1. Mic Mac Mall “threats”
Halifax police released this statement yesterday afternoon at about 4:30pm:
Police have arrested three people as a result of the investigation into potential threats against Mic Mac Mall.
At 9 a.m. today Halifax Regional Police received information about a potential threat against Mic Mac Mall. Investigators liaised with mall management to advise them of the potential threat and the mall chose to close.
Patrol officers and Emergency Response Team (ERT) members attended an Everette Street address in relation to this file, however, the residence in question was determined to be empty. Police subsequently attended an apartment building in the 200 block of Willett Street and members of the HRP ERT arrested three people, two men and one woman, between 3:40 and 3:50 p.m. Investigators will execute a search warrant at a Willett Street apartment as part of the ongoing investigation.
Officers in the General Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Section have been actively investigating the matter to determine the validity of the threat and to this point no threat has been confirmed. Officers remain on scene at Mic Mac Mall at this time as a precaution.
But then, five hours later, just before 10pm, police issued a second release:
A short time ago, investigators released the three people who were arrested as part of the investigation into today’s potential threats to Mic Mac Mall. The two men and one woman were cooperative with police and investigators do not believe at this time that they were involved in this matter. As a result, they were released without charge.
There is no information to suggest continued threats to Mic Mac Mall.
The investigation continues to try to determine the source of the threats as well as their legitimacy.
As of this morning there is no more information about the nature of the threat.
As a precaution, South Woodside Elementary School near the Everette Street house and Crichton Park Elementary near the mall were placed in “hold and secure” mode, but classes went on as normal and the school day ended at its normal time, with students free to leave. The mall remained closed for the day.
My thought is that just as after the Moncton shootings last year people were reporting seeing dangerous people carrying guns all over Halifax, all of which turned out to be non-events, people are likewise now especially skittish in the wake of last month’s alleged plot to shoot up the Halifax Shopping Centre, in which two of the alleged conspirators have been arrested and a third found dead. Yesterday, someone probably said something stupid or even just a casual statement that was taken the wrong way by someone else, who reported it to police, and the police had the obligation to respond with the utmost caution, and suddenly hundreds of people had the day off work. At least, I hope that’s what it’s about.
The mall will open today as usual.
2. Pedestrians matter
“An urban planning expert says Halifax is at risk of becoming a ‘banana republic in a cold climate’ if it continues clearing snow and ice from roads more thoroughly than sidewalks,” reports the Chronicle Herald, which had contacted Barry Wellar, a University of Ottawa geographer, as the go-to expert for pedestrian issues.
Wellar was a good pick. Back in 1996 he developed something called the Walking Security Index for the city of Ottawa, a tool that we here in Halifax should consider adopting. He explained:
The Walking Security Index (WSI) was proposed to the Region of Ottawa-Carleton in 1995 for inclusion in its Transportation Environment Action Plan (TEAP). Four related problems were behind the idea of developing an index. First, the Region attached “high priority” to the walking mode in its Official Plan and Transportation Master Plan. However, it had no means of methodologically evaluating how well any of its 875 signalized intersections met the needs of pedestrians. Second, due to the apparent premise of the engineering field and of the automotive industry that vehicle operators have an “entitlement” to convenience, comfort, and safety, transportation research in North America has focused overwhelmingly on moving cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, and buses. An index could be a means to articulate the concerns of pedestrians, and to identify pedestrian-sensitive solutions to urban transportation problems. Third, by training and tradition, the Region’s transportation planning and traffic engineering staff concentrated its efforts on moving vehicles. Very little in-house talent and resources were dedicated to serving and promoting pedestrians’ safety, comfort, and convenience. The development of an index could reduce the technical imbalance, and provide a basis for pedestrian-oriented initiatives in Ottawa-Carleton’s transportation, public safety, and planning departments.
I don’t know if Ottawa took Wellar’s work seriously or not, but his critique of vehicle-centric transportation planning and policy was, and is, dead on. Here in Nova Scotia, in 2007 the legislature explicitly, by statute, took the right-of-way away from pedestrians and gave it to motorists, and soon after the city started installing push-button activated walk signals at intersections throughout the urban area.
