1. Government drops effort to deport Abdoul Abdi
The news was announced by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale via a tweet at 9pm last night:
The Government of Canada respects the decision filed on July 13 by the Federal Court concerning Abdoul Abdi. The Government will not pursue deportation for Mr. Abdi.
— Ralph Goodale (@RalphGoodale) July 17, 2018
“Abdi’s lawyer, Benjamin Perryman, says he didn’t receive any formal communication from the government but says this is ‘fantastic news,’” reports Amanda Debison for CTV:
Perryman says he was only notified of the news through Twitter and wants to confirm that the announcement means what it appears to say.
“It looks like Canada is dropping the case against Mr. Abdi all together,” Perryman said.
He tells CTV Atlantic it’s unfortunate that it has taken this long, but he’s “glad it looks like the government has done the right thing.”
“I hope the government takes steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Perryman said.
As I reported Monday, Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald set aside the decision to proceed with deportation efforts with a ruling issued late Friday afternoon.
2. Cannabis overreach
Yesterday, Halifax city council approved two changes in existing bylaws such as to regulate cannabis use.
The first has to do with banning the smoking of cannabis in parks and playgrounds, on beaches, and along trails. The restrictions basically mirror provincial law, and staff assured councillors that enforcement will be complaint-driven. Fines could range from $25 to $2,000 and three months in jail, but staff insisted the point wasn’t to arrest people but rather to simply get them to obey the bylaw.
The second change adjusts the nuisance bylaw. Probably the least controversial part of the change relates to zoning for commercial, industrial-sized cannabis grow-ops, although there are going to be lots of medical cannabis growers that will get caught up in this.
More problematic are restrictions on personal growers. Under federal law, we’ll be able to grow up to four plants per residence. But the bylaw changes prohibit those plants from being grown in yards or on porches in areas serviced by Halifax Water, so basically in the urban and suburban areas of HRM. Fines could range from $1,000 to $10,000, but again, staff said the point was to get compliance, not to haul people into court; actual charges will be laid only in the most incalcitrant cases, sort of like they only charge you for peeling paint after they warn you a bunch of times and you still don’t repaint.
A lot of silly stuff was said about this. In American cities where cannabis is legal — staff spoke with officials in Boulder and Denver, Colorado — the main complaint is about the odour of the plants, said city solicitor John Traves, albeit he conceded that those complaints came mostly from older residents.
CAO Jacques Dubé added that besides the smell, there is a public safety issue: “People — and animals — getting access to those plants. Especially children.” I guess the idea is high school kids are going to jump your fence and steal your weed, and then for the first time in history, we’ll have stoned teenagers. On the plus side: also, stoned kitties.
Still more problematic is the provision in the bylaw that prohibits the smoking of cannabis on city sidewalks. This was sold as mirroring the rules against drinking alcohol on city sidewalks:
For unlawfully smoking, the fine would be no less than $25 and no more than $2,000. The minimum fine amount recognizes that smoking is an addiction and that vulnerable and marginalized populations could be impacted by the smoking ban. The intent of the ban is not to impose fines and penalties that will further marginalize these groups. The $2,000 maximum is the same maximum set in the Smoke-Free Places Act for everyone, except a manager or employer.
“Good luck enforcing that,” said councillor Sam Austin. “Do we really care if someone is walking down Shore Drive smoking a joint?” asked councillor Tim Outhit.
The details of enforcement are absurd. The city is already painting hundreds of “no smoking” signs that will be deployed here and there, but also signs indicating places where smoking cannabis will be allowed.
“How does that work?” asked Outhit. “You can’t smoke in parks or playgrounds or pools or streets or sidewalks … so where can you smoke?” To that, Dubé answered: on private property. Traves envisioned the owners of Scotia Square designating that little alcove at the rear of the complex that opens onto Albermarle Street being designated as a cannabis smoking post, and then the city-painted signs would direct people to it. Also, bar parking lots.
