News

1. Stadium

Some $2.4 million in public money went to design this 25,000-seat stadium at Shannon Park, and a half a million dollars more to study building a 10-14,000 seat stadium at Shannon Park, and then another million dollars to study building a 20,000-seat stadium at Shannon Park. Now the city is being asked to look at another stadium proposal for Shannon Park.

I was thinking that this morning I’d have a lot of details related to yesterday’s council’s discussion of the proposed stadium, but I’m afraid there’s not much new to report — there weren’t too many revelations yesterday. For background, read what I wrote Monday.

There were, however, a lot of councillor questions around the tax increment financing (TIF) proposed for the stadium, but answers from CAO Jacques Dubé were elusive.

Dubé repeated that debt servicing charges on the loan needed to build a stadium costing $170-$190 million would cost in the range of $9 to $10 million annually.

Of that $9-$10 million, said Dubé, $5-$6 million would come from property taxes in a TIF district. The remainder would come from revenue generated by an increase in the hotel tax and from a new tax on rental cars.

But in response to questioning by councillor Sam Austin, Dubé wouldn’t say what the boundaries of the TIF district would be. At one point Dubé implied that the district could be all of Shannon Park. After Austin said there was no way he could vote for such extensive TIF district boundaries, Dubé “clarified” to say that the TIF district might only include the stadium, the associated parking lots, and “ancillary” uses (Dubé said the ancillary uses are now secret, but we’ll learn about them soon; maybe a blimp hangar?), or the TIF district might include the stadium, the associated parking lots, the ancillary uses and a commercial “Main Street” district in Shannon Park, but probably not all of Shannon Park. We’ll just have to see how the numbers play out in detail, said Dubé.

Here’s the thing, tho: $5-$6 million in anticipated revenue from property taxes is pretty specific. How could Dubé (or more likely, his staff) calculate that figure if he didn’t have a fairly good idea about the TIF district boundaries and the value of property within that district?

Dubé also said the stadium financing scheme was nothing at all like the convention centre financing scheme. One good thing was that he acknowledged that we’re taking a bath on the convention centre — that property taxes collected from the Nova Centre are nowhere near what was projected, and it’ll be many long years into the future before they could (conceivably, by Dubé’s estimation) start matching the debt payments for the convention centre). But, said Dubé, this couldn’t happen with the TIF financing for the stadium, because there is no risk that the city would have to pay more than collected from the TIF district and the hotel and car rental taxes.

This doesn’t make sense. The risk on the stadium financing is somewhere — we can shuffle it from under one cup to another cup, and use a bunch of smoke and mirrors to distract the audience (that is, the citizenry), but there’s risk, and somebody owns it.

Dubé says the city has no interest in owning the stadium, so presumably that means Maritime Football would carry the loan, and therefore the risk on the loan. But that raises two questions:

First, does the $9-$10 million annual debt servicing payment reflect the commercial bank rate on a $170-$190 million loan, or the (lower) rate on provincial borrowing? If it’s the latter, then one level of government or another is guaranteeing the loan, and so the risk sits with the taxpayer. (I threw this question out to Twitter, and am getting conflicting responses. I don’t know if the $9-$10 million annual payment reflects just interest or includes a paydown on principle.)

Second, even if the loan risk sits with the Maritime Football League Partnership, what happens if the Halifax Roughriders CFL franchise goes bust, MFLP declares bankruptcy, and Anthony Leblanc takes the next plane out of town to fleece some other city? Who is then responsible for the stadium loan payments? It’s hard to see how it doesn’t come back to we taxpayers.

In the end, council voted unanimously, 15-0 (two councillors were absent, but from my distance I couldn’t see who), to direct staff to spend the next six months developing a business case for the stadium. That business case will fill in all the missing details, we’re told.

Even though they voted for the motion, most councillors claimed not to be committed to the stadium idea; they just wanted more information, don’t you know. But this is how incremental approval of large projects happens: there’s a whole string of votes approving things “in concept,” or “pending a staff report,” and anyone who voices skepticism is told “hey, we’re just investigating, we can pass this and decide later not to move forward.” But then when “later” comes, the opposite argument is employed: “we’ve spent so much time and money developing these plans we can’t quit now.” After the fact, it’s hard to point at any one council vote and say, “this was the decisive vote.”

