1. Fracking

Natural gas being burned off (flared) as a waste product at a pump jack oil well, Amite County, Louisiana, 2014. Photo: Linda Pannozzo

“On the same day that Nova Scotia’s governing Liberals introduced legislation to ban high volume hydraulic fracturing in the province, I happened to be on a ‘fracking tour’ in the U.S. with a bus load of other environmental journalists in a place that had instead embraced it,” writes Linda Pannozzo.

That news was met with glee from the journalists and researchers who had long seen firsthand the effects of fracking. But now, four years later, the push is on to reopen the fracking debate in Nova Scotia.

Pannozzo notes that there was never actually a legal ban on fracking — the 2014 legislation was passed by the legislature but never proclaimed — and the newly released Onshore Atlas of shale oil deposits (and the oversold promise of riches) is ignoring the substantial risks associated with fracking.

Click here to read “We’re Cooked: The Case for Ignoring Nova Scotia’s Fracking Potential.”

This article is not behind the Examiner’s paywall. But maybe subscribe anyway so we can continue to publish Pannozzo’s fine work, eh?

2. Abdoul Abdi

The Immigration and Refugee Board yesterday ordered Abdoul Abdi to be released from custody, according to a tweet from his lawyer:


3. The Chronicle Herald, advertorial, and Northern Pulp Mill

Northern Pulp Mill. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Last Thursday, I wrote about the latest Chronicle Herald advertorial:

And then there’s advertising disguised as news stories — “advertorial.”

Apparently, after the PR disaster of shutting down a book signing by Joan Baxter, author of “The Mill,” Northern Pulp mills feels it needs to buy some positive PR. Yesterday, the Chronicle Herald published a piece of “sponsored content” — sponsored by Northern Pulp — responding to environmental critics of the mill.

I don’t know if the average reader understands what “sponsored content” is, but Northern Pulp and the Chronicle Herald must think they’re pulling the wool over at least some readers’ eyes, because otherwise they’d simply call it “advertising,” right?

Again, this isn’t journalism. It’s a disservice to readers.

The “sponsored content” was an “article” headlined “Bleached Kraft Mills cannot be Closed Loop.” That article shows up in Google News searches as actual news, so the Herald evidently made no effort to keep it out of its normal news feed to Google.

Since then, there’s been a remarkable series of articles written by real reporters profiling the mill and its operations published in the Herald and the Saltwire-owned New Glasgow News (Saltwire is the parent company to both the Herald and the News).

The series started on Saturday, when the Herald and News published a piece by veteran Herald reporter Aaron Beswick headlined in the Herald as “The inner workings of the Northern Pulp kraft mill.” Beswick writes:

Since opening in 1967, Northern Pulp has been both a source of economic activity and controversy in Pictou County. Both will be addressed by this series over the coming days as it attempts to lay out the facts in black and white to inform an important discussion about the mill’s role and future in this province.

But beyond the headlines Northern Pulp is also a community of 339 Nova Scotians who make 270,000 tonnes of kraft pulp annually.

Now, it makes sense for journalists to cover a major corporation in a small town, especially when there are important resource and environmental issues at play. That’s a proper subject for journalistic investigation. In her article “Dirty Dealing,” for instance, Halifax Examiner contributor Linda Pannozzo covered the potential effects on the Northumberland Strait lobster fishery presented by a new plan to dispose of Northern Pulp effluent.

But with Saltwire’s Northern Pulp series coming right at the heels of “sponsored content” in the Herald, disguised as news and paid for by Northern Pulp, we’ve got to examine motives.

Was the idea for the series arrived at independently by newsroom journalists, or did Herald management direct the newsroom to cover Northern Pulp as part of a package sales deal with Northern Pulp?

I asked Beswick for comment and he hasn’t responded. So I can’t speak to motivations, but I can speak to content. I don’t know if it’s by design, authorship, or through editing, but Beswick’s article strikes me as PR Lite — it is basically a series of uncritical profiles of mill employees and how they do their jobs. The article does include a bit of information about environmental complaints over the mill operation, but that information is not detailed and it appears very far down in the article

That’s followed today by an article by News reporter Sam Macdonald, headlined “Here’s how Northern Pulp says its effluent treatment plan would work” [Update: according to Linda Pannozzo, the original headline on the article was “After years of controversy, Northern Pulp is cleaning up it’s act.”] As with Beswick’s article, contrary views are not detailed and appear very far down in the article — in the last two paragraphs of of a 24-paragraph article — only to be dismissed in the closing sentence:

The pipeline has been under fire by local environmentalists and members of the fishing community, who are concerned about the impact of what will come out of the line. Protests have been held in the past few months to express opposition to the project.

Some opponents have called for a closed-loop system in which all effluent waste would be cleaned and reused in the plant, basically eliminating the need for the pipeline. However, both the mill and experts experienced with this type of bleached kraft pulp method have indicated a closed loop system would not work due to the process.

Who knows? Maybe the two reporters had no marching orders from management and each decided to write an uncritical article about mill operations. That happens. But it’s impossible to separate the mill’s purchase of sponsored content from the reporting. It sure looks like a package deal.

This is the problem with “sponsored content” and advertorial: Once you’ve decided to turn the news pages of your publication over to advertisers, even honest news coverage becomes suspect.

4. Late buses

“A report showing Halifax Transit buses struggled with being on time last summer comes as no surprise to Ken Wilson, reports Yvette d’Entremont for Metro:

The president of the union representing Halifax Transit operators said the construction that wreaked havoc for drivers was bound to impact industry standard targets.

A transportation standing committee information report outlining Halifax Transit’s second quarter performance is being presented to Halifax regional council on Tuesday.

It shows that buses were on time 73 per cent of the time. The report notes that transit industry standard targets range between 85 and 90 per cent.

“It was the worst construction year in history as far as we’re concerned, and this (statistic) is a result of that,” Wilson said.

For sure, this isn’t a problem with the drivers, and as Wilson says, the increase in construction — especially, but not limited to, the Macdonald Bridge and Bay Road closures — has pushed the late bus numbers skyward. Downtown construction is also a huge component.

Additionally, however, is simple congestion: a bus stuck in traffic is going to be a late bus. Transit advocates have long pushed for bus lanes and queue-jumping lights, and there’s some hope we’ll start seeing more of those. That’s a good start.

Yet it’s simply a given for the #1 bus: the three buses heading to downtown from Mumford after 5pm — three buses that are supposed to arrive 10 minutes apart at Dalhousie, at 5:15, 5:25, and 5:35 — will not only be late, but will all arrive at the same time, usually around 5:40, but sometimes also with the fourth bus, at 5:45. This bunching of buses is caused because the outbound buses, leaving downtown for Mumford, were caught in downtown traffic at 5pm. They got to the end of their route at Mumford and then turned back for downtown, but they were all late, and all together.

The dedicated bus lanes and queue jumping lights are a partial solution, but this particular schedule problem has been going on for years, maybe decades. Transit could just build it into the schedule. Better yet, if we really want to avoid it, add new buses — that is, buses that weren’t already on a route — that will depart Mumford at the correct scheduled time. That of course would double the cost for drivers — instead of three drivers driving three buses, we’d have six drivers driving six buses — but it would bring honesty back to the schedule, and this is, after all, the busiest route in the system.

6. Eagle chicken meal

YouTube video

People in Sheffield Mills feed chickens to bald eagles, reports Aly Thompson for the Canadian Press.

7. Life imitates art imitates life…

Photo: Facebook

“In the 50 years he has lived on Seaview Drive, Gary Standing has never seen anything as ‘crazy’ as watching a person drive a front-loader tractor into a home,” reports Nikki Sullivan for the Cape Breton Post:

“It was a pretty crazy morning, to say the least,” he said, during a phone interview with the Cape Breton Post on Monday.

“He was smashing into the (power) pole out there and I hollered to my girlfriend, ‘Oh my God he is doing this on purpose.’ And then I seen him turn around and he went ‘whoosh’ right into the house.”

Neighbours and other people say a woman and two children live in the home. Cape Breton Regional Police confirm no one was in the house when the incident occurred.


After the person in the front-loader tractor left the scene, he drove to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation outlet on King Street where police found the heavy machinery.

Police have arrested a 51-year-old man who is in custody. Charges are pending as the investigation continues.

Police confirm the man and the homeowner are known to each other.

Standing must be new to the neighbourhood because back in the 1990s another Seaview Drive house was destroyed by backhoe, at least according to a wide-ranging discussion on the Cape Breton Rant Room Facebook page. “Def remember this happening before at least once,” wrote one commenter, which is enough confirmation for me.

That 1990s-era demolition must have been the inspiration for the 2010 episode of the Trailer Park Boys, in which Lahey destroys a trailer with a backhoe. That episode in turn may have inspired yesterday’s destruction.

YouTube video

8. Snow

Our snow drought is evidently over.

9. Cindy Day

Cindy Day

Cindy Day has broken my heart.




City Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda. Most notably, a public hearing is scheduled for 6pm to consider the Willow Tree proposal.


Budget Committee – 18-19 Budget and Business Plan (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — deliberations continue.



No public meetings today.


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Paul LaFleche, the deputy minister at Transportation and Infrastructural Renewal, will be asked about the Highway 104 Western Alignment Corporation.

On campus



Architecture Lecture (Tuesday, 9am, Theatre 4, Park Lane Mall) — Brady Peters from the Daniels School of Architecture, Toronto, will speak on computational design and digital fabrication, architectural acoustics, and environmental simulation.

Architecture Lecture (Tuesday, 6pm, Room B225, B Building [Engineering], Sexton Campus — after hours, enter via the link west of the Sexton Gymnasium) — John Brown from the University of Calgary will speak on combining professional architectural services, construction management, real estate brokerage, interior design, and product retailing.


Architecture Lecture (Wednesday, 9am, Theatre 4, Park Lane Mall) — Matthew Kennedy and Mark Erickson will speak on connecting innovative design with hands-on construction through their design + build practice, Studio North.