People who don’t walk significant distances in the city have no idea how inconvenient and time-consuming the push-button signals are. Criticism of them is shrugged off or ridiculed — and, contrary to the actual experience of walkers, transportation planners sometimes deny the push-buttons even exist at all — but the push-buttons are the single best representation of the utter disdain for pedestrians in Halifax. Think of the outcry were people driving cars required to go over to the corner and push a button in order to make the light change. That the very thought of such a requirement for drivers is ludicrous proves the point.
Well, the push buttons were the single best representation of the utter disdain for pedestrians until this winter’s abysmal disregard for icy sidewalks took top honours. As the Chronicle Herald points out:
Although main roads across Halifax are mostly down to bare pavement, many sidewalks continue to be an ice-caked, slippery mess.
Yet streets and sidewalks in Halifax technically have the same service standards. Priority 1 sidewalks, which include those downtown and along main routes, have the same 12-hour service standard as main arterial streets, for example.
But Wellar said without enforcement, these standards are useless.
The article goes on to detail the arguments pro and con as to the city’s legal requirement to clear the sidewalks, but that’s besides the point, which is: Do pedestrians matter, or not? If pedestrians only matter when it’s not cold out, then pedestrians don’t matter. If we’ll only get around to thinking about clearing sidewalks after we clear the streets, then pedestrians don’t matter.
The icy sidewalks demonstrate that the millions of dollars spent on HRM by Design developing a “pedestrian friendly city” were a complete waste and the vaunted active transportation policy goals are an utter lie.
3. Ryan Millet
While the 12 members of the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen Facebook group who are going through the restorative justice process have been allowed back into clinical practice and classes alongside their classmates, the 13th member of the group, Ryan Millet, remains suspended. Millet is the man who says he was troubled by misogynist postings on the Facebook group and so turned over his login information to a female classmate, who then made the material public. Millet has refused to take part in the restorative justice system and calls his continued suspension “unfair.”
4. Wild Kingdom
The invasion of green crabs into Nova Scotian waters, which began about a decade ago, may have worrying effects on the lobster fishery.
“Hundreds of Atlantic Canadians rely on the lobster fishery for their survival and low shore prices, along with high fuel and bait costs, are forcing some fishers to find cheaper bait,” reports the Truro Daily News. “Many fishers are turning to green crabs as a low-cost alternative to bait, and 75 green crab harvesting licenses have already been issued in southwestern Nova Scotia, which has the majority of the harvest (up to 20,000 pounds per fisher) being sold as lobster bait.”
The problem is that the blue crabs carry a pathogen called the P. botulus parasite that can transfer to lobster:
“This pathogen has no effect on humans, does not survive cooking or freezing and does not affect the taste of lobster meat,” said [Sarah Stewart-Clark, of Dalhousie Agricultural Campus]. “It may, however, affect lobster behaviour and make them more susceptible to predators, or affect their ability to maintain their high quality in live-holding.”
The potential spread of bacterial, parasitic and viral pathogens from green crabs to lobsters, or other crustaceans, has the potential to cause widespread morbidity and mortality in both lobsters in the natural environment and in live-holding. The fact that a green crab parasite has been detected in lobsters demonstrates the potential that other bacterial, parasitic and viral lobster diseases may be spread between these two species.
“Fish at three aquaculture sites in Nova Scotia have died and a so-called superchill is suspected, the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture said Tuesday,” reports the CBC:
The department said a preliminary investigation has found a superchill happened, meaning sustained cold temperatures dropped the temperature of the water to the level that fish blood freezes — around –0.7 C.
A family of deer wandered out to Dunn’s Rock in the Bay of Fundy during low tide, and people nearby were afraid they’d get swept away by the incoming and fast-moving high tide, reports Heather Killen of the Annapolis Spectator. But a helicopter from 14 Wing Greenwood seems to have startled the deer back to high ground before the tide came in.
I don’t know if deer can swim across the fast currents of the Bay of Fundy, but they’ve got no problem swimming across Halifax Harbour. Every now and then a deer will be spotted darting across Citadel Hill or Quinpool Road, and McNabs Island deer make their way into downtown Dartmouth regularly.
Ammo is a German shepherd who works as a police dog for the RCMP in Kentville, and lives with his handler, Rick Bushey. Early Tuesday morning, Ammo started barking up a storm, waking Bushey. Bushey went down to the basement and “saw smoke coming from the electrical panel,” reports the Chronicle Herald. “It wasn’t that thick while he was calling 911, but there was much more when Kentville firefighters arrived a few minutes later.”
1. Budget cuts
Last week’s announcement that the MacNeil government is closing visitor centres in Digby and Pictou is “a textbook case of the politics of budget cuts,” says Graham Steele.
2. Port of Sydney
“Is building a world-class container terminal in Sydney a pipe dream?” asks Paul Schneidereit, who then goes on to catalog the many reasons why the idea is delusional:
Sydney, not being near major population centres, has little intrinsic appeal as a destination in its own right. (Halifax, although considerably bigger, also pales in comparison to many U.S. ports in this regard). The private owners of its sole rail connection to the interior badly want to abandon the hardly used — and thus unprofitable — line. Last, since no container terminal now exists in Sydney, a huge initial investment, often cited as half-a-billion dollars, would be needed just to establish the harbourside facilities.
Meanwhile, many U.S. ports have been expanding their container terminal operations, with an eye on the reopening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2016. Ominously for Sydney’s hopes, while western U.S. port congestion and labour problems last year bumped up traffic to a slew of American Atlantic ports, container traffic in Halifax — which remains significantly under-capacity — dropped in 2014 compared to the year before.
As I’ve appointed out many times before, the fact that Nova Scotia is the closest bit of mainland North America to Europe is a disadvantage to the ports here, not an advantage. Neither Halifax nor Sydney, nor the private port of Melford (whatever happened to that, anyway?) will ever be a significant competitor to the large ports of the US east coast. That’s just a fact. It’s silly for Cape Bretoners to sink untold millions of dollars into a port that will do no business.
3. Cranky letter of the day
The last time I checked our geography and co-ordinates, I confirmed that we do still live in Canada, which is in the Northern Hemisphere. In the wintertime, there is snow, it is cold and it can be icy.
Maybe Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board officials are counting on a Canadian winter without snow, but instead with palm trees and a pina colada in one’s hand.
Cape Breton Island will not become Arizona or Florida overnight.
Kids are not made of sugar. If you don’t believe me, check with the science class. Oh, right, you can’t check, there’s no school.
So far this year, the local school board has cancelled school more than 10 times. Last year, it was 15. No days were made up. And there are no consequences for the school board. It seems as if school board officials can do whatever they want, hiding behind kids’ safety. This is not fair to the kids or the rest of us.
Kids in Edmonton, Fort McMurray and Nunavut go to school every day. A few weeks ago, I was in Toronto, where it was -36 degrees Celsius with the wind chill for several days, and I didn’t hear about a single cancellation of school or any other event.
I don’t understand why the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is so different. The only logical explanation is that school board officials don’t know winter is supposed to be cold and have snow.
My advice to school board officials is to get their act together and start to work in the wintertime, because climate change will not happen as fast as they expect.
And don’t blame the situation on the buses. If school is open, most parents will find a way to get their kids to school, like they find their way to a real job
Ranka Bulajic, Westmount
City council (10am, City Hall)—budget deliberations continue. Today council will watch Parks & Recreation.
Heritage Advisory Committee (2pm, City Hall)—this is a special meeting called to deal mostly with an application from St. Patrick’s Parish to deregister the St. Patrick’s Rectory on Brunswick Street as a heritage property, so that the parish can sell the rectory off and use the proceeds to help maintain the adjoining church. The parish told the CBC that the rectory was mistakenly registered as a heritage property in 1982 because of a “clerical error” — the parish had meant to register just the church, but because the church used the mailing address of the rectory, the rectory was included in the heritage registration.
