On campus
In the harbour


1. Purcells Cove backlands

Colpitt Lake in the Purcells Cove backlands. Photo: Tim Bousquet
Colpitt Lake in the Purcells Cove backlands. Photo: Tim Bousquet

Allan Shaw, the chair of the board for The Shaw Group, made an appearance at yesterday’s city council meeting.

This in itself was unprecedented. The Shaw group is the largest development company in HRM — it owns Clayton Developments, Prestige Homes, Clayton Brick, and a half-dozen other “Shaw” branded construction companies — but Shaw himself has kept a low profile. I’ve never seen him in public before, and certainly not at a Halifax council meeting. In the past, Shaw has sent his minions to do the dirty political work, usually Shaw VP Mike Hanusiak.

Allan Shaw
Allan Shaw

Understand that Halifax council routinely, almost automatically, declines to have people or organizations speak directly to council. Typically, such requests for presentations are redirected to a subcommittee so the full council doesn’t have to deal with them — aside from the various city-related groups like Halifax Partnership, I think it’s been seven or eight years since the full council heard directly from an outside group.

But yesterday, on a motion by Steve Adams, the councillor for Spryfield, council agreed to hear from Shaw.

Developer barks, council jumps.

The reason for Shaw’s unprecedented appearance? The Purcells Cove backlands. A short history: the backlands have been something of a jewell for area residents, a relatively untouched wilderness a short hike from Spryfield and Purcells Cove. I’ve hiked through the backlands a dozen times myself. In the 2008 Regional Plan, the backlands were declared an “urban reserve” area, meaning that they might be developed one day, but not before the 25-year planning horizon of the plan, so not before 2033 at least. In 2011, however, The Shaw Group bought the land, and Clayton Developments began applying for development permits. The public resisted those moves, and the Backlands Coalition was formed; last year, council rejected Clayton’s proposal.

Shaw showed up at council yesterday with Craig Smith, of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the two had a proposal: the city should buy the backlands and make it a wilderness park. Shaw told council that the deal was being brokered by none other than lobster purveyor John Risley, who made his billions in large part by getting governments to do his bidding.

Richard Butts. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Richard Butts. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Shaw also mentioned that his company has been working with the NCC on the backlands proposal “for over a year,” meaning that discussions started back when Richard Butts was CAO of HRM. Butts is now president of Clayton Developments. I don’t know exactly what it is, but something stinks here.

Details were skimpy, well, nonexistent, but Smith and Shaw told council that the city would have to act immediately, or Risley and the NCC would take their ball and go home and Shaw would presumably do something horrible to the backlands.

Council voted 15-1 (Barry Dalrymple dissenting) to direct staff to write a report, and the whole discussion will go behind closed doors at a future council meeting.

A picture I took while canoeing through Birch Cove Lakes with Chris Miller.
A picture I took while canoeing through Birch Cove Lakes with Chris Miller.

What worries me about this is that people have been working for over 20 years to protect the Birch Cove Lakes – Blue Mountain wilderness behind Bayers Lake, and have been making good progress the last several years. Money — especially money for wilderness parks — is limited, and I fear that if the city jumps at the Shaw/NCC proposal, it will do so by diverting money from the BCLBM park.

I exchanged email last night with Chris Miller of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Miller has been a big supporter of protecting BCLBM and making it a wilderness park. We’ve hiked and canoed through the wilderness a few times together.

Miller is much more diplomatic than I. “I presume the city is working toward a final deal [on Birch  Cove Lakes – Blue Mountain] that will include a combination of things to acquire the land, including density bonus credits [with developers], land swaps, land donations, and probably some purchase amount. There are insufficient funds in the current City budget to acquire the BCL lands without a special purchase, so i don’t think what happened today will necessarily delay BCL any more than its already been delayed. The process seems confusing tho, but I’m delighted if the Backlands will be acquired for conservation.”

But I know how power works in this town, and when John Risley and Allan Shaw want something, they typically get it. We’ll see who they trample over to get it, I guess.

2. Sunshine List

“Nova Scotia’s nurses want their names removed from a public list that highlights public sector employees who make more than $100,000 a year, reports Steve Berry for the CBC:

Members of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union said they shouldn’t be on the so-called Sunshine List — which is legislated under the Public Sector Compensation Disclosure Act — because much of the money they make is through overtime.

“The act has the unintended effect of publicly shaming nurses whose only offence is to work overtime hours, offering a solution to a problem they did not create,” Shannon Sidney, a nurse at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, told [Health Minister Leo] Glavine during the union’s annual general meeting. 

“Can you commit to removing the names and locations of nurses on the list so that scrutiny is directed where it belongs?”

The nurses don’t seem to understand the point of public disclosure, which is that public’s money should be fully accounted for — we can’t begin to have an informed discussion about the best allocation of limited public money until we know where the money we spend is going. We can’t go exempting this or that person from disclosure because they are deemed more worthy and for some reason beyond our scrutiny.

And why should well-paid people be ashamed of their pay? If they’re worth it, if they’re providing a needed and valued public service (as nurses undoubtedly do), then there’s no problem.

If anything, the Sunshine List doesn’t go far enough. Already, anyone working directly for a government department who is paid over $25,000 has their pay automatically disclosed to the public. You can find them all here. For instance, just to pull a name at random from the disclosure, I see that a guy named Rod Dykeman, whose Facebook page tells me is a Vehicle Compliance Officer for the Department of Transportation, and who lives and works in Truro, got paid $59,000 and change last year. Good for him. No doubt we need Vehicle Compliance Officers — I have no idea what they do, but I presume if they didn’t exist, vehicles would be un-complying and horrible things would happen. Dykeman is a contributing member of society, doing needed work and making us safer. Why should anyone begrudge Dykeman his pay?

Then again, why should Dykeman’s pay be publicly disclosed but nurses’ pay not be? Why do we make a distinction between someone working directly for a government department and someone working for a government-funded agency? Both are getting paid with public dollars. It makes no sense to exempt agency employees from the full disclosure list.

The Sunshine List was a half measure — only those getting paid more than $100,000 have their pay disclosed. In the spirit of full accountability, however, all public employees’ pay should be disclosed.

And yes, what’s good for the goose is good for, er, the other goose. At the end of the calendar year, I’ll publish a complete transparency report for the Examiner — who got paid what, and other financial details. I can tell you this: last year, the Examiner paid me $13,000. The Examiner pays its employees and freelancers more than it pays its owner. I hope to make a bit more this year, but I doubt I’ll be buying a boat, alas.

Click here to help Tim buy a boat.

3. Tyrell Dechamp

Tyrell Dechamp
Tyrell Dechamp

Police yesterday issued the following release:

Investigators with the Special Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division are asking for the public’s help locating a man wanted for being unlawfully at large. 

Twenty-six-year-old Tyrell Peter Dechamp was considered unlawfully at large when he didn’t return to his Halifax address by his 11 p.m. curfew on Tuesday, April 19. A Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued last evening for Dechamp in relation to this matter. 

Dechamp is described as a light-complected black man, 5’9”, 210 lbs., with a stocky build, brown eyes and short black hair. Dechamp has a history of violent offences and is considered armed and dangerous. Members of the public should not approach him or try to take matters into their own hands, and should call 9-1-1 if they see him. 

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Tyrell Dechamp is asked to contact police at 902-490-5020. Anonymous tips can be sent to Crime Stoppers by calling toll-free 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), submitting a secure web tip at or texting a tip – Tip 202 + your message to 274637.

We recognize that the timing of this charge coincides with recent violent incidents in our community, however, we cannot identify persons of interest or suspects in ongoing investigations. Officers are actively investigating the recent incidents, pursuing all investigative avenues and continuing to reach out to community to address and prevent future acts of violence.

Despite the last paragraph, it’s impossible not to note that the evening Dechamp failed to report, April 19, was the same evening two men were gunned down on Gottingen Street.


1. Poets Laureate

El Jones at Grand Parade Sunday.
El Jones at Grand Parade Sunday.

At a ceremony in City Hall welcoming new Poet Laureate Rebecca Thomas, out-going Poet Laureate and Examiner contributor El Jones read her poem, “I know what you see“:

Click above to hear El Jones deliver her poem.

Halifax's new poet laureate, Rebecca Thomas
Halifax’s new poet laureate, Rebecca Thomas

Thomas also read a couple of new poems, but they’ve not yet been posted on the internet. She reads with her whole body, expressive and animated. I enjoyed her poems.

2. Tendai Miyoba Chiganze-Handahu

I’ve been asked to post Tendai Miyoba Chiganze-Handahu’s speech at Grand Parade Sunday. So here it is:

YouTube video

3. Taking tiny steps towards transit priority, slowly

Conceptual layout for creating a transit-only toll lane on the MacDonald Bridge. The project would cost $12,000, and is slated for 2018.
Conceptual layout for creating a transit-only toll lane on the MacDonald Bridge. The project would cost $12,000, and is slated for 2018.

“At long last, Halifax staff have finalized a list of small fixes to our streets and intersections that will start getting our buses through traffic faster,” writes Erica Butler:

This is great news for transit riders, and will collectively save them tens of thousands of hours on buses every year.

Unfortunately, the timeline to implement these fixes is long: five years in total to design and build 11 relatively minor projects, like designating a bus-only toll lane on the Macdonald Bridge, widening roads to allow for transit-only queue jump lanes, and changing the rules to let buses turn or go straight where currently prohibited.

