1. Community Outpatient Centre
“The province’s purchase of 15 acres in the Bayers Lake Business Park to build a new Community Outpatient Centre was supposed to be a good news announcement for the McNeil government,” reports Jennifer Henderson for the Examiner:
[Premier Stephen] McNeil was quick to point out that the Centre’s Bayers Lake location — behind Home Outfitters on Chain Lake Drive — is near both Highway 103 and Highway 102.
“We often hear Nova Scotians say traffic and parking are major concerns when travelling to the VG site of the QE2 Health Sciences Centre, and this location will provide convenient access for many people who travel to appointments from out-of-town,” said McNeil.
True. But then the good news announcement took a sharp turn. CBC reporter Jean Laroche asked the Premier what he thought about the fact the province paid $7.5 million for property owned by Besim Halef of Banc Developments. Halef is a successful developer who also contributed $3,000 to the provincial Liberal party in 2013 and is a board member of the QE2 Health Sciences Centre Foundation, the fundraising arm for the hospital.
It should be pointed out that while Besim Halef and his son Alex ($700) were both contributors to the provincial Liberals in 2013, Besim Halef also donated $2,000 to the Progressive Conservatives in 2006 — Bedford PC candidate Len Goucher got the donation from the senior Halef.
There are several issues related to the announcement.
The first is location. Obviously, government services, including heath care, should be sited to maximize convenience to citizens, and that includes citizens who live in rural and suburban areas. You’ll get no argument from me on that point.
That said, health care services are mostly used by older people, and it’s precisely those older people who are filling up all the new condo and apartment buildings being built in downtown Halifax. (I haven’t checked recently, but as I recall, the average age for a condo buyer on the peninsula is over 60.) We hear the reasons all the time: an older person gives up the hassle of keeping up a house and yard and moves to a downtown condo where they’re close to amenities, restaurants, museums, and the hospital. They don’t have to necessarily drive, and if they can’t walk, getting to the doctor is just a short bus or cab ride away. Recognizing that fact doesn’t mean we should ignore the needs of older people living in the suburbs or out in rural areas; I’m just noting the trend.
Still, we seem to have accepted the argument that this particular health service, even though it’s not known exactly what’s going onto the site, should be placed in the suburbs. Do I detect a certain glee in McNeil’s pronouncement?
“Not every service needs to be offered in downtown Halifax,” said Premier McNeil. “We often hear Nova Scotians say traffic and parking are major concerns when travelling to the VG site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre. “
He appears to be consciously baiting the anti-urban sentiment that John DeMont writes about today:
Historically, the urban-rural divide is crystal clear when it comes to Nova Scotia politics.
When John Hamm took control of the legislature in 1999, his Progressive Conservatives only won seven Halifax seats. Most of their support — and the reason they held onto minority governments in the next two elections — was found in towns and rural areas.
The other guys have traditionally depended upon Halifax for their strength. Even so, whether it was the Liberals in 2013 or the NDP four years earlier, the party that ended winning the Nova Scotia countryside also wound up governing.
It is mathematically possible to take political power here without faring well outside of the Halifax city limits. It just seldom happens.
No wonder there’s already a scramble on by the parties to position themselves as the true caretakers of rural Nova Scotia.
But even if we agree that a suburban location is appropriate, is this suburban location the right suburban location? It’s certainly convenient for the residents of cabinet minister and Deputy Premier Diana Whalen’s Clayton Park West riding, who live just the other side of the BiHi from the site. But I can’t see that the site is very convenient for anyone much else: they’ll have to deal with considerable traffic, especially at rush hour, and triply so during the Christmas season. Does Bayers Lake really have any less traffic than the existing QE2 site? I’m not convinced of it.
And what about transit? Bayers Lake is a nightmare to get to on the bus. Yesterday, Jeff Blair of the It’s More Than Buses group created maps showing transit commute times to the existing QE2 site and the new Bayers Lake site:
This especially presents an enormous disservice to workers at the new facility, who must now either purchase cars or add hours to their daily commute.
Even in terms of convenience to suburbanites, there are many other better sites. Henderson, however, reports that:
McNeil said the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal checked out 14 potential sites before narrowing the cabinet’s choice to two options, both at Bayers Lake. Interestingly, McNeil says he was told the other option was the former Rona hardware boxstore and that parking access wasn’t as favourable there as at the blind or unidentified site owned by Halef.
But the province isn’t making that analysis public, so we can’t independently assess it.
