In the harbour


1. Liberal government gives payroll rebate to Liberal party supporter

Chronicle Herald business editor Joann Alberstat reports that a Vancouver firm, FCV Technologies Ltd., is eligible to receive up to $1.2 million in payroll rebates over the next five years.

Laurel Broten
Laurel Broten

The focus of Alberstat’s article is FCV CEO Johann Starke’s desire to restore the Morse’s Tea sign to the downtown building the company is leasing.

Way to miss the story*.

Payroll rebates are issued by Nova Scotia Business Inc. Earlier this year, the Liberal government appointed Laurel Broten as president of NSBI. Last year, Broten was hired to conduct a review of the province’s tax system. Before coming to Nova Scotia, Broten was a cabinet minister in the Ontario Liberal government. Broten is, in short, the consummate Liberal insider.

And FCV? In an article headlined “Liberal-donor ad agency wins lucrative contracts,” The Tyee’s Bob Mackin reported last year:

A Vancouver digital advertising agency has reaped the benefits of the BC Liberals’ 2013 election win. 

FCV Technologies was paid almost $2.5 million, primarily for website design, by three ministries between last summer and this spring, according to documents released via Freedom of Information. That compares with the $1.69 million for FCV reported in Public Accounts for the year-ended March 31, 2013. FCV wasn’t listed in the payments to suppliers for the 2012 fiscal year. 

Johann Starke
Johann Starke

The biggest portion of recent payments, worth $2.084 million, was from the Jobs, Tourism and Skills Development Ministry for website and app design, maintenance and development. The ministry said $1.917 million was funded by the federal government for “disseminating labour market information.”


FCV donated $8,000 to the Liberals between 2009 and 2013, $2,000 of which came Feb. 28, 2011, two days after Clark won the party leadership. FCV’s CEO is Johann Starke, whose name matches that of a donor of $8,018.35 to the Liberals. Elections BC reported $6,000 of that was donated on Nov. 30, 2013. 

Starke was on the guest list for the June 7, 2013 cabinet-naming ceremony at Canada Place. He was also mentioned in an April 12, 2013 Vancouver Sun story referring to FCV as “engaged by the BC Liberal Party for digital and social media development.”

This smells.

Besides the stink of insider-y Liberal connections, there’s the matter of subsidizing out-of-province firms to come to Nova Scotia to compete with existing local companies. Here’s how Stephen McNeil, then the leader of the official opposition Liberals, put it on the floor of the legislature on November 7, 2012, referring to a payroll rebate deal for Projex, an Albertan engineering firm:

Stephen McNeil
Stephen McNeil

These payroll rebates are good stopgaps, Mr. Speaker, but this government’s actions are taking this stopgap and turning it into a permanent, economic development tool. These payroll rebates, however, are being used to help an out-of-province company compete for, or poach, talent from Nova Scotia businesses. Businesses expect to have to compete with other companies for talent, but they shouldn’t have to compete with the government subsidized companies for talent. That’s an unfair advantage and that’s the government picking winners and losers. 

And now Premier McNeil’s government is offering a payroll rebate deal to FCV, which will compete for employees with local firms such as Kula Partners. (Disclosure: Kula is co-owned by Jeff White, who I paid to write a Morning File while I was on vacation.)

* I shouldn’t be too hard on Alberstat — she at least contacted Starke. By all appearances, the unnamed CBC “reporter” simply rewrote NSBI’s press release, quotes and all. Let’s compare:

NSBI press release:

FCV Technologies Ltd., headquartered in Vancouver, designs and builds digital strategies and solutions for a variety of companies. In business since 2005, its clients have included Nike, WestJet, Best Buy and Mountain Equipment Co-op.

CBC “article”:

The company has been in business since 2005 and its clients have included Nike, WestJet, Best Buy and Mountain Equipment Co-op.

NSBI press release:

“An FCV office in Halifax officially makes us a coast-to-coast digital technology company able to serve our clients across four time zones,” said Johann Starke, FCV president and CEO. “When we were looking to expand, we looked at other jurisdictions including Washington, New York, and Seattle. 

CBC “article”:

“An FCV office in Halifax officially makes us a coast-to-coast digital technology company able to serve our clients across four time zones,” said Johann Starke, FCV’s president and CEO. 

NSBI press release:

The company is filling a variety of positions including technical architects, web developers, interface developers, web designers, account project managers, digital strategists and user experience architects.

CBC “article”:

The company is expected to fill a variety of positions including web developers, web designers, account project managers and digital strategists.

I’m actually OK with simply reprinting press releases instead of going through the torturous routine of rewriting them. It’s ridiculous that so-called reporters rewrite, say, police press releases without doing any additional reporting; better to just reprint the original press release and say that’s what you’re doing. But the CBC “reporter” didn’t even say he or she was cribbing from a press release.

2. Scott Ferguson wants a $10 million tunnel

Trade Centre Limited says a one-block tunnel under Grafton Street, costing from $7 to $10 million, is needed to successfully market the new convention centre. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Trade Centre Limited says a one-block tunnel under Grafton Street, costing from $7 to $10 million, is needed to successfully market the new convention centre. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday, I published an article explaining how management for the new convention centre wants a tunnel blasted through the bedrock below Grafton Street. The block-long tunnel would link the new convention centre to the existing tunnel and pedway system connected to the existing convention centre, and would allow people staying in four downtown hotels — Prince George, Barrington Halifax, Delta Barrington, Halifax Marriott Harbourfront — to attend conventions without stepping foot outside. The cost: $7 to $10 million.

In the article I also discuss how Trade Centre Limited’s theft of the city-owned Metro Centre box office — costing the city half a million dollars and counting (and, incidentally, which led to the concert scandal) — has been swept under the rug, and how an audit of the mess revealed that the city paid half the cost of former TCL president Fred MacGillivray’s million-dollar super pension.

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

3. NDP too

The Canadian Press reports:

HALIFAX — The NDP in Nova Scotia has joined the Liberal government in admitting they broke election rules by sending out partisan materials at taxpayer expense into a riding where a byelection is expected.

A party spokesman says the New Democrats are willing to pay about $2,000 for sending surveys on health care to the people in the riding of Dartmouth-South.

Mark Laventure says NDP caucus mailouts were approved by the Speaker on March 13 for 15 ridings, including Dartmouth-South.

However, the party delayed sending the flyers to the riding until mid-April after the Liberal member representing the riding died on March 16.

The unexpected death of Allan Rowe throws an explanatory wrinkle into the NDP transgression, but it’s incredible the parties don’t have people vetting the mailings.

4. Popular is popular

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 7.01.47 AM

Turns out, the stuff people like to listen to is the popular stuff.

5. Death

People get weird about death. A Dartmouth woman complains to the CBC that Dalhousie is transporting cadavers used for medical training in U-Haul trucks.


1. Fly swatters

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

Yes, Stephen Archibald has an entire post about fly swatters, and it’s fascinating.

2. Byelections

Graham Steele discusses the politics of byelections.

3. Not Glad

Read one way, the promotional material to be distributed with the "free" bags say specifically that Brad-brand clear garbage bags will be required.
Read one way, the promotional material to be distributed with the “free” bags says specifically that Glad-brand clear garbage bags will be required.

Finally, someone besides me is blasting the corporatization of City Hall. Lezlie Lowe spells out the problem with the city’s distribution of supposedly “free” Glad garbage bags:

This isn’t a favour from Glad. It’s a trade. It’s an exchange of value for value.

Glad is giving Halifax more than half a million trash bags — $310,000.

Halifax is giving Glad a link on the city’s website for, probably, a year and the tacit corporate approval that goes along with that link, a conduit for Glad to get bag-accompanying coupons into the hands of hundreds and thousands of Haligonians and 600,000 garbage-day mini-billboards for Glad that will appear all over the municipality for as long as these “free” bags are kicking around.

How much is all that worth?

Pfft. Council hasn’t the foggiest. Not a clue.


Instead of taking a stab at the math and measuring our worth as a marketing partner, council is just taking Glad’s word for it that this is a fair trade.

4. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

Why is the answer to everything in the HRM “dial 311”? Anytime you ask a councillor a question about the extremely poor service in this city, the question becomes, “Did you call 311 and report it?”

No, I refuse to dial 311 and waste my time reporting something that the city should be on top of! The solution then becomes, “You will have to take care of it yourself.”

Why am I paying taxes? If I have to call 311 and eventually correct any problem I have myself, then I want a refund. Currently, every street in the south end needs some level of remediation for the damage the sidewalk plowing caused.

Some sidewalks are still covered in crusher dust such as the south side of South Street. There are tire ruts all along these sidewalks that were supposed to be fixed by the end of May. This will not happen and when the issue is brought up to my councillor, Waye Mason, he says, “Dial 311.” Here’s your 311 call: Every sidewalk needs work. Get off your butt and have a look around your district. We’re not paying you $75,000 to ignore emails and blather on about 311.

George Publicover, Halifax


No public meetings.



Mapporn is one of the few subreddits that isn’t overrun with ugly people. Yesterday, a Nova Scotian named Joshua Peters posted a hand drawn map of Nova Scotia, explaining that it took him 16 hours to complete and that he’s pretty sure he’s included “all the lakes.” I’m tempted to go off on a tangent about something analogous to the coastline paradox — what constitutes a “lake”? At some level of detail every drop of rain become a lake before it runs off — but why would I want to step on Peters’ obvious joy?

Check out how Peters explains the lettering on the map:

As for the lettering, it’s essentially a home printing press technique which allows you to print on things that are normally way too big, textured, etc. You type to scale on the computer, flip it horizontally, and print it with a laser printer. You then flip the paper over so the ink is facing down, wet the text from behind with acetone or some other solvent, and apply pressure (a bone tool works great). When you lift the paper away, the ink has been dissolved by the solvent and pressed onto the new surface as a positive. It’s not perfect, which I actually really like because it has an old-world look. It takes a lot of practice and is easy to mess up, but it’s quite a bit of fun too.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 7:30am Friday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 7:30am Friday. Map:

Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, St. Johns to Pier 42
Fusion, ro-ro cargo, Saint-Pierre to Pier 36, then back to Saint-Pierre
Courageous Ace, car carrier, Emden, Germany to Autoport, then sails to sea

STI Texas City, oil tanker, sails to Come By Chance, Newfoundland


Remarkably, I have nothing to say.

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

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  1. Where wis the frog pond in Pt Pleasant Park on the hand-drawn map? In other words it needs a scale, North arrow and criteria of inclusion.

    The Mapman

  2. When asked why he painted over the Morse Tea sign, the developer claimed he was intending to restore it to its original name–walk by and you will see “your company name here” on a banner across the top of the building. Authentic bold lies, Halifax style.

  3. I’d be very surprised by any “insider-y Liberal connections.”

    One thing the BC Liberals ain’t is liberal. Or Liberal for that matter. It’s just another name for the same bunch of paleoconservative, bible-thumpin’, gun-totin’, tricklin’-down yahoos that have run the place for most of the last hundred years. They are admirers, not opponents of Stephen Harper.

    But It would be interesting to know if Mr. Starke made any contributions to other political entities. To the Ontario Libs perhaps? Or even, heaven forfend, our very own Liberals?

  4. The “Morse’s Tea” building signage flap – I had also heard that “Jerusalem Warehouse” was an older name for the building. Does that mean it’s more “authentic”? I wonder if there was a “flap” when Morse’s Tea painted over that and put their own name up?

  5. While calling 311, way back in February, I had a fantasy that my complaint would be written on a piece of paper, put into a giant holding tank, then dumped into a huge bank vault. It was there that a city councilor or 311 manager would do the backstroke, Scrooge McDuck-like across the surface of all our complaints.

    Soon after I stopped complaining to 311 and treated my calls as “this is where I am going to shovel/break ice and do the city’s job. If someone wants to come by and help, this is where they will find me”.

    Not once did someone come by to help.

    So it goes.

  6. > transporting cadavers used for medical training in U-Haul trucks.

    At least they could get one! U-Haul apparently likes to overbook and screw people at the busiest time of year.

  7. Two things: whoever was supposed to pay for them, the party mail outs announcing candidates are an unfair advantage over Independent candidates in the by-election areas (like Charlene Gagnon in Dartmouth South).

    And, Halifax radio is settled comfortably now on an entire spectrum of gleaming white. You have your soft old white Seaside FM far on the one side, with some Casey Kasem white oldies next door, some delightfully pale country, indie and dance-pop in the middle and your hard white rock and roll on the other end. A full range of music, as long as you’re not looking for hiphop, rap, urban, world music, salsa music, or … well, anything but your average white band (and actually, almost none of them play AWB). Look, I’m as fishbelly white as they come — I am rolling in deep privilege. So if I am noticing the blandness enough to complain, it’s bad. Seriously.

    Thank heavens for the weird, wild and unpredictable French station which at least manages to be random.

    And thanks, Tim, for the weekly dose of El Jones. It does a body good to get a strong kick in the privilege regularly.

      1. And a plug that El Jones is a regular on CKDU’s Youth Now radio show every Monday afternoon at 5:30.

  8. Using tax money collected from existing local businesses to subsidize competing businesses lured from away is stupid. Apply a layer of patronage on top and someone should be fired. Unfortunately, the layers of patronage are so deep here that the situation is unlikely to be reversed.