On campus
In the harbour


1. Highways

The provincial government yesterday released “the independent study assessing the feasibility of twinning eight sections of Nova Scotia highways sooner using tolls.” Weirdly, however, CBCL Limited, which produced the study, makes no final recommendations on tolls. A related press release explains that:

The study used benchmark toll amounts of six to ten cents per kilometre, based on results of a willingness-to-pay survey conducted by CBCL. The rates do not necessarily reflect what a toll rate would be, should Nova Scotians decide to proceed with tolling.

“I need to be very clear, government has not made a decision to move forward with twinning through tolling,” said [Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff] MacLellan. “We now have the data that will provide the foundation for a discussion with Nova Scotians.”

The study identifies eight sites where series 100 highways could potentially be twinned:

• Corridor 1: Highway 101 – Three Mile Plains to Falmouth (10.8 km);
• Corridor 2: Highway 101 – Hortonville to Coldbrook (23.7 km);
• Corridor 3: Highway 103 – Exit 5 at Tantallon to Exit 12 Bridgewater (68.1 km);
• Corridor 4: Highway 104 – Sutherlands River to Antigonish (37.8 km);
• Corridor 5: Highway 104 – Taylor’s Road to Auld’s Cove (39.5 km);
• Corridor 6: Highway 104 – Port Hastings to Port Hawkesbury (7.0 km);
• Corridor 7: Highway 104 – St. Peter’s to Sydney (94.9 km); and
• Corridor 8: Highway 107 – Porter’s Lake to Duke Street, Bedford (33.3 km).

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 7.47.10 AM

CBCL projected toll revenues (at 10 cents a kilometre) through the year 2055. It also looked at another specific peak demand tolling system for Highway 107, with rush hour tolls of up to 50 cents a kilometre. As well, it projected safety improvements in terms of decreased collisions, as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 7.57.33 AM

The study also looked at time savings for commuters.

On the costs side, CBCL took a stab at very back-of-envelope capital costing (called “Class D” costing, meaning absolutely no engineering is done) of the various proposals. There are some potential cost savings by using cables as barriers between oncoming lanes of traffic (instead of twinning) on some of the highways, but the full cost of twinning all eight highways was found to be $2,323,700,000 (+/- 30 per cent):

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 8.05.22 AM

There are still more operating costs related to maintaining bigger roads, hiring toll collectors, buying the toll machinery and signage, etc.

With all that data, CBCL ranked the highways in terms of financial viability:

Based on the net overall funds at $0.10/km, the corridors can be ranked as follows from most to least financially viable: (i) Section 3 Highway 103; (ii) Section 8 Highway 107; (iii) Section 2 Highway 101; (iv) Section 1 Highway 101; (v) Section 4 Highway 104; (vi) Section 6 Highway 104; (vii) Section 5 Highway 104 and (viii) Section 7 Highway 104.

Phase 2 of the study will get to more exacting financial details.

The government now spends about $400 million on highways annually — about half of that is for operations, the other half for new construction — and illustrates the challenge of twinning as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 8.13.01 AM

What isn’t discussed in the twinning study is the cost of the proposed expansion of the BiHi (including the utterly unnecessary Highway 113, it comes in at about a billion dollars), or the Burnside–Sackville connector (another $200 million). So let’s call it $3.6 billion.

The Liberals seem fixated on the neoliberal solution — bring in a private sector “partner” to operate toll roads, so the capital costs don’t show up on government budget sheets as debt. But clearly citizens will be paying for the twinning one way or the other — either through an increase in taxes where there’s at least the possibility of democratic control or via a toll that includes a hefty profit for unnamed and unaccountable investors.

More important, the twinning assumption locks us into four decades more of relying on highways and automobiles as not just the main but the only viable means of transportation in the province. Two and a half billion dollars (or $3.6 billion, or whatever the true costs turn out to be) is, well, a hell of a lot of money.

At least some of that money that could and should instead be invested in rail systems.

2. Young Avenue

I’ve been a bit remiss on mentioning this issue, as I’m oddly working on something that is tangentially related. But as Pam Berman reported for the CBC Wednesday:

Halifax has issued a demolition permit for another house in the South End.

George Tsimiklis has already demolished what was known as the Cleveland House at 851 Young Avenue. Now city officials confirm that Ambrose Environmental has just been given permission to demolish a five-unit residential building at 825 Young Avenue.

