News

1. Mark Furey is free to speak, but won’t

Justice Minister Mark Furey. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Conflict of Interest Commissioner Joe Kennedy has cleared Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey to speak to the Glen Assoun wrongful conviction.

In a letter released yesterday, Kennedy reviewed the Assoun case, the RCMP’s involvement in the case, and Furey’s worry that he had a conflict of interest:

Recently the Nova Scotia Supreme Court has released documents that indicate that the RCMP had relevant information in its possession during the Assoun appeal in 2006 that was not given to Assoun or his counsel.

Now counsel on behalf of Mr. Assoun are making requests of the Nova Scotia Department of Justice seeking a response to this “wrongful conviction.”

Clearly the RCMP will be central to the matter as it moves forward.

The requests and public pressure require action and response from the Nova Scotia Minister. 

However, Minister Furey has a problem.

He is a retired member of the RCMP having served in the force for 32 years.

He was with the RCMP in Nova Scotia during both Mr. Assoun’s trial and appeal.

But Kennedy goes on to say that since Furey did not work on the Assoun case, he has no conflict of interest. Kennedy goes on to make an important point:

The Minister is responsible to the people of Nova Scotia for the oversight of the RCMP function.

Some have argued that since the RCMP is a federal agency, responsibility for destruction of evidence in the Assoun case rests with the federal government, not the provincial government. But while there may be issues the force should look at at the national level, oversight rests with the provincial government.

Policing in Nova Scotia is regulated by the provincial Police Act. And while the Halifax Regional Municipality contracts with the RCMP for services with HRM, it does so only under the conditions of the provincial Municipal and Police Acts. Moreover, discipline of the RCMP is meted out by the provincial Police Review Board and the provincial Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT). This is clearly a provincial matter.

Click here to read Kennedy’s letter.

Immediately after Kennedy’s letter was released, Furey sent the Halifax Examiner the following statement:

The Conflict of Interest Commissioner has advised that he does not believe I am in conflict in managing this matter. As Minister of Justice, I will continue to remain impartial and to act with the utmost integrity. I thank the commissioner for his time and opinion. I will now review this matter in detail and consider next steps in consultation with my federal colleagues. 

In other words, the dickering continues.

Meanwhile, Glen Assoun is penniless, and is relying on the kindness and generosity of others to simply get through his days.

In anticipation of what surely will be a substantial settlement, the provincial government should immediately give Assoun an upfront payment, at least enough for him to get an apartment and pay for his living expenses. Every day of delay is another day of injustice done to Assoun.

(And a big thank you to Jennifer Henderson for running lead on this issue the past few days.)

2. Halifax Transit is increasing fares

The venerable #1 Spring Garden. Photo by Michael Taylor.

Halifax Transit is preparing to increase fares, effective September 30, as follows:

Single ride cash fare: increasing from $2.50 to $2.75.

10 Tickets: increasing from $20 to $24.75, and they’re going to be ginormous.

Youth: remains the same at $2, but the Youth classification will be changed from 5–15 to 5–17; however, for a six month “pilot” program, children 12 and under will ride for free. The Student fair (paid by HRCE) will be eliminated.

Senior: the $1.75 Senior fare will be eliminated entirely, so seniors will have to pay the regular adult fare of $2.75. However, the free Tuesday (10am–3:330pm, and after 6pm) service for seniors will remain.

MetroLink: eliminated. The current 185 route between the Sackville Terminal and Scotia Square will be replaced with three express routes at regular fair ($2.75) that will extend into neighbourhoods in Sackville and circle around downtown. The 159 Portland Hills will be replaced with conventional service at $2.75.

MetroX: increasing from $3.50 to $4.25.

Monthly pass: increasing from $78 to $82.50.

Airport: increasing from $3.50 to $6.

You can read all the justifications for the fare increases and other details here.

The gist of those justifications is that other cities have higher transit rates, and in terms of the ratio of income to bus fare, Halifax is at the low end of the spectrum.

All of which may be true, but come on. Council just declared a climate emergency but it is now increasing transit fares, which is guaranteed to reduce ridership, as past fare increases have demonstrated. The Halifax Transit report on its proposed increases sort of waves its hand at that inconvenient truth — “Anticipated changes to ridership levels and the resulting revenue impacts has been factored into” the budgeting — without actually defining the effect on ridership.

Meanwhile, we’re building a new highway in Burnside. Some climate emergency.

The fare increases were approved in principle by passage of the annual budget earlier this year, but the specifics must first be approved by council’s Transportation Committee tomorrow, and then again by the full council at a future meeting.

3. Atlantic Exchange Resto Group

The Atlantic Exchange Resto Group, the company initially behind The Exchange on Hollis, has filed for bankruptcy.

I wrote about the legal dispute over the restaurant in May:

From left, Robert Moore of The Exchange, Southwest Properties chairman and CEO Jim Spatz, Justin Garland of The Exchange, and Southwest Properties president and chief operating officer Gordon Laing are shown on the terrace of the new restaurant in the Maple in happier days.

In a press release issued back in the summer of 2017, Southwest Properties had big news for the Halifax restaurant scene:

A St. John’s based restaurant and hospitality development company with over 30 years experience, has ear marked Southwest Properties’ MAPLE as home to their new restaurant.

The Exchange on Hollis will be a premium casual dining experience located at the street level of MAPLE. Robert Moore, owner and President, has labelled the new experience as ‘kitchen & social’. “The modern, open floorplan of The Exchange will create an atmosphere that is as much entertainment as dining,” noted Moore. “And, the terrace is spectacular. It will be the place to be.”

Patrons will enjoy an interior space of over 7,800 square feet and a 2,300 square foot terrace with harbour views and a full outdoor bar and fireplace.

This is Southwest’s second restaurant with Moore and his company.  “They did a great job with the Keg at our Marriott Residence Inn in Moncton,” said Jim Spatz, Chairman and CEO of Southwest Properties. “We planned for a restaurant at MAPLE to enhance the resident experience and add to the vibrancy of the streetscape. I envisioned a restaurant with a modern, progressive vibe and Moore presented the ideal blend of a hip, urban feel for the space. It will be nothing like Halifax has seen before. “

The Exchange will serve up globally inspired dishes that are both sophisticated and approachable.  The restaurant will feature a fireplace, a long central bar and a mix of dining areas with soft seating.  Bar areas will be a focal point of the energy and excitement that will permeate throughout the restaurant and onto the terrace.  The kitchen will feature a first for Canada – a Josper Charcoal Grill oven.  The Josper is one of the hottest trends in Europe and the US and allows for the flavor of a grill, but the controlled cooking environment of an oven.

The Exchange plans to open in 2018. Restaurant details can be found at exchangeonhollis.ca

The website, however, leads not to “The Exchange on Hollis,” but to “XOH.” And that difference represents a two-million dollar-plus conspiracy, claims a lawsuit filed in Supreme Court on Friday.

The lawsuit was filed by the Atlantic Exchange Resto Group, the company that was established to operate The Exchange on Hollis; majority shareholder Robert Moore (57.5% of stock); and minority shareholders Justin Garland, Shawn Gibbons, and Donald Gibbons (7.5% of stock each).

Atlantic Exchange’s lawsuit names SWP Maple Operating Partnership, which is owned by two other companies that are controlled by the Spatz family; Carl Sparkes Family Trust (2012); and Carl Sparkes as defendants. The Sparkes Family Trust, controlled by Carl Sparkes, owned the remaining 20% of Atlantic Exchange.

According to the lawsuit, in May 2017 Atlantic Exchange signed a 10-year lease with two five-year options for renewal for the restaurant space in the Maple. That lease spelled out who would be responsible for various leasehold improvements (that is, the landlord or the tenant). Atlantic Exchange says it hired Lindsay Construction, which in turn hired a subcontractor, Mill-Right Woodworking. Atlantic Exchange says it paid Lindsay Construction $2,284,207.54 and Mill-Right Woodworking $50,000.

Those payments, however, did not cover all the work done, and on February 28, 2019, Lindsay and Mill-Right filed builders’ liens against both Atlantic Exchange and the landlord, SWP Maple. In claims subsequently filed with the court, Lindsay said it was owed $331.948.47, and Mill-Right claimed it was owed $114,399.90.

Atlantic Exchange is contesting the builders’ liens and their respective claims. It says the liens were not filed within a 60-day requirement, and it has filed its own claim against Lindsay for damages from construction delays, as well as against “the engineers who designed the plans for the construction for their contribution to the delay.”

Atlantic Exchange says it was on good terms with the SWP Maple through March, and established a payment plan for outstanding rent. The April payment under that plan was accepted by the landlord, but on April 15, SWP Maple terminated the lease, saying Atlantic Exchange had defaulted.

A beer delivery was being made to XOH@MAPLE yesterday. The restaurant still has no exterior signage. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Before the lease was terminated, claims Atlantic Exchange, SWP was also in negotiations with Sparkes for a prospective deal in which Sparkes would take over the restaurant’s space. According to the lawsuit, Sparkes had twice (in February and again in March) offered to buy out the other shareholders of Atlantic Exchange, but both offers were declined.

Unbeknownst to the other shareholders, Sparkes created a second company, XOH@MAPLE LTD, which he registered with the Registry of Joint Stock Companies on March 19, 2019.

The lawsuit continues:

On April 15 2019, the same day that Atlantic Exchange was locked out of the Premises by the Landlord, The Exchange on Hollis’ Facebook page was updated without the authority or permission of Atlantic Exchange. The Facebook post stated:

The Exchange on Hollis will be closed from today April 15th until monday (sic) April 22nd. We are updating new systems and working on general maintenance! Look forward to seeing you next week! We’ll be back better than ever.

On April 18, Atlantic Exchange appeared in court to ask for an emergency injunction (it appears not to have been issued), but since then Sparkes has been trying “to gain access to Atlantic Exchange’s recipes” and continues to operate Atlantic Exchange’s social media.

Atlantic Exchange is asking for compensation for breach of contract, wrongful termination of the lease, “civil conspiracy against Atlantic Exchange,” and “unjust enrichment at the expense of Atlantic Exchange.”

Atlantic Exchange is represented by Dennis James of Patterson Law. The allegations contained in the lawsuit have not been tested in court, and SWP Maple and Sparkes have not yet responded to them.

Several readers have told me that there’s a sexual harassment charge tied up in all this somehow, but I have no information on that.

4. Sexual harassment in the military

A retired medical technician says that her supervisor, Master Warrant Officer Andrew Michael Durnford, sexually harassed her onboard the HCMS Toronto. The allegation is made in a statement of claim filed in Supreme Court yesterday.

The alleged harassment occurred between January 2010 and February 2011, when Durnford was a physician assistant on the ship.

The retired technician claims that Durnford repeatedly and without her consent groped her breasts and buttocks, kissed and hugged her, stroked her hair, referred to her as “Baby Girl,” and made comments of a sexual nature while attempting to pursue a sexual relationship with her.

The statement says that Durnford pleaded guilty to Section 129 of the National Defence Act on December 4, 2018. That section deals with “Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Discipline.” Durnford is now retired.

The retired medical technician names the Attorney General of Canada as defendant in the claim, and is asking for unspecified damages. She is represented by Bedford lawyer Barry Mason.

The allegations have not been tested in court.

5. Football lawsuit


Another legal case I’ve been keeping my eyes on is Jason Warren’s lawsuit against Football Nova Scotia and Football Canada. I wrote about it last August, and there’s a hearing scheduled for this September.

Warren was once named “Coach of the Year” by Football Nova Scotia, but things went sour after a trip to the International Bowl in Arlington, Texas, where parents says coaches were “out drinking every night,” leaving the children unsupervised, and that one child was left off the bus returning to the airport. In the wake of the allegations, Warren was fired — unjustly so, he says.

In February, Warren dropped Football Nova Scotia from the lawsuit, but continued his claim against Football Canada. Football Nova Scotia then sought $25,000 from Warren to cover its legal costs.

But in a decision published yesterday, Justice Peter Rosinski said decisions about costs must wait until after the September hearing. That’s because Football Nova Scotia and Football Canada are represented by the same law firm — Stewart McKelvey — albeit by different lawyers in the firm. The firm “must have satisfied itself that there was no sufficient identifiable, and insurmountable conflict of interest,” writes Rosinski. Moreover, there’s no harm in waiting, and Warren isn’t exactly made out of money.

