1. Brand this
We’re going to have to change the name of the publicly financed arena from the $48 NSF Fee Centre to the the Lay Off Hundreds of Workers While the CEO Gets Paid $8.87 Million Centre. A mouthful, to be sure, but we’re all about accuracy here at the Examiner.
Also, the problem with branding every damn thing in the world — including charities — with your corporate logo is that when you de-brand them you are seen as evil:
It’s been hard to miss for more than 15 years, taking over downtown Toronto streets with fire-breathers, contortionists and breakdancers.
But the future of Buskerfest, and the money it produces for Epilepsy Toronto, may be in jeopardy now that its biggest sponsor Scotiabank has pulled out.
I find this delightfully hilarious. And save your hate mail: if we really wanted to fund efforts to cure epilepsy or any other such worthy endeavours, we’d simply tax corporations at the rates they were taxed in the 1950s or 1980s and be done with it. No need for the excruciatingly painful pretence that a corporate-branded Buskerfest is somehow making the world a better place.
2. Nova Centre
In other banking news, as expected, BMO has announced it will move its offices from the tower on George Street up the hill to the Nova Centre, and for that the giant “BMO” sign will be taken off the old building and attached to the new. This adds not a single job to the local workforce — it’s just a big office shuffle — and the Chronicle Herald’s Remo Zaccagna seems almost purposefully to forget recent history.
Joe Ramia, president and CEO of Argyle Developments, a subsidiary of Rank Inc., declined to tell reporters after the announcement, which was held at the Wooden Monkey restaurant, the financial terms of the naming rights agreement for the north tower.
“It’s important as a distinction in the project when people come to the Nova Centre,” Ramia said. “As you know, the Nova Centre is a million square feet, so the north tower is one part of it.”
The developer has long been courting financial companies to move into the one of the buildings, staying silent on who he has been speaking to until Friday. He declined to say if BMO was the first company he approached to be an anchor tenant or if the company came on board later in the process.
“We’re always talking to people,” he said. “BMO was one of the ones that we talked to a long time ago and it worked out that they’re the first one that got announced.”
As I’ve written extensively, a huge selling point of the new convention centre project was that it would attract international business. As Nova Scotia Business Inc’s Stephen Lund told me in 2010:
“International companies like to go to Class A space, they like to be clustered in the same area in a downtown, with a city where young people are living and working downtown,” said Lund last week. “Citco could not find two consecutive floors of Class A office space downtown today.”
Lund acknowledges that Ramia’s Nova Centre proposal is attractive because it includes a financial tower with Class A office space. “I’m a proponent of the convention centre,” he says. “I’m excited for more development downtown. I support that project, but I’d also like to see some of the other projects go up, too. I don’t care who does it; I just want to see it done.”
And let’s recall past statements from Ramia, including this one, reported by Zaccagna himself on February 20, 2012:
Joe Ramia, head of Rank Inc., is one of the people behind the proposed $500-million Nova Centre in downtown Halifax that would include a $160-million convention centre and 18-storey office tower.
He is actively courting foreign financial organizations to set up shop in the tower and said there is one question he is asked by each and every one: What is the arts and culture scene like in Halifax?
Here’s the press release issued by then-Economic Minister Percy Paris, on July 12, 2012:
“The Nova Centre will change the landscape of downtown Halifax, and also help change the economic landscape across the province,” said Percy Paris, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. “The Nova Centre will allow us to work with international business to attract bigger, better partners and organizations to the region; to look more closely at joint ventures.”
On cue, the same day, Zaccagna and Roger Taylor co-authored a laudatory article announcing that:
“The convention centre is an important part of this piece, but the financial centre is as important or more important to us as developers. So it’s very critical that that gets done right and that piece is very successful because that has an impact on the whole city.”
Ramia said he has agreements in place with other tenants for the financial centre but declined to name them.
He said he is comfortable with where he is in the process, adding that he will be able to hit the city’s projections of 70 per cent occupancy in the first few years.
“I believe we’ll be higher than that by the time we open.”
For what it’s worth, BMO is now the only announced tenant of the project. It will occupy just two full floors in the building for offices, plus some space on the ground floor for a retail bank. Needless to say, this is nowhere near 70 per cent occupancy. And it’s not one square foot leased to an international financial corporation expanding to Halifax.
