1. Hockey iced

Photo: IIHF

Jennifer Henderson reports on the cancellation of the 2020 World Women’s Hockey Championship. Last week, Hockey Canada got a letter from the Nova Scotia Health Authority recommending the event be postponed. The games were to start in Halifax and Truro in less than three weeks with more than 82,000 fans expected to show up. That’s a big loss not only for the fans, but for businesses during an otherwise slow time of year.

Read the full article here. 

2. Opioids and gambling

Stephen Kimber looks at the government’s legislation that will protect it, as well as other parties like Atlantic Lottery Corporation and provincially-run casinos, from class-action lawsuits now, in the future, and back to 20 years ago when VLTs became legal.

But in the same week, they introduced a bill that would give them license to sue opioid makers for the healthcare costs related to the opioid crisis.

What’s the difference? Well, it depends on who you’re looking out for.

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3. Northern Pulp

In 2011 and 2012, Northern Pulp Mill conducted a series of experiments intended to increase production and decrease waste water.. Photo courtesy of Tony DeCoste Photo-Video

Tim Bousquet wrote this item.

Northern Pulp Mill’s future is uncertain, as the company insists it is merely pausing operations until a new effluent pipe can be built into the Northumberland Strait. But that pipe first needs to go through an environmental review process that will take at least 18 months, and the pipe plan is contested by fishermen and others who will likely go to court should the province give environmental approval to the plan.

Meanwhile, Northern Pull still owes the province $85 million for outstanding loans.

Added to that is a claim of $1.2 million in contested Research and Development Tax Credits (RDTCs).

According to an appeal filed with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia last week, in December, Bryon Rafuse, the provincial Deputy Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, rejected Northern Pulp’s claim for RDTCs for five experiments it says it conducted at the Pictou mill in the years 2011 and 2012. Additionally, Rafuse rejected a portion of a claim submitted for a sixth experiment. In total, Rafuse rejected $1,186,183 in claims.

Those claims reflect Northern Pulp expenditures of $3,084,423 in 2011 and $4,867,897 in 2012, which the company says should earn it $462,053 and $724,130 in RDTCs respectively.

Northern Pulp’s appeal goes into considerable detail about the six experiments (you can read the appeal here). Most of the experiments had the aim of increasing efficiency at the plant; one was an attempt to introduce hardwood timber into the mill.

The crux of the RDTC dispute is the interpretation of the federal income tax act, which outlines the criteria for the RDTCs. Northern Pulp’s appeal implies that Rafuse rejected the claims because the experiments were applied directly to the mill’s commercial production processes, and not offline, in the lab (Rafuse approved a portion of the sixth experiment for an RDTC because that portion of the experiment was not applied directly to the commercial process).

A date has not yet been set for a court hearing on Northern Pulp’s appeal.

4. Agave plant spreads its seeds all over Nova Scotia

Long live the agave! Through its seeds, anyway. Photo: HRM

The agave plant that grew in the Halifax Public Gardens is long gone, but its seeds are growing in homes and gardens across the province. Elizabeth McMillan with CBC spoke with some of the people who got a seed from the agave in January 2019, including Colleen Farrell of Porter’s Lake. Her Lil Ava, as she calls it, is growing in her kitchen.

I don’t have a green thumb in my body. I like to say I’m all thumbs and none of them are green, and I didn’t expect it to survive.

I’d like to keep it as long as I can … she’s still hanging in there.

Justin Forbes of Cole Harbour got a seed too, and says he “babied it every day.”

It’s kind of rewarding seeing something grow. You gave it life. And it’s natural, it gets you off the cellphones for a minute, at least.

Will all the baby agaves now have Twitter accounts, too? And didn’t the agave sprout some kind of rivalry with CBC’s Brett Ruskin?

Last summer, a new banana tree was planted in the Public Gardens. No word on a Twitter account for it.

5. It’s an open race in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River

Taryn Grant at CBC talks with the four candidates running in Tuesday’s byelection in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River. Lenore Zann held the seat since 2009 before running for the federal Liberal party. Running are Kathleen Kevany for the NDP, Dave Ritcey for the Progressive Conservatives, Allan Kennedy for the Liberals and Ivan Drouin for the Green Party.

All of the candidates tell Grant that the doctor shortage and healthcare are the big issues on the campaign trail.

There’s also a byelection in Cape Breton Centre tomorrow. That seat opened up after NDP MLA Tammy Martin resigned because of illness.


Single parents in the running

On Thursday, I included an article Caora McKenna wrote for The Coast. McKenna interviewed councillors Lisa Blackburn and Lorelei Nicoll about their experiences as women in politics. I thought it was a good piece on being a woman in politics, but I have always wondered about the specific barriers single parents face when they decide to run for office, like the lack of money and emotional support, in particular. So I put out a tweet and got to chat with a few women about their experiences. I know men can be single parents, too, and face similar barriers, but I didn’t hear from any (I still would like to hear from them, though).

Brenda Thompson

Brenda Thompson ran for the NDP in Dartmouth North in 1988. She was 25 at the time, single, and raising her then three-year-old daughter in the community. Thompson was young but she made national headlines for taking on Edmund Morris, the then minister of social services. Thompson wrote an op-ed to the Daily News talking about the housing shortage in the city. Landlords were discriminating against single mothers, including those on social assistance. Thompson and a group of other single moms protested in front of the legislature as a group called Mothers United for Metro Shelter (MUMS).

Morris, in retaliation, read out Thompson’s social services file at a press scrum outside the legislature. Thompson took Morris to court, won, and Morris was fined, although only $100. (Thompson wrote about it for the Nova Scotia Advocate here).

I was the big-mouthed welfare mother who wouldn’t go into the corner and keep her mouth shut.

That ordeal got Thompson the attention of the provincial NDP, who encouraged her to run in Dartmouth North (Sandy Jolly and Laird Sterling ran, too. Sterling won). But Thompson says her time campaigning was “horrible.” She says she had men abusing and threatening her through phone calls and letters to her office.

If I had a dollar for every time I was called a slut I’d be retired by now.

She got more harassment when she went knocking on doors. One man threw her off his property. A woman ripped up her campaign brochures.

It was pretty vicious. I couldn’t believe the abuse I was taking because I was single and had a baby. What was the big deal? What we need is the respect and the support for the work we do.

She says some of those harassing her were supporters of the NDP, although she says her backers and volunteers were supportive.

Thompson says her mother didn’t want her to run at first, saying she knew the abuse she’d face on the campaign trail. But once Thompson decided to run, her mother got behind her. So did the other single moms who lived in her building in North Dartmouth. They, along with Thompson’s mother, helped look after her daughter when she was campaigning.

Thompson now lives in the Annapolis Valley. She says a couple of years ago a business partner suggested she run there.

I laughed in his ear. I’m not taking that abuse again. At 57, I want less stress, not more.

Thompson says she has two adult daughters and wouldn’t want them to run for office either. Still, she thinks other single mothers should run, adding single parents who run need support at home and with their children.

Go for it. I think the world is ready now.

Thompson says single parents, especially single moms, bring something important to the table, including a perspective on poverty.

Things are always on the edge for single parents and they can tip at any time.

Thompson says she knows women who run for office and/or win are still subjected to harassment. Some of that abuse happens online now. That didn’t exist in 1988 when Thompson ran. She says she knows some women don’t talk about it and they should. And the perpetrators need to be named and shamed and people need to call out friends and family who abuse people online and elsewhere.

You can disagree with the politics, but the hate, the death threats? You need to be arrested for that. There needs to be repercussions for that kind of behavior.

Lara Fawthrop

Lara Fawthrop was one of five candidates, and the only woman, who ran in the Sackville-Cobequid byelection in June 2019. Fawthrop has been a teacher for the last 19 years, teaching music and drama.

She has two sons, who are now 12 and 15, and has had a joint-custody arrangement with their father for the past six years.

She says she never thought about politics until she was approached by community leaders, who suggested she run. She grew up around politics, though; her father, Dale Fawthrop, served as a town councillor in Amherst.

I don’t think I would have thought about it had I not been approached. There are a lot of people we don’t see in representation. How many more people are out there but think they aren’t in the position to run or aren’t the typical politician?

Before she decided to run, she spoke with other MLAs, NDP leader Gary Burrill, and her parents. Fawthrop took a leave of absence when the writ dropped. She says she campaigned for about 12 hours a day, walking several kilometres each day knocking on doors in the riding. She took Saturday nights off.

She says the community really rallied around her when she ran, helping look after her two sons while she was campaigning.

I never got stressed out or run down. I felt very looked after by the people around me. At the end, it felt like summer camp was over.

Fawthrop says she would run again and says others, including single parents, should, too. She says as a teacher, her job can be physically and mentally exhausting and she often worked evenings and weekends putting together musicals for her students.

I don’t think there’s ever a good time to run. You have to be ready for it. You just have to go for it. If you’re a person with a circle of support, it will rise with you.

Fawthrop says her two sons were devastated when she lost, but she says they learned more about their community, the democratic process, and their mother.

My older son Isaac said that what he learned is how hard it is to run and how you really have to be out there and open to talking to the people. And he learned that his mom can do anything she wants.

They definitely saw their mother as someone who doesn’t stop, works hard, and relies on the people around them. They got to live the excitement with me every day. I think they loved every minute.