6. The Icarus Report

The plane looks like this, except part of the wing is missing. Photo: Wikipedia

An American military plane started falling apart in flight, reports Transport Canada:

Approximately one hour after touchdown of a U.S. Military Airlift Command Lockheed C-5 (Galaxy) (RCH326) from Dover Air Force Base, DE (KDOV) to Gander, NL (CYQX), the CYQX tower first became aware of an issue when emergency response services (ERS) contacted the tower to inquire if they had any further information about where the aircraft had struck the debris that had caused the damage to the C5 Galaxy’s horizontal stabilizer. Subsequent information was obtained from the aircrew, where it was discovered that there was a panel missing from the right wing close to the leading edge between the inner engine and the fuselage. The crew suspects that this panel came off in flight and then caused the damage to the horizontal stabilizer, but they could not be sure as to when this had occurred. The airport conducted a thorough inspection of the runway and could not locate any debris.

Just duct tape that sucker back together, and Bob’s your uncle.


Government

City

Wednesday

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — the committee wants to put the University Avenue Fire Station on the historic registry..

Thursday

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — see #2 above.

Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — Fougere Menchenton Architecture Inc. is seeking five changes to its approval for construction of a 12-storey hotel at 1872 Brunswick Street, at the corner of Gottingen and across from Citadel Hill. No doubt the thing will be up and running long before the Nova Centre Hotel is open.

Province

No public meetings this week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Predicting the Ambulance Offload Delay Problem Using A Hybrid Decision Tree Model (Wednesday, 10am, Room MA 310, 5269 Morris Street) — Mengyu Li will speak.

Feasibility study and analysis of converting the urban bus fleet from diesel to electric bus in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (Wednesday, 11am, Room MA 310, 5269 Morris Street) — Prasanth Chundi will speak.

Mount Saint Vincent

Wednesday

Making and Mentoring (Wednesday, 6pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — from the listing:

In conjunction with First You Dream: Celebrating 75 Years of the Nova Scotia Talent Trust, MSVU Art Gallery is hosting a panel discussion on the topic of mentorship with artists Lux Habrich, Dan O’Neill and Pamela Ritchie. MSVU Art Gallery Director Laura Ritchie will facilitate a conversation about the artists’ experiences with mentorship and how it has influenced their respective practices and professional development.  All are welcome and refreshments will be served.

American Sign Language interpretation is available on request. More info here.


In the harbour

Tuesday
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
07:30: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,058 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a six-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
14:00: part of the HalTerm expansion, a “crib,” will be moved from Pier 9 to HalTerm
17:30: Adventure of the Seas sails for New York


Footnotes

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

I don’t have a coyeditor today. Please be kind.


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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. Is eliminating the senior discount an unintended consequence of the ridiculous new tickets, when it was realized how idiotic it would be to expect children to carry a couple of banknote sized tickets for every trip? Mind you, I totally agree with making bus rides free for children under 12 and that should be a permanent change.

  2. I read that seniors’ bus passes will cost 24% more, if Metro Transit has its way. When you think that more than 60% of Canadians have no PENSIONS other than the government’s CPP and OAS, seniors are “have nots”. Also, every recent study on seniors notes that physical exercise and companionship are major ingredients for seniors’ wellbeing. Many seniors cannot drive, so If bus fares rise for them, fewer will be able to make exercise or participating in their community a priority.

  3. The CARP Nova Scotia Chapter with over 4000 members in Halifax has a number of concerns:

    1 To increase the Fare for seniors from $1.75 to $2.75 would be a whopping 64% increase for our seniors.
    2. Just because some other jurisdictions are not offering a special fare for seniors is not a sufficient reason to withdraw it from older citizens in our community.
    3. The other programs offered by Halifax Transit are not sufficient to protect vulnerable seniors. The low-income transit pass program, and the ESIA pass program are only effective for those households earning less the $30,000 per year.
    4. Many seniors are on fixed incomes of just over the so called “low-income” threshold amount and such an increase will be very detrimental to all of them.
    5. The free pass for a few hours on Tuesdays is of no help to seniors who much travel regularly, often daily, to appointments, part time jobs to supplement their low income or other commitments.
    6. We are very disturbed that we only learned yesterday that this topic would be discussed by the Transportation Committee tomorrow giving us no time (as a totally volunteer organization with no staff) to prepare a response or make arrangements to appear before the Transportation Committee.
    7. We understand the need to increase transit fees from time to time as costs rise, but a 64% increase to seniors is totally unfair and unacceptable.