3. Examineradio, episode #32
Halifax City Councillor Jennifer Watts announced recently she would not be seeking a third term in office, preferring instead to assist other residents considering a run for the job. Watts and I also talk about Mayor Mike Savage’s governing style, CAO Richard Butts, and what the city’s trying to accomplish with environmental legislation. Also, the convention centre. Always with the convention centre.
Also this week, Halifax bids farewell to a number of Federal NDP MPs as all of Atlantic Canada goes red. Plus, Councillor Linda Mosher ensures generations of Canadian peacekeepers will have to be stationed on the Halifax Peninsula as she tries to have the donair declared Halifax’s official food.
4. Pedestrian struck
From a police release to reporters last night:
At 7:45 p.m. Halifax Regional Police were dispatched to Windsor Street near Seaforth Street regarding a Motor Vehicle collision involving vehicle and a pedestrian. It appears the pedestrian, darted out into the roadway, not in the vicinity of the crosswalk. The driver of the vehicle, who was travelling south on Windsor, was unable to stop quickly enough to avoid striking the pedestrian. The pedestrian was transported to the hospital suffering from two broken ribs and a collapsed right lung. The 52 year old male pedestrian was issued a summary offence ticket under Section 125(3) of the Motor Vehicle Act “Pedestrian moving into path of vehicle when impractical to stop’.
This ticket carries a fine of $410.00.
1. Electoral reform
“[I]n our understandable rush to bid good riddance to Harper, we have, in some ways, created his mirror image: a crushing Trudeau majority of 184 seats in the House of Commons, based on less than 40 per cent of the popular vote,” writes Stephen Kimber:
I know, I know. Justin Trudeau isn’t Stephen Harper. And since the Liberal platform wasn’t so dissimilar to the NDP or Greens, we could argue the new government’s general thrust has the support of close to 63 per cent of the electorate. Perhaps more importantly, the Liberals have pledged to introduce electoral-reform legislation within 18 months.
All of us will have our political priorities for the new government — unmuzzling scientists, restoring funding for the CBC, levelling our taxation playing field, But if there is one thing we should all demand, it is that the Liberals follow through, in a meaningful way, on their promise to change the way we do democracy.
I’m not disagreeing with Kimber, but something about this scares the hell out me. I think it’s that word “reform.” I first realized the awful power of the word when the city of Halifax embarked on so-called “tax reform,” a diabolical attempt to shift the local property tax burden off the rich and onto the middle class. In fact, “tax reform” is used as the illustrative example in Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word:
Reform, verb, /rɪˈfɔːm/: Make changes in (something, especially an institution or practice) in order to improve it: the Bill will reform the tax system
Ever since I’ve realized that whatever it’s attached to, the word “reform” is wielded in a way as to shut down argument: How could anyone be against reform? Don’t you want to make things better?
See how that works? If you start with the premise that your proposal will make things better, you’ve already taken a rhetorical leg out from under those who support the existing system. Those who would defend the traditional order (as I did in the property tax debate) are automatically anti-progress, against everything good, and probably just shitty people all around.
In terms of the electoral system, for dog’s sake, let’s move slowly and thoughtfully. This is our democracy we’re talking about. If we get this wrong, we’ll fuck up so much more than the bottom line on a tax bill. It’s imperative that the Liberals not solely dictate changes in elections; there must be all-party buy-in, and I would prefer that whatever proposal comes forward be put to the people. I don’t know what that looks like — an actual national referendum is probably impossible, but we should at least let one more election cycle pass so the parties can campaign on their views of the proposed electoral changes.
As for our existing first-past-the-post system, I admit that it is frustrating, counter-intuitive, and mathematically (if not ethically) unfair. I’ve in the past supported efforts to change the system — I’ve argued that one of the former provincial NDP government’s biggest faults was not to at least study some sort of proportional representation scheme. Likewise, put me in a hesitant “yes” column on changing the federal system.
But I worry defenders of the existing system will be silenced — by that word “reform” — before the debate even begins, so I’ll offer up an argument for it. Is it possible that the weird, messy, and uncertain election system has contributed to the defining characteristic of the Canadian people?
