On campus
In the harbour


1. That crappy old office building on Argyle Street

The city will end up owning this pile of junk. Photo: Halifax Examiner
The city will end up owning this pile of junk. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“The Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre is still for sale and the city has decided not to purchase it for now,” reports Sherri Borden Colley for the CBC.

As I reported in April 2015:

The WTCC tower is now owned by Trade Centre Limited, a crown corporation, and when TCL vacates the premises to move into the shiny new convention centre one block south, the province will take over ownership. The city does have the opportunity — in real estate terms, an “option” — to make an offer on the WTCC tower, but if it doesn’t, the province will put the building up for sale on the open market.

This is where we’re at now: the city declined to buy the building from the province, and according to Borden Colley, the province has now listed the building publicly for $13.5 million.

I continued last April:

Nobody in their right mind would buy a 35-year-old office tower in a market with a 12 percent plus vacancy rate when something like 300,000 square feet of new office space (Nova Centre, TD Bank expansion, 22nd Commerce Square, etc.) are about to come on the market.

In the almost-certain event that no one else makes an offer on the WTCC tower, the city is contractually obligated to buy it at “book value.” A few years ago book value was said to be $12 million. Very likely, it will cost at least that much more to renovate the building, including making the convention centre space useful for something else.


The potentially unlimited liability of the Nova Centre contract aside, the requirement to purchase the existing office tower could turn out to be its own boondoggle. We’ll have something on the order of $25 million in new capital costs to deal with, a few million more in office location costs, and whatever it will cost to maintain a bunch of completely empty offices.

2. Racism

“A third party review found widespread anti-black racism at Halifax’s Parks and Road Operations and Construction unit,” reports Robert Devet:

“The consultation with employees and interviews with supervisors suggest that the business unit is caught up in a self-sustaining cycle of prejudice in which African Nova Scotians continue to be negatively impacted by experiences of harassment and discrimination, and supervisors and other employees dismiss these concerns, or blame the victim for their response,” the report concluded.

The review suggests low morale is widespread, and not just among African Nova Scotian employees. Women, members of the LGBTQ community, and seasonal workers also hold grievances that the review deemed justified.  

Devet originally broke this story in July (I somehow missed it), and follows up today.

3. Rats

A rat doesn't see his shadow, so we'll have six more weeks of rat infestation in downtown Halifax. Photo: Steve Berry/CBC
A rat doesn’t see his shadow, so we’ll have six more weeks of rat infestation in downtown Halifax. Photo: Steve Berry/CBC
A rat doesn’t see his shadow, so we’ll have six more weeks of rat infestation in downtown Halifax. Photo: Steve Berry/CBC

“An unseasonably warm winter in Nova Scotia has allowed rat populations to survive and thrive,” reports Preston Mulligan for the CBC:

Keith Gillis sat down for a hot dog this week near the Churchill statue and couldn’t believe his eyes.

“This is daylight and the rats are actually coming out and eating with the pigeons,” said Gillis. “It’s disgusting. It’s summer time, it’s tourism season.”

Lezlie Lowe wrote an exhaustive article about rats in Halifax for The Coast back in 2008. Lowe gave lots of details about rats coming up through toilets and such, and then set to explaining why they’re here and where they live. The “why” is that they came to Halifax on ships. The “where”:

OK, so they come by boat. No surprise there. But then many stay on the waterfront. And it’s not because they like water, or that there’s more food down there. 

“If you go down Sackville Street, it’s quite a steep slope and then bang, you hit Lower Water Street and it’s very flat, right?” asks Andrew Hebda.


Well that’s because it’s fill. Halifax Harbour shorelines were originally all muddy beach lands. Today the edges are flat and vertical because they have been backfilled.“

Anywhere you put in coarse rubble it puts in spaces and cracks that they can move through for protection,” says Hebda.

“It gives them lots of places to climb. And now, we’ve got all sorts of other things using now, too. Downtown, and even up the Northwest Arm, we are picking up mink and weasels on a regular basis.”

And where else is there a similar kind of loose ground?

“OK, go up Coburg Road. What’s the first residence? Howe Hall? You know where the heating plant is in that area? Well the heating plant is the site of the old municipal dump. So, organic matter is not an issue, because that will break down with time, but dumps tend not to be well-compacted so you tend to have lots of spaces there.

“In the summertime, especially just after the sun goes down, you can actually see them coming out of the sewers. You’re not looking at huge masses. Not the Pied Piper. But you can actually see them.”

Another place you’ll find loose ground? Graveyards. And the Churchill statue is right on top of the old Paupers Cemetery. Ergo, rats. I also suspect that the demolition of the Doyle Block just to the west of the old library has sent rats scurrying to find new places nearby to, er, do rat things, and the blasting has shifted and unsettled the old graves just enough to provide cool little rat passageways, just as the demolition and blasting of the old Chronicle Herald building to make way for the Nova Centre sent rats scurrying all through the Argyle street bars a few years ago (that was great fun).

A reader asked me last night if there’s a rat census in Halifax. Hebda told Lowe that the standard figure in old east coast cities like Halifax is 75 rats per block.

4. Queen’s Marque

A rendering of the conceptional plan for Queen’s Marque.
A rendering of the conceptional plan for Queen’s Marque.

“Armed with markers and sticky notes, about 150 people showed up to a public meeting Wednesday night to decide how to put 75,000 square feet of public space to use at the proposed Queen’s Marque development on the Halifax waterfront,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro.

See how this works? We’ve skipped right over “Why the hell would we build this god-awful piece of crap?????” to “Tell us how to rearrange the park benches on the privatized waterfront so we can say we listened to public input.”

More on Queen’s Marque here (#2).


1. Radio

Francella Fiallos/ Photo: Halifax Examiner
Francella Fiallos. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Activate the FM chip in smart phones so people can use them to listen to the radio, writes Francella Fiallos. (Fiallos works at CKDU, and stepped in as co-host for Examineradio when I was away.)

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

Why isn’t there a boat speed limit or wake signs posted on the Mira beneath Albert Bridge?

The speed that boats pass between the concrete abutments is reckless and extremely dangerous, particularly in light of the recent increase in striper fishing in this area. Someone is going to get seriously hurt.

Smarten up boaters.

Willis Stevens, Albert Bridge


Mary Campbell
Mary Campbell

Yesterday, Mary Campbell launched the Cape Breton Spectator, a weekly online newspaper serving, yep, Cape Breton. I cannot be more excited.

Campbell is of the Campbell clan that published the former Cape Breton Highlander, a radical labour paper published in Sydney from 1963 through 1976, and her sister is Susan Campbell, the host of CBC Radio’s Quebec Morning Show, Quebec A.M.

A young Mary Campbell went off to Prague, where she honed her writing skills, and recently ended up back in Sydney. She’s been writing the occasional op-ed piece, and I published her article “I Went To Sydney Harbour Ports Day So You Didn’t Have To” here in the Examiner.

Campbell is everything a journalist should be: inquisitive, dogged, and unafraid. Even better, she’s wickedly funny.

The Spectator will be published weekly, on Wednesdays. The first edition contains Campbell’s introduction and an article on CBRM mayor Cecil Clarke’s reelection bid. Additionally Campbell has posted a previously published article detailing her hilariously frustrating examination into the Business Cape Breton economic development agency, and other older articles as well.

The first edition is free to all. Campbell says future editions will be behind a paywall for a week, and then made public:

My needs are not great — my only extravagances are quality paper and cat antibiotics — so it won’t take too many subscribers to keep this enterprise afloat. Anything I earn beyond the bare necessities will pay freelance writers and photographers: I’m fond of the sound of my own voice, but not that fond. In fact, several writers have already agreed to contribute to The Cape Breton Spectator, so my royal “we” has become an actual we, much to my delight.

The very moment I saw the Cape Breton Spectator was live, I went and subscribed because we need hard-hitting, fearless, and independent journalism wherever it wants to bloom, and it needs supporting. My fantasy is that one day there will be a half-dozen subscriber-based online news sites like the Examiner and the Spectator across the province (Maureen Googoo’s is struggling, but I know of at least one other news site already in the planning stages), and the sites can share articles and resources where practical. As I see it, the future of news is horizontal collaboration rather than vertical monopoly concentration.

Please consider subscribing to the Cape Breton Spectator.



Appeals Standing Committee (10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space Main Floor, Alderney Gate — staff is recommending approval of a development agreement for a 10-storey apartment building at 169 Wyse Road, the site of the former country bar Little Nashville; Centrefolds, the world’s worst strip bar; and the animal hospital that has since moved over to Prince Albert Road (the one with all the animal statues on the roof).


No public meetings.

On campus


Thesis defence, Biology (10am, Room 2L3, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Master’s candidate Purvi C. Trivedi will defend her thesis, “Nutrient Regulation of Autophagy in the Heart.”

Thesis defence, Psychology (10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Roxanne Sterniczuk will defend her thesis, “Disruption of Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Organization as Risk Factors for Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Dalhousie Mathematics Colloquium (2:30pm, Chase, Room 319) — Laura Turner, from SUNY, will speak on “Analytic Representations and Generality in the Late 19th Century.”

Right in the gut (3:30pm, Room 5260, Life Sciences Centre, Psychology Wing) — Dean A. Tripp, from Queens University, will speak on “New Insights and Clinical Care Maps for Urogenital and Gastrointestinal Diseases, Pain, and Their Psychosocial Risk Factors.”


Murder! (7:30pm, KTS Lecture Hall, New Academic Building) — Charlotte Gray will read from her latest book, The Massey Murder: a Maid, her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country.

In the harbour

Halifax to Sable Island, 9am Thursday. Map:
Halifax to Sable Island, 9am Thursday. Map:

Scheduled as of 7am:

4:30am: NYK Demeter, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southhampton, England
8am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney with up to 1,350 passengers
10:30am: Dalian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
3pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Autoport
3:30pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
10pm: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, arrives Fairview Cove from New York
Midnight: Dalian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York


We’re recording Examineradio today. And I hope to find the time to write a piece about how we measure tourism and tourism dollars in Nova Scotia.

Please consider subscribing to the Examiner. Just $5 or $10 a month goes a long way. Or, consider making a one-time contribution via PayPal. Thanks much!


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

Join the Conversation


Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
  1. Thanks Robert Devet for sharing the 142 page HRM Employment Systems Review. I scanned 97 pages. Especially interesting section – Workplace Rights: Anti-Harassment Policy – “This review finds HRM’s policy and procedures to be well developed and for the most part, in compliance with the organization’s obligations under the Human Rights Act.” This confidential, probably $8,000.00 report, accomplishes ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

  2. For Mary Campbell : CBRM financial statements have been notoriously late and have consistentlyfailed to meet the legislated provincial deadlines.
    Will the 2015/16 audited statements see the light of day before the municipal election on October 15th ?
    Here is the dismal record of CBRM (year end is March 31) :
    2006/07 signed by auditors February 28 2008 passed by council January 29 2009
    2007/08 signed by auditors March 11 2009 passed by council July 20 2009
    2008/09 signed by auditors January 5 2010 passed by council January 21 2010
    2009/10 signed by auditors October 1 2010 passed by council December 2 2010
    2010/11 signed by auditors February 9 2012 passed by council February 9 2012
    2011/12 signed by auditors Dec 18 2012 passed by council January 14 2013
    2012/13 signed by auditors Sept 25 2013 passed by council January 31 2014
    2013/14 signed by auditors October 21 2014 passed by council October 31 2014
    2014/15 signed by auditors October 6 2015 passed by council October 6 2015

    Mary Campbell mat want to ask the provincial government why CBRM was unable to provide audited financial statements in a timely manner ?
    HRM usually passes audited statements in late June, less than 3 months after the financial year end.

  3. I wonder what it would cost to demolish the old convention centre? This would be a ridiculous way to spend money but may be the least worst option but to do so would admit the stupidity of the whole convention centre project. Instead it will stand as a monument to bad civic governance.

    Speaking of bad monuments:

    Yes, Churchill was a monster and a war criminal. One of a great many examples:
    When Mahatma Gandhi launched his campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill raged: “He ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.”

    1. Churchill despised Mahatma Gandhi, whom he described as “half-naked, seditious fakir”. Leopold Amery, Churchill’s own Secretary of State for India, vented in his private diaries, writing “on the subject of India, Winston is not quite sane” and that he didn’t “see much difference between [Churchill’s] outlook and Hitler’s.”
      The Churchill monument certainly needs a plaque that provides some context.

  4. Ah racism and municipal government, the government closest to the people.

    Of couse any response comes from a Communications Advisor not someone who might actually be accountable for the sorry state of municipal employees.

    Trust us to deal with it internally. We’ll take care of it. You run off and play some Pokemon Go, eat your donair (the official for of H/\LIF/\X in case you missed it) and things will be all right. Nothing to look at here.

    1. Bravo, gordohfx! You characterize the City Hall response – its abject dismissal – perfectly. How and why have we allowed our institutions to adopt and practise this lord-to-serf attitude?

  5. Winston Churchill’s statute might also be surrounded by rats because they are somehow attracted by his notorious racism. In the West, Churchill is a hero, the man who grimly withstood Nazism and helped save Western liberal democracy. Churchill’s detractors, however, point to his well-documented bigotry, articulated often with even for his time shocking callousness and contempt. Most notoriously, Churchill presided over the hideous 1943 famine in Bengal, where some 3 million Indians perished, largely as a result of British imperial neglect. Churchill was both indifferent to their plight and even mocked the millions suffering, chuckling over the culling of a population that bred “like rabbits.”

    1. An excellent point on British priorities in WW2. However, the British official in charge of food distribution in Egypt was able to ensure that the population didn’t starve, and the troops were well fed. Perhaps more blame (and praise could be laid at the feet of the responsible officials).
      For much more information on this I found Lizzie Collingham’s “The Taste of War:World War Two and the Battle for Food” a useful study. See this review (; and the Halifax Library does have two copies.

      1. Thanks for the response and the link to the excellent review where it says: “In fact, much of this book is a story of how entitlement to food mattered to many groups of people during the war and why the examination of entitlement reveals more about national ideology and culture than calculations about the amounts of foodstuffs that existed – an argument developed by Amartya Sen with regard to the Bengal famine of 1942, during which three million Indians starved to death.:

  6. Good on Devet for following up on the story, but it’s incorrect to say he broke it. News957 obtained the report and first reported on it, and Devet buries that information midway through the post. His coverage was certainly in greater depth than theirs.

  7. Re : former Little Nashville property. Last month the property was once again before the HRM Appeals Committee because of a complaint and the owner told the committee that he had complied with all orders to clean up and secure the building.
    When asked the status of his application for a new building he told members that he bought the property over 5 years ago and planned to renovate and rent out new space but when he met with HRM planner Mitch Dickey he was told ‘…if he waited a little while he would be able to get more height when the new plan was passed’.
    Tonight he will move one step closer to getting ‘ more height’ when community council considers ..Item 13.1.4
    ” It is recommended that Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council:
    1. Give notice of motion to consider the proposed development agreement, as set out in Attachment A of this report, to allow for a 10-storey apartment building containing ground floor commercial uses at 169 Wyse Road, Dartmouth and schedule a public hearing…”