1. Dump deal
A truce has been called in the war over the Otter Lake Landfill.
During a secret session at yesterday’s meeting, Halifax council approved a deal that placated neighbours of the dump while allowing the city to reach its monetary targets for the solid waste department.
It all hinges on exporting garbage from commercial establishments.
Some history: Back in 1999, the city entered into a contract with Mirror NS, a subsidiary of Dexter Construction, to operate the dump. As I reported in 2012, the contract was renewed in 2011:
[In 2011], Mirror was awarded a 14-year contract to operate the landfill; that contract is expected to cost the city $392.8 million dollars, which includes a guaranteed profit of 20 percent annually.
The current contract expires at the end of 2024. In 1999, and again in 2011, the thought was that given predicted garbage generation and recycling and green waste diversion targets, coupled with the size of the dump, Otter Lake would reach capacity in 2024, and so another dump would have to be created, somewhere else in HRM. That’s the understanding that the local community had: it would host the dump until 2024, but then the land would be “reclaimed” and life would go on.
It takes a lot of time — up to a decade — and a lot of money — hundreds of millions of dollars — to find a place to put a new dump. If we’re going to open a new dump in 2024, we pretty much have to start the planning process right now.
But last year, CAO Richard Butts proposed to defer that expense. As I reported exactly a year ago today:
CAO Richard Butts has been trying to push through a series of changes with the garbage system. Some of these changes involved increasing the amount of “diversion” from the dump — requiring clear plastic bags for garbage, for example — and making the green waste system work better — requiring Kraft bags, prohibiting grass clippings in green bins. From a making-the-system-work-better perspective, these changes make a lot of sense, although of course some people are put off by them for their own reasons.
More controversial have been Butts’ proposals to extend the life of the dump. As long understood, the dump would close in 2024, and Butts’ proposals would extend that closure date many years into the future. He’d do that in part by changing policy to allow commercial waste to be trucked to dumps in other parts of Nova Scotia, and in part by raising the planned height of the dump cells by 15 metres. Additional changes at the dump itself would do away with the front end processor, which catches recyclables and organics that people have been throwing in their garbage bags.
The local community objected to extending the life of the dump, and especially to expanding the dump vertically.
Yesterday, however, council backed off the expansion. Mayor Mike Savage told me after the meeting that the city has discovered it doesn’t have to expand vertically — cell #6 has more capacity than thought last year, and cells #7, 8, and 9 will be kept at their 1999-designed levels.
Council also agreed to a negotiating framework that would extend the contract with Mirror NS to operate Otter Lake beyond 2024. The deal is shrouded in secrecy. I can’t tell you the length of the contract or the value of it.
Whatever the length of the contract, it’s so far into the future that no one at City Hall is worrying about building a new dump.
The only way it’s possible to keep Otter Lake at its designed height and still extend the life of the dump is to divert a whole lot of garbage out of HRM. This would be the so-called “ICI waste” — garbage from commercial businesses. In a radical change in policy, the city now allows garbage haulers to ship ICI waste to landfills not in HRM. But “allows” is too weak of a word; a better word is “prods,” as the city has changed the price incentives for haulers. As I reported last year:
Commercial waste — that is, garbage from apartment buildings and businesses — was never properly integrated into the system. Apartment buildings are serviced by private haulers, who are now charged $125/tonne at the dump. Actual costs for processing the garbage at the dump are $170/tonne, so city staff is recommending tipping fees be increased to that amount.
But clearly that increase will be passed along to apartment owners. There’s a certain genius to allowing the haulers to export the garbage out of HRM to cheaper dumps in other counties: it undercuts what would surely be a political firestorm if every apartment owner in town saw their garbage bills increasing by 50 percent, and at the same time stops a lot of garbage from going to Otter Lake, making feasible the extension of the life of the dump.
Of course, the reason the dumps in other counties have lower tipping fees is that they don’t process the garbage to the same standards that HRM does.
2. For TV news, donairs are more important than reconciliation with aboriginal people
Halifax council voted yesterday to have Mayor Mike Savage make two mayoral proclamations. One proclamation made the donair the “official food” of the city of Halifax; another proclamation committed the city to “a new equal partnership with Aboriginal people in Canada; one based on truth, dignity, and mutual respect.”
Guess which proclamation made national news, and guess which proclamation was ignored by the TV cameras.
Three different TV camera people came for the donair vote, setting up before the vote and packing up and leaving immediately after the vote. They came back at the end of the meeting to interview Savage about donairs.
The TV news people didn’t care a whit about the proclamation of reconciliation with aboriginal people. They weren’t there for the vote, and they didn’t ask Savage about it afterwards.
To Savage’s credit, he castigated the TV reporters for making such a big deal out of the donair proclamation. “You’re the ones who made this controversial,” he told the TV reporters.
During the meeting, the donair issue took about 10 minutes to deal with. It was councillor Linda Mosher’s pet issue, so she introduced the motion, and a half-dozen councillors seconded it. Councillor Bill Karsten spoke sensibly against it, saying council shouldn’t be dealing with such trivial issues. Then council voted 7-7, but Savage’s tie-breaking yes vote meant the motion passed.
In contrast, the reconciliation proclamation unfolded solemnly. Savage gave a heartfelt speech, pointing out that mayors in cities out west with large First Nations populations often open their meetings by acknowledging that their City Hall is on un-ceded territory. The history of Nova Scotia starts with the Mi’kmaq, said Savage, and we’ve ignored them too long.
Savage was followed by councillor Waye Mason, who said that the Mi’kmaq contribute economically and culturally to our community. Councillor Jennifer Watts broke out in tears as she said “this is the most important vote I’ve had made as councillor.” Several other councillors spoke of the important symbolism of the vote. Council then voted unanimously in favour of the proclamation.
After the vote, Watts and Pam Glode-Desrochers, the director of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, embraced, perhaps unaware that they were enacting the very promise of the proclamation.
Look, neither the donair nor the reconciliation proclamation have the force of law or commit the city to any action. They’re symbolic. But so far as symbols have meaning — and the broad support the donair proclamation had on social media sure suggests it held meaning for lots and lots of people — then surely the reconciliation proclamation is the one we should be paying attention to, no?
3. Landon Webb
Landon Webb is the 25-year-old man who was declared “missing” a couple of times in recent weeks after leaving the Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Waterville, where he was kept under terms of the Incompetent Persons Act.
Webb’s situation has bothered me from the start. It was yet another “missing person” case in which full details were not provided to the public. Webb’s parents say he suffers from anxiety disorders and other medical conditions, and when he was younger his parents had him declared an incompetent person with the mental ability of a 10 year old. But Webb was free to leave the rehab centre as he pleased, and after he left he evidently was never in any danger — he simply decided to travel and work on his own, as any free person can in a country that values liberty.
He now says he intends to challenge the Incompetent Persons Act, reports CTV:
Dalhousie law professor Sheila Wildeman says it’s time for the province to take a look at its Incompetent Persons Act.
“It’s retaining its roots in 18th century English guardianship law and in not having really moved too far from its roots,” said Wildeman. “The standard is an overbroad, vague, global, sort of all or nothing statement of incapacity.”
A person who’s been declared incompetent is legally unable to make the most basic decisions, including where they live and who they work with.
“I feel that no one should have the right over someone else. I’m a person, a human being, not some piece of property. I should have my voice heard. I should be able to choose where I live, not have someone else choose it for me,” [Webb] said last week as he prepared to leave Alberta.
He called his treatment discriminatory and upsetting.
“To see that I was all over the news with the intellectual level of a 10 to 12-year-old, and to see all the comments people make about me? It’s very upsetting, to say the least.”
He said he spoke to police in Edmonton to show he was safe and not in danger. But he has since returned to Nova Scotia, and said he intends to overturn the mentally incompetent declaration.
“I’m not saying they were wrong at the time deeming me incompetent, but now that I’ve grown up and grown older, I expect I can prove my competency to the courts,” he said, adding that the testing required to do that costs thousands of dollars.
Over the past few decades we rightly have been trying to integrate people with mental disabilities into the community. Some people may need some level of social support, but if people can work and live on their own, they should.
4. Pedestrian struck
An overnight email from police Staff Sergeant Greg Mason to reporters:
At approximately 7:50 pm Halifax Regional Police responded to a car vs pedestrian collision at the intersection of Woodlawn Rd and Mount Edward Rd in Dartmouth. A car, driven by a 59-year-old female was travelling Eastbound on Woodlawn Rd and turning left onto the Northbound section of Woodlawn Rd at Mount Edward Rd where a pedestrian was crossing in a marked crosswalk. The 52-year-old female pedestrian was taken to hospital by EHS paramedics for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the car was issued a Summary Offence ticket for Failing to Yield to Pedestrian in a Marked Crosswalk.
5. Fake tickets
“A firm hired to enforce parking rules in downtown Halifax and Dartmouth has fired two of its employees — including a supervisor — after city staff discovered they were writing hundreds of so-called phantom parking tickets,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
A lawyer hired to represent Independent Security Services Atlantic — the company for which the two employees worked — said the workers weren’t actually walking the walk looking for violations.
“Essentially these two individuals were taking time off from work and inventing tickets,” said Tim Hill.
“The tickets they invented were not for Nova Scotia vehicles. They were for out-of-province vehicles so it took a little longer for that to come to light.”
1. The Casket and the Chronicle Herald
“The Casket, which dutifully and professionally reported Antigonish-area news for the past 163 years, is no longer available on local newsstands,” writes Adam Cooke in the Port Hawkesbury Reporter:
The Casket has been repurposed to cover Antigonish, Guysborough, Inverness and Richmond counties, and it’s available for free in the package of flyers tossed in your driveway every week, replacing a Casket-published flier-wrapper that attempted to reach the same region over the previous decade, The Quad County Extra.
The Casket is also now included in the Wednesday edition of The Chronicle Herald, which purchased the newspaper and its accompanying print shop from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish three years ago. The sale officially took place under the supposedly-arms-length company Brace Capital, run by Herald publisher Sarah Dennis, but the first edition of the new Casket made it crystal-clear that this is indeed a Herald product.
Now the people of James River, Cribbons Point, Auld’s Cove and everywhere in-between have to accept an operation that has three Antigonish-based reporters – albeit three very good ones – scrambling to cover news and sports in four counties, as part of The Herald’s predatory campaign to shore up its Strait area advertising revenue and hobble other community newspapers in the process.
They also have to accept editorial direction that devalues the work of community newspapers themselves. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll point out that I worked with Casket editor Brian Lazzuri for a year as the Cape Breton correspondent for a monthly newspaper published by the operation, The Atlantic Catholic. I shuddered as I read Lazzuri’s editorial for the “new” Casket’s first edition, with the intelligence-insulting statement that “we now live in a world where people feel that information is, or should be, free.” I somehow doubt he felt that way under The Casket’s previous existence, or he wouldn’t have charged anybody for newsstand copies.
What finally sparked me to write about this attempt to fleece Antigonish-area residents out of the community newspaper they came to know and love was the realization that its new owners seem willing to do anything to sell copies and secure advertising revenue in an increasingly fractured media landscape.
The Casket is now run by the same people who responded to the 2009 conviction of Penny Boudreau in the murder of her 12-year-old daughter Karissa by running six full pages’ worth of articles and commentary, including a map of the route Boudreau allegedly used to dispose of her daughter’s body and the huge front-page headline, “Dying Karissa’s last words: ‘Mommy, don’t!’”
The Casket is now operated by the same people who, to this day, still use the phrase “Murder for Lobster” in covering the death of Philip Boudreau. (Let’s hope sounder judgment rules the day if The Casket decides to cover this case on its own in the coming weeks.)
The Casket is now operated by an organization that felt the best way to handle the world-shaking mid-November attacks on Paris and its people was the unavoidably-large front-page headline “Paris Bloodbath.”
The Casket is now operated by the same people who devoted half their December 2 front page to a photo of the wreckage from the previous day’s horrific accident that took the lives of a young teacher and two local students, under the headline “TRAGEDY ON OUR HIGHWAYS.” (The capital letters are theirs, not mine.)
Those left behind to pick up the pieces of a once-proud newspaper, and the thousands now left without the news organization that faithfully served their interests, have my sympathy.
You all had a great thing going with The Casket. I’m truly saddened to see the new corporate order thank you for that support with a complete and utter betrayal.
2. Cranky letter of the day
Halifax has once again embarrassed itself through its amateurish government, waste of politicians’ and bureaucrats’ time and astonishing policy considerations.
The donair initiative may not be a new low, but it is perilously close to it, perhaps second only to the endless dog dirt deliberations.
