1. Ombudsman

David Shannon (left), former CEO of the Human Rights Commission, talks to a high school student in this 2012 photo. Photo: Human Rights Commission.

“The Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman hasn’t necessarily launched an investigation into council activities in Cape Breton Regional Municipality, an official said Wednesday,” reports Tom Ayers for Local Xpress:

Christine Brennan, executive director of the ombudsman’s office, told Local Xpress on Wednesday an email from her office to a citizen last week could have been worded better.

Whenever the office receives a complaint, “all matters are screened for jurisdiction, to see whether it’s something our office can look at, to see if there’s any appeals or anything like that available to the folks, and if so then we refer them to the process,” she said.

“If we’re not quite sure and we need a little more time, what we do is we assign it to an ombudsman rep and then they look to see if there’s anything of substance or merit going forward. And if we do believe that there’s an issue, or it warrants an investigation, we provide notification to all the respondents.

“So they would receive notification that we’ve initiated an investigation and the issues we’re looking at.

“In this instance … we do that initial screening and assessment and we assign it to a rep for a review.”

Brennan said the email from her office didn’t make that distinction clear.

The Office of the Ombudsman (for a discussion of whether the “man” in “ombudsman” should be dropped, click here) is an odd duck. I think most people don’t even know the Ombudsman exists. We don’t hear much about it, but it’s come up a few times recently. It’s where disgruntled employees of the Cumberland Regional Development Authority went to complain about false invoices, which eventually resulted in the dismantling of the entire regional economic development agency system. The office also found that David Shannon, the former CEO of the Human Rights Commission, violated procurement rules by hiring a friend to write speeches for him. And it investigated Richmond County spending.

But I wonder how effective the office is. It publishes an annual accountability report, but the report is so vague as to be meaningless, so we’re left with anecdotal assessments of the office. Over the years I’ve talked with a handful of people who have made complaints about government to the Ombudsman, and none of them came away satisfied. Maybe the complainers were cranks, but in at least one instance that I’ve looked into at some length, I don’t think so. (I really need to take two weeks and do nothing else but work on that story…)

I’d be curious to hear readers’ experiences, positive or negative, with the Ombudsman. Drop me a line.

2. Peter Kelly

“The controversial hiring of Peter Kelly as chief administrative officer was without a doubt one of the bigger news stories this year in Charlottetown,” writes Dave Stewart for the Charlottetown Guardian:

[Charlottetown mayor Clifford] Lee believes part of the negativity around Kelly’s hiring centres on the fact that he is a former politician. Lee compares it to the negative spin that has dogged former premier Robert Ghiz, who was appointed president and CEO of the main lobby group for the wireless industry in Canada in November.

“There was a group of people in Charlottetown and P.E.I. saying ‘I wonder what he did to get that job’,’’ Lee said, referring to Ghiz. “Unfortunately, people have a bad impression of politicians. I don’t think it’s a fair representation.’’

No negativity!

3. Pedestrian hate

“A Halifax senior with mobility issues says she faces verbal abuse nearly every time she leaves her west-end home,” reports Allison Devereaux for the CBC:

Linda Coolen, whose numerous health problems include curvature of the spine and osteoarthritis, can’t make it across the crosswalk near her home before the light changes.

“When I go out, I can be sure that I’m going to be swore at, something thrown at me, horns blasting or cutting me off,” says Coolen, who uses a walker.


“I was on the bridge here and some teenager threw a glass of Tim Hortons something at me. It struck the left side of my face.”


[Neighbour Gavin] Giles says most people give her ample time, but he has witnessed drivers blowing their horns, shouting profanities and nearly hitting Coolen.

He says the mistreatment isn’t limited to a particular age group. “Younger people, older people, men, women, all types of vehicles going in all different directions,” he says.

Yeah, sure, but once some kid walked out in front of me into the crosswalk wearing headphones, so that cancels all that out.


1. Transit tech

The venerable #1 Spring Garden. Photo by Michael Taylor.

“Another phase of Halifax Transit’s new tech rollout is hitting the streets, in the form of a female robotic voice letting you know what bus has just arrived at your stop, and what stop is next for the bus you’re on. In addition to the voice, there’s an on board display screen with the same information,” writes Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:

I’ve read plenty of confused and irked commenters online, but in general, I think the feeling is that Halifax Transit is finally getting with the program, and doing what other cities have been doing for years. The robot voice, once installed on the full fleet (currently being piloted on 13 routes) will allow visually impaired riders more autonomy within the system. And for all riders, it will put an end to the constant guessing game of where to get off on unfamiliar routes, and likely reduce the number of mistaken stop requests, saving the entire system some time.

Stop enunciation is an exciting step for Halifax Transit, but it’s only a small part of the $43 million tech program we first approved in 2010. 

Butler then provides a succinct rundown of the planned tech upgrades to Halifax Transit buses, including real time data, schedule adherence data, automatic passenger counts, and new fare boxes.

Click here to read “Transit tech comes to Halifax, slowly.”

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

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

A container terminal in Sydney harbor is not a pipedream. I am aware of a remark made several years ago that Sydney harbour may be one of the last harbours on the east coast of North America that can be used for such an operation.

The need exists and Halifax is definitely opposed to expanding anywhere other than Halifax. We have our own version of Hogtown on the east coast. Ontario is no longer alone in that category.

