1. Bus Rapid Transit

Scott Edgar of It’s More Than Buses at the open house presenting Halifax Transit’s current Bus Rapid Transit proposal, on Monday, February 12th in Halifax.

“Citizens gathered Monday afternoon and evening to look at preliminary sketches of what a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network might look like for Halifax,” reports Halifax Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler. “Or did they? The citizens were there, but I’m not entirely sure what they were looking at amounts to BRT.”

For the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), bus rapid transit is basically subway-level service, delivered above ground. The example that most Canadians would be familiar with would be Ottawa’s busway system, currently on its way to being converted to light rail after decades in operation.

But the four proposed routes on display Monday are not busways. “Not in the Ottawa sense,” says Halifax Transit’s Erin Blay, adding “that’s not to say that could never happen.”

Click here to read “Halifax Transit pitches Bus Rapid Transit.”

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2. “Needlessly institutionalized” report comes out

Nova Scotia Hospital. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“An external report warned more than a decade ago that a Nova Scotia hospital was ‘verging’ on violating the basic rights of people with disabilities by forcing them to live in a locked-door psychiatric unit rather than in the community, a human rights inquiry heard Wednesday,” reports the Canadian Press.

The CP article follows Halifax Examiner reporter Jennifer Henderson’s reports (here and here) of a Board of Inquiry hearing on three people who say they were needlessly confined to Emerald Hall, a unit of the Nova Scotia Hospital.

The CP article continues:

Jo-Anne Pushie, a veteran health worker who started working in the unit in 2011, said she heard of the study on the unit by Dorothy Griffiths — a Canadian expert on people with both intellectual disabilities and mental illness — and Dr. Chrissoula Stavrakaki, when she first came to the hospital as a part-time employee.

The April 2006 report on the unit’s operations was tendered as evidence at the inquiry, and Pushie read its findings, after saying other staff at the hospital were aware of its existence.

“The individuals are being confined without justification because no community (housing) options are available for them within the system,” said Pushie, reading from report.

“The delay of discharge at this time appears to be strangling the current unit … and verging on violation of the rights and freedoms of the individuals long-time destined for release.”

A copy of the report later obtained by The Canadian Press also says the detention of the residents of Emerald Hall violated the standards of care for patients with intellectual disabilities and mental health diagnoses.

“Moreover, this current situation clearly undermines the fundamental rights of these individuals,” the document says. “The situation is clearly confinement without justification and cruel and unusual punishment for behaviours which have long since resided.”

3. Private emails

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Documents show Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine relied on three different private email accounts while he was Nova Scotia’s health minister — the practice runs counter to government policy,” reports Marieke Walsh for Global:

The records were obtained through access to information and show Glavine and senior government staff used his private emails to communicate dozens of times within a three-month span in 2016.

The emails were sent to Glavine’s private accounts hosted by Rogers, Gmail and his MLA website. In an interview with Global News, Glavine maintained his use of private email for government work was “minimal” and that “99 per cent” of them went through his government account.

Asked if confidential or private information was ever relayed through his private email accounts, Glavine said, “No.”

In some cases though, entire emails were redacted before they were released publicly to Global News. For example, one email chain that was started by government lawyer Donald Grant has its entire contents and subject line redacted citing “solicitor-client privilege,” “information that may have a detrimental financial impact to the public body,” and “advice by or for a public body or minister.”

“There was nothing there of consequence,” Glavine said about the fully redacted email from Grant. “I regard confidential and personal information in the highest order.”

This is a very big deal. As Walsh points out, the use of private email to conduct public business has been flagged by the information and privacy commissioner, Catherine Tully, as contrary to the Public Records Act. We can’t know whether Glavine was purposefully trying to avoid having his communications fall outside the scope of future record searches, but that is certainly the effect of using the private email.

4. Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp Mill. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Nova Scotia’s top environmental bureaucrat repeatedly defended the province’s decision to use a fast-tracked environmental assessment to review a controversial effluent treatment facility being proposed by the Northern Pulp paper mill in Pictou County,” reports Paul Withers for the CBC:

Deputy environment minister Frances Martin told the province’s public accounts committee Wednesday that the review will be thorough, science-based and ensure the environment is not harmed by the new effluent treatment facility.

Martin said it was her decision last July to apply a so-called Class 1 assessment to the project after Northern Pulp submitted a project description in April 2017.

Once a project is formally submitted, a Class 1 assessment limits the review to 50 days, with a 30-day period for public comment. The department could have applied a Class 2 assessment, which involves an independent panel and can last 275 days.

This project triggered the shorter Class 1 assessment, according to Martin.

“It wasn’t the construction of a [pulp and paper] mill. It was a modification of an existing mill,” she said.

However, as I wrote yesterday:

In short, at least one provincial regulator had concerns about the effluent plan creating a “dead zone” in the Northumberland Strait and the decision to opt for a quicker Class 1 EA will mean that the subject is not given the attention it requires, which apparently, according to emails [obtained by the Halifax Examiner through the freedom of information act], would suit the consultants just fine since they don’t want to run into anything that would delay the implementation of the plan.

5. Po-po budget

Displaying unusual resistance against a police request for more officers, Halifax council yesterday sent the proposed Halifax Regional Police Department budget back to the police commission, telling it to cut $550,000 from it, reports Zane Woodford for Metro.

6. Suspicious Package show on the BiHi

Back in 2015, someone left a gym bag on George Street, resulting in the entire financial district being shut down. Photo: CBC

The Suspicious Package performed on the BiHi yesterday, according to a Halifax police release:

At 7:50 a.m., police responded to a report of an abandoned vehicle parked on the southbound shoulder of Highway 102 between the Kearny Lake Road and Bayers Lake exits. Upon arrival officers located a suspicious package inside the vehicle.

Officers are on scene with the Explosive Disposal Unit to examine the package. The investigation is ongoing.

Police have closed both southbound lanes on Highway 102 between the Kearny Lake Road & Bayers Lake exits. Please avoid the area if possible. Drivers in the northbound lanes are asked to remain focused on driving and not to be distracted by police activity.

The bomb squad later “determined there was no threat,” and the highway was reopened.

This makes me want to clean out my car. Any easily excitable person passing by could take one look at the ratty collection of empty take-out containers, broken electronics and associated wiring, and half-empty oil containers, and they’d conjure up all sorts of suspicious horrors.

I’m probably the only one who cares, but here are the Suspicious Package’s recent tour dates:

April 2013: police closed Barrington Street after someone called in a suspicious package that turned out to be a briefcase full of bricks. This is the first use of the police robot, I think.
May 2013: a suspicious package full of something that vaguely looked electrical was discovered at the Halifax Shopping Centre, causing much mayhem and worry until a sheepish salesman explained that he had accidentally left his bag of hearing aids behind.
May 2013: a suspicious package is reported in a parking lot near Stadacona. I later wrote: “The very best in anti-terrorism technology — a water cannon-wielding robot! — is employed to blast the innocent bag someone left next to a car to smithereens. Freedumb!”
June 2014: unidentified package found near Dockyard.
May 2015: a suspicious package that closed Robie Street turned out to be a suitcase full of clothes.
May 2015: someone left a gym bag on George Street, and so the downtown core had to be shut down for two hours.
September 2015: unidentified package exploded by military police at Rainbow Gate at HMC Dockyard.
July 2016: An empty briefcase was left near the corner of Almon and Gottingen Streets, which required the efforts of the bomb squad, the closure of various streets, and police thanking everyone for being forever watchful.
July 2016: A “vigilant” citizen alerted authorities to a lunch pail left a block from where dozens of construction workers are building the Nova Centre, and so Brunswick Street was closed, ironically at lunchtime.
March 2017: two days after an attack on the British parliament, someone left something in Gorsebrook Park, and so access to and from the IWK and the Special Education Authority was limited for three hours.
May 2017: during the Youth Run associated with the Bluenose Marathon, a woman left an empty picnic basket near the fountain in the Common. Somebody mistook the basket for a suitcase and then that became a big hullabaloo, with police issuing a release looking for the woman so they could ask her why she littered.
May 2017: someone left a backpack on a bench outside Pier 21. The bomb-sniffing dog was employed and found only undescribed “personal items,” but evidently not a personal bomb.
June 2017: someone left something at the Miller Waste recycling facility in Bayers Lake that spooked some easily spooked person, so 50 employees were given an early lunch break, the bomb squad was called, and the streets were blocked off, but it turned out the package was nothing dangerous — presumably just recycling.
February 2018: someone abandoned a car on the shoulder of the BiHi, presumably because it was broken down; police were called and saw a “suspicious package” in the car; the southbound lanes of the highway were closed for a couple of hours; press releases were sent; tweets were retweeted; people were aflutter; but the bomb squad dismissed the whole thing and life got back to normal.

When I was a kid, if you wanted to get out of taking a test, you pulled the fire alarm. Now all you gotta do is leave a lunchbox in the hallway.

7. Party leaders

“I wanted more information about political leadership conventions in Nova Scotia,” writes Mary Campbell, “and my googling kept leading me to the same door: that of retired Acadia University political science professor Ian Stewart.”

Stewart and a colleague, University of Calgary political science professor David Stewart, have literally written the book on the subject: it’s called Conventional Choices? Maritime Leadership Politics, 1971–2003, and if you’re a political junkie like me, you will love it.

The book is based on post-leadership-convention surveys of participants in Progressive Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic Party leadership conventions in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island between 1971 and 2003.

I thought it would be interesting to evaluate CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke’s chances based on what I’ve learned about leadership conventions.

I am not going to make predictions. (Cape Breton has psychics for that. I know because I saw one on the front page of the Cape Breton Post last week.)

I’m not going to spoil it, and besides, you should read Campbell’s entire article because it’s chockfull of insight.

Click here to read “How Maritimers (Especially Nova Scotians) Pick Political Leaders.”

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Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — the committee is looking at the Common Master Plan.

Public Information Meeting – Case 20928 (Thursday, 7pm, Lindsay Children’s Room, Halifax Central Library) —  RHAD Architects wants to build a three-storey, 12-unit apartment building at 5720-5722 Inglis Street, adjacent to a registered heritage property.



Resources (Thursday, 10am, One Government Place) — the committee will talk to people in the seafood industry.


No public meetings.

On campus



Thesis Defence, Computer Science (Thursday, 9:30am, Room 3107, The Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Armin Sajadi will defend his thesis, “Semantic Analysis using Wikipedia Graph Structure.”

“Love is in the Stars” by Tony Schellinck (Thursday, 11:25am, Planetarium, Dunn Building) — $5, minimum age 13, with parental guidance. Reserve space here.

Improving Campus Equity and Inclusion (Wednesday, 6pm, Council Chambers, Student Union Building) — info and reservations here.

YouTube video

Sand Wars (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — a screening of Denis Delestrac’s 2014 documentary.

Concerto Night (Thursday, 7:30pm, Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — Peter Allen directs the Dalhousie Symphony Orchestra and Soloists. $15/$10


1848: Wuthering Heights, the Brontes, and Europe’s Revolutionary Year (Friday, 9am, Room 25, Banting Building, Dal-AC Campus, Truro) — Patricia Cove will speak.

Piano Recital (Friday, 11:45pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre)— students of Peter Allen and Lynn Stodola will perform.

Amy Orenstein. Photo: medicine.dal.ca

Fostering an Effective Relationship with the Medical Expert (Friday, 12:10 pm, Room 104, Weldon law Building) — Amy Orenstein will speak.

Catalysis in Ionic Liquids (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Robert D. Singer from Saint Mary’s University will speak.

The Holy Roman Imperial Nationaltheatre and the Musical Canon, c. 1800 (Friday, 3:30pm,  Room 1170 Marion McCain Building) — Austin Glatthorn will speak.

Magnetic Resonance Neuroimaging Research: Practical and Ethical Considerations, and Cautionary Tales (Friday, 3:40pm, Room 5260, Life Sciences Centre) — Matthias Schmidt will speak.

Facing Race: The Current Town Hall in Halifax (Friday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — Anna Maria Tremonti from the CBC hosts this public forum to discuss “Legacy of anti-black racism: How does it affect property rights and environmental decisions?”

Mount Saint Vincent


Senate Executive Meeting (Friday, 10:30am, MCC 201B) — here’s some info:

In the harbour

5:30am: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York

East Coast. Photo: Halifax Examiner

9am: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
10:30am: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Quebec City
4:30pm: Hoegh Trident, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from New York
6pm: Atlantic Sun, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
8pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 9 from Saint-Pierre
9pm: YM Moderation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk


Trying to catch up on some badly needed sleep, I managed to get to bed by 8:30 last night, and then proceeded to have all sorts of strange dreams. That’s nothing unusual; REM regularly brings a collection of oddities and horrors. But here’s a first: I dreamed I was sleeping.

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

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  1. It seems to me that the person from the EA office within the Department of Environment was ensuring that the study included investigation of the possibility of eutrophication. That would not necessarily translate to personally having concerns.

    In any case I am pleased that the bureaucracy is ensuring that study is part of the review. I recently had a conversation with someone from the area who did indeed have that specific concern.

  2. I was thinking of Ian Stewart’s lectures while reading the comments on Graham Steele’s Facebook posts the other day – I remember him saying that usually NS Liberal and PC party members pick the most “father like” candidate as leader. This was pre-Rodney and pre-publication of the book cited.