News

1. Robie Street mega-development

This pretty picture shows the Rouvalis family’s proposed development with parking meter- and telephone wire-free streets, a carless Robie Street, and, notably, the absence of the gigantic 30- and 16-storey towers that will be built right next door.

“An advisory committee is recommending a massive development for central Halifax go ahead, though preferably a shorter version,” reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax:

Regional council’s Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee met Monday to consider the proposal for the corner of Robie St. and College St.: a 400-unit residential building with 32,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and two towers, one 26 storeys and one 20.

The proposal, from Kassner Goodspeed Architects on behalf of a numbered company owned by Peter Rouvalis, is the second for the area bounded by Robie St., Spring Garden Rd., Carlton St. and College St. Together, the two developments would transform nearly the entire block in the heart of peninsular Halifax, near Dalhousie University.

At its last meeting in August, the committee recommended the first: a proposal from Dexel Developments for a 250-unit residential building with towers of 30 and 16 storeys on the Spring Garden Rd. side.

On Monday, the committee also recommended the second but tacked on a long list of non-binding recommendations for planning staff and the Halifax and West Community Council to consider.

Chief among those suggestions was a request to lower the buildings’ two towers down to the heights recommended in last year’s draft of the Centre Plan — the long-awaited group of documents that will guide growth in the urban areas of Halifax for the next decade. The Centre Plan recommends 16 to 20 storeys for the site.

Centre Plan mumbo jumbo smoke mirrors yada yada… that recommendation is going to be completely ignored. That’s why approval of the Centre Plan has been so delayed (it was initially supposed to be adopted before the 2016 elections; I’ll be surprised if it gets implemented before the 2020 elections) and why the planning manager was fired and why the staffer in charge of implementing the Centre Plan was chased away: we’re going to get so many developments grandfathered in and exempted that the Plan, should it ever actually get approved, it will be effectively meaningless.

So the block bounded by Robie, College, and Carlton Streets and Spring Garden Road will become a construction nightmare for the next few years, and then there will be maybe 1,500 people living in four towers crammed onto the block.

2. Fact-checking Stephen McNeil

Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Last week Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil defended his government’s handling of an access-to-information request, suggesting a scathing review of that case by the province’s information and privacy commissioner was unwarranted,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:

The issue involved former health minister Leo Glavine and his use of a private Gmail account to conduct government business. When a reporter asked through the freedom-of-information law for copies of the emails sent to that account, government officials stonewalled rather than fulfilling their duty to assist in that request.

Some of what the premier had to say about the case and Commissioner Catherine Tully’s review deserves a closer look. Here are five key things McNeil had to say to reporters on the issue and some additional information worth considering.

Laroche goes on to spell out just how wrong McNeil is.

3. Dispensary raids

“Seven people are facing charges after RCMP raided 4 medical marijuana storefronts in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley,” reports Alicia Draus for Global:

The searches were conducted Friday at two storefronts in New Minas, one in Greenwood, as well as a business in Middleton.

Three men and four woman are facing charges of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.

Heidi Chartrand, owner of  Higher Living Wellness Centre – Greenwood, was held in custody and appeared in Kentville Provincial Court Monday afternoon. Dozens met at the court to demand her release and protest the raids themselves.

4. Avon River

Back in May 2016, I wrote about the citizens’ group Friends of the Avon River (FAR), which was trying to raise awareness of what it called “one of Canada’s biggest man-made disasters.” They wrote:

The concerns revolve around the infamous Avon River Causeway, where in 1968 an ill-advised ‘letter of approval’ was given for the construction of a barrage barrier across the mouth of the Avon River, home to the highest tides in the world. Within a few years, many alarming changes occurred, becoming an ecological embarrassment which changed forever the way projects like these would be approached. The most visible changes are the formation of the huge Windsor-Mudflats immediately below the causeway, the rapid decline of the endangered Atlantic Salmon and American Eel, as well as desecration of their ‘critical habitat’ on the lower and upper reaches of the river.

And I commented:

The causeway is where Highway 101 crosses the river. A similar causeway, also constructed in 1968, ran across the Petitcodiac River in New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy, a close-to-perfect mirror image of the Avon River, and is now being removed at a cost of $70 million.

