On campus
In the harbour


1. Matthew Hines and ethics in PR

Matthew Hines. Photo: CBC
Matthew Hines. Photo: CBC

CBC reporters Karissa Donkin and Joan Weeks this morning provide a detailed account of the death of Matthew Hines at the Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick:

The report says even though he was “sufficiently under control of staff,” Hines was pepper-sprayed in the face four times by one guard, with only seconds between each burst — a violation of policy.

Officers took him to a decontamination shower to wash off the pepper spray. With his hands in cuffs and his shirt pulled over his head, Hines slipped and fell on his back, hitting his head on the wall.

On a handheld camera video of the struggle between correctional officers and Hines, he can be heard telling guards that he couldn’t breathe.

Hines’ last words, report Donkin and Weeks, were “Please, please, I’m begging you, I’m begging you.”

Beyond the circumstances of Hines’ death, Donkin and Weeks point out that Correctional Service Canada appears to have lied about the incident by releasing an incorrect press release:

At the time, the agency issued a press release saying Hines was “found in need of medical attention” and staff “immediately” performed CPR.


Investigators also found that, contrary to the CSC news release on Hines’s death, the nurse on duty at the prison failed to “provide Hines with the required medical assessment and treatment.”

We don’t know how incorrect information made its way into a press release. Perhaps the communications professional was given false information, and so the error resides elsewhere. But if a PR person knowingly crafted a press release that lied to the public, what should happen?

This is a problem I have with the PR industry: lack of ethical accountability. Say what you will about reporters and journalists, but they’re forever calling each other out on mistakes, intended or not, and a reporter who lies to the public will be excoriated by his or her peers, or at least some of them.

What about the PR industry? If a communications person knowingly lies, is there any consequence? Do PR people call each other out publicly? I know of exactly one instance: Jim Hoggan’s excellent DeSmogBlog, which calls out the PR industry for aiding the oil industry’s deceitful campaign to sow doubt about climate change.

Otherwise, when PR people lie to the public, mostly what I hear from other PR people is crickets.

2. Examineradio #75

political journalist Paul McLeod
Paul McLeod.  Photo: Halifax Examiner

Paul McLeod had a storied journalism career here in Halifax  — with stints at the Daily News, Metro Halifax and — before lighting out to Ottawa to cover national politics with the Chronicle Herald and, later, Buzzfeed Canada. Next month he moves to Washington, DC, to cover US politics and the presidential election.

We speak about his coverage of the Republican National Convention last month, his attempts to wrap his head around the American electoral system, and the future of journalism in Halifax.

Also, a Metro Transit driver was removed from his job after allegations of child luring surface.

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1. Tattoos

Adorably, Dorothy Grant discovers tattoos.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Community Design Advisory Committee (which meets Wednesday this week) from Dal prof Steve Parcell:

Dear CDAC,

My comments below are in two parts. The first section is new, addressed to you. The second section (with its attachment) is a copy of my comments on the Centre Plan growth scenarios that were sent to two weeks ago. (I don’t know if the Planning department forwards a copy of the comments they receive to you.)

1. Comments for CDAC, 20 August 2016

I’ve read Howard Epstein’s letter to CDAC. I agree with him that the Centre Plan is headed in the wrong direction.

As a member of the Willow Tree Group (which has been monitoring proposals around Robie and Quinpool for several years), I’ve been struck by the significant mismatch between the implicit urban vision of the Planning department and responses by the public. This predates the Centre Plan discussions. It has been evident in the many skirmishes over the spot-rezoning of individual properties via development agreement throughout HRM. This led to the formation of the Coalition for Responsible Development in HRM, with its open letter to the mayor and HRM councillors.

Unfortunately, the Planning department has not been upfront with its vision for the city. The Centre Plan growth scenarios skip over basic issues and simply return to the 2012 corridor scheme. All we’re given is options for urban massing in various parts of the regional centre. This is the wrong question to ask. 

It’s evident that the Planning department does have a vision for the regional centre, but it remains implicit. It can be detected in various actions: its routine acceptance of development agreement applications; its presentations at public meetings; its proposal for Quinpool 6067; the buildings going up in the north half of the peninsula; and now the Centre Plan growth scenarios. Unfortunately, this vision is not described explicitly, so it’s hard for the public to challenge its preconceptions. Perhaps the Planning department considers this vision universal, so it doesn’t need to be described (like water for a fish). Its premises seem to include:
– tall buildings dotted throughout the city, as visible signs of “modernity” and “action being taken”
– emphasis on generic apartment blocks with underground parking garages, elevators, and internal corridors
– emphasis on singles and couples with substantial incomes
– little attention to children, families, or seniors
– little attention to increasing affordable housing
– little attention to uses other than residential or retail
– little attention to public life, streets, or neighbourhoods
– little attention to environmental factors
– little attention to long-term economics
– little attention to identifying strengths or weaknesses in local areas as a basis for development
– little attention to the economic or social impact of adding density to particular areas
– quick response to adding population to the city
– maximum profit for a few developers
– reliance on developers’ language and concepts
– more allegiance to developers than to the public

This vision belongs to the mid-twentieth century, before New Urbanism and other urban theorists went back to basics and asked deeper questions about urban development and its values. If the Planning department is not willing to present such alternatives to the rest of city hall and the public – or, even worse, isn’t aware of them, can’t imagine how they might be applied to Halifax, or thinks that the public prefers suburban expansion as the only alternative – perhaps it’s time to make some changes in the Planning department. If the Centre Plan’s narrow, outdated vision continues to roll forward, it would be not only damaging to the regional centre for decades but also an enormous missed opportunity to add population and develop the regional centre in smarter ways. 

2. Comments on Growth Scenarios, sent to on August 5

Here are some general comments on your Growth Scenarios document (27 June 2016, uploaded 6 July 2016). I learned of the August 5 deadline for comments only indirectly. As far as I can tell, August 5 is not mentioned anywhere on the Centre Plan website. That omission, in addition to the summer vacation season, is bound to affect the number of responses you receive. 

Population forecast
As others will probably mention, the calculations in the population forecast are incorrect. Attached is a spreadsheet that shows the discrepancy. The projected 15-year increase in the Regional Centre would be 16,712, not 33,000 as reported in the Centre Plan document (pp. 3, 20). This questions the rationale for everything else in the document, as population increase is supposed to be the reason for all of this growth. Why not include a chart that shows your population calculations?

Building volume vs. population
The Centre Plan document does not show how building development (in volume) is related to population (in numbers). The Regional Plan specifies population growth, but the Centre Plan document proposes locations and heights for buildings. That’s apples and oranges. Without an equation to link these two quantities, there’s no way to tell if the map and the Growth Scenarios chart make sense. The document’s analysis should begin with population, then use that to generate maps and diagrams. It shouldn’t begin with preconceived ideas about where to add urban massing to the city centre. 
To consider growth, the basic questions to ask (in the right order) are:
a) To add 16,712 people to the Regional Centre over 15 years, how much building volume is needed each year? 
b) Where should this new development be located?

Developer-driven planning
It’s interesting how the Primary Growth areas include so many properties that are currently constrained by Land Use By-laws and are owned by big developers with big plans that disregard those by-laws. Cynics might suggest that the Planning department has been advising those developers not to worry about the Development Agreement process or public opposition, as the Centre Plan eventually would give a green light to their developments. Is it a coincidence that the yellow lines on the Centre Plan map encompass many of these sites, including Armco’s proposal at Robie and Quinpool, Westwood’s proposal on Robie north of Quinpool, HRM’s proposal for Quinpool 6067, Dexel’s proposal at Robie and Pepperell, Westwood’s proposal on Quinpool at Preston, Dexel’s proposal at Spring Garden and Robie, Fares’s proposal at Windsor and Young, and Westwood’s proposal at Almon and Robie?  

Phasing and need
If all of HRM’s currently proposed developments were built during the next five years, how many people would they accommodate? How much more than the annual 1% increase would that be? Would there be any additional need from 2021 to 2031? 
If supply exceeds demand, would the newness of these buildings cause older buildings to be vacated? Who would gain and who would lose? 
Does the Growth Scenarios document draw anything from the earlier “Housing Needs Assessment” document that considered supply and demand over the next decade? It’s not mentioned anywhere. How about the “Density Bonusing Study”?

“Built Form Transitioning”
I cringed when I read the statement “Architects often use a 45-degree angle drawn from the neighbouring property to define the building’s maximum height” (p. 5). Unattributed hearsay shouldn’t guide municipal policy, especially when it would have such a major impact on adjacent neighbourhoods. Where does this come from? Even Wikipedia cites its sources, so that they can be examined.

Whole vs. parts
These comments are all general; they pertain to the document as a whole. I don’t wish to discuss detailed issues, such as the proposed conversion of Parker Street, Pepperell Street, and Yale Street into service lanes. The whole document needs attention to its basic premises and logical connections before we can sensibly consider detailed parts such as yellow and orange lines on maps. Please don’t take this silence on the details as implicit approval.


Steve Parcell


Cruising the Northwest Passage


The cruise ship Crystal Serenity left Nome, Alaska yesterday, the first leg of an unprecedented cruise through the Northwest Passage. The ship left Seward, Alaska Tuesday, and stopped at Kodiak Island and Dutch Harbor before yesterday’s layover in Nome. After Nome, it has two stops on Victoria Island — Ulukhaktok in the Northwest Territories and Cambridge Bay in Nunavut — then on to Pond Inlet on Baffin Island. Having cleared the Passage, Serenity will visit three communities in Greenland — Ilulissat, Sisimiut, and Nuuk — the head south, bypassing Halifax for Bar Harbor, Boston, and Newport before finalizing the voyage in New York.

Passenger rates for the voyage started at $21,000, and went up as high as $121,000.

The cruise raises all sorts of environmental issues, which were highlighted when Crystal announced that it had secured the services of the British government’s research ship, RRS Ernest Shackleton, an icebreaker, to escort the Serenity through the Passage:

“There is a significant tension between the science and environmental mission of the Shackleton and its participation in an exercise in tourism that has an enormous per capita carbon footprint,” Prof Michael Byers from the University of British Columbia told BBC News. 

Prof Byers, who holds a chair in global politics and international law, was invited on the trip to give a series of lectures to passengers. He refused, as he believes this summer’s trip will only encourage others. 

“This voyage is a significant contribution, at least on a per capita basis, to climate change by people who are going to see an ecosystem before it is destroyed by climate change. I find that irony quite terrible,” he said.

Arctic cruises are nothing new — the Rotterdam, in port today, has just traversed the North Atlantic with stops in Qaqortoq and Nanortalik in southern Greenland — but the scale, cost, risk, and sheer outrageousness of the Serenity trip through the Northwest Passage should cause us to take note: the planet is changing in irreversible and cataclysmic ways, and the rich are playing.

Assuming it doesn’t hit an iceberg and sink, after the Arctic tour, the Serenity goes back to the mundane Eastern Canada milkrun, leaving the very next day, September 17, on an eight-day excursion to Quebec City. It stops in Halifax on September 20. Prices for that tour start at a comparatively affordable $2,910.


No public meetings.

On campus


Thesis Defence Social Work (10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — Master’s student Andy Tang will defend his thesis, “Connecting Social Work Education to Child Welfare Practice.”

“Mobilities and Migrations in the EU: Entangled and Fraught Relationships” (12:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room) — Eleonore Kofman, from Middlesex University, will present a discussion of the problems of free movement in the EU, which will include how the refugee crisis is impinging on it, and hostility to it as represented by BREXIT.

“The Blanket Exercise” (1:30pm, University Club, The Great Hall) — a workshop to help faculty and staff understand the history of the Indigenous–settler relationship in Canada.

“Search, Knowledge and Simulations: Computer Go From the Beginnings to AlphaGo” (2:30pm, Colloquium Room #319, Chase Building) — Martin Müller, from the University of Alberta, “will present a talk, suitable for a general audience, which gives an overview of the decades of research in computing science that led to Deepminds Go-playing program AlphaGo winning an exhibition match against the world’s top player, Lee Sedol. How do modern heuristic search programs such as AlphaGo work, how is machine learning used in them, and which other problems might be addressed with similar approaches?”

Saint Mary’s

Thesis Defence, Applied Science (1:30pm, Science 345) — Chao Wang will defend his thesis, “The Effects of the Oligo-saccharides and Ascophyllum Nodusom Extract on the Soybean Gene Expression.”

In the harbour

Scheduled as of 7am:


Atlantic Cartier. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Atlantic Cartier. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Midnight: Atlantic Cartier, ro-ro container, moves from Fairview Cove to Bedford Basin Anchorage
5am: OOCL Antwerp, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
5:30am: Porgy, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England
6am: Itea, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
6:30am: Maersk Nexus, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Argentia, Newfoundland
8am: Rotterdam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from St. John’s with up to 1,400 passengers

Veendam. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Veendam. Photo: Halifax Examiner

9am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 with up to 1,350 passengers
10am: Atlantic Shrike, cargo, moves from Pier 8 to Pier 6

Happy Sky. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Happy Sky. Photo: Halifax Examiner

11am: Happy Sky, heavy load carrier, sails from Pier 8 for sea
1pm: BBC Peru, cargo, sails from Pier 9 for sea
3;30pm: Rotterdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Boston
4pm: Michigan Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Portbury, England
4:30pm: Porgy, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 31
6pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Sydney, you remember Martha, the place with the giant guitar
8:30pm: Porgy, car carrier, sails from Pier 31 for sea

5am: MSC Immacolata, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Savona, Italy

Oceanex Sanderling. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Oceanex Sanderling. Photo: Halifax Examiner

6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s

Footnotes: Vacation

I’m tired. Like to-the-bone tired.

I’m not looking for sympathy — save that for the overworked nurses and doctors and teachers and others who have much greater responsibilities, or for the legions of blue collar and service industry workers who never seem to get a break; compared to them, I have it easy.

Just, this job requires me to be constantly “on” — always aware of what’s going on in the community and thinking about it; ever on the lookout for new stories; keeping up with old ones, receiving hundreds of emails and texts and DMs and phone calls and even some old fashioned letters every day; fending off complaints; dealing with freelancers and bookkeepers and accountants and lawyers — and it’s beginning to wear me down. I’m making too many mistakes, failing to follow through on stories, publishing less, ignoring responsibilities and communications I shouldn’t be ignoring, becoming short with people, and not taking care of myself.

So I’m taking a vacation, starting tomorrow. I’ll be heading to an undisclosed location. I never completely stop working — while I’m gone I’ll be in regular contact with the Examiner crew — but I hope to hang out with people I don’t see enough, read a few books, paddle a lake, go hiking, and above all sleep.

Thankfully, the Examiner is in a position to continue on without me for a spell. Over the next couple of weeks Iris will be minding the administrative side of things, Morning File will be written by a series of guest writers, Erica Butler will continue with her transportation column, Russell Gragg will produce and publish Examineradio and take over much of the editing responsibilities, El Jones will give her usual Saturday view, and very likely there will be other articles, maybe even one or two written by me (like I said, I never really stop working).

If all goes to plan, I’ll return refreshed and ready to dive back into it all the Tuesday after Labour Day.

See you then.

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. I’m not sure that I would assume the PR person did anything unethical. In coming up with press releases they ask around for details, and pass along what they get. True, they spin it, and are often economical with the truth, but the basic facts are provided to them by others to work with. I doubt very much they get full access to files and get to grill witnesses. And why would the PR person have any reason to doubt what he or she was told by on-site staff in the organization? I suppose it is possible the PR person knew it was a lie and lied about the lie, but I wouldn’t make that assumption. It is more likely he or she was lied to.

    1. The communications person has a name: Nadine Boucher.

      The way I see it, if she was lied to by others so that she would (in effect) in turn lie to the public, she should say as much, publicly, and name those who lied to her. Alternatively, if she was involved in crafting the lie, she should explain herself.

      Either way, she owes the public a full accounting.

  2. Enjoy your vacation Tim, and make sure you stay out long enough to turn “off” as much as you can. I can relate, I work from home as an environmental consultant and also as a Ph.D. student, and I find that I must always be “on” as a result of the nature of the work and the fact that I work from home. All the things you mention start to happen, including not taking care of your health, which just makes keeping up with the work all that much harder.
    Hope you can turn off and relax and come back strong!

  3. I had the very same thought reading that CBC story. Not just what action will be taken to deal with the prison guards who behaved with lethal brutally, but what will be done to those Government of Canada officials who deliberately lied to the family of the man who died at their colleagues hands?

  4. Over 30 managers in the HRM Planning Department have received performance bonuses in the past 5 years. HRM has refused to supply names but has provided individual amounts. We don’t know why they received the bonuses and what the performance targets were. Several managers received no payments and are no longer with HRM.
    All managers receive performance based pay but I’m unsure as to how Chief Blais meets ‘performance targets’ and who decides he has met them.

    1. Given the train wreck Richard Butts turned out to be I’m sure the bonuses entailed cutting staff and/or service to the public.

      You’d never hear that from the H/\LIF/\X PR “team” though. I think that would be termed an internal personnel item not fit for public consumption.

  5. This is a problem I have with the PR industry: lack of ethical accountability.

    Hahahahaaaa, that’s rich, coming from somebody who has hired Michael Gorman.

    How many of these PR ‘monsters’ are ex-journalists with no PR education? Yeah, exactly. If this is the best you can do, unbridled hypocrisy and stone throwing, over a story aggregated from other journalists…..there’s not many good ways to end that sentence.

      1. ” Jumping out the most is the change involving the finance portfolio: former environment minister Randy Delorey is in and Diana Whalen is out. Delorey, part of the crop of new Liberal MLAs elected in 2013, has proved himself a quick study and effective communicator.

        He was particularly lauded for his ability to reach an agreement with Pictou Landing First Nation members last summer to end a blockade at a broken pipe near the Boat Harbour wastewater treatment facility. McNeil had high praise for the rookie MLA on Friday, saying Delorey “can handle any portfolio that we have in government.”

        This was written by Gorman in the CH, and it is garbage. Randy Delorey had just finished a stint as Minister of Environment presiding over one of the most blatant environmental crimes this province has seen at Northern Pulp. Effective communicator? With who? It certainly wasn’t with the people that were being poisoned. Lauded for the agreement with PLFN? That’s certainly news to a lot of people. That was one of the worst con jobs in history, and the significant financial effects are yet to played upon the people of Nova Scotia.

        Even the least bit of interest in Delorey’s controversial involvement would have yielded something more balanced in facts, considering the scope of what happened. What was written reads like a fucking press release from Delorey’s mother. There was a lot of lipstick put on this pig, in summing up his time as Environment Minster like that. Unfuckingreal would be the terminology required.

  6. Have a great, well deserved vacation.
    Halifax needs your voice.

    As to PR well simply it is the bane of public accountability. Increasingly government communications at all levels are being taken over by PR hacks.

    And public cynicism is rising along with the hacks as people increasingly see their governments more concerned with controlling the message rather than being honest with the people.

    Honestly I don’t see how the hacks can live with themselves. I guess that’s at the heart of ethics though isn’t it?

  7. PR is like a finger on the hand of Marketing; which has become “Lying to people to get them to buy into Ideas or products for which they had no previous need”.

    Now Lemme tell ya, that is an INNOVATION! Am I joking or being bold, or both; maybe I am doing both, to make me smile, ’cause every tragedy is a comedy.