Eat my electrons, CBC!


Yesterday the CBC Halifax website asked, “With Nova Scotia’s reliance on coal, are electric vehicles the greenest option?   —  Environmental advocates say EVs are only as green as the power grid they charge from.”

Seasoned news hounds know that when a headline poses a question, the answer is almost always “no”.

This is unfortunate because the answer is “yes”. Despite our “reliance on coal”, EVs in Nova Scotian generate roughly half of the greenhouse gases emitted by clunky internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). EVs are also cheaper to drive, quiet and fee of foul odours. And they accelerate fast enough to snap your cranium back onto the headrest.


The CBC didn’t answer its own question, even though Dalhousie’s Larry Hughes, one of the experts interviewed for the story, told them how to do it.

Hughes began with an obvious point: “When we talk about the electric vehicle, we have to take into account the emissions from the electricity provider.” 

The CBC then paraphrased him: “when discussing the emissions of electricity providers, the metric is grams per kilowatt hour. Just like an internal combustion vehicle consumes litres of gas per 100 kilometres, electric vehicles consume an amount of kilowatt hours of electricity per 100 kilometres.”

So, let’s answer the question.

My car, a typical EV, records its electricity use and advises that I consumed an average of 17.5 kWh per 100 km in 2021. 

According to Nova Scotia Power’s 2020 emission intensity report, the utility emitted 629.7 grams of carbon (strictly speaking, carbon dioxide) for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) it sold me. 

This means my car indirectly emits 11,020 grams of carbon per 100 km (17.5 X 629.7). 

How do cars fuelled by gasoline, the same fuel used in Molotov cocktails, compare?

On average, a Canadian car burns nine litres of gasoline per 100 km and each burned litre creates 2,300 grams of human habitat-killing carbon dioxide. This means the average fossil-burner directly emits 20,700 grams of carbon every 100 km (9 X 2,300). 

Put another way, my average EV emits just 53% of the carbon emitted by a fossil-burner. Yep, right here in Nova Scotia. And that number will get better as more hydro from Muskrat Falls gets into the energy mix. (Fingers crossed on that one, based on the flow we’ve seen so far.)


There are two reasons. Nova Scotia Power has cut its emissions intensity by 30 per cent over the past 15 years and electric motors are about two and a half times more efficient than internal combustion engines. The same amount of energy that moves an ICEV 100 km drives my EV for 250 km.

In other words, EVs give you more bang for your buck. Literally. A litre of gasoline currently costs $1.73, so a 100 km trip in a gas-burner comes to $15.57. A kilowatt-hour of electricity costs about $0.20, taxes in, so a 100 km trip in my EV comes to a whopping $3.62. Volatile, odiferous gasoline will hit that benchmark when the cost drops to 40 cents per litre, a price unseen since the last dinosaur was killed by a rock from space.

Price stickers on new cars should include, prominently, grams of carbon emitted per 100 km.

PS: You may worry about the mining required to extract EV battery components. To that I say it’s possible to clean up mining sites when you’re done, battery components are recyclable (unlike gasoline) and, finally, let me just say “tar sands”.

PPS: I could use less electricity driving my EV, but there are few family-oriented fossil burners that can accelerate faster than an EV and, alas, boys will be boys. Sometimes when a traffic light turns green, I like to see them thar burners receding in my rear-view mirror and think: “Eat my electrons, CBC!”


Insurrection by naif?

I feel a little sorry for the truckers besieging our capital and two vital trade routes. They appear to be unsophisticated and poorly educated people who bumbled their way into a no-win confrontation with the Canadian state. It cannot end well for them. Canada cannot bend to their will and expect to remain a country. The poison we are seeing now would seep across our geography and into the national fabric. 

An insurrection by the naïve is still an insurrection.

The prime minister should invoke the Emergencies Act and clear the trade barricades in Windsor, ON and Coutts, AB using all necessary force. Canada manages trade across its borders, not truck drivers. If you can’t or won’t defend your borders then you are not a state. If we need tanks to move those trucks, then so be it.

Perhaps that will concentrate the minds of the Ottawa group enough to negotiate their surrender. On those terms the prime minister could participate without weakening Canada’s position.

