1. Canada lagging on suits against tobacco companies

Camille Cameron. Photo: Chris Lambie

Canadian provinces, including Nova Scotia, are failing to take advantage of Canadian Supreme Court decisions and precedents in other countries that will allow the governments to successfully sue tobacco companies for billions of dollars.

That’s the gist of a talk given by Dean Camille Cameron of the Schulich School of Law on Friday, as reported by Chris Lambie.

Click here to read “Canada lagging on suits against tobacco companies.”

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I was working in California when that state was part of the 1998 master settlement agreement between US states and the big tobacco companies. California paid the money out to the counties, which used it for better and worse purposes — my county was on the verge of bankruptcy and so much of the money unwisely went straight into the county operating budget.

Still, some of the money went to the county health authority, which used it to fund smoking cessation programs, and the positive return on investment was immediate, as in the same fiscal year. That’s because helping even just one or two pregnant women to quit smoking resulted in dramatic decreases in Medicaid costs for pre- and post-natal care of their babies.

Class action lawsuits by governments against tobacco companies are premised on the past expenditures for health care. But as I saw in California, there are future savings as well.

In Canada, where provincial health departments foot the bill for everyone’s health costs (as opposed to the US, where government Medicaid only pays for health care for the poor, and Medicare pays for seniors’ health care), a modest investment in smoking cessation programs can have enormous returns, both financially for the government budget and for the health of citizens who need help to quit smoking. And there’s that potential pot of money — the settlement money — that can help pay for the smoking cessation programs.

2. Taxi driver helps out

Amer Abdo. Photo: CTV

In an email to reporters, police describe an incident that occurred Friday afternoon:

Halifax Regional Police have laid an assault charge against a 40 year old Halifax Man after receiving assistance from a taxi driver.
On March 24th 2017 at approximately 4:10 p.m. a Taxi driver noticed a female being assaulted by a male on Inglis Street near Brussels Street in Halifax Nova Scotia. The driver turned around  to pick up the female victim, he then contacted police and followed the suspect to a nearby business. When police arrived the male suspect was identified by both the taxi driver and the female victim. The suspect was arrested for assault and returned to Halifax Regional Police Headquarters. The investigation has revealed the victim and suspect were not known to each other and that the victim almost bumped into the suspect while texting and walking, this prompted the suspect to assault the victim. The victim did not appear to be seriously injured.
The 40 year old male suspect will appear in Halifax Provincial Court on May 23rd at 10:00 a.m.

Reporting for Metro, Grace Gormley identifies the taxi driver as Amer Abdo:

Abdo said his actions that day aren’t that unusual. He said he has come across other violent acts during his 16 years as a Halifax cab driver and always taken immediate action, but was never open to the limelight until now.


“We get a lot of abuse,” Abdo said, noting several recent sexual assault cases involving drivers have cast a negative light on all drivers in Halifax.

He said one incident in particular a few weekends ago continues to bother him deeply. He said he picked up two women one night in the downtown and the first thing they said to him was: “Please don’t rape me.”

“It’s all because of one bad guy,” Abdo said, noting he’s seen a decrease in business since the not-guilty verdict against [Bassam] Al-Rawi.

3. Suspicious Package

This gym bag, which disrupted downtown traffic for two hours in May 2014, had no prior criminal record. Photo: CBC

A disturbed person did something horrible in London, England last Wednesday, and so someone in Halifax, 4,000 kilometres and an ocean away, was spooked by an unattended package left in Gorsebrook Park on Friday. Police closed the adjoining South Street for three hours before deciding that “there was no threat.”

Let’s recap the ridiculous recent history of suspicious packages:

April 2013: police closed Barrington Street after someone called in a suspicious package that turned out to be a briefcase full of bricks. This is the first use of the police robot, I think.
May 2013: a suspicious package full of something that vaguely looked electrical was discovered at the Halifax Shopping Centre, causing much mayhem and worry until a sheepish salesman explained that he had accidentally left his bag of hearing aids behind.
May 2013: a supsicious package is reported in a parking lot near Stadacona. I later wrote: “The very best in anti-terrorism technology — a water cannon-wielding robot! — is employed to blast the innocent bag someone left next to a car to smithereens. Freedumb!”
June 2014: unidentified package found near Dockyard.
January 2015 a Cole Harbour neighbourhood and a Grand Desert street were shut down for fears that Christopher Phillips was stockpiling a dangerous chemical, osmium tetroxide. Phillips was subsequently acquitted of all charges; in a hearing, a chemist testified that the chemical could not be used as a weapon.
May 2015: a suspicious package that closed Robie Street turned out to be a suitcase full of clothes.
May 2015: someone left a gym bag on George Street, and so the downtown core had to be shut down for two hours.
September 2015: unidentified package exploded by military police at Rainbow Gate at HMC Dockyard.
July 2016: An empty briefcase was left near the corner of Almon and Gottingen Streets, which required the efforts of the bomb squad, the closure of various streets, and police thanking everyone for being forever watchful.
July 2016: A “vigilant” citizen alerted authorities to a lunch pail left a block from where dozens of construction workers are building the Nova Centre, and so Brunswick Street was closed, ironically at lunchtime.
March 2017: two days after an attack on the British parliament, someone left something in Gorsebrook Park, and so access to and from the IWK and the Special Education Authority was limited for three hours.


1. Provincial budget

Finance Minister Randy Delorey (Global)

“No need to ask what the Halifax Chamber of Commerce wants to see in next month’s provincial budget,” writes Stephen Kimber. “They’ve made their wish list plain enough in their own, well-chosen words. Surprise: their list doesn’t have much to do with the concerns of ordinary Nova Scotians.”

Click here to read “Who has the ear of the finance minister? Hint: not you.”

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2. Discrimination against parents

Brett Bundale relates her experience trying to rent a house in Halifax:

And suddenly it hit me. If I’m a white, English-speaking, able-bodied working professional earning a good income and I’m being turned away because of children, what happens to single mothers on income assistance or people of colour with children or immigrants with accents — and kids in tow?

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Amherst News:

In response to Switzerland No. 1 country in the world? We disagree published March 14, 2017

The thought that Canada was not ranked as the world’s ‘Best Country’ to live in does not surprise me.

Frankly it surprises me that Canada ranked so highly after the survey results. Canadian citizens pride themselves on misconceptions that we are a strong and thriving country, but I ask what scale evaluation are these Canadian citizens looking at?

From my perspective, I do not see the truth in such a statement. I understand that Canadians may have the highest quality of life, but at what cost?

First off I would like to revaluate the survey categorise that judged a country to determine which was the ‘Best Country’ to live in.
In the American 2017 Best Countries survey the categories under consideration were as listed; adventure, citizenship, cultural influence, entrepreneurship, heritage, economics, open for business and quality of life.

The survey overview stated that it covered 75 dimensions that can encourage trade, travel, global investments and affect national economies. Why was agriculture, energy production, social services and education not included? Each of those can too contribute to trade, travel, investments and national economics.

Aside from the lack of coverage from the survey categories, let’s talk about why Canada should rank lower on the ‘Best Country’ scale, in my opinion. The Canadian government is not keeping its promise to transition to sustainable renewable energy, environmental racism is a social norm and Canadian citizens are the largest poluters in the world.

Shocking, right?

When the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, signed the Paris agreement he committed Canada to cut its emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, to save remaining intact forests, keep fossil fuels in the ground and to develop a climate strategy with the provinces. Trudeau stated to the UN that Liberal government has also committed to investing $2.65 billion over the next five years to help developing countries fight climate change.

When is the past three months Canada has committed to spending $6.8-billion in its own country on the Trans Mountain Pipeline which will create more emission, more disforestation, more pollution and climate change? So I ask why Trudeau believes he has the right to say Canada is a climate action leader with such embarrassing statistics.

Look at Sarnia, Ont., a prime example of environmental racism local citizens of Aamjiwnaang, an indigenous community, are exposed so the most polluted air in Canada.

Canada has committed to spending billions on a pipeline when hundreds of indigenous communities in Canada are without clean water. Why do we as Canadians except this as a social norm? With that statement in mind can we really argue that we should be the ‘Best Country’?

Canadian citizens are also the largest polluters of the planet.

Canada’s total energy consumption is among the highest in the G8 countries, and Canada ranks the highest per capita for emissions in comparison to countries such as Japan, China and the U.S. With all the statistics, I have brought to the table, how can Canadian citizens argue to be the ‘Best Country’? I understand no country is perfect and all countries have work to do in regards to decreasing the results of climate change but can Canada be the best?

Travel, trade, global investments and national economics all begin to thrive in countries who move towards more sustainable and renewable practices. Switzerland was ranked first on the U.S ‘Best Country’ survey and is one of the most sustainable countries in the world; in regards climate change, biodiversity and habitat protection.
Switzerland introduced 15 regional parks with two additional national parks by 2014 all of which would bring tourism. Switzerland is also very dedicated to the implementation and maintenance of sustainable energy using wind, solar and hydropower.

With Switzerland’s innovative transitions I believe they deserve to beat Canada on the ‘Best Country’ survey and that Canada should have by no means rank second place to a country full of innovations and leaps towards a sustainable future.

Alisha Christie, Amherst


Leah McLaren

Back in 2012, Globe & Mail columnist Leah McLaren used her column to try to sell her own “charming red brick Victorian row house.” That obvious conflict of interest was highlighted by the G&M’s public editor, Syliva Stead, who wrote:

Last week, several readers took The Globe and Mail to task for publishing an article in Globe Real Estate by freelance columnist Leah McLaren, describing her own house which was up for sale at the time.

I agree with our readers and told the editors last week that in my view they should not have published it. It is clear to me that Globe staff members or freelancers should not be involved in articles in which they could stand to gain financially or in which there is an appearance that they may.

Globe editors agreed this did not show proper judgment and should not have happened. They said The Globe and Mail shouldn’t run articles about the sale of an employee or freelancer’s house whether that article is written by that person or anyone else.

Well, as icky as that incident was, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Last night it was revealed that McLaren had written a bizarre column about her (unsuccessful) attempt to breastfeed Michael Chong’s baby without the baby’s parents’ knowledge or, obviously, consent:

I was feeling a bit glum and distracted, so I’d wandered upstairs in search of a bathroom in which to reapply my lipstick and check my phone for random texts from inappropriate men (this was before Tinder). I walked into a bedroom with coats piled high on the bed and noticed that in the corner, sitting wide awake in a little portable car seat, was the cutest baby I’d ever seen. On the table beside him was a monitor. I smiled at the baby, the baby smiled back. Now this was a connection.

I leaned over and gingerly picked him up and then sat down in a chair to give him a cuddle. He felt gorgeous in my arms, all warm and lumpy and milky-smelling in the way small babies are. Somehow, my pinky finger ended up in his mouth and I was astonished at strength of his sucking reflex. “C’mon lady,” said his eyes. And I suddenly knew what he wanted. And I of course wanted to give him what he wanted. The only problem was, I had no milk. But would it be so bad, I wondered, if I just tried it out – just for a minute – just to see what it felt like?

I looked at the baby monitor as if it might be watching me, but thankfully this was before monitors had cameras.

Then slowly, carefully so as not to jostle the infant, I began to unbutton my blouse. Just as I was reaching into my bra, a shortish man with in a navy suit walked into the room.

“Oh um, hello!” he said, in a friendly, upbeat tone that could not entirely conceal the fact that he was flummoxed to see me sitting there with my top half unbuttoned holding his baby.

“I see you’ve met my son. May I take him now?”

The man, of course, was Michael Chong. 

The column apparently was published on the Globe & Mail’s website but removed after someone with some sense realized that there was absolutely nothing appropriate about the column, nor any news value or other reason to publish it.

The incident doesn’t even appear to be true, as Chong didn’t have a baby when McLaren claimed to be trying to breastfeed it. Maybe it was some sort of weird attack on Chong for (allegedly) leaving a baby unattended in an upstairs bedroom during a party? I have no idea.




North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Bedford Hammonds Plains Community Centre) — here’s the agenda.


City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — on first read, it’s a remarkably non-controversial agenda. I’ll read it again today and see if I can get worked up about something.



No public meetings.


Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, Province House)  — Deputy Minister Duff Montgomerie will be asked about Student Employment Programs.

What do we think about that Graduate to Opportunity program? I’ve considered making using of it — I’m not quite there financially, so this is more a theoretical question than a real option at this point — but I’m reluctant, as I worry that relying on government money of any sort could undermine the adversarial nature of this enterprise. These philosophical questions keep me up at night.

On campus



The Hermit of Africville (Monday, 3pm, Riverview Room, Jenkins Hall, Agricultural Campus, Truro) — Author Jon Tattrie will talk with Lynn Jones and Tawnya Barrington about his book about Eddie Carvery.

Senate (Monday, 3pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — the agenda. I’ll be there, and if anything ridiculous happens, you can see me live-blogging it at @hfxExaminer.

YouTube video

Unbroken Glass (Monday, 7pm, QEII Royal Bank Theatre, Halifax Infirmary) — Screening of Dinesh Sabu’s documentary film, followed by a panel discussion with Tim Krahn, Sabina Abidi, Karim Dharamsi, and Carol Lamarche.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: The Woman Beyond the Myths (Monday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Marjorie Stone talks about the poet. The event listing:

Most widely known as the author of Sonnets from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, with her romantic marriage to poet Robert Browning, experienced a legendary life that has generated persistent myths. These myths sometimes take bizarre form, as in a recent play casting the poet as an opium junkie. This lecture uncovers the poet obscured by the myths: the author of the first portrait of the woman writer and a wide range of works that made her the most influential English woman poet of the nineteenth century.


Simulation Modeling (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Trevor Arnason, regional Medical Officer of Health (Halifax, Eastern Shore and West Hants), will speak on “Some Models are Useful: Simulation Modeling for Population Health Policy and Planning.”

Thesis Defence, Engineering (Tuesday, 1pm, Room 3107, The Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Amina Stoddart will defend her thesis, “Field-Scale Evaluation of Drinking Water Biofiltration.”

Reflexivity (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Gabor Lukacs will talk about “On Group-valued Continuous Functions.” The abstract:

For a space X and topological group A, one denotes by C(X,A) the set of continuous maps on X with values in A, equipped with pointwise operations and the compact- open topology. If X is compact, then C(X,A) carries the uniform topology, and for suitable choices of X, one obtains groups that resemble l^\infty and c_0, which are of interest in their own right. For an abelian group G, let G^ denote the group of all continuous characters of G equipped with the compact-open topology. The group G is *reflexive* if the evaluation map G –> G^^ is a topological isomorphism. In this talk, we present results concerning reflexivity of C(X,A).

In the harbour

The North Atlantic, 9:25am Monday. Map:

3pm: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
5pm: Zenith Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany


Copyediting is coming post-publication today, so kindly hold off on your complaints.

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

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  1. Re: City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — on first read, it’s a remarkably non-controversial agenda.:

    What is controversial is the Motion:
    That Halifax Regional Council adopt By-law L-401, the purpose of which is to amend By-law L-400, Respecting Lot Grading, to exclude areas that are not connected to a central wastewater system.

    This means developers Halifax Water’s serviced boundary do not have to ensure that proper stormwater management is incorporated into the construction for their newly developed properties. This also means the adjacent property owners will either have to take someone to court or pay another contractor to create a solution if the new build site’s stormwater egress affect the adjacent property. This is bad news for the homeowner and the environment.

    Council gutted By-law L-400 because some developers complained that it would unduly affect construction costs for rural developments. What Council missed was the fact that the knew By-law would protect the new and existing rural homeowners as well as the environment… there is a cost to developing something correctly. Just because a development occurs in a rural area does not mean it is okay to lower development standards. Also, if the Halifax Water service boundary is expanded in the future, some of these rural properties may negatively impact Halifax Water’s stormwater management infrastructure… who will have to pay to correct these issues… an unsuspecting homeowner is my guess.

    The cost to developers and the owners of newly built homes in rural areas should not be a determining issue here… what should be the issue, is whether stormwater is being managed correctly or not for the newly developed property.

  2. As you may know, Tim, we have these weird police reports in the local rag (Kentville Advertiser/Register or whatever they’re calling it now.) They dutifully report whatever odd calls have come in to the local constabulary (Kings RCMP, various detachments) and are a mixture of hilarity, bizarreness, and even pathos by times. My favourite one is from several years ago, during Frosh week at Acadia, when there was ‘a report of someone in a cow costume’ in a back yard (I believe it was someone in cow-print pjs. Hey, it’s Wolfville.) There was, in that same report, a suspicious package, which on examination turned out to be “an abandoned donair.” Yes, really.

  3. The Graduate to Opportunity Program is fantastic for non-profits. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t prohibited from applying. The Halifax Cycling Coalition was able to use this funding avenue to fund the remaining 25% of the Executive Director’s salary, moving this hire up approximately 12 months in the organization’s strategic plan. The fact that the funding is not tied to specific program delivery is great too, because it essentially covered administrative time in year one – the time that is needed to find new funding sources for the future.

    Is GTO a perfect program? Far from it. Savvy companies that were going to hire anyway could get the money fairly easily, by creating a new position & title, whether they needed the funding or not. But if fine-tuned to help really small companies or non-profits hire & train new grads, then I think it is justifiable in the overall context of government funding for business. Of course, we could debate endlessly about the propriety of any grants to businesses, but if RBC is getting payroll rebates, then tiny non-profits & startups should have some relatively unrestricted funding opportunities to support their work.