In the harbour
1. Steele-ing a neighbourhood
Having recently purchased Colonial Honda dealership, The Steele Auto Group is now planning to expand the car lot’s Robie Street footprint to include everything south of May Street between Robie Street and Fern Lane extended all the way to Robie Street.
Tristan Cleveland sends me this graphic:
To accomplish such an expansion, Steele will have to tear down about 25 structures in the north end neighbourhood. As of Friday, said Cleveland, some 22 demolition permits have already been issued, as follows:
Fern Lane: 2696, 2688, 2686, 2680, 2678, 2674, 2670
May Street: 5758
Robie Street: 2623, 2619, 2697, 2629, 2627, 2623
North Street: 5809,5805, 5801, 5797
McCully Street: 5730, 5738, 5736, 5740
Steele owns three other civic addresses at the corner of May and Robie Streets, but environmental issues have delayed a demolition permit.
Chris Poulain took some photos of the houses to be razed:
Both the CBC and The Coast have written stories about the proposed demolitions and the expansion of the dealership.
Admittedly, some (but by no means all) of the structures are decrepit and should be replaced. But it makes no sense from a planning or environmental perspective to create a giant parking lot in the north end. The broader area has become more urbanized, and more densely populated, and so I’m surprised the planned expansion even makes sense economically for Steele; seems to me there’s far more potential to develop the area — by perhaps mirroring the giant Gladstone development just to the west. (I think that’s what an earlier buyer of the North Street houses had in mind, but for whatever reason those plans fell through.)
Opponents to the plan have formed a Facebook page, but councillors Waye Mason and Jennifer Watts both say Steele’s plans fit the zoning for the area, and demolition of the houses and expansion of the lot are “as a right” developments — council has no way to intervene.
CBC reporter Rachel Ward has been able to interview the elusive Andy Filmore, the much-celebrated former city planner. Filmore told Ward that he had discussions with car dealerships about creating a suburban “gasoline alley” — a stretch of car dealerships near a highway — but those plans went nowhere. For dropping the ball, Filmore was rewarded with a seat in Parliament.
2. Garbage Journalism
Reporter Jesse Ward examines how millions of dollars worth of government-sponsored “content” gets placed in Canadian newspapers. Ward raises important issues of government and journalistic ethics.
On the government side, the articles increasingly replace advertising, but get around tender rules for advertising.
On the newspaper side, the articles are not labelled as advertising or sponsored content,. Further, the newspapers — including the Chronicle Herald — do not otherwise disclose to readers that the articles were not written by a professional journalist, but rather by a PR firm.
Click here to read “Garbage Journalism: Canadian newspapers regularly publish government propaganda without telling their readers.”
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
3. Examineradio #59
On Sunday April 24 Solidarity Halifax organized a public meeting to discuss the strike at the Halifax Chronicle Herald, currently dragging into its fourth month. Striking Chronicle Herald news editor Pam Sword, Saint Mary’s labour professor Judy Haiven, and I spoke to a standing room-only crowd.
Examineradio is happy to present the audio of this roundtable discussion.
Also, rich dude demands city council’s full attention. Council complies. Then demands a cruller. Councillor Steve Adams makes a run to nearby Tim Hortons.
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(Subscribe via iTunes)
Spryfieled resident Kimberley Jenkins was found guilty Friday of violating Section 22 (b) of the Animal Protection Act by not providing proper medical care for a cat named Fuzz. (Background here.) Reports Pat Lee for Local Xpress:
Scraggly Fuzz was let down by a couple of people that night. First was the responding Halifax Animal Services officer who confirmed with Kara Jenkins, who happened to drive by, that Fuzz was an owned cat. The officer noted Fuzz didn’t look that well, but he drove off anyway. Secondly was Jenkins herself, who did nothing to get the unwell cat to a vet — somewhere he hadn’t been for at least a decade — or even indoors.
A few hours later came the cat rescuers, who tried to find Fuzz’s owner (Fuzz had no identification). When that failed, Fuzz was finally taken to a veterinarian, who determined that he was indeed a very sickly kitty, possibly just hours from death. A decision was made to humanely say goodbye to Fuzz.
Enter Fuzz’s people who raised bloody hell about their unidentifiable, sick and roaming cat being put down without their consent and a rallying cry to hang the rescue community.
But the Nova Scotia SPCA took a different tack. They instead laid charges against Kim Jenkins for not looking after Fuzz’s many medical needs, something now possible through the amended Animal Protection Act.
1. Provincial budget
Richard Starr takes a look at the Liberals’ latest budget.
2. Muskrat Falls
“Last week’s reckless blustering by Stan Marshall, newly appointed CEO of Nalcor, Newfoundland’s troubled government-owned energy corporation, about possible cancelation of the half-built project, ought to alarm Premier Stephen McNeil,” writes Parker Donham.
There is no such thing as “green energy.” All electric generation — including wind, hydro, and even solar — has embedded environmental costs: the production of the concrete piers used for wind farms, the toxic materials used in producing solar cells, or the loss of a wild river in hydro projects, not to mention the considerable environmental cost of distribution, no matter what the source.
Still, we are facing a crisis of unprecedented scale. It’s probably too late anyway, but if we are going to have even the slimmest chance of averting global environmental collapse and the extinction of thousands of species (including, probably, homo sapiens), then we’ve got to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible, like yesterday. There are problems with Muskrat Falls — there are problems with everything — but I don’t see a better alternative.
Oh, and Donham’s wrong about tidal power, but that’s an argument for another day.
3. Cranky letter of the day
We have now had roundabouts in the CBRM for a number of years and you would expect that by now most motorists would have a pretty solid grasp of roundabout etiquette.
Sadly, this is clearly not the case.
I think the nature of the problem lies in some motorists’ misunderstanding of the yield sign.
The yield sign as you approach the roundabout differs from a stop sign. Most of us get that. Drivers should not behave as if they’re in an intersection with a four-way stop sign; you do not take turns proceeding as you would at a stop sign.
As a driver, the traffic approaching from your left has the right of way, and failure to yield to them puts you at fault if an accident results. Even if a driver to your immediate left is also entering the roundabout at the exact same time as you, it is that driver who legally possesses the right of way. Wait that extra second and let that driver proceed.
To quote the Nova Scotia Driver’s Handbook on what to do when faced with a yield sign: “You must give the right of way, stopping if necessary, to any other traffic in, or closely approaching, the intersection.” I suspect it is the “or closely approaching” part that many drivers don’t seem to comprehend.
This whole thing is not complicated. I have checked the government’s Driver’s Handbook cover to cover and I have found no place in the entire book that advocates refusal to yield to traffic in a roundabout while also raising your middle finger and mouthing something nasty when the person being cut off honks in protest. Yet this is what many of us routinely see.
Surely most Cape Bretoners would not be so rude on a sidewalk or in a store. Yet from the inside of a vehicle with a quick means of escape many feel that dangerous and rude behaviour is absolutely warranted. It’s disheartening. Like most motorists I can tolerate being cut off; mistakes happen. But when someone comes close to damaging my property and potentially injuring my children, and then follows it up with a middle finger instead of an apologetic shrug, my tolerance wears thin.
Know the rules of the road. The raised middle finger is the hallmark of the ignorant. If you’re ever unsure about driving rules and etiquette, the Nova Scotia Driver’s Handbook is available for free online for everyone. No excuses.
David Donohue, Prime Brook
The Government and On Campus sections are compiled by Kathleen Munro.
Grants Committee (1pm, Halifax Hall, City Hall) The committee will discuss who will be receiving funding from the Community Grants Program.
District 7&8 Advisory Committee (4pm, Halifax Hall, City Hall) — The committee will discuss the controversial Wellington Street development proposal.
Legislature sits (4–10pm, Province House)
Environmental Science and Astronomy and Physics (7:30pm, Great Hall, University Club, Dalhousie University) — Aldona Wiacek will present “What is in the Air We Breathe?
In the harbour
3:30pm: Posillipo, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Beaumont, Texas
3:30pm, Grand Legacy, car carrier, sails from Autoport to sea
4pm: Havelstern, chemical tanker, sails from Pier 9 to sea
5:15pm: MSC Cristina, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Sagunto, Spain
10pm: MSC Cristina, car carrier, sails from Autoport to sea
Where’d the weekend go?
Agreed on the tidal power statement. I’d also be interested to hear your take — my opinions are based on some knowledge of the physics involved and I don’t think it’s as simple a solution as it is typically presented.
You write: “All electric generation — including wind, hydro, and even solar — has embedded environmental costs” I could not agree more (although citing the concrete piers used for wind turbines is a precious quibble). But not all environmental issues are created equal.
Climate change is the pre-eminent political-social-environmental-moral issue of our time. If we keep waiting for pristine solutions, we are guilty of fiddling while Planet Earth burns. Nuclear? Too dangerous, too much radioactive waste. Wind? Kills birds, makes low pitch noise. Hydro? Floods wilderness. Solar? Uses toxic materials. Tidal? Kills fish. Meanwhile we rush pell mell toward a planetary meltdown.
Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien, wrote Voltaire. Perfection is the enemy of the good. Prodded by the MacDonald and Dexter governments, Nova Scotia Power took us from 80% coal to below 50% (with some backsliding to ~58% since the Liberals got in). Amid deafening silence from environmental organizations about this accomplishment, NSP was excoriated by the media and the public for the resulting rate increases. I think they did a remarkable job.
Frankly, environmentalists (*some* environmentalists) need to grow up and stop raising armchair objections to every practical method for dealing with the enormous and planet-threatening problem of climate change.
Parker, in his book “Heat,” George Monbiot devotes four or five pages just to the issue of concrete piers used in wind towers. As I’m sure you know, manufacturing concrete is a HUGE generator of GHG. Monbiot argued that wind power could be a significant contributor to the grid, and his concerns about the concrete could be put to rest *if* there was some degree of carbon capture at concrete generation points. I don’t have the book in front of me, but as I recall, he ran the figures at length.
Tim, I’m not sure what the answer to the carbon emissions from the concrete used to build wind turbines (how much concrete do you think the convention centre has by the way?), but my pet peeve about energy use in this province is heating, especially electric baseboards. It doesn’t actually get that cold in Nova Scotia, but most buildings are poorly insulated and our heating systems are poorly thought out – for instance we burn biomass in a power plant only to make heat in an electric baseboard with abysmal efficiency compared to pelletizing the wood and burning it in a pellet stove.
One problem with the way our economy handles the distribution of money and the funding of projects is the obsession with centralized solutions, which would be fine if people had money for things like extra insulation and pellet stoves, but most don’t. For instance, the solar hot water industry installs the equivalent of several nuclear plants worth of water-heating capacity every year but nobody talks about that – notice that most of the big apartment buildings downtown have solar hot water systems. A lot of the answers are not megaprojects, but dwelling-scale systems that reduce the amount of energy needed – unfortunately that’s not compatible with the neoliberal way of thinking that sees the world only in terms of money instead of the real things the money represents.
I think the main difference is *ongoing* fossil fuel usage vs. one-time fossil fuel usage. There are also many ways to mitigate this, for example tying up C02 in the concrete (a process developed here).
As for the future, I think we should be pouring money into theoreticals like Thorium reactors / fusion generators. The only reason the world chose Uranium as the choice fuel of current reactors is because the refining infrastructure also serves medicine and (of course) weaponization. “Nuclear” is a very broad term, not all options are dangerous.
I’d be interested to read why “Donham’s wrong about tidal power” in a future article.
I’m creating a scale of insignificance and making “precious quibble” the first unit. Well said, Parker Donham!
Councillors should not be using the bullshit phrase as of right as an easy out in explaining away this absolutely outrageous act.
They should be fighting this wretched usurpation of a living breathing neighbourhood by a corporate scumbag as an affront to the city and all its vaunted planning committees, guidelines and reports.
Has our council so capitulated to our corporate overlords that money trumps democracy?
Fight it how? Apparently the owners of the property can use the property in this manner, it fits with the zoning. Be outraged with the City for sure, but while I’m not a fan of the proposal I don’t see how Steele is in the wrong. (at least in law)
Councillors could actually lead as they are elected to. Moral outrage from a elected official might actually spur more public engagement.
The main issue is money. Those who have lots of it can seemingly do whatever they want including taking advantage of overworked or negligent bureaucrats and politicians trying to increase the tax base without regard to its community building inplications.
The city may make more taxes from a parking lot full of cars but everyone else around it is diminished.
Legal yes (in it’s limited way). Moral? NO! Ethical? NO WAY!
I doubt the houses bordering this affront knew any of this was happening literally in their own backyards.
Although the area around Colonial Honda has C-2 zoning (General Business), a clause in the Peninsula North section of the Municipal Planning Strategy for Halifax (http://www.halifax.ca/planning/documents/Halifax_MPS.pdf, page 170) also seems to apply:
“1.1.1: Where redevelopment is proposed for sites with structurally sound housing units, the retention and rehabilitation of such existing units and the integration of new structures with these shall be encouraged.”
This seems to tip the scales in favour of houses, not Hondas. Which department at city hall is responsible for checking this before awarding demolition permits?
Again methinks council by default is pro business (scared of speaking out against business?) and doesn’t want to look like they are restraining trade.
Of course just like the abhorrent Wellington Street development I’m sure rural and suburban councillors couldn’t give a rats ass about a central Halifax neighbourhood.
That “encouragement” would come in the way of allowing, or being justified in allowing, slight variances when granting building permits. Consider a false dichotomy of demolishing a house for a total replacement, or granting a permit for a non-compliant and oversize deck, let them build the 2% bigger-than-legal deck. Clerks and council could “encourage” the rehabilitation by granting the exception.
That doesn’t apply in this situation.
I suspect that the long term plan here is to only use the property as a car lot for a a decade or so, generating some cash. May/Fern area is perhaps done, but the McCully/North block is ripe to be sold off for condos or a tower. Even more speculation, they already have a plan or buyer lined up, and they only really care about that block for 2-3 years to play a bit of car tetris as they build some structures on the contiguous property.
Just to clarify for anyone who cares: the Chris Parsons who took those pictures is not me (local twitter loudmouth/organizer/guy who writes blog posts twice a year/person who grew up in East End Halifax).
My mistake. I’ve corrected the attribution.