NEWS

1. Cabinet shuffle

Yesterday, Premier Tim Houston announced a cabinet shuffle: Twila Grosse, MLA for Preston, is the new Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs and Minister of the Public Service Commission; Trevor Boudreau, MLA for Richmond, is the Minister of Community Services and Minister responsible for L’nu Affairs; and Kent Smith, MLA for Eastern Shore, is the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The three were trotted in front of reporters and said… well, nothing beyond platitudes.

To be fair, the three haven’t yet even met their staff, but I think it’s reasonable to ask what their priorities will be, so I did. This is from the transcript of the press conference:

Grosse

Bousquet: First of all, congratulations. Recognizing that you still need to get your sea legs in the position as minister, you have been involved significantly in the African Nova Scotian community and various organizations. Do you have a sort of set of issues that you feel need to be addressed or is there some sort of first steps that you want to take given that you still have the limitations of the bureaucracy to figure out, but surely you bring some concerns into the office? 

Grosse: You know, at the end of the day, I still have to… this is all a game. This is all new. This is sort of day one. So, I think I really need to take a little bit of time to assess, you know, what’s going on and get a good idea as to where the department is at. So in terms of, you know, it’s not about what I want. It’s what’s best for, you know, what the African Nova Scotian community can do. 

Trevor Boudreau

Bousquet: Congratulations, minister. I’m going to follow up on the question from my colleague, Michael Gorman. He asked you if social assistance rates should be increased and fair enough, it’s too soon for you to to understand what the parameters of the department are, much less the provincial budget. I appreciate that. But do you see your position as being one of advocating for impoverished people in this province?

BoudreauI think all roles, all ministers, all MLAs have a role of of advocating for Nova Scotians. And certainly in this position, you’re looking out for some of the, you know, the ones that are have the most need. So yeah, in a way it’s, it’s a disposition but I think it is as an MLA as well fully. 

Moderator: Tim, do you have a follow up question. Yeah.

Bousquet: I think the fairest criticism of department policy over many governments and you know, this isn’t directed at your government in particular, but is the inability or the failure to to peg assistance rates to the rate of inflation. Is that something you will be visiting? 

BoudreauAs I said before, look, it’s early and I’m looking forward to meeting with my team. I haven’t done that yet. That’s on my list of things to do today. And we’ll work through and with the support of Minister MacFarlane. I’m a very fortunate minister, new minister that has that. And so I’m looking forward to sitting down with her and the team and building on the knowledge that I have and learning lots more. 

Kent Smith

Bousquet: Congratulations on your appointment. I just wonder if you have any thoughts or any framing for what is obviously one of the major issues, which is the Indigenous fisheries. And if you have any thoughts on that.

Smith: I appreciate the question. I think it’s too early for me to to really chime in on that without talking to the team, but certainly looking forward to interacting with the federal counterparts and learning more. 

Moderator: Tim, do you have a follow up? 

Bousquet: Yeah. Is there a path, even just rhetorically, to lowering some of the tension around this issue that you can take? 

Smith: Again, thanks for the question. This is ours too. So I’ll be happy to talk to you next week and come back with some more fulsome answers for you. 

What I take away from this is this: These are three new cabinet ministers who are too frightened to state views they surely have without the premier’s prior approval.

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2. Lee

A map of Eastern Canada showing the track of Hurricane Lee heading for Nova Scotia with the storm hitting near the Yarmouth area and moving up the western part of the province through the Bay of Fundy and over Newfoundland.
The forecasted track of Hurricane Lee as of 3pm on Thursday. Credit: Environment Canada

“Hurricane Lee is expected to make its way to Nova Scotia this weekend, but experts say while Lee is a big storm, its intensity will be much less than that of Hurricane Fiona,” reports Suzanne Rent:

For more information and to track Hurricane Lee, click here.

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3. Is arsenic killing eels in Dartmouth lakes?

Five small, whitish dead eels float in murky brown water.
Dead eels in the water at Paddlers Cove on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. Credit: Yvette d'Entremont

“After finding numerous dead eels floating in Dartmouth lakes, a marine scientist is asking for help tracking and logging them online,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

In recent weeks, Dr. Christine Ward-Paige began hearing reports of multiple dead American eels in the Shubie Canal. 