Councillor Richard Zurawski pointed out that with so much discretion left to bylaw officers, and with enforcement being complaint-driven, the bylaw change is a recipe for targeting already marginalized communities. Nobody’s going to call bylaw enforcement if some white banker type in a suit is walking down Duke Street smoking a joint, but replace him with two Black guys…
Zurawski is right. Look, we got to legalization in the first place because people understood that prohibition was stupid and abused to mostly target people without political or economic power, and so people held the law up to ridicule. And now that we’re doubling down on that overreach with stupid municipal bylaws, we’re going to breed yet more disrespect for city bylaws.
Still, council voted 13-3 to approve the bylaw change. The no votes came from councillors Richard Zurawski, Matt Whitman, and Tim Outhit.
Also at yesterday’s meeting, council voted unanimously to ask for a staff report outlining what exactly Maritime Football Ltd. is asking for in terms of city support for a stadium.
The debate, such as it was, wasn’t very informative, albeit several councillors were wary of the proposal. “I do not support HRM being a banker or a financier for this project,” noted Steve Craig, who nonetheless made the motion for the staff report. “I’m a big football fan… but I’m extremely skeptical that we can go forward with this,” said Shawn Cleary, who doesn’t have a degree in Football. “I’m cautiously pessimistic,” said evidence-based huddler Richard Zurawski.
Tim Outhit clarified what he called “misinformation” about the stadium. The first is that there is a reserve fund dedicated to stadium funding — there isn’t, although there is a capital projects reserve fund that was established in 2015 in order to build up enough cash to fund undesignated “future projects.” As I understand it, that fund has about $30 million in it now, and if nothing is spent from it (which seems unlikely), will grow to about $70 million or so by 2022, so maybe 20 per cent of the cost of a stadium. When the fund was established, Mayor Mike Savage pretty clearly thought it would be one day directed towards a stadium, among other things, but that decision would lie with future councils. That is: it’s not a stadium fund.
Yesterday, Craig pointed out that the initial idea was that the fund would get large enough to build a “community stadium” of modest size — 10,000 to 15,000 seats — for high school and local university sports, normal rec needs, and concerts. At that point, continued Craig, the thought was that maybe a CFL team would come in with financing to “bump up” the size of the stadium to 25,000 seats. In that scenario, it would be a city-owned facility leased to the CFL team for its games.
However, now it looks like that formula is being flipped on its head. The stadium will be built and owned by the CFL team, with the city’s contribution supporting it, and in return the team will make the stadium available for city events, possibly at a cost.
Outhit also pointed out that what appears to be the proposal — that the city help finance a privately owned stadium — is in fact illegal, contravening the city charter (and indeed, common sense). Of course all of that can be brushed aside if the province creates a “special development zone” or some such (as it did with the Nova Centre), which basically says “none of the usual rules apply here.”
What happens now? It’s hard to say. Staff will go away and produce the report, and I guess we’ll see to what degree financial smoke and mirrors are built into it. Seems to me, despite Stephen McNeil’s refusal to use provincial “general revenue” funds for the stadium, the entire proposal is dependent on the province — with some combination of using another pot of non-general revenue money, creating that special development zone, providing financing at government rates, giving or trading land, tax breaks, or something else I haven’t envisioned yet.
And then the sell job goes into high gear.
4. Danger at the Glory Hole!
Leanne Hayes wants to warn us about dangers lurking in the Grafton Street Glory Hole, reports Anjuli Patil for the CBC:
Hayes sometimes walks through the passageway to get to work. She said something that appeared to be a brick fell from overhead and landed about three metres from her on Tuesday morning.
“Certainly close enough to make me jump, it startled me,” said Hayes, a commissioner with the Nova Scotia Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal.
Hayes wasn’t hurt. She said construction workers witnessed what happened, but didn’t do anything to address it.
“I know that at least one of them heard the brick come down and looked over, but nothing was said to me. Nobody apologized to me or made any other comment and I just went on my way to work. But, yeah, frightening incident nonetheless,” Hayes said.
5. Wrights Cove Transit Terminal
The city has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for design and build of the Wrights Cove Transit Terminal at the corner of Bancroft Lane and Market Place Drive, in Burnside just behind the McDonald’s on Windmill Road. The RFP explains that:
Wrights Cove Terminal is required to provide capacity for projected growth in demand for transit services in this area. The terminal will provide operational benefits by reducing redundancy on the route network and will act as a transfer for people travelling to or from Burnside Business Park. It is anticipated that this site will see passengers transferring between routes as well as passengers accessing or egressing the terminal from Windmill Road or the adjacent residential buildings and commercial shops and facilities. The terminal is operationally required to pursue the full implementation of route changes outlined in the Moving Forward Together Plan.
The terminal will support the high density residential and mixed-use development planned and under construction within the vicinity of the site in addition to meeting operational requirements as described above. The aesthetics of the design will be expected to be congruous with the quality, aesthetics and consistent with the Halifax Transit brand, encouraging adjacent developments and community to be more transit-orientated.
The terminal will have consist of 12 bus bays, a “layby lane” for waiting buses, and an indoor space of 2,000 square feet that includes passenger and driver areas and passenger and driver washrooms. A foot path will connect Windmill Road.
If all goes according to schedule, the RFP will be awarded by August 31, and design and cost estimates produced by October 26. A second, more detailed project RFP will be issued next year, with council approving the package in September 2019. Construction is to be completed by June 2020.
6. Highway 104
The province announced yesterday that the federal government is kicking in $90 million towards the $194 million Highway 2014 twinning project:
The project will include a new, 10 kilometre, four-lane alignment between Barneys River and James River, south of the existing Highway 104, made necessary by the area’s topography and terrain as well as a river and rail line.
Yesterday’s announcement doesn’t say if the province has decided to use the Design Build Finance Operate Maintain model that was contemplated in March.
7. Agricola Street
“The Agricola Street Improvement Plan was the topic of discussion Tuesday morning as the North End Business Association and the Halifax Cycling Coalition hosted an information session for Agricola St. businesses, residents and the general public,” reports Yvette (don’t call her Yvonne) d’Entremont for StarMetro Halifax:
They shared details of the Agricola streetscaping project, scheduled to begin in the spring/summer of 2019. Planned improvements for the busy thoroughfare include curb extensions (bump-outs), tree planting, benches and signage.
“This isn’t like a major streetscaping project like Argyle or the project that we’re initiating now with Spring Garden Road, which is going to be like a major kind of redo. This is our Complete Streets Program,” explained Hanita Koblents, Halifax principal planner with urban design and transportation planning.
Koblents said the planned Agricola streetscaping is a direct result of the city’s new Integrated Mobility Plan, which was approved by regional council in December 2017. In the Complete Streets section of the IMP, scheduled recapitalization projects like repaving can include streetscaping improvements up to 15 per cent of the total project budget.
The amount budgeted for the Agricola St. streetscaping project is about $72,000.
Hey, maybe we can make it $75,000 and add a couple of water fountains, eh? Or bump it up a bit more and add one of these self-cleaning toilets:
Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — The agenda includes approval of HRM’s year end financial statements for 2017-2018, along with what to do with the $17 million surplus from the general tax rate. About $5 million will go to the multi-district facilities reserve to cover the shortfall of the $48 NSF Fee Centre. Another $2 million is slated for the Convention Centre reserve, and nearly $10 million will go to general contingency reserve.
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — the committee is being asked to endorse the Green Network Plan.
No public meetings this week.
No public events.
Thesis Defence, Biology (Thursday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Tara Imlay will defend her thesis, “Understanding the Drivers of Population Declines for Swallows (Family: Hirundinidae) Throughout the Annual Cycle.” Bring your own swallow.
GHOST: Recovering historical signal from heterotachously-evolved sequence alignments (Thursday, 3:30pm, Room 1108, Mona Campbell Building) — Bui Quang Minh from the Australian National University, Canberra, will speak.
In the harbour
2:30am: Arsos, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
5am: Horizon Star, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from the offshore
5:30am: Boheme, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
6am: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Algeciras, Spain
4:30pm: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
9pm: Boheme, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
5:30am: Rockies Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
7am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney
11:30am: Rockies Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
3:30pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm, along with StarMetro reporter Zane Woodford.