1. Queen’s Marque
Queen’s Marque construction is hitting nearby businesses hard. And, recognizing the problem, Waterfront Development is spending big money to help out the Murphy’s businesses, and the city is being asked to pitch in with even more financial help. Meanwhile, however, the crown corporation is ignoring the plight of a business right across the street from the construction zone.
Jennifer Henderson reports; click here to read “There goes the neighbourhood.”
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2. How the Washmill underpass fiasco led to the Community Outpatient Centre fiasco
The McNeil government’s plan to site a “Community Outpatient Centre” at Bayers Lake has been widely panned — see Stephen Archibald’s comments below (Views #1). But one thing that’s been missed in news coverage of McNeil’s announcement is how that particular parcel of land became available for the centre in the first place.
Let’s back up all the way to 2009. The world was still reeling from the collapse of the global financial industry, and governments everywhere were dumping loads of money into infrastructure projects in order to stimulate the economy, or rather, to ward off Great Depression #2.
In Canada, the stimulus projects took the form of a “Building Canada” fund that was administered by the federal government but cost-shared by the provincial and city governments, and the actual projects were supposedly to be chosen by the cities. I explained how this played out in Halifax, here. The short of it:
Sure enough, [federal Infrastructure minister John] Baird’s office rejected council’s preferred list of projects, and cherry-picked items off the capital project list. Council hadn’t asked for it, but stimulus funds will now buy a new $10 million interchange on the Bicentennial Highway for a third entrance into Bayers Lake — exactly what’s not needed as the city tries to wean us off our car dependency.
Initially, that “third entrance into Bayers Lake” was to be a complete intersection, but then it morphed into a direct link between Bayers Lake and Fairview under the BiHi — the Washmill underpass.
The city was not prepared to construct the underpass. No real planning had been conducted, and no design work. But the Harper government wanted an infrastructure project in that riding in order to boost the Conservative candidate in the next federal election. That candidate was expected to be Mayor Peter Kelly, but events would later unfold otherwise.
Anyway, with the Washmill underpass ordered to be constructed, the city promptly fucked it up, and the supposed $10 million project ballooned into an $18 million project. I first reported the fiasco for The Coast in 2011 with the sub-headline of “How to fuck up a construction project and bankrupt the city.” I explained in detail how CAO Dan English and then acting CAO Wayne Anstey methodically screwed up the project, with the following steps:
Step One: Perform a bogus cost estimate
Step Two: Completely ignore potential environmental issues
Step Three: Hide humungous cost overruns behind the Queen’s substantial, er, party
Step Four: Don’t tell councillors anything until their backs are against the wall
On April 19, 2011, Halifax city councillors had a choice: they could either leave the underpass uncompleted, a monument to bad planning and political interference that people could marvel at for generations to come (my wish), or they could somehow come up with the extra dough to complete the underpass project (the majority of councillors’ wish).
“Halifax council approved a $4.5 million expenditure for the Washmill underpass project, bringing total cost of the project so far to $15.5 million, $5.5 million over budget,” I reported two days later:
But the $15.5 million doesn’t cover needed intersection improvements at Washmill Court and Chain Lake Boulevard, which will likely cost millions more. Those costs are put off to some distant future date; in the meanwhile, the intersection will become its own sort of post-apocalyptic traffic hell until the money is found — that is, the underpass project, supposedly built to improve traffic flow in the BLIP, will actually make traffic worse.
The staff report recommending the new expenditure is a text-book example of dissembling bureaucracy run amok. Almost $6 million of the underpass costs are shuffled off into a magic “business parks reserve fund,” which staff then implies is somehow not HRM money, but of course city money is city money, no matter how much cover-your-ass bureaucrats want to pretend otherwise.
And where was the $6 million for the “business parks reserve fund” to come from? Explains the staff report:
— the one-third cost sharing proportioned to the undeveloped HRM lands at Bayers Lake will be paid in advance and funded from the Business Parks Reserve. The Reserve component will be recaptured as the lands are sold for development. [emphasis added]
So in order to pay for the Washmill underpass cost overruns, Bayers Lake would be expanded, which meant selling off land to private developers. In particular, 178 acres of land behind Susies Lake Crescent and backing up to the proposed Birch Cove Lakes – Blue Mountain Wilderness Park were put up for sale, and then purchased in 2013 by Banc Commercial Holdings for $9,345,764.
Mission accomplished: the Washmill underpass cost overrun was covered.
This is the classic recipe for sprawl: pay for infrastructure costs by developing more land. Then of course you need to build infrastructure to service the newly developed land, so you develop some more land. Repeat, forever.
In this case, the land in question provided a nice buffer between the business park and the proposed wilderness park. Mountain bikers built the Whopper Trail on the land, but otherwise it remained untouched until Banc went in and clearcut it in 2015.
And now, in another politicized decision, the McNeil government has announced it will purchase 15 acres of that 178-acre parcel for $7.5 million (nearly 12 times what Banc paid for it just four years ago) for the Community Outpatient Centre. As of this morning, the sale has not been completed.
There are many problems with this site being used for the Community Outpatient Centre, but perhaps the biggest is the lack of good transportation connections to it — even for cars.
Undoubtedly those long-promised improvements to the intersection of Susies Lake Crescent, Washmill Court, and Chain Lake Road — the millions of dollars worth of improvements ignored back in 2011 in order to bring down the price of the Washmill underpass cost overrun — will now have to be constructed. I’m guessing that Chain Lake Road will have to be widened as well.
As for transit, provincial politicians are waving their hands, saying they’ll “work with” the city to improve bus access to the site. Perhaps they will, who knows?
But all this — improvements to the intersection, widening roads, buying and operating new buses — will cost lots and lots of money. And where do you suppose that money will come from? We could further expand the business park, I suppose.
3. Taxi driver training
The city this morning issued a Request for Proposals from companies that can provide testing and training for taxi drivers. Until now, taxi driver applicants have been tested for English language comprehension and their knowledge of city bylaws and regulations, but when the contract is awarded, drivers will additionally be tested on cultural awareness and on providing services to people with disabilities:
New applicants are required to successfully complete all four of the following components.
1. Compulsory English language comprehension and proficiency testing, work shall be in accordance with the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLBA). This assessment will include measuring an applicants’ ability to understand basic information spoken in English and written in English, having a minimum 70% pass-mark.
2. General knowledge testing, this assessment will measure an applicants’ general knowledge in at least the following categories, By-law & Administrative Order regulations, geographical knowledge of Streets & Roads and common Building & Locations in the HRM, having a minimum 70% pass-mark.
Previously licensed driver / owners’ are only required to successfully complete components 3 & 4.
3. Educational workshop and testing of applicants’ ability to understand basic Cultural Awareness and the importance of providing proper communications and professional services in a very diverse community, having a minimum 70% pass- mark.
4. Education workshop and testing of applicant’s ability to understand the importance, obligation and how to provide the various assisted services to Persons with Disabilities, having a 70% pass-mark.
4. Chronicle Herald talks
The Halifax Typographical Union and the Chronicle Herald were in talks Wednesday and Thursday, but it didn’t go well.
The latest offer from the company includes severance, but any worker taking the severance could forfeit it should they make negative comments about the Herald or its managers. As I predicted, the company is also planning to close the Herald’s Cape Breton bureau (presumably covering the island solely with Cape Breton Post reporters), and reassigning the reporters in the closed bureau to wherever the company wants.
The union sees a couple of “poison pills” in the latest offer, including taking the assignment editor position out of the union. This is Chris Lambie’s position. While on strike, Lambie has done some freelance work for the Halifax Examiner, but I haven’t discussed the particulars of union negotiations with him, and he is not the source of this reporting.
Another provision would allow all web work to be done by non-union employees.
Also, the company wants to reduce the pregnancy or paternity leaves available to new employees.
Union officials are not happy with what again the company is calling its “final offer,” but they’ve asked that talks continue next week.
And sure, we all make mistakes, but you kinda have to work at it to fuck up this bad:
— HTU (@HTU_official) May 4, 2017
5. Andrew Younger
It is impossible to write about either AllNovaScotia.com or Andrew Younger without getting feedback.
After publishing yesterday’s Morning File, I updated the post twice, as follows:
Update 9:50am: the CBC has corrected its story, and now says the document was a emergency protection order, not a peace bond, but the point remains the same.
Update, 3pm: AllNovaScotia.com contacted me to say that they came across the emergency protection order through their normal daily perusal of filings at the Supreme Court. This is a case of cascading errors — the CBC’s misreporting of the document as a peace bond, which I repeated, and then my own mistake that emergency protection orders are difficult to find — I have checked Supreme Court filings hundreds of times, but I’ve never seen such a filing. Mea culpa.
I still haven’t had time to get to the courthouse and read the document myself. And AllNovaScotia.com doesn’t allow other reporters to subscribe, so I can’t read their initial report either.
Last night, Younger contacted me. His email:
Just read morning file (late). Not sure if you saw Katia’s statement, but she did not seek a peace bond or a protection order. She says she was given extremely bad advice by the Justice of the Peace centre (or whatever it is) when she called. She was not in the house Friday night, I had a medical emergency, she was unable to get information from the hospital about what happened, she called around for advice. It was recommended to her that she get a custody order to ensure she alone could make decisions about our son while I was infirm, hospitalized, or sick. The documents which Brian Flinn [the AllNovaScotia.com reporter] have from the court state that very clearly, she was not looking for a peace bond, to keep me away from him or her, or anything remotely like that. As she has said in her statement, she got incredibly bad advice and they (1) erroneously told her it was confidential; and (2) told her this was the document she needed for temporary custody decisions. Anyhow, the two of us decided we were simply sick of the inaccurate or at least incomplete reporting such as Brian did (worth noting Brian was told by both me and Katia his information was incorrect and it was explained to him what really happened but that did not appear in the story). So we decided, enough is enough, I didn’t do anything, Katia didn’t claim I did anything, she was trying to do a routine court issue given my medical issue and it got screwed up by inaccurate advice. So we talked about it and I agreed it was best to throw in the towel. Would I have still won? Maybe. My chances likely didn’t change because of it. But we were both super tired of seeing our personal life dragged around in public like some US campaign.
That is the story. So even what remains in the morning file report isn’t entirely what happened.
Hope that clarifies. I will forward you what she wrote.
Here’s Katia’s email to Flinn:
Dear Mr. Flinn,
How generous of you to acknowledge that you read my email asking you to please allow my family matters to remain private. I can only assume it is a lack of integrity that allowed you to disregard my request.
You wrote a story that serves no purpose other than to hurt the campaign efforts of Andrew and his team. To distract the media and people from his great community work and representation of the province.
Mr. Flinn, did you even consider writing an article that would actually be of use to the greater community? Like questioning the Justice of the Peace Department as to why they tell women that these proceeding are confidential? And why is any Emergency Protection Order, denied or accepted, made public? What about the safety of the women, and their children, who are actually in physically abusive relationships and the public release of this information? These issues Mr. Flinn, would serve a purpose.
I have never been physically abused by Andrew. We are going though a difficult, personal, time and I was given poor information about the process and actual intention of an emergency protection order.
Shame on you for writing this.
1. Community Outpatient Centre
“Why do they hate us,” asks Stephen Archibald about the announced Community Outpatient Centre in Bayers Lake:
When I heard that the facility would be built in Bayers Lake Business Park it felt like an insult. Bayers Lake is a soulless wasteland that makes no attempt to actually welcome people. Sort of like the Mumford Bus Terminal spread over a vast landscape.
So what do I really think?
1) A new health facility should be in a location that is easy to visit by the whole community it intends to serve.
2) A hospital these days should be in a landscape and in a building that promotes healing. Let’s have design that makes us feel good.
3) If the government insists that this is the location then it is their responsibility to explain how 1 and 2 will be accomplished. For now they seem most interested in promoting hatred between rural and urban voters.
4) If I was a journalist I’d be seeking out the provincial bureaucrats who suggested this location. Do they really not like livable cities?
No public meetings.
Thesis Defence, Interdisciplinary Studies (Friday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Olof Kristjansdottir will defend her thesis, “The Role of Culture in Pain-Related Caregiver Behavior: Comparing Canadian, Icelandic, and Thai Caregivers of 6-12-Year-Old Children.”
Fred Fountain is doing something rich people do (Friday, 1pm, Sculpture Court, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — something to do with big money. Couldn’t we just have a wealth tax and democratically decide what to do with the dough instead of celebrating “philanthropists” for kicking down money for we little people?
Pharmacy Thought Leadership Summit Findings (Friday, 2pm, Room 109, College of Pharmacy) — Neil J. MacKinnon will discuss the main findings of the research report for the national Pharmacy Thought Leadership Summit, held in Calgary in 2016.
MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple (Friday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Brian MacKay-Lyons and Talbot Sweetapple will launch the monograph The Work of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple – Economy as Ethic, by Robert McCarter.
In the harbour
7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 41 from Saint-Pierre
9am: Berlin Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Fos Sur Mer, France
10:30am: Shanghai Trader, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
4pm: Berlin Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 41 for Saint-Pierre
7pm: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Port Hawkesbury
I’m on my way to St. John’s this morning, for the Atlantic Journalism Awards. If all goes according to plan, I’ll finish editing Linda Pannozzo’s latest piece while on the plane, and get it published early this afternoon.
Later in the day, the Examineradio podcast will go live.