In the harbour
1. Apocalypse deferred
The “blizzard of the year” turned out to be a typical snowstorm, about eight inches at my house in Dartmouth. Overnight, however, came the freezing rain. The morning commute will be a mess.
“The government is blaming rogue Canadian Space Agency employees for doctoring a picture of the International Space Station to include a Canada logo,” reports The Chronicle Herald’s Paul MacLeod. The badly photoshopped photo made its way onto “a government website targeting new immigrants, a website on the government’s financial stimulus plan and the Canadian Space Agency’s Tumblr account” before The Economist noted it and the entire world started pointing and laughing at Canada, at which time the phony photo was taken off government websites.
The real surprise here is they didn’t photoshop a Conservative Party logo onto the space station.
3. Boldly demanding a tax cut for themselves
The Chamber of Commerce wants the Liberals’ next budget to implement all of Laurel Broten’s tax proposals, which would slash taxes on the wealthiest Nova Scotians while ending the sales tax breaks on diapers and tampons, reports Ruth Davenport.
1. Better bus service
Halifax Transit will soon release its proposed revamped scheduling and routing. Sean Gillis gives an overview.
2. Wong watch
Jan Wong says Dalhousie should reinstate Ryan Millet and expel the 12 other members of the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen Facebook page. The “Dirty Dozen” can “reapply to the class of 2016, with a 1,000-word essay about what each has learned. Then take them back, or not.”
3. Duck, duck, cat
Our Own Backyard posted the above photo on its Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, and recently noted that “We have since learned the cat’s name is Pekoe and lives near Sullivan’s Pond. He’s a regular visitor to the pond and is well known in the community.”
4. Cranky letter of the day
I am trying to prevent the closure of St. Barra Church in Christmas Island.
I recently became aware that the group trying to save the closed church in Low Point was made aware that documents they forwarded to the papal nuncio in Ottawa had not been forwarded to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome.
After a group registers a protest in Rome, documents with any pertinent information are supposed to be forwarded to the Vatican through the papal nuncio in Ottawa. According to canon law, when a protest goes through the Congregation for the Clergy, the party involved receives an official protest number assigned to the file.
In frustration, I wrote a letter directly to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome inquiring about the delay. I received a personal reply from Beniamino Stella, head of the Congregation for the Clergy. He was very apologetic regarding the long delay. And he stated that the Vatican did not receive the documents I had sent to Ottawa. I was asked to send them directly to the Vatican.
I was shocked. The papal nuncio’s lack of action is inexcusable. It appeared to be a deliberate attempt to prevent my information from being reviewed.
I have said from Day 1 that this whole process is about money. Our church and related property — many acres with water frontage on the Bras d’Or Lake — would be a cash cow for the Diocese of Antigonish.
The diocese should recognize St. Barra Parish’s strong 200-year presence and consider its parishioners.
William R. (Bill) Higgins, Christmas Island
Joint meeting of the North West Community Council and the Halifax and West Community Council (9:30am, City Hall)—the councils are meeting together to give final approval to a specific development plan change in Bedford West and Bedford South. The councils changed planning rules for the development area in November. The changes don’t increase the number of residential units but moves them about in the development area, which straddles the jurisdiction of each council.
City Council (10am, City Hall)—council’s budget deliberations continue. Today it will look at the proposed police budget, which is something of a joke because while council has the power to set the overall police budget, it is prohibited from changing any of the budget line items. The specifics within the police budget are the sole jurisdiction of the police commission, which in practice makes no changes to the proposed budget as presented by the chief of police.
City council (City Hall)—After budget deliberations, council will hold the meeting that was scheduled for yesterday. The most important issue is the review of fire department operations, which I wrote about here. This article is behind the Examiner’s pay wall and so available only to paid subscribers. To purchase a subscription, click here.
Heritage Advisory Committee (3pm, City Hall)—the committee is considering proposed facade changes to the Tim Hortons in Village Centre Plaza, at 930 and 932 Bedford Highway. Village Centre Plaza is immediately adjacent to the historic Moirs Ltd. Power House. Back in 1989, the company that owns the Tim’s franchise was given development approval for the site, dependant upon various design criteria. Tim Hortons is changing the branding of its stores nationwide, and in order for the changes to be made in Bedford, the HAC must first approve them.
The heritage value of the building is explained here:
Moirs Limited was founded as a bakery in 1816 by Benjamin Moir. In 1903, still under the ownership of the Moir family and incorporated as Moirs Ltd., the bakery expanded to include the production of chocolate. A refining plant and wooden box mill were built at Bedford, NS. The power plant was built in 1931 to drive the refinery and box mill. It was fed by nearby Paper Mill Lake. The plant is a small, single storey building, constructed of reinforced concrete and located directly on Moirs Mill Brook, a small feeder stream running between Paper Mill Lake and the Bedford Basin. Interior evidence of the building’s industrial history remains. It is the last surviving structure associated with the Moir’s manufacturing enterprise in Bedford.
The place is also valued for its preservation and adaptive resuse as a local tourist bureau. Open in the summers, the space is used to disseminate tourism information and to educate visitors about the history of the site and area. A mezzanine and other modern conviences were added to create additional space for administation and interpretation, while retaining elements related to the building’s industrial history. Outside a space for visitors to sit near the brook have been established, as well as a small walking path along the brook.
Public Accounts (9am, in camera briefing for legislators; 10am, public session Province House; 12:30pm press conference)—Auditor General Michael Pickup will release his review of the Bluenose II Restoration Project, so expect fireworks later today.
Metabolism (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link)—Morgan Fullerton, from the University of Ottawa, will talk about “AMP-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK): Metabolism, Macrophages and More.”
Assisted Dying (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building)—Jocelyn Downie will lead a “Conversation About Dying: What the law has to say.” In explanation:
The Supreme Court of Canada is considering whether to strike down the Criminal Code prohibitions on assisted dying. The Quebec legislature has passed “An Act respecting end-of-life care” to permit medical aid in dying. Draft legislation has been introduced in both the House of Commons and the Senate. Professor Downie will talk about these major developments in the law on assisted dying, and invite us to think about some of the open questions still to e answered.
The Maltese Falcon (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—one of the best films ever will be screened.
Deferred Acceptance (Thursday, 11:30am, Life Sciences Centre, O3655)—Norovsambuu Tumennasan, from Aarhus University in Denmark, will talk about “Dynamic matching markets and the deferred acceptance mechanism.”
Anthropogenic stressors (Thursday, 11:30am, 5th floor Biology Lounge, LSC)—Devin Lyons will talk about “Impacts of anthropogenic stressors on the structure and functioning of the marine benthos.” In English, that translates as “How we’re fucking up the oceans.”
Glenn Davidson (Thursday, 12:15pm, Lord Dalhousie Room, Henry Hicks Building)—”Glenn Davidson is a senior naval officer in the Canadian Forces. From 2008 to 2011, Davidson served as Canada’s Ambassador to Syria. In August 2011, he was appointed as Canada’s Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. In this seminar talk he will briefly look at 6 topics facing an ambassador: the requirement for representation abroad; the Ambassador’s role; foreign policy priorities; advancing Canada’s interests; reporting from the field; and risk management.”
Complex networks (Thursday, 3pm, Slonim Conference Room, Goldberg Computer Science building)—Osvaldo N. Oliveira Jr., from the São Carlos Institute of Physics, University of São Paulo, Brazil, will talk about “Using Complex Networks in Natural Language Processing Tasks.” The abstract:
Concepts from complex networks and other methods in statistical physics have been used in a variety of language-related applications, including in natural language processing (NLP). In this lecture, an overview will be provided of NLP tasks in which text is represented as a network with concepts being taken as nodes and edges established based on co-occurrence. The topology and dynamics of the network are investigated with several metrics, including degree, strength, minimum paths, inbetweenness, whose values are taken as features for classification purposes. Machine learning methods are used in classification for various NLP tasks, such as authorship recognition, summarization, evaluation of machine translation, study of consistency in the use of words and categorization of books according to literary movements.
Back pain (Thursday, 5:30pm, The Prince George Hotel, Halifax)—an “interactive” panel (whatever that means) consisting of Jeffrey S. Mogil, Jill Hayden, Katherine Harman, Todd Berry, and Mary Lynch will discuss “Why can’t you fix my back pain?” More info here.
Food waste (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain building)—Tristram Stuart, author of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, will talk.
Nietzsche and Grosse Politik (Thursday, 7pm, Room 1184, Department of Classics, Marion McCain Arts and Social Sciences Building)—Professor Emeritus Rainer Friederich will talk about “Nietzche: on the Genealogy of Grosse Politik.”
Brian Bartlett (Wednesday, 3pm, Room LI135, Patrick Power Library)—Bartlett will talk about his new book, Ringing Here and There: A Nature Calendar.
The Washington Post’s Emily Badger interviews historian Peter Norton about what Norton calls “the myth of America’s love affair with cars“:
This “love affair” was coined, in fact, during a 1961 episode of a weekly hour-long television program called the DuPont Show of the Week (sponsored, incidentally, by DuPont, which owned a 23 percent stake in General Motors at the time). The program, titled “Merrily We Roll Along,”was promoted by DuPont as “the story of America’s love affair with the automobile.”
In it, Groucho Marx recounted that history to millions of Americans with a curious metaphor — the driver as the man, the car as the new girl in town (“Lizzie” was her name). Their “burning love affair” led to marriage, an extended honeymoon, and, inevitably, a few challenges.
“We don’t always know how to get along with her, but you certainly can’t get along without her,” Marx concluded. “And if that isn’t marriage, I don’t know what is.”
The show aired at a time when cars were facing steep criticism, as plans for the new interstate system threatened to destroy or disrupt neighborhoods in many U.S. cities. Highways were on their way to remaking Detroit, Cincinnati and St. Louis. Interstate 95 would ultimately raze entire black neighborhoods in Miami. In Washington, a grassroots group called the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis was protesting “white men’s roads thru black men’s homes.”
Since then, city planning and transportation networks have been primarily oriented around the car.
“When that’s criticized, the reply typically is ‘well look, it’s a free country, people voted with their pocketbooks to buy cars, they like the suburbs,” Norton says. “I think that’s a reasonable position to take. I’m troubled at how seldom people have stopped to question it, though. It is a story with a history.”
The version of this story Groucho Marx spun evolved into a set of assumptions — Americans prefer cars to other forms of transportation, we’d rather have plentiful parking than bustling sidewalks, our roads should be reserved primarily for cars and not pedestrians — that we’ve now inherited as we begin to envision a future where driverless cars might make us dependent on automobiles in new ways. Those assumptions have become so deeply embedded, Norton says, that we’ve forgotten to question them.
“That makes stories,” he adds, “the most powerful social tool in the world.”
Badger is not a car-hating fanatic. “This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who love their cars,” she writes. “The phenomenon of sports cars, weekend cars and collector cars is real. So, too, is the allure for many people of road trips, scenic highways or weekend drives through the country.”
“When I actually looked into the history record, documents from the time, I found just the opposite,” Norton says. “What Americans in cities wanted in the ‘20s was to get the cars out.”
I’ve covered the invention of jaywalking several times in Morning File, so won’t rehash that here, but the point is that we should understand our auto-centric culture is, well, cultural:
Now, about 86 percent of Americans get to work every day in a private car – a statistic that’s often interpreted to mean that the vast majority of us chose to travel that way.
This conclusion conflates preferences with constrained options. “I actually drive most of the way to work,” Norton admits. “I do it because the choices stink.” To extract from today’s ubiquitous parking garages, drive-through restaurants and busy roads a preference for cars ignores all the ways that public policy, industry influence and economic incentives have shaped our travel behavior.
“If you locked me in a 7-Eleven for a week, and then after the end of the week unlocked the door and you studied my diet over the previous seven days, then concluded that I prefer highly processed, packaged foods to fresh fruits and vegetables, I would say your study is flawed,” Norton says.
We make the same mistake, he says, with the history we tell of the car. And this popular story of that past makes it hard for us to envision alternative futures before us.
In the harbour
Apl Agate, container ship, Cagliari, Italy to Fairview Cove West
Oceanex Sanderling, con-ro, St John’s to Pier 41
I’m busy. I have three large projects in the works: I’m waiting for some documents to write a detailed piece on the Washmill underpass fiasco. I still have some things to say about the Wellington Street development. And, I’m diving into the Glenn Assoun court trial transcripts; it turns out to be a very complicated story that I hope to start telling in a few weeks. Today, there’s city council coverage, and somehow I have to find a couple of hours to sit in the courthouse. Then I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show on News 95.7 at 4pm.
Although I think you go overboard in your hatred—er, dislike—of cars, I’m glad you question the way urban planners assume everyone gets around by car. There’s no question the rubber, oil, and automobile industries encouraged the rise of suburbs, with their pedestrian unfriendly layouts. Re-thinking these assumptions is important, especially in light of climate change and its cataclysmic risks. But I always took the phrase “love affair with the car” to have a somewhat different meaning, one that incorporates teenaged boys—it was almost always boys—learning the rudiments of mechanics so they could keep their used cars on the road; hot summer days with teenagers driving to the beach in a brightly coloured convertible; hot summer nights, shooting the drag and later making out in the back seat.
What is the source of the prohibition on council doing anything but approving the police budget?
Police Act, sections 53 and 55. This has been interpreted very literally, such that the police commission decides budget items, and council can only approve it or increase/decrease total amount. I think there’s some case law around it, but I don’t know where it is.
It is with great dismay that I write these comments. Valerie Payn (Halifax Chamber of Commerce) has given a blanket statement that all of Laurel Broten’s tax proposals should be implemented.
I always wonder when reading any proposal with many distinct facets if anyone would be able to agree with every suggestion without having direct input to the proposals. In this case I know neither party so I cannot make that statement. Still I have to wonder how much time and effort was really delegated to this statement. Did Valerie Payn contact stakeholders in all related businesses? Did she canvas the local chambers members? Or did she just give her personal thoughts on what she thinks should happen? We will probably never know but must deal with the decisions she has decided to release to the media.
Two nights ago I was up til 2:30 AM writing a letter to Diana Whalen (Minister of Finance) about the possible negative effects that could come from the removal of the 10% HST rebate from firewood sales. The rebate removal to legitimate businesses and lower income people will be costly with little change in the province’s bottom line.
Myself being self-employed for the last twenty five years I am a firm believer that we need less government in our lives, less borrowing of money by politicians to get re-elected and to reduce the provincial debt. As much as I would like to cut out all monies spent on things I personally do not approve of, it must be done with concern for all people of Nova Scotia. There are no easy answers, including accepting all proposals from an Ontario politician.
I have attached the letter to Diana Whalen I sent the other day. As mentioned previously I was up to 2:30 AM writing it, and was the third letter of the night. So do not expect too much as the copy editor part of my brain went to bed an hour before and it had to be sent that morning.
Blue Barn Farms
January 26, 2015
Hon. Diana Whalen
Nova Scotia MLA, Clayton Park West
Dear Diana Whalen:
Removing the rebate on home heating fuel will cause economic and financial loses for the Nova Scotia government and Nova Scotia businesses. Our business, oldest in Hammonds Plains, has been selling firewood for well over one hundred years, so we have some insight into the business. Let me explain my reasons.
It has come to my attention that you are considering removing the 10% HST energy rebate that now applies to heating fuel in Nova Scotia. At first thought it would appear this is sound management and perfect timing as the cost of fuel is dropping almost daily. Even with a 10% increase in cost it will still leave fuel at a discount to even six months ago. The problem is firewood has not historically been affected to the degree oil, natural gas and propane have been with world market prices. The price of firewood is controlled by local supply and demand. Over the last few years with the closing of Bowater, increased usage in Bio-Mass and the increased percentage used in pulp production by Northern Pulp has produced a shortage like never seen before in Nova Scotia. With the increase in cost also comes the increase in taxes paid by the consumer.
Now the cost to homeowners is in the $350.00-400.00 per cord price range. This price is about $100.00 per cord more than last year and rising. Already the customers are not able to buy as much wood as needed and now have to pick it up at our yard when they have funds available. All appearances would say the price is too high and people should consider other types of heat. According to a Nova Scotia Government website a few years ago a cord of dry wood is equal to approximately 587 liters of oil. Using this calculation oil at the low price of today is still about 50% higher than wood.
A lot of people who burn wood, especially in the rural areas depend on this source of fuel as their main source of heat, or substantial supplement. The money spent on fuel is a necessity and could mean going without food, just to stay warm.
With the implementation of the rebate the legitimate firewood dealers are able to employ people, pay taxes, EI, WC, CP and a variety of other things that help keep our province going. The advantage of the underground economy was diminished because the consumer only had to pay a 5% additional cost (10% rebate) for their fuel. Most customers would pay the additional 5% per cord just to help support local businesses. This 10% rebate has dramatically slowed down the underground economy and helped small businesses grow. If the government were to remove the rebate the underground economy will find its way back into our lives, at a cost to local tax paying businesses. As an example: When people cut their own wood and sell it they collect no HST, pay no employees (above board), pay no taxes on the profit they make on the sale of the wood and add nothing to the economy, just their own pocket.
Firewood is not controlled by the wholesalers as are other forms of fuel. The people who control these other types of fuel have no worry of the underground economy, and the government will receive as much or more taxes without the rebate. Legitimate dealers of firewood and customers will be negatively affected by the underground economy and the government will collect less taxes.
With our struggling economy I have to give credit for trying to cut costs to get the province on more stable ground. I also have to give credit for having roundtable discussions with the people of Nova Scotia before implementation. I can only hope that with letters that you receive you will consider the consequences of what you do. This government can be the first steps to reviving our economy or the one who works against the people and businesses in Nova Scotia. Also people of Nova Scotia will still hold the government reasonable even though they try and say it was the consultants’ ideas. I will be watching and waiting for your
I hope we will soon read the third instalment of your series on the Wellington Street development fiasco. Today’s Chronicle Herald (Page A2) presents the case for a Community Council to represent the HRM urban cores of peninsular Halifax and Dartmouth within its circumferential highway. I believe such a Community Council would have avoided the foisting on peninsular Halifax of a bad development due to the reverse NIMBY views of rural and suburban councillors. It should also have prevented that bad earlier development in Dartmouth that inspired Councillor McCluskey to want to vote for what she believed to be a bad development on Wellington Street. The present Community Council structure clearly does not deal fairly with development issues in the Halifax=Dartmouth urban core.