1. ‘Affordable’ housing

Signs read: affordable housing for all, affordable housing now!
People hold signs at a housing rally outside Province House on Wednesday, April 5, 2023. Credit: Zane Woodford

“A new policy headed to council next week would require affordable housing in new developments, but just how affordable they’ll be is up for debate,” reports Zane Woodford:

Inclusionary zoning would lower the price of a percentage of homes in a new building. There are varying approaches to the idea in use across North America, with both voluntary and mandatory programs and different percentages set aside at different rates.

Woodford walks us through a staff report that looks at inclusionary zoning requirements across Canada. While the programs provide some relief, they’re not on a scale to meaningfully affect the overall market:

The set aside rate is what percentage of units in a building will be affordable. Common set aside rates in Canadian jurisdictions range from 5% to 20%, with higher rates creating more affordable homes. Edmonton uses a 5% rate and created just 26 new affordable units between 2015 and 2018. The rate in Richmond, BC is either 10% or 15% depending on the area and that city has created 900 new affordable units since 2007.

The 2016 report to council suggested a 10% rate could create 180 to 250 affordable units [in HRM] annually based on annual housing starts between 1,800 and 2,500 units.

But what’s ‘affordable’?

“The majority of Canadian jurisdictions with inclusionary zoning programs tie affordability to a percentage of market rent, typically between 80-90% of average market rent,” reads the report.

But with rents in new buildings soaring to levels far beyond what is reachable by the average working person, 90% of average rents does nothing at all for that person. You have to wonder: Why even bother?

Woodford continues:

“Remaining jurisdictions tie affordability… to a defined range of low- to moderate-income.”

The consultant suggested the municipality could choose to base the affordability on either household or individual income.

How will council decide which way to proceed? By hiring a consultant, of course.

Click here to read “Halifax council to consider policy requiring ‘affordable’ housing in new development.”

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

2. Yarmouth ferry

The Alakai, docked at Yarmouth in 2019 on a hazy summer day.
Photo: Suzanne Rent

“Nearly seven months ago, on October 18, 2022, Public Works Minister Kim Masland told reporters the Houston government was about to request proposals to conduct an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of the controversial, money-sucking Yarmouth-to-Bar Harbor ferry service,” writes Stephen Kimber:

But it’s now the second week of May. The ferry is scheduled to begin sailing again in a few weeks.

And there’s still no study. Not even a call for proposals…

Last week, I emailed the minister to ask if the tender call had, in fact, been issued when I wasn’t looking. If not, when might that happen?

A spokesperson for the minister didn’t respond to the second part of my question, stating only: “At this time, the Request for Procurement for a broad economic impact study on the Yarmouth ferry service has not been issued.”

Kimber reminds us that an economic impact study was done in 2012, and it found, among other things, that “viability [of a restored ferry service] hinges on being able to build passenger traffic back at least to the 130-135,000 level [of previous ferry operations]. This is the critical uncertainty.”

We’re nowhere close to that ‘viability’ level, and never will be, but we keep throwing money into the ferry because South Shore voters thing, wrongly, that the ferry is the best and indeed only way to foster economic development in their communities.

Click here to read “Why no Yarmouth ferry cost-benefit study? Because there is no benefit?”

Need I remind readers of the potential windfall from the helicopter drop?

Yesterday, Suzanne Rent made the point that dropping $20 bills from a helicopter would itself be a tourist attraction — “It would like one of those game show money booths! People LOVE those,” she says — and so generate even more business for the Yarmouth area hotels, bars, and coffeeshops. Let’s consider…

Suppose we hired a helicopter and pilot at a seasonal cost of a million dollars and sent the thing up above downtown Yarmouth each Saturday and Sunday for the 18 weeks of the summer season. The additional $14 million/year we’re already spending would translate into daily drops of $388,888, or 19,445 $20 bills, which is to say over an eight-hour period, 40 $20 bills per minute — call it one $20 bill every 1.5 seconds.

Granted, we’d need an extra person to actually toss the money out of the helicopter, but I bet we could get Pam Mood to do it gratis.

People would flock to Yarmouth to watch the spectacle. The running of the bulls in Pamplona would have nothing on the Yarmouth helicopter drop. Hotels would fill up, bars would do a brisk business, traffic would pile up on the 101 as Americans drive around.

We don’t need no stinking ferry.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

3. Arlington Heights dump

A satellite view of a fan-shaped dump site.
The Arlington Heights Construction & Debris dump on North Mountain. Credit: Google Earth

In April, Jennifer Henderson reported that:

In December of 2020, after citizen complaints, the Department of Environment warned the facility to stop accepting “auto fluff” (a toxic mixture of used oils, plastics, heavy metals, and ground up car parts) which the dump had been burying since 2015, even though it had no official government approval to do so.

The manager of Arlington Heights at that time was Jennifer Ehrenfeld-Poole. Poole was the Progressive Conservative candidate for Annapolis in the last provincial election but lost to Liberal Carmen Kerr. She continues to manage the dump, which is now owned by Dexter [Construction].

Ehrenfeld-Poole, incidentally, was the PC candidate who fantasized about running over cyclists with her truck.

People who live near the dump formed a group called Annapolis Waterkeepers and hired a hydrogeologist to review the environmental studies that allowed the dump to operate. That review faulted the original environmental approval for the site, and said a new water study should be conducted.

However, “A landfill on the Annapolis Valley’s North Mountain — where tonnes of construction debris, asbestos, and toxic waste are being trucked from building sites in Halifax — will not be required to submit to another hydrogeological study by the Nova Scotia Department of Environment,” reports Henderson today.

Henderson details the province’s position and residents’ reactions.

Click here to read “Province won’t order new water study for hazardous waste dump.”

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

4. Françoise Baylis

A smiling woman with white hair and dark rimmed glasses is wearing a grey sweater and a vibrant multicoloured scarf loosely draped around her neck.
Dr. Françoise Baylis, Dalhousie University bioethicist and scholar. Credit: Nick Pearce/Dalhousie University

“An acclaimed Dalhousie University bioethicist and scholar has been named one of two recipients for this year’s Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

On Monday morning it was announced that Françoise Baylis had received the social sciences and humanities prize, an award valued at $50,000. 

A Dalhousie University news release described the award as honouring Baylis’s “outstanding achievements” in academic research centring on the “complexities of how health-care ethics intersect with technology, policy and practice.”

Click here to read “Dal scholar Françoise Baylis wins Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize for work in bioethics.”

Baylis should write a paper about the ethics of naming an arts prize for a beer company.

I keed! Baylis has never been shy about calling out the powerful, and if beer companies can’t fund stuff, The Coast would have never been as successful as it was back in the day, and I wouldn’t have found a reporting job in Halifax and therefore eventually go on to found the Halifax Examiner.

Beer is the very basis of civilization; who am I to criticize?

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

5. Eating contests as news stories

One part of my job as an editor is to worry about the ethics of our reporting: should we publish a story at all, and if we do, how do we frame it as best we can to minimize harm? I’m certain I get this wrong from time to time, but such worries keep me up at night.

So, it’s disappointing to see a Global News story headlined “Meet a Nova Scotia man who devoured 14 tacos in just 10 minutes.”

The story is as bad you imagine. It celebrates dangerous gurgitation competitions. People have died from such events, and even when people don’t die, there can be severe health effects.

Did the restaurant warn contest participants of the potential dangers? Was there a health professional on hand to respond in the case of emergency? The article doesn’t say.

Besides that, the contest is an Anglo perversion of Mexican culture, reducing its interesting and diverse culinary traditions to gluttony.

Nova Scotians don’t really know how to appreciate Mexican cuisine. I remember the first time I went to Superstore to buy salsa, and the salsa row went from “mild” to “medium,” “hot” nowhere to be found.

And I’ve been beyond disappointed with the few Mexican restaurants in Halifax, even that one everyone celebrated as “real” Mexican food, which I gave a B for effort, a C for taste, and an F for not serving beer. Mostly, “Mexican” food in Halifax consists of rubbery chicken splashed with tomato sauce and rolled up in tasteless wrap pretending to be a tortilla.

I’ve had the incredible fortune to travel through Mexico probably a half-dozen times, once for over a month, and so I experienced the many local cooking traditions firsthand, but still, the best Mexican food I’ve ever had was in San Francisco’s Mission District. Even the tiny hole-in-the-wall Mexican places in Chico were a world apart from anything served up in Halifax.

Regardless, in all these travels, I’ve never seen a Mexican person forcing a dozen tacos down his gullet. The contest is insulting.

And besides that, as Iris the Amazing points out, how off-key is it to hold a gluttony contest in a province where one in four people face food insecurity? At least The Coast understands that optic, and has the sense to use Burger Week as a vehicle to drop some money to the food banks.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

6. The Amazon, Mary Celeste, Ship of Theseus

A brown ship with shite sails is on the blue water.
An unattributed 1861 painting of the Amazon, later to be renamed the Mary Celeste, entering Marseille harbour. Credit: Public domain.

Reporting for the CBC, Vernon Ramesar tells the story of the ghost ship Mary Celeste. It’s a good yarn, and worth reading, especially in that it highlights an important historical era of shipbuilding in Nova Scotia. I had no idea ships were built at Spencers Island.

Still, the connection between Nova Scotia and the ghosting of the ship is a bit tenuous, if you ask me:

The ship, then called the Amazon, was built at Spencers Island in 1861 during Nova Scotia’s prime years as a shipbuilding power, according to [Roger Marsters, curator of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic].

The ship was wrecked at least once by 1867, underwent repairs, and changed hands twice before being sold in New York as a wrecked vessel in 1868.

The new owner undertook costly repairs and registered the ship as American. It was renamed Mary Celeste.

The ship was sold again 10 months later to Capt. James Winchester in 1869.

Winchester made major changes to the ship and sold a third of the shares in it to Capt. Benjamin Spooner Briggs.

The Mary Celeste set sail from New York on Nov. 7 bound for Genoa, Italy. It was loaded with 1,700 barrels of alcohol. Briggs was at the helm.

Also on board were his wife, Sarah, his two-year-old daughter, Sophia, seven crew members and a cat.

They were never seen again.

This is an actual Ship of Theseus. How many boards can you replace with the ship remaining the same as the original?

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

A yellow box which links to a helpful information page. The text reads "Unable to read paywalled articles? If you're having problems signing in, click here for help."

A box with a link which reads "Sign up for our morning email. Get a direct link to the Morning File right in your inbox. Click here."




No meetings


Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall and online) — agenda



No meetings


Health (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place and online) — Investment in Robotics, with representatives from IWK Health and Nova Scotia Health

On campus

No events

In the harbour

05:30: Violet Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
06:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Philipsburg, Saint Croix
07:30: MSC Shay, container ship, moves from anchorage to Pier 41
07:45: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor, on a seven-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
10:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
10:30: AS Felicia, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
11:00: Acadian, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Imperial Oil
15:30: Violet Ace sails for sea
17:30: Tropic Lissette sails for Palm Beach, Florida
17:45: Zaandam sails for Sydney

Cape Breton
14:00: Torm Timothy, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from Montreal


I got up an hour earlier than usual this morning with the idea I would be inspired and interesting. So much for good intentions.

A button which links to the Subscribe page
A button link which reads "Make a donation"

Tim Bousquet

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.
  1. Tying two of today’s stories together: it turns out one of the better Mexican restaurants in Nova Scotia is actually in Yarmouth! Mr. Gonzales’ may not be at the level of the kind of food Tim found in Mexico itself, but (as someone who has also spent some time in California) I think it can at least compare with a hole-in-the-wall in Chico. They also get extra points in my book for sharing a parking lot with a Taco Bell.

  2. I think your Ship of Theseus comparison is very wide of the mark Tim. The Amazon/Mary Celeste was repaired many times, as were most vessels of the era, and was also extended in length overall. However it remained essentially the same vessel (unlike the euphemistically “rebuilt” Bluenose II). The Nova Scotia connection is solid and is surely worth celebrating in my opinion. For more on this, check out my film: Mary Celeste: Nova Scotia’s Mystery Ship

    1. Our bodies, including our brains, fully replace themselves at least once every seven years. We’re more like waves on an ocean of living molecules than things. The ship of Theseus thing is BS, it’s the same damn ship even if you have to fix it.

  3. In 2022, one million people, mostly adults, came to Canada. We built 200,000 houses, mostly shoebox condos. 2023 is on track to be worse, with more people coming to Canada and fewer houses being built. Canada’s immigration policy is pure class warfare – an attempt to turn this country into a modern feudal state like Dubai or Qatar where a tiny oligopoly owns everything and a vast guest worker population provides fantastically cheap labor. Bullshit boutique welfare programs that give a few working people cheap apartments subsidized, effectively, by other working people who have to pay market rent are class warfare. People who do not call out Canada’s insane immigration policies for what they are are fighting the class war on behalf of the rich, and many of them don’t even get paid to do it.

  4. I lived in one town where there was a milk-drinking contest. I went to look at it first-hand so I could go back to my office and write a blistering editorial on the subject of gluttony, food waste and revolting behaviour. The contestants were all young men. I discovered during the course of the contest that they were retreating behind the booth to literally throw up before returning, filling up their glass and drinking more. Yes, disgusting on so many levels.

  5. re: Yarmouth Ferry

    You obviously haven’t been paying attention wrt the role of spending public money in NS, it’s only nominally done to help the masses. The main reason public money is spent in NS is to make the wealthy wealthier. The helicopter drop idea doesn’t really accomplish that goal, whereas the spending of the money on the ferry mostly *does* help public money flow to the wealthy (i.e., the ferry owners).

    That’s why the helicopter idea won’t ever be adopted.

  6. If there were reasonably priced and decently scheduled bus service to the south shore from and to Halifax I bet that would have a beneficial economic impact as well. It is unbelievable that there is no way of traveling to all of those lovely towns that are over run with cars.

    1. Bus service would be nice for sure. Even better, bring back the trains. Used to be able to get everywhere with the trains; the South Shore, the Valley, Cape Breton. All gone, the tracks privatised and torn up to make way for cars. A shame.

      1. Canada is essentially settled in a line from Yarmouth/Sydney to Vancouver, with spurs south into Windsor and north to Edmonton. Despite population densities far lower than Europe or Asia, we could have made it work because so many of us live within 50 kilometers of the 4500 kilometer line from Halifax to Vancouver, including its spurs to Windsor and Edmonton.

  7. Nova Scotia was part of the Amazon/Mary Celeste story from start to finish. Not only was this vessel built and sailed by Nova Scotians at the beginning of its career, but it was also a Nova Scotian ship, the brig Dei Gratia of Bear River that discovered the mystery. Capt Morehouse and the crew of Dei Gratia from Digby County found Mary Celeste abandoned and salvaged the ship under challenging circumstances. Morehouse and his crew had to bear the brunt of crazy accusations and theories that have made them part of the mystery ever since. Those interested in a deeper dive into the Nova Scotian side to this mystery vessel would be interested in this very good 2019 documentary by Halifax film maker Jerry Lockett: