November subscription drive

Once again, I’m running out of time to cajole and beg for new subscriptions. However, Iris insists that I remind readers that if you buy an annual subscription this month, we will give you an Examiner T-shirt. Here’s one modelled by my friend Lisa Osmond:

Also, I’ll have more details Monday, but save the date for the Examiner subscriber party: Sunday, December 1, 4-7pm at Bearly’s. I ordered a bunch more Examiner hoodies for the occasion.

Please subscribe.

1. Short-term rentals

Urban planning professor David Wachsmuth (centre) speaks about short-term rentals with unidentified attendees at a meeting at the Central Library last night. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“’It’s not the number of short-term rentals in a neighbourhood that affect how people feel about AirBnBs,’ a McGill University researcher told a crowd of 120 people at the Central Library last evening,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

“It’s whether short-term rentals make their own housing situation worse by raising rents or forcing people to move elsewhere.”

Urban planning professor David Wachsmuth is regarded as a leading expert on the impacts of short-term rentals on cities around the world. He claims to have a database compiled of every AirBnB and HomeAway listing in the world, a number that shifts by 15 million each day.

Wachsmuth wowed the crowd at the Central Library with a presentation that pinpointed not only where short-term rentals in Nova Scotia are concentrated — primarily on peninsular Halifax, northwestern Cape Breton, and the Town of Lunenburg UNESCO site — but also whether the accommodation was an entire home or a private room in a house shared with other people.

Click here to read “AirBnBs increase housing costs for everyone, says urban planning prof.”

We did not put this article behind the paywall. But you could still subscribe.

I’m tiring of the argument that we can build our way out of the affordability crisis. We can’t. At least, we can’t if we don’t change the economy controlling housing prices. More unregulated capitalism will not solve the problems created by unregulated capitalism.

It takes significant public investment into off-market housing, regulation of short-term rentals, and rent control for apartments. Everything else is just blather.

2. Stadium

The Schooners are proposing… ah, who cares? I can’t take anything the Schooners put out seriously, and especially since there’s no actual proposal to look at. Why should I waste my time on this?

3. Skye Halifax

Besides the usual omission of parking meters and power lines, the architect’s rendering of the “Skye Halifax” development completely eliminates the gigantic Maple building right across the street in order to give us an impossible view. See the actual Google Street View from a similar angle below:

Wednesday, I previewed last night’s meeting of the Design Review Committee:

Skye Halifax is back! You’ll recall that way back in 2007, United Gulf Developments gained approval for the so-called “Twisted Sisters” development on the former Tex-Park site between Granville and Hollis Streets, but never got around to building the thing. Then, in 2012, United Gulf was back with an audacious “Skye Halifax” proposal for the site, which consisted of two 48-storey towers. Pretty much everyone hated the idea, and Halifax council rejected it.

Now, United Gulf is back with a revised Skye Halifax proposal, this time wanting approval for a 21-storey building at the site. But like its predecessor, staff is recommending that the committee reject the proposal:

The Development Officer has reviewed this application and determined that the following elements do not conform to the Downtown Halifax LUB:
• Minimum and maximum streetwall heights;
• Minimum streetwall width;
• Upper storey streetwall stepbacks;
• Upper storey side yard stepback; and
• Maximum tower width and separation distance.

I think this is a perverse game United Gulf is playing. It has significant as-a-right potential for the site, but isn’t pursuing that because, I’m guessing, the company just wants to be able to sell a development approval to someone else. So every few years it will crank out another unacceptable proposal, hoping the political winds have changed enough such the council will override staff and approve it.

Turns out, despite staff’s objections (and that lying architectural rendering), the Design Review Committee approved the thing, reports Zane Woodford for Star Halifax:

Municipal planner Paul Sampson told the committee that among a number of other issues, the building’s two towers are too big and too close together.

“The south tower is excessively wide,” Sampson said. “There’s no public benefit that’s clear to us.”

Peter Clewes of Toronto-based firm architectsAlliance — who also designed the controversial Château Laurier extension in Ottawa — told the committee that the wider towers allowed for a public cut-through between Granville and Hollis streets.

The committee felt the benefit of the public space outweighed the violations of planning rules and voted down the staff recommendation. Instead, it passed a motion with several conditions for approval, including burying the electrical and communication wiring surrounding the site and ensuring that the cut-through area adheres to strict accessibility standards.

I see no public benefit at all for a public cut-through between Granville and Hollis Streets. The project is at the corner of Sackville Street, which makes that connection just fine, and that’s exactly how “the public” has been getting up and down the hill with no complaint for the past two decades while a chain link fence surrounded the development site.

(Incidentally, does anyone at all use the “public” corridor through the Waterside building? I’m in the immediate area three days a week, and I don’t even know where that corridor is. Does it exist? I’m told that approval of the Maritime Centre was likewise conditioned on public access around the south side of the building through to Hollis Street, but that’s been gated off for decades. One day, I’m guessing, even the Glory Hole will be slowly privatized, the public kept out for “safety” reasons or some such.)

In any event, here is yet another example of the supposedly wonderful HRM By Design rules being chucked right out the window, just because. All those thousands of people who came out to public meetings to give their input on HRM By Design have been played for fools. Andy Filmore doesn’t look so visionary after all. And those planning graduate students have lost their woo-woo shine. Maybe we can call Tim Merry back to rap us some rhyming couplets to pretend that it wasn’t all just a steaming pile of bullshit.

And then we can all get excited about the Centre Plan.

4. Hotel

The Grafton Street Glory Hole entrance to the convention centre and hotel. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Speaking of hotels, Sutton Place is advertising for a general manager for its Nova Centre Hotel. The job listing has a closing date of January 4; if hired soon after, the general manager will have just eight weeks to hire and train a staff and get the operation going in order to meet the promised “first quarter of 2020” opening date.

5. Bay Ferries has successfully delayed info release for seven months

The Alakai, docked at Yarmouth earlier this year. Photo: Suzanne Rent

Yesterday, the courts published a decision written by appellant court Justice Joel Fichaud, with Justices Duncan Beveridge and Peter Bryson concurring, that allows the Progressive Conservative Party’s bid to obtain information related to the province’s contract with Bay Ferries to proceed.

I explained the background for this decision in April:

I stopped by the courthouse yesterday for a hearing related to the Progressive Conservative caucus’s attempt to get a court order to force the government to release detailed financial records related to the Yarmouth ferry.

You’ll recall that the PCs had filed a Freedom of Information (called FOIPOP) request for the records, but the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal declined to provide the records. The PCs then appealed to Information and Privacy Commissioner Catherine Tully, who ruled in the PCs’ favour, saying that the financial records should be disclosed. But Tully’s ruling does not carry the force of law, and the Liberal government still refused to disclose the records. So the PCs went to court.

The main issue as to whether the court should force the government to release the records is scheduled for a June hearing, but in the meanwhile, Bay Ferries is attempting to get the PCs’ action dismissed. That’s what yesterday’s hearing was about.

Bay Ferries’s lawyer Scott Campbell argued that the PCs have no standing under the Freedom of Information Act because the act allows for a person to use the FOIPOP process and to appeal decisions. The PC caucus, said Campbell, is not a person — it is neither a natural person (as in, a human being), not a corporate person (yes, corporations are considered people in our topsy turvy legal world). Therefore, said Campbell, the PCs’ legal action shouldn’t be heard by the court.

Campbell also pointed out that the PCs’ appeal to the privacy commissioner was signed by Lisa Manninger, the PCs’ director of communication. Manninger is an actual human being, of course, and she had every right to file a FOIPOP and then to appeal to Tully. But it was the PC caucus who brought forward the court action, and the caucus is not a person, either of the flesh and blood sort or the corporate personhood sort, and they’re not Lisa Manninger in any event, so therefore the court should send everyone home without considering the matter.

PC lawyer Nicole LaFosse Parker pointed out that Campbell’s argument is a bunch of hooey (my word, not hers). First off, the records requested aren’t going away. They exist and won’t change, and so even if the court agreed with Campbell’s hooey, anyone can file another FOIPOP request for the same records and start the process all over again, and we’d all end up right back in the same courtroom arguing over the more substantive issue as to whether the court should order the government to release the records.

More substantively, LaFosse Parker argued that the Freedom of Information Act is to be interpreted broadly, so as to favour the release of information. And the issues of whether Manninger or Houston signed the paperwork can be resolved by simply amending all the paperwork to have it submitted by Houston on behalf of the PCs, which was clearly the intent all along.

LaFosse Parker argued that while the PC caucus is not a person, it would be unwise and unjust to say it can’t be involved in the FOIPOP process. The role of the official opposition is to hold government to account, she said, and denying the ability to appeal FOIPOP applications to the court would be mucking up the democratic process.

Moreover, restricting the court action to human beings is dangerous, said LaFosse Parker. What if Lisa Manninger got run over by a truck and died, or Tim Houston tumbled down the front steps of Province House and ended up in a decades-long coma (my examples, not hers)? Obviously, neither would be in a position to appeal to the court, so the FOIPOP issue would not be processed.

A few days later, Justice Peter Rosinski ruled in favour of the PCs, but Bay Ferries then appealed that ruling. Yesterday, Justice Fichaud dismissed Bay Ferries’ appeal, but the Bay Ferries/Liberal cabal have successfully delayed any release of the information by seven months, so far.

Had the Liberals simply released the Bay Ferries contract info when asked for it back in 2016, we would’ve all forgotten about it by now. But, as Philip Moscovitch pointed out yesterday, secrecy is a feature, not a bug. Moscovitch quoted John Ralston Saul:

As for civil secrets, they aren’t really secrets at all. They have more to do with negotiating techniques than with security. Sir William Templeton demonstrated that the best deal is one that makes sense and looks good out in the open. Secrecy is only useful in selling a bad deal…

By the way, the Alakai — the boat that was first operated by a Hawaiian ferry company that went bankrupt and then purchased by the US Navy to ferry troops to the misadventure in Haiti, and more recently leased to Bay Ferries in order to not carry passengers between Yarmouth and Maine — sailed back to Charleston, South Carolina last month, arriving at the Detyens Shipyard on October 26. It will presumably remained docked in Charleston until May, when it will once again sail north to pretend like there’s a chance it will carry passengers next year.

6. Dartmouth murder trial

Reporting for Star Halifax, Julia-Simone Rutgers is following the trial of Joel Sparks and Samanda Ritch, charged with the murder of Nadia Gonzalez. It’s a portrait of sad, apparently purposeless lives.

Yesterday, I was visiting the North Dartmouth scene of the murder of Brenda Way back in 1995. My group was carrying big recording equipment and I was speaking into a microphone, so we obviously drew attention. “What are you all doing?” asked a woman passing by. I told her about Way’s murder. “Oh, I didn’t know about that,” she said. “People are dying around here all the time. A lady died over at the PetroCan last week.” She didn’t know how the woman died, and it wasn’t reported by police, so I’m presuming there was no foul play involved. Just another death on the mean streets of Dartmouth.

But in her article, Rutgers relates that there’s a guy named Wayne Bruce who everyone calls “Batman,” so there’s that.

7. Poppies

Mary Campbell has an interesting two-part article in the Cape Breton Spectator called “War & Sport,” in which she uses the firing of Don Cherry as a jumping off point to trace the “militarization” of professional sports, which she says “is largely a post-9/11 phenomenon.”

It is (of course, we’re talking about Mary Campbell) a well-researched article, and worth a read in its entirety, but because it’s so dog-damn hilariously cringe-worthy, I have to link to this video, which Campbell calls “peak poppy”:

Beautiful tribute to our fallen soldiers 😢

— Mascots Minute Silence (@MascotSilence) November 9, 2019

While highly critical of the militarization of sports, Campbell concludes:

And now for something of a twist ending: I actually do wear a poppy for Remembrance Day and it’s not because I’m afraid of Don Cherry.

I wear it because when I was reporter at the Eastern Graphic back in the late ’80s, I worked on two Remembrance Day editions of the paper and had the chance to interview some WWII veterans from the Island.

What I remember about those interviews — and those men — is that they were happy to tell stories about funny things that had happened to them and funny guys they had known but they did not want to talk about the war. I remember the way they’d close down when I asked anything about the actual battles and one telling me something like, “That’s nothing to talk about.”

I got the message, loud and clear, that war is a terrible thing, and I wear a poppy in acknowledgment of that fact.

But I figure why you wear a poppy — or if you wear a poppy — is up to you and I would feel decidedly un-Canadian trying to browbeat you into wearing one.

Here’s Part 1 of “War & Sport” and here’s Part 2.

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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I’ve more or less avoided the subject of Remembrance Day and poppies completely, other than in past years posting a bunch of YouTube videos of anti-war songs on Facebook. But my thoughts are, well, complicated.

My father was a veteran, having received the Flying Cross for his service in Korea. Dad was badass.

Like the veterans Campbell talked to on PEI, Dad didn’t talk about battle. He had a ton of stories about military stuff — about how he once landed in the wrong country in South America, about flying clueless diplomats around the Mediterranean, about the Japanese he met in Okinawa and Tokyo — but never about battle.

Since his death two years ago tomorrow, I’ve obtained his military records and have learned more about what happened in Korea. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, the Korean War was horrible for everyone involved. All wars are, but I’m seeing the specifics in Korea through the records about Dad.

The horrors of war are obviously firstly and mostly inflicted upon the hapless population of the war-torn country, and then on the soldiers who are physically injured and killed. But even the soldiers who return “safely” are affected in all sorts of ways that reverberate with their loved ones and the larger society.

I honestly don’t think any war truly ends. They reverberate through the generations, parent to child to grandchild and on and on, a social disease that is expressed in all sorts of personal dysfunction and societal malaise. Hell, I see it in myself.

War is ugly, nasty shit. It ain’t nothing to celebrate.

I don’t know that I’m a true pacifist, but anyone who wants to rush a nation headlong into war should be ostracized as the monster they are. And we’ve had a ton of stupid wars (I was going to write “pointless wars,” but there is always a point — to enrich someone or to advance a political party or to further an authoritarian agenda, or all three) that cannot even remotely be justified as “good.”

I grew up in a military household and spent much time on the Norfolk Naval Base, shopping with my mom at the commissary, going with Dad to the base movie theatre, learning to swim and sail. I have an uncle who was a four star general, and other relatives who have served or are now serving. Lots of my childhood friends were in military families, and some of my high school classmates are in the military, one a captain of a battleship. I know military folks here in Halifax, and consider one a good friend. These are people I love.

But I hate war. I’ve seen what it does.

When I moved to Canada 15 years ago, I didn’t know about the poppy. Americans don’t do poppies. My first Remembrance Day, I actually asked someone, “What’s with the red donuts?” But I read up on Remembrance Day, and I thought, this is interesting, so I went down to the Dartmouth Cenotaph on November 11 and stood with the crowd through the ceremony. It was nice — right up to the point where they sang “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” At the very moment, Canadian soldiers were in Afghanistan. I left in disgust. I went back a few years later, same thing. I assume they sing it still. It’s the battle hymn of imperialism, and I’ll have none of it.

People tell me I should go to the Halifax ceremony instead, that it’s better. Perhaps. I’m happy that many people find meaning and something like spiritual depth in Remembrance Day and the wearing of poppies. And if that’s you, please continue. I have no reason to fault your motives.

But for myself, I’ve been ruined for all things poppy and cenotaph, and on Remembrance Day I respectfully stay home and think about Dad and everything that flowed out of his war experience. I think about how unquestioned celebration of the military has sometimes turned us into beasts. I think about how Remembrance Day is the holiest of holidays, holier than Christmas or Easter.

For some, War is God.

YouTube video

8. Brooms

One shelf in Hangar 51, says Stephen Archibald, is devoted to “broom-related photos I’ve taken over the years.”

To build this collection, Archibald has travelled to Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Mongolia, Massachusetts, and… Sheet Harbour.

I’m reminded of those Reply All guys who will find any excuse to max out the Spotify travel budget to travel around the world for trivial reasons — most recently, to fly to Santa Fe to talk to a guy who photoshops UFOs into Google Reviews. I’m envisioning Stephen and Sheila sitting around the kitchen table one morning; Stephen casually mentions that there are probably some cool brooms in Bangkok, and $6,000 and a week later he comes back with this photo:

“In Bangkok I came upon this tidy collection of the cleaning tools beside a public building,” writes Stephen Archibald.

We all have our obsessions, I guess.

Check out Archibald’s post.


Philip Moscovitch draws my attention to a “review” of Smitty’s Restaurant in Tantallon, found in the Masthead News on November 12, 2014.

It starts: “I seldom do a review for a restaurant but when Tony Van Norden called me a few weeks ago and asked me to try out his new, weekend breakfast buffet at Smitty’s, I thought, ‘Why not?’ With the understanding that there wouldn’t be a review if I didn’t like it…” and goes downhill from there.

I especially like that it’s right next to an ad for… Smitty’s!


No public meetings.

On campus


Dalhousie Postdoctoral Society Research Day 2019 (Friday, 8:30am, Great Hall, Dalhousie University Club) — postdocs present their research in a three-minute thesis talk and/or poster.

Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Friday, 9:30am, Room C266, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Stefan A. Warkentin will defend “Aciniform Spider Silk Proteins: Investigating Solution State Assembly and the Potential of Nanoparticles as a Drug Delivery Vehicle.”

Towards integral planning of care pathways (Friday, 10am, MA 310) — Erwin W. Hans from the University of Twente, Netherlands, will talk.

Proton and StructurallyResponsive Ligands for Catalysis (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Johanna M. Blacquiere from Western University will talk.

Holocaust Humor and our Sensibility of Anti-Black Violence (Friday, 3:30pm, in the auditorium named after a bank, Marion McCain Building) — a talk by Lissa Skitolsky.

Saint Mary’s

Becoming Nobody (Friday, 7pm, Theatre A, Burke Building) — screening of Ram Dass’ new documentary. $15, proceeds to this organization.

In the harbour

03:30: Hansa Meersburg, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
06:00: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
07:00: Algoma Verity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
07:00: Salarium, bulker, moves from anchorage to National Gypsum
10:00: YM Moderation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:30: ZIM Qingdao sails for New York
19:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
21:00: YM Moderation sails for New York


Too soon for this weather.

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

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  1. Celebrating ourselves

    Nice piece in Jacobin magazine about sports and the military. It says that what we are really celebrating in all the “Military Appreciation Days” is the triumph of everyday people simply carrying on at war…and at work. We simply carry on. It is our power and our glory and it belongs to every one of us whether or not we ever wear a uniform. We may put up with the Major Blimp military triumphalism–but we don’t ever buy into it. No more than the vets Mary talked with did, or Tim’s dad or mine.

  2. So much bullshit in this morning file that I think I need a shovel. Of course it just may be world class bullshit….

    1. Is there a reason this article is referenced today? Other than positive press coverage by an ad in a local ad paper, is there anything timely about the paper, the author, or that Smitty’s?

  3. Re: Skye Halifax

    I’d like to note that the Design Review Committee was not unanimous in the motion approved last night. Myself and another member voted to approve the staff recommendation and against the subsequent motion to approve with conditions.

    We have a responsibility to build a city that works for everyone, not for profit or expediency, but for all citizens. Allowing developments like this to lead the discussion on what is or is not in the public benefit is wrong.

  4. They weren’t singing Onward Christian Soldiers this year, Tim. Perhaps they’ve chosen not to sing it anymore? Who knows?

    But they were absolutely not singing it this year.