Architecture Lecture (Wednesday, 6pm, Room B225, B Building [Engineering], Sexton Campus — after hours, enter via the link west of the Sexton Gymnasium) — Nuno Grande, from the University of Coimbra, Portugal, will speak on understanding the relationship between culture, city, and architecture, and the role of cultural facilities within the urban regeneration process.

Countering Hate in the Digital Age: The Power of the Human Story (Wednesday, 7pm, Potter Auditorium, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — Stephen D. Smith, UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education, will speak.

King’s College


Teresa Heffernan   Photo: smu-ca.academia.edu
Teresa Heffernan   Photo: smu-ca.academia.edu

Imagining Automatons (Wednesday, 7pm, Alumni Hall) — Teresa Heffernan from Saint Mary’s University, director of the “Social Robots Futures” project, speaks on the past and future of robots.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:40am Tuesday. Map: marinetraffic.com

6am: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
6:30am: Maersk Palermo, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
10am: Horizon Star, offshore supply ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
11am: Ance, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from New Orleans
1pm: Jona, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Lisbon, Portugal
3pm: Maersk Palermo, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
3:45pm: YM Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Bremerhaven, Germany
4pm: Hollandia, general cargo, sails from Pier 31 for sea
5pm: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
6pm: Jona, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York


Council today… I’ll get there, but first to shovel…

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

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  1. For high frequency and frequently delayed buses like route 1, there’s little point in trying to maintain a schedule. Instead, they need to concentrate on maintaining the frequency, by short-turning if necessary. A longer term solution is to rationalize the routes, to reduce overlap, and prevent long route buses from being caught in congested areas.

    Route 1 overlaps several other routes for most of its run (Bridge Terminal to Spring Garden and South Park), it is one of at least three routes that go from the Bridge Terminal to Mumford (as well as 14 and 52) and it is one of several routes that goes from the Bridge Terminal to Dalhousie (as well as 10, 14, and 41). With all the overlap, it is pointless to try and fix the schedule for each route, the volume figures are not reliable, and for many people travelling along much of the route it does not matter which bus they take. Scheduling and frequency needs to be looked at holistically, not route by route: How long do you wait, and how long does it take, to get from any point A, to any point B?

  2. The Halifax Convention Centre did an Open House last weekend it showed off 4 areas, detail provided in the Convention Centre’s own marketing words:

    – Convention Hall Level: Over 50,000 square feet of flexible space.
    – Argyle Level & Atrium: Our iconic entrance and versatile Argyle Suite.
    – Ballroom Level: A 30,000 square foot ballroom and flexible multi-function areas.
    – Summit Level: Spacious and bright meeting rooms perfect for any event.

    Here is a link to the floor plans: https://www.halifaxconventioncentre.com/floor-plans/

    The building at-a-glance

    Over 120,000 square feet of flexible event space, including:
    30,000 square foot ballroom overlooking the city
    50,000 square feet of multi-purpose convention space
    40,000 square feet of intimate meeting space

    But little was said of the rest of the building (Nova Centre) which has at least 15 floors…. given the footprint of the Centre, that makes for a lot of office space.

    Has Turner Drake or one of the other office space gurus done an analysis on how much of the available office space, in the Nova Centre, must be occupied before there is a possibility of an annual profit?

    How will the Nova Centre’s abundance of office space affect the the other office space providing buildings located in the downtown core?

    1. I haven’t been to a ball in quite a while. Perhaps we could rent the space and host a “Fracking Foot Ball” in celebration of the two least desirable things in the spotlight these days. We could ask for tax dollars to pay for it, then leave a big mess.

  3. The same could be asked of environmentalist advocates of a closed loop system. Journalists fail to question assertions of environmental activists at least as often as those of flaks for large corporations. These issues are rarely simple. During the Sydney Tar Ponds cleanup, we faced a small group of obdurate activists who demanded a cleanup, but for whom no actual cleanup method was ever good enough.

    Don’t get me wrong. The history of this mill and its impact on Boat Harbour and the Mi’kmaq community is one of the most despicable episodes in Nova Scotia history. No one should expect the public to be trusting. But that doesn’t mean there is a simple solution. There almost certainly is not.

    1. A closed loop system is possible, Parker. It would cost money, probably a lot of it, but would pale in comparison to the health and environmental costs, a result of what they’ve done and what they’re proposing to do.

    2. Any ‘environmentalist’ can make any statement without worrying about any journalist/s ripping the statement to shreds.
      I am looking forward to the January 28 discussion re ‘Environmental Racism’. I am sure you remember the famous inaccurate media narrative re Metro Authority proposed East Lake landfill from 1991.

  4. The original headline for Sam Macdonald’s Chronicle Herald story on Northern Pulp was “After years of controversy, Northern Pulp is cleaning up it’s act.” It was then changed online to: “Here’s how Northern Pulp says its effluent treatment plan would work.”

  5. “… experts experienced with this type of bleached kraft pulp method have indicated a closed loop system would not work due to the process.”

    How did this get by an editor? What experts, what studies, what methodology, what do other experts without a dog in the race have to say etc etc.