1. Feds announce environmental assessment for Boat Harbour plan

The aeration pond at Boat Harbour.
The aeration pond at Boat Harbour. Photo: Joan Baxter

Jennifer Henderson has the latest on the Boat Harbour cleanup plan. Yesterday, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced it would be undertaking an environmental assessment.

Henderson explains the lagoons

are where tens of million of litres of daily effluent from the kraft pulp mill at Abercrombie Point have been stored, aerated, and released into the Northumberland Strait for 50 years. Tonnes of watery sediment contain contaminants such as copper, lead, zinc and mercury that exceed federal marine guidelines.

Indigenous people, those involved in the fishery, environmentalists and others have been calling for a thorough review of Northern Pulp’s plan to stop using the Boat Harbour lagoons and instead pump treated effluent through a pipe into the Northumberland Strait. This, however, is not that review. Instead, it focuses only on the cleanup.

This federal environmental assessment is not the one sought by the Friends of Northumberland Strait, a group opposed to Northern Pulp’s proposed replacement for Boat Harbour primarily because the facility would pipe hot treated effluent out into Caribou Harbour where lobster and herring larvae congregate. The environmentalists asked Ottawa to consider doing an environmental assessment on the new facility because of what it described as “a conflict-of-interest” on the part of the province. The government stands to lose big money if it rejects the mill’s pitch to build a new effluent treatment plant.

Read the full story here. It is not behind the paywall, so everyone can read it. But please consider subscribing anyway.  (I don’t know how often Tim plugs this, but student and low-income subscriptions are only $5/month.)

2. What’s happening with mackerel stocks?

Two uncooked Atlantic mackerel on a plate.
Atlantic mackerel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The CBC’s Paul Withers has an alarming story this morning about the potential collapse of mackerel stocks. When I first wrote this item, the following sentence was at the top of the story:

Scientists say the spawning population has fallen by 95 per cent compared to levels in the 1980s, and the number of fish surviving to breed is at all-time lows.

But it’s since been updated:

Scientists say the spawning population is now at 86 per cent of pre-2000 levels, and the number of fish surviving to breed is at all-time lows.

Either way, it’s a big drop.

Withers cites a DFO assessment by scientist Andrew Smith, who says three quarters of all mackerel caught last year were three years old, and out of 20,000 DFO sampled they found only one that was a year old.

“There are fewer older larger females in the population. Fewer older adults to contribute to the next generation. Mackerel can live up to 20 years, but it’s been decades since we’ve seen mackerel over the age of seven and currently in the water there is only really one significant year class,” Smith said.

I live on St. Margaret’s Bay, where people congregate at government wharves and by the side of the road in French Village Harbour to cast their lines as the tide comes in while the mackerel are running. It’s a common sight throughout the province. While many of us are attached to recreational mackerel-fishing, mackerel are not primarily a sport or food fish.

They are bait, primarily for the lobster industry.

The decline seems to be driven in part by climate change, but the main driver is over-fishing. And if fishing mackerel for bait is unsustainable, down the line that might affect whether the Marine Stewardship Council continues to certify the lobster fishery as sustainable.

3. SaltWire sues Transcontinental

“Natural Himalayan Salt Wire Mesh Basket Lamp” The Saltwire Network? (I incorrectly attributed this pun to Tim; it appears to be Stephen Kimber’s.)
“Natural Himalayan Salt Wire Mesh Basket Lamp” The Saltwire Network? (I incorrectly attributed this pun to Tim; it appears to be Stephen Kimber’s.)

Yesterday, SaltWire announced changes to publications in Newfoundland and Labrador. Corner Brook’s Western Star would go from a six-day-a-week subscription daily to a free weekly community paper. In addition, the company’s Labrador papers — The Labradorian and the Aurora — are merging.

Then, later in the day, SaltWire, which owns The Chronicle Herald and dozens of other papers throughout Atlantic Canada, announced it was suing Transcontinental. SaltWire was formed after the purchase of Transcontinental’s Atlantic Canadian papers, printing plants and distribution business in 2017.

Reporting on his own company (a thankless task for any journalist) Ryan Ross writes that

SaltWire Network alleges Transcontinental overstated revenues the business would produce, hid facts regarding the condition of its assets and wasn’t forthcoming about several business practices…

[SaltWire Chief Operating Officer Ian] Scott said Transcontinental’s actions made earnings look better than they were.

“So, we paid more for it than we should have,” he said.

He also said the conditions of some equipment and operations, such as printing presses, were “deplorable”.

“Our due diligence teams weren’t permitted, in some cases, to review that equipment before, so we ended up with some challenges there,” Scott said.

The idea that you would buy expensive printing presses, or any other equipment, without inspecting it seems very odd to me. But what do I know? Maybe that’s why I’m not a publishing tycoon.

4. Price of weed getting higher

This will cost you more if you do it legally.

Andrea Gunn reports for The Chronicle Herald that the cost of legal cannabis has gone up 17% since it hit the market.

Prior to legalization, the unweighted average price per gram of dried cannabis — which includes black market and medical pot — was $6.85 in 2018, based on the 19,443 submissions by Canadians. Post-legalization, the average price per gram was $8.04, 17.3 per cent higher than the pre-legalization price.

The data comes from an online crowdsourcing survey of Canadians dubbed StatsCannabis that marijuana users can visit at any time an enter data about their most recent pot purchase.

Information collected from Canadians also showed that legal cannabis users pay, on average $9.99 per gram, while those purchasing from illegal sources have paid an average of $6.37 per gram.

In Nova Scotia, the price has gone up more than the national average (a 19.7% increase), but our cost per gram is still below the national average.

5. Anti-Alton Gas arrests

Man by Shubenacadie River at the Alton Gas site, with Mi'kmaq and Warrior flags.
Photo: Philip Moscovitch

For The Star Halifax, Julia-Simone Rutgers covered yesterday’s arrests of three “grassroots grandmothers” opposing Alton Gas’s plans. The RCMP was enforcing a court order Alton Gas won to have them removed.

Rutgers writes:

[Madonna] Bernard and two other “grassroots grandmothers,” Darlene Gilbert and Paula Isaac, said they were getting dressed, making breakfast and had just lit a ceremonial fire when they were confronted by RCMP officers around 9 a.m…

The women said they spent around three hours drinking tea with the RCMP’s Division Liaison team — officers trained to build relationships with communities and mitigate conflict — before being brought to the station for “civil contempt of an injunction order.”

The women were released without being charged. Yesterday evening, they attended a protest against the project at Province House.

Views: Clara Dennis

Clara Dennis in Purcell’s Cove, 1907. Photo: Nova Scotia Archives.
Clara Dennis in Purcell’s Cove, 1907. Photo: Nova Scotia Archives.

While working on my long-awaited book about Nova Scotia fermented foods and drinks (it’s out this fall), I spent a fair bit of time at the Nova Scotia Archives and looking through some of the Archives’ online holdings. Some of the pictures I came across — cabbage houses on Big Tancook Island, a quirky one of a girl milking a cow in the middle of a road) were taken by Clara Dennis.

It turns out the Archives have a wonderful online collection called Clara Dennis Tours Nova Scotia.

I had never heard of Clara Dennis, but she sounds like a remarkable person. Part of the same Dennis family who owned The Halifax Herald, Dennis travelled the province by car, taking photographs, and published three books, which the Archives call “completely forgotten”: Down in Nova Scotia (1934); More about Nova Scotia (1937); and Cape Breton Over (1942).

Dennis had an observant eye, a keen sense of history, and captured a Nova Scotia that no longer exists. Her love of automobiles — look for her own in many of the photographs — and the freedom that they brought is a reminder that by the 1930s, Nova Scotia was on the cusp of modernity and significant change. Few women yet drove their own vehicles up into the Cape Breton Highlands and the ‘motoring tourist’ was still a novelty, but the call of the open road was already ushering in a completely new travel audience, and tourist-focussed amenities and services were not far behind.

Luckily for us, the Archives have a collection of 25,000 photos Dennis shot between 1930 and 1940 — and they are digitized and searchable.

I’ve barely started looking through the collection, but it is fantastic. Dennis has lots of architectural photos, streetscapes, people, and an eye for the quirky. Here, for instance, is a photo of a dog leading a cow along the St. Margaret’s Bay Road.

Dog leading a cow.
Dog leading a cow. Photo: Nova Scotia Archives

I searched for my own community of Glen Margaret, and sure enough, Dennis had two photos: a church, and a property with a couple of houses. (The houses look like they could be on the property neighbouring mine, but I’m not sure.)

It’s a great collection and I encourage you to spend some time with it.

Noticed: Crenellations

Photo of a building showing merlons and crenels.
Crenellations explained. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Six days ago, local heritage planner Elizabeth Cushing tweeted drawings for a proposed apartment building on Oxford Street — probably from the 1920s or so. The building features a wild-looking giant-beanstalk-type design climbing the exterior.

Stephen Archibald was quite taken with the drawings of this (presumably never built) structure — but “what excited me were the crenellations.” He then describes crenellations for us and offers plenty of examples.

I had heard the word “crenellations” but if you had asked me to define it for you, I would have been lost. Enter Mr. Archibald (and the helpful image above).

Archibald explains:

Basically, you defend your castle while sheltering behind a merlon and then shooting arrows, or pouring hot oil out the crenel. The tower on the Sacred Heart School on Spring Garden Road stands in for a real castle.

I’ve visited Sacred Heart to give writing workshops and did not realize it contained architectural elements that facilitate shooting arrows or pouring boiling oil on visitors.

Of course, Sacred Heart is not unique. Crenellations were a popular architectural element in Gothic revival buildings, and Archibald includes plenty of images of churches, private homes, public buildings (like CP’s castle-shaped Cornwallis Inn in Kentville, built in 1930), and more.

St James United Church, Spry Bay.
St James United Church, Spry Bay. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Archibald writes that these architectural features were very popular on churches, and as a result “you get many chances to mumble ‘nice crenellations’ while driving through the countryside” in Nova Scotia.

Read all the way to the bottom of the post for some great archival photos, crenellations in unlikely spots (hello Castle Building Supplies), a Monty Python pic and a miniature castle from Archibald’s childhood.




Accessible Parking Public Engagement (Thursday, 2pm and 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — no agenda posted.

Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — George Armoyan is getting a bunch of government money to reno the old World Trade and Convention Centre building. Let’s see if the Design Review Committee has any meaningful input into the process (maybe!).


No public meetings.



Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)


Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House)

On campus



Newfangling Rounds: One Patient One Record : Next steps to ensure we are ready (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune Ballroom, VG Hospital Site) — Keltie Jaimeson and Alyson Lamb will provide an overview of the OPOR strategy for Nova Scotia, its scope and the potential implications for research. Register here.

Launch of the Chris Hadfield Space Photographs Collection (Thursday, 3pm, Room 2600 Killam Memorial Library) — from the listing:

Colonel (Ret.) Chris Hadfield donated thousands of copies of his space photographs to Dalhousie so we could share, preserve and promote their use in teaching and research. The photographs capture what Colonel Hadfield saw while orbiting Earth as Commander of the International Space Station (ISS) in 2013.

Using the Story Map platform to present a curated selection of the photographs, we are proud to launch the Chris Hadfield Space Photographs Collection, which we will be displaying on our new data visualization wall in the Killam Library. We will be joined by representatives from Chris Hadfield Inc. for this special event. All are welcome.

Register here, fb page here.


Audrey Moores. Photo via

Solventfree Approaches to Nanoparticles Synthesis and Polymer Functionalization and Plasmonic Catalytic Hydrogenation Reactions (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Audrey Moores from McGill University will speak. 

The Global British Empire ca. 1650 – 1784 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 2107, Mona Campbell Building) — Stephen Pincus from the University of Chicago will speak.

In the harbour

05:00: YM Moderation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
06:10: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
06:30: John J Carrick, tank barge, sails from McAsphalt with tug Leo A. McArthur
08:00: Acadia Desgagnes, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 25 from Philadelphia
11:00: Swan Biscay, oil tanker, sails from Pier 27 for sea
13:00: Skogafoss, container ship, sails for Portland
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
21:30: YM Moderation, container ship, sails for Dubai
22:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41


I get to meet fellow occasional Morning Filer Suzanne Rent this morning for the first time, at one of the diners she wrote about for a recent issue of Halifax Magazine.

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Philip Moscovitch is a freelance writer, audio producer, fiction writer, and editor of Write Magazine.

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  1. I’m a little confused as to how the photos from space are Chris Hadfield’s to give. Presumably they were taken while he was on the clock, and should be property of the CSA? And really, we should imitate the Americans (in this, if little else) and they should, as a government product, be public domain.

  2. I have to offer praise to the CBC’s Paul Withers and to the Corp itself for facilitating stories like he just did on mackerel stocks. The CBC invested in some specialized training for Mr. Withers in the field of marine and ocean issues. It has been paying off in spades. There is nobody doing the kind of detailed ocean focused reporting which Mr. Withers is doing. Nobody but the CBC has the wherewithal to support that type of journalism. Certainly not the flyer wrapper purveyor called Salt Wire. What Mr. Withers is doing now is not just good journalism but absolutely vital to the public consciousness. I have not always been a fan of Mr. Withers but I really have to give him kudos for the work he is currently doing.

  3. “Our due diligence teams weren’t permitted, in some cases, to review that equipment before.” What? What kind of due diligence is that, then?

    1. I assume that the final, decision to purchase was based on the known information and an estimate of the risks associated with the unknown condition of equipment. The financial statements would have shown if the equipment was fully or partially depreciated.

      1. Why not look at the equipment? Or are they talking about parts of the equipment that couldn’t easily be seen or accessed without affecting production – kind of like when you buy a used car, you probably don’t have much idea what the condition of the inside of the transmission is.

        1. It’s the “weren’t permitted” that stands out for me. Would love to know more details.

        2. The equipment may have been on the accounts at a value of ZERO through the applicable accounting rules. Nobody forced Lever to buy the business. Like many aspects of life and business it is worth remembering the old adage ‘If indoubt, get out’. He must/should have known the age of the equipment and could have called the manufacturer regarding the need for inspection and maintenance.

  4. I walk past the corner of Sackville and Brunswick a few times a week, and while waiting for the light to let me cross, the beautiful NSCAD building and the Borg Cube are nicely juxtaposed. One building was designed without computers and built mostly by hand and yet it is so much nicer. It is probably much more environmentally friendly and probably is less than halfway through its useful life. If part of it breaks, a repair can be made easily – it just made out of bricks, glass, wood, etc. The Borg cube, on the other hand… how much is it going to cost to replace one of those curved glass panels once they start failing?

  5. Thanks for the link to the Clara Dennis photos. Her books are a vivid look at Nova Scotia as it once was. I have a copy of Down in Nova Scotia (a well used library discard), and I often open it and read a few pages. I had no idea she was connected to the Herald Dennises.