1. An exercise in obfuscation

The Portapique sign on Highway 2 was adorned with a NS tartan sash following the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

I wrote this morning:

The Halifax Examiner is one of eight media organizations that has been petitioning the court to unseal documents related to the RCMP’s investigation of the April 18/19 mass murders.

The documents in question are the “Information to Obtain”s (ITOs) a search warrant, which the RCMP submitted to a court in order to get various search warrants. As well, we hope to get the search warrants themselves, and the “return”s, which are lists of what was seized during the searches.

This is a long and expensive count battle, as federal and provincial Crown attorneys are resisting us at every stage. On May 25, we received redacted versions of the first six (of an expected 20 or so) ITOs. Those ITOs mostly (but not entirely) duplicate each other, and they are heavily redacted. See: “Here’s what the RCMP doesn’t want you to know about the mass murder investigation.”

We pressed on, and last Monday, July 27, the court unsealed a very small number of the redactions in the documents obtained on May 25. The Examiner then published an article I wrote about the newly released information: “Witness told police that mass murderer ‘builds fires and burns bodies, is a sexual predator, and supplies drugs in Portapique and Economy.’”

Thursday, the RCMP released a statement “to provide context to recently unsealed information.”

I went on to deconstruct that RCMP statement.

Click here to read “The RCMP’s statement about the mass murder investigation is an exercise in obfuscation.”

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2. Shrubsall

William Shrubsall

Writes Stephen Kimber:

Serial sexual predator William Shrubsall was sentenced to more prison time in New York last week. How much more? That depends. Not on our parole board, which failed abysmally. But on the willingness of women like T. C., K. C., and Tracy Jesso who continue to make sure Shrubsall’s past — and his potential for harm — will not be forgotten.

Click here to read “Shrubsall: no guarantees.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

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3. Outdoor learning

This outdoor classroom at St. Catherine’s Elementary in Halifax’s west end includes a garden. Photo: Suzanne Rent

“Getting kids outside and into nature to learn has plenty of benefits, but some parents and teachers say they’re not sure how outdoor classrooms and outdoor learning, which the province is encouraging in its back-to-school plan, could work this upcoming school year,” reports Suzanne Rent.

Click here to read “Parents, teachers say Nova Scotia needs a plan for outdoor learning.”

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4. Emancipation Day

A jail cell in the north wing of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“We are a collective of incarcerated Black people — political prisoners held hostage by the state — and our supporters on the outside who are making this statement on Emancipation Day,” reads a statement provided to the Halifax Examiner:

On August 1, African people across the globe celebrate Emancipation Day. This marks the day the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed freeing enslaved Africans across the British colonies, including Canada.

Slavery may be over, but are Black people truly free?

Are Black people free when prisons and jails across this country are filled with Black people? Is slavery even over when Black people clean and work in the kitchens for less than two dollars a day inside federal prisons? When our mothers and grandmothers come to visit us and are turned away and accused of bringing in contraband. When we are transferred across the country against our will when we stand up against unjust conditions. When we have to go on hunger strikes to demand basic human rights.

Are we free when police taser, and shoot, and kill Black people when they are called for wellness checks? Are we free when the off-duty police officer who beat Dafonte Miller with a metal pipe until he lost an eye is convicted only of assault, while his brother was acquitted of all charges? And while they are acquitted, white juries sentence Black men on no evidence for the crime of only having Black skin.

Click here to read “August 1 is Emancipation Day, but are Black people truly free?”

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5. Cunard Block

A 2018 rendering of Southwest Properties’ proposal for the Cunard Block, seen from the harbour. Credit: Contributed

“The city’s Design Review Committee has rejected advice from planning staff and approved an application from Southwest Properties for a 16-storey building on the waterfront,” reports Zane Woodford:

The site is known as the Cunard Block — located on the waterfront along Lower Water Street between Morris and Bishop streets, next to Southwest’s Bishop’s Landing condo development. It’s currently a parking lot. Southwest would lease the land from Develop Nova Scotia, formerly known as Waterfront Development Corporation.

