1. Rural ride-sharing
Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler discusses the demise of Halifax Transit’s route #402:
The 402, which ran a Monday to Friday one-way loop from Spryfield to Sambro and Ketch Harbour, fell victim to new standards for ridership on Halifax Transit routes, which set a minimum of 25 passengers per hour during peak times. In 2015, the 402 averaged 25 boardings a day, well below the minimum. For a bus travelling 340 kilometres a day (with an estimated cost of $64.42 per passenger trip) the 402 clearly wasn’t cutting it, efficiency-wise.
Some Sambro residents are protesting the cut and have even planned a rally in support of their expensive bus, but Butler says they have it all wrong and should be looking to create ride-sharing services akin to the Musgo Rider:
During the debate I can remember wondering, why would all those residents want to pay an additional $300,000 a year in taxes only to get such a minimal, hard-to-access bus service? … Surely there must be a better use of $300,000?
Sure enough, the entire Musgo Rider operation costs about $225,000 a year to operate, and that’s with a capital reserve for future vehicle purchases.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall. Click here to subscribe.
Incidentally, I edit Butler and other Examiner writers. That usually consists mostly of copyediting, having copy conform with CP and Examiner style (I’m forever adding in “U”s and writing out “per cent”), making sure the tenses are correct, not giving humanity to corporations (Earth Destroying Extraction, Inc. is an “it,” not a “they”), triple-checking math, and the like. Beyond that, Examiner writers are very good — although it happens on occasion, I rarely have to send copy back for a complete re-write.
Then there’s fact-checking. Butler knows a thousand times more than I do about transit and transportation, but she got a bit wrong today when she wrote:
(Hot tip: you can book a Bayrides from the Tantallon Metro X to Queensland Beach, and the fares are only between $5 and $8 per return trip.)
Well, sort of. You can indeed take the Metro X to Tantallon, but only in the afternoon, because the Metro X is a commuter service: you can take it from Tantallon to downtown in the morning, or from downtown to Tantallon in the afternoon, but not vice-versa.
So the earliest you could possibly make this trip is to catch the bus departing Scotia Square at 1:45pm, which lands in Tantallon at 2:21pm. Figure another half hour to Queensland Beach and a bit of time to arrange the blankets and break out the cooler, so beach time of 3pm.
That’s doable, I guess, with a couple of hours of good sun left… but then you have to get back to Halifax… and the next bus doesn’t leave Tantallon until 5:50am the following day. So, you can make this trip — you just have to spend the night on the beach.
I don’t know why you can’t make the reverse trip on the Metro X, but that’s the case. I know this because there have been a few times I wanted to take the bus out to Tantallon (to go to the library, or to the St. Margaret’s Centre), but couldn’t arrange it; I had to drive instead.
I edited out the Queensland Beach jaunt from Butler’s copy.
2. Cornwallis and Charlottesville
“More than 100 people gathered in a Halifax park Tuesday to criticize the rise of the white supremacist movement in the United States and recall racism’s role in Canadian history,” reports the Canadian Press:
The gathering took place around the statue of Halifax’s founder Edward Cornwallis, a bronze monument that Mi’kmaq groups have long argued should be taken down.
Several speakers drew comparisons between the movement to remove the colonial governor and efforts to take down statues in the southern United States that commemorate leaders of the Confederacy.
3. Can you hear me now?
“Bell Aliant says a widespread outage of its East Coast telecommunications network this month was the result of a ‘perfect storm’ involving construction crews not checking where to dig,” reports Michael Tutton for the Canadian Press:
Bell spokesman Nathan Gibson says the first cut was by a highway construction crew near Drummondville, Que.
He says service wasn’t impacted in any significant way because of redundancy in the network until a second major cut near Richibucto, N.B., by a logging company in a densely forested location.
He says the second cut was difficult to access and took some time to locate precisely, and the site’s inaccessibility slowed the arrival of heavy equipment and repair crews.
“I’d note again the unique and perfect storm nature of this situation: cuts to two major fibre routes one after the other, and one in a location (New Brunswick) that was exceptionally difficult to locate and repair,” he said.
4. Westlock County review
Back in 2015, former Halifax mayor Peter Kelly landed a position as CAO of Westlock County, Alberta, where he ended up being accused of malfeasance that ended up with the county writing off over $200,000, a hefty sum for a small, rural county. A lawyer who looked at the document trail concluded that Kelly should be held personally liable for $194,000.
Before the alleged financial improprieties were discovered, Kelly skedaddled to a new job as CAO of the city of Charlottetown. After a new CAO in Westlock County realized something was amiss, the county council asked the Albertan government to conduct a municipal review of the Kelly’s tenure in Westlock. The provincial government agreed, and hired Ian McCormack, a former Municipal Affairs staffer who now runs a consulting firm called Strategic Steps Inc., to conduct the review.
McCormack’s review was to be completed by “mid-summer,” but here it is August and still no review, so I called Alberta Monday to ask where it was. My query got shuffled to the government PR department and yesterday Jerry Ward, a spokesperson for Alberta Municipal Affairs, called me back to ask for my email address because he had a written statement he wanted to send me. That statement came moments later:
In response to your questions regarding the municipal inspection of Westlock County, I can offer the following:
The third-party consultant [McCormack] has submitted his report. It is now with the Minister for his review and consideration of next steps. Although there is no legislated timeline in which the Minister is required to respond, he intends to ensure that council and residents have ample time to review the report prior to October’s municipal election. We will have an update on the timing of the release of this report later this month.
I don’t know why Ward couldn’t just tell me that over the phone.
Albertan municipal elections are held on October 16.
Meanwhile, things have been remarkably quiet in Charlottetown, although I still get reports of Kelly sitings at the Mill Cove Sobeys and elsewhere in Bedford.
5. Union wages
Yesterday, a man named Jamie Grant filed a lawsuit against Mythos Developments and Stavco Construction.
Grant says he was hired in May 2016 as a labourer to work on the construction of an apartment building at 29 Abbington Avenue in Bedford; he was paid $17 an hour plus the required four per cent vacation pay.
In October 2017 2016, labourers working for Stavco unionized, but Stavco didn’t recognize the union. Grant quit in May 2017. In June, however, the Labour Board found that the Labourers’ International Union of North America was the legitimate union for Stavco labourers, and therefore Stavoc was bound to the collective agreement between the Labourers and the Nova Scotia Construction Labour Relations Association. As a result, Grant should’ve been paid $38/hour, or about $20,000 over the course of his employment more than he actually received.
Grant has registered a builder’s lien against the property and he won a judgment in Small Claims Court, but still hasn’t been paid.
The court will decide the merits of the case, but I just want to call attention to the pay differential here: $17 for a non-unionized labourer versus $38 for a unionized one.
And yet many working people have somehow been convinced that unions are bad for them.
6. Tracking whales
“Scientists in Halifax are launching a high-tech tool to track the whale population on the Scotian Shelf,” reports Amy Smith for the CBC:
A solar-power wave glider, equipped with an underwater microphone, will be deployed Wednesday off the coast and spend 30 days listening for the characteristic sounds of endangered North Atlantic right whales.
“What this wave glider allows us to do is to go out and do some reconnaissance, do some exploratory work to ask the question: Are right whales still present in these areas off of Halifax?” Kimberley Davies, a Dalhousie University oceanographer, said in an interview Tuesday.
The article doesn’t say how tracking whales on the Scotian Shelf helps the right whales who are dying in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but I’m assuming this is just the first roll-out of the technology and it’ll soon be expanded.
Not much interesting happened at Halifax Council yesterday, but councillors did spend 45 minutes debating Terrence Higgins’ shed.
Higgins evidently didn’t want to build a shed on his own 10,238 sq. ft. parcel (assessed at $979,200), so he instead built one partly on the adjoining lot, which is owned by the Annapolis Group, the development company that wants to pave over the nearby Birch Cove Lakes–Blue Mountain wilderness area. When Annapolis employees found out about Higgins’ shed, they quite understandably told him to take it off company land.
So Higgins built a new shed on another nearby parcel owned by the city. Without a building permit. (This shed is palatial — 12 x 16 feet; I’ve lived in smaller apartments.)
So, just like the Annapolis employees before them, when city staffers learned Higgins built a shed on city land, they told him to take it down. Instead, Higgins went to his councillor, Russell Walker, to ask for a variance. Any such encroachment onto city land — whether it’s for a utility company looking to run a pipeline across a corner lot, a business owner wanting to build a wheelchair accessible ramp on a city sidewalk, or some dude behind Kearney Lake who wants to build a palatial shed on city land so he can use his own yard for sunbathing — must be approved by city council.
Staff had a bunch of reasons why the encroachment shouldn’t have been allowed, but come on — some dude behind Kearney Lake wanted to build a palatial shed on city land so he can use his own yard for sunbathing… isn’t that reason enough to deny the permit?
Apparently not. Several councillors — Walker, Richard Zurawski, and Matt Whitman — verbally abused the poor city staffer, Ashley Blissett, who presented staff’s quite reasonable position that some dude behind Kearney Lake shouldn’t be allowed to build a palatial shed on city land so he can use his own yard for sunbathing. “This shouldn’t have even come to council!” bellowed Whitman at Blissett, who was, you know, following official procedures as adopted by council itself. “I’m absolutely nonplussed!” yelled Zurawski, who should probably get a dictionary and look up “nonplussed.”
In the end, council approved the encroachment on a 12-4 vote, so now I guess I can go build a giant shed on the Dartmouth Common and it’ll be cool with council.
8. Kids on ATVs
Over the weekend, a five-year-old died in Pictou County when the ATV he was driving flipped over and pinned him under it.
Should kids be driving ATVs at all? Some doctors have said they shouldn’t, reports Richard Woodbury for the CBC:
Injury Free Nova Scotia was started in 2006 by Dr. Natalie Yanchar, a pediatric surgeon, who was “repeatedly in the challenging position of trying to save the lives of children and youth who had been in rollovers and such on ATVs … there were deaths that resulted,” said [Shirley Burdock, the executive director of Injury Free Nova Scotia].
In 2012, Yanchar wrote a paper on the issue titled “Preventing injuries from all-terrain vehicles,” which now represents the official view of the Canadian Paediatric Society. The abstract of the paper:
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are widely used in Canada for recreation, transportation and occupations such as farming. As motorized vehicles, they can be especially dangerous when used by children and young adolescents who lack the knowledge, physical size, strength, and cognitive and motor skills to operate them safely. The magnitude of injury risk to young riders is reflected in explicit vehicle manual warnings and the warning labels on current models, and evidenced by the significant number of paediatric hospitalizations and deaths due to ATV-related trauma. However, helmet use is far from universal among youth operators, and unsafe riding behaviours, such as driving unsupervised and/or driving with passengers, remain common. Despite industry warnings and public education that emphasize the importance of safety behaviours and the risks of significant injury to children and youth, ATV-related injuries and fatalities continue to occur. Until measures are taken that clearly effect substantial reductions in these injuries, restricting ridership by young operators, especially those younger than 16 years of age, is critical to reducing the burden of ATV-related trauma in children and youth. This document replaces a previous Canadian Paediatric Society position statement published in 2004.
As Woodbury reports, it is illegal for children under 14 to drive ATVs in Nova Scotia — with the exception of being on a closed course with a trained first responder on site, and no such course exists in the province. Still, it is common practice for kids to be driving ATVs.
City dwellers often get derided for not understanding rural culture, but this is just nuts. We don’t let young kids drive on the highways, which are engineered and built for safety, so why are parents letting five-year-olds drive ATVs in the wild?
Are ATV parents the reverse of helicopter parents — just throw any crazy threat at the children and hope they survive?
Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, HRM Archives, Burnside) — here’s the agenda.
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — there is absolutely nothing on the agenda.
No public meetings until September.
PhD Defence, Electrical and Computer Engineering (Wednesday, 9am, Room 1016, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — Meftah Mohamed will defend his thesis “Interactive Navigation and Control of Neurosurgical Robotic Systems.”
PhD Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Wednesday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — Fiona Davidson will defend her thesis “Impact of Sleep on Daytime Functioning and Response to Treatment in Children with ADHD.”
Canada Excellence Research Chairs Summit (Thursday, 9:15am, Room C170, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Fifteen researchers will each give five-minute presentations about their work, from developing advanced computer models of Arctic ecosystems, to breakthroughs in hepatitis prevention and therapy.
In the harbour
3am: NYK Terra, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
5:30am: Hoegh Singapore, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Sagunto, Spain
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
6am: ZIM Luanda, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
10:30am: Hoegh Singapore, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
3pm: YM Movement, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
3pm: Salarium, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Belledune, Quebec
4:30pm: ZIM Luanda, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.