We’re doing this all wrong.

That, anyway, is the view of the Halifax Examiner’s “reader engagement strategy” as seen by industry experts. That’s because we don’t have a reader engagement strategy.

I know about this because I’ve sat in on lots of meetings, read lots of industry reports, been cajoled by people who study this stuff.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: We’re supposed to convince you to sign up for “notifications” or an emailed newsletter as a means for identifying who you are, and then using the miracle tools of data analyzing further draw you into a “funnel” of engagement that makes you increasingly part of a constructed community that leads eventually to you giving us your hard earned money. (This is why seemingly every news website has a pop-up window asking you to sign up for notifications.)

Screw that.

Look, I have no desire to turn Examiner readers into mere data points. I don’t want to track you over the internet, don’t want to sell your data. And I certainly don’t want to trick you into subscribing, even if I can gloss that trickery up with pretty words like “engagement” and “community.”

I respect you as readers. You’re smart, and you can certainly smell bullshit a mile away.

So, no pop-ups. No advertising of any kind. You can sign up to get a link to Morning File dropped in your email if you want, but that’s a convenience for you, not us.

Rather, I just tell you straight up: We need your money because your money is what makes this operation work. You give us money, we report. Hopefully, you find our reporting worthwhile, and you keep giving us money.

No need to gloss that up. It’s just the way it is.

And it seems to be working. The Examiner turns nine years old this month, thanks to thousands and thousands of people giving us money.

Every year, we publish the Halifax Examiner’s tax return to show you how we spend that money. I tell you how much I get paid. Ask Mark Lever at Saltwire to tell you how much he gets paid, and he’ll tell you to pound sand. But we here at the Examiner believe in transparency — we advocate for transparency for governments and corporations, and we provide it for ourselves.

I’ll tell you now: we need your money because we’ve been stretched too thin for the past few months. And now we have extra expenses related to fire coverage and other projects in the works.

So, please subscribe.



1. Fires

A firefighter dressed in bright yellow gear holds a fire hose and shoots a spray of water on blackened trees and ground in the woods. Parts of the ground and tree trunks glow orange.
Annapolis Royal volunteer firefighter Jason Rock sprays hot spots in the Birchtown area, Shelburne County, on Saturday.. Credit: Communications Nova Scotia

With this weekend’s rain, the wildfire situation has improved greatly.

The 950-hectare Tantallon Fire is now completely contained, but:

“There is still an extensive amount of work for our firefighters left to do. Given the many variables that our men and women on the ground faced this week, we’re going to take every measure possible to ensure that this is extinguished,” Dave Steeves, a technician of forest resources with the Department of Natural Resources, said. “So, declaring this fire out will likely take some time yet, and it won’t be done until our command team on the ground is fully satisfied with the situation.”

Steeves said their main objective on Sunday was to continue extinguishing hotspots around homes in the area. Firefighters were going from property to property looking for issues and areas of concern.

“Like I said before, things are wet, but just because they’re wet does not mean that we are totally finished in this endeavour,” Steeves said. 

The municipality continues to incrementally rescind the evacuation area — yesterday, for the Glen Arbour subdivision (Phase 1A) and the area east of Stillwater Lake and south of Hammonds Plains Road (Phase 1B).

But on Saturday Steeves told reporters that firefighters “could be here [at the Tantallon Fire] for weeks; we could be here for a couple of months before the incident commander is comfortable in saying this fire is out.

And also on Saturday, the municipality said residents of the “area of significant impact” (the dark orange on this map) probably won’t be able to return to their houses (assuming the houses still exist) for another 10-14 days (in the June 13-17 period).

This morning, municipal parks were reopened, and the Canada Games Centre resumed normal operations because it is no longer needed as an evacuation centre. But through the day today, insurance company reps will be at the Canada Games Centre to meet with evacuees.

In what could perhaps be described as a horse-out-of-the-barn situation, the municipality has begun constructing emergency exits from neighbourhoods in the fire zone:

Within the area impacted by the fires, Savage said the municipality exercised its local state of emergency powers to build two permanent, gravel-gated emergency exits on municipal land. Those will provide additional travel options for residents in case of future emergencies. 

