1. Outpatient Centre and transit
“Despite reports from municipal staff that there were public transit challenges with the proposed Bayers Lake outpatient clinic, new documents show the province went ahead with the project, and didn’t inform the public of the issue,” reports Marieke Walsh for Global, who obtained the documents through a freedom of information request:
A question-and-answer document sent to senior staff in the health department just prior to the news going public on April 20 says, “additional transit service is anticipated.”
That’s despite an email contained in the same information request sent by Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) chief planner Bob Bjerke to Nova Scotia’s deputy chief medical officer of health, Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, in which Bjerke said providing good public transit to the new site would be difficult.
Another email from Halifax to the provincial transportation department contains the city’s assessment of the site. It is mostly redacted in the documents released through access to information, but Global News obtained an unredacted copy.
About the Banc Group property, Halifax staff said there is “no opportunity to provide the kind of transit service required by the Province.”
Let’s repeat that: “no opportunity to provide the kind of transit service required by the Province.”
Remember that at the same time the city was advising the province that there was “no opportunity” to improve transit to the Banc site, someone at the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructural Renewal was writing a report saying transit service to the Banc site could be improved. As I wrote earlier this month:
But saying the Banc site is served by bus routes is true only in the most technical sense; anyone who actually rides the bus knows this is not a meaningful statement.
I can’t say for sure. It’s possible that the TIR report writer really has no clue about transit services. But it sure looks to me like the writer was given marching orders to justify the Banc site.
2. Examineradio, episode #117
This week we speak with James Covey of the Halifax Wanderers Supporters Group about the viability of professional soccer in Halifax and city council’s approval of a “pop-up” stadium on the Wanderer’s Grounds.
Plus, Councillor David Hendsbee has to remind people — twice — on National Aboriginal Day, that the date also marks the arrival of noted Indigenous scalper Edward Cornwallis. Stay classy, Hendsbee!
Finally, City Council received a report from city staff about the prospect of introducing a living wage to all municipal staff as well as any employees contracted to work for the city. Councillors estimate it may still take another two years to implement, meaning many people who keep this city running will still be making poverty-level wages until possibly 2019. Stay classy, council!
3. Chelsie Probert
Just after Morning File was published Friday, Halifax police issued the following release:
A male youth has been charged with second degree murder in relation to the homicide of Chelsie Probert.
At approximately 10 p.m. on June 6, 2017 Halifax Regional Police responded to a report of a female in medical distress on a pathway in the 0-100 block of Albro Lake Road. Officers located 18-year-old Chelsie Probert who required immediate medical assistance. EHS transported her to hospital where she later passed away from her injuries. The Medical Examiner ruled Chelsie’s death a homicide.
Yesterday morning, investigators in the Homicide Unit of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division arrested a 16-year-old male youth at a Dartmouth residence. The youth was held overnight and is scheduled to appear in Halifax Youth Court today to face a charge of second degree murder.
“A unique piece of Mi’kmaw history is part of a new exhibit at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History that highlights the relationship between the Mi’kmaq and the French in Mi’kma’ki during the 17th century,” reports Maureen Googoo:
A round gourd, which used to belong to Mi’kmaq Grand Chief Henri Membertou, is on display at the museum in Halifax until October. The gourd, which was used as a water bottle, is the only known Mi’kmaw artifact that can be traced back to a known Mi’kmaw historical figure.
“It’s something that I didn’t know existed,” Don Julien, Executive Director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, said following the exhibit’s opening ceremony on Wednesday.
“I know that the Mi’kmaq were baptized in 1610 (but) I didn’t know what gifts were exchanged between the Mi’kmaq and the French at the time,” he said.
“It’s wonderful that they found it and somebody took so good care of it,” Julien added.
I’m a supporter of Googoo’s site Kukukwes.com, which reports on indigenous issues around Atlantic Canada. Please consider likewise supporting her.
1. Can a “white van driver” be a terrorist?
Three hours after the midnight attack, London police were still saying it was “too early” to declare the attack terrorism. It wasn’t until 8am that they finally acknowledged what seemed obvious to the rest of the world. Compare that to the London Bridge and Westminster attacks. They were both declared terrorist incidents within a few hours.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription.
2. Drake University courses
Whenever there’s a news story remotely touching on taxes or government expenditures, lazy media trot out Kevin Lacey of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for comment. Those lazy news stories never say what the CTF is, what its ideological bent is, or who exactly it represents (hint: just five guys).
Similarly, whenever there’s a news story remotely touching on education, lazy media trot out Paul Bennett of Schoolhouse Consulting. Those lazy news stories never say what Schoolhouse Consulting is, what its ideological bent is, or who exactly it represents.
I’m not saying media shouldn’t talk to Lacey or Bennett; I’m saying that if you’re going to cite them as experts on something, you should give readers the context of who they are and what they represent.
A former teacher named Grant Frost became annoyed about Bennett being the go-to guy for education stories and so in 2012 wrote about it:
…I sat down and penned what turned out to be the inaugural article for . The piece, which I had originally entitled “Paul Bennett: The Worm in the Apple” had been born out of the frustration of hearing Bennett comment upon education, seemingly every time I turned on the radio. In the piece, I called into question Mr. Bennett’s understanding of the issues, and called on Nova Scotians to consider his actual motivation for being so critical of public education, and of teachers in general.
Over the next two years, I would write about many issues, often calling Bennett to task for questionable conclusions and a decidedly “anti-teacher” stance. Yet, despite my constant rebuttals, it seemed that Bennett never lost steam. He continued to be featured on local talk shows and in the paper, touted and feted as an “education expert.” I often pointed out that, seeing as how he had never set foot in a public school classroom in Nova Scotia, and had not taught in any public school in quite some time, he could not possibly be considered an expert in Nova Scotia education. But, that didn’t appear to matter to the media. Bennett seemed to know what he was talking about and he was decidedly anti-teacher and anti-union. Both these played well in local media markets, and, for whatever reason, few editors seemed concerned about the validity of his claims or the accuracy of his research.
So that’s the context of the ongoing Bennett–Frost war.
Most recently the war has been playing out in CBC and Local Xpress over the merit (or lack thereof) of the online Drake University courses that Nova Scotia teachers have used to upgrade their teaching credentials.
The fight began when the CBC published an article critical of the Drake courses, quoting Bennett, who called the courses “bird courses.” He continued: “I think what’s happening is the teachers taking Drake courses are cherry-picking the ones that are minimally demanding and they can get the maximum benefit from them.” The benefit is the increase in salary that comes from upgraded credentials.
Last week, Frost fired back in Local Xpress, writing that “arbitrator Eric K. Slone had sided with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union in its outstanding grievance surrounding teacher upgrades achieved through Drake University.”
I’ll leave it for others to discern the educational value in the Drake courses. That’s beyond my pay grade.
Regular readers will know my own biases, which usually fall in support of unions. But something was bothering me about the online course thing. Frankly, I didn’t have the time to give it the thought necessary to figure it out, but thankfully, Mary Campbell comes to my rescue:
Fill in the blank in this sentence:
When a school buys courses from for-profit educational companies, it does not have to hire ________
If you said “teachers” move to the front of the class! If you actually are a teacher, move to the back of the unemployment line, because that’s where Slone’s endorsement of store-bought education logically leads.
This is the perverse heart of the matter with the Drake courses: in defending them, Nova Scotia teachers, who’ve spent a year telling us what important work they do (and I agree, they do important work), are rallying around online and video-based courses designed by for-profit educational companies to replace teachers.
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator.
Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (formerly District 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee) (Monday, 4pm, City Hall) — W.D. Fares has an approved development for an eight-storey, 35-unit unit for 5530 and 5532 Bilby Street. But now they’ve also acquired the adjacent lot at 5516 Bilby Street, so want to amend their approval to allow for a bigger eight-storey building with 63 units.
Investment Policy Advisory Committee (Tuesday, 12pm, City Hall) — nothing interesting on the agenda.
Halifax & West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall) —
The council is being asked to approve a series of bylaw changes that are intended to “protect the character and form of Young Avenue.” The proposed changes include:
• An increase in the required minimum lot frontage to 80 feet (24.4 m) of continuous street frontage;
• An increase in the required minimum lot size to 8,000 square feet (743.2 sq. m.);
• An increase in the required minimum lot width to 80 feet (24.4 m);
• An increase to the required minimum lot depth to 100 feet (30.48 m); and
• An increase in the maximum required side yard setback to 10 feet (3.048 m).
The staff report continues:
As many existing lots (vacant and developed) within the Young Avenue area will not meet the requirements of the proposed LUB amendments, staff have considered the ways that the development rights of these properties would be affected by the proposed amendments. The intent of the proposed changes is to protect the existing lot pattern by limiting future subdivision opportunities, but not to place undue burden on existing development. To avoid unintended impacts on existing development, staff have included a “grandfathering” provision in the proposed LUB amendments found in Attachment A. “Grandfathering” would allow a vacant lot in existence prior to the date of the first publication of Council’s notice of its intention to amend the LUB to be developed with a dwelling even if it does not meet the minimum requirements of the amended zone. It also means that any single unit dwelling on a lot created before this date, that does not meet the requirements of the R-1 Zone but has at least 40 feet of lot frontage and 4,000 square feet of lot area will become a conforming structure.
Staff also note that both developed and undeveloped lots created before May 11, 1995 are also “grandfathered”, as the LUB already reduces the lot frontage and lot area requirements to 30 feet and 3,000 square feet, respectively, for single family residential uses. This provision would allow a vacant lot approved prior to 1995 to be developed with a dwelling even if it does not meet the minimum requirements of the zone. It also means that any single unit dwelling on a lot created before May 11, 1995, that does not meet the requirements of the R-1 Zone but has at least 30 feet of lot frontage and 3,000 square feet of lot area will be a conforming structure. This provision does not apply to lots developed with dwellings which have been converted to more than one dwelling unit.
The council is also looking at illegal campsites in the Western Common:
The Western Common Advisory Committee raised concerns at its January 25, 2017 meeting about illegal, derelict and unsightly campsites along Otter Lake and Old St. Margaret’s Bay Road (Old Halifax Road) within the Five Bridge Lakes Wilderness Area. Members were told that Parks and Recreation staff are aware of these campsites, but are limited in accessing them and are cautiously approaching campsite users. RCMP has been notified of the issues of illegal campsites and responds accordingly to enforce the by-law. HRM Parks and Recreation staff will continue to work with the RCMP as needed relating to illegal and derelict campsites in the Wilderness Common to ensure safety of park users.
The Committee discussed how signage might be used to inform the public about areas where campsites are not permitted and the consequences of building such campsites. They also discussed how community groups could identify existing sites and communicate this information to municipal park staff. Members agreed to draft a motion for consideration at their next meeting.
The Committee passed a motion at their May 23, 2017 meeting recommending that Halifax and West Community Council recommend that Halifax Regional Council request staff to remove all derelict, dangerous, and/or unsightly campsites within the Western Common Regional Park.
I appreciate that wilderness campsites raise health and environmental concerns, and can present a fire risk. But the Western Common has been neglected for so long that it’s only natural that people have established their own semi-permanent campsites, no doubt with mixed results.
There’s a lot wrong with the Common. ATVs have utterly destroyed the roads and trails, turning them into kilometre-long lakes. There is garbage everywhere, including (last time I was there) at least three burned out cars on the fire road and along the old stage road.
People have been trashing the area for decades. It’s good that we’re reclaiming it and trying to clean it up, but it’s odd to me that our first focus is people camping. There’s a relatively easy fix for this, of course: provide legal wilderness campsites with pit toilets.
No meetings all week.
Thesis Defence, Biology (Monday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Zoe Migicovsky will defend her thesis, “Patterns of Genomic and Phenomic Diversity in Apple and Grape.”
Board of Governors Meeting (Tuesday, 3pm, University Hall, MacDonald Building) — I’ll stop by… here’s the agenda.
In the harbour
5am: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
5:30am: Amber Arrow, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Portbury, England
7:15am: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, with up to 2,873 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York
8am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor. Read about the Veendam’s fascinating history here.
9:30am: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Portsmouth, Maine
11:30am: Amber Arrow, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
2pm: Atlantic Pegasus, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
3:30pm: YM Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Bremerhaven, Germany
5:45pm: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
5:45pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Sydney
Last week, I uncovered information that will result in an important news story. So important that I basically dropped everything else and worked on it for three days straight. I had hoped to get something published Friday, but as I continued to investigate the issue I realized the story was much, much larger than I had originally thought. I’d like to say more, but I can’t just now. I don’t know when exactly I’ll finally be able to publish, but probably later this summer.
All of which is to say, despite appearances, I haven’t been goofing off.