Coun. Linda Mosher’s successful push for the donair as an official food is at best laughable. Let me count the ways:
1. The Halifax-style donair is an acquired taste for those who, in specific terms, may be lacking in culinary taste;
2. It is a pale reflection of the authentic item as served in many countries in the Middle East; here, it is mystery meat and a sauce made of — get this — sweetened condensed milk and some garlic;
3. The press about the donair is a mix of tongue-in-cheek writing, cheap filler for publications that can’t afford real reportage and sub-rosa chuckling by editors;
4. The notion that the donair is in any measure meaningful to bringing tourists (and university students!) to Halifax is not merely unsubstantiated, it is silly;
5. That the city’s staff has chosen to wash its hands of the issue demonstrates the underlying folly of it — why incur the wrath of the donairites on council?
We still have some seafood, don’t we? How about some fish and chips?
Tim Leary, Halifax
City council (9:30am, City Hall) — council continues with budget deliberations; today looking at the Transit budget.
St. Pat’s High School (6pm, Atlantica Hotel) — “A second presentation and open house to review the feedback from the first open house, and present the proposed land use by-law regulations and plan amendments” for the St. Pat’s High School site. More info here.
The city this morning released a Request for Proposals for a “Cogswell District Energy System Feasibility Study.” As I understand it, the idea is that when the Cogswell Interchange is torn down the reconstruction will connect Purdy’s Wharf, the sewage treatment plant, and whatever new buildings are constructed on the interchange site with a district heating and (perhaps) cooling system. Such a system could use the harbour as a sort of heat sink, as the Alderney Landing system does in Dartmouth.
Legislature sits (11am–1:30pm, Province House)
This date in history
On December 9, 1668, Samuel Vetch, the first English Governor of Nova Scotia, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. His story as told in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography is, in a word, hilarious:
…Vetch later acquired military experience in the battles of the War of the League of Augsburg, rising to the rank of captain. At war’s end, he sailed in the ambitious Scottish expedition to Darien* (Central America), was elected to the council of that ill-starred colony, and in August 1699 arrived in New York with the starving survivors of the project.
His commanding presence and natural gifts earned him easy acceptance amongst the merchant families of New York. In late 1700 he married Margaret, sister of John Livingston and daughter of the prominent Scottish merchant, Robert Livingston, Lord of the Manor of Livingston, member of the New York council, and holder of important posts in Albany. Vetch shortly began a lucrative, though illegal, trade with New France. Disclosure of his ventures, combined with political disruption of the colony and the outbreak of Queen Anne’s War (War of the Spanish Succession), occasioned his removal to Boston, where by 1705 he could see the possibility of undertaking new trading ventures to Canada under the cover of negotiations for prisoner exchange. Governor Dudley entrusted him with returning Augustin Le Gardeur de Courtemanche to Quebec in the summer of 1705; the latter was carrying Dudley’s reply to proposals made by Governor Rigaud de Vaudreuil. Vetch used the opportunity to assess the resources of New France and to attempt to re-establish trading connections. He eventually found opportunities for trade in Acadia. Combining trade with espionage, Vetch and other Boston ship-captains continued their activities until public outcry forced an end to this illegal trade. Many people were alarmed that weapons were among the articles going to Acadia. Tried and convicted by the Massachusetts General Court in 1706, Vetch went to England where, the following year, he obtained acquittal from the Privy Council on the grounds that the Massachusetts legislature had exceeded its authority.
At once Vetch advanced a larger project to Queen Anne’s court; nothing less than the conquest of New France…
The conquest of Nova Scotia is similarly convoluted. Read the whole thing.
* The failed colony of Darien in Panama, it is argued, was ultimately the end of an independent Scotland: “The Darien disaster seems to have persuaded hard-headed Scotsmen that their country could not prosper by itself, but needed access to England’s empire, and it helped to pave the way for the Act of Union between the two countries in 1707,” reads History Today. “Under the Act the investors in the Darien scheme were quietly compensated for their losses at taxpayers’ expense.”
Thesis defence, Chemistry (9am, Room 309, Schulich School of Law) — PhD candidate Jennifer Melanson will defend her thesis, “Functionalization of Mono- and Dipyrrolic Compounds.”
Thesis defence, Biology (9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Aditya Pandey will defend his thesis, “Expression, Purification and Biophysical Characterization of Large Fragments of the Apelin Receptor Enabling Delineation of a Juxtamembrane Helix with Amphipathicity Necessary for Plasma Membrane Localization.”
Minority Report (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of the 2002 film.
American Indian poet, actor, spoken word artist, and political activist John Trudell died yesterday.
“I’m just a human being trying to make it in a world that is very rapidly losing its understanding of being human,” said Trudell:
In the harbour
I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm.