In the harbour


1. Ship trouble

Remember all those good, high-paying jobs that were to come with the shipbuilding contract?

Labour leaders say that Irving is trying to “curtail” union activity at the shipyard, reports Metro. In the past week, Unifor Marine Workers Federation Local 1 president Ed Hatch was given three citations by the company, and vice-president David Ladouceur has been suspended for “insubordination.”

A main issue has been the employer trying to amend their collective agreement that ends in 2016, Ladouceur said.

They’re also talking about eliminating trades or subcontracting work outside of Halifax, Ladouceur said, which “we all should have issues with” because the union fought alongside Irving for the shipbuilding contract to land jobs for Atlantic Canadians.

“They didn’t get this contract on their own. Our collective agreement went with that contract up to Ottawa to prove that they had a stable workforce,” Ladouceur said.

2. Budget passes


About 200 people rallied outside Province House yesterday in a last-ditch effort to derail the Financial Measures Act, the legislation implementing the Liberal government’s budget for this year. The Act also does away with the former film tax credit.

The protest was organized by Screen Nova Scotia. Chair Mark Almon and a half-dozen actors read aloud a letter they had presented to MLAs. You can hear it here.

Inside, the legislature passed the third and final reading of the Act. The changes to the film tax credit become effective July 1.

Immediately afterwards, Premier Stephen McNeil’s office issued a press release spinning the passing of the austerity budget as making “tough choices” and that the legislature had done the “difficult work of regaining sustainability in our public finances.”

3. Where “reform” = “cut”

Halifax Water workers have given 48-hour strike notice. “The main sticking point in the negotiations is pension reform,” reports the CBC, uncritically using the language of austerity as fact. The union’s word for the pension changes is “clawback.”

Cutting pensions is particularly nasty. Unions negotiated contracts that trade lower wages for long-term security in the form of pensions. People make life decisions based on those expected future retirement benefits, and then the rug is pulled out from under them.

4. Income assistance for university students

The provincial Department of Community Services has a welfare program for people attending university, but it seems consciously designed to frustrate applicants, writes Moira Donovan:

Joanne Bernard
Joanne Bernard

Prior to 2000, university students were eligible for income assistance; before the regulations were changed, there were roughly 1,600 students on income assistance in Nova Scotia, among them the current Minister of Community Services, Joanne Bernard.

In a Chronicle Herald article from August 2003, Bernard is quoted as saying that “social assistance was crucial in my being able to be in university”, that she couldn’t imagine what it would be like to attend university under the new regulations, and that education was essential in escaping from the cycle of poverty.

In 2006, a Supreme Court ruling stipulated that someone on income assistance couldn’t be denied access to university. In response. the provincial government instituted a “program that they don’t tell anyone about,” says [legal counsel] Evan Coole… “No one knows this program exists and they don’t really advertise it.”

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1. Thistles

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

Yesterday, I had a long post about the Gaelic and English and constructed histories and so forth, which prompted Stephen Archibald’s wonderful response:

This “origins” game is complicated territory that only bold journalists would dare venture into.  I just want to show you pictures of thistles without the pesky analysis. So marvel at these arching, sandstone thistles on an 1860s, Queen Street house in Halifax. Not only do you get thistles but also the head of Mary, Queen of Scots.

2. Liberals

A Liberal fundraiser called Parker Donham, with hilarious results:

“I understand completely,” he said at last. “A lot of people I’ve spoken to have been very upset about this today.”

3. Cowan-Dewar

Elsewhere, Donham criticizes me for criticizing Ben Cowan-Dewar. “Ah, now we’re getting to the nub. Cowan-Dewar may have brought jobs and hope to a town that had known only grinding despair for generations — but the bastard’s rich,” writes Donham.

I’ll just daylight my comment to that post:

I don’t know how Cabot Links fits into the larger golf industry. The government-funded courses on PEI are going bust, but that may be from overbuilding. I understand that Cabot Links is marketed towards the extreme wealthy end of the golf spectrum, and there may be opportunity there that isn’t available to the other provincial courses. That’s the theory, anyway. Cabot Links is getting great reviews. Whether that translates into the potential envisioned is anyone’s guess. Time will tell.

A few years ago Malcolm Gladwell (with whom I often disagree, and who has crossed some unforgivable ethical lines, so grain of salt) had an interesting piece on Ted Turner and other billionaires. Gladwell reviews Michel Villette and Catherine Vuillermot’s “From Predators to Icons.” His takeaway: “The truly successful businessman, in Villette and Vuillermot’s telling, is anything but a risk-taker. He is a predator, and predators seek to incur the least risk possible while hunting.”

