1. Proposed university gift policy draws ire from Dalhousie profs
The gift policy was initiated in the wake of criticism of the university’s deal with Shell Oil, but the Dal administration refused to let university senators have a say in drafting the policy, and now refuses to make that draft public (but we got it anyway).
2. Pre-election promises
Jennifer Henderson has updated her ongoing scorecard of the Liberals’ pre-election spending campaign:
|April 26||Halifax||Province-wide||$390-million over 7 years to twin 70 kms of Highway 101, Highway 103, and Highway 104 and build Burnside 4-laner to ease congestion on Magazine Hill. Province has asked Ottawa to pay 50 per cent of this cost through its New Build Canada Fund.|
|April 26||Halifax||Province-wide||Nova Scotia drivers to get a break in 2019 when Province removes tolls on 90 kms of divided highway through the Cobequid Pass. The province will lose $20 million a year with no immediate plan for replacing the money to maintain the highway and pay interest on the bonds running at $12 million a year.|
|April 26||Halifax||Province-wide||$30 million for improved passing lanes, ramps, interchanges on non-twinned highways.|
|April 26||Halifax||Province-wide||Housing Nova Scotia will provide interest-free loans up to $14,000 for eligible first-time home buyers in Metro and up to $7,500 in rural areas. Total of $1.3 million cost-shared between the province and Ottawa to benefit about 125 households.|
|April 26||Halifax||Hants West (LIB), Sydney (LIB), King’s North (PC), Lunenburg West (LIB)||Province announces $243,000 for flood risk planning and mitigation for four communities.|
|April 25||Halifax||Province-wide||Department of Energy announces $700,000 for seven renewable energy businesses to expand.|
|April 25||Halifax||Nova Scotia Business Inc. announces $1.55 million payroll rebate for MUFG Fund Services (a Mitubishi Financial company) if it creates 100 jobs in the next five years|
|April 24||Annapolis Royal||Province-wide||$630,000 in grants to 24 community groups to run prevention programs to combat sexual violence.|
|April 24||Cape Breton-Richmond (LIB)||Minister Michel Samson announces $25,000 for Richmond County Literacy Network to hire a community outreach worker.|
|April 24||Halifax||Victoria-The-Lakes (LIB)||$286,000 to establish a Gladue (Wellness Court) and Provincial Court on the Wagmatcook First Nation, Cape Breton for aboriginal adults and youth.|
|April 23||Liverpool||Shelburne (NDP)||Premier Stephen McNeil announces estimated $1.5 million for repairs and renovations to Perkins House, a museum and 250-year-old heritage home of merchant and diarist Simeon Perkins. Closed to the public two years ago for fear walls would collapse, repairs estimated to begin late in 2017.|
|April 23||Shelburne||Shelburne (NDP)||Premier announces tender is being let to design and build a Collaborative Health Care Clinic promised 18 months ago by Liberals and six years ago by NDP. Completion date: Fall 2018. Earlier estimated cost $3.4 million.|
|April 23||Dartmouth||Dartmouth North (LIB)||Housing Nova Scotia announces $3,000 in grants for landlords and eligible homeowners in Tufts Cove area to fix up the exterior of their homes, properties.|
|April 21||Inverness||Inverness (PC)||Province announces a $225,000 contribution for L’Arche Cape Breton for a new building where persons with disabilities can sell crafts and produce. Ottawa and L’Arche are funding partners.|
|April 21||Whycocomah||Inverness (PC)||Minister Samson announces $50,000 for new snow groomer for recreational trails in Inverness County Cape Breton.|
|April 21||Amherst||Cumberland North(LIB)||MLA Terry Farrell announces $292,100 in mostly federal funding to build a duplex to provide second-stage housing for survivors of domestic violence.|
|April 21||Halifax||Metro Halifax||Health Minister Leo Glavine announces a tender to design a total of 12 new dialysis chairs at the Halifax Infirmary and Dartmouth General Hospitals that will serve 60 additional kidney patients. Construction is expected to begin in mid-to-late 2018. No cost estimate.|
