1. COVID-19

Danielle Sheaves, a registered nurse with the COVID-19 unit at the QEII, was the first person in Nova Scotia to receive the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, Dec. 16. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Just as the province was celebrating the first COVID-19 vaccinations in Nova Scotia yesterday, four new cases of the disease were announced.

All four cases are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone — three are close contacts with previously announced cases and the other case is still under investigation.

There are still 55 known active cases in the province. No one is currently in hospital with the disease.

Yesterday afternoon, Premier Stephen McNeil and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang announced changes in the COVID restrictions, effective Monday, Dec. 21.

The tl;dr version is that in Halifax, bars and restaurants must remain closed to in-house service until Jan. 10, but gyms and fitness centres can reopen. Outside of the Halifax area, bars and restaurants must stop service at 10pm and close by 11pm.

I asked Strang why, if the risk levels are the same across the province, there are two different sets of rules for Halifax and non-Halifax bars and restaurants. He essentially replied that because Halifax has lots of bars, it’s more likely people will bar hop in the city and spread the disease, while in more rural areas people will simply stay at one location.

Here is the press release detailing the new restrictions:

[Wednesday’s] restrictions update:

  • the current restrictions in areas of Halifax Regional Municipality and Hants County are extended until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 20
  • the closure of restaurants and licensed establishments for dine-in service in these areas is extended until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 10; they can continue to offer takeout and delivery service
  • the Halifax casino will also remain closed until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 10
  • new provincewide restrictions for gatherings, businesses and activities, as well as changes to long-term care restrictions will start Dec. 21 and be in place until Jan. 10

…Effective 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 21 to 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 10, the following restrictions are in place provincewide:

For gatherings and events:

  • gatherings in your home can have 10 people total, including the people who live there
  • people can have a close social group of 10 without physical distancing
  • social events, festivals, special events, arts/cultural events and sports events are not permitted
  • faith gatherings, wedding ceremonies and funeral services can have a maximum of 150 people outdoors or 50 per cent of an indoor venue’s capacity, to a maximum of 100
  • wedding and funeral receptions are not permitted

For businesses:

  • restaurants and licensed establishments, outside the areas of HRM and Hants County noted above, must stop service by 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m.
  • fitness and sport and recreation facilities can open
  • fitness facilities like gyms and yoga studios can operate at 50 per cent capacity and must ensure three metres distance between participants during high intensity activities
  • outdoor fitness classes can operate at full capacity and must ensure three metres distance between participants during high intensity activities
  • personal services such as hair salons and spas can resume providing services that can only be done if the customer removes their mask, such as facials
  • retail and shopping mall rules currently in place for areas of HRM and Hants County will extend to the entire province, including operating at 25 per cent of their capacity; their food courts can remain open with public health measures in place including physical distance between tables

For sports, museums, libraries and long-term care:

  • sports practices, training and arts and culture rehearsals are limited to 25 participants without physical distancing but games, tournaments and performances are not permitted
  • the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, museums and libraries can reopen at full capacity with physical distancing and other public health measures in place
  • each long-term care resident can have two designated caregivers and facilities can allow a limited number of visitors

Nova Scotians are still asked to avoid any unnecessary travel. There is no longer a recommendation specifically around travel into and out of areas of HRM and Hants County.

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2. More details about the mass murders

The Portapique sign on Highway 2 was adorned with a NS tartan sash following the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

“Police found $705,000 in cash at the property of the man who killed 22 people across Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19, a newly released court document reveals,” I reported last night:

The Halifax Examiner refers to the killer as “GW.” The Examiner is part of a media consortium that is asking the court to unseal the applications made by the RCMP in order to obtain 23 search warrants and production orders needed to search GW’s properties and access his phone and computer records. The consortium has made steady, if incremental, progress in getting some of those released and redactions removed from them.

Today, the Crown (which represents the RCMP) “un-redacted” some of the paragraphs in one such document — a June 20, 2020 application by the RCMP asking court permission to “covertly” access GW’s Amazon account in order to discover where and how he purchased police equipment that was used in the murder spree.

I wrote about new details in several aspects of the investigation, including:

• the money found at GW’s property and where it came from.

• the history of the replica police car, including that many people were aware of it. One of those people was Aaron Tuck, one of GW’s victims; Tuck knew the car was illegal and was urged to report it to police, but he so feared GW that he didn’t.

• a week after the murders, some unnamed person’s discovery in the woods in Debert of RCMP equipment and other items that belonged to GW or were at least in his car; apparently, this was the discovery that led police to learn that GW had spent the night outside a welding ship before continuing on with his murder spree.

• new details about GW’s multiple trips to Maine, where he sourced not just motorcycles to import into Canada but also three guns. Along the way, we learn that GW received an apology from Canada Customs for stopping him so often at the border.

• a mistakenly identified murder that never happened that has bedevilled RCMP documentation of the mass murder throughout the investigation.

Click here to read “Police found $705,000 in cash at killer’s property in Portapique.”

There were more details revealed yesterday that didn’t fit the narrative of the article. For instance, that after his death, police found that he had been carrying identification of Sean McLeod, one of his victims. One of the people who spoke with police suggested that McLeod had sometime previously given GW a uniform from Corrections Canada.

This reporting is taking a lot of time. For example, I was on the phone for an hour yesterday with our lawyer, talking court strategy related to the search warrants. This was before the latest document was released; I received that late in the afternoon (just as I was sitting in on the COVID briefing) and spent the evening reviewing it and writing the above article, which I published about 11pm.

If you value this work, please consider supporting it financially with your subscription or a donation. Thank you!

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3. Lost at sea

The Chief William Saulis. Photo: Facebook

“After a year that has brought so much suffering to Nova Scotia, six families in a remote corner of the province are having to cope [with] yet another loss following the sinking of a scallop dragger Tuesday,” reports Michael MacDonald for the Canadian Press:

As night fell Wednesday, the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax announced it was suspending its air and sea search for the missing fishermen and turning the effort over to the RCMP as a missing persons case.

The 15-metre Chief William Saulis sank in the Bay of Fundy near Delaps Cove, N.S., early on Tuesday morning, its emergency beacon alerting the rescue co-ordination centre just before 6 a.m.

The boat foundered northeast of Digby amid heaving, three-metre waves pushed by 40-kilometre-per-hour gusts and an unusually high tide. Searchers later found two empty life-rafts, some clothing and debris consistent with a sinking.

The body of one man was recovered late Tuesday, but the search continued Wednesday for five other men as ground search crews said they were seeking closure for the families.

Wednesday evening, the RCMP issued a release detailing its search:

The RCMP has setup a Command Centre at the United Baptist Church in Hillsburn as a base of operations. The RCMP is being supported by the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office (EMO), Nova Scotia Public Safety and Field Communications, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Ground Search and Rescue teams from West Hants, Valley, Annapolis, Digby, Clare and Yarmouth.

The ground search zone now spans a 55 km stretch of shoreline from Delaps Cove to Margarestville, Annapolis County. Searchers continue to look for items from the Chief William Saulis, such as life jackets, survival kits, survival suits, emergency beacons and human remains.

Ground search efforts are being focused during daylight hours due to the hazardous and dangerous conditions that occur at the shoreline in the overnight hours. Ice builds up along the shore with pounding surf and it becomes dangerous for searchers. If something washes up during the overnight hours, searchers will retrieve it when safe to do so. The RCMP is asking members of the public to stay away from the shoreline in this area while the search continues. Should a member of the public encounter any similar items along the shoreline, please contact the Annapolis County RCMP at (902) 665-4481.

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4.  Demolition

Ardmore Hall, the building at the corner of North and Oxford streets being demolished to make way for a new, seven-storey building. Photo: Google Maps Credit: Google Maps

“Coun. Shawn Cleary wants to make sure Halifax isn’t giving landlords demolition permits while their tenants are still in the building,” reports Zane Woodford:

Cleary gave notice at council’s meeting on Tuesday that he intends to bring the following motion forward at a meeting in the New Year:

That Halifax regional council request a staff report on a bylaw for a permit process covering demolitions of buildings that include leased units to ensure demolition permits are not granted until such time as municipal staff are satisfied that a provincial residential tenancies eviction order process has reached its conclusion, including any appeals that are lawfully made by the tenant.

The motion is a response to Andrew Rankin’s reporting in the Chronicle Herald about the 45-unit building at the corner of Oxford and North streets, Ardmore Hall.

Rankin had reported that a man was still living in the building as the demolition began. Woodford goes on to provide the battling accounts over the demolition — landlord George Giannoulis claims the man wasn’t living in the building — and to follow councillors’ take on such “renovictions.”

Click here to read “Halifax councillor says developers should have to prove tenants were legally evicted to get a demolition permit.”

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5. Opt-out for organ donation

If you choose to opt out of the new organ and tissue donor legislation, you must do so before it takes effect Jan. 18. You’ll receive a new health card in January showing you don’t consent. Photo Ilustration: Yvette d’Entremont

“A Nova Scotia couple say their attempts to opt-out of the province’s new Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act taking effect in January were disregarded, and they’re wondering if other Nova Scotians are experiencing similar snafus,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

At least two Halifax-based bioethicists have raised concerns about the legislation, as articulated in a piece published in the Halifax Examiner last month.

While enthusiastically supporting the goal of increasing organ and tissue donation, they’ve expressed concerns about the lack of public discussion and debate around such a major policy shift.

They question why family members of potential donors will still be given the power to override the wishes of the deceased, arguing that if someone expressly opts in, their family shouldn’t be permitted to override their choice.

They suggest alternative approaches would achieve the same goal — increasing the number of organs donated — while preserving the autonomy of individuals. They’ve also called for a more robust public education campaign.

Click here to read “New organ donation policy rollout is ‘deeply disturbing’: ethicist.”

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6. Hello City

Hello City

Episode #10 of The Tideline, with Tara Thorne is published.

This week, half of Hello City — Stevey, Gil, Liam, and Peter — pops by for a round of holiday improv invented by Tara (patent not pending) based on randomly chosen movie titles. It’s like an old-timey radio special, but hilarious.

This episode is available today only for premium subscribers; to become a premium subscriber, click here, and join the select group of arts and entertainment supporters for just $5/month. Everyone else will have to wait until tomorrow to listen to it.

See how this goes? By paying a small amount — less than paying the neighbour kid to shovel the front walk! — you will be supporting local independent arts journalism, you’ll help get Tara paid, and you’ll get The Tideline goods one day early.

Please subscribe to The Tideline.

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7. Gordonstoun

The queen and our future king at Gordonstoun, in 1967.

“The newly elected warden and council for the Municipality of Annapolis have voted to fire its Chief Administrative Officer John Ferguson as well as its lawyer, Bruce Gillis,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The motions received unanimous consent during an in-camera portion of a regular council meeting held via Zoom last Tuesday….

Ferguson, who served as the Annapolis municipality’s CAO since 2013, has supported a plan by a private developer from Saint John, New Brunswick to open a franchise of the Gordonstoun boarding school in Scotland where Prince Charles and his father Prince Philip attended. (You may have noticed the school on Netflix as part of The Crown series)

It’s a $62-million project. The previous warden, Tim Habiniski, and Premier Stephen McNeil, who represents Annapolis in the legislature, have both toured the Scottish private school in the lead-up to a decision by the former municipal council to loan $7.2 million to Ed Farren of E.A. Farren Ltd.

Click here to read “Regime change in Annapolis County over Gordonstoun School.”

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1. Concrete blocks

Photo: Stephen Archibald

“Are you running low on fun things to notice?” asks Stephen Archibald:

How about concrete block. Not the blocks, painted beige or peach, often used as the walls of 1960s school gyms and church halls, but those cast to imitate rustic stone, that were popular from around 1900 into the 1920s.

As often happens, Archibald does the seemingly impossible and winds us through an actually interesting account of concrete in our city. And then — I’m not sure how we got there — he lands on this account of a neighbourhood post office and shop that once existed on Edward Street:

My friend John lived nearby the post office so I asked him for his 1950s memories of the shop. His reply reminds me of a passage from  A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.

The shop usually run by the post mistress – Hummel knockoffs, sparklers, roman candles, firecrackers, Xmas paper and cards, ornaments, glass figurines, I think they sold those Xmas lights (the single unit 7 candled ones from the 50s). Odds and sods that were marked down – likely a salesman peddling that cheap stuff. Stuff hanging from the ceiling but don’t remember what. Wooden toys kits – name escapes me but were in a wooden box with sliding wood cover (roman columns & arches, windows with red cellophane glass). Where we bought our short-lived balsa wooden airplanes in flat packs. Japanese lanterns & fans. Dinky toys. Wasted too much time drooling over crap.

Always had an odd hum in there – electric or radioactive à la Havana embassies?

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No meetings.



Human Resources (Thursday, 10am) — video conference to discuss recruiting continuing care assistants. With Kelliann Dean and Shelley Bent James from the Department of Health and Wellness; Kevin Orrell from the Office of Immigration; Vicki Elliott-Lopez, Continuing Care; and Cindy Cruikshank, Health Workforce Policies and Programs.


Legislature sits (Friday, 9am) — info here.

On campus

Everyone’s heading home… or not.

In the harbour

Bishu Highway. Photo: Halifax Examiner

05:30: Bishu Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
08:30: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for Sarnia, Ontario
11:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
15:30: Bishu Highway sails for sea
16:30: Atlantic Sky sails for New York


I could have written for another two hours this morning, but eventually this thing has to go out into the world…

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

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  1. As the April 20 National Post reported: “Hudson mentioned being at a bonfire with Wortman, his girlfriend and some other neighbours around 2004 when there was some kind of altercation that left most at the gathering stunned. Hudson wouldn’t elaborate on the details…” Oxford dictionary meaning of stunned is “so shocked that one is temporarily unable to react; astonished.” Sounds like the altercation was serious, severe in effect. Verbal? Physical? Both? I note Hudson says “that left most at the gathering stunned.“ What about those who weren’t stunned? Just business as usual in that, as Tom Taggart, a councillor who represents the Portapique area on the Municipality of Colchester, described as an absolutely wonderful, peaceful, quiet community. A July 5th Globe and Mail article reported: “During a bonfire in Portapique in 2013, the gunman threw his partner on the ground and began choking her again.” Is this the same incident that Hudson mentioned, perhaps a mistake with date, that left most at the bonfire stunned? If so, no wonder Hudson wouldn’t elaborate on the details, since I think it’s safe to say no one called the police to come to the bonfire ASAP because a woman was being violently assaulted and her life was at risk.

    In 2016, updated in 2018, the Toronto Star reported: “First off, let’s stop calling it choking. You choke accidentally on a peanut. When someone grabs you by the throat and forcefully squeezes, you are being strangled. It’s a popular weapon of abusive partners. It’s incredibly effective. In 15 seconds, it can render a woman unconscious. After 30 seconds, she will lose control of her bowels and bladder. Soon after, she’ll die. If she survives the attack, she’ll sometimes emerge with a temporary red mark on her neck or tiny red spots around her face and in her eyes. But at least half the time, there will be no obvious signs of how close to death’s edge she’s been dragged.”

    It’s time to consider a stronger strangulation law

  2. Yes, I am aware of that. For e.g., National Post reported April 20: “Neighbour Nancy Hudson said she met Wortman about 18 years ago when he bought a property on Portapique Beach Road, which is just a short walk from her home… “He was very jovial,” she said. “But there is another side to Gabe. He had some issues, especially with his girlfriend.” … “There was some underlying issues that I think he had with his relationship. It was a red flag …. ” Hudson mentioned being at a bonfire with Wortman, his girlfriend and some other neighbours around 2004 when there was some kind of altercation that left most at the gathering stunned. Hudson wouldn’t elaborate on the details, but said: “He had an obsession with his girlfriend. Just being jealous about things with her….”. I don’t believe there were other reports of abuse until after you said you wouldn’t publish her name because she is a victim. Since Halifax Examiner is a reputable news outlet, seems to me that you would have said alleged victim or Nancy Hudson reports. I believe the next person to come forward to media and report on GW abusing/assaulting his common-law spouse was Brenda Forbes in mid May. Brenda said that she reported domestic violence and illegal weapons to RCMP in 2013. As I recall, Brenda Forbes first told her story to Halifax Examiner.

  3. Re: More details about the mass murders

    What’s going on Tim? April 25 you posted comment “we have every right to name her, we just choose not to … living people should be accorded more privacy than dead people…” You said you wouldn’t publish name of GW’s common-law spouse, until she gave you permission to do so, because she is a victim. In this article, by my bleary eyed count, you name her three times as Lisa Banfield and six times as Banfield. So what’s changed your mind?

        1. But what sticks in my craw about you saying you wouldn’t name her because she‘s a victim is that you didn’t say alleged victim. Yes, according to RCMP Supt Darren Campbell, she was bound and assaulted, a significant assault — meaning by GW. But how does he know that is so? Presumably based only on her say so. Seems to me that he should have said allegedly. As for significant assault, according to Leon Joudrey, when she showed up at his place around 6 am Sunday, she was wearing only spandex clothing, shoeless, and didn’t look like she had been assaulted. Well, I suppose she could have had broken ribs and contusions under her spandex clothing. But presumably it’s only her say so that GW was the perpetrator. Perhaps she fell on a tree stump when she hid in the woods overnight. But wouldn’t she have had dirt on her, fir needles, moss? According to Leon Joudrey, she was clean, no dirt, fir needles, moss. It’s definitely a mystery as to her whereabouts for approximately 8 hours.

          1. We’ve reported that long before the mass murders, others said she had been assaulted/abused by her commonlaw husband, and one of those people even reported the abuse to the RCMP.

  4. “personal services such as hair salons and spas can resume providing services that can only be done if the customer removes their mask, such as facials”

    No matter how many times I read this, it remains unclear.

  5. Forelock forsaken

    Bad news for unreconstructed royalists. Without lavishing oodles of public money on the private flim flam artists touting the Gordonstoun school in Annapolis county where ever will they hold their beloved forelock tugging contests?