And then there are opportunity costs. A hell of a lot of staff time is going to be eaten up over the next six months studying the stadium and writing the stadium business case. That’s staff time taken away from, for example, studying the living wage ordinance and writing a report on that (as far as I can tell, and I’ve been following the issue closely, the living wage report was supposed to be submitted to council before the April budgeting debate, but never arrived). Or name your own favourite city initiative that’s been stalled for lack of staff resources.

Anthony Leblanc. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Leblanc talked to reporters afterward, but didn’t provide anything in the way of firm details on financing the stadium. He did say MFLP was going to be paying $3 million annually for something or another, but it wasn’t clear if that was for maintenance and operating the stadium (as opposed to paying down the construction debt) or simply for operating the football team.

2. Protecting the monopoly, part 2

“The only brand of rolling papers sold at the Crown corporation selling pot is partially owned by the president of another Crown corporation,” reports Aaron Beswick for the Chronicle Herald:

Malcolm Fraser, president and chief executive officer of the provincially funded economic development agency tasked with providing venture capital to startups, is also a silent partner in Canadian Lumber Co.

When you go to buy your pot at the renovated Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation cannabis outlets you’ll find that Canadian Lumber rolling papers are the only ones they carry.

The all-natural rolling papers are made by a Halifax-based numbered company with a trademark on the name Canadian Lumber Co.

Fraser said that he invested in the company in early 2016 and only started as the head of Innovacorp last October.

“I had no role in the negotiations with NSLC,” said Fraser.

3. Those strange Roy brothers

Damien Roy, (left) and Bailey Roy. Photo: Halifax Regional Police

“Two suspects in an unusual incident that shut down the international border between Woodstock, N.B., and Houlton, Maine last Friday are brothers,” reports CTV:

CTV News has learned that two brothers who were the focus of a search-and-rescue operation in Halifax three years ago have the same names and dates of birth as the men who are suspects in the border standoff.

There is no new information about the border standoff.

I recounted the weeks-long story about the search for the Roys back in 2015 here. They were then evidently “survivalists,” making “secret runs to Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City.”

I commented at the time:

Survivalism is an odd but otherwise harmless activity that doesn’t threaten anyone else, but the “secret runs” to points west and, well, that moustache, suggest something else is going on here.

4. Tampered candy

Who will be the first lying kid to make the local news about tampered Halloween candy? My money is on a kid from Cole Harbour or Westphal. It’s almost always a kid from Cole Harbour or Westphal.

Here’s my annual message, repeated from last year:

A bunch of kids are about to start lying about finding needles and razor blades in their Halloween candy.

Here’s a public service announcement from the Examiner to parents and reporters:

Some kids will soon pretend to have received Halloween candy that has been tampered with. This will perhaps start as a silly inside joke for an Instagram post between kids, but an adult will learn of it and it’ll explode to the point where local media start reporting the story in alarming tones, and then other children will see those reports and pretend to also have received candy that has been tampered with.

Then, police will pretend to conduct investigations into the tampered candy — they can’t, after all, accuse the kids of being little shits, even though they know the kids actually are little shits. I mean, if the police really took these accounts seriously, they’d map out trick-or-treating routes, flood the neighbourhoods with cops, issue search warrants, call in suspects and witnesses, and so forth, but since they don’t do any of that, well, we can assume they don’t take the reports seriously.

None of the reports of tampered candy in the past have ever resulted in criminal charges. And they won’t this year either.

It’s all a sort of moral panic, a public profession of angst from our collective soul. “The world is going to hell,” someone will say on Twitter, linking to a report, and that tweet will be retweeted and liked and people will be concerned. But it happens every year, and there’s still no salvation. No one will get thrown in jail. There won’t be any public floggings. We won’t have a target for our rage, no cleansing of our soul. We’ll just be stuck with the same bullshit we had the day before, and with the same shitty kids.

So, parents: don’t call the media when your little shit reports tampered candy.

And, reporters: don’t splash little shits’ reports of tampered candy all over the TV. It just encourages them.

One of 2014’s bogus “candy tampering” cases. Photo: RCMP

And just because I don’t have anything original to write about today, let’s recall the case of lying 12-year-old Wayne Cross, which appeared in a November 4, 1996 Chronicle Herald article by reporter Randy Jones:

It reads:

A Westphal boy who lied about finding a razor blade in a tiny chocolate bar was forced by his parents to go on television Sunday to apologize.

Wayne Cross, 12, claimed he found a razor inside a tiny Crunchie bar while rooting through his Halloween treats Friday morning, sparking a wave of news stories.

But over the weekend, his story unravelled when he refused a polygraph test after police became suspicious he put the razor blade inside the bar.

On Sunday, Wayne’s father said he found out when he returned from a hunting trip Saturday that his son’s story was a hoax. 

“I’m still upset. That’s why he’s at his aunt’s,” he said.

He said Wayne, who appeared on television last week explaining how he found the razor, didn’t really give him a clear explanation about why he pulled the hoax before he left for his aunt’s with his mother, Debbie.

“When I came back it was all out in the open with the RCMP officer. There was something about his story that just didn’t jibe,” said the father, adding that Wayne will be punished for his lie. 

Although his father provided a phone number where his son could be reached, Wayne’s aunt refused to let him come to the phone.

“Right now he’s a little confused about things,” she said. “I’ve got him up here with me to try to get him away from all of this.”

Wayne’s mother and father told him to go back on a TV news broadcast Sunday to apologize.

“Sorry… to everyone that helped me,” Wayne told ATV.

A Cole Harbour RCMP officer suggested the boy put the razor in the bar to remind parents that all Halloween candy should be checked.

RCMP said over the weekend no charges will be laid.

Some points:

1. “Randy Jones” is the best reporter name ever.

2. Kids lie. They’re basically little lie factories, and their throats are the assembly lines for producing lies. They especially lie about tampered Halloween candy. We shouldn’t take them seriously.

3. Twelve is too old to be trick-or-treating. Get a paper route already and buy your own damn candy.

4. “The boy put the razor in the bar to remind parents that all Halloween candy should be checked” is one hell of a pant load of cop crap. I see the Fear Everything culture was alive and well in 1996.

Is Wayne Cross still around? If he is, he’d be 34 years old now. Drop me a line, eh?


Views

1. Non-tampered candy

And of course Stephen Archibald has a candy wrapper collection stored away in Hangar 51 on the back 40; here’s one of them:

“I swoon at how the B and R invade their neighbours’ territory,” comments Archibald. “All that beauty and a tasty chocolate bar too. For 10 cents.”


Government

City

Wednesday

No public meetings today.

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Environment & Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — no agenda posted.

Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — the agenda.

Port Wallace PPC Meeting (Thursday, 6:30pm, Helen Creighton Room, Alderney Gate Library) — no agenda available.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21389 and 21795 (Thursday, 7pm, St. Peter’s Anglican Church Hall, 3 Dakin Drive, Halifax) — a day care out in Kearney Lake.

Province

No public meetings for the rest of the week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Thesis Defence, Earth Sciences (Wednesday, 10am, Room 3-44, Steel ocean Sciences Building) — Erin Keltie will defend her thesis “An Experimental Study of the Role of Contamination in the Formation of Chromintes in the Ring of Fire Intrusive Suite.” Her abstract:

The Ring of Fire Intrusive Suite (ROFIS) in the James Bay lowlands, Ontario, is emplaced into the 2.734 Ga McFauld’s Lake greenstone belt, and hosts five chromite deposits, together comprising ~201.3 million tonnes of measured and indicated chromite resources.  The formation process of these and other stratiform chromitites worldwide is still debated, with numerous models for their  petrogenesis, one of which is the contamination of a primitive magma by surrounding country rock during ascent and emplacement.  Although this process is likely to occur, with evidence for this in the ROFIS context, its effect on chromite crystallization has not been rigorously experimentally tested.  This thesis addresses this shortcoming in a series of experiments involving komatiite-ROFIS country rock mixtures, komatiite-magnetite mixtures, and chromite-doped komatiite to measure phase equilibrium, chromite solubility, and chromite composition.

