1. “Culture of fear”

The renovated North Unit day room at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“A former correctional officer who worked at Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (the Burnside jail) is concerned that the lack of attention to conditions in the jail will lead to violence and to people getting hurt,” reports El Jones:

The former correctional officer contacted the Halifax Examiner and spoke about his experience working at the jail on the condition of anonymity because he fears for his safety and health. His views reflect opinions we’ve heard from several other former and current guards who spoke off the record or on background.

“The moment you walk in the door at Burnside you are stripped of your dignity and humanity,” says the former correctional officer. “No matter your sex, religion, or creed. No matter if you are an inmate or staff member.”

Click here to read “‘Culture of fear’: a former guard relates his experience at the Burnside jail.”

2. Ocean temperatures

Graphic: Fisheries and Oceans Canada via the CBC

“This summer’s heat wave in Atlantic Canada was reflected in sea surface temperatures from southern Nova Scotia to northern Newfoundland,” reports Paul Withers for the CBC:

In much of the region, ocean temperatures at the surface last month were two to three degrees higher than the 20-year average, according to data from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“It’s getting up to the largest anomalies that we’ve seen for the 20-year record that we have,” said Dave Hebert, a research scientist with DFO.

On Aug. 30, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a summary of marine ecosystem conditions on the Northeast Shelf, which runs from Cape Hatteras, N.C., up to the Canadian boundary.

The summary noted dozens of species are moving northward and into deeper water, bottom temperatures are rising with lower chlorophyll concentrations and smaller plankton blooms.

“Surface and bottom water temperatures collected over time indicate that a significant, sudden and persistent change, called a regime shift, may have occurred in Gulf of Maine water temperatures, with the last eight years the warmest in the time series by a wide margin,” the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, an NOAA agency reported.

The very warm ocean water is fuel for hurricanes, such as Florence, which is now bearing down on the Outer Banks, including Cape Hatteras.

I would travel down the Outer Banks and camp at Hatteras when I was in high school. The Outer Banks are basically a 150-mile long, half-mile wide sand bar. There are three giant sand dunes at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers did their thing, but otherwise the banks are naturally flat, just feet above normal high tide levels. During the Depression, the CCC built artificial dunes along the coast, but they wash out regularly. Even a simple nor’easter will typically take out a dozen oceanfront houses. I fully expect that the storm surge associated with Florence will entirely inundate the islands. It’s going to be a mess afterwards.

3. Ticket Atlantic

At today’s city council meeting councillor Waye Mason will attempt to prod the city into reclaiming ownership of Ticket Atlantic. As I reported last month:

…somehow through the changeover from TCL [Trade Centre Limited] to Events East, the province ended up with sole ownership of Ticket Atlantic. You’ll recall that, without authorization, MacGillivray “transferred ownership of” (i.e., stole) the city-owned Metro Centre box office over to the provincially owned TCL to create Ticket Atlantic, which eventually was one of the causes of the concert scandal (it was a moribund box office bank account that was used by TCL to improperly loan promoter Harold MacKay money to put on the concerts). Councillor Waye Mason raised the Ticket Atlantic issue at council Tuesday, and CAO Jacque Dubé agreed that the city should own it, not the province. We’ll see where that goes.

Where it’s going is a motion by Mason today:

That Halifax Regional Council request a staff report regarding the options and opportunities for renewal or replacement of the Ticket Atlantic system as the sole provider for Scotiabank Centre. This report shall include an update regarding steps taken to address concerns raised in the Auditor General’s report “Review of the Transfer of Box Office Operations from the Halifax Metro Centre to Trade Centre Limited.”

You can read the auditor general’s report here. It reads, in part:

When the OAG [Office of the Auditor General] initiated its review of this transfer, neither Trade Centre Limited nor HRM was able to provide written documentation regarding the authority under which the transfer took place, approval by HRM for the transfer or substantive analysis to support the decision process. In fact, the financial information provided by Trade Centre Limited as support for why the transfer was needed is inconsistent with financial information previously provided by Trade Centre Limited.

The people involved in the theft of the Box Office and its subsequent use to improperly fund the concert loans suffered no consequences whatsoever. Fred MacGillivray retired with a super-pension. Scott Ferguson got promoted, then was hired away by the World Trade Center Association in New York.

The wheels of the bureaucracy turn slowly. The concert scandal blew up in 2011, the auditor general’s report was published in 2012, and here we are in 2018 debating whether or not to get a staff report about it.

4. Water restrictions

Mandatory water conservation restrictions for residents & businesses in Dartmouth/Cole Harbour/Eastern Passage/North Preston/Westphal. No lawn, garden, plant watering or other outside water usage. No car/RV
or other vehicle washing at home. Commercial car washes available.

— Halifax Water (@HalifaxWater) September 10, 2018

Halifax Water yesterday issued the following release:

The prolonged hot, dry weather has resulted in low water levels in Lake Major. Lake Major serves the communities of Dartmouth, Cole Harbour, Eastern Passage, North Preston and Westphal (see map below for affected service area).

In order to conserve water, Halifax Water is instituting mandatory water conservation restrictions for all residents and businesses supplied by the Lake Major Water Supply Plant, until further notice.

The water conservation measures include:

  • No lawn, garden, plant watering or other outside water usage
  • No car/RV or other vehicle washing at home. Commercial car washes remain available for the time being

Please visit the Water Conservation and Consumption page for other ways to conserve water.

These water restrictions are being implemented to maintain essential water service for all customers in the Lake Major service area. Conserving water will help avoid a potentially serious situation involving future water outages.

5. Robin Hartrick

Margaret “Robin” Hartrick
Margaret “Robin” Hartrick

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the murder of Margaret Hartrick, who went by the name Robin. From a police release:

Today marked the twentieth anniversary of the murder of Margaret Hartrick and the Special Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division continues to investigate the case.

On September 10, 1998, at 8:23 a.m., police responded to a report from several young students of an unconscious woman in a wooded area behind Harbourview School at 25 Alfred Street in Dartmouth. Upon arrival, officers found Margaret Hartrick lying unconscious in the wooded area. She had suffered trauma to her head and was transported to the QEII hospital where she passed away as result of her injuries on September 18, 1998.

The investigation revealed that the Margaret had been assaulted in the wooded area behind the school. Residents from the surrounding neighborhood reported hearing arguing earlier this same morning, and other residents reported hearing a car speeding from the area, which may be related to this incident.

Investigators believe there are people who have information that could advance the investigation and hope the passage of time may encourage someone to do the right thing and come forward to police with what they know.

Robin Hartrick was a primary figure in Parts 1 to 3 of my Dead Wrong series:

Robin “was a miracle baby,” says her mother Pauline. “She was a baby that was premature at birth. She only weighed one pound five ounces at the Grace Maternity.” Robin’s birth name was Margaret, but since she was “only as big as a minute,” the family called her “Robin,” thinking of a small, frail, beautiful creature.

Robin was deeply involved in Glen Assoun’s conviction of the second degree murder of his former girlfriend Brenda Way. Robin first told police that Assoun had told her he had killed Way, and Robin’s sworn statements to police were presented at trial. Robin was murdered just as the Assoun trial was about to begin, on the first day of Assoun’s bail hearing.

As I wrote:

But there’s no chance that Glen personally killed Robin — he was in jail when Robin was beaten to death.

Could someone related to Glen have killed Robin to prevent her from testifying against him?

We know that Glen’s sons appeared ready to commit violence on behalf of their father. The night after Brenda charged Glen with assaulting her — on October 8, 1995 — Glen Junior and Jamie went to Glen’s room at the Four Star. They drank at the motel for a few hours, then the brothers went looking for Brenda “because she had been causing problems for their family.”

At about 2:45am, someone called 911 and reported two men threatening a woman outside Rocco’s Restaurant on Wyse Road. When police arrived they found Glen Junior, Jamie, and Brenda. Jamie had a gun stuck down his sweat pants; he ran, and the gun accidentally fired. The cops caught him. He later pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited weapon, and was sentenced to four months in jail and two years probation.

But Glen Junior and Jamie were never considered suspects in Brenda’s murder. I can’t determine if police ever considered them suspects in Robin’s murder, but it appears unlikely.

As horrible as the reality is, a better explanation for Robin’s murder might be simply that violence was a regular part of life on the streets. When researcher Cynthia Manderson interviewed most of the sex workers on the Halifax strolls in 1988, she found that every woman and girl she talked to had experienced violence from johns. And in the months before she gave her KGB interview, Robin herself was assaulted so viciously as to require hospitalization; however, Robin refused to tell police who had attacked her.

Robin was at least the 20th woman or girl to be murdered or to have disappeared in the Halifax area between 1985 and 1999. Most of the victims had been sex workers. Most of the cases — including Robin’s — remain unsolved. Those that have been solved led to the convictions of a varied lot of men and two women: boyfriends, johns, pimps, a girlfriend of a john. There have been still more missing and murdered women since Robin was killed.

Robin’s testimony against Assoun was extremely problematic, and in my opinion shouldn’t have been allowed into trial.

But on that testimony, Assoun was convicted and spent 16 years in prison for a crime that we now know he probably didn’t commit.

In my reporting on this, I came across many complex figures living almost unbelievable lives. Among that odd cast of characters, Robin Hartrick still stands out as the most troubled, and the biggest enigma. What was she thinking? What motivated her? I can’t get in her head whatsoever.

People have all sorts of suspicions about who killed Robin. I have my own, a man who was a suspect in another high-profile north end Dartmouth murder. He’s still walking around Dartmouth, and in my opinion is still a threat to people. But suspicions aren’t enough to go on, because they can lead to tunnel vision that excludes other possibilities — it was exactly such tunnel vision on the part of police investigators that led to the wrongful conviction of Assoun.

So I could be totally wrong about who killed Robin.

6. More dumbass Dartmouth graffiti

From a police release:

At 1210 am a call was received of graffiti in the area of the 100 block of Windmill Rd, Dartmouth. The graffiti was offensive in nature. There was no other graffiti located in the area. Investigators are trying to determine if this incident is related to other incidents of graffiti in area of Prince Andrew High School and Sullivan’s Pond in Dartmouth.

7. The Viagra rocket launch

Parker Donham sent me this WaPo article this morning:

Why NASA’s next rockets might say Budweiser on the side

The constant creep of corporate America into all aspects of everyday life — from the Allstate Sugar Bowl to Minute Maid Park — may soon conquer a new frontier.

The final frontier.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has directed the space agency to look at boosting its brand by selling naming rights to rockets and spacecraft and allowing its astronauts to appear in commercials and on cereal boxes, as if they were celebrity athletes.


1. School daze

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald looks at the entrances to older school buildings in Halifax:

We are lucky to have some swell older school buildings that have survived after the children have left the area….

The old Halifax Academy is one of the finest Victorian buildings in Halifax. The side entrance on Sackville Street retains a boot scraper to the left of the door. Imagine the 1880s children scraping mud and snow off their boots before filing into class.




City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda. I’ll be live-blogging via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.


Halifax & West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — the committee will look at several development proposals; I haven’t had time to vet them all.



Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — I think this is just an organizational meeting — they’ve made changes to the legislative calendar and no longer link to the committees’ agendas. I’ll call someone and see what’s up with that.

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)

On campus



Echoes of 9/11 in the Trump Era: Did 9/11 Really “Change Everything”? (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1011, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) —  Aisha Ahmad from the University of Toronto, Brian Bow from Dalhousie University, and Stéfanie von Hlatky from Queens University will speak. From the event listing:

“Did 9/11 really ‘change everything’? Before 2016, most of the debate about US defence and security policy focused on whether the Obama administration was effectively overturning the post-9/11 policies of the GW Bush administration (e.g., pulling out of Iraq, re-committing to multilateralism) or holding on to them (e.g., Guantanamo, drones). It sometimes seems like Trump has made all of this irrelevant, by overturning virtually all of the foundations of American foreign policy, and/or having no coherent priorities. What happened to the ‘post-9/11’ defence and security agenda? Are there continuities, or has it all gotten thoroughly Trumped?”



Exploring the Diversity of Creative Practices (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Potter Auditorium, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — As part of the Prismatic Arts Festival, Shahin Sayadi and Rah-Eleh will speak.

French Lecture Series: Emotion and Creativity in [Language] Education (Wednesday, 4pm, Room 1116, Marion McCain Building) — Françoise Masuy from the University de Louvain-La-Neuve, Brussels, will give a lecture in English.



Sue Goyette. Photo: cbc

Penelope’s Odyssey (Wednesday, 7:30pm, KTS Lecture Hall, New Academic Building) — Sue Goyette will speak.

In the harbour

7am: Horizon Star, offshore supply ship, moves from Pier 9 to Bedford Basin anchorage
8:45am: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,180 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor
10:30am: Seaborne Quest, cruise ship with up to 540 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Bar Harbor
11am: Arsos, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Miami
11:30am: Taurus Leader, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4pm: Seamax Stamford, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea


I overslept today, all the way to 7am.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. I was at Sue Goyette’s book launch/reading for Penelope and it was really good. The lecture should be worth going to.