1. “Salacious details”: the Halifax connection

Don’t think about an elephant.

Now don’t think about Donald Trump and golden showers.

OK, well, now that you can’t stop thinking about either, you might as well know there’s a Halifax connection to the latter story. Reports the Guardian:

In mid-November, the documents took another route into Washington that ultimately led to them being mentioned in the joint intelligence report on Russian interference that was delivered to President Obama and President-elect Trump. On 18 November, the annual Halifax International Security Forum opened in the Canadian city, bringing together serving and former security and foreign policy officials from around the world. 

Senator John McCain, a hawkish Republican, was there and was introduced to a former senior western diplomat who had seen the documents, knew their source and thought him highly reliable. McCain decided the implications were sufficiently alarming to dispatch a trusted emissary, a former US official, to meet the source and find out more.

The emissary hastily arranged a transatlantic flight and met the source at the airport as arranged. (The Guardian has agreed not to specify the city or country where the meeting took place.) The meeting had a certain cold war tradecraft to it, as he was told to look for a man with a copy of the Financial Times. Having found each other, the retired counter-intelligence officer drove the emissary to his house, where they discussed the documents and their background. 

The emissary flew back within 24 hours and showed McCain the documents, saying it was hard to impossible to verify them without a proper investigation. McCain said he was reluctant to get involved, lest it be perceived as payback for insulting remarks Trump had made about him during his rambunctious campaign. 

However, on 9 December, McCain arranged a one-on-one meeting with Comey, with no aides present, and handed them over.

Good thing ACOA didn’t take my advice to defund the Security Forum, “as anything we could possibly do to keep John McCain from coming to town would make Halifax a more pleasant place.”

2. Street checks

Street checks from January 1 to October 31, 2016. Districts are CH: Cole Harbour, including the Prestons; SA: Sackville; TA: Tantallon; NC: North Central (Musquodoboit Valley); MH: Musquodoboit Harbour; SH: Sheet Harbour, including Moose River

Halifax District RCMP report that 41 per cent of street checks in the areas they patrol involved people the officers identified as black. The report became public after Monday’s meeting of the police commission, when commission chair Steve Craig asked that they be made public.

The unnamed author of the report seems to be blaming the high rates of Black people being checked on last year’s murders:

• Out of the 509 Black Ethnicity Street Checks Total 440 were done in the PRC zone – 305 of them occurred between April 1 and July 31 2016

• In the month of April there was significant increase in manpower in the Preston Zone to curb violence – even then there were shootings/attempt homicides.

• There would have been a significant need for intelligence during this time as there were no charges on the file or subjects in custody.

• From March to August there 4 of the homicides/shootings had a direct relationship to the community of North Preston either through wakes or funerals taking place.

• One of these funerals was high profile in that the victim was a former member of the Halifax Rainmen Basketball team – National Team

• During the funerals for this close knit community there were 100’s of people from both within and outside the community present.

Everyone wants murders to be solved, but the report doesn’t note whether any of the street checks resulted in any intelligence to help solve the murders. If not, and if there was no expectation that street checks would result in such intelligence, aren’t they simply harassment?

I think that should be the standard here: what good, exactly, are these street checks achieving? Not perceived good — actual good, which can be documented. If there is no documentable positive attained through street checks, they should be stopped.

Regardless, the 10-year analysis shows that about 12 per cent of those stopped were Black, which about matches the Halifax Regional Police’s figures of Black people being stopped three times as often as white people.

3. The St. Mary’s Chinese conspiracy

Justice Nick Scaravelli has voided last year’s municipal election results in the District of St. Mary’s, which is a wide spot in the road on the way to Guysborough. Wrote Scaravelli in his decision:

The two candidates in the election were Aubrey (Rennie) Beaver and Kaytland Smith. Mr. Beaver received 75 votes while Ms. Smith received 73 votes. Soon after the election a number of irregularities with the conduct of the election were identified resulting this in this application.

I’ll summarize those irregularities, cribbing a bit from Scaravelli:
1. One voter voted by proxy in violation of the Election Act.
2. At one poll, an agent for a candidate handled ballots before the second count of the ballots.
3. Two ballot boxes were delivered to the Returning Officer unsealed. “This omission,” wrote Scaravelli, “raises various risks in addition to those arising from the agent handling ballots: there would also be a risk of changed entries in the Poll Book, which was completed in pencil, as well as a risk of things simply falling out of the box during transit.”
4. None of the poll workers at the same poll signed the required Oath of Confidentiality.
5. The same poll workers did not complete necessary paperwork.

Scaravelli continued:

In addition to the possibility that the irregularities affected the result, the applicant submits that the violations were serious enough to call into question the conduct of the election as a whole, giving rise to an alternative basis for voiding the result.


Regardless of whether the deficiencies may have effected the result, Mr. Beaver has the burden of proving that despite these violations, the election was nevertheless conducted in accordance with the principles of the Act. In my view he has not done this. These violations were not simply well-intentioned attempts to comply with the Act, but numerous and relatively serious departures from the legal requirements imposed by the Act. The respondent’s position is, in essence, that the court should find that the principles of the Act were observed because there was “no harm done”, but in my view this sequence of violations should be looked at cumulatively. Several procedural safeguards imposed by the Municipal Elections Act were not followed. The physical handling of ballots by a candidate’s agent, and the failure to seal ballot boxes, on top of the failure to observe proper protocol in regard to proxy votes and other violations seem sufficient to amount to a violation of the principles of the Act. To find otherwise would undermine the requirement for specific and clear procedures in service of the principles of the Act and further undermine public confidence in the outcome of elections.

Why should we care about a botched election in a little speck of a town in the middle of nowhere? Well, that middle of nowhere is Ground Zero for the DDI Conspiracy. As I wrote in April 2015:

The botched transfer of Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia over to Nova Scotia Business Inc, where it will be rebranded as the Creative Economy Fund, is fuelling a conspiracy theory, which begins with an announcement made last May:

On May 27, the memorandum of understanding signing ceremony of DongDu International Group with Nova Scotia Business Inc. and Halifax City was held in the National Historical Museum of Canada at Pier 21 in Halifax City. Over 60 people, including Li Hailin, Chairman of DongDu International, Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia, Bill Karsting, Vice Mayor of Halifax City, Paul Kent, CEO and President of Greater Halifax Partnership, NSBI CEO Ron Smith and other governmental officers of Canada as well as other distinguished guests from the communities of education, film and television, science, technology and business of both China and Canada, attended the signing ceremony.

Everything about this announcement is bizarre, and especially the video produced by the company to promote the venture. I don’t have the technical skills to lift the video and repost it here, so to make sense of the rest of this post, go watch the video here — I promise, it will be the strangest thing you see all day.

As DDI tells it, they’re going to build a big city up on the Eastern Shore and, in the Chinese style, build replica everythings — replica Leaning Tower of Pisa, replica Rome, replica Paris, and so forth, so that people can “feel they have traveled to different parts of the world.” It’s not explained why people would travel all the way from China to Nova Scotia to see a fake Leaning Tower of Pisa when they could go half the distance to see the real thing in better weather, but regardless, the company says the Replica Everything City, which it dubs “Crystal City,” will bring “film-themed tourism” to Nova Scotia.

DDI's vision for Crystal City, which it says it will build up somewhere around Ecum Secum, looks like a a Chinese city of 5 million people.
DDI’s vision for Crystal City, which it says it will build up somewhere around Ecum Secum, looks like a a Chinese city of 5 million people.

To that end, the company plans to host film festivals and such, and:

DDI Group has plans to purchase two cruise ships which will be docked at the Halifax Harbour. These ships have close to 1,000 rooms that are specially fitted for film crews, combining the comfort of a luxurious beachfront hotel, the beautiful natural scenery, friendly staff, and a film production centre that is in the pipeline.

Filmmakers will live on these two ships parked in the Halifax Harbour so they can make films in Crystal City, two hours away.
Filmmakers will live on these two ships parked in the Halifax Harbour so they can make films in Crystal City, two hours away.

At this point you have to wonder what kind of Asian dope those Chinese are smoking. But Premier Stephen McNeil went to Shanghai last year to meet with DDI officials, and the Financial Post reports:

A Shanghai-based company says it is planning to invest up to $3-billion in Nova Scotia in real estate, technology and tourism over the next decade, hoping to compete with Canada’s West Coast as a tourist centre for Chinese visitors.

