1. Custio Clayton says he was racially profiled

Custio Clayton

“I’ve never felt so humiliated in my life; I felt violated,” Custio Clayton tells Ryan Van Horne, reporting for the Examiner.

Clayton, a Dartmouth-trained boxer now working as a professional in Montreal with the goal of being one of the world’s top 10 boxers, was stopped by Montreal police on his way home from a workout. Driving a rental car, Clayton was held for an hour while his paperwork was processed, then for another 90 minutes after being arrested and while police searched the vehicle. Nothing was found, and Clayton was released. He tells Van Horne:

“I think it was because I’m black. You cannot look at me and tell me I’m a drug trafficker,” said Custio Clayton, who is a father of three and has never been in trouble with the law.

Click here to read the full account.

2. Tidal turbine to be pulled out of the Minas Basin

The tidal turbine as it was being moved through Halifax Harbour. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“There are two new developments in Fundy tidal power today — the timing of which might strike some observers as a little fishy,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

First development: the tidal turbine which has been generating electricity since November in the Minas Passage near Parrsboro will be brought to the surface and barged to Saint John, New Brunswick for an overhaul of some of its electrical components.


Second development: the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) released the results of its first environmental study since the experimental turbine was lowered to the bottom of the Bay in November.

Click here to read “Tidal turbine to be pulled out of the Minas Basin.”

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

3. David Wheeler

David Wheeler

This morning, David Wheeler announced that he will be the NDP candidate for Halifax Armdale in the upcoming provincial election.

Wheeler is a former Dean of Management at Dalhousie University and President of Cape Breton University. In December, he was fired from CBU by the university’s Board of Governors for some unpublicized dispute involving the university’s approach to the latest contract with faculty. I intend to ask Wheeler about that — he’s my guest for today’s recording of the Examineradio podcast, which will be published tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, Wheeler asked if I would publish an op-ed he wrote explaining his disenchantment with the current Liberal government and his decision to run for office, and I agreed. This isn’t a partisan decision on my part — I’ll publish Liberal and PC candidates’ statements between now and the election as well — but I find myself in broad agreement with Wheeler on at least the problems with the current austerity regime. He writes:

Perhaps the most damning indictment of all that we might attach to the present set of policies being pursued by our provincial government is the almost complete lack of vision and strategy….

Unfortunately we get very little strategic thinking in Nova Scotia today.  Instead we get an unpleasant mixture of austerity and divisiveness, as the recent appalling treatment of the teachers demonstrated all too clearly. We get tokenistic — if expensive — “March Madness” announcements, but no economic growth plans for key sectors of the economy. And we get no messages of hope that might encourage youth and families to believe in the future of our province.

Click here to read “End this unpleasant mixture of austerity and divisiveness.”

Where I part company with some of my NDP friends, and possibly with Wheeler (I haven’t discussed it with him), is that I don’t have a lot of faith in the technocratic thinking that says we can solve problem X with just smarter government. Sometimes we can! — I can be and have been convinced — but too often this sounds like, and in practice is, just so much hand-waving and buzzword slinging. From my perspective, the more important role of government is to redistribute income through progressive taxation and broad spending on services that benefit everyone — if people aren’t stressed about starving to death, if they have access to free or at least affordable education, and if they have job security and a path to leading a rewarding life, then the macro economy will take care of itself.

Anyway, Wheeler is an interesting character, and I look forward to talking with him at length.

4. Linda Moxsom-Skinner wants to build Halifax’s first public labyrinth

Linda Moxsom-Skinner. Photo: Chris Lambie

“During recent [Atlantic School of Theology] campus planning sessions, a lot of people said they wanted to see a contemplative space on the waterfront,” reports Chris Lambie:

“One of the things that we started to recognize was how special this space is,” [Linda] Moxsom-Skinner said.

That’s when she floated the idea of building a contemplative garden where professors could teach outdoor classes. “In between classes you can come down and sit and look out at the Northwest Arm or look towards the Dingle. Let’s leave it as natural as we can.”

The garden will also provide a space for people using the hospice soon to be built nearby. Two old buildings on the campus will be torn down and construction starts this spring on what will become an active hospice.

“If you need that solitude, if you need that moment to be away from there and not far, you can walk down and you’re in a garden.”

Lambie goes on to report on other big changes coming to the university.

Click here to read “Linda Moxsom-Skinner wants to build Halifax’s first public labyrinth.”

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

5. We can afford what we want to afford

“A Nova Scotia government spending spree — more than $40 million has come in a flurry of recent daily announcements — is heightening speculation Premier Stephen McNeil will call an election this spring,” reports Keith Doucette for the Canadian Press:

Erin Crandall, a political scientist at Acadia University, said the spending stands in stark contrast to the Liberal government’s tough line when it imposed a contract on more than 9,000 unionized public school teachers in February.

“This spring you are seeing a lot of spending from a government that for the last few years has been saying there is no money to spend,” said Crandall. “This is probably a good indication that if it’s not a spring election, then they are certainly thinking about an election that is coming soon.”

We can afford want we want to afford: Toss out $40 million to get the government in power reelected? No problem. Send John Risley and his elite crew to hobnob in Boston with other self-important assholes? Where’s the chequebook? Money for unneeded highway interchanges in a politically contested riding? Of course.

We’re only short on money when it comes to helping poor people by increasing social assistance payments or if the public employee unions have the audacity to ask that their pay keep up with inflation. Then it’s all about austerity: We ain’t got a dime.

But in reality, we can afford what we want to afford.


1. Halifax shame: an Italian connection?

Felice’s Barber Shop, 1892 Barrington Street. Photo: Municipal Archives
Felice’s Barber Shop, 1892 Barrington Street. Photo: Municipal Archives

Bev Keddy looks at the recently published photos of the razing of Halifax neighbourhoods in the 1950s and 60s, and comments:

There are some pictures in the Halifax archives showing that quite a few of the properties were in very poor condition. But that doesn’t mean it is acceptable, even morally right, to take away all the damned houses around it for the sake of some weird gentrification fetish.


Where did these people go? They ended up in some of the remaining poorer communities like Spryfield, or some of the public housing that sprang up around that time. Others, I hope, got the hell out of Halifax, out of Nova Scotia, where they were not wanted anyway, and started fresh lives somewhere else.

I have been trying to understand why this continues to vex me so. I think it is because, in a different time, my family might well have lived on Hurd Lane, or Jacob Street, or that old portion of Barrington Street. We were in that economic strata. We would have trusted our city to represent us as we should be, and treated with respect. We would not have expected our aldermen to push to evict us and send us on our way, to be told that we did not belong there, that we could not live there any longer. Get out. Get out.

I like Halifax. I have lived here for nearly 30 years now. But it has a deeply-rooted racist history, and a nearly pathological disdain for poor people. The condos springing up all throughout the city represent housing that most of us can never afford, or even aspire to. That there is a condo in the downtown, not terribly far from where these old neighbourhoods were, that will literally sell million dollar units, shows that there is a huge problem, a tremendous disconnect, between what people can afford, and what these developers think the market will bear. It is insane, what is happening to my city. I don’t like it. Not one bit.

Stefano and Gabriele Tailors, 1886 Barrington Street. Photo: Municipal Archives

I haven’t been able to really study the photos, and I certainly haven’t had time to research property records or the old city directories, but my cursory look through the photos shows a handful of Italian-owned businesses, especially along Barrington Street. Am I right about this? Was there a significant Italian population in the razed areas?

Roman Foods, 1890 Barrington Street. Photo: Municipal Archives

That would make sense to me — refugees from the war, coming to Canada with nothing, and ending up in the poor neighbourhoods near the waterfront, not far from Pier 21. I’d like to know more about this. We know that racism was a contributing factor in the decision to raze Africville and other Black neighbourhoods. Was discrimination also a contributing factor in the decision to raze the Barrington Street neighbourhood?

Tony V. Digiacinto’s “foodateria” at undisclosed location. Photo: Municipal Archives
Tony V. Digiacinto’s “foodateria” at undisclosed location. Photo: Municipal Archives

2. Cranky letter of the day

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

One of my formative personal heroes, Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, died April 1, aged 84. He had a transformative influence on me.

He was a forceful voice for peace and political liberalization in the former Soviet Union. His poetry was rhythmic with a lilting cadence that would rise and become louder and more demanding. His Precocious Autobiography (written in his early 30s) brought personal and political insight to a society that was rapidly changing and left an indelible impression on me. 

Poetry and chess are Russia’s national sports and his poetry recitals were attended by thousands of people. His U.S. tour in 1972 promoting peace and detente was well received, and he recited his well-known poems, “Balalaikas for Peace” and “Babi Yar.” 

With five wives, some of them being the most famous poets in the Soviet Union, his personal life was tumultuous. He spent the last decades of his life teaching at American universities where he was a well-liked teacher. 

He was a cultural rock star and a poet for peace.

Richard Deaton, Stanley Bridge

Here’s the New York Times’ obituary for Yevtushenko.



Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, Alderney Gate) — I’ll write about this at length in tomorrow’s Morning File.

On campus



Nothing really grabs my attention.


Erin Wunker. Photo: Bart Vautour

“Notes from a Feminist Killjoy” (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 2021, Marion McCain Building) — Erin Wunker will speak.

Free Radicals (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Yvan Guindon will speak on “Synthesis of Bio-active Agents Using Free Radical Chemistry.”

In the harbour

4am: Antigua, cement carrier, sails from Irving Oil for Montreal
6am: Vera D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
6am: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain

Pagna. Photo: Halifax Examiner

11:30am: Pagna, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
1pm: Dependable, cable layer, arrives at Pier 9 from Baltimore
3:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
3:30pm: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
4pm: ZIM Barcelona, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
4pm: Vera D, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York Mariel, Cuba

3:30am: ZIM Barcelona, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
11am: Toscana, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England


Big rain coming, they say.

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

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  1. Thanks for the history of the Poteri family. I too am a product of an Italian dad and an Irish mom.
    I find as I get older that most stories are related in stories, not books.
    It should be noted that St. Nicholas Parish in Whitney Pier was the only Italian Parish east of Montreal. It had the most beautiful Carrera marble alter and knaves.
    My grandfather landed in 1899, at 18.

  2. I think your question about the removal of families of Italian descent is interesting and deserves further investigation.

    On my blog, back at the beginning in 2012, I wrote an article about the Poteri family of Falkland street… I think they are representative more of the working class families who were forced to relocate more than being Italian – but they fit into an ethnic and cultural community centered most likely around the high concentration of Catholic families in the area who worked in the warehouses, factories and on the waterfront and were parishioners of St. Patrick’s.

    The post can be found here:

  3. In Portsmouth, NH, where I grew up, much of the entire North End was razed in 1970 or so, and most of that empty land’s “highest and best use” was surface parking or vacant for the next 25 or 30 years. The neighborhood was predominantly Italian, but also included African-American and Irish and almost any other ethnicity found in the US in that era. Racism and anti-Catholic sentiment almost certainly played a part in determining the footprint of the destruction. Also important, I think, was the fact that the soon-to-be dispersed population tended to vote Democratic. I’d wager there was a similar voting bloc in Halifax when you suffered your own version of this ubiquitous North American trauma. People really do suck, don’t they?

  4. There’ve been a lot of odd interpretations floating around in the past few weeks about the Cogswell demolitions, since those photos came out. Of course, the demolitions were atrocious, and of course they were made possible by a disregard for poor and/or racialized people. But the conclusion, for most of the commentary I’ve seen, has been something along the lines of “Oh, Halifax, so backwards.” Bev Keddy’s piece fits right in with that, but of course, this kind of urban “renewal” happened in virtually every North American city at around the same time, and there’s nothing in it that speaks to Halifax’s alleged “near-pathological disdain for poor people,” as Keddy would have it.

    Look into stories of Toronto’s Ward neighbourhood, an enormous area mainly comprising immigrants, which the city basically expropriated and ripped down wholesale mid-century, to make for a sterile institutional district. Look at the way the City of Calgary manipulated property taxation from the late 19th to mid-20th century trying, with some success, to chase that city’s tiny Chinatown off the map. Look at Robert Moses’ decades-long reign in New York. The interpretations of Halifax’s urban renewal as being a uniquely Halifax expression of racism or gentrification or anything else are an expression of confirmation bias on the part of commenters, not reasonable historical analysis.

    Of course, Keddy also repeats this old saw that condos “represent housing that most of us can never afford, or even aspire to,” yet another favourite perspective that has little grounding in reality. Obviously market-rate condos are not the solution to our housing-affordability concerns, but this idea among some old-school peninsula neighbourhood activists (most of whom, I assume, live in and own some of the peninsula’s limited supply of coveted, expensive single-family homes) that they’re exclusively for the rich doesn’t bear out at all. The average price of a house on the peninsula is $410,000. The average condo comes in at $350,000. (Yeah, houses tend to be bigger, but also older and in need of more upkeep). The top end of the housing market is a lot higher than the top end of the condo market, and the bottom end of the condo market goes a lot lower than the bottom end of the house market.

    I think there are a lot of problems with the condo boom, from heritage demolition to unimaginative architecture to gross advertising to the fact, yes, developers are generally trying to maximize profit at the expense of most other concerns. But the idea that condos are themselves responsible for unaffordability is total nonsense. They’re a visible effect of gentrification, and so people falsely assign causation to them.

    1. Well said Matt. The slums were disgusting and the Stephenson report should be required reading for those who think otherwise.

      1. Well, to be clear, I’m not defending the slum clearance. These kinds of mid-century renewal projects were tremendously destructive and heavy-handed attempts to address social problems, and they were often (as we saw in Halifax and other cities) guided at least in part by a desire to redevelop areas for commercial potential, to heck with those who lived there. If the people who lived there were poor or non-white, it made it even easier for City Hall to disregard their voices.

        So in no way am I defending the slum clearance, just pointing out that Keddy’s implication that it was an example of something unique Haligonian doesn’t hold up.

        1. I mentioned that yesterday. Robert Moses in New York was a prime example, but it happened all over North America and the UK too. In the UK people sometimes joke that the “redevelopment” schemes of the 50s and 60s did more damage than had the Luftwaffe.

          Sometimes they cleared away buildings merely because they were old, but not necessarily decrepit. This was the case with a lot of commercial and institutional buildings, which we now regret losing.

          But a lot of the slum housing demolished was, in fact, atrocious and unfit for habitation. It is easy to wax nostalgic, but people were literally dying because of living in these places. The problem was that the clearances were often done as a land grab for more profitable uses, which seems to have been the case in Halifax, or the slum buildings were replaced by “projects” as they call them in the US or “council estates” as they call them in the UK which did not have the sense of community that the old slum neighbourhoods had, partly because they weren’t mixed use like the old neighbourhoods. Jane Jacobs wrote about all that.

          It even happened in the small city where I now live. Two slum areas were cleared out, but here, at least, they were replaced by modern low-rise, low-income housing. Unfortunately it continued the us and them divide — there weren’t really any new neighbourhoods created with a mix of incomes and uses. However, it has to be said that the new housing is at least sanitary and fit to live in, and has maintained parks and grassed areas for the children to play. I would mark that as an improvement.

          Slum clearance isn’t even unique to modern times. It was famously done in 19th century London and New York.

        2. The social problems being poor health for kids and parents, polio, pneumonia, TB, and a high risk of fire. The Stephenson report is in Dalhousie library as is his report for Sydney. A similar report by Maurice Lloyd for Dartmouth also highlights the poor state of housing in the new city.
          I am old enough to know the iron lung and the parental fear of child becoming ill with polio or TB. WE now have several generations who have no knowledge of ‘the iron lung’.

    2. $350,00 may be the starting price for these condos. To be equivalent to a house one would pay more for the added space. They will also have high monthly fees to pay for the extras. The construction boom is also likely due to finance speculation and a lack of a design vision for the city (or enforcement of the various design plans put forward). I wonder how many units will be occupied and how many purchased on spec–becoming AirBnB rentals (further undermining the hotel trade, also intent on overbuilding itself). The Toronto comparison requires a look at Spadina avenue and adjacent Kensington Market–home of many generations of immigrants. Spadina was slated to become an expressway but that community members en masse stood up and said no. The bulldozing of neighbourhoods may be the standard practice of the time, but that does not mean it is right (then or now). If an area is run down could there not be an alternative to create improvements (starting with a living wage for residents)?

      1. $350,000 isn’t the starting price for Halifax condos, it’s the average. You can find new builds for 200k on the peninsula.

        Anyway, yes, there’s a size discrepancy between houses and condos, but there are other factors, like that the peninsula’s older houses are also often full of maintenance or renovation costs that have to be dealt with by buyers, and in many cases will be far beyond equivalent condo maintenance fees. I love our historic housing stock, but these are costs that go above and beyond the purchase price (unless some relatively recent owner renovated the house, in which case the purchase price will likely be well above the $410,000 average).

        Houses also come with a higher tax burden, of course.

        Halifax condo prices have increased a lot on average, but that’s due to a lot of new building. As we get a lot more units on the market, what I bet will happen is price growth will slow or even stagnate for a while due to all the inventory, and the growth of house prices will again climb faster than condo prices. So we’ll be more like other cities, where condos (except for a few luxury projects) occupy the lower rungs of the property ladder, rather than being seen as “for the rich”.

        Anyway, we could nitpick about that stuff all day, but all I mean to say really is this idea that condos are housing for the rich doesn’t bear up, and the fact that condo projects are filling up with buyers seems to support that. I don’t believe at all that the building boom is being driven by speculators letting building sit empty, or investors turning units into full-time Airbnb properties. That makes sense in cities with double-digit year-over-year price increases; it doesn’t make any sense in Halifax.

        Finally, like I said above, I wasn’t defending the slum clearance (the opposite, in fact), I was just saying it wasn’t, as Keddy’s piece suggested, reflective of any uniquely Halifax hatred for the poor.

        Doesn’t the Spadina Expressway make Toronto’s experience even more analogous to Halifax? After all, the Ward was right next to Spadina/Kensington, just like the Harbour Drive proposal–killed largely due to citizen outcry–was adjacent to Cogswell clearances.

    3. >But the conclusion, for most of the commentary I’ve seen, has been something along the lines of “Oh, Halifax, so backwards.” Bev Keddy’s piece fits right in with that, but of course, this kind of urban “renewal” happened in virtually every North American city at around the same time, and there’s nothing in it that speaks to Halifax’s alleged “near-pathological disdain for poor people,” as Keddy would have it.

      This is a good point and I think this is actually really important to understanding what happened in Halifax with the slum clearance and redevelopment in Halifax in 1950s and 1960s.

      Certainly what happened in Halifax had it’s own unique character (and was influenced by regional economic underdevelopment) but to wrap your head around what happened it needs to be thought of not as a result of being backwards per se but rather as a result of desperately wanting to be modern. Stephenson was brought in because he was a planner with a reputation of being a modern expert and the city saw the commissioning or a report and the clearance of slums to build an interchange and shopping mall/office tower as an important part of being a modern, thriving city.

      The production of slums and then their redevelopment is part of the urban process under capitalism and trying to pin this solely on something culturally specific to Halifax backwardness creates almost as many problems as ignoring the slum clearances in Halifax does.

      (as to the point about condos – I think the condo boom is a bubble waiting to burst and most are poorly built and overpriced but you’re right to point out the difficulties with making a direct analogy to the mid-century slum clearances. The intention was to some degree the exact opposite: Stephenson wanted the city to reduce density, eliminate multi-use buildings and encourage residential construction in the suburbs)

  5. I don’t know about Halifax, but here was an Italian population in industrial Cape Breton before WWII. My father often spoke of an Italian area in Sydney Mines, and my sister-in-law’s father was an Italian Cape Bretoner.

    Some Italians came before WWI to work on the railways. Back when I did a local 100 year history round-up where I live in northern NB, I came across accounts of Italians living here, employed essentially as navvies. They were usually single men living in groups, and were picked on by the locals, judging by the news accounts.

  6. “A sou’wester. Lord Jesus Christ.”

    My grandfather was a fisherman out of Shad Bay. He was either out on the boats, in the shed or sitting in his dining room chair listening to the choppy weather report on the AM radio.

    I still wonder if he was cursing or praying!

  7. Tim’s comment: “if people aren’t stressed about starving to death, if they have access to free or at least affordable education, and if they have job security and a path to leading a rewarding life, then the macro economy will take care of itself.”
    I couldn’t agree more. And I would add, and would argue why we don’t have those things, those factors give people the space and time to become politically engaged citizens.