I’m Philip Moscovitch, filling in for Tim Bousquet this morning. Tim is editing from a diner at an undisclosed location.


1. Spaceport concerns

Rocket flying into space.
An image of Nova Scotia rocketing into the future.

Last month, Maritime Launch Services — the people who say they want to run a spaceport out of Canso —submitted a 159-page environmental assessment for the project. Federal and provincial government staffers are not impressed, reports Frances Willick for CBC News:

Neil Morehouse, a manager in the Environment Department’s protected areas and ecosystems branch, said in a submission the environmental assessment contained little to no mention of how an explosion, crash or major fuel leak would affect the nearby Canso Coastal Barrens Wilderness Area (CCBWA).

“Soils here are very thin and because of cold wet climate, have taken centuries to form,” he said. “Any liquid spill cleanup would end up removing all soil to bedrock. The proposal suggests that a launch failure is very unlikely, but if it did occur in CCBWA, it would be disastrous.” 

The rockets would use kerosene and liquid oxygen for the first stage of the launch and nitrogen tetroxide along with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, or UDMH, for the second stage.

The province’s senior hydrogeologist raised concerns over the use of UDMH, citing studies that describe the chemical compound as a possible carcinogen that’s toxic to humans, fish and aquatic organisms. The submission noted UDMH is being phased out in the U.S. as well as most launch centres in Europe and Russia.

Willick reports that the company (no surprise) says any spill “would not impact the surrounding soils.”

The story includes criticism from people in many different government departments: provincial Environment Department and Department of Lands and Forestry, along with Health Canada and Global Affairs Canada.

2. Since Uber exists we should embrace it

Taxi roof light

In a press release summarizing its latest poll results, Corporate Research Associates head Don Mills says 67 per cent of Halifax residents “support online transportation and ride sourcing services, such as Uber.” Mills then wonders why “such services [are] not currently available to the public in a supposedly free market environment.”

I don’t know. Could it be because taxi service is a regulated environment?

In the StarMetro Halifax, Taryn Grant quotes councillor Lisa Blackburn:

“I think it would fit in quite well with what we have planned with regards to car sharing and transit service and the possibility of commuter rail. I think it’s just one more tool in the tool box that we’ll use to get people around,” she said.

We know that Halifax tends to run several years behind whatever trends hit elsewhere. Sometimes that’s frustrating, sometimes it’s a good thing. Back in the 1970s, we were so far behind the waterfront expressway boom that we never got around to destroying our waterfront by running six lanes of traffic beside it. By the time we started to think about building a waterfront highway, people in the rest of North America had already realized what a terrible mistake they’d made. So all we got was the Cogswell Interchange.

I think the Uber story is similar. Just as some other cities are starting to realize what a disaster Uber-ization can create, we have folks who say we should embrace it.

Last week, provincial PC leadership candidate John Lohr lamented that delegates to the CPC policy convention couldn’t use an Uber to get into town. Never mind the fact that they already have options ranging from limos to public transit.

In her interview with Grant in StarMetro Halifax, Blackburn says:

I know that’s not going to be good news to folks in the taxi industry… But you know it’s the technology, the new technology, and I think Haligonians are ready to embrace it.”

Hey, it’s the technology. What can you do?

3. Mobility Cup regatta in Halifax

Chilean navy tall ship Esmeralda.
Mobility Cup vessels not as pictured.

The Mobility Cup regatta is taking place this week in Halifax, reports Elizabeth McMillan for CBC. The event brings together sailors from across Canada and the US, competing in Martin 16 sailboats, which are designed for people with varying levels of ability.

Kevin Penny guides the course of a Martin 16 sailboat using only his breath. 

Penny, who lost the use of his arms and legs in a bicycling accident as a teenager, puffs into a small tube attached to a machine that allows him to steer the five-metre-long boat.

The pressure from “puffs” or “sips” — sucking air back — into a switch in the mouthpiece also allows him to trim or release the boat’s jib or mainsail.

“The feeling that it gives you, it empowers me. It’s really the only time other than when I’m in my wheelchair that I can control where I’m going,” Penny said Tuesday after racing in the first heat of this year’s Clearwater Mobility Cup…

The Martin 16s have a 300-pound lead keel for increased stability and specialized equipment that can be adapted to different people’s needs, including power motors for people who may be unable to steer and a cushioned, movable seat with straps. 

