November subscription drive

Through the Halifax Examiner’s first couple of years, I wrote Morning File every day. Then, the Examiner started hiring guest writers for Morning File when I was on vacation or out of town. More recently, other writers have become such a regular feature that we no longer call them “guests” — they’re now an important and inseparable part of the operation.

The other writers don’t just free up my time, although they certainly do that (especially now that I basically have two jobs) — they additionally provide a much-needed breadth of perspective beyond which I can provide.

Take for example, Suzanne Rent’s repeated look at employment issues. Calling out shitty-paying employers has become her regular gig, but I was especially taken with her look at women’s participation in the workforce. She wrote in June:

I went looking for more specific numbers. This is about as scientific as me making a long list of industry associations to contact and sending out a bunch of emails. Most of the people I contacted got back to me with numbers. If the industry associations or other employer groups didn’t keep track of how many women work in their industry, they told me so and I included that below. Others included details on programs they have to hire more women. I think this is a pretty good look at where the women are in the provincial workforce. So, here we go.

Rent’s survey looked at the number of women doctors, lawyers, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, bureaucrats, cops, soldiers, engineers, teachers, recipients of government business assistance, realtors, port workers, energy sector professionals, miners, farmers, retail workers, restaurant workers, actors, and tradespeople, each category requiring separate phone calls and interviews. The numbers vary by category, of course, and Rent comments:

I don’t think any of these numbers came as a surprise to me. There are still lots of women in education and healthcare roles, like nursing and dental hygiene. I was glad to hear some industries, like engineering and the military, are working to recruit more women. It would be interesting to see how many people of colour and Indigenous Nova Scotians are represented in the same sectors.

This is hardscrabble journalism. I shudder to think about how many hours she put into it, but the result is a snapshot of where we stand as a society in terms of providing opportunity and support for women in the workforce.

The Examiner is committed to publishing a diverse range of writers. Nobody wants to hear exclusively from me day after day, and giving voice to people from other backgrounds and perspectives is not just an important role for news publications, but an essential one.

Your subscription makes this possible. If you are already a subscriber, thank you. And if you have been putting off making the plunge, this would be an excellent time to become a subscriber.

1. Whose deaths matter?

The renovated North Unit day room at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner Credit: Tim Bousquet

Writes Stephen Kimber:

The Nova Scotia government has brought in legislation to create expert review panels to look into the deaths of those who die as a result of domestic violence as well as children who die in provincial care. The goal is to “turn tragedy into lessons learned and lives saved into the future.” But Justice Minister Mark Furey refuses to extend the new law to include another vulnerable group: adults who die in provincial custody. Why not?

Click here to read “Whose deaths matter?”

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2. Lead in drinking water

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Nearly a third of tap water tests conducted by Halifax Water since 2012 have exceeded the national guideline for lead content, a national investigation has discovered,” reports Robert Cribb for the Star, with Halifax reporter Zane Woodford providing the local angle:

That level of exceedance of the 5 parts per billion federal guideline is among the highest discovered in a national review of lead test data as part of a year-long investigation by more than 120 journalists from nine universities and 10 media organizations, including the Star Halifax and the Institute for Investigative Journalism based at Concordia University.

The reasons behind the numbers point to a patchwork of testing methods across Canada that can hide the serious health risks of lead and leave decisions about testing methods up to local agencies and governments in ways that can radically skew the results. While the federal government has issued a lead limit guideline, it does not impose legal requirements on jurisdictions to test.

The reporters explain the testing protocols, and then give the Halifax numbers:

Those results show a repeated pattern of high exceedances of the national guideline of 5 parts per billion, ranging from 26 per cent from the first litre to more than 40 per cent in the third and fourth litres. Flushed samples show a steep decline, with an exceedance rate of less than 10 per cent.

Last year, for example, results show 20 per cent of tests drawn in the first litre — 31 out of 152 — exceeded the national guideline. That exceedance rate rose to 33 per cent on the second litre, 42 per cent on the third litre, back down to 37 per cent on the fourth litre followed by 2 per cent on the flushed litre.

This is the kind of reporting that the national network of Star papers (the Toronto Star with the former Metro papers) can provide, and the Star is doing great work on these projects.

3. Star Halifax

Relatedly, the earnings report for Torstar came out last week, showing that:

The media company reported on Wednesday a $40.9-million loss attributable to shareholders and an 11.6 per cent decline in third-quarter revenue.

The company’s publicly traded B shares dropped to 53 cents — the lowest on public record that go back to the late 1990s — following Torstar’s announcement, before rising to 60 cents in midday trading.

The company is focussing on increasing subscription revenue in order to replace declining advertising revenue, and claims to be managing that transition well:

Print and digital subscriber revenue, predominantly from Torstar’s daily newspaper, accounted for $30.2 million or 27 per cent of total revenue in the third quarter, up from $29.6 million or 23 per cent in the comparable period of 2018.

There is a tight race to see if subscription revenue can be increased fast enough before the Torstar burns through the $455 million it brought in from the sale of Harlequin Books in 2014.

I was told back in the spring of 2018 that the local Star Halifax was given eight quarters to demonstrate its ability to bring in revenue. I think it’s made good progress, but I’m guessing a decision will have to be made over the next year or so whether to soldier on or cut bait with Star Halifax.

I hope Star Halifax succeeds. The reporters are doing good work. And a subscription model makes sense for local news — so much sense, that it’s the entire business model for the Halifax Examiner. But I worry that there’s too much overhead at the Star operations. It costs a lot of money to keep an office going, pay far-flung page editors, and provide a quarterly return to shareholders besides. The next few months will be interesting.

4. Parking garage

A government rendering of the proposed parking garage. No, Summer Street doesn’t look like that.

“Officials with the Halifax Regional Municipality say they have concerns about the province’s plan to build a new parking garage on Summer Street for the Halifax Infirmary,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:

The province announced on Thursday the $29.5-million project, which will have up to 900 spaces and replace the hospital’s existing parking garage on Robie Street. It will go on the site of the current parking lot for the Museum of Natural History.

The government is setting aside up to $1 million of the total project cost for potential land acquisition from the city, and that’s where the problem arises, because it could mean the province takes land that is part of the Halifax Common.

“The structure, as proposed, would occupy land owned by the municipality adjacent to property used by the Halifax Wanderers soccer club, other sports teams and events, and the Bengal Lancers,” municipal spokesperson Brendan Elliott said in an email.

Elliott said the municipality has raised a variety of issues with the province, including conflicts with land use, driveway access to the municipal parks depot, adjacent recreational uses, wastewater services crossing the site and traffic and transit impacts on the entrance to the parking structure.

On social media, the bigger concern is about the government building more infrastructure for cars just as it declares a climate emergency. Then there’s the pushback against that, and we’re in an endless loop.

(We’re not alone in this; arguments against parking garages for climate reasons happen all around the world.)

It’s not hard to justify building more highways, more roads, and more parking, and surely, in terms of a needs-based assessment, a hospital parking garage must land higher than, say, the Burnside-Sackville connector. But now with the justifications for more car infrastructure comes an acknowledgement that climate change is a real issue that needs addressing, so, promise, this next project for cars is the last. Except it never is: there’s always a next project.

It’s interesting to contrast the push for a parking garage next to the hospital with a proposal to reduce parking at a building to be constructed 200 metres away from the proposed garage. Tomorrow, the Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee will consider an application by WSP Canada to revise a five-year development agreement inked in 2015 for an 18-storey “addition” to an existing 11-storey building at 5885 Spring Garden Road — just east of the corner of Carlton Street, on the opposite side of Camp Hill Cemetery from the proposed hospital parking garage.

The 2015 development agreement called for an underground parking garage with 230 spaces. Now, WSP Canada wants to reduce that the number of parking spaces by 50, t0 180, and to reduce the size of each space; the company is calling these “non-substantive amendments” to the agreement.

Maybe the 50 Spring Garden Road tenants without parking can park in the new hospital garage.

Or maybe we can figure out how to move people around without each and every person having to own and use a car. The price tag for the hospital parking garage is $30 million; that money would buy 60 new buses. Or a million $30 cab fares. I get that not everyone can immediately stop using a car, but how does this transition away from cars even start if we don’t, well, start?

Truly, no one much takes this supposed climate emergency seriously.

5. Right whale necropsy

A right whale. Photo: DFO

“Necropsy results indicate a North Atlantic right whale found in waters off the eastern U.S. in September died after being entangled in Canadian fishing gear,” reports Keith Doucette for the Canadian Press:

The 40-year-old male known as Snake Eyes was last seen entangled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Aug. 6 off the Magdalen Islands. Its badly decomposed carcass was discovered off Long Island, N.Y., on Sept. 16.

6. Free Spaceport PR

Last week, I got the Google News alert about Maritime Launch Services “partnering” with Nanoracks, a company that supposedly recycles launch vehicles, and I promptly ignored it. That’s because A) it’s unlikely that MLS will ever launch a rocket from Canso, B) Nanoracks has never recycled anything, C) the entire premise is bullshit, and D) the press release was obviously just a way for both companies to get free press in order to entice investors, and I don’t generally fall for such obvious tactics.

Alas, that hasn’t stopped other news outlets from jumping at the bait. Peeps, I keep saying: Don’t give away free advertising! Charge for that shit.




Grants Committee (Monday, 1pm, City Hall) — various small grants.

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Bedford – Hammonds Plains Community Centre) — nothing too interesting on the agenda.


Police Commission – Special Meeting (Tuesday, 9:30am, Halifax Regional Police Headquarters) — an all-day meeting for the board to review last year’s work plan and “incomplete items,” and then to dive into bureaubabble about a SWOT analysis, which stands for “Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat.” How’s this for a threat: No one takes you seriously because you can’t actually require the police department to do anything?

Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (Tuesday, 4:30pm, 3rd Floor Boardroom, Duke Tower) — see #4 above.



No public meetings.


Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — the committee will be discussing Poverty Reduction Grants.

On campus



Noon Hour Guitar Recital (Monday, 11:45am, Room 406, Dal Arts Centre) — with students of Scott Macmillan, Doug Reach, and Jamie Gatti.

Asmita Sodhi.

Integer-Valued Polynomials over $p\times p$ Matrices​ (Monday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Asmita Sodhi will talk.

We journey once more to the land of integer-valued polynomials, introducing (or reintroducing, as the case may be) the definition for a subset of the integers, before focusing on their analogue when defined over the ring $M_n(\mathbb{Z})$ of $n\times n$ integer matrices. The problem of classifying integer-valued polynomials over matrices is equivalent to that of integer-valued polynomials over maximal orders, so we will establish the structure of the maximal order used to examine this problem when $n$ is a prime, as well look at steps towards constructing a basis of integer-valued polynomials in this case.

Bring your own ring $M_n(\mathbb{Z})$.

Elizabeth Oakes. Photo:

Chamber Music Masterclass (Monday, 4:15pm, Room 406, Dal Arts Centre) — with Elizabeth Oakes. Her website is here.


Architecture Travel Exhibition (Tuesday, 5:30pm, Exhibition Room, Medjuck Architecture Building) — presentation of the work of five Masters of Architecture students who were awarded travel scholarships. Show continues Wednesday and Thursday.

Future of University Avenue PopUp Engagement (Tuesday, 9:30am, outside Killam Library entrance) — they’re “engaging” on “visioning.” From the listing:

Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) is engaging the public on visioning the future of University Avenue.

Given that University Avenue and Morris Street is the front door to all of our Halifax Campuses, Dalhousie Facilities Management is making an extra effort to hear from students, faculty, and staff at Dalhousie to inform HRM.

There are no proposals at this time from HRM – just an opportunity to bring ideas about what future you could envision for University Avenue and Morris Street. Add your thoughts to the process by stopping by for some quick and easy input.

The Art of the Deal: PublicPrivate Partnerships (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1020, Rowe Management Building) — a panel with Mary Brooks, Paul LaFleche, Ray Mitchell, and Matti Siemiatycki. Registration not required; livestreamed here, more info here.

Cello Masterclass (Tuesday, 3:30pm, Room 121 Dal Arts Centre) — with Paul Marleyn.

Saint Mary’s


Are You Glad I’m Here (Monday, 3pm, in the theatre named after a bank) — screening for the Lebanese Film Festival. More info here.


Sidewalk sale (Tuesday 9:30am, 1st Floor, Student Centre) — through to Thursday, until 4pm each day. Details here.

Mount Saint Vincent


Africville: A Spirit that Lives On – A Reflection Project (Tuesday, 10am, MSVU Art Gallery) — the last week to see this exhibition, which runs until Sunday. More info here.

In the harbour

05:00: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
12:00: Boarbarge 37, semi-submersible barg, moves from Irving Shipyard to Pier 8
14:30: CMA CGM Aquila, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
15:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
16:30: YM Express sails for Rotterdam
23:59: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England

Where are the Canadian military ships?


Yes, I took a photo of my kitchen sink this morning.

I had a difficult weekend, and on top of that they changed the damn time again.

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

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  1. Climate crisis?

    Ask the Province or Municipality if there is a climate crisis and they will look at you with a blank stare.
    The project to invest $200 million plus in public funds to build a brand new art gallery at essentially “ground zero” for climate change impact on the Halifax shoreline is proceeding as planned. There is no regard at all to the amount of money that will have to be over-invested in the structure to keep it from being flooded or washed away twice a year for the next 50 years. As Greta says: “How dare you!”

  2. Climate emergency?

    We are a self destructive species who make decisions in our own narrow self interest. I just hope we don’t take every species with us.

    Rapa Nui?

    1. Hey Gordo,

      I recently learned that everything I thought I knew about the Easter Islanders is wrong.

      I was told the old story (recently retold by Jared Diamond): Stupid people cut down all the trees on the island in order to worship their gods and then their society collapsed. Our attitudes toward them have been mostly of contempt.

      The reality is much different, and is basically a story of imperialism destroying a great society. The collapse of the society has nothing to do with cutting down trees, or gods, or so forth. It’s the story of introduced disease, slavery, and theft.

      I suggest this podcast to hear the full story:

  3. As I walked past Scotia Square Parkade yesterday morning, their sign showed that 2436 parking spots were available at that moment.

    The environmental value of parking garages is quite striking, in terms of the reduction of land use that they optimize. Consider this – an at grade parking lot is so inefficient in comparison, that to park that many vehicles would take a land area three times the size of the existing Costco parking lot(s) in Bayers Lake. (Or 15 acres).

    The proposed parking garage replaces an at grade parking lot.

    You can argue that people should not be allowed to drive to a hospital to work, or to visit loved ones, a position I think is futile, although you’re welcome to it. But once you accept a certain well considered design number of parking spots is needed, the most sustainable way to provide them is a modern garage.

    1. You cant get a bus to the hospital at midnight. Anyone moaning about a parking garage at a hospital has never been to a hospital and/or doesn’t have a clue about how a hospital operates.

      1. You also cant get a bus from Bridgewater, or Truro, or Saint John, at any time of the day, to what is a regional health center.

      2. NIce of everyone in Halifax to think the parking garage is only for them. The Health Authority is centralizing more and more services in Halifax so that anyone whose hospital is now offering fewer and fewer services (= almost every one outside HRM) has to get to Halifax for treatment. Given the paucity of transportation options in the province driving is about the only option. Oncologists had been visiting Yarmouth and New Glasgow a couple of times a month, but decided they were too busy serving their clients in HRM to bother with the pesky rurals, so they thought it a better plan to have to 50 (Yarmouth) and 75 (New Glasgow) people drive to Halifax than 2 people drive to some rural outpost. (Fortunately, common sense prevailed somewhere and that plan went into the dumpster.) If you are going to make us drive to Halifax for basic services, you are going to have to give us some place to park.

      3. Lousy or non-existent local and regional bus service to the hospital is a problem, but the constant refrain of “this is why we need cars” to transportation issues suggests folks are more interested in defending cars than seeking solutions. Decades ago we had trains and buses providing commuter services in many areas – why aren’t there more calls to bring those back?