To be negotiated:

  • the charges the occupiers will face
  • where they will be tried
  • where federal sentences will be served
  • the care and safety of their children until they are reunited with family

It’s harsh. In some ways the truckers are victims, but they are also the authors of their own misfortune.

When it’s done, Canada needs to urgently address the causes.

How to be a truckin’ terrorist

February 6, 2022

The chair of the Ottawa police board has said the supposed truckers occupying her city are “terrorists” and others acting-out like them across the country are engaged in “insurrection”.

She’s right. Much of the activity that alarms her is actually described in the Criminal Code under  “Terrorism”. In this case it boils down to three issues.

  1. Have these people organized for a political or ideological purpose?

Yes, but perfectly legal.

2. Are they making the public fear for their personal safety or economic wellbeing? Well, in Ottawa we have endless horn honking, defecating on lawns, defacing public monuments, bullying passersby and etc. It’s all good fun for freedom truckers, but some citizens are frightened by it. Why? Because it’s lawless and they don’t know where it will stop.

Further, to be terrorists their objective must be to get something from government. Well, the freedom truckers have been explicit about forcing governments to eliminate vaccination requirements needed to protect public health. (Some protestors have said they want to bring the government down with the collusion of the Senate and the Governor-General. Pro tip to protesters: in your next life, don’t skip your social studies classes.)

So, not legal.

3. Are the protesters causing serious interference with an “essential service, facility or system”?Answer: they are paralyzing twenty square blocks of downtown Ottawa, just for starters.

Yes. So, not legal.

On the face of it, this means the freedom truckers are terrorists. They could spend the rest of their lives in jail.

Except for one thing: they live in a free country.

Because this is Canada, there are still more legal hurdles governments must clear before convicting these people of terrorism. Most relate to their intentions, or err on the side of unfettered public expression. This as it should be. In Canada we don’t jail people just for being loud, obnoxious, anti-social dissidents. That would be un-Canadian and the essence of a totalitarian state.

Sometimes the price of freedom is even doing something you don’t want to do, like getting a vaccination. Or not doing something you want to do, like hauling the freedom truckers out of their cabs and throwing them in a makeshift jail to await court appearances.

Obviously I am not a lawyer, but I have some advice for all you good buddies in Ottawa.

  • It would be very expensive and likely fruitless to prosecute you as terrorist,
  • But if prosecuted, it would be very expensive to defend yourself, even on a trumped up charge,
  • The longer you keep this up, the greater the chance you’ll slip up and say or do something that legally makes you a terrorist,
  • It’s possible your lawyer isn’t as smart as you think,
  • People, such as those who set up a blockade to protest a pipeline near Houston, B.C., have been in held jail for much, much less than what you’re doing.

Now Ottawa has declared a state of emergency which, for me, means at least two things:

  • The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has finished recording all your names and pictures, so good luck at your next border crossing.
  • You’ve finally overstayed your welcome and there are now people tougher than you prepared to take you away.

You have all this and more coming to you, but there may still be time to go without being charged with any number of criminal offences unrelated to terrorism. Uttering threats and extortion come to mind.

You are not freedom fighters, so go home. Now.



NS Covid numbers unpacked

The real number of Covid-related patients in Nova Scotia hospitals is 207, not 59

DescriptionNumberNeeding “specialized care”
Admitted “due to COVID-19” and receiving “specialized” care 5959
Identified + on arrival but admitted for a different reason, OR admitted for covid but not now needing special care 46Not stated, so
0 to 46
Caught the virus at the hospital 102Not stated, so between
0 and 102
Total of Covid-related patients 207Not stated, so
between 59 and 207

Decoding Nova Scotia’s release from January 13, 2022

When you went to bed Thursday night you might have thought just 59 people were in hospital with Covid-19; or you may have heard the number was closer to 200, but didn’t know if that was true.

The correct number, in my opinion, is in the table above and it is 207, not 59.

To arrive at that conclusion, you have to decode the following paragraphs from Wednesday’s release.

Paragraph two: “There are 59 people in hospital who were admitted due to COVID-19 and are receiving specialized care in a COVID-19 designated unit.”

That’s straightforward enough, and 59 is the number most of us watch.

But there’s trouble in Paragraph six: “There are ALSO two other groups of people in hospital with COVID-19 (emphasis added):

  • 46 people who were identified as positive upon arrival to hospital but were admitted for another medical reason OR people who were admitted for COVID-19 but no longer require specialized care (emphasis added)
  • 102 people who contracted COVID-19 after being admitted to hospital.”

Q: Are any of the 46 patients above needing special care? The release doesn’t say directly.

Q: Are any of the 102 above needing special care? The release doesn’t say directly.

Q: Are hospital outbreaks under control or will they explode?

A CBC reporter tried to address this at Wednesday’s Covid newser, but the premier pivoted to a question he wasn’t asked and CBC’s coverage shows no sign of a follow-up.

In 2021, the number of Covid patients in hospital peaked on May 18 at 103, which is half of 207. That many Covid patients, no matter their status, have to be an enormous strain on health workers.

On Twitter, some people suspect deception is at the root of this but, given Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Strang’s excellent record of transparency so far, I think it’s just fatigue. Everybody must be tired, including the people who write news releases and prepare messaging. However, Nova Scotia’s relative success against Covid-19 owes something to the government’s consistent truth-telling. This is a bad time to undermine our confidence in that.


Journalists’ rights are your rights

Journalists in Canada don’t enjoy any special rights. They have the same right as the rest of us to go about our business, which in their case is getting information. Reporters and photographers are defined by what they do, not by job title. “Press passes” or jackets with the word “media” printed on the back are not symbols of privilege or authority, unlike the badges worn by police. 

They mean simply, “I’m here to report on what’s going on, not participate in it.” Any citizen has the right to do what journalists do, whether or not they are employed by news media.

In the 1970s, I was doing a feature story on a police department south of Montreal when my hosts offered to lock me in a holding cell for a while. Why not? So they took my ID, my camera and my notebook, clanged the door shut and walked out.

The view from the wrong side of the bars was entirely different from what you see on TV. Anxiety descended quickly once I realized how helpless I was. Could I really trust those cops? I barely knew them. What if there was a shift-change and they forgot about me? What if I needed to use the bathroom? What if they didn’t like reporters and wanted to scare the hell out of me? But these cops, like most, understood the experience and came back to get me reasonably soon.

“Not what you expected, eh?” they asked.

No, it was not.

Around the same time, an Ottawa cop told me the short ride on the station elevator could be very long for sex offenders: “It’s easy to trip in there, and if you’re wearing handcuffs, you could get hurt.” 

Some time later I was covering a demonstration in Peru when a soldier pointed his rifle at the centre of my chest while he yelled at me to join his buddies in a troop transport. I still see the worn muzzle of his weapon every time I think of that incident. (I had been warned: “Stay away from the army, but if they try to arrest you, stall as long as you can. Anything can happen once they’ve got you.” I stalled as long as I could before losing my nerve. Just as I was getting into the truck, the guy’s superior came over and freed me.)

Fortunately, in Canada the job description of a journalist does NOT include being arrested and held in police custody. I worked in a notably aggressive newsroom for 16 years without ever having to get a reporter out of lockup. I once interviewed a retiring Montreal cop who in a long career never took his gun out of its holster and delivered more than a dozen babies. He kept pictures of them on his desk. 

Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano encountered a different kind of cop last week. They were exercising their rights  — your rights  — when they were arrested by the RCMP while covering the blockade of Coastal GasLink near Houston, B.C. They were with a group of protesters in a small cabin, getting the inside story. At one point a Mountie pointed a rifle through a breach in the door as his colleagues broke it down. The cops ignored the pair when they identified themselves as journalists and held them for four days, along with the protesters, before transporting them about 300 km to Prince George. (In a statement, the RCMP later acknowledged they knew what the pair were doing there.)

Why? If the RCMP truly felt they had a case against the two, they could have issued an appearance notice — a legal requirement to appear in court on a certain date to answer charges. You don’t need a holding cell for that.

There is only one explanation: intimidation. 

Being in custody is frightening, even dangerous. The RCMP know that and we can assume didn’t want journalists watching them work. They wanted to put them in their place.

So they abducted them at gunpoint.



  • From The Globe and Mail, November 22, 2021:

In a statement on Monday, RCMP said both journalists had been released.

