I’m Erica Butler, one of the people paid through your subscriptions, to research and write in hopes of helping you better understand what the heck is going on around here.

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1. Court of Appeal hears taxi driver sex assault case

Gregory Lenehan. Photo: CBC

Jennifer Henderson reports for the Halifax Examiner on the appeal underway of the acquittal of taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi. Here’s a glimpse of Henderson’s coverage, featuring the arguments being put forward by Crown prosecutor Jennifer MacLellan:

MacLellan told the Court of Appeal that Lenehan’s first mistake was declaring he had “no evidence” to prove the woman hadn’t consented to sexual activity.

On the contrary, said MacLellan, the Crown had introduced “significant circumstantial evidence” — including the blood alcohol readings, the garbled text messages to friends, and urine-soaked clothes — to demonstrate loss of control over bodily functions.

MacLellan argued the judge “didn’t grasp” that the evidence introduced to show the passenger’s level of intoxication was the same evidence that proved she didn’t consent and lacked the capacity to do so. The Crown argued Lenehan’s failure to recognize the nature of this evidence led to a legal error in finding “reasonable doubt” that the woman had consented to sexual touching.

Justice Cindy Bourgeois asked the prosecutor whether the fact the woman had $20 ready to pay for the ride home and could provide her home address when woken by police might be considered a sign she had the ability to consent. MacLellan responded with a question of her own, asking how “a rote memory” of a person’s name and address could possibly be used as a sign of consent to have sex with a complete stranger in a cab?

The story is behind the Examiner’s paywall.  Please consider subscribing to support this work.

2. Our state of disrepair

From Census Mapper: “This map shows the proportion of dwelling units judged by current occupants to be in need of major repairs.”
From Census Mapper: “This map shows the proportion of dwelling units judged by current occupants to be in need of major repairs.”

The Nova Scotia Advocate reports on recently released long form census data on the state of repair of the country’s dwellings.  Nova Scotia is averaging just under nine per cent, or about about 35,375 of households reporting major repairs needed in their residence. That’s on the high end compared across the provinces, but well below the shocking numbers out of the north. Nunavut tops the chart with 26.1 per cent of people reporting major repairs needed.

Check out Census Mapper for a close up view of where the most repairs are needed in Halifax neighbourhoods. Unsurprisingly, low income and public housing neighbourhoods are over-represented.

3. Via Rail has taken a concrete step to making regional rail a reality

One of VIA’s Rail Diesel Cars at rest in Halifax after testing in northern New Brunswick. Photo by Tim Hayman.
One of VIA’s Rail Diesel Cars at rest in Halifax after testing in northern New Brunswick. Photo by Tim Hayman.

The crown corporation has been testing out running some of its Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) along CN rail lines in New Brunswick. This could be an actual step towards opening VIA’s promised regional rail service from Campbellton to Moncton, and Moncton to Halifax. The service would use RDCs (aka Dayliners), which are self-propelled passenger coaches designed for running commuter and rural train service.

VIA spokesperson Mylene Belanger says there’s still no timeline for when we can expect regional rail service to kick off.  “While it’s too early to confirm a date, we continue to work with our infrastructure partners on this project and remain committed to help improve the current transportation system in the Maritimes,”  writes Belanger via email.

Previous Examiner coverage of VIA Rail service in the Maritimes, now out from behind the paywall:

4. Kitch is off the list

Tracy Kitch. Photo: Career Women Interaction

Former IWK CEO Tracy Kitch is now off the list of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women, reports Anjuli Patil for the CBC. Apparently Women’s Executive Network selected Kitch before they knew about the investigation into her grifting of $47,000 from a children’s hospital. Maybe they should bookmark Michael Gorman’s reporting for the CBC, just for future reference.

5. PEI goes to the Feds over Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp Mill. Photo: Halifax Examiner

PEI Guardian reporter Teresa Wright reports in the Chronicle Herald that PEI Fisheries Minister Alan McIsaac is taking his concerns over the potential dumping of Northern Pulp effluent in the Northumberland Strait to his federal counterpart. Reports Wright:

Northern Pulp in Pictou has been told by the Nova Scotia government to replace the mill’s effluent treatment plant by 2020. But updating the facility could involve a process that would see wastewater drained into the Northumberland Strait.

McIsaac says this issue is of “grave concern” to industry stakeholders over the possibility of contaminating the Island’s lucrative lobster industry.

He says he has outlined these concerns with the fisheries minister in Nova Scotia and with LeBlanc in Ottawa.

“I’ve wrote a letter to them expressing the dire concerns we have about this and we want this plant cleaned up, but not by dumping the waste into the Northumberland Strait,” McIsaac said.

“This is one of our largest industries here, how can some private operation dump wastewater into the Strait?… We cannot have this effluent coming from that plant going into the waters that could affect not only our lobster fishery but also those in Nova Scotia.”

This once pristine tidal estuary, Boat Harbour has been used as an industrial waste lagoon for the Abercrombie pulp mill (now Northern Pulp) near Pictou for fifty years. Photo courtesy Dave Gunning.

Thanks to 10 new subscriptions yesterday, everyone can now read and freely share Linda Pannozzo’s feature on Northern Pulp’s mess at Boat Harbour.

Click here to read “Dirty Dealing: Northern Pulp Mill and the province are set to roll the dice with Boat Harbour’s replacement, but a cleaner alternative exists.”

6.  Insurance company rates Halifax with worst collision rate, three years in a row

Metro’s Spencer Osberg reports on an annual collision study conducted by Allstate insurance comparing 93 communities in four provinces. Halifax has the highest rate of collisions per capita for the third year of the study. Bizarrely, the article quotes a local driving instructor on why Halifax is doing so poorly, and he gives a questionable stat, right off the bat:

While not directly involved in the survey, Jake McKenna, the owner-operator of Mckenna’s Driving School, said it’s likely a majority of the recorded incidents involve pedestrians and cyclists.

Osberg didn’t deem fit to fact-check this bit, but McKenna is likely completely wrong. In 2006, Nova Scotia reported over 6,000 collisions in Halifax County. (The province stopped issuing collision reports in 2006.) In 2015, Halifax police reported 208 vehicle-pedestrian collisions. I know these numbers are not actually comparable, but on a short timeline, they serve as a rough measure that the majority of collisions almost certainly do not involve pedestrians and cyclists. Osberg goes on to further quote McKenna.

He said the Haligonian habit of cars stopping anywhere to let people cross is part of the problem.

“It comes off as a super friendly thing for outsiders who come here — but it’s actually dangerous,” he said. “We’ve given so much leeway over so many years to pedestrians, people are fearless – they don’t look, they just walk because they think someone is going to stop.”

McKenna said the city’s bicycle lanes – which often end abruptly leading into busy intersections such as the Armdale Rotary – also lead to many accidents involving cyclists.


1.  Stop believing fossil fuel billionaires

The Ecology Action Centre’s Stephen Thomas takes Nova Scotia to task over its continued investment in coal mining, in The Coast’s Voice of the City:

The answer to a failing coal industry is not more coal mining. We need to be very careful if and when Kameron Coal positions itself to ask for economic support or subsidies to keep its bad idea afloat.

Instead, we need support for these workers. We need to build a strategy in Nova Scotia for the justice-based transition away from carbon-intensive industries in order to create support programs, re-training and re-tooling for workers entering the green economy. The same skills used by electricians, welders, labourers and even pipe-fitters are transferrable to wind, solar, efficiency and green building.




Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — the committee will talk about the “Carriage of Two-Wheeled Devices” on ferries. There’s a guy on the city’s Sunshine List whose job it is to rename bicycles.

Public Information Meeting – Case 20634 (Thursday, 7pm, Cafeteria, Bedford and Forsyth Education Centres) — rezones in Bedford.


No public meetings.


No public meetings today or Friday.

On campus



Laura Hug. Photo: uwaterloo.ca

Accessing Microbial Diversity and Function from Contaminated Environments (Thursday, 9:30am, Room C-140, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Laura Hug from the University of Waterloo will speak.

Piano Masterclass (Thursday, 11:30am, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Wayne Weng will perform.

From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg and beyond. Text Forms and Textual Transmission through the Ages (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 2107, Mona Campbell Building) — Viktor Golinets from the College of Jewish Studies, Heidelberg, will speak.

Eating Well With Canada’s Food Guide: Evidence, Policy and Politics (Thursday, 3pm, Room 3157, Dentistry Building) — Leah Cahill, Catherine Mah, and Katherine Fierlbeck will speak.

Trombone/Conducting Masterclass (Thursday, 5pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Alain Trudel will perform.

Two Minutes to Midnight: Can the Crisis in North Korea be Defused? (Thursday, 7pm, Potter Auditorium,Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — a panel discussion about North Korea’s nuclear program and human rights abuses, followed by a screening of the film “Under the Sun.”

A Way of Life: Indigenous Knowledge to Sustain the World (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — Dan Longboat, Founder and Director of the Indigenous Environmental Studies and Sciences program at Trent University, will speak.

Cuba Beyond the Beach: Stories of Life in Havana (Thursday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Karen Dubinsky will launch her new book.


Voice Recital (Friday, 12pm, Sculpture Court, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — students of Marcia Swanston will perform.

When Bodipy and Porphyrin Work Together: From Molecular Models to Solar Cells (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Building) — Pierre D. Harvey from Sherbrooke University will speak.

 Are Canadian Historians Wrong About the Welfare State? (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — William Langford will speak.

Christine Tsang. Photo: huronuc.ca

What’s In a Song? The Perception of Singing and Speaking by Infant Listeners (Friday, 3:40pm, Room P5260, Life Sciences Centre) — Christine Tsang from Huron University College will speak.

Saint Mary’s


Thesis Defence, Business Administration (Friday, 1pm, Room 260 in the building named after a grocery store) — PhD candidate Marcelle Nolene Allen will defend her thesis, “The International Development Bank and the Making of Postcolonial Subjectivities.”

In the harbour

1:30am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at anchorage from Saint-Pierre
5am: Palena, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
5;30am: Delphinus Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Sagunto, Spain
6am: Itea, container ship, moves from Bedford Basin anchorage to Fairview Cove
7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo moves from anchorage to Pier 36
11:30am: Delphinus Leader, car carrier, sails from Autoport to sea
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
4pm: Itea, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove to Liverpool, England
4:30pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport back to Pier 41


I wonder if Lindell Smith ever thinks about doing this:  N.B.’s (youngest ever) city councillor quits to work as lifeguard in the Bahamas

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  1. The Dayliner service from Halifax to Sydney was killed by the punitive fees that CN charged VIA for running rights over its lines.
    IIRC, it cost VIA $20K whenever it ran a train from Halifax to Sydney … You figure out how many passengers they would have to carry to raise that amount of money (I think the one way fare was about $50 in those far off days) — Then compare that with the number of passengers an RDC can carry.

    1. Hi Philip, I’ve replied to you with an email. I’ve been getting this question quite a bit lately. We don’t have the capability of sending out automatic notices yet, but we’re working on that. On the subscription sign up page it mentions that all annual subscriptions are automatically renewing. We’re working on making that an “opt-in”, but it’s complicated. Until then, if anyone doesn’t want their annual subscription automatically renewed, you can cancel at any time (and keep your access to the paywall until the end of the term) or send me an email. Thanks!

    1. When VIA receives a commitment from various levels of government to provide the subsidies that VIA desires, this will likely mark the date when VIA will announce the start date that regional rail service will become operational. The Yarmouth ferry has nothing on the financial maneuvering that VIA has been doing since the concept was put forward.

      1. That makes a lot more sense. I thought maybe a grassroots initiative for public transit had succeeded. Good to know it’s just regular greed/cronyism.

        1. I believe VIA wants to ensure that they will receive a guaranteed profit from the endeavour and that the slack for operational costs will be picked by government provided subsidies. Not necessarily a wrong decision by VIA; but the key here will be what is an acceptable level of profit? Almost all forms of public transit receive subsidies. In other words, So is VIA greedy? That depends on the profit margin they bargain for; but the public needs to be aware that the costs for a regional rail service will be primarily be funded through ridership fares and subsidies… if there is a considerable commercial shipping aspect to this service, it has not been touted to any great extent. Also it is clear that this service will not be a big travel time saver unless significant rail infrastructure upgrades are made and VIA will not complete the those upgrades out of the goodness of their corporate heart.

  2. And people make fun of millennials for taking selfies. The ultimate selfie is nominating yourself for an award and charging the nomination fee to the organization you are paid to lead.