1. P3 schools

The province purchased the land on which Horton High School in the Annapolis Valley was built at 30 times its assessed value, and then spent $47 million leasing the school from the Hardman Group in a P3 arrangement. Citadel High in Halifax, a similarly sized school, was built as a traditional public project at a cost of just $21 million. In March, the province announced that it would buy the school from Hardman for $13.3 million; that purchase was not part of yesterday’s announcement.

The Department of Education issued this release yesterday:

Government is exercising its contractual right to buy 10 P-3 schools from developers Nova Learning and Ashford Investment.

The price for the schools is $49.3 million and this purchase represents the best value for Nova Scotia taxpayers. It is estimated that purchasing the schools will result in substantial savings when compared with renewing the leases for the next 30 years.

The schools were developed in partnership with Nova Learning and Ashford Investments. Compared with estimates of leasing costs over 30 years, purchasing the three Ashford schools will save $21.5 million and purchasing the seven Nova Learning schools will save $34.9 million. These partners will be notified according to the requirements of the public-private agreements.

The following three schools will be purchased from Ashford Investments for a total price of $16 million:
— Antigonish Education Centre, Antigonish
— Bayview Education Centre, Port Hood, Inverness Co.
— Dalbrae Academy, Mabou, Inverness Co.

The seven schools that will be purchased from Nova Learning for a total price of $33.2 million are:
— Maple Ridge Elementary School, Lantz, Hants Co.
— Meadowfields Community School, Yarmouth
— Champlain Elementary School, Granville Ferry, Annapolis Co.
— Forest Ridge Academy, Barrington, Shelburne Co.
— Bayview Community School, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg Co.
— Pine Ridge Middle School, Kingston, Kings Co.
— Northeast Kings Education Centre, Canning, Kings Co.

In 1998, the province signed agreements with four developers committing to long-term leases for 39 P3 schools. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development consulted with individual school boards to determine their infrastructure needs and to discuss their long-term plans. The province accepted all recommendations made by the school boards, in terms of purchasing, leasing or returning properties to the developer. Through a review process, boards confirmed that 37 of the 39 schools were still required to serve future student needs.

The purchases announced today, July 19, bring this partnership to its conclusion, with 37 schools purchased and two surrendered or returned to the developer. The total cost of purchasing the 37 schools is $215.9 million.

The former Savage government entered into the P3 arrangements as a sort of accounting smoke-and-mirrors trick to make it look like it was building schools without incurring debt, but of course the arrangement was in reality debt, and accounting rules have been changed to make that reality clear.

Everything about the deals seems underhanded, or at least suspect. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives wrote a lengthy report on the P3 schools that details myriad problems with the leases.

The total cost of the leases has been somewhere in the ballpark of a billion dollars, although a full and public accounting hasn’t been conducted. So another $219 million on top of that is an awful lot of money, but it’s better to spend that money than to continue with the leases.

2. Sprawl

“Some of HRM’s richest neighbourhoods are being subsidized by some of our poorest ones, according to a new analysis by urban planners Tristan Cleveland and Paul Dec which looks at census data, road costs, and road length per capita,” writes Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler. “The analysis brings to light systemic inequities, and also shows that on average, Halifax has been growing less efficient in terms of managing our collective costs.”

Click here to read “A new way to measure sprawl shines light on inequities and inefficiencies.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall. Click here to subscribe.

3. Cornwallis protestors doxed

“A group of self-described national socialists in Nova Scotia has posted personal information about people who have shown interest in protests calling for the removal of an Edward Cornwallis statue in Halifax, labelling them as ‘potentially dangerous,’” reports Nic Meloney for the CBC:

An anonymous Twitter user affiliated with Cape Breton Alt Right published a list online last Thursday, releasing the names, photos and other identifying details of 28 people interested in the removal of the statue — in a process known on the internet as “doxing.” 

Examiner contributor El Jones was among those on the list. She told the CBC:

“You hope that this is just some form of extreme reaction that’s perhaps just intended to intimidate people,” said Jones.

“[But] you have to take seriously the intent behind it, which is an attempt to harm.” 

Jones wasn’t at the protest; she was in Toronto.

Besides the intimidation, the list is stupid. Anyone who clicked “interested” on the Facebook Group announcing the protest was put on the list; many people click “interested” not because they are taking a stand one way or the other on the issue, but just so they can keep up with what’s going on.

But yes, the intimidation is the real issue here.

4. Volta Labs moving to the Maritime Centre

Volta Labs is moving over to the Maritime Centre:

Volta Labs currently occupies about 20,000 square feet of the nineteen-storey building at 1505 Barrington Street. This new space will occupy the ground, mezzanine and second floors, with more room for resident start-up companies, corporate innovation outposts and Volta’s 600 network members. Expansion will start this winter, also making way for a large multi-purpose space, private meeting rooms, and larger co-working spaces.

The Maritime Centre has been a ghost town for the past while. True story: I sometimes go to work in the basement food court because there’s never anyone there. I think the only people riding the elevators are tourists wanting to look down at the city from on high:

YouTube video

For myself, I’m not fond of looking out windows from high places, so I tried to take the stairs in the Maritime Centre, with no luck at all. I wrote a blog post about it for The Coast.

I guess my nearly private office will soon be a thing of the past, but I hope those tech guys get away from their screens for long enough to support Dustjacket Books, the used bookstore that somehow has managed to hold on through the ghost town years.

5. Jordan decision and “technicalities”

“With the Supreme Court of Canada handing down a decision to ensure timely justice for all, addressing undue delays in Nova Scotia has become a top priority for police, lawyers and judges,” reports CTV:

The Jordan decision set strict time limits between charges and trial — 18 months in provincial court and 30 months in superior court.


In the last year, provincial prosecutors have had a total of 16 cases disputed [with applications from defence lawyers] for unreasonable delays. Of those, two cases were stayed [meaning the original cases were dismissed], seven [of the applications were] dismissed [meaning the original cases continue to be prosecuted], two [applications were] withdrawn by the defence [meaning the original cases continue to be prosecuted] and five [applications] are pending.*

* Chris Hansen, a spokesperson with the Public Prosecution Service, called to clarify the above paragraph, and I’ve updated it to improve the understanding. CTV’s original wording was confusing and conveyed the numbers incorrectly.

In the article is a comment from Deputy Justice Minister Karen Hudson:

The public confidence in the criminal justice system will decrease if cases are not tried and determined on their merits and are, in their thoughts, thrown out because of a technicality.

There are no “technicalities” in the administration of justice. This is not writing code for a website; we’re talking about people’s lives. If the police and prosecution have mishandled evidence or coerced testimony or failed to give the defence exculpatory evidence or haven’t followed the rules of court, they haven’t lost on a “technicality” — they’ve failed to successfully prosecute.

Hudson is implying there are situations where “we couldn’t convict but the defendant was really guilty,” when the real formulation is “we couldn’t convict so the defendant is not guilty.”

6. Government advertising

Photo: CTV

“A campaign by Halifax Water is getting a lot of attention, more for what it doesn’t say than what it does,” reports CTV:

The water utility plans to convert methane from wastewater into energy, and found a tongue-in-cheek way to do it. One sign reads, “Powerful sh*t. We turn wastewater into energy.” Another says, “Be proud of your Dingle. A clean harbour means the beach is open.”

The signs can be seen on about 75 Halifax Transit buses. The $31,000-campaign was developed by a local company for Halifax Transit and runs throughout July and August.

CTV’s focus is on how people react to the the ads’ use of an asterisk in the word “shit,” but I want to know why a city-owned utility feels it needs to advertise in the first place. This isn’t an educational campaign about flushing motor oil down storm drains or whatever. There’s no way the utility could profit from or otherwise improve finances because of the ads. They’re just a straight-up PR campaign, to make us feel gushy about the water department.

How ’bout you just do your job instead of going on about it?

Continues CTV:

“We’re bombarded with 10 or 30,000 messages a week if they’re marketing messages in some way, so your goal in marketing and promotions is to stand out,” says [Marketing professor Ed] McHugh.

Great, now we’ve got 30,001 ads bombarding us.

7. Another dead whale

A right whale. Photo: DFO

The Marine Animal Response Society posted yesterday on its Facebook page:

And the horrific saga continues…we’ve had a report today of another dead right whale and another entangled right whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

We’re currently working with DFO and our Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative colleagues to line everything up so we can conduct a necropsy of this 8th dead right whale later this week.

Currently disentanglement operations for right whales are still suspended in Canada. DFO will monitor the entangled whale and consult with experts as to the best and safest course of action.

Such devastating news.

8. Naloxone

“Health officials in Nova Scotia say free naloxone kits will be available to the public at 300 community pharmacies across the province beginning Sept. 1,” reports the Canadian Press.

9.  1970s tragedy

From the Cape Breton Post in 1970

“On 10 July 1970, three young Cape Breton men — 20-year-old Terry Burt of Sydney, 17-year-old David Burrows of Sydney River and 15-year-old Kenny Novak of Sydney River — were run over by a freight train on a track in Maine, about 45 kilometers from the Canadian border,” writes Ken Jessome for the Cape Breton Spectator:

It happened on a Friday morning, around 7 am, near a place called Smyrna Mills. The 20-car Bangor and Aroostook train was heading north to Houlton, Maine. It had just rounded a sharp turn when, by his own account, the engineer spotted some “debris” on the tracks and began to apply the brakes.

From about 150 feet away, he recognized the debris as sleeping bags and locked the train’s wheels but it was too late – all 20 cars passed over what turned out to be the bodies of the three youths.

That they were sleeping in or under the bags was part of the official story, reported without question in the Cape Breton Post‘s scant Page-3 coverage, and pronounced by Sheriff Darrell Crandall of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department: the three, hitchhiking from Canada, maybe on the way to Washington, D.C. for some reason, had entered the United States illegally and, looking for a place to sleep, had decided to bed down on train tracks.

Not one of the three was carrying ID, and less than six dollars was found among them. Crandall said a scattering of Canadian goods and a name and address on one of the sleeping bags helped them identify the three Cape Bretoners.

The Sheriff immediately ruled out the possibility of foul play. But he allowed that there was one puzzling question: “Why did they lay down on the railway tracks?”

Jessome knew the boys, and goes on to describe what life was like circa-1970 for teenagers in the Sydney area. It’s a fascinating portrait that could stand on its own, but this is just Part 1 of a series; I suspect that Part 2 will explore the tragedy itself.

Click here to read “Remembering a Mysterious Summer of ’70 Tragedy (Part I).”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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Community Planning & Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — councillor Lindell Smith is asking for a staff report responding to a letter from Basic Income Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original letter, so I can’t tell you anything more.

Public Information meeting – Case 21209 (Thursday, 1pm and then again at 6pm, Halifax Exhibition Centre, Goodwood) — a composting facility is proposed for Goodwood.

ArtsHalifax Advisory Committee (Thursday, 3pm) — well, the meeting shows up on the city’s event page, but absolutely no information is given about it, including where the meeting is being held or what they’re talking about.


No public meetings in July.

On campus



Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Thursday, 9am, Room 14B-02, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Donika Shala will defend her thesis, “Effects of Different Light Treatments on a Microbial Mat Photobioreactor.”

Faculty of Agriculture Community Day (Thursday, 10am, Truro’s Civic Square and Farmer’s Market) — The Dalhousie Agricultural Campus invites you to a fun day in the community, rain or shine. For this year only, the event will take place off-campus. Fun and excitement, hands-on activities, live music, food and more!

Microbes and Mind Control (Thursday, 2pm, Room C-150, CHEB Building) — Maureen O’Malley of the University of Bordeaux will speak on “Microbes and Mind Control: the Gut-brain Connection in Light of Microbiome Research.”

Saint Mary’s


Thesis Defence, Astronomy (Friday, 9am, Atrium 101) — PhD candidate Jaspreet Singh Randhawa will defend his thesis, “Investigations on States of 20Mg and Spallation Reaction Effects for Constraining Nuclear Physics Inputs for X-ray Bursts.”

In the harbour

6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
6:30am: Dignity Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Bremerhaven, Germany

East Coast. Photo: Halifax Examiner

6:30am: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Saint John
10:30am: Dignity Ace, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
11:30am: NYK Atlas, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
1pm: Akademik Ioffe, cruise ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea
4:30pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport back to Pier 41


A Facebook friend sends this photo. I may have to go.

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

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  1. A few years ago when I was in San Francisco there was a similar waste-water ad campaign. I don’t remember all the slogans, but one bus I was on had a sign that said, “Your #2 is my #1 — San Francisco Sewer System.”

  2. “A group of self-described national socialists [calling other people] ‘potentially dangerous,’”

    Also, from the CBC story:
    “The group continues to maintain anonymity and refused to be interviewed…. [and said] ‘The community at large has a right to know the identities of those around them who may pose a threat to their immediate safety and a threat to their property,'”

  3. Passport application and renewal office in Maritime Centre. One can bear witness to HIGH DRAMA re: folks poised to travel who find themselves confronted with a “NO-GO” scenario because of passport problems.

    Serious “contact anxiety” therein.

    1. The copyeditor and I argued about this. I lost.

      The CBC used one X. And then there’s out-foxed, with one X.

      I still wanted two Xs, but I’m not the authority here.

  4. Volta has been in the Maritime Centre for a few years now. They are expanding their footprint.