1. Yarmouth Ferry is a bust

“Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan admitted under questioning from reporters following a Cabinet meeting Thursday that the province has no idea if or when the Yarmouth ferry will operate this summer,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

“Certainly we are worried about this season and our tourism operators,” said Minister MacLellan. “All we can say is we have done everything we can. This is something that is out of our hands at this point.”

Click here to read “Yarmouth ferry may not sail this year.”

Now, can we all agree that the money spent this year on the ferry has not just a terribly weak economic impact but is actually an economic drain on the south shore as tourism operators will lay off staff and shutter businesses? My helicopter drop idea is looking better and better.

There’s also reputational loss to consider. Even though it’s come nowhere close to the “break-even” point of 60,000 passengers/year (which isn’t actually breaking even, but just meeting the province’s budgeting target for a continued subsidy), the numbers have been improving somewhat from year to year. But it’s likely that whenever the boat does start sailing again, there will be a considerable drop in numbers until potential passengers feel the service is reliable.

2. Winter operations

The sidewalk outside Halifax City Hall on February 24, 2015. Photo: Halifax Examiner

This morning, the city issued a Request for Proposals from companies that could “Review Winter Operations Service Standards”; the RFP explains that:

HRM is seeking proposals from qualified firms to perform a comprehensive review of HRM’s current Winter Works service standards (WWSS) and report any recommended changes. The product is to be presented in the form of a report to management along with a report to Regional Council accompanied by a presentation intended for Regional Council and the public.

The details of the expected report are found starting on page 16, here.

I think this is probably a good step. But because it starts with a “jurisdictional scan” of operations in other Canadian cities the size of Halifax, I worry that it could morph into a bit of “hey, we’re doing as well as these other places, so all good.” The report writers need to start with the fact that Halifax has uniquely difficult winter weather; it’s easier to clear away three feet of snow in London, Ontario than it is to clear sidewalks in Halifax after an ice storm.

3. Lantz interchange, Richard Butts, and suburban sprawl

“A Highway 102 interchange commitment has ramped up plans for residential development in the Lantz area,” reports

Two developers plan to build 3,500 dwelling units east of the four-lane highway, which should translate into an influx of more than 8,000 new residents in and around Lantz over the next decade.

Much of that vacant land belongs to Armco Capital Inc., and Clayton Developments, a subsidiary of Shaw Group Ltd.

Armco applied to the Municipality of East Hants in December for a mixed-used master-planned development, including a mixture of low-, medium- and high-density residential buildings and an open space that would amount to between 1,925 and 2,205 units. The application includes seven properties with a total area of about 212 hectares.

Clayton Developments wants to develop two properties in Lantz, a 1.9-hectare plot located between the East Hants Sportsplex and Maple Ridge Elementary School, and a separate 98-hectare property adjacent to the school and Highway 2.

[Richard] Butts, the former chief administrative officer for Halifax Regional Municipality [and now president of Clayton Developments], said Clayton Developments has owned the East Hants property for some time.

“We’ve always planned to develop that piece of land. One of the reasons is that land supply is getting very short in Halifax and we have to keep our business running, so we have to look for other opportunities. If we’re not going to get approvals in Halifax, we have to keep our business running.”

With the new 8A interchange, to be built about two kilometres northeast of Exit 8 at Elmsdale, and the connector road to Highway 2, the area will be set up for easy access, Butts said.

“Quite frankly, you’ve got great access to the airport, you’ve got great access to Burnside, great access to Halifax and multiple transportations options to get there,” Butts said. “Demand has been very, very strong because it checks off a lot of the boxes for a lot of consumers.”

Richard Butts. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Campbell says the price tag for the new interchange is $30 million.

Campbell first wrote about the interchange in 2017 for Local Xpress, when the Herald was on strike. I commented then:

Reporting for Local Xpress, Francis Campbell has an interesting discussion of how the decision to build P3 schools in the 1990s is playing out now in terms of school reviews. I don’t have anything to say about that, but down in the article comes this:

A long-talked-about Highway 102 interchange for the Lantz area, between the Elmsdale and Milford exits, is set to become a reality, with local MLA Margaret Miller ready to make the announcement in the next couple of weeks.

Stephen King, an East Hants municipal councillor, said the interchange will bring a deluge of residential and commercial development and that it would be ill-advised to close any area schools.

Every time I see a new highway interchange built in a rural area, I think there are some behind-the-scenes real estate dealings in the works, and a developer must have special access to the political decision-makers. I mean, that’s how it’s worked for the last 60 years, right?

I wonder who’s profiting on this.

Now we know.

