1. Ferry funding

A photo of the Alakai, the ship used for the Yarmouth ferry.
The Alakai. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The province announced funding for the Yarmouth ferry yesterday:

The province is helping to renovate the Bar Harbor ferry terminal to accommodate the Nova Scotia-Maine ferry service. The expected cost is $8.5 million.

The renovation costs will be included in the province’s 2018-19 spending.

The work is currently underway with an anticipated launch of the new Bar Harbor-Yarmouth route at the end of June.

The province is budgeting $13.8 million to operate the Nova Scotia-Maine service in 2019-20.

I’m not sure how $8.5 million in new spending can be budgeted for the 2018-19 budget year, which ends on March 31.

And that amount does not include the cost of paying the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents who will work the Bar Harbor facility — “This piece is still being negotiated and we should have more information by the end of April,” government spokesperson Marla MacInnis told Jennifer Henderson yesterday in response to an email query.

I’ve tracked publicly announced ferry expenditures since Bay Ferries was awarded the contract in 2015, as detailed below. None of these figures includes the costs of provincial bureaucratic staff working on the ferry file:

2015: $74,496 incidental expenditures to Bay Ferries to prepare for the service
2016: $13,100,000 subsidy to Bay Ferries (35,466 passengers)
2017: $10,248,421 subsidy to Bay Ferries (38,933 passengers)
2018: $1,500,000 for upgrades to the Portland ferry terminal*
2018: $13,964,393 subsidy to Bay Ferries (50,187 passengers)
2019: $8,500,000 for upgrades to the Bar Harbor ferry terminal
2019: $13,800,000 subsidy to Bay Ferries (target of 60,000 passengers)
Total: $61,187,310

That’s just over $15 million for each of the four years of ferry service.

If we consider just the expenditures related to the three years of service to and from Portland, we’ve subsidized each passenger to the tune of $312.

This year, if we don’t consider the cost of the upgrades to the ferry terminal in Bar Harbor and we assume the best case scenario of $60,000 passengers for the season, the per passenger subsidy will be $230. If we spread the cost of the ferry terminal upgrades over five years, the per passenger subsidy is $258.

Last month, I related my personal anecdotal experience taking the ferry (in that calculation I didn’t include the costs of the upgrades to the Portland ferry terminal or the 2015 preparation costs):

I’ve taken the ferry twice, once in 2017 from Yarmouth to Portland on the start of my annual summer journey to parts west, and once in 2018 from Portland to Yarmouth on the return leg of that journey.

In 2017, two of us drove down the French Shore, where we didn’t spend a penny, and then stayed in a motel in Yarmouth. That night, we went to a bar on the waterfront and had a few drinks, and in the morning we stopped by a coffee shop before lining up for the boat. All told, we spent about $200 in Yarmouth. For that, the province paid Bay Ferries $526.

In 2018, on the return trip, we got off the boat around 11pm (it was sailing late) and went to a lovely motel on the French Shore. The next morning we walked on the beach, and then drove back to Dartmouth. On that trip, we spent about $120 on the French Shore, for which the province paid Bay Ferries $556.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to just directly pay the motels something like $200, the bar $100, and the coffeeshop $50, without us actually having to go there?

All I’m saying is let’s spend the same dollar amount towards helping the south shore economy, but let’s spend in more intelligent ways. We could subsidize young people’s university tuition, or give them a living allowance to attend trade school. We could give all of Yarmouth free high-speed internet. We could start a revolving loan fund so people without capital can start small businesses. We could… [insert your own idea here].

I think we could simply toss 20 dollar bills from a helicopter above downtown Yarmouth and get a better return than we’re getting from the ferry.

You think I’m kidding about the Yarmouth helicopter drop? Consider that Chase the Ace is considered an economic driver in this province.

Yesterday, Suzanne Rent made the point that dropping $20 bills from a helicopter would itself be a tourist attraction — “It would like one of those game show money booths! People LOVE those,” she says — and so generate even more business for the Yarmouth area hotels, bars, and coffeeshops. Let’s consider…

Suppose we hired a helicopter and pilot at a seasonal cost of a million dollars and sent the thing up above downtown Yarmouth each Saturday and Sunday for the 18 weeks of the summer season. The additional $14 million/year we’re already spending would translate into daily drops of $388,888, or 19,445 $20 bills, which is to say over an eight-hour period, 40 $20 bills per minute — call it one $20 bill every 1.5 seconds.

Granted, we’d need an extra person to actually toss the money out of the helicopter, but I bet we could get Pam Mood to do it gratis.

People would flock to Yarmouth to watch the spectacle. The running of the bulls in Pamplona would have nothing on the Yarmouth helicopter drop. Hotels would fill up, bars would do a brisk business, traffic would pile up on the 101 as Americans drive around.

We don’t need no stinking ferry.

* The $1.5 million for the Portland ferry upgrades was reported here, but I can’t find the expenditure in Public Accounts documents, so I can’t say with certainty that the money was actually spent.

2. Randy Riley

Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday, Justice James Chipman sentenced Randy Riley to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years.

Riley is the man who was convicted of second degree murder last year for the 2010 murder of Chad Smith. Smith was a pizza delivery driver who was shot dead while delivering to a north Dartmouth address. Another man, Nathan Johnson, was previously convicted of first degree murder for the same murder.

Race is an issue in this case, I believe, and in the future I will detail how and why. Smith and Johnson are white; Riley is black.

Technically, Justice Chipman was determining the period of parole ineligibility for Riley. A verdict of guilty for second degree murder automatically comes with a life sentence, but the eligibility for parole is left between 10 and 25 years, to be determined by the judge. And parole isn’t automatic, even then; the parole board can deny parole for any number of reasons, including the convicted showing no remorse for the crime.

Riley maintains his innocence in Smith’s murder. When in the future Riley comes before the parole board, if he still refuses to accept the jury’s verdict, that refusal will be used as proof that he has no remorse for the murder, and so he will be denied parole.

Several people read victim impact statements yesterday. These were incredibly sad. Family members talked about how Smith’s death brought an enormous personal toll on them. Books could be written about how the murder of a single person can cascade into multiple tragedies and ongoing misery. I don’t know that it would be right to recount the particular personal accounts of those victim impact statements (if the victims want them published, I will, but not otherwise), but I can say that no one could listen to them without being troubled and moved.

That included Riley himself, who sat in the courtroom and gave his attentive gaze to each speaker. Riley’s attentiveness — throughout the trial he faced each witness, carefully listening to every detail — became an issue when it was reported he was “staring” at a witness, a value judgment that in my opinion wasn’t warranted. I suppose we can’t get into anyone’s head, but I wonder how much his race characterizes our understanding of Riley. Perhaps unreflectively, an attentive black man might strike one as thugish “staring,” while a white man displaying the same behaviour could be seen as simply a serious and attentive defendant. For myself, my impression is that Riley is a serious person; he understood the seriousness of the charges against him, and he understood the gravity of the witness impact statements.

In any event, Riley also gave a statement, and most of it was addressed to Smith’s family, who filled most of the courtroom. Riley speaks in a very low voice, and so it wasn’t possible to get every word, but I transcribed it as best I could, as follows:

Before I get into what I want to say, I want to express the fact that no matter how I feel about the outcome of this verdict, that the most important thing here is the fact that your family lost more. No matter how I feel about the outcome of this trial, no matter how, even as my lawyer goes through the process of appeal, you’ve lost a loved one, and I want you to know that I acknowledge that. And I believe that’s the most important thing here. 

From the beginning of this case in 2013 when I was arrested, I believe that the crown was not set out seeking justice on your behalf, but was set out to win, by all means necessary, that’s how I see it. 

I’m deeply sorry for your loss, but I want you to try, if you can, to objectively think about what took place in this trial, and ask yourself some serious questions.

Now, you probably [recall] that at the previous trial of Mr. Johnson, where there was an eyewitness that was called to testify, in which the eyewitness testified that he’d seen somebody running and that he had white pants that was presented as evidence, and was not worn by me.

There was a dog, a canine unit, on on the scene within minutes of the offence. And the dog trail, and the dog expert testified at my trial to the fact that there was one trail. And the dog, and the man himelf, are qualified to determine if there’s more than one trail. And he testified that there was not more than one trail. And so my question to the court is, where did I go? If I commited this offence, what happened to me? I definitely didn’t vanish.

If I was involved with it, I’m pretty sure there would have been another trail, or an eyewitness would’ve said they’d seen two people, instead of just one.

And I want the family of the victim to know that this miscarriage of justice I believe it’s not a burden I put on them, but on the court, because I don’t believe that I was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Not only that, I don’t believe that the verdict supports the evidence that was presented against me. It seems to me that — though I believe, and I think everyone in this court believes — that no one wanted this case to be about race, but inevitably, race is what it has become. And when things come about race, a lot of time they tend to be ignored. And the elephant in the room is race.

And to those who it should matters most to, it seems to be nothing more than just a shadow on the wall. Because we’re here. And the process is the process. I agree with that. But the particulars of the case.. [several seconds are unintelligible due to noise in the courtroom] Martin Luther King’s name was mentioned [in once of the victim impact statements] for reasons that to me are obvious. He himself was quoted as saying justice delayed is justice denied. In this case to me it is both a delay and a denial of justice. [unintelligible due to softness of speaker’s voice, but he is addressing the judge]

And to the family, I had no involvement and I’m not responsible for this man’s death. And from this day forward, I will continue to pursue my innocence. And that’s all I have to say.

This sort of defiance at a sentencing hearing is almost unheard of.

CBC reporter Jack Julian, who was in the courtroom, tweeted:

I have never seen a convict dispute a conviction at sentencing before. It’s usually an expression of contrition or silence. Maybe @CBCBlairRhodes has experienced it though.

— Jack Julian (@JackJulian) March 20, 2019

Blair Rhodes is the CBC’s court reporter, and has watched many, many trials over the years. Rhodes responded:

No. Randy Riley is unique. But the evidence against him was strong.

— Blair Rhodes (@CBCBlairRhodes) March 20, 2019

I don’t think the evidence was “strong.” Obviously, it was strong enough for the jury to convict, but there was no physical evidence that directly implicated Riley in the crime. On the contrary, all the physical evidence pointed to Johnson, not Riley. For sure, there was witness testimony and cell phone records that seem to implicate Riley, and a verdict is a verdict.

I will get into much more detail in coming weeks, but this case makes me extremely uneasy. I haven’t made up my mind yet — I’m still reviewing the court file, and I looked at all the evidence Tuesday. And frankly, I need to assess my own biases and how those play out in my understanding of the case, so we’ll see where that goes.

But Rhodes is wrong about something else: Riley disputing a verdict at sentencing is not unique. I’ve read court transcripts of one other convicted murderer doing the same — Glen Assoun, who 18 years later was exonerated for the crime of which he always maintained his innocence.

This morning, I can’t find the transcript of Assoun’s sentencing hearing among the tens of thousands of pages of court documents I have. (My recollection is that he continued to profess his innocence.) But I did find Assoun’s reaction after the verdict was handed down, as follows:

Justice Suzanne Hood: …Another matter you may wish to consider Mr. Assoun, is whether you wish to try to retain counsel to deal with this sentencing. What is your wish, do you wish to do it soon, or to do it after you have had either or both, an opportunity to retain counsel or have a pre-sentencing report?

Glen Assoun: Well, I do wish to say that it’s official that I am wrongly imprisoned right now.

Hood: Mr. Assoun, my —

Assoun: The jury made a mistake.

In fact, as Justice Chipman ruled earlier this month, the jury did make a mistake, and Assoun was wrongfully convicted.




Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 6pm, City Hall) — no action items are on the agenda.


Budget Committee (Friday, 9am, City Hall) — agenda


No public meetings this week.

On campus



The Stars have No Break (Thursday, 3:15pm, Room 120, Dunn Building) — the Halifax Planetarium’s March Break family show. $5, reservations required, minimum age 7 years. More info here.

Indigenous Perspectives in Western Medicine (Thursday, 5pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — talk by Ojistoh Horn and a panel discussion with Brent Young, Leah Carrier, Tiffany O’Donnell, Phillipa Pictou, and moderator Andrew Lynk. More info here.

Free tax clinic (Thursday, 5:30pm, room 5001, Rowe Management Building) — volunteers will assist those with a modest income and simple tax filing to file taxes on their own. Contact person here.

Culture and Power: Indigenous Environmental Governance of Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories (Thursday, 7pm, in the auditorium named after a bank, McCain Building) — Ken Kaine from the University of Alberta will speak. Info here.

French Language Guided Tour of The Memorialist (Thursday, 7pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — for a description of the event in French, see here.


Crystal Engineering the Covalent Bond: Opportunities in Organic Synthesis and Materials Science (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Leonard R. MacGillivray from the University of Iowa will speak.

Thesis Defence, French (Friday, 2:30pm, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building0 — Anas Atakora will defend their thesis, “Penser Le Monde Contemporain: Image Et Fantastique Dans L’Oeuvre Romanesque De Kossi Efoui.”

The Stars have No Break (Friday, 3:15pm, Room 120, Dunn Building) — the Halifax Planetarium’s March Break family show. $5, reservations required, minimum age 7 years. More info here.

Uranium Mining in Denesuliné Territory, Northern Saskatchewan, 1948-1975: New documents (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Aaron Wright will speak.

Saint Mary’s


Stella Gaon. Photo:

The Lucid Vigil: Destruction, Desire and the Politics of Critique (Friday, 1pm, Room 216, Atrium Building) — Stella Gaon will launch her book. Info here.


This Is Me: World Down Syndrome Day Celebration (Saturday, 1:30pm, Student Union Building) — free entertainment, food, ballroom dancing, and fashion shows. Info here.

Akatsuki: The Drums of Japan (Saturday, 7:30pm, McNally Theatre) — SMU Taiko’s first-ever annual concert. Tickets $5 at the door. Info here and here.

Mount Saint Vincent


Judith Conrads

Between Flexibility and Normalization: German adolescents’ negotiations of gendered identities (Friday, 12pm, Seton 432) — Judith Conrads from Bochum University, Germany, will speak.



Night FYP Lecture Series: Benjamin Panel (Thursday, 7:30pm, KTS Lecture Hall, New Academic Building) — featuring Daniel Brandes, Sarah Clift, and Laura Penny. Info here.

Eurydice (Thursday, 8pm, The Pit, Arts and Administration Building) — Jacob Hermant directs the King’s Theatrical Society. Tickets $5/10 here. Info on facebook here.


Eurydice (Friday, 8pm, The Pit, Arts and Administration Building) — Jacob Hermant directs the King’s Theatrical Society. Tickets $5/10 here. Info on facebook here.

In the harbour

06:00: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
06:00: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
12:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
21:30: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, sails for Kingston, Jamaica


Short Morning File because I had to transcribe that Riley statement.

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  1. So one of my many questions on this ferry issue is this: is the money the province of Nova Scotia spending to refurbish an American port in Canadian dollars (I doubt it) or in US currency (most likely)?


  2. A medium helicopter is at most 5000 an hour. We could pick a small town in Nova Scotia and carpet bomb it with a million dollars (ideally in small, unmarked bills). This would be extraordinarily fun, we would get lots of tourists, probably some crime, and lots of Youtube attention. Trump, AOC and Yang have showed that power flows to those who entertain people on the internet – let’s make Nova Scotia have money helicopters for the first time.

  3. I looked into taking the ferry a few years ago when I went to Rhode Island. It just didn’t make sense financially or in terms of my schedule. And my car is really great on gas. And I didn’t need to stop in Yarmouth or area for anything.

    But is this just a passenger ferry? It’s not like the Marine Atlantic ferries that really are vital to Newfoundland, right?

  4. With respect, I think that one aspect of the Ferry subsidy which isn’t well discussed is the difference between the province spending money “in” the province (i.e., raining 20 dollar bills down) versus outside of the province.

    Basically, the spending is usually discussed from a gross expenditure perspective rather than a net expenditure perspective as if money spent inside the economy by a government is the same as money spent outside of the economy. Money that is spent by the government “outside” of the province is a complete loss to the provincial economy. None of it is spent on materials produced in the province, on people who will benefit from that money being spent in the province, on services provided in the province, or to people whose incomes will be taxed back BY the province. In other words, $9 million spent outside of the province is a NET loss to the economy of the province of $9 million dollars (this is ignoring any tourism increase (and only *increases* count, not the raw count, and those have to be held against money lost leaving the province by Nova Scotians going to the US and spending money they might normally spend here)).

    However, if that same money was spent INSIDE the province the net “cost” to the provincial government would be much less than $9m because of the “stimulus” of the internal economy and the amount of that $9m that would be taxed back in goods/services/salaries by the very province that spent it. In other words, the province could afford to spend 40%? 50%? 60% MORE than $9m inside the province for the same net cost to our economy that $9m spent outside of the province costs.

    Soooo…that’s a lot more $20 bills than you’re currently estimating. 🙂

    Of course, another way of looking at it is that the money being spent on the ferry subsidy (which is mostly spent outside of provincial borders) is a far more significant hit on our economy than it appears on the surface. That, however, “works out” in the sense that the tourist money spent here is “new” money to our economy, and is far more significant than money spent internally by a Nova Scotian on the same services. The question is whether there is actually a net gain of money spent outside of our economy by our government versus new money brought into our economy.