1. Yarmouth ferry
“Friday, Sept. 25. is the deadline for potential service providers to let the province know why they would be best suited to operate the ferry service between Yarmouth, N.S. and Portland, Maine,” writes the Yarmouth Vanguard’s Tina Comeau:
The province issued a Request for Submissions (RFS) on Sept. 8 to four potential service providers, including the current operator, Nova Star Cruises.
The deadline for submissions is Sept. 25 and, from the wording of the RFS, this isn’t an exercise the province intends to carry out on a frequent basis.
“The province anticipates executing the Funding Agreement covering the 10-year period (2016 through 2025) with the proponent by Oct. 31, 2015,” the RFS reads.
In December, the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission announced the schedule for reconstruction of the Macdonald Bridge. At that time, the first of 46 deck segment replacements was to happen the weekend of August 28, 2015. But here we are four weeks past August 28, and still no deck segment replacement. Is the reconstruction project already behind schedule?
Not according to the Bridge Commission spokesperson, the perfectly named Alison MacDonald. “Publishing a definitive schedule for when we would start replacing deck segments for a project of this size and scope was not the right approach to take,” she wrote me in an email. “There are just too many details that need to be absolutely correct before we can proceed. The schedule still has all 46 deck segments replaced by the fall of 2016.”
Hmmm. I guess we have to take MacDonald’s word for it, but the initial delay doesn’t bode well. If replacing each of the remaining 45 segments takes four weeks longer than anticipated, the project will be completed sometime in 2021.
Let’s hope the Big Lift isn’t a Big Letdown.
3. Homicide, no charges
Following up on Sunday’s release about the death of an 81-year-old man in a retirement home, Halifax police yesterday issued the following release:
A death of a resident at a continuing care facility in Halifax over the weekend has been ruled a homicide.
Police were called to Parkstone Enhanced Care, operated by Shannex and located at 156 Parkland Drive, on the morning of September 20 in relation to an 81-year-old male resident passing away on Saturday, September 19 at 10:30 p.m. Based on the investigation, it’s believed that an altercation occurred between the man and a 71-year-old male resident earlier in the week, resulting in the victim falling down and subsequently passing away. The Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy today and the death has been ruled a homicide.
Investigators in the Homicide Unit of the Integrated Criminal Investigation have completed their investigation and, in consultation with the Public Prosecution Service, have determined that charges won’t be laid in this matter based on the suspect not being criminally culpable due to his cognitive impairment. The file has been closed without charges.
4. Toll roads
People in rural areas appear to have unlimited patience with this government. The Liberals have already closed rural land registry offices and courthouses and rejected what appear to be well-thought-out and innovative plans for keeping schools in small towns open. Now the Liberals are suggesting tolls on highways, the essential transportation links for small communities.
The provincial government has hired an engineering and design company to determine the cost of adding eight toll highway sections in Nova Scotia.
CBCL Ltd. will conduct the study, examining a total of 301.2 kilometres of 100-series highways.
Four sections of Highway 104 will be looked at: St. Peter’s to Sydney, Sutherlands River to Antigonish, Taylors Road to Aulds Cove and Port Hastings to Port Hawkesbury.
Two sections of Highway 101 — Three Mile Plains to Falmouth and Hortonville to Coldbrook — will be included.
The other two portions are on Highway 103 — Exit 5 at Upper Tantallon to Exit 12 at Bridgewater — and Highway 107 — Porters Lake to Duke Street in Bedford.
It was before my time in Nova Scotia, but I’m told that part of former Premier John Savage’s collapse in popularity had to do with Savage’s backing of the Cobequid Pass toll road. And here another Liberal government is thinking about adding eight more toll roads.
To be sure, there are safety issues on the two-lane 100 series highways. People die with alarming regularity on the roads. It doesn’t appear, however, that anyone has thought of safety measures short of twinning: adding more frequent passing lanes, building Australian-style separation barriers between the opposing directions of travel, or even something as simple as having recessed reflectors in the roadway, which don’t get destroyed by snow plows. California has installed the recessed reflectors on the mountain passes in the past few years, and it’s made a world of difference — they’d work great in fogbound Nova Scotia. I’m not sure why they haven’t been considered.