McMillan says the competitors range in age from 13 to 82.

4. Peter MacKay speaks

Peter MacKay
Peter MacKay

I’ve never gotten the appeal of Peter MacKay. But apparently there are still people who care about what he has to say. The Chronicle Herald, for instance, which today has MacKay’s surprisingly bold views on John McCain, NAFTA, and Maxime Bernier.

You didn’t believe me when I wrote “surprisingly bold” did you?

MacKay’s insights, in this story by Adam MacInnis, are exactly what you would expect.

MacKay says John McCain was humble, “earned the reputation of being a bit of a maverick,” and “had a moral compass.” He toes the Conservative Party line by saying the CPC is better off without Maxime Bernier, and he offers this analysis of the news of a Mexico-US trade agreement:

“I think we’ve had much of our leverage taken away by the fact Mexico and America have come to an agreement. We simply were not in the room. We’ve been disadvantaged. We have some ground to make up.”

Thanks Peter.

(I bought the only suit I’ve ever owned because of Peter MacKay, but that’s a story for another time.)


1. The poet and the agave

Photo of Halifax agave with quote.
One of Sue Goyette’s agave posts.
One of Sue Goyette’s agave posts.

Over on Facebook, Sue Goyette has been posting photos of the Public Gardens agave plant, paired with quotes, for months now. The pic above features Cornelia Parker’s “I hadn’t the personality to be a long-term success.”

The series is delightful. Goyette has photographed the plant (or parts of the plant) from just about every angle you can think of. The carefully chosen quotes are from women as varied as Lucinda Williams, Rebecca Solnit, Octavia Butler (“The big talent is persistence”) and Mary Pratt. I haven’t linked because the posts are not public, but I’m hoping Goyette is thinking of getting a book out of them.


Kelsey Lalor hits her second home run of the Women's Baseball World Cup
Kelsey Lalor hits her second home run of the Women’s Baseball World Cup. Photo: WBSC
Kelsey Lalor hits her second home run of the Women’s Baseball World Cup. Photo: WBSC

It’s been a good week for women’s baseball.

Locally, the women’s U16 (that means players who are age 16 or under) team won the silver medal at the Canadian national championships. This was the first time a Nova Scotia girls’ baseball team played for a national title — an impressive achievement considering how small the pool of players is here, compared to larger provinces.

The gold went to Quebec, who won the championship game 10-4. The tournament was held in Bedford.

Meanwhile, the Women’s Baseball World Cup has entered its playoff round. The tournament is taking place in Viera, Florida, and all the games stream live on YouTube. Canada went 4-1 in the opening round, beating Australia, Hong Kong, and Cuba, and losing 2-1 to reigning champions Japan. In the previous Women’s Baseball World Cup, Canada won silver, after losing 10-0 to Japan in the championship game.

I’ve enjoyed streaming the games at my desk. (As I write this, I’ve got a close game between Venezuela and Puerto Rico running.) And I’m happy to see women’s sports slowly gaining more attention. Role models and exposure matter. Late last year, the Toronto Blue Jays named Nikki Huffman head athletic trainer — only the second woman to hold that position with a Major League Baseball Team. (Sue Falsone was head athletic trainer with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2011 to 2013.) Over in Australia, Lisa Norrie served as a coach for the Australian Baseball League’s Brisbane Bandits, and is now part of a group working to create a women’s baseball league that country.

I’ve umpired local games for the past several years (though I took this year off) and have always enjoyed working girls’ games, including the U13 Atlantic championships a few years back. During one game, I heard some girls in the field encouraging each other with talk of when they get to the WMLB. While there is no professional women’s league in North America, I hope we will see one eventually, and that opportunities will continue to increase for girls at all levels of baseball.

Yesterday, Canada beat Venezuela 5-0 in their first game of the Super Round at the Womens’ Baseball World Cup Canada, and they play the US tonight at 7 PM Atlantic time. You can watch here.


No public meetings for the rest of the week.

On campus



Thesis Defence, Biology (Wednesday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) —PhD candidate Kristina Boerder will defend her ​​thesis, “​Tracking Global Fisheries from Space: Patterns, Problems, and Protected Areas.”


No public events for the rest of the week.

In the harbour

There are no ships in the Allegheny Mountains.


I am looking forward to dinner at Wild Caraway on Friday night. It is in tiny Advocate Harbour, and I’d say it’s easily one of the best restaurants in the province. Worth the trip.

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

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  1. I agree that Wild Caraway is an amazing road trip worthy dining destination in Nova Scotia. Get there before they close for the season!

  2. Re: UBER – The “ride-sharing” portion of UBER holds little appeal for me. I’m not eager to ride in an unlicensed taxi in Halifax when even our licensed taxis can be, uh, an experience for women, and I doubt the cost would be noticeably cheaper. But I do see the appeal of the app itself, where I can book my cab, including pick up and destination, know how long it will take for them to get there, know the price before I get in, and pay for it all on my phone. No waiting around for an undetermined amount of time for it to arrive, no crossing my fingers hoping the cabbie takes cards because I don’t have cash, no watching over his shoulder to make sure he doesn’t take the long way to run the meter up, and a record kept of which cab I took so if I lose something (or something untoward happens), I needn’t have remembered the roof light number. If our local (regulated) taxi services could just use an UBER-type app, I doubt the demand for UBER itself would be that high.

    1. Other than paying with your phone, which would be very convenient, it looks like the Casino Taxi app offers most of these features. I don’t know about other companies though.

      1. Try to use the Casino App on a Friday or Saturday night. It’s useless. It searches for a taxi endlessly non stop, hardly ever connecting you with one. The last time I tried to use it we had walked home 45 minutes and it still hadn’t connected me with a cab.

        The wait times for taxis in Halifax on weekends are atrocious.

      2. The Casino app (and the Yellow Cab) are poor imitations of UBER. The taxi industry has to play catch up in a big way.

        UBER is almost always cheaper than a regular taxi as well. When I’m away on business, its the only way I travel because: the drivers ALWAYS find my pickup location, ALWAYS can find my destination, it’s cheaper, more convenient, every UBER i’ve ever been in is MUCH cleaner and nice than any cab, and itemized receipts emailed to me.

        If they had it here, I would use it in a heartbeat. I understand the concerns of women getting in strange cars, but it’s not like the taxi industry is a shining example of how to make people feel safe.

      3. As others have said, the apps used by Casino and others don’t really work well. Also, I live in Dartmouth and am often travelling to/from Halifax, so there’s still the whole “Halifax cabs won’t pick you up in Dartmouth” thing.

  3. Uber should NOT be allowed in Halifax unless it is on the same footing as the taxi service.

    The best thing about this story is that Don Mills and Corporate Research Associates surveys can unequivocally now be seen as free market bullshit.

  4. I am curious what UDMH is being replaced with – I ctrl-F’d through the study (no time to read it) for ‘UDMH’ and couldn’t find any references to what is replacing it. Hydrazines (a family of chemicals used in upper-stage and maneuvering thrusters for spacecraft, of which UDMH is a member) are nasty but they have also been used since the 1960s. If there was a better alternative, surely it would have been developed by now? All of the hydrazines are toxic (although by the standards of rocket fuel, not horribly so).

  5. The notion that Uber is “new technology” and therefore better is nonsense. The only reason it’s so cheap is that it has VC funding, allowing it to ignore profitability in the hopes it can put the competition out of business by undercutting them.

    Other than that it’s just a scheme to avoid taxi and employment regulations by only using contracted workers and claiming they’re a “Tech Company” (so advanced!) instead of a transportation service.

  6. You can use any euphemism you want like “ride sharing” but Uber is a taxi service pure and simple. You get in a car owned by someone else and pay them money to get somewhere. It should be regulated and subject to the same requirements as any other taxi.
    Perhaps what needs to be looked at is Halifax’s taxi system which seems to be dominated by a few people who own licences and charge a fee to operators. My understanding is that an individual cannot get a taxi licence in Halifax.

  7. Thanks for covering women’s baseball. Nova Scotia should be proud of both the U16 Women’s team as for their tremendous showing on the weekend, but also of the many volunteers who organized and ran a tremendous tournament.

    Lucky for us, Nova Scotia will host it again next year!