1. Elmsdale Lumber

Elmsdale Lumber. Photo:

Elmsdale Lumber used to sell most of its bark and chips to Northern Pulp, but now that the mill has closed, Elmsdale is finding new markets, reports Jennifer Henderson. “We will survive” says owner Robin Wilber, but he sees the new markets as only a short-term fix until, he says, the mill reopens.

Click here to read “Elmsdale Lumber’s Plan B: selling pellets will be the bridge until Northern Pulp reopens.”

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Meanwhile, “A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology warns that Nova Scotia’s plan to switch from oil to wood for heating some public buildings will only speed up climate change,” reports Emma Smith for the CBC:

John Sterman, director of MIT’s Sloan Sustainability Initiative, analyzed carbon emissions from burning wood for heat and energy, and found it’s as bad as burning coal, 30 per cent higher than burning fuel oil and 80 per cent higher than natural gas.

“Turns out that wood and coal have about the same amount of carbon per unit of useful energy in them, but burning wood is less efficient,” Sterman told CBC’s Information Morning.

2. Power and trams

“I’ve lived in two cities (Toronto and Prague) in which trams (or streetcars, if you prefer) formed an integral part of the municipal transit system and have always had a soft spot for them,” writes Mary Campbell in the Cape Breton Spectator:

I’ve also wanted to write about the tram system that used to connect some parts of what is now the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM). So this week, I decided to combine a look back at the old local system with a look at streetcars in the modern context.

But when I began researching the subject, I found that the history of electric trams in what is now the CBRM is inextricably linked to  — SURPRISE!  — the history of electricity on this island, a subject I knew pretty much nothing about when I set out to write this story except that Sydney’s electrical production and distribution system was in place by the late-20th century because I grew up in the Shipyard in the 1970s and we definitely had electricity.

As it turns out, the system had been in place for a rather significant period of time prior to that.

Campbell goes on to relate the fascinating history of power (and trams) in Nova Scotia, summing it up with a cliff hanger:

I’m still working out the lessons to be learned from all of this, but I have to say, “Don’t sell utilities to secret groups of investors” seems like an obvious one. Whether Sydney should have built its own power distribution system is an interesting question.

But most germane to this discussion, which started with trams, is, what if we had maintained our tram system? Or even, would it make sense to go back to trams? (The answer to this is not at all what I was expecting.)

I’ll be tackling these questions next week.

Click here to read “Power to the People!”

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3. Slavery and King’s College

The connections of universities to slavery and why it matters. Along with the Report on Lord Dalhousie’s History on Race and Slavery, the first Canadian research! #Halifax! @Tim_Bousquet

A second thread (and a link to the first)

— Shirley Tillotson (@stillots1) February 13, 2020

Historian Shirley Tillotson has an interesting Twitter thread which I’ve condensed as follows:

The connections of universities to slavery and why it matters. Along with the Report on Lord Dalhousie’s History on Race and Slavery, the first Canadian research! A second thread and a link to the first.

Nova Scotia King’s was connected to the slave economy of the West Indies in another way, too. Between 1825 and 1846, King’s was kept afloat financially by funding from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG).  An Anglican missionary organization, the SPG owned plantations in Barbados and in 1836 collected a small fortune in government compensation for having been forced to free 410 African people enslaved on those plantations. 

As Smardz-Frost and States show in detail, in Nova Scotia, the Anglican clergy who were the mainstay of King’s as governors and staff (or parents of students) were paid SPG missionaries. One, Rev. T. Cochran, the first principal, was (perhaps surprisingly!) an abolitionist; others (including Bishop Charles Inglis, as David States discovered) had had enslaved people as servants before fleeing the revolted colonies. 

These facts about the connections of King’s to slavery are not unique to King’s. They are part of the history of the colony of Nova Scotia and the Church of England. They matter because institutions that depended on slavery defended the system of slavery and all its evils.

Among those evils was the belief that Black Africans were inferior to white Europeans. For example, a man in charge of the SPG plantations defended cruel discipline by saying that the enslaved Africans had to be kept in “subordination” because they were “a most inconsiderate and thoughtless race of mortals.” 