Experiments involved equilibrating synthetic komatiite (2187 ppm Cr) containing 0-50 wt.% Cr-free contaminants and 0-2 wt.% chromite on Fe-presaturated Pt loops at 1192-1462ºC and 0.1 MPa at the fayalite-magnetite-quartz (FMQ) oxygen buffer in a vertical tube furnace.  Results show that assimilation of Fe-rich material decreases the chromium content of the melt at chromite saturation and decreases the olivine-in temperature, thereby increasing the temperature interval over which chromite crystallizes alone. Assimilation of 16 wt.% of BIF is enough to increase the volume of chromite crystallization from the ROFIS parental melt 5-fold, and is consistent with other metrics of parental melt contamination.  These results indicate that assimilation of Fe-rich country rocks by komatiite may contribute to chromite accumulation in stratiform chromitites.

Role of TRPM2 ion channel in breast cancer pathogenesis and chemoresistance(Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Yassine El Hiani will speak.

Thursday

The Future of the Ocean? (Thursday, 4pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building) — a panel discussion and book launch for The Future of Ocean Governance and Capacity Development: Essays in Honor of Elisabeth Mann Borgese (1918-2002). Panelists include Paul Withers, Tony Charles, Lucia Fanning, David VanderZwaag, Wendy Watson-Wright, and Boris Worm. Info here.

Brain Health (Thursday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Public Library) — Tony Hakim, neurologist and author of Save Your Mind: Seven Rules to Avoid Dementia will speak.

The Wake of the Whale: Hunter Societies in the Caribbean and North Atlantic (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, Marion McCain Building) — Russell Fielding from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, will speak.

Una-May O’Reilly

Cyber Systems Arms Races (Thursday, 7:30pm, Potter Auditorium, Rowe Management Building) — Una-May O’Reilly from MIT will speak. From the event listing:

In cyber space attackers are constantly adapting to ever improving network defenses. On the flip-side, anti-virus detectors must be retrained as attackers enhance their malware using adversarial examples that attack the vulnerabilities of Machine Learning-based models. Resulting in an arms race as defender sna attackers on both sides take turns crafting new responses to each other’s actions.

In this talk, Una-May O’Reilly will give insight into this fascinating topic and discuss the work her team at MIT undertakes to develop new techniques for computationally modeling cyber security arms races – resulting in robust defensive solutions and an improved understanding of adversarial dynamics.


In the harbour

I’m running too late to get the ships updated.


Footnotes

I got a lot of hate mail yesterday.

I don’t have a copyadditor today; be kind.


The Halifax Examiner is an advertising-free, subscriber-supported news site. Your subscription makes this work possible; please subscribe.

Tim Bousquet

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

Join the Conversation

5 Comments

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
Cancel reply
  1. Seriously Tim, 12 is too old to go out trick or treating? In what way? At 12 you are still a child in elementary school and you should be enjoying everything that childhood implies. The kids already grow up too fast as it is, they don’t need people pushing them faster towards adulthood when they aren’t one. When you think of what they could be getting up to out there, I’m glad they are trick or treating rather than anything else. Heck, Even younger teens, if they want to trick or treat, why not? Why take what joy there is in the world away so early? They will be grown up fast enough and then you will regret pushing the process.

  2. I heard the CAO on CBC this morning. He mentioned something about “innovative financing” for the stadium.

    Uh-oh.

    1. ‘Innovative financing’ aka ‘The money will appear from somewhere. Not from HRM not from Mr LeBlanc and his fellow investors, not from Ottawa,not from the province. It will be magic money, the sort of money you find in the closet in the suit you haven’t worn since the funeral for Aunt Ethel’
      I wish I could find ‘Innovative financing’, I looked down the sofa, nothing there. I looked in the boxes in the basement,nothing there except the ‘money’ in the long forgotten Monopoly game. I thought of calling Jim Irving for directions on how to find ‘Innovative financing’ but he’s too busy using real money building ships and his ‘Innovative financing’ is as old or older than Confederation – money from government.
      You can’t take the pig out of a pig in a poke.

  3. As I noted last year, the pin-laced candy always seems to be a full-sized bar. How many people give out full-sized bars? Few, but some do — I do, in fact. But every kid knows that, so every kid would be able to say where the full-sized bar came from and the guilty party would be nabbed almost immediately because there are so few places that give out full-sized bars. I am as suspicious of these stories as Tim.

  4. Maybe cannabis-laced candies will be the new moral panic. It might even happen – once or twice out of the millions of successful trick or treating sorties per year – almost nobody is enough of a sociopath to actually put razor blades or needles in candy but cannabis is another matter.