1. “Whose Explosion is it, anyway?”

Jennifer Henderson reports on a panel discussion held at Dalhousie University last week, which looked at how Halifax was transformed following the 1917 Explosion, and how our collective memory has shifted over time.

For instance, reports Henderson:

Retired Dalhousie history professor and author David Sutherland asks a pointed question: Why did it take the city 68 years to put up a memorial — the bell tower on Fort Needham hill to honour the likely fact more citizens died on city streets in 1917 than military personnel who perished during World War 1? After advertising in 1929 for the names of people who enlisted in Halifax, a committee soon erected a Cenotaph in front of City Hall honouring 1,460 who “fell” in Europe. But it would take many more decades before the City recognized the 1,963 civilian victims of the war-fueled Explosion at home.

Sutherland believes that prolonged disconnect may have something to do with how the public or collective memory of the tragedy played out over time. Initially, Sutherland describes “a sense of remorse and recrimination” that gripped people who desperately wanted someone to blame for their pain (pick a scapegoat: the German enemy, the French ship, or the Americans who loaded the Mont Blanc with dynamite before sending it here). By the 1960s, when city councillor Edmund Morris led a campaign to erect a public memorial to civilian victims of the Explosion, Sutherland believes enough time had passed that people were ready to replace the doom and gloom with a more uplifting narrative that stressed the “rebirth” of the city and the resilient character of its people. It’s worth noting that the Fort Needham bell tower wasn’t erected until 1985, after an eight-year wrangle over where to put it and who would pay. The City initially declined to contribute.

Henderson also looks at Africville and Turtle Grove —  communities that suffered from the Explosion but were until very recently largely ignored by the official commemorations.

Click here to read “Whose Explosion is it, anyway?”

2. Nova Star sues Nova Scotia

Singapore Technologies Marine Ltd. (ST Marine) filed suit against the Nova Scotia government Friday, seeking nearly $2 million in damages — $1,874,857.15 plus interest and costs.

ST Marine is the company that operated the ship Nova Star, the ill-fated ferry that ran the Yarmouth-Portland route for two years. The service was started as a last-ditch effort by the Dexter NDP government to reverse political losses on the south shore, ate up about $21 million in public subsidies, and then was axed by the Liberal McNeil government, to be replaced by the Alakai. (The actual Nova Star boat is now in service between Algeciras, Spain and Tangier, Morocco.)

ST Marine and Quest Navigation formed a joint venture company called Nova Star Cruises (NSC) to operate the ferry. The boat was owned by ST Marine and leased to the joint venture. NSC has declared bankruptcy.

In the suit, ST Marine claims that the provincial government awarded NSC a $21 million forgivable loan for ferry operations. As a condition for sailing in U.S. waters, NSC had to pay a US$1,688,300 (CN$1,874,857.15) surety bond to the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission. ST Marine says the loan documents were amended to allow the bond to be paid with the $21 million loan fund instead of with ST Marine’s working capital, but that this arrangement was only intended to be temporary — that is, by ST Marine’s understanding, the surety bond payment was a loan from a loan, and when the bond was returned the money would flow back into the $21 million forgivable fund. Instead, the surety bond was returned to the Nova Scotia government.

The government has yet to respond to the claims.

3. Bier Markt

The ground floor retail space at the Nova Centre is not at all ready to host a Bier Markt, or any other restaurant.

Has Bier Markt aborted its plans to open in the Nova Centre?

Bier Markt is a restaurant chain that “draw[s] inspiration from Northern Europe” and has eight locations — six in Ontario, one in Montreal, and one in St. John’s. It is owned by Cara International, a privately held firm that also operates the Swiss Chalet, East Side Mario’s, Harvey’s, Kelsey’s, Montana’s, Milestones, and Coza chains.

Back in January, Bier Markt posted job announcements for a new location in Halifax that was to open “this summer” [i.e., the summer of 2017], reported Haley Ryan for Metro. The following week, the Chronicle Herald interviewed Grant Cobb, the Senior Vice President of Casual Dining Division at Cara, who confirmed that Bier Markt would open in the Nova Centre “in late summer, most likely August.”

But here it is October, and still no Bier Markt. And the first floor retail space at the Nova Centre is nowhere near ready to host a restaurant, or anything else.

I’ve been told that one person who was hired by Bier Markt to work in the Nova Centre location has been told the job no longer exists as the company has reversed course and is now no longer planning to open in Halifax. I’ve been unable to speak directly with that person, however.

But there are no Bier Markt jobs in Halifax advertised on Cara’s website, which seems odd for a restaurant that will open imminently. The website does, however, list Bier Markt positions in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto.

The Halifax Bier Markt jobs were first listed in January on Workopolis. That site currently lists 21 Bier Markt positions, but none in Halifax.

Cara’s public affairs department has not returned multiple calls for comment. I also left a message with Grant Cobb, but he has not responded.

So, I don’t know. That the company hasn’t called me back and that the Bier Markt job offers for Halifax positions have evaporated from the internet suggests that Bier Markt has in fact bailed on Halifax, but I can’t say for sure.

4. John Dunsworth

John Dunsworth. Photo: Facebook

Actor John Dunsworth, of Trailer Park Boys fame, died last night, his daughter Sarah confirmed on Facebook:

With heavy and broken hearts the family of John F. Dunsworth would like to let people know that our amazing husband, father and grandfather John Dunsworth has passed away. John left this world peacefully after a short and unexpected illness. The family would like to request that our privacy is respected during this time of grief.

5. Rent control

“The provincial NDP is introducing an act intended to help address what they call a housing crisis in HRM,” reports Yvette d’Entremont for Metro:

NDP caucus chair and Dartmouth North MLA Susan Leblanc will introduce the bill on Tuesday, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The Rental Fairness and Affordability Act would introduce rent controls on residential units in Nova Scotia, with a focus on HRM.


Standard guidelines define affordable housing as not exceeding 30 per cent of a household’s gross annual income.

If passed, the NDP’s legislation would allow rents to increase by just 0.8 per cent in the first year.

For a $1,000 per month unit, that would mean an $8 per month rental increase the first year.

The bill of course has zero chance of passing in the Liberal majority legislature.

One of the first acts of newly elected Liberal premier John Savage in 1993 was to abolish rent control in Halifax. Savage’s son, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, has made affordable housing one of his signature issues, but he’s avoided discussing rent control, opting instead to push developer-friendly incentives like “density bonus” rewards in return for including affordable housing units in new developments. The problem is, city council approves so many projects that break the existing planning guidelines that there’s no need for the developers to chase the affordable housing carrot, and the few density bonus awards that have been handed out were not for affordable housing but, in one case, for the convention centre, and in other cases for “public art.”

6. Drones, or not

Mark Langille, the owner of Flitelab, a commercial drone operator, isn’t buying all the reports of drones near airplanes. “The pilot (in Quebec) said he hit a drone,” Langille tells Tom Ayers at the Chronicle Herald. “That’s the end of the story.”:

“There is no more than that. That’s the problem. A pilot in the U.K. said he hit a drone last year. It was a plastic bag.

“There’s been one case of a drone hitting an aircraft, in the world, as of (Sunday), and it was a Blackhawk (helicopter) that got hit in the U.S. a week ago. That’s the only confirmed report.”

In that case, pieces of a drone were recovered, he said.

Langille said pilots used to report unidentified flying objects, but now they just call them drones.

I’m sticking with the alien craft from the planet Lamuella story.




City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — a light agenda.

Public Participation Committee Case 20573 (Tuesday, 3:30pm, HEMDCC Small Meeting Space, Alderney Gate Public Library) — W. M. Fares wants to build a seven-storey, 70-unit apartment building at 651 Portland Hills Drive.


Audit & Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.



Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Jeff Conrad, the deputy minister of the Department of Internal Services, will be asked about the Alternative Procurement Process and IT Services.

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)

On campus



Catherine Banks

Playwriting Masterclass (Tuesday, 11:30am, Room 1102, Marion McCain Building) — Catherine Banks, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama in 2008 (Bone Cage) and 2012 (It Is Solved By Walking) will lead the class.

Baby Boomers and Health Care (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1009, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — a panel discusses “After the Boom: Reimagining Health Care After a Generation.”

The Rich Structure of Affine Geometric Spaces (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Geoff Cruttwell from Mount Allison University will speak. His abstract:

Continuing the previous talk on geometric spaces in a tangent category, we focus on the sub-tangent category of affine geometric spaces: those objects equipped with a flat torsion-free connection. Following ideas of Jubin, we show that this category has an astonishing variety of monads and comonads on it, with many distributive laws relating these monads and comonads. This is joint work with Rick Blute and Rory Lucyshyn-Wright.

Board of Governors Meeting (Tuesday, 3pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building) — the Ocean Tracking Network and the Ocean Frontier Institute agreements will be ratified.

The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book (Tuesday, 7pm, Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — a performance “combining the haunting imagery of the 14th century manuscript and the musical traditions of Spain, Italy, Austria, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.”


Book Launch (Wednesday, 12:30pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building) — Jon Tattrie launches his biography of Daniel Paul, Daniel Paul, Mi’kmaw Elder.

Kinetoplastid Endosymbionts (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Vojtech David will speak on “The Implications of Kinetoplastid Endosymbionts for Cell and Genome Evolution.”

Emera’s Approach to the Energy Industry Transformation (Wednesday, 4:30pm, Room 117, Sir James Dunn Building) — Martin Rovers from Emera will speak.

In the harbour

5:30am: Don Carlos, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
6:15am: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship with up to 2,808 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney
9am: IT Intrepid, cable layer, arrives at Pier 9 from sea
9:15: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,180 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Portland
10:30am: Silver Whisper, cruise ship with up to 466 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Saint John
11am: Itea, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
4:30pm: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Saint John
4:45pm: Asian King, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
6:30pm: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
6:30pm: Silver Whisper, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for Gaspé, Quebec
8:30pm: Don Carlos, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
9:30pm: Itea, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England


I’ve got conflicting meetings today — the Board of Governors and city council. I’m not sure which I’ll make.

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

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  1. I’m not a pilot or a doctor, but I think that Langille is effectively right. Our drone rules in Canada are an example of “make stupid unenforceable rules and people will break them”. Under our present rules, even a small, barely-used airstrip is treated the same way as a busy commercial airport or a hospital, making it against the rules to fly a drone just about anywhere in the populated half of Ontario or within a fairly large radius of Halifax.

    I’m not saying the rules should be changed, but anyone with a little know-how and some money can buy drone setups that can fly many kilometers beyond visual range from Asian suppliers who don’t put geofencing software into their drones like DJI and other big companies do.

  2. Bier Markt is no loss to Halifax. Just a chain “McBar” with mediocre food and beer. We have great locally owned and operated establishments here that don’t need plastic glitz to bring a crowd. If the Nova Centre was smart, they would find a way to attract a name brand local into the spot. I would think Midtown would be a no brainer, but they have a good spot already.