But maybe for whatever reason, the half measures won’t work and twinning the highways is the best solution to the safety issues. Good enough. Building and maintaining the transportation network is one of the essential, fundamental responsibilities of government. But here the Liberal government is trying to think of ways of avoiding paying for it, or rather, shifting the costs to a user-pay system in order to avoid increasing the provincial debt.
But either way, tolls or debt servicing, taxpayers will pay for the twinning projects. The Liberals are playing silly games with paper financing in order to avoid criticism at the next election. And ultimately, putting tolls on the roads — especially if it involves bringing in private “partners” — will end up costing taxpayers far more than simply borrowing the money.
Instead, they should listen to federal Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau. Out on the campaign trail, Trudeau is advocating for increasing the federal debt to pay for new and needed public works project. Such investments pay of themselves in increased economic activity, jobs, and the taxes they generate, Trudeau argues. Moreover, with interest rates at historic lows, now’s the time to borrow.
Trudeau is right. Government shouldn’t spend recklessly, but if twinning the highways is necessary, then the government should borrow the money and build them, instead of nickel and diming drivers at every turn.
1. You’re either on the bus or off the bus
A few years ago, Metro Transit (as it was called then) announced that it was doing away with the Sambro bus. Those who relied on the bus were of course upset, and organized to reverse the decision.
I don’t know what else the bus route supporters did, but part of their activism evidently entailed having a crazy woman call me up every few days and scream into the phone at me. I don’t know why she was angry at me — I had nothing to do with the decision, and over some friendly conversation, I could probably have been convinced of the merits of their cause. After all, I like buses and want to see more people on them. But the crazy woman simply berated me, never letting me get a word in edgewise. Once I set the phone on my desk, got up, walked into the kitchen, started a pot of coffee, waited for it to brew, poured a cup, went back to my desk, and she was still screaming away from the phone, oblivious to my five-minute absence.
I ended our relationship, such as it was, after the fourth or fifth berating, screaming phone call, the only way I could: I screamed back at her and hung up. And fearing a barrage of more phone calls, I never wrote about the Sambro bus.
I tell this story only because it illustrates that there are better and worse ways to get this particular reporter on your side. Does it matter if I personally am on your side? Maybe not: the Sambro bus activists won their cause, and there is a Sambro bus to this day. I guess having crazed people screaming at hapless reporters can be part of a successful transit advocacy strategy. Just, I don’t like it.
I prefer Stephen Archibald’s approach, mixing outrage with pretty pictures, a couple of good jokes, and a literary reference involving lots of LSD. He explains:
Halifax Transit wants to eliminate our bus. No bus, not less bus. NO BUS. If you’re interested, I can tell you what this feels like.
The route in question is part of the #15 from Williams Lake Rd, through Boulderwood, Purcells Cove, Fergusons Cove, ending at York Redoubt National Historic Site. My stop is just a weathered sign on the shoulder of the road.
Of course from the shoulder of the road, and then riding the bus into the Mumford Terminal, Archibald discovers wonders: the flowers blooming in the ditch at the bus stop, the forlorn wait in the driving freezing rain. “There is probably no prettier bus ride than the #15,” he writes. “About 20 miinutes to the Mumford Terminal gives some time for peaceful reading or just gazing out the window without intent.”
Archibald explains that he moved to his cove — his Twitter handle is @Cove17 — in large part because of the bus:
When we moved to our community, over 20 years ago, bus service was one of the benefits that added to the charms of the area. We once owned two cars but with the bus as backup, that is no longer necessary.
Our coves are not the distant suburbs. We look across the Arm and harbour to Halifax and Dartmouth and even I can remember when there was a tiny passenger ferry from Purcells Cove to the tip of Point Pleasant Park. The proposed new route for the bus would go through some developer’s subdivision, blasted out of backlands, that was built without the prospect of bus service and folks moved there knowing there was no bus. We thought about transit when we moved here but now it feels like we are now being punished.
“I guess low ridership is the issue for Halifax Transit,” he continues. “I would frame it more as a failure to provide services that would encourage more ridership.” As an example, Archibald takes aim at the Mumford terminal, the terminus for the #15:
Spryfield is the natural shopping and service area for our coves but we can’t get there by bus. So the Mumford Bus Terminal and Halifax Shopping Centre are our hub. I can’t say enough bad things about the soul sucking dreariness of the Mumford Terminal.
Halifax Transit says they will build a new terminal next decade. The present setup is owned and maintained by the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund (Halifax Shopping Centre). We live in a northern land yet there is limited weather protection, limited seating, nothing to help strangers, nothing to encourage joy .
Because the #15 runs once an hour I have often had to wait and think about the short comings of Mumford. No one with any authority appears to care about the 1000s of people who use the terminal daily.
Like buddy in the photograph, I sat on the curb last week, among the cigarette butts, with my bag of CSA vegetables. That was my best option.
Archibald ends on a up note: “I’m going to try and use the bus more and celebrate little pleasures when I find them,” he writes, then shows us another pretty picture.
I’m convinced. For dog’s sake, Halifax Transit: SAVE STEPHEN ARCHIBALD’S BUS!!!!! Forget wifi and real-time GPS — wait, don’t forget those. But Archibald is exactly the kind of cultured, erudite and just plain pleasant bus passenger we need more of.
2. Campaign finance
Sam Austin completes his three-part series on campaign finance issues in Halifax city issues, this time reviewing what options are available.
Jan Wong details her son’s love life.
4. Cranky letter of the day
I can’t understand how some people describe the music downtown saying they detest it.
I and many others like the music. Honestly, I have never heard anyone verbally complain about the music in my earshot.
To say that it is loud, screeching and screaming is untrue. I walk downtown almost daily and listen and check the volume. I hear nice music at a suitable level. Often it is hard to hear with passing traffic because it is played so low.
When it comes to listening to the “real sounds of the sea” downtown, you would have to turn off the music to hear it, ban regular traffic, loud muffler traffic, and loud gas powered bicycles that rip down Main Street at regular intervals.
I don’t always need to hear seagulls squawk, or see their droppings all over rooftops downtown. Shouldn’t rooftops get washed? How pretty is that? I don’t like seeing seagull droppings or feathers on our sidewalks either, yet I don’t protest seagulls. They evolved here because of our fish business, so I accept it.
I don’t care to see naked mannequins in storefronts either, ever. I don’t like to hear about shoppers complaining about horrible customer service either, ever. To make endless complaints about the downtown airwaves is getting old and getting nowhere.
How come no complaints about the noise on Main Street from music on the waterfront? How come no complaints about the Antique Car Show shutting the street down?
Our community is evolving and growing. When it comes to thinking that you are not of the complaining minority, think again, because I don’t see a huge group of protesters standing downtown everyday asking to shut off the music, and I doubt I ever will. But I certainly hear you, and that is just as upsetting for the rest of us who enjoy the music, and we are the majority.
Kevin Vallillee, Yarmouth
City council (10am, City Hall) — I’ll be live-blogging the meeting via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.
The most interesting issue on the agenda is what to do about the bicycle lane on the Macdonald Bridge. Cyclists say that the reconstruction project now underway presents a wonderful opportunity to address the problematic ramp that leads to the bridge — as it was before the reconstruction project, cyclists had to start or end their journey at the bottom of the hill, on Barrington Street below the bridge, and pedal up a very steep grade to either cross the bridge or to get to their destinations on the peninsula.
The best solution to the problem is to build a “flyover ramp” taking bicyclists over the lanes of car and bus traffic. Explains the staff report:
Flyover Ramp to Lorne Terrace and Bikeway to Gottingen
As illustrated in Figures 5 and 6, this option proposes a bow shaped bridge that begins at the existing bikeway just above the west pier of the Macdonald Bridge (about 10m above North Street). From here it follows the curve of North Street and descends for 90m at a gentle slope (3%) to land just before Lorne Terrace (entrance to CFB Stadacona). From this point a two-way bikeway would be explored in the green space in the North Street right-of-way between North Street and CFB Stadacona and connecting to Gottingen Street.
Figure 5: Flyover to Lorne Terrace/ Bikeway to Gottingen
Figure 6: Rendering of Flyover Ramp to Lorne Terrace
This option would avoid the 10% slope from the bridge but would require the use of CFB Stadacona property, including the relocation of a large stone privacy wall. There may also need to be modifications to the Gottingen / North Street intersection to make the final connection to the painted bicycle lanes on North Street proposed in the AT Plan. It would provide good access from origins and destinations in the north (e.g. north end of the peninsula), west (e.g. western mainland and peninsula west end) and south (e.g. commons, hospitals and universities).
The problem? A $2 million price tag.
Council is being presented with some other options, including an absurd flyover ramp from the north side of the bridge to the south side of North Street, and a ridiculous but cheap “zig zag ramp” on the south side of the bridge, making the steep incline up the hill a little less onerous.
No public meetings.
On this date in 1939, working women in Nova Scotia cities received a new minimum wage of 22 cents an hour. Rural women and men had lower minimum wages, and minimum wage laws set different wages for men and women until 1972.
Backhouse and beyond: A public forum on rape culture and the future of Dal (Tuesday, 1pm, McInnis Room, Student Union Building) — Details here.
Health among indigenous peoples (Tuesday, 1pm, Room 1009, Rowe Building) — PhD candidate Amy Bombay will speak on “Looking at history to promote progress in the future: Interdisciplinary research exploring historical and contemporary determinants of health among Indigenous peoples.”
Cuba (Wednesday, 12:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room, Henry Hicks Building) — Julia Sagebien, from the Socially Responsible Enterprise and Local Development project, will speak on “Postcards from the edge of the US embargo of Cuba.”
Lipid Signaling Screens (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link) — Vytas A. Bankaitis, from the Texas A&M University Health Science Centre, will speak on “Phosphatidylinositol Transfer Proteins and the Conversion of Membrane Surfaces to High Definition Lipid Signaling Screens.”
Changing climate, changing oceans (Wednesday, 5:30pm, University Hall, MacDonald Building) — “When examining the impact of climate change in marine research, some experts are particularly concerned about climate regulation, biodiversity, resource, and governance issues,” reads the event listing:
The upcoming United Nations Conference of Paris on Climate Change (COP21 / Paris 2015) at the end of this year provides Dalhousie University and the French Embassy the opportunity to bring together high-level experts in marine research from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss these issues and their future.
Panelists include Vianney Pichereau, Scientific Coordinator of LabexMer, France, Anna Metaxas, Theme Leader of Canadian Healthy Oceans Network and Professor of Oceanography at Dalhousie, Philippe Potin, Research Director and Team Manager, Roscoff Marine Station, France, Aldo Chircop, Acitng Associate Director of the Marine and Environmental Law Institute and Professor of Law at Dalhousie.
“World-class Paleo-Centre” (Wednesday, 6pm, Dalhousie University – ‘The Pub’ – 6259 Alumni Crescent) — This is a fundraiser for the Blue Beach Fossil Museum Society, which wants to build a “world-class Paleo-Centre” at Blue Beach, which is near Avonport, where the Avon River meets the Minas Basin. The Paleo Centre will be a depository for the fossils found nearby. More info here.
Marina Edicott and Carol Bruneau (Tuesday, 7pm, Loyola Academic, Room 170) — from the event listing:
Marina Endicott of Edmonton is the author of four novels, including Good to a Fault, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and Close to Hugh, recently longlisted for the 2015 Giller Prize.
Carol Bruneau of Halifax, author of two story collections and four novels, received the Raddall Fiction Prize and Dartmouth Book Award for Purple for Sky. Her newest novel, These Good Hands, is inspired by the life of the great French sculptor Camille Claudel.
In the harbour
Today is likely the busiest cruise ship day of the season. There are four ships in port: Eurodam (up to 2,044 passengers), Norwegian Dawn (up to 2,224 passengers), Grandeur of the Seas (up to 2,446 passengers), and Brilliance of the Seas (up to 2,501 passengers).
I gotta rush to City Hall. Hate 10am meetings.