1. Stephen McNeil caves on healthcare transfers

Premier Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner

In a press release issued at 5:50pm on the Friday before the Christmas holiday, the federal government announced that it had reached an agreement with the Nova Scotian government on healthcare transfers.

Richard Starr gives context:

This came only days after the Premier [Stephen McNeil] said the province would stick with the provincial and territorial common front seeking improvement to Ottawa’s “take-it-or-leave-it” deal. But the flip-flop was not all that shocking, given the way the Premier and the Health minister have been dawdling on this issue for months now.

By joining New Brunswick and Newfoundland in bowing to federal intimidation, Nova Scotia’s Liberal government not only weakened the bargaining position of the other provinces and territories, it kissed off years of campaigning by governments in the Atlantic region for health transfers that recognized the greater needs of provinces with older populations.

Starr gets into the details of the agreement at the link. The gist of it is that the Trudeau government has made permanent the Harper government’s tweak to the system that shifted transfer payments to Alberta’s favour.

Starr continues:

Population, combined with the 2014-15 skim, means that over the last three years the Atlantic Provinces have been getting significantly less than the much-cited six-per-cent increases per year.

• Three-year average increase in overall health envelope 6.37%
• Three-year average Newfoundland 2.88%
• Three-year average P.E.I. 4.91%
• Three-year average Nova Scotia 4.17%
• Three-year average New Brunswick 4.02%
• Three-year average Quebec 4.76%
• Three-year average Ontario 5.15%
• Three-year average Manitoba 5.52%
• Three-year average Saskatchewan 5.95%
• Three-year average Alberta 23.3%
• Three-year average B.C. 4.18%

In addition to having smaller increase in health transfers than other provinces, the Atlantic Provinces have the highest proportion of persons over 65 in the country. They also have proportionately more people living in rural areas, where it is usually more costly to deliver health services.

A reformed health funding formula that took into account the needs of the provinces with older populations was put forward as a form of redress for sins committed in the name of equal per-capita transfers. By knuckling under to pressure from their Liberal counterparts in Ottawa, three provinces with the strongest case for modifying the per-capita formula have left the table in pusillanimous retreat.

2. Cape Breton council investigated

“The Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman has launched an investigation into recent activities at Cape Breton Regional Municipality council, according to an email received by the spokesman for a new citizen watchdog group,” reports Tom Ayers for Local Xpress:

Rod Gale, a labourer from South Bar who has started a new citizen watchdog group called the CBRM Council Club, said he complained to the ombudsman this week after several councillors alleged they were intimidated and told to vote in favour of a contract extension around the port.


The ombudsman’s office told Gale an investigator has already been assigned “to recent activities emanating from events within the CBRM council,” according to an email response Gale received from the ombudsman’s office.

“I will be forwarding your letter to our investigator to consider while delving into this matter,” the unsigned email said.

3. Flushable wipes aren’t flushable

YouTube video

“Halifax Water wants to flush away a growing problem that is damaging sewer pipes and costing customers thousands of dollars,” reports Carolyn Ray for the CBC:

The utility has started a battle against so-called flushable wipes, releasing a tongue-in-cheek video praising the wonders of toilet paper and pointing out the woes caused by flushable wipes. 

The products, which include baby wipes and sanitary wipes, are growing in popularity, says Halifax Water spokesman James Campbell. The problem is they don’t actually disintegrate in the sewage system.

4. Stephen Cooke

Stephen Cooke poses with his parrot Corey, in front of part of his vast collection of movies, records and figurines. Photo: Tim Krochak / Local Xpress

In Local Xpress’s continuing profile of striking Chronicle Herald newsroom employees, reporter Elissa Barnard speaks with arts critic Stephen Cooke:

It’s hard for him to see so much local entertainment including music, theatre, film and art not getting covered. “I hear from people who say they miss reading my column. Everybody I talk to says they’ve noticed the decline in quality.

“It’s frustrating. The paper seems to undervalue its role in the community — whether it’s politics, arts or sports — and is under-serving its readers, who are getting fed up and canceling subscriptions left, right and centre.

“The optimist in me feels this situation can be turned around, and the public’s faith in its paper of record can be restored, but there is a feeling that time is running out.”

5. Christmas Bhangra

YouTube video

In the harbour

6am: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England

Fritz Reuter. Photo: Halifax Examiner

6am: Fritz Reuter, container ship, moves from Bedford Basin anchorage to Pier 42
9am: IT Intrepid, cable layer, moves from Pier 9 to Irving Oil
11am: Ridgebury Cindy A, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Houston

Piltene. Photo: Halifax Examiner

11:30am: Piltene, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea

Berlin Express. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Berlin Express. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Noon: Berlin Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
3:30pm: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
4:30pm: Fritz Reuter, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Mariel, Cuba
9pm: Berlin Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York


This is an abbreviated version of Morning File, as nothing much of news value happened over the holiday. Stephen Kimber is taking this week off. I’m reading a book today. See you tomorrow.

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

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  1. Interesting use of the word “caved” in coverage of health-care funding. Apart from a demand for more money (which is always the case) what was at stake in the stand-off? The feds proposed to tie some of its funding to enhanced home-care and mental health initiatives. The provinces hung together on the principle that each be free to spend all funds from Ottawa as and how they each might choose. This has been a sacred tenet for Quebec and other provinces who need all they can get to meet rising costs of their existing health establishments (doctors, nurses, attendants). Your coverage makes much of the additional costs faced by provinces with aging populations but makes no reference to the possibility that improved home care and other long-term care facilities might be part of the solution (as might improved mental-health services). We’ve been talking about directing more health funding to home care in this province for at least forty years with only marginal progress. A little walk in that direction might not be such a bad thing.

    and underlay their resistance to federal goal of directing more money to home care and mental health.

    1. Calling the result of McNeil’s deal with the feds a ‘cave-in’ is pretty apt. We have very strong demographic challenges, on top of infrastructure that is in a poor state of repair. Settling based on proportion population ignores a lot of challenges we have here. It’s an absolute cop-out from a lazy, beleaguered politician and provincial party.

      Though, McNeil shouldn’t be blamed for the weak position exhibited by the Atlantics. NB did get the ball rolling on that after all.

      You are correct about investing in home care and mental health, tho, Ian. Keeping people out of hospital, or getting them home sooner will provide mild to moderate savings to the system over time.

    1. In fact on a quick glance with nothing better to do, I have serious questions about this Express article under the context of comments like this by RG:

      “This holiday season! I’m thinking about @tomayers2262 & @HTU_official members walking the picket lines! #heroes #nspoli #cbpoli #respect”

      “Give the @NSTeachersUnion, @NSGEU & @NS_nurses what they want! Give them all what they want! Give the #citizens of NS higher taxes! #nspoli”