1. Tire-burning ban resurrected
“Talk about déjà vu,” reports Jennifer Henderson for the Halifax Examiner:
NDP Environment critic Lenore Zann has resurrected a bill that Liberal MLA Keith Colwell introduced 10 years ago to ban tire-burning in Nova Scotia. All three political parties passed it in 2008 but the law was never proclaimed.
Don’t expect the Liberals to pass a carbon copy of their previous bill now. Last July, the Liberal government of Stephen MacNeil surprised many people (including CABOT, Citizens Against Burning Of Tires ) when it approved a one-year pilot project to burn tires at the Lafarge Canada cement plant near Brookfield, 80 kilometres north of Halifax.
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Incidentally, Chris Macinnes was a lobbyist for Lafarge from February 2014 through October 2015. Macinnes, you’ll recall, is married to Kristan Hines, McNeil’s Director of Strategic Operations. I’m sure that had nothing to do with the Liberals’ about-face on tire-burning.
Yesterday, after two hours of debate, Halifax council agreed to establish the “expert panel” to review the Cornwallis statue. You can read by blow-by-blow live blogging here.
After approving the creation of the panel, council went into closed session to choose the panel members. I dutifully stuck around for a couple of hours, but eventually had to leave. It didn’t matter anyway, as council won’t announce the members they chose until later today.
3. Jimmy Melvin Jr.
“Jimmy Melvin Jr. chose not to make any closing arguments Tuesday at his Halifax trial on charges of plotting to shoot and kill Terry Marriott Jr. in December 2008,” reports Steve Bruce for the Chronicle Herald:
In fact, Melvin informed the judge at lunchtime that he no longer wanted to be present in the courtroom at all.
A link was set up to allow Melvin to watch and hear the afternoon proceedings from a holding cell on the ground floor of the courthouse. Those in the courtroom could hear but not see Melvin.
The 35-year-old Halifax man faces charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Melvin is representing himself after parting ways with lawyer Patrick MacEwen during the jury trial, which began Sept. 11 in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
4. PTSD and cops
“Halifax police Chief Jean-Michel Blais has called himself the ‘poster boy’ for living with PTSD, describing the trauma of serving three UN tours in Haiti and his desire to become a leader in changing attitudes about mental health,” reports Yvonne Colbert for the CBC:
But for some within his own force, that story is wearing thin.
Debbie Carleton, a detective constable with almost 23 years of service, is the most recent officer to publicly voice concerns about her treatment.
She said the chief will not sign off on further PTSD treatment for her. Halifax Regional Police do not come under the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia and are instead “self-insured.”
Carleton has filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, alleging discrimination based on her diagnosis.
She is at least the second Halifax officer with PTSD to do so. Last month, Const. Mark Long came forward publicly, saying he too was denied specialized care by the department.
5. The oversold Nova Centre
The new convention centre is supposedly going to open in December as part of the larger Nova Centre project. It’s anyone’s guess when the office buildings will open, and there’s not even a named operator for the hotel, so that will presumably take quite some time.
Anyway, throughout the now six-year hype for the Nova Centre, a figure kept getting used in news reports: $500 million.
In 2012, the province signed a 25-year deal with developers of the new $500-million Nova Centre being built in downtown Halifax, replacing the WTCC building, which was built in 1984.
The convention centre will be part of a $500-million development by Rank Inc., that will also include retail space and a hotel.
The Nova Centre is a $500-million, one-million-square-foot mixed-use development that will transform two city blocks bordered by Argyle, Prince, Sackville and Market streets into a financial centre, a luxury hotel, residences, retail and entertainment facilities, and the convention centre.
The $500-million project was originally supposed to open its doors in early 2016 but that deadline was pushed back to this fall.
The convention centre will be part of a larger complex — the $500-million Nova Centre — which includes a hotel, office tower, retail shops and restaurant space. It is expected to be finished by Jan. 2016.
Joe Ramia ended weeks of speculation Thursday, announcing his $500 million Nova Centre project will go ahead.
Not to be outdone, I repeated the number myself in 2011, albeit with some skepticism:
The exact costs of the proposal are hopelessly convoluted; originally the cost of the convention centre alone were said to be $159 million, while the complete complex, including the convention centre, a hotel and a “financial centre,” were said to be $500 million. But private developer Joe Ramia has never made his books public, and it’s impossible to separate the convention centre from the rest of the complex.
I haven’t found the first use of the $500 million figure, but presumably it comes from Ramia himself. It was certainly regurgitated by Trade Centre Limited and other government officials repeatedly over the past decade.
Earlier this year, however, I started to question the number, noting that:
Seems like the only one not calling it a $500 million project is EllisDon, the contractor building the Nova Centre, which calls it a $219 million project.
There are no doubt non-construction costs for architectural services, government fees and so forth, but $281 million worth?
Considering that the various governments are paying $161 million into the project for the convention centre, this is looking like a sweetheart deal for developer Joe Ramia.
Yesterday, I stopped by the property office to review the Nova Centre file.
The deal between the province and Ramia’s Argyle Consolidated Inc. was signed in late April 2016, the same week that Argyle signed a loan agreement with Bank of Montreal — for $330 million. The loan was secured firstly by the lease for the convention centre, and then by future leases for the office and hotel towers. (The documents don’t say, but I wonder if BMO also got a discounted rental rate for moving its offices into the Nova Centre.)
Sure, it’s possible that Ramia has some skin in the game, but $170 million? I find that unlikely.
There are lessons to be learned here.
First, reporters (and everyone else) shouldn’t believe developer hype. Developers always oversell their projects. When a developer says a project costs X dollars, we should demand proof. We should pull the loan documents to double-check. I should have done that myself last year, and didn’t.
Second, developer hype is then picked up by muckymuckdom and becomes government hype. City and provincial officials have repeated the $500 million figure with abandon.
Is it a big deal that the Nova Centre project is only two-thirds the size as it was hyped? After all, $330 million is still a lot of money.
I think it does. A lot of decisions were made on the basis of the $500 million figure, or at least a lot of decisions were sold to the public on the basis of the $500 million figure. We should base such decisions on solid facts, not hype.
And it sure looks to me like the ratio of public to private money going into the Nova Centre is much, much higher than we were told.
1. Cranky letter of the day
Yikes. What speaks much louder than Mark Lever’s statement that, “We really wanted to get feedback from our constituents in the community, about what we can do to be essential in their lives again,” is the omission of any place The Guardian actually solicited that feedback.
It would appear from the article that the invitees (i.e. “our constituents”) saw the traditional push-out format of the medium unproblematic. Why wouldn’t they? Having a vehicle to uncritically regurgitate “the invitees’” message meets the needs of potential advertisers and interest groups just fine. The last thing an interest group wants is a newspaper that — in real time — engages the general public in a topic through critical dialogue . . . in public.
Unfortunately, for businesses like The Guardian, the last thing “the invitees” want is the first thing many consumers want. What’s wanted is high quality (critically researched) journalism examining and presenting topics for feedback. Feedback from those who are impacted by the topics being examined. However, what we seem to get is quite the opposite: verbatim releases from interest groups, and advertising.
Until the contradiction between what is delivered and what we need is reconciled, isn’t it all just rearranging chairs on the deck?
As Marcel Proust wrote, “The real voyage of discovery is not to travel through a hundred different lands with the same pair of eyes, but to see the same land through a hundred different pairs of eyes.”
Walter Wilkins, Stratford
Federation of Canadian Municipalities 2018 Conference Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s everything you have to know about the FCM meeting:
9.1.1 Sponsorship Opportunity for Mayor’s Welcome Reception
That the FCM 2018 Conference Advisory Committee approve Shaw Communications as the sponsor of the Mayor’s Welcome Reception.
Maybe the mayor will wear a suit like NASCAR drivers do, emblazoned by the logos of the companies he shills for.
There goes the Lion’s Head (Wednesday, 6pm, Maritime Hall, Halifax Forum) — this is a public information meeting unveiling W.M. Fares Group’s proposal to build a 10-storey, 114-unit apartment building on the parcel now occupied by the Lion’s Head Tavern.
The Lion’s Head will survive — I think it’s moving up the street to the new high rise where Michael’s used to be, but I might have that detail wrong.
Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, Alderney Gate) —
Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee Public Meeting – Case 20267 (Thursday, 7pm, Maritime Hall, Halifax Forum) —
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 10am, Province House) — Auditor General Michael Pickup will release his report of provincial finances.
Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)
Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)
Molecular and Physiological Functions of circRNAs (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Sebastian Kadener from Brandeis University will speak.
Infant Pain (Thursday, 9am, Cineplex OE Smith Theatre, Children’s Building, IWK Health Centre) PhD Candidate Britney Benoit will present “Forging New Discoveries Toward Infant Pain Assessment and Management.”
The Climate-Security Nexus (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Maria Banda from the University of Toronto will speak about the implications for climate change on worldwide security, human rights, and the growing global refugee crisis.
“Cuba’s Gay Revolution” (Thursday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) Emily J. Kirk will launch her book, which explores Cuba’s unique health-based approach to improving LGBTQ rights.
After Spring Comes Fall (Thursday, 7pm, Room 1009, Kenneth Rowe Building) German film with English subtitles about the life of a Syrian refugee in Berlin.
National Retail Innovation Awards (Thursday, 5:30pm, Loyola Conference Hall) — Fifty bucks if you wanna go. I don’t know, maybe I’ll do something else.
In the harbour
6am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
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
7:30: Celebrity Summit, cruise ship with up to 2,100 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Quebec
7:30am: Queen Mary 2, cruise ship, with up to 2,620 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sept-Iles, Quebec
7:30am: Zuiderdam, cruise ship with up to 2,364 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor
8:45am: Harriet Lane, U.S. Coast Guard cutter, arrives at NC 4 from sea
4pm: Steel, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Porvoo, Finland
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
4:30pm: Zuiderdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Sydney
4:45pm: Celebrity Summit, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for New York
6pm: Queen Mary 2, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for New York
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.