1. Downeast Beer is kaput

It appears the Down East Beer Factory on windmill has closed
doors locked for days, no note, not answering phone
not sure about brewery part

— Halifax ReTales (@HalifaxReTales) September 28, 2017

This explains O.H. Armstrong’s Small Claims Court action against Downeast — O.H. Armstrong must have been delivering goods, only to find the restaurant closed.

Now let’s follow the legal battle.

The Downeast Beer Factory is on Windmill Road in the Burnside Industrial Park. Photo: Halifax Examiner

I don’t understand a lot of things. But one of the things I don’t understand is why people with a lot of money throw some of that money at the Harold MacKays of the world. After I first reported on Downeast’s legal problems (behind paywall), I wrote:

I was amused to learn that Scott McCain, who gained his billions of dollars the old-fashioned way — he inherited it — sits on the board of the right-wing Atlantic Institute of Market Studies “think tank” that lectures we peons on the joys of the free market. Yeah, I’d be all on about that free market too, I guess, if by “free market” we mean papa gives me a billion dollars.

I was also amused that MacKay doesn’t like his business partner John Lynn, of the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation. You’ll recall that Lynn was fired and ECBC disbanded after the federal integrity commissioner tabled a report in Parliament saying Lynn had violated hiring rules by giving jobs to connected Conservative Party members. MacKay didn’t care about any of that, however — not his own personal dislike for Lynn, and certainly not Lynn’s unethical management practices — because, well, because Lynn knows people and has a knack for getting them to pony up money to invest in MacKay’s companies.

More than that, however, it struck me that these rich men decide where to dump their money on a whim. There’s no rational decision-making going on, but rather it’s about who you know: Sure, Harold has crashed a string of businesses… but let’s give him a half-million dollars because he knows how to talk hockey. Even after they drop the big money into an investment, there’s no follow-up, no discerning investigation into how the operation is being managed, but they’ll toss good money after bad, again and again.

These are the people we’re supposed to hold up in high regard.

And what’s with all the envelopes filled with cash? And does Jim Kennedy really drive around with $10,000 in bills stuffed between his truck seats?

In a rational world, the CRA would be interested, but who am I kidding?

2. Transit failures

Yesterday, city council’s Transportation Committee was given Halifax Transit’s Performance Measures Report for the first quarter of this year. (Confusingly, this is for the first quarter of the financial year, not the calendar year, so from April 1 to June 30.) The numbers aren’t good.

To their credit, councillors have every year increased the transit budget, authorized the purchase of more buses and ferries, funded terminal replacements, upgraded service levels. Sure, lots more can and should be done, but council is giving Transit pretty much everything it asks for.

But despite more buses, more bus routes, and more buses on most routes providing increased service levels, ridership is tanking. Here are the figures for buses since 2013, the year after the transit strike:

Since 2013, ridership is down eight per cent. Revenues increased in 2014 thanks to a 35-cent increase in the bus fare, but since the high in 2014, bus revenue has decreased by over half a million dollars — about seven and a half per cent.

Since the new ferries have come on (and all-day Woodside service) there’s been a healthy rise in ferry passenger numbers, but even those came down slightly last year:

But the increase in ferry numbers the last few years hasn’t been enough to offset the decrease in bus ridership and revenues, and year-to-year, total transit revenue for the first quarter is down $460,000, from a high of $8.13 million in 2015 to $7.67 million this year.

These are only first quarter figures, but they mirror the annual trends.

The decreases are alarming.

I can say anecdotally, from my personal experience, that the transit experience and quality of service has improved over the last five years. But I’m just one data point, and I use the bus primarily in the highly serviced urban core. Clearly, lots of potential bus riders are opting out of the system, and undoubtedly that has to do with poor service.

One big problem for wannabe riders is that bus schedules simply aren’t reliable. Halifax Transit has for the first time reported its on-time performance, explaining that:

On Time Performance is a measure of route reliability and is tracked monthly to demonstrate schedule adherence across the network of routes. Terminals and select bus stops along each route are classified as time-points and have assigned and publicized scheduled arrival times. On Time Performance demonstrates the percentage of observed time-point arrivals that are between one minute early and three minutes late. Transit Industry standard targets for On Time Performance tend to range between 85% and 90%, although service types are not always comparably grouped, nor are schedule adherence definitions consistent between agencies.

This quarter the overall On Time Performance was 77%. Due to the additional traffic congestion during the peak periods, the On Time Performance figures are lower and more variable during the peak period.

Some of the routes are completely unreliable — during rush hour, the #1 is on time only 51 per cent of the time. I’ve given up on trying to catch the #1 inbound from King’s College after 5pm, having too many times waited 45 minutes for a bus that’s supposed to come every 15 minutes, only to finally have three of them come at once. It’s easier for me to trudge through the snow or rain than to miserably wait on the side of the road in the cold. But I’m relatively healthy. I don’t how people with mobility issues deal with it. No wonder they find other ways to travel.

Here are the complete On Time Performance numbers for all routes, for the entire day (you can drill down into rush hour figures here):

We don’t know if on time numbers have decreased since the bridge closures, but that doesn’t seem to be the determining factor — rush hour only numbers are worse than the all-day figures that include the times when the bridge is closed.

The real problem is that there aren’t enough bus priority lanes and lights. I don’t see how the on time figures can improve until buses are separated from car traffic.

There are some good things. The transit app allows riders to see where their bus is in real time, which means (assuming you have the means to buy a phone and the data the app requires) you no longer have to stand on the side of the road wondering if the bus will ever come — you can stay in the comfortable indoors and wait to go to the stop just before the bus arrives. The improved terminals likewise provide a respite from the elements.

But an eight per cent drop in passenger numbers indicates something is hugely wrong. Council must take action. I don’t know if that means firing managers or bringing in consultants or starting advertising campaigns or all of the above or what, but this is an emergency situation.

3. Doctors

“A national organization says Nova Scotia was the only province in the country to see a net loss of doctors in 2016,” reports Marieke Walsh for Global:

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released the numbers as part of its annual report on physicians in Canada.

The latest numbers show Nova Scotia lost 26 family physicians in 2016, according to CIHI’s manager of physician information, Geoff Ballinger. The drop comes as the province grapples with a gap in access to primary care and family doctors.

Despite the drop, Nova Scotia still has the highest number of doctors per capita.

4. Amazon bid

There’s so much wrong with the city putting together the Amazon bid, it’s hard to know where to begin, but I’ll just point out this piece of disinformation from Mayor Mike Savage:

“When Amazon started, the city of Seattle was just over 500,000 people,” he said. “So if they’re looking for something similar to Seattle, I think we have it.”

Here are the figures for the city of Seattle:

But the city of Seattle is not the Seattle Metropolitan area, any more than the Halifax peninsula is the Halifax Regional Municipality. Savage is comparing apples and oranges.

Here are the population figures for the entire Seattle Metropolitan Area:

In the 20th century, the population of the Seattle Metropolitan Area reflected the state of warfare in the U.S., booming during the World War 2, and largely dependent upon the military contracts given to Boeing, whose plant is in Everett, 25 miles north of downtown Seattle.

In the 1980s, Microsoft put its headquarters in Redmond, which is 15 miles east of Seattle. I’ve taken the bus from Redmond to the University of Washington, which is in the city of Seattle — it’s about a 15 minute bus ride. And, as I recall, the bus was on time.

Amazon was founded in 1994, when the Seattle Metropolitan Area had a population of about 2.75 million people — not the half-million that Savage pretends it had.

If Savage wants to cite the population of the city of Seattle alone to make his case, then he should likewise cite only the population of the Halifax peninsula, about 90,000.


1. Cranky letter of the day

To the Yarmouth Vanguard:

Last year I wrote much the same letter as this one, which was posted in this local paper. I also emailed said letter to all Yarmouth town councillors and the CAO. It’s such a simple idea, but nothing seems to happen. It’s in regard to yard sale signs.

The Town of Yarmouth has gone out of its way with the new downtown façade program and all the lovely new signage around town. Kudos! It all looks wonderful!

Then every intersection you come to you see yard sale signs plastered on hydro poles. Most people don’t make the print big enough to even read if you slow down while driving. Those that do slow down to try and read these signs are close to causing accidents. The signs are rarely removed, getting rained on and left to the wind, until they become litter on nearby properties.

The by-law enforcement officer is responsible for going to the addresses on the signs and issuing fines. Now I realize this is a busy person, but he’s told me he’s done it on occasion. Obviously not often enough. I’d invite anyone issued one of these fines to contact me at 902-742-7966 and prove to me that fines have been issued.

My solution was extremely simple and cost effective. Put up a post somewhere in the center of town near an area where one could park. Everyone having a yard sale would only have to put up the one sign for it on this post. Everyone wondering where yard sales were going to be held could go to this one post and write them all down. The town would have to get the word out through our local paper, our local radio station, the mayor’s and others’ Facebook pages, etc. until citizens caught on.

It would also help get the point across if people out walking in the evenings tore down any signs they might come across and take them home and recycle them. The cost of a community bulletin board is not necessary. Just a post would do.

If you agree with me on this issue I beg of you, please email the mayor and council members (their email addresses are on the Town of Yarmouth website). If you don’t use a computer, simply call the town office and ask to be put through to the mayor’s office. The town office number is 902-742-2521. I’m so tired of seeing these unsightly signs stuck up everywhere and could really use any support I can get to remedy this issue.

Cheryl Burchell




Legislature sits (1–9pm, Province House)

On campus


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

5am: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
5am: Bilbao Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Fos Sur Mer, France
6am: Macao Strait, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre

Serenade of the Seas. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Serenade of the Seas. Photo: Halifax Examiner

7:30am: Serenade of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,580 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Saint John
7:45am: Crown Princess, cruise ship with up to 3,674 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John
11:30am: Bilbao Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
4:30pm: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
5:45pm: Crown Princess, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Sydney
6pm: Macao Strait, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Mariel, Cuba
6:30pm: Serenade of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Boston
8pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from 41 for St. John’s

5am: APL Detroit, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
7:30am: Viking Sky, cruise ship with up to 928 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Port Alfred, Quebec
10:30am: Tombarra, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Santander, Spain
11pm: Viking Sky, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Boston

Midnight: Seven Seas Mariner, cruise ship with up to 779 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor


Examineradio will be published this afternoon.

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

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  1. We have the highest number of doctors per capita but also the oldest patient population. The numbers are also a bit deceiving because Halifax is a referral centre for all of Atlantic Canada.

  2. It’s time to start thinking about and planning for free public transit financed, in part, by more tolls on cars particularly in the most congested areas of HRM. Implementing free transit would take a lot of careful planning. It’s worth reading this manifesto published online by the group Free Transit Toronto for an overview of benefits and challenges:

    1. A few ways to help this:
      Put a transit fee on all monthly rental spots in the downtown; transit and high occupant vehicle lanes on the bridges; enhancement to park and ride facilities on the periphery of the main city core. These are things which don’t need tears of study. They could be implemented right now.

  3. There are two ways to improve on time bus performance: Move the buses faster, or change the schedules. But the latter would require admitting how long it really takes to travel around the city by bus.

    It’s easy to blame long travel times on narrow roads and lack of priority lanes and lights, but routes that double back on themselves are a big part of the problem. For example, why does the only bus from downtown to Spryfield start by wandering around the south end?

    As for more routes and more buses, there is lots of transit if you work downtown M-F, 8-4, or attend university or college M-F during the day. If you need to be in other areas, or travel at other times, options may be very limited, and there’s minimal provision to add runs or add routes for special or seasonal events (Shakespeare by the Sea, BIO Open House, Rainbow Haven Beach, IKEA opening, etc.).

  4. Increasing the number of bus-only express lanes works when one has wide enough roads to do so; but in Halifax, wide roads are in short supply and one would have to expropriate a lot of land and knock down a lot of existing buildings, move a lot of traffic poles and modify a number of stormwater management systems to make enough space to create the necessary bus-only express lanes to make a real difference. And all of that will cost a lot more $$$$$$ coming from both public and commercial taxpayers. But, hey, if it is the only solution, then I guess it is the way to go, right? Is it the only solution??? Fixing HRM’s public transportation woes are akin to solving the feral cat problem… it cannot be done through a piecemeal bandage solution approach and it involves a commitment to effect real changes that are going to cost the required amount of money.

    1. Make the third lane on the MacDonald bridge a transit/high occupant vehicle lane could be done easily. No one in this city takes transit planning truly seriously.

  5. Population of peninsular Halifax was close to 90,000 some 40 years ago… which appealed to me because that was about the same as the estimated population of classical Athens… just the right number, in other words, for really great things to get done.