1. Bar Harbor ferry terminal

Lloyd Hines. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“The question of Nova Scotia taxpayers footing the bill for the salaries of a handful of U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees in Bar Harbour, Maine was raised by reporters following today’s meeting of Cabinet ministers, the first since the holiday break,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Bay Ferries, which operates the Cat passenger vessel between Yarmouth and Maine each summer, has until the end of this month to negotiate a deal with the town of Bar Harbour to replace Portland as its U.S. destination.

The deadline was extended until January 30 so a new Maine Governor could be sworn in. The Town of Bar Harbour has been negotiating with Bay Ferries to pony up approximately $3 million in U.S. dollars to upgrade the terminal the town is buying, as well as pay the salaries of a handful of border customs officials.

What is aggravating is the secrecy surrounding how much money Bay Ferries is actually asking Nova Scotia taxpayers to provide to make the move to Bar Harbour. Nova Scotia’s Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal minister Lloyd Hines is refusing to put a figure on that. He says the U.S. Customs and Border Service have requested the province keep salary negotiations confidential. Asked if he thinks Nova Scotians should pay the wages for U.S. border agents in Maine, Minister Hines said he doesn’t consider the ask “unreasonable” but simply the cost of doing business.

“We feel the value for the Nova Scotia taxpayer is there,” said Hines.

Click here to read “Transportation minister Lloyd Hines won’t say how much we’re spending to move the Maine ferry terminus to Bar Harbor, but he insists it’s totally worth it.”

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“What a crazy world,” Henderson quotes provincial NDP leader Gary Burrill as saying, “that border protection officers in the United States aren’t being paid because of the government shutdown and we are debating whether the Nova Scotia government should be paying them. Something is wrong somewhere.”

And it’s precisely the U.S. federal government shutdown that is delaying negotiations between Bay Ferries and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol over the proposed operation of the Bar Harbor ferry terminal, reports Becky Pritchard for the Mount Desert Islander:

“The shutdown is causing problems with reaching officials at CBP,” [Bar Harbor town manager Cornell Knight] said.

Knight attended a meeting on Dec. 13 between Bay Ferries and CBP officials. The meeting, held at the CBC offices in Portland, was attended by interested parties in the ferry service Bay Ferries plan to provide from the Bar Harbor ferry terminal. That service is due to start in June. At that meeting, no agreement was reached about how much the cost of staffing customs officials would fall on the ferry service.

Reader Mike Smit points out that Hines’ claim that it’s the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol that wants negotiations to be held in confidence seems strained, as the agency makes all its salaries public. More likely, seems to me, is that it’s the Nova Scotia government that is insisting on the secrecy.

I think we need a re-think on “economic development” as it relates to the ferry. Certainly, we should be concerned about the state of the economy everywhere, and especially in struggling places like southwest Nova Scotia. Sign me up for direct state intervention in the economy.

But what’s the purpose of “economic development” efforts? It shouldn’t be to simply slosh money among the already powerful with little real-world impact for most of the citizenry. Rather, what we want is to make people’s lives better: we want seniors to worry a little less about surviving on meagre pension benefits, families to be in a position to feed their children, opportunities for young people.

I’d ask the same question about the Yarmouth ferry as I do about any other supposed “economic development” project (like the convention centre or the proposed stadium): is it achieving a meaningful difference in the lives of the most desperate, and those living close to the edge?

We’re spending $10 million or so a year on the ferry, plus what looks like millions more for terminal upgrades. Much of that money is being spent in Maine. More of it goes to Mark MacDonald, Donald Cormier, Gerard Stevenson, and Danny Bartlett, the owners of NFL Holdings Ltd., the parent company of Bay Ferries, based in Charlottetown. Some more goes to the U.S. Navy, for lease of the boat. I guess some of that $10 million stays in Yarmouth, but can someone please tell us what that amount is, precisely?

There’s no question that the ferry provides a handful of jobs itself, and considerably more in the broader tourism industry. But those jobs are mostly seasonal and at minimum or near-minimum wages — to be sure, even seasonal and minimum wage jobs are welcomed by people who wouldn’t be able to get those otherwise, but is it enough? Are we getting much bang for our buck? What’s the return on investment? And not for some abstract GDP numbers or even concrete numbers like hotel room nights, but what’s the return on investment in terms of real impact in real people’s lives?

Imagine what the $10 million or so a year we’re spending on the ferry could do for real people’s lives if it were instead spent exclusively in southwest Nova Scotia, put into a revolving microloan and small business start-up fund, or used to pay for university tuition, or for living allowances for students attending trade school, or to provide free high-speed internet for all of Yarmouth, or…

Is the ferry really the best we can do?

2. Stephen McNeil would never abuse his position, honest

Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Premier Stephen McNeil denies he lobbied or advocated for additional provincial money to be spent on a $3.5-million outdoor track and field facility in his own riding,” reports Jennifer Henderson.

Click here to read “Premier Stephen McNeil denies advocating for province to pay for new sports facility in his riding.”

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3. Clearwater

“Canadian seafood giant Clearwater was convicted of ‘gross violation’ of fisheries regulations last fall after senior management ignored federal government warnings to change the way the company conducts its monopoly offshore lobster fishery,” reports Paul Withers for the CBC:

The decision to prosecute North America’s largest shellfish producer occurred amid a lengthy and still ongoing lobby effort by Clearwater to change the rule it broke: a Canadian requirement that fishing gear at sea must be tended every 72 hours.

Clearwater company CS ManPar was convicted for storing 3,800 lobster traps on the ocean bottom off the Nova Scotia coast for upward of two months in the fall of 2017 — for 17 consecutive days on one occasion, 31 consecutive days on another.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) says the practice poses a “serious conservation risk” because lobster and other species can be unintentionally caught.

“This was a gross violation,” federal Crown prosecutor Derek Schnare told provincial court in Shelburne, N.S., on Sept. 20.

I have more to say about this, but I think I’ll wait a bit.

4. Shambhala

Sakyong Mipham

Sure, Shambhala is rocked to its core by a sex abuse scandal, but the fundraising must continue.

Several people posted the latest fundraising appeal on social media:

And if you really want to help out the organization, why not attend a seven-day “sealed” retreat, beginning on February 23?

Dear Holders of the Rigden Abhisheka Transmission1)

On behalf of the Pillar of Government, I would like to invite you to attend the Monarch Retreat at Sky Lake Retreat Center from February 23rd through March 3rd, 2019.

This unique retreat includes receiving and practicing a heart transmission from His Majesty the Kongma Sakyong II2). Although the Sakyong himself does not physically attend the retreat, his presence is palpable. In light of the disturbing events and conflicts in the mandala3) this year, it may seem surprising to be holding such a retreat at this time. Some might find it provocative. I recently attended this retreat at Dechen Chöling for my third time. There was a profound sense of tenderness and genuineness among the 22 participants as we each explored our deeply personal relationship with the lineage and with the Sakyong. It was a meaningful journey for me and felt incredibly necessary and nourishing in terms of engaging in my path for the benefit of our greater world.

My experience is that the most magical things happen during these retreats. The container provides a lot of time for practice, contemplation and conversation about what it means to be a warrior. The thin veil that separates the conventional world from the world inhabited by the dralas 4)dissolves and the kingdom of Shambhala opens up as the ground for exploration and play. The lineage is there waiting for us, trusting us and loving us.

The Monarch Retreat includes receiving and practicing a heart transmission from His Majesty the Kongma Sakyong II and a specially-designed Monarch Retreat shrine with a full portrait of the Sakyong.

In line with other Monarch Retreats, we will also study and contemplate:

  • Discovering Your Bravery — His Majesty’s teaching on bravery on the path of leadership and kindness at the most recent Kalapa Garchen5)
  • The North Star of Shambhala, Loyalty – The Ground Path and Fruition of the Four Pillars (participants will receive the lung for this text if they do not have it already)6)
  • Study of The Six Ways of Ruling and practical exercises to help manifest them7)

The retreat container

The Monarch Retreat is a seven-day retreat (plus arrival and departure days). It is a sealed retreat — all participants live, eat, sleep and practice in the confines of the retreat, except for outdoor exercise.8) The days are structured according to a practice text that His Majesty has written solely for this retreat.

These retreats take place from very early in the morning through to late evening. The Sakyong has structured each day to accommodate individual study and reflection as well as group practice, contemplation, exercise and discussion.

Explanation and footnotes here.

Price is US$780 if you can somehow provide your own lodging. Total cost including a shared room with some stranger is US$1,116. Someone in a robe will pick you up at the bus stop for an extra 10 bucks.

5. Scott Brison

I would like to share an important family decision: I’ve informed the Prime Minister of my decision to not seek re-election in 2019. As such, I’ve decided to step down from my role as President of the Treasury Board and will work with the PM to ensure a smooth transition.

— Scott Brison (@scottbrison) January 10, 2019

6. Yantian Express

The fire on the Yantian Express is now under control, and some of the crew have returned to the ship for the tow to Halifax, reports Splash247. The fire seems pretty extensive, at least as conveyed by a press release issued by Hapag-Lloyd:

Based on the currently available information, we have to assume that all cargo in Bay 12 on deck and forward is directly affected by the fire, also all cargo in Hold 1 (Bay 1 to 9). Further, we have to expect that all cargo in Hold 2 (Bay 11 to 17) is affected by fire, smoke and / or damage caused by firefighting water. Damage caused by smoke, heat and / or firefighting water in adjacent areas is possible.

All Reefers in Bay 1 to 24 are without power and switched off. All other Bays with Reefers are continuously supplied with power and in operation.

There’s no word yet when the ship will arrive in Halifax.

7. Earth hiccup

Maritimers are downright cute when they get excited about a magnitude 3.8 “earthquake.”


“Something strange is going on at the top of the world,” reports Alexandra Witze for Nature:

Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.

By early 2018, the World Magnetic Model was in trouble. Researchers from NOAA and the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh had been doing their annual check of how well the model was capturing all the variations in Earth’s magnetic field. They realized that it was so inaccurate that it was about to exceed the acceptable limit for navigational errors.

Well good thing they’re going to revise that World Magnetic Model, eh? Oh, wait:

Update, 9 January: The release of the World Magnetic Model has been postponed to 30 January due to the ongoing US government shutdown.

Thanks to Trump and his damn wall, ships and airplanes are going to start banging into each other, and our phones will tell us that Stewiacke isn’t really halfway between the north pole and the equator.


No public meetings.

On campus



Indigenous Women: Struggle, Resilience and Resurgence (Friday, 12pm, Room 2190, Marion McCain Building) — Sherry Pictou from Mount Saint Vincent University will speak.

Organometallic Gold Compounds for Atomic Layer Deposition: How Do They Compare? (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Sean Barry from Carleton University will speak.

Europe Looks East: Wolff & Leibniz on China (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, McCain Building) — Simon Kow from King’s College University will speak.

Saint Mary’s


Artist Talk: Bev Pike (Saturday, 3pm, SMU Art Gallery) — in conversation with Jayne Wark.

Mount Saint Vincent


Jenn E. Norton: Slipstream (Saturday, 2pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — artist’s talk followed by an informal reception. Info here .

In the harbour

03:45: YM Modsty, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from anchorage to Pier 41
07:00: Julius-S, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
08:00: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
09:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
18:00: ZIM Vancouver sails for New York
18:00: Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre


I’ve never been to a Subway fast food place before. Went just now because of circumstances. The teenager behind the counter gave me a “senior discount” without asking. I’m never going to Subway again.

— Tim Bousquet (@Tim_Bousquet) January 11, 2019

Hey young people who work at retail jobs: not everyone with grey hair is, um, you know, old. Maybe don’t toss that “senior discount” thing around so easily; some people with grey hair are actually quite spry, athletic even, still have a social life and a job, and aren’t living on catfood level pensions. Honestly, I’m in an OK financial position, so maybe give some truly needy person the discount instead of implying I’ve got one foot in the grave.

The proper way to address the situation of having — horrors! — a grey-haired customer at the other side of your cash register is not to simply give the senior discount, and certainly not to ask directly. The proper approach is to say, “Do you qualify for any discounts?” which we’ll pretend could include the military discount, the CAA discount, the sleeping with the boss discount, as well as the senior discount, and to let the customer offer up the senior discount as a suggestion.

Now pardon me, I’m going to go to the gym and afterwards maybe stop by the drug store for some hair dye.

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  1. has nobody thought of the benefit to Bar Harbor of having an international connection? Presumably the Ferry returns to Bar Harbor with paying customers aboard?

    If we are so world-class why do we have to keep bribing officials to let us join?

  2. The absurdity of paying for US customs officials in Bar Harbour is beyond comprehension. This absolutely should not be done under any circumstances. It sets a precedent which given the current trend in the US administration could start a cascade effect. What happens if the US decides Canada should pay for US border services at the Detroit-Windsor crossing? “Well you are doing it in Maine”. I dont use the word often, but to pay for US border services in Maine is a real special kind of stupid.

  3. As many of you know I have frequently posted comments regarding the cost of the very generous HRM Pension Plan.
    For the first time since HRM was established the council will now hear on January 15 a presentation on the benefits,cost and investment returns of the plan. Everything I previously posted is confirmed in the report.
    In summary : • HRM Plan provides more generous features than the vast majority of plans across the country
    • After considering CPP and OAS many HRM Plan Members retire with more net cash flow than they had preretirement
    • Flat 2.0% accrual rate that is not integrated with CPP. Vast majority of public sector plans are integrated
    with CPP
    • Generous early retirement provisions
    • One area where some plans provide more benefit than HRM is with regards to post-retirement indexation of pensions
    • HRM contribution rates among the highest in the country (see Appendix 3)

  4. The SubWay server did the right thing. If someone asked me if a qualified for a discount I’d probably think CAA but not seniors – and I certainly qualify for that. Perhaps I wouldn’t think of it because I don’t have a discount card, or because I forget things now, or because … um!

  5. Fires in containers are often the result of a freight forwarder or shipper deliberately lying about the contents and getting a cheaper rate for shipment.
    When I had an office on SGR I had a desk, a telephone,a Telex and bolt cutters.
    Freight forwarders frequently lie about the contents of a container, charge the customer the rate for the contents and then misdeclare the contents as being goods with a lower value. The forwarder then charges commission on the real description and pays the shipping company the lower rate for the misdeclared goods, pocketing a very tidy amount of money.

  6. The ferry doesn’t make sense as an economic development project, I will give you that. It does make sense as a vote-buying project though. So did handing out cash and bottles of rum, but you aren’t allowed to do that anymore.

    A ferry in every pot.

  7. Now, how can you be sure that wasn’t some starry-eyed J-school student, who, recognizing one the Heroes of the New Media, was desperate to communicate an appreciation for your work, but tongue tied…. so they chose the one avenue open to them, a discount, and a senior’s discount was the only option??