On campus
In the harbour


1. Jennifer Watts

Jennifer Watts
Jennifer Watts

Jennifer Watts, who represents the north and west ends of the peninsula at Halifax council, has always said she would only be a councillor for two terms. So it was no surprise when Watts yesterday reiterated that that position, and encouraged others to consider taking her place at council:

The next municipal election will be held in October 2016. I will not be running for re-election. This is a decision I made before I was elected to Regional Council in 2008 that if I was successful I would only run for two terms. I have always felt, particularly at the municipal level, that it is important to have new voices and perspectives and to encourage diversity in the leadership of local government and one way to encourage this is to consciously not reoffer. I am making my decision public now to encourage residents in the district to consider running for District 8 representation on municipal council or supporting a candidate in this process.

Even though she uses two spaces after a period, Watts has brought a much-needed informed and progressive voice to council. Her even-keeled temperament is infectious, and she seems to have almost single-handedly improved both the quality and tenor of debate at council.

But let’s not rush her exit; Watts still has a full year left as councillor, and it’s certain she’ll continue to ably represent her constituents.

2. Pedestrian struck

A police release from yesterday:

At approximately 9:21 p.m. officers responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision on Windsor and Welsford Streets in Halifax. A 27-year-old woman was crossing Windsor Street when she was struck by a vehicle while in a crosswalk. She was taken to the QE2 by EHS with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the vehicle, a 73-year-old man from Halifax, was issued a Summary Offence Ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

3. David Hendsbee


Some years ago, Metro’s City Hall reporter Alex Boutilier (who has since moved on to report on Parliament Hill for the Toronto Star) invented the term “Hendsbee Hypothetical” to describe councillor David Hendsbee’s bizarre off-the-cuff comments. To cite just one example, Hendsbee once mused that we should move all the coastal lighthouses inland so tourists can have better access to them.

Hendsbee’s fellow councillors don’t take him seriously. He’s the loveable joke at the end of the room in the Bruins’ jacket, the Uncle Billy you don’t give the bank deposits to, the Cletus Spuckler of council. Whatever you think of Mayor Mike Savage, his inventive deadpan putdowns of Hendsbee (which go right over Hendsbee’s head) are hilarious: “We’ll take that under advisement, councillor”; “If you can figure out how to make that a motion, we’d be impressed.”

All of which to say, when Hendsbee rattles of some inane idea, like slapping MacPasses on the helmets of bicyclists, the appropriate response is not to take the idea as a serious proposal worthy of consideration, and certainly not to get all worked up about it. Rather, the appropriate response is to point and laugh: look, mom, a slack-jawed yokel!

4. Beverly Roma

Beverly Roma. Photo: Elta Mullins via the CBC.
Beverly Roma. Photo: Elta Mullins via the CBC.

Beverly Roma, 78, died Saturday from legionnaire’s disease contracted in a Dartmouth senior’s residence, reports the CBC:

“At first they didn’t know it was legionnaires’ disease,” said Elta Mullins, Roma’s daughter. 

“One of the doctors, she had picked up on the fact that she was the fifth person from Alderney [Manor] that came in with respiratory problems and she started an investigation.”

[…]Five people who live at Alderney Manor in Dartmouth were confirmed to have contracted the disease — a severe form of pneumonia — by the Nova Scotia Health Authority. The first case was confirmed Sept. 2.

5. Suspicious Packages reunion tour

The Suspicious Packages played an unannounced show at the Navy dockyard yesterday, reprising such crowd favourites as “My Overactive Imagination,” “Police Tape Blues,” and “Robot Love.” By the end of the show the place was trashed, the band even blowing up a ceiling fan.


1. National parks

Mother Canada™
Mother Canada™

In the 1990s, a process for the management of Canada’s National Parks with the primary goal of protecting and limiting development through science-based evidence was established, but those protections are now under attack, writes Nikita Lopoukhine, the former director general of Parks Canada:

Professional staff is threatened by gag orders. Staff firings, without cause, add to the unease. Travel to conferences is limited, locking up Canadian know-how that would otherwise be readily shared with the world. Budget cuts, with science reduced by a third, have placed monitoring and evidence based protection at risk.

With staff silenced, developers have found the door is no longer closed to their outlandish proposals.

Counter to previous agreements, Mount Norquay ski hill operators in Banff National Park now have a summer season in grizzly habitat. The “Glacier Skywalk” in Jasper converted a free lookout to a “pay as you go” large infrastructure that counters standing Park Policy of minimal development. A proposal for a hotel to be built on the shores of Jasper’s Maligne Lake was overturned, but overnight accommodations are still planned despite park policy. Now, in August, Parks Canada approved an expansion of the Lake Louise ski area to in effect double its capacity. What is unprecedented here is this development encroaches into a wilderness area which is prohibited by law from development.

More proposals are under consideration: widening parkways in Banff, expanding Marmot Basin capacity in Jasper and then there is the infamous “Mother Canada” [™] proposal for Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Insofar as our system of national parks, we are once again at a crossroads. The Oct. 19 election gives Canadians the opportunity to once more to stand up and to say once again, “Enough.” It is critical to restore Parks Canada’s science capacity and to respect the fundamental principal of nature first in all decisions as specified in the laws, regulations and policies affecting our national parks.

The world is watching. Let us not disappoint them and by assuring we have a robust system of national parks that as a first priority protects nature for the enjoyment of future generations of Canadians.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

It seems that literacy has fled the halls of some Nova Scotia government departments. The deer hunting season is upon us and some retail stores have notices saying the gun permits for deer hunting are available. A permit can be bought for: resident deer, non-resident deer, resident senior deer, non-resident senior deer. 

The problem is that the deer, or the ones in my yard, don’t know what constitutes residency. One from Paddys Head, now in Hacketts Cove, thought he should be non-resident. None of them knew what age they had to be to qualify as a senior. 

Is this notice another example of the declining level of education?

J.M. Walker, Hacketts Cove



Crosswalk safety advisory committee (10am, City Hall) — there’s been a welcome decline in the number of pedestrians struck:

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 8.06.24 AM

Transportation Standing Committee (1pm, City Hall) — the committee will be presented with the Commuter Rail Feasibility Study conducted by the consulting firm CPCS, which looked at this potential rail corridor:

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 8.22.00 AM

Costs of a single commuter rail line are outlined as follows:

The estimated capital cost ranges from a low of $36 million for the Cobequid Low Scenario to a high of $62 million for the Beaver Bank High Scenario. For comparison, the estimated capital cost of the Elmsdale Scenarios, which were not studied in depth, would range from approximately $110 million (low scenario) to $130 million (high scenario), i.e. over twice the capital cost of the Cobequid or Beaver Bank Scenarios. Capital cost includes track and signal upgrades, station and rolling stock depot infrastructure, and rolling stock. The estimated operating cost ranges from a low of $9.0 million per year in the Cobequid Low Scenario to a high of $10.9 million per year in the Beaver Bank High Scenario.

With potential revenues of:

[R]evenue forecasts vary between $0.8 million per year (both low‐ demand scenarios) to $2.9 million per year (Beaver Bank High Scenario). In the medium and high scenario, the addition of a station at Beaver Bank would provide an additional $0.4 to $0.5 million in annual revenue beyond the Cobequid service.

In terms of economic impact, the study finds that:

The ENPV [economic net present value] for all six scenarios is negative, indicating that undertaking any of the six scenarios would result in net economic costs (Figure ES‐10). The Beaver Bank Low Demand Scenario would have the least negative ENPV (‐$46 million) and the Cobequid High Scenario would have the most negative (‐$166 million). For all three demand scenarios the Beaver Bank concept would outperform the Cobequid concept, which indicates that additional economic benefits would possibly come from continuing service to Beaver Bank.

Overall, these findings suggest that none of the scenarios would generate net positive economic benefits given the assumptions made in the analysis.

I’ll spend more time reading the study, but I’ve always thought commuter rail is a non-starter in Halifax. A rail line serves some suburban fantasy of what transit is “supposed” to look like, but it doesn’t take people to where they need to go. Far better to just run more Link buses down the BiHi.


No public meetings.

On campus



Genetically modified crops (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — “Matthew Schnurr presents an introduction to the polarized debate around Genetically Modified (GM) crops with insights gleaned from ten years of fieldwork undertaken in five African countries,” explains the event page. “GM crops have emerged as one of the most contentious and controversial topics among scholars and donor agencies working in the realm of agricultural development. Proponents argue that GM crops represent one of the most promising means of alleviating poverty and hunger for poor farmers around the world, while opponents raise concerns about intellectual property, negative health and environmental impacts, and the increasing control of multi-national corporations.”

Multilingualism (7pm, Weldon 105) — Patricia Lamarre, from the Université de Montréal, will speak on “Parkour de ville: What the linguistic trajectories of young multilingual Montrealers tell us about Quebec post-Bill 101.”

Weapons of war (8pm, Rebecca Cohn Arts Centre) — Roméo Dallaire and Stephen Lewis will speak on “Weapons of war: Sexual violence and child soldiers.” Admission is $20 for Students and $30 for everyone else.

In the harbour

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

Gold Point, chemical tanker, Sabine Pass, Texas to Imperial Oil
Ocean Cygnus arrived at the mid-harbour anchorage this morning from Hunterston, England; will sail to sea later today

The cruise ships The World (up to 200 passengers), Regal Princess (up to 3,560 passengers), and Maasdam (up to 1,258 passengers) are in port today.


We’re recording this week’s Examineradio today.

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

Join the Conversation


Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
  1. After reading the Cummuter Rail Feasibility Study and attending the open house in Sunnyside Mall the idea of commuter rail is appealing. With the costs of widening Bayers Road in the $21M and counting (as of 2013 the estimated $36M capital cost for the Cobequid Low Scenario is not out of scale.

    With a population of 400,000, Halifax is a long way from the typical Canadian city of 1,000,000 plus that has a commuter rail network. With a small ridership, even with all of the rail enthuasists, It’s the ongoing operating costs that are the potential problem. (Of course, if we can get by with one car instead of two because of a 30 minute commute that doesn’t get bottlenecked when there are one or more MVAs in the peninsula routes, then paying a premium for rail is cost effective for me.)

    1. I guess it depends on your scale. I think your increase of more than 50% by my admittedly poor math skills is way off the scale. The use of 21 or 36 million dollars could probably be applied to better bike lanes, making the transit service more attractive to we suburban hooligans, reversing lanes, encouraging carpools with designated peninsula parking would have more effect and less ongoing costs.

      Don’t get me wrong, light rail is a good idea and now that its been examined, we need to decide if it’s too rich an idea to be pursued in a city this size. It’s just my opinion there are better ways to deal with getting cars off the road that are less expensive.

  2. Regarding pedestrians and drivers:

    How useless or useful is this report in the context of the safety committee meeting? I certainly hope that no one considers any change in the month-by-month or year-over-year number of collisions to be illuminating in any way. There’s a cascade of events that drive the number of collisions – 100,000 pedestrian crossings a day in Halifax – 25,000 with interaction of a car each day – 250 near misses each day – 0 collisions each day…usually. So this month 6 out of 7500 near misses resulted in an actual collision. Last month it was 15 out of 7500. That’s just random variation (or luck, as some would call it).Collisions are a tiny proportion of a very frequent event. Measuring rare events and calling random variation “progress” is a great way to miss underlying trends that would help predict future results.

    The way to measure this would be to sample the number of near-misses. That’s the event driving long-term trends in collisions. Pick ten crosswalks, set up cameras, count what happens over a sample of different times of day throughout a week. Measure trends. Then you’d know if you were making a difference.

    1. Luke MacKenzie raises an important issue. The chart of Vehicle-Pedestrian Collisions is entirely inconclusive as to any trend and further demonstrates HRM Police’s confusion of ‘counting’ with ‘analysis’. The stubborn reliance on considering one variable at a time means that important questions go unanswered. Like “Which intersections have accidents during peak commuter times?’ or ‘Are there intersections that are dangerous for under 25-year-olds on weekends?’
      Arithmetic just isn”t enough.

  3. Two things this morning. First, while I agree Hendsbee isn’t the shiniest apple in the barrel, he has a good point this time. I have tried numerous times to convince HRM councillors to bring back licensing of bicycles. Bike riders want use of the road, and in many instances, special consideration, yet they do not want to contribute one penny. If they were licensed, they could be identified and fined for traffic violations, and hopefully, would start to take some responsibility for their actions on the streets.

    Secondly, I am disappointed that I can’t post Nikita Lopoukhine’s piece on Facebook, as part of my personal campaign to oust Harper.

    1. The primary funding mechanism for city streets and bike facilities is the property tax. Just like car drivers, cyclists pay property taxes, either directly for their own houses or passed through via rent payments. And the relatively minuscule cost of bike infrastructure offsets far larger costs in widening and maintaining roads.

    2. With all the new suburban subdivisions and large buildings in the core planned for Halifax, isn’t it better to encourage active transportation than to try to make it as hard as possible in some vain attempt to make bike riders “responsible” and deny them “special consideration”?

      Bikes are much lighter than cars and there’s much less of them, so the wear that they cause on roads is insignificant compared to that caused by cars (or oversize trucks like you’ll find in certain districts). And as the editor mentioned above, gas taxes and licensing/registration fees don’t pay for the majority of road costs.

    3. Re the National Parks: I went to the link in the article and you can post it to FB yourself right off the Edmonton Journal’s website.

    4. Why would you encourage council to bring back licensing when it’s already been proven to cost taxpayers way more than it brings in and be ineffective in improving behavior (of which I see very little, aside from a lack of signalling and the occasional ducking in/out of parked cars) if not counter-effective in that it discourages use and training for youth?

      What is the special consideration you speak of? I’m always mystified when people bring that up. Sidewalks and crosswalks aren’t “special consideration” for pedestrians, but on-street parking sure seems to be for cars.