The Halifax city skyline is seen at sunset from Dartmouth. In the foreground there's a rocky outcropping with a log and an old tire. There's another rocky outcropping in the mid-ground, the King's Wharf pier.
Dartmouth Cove in August 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

One of the “personal friends” Premier Tim Houston appointed to look after consolidated Crown corporations is also the owner of a company associated with the application to infill Dartmouth Cove.

Houston appointed Tom Hickey, CEO of Atlantic Road Construction and Paving Ltd., to run the newly-created Invest Nova Scotia, to be compensated up to $18,000 a month ($216,000 annually).

Invest Nova Scotia, reporting to Economic Development Minister Susan Corkum-Greek, is taking over the work of Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) and Innovacorp. It will hand out loans and try to recruit businesses to Nova Scotia.

Hickey was appointed to NSBI’s board in 2015, with a news release touting his business acumen and noting he’s originally from Glace Bay, “where he maintains the head office for Atlantic Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, which services Atlantic Canada.

“Mr. Hickey is also president and CEO of T. Hickey Enterprises, which has been operating since 2001. T. Hickey Enterprises has 13 operating companies under his management. He is also CEO of Atlantic Road Construction and Paving Ltd.”

The CFO of Atlantic Road Construction and Paving Ltd., Bruce Wood, is the owner of 4197847 Nova Scotia Ltd., the company applying to dump slate excavated from construction sites into the Halifax Harbour at Dartmouth Cove, as the Halifax Examiner reported in May.

The plan was to start the infill project August 1, but the federal government has yet to approve the plan, at least according to the project website. As the Examiner reported last month, Transport Canada received nearly 500 public submissions on the project after residents organized in opposition. HRM missed the deadline, but later submitted this letter registering its concerns with the proposal.

Copied on that letter is Tom Hickey.

A woman wearing a blue and white paisley shirt speaks to a room full of people seated in red chairs, many of whom are wearing masks.
Jill Brogan speaks to a packed room at the Zatzman Sportsplex, where people gathered Monday night to voice their opposition to a plan to infill Dartmouth Cove. — Photo: Zane Woodford

For Jill Brogan of Friends of Dartmouth Cove, it’s all a bit fishy.

“There’s no clarity with this announcement as to ensure to any of us what’s going to happen here,” Brogan told the Examiner.

At a recent meeting with Develop Nova Scotia, Brogan said she was told the Crown corporation had granted tentative, conditional approval for trucks headed to and from the infill to cross its property. The condition is that the project can’t last the six years cited in the application to Transport Canada, Brogan said, with Develop Nova Scotia believing it will last just two years.

The organization made that decision with no public consultation, Brogan said.

A site plan shows property lines and a grey shaded area where a property owner wants to infill the harbour.
The site plan included in the application to infill Dartmouth Cove. Develop Nova Scotia’s lot is in the centre, just left of the shaded grey meant to represent the infill. — Screenshot/Design Point

“They didn’t say it in so many words, but they said, ‘Well, if this pyritic slate infill doesn’t happen, then the cost to develop in Dartmouth will be higher and so the development wouldn’t happen or wouldn’t happen for any affordable housing.’ It was really very odd,” Brogan said.

Develop Nova Scotia was soliciting bids for a nearby affordable housing development, on King Street in downtown Dartmouth.

But that Crown corporation no longer exists, having been folded into the new Build Nova Scotia, along with Nova Scotia Lands. Houston’s other buddy, entrepreneur Wayne Crawley, will run that organization.

“They’re all going to be sitting at the same table,” Brogan said of Hickey and Crawley.

“We’re not stupid. You look at things and go, ‘Well, now, how’s that gonna work out? And, is there a conflict of interest here?’ And we think there is for sure.”

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. It seems clear that the province has already made a (non-transparent) decision that the Dartmouth Cove infill project should go ahead, as a safe way of disposing of tons of pyrtiic slate, all related to increasing diverse housing and road development, particularly in Dartmouth.

    The municiplaity has already approved long term high rise developments on Dartmouth Cove light industrial lands. One suhc project is the two towers near Moffat’s pharmacy, which will include new ground level space for the pharmacy.

    It seems likely that the federal government will approve the infill project, perhaps with some conditions.

    What is left is “managing” the impacts of the infill project on local residents, trail users, and all of the other diverse users of Dartmouth Cove such as light industrial businesses, graffitti artists, and more.

    It would look that Develop NS, in its previous version, had already approved the infill project, and was moving to “amanage” the impacts (e.g. two years and not six years).

    All is now decided, with limited public information and no real consultation. Such seems to be the way here, no matter what government or premier is in power.

  2. Dartmouth Cove is one of very few areas along the Harbour that the public can access at any time and enjoy. Currently, for example, the area around Alderney Landing has been taken over for other activities so the boardwalk is inaccessible. I personally don’t know of any other public area within my walking distance where I can get close to the water of the harbour in Dartmouth.

    This whole issue absolutely stinks. When Houston decided to protect Owls Head I think many of us thought this was a good sign. Now it looks like it was really just one in the eye for his old opponent, Stephen McNeil. What is happening now is more, much more, of the same manipulation and obfuscation to benefit a few. Cronyism is alive and well in Nova Scotia.

  3. This stinks on every level.

    Houston appoints his two buddies to prime positions. It might have made sense to retain two of the previous CEOs, who would at least have experience at running these agencies. But no, we’ll pay them a nice severance instead.

    One buddy is relying on the other buddy for permission to cross the land to destroy Dartmouth Cove. Do you think he has the least concern he won’t get it?

    Tentative permission already granted because Develop NS thinks the project will last “just” two years instead of the six years the applicant(!) thinks it will take. First of all, the question of two vs six years is so completely irrelevant to the essential issue. The Cove is destroyed as soon as they start. And say they work for two years and then find out (surprise!) it’s going to take longer — has an extension in such a situation ever been denied? What would be the point of denying it anyway, the Cove’s already destroyed by that point.

    And all the while these folks get paid $18k per month because they’re so damn good at “business.” (I guess I can’t deny they’re pretty good at something.)

    1. The land at King Street was expropriated with federal money in 1978 as part of downtowm Dartmouth waterfront re-development. Homes were demolished and the land was has been a parking lot ever since. Thousands of tons of pyritic slate will be removed from the site .and disposal in Dartmouth cove will reduce the environmental impact of trucks burning diesel and lumbering a longer distance to safely dispose of the rock. Good riddance to the bloated bureaucracy at Develop Nova Scotia. The land at the ferry terminal was managed by the Board of Alderney Landing and minutes of the minutes were available online. Once the work was handed to Develop NS all scrutiny was wiped out and the public interest pushed aside. Dartmouth residents are quite capable of deciding the future of their waterfront in a manner that maintains public ownership and control of land for public use…and ensuring it does not become another version of the Halifax waterfront.