On campus
In the harbour


1. Victoria General

Photo: Stewart Rand /
Photo: Stewart Rand /

Jennifer Henderson reports that planning for replacing the Victoria General is bogged down and “off to a slow and lethargic start.”

Click here to read “Planning for a new Victoria General Hospital stumbles along.”

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

Later this morning, we’ll publish Henderson’s follow-up piece, which looks at financing options — including public-private partnerships — to replace the VG Hospital.

2. Ships

Irving Shipyard. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Irving Shipyard. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“A senior official with the Canadian Forces says there’s been a slight delay in issuing a complex request to industry for an off-the-shelf design of the country’s next generation of warships,” reports Michael Tutton for the Canadian Press:

The original construction cost for 15 surface combatant vessels was pegged at $26 billion, but defence sources told The Canadian Press last year that figure is outdated and will go higher, possibly “north of $40 billion.”

[Pat Finn, the assistant deputy minister of materiel] said he couldn’t give an updated figure, and said it may only become precise as the first ships are being produced beginning in the 2020s.

That “Ships Start Here” thing looks sillier and sillier as time goes by.

3. Border crossing

“A young U.S. resident, driven by what he said was a desire to protect his Canadian girlfriend, used an air mattress to float across the St. Croix River in southeastern Maine and illegally enter New Brunswick late Wednesday, a Crown prosecutor says,” reports the Canadian Press:

Twenty-five-year-old John Bennett told police he had earlier tried to cross the border at Calais, Maine, but customs officers denied him entry because he was facing mischief charges in the U.S., lawyer Peter Thorn said Thursday.


Thorn said the provincial court in Saint John, N.B., was told Bennett purchased an air mattress at the local Walmart, inflated it and later used a wooden board to paddle across to an area near Ledge Road, southeast of St. Stephen, N.B.


“He was wet and carrying his boots … (and) walking towards the town,” said Thorn, a lawyer representing the federal Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

4. Pedestrian struck

A police release from yesterday:

At approximately 5:15 p.m., police responded to the intersection of Connaught Avenue and Chebucto Road in relation to a vehicle/pedestrian collision.  A 40-year-old woman was reported to have been struck in a marked crosswalk by a car that was turning westbound on Chebucto Road. The woman was transported to the QEII hospital with what were believed to be non-life-threatening injuries. 

The 41-year-old female driver was issued a ticket under the Motor Vehicle Act for failing to yield to pedestrian in a crosswalk.  

5. Night sky

This is a cool story from Carolyn Ray at the CBC:

“For me, I’ve always relied on other people,” said Tim Doucette, owner of the Deep Sky Eye Observatory in Quinan.

“But now, other people are relying on me to help them view the night sky, so that’s kind of a great feeling, to show somebody something else that makes them excited.”

Doucette was born completely blind. He had surgery when he was a child to remove cataracts, and doctors also removed the lenses of his eyes, giving him about 10 per cent of average vision.

He has to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days because his pupils are permanently dilated.

But Doucette discovered his disability gave him an incredible ability — he can see objects in the night sky with remarkable clarity.

I grew up in muggy Virginia; the skies were more present than they are here in the perpetually fog-bound Maritimes, but nonetheless, I never really truly saw the night sky until I was in my 20s. I was hitchhiking across the country and landed at a crappy little KAO campground in Kingman, Arizona, along one of the last remaining stretches of the fabled Route 66. I paid my registration, found my patch of ground (not a lick of grass or a tree to be found in the desert), pitched the tent. But it was over 100 degrees so I figured I’d just sleep in the open air. I rolled out my sleeping bag, and exhausted from a week on the road, I laid back to sleep. Just then — I remember it like it was yesterday — Holy Shit! The stars! There’s no sky like a desert sky. I had never dreamed of such a sky, and I stayed awake for hours, mesmerized.

I moved on to California; the sky in the Sierra foothills isn’t quite as present as it is in the true desert, but it comes a close second. The thing I miss most about California isn’t the weather (well, the weather, sure), but rather the stars.

