1. Police evidence
“Tens of thousands of dollars and several kilograms of illicit drugs are still missing from Halifax Regional Police evidence, but the chief says there’s no indication anything ‘untoward’ has happened within his force,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro:
“We’re very confident that our officers did not do anything untoward,” Blais told reporters after the meeting. “What we are looking at and what we have determined is that there are some gaps in our process, in our policy, in the way that we’ve done things.”
Blais attributed the problems to the amalgamation of Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford police forces in 1996, and the implementation of a new records-management system in 2005.
Blais said police have made significant improvements to their processes since this came to light, implementing 23 of 34 recommendations made after the original audit. The other 11 are in progress. The board and regional council also tentatively approved a new position for the police as part of their 2017 budget, a new evidence custodian, which Blais said will help finish the audit and better organize the evidence.
I was at the Police Commission meeting yesterday, and have been following the evidence room issue for a while. I think Blais is correct in that there isn’t likely any criminality related to the missing evidence, but he’s soft-pedalling the severity of the situation: it came out that the audit of the evidence room was ordered after charges in a court case were dismissed because the evidence couldn’t be presented. I would like to know more about that.
We’ve had back-to-back tourism announcements the last few days.
On Friday, Tourism Nova Scotia issued a press release:
Nova Scotia’s tourism industry had its best year in history in 2016 and its third consecutive year of growth. In all, 2.2 million visitors came to the province last year, an increase of eight per cent, about 170,000 more visitors, over 2015.
Tourism revenue for 2016 was an estimated $2.6 billion, an increase of five per cent, $125 million, from the year before and a 28 per cent, $575 million, jump from 2010.
I’ve long held tourism numbers suspect. For one, “tourism revenue” includes all hospitality industry income — if you stop for a drink on your way home from work, you’re considered a tourist, your bar tab is rolled into the total “tourism revenue” figure, and the bar’s sale to you is held up as proof that Ben Cowan-Dewar and the crew at Tourism Nova Scotia are doing a fine job at tourism promotion.
Which isn’t to say that the hospitality industry isn’t important to the people who work in it. But it’s not exactly the same thing as the tourism industry. There’s overlap — 60 per cent of the money ($1.2 out of $2 million in 2010) spent in restaurants and bars and hotels comes from actual tourists, but the other 40 per cent is just we locals going about our lives.
The Ivany report called for doubling tourism revenues, but as I wrote last year:
So “doubling” tourism revenue to $4 billion might be achievable by simply getting people to knock off work early on Fridays and spending the day at the beer garden. The productivity loss would be far greater than the increase in beer sales, but tourism promoters could point to the increased beer sales and say the economy is doing great. Heck, if we give everyone Thursdays and Fridays off, we’d do that much better economically.
If we’re going to be remotely honest about this, what we should be seeking to double is not the $2 billion figure, but rather the $1.2 billion from people who come from out of province.
It’s lots of fun to drill down into the actual tourism numbers. For instance, the number of cruise ship passengers visiting Sydney last year was down seven per cent from 2015 — is that reason to question the viability of that industry, or reason to build a second dock to encourage more? And there was a slight drop (one per cent) in the number of hotel rooms purchased in Yarmouth last year — a big increase during the summer ferry season couldn’t overcome a big drop in the winter months.
Speaking of Ben Cowan-Dewar, yesterday Tourism Nova Scotia issued the second recent release:
It was announced today, Feb. 27, that Ben Cowan-Dewar has stepped down as board chair of Tourism Nova Scotia to accept the position of chair of the federal Crown corporation Destination Canada.
Cowan-Dewar is the man behind Cabot Links golf course, which is supposed to bring prosperity forever, amen. Cowan-Dewar moved back to Ontario in 2015, possibly at the suggestion of his wife, Allie Barclay, who once compared living in the wilds of Cape Breton to being in the witness protection program.
It’s a free country. Cowan-Dewar can live anywhere he wants and take whatever job he wants. But I can’t help but wonder about his motivation for leaving Tourism Nova Scotia for a similar job in Ontario.
The Tourism Nova Scotia chair was a volunteer position, whereas when the chair position at Destination Canada was advertised in December, the agency said the position would be paid an annual retainer of $8,000 – $9,400, plus a per diem of $310 – $375. That’s probably not enough money to make a life decision for, but I wonder if the airfare back and forth to Halifax was beginning to be a financial drain to Cowan-Dewar.
Which brings me back to those tourism revenue figures.
Consider that Cowan-Dewar has received considerable assistance from the taxpayer. Last year, I tried to figure exactly how much that was. I couldn’t get a complete picture, but a review of the various granting agencies and other government expenditures found that:
So we’re talking about something like $25 million in public financing, only about half of it in the form of repayable loans (at no interest) that primarily benefit one property owner — Cabot Links.
The other half came in direct government expenditures.
If we’re going to pony up tens of millions of dollars for Cabot Links, shouldn’t we have some idea what the return on the “investment” is? The tourism figures tell us how many people stayed in provincial campgrounds last year (28,000, a five per cent increase from the year before) and how many people visited the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (18,000, a six per cent decrease)… shouldn’t we also track how many people are visiting Cabot Links, how much money they’re spending, and how much of that ends up back in the provincial treasury?
Until I see such numbers, I’m going to assume that Cabot Links is a giant money hole, and Cowan-Dewar has had to find part-time work in order to make ends meet.
3. Wooden Monkey & Nova Centre
“Owners of the Wooden Monkey restaurant in downtown Halifax are hoping to go to the province’s Utility and Review Board (UARB) in an attempt to recoup more than $500,000 in losses they say they’ve sustained due to construction of the neighbouring convention centre,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:
In papers filed Monday by the company’s lawyer, Ray Wagner, the restaurant’s owners say the city, province, developer and everyone else involved in the project have been unwilling to discuss compensation.
The company is claiming losses of $508,017 based on a forensic accounting report it had prepared.
Construction “has had a significant, sustained, unreasonable impact” on the restaurant’s business, according to the statement.
That includes repeated interference with electricity, water, internet, garbage and phone service, a “severe reduction” in available parking, blocked and/or obstructed pedestrian access, construction-related dirt, noise and dust, and interference with the seasonal patio.
I have no idea if the legal case will hold up or not, but there’s no argument that the Wooden Monkey and other nearby restaurants haven’t suffered business losses because of the construction.
And, er, are we really certain about that supposed December opening date for the Nova Centre? I’m no construction expert, but there seems no urgency on the construction site. So far as I can tell, workers knock off at 5pm, there’s not much if anything going on weekends, and there’s an eerie feeling to the place even when workers are present — it feels like the guys who lazily walk around mothballed fleets, offhandedly peering over the gangways to make sure none of the ships are sinking.
And if the thing is really going to open by January 1, shouldn’t there have been an announcement about a hotel operator by now?
1. Cranky letter of the day
To the Halifax Examiner:
this is the second time I have cancelled and it will be the last. I decided to give Halifax Examiner a second chance because I really wanted to support a local product. However, after reading your article on the Air Canada jet going off the runway in Toronto and your unqualified opinion disguised as reporting I had finally had enough of what you call journalism. You give quality journalists a bad name. Irresponsible opinion pieces are not journalism. You would be better off doing a blog. At least everyone wouldn’t expect reporting; I am done.
Thought you were better than the obvious biases you display.
[I’ll use the pseudonym Ms. D]
Ms. D evidently wasn’t a subscriber back when I endorsed air rage:
“A 30-year-old South African woman is facing charges after she allegedly assaulted two flight attendants on board an international flight Wednesday,” reports CTV. “The woman was taken into custody. Police say she is facing three counts of assault on an aircraft, one count of assault with a weapon, one count of causing a disturbance and one count of endangering an aircraft.”
I have great sympathy for the people who behave badly on airplanes. Everything about flying is a horrendous experience. A couple of hundred people are crammed into a narrow tube and they have to battle each other Hunger Games-style for space in the overheads because everyone brought tons of luggage on board to avoid the outrageous checked bag fees, then they wind up the giant rubber band or catapult or whatever it is that makes that thing fling across the ocean, and the whole tube goes this way or that battling sky demons and nearly crashing — lots of them do! Read the newspapers! — and your knees are up against your chin because profit, and it’s eighteen bucks for a drink but you need like six of them because that asshole next to you is taking the armrest and the I’m sure nice woman on the other side wants to talk about her kids or some bullshit but the plane’s gonna crash and we’re all gonna die! lady shut up I gotta hold on except I can’t the asshole has stolen the armrest, and when you finally calm down some idiot screwed up all the Sudokus in the back of the stupid airline magazine and you wonder how much they pay the writers to produce this drivel but holy shit! why is the plane jumping up and down? we’re in the middle of the fricken’ air! it’s not like there’s potholes or anything, they probably pay the mechanics dick and they’re pissed off and so what if they have some extra screws or whatever when they attached the tube to the catapult, we’re gonna crash and die! sure, give me another drink and damn I gotta make my way to the tiny closet they call a washroom and how can this possibly pass health inspection rules? I’m gonna catch the ebola while the tube is crashing, and sorry lady yea you gotta move for me again, it’s like pickup sticks the way they pack us in here, and people really buy cigarettes on airplanes? what is this capitalism run amok thing going on in this tube of death? I’m trying to hang on, sure I’ll have another drink, god damn I wish this thing would land already but why does the tube go left and right?! NO! we’re supposed to go straight! not left and right! and then you land and people applaud because the thing didn’t crash and burn but then you gotta stay there for another hour because there’s only one tiny door that all the couple of hundred people have to use and what if the thing had crashed into the ocean? it takes forever for everyone to get off the plane, we’d probably all drown as the tube sank into the bottom of the ocean because some old dude was thanking the flight attendant instead of Get Off The Plane! while we’re putting on our life vests, life vests! on an airplane!, and they’d never find our bodies like on that Malaysian Air tube that they still haven’t found.
