Party this Sunday!
The annual Halifax Examiner subscriber party takes place at Bearly’s (1269 Barrington Street) on Sunday, Dec 1, from 4 pm – 7 pm.
Music! Giveaways! Merch! Writers meeting readers!
Free entry for Examiner subscribers. You can subscribe here or you can buy a subscription at the event. I look forward to seeing you there.
1. Gerald Regan dies
Former Nova Scotia premier Gerald Regan passed away last night, at age 91. John DeMont writes about Regan and his legacy in today’s Chronicle Herald. DeMont discusses Regan’s accomplishments, but also notes:
Regan eventually went to trial in 1998 on eight charges including rape, attempted rape and forcible confinement for crimes allegedly committed in 1956 and 1969 against victims aged 14 and 18 at the time… Friends and family say that the sex-related charges and long court saga took a toll on [him].
Later this morning, the Examiner will publish two previously unpublished chapters from Stephen Kimber’s book Not Guilty: The Trial of Gerald Regan. You won’t want to miss this.
2. CN strike ends
I want to note Peter Ziobrowski’s Shipping News column on the CN workers’ strike, because it is one of the few media voices I’ve seen that doesn’t just focus on the disruption caused by the workers. Yesterday, I heard AIMS-affiliated food professor Sylvain Charlebois on The Sheldon MacLeod Show calling the Transportation Act “archaic” (it’s 20 years old) and saying it needs to be modernized so that unions don’t have the power to disrupt rail traffic.
Workers started walking the line looking not for higher wages, but for working conditions that are more conducive to getting rest. Fatigue, caused by working irregular hours, on changing schedules is a significant safety risk… Some called for the federal government to legislate an end to the strike, citing propane shortages. That didn’t prove necessary but would have been a bad idea regardless. Canadians should want hazardous materials transported safely, by well rested crews.
3. Parents advocate for double strollers on buses
A group of parents are advocating for double strollers on Halifax buses, Elizabeth McMillan reports for CBC. Right now, double strollers are not allowed on buses, and any stroller can be refused at the driver’s discretion.
“I literally had to beg the bus driver just to take us across the Macdonald Bridge,” [Rebekkah Hyams] said. “It is very humiliating, it doesn’t make you feel like you’re part of the community when something as simple as public transit doesn’t allow you access.”
The experience has stayed with Hyams. She and Jenna Hopson are among a group of parents in the Halifax area, many of whom have twins or multiple young children, who are pushing for the municipality to allow larger strollers onto city buses…
Hopson and other parents drafted an email to city councillors asking for a policy change to accommodate side-by-side strollers, provided they don’t block aisles or create a safety risk for other passengers.
One of the CBC commenters helpfully suggests that “instead of complaining she should go out and get a minivan.”
Travelling with stroller-age kids is miserable. Let’s make it easier for people with toddlers to use transit.
4. On-street parking fees to increase
Yesterday, Erica Butler wrote that council was considering raising the cost of on-street parking to $2 per hour.
Pam Berman reports for CBC that council did indeed approve the rate increase.
Once all the new equipment is in place, parking in Downtown Halifax will cost $2 dollars an hour for the first two hours and $6 dollars an hour for the next two hours.
The pay machines will not allow a vehicle to park for more than four hours in the same zone.
This is still ridiculously cheap by any measure. I assume people who complain about both a lack of on-street parking downtown and the high cost of parking meters don’t realize that raising the cost of metered parking increases the number of spaces available. If I can park free (or almost free) all day on the street downtown, trust me, there aren’t going to be any spaces available.
1. “A victory for tenants everywhere”
Documentary filmmaker Sharon Hyman is 57 and has lived on the same street her whole adult life. She’s been in her current building — one of a pair of modest three-storey apartment houses in the affluent Montreal suburb of Hampstead — for the last 26 years. She says some of her neighbours have been in their places even longer.
A story in the Montreal Gazette describes the place like this:
Rents for a 4½ for long-term residents are $750 a month, heat included. There’s no elevator and the windows are old, but the building’s in good shape, according to a recent inspection, and features bright, airy apartments.
Earlier this year, Hyman and her neighbours were served notices that the buildings would be torn down and replaced with a 10-storey luxury apartment complex.
I’ve been following this story since Hyman first posted about the eviction notice on Facebook, back in the spring. (We know a lot of people in common and are Facebook friends, but we’ve never met.) Instead of accepting the notices, Hyman and her neighbours fought back. And they won. Hyman calls it “a victory for tenants everywhere.”
She told me:
I think that so much of our battle started with feeling completely disrespected by our landlords. It felt like we were just like trash kicked to the curb.
