1. Gone Like the Wind

Danielle Fong. Photo: Robert Schlatter

I was excited when reporter Jennifer Henderson pitched her story about Innovacorp’s investment in a tech firm that appears to be struggling and for which promised returns have not yet, and likely never will, materialize. I’m always interested in these provincial economic development pursuits that go belly-up.

But Henderson came back with an even more fascinating story, with several layers and unexpected nuance. Here’s the extended sub-headline I wrote, encapsulating Henderson’s reporting:

In a bid to salvage something positive from the collapse of the Bowater mill in Brooklyn, the province bought a $2 million equity stake in LightSail Energy. The compressed air energy storage company was started by Dartmouth whiz kid turned Silicon Valley darling Danielle Fong, who promised to build a renewable energy demonstration project at the former mill site. But the company has burned through $70 million, Fong’s credibility is questioned, and the Brooklyn project may never materialize.

This thing has everything: a Dartmouth connection; a complex personal story of a local child prodigy’s transformation into a player in the world of high finance; Silicon Valley assholes like Peter Thiel and critics like Eric Wesoff, who looked at LightSail and wrote an essay on “the failure of the founder narrative” that dominates much of tech entrepreneurship; a glimpse at how insider connections still determine economic development strategies in Nova Scotia; and of course, our officialdom’s culture of ineptitude.

Click here to read “Gone Like the Wind.”

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

I spent some time on this story because I was so interested in it, and I wanted to make sure Henderson got it right. The article was delayed a day or so as I read up on Fong and LightSail, reviewed Henderson’s source material, checked her facts. That’s what an editor does.

Henderson is an experienced reporter with a solid reputation, and it shows. She had interviewed three of the primary people involved — Fong; Stan Mason, the president of an company in a joint venture with Fong; and Stephen Duff, the CEO of Innovacorp. Henderson’s secondary sources checked out, and were cited in context. When we published the article yesterday afternoon, I was confident it was solidly researched, factually correct, and fair.

So imagine my surprise when, after posting a link to the article on Facebook, a comment immediately popped up from someone named Trudy: “This article is inaccurate.”

Well, we all make mistakes. Despite my efforts, it’s possible we got something wrong, and even conceivable that we screwed up the story big time. Shit happens. The best a journalist can do in such a situation is own up to it, correct the mistakes, and if necessary, apologize to the aggrieved. So I asked Trudy for particulars.

But none of her complaints were warranted. Trudy said Henderson made claims that Henderson had not made. Trudy said Henderson had not interviewed anyone from LightSail, which is incorrect — Henderson interviewed Fong herself.

Trudy made more false claims, and I got into a heated argument with her — it’s important to correct and own up to actual mistakes and inaccuracies, but if you just toss around a charge of “inaccurate!” without backing it up with solid specifics, I’ll vociferously defend this publication and its writers. But during the course of the argument, several people looking on told me privately that Trudy is Fong’s mother.

As weird as it is for a mother to be having Facebook fights over the business dealings of her adult child, that can be forgiven, I suppose. Trudy isn’t just a mother protecting the reputation of her daughter, however. What onlookers should know is that Trudy’s spouse, Greg Fong, who is Danielle Fong’s father, is also the president of LightSail Canada, the wing of LightSail that’s overseeing the Brooklyn project.

In other words, it appears that Trudy has a direct financial stake in the reputation of LightSail’s operation in Brooklyn.

If you’re going to be making false charges of “inaccuracy” on social media, maybe you should also acknowledge your own skin in the game.

Trudy has since deleted her comments.

I bring this up not just to defend the Examiner, but also to point out that attacking the reputation of journalists is now a PR move.

Craig Silverman of Buzzfeed invented the term “fake news” to describe a specific thing — Macedonian teenagers creating webpages filled with nonsense created out of whole cloth; the webpages purport to be actual news sites in order to collect ad royalties as the pages are spread on social media. Silverman found that the Macedonian teenagers had no political agenda and didn’t particularly care what content was shared on Facebook, but came to see that pro-Trump nonsense spread faster than pro-Clinton nonsense, so the teenagers concentrated on creating pro-Trump nonsense.

In typical Trump fashion, he has reversed the meaning of “fake news,” and now labels any actual reporting that is critical of the president as “fake news.” And now people generally feel like they can discredit news by simply attacking it.

2. Who is Lyle Howe? (Part 1)

Lyle Howe (Jessica Durling, The Signal)

Yesterday, the Examiner published Part 1 of Stephen Kimber’s profile of Lyle Howe:

On the afternoon of Thursday, September 1, 2016 — the eve of the Labour Day weekend — Lyle Howe was watching from the sidelines at Titans Fitness Academy gym in the Bayers Lake Business Park while his seven-year-son Ticari’s jujitsu teacher put him through his martial-art paces. Howe’s cellphone rang. It was a reporter. She’d just seen the posting on the Nova Scotia Barristers Society website about his suspension. Did he have any comment?

His what? This was the first he’d heard of it.

That’s not to suggest it was the first time the provincial lawyer-regulating organization had lifted Lyle Howe’s licence to practise law. Two years earlier, the bar society had also suspended him without a hearing after he’d been convicted of sexual assault. Howe hadn’t protested. He’d been found guilty of a serious criminal offence, after all, and the society had a duty to protect his clients and the public. (Fifteen months later, after the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal overturned that conviction and ordered a new trial, the society reinstated him, but with conditions.)

Although he’d only been practicing law for six years, Howe seemed to have been in almost continuous troubles with the law, and/or with the legal profession. He’d twice been charged with serious criminal offences and was, at that very moment, in the middle of what would become the longest, most expensive professional misconduct hearing in bar society history.

But, despite even those professional misconduct charges, the society had continued to allow Howe to practise, with various conditions, while his hearings continued. Until today…

If the society was now suspending him again — without asking for his response, or even notifying him— this must be serious, Howe thought.

He racked his brain. Stealing from a trust account? Fabricating a legal document? Those were the kinds of protect-the-public offences for which the society might justifiably unilaterally suspend a lawyer. Howe knew he hadn’t done anything of the sort. Criminal charges? Howe was confident he hadn’t done anything criminal, but of course he had been charged with crimes in the past in situations he believed either were not criminal or simply hadn’t happened. Were the police on their way to arrest him at this very moment?

He panic-called Marjorie Hickey, the lawyer who represented the provincial bar society. Should I get someone to come pick up my son, he asked?

No, no, she said, it’s not that kind of complaint. But she wouldn’t tell him what kind of complaint it was. In fact, to this day, the society has neither formally charged Howe in connection with those particular allegations nor lifted his suspension. Darrel Pink, the society’s executive director, tells me “the matters that resulted in the current suspension remain under investigation.”

So, while Howe prepares to make his final arguments in late March in response to the society’s initial professional misconduct charges against him — charges that could lead to his disbarment — he remains in a kind of legal limbo-hell, his professional and personal reputation in tatters, unable to earn a living as a lawyer.

What’s going on here?

Lyle Howe believes he knows. It is, he says, because he’s black. He freely admits it’s probably more complicated than just that. But he insists it is almost certainly that too.

Click here to read the rest of “Who is Lyle Howe? (Part I)”

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

We’ll publish Part 2 later today.

3. Court watch

This week, Examiner court columnist Christina Macdonald discusses Jimmy Melvin Jr, a 132-pound five-year-old, and Paul Tingley’s crap car, among other issues.

Click here to read Court Watch.

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

4. Donkin and the end of the world

Cape Breton’s newest generation of coal miners stand outside the first coal to come out of the Donkin Mine on Tuesday. Photo: Stephanie MacDougall

Production started at the Donkin coal mine this week, reports the Cape Breton Post:

Jim Bunn, senior vice-president of operations for Cutlass Collieries and CAO at the Donkin Mine, said they had received all their approvals and permits, so production began at the mine Monday at 9 p.m.


“The daily amount will depend on demand and our customers.”

It is also hoped Nova Scotia Power will become a customer.

“Nova Scotia Power buys coal that is similar to Donkin’s coal so they are a potential customer. The daily amount will depend on demand and our customers.”

There is no word yet on whether or not the Donkin Mine will be entering an agreement with Nova Scotia Power.

Good thing Stephen McNeil was able to strike a deal to keep Nova Scotia’s coal-powered power plants running until 2050, eh?

Yes, the amount of coal that will be taken out of Donkin is a tiny, tiny percentage of the coal being mined elsewhere. Yes, China burns coal. Yes, Nova Scotia has made some modest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, yes, yes: there’s always a good reason we should keep mining fossil fuels.

Sorry kids, you’re just fucked by good reasons. The destruction of your world is simply the result of thoughtful people making logical decisions at every turn. There’s really nothing we can do about it. Oh well, sucks to be you, but no one will accuse us olds of being illogical.

Anticipating the inevitable criticism: no it’s not contradictory to fault Innovacorp’s investment in a compressed air energy storage technology and then complain about opening up coal mines. For one, as someone pointed out in the comments, the CAES technology doesn’t have to be tied to renewable energy. But more to the point, I thought we were all good free market enthusiasts? Isn’t that what the last 40 years have been all about? The province should just set a price it’ll pay for renewables and leave it at that; if the price is high enough, the market will provide. (All hail the market. Amen.)


1. Inclusion

Richard Starr has a post this morning analyzing the arguments around inclusion. He writes:

My partner Wendy and I were among a group of parents and supporters who lobbied for the policy to be put into law. Our advocacy arose from the fact that our son Sam, now 31, has Down’s syndrome. We have been involved with the issue off and on ever since Sam started school in 1991. Since he graduated from Dartmouth High in 2005 we’ve focused on issues of employment and housing while observing from afar the discussion of inclusion contained in a series of reports — the Farmer report in 2007, Levin in 2011 and Freeman in 2014. The latter two reports in particular were worthy of critical comment, but it has taken the discourse on inclusion that has surrounded the dispute between teachers and the Liberals for me to re-engage on a subject.

I actually started to feel uneasy a few months ago when the CBC presented the opinion of a Cape Breton teacher as news. This teacher, Sally Capstick went on Information Morning Cape Breton to expose the Elephant in the Room (EITR), the thing that no one was talking about during the 18-month impasse between teachers and the McNeil government. The resident pachyderm? Inclusion, which according to Sally Capstick no one wants to label as a problem but had “gotten to a point that the diversity in the classroom is unbelievable.”

Calling something off limits for discussion — even when it isn’t — seems to light a fire under certain media types. Commentators like the CBC’s Chris Lydon and the Chronicle-Herald’s Gail Lethbridge picked up the EITR metaphor, and Sally Capstick’s pronouncement even spread to Toronto, providing grist for a private radio station’s phone-in show.

A couple weeks ago, during one of the all-night marathons at the legislature, Resources Minister Zach Churchill praised Premier Stephen McNeil (who had already praised himself on TV) for including a Commission on Inclusion as part of Bill 75. Although the commission idea appears to be a sop to the teachers’ union, Churchill described the move as “a government having the courage to take on the big elephant in the room that no one’s wanted to talk about, and that’s inclusion.” A few days later, local CBC radio — which seems to be pre-occupied with the subject — devoted its Sunday Maritime Connection phone-in to the question: “Is Inclusion Working in Maritime Classrooms?”

All of this talk undermines the aptness of the metaphor — how many times can a subject be called the Elephant in the Room before, by definition, it stops being that? But more seriously, it must also be a source of distress for students with special needs and their families. The urban dictionary defines EITR as “a very large issue that everyone is acutely aware of but nobody wants to talk about.” It can’t be reassuring for students with special needs or their advocates to hear that their inclusion in the classroom is creating a very large issue, or as Minister Churchill would have it, “a big elephant.” As for the notion that no one talks about it, the number of government reports on the subject puts the lie to that. Perhaps what nobody really wants to talk about is a desire to turn the clock back to those days before the 1990s when students with special needs were excluded from their neighbourhood schools.

This is Part 1 of Starr’s essay. He’ll publish Part 2 later this week.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

For most of us, the prospect of driving towards someone with headlights on bright is a scary one. It’s pretty hard to drive safely when you can’t see where you are going. You’d think this simple fact would be easy to understand but many Island drivers seem incapable of understanding it.

In consideration of the safety of others, regulations have been put in place to keep the roads safe for all users. When cars are approaching, drivers are not meant to travel the highways with headlights that blind oncoming traffic and put other road-users at risk.

 On an Island where many of the drivers are older, the problem is compounded. The glare of bright lights is magnified for older eyes.

The Department of Transportation seems to be ignoring its responsibility to enforce its own rules and update them when necessary.

At a recent gathering, I asked everyone if they too thought that people should not be allowed to drive with their fog lights on when the roads were clear. Ten of 10 people agreed with me; everyone I ask about this agrees with me. There is a problem and it will only get worse unless action is taken.

I assume drivers of trucks and SUVs think it’s sexy to outfit their vehicles with these unnecessary appendages. Really, how often is it foggy enough to warrant using fog lights in P.E.I.?

Perhaps having an extra set of lights on their truck is meant to compensate for some other appendage or their dim wits — if so, someone should inform them that they only look ridiculous when they drive with two sets of lights on.

Driving towards someone with two sets of lights on is equivalent to driving towards someone with your lights on bright. As most of the fog lights are installed on trucks, it is even more difficult for oncoming traffic to see — truck lights are already higher than those of cars, and I don’t think many truck drivers have the direction of their headlights tested and corrected to avoid blinding drivers coming towards them.

Fog lights on clear nights are unsafe and annoying; so too are the blue-tinted, high-intensity discharge headlights, or “HIDs,” which are two to three times brighter than traditional halogen headlights.

It’s time the Department of Highways looked at this driving hazard and changed driving regulations in order to keep the highways safe.

If HIDs and fog lights are to be allowed, then I think we with adequate wits and appendages must be permitted to drive our vehicles with our bright headlights permanently on.

What is the point of some drivers being able to drive with lights twice as bright as others?

Wendy Jones, Belle River




Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — the committee will attempt to destroy the Centre Plan, just as it destroyed the waterfront.

Police Commission (Wednesday, 1pm, Fairbanks Centre, Dartmouth) — more of the work planning.

Forest Hills Parkway – Walking and Cycling Enhancements Engagement Session (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Cole Harbour Place) — info here.

Public Information Meeting – Case 19535 (Wednesday, 7pm, Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea School) — Geoff Keddy Architect & Associates Limited wants to develop two parcels on St. Margarets Bay Road in Timberlea. Info here.


Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, Office, Point Pleasant Park) — here’s the agenda.

Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, Alderney Gate) — a light agenda.



Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Kelliann Dean, deputy minister of Municipal Affairs, will be asked about the Emergency Management Office.


Law Amendments (Thursday, 1pm and 7pm, Province House) — the committee will hear from the public about Bill 75 (the Accessibility Act).

On campus



Paralympics (Wednesday, 8:30am, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — Paul Easton will speak on “Rio 2016 Paralympics: Working with the International Paralympic Committee.”

“Let’s Talk Diabetes” (Wednesday, Noon, Room 307, Student Union Building) — An unknown person will present up-to-date information about the risk factors, prevention, and management of diabetes. Register here.

Obesity (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Grant M. Hatch will speak on “Cardiolipin Metabolism in Diet-induced Obesity.”

Budget Session (Wednesday, 6pm, Council Chambers, Student Union Building) — the Dalhousie Student Union will look at the campus budget. See more here.

Natural Ventilation (Wednesday, 7pm, Auditorium, Medjuck Building) — Paul Vincent will speak on “In Search of Common Sense: Hybrid Projects in Natural Ventilation.”

YouTube video

My Brilliant Career (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of Gillian Armstrong’s 1979 film.


Coffeeeeeeeee (Thursday, 10am, Tupper Link, Carleton Campus) — while supplies last, try three different samples at a tasting station and vote on which brew should be the signature coffee for Dal’s 200th anniversary.

Budget Session (Thursday, 12pm, Room MA120, Morroy Building and 4pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building) — the Dalhousie Student Union will look at the campus budget. See more here.

Three Minute Thesis Competition Finals (Thursday, 6:30pm, Theatre B, Tupper Link) — one winner from each of the previous days’ ten heats will compete. It’s like two hours of elevator pitches, but smarter.

Climate Reporting (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) Mike De Souza, Managing Editor of the National Observer, speaks on “Investigative Journalism: Media Coverage of Climate Change in the Age of Trump.”

In the harbour

3:30am: Ningbo Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Cagliari, Italy
4am: Tavrichesky Bridge, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Saint John

Performance. Photo: Halifax Examiner

5am: Performance, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy

Atlantic Cartier. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Atlantic Cartier. Photo: Halifax Examiner

6am Atlantic Cartier, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
6am: ZIM Texas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
7:30am: AHS Hamburg, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 41 from San Juan, Puerto Rico
10:30am: Toscana, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
10:30am: Nanny, oil tanker, sails from Pier 9 for sea
3:30pm: NYK Demeter, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
3:30pm: ZIM Texas, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
4pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at anchorage from Saint-Pierre
4pm: Atlantic Cartier, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
11pm: Performance, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
11:30pm: Toscana, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea


I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

Canadaland is coming to Halifax. King’s journalism prof Terra Tailleur, Jesse Brown, and I will comprise a panel asking, and perhaps answering, the question “Is Atlantic Journalism Fucked?”

The podcast will be recorded before a live audience — hopefully including you — at the Marquee, on Friday, March 3 at 7pm. Doors open at 6.

Entry cost is $10, all of which goes to CKDU radio. We’ll have Examiner T-shirts and coffee mugs for sale. I’m too old for surprises, so I’ve deleted them.

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

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  1. Tim’s follow up on LightSail is such a great example of what journalism is meant to be. Thank you for continuing to get to the bottom of stories no one else in this town even attempts.

  2. Glad to see you naming the EITR – elephant in the room – about Donkin!

    It’s time to get off coal not to dig deeper.

  3. I find it frustrating, depressing and infuriating that this province will kill a vibrant, promising and successful industry as supported by the playing-field-levelling film industry tax credit with a “we can’t afford it” argument and at the same time throw away 2 million on a hair brained energy scheme and dump money down coal pits in Cape Breton following a path that has proven wrong for over 50 years. Is there a word somewhere which is stronger than incompetent to apply to this government?

  4. Trudy “Fong” may be Danielle Fong’s mother, but judging by Trudy’s actions, it would appear Danielle did not get her engineering smarts from her mother’s side of the family. Let the truth be told and understood. The fact that LightSail is having some R&D issues is not unusual, if the renewable energy storage solution was easy to determine, it would have been solved long ago. Trudy’s interference on the PR side of the story will likely hamper LightSail in achieving its long-term goals more than it would ever benefit the organization.

  5. Were the coal folks in Cape Breton Trump before Trump was cool?

    Like so many regressive measures it is sad to see the world backsliding in energy as well as so much else.