In the harbour



The Liberal government is ending the Community Feed-In Tariff (COMFIT) program created by the former NDP government:

Government has decided to end the community feed-in tariff program after a program review that began in January.

“This is the right time to bring COMFIT to a close, it has achieved its objectives,” said Energy Minister Michel Samson. “We are now at a point where the program could begin to have a negative impact on power rates.

“Nova Scotians have told us they want stability and affordability when it comes to power rates, and industry wants clarity on the future of the COMFIT program. We are listening.”

The review found:
— with an estimated $35 million in direct investment by Nova Scotians, COMFIT has exceeded expectations as a contributor to economic development in communities throughout Nova Scotia
— COMFIT has also exceeded expectations in energy output, with more than 80 MW in production and more than 125 MW expected by the end of 2015
— no new generation is needed to meet electricity demand, and adding capacity would negatively impact rates as Nova Scotians pay more for energy with small-scale, community-based projects than from other sources
— some COMFIT projects are seeking extensions beyond what would be expected for a well-developed project

Effective immediately, no new COMFIT applications will be considered. Projects already underway will continue. All unapproved projects, extensions and lapsed-permit renewals will be considered on a case-by-case basis and processed within 60 days.

Government will introduce legislation in the fall to enact the necessary changes. More details on renewable energy and its role in the province’s energy future will be released this fall in government’s electricity plan.

I wonder if Andrew Younger was not returned as Minister of Energy because he supports COMFIT.

Regardless, as of this morning, the Energy Department’s webpage about COMFIT still links to this explanatory video:

YouTube video

COMFIT was designed so that there would be community buy-in for renewable power. It gave a set price for renewable power, and allowed non-profits, municipal governments, and projects funded through community economic development investment funds to produce power for the electrical distribution grid.

What killing COMFIT is really about is shifting the blame for increased power rates. Nova Scotia Power and the government are blaming both renewables and efficiency programs for rate increases, but the COMFIT announcement fails to mention the largest renewable project in the power mix, the Muskrat Falls fixed link project. At the same time, NSP is celebrating, and the government is dumping a lot of money into, a very questionable tidal energy project.

One of the justifications for bringing in Muskratl Falls was its ability to back up other renewable energy sources like wind, which, as a recent Chronicle Herald article mentioned, could theoretically bring us to the point of having 100 per cent renewable power.

But if we were serious about attaining that goal, we would maintain some renewable energy capacity in the short term within the province. COMFIT was a good way to maintain such a niche, which could then grow larger when the time is right. Even though the projects are more expensive, the volume of electricity produced is low, so the overall impact on electrical bills is low.

Here’s how a person close to the provincial regulation of power put it to me:

These projects are high value and high impact in terms of local revenue generation, community participation, and learning about where, how, and why renewable energy projects work. It might make sense to modify the COMFIT to try deliver lower volumes, but higher local spin-offs including novel uses of renewable energy and more opportunities for sustainable energy training and workforce development.

I suspect part of this is also that the government plans to “replace” COMFIT with their “renewable to retail” policy. This will replace an effective form of competition with NSP with a completely ineffective one, if the rules are written in a way that makes it difficult to connect to the grid.

It really shows there is no plan to get to 100% renewables as suggested by NSP the other day. If we significantly reduce efficiency we miss out on using the most cost-effective way to get there. If we cancel the COMFIT we’ll let the local renewables sector stagnate. So we are left with the high-risk and dubious bet on tidal energy with both the government and NSP seem quite willing to spend ratepayers money on. The hydro imports won’t act as a back-bone for a robust domestic sustainable energy sector — it will kill these sectors.

Stephen McNeil got elected largely on the promise of keeping power rates low. He’s evidently prepared to do whatever it takes to head off rate increases, even if that means killing any prospect for additional renewable power.

2. Harbour City

Harbour City Homes owns these buildings on Brunswick Street.
Harbour City Homes owns these buildings on Brunswick Street.

“Residents of nine properties in Halifax’s north end fear they may be losing their homes after receiving word on Wednesday their non-profit housing society intends to sell them,” CTV reports. “Harbour City Homes, also known as City of Halifax Non-Profit Housing Society, put up ‘for sale’ signs on Thursday at six properties it owns on Brunswick Street and three on Artz Street.”

The CBC put the issue in context of gentrification:

“New owners come in here, they purchase the places. They redo them or whatever. We can’t afford to pay what they’re asking,” said Deb Keys, whose has lived in the area her entire life.

Keys said a neighbouring building was recently renovated and is being rented out for double what she pays.

“How do we afford that? We just don’t. They’re taking away a part of this community. It’s really, really sad,” she said.

I should add that Examineradio producer Russell Gragg’s nine-year-year old daughter, Millie, recently complained about the disrepair of a playground on Creighton Street that turned out to be owned by Harbour City. Rather than fix the playground, Harbour City has said it will tear it down.

3. Pedestrian struck

From police shift sergeant Jeff Carr’s email to reporters last night:

 8:45 pm: An 11-year-old girl attempted to cross the street in front of a parked transit bus in the 100 block of Victoria Road, Dartmouth. She was struck by a car that was passing the bus. The girl was transported to hospital with non-life threatening injuries and later released. The matter is still under investigation. 

4. Helmet use

Yesterday I pointed out the problematic CBC reporting about a study of major trauma injuries involving kids riding bicycles. The article in question was fear mongering at its worst, and left unanswered all sorts of questions. Later in the day, cycling advocate Ben Wedge found the underlying academic study, which has this conclusion, in its entirety:

Pediatric major trauma related to sport and recreational activity is relatively infrequent in Nova Scotia, with 107 cases recorded over a 13-year period, accounting for 9% of all pediatric major traumas during this time. Most major traumas resulted from cycling, followed by hockey. Severe TBI [traumatic brain injury] occurred in over half of all pediatric major trauma patients, including a third of hockey-related major traumas, despite 100% reported helmet use.

I read the study and see the researchers — Robert Green, Michael Butler, Nelofar Kureshi, and Mete Erdogan — trying very hard to force the data into a “not using helmets is bad” box, and coming up mostly empty-handed. The numbers were small (fewer than five), but in terms of severity of head injuries, the most dangerous sport for children in Nova Scotia is… golf. Clearly, golfers should wear helmets.


5. Wild kingdom

“The yellow-banded bumble bee was listed recently as a species of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada,” reports the CBC:

Biologist Cory Sheffield, a world bee expert in Saskatchewan and committee member, told CBC News declines have been even more severe in the Maritimes.

Sheffield said he would consider the bees threatened in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, not just of special concern. He said pathogens from commercial bumble bee hives may be causing problems for wild populations.


1. Gordon Stephenson

In the black squares, 30% or more of dwellings lack indoor washrooms
In the black squares, 30 per cent or more of dwellings lacked indoor washrooms in 1957.

Peter Ziobrowski brings our attention to famed architect Gordon Stephenson, who was hired by the old city of Halifax in 1957 to propose “redevelopment” of downtown areas.

The old neighbourhood around Jacob Street was demonstrated to be a problem via a series of maps that showed the number of cases of tuberculosis, the lack of indoor plumbing, children involved in the justice system, and the like. The solution? Bulldozers. Stephenson’s study ultimately led to the razing of the impoverished neighbourhood and the building of Scotia Square.

We rightly speak a lot about the injustices done to Africville, but the Jacob Street neighbourhood seems to have been lost to history. I’d like to know more about it.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

If Dalhousie and St. Francis Xavier universities want to continue spending taxpayers’ dollars on giving administrators outrageous benefit packages, perhaps the province should stop giving them so much of our money until they rein in their extravagant ways. Saint Mary’s University’s president is making $326,382 per year. That’s much more than our premier. Isn’t it time the province said, “Whoa”?

Ron O’Reilly, Dartmouth


No public meetings.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:40am Friday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:40am Friday. Map:

Hojin, car carrier, arrived at Autoport this morning
Helga, cargo, arrived at Pier 31 this morning, sails to sea this afternoon
ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrived at HalTerm this morning, sails to sea later this morning
Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrived at Pier 36 this morning from Saint-Pierre, sails back to Saint-Pierre this afternoon
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, St. John’s to Pier 31
Budapest Express, container ship, Damietta, Egypt to Fairview Cove
Anichkov Bridge, oil tanker, Quebec to anchorage for inspection

Fusion sails to sea


We’ll be publishing Episode #22 of Examineradio today. I interview both Emma Van Rooyen, the Kings County councillor who resigned last week, and Philip Slayton, author of Mayors Gone Bad.

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

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  1. I believe there was also a synagogue that was demolished as part of the redevelopment. Trying to remember my source for that. Probably in notes for a story I wrote last year.

  2. Tim, Dr. Rob Green is an emergency room specialist at the QEII. Why not just give him a call yourself and ask about the pediatric trauma study?

  3. Read the official plan for Dartmouth circa 1963 for similar discussions of the poor condition of housing, as well as bold new highways on the waterfront and through Brightwood.
    Their is also a very good urban renewal study of Glace Bay from the same era,
    Available at KIllam library along with waterfront plans. More modern plans for Dartmouth waterfront are in the Alderney Drive library.

    1. Nothing like a large swath of asphalt to eliminate the danger of communciable disease and the unsightly poor. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the redevelopment of the Coast Guard facility in North Woodside (I think that is still Woodside). Tons of relatively affordable apartments in that might not survive if it’s all more profitable as a gentrified neighbourhood.

      1. Former Coast Guard base is not really in Woodside. It may actually be in area called Southdale, but the boundaries all seem a bit fuzzy. There is a mix of housing in the area, including relatively affordable apartments, older but desirable single houses, and of course the monstrous and expensive King’s Wharf development. Ideally the Coast Guard base should remain some sort of facility that provides employment (preferably neither noisy nor polluting, given its proximity to residential neighbourhoods) as there is obviously no shortage of housing..

    2. The 1957 report blog post is actually part of a series where i explore how Planing theory evolved into plans, and then resulted in specific projects. Do to research required, it comes out in pieces, and not necessarily in order. You can Find the main Page to the series at

      Given all the interviews that have been done with affricville residents, i have pondered what the reactions were like form those in other areas of the city. from council minutes, there appears to be acceptance, as people received market value for their properties, and in some cases offered them to the city.

      Thanks Colin for the suggestion.

      1. The Glace Bay report is a work of social history, the Dartmouth plan is from Maurice LLoyd.
        Reading them and similar work related to post war planning in the UK it would seem they were all of the age of demolish & rebuild and highways scything through neighbourhoods.
        Watch the Ian Nairn videos on youtube, he wrote about urban development in The Observer during the 1960s.