Which is to say, yeah, air rage. It’s a completely rational response to the flying experience. Give the South African woman a break.
Sigh. In addition to my hefty in-flight bar tab and post-flight counselling bill, my fear of flying has now cost me 10 bucks a month in subscription income. Can someone help a guy out?
Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall) — the council will give “first reading” to proposed 29-storey building at Robie Street and Quinpool Road. Here’s the staff report.
Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — the committee will attempt to destroy the Centre Plan, just as it destroyed the waterfront.
Police Commission (Wednesday, 1pm, Fairbanks Centre, Dartmouth) — more of the work planning.
Forest Hills Parkway – Walking and Cycling Enhancements Engagement Session (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Cole Harbour Place) — info here.
Public Information Meeting – Case 19535 (Wednesday, 7pm, Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea School) — Geoff Keddy Architect & Associates Limited wants to develop two parcels on St. Margarets Bay Road in Timberlea. Info here.
Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, Province House) — the committee will be asking some unknown person or people about the Pictou County Injured Workers Association.
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Kelliann Dean, deputy minister of Municipal Affairs, will be asked about the Emergency Management Office.
Algebraic Theories (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Rory Lucyshyn-Wright will speak on, “Introduction to Commutants for Algebraic Theories.” His abstract:
In 1963, Lawvere introduced an elegant approach to universal algebra in terms of the notion of algebraic theory, or Lawvere theory. In a 1968 article, Lawvere emphasized that algebraic theories generalize rings, so that certain notions in the theory of rings and modulesadmit generalizations to universal algebra. In this spirit, Wraith’s 1969 lecture notes define a notion of commutant of a set of morphisms in an infinitary algebraic theory. Given instead a morphism of Lawvere theories A : T –> U, one can form an associated Lawvere theory, called the centralizer or commutant of T with respect to A. As a special case, one can take the commutant of a Lawvere theory T with respect to any given T-algebra A. In this talk we will discuss several examples of commutants of Lawvere theories, including theories of modules, affine spaces, convex spaces, and semilattices. Time permitting, we will also comment on generalizations to the realm of enriched algebraic theories and monads.
Outbreak Situations (Tuesday, noon, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Erin Leonard will speak on “Community Health and Epidemiology – Public Health Epidemiology and Surveillance — It’s More Than Just Outbreaks!”
Architectural Drawings (Tuesday, 12:30pm, HA-19, Auditorium, Medjuck Building) — Steve Parcell, who inspired me to start questioning the often-nonsensical architectural renderings submitted to the city by developers hoping to build some monstrosity, will speak on “Nine Properties of an Architectural Representation.”
African Nova Scotian History (Tuesday, 3:35pm, Theatre C, Tupper Building) — Isaac Saney will speak. Deets here.
The Intersection of Art and Architecture (Tuesday, 7pm, HA-19 Auditorium, Medjuck Building) — William Zahner will speak on the use of architectural metals for facade, roof, and building envelope systems in the digital environment.
Paralympics (Wednesday, 8:30am, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — Paul Easton will speak on “Rio 2016 Paralympics: Working with the International Paralympic Committee.”
“Let’s Talk Diabetes” (Wednesday, Noon, Room 307, Student Union Building) — An unknown person will present up-to-date information about the risk factors, prevention, and management of diabetes. Register here.
Obesity (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Grant M. Hatch will speak on “Cardiolipin Metabolism in Diet-induced Obesity.”
Budget Session (Wednesday, 6pm, Council Chambers, Student Union Building) — the Dalhousie Student Union will look at the campus budget. See more here.
Natural Ventilation (Wednesday, 7pm, Auditorium, Medjuck Building) — Paul Vincent will speak on “In Search of Common Sense: Hybrid Projects in Natural Ventilation.”
My Brilliant Career (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of Gillian Armstrong’s 1979 film.
Faculty Author Series (Wednesday, 1pm, Library LI135) — Rescheduled from February 16. Rosana Barbosa will talk about her new book, Brazil and Canada: Economic, Political and Migratory Ties, 1820s to 1970s.
In the harbour
7am: Macao Strait, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
7am: Nanny, oil tanker, arrives at Pier 9 from Come By Chance, Newfoundland
11am: Ningbo Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
11am: Viking Adventure, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
12:30pm: Dalian Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Somerset, England
6pm: Toscana, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, Enlgand
9pm: Macao Strait, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Mariel, Cuba
Later today I’ll publish two quite interesting articles by Jennifer Henderson and Stephen Kimber, and if I’m able to organize my time as planned, Erica Butler’s transportation column will be published this afternoon, and Christina Macdonald’s Court Watch tonight.
Canadaland is coming to Halifax. King’s journalism prof Terra Tailleur, Jesse Brown, and I will comprise a panel asking, and perhaps answering, the question “Is Atlantic Journalism Fucked?”
The podcast will be recorded before a live audience — hopefully including you — at the Marquee, on Friday, March 3 at 7pm. Doors open at 6.
Entry cost is $10, all of which goes to CKDU radio. We’ll have Examiner T-shirts and coffee mugs for sale, and maybe some surprises.