1. Densely calculated density

In a Herculean reporting effort, Jennifer Henderson dives deep into the Centre Plan and what it means in terms of the dollar values in the deals the city makes with developers. In particular:

In return for “public benefits” — affordable housing units, public art, and the like — the city trades “density bonuses” that allow developers to build higher and bigger than planning rules would otherwise allow. But a study shows that on just six big developments downtown, the city lost a potential $8 million in public benefits because it low-balled calculations.

Click here to read “Densely calculated density.”

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2. The fiscal disaster “good news story” of the new convention centre

The Grafton Street Glory Hole, with the convention centre above it. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday, Halifax council discussed the looming deficits of the convention centre account. As a reminder, here’s what I reported Friday:

The city expected to have a $1.8 million deficit on its Halifax Convention Centre account this year, but that figure has nearly doubled — to $3.5 million. And a revised analysis of the account shows that what had been a projected $5.89 million surplus after 10 years is now a $17.78 million deficit. That’s a swing of $23.67 million. Worse still, even that forecast relies on rosy assumptions.

But, as I added Monday, this is just the beginning:

And that’s just the tax receipt side — money coming in from the Nova Centre, which we now know is woefully less than promised. We don’t yet know what the operational losses of the new convention centre — money going out — will be, although those payments out will almost certainly be much, much more than promised.

Yesterday, councillor Waye Mason asked about the operational costs, which were pegged at $660,000 a year when the city signed the agreement with the province for the convention centre. In response, staff told Mason that Events East, the operator of the convention centre, has yet to provide the city with either a budget or an annual report, and there’s no telling when those documents will come.

I don’t like to make predictions, especially about the future, but I can say this with near certainty: The operational costs for the new convention centre will be more than $660,000 a year. Probably, much more. Potentially, hugely more. That potential liability, in fact, is unlimited.

Mayor Mike Savage. Photo: Halifax Examiner

But worry not! In a scrum outside the meeting, Mayor Mike Savage downplayed fiscal concerns about the convention centre. “Let’s not overreact to this,” Savage told reporters. “I do not think it’s a disaster for the city. I think it’s a good news story for the city.”

I’ll publish the audio of the scrum with Savage soon.

3. More on BP

The Seadrill West Aquarius.

Monday, I noted that “the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) has given BP permission to prepare for drilling (but not yet to actually drill) on the Scotian Shelf. Specifically, the approval allows BP to position the oil rig Seadrill West Aquarius in Nova Scotian waters.”

What I wasn’t aware of at the time was that the West Aquarius was already en route to Nova Scotian waters before the announcement was made.

“An offshore oil rig is headed for the Scotian Shelf, although it’s not yet been authorized by Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) to start drilling,” reported CKBW Radio on Thursday, two days before the CNSOPB approval:

The West Aquarius, owned by Seadrill and contracted by BP is enroute from Bay Bulls, Newfoundland and Labrador.

It was spotted south of the Avalon Peninsula on the Marine Traffic website today [Thursday].

CNSOPB has confirmed that they have not yet authorized drilling.

“No work or activity related to oil and gas may be conducted in the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore area without the explicit approval of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board,” reads an email from the board.

A spokesperson for BP Canada confirmed they’ve begun moving the rig and acknowledged they are awaiting authorization from the board.

John Davis, director of Clean Ocean Action Committee, told Acadia Broadcasting the fact that the rig is on the move shows BP believes their authorization is a done deal.

“BP is so convinced that they will have their approval that they’re prepared to spend up 2.5 million dollars… to get the rig in place,” says Davis.

He says it’s costing BP over $260,000 a day to move the rig and it will take around ten days to get to the Scotian Shelf.

The early move and the CNSOPB approval are the subject of a demonstration to be held today at 1pm at Founders Square. The Council of Canadians is organizing the demo as part of its Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS); in a press release, the organization says it “will be joined by fishers, tourism operators, and treaty rights holders.”

4. Freedom isn’t free

Part of my routine for writing Morning File is to daily check various government websites for new activity — provincial and federal tender offers, orders in council, and the Freedom of Information Office’s disclosure log.

That last is a bit of reporting theft — we reporters can see what each other has been working on, as the FOI office posts the disclosures given to other reporters two weeks after they’ve been released. More importantly, citizens can use the site to easily make their own Freedom of Information requests, pay the $5 application fee, track their requests, get an electronic record when the information is released, and like reporters do, look at other releases.

You last ran across the results of my daily search on Tuesday, April 3, when I reported that the province is “forgiving” a loan it had extended to Cooke Aquaculture for the establishment of a research chair at Dalhousie University. Even before I published Morning File that day, I noticed that the FOI site was down. I assumed it was just a momentary glitch, or it was down in order to install an update. But no, the site is still down.

“Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information and Privacy web portal has been down for six days and there’s no word from the minister responsible whether there’s been a privacy breach,” reports Keith Doucette for the Canadian Press:

Internal Services Minister Patricia Arab would only say when asked about a breach Tuesday that an “issue” was found last Thursday and technicians are working as quickly as possible to solve it.

“I really only know that there is an issue and when we have more information we can come back and let you know,” Arab told reporters.

Arab was asked whether there was something she knows that she can’t make public at this point.

“We take privacy and security very seriously, but all I can say was there was an issue and we’ve taken it down,” she said. “The FOIPOP office is still running, so requests are still being processed.”

Arab said new requests can be submitted via email or in writing and they can be checked through a phone call to the Office of Information Access and Privacy.

My immediate concern is that my credit card information is stored on the site, and I worry that it’s been hacked and stolen. Alex Quon at Global unpacked the issue in a series of tweets last night:

I’m not sure why the government has decided to deflect answers on this. At some point someone is going to FOI this entire thing (ironic) and it’s going to look even worse if it shows internal services knew what was going on and decided not to tell anyone. #NovaScotia #Cdnfoi

— Alexander Quon (@AlexanderQuon) April 10, 2018

5. Cabot Links and Inverness Beach Park

Ben Cowan-Dewar, owner of Cabot Links.

Neal Livingston announced yesterday that he is asking the Supreme Court to intervene in the Inverness Beach Park issue. He is asking the court for:

1. A declaration the Inverness Beach Park has been dedicated for public use and accepted by the public for that use; 
2. A declaration that Cabot Links’ restriction of the public use of the Inverness Beach Park is impermissible; 
3. An injunction preventing any further restrictions of the public use of the Inverness Beach Park.

The court will hear the matter next Tuesday through Friday at the Port Hawkesbury Justice Centre.

6. Pedestrians struck

A police release from yesterday afternoon:

At 3:10 p.m. police received a report of a collision involving a Metro Transit Bus and two pedestrians at the intersection of Spring Garden Road and Dresden Row

The two women who were struck by the bus have been transported to the hospital by EHS with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.

5. Scotia Green Dispensary

A Scotia Green Dispensary ad for “Gosh” on

Yesterday, Erica Butler reported that Scotia Green Dispensary had been robbed at gunpoint. Investigating the robbery, police busted an employee in the store for trafficking. From a police press release issued this morning:

UPDATE: Police Investigation into Robbery leads to Drug Search – Halifax

At 9:39 p.m., 9 April, Halifax Regional Police responded to a report of a Robbery at the Scotia Green Dispensary, 5982 Spring Garden Road Halifax, by two males with a firearm. The suspects fled on foot and were not located. No one was injured during the robbery.

As a result of the ongoing investigation members of the Integrated General Investigation Section and Guns & Gangs Unit at 5:25 p.m. 10 April, executed a Controlled Drugs & Substance Act Search Warrant at the Scotia Green Dispensary, 5982 Spring Garden Road Halifax.

Police have arrested a 33 year-old male, who is an employee of Scotia Green Dispensary, and will be facing charges of Trafficking Controlled Substances.

I fear we’re getting to a point where people won’t report crimes, even violent crimes, because they think they’ll get arrested on silly cannabis charges.

7. Advertorials

“Tim Bousquet of the Halifax Examiner often wonders how newspapers like the Chronicle-Herald expect to sell ads when they’re giving the stuff away in the form of puff piece ‘business/stories,’” writes Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator:

I’ve been noticing the same trend at our own beloved Cape Breton Post, which is not surprising, given both the Herald and the Post are SaltWire publications.

I think the “news” story in Thursday’s Post about the online shopping service at Atlantic Superstore is one of the more egregious examples of the genre. What should have been a big Superstore ad telling people they can now order their groceries online, have a “personal shopper” assemble them, then pick them up without leaving the comfort of their vehicles was instead treated as “news,” even though it’s actually a slightly inferior version of the kind of grocery delivery service I’m told most stores on the island used to offer 50 years ago, when you could phone in your “order” and have it delivered.

The funny thing about this type of story is that the reporter writing it inevitably throws all pretense of that much-vaunted mainstream news value, “objectivity,” out the window. The business at the heart of the story, no matter what kind of business it is, is presented as a positive thing because BUSINESS.

The Superstore article is probably no worse than any of the other business “stories” we’ve been treated to lately, but it makes the unforgivable (to me) error of ending with a quote incorporating the word “hubby.” (Although how great is it that the woman preparing the groceries for pickup is named Pickup?):

One of the personal shoppers at the Sydney River store says her daughter lives in Halifax with a husband and two young children, who take advantage of the service all the time.

“She loves it,” said Atlantic Superstore employee Margaret Pickup.

“The hubby picks up the groceries after work and can be home an hour-and-a-half early.”

Click here to read “Advertorials.”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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Cogswell District Engagement Booth (Wednesday, 11am, Centre Court, Scotia Square) — all about Cogswell.


Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Cogswell District Engagement Booth (Thursday, 12pm and 6pm, Halifax North Memorial Public Library) — all about Cogswell.

Centre Plan – Discuss Package A (Thursday, 6pm, NSCC Waterfront Campus the FABULOUS RAY IVANY MEMORIAL AND CELEBRATORY CAMPUS) —  info here.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21099 (Thursday, 7pm, Cafeteria, Basinview Drive Community School, Bedford) — a thing on Fourth Street in Bedford.


No public meetings today or Thursday.

On campus



Thesis Defence, Interdisciplinary Program (Wednesday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Dennis Wong will defend his thesis, “Inferring Orthologous Relationships and Gene Transfer in Microbial Genomes and Metagenomes.​”

Medical Sciences Honours Symposium (Wednesday, 9:30am, Theatre B, Tupper Link) — Honours research projects from 16 different departments across Dalhousie.

200 Years of Dress (Wednesday, 12pm, Patrick J. Martin Council Chambers, Student Union Building) — until Saturday, an exhibit of costumes and clothing from the Theatre wardrobe and other donors.

2016 Patrick Prize Award Seminar (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Mitesh Nagar from the University of Massachusetts Medical School will speak on “Finding Keys to the ‘PAD’ Lock: Unraveling the Regulation of Protein Arginine Deiminases.”

Preserving the Rights of Aging Prisoners (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 2-29 Lecture Theatre, NSCC Cumberland Campus, Springhill) — Adelina Iftene will talk about the challenges older people face in receiving adequate health care in prison and how this devalues the rights guaranteed to prisoners by law. Rescheduled from March 21.


Kewen Wu

Search List in Online Marketplace: Two User Experience Studies (Thursday, 11:30am, Auditorium, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Kewen Wu from the University of Saskatchewan will speak. His Abstract:

In online marketplace, search list is a major portal for product seeking (buyers) and product presentation (sellers). When buyers are viewing a product in a search list, their decision making process is not only affected by presentation of the product, but is also affected by presentation of other products. This talk will present two studies on buyers’ perception towards two components (pictures and prices) of a search list, respectively. Regarding product pictures, online marketplace sellers usually add product highlights into the product picture, they expect buyers to know the product well by just viewing the picture. However, a search list with complex pictures usually causes information overload problem, while a simple picture in the list can easily attract buyers’ attention. As for the product price, it is an important indicator of quality. In a marketplace where reliable information is limited, the distribution of prices shown in a search list signals risk. For a given product, both high and low prices seem to be suspicious. In this two studies, controlled experiments were used to explore how visual complexity and complexity contract impact buyers’ shopping experience, and how price dispersion affects buyers’ perception of risk and generation of trust. Practical implications and future work will also be discussed.

M. Ram Murty Photo:

The Central Limit Theorem in Algebra and Number Theory (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — M. Ram Murty from Queen’s University will speak. His abstract:

The central limit theorem is certainly one of the pinnacles of 20th century mathematics that has transformed human civilization extending its influence outside mathematics and now touching every other scientific discipline and beyond. I will give a short historical survey and then highlight how the central limit theorem has inspired the development of probabilistic number theory and probabilistic group theory. At the end, I will report on some work with Kumar Murty and recent joint work with Arpita Kar and Neha Prabhu regarding arithmetical aspects of Fourier coefficients of modular forms.​

Department of Urology Research Day (Thursday, 4:30pm, Theatre B, Tupper Link) — keynote speaker Colin P. N. Dinney will speak on “Emerging Therapy for BCG Unresponsive NMIBC.”

