1. Leading With Transit

“Listen, I wouldn’t blame you if you were done with discussing the future of transit in Halifax,” writes Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:

We had the Moving Forward Together (MFT) plan, for which thousands of folks chimed in with their hopes and dreams for buses in the region. Then we had the Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP), and everyone played ball again, attending meetings, scrawling ideas and concerns on post-it notes, and answering surveys online. So surely now, fair citizens, you can take a couple of years off, and watch the change unfold before you.

Please don’t.

Butler goes on to introduce us to “Leading With Transit, a group of citizens, planners, developers, and existing advocacy groups working on a mission to ‘make transit the first and best choice for getting around in HRM.’”

Click here to read “Ahead by a century.”

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2. Support for journalism

Stephen Kimber:

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says his budget will provide support for journalism. It won’t. It will only provide demise-delaying bailouts for badly managed media corporations. There are better ways.

Click here to read “Back to the drawing board, Bill.”

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3. “We Gon Be Alright”

YouTube video

“We’ve been talking a lot about our deaths lately,” writes El Jones:

If I die before you, I instruct the people I love, don’t let my name be used for wack shit. I’m counting on you. I follow with instructions for various scenarios. If I die violently, remember how I felt about prisons. Don’t let one of the racist crowns take my case. Don’t let people water my politics down at my funeral. Don’t let me be at some funeral with police if I die in some kind of mass attack. Don’t let the people who had no use for me in life use me in death. Don’t let people pretend I was a saint that I wasn’t. Don’t let people take in death what I wouldn’t give them in life. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

Click here to read “‘We Gon Be Alright’: On Activism, Death, and Survival.”

“I’m not imagining my death; I’m just protective of it,” assures El, and El isn’t writing so much about death as she is about finding value and purpose in life by working for good and serving others (go read it) — but it got me thinking about mortality all the same. And then on Sunday, the very good CBC tech show Spark called bullshit on the Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs who want to extend life, potentially forever, right into immortality.

I was amused by the Spark interview with James Strole, who is the director of the Coalition for Radical Life Extension, “an organization that brings together scientists, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who are passionate about physical immortality. Their overall aim, Strole said, is to conquer aging and eventually death.”

Strole told Spark host Nora Young that when he was a child of “about nine years old,” his dearly beloved grandmother died:

I asked my mother, “Will I see her again?” and she said, “Well, you’ll see her in heaven.”

And I said, “When will that be? I want to see her now.” And she said, “I’m sorry, you have to wait until…” she insinuated, until I die.

And I thought, something must be wrong with that. I said, “Why can’t we have heaven here on Earth?”

And she said, “Why don’t you pursue that and answer that question?”

So that was something that always stayed with me.

This is a sweet story. A mother sees her child contemplating the enormity of mortality, and tells him the best way to deal with that uncertainty and mystery is to pursue heaven on Earth — that is, to make the world a better place, working for good and serving others.

But that’s not how Strole, now a grown man of 70, sees it. He looks back at that sweet moment with his mother as the defining moment of his life, but his takeaway from her advice to pursue “heaven on Earth” is not to work towards making the world a better place and working to serve others, but rather to work on the personal selfish pursuit of immortality.

Perhaps Strole has some awareness that there’s something not quite right with his interpretation of his mother’s advice, and so he goes on to make a weak attempt at explaining his pursuit of immortality as a reverence for wisdom:

We’re still going around the same cycles of life and death, and being I’ll say, traumatized by losing people we love, and losing all the wisdom in that. I mean, you can gain all the great things in life — the best cars, the best houses, the best relationships — but if we die, we lose all that. So how can we stop that terrible loss? The loss of great wisdom, the loss of great love that we create in this world…

This is a tiny man. Never mind that relationships are third on his list of “great things in life,” after cars and houses; he seems not to understand that true wisdom comes from contemplating the ephemeral. Love is profound because we are ships passing in the night; the moment has meaning because it is limited; our lives are given purpose because our days are numbered. Any unlimited resource will be undervalued, life included.