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

4. The Borg


Some people are saying that the new buildings downtown are too large and out of scale,” writes Andrew Burke. “Others are saying they will bring lots of new visitors downtown.”

5. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

I will not try to convince anyone of the superiority of the facility being lost. It is there to be utilized. Those concerned owe it to those affected to look again.

I have volunteered at Bridgeport school for many years. I have been to practically every school and spent countless hours in practically every gymnasium covered by the Cape Breton-Victoria School Board.

I am well aware of how fortunate I was to be provided the opportunity to entertain hundreds of children and their parents in our gymnasium. How rewarding it was to see the pride in the children I coached showing off their school and removing misconceptions of our neighbourhood. Outside of my own family, this facility provided me with my proudest and warmest moments.

I wish this opportunity for others.

I have experienced the difficulty keeping today’s kids in the gym. There are many places that children may wish to be that we should direct them away from. A proper gymnasium that they can call their own and be proud of can do nothing to help. I do not understand why one would remove an opportunity to take the phones from their children’s hands and have them put their feet on the floor of a proper gymnasium.

Your children can be housed in a better facility. Nothing precludes that request in five years time for a new school.

What was won? A promise by politicians to ask for money in five years? Really? The children presently in the system will have moved on. They will have lost.

Brennon MacLean, Bridgeport


The Government and On Campus sections are compiled by Kathleen Munro.


Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 8.54.18 AM

Special Events Advisory Committee (9am, Media Room, City Hall) — The committee will discuss the allocation of grants from the Marketing Levy Special Events Reserve. The report recommends council approve 14 event grants for 2016/2017, a total of $641, 500.
Community Design Advisory Committee (11:30am, Halifax Hall, City Hall) — This meeting will include a discussion about the upcoming capacity analysis of local pipe infrastructure in both Halifax and Dartmouth. This analysis will determine what areas require upgrades in relation to population and the estimated cost.

Heritage Advisory Committee (3pm, Halifax Hall, City Hall) — The committee will discuss the historical value of 2275 Brunswick Street. After a recent change in ownership, it’s original heritage registration came into question. Now, Regional Council must decide if it will be dubbed a Municipal Heritage Property.

Here is the building in question:

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 8.56.23 AM


Legislature sits (1pm, Province House)

On Campus

Attacks and Hardware Defences for Network Infrastructure (11:30am, Slonim Conference Room, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Tilman Wolf will discuss his research team’s recent work on the security of processing systems:

He provides an example that shows how vulnerable packet processors can be attacked through the data plane of the network. Using hardware monitors, the team has developed an effective defense mechanism against such attacks. Dr. Wolf explains how this work is also applicable to securing general-purpose embedded processing systems.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:05am Wednesday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:05am Wednesday. Map:

10:30am: Tombarra, car carrier, Southhampton, England to Autoport
4pm: Ningbo Express, container ship, Norfolk to Fairview Cove
4:30pm, Aenas, container ship, sails from Pier 42 to sea
4:30pm, NYK Diana, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove to sea
4:30pm: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, sails from Pier 41 to sea
6pm: CMA CGM Cendrillon, container ship, Port Klang, Malaysia to berth TBD


I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm.

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

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  1. There’s a certain irony in complaining about portrait videos all of the time and then taking a video at a rally, shooting in portrait, and posting without acknowledging that the real problem is a phone interface that makes it easy to forget you ruined your video.

  2. Having been a nurse for nearly 6 years, I find that unintended ‘shaming’ feeling pretty real. It’s not tremendously difficult to find online comments and editorials regarding the angst people have against nurses and how $100K and over is too much to pay some nurses. I really don’t understand the rational behind it. I feel as though people picture just an open pot of money at a nursing station and some evil, greedy nurses just taking their fill during the day. There is, however, a portion of media-blame to go around. Despite there being an international nursing shortage, I don’t see lots of media outlets commenting on the present nursing shortage in Nova Scotia, and how Universities and public institutions could shorten their BScN degrees to 3 academic years and easily turn out the high caliber nurses that they currently produce (of course those same institutions would lose money on that shortened degree, which I guess is a more catastrophic scenario). I do wholeheartedly agree with public accountability, especially when it comes to salary. There should be some distinction between how much is base salary and how much is overtime, as someone mentioned above. And frankly, those nurses on the sunshine list should be praised for putting their lives –and sometimes their families– on the back burner in order to take care of strangers.

  3. Who owned the land before Shaw Group bought it?

    For nurses (and anyone else) couldn’t they indicate regular pay and overtime? Then we would get a clearer picture. If people are working 100’s if hours of overtime we should know that and be hiring more people.