And now plans are moving forward to “twin” Highway 101 across the river. FAR sees this as an opportunity to put in a proper bridge, remove the causeway, and restore the Avon as a naturally flowing river.

Now, reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:

A member of the community liaison committee for the twinning of Nova Scotia’s Highway 101 near Windsor says the plan to cross the Avon River represents a compromise that considers environmental and First Nations concerns while also satisfying federal fisheries laws.

[Darren] Porter, a commercial fisherman, said the aboiteau design would include two openings, a little more than a metre wide each, that would allow water to flow through at a controlled rate with the tide.

He noted people who pushed for the removal of the causeway or to build a bridge as the second crossing have compromised with the idea of the aboiteau.

Angie Gillis, director of environment and natural resources at the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, was brought in as part of a scientific working group, which included Porter as a representative of the commercial fisheries and Acadia University scientists.

Gillis said the priority for her group was a continuous fish passage that was not manually operated. Coming into talks, Gillis was adamant the crossing had to be a bridge. But she said things were put into perspective during talks and the need for compromise was stressed to meet the needs of others, such as farmers up the river.

5. King’s County

Catherine Tully

This morning, Privacy Commissioner Catherine Tully has released her review of King’s County. The summary reads:

In the past 10 months, the Municipality of the County of Kings failed to respond to 12 access to information requests within the 30-day timeline mandated by the law. The Commissioner finds that the Municipality is in violation of the Municipal Government Act. Access to information law is the bellwether of our democracy. When access to information laws are strong and effective, citizens benefit and our democracy thrives. But when public bodies, such as the Municipality in this case, completely ignore their obligations to respond in a timely fashion, this should raise red flags for citizens. The Commissioner recommends that the Municipality respond to the applicant within 10 days on all outstanding files and that it train additional staff to improve its ability to respond to access to information requests.

Read the full report here.

But Stephen McNeil says everyone can ignore Catherine Tully, so who cares, I guess.

6. Advertorial Watch

First off, kudos to The Chronicle Herald for bravely displaying the number of “views” each article on the new website has. I guess they need to make that number public for advertising reasons, but it’s still information that most publications keep close to the vest.

It’s early in the day, so it wouldn’t be fair to draw any conclusions about readership numbers for the “top stories” on the site — now sitting at a few thousand for articles that were posted late last night or early this morning. Moreover, there’s no way to tell how many people are reading the dead tree versions of the same stories.

On the website, advertorials are hard to find. They’re placed under a section called “More,” which isn’t very descriptive or appealing, so it’s not surprising that readership numbers are abysmally low. The Herald should think about renaming the “More” section something exciting like “Shameless Self-Promotion!” or “Cat Videos” or “Great White Sharks are Killing People and They’re Coming To Nova Scotia” (that last really drives up the click numbers, lemme tell ya).

At any event, as of 8:30 this morning, the most read advertorial on the site was a week-old plug for Sherwood Golf and Country Club, “truly one of Nova Scotia’s best-keep secrets,” which is now slightly less secret as 40 people have read about it. A September 20 plug for the Halifax airport, written by former scab Jordan Parker under the yawner headline “In a constant state of change,” has two readers as of today (five days after publication), and I’m one of them.

It’s possible, of course, that tens of thousands of people are reading the advertorials in the dead tree version of the paper. Maybe the Herald has audited numbers it can provide to potential advertisers that prove as much. But my suspicion is that advertorial buyers are not getting much of a return on their money. When the only people reading about you are your mom and the ridiculing Halifax Examiner editor, maybe you should rethink your marketing spend.


Views

1. Abortion

Jessica Leeder, who is the Atlantic Bureau chief for the Globe and Mail, has written about her own attempts to get an abortion in Nova Scotia:

… I had become an angry, desperate animal in my quest to figure out how anyone goes about getting an early stage abortion — discreetly, while juggling the demands of a family and a full-time job — in my adopted province of Nova Scotia.

It turns out that they don’t.

This is in spite of recent headlines, including in this newspaper – which employs me in Halifax to report on Atlantic Canada – announcing a series of landmark changes that should make abortions more accessible in the Atlantic provinces. It has been a big year for this in Nova Scotia particularly. In 2017, the province dropped its historical practice of requiring women to get a family doctor’s referral before booking an abortion at the hospital (where most abortions here are performed). It set up a toll-free line to help women navigate getting an abortion. It also announced coverage for the abortion pill, although policy-makers then took several more months to agree that doctors who prescribe it should be paid for their time (before that, few doctors were providing the pill because they understandably did not want to work for free).

Technically, it is the best time in history to try to get an abortion if you live here. And yet, if you are less than eight weeks pregnant – in other words, the optimal time, when having an abortion is medically low risk, physical recovery time is minimal and you are eligible to take the abortion pill, a non-invasive method used up to nine weeks of pregnancy — getting an abortion in Nova Scotia is still basically impossible.


Government

City

Tuesday

Cogswell District Design Charrette (Tuesday, 11am, Council Chambers, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — tell them to blow up the casino and parking garages.

Special Grants Committee (Tuesday, 12pm, City Hall) — $134K to various search and rescue orgs.

Town Hall – Accessibility Advisory Committee (L. MacSween) (Tuesday, 6:30pm, Dartmouth North Community Centre) — here are the rules.

Wednesday

Cogswell District Design Charette (Wednesday, 1pm, Council Chambers, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — you can register here for any of the following sessions:
1 – 3 pm: Design of Trails, Greenways & Connection to Water
3:30 – 5:30 pm,: Streetscape Features and Gateways
6 – 8 pm: Building Design Rules

I don’t see the “blow up the casino and parking garages” session, so I’ll skip.

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — the recommendation is to give St. Paul’s Church $150,000 towards fixing the ironstone wall and cast iron fencing surrounding the church. I’m good with that, but they should condition it on banning parking on the Grand Parade in front of the church. Halifax councillors stopped parking at the opposite end of the Grand Parade years ago, but the Anglicans still drive right up as if they are in some exalted position of godliness.

Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Art Room, Prospect Road Community Centre) — no action items are on the agenda.

Province

Tuesday

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

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 10am, Province House) — I don’t know what they’re discussing, but I know what they’re not discussing.


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Pink Day (Tuesday, Dalhousie campuses) — I would say it’s surprisingly ironic that Pink Day has become its own exercise in bullying, but that was totally expected.

Sink Or Swim: Decisions in Emergency Management (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1101, Rowe Building) — from the event listing:

Last year, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria resulted in considerable damage to the countries in the Caribbean, and the south eastern United States. Hurricane Harvey caused considerable damage in the state of Texas and particularly the city of Houston. The total cost of damage from Hurricane Harvey was approximately $125 billion. Less than a month later, Hurricane Maria landed on the coast of Puerto Rico and recent reports have put the death toll at close to 3,000.

After a devastating hurricane season in 2017 and on the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Juan, the MacEachen Institute will bring together experts in emergency management, flood modelling and prediction, and evacuation traffic modelling, to discuss emergency preparedness for future coastal risks and evacuation scenarios.

The panel will address the steps needed to plan for these disasters, from determining which areas will be hit the hardest, to the logistics of evacuating the city.

1994 Called – It Wants its FOI Law Back: Things Nova Scotians Should Know About Their Right to Know (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Janet Burt-Gerrans, Officer of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Nova Scotia, will speak. From the event listing:

Almost 25 years have now passed since Nova Scotia’s access to information law was proclaimed. Our law is badly outdated and no longer up to the task. September 28 is Right to Know Day around the world. What better time to discuss the shortcomings of our law, recommendations for improvement and things citizens need to know to ensure that they continue to have a robust and meaningful right to access government information. Join the staff of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for a lively discussion of big data, access martyrs, duty to document and other access problems and solutions.

I’m going to try to catch this, but my morning timeline is quite tight.

Wednesday

Thesis Defence, Biology (Wednesday, 10:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Carolyn Marshall will defend her ​​thesis, “Green Manure Termination Method Impact on Soil Carbon and Soil Biology Dynamics.”

Bill Freedman’s Plant Collection (Wednesday, 2pm, Wooded Area behind Sherriff Hall, 1355 Oxford Street) — register here.

Global Health Day (Wednesday, 3pm, panel discussion at 5pm, Tupper Medical Building) — displays and presentations about Global Health Day.

Iron Acquisition in Bacterial Pathogens: Structural and Functional Studies of Siderophore Biosynthesis (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Andrew M. Gulick from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, will speak.

Science, Technology and Society in the 21st Century: Ethics, Debates, and Collaboration (Wednesday, 6:30pm, in the auditorium named after a bank, Marion McCain Building) — postdocs Michael Halpin, Tamara Sorenson Duncan, and Colin Bellinger will talk.

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

Slut Or Nut: Diary of a Rape Trial (Tuesday, 6:30pm, in the theatre named after a bank, in the building named after a grocery store) — a screening of the documentary.

The Social Shift (Tuesday, 7pm, Burke Theatre B) — screening of the documentary. This one promises popcorn.


In the harbour

5:30am: Glovis Companion, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
6:15am: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship, with up to 2,808 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney. The Norwegian Dawn is on a seven-day cruise from Quebec City to Boston.
7am: San Adriano, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
7am: Viking Sea, cruise ship with up to 928 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Port Alfred, Quebec. The Viking Sea is on an 11-day cruise from Montreal to New York.
8am: Akademik Sergey Vavilov, cruise ship with up to 92 passengers, arrives at Pier 27 from Sisimiut, Greenland. The Sergey Vavilov is a refitted Russian research ship/ice breaker that now takes tourists around the Arctic so they can watch the ice disappear.
9:30am: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,180 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Portland. The Anthem of the Seas is on a nine-day cruise out of and returning to New York.
11am: Arsos, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Kingston, Jamaica
11am: San Adriano, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
1pm: Hugh R. Sharp, research vessel, sails from Pier 9 for sea
4:30pm: Carmen, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
4:30pm: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Saint John
5pm: Dependable, cable layer, arrives at Pier 9 from Baltimore
5pm: Glovis Companion, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
5:45pm: Viking Sea, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for Boston
8:30pm: Star I, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
9:30pm: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John


Footnotes

I’m always dragging on Tuesdays.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Not sure 1500 people is accurate. It will be interesting to see how many condos will be empty. I’m sure money launderers will love to place their dirty cash into a backwater like Nova Scotia.

    1. If the city is now financing solar panels and they approve a building that blocks the sun, who reimbursed the homeowner?

  2. Interesting tidbit about the Sergey Vavilov: it’s the sister ship to the Akademik Ioffe, which if you’ll recall is the cruise ship/old research icebreaker that tried to be a rock-breaker last month in the Gulf of Boothia in the Canadian Arctic. The Vavilov was actually dispatched to transfer all the tourists (including some US scientists and students) back to Pelly Bay so they could fly home (the day after they had gotten onboard).

  3. Regarding decisions by the so called “Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee” …. what is the matter with these people ? They are simply ruining downtown Halifax by allowing developers to rampage with uncontrolled growth. The traffic this autumn is horrific. I’ve never before seen such a level of aggression amongst drivers. What is the Committee’s clever solution to this ?

    Halifax used to be a city where one could enjoy walking, now there is constant rushing traffic, no sunlight, and wind tunnels. Secondly who is living in these buildings ??? If it is mostly foreign ownership and rentals, just as in Vancouver, there should be a 15% tax on both. Those funds would go toward planting TREES. And funding artists and the urban farm and other citizens who are trying to protect our way of life.

  4. “Three men and four woman are facing charges of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.”

    In other news, Aleafia Health Incorporated, the TSXV grow-op that has former Toronto Police Chief and Harper cabinet minister Julian Fantino on its board, is up 22% in morning trading.

  5. Explain to me how “farmers up the river” would be affected. Even if they were, I’m not sure how restoring the natural flow and level of the water in the estuary is something they could complain about. If they do have a valid complaint, then compensate them and put the bridge in.

    Where I live, a whole dam was taken out, and damn the dam complaints from those upriver. They adapted when the dam went in where it shouldn’t have gone in, and they can adapt again when it is removed to restore the natural flow of the estuary.

    1. there is concern about salt water flooding, I think that is what they mean about “Farmers up the river”.

    2. Historically, the farmland up the river was protected by a series of many, many individual dikes. The causeway replaced this, as it is essentially one big dike. The historical dikes (and aboiteaus in particular) have been left to rot. Removing the causeway requires those historical dikes to be rebuilt at some ungodly sum. It’s a money issue.

  6. Your headline behooves me to note that further down Robie Street, at the university named for a saint, there is another block that regularly hosts 5000-7000 people, daily.