The second issue with the purchase is price. As Marieke Walsh reports for Global:
The Nova Scotia government purchased a 15-acre plot of land for nearly 12 times the land’s assessed value, according to real estate insiders.
The land was bought for a new outpatient clinic that will be part of the QEII hospital redevelopment. According to the website ViewPoint, the entire 178-acre plot is worth just under $7.5 million. The Liberals bought 15 acres for $7.5 million.
The land, in the Bayers Lake business park, is assessed at $41,965 according to ViewPoint. The Liberals bought the land for $500,000 per acre. According to ViewPoint, it was purchased in 2013 for $9.3 million which works out to $52,247 per acre.
2. Glyphosate, the Irvings, and Big Agro on campus
“In early 2014, New Brunswick’s Department of Natural Resources (dnr) was facing a crisis,” writes Bruce Livesey for The Walrus:
Rod Cumberland, former chief deer biologist for the province, had been waging a media and letter-writing campaign to draw attention to an unfolding disaster in the province’s forests — namely, the collapse of the white-tail deer population, which had dropped to 70,000 from a peak of 286,000 in 1985.
Cumberland was convinced that he had identified the culprit: glyphosate, the world’s most popular weed killer, which is sold primarily by Monsanto, an agrochemical multinational. Glyphosate is sprayed on 15,000 hectares of New Brunswick’s Crown land each year, and Cumberland believes the herbicide is wiping out the animal’s food source. “Each white-tail eats about a ton of food a year,” he explains, “so we were basically removing enough food to feed 32,000 of them annually.”
Cumberland’s charges placed the province in a bind. The government uses glyphosate to stunt the growth of hardwood trees — which the deer feed on—making it easier for the forest industry to grow softwood trees that can be turned into lumber. The chemical therefore sits at the very centre of one of the province’s most important industries. Internal emails from 2014 show senior provincial dnr bureaucrats scrambling to respond to Cumberland, at one point sharing damage-control suggestions from J. D. Irving Ltd., New Brunswick’s largest forestry company. Eventually, they hit upon a solution: find scientists who could defend glyphosate to the public.
Livesey goes on to explore the role of industry-funded scientists working at Canadian universities in getting regulatory approval for pesticides and herbicides.
3. Cooper the puppy
“The hunt was on in Mount Hope Thursday for a labradoodle that got lost here after being put on the wrong flight,” reports Molly Hayes for the Hamilton Spectator:
Cooper the puppy was supposed to be headed from Halifax to Deer Lake, N.L. Wednesday afternoon to be dog-sat while his owners — 19-year-old Chelsea Simon and her roommate — vacationed in Jamaica next week.
But there was a mixup with the airline and the dog was mistakenly put on a flight to Hamilton. And then when he arrived, Cooper was let out to pee — and got off his leash.
Simon says she got the bad news late Wednesday night, when a WestJet representative called them in Halifax around midnight.
She and her roommate immediately flew to Hamilton. She says the airline paid for them to travel here to hunt for the dog.
Simon and her roommate are now wandering around Hamilton, a city they don’t know, looking for Cooper, who is “very, very timid” and “very, very scared.”
Update, 10:30am: Cooper has been found!
Update: Cooper has been found. https://t.co/02wBNy9XeA
— Mandy Luk (@mandylukcbc) April 21, 2017
1. Cranky letter
I take exception of the plan to allow Sports and Entertainment Atlantic to take sole possession of the Wanderers Grounds for a pop-up 6,000-seat soccer stadium where people will have to pay admission to see a game. The Wanderers Grounds are part of the Halifax Common, a green space dedicated free of charge to the citizens of Halifax. It is a generic sports field where every sport, from football to baseball, is currently played. I am tired of seeing the encroachment of this cherished green space, in the heart of Halifax, by big business.
The other issue I have with SEA’s proposal is that it includes the parking arcade at the QEll Health Sciences Centre as part of the plan. The ER parking lot is filled to capacity, forcing people to use the parking lot built to service people going to the hospital for treatment and medical clinics. As a patient, I have gone to appointments and had to circle the parkade several times before I found a spot, or waited until I saw a person leaving. If parking is already such an issue, the Wanderers Grounds is not the venue for this soccer stadium.
A new and much larger Halifax Common and public green space was created near Clayton Park. My suggestion is for SEA to pop up their stadium in Clayton Park, and stop looking to take the disappearing Halifax Common as a venue to make their profits. This goes for any other business venture looking to take over what’s left of the Halifax Common that people enjoyed for generations FREE OF CHARGE!
