On campus
In the harbour


1. Local Xpress

A few members of the Halifax Typographical Union's newsroom unit on the picket line last week in Halifax. Photo: Christian LaForce.
A few members of the Halifax Typographical Union’s newsroom unit on the picket line last week in Halifax. Photo: Christian LaForce.

Over the weekend, the Halifax Typographical Union launched a news site called Local Xpress:

This is a brand-new online news site brought to you by the 61 striking newsroom and bureau staff of Canada’s largest independent daily newspaper…

Since going on strike a week ago, we’ve missed the work that we do. Remo Zaccagna, who covers municipal politics, went to a Halifax regional council this week and live-tweeted the meeting on his own time. Provincial reporter Michael Gorman kept talking to sources and gathering material for stories. Frances Willick is working on a story you’ll see in the days to come. Two photographers raced to a fire, then posted photos and video on social media.

Clearly, we needed a bigger boat.

If there’s intended irony in the name “Xpress,” it wasn’t directly noted. But ultimately that’s what the labour strife at the Chronicle Herald (and at other newspapers) is all about: journalists are working for publications rolling off the printing press, and that will soon be a thing of the past (hence, ex-press). Whether we like it or not, the future of journalism is going to be mostly online, in publications like iPolitics, Buzzfeed, Vice,, Local Xpress, and the Halifax Examiner.

So far, Local Xpress contains a variety of articles. Michael Gorman looks at school boards’ use of consultants, Remo Zaccagna introduces us to the citizen-led coalition hoping to save the Khyber, Andrew Rankin follows the Thomas Barrett murder trial, and there’s a whole lot of sports news and commentary.

The journalists behind Local Xpress say they don’t yet have a sustaining business model, but they hint that the site may host advertising in the future. I guess we’ll see if Local Xpress is just a vehicle for striking journalists, who will eventually go back to the Chronicle Herald, or it has viability as a long-term news site.

2. DEAD WRONG, Part 2: Trial and Error

Law Courts

Saturday, I published the second instalment of DEAD WRONG, an investigative series that looks at the probable wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun for the murder of his former girlfriend Brenda Way, and what that probable wrongful conviction says about police investigations into dozens of other murdered women in the Halifax area.

Part 1 of the series — The War of the Roses — details the underside of Dartmouth, and the alcohol, drugs, and prostitution that reflect the desperation of that segment of society.

Part 2 follows the story along as Glen Assoun is convicted of the murder of Brenda Way.

And for Examineradio, episode #46, Russell Gragg interviewed me about the DEAD WRONG series:

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

The podcast is free for all, but otherwise the DEAD WRONG series is behind the Examiner’s paywall, and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

I’ll publish Part 3 of the DEAD WRONG series this Saturday.

3. Jail death

The Justice Department issued the following statement yesterday:

A man was found deceased in his cell at the Cape Breton Correctional Facility today, Jan. 31.

The man was found unconscious and unresponsive at about 2:30 a.m. Staff contacted emergency health services and immediately began medical treatment. The man was pronounced dead at 2:45 a.m.

“This is tragic news. My thoughts are with the family during this extremely difficult time,” said Attorney General and Justice Minister Diana Whalen. “My department will be conducting an investigation.”

The man’s next of kin have been notified. Cape Breton Regional Police are investigating the death. The body has been turned over to the medical examiner to determine the cause of death.

The deceased has not been identified.

4. Sportsplex

The city has issued a tender for a firm to manage the $22 million renovation of the Dartmouth Sportsplex. The project includes:

• Internal visual connections;
• Providing internal and external views;
• Redeveloped entry canopy and vestibule;
• Relocate primary entrance to 2nd floor;
• Improve front desk and lobby space;
• New 2 story hub with feature staircase;
• Updated change rooms and washrooms;
• Updated fitness centre;
• New gymnasia space;
• New water feature;
• Technology upgrades;
• Direct and indirect natural lighting;
• Universal accessibility.

Construction is to start in December of 2016 and be complete by October 2018.

