1. The best next thing in naming rights: The Rogers Grafton Street Glory Hole

The Grafton Street Glory Hole. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Rogers Communications announced Wednesday it acquired naming rights to an outdoor plaza at the Nova Centre, a million-square-foot complex that includes the new Halifax Convention Centre, office space and a hotel,” reports Brett Bundale for the Canadian Press.

You’ll recall that HRM By Design was going to lead downtown into world-classdom by requiring a tight street grid. Why, here it is right here in the Downtown Halifax Secondary Municipal Planning Strategy, the policy document that implements HRM By Design, on page 28:

In the past, streets have been closed and blocks have been consolidated to enable large scale development projects. The traditional street grid provides a high level of connectivity and is an important characteristic of the downtown. It shall not be subject to further consolidation.

Earlier in the document, on page 24, it explains that:

One of the defining elements of the urban design character of downtown Halifax is the historic grid of the blocks that define much of the original settlement block pattern, designated as Central Blocks on Map 3. On these blocks, the scale of new developments ought to be proportional to the modest depths of the blocks and narrow street widths.

Well, there’s “ought to be” and then there’s “what will make Joe Ramia the most money,” and so HRM By Design wasn’t going to stand in the way of the city doing whatever it possibly could to facilitate Ramia’s Nova Centre, including subsidizing it with a publicly funded convention centre, approving a development absurdly out of scale not only with the surrounding blocks but also with the entire downtown (twice as large as would have been allowed on the site had a non-Nova Centre project been built there), consolidating blocks, and even selling Ramia the damn street itself.

Ramia picked up the one-block stretch of Grafton Street for a piddling $1.9 million. As I noted in 2014, after I learned the dollar figure of the sale:

To put the sale into context, $1.9 million represents just $76,000 for each of the 25 years of operation of the convention centre. That is minuscule compared to the city’s annual cost for the convention centre of $6.65 million.

The Grafton Street lot that was sold is 17,456 square feet. By comparison, the Twisted Sisters lot at 1591 Granville Street is just shy of 30,000 square feet, and assessed at $5.3 million. The Birks site on Barrington and George Streets, where councillors park their cars, is 13,252 square feet, and assessed at $2.65 million. But each of those lots is not a public street. Selling Grafton Street changes the city grid system and puts part of the public transportation system in private hands, forever.

Clearly, Grafton Street was under-valued.

The arrangement between Ramia and Rogers is private — it’s his street, he can make whatever deals he wants with it. But as I say again and again, when the city government or Ramia or anyone else makes a “naming rights” deal with some random corporation, the parties to the deal may be required to use the corporate name, but the rest of us aren’t.

Why the hell should people give a multi-billion dollar corporation free advertising?

For me, it shall remain the Grafton Street Glory Hole. I’ll use the name of the corporation when referring to the street the day the corporation agrees to pay me $200 per use, and not a day before.

But no one listens to me about anything much, and certainly not about naming rights, so probably most people will fall right in line and start giving the multi-billion dollar corporation free advertising by using the name of a corporation for what should be a public street.

2. Wooden Monkey

The Wooden Monkey restaurant has seen much of its business sucked off by the Grafton Street Glory Hole, and so has sued the city, the province, and Trade Centre Limited (now rebranded as the Halifax Convention Centre) for lost profits related to Nova Centre construction. But, reports Paul Withers for the CBC, the Monkey “has lost its bid to fast track a hearing into its claim for lost business due to overdue construction of the Nova Centre after the province’s regulator ruled Wednesday it will not hear the case.”

On Wednesday, the [UARB] agreed with the city and province that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case because none of the governments were acting under the Expropriation Act in approving or funding to the project.

“There is no specific authority or direction, express or implied, in any of the relevant statutes, for the construction of the convention centre by the respondents or the causation of injurious affection,” the review board wrote in a 41-page decision.

The board concluded the Wooden Monkey should take up its case in the courts.

“Should the claimant wish to pursue its claim, it will have to do so in a court of competent jurisdiction.”

3. Journalmalism awards

Neither seems to be moving

— Brett Ruskin (@Brett_CBC) September 27, 2017

Speaking of giving multi-billion dollar corporations free advertising… yesterday, media outlets fell over themselves to highlight the opening of a big box store in Dartmouth Crossing.

And here are the journalmalism awards, Free Advertising for a Big Box Store Division:

Best Over-the-top Coverage
The CBC, which at last count had not one, not two, not three, but four reporters on the scene (although Anjuli Patil claims she was just there because she needed a curtain rod).

Best Use of a Good Reporter for a Lousy Assignment
Canadian Press for sending Michael Tutton.

Best Use of a Lousy Columnist for a Lousy Assignment
The Chronicle Herald’s Roger Taylor.

Best Hope of a Reporter Delivering a Baby in the Parking Lot
The CBC’s Brett Ruskin.

Meanwhile, I’ve been spending an hour a day checking out courthouse records because so far as I know no other reporter in the entire province regularly does so. And there are scores of environmental, social, labour, and justice issues flying under the radar because newsrooms have been devastated by staff reductions…. but the few remaining reporters are sent to cover a big box store opening.

4. Land titles

The province yesterday announced it will be spending $2.7 million”to help residents in five communities get clear title to land on which they live.”

“The problem can be traced back two centuries, when the government gave plots of land to Black Loyalists for their support during the American Revolutionary War and to Black Refugees, former slaves who sought refuge after the War of 1812,” explains Sherri Borden Colley, reporting for the CBC:

The government, however, did not give deeds, which meant those who settled never officially owned the land they lived on.

The repercussions today are that, without clear title, residents cannot sell their property or legally pass it down to other relatives. The province says that out of the 1,620 total land parcels in Cherry Brook, East Preston and North Preston, for instance, about a third are without clear title.

The government’s press release notes that:

The support includes funds to assist with legal fees and costs related to estate administration and migration, and new full-time positions dedicated to the land title clarification areas of North Preston, East Preston, and Cherry Brook in Halifax Regional Municipality and Lincolnville and Sunnyville in Guysborough County.

Hopefully, this will bring some resolution to the issue, but it’s still an incredibly complex property matter.

This is the result of Erin Moore’s NSCC journalism class, which last year produced an investigative package called Untitled about the problem. This is what journalism can do best: Investigate a problem, put a human dimension to it, call out government inaction, and get results. Moore says the class will be updating their work in coming days.

No word yet what the class’s next project is, but I hear there’s a big box store opening….


1. Cranky letter of the day

YouTube video

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

After eating Island potatoes for 72 years, I’ve found the driest variety ever.

They are Irish Cobblers and are found at smaller stores in the city area. Great with my wild duck dinners and gravy.

It’s a real pleasing variety since Stompin’ Tom sang about those wet Sebagoes going to market in Toronto on the 401 forty years ago.

I buy them at Mt. Edward grocery where I get my wild blueberries for pies and dessert.

Lorne Yeo,
Argyle Shore




Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — the committee will review the Ecology Action Centre’s presentation on the proposed drop-off loop at the new LeMarchant–St. Thomas Elementary School

Open House – Bayers Road – Transit Priority Corridors (Thursday, 6pm, Maritime Hall, Halifax Forum) — see Erica Butler’s article, linked to above.

Public Information Meeting (Open House)- Case 20924 (Thursday, 6:30pm, Multipurpose Room, Captain William Spry Community Centre) — Habitat for Humanity wants to build a four-storey apartment building with 50 units and 41 townhouses, all of which will be classified as affordable housing, next to the J.L. Ilsley High School. Deets here.


No public meetings.



Human Resources (Thursday, 9am, Province House) — appointments to agencies, boards and commissions.

Legislature sits (1–6pm, Province House)


No public meetings.

On campus



Catherine Tully

Access and Privacy (Thursday, 8:30am, University Hall, MacDonald Building) — this is an all-day symposium coinciding with the International Right to Know Week. Catherine Tully, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Nova Scotia, will give the keynote talk. Then, there’s a panel discussion on “Managing Privacy in the 21st Century” and student presentations and the like. They start these things at undogly hours like 8:30am just to mess with me, I think, but I’ll eventually be there, sitting in a corner, sighing and crying. Bring me alcohol.

Tobacco Ties (Thursday, 10am, Indigenous Student Centre, 1321 Edward Street) — elders from the Dalhousie Elders in Residence Program at the Indigenous Students Centre will explain tobacco ties and demonstrate how to prepare one.

International Labour Law Now: Towards the Transnational Governance of Work (Thursday, 4:30pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — Kerry Rittich from the University of Toronto will speak.

Joint Author Reading (Thursday, 6:30pm, Program Room, Killam Library) — Karen Smythe will read from her new novel, This Side of Sad, and Ian Colford will read from a new, yet-to-be published piece of fiction.

Building Towards Net Zero (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Rochelle Owen from Dalhousie University and Lara Ryan from the Atlantic Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council will speak.


Matters of Life and Death: Public Health Issues in Canada (Friday, 12:10pm, Rm 104, Weldon Law Building) — André Picard of The Globe and Mail will speak.

Documentary Theatre in Canada (Friday, 1pm, Studio Two, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Eric Peterson and Alex Ivanovici will speak. They are performing in Porte Parole’s production of SEEDS, a docu-drama by Anabel Soutar, at Neptune Theatre from September 12 to October 1.

Dispersion-corrected Density-functional Theory, Molecular Crystals, and Polymorphism (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Erin R. Johnson will speak. Take notes! There are lots of four- and five-syllable words.

From Slave Code to Slave Constitution: African Enslaveability, White Supremacy, and the Seventeenth-Century Barbados Slave Laws (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Stephanie Kennedy from the University of New Brunswick will speak.

Protection of Children in War (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 105, Weldon law Building) — a panel discussion with Jonathan Somer, Diya Nijhowne, Guillaume Landry, and Dustin Johnson.

Saint Mary’s

Bruce Kidd. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Bruce Kidd (Friday, 7pm, the theatre named for a bank in the building named for a grocery store) — Kidd is the keynote speaker at the “Playgrounds and Podiums” conference; see the complete conference schedule here. I interviewed Kidd for the Examineradio podcast; listen to the podcast here.

In the harbour

5:30am: Aristomenis, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
6am: YM Modesty, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
7am: IT Intrepid, cable layer, arrives at Pier 9 from Willemstad, Curaçao
8am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney
9am: Regal Princess, cruise ship with up to 4,271 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John
10:30am: Brasilia Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Portbury, England
11am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
11am: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship with up to 3,000 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Saint John
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport back to Pier 41
Noon: Hector N, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage for bunkers from New Haven, Connecticut
4pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Bar Harbor
5pm: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
6pm: Regal Princess, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for New York
7pm: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for New York


I don’t know.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. “…the theatre named for a bank in the building named for a grocery store…”

    Love this! Grafton Street Glory Hole is perfect.

  2. Determining property boundaries will be a nightmare – just ask any experienced surveyor about the conflicts between abutting property owners. Not to mention conflict within a family. It is easy to understand why previous governments have been reluctant to sort out the issue.

  3. Do these developers not do any research before attaching a label to a given feature. Just Google “Glory Hole” and I think you will get my meaning… or is the Nova Centre going into the porn business as well?

    1. I’m imagining a whole room full of suit dummies all trying not to giggle while also pretending they don’t know what a glory hole is.

  4. One of the more egregious issues around naming rights is that often the facilities involved have been subsidized by one or more levels of government, that is to say the rest of us. But of course we get no recognition for our often much greater contribution.

  5. I still call Skydome “Skydome” and not by that other stupid name it has now. I mean the name of the company that got me so pissed off about their lousy service and high bills and dishonesty and arrogance that I not only cancelled my cable, but gave up on television – the alternative was just as bad – and gave my TV away.

    I disagree about the newsworthiness of this store opening. It strikes me as the kind of story that a lot of people would want to read. Certainly not me, and probably not most Examiner readers, but many people would. Halifax Examiner doesn’t do general coverage; CBC and the Herald do.

    I’m not sure it is worth sending so many reporters – I’d probably send the intern to do the spot reporting – but it is definitely something that not only could be covered but should be covered. I don’t know the angle they took but you could also slip in some voices and data about how such a store may affect existing retailers, what it adds that they don’t offer already (ie are they being unfairly hosed somehow or are they just whingers who fear increased competition and a better customer service experience); experiences with this chain in other communities and what kind of community citizen they are; etc.

    If you do general community news coverage, not everyone always wants to read about court cases or deep dives into numbers that make their poor heads spin, and prefer to read about a store opening. Or such a thing can sometimes get their eyeballs, and then they stay and read the empirically more important stuff too.

    It is just one day anyway, and then will lose its novelty, and soon will be nothing big except to the sales staff who sell flyer advertising.

  6. Many citizens failed to understand that traffic would not be able to pass through the Glory Hole. Shame on us. We need a system where we elect representatives to stand up for our interests when we’re not paying attention. They could meet regularly, discuss these issues in public and vote on them. Any ideas?
    BTW, Rogers is the worst company I’ve ever dealt with. They overcharge and underservice. This goes double for their NHL package, which should be returned to CBC with a payment for damages to the product.
    Also, I’m re-painting my kitchen and I wonder if the Examiner would like the naming rights.

    1. It was not until I read this Morning File that I realized the Glory Hole would not allow cars through. There are two primary reasons for that:
      – I wasn’t living in the city when that whole center was discussed & approved, and
      – It’s such an unsightly gaping maw that I couldn’t imagine anything other than cars desiring to pass through it.

  7. I don’t know which surprises me most: that someone took the time to write a letter about their favourite potatoes, or that the newspaper printed it.

    1. Well as I have escaped Halifax and now live in the beautiful city of Charlottetown, I’m well placed to head over to Mt Edward Road to find some of those gorgeous Irish Cobblers.