1. Hobsons Lake
“Surveyors have been working along a property line in the Hobsons Lake area behind Kearney Lake, raising speculation that Hobsons Lake is part of the land the city is buying for the proposed Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park,” I reported yesterday.
The land in question is owned by West Bedford Holdings Limited, whose president is former Halifax CAO Richard Butts.
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2. Nova Scotia Power and Emera
A UARB hearing related to an audit of Nova Scotia Power’s relationship with the Emera family of corporations started yesterday. As issue is whether the regulated utility has in effect overcharged ratepayers by subsidizing operations and rents of the Emera companies.
As Jennifer Henderson reports this morning, NS Power is adamantly contesting the audit.
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3. Street checks
At yesterday’s Police Commission meeting, lawyer Kymberly Franklin, who is conducting the Human Rights Commission’s public consultations on street checks, gave an update on the review of the police stops.
Franklyn says the Human Rights Commission has conducted three “very heated” consultations, with the Human Rights Commission itself coming under fire.
She explained that people who attended the consultations complained about the lengthy review, which is covering self-evident examples of discrimination.
“’Why are you revictimizing us and forcing us to tell these stories again?’ they say,” explained Franklin of people who have been telling their experiences of being racially profiled by cops for decades. “That’s a common thread through all the meetings.”
Still, Franklin defended the lengthy review, which isn’t expected to conclude until next fall, although “that may not happen,” said Franklin. “Things are progressing nicely, and at the pace we thought they would…. however long it does take, that will be necessary time.”
In the short term, the Human Rights Commission feels the public consultations have largely missed young people, so over the coming months more consultations will be held at high schools — probably Cole Harbour High and Auburn High — and at the universities. (There was a tangential discussion about how the street check stats collected are from the Halifax Regional Police and not the Halifax RCMP, which covers the Prestons — Franklin said they are additionally getting to RCMP numbers…. but the Human Rights Commission might also want to talk to Black teens at Dartmouth High and Citadel High.)
In response to a request for examples of racial profiling, Franklin spoke of a “professional black man, someone well-known in the community, walking from the Oval carrying ice skates, who was stopped for no reason at all.” He told the room of his experience, then said, “I hate the police.” “The entire room was awestruck,” said Franklin.
“Searches seem to come out of nowhere, stopping for no apparent reason,” she continued. “I asked one young man how often he was stopped by police; he said ‘usually once a month, but lately once a week.”
Police commissioner Carol McDougall noted that “there’s a sense of empathy that seems to be missing here,” between police and the Black community.
To that, Franklin noted that there are two types of policing: paramilitary policing and community policing. “The community views it more as paramilitary,” she said.
“The people want to connect with police,” she continued. She used the example of a community picnic at Uniacke Square, which the police attended. Except, “they weren’t participating, they were overseeing,” lurking around the edges as if it were a suspect community.
Come have a hotdog already, seemed to be the attitude.
“We need more interaction [from police], and less agressive, paramilitary-type policing,” said Franklin.
“Each story was different,” Franklin said of the experiences related at the consultations. “Many were traffic stops. Eighty per cent had no idea why they were being stopped… many people did not know.
“They just know they have to sit still, put their hands on the dashboard, because they might get shot.”
4. Vision Zero and crosswalk flags
“There’s been a lot of positivity surrounding the release and unanimous council approval of our new Integrated Mobility Plan,” writes Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:
The IMP even went as far as to mention Vision Zero, a global initiative originating in Sweden in the late 90s, which gets its name from the rather bold goal of zero deaths and serious injuries caused by traffic accidents.
Unfortunately, although the Integrated Mobility Plan introduces the term “Vision Zero,” it then takes the much less used and less well-defined term “Towards Zero” as its action item. … The “Vision Zero” to “Towards Zero” switch has the air of a cautionary downgrade about it, an attitude that HRM seems to cultivate when it comes to pedestrian safety initiatives.
As to demonstrate the point, continues Butler, city council is today voting to kill the crosswalk flag program:
Maybe it’s the sheer embarrassment of knowing that the city’s intersections and other crosswalks are so badly designed that people feel they need the option to wave an orange flag around as they cross. If that’s it, then I say bring them on. Let the city become dotted with orange flags at every intersection where pedestrians feel unsafe, if only to shame our planners, engineers, and politicians into embracing Vision Zero and actually prioritizing human safety on our streets.
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5. Halifax council
There is a packed agenda for today’s city council meeting, which starts at 10am. I’ll be late because I can’t publish Morning File and then get anywhere by 10am, but thankfully the meeting starts with a presentation of Halifax Water’s annual report, which will consume at least an hour of time as councillors and water department execs congratulate each other and tell the TV cameras how they’re all responsible stewards of the ratepayers’ money.
Other items on the agenda include approving a $2.4 million tender for the continuing implementation of transit technology upgrades; the crosswalk flag issue (see Erica Butler’s article, discussed at #4 above); the purchase of two new fire trucks for what seems to me to be the remarkably low price of $1.2 million; putting former Halifax alderman Graham Downey on the list of people we can name stuff after; the purchase of another house on Bayers Road for the expansion of the roadway that everyone is against; finishing the reconstruction of the Shakespeare by the Sea building; the city taking the next steps required so the people trying to save the Khyber building can access federal funds; a request by councillor Lindell Smith that the city adopt a “social policy lens”; and a closed session approval of a lease with the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Society for 1940 Gottingen Street; among other minor issues.
I don’t see how council can get all this done in one day.
I’m being a rotten reporter here… but I broke a tooth a while back and need to get it attended to late this afternoon; so I’ll be live-blogging the meeting via the Examiner’s twitter account, @hfxExaminer, until around 3:15.
6. Cindy Day
Well, I don’t know what that’s about. But, as I’ve said before:
I’ve met Cindy Day three times, each time when I came to the CTV studios to talk with Steve Murphy for the suppertime newscast. While I waited to be miked up, I sat on a couch in a small alcove off the studio. Day never searched me out — honestly, to this day, I doubt she even knows who I am — but as she walked past, she saw a stranger sitting on the couch, came over, introduced herself, shook my hand, smiled, said she was glad to meet me, and went on to do her work. She was delightful. She radiated kindness and decency. I liked her, and continue to like her.
Day is a public person with a distinct personality, and she’s a woman, so Lorde knows, that will get you attacked at every turn. Social media has been ungenerous and unkind to her, to put it mildly. She hasn’t deserved it. The attacks on Day are blatant sexism.
Maybe Day’s running for city council — I hear that’s a shoe-in for meteorologists. Or maybe she’s starting up the Halifax Examiner’s new Weather News division. Who knows? Whatever she’s up to, I wish her well.
7. Donkin and the price of metallurgical coal
Michael MacDonald of the Canadian Press reviews the situation at the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton. I won’t rehash all the environmental, safety, and labour issues MacDonald covers, but he does get into a new argument being put forward by the mining industry:
[Colin Hamilton, a commodities analyst with BMO Capital Markets] says even though coal mining is held in low regard by those concerned about climate change, it’s important to remember the Donkin mine is primarily producing metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel.
While the long-term demand for thermal coal — used by electricity generation plants — is facing declining demand because of environmental pressures and competition from natural gas, that is not the case with metallurgical coal.
“Met coal is harder to replace and Asian steelmaking is highly reliant on met coal,” said Hamilton, adding that European steelmakers are always looking for reliable sources.
Robert Bell, a Vancouver-based independent industry consultant, says the price of met coal has almost doubled in the past 18 months to US$200 a ton.
“There’s a huge market for this kind of coal,” Bell says. “The timing is good for anyone who has the ability to develop production of this kind of coal.”
Aha! See! Our coal is special coal! World-class coal.
This Global News primer from 2013 explains that the primary exporters of met coal are the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
But wait a minute… is $200 a ton good? Why does Bell use the awkward 18-month timeline and not just one year? A May 2017 article in Mining.com by reporter Frik Els about coking coal (another name for met coal) provides some context:
The price of coking coal plunged again on Monday with the industry benchmark price tracked by the Steel Index dropping 6% or $12.40 to $199.40 a tonne as the impact of supply disruption following tropical storms in Australia appears to have been less than previously thought.
The article includes this chart, which shows that a year ago, coking coal was selling at $300.
So, while Bell says “the price of met coal has almost doubled in the past 18 months to US$200 a ton,” he could have just as easily has said “the price of met coal has collapsed in the past year to US$200 a ton.”
But what about now? Reports S&P:
Volume of shipped coal from Gladstone in Queensland, Australia, slumped to a seven-month low of 5.40 million mt in November, with weak exports to its three biggest destinations: Japan, India and China, data from the Gladstone Ports Corporation showed Wednesday.
The November volume is down 13% from 6.23 million mt a year ago, and 7% lower than 5.79 million mt shipped in October, the data shows.
Demand for metallurgical coal is also expected to wane as China is set to close many of it steel production units between November and March, National Australia Bank said last month.
Exports from Gladstone to China in November stood at 891,000 mt, a drop of 23% from 1.16 million mt a year ago, and a 27% fall from 1.21 million mt in October, the GPC data shows. It’s the weakest monthly total sent to China in six months.
Similarly, the shipment volume to Japan was the weakest in seven months, totalling 1.62 million mt — which is down 24% from 2.13 million mt in the previous year, and 23% below 2.11 million mt in October, the data showed.
Exports to India totaled 1.08 million mt in November, down 36% from 1.69 million mt in November 2016 but up 4% from 1.04 million mt in October.
The article goes on to say that exports to Taiwan and Korea have increased, but those are much smaller markets than China, Japan, and India.
A mining operation like Donkin is a long-term game, but it appears that the recent layoffs were at least partly reflective of a soft market.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda. See News, #2 above.
Budget Committee – 18-19 Budget and Business Plan (Wednesday, 7:30pm, City Hall) — rubber-stamping stuff.
Halifax & West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — someone on Edward Street wants to get some of that sweet student renter money, but city staff is saying no way.
Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Steven Feindel, the Executive Director of Client Service Delivery at the Public Service Commission, will be asked about youth retention in the Public Service.
Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm, One Government Place) — Valerie Mitchell-Veinotte and Steve Wessel, from the Canadian Legion, will tend bar.
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — the committee will be discussing “Physician Recruitment and Retention.”
Thesis Defence, Electrical and Computer Engineering (Tuesday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Wei Fan will defend his thesis, “Development and Application of the Finite Difference Time Domain (FDTD) Method.”
Random Projection in Deep Neural Networks (Tuesday, 11:30am, Room 127, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Piotr Iwo Wójcik, PhD candidate from the AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków, Poland, will talk about his dissertation.
Thesis Defence, Physiology and Biophysics (Tuesday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Dylan Quinn will defend his thesis, “The Role of Activity and Synaptic Cell Adhesion Molecules of the Neurexin Family in the Refinement of Synapses Between Hippocampal Neurons.”
Thesis Defence, Business Administration (1pm, Atrium 101) — PhD candidate Donna Parsons will defend her thesis, “Gendering of Family Firms: The Story of Family Funeral Homes.”
In the harbour
7:15am: Thorco Logos, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Port au Prince, Haiti
9am: USCGC Campbell, arrives at NC 4 from sea
2:30pm: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
11pm: Thermopylae, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England