1. John Risley’s yacht

A large white boat in the water.
IceCap, the $350-million superyacht Nova Scotia billionaire John Risley ordered custom-built in 2018. Credit:

“Quick now. How many Nova Scotians — earning Canada’s average industrial wage of $58,800 a year — could be hired for one full year for the reported asking price of John Risley’s one new, never-even sailed US$350-million luxury yacht?” asks Stephen Kimber:

Don’t even bother with the currency conversion.

If you guessed 5,992 with a little left over to hire a few summer students at more than a typically generous hourly wage, you probably used the same computer calculator I did.

Click here to read “What could we do for the price of John Risley’s yacht?”

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2. Kayla Borden

A young Black woman wearing a black blazer over a t-shirt that says "We've been here" sits at a table in a conference room. Behind her are two white men sitting at another table. One of the men is wearing a police uniform.
Kayla Borden, front, Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella, back right, and lawyer Andrew Gough at the appeal hearing on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2022. Credit: Matthew Byard

“Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella spoke directly to Kayla Borden Thursday saying that her ordeal was not lost on him, but he told the Police Review Board he doesn’t feel systemic racism played a role in her July 2020 arrest,” reports Matthew Byard:

Kinsella talked about police policy and ongoing efforts to fight racism within the police force during his testimony at the appeal hearing into Borden’s dismissed complaint against Halifax Regional Police (HRP) officers.

Asked if anti-Black racism has been “identified as a problem within Halifax Regional Police, historically and at present” Kinsella responded, “Yes.”

Borden’s lawyer, Asaf Rashid, asked what HRP does to combat anti-Black racism within the department.

“Systemic racism exists in all of our institutions. It’s not unique to policing,” said Kinsella.

“We take it very seriously. We have a number of training courses that have been delivered around anti-Black racism, systemic bias, most recently we developed a training course entitled Journey to Change.”

Kinsella said the Journey to Change is facilitated and put on by members of the Black community.

He described the content of the program as “a reflection on the 400 years of trauma that the Black community has experienced.”

“It talks about the beginnings and how we got to where we are,” he said. 

He said Journey to Change is voluntary for officers but it will “eventually” be made mandatory.

Click here to read “Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella testifies at Kayla Borden’s review board hearing.”

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3. Dalhousie has issues with heritage

A man wearing glasses and a short-sleeve plaid shirt speaks into a microphone on a sunny day. Behind him is a group of men, one holding a sign, and an old house. The house is forest green with white trim.
William Breckenridge speaks at a rally in front of 1245 Edward St. in Halifax on Thursday, May 12, 2022. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“Dalhousie University has dropped its case against the citizens who led the charge to register one of its properties, but it’s still fighting the municipality in court,” reports Zane Woodford.

Click here to read “Dalhousie’s Halifax heritage registration fight continues in court.”

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4. Sheltered workshops

A woman walks through a revolving door from a school desk outside to a garden with sunflowers.
Photo by Emre Can Acer on Credit: Briarpatch

Gus Reed draws my attention to an article in the November issue of Briarpatch Magazine, “Exiting the revolving door,” which uses the case of Donnie MacLean to explore the injustices of “sheltered workshops.”

MacLean is perhaps best known as a “Champion of Inclusion” related to his involvement in Special Olympics, but he has long been active with the Disability Rights Coalition. The Briarpatch article, by reporter Sophie Jin, shows how MacLean quit his job at The Revolving Door Training Centre in Paradise, in the Annapolis Valley:

Donnie MacLean worked at the same non-profit for nearly 13 years before mustering the nerve to quit. Moments after giving his notice, he overheard his bosses whisper, “he knows what’s going on here.” 

In the months prior, some things about his workplace had started to bother MacLean: his bosses would charge exorbitant amounts for him and his co-workers to participate in company bonding activities; the pay was meagre and didn’t increase with experience; and all of the workers were disabled, but the managers weren’t.

MacLean didn’t know it at the time, but the organization he worked for, the Revolving Door, was a sheltered workshop – a segregated workplace for people labelled with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The workshops operate as “training programs” for disabled people to be skilled up to join the mainstream workforce, but the “training” label also means employers can evade employment standards. 

For over a decade in the 1980s and ’90s, MacLean worked full-time hours at the Revolving Door, starting his days at 9 a.m. and ending around 4 or 5 p.m. For every 75 hours of work, he’d earn $30. But the Revolving Door also managed the bus that transported employees to and from work, a service for which they charged $9, shrinking MacLean’s twice-monthly paycheque to $21. 

MacLean left the Revolving Door in the 1990s, but the business is still in operation today. They’ve rebranded as Carleton Road Industries Association and are one of 30 recognized sheltered workshops in Nova Scotia. 

Today, sheltered workshops are called everything from “day programs” to “employment centres” to “activity centres.” In these workplaces, disabled people build wooden crates for 50 cents an hour; pack student exam care packages for a few pennies each; assemble windshield wiper tubes for a nickel a piece; and pin together Remembrance Day poppies for a penny a poppy

Carleton Road calls itself an “adult services centre” that provides “community (supported) employment.” Like most sheltered workshops, Carleton Road is a non-profit organization and government grants make up the bulk of its revenue. Last year, it received a total of $717,988 in provincial and federal funding. They also reported $862,769 in revenue for the “sale of goods and services” which, according to their website, includes everything from woodworking to property maintenance to postal services. Importantly, Carleton Road has eight salaried employees to whom they pay real wages.

“Now called Social Enterprises, they exploit the intellectually different by segregation, low or nonexistent wages, inadequate protection from abuse, impure self-interest as a first principle and failure to secure generous benefits,” Reed wrote in a comment to the Examiner. “There are 29(?) sheltered workshops [in Nova Scotia], entirely funded by government ($30 million?) with generously paid administrators employing thousands (3,000?) of people who are essentially incarcerated.”

In a separate blog post, Reed continues:

I have written on this subject many times. Sheltered workshops are:

• Segregated
• Exploitative
• Mostly government funded mock charities
• Dangerous
• Unregulated
• Ableist
• Expensive 
• Hypocritical

They keep intellectually disabled people from entitlements. Like many organizations, they cover up abuse. They are motivated by self-interest.  

There are legitimate business that hire people with disabilities — the Examiner is working on an article that will profile some of these businesses. Unlike the sheltered workshops, these businesses pay the legally mandated minimum wage and follow the litany of Labour regulations that every other legitimate workplace follows.

Besides the pay issue, sheltered workshops trap people in a never-ending cycle of dependency, writes Jin:

According to [Michael Baker, a teacher of disabled high school students], it’s rare that someone escapes sheltered work. “[It’s] not a goal of the program to graduate,” he says. Transitioning workers to the mainstream workforce would decrease sheltered workshops’ profitability, so despite being labelled “training programs,” almost half of workers stay in sheltered workshops for more than five years and over a fifth stay for more than 10 years. 

“It’s a catch-22,” Baker argues. He explains that while sheltered workshops in large institutions are no longer the norm, the “gratuity pay” of the system traps workers in a cycle of poverty, leaving many with no choice but to live in institutions like group homes or long-term care facilities. 

“That’s why transinstitutionalization is so insidious,” he explains. “It happens right there in front of you. It happens in the community […] in plain sight. You don’t even notice it.”

Reed views the continuation of the sheltered workshop system — by whatever name — as a failure of government agencies that only pay lip service to “inclusion”:

I wrote last time about the many provincial agencies and departments with ‘inclusion’ as a mandate. Here’s a quick summary — there are probably more:

Sixty-nine employees, more than $10,000,000. A waste of [public] money, achieving injustice and segregation in the name of fairness and inclusion. Time to get some answers.

How is it that none of these agencies notice that sheltered workshops are segregated?  That they violate wage laws? That they have institutionalized what they are charged to eliminate?

By their silence, each of these agencies lends false legitimacy to sheltered workshops.

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5. $1 billion for highways, $0 for Halifax’s Bus Rapid Transit

A bus is seen on a busy street on a sunny day. On the front, it says 7 ROBIE.
Halifax Transit’s Route 7 bus leaves a stop on Robie St. near Almon St. on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Credit: Zane Woodford

On Friday, the province released its Five-Year Highway Improvement Plan. Next year, $450 million will be budgeted for highways. Additionally, $583 million is allocated between 2025 and 2030 for five highway projects and one ferry (that spending is too far out to be considered certain). The six projects are:

  • Highway 103, Argyle Interchange (Exit 32 and 32A)
  • Highway 103, twinning between Exit 6 (Hubbards) and Exit 7 (East River)
  • Highway 103, twinning between Exit 7 (East River) and Exit 8 (Chester)
  • Highway 104, twinning between Taylors Road and Paqtnkek (Antigonish County)
  • Highway 107, twinning from Burnside to west of Loon Lake (Halifax Regional Municipality)
  • Tancook ferry infrastructure development (Lunenburg County).

There are definite safety issues along un-twinned major highways, and these projects will save lives, assuming nothing significantly changes about how people travel (that is: we’ll keep driving like we do now). But additionally, highway expansion is growth-inducing, and the new four-lane roads will contribute to suburban sprawl, especially along the south shore.

So the province is planning to spend about a billion dollars on highways. Transportation spending is necessary, and is simply good governance. Still, that’s a lot of money. It’s ballpark what the new hospital was supposed to cost, although now it’d probably only buy half a hospital.

There are some good things about the Highway Plan, but the best things about it is what it doesn’t fund: There’s no money to construct the ill-advised Highway 213 through the heart of the Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lakes wilderness, and there’s no money to stupidly widen the 102 to six lanes through the urban route from Halifax to Bedford.

The route map in Halifax Transit’s new Rapid Transit Plan. Credit: contributed

There’s something else the province isn’t funding, and that’s Halifax Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. The BRT is a lauded initiative that, Zane Woodford reports, would consist of “four colour-coded lines running on 10-minute or more frequent schedules from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Those buses would be in transit priority lanes on about 60% of the 50-kilometre network.”

BRT is fundamental to increasing transit ridership. For example, the city of Brampton, Ontario doubled its ridership in a decade by going to a system of BRT routes.

To its credit, the province has matched federal funding for the electrification of transit systems, and has directed — but not matched — federal funding for pandemic-related transit operating losses. (Halifax Transit saw a steep decline in ridership during the shutdowns, and that is only now returning.)

There is federal funding available for Halifax’s BRT, but the province appears to be waiting until the release of a regional transportation study before it commits any money to BRT. The problem is, that study will likely recommend more money for highways and bridges, and not much if anything for transit. Even if there is money for Halifax Transit, the delay means the BRT system sits on the shelf in the meanwhile.

As I noted last month:

The province wants to double the population by 2060, and most of those million more people will live in HRM. Yet the newly announced Climate Change Action Plan is predicated on simply moving people from gasoline-powered cars to electric cars — there is no goal to increase the percentage of people who use transit…

In their defence, government officials are simply following citizens’ lead. Taking the bus is widely seen as déclassé, the domaine of losers and chumps.

In fact, I’d argue that the push for electric cars is in fact a push against transit. It’s a supposed cheap techno fix for the climate bind we find ourselves in: we don’t have to do anything any differently, we’ll just change the way the cars work. Otherwise, everything else will be the same: same single-person vehicle commutes, same traffic jams, same continued highway construction forever and ever, same unsustainable suburban sprawl.

But electric cars won’t solve the climate crisis. Clearly, electrification makes sense for some uses — see the above electrification of transit, and also for work vehicles of various types — but it’s not clear that the electrification of the entire global fleet of commuter vehicles is even technically feasible (how much lithium exists, anyway?). Even if it is, it will be enormously expensive, taking resources away from much more cost-effective means of reducing emissions.

Like transit.

Whenever I write about the need for better and more transit, some people complain, saying basically that there’s not a bus that goes from their front door directly to their workplace every five minutes, so they’re not interested. We’ll never convince such people to take the bus.

I’ve never quite understood why taking the bus is seen as “déclassé, the domaine of losers and chumps.” I take the bus every day, and I find it freeing — I can read or listen to podcasts while travelling, I don’t have to worry about finding and paying for parking, and I can have a couple of drinks at the end of the day without putting anyone’s life in danger. My personal bus commute is almost ridiculously easy — I live near the Bridge Terminal, and there are so many buses going downtown that I don’t bother with looking at schedules — but I realize not everyone is so fortunate. That’s why I want to see the good service I receive extended to as many other people as possible.

Yet that bus resistant class sensibility is a reality. As a result, many people want to create new fast ferry or commuter rail systems out of whole cloth, starting from new. There are places where these systems can work — maybe along the basin to Bedford is one of them — but they are enormously expensive, and if they don’t work, it’s impossible to repurpose a train for another route that might work better.

In contrast, we can do a lot to increase bus ridership inexpensively and incrementally, one step at a time, improving service on this route, better organizing the path of this other route, increasing frequency, putting in bus lanes and bus-activated transit lights. And if putting a couple more buses on Route C doesn’t increase ridership, the buses can be moved over to Route H to see if they work there. It’s the tiny steps that make transit more nimble, and a collection of tiny steps can lead to very large success.

And the proposed BRT system is exactly that: a well thought-out, incremental approach to dramatically improving the existing bus system at a relatively low cost. The province should immediately match the federal funding for the BRT.

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No meetings


Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 11am, City Hall) — agenda



No meetings


Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — The Impact of the Cost-of-Living Crisis on Vulnerable Nova Scotians and Those Living on Income Assistance; with representatives from the Department of Community Services, Feed Nova Scotia, Chebucto Connections, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia, and Nourish Nova Scotia

On campus

No events

In the harbour

05:30: Atlantic Sun, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Hamburg, Germany
05:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
07:00: Oslo Bulk 1, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 28 from New Haven, Connecticut
08:00: Algoma Hansa, oil tanker, moves from Pier 27 to Pier 25
08:00: Chantaco, oil tanker, moves from Pier 25 to Pier 27
10:30: Oslo Bulk 1 sails for sea
11:00: MSC Shanghai, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Haifa, Israel
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 41
12:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
15:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
15:30: MSC Shanghai sails for sea
17:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
18:30: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Wilmington, North Carolina
22:00: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Portland

Cape Breton
16:00: CSL Metis, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Istanbul, Turkey


I bought a couple of books to read over the holidays, but I slept instead. I am a Twitter lit failure.

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

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  1. Hello,

    Has there been any new information from government on the status of the sheltered workshops? Has any statement been released?

  2. Ahhh Halifax Transit…….

    While I do agree there is an elitist attitude towards buses I would also argue that Halifax Transit (other than the wonderful ferries) isn’t really that good.

    I spent some time in Ottawa riding buses and LRTs. Double decker buses on dedicated busways free of cars. It was heavenly.

    Montreal to Ottawa on Via Rail, an LRT station a 1 minute walk from the train, a quick LRT trip to another station then a double decker bus from another LRT station, travelling on a dedicated busway to the airport. All of course on an electronic payment system.

    We can dream I suppose.

  3. The Mill Cove ferry seems like a bit of a white elephant – people who live in Bedford can afford cars, and Bedford is both low density and very hilly. The Woodside terminal is served by a large park-and-ride lot and the Alderney one by relative density and bus routes.

  4. So the province continues to put a bigger mouth on the funnel with mindless focus on building more highways rather than investing in reducing the need for highways by reducing the numbers of cars. How is this anything but moronic?