In the harbour


1. Camille Strickland-Murphy

Camille Strickland-Murphy
Camille Strickland-Murphy

“The obituary for an inmate who died last week at a Nova Scotia jail says the 22-year-old woman committed suicide,” reports the Canadian Press. “Camille Strickland-Murphy was found unresponsive in her cell at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro on July 28.”

Strickland-Murphy was serving a three-year term for armed robbery.

The obituary:

Camille was and always will be the much loved daughter of Cecily Strickland and Noel Murphy, and twin sister of Keir, whose level of understanding, compassion and acceptance of his sister vastly exceeded his years. She was also much loved by her grandmother, Lois Hicks, and the remainder of her family.

Prior to the dark shadow of mental illness eclipsing her own true bright light, Camille was an accomplished runner, downhill skier, judoka and sailor, navigating her optimist dingy in regattas across the Atlantic Provinces. She wrote stories and poems and drew countless cartoons. But more importantly, she was intelligent, highly articulate, irreverent, ridiculously funny and a good friend to many. She highly valued and built strong and enduring friendships.

Even when her mental illness and related problems overcame her, and her ability to make rational decisions, her good friends and their families continued to try to support her in any way that they could, as did many others. Camille’s disordered mind caused her much suffering and also adversely impacted others. On July 28, 2015 she ended her suffering by taking her own life.

Camille’s family and friends will be left with memories both happy and heartbreaking, they, as well as her silly little dachshund, Vinny, will miss her terribly. We hope that she has now found the peace that she did not have in the last years of her too short life.

2. Examineradio, episode #21


This week we speak with Montreal-based Taras Grescoe.

Grescoe is an award-winning author and public transit advocate. His most recent book, Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile was released by HarperCollins Canada in 2012. Straphanger won the Mavis Gallant Prize for Nonfiction and was listed by the Globe & Mail as one of the best books of the year.

Also, Premier Stephen McNeil shuffles the deck (cabinet-wise, at least), and Prime Minister Harper looks set to officially call the election. Too bad he doesn’t really have any candidates running out this way. (Irvine Carvery, running in orange Halifax, is a long-shot, to put it mildly.)

More information about Taras Grescoe’s forthcoming talk in Halifax can be found here.

[iframe style=”border:none” src=”” height=”100″ width=”480″ scrolling=”no” allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen]

(Direct mp3 link is here.)

3. Pedestrian struck

A Sunday police release:

At approimately 7:34 p.m. on August 2, Halifax Regional Police members responded to the area of the Armdale Roundabout in relation to a vehicle/pedestrian collision. 

The vehicle was travelling northbound onto Joseph Howe Drive when it struck a 72-year-old man in a marked crosswalk. The man was transported to hospital with life threatening injuries. Members of the Halifax Regional Police Accident Investigation Unit and Forensic Identification Section are continuing the investigation at this time. 

4. Bobby Downey

Bobby Downey
Bobby Downey

The Globe & Mail this weekend ran an obituary of Bobby Downey, who died on July 9 at age 78:

The fifth boy of seven in the family, Mr. Downey, who stood about five feet seven inches tall, was taught by his father to be a fighter in life and to stand up for his family. Though George Downey didn’t box, he taught his sons to duke it out. “His method of conflict resolution was, ‘Take it to the backyard, and may the best Downey win,’” said Bobby’s son Robert. “George Downey also greatly valued family loyalty, teaching his sons that if you fought one Downey, you fought them all.”

Growing up in Halifax’s north-end neighbourhood, which was known to have its share of street fighting at the time, Bobby and his brothers spent most of their free time at the Prizefighter’s Club. A boxing gym, it was where some of Nova Scotia’s greatest fighters at the time were said to train, including Richard “Kid” Howard. Located on Creighton Street, it was a stone’s throw from the Downey family home. Mr. Downey’s brothers Donnie and Billy also boxed competitively, but didn’t reach the level of success in the ring as he or his younger brother David did.

“He moved around, but not as much as me. He was more a puncher,” said David Downey of his brother’s technique in the ring.

In 1957, with a Grade 10 education, Mr. Downey joined the Royal Highland Regiment of Canada (Black Watch), the country’s oldest highland regiment, and became one of the top fighters in the Canadian military at the time.

“Boxing gave him the robustness he needed to be in the infantry,” said Cyril Clayton, who served with Mr. Downey in the Black Watch.

“He was a very unique fighter,” he said. “He didn’t have the killer instinct.”

Mr. Clayton remembers watching his friend step back in the ring when he knew he had his opponent beat. Not wanting to hurt his opponent more than he had to, he wouldn’t deliver a final blow.

During military training in Truro, N.S., Mr. Downey met a young woman named Carol Collins and fell in love. They married in March, 1958, and had five children. She was struck and killed by a speeding car while crossing the road in Dartmouth, N.S., on the evening of Oct. 17, 1981. After 13 years as a widower, Mr. Downey found love again with a childhood sweetheart named Owida Bruce. He was left a widower again when she died a decade later after a brief illness. At the time of his death, Mr. Downey was married to his third wife, Catherine (née Trenholm).

“He believed in love,” his son Robert said. “He was a very optimistic and humble individual.”

5. Cabin destroyed

The cabin in Upper Chelsea where in 2012 a 16-year-old boy was kept captive in chains and sexually assaulted over eight days before making his escape, has been burned to the ground, reports CTV. Nearby residents are happy to see it gone.


1. Gable ends

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald has a collection of photos of gable ends — “where the triangular bit of the wall faces the street.” Above is his photo of the business district in River John, around 1980. Out of curiosity, I tried to find those buildings on Google Street View, but came up empty-handed. The highway was at some point diverted around River John, and most of the old business district appears to have disappeared.

2. Do nothing

One result of the long federal election season now on us, says Graham Steele, is that Stephen McNeil won’t do anything for the next 11 weeks:

The biggest impact of the federal campaign on provincial politics will be what is not done.

The McNeil government won’t risk doing anything even slightly controversial until the federal ballots are cast and counted.

The Dexter government did the same during the 2011 federal election, and presumably the PC government did the same during the 2006 and 2008 federal elections.

Sometimes this tendency can go too far. I remember in April 2011 wanting to release a discussion paper on auto insurance, but I was told to hold it until the federal election was over in early May. I couldn’t see what possible connection it could have, but caution was the word. The paper was held for a few weeks, and released the day after the election.

I expect the McNeil government will be similarly cautious. So expect a pent-up torrent of announcements, studies and freedom of information answers starting on October 20th.

Until then, the forecast from the McNeil government will be all political sunshine.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

I look forward to clarification of Emera CEO Chris Huskilson’s comments recently reported in Claire McIlveen’s July 30 column. I struggled to line up his hydro and tidal energy goals with the welcome aspirational statement that these sources offer “the possibility of complete renewable energy in the province in the not-too-distant future.” 

Using round figures, the report suggests that imports from Newfoundland and Labrador could be any of 7,000, 2,800 or 1,700 gigawatt hours, depending on whether he’s talking about Nova Scotia’s annual electricity use or only our legislated renewable electricity requirements (25 per cent this year; 40 per cent by 2020). All this through an undersea link with a theoretical maximum of just over 4,000 gigawatt hours, of which around 1,000 is committed to Nova Scotia. 

Or perhaps he plans for increased energy-efficiency measures, counter to NSPI’s recent opposition to energy-efficiency programs before the Utility and Review Board. A plan that reduced electricity use by 40 per cent would yield lower electricity bills and would bring us to the point where 70 per cent of our electricity could squeeze through the Maritime Link. 

All will be revealed, hopefully, in the “not-to-distant future.” Until then, we remain in the dark.

Jamie Thomson, Halifax



City council (10am, City Hall)—the meeting will be dominated by a review of last winter’s snow and ice clearing operations. Starting point for discussion will be the consulting company Grant, Thornton’s review of winter operations, which makes some weak recommendations like increasing the number of people answering the 311 phone calls.

This should be lots of fun, and I’ll be live-blogging it via the Examiner’s twitter account, @hfxExaminer.

There are two different components to winter operations: street and sidewalk clearing. I often get the feeling that some councillors simply do not understand the sidewalk issue at all. In a letter to council, Gerry Post, a member of the city’s accessibility advisory committee, made the point that “none of the recommendations made at the Halifax Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting with the Consultants and HRM Staff have been taken into consideration” and that:

Those with cars will be able to get to work within 12 hours of a snow storm while those dependent on public transit have to wait 48 hours for bus stops to be cleared. It particularly impacts those with mobility challenges (Seniors and the Disabled) because they can’t jump over snow banks.

It flies in the face of Council’s policy that made Accessibility one of its three priorities in the Mayor’s Healthy Communities initiative. It’s a form of social discrimination because it affects those who can least afford to lose two days of pay! And if Halifax is serious about transit it should accommodate transit users to at least the same mobility standard as car owners.

(I’m able-bodied, but more than a few times last winter I was challenged by having to climb over a large snow bank in order to get off the bus. I remember one stop in particular, on Robie Street, where, a full week after a snowfall, three of us disembarking passengers had to form a sort of human chain to lift ourselves up and over a six-foot snow bank. I often worried that someone would slip and slide backwards off a bank, under the wheels of the bus — “You know the nearer your destination/ The more you’re slip slidin’ away.”)

Post went on to detail the seven recommendations he had made, but which were ignored:

1. The snow clearance standard of sidewalks and bus stops should be the same as the street they are adjacent to. At present all bus stops are to be cleared within 48 hours, this is unacceptable for stops along tier 1 roads which have a 12 hr clearance standard.

2. Snow clearance at bus stops should be to the curb so that buses can use their ramps to allow wheel chairs to access transit.

3.  The bus stop shelters should be cleared to same standard.

4. At signaled pedestrian crossings care must be taken to clear snow so that wheel chairs can access the activation button.  This is especially important with high snow banks. It’s difficult for motorists to see chairs because of their low profile and the flashing crossing lights become all the more important.

5. Consider giving sidewalk clearance responsibility back to property owners. I think they would do a better job, save $ and instil civic responsibility and pride into neighbourhoods. As well it provides for a socialization activity for neighbours during the dreary days of winter. It worked that way in my neighbourhood in Halifax and sidewalks were cleaner then than they are now. A good gauge of this are the postmen, ask them!

6. Ensure that curb cuts are properly designed to ease clearance.

7. Liberate the map data on where the storm drains are so residents can help clear them and fire hydrants. Halifax Water would not release this data. This is plain stupid; those who are tech savvy could finds this data using Google StreetView. In progressive communities the utilities encourage this by having a Adopt a Storm Drain/Hydrant program and provide rewards such as tickets to sporting events. Why not do a cross promotion with the Mooseheads Hockey team!

In a separate letter to council, Gus Reed writes;

>This is in support of Gerry Post’s objections to Grant, Thornton’s review of winter snow clearing operations. The notion that such a colossal failure of government service can be reviewed without an accounting of the enormous cost is ludicrous. How many days of work were lost due to HRM’s poor planning? How much retail business? What was the medical cost? The human cost? The opportunity cost? The cost to our reputation?

It seems to surprise you that the weather is unpredictable.  It surprises me that you have omitted to consider it. Haligonians without a snowy day fund have only themselves to blame, but HRM without a snowy day fund is business-as-usual. 

As I see it, the report of staff and of Grant, Thornton is largely an attempt to deflect accountability.  It is comprehensive in the “woe is me” category, excellent in proposing irrelevant remedies like 311 upgrades and GPS automation, but completely bereft of any commitment to improvement.

Who negotiated these inadequate contracts? Are they still on the payroll? Where are the incentives? The penalties?

And yes, why do you even bother with an Accessibility Advisory Committee?

It’s easy enough to hold politicians accountable at the next election. Holding staff accountable is a key determinant of how that may play out.


No public meetings.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:25am Tuesday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:25am Tuesday. Map:

Torino, car carrier, arrived at Autoport this morning, moves to Pier 27, then sails to sea
Asphalt Spring, asphalt/bitumen tanker, Portland, Maine to McAsphalt
Crown II, oil tanker, Paldiski, Estonia to Imperial Oil

The Vivaldi was in port yesterday, the largest container ship to ever stop in Halifax. The Vivaldi is one of 17 ships that comprise CMA-CGM’s Columbus Loop; Halifax was added to the loop last month:

Columbus Loop

The arrival of the Vivaldi might represent an increase in business for Halifax, or might not. Port officials didn’t say how many containers were off-loaded; the boat stayed for a couple of hours, then left for New York. You gotta feel for the Port communications people, who spun the underutilized port as best they could:

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 7.15.14 AM

Come to our restaurant — all the tables are always empty!


Headline reference:

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

Join the Conversation


Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
  1. Thank you for publishing the obituary for Camille Strickland-Murphy, which provided many answers to the questions I had about her life, her family and the supports she had along the way. A very sad story of the toll that mental illness takes. The story that needs to be followed is the on-going issue of how people who have mental illness are ending up in jail rather than in treatment. What needs to change to prevent this from happening again?

  2. I would just add that Gerry Post’s excellent recommendations apply for ALL users of the Public Pavements and Pathways in Halifax – children, babies in strollers, mothers pushing those strollers, the Temporarily Able Bodied (TABs) walkers of all ages. Let’s assure that PEOPLE RIGHTS are at least equal to CAR RIGHTS.

    As a homeonwer on a peninsular side street I at the same time welcome the sidewalk plows (they do clear out the plowed up mounds at street corners which were usually ignored by adjacent homeowners, and provide a common although mediocre standard for all the sidewalks) and acknoweldge their many shortcomings. I generally shovel my walks down to the concrete. Some homes on my block never shovelled, and it is better now when plowed, but not good enough for those who need wheels to assist their travel.

  3. While Graham Steele is generally a welcome voice in the local punditocracy I do find it somewhat disconcerting that he refers to the Dexter government in the 3rd person as if he was not an intregal part of its decision making.

    If you sit in cabinet I presume you have a say in how the government operates. Seems more than a little disingenous.

  4. How is Grant Thorton qualified to review snow removal operations? It always seems better to me to ask the people doing the work how they would do it better, but then that would call into question the organizations decision making ability, something that is politically easier for an independent third party.

    1. George Osborne, UK Finance Minister, is doing what you suggest, asking workers for their input. While his emphasis is on saving money, he mentions efficiency, and that can be an inherent component. While not a fan of Osborne and his austerity policies, this is a good move. It accords respect to workers and can be mutually beneficial. An excerpt from related Guardian piece:

      “In a letter to public sector employees, Osborne said: “You know better than most where we can take the next steps. You know first-hand where things are working well on the frontline of public services, but also where the waste is and where we can provide better services for less money.‎” ”

  5. Gerry Post’s recommendations to improve winter snow clearance are excellent. All of them apply to seniors as well as those with disabilities. I am a senior pedestrian, and I have made most of the same comments to my councillor over the past winter. Hopefully council will take positive action instead of following the Grant Thornton review. Why is the city paying them anyway? If they just listen to the citizens affected, they would get much better advice.