1. George McLellan
Premier Stephen McNeil has named George McLellan as the deputy minister of Finance and Treasury Board. McLellan was CAO of the Halifax Regional Municipality from 2001 to 2005, back in the anything-goes seat-of-the-pants days at City Hall. Even at the time, he struck me as the consummate insider, the sort of guy who got where he was not through administrative talent or leadership, but rather through skillfully using his connections and favour-trading. After he left City Hall he got himself appointed as head of the province’s ambulance service and sat on a few boards, where he no doubt chuckled it up with other talentless mucky mucks.
The Ivany Report means whatever anyone wants it to mean, I guess, but I vaguely recall reading somewhere in the report that we were supposed to start doing things differently, that maybe appointing someone to the most important government finance position in the province should be based on something besides some drunken conversations at the Halifax Club. Take note, bold people.
2. Dare to Dream OK
The Bryony House Dare to Dream Home Lottery didn’t violate any rules, says Mark Furey, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia. Reports the CBC:
The lottery was managed by ALPC Housing Solutions, which is run by Kris Martin and her friend, Maria Sancho.
Martin sold her Waverley home to Bryony House for $1,075,000, to be used as the grand prize in the home lottery. She then bought the house back from the winners for $620,000, a difference of $455,000.
“Certainly the optics of these outcomes would be concerning,” Furey said.
“Here’s the reality: when a property owner—in this case the winner of a lottery draw—takes legal possession of a property, it’s really their decision as to who they sell that to.”
3. Thiels appeal
The Thiel family, owners of the bank towers in the financial district, have appealed the dismissal of their lawsuit against the province over the Nova Centre. As a press release they issued explains:
HALIFAX – After reviewing the decision with legal counsel, the Thiel Family Group of Companies has decided to appeal the Nova Scotia Supreme Court’s decision on its legal action against the provincial government to the Court of Appeal.
The owners of Halifax’s Bank of Montreal Building, TD Centre and the buildings proposed to be redeveloped as 22nd Commerce Square, believe that the judge erred in his decision to not declare that the Government of Nova Scotia failed to follow two of its own laws in granting an exemption from municipal planning rules in 2013 to the developer of the Nova Centre.
The Thiel Group of Companies claims the Nova Scotia government broke the Municipal Government Act and the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter in its decisions of August and September 2013 related to the Nova Centre.
“This is not about opposing development of the Nova Centre,” said Wolfgang Thiel, president of the Thiel Group. “Rather, this is about ensuring there is an even playing field for all private developers and commercial landlords who want to do business in this province.”
The Thiel Group filed its notice of appeal with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal this morning. The date of the hearing will be determined by the Court in the next few months.
4. Sushi apocalypse
Jiro Ono, who is considered the world’s greatest sushi chef, says the best days are behind us. As reports The Japan Times:
“The future is so bad,” the owner of the three Michelin star-rated restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, who was the subject of the 2011 documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” told CQ in December. “Even now I can’t get the ingredients that I really want. I have a negative view of the future. It is getting harder to find fish of a decent quality.”
The reason is overfishing, particularly of the endangered bluefin tuna, a sushi staple.
With 90 percent of the world’s fisheries deemed either maxed out or overexploited, we may be, as one conservationist put it, in the era of “peak wild fish.”
Whether the ocean apocalypse that Ono foresees comes to pass will depend on conservation efforts and international accords with spotty records of preventing overfishing.
The international sushi trade has its origins right here in the Maritimes. As told by Sasha Issenberg in The Sushi Economy, the story starts in 1971 with the Japanese fetish for Anne of Green Gables. Japanese businessman Akira Okazaki, who worked for Japan Air Lines, had taken his family to vacation on Prince Edward Island. While the family was off doing whatever it is people do to investigate the fictional orphan, Okazaki went to a fishing pier and watched the the catch being unloaded, and saw tuna treated as an unwelcome bycatch, a nuisance.
JAL was at that time flying lots of goods from Japanese factories to points all over the world, but the planes were coming back empty, so the company was looking for some return shipment. After Okazaki’s observation, one thing led to another, and there I was eating raw fish in Los Angeles’ newly exploding sushi restaurant scene in 1986.