  4. It’s wonderful that Conflict of Interest Commissioner Joe Kennedy reminded Mr. Furey and our provincial government that “The Minister is responsible to the people of Nova Scotia for the oversight of the RCMP function”. Responsibility in this matter is clear-cut and is defined by policies, laws, and other governing legislation.

    The problem with this matter is accountability of those responsible for the governance of the parties involved and ,more specifically, the lack thereof. Yet another case of our current government practicing their “bury it and run” strategy.

    Given Mr. Furey has been cleared to speak on this matter by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, it will be interesting to see what the governments next excuse will be to avoid saying anything of meaning or value in regard to this matter.

  5. Apparently they didn’t even look at the environmental impact of fare increases. §Environmental Implications in full “There were no environmental implications identified associated with this report.”

    1. I would be really curious to know on average, including deadheading, how many passengers the average bus is actually carrying.

  6. There are a lot of things wrong with the suggested Transit fare changes. One stated goal is to encourage people to use non-cash methods of payment, but they decrease the incentive of using tickets vs cash (and make the tickets larger and thus less convenient to carry around). Cash fares will increase by 10% but ticket prices increase by 24%. Put another way, the discount for using tickets decreases from 50 cents to 27.5 cents, a 45% reduction in benefit. They have made passes more of a discount relative to tickets, which is positive, but that could be done without raising ticket prices so much.

    I agree with increasing the age at which children can ride for free (though I’d like to see it even higher) but seniors should not have to pay for that. The report makes it clear that removing the senior discount is the trade-off for more children riding for free. I’m also worried that children riding free is a pilot whereas the increased fares for seniors appears to be permanent.

    Perhaps the most telling line in the report in under the heading of Environmental Implications: “There were no environmental implications identified associated with this report.” In other words, not only will these changes not help address the climate emergency, but they didn’t even seriously consider whether they should.

    1. You have to wonder what actual research they did for this report. Seems 100% administration driven. The new ticket system is so bad, I would argue that whoever made that decision should be subject to disciplinary action.

  7. When it comes to electric buses, or card payment systems, or efficient routing, Halifax Transit has no interest in what other cities do. Apparently we have unique challenges here. But we can still use the fares in other systems to justify an increase here.

    1. You have hit the proverbial nail on the head. Halifax Transit has a long history of stubbornly refusing to explore proven best practices from other jurisdictions and acts like they are the only transit system in the world. That is how we get ridiculous decisions like the poster sized bus tickets, lack of electronic payment system. poor routing models. last-century web tools. etc.

  8. The idiocy and short-sightedness of Halifax Transit is mind-boggling! Not only do we face a climate emergency; but the demographics show an aging population and that includes many of the folks who are still working and commuting. Once people retire, ( whether voluntarily or not) they often find that their fixed incomes are insufficient to support owning and operating a car…so they don’t care about the Burnside connector; but they do care about mass transit. However, as currently configured, Halifax mass transit works for those who commute during normal commuting hours and work a full day. It does not work so well for those who work part time, or work swing shifts, or volunteer part time, or who want to eat dinner with their friends in Bedford or elsewhere and return later at night. So essentially, we are facing a fare increase for crappy service and we are effectively giving seniors on limited fixed incomes a few hours on one day a week to use mass transit to escape their neghbourhoods and homes to shop, volunteer or go to doctors’ appointments. The only redeeming factor is that, with luck, all those who devised this policy in Halifax Transit will get older too and then have to suffer the consequences for their bone -headed decisions. Like the rest of us, the retired Halifax Transit decision makers will be walking, cycling or staying at home and dealing with freaky hot, stormy or icy weather because of climate change and because mass transit doesn’t go where we need it to go and when.

  9. The new transit fares, as noted by staff, will help Halifax remain an average city, Council’s overarching objective. Still, we can expect feces to hit the fan when the proposed 57 percent increase to the seniors’ fare comes up for debate.

  10. Governments all over the place have been declaring “climate emergencies” but have been doing little to nothing to actually put their official panic into concrete action. The “poster child” for government failure to react is the plan to construct the new art gallery on the waterfront in the highest risk zone for climate change impacts in the City.