And sure, we can get out to Keji or wherever and see lots of stars, but it’s not like it is out west. And how often do we even get that chance? On the trip back from Ontario, I stayed at a campground in the middle of nowhere in Maine. Lying back on an uncomfortable rock, I examined the Milky Way above, and saw a shooting star. It’s probably been a decade since I’ve seen a shooting star. And my radio recently told me that 80 per cent of people in North America can’t even see the Milky Way.

For the most part, we’ve lost the stars. That fundamental experience, affecting the human psyche and culture for millennia, is gone. This can’t be good.

OK, I am now officially an old fart telling stories.

YouTube video


1. Teachers contract

The specifics of the proposed contract with teachers should be released, writes Graham Steele:

There are three big reasons why all of us need to know — before the ratification vote — what’s in the deal.

First of all, the deal will impact provincial finances over the next five years. If it’s ratified, it will set a pattern to roll out through the whole public sector. That’s your money, folks.

Secondly, the 2016-17 budget adopted by the Nova Scotia Legislature assumes a certain wage cost. If this deal is outside the framework, then the budget may be blown. That could be an election issue.

Third — and perhaps most importantly of all — the NSTU contract plays a decisive role in how our public schools are governed.

Reader Ben Sichel, a high school teacher who anticipated this post, writes to say why Steele is all wet:

C’mon Graham, this is just silly. There’s a reason both sides agree not to “bargain in the media” throughout the negotiations process: the PR war on both sides would never end, and not allow the negotiating teams to actually work through the complexities of a contract that affects 9,000 people. What if the tentative agreement in all its complexity were released to the public now? Then what? Do you imagine a process where people could look through it and write their opinion on it to their MLA? The Canadian Taxpayers Federation would have a field day organizing their “members” on a letter-writing campaign demanding the government pay teachers less. Would the government then have the option of retracting whatever its offer is? Is all this a fair and productive way to negotiate a contract with employees?

The bit about the Freeman report [referenced in Steel’s op-ed] (a lot of which is junk and/or spin, the parts that get play in the media anyway) is a red herring. If it’s in the contract, it needs to be negotiated, and treated the same way as other aspects of negotiations. This is stuff that does affect teachers’ working lives. If it’s that important to reforming the education system — if the Liberals think their Action Plan changes are so beneficial to kids and that greedy, intransigent teachers are the only thing standing in the way — then let them legislate the changes and deal with the legal battles and/or political fallout.

2. G4S and shit wages at the airport


The airport has awarded the contract for security services to G4S, displacing the commissionaires, who have held the contract for 56 years, reports Preston Mulligan for the CBC.

Robert Devet points out that G4S probably won the contract because it pays shit wages:

“They didn’t give us a formal debrief on why we weren’t the successful bidder but I assume it’s cost,” Bruce Belliveau, CEO of Commissionaires Nova Scotia told the CBC. “It could come down to the fact that we have a policy of trying to provide pay that’s appropriate for veterans. These are people who have served their country.”

Belliveau goes on to explain that the airport commissionaires, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada Local 85100, earn a starting salary of $12 per hour, rather than minimum wage, and typically earn between $13 and $20 per hour.

It is assumed that G4S outbid Commissionaires Nova Scotia and its other competitors by paying its workers less money.

As Devet explains, G4S, which also recently won the parking enforcement contract from the city, has a horrid reputation:

The Intercept references G4S involvement in many unsavory operations worldwide, including Israeli prisons and “interrogation centers.” There is also a Wikipedia page devoted entirely to Controversies surrounding G4S.

The company most recently made the news when its homophobic employee Omar Mateen shot 49 people in the Orlando nightclub shooting.  How Mateen had passed the company’s security checks after an FBI investigation raised doubts about his stability remains a bit of a mystery.


The Toronto Star reports that an inspection blitz by the Ontario Labour ministry in January 2016 found that G4S and other employers of precarious workers frequently violated the Employment Standards Act, including shoddy record keeping, excess hours of work, and failure to pay overtime.

Aside from the company’s reputation, the wage issue looms large. The airport is a long way from anywhere — the time and money costs of travel to and from the job means that employees will effectively make less than minimum wage. Even the new airport bus, a huge improvement in service, will add almost two hours and seven bucks to the daily commute; $11/hour for an eight-hour shift becomes an effective wage of $8.10/hour. More realistically, most workers will have to own a car and cover the cost of maintenance, gas, and insurance, and so their effective wage is even less.

The airport lives in its own legal niche — it’s a public service nonprofit, so supposedly is in the business of serving the public, but doesn’t have to abide by the Freedom of Information laws that government agencies are bound by.

Given its public service agenda, and given the distance employees must travel to get to work, the airport should adopt a living wage requirement for contractors.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To The Coast:

Hardly a day goes by where something criminal hasn’t happened in Dartmouth. I just moved here, and literally had friends from my small town question me about firearm protection and such. At first I thought, “You fools, the city is not violent like that.” But the violence in Dartmouth and the surrounding communities is atrocious.

I do not live there. I will not pretend that I know what has to be done. The initial response is more police presence, but is it correct? Why not try investment? If the community is in need of assistance or infrastructure then should not our collective fund we ALL pay into—taxes—be used for this first? Every time I hear about a murder, accidental shooting or crime against someone for any reason at all, hateful or otherwise, I feel sorrow. Someone lost family. Someone lost life. Please, something must be done.

Dave, Halifax

Someone buy Dave a map so he can figure out where he lives, eh?


No public meetings.

On campus


“50 Years of Human Rights in Nova Scotia: Reflecting on the Past and Moving Towards a More Socially Just Society” (9:30am, C170, Collaborative Health Education Building) — a one-day conference to mark the 50th anniversary of The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, hosted by the Dalhousie School of Social Work.

In the harbour

The sea off Halifax, 8:50am Friday. Map:
The sea off Halifax, 8:50am Friday. Map:

5am: NYK Romulus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
7:15am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
9am: USNS Robert E Peary, US naval ship, arrives at NB4-5 from Norfolk
4:30pm:  Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
4:30pm: NYK Romulus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
8pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for Saint John

5am: Queen Mary 2, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from New York with up to 3,200 passengers
5pm: Queen Mary 2, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Southhampton, England

8am: Serenade of the Seas, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Akureyri, Iceland with up to 2,580 passengers
9am: Zuiderdam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor with up to 2,364 passengers
10am: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Portland with up to 2,808 passengers
5pm: Serenade of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for Boston
5pm: Zuiderdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Boston
7pm: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Charlottetown

The huge news in shipping circles was last week’s collapse of Hajin Shipping Lines, the seventh largest shipping company in the world. The Korea-based company abruptly declared bankruptcy in a bid to keep its ships from being seized, but dozens of ships and $14 billion worth of cargo in over a half a million containers are stranded at sea and in Pacific ports. Despite the bankruptcy, the ship Hanjin Montevideo was arrested in Long Beach, California.

Hajin doesn’t use the Port of Halifax, but the bankruptcy sheds some light on the economics of shipping. I’ve learned that the cost of shipping a single container from China to the west coast of North America dropped as low as $600, and is now at about $900. I’m guessing the container itself costs more than that. With these super-slim margins, it’s no wonder that shipping companies are building ever-larger ships.

As I repeatedly point out, it makes no sense for companies shipping goods to land a container in Halifax only to put it on a truck to drive to Chicago or wherever. Adding in the cost of the truck driver’s salary and fuel, the low price of shipping a container across the ocean suddenly skyrockets. The goal is almost always to get the container closest to its final destination, to minimize trucking costs. Shippers aren’t looking for the North American port closest to Europe, but rather the closest port to the container’s final destination — and that isn’t Halifax. With some exceptions, for the Port of Halifax geography is a disadvantage, not an advantage.


