1. Harbour City Homes
Tenants living in the Harbour City Homes houses that have been put up for sale have suggested that there was a buyback provision when the city transferred the properties to Harbour City Homes. Yesterday, I researched that suggestion, and found that in fact when Halifax council agreed to the sale of 2275 Brunswick Street in 2007, one of the provisions was that:
Another staff report from 2007 deals with the three Artz Street properties. That staff report makes no mention of a buyback agreement. I can’t find any staff reports regarding the transfer of the other Brunswick Street properties.
I also stopped by the property office yesterday and looked at the deeds for each of the properties. So far as I could determine, there were no buyback agreements filed as part of the property records for any of the properties now for sale.
Fears that the properties will be torn down and replaced with condos are realistic, and such a proposal is explicitly spelled out in the sale announcements by Harbourside Realty. The same description is given to each of the properties; here’s the one for 5221 Artz Stret:
5221 ARTZ STREET, HALIFAX – Here’s an opportunity to invest in the exciting redevelopment of a historic but neglected Halifax neighbourhood. Strategically located across the street from HMC Dockyard and a short walk from both Downtown Halifax and Irving Shipbuilding, this property has strong future potential as part of on-going North End revitalization. Astute developers might look beyond this one dilapidated property and see in the package of properties currently being offered an opportunity to extend the enhancement of once stylish Brunswick Street begun several years ago. Call today to discuss possibilities.ABOUT HALIFAX CENTRAL
This rapidly changing area is the hottest neighbourhood in town with lots of new construction, restaurants, microbreweries and cool new condos being built. Urban renewal make this area great for younger buyers who want to be on the peninsula and enjoy community living and an active lifestyle.
That’s pretty much gentrification defined. We can argue about the merits of new people moving into the neighbourhood, but this sale is about kicking the people who live there out of their homes, tearing down affordable housing, and putting up housing that the former residents can’t afford. Given the location of the Artz Street houses specifically — directly across the street from Uniacke Square — this is a bigger threat to the neighbourhood than the sale of St. Pat’s–Alexandra school; at least the redevelopment of the school property doesn’t involve evicting current residents from their homes.
“Irving Shipbuilding is facing four charges under Nova Scotia’s Occupational Health and Safety Act after a worker suffered a serious head injury at the Halifax Shipyard in 2014,” reports the Canadian Press:
The company was arraigned on the charges in Halifax provincial court on Tuesday and the case was adjourned until Nov. 12.
An information to obtain a search warrant filed with the court says the charges relate to work that was being done on Canadian Coast Guard patrol vessels on Jan. 3, 2014.
An occupational health and safety officer alleges in the document that a wire rope loop attached to a ship’s cradle broke as it was being pulled by a winch, striking a worker employed by Irving Equipment Ltd. in the head.
The ship was being moved along a series of tracks at the shipyard during a launch attempt when the loop broke.
The document says the worker suffered a fractured skull and brain injury.
“The charges were laid under 74(1) of Nova Scotia’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and carry a maximum fine of up to $250,000 on conviction,” reports the Chronicle Herald.
3. Taylor Samson
Police issued a press release yesterday afternoon:
Officers are continuing to advance the investigation into the homicide of Taylor Samson and are currently searching property in Lower Truro.
The investigation remains very active, with investigators pursuing various avenues of investigation, continuing to canvass for information, and following up on tips that are coming in.
With respect to tips from the public, we’ve had some information come in that’s based on speculation and opinion. We ask the public to call us with credible information that is based on someone having seen or heard something suspicious related to this homicide case. We are specifically looking to talk to anyone who saw anything out of the ordinary in the early morning hours of Sunday, August 16 in the area of South and Henry Streets. Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 902-490-5016.
The property is owned by the family of William Sandeson, who has been charged with the first-degree murder of Samson. Presumably, police are searching for Samson’s body.
4. Ship of Theseus
“Sailings on board the Bluenose II in Lunenburg have been cancelled for today and Wednesday due to more steering issues,” reports the CBC. “The province says a technician, the steering system designer and a consultant have been called in to assess and fix the problem.”
The photo above, of the Ship of Theseus as it appeared in a break in the fog as it limped back to Lunenburg on a backup steering system was published on the government’s Facebook page.
1. Wage freeze
When Finance Minister Randy Delorey announced his “new approach” to labour relations, I called his proposal a “wage freeze,” as what he was proposing cannot in the real world be anything but. For his convoluted and obscuring rhetoric, I awarded Delorey the Bullshitter of the Summer award, and explained:
Delorey’s specific proposal is to freeze the total amount spent on employee compensation for each of the next five years. But, he says, that doesn’t mean there can’t be pay increases:
Funding for compensation increases, over the amounts set out in the fiscal plan, may come from budgeted and achieved cost reduction, budgeted and achieved cost avoidance, service redesign or other efficiency initiatives (Savings must be real, measurable, and achieved before being allocated to compensation increases)
And who will find those cost reductions, cost avoidances, service redesigns and efficiencies? The unions. This is an utter abandonment of managerial responsibility — the Liberals are throwing up their hands and saying, “fuck it, we don’t know how to save money, it’s up to you guys.” Moreover, it’s a bald attempt to destroy union solidarity, to pit public employees against one another. Workers over in Department A can get raises, but only if they figure out a way to get workers over in Department B fired.
Soon after I published, Delorey issued a press release saying “Anyone suggesting that we are demanding a five-year wage freeze is wrong…I want to assure Nova Scotians we have not demanded a wage freeze over the life of the agreement.”
A few minutes later, Delorey’s spokesperson, Darcy MacRae, sent me an email saying that “You are incorrect in your Morning File today in writing ‘Delorey has proposed a five-year wage freeze.’ Minister Delorey made no such proposal.”
I wrote back:
I was clear about the proposal, and how the minister is hiding behind this “the unions can make suggestions for saving money, and we agree with it the saved money can go to wage increases” dodge. It IS a dodge. It’s not serious, as anyone who works for the provincial government will tell you. I’ve had dozens of people tell me that suggestions for saving money, efficiency, etc. are completely ignored by managers, and are not at all welcome.
So yea, it’s bullshit.
Yesterday, former Finance Minister Graham Steele explained more diplomatically:
In an unusual move, the minister issued a statement the next morning. The minister was at pains to state that what he is proposing is not, in fact. a wage freeze.
In my own CBC web column, I looked at one aspect of that claim, and dismissed it. The minister suggested that any savings discovered by union members could be partially applied to wage settlements. For reasons given in my column, that’s a total non-starter.
But wait, says the minister. I’m really not asking for a wage freeze. All I’ve said is that the settlements have to be consistent with the fiscal plan. The fiscal plan, too, is posted on the government website. Each percentage point in wage increases will permanently add roughly $52 million to annual expenses.
Here’s the problem: you can look at the fiscal plan, and still have no idea how much room there is for wage settlements of more than zero.
The fiscal plan is, essentially, a five-year projection of revenue and expenses. As a former finance minister, I know exactly how these projections are put together, and how reliable they are (or aren’t). The further out you go, the rougher they are. Assumptions are crucial.
The fiscal plan shows expenses in 2015-16 (this year) as $10.024 billion. In 2018-19, expenses are projected to be $10.594 billion. That’s an increase of $570 million over four years. That sounds like a lot, but it isn’t really. That’s an increase of 5.7% over four years, or roughly 1.4% per year.
The other crucial bit of information is that the fiscal plan projects a surplus of $25 million in 2017-18, and $66 million in 2018-19. If wages go up by as little as 1% over four years, costing $52 million, then there will be a deficit in 2017-18. That’s not in accordance with the fiscal plan.
The only escape hatch left for the minister is this: the projected growth in expenditures MIGHT already include an assumption about wage growth.
If there is such an assumption, it must be really small.
Why? Expenses always go up, every year, especially in health care. It would be semi-miraculous for the government to hold its expenditure increase to 1.4% per year, every year, for four years running. Health expenditures, especially, routinely outpace that level.
So ordinary growth in the cost of running government, especially health, is probably enough to chew up all the expenditure growth that is forecast in the fiscal plan. Despite the minister’s protestations, it doesn’t look to me like there’s any room in the fiscal plan for wage growth.
So now we get to the point of this post. The fiscal plan is based on an assumption about wage growth. That assumption is not stated anywhere. If the minister wants us to take his position seriously, he should make that assumption explicit.
So the question Randy Delorey needs to answer is: What wage growth, if any, is assumed in the fiscal plan?
If he won’t answer that simple question, then we’re all quite entitled to assume that what he is proposing is, in fact, a five-year wage freeze.
Even if, as Steele suggests, Delorey makes his math public, showing the assumptions that went into the “not a wage freeze” claim, those assumptions will be, yep, bullshit.
Delorey seems to think he can make transparently false claims and not be called out for them if he says, “no, you’ve got it all wrong, black is white and up is down.” But some of us work in a universe where a government minister’s claims are not just transcribed uncritically, but rather can be tested for their actual truth.
And when we test those claims for their truth, we find that not only is Delorey the Bullshitter of the Summer, he’s doubled down on the bullshit, issuing statements that are full of even more bullshit, and sending his spokesperson out to spew meta bullshit.
But no matter how you slice it, Delorey’s proposal is, in fact, a wage freeze.
2. Peggys Cove
Another government minister, Tourism Minister Mark Furey, gets right to the heart of the safety issue at Peggys Cove, as Paul Schneidereit explains:
Echoing the Ivany report, Furey said the aim is to double tourism revenues over the next 10 years.
“That doesn’t mean doubling tourism numbers, although there could be a correlation, but we recognize inherently that if we’ve going to double our tourism revenue, we’re going to bring more visitors to Nova Scotia. And Peggys Cove, if it’s not the most visited site in Nova Scotia, it’s second only to the Halifax waterfront … We can only anticipate more visitors to Peggys Cove.”
Another reason to enhance public safety at the picturesque fishing village.
We cannot promote Peggys Cove as the perfect picture postcard moment, ship busloads of tourists out to the tourist trap, collecting their money at every turn, and then wash our hands of any responsibility for their safety. Are the tourists “morons“? Yeah, well, maybe. But we don’t have any problem with them being so moronic as to pay 35 bucks for lacklustre lobster at Murphy’s, or putting out coin for the made-in-China keepsakes sold on the boardwalk; we only have a problem with tourists being morons when it comes to looking out for their lives.
Ridiculing people for dying is a hell of a tourism promotion tactic.
3. Cranky letter of the day
In his Aug. 22 column, Roger Taylor asserts that the Yarmouth ferry is vital, that giving up on it would be devastating and that the Nova Scotia economy is better off with it than without it.
But do these claims stand up to the numbers? The ferry runs for five months of the year and is operating at 30 per cent capacity for those months. It seems to have maxed out at around 35,000 U.S. visitors and it will need ongoing subsidies of $13 million per year. That’s getting on for $400 per visitor.
Let’s suppose the average visitor drops $100 in Yarmouth as he or she transits the area. That would be $3.5 million. If most of that, say $3 million, goes to wages, it would support the equivalent of 80 full-time jobs at an average wage of $37,000.
Those are numbers that make it difficult to see why a ferry that is not needed seven months a year, and is a pure summer tourist attraction, is “vital.”
While 80 full-time-equivalent seasonal jobs are nice to have, they represent less than one per cent of the jobs within half an hour of Yarmouth. Losing them would hardly be “devastating.” With numbers like these, it would not be unreasonable to bet that the ferry service will not last much beyond the next provincial election.
To a large degree, the term “ferry” is inaccurate. The ship is primarily a tourist attraction and the alternative routes into the province via Digby or Amherst are competitive without provincial subsidy. Those towns have as fair a claim to provide gateway services to tourists as does Yarmouth.
It is all too likely that by the time we recognize that the “cruise ferry” is really little more than a quite modest (if highly visible) private tourist operation, we will have sunk $80 million into it and done little more than drag out the demise of a tourist promotion scheme doomed from the start.
Michael Poulton, Halifax
No public meetings.
In the harbour
Nothing left to say.