|April 20||Clayton Park||Halifax Clayton Park (Lib)||$7.5 million for a new Community Outpatient Centre.|
|April 19||12 communities||Various, represented by all three parties||Twenty-three new nurses hired, at a cost of $3.6 million|
|April 18||Halifax||McNeil govt announces $18.08 million to supplement rent for 440 low-income seniors and families in HRM and around the Province this year and next year. Half the money will come from NS and half from Canada Mortgage & Housing, Ottawa.|
|April 18||Halifax||Province announces it will double the payroll rebate to $1.67 million to the Bank of N.T.Butterfield (Bermuda) if it creates 100 jobs over the next six years. The first agreement in 2015 offered $840,000. to create 50 jobs.|
|April 13||River John, Port Mouton, Springhill, Gore||Province announces $1.6 million to add four radio towers to assist emergency First Responders (Fire, Search & Rescue, RCMP). Expansion of radio network in ridings held by 2 PCs, 1 Lib and 1 NDP .|
|April 12||Province wide||Develop strategies to support more than 1,100 social enterprises, including a portal to share information training tips and establish a short-term Equity Fund to provide financing Price: N/A|
|April 12||Province-wide||Approximately $30,000 to expand dispatch system for Ground, Search and Rescue Teams|
|April 12||Halifax and 10 other ports||Department of Community, Heritage and Culture announces free concerts, ship tours, food, fireworks during Tall Ships, Rendez-Vous 2017, July 29-Aug.1 Price: N/A|
|April 11||Bridgewater||Lunenburg West||Province issues Request For Proposal for a design to renovate the ER and add a dialysis unit to South Shore Regional Hospital. Construction: Fall 2018. Price: N/A.|
|April 11||Pugwash||Cumberland North (Lib)||Province issues Request For Proposal for a design to replace four-bed hospital delivering Emergency and Primary health care. Construction: Fall 2018. Price: N/A.|
|April 10||Port Hawkesbury||Cape Breton–Richmond (Lib)||A $50,000 increase for the Regional Occupational Centre in Port Hawkesbury, which already receives $1 million a year to provide vocational training for people with disabilities.|
|April 8||Cheticamp||Inverness (PC)||$400,000 to create cultural hub|
|April 8||Lake Echo||Preston-Dartmouth (Lib)||$608,000. to expand Orenda canoe club|
|April 7||Province wide||$10 million to create "Gravel Roads Capital Program,” a new fund to repair and rebuild gravel roads|
|April 7||Province wide||$974,000. to triage the backlog of 300 students for psychological assessments (Grades P-12)|
|April 6||Province wide||$6.9 million added to Film/TV Production Fund (2017-18)|
|April 5||New Waterford||Cape Breton Centre (Lib)||Design planning begins for new Community Healthcare Centre (Price N/A)|
|April 5||Glace Bay||Glace Bay (Lib)||Planning begins for new dialysis unit (Price N/A)|
|April 5||Province wide||Provincial Policy to support creation of Palliative Care Hospices|
|April 4||Sydney||Sydney-Whitney Pier (Lib)||$3.2 million to transform Holy Angels Convent to Cape Breton Centre for Arts,Culture & Innovation|
One of yesterday’s announcements was for $390 million for the twinning of three 100-series highways, and for the construction of the Burnside-Sackville connector:
The four projects are:
— Highway 101, Three Mile Plains to Falmouth, including the Windsor Causeway, 9.5 kilometres
— Highway 103, Tantallon to Hubbards, 22 kilometres
— Highway 104, Sutherlands River to Antigonish, including Barneys River, 38 kilometres
— construction of the four-lane, divided Burnside Connector (Highway 107) between Burnside to Bedford, 8.7 kilometres.
I’m of two minds on this. First, I’m happy to see the McNeil government’s pursuit of tolling abandoned. Highways are public, and public works should be funded through the general tax fund.
The announcement also committed to removing the tolls on the Cobequid Pass “for Nova Scotia motorists once the bonds are paid off (expected to be in 2019). A decision on commercial trucks and non-Nova Scotia residents will be made as we move closer to this date and have fully assessed the long-term maintenance and operating costs.”
This is just stupid. Either have the tolls or don’t — don’t create an absurd bureaucracy dedicated to interrogating motorists to demand their residency papers. My preference would be to remove and make up for lost revenue — Jennifer Henderson pegs it at $20 million — by increasing gas taxes by about a penny per litre. (The provincial portion of the gas tax is now 15.5 cents per litre, raising about $250 million annually.)
Relatedly, it’s beyond time to get rid of the tolls on the harbour bridges. The Bridge Commission should be dissolved and the bridges operated by the transportation department. As with Cobequid, lost toll revenue can be replaced with a small increase in gas taxes.
Roads cost what they cost — playing shell games with tolls and residency requirements doesn’t decrease any of those costs, it’s just an attempt to hide real costs from the taxpayers. Better to have it all up front.
Twinning vs safety
My second thought about yesterday’s announcement, however, is that probably most of the new roadways aren’t needed. Is twinning the best way to address safety concerns? I’m not convinced of it.
The problem is there is limited money — even the Liberal pre-election, promise-the-moon free-for-all, which is dependent on uncertain federal cost-sharing, doesn’t attempt to twin all the highways. The tolling study contemplated twinning 300 kilometres of highway at a cost of $2 billion. What we’re getting is the twinning of 70 kilometres of highway… so what happens on those other 230 kilometres of unsafe highways?
Yesterday’s announcement actually gives a good potential answer to that question:
The funding also includes $30 million for safety improvements on un-twinned sections of highway. Those measures could include interchange improvements, passing lanes and turning lanes. A safety study on Highway 107 from Burnside to Musquodoboit will also be conducted.
Unfortunately, the safety issue gets wrapped up with travel speed; people want to be safe while driving and they want to drive fast. If you make the road safer and they’re still stuck behind someone going the speed limit for 20 kilometres, they will not be happy. They want twinned highways to be safe, sure, but they also want to zoom past Mr. Go The Speed Limit.
But the fact is, we can make limited tax dollars stretch much further if we take steps to improve safety that fall short of twinning. The boring engineering upgrades suggested for the 107 (where two people have died in head-on collisions since 2015) — improving interchanges, adding passing lanes — are exactly what should be applied to the entire highway system. (Why are passing lanes acceptable for the 107 but not the 104?) In addition to building more passing lanes at regular intervals on certain sections of road like the fog-bound 103, passing by crossing into the oncoming traffic lane should be prohibited entirely and wire or concrete barriers should be constructed between the opposing traffic lanes.
And I know I’m an outlier here, but I’m opposed to the Burnside Connector.
Yes, traffic in Burnside is horrible. The place was badly designed from the get-go, and none of the repeated expansions of the business park came with sensible improvements in transportation systems.
But adding more highways into the place won’t solve those traffic problems. In fact, they’ll make them worse. Far worse. We know this: every expansion of the highway system brings more traffic, not less. You think the three-cycle wait for the light at Wright and Windmill is bad now? Just wait until a thousand more drivers come to the park because of the perceived “convenience” of the Burnside Connector.
And I know some people see transit as only for poor people and other undesirable citizens, but can we talk about transit?
Even though the transit garage is in the business park, it is damn near impossible to get to Burnside by bus, at least with anything resembling reasonable timing. There are an awful lot of workers in Burnside who by necessity must own a car. That results in wage pressure for business owners and more cars on the road. Making transit work for some reasonable percentage of employees will go a long way to reducing traffic.
And then there’s walking and bicycling. Last week, I had to go to the property office at the corner of Akerley and Windmill. I could’ve taken the car, but that’s one gigantic headache. I could’ve taken the bus, but you need a couple of graduate degrees to figure out the bus scheduling (seriously, you try to figure it out), and then impeccable timing to make it all work. I couldn’t plan my exact start and stop times for researching. It was a nice day, so I walked.
I live near downtown Dartmouth. If I drove to Burnside, I’d simply take Victoria Road directly north. But only an insane person would try to navigate through the Victoria Road-Circumferential Highway cloverleaf on foot. Realistically, if you want to walk to Burnside, you either you take Highland Park up to Burnside Drive and then back down to your final destination, or you take Windmill Road.
The lack of a sensibly placed pedestrian crossing of the Circ between Burnside and Windmill is why there are people brazenly and stupidly running across four lanes of highway traffic near Gallery 1. These are people who work in Burnside businesses and live in low-rent Highfield Park. They can’t afford cars, and nor can they afford the hour delay to take a legit pedestrian crossing each way to get to and from work. So they endanger themselves and drivers.
Myself, I walked along Windmill Road. But guess what? There’s no sidewalk on the west side of the road, and for a while, just north of the railroad crossing, there’s no sidewalk on either side of the road. I’m still somewhat agile, but the rutted and garbage-strewn foot paths along the road were far beyond what I would call comfortable. I can’t imagine making the trek in winter.
And walking or biking to Burnside from the north is impossible. Walking along the 7 over Magazine Hill is prohibited, as is cycling, and there’s no other route. If you wanted to walk or bicycle from Bedford to Burnside, you couldn’t do so.
Yesterday, Bedford councillor Tim Outhit told me that the plans for the Burnside Connector include an “active transportation corridor” adjacent to the roadway. But who the hell wants to walk or bike next to a high-speed expressway?
It’s clear that exactly zero thought went into this. There is a gigantic woodlands between Bedford and Burnside, including the hidden jewel of Anderson Lake, practically crying out for nice trail that could be used both by recreational walkers and cyclists and by people commuting to work. Instead, we’re getting a ridiculously insulting commitment to “active transportation” via a noisy, unhealthy (for the fumes), and probably dangerous path adjacent to an expressway.
I know that most people drive, and not many people are going to change that driving habit. But if we get just small increases in alternative modes of travel — say, 15 per cent of people taking transit, and another five per cent walking or cycling — we’d have a far better approach to transportation improvements at a far lower cost than spending $100 million or so on a highway that will just dump more cars into the business park.
4. Rail study
“The Port of Sydney Development Corporation will seek $460,000 in public funding for a study to ‘confirm the costs of upgrades to the rail line’ from Truro to Sydney,” reports Mary Campbell in the Cape Breton Spectator:
In what we can only hope was a last hurrah for the Port’s interim board … it authorized Port CEO Marlene Usher to approach Invest Nova Scotia (INS) for part of that funding.
Usher told me in an email that the study will cover the Hopewell and Sydney Subdivisions of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Railway (CBNS), operated by US-based Genesee & Wyoming (G&W).
Usher said the study is “required prior to any decision on investment in the rail line, containers and or any other project that would contemplate the use of rail.”
Interestingly, although G&W has already been paid $120,000 by the Port for “participation” in a “rail strategy,” it will not be expected to contribute to the costs of this study. Instead, the Port will look to a variety of public sources — the province, the feds and First Nations — to fund a study that, it seems pretty clear, is intended to serve the container terminal project; a project always advertised as a “private sector” development.
The article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription.
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Integrated Mobility Plan Presentation (Thursday, 6pm, Acadia Hall, Lower Sackville) — info here.
Public Information Meeting – Case 20151 (Thursday, 7pm, Chocolate Lake Community Centre, Halifax) — Banc Properties Limited, flush with $7.5 million from the community outpatient centre deal, wants to build some stuff out by Long Lake.
No public meetings.
Nothing for the rest of the week.
No public events.
Robotics and Computer Vision (Friday, 11:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Sajad Saeedi of Imperial College, London, will speak on “The Future of Computer Vision and Machine Learning Systems.”
Nano-biochemical Fluorescence (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Mohsen Kompany-Zareh of Iran’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Science will speak on “Multi-way Study of Nano-biochemical Fluorescence Energy Transfer.”
Thesis Defence, IDS (Thursday, 1pm, Atrium 306) — Subrina Buly will defend her thesis, “Climate Change or Local Anthropogenic Impacts? Comparing Effects on Livelihoods and Sustainable Development in a Rural Coastal Village of Bangladesh.”
In the harbour
1:30am: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
5:30am: Viking Conquest, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
10am: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
3:30pm: Viking Conquest, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
9:30pm: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
We’re recording Examineradio today.