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1. Fires

A burned out car on a road
A house and a car destroyed in the Tantallon Fire. Credit: Pool photo by Michael Tutton / Canadian Press

Yesterday, the Department of Natural Resources handed control of the Tantallon Fire scene and evacuation area over to the municipality. However, “a number of risks need to be assessed, such as propane and oil tank integrity, soil contamination, air quality concerns and structural damage, before further evacuation orders are lifted,” the municipality’s communications department wrote in an email to reporters.

The municipality had earlier indicated that residents may not be able to return to the core area of devastation until about June 13.

There are still 4,100 people evacuated from the fire zone. All but five of those people are staying with friends or relatives or in hotels; the remaining five have been provided housing by the Red Cross.

I don’t know if it was because the municipality took control of the scene but, finally, yesterday — nine days after the fire started — a pool reporter and photographer (Michael Tutton and Tim Krochak, respectively) were allowed into the fire zone. As I wrote last week:

[R]eporters on the scene can give an independent assessment of the success of and challenges faced by first responders, an assessment that is not whitewashed and stage managed by government communications specialists. If firefighters struggle with having access to water or equipment to save a structure, a reporter on the scene might be able to document that problem; there’s no chance that a government PR person will let the public know about it.

Reporters are the public’s eyes and ears. We’re trained to observe, investigate, and report independently and outside the control of government officials and others who want to control information. If officials properly understood this, they’d see that the un-controlled flow of information is a public service that can strengthen trust in public institutions in the long run.

In any event, Tutton and Krochak documented what they could yesterday, and we published their work here.

Fire exits

Meanwhile, at last night’s council meeting, “the councillor representing residents from the Westwood Hills subdivision has requested a staff report on developing a secondary exit out of that community,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

Westwood Hills was the first to receive a mandatory evacuation order as the HRM wildfire began on May 28.

“I’m not going to belabour the point. You’re all well aware that our chief administrative officer has moved quite quickly to create egress for Highland Park and Haliburton Hills, two subdivisions that have been looking for egress for decades,” Coun. Pamela Lovelace said during the meeting. 

d’Entremont goes on to show how the problem affects dozens of other neighbourhoods across HRM.

Click here to read “Halifax regional council talks secondary exits in communities across HRM.”

This should’ve been addressed 20 years ago, but no time like the present, I suppose.

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2. MOVEit hackers stole 100,000 employees’ banking data

A white man in a blue suit sits before flags.
Colton LeBlanc, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Cyber Security and Digital Solutions, speaks with reporters via video about the MOVEit privacy breach on June 6, 2023.

“A hundred thousand current and former employees of Nova Scotia Health, the IWK Health Centre, and the public service have had their payroll information stolen — including their social insurance numbers, addresses, and banking information,” I reported yesterday:

That data were stolen in a global breach of the MOVEit file transfer system, which Colton LeBlanc, Nova Scotia’s minister of Cyber Security and Digital Solutions, announced Sunday. The hack reportedly was at the hands of the Clop ransomware gang. The data were stolen on May 30 and May 31, before Ipswitch, the company that sells MOVEit, provided a patch to the system.

LeBlanc called a press conference [Tuesday] to announce what has been learned so far in the investigation into the hack. He stressed that the 100,000 figure could go up or down as more is learned, and there could be further revelations about other stolen data — asked repeatedly if the public’s information was stolen, LeBlanc would only say that the investigation is still in a preliminary stage but wanted to let the public know what it has found at this point.

Asked if Nova Scotia Health replaced its former SEND file transfer system with MOVEit in a bid to privatize public IT services, [Natasha Clarke, the deputy minister of Cyber Security and Digital Solutions] said that wasn’t the motivation.

“I know that [change] was not as a result of privatization of those services,” replied Clarke. The SEND service at that time was an aged and legacy piece of technology. The MOVEit system and software is actually a world class or the top of, in the top of the software solutions that provide this functionality. I know the irony of that statement today.”

Click here to read “100,000 current, past Nova Scotia Health, IWK, and public service employees had their payroll information stolen in MOVEit breach.”

I was the reporter who asked if privatization was the driver for contracting with the MOVEit system.

I’ve since learned that Nova Scotia Health moved from SEND to MOVEit on April 30, 2021.

When the change was instituted an email was sent to employees stating that “Please note that when you log into MOVEit, your User Name is your Nova Scotia Health email address and your password is your Active Directory (computer) password.”

I’m not a cybersecurity expert, but this doesn’t sound like a good idea. I worry that the hackers now potentially have access to all Nova Scotia Health employees’ work computers.

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3. Committee asks Jackson Wijaya to pretty please come speak

Eduardo Bolsonaro (left), son of Brazil’s far-right president, receives a symbolic cheque for US $3.5 billion from Jackson Wijaya (right), for a pulp mill in Brazil. (This is one of only two images the Deforestation Inc. team could find of Wijaya on the internet.) Credit: Twitter / Eduardo Bolsonaro

“NDP MP and natural resources critic Charlie Angus wanted the federal Standing Committee on Natural Resources to “summon” — legally require — Jackson Wijaya to appear before the committee,” reports Joan Baxter:

Angus wants to ask Wijaya — said to be the “sole owner and shareholder” of Paper Excellence — about corporate structure of Paper Excellence and where he actually lives and works, and whether his office is in Shanghai in the Sinar Mas Plaza where Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) China has its offices. 

Paper Excellence owns Northern Pulp and the shuttered mill in Nova Scotia. 

APP, with a controversial environmental and financial record, is part of the massive Sinar Mas Group, owned and operated by Jackson Wijaya’s father, Teguh Ganda Wijaya. 

But at yesterday’s meeting of the committee, John Aldag, Liberal MP and chair of the committee, told Angus the committee had simply reissued a non-binding “letter of invitation” to Jackson Wijaya, asking that he appear.

Click here to read “Natural Resources committee refuses to summon Paper Excellence’s Wijaya.”

If the committee were doing its job, not only would it summon Wijaya, it’d also summon Stephen McNeil and the bureaucrats who told him Paper Excellence was controlled by Asia Pulp and Paper.

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Time waits for no one

YouTube video

My power went off Monday night for several hours, so since the power has returned I’ve had to reset clocks. Years ago, this was a giant chore, but now most clocks are attached to the internet and they reset themselves. But I still had to manually reset two clocks — the one on the stove and the ancient alarm clock that for some reason I still have next to the bed, even though I use my phone for the alarm that wakes me up.

I reset the stove clock first thing Tuesday morning, as I was waiting for the coffee to work its magic. But there’s never an easy time to reset the the bedside clock. In the morning I need to rush to that coffee and in the evening I’m too damn tired to bother. So, sometimes the bedside clock can go days or even weeks after a power outage or time change before it gets attended to.

The bedside clock I use primarily in the middle of the night, when I wake up fretting that I’m not getting enough sleep and so I look at the clock to determine exactly how much sleep I’m not getting. As usual, this happened last night, or maybe it was this morning, I don’t know what time it was because the clock was flashing some random time. If I did the math I could figure out how many hours it was since the power returned and from that calculate the actual time, but it was the middle of the night, or maybe morning, and I was in no mind for whatever advanced calculus or eighth dimensional geometry was required to figure out what the actual time was. Instead, I fretted about all the unknown amount of sleep I wasn’t getting.

As I was fretting, I thought about the miracle of the internet resetting clocks for me, and how ridiculous it is that I have a bedside clock whose only purpose is to tell me I’m not asleep and yet I have to manually reset it the 87 times the power goes out every year, plus the two times they fuck with the time zone, causing me to not get still more sleep.

Musing such, I recalled my childhood, when — listen up, kids — there was no internet. And we had clocks all over the place. There was the stove clock, sure. But also each bedroom had those clock radio-alarm dealies that would play “I Got You Babe” (when it was just rock and not classic rock, and Andie MacDowell was an unimaginably fantastic future, like flying cars) every morning at six o’clock because eight kids and two adults had to wrangle over two bathrooms and fight over cereal boxes and milk in time to head off to school or work or for Mom to finally get some damn peace for once by 7:30am.

And besides that, there were clocks on the walls all over the house — in the kitchen, even though there was already the clock stove; in the TV room (we called it the ‘play room’ from our toddler days); in the living room where no one ever sat; there were wall clocks in the bedrooms, duplicating the job of the clock radio-alarm dealies. I recall that for some reason we had a cuckoo clock for a couple of years; I don’t know what happened to it, maybe one of my siblings murdered the birds in a teenage rage over lost puppy love or the death of a pet cat, which now that I think of it would be wonderfully ironic, if that’s what happened, and I hope it is.

And everyone had a watch on their arm; even stupid kids like me had watches, as if we were high-powered execs having to make appointments before the deal fell through and not stupid kids who were herded this way and that at the proper times by parents and school bells.

Oh, and then one day Dad came home with a new (read: used) car with a radio-clock on the dashboard; weren’t we fancy? Point being, there were clocks everywhere. Lots and lots of clocks. I don’t think the kids today (get off my lawn!) fully appreciate the social commentary of the 1973 Pink Floyd song, Time, but it rang as true as, well, never-ending alarm clocks.

Anyway, thought me as I was fretting about all the sleep I wasn’t getting, all those clocks had to be set, like all the time. Back in those simpler times, the power didn’t fail every other day — we’d go years at a time in unappreciated uninterrupted lighted bliss — but the clocks each had their own rhythm. Some ran fast, some slow. When you got a clock that ran true for more than a couple of weeks, man, that was a keeper. And the watches and the cuckoo clock had to be wound up every day or so and reset.

‘But how’d we know what time it was to set the clocks to?’ I thought as the bedside clock flashed a completely meaningless 09:24, 09:24, 09:24. I fretted some more, but by the time the bedside clock reached an equally meaningless 09:28, 09:28, 09:28, it struck me — we called Time!

“Calling Time” involved picking up the phone — we had two, one on a table in the non-sitting living room, and a second attached to the wall in the kitchen. There are some inventions that are so blindingly obvious that it’s amazing they had to be invented in the first place — think of the wheels on suitcases that didn’t become a regular thing until like 1985 or something; before then, everyone had to lug around suitcases.

The kids today (the little whippersnappers) won’t understand this at all, but back in the day, there was a phone, which had a “dial,” which was on a sort of a black (always black) box, and you spun the dial a certain distance to get each digit of the phone number you wanted to call, and a “receiver,” which was a sort of banana shaped thing that had two bulges at each end; you spoke into one bulge, and you’d hear voices from the other bulge.

It wasn’t until circa 1980 that the Ma Bell was broken up (I’d explain that, but it’d be a huge digression) that the phone companies did things like make different coloured phones — our kitchen wall phone was yellow, and let me tell you how exciting that was — and, a century after Alex Bell (hey, I’m only now getting that his name was Bell) created the thing, the companies invented long cords to connect the dial and receiver, so a teenager could use the kitchen wall phone to talk to the object of puppy love by stretching the cord all the way into the furnace room and closing the door so they could tell each other how much they love each other in private for hours and hours while some people just needed the phone to make a dentist appointment.

Where was I? Oh yes: we called Time, and a nice recorded lady would tell us “the time is [whatever the time was].” And then we’d rush the nearest clock and set it for that time, and then laboriously go through the house setting all the other gazillion clocks and cuckoos and watches.

By the time the bedside clock was flashing a meaningless 09:37, 09:37, 09:37, I remembered that the last four digits of Time’s phone number were 1-2-1-2. How is it I can remember the last four digits of Time’s phone number from 45 years ago but I can’t remember where I put my shoes last night? 09:41, 09:41, 09:41 — oh! 936! Time’s phone number was 936-1212!

Could that really be right? I grabbed my iPhone from beneath my pillow, googled 936-1212, and found this Washington Post article from 2011: “Verizon weather line, 936-1212, is dead.” Wait, what? I misremembered Weather’s phone number as Time’s phone number? (Did I mention we called Weather, too?)

But what the hell was Time’s number?

A little more googling around and I saw that Time had its own number in each city, a different number in each city. I couldn’t find what the number was in my childhood home. I’d text my siblings and see if one of them remembers, but it’s only 10:34, 10;34, 10:34 and there’s a rule against texting before I think it’s 8am, but that’s 9am here, even though I still don’t know what time it actually is.

Whatever. I didn’t get an unknown amount of sleep last night — I blame Nova Scotia Power — so I may as well get up and start Morning File.

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Public information meeting – Case HRTG-2023-00650 (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — formerly Case H00561, application for demolition of a Registered Heritage Property at 1259 South Park Street


Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm, online) — agenda


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, One Government Place and online) — 2023 Report of the Auditor General – Follow-up of 2018, 2019 and 2020 Performance Audit Recommendations Re: Chapter 1, May 2019 Report of the Auditor General – Diversity and Inclusion in the Public Service; with representatives from the Public Service Commission, Department of Agriculture, Department of Community Services, and Department of Justice

On campus


Engaging on Aging Tour (Wednesday, 11am, Dentistry Room 4116 5981) — discuss the future of aging with Dr. Jane Rylett; info and registration here

In the harbour

00:30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
02:30: One Cygnus, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
05:30: One Eagle, container ship (145,251 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Norfolk, Virginia
06:30: Sunshine Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
08:30: Asian Empire, car carrier, arrives at Pier 9 from Bremerhaven, Germany
16:00: Sunshine Ace sails for sea
16:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
17:30: AlgoTitan, oil tanker, arrives at Pier 25 from Montreal

Cape Breton
00:01: Chicago Harmony, bulker, arrives at Mulgrave from Safi, Morocco
06:45: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Charlottetown, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
16:30: Zaandam sails for Halifax


I didn’t get much sleep last night.

I have to prepare for an interview — I’m not the interviewer, I’m the interviewee. Tables turned! I’ll try not to cuss too much.

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

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  1. Regarding your point about hackers getting access to government work computers: I don’t know the infrastructure of the NS government, but likely the passwords/computers aren’t at risk. Passwords are rarely stored as plaintext (and never should be) and are encrypted. The login system likely contacted NS gov Active Directory servers (they handle authentication and identity management) directly. It then merely passes a token to the MoveIt software that tells it to allow the user in. This is a crude description, but covers the basics.

  2. I think the message and social commentary of Pink Floyd’s ‘Time’ rings even truer today than in 1973.

  3. I was so happy to read your comments about clocks and time. My old FM/AM Clock Radio is making weird sounds in the middle of the night and after I push a few buttons I get it to stop. I’m still trying to figure out how to change the time, even though I know it’s 10 minutes ahead. Your article made me go look for the manual which I eventually found and that will be my technological challenge for later.
    I grew up in a small town in Cape Breton and I remember calling the local MT&T office to get the correct time AND we could also ask for a wake-up call because we didn’t have alarm clocks back then – just plain old clocks that you wound up and eventually plugged in or inserted batteries. Sleep tight Tim.

  4. This is in regards to the following comment about the MOVEit breach: “I’m not a cybersecurity expert, but this doesn’t sound like a good idea. I worry that the hackers now potentially have access to all Nova Scotia Health employees’ work computers.”
    As a software developer with some exposure to cyber security, I can say that this sounds like a common connection between a service (MOVEit) and a centralized authentication system (ActiveDirectory). This allows people to access many services using a single log-on. It has several benefits, one being that if an employee is let go or compromised, then removing their access to all systems is easy. If done properly, no passwords would be shared directly with MOVEit. So a breach in MOVEit should not expose anyone’s passwords.
    That said, anything is possible, and for all we know there could have been files containing passwords uploaded into that service (let’s hope not).

    1. I was going to say much the same thing. There are plenty of different MOVEit configurations but this would be one where authentication is happening against an NSHealth server and almost never in that sort of configuration would the MOVEit server need to store passwords locally, at least more than ephemerally. This kind of set up, where you don’t have users needing to make usernames and poasswords across multiple servers is actually good from a security view (and user experience).

      The various documents around user authentication for MOVEit configurations are helpfully available on the web

  5. So, ever since the water bombers from Montana were sent to Québec because they can’t fly in rain, I’ve been trying to find out why.

    1. I am pretty sure this is a myth – the Montana water bombers were sent to Quebec because the rain means fewer water bombers are needed in Nova Scotia.

    2. I looked it up. Montana sent Canadair CL-415 water bombers, which are the same ones that Newfoundland sent us. This myth has been bothering me since I saw it on social media partially because I was curious why anyone would be daft enough to design or buy a water bomber that didn’t work in the rain, or was ignorant of some reason why filling a water bomber from a lake wouldn’t be safe in the rain.

  6. I don’t know when they added read receipts to text messages on Android but I hate it and the phone company needs to get off my apartment’s lawn. The thing about phoning somebody is that it is rather like kicking down the door of wherever you happen to be and demanding to talk to them. And with cell phones, there is nowhere to hide. Text messages are nice because you used to be able to read them and choose when to respond without the other person knowing if you really were too busy or asleep to respond.

    Of course text messages used to cost me three nickels to send which was also a great excuse to ignore text messages and wait to message someone back on the computer or on your land line when you got home.