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Monday, October 22, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2011

Rich Aucoin goes behind the music for We're All Dying To Live and Stephanie Johns prints a curse word on our cover.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 at 11:08 AM

  • The Coast

This week on the podcast, all-around awesome person Rich Aucoin (one of the tallest people Tara knows) is with us talking about his triumphant year in 2011; headlining the Pop Explosion and releasing his long-awaited album, We're All Dying To Live.

Then, arts editor Stephanie Johns is back with stories of outrage from the one time The Coast printed a swear word on its cover. It's pretty fucked up.

All this plus the city hits peak scandal, the sleepwatcher is big news, Babylady disappears, we debate James Franco's stardom and The Coast apologizes to Stan Kutcher. This is a good one, folks!


If you like the podcast, please feel free to give us a nice rating or leave a review. If you hate the podcast, want to correct something we got wrong or have comments about any events we forgot to mention you can email us at

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Quebec shipyard not happy with “Ships Stay Here” campaign

Davie spokesperson strongly takes issue with comments from union and city officials that jobs are being stolen from Irving.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 4:02 PM

What greets visitors at the Unifor website. - VIA UNIFOR

A spokesperson for Davie Shipbuilding strongly takes issue with comments that the Quebec company is stealing work from Halifax.

“It’s being portrayed as if Quebec will steal jobs, contracts from Irving,” says Fred Boisvert, vice-president of public affairs for Davie. “Where if you look properly, closely, there’s nothing like it happening at all.”

Federal procurement officials are currently discussing options on whether to split contracts for planned maintenance work on seven Halifax-class frigates between the Irving Shipyard in Halifax and Davie, near Quebec City.

The prior contract for that work was owned solely by Irving. Sharing the work with Quebec could lose the Halifax Shipyard hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years.

“The loss of this work would be a loss for the Nova Scotian economy and families across the province,” reads a statement on Unifor's website. “Logistically and economically, it makes sense to keep the work in Halifax.”

Irving Shipyard is also the primary beneficiary of the national shipbuilding strategy contracts for Arctic Offshore Patrol vessels and surface combatant ships back in 2011. But union officials fear a two to three-year gap between those contracts could result in hundreds of layoffs without the maintenance work.

Boisvert says that’s all a bit rich. No one in their right mind could believe there are production gaps at Irving, he says, given the sum total of $65 billion in federal contracts the shipyard has secured.

“Guys, guys, you got $65 billion,” he says. “I mean, please, you won’t get a tear from me. You’re flush with contracts. You’ve got 20 years stability in terms of that shipyard.”

Davie has laid off some 1,000 workers itself over the past year due to dwindling federal contracts. “We’re bleeding people here,” says Boisvert.

Regardless, the potential loss of work is being rallied against by shipyard employees and Halifax's municipal government. As workers protested outside City Hall yesterday, Regional Council unanimously voted to voice its opposition federally to the planned contract split.

“We're talking families and lives here,” said councillor Stephen Adams, who brought forward the motion.

Union officials, meanwhile, have created a public awareness campaign spinning off of the advertising slogan used for the national shipbuilding strategy seven years ago—changing “Ships Start Here” to “Ships Stay Here.”

But Boisvert says the union is wrong to conflate the maintenance jobs with the national shipbuilding strategy and fires back at comments from Halifax CAO Jacques Dubé that those jobs were meant for Halifax.

“No, I’m sorry. They were not. They just were not.”

Boisvert says it’s in the taxpayer’s best interest for shipbuilding to move away from the semi-monopoly of Irving's Halifax operation and Seaspan's shipyard in Vancouver.

“There are a lot of contracts to be delivered by Irving and so far, I’m sorry, after seven years of that strategy...there’s not a single ship delivered and operational as we speak.”

The Halifax shipyard launched the first of six Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships last month, though work on the HMCS Harry DeWolf won't be completed until next year.

Both Irving and Davie have received huge government investment to modernize their facilities and keep operations afloat. Irving received a $304-million forgivable loan from the province and a substantial tax break from the municipality several years ago for its shipyard. The province of Quebec also recently announced it was pumping $188 million of public money into the Davie shipyard in Lévis.

The department of National Defence has said that the government will announce any changes to its frigate maintenance contracts in the coming weeks.

“We’ll see what the federal government decision will be,” says Boisvert, “but Davie is ready to get up to speed and get to work.”
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City council refuses to voice offshore drilling opposition

Recent dire warnings about the planet's future not enough for Halifax to send a toothless letter to the province.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 1:23 PM

BP's massive oil platform is currently performing exploratory drilling off Nova Scotian waters. - VIA BP CANADA
  • BP's massive oil platform is currently performing exploratory drilling off Nova Scotian waters.

It was a largely symbolic gesture about the future of the planet. And Halifax Regional Council shot it down.

Before the city's elected leaders on Tuesday was a motion from councillor Richard Zurawski in opposition to offshore drilling and oil exploration in Nova Scotia.

