1. Outpatient Centre and transit

Left to right: (front row) Lena Diab, MLA Halifax Armdale: Paula Bond, VP, NS Health Authority; (back row) David Bell, urology specialist; Premier Stephen McNeil. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“Despite reports from municipal staff that there were public transit challenges with the proposed Bayers Lake outpatient clinic, new documents show the province went ahead with the project, and didn’t inform the public of the issue,” reports Marieke Walsh for Global, who obtained the documents through a freedom of information request:

A question-and-answer document sent to senior staff in the health department just prior to the news going public on April 20 says, “additional transit service is anticipated.”

That’s despite an email contained in the same information request sent by Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) chief planner Bob Bjerke to Nova Scotia’s deputy chief medical officer of health, Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, in which Bjerke said providing good public transit to the new site would be difficult.


Another email from Halifax to the provincial transportation department contains the city’s assessment of the site. It is mostly redacted in the documents released through access to information, but Global News obtained an unredacted copy.

About the Banc Group property, Halifax staff said there is “no opportunity to provide the kind of transit service required by the Province.”

Let’s repeat that: “no opportunity to provide the kind of transit service required by the Province.”

Remember that at the same time the city was advising the province that there was “no opportunity” to improve transit to the Banc site, someone at the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructural Renewal was writing a report saying transit service to the Banc site could be improved. As I wrote earlier this month:

But saying the Banc site is served by bus routes is true only in the most technical sense; anyone who actually rides the bus knows this is not a meaningful statement.

I can’t say for sure. It’s possible that the TIR report writer really has no clue about transit services. But it sure looks to me like the writer was given marching orders to justify the Banc site.

2. Examineradio, episode #117

James Covey

This week we speak with James Covey of the Halifax Wanderers Supporters Group about the viability of professional soccer in Halifax and city council’s approval of a “pop-up” stadium on the Wanderer’s Grounds.

Premier Stephen McNeil dismisses The Coast’s scathing article on the treatment of former Liberal staffer Michelle Coffin, claiming he didn’t even bother to read it. Stay classy, Premier!

Plus, Councillor David Hendsbee has to remind people — twice — on National Aboriginal Day, that the date also marks the arrival of noted Indigenous scalper Edward Cornwallis. Stay classy, Hendsbee!

Finally, City Council received a report from city staff about the prospect of introducing a living wage to all municipal staff as well as any employees contracted to work for the city. Councillors estimate it may still take another two years to implement, meaning many people who keep this city running will still be making poverty-level wages until possibly 2019. Stay classy, council!

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3. Chelsie Probert

Chelsie Probert. Photo: Facebook

Just after Morning File was published Friday, Halifax police issued the following release:

A male youth has been charged with second degree murder in relation to the homicide of Chelsie Probert.

At approximately 10 p.m. on June 6, 2017 Halifax Regional Police responded to a report of a female in medical distress on a pathway in the 0-100 block of Albro Lake Road. Officers located 18-year-old Chelsie Probert who required immediate medical assistance. EHS transported her to hospital where she later passed away from her injuries. The Medical Examiner ruled Chelsie’s death a homicide.

Yesterday morning, investigators in the Homicide Unit of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division arrested a 16-year-old male youth at a Dartmouth residence. The youth was held overnight and is scheduled to appear in Halifax Youth Court today to face a charge of second degree murder.

4. Gourd

Photo: Stephen Brake

“A unique piece of Mi’kmaw history is part of a new exhibit at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History that highlights the relationship between the Mi’kmaq and the French in Mi’kma’ki during the 17th century,” reports Maureen Googoo:

A round gourd, which used to belong to Mi’kmaq Grand Chief Henri Membertou, is on display at the museum in Halifax until October. The gourd, which was used as a water bottle, is the only known Mi’kmaw artifact that can be traced back to a known Mi’kmaw historical figure.

“It’s something that I didn’t know existed,” Don Julien, Executive Director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, said following the exhibit’s opening ceremony on Wednesday.

“I know that the Mi’kmaq were baptized in 1610 (but) I didn’t know what gifts were exchanged between the Mi’kmaq and the French at the time,” he said.

“It’s wonderful that they found it and somebody took so good care of it,” Julien added.

I’m a supporter of Googoo’s site, which reports on indigenous issues around Atlantic Canada. Please consider likewise supporting her.


1. Can a “white van driver” be a terrorist?


Writes Stephen Kimber:

Three hours after the midnight attack, London police were still saying it was “too early” to declare the attack terrorism. It wasn’t until 8am that they finally acknowledged what seemed obvious to the rest of the world. Compare that to the London Bridge and Westminster attacks. They were both declared terrorist incidents within a few hours.

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription.

2. Drake University courses

Whenever there’s a news story remotely touching on taxes or government expenditures, lazy media trot out Kevin Lacey of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for comment. Those lazy news stories never say what the CTF is, what its ideological bent is, or who exactly it represents (hint: just five guys).

Similarly, whenever there’s a news story remotely touching on education, lazy media trot out Paul Bennett of Schoolhouse Consulting. Those lazy news stories never say what Schoolhouse Consulting is, what its ideological bent is, or who exactly it represents.

I’m not saying media shouldn’t talk to Lacey or Bennett; I’m saying that if you’re going to cite them as experts on something, you should give readers the context of who they are and what they represent.

A former teacher named Grant Frost became annoyed about Bennett being the go-to guy for education stories and so in 2012 wrote about it:

…I sat down and penned what turned out to be the inaugural article for The piece, which I had originally entitled “Paul Bennett: The Worm in the Apple” had been born out of the frustration of hearing Bennett comment upon education, seemingly every time I turned on the radio. In the piece, I called into question Mr. Bennett’s understanding of the issues, and called on Nova Scotians to consider his actual motivation for being so critical of public education, and of teachers in general.


Over the next two years, I would write about many issues, often calling Bennett to task for questionable conclusions and a decidedly “anti-teacher” stance. Yet, despite my constant rebuttals, it seemed that Bennett never lost steam. He continued to be featured on local talk shows and in the paper, touted and feted as an “education expert.” I often pointed out that, seeing as how he had never set foot in a public school classroom in Nova Scotia, and had not taught in any public school in quite some time, he could not possibly be considered an expert in Nova Scotia education. But, that didn’t appear to matter to the media. Bennett seemed to know what he was talking about and he was decidedly anti-teacher and anti-union. Both these played well in local media markets, and, for whatever reason, few editors seemed concerned about  the validity of his claims or the accuracy of his research.

So that’s the context of the ongoing Bennett–Frost war.

Most recently the war has been playing out in CBC and Local Xpress over the merit (or lack thereof) of the online Drake University courses that Nova Scotia teachers have used to upgrade their teaching credentials.

The fight began when the CBC published an article critical of the Drake courses, quoting Bennett, who called the courses “bird courses.” He continued: “I think what’s happening is the teachers taking Drake courses are cherry-picking the ones that are minimally demanding and they can get the maximum benefit from them.” The benefit is the increase in salary that comes from upgraded credentials.

Last week, Frost fired back in Local Xpress, writing that “arbitrator Eric K. Slone had sided with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union in its outstanding grievance surrounding teacher upgrades achieved through Drake University.”

I’ll leave it for others to discern the educational value in the Drake courses. That’s beyond my pay grade.

Regular readers will know my own biases, which usually fall in support of unions. But something was bothering me about the online course thing. Frankly, I didn’t have the time to give it the thought necessary to figure it out, but thankfully, Mary Campbell comes to my rescue:

Fill in the blank in this sentence:

When a school buys courses from for-profit educational companies, it does not have to hire ________

If you said “teachers” move to the front of the class! If you actually are a teacher, move to the back of the unemployment line, because that’s where Slone’s endorsement of store-bought education logically leads.


This is the perverse heart of the matter with the Drake courses: in defending them, Nova Scotia teachers, who’ve spent a year telling us what important work they do (and I agree, they do important work), are rallying around online and video-based courses designed by for-profit educational companies to replace teachers.

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator.




The proposed new building will be two doors down from another building that totally fits into the all-white colour scheme of the neighbourhood.

Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (formerly District 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee) (Monday, 4pm, City Hall) — W.D. Fares has an approved development for an eight-storey, 35-unit unit for 5530 and 5532 Bilby Street. But now they’ve also acquired the adjacent lot at 5516 Bilby Street, so want to amend their approval to allow for a bigger eight-storey building with 63 units.


Investment Policy Advisory Committee (Tuesday, 12pm, City Hall) — nothing interesting on the agenda.

Halifax & West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall) —

Young Avenue

The Black-Cleveland Mansion that was demolished last year. Photo: Barry Copp

The council is being asked to approve a series of bylaw changes that are intended to “protect the character and form of Young Avenue.” The proposed changes include:

• An increase in the required minimum lot frontage to 80 feet (24.4 m) of continuous street frontage;
• An increase in the required minimum lot size to 8,000 square feet (743.2 sq. m.);
• An increase in the required minimum lot width to 80 feet (24.4 m);
• An increase to the required minimum lot depth to 100 feet (30.48 m); and
• An increase in the maximum required side yard setback to 10 feet (3.048 m).

The staff report continues:

As many existing lots (vacant and developed) within the Young Avenue area will not meet the requirements of the proposed LUB amendments, staff have considered the ways that the development rights of these properties would be affected by the proposed amendments. The intent of the proposed changes is to protect the existing lot pattern by limiting future subdivision opportunities, but not to place undue burden on existing development. To avoid unintended impacts on existing development, staff have included a “grandfathering” provision in the proposed LUB amendments found in Attachment A. “Grandfathering” would allow a vacant lot in existence prior to the date of the first publication of Council’s notice of its intention to amend the LUB to be developed with a dwelling even if it does not meet the minimum requirements of the amended zone. It also means that any single unit dwelling on a lot created before this date, that does not meet the requirements of the R-1 Zone but has at least 40 feet of lot frontage and 4,000 square feet of lot area will become a conforming structure.

Staff also note that both developed and undeveloped lots created before May 11, 1995 are also “grandfathered”, as the LUB already reduces the lot frontage and lot area requirements to 30 feet and 3,000 square feet, respectively, for single family residential uses. This provision would allow a vacant lot approved prior to 1995 to be developed with a dwelling even if it does not meet the minimum requirements of the zone. It also means that any single unit dwelling on a lot created before May 11, 1995, that does not meet the requirements of the R-1 Zone but has at least 30 feet of lot frontage and 3,000 square feet of lot area will be a conforming structure. This provision does not apply to lots developed with dwellings which have been converted to more than one dwelling unit.

Western Common

A map of the Western Common

The council is also looking at illegal campsites in the Western Common:

The Western Common Advisory Committee raised concerns at its January 25, 2017 meeting about illegal, derelict and unsightly campsites along Otter Lake and Old St. Margaret’s Bay Road (Old Halifax Road) within the Five Bridge Lakes Wilderness Area. Members were told that Parks and Recreation staff are aware of these campsites, but are limited in accessing them and are cautiously approaching campsite users. RCMP has been notified of the issues of illegal campsites and responds accordingly to enforce the by-law. HRM Parks and Recreation staff will continue to work with the RCMP as needed relating to illegal and derelict campsites in the Wilderness Common to ensure safety of park users.

The Committee discussed how signage might be used to inform the public about areas where campsites are not permitted and the consequences of building such campsites. They also discussed how community groups could identify existing sites and communicate this information to municipal park staff. Members agreed to draft a motion for consideration at their next meeting.

The Committee passed a motion at their May 23, 2017 meeting recommending that Halifax and West Community Council recommend that Halifax Regional Council request staff to remove all derelict, dangerous, and/or unsightly campsites within the Western Common Regional Park.

I appreciate that wilderness campsites raise health and environmental concerns, and can present a fire risk. But the Western Common has been neglected for so long that it’s only natural that people have established their own semi-permanent campsites, no doubt with mixed results.

There’s a lot wrong with the Common. ATVs have utterly destroyed the roads and trails, turning them into kilometre-long lakes. There is garbage everywhere, including (last time I was there) at least three burned out cars on the fire road and along the old stage road.

