1. Woodford Report is back: Here’s what happened at Halifax regional council Tuesday

A stone building is seen on a sunny winter's day. There's no snow on the ground. The symmetrical building has a tall spire in the centre with a clock, and two big dormers on either side. There are also a series of three smaller dormers on each side of the central tower. The photo is taken from the right of the building.
Halifax City Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

After publishing five articles on Monday, the recently-returned Zane Woodford took a rest Tuesday, bringing a mere two stories to today’s Morning File (the second is further down in today’s File).

First, Woodford is back with his regular roundup of all things Halifax regional council. As usual, he covers a lot of ground, but here are the highlights from Tuesday’s Council news:

  • Council debated a new policy, voting to defer pending more information, on a new traffic calming policy. One councillor argued that council would be agreeing to kill more people if it adopted the new policy as written. Traffic calming is the practice of adding speed humps or other measures to streets designed to slow vehicles.
  • Another delay: Council’s budget committee started work on the proposed capital budget, but ran out of time to finish the debate. The debate on the 2022-2023 capital plan draft  — with more than $200 million planned in spending — will resume Friday.
  • A new development proposal could make Mumford Road the most population-dense area in Halifax. (If they’re counting the shopping centre parking lot on the weekend, I feel like it might already be able to make that claim). A real estate firm is proposing to remove some of the mall buildings on the block bounded by Mumford, CN Rail cut, and Leppert Street. They would create new streets; build a new underground transit terminal; and put up 15 residential towers to the maximum height of 90 metres for a total of more than 5,500 new residential units. A staff report was brought before council.
  • More development news: a developer wants to build a series of apartment buildings clustered in neighbourhoods along Kearney Lake Road. But neighbours aren’t sure the already-polluted lake can stand the pressure.
  • Council voted in favour of land-use planning amendments to allow the addition of 12 units to the Souls Harbour Rescue Mission’s existing shelter on the Eastern Shore in West Chezzetcook. Council had already approved the use of about $3 million in federal Rapid Housing Initiative funding for the project in late-August. That initiative gives Souls Harbour a year to build.

For all the details on these developments, and more, check out Woodford’s full report.

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2. Nova Scotia Review Board hearing: Kayla Borden testifies, line of questioning debated during constable’s testimony

Kayla Borden is seen outside the building where her appeal is being heard this week. Borden is a young Black woman. Here's she is smiling and wearing a puffy black jacket.

Matthew Byard has two stories from the Nova Scotia Review Board appeal hearing that started Monday in Dartmouth. The hearing is looking into a complaint by Kayla Borden against members of the Halifax Regional Police (HRP).

Byard covers Borden’s testimony from Tuesday, in which she recounted her wrongful arrest in Burnside in July of 2020.

Borden told the Board she was pulled over in the early morning, put in handcuffs, and placed under arrest by Cst. Scott Martin. (Martin and Cst. Jason Meisner are the two subjects of Borden’s complaint, though other officers were involved). She said Martin didn’t read her rights, and waited for nearly half a dozen more police officers to arrive before telling her why she was arrested.

They eventually told her she didn’t have her lights on, something Borden immediately denied. After questioning her, police said they were looking for a white man in a different make of car. They released her, but told her not to leave and to provide her licence and registration information to be recorded in the incident report. She said an officer then apologized to her, before the police took off without providing their names or the incident number.

Borden said she feels the arrest was influenced by racial bias as well as systemic racism within Halifax Regional Police, and that the incident left her “sad,” and “humiliated.” She said she missed a night’s sleep after the ordeal, and had to skip a day’s work to file a complaint. And filing that complaint, she said, turned into a long, winding runaround with police.

You can read more about that runaround, and Borden’s full testimony, in this article from Tuesday.

Debate over line of questioning during constable’s testimony

Byard’s second story revolves around the testimony of Cst. Stewart McCulley.

