1. Houston’s silence

A white man with short grey hair and wearing a blue suit with a purple tie.
Premier Tim Houston speaks with reporters after the health care summit on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

“For me, it was the silence that spoke most loudly last week,” writes Stephen Kimber:

On Thursday, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board “approved significant rate increases for customers of the province’s monopoly power company, in apparent defiance of the provincial government,” as Globe and Mail reporter Matthew McClearn put it.

And how did Premier Houston respond to the regulator’s outright defiance


But…really? The premier didn’t have time to even issue his own defiant statement condemning the decision and declaring that the UARB’s affront to the will of the people would not be allowed to stand? No threats to appeal to the courts, introduce more legislation, nationalize the power company?

Click here to read “Premier Tim Houston on power rate hikes… the sounds of silence.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

2. The quest for renewable power

A large white two storey Victorian home on a corner lot with solar panels on its roof.
A Victorian house in Windsor with solar panels on its roof. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

In order to head off the worst of the climate crisis, we’re embarking on the electrification of everything — cars, home heating, etc. — because at least theoretically, we can replace all electrical generation with renewable energy sources.

But can we? Will we?

On Friday, Jennifer Henderson reported that Nova Scotia Power rates will likely be increased even more than the recent Utility and Review Board’s 14%+ rate increase approval:

That’s because the rates don’t include hundreds of millions of dollars in projected fuel costs that could be incurred over the next two years, as well as $100 million in deferred fuel costs for 2022 which just ended. 

Nova Scotia Power has forecast fuel costs in the range of $700 million for 2023 and for 2024. Rate hikes announced yesterday won’t cover nearly that amount, and some of the difference (nobody can predict how much) may have to be recovered through higher power rates next year and the year after.

At issue is the Fuel Adjustment Mechanism (FAM), which allows Nova Scotia Power to charge customers for the increased price of fuel without going to the UARB for another rate increase.

After we published Henderson’s article, Brendan Haley reminded me of his November Twitter thread, in which he criticized the FAM and its effect on moving to renewable power.

The short of it is that Nova Scotia Power gets paid to deliver power to customers. The more power it delivers, the more profit it makes. There’s no incentive at all to reduce the amount of power it sells by implementing efficiency programs — efficiency programs are bad for profits.

Worse still, when the cost of fuel is decoupled from the rate structure, the power company has no reason at all to make the costly expenditures for renewable power generation, and a lot of reason not to make those expenditures — if Nova Scotia Power can simply shift the cost of pricey coal, oil, and natural gas onto its customers, why should it care about chasing renewable power?

Haley wrote:

My problem with FAMs is that they make it easy for a utility to charge ratepayers for what they spend on fuel.

But it is still difficult to invest in solutions that reduce fuel costs. Those can include capital projects like transmission lines, energy efficiency, customer solar.

Current rules reward utilities for building power plants & then selling energy, which is why utilities don’t like energy efficiency or customer generation.

A FAM supercharges this disincentive by taking away a fossil fuel power plant risk — getting stuck with the fuel bill.

If we allow adjustments in rates for fuel costs, why not also do it for real energy sales? That would “decouple” utility profits from sales and not make the utility worried when people use less energy (and lower their bills).

A balanced approach would see a utility have a set amount of ratepayer $$ to serve all customer needs. The utility would be rewarded for spending less overall and optimizing the entire system.

After removing bad incentives, you can have “performance based regulation” — as proposed by NDP Leader Claudia Chender — which rewards the utility for delivering what people want. Like better reliability, lower GHGs & even strategic electrification that reduces total bills across all fuels.

There is a long history of short-term solutions to energy costs in Nova Scotia. This seems to just push off the discussion on how to create an energy system that is zero-emission and fair.

Nova Scotia Power avoids the issue by saying it will comply with the provincial government’s targets for renewable power generation.

But it’s not complying. The bulk of the expected renewable power feeding the grid was to come from the Muskrat Falls hydro project, which continues to fail to meet the contracted delivery of power through the Maritime Link. (And, it’s suggested to me that the ‘software issues’ with the Labrador Island Link, which brings power from Labrador to Newfoundland before connecting with the Maritime Link, are so problematic that it may be years before they are resolved.)

As a result, the provincial government fudged the regulations for Nova Scotia Power’s renewable targets.

Further, the province increased the burning of biomass, falsely conflating the burning of biomass for heating, which can be a renewable source of power, with the burning of biomass for electrical generation, which absolutely is not a renewable source of power.

So we’re not meeting the renewable targets, but we’re going to load the electrical power grid with a bunch more demands, from electric vehicles to heat pumps for residential heating.

How’s that going to work?

The Atlantic Loop. Graphic: Emera

Well, in a typical all-eggs-in-one-basket approach, Nova Scotia Power and the provincial government are pushing the federal government to pay for the building of the ‘Atlantic Loop.’ There’s a pretty picture of it above, which shows that the Maritimes will be fed by a power distribution network connecting Quebec’s Hydro generation plants to Nova Scotia, specifically via proposed overhead transmission lines that would carry 1,150 MW of electricity from Quebec through New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. That amount of electricity is double what the Maritime Link was built to carry, 475 MW.  

Quebec has tonnes of hydro power. Everyone knows that, right? So we here in Nova Scotia will just make use of that to meet our renewable targets.

Not so fast.

Last Friday, Hydro Québec sent an urgent message to its customers:

Given the extreme cold forecast for this Friday and Saturday, February 3 and 4, we are asking you to please reduce your electricity use.

Although the credit calculation will be based on the regular time periods, you will be contributing to the collective effort to ease the pressure on the power grid during this cold snap.

In short, Hydro Québec couldn’t generate enough electricity for its own customers during the weather event, never mind sending supposed “extra” electricity to Nova Scotia. And the situation was so dire that Hydro Québec even paid its customers to use less electricity.

I haven’t even got to the charade that is the EverWind “green hydrogen” plant, which will at least initially (and probably for many years) take power from the existing grid. The Halifax Examiner has repeatedly tried to crunch the numbers on this, and we’ve been unable to come to any end game when EverWind actually produces enough new renewable power, over and above what will be needed by Nova Scotia Power’s customers, to power its operations.

But even if all of the above can be addressed, will Nova Scotia Power even be able to deliver the renewable power generated through the Muskrat Falls and Atlantic Loop?

Friday, just as the Arctic blast was hitting Nova Scotia and thousands of people lost power, Nova Scotia Power submitted to the UARB a more-detailed report on the widespread power failures that occurred during Hurricane Fiona.

You can read the entire report here, but here are three of the tables:

tl;dr: We’re not meeting the current renewable targets, but we’re going to load much more demand to the electrical system and hope, against all evidence, that Hydro Québec can somehow deliver enough power it doesn’t have through a transmission system that doesn’t exist to meet Nova Scotia’s needs, and that the notoriously unreliable Nova Scotia Power will be able to deliver that power to customers.

This is not a screed against renewable power. We must switch over to electrical power, and we must switch the grid over to renewable power. That’s just not debatable — the future of the planet depends on it.

Rather, I’m saying that we can’t reach this laudable goal with the way we’re structuring our approach to it. Profit as usual for the utility, with a government moving regulatory targets around willy-nilly with hopes of finding the single unicorn power source, just won’t cut it.

We need a truly distributed power grid, with thousands and thousands of home- and business-based renewable generators, local networks that can power themselves when the larger grid is down, and a huge investment into stored power projects, at the very least.

Thinking that billion-dollar power companies and billionaires taking advantage of tax schemes will solve the problems we face is simply delusional.

With files from Joan Baxter and Jennifer Henderson

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

3. Police budgets

The Halifax Regional Police office in Dartmouth in July 2020. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

“Councillors are looking at changes that could lead to a lower Halifax Regional Police budget than recommended by the police board,” reports Zane Woodford:

Halifax Regional Police are requesting a $5.4-million budget increase over last year’s budget, to $94.6 million. On top of that, Chief Dan Kinsella wants to hire three sworn officers and two civilians at a total cost of $627,700.

On Monday, the Board of Police Commissioners recommended in favour of the $5.4-million increase, mostly attributed to officers’ arbitrated pay increase. But the board voted no to Kinsella’s requests for additional staff.

Woodford gets into many of the details, including council’s efforts to off-shift some operations from the police umbrella and into other places in the city budget.

As the defunding report pointed out, it makes no sense that crossing guards, victim services, and lake patrol fall under the police budget. I recall that in 2013 Halifax council yanked the successful Youth Advocate Program out of the recreation budget and placed it under the police budget, supposedly because it involved “public safety,” but at the time (and still) I felt it was more about building a police bureaucratic empire than anything else.

Oh, on the lake patrol, councillor Sam Austin claimed that “that contracted-out service has saved more than 1,000 people in the lakes in Dartmouth,” reports Woodford. Really? I don’t have to oppose the lake patrol program to think that’s likely some statistical fluffing. Hey, even one kid being saved from drowning is a good thing, but is it credible to claim that 1,000 five-year-olds would have succumbed to the waters without them?

Anyway, click here to read “Halifax councillors to consider additions — and reductions — to police budget.”

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

4. Cancer care

A smiling woman with shoulder length hair and wearing a Nova Scotia tartan scarf stands in front of a Nova Scotia flag.
Heather Mulligan, Canadian Cancer Society’s manager of advocacy for Atlantic Canada. Credit: Contributed

“A new survey released by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) suggests that one in four Canadian cancer patients have had their appointments postponed or cancelled in recent months,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

In Nova Scotia, the number is even higher. As of November when the survey was conducted, 33% of Nova Scotian respondents indicated they’d had an appointment related to their cancer care either cancelled or postponed. For Atlantic Canada overall, the figure was 36%.

“When it comes to these results, what we’re hearing, what we’re seeing, is that while there are some improvements in some aspects of cancer care and supports since the peak of the pandemic, access to care remains inconsistent across the country and vital needs are not being met,” Heather Mulligan, CCS manager of advocacy for Atlantic Canada, said in an interview.

“It is a life threatening and life altering event and disease. And any time there’s a cancellation or postponement in their cancer care journey, it means that they’re on the journey longer…It’s life or death when we’re talking about cancer.”

Click here to read “33% of Nova Scotia cancer patients had appointments cancelled, postponed, survey finds.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

5. Evacuating Gus

A sweet old tortoise on the floor of the museum. He's old but still snappy
Gus the Gopher Tortoise celebrated his 100th birthday last summer. Photo: Tara Thorne

Somebody filed a Freedom of Information request asking for documents about the health of Gus, the tortoise at the Natural History Museum.

The documents returned show that the museum staff is exceptionally devoted to the health of the creature. They discuss his travels to the vet, buy extra treats for him, and keep detailed daily logs about his eating and drinking habits — a lot of days, Gus just picks at his food, and sometimes isn’t interested in drinking water at all, but he has a wide variety of fruits and vegetables available to him, and some days goes at them with gusto.

Before the pandemic, the museum had an evacuation plan in place in case of emergency. Visitors and staff were to be removed first, then Gus, but only if his life was considered in danger. In all other events, Gus (and all the other animals at the museum) was to be left in the building.

The evacuation procedure for Gus was detailed, including the distribution of keys to the building and Gus’s enclosure, a requirement that a security guard be kept with Gus until a staff member arrived, and then that staff member would take him home.

In April 2020, the museum prepared for COVID lockdown and decided the fate of all the animals. I found this interesting, so will post it here:

If you want to see what Gus eats every day, go here and scroll about half way down the very large document; the rest of the document is his daily eating diary. The museum should publicize this.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

6. Armoyan does Florida

Geosam Capital, which is George Armoyan’s private equity fund, has announced it is proceeding with a gigantic (7,000 units on 1,280 acres, plus scads of commercial and “possible” sound stages and production facilities) on the shores of Lake Talmadge, about 22 miles south of Atlanta. This comes just two years after Brett Embry, the Atlanta division president of Geosam, was appointed to the Henry County Commission transition team.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

A yellow box which links to a helpful information page. The text reads "Unable to read paywalled articles? If you're having problems signing in, click here for help."


YouTube video

On Friday, as Americans were getting excited about a Chinese balloon, I was struck by the life-imitates-art scenario, related to a song produced 40 years ago.

In 1982, the Rolling Stones played in West Berlin, near the wall. As part of the show, some balloons were released. In the audience was Carlo Karges, the bassist for Nena, and he watched as some of the balloons wafted over the wall.

This was at the height of the Cold War, Reagan saber-rattling, a new missile system deployed. Germans were understandably anxious.

Karges envisioned some military commander in the east seeing something heading over the wall, so he decides to send a fighter jet to investigate, but then some other military commander in the west sees the fighter jet heading to the border, and the whole thing escalates to nuclear apocalypse. He wrote a song about it, which came out the next year, 1983.

I think the German version is better than the English version (which has slightly different lyrics). Regardless, Nena was a badass 80s rocker.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)




Land Lease Community Project (Monday, 6:30pm, Chocolate Lake Rec Centre) — more info here; snow date Feb. 9, same time and place


Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall and online) — agenda



No meetings


Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place and online) — Community Improvement Grants, with representatives from the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage

On campus



No events


‘He is remarkable for…wearing a Handkerchief tied round his Head’: Resistance as Escape and Cultural Retention in Art and the Fugitive Slave Archive (Tuesday, 7pm, online) — Charmaine Nelson from the University of Massachusetts will talk:

Scholarship on Transatlantic Slavery has long benefited from the often-exhaustive data published in the fugitive slave archive. Ubiquitous throughout the transatlantic world, fugitive slave advertisements were commonly produced by white enslavers. Seeking to recapture their runaway “property,” standardized icons of enslaved males and females became a staple of such print advertisements. However, the more complex textual descriptions were also fundamentally visual and arguably comprise an archive of dubious, unauthorized “portraits” that have sadly come to stand as “the most detailed descriptions of the bodies of enslaved African Americans available.” (Graham White and Shane White, 1995, p. 49). Besides noting things like names, speech, accents, language, and skills, fugitive slave notices frequently recounted the dress (hairstyles, adornment, clothing etc.), branding, scarification, mannerisms, physical habits, and even the gestures and expressions of runaways. These advertisements also routinely disclosed the bravery, intelligence, and resilience of individuals who fled, alongside elements of their cultural practices, their retention of African dress traditions and their adaptation under the burdens of creolization. Through a comparative analysis of the dress practices of enslaved black subjects in fugitive slave advertisements, painting, and sculpture, this lecture examines resistance as flight and African cultural retention and self-care in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Not Now, Not Yet. Build Your Own Lockdown (Tuesday, 7:30pm, David Mac Murray Theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — until Feb. 11; a cross-disciplinary collaboration across Music, Theatre and Dance areas of The Fountain School of Performing Arts, faculty and students; $15/$10

In the harbour

05:30: Siem Confucius, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
08:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Philipsburg, Saint Croix
08:15: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Hamburg, Germany
10:00: NYK Deneb, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Caucedo, Dominican Republic
10:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Portsmouth, New Hampshire
11:30: AS Felicia, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
16:00: Siem Confucius sails for sea
16:00: MSC Alyssa, container ship, arrives at Berth To Be Determined from Montreal
18:30: Tropic Hope sails for Palm Beach, Florida

Cape Breton
10:30: CSL Metis, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Point Tupper) for sea


Terrible things are happening in the world.

A button which links to the Subscribe page
A button link which reads "Make a donation"

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

Join the Conversation


Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
  1. Bonus content:
    Nena had chart success with the English version, but apparently always performed it live in German, and only did the English recording under pressure fom her label.

    Also, you’re right. I don’t even speak German, and it’s better in German.

  2. The discussion about whether we can achieve electrical generation,as needed and as projected, through the use of “renewables” has always been questioned. Recent readings on Alberta’s potential for use of wind and solar show that these two sources of power generation both in current use and in projected maximal benefits, won’t come close to meeting their demand.Alternatives have to be found and put in place. Alberta has significant oil reserves; we, in N.S. do not. So, the use of oil in electrical generation makes sense despite penalties under the impact of that carbon footprint.Wind,solar, tidal and hydro will supply us with ‘X’ amount of power but not all that we require now or will require in the future. The use of nuclear power, given current technology, could be the option that fills the gap. Coal is not a medium to long term solution.(Although, in N.S. some of the power used to run heat pumps comes from coal fired generating plants.) Why not consider nuclear at a scale that matches estimated future needs? Why not a gov. plan as to what will be done with spent solar panels after their useful life has ended?What about definitive answers to the storage problems associated with wind power? As stated in the article-“Can we?- (replace all electrical generation with renewable energy sources).We are past the point of simply saying -Show me the proof. The proof , it appears, is not there, and the needs for additional and more efficient electrical generation remain.

    1. Everyone loves nuclear still … except for the extremely toxic by-products of production of nuclear fuel and the extreme radioactivity of the waste.

      As a medical physicist I’ve had to study the effects of radiation on humans. It is not pretty.

  3. A container ship left Halterm circa midnight Friday for Bremerhaven. Once it cleared Chebucto Head it headed SW and then NW and up into St Margarets Bay, turned a 180 and left the bay and then headed SW parallel to the coast for several hours, then turned another 180 to retrace its previous course back towards Chebucto Head until it was south of Prospect then another 180 for several hours until it was south of Riverport and then headed East. Smart move on a night when a vicious NW wind and extremly cold temperatures would have caused significant accumulation of ice on the vessel and the containers if the vessel had headed to Europe after clearing Chebucto Head. After the last turn it was no longer on If you want photos of ice build up I have several.

  4. I’ve not seen this noted elsewhere, but homeowners switching to heat pumps only increase demand for electric grid power when the heat pumps replace fossil fuel-powered heating systems (oil, natural gas, propane). When heat pumps replace electric baseboards or other resistance heating systems the load on NSPC’s grid is actually reduced.
    I wonder how much NSPC could save on unneeded or deferred grid upgrades if they actually managed to encourage all those thousands of Nova Scotians with electrically heated homes to convert and drop their collective heating power demands by 40-60%. That would certainly balance out a good part of the increased power grid demand of all those other Nova Scotians getting off fossil fuels by switching to heat pumps.