News

1. Bus Stop Theatre gets half a tank

Bus Stop Theatre. Photo: Facebook

At its meeting yesterday, Halifax council nearly unanimously (Matt Whitman was the only contrary vote) agreed in principle to $250,000 in assistance to the theatre. The money will be used to help the theatre buy the Gottingen Street building it operates in. There’s something of a time crunch on the purchase, as the owner wants to sell by the end of the year; she has given the theatre first option on the property and agreed to sell at its appraised value of about $750,000; the provincial and federal governments are expected to match the city’s commitment. The city’s $250,000 will be split over two budget years.

Once the theatre owns the building and the empty lot behind it, it hopes to embark on a five-year expansion plan that includes a second performance space, two rehearsal halls and office space. That more ambitious plan pegged at $6.5 million.

Yesterday’s council vote is a big victory for councillor Lindell Smith, who lobbied hard for the project in the face of an initially skeptical council.

During debate over the project, councillor Sam Austin wandered about the city’s Cultural Plan, which has yet to be adopted. Austin noted that there are a lot of big ticket cultural organizations queuing up for city money, including the Cultural Hub, the Khyber, the new waterfront art gallery, and several others, and yet council has no budgeting or plans for how and how much to support those arts organizations. Staffer Elizabeth Taylor said that the first stage of the plan, focusing on support for museums, will come later this summer, while the broader issue of capital for cultural spaces will hopefully arrive by the end of the budget year.

Although he voted in favour of the Bus Stop project, councillor Bill Karsten noted that earlier this year, when it adopted the city budget, council was nickel-and-diming city departments, demanding cuts of $40,000 here and $20,000 there in order to avoid an overly large tax increase (taxes did go up slightly).

Of course council has to juggle budget commitments and decide on priorities. But let me point out that the Bus Stop got, essentially, half a tank.

The Halifax Police Department is buying an armoured vehicle that will likely look like this.

That is, as part of those difficult budget discussions earlier this year, council had no problem coming up with $500,000 to buy an armoured vehicle for the police department. The Bus Stop commitment is half that cost.

I suggest that moving forward, we price all cultural expenditures in tank units. The Bus Stop is 0.5 tanks. The Khyber received 0.5 tanks and will be asking for another tank. The Cultural Hub is a tank. And so forth.

Because invariably we’ll be told we “can’t afford” to fully support arts organizations. But we can afford what we want to afford. Despite falling crime rates, the police budget is bloated beyond all reason — at $116,270,400 for the HRPD and RCMP. The Bus Stop half-a-tank is basically a rounding error in the police budget.

If we cut the police budget by, say, 10% — which shouldn’t even be controversial — we’d have $11.6 million available for cultural support every year.

As I wrote last week, every time we buy a flashy new tech toy for the po-po, we’re valuing further militarization of our society over building civil society. Every time we prioritize hiring more cops over supporting the arts, we’re deciding what kind of community we have, and what kind we don’t.

2. Irving threatened journalist

Irving Shipyard. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“A journalist’s question about a potential problem with the Royal Canadian Navy’s new Arctic patrol ships prompted federal bureaucrats to generate more than 200 pages of documents as they warned Irving Shipbuilding about the news outlet’s interest in the multibillion dollar program,” reports David Pugliese for the Ottawa Citizen (Pugliese is the journalist and PostMedia is the news outlet):

But Public Services and Procurement Canada has ignored its requirement under the Access to Information Act to release those records within the stipulated 30 days, and is now in violation of the law.

This request, which the department received in early April, was sent after Procurement Canada acknowledged it had alerted Irving that a Postmedia journalist had asked the department questions about potential issues with welds on the new Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships being built by the firm. Procurement Canada bureaucrats also provided the journalist’s private information to Irving officials. They never did answer the questions.

Instead, shortly after, Irving threatened to sue Postmedia if it published any article indicating that there were significant problems with the welds.

3. Spaceport

They made a pretty picture of a rocket in space, so everyone in Nova Scotia thought it must be real.

Yesterday, the Department of Environment approved Maritime Launch Service’s environmental review of its proposed spaceport near Canso. The approval comes with a long list of conditions (click here to read the full list) including action required for possible “accidents and malfunctions”; among these is “failure of all launch vehicles and accident propagation.”

The environmental approval is one thing. Raising the investment needed to make the spaceport a reality is another thing entirely. I’d short the company if I knew how to do that sort of thing.

4. Scotia Green employees busted

A Scotia Green Dispensary ad for “Gosh” on weedmaps.com
A Scotia Green Dispensary ad for “Gosh” on weedmaps.com

Halifax police raided the Scotia Green cannabis dispensary on Spring Garden Road yesterday, arresting three people — 25-year-old Matthew Brian Baker of Halifax, 35-year-old Kelly Patrick Pye of Lower Sackville, and 21-year-old Bailey Rae Fanning of Halifax — on various charges.

This gives me the excuse to re-publish my reporting on the robbery of the dispensary last April:

Court documents obtained by the Halifax Examiner give details of the April 9 [2018] robbery at the Scotia Green Dispensary at 5982 Spring Garden Road. I’m using pseudonyms for the customers and employees of the dispensary, as well as for other civilians in this account, as I don’t know if they’ll be testifying in court or if they may face potential danger from those who robbed the store.

Scotia Green is on the third floor of the building, with a Vape shop on the second floor. Mary’s Place Cafe is on the ground floor.

According to a narrative supplied by Kyle Doane, an RCMP officer assigned to Halifax Integrated Investigations Unit, on April 9, a Monday night, there were four people in Scotia Green: Joe and Marianne were employees, and Eddie and Mike were customers.

Sometime after 9pm, “two males burst into the store with one of them holding a shotgun and aiming it at their faces.”

The men ordered the employees and customers to lay face-down on the floor and to hand over their phones.

As the robbery was underway, two more customers, Vince and Susan, entered the dispensary, and they too were ordered to the ground and to hand over their phones. And then yet a fifth customer, Moe, came in, and was ordered to do the same.

The robber carrying the shotgun was six feet tall and about 160 pounds, while the second robber was shorter (the document doesn’t provide an estimated height) and 140 pounds. Both wore bandanas over their faces.

While the tall guy trained the shotgun on the seven people on the ground, the short guy was “raiding the store … taking the more expensive items such as shatter that were stored in display cases that employees needed to unlock.” He also took whatever cash he could find. The stolen goods and the phones were put in a Fit For Less duffel bag the robbers had brought with them.

But this was no Ocean’s Eleven operation. The tall guy “seemed … frightened and that he didn’t seem to know what he was doing.”

At one point, Marianne, one of the employees, even tried to tackle the frightened, shotgun-wielding tall guy. (Note to store employees everywhere: don’t do this.) The tall guy pushed Marianne into a bookcase and said “No one needs to die,” and then weirdly, “You’re all going to get your phones back.”

As I’m reading the narrative, Marianne seems remarkably nonplussed by the situation. Maybe she was stoned, I thought more than once. But for whatever reason, she “asked if she could call her boss to tell him about what was happening.” Even more remarkably, the robbers agreed, gave her her phone, Marianne called the boss to say they were being robbed, and the phone was handed back to the robbers.

Then the robbers left, telling the victims “not to call police otherwise they would find them later,” but that they would leave everyone’s cell phones at the bottom of the stairs.

It gets weirder.

As the robbers were fleeing down from Scotia Green, the customers could “hear what sounded like a struggle in the stairway.”

Up in the dispensary, everyone got up from the floor, and Joe, the other employee of the dispensary, went down the stairs and ran into Harry, the owner of the Vape Shop. Harry went out to the street and found a ripped Fit For Less bag with all the stolen loot in it.

Meanwhile, customers Vince and Susan also went down the stairs, to look for their phones. Out on the sidewalk, they “found a lot of people in front of the store picking up weed and money.”

There was so much money blowing around out on the sidewalk that when police arrived some time later, they started picking up money too.

But before the cops arrived, Vince and Susan found some phones in the alleyway near the store, and they apparently started divvying them up to their rightful owners, except there was one phone they couldn’t match with an owner. They decided they’d hold onto the phone and bring it back to the dispensary the next day. Rather than stick around and wait for the cops, Vince and Susan, who are apparently a couple, went to the IWK to visit Vince’s daughter. The documents don’t say why the daughter was in the hospital.

As it turns out, the phone Vince and Susan kept with them belonged to Eddie, one of the other customers, who had also left the scene. Eddie was the one who called the cops — maybe not because a shotgun-wielding man had held up the dispensary, but rather because someone had made off with his phone.

Eddie used the “find my iPhone” app on his computer to look for the phone and saw that it was in the parking garage at the IWK.

By then it was after 10pm, and Vince and Susan were having a smoke in the parking garage when suddenly a bunch of cops descended on the garage. “Two individuals were observed on the upper floors peeking down at police,” reads the narrative, and at 10:16pm the cops heard a door open and saw Vince and Susan running down the stairs. They were taken into custody.

Vince and Susan were brought to the police station and interviewed, and eventually everything was sorted out. They were released, and Eddie got his phone back.

That still left the issue of the robbery itself. No one connected with the dispensary seems to have cared overly much about it, as they all got their phones back and the stolen weed ended up back in the store, albeit some unknown amount of cash was taken by happy bystanders.

The cops, however, want to catch the frightened lanky dude with the shotgun and his short companion. So they got a search warrant to go back to Scotia Green the next day to “seize offence related items and trace forensic evidence, which may include but not limited to DNA, footwear impressions, as well as hair and fiber samples, video surveillance equipment of the incident… also a black duffel bag containing evidence of the offence.”

Turns out, there were actually two bags: a black bag which the return on the search warrant describes as Fit For Life (not Less) bag and a black and red “FILA gym  bag.”

Apparently one of the robbers had also mistakenly left his own iPhone in the store, and so the warrant covered that too. It was seized as well.

Here’s the thing, however. Doane, the investigating officer, wrote:

Police acknowledge that given this is a dispensary, It [sic] is possible there may be illicit drugs when we execute this search warrant if it is granted. However, I am not using their presence to formulate my grounds to obtain a search warrant. If drugs are located inside the said dispensary they will be seized and processed in accordance to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Criminal Code.

And sure enough, subsequent to the search being executed, police arrested a man at the dispensary. According to a police release:

Police have arrested a 33 year-old male, who is an employee of Scotia Green Dispensary, and will be facing charges of Trafficking Controlled Substances.

It’s tempting to just laugh off this Heckle and Jeckle robbery, but a shotgun-wielding robber — especially a frightened shotgun-wielding robber — is no laughing matter.

The “shotgun-wielding” part of this incident is the real crime, the crime that matters. No one cares about a bunch of stoners buying weed, nor should anyone care about them — they aren’t hurting anyone.

5. Dead right whale

Right whales. Photo: NOAA

“A dead North Atlantic right whale has been found drifting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” reports the CBC:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said in a media release the dead whale was spotted during an aerial surveillance flight on June 4.

The CBC science show Quirks and Quarks had an interesting segment on right whales last weekend, explaining:

Researchers have discovered that endangered North Atlantic right whales might have moved into dangerous waters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence because climate shifts disrupted their food source.

North Atlantic right whales have historically summered in and around the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy. Special efforts including regulation of ship traffic and fishing have been made to accommodate the endangered whales, whose total population is just over 400 animals.

In recent years, the whales began to move away from this summer habitat, and in 2017, a larger number of whales appeared in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This led to several ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements, plus the deaths of 12 whales that was in addition to the six whales who died in US waters.

Now a team of researchers that included Kimberley Davies from the University of New Brunswick has built a case that might explain why the whales abandoned their traditional feeding grounds.

Davies told Bob McDonald in an interview on Quirks & Quarks that her team found that warmer waters circulating in the Gulf of Maine starting around 2010 seem to have depressed the population of a small, shrimp-like copepod that is an important food source for the whales.

The whales were then forced to search other waters for a new food source. They found it in the colder waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where a related copepod currently thrives. However this new feeding habitat brought a new set of risks.


Government

City

Wednesday

Heritage Advisory Committee Special Meeting (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — three development proposals are on the agenda:

• an expansion of the existing eight-storey building at South Park and Victoria Streets by demolishing two houses next door. The two buildings to be torn down are not heritage properties, but there are no fewer than 14 registered heritage houses in the immediate area, including the Tower Road Heritage Streetscape. The Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee has already rejected this proposal, but all the rejections will likely get overridden by the full city council.

• an eight-storey apartment building behind St. Patrick’s Church on Brunswick Street.

Dexel Development’s half of the mega-developments proposed for the block bounded by Spring Garden Road, Robie Street, Carlton Street, and College Street. Dexel wants to build a 30-storey tower facing Spring Garden Road and Robie Street and a 20-storey tower facing Spring Garden Road, by mucking up four heritage sites on the block.

Halifax and West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — consideration of that proposed 19-storey building on the lot next to CTV.

Thursday

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — another resolution expressing alarm about climate change.

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — the council is set to approve an expansion of the Construction and Demolition (C&D) Transfer Station at 188 Ross Road.

Public Information Meeting – Case 22029 (Thursday, 7pm, Maritime Hall, Halifax Forum) — Armco is rolling out the Willow Tree proposal, already approved in concept by council.

Province

No public meetings for the rest of the week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Optimization Framework for Natural Gas Storage Assets Subject to Price Uncertainty (Wednesday, 10am, MA 310) — Paul Jobinpicard will talk about how to more efficiently destroy the planet.

Safe Cycling 101 2019 Bike Week Event (Wednesday, 11am, Dal Bike Centre, 1 Alumni Crescent) — Scott MacPhee will teach lane and destination positioning, road communication, and how to anticipate problems. Free bikes available for the class. Email to reserve your spot.

Reputation Research Open House (Wednesday, 3pm, McInnes Room, Dal SUB) —  here’s the babble used to describe this event:

In 2013, Dalhousie completed a robust research project in tandem with 100 Days of Listening, research that helped inform the university’s current strategic and marketing plans. Now, five years later and getting ready to welcome a new president, we’ve repeated this research to determine how far we’ve come, what opportunities have emerged and what we need to do to maintain and grow our reputation heading into our third century.

This comprehensive effort over the past three months has involved more than 3,300 people from within and outside the university, from across the country and beyond. Internal and external stakeholders took part in both qualitative and quantitative research. In fact, you may have participated in some of this research yourself.

Now, it’s time to hear some of the research results and provide input and ideas to help inform future reputation planning. Join us to learn about key findings and progress to date.

Drink every time someone says “collaboration.” RSVP here.

The Role of NPC2 in Cholesterol Transport and the Endocytic System (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — Aaron Woblistin will talk.

Afghan Cycles (Wednesday, 6pm, Auditorium, Museum of Natural History, Summer Street) — screening of film by Sarah Menzies and Let Media.

Plastic’s Republic (Wednesday, 7pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — Giovanna Riccio will talk about  “Plasticity, Barbie, and Plato,” and read from her book. More info here.

Thursday

How molecular imaging can improve the clinical translation of novel cancer therapies (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune Ballroom, VG) — Kimberly Brewer will talk. Info and register here.

Transportation Trip Planning 2019 Bike Week Event (Thursday, 9:30am, Killam Library) — cycling instructor Scott MacPhee will schedule a one-on-one 30- to 45-minute appointment to help people establish a personalized cycling route from home to work, school, or points beyond. Register here.

Reputation Research Open House (Thursday, 10am, Room 219, Student Learning Commons, Truro campus) — another round of babble.

Ethics in Research with Indigenous Peoples (Thursday, 11am, Room 1009, Rowe Management Building) — Julie Bull and Elder Geri Musqua-Leblanc will talk about research ethics, Indigenous  data sovereignty, and research governance in Atlantic Canada.

Reputation Research Open House (Thursday, 2:30pm, McInnes Room, SUB) — yet another round of babble.


In the harbour

05:00: Gerhard Schulte, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
05:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
08:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
10:30: Strymon, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
11:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, sails from Pier 28 for sea
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 41
13:00: Bella Vita, superyacht, arrives at Tall Ships Quay from Boston. This is John Risley’s former boat, called the Northern Star under his ownership (Risley now has a new Northern Star); the Bella Vita is now leased out for charter
13:00: JPO Aries, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
15:30: Gerhard Schulte sails for New York
22:00: MR Orestes, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands


Footnotes

I rushed off to that Community Services meeting yesterday only to find that it was cancelled. No word yet on rescheduling.

We have several very large projects in the works, and they’re taking much of my time.

I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. No mention of the CCPA report on the veils of the P3 Cobequid Pass ?? The Herald has a long article but omits to mention the significant errors in the document. Apparently the claims in the CUPE funded report were anonymously peer reviewed.

  2. I think it would be hilarious (and educational) if reporters adopted the “tank unit” funding measurement when questioning the mayor and councillors on such matters. Just the right amount of snark there…

    1. I’ll point out that the RCMP ended up paying ‘one tank’ worth of compensation for Labour Code violations in relation to the Moncton shooting a few years ago for not having the right equipment to deal with an active shooter in a suburban environment. Of course if the Halifax Shopping Center shooting had materialized, the tank would have been useless, but the tank would have been useful in a scenario like the Moncton shooting.

      I find the militarization of police distasteful, but I think – sadly – the purchase of a single tank for HRM is nothing to celebrate but it is not that unreasonable in my opinion.

      1. I dont think the tank would have done much in the Moncton tragedy. The officers who suffered fatality were in regular duty units. What would have helped most was access to long arms.
        Similarly in Fredericton where officers were ambushed.
        There are many, many options which would be far more effective than resorting to worst-case-scenario expenditure on a piece of equipment which serves no useful purpose.
        If they need something like that, the Canadian Forces is surplussing a number of Coyote armoured transports which possibly could be acquired for no cost.

        1. It does seem like buying brand new for something that hopefully won’t see use except for training is a bad idea.