McCulley told the Board that on the night in question, he saw a car with no headlights or licence plate going down the Bedford Highway. Following the car, he determined the driver was a white man in a baseball cap. He said he continued to pursue the vehicle at high speed until a higher ranking officer called off the chase for safety reasons.

McCulley then radioed in a description of the vehicle, saying it was “black” and “dark coloured.” He didn’t describe the driver as white or male, though he did refer to the driver as “he” multiple times.

Cst. McCulley later approached the scene of Borden’s arrest after she’d been pulled over. He said he immediately recognized it was the wrong car, so he relayed that information over the radio and drove away without seeing Borden or talking to the police officers face to face.

After Borden’s lawyer Devin Maxwell asked McCully about department policy with respect to when officers are allowed to obtain identification, the Police Review Board chair Jean McKenna interjected, and a back and forth started in which McKenna said police officers don’t study and memorize all the policies out there and that it shouldn’t matter if the constable knew the policy in this case.

When HRP’s lawyer, Andrew Gough, took to questioning McCulley, he started first by objecting to Maxwell’s line of questioning toward the witness. An 11-minute debate between Maxwell and Gough ensued. The two argued whether it was relevant to ask McCulley about the existence of systemic racism in HRP.

McCulley’s testimony wrapped Tuesday afternoon and the hearing is scheduled to continue into next week.

Read a fuller description of McCulley’s testimony, and the debates that came from it, by clicking here.

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3. El Jones: Quite a week for Halifax policing

A man in a black uniform speaks while gesturing with his right hand. On the uniform is the Halifax Regional Police logo, along with a badge and insignia denoting rank. On the table in front of the man is a name plate, a microphone and a water bottle. The background is grey.
Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella speaks during a meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

With the Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing starting Monday, and a Board of Police Commissioners meeting that same day where HRP asked for a bigger budget, it’s been a big start to the week for police in Halifax.

El Jones, who is on Halifax’s Committee to Define Defunding the Police is here to take it all in and analyze some of the noteworthy moments from the first half of the week:

While police leadership went into existential crisis, arguing at the Board that morale was low because of “activism” and “cancel culture,” at the Police Review Board hearing we were encountering many of the actual reasons why policing is facing increased criticism and scrutiny: police investigating themselves, allegations of systemic racism, terrorizing people for no reason (“a mistake”), and the taxpayer footing the bill for all of it when police face complaints.

Jones breaks down five things worth considering from the Review Board hearing and the Commissioners meeting in her full article.

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4. COVID update

Coronavirus model made of metal plates and spikes

Schools across Nova Scotia saw new pandemic restrictions came in to play Tuesday. Among other things, there will be no assemblies, concerts, sporting events, or non-essential visitors until after the holiday break. The rest of the province will be under new restrictions starting Friday.

And the Mooseheads will play Thursday now, a day ahead of schedule. Say what you will.

Read Tim Bousquet’s Monday update for a recap of those incoming restrictions.

As for the numbers announced yesterday: 127 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the province Tuesday. Here’s a breakdown of those new cases by Nova Scotia Health zone:

  • 68 Eastern
  • 42 Central
  • 11 Northern
  • 6 Western

Bousquet reports that, so far, 344 cases of COVID-19 have been tied to the St. Francis Xavier University outbreak.

Despite the recent spike in new cases, there is good news.

There are no new cases reported today at Parkland Antigonish, where an outbreak had been reported, and no one from the community is in hospital. All staff and residents are fully vaccinated, and residents of Mary’s Court have had a booster shot.

Also, hospitalizations are low. Only six people in the province are in hospital with the virus (two of them are in ICU).

There is a backlog in data gathering by Public Health right now, so no active caseload or recovery numbers were reported yesterday.

Read Bousquet’s full Tuesday report here.

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5. Nova Scotia Salmon Association comes out swinging against Atlantic Gold’s plans for mines

The Killag River is an important part of the West River Sheet Harbour watershed, important wild Atlantic salmon habitat, and this photo shows the Killag River just a ston's throw downstream from the site of the proposed Beaver Dam open pit gold mine. Photo: SImon Ryder-Burbidge
The Killag River is just a stone’s throw from proposed Beaver Dam mine. Photo: Simon Ryder-Burbidge

“The Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA) has fired its latest salvo at plans by Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia, a subsidiary of Australia’s St Barbara Ltd, to open a second large open pit gold mine in Nova Scotia,” writes Joan Baxter in her latest on mining in the province.

The location of the proposed site is Beaver Dam, about 30 km from the company’s existing Touquoy mine in Moose River in HRM. Baxter continues:

“In a 26-page statement to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC), the Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA) detailed its major concerns with Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia’s most recent Environmental Impact Statement to the IAAC for its proposed Beaver Dam gold mine in the West River Sheet Harbour watershed.”

The Examiner has recently reported recently on Atlantic Mining NS’s latest submissions to the IAAC and on the Millbrook First Nation opposition to the Beaver Dam mine site.

Here, Baxter continues that story and sifts through the NSSA’s in-depth statement to show us why they’re so concerned about the planned mine’s potential impacts on the ecosystem and salmon habitat in the West River watershed, something the association has been working to restore for nearly two decades.

Click here to read Baxter’s complete story.

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6. Despite “problematic” history of former owners, Council gives Bedford house heritage property designation

Zane Woodford’s second story in today’s Morning File concerns a new heritage property: this little beauty by the Bedford Highway:

A grey house with white trim is shown amid green trees and bushes. The house has a long staircase in the front, and two dormers stretching forward out of the second level. The photo is taken from the left of the home.
1262 Bedford Hwy. Photo: HRM Credit: HRM

Coun. Tim Outhit had brought a motion to Council in August to start the process to register the house as a heritage property. On Tuesday, the heritage proposal for the property finally went to a hearing before Council for a vote.

The property is currently owned by Nova Home Developments. They weren’t so interested in seeing it designated a heritage site, so they sent a lawyer to argue against it.

The way the developers saw it, the home was nothing to be celebrated or protected. In the 19th century, it had been owned by a “controversial shipping merchant,” followed by an Archbishop, both of whom supported the Confederates during the American Civil War.

“Designating this property as a heritage property,” lawyer Richard Norman told Council, “would send the message that the city wishes to memorialize a property which these two rich and powerful men, who supported slavery, were associated with, and that it is worthy and important to memorialize the property in that way.”

Perhaps the developers really were concerned with sending a politically incorrect message by giving their infamous property heritage status? Or maybe the company wants to redevelop the property to build six two-bedroom apartments, four office suites, and a commercial space? Maybe it’s already submitted a development permit application to do so? Maybe heritage status would put a hitch in those plan? Who knows?

Whatever the reason for the push back, Council was unconvinced. Coun. Outhit said the former owners and their views weren’t the reason for the heritage proposal.

Council voted in favour of designating heritage status, with only two votes against.

Read more about how the developers argued that their property was unfit for heritage designation, and why Council wasn’t buying it, by heading to Woodford’s full story here.

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7. Shelter staff at Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre speak out

Shelter staff at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre are speaking out about the recently announced closure of the Centre’s North Park Street shelter.

In an open letter, staff say they feel the decision to close the shelter at the end of the month is related to their efforts to unionize:

It is deeply disturbing that this decision was announced to us within an hour of filing an application at the labour board to unionize.

This decision removes 40 beds from an already overburdened shelter system where houseless people are consistently turned away to sleep in the streets and parks.

The 20 shelter staff members first learned their contracts wouldn’t be getting renewed on Monday when an internal memo was circulated by executive director Pamela Glode Desrochers.

In a Tuesday article for the Coast, Glode Desrochers told Victoria Walton the closure is due to the state of the North Park Street building, lack of funding, lack of cultural support, and lack of use by Indigenous community members. The Centre would be using January and February to revamp the site, providing onsite elders with sweat lodge ceremonies and serving mainly Indigenous clients.

The Friendship Centre is also constructing a 30-bed shelter at its property on College Street in Halifax. Almost $3 million in funding for the redevelopment is coming from the major cities stream of the federal Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI). It was supposed to open next month, but Glode Desrochers told the Coast it likely won’t be ready until March, as the weather begins to warm.

HRM is currently building two temporary modular units to house 24 people in Dartmouth and up to 44 people in Halifax. Losing 40 beds would be a tremendous blow to efforts to get people off the streets and out of parks during the cold winter months. Whether the site is closing because of funding, revamping for cultural purposes, or because of unionization, it doesn’t look good.

8. Atlantic Canadians hopeful, donations going back up

A pile of pretty wrapped gold boxes sit on a red tablecloth in front of a green tree with twinkling lights in the background.
Photo: Hert Niks/Unsplash

This item was written by Yvette d’Entremont

New research surveys published Tuesday suggest Atlantic Canadians are more hopeful going into this holiday season, but their ability to donate and help others financially is still being impacted by the pandemic.

The Hopefulness Survey from Mental Health Research Canada found that 51% of Atlantic Canadians describe themselves as more hopeful, with 81% attributing that to the ability to see family and friends in-person.

The other positive impacts on hopefulness included connecting online (69%) and giving and receiving gifts (68%).  When it comes to the pandemic, close to one third (32%) of Atlantic Canadians say they’re experiencing less anxiety. Those who have been vaccinated were feeling more hopeful, with a majority saying the vaccine relieves worries that their family members (57%) or themselves (54%) will contract COVID-19.

The second survey, Imagine Canada’s annual Holiday Giving in Canada, found 84% of Atlantic Canadians indicated pandemic hardships have given them a new appreciation for the importance of generosity. In addition, 90% believe volunteering to help those in need “is a powerful way to experience the spirit of the holidays” compared to the national average of 85%.

“Hope is fundamental to what makes us want to engage fully in life, and giving and volunteering are powerful ways to do that,” Imagine Canada president and CEO Bruce MacDonald said in a media release.

“Helping others creates connection, reduces feelings of isolation, and increases joy. This has been especially important for the mental health of younger Canadians, as well as retirees, during the pandemic.”

In 2020, only 9% of Atlantic Canadians planned to volunteer over the holidays. That doubled to 18% this year but hasn’t yet caught up to the one-third who volunteered their time pre-pandemic.

The giving survey also projected donations will be up 3%, with 60% of Atlantic Canadians planning to donate. That’s up 13% from last year, but down from the 71% who donated pre-pandemic.

A third (34%) of Atlantic Canadians blame COVID-19 for a lower gift amount, with 61% citing COVID-related financial difficulties as the reason.

During the holiday season specifically, the average Atlantic Canadians’ planned gift amount is $82, an increase of almost 50% compared to last year.

The survey also found a growing demand for federal government support for charities and nonprofits. The percentage of Atlantic Canadians who think the government should do more for the non-profit sector to help serve communities is 59%, up 7% over last year.

The Hopefulness Survey was conducted online by Mental Health Research Canada from October 22 to November 3, 2021. In total, 4,108 Canadian residents 16 years and older were interviewed. A sample of this size has a confidence interval of plus or minus 1.5%.

The Holiday Giving in Canada Survey was conducted online by Ignite-Lab from November 17 to November 22, 2021. They interviewed 1,505 Canadian residents 18 years and older. A sample of this size has a confidence interval of plus or minus 2.7%.

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To cut or not to cut: What to do with Nova Scotia’s forests

A old tree in a beautiful lush forest in Annapolis County.
A three-century-old yellow birch in Annapolis County. Photo from John LeDuc’s submission to the Lahey Review.

Last Wednesday, representatives of eight community and environmental groups in Nova Scotia — including Ecology Action Centre, Nature NS, and the Healthy Forest Coalition —  spoke to media at a conference in Halifax. They told reporters they’re demanding the province put a moratorium on ALL cutting on Nova Scotia’s Crown lands until the recommendations in William Lahey’s 2018 Independent Review of Forestry Practices are implemented.

The group said it felt compelled to deliver the message following Lahey’s recent evaluation of progress on that three-year-old report. Looking at how forestry practices in this province were moving toward the ecological practices he recommended, Lahey wrote that this was his “overriding and central conclusion:”

None of the work underway on FPR [Forestry Practices Review] recommendations has resulted in much if any actual change on the ground in how forestry is being planned, managed, or conducted, and I have no indication of when any of it will.

The longer the delay in making the transition to ecological forestry, the greater the ecological loss in the parts of the forest that will eventually come under an ecological forestry regime.

In other words, the man who spent a year leading a review of forestry practices in the province and found the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity must be the top priority of forest management, is saying that changes toward that paradigm have been close to nil. What’s more, Crown forests that would be protected under Lahey’s recommendations are being damaged and lost while the government delays.

Hence the call to stop Crown cutting until those recommendations are put in place. Basically — until we know what Crown forest we should protect completely, what forest we should cut with a “light approach” that prioritizes biodiversity, and what forest can be clear cut for industry — we shouldn’t cut at all.

That’s what activists and biologists were saying Wednesday. That’s the message they delivered in a letter to the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR).

Then, over the weekend, came the industry counterarguments.

On Friday, WestFor put out a response to the call for a Crown-cut moratorium. In it, the company rejected the call for a “forestry ban.” (A reminder: activists are not calling for a ban on forestry).

WestFor, a consortium of mills in western Nova Scotia, stands to be hit pretty hard if the province puts a moratorium on Crown land cutting. Here’s why.

In 2012, the province took on $117.7 million in debt to buy back the former Bowater lands in western Nova Scotia, transforming over half a million acres of private land into publicly-owned Crown land. A few years later, WestFor Management was created and the province leased the majority of the harvestable portion of those lands to be managed by the company.

I asked for an interview with WestFor president Jamie Lewis on Monday to talk about the company’s response, but was ultimately declined the opportunity. In an email, a representative at WestFor told me Friday’s 500-word news release “speaks for itself.”

They did agree to answer three questions I felt were appropriate to be asked over email. Well, sort of. They declined to give a specific number for the stumpage rate they pay to harvest public land. But they did write to confirm WestFor only harvests on Crown land. You can see why the consortium might have some reservations about pressing pause on Crown land cutting. Though WestFor president Jamie Lewis is quoted in the release saying the consortium is “eager to implement ALL of the recommendations in the Lahey Report …We want to see it implemented as soon as possible.” 

Also in the release, WestFor rejected that they were ramping up clearcutting while Lahey was delayed. The company said the majority of its harvests leave more than 50% of trees standing, and the Nova Scotia Registry of Buyers has reported a drop of about 400,000 cubic metres harvested on Crown land since 2016.

Biologists and activists I’ve spoken with are concerned about the way industry defines clearcutting. They believe terms like “variable retention” and “overstory removal” are used ti describe harvests that are basically clearcuts, and that cuts that don’t technically fit the definition can still be incredibly harmful to forest and wildlife health. They’re also concerned that the state of Crown land, forests, and its soils require a larger break from cutting than the industry is currently providing. Most say the Crown forests require time to age and re-diversify in order to thrive in the long run.

Mostly, the ecologically-inclined want to stop hearing about reductions in Crown cutting and clearcutting and just see the recommendations in Lahey implemented. All those I’ve spoken with on the environmental side of things already feel Lahey is a compromise, in large part because one part of the report’s suggested three-part model would identify “high production” Crown lands designated for clearcutting.

The amount of distrust and skepticism between those in forestry and those on the environmental side is, from all I’ve seen, immense.

For an example, I give you Monday’s news release from Forest Nova Scotia, a forestry interest group in the province. In it, the organization writes that activists calling for a moratorium on Crown cutting have a hidden agenda to shut down Nova Scotia’s forestry and are being “less than truthful.”

I thought it might be helpful to go through the major points outlined in that release.

Forest NS: “Hypothetical claims that planned harvests in areas that don’t qualify for protection ‘could’ be protected is deceptive. If the lands don’t qualify for protection, they don’t qualify.”

  • Lahey’s three-year progress report: As I already quoted above, Lahey says delays are leading to cuts on Crown lands that would not be approved if the recommendations in his reports were in place. It is true that while Lahey is delayed, protections on those lands are “hypothetical.”

Forest NS: “Telling Nova Scotians that the primary goal of the Lahey recommendations was to protect our forests is quite contrary to the actual report and recommendations that anyone can read. Protection is 1 of 3 legs of the model he recommended — the other 2 legs involve harvesting and growing more trees for the future. It makes one wonder if they even read the report.”

  • 2018 Lahey Report: From the second paragraph of the executive summary:  “I have concluded that protecting ecosystems and biodiversity should not be balanced against other objectives and values as if they were of equal weight or importance to those other objectives or values. Instead, protecting and enhancing ecosystems should be the  objective (the outcome) of how we balance environmental, social, and economic objectives and values in practising forestry in Nova Scotia.”

Forest NS: “The data shows in the publicly available, annually tracked and reported provincial harvest volumes — harvests are half of what they were a decade ago. Full stop.”

  • NS Registry of Buyers: In 2010, the total recorded volume of Crown land harvesting in Nova Scotia was 777,744 cubic metres. In 2020, the volume of Crown land harvested was 614,418 cubic metres. According to the annual reports, a more significant drop in Crown land cutting has occurred since the Lahey Report came out in 2018, when a volume 825,532 cubic metres of harvest were recorded.
  • Lahey’s three-year progress report: Lahey’s evaluation is more in line with what biologists and activists are saying. “[T]he level of harvesting on Crown land, and the percentage of harvesting conducted by clearcutting, appear to have remained constant from the date on which the FPR was submitted to the Department, which was August 22, 2018.”

More pushback against the demanded moratorium came in the form of two contributed opinion pieces in the Chronicle Herald over the weekend.

One was written by a former federal bureaucrat and has the aggressive headline: Stop parroting, start challenging Lahey’s narrative.

What narrative should be challenged? Well, according to the writer, Lahey’s wrong that there’s been practically no change on the ground in how forestry is practiced here. Why? Because:

“Prof. Lahey failed to give due credit to the major progress by the department in the implementation of the continuing (to this year) 10-year NRS [Natural Resources Strategy] plan, which has ranged from better soil data and classification to community forests and training, to user-friendly online harvest site plans.”

A few things here. Lahey’s report was commissioned after the Natural Resources Strategy — which was essentially created to do what Lahey’s Report is intended to do now — lost its teeth five years in when the province abandoned the goal of reducing clearcutting by 50% of all harvests by 2016.

Second, Nova Scotia currently only has one community forest.

And third, as the Examiner’s reported in the past, the tool for accessing harvest site plans online isn’t particularly user-friendly.

The second point of this opinion piece is that Lahey’s too narrow-minded in focusing solely on regulating ecological forestry on Crown land. While it’s true that most of the land that can be harvested in the province is on private land — and many biologists and activists wanted to see Lahey make recommendations for that land as well — that’s hardly reason not to speed up implementing the recommendations on Crown land.

Considering how the Biodiversity Act was gutted in the spring after industry lobbyists started a propaganda campaign that scared private landowners into pressuring the province not to put regulations on private land, perhaps it was more politically expedient for Lahey to try to get some changes done on Crown land first. I mean, that’s land we publicly own, and it’s still taken us three years to get nowhere with it.

The second Herald editorial is contributed by Stephen Cole, who is identified by the paper as a consulting forester who works in Middleton. The Herald neglected to mention that he is also an employee of H.C. Haynes, a Maine-based timber broker with operations in Nova Scotia.

Cole also argues that a lot has changed in Nova Scotia’s on-the-ground forestry practices, contrary to Lahey’s findings. Though most of the stats he cites date before Lahey’s report was published.

One of his main points is that Lahey said ecological forestry would not work without the market for low-grade wood once provided by the mills at Northern Pulp and Bowater.

Lahey admits the shutdown of operations at Northern Pulp is an understandable cause for delaying implementation of certain ecological practices; when there’s less of a demand for low grade wood, it’s harder to diversify the trees that are cut. But nowhere does he say ecological forestry isn’t possible without that market. He does say a reduced forestry industry could be the price we have to pay to sustain the biodiversity and health of the province’s remaining forests though.

In the end, neither editorial argues against the recommendations in the Lahey Report.

So that’s the major backlash to Lahey’s evaluation of progress and last week’s call for a temporary stop to Crown land cutting. 

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that, if we can hold up Lahey for three years (and counting), we can hold up cutting on Crown land for a little while, too. If the province did that, I doubt we’d be waiting until 2023 to implement those recommendations.

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There was a lot to write about this morning so it’s a scattered and short Noticed section today!

My friend and I hosted our Christmas party this Saturday in Wolfville. Not a moment too soon, it would seem.

We had a terrific time. There was eggnog, shortbread, tree trimming, all that good stuff you’d expect. Later in the night we broke in the new piano — by new, I mean a 100-year-old, worn- down piano that was repaired and retuned last month, even though it’s been sitting in our kitchen since spring — with 20 people singing the loudest Silent Night I’ve ever heard. If it was any softer, people could have heard my piano playing, so I was happy to be drowned out.

In between carols I did a little mingling. One of the guests, my housemate’s friend, Josefa Cameron, is in the journalism program at King’s College. Tim Bousquet joined other winners of the Michener award on a panel discussion at the university. She told me she’d just interviewed Bousquet for the Signal Podcast last month.

She even said she’d mentioned to Bousquet that she knew me a bit. He never mentioned anything about that discussion to me, though. I’d get ahold of him to corroborate her story, but the man’s a bit intimidating to talk to, so I’d rather just take her word for it.

In the interview (which starts at about 11:46) Cameron asks what advice Bousquet has for aspiring journalists. His response:

Just remember that everyone is a person. Even the best of us have done bad things, and the worst of us have done good things. People are complex and don’t ever assume that someone is who you think they are. Everyone has a story. Everyone has complexities. Everyone has competing interests. And it’s worth evaluating the whole person.

It’s strong advice for anyone, not just reporters. It also takes an incredible amount of work and discipline to adhere to it. But it’s that kind of philosophy that makes me proud to be a small part of the Examiner team.

I like to think Tim’s out here showing young journalism students how to do good work and I’m out here showing them they can actually find work. (Hopefully showing them what good work looks like, too).

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Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am) — livestreamed

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Wednesday, 1pm, City Hall) — also livestreamed

Halifax and West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — also livestreamed


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Report of the Auditor General — 2021 Financial Report

On campus

No events

In the harbour

08:00: MSC Sandra, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
12:00: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
14:00: Fundy Responder, pollution response barge, sails from IEL for sea
15:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
15:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
16:45: Lagrafoss sails for Portland
17:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia

Cape Breton
01:00: Phoenix Admiral, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from New York
07:45: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
18:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea


  • Christmas is 10 days away. Almost time to get shopping.

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Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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  1. Variable Retention seems to be the new name for Clear cutting . Westfor says they can leave 20% or 30% after the harvesting of logs . That means they have selected all the market logs 70 or 80% and left little or nothing of value behind . High Grading I think that’s called . The Mother trees and Seed trees are gone to a mill or a chipping plant for export as biofuel .

    1. Yes, and I was amazed that badly damaged trees can be “counted” as the trees that are left standing. Pretty sad.

  2. Unfortunately, industry speaks with a forked tongue. All along, they’ve been pretending they were supporting the Lahey Report recommendations and claimed they were working toward ecological forestry — at least, that’s what they have said. Give us more time! We need more time to adapt! During this time, DNRR has slowly slithered along, developing its Silvicultural Guide for the Ecological Matrix (SGEM) and presumably beginning to try to figure out where the three “legs” of the new Triad system forestry would be located.

    In the meantime, industry has been merrily chopping away at the Crown land forests under the Interim Guidelines, which are nowhere near as restrictive as the SGEM will be when they are brought into play. Deadlines for implementation have been continuously pushed back. Now, once again, in spite of election promises by the current party in power, we are witnessing industry digging in its heels, while kicking and screaming like spoilt babies, wanting to keep on keeping on using the Interim Guidelines so that they continue to hack away at the forests they most COVET and will ALTER to the extent that they will be utterly USELESS as “legs” of the ecological matrix or protected forest.

    What SHOULD have happened three years ago is that DNRR should have **designated** all of the forests that would be either protected, or be managed as ecological matrix forests – and that if industry didn’t feel it was READY ENOUGH, it should have been restricted to harvest ONLY on the high production “leg” regions of the Crown forests, until such time as the SGEM was prepared and industry had declared itself “ready” to implement that new system. That would, undoubtedly, have HASTENED them to get their asses in gear to be able to do forestry the way it is SUPPOSED to be done.

    Instead, nope, we’re all having to ENDURE their wailing and shrieking that they are unable to do ecological forestry just yet. They need more time – at least until 2023 to train special people to do it. Gee, they’ve only had 3 years so far, but I guess they aren’t into “planning for the future”. Their only “plan” is to continue hacking away at the Crown land forests the same as before, continuing to use the less restrictive Interim Guidelines with allow them to cut down 70 to 90 percent of the trees in a forest without calling that clearcutting (they call this 10, 20 or 30 percent Variable Retention – same old ****, different package). Please keep in mind that the 70 to 90 percent doesn’t include what they hack down to build logging roads, landings for log yards, or other permanent DAMAGE caused to the forest stands. Further, the trees left standing as the 10, 20 or 30 percent can be badly damaged by machinery — debarked or limbed off — but can still be counted as a “living tree” as part of the “retention”. It’s worth a drive out to one of these stands to see just what passes for “retention” trees. It is the stuff of nightmares.

    So, here we are. Many thousands of citizens of Nova Scotia who have watched in abject HORROR as forests have gone down before our eyes all over the province. Anyone who drives around can see this out their car window. Anyone flying in or out of HFX airport can see this out the window. Anyone who knows how to switch the layers on Google Maps to “Satellite” can most definitely see what’s going on. And yet we continue to be told by DNRR and the forest industry, “All is well! We’ve got this! Those “activists” are just lying to the public!” Oddly, they don’t seem to realize that those “activist” ARE the public.

  3. According to the province’s annual Registry of buyers (which has its own issues in terms of credibility) harvest volumes overall ARE down significantly, from a peak in 1997—when nearly 7 million cubic metres were cut in the province—to 3.3 million cubic metres in 2019, the most recent year data are available. But Forest NS is incorrect in saying there’s been a decline of 400,000 cubic metres harvested on crown land — the Registry data shows a 184,609 cubic metre reduction between 2016 and 2019. What they also don’t say is there has been a notable shift in the proportion of volume coming from public lands, a shift that might help explain the crescendo of public outcry over the last several years. In 1997, the peak year, only 9 percent of the harvested wood came from crown land, compared to nearly 30 percent in 2017, according to the National Forestry Database. Another thing to note — and something I’ve tried to write about over the years — is that the government (at the behest of industry) has changed a lot of definitions (including clearcutting), so historical trend lines can no longer be created for many of the most important indicators of forest / ecosystem health.

    1. Thanks, Linda. That goes a long way in explaining why we’re seeing such DEVASTATION of the Crown land forests.