1. Wanderers Ground “unsafe”
Rugby took centre stage at a Halifax council meeting in June, when, citing the potential economic impact from thousands of spectators and a world-wide television audience, councillors approved $30,000 in support of a Rugby Canada match against the Glasgow (Scotland) Warriors. Council then subsequently upped the $30,000 to $50,000. Deemed the “Battle for New Scotland,” the match also received $70,000 in support from the province.
The match is wrapped in much fanfare, and celebratory events are scheduled through the next few days. This afternoon, a “Giv’r” beer tent will be set up on the Wanderers Grounds, and a street fair takes over Argyle Street in the evening. A “Tailgate Party” is planned for Argyle Street from 10am to 2pm on Saturday, and the tipsy revellers were presumably to have walked over to watch the 3pm match at the Wanderers Grounds.
But officials with Rugby Canada and the Glasgow Warriors have deemed the playing field unsafe and refuse to play on it, confirms a spokesperson for Sports & Entertainment Atlantic, the event management firm that is producing the game at a cost of $90,000.
So now the tipsy revellers will have to make their way to the Grave-Oakley Memorial Park in Spryfeld, where the match has been moved to. Thankfully, the city has announced that Metro Transit buses will be used to shuttle fans from Argyle Street to Spryfield.
“Embarrassing, bush league kind of stuff”
A source told me yesterday that the Wanderers Ground playing field is a mess, waterlogged and full of rocks. I visited the site, and it was a soggy mess. I slipped in the mud, just walking around the field; I can’t imagine how rugby players could find traction in the heat of play.
A second source told me that the city was first told about the deplorable state of the field in May. Earlier this month there was a rugby match between the Quebec and Nova Scotia provincial teams held at the Wanderers Grounds, and both teams told the city “the state of the field was urgent.” Only last week was a steamroller brought to the field, for some unstated purpose.
“On Wednesday, a plea went out to the rugby community to show up at Wanderers Ground to help remove stones and twigs from the pitch,” said the second source.
“This is some seriously embarrassing bush league kind of stuff,” said the first source. “I can’t see how you could get 5,000 seats, and a beer garden, and a TV broadcast setup, and changing facilities, and transportation infrastructure set up in 72 hours with no advance planning. Not to mention the Argyle Street tie-in.”
I’ve granted anonymity to the sources because they feel speaking publicly will change the focus of the event. The rugby community has been fully invested in making the weekend a success, raising $100,000 on their own to match the government grants, and putting in untold free labour.
The first source got back to me this morning:
Apparently, they’re constructing a new field across two of the existing fields at Graves-Oakley — The “Soccer Field” and the “Lower Rugby Field.” Those two fields are in the best shape of the three out there, but either, alone, would have been too small for an international match. (They’re too small even for senior, competitive club soccer here, for example.) It also provides sufficient area around the field for bleachers and all the other stuff. Hell of a lot of work to do in what is now only 48 hours, but that seems like a fairly reasonable option (as compared to using the upper rugby field there, which has all the softness of baked cement at the moment.)
The second source tells me that the city has been laying new sod at Graves-Oakley this week.
(Still another reader tells me this morning that neighbours in the Leiblin Park neighbourhood adjacent to Graves-Oakley have been complaining about flooded basements ever since the Graves-Oakley park was created in the 1980s, and the situation worsened when the ballfields were installed in the 1990s. Apparently, the fields block a natural watercourse that flowed through the area, and the water is diverted into neighbouring homes.)
The city issued this statement to me yesterday afternoon:
As you know, the municipality received an application earlier this year for grant funding for this event. That request did not include specifics on field conditions; however, we understand how important it is for event organizers to have access to quality venues.
The Wanderers Grounds is a public recreational field, not a purpose-built rugby pitch, which organizers were aware of when they approached the city and requested access to this site. The conditions of the Wanderers Grounds are regularly maintained to meet the recreational needs of our residents.
In additional to regular maintenance, the municipality has worked diligently since June with the event organizers and turf experts to get the field ready for this event. That includes aerating, topdressing, fertilizing, sodding and irrigating the field. On top of that, the city agreed to close the facility two weeks prior to the event to minimize any impact from recreational field use. Unfortunately, despite all those efforts, the turf has not responded as we’d hoped and the organizers have determined the site doesn’t meet the heightened safety standards of these elite athletes.
Upon being advised by the event organizers that relocation was necessary, the municipality worked to secure another site – Graves Oakley field in Spryfield. Right now our focus is on ensuring that field is ready for play on Saturday. Graves Oakley has been used this season for both local and provincial rugby play with no issues, so we’re hopeful the new site will make for a safe and enjoyable event for all involved. The municipality is also discussing transit options and other event logistics with the event organizers but ultimately these are matters to be addressed by those responsible for the event.
Many residents have complained about the upkeep of all area playing fields under HRM management. As commenter Gina Dunn put it yesterday:
Our fields are terrible. The best fields are outside of HRM. Both ball and soccer/rugby.
We used to have good fields but it’s just anything thing that went downhill once HRM was in charge of all fields. Communities took pride in their fields and looked after them – often free of charge.
Now all fields are contracted out to businesses who really have no connection to the fields except to get paid and spend as little as possible while doing so.
It’s really too bad. Whenever we play outside of HRM, it is always so nice to play on the nice fields.
As I keep saying, we cannot continue to freeze and cut budgets, refuse to fill empty positions, and contract out work at ever-lower prices, and expect to get a decent level of services. We’ve seen this time and again — with snow and ice removal, with grass mowing, with painting lines on the street, and now with a reputational black eye on the world stage for the failed field conditions.
You get what you pay for.
Good luck to the rugby community. But their city government has abandoned them, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever again see an international rugby competition in Halifax.
2. Yarmouth ferry
The province has provided another $1.5 million to Nova Star Cruises, the company that operates the Yarmouth ferry, reports the CBC. This is money already included in the promised $13 million for this year, so not new money. In fact, Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan is talking tough, suggesting that there may not be any more money forthcoming to the company; if so, and this is the last payment to the company, then this year’s payments will total $9.6 million.
Still, that comes on top of last year’s payment of $28.5 million.
Before ferry service was resumed, here were two consultant reports studying the ferry. As the report justifying the new service sated:.
Business and financial analysis in the CPCS and Gardner Pinfold studies
The CPCS and Gardner Pinfold (G-P) studies of a Yarmouth-Portland cruise ferry projected very different financial performance over a nine- year period. (The first year in each 10-year projection included one- time factors, so we have focussed on the nine subsequent years.) The CPCS assumptions imply losses of $4-$5 million(M) every year, while the G-P model projects profit from the outset, increasing from about $0.5M to $2.2M in the final year.
These contrasting results are almost entirely due to very different assumptions regarding:
• Passenger volumes—G-P assumes 110,000 to start; CPCS assumes 80,600. (Both incorporate only a 1% rate of growth.)
• Vessel acquisition cost—G-P assumes a six-month charter costing $3.8M per year; CPCS assumes purchase of a used vessel for $50M with a cost of $6.7M per year (12% financing over 20 years).
There is no objective way, without extensive market research, to provide more than a “guesstimate” of initial passenger volume and growth potential. The CPCS starting point was, by the authors’ own admission, very conservative. The G-P assumption was based on the expectation that a combination of economic recovery in the US; a new type of service (cruise ferry); and plenty of marketing, could attract at least 110-120,000 passengers annually. (In 2002, about 330,000 passengers used the two Yarmouth- Maine ferries then operating.)
Without the benefit of current market research, the panel chose for its financial projection (see below) the relatively conservative assumption of 95,000 passengers in the first year.
So the plan was to spend $21 million over five years — $4.2 million a year — and get 95,000 passengers per year. Instead, if no more money goes to Nova Star, we’ll have spent a total of $38.1 million in just two years — $19.05 million a year — and probably won’t break 50,000 passengers this year.
The NDP yanked the ferry when numbers fell down to about 20,000 passengers a year, corresponding with the four-laning of Highway 1 through New Brunswick.
I didn’t oppose the plan for the new ferry when it was announced. I agree that we should spend money to provide the public works and transportation links that drive economic development. But it’s not working. It’s time to cut bait and try something else.
Better spent, $38.1 million would’ve done a lot of good for the economy of southwest Nova Scotia. Every home in Yarmouth could’ve been given free high speed internet. Scholarship funds for university and trade schools could’ve been established for the area’s young people. Heck, just handing the money over directly to the people would’ve resulted in more economic impact than the ferry is providing.
3. Bicyclist struck
Halifax Regional Police is currently on scene at a motor vehicle collision involving a car and bicyclist on Dublin Street in Halifax.
At approximately 9:48 a.m. police responded to the collision. The cyclist was transported to hospital with what appear to be non-life threatening injuries.
The Halifax Regional Police Accident Investigation Unit is currently at the scene conducting an investigation into this incident.
4. Parrsboro no more?
The Parrsboro Town Council voted last night to “to ask for permission to amalgamate with Cumberland County,” reports Bruce Wark.
Town resident Cheryl Reid called out Mayor Lois Smith, who had previously said she would resist amalgamation, which led to the following exchange:
Lois Smith: “Thank you for your comment Cheryl. Council made the decision and myself, and as I said at the very beginning [of the meeting], I was the person who called my CAO in, called my council in and said ‘let’s have a look at this, are we going to miss something down the road.’ And so, sorry Cheryl, I didn’t keep my word, but I felt I am an educated person. I have a degree from St. FX University and, as I say, I’m 72 years old and I’ve worked since I was probably 10 years old when my Dad died when I was seven years old so I do have a lot of experience.”
Cheryl Reid: “I’ve worked since I was five years old at the Ottawa House…”
Lois Smith: “Cheryl yes…”
Cheryl Reid: “I’ve donated a lot of things in Parrsboro the same as these people have, but we don’t seem to have anything to say about anything. I’m educated also.”
Lois Smith: “I’m not going to have an argument with folks. This is an evening for you people to come forward and not dwell on one particular thing. We do have open council and there are council meetings when we’re just the only ones there and a lot of the press can prove that. Anyway, is there another question?”
5. Kings County council
Readers will recall that Kings County councillor Emma Van Rooyen resigned last month citing a litany of manipulative and irresponsible behavior, including back-room decision making, aggression in in-camera meetings, block voting, and personal vendettas.”
Van Rooyen’s former colleague, councillor Jim Winsor, has filed a code of conduct complaint against councillor Dale Lloyd, reports Kings County News Kirk Starrlett. The complaint addresses actions that allegedly occurred in a May 11 in-camera meeting after Winsor objected to Lloyd calling out other councillors for their “negativity”:
Winsor alleged in his formal complaint that Lloyd responded inappropriately to Winsor’s point of order by “yelling loudly and angrily” and that Lloyd “moved in my direction”. Winsor described the incident as causing “what I can only describe as a bit of an uproar.”
According to the written complaint, Warden Diana Brothers restored order and the meeting resumed.
This was presumably the meeting that eventually led to Van Rooyen’s resignation.
The Cox and Palmer law firm was brought in to investigate, and after interviewing and taking statements from nearly all present (including Van Rooyen) found that:
“Nowhere in his complaint did Coun. Winsor allege any sort of threatening physical gesture or verbal threat against him by Coun. Lloyd, nor did he claim at any point in his complaint to have ever had reason to fear for his own safety,” wrote lawyer Michael Coyle, who reviewed the complaint, in his report to council.
But in response to that finding, Winsor amended his complaint:
Lloyd provided a written reply to the complaint and Winsor subsequently provided a written response to Lloyd’s reply. In his response, Winsor wrote, “There was physical threat in his actions and while I cannot quote his words, I know that there was physical threat in his words.”
Coyle said this was “a new and very different allegation from that made in the original complaint.”
Coyle said that a threat of violence is not a code of conduct violation but rather a criminal matter, and if Winsor wants to pursue it, he should call the cops. Winsor says he might.
This particular round of council dysfunction revolves around a new municipal complex proposed for Coldbrook. At a June 16 meeting, Winsor and fellow councillors Patricia Brooks and Pauline Raven boycotted another in-camera session about the complex “in order to bring attention and sober second thinking” to the issue. By boycotting the in-camera session, the three broke the council quorum and it couldn’t proceed. For that, other councillors, presumably including Lloyd, have presented a motion sanctioning the three, which reads:
Council prohibits Councillor Bishop, Councillor Winsor and Councillor Raven from submitting travel claim expenses for any meetings or conferences that they attend except for attendance at council meetings effective immediately.
The whole ball of wax, including the competing complaints, will come before council on September 1.
6. Kings-Hant NDP
In still more Kings County news…
The Kings-Hants NDP Riding Association is in disarray after the party’s national office stepped in and forced candidate Morgan Wheeldon to resign for saying not-so-outrageous things about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Stephen Schneider, who had competed with Wheeldon to win the nomination in the first place, issued a statement Wednesday saying that he will not stand as the party’s candidate. Schneider cites the party’s poor treatment of Wheeldon.
Earlier in the week, riding association president Judy Swift resigned her post:
Last Tuesday, members of the Executive voted to follow a course of action with which I strongly disagree, and as the President, it would have been my job to put that decision in train and to be the public voice supporting it and liaising with the National Office and the media. I could not do that, so I have stepped down.
1. Centralized staffs
Graham Steele explains why the PMO, and by extension the premiers’ office staffs, are so powerful, and concludes:
No, the lessons that central agency staffers are learning from the Duffy trial are not, “Let’s behave.” The lessons these hard-eyed warriors are learning are “We need more staff” and “Don’t use e-mail.”
2. Cranky letters of the day
I would like to know why the two toilets on the boardwalk in downtown Sydney can’t be kept clean.
Here we have the cruise ships coming in and I can only imagine the look on visitors’ faces if they need a bathroom.
It’s bad enough that we don’t have a lot on the boardwalk but whomever is in charge should be checking to see how well the toilets are maintained. It’s not the first time I needed them and the result was the same. They are disgusting.
Yes, the boardwalk is beautiful but the maintenance in this area is poor. How long does it take to ensure our tourists don’t think we are lazy and don’t give a damn?
Bevery Joseph, River Ryan
Recently, I turned 59 and realized my body wasn’t bouncing back the way it used to, so I decided it was time to hit the pool and try to get back some firmness.
I’ve since gone to a few different pools at a reasonable price. At one pool, 55 is a senior. At another pool, 58 is a senior. The most I paid was $3 for two hours. I thought, well, being a senior has some benefits.
I recently moved and decided to check out the Dartmouth Sportsplex swimming pool because it’s closer for me and the clock is ticking on my flabbiness. Well, to qualify as a senior at a major fitness centre, I have to wait another six years. Oh, and then the real incentive is I save a whopping 25 cents. Yippee! You’d think with the percentage of “baby boomers” out there, there’d be a little more respect for those folks who want to improve their health.
Shame on the folks who operate the Dartmouth Sportsplex. As my Mama used to say, “Chris you should always respect your elders.” I guess this old adage doesn’t apply anymore. Tsk, tsk.
Chris Pearson, Dartmouth (a senior, I think)
No public meetings.
On this date in 1781, two American schooners attacked and plundered Annapolis Royal, and captured two hostages. In his book Plunder and Pillage: Atlantic Canada’s Brutal and Bloodthirsty Pirates and Privateers, author Harold Horwood explains that the Americans were able to skirt British defences around Digby Gap thanks to the assistance of an unnamed Acadian
…who had been convicted of petty theft at Annapolis Royal two or three years earlier and had been branded on the right hand—a common sentence in those days. According to law, the red-hot iron was to be withdrawn after the victim had screamed out “God save the King!” three times.
One of the two hostages taken was John Ritchie, the justice of the peace, who possibly had passed the branding sentence on the Acadian. The other was Thomas Williams, the town magistrate. They were subsequently exchanged for American prisoners of war held at Halifax.
In the harbour
Alpin Hibiscus, oil tanker, Sabine Pass, Texas to Imperial Oil
ZIM Luanda, container ship, arrived at Pier 42 this morning from Valencia, Spain, and sails to sea this afternoon
Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrived at Pier 36 this morning from Saint-Pierre, sails back to Saint-Pierre this afternoon
Beryl, oil tanker, Quebec to Pier 25