1. Kimber on the ferry: “Idle Some More”

Last year’s promo. Spoiler: They were not back.

I really enjoyed Stephen Kimber’s Yarmouth ferry columns from last year, so I’m glad he’s back with another one: “Is ‘Idle Some More’ back for another season?”

On the same day Bay Ferries was declaring itself open for 2020 bookings, Zach Churchill, the province’s minister of education and ferries, released figures showing last year’s non-service had cost us $17.8 million. That’s $4 million more than the government originally budgeted as its cost for actually running a ferry service, and it includes

  • an additional $1.6 million to not yet meet US border requirements,
  • plus another $2.4 million to keep the ship, its crew and the terminals on standby for the entire season without beginning.

We’ll have a better idea — though nothing definitive, of course — about how much the government is projecting the ferry will cost us this year when it introduces its budget later this week.

Kimber notes how much work remains to be done on the upgrades to the ferry terminal we are paying for in Bar Harbor, and let’s just say he is not optimistic it will be done in time.

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2. Black teen records his own violent arrest on his phone

Blurry image of a police officer in a parking lot.
Still from the video.

El Jones has the story of a Black teen arrested outside the Bedford Place Mall on Friday evening:

A disturbing video taken outside Bedford Place Mall on Friday evening shows the police using force against a 15-year-old Black youth.

The short clip of the confrontation begins with the youth asserting, “I can go outside if I want to.” One of the two officers in the video responds, “You’ll get arrested.” The youth responds, “For what? Speaking my mouth? For speaking?”

As the police advance upon him saying he’s under arrest, the boy yells “Don’t you touch me!” The video goes black as we hear sounds of struggle, and the youth gasp and cough. One of the officers yells “stop resisting,” as the boy asks why he is under arrest.

The boy had been sitting at the Sunnyside Mall with a friend when they were asked to leave by security. The teen argued, but eventually left. Meanwhile, security had already called the police, who went across the road to the Bedford Place Mall, where he was arrested.

Based on what we know so far, this is one of the most absurd parts of the story. Teen is asked to leave or security will call the cops. Teen leaves. Cops have already been called. Even though the boy has complied with what he was asked to do, the police go find him at a different mall and arrest him there when he refuses to stop filming them.

How does this make any sense?

It’s almost like, I don’t know, calling the cops on someone for shoplifting before they’ve left the store.

Like the Examiner, other local media have not named the boy to protect him. But they have named his mother — which makes it pretty easy to identify him.

There is much more to El’s story; she not only gets into the recent historical context, but also speaks to experts about what our rights are when it comes to speaking to and even insulting the police. Read the whole thing here. This article is free to read, but go ahead and subscribe anyway.

In an interview with CBC Radio this morning, the boy’s mother says when she asked why the white girl her son was with was not arrested, she says she was told that she didn’t talk back to the police or swear at them.

Yesterday, I imagine not coincidentally, privacy lawyer David Fraser re-shared one of his old blog posts, “Photographing and filming police officers in Canada.” It notes, among other things, that “police officers have no privacy rights in public when executing their duties.”

The Halifax Regional Police, meanwhile, confirm the teen was injured and have referred the case to the Serious Incident Response Team for investigation. In classic cop-speak, a statement from the police says, “In the process of making an arrest, the male youth suffered an injury.” I can’t help but note that grammatically what this is saying is that the boy was making an arrest, not that he was being arrested.

3. MLA Hugh MacKay resigns from Liberal caucus

Hugh MacKay

My MLA, Hugh MacKay (Chester-St. Margaret’s), announced yesterday that he is resigning from the Liberal caucus. MacKay was charged with impaired driving last fall, after he was arrested in his driveway, behind the wheel of his car. Concerned about his state of impairment, his brother-in-law had called the police.

MacKay admitted he had a drinking problem. In a statement at the time, he said:

“During the holiday weekend, I was charged with an offence of driving under the influence… I, like many others, have struggled with alcohol addiction issues for several years. I have always been open about the fact that I am a recovering alcoholic, and that I have been actively undergoing treatment since 2004.”

MacKay was later convicted and had his licence suspended.

On Friday, Jean Laroche reported for CBC that MacKay is now facing a second impaired driving charge, this one dating from 2018. Yesterday, MacKay said he was leaving caucus to sit as an independent.

A CP story at CTV says:

MacKay says he has not received the full disclosure of details but is resigning from caucus because the seriousness of the allegations could disrupt the government’s work… MacKay’s resignation will leave the governing Liberals with a slim majority, holding 26 of 51 seats in the legislature.

CBC reports:

According to court documents, MacKay “was impaired by alcohol or drug … at or near Stillwater Lake,” near Upper Tantallon. RCMP laid the charge and served him with papers earlier in February.

MacKay has been a 100 percent party-line guy since his election. In January 2019, Tim referred to MacKay and his fellow Liberal members of the provincial legislature’s Public Accounts Committee as “craven fools” for going along with a government plan to limit the scope of the committee’s work.

In the January 15 issue of our community monthly, the Masthead News, MacKay’s regular opinion piece was on the benefits of open-pen salmon farming: “The waters of Mahone Bay and St. Margaret’s Bay are among the most pristine of Nova Scotia,” MacKay writes. (Some would see this as a good argument for not siting environmentally disastrous fish farms there.)

He continues:

Recent announcements concerning the awarding of “Options for Leases” for aquaculture activity in Mahone Bay and St. Margaret’s Bay have prompted much speculation and discussion regarding the pros and cons of aquaculture.

I am intent on ensuring that any proposals coming forward as a result of lease options are globally accepted best practices and will follow the highest standards for environmental responsibility…

I believe that these measures, which include the most rigorous aquaculture regulations in Canada, will ensure that only responsible aquaculture activity will take place in harmony with our fisheries and with our recreational and tourism activities.

I look forward to discussions with all interested parties as we seek a balance for a key economic driver that contributes to our economy/social development while not degrading our natural coastal habitats.

I wonder if his independent status will free MacKay to explore opinions beyond the party line, or if he will simply be biding his time until he can get back into caucus. And with an election possibly around the corner, will he seek re-election as a Liberal?

I do wish MacKay well in his recovery.

4. Wet’suwet’en solidarity demonstrations

Demonstrators on Spring Garden Road
The Wet’suwet’en solidarity demonstration in Halifax yesterday. Photo: Callum Moscovitch

All the local media outlets have stories on demonstrations held yesterday in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and others opposed to the Coastal Gas Link pipeline projects.

Most of the stories put attendance at the Halifax demonstrations at “hundreds,” while Halifax Today has “over 200.”

Allan April at CTV writes:

Rally organizers say although the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline is happening on the other side of the country, the issue affects everyone.

“It’s not just indigenous people that this is affecting, it affects everybody,” said rally organizer, Joan Smith. “It’s about land, it’s about water, it’s about sovereignty, not just about the Wet’suwet’en.”

“This is ridiculous,” said Barbara Moore, who attended the rally. “This could have been solved months ago when they first got into office. They said they were going to do all kinds of things and they’ve done nothing, and we want to see things cleaned up, and a fair deal given to the First Nations in this country.”

Supporters also voiced their opposition to local projects, including the Alton Natural Gas project.

As far as I can see, the Chronicle Herald is the only outlet not covering the Halifax demonstration. The paper has a story called “Showing solidarity with Wet’suwet’en chiefs” which is about the 150 people who gathered at Auld’s Cove.

While protestors have blocked traffic on some occasions, including during one assembly earlier this month at the entrance to the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in Halifax, Madonna Bernard (noting that is her colonial name) explained why organizers of the Auld’s Cove gathering opted to conduct a “slow down” of traffic.

“We wanted to provide elders with an opportunity to educate,” she said, while in the background participants passed out information packages to motorists.

Participants stood on the painted island in between the two lanes of the highway. Up the roadway, on either side, RCMP members slowed traffic as it approached the group.

Because there was no opportunity to speak to motorists, as they did not have to come to a complete stop, it was difficult to gauge reaction to the protest, other than the majority rolled down their windows and accepted the information packages.

5. Hendsbee sews up the canine vote

Fireworks. Photo by ben o’bro on Unsplash

Councillor David Hendsbee is bringing the issue of fireworks to council on Tuesday, Anjuli Patel reports for CBC. He wants a staff report on mandating quieter fireworks for public events:

Quiet fireworks are not silent, but are quieter than traditional fireworks. This is because traditional fireworks are wrapped tightly and normally use metals like aluminum as components, which help create a louder boom. Silent fireworks use more black powder instead of metallic powder and are wrapped more loosely.

“I just heard from some residents who have PTSD and some pet owners who are afraid their animals are getting scared,” Hendsbee told CBC News in an interview on Friday.

“There’s even people making comments about wildlife getting spooked by these fireworks and perhaps we should find a more humane celebration methodology.”

I love it when I learn something from a news story. I just figured fireworks were loud because they were loud. I never realized you could make them quieter. Hendsbee told Patel he understands the quiet fireworks are “about half the decibel” of regular fireworks. I assume he means half as loud, since the decibel scale is not linear. Half the decibels would be really quiet. About as loud as a shower or dishwasher.

You can see videos of quiet fireworks in action from British manufacturer Epic here.

Many years ago, I had an assignment from Reader’s Digest to go around to different locations with a decibel reader: a monster truck show, the Public Gardens. The one thing that surprised me was just how loud sports bars are during the NHL playoffs.

6. Access to no information

Mail slot with the word "private."
We don’t have a photo of Jeffrey Delisle and stock photos for “spy” are ridiculous. Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

Global has a Canadian Press story by Jim Bronskill on missing documents in the Jeffrey Delisle case. Delisle, you may recall, was a Navy officer convicted of selling secrets to Russia. In 2013, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison; he was granted full parole last year.

CP filed an access to information request for documents related to the Delisle case back in 2013.

The Privy Council responded, saying none of the documents would be made available, so CP appealed to the information commissioner. Bronskill writes:

The commissioner’s office asked in 2013 for an uncensored copy of the files to examine and the Privy Council Office said arrangements would be made for an investigator to view the sensitive records on site.

However, it appears more than five years passed before the commissioner’s office followed up.

In July 2019, the deputy director of the Privy Council Office corporate-services branch told one of the commissioner’s investigators the documents had “most likely” been inadvertently destroyed.

There is more to the story, and it’s worth reading the whole thing.


1. “Bare” shelves full of groceries

Headshot of Sylvain Charlebois
Sylvain Charlebois. Photo: Dalhousie University

On Saturday, Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois visited a bunch of grocery stores, photographed the shelves, and speculated with no evidence on whether the shelves were understocked (or even “bare”) because of the rail blockades across the country.

Photo of a meat counter with some gaps

The photos in the tweet below, from Sunday morning, didn’t seem that unusual to me — particularly the ones of the rice and the soft drink shelves. (I remember a period of several months when it seemed almost impossible to find plain soda water at my local Superstore.)

Four photos of supposedly bare supermarket shelves
Caption translation: Empty grocery store shelves are more and more in evidence in Halifax. A few photos taken yesterday, Saturday morning, middle of the store. #Bread, #meat, #ketchup, #drinks, canned fruit, #rice, #flour, #sugar, #milk, etc…

I gave up counting how many people pointed out to Charlebois, a senior fellow at the Fraser-institute-owned Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, that the photos he was sharing were not of bare shelves, and in many cases were not even unusual. Charlebois pointed out that he was merely noting that inventory levels were lower than usual, and that he was not drawing conclusions about why.

Blockades? Who said anything about blockades?

It’s hard to know how anyone could have said the professor was blaming the blockades when he was simply observing… oh, wait a minute.

Tweet showing photo of meat counter and blaming shortages on blockades
Hashtags? What hashtags?

Later, Charlebois, whose many opinion pieces include “Hey Vegans, time to grow up,” added several tweets saying there was no danger of food shortages, and that “we should be fine.”

All right then.

2. The downtown dead

Headstones at the Old Burying Ground in Halifax
The Old Burying Ground. Photo: Google Street View.

