1. Teachers

“The Nova Scotia Teachers Union’s executive announced most of its members voted in favour of illegal job action, but president Liette Doucet said the union is inviting the province to work with it,” reports the CBC:

“We want Minister Churchill and the premier to meet with us to discuss the recommendations of the Glaze report,” Doucet said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Ninety-three per cent of the union’s public school members voted and 82.5 per cent supported illegal job action, which means nearly 77 per cent of eligible teachers voted to strike.

The NSTU hasn’t yet posted the vote result on its website, nor posted a statement from Doucette asking for the meeting.

However, reports Yvette d’Entremont for Metro, the meeting was agreed to by the minister:

[Education Minister Zach] Churchill said he and the premier were both open to speaking with union members to discuss any solutions or ideas the union might have to ensure education reform needed to overcome many challenges.

“We need to have a meaningful conversation that takes into consideration the perspective of government, the objectives that we have to improve the education system, and talk about solutions to those challenges,” he told reporters.

“We are very open to having those conversation and I don’t want to preclude what the outcome of those conversations are going to be before I have them.”

While a meeting is a good political move by both sides, I doubt it will result in a resolution of the underlying divide.

2. Testing

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Both Glaze’s report and Nova Scotia’s 2014 Report of the Minister’s Panel on Education are premised on the notion that Nova Scotia’s students are not performing as well as they should be — or as well as many of their Canadian and international peers are performing,” writes Mary Campbell:

It’s a conclusion based on the results of two sets of standardized tests: the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

I hope to write about the PCAP tests in a future article, but for today, let’s focus on PISA.

PISA is overseen by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a 35-member transnational organization which, according to its website, is currently focused on helping governments around the world:

  • Restore confidence in markets and the institutions that make them function.
  • Re-establish healthy public finances as a basis for future sustainable economic growth.
  • Foster and support new sources of growth through innovation, environmentally friendly ‘green growth’ strategies and the development of emerging economies.
  • Ensure that people of all ages can develop the skills to work productively and satisfyingly in the jobs of tomorrow.

That last goal? The one about “developing skills” that allow you to work “productively?” That’s what the OECD means by “education.” It’s not a definition without its critics — in fact, the OECD’s very involvement in student assessment is not without its critics. In 2014, 83 academics signed an open letter to Dr Andreas Schleicher, director of PISA, in which they raised a number of red flags about the tests…

Campbell goes into much more detail. I have a bad habit of over-quoting from Campbell, so please go read her entire report (link below), in which she demonstrates her own stellar financial literacy and posts two sample questions from the test, including “the one that allows you to participate in a ‘group chat’ with two imaginary classmates, Alice and Zach”:

The three of you are a team tasked with answering a number of questions about the geography, people and economy of an imaginary country. You are competing against your classmates and the first team to answer all the questions wins. Alice wants to discuss how best to approach the problem but Zach — I could not make this up — just wants to do everything as quickly as possible… I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say Zach almost drags his team down to defeat before learning a valuable lesson about planning and cooperation. (Seriously, I could not make this up.)

Campbell explains that the companies behind the OECD have a mission to sell more educational products to governments. “Take Pearson, which won the tender to design the 2018 PISA ‘frameworks’ for the OECD,” continues Campbell:

Pearson is also, of course, selling a full-range of high-priced products designed to help improve student performance — performance to be assessed by tests devised by Pearson. Pearson will also evaluate your teachers for you if, say, you’re a College of Educators looking for a way to “ensure teacher quality.” Pearson really has your back.

Campbell then goes on to show that even the premise of the testing — that better results translate into better future jobs for students — is not reflected in the data: highly scoring nations have low-paying jobs, and poorly scoring nations have high-paying jobs.

Concludes Campbell:

If you’ve only learned one thing, however, I hope it’s that what’s playing out in the Nova Scotia education system is not playing out in a vacuum — it’s playing out within the broader world of the Global Education Industry and it really doesn’t hurt to keep that in mind while you’re evaluating what you’re being told — from any side — about the state of education in this province.

Click here to read “The Power of PISA.”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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3. Gottingen Street bus lane

“This afternoon, city council’s transportation committee will consider whether or not to continue planning for a north-bound bus lane along part of Gottingen Street,” writes Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:

The plan would see 51 parking and loading spaces removed from both sides of the street, to make room for two vehicle lanes and one northbound bus lane starting at Cogswell Street, ending just before North Street.

Why use Gottingen Street? Because the ramp from Barrington Street to the Macdonald Bridge is too tight a turn for buses. Continues Butler:

The desired turn, from the inside curb lane of the ramp to the outside curb lane of the bridge, was tested by Halifax Transit and the bridge commission in October 2017, but “it was determined that the bus cannot consistently make this tight turn without impeding on the adjacent lane,” writes city spokesperson Nick Ritcey.

The problem with the turn certainly seems like a fixable technical problem, as there appears to be ample at-grade space where the ramp meets the bridge. Although Ritcey says it’s likely “that further trials will follow” and that “these agencies will continue to work together exploring options to change road geometry, pavement markings and other traffic control measures which would allow this movement in a safe manner,” there is no stated council or staff direction to pursue a technical solution.

My own view is that the bridge ramp is an easily solvable issue, so hopefully today the Transportation Committee will slow down on the Gottingen Street plan and give some direction to address the ramp issue.

Click here to read “Is Gottingen the right street for a bus express lane?”

This article is for subscribers only. Click here to subscribe.

4. Ahmed Hussen and Abdoul Abdi

Advocates for Abdoul Abdi held a silent demonstration during Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s town hall meeting at the Gottingen Street YMCA. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Last night, about 100 people showed up to ask questions of federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen at a “town hall meeting” in the Gottingen Street YMCA.

I’ll give Hussen some props for the appearance: He didn’t have to hold the meeting at all, he didn’t shy away from even the toughest questions, and he spoke respectfully with the audience about his own experiences of anti-Black racism and systematic anti-African discrimination.

I stayed through the questions about Abdoul Abdi. You can follow my live-blogging of the event by clicking through this tweet:

Hussen: I’m not allowed to speak directly to Abdoul’s case for legal reasons… but I want to commend the advocacy for Abdoul. “The decisions for deportation are not made lightly, and the individuals have opportunity for appeal…” MORE

— Tim Bousquet (@Tim_Bousquet) February 21, 2018

The short of it was that Hussen said while he couldn’t speak directly to Abdi’s particular case (repeatedly, Hussen said he would be able to, once Abdi signs a confidentiality waiver), he has personal knowledge of Abdi’s case, he understands the immorality of deporting people in Abdi’s position, he has in the past intervened in immigration cases on human rights grounds, and he expects he will many times again in the future. It seemed a wink-and-a-nod to the crowd: don’t worry, I’ve got Abdi taken care of.

And yet, Abdi is still the subject of a deportation hearing, and he could soon be re-imprisoned, likely in solitary confinement, as his case is heard.

Last night, Abdi’s lawyer, Benjamin Perryman, issued a statement:

This afternoon, Halifax rallied to remind the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, that Abdoul Abdi is a member of our community and should not be deported.

The Minister accepted that systemic, anti-black racism exists in Canada. He accepted that the system failed Abdoul when he was a child “in care” and that he should be a citizen.

But Canada is still pursuing the deportation. Canada is still trying to strip Abdoul of his right to belong. Canada is still taking active steps to remove Abdoul’s right to work and right to healthcare before the courts can even hear his case.

The system failed Abdoul, but the system still requires that he be ordered deported. The system failed Abdoul, but the system still requires that he suffer. The system failed Abdoul, but the system still requires that he be placed in legal limbo and stripped of his human dignity. This treatment is the very systemic, anti-black racism that the Minister purports to oppose.

The Minister invited Abdoul to provide a privacy waiver so that the Minister can share more words. But Abdoul doesn’t need words, he needs action. Action to respect international human rights law and the Charter. Action to allow a court to hear this case before he loses his rights. Action to stop the deportation.

The Government of Canada has the power to end this treatment. But the government chooses instead to continue failing Abdoul.

5. Textile recycling

“It is estimated that only 19% of textile waste in Nova Scotia is recycled or reused, leaving 30,000 tonnes to be disposed of in landfills,” reads a Request for Expressions of Interest issued by the city this morning:

Characterization audits conducted at the Otter Lake Facility in 2016/17 show that nearly 8.6% of incoming residential waste is made up of textiles (approximately 3,800 tonnes). Consumer demands and trends in “fast fashion” could see this amount increase to 6,200 tonnes by 2030.

The problem, as Halifax Waste states it, is that “there appears to be a public perception that only quality, wearable garments can be donated, leading to lower recovery rates of recyclable textiles in donation bins. This is supported by a Halifax Textiles Survey conducted in September 2017. Of the 1,780 respondents, 71% agreed with the statement ‘Items that are worn out or stained should not be donated.’ Such items can in fact be recycled and diverted from landfill.”

The solution? Adding textiles to the city’s existing Halifax Recycles App:

Halifax Solid Waste is looking to form partnerships with not-for profit charities and social enterprise organizations through the use of the Halifax Recycles App in order to expand and enhance diversion of textiles from the landfill. Partner organizations should already be in the textile reuse industry either as a non-profit charity organization (NPO), or a for-profit business that supports an NPO through their textile collection program. NPOs may include, but are not limited to those who currently maintain textile donation bins, offer a pick-up service, operate thrift stores or furniture banks or those who collect clothing for distribution directly to persons in need.

Presumably, the nonprofits and businesses associated with nonprofits will wash and mend the “worn out or stained” clothes before passing them along to reusers.

6. MacKay Bridge

Photo: Reynold Gregor / Global News

A tractor trailer slammed into one of the lower canopies at the tool booth openings on the MacKay Bridge yesterday. No one was hurt.




Downtown Halifax Plan Review – Open House (Thursday, 9am to 6pm, Downtown Halifax Business Commission office, 1546 Barrington Street) — it worked so well the first time around, they’re going to do it again.

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — the committee is being asked to approve a northbound bus lane on Gottingen Street, from Cogswell Avenue to North Street. Many of the business and property owners and residents in the area oppose the plan, and have offered a contrary proposal.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21321 (Thursday, 7pm, Ward 5 Neighbourhood Centre, 5540 Russell Street, Halifax) — the owners of the about-to-be-constructed seven-storey apartment building at Gottingen and Bilby Streets (across from Stadacona) have acquired an adjacent lot and want to extend their building onto that lot.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21439 (Thursday, 7pm, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, 3844 Joseph Howe Drive, Halifax) — “Troy Arsenault is applying to add lounges to the list of permitted uses in the C-2C (Dutch Village Road Mixed Use) Zone in the Halifax Mainland Land Use By-law. The zone currently permits brew pubs, micro-breweries and restaurants but does not permit stand alone lounges. Lounges are permitted to sell alcohol without being required to also sell food.”


No public meetings.


No public meetings today or Friday.

On campus



Cosmic Clockwork (Thursday, 7:15pm, Planetarium, Dunn Building) — $5, minimum age 8 years, reservations:


Nanostructured Polymer Materials for Applications (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Guojun Liu from Queen’s University will speak.

In the harbour

6am: ZIM Ontario, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Algerciras, Spain

Happy Sky. Photo: Halifax Examiner

6:30am: Happy Sky, heavy load carrier, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
11:30am: Happy Sky, heavy load carrier, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
Noon: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
4:30pm: ZIM Ontario, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
11:30pm: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York


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 distinguish the Disrupting the Status Quo Report ( aka- the Freeman Panel’s Report) from Dr. Glaze’s in a number of ways. The Freeman Panel conducted a very thorough review of the entire education system, and it did not establish what the Glaze Report has. The Freeman Report involved input from over 19,000 Nova Scotians; I agree with Karen Casey- it is the most fulsome report in 25 years.
    The Glaze Report does indicate that there is dysfunction in the system, but that dysfunction with regard to how the various school boards have worked is not universal. There are school boards that exemplify excellent governance practices, and this has been acknowledged by at least one Regional Education Officer on at least two occasions in the last year. So, there are boards that exemplify proper governance.Dr. Glaze may have made her statements about the dysfunction on the basis of an average of some sort; averages do not tell anyone much about specific items within the average.

    Avis Glaze , I believe accurately, described a number of “work-arounds” that have cropped up to deal with issues and problems. Here are some of the work-arounds: The Commission on Inclusive Education; The Council on Classroom Conditions; the Education Consultative Forum, the Principals Working Group and ,if you want to go down this road- the Minister’s Three R’s Action Plan. Avis was right- they are all work- arounds, so the questions ought to be the following- Why were these work-arounds made necessary? What was not working in the system that required such a response? To put it bluntly- why didn’t those in the system do something to raise the alarms and deal with things like a flawed implementation of the inclusion model? The very same people who allowed the inclusion model to falter are now tasked with fixing the education system. Are the changes recommended in the Glaze Report being addressed in the proper way?

    At page 42 of the Freeman Panel’s great report is the statement that the”…implementation of the inclusion model is not working.” That is accurate. Why didn’t people deduce what else this meant? It also meant that the monitoring, assessment and evaluation of this implementation MUST ALSO HAVE FAILED. Who is responsible for monitoring, assessing and evaluating program implementation? Not the teachers! Not the parents! Not the elected school board members!

    It was very clear, after the Freeman Panel reported, that there are major problems in NS’s education system. So, does removing the administration from the union address any of them? NO! But, what it will do is that it will likely hasten the exit from administration of many female administrators in particular. More than men, women value – agreeableness, collaborative work environments, and collegiality. Will placing the administration in their own association produce more or less collaboration? agreeableness? collegiality? The answer is ‘ less.’

    So, women have worked hard to find their place in administrative positions and now the game has been changed so that much of what they , in particular, value is being removed. That’s ,potentially, a huge loss for education in this province!

    I encourage all of your readers to pay close attention to the coming report from the Commission on Inclusive Education. Three years and five months after the Freeman Panel’s work, we may have an answer as to what to do to substantially change the way that inclusion models are implemented, monitored, assessed and evaluated.This Commission has already stated that ‘tweaking ‘ the system will not suffice. They are right. The Commission has also given assurances that a status report on the current state of differentiated instruction in Nova Scotia’s schools will be offered. That piece of data is very important- lets all of us know how far we need to go to exhibit ‘best practices’ with regard to differentiation of instruction. Differentiation of instruction has to be done properly and it is absolutely necessary to meeting the needs of all students. In other words, there can be no meaningful inclusion without proper differentiation of instruction. (Reference: a book by Paula Kluth: You’re Going to love This Kid) So, where are we in the classrooms of NS with regard to proper, on-going, differentiation of instruction? The Commission has assured us that they will reveal this.
    Current Ed. Minister Zach Churchill has called inclusion “the elephant in the room”. Yes, it is, and we’ll soon see what the plan is for dealing with it. Watch closely! Watch critically- that’s more important!

    A lengthy comment, but this is not a topic to write a precis on!

    Thanks Examiner and Spectator for shining your light on education!

  2. Re Clothing Waste….watch CBC’s Marketplace, Jan 19th program on clothing waste, a real eye-opener.
    Pat Whitman

  3. OCED and their PISA tests do serve a purpose when no Canadian national educational testing standard exists. But the real issue is why doesn’t a Canadian national standard test exist? It is time for the Federal government to rectify this deficiency. It is fine to say that Canadian provinces are responsible for implementing education programs, but they should do so in compliance with a Canadian national education standard. Then when national testing is done, one can actually see where classroom performance is up to par or not.

    The issue of provincial and national test results raises its head on a regular basis and the same commentary discussions and criticisms are repeated. No consensus can ever be reached unless there is an accepted national minimum standard to be achieved. If individual provinces which to raise the bar in the classroom, that is all well and good; but meeting a minimum national educational standard should be a requirement.

    1. Good point.

      So what is meant when we are told our Grade 10 math scores are below the national average” etc.?

      1. I guess if our Gr10 math scores were below the national average, then either the lessons are not being taught effectively or the students are below average in comprehension and application or perhaps both might be considered true. Logic is what it is… and reality is that someone is always rated as being below average if one uses that kind of assessment system. Analysis of what areas of learning they are falling short in should give rise to improvements in the learning environment if that is the ultimate goal.

        And I remember when “summer school” was employed to ensure that all students were prepared to meet the challenges for the next grade level and if that performance level was not achieved, then that student would be held back; but today we move students forward regardless of their abilities.

        Personally I have no problem with a student being “passed” into GR11, but being required to retake GR10 math at the same time. In real life, one does not get a free pass. And the Peter Principle is solid example why they shouldn’t.

        The key here is that Canadians should not have a transnational organization set the standards for verifying the performance levels in our classrooms…. these organizations do not determine the content of the courses being taught so why should the students performance be measured against their transnational standards?

  4. while I was curious about the tool booth hit, upon reading I realized it was a bridge and toll booth issue. *inadvertent morning chuckle; got to love auto-correct.

  5. Agreed. Anything to get costs off the books to balance budgets, the MacNeil holy grail. But at what real cost above the simple dollar value?

  6. With respect to textile recycling, it should be noted that it is not just clothes that are considered textiles. Other items include: drapes, bed sheets, furniture covers, towels, cloth rags, vehicle seat covers, not plastic tarps & tents, carry-all bags, and when considering clothes, just to name a few examples, and do not forget shoes of all types, except those wholly made of plastic or rubber… include belts, ties, scrunchies, scarves…. the list is too long to printout.

    Bottom line, if an item was made with a weaved thread or some other natural material like leather, it probably should go into the textile recycling stream and not the landfill.

    Education is the key issue; then it requires residents to comply and take the effort to deposit all end of life textile composed items in the various donation receptacles that are conveniently placed throughout our communities. When in doubt, recycle it and the recycling facility will properly determine what to do with the item.

  7. I think the worn out and stained clothing gets recycled as rags and insulation rather than mended and worn for the most part!

    1. Based on information in the Halifax Recycles app, and replicated online, I routinely throw out irreparable clothing. The app suggests “reuse” is one option, but otherwise Landfill is where it goes. I am surprised to discover (according to the AFTERwear website):
      Several things can happen to donated textiles:

      – They can be resold at second-hand clothing stores locally
      – They can be sent to developing countries and resold as affordable clothing

      Those fabrics which cannot be resold or given away as affordable clothing are:
      – Turned into wiping cloths, which are used in a variety of industries and businesses (everything from manufacturers to repair shops, construction industries, stores, and maintenance and custodial departments)
      – Processed back into fibers and turned into paper, yarn, insulation, carpet padding, and many other items

      The REI blandly states “there appears to be a public perception”… I think what they meant to say is “thanks to the egregious distribution of misinformation by the city”.