Wisdom isn’t a possession to be owned like cars and houses, but rather a collective will to cherish each other.

Listen to your mom.

As I say, everything can be reduced to a scene from a Monty Python film:

YouTube video

White space

4. Northern Pulp

Yesterday, CBC’s Sunday Edition had a half-hour documentary that looked at the divisions in Pictou related to Northern Pulp Mill’s proposed effluent pipe.

Graham Steele is interviewed in the segment, which resulted in this Twitter exchange:

“Politicians are not in bed with the companies,” u say. X-NS premier John Hamm is board chair 4 Northern Resources NS. Former lobbyist & lawyer 4 pulp mill is Deputy Minister x 2 in NS govt. Curious. How do u define “in bed”? @DortMatt @dave_gunning @cleanthemill @SaveTheStrait

— Joan Baxter (@joan_baxter) March 24, 2019

Relatedly, last month both Linda Pannozzo and Joan Baxter wrote articles about Northern Pulp, and this morning we’ve taken those articles from out behind the paywall (that is, the articles are now available for free to everyone).

Map from the 2000 Dillon report on Canso Chemicals’ decommissioning.

Baxter’s article looks at the curious case of Canso Chemicals:

For two decades Canso Chemicals produced chlorine for the pulping process at a site adjacent to the pulp mill on Abercrombie Point in Pictou County, but when new pulp and paper effluent regulations came into effect in 1992, the mill switched to chlorine dioxide. No longer needed, the chemical plant was closed.

The chemical plant long ago closed, but the mercury poisoning remains. And now Northern Pulp intends to build new facilities related to the planned effluent pipe on or near the site of the mercury contamination.

Click here to read “The Canso Chemicals mystery: With the chemical plant long gone, why is the company still alive? And what about all that mercury pollution?”

Screenshot taken from the Hoffman et al. (2017) study showing location of Northern Pulp mill (1) at Abercrombie Point in relation to the town of Pictou, Pictou Landing First Nation, and the NAPS air monitor at Granton, which has since been decommissioned. Also indicated are the locations of two other potential air contaminant point sources, Michelin Tire (2) and the Trenton Thermal Generating Station (3)

Pannozzo’s article updates an article she wrote last year about air pollution near the mill. In last year’s article she wrote:

In a study published in 2017, Dalhousie University researchers reported that air levels of three volatile organic compounds (VOCs) near the Abercrombie pulp mill in Pictou County exceeded cancer risk thresholds and “are of primary health concern in terms of population risk.”

At the time, the authors of the paper would not comment on their work to Pannozzo because they were actively engaged with the Boat Harbour Remediation Project, and they thought further comment would constitute a conflict of interest.

But a lot has happened since then. Most importantly, the environmental assessment for the proposed effluent pipe has been published, and that assessment disparages the researchers’ study. And so the researchers have responded.

Click here to read “Dalhousie researcher breaks silence over pulp mill’s cancer-causing air emissions.”

5. Quinpool Road bridge

I wrote about the Quinpool Road bridge reconstruction project way back in November, but it seems nobody much reads the Halifax Examiner and so only now are people getting worked up about it. But anyway…

“Repair work that’s expected to take at least four months to fix a bridge on Quinpool Road in Halifax could have been less disruptive had CN Rail chosen a different approach, says a local structural engineer,” reports Richard Woodbury for the CBC:

Engineer Sheldon Hart said there are other options that would be preferable.

“It seems like they’re kind of taking a brute-force method,” he said. “They are basically blasting off all the old concrete and pouring new concrete over top.”

Hart, with experience erecting and fabricating steel bridges and general knowledge about bridge construction, said one option CN could have used is a prefabricated structure to replace, rather than repair, the bridge.

With this method, after demolishing the existing structure, a prefabricated structure could then be put in place. Hart estimates this approach could take a month to complete.

6. Vaportecture

Neil deMause, the coauthor (along with Joanna Cagan) of Field of Schemes (and operator of a website of the same name), marries two of my interests — stadium scepticism and documenting laughable architectural renderings of proposed buildings — with a post on DeadSpin titled “The 7 Laws Of Vaportecture, Stadium Art’s Fever Dream.”

deMause writes:

For sports team owners seeking new stadiums or arenas — which is to say, for sports team owners — there are certain tools of the trade at their disposal for convincing fans and politicians to support (and pay for) a new building. They have economic impact studies, ideally compiled by friendly consultants who may or may not have actual economics degrees. They have campaign videos showing how your city will literally be transformed by the application of a magic basketball.

And then there’s everybody’s favorite element of the stadium game: lovingly detailed graphical renderings showing off the glory of the prospective pleasure palace. The rendering drop has become a time-honored tradition in the sports development world, the moment when the local rich guy’s dream building goes from eye-popping dollar figure to eye-popping dollar figure with an image gallery attached to it. The images may be overly fanciful, may bear little relation to physical reality, and may never be built like the illustrators and CAD jockeys intended if they are ever built at all, but they are an important first step on the road to shiny new toys.

So great has the distance become between initial sketch and final steel and concrete in the ground — I mean, seriously, just look at what happened to D.C. United’s stadium or the Brooklyn Nets’ arena — that I’ve coined a term for these marvels of fantastical art: Vaportecture. Vaportecture is a strange artform that combines architecture, marketing, futurism, and a whimsical-bordering-on-psychedelic approach to portraying a fever dream for public consumption. But it is an artform.

deMause walks us through a bunch of examples; this is my favourite:

The above image, of the scene outside an alleged Worcester Red Sox game, is the best evidence yet that architectural rendering designers have some sort of Wacky People Clip Art package that they pull out when in need to populate their creations. In this one image alone, we have Kids In Oversized T-Shirts Putting On Shower Caps, Woman Hailing A Cab Far From The Curb On An Empty Street, and Man With Two-Foot-Long Beard. Sure, they seem to have been applied a bit indiscriminately to the scene — that dude carrying the backpack and wearing a winter coat when everyone else is dressed in shorts isn’t suspicious at all, so it’s totally fine there’s no bag-check line — but the important thing is they’re there, and also translucent.

Kids In Oversized T-Shirts Putting On Shower Caps:

Woman Hailing A Cab Far From The Curb On An Empty Street:

Dude Carrying the Backpack and Wearing a Winter Coat:

The Man With Two-Foot-Long Beard is actually believable, but maybe deMause doesn’t have hipster friends:

I would add Woman Photographing While Doing Yoga:

And Man and Woman Separately Talking to Their Invisible Friends:

Also, while about 11 per cent of the population of Worcester is Black, and another six per cent or so is Asian, with lesser but not insignificant percentages of other peoples of colour, as envisioned by the person who made the graphic, 100 per cent of the people attending the baseball game are white.

(The missing POC issue, which I’ve remarked upon repeatedly, is an example of “racism all the way down” — it’s not just that the team owners who are pitching the stadiums are trying to appeal to a group of politicians and decision-makers who the team owners perceive as white, but also that the architects themselves are mostly white and evidently can’t even see the diverse crowd that typically attends a professional baseball game, and additionally that there are not enough people of colour working as CAD designers, so the stock images available to architects don’t include people of colour. There are racist assumptions and racist workplace environments that reflect racist educational policies at every level of the architectural rendering process, from conception to design to website posting to the pitch at the city council meeting, and so people of colour are quite literally excluded from the public imagination.)

deMause continues on to give us what he calls “the most memorable example” of Vapotecture, “Dan Snyder’s proposed Washington NFL stadium, which may or may not ever be built (odds aren’t looking great at present) but which will be forever remembered for The Moat.”

“There are so very many things wrong with this image that it’s hard to know where to start,” comments deMause:

The surfer riding a wave on an otherwise calm surface is worrisome enough, but then what of the sunbathers who are about to be drenched, not to mention the rollerbladers who are almost certainly going to plunge into the water thanks to a lack of guardrails? Little wonder that two terrified citizens are attempting to climb their way to safety; though since that overhang means they will have no footholds, maybe it’s actually Harry Tuttle coming to the rescue.