People have been trashing the area for decades. It’s good that we’re reclaiming it and trying to clean it up, but it’s odd to me that our first focus is people camping. There’s a relatively easy fix for this, of course: provide legal wilderness campsites with pit toilets.


No meetings all week.

On campus



Thesis Defence, Biology (Monday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Zoe Migicovsky will defend her thesis, “Patterns of Genomic and Phenomic Diversity in Apple and Grape.”


Board of Governors Meeting (Tuesday, 3pm, University Hall, MacDonald Building) — I’ll stop by… here’s the agenda.

In the harbour

5am: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
5:30am: Amber Arrow, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Portbury, England
7:15am: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, with up to 2,873 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York

Veendam. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Veendam. Photo: Halifax Examiner

8am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor. Read about the Veendam’s fascinating history here.
9:30am: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Portsmouth, Maine
11:30am: Amber Arrow, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
2pm: Atlantic Pegasus, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
3:30pm: YM Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Bremerhaven, Germany
5:45pm: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
5:45pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Sydney


Last week, I uncovered information that will result in an important news story. So important that I basically dropped everything else and worked on it for three days straight. I had hoped to get something published Friday, but as I continued to investigate the issue I realized the story was much, much larger than I had originally thought. I’d like to say more, but I can’t just now. I don’t know when exactly I’ll finally be able to publish, but probably later this summer.

All of which is to say, despite appearances, I haven’t been goofing off.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Schoolhouse Consulting director Paul Bennett calls out education shortfalls and somehow becomes”anti-teacher” according to Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union executive Grant Frost. Forget Bennett’s impressive credentials. Ignore Schoolhouse’s conservative backbone. The ultimate education goal is quality schooling for all students. Every dollar invested in TEACHER upgrades should instead be invested in classroom overhead.

  2. Really glad to read about something education related in the Examiner.From my perspective issues like teacher certification and whether that teacher certification committee is rigorous in their examination of course content before they certify it as worthy is a small issue. (Whew that’s a long sentence.) Whether someone supports right-wing this or left-wing that is not really important either. If you have an agenda other than the concern for the quality of programs being offered to students, then it will be revealed, and there will be people who take you up on your agenda and all of the biases that accrue to it.

    Ben Sichel frequently comments on education and his comments are thoughtful. He and other current educators have taken to the air waves and voiced their concerns for EDUCATION in N. S. So did nineteen thousand other Nova Scotians when they offered their views on a variety of education topics examined by the so-called Freeman Panel. The Freeman Panel focused on what citizen,educator, administrator, parent, and student told them. If you haven’t read “Disrupting the Status Quo: Nova Scotians Demand a Better Future for All Students”, then do it because it focuses neither on personalities nor on agendas.

    A while back, in the comment section to an article written by Bousquet, an insightful commentor ( do not remember the name) was critical of the approach that Tim had taken with a story, and he reminded Tim that good journalism is like baking bread, and he asked Tim to go back to good journalism and “bake us good bread”. The comment was eloquently written, unlike my recollection of it.

    So , here’s MY point- I care not about agendas; we are smart enough to figure out one’s ulterior motives, but are we smart enough to respond to recommendations about the issues in education that affect those that it serves- students. Well, here’s the Examiner’s chance- this month a 3 person expert panel is going to release its initial recommendations for improving the implementation of the inclusion model or, put more simply, this panel will start to tell all Nova Scotians, not just educators, what will make for a more inclusive program for students- those on IPP’s, those with learning disabilities, those on the autism spectrum, those who struggle with mental health issues, those who identify as something other than what their physical attributes portray them as,… This committee’s report should be ‘a story with legs’, and these recommendations, whatever they are, are to be brought in for this September. Never mind that the committee’s work is the toughest challenge in the entire Freeman Report (October, 2014) but there is an aggressive timeline on implementation and summer vacation in between.