“There are some 100 million Chinese tourists now travelling the world and so this is an opportunity to start taking advantage of that cohort,” said Stephen Dempsey, Canadian advisor to Dongdu International Group (DDI).

If the name Stephen Dempsey sounds familiar to you, it should. Dempsey is the head of the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia, and formerly the CEO of the Greater Halifax Partnership. I don’t know exactly how this plays out, but this DDI thing smells like the sort of economic development scam we’ve become accustomed to. A handful of insiders will make out like the bandits they are, grifting their riches from the public treasury, but it won’t do any of the rest of us any good.

Still, the conspiracy theory goes like this: the Liberals have killed Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia with the fig leaf of rebranding it as the Creative Economy Fund, so that all the money previously dedicated to the film tax credit — $24 million annually — will instead go to DDI. That’s why Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia is placed under Nova Scotia Business Inc, which will pick which players get the money, instead of the old system where all comers got the tax credit if they qualified.

I don’t believe there’s anything to this conspiracy theory, but what exactly did the Liberals think would happen?

Maybe we’ll at least get some of that good Asian dope.

And now the municipal election is voided, hmmm.

Actually, tho, the last mention of DDI on the Municipality’s website explains that the project was delayed until Fall of 2015.

4. Super-secret “human source management” tender

The city this morning announced it is issuing a tender for “Human Source Management Solution.” And what is that? I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s totally on the down-low, as anyone who even wants to see the tender — that is, each and every employee of every company that will bid on the tender — must sign this waiver:

I acknowledge that I am fully aware of my responsibility to safeguard all information and material with which I am entrusted as a consequence of participating in the bidding processes of RFP P17-006 Human Source Management Solution

I appreciate that all material and information which I have access to is confidential in nature, and must be handled in a manner to ensure that it will never fall into unauthorized hands or be used in communications to unauthorized persons in any way. I am aware that I must be especially careful not to discuss or convey any information related to this RFP.

Further I agree to return to HRM as part of the bid package, or destroy if no bid is submitted, all copies of the RFP P17-006 Human Source Management Solution downloaded or obtained by my firm.

“Information” means all information, forms, data, or work knowledge communicated or obtained in any form that is created or received in connection with the RFP P17-006 Human Source Management Solution.

I’ve never seen any tender remotely like this. What could it possibly entail? Honey traps? Waterboarding? Increasing compensation for managers?

Together with last month’s tender for “Lean Six Sigma Training,” I’m getting the feeling that the new city administration under CAO Jacques Dubé is heading off into some woo-woo management theory craziness.

If somebody wants to drop me an envelope with details, you know where to find me. Anonymity assured.


1. Iron rich Saint John

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald is still celebrating the joys of Saint John, this time about its iron work:

Most of the iron I saw 40 years ago were fences and railings. One of the best examples was on these Germain Street houses. The hand railing on the stairs is particularly fine; making the transition from vertical to horizontal can be a challenge for a designer and this is a success don’t you think?

2. Death in custody

“It’s been almost seven months since a 41-year-old Spryfield man died in a Halifax police cell,” notes Bill Turbin:

[A]fter seven months without an update on the investigation or the deceased’s name, you have to start wondering about a cover-up of some kind. After all, it’s plenty of time for evidence to deteriorate or get “lost” (e.g. drugs and cash) and memories to fade, which are key to successful cover-ups.

Just sayin’.



Appeals Standing Committee (10am, City Hall) — along with the usual complaints about construction debris and a collapsing cemetery building, the committee will discuss the status of Peter Melzner’s van. Somebody complained that Melzner, who lives at 6323 Liverpool Street, has kept a white VW van in his yard. In November, bylaw inspector Ben Amini found that the van “has flat tires, missing gas tank, dislodged interior and exterior mechanical parts and is in a state of general disrepair not being roadworthy.” (That sounds about like a van I once drove across the Sonoran Desert.) According to Amini, Melzner said he’d move the van into a garage, but he never did, and now Melzner is appealing his citation.

Public Information Meeting – Case 20102 (7pm, Captain William Spry Community Centre) — FH Construction wants to build a 10-storey apartment building at 383 Herring Cove Road, at the corner of Sussex Street. The proposal was initially for a seven-storey building, which city council approved, but as these things do, that’s now morphed into a 10-storey building. More info here.


No public meetings.