Gary MacLeod, Halifax
“For me,” writes Myles McNutt, a prof at Old Dominion University, “the biggest threat to realism on television is something you may never have considered: the way that coffee cups that are supposedly full of coffee are plainly empty.”
McNutt is so obsessed with the matter that he has made a video about it, published on Slate:
This is excuse enough to mention one of my three greatest pet peeves: the spoon in the coffee cup.
Let me rephrase that: THE FUCKING SPOON IN THE FUCKING COFFEE CUP.
See, I drink my coffee black, without adornment, amendment, discolouration, or dilution, such that the bitter taste matches the bitter depravity of my soul. So sue me: I like my coffee black.
Inevitably in Nova Scotia (I’ve never noticed this elsewhere), I’ll be at a diner or cafe or restaurant, and the server will make the initial contact, ask about drinks, and I’ll say, “I’ll have coffee.” “Milk or cream?” the server will ask. “Black, to match the bitter depravity of my soul,” I respond, “nothing else.”
The server then goes away, and two minutes later returns with a cup of black coffee, as I ordered, but there is a FUCKING SPOON IN THE FUCKING COFFEE CUP. There’s no explanation for this spoon. I have no need for it. There are no liquids to mix in, no sugar or fake sugar to decrystalize, and I’m not inclined to swirl coffee aimlessly and purposelessly with a spoon while I contemplate the mysteries of the universe or whatever, instead of, ya know, drinking the damn coffee. And yet: here’s a spoon.
What the fuck am I supposed to do with this spoon? Obviously, I need to take it out of the cup because otherwise the spoon handle will end up in a nostril or poking out an eye, but where am I supposed to put it? No saucer is provided, so whatever I do with the spoon, it will carry at least some of the liquid from the coffee with it. If I set the spoon on the table in front of me, that spoon-liquid will contaminate the table and anything I might put on the table: my phone, a newspaper, the sleeve of my shirt. I could reach across the table and leave the contaminated spoon in front of my dining partner, but that merely shifts my burden onto them, which hardly seems fair, as they have their own contaminated spoon issues to deal with. I could wipe the spoon on my pants, but I actually try to walk around town without coffee stains on my pants. Sometimes I try to discretely place the spoon on the floor, where it won’t be messing with phones, newspapers, sleeves, pants, or dining partners, but this solution brings stares and bad attitude from the server, who caused the damn problem in the first place.
I can’t wrap my head around this spoon thing. Why does the server bring me a spoon when I told them I drink my coffee black? Why is the spoon in the coffee cup, instead of beside the coffee cup so I can make up my own mind about whether I want to contaminate the spoon or not? Why is there no saucer on which I might put a contaminated spoon should I use it, even though I have no reason to use it as I drink my coffee black?
Is this some sort of passive-aggressive server thing? I understand that servers are underpaid, overworked, and generally under-appreciated for the important work they do, but I don’t see why they should take it out on me with their damn spoon.
Anyway, some other time I’ll get into my other two greatest pet peeves: the related issue of the lack of bar coasters and the resulting beer condensation that brings up the same problems as the contaminated coffee spoon, and that other terrible annoyance: pre-soiled napkins.
I’m thinking of starting a Google map to document all this.
No public meetings.
Thesis Defence, Industrial Engineering (Friday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Amin Akbari will defend his thesis, “Multi-Criteria Approach to Maritime Search and Rescue Location Analysis.”
Thesis Defence, Biology (Friday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Joana Augusto will defend her thesis, “Social Structure of the Pilot Whales (Globicephala melas) off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.” I’m going to try to catch this.
Transportation, Logistics, and the Environment (Friday, 2:30pm, MA 310) — Michel Gendreau of Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal will speak.
In the harbour
6am: Brevik Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Fos Sur Mer, France
7:30am: OOCL Antwerp, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Cagliari, Italy
8am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, moves from Pier 9 to Pier 36
10am: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
10:30am: Tosca, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
11am: Brevik Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
2pm: Monte Toledo, oil tanker, arrives at Anchorage for bunkers from Saint John
3pm: NYK Daedalus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
4:30pm: ZIM Ontario, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
6pm: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
9:30pm: Monte Toledo, oil tanker, sails from anchorage for sea
Midnight: Tosca, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 31
Examineradio is published today; this week, I speak with Lynn Jones about the collection of memorabilia she has donated to the Saint Mary University library.