As an immigrant from the US, with its winner-take-all electoral system, I’ve noted the most basic distinction between the two nations. In the US everything is black and white, a huge battle. It makes for an exciting but exhausting country. In Canada, however, everything is some shade of grey, and compromise is the order of the day. In the US, high school students are generally taught civics, but only so as to arm them for the electoral wars in their future. In Canada, high school students generally aren’t taught civics, but they muddle through the practice as sensible adults, bridging compromise, figuring out complex solutions to problems. It makes for a less cantankerous nation; in some sense the stereotype is correct: Canada really is nice.
I think the origins of the difference might be that the old British parliamentary system was adopted by a country formed of two distinct peoples, the French and the English — what John Ralston Saul called a “Siamese Twin.” (of course aboriginal peoples were excluded, a huge injustice.) So we ended up with this weird non-system of compromise of the moment and an electoral system where those in charge probably didn’t get a majority of the vote.
But is that entirely a bad thing? When it works well enough, it means the party in power has to check itself against overreaching. And when the system breaks down — as it most certainly did increasingly over the past nine years — there is at least a way for the people to take back control, as they did this past election.
Maybe it’s OK to keep things murky. Maybe our electoral system has served us better than we appreciate.
2. Mother Canada™
The Globe & Mail this morning is editorializing against Mother Canada™:
With the change in government, it is time to reassess two prospective historical monuments that the Harper government promoted with a zeal that overrode proper public scrutiny.
The first is the controversial Memorial to the Victims of Communism, planned for a prime piece of Ottawa’s parliamentary real estate near the Supreme Court of Canada – a site long designated for a new Federal Court building.
The same critical gaze should be turned on the outsized Mother Canada statue, a privately promoted expression of monumentality proposed for an evocative coastline site in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Like its counterpart in Ottawa, this gigantic tribute to Canada’s war dead, whose style and scale would do Stalin proud, has proved to be a disheartening exercise in disunity – largely because the overseers of Parks Canada severely limited public input into the highly flawed proposal’s design and purpose.
While the eight-storey monolith enjoys local support from those who hope it will create jobs and draw tourists, it remains an ugly and unfitting memorial. History needs to honoured by something better than a monumental mistake.
3. Cranky letter of the day
Re: Lezlie Lowe’s Oct. 23 column. Her second paragraph more or less told me why she just doesn’t get it: “Wednesday around lunch, I drove over the Macdonald Bridge bump …”
The problem with the bump isn’t really that it acts “just like a speed bump,” but the “butterfly effect” it is having on the traffic patterns when things are busy — namely, the morning and afternoon rush hours. If she hasn’t checked it out during these times, I don’t think she will ever “get it.”
I had the pleasure of driving over the bridge a few times this week. Fortunately for me, I was driving against the rush hour one morning, and then against the early part of rush hour in the afternoon. In both cases, my drive was delayed moderately (maybe 15 minutes extra of slow traffic to get over the bridge). But it also allowed me to see clearly the extreme lineups that developed for the unlucky folks who were travelling with the main flow of traffic. The lineups are absurdly long — and they all seem to be caused by a bump.
So, yes, people are upset. The impact is not trivial, and bridge commuters are losing an extra two hours per day to get to and from work for the next year. That would be a frustrating thing to contemplate for what appears to be a not entirely necessary feature of a major maintenance project.
The simple question might be: Is there not some way to reduce the impact of the bump? This seems to be a solvable problem and it seems absurd to inflict rush-hour traffic pain needlessly.
Unless, of course, this is part of a bigger conspiracy to discourage use of cars and increase ridership on the ferry or other public transit — although I heard rumours that bus drivers also find the bridge bump slows traffic down for them, too.
Tim Chipman, Halifax
District 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee (4pm, Halifax Central Library) — the committee will accept its Annual Report.
North West Community Council (7pm, Sackville Heights Community Centre) — the Canadian Federation of Independent Business will be yakking on about “A Small Business Vision for Halifax.” If it’s at all like everything else CFIB has ever done in the entire history of CFIB, the solution to small business concerns will be to hate on minimum wage increases, decrease regulation, and lower taxes — because that’s worked so well for the past 30 years.
Oh, by the way, Seattle increased its minimum wage to $15/hour in the face of the usual freakout from restaurant owners, but guess what happened? Yep, restaurant business increased, because now minimum wage workers can go out and buy a meal occasionally.
