1. Fish

Photo: Eric Hewey.

“‘Some sort of environmental event’ is the likely cause of the recent swath of herring mortalities that washed up along the shore of St. Mary’s Bay, provincial government representatives heard Jan. 19,” reports Chris Muise for the Yarmouth Vanguard:

Bumping back a planned meeting on the lobster fishery, the Standing Committee on Resources invited members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Maritime Region and the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture to explain their findings on what caused the recent fish deaths.

“We certainly know what it isn’t,” says Alain Vézina, regional director of science with the DFO. “It’s not human-caused.”

Vézina told the committee, as well as a scrum of journalists after the meeting, that extensive tests done on the herring remains and the environment excludes any sort of man-made cause or any viral or bacterial pandemic of any sort.

“We have ruled out anything that would be caused by pollution, pesticides, or natural contaminants in the environment. We have ruled all that out,” says Vézina. “What’s left, really, is some sort of environmental event.”

We know that as a result of climate change, the entire Gulf of Maine is warming at a rate greater than any other body of water on the planet, causing dramatic and alarming changes in the fisheries. This is where we’re supposed to put in the disclaimer that “of course no single event like a fish kill can be directly attributed to global warming” (even though at least one oceanographer is telling us it is). But Vézina is implying that even if we could connect the St. Mary’s Bay fish kills to climate change, that’s not a human-caused phenomenon, but rather just some inexplicable “environmental event.” What are you going to do, eh?

Meanwhile, the haddock population in Nova Scotian waters is mysteriously exploding, also just some inexplainable event totally disconnected to all the other climate change-related changes to the other fisheries in the same waters. Reports Paul Withers for the CBC:

Biologist Monica Finley recently completed a population assessment for the southern Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy. 

She estimates 264 million haddock were hatched there in 2013 and survived their first year, making it an “extraordinary” year-class.

“This 2013 year-class is five times higher than the next highest on record since 1985,” said Finley, who works at a Department of Fisheries and Oceans research facility in St. Andrews, N.B.

2. Facebook Live

In December, a standoff between police and an knife-weilding man holed up in a Fairview tattoo shop was live-streamed by both the barricaded man and surrounding spectators on Facebook Live. Reporter Chris Lambie explores the ethical, policing, and legal issues raised by the new technology.

Click here to read “Facebook Live: a standoff with police becomes its own internet-based reality TV show.”

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

3. “Fair and balanced”

Christina Lamey. Photo: LinkedIn

“You may have heard that the Spectator locked horns this week with Christina Lamey, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as a ‘Communications Advisor at Cape Breton Regional Municipality – Mayor’s Office,’” writes Mary Campbell in the Cape Breton Spectator (behind the Spectator’s paywall):

Lamey has a habit of ignoring my emails and when I confronted her about it at Saturday’s port meeting, she informed me that when the Spectator begins providing “fair and balanced” coverage, she will begin answering my questions. (Interesting that she reached for the Fox News tagline to describe her dream coverage — should I be “fair and balanced” like Sean Hannity or “fair and balanced” like Bill O’Reilly?)

Robert Devet contacted Lamey to ask about her refusal to talk to Campbell:

In an email to the Nova Scotia Advocate Lamey writes, “I began by expressing that her approach is in bad faith. Mary’s writing usually contains commentary that is disdainful toward others in our community. I expressed to her that fairness and balance would be welcome. By her reaction, I don’t think we see eye-to-eye on that.”

Lamey also writes that the mayor is available after council meetings, events, etc. for questions. “Providing additional commentary or quotes for her blog is at our discretion.”

Criticizing a reporter’s work as a “blog” and “blogging” is an insult that was popular circa 2005 — it was stupid then, and even stupider now. Says Campbell:

OMG guys, I was just sitting here having a latte thinking about what to make for lunch and whether the color of my scarf makes me look bilious and then SQUEE!!!!!!!!!!!!! my cat did the most precious thing ever and it reminded me of my favorite Alannis Morrisette song…

Oh, sorry, started blogging there for a moment. Any minute now I will no doubt be disdainful of people in our community, people the mayor’s partisan political spokesperson has apparently sworn to protect.

This just isn’t a fight between a reporter and a PR hack. As Devet points out:

Much of this is related to Lamey’s position, which is unusual in the municipal context here in Nova Scotia. 

The folks responsible for communication with the press in HRM and elsewhere tend to be municipal employees who are non-partisan about the issues at hand. But Lamey, a former communications director of the provincial  Progressive Conservative caucus, is a political appointee, handpicked by mayor Clarke after he was first elected in 2012.

And writes Campbell:

And yet, here we are in the CBRM with a spokesperson who is the mayor’s partisan political hire, but who also works for the councilors and who frequently speaks for the CBRM as a whole — who provided the public with information during the Thanksgiving floods? Christina Lamey. Who, under the title “municipality spokeswoman,” told the CBC about the problems related to “lingering mold” after the floods? Christina Lamey. Who controls access to the CBRM media list? Christina Lamey.

And who, on Tuesday, after Robert Devet’s story about my communications problems appeared in the Nova Scotia Advocate, answered a question I’d asked the CBRM Public Works and Engineering Department? Christina Lamey. The question was about whether the plan for the second berth had taken rising sea levels due to climate change into account — it was not a question for the mayor, it was not a question to a councilor. And yet, it was answered by Lamey.

See the problem?

I’m happy to report that Halifax mayor Mike Savage’s PR person, Shaune MacKinlay, understands what her job is and has always conducted herself professionally.

4. Cat hoarding

“Two Kings County women have pleaded not guilty to charges laid against them after 18 cats were removed from an abandoned home and property,” reports Ian Fairclough for Local Xpress:

[Jo-Anne Landsburg, the chief inspector for the Nova Scotia SPCA,] said it took three and half months to locate, trap and remove the 18 cats from the property. She said one window in the home on Old Farm Lane in New Minas was open and the cats would come and go, so it took longer to trap them because they were likely getting food elsewhere.


Landsburg said it took longer to search the home for the animals because of debris throughout the house, which she described as a hoarding situation that made it “incredibly difficult” to move around.

“They had to wear hazmat suits and respirators. They were literally climbing on top of piles of garbage and debris trying to find their way around,” she said.

“There was garbage, there was the smell of ammonia in there. When you go into these types of situations, you just never know what type of even human waste that you could come across as well.”

As I’ve said before, cat hoarding is a far more common problem than most people realize:

I know that many, maybe all, Halifax city councillors have had to deal with a resident hoarding cats. That was what was behind the proposed city cat bylaw: then-Dartmouth councillor Jim Smith had not one, but two such houses in his district. Neighbours complained, and who can blame them? Can you imagine living next to someone with 80 cats or whatever? The stink alone must have been unbearable. I quite enjoy it when a lone neighbourhood cat comes to visit. Two or three would be OK. But 50 of them?

I’ve always thought the ridicule heaped on city council for even debating the cat bylaw was unfair: it was a real issue brought forward by citizens who had had enough. This is what councillors are supposed to do — deal with issues affecting the lives of residents in their districts. And it proceeded sensibly. Staff brought forward what seemed like a workable proposal to limit the number of cats any resident could have and imposed a modest registration fee to pay for enforcement. The problem arose when staff costed out the price of establishing a cat shelter; when councillors saw the total bill, upwards of a million dollars, they changed their minds and rejected the bylaw and registration scheme. But again, this is what councillors are supposed to do: try to find solutions that benefit citizens, collect information, and make reasoned decisions, even if that means changing their minds because of new information.

Cat hoarding is considered a mental illness, and I worry that seemingly sensible, stable people are just a cat hair’s breadth away from falling into the abyss. Why, I once visited the apartment of a woman doing some work for me…. we were working on the computer in her den, and a cat came by. I forget the name of the creature, but she introduced it as her “cat,” singular. Some time later, another cat came by. That was her boyfriend’s “cat,” again singular. Then, a while later a third cat came by… I found an excuse to get out of there, fearful that by the end of my visit I’d be swimming in cats. She maintains that she and her boyfriend have “only” three cats (that’s like having “only” three psychotic episodes), but I dunno… I’ve seen the future, and it’s cats all the way down.

5. Evidence

“Defence lawyers in Halifax say they’re constantly fighting to get items returned to clients long after they were seized by police, often because officers can no longer find them,” reports CTV:

Lawyer Kevin Burke says sometimes, getting the items back is more difficult than defending a client.


Burke says getting seized items back from police has been an issue for years. But he’s noticed things have been getting worse.

“It just takes forever,” he said. “In a lot of cases they can’t find the exhibits.”

Burke says he’s often hunting down things like small amounts of cash, cellphones and computers that may never have been used in a case.

“Those items go to the police station and sit there and sit there and sit there and in a lot of cases the items have been there for years,” he said.

This comes on the heels of an audit showing problems with the police evidence room, including lost and improperly tracked exhibits.

I’ve been expecting defence lawyers to start challenging every bit of evidence presented against their clients, demanding to see the chain of custody fully documented. But that doesn’t yet seem to have happened.


1. Walking with our sisters

Alison DeLory discusses an exhibit at the MSVU Art Gallery.


No public meetings.

On campus


Architecture Lecture (9am, Auditorium, Medjuck Architecture Building) — Roberta Feldman, from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, will speak.

Patient Advocacy (12:10pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Sharon Batt, from Georgetown University, will speak on “Patient Advocacy in the Drug Regulatory Process in Canada and the US.”

Chemicals (1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Timothy F. Jamison, from MIT, will speak on “Continuous Flow Multistep Synthesis.”

Thesis Defence, English (2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Darren Dyck will defend his thesis, “Will and Love: Shakespeare, Volition, and Theological Romance.”

Mark Stout

Spooks (3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Mark Stout, a former spy who now teaches at Johns Hopkins University, will speak on “The Alternate CIA: John Grombach and the Pond.” Pre-circulated paper; get a copy by emailing

Stout wrote about “The Pond” here:

Sadly, most of the Pond’s 13-year history is lost. This obscurity was intentional. When the Pond was created in early 1942, the United States had very little experience with intelligence, and the notion of a spy agency which would be not only officially unacknowledged, but actually unknown, appealed to some people in Washington. These people were repelled by the larger-than-life publicity hound William Donovan and his “Oh So Social” intelligence agency. For a precedent they looked instead to foreign intelligence services such as the British MI-6, which they thought was more discreet and whose chief was never named in the press.

In accordance with this philosophy, the Pond spent most of its existence not as a government agency, but as a private sector organization, operating within real companies with names such as the Universal Service Corporation. This practice contributed substantially to obscurity and security. However, three successive government agencies found that having such an independent intelligence operation — and, worse yet, one run by a pugnacious, conspiratorial ideologue — was more trouble than it was worth, and the notion of having a truly secret intelligence organization never did catch on in the United States.

Step-Parenting (3:40pm, LSC 5260) —  Kristin Hadfield will speak.

Speak Easy (7pm, Coburg Coffee) —  Art, music, poetry and a safe space to discuss mental health issues.

Poetry Slam (7pm, Muse Cafe and Pub) — hosted by Halifax’s Poet Laureate, Rebecca Thomas. The Muse is the rebranded Grad House at 1252 LaMerchant Street.

Art Battle (7:30pm, Great Hall, University Club) —  an art competition and auction. Students and Early Birds $10,; everyone else is 15 bucks at the door.

Saint Mary’s

Thesis Defence, Business Administration (1pm, Atrium 216) — PhD candidate Kathy Sanderson will defend her thesis, “Chronic Workplace Ostracism: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Lived Experience.”

Winter Convocations
(10am, Loyola 290) — Bachelors of Commerce, certificates/diplomas in Business, graduate degrees in Business
(2pm, Loyola 290) — Bachelors of Arts, Environmental Studies, and Science; certificates/diplomas in Arts & Science; graduate degrees in Arts & Science

In the harbour

Reykjafoss. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Reykjafoss. Photo: Halifax Examiner

7am: Reykjafoss, general cargo, arrives at Pier 41 from Argentia, Newfoundland
11am: Reykjafoss, general cargo, sails from Pier 41 for sea
6pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s


I’ve got a bunch of new material in the works. I’m really behind on everything, but hope to get some of it out today. And if I can get all the editing done over the weekend, we’ve got two investigative pieces coming out Monday.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. ““We certainly know what it isn’t,” says Alain Vézina, regional director of science with the DFO. “It’s not human-caused.”

    A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I earned a science degree. I would feel very uncomfortable as an undergrad saying “I certainly know what it isn’t”. That presupposes one knows absolutely every possibility in their entirety. With all due respect to Mr Vézina, I don’t believe that’s possible. Unlike religion, science is under constant revision as new ideas are proposed while others fail new evidence.

    The best I would venture would be something like “As far as we could determine after exhaustive analysis using the best science available we could not identify a human cause”. That also includes the possibility that there was one, but his team failed to find it.

    Of course, that doesn’t make nearly as nice a sound bite.

  2. As Ms. Lamey is not unique in misguidedly “freezing out” a capable and bonafide reporter, mayor Savage is not singular in his instructions about (or tolerance of) Lamey’s behavior. A former mayor of Shelburne (easily defeated for re-election) refused to answer questions arising from Council debates at monthly meetings, but insisted on reporters making an appointment with the clerk for an interview which might occur two weeks later. More recently, the warden here (also replaced), refused to answer questions about council business because this reporter “did not have the positive well-being of the community in mind” when he posted stories about various council idiocies. Perhaps it’s a requirement of the job?

  3. Your claim that Christina Lamey’s status as a political employee makes her unique among municipal spokespeople ill-informed. For a contrary example, you cite Mayor Mike Savage’s spokesperson, Shaune MacKinlay, as a paragon of civil service purity. MacKinlay is exceptionally capable, and her duties go well beyond that of mouthpiece, but anyone who thinks her tenure will survive Savage’s term in office doesn’t understand how these things work. She is a political employee who lives by the sword, and will one day die by the sword.

    A little background: for decades, staff at the former city of Sydney, and latterly CBRM, tried to get council to hire a PR person. At budget time, penny-pinching councillors routinely axed the position—often to satisfy last minute demands from the police chief of the day for an additional constable. The result was wretched public communications. Upon his election as mayor, Cecil Clarke smartly insisted on the right to hire one political aide (Mark Bettens) and one communications officer (Lamey) who report directly to him. Idle sophomores who take glee in fanning hatred for politicians condemned the move, as ignorant children will, but in the main, the result has been much improved public communication.

    For the record, Lamey is a good friend. We haven’t discussed it, but I think it’s a dumb mistake for her to freeze out Mary Campbell. I suspect she is doing so on orders from Clarke, who has proven to be a dreadful mayor. (Were it not for a freak flood giving him the opportunity to parade around in a DayGlo vest and a white hard hat, he would no longer be mayor, and Christina would be looking for a job.)

    She ain’t unique, and the foolish practice of freezing out obstreperous reporters isn’t confined to politically appointed communications officers.

    1. I don’t think he was saying that she’s the only political appointment in Nova Scotia municipalities. I think Tim was saying that she’s unique in that she is a political appointment who is for some reason also being used to speak for the whole Municipality. Shaune is appointed, but only fills the role of Savage’s mouthpiece, not HRM’s mouthpiece.


      People “who take glee in fanning hatred for politicians …….. as ignorant children will”. is not restricted to Idle or motivated sophomores. Hardly. Look around you.

      PBD surely has experienced supposedly mature, intelligent people, who did not wear the label ignorant, fanning hatred . To suggest someone is ignorant, be it the idle or not, young or old, leaves one open for criticism.

      I’m sure I fanned a bit of hatred out of ignorance in the past decades and have learned from my actions. I can hardly point a finger at anyone else for doing the same without expecting a reaction and not necessarily one that I would appreciate.

      Have a look.

  4. Cat hoarding is real. So far our cat has hoarded 3 people. Thankfully it looks like it has stopped there.