This is why you should subscribe to the Halifax Examiner

Earlier this month, I published an article looking at Justice Lawrence O’Neil’s ruling that gives custody of a five-year-old boy to a father with a history of domestic assault.

Last night, I took the article from behind the paywall so everyone can read it for free and so I can discuss it this morning. Click here to read “Man with history of domestic assault awarded custody of five-year-old boy.”

The ruling in this case was the subject of a CBC article by reporter Michael Gorman. That article, however, missed the domestic assault aspects of the case, and concentrated on the extraordinary allegations that the police had lied to the court.

I don’t blame Gorman for missing the assault part of the story — that’s because O’Neil never mentioned those assaults in his decision. This a regular thing that reporters do: a court decision is released, and we read through the sometimes lengthy decision and summarize it for readers without delving into the more extensive court files. I do this myself. There aren’t enough reporters with enough time to dive into every case.

But I learned of the details of O’Neil’s problematic decision, and then took the time to further investigate. It took a lot of time. I went to the courthouse to pull the files, and then photographed each page. I had to read through each file to understand that there were more files, and I had to pull those and photograph and read through those.

This was a difficult story to write, with lots of details and a strange narrative that I needed to wrap my head around. I conducted other research that informed the story but which doesn’t appear in the article for legal reasons. I tried to contact the lawyer for the mother and the father, to no avail. It took me about a week to write the article, and then I needed to run it by trusted people to make sure the tone was correct and that I wasn’t violating publication bans.

A week while I’m managing the business, writing Morning File, editing other writers, and working on other stories is a lot of work. But that’s what this enterprise is about.

All of which is to say, your subscription makes this work possible. And if we can get enough new subscribers during this subscription drive, we can increase the pool of writers to produce even more investigative work.

There are important stories out there not being told. With more resources, we can tell some of those stories.

Please subscribe. Regular subscriptions are $10 a month, but we have a low-income rate of $5. Annual subscriptions are discounted to $100, and this month all new annual subscribers will get a Halifax Examiner T-Shirt.

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Thanks much.


1. The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, the Paradise Papers, and taxpayer interests

Writes Stephen Kimber:

So far as I can tell, the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation has not uttered even a single shocked-and-appalled tweet about the revelations in the Paradise Papers, or demanded that Ottawa begin collecting all those billions in lost revenue. So who does the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation really represent? Who are its members? Who funds it… really? And why are its spokespeople always popping up in the mainstream media pretending to speak for Canadian taxpayers — while ignoring their real interests?

Click here to read “The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, the Paradise Papers, and taxpayer interests.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall. Click here to subscribe.

2. Examineradio, episode #137

Danny Graham is chief engagement officer for Engage Nova Scotia.

Danny Graham was leader of the Nova Scotia Liberals once. He’s worked on restorative justice issues and served as the province’s chief negotiator on Aboriginal rights.

Now he has a job as “Chief Engagement Officer,” whatever that means, with Engage Nova Scotia, whatever that is. The Progressive Conservatives called Graham’s appointment a “plum patronage job” when they found out he was making more than $13,000 a month at one point. They demanded the McNeil government stop funding Engage

Engage’s roots go back to 2012, but it really took off after the release of the Ivany Report. Its purpose is to “engage citizens,” which, according to the Engage website, includes “building capacity” and “creating change.”

I once created the Ivany Report drinking game, to call out the buzzwords and bullshit in the thing, so I had an, er, engaging conversation with Graham about all this.

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(direct download)
(RSS feed)
(Subscribe via iTunes)

3. Alderney ferry

At today’s meeting, Halifax council will take up proposed changes in the Alderney ferry schedule. The schedule had be shifted to increase service during the Macdonald Bridge reconstruction (I never liked “The Big Lift” nomenclature), and now that the construction is nearing completion, staff is proposing that some of the increased service be shifted around a bit, as explained in this chart:

In short, the change would take the additional night service and shift it over as additional morning service. The justification for that shift is summarized in this chart:

Writes Colin Redding, a Halifax Transit planner:

While evening boardings have increased by about 150% during the Big Lift, there has also been a 100% increase in service provided during those hours. On a per trip basis, trips operating during the midday period continue to carry more than double the amount of passengers compared with trips in the evening period. It is anticipated that with the completion of the Big Lift project there will be a decline in demand for Ferry service, particularly during the evening period when bridge closures have most impacted transit users.

Redding says that staffing limitations prevents Halifax Transit from both keeping the extra late-night service and adding additional morning service. Which is too bad — I’ve been skeptical of the late night service, but it does appear that, at least to some extent, if you provide the boat people will use it. I think it’d be a worthy experiment to continue to run the extra late night service for a while after the bridge reconstruction is complete and see what happens.

Oh, Redding is also recommending that Sunday service match Saturday service, running every 30 minutes from 6:30am to 11:30pm. He rightly points out that this replaces the current confusing schedule with a consistent, easy-to-understand schedule.

If council approves the changes, they will be implemented on February 19.

4. Lobster and trade agreements

“A windswept bay in eastern Canada.”

“This lobster factory on a windswept bay in eastern Canada is so remote that its workers have to drive for miles just to get cellphone service,” reports Ana Swanson for the New York Times:

But Gidney Fisheries is truly global, with its lobsters landing on plates in Paris and Shanghai through trade agreements hammered out in far-off capitals.

Of late, these trade pacts have been shifting in the factory’s favor, giving it an advantage over its American competitors.

A new trade agreement between Canada and the European Union has slashed tariffs on imports of Canadian lobsters. That means more 747s filled with Christmas-red crustaceans will depart from Nova Scotia for European markets this winter — and more revenue will flow to Gidney Fisheries. The factory, which in the 1800s sent its lobsters to Boston by steamship, is flush with potential as it gains access to new markets and plans to increase its work force by roughly 50 percent, adding dozens of positions to its current payroll of around 85 workers.

The New York Times is sending a reporter to “a windswept bay in eastern Canada” (sounds cold) because, according to Swanson, in the name of protecting American jobs, the Trump administration is throwing wrenches into various proposed international trade deals, so “other countries, like Canada, are forging ahead with their own trade deals as they balk at the tough terms the United States is demanding in its trade negotiations.” This, in turn, leads to the ironic situation in which American lobster processors are considering leaving Maine and setting up shop in Nova Scotia.

Gidney Fisheries, incidentally, pays its workers $14/hour.

5. Pity the landlords

As part of the CBC’s “Go Public” investigative series, reporter Rosa Marchitelli scoured the country and found two bad tenants who ripped off landlords, and therefore we have to change all the tenant protection laws in 10 provinces.

Landlording is hard work, fraught with potential pitfalls, including scammers and thieves. Welcome to entrepreneurship — every business faces such challenges.

To be sure, a bad tenant can be a pain in the ass, and a criminal tenant can be a huge financial hit. A criminal tenant can serially rip off a handful of landlords over a period of time. If they can be identified and caught, they will face the full wrath of the law, as they should. No one has any sympathy for such crooks.

But tenancy laws should also protect renters from cheating landlords, landlords who evict people for no reason, landlords who don’t properly heat or maintain their rental properties.

A single bad landlord can destroy the lives of hundreds of tenants at a time. They can rent out rat- and trash-strewn apartments, entire buildings without proper sanitation, veritable hell-holes. Good luck even identifying such landlords, as the system is set up to blame the tenants, many of whom don’t have the wherewithal to fight back. And when a bad landlord is identified, they certainly aren’t considered criminals by the justice system — just businesspeople who failed to follow a regulation. They continue on in good standing in the right circles, maintain their memberships in the Chamber of Commerce, are spoken of respectfully as part of the “real estate community.”

Why don’t you write about that, Go Public?

6. SMU football

I don’t have the knowledge to fully understand what’s going on, but apparently there’s a football game today.


1. Tristan Cleveland gets the mayor wrong

Tristan Cleveland details the multiple bureaucratic delays hitting City Hall:

The Integrated Mobility Plan, Green Network Plan, and the Centre Plan, are all at least a season behind schedule. Public consultations for the Downtown Dartmouth Plan were held four years ago and the public has heard nothing since. Meanwhile, Spryfield is making due with a plan from 1978, and work on a replacement hasn’t even started.


Others tell me our CAO, Jacques Dubé, is taking too long to process staff reports, so other managers are sitting on their hands waiting for things to go to council. Staff morale is low, with many motivated and talented people feeling like they can’t get things done.

And just when the Centre Plan and Integrated Mobility Plan were nearing the finish line, the CAO fired our chief planner, Bob Bjerke, creating chaos. Our Chief of Finance, Amanda Whitewood, meanwhile, has also taken a leave of absence to help the IWK. That she filed a complaint against the CAO in February for a harassing email is perhaps not a coincidence.

All of which is true. But Cleveland’s proposed solution makes no sense:

It’s time for Mayor Savage to go down to City Hall, make a few “decisive moves,” and clear up the log jam.

The mayor should articulate exactly what he wants to see accomplished in the next six months by the CAO, and let him know his job depends it.

Savage doesn’t have such power. We don’t have a “strong mayor” form of government; Savage is just one of 17 elected city politicians, with no more power than the other 16 except for the bully pulpit. He certainly can’t threaten anyone’s job, nor fire anyone.

Council as a whole can, however. And that would be done through the Executive Standing Committee, which consists of Savage and councillors Steve Craig, Lorelei Nicol, Tim Outhit, Tony Mancini, Waye Mason, and Russell Walker.

Dubé’s term started off rocky, and doesn’t seem to be gaining even keel, but it takes an awful lot to fire a CAO before their contract is up. I don’t know when that is — see below — but it takes something extremely egregious to get enough councillors to agree to fire a CAO. And so long as Dubé is pleasing the pro-developer side of council, I don’t see that happening.

2. The new city website is a piece of shit

Damn I hate that thing. For the above item, I wondered what the length of Dubé’s contract with the city is. I thought, hey, this will be as simple as going back to the news release announcing Dubé’s hiring back in November 2016.

I thought this for good reason. The old city website has a well organized catalog of old press releases. It looked like this:

Click on any desired year, and you get a nice reverse-chronological list of releases, which you can scroll down to your desired date:

Perfectly functional. Perfectly useful. I can find a press release form 2012, or 2003, or even 1999, no problem.

But I can’t easily find a press release from last year. That’s because the newly designed site has no easy chronological or reverse chronological jump page. Instead, the new page has just the latest 10 releases listed:

There’s no way to jump right to 2016 releases and scroll down to November.

At the bottom of the list of 10, however, there is the ability to click through to older releases:

See the problem? Yep, there are 796 pages. So if I click on page #9, I get all the way back to…  October 27.

And that gives me the option to get to get all the way back to page #13 (October 19), where I can again click through to get to page 17 (October 11), where I can click through again to get to page 21, and on and on. I guess in theory I could eventually get to November 2016, but come on.

Oh, but there’s a search function!

Yeah, good luck with that. Placing Dubé’s name in the search box returns zero results:

“CAO” also gets zero results.

This is just one example of how horrible the city’s site is. I find some problem with the thing nearly every day. It’s riddled with problems. It is not user-friendly, it was constructed poorly, it looks horrible, and it’s a waste of money.

3. Remembrance Day

Judy Haiven reviews employee’s rights for Remembrance Day. Someone remind me to link to this piece a week before next Remembrance Day.




City council (10am, City Hall) — Here’s the agenda. I’ll be live-blogging the meeting via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.


Audit & Finance (10am, City Hall) — the committee is reserving $225,000 from this year’s public art budget for next year’s completion of the Dartmouth Sportsplex. This represents one per cent of construction costs, as is long-standing council policy. It hasn’t yet been decided what the art will be.



Economic Development (1pm, One Government Place) — just the per diem-collecting “organizational meeting.” No actual business.


No public meetings.

On campus

I’m running behind… rather than hold the entire post up for even more time, I’ll update this section a little later this morning.

In the harbour

6am: Asian Sun, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from San Juan, Puerto Rico
5pm: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
10pm: Algoma Mariner, bulker, arrives at Pier 25 from Montreal
10pm: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Saint John


Where’d I store those gloves?

I don’t have a copy editor this morning. Please be kind.

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

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  1. Thank you for picking up on the Go Public travesty. While listening to this on the radio yesterday, I could actually feel my blood pressure rising. This is just an absolutely classic example of “punching down”, a term usually referencing crap comedians who make fun of already marginalised people or groups. But here, on the national broadcaster, we have a story about one woman (one!) who has ruined some landlord’s life. Yeah, that is crappy, but this is not a massive societal problem requiring changes in laws. Tenants need protections from the people with the real power – landlords. That would be a good story that could even lead to some progressive social change where brutal landlords who ruin tenants’ lives get named and shamed, and that might even result in changes to the way tenants’ rights are enforced so that brutal landlords don’t just keep on getting away with their awfulness. And yes, I bet that if Go Public were to do this, they would have no problem finding many more examples of bad landlords in one week, than they would find in one year of searching for bad tenants.

    1. There’s also a big difference between being owed money and losing money. They were owed $12,000 in rent but that’s not how much they lost because of the person not paying. The cost of holding that unpaid duplex was probably not $12,000. The “tens of thousands” that ruined them were loans they gave her!

      I’m sure she was skillful in cheating them, but unlawful loans are different from unlawful tenancy. In other words, the eviction process in their province doesn’t allow landlords to be cheated out of “tens of thousands of dollars.” Loaning money to criminals who trick you does that.

  2. The City’s website is horrendous. But that is no longer the biggest issue about it. That would be why it hasn’t been fixed after months of dysfunction. Someone should FOIPOP communications between the City and the web contractor. I suspect there is one hell of a dispute going on.

    And an update. At Committee of The Whole today City solicitor John Traves said the website was undergoing “growing pains.”

  3. CBC’s website is as bad or worse when it comes to search capabilities. But then the ‘newfangled updated shiny’ site is a clusterfuck of a mess, so it’s just one more reason to not bother with ‘Canada’s broadcaster’.
    You on the other hand–I add my voice to the importance to subscribing to the Examiner. You and your team do fine work and even if I disagree, I always think about what you or your writer has said. Do I read all the articles or writers? Nope–but i don’t read every article in any publication (except the one I help edit) and no one can love every writer’s style. Keep up the great work!

  4. “I don’t have a copy editor this morning. Please be kind.”

    Neither does Tristan Cleveland apparently, otherwise they’d have surely caught that the correct term is “make do”, not “make due”. For some reason this fairly common mistake is a pet peeve of mine, up with the ranks of “loser” vs “looser”.