New Developments in Mali and the Sahel (Thursday, 6:30pm, Lindsay Room, Halifax Central Library) — a roundtable discussion with Bruno Charbonneau, Shelly Whitman, and David Black.

In the harbour

2:30am: Arsos, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
4:30am: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
6am: Falcom Maryam, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
6am: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from San Juan, Puerto Rico
6am: Troms Sirius, fire fighting vessel, arrives at Pier 9 from Saint John
10:30am: Helga Spirit, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage for bunkers from Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, Scotland
4:30pm: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
5pm: Helga Spirit, oil tanker, sails from anchorage for sea


I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

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

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  1. Mayor Savage ‘Polishing a Turd’ is a quaint way of describing maladministration in HRM

    1. Sounds like it wasn’t a hack per se, but rather information was left unsecured and could be accessed by knowing where to look. Not good. Hopefully the system was at least set up to not actually store credit card information (it’s possible to accept cc’s without actually storing the cc number).

  2. The mayor is the self proclaimed marketer in chief. You don’t market bad news, you spin it.

    He will also be long gone before the fiscal shit hits the fan.

    1. This is a good case for hereditary rule with the possibility of a supermajority referendum to depose the mayor & the mayoral family.

        1. Another Caper who went down the road to fame and fortune in the oil industry. A great choice for chairman of the board.

  3. Alex Quah is saying something different than the articles post by AllNovaScotia News and the Chronicle Herald… Alex says existing and new FOIPOP requests are not being processed; the other articles say it is just the online access portal is down… there is a big difference.

    I get really tired of reporters speculating rather than reporting the facts… anyone who has programmed a front end to a database knows that it an processing issue if found, one takes the interface offline until the issue is fixed and investigating a problem that deals with thousands of lines of programming code takes time. There seems to be a predominant attitude that the government is lying when they are simply following an internal process to solve a problem. Six days to fix a problem is not a big issue; this is not a life and death situation…. and perhaps there is a good reason why public disclosure of what is going on behind the curtain is in the best interest of the public.

    Patience does not seem to be a virtue that is commonly found in the news media industry. This lack of patience contributes greatly to public stress and concern… report more facts, and less speculation

  4. Is anyone surprised? These big puffed-up municipal ego projects are almost always economic disasters. (In the tiny city where I live, we are still stuck with a Civic Centre built in 1991 that runs an operating deficit of over a million bucks a year, not counting the capital expenses for repairs and upgrades…for a population of about 6,500 with no industrial property tax base.)

    These things always cost more than predicted to build and later maintain and keep upgraded; they always cost more to operate than was promised; they never seem to generate the revenue promised by the consultants; and the economic spin-offs and societal benefits predicted rarely materialize.

    The studies from consultants produced to justify them are full of insupportable or mysterious numbers, wild predictions with no data to back anything up, logical fallacies, and plain boosterism bullshit. Yet we fall for this over and over and over again. It is like the monorail episode on the Simpsons – we can’t be “world-class” without these projects, it seems.

    Better public money is spent on affordable housing, transportation, and public infrastructure for everyone. If developers think they can make an honest buck on a megaproject, then subject to reasonable zoning and land use restrictions, put up your own money, take the risk, and have at ‘er. Why do governments keep falling for this kind of thing.

  5. “I fear we’re getting to a point where people won’t report crimes, even violent crimes, because they think they’ll get arrested on silly cannabis charges.”

    Well, legalization is getting closer (and I am getting closer to being proven right that the federal Liberals will use legalization as part of their election platform for 2019 – although the PC’s could short circuit that by promising to go ahead with the legalization agenda if they win), so people with personal amounts of cannabis shouldn’t have much to worry about in our bold, bleary-eyed future. Lots of dispensaries bend the rules right now – and you can say that the rules are bad – but you know, play stupid games, don’t call the cops if someone breaks the rules.

  6. The FOI program is so Orwellian that it is a joke. Rather than the stated purpose of facilitating information access, it is designed to do the opposite.
    There is far, far too much information in government hands being kept secret. Other than personal information, medical records etc. It should ALL be accessible by default. This secrecy is how we end up with financial disasters like The Halifax Convention Centre and other boondoggles.