1. Macdonald Bridge
“Go do a story on the Macdonald Bridge,” I imagine Metro Editor Philip Croucher telling go-getter reporter Stephanie Taylor. Taylor calls all the right people and works every angle she can, but there’s really nothing new to report: maybe the bridge reconstruction will continue to inconvenience half the town, maybe it won’t. Still, she got the money quote from Bridge Commission spokesperson, Alison MacDonald:
“We can’t open a bridge with a hole in it obviously,” MacDonald explained.
2. Eddie Robar leaves Halifax Transit
Halifax Transit manager Eddie Robar tendered his resignation yesterday, saying he has accepted a job as manager of the Edmonton transit system.
Robar is the seventh high-ranking manager to leave City Hall in recent months. Other recent managers who have left include:
• Mike Labrecque, the Deputy CAO, announced his resignation earlier this month, effective in February. My guess is that he’ll actually be leaving soon and the next few months he’ll be receiving unused sick time and vacation time. It’s been suggested to me that Labrecque’s departure wasn’t entirely his own choice.
• Darrin Natolino, the superintendent of winter operations, resigned abruptly last month, just weeks before the beginning of the snow season. Natolino accepted a job in the private sector.
• Phillip Herritt, the IT manager at Halifax Transit, has given notice, and his last day with the city is November 20.
• Alain Tremblay, manager of information, communications and technology operation, resigned at the beginning of October.
• Tanya Davis, the senior traffic operations engineer, quit in September.
• Chris Mitchell, manager of road operations, went to work for the province, I believe in the summer.
Robar oversaw the expansion of transit services in Halifax, including the addition of one new ferry, dozens of new buses, and several new bus routes, as well as the expansion of several transit terminals. Despite that expansion, transit ridership numbers have barely improved.
Notable events in Robar’s tenure include a costly diesel oil spill at the Burnside bus garage and the 42-day driver strike in 2012.
It’s interesting to read the Edmonton Journal’s take on Robar’s hiring:
Robar oversaw what local media called an “unprecedented overhaul” of the Halifax transit system in his role as director of the transit authority there. His appointment to lead Edmonton Transit was announced Monday.
He’ll start here Jan. 4, just as the city has started a public debate that could potentially lead to an overhaul just as extensive as the one seen in Halifax.
Edmonton’s great bus debate kicked off last month. Transit officials will ask the public how much priority should be put on improving high-frequency, high-ridership routes in a grid across the city, versus making sure at least minimal service exists across the city, among other topics.
Well, except the “overhaul” of bus routes here in Halifax was tepid and restrained. Not all of this is Robar’s fault — council took a watered-down plan and watered it down some more — but neither was Robar a strong advocate for, ahem, bold change. Read the transit advocacy group It’s More Than Buses critique of the plan here.
3. Fuzz owner charged
Remember the cat fight a while back? As I wrote last month:
Fuzz the cat is the subject of a battle between Spryfield resident and cat owner Kara Jenkins and cat rescuer Sarah Fraser, who had Fuzz euthanized. Jenkins told her story first to Global News, while Fraser defended her actions on Facebook. Now of course every news outlet in town is watching the fur fly.
Well, yesterday, the SPCA charged Jenkins:
DARTMOUTH (October 26, 2015) The Nova Scotia SPCA Cruelty Investigations team has charged one Kim Jenkins [Kim Jenkins is Kara’s Jenkins’ mother] for violating the Animal Protection Act on October 21, 2015 – after investigating a situation regarding a feline named ‘Fuzz’. The feline was found by a member of the public, brought to a local veterinarian and euthanized on account of its condition. Jenkins, the cat owner has been charged under Section 22 (b) with failing to provide the animal with adequate medical attention when the animal was wounded or ill.
A Summary Offense Ticket has been issued, in the amount of $406.45. “As Chief Provincial Inspector of the NS SPCA it is my duty to hold persons responsible for cases of neglect and cruelty. This case was no different from any other and after completing our investigation, we decided to charge the individual responsible under the Animal Protection Act on October 21, 2015”, says Jo Anne Landsburg.
4. Suspicious Packages
The Suspicious Packages played New Glasgow yesterday. It’s good for a small town to have a distraction, even if the band was stoned out of their minds.
5. Democratic Party
“The New Democratic Party should drop the word ‘new,’ says former MP Peter Stoffer,” reports the CBC.
While the proposed name change grabbed the headlines, Stoffer also wants more substantive change in the party:
Stoffer, who was among those who pushed for structural party reform in 2001, also favours separating the federal and provincial wings of the NDP.
He also said the party should abandon the 1961 agreement that brought the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and the Canadian Labour Congress together to form the NDP.
“The reality is, labour votes the way they want to vote and that’s the way it should be,” he said. “But no political party should be tied to any … one group over others. We should be a true democratic party for every single Canadian.
6. Ethan Hawke
“Oscar-nominated actor Ethan Hawke is offering his support to Mi’kmaq leaders in Nova Scotia and Quebec in calling for a 12-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” reports Maureen Googoo.
Hawke owns property in Tracadie, and quite consciously used his star power to draw attention to the off-shore drilling issue. And I’m using his star power to draw attention to Googoo’s Kukukwes, an independent aboriginal news site for the Maritimes. Googoo had long worked in mainstream news outlets like the CBC, but is now turning her attention to the new endeavour. It’s worth checking out her work.
1. Commuter rail
It’s up to the newly elected federal Liberals to make commuter rail happen in Halifax, says Erica Butler. First is the matter of money, but as Butler points out, in the grand scheme of things, the cost of the proposed commuter rail system isn’t all that great — the city could handle the cost itself, if the political will was there.
I’m starting to come around on the commuter rail proposal. Oh, to be sure, the cost per-passenger when the line opens will be ridiculously high, but only if you ignore the future costs of the Bayers Road/BiHi widening project, which I estimate at a billion dollars — that’s billion, with a B. If we’re to move forward with commuter rail, however, it has to be with the understanding that the Bayers Road/BiHi project won’t go forward — it should be removed from the regional plan and provincial highway network plans before council commits to commuter rail.
Regardless, Butler says the commuter rail proposal needs the federal Liberals’ help for a second reason: to force CN to cooperate with the city:
More than a third of operating costs for commuter rail would be “track access fees” paid to CN Rail, upward of $3 million a year.
At least we think so. We don’t even have an actual cost estimate from CN. According to one of the consultants who prepared the recent study on commuter rail, “They see this as more of a distraction and a nuisance.”
Well that’s where our newly elected federal representatives need to come in.
It’s been 20 years since the Chrétien Liberals privatized CN, and it will be up to the Trudeau Liberals of 2015 to develop some regulations that give us reasonable access to this vital transportation infrastructure.
2. Cranky letter of the day
No one has written a letter, cranky or otherwise, to the Truro Daily News since June 26. The Yarmouth Vanguard letters page, when it appears, has some wonderfully cranky diatribes on either side of the music-on-the-waterfront debate, but the last one appeared over a month ago. It’s been a couple of weeks since anyone has written to any of the papers collected under the Kings County News banner, but even those letters are boring. The Inverness Oran is usually good for a high-spirited crank, but it’s only a weekly, and they update the website when someone gets around to it, I guess. The worst letters section in the province has got to be the Port Hawkesbury Reporter, so bad I don’t even go there anymore.
What I’m saying is we have a shortage of rural cranks. What are you going to do about that, Mr. Trudeau?
City Council (10am, City Hall) — there are a few things of note on the agenda, including awarding a $1.7 million contract for redesigning the Dartmouth Sportsplex and a housing needs assessment.
But the big issue will surely be the Fort Needham Master Plan. Neighbours to the park have mobilized against the plan, and for good reason: the park is fine as it is. The only reason the proposal is before council is because there’s the idea we have to do something to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Explosion, and Fort Needham Park was once associated with Explosion commemorations so let’s spend millions of dollars to turn it into a tourist attraction.
That goose has flown, however. In our collective orgasm over the federal shipbuilding contract, we somehow didn’t realize that building the gigantic Assembly Hall at Irving Shipyard would block the sightline from the park’s bell tower to the site of the Explosion, and therefore sever all connection between the park and the Explosion. May as well commemorate the Explosion at Shannon Park in Dartmouth, which has a better view of the site.
Or, really, maybe let’s pause on the commemoration idea. I’ve said from the start that I feared the commemoration efforts would go off the rails, and here we are with the train about to turn the corner at the chemical plant next to the elementary school. Stop it. Stop it now. Back that train up and reconsider.
Yes, the Explosion was a horrific event that killed thousands, and terribly injured thousands more. It destroyed much of the city and must have remained a horrific memory for those who survived. On the centennial of the Explosion, it’s worth pausing and considering the pain, the loss, the death, the horror. But there’s commemoration, and then there’s commercialization, and make no mistake: commemoration efforts have so far been about making a buck off this thing. Musicians want their Explosion song adopted as the Official Explosion Song. We’re going to get a trademarked Explosion emblem. And now we’re contemplating spending $5.2 million to transform Fort Needham Park into a Disney-like attraction for tourists.
Look, there’s a perfectly good, extraordinarily good, Explosion exhibit at the Maritime Museum. If there are ways to improve on that, then let’s, but I don’t see the point in moving the whole thing up to Fort Needham Park just so it can be at a blocked view of the Explosion site. Definitely education around the Explosion should be part of the commemoration, and so the funding for community groups to put on plays and create artwork around the Explosion makes sense. But the real lesson of the Explosion, I fear, won’t be uttered: War kills people. War kills innocent people. War kills people far removed from the battlefields. That lesson will be verboten.
A proper commemoration of the Explosion will be to reflect and feel the weight of the tragedy, contemplate its horror, and move on a little wiser for the reflection. And part of moving on is celebrating those parts of life that have nothing to do with preparing for war (the ultimate cause of the destruction): Kids playing ball in a simple park. Families walking their dogs after a hard day at work. People silently reflecting on the tragedy of a century before, without it being turned into a tourist attraction.
Council should kill the Fort Needham Master Plan.
As usual, I’ll be live-blogging the council meeting via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.
Human Resources (10, One Government Place) — Lora MacEachern, the Associate Deputy Minister of the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, and Christine Penney, the Senior Executive Director of the department’s Safety Branch, will be questioned. As will Andrew Macdonald from the Public Prosecution Service.
This date in history
Ships start in Maitland!
On this date in 1874, the William D. Lawrence, the largest wooden-hulled ship built in Canada, was launched in Maitland, Nova Scotia. As the Maritime Museum recounts:
Named after her builder and owner, William D. Lawrence, she was 2,459 tons with a keel length of 244 feet 9 inches. One of the most intriguing questions about this vessel is why William D. Lawrence, a well-established and highly respected shipbuilder and shipowner, would risk all his wealth and considerable reputation to build a vessel so large that many of his contemporaries openly described it as folly.
In response to one of his critics, Lawrence claimed that one large ship would be more profitable than two smaller ones.
Lawrence was not merely content to build a large vessel: he intended to build “the largest vessel ever placed upon the stocks in the Dominion or in British North America”; moreover, he stated his objective publicly in the Acadian Recorder of February 21, 1873. It seems clear that Lawrence wished to give himself and Nova Scotia a permanent place in the marine history of Canada. His reasons for doing so have a great deal to do with the man himself and the era in which he lived.
Like Joe Howe, Lawrence hated Canada:
“Gentlemen, I love Nova Scotia…I desire to see her [Nova Scotia’s] cities grow, her commerce extend, her ports crowded with shipping and manned with the sons of our own soil, many of whom I am proud to say are, at the moment, spreading canvas on every sea, from the cold north to the sunny south and conducting our ships to the ports of the most enlightened and commercial nations of the globe.”
This strong sense of place, pride in entrepreneurial accomplishments and independent spirit were galvanized in Lawrence’s mind by the single most important event of the time — Confederation. A member of the House of Assembly from 1863, he became a close political ally of Joseph Howe and, as such, a staunch and vocal opponent of Confederation. His opposition was linked inextricably to the negative effects Confederation would have on shipping interests in Nova Scotia. He claimed the surplus revenues in the Maritime Provinces, generated largely by profits from shipping, were to be used to pay the debts that Canada had accrued from building canals and railways. He was particularly incensed, after Confederation in 1867, when the Federal Government raised the tariff on imports from 10 to 15 percent, meaning higher prices for imported shipbuilding materials and a less competitive position for Nova Scotian shipbuilders building for export. Confederation was, he said, “an idle vision calculated to check the future growth and prosperity of our country.”
In his political speeches and personal letters Lawrence’s opposition frequently reached uncommon heights, referring to the proponents of Confederation as “traitors” and “enemies” of Nova Scotia.
By the time the 245-foot keel of the William D. Lawrence was laid in the fall of 1872, Lawrence seemed determined to give Nova Scotia a distinction and a place in history that the Canadian Government could not take away. His motivation was the result of his own political fate and that of Nova Scotia. In 1871, after making Confederation a central issue in his campaign, he was defeated in the provincial election. For Lawrence, Confederation was a “fait accompli” and Nova Scotia could not rectify its “gross mistake”. When his attention returned to the William D. Lawrence, he had carefully reviewed, as his scrapbook indicates, the sizes of the largest vessels built in Canada to that date, and built accordingly. Based on Lawrence’s assertions, a reporter from the Acadian Recorder was able to proclaim Lawrence’s intentions in the spring of 1873. Soon after her launching in October 1874, many newspaper reporters quickly endorsed Lawrence’s claim to having launched the largest ship in Canada.
Lawrence’s decision to build the largest vessel was not taken lightly. Knowing the risks of building and operating such a vessel, Lawrence was undaunted. His pride in the vessel was evident from the outset. During her construction he defended her regularly against an “army of croakers” who dismissed her as too large to handle and a potential financial fiasco. He was a passenger on her maiden voyage around the world, and after he sold her in 1883 he publicly defended her against claims that she was a money loser. He proudly replied she had paid for herself in two or three years, and during her career cleared a considerable profit. Lawrence maintained pride in his achievements until his death in 1886. His obituary asserted: “The old gentleman was always pleased to hear any reference to the subject and his eyes kindled when, in company, the W.D. Lawrence was mentioned. He looked upon the vessel as the crowning achievement of his life. And it is one of which any native Nova Scotian shipbuilder might well feel proud.”
As for the ship, it was sold to the Norwegian whaler, Svend Foyn, in 1883, and was renamed the Kommander Svend Foyn. I guess rich men liked to name ships after themselves. Foyn invented the exploding harpoon, which took him from rich to spectacularly wealthy (and incidentally started the large decline of whale populations), and he went on to fund several Antarctic expeditions.
Despite Lawrence’s insistence otherwise, the ship doesn’t appear to have been profitable. Foyle sold it to a French outfit, which converted it into a barge in 1891 to work the coast of West Africa. It apparently sank off Dakar a few years later, but I can’t find the exact date.
Baleen whales (Tuesday, 11:45am, Room 3655, LSC) — Kimberley Davies will speak on “Baleen whale habitats and habitat use in Atlantic Canada: An oceanographic perspective.”
Multilingualism (Tuesday, 7pm, Weldon Law Building, Room 105) — Monica Heller, from the University of Toronto, will speak on “Multilingualism in the Globalized New Economy.”
The Mill and the Cross (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — Lech Majeswski’s 1981 film will be screened:
Bruegel’s famous 1564 image is deconstructed to reveal power structures and religious persecution. Rutger Hauer, Michael York and Charlotte Rampling star in this visually stunning film.
The Citadel On Stage (Tuesday, 7pm, Room LI135 Patrick Power Library) — Former Saint Mary’s student Alex D. Boutilier (no, not that Alex Boutilier) will be launching his new book, The Citadel On Stage: British military theatre, sports and recreation in colonial Halifax:
The Citadel On Stage is a lively and entertaining social history of British military officers stationed in colonial Halifax. The object of this volume is to survey a wide range of social, theatrical, and recreational performances up until confederation; and to examine the reasons why the garrison officers were entirely involved in these activities.
The main focus is on the garrison theatrical society as a social, cultural, and charitable entity, and how its existence revolved around the British institutions of colonial government and religion, as well as economics. The author illustrates a relationship between the theatricality of political performance and acting on stage, and shows how closely acting and politics are bound up with one another. While attesting that the Anglican Church supported garrison theatre, he gives a critical review of the incessant opposition by the non-conformist puritan element in the community. He also points out that the progress of theatre, sports, and recreation in colonial Halifax parallels the rise or decline of the economy.
In his own style, A.D. Boutilier paints a vivid picture of the comedy and farce inherent in upper class society and in the British institutions moored at Halifax from 1749 to 1867.
In the harbour
Northern Debonair, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove this morning from Liverpool, England; sails to sea this afternoon
Halifax Express, container ship, Rotterdam to Fairview Cove
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, St. John’s to Pier 41
Nagoyo Express, Cagliari, Italy to Fairview Cove
There are no cruise ships in port today.
Long day today.