Karla MacFarlane

Karla MacFarlane, MLA for Pictou West, doesn’t consider herself a single parent but has been divorced for 13 years. Her two kids are now 18 and 22. Their father lives in Pictou.

Her kids were 13 and nine years old when she ran in the riding of Pictou West in 2013. She says she was asked to run twice before she finally did, but says her kids were still too young (I don’t think men always think about this). Even when she decided to run, she says not everyone was sure it was a good idea.

A lot of people were like, ‘We know you’re capable, but do you know what you’re getting yourself into?’

MacFarlane says being single with kids is a strength. She says you’re more focused and used to adversity. She says she doesn’t know anyone who’s gone through a divorce and didn’t struggle financially.

She says when she was first elected, she was hard on herself with time. She’d stay up well past midnight reading. Now, she says she has a better balance.

It’s okay to not know everything. It’s okay to say I’ll get back to you on that.

Besides her kids’ father, MacFarlane says she had a large network of support, including friends and family.

For the first four years after winning her seat, she was the only female in the caucus and the only one without a spouse or partner. She says the staff at the caucus, including the chief of staff, were supportive of her situation. When the sitting of the legislature ended on a Friday, they encouraged her to head home rather than stay in the city. She says they knew she didn’t have someone at home to make dinner and take care of other errands.

I never really asked but they were kind to offer. It worked out well for me.

I’m not looking for sympathy because I signed up for this job. Nothing was sugarcoated for me.

Her kids are now 18 and 22 and she says the job was a change for them. She says she missed a lot, including her son’s birthday for the last six years.

It was a big transition for them to realize mom may be away for five to eight weeks every fall and spring.

I do carry guilt. I will carry guilt to my grave. Now they say it was so much harder on you than on us.

She says technology like FaceTime helped them keep in touch. They have codes they use for texting, if they really needed to chat.

They know they can reach me. I said if you need me, I will drop whatever.

I asked MacFarlane about the emotional support single parents don’t often have. She told me no one had ever asked her that question. She says she always knew her boundaries but says the job is still intense. She says just the past year she’s been looking at her own work-life balance.

I’m starting to feel the effects of not having anyone to talk with when I get home at night. You want someone to come home to and maybe get a hug.

You have that emotional connection with other people, but not in the same way you’d have with a partner or a spouse.

She says her friends have been reminding her to take time for herself, to get back to hobbies she once had like pottery and kayaking. Dating while in office is also challenging.

It’s hard in that job to do that because you’re under scrutiny 24-7.

I asked MacFarlane how many hours she’d work in a week. She didn’t give me a number, but rather shared a look at her weekend. On Friday, the sitting of the legislature wrapped up at 11 p.m. MacFarlane hit the road and got home in Pictou at 2:30 a.m. She was awake at 6 a.m. catching up on reading. When I called her, she just finished judging a contest for a local 4-H club. That afternoon, she was heading to the birthday party of a local senior and then off to present a certificate for another resident celebrating a 100th birthday. On Sunday, she had some time for herself in the morning before doing more reading. She spent the afternoon at an open house for International Women’s Day and a fundraiser in New Glasgow. Last night, she drove back to Halifax for today’s sitting.

I would probably go to most of [the community events] even if I wasn’t MLA.

Weekends were busy when her kids were younger, too, although she didn’t often take them with her, saying she tried hard not to make her job her kids’ job. Their father or friends took them to activities.

There is a lot to do, but again a lot of jobs are like that for people. All jobs can be difficult when you are a single parent. Even when you’re married, it’s difficult.

I was a bit exhausted hearing their stories. I know a lot of single parents, some doing it without co-parents. That’s a huge challenge. I know a lot of other people in various circumstances whose faces and lives I don’t see reflected in those runing in elections in any level of government. All of their lives have challenges, but they also have perspectives we’re not hearing and that are not reflected in policy. I’d like to see more people of colour running, including those who are single with kids.

If we want diverse candidates to run, there need to be better supports and maybe more realistic expectations like not working entire weekends. This is true for any job and technology has meant we’re constantly connected with work.

Men, specifically white men, haven’t had to think of responsibilities at home and with children because they’ve had wives to do that. But the sacrifice is quite significant. It’s a lot to expect leaders to support our families in healthcare, education, whatever, when we want them to spend a lot of time away from theirs to do it.

On a related note, Paula Minnikin has a good piece in The Chronicle Herald on the “pale, male, and stale” boards of companies, including those that receive public funds.


Yesterday, I was at Crystal Crescent Beach in Sambro. There were several people gathered watching a young seal heading back to the water. It didn’t appear to be injured and was easily making its way along the sand, but there were several dogs running on the beach, too, curious about that seal and getting far to close to it.

Some of these dogs weren’t on leashes, yet there are signs posted on the fences and trails telling owners pets must be on leashes.

Oh, here’s a picture of the sign. I saw two of them.

Your dogs can’t read this, but you can. Photo: Suzanne Rent

The poor seal snapped at a couple of off-leash dogs as it made its way back to the water. While I was there, there were at least five dogs off leash. There were other dogs there, too, whose owners kept them on leash and at a respectful distance.

Every time I go to a park or a public space where dogs are supposed to be on leashes, there are dogs running around because their owners think the signs don’t apply to them. I know they are your fur babies, but read the sign and respect others who are there.

I am a bit nervous about dogs myself, especially large dogs I don’t know. I don’t want a dog biting me and I don’t want them jumping on me with their dirty paws. Little kids develop a fear of dogs because of owners who let their dogs run free everywhere.

Owners will say, “Oh, he’s friendly and won’t bite!” I don’t care — every dog is capable of biting. Yours is no exception.

Certainly, there are dog owners who respect the rules. But Crystal Crescent isn’t the only place I’ve seen dogs running around when they are supposed to be on a leash.

That seal made its way back to the water, fortunately. But the dog owners there weren’t respecting its space by letting their dogs get too close.

And if you want to go to a park where your dog can run free, here’s list of off-leash parks!

I’ll stay away from these parks or will at least tolerate dogs running around, but please keep them on a leash at on-leash parks. The seal and I thank you in advance.




Police Commission (Monday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — discussion of the HRM Wortley Report Recommendations, the police PR department Foundation, and a review of various policies.

Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (Monday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — a proposal to turn the Camera Repair Centre space on Hunter Street into an apartment.


Special Meeting – North West Community Council (Tuesday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — a proposal for a commercial building on Sackville Drive.

City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — nothing terribly controversial on the agenda.



Private and Local Bills (Monday, 10am, Province House) — Mark Furey is introducing Bill No. 245, the Brookside Cemetery Commission Dissolution Act.


Health (Tuesday, 9am, Province House) — reps from Doctors Nova Scotia will talk about the doctor shortage.

On campus



Strings Recital (Monday, 11:45am, MacAloney Room)

Saint Mary’s


Responsibility for Refugee and Migrant Integration (Monday, 12pm, LI 135, Patrick Power Library) — authors S. Karly Kehoe and Ian-Christophe Heilinger will talk about their book.

In the harbour

07:00: Pictor J, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
12:00: Pictor J sails for Argentia, Newfoundland
17:00: Hansa Meersburg, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
22:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea


Yesterday was International Women’s Day. It’s nice to be honoured and all, but you can hire us, promote us, pay us well, and all that other good stuff every other day of the year, too.

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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  1. Dogs off-leash and no enforcement? True for smoking on sidewalks and in bus shelters too. We live in a time where segments of society feel the rules and laws do not apply to them. We all witness motorists who feel red lights are no impediment to their continued travel.

    Such entitlement needs to be called out. Shall we start?

  2. A few weeks ago, the Examiner asked “Why don’t more women get into politics?”. At the time, I thought about posting some sarcastic reply, but honestly the above stories encapsulate the concerns far more eloquently than my incredulous laughter. Shrug.

  3. Dogs off leash in on-leash areas are not only a problem for people who are not comfortable with dogs, small children, cyclists, runners etc. They are also a problem for those of us who have dogs who are reactive or scared of being approached. We keep our dogs on leash and seek out on-leash locations to walk specifically so that we can keep our dogs safely away from free-ranging animals. The ‘don’t worry s/he is friendly’ is irrelevant if we have an on-leash dog who is distressed by being approached, for whatever reason. And we are the ones who get bad-mouthed and sometimes sworn at by the negligent owners of these ‘fur babies’ if we point out that they are in the wrong and their dog should be on leash. It is a very frustrating situation and it happens in parks and on trails everywhere. Most of these dogs are also not under effective control by their humans – i.e. they do not come when they are called. The humans do it because they can and there is absolutely no enforcement. It is frustrating and distressing for the rest of us who are trying to work on building calmness or confidence with our dogs and keeping everyone safe.

  4. Thanks for the piece on women in politics, and thanks to Brenda, Lara and Karla for sharing their stories. There was a time when people in politics felt they couldn’t share publicly their stories about what “life in politics” is really like. The more stories we hear, the better-equipped future candidates, representatives and leaders will be.

  5. Dog owners let their dogs run off-leash because they can get away with it without getting a ticket, just like they don’t pick up after them because who ever got a ticket for not doing that? More and more of them will do it if they know they can get off without consequences because it is easier for them to do this than obey the law, and to all dog owners, their dogs are harmless darlings whom the whole world should show love. Either enforce the law, or don’t bother having a law at all. It would be easy enough to enforce – just send a bylaw officer or cop to these beaches and parks at random times and I can almost guarantee you that you’ll find a dog off a leash.