One thing Cape Breton is in desperate need of is people with vision, drive and guts enough to get the job done. The last thing we can afford to do is to start thinking negatively.

Damn the torpedoes. Full steam ahead.

 Vic Foster, Sydney

No negativity!


Shivers was retitled They Came From Within for its US release.

The most recent Canadaland Imposter podcast is a “best of” edition, which repeats an earlier segment (starting at the 17:25 mark) by filmmaker Geoff Siskind that in turn points to Paul Corupe’s wonderful website, Canuxploitation, which reveals “the history of Canadian B-film from the silent era to today.”

The B-film industry in Canada took off in the 1970s with a tax shelter designed, supposedly, to assist the national film industry. But as explained in the podcast, in practice the last thing the dentists and doctors and others who made use of the shelter wanted was a financially successful film — film profits would just add to their tax bill. And so, Corupe explains:

One of the most noticeable of these “new” Canadian genres under the tax shelter laws was horror films. Before he hit it big in Hollywood with movies like Stripes and Ghostbusters (1984), Ivan Reitman made an enjoyable 1973 Canuxploitation feature called Cannibal Girls. Later, in the mid-70s, Reitman also helped Canada gain a foothold in the American drive-in market by producing Canadian horror icon David Cronenberg’s early films. Canadians also helped finance the Florida team of Bob Clark and Alan Ormsby, bringing them to Canada for post-production on their 1972 zombie epic Deathdream, which was the first professional job for famous make-up artist Tom Savini (Dawn of the DeadFriday the 13th). They both decided to stay up north where they would continue to reshape horror for both Canada and the world. Ormsby went on with Savini to direct 1974’s Ed Gein biopic Deranged while Clark made Black Christmas, a film generally acknowledged as North America’s first slasher movie, which set the pace for future Canadian teen slaughter sagas like My Bloody Valentine (1982) and Prom Night (1980).

No less influential, the tax shelter years also saw the arrival of David Cronenberg, a wholly unique Canadian director who turned heads and stomachs with his gory exploration of body horror issues. His first Cinépix-funded film, Shivers (1976), came under heavy scrutiny by the Canadian cultural gatekeepers, who attacked the film’s lurid mix of sex and violence, briefly making Cronenberg the poster child for everything that was perceived to be wrong with the Canadian film industry. Somehow, the maverick director overcame the odds and more than proved himself with Rabid (1977) and The Brood(1979), horror outings now affirmed as classics.

Influenced by films such as DeliveranceThe Hills Have Eyes and Straw Dogs, directors continued to take advantage of Canada’s natural settings by creating a genre known as “rural revenge” films. These tales of murderous backwoods yokels peaked in the late-1970s with William Fruet’s intense Death Weekend (1976) and John Trent’s Vengeance is Mine (1976), but there were many others like High Ballin’ (1978), Shoot (1975) and Rituals (1976) that played important supportive roles.

Hilariously, to me anyway, Imposter managed to track down film critic Robert Fulford (at the 22:50 mark), who still makes no apologies for his 1975 Saturday Night magazine review condemning Cronenberg’s Shivers:

It’s still among the tops of the disgusting films I’ve ever seen — anyway, the top five, I’m sure… It was a highly disgusting movie and beneath contempt as a piece of film.

Writes Corupe:

“(The film) is a disgrace to everyone connected with it including the taxpayers,” he ranted. “It’s as if the Canada Council, wildly casting for a way to get Canadian writers working, were to invest in sadistic pornography.” The funding of the feature sparked a major debate in Parliament alongside the sex comedy Sweet Movie, and more than a few columnists took turns at denouncing the film. But Cronenberg & Co. had the last laugh. Shivers made $5 million worldwide, ironically one of the few features to actually return its investment to CFDC. (Fulford claims Shivers never earned the feds a cent, though his clueless arrogance makes everything he says suspect.)


On a more personal note, the film’s “Canadianess” is one of the reasons why Shivers has unnerved me ever since I saw it late night on CKY TV back in 1981. It wasn’t just the Grand Guignol house of horrors Reitman and Cronenberg had unleashed with its giant leeches and ravenous sex fiends. What also got to me was an innocuous bit of product placement when Susan Petrie is shown reading a copy of Chatelaine magazine. And dammit, my mother had the same backissue down in the basement! Thus it hit home that the terrors onscreen were not taking place in Lugosi’s Transylvania or Hammer’s fog-infested London or some sleepy New England hamlet. No, it was taking place right here, in our home and native land below the belt and above the 49th.

Siskind thinks the tax shelter would’ve survived the uproar over Shivers, but it could not survive… Porky’s. It wasn’t just that Porky’s was exceptionally salacious, or that it was wildly successful financially. Rather, the film was made in Florida, and starred American actors.


No public meetings.

On campus


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9am Thursday. Note the swarm of lobster boats off Yarmouth. Map:

6am: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
6am: ZIM Virginia, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
11am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 36 from St. John’s
3pm: NYK Rigel, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
3pm: Ridgebury Cindy A, oil tanker, moves from Imperial Oil to Anchorage
4pm: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
4:30pm: Faust, car carrier, sails from Pier 31 for New York

3:30am: ZIM Virginia, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
5:30am: NYK Deneb, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
7am: Bruarfoss, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Argentia, Newfoundland


We’ll be recording Examineradio today.

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

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