That, my friends, is the language of white supremacy. And in Nova Scotia, learned and Christian white clergy taught that language and kept it alive, even after slavery ceased to be legal in the British empire. 

When you hear people talk about the legacies of slavery, they are talking about (among other things) the survival and persistence of that language. In African Heritage Month, we especially remember the roots of that language in slavery (whether plantation or household), and also the way slavery was built into the economic foundations of our present day world. 

And we who have benefitted from the legacies of that system undertake to repair the harms that have arisen from that past. 

I end with thanks to Afua Cooper, David States, Norma Williams, Amani Whitfield, Francoise Bayliss, Sylvia Hamilton, Melissa Shaw, Claudine Bonner, & Doug Ruck, friends and colleagues of African descent who have taught me about how the past looks seen from their experience. 

And thanks to the scholarship of @craigswilder, whose Ebony and Ivy is foundational to the study of universities and slavery. (Even though of course I insist that there are distinct Canadian stories!) 

You can read Tillotson’s paper, “How (and how much) King’s College benefited from slavery in the West Indies, 1789 to 1854,” here.

Elbert and Pearline Lester on their farm in Mississippi. Photo: Kai Wright

Tillotson’s primary work is in the history of tax policies. I think she’ll be interested in a recent episode of The United States of Anxiety, “40 Acres in Mississippi.” The podcast shows how after the Civil War, tax policy served to redistribute the old slave plantations in the Mississippi Delta such that about two-thirds of the land was owned by former slaves.

I did not know this. You probably didn’t know it either. Most people don’t. For a few decades in the late 19th century and into the early 20th, lots of Black people held title to large tracts of land — at one point, the average Black-owned parcel was 180 acres. As the farms were on the alluvial soils of the Mississippi Delta, this was among the richest and most fertile farmland on Earth.

Now, of course, Black people own very little of that land. So what happened? Well, terrorism happened. Lynchings and other physical attacks, and then Jim Crow policies. It’s a part of American history that isn’t told or emphasized enough.

4. Lobbyist registry

“A year ago, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and one of his senior advisers sat down to breakfast at Halifax’s Marriott Harbourfront Hotel with representatives from the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, a gathering arranged and hosted by former Quebec premier and one-time deputy prime minister Jean Charest,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:

Charest lobbies on the group’s behalf. The private meeting coincided with a national aerospace industry effort called Vision 2025, a campaign Charest noted was part of his lobbying activities on the federal government’s lobbyist registry in November 2018.

The Aerospace Industries Association of Canada made no secret of the Feb. 13, 2019, meeting, touting it in a news release issued the same day.

But the leader of Nova Scotia’s NDP, Gary Burrill, is concerned it is another example of McNeil’s disregard for Nova Scotia’s law on lobbying.

Although Charest is registered federally, he has not registered as a lobbyist in Nova Scotia. 

“Meeting with lobbyists who fail to register as lobbyists and not paying any attention to whether or not they have properly registered as lobbyists, that’s not holding the standard of conduct to the government up very high,” said Burrill.

In 2018, McNeil faced similar condemnation after he met former prime minister Jean Chrétien, a vocal supporter of the plan to establish a container port facility at the harbour in Sydney, N.S.

As the Examiner has pointed out, it’s not just former prime ministers who are flouting the provincial registry:

Despite having met with the premier to promote their private spaceport project, neither Maritime Launch Services nor Stephen Matier are registered as lobbyists on the provincial registry of lobbyists.

5. Scooter with an E

Photo: The Logic

I haven’t subscribed to The Logic, which promises “in-depth reporting on the innovation economy,” because I can’t quite wrap my head around giving money to a publication that uses “innovation” non-ironically. But it is reporting on a Haligonian newfangling his way right past the rules and regulations that are the basis for an organized society, or at least that’s what I gather from the headline, “The Halifax e-scooter business that’s not waiting for regulations.” Here’s the stub:

Every night, Max Rastelli follows his GPS up and down the hills of Halifax, scouring the city for discarded electric scooters in a sort of daily treasure hunt. Once found, the owner of HFX e-Scooters loads the devices into his van, takes them back to his shipping container on the harbour and charges them before redeploying them for the next morning’s commute.

As e-scooter companies Bird and Lime fight for a foothold in Canada’s biggest cities, Rastelli has partnered with a Chinese scooter giant to launch his own business in the Maritime city. He’s been operating a fleet of about 30 e-scooters since July 2019. The business is a pilot project with Segway—now owned by Beijing-based vehicle manufacturer Ninebot—through which the company provides Rastelli with e-scooters and manages an app to arrange rentals and process payments.

The business is small, but thriving. Rastelli said he turned a profit within four months of launching, thanks to Segway covering most of his capital costs, and he plans to double or triple his fleet this spring. “There’s money to be made,” said Rastelli. “It’s solving a problem and it’s fun as hell.”

But hanging over his success is the possibility his fleet might not make it to its first full season on the roads. Neither the city nor province has passed regulations letting e-scooters in public spaces, and while Rastelli says the lack of legislation gives him a bye, his more patient prospective competitors suggest he risks being banned from the market.

I walk around downtown pretty much every day and I’ve never noticed Rastelli’s scooters. (Adding an e- makes them cool!) I wonder how he gets around the helmet rule, among others.


1. Curves

Photo: Stephen Archibald

“When I posted this picture of a vigorously curvy, concrete park bench on Twitter, it attracted more attention than anticipated. People liked it, and also ate their lunch on it,” writes Stephen Archibald:

This got me thinking about other little, mostly curvy, mid-century treasures around Halifax.

While Archibald’s post is mostly about curvy stuff, in an addendum he points us to the Humans of Saint Vincent’s Nursing Home, a project by volunteer artist in residence Susan MacLeod. As Archibald says, it is delightful. Check it out.

Sketch by Susan MacLeod.


Westwood Developments is shilling something it is calling “Richmond Yards,” a five-tower development proposed for the corner of Robie and Almon Streets. The website gives a feel for the demographic it is targeting:

We all want a future as caffeinated yoga practitioners, but I have no idea why there’s a photo of Agricola Street or of a mother (or child abductor!) at Fort Needham, or why “work” and “create” are marketing slogans for a residential complex.

Of course, I was most interested in the architectural rendering of the project, and tweeted about it last week:

Hey @paulvienneau1 they’ve got a guy using a chair in this architectural rendering! Alas, he’s heading right towards a curb without a cut:

— Tim Bousquet (@Tim_Bousquet) February 7, 2020

That photo comes from the paperwork submitted to the city’s Planning Department. To my surprise, however, the company’s website has installed proper curbcuts on the scene:

What’s with those birds, tho?


No public meetings.

On campus


Piano Recital (Friday, 11:45am, MacAloney Room, Dal Arts Centre) — more info here. Bring your own piano. Wait, no. Don’t.

Thermodynamic Stability of Carbon Allotropes: Repeating Lavoisier’s experiment, but with a happier ending (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Mary Anne White will talk.

Seven Letters: Lord Dalhousie and the Black Refugees of the War of 1812 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Afua Cooper will talk.

Bilingualism Impacts Eye Movement Reading Patterns from Early Childhood to Late Adulthood (Friday, 3:30pm, Room P5260, Life Sciences Centre) — Veronica Whitford from the University of New Brunswick will talk.

In the harbour

0500: MOL Mission, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
06:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Wilmington, North Carolina
16:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
17:00: ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
17:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Charlottetown
20:00: Horizon Star, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from St. John’s

02:30: ZIM Constanza sails for new York
05:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Berth TBD from Liverpool, England
06:00: Noble Regina Allen, oil platform, sails from anchorage for sea
06:15: Maersk Penang, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Montreal
15:00: MOL Maxim, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk


I need the three-day weekend so I can get some work done.

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

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  1. How are the e-scooters on the hills? If I wanted to go from the waterfront to Dal would there be much of a problem?

    1. I heard from some people that tried taking them up the steepest part of South Street. Most of the group made it up (albeit slowly) but the 6’6” member of the group was not able to coax his scooter to the top. A less-steep hill likely would have been fine.

  2. For a thorough understanding of Lord Dalhousie and his time in Nova Scotia and Canada the 3 volumes of The Dalhousie Journals by Marjorie Whitelaw are essential reading. A great man who left an enduring legacy to this country.