News

1. Yarmouth ferry

“Bay Ferries has announced that the Alakai ferry — dubbed ‘The Cat’ — will begin sailing between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor, Maine starting June 21,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

On its website, the company says that date is “subject to change” because of the renovations required to the ferry terminal in Maine.

A public hearing will take place in Bar Harbor tomorrow night (Feb.27) on the site plan application by Bay Ferries’ American affiliate, Atlantic Fleet Services.

Documents filed with the town’s Planning Department estimate the renovations will cost between $3.25 and $3.75 million USD, (approaching $5 million CDN). The proposed renovations include a new loading dock, repairs to the pier and the demolition and rebuild of the Customs area to accommodate modern screening and security procedures. Nova Scotia’s Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Renewal, Lloyd Hines, has confirmed the province will pay for the renovations and has engaged consultant Bruce Tuck as a monitor.

Hines has also confirmed Nova Scotia taxpayers will pay the salaries of US Border and Customs agents “as a cost of doing business” but neither the province nor the company have been willing to provide an estimate of that cost.

Click here to read “The Yarmouth ferry is going to Bar Harbor — a little late, and at some unknown cost…”

2. “Playing politics”

I’m always amused when politicians throw about the term “playing politics” to disparage other politicians.

People are political — we can no more take politics out human affairs than we can take humans out of human affairs. I mean, I guess we could have an omnipotent dictatorship, but even that is a form of politics. Otherwise, we have people constantly jockeying for political position, trying to persuade the public to their view. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, although we should be aware of how the power dynamics play out (through SLAPP suits, massively funded PR campaigns, etc.).

We get a lot of this “playing politics” stuff in Nova Scotia. The term was a favourite of former PC leader Jamie Baillie:
• in April 2016, “Baillie suggested the premier was playing politics” with the film tax credit, reported Keith Doucette for the Canadian Press.
• in November 2016, Jamie Baillie accused Stephen McNeil of “playing politics” with a video about the negotiations with the teachers union, reported Marieke Walsh for Global.
• in March 2017, Baillie accused “Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil of playing political games by refusing to rule out a quick election call after tabling the spring budget next month,” reported the Canadian Press.
• in May 2017, “Jamie Baillie accused McNeil of playing politics with education,” reported Andrew Vaughan for the Canadian Press.

But McNeil wasn’t about to let Baillie own the “playing politics” smear, so now both the premier and the opposition toss about the catchphrase with abandon:
• later in May 2017, it was the Liberals accusing Baillie of “playing politics with sexual assault,” again reported Vaughan for the Canadian Press.
• in May 2018, “PC candidate Tory Rushton has accused the premier of playing politics with the school” in Springfield, reported Darrell Cole for the Amherst News.
• in June 2018, “Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia, Karla MacFarlane, is disappointed that the McNeil Liberals are playing politics with child support payments.”
• and of course, most recently, the Liberals and McNeil are accusing the PCs of “playing politics with Nova Scotia’s economy,” by filing a lawsuit to force the government to publicly reveal the management fees paid to Bay Ferries, reported Jean Laroche for the CBC.
• I should note that way back in 2010, it was McNeil accusing then-premier Darrell Dexter of “playing politics” by cancelling the old CAT ferry, as reported by News 95.7.

It’s great fun that the political parties abuse each other by saying that the other political party is political.

Issmat Al-Akahli, the only person in Nova Scotia who isn’t political.

But the latest charge of “playing politics!” is especially rich.

Reports Gary Nickerson for CJLS:

A businessman has scrapped his plans for a development in Yarmouth because of all the political rhetoric and a lawsuit over the ferry service.

Issmat Al-Akhali, President and CEO of Blacksheep Project Management in Halifax, says he had financing in place to develop a business in Yarmouth that would provide student accommodations for people attending community college and cater to tourists in the summer.

The ferry service was critical to his business proposal and the decision to go to Yarmouth.

But Al-Akahli tells Acadia News his backers have pulled out.

“Even though no specific action has taken place by any party to say the ferry will be discontinued, just the mere mention of the possibility that the ferry could go away is definitely chilling.”

He says there is still push-back from both the PC’s and NDP on whether there should be a ferry in Yarmouth.

“Unless we can hear some clear indication that the ferry’s fate is based on an agreement from all three parties that it’s good for the economy of southwestern Nova Scotia then we have to hold back.”

Al-Akahli says the ferry should not be used as a “political football.”

He’s now looking for a location elsewhere in the province.

Give Al-Akahli credit for not actually saying “playing politics,” I guess, but his use of “political football” certainly echoes McNeil’s use of “playing politics.”

Understand that Al-Akahli is as political as they come. He ran former Liberal MP Mike Savage’s campaign to become mayor of Halifax, for instance.

Al-Akahli doesn’t give us any evidence to back up the claim that he was about to build something in Yarmouth — he doesn’t tell us who these supposed “investors” are so we can ask them about it. But trust him.

But even if it’s true that Al-Akahli was going to build a dorm in Yarmouth and now he’s instead going to build it somewhere else — so what? Of course people are going to make investment decisions based on how and where government spends public money. If you build a highway exit at place X instead of at place Y, you’ll get shitty strip malls and gas stations at place X and not at place Y. If you make a gazillion dollars available to study education instead of studying poverty, you’ll get a litany of “education consultants” lining up at Province House and the poverty experts will go hungry. If you spend millions of economic development dollars on companies that shill body scanners and quack medicine instead of companies that provide truly useful human needs, perversely, you’ll get bankrupt body scanner and quack medicine companies and also bankrupt companies that would provide truly useful human needs. (Maybe that last one doesn’t perfectly illustrate the point.)

The question for public policy is: What is the best use of limited public dollars? I think my plan for simply tossing $20 bills from a helicopter hovering over downtown Yarmouth would have a better return and better results for the people of Yarmouth than the ferry subsidy, but other more serious proposals for spending the money should be considered, researched, and debated. What’s the best use for this money? Through that discussion, people will argue from their various perspectives, including from considering how they can best profit from public policy.

That is to say, it’s a matter of politics.

3. Sewage Plant Estates

This item is written by Erica Butler.

Last night city council approved the 90 per cent construction design for the Cogswell redevelopment, starting a process that could see demolition of the downtown interchange start as early as September. A drawing of the 90 per cent design was released a few days before (on Friday), attached to a staff report on the redevelopment. Councillors were privy to more detailed slides in council chambers on Tuesday.

Here’s what’s been proposed and approved:

If you’ve been paying attention to the Cogswell process, you’ll notice a fairly major change here over the 60 per cent design drawings that council approved in June 2018: there’s one fewer roundabout. Following the advice of Gehl Architects, the more southerly, downtown roundabout has been replaced by a regular T intersection at Barrington and Upper Water Streets.

Develop Nova Scotia planner and master-Photoshopper TJ Maguire posted this comparative mash up of the 60 and 90 per cent designs, to help people visualize what had changed:

This is kind of a big deal.

The Cogswell project has been critized, by the Examiner included, for its lack of public consultation between the initial Cogswell Shake Up in 2013, and the approved 60 per cent design in 2018. The street network, as approved by council in June 2018, was not meant to be up for debate during the public consultations held last summer.

But thanks to a group of 27 developers, planners, academics, and advocacy groups, it was. The group even convinced HRM to help fund a Gehl review the 60 per cent design. The Gehl report was released on February 5; it included a list of recommended changes ranging from including the Trademart building property in the master plan, to offering a variety of land parcel sizes to ensure variety of building forms, to transforming the southern roundabout into a standard intersection.

Some of the same groups took issue with the Cogswell planning process again at this 90 per cent stage, saying that there was not enough time for the public, or even councillors themselves, to fully consider the changes in the proposal. (Normally something this complex and important would go to a committee first, allowing more public discussion before hitting council.) Councillors mostly poo-pooed the complaints, and quickly voted down a Matt Whitman motion to defer a decision on the project for 30 days so that people had a chance to absorb the new plan.

Hey #Halifax! Did you know that one of the biggest infrastructure/planning projects of our generation is being voted on @ council tomorrow? The 90% design for #CogswellDistrict was released to the public on Friday to be approved on Tuesday, leaving little time for public input. https://t.co/RLDSTdcw1u

— Meghan (she/her) (@Meghan_Doucette) February 26, 2019

With the street network now approved, planners will next start the land use planning for the site, which will determine the sizes and styles of buildings we may end up with.

4. Dalhousie: We’ll feed hungry students if they write nice notes to rich people

Photo: Halifax Examiner

I’m pulling this item up from the campus listings:

#DalThanks (Thursday, 11:30am, foyer, Dal Student Union Building and alumni Lounge, B Building, Sexton campus) — uggh. There’s something particularly disturbing about this:

Come out on February 28 and write a thank-you note to Dal donors to recognize their generosity. Every student who writes a note will get a $5 voucher for Dal Food Services. If you write 3 or more notes you will be entered to win a $100 on your Dal Card.

Understand that students are going hungry, and use of the Dal Food Bank is exploding:

Food has become the necessity that many students can’t afford as their money is used up paying tuition, buying books and covering the cost of housing.

It’s a trend that’s led to a jump in the number of students using food banks at universities across the province, according to the Canadian Federation of Students.

“Students are unable to even access the food bank or get food because it’s clearing so fast,” said Jade Byard-Peek, deputy chair of the Canadian Federation of Students

In the past four years, the use of campus food banks has been on the rise, according to Byard-Peek, but there’s been a drastic increase at some Nova Scotia schools this year.

The food bank at Dalhousie University has seen a 30 per cent increase in the number of students it serves since last year. Some weeks, up to 200 students show up to get food.

“We usually empty out before we get our next supply in,” said Michael Davies-Cole, the manager of the food bank at Dalhousie University.

In this context, bribing poor students with food to brownnose rich donors is, well, it’s what our society is all about. It’s disgusting.

5. Digby quarry

Opposition to the proposed Digby Neck Quarry led to its rejection on environmental grounds. Photo: Council For Canadians

“Canada has been ordered to pay $7 million in damages, plus interest, to a U.S. concrete company that used the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to successfully argue it was wrongly denied permission to build a quarry in Nova Scotia,” reports Paul Withers for the CBC:

The award falls far short of the $443 million in compensation the concrete company, Bilcon, was seeking.

Arbitrators released details about the award in the long-running case Monday.

6. Elizabeth Fry Society

Tomorrow night, the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia is hosting a book launch for Resource Guide for Nova Scotia — Where to go for Help, which provides information to women and girls involved in the criminal justice system for “accessing services related to health care, mental health supports, food security, housing, youth issues, and more.”

Thursday night’s event is called “A Book, a Bid and a Bite. . .” From the press release:

“Every year, we work with hundreds of women and girls who are dealing with histories of violence, abuse, poverty, addictions, mental illness, and other traumatic experiences,” said Emma Halpern, Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia. “Most of our work supporting women and girls happens outside of the public eye, so we hope this event will introduce community members to E. Fry and raise some funds to support the crucial work our staff and volunteers do everyday.”

In addition to launching the guide, “A Book, a Bid and a Bite. . .” will feature a short presentation on the work of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia; a silent auction that will include limited edition, signed, art prints by Carl Beam; and a selection of finger foods.

“I used the services of the Elizabeth Fry Society throughout my journey in the correctional system. They listened and gave me guidance: from how to talk to my children about what was happening with me, to in-reach while I was incarcerated, to being there to support me through my parole hearing. And now that I am back in the community, they offer programming and continued support,” says Brandy, a client of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia.  “E. Fry helped me through the hardest time in my life. The impact that has on you is hard to even put into words. It is invaluable to those of us need it.”

The event is at Royal Artillery Park, Thursday from 5–7pm; tickets are $2o, and available here, or at the door.

Elizabeth Fry is a worthwhile organization, and worthy of our support. I’ll be there; it’d be great if Examiner readers joined me.


Noticed

Canadaland’s Oppo podcast is silly.

The podcast is set up with Jen Gerson and Justin Ling debating each other, Gerson supposedly representing “the right,” and Ling representing “the left.” Problem is, neither is particularly representatives of their respective side.

Still and all, I listen. I like Ling personally, and when in each other respective towns, we try to catch a beer together. (I don’t know Gerson.) And Ling and Gerson are knowledgeable about politics, at least in an insider-y fashion of being connected to political operatives. I usually learn something from listening.

But the latest episode of Oppo leaves me angry. Ling and Gerson agree that we should exploit the Alberta oil fields for the next 50 years, and in the meanwhile Alberta needs to figure out what to do when the price of oil comes down after 50 years.

Never mind that if we continue to burn oil unabated for 50 years, it’s the end of the world as we know it.

In the podcast, Ling discounts such worries as crazy environmentalist blather.

These are the opinions of two people who are supposed to be young and hip.

Young people: no one in politics gives two shits about you or your future. If I were you, I’d burn shit down.


Government

City

Wednesday

Public Information Meeting – Case 22051 (Wednesday, 7pm, Prospect Road Community Centre, Hatchet Lake) — application by Sunrose Land Use Consulting on behalf of Hatchet Lake Plaza Ltd. to enter into a development agreement for service station and associated convenience store and drive thru restaurant at 1656 Prospect Road, Hatchet Lake.

Info here.

Thursday

Budget Committee (Thursday, 9:30am, City Hall) — council is getting near to finalizing the budget process.

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — maybe they’ll talk about the FOIPOP website security failure if the cowardly Liberals let them.

Thursday

Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Lift as We Climb: Empowering Black Nurses and Black Nursing Students Through Education, Research and Practice (Wednesday, 12pm, Room 112, Forrest Building, Dal School of Nursing) — Keisha Jefferies will speak.

Assessing Political Bias on Campus (Wednesday, 2pm, B400, Killam Library) — Sean Aitken, a PhD candidate in Psychology, will speak.

Discomfort in Multiple Spaces and Encounters (Wednesday, 5:30pm, Room 3111, Mona Campbell Building) — an African Heritage Month panel discussion with Wendie L. Poitras, Barbara Hamilton-Hinch, Mario Rolle, Aisha Abawajy, and Devon Bundy. More info: ifeyinwa.mbakogu@dal.ca

There’s Something in the Water (Wednesday, 6pm, Room 1020, Rowe management Building) — Ingrid Waldron will discuss her book. Tickets here.

Thursday

#DalThanks (Thursday, 11:30am, foyer, Dal Student Union Building and alumni Lounge, B Building, Sexton campus) — see News item #4 above.

John Bull and Sons: The Empire Marketing Board and the Creation of a British Imperial Food System (Thursday, 1:05pm, 25 Banting, Agricultural Campus, Truro) — based on James’ Murton’s chapter in Edible Histories, Cultural Politics: Towards a Canadian Food History. Refreshments served. More info: Deborah.Stiles@dal.ca  .

Exploring Multivariate Data with Sparse Projection Pursuit Analysis (Thursday, 3:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Peter Wentzell will talk about his joint work with Yannick MacMillan and Stephen Driscoll. Their abstract:

Exploratory data analysis methods have become an essential part of modern chemical research involving multivariate measurements. In some fields, techniques such as principal components analysis (PCA) and hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) are applied in more than 50% of published research articles. The popularity of these methods can be attributed to the intuitive visualization of data and their increasing role as de facto methods to support hypotheses in experiments involving a limited number of samples. Projection pursuit analysis (PPA) is an interesting alternative to traditional exploratory tools because it is based on finding “interesting” projections of the data. Although it has been found to be extremely effective in cases where other methods fail, it has several drawbacks, including a requirement for a high sampleto-variable ratio (“skinny data”) and poor interpretability of the projection vectors. Sparse projection pursuit analysis (SPPA) is variant of PPA that addresses both of these issues, combining a kurtosis-based PPA algorithm with a genetic algorithm (GA) for variable selection. In this talk, the principles of PPA and its sparse implementation will be presented, with several examples from chemistry to illustrate its effectiveness for unsupervised clustering of data​.

 The Future of Food Sustainability: Agriculture Solutions to Feed Nine Billion and Beyond (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Brandon Hebor, co-founder of Ripple Farms, will speak.

Fire Pon Rome: Rastafari and anti-Fascism (Thursday, 7pm, room 217, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Robbie Shilliam from Johns Hopkins University will speak.

Through the music of Bob Marley many people across the globe have become acquainted with the Rastafari lexicon. Most popular, perhaps, is the term “Babylon”, which in Rastafari pertains to an iniquitous “system” (criminal justice, capitalism etc.) under which humanity suffers and which must be replaced by making heaven (Zion) on earth. Fewer people might know that, in Rastafari, Babylon is synonymous with Rome. Why Rome? To address this question takes us on a journey through the inter-war period of the 20th century and the struggle against Italian fascism which pivoted around Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of sovereign Ethiopia. Commitment to the struggle spanned Caribbean and African colonies, North America and Europe, and included Black and white activists, community leaders, establishment figures and rebels. What bound them all together was an understanding that to be anti-fascist one had to – at the same time – be anti-colonial. Rastafari as a faith and movement was tempered in this crucible. As the iconic expression of anti-colonial anti-fascism, what might Rastafari say about our current predicament?

Val Napoleon. Photo: UVic Photo Services

Eavesdropping: A Raven Meeting at the Graveyard to Discuss Indigenous Law (Thursday, 7pm, Room 105, Schulich School of Law) — Val Napoleon from the University of Victoria will suggest that:

eavesdropping is a particular form of legal research that will allow us to think about some of the pressing Indigenous legal issues that are emerging today, including gendered politics, power, internal oppressions, expectations, and transsystemic teaching.​

Mount Saint Vincent

Wednesday

Kavi Ade (Wednesday, 5pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — from the listing:

Kavi Ade is an activist, arts educator and nationally recognized spoken word poet of Afro & Indigenous Caribbean descent. Kavi’s poetry is deeply personal. Through poetry and performance Kavi speaks on race, gender, sexuality, and social justice, chronicling despair, grasping at hope, and exploring the ways a body can learn to survive. RSVP: ami@msvu.ca by Feb 26, 2019. Kavi Ade’s website.


In the harbour

03:00: Sichem New York, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Saint John
12:00: Gotland Marieann, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Cape Canaveral, Florida
15:00: Julius-S, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
18:00: Sichem New York sails for sea


Footnotes

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

I’m still tired from that Risley thing.


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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. The International Panel on Climate Change says we only have 12 years to act or we will be locked into a truly horrible future. Given that the IPCC has consistently underestimated the effects and the speed with which climate change is happening, we probably only have 6 to 8 years. While there are many ways to slow climate change, the low hanging fruit is to limit or reduce the use of diesel and gas powered transportation for cars and trucks. Other cities of all sizes in around the world are planning their developments to do just this . But the Cogwell plan still gives priority to cars, trucks and other fossil fuel powered transit. It is time for North America to give up its love affair with the car and the myth that cars and trucks are needed because we are primarily rural. [ More than 82% of North Americans live in urban areas.]
    It will be at least 5-6 years before the Cogswell redevelopment is under way and most of the development is taking place along and below Barrington, a street that would be “beachfront” property because of the oceans’ rising according to the Nova Scotia climate adaptation reports produced in 2005 or 2007. It looks like the reports are not too far off if one takes a look at the interactive maps produced by Climate Central https://seeing.climatecentral.org/#14/44.6505/-63.6062?show=lockinAnimated&level=8&unit=feet&pois=hide . One need only look at the devastation in New York caused by Hurricane Sandy imagine what could happen and is likely to happen to Halifax in the next decade or two. New York spent $61 Billion on relief efforts for that one storm and lost $25 billion in business. So this begs the question of why HRM is proceeding with plans to locate residential housing in an area which will see massive flooding as a result of climate change? Saying that the developers are taking the risk and will pay is shortsighted. In the end HRM taxpayers will pay when the developers go bankrupt or have otherwise disappeared off of the scene. The bankruptcy of the huge California electric company PSE&G as a result of climate change is only the first of such suits to come. California taxpayers are footing the bill for damage to 3% of the state caused by fires from PSE&G’s downed power lines over a two year period.

    If the Council really wants to stand behind its climate change manifesto, maybe they should think harder before giving the green light to development in areas that are susceptible to the effects of climate change.

    1. “It will be at least 5-6 years before the Cogswell redevelopment is under way”

      It’ll be underway this year.

      Climate change is absolutely no joke, and we will indeed have to contend with higher sea levels, but it doesn’t do anyone any good to be hyperbolic or blow things out of proportion. Sea levels in Halifax are expected to risk ~1 m by 2100. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s also a long way from Barrington being “beach front” property; we have a pretty severe and rapid elevation change downtown.

      One of the aspects of the Cogswell Plan is actually to increase elevations and tackle flooding problems along Upper Water Street.

  2. I rarely go downtown anymore. Everywhere you look blue sky is now eclipsed by one massive building after the next lining long stone thoroughfares. I used to have an office on Barrington Street in the old Roy Building. Barrington was considered a fast paced car/bus shute, not pedestrian friendly. But on this recent excursion I looked with relief at it’s familiar streetscape of eccentric human size buildings with quirky facades. Ah, humanity ! I cannot imagine what the current developers are thinking – there is nothing, zero, zilch! charming or inviting about the atmosphere they are creating downtown. Who would buy these cold grey expensive condos??? Driving home toward Dalhousie I got more depressed, anticipating the ruination of Spring Garden at Robie and College. Cogswell will be more of the same. I think we need a citizens lawsuit against our elected officials who are ruining Halifax one street at a time.

  3. It’s kind of weird that the Yarmouth rooming house not-being-built story is spun as a universally bad thing. It may be too bad for Yarmouth (I don’t know if it is), but it might be a good news story for Truro or Amherst or Lawrencetown or or Churchpoint or wherever else the thing is going to be built instead.

    Oppo is… something. Fortunately there are now a handful of very good, actual left Canadian politics podcasts if that’s your thing. The Alberta Advantage is definitely the best when it comes to politics, oil and western Canada (particularly Alberta obviously).

  4. I wouldn’t worry too much about the Cogswell intersection redevelopment. One of the big developers will come up with a scheme to make a huge McCondo development that will change everything on the plan anyway. Developers in Halifax find it cute that the municipality makes these pretty little drawings that everyone ultimately ignores.