March 19, 2015

The latest snowstorm in the Maritimes may have been the proverbial straw

Filed under: Cancon — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:52

If the reports from Nova Scotia are typical, the new ice age may have already started in the Maritime provinces:

March 7, 2015

22 Minutes: Halifax Tourism Ad

Filed under: Cancon,Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 3 Mar 2015

The capital of Nova Scotia attempts to attract tourism by embracing winter’s reality.

March 2, 2015

Food naming oddities

Filed under: Cancon,India,Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

David Warren on the oddly named “Digby Chicken” and “Bombay Duck” along with a paean to the joys of food shopping in Parkdale:

Parkdale, which is to say, the inner core of the Greater Parkdale Area, in which the High Doganate is located, is a melting pot of innumerable overlapping ethnications. Among our most exotic immigrants are those from the far east: Nova Scotia, for instance, and Newfoundland. Shopping, at least for food in Parkdale, is a treat. We have every sort of specialist grocery, and in effect, groceries within groceries. One gets one’s Tibetan yak sausage, for instance, from a Serbian butcher whose store is cowboy-themed; ingredients for one’s Somali maraq from the Sinhalese grocery (via their Maldivian connexion); but the exhilarating, cardamom-infused gashaato instead via the Sikh Punjabis, as supplement to their Bengali sweets. Note, this culinary cross-dressing is the opposite of multiculturalism. Rather I would call it, “downmarket fusion.”

This being Lent, I try to avoid fish on Fridays. There’s enough of that for the other days, beans on rice will do, or perhaps sinfully on the last two Fridays, I indulged a craving for sweet potato in a Siamese red sauce. I woke this morning with a craving for salt, as well as protein, and as God is merciful, recalled to mind a little platter of Digby chicks in my fridge — obtained some days before from the Maritime ethnic section of a cheap local supermarket.

Digby Chicken has long been Nova Scotia’s answer to Bombay Duck. The latter, also salty, and so powerful in flavour and scent that it requires careful packaging, is actually a fish, the bummalo. Gentle reader may already be trying to construct an etymology from that, but there is no hope for him. The fish is actually harvested from the waters off Bombay. It was transported from there by rail, in the good old days of British Imperialism, aboard the Bombay Dhak (i.e. the Bombay Mail), which gave rise to such expressions as, e.g. “You smell like the Bombay Dhak.” Surely, that will be enough to go on.

January 19, 2015

The Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway shuts down operations

Filed under: Business,Cancon,Railways — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In the Globe and Mail, Eric Atkins tells the tale of another shortline railway shutting down operations:

The railway, which did not reapply for a $3-million yearly government subsidy, has been granted permission by a Nova Scotia regulator to abandon the 100 miles of track between Port Hawkesbury and Sydney by October.

The move leaves some factories facing soaring shipping costs and scrambling to find new ways to bring in raw materials.

Beverage container maker Trans-Atlantic used to rely on the railway for 70 or 80 railcars a year carrying plastic pellets from Quebec and South Carolina. John MacLean, vice-president of the manufacturer that employs 40 people, said the railway raised the $600-per-car rate by $5,500 in the fall, and last week notified customers each car would cost $18,000.

“They obviously don’t want to do business here,” Mr. MacLean said by phone from Sydney. “They opted not to take the subsidy but they cited a decrease in traffic as the reason they had to increase the rate.”

The loss of rail service means Trans-Atlantic has been saddled with the expense of trucking its raw material from Moncton, and has lost the flexibility and storage the rail cars offered.

“We have to be very vigilant on the way we operate. It has a huge effect on our competitiveness,” he said.


Railway executives said at December hearings they did not renew the subsidy application because the future costs of maintaining and repairing the line outweighed the scrap and market value of the steel and other materials.

The railroad’s bridges and culverts would need repairs that cost at least $30-million, while the company figures it can get $15-million to $20-million scrapping and selling the rails and other material.

“As a company we feel that’s a much better use of our assets than simply operating on a subsidy that allows us to break even for 500 carloads a year. That’s why we did not renew,” said Josée Danis, assistant vice-president of Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway.

July 14, 2014

“Canada’s true sesquicentennial is happening right now”

In the Winnipeg Free Press, Allan Levine reminds us that not only is Canada’s 150th birthday coming up in 2017, but that the meetings that led to Confederation were being held 150 years ago and much of the success was due to a “forgotten father of Confederation”:

BOLSTERED by generous federal funding, the 150th anniversary of Confederation will be celebrated on July 1, 2017 with the great hoopla the birth of this country deserves.

Yet the hard work, political compromises, backroom negotiations and constitutional debates that made Confederation — a more remarkable development than we appreciate today — possible occurred during a five-month period from June to October in 1864.

In short, Canada’s true sesquicentennial is happening right now.

The two most notable events of 1864 were conferences in Charlottetown, in early September, followed by a more extensive one held in Quebec City for much of October. At the gathering in Charlottetown, delegates from the Province of Canada — divided into two regions, Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec) — led by John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier, respectively, convinced politicians from the Maritimes a federation of all of British North America made sense. The fundamentals of this new constitutional entity were then hammered out in Quebec City, producing a comprehensive plan for a new country outlined in the 72 Resolutions, which became the basis for the British North America Act proclaimed on July 1, 1867.

Apart from Macdonald and Cartier, the other key political personality in Charlottetown and Quebec City involved in making Confederation a reality was George Brown, the publisher of the Toronto Globe. Born in Scotland, Brown had arrived in Toronto via New York City at the age of 24 in 1843 and a year later established the Globe. A large man, he was over six feet tall and powerfully built. Brown was hard and dogmatic, but also an energetic and passionate man with strong convictions about free speech, civil liberties and the separation of church and state.

Brown became a leader of the Reform movement in Canada West and rallied around him left-leaning Reformers in Toronto and western farmers he dubbed “Clear Grits” (this faction only wanted men of true grit). He was eventually elected to the Province of Canada assembly in 1851, the beginning of a journey that would culminate with his role as a leading Father of Confederation and a founder of the Liberal party.

Update, 15 July. Richard Anderson has more on George Brown, and neatly explains why of all the Fathers of Confederation, only Sir John A. sticks in anyone’s memory. Poor George founded the Liberal party, but wouldn’t recognize the party in its modern incarnation.

George Brown certainly founded the Liberal Party, The Globe and Canada as a viable nation state. The Liberal Party, however, would prefer if you not remember all that stuff. Like an unpleasant uncle whose Thanksgiving Day antics you have suppressed from conscious memory, Brown is an embarrassment to modern Grits. To understand that you only have to give glancing attention to the man himself.

Brown of the Globe was a classical liberal, or to put it another way he was real liberal, one who understood very well the root meaning of the word: Liberty. He denounced crony capitalism (see the Grand Trunk Railway), fought for the separation of church and state (see his attacks upon ultramonte Catholicism) and advocated for free trade. This fierce tempered, no-nonsense Scots-Presbyterian would have made mince-meat out of Pierre Trudeau and his dimwitted spawn. When the Liberal Party of Canada stopped believing in liberty they had no use for Canadian classical liberalism’s greatest exponent.

George Brown is more than forgotten, he is an orphan in our statist politics. We are much the poorer for it.

December 14, 2013

Canada edges ahead of the US in economic freedoms

Last week, the Fraser Institute published Economic Freedom of North America 2013 which illustrates the relative changes in economic freedom among US states and Canadian provinces:

Click to go to the full document

Click to go to the full document

Reason‘s J.D. Tuccille says of the report, “Canadian Provinces Suck Slightly Less Than U.S. States at Economic Freedom”:

For readers of Reason, Fraser’s definition of economic freedom is unlikely to be controversial. Fundamentally, the report says, “Individuals have economic freedom when (a) property they acquire without the use of force, fraud, or theft is protected from physical invasions by others and (b) they are free to use, exchange, or give their property as long as their actions do not violate the identical rights of others.”

The report includes two rankings of economic freedom — one just comparing state and provincial policies, and the other incorporating the effects of national legal systems and property rights protections. Since people are subject to all aspects of the environment in which they operate, and not just locally decided rules and regulations, it’s that “world-adjusted all-government” score that matters most, and it has a big effect — especially since “gaps have widened between the scores of Canada and the United States in these areas.” The result is is that:

    [I]n the world-adjusted index the top two jurisdictions are Canadian, with Alberta in first place and Saskatchewan in second. In fact, four of the top seven jurisdictions are Canadian, with the province of Newfoundland & Labrador in sixth and British Columbia in seventh. Delaware, in third spot, is the highest ranked US state, followed by Texas and Nevada. Nonetheless, Canadian jurisdictions, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, still land in the bottom two spots, just behind New Mexico at 58th and West Virginia at 57th.

Before you assume that the nice folks at Fraser are gloating, or that you should pack your bags for a northern relocation, the authors caution that things aren’t necessarily getting better north of the border. Instead, “their economic freedom is declining more slowly than in the US states.”

May 27, 2013

The economic and technical issues with domestic ship-building programs

Filed under: Cancon,Economics,Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:44

The Royal Canadian Navy is supposed to be getting some new ships (eventually), at a proposed cost of $25 billion. But the best way to get the most bang for our buck is not the way the government is going about it … building these highly specialized vessels in Canada does two things: it guarantees that we’ll pay far more money for fewer hulls, and it briefly raises employment in certain fields (metalworking, electrical work, welding, etc.). What it doesn’t do is create a viable industry for building naval or coast guard ships for other countries — because most other countries can either build their own (France, Germany, the UK, and the US) or have the economic sense to buy from friendly countries that can build efficiently at reasonable cost. Even if we pay a significant premium to build frigates or destroyers in Canada, once that job is over the shipyards will close down and most or all of the workers will be looking for new jobs.

Michael Whalen has more:

Given the above, the second, far more strategic, issue to be discussed is: Should we in fact be building warships in Canada at all? What is the long-term benefit to Canada?

The immediate answer from politicians of all stripes is, interestingly, not great ships, but jobs, jobs, jobs. However, the jobs they are talking about may well be far less valuable than we imagine.

There is no standard breakdown of the costs of building a warship, but a recent study by the South Australian government (as part of its input to that country’s proposed 30-year, $250- billion naval shipbuilding strategy) suggests the actual shipbuilding represents much less than half of the cost of a warship, perhaps 30 per cent to 40 per cent.

The rest comes from the design, armament, engines, electronics, etc., which will largely be procured outside of Canada, certainly outside of Nova Scotia. The benefits to Nova Scotia and to Canada will be in largely blue-collar jobs such as shipwrights, welders, electricians and general labour. In a job-poor province such as ours, these are nothing to sneeze at. This massive expenditure will not, however, create a sustainable long-term industry for our province.

To put it bluntly, there is no market for Canadian-built warships. The major buyers, the Americans, the British, the French, the Chinese, etc., build their own. They will never buy a ship from Canada.

Our governments, federal and provincial, will spend billions establishing a small, inefficient industry for which there is no market outside the government of Canada.

There are economies of scale to consider: for a dozen ships, it makes no sense to essentially create an industry from scratch. For a hundred ships, the costs start to be reasonable (but we don’t need that many, couldn’t crew that many, and nobody will buy them from us). We have an infamous historical test of this, too:

There is something of a parallel here with the aircraft industry. John Diefenbaker has been condemned for nearly 60 years for cancelling the Avro Arrow, Canada’s last attempt at building a warplane.

In retrospect, he was right. Instead of spending billions on a jet for which there was no market, subsequent governments invested in companies like DeHavilland and Canadair (both ultimately purchased by Bombardier) and Pratt and Whitney Canada which focused on the growing market for commercial aircraft, particularly small airliners serving regional markets.

Today this country has a vibrant aerospace industry that is among the world’s largest. Canadian-built aircraft fly on every continent and jobs have been created across the country, including many here in Nova Scotia.

Large parts of this industry resulted from the identification of a sustainable, growing niche market (regional airliners) and investing in the components (e.g. airframe design, small turbine engines, landing gear) required to meet that demand. There is no evidence that kind of strategic thinking has gone into Canada’s shipbuilding program.

May 23, 2013

Underwater archaeologists revisit Louisbourg

Filed under: Cancon,History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 16:29

Archaeologists are visiting Louisbourg harbour to inspect the remains of several French ships that were sunk during the second siege of Louisbourg in 1758:

Parks Canada’s underwater archeologists have been studying what remains of the ships in the waters off Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site since the early 1960s. For this dive, they are also gathering fresh, high-quality video and pictures for new exhibits and for a festival of all of Parks Canada’s archeologists to be held during Louisbourg 300 celebrations this summer.

Jonathan Moore of Parks Canada’s underwater archeology service said that after so many years on the ocean floor, what is left of the warships is mainly the remains of the lower hulls, which are embedded into the harbour bottom.

“You are not seeing a lot of structure above the sea bed,” he said Wednesday morning, after the five-person team returned to the wharf in Louisbourg. “A lot of the heavier materials located in the lower-most reaches of the ships are laying on the seabed.

“A common thing we are seeing is cannons that were on the warships when they went down: cannonballs, cannon shot, bar shot — all of the kinds of ordnance that was on the vessels when they sank.”

Some ship parts like some rigging, pulley components, stone and iron ballast are also on the ocean floor.

Underwater archeologists last visited the shipwrecks in 2008.

“We haven’t seen any dramatic change, which is a good sign,” said Moore.

April 20, 2013

The problematic crowd-sourcing of justice

Filed under: Law,Liberty,Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:35

In the Globe and Mail, Tabatha Southey is uncomfortable with the way members of Anonymous, Reddit, 4chan, and other online quasi-organizations leaped into the fray:

The Internet is brimming with people who want to help. To help you prune an orchid, perfect the shape of your gnocchi. Shortly after the bombings this week, hundreds of Bostonians posted offers of accommodations, spare rooms and couches.

Most assistance is graciously received, yet I was surprised last week to see how many people embraced the announcement by the self-appointed public conscience Anonymous that it had investigated the unbearably sad Nova Scotia case of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, who killed herself after she was allegedly gang-raped at a summer party, then was tormented over the incident.

[. . .]

Anonymous as an organization doesn’t really exist. It’s more of a meme — a concept, or behaviour that spreads within a community — than an agency. Anyone who says they’re Anonymous is Anonymous, which makes the groundswell of support its actions received so understandable.

I think a lot of us, upon learning of Rehtaeh’s death, wanted to go to Nova Scotia and shake those kids until something that looked closer to truth came out. Anonymous’s motivations are much like ours, and it can be difficult to remember that the presumption of innocence should be given more weight, not less, the more heinous the crime; the part that is almost the best in us screams otherwise.

Anonymous is not composed of superheroes, nor is it evil. Anonymous is just your nephew, or your neighbour, or you. We cede our pursuit of justice to that highly distractable quarter to our peril.

One only had to see that massive game of Where’s Waldo? taking place on Reddit this week to witness both the good intention, the potential and the problems inherent in crowd-sourced jurisprudence.

February 16, 2013

Nova Scotia Islands

Filed under: Cancon,History,Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:34

I got a press release to let me know that “Nova Scotia Islands” will be shown on CBC this Sunday. It looks interesting:

Nova Scotia Islands will have its world broadcast premiere on Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 12 Noon on CBC TV’s Land & Sea.

Islands are part of the geography and history of the Maritimes, nowhere more so than Nova Scotia. Jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, there are more than 3,800 islands that lie scattered along nearly 5,000 miles of coastline.

Nova Scotia Islands is a half hour documentary that explores some of the most interesting islands in the province, their little known histories, and in some cases their uncertain futures.

February 15, 2013

No wonder many Canadians skip jury duty

Filed under: Cancon,Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:18

I’ve only ever been summoned for jury duty once, and that was about 20 years ago (I was lucky to not be in the pool for the Homolka case, which was in the courts at that time). I showed up on Monday morning, sat around reading my book for a couple of hours, then was dismissed. Repeat on Tuesday and Wednesday, then we were told our services wouldn’t be needed for the rest of the week. I was lucky not to lose any pay for performing my “civic duty” thanks to my employer-of-the-time, but most people are not so fortunate:

Let’s talk about jury duty. That much-despised civic responsibility in which we are asked to play a role in one of the world’s best justice systems.

Being summoned is viewed by many as an unwelcome interruption of their daily lives and, often, a punishing financial burden. It is ignored by hundreds, if not thousands, of Canadian every year.

And why? Well, most suggest a mix of lost wages and low compensation plays a role in it. Not to mention the hassle of having to listen to people talk all day long. But is it really worth chasing and punishing those who refuse to serve? And if so, shouldn’t something be done to make serving less punishing?

How bad is the pay? Pretty bad indeed:

Those selected to serve on jury duty have no protection from lost wages, although their employer is legally mandated to give them time off. And the compensation they receive is minimal.

So how much do jurors get paid? It is not a lot.

In Nova Scotia, jurors receive $40 a day plus mileage. Ontario pays jurors $40 a day once they have served more than 10 days, and $100 for every day over 49.

Alberta provides $50 per day of service, as well as travel expenses and possibly accommodations. The Northwest Territories gratefully pays $80 per day.

Quebec jury members get a much more generous deal:

Quebec residents called to participate in jury selection receive the cost of public transit or mileage and parking costs. They can also receive more than $45 for meals and as much as $138 to cover overnight accommodations.

Those selected to be a juror receive $103 for every day of the hearing and deliberations. That amount increases to $160 on the 57th day of service.

There are bonuses for working into the night and for Sundays and holidays, childcare allowances and psychological therapy after the trial.

H/T to Bob Tarantino for the link.

February 12, 2013

The Bluenose II in court

Filed under: Cancon,History,Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:14

The descendents of the designer of the original Bluenose are in court to demand the “copyright, and the moral rights in the copyright work” of the vessel which probably should be called the “Bluenose III“:

The Bluenose sank to the bottom in 1946; the replica Bluenose II was built in 1963, and then rebuilt in recent years and launched from the Lunenburg wharf this past September amid much fanfare and, as the province’s accountants could tell you, serious cost overruns.

No matter. This was a gala affair. Only Joan Roué and her father, Lawrence J. Roué — grandson of William J. Roué — were not among the smiling guests and proceeded to file suit against the province, the boat designers and boat builders in October, alleging that despite “the province owning the vessel … Joan and Lawrence Roué allege that they are respectively entitled to the copyright, and the moral rights in the copyright work” associated with the latest incarnation of the famous schooner.

To which the province responded — and I am paraphrasing here — “are you people kidding me?” while contending in court filings that William J. Roué’s storied original design perhaps wasn’t all that original to begin with, and, even if it were a singular masterpiece, that he had already been paid for it decades ago.

I posted about the “new” Bluenose II last year, explaining why I think they should have incremented the number in the vessel’s official name:

Wooden sailing ships are subject to far more wear and tear than modern vessels: they’re like the old tale of the farmer’s axe (even though everything’s been replaced over time, it’s still the same axe). This means that heritage sailing ships need lots of careful maintenance throughout their lives, and major re-builds at long intervals. In the case of Nova Scotia’s iconic Bluenose II, however, it’s sometimes more than a “rebuild” […] So, just to sum up: she’s being built to a different design (even though outward appearance is much the same), using different materials. In what way can you call her the same ship? The point made in the article, that the masts and sails were some of the “originals” being re-used is odd: those are among the parts that need replacing more often. And the mahogany and walnut saved from the last boat are almost certainly decorative elements, not structural ones.

January 15, 2013

HMCS Athabaskan finally makes port

Filed under: Cancon,Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:04

As reported more than a week ago, HMCS Athabaskan has been having issues getting back home to Halifax. She had been refitting at Seaway Marine and Industrial Inc. in Welland, Ontario, but the work had been extended longer than planned due to issues discovered while the work was underway. Instead of being back in service by the end of the year, the ship had to be towed back to Halifax with the work incomplete.

On the way, the tow line broke and HMCS Athabaskan drifted for several hours off Scatarie Island. At some point, the ship took additional damage (the darkened areas around the hull number below):

HMCS Athabaskan under tow in Halifax
(Screencap image detail from Halifax Shipping News)

January 4, 2013

HMCS Athabaskan damaged while under tow

Filed under: Cancon,Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

One of the Royal Canadian Navy’s destroyers was supposed to have finished a refitting back in November, but due to delays in the work had to be towed back to Halifax. On the way, further problems arose:

A navy destroyer moored in Cape Breton has been damaged and was set adrift while under tow after problems arose with repair work carried out at an Ontario dockyard, the military said Thursday.

HMCS Athabaskan drifted for several hours off Scatarie Island on Friday after the tow line broke, said Capt. Doug Kierstead of the Royal Canadian Navy in Halifax.

Kierstead said there is damage to the hull behind the ship’s identifying numbers, though he declined to say what the damage was and how it came about.

“At this point all I can say is that we are aware that there is damage visible,” Kierstead said in an interview.

He said the vessel was supposed to have undergone a routine refit by the end of November last year and was expected to be capable of sailing after that work was completed at Seaway Marine and Industrial Inc. in Welland, Ont.

HMCS Athabaskan 282
Photo from Wikimedia

December 5, 2012

The shipbuilding tradition of the Maritimes

Filed under: Cancon,History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:56

I got a media advisory from Tell Tale Productions this morning, letting me know that their most recent documentary will be shown on CBC television this Sunday on Land & Sea:

Maritime Shipbuilding is a half hour documentary that reveals this seafaring history and the proud tradition that lives on today. The film travels to once-thriving shipbuilding centers in Atlantic Canada to reveal was at one time the most vibrant, productive, and profitable shipbuilding region in the world.

From the first boats built by the earliest settlers, to the golden Age of Sail in the 1800s, and from the Grand Bank fishing Schooners to the high tech Naval frigates of today — the 28,000 vessels built in Atlantic Canada during the past 250 years have shaped the region like no other industry.

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