Zurawski wanted council to write a letter to the province voicing disapproval of the practice—not only due to the disastrous impact potential spills could have on marine ecosystems, but also in recognition of the dire warnings contained in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, Global Warming of 1.5°C.

“Probably the scariest report” that Zurawski says he's ever read.

“The old rules are gone,” he told his colleagues. “There will be no future unless we begin to act and I think we need to push our provincial brethren off the fossil fuel bandwagon...In the name of our young.”

The IPCC special report was prepared by 91 researchers across 40 countries, based on over 6,000 scientific resources. It’s message is unequivocally clear. Rapid, unprecedented changes across all aspects of society are needed to limit global warming to 1.5C and avoid cataclysmic environmental devastation.

We only have 12 years left to make that change happen. That means this city is just three municipal elections away from large portions of Halifax being underwater, heatwaves killing elderly residents and huge portions of the province being rendered useless for agriculture.

Zurawski's pleas, however, were met with a range of criticism. Although David Hendsbee expressed concern about the impact of an oil spill on HRM’s coastal areas, the councillor noted offshore issues are not “our jurisdiction.”

Ironically, earlier in the day council unanimously approved a motion to send a similar strongly worded letter to the federal government, which argues Canada should keep all maintenance work on its naval frigates here in Halifax. That matter is also not a part of HRM’s jurisdiction, but council agreed the government's decision could impact jobs and tax revenues.

“We're talking families and lives here,” said councillor Stephen Adams.

In response to Zurawski's concerns, Dartmouth Centre councillor Sam Austin suggested HRM write a response in general to the IPCC report, rather than “cherry-picking one specific thing.”

There’s lots we can do on climate change that’s directly in our wheelhouse rather than writing the province about sort of one-offs,” said Austin.

But Zurawski stressed the motion’s purpose was to take a stand and show the public that council recognizes it must take steps to stop climate change immediately.

“Right now we have a dire report coming out saying that the continued use of fossil fuels is bad and what epitomizes the use of fossil fuels is offshore drilling of oil,” said Zurawski. “This is an important issue. It may be, in fact, a one-off issue in some minds. However, it is the principal issue.”

Not enough of an issue for some city councillors, it would seem.

The motion was ultimately defeated six-to-10. Only councillors Adams, Shawn Cleary, Lisa Blackburn, Waye Mason and Lindell Smith voted with Zurawski. Mayor Mike Savage was absent.

“The speech you gave was a nice speech,” councillor Steve Streatch told Zurawski shortly before the vote while stating in no uncertain terms that he was against voicing any opposition to offshore drilling. “Absolutely not. Not me.”

Deputy mayor Waye Mason pointed out that other municipalities have passed similar motions, though those letters have been based more on concerns about what a blowout could do to coastal communities.

“Well good for them,” replied Streatch, off-mic.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2010

Talking with Juanita Peters about Halifax's Africville apology and more events from eight years ago.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 5:49 PM


Filmmaker and Africville Museum general manager Juanita Peters is with us in the studio talking about the day Halifax finally apologized for its biggest mistake—the razing of Africville and forced displacement of its community members.

Tara and Jacob also dig into the infamous MLA expense scandal, then we expose some drunk city councillors and wade through the concert scandal fallout. All this plus the fire department sues our comment section. Neat!


If you like the podcast, please feel free to give us a nice rating or leave a review. If you hate the podcast, want to correct something we got wrong or have comments about any events we forgot to mention you can email us at

Catch up on past episodes here.
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Council calls on feds to keep shipbuilding work in Halifax

“Those jobs were meant to be in Halifax, always were,” says city's CAO about plans to split up multi-billion work with shipyard in Quebec.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 5:46 PM

Council weighing in on a federal matter.
  • Council weighing in on a federal matter.

Those jobs were always meant to be in Halifax, says HRM's chief administrative officer, Jacques Dubé. “Always were.”

Regional Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to voice its opposition to a proposal for splitting up naval maintenance work between shipyards here and in Quebec—calling on the federal government to keep shipbuilding jobs in Halifax.

Councillor Stephen Adams put forward the motion during Tuesday's meeting, in response to concerns from JD Irving and its unionized workers that hundreds of skilled jobs could end up lost if the lucrative maintenance contracts are shared with Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec.

Adams admitted shipbuilding decisions are a federal jurisdiction, but Halifax nevertheless has a stake in the matter given how the loss of work will impact residents and the city's tax revenue.

“That is part of our mandate,” said Adams. “We're talking families and lives here.”

Irving won the contract for maintenance on Halifax-class frigates back in 2011, but that deal is nearly expired and procurement officials in Ottawa have expressed an interest in splitting future repair work between Halifax and Quebec. According to media reports, the Department of National Defence doesn't believe Irving can handle the workload while also building its new surface combatant warships.

Union officials representing Irving workers say as many as a third of the Shipyard's 900 unionized workers could face layoffs if the maintenance work is split with Quebec.

In response, Unifor has launched a petition and lobbying campaign, dubbed “Ships Stay Here,” which asks the public to share its support for Shipyard workers.

“The loss of this work would be a loss for the Nova Scotian economy and families across the province,” reads a statement on Unifor's website. “Logistically and economically, it makes sense to keep the work in Halifax.”

Dubé took time during the brief discussion on the item to assure council the matter was serious. The CAO previously served as deputy minister for Service New Brunswick some 15 years ago, back when the federal government agreed to pay $55-million in “economic readjustment” so that Irving could permanently close its mothballed Saint John shipyard and transfer work to Halifax.

“I spent many an hour with JD Irving in Ottawa negotiating this matter,” Dubé said on Tuesday. “Today, what we’re seeing is not what we agreed to at the time. So this is absolutely not sensational. This is real.”

Seven Halifax frigates need maintenance completed over the next five years. Repairs on each vessel represent the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into the Shipyard.

Irving has already received some $3 billion out of $40-billion worth of shipbuilding contracts for Canada's new Arctic, Offshore and combatant vessels. Nova Scotia has also invested heavily in the company's shipyard operations, with the province offering a $304-million forgivable loan to upgrade Irving's facility and Halifax council approving a substantial tax break for the property.

“It’s extremely important that we maintain those jobs and that we support, not only JD Irving, but the workers and the unions going forward on this file,” Dubé told council before the vote on the item, earning a spattering of applause.

The Department of National Defence has told media that the government will announce any changes to planned maintenance contracts in the coming weeks.
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“We owe an apology to the public”

Halifax’s deputy mayor and CAO admit the city’s new smoking ban—which everyone hates—has had a rough start.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 2:56 PM

Check out the map of approved locations here. - ADOBE STOCK
  • Check out the map of approved locations here.

“I feel like we have let the public down,” deputy mayor Waye Mason says about the launch of Halifax’s new smoking ban.

With hours to go until cannabis is legal across the country, Halifax is admitting that its complicated, city-wide ban on smoking needs some fine-tuning.

“I think we owe an apology to the public for the fact there aren’t enough designated smoking areas on the rollout,” says Mason.

There were only nine designated smoking areas ready in time for the nuisance bylaw’s launch on Monday morning (dozens more have been added since).

“Are we going as fast as we’d like? No,” CAO Jacques Dubé told reporters at City Hall on Monday. “Are we going as fast as we possibly can? Absolutely.”

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners heard an update on Monday afternoon about how the new legislation will be arbitrarily enforced going forward. According to Dubé and director Kelly Denty, enforcement of the smoking ban will be “relatively light” for the first few weeks.

Bylaw compliance officers and police will engage with any smokers they come across, handing out little cards with details about where smokers can legally light up instead of issuing fines.

“It’s more of a, ‘Hey, did you know?’” said Denty, instead of giving out tickets. “Obviously we’ll do that when we need to but it’s not the initial approach.”

Complaints about smokers can be made by members of the public to 311 from 8am to 8pm. After dark, residents can call HRP’s non-emergency line to narc.

Police won’t likely be responding to those individual complaints, though. Chief Jean-Michel Blais assured commissioners that his officers had more pressing matters.

“We have more important things to do,” said the chief.

Instead, Halifax Regional Police will examine trends and adjust police patrols to those areas where there are problem smokers. Or, more accurately, to those areas where the kind of people who call 311 to report a smoker will feel unsafe.

Fines for breaking the new bylaw will only be issued to repeat offenders who “flaunt the law,” says Dubé.

“I think tickets are a last resort,” adds the CAO. “If people continue to want to flaunt the law, after many warnings, then we may have to impose the fines.”

But the CAO says compliance officers and police on patrol won’t be tracking IDs of those individuals who they give a warning to, leaving it something of a mystery of how officers will know someone has had “many warnings.”

More likely is that whether a ticket is issued will be an arbitrary judgment made by compliance officers and police in the moment. Indeed, Dubé admits the issuing of fines is up to the officer’s discretion.

“Look, they’re all professionals. They’ve been trained,” he says, in response to concerns about the potential for abuse.

Dubé says the officers have already received special training in dealing with homeless residents and have visited “group homes” to talk about the new bylaw. 

“The bylaw officers are very sensitive,” he promises.

The Board of Police Commissioners, meanwhile, is still dealing with the fallout from a decade of street check data that documented how a police policy was abused to aggressively target racial minorities.

The smoking ban is yet another tool in that police toolbox when it comes to stopping and carding residents. But Dubé believes it will be applied fairly because cannabis isn't a black or white issue; it's green.

“The misuse of cannabis is not necessarily a racial issue. I think cannabis has a broad spectrum of users and I don’t make a connection with the racialized issues at all.”

City hall will be monitoring the smoking ban weekly for “the first little while,” according to the CAO, with the first formal report on its successes and failures coming to council in six months time.