He concludes:

There are a couple of ways of understanding these fantastical images. The simplest is that they’re ways to try to bypass all the qualms and intellectual objections we may have about whether a new building is necessary — visual information is much easier to process than textual, and therefore tends to sink into our cerebral cortexes without stopping to see if it makes any goddamn sense.

But the best explanation for all this — certainly the moat surfers, but really the entire Vaportecture package — is as misdirection. If you’re talking about moats or lens flare, you’re not debating who’s going to pay for the damn thing or why your team even needs a new stadium at all when the last one was only 22 years old. And to forget that so many new buildings end up like this.

I eagerly await the architectural renderings of the proposed Shannon Park stadium. I’m sure Anthony Leblanc and crew won’t disappoint.

h/t Tim Roberts.




Executive Standing Committee (Monday, 10am, City Hall) — the entire meeting is in camera.

Special Meeting – Board of Police Commissioners (Monday, 12:30pm, Cith Hall) — the entire meeting is in camera (you sensing a trend here?) so that the commissioners can figure out a PR strategy for the street checks report.

Accessibility Advisory Committee (Monday, 4pm, City Hall) — the committee gets a lot of reports and updates. I hope that’s useful (I say optimistically).

Design Review Committee (Monday, 4:30pm, Room 1, 3rd Floor, Duke Tower) — turns out those pretty pictures presented at initial approval aren’t always [cough]never[/cough] what the end result will be.

“The applicant [Southwest Properties] wishes to alter the appearance of the buildings, known as the Pavilion and the Curve, which were approved by Design Review Committee (Case 20275) on January 14, 2016,” reads the staff report:

The buildings are presently under construction and the applicant is requesting to change 5 elements of the previously approved site plan application. The applicant has indicated that these items have not yet been constructed, thereby allowing the design of these elements to change. The amended details of the proposal are as follows (Attachments A, B and E):

  • Revised roof lines on both towers to accommodate the ramparts view plane. The original approvals punctured the ramparts view plane, thereby requiring revisions to bring the roof into alignment with the LUB requirements;
  • Changes at the third, fourth and fifth floor of the Pavilion building which include replacing a child care centre with studios, increasing the window dimensions and adding balconies at the fourth and fifth levels. Additionally, the terrace area at the third floor has been converted into interior space;
  • Changes to size and location of louvres and vision glass in the podium on the eastern elevation;
  • Removal of windows and insertion of pre-finished metal panels on the Sackville Street elevation;
  • Addition of architectural treatment at the seventh floor.

We should do some before and after examples of local developments, comparing the architectural renderings used to get the proposals approved to photos of the actually constructed buildings.


Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — nothing seems hugely controversial on the agenda, but the 10am start time suggests that Mike Savage and Jacques Dubé think councillors are going to drone on forever.



Law Amendments (Monday, 3pm, One Government Place) — the committee will consider:

Bill No. 103 – Justices of the Peace Act (amended )
Bill No. 105 – Judicature Act (amended)
Bill No. 106 – Coastal Protection Act
Bill No. 109 – Pension Benefits Act (amended)
Bill No. 112 – Education Act (amended)
Bill No. 116 – Biodiversity Act


Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — per diem meeting.

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)

On campus



Prostate Cancer Patient Empowerment Program (PCPEP): Addressing the Multidimensional Needs of Men Diagnosed and Surviving Prostate Cancer (Monday, 12:30pm, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Gabriela Ilie will speak. Her abstract:

A Maritime-wide study of over 400 prostate cancer survivors who completed a comprehensive on-line quality of life survey showed a high percentage of these men reported urinary symptoms, sexuality/intimacy concerns, isolation, insomnia, and many other health problems.  Of grave concern, among them, 17% screened positive for clinical depression or anxiety – yet very few were on medication to address these mental health issues. Fewer than 20% have ever attended a prostate cancer support group. To address these many issues directly, with the endorsement of physicians and patients attending our regional PC integrative care conference (April 2018) and expanding on pre-habitation (pre-surgery) science, we created a Patient Empowerment Program (PEP) to be delivered from day one of diagnosis, to educate and teach the men and partners life skills/habits which are aimed to improve their fitness levels and quality of life, and to decrease treatment related side effects. This seminar provides an overview of the variables, data collected, and results during a study assessing PC-PEP’s feasibility.

