On campus
In the harbour


1. Macdonald Bridge closed


The bridge is closed this morning. At 6:30am, the Bridge Commission’s Twitter account, @HHBridges, announced an 8:30am opening, but that was later retracted. As of this writing, 8:20am, there is no announced opening time for the bridge. By the way, whatever happened to Bridgette?

In related news, I suspect that the problem behind “the bump” on the bridge — there are actually two bumps — is related to a complicating factor with the bridge rebuild.

The name “The Big Lift” is in some ways obscuring what’s happening with the project — the existing bridge is not being “lifted,” but rather replaced. Every bit of the bridge, except the two towers and the giant orange cables, is being replaced. When the job is finished, it will be in effect a completely new bridge, hanging from old suspension cables.

But in another sense, “The Big Lift” is in fact descriptive, because that the new bridge will be higher than the old bridge. See, the Port of Halifax is paying the Halifax–Dartmouth Bridge Commission $1 million so that the newly rebuilt bridge will have a sea clearance 2.1 metres higher than the existing bridge. Here’s how bridge spokesperson Allison MacDonald explained it to me in an email a while ago:

The existing clearance is about 49 metres. This varies slightly depending on the tide, the temperature and the number of vehicles on the bridge.

The reason it is so much more to raise the bridge the 2.1 metres instead of what we originally required is because:

It will take longer. We can only increase it in 15 cm increments one suspender rope at a time

To keep a smooth profile we have to raise it over the side spans (outside the towers) and not just the centre span (inside the towers)

We have to make modifications to the expansion joints to accommodate.

I’m guessing here, but I’m thinking that placing the new bridge segments higher than the old segments is what’s causing the “bumps” in the road surface — vehicles travel on the old roadbed until they get to the new segment, and then have to rise up 15cm, travel along the new segment, then have to drop 15cm back down again at the other end of the new segment.

Why would the Port want a higher bridge? Well, obviously to accommodate bigger ships, but a 2.1 metre increase really doesn’t get us much, because the MacKay Bridge has a clearance of just 49.5 metres. Says MacDonald:

The MacKay Bridge is .5 metre higher than Macdonald is right now. So, the net gain to get under both bridges isn’t 2.1 metres until we raise the MacKay – redecking the MacKay isn’t expected for 15-20 years. The .5 metre increase is still a benefit.

The vast majority of the ships going under the Macdonald Bridge are also going under the MacKay Bridge, with the ultimate destination of the Ceres Terminal at Fairview Cove. So far as I can see, until the MacKay Bridge is raised, the only “benefit” to raising the Macdonald Bridge is that bigger ships can unload at Pier 9, the newly expanded pier next to the Irving Shipyard. That pier handles break-out cargo, unusual shipping goods that aren’t carried in containers, and it doesn’t see much traffic.

2. Nova Centre

Joe Ramia, developer of the Nova Centre, has scheduled a press conference for this morning to make a “significant announcement” about the project. I wasn’t invited, but presumably the announcement will be about a new tenant for the office tower.

Word is that BMO will move some offices up the hill. I thought the Thiels, BMO’s current landlord, had outflanked Ramia’s bid to poach BMO, but I maybe not.

The downtown office shuffle begins.

The city is about to own this pile of junk. Photo: Halifax Examiner
The city is about to own this pile of junk. Photo: Halifax Examiner

I interviewed Halifax councillor Jennifer Watts for today’s edition of Examineradio (to be published this afternoon), and one of the topics we touched on was the city’s requirement to purchase the existing World Trade and Convention Centre tower, a piece of junk on Argyle Street that will cost millions of dollars to rehab. As I wrote in April:

The city has issued a tender offer with the numbingly bureaucratic title “Corporate Accommodations Space Planning Study,” with the aim of finding a consultant who will “review HRM’s core office and administration properties, for the purpose of developing an accommodations plan that the municipality can implement in phases, over time.”

A plan is needed because the city is about to acquire the 35-year old office tower above the convention centre. The tender mischaracterizes the situation as follows:

With the construction of the new Halifax Convention Center, the Municipality has an option to purchase the existing World Trade and Convention Center. No decision has been made by Council respecting the option, however a better understanding of our current and forecasted accommodations would help inform the decision making in the event the Municipality elects to exercise its interest in the existing WTCC.

This is disingenuous at best. The WTCC tower is now owned by Trade Centre Limited, a crown corporation, and when TCL vacates the premises to move into the shiny new convention centre one block south, the province will take over ownership. The city does have the opportunity — in real estate terms, an “option” — to make an offer on the WTCC tower, but if it doesn’t, the province will put the building up for sale on the open market.

Nobody in their right mind would buy a 35-year-old office tower in a market with a 12 percent plus vacancy rate when something like 300,000 square feet of new office space (Nova Centre, TD Bank expansion, 22nd Commerce Square, etc.) is about to come on the market.

In the almost-certain event that no one else makes an offer on the WTCC tower, the city is contractually obligated to buy it at “book value.” A few years ago book value was said to be $12 million. Very likely, it will cost at least that much more to renovate the building, including making the convention centre space useful for something else.

The building contains 118,000 square feet of office space. Compare that to the city’s current use of office space, by square feet:

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 6.45.29 AM

The lease at Duke Tower is up in 2021 — hence the “over time” part of the tender offer — so the obvious solution will be to shift Duke Tower offices across the street to the WTCC tower, but that still leaves 53,000 square feet of empty space to fill. The Bayers Road offices are leased from Joe Ramia, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens there. Also, office space requirements everywhere, including at city offices, are plummeting as technology and plain old cost-cutting are reducing the size of administrative staffs.

The potentially unlimited liability of the Nova Centre contract aside, the requirement to purchase the existing office tower could turn out to be its own boondoggle. We’ll have something on the order of $25 million in new capital costs to deal with, a few million more in office location costs, and whatever it will cost to maintain a bunch of completely empty offices.

The “Corporate Accommodations” study was awarded to MHPM Project Managers, but the dollar amount of the contract wasn’t announced. The deadline for completion of the study is October 30, so presumably this will come before Halifax council at its next meeting; my guess is it will be handled in secret.

3. Suspicious Packages

The band played an unscheduled gig at their old stomping grounds, CFB Halifax. As usual, they sucked.

4. Shore Drive

The Chronicle Herald’s Mary Ellen MacIntyre reports that gazillionaire Fred George is upsetting his Bedford neighbours:

The businessman owns three lots on Shore Road and an island, and some neighbours have grown concerned about whether the work being undertaken will harm the waterway.


One individual who called the Chronicle Herald on Thursday morning expressed deep concern about the “dumping” of rocks in the water.


If it is a water lot containing that designation and if there were rocks deposited in the water, there may not be any recourse.

I have no knowledge or opinion of the operation going on at the waterfront behind George’s home, but a quick look at this morning shows that George does not own a water lot. George owns Spruce Island and three lots at the end of the Shore Drive cup-de-sac. Notice how the property lines for all the lots on the map do not extend beyond the shoreline:

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 7.49.50 AM

Much of the rest of the Bedford waterfront, however, consists of water lots. Note on this map how property lines extend well into the Bedford Basin:

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 7.56.35 AM

“Water lots” date back to pre-Confederation days — since the formation of Canada, private property can’t extend into public waterways. Everywhere these lots exist they create problems. They’re how Francis Fares was able to fill in most of Dartmouth Cove and build King’s Wharf, and they’re the source of never-ending neighbourhood wars along the Northwest Arm. As property values on the Bedford waterfront skyrocket, the water lots will no doubt create still more trouble there.


1. Glasgow

Photos: Stephen Archibald
Photos: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald visited Glasgow, Scotland, and of course took lots of photos, including the one above. That’s the Duke of Wellington on the left (presumably the man, not the horse).

Archibald has an interesting aside:

Glasgow had the worst slums in Europe from the 19th century into the 1970s. Museum exhibits we saw were open and blunt  about this reality and also celebrated the special sense of community many slum residents felt. Another issue was slavery (African slaves were owned in Glasgow in the 18th century) and that the great wealth Glasgow gained from  tobacco and sugar imports was the result of slave labour. More themes that Halifax could do a better job addressing.

2. Drilling


“In the middle of the national love fest Tuesday celebrating the ‘new spirit of cooperation and openess’ promised by Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party, [Premier Stephen] McNeil sent a memo to every media outlet in Nova Scotia declaiming how thrilled he is that Shell Canada has chosen the fragile fishing grounds off the Scotian shelf to drill for oil and trumpeting Shell’s “strong safety and environmental and health and safety record,” writes Timothy Gillespie:

The problem is that any ten-year-old with access to the world wide web could have told premier McNeil that his assertion was one big lie — either McNeil’s to us or Shell’s to McNeil.


Rather than a proud record for safety and environmental stewardship, almost every place Shell has drilled, they have been found guilty of egregious lapses of caution and common sense and have treated the oceans and deserts in which they drill for and transport oil as their personal wastecan, dumping millions of gallons of slimy crude in their wake.

Gillespie goes on to detail some of Shell’s environmental record, and points us to the Alaska Wilderness League’s review of Shell.


No public meetings

This date in history

YouTube video

At 8:06pm onn October 23, 1958, a gigantic “bump” collapsed much of the No. 2 coal mine at Springhill. Seventy-five miners were killed; 99 others were rescued. The disaster led to the closure of the mine.

On campus


ISIS (3:30pm, Marion McCain Building, room 1170) — Amal Ghazal, from Dalhousie, and Larbi Sadiki, from Qatar University, will speak on “ISIS: The ‘Islamic State’ between Geopolitics and Religious Utopia”

Subjective time (3:40pm, LSC 5260) — Fuat Balci, from the Department of Psychology at Koc University in Istanbul, will speak on “Subjective Time & Decision Making: An integrative approach to reward maximization and generative processes.”

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Friday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Friday. Map:

Dinkeldiep, general cargo, arrived at Pier 42 this morning from Saint-Pierre; sails to sea this afternoon

United Carrier sails to New York
Hong sails to sea
Oceanex Sanderling sails to St. John’s

The cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas (up to 2,501 passengers) is in port today.

On Saturday, four cruise ships will be in port:: Maasdam (up to 1,258 passengers), Regatta (up to 650 passengers), Seven Seas Navigator (up to 500 passengers), and Caribbean Princess (up to 3,080 passengers).

On Sunday, Serenade of the Seas (up to 2,490 passengers) will be in port.

The cruise season ends November 2.


I have no copyeditor this morning. Be kind.

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

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  1. The «Developer Cabal» has been running City Hall for as long as I can remember. From Charlie Vaughn thru Peter-in-camera-Kelly, and now Mike Savage. Virtually the entire HRM organisation is in the back pockets of the «developers» and they operate pretty well carte blanche constructing inappropriate, ugly, commercial shacks and overpriced hi-rise condos, creating all sorts of nasties like wind tunnels, traffic snarls, parking headaches, and visual pollution. These «erections» are designed with a useful life measured in scant years, and by the time they reach year 15 or 20 have been handsomely written off and are basically GARBAGE. If Montréal is any example, the taxpayer will end up on the hook for multi-millions in demolition costs when these piles are abandoned by second-generation bankrupt owners. PLUS ÇA CHANGE, PLUS ÇA RESTE DE MÊME!

  2. Covered winter garden! We should definitely have one – we already have the hothouse for the Public Gardens but that isn’t public. Let’s put one in Cornwallis Park.

  3. While I do believe King’s Wharf is a worthwhile development let’s make no pretense that the development community must abide by regulations.

    If a powerful developer wants something invariably he (are there any female developers?) gets it (at least municipally).

  4. Waterlots. A few years ago I tried to find out exactly who was responsible for waterlots. I was never really able to find out. Finally someone said it was the Halifax Port Authority, but that doesn’t make sense, really, as there are waterlots in many places besides Halifax Harbour, and I wanted to know which level of government and which department had ultimate authority. Can anyone enlighten me? A bit late now because Kings Wharf is a fait accomplis, but I’m still curious.

  5. RE: Water Lots

    “They’re how Francis Fares was able to fill in most of Dartmouth Cove and build King’s Wharf”

    Please, qualify “most”. Is “most” 0.5% of Dartmouth Cove? 1%? 2%? The hyperbole is a little painful.

      1. How many hectares is the Dartmouth Cove?

        “The proposed infill will surround the site with the majority of the fill being placed on the southwest side of the property.”

        To the southwest of the property is the harbor…

        1. Dartmouth Cove is about 15 hectares in size (personal curiosity led me to Google Earth and polygon construction…) About 0.5 hectares has been filled in on the Dartmouth Cove Side. So, most is 3% I guess…

          1. I’ll grant “most” is incorrect in terms of Dartmouth Cove, but no civilized country would allow a private property owner to fill in 5.9 hectares of what should be the publicly owned ocean. It’s obscene.

          2. I assume you are including America in your observations about civilized countries? 😉 I’m sure you’ve visited the WTC site, which is all reclaimed land. Or Queens Quay in Toronto? Similarly reclaimed. Or the entire peninsula of Boston? It’s not uncommon.

            Land reclamation (a loaded term to be sure – “reclaimed”) is quite common, well into the 21st century, and in all sorts of “civilized” nations. Especially when there is no sensitive watersheds or wetlands being disturbed.
            Considering the industrial uses present on the Dartmouth shipyards lands for decades, the dumping of lead paint and other hazardous materials for much of that time while Irving owned… the lack of sensitive wetlands or watersheds in the area, I’m not sure what is accomplished by misrepresenting King’s Wharf as uncivilized, as ecologically destructive or the (minimal) land reclamation required (primarily in the harbor, and primarily for a breakwater for a marina) as an activity best suited to the 18th century.

  6. Re: Bridge Deck Height

    Rising Sea Levels? Perhaps the bridges were built tight to an international tolerance and there is a chance a 1m rise could impact the re-decked bridge over the course of 50-100 years? Be interesting to know what Peter Ziobrowski thinks.

  7. but how else will McNeil show a balanced budget or even *hands clasped* a surplus?

    how else will we ever raise enough money to pay for the renovation of aging hospital infrastructure (remember that flood?) or the ever expanding costs of healthcare in general?

    god forbid he took a page out of his federal cousins’ book and borrowed money – then he wouldn’t get re-elected and that’s really what’s important here

    1. If McNeil had chosen to abolish the NSLC’s retail activities, he’d have almost half a billion dollars now to use however he likes – for hospital renovations, or any other projects on the go in this aging ailing province.

      1. The NSLC is guaranteed income in perpetuity. It would be dumb to get rid of. That would be like selling off your trust fund for a one-time pennies-on-the-dollar windfall.

        1. No, it isn’t.

          It costs more than $100 million a year to run the NSLC, and that cost is not borne by Superstore, or Sobeys, or corner stores, who would pay for the privilege of selling alcohol, while still pulling in the same taxes the NSLC does.

          The NSLC doesn’t magically make money, lol, it’s the taxes on alcohol that make money.