    Tim and company- give Sichel,Bennett , Frost, Emberlee,Zach Churchill, and anybody else you want , notice that they will be asked for their responses to this soon to be released report that many of us have been waiting for since the Freeman Panel’s final report was issued at the end of October, 2014!!! What to do with an inclusion model whose implementation was accurately described in the Freeman Report as “not working” should be evident from these initial recommendations.
    A last suggestion if I may- seek out reactions from parent and grand-parent advocates for children with challenges – a very frustrated group who know first-hand what a slog ADVOCACY is. When it comes to extensive coverage for input purposes,The Freeman Panel, more than the Ivany Report, “Now or Never…” and greatly more than the One N.S. Report, “We Choose Now…” received input from close to 20,000 Nova Scotians including these dedicated, frustrated and perplexed advocates; they are an important ingredient in this “good bread.”

  3. A couple things re Frost and Bennett:

    1) Grant Frost is a current teacher, not a former teacher (although he’s currently on leave as he’s the acting president of the Halifax County Local of the NSTU).

    2) I’m not sure about the Drake courses, but I’ve taken a few distance ed courses and they definitely had instructors who participated in live-chats, marked work etc. I imagine at some point in the course a human has to grade the work. Arguably I’ve had some better professor-student interactions with some online courses than in first-year in-person courses with a few hundred students in them.

    3) The department of ed/teacher certification office has the right to review periodically which university programs meet its criteria for teachers to get licence upgrades; the biggest issue here was that teachers who had received pre-approval to do the Drake courses and had in some cases done, say, 8 out of 10 courses towards a degree, were now being told that their course work wouldn’t be valid anymore.

    4) Besides AIMS, Bennett also works with other conservative think-tanks such as the Northern Policy Institute and the Society for Quality Education. One of the most amusing pieces Frost wrote about Bennett was when he uncovered a pretty clear case of Bennett plagiarizing him, to which Bennett never responded:

    Paul is a pleasant enough guy in person and I think some of his stuff on rural schools is decent (from what I’ve heard) but he lost me completely when he wouldn’t give me a straight answer as to when the last time was that he taught in a public school.

  4. Re: the proposed Outpatient Centre: “no opportunity to provide the kind of transit service required by the Province.”

    The unfounded complaining continues; there is always an opportunity if the powers that be decide to provide a solution.

    Plenty of room for a bus stop up in the car park area; the stop does not need to be on the doorstep of the Outpatient Centre.

    1. A bus stop is not transit service. Transit service is multiple routes, requiring multiple buses running on frequent schedules requiring multiple drivers and multiple mechanics, managers, etc. One bus costs ~800k. One driver costs ~50k. Mechanics, etc. Realistically, good transit service to this site requires new bus lanes and lights and other infrastructure. It can be done, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. Is the province going to pay that? Are residents going to agree to an increase in their property taxes to pay for it? No. So it’s really not possible.

      1. Tim, until there are an actual reports that detail the real requirements and costs, it is all conjecture and guessing. The people complaining are not the Transit authority nor the province, yet it is these authorities who need to determine what the costs are to adequately support the proposed Outpatient Centre and relay that information to the public and other stakeholders. What analysis has ever been done to indicate the number of people who go for outpatient treatment that actually use the transit system to get to and from the facility? What I see are a number of complaints that are not backed up with facts. We should be demanding that the essential authorities provide the facts and stop making guesses.

      2. Try taking transit from anywhere in Dartmouth to Cobequid for a 9 a.m. outpatient appointment. I would not advise using transit for certain outpatient procedures.
        The issue that every reporter has missed is visible in several published photos…..the proposed site is all rock.

        1. Yes, lots of rock, of course the same can be said for the locations where all the buildings are going up downtown. Dig six inches into the ground, if you do not hit a rock of some kind, you are no longer in Nova Scotia.

  5. Maybe Frost writes about it, but it should be noted here that much of the consulting work Schoolhouse Consulting (i.e. Paul Bennet) has done over the last several years has been paid for the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies (aka AIMS) — a right-wing, corporate funded (and run, with chair John Risley) so-called think tank whose goal is to dismantle the public sector in favour of the private one. They/ he have managed to cloak this goal in things that appear to be motherhood issues: small schools, high achievement, parental choice, etc. But don’t be fooled. Bennet and AIMS don’t give a rat’s ass about making the public system better. They want to capitalize on the problems and erode the public system further, but have us all believe otherwise.