1. Macdonald Bridge
“Deck replacement on the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge will not begin over the Thanksgiving weekend, and officials with Halifax Harbour Bridges now hope the Big Lift will finally get underway Oct. 16.,” reports the CBC’s Pam Berman.
Berman goes on to say that the work was originally scheduled to begin in “early September,” but actually the bridge commission initially said the first deck segment would be replaced the weekend of August 28.
“Some guy at the bar said” shouldn’t be taken as reliable reporting, but for what it’s worth, some guy at the bar told me the project is three months behind schedule. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing; as project manager Jon Eppell told Berman:
“By nature engineers are quite cautious,” Eppell said. “We need to make sure we’re 100 percent happy before we proceed.”
“We’re not going to be rushed into it,” Eppell said. “We only get one shot at doing it right and so we’ve got to get it right the first time.”
A job of this magnitude necessarily involves great potential risk — five workers died during construction of the bridge in the 1950s, so a surplus of caution during its reconstruction is warranted.
2. Deed transfer tax
At yesterday’s council meeting, deputy mayor Lorelei Nicoll asked for a staff report that will examine waiving the deed transfer tax for first-time home buyers:
Motion for Council to Consider:
That Regional Council request a staff report to examine the options of amending the policy regarding the collection of the Deed Transfer Tax. This could include waiving the DTT for first-time buyers, extending the DTT over a five (5) year payment period for first time or all buyers or reducing the DTT.
Most municipalities in Nova Scotia charge a fee for deed transfers in accordance with provincial legislation and the Municipal Government Act. The transfer tax is applied every time a property is bought and sold. However, over the last number of years the Nova Scotia housing market has been in decline. With municipal governments facing financial hardships, and the housing market facing a decline, DTT revenues are down across the province. There are many compelling arguments for repealing, reducing, or waiving the tax – the ability to appeal to newcomers, stimulate local economies, build more vibrant communities and all the spin-off benefits that result from new home purchases. Amending DTT in Halifax will provide not only a stable and predictable revenue source for the municipal government, but will also stimulate the local housing market, encourage more spin-off purchases, and give Halifax a competitive edge when new residents are looking for a home.
This is a rotten idea. As councillor Linda Mosher pointed out, how does one even define “first-time home buyer”? If one spouse puts a home in their name, and the second spouse puts another home in their name, does that constitute two first-time buyers? If a billionaire buys the $6 million penthouse at the Trillium, should they get the tax write-down? Do we scour public records in every country to make sure someone has never bought a house anywhere before, or is it open for every first time buyer in Halifax?
But besides those problems with definitions, the notion that the city should “stimulate” the real estate market is absurd. If anything, the market is over-stimulated already, and in a bubble. The deed transfer tax actually serves as a check on an over-heated market, making the purchasing and flipping of homes a slightly less attractive option.
3. Rec centre management
Council also yesterday moved forward a report on the management of rec centres across the municipality. This is a complex and politically fraught issue that deserves more time than I can give it right now. The effect of yesterday’s vote, however, isn’t immediate — the issue will come back before council in the spring, so I’ll visit the issue in depth at that time.
4. Bicyclist struck
From this morning’s end-of-shift email police send to reporters:
At approximately 9:30 pm Halifax Regional Police responded to a report of a vehicle vs cyclist accident at the intersection of Robie St and Welsford St in Halifax. A 17 year old male driver was travelling Southbound on Robie St where he struck a 22 year old female cyclist who was riding her bike within a marked crosswalk. Emergency Health Services paramedics treated the cyclist for minor injuries at the scene. A decision on charges will be made at the completion of the investigation.
5. Jobs, filled and unfilled
[I]n terms of what Natolino’s exit means for the municipality come Jack Frost’s arrival, Savage insisted that residents are in good hands.
“We’ve put in place our plan for this winter, regardless of who the people are at the specific positions,” he said.
“Darrin’s fingerprints are all over it, so we appreciate the work he’s done and we wish him well,” Savage said Tuesday, adding Natolino has accepted a job with the private sector.
Savage also said he fully expects to see Natolino’s position filled, but that falls under the responsibility of the city’s Chief Administrative Officer and the director of the department.
Well, except that to fill Natolino’s position, presumably the city must first advertise for the job. But as of this morning, six days after Natolino quit, the job is still not listed on the city’s website. I don’t know if it takes six days to write a job description, or whether this is an example of “vacancy management.”