“The RCMP does not question or dispute that the two individuals who identified themselves as journalists while being arrested, were in fact journalists or on assignment,” according to a statement from Eric Stubbs, an RCMP assistant commissioner in B.C.

  • In Canada, timing counts. If the police put you in custody, they must bring you before a judge within 24 hours. But if your local judges take weekends off, they can arrest you on a Friday and bring you to court on the following Monday. Criminal Code Sec. 83.3 (6)

How NS Health drives people in chronic pain to ”The Street”

Can someone tell me where to find “The Street”?

I mean the place where drug addicts go when they can’t get opioids from the health system. I’ll pay cash, but I want quality stuff, preferably stolen from a pharmacy, hospital or somebody’s home. The pills should be properly marked and unadulterated, because they’re for my friend, “M” and she doesn’t want anything dangerous.

M is not an addict. Her issue is relentless pain — a lot of it. If she’s an addict, then so are people who need insulin or Advil. But the government of Nova Scotia is determined to force M to “The Street” for relief.

She’s been suffering from chronic pain for 20 years, beginning with fibromyalgia, a disease that on its own can change a person’s life forever. I know of a sufferer whose wife once found him on the floor in a fetal position. His pain was so great and so pervasive there was nothing else he could do.

M also has widespread osteoarthritis, and stenosis of the neck and spine. She has endured four joint replacements, one of which was a do-over on her hip. It didn’t work, so that source of pain is back — amplified, of course, by fibromyalgia. M’s bad luck is compounded by her allergy to a class of drugs know as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and Advil. So opioids are all she’s got. Even worse, M has a high tolerance of opioids, which means she needs a lot more than most people to manage her pain. An emergency room doctor treating M once said to me: “I’ve never given a patient so much morphine with so little effect.”

M is “ashamed and embarrassed” to be taking opioids, so it’s a secret. For important occasions, she’ll take an extra pill to get through the event and manages to appear pain-free. Some people see that and suspect she’s not really sick.

So now, as M languishes on the long waitlist for joint surgery (second hip do-over), the provincial government has stepped in to make things worse — a health department unit called the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) has forced her doctor to reduce her painkillers to about half of what she needs because — without ever meeting her — they feel she is being over-medicated. (Note to government: M is never pain-free. The drugs just make life bearable.)

The PMP bills itself as “Promoting the appropriate use, and reducing the abuse and misuse of monitored drugs in Nova Scotia.” It sounds nice but belies a casual cruelty.

One thing it does well is violate patient confidentiality. If you’ve ever received a prescription for one of almost 100 drugs monitored by the PMP, you and your drug become part of its database. The PMP looks for those who work the system to obtain unnecessary drugs and practitioners judged to write prescriptions too freely. In the latter case, the PMP has ways of making them co-operate. The harshest is a referral to their licensing board, which is wickedly stressful and possibly even career-ending.

It’s a curious policy for a health department trying to overcome a chronic shortage of physicians — would you want to practice in Nova Scotia if you knew this was going on?

So you may think you have a confidential relationship with your doctor, but if you live in Nova Scotia, the PMP is right there with you the instant your doctor takes out the prescription pad.

The cops are there, too.

Last year, the PMP processed 33 queries from law enforcement, noting in its 2019/2020 Annual Report — perhaps wistfully: “Law enforcement requests remain steady; however, there has been a decline in recent years as a result of the need for reasonable grounds to be demonstrated … The Program remains willing and able to support local law enforcement.” But the PMP is neither willing nor able to support people in pain. No one from that unit has ever — not ever — contacted M to learn about her condition or assess her needs. It seems their algorithm has coughed up her doctor’s name and it’s case closed. M is collateral damage.

Nothing in the PMP’s annual report assesses whether it is accomplishing the fuzzy objective mentioned above. However, elsewhere on the province’s website there is a rough indicator in a chart of “Confirmed and probable acute opioid toxicity deaths in Nova Scotia.” In 2011, six years after the PMP was created, the number was 56. In 2019, the last year before Covid, it was 56. (The official numbers are subject to change.) It makes “The Street” a tempting alternative for people in pain.

In other words, not much has been accomplished. And I wonder how many other people are suffering needlessly at the hands of the PMP. M is tough, so she won’t be resorting to illegal sources for relief. Instead, she’ll endure a drastic reduction in the quality of her life. Others, however, will do what the PMP purportedly wants avoid: they’ll get help from “The Street.”


Note: this piece was written by me and first appeared in the National Post on Oct. 6, 2021 – BT.

Carbon tax: you can get PAID twice

T-Labs refs call B-S on carbon tax whining:

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil got it wrong when he said Nova Scotians would “pay twice” under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax. Actually, many of them will GET PAID TWICE unless McNeil tries a cash-grab.

In fact, the biggest risk to Nova Scotians is that their own government will spend the tax money on useless, cockamamie projects.

Stephen McNeil, premier

McNeil threw a fit when Trudeau said Canada would have a carbon tax starting in 2018 if the provinces don’t do anything on their own, which they won’t.

McNeil whined that Nova Scotians will have to “pay twice” to fight climate change, which is killing us, because we have already paid so much for the progress we’ve made to date reducing power company carbon emissions. He was backed by his human survival minister, Margaret Miller, who walked out of a federal-provincial conference in protest.

For clarity, by “paying twice” McNeil can only mean that we paid once through our higher power rates caused by renewables and cleaner air, and now must pay again through Prime Minister Dr. Evil’s carbon tax.

It’s a beloved story: Nova Scotians getting the shaft.

But at Turpin Laboratories, our Referees Division is blowing the whistle and calling “bullshit”. Here’s why:

In 2007, in a spasm of long-term thinking unnoticed except by then-Human Survival Minister Mark Parent, the N.S. Assembly passed sweeping environmental legislation that included bringing down GHG (carbon) emissions from power generation. At the time, Nova Scotia Power’s emissions were 10,648,422 tonnes per year.

Without that intervention it’s a good bet we would be emitting at least that much today, and probably more, despite some high-profile plant-closings.

So, let’s imagine that 2018 rolls around and we are emitting the very same $10,648,422 tonnes per year. How much would we pay in Trudeau’s dastardly carbon tax over the next nine years? The total would be $3,550,874,250 (see chart below).

However, our power emissions are currently just 6,772,769 tonnes. If we assume that rate from 2018 through 2026, our total carbon tax would be $2,370,469,150. The difference is $1,180,405,100. That is, Nova Scotians would SAVE  $1.2 billion.

Put still another way, Newfoundland, which today has emissions very close to what we had in 2007, would pay $1.2 billion MORE than Nova Scotians.

The difference is Nova Scotia’s reward for getting an early start. Sorry, but it’s just not the same as “paying twice”.

Also, the carbon tax revenues will not leave the N.S. economy. The feds will remit the funds back to the province. That’s where the real danger lies: instead of using it to lower provincial income tax, as B.C. does, our government could well use it to reward the province’s high rollers with projects like football stadiums or, say, a massive convention centre for Yarmouth or New Waterford.

On the other hand, if the province in fact lowered its income tax, regular folks would get a tax break and, if they actually reduced their carbon footprints, they would save money on gasoline and electricity.

In other words, they would get PAID twice: tax-break + energy savings = paid twice.

But we’re not done. Our political thinkers would have you believe that Nova Scotia is the only province to address GHG emissions. But Turpin Labs has discovered there are actually 10 provinces in Canada (who knew?) and some of them have reduced their GHGs, too.

Yes, Nova Scotia is tops with a commendable 29% since 2005. But N.B. (say it ain’t so) is right behind us at 27%. Ontario’s number is 19%. The Yukon is 40% (see chart below).

So, N.S. politicians, please stop pleading special case, grow up, and figure out how best to use all that new tax money coming your way. Hint: give it back to the people who paid it.







Sumo wreslters can’t eat here

In April 2013 my wife and I bought a dining room table from Gallery 1 in Burnside. It looked solid and sported a beautiful finish. It was artificially “distressed”, a look that we don’t normally care for, but it was well done. The price was $1,200, which was a tad high by our standards, but we told ourselves it was time to invest in a “quality” table. Gallery 1, as you might expect, assured us that this was indeed a quality piece.

Above: End-view of dining table made by Canadel and sold by Gallery 1. The gap is known in the trade as a “crack” caused by a “lousy piece of wood”. However, says Gallery 1, Canadel reasons that because the “crack” took more than a year to show up, it cannot be a manufacturing defect. (Note to self: stop inviting Sumo wrestlers to dance on our dining table.)

Unfortunately, the manufacturer, Canadel, must have turned the dial on their customizer from “distress” all the way up to “create premature failure” when making this table. The result is that three years later, this “quality” piece of furniture now features a large “crack”, to use the technical terms. Consequently, it no longer accepts the extension that came with it and, when you move the table, one leg swings out from under by about 15 degrees.

Again for the technically-minded, the table cost twelve hundred “dollars”.

This happened less than three years after we bought the table, during which time we used the extension maybe twice.

The table was guaranteed for one year. A smarter shopper would have rejected the item on seeing that. My bad.

In any case, neither Canadel nor Gallery 1 felt they had an obligation to fix it, although Gallery 1 offered me the name of a repair person. Here is Gallery 1’s final word on the issue: “Unfortunately, Canadel has declined the claim (because) they feel if it were a manufacturer’s defect it would have happened in the first year.”

I would agree with that if we had been dancing on this table, but those days are long behind us. (BTW, we’ve owned $200 tables upon which Sumo wrestlers could safely dance away the night.)

If you follow Canadel’s logic to its conclusion, purchasers of their fine tables can expect to use the extension once, maybe twice, before it breaks.

By way of contrast, I’ve been buying Apple computers since 1993 or so and never had to replace one because it broke. On two occasions, I encountered problems well after the guarantee had expired. But Apple identified both problems as “known issues” and fixed them anyway  —  at no cost. That is to say zero — no parts, no labour, no shipping. My only expense was driving to the Apple outlet.

Thus, I will continue to buy Apple products, despite their slightly higher prices. The company, even though it’s a behemoth, stands behind its work.

I cannot say the same for Canadel or Gallery 1.

If you need furniture, my advice is to wait for the new Ikea store.

Order! Order, please!

Here are some questions about the procedure for  tomorrow’s HRM Regional Council agenda (Sept. 6). Perhaps there are some experts out there who can help us.

1. HRM Counc. Reg Rankin’s motion to hobble the acquisition of parkland for Blue Mount-Birch Cove project is the first item on the agenda.

The motion was deferred on July 26 so that staff could prepare a report on the situation for Council. But now they’re going to consider Rankin’s motion before the report is introduced, so what was the point in deferring the motion in the first place? How does Council get the full benefit of the report if it doesn’t have a chance to discuss it before Rankin’s motion?

Q: Is this an abuse of procedure?

2. Rankin’s motion and the motion that follows the staff report on the agenda are antithetical. For example: the first motion directs staff to begin “secondary planning”; the second motion is to refuse to engage in secondary planning. So, chronologically, we have two deeply conflicting motions separated by a staff report on the matter at hand.

Q: Is this good procedure?

3. Rankin’s motion arguably contradicts at least two previous ones directing staff to proceed with land acquisition in a businesslike fashion.

Q: Does it nullify the previous motions? Technically, is it effectively a motion of rescission? Does that mean it would require a two-thirds majority to pass? Is it out of order? (See , Article 62, beginning on Page 30.)

Again, knowledgeable comment would be helpful here because citizens have no way of raising a point of order at a Council meeting. If you can help, the best place to contribute is likely the FB site where you found the link to this post.

Procedure aside, Rankin’s motion is mischievous and insulting to the 1,421 citizens who submitted comments in support of a project that will benefit our descendants more than it will benefit us. When is that last time 1,421 people spoke up for something instead of against it?


In online discussions, people have noted that Halifax councillors—on average—got one-third of their campaign contributions in 2011 from what CBC calls “the development community.” It’s a little naïve to think this amounts to bribery. Only a fool would risk a jail sentence for a few thousand dollars to help a campaign they might not win. Real bribes are more sophisticated and not the topic here.

But campaign contributions get you better access to the winners you backed. This is legal, and even ethical—we all have the right to speak to elected representatives. Political parties trade access for contributions in plain view at fund-raisers.

So what? Well, examine your feelings when you’re in the presence of power and money. You’ll likely find a powerful desire to co-operate.

That’s the real problem. Without strong self-discipline, meeting with the mighty can bring out your inner brown-noser. No cash required.

BMBCL parkland potentially worth $67M


View from Costco on Chain Lake Drive: left, BANC Developments; right, wilderness area. Trees aren’t worth much until someone cuts them down.
NOTE: I have corrected this report to reflect the fact that a much-quoted $6 million figure demanded by developers actually refers to an offer made with respect to just 210 acres. H/T Waye Mason.

A 2013 sale of city-owned land to BANC Developments suggests the land adjacent to the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area could be worth $67 million to its current owners.

But that’s only if is re-zoned to allow development. As it is now, the same land is assessed at only $2.4 million.

Our team of crack analysts also believe that the owners, primarily Annapolis Group and Stevens Group, would prefer to hang on until this or a future council decides to re-open the whole question. This is a manoeuvre known as a “full Rankin”.


Halifax Council has decided not once, but twice, to buy the 1,308 acres of designated parkland near the Bayer’s Lake Business Clusterpark. This idea originated in 2006 and it inspired the province to declare roughly 3,200 adjoining acres a protected wilderness area. The city land would be an ecologically vital buffer for the wilderness area and an accessible green-space for folks who aren’t hikers or canoeists. It would be 20 minutes from downtown Halifax and reachable by bus.

The province has done exactly what it promised. And so, really, has Halifax Council. All that remains is for staff to negotiate the terms or start expropriation. They have been directed to do this after due process. The owners want $6 million; the city is offering $2.8 million.


Yes. In 2013, after meeting in secret, Council authorized the sale to BANC Developments Ltd. of 183 acres behind Kent Building Supplies and Staples in Bayer’s Lake. You can easily see the demarcation between wilderness area and BANC’s “developed” land from the Costco parking lot across the street. (Please see photo above.)

At $9.3 million, the sale price is $51,070 per acre. If that price were applied to the 1,308 acres in question, it would work out to $66,799,224.


No. The Facilitator’s Report rejected by staff last week mentioned 210 acres that Annapolis felt was worth $6 million, vs $2.8 million suggested by the city. In the absence of real information, I think it’s fair to extrapolate, giving us $37.4 million for 1,308 acres. The city’s valuation for those 210 acres extrapolates to $17.4 million. (I do not apologize for these seat-of-the-pants valuations. This is what happens when your government won’t release hard data.)

So, I offer four conjectures for the value of the land:

Mine: $67 million

Annapolis Group: $37.4 million

The city: $17.4 million

Also mine: $2.4 million, based on the total current assessment.

The differences are based on what you’re allowed to do with the land. $67 million is possible if the land is zoned industrial/commercial, like the BANC land. However, if the land cannot be developed in any way, which has been the case for 10 years, I would argue the value is closer to $2.4 million.

In essence, the developers are arguing they should be paid as if the current zoning magically changed in their favour. But it won’t unless Council can be pressured into doing that, so the owners deserve bottom dollar. It’s tough, but that’s business for you.

Again—the direction to staff to buy the acreage as identified almost 10 years ago is done and dusted. Negotiations are taking place in that context. Obdurate Councillor Reg Rankin would have you believe otherwise, but he is as wrong as a flat-earther.



A favourable re-zoning would be worth big money and worth waiting for.

If it were re-zoned as, say, residential, then you could subdivide and build spectacular lakeside homes for wealthy people right next to a wilderness area and 20 minutes from downtown. The value would jump to at least $67 million, as noted.


Yes. Council memories fade with time. Sometimes they change their minds after new members are elected. And, sometimes, councils just get tired of dealing with a particular issue and will do anything to move on.

If Turpin Labs were advising the landowners, we would tell them to delay sale until one of those things happens. After all, land only gets more valuable with time. And developers are patient—much of the land hasn’t changed hands in more than 30 years.


If we were advising Council, we would recommend bringing this deal to a close quickly, even if it means overpaying. Alternatively, there’s expropriation, which would probably put the matter in the hands of the courts. That can be a crapshoot, but there’s just as much risk posed by the ongoing pressure to close the purchase after 10 years of delay.


It’s possible someone will propose swapping the 1,308 acres for all or part the  Williams Lake backlands. It would be pitched as a grand compromise but, in fact, would be a $67m rip-off.