On campus


User Engagement (11:45, Room 3089, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — Heather O’Brien, from UBC, will speak on “Learning in Digital Information Spaces: What is the Role of User Engagement?”

YouTube video

Fractured Land (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — a screening of the 2015 film and a discussion via Skype with Caleb Behn. A Globe & Mail review explains:

In British Columbia, where the government’s love affair with liquefied natural gas and First Nations’ concerns about the environment seem bound to come to a head, young lawyer Caleb Behn promises to be a force in this fracture.

From B.C.’s northeast, Behn fishes and hunts, but is as comfortable behind a laptop as he is on the land. Bright, articulate and charismatic, Behn supports protests, but goes to law school with the intention of fighting Big Oil and Gas in a different arena: the courts.

The documentary Fractured Land chronicles his struggle, and the film is powerful; a skillful study in landscape as well as character.

In the harbour

Ships, 9:30am. All the red ones are oil tankers. Map:

3:15qm: Berlin Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Cagliari, Italy
7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
8:30am: Minerva Virgo, oil tanker, moves from Anchorage to Imperial Oil
4pm: Boheme, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 31
8pm: Boheme, car carrier, sails from Pier 31 for sea
11pm: Dorado Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England


Linda Pannozzo just sent me Part 4 in her series “The Company Men,” about the regulatory capture of the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources by timber industry interests. It’ll take me a while to edit and make pretty, but I expect we’ll be able to publish it later this morning.

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

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  1. Re 4. Tender Waiver

    Disbelief and bewilderment cumulatively increased as I read the waiver. Before reaching its end, I began to speculate, “This must be satire,” and then alternatively, “Nah,Tim’s going to slip in a delightful twist; one similar to his suggested local-character bus stop announcements.” Apparently not. Its author needs to see a shrink about his/her paranoia-tinged secrecy and control issues, and a literate wordsmith chosen to create other waivers — a staff lawyer even, if the confidentiality issues are so patently top secret.

  2. With the street checks: Is it simply possible that black people are more likely to be criminals? Calling police racist for street checking black people more is a bit silly when you consider that black people are more likely to be criminals. Of course, the reality that black people commit more crimes per capita can be thrown into question by calling the entire criminal justice system racist. Of course, we can think of a lot of reasons why reducing or eliminating street checks might lower the black crime rate, by helping black people identify with the broader society, or maybe letting some kid get away with selling some weed.

    Here’s an idea: Keep street checks, but you get $50 if you’re street checked. With about 1200 street checks in 2016, that program would only cost $60,000 dollars – way cheaper than hiring some academics to produce a report about why we need more research. What do you think about that, Tim?

    1. Profiling doesn’t lead to anything productive. The fallout from it far outweighs any perceived benefits.
      If your perception is that society doesn’t care about you, why would you care about society? If society treats you like a criminal, are you going to want to contribute something productive towards it?

      You can’t put a dollar value on this. You’re talking about a person’s sense of self worth and where they see themselves and their role in society.

  3. RE: DDI’s fantasy city.
    FYI DDI purchased about 3,000 acres (1 large and number of smaller parcels) in St Mary’s District in 2013. Not enough for a city, but I guess if they go up…

  4. A street check may not be a stop-and-ask/talk.
    The report discussed at the Board of Police Commissioners states at bullet point 2 :
    ” The majority of street checks appear to involve interpersonal contact. 23.6% of entity records were classified as ‘visual contact’ checks which would involve seeing, but not speaking with, the individual being checked.’

  5. I’m still confused – is it HALIFAX or HRM?
    One of the most ill-conceived and anemic rebranding exercises ever.

    And supposed to ultimately save us money…..wonder how that’s going…….

  6. Meanwhile, the only thing DongDu International have accomplished in Nova Scotia is to purchase a few buildings, including the Pacific Building on Barrington, with its delicate and in-need-of-restoration terracotta facade, and allow if to fall into further disrepair:

    Which is their MO in Detroit as well:

    They bought a number of historic Detroit buildings in 2013, promised big showy restoration projects, but instead evicted tenants and didn’t perform basic maintenance (which is exactly what tenants at the Pacific Building are complaining of now). Last year DDI finally sold their Detroit properties to new owners, who immediately undertook restoration projects.

    The city ought to be doing everything possible to get the Pacfic Building out of DDI’s hands.