Southwest is proposing a 16-storey building with more than 250 one- or two-bedroom residential units, 90,000 square feet of commercial space and 229 indoor parking spaces.

In a staff report, planner Jennifer Chapman advised the Design Review Committee that the building is too big for the site.

Click here to read “Halifax’s design review committee approves 16-storey waterfront development from Southwest Properties.”

A friend points out that either by design or happenstance, the proposed building looks like a cruise ship crashed into the boardwalk.

Between the dog-awful Queen’s Marque and this new monstrosity, Develop Nova Scotia (the former Waterfront Development) sure has done a number on the waterfront.

The incentives are all wrong for the crown corporation — it’s rewarded for maximizing financial return, rather than for providing and maintaining an enjoyable public space. That’s why it effectively privatizes much of the waterfront via 99-year leases to the private companies that build the monstrosities, while cheaping out on paying workers to clean the boardwalk.

But I have no idea why the people on the Design Review Committee go along with this crap. Is it just that they’re too chummy with the developers? Professional courtesy, as the lawyer joke goes? Do they hope to get future work out of the gig?

Next up is the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which will occupy the last open lot adjacent to the boardwalk. We’ll see what sort of design comes down with that, but I fear that once again, the project will be overbuilt in order to maximize interior space — there won’t be enough setback from the waterfront, and the boardwalk will from one end to the other feel like a tight corridor running around and through privatized spaces. The afternoon sun will be blocked by the large buildings, which will additional create a wind tunnel effect, making the boardwalk uncomfortable, especially in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.

Lots of readers suggest that sea level rise will endanger the new buildings. To that, the developers respond that they’ve made allowance for the expected sea level rise. It remains to be seen if those expectations are adequate, but that issue aside, it means that buildings’ ground floors are elevated, meaning the buildings will loom even more over the boardwalk.

What happens when the sea does rise? At first, the boardwalk will be swallowed whole during storm surges, with the waves breaking at the base of the elevated buildings. And as the sea creeps ever higher, there will be no space to move the boardwalk back to.

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6. Liscombe Lodge

Speaking of Develop Nova Scotia, just as we go to publication, the province is announcing that it has sold Liscombe Lodge to Hearthstone Hospitality for $450,000.

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Photo by Cookie the Pom on Unsplash

Turns out, people read the internet differently.

Some people like traditional webpages, and read them from start to finish. Others, however, have asked us to post every article, in its entirety, on Facebook; they don’t want a link on Facebook, they want the entire article there. Others want the entire articles emailed to them. A surprising (to me) number of people don’t know how to go to the Halifax Examiner home page.

And I’m also aware that a lot of people don’t read the bylines. They think I write everything. I think this is a design issue, and we will soon change the bylines to a different colour, like bright red, and maybe even a different font, with arrows pointing at the bylines.

Then there’s “Morning File.” It was always intended to be easy reading in the morning, a round-up of local news mixed with commentary. On my best days, I’ll riff on some subject, but recently I’ve found I’m just too busy to devote much time to Morning File. Fortunately, Suzanne Rent and Philip Moscovitch have stepped up, and they consistently use this space to dive into subjects they’ve been curious about, or for which they have an interesting perspective.

However, there’s long been a problem built into Morning File: readers don’t read it as intended.

Some people don’t like the format at all. They want each item to be a stand-alone article. Others get upset that the main headline says one thing, while six or seven of the items are about something else. Still others want a navigation bar at the top to get to each item below (which I did for a while, but it looked horrible so I did away with it). Basically, a lot people don’t like, or don’t understand, that Morning File is intended as a full read, from beginning to end.

But there’s another problem people have with Morning File that I’m addressing today.

People complained to me that they wanted to be able to link to specific items, and not tell people “here’s a link, scroll down to number 6,” or whatever.