A staff report to the committee, however, shows the situation is more complex than the parish is presenting. There’s a confusing history of addresses for both the church and the rectory, and the report argues both sides of the issue, saying that it may have been the intention to registry the rectory, but probably wasn’t. However, says the report, the rectory itself has heritage value, and:
The registration of the Rectory, regardless of intent or error, cannot simply be removed from title or placed on another property. The Heritage Property Act sets out the criteria for deregistering a property in Section 16 and even though the heritage value for the Rectory has not been listed, staff advise that the test of section 16(1)(b) has not been met as the Rectory has not been damaged, destroyed, or lost its heritage value. However, if Council disagrees with staff’s advice in this regard and wants to deregister the Rectory, Council could hold a public hearing to consider it’s deregistration (see Alternative 1).
So, that’s probably what will happen.
Crosswalk Safety Information Café (Wednesday, 4:30pm, Sexton Campus, Building ‘B’ Alumni Lounge, 1360 Barrington Street)—organized by DalTRAC and the HRM Crosswalk Safety Advisory Committee, “the workshop will offer an opportunity to explore crosswalk safety plans and initiatives that currently exist in Halifax, while receiving feedback from YOU to prioritize next steps.” You were supposed to RSVP by last week, but show up anyway, I’m sure they’ll be glad to talk with you.
Raw Deal (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—the 1948 film directed by Anthony Mann and shot by legendary cinematographer John Alton, Raw Deal tells the story of an ex-con who is set up to become the patsy of a mob boss.
Fishes (Thursday, 3:30pm, 5th floor Biology Lounge, LSC)—Jeff Hutchings will talk about “Correlates of Rate and Uncertainty of Recovery in Marine Fishes.”
CNIB Dining in the dark (Thursday, 5pm, Dalhousie McInnes Room, 6136 University Ave)—explains the CNIB:
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) invites you to attend their third annual Dining in the Dark – a signature, volunteer-driven event in Atlantic Canada to raise funds for CNIB programs and services.
During this unique dining experience, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a meal while relying solely on your sense of touch, taste and smell. Throughout the evening, two inspiring individuals will share their own personal story about how CNIB has helped them see beyond vision loss.
Appetizer: Roasted Butternut Squash with caramelized apples and herbed cream.
Entree: Stuffed chicken breast with cranberry and goat cheese with side of herb roasted potatoes and butter poached asparagus.
Dessert: Chocolate mouse gateau with fresh mango essence, tropical fruit relish and whipped cream.
Vegetarian menu to come.
$75 per regular ticket
$30 per student ticket
$600 per table of eight
To reserve your seat today, contact Laura Kennedy at 902.453.1480 ext. 5727. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Amanda Quarmby-Bennett at 902.453.1480 ext. 5725.
Biomedical Visions (Thursday, 7pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—next in the ongoing series, Richard Brown will discuss “Art and Neuroscience” and Jock Murray will talk about “Teaching the History of Medicine using Great Art Works.”
Energy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain building)—next in the ESS lecture series:
Simon Sylvester-Chaudhuri is the founder of TechFlo, a commercialization startup aimed at helping innovative companies make the world and its cities smarter, safer and healthier. Previously, he was an innovator with NYC ACRE — The New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Resilient Economy.
Planetarium show (Thursday, 7:15pm, Room 120, Dunn Building)—”It’s Not Spring Yet!” by Pat Kelly:
While March contains the first day of spring, as the Sun sets the winter constellations including many of the night’s brightest stars are high in sky. This March these stars are joined by two bright planets: Venus and Jupiter!
Five bucks at the door; reservations via astronomynovascotia.ca. Well-behaved kids over eight years old are welcome, but leave the screaming sort out in the car.
Ford and Carnegie (Wednesday, 7pm, KTS Lecture Hall, 2nd Floor, King’s Academic Building)—Mark Burke will talk about “Ford and Carnegie: A Tale of Two Rich Guys.”
I don’t know what to make of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission’s latest promotional video for Date Night in Halifax. The video, produced by Extreme Group, might be too self-consciously playing to hipster irony, or it might have come full circle back around to hilarity. Either way, it’s bold.
In the harbour
Kourion, tanker, Fort Lauderdale, Florida to anchorage
NYK Nebula, container ship, Bremerhaven, Germany to Fairview Cove
ZIM Constanza, container ship, Valencia, Spain to Pier 42, then sails to sea
Ernest Hemingway, container ship, New York to Pier 41
Seamuse, tanker, sails to sea
I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm.