In the harbour
Ten to 20 centimetres today, says Environment Canada, but Peter Coade is predicting just five to 10 centimetres.
Former residents of Africville will appear in court today, trying to convince a judge that their class-action suit against the city has merit. Reports the Canadian Press:
[Lawyer Robert] Pineo said the residents were never informed at the time that there was a process they could follow to appeal the amount of compensation they were offered for the land.
He said the city was required to publish a notice of expropriation in a newspaper and send registered letters to landowners, but neither of those requirements were met.
“Their understanding of the matter was that the city had the power to acquire their lands unilaterally and there was no recourse available to them,” said Pineo.
Pineo is seeking to amend a statement of claim filed in 1996 to include the evidence of expropriation.
3. Health board
“Six of nine people proposed for the new provincial health authority’s board are donors to the provincial Liberal party,” writes Chronicle Herald reporter Michael Gorman:
Among the proposed candidates who donated to the party in 2013 are: developer Wadih Fares, also co-chairman of the premier’s panel on immigration ($4,421.40 to the Grits, $1,000 to the Tories and $1,350 to the NDP); Truro lawyer J. Robert (Bob) Winters, who sits on the dean’s advisory board at Dalhousie University’s medical school ($2,300); and John A. Young, a Halifax lawyer and former chairman for the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre charitable foundation ($1,171).
Others include: Stewart McKelvey CEO John Rogers, who served on the minister’s advisory panel on district health authority consolidation ($1,000 to the Grits, $500 to the NDP); CCL Group founder Steven Parker, a past chairman of the IWK Health Centre board ($1,000 to the Liberals, $1,000 to the Tories); and George Unsworth, a well-regarded Cape Breton chartered accountant who has been active with the IWK and Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation ($552 to the Liberal party and $500 to Liberal MLA Pam Eyking’s campaign).
Most of the names are well-known in Halifax, but Unsworth, the Cape Breton accountant, should ring some bells as well. Unsworth was involved in the Strait School Board scandal in 2001. As CBC reported at the time:
Port Hawkesbury, N.S. — It appears that the Nova Scotia government may have known all along about the lavish contracts awarded to top officials at the Strait Regional School Board. CBC News has learned that a prominant backroom Liberal helped arrange those deals, and then passed them on to the Departmant of Education.
There were more surprises for the Strait school board on Tuesday night when board members questioned a well connected Liberal who did the hiring for the board in the first place, Sydney accountant George Unsworth.
Unsworth was put in charge of amalgamating school boards in northern Nova Scotia by the Savage government, and paid $81,000 for it. He was an important figure at the time, connected through his friendship with Bernie Boudreau and Richie Mann.
It was Unsworth who announced that Guysborough school administrator Jack Sullivan, a fellow Liberal, had been picked as the first superintendent of the Strait School Board. Unsworth oversaw the process that awarded contracts that would eventually see Sullivan take in more than $1 million.
School board members were anxious to hear from Unsworth because the contracts were never presented to them.
“What did I learn that was useful?” says the board’s new chair, George Kehoe, “That the Department of Education okayed the contracts.”
Kehoe says Unsworth told them that, at the time, senior bureaucrats at the very least were in on it. “According to Mr. Unsworth, the Department of Education was aware of what was in those contracts.”
A Liberal and a Tory education minister have denied any knowledge, saying they’re as much in the dark as the school board members.
4. Wild Kingdom
A duck got lost in New Glasgow. No, I don’t understand why that’s a news story either.
City councillors yesterday fell all over themselves explaining why this winter was an exceptional event, and we subjects should quit our bitching about icy sidewalks.
“When I was mayor of Dartmouth, we’d sometimes go weeks without clearing the sidewalks,” said Gloria McCluskey. “You just had to deal with it…you have to be patient; you have to be understanding.”
“Try to understand the situation before harping,” said Bill Karsten. “At 8am in the morning, when it’s still snowing, is your councillor really the first person you should be calling?”
Others chiming in with excuses — global warming! worse than White Juan! — were Russell Walker, Darren Fisher, Mayor Mike Savage, Stephen Adams, and above all, an incessantly petulant Linda Mosher, who raised the issue so as to urge staff to use beet juice on the streets. (And lest anyone thinks that’s an unfair characterization, I’ll link to the video of Mosher’s whinefest as soon as the city posts it online.)
It was just too much for me, so I went out and waited for the bus on Barrington Street, at this iced-up bus stop outside City Hall:
I took the bus over to Dalhousie, and admired the completely ice-free sidewalks on campus:
You can see a complete photo essay of my journey here, but the point of it is: if Dalhousie can clear its sidewalks down to pavement, why can’t the city?
It’s especially telling that the sidewalks outside City Hall itself are an ice-bound mess. You’d think, or at least I’d think, that the very first sidewalk the city would address would be the one outside City Hall, the signature building of city government.
But, no. A source with knowledge of city sidewalk clearing efforts tells me that there is a plow operator assigned to the sidewalks around City Hall, but he’s been on vacation for a week, and no one was assigned to replace him. The city used to maintain a reserve list of other city workers qualified to use the snow removal equipment — that is, workers who don’t normally work on snow removal, but in a pinch can use the equipment — and those reserve workers were brought in to fill in for the normal snow removal workers when the latter were out sick or on vacation. But no more. “The reserve list hasn’t been used for years,” my source tells me, and instead the missing worker’s snow-clearing route is assigned to already over-burdened snow removal workers, to do after their own routes, if they have time. Or not, as is the case with the sidewalks around City Hall.
This tells me that city managers are working in a culture of budget cutting run amok. Reducing costs is more important than providing basic needed services. It also tells me that the bureaucracy is hide-bound, so inflexible it can’t prioritize services during a tough time. (If the sidewalks around City Hall itself aren’t a priority, I don’t know what is.) I suspect this in return reflects a fear of stepping outside CAO Richard Butts’ top-down management stranglehold.
Two more points about the ice situation.
First, on the peninsula, 34 percent of commuters —one in three — walk to work. Many others, like myself, incorporate walking into our daily lives; we walk to and from the bus stops, between meetings, etc. A while back I tracked myself on my iPhone to see how far I walked in a not-atypical day, and it was slightly over five kilometres, just walking between stuff I had to do. I don’t think I’m abnormal; tens of thousands of people in Halifax regularly walk five, six, and more kilometres every day. And now every step of of that walk is treacherous. City bureaucrats and councillors make much of their supposed pedestrian-friendly attitudes and actions. The shitty ice removal gives the lie to all of that.
Second, I wonder if anyone has calculated the worker productivity loss and other costs of icy sidewalks. I know people who aren’t walking at all, anywhere, because of the ice. But pretty much everyone is adding many minutes, hours if they walk to commute, to their daily schedule. Time is worth money. Add to that the stress of it all, which has real costs in terms of reduced worker productivity and health care, and soon we’re talking some real money. The port authority makes sure to tell the world that Halifax Harbour is “an ice-free” harbour, because ice scares away shipping business. Too bad the city government can’t likewise advertise “ice-free sidewalks,” because no doubt the ice is scaring away the Money From Away that is supposed to be the saviour of downtown. Are we a business-friendly town or not? Judging by the failed ice removal, I’d say “not.”
Chris Parsons has an interesting post on Facebook, related to the Chronicle Herald locking out its pressmen. The company wants to cut the pressmen’s retirement benefits. Says Parson:
Two quick thoughts on the Herald printers lockout (which is just another attempt to extract more profit from people who do actual work. In this case to make up for awful management decisions):
1) The NDP refusing to speak to Herald reporters is such stupid grandstanding. I get the morality of a decision to not cross a picket line (I wouldn’t) but the NS NDP are hypocrites on this. Just like their delaying of Bill 1. They want us to forget that they legislated paramedics back to work and that they refused to [pass] simple legislation like card check laws to make organizing new unions more viable. The most recent wave of anti-union legislation in Nova Scotia didn’t start with the Liberals; it started with the NDP…
2) I won’t be reading the Herald during the lockout (I only read stuff by a few of their writers at this point anyway) but I think it is absurd for the union to be calling for a boycott when their own members in the newsroom are continuing to cross the picket line by filing stories. I get that they are currently under a valid CBA and blah blah blah no work stoppage during the life of a collective agreement, but if workers in the same workplace with the same union local are willing to go to work when their unionmates are being locked out by an employer who is and will continue to demand concessions from all unionized workers in the workplace then we’re all collectively fucked. How do you call for a boycott when most of your members are crossing the line to produce the product that you want boycotted?
I just feel like the response from both the NDP and the union remains symbolic instead of attempting to actually challenge production or seize any sort of power. So yeah, let’s boycott the Herald but let’s not pretend that it’s going to do a lick of good until the union itself is willing to try to actually fight against austerity in their own work place and to embrace actual solidarity with their own members.
Parsons goes on to point out that while the reporters and other newsroom employees have much to fear from an unsanctioned job action, there’s nothing preventing them from having a symbolic byline strike in solidarity with the pressmen.
Gus Reed tells the sad story of a meeting of the advisory panel on accessibility legislation, on which he sits:
It had been suggested that we should be mindful of the budgetary pressures of the Department of Community Services, so we cast around for a free accessible location (2 in wheelchairs, one with a cane) and were pleased when Paul Pettipas of the Nova Scotia Home Builders Association volunteered his new space at 124 Chain Lake Drive. Complete with state-of-the-art accessible washroom.
Now Paul is a fine advocate (he’s a lawyer) for the NSHBA, but a poor judge of accessibility. After the first meeting I was aware of how inaccessible the washroom was, so at the second meeting all twelve of us adjourned to the washroom and examined in detail the shortcomings of the facility. Misplaced mirrors were an inconvenience, misplaced grab-bars around the toilet were a danger.
The brand new “accessible” washroom wasn’t up to code, says Reed. In his defence, Pettipas pulled out the building plan, which was approved by the city building department. This prompted a correspondence between Reed and Jim Donovan, the city’s Manager of Municipal Compliance, which Reed relates in full, and which Reed uses as a launching point to show that the city has the ability to require private property owners to bring about full accessibility. The tool: sidewalk cafe permits. As Reed explained in a letter to Mayor Mike Savage:
The sidewalk cafe bylaw changes present a great opportunity to use the power of the city to advance your ‘healthy communities’ agenda. Specifically, you should refuse to license any sidewalk cafe unless the restaurant sponsoring it provides on-premises access to a barrier free washroom.
Without such a provision, council would effectively be trading my interest in the public sidewalk for a facility that discriminates against me.
And then, continuing, Reed tells us:
Today I learn that a Halifax watering hole called The Old Triangle is expanding upstairs. I’ve never been in, but have it on good authority that this Halifax landmark has three levels inside and a single privy in a cave in the basement. The ever-reliable Coast calls The Old Triangle “wheelchair accessible,” but they must be referring to the patio on Bedford Row.
I freely admit that the patio on Bedford Row is wheelchair accessible. So here’s the question: When I have a beer at The Old Triangle, do I use the washroom across the street at McKelvie’s, or do I just pee in the street?
Alert readers will know of the plaque affixed to the Prince Street door of The Old Triangle, marking the location of the offices of Joseph Howe’s newspaper, The Novascotian. We all know Howe; among his many accomplishments, he was Speaker of the House of Assembly. Today’s Speaker, The Honourable Kevin Murphy, uses a wheelchair. His office is 539 feet from the Old Triangle, yet he can’t get in.
City council (10am, City Hall)—budget deliberations continue. Council will be looking at the planning department and the library.
Public Accounts (10am, Province House)—Auditor General Michael Pickup will release his February Financial Report.
Canada’s political mood (Wednesday, 1pm, Kenneth Rowe Room 1020)—Bruce Anderson of CBC’s At Issue Panel will talk.
Gram-positive Bacteria (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link)—Song Lee will talk on “Do Gram-positive Bacteria Have a Disulfide Bond Formation Pathway?”
Religious Freedom & Equality Rights (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building)—Diana Ginn will talk about “what principles should be applied to find a just balance between equality and religious freedom. Discussion will include a focus on the recent Supreme Court of Nova Scotia decision, Trinity Western University v Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society.”
The Lady from Shanghai (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—the 1947 Orson Welles film:
Fascinated by gorgeous Mrs. Bannister, seaman Michael O’Hara joins a bizarre yachting cruise, and ends up mired in a complex murder plot.
Addiction, eco-crisis and global capitalism (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building)—Bruce Alexander, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, is the author of The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit (2008).
Biomedical Visions (Thursday, 7pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—the second day of lectures in the series. Thursday’s lectures are “Modern Research Imaging Techniques” with William Baldridge and “Dalhousie Anatomical Laboratories” with Robert Sandeski.
Continental Drift (Wednesday, 1pm, 408, Science Building)—Jean H. Bédard, from the Geological Survey of Canada, Québec, will discuss “Continental Drift on Subductionless Stagnant Lid Planets, the Archaean Earth and Venus.”
Brian Bartlett (Wednesday, 3pm, Room LI135, Patrick Power Library)— Bartlett, of the English Department, will read from his book, “Ringing Here and There: A Nature Calendar.”
Baudelaire’s Poems (Wednesday, 7pm, KTS Lecture Hall, 2nd Floor, King’s New Academic Building)—the ever-engaging Laura Penny is speaking!
Jan Zwicky (Thursday, 7:30pm, Alumni Hall, Academic Building)—”Canadian philosopher, poet, essayist, and musician Jan Zwicky will deliver the fourth annual Alex Fountain Memorial Lecture.”
Once again, time is an issue. I’ll notice something tomorrow.
In the harbour
Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, Liverpool, England to Fairview Cove, then sails to sea
Independence II sails
Theatre critic, Dartmouth booster, and City Hall watcher Kate Watson will join me on the Sheldon MacLeod Show today, 4pm on News 95.7. I usually brave the weather and walk to the studio, but I may just give up today and call in.
Priority right after clearing routes for emergency vehicles should be seriously attempting to provide safe pedestrian walkways. If I remember correctly, they used large snowblowers to clear many of the sidewalks in Dartmouth prior to introducing sidewalk clearing metrowide. These were less damaging than the bobcats and were able to direct the removed snow to the top of the snowbank, rather than pushing it into the next driveway. Gloria is right, however, that the snow removal was not always timely, and home owner clearing, being voluntary, was hit or miss. I cannot, however, remember a winter where the sidewalks were not, eventually, cleared to the pavement. The ice storms this year have made a difficult task nearly impossible, but things could have been much better had that first ice layer been tackled before it froze, and if there had been timely, generous and when necessary repeated applications of grit and salt. One night the bobcat went over our sidewalk which was frozen completely solid. All it accomplished was to push ice balls from the snowbanks into the driveways. So we know they made a pass that night. Much later (midday?) they went by with another machine and dropped a laughably small amount of grit. By then the temperature was such that salt would have worked, and it was a sunny day. So, why didn’t they just apply salt that night instead of the useless babcat pass and the second equally useless grit application?
Darren Fisher showed up to work? Remarkable. This weather truly has resulted in rare events coming to pass.
Re: Health board
Dig a little deeper into John Young’s CV and you’ll find that he’s a former president of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party.
Tim, I’m also floored by the condition of the sidewalks and pathways at and around the Bridge Transit terminal, given how many people require access to and use public transit. The upper entrance pathways are virtually impassable because of pure ice covering them. The sidewalks along Nantucket and Thistle leading to and from the terminal are also not what I would have anticipated in terms of accessibility. It’s disgraceful.
I agree. Yesterday, I walked in the street on Thistle, to get to the Bridge Terminal, because the sidewalks are that bad.
Will extreme winter weather caused by climate change bring neoliberal snow removal to Halifax?
The comical imagery of city councillors slipping & sliding on the issue of snow & ice removal contrasted with the clean sidewalks at Dal is a hint that a corporation could emerge in the spring with a bold plan to privatize snow removal next year.
After all, the thought control mechanism needed to shift control of the city to a corporation in a time of crisis is already in place: http://www.boldhalifax.ca/take-the-bold-promise/
“This tells me that city managers are working in a culture of budget cutting run amok. Reducing costs is more important than providing basic needed services. It also tells me that the bureaucracy is hide-bound, so inflexible it can’t prioritize services during a tough time. (If the sidewalks around City Hall itself aren’t a priority, I don’t know what is.) I suspect this in return reflects a fear of stepping outside CAO Richard Butts’ top-down management stranglehold.”