No public meetings
This date in history
On October 26, 1774, the The Continental Congress in Philadelphia wrote “an open letter to the inhabitants of Canada (Québec) and Nova Scotia, inviting them to join the 13 Colonies in the American Revolution. It was signed by the president of the congress, Henry Middleton, and translated into French by Fleury Mesplet, printer of the Congress, who distributed the copies himself in Montreal. The letter pleaded the cause of democratic government, the separation of powers, taxation power, habeas corpus, trial by jury, and freedom of the press.”
That didn’t go over so well.
Thesis defence, Physics and Atmospheric Science (Monday, 3pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Sajeev Philip will defend his thesis “Insight into Global Ground-Level Air Quality Using Satellites, Modeling and in situ Measurements.”
Senate meeting (Monday, 4:15pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Building) — Here’s the agenda. I wish that discussion of Corporate Gifts was all about how it compromises the academic freedom of researchers, but I fear otherwise.
Baleen whales (Tuesday, 11:45am, Room 3655, LSC) — Kimberley Davies will speak on “Baleen whale habitats and habitat use in Atlantic Canada: An oceanographic perspective.”
Multilingualism (Tuesday, 7pm, Weldon Law Building, Room 105) — Monica Heller, from the University of Toronto, will speak on “Multilingualism in the Globalized New Economy.”
The Mill and the Cross (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — Lech Majeswski’s 1981 film will be screened:
Bruegel’s famous 1564 image is deconstructed to reveal power structures and religious persecution. Rutger Hauer, Michael York and Charlotte Rampling star in this visually stunning film.
The Citadel On Stage (Tuesday, 7pm, Room LI135 Patrick Power Library) — Former Saint Mary’s student Alex D. Boutilier (no, not that Alex Boutilier) will be launching his new book, The Citadel On Stage: British military theatre, sports and recreation in colonial Halifax:
The Citadel On Stage is a lively and entertaining social history of British military officers stationed in colonial Halifax. The object of this volume is to survey a wide range of social, theatrical, and recreational performances up until confederation; and to examine the reasons why the garrison officers were entirely involved in these activities.
The main focus is on the garrison theatrical society as a social, cultural, and charitable entity, and how its existence revolved around the British institutions of colonial government and religion, as well as economics. The author illustrates a relationship between the theatricality of political performance and acting on stage, and shows how closely acting and politics are bound up with one another. While attesting that the Anglican Church supported garrison theatre, he gives a critical review of the incessant opposition by the non-conformist puritan element in the community. He also points out that the progress of theatre, sports, and recreation in colonial Halifax parallels the rise or decline of the economy.
In his own style, A.D. Boutilier paints a vivid picture of the comedy and farce inherent in upper class society and in the British institutions moored at Halifax from 1749 to 1867.
In the harbour
There are no scheduled arrivals today.
The cruise ship AIDAdiva (up to 2,050 passengers) is in port today.
The cruise season ends November 2.
Cruise ships, incidentally, are not required to have enough life boats for all passengers. As Michael Lloyd reports:
It is a disgrace that in 2015 cruise ships do not have sufficient lifeboats for those on board, while all other ships do. The fault for this and the often outdated and inadequate safety equipment on board lies with this organization and the delegates that too often put other interests ahead of those they are supposed to protect.
Interestingly, the 20 million passengers who sail on these ships have no representation at the IMO [International Maritime Organization]. That’s right, you, the passenger has no voice in the organization.
In a cynical move, obviously hoping to sidestep their responsibility for the current state of affairs with regard to the lifeboats, the IMO recently advocated the phrase, “The ship’s a lifeboat,” claiming this as a “new” idea.
Did they forget that the Titanic designers and owners also had that idea over a hundred years ago?
Everything that floats can, given the right circumstances, sink. That applies to ships, regardless of their size or glossy claims. Ice can still slice through a ship’s hull like a knife through butter.
Fires, which are more frequent than they should be, can grow out of control. Collisions and groundings still occur, and even, as we have seen recently with the loss of the U.S. container ship in the Caribbean, just the sea and weather can sink ships.
For these reasons, lifeboats are and will always be required.
Not only the design and number of lifeboats, but also the embarkation systems, can and must be improved. But this can only be accomplished through legislation by the IMO. At present, this organization is not capable of supporting these essential improvements.
I had some weird 24-hour bug over the weekend.