I think Cowan-Dewar is in this tradition. I don’t know where he got the financing to start his first company, which was basically a golf tourism business for executives. He appears to have done well in it (the company is still successful), and got to travel to lots of places and meet lots of people with money. He got at least one of his clients, Mike Keiser, to be a financial backer for Cabot Links. The total cost for building the course was $6.54 million, while ACOA put up $2.5 million of that. I assume Keiser was most of the balance, although Cowan-Dewar surely must have had some skin in the game, and the ACOA loans are fully repayable, meaning even if Cabot links fails someone will have to pay them back. (I wish ACOA made those terms public, but it doesn’t.) Still, with partners like Keiser, ACOA, and the jobs fund, Cowan-Dewar’s personal risk appears to be minimal.

So yea, I think he played the game well. He leveraged big money, including taxpayer money, to make a fortune, or at least enough to not have to be present for the day-to-day running of the business.

I guess we’re supposed to bow down to such genius.

Maybe it’s even worth it, in the end. Again, time will tell. What I was trying to get at, however, is that it’s terrible optics for the head of the Tourism Agency not to live in the province. It really is saying, quite clearly, that he doesn’t want to live here, and we’re just the quaint place to go visit and goof off, not like a real place with serious people.



City council (1pm, City Hall)—I’ll be live-blogging the meeting via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.


No public meetings.


I’ve before touched on the issue of slavery in Nova Scotia, but I’ve never seen as detailed an account of slavery in Halifax in particular as is found in The Slave in Canada, a paper by T. Watson Smith read before the Halifax Historical Society in 1898.

As the title suggests, Smith was concerned with slavery everywhere in Canada, and details its origins among the French in Quebec. “In the system of bondage thus instituted in Canada under French rule no change took place through the transfer of the colony to the English crown,” he noted. “It had been provided by the 47th article of the capitulation of Canada in 1760 that all Negroes and Panis [native people taken as slaves in the Detroit area and moved east] should remain in their condition as slaves.”

Smith went on to discuss slavery specific to Halifax:

Slaves were brought into Nova Scotia at an early period. The prevalent impression that they were first introduced into the province by the Loyalists has no foundation in fact…as to the presence of slaves at Halifax a year or two after its settlement there can be no question. A letter written at Halifax in September, 1759, of which copies have been preserved in several families, contains an interesting reference to their employment. The writer was Malachy Salter, Esq., a Halifax merchant, and the person addressed was his wife, then visiting relatives at Boston. Mr. Salter, from New England and previously engaged in the fisheries, had visited Chebucto harbor five years before Cornwallis had arrived to rob it of its attractive Indian name; and soon after the advent of the original English settlers in 1749 he had established himself in business in the new town, where he became one of its first representatives in the colonial legislature, and the leading manager of the affairs of the Protestant Dissenting congregation, of which St. Matthew’s Presbyterian church is the present successor. Through the absence of Mrs. Salter, the good man had learned what husbands are apt to learn only in such cirumstances — that housekeeping or homekeeping has its peculiar worries. Malachy Salter, Jr., and the other little Salters were well and lively; Hagar, the cook — undoubtedly a slave — had done her best to please her master by maintaining his credit as a generous as well as frequent entertainer; but the worthy magistrate had found more than his match in the boy Jack. “Jack is Jack still,” he wrote to Mrs. Salter, “but rather worse. I am obliged to exercise the cat or stick almost every day. I believe Halifax don’t afford another such idle, deceitful villain. Pray purchase a Negro boy, if posssible.”

Smith then dedicated a few paragraphs to the mechanics of the slave trade, and how there was a brisk business between Nova Scotia and the New England colonies. Then he returns to Halifax:

The presence of a young Negro slave in Halifax in 1759 would not have caused any great excitement among its citizens. It is possible that a few Negroes may have accompanied the original settlers of the town over the ocean. The number of unnamed male “servants” connected with the families of certain individuals — ten in one case belonging to that of a shipwright — is otherwise difficult of explanation. Their employment in the work incident to the building of a city on a site so rocky as that selected would be reasonable, while the great number of “slaves or servants for life” — as they were termed in legal documents of that period — to be at all times found in ports of the United Kingdom would render their transfer across the ocean easy of accomplishment. That slaves were present about that period at Halifax, whether from Britain or from New England, is certain, since in September, 1751, when the pressure of building operations had become lighter, the Boston Evening Post advertised: “Just arrived from Halifax and to be sold, ten strong, hearty Negro men, mostly tradesmen, such as caulkers, carpenters, sailmakers and ropemakers. Any person wishing to purchase may inquire of Benjamin Hallowell of Boston.”

In short, Halifax was built by slaves.

Smith went on to exhaustively relate the slaves advertised for sale in Halifax newspapers, the rewards for runaway slaves, slaves found in probate and other records, even in church baptismal records.

In the 18th century, said Smith,

Public opinion had not at any time been unanimous in favor of the [slave] system. Though the traffic in captive Africans for the West Indies and the Southern States had been to some extent in the hands of traders belonging to the New England and Middle States, the general conscience of those sections of the country had never approved of the traffic, and from those sections the earlier slave-holders of Nova Scotia had come. It was owing in part to this cause that wills probated in Halifax and some other counties towards the close of the century contained so many items of enfranchisement.

But there was an explosion in slavery in Nova Scotia as the Loyalists came north, bringing their own slaves.

He concluded:

An important reason for the decline of slavery lay in its inadaptation to a northern climate. The shortness of the season favorable to the products of the earth, and the length of the winter, with its expense of food, clothing and shelter, rendered slavery to any great extent an unprofitable thing in a northern climate…

Slavery would be a too costly thing for Canada to-day; what must it have been a century since? What could Isaac Wilkins do with his slaves among those granite rocks at Point Carleton in Shelburne harbor? or what could Charles Oliver Breuff with his fifteen in Shelburne town? And how John Grant, weary and ill and dispirited by his heavy losses as a Loyalist, and how his gentle wife, who like thousands of women at that sad period had left all other friends to “keep her only unto him,” when they crossed by boat from Mount Denson to Loyal Hill and found their six children safely beside them, must have wondered what they were going to do with that other group — that group of nine dark faces! During the three or four years in which rations of pork and flour were provided for servants equally with their masters the pressure for food supplies was not a so serious matter, but after that period the supply for the appetities of those nine slaves of varying ages, from “Sam” at thirty-three and “Nance” at twenty-nine down to little “Betty” at three, must have been an important question at Loyal Hill. It was just about this time that Captain Grant lessened the burden by disposing of one of the girl slaves, a gift to his daughter Rachel from her Dutch grandfather, to Richard Killo, a Halifax inkeeper.

Nearly half of Smith’s essay is devoted to the legal battles around slavery. In essence, slavery was never specifically legal or illegal in Nova Scotia, but the courts took an increasingly negative view of the institution as time went on.

“The last slave sold on New Haven Green — if not the last sold in Connecticut — was Lois Tritten, born in Halifax in 1799,” noted Smith. “This slave, who bore a family name found in the old records of St. Paul’s church and the Halifax registry of deeds, and who was sold in New Haven in 1824, lived until June 11, 1894.”

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:45am Tuesday. The blue ship right at the mouth of Halifax Harbour is the cruise ship Marina. The two green ships out by Sable Island are the Oakland Express and APL Coral. Off Lunenburg is the Annette, bypassing Nova Scotia on its way to Quebec. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:45am Tuesday. The blue ship right at the mouth of Halifax Harbour is the cruise ship Marina. The two green ships out by Sable Island are the Oakland Express and APL Coral. Off Lunenburg is the Annette, bypassing Nova Scotia on its way to Quebec. Map:

Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, arrived at Pier 41 this morning, sails back to St. John’s this afternoon
APL Coral, container ship, Damietta, Egypt to Fairview Cove West
Oakland Express, container ship, Rotterdam to Fairview Cove East

The Cruise ship Marina arrives at Pier 22 this morning from Saint John. Operated by Oceana Cruises, Marina can carry up to 1,252 passengers, and “blends sophistication with a contemporary flair to create a casually elegant ambiance.”

The rather uninspired name for the boat has a history:

On February 5th 2011, the ship was named in Miami by her godmother Mary Hart, a TV personality known as presenter of Entertainment Tonight. She is also known for her shapely legs, insured for $1 million each because of her other carreer and that is working as a model for a pantyhose-brand. 

Ships have godmothers?

As with the last cruise ship to visit Halifax — the Maasdam, on Friday — the Marina is also coming off a Caribbean tour where Norovirus spread on board. The US Centers for Disease Control reports that it conducted an unannounced inspection of the ship on May 3 in Miami and discovered that 69 passengers and 11 crew had taken ill, suffering from vomiting and diarrhea.

I’m not aware that Canadian authorities make any such unannounced inspections of cruise ships, or any inspections whatsoever.

Writes lawyer Jim Walker:

The Eternal Debate: After each outbreak, the armchair quarterbacks debate how the norovirus outbreak occurred. On one side is the cruise industry and cruise line employees who always blame the passengers. “Those dirty passengers with their filthy fingers” they say “waddling up to the buffet after using the toilet and not washing their hands.” But where is the scientific analysis  by the epidemiology experts?  

The CDC doesn’t even try to figure causation out and the cruise line don’t want the scientists to figure it out.  God forbid that the experts blame the outbreak on contaminated cruise line water or food, or dirty surfaces laden with norovirus particles, or a cook or waiter working while ill with acute GI or inadequate cleaning or air contamination. 

In 2013, ABC News published an interesting article titled Norovirus: Why washing your hands isn’t enough. Here’s a portion of the article:

“It gets in your food, in your laundry, it sticks to plates and it might even float into the air when you flush your toilet . . . .


YouTube video

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Can there be any surprise Irving wants to build out of province. HRM CAO, chair or Tourism, NSBI, building ships? We have shown it’s A-OK to look elsewhere for qualified people. It is obvious the peeps here are just a bunch of unqualified losers.

    Yet we let this happen….

  2. Since the revelation that Cowan-Dewar was moving with family back to Toronto, I was surprised by the reaction. Not of the people, but of the press in what I perceived as really reaching to try and make a non-story into something else.

    I can only assume that much of the negative public outcry comes from a lack of knowledge about the role and function of a board of directors – something about which I know more than most. Of course, when the tone the media takes is “head of tourism for NS ups-sticks and buggers off to Toronto” it’s little surprise that the public reaction is negative. The function of a board is to provide strategic direction and oversight to an organization, something which in this case does not require residence in Nova Scotia, only insight into the tourism industry in Nova Scotia, and an ability and willingness to travel to board meetings – both criteria that I feel Cowan-Dewar meets adequately.

    If there’s a real story here, it would be around whether this is a paid board position, and whether Cowan-Dewar has ties to the Liberal party. The NS Liberals of late seem to have a real taste for taking insiders and their lifelong friends and appointing them to some of the cushtiest jobs in the province. I do not know if that is the case here, but it’s a theme, and much more of a story in my opinion.

  3. 18th century English law was complicated regarding slavery:

    In Shanley v Harvey (1763) 2 Eden 126, a claim was instituted by Shanley as administrator of the estate of his deceased niece.

    Shanley had brought Harvey as a child slave, to England, 12 years earlier and had given him to his niece. She had him baptised and had changed his name. She became very ill and about an hour before her death, she gave Harvey about £800 in cash (a substantial sum in those days), asked him to pay the butcher’s bill[23] and to make good use of the money. After her death, Shanley brought an action against Harvey to recover the money.

    Lord Henley, the Lord Chancellor, dismissed the action, with costs against Shanley. In his judgment he held that as soon as a person set foot on English soil, he or she became free and that a “negro” might maintain an action against his or her master for ill usage, together with an application for habeas corpus if detained. However, such comments were not necessary for the decision in the case, and in law were only obiter dictum and not binding on subsequent courts.

    But there were other precedents, see:

    Iain Taylor

  4. There were slaves in Nova Scotia before the British. I wrote a radio play based on a true story from 1745 that involved several slaves. (Louise was a “Panis,” which I think must be a version of “Pawnee.) Here’s the synopsis:

    IN BOURBON ARMS (1987)

    In 1745, Captaine LaMolitière sells an Indian slave girl named Louise to Jean Seigneur, proprietor of a tavern in Louisbourg. But the girl is pregnant — by her owner — and Seigneur sues. The captain has to make amends; he refunds the purchase price, takes the girl to the Caribbean, and sells her there, along with her child — his own son.

    In 1981, Jack Matheson is in trouble. Louisbourg’s premier merchant, he is locked in a tempestuous marriage with Diana, whose repeated infidelities humiliate him, though he has a mistress of his own. As the recession tightens like a vise on his business, his marriage also moves towards a crisis. Then a hypnotist takes Jack and Diana back to an earlier lifetime, making them confront sins which have never been expiated, guilts which have never been acknowledged. The two stories merge as the two discover who who they are, and who they have been.

    Against a backdrop of imperial conflict for the future of North America, the characters struggle towards an accommodation with their past, in a context they could scarcely have imagined. Sweeping across two centuries, IN BOURBON ARMS moves easily from historical fact to contemporary fiction, from modern Canadian offices to 18th-century Caribbean slave markets, from ocean storms, barbaric cruelty, fortifications and sieges to moments of passion and lyricism. Plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose — and one never truly evades responsibility for what one does.

    IN BOURBON ARMS was produced and directed by John Juliani for the series SEXTET TWO. It was first broadcast in February, 1987.

  5. Donham did a great job of pulling a few quotes from my comments in the Saturday May 9, edition of The Halifax Examiner. If you haven’t read those comments, you can go to that edition and read what I really said.

    1. Thanks. The only cassette player I have is in my car. The car with the manual windows and the crank on the front of it. But I found someone who can do it, so deleted that from the post. Thanks anyway!