1. Clearcutting

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin and Lands and Forestry Deputy Minister Julie Towers. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“The McNeil government is promising less clearcutting on crown lands through new ‘interim’ harvesting guidelines introduced yesterday in response to a comprehensive report on forestry practices prepared by University of King’s College president Bill Lahey last August,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

It’s unclear how much the controversial practice will be reduced until after permanent guidelines are introduced by the end of next year. The report prescribed a more ecological approach to managing the province’s forests, even if change leads to a 10 to 20 per cent reduction in wood supply, which Lahey estimated.

Click here to read “Government takes tentative first steps to reduce clearcutting.”

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We’ll see, but I’m skeptical that the new policies will significantly reduce clearcutting. To begin, we can’t even get to a clear definition of “clearcut” — Jennifer Henderson, Linda Pannozzo, and I bandied about the question of percentages yesterday, and we finally settled on the rather vague (and arguably, understated) line that “more than 80 per cent of the province’s forests are harvested using a handful of clearcutting methods.”

In the end, Lahey’s report and the government’s response are a test to see just how “captured” the regulatory regime is by the forest industry.

2. Burned

Henderson ends her report (above) with the following:

The government response to Lahey includes “exploring opportunities for small-scale wood energy projects” to allow low quality wood to be used for district heating. The Ecology Action Centre’s Ray Plourde says he can support using sawdust and wood chips for local heat but on one condition only.

“That the government stop the high volume, very inefficient biomass electricity generators at Port Hawkesbury, near Liverpool, and the one attached to Northern Pulp and to ban biomass exports (pellets) to Europe. That has to end.”

Which is the perfect segue to Linda Pannozzo’s review of the documentary Burned: Are Trees the New Coal?

In the review, Pannozzo reminds us that the supposed “carbon neutrality” of biomass burning is a sham. She notes:

If we continue doing what we’re doing now, deluding ourselves into believing that economic gain is more important than maintaining our life support systems, then we are veering not only towards certain chaos, but towards certain madness.

Click here to read “Burned: Are Trees the New Coal? A review of the new film that illuminates Nova Scotia’s failed biomass policies.”

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The artist’s rendering of the new development at South Park and Sackville Streets that will include the new YMCA fails to show the buildings behind it and removes the parking meters and utility wires on the street. Graphic: Southwest Properties

Yesterday, city council’s Audit & Finance committee passed along a request for $1 million in funding for the YMCA to the full council. But councillor Stephen Adams expressed extreme reservations about the request, pointing out that council had in 2012 approved the Y project (and increased the allowed height limits on the site to permit it), with the understanding that there would be no financial cost to the city.

“I don’t support this,” Adams told the committee. “We have our own recreational facilities, and community groups could use this money.”

Adams went on to say that the Y’s promise of “access to all” was dubious. “That doesn’t guarantee access to all,” he said. “That guarantees access to a reduced fee. I don’t believe that access will be guaranteed for all, because if it was, that’d mean free access to the facility.”

Adams also questioned the Y’s financing scheme, saying first of all that the budget for the project had nearly doubled from $22 million to $40 million — apparently in part because the initial projected cost was based on the American dollar, and the loonie has lost value since then. Secondly, Adams said that the Y projects having 6,000 paying members at the new facility, when the best membership number at the old facility was 1,700. (The latter figure is found in the Y’s annual reports.)

Councillor Lorelei Nichol wasn’t as outspoken as Adams, but she did point out that when the city has in the past funded recreational facilities (she mentioned a couple of high schools), there was a joint-use agreement that gave city access to the facility.

The full council will take up the proposed Y funding during its budget deliberations. Those deliberations continue today, but I don’t know that the Y issue will be debated today; council has until April to pass the budget.

4. Canada Post protesters

Tony Tracy was one of the six people arrested while demonstrating outside the Canada Post facility on Almon Street Sunday night. He writes:

Quick update: a bit earlier this afternoon [that is, Monday afternoon], myself and the five comrades I was arrested with last night were released from custody, following an overnight in jail at the police station and a fairly full day in a cell in the basement of the courthouse.

We are all fine, in good spirits and good health.

It was heartwarming this afternoon to see a courtroom packed with friendly and familiar faces of many dear friends and comrades. That support was extraordinarily appreciated by us all.

Many many thanks also to all for the many text messages, comments, direct messages, voicemails and whatnot. Honestly, it is likely to take me several hours, if not a day or so, to read through each and catch up on responses. Please know that each have deep meaning to me and are warmly appreciated.

The right to full and fair Collective Bargaining, and the fundamental Charter-protected right to strike, are always worth defending.

Bosses and governments have never given us rights that we haven’t fought for, and those “rights” are meaningless if not defended.

And, as we know, the legislated eradication of those fundamental rights from our postal worker friends in recent weeks demands very concrete and specific support in Solidarity with our CUPW friends and comrades.

Thanks to all who joined me last night, in the streets, on the picket lines and gate blockades, and (a much smaller group of only six of us, now all dear comrades) in jail cells overnight and today.

And, of course, many thanks to our lawyer Joel Pink. It is hard to imagine being in better legal hands as we move forward in our legal defence in the weeks/months ahead (with our next court appearance on January 4th).

Solidarity! Always.

The other five arrested were Art Bouman, Brad Fougere, Austin Hiltz, Darius Mirshahi, and Justin Whitten.

5. Beg buttons

“At the next meeting of council’s transportation standing committee, Councillor Waye Mason will ask for a staff report on ‘the elimination throughout HRM of the requirement to press a pedestrian push-button to trigger a crossing,’” reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax:

The buttons, sometimes referred to as pedestrian beg buttons, are located at intersections throughout the municipality.

The request, Mason said in an interview on Monday, covers only those buttons at intersections with red, green and yellow lights — where the traffic signal automatically cycles through, but the pedestrian signal doesn’t.

“There’s nothing worse than seeing pedestrians, especially in the busier parts of downtown Dartmouth and Halifax, get to the light and they didn’t press the button and it has to cycle all the way through before they can even cross again because they didn’t know they had to press the button. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Mason said.

Good. I’ve been railing against those damn buttons for years.

They were the result of a misguided, anti-pedestrian mindset, and should have never been installed in the first place.

I first wrote against the buttons back in 2009, immediately after they were installed. The then-“traffic authority,” Ken Reashor, told me that the buttons were installed on the recommendation of the Crosswalk Safety Task Force. I wrote:

Reashor co-chaired the task force, which was created by mayor Peter Kelly and premier Rodney MacDonald after two girls were killed at crosswalks in Dartmouth.

That group had 11 members: five are traffic engineers; two are police officers; one is the former registrar of motor vehicles; one a member of the seniors’ safe driving committee; one an injury prevention expert with the province and one an academic who specializes in decision making and risk-taking among children and people with learning disabilities.

There was not a pedestrian advocate on the task force devoted to pedestrian safety.

Reashor shrugs off complaints that the task force was weighted against pedestrians. “We’re all pedestrians,” he states.

That flippant attitude annoyed me then, and it annoys me now. It could only be said by someone who doesn’t regularly walk as a meaningful means of transportation, as in, from home to work, and not from your parking space down the block. Anyone who actually walks for transportation knows that the buttons are a pain the ass, and in any case are often either inaccessible or nonfunctioning.

Judy MacIsaac-Davis’ motorized scooter, after she was struck by a pickup truck. Photo: Halifax Examiner

My annoyance boiled over to anger in 2014. I wrote:

The change became starkly real for me in 2014, when I watched a woman die at the corner of Victoria Road and Thistle Street in Dartmouth. Judy MacIsaac-Davis used a motorized scooter to travel, and motored north along the Victoria Road sidewalk to cross Thistle. There she was struck by a man driving a truck southbound on Victoria, turning left onto Thistle. Police somehow determined that she had not pressed the pedestrian light, and therefore the walking man symbol didn’t come on, and so therefore it was her fault for being struck and killed, and not the fault of the driver of the truck.

I know those push-button lights. In the wintertime, when it’s below about minus 10, you have to take your hand out of your glove and hold it on the button for about three seconds in order to activate the light. Very often, snow banks pile up around the buttons and you have to scamper over the snow to get to them. When it melts, there’s often a two-feet-deep puddle surrounding the button on the northeast corner.

I don’t know what kind of mobility issues MacIsaac-Davis had — was she even capable of moving her hand to the button? Was she carrying something, which made it impossible for someone in a chair to press the button? Did she press the button but only a moment too late to activate the light, but crossed anyway? I don’t know, but none of those particulars would matter under the terms of section 125(4) of the Motor Vehicle Act. Instead, it’s just her own damn fault she’s dead.

6. Rachelle Valade

Rachelle Valade

Police yesterday issued a release on the 10th anniversary of Rachelle Valade’s death:

Today will mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Rachelle Valade, and the Special Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division is asking for the public’s assistance in providing any information in relation to her death.

On December 3, 2008, thirty-five-year-old Rachelle Valade was walking through the parking lot of 6 Primrose Street in Dartmouth at about 9 p.m. A tractor trailer cab that had been parked in the lot struck Rachelle as it pulled away. The truck continued out of the lot onto Primrose Street and turned right onto Victoria Road. It remains unknown whether the driver realized the truck had struck Rachelle.

The truck was described by witnesses as a white tractor trailer cab with chrome “moose bars” (a protective grill) on the front. Investigators received a number of tips from the public, however, they have yet to locate/identify the driver or the truck involved in the collision.

I’ve thought a lot about Rachelle’s death.

She was the daughter of Cathy Valade, who was the sometimes-girlfriend of Glen Assoun, the man who was likely wrongfully convicted for the murder of Brenda Way. As I wrote in Part 1 of Dead Wrong:

Glen, too, would disappear for days at a time, staying with Cathy Valade. “I knew him as my daughter’s father’s brother,” said Cathy. She didn’t say which brother. Her daughter’s name was Rachelle.

Cathy said that she had met Glen in 1990. She had just come back from Ontario and Rachelle, then 17 years old, was living with Glen “in a trailer out behind the airport.” Cathy didn’t explain why Glen, then 35 years old, was living with his brother’s 17-year-old daughter, or what the nature of the relationship was.

I was never able to find Cathy Valade to speak with her, but she thought Rachelle’s death was no accident: Cathy believed that Rachelle was murdered.

There’s a remarkable geography to this story. Rachelle died in the parking lot of what used to be the Sobeys grocery store at the corner of Primrose Street and Victoria Road. Two hundred metres to the southeast was the site of Brenda Way’s murder. Three hundred metres to the northwest was the site of Robin Hartrick’s murder.

There’s so much tragedy in that neighbourhood.

7. Don’t say “Nazi”

“The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax has removed a story on its website about two Austrian immigrants, saying sharing the personal memoir was ‘a mistake,’” reports the Canadian Press:

Spokeswoman Beatrice Houston Gilfoy says the story of Vincenz and Kristina Bogatin was shared with the museum by their daughter, but her father’s military service with the Austrian Gendarmerie “is of issue.”

Houston Gilfoy says the museum’s social media team shared the story without fully understanding the historic context, and the timing demonstrated a lack of sensitivity.

Houston Gilfoy did not elaborate on why the man’s military service was of issue.

Pier 21 has a social media team? Is there like a coach and a batboy?

I guess young people don’t have any more knowledge of World War 2 than I do of, say, the Hundred Years War. I kind of know it involved England and France, but it was more complicated than that, and I’d be hard-pressed to give any further details without reading up on it. A young person graduating from university today doesn’t have a living memory of 911; how are they going to possibly know anything about ancient history like World War 2?

But for the record: Communists were on the right side in World War 2.

8. The Icarus Report

Flight GG 4854 was just one of several crashes at the Halifax airport. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“An Air Canada flight operated by Jazz made an emergency landing at Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport Monday morning,” reports Ian Fairclough for the Chronicle Herald:

Airport authority spokeswoman Theresa Rath Spicer said flight AC 8788 was on its way from Montreal to Saint John when the pilot reported a mechanical issue and diverted to Halifax.




City Council (Tuesday, 10am, Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel) — a remarkably slim agenda.


No public meetings.


No public meetings this week.

On campus



Symphonic Celebrations, Dalhousie Symphony Orchestra (Tuesday, 7:30pm, St. Andrew’s United Church, 6036 Coburg Road, Halifax) — Peter Allen and Leonardo Perez direct Elgar’s Serenade for string orchestra, Haydn’s Symphony No. 100. Tix $15 here.


Innovation Rounds: Intellectual Property for Healthcare: Building a Healthy Portfolio (Wednesday, 8:30am, Room 114, Centre for Clinical Research) — Emma Saffran and Tuba Yamac, patent agents from BCF LLP in Montreal, will speak.

Thesis Defence, Chemistry (Wednesday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Alexander Paterson will defend his thesis, “Experimental and Theoretical Investigation of Glass Ceramics: The Transparent Ferroelectric Nanocomposite LaBGeO5.”

Driving ~ Perfect Disorder to ~ Perfect Order in Solids (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Himanshu Jain from Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, will speak.

Mechanistic Links Underlying Obesity-Breast Cancer Connection: Insights and Strategies (Wednesday, 4pm, theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Dipali Sharma from Johns Hopkins will speak.

Saint Mary’s


Climate in Peril: The Future of Carbon and Climate Change Politics (Tuesday, 6:30pm, Paul O’Regan Hall, Halifax Central Library) — if you want to get depressed, this is the place for you! Kate Ervine will talk about her book, Carbon, and the IPPC’s forecast for the end of the world. Info.

In the harbour

05:00: YM Evolution, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
13:00: Maersk Patras, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
13:00: Tidewater Enabler, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from sea
13:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from New York
16:00: YM Evolution sails for Rotterdam
16:30: Maersk Patras sails for sea


I may stop by the council meeting today, but I’m trying to work on something else, and it may take most of my day.

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    1. Depends on what the mechanical issue was. I can’t remember the weather on Monday but could be the conditions made the active runway in Halifax preferable (it has one runway about 10000′) and it has a higher category emergency response. I once had the pleasure on a Ottawa Halifax run of being diverted to Montreal just before approach to Halifax and then ending up back in Ottawa. Always a bit of a mystery.

  1. Last week I posted a 5 year list of HRM employees and cited ‘HRM documents’ as the source. The source was the annual HRM pension plan actuarial valuation. and the number of employees includes people who are not employees of HRM but are non-teaching employees of the school board as well as employees of facilities which were previously funded by former municipalities.

    The actuarial valuations are available here http://www.hrmpensionplan.ca/index.php/about/plan-information/actuarial-valuation/

    The full list of participating employers is available here : https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/budget-finances/Consolidated%20Financial%20Statements%20Year%20ended%20March%2031%2C%202018.pdf (see page9)

    1. I believe the implication of your original letter was to show that HRM’s hiring of full time employees was growing at an unsustainable rate. Is this mea culpa a repudiation of that? If it is please just say that.

      Seems like a cautionary tale for those who tout citizen journalism.

  2. I think the fundamental problem is that our urban areas are effectively inaccessible from most of the city except by car. I’ve done the whole “intermodal” transit thing before, when I had a “free” student bus pass – driving to one of the hubs with lots of parking and bus routes and getting a bus to my destination on the peninsula. It is awful and time consuming, and if you actually have to decide whether or not to pay for a transit pass or tickets not much cheaper than getting downtown parking. The areas with lots of bus routes and parking – for instance, the mall with a Sobeys in Bedford Basin, the Clayton park mall, and so on also don’t have the parking capacity for more than a few hundred people each to do this.

    Ultimately we have built our cities for cars, not people, something that won’t be easily remedied.