“I hadn’t even made it into Canso when I happened upon the first person willing and eager to speak her mind on the proposed spaceport that Maritime Launch Services wants to construct in the picturesque community at the very end of Highway 16,” writes Joan Baxter:
In a charming restaurant a few kilometres from the centre of town, Canso native Alicia Rhynold didn’t hesitate when asked what she thinks of the spaceport project. As she handed out plates loaded with seafood and salad, she declared, “I am against it.”
Nor did she care if anyone heard her. “I’m an open book,” Rhynold said. “There won’t be jobs. And there will be toxins. We’re a fishing village and if something happens, we’ll lose everything.”
Travelling into town, I see dozens of signs proclaiming “We say no to the Canso Spaceport” plastered on poles and on lawns.
I’d travelled to Canso to attend an information session being hosted by a newly formed group of citizens concerned by the plans to launch Ukrainian-made rockets from a site just 3.5 kilometres from the town’s hospital.
They call themselves “Action Against Canso Spaceport” or AACS…
AACS organized a public meeting at the Canso Lions Club because it was concerned that people in the area had not been getting the whole story from project proponents.
Baxter goes on to show how presenters at the event laid out the environmental concerns and the beyond-sketchy history of Maritime Launch Services.
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Relatedly, I was reading this Halifax Magazine puff piece on Maritime Launch Services president Stephen Matier, when I came across this bit:
That raises the tantalizing possibility of Canso with barely 739 souls (where the average age is almost 50 and the median annual income is less than $24,000) become the next Cape Canaveral (with all the economic benefits that might accruie [sic]) in the hot, new race for private sector ascendency over outer space.
“The next Cape Canaveral,” eh?
Cape Canaveral is the Florida city nearest to the space launching facility of the same name, with satellite launches from the Air Force station beginning in 1958 and human launches associated with the Mercury and Gemini programs during the early 1960s. In 1968, the Apollo program started launching from a separate facility, the Kennedy Space Center, and all subsequent American launches of humans into space (e.g. the space shuttle) have also lifted from the area. That’s 60+ years of the most advanced space launch operations humanity has seen. Moreover, Cape Canaveral is in Florida, where all the world goes to escape winter and frolic on never-ending beaches, and Disney World is just an hour away, so there is enormous tourism potential.
So what’s the state of the local economy?
The US Census Bureau relates that the city of Cape Canaveral has a population of 10,449 people living in 5,344 households. The median age is 57.2, almost a decade older than the mark the Halifax Magazine writer says spells misfortune for Canso.
The per capita income in Cape Canaveral is $38,375 (per household is $41,250), which is considerably higher than Canso’s, but still not remarkable — especially when you consider that 1,680 people — 16% of the population — are veterans, and therefore receiving relatively good pensions. On the downside, 15% of the population in Cape Canaveral lives below the poverty line.
Another, although still not great, comparison for the Canso spaceport would be Wallops Island, Virginia, where NASA launches spy satellites, and an associated government-funded venture called the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launches satellites commercially.
The nearest town to Wallops Island is Chincoteague, of pony fame. In fact, the ponies, not the rockets, are the big tourist draw. I went by and saw Misty herself a couple of years ago — she’s stuffed and put on display at the town museum, and while I was there, dozens of other tourists likewise stopped by for a look-see.
There’s great interest in dead ponies.
After I saw the dead ponies (the stuffed Phantom is also at the town museum), I drove up past Wallops Island. It’s pretty cool seeing all the giant satellite dishes and weird airplanes and such, but there’s not much in the way of a tourism industry. There is a little roadside interpretive centre, but the day I drove by, there was just one car in the parking lot.
Back in town, everything is branded pony, not rocket. Merchants sell pony T-shirts, pony shot glasses, pony posters, pony keychains, little miniature plastic ponies. If there were any T-shirts or shot glasses branded with rockets, I didn’t see them.
And Chincoteague is doing pretty well! Medium household income is $48,862, about 10% better than in Cape Canaveral. Some 11% of the population is living below the poverty line — still too high, but much better than in Cape Canaveral. Median age is 54.4, but who’s going to begrudge old people their dead ponies? (Coincidentally, that was exactly my age when I saw Dead Misty.)
What I’m trying to say is that unless you’ve got people atop those rockets, there’s not much of a tourism draw. People like crazy shit like moon walks and stuffed ponies, not boring telecommunications satellites. The laid back Stanfest will continue to bring more tourists than rocket launches ever will.
As for the launching of satellites generating jobs itself, let’s not get carried away. As Don Bowser said at the Canso event:
This project is not about jobs. How many people in town are rocket engineers? How many people in town are rocket engineers who specialize in 1960s Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles? So where are the magic jobs going to come from? We have a free trade agreement with Ukraine, so they could bring over their own workers to do security and maintenance, and whatever else. And MLS has no other partners, except for Yuzhmash, none. There is nobody going to come here and launch their rockets except for Yuzhmash.
For sure, the NSLC will sell more vodka to the Ukrainians, and Harbour View Cafe more coffee to the seasonal mechanics who tighten the bolts on the rockets, and good for them. But this is not the economic miracle it’s being sold as.
2. Mark Furey
Stephen Kimber writes:
It’s past time for the Nova Scotia justice minister to offer [Glen] Assoun a full and fulsome apology for his suffering and for the years we cannot now give him back. Not to mention providing immediate interim compensation to help Assoun, who is currently “penniless and living off the kindness of others,” cope with his unfamiliar new life beyond bars.
It is also past time for [Mark] Furey to appoint a public inquiry to figure out what went wrong in the Assoun case and why, and to determine if changes need to be made to make sure such injustices don’t happen again to someone else.
3. Jacques Dubé’s big dip
Charity is good. No one could be against charity.
That framing is ubiquitous in our society. It’s often wrong.
Ideally, we wouldn’t need charity. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be poor people and hungry people who don’t have adequate housing and nutrition, schools would have all the supplies students need for a good education, our health care system would provide for the ill, and supports for the suffering would be generous.
Alas, we don’t live in such a perfect world, but we could, or at least we could get a lot closer to it. We’re a fantastically wealthy society, and we have the resources necessary such that no one should go in need. It’s just that we’ve structured our economy in such a way that a handful of people possess absurdly large wealth, perverse amounts really, while others can’t take care of daily needs.
We live in the real world, not the perfect world, and so decent people have the perfectly decent attitude that we should contribute to charities to fill in some of the most glaring gaps in our social structure. This is good. But let’s not lose sight of the structural problem: charity is needed because there’s something broken about our society.
That broken thing, I’d argue, is that every last damn thing is part of a game of winner-take-all. We’ve vilified government and taxes; we’ve rewarded financialization at the expense of honest investment; we’ve pulled union support and legislative protections from workers; pension plans are at the mercy of the Ponzi scheme of the stock market, ensuring that everyone who doesn’t want to live their old age in poverty is ideologically bound to perpetuating the con; and we’ve made the working poor the enemy, preying upon them with the gig economy and usurious loans and fees so high that a vengeful god would call forth a plague or two in response. For starters.
Sure, in the face of these horrors, it’s a good idea to support charities. But as I’ve written before, charity should be of the silent kind, the envelope of cash slipped quietly to the food bank, the paycheque deduction made without to-do to the United Way, the 20 bucks handed to the homeless woman, no conditions attached.
Instead, giving to charity has itself become a commodity. Corporations associate themselves with a charity, first for the tax write-off, second for the “branding” that will increase potential customer awareness and therefore profits, and only lastly, if even then, for the actual work the charity does.
That’s what the charitable social media campaigns are all about: spreading brand awareness. As I’ve written:
Turns out, self-interested advertising campaigns for corporations that pose as “fun contests” or “corporate charity” are, in fact, self-interested. This is always the case. Whether it’s insurance companies doling out the thinnest slice of their corporate profits for cooperative grocery stores or soup kitchen kitchens, or telephone companies getting people to tweet about mental illness, or banks buying naming rights to public facilities, the point is to save pennies on the dollar on advertising by getting citizens to run the ad campaign for free. The corporations see the people taking part in these campaigns as suckers, and they’re right.
Well, we’ve come to expect as much from corporations, but the same attitude is expressed by everyday people: giving to charity is an avenue for social capital — “I’m a good person, see, I contributed to this charity, celebrate me.” And so we plaster our names on the GoFundMe pages and our Facebook birthday charity fundraisers and the like.
Does anyone simply make a charitable donation quietly anymore? Does it always have to be about the giver?
We’ve gotten to the point where more often than not contributions to charity are weighted by the opposite concern: What’s in it for me?
That long explanation was needed before I get into Jacques Dubé’s swim, because I know I’ll get slammed for this post. Even with the explanation I’ll get slammed, but at least I tried.
I’ve been quite happy with the United Way lately. The United Way shows that it understands the structural issues I raised above. That’s why the organization cosponsored (along with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives–Nova Scotia) the reports on a living wage in Halifax. Instituting living wage policies in governments and in corporations would go a very long way to eliminating the need for the charities that the United Way funds.
That should be our goal — making charities no longer needed. So good on the United Way.
Still, real world and all, the United Way needs fundraisers so it can continue to give to charities until we can get closer to that perfect world by doing things like instituting living wages and taxing the absurdly wealthy at appropriate levels.
The Halifax Harbour Swim is the annual fundraiser for the United Way. Participants jump into the harbour at Bishop’s Landing and swim about 1.5 kilometres across to the Woodside Ferry Terminal.
The swim was started in 2010 by David Darrow, who was the deputy minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal and, obviously, a swimmer. That year, he made the swim with fellow TIR employee Kevin Doran, and since then it has grown to dozens of swimmers, mostly bureaucrats, and the swim has been institutionalized by the provincial government, with the proceeds going to the United Way.
Worthy cause, to be sure. But let’s step back and think about this: here are government bureaucrats, many if not all making six-figure salaries, asking colleagues and others to commit charitable dollars to the swim. Is there a problem here?
Consider Jacques Dubé. He’s Halifax’s top bureaucrat, the Chief Administrative Officer at City Hall. In that position, it should be noted, Dubé has overseen the continued contracting out of janitorial services in city buildings, snowplowing, and the like, for the express purpose of cutting wages. Dubé is, if you will, part of the anti-living wage machinery (councillors who approve the contracts share this distinction). Dubé’s work as a bureaucrat makes the charities funded by the United Way more necessary, not less.
Dubé was paid $278,891.85 last year, so he can probably afford to give generously to charity straight out of his own chequebook. But instead, he’s looking for sponsors to contribute to the campaign via his swim. He has contributed a modest $150 to the campaign, and has set a goal of $2,000 from other donors. But he’s far exceeded that — as of this morning, he’s raised $3,643.45.
This very public charitable fundraising is problematic.
Consider that many of the contributors to Dubé’s campaign are developers with business before City Hall. They are bringing development applications that will be vetted by city staff overseen by Dubé, and those decisions might translate into millions of dollars spent on design changes, lost future revenue, and taxes, depending on how those development applications are handled. And Dubé personally signs off on all the decisions before they are approved by council.
Here are some of the people/companies who are either developers themselves or consultants to the development industry and are contributing to Dubé’s campaign:
• Scott Armour McCrea — $250
• Jim Spatz — $108.45
• Lawen Group — $250
• Hector Jacques — $150
• Armco Capital Inc. — $500
• Alex Halef (Banc) — $500
Other companies/ businesses who have business at City Hall include:
• Royer Thompson — $50
• KBRS — $250
• Ronald L’Esperance — $100
When I look at that list, I keep coming back to the now-ubiquitous concern of donors to charity: What’s in it for me?
How does this translate into relationships with City Hall? Say you’re an old fashioned tither, someone who quietly gives 10% (or whatever) of your income to charities you carefully select at the beginning of the year, and are not going to be taken off-track by social media campaigns and the like, so you don’t contribute to Dubé’s swim thing. What happens when he looks at your planning application?
On the other hand, say you’re someone who does contribute to Dubé’s campaign. Does your application get treated differently than the quiet tither’s application?
And what does all this mean to we mere citizens who have to live with whatever decisions are made?
It’s impossible to measure such things, of course. So much of this happens subconsciously. But it’s hard for me to believe that, say, Armco, isn’t making a hard-nosed business decision when it decides to drop 500 bucks into Dubé’s charitable campaign.
4. The Airbnbing of Dartmouth
“Condo owners at The Anchorage in Dartmouth, N.S., are locked in a dispute with a prominent developer over short-term rentals at his Kings Wharf development,” reports Jack Julian for the CBC:
The debate with Francis Fares over listings on sites such as Airbnb is now subject to confidential arbitration.
Minutes of the condominium corporation’s board meetings obtained by CBC news show the elected board looking for ways to stop the flow of tourists and others staying in units rented for a few days at a time.
In August 2018, the board committed to act “in order to protect the status and value of owners’ units, and to prevent the building from acquiring a reputation as a ‘condo hotel’ as has happened elsewhere,” the minutes said.
“We are consulting with our lawyer to establish the level of proof required in order to take action against owners who do not comply,” the minutes said.
I’ve looked at the property records for King’s Wharf, and found that dozens of units are owned by corporations that are controlled by Fares or his family. It looks like he built the towers and found that he couldn’t sell all the units off as condos, so he formed numbered companies to buy them from his development company, which, I’m guessing, satisfies unknown investors in the development company but leaves Fares hanging for the ongoing costs related to the units (taxes and the like, plus tied up capital). That’s why he successfully appealed tax assessments on the units, getting a lower assessment and therefore a lower tax bill, and that’s why he’s renting the units out on Airbnb.
From my distant perspective, the King’s Wharf development looks like a mess. As originally approved by city council in 2009, King’s Wharf was to have 12 buildings, ranging from five to 32 storeys, containing a maximum of 1,500 apartments, a 200-room hotel, and up to 23,000 square feet of commercial and office space.
I seriously doubt the proposed 32-storey tower at the water’s edge of the development will ever get built — if Fares can’t sell all the units in his low-rises, how does it make sense to build a giant tower?
Additionally, the retail spaces in the buildings have had a rough go at it — no doubt, the Just Us/Smiling Goat and The Watch That Ends The Night had ownership and management issues, but a contributing factor, I’m told, was very high rents.
The 2009 approval envisioned an extension of Prince Street from downtown Dartmouth to King’s Wharf via an overpass over Alderney Drive and the CN rail line. That was because with only one access into the development — the extension of King Street called King’s Wharf Place (I thought we weren’t going to allow single streets to have multiple names anymore?) — trains could stop block emergency access into development, in some scenarios for as long as 17 minutes.
Seventeen minutes is an eternity when your loved one is having a heart attack, or when the unit below you is aflame.
In response to the rail line issue, council capped the number of allowable units at 300 until a second access into the development was created.
In 2014, council agreed to increase the cap to 354 units.
I’m not sure where that stands now — at one point Fares was trying to get a second entry into the development to the north, possibly along the waterfront pedestrian trail, but that seems to have gone nowhere, and a connection to the south to Alderney Landing wouldn’t really solve the problem as a train of just 24 cars could block both the Alderney and the King’s Wharf Place crossings.
All this is explained in this report commissioned by Fares, which deems the “risk product” or “Road Exposure Index” at 8,000, noting that “this is well below the threshold where a grade separated access is identified as a solution to mitigate cross product risk by CN. Typically, the threshold is set at a minimum of 150,000 although there are no regulatory requirements.”
I’m sure that’ll be great comfort to condo owner #353 as their spouse is suffering a seizure while the ambulance is waiting patiently at the crossing for the train to pass.
The report downplays such waits, noting that even if something terrible was happening the train engineer could save the day:
In the worst-case scenario of a wait time of 17 minutes, there is an opportunity for a technological solution to assist in alleviating the severity of the situation. If through technology, the ESP [Emergency Service Provider] communication centre was made aware of approaching or crossing trains, the request could be made that the engineer either “Hasten” or “Halt”, i.e. speed up or slow down the train, as appropriate. In many of these potential occurrences, the crossing may be cleared simply by the ESP operator being aware of the situation at site and having a means of communication with the Rail Dispatcher.
Also for the planning scenarios cited, there is a reasonable opportunity for the train engineer to recognize there is an emergency and stop the train. For example, the worst planning scenario is the high rise fire which in many instances would be visible to the train engineer 500-700 metres away given the curvature of the tracks.
Maybe they could hire that guy who set the brakes on the Lac-Mégantic train.
Anyway, as a result of all this, we don’t have a Prince Street overpass, but we do have a crappy fence along the rail line, blocking pedestrian access to the waterfront, a bunch of Airbnbers feeling despised by their condo-owning temporary neighbours, and by my eyes anyway, a failed development in the works — it’s not hard to envision the place five years from now, condo units foreclosed upon, empty retail shops boarded over, trash blowing around in the wind, creatures of the night preying on each other.
Happy to be wrong! Good luck with that development.
Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall) — architect Omar Gandhi wants to build a home office at 2486 Creighton Street, just south of Joe Howe School. Thing is, his proposal violates all the zoning requirements for the parcel; says the staff report:
[Gandhi wants zoning changes that will] allow for the construction of a single unit dwelling with a professional office (architectural practice), or home occupation, as well as a larger gross floor area than is permitted as-of-right on the site, and a higher lot coverage to allow for the larger dwelling and a detached garage in the rear.
Staff is recommending that the council deny Gandhi’s request, but I’m guessing that Gandhi’s groovy architect cred will roll right over that recommendation and he’ll get everything he wants.
Public Information Meeting – Case 22218 (Wednesday, 7pm, Carroll’s Corner Community Centre, Carroll’s Corner) — AIM Elmsdale Inc. wants to enlarge operations at its Lantz salvage yard use.
No public meetings this week.
Thesis Defence, English (Tuesday, 9:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Mark Diachyshyn will defend “’Their Voice Is Music To My Ear’: The Role of Women in the Work of John Thelwall.”
Thesis Defence, Biology (Tuesday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Roderick Beresford will defend “The Influence of Environmental Factors on the Progression of Haplosporidium Nelsoni (Msx) in Crassostrea Virginica (American Oyster) on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada.”
Thesis Defence, Interdisciplinary PhD Program (Tuesday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Emily Pelley will defend “Canada’s Policy Response to Refugee Young People from War-Affected Regions: The Case of Halifax, Nova Scotia.”
Building resilient children: injury prevention in the world of risky play (Wednesday, 9am, Cineplex Auditorium, IWK Health Centre) — a panel discussion featuring Mariana Brussoni, Michelle Stone, Jane Crawley, Sandra Newton, Jennifer Russell, and Robert Strang. Register here; more info here.
Thesis Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Wednesday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Sarah Kraeytner will defend “Neural Mechanisms of Motor Imagery and the Nature of Imagery-Based Skill Acquisition.”
The impact of e‑visits and e‑consults on ambulatory care delivery: access and efficiency (Wednesday, 10am, MA 310) — Xiang Zhong from the University of Florida will speak. Her abstract:
The rapid development of health information technology (IT) has enabled virtual care delivery, such as electronic visits (e-visits) and electronic consultations (e-consults), aiming at enhancing care accessibility of patients and efficiency of the system. In this talk, we will present analytical methods to investigate the impact of e-visits and e-consults on care delivery systems. An e-visit is a service offered by primary care providers (PCP) to established patients through secure messaging from patient portals. E-visits offer a horizontal substitute to office visits for a segment of the patient population which exhibits heterogeneity in care preferences and time sensitivity. We consider a medical institution who employs service providers (e.g., primary care physicians and other clinicians) and offers both office and e-visits to their panel patients. A novel analytical framework for modeling a care delivery system with two horizontally substitutable channels and a heterogeneous patient population is proposed. Patients are classified into dedicated office visits, dedicated e-visits, and flexible patients based on their preferences of services. A queuing-based modeling framework considering two different strategies adopted by flexible patients, threshold strategy and duplicate strategy, is established to evaluate the accessibility of care. Service designs that lead to improved patient access and conditions for achieving sustainable financial returns are identified. On the other hand, e-consults offer a digital platform where PCP can consult the specialists and obtain feedback or offer a direct specialty referral to the patients. In this work, we aim to investigate whether e-consults can help match patients to the right care provider (PCP or Specialist) and reduce delays. We offer a high-level abstraction of e-consult operations using an analytical framework that quantifies the benefit of e-consults in the context of efficient matching in a flexible service system. With heterogeneous patients who lack information regarding the severity of their condition, a Bayesian framework is developed to estimate the true severity, parametrized by the level of e-consult efficacy, a measure of the degree of PCPs and specialists’ communication and information sharing efforts. Under incentive compatibility assumptions, equilibrium patient flows given perfect and imperfect e-consults are identified. Fundamental properties of the flexible service system and the value of e-consults are investigated.
Thesis Defence, Interdisciplinary PhD Program (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Hilary Doda will defend “’The Acadian of our Fancy’: Clothing, Community, and Identity Among the Neutral French, C. 1670-1750.”
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — Alicia Elliott, this summer’s writer in residence at the University of King’s College’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction program, will read from her book.
In the harbour
07:00: Pictor J, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Portland
11:30: Pictor J sails for Argentia, Newfoundland
12:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
16:00: Radcliffe R. Latimer, bulker, moves from Pier 25/26 to National Gypsum
05:30: Morning Clara, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
09:00: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,058 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a six-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
15:00: Morning Clara sails for sea
18:00: Adventure of the Seas sails for New York
I am knee-deep in another article related to Glen Assoun’s wrongful conviction. I worked on it over the long weekend and my hope was to publish it this morning, but it’s a monster of an article so may take another day or two. Stay tuned.
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