It didn’t take long to discover that dead eels weren’t just showing up along the Shubie Canal. They were found elsewhere too, including in lakes Banook, Fletchers, Miller, MicMac, and Charles. Ward-Paige also learned that people had been seeing the dead eels since mid-August.

During a trip to Lake Banook on Tuesday night, she found another 36 dead eels. 

Click here to read “Marine scientist asks for help tracking dead eels found in Shubie canal, Dartmouth lakes.”

Ward-Paige thinks the eels might be dying off due to blue-green algae related to recent mowing of seagrass in Lake Banook, but the lake’s been mowed before and there wasn’t a similar die-off.

Hey, Ward-Paige is the scientist, and DFO is investigating, so hopefully we’ll get an answer soon. But I’ll throw out another possibility: arsenic.

A sign reads: Health Warning Soils on this site contain high levels of arsenic. Keep off this site at the request of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Nova Scotia
Signs warning of contaminated soil are throughout the area of the former Montague Gold Mine. Credit: Tim Bousquet

In August, during one of the heavy summer rainfalls, I went and hiked around the abandoned Montague gold mine to see the state of the toxic tailings. It wasn’t pretty.

A map of the former gold mining district from a 1982 report.

There was once a stream, sometimes called Mitchell Creek, that flowed from Loon Lake to Lake Charles. The lower portion of the waterway, which passes under Waverley Road, is called Barry’s Run. The landscape has been altered over the last 150 years, so I’m not sure if Barry’s Run was originally a separate stream that Mitchell Creek flowed into, or if the two are really the same stream, but the point is, water that flows through the gold mine ends up in Lake Charles.

Lake Charles is the highest point in the old canal system, so water from the lake flows both south into Lake Micmac, Lake Banook, and the duck pond, and north to Lake William, Lake Thomas, Fletchers Lake, Grand Lake, and the Shubenacadie River. Which is to say, if toxins end up in Lake Charles, they could spread all the way from Dartmouth Cove to the Bay of Fundy.

Arsenic-laden tailings from Montague gold mine have been placed in mounds throughout the site, and warning signs are posted next to the mounds. That was obviously an attempt to keep them undisturbed, but to my eye, that’s an utter failure in heavy rain.

A muddy field.
The area of the former Montague Gold Mine is mostly a muddy swamp during a rain fall on August 11, 2023. Credit: Tim Bousquet

The old stream now spreads over the entire area, such that I couldn’t transverse the place without being knee-deep in muddy gunk. Here and there, the water collects in little streamlets that find themselves and cohere into a proper creek on the western end of the site. Several of the streamlets have eroded right through the tailings mounds:

Water flows through a green area, with a sign at right.
A streamlet flows directly through one of the tailings mound. Note sign warning of arsenic just inches from the watercourse. Credit: Tim Bousquet

On the westerly side of Highway 107, Barry’s Run is picturesque creek that runs through the Port Wallace neighbourhood now under development. That development has been fast-tracked by the province, despite concerns of arsenic contamination. Ultimately, the creek empties into Lake Charles:

A creek runs through trees towards a bridge.
Barry’s Run as it travels beneath Waverley Road. Credit: Tim Bousquet
A creek runs through rocks on the right, and there's calm lake water to the left.
Barry’s Run dumps into Lake Charles. Credit: Tim Bousquet

My understanding is that there’s ongoing testing of both the area and Lake Charles for arsenic and that results aren’t in yet.

I’m not a scientist, so take it with a grain of salt, but I can’t help but think there’s a connection between a summer of very heavy rain that erodes through arsenic-laden gold mining tailings and a bunch of dead eels.

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4. Stadium

A aerial rendering shows a soccer stadium with players on the field, and stands on two sides full of people. Citadel Hill is seen in the background.
A rendering of Derek Martin’s proposal for Wanderers Grounds. Credit: HFX Wanderers

“The founder and president of the Halifax Wanderers Football Club is pitching a $40-million, 8,500-seat stadium on public land,” reports Zane Woodford:

And while Derek Martin is offering to foot part of the bill, it’s unclear how much public money is required for the build.

Martin presented the plan to council’s Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee on Thursday.