Halifax is spending a $1.5 million on initial cannabis legalization measures, with ongoing costs estimated to be upwards of $3.5 million per year.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Dartmouth 4-pad named after bank

RBC joins fellow banks, BMO and Scotiabank in buying an arena's name.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2018 at 7:22 PM

Confetti does not spawn excitement no matter how much you try. - VIA TWITTER
  • Confetti does not spawn excitement no matter how much you try.

Surprise! It's a bank.

It was announced today that RBC will dump $1 million over the next decade into Halifax's Dartmouth four-pad arena. As a result, the facility will now be formally known as the RBC Centre.

The bank purchased the right to stick its branding all over municipal property by offering up $100,000 per year for the next 10 years.

RBC’s “investment,” comes after months of closed-door negotiations between HRM and RBC. It also includes a “commitment to programming,” with RBC offering RBC Family Days and RBC clinics with RBC-branded Olympians.


“The RBC Centre brings together people from across our region, and is an important part of our shared commitment with RBC to invest in healthy, livable communities,” mayor Mike Savage said about RBC in a press release.

Newly opened in September last year, the $43-million facility quickly united community members in frustration over design flaws. Since then, HRM estimates it has welcomed some 1.5-million visitors.

It's what the municipality calls a “hub for sports.”

“The RBC Centre is a space that helps kids and families create memories together, develop friendships and build the foundation for a healthy active lifestyle,” states RBC regional president Roger Howard.

It's the latest bit of municipal infrastructure purchased—in name, at least—by a major bank. The RBC Centre joins the BMO Centre in Bedford and the Scotiabank Centre downtown.

The naming rights for those buildings were sold on similar 10-year contracts: Scotiabank offered $6.5 million to brand the former Metro Centre, while it's not been disclosed how much BMO paid for the four-pad arena in Bedford.

Up next on the naming rights sales block will be the under-renovation Dartmouth Sportplex. Whenever it's finished, that is.

The municipality announced this week that extreme humid conditions from this past summer have delayed completion of that $28-million construction project.

The future CIBC Centre or TD Centre or whatever will now officially reopen to the public and begin recreation programming next February.
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Nova Scotia approves tire burning just in time for the end of the world

Cement plant will receive $367,500 subsidy to burn scrap tires as fuel.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2018 at 3:03 PM

Not exactly as illustrated. - ADOBE STOCK
  • Not exactly as illustrated.

Urgent changes at an unprecedented level never before seen in human history are needed to save the planet from environmental collapse. Nova Scotia has responded to this clarion call from the world's leading scientists by paying a company to burn old tires.

The Department of Environment announced today it’s awarded industrial approval for Lafarge Canada to burn 350,000 scrap tires as fuel for the company's Brookfield cement plant.

Lafarge will receive $367,5000 in public money to subsidize its efforts.

The license is only for a 12-month period. At least to start. Similar environmental approvals are normally granted 10 years at a time.

“The shorter period allows the province to ensure that terms and conditions are being met, and can be modified if needed to ensure the environment and human health are protected,” writes spokesperson Bruce Nunn in a press release.

But Ecology Action Centre policy director Mark Butler says once the fire is lit it will be hard to put out.

“The EAC is of the view that once the tire burning infrastructure is in place at the Lafarge plant it will be difficult for government to reverse the decision to burn tires, regardless of monitoring and test results,” Butler writes via press release.

Environment minister Iain Rankin first gave Lafarge Canada the go-ahead for its tire-kiln pilot project last summer. The decision was appealed by nearby residents and environmental groups who felt the province had failed to adequately consult the public and that Lafarge’s plans were based on shoddy science. The appeal was ultimately rejected by the courts.

Research from Lafarge and Dalhousie University suggests that the global manufacturer can reduce its Brookfield plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent just by switching from coal to scrap tires.

Phasing out coal is one of the quickest methods countries around the world will need to take to reduce GHG emissions, according to a dire report released earlier this week from the world’s leading climate scientists.

The authors of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change study warn there are only 12 years left to keep the planet from warming an additional 1.5C and thus stave off catastrophic environmental failure.

Achieving that goal will require urgent and unprecedented changes from all aspects of society, including a severe curtailing of greenhouse gas emissions.

But Nova Scotia's scrap tires were already being reused as something more useful than coal-replacement. The old rubber would be chopped up by C&D Recycling and spread as infill in roadwork projects.

Without a supply of tires, local engineers will instead need to use mineral aggregates. The mining of those products is considerably more carbon-intensive than any savings calculated by Lafarge, says Butler.

“Burning tires, rather than recycling them, will not reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in Nova Scotia, will undermine recycling and will pose an additional health hazard to local residents,” Butler states. “In addition, taking tires away from the recycling industry and giving them to Lafarge to burn will result in a net loss of jobs and economic activity.”

