On campus
In the harbour


1. The Irving “deal”: Graham Steele responds

Irving Shipyard. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Irving Shipyard. Photo: Halifax Examiner

On Friday, I linked to an article Paul Withers wrote for the CBC, which reported that:

Nova Scotia’s Liberal government revealed Thursday it refused to honour a $200-million loan guarantee offered to Irving Shipbuilding in a secret 2012 provincial government letter to the company.

The $200-million loan guarantee was in addition to the $304 million in provincial government loans and grants pledged to the Halifax Shipyard as part of its winning effort to secure the contract to build vessels for the Canadian navy under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

This got me wondering… when the NDP government made the deal with Irving, Graham Steele was Finance Minister, so over the weekend I asked him on Facebook, “If the deal was defensible, why keep it secret?”

He responds:

Tim Bousquet asked me to comment on last week’s CBC story about a supposedly secret $200 million loan guarantee from the Dexter government to the Irving shipyard. Or actually he asked me to comment on one specific aspect of it, but since I think it’s mostly a bullshit story, I can’t answer his specific question without giving a whole lot more context.

Three preliminary thoughts. First, I’m not a spokesperson for the Dexter government. Second, I didn’t take any government documents away with me, and I’m very reluctant to comment on something as multi-faceted and complex as the shipbuilding deal when going on memory. Third, for those of you who have my book on your shelf, I cover some of this stuff at pages 156-158.

When the story came out on Thursday, my initial reaction was there was nothing to it. My guard went up (and everybody’s guard should have gone up) as soon as I saw (a) the source of Paul Withers’ information was the g-d CTF [Canadian Taxpayers Federation], (b) the story starts “Nova Scotia’s Liberal government revealed Thursday…”, and (c) the story is based on a single document which on its face tells us almost nothing.

Come on, Tim — since when did you start taking CTF-sourced stories at face value? Are you sure the CTF is revealing everything it got from its FOI application? Aren’t you the one who called Kevin Lacey “the most over-quoted” guy in Nova Scotia? The CTF exists to get in the news by casting aspersions on government. Yet here we are, debating a CTF-sourced story, because it gave you a chance to take another kick at the Dexter government.

Do you think it’s an accident that “the Liberal government revealed” their version of events, praising themselves for something they supposedly did almost three years ago, during a by-election campaign in which they hope to win a seat held by the NDP? Answer: No, it’s not an accident. And you’ve bought right into it.

More thoughts:

1. The story is based on a single document, a letter from ERDT deputy minister Sandra MacKenzie. That letter is not itself a loan guarantee. It refers to a loan guarantee, but the letter merely extends an acceptance deadline by one year. Where is the original document, so we can see what the proposed terms of the loan guarantee were? What happened when the new deadline passed — did the Irvings actually accept the terms by the new deadline? My recollection is that they did not.

2. I left the Cabinet in May 2012, and returned in May 2013, so there is a year of activity on the shipbuilding file in which I had no involvement. When I became the ERDT minister in May 2013, the shipbuilding deal had still not been finalized. One of my major tasks that summer was to bring the deal to a conclusion. This is what I write about on pages 156-158 of my book. The final agreement was long and complex — hence the long delay in finalizing it. I do not recall a loan guarantee being part of that document, but of course I do not have a copy of it. If the government wants to release that signed deal — the whole deal — then let them, and we can all see what exactly is in the signed agreement.

3. To put it very simply: If the McNeil government could just say “no,” then there was no loan guarantee, was there? There might be a story if the McNeil government said “We wanted to say no, but those goddamn socialists signed a deal we can’t get out of, so we reluctantly went ahead with the loan guarantee.” But that’s not what happened, is it? THERE IS NO LOAN GUARANTEE.

4. Besides, the Withers story seems to skate lightly over the distinction between a loan and a loan guarantee. Those are very different things.

5. The follow-up story, posted on the CBC website on Friday, suggests that the shipyard tried to access the *other* part of the package — the unused $44 million “value proposition” loan — to finance a new drydock. Read that Friday story carefully. It subtly dials back the allegation made in the Thursday story.

I have no doubt that there was discussion between the Dexter government and the shipyard about a loan guarantee. In fact I know there was — the MacKenzie letter confirms it. But if you were to say (a) the Dexter government (stupidly) gave the shipyard a secret $200 million loan guarantee, and (b) the McNeil government (bravely) said no when the Irvings came to collect, I call bullshit on both counts.

At most, the two stories together seem to indicate that the shipyard asked if it could use the $44 million for a drydock. The McNeil government said no, which was the proper answer, because the agreement signed by the Dexter government did not permit it. And that’s the end of the story.

2. Examineradio, episode #74

Stephen Maher

This week we speak with Michener Award-winning journalist Stephen Maher about his new novel, Salvage.

Also, an Amherst councillor utters a racial slur, the World Trade & Convention Centre is sold to a private developer, and not a single Atlantic Liberal politician has anything to say about the lack of Supreme Court justices from this part of the country.

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(direct download)
(RSS feed)
(Subscribe via iTunes)

3. North Preston’s Finest

Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook

Natalie Dobbin, writing for the CBC, interviews Miranda Cain, a North Preston resident who is reclaiming the moniker “North Preston’s Finest” and its acronym, NPF. Cain has started a group, NPF, which hires young people to do needed work around the community:

Cain started out calling the group North Preston’s Finest, but it now goes by North Preston’s Future. You can’t have the future without the finest, Cain said. 

“What nobody’s really getting is that when we’re proud of something we do, whatever it is, we’re North Preston’s Finest,” Cain said.

“I am North Preston’s Finest. My mom, who’s 70 years old, is North Preston’s Finest. Our Pastor is North Preston’s Finest.”

North Preston’s Future is looking out for the community.

“I want our kids to have a better future,” Cain said. “We wanna empower each other. And we wanna be proud to be where we’re from.”

NPF has a Facebook page.

4. Yarmouth ferry


“As the province spends millions of dollars to support ferry service between Yarmouth and Maine, no one from government is surveying people as they get on or off the ship about the amount of time or money they’re spending in Nova Scotia,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC.

But Susan Huskins, a “visitor information counsellor” who works on the ferry, does her own informal surveys of passengers, and tells the Yarmouth Vanguard that “a lot of people come with their set itinerary. Cape Breton/Cabot trail, Lunenburg, Halifax and Peggy’s Cove, that’s where they’re headed. Those are the places they want to see. I tell them they are definitely worth seeing and I also give them suggestions about other places in the province.”

And where are the tourists coming from? “Arizona, Virginia, Washington, Delaware, Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and so on,” says Huskins. Well, OK then. I guess they’re coming from US states.

We’re committed to the ferry for the next 10 years, no matter how many or few passengers it carries. The point of the ferry is to encourage tourism, especially in the southern half of the province (although Huskins seems to suggest the tourists are mostly just passing through southern Nova Scotia), with the idea that that tourism will support local economies. But so far there’s been a lacklustre return in passenger numbers and therefore the resulting economic impact.

Since we’ve committed the money to the project anyway, and if tourism spending is really so valuable to local economies, maybe we ought to make the passage free, at least on the Yarmouth-bound direction. Any American who wants to come to Nova Scotia gets a free trip.

Just throwing that out there.

5. The Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games

As the Olympics are being held, Maureen GooGoo discusses the Nova Scotia Indian Summer Games, a competition between Nova Scotia First Nations that was held annually from 1977 through 1987, but then only intermittently as funding dried up.

The games were revived in 2010 as the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games, and have been held every year since.


1. DalTrac

Ahsan Habib, director and founder of the Dalhousie Transportation Collaboratory (DalTRAC), wants to bring evidence to our transportation decision-making.
Ahsan Habib, director and founder of the Dalhousie Transportation Collaboratory (DalTRAC), wants to bring evidence to our transportation decision-making.

Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler looks at new efforts to help transportation planners better understand how we all get around, and asks that we pitch in to help.

Click here to read “Halifax will finally get the data it needs to make smart decisions about transportation.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

2. Paranormal

Paul Andrew Kimball went to the East Coast Paraconference in Liverpool last weekend, where people talked about the Shag Harbour UFO, ghost investigations, crop circles, Men in Black, and Oak Island.

What? No zombies?

We need zombies:


3. Cranky letter of the day

The Western Union Cable Office Building in North Sydney. Photo:
The Western Union Cable Office Building in North Sydney. Photo:

To the Cape Breton Post:

I am well aware that it is down to the eleventh hour and the clock is ticking in relation to the fate of the Western Union Cable Office Building in North Sydney.

I visited the site on Tuesday, Aug.9, and observed that some environmental work was being done in relation to the removal of insulation and oil products. I would sure hate to see this building demolished and this valuable historical community asset lost.

Think about it people! We have world historical events which took place in this community, within walking distance of the new Marine Atlantic Ferry Terminal, and we haven’t yet been able to find a way to save and preserve this heritage building. Shame on us all!

Personally, I am advocating for the development of the Cranberry Head /Swivel Point; Lochman’s Beach, and Chapel Point area of Sydney Mines as a major tourist attraction.

Part of the concept includes the small concrete building located at the end of Cable Street, where the Trans-Atlantic Cable comes ashore from Ireland via Hearts Content, Newfoundland, then proceeds underground to the Western Union Cable Office Building in North Sydney. These two buildings are connected in that way and so they should be recognized and preserved together and not allowed to slip through our fingers, so to speak.

Next year we celebrate 150 years as a country; there has to be a way that we can seize upon an opportunity to save both these structures and protect our history and heritage for future generations and visitors alike.

I have put together a few words of personal protest on behalf of these two buildings, which I hope will help keep the conversation going and perhaps buy a little more time in the efforts to save these important historical assets. And, in doing so, I would like to borrow a writing technique which has been used by Melanie Sampson of the Stone Church Restoration Society where she personifies an inanimate object (such as the Stone Church) as if to allow it to have a voice of its own, thereby helping to stir people’s thoughts and imagination towards the ultimate goal which is to save and restore the church and convert it into a wedding chapel.

So, with that technique in mind I composed some words which I feel might help to further raise public awareness about the value of such historical assets as the Western Union Cable Office Building in North Sydney, and its associated small concrete building in Sydney Mines.

The words are as follows: 

“Please! Don’t let them demolish me yet. I have soooo many amazing stories to share, but I need a bit more time and some help to get ready. I also have a very close relative in Sydney Mines who is in the same sad situation as me and needs your support”

Cyril Aker, North Sydney


No public meetings.

On campus


Thesis Defence, Engineering (9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — Hung-Wei Liu will defend his thesis, “Powder Metallurgical Processing of Titanium Alloys and Aluminides.”

Thesis Defence, Chemistry (10am, Room 429/430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Abir Lefsay will defend her thesis, “Development of Liquid Chromatographic and Mass Spectrometric Methods for the Identification of Chlorinated Triacylglycerols in Natural Oils.”

Isotopically-Labelled Trendi (3pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Jeffrey C. Smith of Carleton University will speak on “Isotopically-Labelled Trendi: New Technology to Increase the Sensitivity and Selectivity of MS-Based Lipid Analysis of Complex Biological Samples.”

In the harbour

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 9.05.30 AM

5am: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
5am: CMA CGM Vivaldi, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Tangier, Morocco
6am: Dalian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
4pm: Grande Caribe, cruise ship, sails from Tall Ships Quay for sea
4pm: Mignon, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
5pm: California Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Baltimore
6:30pm: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York

3am: Dalian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Cagliari, Italy
2pm: Tokyo Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam


I’m going to take tomorrow morning off, so Tuesday’s Morning File will be written by Lewis Rendell.

I’ll be taking a bit of a vacation starting next week, so you’ll see more guest writers filling in.

Please consider subscribing to the Examiner. Just $5 or $10 a month goes a long way. Or, consider making a one-time contribution via PayPal. Thanks much!

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

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  1. Re 1. Irving Deal+

    Will the political thrust-and-parry of truth; the continual dueling he-she-they-PR assertions, spin, selective-fact presentation and denials simply cancel each other out, resulting in further voter decline? As agendas and results become more transparent and suspect, do folks see themselves and their vote as sacrificial pawns – vehicles, means to a purported end which continually disappoint and disillusion? Fear so. I’ll always engage and vote, but younger citizens (and several middle-aged) are openly confiding to me that they’re opting out of what they see as a fixed, unresponsive, unaccountable political system. And they politely grin and laugh at my protestation. Doesn’t bode well.

    1. Just as there is no truth in advertising, there seems to be no truth in politics.

      Spin is everywhere. Thoughtful, concise and meaningful journalism not so much.

      Welcome to Silicon Valley’s brave new Orwellian world.

    2. I agree with you. Maybe it’s because this is the community in which I’ve settled since leaving my hometown back east and I’m more politically engaged but I have to ask, are all provincial politicians this slimy? I’m getting a sense that Atlantic region politicians have a particular knack for and a history of ruthlessly exploiting their constituents. I want to vote NDP because the party mostly closely aligns with my own politics but the record of the Dexter government and Steele’s self-serving, just plain icky behaviour make this very, very difficult.

  2. Thank you Graham Steele for the comments on the Liberals’ righteous gloat about the $200 million refusal to the Irving Shipyards.

    1. That is not too much protesting. That is giving the full story and detecting the bias of such organizations as the right leaning CTA.

  3. Methinks Graham Steele doth protest too much. He at least doth protest in the wrong way. All he had to do was answer the question, without ad hominem rants.