A clearing from the Haliburton Hills subdivision to connect Buckingham Drive to Highway 103 is now under construction. Savage said work on a clearing from the Highland Park subdivision from the end of Sylvania Terrace to Hammonds Plains Road will begin in the coming days. 

“Our planning and development processes now include public safety as a priority in terms of getting people in and out of developments. And a number of these communities which have been in place for a long time probably need more support than they have in terms of getting out,” Savage said. 

New emergency exits are necessary throughout the area; for instance, there are 482 homes in the Indigo Shores subdivision, but just one road out — Margeson Drive. Imagine a wildfire raging through Indigo Shores from the north, cutting off Margeson Drive, and the resulting casualties.

But there’s nothing new about this situation. Bureaucrats at both the municipality and the province have known about the risks for many years, and yet no action was taken to improve emergency exits or to improve the infrastructure needed for fighting fires — there is a dearth of both fire breaks and hydrants throughout the area.

A fire risk map from a PowerPoint presentation prepared by Kara McCurdy, a fire prevention officer with the Department of Natural Resources, as part of a wildland fire risk assessment prepared for the Westwood Hills neighbourhood, apparently in 2016. Credit: Department of Natural Resources

A reader sent me a PowerPoint presentation prepared by Kara McCurdy, a fire prevention officer with the Department of Natural Resources, as part of a wildland fire risk assessment prepared for the Westwood Hills Residents Association, apparently in 2016, although I’m not certain of the date. That PowerPoint presentation included the above map, which shows an “Extreme” fire risk in the centre of Westwood Hills, including at Juneberry Lane, the ignition point for the current fire.

McCurdy is busy at the fire scene and so has not yet responded to my request for comment.

Update, noon, June 5: McCurdy has sent me the following email:

Wildfire Risk assessments are based on the following:

• Fuel type (In Westwood’s case the red area has a higher concentration of softwoods with a dead dying component, density also is a factor)
• Proximity to structures how close those fuels are decrease it’s likelihood of survival
• Landscape practises, bark mulch in flower beds and cedars, junipers or needled shrubs near structure, unmowed grass which was not the case here but a consideration
• Long narrow driveways
• Community recreational use, powerline/towers, access/egress, water supply, visibility of civics, and past fire occurrences are considerations
• Burning appliances such as fire pits, brush piles and campfire locations to forest or combustibles.
• Ember accumulating factors such as peaks and valleys on roof, open gutters, wood piles close to structures, open decking or wooden decking, openings in structure itself, outside furniture or combustible materials left out. 

The Risk assessment was conducted in 2016, that fall after a community structure fire residents were concerned that what if this was a wildfire, the assessment was completed and identified the above, there were priorities identified and a plan was proposed. We completed 20 individual home assessments as a trial and an evacuation plan.  They were awarded the first ever $500 Community Preparedness grants, we did a community info session also. Then I hadn’t heard from them up until this season when they wanted to re-invigorate the topic, I completed a re-assessment here in November of 2022 and we actually had planned a public session Tuesday evening last week, but the wildfire occurred. The community association group has been very active with wildfire preparedness.

The PowerPoint presentation makes good recommendations about how residents can reduce the risk of fire and protect their houses. There are at least two separate sets of rumours about how the fire started; without hard evidence, I won’t repeat those rumours here, but the fact of the fire suggests extreme carelessness in conflict with McCurdy’s recommendations.

Regrettably, people are people. Some people will make bad choices, behave ignorantly and with wild disregard for potential consequences. But that’s where government planning and policies come in. The wildland fires were a disaster waiting to happen, and were perhaps inevitable, only a matter of time. Governments knew this, but did not take action quickly enough to address that inevitability. This will be a focus of my future reporting on the fire.

Barrington Lake Fire

“The Barrington Lake wildfire in Shelburne County continued to burn out of control on Sunday, with 24,980 total hectares involved,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

Dave Rockwood, public information officer for the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) in Shelburne, offered an update from that area. 

He noted that the burnt bridge on the Port Clyde Road is being barricaded. A temporary structure is planned to link up that roadway in “the next week or so.”

During Sunday afternoon’s briefing, Rockwood was also alerted to the reopening of parts of the Highway 103 corridor that had been closed due to the wildfire. He said as of 10am Monday, vehicles can access previously closed portions of the roadway accompanied by escort vehicles.

The province has lifted the ban on travel and activity in the woods, but the burn ban remains in place, along with the enhanced $25,000 fine for violating it.

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2. Nova Scotians’ personal data stolen

A man wearing a navy blue suit, white shirt and grey tie smiles at a podium. In the background are three Nova Scotia flags, coloured blue, yellow and red.
Public Service Commission and Acadian Affairs Minister Colton LeBlanc speaks to reporters in Halifax on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

“The personal information of an unknown number of Nova Scotians has been stolen through a global privacy breach of a file transfer system called MOVEit, which is sold by a company called Ipswitch,” I reported yesterday:

“We’re here today to inform Nova Scotians that personal information has been stolen as the result of a global cybersecurity issue,” said Colton LeBlanc, the minister of Community Services, at a hastily called Sunday afternoon press conference.

“The issue is with a file transfer service called MOVEit, which is used globally by public and private sector organizations,” continued LeBlacnc. “On June 1st, the province was advised by the company that owns MOVEit that there was a critical vulnerability. We immediately took the service offline and installed the security update as instructed and brought the service back online on June 2nd. We became aware that further investigation was needed, so we took down the service once again and cybersecurity experts were called in to assist.”

“At this time, staff are manually going through all of the files that we’re access to identify what information was stolen and who it belongs to,” said LeBlanc. “Before we could begin this process, we needed to be sure that accessing the data wouldn’t further compromise our government systems.” 

MOVEit is used by Nova Scotia Health to transfer patient information between hospitals and doctors and “clients external to the Health network.”

LeBlanc did not say what other government departments use MOVEit, but the Halifax Examiner has been told that Service Nova Scotia and the Justice Department may also use the system.

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3. Regulators stonewall Parliamentary committee on Paper Excellence

Man with grey hair reading aloud from a document on the desk in front of him, with his hands spread in the air, wearing a dark blue suit jacket and tie with a pale blue shirt and a small Ukraine flag folded on his lapel.
NDP MP and natural resources critic Charlie Angus addressing Canada’s minister of natural resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, at the March 21, 2023 meeting of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, and specifically asking questions about Paper Excellence. Credit: Natural Resources (RNNR)

“After grilling Paper Excellence executives last Tuesday about the company’s ownership and opaque corporate structure, on Friday morning the parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources turned its attention to the regulators in Ottawa,” reports Joan Baxter:

Those regulators had approved massive acquisitions by Paper Excellence, which have made it by far the largest pulp and paper player in the country.

The committee members wanted details on the process that led to approval of the recent mergers that have given Paper Excellence control of 21% of the pulp and paper market in Canada, and 22 million hectares of its forests. But those details were not forthcoming.

“Given the testimony we heard today, I have absolutely no faith that due diligence was done to protect the Canadian interest,” Angus told the Halifax Examiner in an interview after the meeting. “And I want to know why.”

“We need to know who actually runs this company, and who does the Canadian government think runs this company,” Angus said. “Did the Canadian government do due diligence in saying it’s okay for this entity to suddenly control 22 million hectares of forests?”

Click here to read “Regulators stonewall Parliamentary committee looking into ownership of Paper Excellence.”

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4. David Johnston

A white man with white hair and a blue suit, smiling.
David Johnston

“Special rapporteur David Johnston serves up the answer Justin Trudeau wanted to hear,” writes Stephen Kimber:

He did the same for Stephen Harper. For decades, in fact, David Johnston has been a ubiquitous fixer/fixture in Canadian politics, helping Canadian prime ministers of Liberal and Conservative persuasions calm various controversies. But, as the latest debate over Chinese government interference in Canadian affairs shows, the world has changed and there is now a limit to the power of his sort of noblesse oblige.

Click here to read “Special rapporteur David Johnston serves up the answer Justin Trudeau wanted to hear.”

I had the privilege of meeting Johnston when he was governor general, during the Michener Awards ceremony in 2012. He was cordial and gracious, and had an open bar besides.

It’s not like we sat for hours in a dank corner of Rideau Hall and ruefully recalled our lost opportunities over shots of rot-gut all night; rather, we exchanged empty pleasantries for 30 seconds as servers thrust plates of hors d’oeuvres between us, which is exactly what the governor general is supposed to do in such cases, and I more or less behaved myself, which is what I was supposed to do in such cases.

Is it fair to make a lasting judgment with just a 30-second exchange? Probably not. But I’d say Johnston should’ve stuck to governor generaling.

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5. Gas prices

The Acadian, and Irving Oil-owned oil tanker, is anchored off Dartmouth in this file photo. Credit: Tim Bousquet

“Driving will be more expensive this summer,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Nova Scotians are well aware that on July 1 a federal carbon tax of 14 cents per litre will be added to the cost of gasoline to encourage a switch to more renewable fuels and vehicles aimed at reducing carbon emissions and slowing the pace of climate change. 

What Nova Scotians may not know is today the Utility and Review Board ( UARB) will consider raising the price of gasoline by an additional 1-2 cents per litre at the same time. 

Click here to read “UARB considers oil companies’ request to raise fuel prices to cover costs of clean air regulations.”

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Investment Policy Advisory Committee (Monday, 12pm, City Hall) — agenda


Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall and online) — agenda



No meetings


Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place and online) — update on Standing Together to Prevent Domestic Violence; with representatives from the Department of Community Services

Human Resources (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place and online) — Review of School Breakfast Programs; and Agency, Board and Commission Appointments; with representatives from Nourish Nova Scotia, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and Calvin Presbyterian Church

On campus

Saint Mary’s


The Sense Archive: This Body of Work (Tuesday, 11am, SMU Art Gallery) — exhibition by Ruth Douthwright, Sally Morgan, and Jessica Winton, presented by Eyelevel Gallery; runs Tuesday-Sunday until June 18.

Mount Saint Vincent


Portals (Tuesday, 11am, MSVU Art Gallery) — From the listing:

This exhibition of new work by Kayza DeGraff-Ford showcases their recent digital experimentation in virtual reality programming. Part of an ongoing story within DeGraff-Ford’s practice, this immersive installation features a cosmic aqua-portal via the humble entry point of bathroom plumbing. Channelling the literary genre of Magical Realism and exploring African diasporic and trans experiences, Portals takes the viewer through a healing wormhole in time.

Tuesday-Sunday until September 1, opening reception Saturday June 10, 1pm.

In the harbour

06:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Saint Croix
06:15: AlgoBerta, oil tanker, arrives at Pier 25 from Montreal
07:30: Horizon Arctic, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 28 from sea
09:15: Seven Seas Navigator, cruise ship with up to 550 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Saint John, on an 11-day cruise from New York to Montreal
12:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
15:30: Manon, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
15:30: One Cygnus, container ship (146,694 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
18:00: Minerva Oceana, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
18:45: Seven Seas Navigator sails for Sydney
21:30: Atlantic Sky sails for New York
22:00: Gotland, cargo ship, sails for Bilboa, Spain
23:00: Tropic Lissette sails for Palm Beach, Florida

Cape Breton
14:30: Bahama Spirit, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Tuzla, Türkiye


The Examiner crew has been working exceptionally hard this past week, and I’m super proud of them.

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  1. “Is it fair to make a lasting judgment with just a 30-second exchange? Probably not. But I’d say Johnston should’ve stuck to governor generaling.”


  2. There is an old road that exits the Westwood hills neighborhood at the end of Wrights Lake Run into the old Bowater lands (now provincial public lands). I believe the bridge over the river was removed and never replaced. The road goes over NSP and provincial lands.
    This could have provided a ‘back door’ if it was functional.

  3. During a candidate “debate” for the 2016 Municipal Election (district 13) residents of Westwood and some volunteer firefighters (I believe) brought up the issue of having a fire route out of that neighbourhood. Too far back to recall the details discussed but i do recall it being a major concern for the residents up there.

  4. Gotta wonder what they do in the HRM planning office, except for planning on running for council, or higher office.

    1. In a lot of very expensive cities, important municipal jobs don’t pay that much. Even a HRM city councilor, at 70-something a year last I checked, would struggle to rent a one bedroom apartment in many parts of Halifax.

      The point of paying these people so little is not to save money; it is to reserve the jobs for the rich. If, to do a job, you need to live in an expensive city on a salary that would ordinarily put you on the streets or in some sort of crappy illegal rental, those jobs are mostly reserved for the rich, who don’t need the salary.