Trying to get something written today, but catching up from vacation is a lot of work.

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

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  1. There is no chance that the NSTU will agree to the administrators leaving the union; the principals, vp’s and people at the central offices have no interest in doing so. Besides, there is nothing to be gained by having this achieved.

    Ben Sichel’s comments accurately reflect the views of the members of the NSTU, and teachers’ contract negotiations have not changed in format in 45 years. Graham Steele can argue the perceived benefits of the public knowing the details before a ratification vote is held, but this status quo is going to remain.

    Here’s my beef- actually a beef in two parts-The Freeman Panel’s Report is stellar; it identified an inclusion model whose implementation “…is not working.” The Panel, perhaps because it was outside their mandate, never asked the questions: if implementation is not working then what happened to the monitoring and evaluation of this implementation? It is the job of senior administration and school – level administrators to monitor, assess and evaluate program implementation.

    Second part of the beef- The 3 R’s Action Plan is the government response to the Disrupting the Status Quo Report. Try to get answers on progress with regard to things like- what changes and improvements have actually occurred since October 30th., 2014 ( the date of release of the Freeman Panel Report) with regard to improving the implementation of the inclusion model and what changes the committee known as the Education Consultative Forum (ECF)has made with respect to improving the programs( the class level implementation) for those with special needs and what changes the universities that offer B. Ed’s have made with respect to better educating prospective teachers when it comes to things like differentiating their instruction so as to meet the needs and actually teach directly those students who have special needs- including those who ought to have enriched learning opportunities!
    The universities have said nothing about what changes they have been making. I have tried to get answers from my alma mater, St. F. X., with no luck whatsoever. Where are their reports on progress? And for the Dept. of Ed.- we should know what changes they have made to ensure an appropriately functioning implementation of the inclusion model; in other words, what additional support has been offered classroom teachers, since October, 2014, to better enable them to meet the learning needs of all of the students in their classes? Teachers like Ben Sichel, should be the ones asked- how have things changed in this regard?

    Here’s my view- they haven’t changed. Teachers still are saying the exact same things they were before the Freeman Panel Report and that is – We are having trouble “getting to all of the students.” Because this is the response of teachers, why was there no assessment of differentiation of instruction to begin with? Why didn’t we have a benchmark from which to measure the degree to which the 3 R’s is really answering the recommendations made in Freeman with regard to differentiating instruction?
    One last thing- ask yourself this question- if implementation of the inclusion model is not working, what does this mean for the students needing instruction that must be differentiated if it is to be effective? In-practice teachers all know the answer to this query as they are the ones tasked with this responsibility!

  2. Regarding the stars, I was recently staying with some relatives for a weekend outside the city, and my young nephew came running in the house one night excited to show everyone a surprise. When we came out he just pointed to the sky. “Stars!” he said.

    My niece and nephew live in a condo in Toronto and had literally never seen the stars before.

  3. Tim Doucette’s observatory is well worth a visit, but it isn’t the only dark skies effort in southwest Nova Scotia. The municipalities of Clare, Yarmouth, and Argyle have been designated a UNESCO dark sky preserve (the first in North America – so much for that desert) Unfortunately the town of Yarmouth hasn’t joined and continues to pollute the night sky.

  4. ”perpetually fog-bound Maritimes”, I think you mean perpetually fog-bound Halifax
    Here is the valley, the sun is usually shinning and we have many, many, many starry, starry night. In Grand-Pré you just have to open the door, go outside and look up

      1. No, not really. As I said, we in the city can get out to Keji, or I guess the valley as well, but it’s simply true that even the best night sky viewing in the Maritimes cannot compete with western skies. Even my recent night in Maine — much better than anything I could see in Halifax — was a pale, pale comparison to a desert night sky.

        1. Yes, really. Your night in Maine was in the wilderness. Try that in Bangor. Halifax is not rural Nova Scotia OK. Do you think you are the only person who has seen western skies? I can count shooting stars until my eyes fall out on the north shore in Nova Scotia by the ocean. There is no western experience that surpasses, save the Northern Lights.

          1. Really wasn’t trying to start an argument. Just lamenting the loss of the night sky.

            I live in the city, so sue me. Everything isn’t a slight against rural people. I wish them the best. I wish most people the best.

          2. It wasn’t until I lived in Montana and California and visited Arizona and the deserts that I really got a great view of the night skies. I didn’t grow up in the heart of a city, and I certainly spent a few evenings staring at the sky on Roan Mountain in Tennessee. But it still wasn’t the same experience. Maybe I just didn’t care at the time to notice. Who knows?

  5. It would be interesting to know how much product goes through the port from Port Hawkesbury Paper and Northern Pulp. Were decisions regarding the mills influenced to keep container traffic money flowing from them?

  6. Halifax Airport :
    Board of Directors Total Compensation
    Chair: W. Fares (effective January 22, 2015) $ 58,321
    Chair: P. McDonough (term completed January 21, 2015) $ 21,527
    Vice Chair: M. Mullally (effective January 22, 2015) $ 37,023
    Secretary: J. S. Cowan $ 31,500
    R. Batherson (appointed Chair, Governance Committee March 27, 2015) $ 24,211
    B. Buckles $ 20,300
    S. Dempsey (appointed Chair, Capital Projects Committee January 22, 2015) $ 27,407
    J. Fitzpatrick $ 20,400
    J. Hunt (term ended February 5, 2015) $ 9,821
    A. MacGregor (joined the Board March 27, 2015) $ 11,037
    A. MacKenzie (joined the Board March 27, 2015) $ 10,037
    A. MacLean (joined the Board February 1, 2015) $ 12,716
    S. Porter (joined the Board March 27, 2015) $ 9,337
    T. Traves $ 18,900
    R. Wilber (term completed January 31, 2015) $ 5,149
    M. Wood-Tweel (term completed March 27, 2015) $ 7,256
    Notes: Amounts represent payments made in 2015
    The Chair attended 12 meetings page 40

  7. Graham has some some comprehension issues with what happened at the last vote. The old deal was not decisively rejected. 61% is pretty much the definition of a disaster for the union. It was certainly a slap in the face to the executive, and I would say their legal representation. If this was a Larkin job as I understand, there’s a history there that is less than flattering.

    This was not a setback for the government at all. They would be drooling at the prospect of facing a membership divided. All too easy to pick apart.

  8. larger ships drive the cost down, which leads to lower prices.. container shipping has had this as a cycle basically since it was invented.

    the big thing containers do, besides being cheap, is allow for predictable service. if you time production for a shipment to arrive this week, and it gets stuck for a week sitting in port, thats not good.

    Halifax’s advantage is that goods move from ship to their final destination fast. we may cost more, but make that up in reliability.

  9. The most important question about the teachers’ union contract is whether the government stuck to its guns and insisted that superintendents, asst. superintendents, and other school board managers be removed from the bargaining unit. This has to be the only place in the world where management is in the union. It’s a crazy setup that impacts many aspects of the system in a negative way.

    1. Actually, principals and vice-principals are in the teachers unions in most of the provinces across the country, minus BC, I think some in Ontario and I’m not sure about Quebec. There is perpetual internal debate in NS about this and I imagine elsewhere. One complicating factor among several is that there are teaching principals and VPs, i.e. administrators who teach classes.

    2. Unlike most workplaces superintendents and school board managers are not active in the business of teaching. They are not cognizant of what constitutes a good teacher within a particular school. They should never have become involved in the hiring of teachers in the first place. They are unfamiliar with the work of individual teachers unlike the principals, vp’s, guidance counsellors within the schools. These are the people in the know. They are the front line and that is where the hiring should be handled. Out of touch superintendents are redundant and