This date in history
In the harbour
“An internal government document leaked to the CBC News Investigation unit cites widespread workmanship problems in Nova Scotia condominium construction, leaving condo owners with big repair bills and little recourse against developers,” reports the CBC’s Bob Murphy:
The report says defects have cost some individual unit holders an average of $20,000 to repair. In some cases, bills were expected to exceed $60,000 a unit.
And in the case of two buildings that came under scrutiny, the report says the “as-built” plans do not match what was actually constructed.
The report also questions whether some architects and engineers are living up to professional practice standards, while admitting it’s hard to tell where the line exists between professional misconduct and developer responsibility.
As detailed at the link, the report shows that shoddy construction is the norm, not the exception, for condos. This should surprise no one; just look at some of the buildings going up and you can see deteriorating concrete and joints that don’t line up properly, before the buildings are even finished. There’s a crazy housing bubble, with developers building projects through numbered corporations that they dismantle as soon as they can, leaving buyers with no one to sue. It’s build and flip, build and flip, to hell with quality.
I’ve looked a bit at who’s buying condos in some of the larger projects, and while there’s a good representation of regular people buying what looks like a retirement home or possibly a rental income, there are also more than a few numbered corporations set up by the developers themselves to buy units from their other numbered corporations, which built the building. It appears that the money is in construction — possibly in the five or ten per cent management fees that developers charge to oversee construction — making the project in essence a vehicle to scam investors.
And the buyers are in on the game, writes Murphy:
Some condominium corporations were reluctant to participate in the 2013 survey because of fears it could devalue their property, even though they were promised confidentiality.
Better to keep up the fiction of quality and pass on the crappy condo to the next sucker than to tell the truth.
Like the buildings themselves, the entire false condo market will one day come crashing down.
2. Quarry permit revoked
A government press release from yesterday:
Environment Minister Andrew Younger announced today, Nov. 3, that effective immediately, he is revoking an operating approval issued to Scotian Materials Ltd. for a quarry under four hectares on Perrin Drive, near Fall River, Halifax Regional Municipality.
In his review of one of the appeals filed, Mr. Younger found there was a lack of adequate public consultation prior to the decision to issue the approval.
Reviews of the remaining appeals will continue. Mr. Younger has 60 days from receipt of the appeal applications to make a decision.
The proposed quarry was initially rejected by the city, but Scotian Materials sued and won a judgment saying the city didn’t have the authority to regulate quarries; the permitting process then fell to the province. When provincial staff approved the quarry, Younger said he was blindsided by the approval.
I can’t speak to the merits of the quarry, but will note that people who live in the vicinity are organized in their opposition and constitute a large and well-financed potential voting bloc. Besides the political element, the proposed quarry is not that far from Dexter Construction’s giant quarry on Rocky Lake Drive, so revoking the permit for Scotian Materials also serves as a price support measure for Dexter.
3. Men carrying rifles
From a police email to reporters overnight:
At 0400 am, Halifax Regional received a call that a male was walking on the Bedford Highway, near the Windsor Street exchange carrying a long gun. Units are in the area, K9 is conducting a search. At this point the male has not been located and the investigation is ongoing.
Reports the Chronicle Herald’s Dan Arsenault:
A large number of patrol officers and the canine unit responded but were unable to locate the man, the police said in a media release.
Some streets were temporarily closed but were reopened to the public by 5:30 a.m.
Who knows if the report was credible. Maybe it was just an anxious citizen reporting a guy with a broom or whatever. But I only bring it up because the police response contrasts (favourably) with the police response to a similar call in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Monday:
Witnesses watched in horror as Harpham picked his victims off. One of them, the bicyclist, pleaded for his life before being killed.
“I heard the (young man) say, ‘Don’t shoot me! Don’t shoot me!’ ” Naomi Bettis, a neighbor who witnessed the killing, said Monday.
Bettis said she recognized the gunman as her neighbor — whom she didn’t know by name — and that before the initial slaying she saw him roaming outside with a rifle. She called 911 to report the man, but a dispatcher explained that Colorado has an open carry law that allows public handling of firearms.
“He did have a distraught look on his face,” Bettis said. “It looked like he had a rough couple days or so.”
After Harpham shot the bicyclist, Bettis said she watched him walk toward Platte Avenue. She then heard more gunfire.
Matt Abshire, who lives in the area, told The Gazette he followed the killer westbound on East Platte Avenue.
While on the phone with police, Abshire said he saw Harpham turn and shoot at two women. By the time Abshire reached the pair, one of them had stopped breathing, he told newspaper.
“She was dead,” Abshire said.
4. Ivany report
Jamie Baillie, the most irrelevant politician in Nova Scotia, has abandoned his support for One Nova Scotia, reports Jean Laroche:
The leader of Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative Party has broken ranks with the One Nova Scotia Coalition he co-chaired and is calling out the province for not doing enough to achieve the goals from the Ivany report.
Jamie Baillie, alongside Premier Stephen McNeil and interim NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald, co-chaired the coalition, which was tasked with implementing recommendations set out in the Ivany report.
Baillie said the coalition’s final report doesn’t go far enough to ensure the lofty goals set by the Ivany commission almost two years ago would be met.
There are plenty of reasons to be cynical about the Ivany Report, but saying it doesn’t go far enough isn’t one of them.
To be honest, I’m surprised Baillie, who built his reputation by tweeting about his lunch (see here, here, here, here, here, here and here), is still party leader. Weren’t they supposed to replace him with a fiddle player or gym teacher or something? Guess the leadership election hasn’t happened yet.
1. Cranky letter of the day
You could tell 100 stories about Willie Joe, but I am going to tell you one of his favourites. At least I think it was one of his favourites, for he told it to me at least 25 times.
It was the summer of 1971, a hot afternoon in August when Willie Joe decided to visit my mother over on Hillcrest Street. When he knocked on the door and entered who should be there before him but my aunt Kay, John A. from Glenville, Margaret, John Lauchie MacIsaac from Strathlorne, Rankin MacDonald’s mother, Mary Florence MacDonald and his sister Catherine Ryan.
They discussed the weather for a while, then someone suggested that they should all chip in and buy a big bottle of rum. All agreed, so they all chipped in and sent Willie Joe down to the Government Store to buy the big bottle of rum. Willie Joe came back, sat down on the chesterfield in the parlour and was just about to snap the cork off the bottle, when there was a knock at the front door. Someone shouted out that it was Martha’s brother, Father Malcolm, visiting from Antigonish. Willie Joe quickly stashed the bottle down behind the chesterfield. Father Malcolm came in and said hello to everyone and then said, “This is grand, we’ll have a high Mass. Willie Joe and Catherine can do the singing and the rest can say the prayers.” After they had a lovely high Mass, Father Malcolm thanked them for their participation and turning to Willie Joe said, “Okay Willie Joe, produce the quart.”
My mother died in 1991. My brother, Jackie, after the funeral service invited all to come back to Hillcrest Street for a few refreshments. There were actually two parties that day. Inside the house catered by my sister, Isabel, and her cousin, Joan Mac Farlane, there was my uncle, Fr. Malcolm, and his good friend from Antigonish, James Deagle. There was also the Bishop and a professor from St.F.X. as well as the local parish priest, and to round it out, Alan J. Mac Eachen. Outside in the back yard was my brother Jackie and his wife, Ann, myself and my wife, Sheila, Lauchie and his wife, Sherry and Joe Page. I remember talking to Hughie Beaton and his son Frederick who were down from Halifax. There were a lot more people in the gathering and after a while Carmella MacIsaac joined us, as she had a vested interest in the proceedings inside, as Father Malcolm and the Bishop were sitting in her chairs. It was getting close to 3:00 when someone cried out, “Where is Willie Joe at?” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than we saw Willie Joe walking between Duncan Alex MacIsaac’s place and Alex Joe MacDonald’s. As he came down the driveway, since we were sitting in our backyard, my aunt Kay, John A., and Margaret John Lauchie hollered out together since they were having a few jillicks: “Willie Joe sing us the Virgin Song.”
Do you know where Willie Joe is at now? Well I am going to tell you where Willie Joe is at. Willie Joe is up in Heaven and Clara is by his side. And the angels are all gathered around…And they are listening…they are listening very intently…for Willie Joe is singing, and he is singing Ava Maria.
Malcolm MacDougall, Cole Harbour
Community Facility Master Plan Information Session (7pm, Spryfield Lions Rink) — more info here. I think this is the last one of these.
North West Planning Advisory Committee (7pm, Sackville Library) — Edible Matters wants to operate a pub.
Public Accounts (10am, Province House) — Auditor General Michael Pickup will present his Financial Report. Just as I’m going to publish, Pickup has released the 57-page report, found here.
This date in history
On November 4, 1978, Anne Murray’s “You Needed Me” peaked at #1 on the Billboard pop charts.
Before I moved to Nova Scotia, I spent a year working as a reporter for a daily newspaper in rural Arkansas. The folks there knew only one thing about Nova Scotia: That’s where Anne Murray was from.
Residential construction (11am, MA310) — in what’s becoming annoyingly common, the Dal event listing page doesn’t tell us who’s speaking, but this morning’s CBC report about shoddy condo construction seems to be relevant, as the discussion is about how to double-down on crappy construction:
A newly-established approach to residential construction is the use of prefabricated wall panels. In this approach, wall panels are produced and arranged into stacks at a factory, then sent to the job site where construction workers unload, move, and install them. This alternative to traditional ‘stick-built’ construction results in reduced lead time, higher build quality, and reduced cost, but on-site construction becomes much more difficult and dangerous for the workers. This talk describes an approach and methodology for panelized residential construction, developed at Virginia Tech, which explicitly considers worker safety and well-being. The approach, based upon lean concepts, utilizes various software tools to tackle the entire process from panel design through on-site construction. A case study comparison, involving a house recently built in Northern Virginia using the lean approach, will also be presented.
Drug Fraud (noon, Rowe 3089) — Matthew Herder will speak on “Fraud Forgotten? What the History of Drug Regulation Teaches Us About the Importance of Transparency Today”:
Greater transparency is needed in the realm of pharmaceutical drugs. The current policy focus is on disclosing more information about the safety and effectiveness of drugs. But to be effective, transparency must serve another purpose – namely, of enabling standard setting through a more participatory, public model of drug regulation. I turn to the history of Canadian drug regulation to demonstrate that such a conception of transparency is not only possible, but increasingly needed. I argue that tying transparency to a revitalized concept of fraud in drug research and development might help activate more participatory, public regulatory work.
Ya know, there’s a historic instance of a fraudulent drug study that was produced in part at Dalhousie, but no one much wants to discuss it. I can’t fathom why.
Puppets (1pm, Studio 2, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Jim Morrow, the Artistic Director of Mermaid Theatre, will talk about puppets.
Thesis defence, Science (2:30pm, Chemistry Building Room 223) — Masters student Susan Christina Sharpe will defend her thesis, “The Protistan Origins of Multicellularity: Timing and Evolution of Cell Adhesion Molecules.”
The Man Who Fell to Earth (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — Nicholas Roeg’s 1976 film starring David Bowie. I saw this when it was released.
Inuit Perspectives on Health and the Arts (7pm, The Lays Off 400 Employees While the CEO Gets Paid $8.9 Million Theatre) — The event features the following speakers:
1. Dr. Heather Igloliorte (Nunatsiavut), Assistant Professor of Aboriginal Art History, Concordia University
2. Dr. Sarah Anala (Nunatsiavut), Elder and Researcher on traditional medicines.
3. Iviok (Nunavut), Performer and Youth Advocate
In the harbour
Yantian Express, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove this morning from Cagliari, Italy
ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrived at Pier 41 this morning from Valencia, Spain; sails to sea this afternoon
ZIM Haifa, container ship, arrived at Pier 42 this morning from New York
Zircon, oil tanker, Montreal to anchor for bunkers, then sails to sea at noon
Torrens, car carrier, Southampton, England to Autoport, then sails to sea
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm.
Thanks to Malcolm MacDougall for his fabulous letter to the Inverness Oran. The wry and self-aware letter is a reminder of what it is to be Nova Scotian. Most of the pronouncements from OneNS are reminders of why we should want to be something else. Let’s get MacDougall to replace Baillie at the OneNS table.
On the condo thing: things like not wiring junction boxes for high voltage appliances properly, or making flues out of flammable materials aren’t just “shoddy workmanship”, they’re clear indications that whoever was doing the work had no idea what they were doing, and no formal background or training, and that whoever approved or inspected the building didn’t care.
I’m having trouble understanding the appeal of buying up units in the condos using numbered companies… is this so that they appear to be occupied and more attractive to out of province investors (e.g. OTPP’s Cadillac Fairview) and can then be flipped faster? Tax breaks? Something else?
Unsold condos :
St Lawrence Place – 45 units Assessed value $14.4 million
The Trillium – 9 units Assessed value $ 6.25 million
The Anchorage – 34 units Assessed value $ 12.5 milklion
St. Lawrence Place is bizarre. I don’t know why anyone would want to pay to live in the middle of a parking lot.
And weird that there are two condo developments in the same city called The Anchorage.
The CFO of Fares bought a unit11 months ago, his other home is out of town.
Not only is Jamie Baillie «« the most irrelevant politician in Nova Scotia,»» but a QUISLING, a wolf in sheep’s clothing….
How a person who obstensibly espouses and defends the COOPERATIVE and CREDIT UNION philosophy could then turn up as a über-capitalist TORY PARTY leader boggles the mind. But, the Credit Union over which Sir James ruled bears so little resemblance to the «depositor-owned» institutions of my memory, it’s not so surprising after all. Hopefully his departure from CUA has ushered in a regime less depositor-antagonistic (my most polite description) .
While SOME of his pronouncements actually contain a few grains of merit, and his dis-espousal of «One NS» also strikes a positive chord one must always be wary of a body who can bounce opportunistically between two extremes of social philosophy.