0.41%
    Green Party GPNS 32 0 11,073 2.78%
    Liberal NSLP 51 27 157,541 39.51%
    NDP NSNDP 51 7 85,389 21.41%
    Progressive Conservative PC 51 17 142,672 35.78%
    Independent(s) Ind 3 0 448 0.11%

    Summary of Results

    Total number of votes cast: 400,898

    Total number of valid votes: 398,764 (99.5%)

    Total number of rejected votes: 2,134 (0.5%)

    Total number of registered electors: 748,633

    Voter turnout percentage: 53.55%

      1. Good for the province, not so much for the city, as he’ll be back as a councillor. Someone should tell him there’s a senate position available on the moon, and send him up there.

    1. And compulsory voting. To avoid some apparent problems with the Australian system (they have mandatory voting enforced with fines and turnout is over 90% but not everyone registers to vote), make sure everyone eligible is registered.

    2. We just watched the outcomes of 51 First Past the Post (FPTP) elections. These work fine where there are only 2 choices on the ballot. Fortunately 4 or more people usually stand, giving those of us who can be bothered to vote broader choice. With 3 or more choices FPTP tends to distort the result. As a result many ridings will have returned a candidate who most of the riding voted against. Too bad – they won anyway because they won a larger number of votes than anyone else, although less than half.

      For example in Waverley-Fall River-Beaverbank where the Liberals and Tories battled it out all night, the Liberals barely won with 66 more votes, for a total of 37.95% of the vote. That means that 62.05% of voters wanted somebody else, but were frustrated. Had voters been able to number their ballot in order their preference the result might have been the same or the Tories might have won, but whoever did would have been elected by the majority of the riding.

      The Greens did better than they usually do out there, but they might have done even better under a preferential vote where nobody can tell you your vote will be wasted unless you choose a mainstream party. Do we need new blood and new ideas in the House or not? This is a great way to prevent that happening.

      Proportional representation (PR) comes in many flavors. Some require creating huge, unwieldy ridings that return several MLAs. The most common ones consists of a FPTP vote for an MLA (with the same defects we have with that now), plus a ‘party’ vote. IF you’re lucky, the parties will give you names to choose. If not you just pick a party, and they will do that for you.

      As I understand it, under PR parties take the proportion of seats they won in 51 separate elections and if it’s not as high as the proportion of votes they would won have won had a hypothetical election been held with no ridings, then they demand their seat count to be ‘topped up’ to match. This is comparing apples and oranges. The ‘top up’ is achieved by appointing party flunkies who will sit in the House alongside normal members who were elected by voters, similar to how Senators used get the nod in Ottawa. (How’s that working for you)?

      For the same number of votes, some parties would win more seats, which is why they like this type of ballot. Some ingenious arguments have been made to suggest PR is in the best interests of voters, but it’s really in the best interest of some parties. That’s why they push it so loudly.

      There are reasons we have ridings.The priorities of people in rural areas would always be steamrolled by city dwellers if not for ridings, because that’s where most of us live in HRM or CBRM. PR tends to smudge the regional security that ridings bring with an overall vote, which would favor where most people live.

      With respect, before we rush into some variant of PR, I would like to try a preferential vote. It’s like FPTP extended to cover more than 2 choices. Nobody wins unless they get a majority, and no members sit in the house unless they are elected.

      My $CD 0.02

      1. How would rural dwellers be steamorolled under PR? HRM accounts for 45% of the province’s population and 39% of ridings. Under PR, the rural areas would lose only a smidgen of influence. As the city grows faster than elsewhere (or as rural areas shrink in population) the city would gain influence, but would this not be a reasonable outcome, given population patterns?

        Urban issues are critical to the province’s future, yet are virtually ignored at the provincial level. We could stand to have a little more political clout being shifted to the city.

      2. If PR with parties picking unknown candidates becomes law, I will literally take up arms.

        I’ve come to accept that candidates are picked but those in smoke filled rooms, but they are actual named people the rest of us can choose or not. If we go to voting for an unknown flag carrier, I’m done.