5. Pedestrian struck

A police release from yesterday:

At 10:25 a.m. on January 30, officers responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision at the intersection of Dresden Row and Spring Garden Road in Halifax. The vehicle, driven by a 59-year-old man, was headed Southbound on Dresden Row and was turning left onto Spring Garden Road when he struck a 38-year-old female pedestrian in a marked crosswalk. The pedestrian was transported by EHS to hospial with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the vehicle was issued an Summary Offence Ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.


1. Pharmacare

Stephen Kimber reviews the Liberals’ unfolding Pharmacare scandal and concludes:

So what is the government really up to? The most plausible explanation is that it intends to fatten its coffers by picking the pockets of seniors, so it can then claim to have balanced the provincial budget before the next provincial election.

You can see the same math at work in the government’s decision to kill the film tax credit. What’s the future of a formerly vibrant film industry measured against the prospect of a second term in office?

2. Kris Bertin


Parker Donham writes about Bearly’s bartender Kris Bertin’s literary career.

Bertin’s a hell of a guy, and a hell of a writer. I can’t wait for his book to come out.

3. Richmond county

Speaking of Donham, he’s continuing his look at “the mess in Richmond County.”

4. [blush]

Bev Keddy says nice things about me:

Tim Bousquet published part two of “Dead Wrong” today on his website, The Halifax Examiner. This saga will continue for weeks to come. Tim admitted on the H.E. podcast on Friday that he did not know how many more “episodes” it would take to tell the full story.

It is about the wrongful conviction of a man accused of murdering a sex worker in Halifax in 1995. He is presently out of prison and likely will remain so. Meanwhile, the real murderer of Brenda Way is still out there. Since then, there have been quite a few other murders of women in the Halifax area. Tim is saying that many of these murders are related. Over the course of many weeks, we will get the full story. If nothing else, it is interesting how Tim is focusing on a part of society that gets very little attention in the media. Poor, disenfranchised, desperate people who sometimes make poor decisions are not given much ink. They are, now.


There are people who object to this series being behind the paywall. They think that the news should be free. Fools. I had suggested that Tim offer the first chapter, or a part of it, for free, as a way to hook the readers in and get them to subscribe. He disagreed, which is his right. And I think he was right, because he has mentioned that there has been an uptick in the number of subscriptions to the Examiner since the series started.

It costs a paltry 10 bucks a month to subscribe to the Halifax Examiner. For that, you can read this series, plus all the other paywall-ed content he has put up there. It also means you can post comments on the website.

I love the comment on that post:

Unfortunately, the good work that Bousquet produces is more than offset by his juvenile snark, his fixation on certain people or ideas he doesn’t like, and his relentless anti-business views on many issues. He is an odd, and not very likeable, duck. For that reason alone, I will not give him my money. His offering a platform to the likes of El Jones is the clincher.

As I always say, if you’re not pissing them off, you’re doing it wrong.

And for the record, I never claimed to be likeable.

I realize that many people have a hard time wrapping their heads around the paywall for the Examiner. I’ve gone into this in much detail before… the short of it is I reject advertising because I think it corrupts news operations, and yet it still costs money to put this publication together. The DEAD WRONG series alone cost many thousands of dollars to research and produce, and many thousands of hours of my time. Additionally, I’m committed to paying freelancers and other employees decently, and at least for the foreseeable future, any additional revenue from new subscriptions is going not to me personally but to hire more people. (Maybe after this publication finds its legs, I’ll start paying myself as much as I pay the people who do work for me.)

Also, too, El Jones is worse than 14 Hitlers. Just reading her words will destroy everything you hold dear.

5. Cranky letter of the day

To the Port Hawkesbury Reporter:

As February 15 approaches, I am reminded that Viola Desmond did not get the honour of Viola Desmond Day as promised for Nova Scotia’s first Heritage Day 2015.

That day came and went and as many will remember the weather was pretty rough—very cold in Halifax with huge  chunks of ice blocking the sidewalks and roads. The plows had just about given up and the major ceremony planned for the North End Library was canceled. The day came and went. And according to the rules for Heritage Day, that was the last day for Viola Desmond. Honorees for the next seven years had been selected. For example, on February 15, 2016 — in the heart of Black Heritage/History Month — we in Nova Scotia are encouraged to celebrate Joseph Howe.

That first Heritage Day in 2015 was dedicated to Viola Desmond because, as many people know, Viola is the woman who refused to give up her seat in the “whites only” section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow. That was November 8, 1946. Viola was a black businesswoman on her way to Sydney to deliver her line of beauty products, when her car broke down. She had to stay the night in New Glasgow, waiting for car parts,  and she decided to take in a movie. She happened to sit in what the theatre management had designated as the “whites only” section.

When she was told that black people had to sit in the balcony she refused to give up her seat, and she ended up being carried out of the theatre struggling with a policeman and the manager. Jailed for the night, she was tried next morning without a lawyer and found guilty of cheating the Nova Scotia government out of one penny — that’s correct, one cent — the difference in amusement tax between the main floor ticket and the balcony.

Fined $20 and costs, Viola later appealed the judgment unsuccessfully, losing on a technicality. But one judge went on record to say that the case was never about the amusement tax and always about race.

It’s meaty stuff in Canada’s story of social justice.

Sixty-five years later, Premier Darrell Dexter apologized on behalf of Nova Scotia, and then Lieutenant-Governor Mayann Francis read out Queen Elizabeth’s Grant of Free Pardon, recognizing that Viola Desmond had committed no crime. The Town of New Glasgow held two days of recognition, unveiling a painting of Viola Desmond that now has a permanent place in Government House in Halifax. There have been many honours, school programs and scholarships established in her name. Canada Post released a Viola Desmond postage stamp. Many people campaigned for a permanent Viola Desmond Day in Nova Scotia. Instead, the provincial government declared the third Monday in February each year as Heritage Day, to honour a different person or event each year into the future.  The first Heritage Day in 2015 was “Viola Desmond Day.” The weather, as I said above, pretty much blocked that opportunity to remember Viola’s courage and Nova Scotia’s ongoing struggle for racial equality.

Here are the subjects of Nova Scotia’s Heritage Day for the next seven years: 2016 is Joseph Howe; 2017 is Mi’kmaq Heritage; 2018 is Mona Louise Parsons; 2019 is Maud Lewis; 2020 is Africville; 2021 is Edward Francis Arab; 2022 is Grand Pré National Historic Site.

These are all worthy subjects. Whether they should be the focus in the middle of Black Heritage Month is debatable. My fundamental point is that Viola Desmond’s day has come and it has gone—and with it, the lasting messages that should not be forgotten.
Viola Desmond deserves better.

I want to suggest, at the very least, that this year we move the provincial calendar ahead by one year—and hope for weather that will permit gatherings wherein Viola Desmond can be formally celebrated and discussed as was planned for February 2015. It seems a reasonable accommodation, and it gives us an opportunity to reconsider the decision that denies Viola Desmond an annual day of her own. Perhaps the debate will be taken up again, and either our Nova Scotia Heritage Day can be declared a permanent Viola Desmond Day, or another day can be declared as Viola Desmond Day in Nova Scotia.

Viola Desmond Day does not have to be another statutory holiday, a day off work with the schools closed. That would be costly for businesses and it will not forward the educational value of a Viola Desmond Day.

Instead, I recommend that Viola Desmond Day should be a day of focus – a day of teaching about Viola as a businessperson, a defender of her family, and a brave social activist. It should be a day of deliberately measuring how far we all have come along the road toward social justice, while remembering Viola Desmond’s achievement for us all.

Ronald Caplan, Sydney



Grants Committee (1pm, City Hall) — the committee is to divvy up about $90,000 in grants among 10 community groups for projects related to the Halifax Explosion celebration commemoration. To be honest, I find most of the projects surprisingly tasteful.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 8.08.54 PM

Planning Information Meeting (7pm, Halifax Forum) — because there aren’t enough shitty seven- to 10-storey apartment buildings in the neighbourhood, the WSP Group wants to build an eight-storey, 71-unit apartment building at the corner of Macara and Gottingen Streets, across from the Shambhala School. Should it actually be built, should all the other buildings in the neighbourhood for some reason be painted white, and should you be a lefty guerrilla thrown from a helicopter above the North End, one of the last things you would see would be the above view of the proposed shitty eight-storey building, and just for a second or two, you would find a moment of something like peace, because even though you knew your brains were about to splatter on the asphalt of Gottingen Street, at least you would soon rid yourself of that hideous, hideous sight.


No public meetings.

On Campus


Researching indigenous peoples (4:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room, Henry Hicks Building) — Earl Nowgesic, from the University of Toronto, is an Ojibwe from Gull Bay First Nation. He will “examine the theoretical and methodological implications of conducting research involving Indigenous peoples [and] discuss his experiences practicing Indigenous health nursing research. Implications for practice, policy and future research will be presented.”

Water (7:30pm, Museum of Natural History) — Shannon Sterling will speak on “Water for our changing planet — Lessons from the past century and the face of our future.”


There’s a man in the moon:


NASA explains:

Have you ever seen the Man on the Moon? This common question plays on the ability of humans to see pareidolia — imagining familiar icons where they don’t actually exist. The textured surface of Earth’s full Moon is home to numerous identifications of iconic objects, not only in modern western culture but in world folklore throughout history. Examples, typically dependent on the Moon’s perceived orientation, include the Woman in the Moon and the Rabbit in the Moon. One facial outline commonly identified as the Man in the Moon starts by imagining the two dark circular areas — lunar maria — here just above the Moon’s center, to be the eyes. Surprisingly, there actually is a man in this Moon image — a close look will reveal a real person — with a telescope — silhouetted against the Moon. This featured well-planned image was taken in mid-January in Cadalso de los Vidrios in Madrid, Spain.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:15am Monday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:15am Monday. Map:

Skogafoss, container ship, Portland, Maine to Pier 41, then sails to sea
Barkald, bulker, Philadelphia to National Gypsum
UASC UMM Qasr, container ship, Port Klang, Malaysia to Pier 42

Helga sails to sea


We’ll publish Erica Butler’s transportation column this afternoon. If you need me I’ll be holed up in the library finishing Part 3 of DEAD WRONG.

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

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  1. While the acknowledgment of Viola Desmond is undeniably worthy the increasingly official celebration of her legacy obscures the fact that another African-Nova Scotian woman, Carrie M. Best (from New Glasgow no less), staged a similar sit-in protest several years prior to Desmond. As a journalist, Best not only directly inspired Viola Desmond, but was instrumental in publicizing the story. One has to wonder if Carrie Best’s advocacy for Aboriginal women made her too complicated for the official recognition now accorded to Desmond? History is fickle that way: both women were forgotten until only one was remembered. Legal historian Constance Backhouse, of Dal Dentistry fame, wrote on Carrie Best some yeaers ago.

    1. I interviewed Dr. Best a few years before her death. From my piece, her words:

      “It’s very painful to talk about some of the practices of the past. When I was growing up in New Glasgow, you couldn’t eat in a restaurant. You couldn’t get your hair cut. I went to jail. My son and I were at the movies; we sat downstairs, we went to the movies three times a week and we’d sat in the same seats for years. Then one day, the usher came to me and said, “You can’t sit here. You have to go into the balcony.” I refused. They called the police; they had to drag me out of there. I was in jail for an hour. I was charged with causing a disturbance.”

  2. Re : Pharmacare.
    Information regarding seniors Pharmacare is changing daily/hourly

    On Friday the website said the changes to Seniors Pharmacare premiums will be based on 2014 income. This information has been removed from the website.

    Last Friday the staff at Pharmacare told 2 people that an appeal re premiums related to income would require submission of 3 months of bank records. That has changed; today people are now told that they can wait 90 days before paying the new premiums scheduled for April 1 2016. No mention of submitting bank records. Also, an appeal of premiums can be lodged when a 2015 tax assessment from CRA has been received.

    On Friday a call to Seniors Pharmacare allowed a person to listen to a recorded message about the reduced costs for people – a promotional puff piece for the proposed changes with only positive information and no reference to higher costs.Today, the message has been removed.

    Ten days ago the minister said the changes had the approval of a seniors organization. He didn’t tell reporters that the organization had not been given all the details of the proposed changes. The organisation is not happy.

    If the changes were based on 2014 income our premiums would rise 267% to $1,132 each.
    Here is an example of a fictional retired NS civil service couple who reached the age of 65 in January 1 2014. Both earned the same amount during their career.
    It is assumed they each had a pension of $21,000 a year and in 2014 each had OAS of $6,677 for a total income of $55,354. The couple cannot be regarded as high income earners.
    Premiums in 2015 ……….$424 each
    Premiums in 2016 ……….$666 each … a 57% increase

    Compare this with the cheap cost of a 5 year drivers licence $80.15

    1. What is the average cost of drug coverage from a private insurance provider? How do Pharmacare rates compare?

      1. Varies according to age and medical history.
        DND and RCMP retirees are not in the plan, police officers are not in the plan and private sector employees with post retirement benefits are not in the plan.
        I cannot think of any public programme which has been increased by such a great amount in one year.
        Not to mention the minister deliberately misleading the press and the public as to the proposed changes and the impact on participants as well as the week long obfuscation by his department.
        And the decision to delay an announcement until after the federal election.

  3. “He is an odd, and not very likeable duck.” Tim that has to be on your tombstone. I can’t think of a higher compliment to pay a journalist.

  4. I wish there was more investigation and commentary on government and the people in government in Halifax. Someone needs to hold council to account and that was one of the focuses of Tim’s former career at the Coast that I particularly enjoyed. There’s been less of this than I expected since The Examiner launched.

    1. Agreed. The best of this site is the work on issues in provincial government, Ivany, NSBI, OneNS, Unique Solutions, weebles, etc. This is what I want more of, and I why I paid for a subscription. I can look the other way and vomit in regards to photos with Megan Leslie, but I’d be much happier to see a literary gibbeting of Frank McKenna instead. A happy customer is a repeat customer.

      FWIW, I don’t care much for El Jones writing style, but I’d stop short of calling her Black Hitler lol. The bit on Bell’s prison contract was pretty good.

  5. There are two products you get when purchasing The Examiner: a news product and a political (editorial) one. I think, to a certain degree, you cannot fully separate the news from that particular journalist’s bias. You cannot really begrudge Tim for presenting the facts with his own viewpoint, as this is a consequence of being a human being who has opinions. While this is perfectly fine, it is still its own form of bias as it will just be a representation of what Tim thinks is important. I think the value in what he provides, as a journalist, is the presentation of facts while minimizing his bias as much as possible, hopefully so much so that it doesn’t influence the reader away from “the truth”. Whether or not there is paid advertising, you are still getting a bias, whether that bias belongs to Tim, Pravda or Chevy.

    My political views often don’t line up with Tim’s, but I feel I am supporting excellent news (particularity local news). I wouldn’t pay if it were pure political opinions, so I am generally on the lookout for his personal bias, and fortunately I feel it is usually limited enough that it makes for great reporting. When the facts are murky, that is where politics can slip in and turn news (facts) into propaganda. That is the only time I regret my purchase, as I derive value from The Examiner as a news outlet, not propaganda (for ANY viewpoint).

    Again, I don’t think there is really anything Tim can do to remove the murkiness around the below issues, that is why people like to argue about them so much. I just can’t help but feel a bit disappointed, when the news I was paying for turns into opinion. I find this tends to happen around

    – Race
    – Gender
    – Class
    – Automobiles (Tim was struck by a car as a small child, I remain convinced)

    I’m certain people on the other side of the fence think I also lose all objectivity when talking about these subjects, and they may be right. I think it behooves all of us, particularity journalists, to be on the lookout for our own bias. When I feel this vigilance is missing, this is the only time I am disappointed in The Examiner. I am glad The Examiner is going strong and I hope you get many more subs for your great service.

  6. I’m not sure why the buildings going up in the North End are mostly so mediocre, especially given that new developments downtown and in the South End are of generally much higher architectural quality.

    I’m glad the neighbourhood is becoming more populated, with a wider variety of housing options, and more rental capacity and some less expensive ownership options than the existing housing stock. I’m not glad so many of the buildings are such junk to look at, especially given that they’re among the most visible structures in the neighbourhood.

  7. Personally, I think the truth of “if you’re not pissing them off you’re doing it wrong”depends on who “they” are. If “they” are people who describe El Jones with “the likes of”, I would say pissing them off should be in the masthead, and the articles of incorporation.

  8. ‘I much prefer it over All Nova Scotia Dot Com, and it costs less than a third of that over-priced website.’

    Well, Bevboy is a blog I’ll never read again. And considering that it’s free, I guess it would have negative value???…and…owes me money…???

    Rejecting advertising as a form of corruption is a bit of a dud argument for paid subscribers; well this one anyway. If you cannot maintain integrity (ie, I’m running my stories whether you pull your ads or not) in the face of money, this project was dead anyway (ie The Coast). Which HE does not appear to be, judging by the fact that people pay for it. More revenue should equate to better news if the person in charge.has the ability to commit to their purpose, and occasionally eat out of a dumspter.

    Summarizing, I’d rather see advertising revenue and disclosure. It’s not perfect, but a better option than free news. As with all things, I’ll decide when I’m less than pleased and take appropriate measures.

  9. Ronald Caplan makes a cogent argument. And if I could suggest a “day”, I’d suggest a Wednesday for Viola Desmond Day…that’s a day where teachers could teach about her with the fewest interruptions of school trips, hockey tournaments, etc. I don’t know *which* Wednesday, but one in February would indeed be fitting.

  10. That letter reminds me why I am glad to be a subscriber to the Examiner. We don’t need more pro-“business” voices or more people giving their Stacey Dash-esque views on race.

    1. Somehow this part got cut off:

      It seems as if there’s enough people praising the virtues of spending taxpayers’ money on private projects and declaring that we live in a “post-racial society” already, no?

  11. The thing I value most about El Jones’ work for the Examiner is how much it challenges and upsets me. If what you’re looking for is comfort, there are plenty of re-runs of “Friends” you can watch.

  12. Re Blush: Ten bucks, for the Halifax Examiner? Folks who read the Examiner every day and haven’t paid to get behind the pay-wall should be ashamed. The principled decision to not accept advertising only adds to the value. I’m not paying because I like the editor – not sure I do, actually – but because we need as many news and opinion outlets as possible and the Examiner fills an important roll in our community. If anything, Bousquet should put more behind the pay-wall. Oh, and I would gladly pay ten bucks just to read El Jones.

  13. I hope El Jones adds that to her business cards: “El Jones: writer, poet, researcher, sociologist, gadfly, worse than 14 Hitlers”

  14. Says someone quoted: “Unfortunately, the good work that Bousquet produces is more than offset by his juvenile snark, his fixation on certain people or ideas he doesn’t like, and his relentless anti-business views on many issues.”

    Ha Ha I’m not sure how exposing corporate moochers who take public funds on the basis of iffy business plans sold to credulous or cynical politicians makes anyone “anti-business”. (Politicians love to call that an “investment”, in press release-speak.) Here in NB we saw Atcon get over $50 million in public funds, and Atlantic Yarns Group an even more egregious sum in excess of $70-million over the years. Every penny went down the toilet. It is pretty easy to be anti-business when you live in an environment where deals like this are considered “business” or anything approaching free enterprise. I have no problem with anyone making a pile of dough. Just do it without public money.

    1. Likeability should not be a factor in rating a journalists. The job of a good journalist is in fact to piss a lot of people off. To me, Tim has always done an excellent job of that. Good on him!

  15. Great letter about Viola Desmond.

    FYI there is a new ferry naming contest out there. Viola Desmond is on the short list. Small recompense for what she did for the fight for social justice but it is something.

    Get out the vote.

    With all respect to the military, if another ferry is name after a soldier I may have to tear out my eyeballs.

    1. The day and the ferry should be named after Richard Preston. In my opinion his accomplishments were of greater significance to the African-Canadian community than any other person and should be recognised by all Nova Scotians .

      The ferry naming contest is stupid, any person in the country can vote :
      Terms and conditions #2 ” Both residents and non-residents of Nova Scotia are permitted to vote.”