I’m not against development. But there is an ethical and a humane way to do it. And showing up at the doorstep of my 80-year-old-neighbour who’s lived here for 30 years with the bailiffs and saying you have 10 days to contest your home being demolished — it’s not the humane way to do it.
The location wasn’t zoned for 10 storeys, but the building’s owners were confident they’d get council approval to go ahead anyway. Mayor Bill Steinberg favoured the project, calling it a “win-win-win” (for whom?). When council voted the development down, the mayor vetoed the vote.
Hyman and her fellow residents got enough signatures to force a referendum on the new development, and the vote was held last Sunday. Voters turned down the development by a margin of 593-267. The local community paper, The Suburban, quoted Steinberg:
The project is not going ahead, and what the developers will do next, I can’t tell you… Obviously, some of the benefits we would have had, like a zero percent tax increase, are not going to happen.
In other words, the tenants are selfishly going to cause everyone else’s taxes to go up by fighting against a luxury complex they won’t be able to afford to live in, but that will bring in greater revenue to the town.
Why am I telling you this story about tenants’ rights in Montreal? Because Hyman said from the start she saw this as being part of a bigger fight — one she hoped would resonate across the country.
Our particular story for me was never about just our two buildings. It was about sending a message to tenants across Montreal and across Canada that it’s time to start fighting back, taking back our power and sending a message to developers that you can’t just treat tenants like expendable commodities… At some point, people have to stand up to this gentrification and take our cities back. Do we really want our cities to just be accessible to the affluent?
Hyman is working on a film called Apartners, about people in long-term relationships who choose to not live together. Did she want to essentially put it on hiatus for five months to fight her landlord and municipality? Not really. But, she says,
We were these fierce women in this building and we happened to have a skill set that was perfect for this kind of fight. I’ve worked in media for so many years and my neighbour is a tenacious social worker. And so often landlords take advantage of the fact that people don’t have the time or the skills… I mean, some of my neighbours are working two, three jobs. They don’t have time for something like this. So we just felt that since we happened to have these skills and abilities, let us set an example for success for tenants — and for landlords and developers — across Canada.
Quebec’s tenancy laws are far from ideal, but renters in that province do have greater protections than tenants in Nova Scotia, and they are protected by rent control. (The Gazette quotes Steinberg as saying, “How do you get such ridiculous low rents?… You just stay there for a long time.”)
Hyman says regardless of provincial regulations, we need to change the conversation around renters and landlords. She heard repeatedly that her landlords weren’t running a charity. She counters:
Yes. You’re not running a charity. I’ve helped you pay off your mortgage for the last 26 years. I mean, tenants are the ones who allow landlords to amass wealth…
She elaborated in a public Facebook post a couple of days before the referendum that would decide the fate of her building:
Our rents were kept low not because of benevolence on the part of the landlord. In part it is because we have rent control, yes… But what is missing from this discussion is how much tenants contribute to buildings. We are essentially paying off mortgages for others and allowing them to amass wealth… They kept saying, we’re not running a charity. Darn right! I personally put over two hundred thousand dollars into this building!
We have to stop seeing landlords as victims. They are running businesses, and lucrative ones if they know how to manage them properly. They should be thanking their tenants, not treating them like expendable commodities.
Montreal, like Halifax, is in the midst of a housing crisis. Hyman hopes her and her fellow tenants’ victory can provide some inspiration to tenants in other cities:
It’s happening in every city… All we ever read about are renovictions, [tenants being] tossed out, and people are inured to it. Like, OK, it’s happening everywhere, there’s nothing we can do – a defeatist attitude. And I want to say no. That’s what the developers are preying on. That type of helplessness and people not knowing their own rights. We really wanted to empower people and give them hope.
1. Toy drive for families with incarcerated parents
This year’s toy and gift drive for families with an incarcerated parent is underway. El Jones tells me the idea and impetus for the drive came from provincial and federal prisoners. She describes it as “an initiative of provincial and federal prisoners through Black Power Hour in partnership with the Elizabeth Fry Society. It’s also supported by Womens Wellness Within.”
The organizations are collecting toys, books, and financial donations, as well as gift cards and care packages. (“We also ask that people buy gift cards so the moms can have Christmas too!” El writes on Facebook.)
There are a couple of ways to donate. Drop off items at the Dalhousie History Department, Room 1158, Marion McCain Building, or at the Elizabeth Fry Society, at 1 Tulip Street, Dartmouth. You can also e-transfer donations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. London kicks out Uber, leading me to rant about it
Halifax doesn’t have Uber, which apparently makes us a disgusting backwater that nobody would ever want to visit. I’m always amazed at the gasping, shocked tweets from people who say they can’t believe they got to the airport and realized they couldn’t order an Uber. I mean, what did you do before the company existed? Are you incapable of reading the signage directing you to a bus, taxi, or shuttle?
Over the past few years, I’ve travelled to Athens, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, and New York. In Toronto, Google Maps was constantly enticing me to order an Uber. I did fine with transit and cabs. I like riding transit in cities I visit. I am sure ordering up a car on an app is very convenient. But taking the UP Express from Pearson to downtown Toronto is also convenient, and so is taking the BART to or from SFO.
My one and only experience with Uber was in Manhattan, when a friend had ordered a car. She has a disability and many of the subway stations are not accessible. Uber was the easy answer. (The long-term solution to this problem, in case you’re wondering, is to make the damn stations fully accessible). We stood on the street, looking for her car, a popular make and model, trying to figure out which of the cars might be the one she was waiting for. We finally figured it out, after a couple of rounds of “Are you my Uber?” and off we went.
So my Uber experience is extremely limited.
Nevertheless, I find shilling for any particular company unseemly in political candidates, but it seems particularly tone-deaf at a time when other cities are starting to rethink the whole thing. Rather than providing a solution to transit woes, Uber undermines transit and leads to greater gridlock. And some cities have decided they are better off without Uber.
In Athens, taxis are plentiful and relatively cheap. The transit system is good too. Uber used to operate in the city, but they don’t anymore. That’s because the country tightened up rules on ride-sharing apps, and Uber decided it wasn’t worth sticking around. In response to criticism that he’d driven Uber out of the country, then-transportation minister Christos Spirtzis said:
For someone to leave Greece, they would have had to have a head office in Greece, or at least an office. They’d have to pay taxes in Greece. Uber had nothing. What were they leaving?… If anyone wants to operate in the country by following the laws and paying taxes, then there’s no problem.
In Athens, you can still hail a cab (and pay for it) using an app called Beat, but a licensed taxi picks you up.
More recently, London lifted Uber’s license to operate. Transport for London (TfL) the government body that oversees transit in the city, cited an array of reasons. TfL had originally suspended Uber back in 2017, but the company had been given two extensions to fix problems concerning regulators. The BBC reports:
TfL said it had identified a “pattern of failures” in London that placed passenger safety at risk.
These included a change to Uber’s systems which allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts.
It meant there were at least 14,000 fraudulent trips in London in late 2018 and early 2019, TfL said.
The regulator also found dismissed or suspended drivers had been able to create Uber accounts and carry passengers. In one example, a driver was able to continue working for Uber, despite the fact his private hire licence had been revoked after he was cautioned for distributing indecent images of children.
(As an aside, 20 years ago I worked on a documentary called Lost, about how and why people get lost and how they get found. One memorable segment featured a London cabbie navigating the city and talking about learning “The Knowledge” that all taxi drivers in the city had to master.)
Ride-hailing apps and services don’t have to be terrible. I found “What Uber Hath Wrought,” the October 16 episode of The War on Cars podcast, interesting in part because hosts Sarah Goodyear, Aaron Naparstek, and Doug Gordon talk about how they saw Uber as potentially positive when it first appeared on the scene.
One of the male hosts (not sure which), says:
I watched and reported on the New York City taxi industry for years, and it was a terrible industry. Terrible industry. The service that it provided to New Yorkers was pretty lousy. Every time you tried to do something new in the taxi industry, like bring in electric hybrid cars or credit cards, or some safety feature for cyclists outside the car, the taxi industry would oppose that. It was impossible to change the industry. The people who ran it were scumbags who abused their drivers. They were totally corrupt…. I was yeah man, bring it on!
Raising concerns about Uber doesn’t mean all is great in transportation now. We need to massively beef up transit, for instance, in the face of our climate emergency. Nova Scotia is considering piloting ride-hailing apps in rural areas. Transit is a huge issue outside our cities.
Are companies like Uber part of the answer? I don’t know. But a discourse that puts us uncritically behind the times for not embracing this particular company is right up there on the embarrassment meter with the mayor courting Amazon.
3. ER doc unhappy about criticism
After the conviction of two special constables over the death in custody of Corey Rogers, Sydney ER doctor Chris Milburn wrote an opinion piece for the Chronicle Herald in which he said he “shuddered” at the decision.
The starry-eyed view of medicine is that we spend our time helping appreciative people who are polite and reasonable. In reality, on a very regular basis, we deal with “the criminal element.” … I have seen criminals spit at, assault and threaten officers and the officers’ families. I am constantly amazed by the grace, compassion, and patience shown to these patients, which often exceeds that from our physicians and hospital staff.
The story uses the words “criminal” and “criminals” more than a dozen times: “dangerous criminal behaviour,” “violent criminals,” “intoxicated criminals,” “these criminals” — you get the idea.
Milburn faced a lot of criticism for the piece, and he’s not happy about it. Today, he’s back with another op-ed defending himself.
I find it interesting and disturbing that people read things in my opinion piece that were not there. This is either from a lack of clarity on my part, or a very determined mindset to see what they want to see on their part. Perhaps it’s a bit of both. So let me do what I can in a short piece to clear things up as I can. Their minds are theirs to open — I can’t do that part.
What I hope people understand clearly about my interest in this case is that I am frightened that good people, with no criminal intent or malice, can be sent to jail for a mistake.
To be clear, the “good people” here are not the “criminal element” in the ER, but caregivers who Milburn fears could be jailed for mistakes on the job.
Somehow, I don’t think this is going to help Milburn’s case.
Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — staff is telling the committee that it shouldn’t ban residential development on water lots because “a consequence of this would be that water lots under the control of Develop Nova Scotia could no longer be developed for residential-commercial mixed use projects.”
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — David Bentley has filed a third-party application to place the former Memorial Library on the Register of Historic Places. Council had previously rejected that idea, first because it was hoped the Mi’kmaq would make use of it, then because it was hoped that it would become a “tech innovation hub” that would make us all rich forever, amen. But it turns out no one wants the building because it’s falling apart, so now staff thinks it’s a good idea to revisit the historic registration issue.
Public Information Meeting – Case 21951 (Wednesday, 7pm, Alderney Gate Public Library) — Armour Group wants to further develop 1000 Mic Mac Boulevard, which is right across from the mall. There’s an existing 130-unit apartment building on the property, and Armour wants to add more buildings:
Building ‘A’, which will contain approximately 130 units within a fourteen-storey building (comprised of a three-storey podium and an eleven-storey high-rise component); and, Building ‘B’, which will contain approximately 75 units within an eight-storey building (comprised of a three-storey podium and a five-storey mid-rise component).
No public meetings Thursday or Friday.
Human Resources (Wednesday, 10am, One Government Place) — all about Early Childhood Development and pre-primary.
No public meetings for the rest of the week.
Noon Hour Voice Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, Sculpture Court, Dal Arts Centre ) — with students of Betty Allison and Christina Haldane.
On Logistics and Consumers’ Product Return Behaviour (Wednesday, 12;30pm, MA 310) — Ali Ülkü will tell us
Retailers generally provide lenient return policies (RPs) not only because they may signal high quality but also because they act as risk relievers for consumers’ purchasing decision processes. Yet, product returns may prove costly for the retailers, especially when consumers may opportunistically take advantage of the retailer’s RPs. Consumers return a product for a variety of reasons, such as the product having the wrong color or size, having poor functionality, being damaged during shipment, or simply prompting regret for an impulsive purchase. In this study, we introduce a variant of the classical newsvendor inventory model with returns, in which heterogeneous consumers decide, based on their post-purchase valuation of the product, whether to return the product after using it or not. From retailer’s perspective, such deliberate returns may mar the RP, which in turn may exacerbate reverse logistics and environmental costs. To that end, we incorporate demand uncertainty and consumer valuation uncertainty by explicitly gauging return probabilities and differentiated salvage values into our model. We derive analytical results for the profit-maximizing order quantity for a single-period product that comes with a retailer’s RP and exclusively identify the return type as abused (behavioral) or normal (functional). Structural and numerical results lend managerial insights into how optimal ordering amount, profit, return rates and salvage values change with the price, return window, and hassle cost of returning the product. Finally, we offer research outlook for the impact of RPs and consumer behavior on sustainable supply chain management.
Academic Libraries and the Digital Culture: How Should We Be Preparing for the Future? (Wednesday, 4pm, Room 3089, Rowe Management Building) — Guylaine Beaudry from Concordia university will talk.
From ducats to Libra: New monies in historical perspective (Thursday, 4pm, Great Hall, University Club) — Angela Redish from the University of British Columbia will talk.
Mini Medical School (Thursday, 7pm, Theatre B, Tupper Link Building) — Patrick Fok will present “Hospital-based Disaster Planning”, followed at 8:15 by Constance LeBlanc with “Emergency Department Triage/Flow.”
ESS Grad Showcase: Youth Leading Change (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building)
Wind Ensemble DJ, Projections, and a Wind Ensemble (Thursday, 7:30pm, St. Andrew’s United Church, 6036 Coburg Road) — from the listing:
Join the Fountain School of Performing Arts Wind Ensemble for a transcendent night of wind music, breakcore, electronic music, and projections.
Enjoy the dismantlement of classic works for winds by transfemme electronic artist Indigo Poirier (winner of the 2019 Arts New Brunswick Innovator of the Year Award) and the projections of Karyn McCallum.
Relax and watch the slow, beautiful crumbling of the world around you while you listen to the distorted, and crystalline sounds of Bach, Holst, Whitacre, and Shostakovitch. Ear protection will be provided.
Sensory Warning: Flashing lights and amplified sounds. $15/10. More info here, tickets here.
No public events.
Melancholy and Fading of the Self in the Works of Álvaro Mutis (Thursday, 12:30pm, LI 135, Patrick Power Library) — Andrés Arteaga launches his book.
Christopher Snook (Wednesday, 8pm, Senior Common Room, Arts and Administration Building) — the poet will read his work; reception to follow. More info here.
In the harbour
06:00: Granville Bridge sails for Dubai
10:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
17:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
21:00: YM Moderation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
I’m the phone-in guest on CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon tomorrow afternoon. Call with your fermentation stories or questions, or just tune in. (I love the phrase “tune in” even though we are no longer tuning anything when we listen to radio.)
Renovictions are terrifying and arbitrary. The parking lot in my apartment is filling up with cars that cost more than I make in a year before taxes (driven mostly by Asian 20-somethings…) and today I had to listen to laminate flooring being installed in the unit above mine. Over the past 6 years, I have paid about 50,000 dollars in rent to a multinational company. Even though I am a good tenant and have paid my rent on time for 6 years, I have no rights whatsoever – if they want to evict me to spend a few thousand dollars on putting in cheap laminate and nicer faucets in pursuit of a wealthier client they can make me homeless.
Uber and other so-called “ride-sharing” services are yet another example of insidious tech reaching into our lives and our pockets by luring us with convenience. What we rarely look at is the behind-the-scenes societal and planetary costs of the convenience. With Amazon, a world of products is just a click and a credit card away, but as local retail takes a hit, more dollars go into the hands of a monopolistic tech giant that suppresses the wages of manual laborers and entry-level workers at the expense of exorbitantly paid tech wizards. As a bonus, our roads are clogged with fast-delivery trucks (and our atmosphere with their emissions). For book and audio book purchases, writers and their publishers receive ever-tinier percentages of the income from their labours, as Amazon monopolizes the book-buying business.
Uber is not about “ride-sharing.” It’s about siphoning money from local economies. A SF Chronicle piece (URL below) estimated that 30% of what you pay for an Uber ride goes to the Silicon Valley overlord, leaving the local economy for good and further contributing to income inequality. If you want to see where all the wealth is accumulating, just visit the god-like environs of Silicon Valley and also witness the affordability crisis in San Francisco, which is driving out non-tech employers (including some federal government agencies) whose workers cannot afford to live there. Most Uber drivers do not make a living wage, and use the service as a side hustle, while cabbies try to make a living at it.
Meanwhile, despite having 91 million users, Uber loses $3-$4 million each year. It’s really not interested in rides or drivers. Like all tech giants, it wants to own a piece of you for life, by exploiting the so-called “phone” in your pocket. Caveat emptor!
Full disclosure: when few options exist, I will reluctantly use Amazon and Uber, but like Philip I find joy in public transport in the cities my work takes me to.
How much Uber takes from every ride:
What grossly unprofitable Uber’s long-term domination plan is:
What did people do before Uber? The same thing Halifax residents do now: rent crappy, often dirty, overpriced cabs owned or controlled by a handful of oligopoly owners with deep ties to the regional council; use 80 year old technology to fetch them; get no useful information about who the drivers are or when they will arrive; and in the case of women passengers, face a small but non-zero risk of sexual assault. It’s so inspiring to hear progressives defend this system.
As my comment below indicates I’m no fan of Uber, but that doesn’t mean that I endorse the local cab oligopoly either. It’s not a zero-sum, one or the other, kind of thing. Every yin has its yang.
One thing i didn’t mention in the Herald article, but tweeted earlier in the week was
“There’s a certain business community that views government regulation as a bad thing. Until there is a strike, then they can’t get it fast enough.”
i understand an argument for less government, and its a worthy debate to have – but if you advocate for it, at least be consistent and not demand the government immediately do something when you don’t like whats going on.