Jonathan Fowler, who teaches anthropology at SMU, has a story at CBC about the thousands of people buried throughout downtown Halifax. He says there are at least 20,000 people buried in five downtown cemeteries, including the Old Burying Ground. Many of the others have disappeared under construction.

Fowler writes:

By the time the Old Burying Ground officially closed in 1844, the remains of approximately 12,000 people had been interred there. Only about 10 per cent were provided with headstones, which seems incredible given the vast congregation of monuments dotting the site.

In fact, the Old Burying Ground’s gravestones constitute one of the best-preserved collections of early mortuary art in Canada, and it is partly for this reason that it was designated a national historic site in 1991.

Halifax’s Downtown Merchants’ Association petitioned city council in 1958 to pave it over to create a city-owned parking lot for local businesses. Public outrage flattened the proposal instead, but other cemeteries in the neighbourhood were not so well defended.

In a 1990 honours thesis called “The Rural Cemetery Movement in Halifax, Nova Scotia,” SMU student Kim McGuire writes about the outrage over the Merchants’ proposal.

A letter to the Editor on April 8, 1958 sums up the feelings of many citizens toward the Old Burying Grounds:

“Have the Halifax Downtown Merchants reached the limit of despair that they want the sleeping in St. Paul’s Church yard to help them get a living? They have the most valuable property in Halifax. Let them get together and work out a usable plan to restore it to its original property.

Leave the sleeping to rest in peace.  Make the churchyard a resting place for the living as well as those who sleep there. Provide seats for the public. Cut the grass and with the Public Gardens provide a beauty spot in downtown. As they sit under the shade of the trees, with Soloman [sic] remember ‘All is Vanity’.”

Yes, thanks to a bunch of naysayers in the 1950s we now have a national historic site downtown instead of a beautiful parking lot.


Man in sunglasses looking down. (Billy MacDonald)
Billy MacDonald. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Just over 20 years ago, the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline was being built to carry natural gas from the now-defunct Sable Island offshore gas project to market. The pipeline runs 1,101 kilometres. Part of it was supposed to pass right by the old-growth hemlock grove that was part of a summer camp run in Pictou County by Billy MacDonald. That would mean, in part, a summer of heavy machinery running right next to the camp.

I know Billy MacDonald. A carpenter by trade, he grew up in Pictou County, near where he lives now, and for years he and his partner, Nova Poirier, ran a camp called Redtail Nature Awareness that immersed kids in the natural world. All three of my children went there.

I’ve been thinking about MacDonald over the last few weeks. A decade ago, I made a radio documentary for CBC about how he and members of a local group called Friends of Redtail were fighting a plan to clearcut old-growth forest in the area.

What I hadn’t realized when I started working on the story was that 10 years earlier, MacDonald and lawyer Bernadette Romanowsky had taken on the pipeline route — and won. Romanowsky told me the first time MacDonald came to see her in her office, he was so upset about the prospect of the pipeline passing near the hemlock grove, he was pacing up and down “like a caged animal.”

Here’s what MacDonald told me about how he realized the pipeline was going to pass right by the camp, on land he used for nature walks with the kids:

One day I was coming home and I noticed all these ribbons within a couple of hundred metres of where I was hanging clothes out and doing group things with my camp, and I was shocked and went numb because I realized, wait now, this is where they decided to put the pipeline, just a few hundred metres from this nature camp, with complete disregard… You move over, we want to put this through here and we’re going to do this…

So we appealed that, and went to the next level saying we feel that the camp is just as valuable to the community as this gas pipeline heading through going to Boston. You know, it’s just insane.

Land cleared for a pipeline
Construction of the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline. Photo: Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry

At a public meeting MacDonald and others voiced their concerns about the route. Looking back, some 10 years later, Romanowsky said:

It just so happened that the route of the pipeline came just alongside of Billy’s land, and just beside the part of his land that had this old-growth hemlock grove, which is incredible. It wasn’t on his land, but was right beside it. And it was like, oh no, this can’t happen. I didn’t know Billy before this. We had mutual friends, but the first time I met him was when he came to the first public meeting and spoke about what he was doing here on his land. What it did for me was it gave me a really good understanding of how the whole corporate thing works.

The August 1998 Green Web Bulletin newsletter included an article by the late environmentalist David Orton called “Redtail Wilderness Camp and Pipeline Route Hearings.”

Orton is not a disinterested observer. He spoke on behalf of Billy MacDonald at the hearing. Here is part of what he wrote in the Green Web Bulletin:

In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, there have been quite a number of objections by landowners, who have asked for what are called “detailed route hearings”, allowed under the National Energy Board Act. (This Act is essentially a land-expropriating document for the oil and gas industry.) The hearings were held in both provinces in late July/early August 1998…

Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline had two lawyers and a number of company “experts” (about nine of them), plus back-up staff, to discredit any landowner opposing them. I listened to three days of hearings (in Moncton and Stellarton). The final position of M&NEP was always to insist that their route was the shortest possible one – hence least expensive; it was the most environmentally benign; and of course should not be changed, no matter what “evidence” came out in the detailed hearings. I was however surprised at some of the critical comments and questions raised by the three-person NEB panel, who ran the hearings basically like court proceedings. (Whether this will be reflected in their decisions remains to be seen.)

During the Redtail hearing, Billy MacDonald said that while he was in principle opposed to the gas pipeline, at the present hearing he was speaking in favour of at least moving the pipeline away from his camp, to the other side of the one-kilometre corridor. (Whereas M&NEP offered to move the camp away from the pipeline!) Billy also spoke with a lot of emotion about the Nature-bonding work he was doing. This particular hearing was fundamentally about a clash of philosophies, as embodied in the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline Project and the Redtail Nature Awareness Camp.

The lawyer representing Billy was Bernadette Romanowsky, who has been active in opposing the whole Sable Gas project. Bernadette obtained the services of an “expert” (Alex Ramsay) with previous pipeline experience, to testify that an alternative pipeline route, farther from the camp, was feasible. The company attempted unsuccessfully to prevent Ramsay from testifying.

Looking back, Romanowsky said:

The pipeline fight was an incredible experience for us all. It was a huge learning experience. It was the first time there had ever been anything like this in Nova Scotia. I certainly had never even known about the National Energy Board Act, and all of a sudden they were here, in Pictou County.

An alternative route had been proposed, but the company rejected it. A January 12, 1999 press release from Redtail said:

The alternative route, unlike the route of the M&NEP, does not interfere with everyday travel paths. It will present some difficulties to the camp, but would not require the cancellation of the summer camping program. The company’s route is the worst possible scenario for the camp.

Mr MacDonald… commented, “How could a panel of the National Energy Board decide the Camp’s future without ever visiting it?”

Despite MacDonald’s reservations about the process, the National Engergy Board ruled in his favour. He recalled:

The decision came back that the National Energy Board found in favour of the camp and the gas line was going to have to go through an alternative route. This was the first case in Canada where a pipeline had been moved when it was so far advanced. All the trees were cut for the survey and everything. They had to bend the pipeline, and in the community it was called Billy’s Bump. If you look at it on the map, there’s this three-kilometre bump. I think it cost them an extra $800 or $900,000 to put this bump in.

Ultimately, the fight against the pipeline was about more than that one specific battle. As several people told me, the pipeline resistance helped show them how to organize and resist a decade later, when they mobilized again to protect old-growth hemlocks from being clearcut.




Executive Standing Committee (Monday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda here.

Advisory Committee on Accessibility in HRM (Monday, 4pm, City Hall) — agenda here.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21996 (Monday, 7pm, Bedford Educational Centre, 426 Rocky Lake Dr, Bedford) — application to amend the Bedford MPS and LUB in order to rezone 18 Scotia Drive (former Sunnyside Elementary(Waverley Road) School) from Institutional (SI) Zone to the Residential Two Unit Dwelling (RTU) Zone. More info here.


Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda here. Budget Committee agenda here.



No public meetings.


Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — appointments to Agencies, Boards and Commissions. Committee page here.

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)

On campus



Brass Recital (Monday, 11:45am, MacAloney Room, Dal Arts Centre)


Thesis Defence, Biology (Tuesday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Barakat Al Rashdi will defend “Contribution of the Voltage-gated Sodium Channel Nav1.6 and Toll-like Receptor 2 in the Pathophysiology of EAE.”