In response, I made each item its own anchor — that is, if text of the item was at the top of your screen, and you copied the URL, the link would send someone directly to that item.

But then people complained about that — the automatic anchors meant that the “back” function on browsers didn’t work as expected. So I did away with the automatic anchors.

But now people are again complaining that they can’t link to a specific item.

So as an experiment, I’m putting a link to each item at the end of each item. That’s what the “link to this item” thing is all about. I gotta say: I don’t like it. I find it intrusive. But maybe it solves the problem? Let me know what you think. Or, if you have a better solution, let me know about that.

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No meetings.

In the harbour

06:00: Horizon Arctic, offshore supply ship, sails from Dartmouth Cove for sea
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
10:00: USCGC Tahoma, sails from Dockyard for sea
11:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, sails from anchorage for sea
11:00: Maersk Mobiliser, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from the Sable Island field
13:00: Gaia Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Saint John, and isn’t naming an oil tanker “Gaia” precious?
15:30: Grande Torino, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
17:00: Maersk Mobiliser sails for sea
19:00: Gaia Desgagnes moves to Irving Oil
21:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea


Much thanks to the entire Examiner crew for keeping the place running in my absence last week! They did fantastic.

I was called back to work a couple of times during my “week off” — once to write Monday’s article on the search warrants, and then again on Tuesday for an interview that aired Wednesday on Canadaland. But I did manage to work in the garden, take lots of naps, and over the long weekend I relaxed in a borrowed cottage next to the ocean, and even found an amazing sandy and nearly deserted beach I had not known about before.

So while I didn’t have a full week off, I learned the value of even some short down time, and I will in the future aim to (mostly) take weekends off. Hey, I run a business, so I’m always a bit “on,” but that doesn’t mean I can’t spend a day here and there goofing off.

The time off-ish also allowed me to think about how the Examiner has grown this year, and to appreciate the excellent reporting we’ve produced. And we could not have done it without subscribers and those who made donations to the Examiner.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe.

And if you want to make a donation, you can do so via the PayPal button below. We also accept e-transfers, cheques, and donations with your credit card; please contact iris “at” halifaxexaminer “dot” ca for details.

Thank you!

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

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  1. While we’re talking about the site and such, I would love it if I could get Morning File sent to me as an email – the summary-with-links format would be great for an email.

  2. I love the Halifax Examiner. True investigative journalism is hard to find in our era and you guys do it brilliantly.

  3. There’s an Aesop’s fable about trying to make everyone happy.

    Trying to do it killed the mule. Don’t kill the mule.

  4. I like the Halifax Examiner just as it is. There’s an old saying something along the lines of “you can’t please all of the people all of the time…..” Keep up the excellent reporting and ignore those who complain. 🙂

  5. Your main page does not say Morning File. The only way I know that it is is the News 1. Why not just say Morning File?

    It is not a big problem for me but I am sure it is for many.

    1. When it’s a Morning File, right under the headline it says “Morning File“, and the date. And below that is the author’s byline, in this case, Tim Bousquet. And you can see a separate page with all of the recent articles listed by clicking “Home” on the black menu bar. That takes you to the Halifax Examiner’s homepage. Hope this helps.

      1. It is true though, that on the homepage (using Firefox at least,) there is no distinction between the Morning File and any other article. You can only see the byline of the writer, so with the large amount of content lately, it is a bit confusing. It would be nice to be able to see which is the Morning File without having to click on it first. Lately I’ve been around enough to usually see articles as they are published, but if checking in at the end of the day the Morning File is always a good place to start.

