1. Bill 148

Photo: Halifax Examiner

The McNeil government proclaimed Bill 148 Tuesday morning, and then Tuesday afternoon invoked Section 3 of the Constitutional Questions Act:

The Governor in Council may refer to the Court for hearing or consideration, any matter which he thinks fit to refer, and the Court shall thereupon hear and consider the same.

The Act doesn’t say if a female or genderqueer Governor can refer matters to the court. But the matter referred Wednesday reads as follows:

1. Do Sections 7 to 19 of the Public Service Sustainability (2015) Act, S. N. S. 2015, Chapter 34, violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
2. If the answer to question 1 is “yes,” are sections 7 to 19 saved by operation of Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

The Public Service Sustainability (2015) Act was created by Bill 148, and it’s what was proclaimed Tuesday; it basically forces a contract on public employee unions. The mechanism is awkward — the Act creates a “Sustainability Board” (insert snark about the bastardization of the word “sustainability” here) to determine compensation, but of course the Board is given marching orders by the McNeil government, and the Act specifically says that:

(4) The Board does not have jurisdiction to
(a) determine the constitutional validity or constitutional applicability of any enactment, including this Act, that is brought into question; or
(b) determine whether a right conferred, recognized, affirmed or otherwise guaranteed by the Constitution of Canada has been infringed.

This grinds my American sensibilities. In the United States, elected and other public officials swear an oath to the Constitution — it is unthinkable that American legislation could direct a public official to violate or ignore the Constitution. In Canada, however, elected and other public officials swear an oath to the Queen, not the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so I guess the thought is the McNeil government can tell the members of the Board to ignore that pesky constitution thing.

I’m not alone in my thinking, reports Marieke Walsh for Global:

But labour lawyer Ron Stockton said Wednesday, the Court of Appeal’s review of Bill 148 won’t be a slam dunk for either the government defending it or a union or labour group that intervenes.

“It’s very difficult to say,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “The Supreme Court has given us some good guidelines but it hasn’t definitively answered the question of whether Bill 148 will pass muster.”

Whether the government negotiated in good faith after tabling and passing Bill 148 almost two years ago isn’t clear he said. Adding that another question the court will have to grapple with is whether setting a wage pattern and freezing the long service award is an infringement on the right to collectively bargain.

“I think that’s really up in the air,” Stockton said.

As of yesterday, the court hadn’t scheduled a hearing on the application. I think (I’m not sure; this is a very unusual process) a three-judge panel will consider the matter soon. I’ll keep checking the file to see when.

2. Fish farms

A Nova Scotia fish farm. Photo: Blair Davis via

“The Ecology Action Centre says it is concerned about the thousands of Atlantic salmon that escaped into the Pacific Ocean on the weekend, and the possibility that a similar escape could happen in Nova Scotia,” reports Shaina Luck for the CBC:

New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture, which owns the Washington State farm, said “exceptional” tidal conditions led to the escape. The company purchased the farm near the B.C. border last year.

“I think the fact that it’s Cooke, which is, you know, our largest [aquaculture] company in Atlantic Canada right now, definitely raised some red flags for me,” said Susanna Fuller, senior marine conservation co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax.

Fuller said escaped salmon can bring diseases into the wild population, and may interbreed with wild fish with unknown results. The Atlantic salmon is listed as endangered.

3. Bob Bjerke

Bob Bjerke. Photo: Twitter

“No one will say he was fired, but Halifax’s now former chief planner says he had no plans to leave the municipality,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro:

Bob Bjerke, who was also the director of planning and development, is no longer an HRM employee, as of Tuesday afternoon.

In an interview with Metro on Wednesday, Bjerke didn’t want to get into the details of his leaving the municipality because he was advised not to. He said he’s pleased with the work he’s done, but he felt it wasn’t finished.

“I had no plans to leave,” Bjerke said. “I’m partway through the work that I was brought here to do, and there’s a lot of work left to be done here.”

Jacob Boon at The Coast gives some context for Bjerke’s dismissal:

The planning director’s Halifax exit arrives at a watershed moment for the municipality—just as the department’s long-gestating Centre Plan comes to life.

Despite that accomplishment, he likely won’t be missed by some in the private sector. Several sources inside and outside city hall say many of the city’s developers weren’t fond of Bjerke’s tenure.

City councillors have repeatedly over the last year — during public meetings and in media interviews — complained that developers are unhappy with HRM’s planning department, and the time it takes to get approval on building projects.

Let’s ponder this for a moment. Halifax right now is in the midst of an unprecedented development boom, with historic buildings being torn down willy nilly, dozens of construction cranes dotting the peninsula, development rules side-stepped by council at every turn… It’s basically a gold rush for developers, and it’s not enough for them — they’ve gotta fire the dude whose job it is to insert some semblance of sanity into the process.

4. Body scanners

Philadelphia Inquirer fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington took her turn in the My Best Fit body scanner at King of Prussia Mall in 2010, with Unique Solutions’ chief technical officer Bob Kutnick and CEO Tanya Shaw. Photo:

“The Justice Department has requested that interested parties submit proposals for providing body scanners for the province’s five correctional facilities,” reports Francis Campbell for the Chronicle Herald.

Hey! I know where you can get some body scanners on the cheap…. now prisoners can be fitted for those orange jumpsuits without the embarrassment of trying on a size too small.

5. Tracy Kitch

Tracy Kitch. Photo: Career Women Interaction

“The IWK Health Centre CEO who used a corporate credit card for thousands of dollars in personal expenses is no longer with the organization,” reports the CBC:

A CBC News investigation in June revealed that Tracy Kitch used her credit card for purchases at the Bay, on limo services and iTunes, which IWK officials said was an error.

At the time, outgoing board chair Bob Hanf said he was confident in the hospital’s accounting practices, but as a precaution, the board would seek advice from its auditors.

In a statement Wednesday night from Karen Hutt, current chair of the IWK board of directors, she said Kitch would be leaving “to pursue other opportunities.”

6. Commercial Cable Building

The Commercial Cable Building. Photo:

“A Nova Scotia cable station that relayed breaking news about the sinking of the Titanic and the end of the First World War will soon be demolished,” reports the Canadian Press:

The former Commercial Cable building in Hazel Hill — built in 1888 and shuttered in 1962 — carried a daily average of 3,000 messages from all over the world.

A local group, the Commercial Cable Rehabilitation Society, had been working to preserve the brick building that overlooks Hazel Hill Lake, but announced three years ago it had exhausted attempts to find a sustainable use for the structure.

“The decision to demolish the historic Commercial Cable Building in Hazel Hill was made three years ago, but the cost of doing so has been beyond the resources of the Commercial Cable Rehabilitation Society,” reports Helen Murphy for the Guysborough Journal:

The society was supported by municipal, provincial and federal funding over 10 years as it worked to find a way to save and restore the historic Commercial Cable Building. But back in 2014 it was determined that an anchor tenant could not be found for a restored structure. Partners could not be secured to help fund the restoration and operation of the structure as an historic landmark. And the deteriorating state of the building required urgent attention.

With the upcoming demolition, the foundation will be retained. There is interest in developing some kind of interpretative site there in the future to share the rich history of the structure.

MODG plans to carry out the demolition once the transfer paperwork is complete. The municipality provided $150,000 in funding to the Rehabilitation Society nine years ago to support its efforts. In addition, ACOA provided more than $200,000 and the province contributed $50,000 to the society for project management, marketing and professional engineering services.

There are lots of cool photos and other information about the Commercial Cable Building, including the map below, found here.

Map of submarine telegraph cables in the northwest Atlantic Ocean
by the International Telegraph Bureau, Bern, 1897

7. Abandoned mines

A partial map of the province’s abandoned mines.

The province yesterday updated its catalog of abandoned mines:

The Abandoned Mine Openings (AMO) Database is an inventory of the surface expressions of abandoned mine workings resulting from past underground mining and advanced exploration in Nova Scotia.

The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (NSDNR) has identified more than 600 mining areas, containing approximately 7,000 shafts, adits, slopes, trenches and associated underground workings (Information Circular ME 42) which are or were at one time, open to the surface. This information is not, and should not be considered, a complete record of abandoned mine openings in the Province. Additional abandoned mine openings exist which have not been documented. As well, the database does not include surface expressions of subsidence resulting from the collapse of underground mine workings.

The inventory does not include quarries, sand pits, open pit mines, naturally occurring caverns or subsidence features related to karst topography.


Undocumented abandoned mine openings resulting from small scale illegal mining, particularly related to coal, are added to the inventory when reported to NSDNR. In some cases a large number of mine openings are located in very small areas with subsidence features being impossible to distinguish from mine openings. In some of these cases each mine opening may not be uniquely identified in the inventory. Users of the database with an interest in these areas are encouraged to contact NSDNR for more detailed information.

The file is gigantic, and not something I can deal with this morning, but here’s a link to all the data.

8. Another Saltwire success

“Maybe this layout editor should have had that second cup of coffee,” writes Brian Koerber for Mashable:

The Truro Daily News out of Nova Scotia, Canada, ran a front page story about a 17-year-old who has been charged with second-degree murder on Monday. Below the headline is a few paragraphs, followed by a two photos of a man, his face stained dark red.

While it looks like the dude in this photos is enjoying a nice meal of human flesh, he’s just eating pie.

9. The Argyle

The Argyle Bar & Grill is closing, reports former scab and current awkward newsroom coworker James Risdon for the Chronicle Herald:

And the popular watering hole’s general manager is blaming the extensive Argyle Street redevelopment project, which includes streetscaping and the Nova Centre construction.

“It’s a war zone here,” said Colin Madigan in an interview Wednesday. “Our rooftop patio is open at 11 a.m. and, when you have cement trucks and jackhammers, you can hear the noise from the rooftop. It’s not a nice experience.”

Well, I agree. The construction is destroying many businesses in the area.

But you know what else hurt The Argyle? Rotten service, that’s what. At his suggestion, I met a professional colleague for drinks at The Argyle’s not-busy rooftop patio a couple of weeks ago, ordered a beer and waited 15 minutes before going to the bar and getting it myself. Then of course the server came with the beer I had ordered from her 15 minutes before. This happened twice. Also: shitty beer selection — no local craft beers, and the closest thing to a mircro-brew was the Anheuser-Busch InBev fake micro-brew Goose Island. And the washroom was trashed something horrible.

I appreciate that Argyle Street businesses are having a rough go of it, but you gotta at least try.

And maybe you could’ve used the patronage of those black students, eh?

The Nova Centre: a Love Story

Caption Contest!

Photographer Jeff Cooke has a Nova Centre love story! He writes:

Laura + Tony have a personal connection to the new Nova Centre … a connection that also comes with amazing access to the entire building, still under construction. So for their engagement shoot, we were given a little tour. I was like a kid in a candy store, but I found myself chasing one idea … a photo of the couple in a window taken from the street outside … big scene, little people. I realized that it wasn’t going to work out, at least not the way that I had envisioned it. But I couldn’t let it go and eventually came up with a solution … a creative shot blending two scenes into one!

Oh man oh man oh man… this cries out for a Photo Caption contest!

Cooke posted seven photos, and I’m particularly, er, taken, with three of them, shown below. They need captions! Email your proposed captions to I’ll publish a representative sample of the suggested captions (keep them clean), and based on my arbitrary whim, I’ll reward the writer of the best caption for each of the photos with a Halifax Examiner T-shirt.

Photo #1:

Photo: Jeff Cooke

Photo #2:

Photo: Jeff Cooke

Photo #3:

Photo: Jenn Nauss

Incidentally, Laura + Tony were the subject of a special resolution of the legislature. No shit! On Wednesday, April 27, 2017, and recorded in the official Hansard record of the proceedings of the House, is this:


By: Hon. Lena Diab (Immigration)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Laura Tannous and Tony Ramia will be united in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony on June 10, 2017, at Our lady of Lebanon Church; and

Whereas their parents, Elie and Denise Tannous, together with Elie and Claudette Ramia and many family members and friends, will gather to witness the marriage ceremony, followed by a beautiful reception; and

Whereas Tony and Laura will be starting a new chapter in their lives together;

Therefore be it resolved that all Members of the House of Assembly congratulate the couple on their wedding and wish them a life marked by many healthy and happy years.

The opposition doesn’t seem to have objected to the resolution, and I can find no record that the merits of, or prospects for, the proposed nuptials were debated on the floor of Province House. Perhaps I’ll file a Freedom of Information request for the minister’s briefing notes on the matter.

In any event, I’m happy to report that, unlike the Nova Centre project, the Laura + Tony wedding was completed on time and successfully, and Joe Ramia was as excited as I’ve ever seen him:

I don’t know where the happy couple honeymooned, but it wasn’t in the honeymoon suite in the hotel above the convention centre, that’s for sure.


No public meetings.

On campus

No public events for the rest of the week.

In the harbour

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

5:30am: Viking Bravery, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
6am: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
6:45am: Maasdam, cruise ship with up to 1,510 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney
7am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 42
9:30am: Insignia, cruise ship with up to 800 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor
11am: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
11:30am: Viking Bravery, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
1pm: a U.S. naval ship is arriving at Dockyard
3:30pm: Maasdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
10pm: Atlantic Power, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea
10:30pm: Insignia, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Hamilton, Bermuda


We’re recording Examineradio today.

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

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  1. I’ll defer to more learned folks on that and look forward to hearing what the Court of Appeal says about the Board structure and compensation plan sections.

  2. I am by no means an expert in administrative law, but the language in the Act only limits the Board’s jurisdiction, not a court’s. If someone wants to challenge the constitutional validity of something concerning the Board or the Act, they can apply for judicial review of the administrative decision. It’s likely more complicated than that but I can’t find a handy flowchart…

    That cannibal pie photo is pure gold.

    1. As I understand it, the union can also challenge the law, but it will take many years to go from the lower courts to the court of appeal. So, the McNeil government has asked the court of appeal directly to look at *some* of the Act, but not all, so the court will rule on that, and the McNeil government his hoping to claim victory on part of the act that the union isn’t contesting… and then the union’s suit will take 5 years or whatever to wind through the process.

  3. Caption for photo 1:
    “What is this??? A CENTRE FOR ANTS!? The centre needs to be at least three times bigger than this.”

  4. Nice to see Ramia’s son frollicking in a taxpayer funded playground. This and the Ivany campus too!