Burning tires, even when carefully monitored, risks releasing toxic dioxins and dangerous heavy metals in the local environment.

According to today's press release, Lafarge will have to undertake air quality monitoring at regular intervals whenever the tire kiln is lit. Groundwater and surface water monitoring is also required.

Setting up those monitoring systems will be a little easier thanks to the $1.05 per-tire subsidy Lafarge will be paid by Divert Nova Scotia. The money comes out of an environmental fee Divert NS collects from consumers who buy new tires.

“It is EAC’s view that Divert NS, which describes itself as fostering a culture of recycling in Nova Scotia for over 20 years, does not have the moral authority to collect a fee which will be given to a company to burn, not recycle, tires,” states Butler.

Lafarge had previously put forward a tire-burning plan in 2007 but it was rejected by Nova Scotia’s Tory government for having too many risks. The following year, the legislature passed a bill outright banning tire burning in the province. It was never proclaimed.

Today the NS NDP announced it will re-introduce that bill in response to the Liberal government’s Lafarge decision.

“We shouldn’t be burning tires for fuel, especially when they could be recycled,” states Lenore Zann, NDP environment critic. “Today’s decision will not only degrade Nova Scotia’s environment but further damage our reputation as a leader in tackling climate change.”

Nova Scotia produces roughly 1 million scrap tires each year.
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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Secret access codes needed to buy NSLC weed online

Passcodes acquired in person from NSLC stores will need to be entered whenever users visit cannabis sales website.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 9, 2018 at 4:46 PM


Here's a fun way to pretend you're some kind of hacker man.

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation announced today how it's going to keep recreational cannabis that's sold online out of the hands of those under 19.

An online access code will be required to visit and make purchases at the province's new online cannabis store, which is set to launch October 17.

Cards containing the access codes will be given out to customers with a valid ID at all NSLC stores starting next Wednesday.

Once the secret access code has been obtained, players will need to enter it every time they log on to NSLC's cannabis website while protecting its contents from waves of pot-loving teenagers.

“It’s important that we offer recreational cannabis to Nova Scotians in a safe and responsible manner,” says Dave DiPersio, senior vice president and chief services officer for the NSLC, in a release. “The NSLC team is working hard to have everything ready to go online and in-store when cannabis is legalized.”

The cards themselves are not tied to any customer information and can be reused indefinitely, passed down from one generation to the next.

NSLC's website also features additional age verification systems, along with detailed information about each cannabis product and the option to check out as either a guest or create an account for use in any future government data breaches.

Responsible use messaging will be “prominently” featured on the site, “encouraging customers to start low and go slow” on their new, legal high.

All online cannabis purchases will be delivered by Canada Post to whatever shipping address is provided at the time of sale, but customers will still need to show a valid photo ID upon delivery.

The online website for purchasing cannabis goes live on October 17.

Where to smoke outside is still TBD. Only eight days before legalization, the city has yet to post a list of designated smoking areas approved for its new cannabis/tobacco ban.
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25 for 25: episode 2009

Tim Bousquet talks about when the sewage treatment plant failed. Plus, Paul McCartney is in town, dead birds in the Public Gardens and, yes, Brindi.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 9, 2018 at 12:55 PM

Clockwise from top-right: The Coast's sewage plant cover story, Brindi, Darrell Dexter, Peter Kelly, Tim Bousquet.
  • Clockwise from top-right: The Coast's sewage plant cover story, Brindi, Darrell Dexter, Peter Kelly, Tim Bousquet.

Former Coast news editor Tim Bousquet joins us to talk about the day the sewage treatment plant failed and what lessons were learned at city hall. Then we get into HRM By Design and Tim's early days live-tweeting council.

Plus Paul McCartney comes to town for what's sure to be a successful concert, chef Ray Bear flees from Halifax after his business partner threatens his life and historic Morris House is on the move.

Tara and Jacob also look at racism in the Halifax fire department, the Chronicle Herald axes a quarter of its newsroom and suspicions of fowl play inside the Public Gardens when a famous goose turns up dead...or was she murdered?

And, yes, we also talk about Brindi.


If you like the podcast, please feel free to give us a nice rating or leave a review. If you hate the podcast, want to correct something we got wrong or have comments about any events we forgot to mention you can email us at

Catch up on past episodes here.
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Friday, October 5, 2018

Dal researcher says shark-tagging group a risk to swimmers, sharks

Non-profit Ocearch is more interested in tweeting than science, claims Canada Research Chair in fisheries ecology.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 5:02 PM

Nova the shark, pictured on Ocearch's advertisement-covered tagging platform. - VIA TWITTER
  • Nova the shark, pictured on Ocearch's advertisement-covered tagging platform.

A Dalhousie University ocean research scientist says that the organization tagging and tracking sharks these past several weeks in Nova Scotian waters is posing a danger to both sharks and swimmers.

The American non-profit Ocearch has been on an expedition to study sharks off the coast of Nova Scotia since mid-September. The group finds and tags white sharks, ostensibly to track their migration and breeding habits.

But Aaron MacNeil, who holds the Canada Research Chair in fisheries ecology, says that Ocearch's mission seems to be less about scientific research and more about posting to Twitter.

“Basically, they have a thin veneer of science,” he says. “Like a candy shell of science.”

Ocearch is a “data-centric organization built to help scientists collect previously unattainable data.”

The organization throws bait and baited lines into the water to lure white sharks to the surface, then hooks and lifts the animal out of the water for tagging.

Since 2007, Ocearch has led 32 expeditions around the world, tagging some 330 animals.

The excursions offer plenty of dramatic photo opportunities that Ocearch happily shares on social media. Each animal is also named and assigned its own Twitter handle.

Fans of the tagged shark can then follow along in the animal’s ocean journey. Hilton, one of Ocearch’s most well-known celebrity sharks, currently has nearly 47,000 followers.

Ocearch says it facilitates scientific research. But MacNeil argues the group is “at the margins” of what other shark researchers investigate.

“I think they’re largely overselling the importance of the work they’re doing.”

Neither the Department of Fisheries and Oceans nor Dalhousie University’s Oceans Tracking Network is working with Ocearch on its expedition, he points out.

“If they were getting world-leading data, you’d expect those people to be working with them,” says MacNeil. “I mean, the fellow who founded it is a former reality TV host for a fishing program. So you can read into that what you like.”

Ocearch founder Chris Fischer and his team star in the History channel television series Shark Wranglers, which follows the organization’s vessel on tagging expeditions across the world.

During those travels, the non-profit has been barred from the waters around Massachusetts, Florida, northern California and from South Africa, where a bodyboarder was killed in 2012 by a shark only a week after Ocearch chummed nearby water.

MacNeil is now worried Ocearch’s “chumming” of the waters close to Nova Scotia's public beaches brings similar risks of white sharks coming into contact with swimmers and surfers.

“When I actually went and looked where they were tagging these things, I said, ‘Holy crap.”

Department of Fisheries and Oceans spokesperson Stephen Bornais says the DFO is “aware of recent concerns” about the use of chum to attract sharks and has advised Ocearch to alter course.

“While it is not anticipated that white sharks will change where they forage for food as a result of any chumming that occurs as part of this research, the department has advised Ocearch to move away from coastal areas frequented by recreational users.”
At more risk may be the sharks themselves. Past tagging efforts by Ocearch appear to have caused the death of a nine-foot female great white near South Africa, as documented on the organization’s reality show.

Ocearch claims that taking sharks out of the water via their modified crab boats is actually safer and less stressful than traditional tagging efforts.

“The shark’s eyes are covered with a towel and ocean water is fed down a tube so it can run through the gills,” Fischer tells Halifax Today. “Blood samples are taken right after the animal comes on board and again right before being released to test the shark’s stress level.”

But MacNeil argues the best thing for an ocean-dwelling animal is always leaving it in the water.

“You’re essentially beaching it temporarily, and a lot of marine animals are terrified about being beached because it crushes their organs and causes lots of problems.”

A Scientific American article from 2016 quotes Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at California State University in Long Beach, as saying Ocearch’s tactics of catching and handling sharks also increases the likelihood that the animals will leave their habitat in response to the disturbance.

“Much less invasive procedures like external tagging that do not require capture should have less effect on subsequent behaviour,” states Lowe.

The DFO has issued Ocearch special permits to tag up to 20 white sharks off the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland this fall.

So far, the group has tagged three males: Nova, named for Nova Scotia; Hal, named for Halifax; and Jefferson, named for one of Ocearch’s corporate sponsors, Jefferson Bourbon.

Other commercial partners of the American organization include a brewery, a sunglasses company and SeaWorld—itself a centre of controversy when it comes to animal welfare.

MacNeil does admit that Ocearch's sleek digital packages and media appearances are great for educating the public about the oceans. But it’s not doing much for science.

“They have left a trail of burned bridges behind them all over the world,” he says. “They’re coming in swaggering and they haven’t interacted very well with the science community here.”

Meanwhile, Hilton and Ocearch’s other sharks continue swimming, blissfully unaware they’ve been co-opted as brand ambassadors.

“Holy smokes I finally made it to Newfoundland!” someone from Ocearch tweeted Friday while pretending to be a shark.

Information on white sharks in Atlantic Canada is limited and reporting is strongly encouraged by the DFO to increase knowledge about the species and inform its recovery. Anyone spotting a white shark in provincial waters can email Fisheries and Oceans at , telephone 1-844-400-7870 or contact the DFO website.
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Gus didn't get an Order of Nova Scotia 😞

I'm sorry. We failed you, Halifax.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 1:36 PM

Gus is unimpressed with today's announcement. - VIA INSTAGRAM
  • Gus is unimpressed with today's announcement.

Well, at least we tried.

Gus, the Museum of Natural History’s gopher tortoise, Halifax's beloved mascot, living monument of history, multi-generational icon, will not be receiving an Order of Nova Scotia award this year.

As announced today by lieutenant governor Arthur LeBlanc, five other extraordinary Nova Scotians and also John Bragg have been awarded the province's highest honour instead.

The 2018 recipients of the Order of Nova Scotia are famed Olympian Ellie Black, nursing trailblazer Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk, superstar historian Janet Kitz, healthcare innovator Patti Melanson, community pillar Wade Smith and John Bragg.

Absent from the list is Gus, who The Coast officially nominated earlier this year with accompanying letters of support from Ecology Action Centre wilderness coordinator Raymond Plourde, former Gus caretaker Scott Pelton, HRM deputy mayor Waye Mason and former Halifax Member of Parliament Megan Leslie.

Traditionally, the ONS has only been bestowed on humans. But per international Air Bud rules, as there was no regulation explicitly stating tortoises couldn't win, we thought it was worth a shot.


“One of the most enjoyable roles I have as the Queen's representative in this province is to invest the 2018 appointees with the Order of Nova Scotia, which is our highest honour,” LeBlanc stated in a tortoise-free press release. “The achievements by these six outstanding Nova Scotians makes us all proud and I greatly look forward to congratulating them in person at the investiture ceremony in November.”

None of the nominees have delighted Nova Scotians for two-thirds of a century, but their achievements are no less remarkable; their stories no less inspiring.

The second person under 18 to receive the ONS, Black has represented Canada twice at the Summer Olympics and recently led her team to gold at the Commonwealth Games.

Douglas-Yakimchuk was the first Black graduate of the Nova Scotia Hospital School of Nursing back in 1954 and eventually became the first, and only, Black president of the Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia.

Kitz, originally from Scotland, is a leading academic on the Halifax Explosion and author of Shattered City. She also helped create the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic's permanent exhibit on the disaster.

A practicing nurse of over 25 years, Melanson has been a driving force in how healthcare is offered to vulnerable populations, having helped create the Mobile Street Outreach Team and advocated for the Housing First model of helping those living in shelters find adequate housing.

Smith, the former principal of Citadel High School, was a lifelong educator and a passionate advocate for African Nova Scotian culture and education. Smith sadly passed away last year after battling cancer. His life and impact on the city was celebrated for weeks afterwards by the thousands of lives he touched.

John Bragg sells blueberries and owns Eastlink.

via the Museum of Natural History.
  • via the Museum of Natural History.

The Order of Nova Scotia was established in 2001, and over the past 17 years has been awarded to 93 recipients who get a medal and the right to use O.N.S. after their names.

The gopher tortoise who would one day be known as Gus hatched from a golf-ball sized egg in Silver Springs, Florida circa 1922. Former Halifax museum director Don Crowdis brought him to his new home in Nova Scotia 20 years later.

In 2009, the province celebrated Gus’ 87th birthday with a press release which emotionally detailed his impact on generations of Nova Scotians. “His shell wears a gentle sheen from being touched by more than a million children’s hands,” it reads.

On behalf of everyone at The Coast, congratulations to most of the nominees and our heartfelt condolences to Gus. There's always next year, little guy.
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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Council approves new campaign 
finance rules

Cynical public will still think we’re bought by developers, elected officials whine.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2018 at 9:02 PM

City Hall, now with rules for entry. - DANIELLE CAMERON
  • City Hall, now with rules for entry.

Halifax council has approved its first ever set of campaign finance rules, putting restrictions on who can donate and how much can be contributed to a municipal election.

Donations from any corporation, union or organization are now illegal under the new bylaw, which was approved at Tuesday’s meeting. The limit for an individual to donate is now set at $1,000 per councillor, not exceeding $5,000 total per election.

Previously, the sky was the limit. The Municipal Elections Act doesn’t put any restrictions on donations or how much money candidates can spend, leading to a wide disparity between campaigns and accusations that councillors were being swayed by donations from the development community.

A CBC investigation in 2015 determined that one-third of all the donations made in the 2012 municipal election came from developers.

But some councillors take umbrage at the idea that they could be bought for a few thousand dollars every few years.

“I’ve run eight elections since 1999 and nobody has ever bought my vote and nobody will buy my vote,” said Waverley–Fall River–Musquodoboit Valley councillor Steve Streatch.

“Why are we doing this? I guess it’s for transparency. I guess it’s the new norm. I guess the cynicism that appears to be out there these days needs an outlet.”

Dartmouth South–Eastern Passage councillor Bill Karsten likewise defended the reputation of developers as pillars of the community.

“Councillors don’t build cities,” admitted Karsten. “It’s the development community.”

Other campaign finance changes include a maximum spending limit for each candidate, set at $30,000 for each council seat and $300,000 for future mayoral races.