      2. It only says “morning file” on the page once you’ve open it; it does not differentiate the morning file from other articles on the home page. On a day like today, when there are several new articles (which is a good thing!), both the summary on the homepage and the title link in the side bar only show the headline, the date and the author and one has to guess which is the “morning file” article. This is sometimes made more confusing by the fact that the morning file article often has a similar headline or the same author as one of the other new articles that is being featured in the morning file. It’s not a huge problem to me but it’s a little frustrating and if the morning file headline was always in red text or began the title with asterisks or included the words “Morning File” it would make things easier to distinguish from the home page. (I use Chrome BTW)

        I think the direct links that were added to today work much better than the previous method for embedding links to individual stories.

  6. Speaking of links, I think there’s an error here. The RCMP link under item 1 links to the shrubsall article.

    1. You’re right, and that’s my fault. The link was missing when we published, then I linked to the wrong article, but now it’s good…

  7. Your website is great. Love the “full read” concept. Do like the “link to” addition. But, as one graphics guy to another I agree it is intrusive. But sometimes utility matters more than design. Anyway, what you are doing is great. Keep it up.

  8. I have no issues at all with the platform for The Examiner. Sure there could be tweaks and bells and whistles, but not essential. I follow the examiner because it is reliable, credible and actually supports journalism. I couldn’t care less if it blinks flashes or toots when I open a page. Content is all that matters.

  9. There is a reason why there is a whole production department distinct from the content department for dead tree media.

    Its not something you should worry about, which is to say, you should pay someone else to worry about it.

    Like the discussion about signs, if you need a sign to explain something, you’ve already failed. Design is hard; its not just just pasting content into a stock wordpress site. I could offer some suggestions, but its as much personal taste and ancient 1000-level design rules as it is rearranging the deck chairs – some cohesive usable design review is desirable.

  10. Haven’t had a problem yet with the site but maybe I’m too web illiterate to notice a problem. Jeez, stay off of FB, there lies madness.

  11. Regarding the Southwest Properties horror proposed for the water front: These are the members of the committee – Waye Mason is up for re-election. Let him know you will vote him out unless he votes against the Southwest Properties project. Second, form a public coalition and hire a lawyer to defeat theft and destruction of public lands. Covid-19 viral spread is very much connected to the abuse of our environment and corporate greed. This is a very good example of it. The idea that building up the waterfront will lead to betterment of Halifax and the province is seriously out-dated thinking.

    Sarah MacDonald – Chair, Halifax Peninsula PAC Members of Halifax Peninsula PAC
    Tyson Simms – Planner
    **Waye Mason – Deputy Mayor, District 7**
    Sharon Chase – Legislative Assistant Alden Thurston – Planning Technician Keith Tufts – Applicant (Lydon Lynch Architects)

    1. Developers rule the roost now.

      I live next to the black hole that is supposed to be a development on Robie Street. Word is that squatters have been living in the 3 months now vacanted buildings. I suffered 2 break-ins in a building I have lived in for over 20 years.

      Will the developer take responsibility? Of course not. I am an externality. If I have to pay for a new TV or bike that’s a small price to pay if it means the developercan maximize their profit. Actually does something on the site or heaven forbid, hire security on an entire city block of empty buildings? That would cut into the bottom line.

      Of course the city, being on the side of the developer instead of it’s citizens, doesn’t want developers questioned or harmed lest they stop investing in the shitty buildings they are putting up.

  12. I miss the days when this website was so progressive the back button didn’t work.

    The new developments by the waterfront are awful. Queen’s Marque looks like some sort of fortification put in place by alien invaders. Walking past it on the crowded sidewalk feels intimidating – I suppose it would be neat to be one of the 100 or so people who will get to live there, but considering that a 1 bedroom on the street side starts at $1500 (a steal compared to $2600 for the ocean side), I’m willing to bet that they have other options.

    1. Jokes aside, the layout is fine, the back button thing did really annoy me, but ultimately having no ads >>>>> all other layout issues. Even if this looked like a Geocities page from the 00s with dancing babies and Comic Sans MS and all, I’d still stay subscribed.

  13. ignore the whiners, every outlet has them. What do they expect for $10 a month – the Washington Post ?