Click or tap here to read “Team owner pitches $40-million, 8,500-seat permanent stadium for Wanderers Grounds.”

People are going to argue about the stadium one way or the other, but I have two minor points.

First, Martin wants artificial turf in the stadium:

“We want to install a FIFA-certified premium artificial fields or surface, sized appropriately for Canadian football and international rugby, that allows for multi use,” Martin said.

That would make it easier for other groups to rent the space, as they wouldn’t have to worry about damaging the grass. The Citadel High football team could use the field, Martin said, instead of going to Bedford for home games.

That horse is so far out the barn door that I know someone will post the “old man yells at clouds” meme in response to this — artificial turf is just accepted as part of life now, just as Nazis marching in the streets has been normalized — but artificial turn is bad! It’s already fucked up an entire generation’s knees and backs, and it’s especially bad for young women athletes. If we cared at all about public health, we’d outlaw artificial turf. Meme away.

Secondly, this is not an endorsement of the proposal, but I think this is right:

Martin said he’s tired of the debate around a bigger stadium.

“There’s a lot of debate about whether we could sustain a 20,000 or 25,000 seat stadium and I think it’s why we have never had anyone step up to make this offer to contribute to building a stadium like we are,” he said.

Halifax can’t sustain more than the 8,000 or so people that turn out to Mooseheads or Thunderbirds games, Martin said.

Remember that Harold MacKay couldn’t even sell 25,000 tickets for the Paul McCartney concert.

It’s taken as simple truth that 50,000 people attended the 2006 Rolling Stones concert on the Common, but the city lied about that, and we’ve never gotten a proper accounting of ticket sales for that show. As I reported:

By outside appearances, the September 23, 2006 Rolling Stones concert on the Halifax Common was a huge success. We don’t actually know that to be the case — trustworthy attendance figures for the show have never been released, and city and provincial officials have not revealed how much financial support they dumped into the venture —but outside appearances matter, and city officials wanted to build on that perceived success by bringing more concerts to the Common.

Almost a year later, on August 13, 2007, the Daily News revealed that mayor Peter Kelly had prepared a “marketing card” to be sent to concert promoters around the world, encouraging them to look at putting on shows on the Halifax Common, “with little or no municipal costs to the promoter”; that is, that the city would cover the bulk of policing, fire, inspection and street closure costs that are typically billed to a promoter. The card claimed that the Rolling Stones “drew near 50,000 people.” That number is interesting because officials would later acknowledge that they were misrepresenting concert attendance figures to promoters, in hope of luring more shows to the Common.

I know this is hard to believe, kids, but concert promoters lie! Mayors lie! Mayors named Peter Kelly especially lie!

Concert promotion is a lot like the tech industry: it’s full of bullshit and lies and unsubstantiated hype, and the public ends up picking up all the costs while a few assholes get rich.

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5. SaltWire sued

A police cruiser is seen on a sunny day with a few more in the background parked outside a building.
An RCMP vehicle outside the Mounties’ Baddeck detachment in 2012. Credit: Google Street View

“A Baddeck RCMP officer is suing SaltWire over a Cape Breton Post story that misinterpreted a news release from the Serious Incident Response Team,” reports Zane Woodford:

Terrence Justin Sanford’s lawyer, Nasha Nijhawan, filed notice of action in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Aug. 31, naming Saltwire Network Inc. as defendant.

This is an odd story, and appears to involve crossed wires and cascading misunderstandings — a confused SIRT release, an incorrect CBC story that was corrected after the SIRT release was corrected, and then SaltWire falling through that crack. People make mistakes, and publications sometimes get it wrong, but the lawsuit suggests that SaltWire wouldn’t be in this position were it not for (alleged) plagiarism:

“At approximately 2:13 pm, after both the SIRT news release and the CBC story had been corrected, the Saltwire website published a news story which was plagiarized entirely or substantially from the original CBC story, under the byline of lan Nathanson, without attribution to the CBC,” Nijhawan wrote in the statement of claim.

None of this has been tested in court, and SaltWire hasn’t filed a defence.

Click here to read “RCMP officer sues SaltWire over ‘incorrect and defamatory’ indecent exposure story.”

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6. Riley trial

A black man seated next to a potted plant leans forward.
Randy Riley Credit: whoisrandyriley.com

The murder trial of Randy Riley continues today, following two day of a voir dire that is covered by a publication ban until the trial is over — I was present, but can’t now write about it.

I can say, however, that it’s hard work covering and processing the legal issues discussed. I listen to the lawyers and judge and pull up various court cases on my computer to get to an understanding of what’s going on. It’s exhausting, which is why today’s Morning File is a bit abbreviated.

The jury comes back today, and I’m pretty sure that we’ll get testimony that I can report on. The trial is scheduled for 31 days.

As I noted Wednesday, so far I’m the only reporter present at the trial. If you support this work, please subscribe. Thanks!

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Government

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

A Human Rights-Based Approach to Plastic Pollution: Implications for Health Justice (Friday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — presented by Sara Seck


In the harbour

Halifax
07:45: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on an 11-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
13:30: One Eagle, container ship (145,251 tonnes), sails from Pier 41 for Dubai
16:30: ZIM Iberia, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
16:30: Zaandam sails for Corner Brook

Cape Breton
12:00: After You, yacht, sails from Sydney for sea


Footnotes

Stay dry.

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

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9 Comments

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  1. I support the proposed stadium and location. I agree with others that it should be a football first stadium and the pitch needs to be grass. Tradition and player safety should rule the day here.
    The city and province is flush with cash. Maybe issue a bond for the debt. If the owner puts up half there is no other stadium proposal that will come close the that.

  2. On the Cabinet shuffle – I wonder what the response would have been if the question had been phrased to link their mandate letters to today’s issues?

  3. I remember the Stones concert very well. Teaming rain but still the best concert I ever attended. There definitely was nowhere near 50,000 people. I wouldn’t have guessed even half of that many in attendance.
    On the topic of the proposed stadium-absolutely no public funds and certainly not on publicly owned land. The peninsula needs all the green space it can hang onto in the face of rapid development and population growth. Future large venues need to be placed outside of the peninsula

  4. Hey, Halifax City Council ! On behalf of the tens of thousands of new residents you have recently invited into the Halifax Peninsula, positioning them in small over-priced apartments, surrounded by streets teaming with traffic… please remember they badly need access to GREENERY…   there are countless medical studies PROVING beyond doubt that trees, meadows, streams, ponds, hedges, flowers, and horses create physical and mental well-being and healing.   In our overly electrified, noisy world of downtown Halifax, we desperately need places where all of us and our poor besieged children can remember what it’s like to be a human being in a peaceful place.    

    WE DO NOT NEED A DOWNTOWN STADIUM !  And further more no public funds should go toward this. This is not right.  It is not just. It is not healthy.   It is not fair to our kids who need green space.

    We must all protect the green areas and the trees which the city ‘fathers and mothers’  so wisely made part of our city.  They admired the great cities in Europe where it was well understood that to be “a great city” you had to have an abundance of public parks and broad avenues with leafy trees.    They were right.   Human beings need green space to survive.    They do not need stadiums.  

    If you are going to cram people into dense apartment buildings, with overly crowded classrooms for their kids, what do you think is going to happen?   Despair, resentment, public confrontation. Or was your plan they drink beer, eat junk food and stun the rest of us with noise? Of course you know the aftereffect of too much beer and junk food….. heart burn.

  5. Re Arsenic & Eels: Tim: What you are suggesting is certainly plausible and should be followed up, regardless of the dead eels.Thx for investigating, I cant imagine that wading through gold mine effluents during heavy rains was just a casual Sunday walk. & Thx Dr. Christine Ward-Paige for raising the alarms and stepping outside of/pushing professional boundaries to do so; and Thx Yvette d’Entremont reporting on it all. So necessary. These heavy rains are having a lot of previously unseen effects on our terrestrial and aquatic systems, it is so essential to have many eyes and to share the info. in a responsible way.

  6. Like Derek Martin, I am also tired of discussion around a stadium in Halifax – which we built with a large contribution from the municipality and the province, will forever be a hole into which government will throw money that could go to something worthwhile (like housing), and which will subject us to extortion every time the professional sports grifters want more money. It would be nice to get a municipal and/or provincial government that would finally say, “we will not fund a stadium for professional sport”. I’d vote for that.