Back in 2012, Mike Savage raised over $300,000 in donations during his inaugural mayoral campaign, arguably the biggest war chest gathered by any municipal politician in Nova Scotia history.

Ever since his election, the mayor has strongly advocated for campaign finance reform.

“We do need this and not because there’s any criminality happening or anything that’s wrong. But you just need to have systems in place,” said Savage.

Candidates and their spouses will also now be limited to spending $15,000 of their own money on their campaign. The restriction is meant to prevent the rich and powerful from having an unfair advantage in an election.

Councillor Russell Walker objected to the idea, however, arguing that anyone who needs more money in a campaign could simply take out a loan from the bank.

That option isn’t available for everyone, countered Halifax Peninsula North councillor Lindell Smith.

“That is a privilege,” said Smith. “Someone from a marginalized community, to be able to go to a bank and say, ‘Can I have $15,000,’ they’re going to laugh at you.”

The new campaign finance rules will limit political contributions to March 1 or later in an election year. Any funds left unspent by the candidates can either by donated to a non-profit organization or held in trust by the city for use by an incumbent during the next election.

All of these changes, of course, only impact above-the-table contributions. Back in 2006, former councillor Dawn Sloane, told the Chronicle Herald that she was offered and turned down a roll of bills while in a meeting with a local developer. Other councillors likewise told the press they had been offered similar bribes.

“The question’s been asked a couple of times, who are we doing this for?” said Middle/Upper Sackville–Beaver Bank–Lucasville councillor Lisa Blackburn during council’s meeting. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re doing this for my two buddies, democracy and transparency.”

In a separate motion later in the day, council voted to work with the province to expand the provincial Lobbyist Registry to include any lobbying conducted at the municipal level.
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Monday, October 1, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2008

Reminiscing with Joel Plaskett about his career, and reflections on covering suicides with journalist Matthieu Aikins.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2018 at 10:56 AM


It's a Joel Plaskett emergency as the local legend joins us in studio with tales from the road. The storied son of Dartmouth talks about his critically acclaimed nostalgia opus, Ashtray Rock, and his busy year back in 2008.

Then, award-winning journalist Matthieu Aikins calls in with reflections on his lauded Coast cover feature about Macdonald Bridge suicides, “Adam's Fall.”

All this plus, Peter Kelly goes for a swim, fire boats flip over in the harbour, the Spryfield drug wars erupt, lie detector tests exposed at city hall and we offer some definitive rulings on proper bus etiquette.


If you like the podcast, please feel free to give us a nice rating or leave a review. If you hate the podcast, want to correct something we got wrong or have comments about any events we forgot to mention you can email us at

Catch up on past episodes here.
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Friday, September 28, 2018

New smoking bylaws to be enforced starting October 15

Designated smoking areas already decided on include bus terminals in Burnside, Clayton Park and Dartmouth.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 5:26 PM

Stay within the green. - VIA HRM
  • Stay within the green.

You’ve got two more weeks to light up on public property.

Come October 15, Halifax will officially start enforcing its new bylaw amendments banning all smoking on public property outside of designated smoking areas.

A “couple dozen” smoking areas will initially be in place come October 15, just two days before cannabis is legal.

“We suspect that a good number, a couple dozen to three dozen, will be up and operational by the 15,” says spokesperson Brendan Elliott.

Those locations will be identified via signs like the above prototype, though the suggested safe distance of three-metres will fluctuate.

“There could be some that say three metres, there could be some that are bookends,” says Elliott. Meaning smokers could light up in the area between two different signs. “I don’t want to be tied to a specific measurement because each situation will dictate its own reasonable distance for smoking.”

Locations already decided on include the bus terminals in Burnside, Clayton Park and Dartmouth. Those are the “easy ones,” says Elliott, as HRM already has direct control of the land's use.

An online map to be posted in the next few days will show all approved locations and update as new sites are chosen. Meanwhile, residents can submit requests for specific smoking locations to a dedicated email address (TBD).

Elliott says city staff will also be monitoring the discourse on social media, should the public have suggestions.

“This is something that’s organic. It’ll grow as we get our feet on the ground with this legislation.”

The bylaw amendments—which have been loudly criticized by residents and councillors as totalitarian, unenforceable and ripe for abuse—will level fines ranging from $20 to $2,000 on smokers outside the safety zones.

City hall had originally hoped the signage could be in place for October 1, allowing a two-week adjustment period before cannabis is legal. That self-imposed deadline was “too ambitious,” admits Elliott.

Implementing these changes has been challenging, says the spokesperson, in so far as it's the first time HRM has ever had to do something like this.

“If I can describe government as being nimble, this is one of those cases where we’re absolutely going to have to be flexible in how we apply the amendments that council has given us.”

The smoking bylaw’s second reading comes to council for final approval on Tuesday. Unlike changes to land-use bylaws, these amendments to the nuisance act don't require a public hearing before being enacted.
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In Print This Week

Vol 26, No 21
October 18, 2018

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