I’m back in Halifax. Many thanks to the guest writers of Morning File over the past two weeks: Lewis Rendell, Katie Toth, Erica Butler, Selena Ross, and Russell Gragg. Russell and bookkeeper extraordinaire Iris also kept the shop running in my absence — no small feat — and for that I’m eternally grateful.

I enjoyed reading the new voices in the Examiner, and I think I need to have guest writers more often. It’ll add diversity to Morning File and free up some of my time so I can work on larger projects. We’ll see what that looks like in coming weeks.

On campus
In the harbour


1. Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes

Photo: Tim Bousquet
Photo: Tim Bousquet

Halifax council yesterday voted 15-1 to reject councillor Reg Rankin’s motion to begin “secondary planning” for the privately held lands in the Birch Cove Lakes watershed. What this means, explains the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society:

More specifically, the motion that was approved 1) put an end to the failed facilitated process, 2) rejected a proposal from the developers to initiate secondary planning, and 3) reaffirmed the city’s commitment for the regional park. The approved motion gives city staff clear direction to proceed with land acquisitions in support of the regional park and to cooperate with the provincial and federal governments to seek out additional opportunities to protect Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes. This is all very good news. 

Even Rankin voted against his own motion. The only way I can understand what Rankin was up to is to see him as working to increase the value of the land so the developers get top dollar for it.

The bust of Gloria McCluskey is displayed in the King's Wharf sales office. Photo: Halifax Examiner
The bust of Gloria McCluskey is displayed in the King’s Wharf sales office. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The one no vote came from councillor Gloria McCluskey, who claimed her constituency is against the acquisition of the parkland because it isn’t in Dartmouth, and they can’t get there. This is, in a word, absurd. I live in McCluskey’s district, and like many of my neighbours, I’m excited about the opportunity for an unparalleled wilderness park just minutes away from my urban home — less than an hour away, via the #52 bus. For sure, a wilderness park on the other side of the Bayers Lake Industrial Park has been a project of the old city of Halifax since at least the 1970s, but there’s no question that it will benefit the entire region, including the residents of Dartmouth, for generations to come. It’s sad to watch McCluskey end her career with such a spiteful vote.

Matt Whitman
Matt Whitman

Incidentally, councillor Matt Whitman wasn’t at the meeting. As I wrote yesterday:

It’s not at all hyperbole to say that the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes issue discussed at council today was the most important issue facing Matt Whitman during his entire tenure as councillor.

So where was Whitman today?


That’s right, on the day of the most important vote of his council career, Matt Whitman went on a junket to Yinchuan, China, 10,708 kilometres and a 20-hour plane ride away from Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes.

Whitman is at something called TM Forum Smart City InFocus 2016, which is a three-day conference about “smart cities.”


I’m not entirely discounting the concept of smart cities (although, come on), but there is nothing, nothing at all, that Whitman can learn in China that will be of any help whatsoever in Halifax. For one, as a “small” Chinese city — with a population of two million— Yinchuan has nothing in common with Halifax. Let’s hope not anyway: the degree to which Yinchuan can collect data is antithetical to a free society.


Hey, a free trip to China, right? That wilderness thing will take care of itself, I guess.

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I can’t see Whitman’s trip to China at this particular time as anything other than extreme dereliction of duty.

I asked Whitman for comment, which he provided this morning from China:


Thanks for your ongoing interest and support.

I’m one of 1200 delegates at the Smart Cities Forum in Yinchuan China.
Besides planning and technology my main takeaways are re regulation and Redtape. 

Yes, my Twitter and Facebook and gmail etc is blocked.

I have very intermittent internet access.

I think there are 4 Canadians here.

The CIO of City of Vancouver is one of the key speakers.

Yes, Yinchuan paid for me to attend. My trip is not costing HRM.

My reelection campaign is going very well. I have huge support and am keeping up with demand for lawn signs. My campaign began June 1st, most Councillor’s began September 1st. I have an awesome reelection team supporting me.

I’m in the loop re Council agenda, and votes and I’m in contact with staff & Colleagues and all is well.

I’ve been very clear on where I am on Birch Cove Blue Mountain. 

Thanks again.

Regardless, now the drive to make the wilderness park a reality becomes a fight over money — just how much is that privately held land worth? Understand that the development companies bought the land on speculation: Knowing full well that it could not be developed as zoned, they hoped to get council to change the zoning to accommodate their plans. Now that council has rejected rezoning, they are arguing that the land should be valued as if it were rezoned.

No. Developers are not guaranteed a profit. Speculation is just that: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And this is one of those times when the speculation doesn’t, and shouldn’t, pay off.

2. Guns

Is it worth trading in your illegal gun for 50 bus tickets, or would it be easier to simply carjack someone and drive yourself?

3. Outside workers

Photo: Robert Devet
Photo: Robert Devet

“Well over a hundred City of Halifax outside workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 108, gathered in front of City Hall late this [Tuesday] afternoon to send a message to Mayor Savage and City councillors,” reports Robert Devet:

These are the workers who look after HRM’s green spaces and parks, roads, playgrounds and sidewalks, and in the winter do much of the city’s snow clearing.

The workers want the city to get back to the bargaining table, revoke a lock-out notice, and stop eroding their pensions.

Earlier in August the latest city offer was rejected by 90 percent of the workers.

4. Mystery walls

Photo: bayerslakemysterywalls.blogspot.ca
The so-called “Bayers Lake Mystery Wall.” Photo: bayerslakemysterywalls.blogspot.ca

Halifax council yesterday approved giving the Nova Scotia Archeology Society $5,475 to research the so-called “mystery walls” out by Bayers Lake. (Sometimes the structure is referred to as a single wall, other times in the plural, as “walls.”)

It’s a small amount of money, and who knows? Maybe the archeologists will discover that the walls were the foundation for a spaceport for a Xenu or some such. More likely, I think, was councillor Russell Walker’s speculation: that the walls were built of stones cleared from a farmer’s field.

A typical New England stone wall. Photo: field-notebook.com
A typical New England stone wall. Photo: field-notebook.com

Those farm walls are common all through New England — the colonial-era farmers built walls while clearing the farms, and the walls additionally served as boundary markers between adjoining properties. Over time, the changing economy didn’t support farming in New England, and the fields reverted to forest, and now there are beautiful stone walls running through the trees.

By the way, there’s a similar stone wall near the trail to Spider Lake in Dartmouth. That one is a bit younger than the Bayers Lake wall, and it’s pretty obvious that it was part of an old farm.

A stone wall in the Sierra foothills. Photo: Glynnis Campbell via pinterest
A stone wall in the Sierra foothills. Photo: Glynnis Campbell via pinterest

When I lived in northern California, I saw many stone walls on the rolling Sierra foothills. This is grassland, not forest, and the walls are eerily evocative of an earlier age, when ranchers employed Portuguese and Chinese labourers to clear the fields for cattle. This was no small task — the stones were the detritus of giant mud and lava flows from an ancient eruption of Mount Lassen, 100 miles away, and the stones run impossibly deep. Like tires in a dump, you clear one layer of stones and a few years later a slew of new stones emerge from the ground, so you have to repeat the clearing. But labour was cheap, and evidently the reward for the cattle was worth it.

Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer, and I’m betting this is the case with the so-called mystery walls. I’d be excited to be wrong, and would welcome our Thetan overlords.


1. Walking to school


“Walking and biking to school have been on the decline across North America for decades,” writes Erica Butler. “The negative effects of this trend are multiple: fewer active kids, worse rush-hour traffic, and more greenhouse gas emissions. It’s what you might call a lose-lose-lose situation.”

Click here to read “The downward trend in walking to school.”

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

2. Uniacke House

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

This summer Uniacke House celebrated its 200th birthday — a while back we stopped by for a celebration and cake!

Only Stephen Archibald could begin an essay with such a line and still keep readers’ interest. That’s because everyone knows he’ll continue on with an excellent photo essay.

And of course he does.

As a bonus, Archibald ends with this:

What do I remember from my first visit to Uniacke House about 60 years ago? Probably the same thing that still delights folks today: the holes cut in closet doors so cats could conveniently stalk mice.

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

3. Crappy Charlottetown

From the Charlottetown Guardian:

JEERS to the farmer on the York Point Road who decided to spread fresh manure last Wednesday, with strong westerly winds in the forecast. The sinus-clearing smell of green manure unclogged many a nasal passage in downtown Charlottetown throughout the day and swept through any open window trying to catch a summer breeze. The odour was quickly carried across the North River and Charlottetown harbour into every outdoor deck and eatery.

4. Boozy Yarmouth

This month’s entry in the Yarmouth History Blog presents the original case for prohibition on the South Shore:

In the early 1800s the excessive consumption of alcoholic drink in Yarmouth County created a need for some form of temperance reform. In his history of the Argyles, Jackson Ricker gave a nuanced assessment of the problem.

“I believe we have no reason to charge the pioneers of Argyle and other settlements of New Englanders along our coast with being morally weak. They were people with strength of character, true to established standards, righteous living standards that at that time did not condemn the use of intoxicants as a beverage, so long as drunkenness did not result from their use. Later in the history of the place conditions arose which increased the consumption of liquors and made their use common practice. The usual results followed, immoderate use and fixed drinking habits with their evil influence. The changes in the affairs of Argyle which would produce such fruits we find in the opening of trade with the West Indies, also more intercourse with Halifax and other ports where merchants carried liquors, particularly rum, as one of their staples. There can be no doubt that the use of strong drink was having harmful effects, which were more and more evident as time passed.” 

Temperance Reform in Beaver River

In the 1820s, after Mr. Trask and Jonathan Raymond had opened taverns in Beaver River, Josiah Porter worried that some residents were drinking to excess.

“One night a neighbour who had gone to Yarmouth with a load of lumber failed to return at the usual time. At midnight, Mr. Porter became so alarmed, he went to look for him. He found him a few miles from home; his oxen had veered off the track and locked one of the cartwheels over a stump, and so were anchored. The driver had fallen off his cart and was lying insensibly drunk, his beloved rum keg in his arms.”

5. Artists in solidarity

Taylor Olson
Taylor Olson

“The unionized reporters and editors of the Chronicle Herald have been on strike since January 23rd, and there is no end in sight,” recounts Paul Andrew Kimball:

This dispute puts artists in a bit of a difficult place. 

On the one hand, we all need to find an audience for our work, and the Chronicle Herald still has the biggest print media reach in the province. 

On the other hand, however, the real arts reporters on strike — Stephen Cooke, Andrea Nemetz, Elissa Barnard — are good, hard-working people whom most of us have come to know and respect over the years. At one time or another, almost all artists in Nova Scotia have benefited from their hard work and good reportage, whether directly or indirectly. 

Finally, there’s the longstanding tradition of artists standing together, and standing with others who are fighting against bullies. The Chronicle Herald is the clear bully here, trying to bust a legally constituted union (and employing some pretty heavy-handed tactics to achieve that aim). 

As artists, we have a moral responsibility when a dispute like this happens to stand with the folks in the trenches. 

At the end of the day, that means sacrificing our own interests for the greater good. 

It means standing with the real reporters, who have for years stood with us. 

It means not talking to the Herald.

Kimball is speaking directly to playwrights who have shows at the Atlantic Fringe Festival and filmmakers (like himself) who have films at the upcoming Atlantic Film Festival.

One such playwright is Taylor Olson, who has a play at the Fringe Festival. Olson posted on his Facebook page:

Last night I had to make a decision, that wasn’t very hard, but an important one, I think. A young writer for the Chronicle Herald wanted to write a review of Heavy: Atlantic Fringe Festival 2016. and of course, as a Haligonian, union member, and human, I, hopefully politely (because honestly they were just a young writer trying to find work in Halifax), said no. I’m saying this just because I know the lack of reviews has been hurting summer theatre attendance this last summer (which blows), and I feel like it gives me a good excuse to plug my show again (because attendance the first couple shows has been a little low-ish) without seeming as overly self indulgent, but also because I think it’s important to stand with the workers who have gotten screwed over here.

6. Cranky letter of the day

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

Richard Deaton got it wrong in his guest opinion, “Standing up to heavily-armed Israeli Goliath” (The Guardian, Aug. 31 2016). The unvarnished truth is that Israel is the apple of God’s eye. 

Israel is heavily-armed since the surrounding nations want Israel annihilated. Not supporting Israel is inviting the wrath of God. All Christians must support Israel and Israel is all-important concerning end times and God will fight for Israel.

 Zionism is ordained by God and it was by divine intervention that Israel was established. To say that Zionism is a racist and expansionist political and political philosophy is hateful. God gave Israel the land and Israel is the David and all else are the Goliaths. No matter the opposition, Israel will be victorious.

Ron Jenkins, Charlottetown



Audit & Finance Standing Committee (10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

North West Planning Advisory Committee (7pm, Sackville Public Library, 636 Sackville Drive, Lower Sackville) — Here’s the agenda.


No meetings scheduled.

On campus

No events scheduled.

In the harbour

The sea off Halifax, 9am Wednesday. Map: marinetraffic.com
The sea off Halifax, 9am Wednesday. Map: marinetraffic.com

0:30am: Yantian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
6am: ZIM Luanda, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
6:45am: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, with up to 2,446 passengers
8:30am: HMS Monmouth, British naval ship, arrives at NC5 from Plymouth, England
9am: Atlantic Huron, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
Noon: Arctic Sunrise, research vessel, arrives at Cable Wharf from St. John’s
4:30pm: NYK Meteor, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
5pm: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Baltimore

Acadian. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Acadian. Photo: Halifax Examiner Credit: Halifax Examiner

5pm: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Saint John

7am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Pier 36
11pm: PTI Hercules, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea


My phone has been buzzing and ringing and vibrating and otherwise being obnoxious and annoying the entire time I’ve been writing this post. Welcome back, I guess.

I have a couple of interesting ship stories I don’t have time to write today. Hopefully tomorrow.

I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm today.

Please consider subscribing to the Examiner. Just $5 or $10 a month goes a long way. Or, consider making a one-time contribution via PayPal. Thanks much!

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

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  1. An uncharacteristic strain of anti-intellectualism runs through your disdainful account for HRM Council’s decision to spend a modest sum investigating the provenance of the mysterious five-sided wall behind Bayer’s Lake Industrial Park.

    You and some of your readers have seen lo-res online photos of the structure that convince you they are merely farm walls, just like those you know from New England, Northern California, and Nova Scotia’s south shore.

    The archeologist who writes a blog devoted to the walls (http://bayerslakemysterywalls.blogspot.ca/) points out the adjacent land is unsuitable for agriculture, the meandering walls do not follow any geographical or property boundary, and their shape would not enclose livestock. He thinks their appearance suggests some military purpose.

    The site enjoys legal protection under the Nova Scotia Special Places Protection Act, but its proximity to a business park makes real-life protection problematic. We could ignore these questions until the inevitable plunder runs it course, but the Nova Scotia Archeological Society thinks the structure is worth investigating. It will use the project to increase community understanding of archeology.

    What’s the harm? Why the snark?

    1. What snark? I don’t oppose spending the small amount of money to research it. I’m not sure how you could read that into what I did write.

  2. Is it not worth more than 50 bus tickets each to collect illegal guns? It might be sensible to offer a sliding scale – grandpa’s old .22 rifle isn’t going to be used in a bank robbery anytime soon, but a pistol or something else useful for crime is probably, objectively worth hundreds of dollars to get out of the wrong hands.

  3. Roy Jenkins letter is just amazing. I wonder how pissed he would be if he knew about the origins of Christian Zionism – it’s an idea that had almost no traction or theological justification less than 100 years ago.

    Good news about the Birch Cove park, lets hope that the city doesn’t get taken to the cleaners and hold the responsible parties accountable if it does! And lets hope we don’t overdevelop the park as well.

  4. If they were walls belonging to Xenu they’d be made out of gold and diamond. C’mon Tim! Get your head back in the game!!

  5. There are old stone walls exactly like that on Fostertown Road in Port Medway and other places in that vicinity. My niece has one outside her house, left over from when the property was a pasture. Most of Fostertown Road is lined with them. They were, as you say, made out of stones the farmers took out of their fields. They had to do something with the stones, and it certainly made more sense to make field fences out of them on the scene rather than cart heavy loads of them to dump elsewhere.

    1. I think the walls are pretty clearly farmer’s walls. I have heard that there are small stone foundations in the area, those would probably be interesting to investigate.

      New England and any of the other places in North America that were settled by Europeans centuries ago and then partially abandoned would be a neat place to explore. It seems like the western population in Nova Scotia has more or less stayed put – imagine if the Annapolis valley was abandoned gradually in the late 19th century or something.

      1. I’ve walked these walls. They’re not the same as those I grew up around in Birch cove, which were farmers walls. These walls look distinctly military, with very sharp turns and angles. The foundation is 5 sided, which in itself is peculiar. Also, the walls are on a very high promontory. A tower there would be able to signal Citadel hill and further such structures could serve to send messages to outposts down the south shore or up to Windsor etc

      2. I worked a job in New Hampshire a while back that required me to be out in long abandoned forests that had once been home to some of the earliest settlers in New England. There were farming and property walls similar to our mystery walls all over the place.

        Apparently some of the walls were also built to mark property lines between families that disputed each others claims. With the absence of a formalized judicial process, some of these isolated communities utilized the hard labour involved in building the walls to effectively land grab from their neighbours.

  6. Ron Jenkins: Christ’s Crusader!

    “I do not want to be under this flag since it is contrary to what the Bible
    teaches. This represents a small percentage of the population and does not
    represent Christian values and is offensive. Yes they have their rights, but this
    imposes their rights over Christian rights in a public display. The parade and
    festivities are localized, but flying the flag makes it city wide and province
    wide. You serve under the flag. This is not a right.”