NEWS

1. Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp is a Paper Excellence company. Photo: Joan Baxter

“A new and potentially explosive report shows that Paper Excellence is very much part of the same corporate group as Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and the Sinar Mas Group (SMG), which have “a record of extensive deforestation and social conflict” and are owned by members of the billionaire Sino-Indonesian Widjaja family,” reports Joan Baxter:

The report is of particular significance to Nova Scotians.

Paper Excellence is the parent company of Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation and its six affiliates that in June 2020 declared themselves “insolvent.”

They have been enjoying creditor protection in the British Columbia Supreme Court ever since. Court documents show this includes a holiday on repaying an outstanding debt of more than $85 million to the province of Nova Scotia, and also Northern Pulp’s failure to fulfill $2.5 million in special pension payments for 2021.

In December 2021, Paper Excellence, together with one of its owners domiciled in the corporate tax haven of the Netherlands and nine Northern Pulp affiliates, launched a lawsuit against the province in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court for “indemnified losses expected to exceed $450 million or more” because of the legislated 2020 closure of the Pictou pulp mill’s effluent treatment facility in Boat Harbour.

The new report documenting the close links between “insolvent” Paper Excellence companies and the multi-billion-dollar Sinar Mas corporate empire, which should be of interest to people in Nova Scotia who are on the hook for the $450-million lawsuit Paper Excellence et al. have filed against them.

Click here to read “Report: Paper Excellence, the owner of Northern Pulp, is part of the corporate group of Asia Pulp & Paper and Sinar Mas. This matters to Nova Scotians.”

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2. Power rates

Environment Minister Tim Halman. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“It is easy to empathize with Tim Houston’s frustration that a profitable, privately-owned monopoly public utility that consistently fails to deliver reliable electrical power when we need it most and that fails to meet mandated performance standards year after year still wants more and more of our money — not to mention still more and more — to continue not to give us the power we pay for,” writes Stephen Kimber:

His pain is our pain. But is his answer the right one?

The likely — perhaps inevitable — result of the province’s legislation is that the power company will cut operating costs (and therefore service) rather than reduce profits. That way, it can keep on pleasing the only people it cares about pleasing… its shareholders.

Click here to read “Tim Houston’s power rate law pretends to respond to our frustrations, but it will create more and worse in the future.”

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3. Noise and development

Construction in downtown Halifax in 2019. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“Housing Minister John Lohr introduced an amendment to the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter on Friday that will ‘nullify’ or cancel any HRM bylaw that slows down residential construction activity,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Although the bylaw appears to have a very broad reach, Lohr said the change was prompted by a very specific concern. 

In August, HRM councillors voted 12-5 to make a change to its noise bylaw that would cut-off construction activity by 8pm on weekdays. The bylaw had previously permitted construction noise from 7am to 9:30pm throughout the week. 

“This bill is looking at the noise bylaw, which HRM is bringing in and we will nullify that bylaw if it is enacted,” Lohr told reporters. “We’re in a housing crisis. We have immense challenges to have more housing units built. It’s well understood that we have a shortage of skilled labour. So, to curtail the number of hours these people and the construction industry can work, we can’t accept that right now.”

Click here to read “Province moves to silence HRM bylaw on construction noise.”

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4. Meanwhile, Shannon Park

Canada Lands first released a detailed plan for the development of Shannon Park in 2016. Not one shovel full of dirt has been moved in the six years since.

It amuses me that Lohr is so obsessed in amping up the construction of new housing units in HRM that he dicks around with the noise bylaw while he completely ignores the most obvious possibility to get massive amounts of new housing constructed quickly: Shannon Park.

Canada Lands first put forward a detailed proposal for development of the long-empty Shannon Park land in 2016, and submitted that proposal to the city’s Planning Department. The submission was proceeded by an enthusiastic “public consultation” process, and I wrote about what happened next in 2017:

People who thought they were taking part in a meaningful public consultation about the Shannon Park redevelopment. Photo: Darren Fisher

And MP Darren Fisher wrote about it in his newsletter:

Where does it stand?
Through public engagement Canada Lands has adopted a preferred concept that fits with the community’s feedback.

They have built around core principles of vibrancy—having a vibrant urban centre, public realm—park and trail system, mobility—walkable space and space for bicycles, land use—using a range of building types and land uses, commemoration—revitalizing and recognizing the history of Shannon Park and its previous vibrancy, and finally utilizing the waterfront.

Here’s a lesson from the Halifax Examiner’s handbook on government bullshit: when someone tosses around the word “vibrancy” with abandon, understand you’re being played the fool.

“They really did listen to the public,” Mancini told Pam Berman of the CBC.

Well, except when the absurd notion that HRM could host a second Amazon headquarters came around, all those fancy maps and public consultations and listenings to the public were chucked right out the window of democracyreports Brett Bundale for the Canadian Press:

A Halifax regional council report reveals new details of the city’s longshot bid to woo online retail giant Amazon, including offering the site of a former military community.

[…]

The report said the municipality was considering submitting Shannon Park as the site for the new Amazon headquarters.

The abandoned military enclave in Dartmouth is more than 30 hectares of waterfront real estate across from Halifax’s core.

The location, owned by the federal Canada Lands Company, has opportunities for mass transit, active transportation, and sustainable building technologies like seawater cooling and heating, the report said.

It’s also located next to a nearly four-hectare site owned by Millbrook First Nation, and the staff report said discussions were held to potentially include the land in the bid.

In short, the mostly residential concept developed through public consultation was switched out for a gigantic commercial headquarters.

No, Amazon won’t be coming to Halifax, so the Shannon Park plan will revert back to the what the public wanted… until some other shiny object comes around, and then the public be damned again.

And sure enough, another shiny object came around: a stadium. So development of Shannon Park was put on hold again, and the city spent a bunch of money developing a concept that went nowhere. But we did get this hilarious architectural drawing:

A woman hails a cab from the middle of the proposed Shannon Park stadium.

It’s hard to keep track of the public money that has been tossed at the aim of getting a stadium built, but it starts at least with the Commonwealth Games proposal, when the bid committee spent $2.4 million designing a stadium for Shannon Park. Those plans were evidently useless for the city’s revised pursuit of a stadium in Shannon Park, so at least another $1.5 million was dumped into stadium-planning, but I think there was more after that, as well. Four or five million dollars would’ve probably paid for a couple of houses anyway, but a stadium was more important than housing.

Some $2.4 million in public money went to design this 25,000-seat stadium at Shannon Park, and a half a million dollars more to study building a 10-14,000 seat stadium at Shannon Park, and then another million dollars to study building a 20,000-seat stadium at Shannon Park. In 2017, the city was asked to look at another stadium proposal for Shannon Park.

So where are we now?

According to Canada Lands, its 2016 submission was revised in 2019 — three years ago — and “that application remains under review.”

According to the city’s Planning Department:

The proposed redevelopment of the former Shannon Park lands consists of:
•    26 new city blocks
•    ~7,000 residents being housed in a range of building forms
•    ~145,000 square feet of commercial space
•    ~15.5 acres of public park space
•    Proposed to be created in 4 phases
•    Includes new public streets, municipal services such as water and sewer, and a new transit facility

Seven-thousand people housed sounds like a good thing, no? But wait! Notes Canada Lands:

From start to finish, the redevelopment is expected to take 10-to-15 years.

Fifteen years. That’ll be 2034. An entire generation will not be able to take advantage of any new housing opportunities at Shannon Park, albeit kids who are today in preschool may benefit. Well, unless another stadium proposal comes along.

Recall that it was going to take two years to get a stadium and all the associated infrastructure (streets, highway ramps, water and sewage, etc.) built and operating. But it will take 15 years to get residential housing and its associated infrastructure built.

You’d think the man charged with fast-tracking residential development in HRM would maybe try to light some fires to speed up the Shannon Park development, but no. When I asked Lohr whether he had spoken to anyone at Canada Lands or the city about Shannon Park, he admitted he had not.

Apparently, it’s more important to have development companies ruin their neighbours’ summer evenings with the sounds of construction than getting a very large residential development that no one opposes built quickly.

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5. Whale sanctuary delayed

A still from the film Blackfish.

“An ambitious plan in Nova Scotia to build North America’s first coastal refuge for captive whales is at least five years behind its original schedule, newly released documents show,” reports Michael MacDonald for the Canadian Press:

The project, announced in February 2020, calls for construction of a 40-hectare underwater enclosure that would provide a natural environment for beluga and orca whales retired from marine parks. It would be as large as 50 football fields and about 300 times larger than the biggest captive whale tanks.

Organizers behind the U.S.-based Whale Sanctuary Project had originally predicted the site on Nova Scotia’s rugged eastern shore could be ready to receive whales this year.

But the COVID-19 pandemic, regulatory hurdles and environmental concerns have slowed the project’s progress, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the province’s freedom of information law.

An internal government presentation prepared in May 2021 says that once the project is granted a Crown lease for a small cove and some land south of Port Hilford, N.S., it would take at least another five years before the site is ready to accept whales. That pushes the start date to 2027.

The Halifax Examiner broke the story about the whale sanctuary back in 2016.

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NOTICED

The Dentist-Denturist War of the 1970s

While I was looking for something else, I happened upon a series of articles in The 4th Estate, the radical Halifax newspaper in the 1970s, that detailed the attempts by denturists — the people who make dentures — to get formally regulated in Nova Scotia so they could work directly with patients to properly fit and install the dentures.

Their opposition: dentists. Up until that time, only dentists were permitted to install dentures directly into a patient’s mouth. So dentists would take the measurements, send the dimensions off to the denturist to build, the denturist would make the dentures and send them back to the dentist, who would then install them. In short: dentists had the market cornered.

Denturists thought this was silly, so opened their own storefronts with questionable legality to deal directly with the public. The response was violence. Reported Nick Fillmore on October 28, 1971:

An attempt was made to gas bomb one of Metro’s largest denture clinics last week, and three days later its proprietor escaped serious injury in a car accident he says was the result of his tires being slashed.

Fred Burne, proprietor of Burnes Denture Clinic in Lower Sackville, was obviously shaken by the two separate incidents, but will probably continue to operate the clinic, along with a new one in Kentville, following a few days rest.

Darrell Mason, president of the Denturist Association, said that no connection had been made between the incidents and the attempts of the denturists to obtain legal recognition. “In all the years I’ve been trying to get the denturists legalized, I’ve never had any trouble with this sort of thing,” he said. “Not even nasty phone calls.”

Burne says a gas bomb, consisting of a rum bottle full of gas with a piece of cloth in the top to act as a wick, was thrown at his office at about 3 a.m. last Friday.

Two weeks ago, the six denture clinics in Metropolitan Halifax were raided by private detectives at the request of the Dental Association. The operators are expected to face charges under the N.S. Dental Act for dealing directly with the public in making dentures.

The denturists, who consider the raids a “harassment tactic” by the dentists, want to have the matter debated and decided in the next session of the provincial legislature. The clinics are still operating despite the raids.

The 4th Estate followed the issue closely, and advocated on behalf of the denturists.

But in November 1972, denturist Ken Edwards and Mason, the president of the Denturist Association, were each convicted separately of criminal charges under the Dental Act, and each was sentenced to one year probation.

The denturists ultimately prevailed, and in 1973, the legislature passed the first Denturist Act, establishing the Denturist Licensing Board and regulating the profession.

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Government

City

Today

Executive Standing Committee (Monday, 10am, City Hall and online) — agenda

Advisory Committee on Accessibility in HRM (Monday, 4pm, online) — agenda

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Monday, 6pm, Alderney Gate) — agenda

Tomorrow

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda

Province

Today

Legislature sits (Monday, 5pm, Province House)

Tomorrow

Private and local bills (Tuesday, 9am, One Government Place) — Bill No. 205 – St. Francis Xavier University Act (amended)

Human Resources(Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Agency, board, and commission appointments

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 11am)


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax

08:00: Irving Beaver, barge, and Atlantic Cedar, tug arrive at Dartmouth Cove from Saint John
08:20: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
14:30: Lagrafoss sails for Portland
21:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida

Cape Breton
07:30: Norwegian Pearl, cruise ship with up to 2,873 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Charlottetown, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston
13:30: Serenea, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
16:30: Norwegian Pearl sails for Halifax
17:00: Phoenix Admiral, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from New York


Footnotes

I’m getting my flu shot today. You can make an appointment for yours here.

There’s a learning curve for the new website. I’m making progress, but still have a ways to go. Thanks for your patience.


Tim Bousquet

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

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7 Comments

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  1. Shannon Park land. If the original Canada Lands Development plan had been approved in 2016, development would be well underway. They couldn’t do anything until HRM approved the plans. It’s been one thing after another. CLC resubmitted in 2019…and still waiting for approval.

  2. Thanks for the update on Shannon Park. It should definitely be fast tracked and 25% of the housing should be permanently affordable on land owned by a Community Land Trust or the provincial housing authority or some combination. Non market housing that starts out and remains affordable. That’s the kind of policy Vancouver adopted years ago for big sites being redeveloped on old industrial sites. The Federal government and HRM should adopt such a policy if they’re serious about affordable housing.

  3. Building a house will take at least 8 months, because an order for windows cannot be fulfilled for 8 months. And the window supplier wants a 255

    1. and the supplier wants a 25% deposit if paying by cash and a 50% deposit if paying with a credit card.

  4. Is there any longer a need for a city council? If the provincial government is going to step in every time a political contributor makes a request, let’s get rid of the pretense and have just one government in all of Nova Scotia. Not that I think that’s the best approach to governance, but it would at least do away with the lie.

  5. I grew up in Shannon Park and went to school there til they opened the “new” French school in Montebello. I live up the hill in Highfield now and can see the site from my balcony.

    I’ll be shocked if I ever look out my window and see actual affordable housing down there. This city has never demonstrated the commitment required to make something like that happen. Well get the shittiest 55% of the first draft of these plans in a decade, long since after economic circumstances will have further destabilized requiring even more housing, and today preschoolers will complain about it on tomorrow’s social media while desperately trying to get one of the old refinery sites converted to affordable housing.