A photo of Martha Paynter
Martha Paynter

Are healthcare and incarceration compatible? Women’s experiences seeking care inside prisons (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 266, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Martha Paynter and Sarah Tessier will talk. More info here. Accessible building; lunch provided.

Paynter is an occasional contributor to the Examiner. Her most recent story, “We need to stop incarcerating pregnant people” ran in October 2019. You can find the rest of her pieces for us here.

Thesis Defence, Post-Professional Masters (Tuesday, 1pm, Room 322, Forrest Building) — Jen Davis defends “The Lived Experience of Occupational Therapists Who Supervise Students With Disabilities.”

Proteus Saxophone Quartet Masterclass (Tuesday, 4:30pm, Room TBA, Dal Arts Centre) — more info here.

Cheryl Stenström. Photo via

Value and California’s Public Libraries (Tuesday, 5:30pm, Room 3089, Rowe Management Building) — Cheryl Stenström will talk about

the unique value framework offered by public libraries. Working in conjunction with the California State Library, her most recent project brings together existing research and recent work in California and the UK that relate empirical findings to a proposed value framework. She’ll conclude by looking how public libraries in Nova Scotia have been engaged in this work over the past several years.​

More info here.

Saint Mary’s


Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man (Monday, 5pm, Loyola L188 ) — free screening of documentary about the former president of Burkina Faso, for the African Heritage Month Film Festival. More info here.


Lana Radloff. Photo via

Maritime Culture of Interaction: Harbors and Maritime landscapes in Hellenistic Greek World (Tuesday, 2:30pm, L173) — Lana Radloff from Bishop’s University will talk. According to Brock News, her research in part looks at  “the role of coastal settlements within the maritime network of ancient Greece and examine[s] how the ancient Greeks used urban planning and environmental resources to preserve and control access to sea routes as their communities grew and evolved.” Sounds pretty interesting to me.

Lumumba (Tuesday, 5pm, Loyola L188) — screening for the African Heritage Month Film Festival. More info here.



Schubert: Songs (Monday, 7:30pm, Wilson Common Room, New Academic Building) — Bass-baritone J.P. Decosse and pianist Simon docking will perform.

In the harbour

07:20: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, moves from Anchorage #6 (near Dartmouth Cove) to Pier 9
12:30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Searsport, Maine


Five of the 10 “national perspectives” stories on the Chronicle Herald homepage are by John Ivison. My personal fave is “The millenial eco-activists stopping trains are the new colonialists,” which uses “uber-woke” in the lead.

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

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  1. Hugh McKay is my MLA. He is quitting the Liberal government so as not to interfere with “the important work” of the government. As one of his constituents I`m am more concerned with the important work of representing his riding and constituents. He should resign now to allow a new member who can represent us. If he is able through time to cure his demons then he could run again and see if people still want him as their (our) MLA.

  2. Isn’t the graveyard connected with St. Paul’s church, and hence, owned by the Anglican diocese? If so I doubt if the merchants or the city could have paved it over.

  3. I wrote an article for Oilweek when the NEB held a a hearing in Halifax into the proposed Maritimes and North East pipeline. The chair was Geoffrey Edge and he made a fool of the Nova Scotia deputy minister of Energy with pointed questions re the provincial support for the pipeline. Several people subsequently told me the deputy minister was less than pleased with my article; in those days there were no bylines in Oilweek but people in the industry knew it was me. NEB hearings have always been rigorous examinations of proposed projects.
    I notice a lot of protesters across the country wearing clothing and carrying bags derived from the production of oil and gas.

  4. That looks like a lot more than 200 people to me!

    On fireworks, I’d like to see us use them a lot less frequently. Not that I hate fun–I enjoy fireworks–but it seems like they’re launched every weekend in the summer for some special event or another. They don’t seem special anymore.

    1. I, too, would prefer one really special fireworks display, perhaps rotated amongst several special venues. The harbour one year, Lake Banook another, the MacDonald Bridge another, and so on.