On campus
In the harbour


1. Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Annie Leibovitz’s Blues Brothers photo will supposedly one day be displayed at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Annie Leibovitz’s Blues Brothers photo will supposedly one day be displayed at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

“The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) Board of Directors is very pleased to announce the appointment of Nancy Noble as the new Director & CEO for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, effective September 12, 2016,” reads a press release sent out by the AGNS yesterday. Oddly, the release has not been posted on the provincial government’s news release page, nor was it sent to me. I appreciate the readers who forwarded it to me. The release continues:

Noble brings over 20 years of experience in marketing, exhibition and collections, and leadership roles within leading cultural institutions in Canada. Most recently, she was the Chief Executive Officer of the Museum of Vancouver, where she has held this senior leadership position for over 11 years. During her tenure with the Museum of Vancouver, she transformed the organization’s marketing and community engagement strategy and led two five-year strategic and business plans, which have collectively transformed the 115-year-old museum into a cultural beacon and center attraction for the City of Vancouver.

There is no doubt that Noble’s hiring (and before it, former CEO Roy Cronin’s abrupt forced resignation) is all about the Annie Leibovitz collection, which supposedly was donated by the Mintz family of Toronto to the AGNS, but has been stored away for over three years. (Background here.)

Noble oversaw the donation of a valuable collection to the Museum of Vancouver. As the Victoria Times-Colonist reported in 2013:

VANCOUVER – In 1998 and 2006, two groups of investors quietly acquired and donated to the Museum of Vancouver 18 sculptures that some authorities believed were created by Michelangelo.

The sculptures — details of legs, arms, shoulders and torsos — are made of clay and stand only 10 to 27 centimetres high. Some were identified as working models for Michelangelo’s larger creations, which suggested they were created by the master himself.

According to financial returns filed with Canada Revenue Agency, the museum issued a total of $31.4 million in tax receipts for non-cash gifts during 1998 and 2006.

The Vancouver Sun has learned that about $30 million of this amount was on account of the sculptures, based on their appraised values.


Initially, the donation looked like a win-win situation. The museum was the beneficiary of about $30 million worth of rare sculptures, and investor-donors received tax receipts for that amount.

Those receipts would have generated tax credits equal to the top marginal combined federal and provincial tax rate (currently 43.7 per cent). That means approximately $13 million flowed into the pockets of the investor-donors, courtesy of Canadian taxpayers.

Also, because the federal government certified the sculptures as Canadian cultural property, the investor-donors did not have to pay any capital gains on the difference between their purchase price and the donated value.

Unfortunately, that win-win calculus has been severely compromised.

Earlier this month, Postmedia correspondent Randy Boswell learned that the Vancouver museum had commissioned Sotheby’s auction house in New York to sell half of the collection.

Sotheby’s advised the museum that the sculptures were not, after all, the work of Michelangelo, but rather a minor Dutch artist from the same period.

“For decades, the unsigned terracottas were attributed to Michelangelo,” Sotheby’s stated in a Jan. 7 press release.

“However, extensive research and stylistic comparisons led scholars to determine that these Renaissance models were executed by Northern sculptor Johan Gregor van der Schardt who worked extensively in terracotta and was a follower of Michelangelo.”

Sotheby’s estimated that, when the first half of the collection goes to auction on Jan. 31, it will fetch only $200,000 to $300,000. That implies that the entire collection is worth only about $500,000.

That’s bad news for the museum. It means it will receive only a fraction of the amount it anticipated. But it’s worse news for Canadian taxpayers. It means they received little value for the approximately $13 million in tax credits they provided the investor-donors.

“Obviously the appraisers initially attributed the sculptures in some way to Michelangelo or his studio. Otherwise, I don’t think they would have come up with such enormous valuations,” Nancy Noble, the museum’s chief executive officer, told The Vancouver Sun.

I find all this very curious. The Leibovitz collection is supposedly valued at $20 million, but tax receipts issued for the collection are not currently available on Canada Revenue Agency’s website. Still, it looks to me that the donation has more to do with high finance than high art.

Nancy Noble
Nancy Noble

Since the museum isn’t explaining, we’re left to speculation, so here’s mine: I’m told the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board has repeatedly (up to three times) rejected an application by the museum to give the Mintz family a tax credit for the donation because the Leibovitz collection is not Canadian art. Moreover, it’s been suggested to me that Leibovitz maintains ownership of the intellectual property rights to the collection, meaning that without her permission (presumably dependent upon payment to her), the AGNS will not be able to advertise the collection with images of the photos, and will not be able to sell museum souvenirs with photos of John and Yoko and the like. Leibovitz is famously low on cash, so that might be a deal-breaker.

We’ll see if the newly hired Noble can work through the difficulties… but isn’t someone supposed be curating Nova Scotian art?

2. Exporting jobs

“Eight good jobs will be lost to Nova Scotia on June 1st when the administration of provincial publicly insured dental programs moves to Ontario,” writes Robert Devet:

Green Shield Canada was selected through a public tender issued in December 2015. The current service provider, Quickcard Solutions Inc, was the only other bidder. 

Unlike Quickcard, which maintained an office in Bedford, Nova Scotia, for the last 16 years, Green Shield will conduct its business entirely in Ontario.


“The new vendor was selected through a competitive RFP (Request for Proposals) process and along with providing enhanced services to plan members, will save the province between $700,000 to $900,000 over life of the contract (three years),” writes departmental spokesperson Tony Kiritsis in an emailed response to questions by the Nova Scotia Advocate.

[…]Workers estimate the total loss in annual wages between  $350,000 and $450,000. They emphasize that these were good-paying jobs, and included medical, health and (of course) dental benefits.

“We all live in Bedford or Sackvile,” says another employee. “They took these jobs away from us, but that same government just gave RBC $22 million in payroll rebates to create jobs.”

It’s against trade rules to require that the government contracts go to local companies, but this has long been the trend: government services that used to be done by unionized government employees are first privatized, and then the contract eventually ends up with a national or international company operating far away. The government points at the immediate cost savings of contracting out, but the long-term losses associated with privatization — less spending in the local economy and a loss of local workers’ taxes feeding government coffers — are never considered and never make the balance sheet.

Rather, we’re in a giant race to the bottom. It’s the perverse logic of neoliberalism: If only everyone were paid less, we’d all be rich.

3. Muskrat Falls

A Nalcor Energy schematic of the Muskrat Falls project.
A Nalcor Energy schematic of the Muskrat Falls project.

“Seven workers were injured in the collapse of a structure used in the pouring of concrete at a building at the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador, the contractor said Monday,” reports the Canadian Press:

Matthew Pike, spokesman for Astaldi Canada, said in an email that the framework supporting concrete that was being poured collapsed at about midnight. He said the accident occurred in the draft tube No. 2 area of the powerhouse during the night shift.

“Seven employees received first aid treatment at the site, with one employee sent to the Labrador Health Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for a further assessment,” he said. “None of the injuries at this time are classified as serious.”


The accident comes amid cost overruns, delays and the sudden departure of former Nalcor Energy president and CEO Ed Martin, along with questions over his departure package.

Premier Dwight Ball asked the province’s auditor general on Sunday to review a $1.4-million severance payment made to Martin.

4. Bump

Motorcade inaugurating service on the Macdonald Bridge, April, 1955. Image: Nova Scotia Archives
Motorcade inaugurating service on the Macdonald Bridge, April, 1955. Image: Nova Scotia Archives

“[The Macdonald Bridge reconstruction project] is close to reaching mid-span, which means people who cross the Macdonald Bridge will soon see a few changes, including a smoothing of the traffic ‘bump’ near the Dartmouth side,” reports Shaina Luck for the CBC:

Since the project is now close to mid-span, [bridge engineer John] Eppell says within a week, workers will replace one of the three traffic plates that bridge gaps for expansion joints and the join between the old and new bridge sections. 

“We will be replacing the one that everybody’s been referring to as ‘the bump,’” he said. 

“We’re further along on the construction, so the impact of the construction loads on the expansion and contraction on that point is lessened. It’s allowing us now to go in and swap out that plate with one that’s lower profile.”

The new traffic plate will be half as thick,and the asphalt surrounding the plate will also be more level. Eppell says it should be a noticeable difference, but people should still drive slowly. 


The commentariat are at the cottage.



City council (1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda. I’ll be live-blogging the meeting via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.


Human Resources (10am, One Government Place) — Sandra McKenzie, the deputy minister of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, will be asked about changes to report cards.

On Campus

All sorts of graduation ceremonies going on at Dal today.

In the harbour

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

5:30am: NYK Romulus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
6am: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
7:15am: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Nassau with up to 2,394 passengers
10am: Rio Blackwater, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
4:30pm: NYK Romulus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove to sea
4:30pm: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro cargo, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
6pm: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 to a really cute town with the people who are just so nice, you wouldn’t believe — what was the name of that place, Martha?

6am: Nansen Strait, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Rotterdam
10:30am: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor with up to 2,446 passengers
7pm: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship, departs, its passengers’ wallets a wee bit slimmer

9am: FS Monge, the white French rocket tracking ship that’s been tied up at Pier 20 next to the Farmers Market, sails to sea
4:30pm: New Breeze, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Paldiski, Estonia


We’ll publish Erica Butler’s transportation column this afternoon.

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

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  1. Teichert Gallery is next to the art gallery, they seem to be focused on NS art, but I need an AGNS membership to rent my local works from there.

    I am a DIY artist, local, born, raised all that good stuff, but to break into the art scene, well, it’s like trying to buy fresh fish off the wharf, ya gotta have a buddy.

    How does that innovate art? The outsiders always have to push, yet we are being more and more excluded, so we are less able to bring our skills to the table. But hey, I can always join one of them companies that doodles out your meeting for you. Can I get an electronic copy of that engage Nova Scotia mural?

    I could not gamble on NSCAD so I took the 2 years at the NSCC. Now I do accounting, I am still an artist at heart, and will keep on pushing, like all good artists do. I was so excited when I first heard of the donation, now, it is like most advertisements, a window dressing scam, well, at least you can see a picture of the Queen, God Save Nova Scotia

  2. I don’t know much about the workings on the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. I am just an everyday person and the Gallery to me seems to be focussed on the social elite and not very welcoming. I certainly agree that we need an art gallery as a cultural resource, but what does it have to be so in-welcoming to people like me?
    Shouldn’t we be a little more convinced of the (very high) cost of this institution to taxpayers ?

    1. It’s no more for the social elite than a bus or ferry. I was in the ROM 2 weeks ago and it was full of tourists, families and children with teachers. The exhibit of Chinese and Japanese objects is outstanding, informative and a reminder of the great culture of the region.

  3. The privatzation of wealth has been going on for decades.

    It is no coincidence that income inequality, the rise of food banks and government outsourcing have all happened at the same time.

    Governments cry poor because they are not getting revenues to fund programs. They don’t have revenue because they are cutting taxes. Because they are cutting taxes they need to cut back on programs.

    Free enterprise does things better than the government. The Irvings are building ships because governments don’t have the skills. Yet the shipbuilding program is fully taxpayer funded with money and profits going into private pockets. Factoring additional tax breaks from both province and city I’d say our free enterprise system wouldn’t exist without government and taxpayers corporate welfare.

    When the only cost factored in is money then we have what we have – concentration of wealth at the top and the rest feeding on crumbs (and in the case of the Colonial Honda expansion, some perhaps living in a cardboard box)

    1. Disagree with Free enterprise does things better than government. That is the myth that perpetuates privatizing everything.