And now we’re eating so much sushi we’re killing the oceans.
1. Halifax’s failed dystopia
Peter Ziobrowski dug through the multiple plans for downtown from the late 1950s through the 1960s and shows the mindset of the time. The city had already razed the neighbourhood just north of Duke Street and was looking for something to do with it, so hired a consultant to come up with a plan.
The plan called for tearing down City Hall and replacing it with a department store:
The programme consisted of apartment blocks, which were the first priority, followed by the rotunda and hotel block, office block, market hall, the department store and finally the sports dome. The towers would sit atop a pedestrian podium. The Cornwallis Centre was to be built at grade, with the lower levels housing parking and bus bays. Escalators would bring people into the pedestrian podium.
The proposal included the Cogswell Street Extension, which would bring people into the heart of the centre, via public transit. Market Street would remain as a service road, but all other streets within the site would be removed. The towers were aligned to preserve views from Citadel Hill.
The total estimated cost for the proposal was $48,700,000. It was immediately criticized for being too large and out of character for Halifax. Mayor Vaughan was first elected in the 1963 election, campaigning against the Cornwallis Centre (he was the manager of Halifax Shopping Centre at the time).
The Woking Group was asked to come back with something different.
And so we got Scotia Square.
2. Scots Bay or Scott’s Bay
Historically, Scots Bay must be correct as the name for the community. But to be fair and offer a bit of evidence to the contrary, the official highway map produced by the Department of Highways in 1935 has Scotsman Bay in bold type as the community name. The department’s map for 1944 has Scotsmans Bay displayed boldly as well, and near that in small type is the name “Scott Bay.” Another source, Thomas J. Brown’s book, Nova Scotia Place Names, published in 1922, has the name of the community spelled as Scott’s Bay.
What is it with Nova Scotians and their apostrophes?
No public meetings.
Dying (Friday, Noon, Room 104, Weldon Law Building)—Veronique Hivon, a Member of the National Assembly of Quebec, will talk on “Medical Aid in Dying: Reflections on the Quebec Experience.”
Collagen I Fribrils (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226)—Laurent Kreplak will talk about “Nanomechanical Studies of Collagen I Fibrils in the Context of Tendon Damag.” I think Tendon Damag was a 14th century Mongol emperor, but I might have that wrong.
Networks of trade and the business cycle (Friday, 3:30pm, Mona Campbell 1108)—Pier-André Bouchard St-Amant will illuminate us.
Rabbie Burns Day (Friday, 4-8pm, Lord Dalhousie Pub, Dalhousie University Club)—Scotch Tasting, with Ledaig, Glenfiddich and Bruichladdich Laddie Classic. There will also be a buffet of Cock-A-Leekie Soup and Lamb Shepherd’s. Pie. Cost is three Scotches for $7; the buffer is $14 for Support Members, whoever they are, and $15 for the rest of us.
And this is why we drink Scotch and celebrate Robert Burns today:
To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church
Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho’, faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.
Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her—
Sae fine a lady?
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.
Swith! in some beggar’s haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi’ ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whaur horn nor bane ne’er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.
Now haud you there, ye’re out o’ sight,
Below the fatt’rels, snug and tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye’ll no be right,
Till ye’ve got on it—
The verra tapmost, tow’rin height
O’ Miss’ bonnet.
My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an’ grey as ony groset:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I’d gie you sic a hearty dose o’t,
Wad dress your droddum.
I wad na been surpris’d to spy
You on an auld wife’s flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,
But Miss’ fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do’t?
O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
An’ set your beauties a’ abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie’s makin:
Thae winks an’ finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!
See the Burns glossary for translations of the more difficult words.
Paul Krugman uses the poem to poke fun at the international financier class today:
This Bloomberg report from Davos is making the rounds:
Billionaire Jeff Greene, who amassed a multibillion dollar fortune betting against subprime mortgage securities, says the U.S. faces a jobs crisis that will cause social unrest and radical politics.
“America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” Greene said in an interview today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”
Later in the article:
Greene, who flew his wife, children and two nannies on a private jet plane to Davos for the week …
The last stanza of the poem can be translated as:
And would some Power the small gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!
In the harbour
I’ve been spending my time going through a massive court file: