On campus
In the harbour


1. Convention centre costs increase

That Crappy Old Office Tower on Argyle Street. Photo: Halifax Examiner
That Crappy Old Office Tower on Argyle Street. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The new convention centre isn’t even built yet, and we’re already paying for “upgrades” to it. From a provincial government press release:

The total value of the upgrades is $10 million which is cost-shared with Argyle Developments paying for 50 per cent and the province and Halifax cost-sharing the other 50 per cent. 

As I detailed Tuesday, part of the convention centre deal includes a requirement that the province put That Crappy Old Office Building on Argyle Street up for sale. The city has first rights to purchase the building at its appraised value, which the CBC reports is $13.5 million. I’m not sure why the city would pay $13.5 million for that piece of junk, but if Halifax council really wants to, it has 90 days to do so. After that, the building goes on the market, where likewise no sane person would buy it, and then, on the day the new convention centre opens, the city will be required to buy That Crappy Old Office Building on Argyle Street at book value.

If there were proper accounting for the building, book value would be a negative number, and the province would have to pay the city to take over the building. But putting a value on the building was probably what council discussed in closed session Tuesday; I’m guessing the final purchase price will be between $1 million and $3 million. Then the city will spend something like $10 million renovating the place.

I suggest we turn Stephen Lund’s old office into a Museum of Delusional Thinking. We could sell tickets to tourists and advertise the attraction to cruise ship passengers. The economic impact from the museum would be $14 trillion dollars.

2. Irvings

The Irving oil refinery in Saint John. Photo: Bruce Livesey
The Irving oil refinery in Saint John. Photo: Bruce Livesey

Since the Irvings have arrived in Halifax in a big way, we must all read Are the Irvings destroying New Brunswick?” Part 1 is an overview of the family and its interactions with government. Livesey quotes Don Bowser, an expert on corruption:

You have a corporation that has completely captured the province… which is absolutely Third Worldish. This whole province-living-in-fear stuff is just absolutely crazy. Nobody can imagine in Canada that this sort of stuff goes on.”

The National Observer is a new online publication produced by the Vancouver Observer. It “focuses on news through the lens of energy, environment and politics,” and evidently wanted to come out swinging.

Bruce Livesey is an investigative reporter with impeccable credentials. He was fired from Global News last year after he gave an interview to Canadaland about how the network killed his investigation into the Koch brothers.

3. Petulance, defined

If you want to see grown adults acting like toddlers, throwing tantrums, and otherwise behaving like brats, go here, scroll down, and click on 14.1.6 Regional Council Compensation Committee Final Report — for the full effect, take a few hours and watch both parts 1 and 2. 

Anyone thinking of challenging an incumbent for a council seat in October would do well to take clips from the video for campaign ads.

4. Amherst, unraptured

“More than half the kids at a school in Amherst, N.S., spent Wednesday at home over what police are calling ‘social media misinformation,’” reports CTV:

Many parents of students at Spring Street Elementary School had read comments online attributed to someone worried about three specific children, stating something terrible would happen and “the hell with everyone else, they can die.”

In a police statement, Chief Ian Naylor of Amherst Police says, “We are aware there is a lot of conversation about this matter on social media which has resulted in a great deal of misinformation and speculation.”

“Our investigation has not identified any threat to anyone, and the school is a safe place,” said Naylor.

The investigation has identified a man living in the community who believes Amherst will soon come to an end, and no one in the area when the “end of the world event” occurs will survive.

Everything I know about Amherst: they’ve got an old bank building, a swinger’s club, the guy who thinks pot cures cancer, and now, a dude scaring children while he’s waiting for the end of the world.


1. Local Xpress


“Chances of a six-day-a-week print edition of the Chronicle-Herald existing in 2020 are next to nil,” writes Parker Donham:

Everyone involved—workers, owners, readers, community leaders—must adjust to this new reality.

That’s the one shining light in this dispiriting conflict. When they aren’t wasting their time on picket lines and posting gratuitous insults, the striking journalists have been producing a creditable daily news website.

News stories in Local Xpress have consistently set a higher journalistic standard than the strike-breaker copy that fills the Herald’s pages. No surprise there. The best Herald writers and editors are very good at what they do.

Local Xpress could be so much more. A professionally produced news website aimed at the interests and temperament of traditional Herald readers poses a bigger threat to the Herald’s owners than pickets at the local Ford dealership, or Facebook insults directed at the mayor.

There’s a thought out there in the world, and Donham shares it, that picket lines and public protests are somehow unseemly or a waste of time, but I’m a fan of them. One of the foundational goals of the neoliberal agenda is to break society apart and atomize us as mere individuals, utterly disconnected from each other except as competitors for consumer goods, for jobs, for government services. There’s nothing the 1% want more than to disabuse us of the notion that we can have each other’s backs. The public protest is an appeal to the opposite; it insists that there is a shared public sphere with shared responsibilities and shared benefits.

Still, I agree with Donham that Local Xpress is a quality publication, and can be even better.

If Mark Lever and Sarah Dennis had any sense, they’d be working to turn the Chronicle Herald into something that looks a lot like Local Xpress. The model of a web-only news site has been out there for some time. I’m told David Bentley offered to sell to the Herald four or five years ago. Rather than taking that sensible offer, Lever instead tried to beef up the business section of the Herald and compete directly with; that effort was another of Lever’s miserable failures, albeit we got a couple of good reporters out of the deal who have moved on to other beats.

Lever fills the pages of his dead tree paper with praise for “innovation,” then continues to try to make the hopelessly dated dead tree business model work. This is the classic Innovators Dilemma. Compared to the profits generated by the Herald’s printing presses, the potential profits from an online-only news site are puny, and so Lever has made his choice: better to abandon any notion of quality journalism, and go with the profits gleaned from printing fliers, throwaway tabloids, and an advertorial-filled daily, for as long as that lasts.

I think there are enough readers out there who care about quality journalism that the numbers come together to make an online news site work. Well, I know there are — the Halifax Examiner is proving the point.

I’m conservative when it comes to business matters. I won’t take on debt to expand this operation, and so I’m scaling the site up only at the rate that new subscriptions come in. I think there’s still a lot of potential for growth, and I have goals. Those goals, however, are modest — hire a handful of reporters at good wages, provide a decent freelance income for others, and be known as the local site for deep analytical articles like Linda Pannozzo’s Feeding the Fire and investigative pieces like the DEAD WRONG series. There’s a market for this.

Can Local Xpress become even bigger? Can it overnight give employment to a few dozen reporters at the wages they were making at the Herald? Donham suggests that Local Xpress hunt for advertising revenue. I’m philosophically opposed to advertising-supported news, for reasons I’ve explained in great detail. But besides that, I think chasing advertising dollars is sticking to part of the broken business model of the Herald — there’s even less money in web advertising than there is in dead tree advertising.

But again, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There is an existing business model of a large online news site that doesn’t overly rely on advertising. I’m talking about The Tyee, the Vancouver-based site that continues to produce high-quality independent journalism.

The Tyee cribs together several financing sources, including selling shares to community members, union funding, and even renting out desk space. Right now the striking Herald workers have the unions’ ear, and this would be a good time to get some discussion going.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To The Coast:

For the most part I read with interest the articles published in The Coast. However, I am very confused over what community you serve. I live in Dartmouth, a community in HRM. Dartmouth is not part of Halifax, nor in Halifax in any way, shape or form. I noticed you have a city editor. Question is, what city? I’ll assume you refer to Halifax as a city from the content. This is a grave error.

Halifax lost its city status along with Dartmouth (and all other communities in Halifax County lost their incorporated status) when amalgamation was forced upon us in 1996. HRM’s new logo, while in my view a bit childish in design, is not representative of the whole region and certainly does not change the name of our municipality.

We don’t like it, do not accept it and would very much appreciate the media—print, TV, radio and online—would respect the people of Dartmouth by not lumping them in with “Halifax.”

Dartmouth is a community separate from the Halifax community but an integral part of HRM; please do not refer to Dartmouth people, places, businesses and other things as from Halifax. I, and thousands of Dartmouthians, would very much appreciate your due diligence to this matter.

I am looking to reading more accurate news and reports from The Coast.

Liz Campbell, Dartmouth



Design Review Committee (4pm, City Hall) — proposed changes to the Nova Centre will be discussed.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 8.29.52 PM

Public Information meeting (7pm, Black Cultural Centre) — Right and Ready Homes Inc. wants to build “a multi-use recreation facility” at 1224 Highway No. 7 in Westphal, which is at the corner of Highway 7 and Ross Road (see Google satellite view above) . The facility will include:

  • approximately 11,148 square metre (120,000 square foot) in size;
  • the realignment of the Ross Road and Hwy. No.7 intersection;
  • two ice rinks;
  • two indoor turf fields; 
  • interpretive centre;
  • fitness facilities; 
  • viewing stands;
  • restaurant; and
  • other related amenities.

Right and Ready Homes is headed by Nelson Grosse of East Preston. In a letter to the city, Grosse explains that he wants to build the Preston’s Sports Heritage Centre, and “the world class facility will be a comprehensive multi sport specific training facility.”:

The vision of the development is satisfying a huge need for ice rental and soccer in this underserved area which encompasses the areas of Cole Harbour, Westphal, Lawrencetown, Preston, Cherry Brook, Dartmouth, Lake Echo, Porters Lake, Chezzetcook, Musquodoboit and others. Young and old can all enjoy a walk in the indoor track, play a game of hockey, enjoy a bite to eat, visit the sports heritage memorabilia or practice their soccer skills or get fit at the sports facility so the users and possibilities are endless.

Not only will the proposed community centre serve to provide a place where local residents can be more active, but it also will provide much needed employment opportunities. During the proposal process, we have had the opportunity to meet with local politicians and community leaders, who are very excited to welcome a facility to bring pride and employment to their area.


Veterans Affairs (9am, One Government Place) — Colonel (Retd) Kevin Camero will be asked about the Canada Company Military Employment Transition Program.

On Campus


Multivariate Chemical Data (3:30pm, Colloquium Room #319, Chase Building) — Peter Wentzell will speak on “Projection Pursuit for the Exploratory Analysis of Multivariate Chemical Data.” Here’s what he has to say about that:

In chemistry, the classification of samples from multivariate measurements, such as compositional, spectroscopic or chromatographic data, is an important problem. This classification is relevant in areas such as archeology, forensics, and medical diagnostics. However, chemical data are often characterized by a low sample-to-variable ratio, which can lead to difficulties in training and validating supervised classification methods. For this reason, exploratory data analysis techniques that do not make use of class information (unsupervised methods) are often used for initial validation. Popular approaches are hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) and principal components analysis (PCA) because they provide a visual representation of the data structure. However, approaches based on classical distance and variance metrics are often limited in what they can reveal. An alternative approach, initially proposed by Joseph Kruskal in 1969, is based on finding interesting projections of the data. This was later refined by Jerome Friedman and John Tukey (1974), who coined the term “projection pursuit” to describe the method. Adoption of this method has been limited due to some ambiguity over the definition of the term “interesting”, as well as issues related to its quantification and optimization. In this talk, an efficient projection pursuit algorithm based on kurtosis will be described, and its applications, advantages and limitations in exploratory analysis will be discussed using several chemical examples. 

Permaculture (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Kim Thompson, who is the director of The Deanery Project in Ship Harbour, will speak on “Community Hubs and Place-Based Experimental Learning: a Permaculture Perspective.”:

Thompson is also the principal at Straw Bale Projects pioneering the development of straw bale and other natural building methods. In her role as professor at Dalhousie’s School of Architecture, Thompson leads the collaboration between Dalhousie’s Free Lab summer course and the Deanery Project. 

The projects Thompson seeks focus on community strengthening opportunities and have resulted in many creative structures that sustain connections and build capacity at a community level. 

Before DNA (8pm, $48 NSF Fee Auditorium, McCain Building) — Gerald F. Joyce, who is the director of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego, will speak on “Life Before DNA and Protein: Reconstructing the RNA World.”

King’s College

Dying From Improvement (1pm, Alumni Hall) — Sherene Razack, from the University of Toronto, will speak on “Dying From Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries Into Indigenous Deaths in Custody.” Explains the event listing:

Amidst systematic state violence against Indigenous people, inquiries and inquests serve to obscure the violence of ongoing settler colonialism under the guise of benevolent concern. 

Settler society is told that it is improving the lives of Indigenous people – even as the rates of incarceration of Indigenous men and women and the number of those who die in custody rises. 

This powerful critique of the Canadian legal system speaks to many of today’s most pressing issues of social justice. 

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Thursday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Thursday. Map:

Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, St. John’s to Pier 41
Selfoss, container ship, Argentia, Newfoundland to berth TBD

OOCL Kuala Lumpur sails to sea


We’re recording Examineradio today. And I’m reading a bunch of court documents.

Speaking of which, I found the donair angle to the DEAD WRONG series.

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

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  1. I’d pay a $10er once a year to visit a N.S. Museum of Delusional Thinking. We could pay homage to the rich provincial history of publicly-funded boondoggles and other acts of “creative” destruction perperated by our betters.

    The “Corporate Welfare” wing would be huge with permanent displays dedicated to Bragg, Risley, Irving, McCain, and rotating displays covering other local innovators with less famous names.

    The “Disasters in Economic Development” wing would (dis)honour ACOA, ECBC, GHP, and other similar agencies for their unquestioning support for the latest get rich quick scheme to be funded using public funds.

    And the “Faithful Servants of Oligarchy” wing would memorialize the many local political actors who have opened their hearts, minds, and the public purse in service of the business interests of their friends and supporters and/or their own personal gain. We all have our favourites. It would obviously be a big display, with subsections for each county and the families who dominate their politics.

    Of course I could go on. There are so many people and organizations to recognize. Perhaps I should put a proposal together and apply for funding from some of the groups above?

        1. Sadly, we don’t have to imagine.

          Dexter+McKay=Ships Start Here,

          Ivany (and all those who use his name in vain).

          McNeil and friends cutting their way to prosperity.

          And many more in the last five years alone …

    1. While I haven’t seen newer figures, the most widely reported numbers would say that for *newspapers* there is certainly more “dead tree” revenue than digital, although the numbers for print ad revenue are getting smaller each year.

      That’s not the same as *total* digital vs. print advertising, but Google gets the lion’s share of that revenue, mainly through search, so the results are the same: digital ad pennies replacing print ad dollars is a real thing, if you are daily newspaper.

  2. Tim, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments on picket lines and expressions of public dissent. That is active democracy in the street, and let’s not forget it. Parker Donham appears to side with the likes of Graham Steele that Nova Scotians must be polite and decorous when their fundamental rights are stripped away. This is defeatist nonsense, and Parker, its a historical revisionism that anyone from Cape Breton should already understand.

    1. Back in the summer of 2004 the MTT/Aliant workers went on strike. Their union was using them in an attempt to set a marker which all other Bell phone entities across Canada would agree to.
      The strike lasted 13 weeks, the workers didn’t get the deal the union wanted and the company lost a lot of customers as Eastlink ramped up their commercial and residential marketing for phone and internet. Eastlink ate their lunch and when the strike ended both sides were the losers

      The Herald and the employees may suffer the same fate.

    2. Seen much public support for the CH folk? Donham is right, they hurt the CH ownership with the local xpress. The picket line in front of the CH building is mostly a symbolic gesture and they can’t touch the big advertisers who breathe life into the CH through flyers. If everyone opted out of that massive flyer bundle that non-subscribers get…that would hurt alot. But it’s not happening. Picket in front of Kent in Bayer lake on a Saturday and after the cops move you out on the sidewalk, the average weekend renno warrior will ignore you or be pissed with you. A beefed up xpress that can steal online advertising would be more effective….hang on…maybe that would be the business model the industry needs…the internet.

      1. Cannot seem to stop the flyers. . . I assume because the C-H can then say that their flyer distribution is the same as it was pre- strike. I cancelled before the strike even started was told that they would be stopped in 2-3 weeks, but they are still being delivered every week ( believe this is week 5 or 6) and I know that even C-H staff on strike who also cancelled still receive them. There is apparently no way to stop them – so how do we know that there have NOT been massive cancellations?

  3. Tim, in listing the attractions of Amherst, you forgot Amy’s Books, the jesus-big used book store that is probably the biggest one in Atlantic Canada. Books on everything including a big collection of Nancy Drews.

    1. Many publications have a bias or editorial slant. I thought the tradition would be more left and right on the political spectrum or possibly pro business vice pro worker/union. These are fine in publications where it is obvious because the owner makes it known that’s what they believe. I am a complete moron about the do’s and don’ts of journalism but it seems to me that you can have these biases or preferences as long as you aren’t hiding them or gagging voices in your staff that may have something to report/say that doesn’t match the biases of the publication.
      I was disgusted when I found out how the CH had staff writing positive articles on business items that they had involvement with. It got more disgusting when all the custom content was pointed out to me. Just plain wrong…but now it doesn’t matter I don’t subscribe. I wish the local xpress would be permanent and get fully manned, I’d subscribe in a heartbeat.

  4. Tim – re. the Tyee, if commercial funding through advertisements means that there may be a reasonable apprehension of bias when a publication deals with matters concerning those companies, would union funding not mean that there would be a reasonable apprehension of bias when it comes to union matters?

    1. Is union bias bad? I can’t think of any union who doesn’t look out for actual members of our communities… Seems to me business in Canada is largely owned by foreign interests and folks who don’t give two hoots about our communities. Two sides are not always equal and I disagree with the premise that reporting should always give equal coverage to both sides of an issue. They can give fair coverage but if one side is totally out to lunch then they don’t deserve coverage. Like folks who don’t believe climate change is a real thing. That’s a belief and it has no basis in any fact. We as society decide who is out to lunch by patronizing who we deem to be reliable sources (remember sun news network?).

      1. Your union friends rely on investments in Canadian business to pay their pensions. They also rely on investments in overseas airports, and other essential foreign infrastructure to generate above average returns to pay their pensions.

      1. Agreed meaning I agree that perceived union bias in the circumstances described would be no better than perceived bias to advertisers. As for monetizing the web site, I think it is not impossible to do on a subscriber basis (as others are doing) but (1) it would probably take years and (2) they haven’t the money for the necessary marketing let alone the money to live off in the meantime. I think Tim B. is right that unless done by Mr. Big Pockets, it has to start small and build up (as he is doing) and those folks on the line have to eat and pay bills in the meantime.

        1. Many publications have a bias or editorial slant. I thought the tradition would be more left and right on the political spectrum or possibly pro business vice pro worker/union. These are fine in publications where it is obvious because the owner makes it known that’s what they believe. I am a complete moron about the do’s and don’ts of journalism but it seems to me that you can have these biases or preferences as long as you aren’t hiding them or gagging voices in your staff that may have something to report/say that doesn’t match the biases of the publication.
          I was disgusted when I found out how the CH had staff writing positive articles on business items that they had involvement with. It got more disgusting when all the custom content was pointed out to me. Just plain wrong…but now it doesn’t matter I don’t subscribe. I wish the local xpress would be permanent and get fully manned, I’d subscribe in a heartbeat.

          1. Yes, but because it is bad one way doesn’t make it any less bad the other way. The perception is owing favours to people, whether unions or advertisers or politicians. Personally, if I were on the line, I’d thank folks for coffee and donuts and sandwiches offered, very kind indeed, but I’d pack my own lunch and bring my own thermos. As for advertiser interference, the interference comes when there is not an impenetrable wall between advertising and editorial departments, with really next to no contact between the two. The editorial department has to act and be run almost like the company law department, subject to professional rules of their own that can’t be overruled for temporary expediency. This is the only way to play the long game. Journalists have to be seen as being immune to outside favours owed to advertisers – or to unions or politicians or anyone else. As for the CH dispute, I wish someone from outside Nova Scotia would cover it. People there have largely taken sides and/or are too close to one side or another. EVeryone seems to have skin in the game somehow, even if through friends or drinking buddies. I don’t see anyone impartial wading in. So we read things on Twitter which (according to Canadaland at least) are asserted as fact but not true, and don’t know what to believe. There are plenty of questions to be asked of both sides although I think the CH is doing a terrible, terrible PR job by refusing to speak to what they perceive as economic imperatives. If they believe they are right, and have to do what they are doing, they should explain why, in detail. Were I in charge at the CH, I’d be on every radio show and TV show that would have me, pushing my case if I thought it were the right course. Hiding and skulking never earned anyone any trust. But maybe Canadaland will take up coverage here.

  5. Re: Amherst. At least one Syrian family has just settled there, likely with children going to that school. It’s only speculation, but I wonder if the “end-of-the-world” guy is targeting these newcomers.

  6. Am sending a nastygram to the Mayor and councillors. When I was campaigning for spousal support, my ex informed me that the average salary in Cole Harbour (where I was living at the time) was $38,000 and that I “should learn to live within my means.” It was a strategy gambit but I seriously fail to understand why our councillors, who seem to get all sorts of goodies from the businesses they represent in council, should expect double the average pay. It’s funny how those who are supposed to represent us so quickly shift from “I’m one of you” at election time, to “I am not like them” when in office.
    It would be one thing if the city were well-run. With, you know, good transit, accessibility, pothole management, proper budgeting, you know… But it patently isn’t. Between them and the Provincial Liberals “my friends are the ONLY things that matter,” it is far too much like some sort of gong show than a government.

  7. I watched some of the council debate and it sickened me.

    One councillor self righteously pronounced councillors as the self important board of directors of a billion dollar corporation (certainly not servants of the people), another called out a member of the public as a clown and yet another as sooo much more important than other lesser civil servants.

    Absolutely appalling! This city deserves better. VOTE IN OCTOBER!

    We can do MUCH better.

    1. I posted this in yesterday’s forum, but I think it is worth a repeat (with a slight amendment):

      There are times when I think that Council should be required to all sit down together and watch the recorded proceedings of their debates in council chambers themselves and to then apply the logic of a sober second thought to the situation. Treat it like a training video just like pro-sports players do, so that they can get back on the field and run the play again and again if necessary, until they get it right.

      Now that would be a novel concept for Regional Council to endorse.