But what’s the hurry, right? The first snowfall is probably weeks away.
While the superintendent of winter operations position hasn’t been advertised, yesterday the city did advertise 11 other job openings, including for a mechanic, a fleet supervisor, a corporate safety consultant, among others. Perhaps the most telling indication of the city’s priorities, however, is that while the city isn’t actively recruiting a winter operations supervisor, it has advertised for a “Brand Integrity Lead“:
Halifax Regional Municipality is inviting applications for the permanent position of Brand Integrity Lead with Corporate Communications.
Under the direction of the Managing Director, Corporate Communications, the Brand Integrity Lead is responsible for managing multiple projects to align all Municipal communications collateral, electronic advertising and website identities with the HALIFAX brand and the municipality’s organizational needs. The position is accountable for ensuring the Brand Integrity Team is engaging best practices processes, roles and technologies as it relates to visual identity, use of visual media, and print production. The Manager, Brand Integrity, will collaborate with Corporate Communications management in the development and implementation of a strong, coordinated HALIFAX brand proposition, and is responsible for its integrity in any advertising campaigns with external agencies.
The first duty of the new brand integrity lead should be to adjust all the keyboards in city offices so that the bar on the “A”s doesn’t appear when people type “HALIFAX brand.”
The position pays $55,000 – $77,000 annually, and you get to go to work in Duke Tower. Well, unless it’s snowing — then all bets are off.
6. More on social engineering
Monday I published my fears of the city testing its computer security under the admittedly over-the-top headline “Richard Butts wants to use your private Facebook messages against you.” I was responding to a tender offer published at midnight, and I publish Morning File before government offices are open with anyone available to comment, so necessarily sometimes I get things wrong. I did publish all the comments telling me I was wrong about it, and yesterday I published the complete response from the city rejecting my read on the issue. I then wrote: “City spokesperson Jennifer Stairs says my read of the threat assessment tender offer is all wet…A lot of readers agree with Stairs, so what do I know? Still, I don’t want my boss trolling my Facebook page. That guy’s an asshole.”
I thought that was clear — I even called myself an asshole — but a quartet of computer guys hounded me all morning yesterday on Twitter, basically telling me I wasn’t repentant enough. As they told me, testing social engineering is a common sense, routine procedure that deals only with publicly available material and doesn’t break any laws. My vague fear of untoward management intrusion into the private lives of employees are meritless, they said.
Thinking about it, I realized that actually in my own research I’m forever trolling people’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to get information, so there was more than a bit of hypocrisy on my part. (For the record: When I’m researching people I never break any laws, and I abide by all accepted journalistic ethical standards.)
So, forget everything I wrote. I was wrong. Damn me to some circle of hell, the one with never-ending Zip drive clicks.
1. Voting problems
Wendy Elliot details the problems her brother-in-law faced while trying to cast a vote in the federal election.
Stephen Archibald posts “some photos [of the Halifax waterfront] I took one dreary afternoon in about 1980“:
Much of the waterfront had been levelled and the Waterfront Development Corporation was just starting to establish the form that that is still evolving .
To get a good view of the bleak landscape I climbed a huge pile of rubble that was stockpiled near the water across from the Keith’s Brewery complex… From this vantage point I took “panoramas” of the surroundings.
3. Cranky letter of the day
I read with interest Bill Spurr’s article, “A rose that everyone can enjoy,” in your Oct. 5 edition. Interested in horticulture, I was hoping to read about this fragrant flower, despite the large photo of a gentleman pouring what looked like wine into several wine glasses.
We all know that “A rose is a rose is a rose,” but is “A rosé is a rosé is a rosé”? There’s a big difference between the flower and the wine, both fragrant, of course.
It would be nice if The Chronicle Herald kept up with other sophisticated newspapers in major Canadian cities and respected the correct spelling of French words in our officially bilingual country. As a French-Canadian Haligonian who has subscribed to your paper for over 35 years, I would be pleased to see the correct spelling of French words such as garçon, élève, Noël, sûre, etc., in future editions, as would other cognoscenti readers of all languages.
For example, I get all these variants of the letter “a” just on my iPhone: à á â ä æ ã å, and that’s just the first letter of the alphabet. Looking forward to reading all future editions of your fine paper.
Pierre Perron, Halifax
North West Planning Advisory Committee (7pm, the four-pad arena in Bedford with the name of a fucking bank plastered on it) — the committee will look at two proposals to change the Bedford land use bylaws, one to permit auto body repair shops in the Industrial zoning category, the second to amend the definition of “special care facilities.”
Public Accounts (9am, Province House) — George McLellan, the Deputy Minister of Finance, will respond to questions about Chapters 2, 3, and 7 in the Auditor General’s report, respectively dealing with Unfunded Employee Retirement Benefits and Compensated Absences; Indicators of Financial Position; and Finance Follow-up.
On this date in 1763, Cape Breton was annexed into Nova Scotia. The Royal Proclamation states:
We have also, with the Advice of Our Privy Council, thought fit to annex the Islands of St. John’s, and Cape Breton, or Isle Royale, with the lesser Islands adjacent thereto, to Our Government of Nova Scotia.
Two-Spirit Mental Health (12:30pm, 3H1, 3rd Floor Tupper Building) — Margaret Robinson will speak on “Two-Spirit Mental Health and Cultural Continuity.”
Rush to the border (12:30pm, Mona Campbell Building, Room 3107) — Michelle Legassicke and Andrew Bergel will talk about “Rush to the Border: Internal and External Stresses from Migration on the European Union“:
This presentation examines current European Union (EU) migratory policy as it is challenged by both internal and external stressors. Legassicke and Bergel seek to explain the clear disjunction between EU policy and the growing reality of migration. The vulnerable developing states on the EU periphery are destabilized and eventually failed states that now exist as both primary origin sources and transit routes for irregular migrants attempting to gain entry into the European Union. The focus in this talk will be on the trans-Mediterranean maritime routes, current EU policy, classifications and duty under international law for migrants, and possible future trends of migration into the EU.
Oncochannel TRPV6 (4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link) — Jack Stewart, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Soricimed Biopharma Inc., will speak on “Targeting the oncochannel TRPV6: deployment of TRPV6-binding peptides for treatment and diagnosis.”
Smith Shield Moot Court (7pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — the gazillion people who are paid PR professionals at Dalhousie couldn’t manage to get this posted on any of university’s events listings pages, so we’re left with hearing about it from Parker Donham:
Tonight at Dalhousie University’s Weldon Law Building, Lauren Soubolsky and Kathryn Piché will stand up for the rule of law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when they defend one Ron Campbell against a charge he violated the Nova Scotia Elections Act by photographing his ballot in the 2011 provincial election and tweeting the resulting image.
In reality, there is no Ron Campbell, at least none who used his cell phone camera in a ballot booth three years ago. However his apocryphal actions may call to mind the notorious acts of a blogger familiar to you.
Soubolsky and Piché are third year law students defending an imaginary case with familiar facts before the 2015 Smith Shield Moot Court presided over by Appeal Court Justice Joel Fichaud, Supreme Court Justice Denise Boudreau, and Barristers’ Society President Jill Perry. (A moot court is a mock proceeding at which law students argue imaginary cases for practice.)
The Magnetic Monster (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of the 1953 film by director Curt Siodmak:
With an ending set in Cape Breton, and a chunk taken from a 1930s German epic, The Magnetic Monster manages to blend ‘hard’ Science Fiction with pulp elements to produce a surprisingly effective cold-war thriller about an experiment with a radioactive particle gone wrong.
IMBD relates this scene from the film:
Gen. Behan: The Canadian government operates a top-secret plant in Nova Scotia. They own the most powerful Deltatron in existence. When they realize the common danger, they’ll let us use it.
Mayor: Nova Scotia is 4000 miles away. The period between cycles is 11 hours. How are we gonna transport it there in that time?
Gen. Behan: Our jets travel at 600 miles an hour. And what’s more, the new alloys used in our jets are non-magnetic. They will not be affected by the cargo. You, Dr. Stewart, and Forbes can follow in another plane, just in case.
[picks up phone]
Gen. Behan: Operator, this is General Behan. Give me Washington. Connect me with the Secretary of Defense.
[to Dr. Stewart and Mayor]
Gen. Behan: I like this world. Let’s keep it in one piece. Or at least, let’s try.
In the harbour
Helga, cargo, Mantazas, Cuba to Pier 31
ZIM New York, container ship, New York to Pier 42, then sails to sea
ZIM Texas, container ship, Valencia, Spain to Pier 41
Halifax Express, container ship, New York to Fairview Cove
The cruise ship Caribbean Princess, with up to 3,080 passengers, is in port today.
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm.