On campus
In the harbour


1. Taxis


“The Halifax taxi industry is in crisis after four alleged sexual assaults by drivers in three months have left customers frightened to take a cab, the head of a drivers’ association said Monday,” reports the Canadian Press:

“For it to get to the point where people are worried about taking a cab, and whether they will be sexually assaulted, that is a crisis,” said Buffett, a driver for 17 years and president of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Owners Association.

Buffett said all cab drivers should be required to install dashboard cameras and participate in mandatory training to spell out the “dos and don’ts” of how to interact with passengers.

Halifax regional council, which regulates the industry, should make the issue a priority, but it is unlikely to do so, Buffett said.

The problem is that council is guided by a taxi liaison group and a six-member standing committee on transportation, which is also tasked with advising council about the region’s complex municipal transit system. As a result, taxi issues are often pushed to the side, he said.

I was a taxi driver for about five years when I lived in California, so I know a bit about the industry.

First, it’s dangerous: a buddy of mine, a fellow driver, was shot one night. He eventually recovered, but it was of course a traumatic and life-changing incident. Beyond the very real threat of being murdered, drivers have to put up with unruly and sometimes drug-crazed passengers and “runners,” and just being on the road for 12 hours a day is a danger.

I don’t know what the scene is like here in Halifax, but when I worked in California, the taxi industry was something of a Wild West situation. Drivers stole each other’s calls, and fist fights and worse between drivers were a regular occurrence.

And the whole point of the industry is to provide a necessary and important service: carrying around elderly people to their doctor appointments, ferrying the carless back from the grocery store, getting drunk people home safely, and simply being a transportation option when all else fails.

All of which is to say, the industry is too important to be left to the free market. For too long in Halifax there’s been the idea that if we simply deregulate, there’d be more cabs providing better service and lower costs. That’s just fantasy. It’s not how the world works.

The industry needs to be highly regulated. Drivers should be well-paid professionals and held accountable. Yes, training and testing should be stepped up, but so should inspections — so far as I know, there is never an inspector making random stops of cabs, making sure the cars are clean, the drivers sober, professionally dressed, and up-to-date on their paperwork.

Incidentally, Uber will make the situation worse. We have laws and regulations now that are supposed to prevent the worst sorts of behaviour — in reality they don’t, because there is zero enforcement, but once the industry is opened up to anyone with an Uber app, forget about it. Sexual assault will increase, and so will plain old discrimination — drivers will refuse to pick up people of colour or the time-consuming elderly, because nothing will prevent them from doing so.

Yes, the taxi commission should be revived, and it should be given the power to increase rates and driver pay. It should also employ inspectors who make random stops of drivers at night. Additionally, all cabs should be equipped with working cameras and GPS.

My advice for people taking cabs: always sit in the back seat, and let the driver do his or her job — drive. Just as passengers shouldn’t be talking to bus drivers, neither should they overly engage cab drivers; drivers should be paying attention to the road and not be a captive audience to someone’s need to be heard. I’d also suggest that before getting in a cab you take a photo of the roof light and text it to a friend.

2. Something for an empty briefcase

YouTube video

The Suspicious Packages returned for a Gottingen Street show yesterday. The band is getting tired, playing the same repetitive “Empty Briefcase” song.

Maybe I’m naive and not properly fearful of terrorists, but if I came across a briefcase sitting on the street, I’d pick it up and see if there was any identifying information on it, so I could return it to its owner. If not, I’d try to open it to see if maybe some papers inside had a name.

But if I did that, the cops wouldn’t be able to roll out the robot, and where’s the fun in that?

These incidents are so similar to each other — often near the military base, often a briefcase — that I’m beginning to think they’re a staged police event. For what purpose, I have no idea.

Here are the incidents I could find with a quick google search this morning:

April 2013: police closed Barrington Street after someone called in a suspicious package that turned out to be a briefcase full of bricks. This is the first use of the police robot, I think.
May 2013: a suspicious package full of something that vaguely looked electrical was discovered at the Halifax Shopping Centre, causing much mayhem and worry until a sheepish salesman explained that he had accidentally left his bag of hearing aids behind.
May 2013: a supsicious package is reported in a parking lot near Stadacona. I later wrote: “The very best in anti-terrorism technology — a water cannon-wielding robot! — is employed to blast the innocent bag someone left next to a car to smithereens. Freedumb!”
June 2014: unidentified package found near Dockyard
January 2015 a Cole Harbour neighbourhood and a Grand Desert street were shut down for fears that Christopher Phillips was stockpiling a dangerous chemical, osmium tetroxide. Phillips was subsequently acquitted of all charges; in a hearing, a chemist testified that the chemical could not be used as a weapon.
May 2015: a suspicious package that closed Robie Street turned out to be a suitcase full of clothes
September 2015: unidentified package exploded by military police at Rainbow Gate at HMC Dockyard.

Come to think of it, “Empty Briefcase” might make a good blues song — a man pretending to be an executive to impress a woman, but it’s all just show. Sort of an upscale version of “A Nickel and a Nail,” O. V. Wright’s song about a man so busted he jingles a nickel and a nail together in his pocket to make people think he’s still got coin:

YouTube video

3. Matricide

Mother Canada™
Mother Canada™

“Donations for the Mother Canada[™] statue planned for Cape Breton fell sharply in 2015, even before Parks Canada pulled its support for the project,” reports Joan Weeks for the CBC. “Tax records for the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation show donations fell by more than 40 per cent from 2014 to 2015.”


1. Twinning

Writes Stephen Kimber:

It is interesting — and perhaps instructive — to compare the McNeil government’s stealth, stroke-of-a-pen, done-and-dusted announcement it had clawed back a basic human right (a minimum wage) for teenaged hockey players with its aw-shucks, no-rush, we-just-want-what-you-want chorus for last week’s release of a study on twinning the province’s 100-series highways.

“There aren’t many teenaged hockey players and few of them vote,” notes Kimber, who goes on to suggest that the ultra caution over the highway study signifies an election is at hand.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

I have a couple of issues I’d like to discuss.

First of all, I am puzzled as to why the CBRM mayor and council have never said anything about the proposed container terminal in Melford, Guysborough Co.

Why do they continue with the dog-and-pony show regarding a proposed container terminal in the Port of Sydney knowing we will never make the grade. 

Secondly, I believe the Donkin mine will never produce coal because the mining of coal is rapidly on the decline. 

For instance, in December, the Chinese government announced it would not approve any new coal mines over the next three years and that it would shut more than 1,000 coal mines in 2016, taking out 60 million metric tons of unneeded capacity.

A month later, the world’s largest coal consumer announced it would invest $4.6 billion to close another 4,300 mines. Peabody Coal, the largest private coal producer, declared Chapter 11 and 50 other coal companies have also declared bankruptcy.

So where does Donkin sell this coal with the world of coal collapsing?

Glen Muise, Sydney



City Council (10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda. These mid-summer council meetings tend to pack a lot in, as council catches up on its month-long early summer break and tries to get ahead before its month-long late summer break. I’ll be live-blogging the festivities via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.

One issue that interest me is a zoning change that will allow construction of a four-storey, 41-unit apartment building at 8 Linden Lea in Dartmouth. This will entail tearing down a three-storey apartment building now on the site.

Linden Lea is the site of Dartmouth’s other, almost-secret duck pond. As I wrote back in 2014:

Linden Lea is a dead end street off Pleasant Street in Dartmouth, one block west of Old Ferry Road. It is a quirky neighbourhood with an almost rural sensibility just a stone’s throw from downtown Dartmouth: There are no sidewalks or curbs for most of the road, but there is an open road-side ditch, some old knotty trees, and a delightful lily-filled pond—this quiet respite is where the Sullivan Pond ducks hang out most of the time. The old city of Dartmouth had approved three apartment buildings and a couple of duplexes along the road, but past the pond six single family homes remain. The apartment buildings have seen the stress of time, but they provide a few dozen units of affordable housing along the Pleasant Street bus route and within walking distance to the ferry. One of the buildings is a dilapidated three-storey structure right across from the pond; the development proposal calls for tearing down that building and building a four-storey, 41-unit apartment building in its stead.

A developer wants to tear down the three-storey apartment building across from the Linden Lea duck pond in order to build a four-storey apartment building. Photo: Halifax Examiner
A developer wants to tear down the three-storey apartment building across from the Linden Lea duck pond in order to build a four-storey apartment building. Photo: Halifax Examiner

In the decades since the Linden Lea apartments were built, the surrounding neighbourhood took on an increasingly middle class sensibility, which in turn led to the adoption of planning and zoning codes that disallow the kind of building that is proposed. To get around those restrictions, the developer and staff are proposing that council take the extraordinary step of declaring the property an “opportunity site,” which would bypass the usual zoning restrictions. Such a step would involve consultations with neighbours.

If done right, these sorts of rebuildings can make sense and improve an area, but I have no idea what council will do with this, or what neighbours think of the proposal… I do know this: the developer didn’t tell the people in the apartment building that their homes may soon be torn down; that thankless chore indadvertedly fell to this hapless reporter while making small talk with residents enjoying the duck pond. [The developer] submitted this statement:

“The site’s close proximity to Downtown Dartmouth and the Ferry Terminal gives the project significance and merit to increasing density in support of policy N-5 goals. The design intent and theology behind the proposed development is to promote a greater neighbourhood and downtown lifestyle of green living targeted at a market for both young working professionals and families alike.”

Design theology? I realize planning and design circles have been infected by woo-woo and New Age nonsense, but this is the first time I’ve seen it directly referred to in God-like terms.


No public meetings.

On campus


Smart buildings, dumb people (10:30am, Slonim Conference Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Tsvi Kuflik, former head of the Information Systems Department at the University of Haifa, will speak on the potential of technology to support visitors in smart public buildings.

Allies Panel and Art for Equality (12pm, Haley 116, Ag Campus, Truro) — Panel discussion about the importance of having and being allies on campus, info about the Dal Allies program, painting on ceramic tiles, and a light lunch.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:50am Tuesday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:50am Tuesday. Map:

A slow day in the harbour. Currently scheduled:

10am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s

6am: ZIM Virginia, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from New York
2pm: Agios Minas, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy


That story I’ve been working on has sort of taken on a life of its own and is expanding…

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

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  1. The worst behaviour of cab drivers are violations of the Canadian Criminal Code, it has nothing to do with cable regulations, or lack of. Uber won’t suddenly unleash this criminal activity.

    Rick Howe’s discussion yesterday and today about the alleged cab crimes really highlight a number of issues on this problem.

    1. I agree re the crime. Criminal Code violations aren’t stopped by any code of conduct set by a taxi board.

      I also don’t believe that more competition is a bad thing for consumers. Why would the cab industry be different from any other industry? Right now, what you have in most cities is an oligopoly operating to the benefit of the few who own the medallions and who rarely if ever are drivers themselves. If you had more competition then people would be less likely to use the dirty or incompetent companies, and would use those companies which most appealed to them. You may as well say the problem with the media industry is that there is too little regulation, allowing outliers ranging from Ezra Levant to Tim Bousquet to siphon off readers, when more regulation and ramming rules down people’s throats would ensure that we all read the Chronicle Herald and the National Post, keeping their bottom lines healthy and ensuring that their employees are paid well. In the taxi industry as with the news, competition is good for the consumer.

      More competition is almost always a better thing for the consumer.

  2. Below comment not meant to be attacking, just hoping to be helpful. Obviously most people, of any group, are upstanding citizens.

    Video below has Ezra Levant. Yes, yes, I know, Satan incarnate, but still.

    * Tim may have mentioned this, so I could be wrong, but I could find no mention in previous articles. *

    4 Recent Assaults:

    There is a certain something about this recent sexual assault that isn’t being reported. In fact … its almost like Tim is going out of his way not to report something that all of these assaults had in common. Its almost like a certain group of people get a free pass in Tim’s mind.

    Lets face it, when you leave out the race, you make it harder for citizens to identify the perpetrators. You are shielding molesters and endangering your fellow citizens safety. Your attempt at controlling language AND OBVIOUSLY OMITTING FACTS, for a greater narrative of “peace-love-understanding” has a real cost. Unfortunately the people who pay the consequences for this didn’t get a choice.

    I hope those women are okay, but how could they be? Some random asshole grabbed at them or worse, and now they have to watch the media do favors for their abusers.

    Looking for a “man with dark hair” is a lot more helpful when we have a race to go by. If white, that will be reported, if black, probably reported … but if from somewhere special … no race mentioning allowed. This is equality? This prevents rape? This prevents racism? How?

    Just watch the below video to see how bad denialism can get. It is horrifying. Rape epidemics in Europe, hidden, encouraged, and enforced by the state. This is our future if we don’t learn how to be brave. This doesn’t mean you hate everyone from a certain group, but if you pretend the group doesn’t have serious issues, how are you supposed to address the problem?

    This is really worth the watch – it is hard to admit how bad it is getting:

    I know Tim has good motives, it isn’t about that. But there is a very real danger in playing games with mass immigration. I understand that it isn’t fair to paint everyone with the same brush. But lets face it, that its sometimes necessary. You do it quite easily with white men, I know you can do it here too. Lets start being a lot more choosy with people who come here.

    This sentence is undeniably true:

    If you want to bring in mass immigrants for a humanitarian purpose, from 3rd world countries, with almost no standards for entry, then you will be bring rape along with it.

    If you cannot at least admit that, then you aren’t facing reality. The stats are there, you cannot pretend they aren’t. It is conceivable that the motive for pointing this out is to keep people safe, not racism. The Left denies this is even a possibility.

    They refuse to state a number of assaults that are acceptable sacrifice for the greater mission of a humanitarian action. They refuse to acknowledge they are happening at all. I don’t know why they seem to have so much hatred towards themselves, and their own race. I do not know why original sin applies to only one society, and one culture … so much so that we conspire to hide the crimes of another?

    Your refusal to call a spade a spade isn’t keeping anyone safe, it is making the problem worse. It will increase racism and suspicions. Not being allowed to talk about it isn’t the answer.

    At the end of the day – this was a win for the monsters out there.


    1. ” Lets start being a lot more choosy with people who come here”

      … and this isn’t to imply discrimination on race. But humanitarian actions don’t have educational standards, or serious security checks. They have numbers and speed in mind.

      We shouldn’t give up on safety. Racism is never okay. But we need to all work together to solve it, and being honest is necessary for everyone who wants to help.

      1. … and some of the best citizens/people I’ve known have been Muslims. This goes for everybody.

      1. I’d really like to know what specifically was racist. If I upset people, and I am actually racist, I apologize, but I’d need to know why first. Everyone can be guilty of any crime, regardless of race. Avoiding mentioning the race, for a certain race (or group), is itself racist. It is dangerous.

        I don’t understand why this is racist?

        Maybe in addition to being racist, I am also stupid? Maybe, but lets stop calling people names and start debating facts. I’d love to chat with you any time my friend.

        1. Making generalizations about a group of people, defined by their ethnicity or racialized status, without any evidence to back up your statements, is racist. Your statements are racist. You have some work to do.

      2. fwiw, I don’t do all the moderation (Russ and Tempa and especially Iris do the bulk of it), but the rule is we screen for potentially libellous material, not for disagreeable comments. I’m especially likely to allow comments that criticize me directly. Of course, there is a line that I won’t allow to be crossed. But generally, I trust that other commenters will deal with disagreeable comments, and I don’t need to weigh in.

  3. Regarding taxis, well, I’m skeptical that banning cheaper alternatives (which is the only way your proposed taxi system would work, Tim) and creating more regulatory hurdles would really work. I think it would be great in the sense that it would create a much cleaner, much more comfortable service for those who can afford it but all those proposals cost money. If the service is required to ask “how high” when asked to collect someone in a far-flung suburb, who bears the costs? I agree with your points about people of colour and the elderly however.

    Of course, Metro transit is heavily subsidized, which is fine, and I get the logic of applying that model to taxis – but how does that apply to say, getting people home from the bars at 2 am?

    Regarding crimes committed by or against cabbies, well, I find it unbelievable that cabbies would operate without recording devices pointing into the car considering how cheap the equipment is these days. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but the idea of doing something like driving a cab where I’m alone with random members of the public without recording our interaction is pretty foreign to me.

    I don’t like the idea of outright banning business models, but Uber is definitely a problem because their costs can be so low. An Uber driver is essentially selling their car on instalments when they drive for Uber, which is not a good long-term way of making a living, but what if it gets someone through a job loss or a crisis? Even if there is no net income in the long term, it is possibly a better deal than say, credit cards, payday loans, etc – the evidence is you earn $2-5 an hour once all costs are factored in driving for Uber, but of course much more in the short term – that’s better than a credit card, and if I had a decent car and Halifax had much of a market, I would have been thrilled to drive for Uber last summer when I was unemployed. $1000 made driving for Uber may cost you $800 in the future, but what would a $1000 dollar loan at 21% APR cost a year from today?

    I think what needs to be regulated is the ‘sharing economy’ – I think Uber is a great idea, but the problem is that an overseas corporation takes far too much of the profits and controls the way the service is provided too much. One thing the government could do is provide information about the real economics of these services, but what I’d like to see is an Uber for everything that’s run by a tightly regulated body, that like NS power is mandated to provide a service at a fair price.

  4. I travelled to Stockholm and Oslo recently and loved their taxi services (albeit really expensive). Both cities have apps where you put in your departure and arrival information and taxi drivers from multiple companies bid for your fare. When the bids come back, you can see the drivers ratings from other passengers. The fares are guaranteed and you could even pre-pay. I would love to see something like that here.

  5. Empty briefcase but no dog days for developers eying prospective heritage home tear-downs in the older streets of Halifax and Dartmouth!

    That’s when they can walk, bike or slowly drive around checking their tablets for the ownership, assessment and possible high-rise potential of any lots which are not pulling their weight in the ever-increasing densities of the inner city – whether there will be a population there to support them in the long term or not!

    Remember that the city now already had enough land zoned for higher density and new contraction for the next four our five decades!

    Meanwhile, it looks like historic Young Ave will become a street of tiny row- (sorry – ‘town’ houses) very soon, as big houses on large lots can it seems short of Council interest in down-zoning or heritage home designation be demolished in a few hours like a sagging garden shed. And no-one it seems in this election year is interested in protecting Halifax heritage! Pity as some of us came here for that!


  6. In montreal, there is a new Taxi service called Teo. but that only gets you to the spot you can download the app. What I heard when I was in Montreal recently, is that all cars are electric, drivers are all employees at $15 per hour plus benefits. Drivers spoken to were over the moon about having full time stable employment WITH benefits!

    Story here: which says in part: “Téo is a different model of taxi company. It owns the cars and rents its taxi permits, and pays drivers an hourly wage.” It is also on an app like uber with the benefits of that. . .

    Sounds like a better model to me. But it’s capitalism so someone is going to make millions and it will not be the drivers. But sounds better/less exploitive, hopefully they do not end up employing too many people part time, who want and need full time. . . But worth a look at any rate.