YouTube video

The film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, explained Janet Maslin for the New York Times, revolved around a plot line that includes “a ‘Chinatown’ scheme to corrupt an Eden of a Los Angeles, which according to the screenplay once had the greatest public transportation system in the world before a villain named Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) envisioned ‘wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as they eye can see’ beside the first freeway.”

The location of highway interchanges has always been tied up with the political power of land developers, and so it comes as no surprise that Clayton Developments appears to have owned the land before the decision to build the interchange was made. (When I have time, I’ll check property records to document that.)

The Liberals funded the Lantz interchange apparently as a means of keeping the riding in Liberal hands, selling the interchange as encouraging development, which would in turn mean that the local school would stay open. But let’s not jump so fast over the “development” part of that equation; there’s a confluence of interests here, and I have to wonder which came first: consideration for developers’ profits or the justification that the interchange would keep the school open.

And what about Butts? When he was CAO for HRM, he shaped transportation and land-use planning for decades to come. How that planning affected the future profitability of Clayton’s Lantz lands is an open question.

Yes, these are two different levels of government, municipal and provincial, but this is a very small province, and the circle of the powerful is extremely small; everyone knows everyone.

I don’t like the smell of this.

4. Doug Barron

Doug Barron’s group, New Riders of Purple Surf, has published a video about the proposed Halifax Stadium:

YouTube video

Barron, incidentally, has been popping up all over my podcast library. He does voice-overs for a wide range of podcasts, including This American Life and Reply All and its spinoff, Every Little Thing.


No public meetings.

On campus

No public events.

In the harbour

As of 7:00 this morning, the Alakai ferry is still in Charleston, South Carolina.

05:45: Happy Dover, heavy lift carrier, arrives at Pier 27
06:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
06:00: ZIM Yokohama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
07:00: Pictor J, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Argentia, Newfoundland
07:30: Happy Dover sails for Matane, Quebec
11:30: Pictor J sails for Portland
16:30: ZIM Yokohama sails for New York
23:30: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John

05:00: Granville Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
05:30: Thermopylae, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
06:00: Maersk Patras, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Montreal
10:00: George Washington Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:00: Maersk Patras sails for Bremerhaven, Germany
20:30: Thermopylae sails for sea
22:00: George Washington Bridge sails for New York
23:00: Granville Bridge sails for Dubai

No cruise ships this weekend.


We’re in the summer news doldrums. In these slow times I try to put more effort into longer term projects; I’ve got a curious and interesting one I’m working on today, and I’m thinking it may turn into a short podcast series. Try something new, you know.

A reader sent me a note this morning castigating me for being too snarky. But I’m not sure how I could survive in this business without the snark. Covering local politics with a jaundiced eye necessarily leads to cynicism, and I think therefore a bit of gallows humour. I mean, it’d be fun to write about puppies, but alas, I’m stuck on the politics beat.

I have this dreadful premonition that starting today the sun will start gradually disappearing, the days will get shorter and drearier, and in just a few months the planet will be a cold, lifeless ice ball.

YouTube video

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  1. A person I know is looking for a home for the family and contacted me to sound me out and said :
    ” It seems like it’s crazy with the home buying in Dartmouth right now. I have a few friends actively looking at they’re putting in offers on places that get 17 other offers. ”
    The vacancy rate in rental is 1.6%.
    Why are so many people coming to metro and where are they coming from ?

    1. Don’t assume a low vacancy rate means people are moving to HRM. The short-term rental boom (aka Airbnb and its wannabes) is sucking up real estate all over the world and causing havoc to the housing market. Meanwhile, what used to be living spaces sit empty a good bit of the year (when you charge rent by the night, pay no taxes, and have no safety regulations to comply with, you can make a tidy profit even when your property is occupied only sporadically). For a snapshot of how Airbnb is affecting housing across Canada, see the feature story in yesterday’s Globe and Mail about McGill researcher David Wachsmuth’s latest study. Our neighbourhood group in the Hydrostone is negotiating to bring Wachsmuth to Halifax in the fall to release the HRM portion of his research. Stay tuned.
      Sharon Batt
      ps Tell your friend to check out our website,

      1. Airbnb is not having such a great impact as it is in other cities becuase demand is seasonal as opposed to year round.
        We use Airbnb when visiting family in Toronto.The market has for homes changed significantly and I assume the demand is the result of an increase in foreign students and people moving to HRM from the province, the region and from expensive places elsewhere in the country.
        Donwtown Dartmouth was a slow and steady market until very recently and we have been here for over 36 years.

    1. I also enjoy the snark. As it should be, a spade is a shovel, a politican is generally speaking a spineless coward and when their lips are moving they’re lying.