The municipality has also received a subdivision application from Steve Tsimiklis for a lot that includes both properties on Young Avenue as well as two others, 870 and 876 MacLean Street.

The subdivision proposal involves replacing the existing homes with 11 residential units.

The cranky letter below is about this.

3. Westlock County

Sue Oberg, who was the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant CAO of Westlock County, Alberta, resigned yesterday, taking a job in the neighbouring Woodlands County. Oberg says she was left completely in the dark about former CAO Peter Kelly’s dealings with Horizon North, a company that wanted to lease and potentially purchase land in the Westlock Industrial Park. The county lost over $200,000 on the deal.

I played phone tag with Oberg yesterday, but hope to interview her today.


1. Chase the Ace

“I was beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe, our municipal leaders were finally understanding this process about engaging our community in developing a vision for a prosperous future,” writes Geoff de Gannes in the Amherst News:

After all, Amherst town officials had the foresight to seek out the services of Engage Nova Scotia and encouraged the community at large to participate in an exercise of building consensus by identifying our many strengths and building on them. As a result, a number of citizens’ groups are now making a sincere attempt to be part of this important process.  

Fast forward to a recent town council session and we had the Amherst Town Council instructing town staff to investigate the possibility of the town operating a Chase the Ace fundraiser as a means of generating revenue to help fund recreation programs and upgrades to infrastructure such as the Robb’s Complex and Dickey Park.  

I’ll leave aside de Gannes’s uncritical enthusiasm for Engage Nova Scotia, but he goes on to rightly ridicule the Chase the Ace proposal. This is where we’ve come: politicians cannot properly fund needed government services — the kinds of services 1950s-era towns could provide as a matter of course — for fear of being labelled tax raisers, so they take seriously the idea of a back-door tax on the addicted, the desperate and/or the mathematically challenged who are attracted to sanctioned gambling.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To Halifax council:

I find it incredibly disheartening that Young Avenue is being destroyed and there has been very little interest shown in stopping this madness on the whole, by council and mayor. Your inactions speak volumes to the residents of Young Avenue, the neighbourhood, city and tourism in general. You, and by that I mean a collective “you” (mayor and city council), pass the problem off onto other departments, passing the buck so to speak, so that you don’t have to deal with the issue. Aside from a couple of councillors, there has been a suspicious silence about the issue — like you don’t want to “poke the bear” fearing a backlash.

Maybe everyone is more concerned with elections looming on the horizon. If it isn’t in your constituency then it doesn’t affect you? Well it does. It affects us all. It affects the vision entrusted by Young Avenue’s founder, the Hon. William Young to have a public grand avenue with beautiful homes set back from the street with a clear landscaped view to the Golden Gates and the then entrance to Point Pleasant Park. Yes I said public avenue, not just for the rich. Destroying the original governed setbacks from the street, and creating a densification of homes in plots intended for single homes is completely undermining the intent of Young’s vision. Now there is to be a subdivision within Young Avenue? This is insane! William Young would be horrified at what is being done to destroy all he had done for this city to make it beautiful and make us proud. 

I grew up in the south end of Halifax although not on Young Avenue. I love travelling down that street admiring the homes and properties just like the tourists do. Even though I live in Dartmouth I still care about what happens to that avenue! I am passionate about heritage and hate seeing the destruction of homes even if they aren’t officially “registered” heritage properties. I am pleading with you that this area needs to be declared a heritage streetscape or heritage district before it’s too late! 

You may say, “Well, put your ideas forth during the Centre plan meetings.” The so-called Centre Plan doesn’t address the immediate dangers these homes are facing. The input of citizens, the meeting, the studies, the recommendations…these will take a year, two years or may not even get off the ground. In the mean time homes are being demolished, very few a officially declared heritage even though they are, the neighbourhood is in immediate danger of being drastically changed! The Oland “castle” Lindola, if bought by a developer, could be demolished — it isn’t even a registered heritage building (I was shocked to find that out)! 

Many of the original residents who built these magnificent homes shaped our city and our province. I hope the collective “you” can reverse the perception the public has of council now, which is not very good at all I am afraid. I am passionate about this city. I care. Do you?

Barry Copp


There’s a lot in the Bible, some of it perverse, some of it just weird, but here and there there’s some good stuff. I always liked the bit about Jesus kicking the money changers out of the temple:

YouTube video

“My temple should be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves.” That, however, is not a lesson taken to heart at St. Matthews Church, apparently, as the church last night was branded by TD Bank for a Jazz Festival show… oh, I’m sorry, for a TD Halifax Jazz Festival show:

Photo: Tim Bousquet
Photo: Tim Bousquet

I hear eye-rolling across the city. But lest we forget: the bankers broke the global economy. The banks are the instrument for the increased inequality that defines our societies. Banks are responsible for the the commodification and financialization of every damn thing we do, sucking the soul out of every human activity and humanity itself.

I don’t know if churches were ever really in the business of caring about souls, but they used to at least feign interest in them and reject such blatant mercantile entanglement.



Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Special Advisory Committee (10am, Corporate Communications Project Room, 3rd Floor, Duke Tower) — this is a special meeting called just to look at the proposed “commemorative emblem” of the Explosion. Ship on fire? Mushroom cloud? City streets littered with dead bodies? There’s so much potential.

The best thing we could do to commemorate the Explosion is to work to put an end to war. A good first step would be to ban warships with nuclear weapons from entering Halifax Harbour.


No public meetings.

On campus

Everyone’s playing Pokémon Go.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:45am Friday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:45am Friday. Map:

Currently scheduled:

3am: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at anchorage from Portsmouth, New Hampshire
5:30am: Hoegh Delhi, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Davisville, Rhode Island
9am: HMS Scott, British-not-European warship, arrives at HMC Dockyard from Plymouth, England
10am: CSL Tacoma, bulker, moves from anchorage to National Gypsum
11:30am: Hoegh Delhi, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4pm: Akademik Ioffe, cruise ship, sails from Pier 27 for Louisbourg
4pm: Quartz, chemical tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from New Orleans
6pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s

6:15am: Maersk Penang, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Montreal
7am: A.R.C. Gloria, the Columbian navy’s sailing ship, arrives at anchorage from Charleston, South Carolina

The 1% needs a haircut.
The 1% needs a haircut.

8am: Mylin IV, the superyacht owned by Micky Arison, the Chairman and CEO at Carnival Cruises who inherited all his money from daddy, arrives at the Salter Seawall from Miami. Last year, reports Jim Walker, Arison sold nearly a billion dollars worth of stock in the company:

This vast wealth was generated by incorporating the cruise line in Panama and registering Carnival-owned cruise ships in places like Panama and the Bahamas in order to avoid all U.S. taxes, safety regulations, and wage & labor laws so Carnival can pay the bulk of its crew members peanuts.

Carnival-owned Costa paid just a little over $1,000,000 in fines after the Costa Concordia disaster, which killed 32 people, in order to escape accountability in the criminal trial of Captain Schettino. 

Who says that money can’t buy justice?

I’m sure Arison will be feted like royalty by port officials, but were there any real justice he’d be strung up on Hangman’s Beach, a warning to other asshole superyachters to stay the hell out of town.


I’ve been waking up to various nightmares lately, but the nightmares aren’t nearly as frightening as the actual news I read when I fire up the computer.

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

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  1. I’m not sold on the idea we should invest anything in intercity (I use that name charitably) passenger rail. If, e.g. Maritime Bus couldn’t keep enough buses on the roads to meet demand, then maybe we could have a conversation about it. People love their cars for good reason. They go exactly where you want to go, when you want to go.

    In high-density areas the traffic builds and builds and suddenly you can’t get anywhere. You build a highway and people develop around it and the time savings vanish. For these sorts of places, queue-jumping and other transit priority measures are a much better investment. And why let Halifax Transit alone have all the fun? They don’t have a regional mandate unless you count the parking lots in Sackville and Fall River and Tantallon. Get other agencies and companies from surrounding counties in on it.

    Out in the sticks, if you want fast, convenient travel, a personal car is the only way to go. Even if you spent tons on empty trains, there aren’t enough people wanting to go to the same place at the same time to fill them. That said, I could see someday a viable Windsor or Truro commuter rail, as lots of people are currently driving these routes.

    I lived in Japan for a year and they have toll expressways almost everywhere. They are fantastic feats of engineering. Much safer than our roads. Also expensive, both in terms of building and of using. Most are privately owned, which doesn’t seem like a critically necessary ingredient, no. One thing they do is, in low-demand areas (think Shikoku for them and Cape Breton for us), they just build one carriageway at first, set the speed limit to 90 and use a cable barrier. There are hill climbing lanes and also passing lanes when the road is out in the open and not tunnelling under a mountain or something.

    I haven’t read the whole study yet but I’m excited about it.

    1. (Also, the proposed 107 *is* the Burnside-Sackville connector. Glendale Drive becomes Glendale Avenue becomes Duke Street becomes the new bit of Highway 107 becomes Burnside Drive becomes Highfield Park Drive. That won’t confuse anyone. Eventually the 107 is envisioned to have a direct connection to highway 102 at the Bedford end and to the existing 107 at the Burnside end, but not in the first phase.)

  2. Living in Cape Breton, you don’t need to go very far to see how messed up the repair priorities are for the department of highways. Literally every issue of the Oran for the past 5 months has had something about the dangerous condition of the roads. It seems totally crazy to twin highways when the roads here are impassable in many areas and no money is put into regular maintenance. For 20 million they could fix all the gravel roads on the island, which are usually safer than the asphalt roads.
    It would be hugely irresponsible to lock Nova Scotia into the continued stupidity of twinning highways to hollow out rural communities. Our population does not support these massive highway projects, much larger populations do not have highways at this level. People crying about people dying is a very real tragedy but 3 billion could save so many more lives if spent in other ways.

    1. It is not the roads but the drivers. Unfortunately twinning seems to be the only way to deal with all the really bad drivers. The 103 illustrates the deadly convergence of impatient, dangerous drivers who insist on driving 20km over the speed limit, and over cautious drivers and motor home pilots who insist on driving 20km under the limit. The majority of responsible drivers suffer the deadly consequences.

      1. Not to mention the suicides where an ‘accident’ is described by police as
        ” the road was clear, visibility was excellent, and there were no apparent problems with the vehicle ”
        If we had inquests the uncomfortable truth would come out.

  3. Hooray for the banks. My dividends increase each year and then we spend the money on such things as my new roof ( cost was much more than the dividends).
    The foundation holdings of CPP, every pension plan, every insurance and disability plan. Every Canadian has a vested interest in the health of Canadian banks.
    And the 3rd largest CPP holding is……..Bank of America. Mastercard is #5, Wells Fargo is #14 and J P Morgan is #15 and Citigroup is 18th
    CPP holdings :
    Thanks to Bill Clinton and his ‘mortgages for all’ programme NINJNA borrowers took out loans guaranteed by a federal agency and we all know what soon transpired. Bravo Bill, maybe Hillary will do a better job of not forcing banks to lend money to people will a credit score of -1.

  4. St Matt’s has been serving as a venue for cultural / music events for eons. To the best of my knowledge, St Matt’s both hosts and supoorts more community outreach than the vast majority of faith-based organizations in HRM.

    I’ve attended events at St. Matt’s many times. The acoustics are incredible and it’s a way for the church to continue its contributions toward programs like the Out Of The Cold shelter. Win/win.

    1. I realize that not only do most people disagree with my stance on this, but they can’t even understand it.

      We are truly doomed. The banks control everything, including how we think.

      1. A tiny, international clique…

        I’m not particularly religious, but seeing anything but condemnation of finance from a church makes my blood boil. It really is a shame the way christianity has diverged into a spineless camp that tolerates anything other than hurt feelings, and a fundamentalist camp that only really exists to oppose abortion and gay people.

        1. I’m an atheist, but I have a live-and-let live attitude about it. If people find comfort in religion, who am I to question?

          I did, however, go to 12 years of Catholic school and got a decent education, including in religious studies. I think I have an idea of what the various religions in their best moments are at least trying to do. I just wish they could live up to them. I’m quick to add: very often they do! I know deeply religious people who are far better people than am I, and the world is better off for them.

      2. We aren’t disagreeing with your rant about the banks, but with your target. It is the Jazz Festival (a jazz festival with almost no jazz, by the way) that got TD,s money, not the church. Your inability to understand who the proper target of your ire should be is too frequent a failing.

        1. The TD Halifax Jazz Festival didn’t pay to rent the venue, with a requirement for signage?

  5. Re “Noticed”: You’ve probably noticed that St. Matthew’s frequently is a performing venue for hire. Events are not always sponsored by big banks, but any revenue is welcome at a church that also offers space for the Out of the Cold shelter, a weekly free Sunday breakfast, a circus program for at-risk youth, addiction programs, a lunchtime community choir for people who work downtown, and emergency aid. St. Matt’s has a small congregation doing as much social outreach as it can on a shoestring budget. Oh yes, we also have church services every Sunday, so it’s not entirely focused on mercantile entanglement. If you’d like to contribute to the other work of the church, we’d welcome your donation. Otherwise, let us raise money in a manner that we see as ethical, considering how we are going to spend it on heat and lights for the social causes that we serve.

    1. I’m not criticizing anything else the church does, but we disagree that bank branding is ethical.

      1. The branding is of the Jazz Festival. PIck on them if you like for looking for corporate support to keep ticket prices down and pay rental fees to venues like St. Matt’s.

  6. And….. if the PEE-THREE schools debacle and the winter disasters of Cobequid Pass haven’t been enough to wake us up to this SCAM, there’s no hope for humanity!

  7. Holy moly — are we really that retarded?!?!?!?!? Here comes yet another red herring to confuse and bamooozle the peasantry as election time looms….

    The PURPOSE of Highway Construction never was, and still is not, to facilitate safe travel between population nodes in the province. The ONLY purpose of Highway Construction is to ensure the re-election of sitting MLAs. This is made perfectly clear by the pattern of «TWINNING» of major routes.

    Vast stretches of low-volume highways get «twinned» as a SOP to electors who might otherwise turf the incumbent MLA. Meanwhile, dangerously overloaded stretches entering and exiting our heaviest-populated centres remain STRANGLED because the re-election of that incumbent for that area is secure. How utterly ridiculous that not far from Halifax (the epicentre of heavy, dense, and «in a hurry» traffic) three- and four-lane roadways suddenly funnel into a 1950s grade cowpath. «TWINNING» (if it must be a priority) needs to proceed CONTINUOUSLY form the centres of highest volume so that traffic SPREADS logically; not in «bits and scraps» all over the map for strictly political reasons as is now the norm.

    The STATS quoted are yet another red herring — they completely ignore the REAL REASON why collisions and deaths are higher in some isolated spots, which is that rushing, frustrated drivers from the high traffic nodes can’t cope with the current hit-and-miss «twinning» . If the trajectory from Halifax wasx PROPERLY «twinned» to points where traffic naturally thins out due to having already reached its destination much of the mayhem would be history.

    There’s a handy little «one-hour read» classic entitled: HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS by Darrell Huff which I highly recommend to anyone still puzzled by the Province’s bizarre approach to highway safety.

  8. As much as I’d like to have sympathy for the fat cats on Young Avenue…welcome to the travesty that is urban development in Halifax.

    I had to laugh when walking down Barrington and seeing a mural on the side of a rising condo making some famous quote about cities reinventing themselves. What a heinous piece of propagandist drivel given our present development free for all.

    Our civic leaders have so miserably failed in maintaining any balance in development and heritage.

    We had a jewel, thanks to our council and mayor it is turning into a steaming pile shit and glass..and quickly.

    1. I have to walk by that thing daily. What a nauseatingly stupid platitude. Building expensive condos in the urban core, such reinvention! It’s funny, because what they’re doing is turning a city into an outdoor museum for people’s egos.

  9. Peter Kelly is tough on CFO’s. In a similar fashion, Cathy O’Toole left HRM after being left completely in the dark by Kelly re: the concert scandal.

    That Westlock Reeve had to have played a part in this by throwing his CFO under the bus so that he could fawn over a departed Kelly.

    The CFO in Charlottetown ought to polish up her/his resume.

    1. Ms O’Toole reported to CAO Wayne Anstey and he kept her out of the loop because she was/is a member of a professional body and if she had been party to the deceptions she would have been subject to allegations of misconduct and review by the organisation.

  10. One step further from preventing nuclear warships from entering the harbour, I’d be happy to see the entire dockyard moved to Eastern Passage, lock, stock and torpedo.
    1. Prime waterfront real estate, just outside the downtown core.
    2. It would revitalize that dead area between the MacDonald Bridge and Historic Properties.
    3. Harbour traffic would be MUCH calmer without warships doing incessant ‘drive by’s to pick up and drop off technicians at the dockyard. I saw one ship leave the harbour in the daytime, amid much publicized ballyhoo, and sneak back in after dark to drop off passengers before leaving again.
    4. We could dispense with the Sea Kings doing their drive by’s of the waterfront with the aircrew waving out the open doors to the tourists as they buzz the waterfront. I agree with Tim, it’s just a matter of time before one of them ‘loses hydraulic pressure’ and has to set down on the Danger Wave.
    5. Much more secure for the military.