1. School board to close Dartmouth and Bedford classrooms for refugees and immigrants learning English

Tuka (left) and Belal Alhamwi, with their son attending English classes at Forsyth Education Centre in Dartmouth. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“Nearly 200 adult immigrant students are taking a democratic action that many people born in this country never have,” reports Jennifer Henderson for the Halifax Examiner:

They’ve have signed petitions addressed to local Liberal Members of Parliament, Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Lena Diab, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau begging for their help in keeping an English language program going in its present form and location at the Forsyth Education Centre in north end Dartmouth.

The petition reads:

We are not happy that our school is closing March 31. We don’t want that to happen. We want our school to stay open. Our school is like a family to us. Please change your decision.

The Halifax Regional School Board has operated the English as an Additional Language (EAL) program for nearly three decades. Last week, the board told staff and students it was not renewing its funding agreement with Ottawa’s Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as of April 1, and gave 42 English teachers and Early Childhood workers at the Forsyth Centre and the former Bedford Central school layoff notices.

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2. Living wage

Yesterday, Halifax council considered and approved a series of proposals related to the city’s procurement policy. I’ll save you the details, except to note that the changes came in part in response to an auditor general’s report on the Washmill underpass fiasco, and are intended to improve controls. Paradoxically, however, the changes give more authority to bureaucrats to approve contracts without council authority, which was the proximate cause of the Washmill underpass fiasco in the first place.

But after the changes were approved, councillor Lindell Smith brought forward a motion to direct staff to bring back a report on how procurement policies could be further changed to encourage local buying and the implementation of a living wage.

The Halifax Examiner has been calling for a living wage policy, and this is a good first step.

Importantly, as conversation proceeded, it became evident that Smith’s motion had been vetted with staff, and possibly tweaked by staff, and that other councillors have been consulted. These are very good things because for some reason that escapes me, a living wage policy has been regarded by some councillors and bureaucrats as a radical attack on capitalism or some such. It’s not. But I guess we have a lot of education to do on that front.

I expect the staff report will come back outlining various constraints on buying local — NAFTA among them. I would suggest that we could get around that if potential contractors were also ranked on the embedded carbon of their products and services — transporting things from far away results in a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, and the city should be looking to reduce its carbon footprint.

As for the living wage policy, my hope is the staff report surveys other municipalities in Canada and the United States that have implemented such policies. If so, councillors will learn that the policies are not very costly and improve the lives of their citizens.

2. Public wifi

Public wifi will become available in the purple areas, at a cost of $2.6 million.

Also yesterday, on a 9-8 vote, council approved the public wifi plan I discussed yesterday. I find I’m running out of time and can’t properly address this today.

3. Low sexual interest

Natalie Rosen. Photo: Dalhousie University

“When women first walk into Natalie Rosen’s private psychology practice in Halifax seeking counseling for their low sexual interest or arousal, they often come alone,” reports Chris Lambie for the Halifax Examiner:

“I think a lot of that comes from just our society’s belief that someone has the diagnosis, so they’re the problem,” Rosen said.

“But I don’t think that makes a lot of sense.”

She’ll ask women whether their partner will join them.

“It’s really difficult to talk about sex and sexual relationships when you’re just guessing what the other person is doing or feeling,” Rosen said.

Rosen is looking for couples to participate in a survey and further study around low sexual interest and its impact on couples.

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4. Unique Solutions

Philadelphia Inquirer fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington took her turn in the My Best Fit body scanner at King of Prussia Mall in 2010, with Unique Solutions’ chief technical officer Bob Kutnick and CEO Tanya Shaw. Photo:

Yesterday, the Nova Scotia Securities Commission issued the following release:

Commission Issues Cease Trade Order

Halifax – The Nova Scotia Securities Commission has issued a cease trade order against Unique CEDC Ltd.

The company, a Nova Scotia community economic-development corporation, violated securities laws by failing to file continuous disclosure documents.

The Commission’s Director of Corporate Finance ordered Unique CEDC Ltd. to comply with Nova Scotia securities laws and ordered all people and companies to cease trading in securities of Unique CEDC Ltd.

Unique CEDC was a Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) — an investment pool created to fund the separate company of Unique Solutions. CEDIFs were created as a tax break for Nova Scotians looking to invest in provincially based corporations. As I wrote in 2014:

Unique CEDC was the most successful CEDIF to date, raising nearly $2 million from 142 investors in its first offering.

Unique CEDC was so successful that in 2008 Shaw was invited to address the CEDIF Annual General Meeting at the Museum of Industry in Stellarton. [Unique Solutions’ founder, Tanya] Shaw, explained a recap of the meeting [link since removed], “discussed how Unique CEDC came to raise almost $2 million (2006) which it invested in Unique Solutions Design Ltd. She also outlined how the Company has evolved from a custom pattern maker into a ‘tech company,’ using software and the 3D body scanner to collect personalized data and body measurement information that translates into customized products and services.”

At one time, the PowerPoint presentation Shaw delivered at the meeting was publicized on the provincial government’s website, but that presentation has since been deleted at the request of Unique Solutions, says Chris Payne, the government employee tasked with overseeing CEDIFs.

However, several people who collect PowerPoint presentations and re-post them on the internet have published a PowerPoint presentation purported to be from Shaw. It appears to be the same PowerPoint presentation given at the Stellarton meeting. In the presentation, Shaw outlined an aggressive growth strategy for Unique Solutions, expanding the use of body scanners in shopping malls, but also targeting the “$263 billion obesity/fitness/wellness industry.”

As outlined in the presentation, the financial plan showed the company had already raised over $14 million in investment. A quarter of that investment—$3.6 million from NSBI—was taxpayer money. (Another $2 million would come from NSBI a few months later.)

The entire enterprise was one gigantic failure. I found out about it because:

Unique CEDC failed to comply with regulations of the Nova Scotia Security Commission. Specifically, Unique CEDC failed to file its 2008 year-end financial statement, its 2009 semi-annual statement, and its 2009 year-end statement with the regulator by the legal deadlines. In July 2010, the NSSC granted Unique CEDC an extension to the already-passed filing deadlines, allowing Unique CEDC to submit the required documents by September 1, 2010. But Unique CEDC missed that extended deadline as well, and the documents were not filed until November 21, 2011, over a year late.

Last Friday, Michael Deturbide, chair of the Securities Commission, assessed Unique CEDC a $2,500 administrative penalty and $750 in costs for its failure.

The failure of Unique CEDC to file the required paperwork caused me to pull all the paperwork the CEDIF had filed with the NSSS, and I began to document the collapse of the company, which finally folded earlier this year.

While the company folded, the CEDIF continued to exist as a sort of shadow investment holding company, with exactly $0 in assets. It’s no surprise it failed to file paperwork once again, and yesterday’s action is mostly the Securities Commission shutting down the CEDIF for certain. There’s no new loss to anyone here: all the investors already lost all their money — including the $5.6 million invested by Nova Scotia Business Inc. on behalf of taxpayers.

You can read my exhaustive reporting on the issue here, and my criticism of the failure of the Chronicle Herald to properly report the story here.

5. Teachers’ vote postponed

An NSTU press release issued this morning:

The teachers’ vote on the tentative agreement has been delayed due to inclement weather.

Because of province wide school closures today, the teachers’ vote on the tentative agreement has been postponed until Thursday, February 9. The online vote will begin at 6:00 a.m. Thursday, February 9 and will run until 8:00 p.m.

Members will be informed of the results immediately following the vote.

A news release outlining the results of the vote will be issued by 9:00 p.m. on February 9.


1. VIA Rail

VIA Rail is planning to restore some regional service to the Maritimes, but it will still suck, writes Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler.

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2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

Friends of ours have lately been travelling numerous times to Halifax for medical reasons. 

The tolls are high enough for the occasional trip we all make, but when you’re in a situation where you must make multiple trips, these costs become quite onerous for most of us. 

There is one entity, which is in the unique situation of being able to eliminate these charges without costing themselves or the taxpayers any money – Strait Crossing. Granted it would mean a little less profit but perhaps a tax rebate of some kind could ease the burden.

Obviously some vetting process would have to be established but surely that would not be an insurmountable issue.

Ron Moxness, Margate


Graphic: 2016 Microsoft Corporation Earthstar Geographic

A Crack in an Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in the Last Two Months,” reads the headline on Jukal K. Patel’s report for the New York Times:

The crack in Larsen C now reaches over 100 miles in length, and some parts of it are as wide as two miles. The tip of the rift is currently only about 20 miles from reaching the other end of the ice shelf.

Once the crack reaches all the way across the ice shelf, the break will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, according to Project Midas, a research team that has been monitoring the rift since 2014. Because of the amount of stress the crack is placing on the remaining 20 miles of the shelf, the team expects the break soon.




City Council (9:30am, City Hall) — budget deliberations continue, with a look at LegalHuman ResourcesFinancePublic Works, the Fire Department, and the Po-Po.


Appeals Standing Committee (10am, City Hall) — two taxi drivers have appealed the denial of their applications for a taxi driver licence. The first, Joseph Robichaud, had three alcohol-related driving convictions between 2012 and 2015, and a fourth conviction in 2015 for driving with a suspended licence. Robichaud’s driver’s licence was reinstated in November 2016, and he applied for a taxi driver licence. But, wrote Kevin Hindle, the city’s Coordinator for License (sic, sigh) Standards, “Mr. Robichaud’s driving record demonstrates a dangerous and total disregard for the legal and safe operation of a motor vehicle in accordance with the law. The Licensing Authority considers it prudent to consider him unfit to be issued a HRM vehicle for hire driver license (sic, sigh)…”

The second, Sidahmed Barjin, was in November charged by Halifax police with assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes, after which his taxi licence was suspended pending the outcome of his court proceedings. But, according to Hindle, Barjin in December applied for a Change of Company with the Licensing Office; on the application a “question asking the applicant of any charges or convictions in the past five years was answered ‘NO.’… [which] was false….”

“I strongly believe that I shouldn’t whatsoever be suspended because of false accusation made by another taxi driver who had a hate, beef and grudges toward me,” wrote Barjin in his appeal letter. “I believe that in case I am suspended before the matter goes to before a supreme court judge, the other Taxi driver who falsely accused me and the driver who have false witnessed for him should be suspended.”



The Ship of Theseus. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Public Accounts (9am, Province House) — Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Deputy Minister Paul LaFleche will be asked about the Ship of Theseus.

On campus



Sally Armstrong

Gender Equality (5pm, Tupper Medical Building, Theatre A) Journalist and human rights activist Sally Armstrong will speak on “Women as Agents of Change.” I would go to this if I didn’t have a prior commitment.

YouTube video

Ivan’s Childhood (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1962 film.


Music and Politics (12pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Nicholas Mathew, from the UC Berkeley, will speak on “Circulating Haydn: Sympathetic Commerce and Globalized Music in Eighteenth-century London.”

Food Security in Cuba (6pm, J. Harris Read Room, Truro Branch, Colchester East-Hants Library) — Yaumara Costa and Greg Cameron will speak on “Food Security in Cuba since the 2011 National Update: a Report Back from Rural Cienfuegos Province.”

Low-Carbon Futures (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Ralph Torrie will speak on “Making it Real: Low-carbon Futures for Canada?”

“All Humans Are Human” (7pm, McInnes Room, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — Roméo Dallaire will speak, followed by a book sale and signing.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:20am Wednesday. Map:

6am: Faust, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
8am: Vega Omega, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from San Juan, Puerto Rico
10:30am: NYK Nebula, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
11am: Faust, car carrier, moves from Pier 31 to Autoport
9:30pm: NYK Nebula, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southampton, England


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

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Just wondering about privacy safeguards regarding the “free” internet propsal.

    We should disabuse ourselves of the notion of “free” if our persnal data is used by Bell or the police or the city bureaucracy.That would be a very steep price indeed.

    1. I didn’t have time to get into it… but staff said that Bell would not be allowed to use the data for anything other than providing the connection as one moves through the area, that is from one connection to the next.

  2. Wait, what?

    The teachers have a paid day off today, and the vote is delayed? I guess taking 5 minutes out of classroom time to use the Union computers to do data entry *is* a “teaching” activity.

    1. Access codes are hand-delivered to teachers by the Local President on the day of the vote. Hard to do that if people aren’t at school.

      1. Not to mention no subs are working today, and only subs working the day of the vote get cards.

        It could be a massively skewed vote if no teacher with under 3 or 4 years in was included.

    2. If a vote requires either ballots or passwords to be passed out at the workplace then it would be insane to allow the employer’s decision to close the workplace for a day impact the ability of union members to vote.

    3. Nice straw you grasped there. I hear that teachers have also been thinking about doing laundry, shopping for groceries, and an article they read about Denmark, ALL ON SCHOOL TIME! At minimum these are thought crimes.