Thesis Defence, Civil and Resource Engineering (Monday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Mbarka Mohamed will defend his thesis, “Characterization and Optimization of Composite/Metallic Adhesively Bonded Joints Subjected to Thermal Fatigue.”

A Survey of Polynomial Results (Monday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Abdullah Al-Shaghay will speak.

Senate Meeting (Monday, 3pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — it amuses me that as part of the never-ending university marketing campaign, department names are being saddled with ever-increasing modifiers and add-ons. Today, the Department of Earth Sciences will be renamed the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.


Testing a Trauma Model to Understand Involvement in Bullying (Tuesday, 11:30am, Room P4258, Life Sciences Centre) — Wendy Craig from Queens University will speak.

Studying Prescription Drug Use with CIHI data: examples of opioids and high cost drugs (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Jordan Hunt from the Canadian Institute for Health Information will speak.

Dad Rock and Child’s Play (7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Jacqueline Warwick from the Fountain School of Performing Arts will speak. From the listing:

In the mid-twentieth century, rock’n’roll represented a generational break, with young people choosing music that their parents loathed.

The recent rise in child stars who rock out note-perfect versions of Van Halen guitar solos and Keith Moon drum fills indicates that rock songs are being passed down to children by their parents, so that rock music has a very different role in family values.

What does “dad rock” offer to modern family life?​

In the harbour

05:00: YM Essence, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
06:00: Artemis, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
06:30 Victoria Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
16:00: YM Essence sails for Rotterdam
16:00: Artemis sails for New York
16:30: Victoria Highway sails for sea

Where are the Canadian military ships?


Will it jinx it if I put the snow shovels away?

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  1. I, too, caught Graham Steele’s words on The Sunday Edition documentary, and had a good chuckle to myself. Spoken like a true Nova Scotia politician, “Corporate capture…what’s that?! Nothing to see here, folks; just politics as usual”. That’s the problem Mr. Steele: it is so goddamned endemic that you don’t even seem to see it! Wake up!

    This coming from one of the more thoughtful, and respect-worthy of the former political elite. Thank goodness for journalists like Baxter and Pannozzo keeping an objective score, and for calling ‘foul’ on this kind of lame rhetoric. Politicians are not in bed with companies, that’s a good one!

  2. With respect to architectural renderings, you would think the planning powers-that-be would have learned their lesson from the visual lie that was made in the design of the Doyle building across from the central library that showed there would be no impact on the view plane. Now that the building is there, the view plane is gone. Typical developer response “so what”. It may seem trivial, but developers know the power of a visual rendering to shape opinion. Those renderings should be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny as any other part of a business plan. You wouldn’t make up shit in a financial spreadsheet without fear of reprisal, so how can you make up shit in a visual and fear no consequences?

    1. It is a challenging problem. An image on a computer screen or an 11×17 piece of paper fills only a small part of the visual field, yet for legitimate practical reasons an architectural rendering will show a wider field of view.

      This might actually be a good use case for VR.

    2. As far as I’m aware, none of the HRM planning staff said there would be no impact to the views of Citadel Hill from the library, they said there is nothing protecting the views of Citadel Hill from the library.

      Now the developer certainly said there would be no impact (to combat public criticism), but that’s not the same thing as planning staff saying it.

  3. The Board of Police Commissioners will discuss the appointment of a new Chief of Police and the council will do the same tomorrow. Council makes the appointment. It would be nice if the media had a raft of questions about the appointment. I’d be interested in why an organisation with over 300 sworn officers is unable to ensure an employees rises to the top job through education and experience. The same question should be asked when appointing a new CAO.

    1. While I think the points raised about career paths within the HRM organization are valid, there is some value in bringing outside influences in occasionally. It is the same principle in genetics to avoid too much inbreeding.