News

1. Government drops effort to deport Abdoul Abdi

The news was announced by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale via a tweet at 9pm last night:

The Government of Canada respects the decision filed on July 13 by the Federal Court concerning Abdoul Abdi. The Government will not pursue deportation for Mr. Abdi.

— Ralph Goodale (@RalphGoodale) July 17, 2018

“Abdi’s lawyer, Benjamin Perryman, says he didn’t receive any formal communication from the government but says this is ‘fantastic news,’” reports Amanda Debison for CTV:

Perryman says he was only notified of the news through Twitter and wants to confirm that the announcement means what it appears to say.

“It looks like Canada is dropping the case against Mr. Abdi all together,” Perryman said.

He tells CTV Atlantic it’s unfortunate that it has taken this long, but he’s “glad it looks like the government has done the right thing.”

“I hope the government takes steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Perryman said.

As I reported Monday, Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald set aside the decision to proceed with deportation efforts with a ruling issued late Friday afternoon.

2. Cannabis overreach

Yesterday, Halifax city council approved two changes in existing bylaws such as to regulate cannabis use.

The first has to do with banning the smoking of cannabis in parks and playgrounds, on beaches, and along trails. The restrictions basically mirror provincial law, and staff assured councillors that enforcement will be complaint-driven. Fines could range from $25 to $2,000 and three months in jail, but staff insisted the point wasn’t to arrest people but rather to simply get them to obey the bylaw.

The second change adjusts the nuisance bylaw. Probably the least controversial part of the change relates to zoning for commercial, industrial-sized cannabis grow-ops, although there are going to be lots of medical cannabis growers that will get caught up in this.

More problematic are restrictions on personal growers. Under federal law, we’ll be able to grow up to four plants per residence. But the bylaw changes prohibit those plants from being grown in yards or on porches in areas serviced by Halifax Water, so basically in the urban and suburban areas of HRM. Fines could range from $1,000 to $10,000, but again, staff said the point was to get compliance, not to haul people into court; actual charges will be laid only in the most incalcitrant cases, sort of like they only charge you for peeling paint after they warn you a bunch of times and you still don’t repaint.

A lot of silly stuff was said about this. In American cities where cannabis is legal — staff spoke with officials in Boulder and Denver, Colorado — the main complaint is about the odour of the plants, said city solicitor John Traves, albeit he conceded that those complaints came mostly from older residents.

CAO Jacques Dubé added that besides the smell, there is a public safety issue: “People — and animals — getting access to those plants. Especially children.” I guess the idea is high school kids are going to jump your fence and steal your weed, and then for the first time in history, we’ll have stoned teenagers. On the plus side: also, stoned kitties.

Still more problematic is the provision in the bylaw that prohibits the smoking of cannabis on city sidewalks. This was sold as mirroring the rules against drinking alcohol on city sidewalks:

For unlawfully smoking, the fine would be no less than $25 and no more than $2,000. The minimum fine amount recognizes that smoking is an addiction and that vulnerable and marginalized populations could be impacted by the smoking ban. The intent of the ban is not to impose fines and penalties that will further marginalize these groups. The $2,000 maximum is the same maximum set in the Smoke-Free Places Act for everyone, except a manager or employer.

“Good luck enforcing that,” said councillor Sam Austin. “Do we really care if someone is walking down Shore Drive smoking a joint?” asked councillor Tim Outhit.

The details of enforcement are absurd. The city is already painting hundreds of “no smoking” signs that will be deployed here and there, but also signs indicating places where smoking cannabis will be allowed.

“How does that work?” asked Outhit. “You can’t smoke in parks or playgrounds or pools or streets or sidewalks … so where can you smoke?” To that, Dubé answered: on private property. Traves envisioned the owners of Scotia Square designating that little alcove at the rear of the complex that opens onto Albermarle Street being designated as a cannabis smoking post, and then the city-painted signs would direct people to it. Also, bar parking lots.

Councillor Richard Zurawski pointed out that with so much discretion left to bylaw officers, and with enforcement being complaint-driven, the bylaw change is a recipe for targeting already marginalized communities. Nobody’s going to call bylaw enforcement if some white banker type in a suit is walking down Duke Street smoking a joint, but replace him with two Black guys…

Zurawski is right. Look, we got to legalization in the first place because people understood that prohibition was stupid and abused to mostly target people without political or economic power, and so people held the law up to ridicule. And now that we’re doubling down on that overreach with stupid municipal bylaws, we’re going to breed yet more disrespect for city bylaws.

Still, council voted 13-3 to approve the bylaw change. The no votes came from councillors Richard Zurawski, Matt Whitman, and Tim Outhit.

3. 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.

Also at yesterday’s meeting, council voted unanimously to ask for a staff report outlining what exactly Maritime Football Ltd. is asking for in terms of city support for a stadium.

The debate, such as it was, wasn’t very informative, albeit several councillors were wary of the proposal. “I do not support HRM being a banker or a financier for this project,” noted Steve Craig, who nonetheless made the motion for the staff report. “I’m a big football fan… but I’m extremely skeptical that we can go forward with this,” said Shawn Cleary, who doesn’t have a degree in Football. “I’m cautiously pessimistic,” said evidence-based huddler Richard Zurawski.

Tim Outhit clarified what he called “misinformation” about the stadium. The first is that there is a reserve fund dedicated to stadium funding — there isn’t, although there is a capital projects reserve fund that was established in 2015 in order to build up enough cash to fund undesignated “future projects.” As I understand it, that fund has about $30 million in it now, and if nothing is spent from it (which seems unlikely), will grow to about $70 million or so by 2022, so maybe 20 per cent of the cost of a stadium. When the fund was established, Mayor Mike Savage pretty clearly thought it would be one day directed towards a stadium, among other things, but that decision would lie with future councils. That is: it’s not a stadium fund.

Yesterday, Craig pointed out that the initial idea was that the fund would get large enough to build a “community stadium” of modest size — 10,000 to 15,000 seats — for high school and local university sports, normal rec needs, and concerts. At that point, continued Craig, the thought was that maybe a CFL team would come in with financing to “bump up” the size of the stadium to 25,000 seats. In that scenario, it would be a city-owned facility leased to the CFL team for its games.

However, now it looks like that formula is being flipped on its head. The stadium will be built and owned by the CFL team, with the city’s contribution supporting it, and in return the team will make the stadium available for city events, possibly at a cost.

Outhit also pointed out that what appears to be the proposal — that the city help finance a privately owned stadium — is in fact illegal, contravening the city charter (and indeed, common sense). Of course all of that can be brushed aside if the province creates a “special development zone” or some such (as it did with the Nova Centre), which basically says “none of the usual rules apply here.”

What happens now? It’s hard to say. Staff will go away and produce the report, and I guess we’ll see to what degree financial smoke and mirrors are built into it. Seems to me, despite Stephen McNeil’s refusal to use provincial “general revenue” funds for the stadium, the entire proposal is dependent on the province — with some combination of using another pot of non-general revenue money, creating that special development zone, providing financing at government rates, giving or trading land, tax breaks, or something else I haven’t envisioned yet.

And then the sell job goes into high gear.

4. Danger at the Glory Hole!

The Grafton Street Glory Hole before it was opened to pedestrians, with the convention centre above it. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Leanne Hayes wants to warn us about dangers lurking in the Grafton Street Glory Hole, reports Anjuli Patil for the CBC:

Hayes sometimes walks through the passageway to get to work. She said something that appeared to be a brick fell from overhead and landed about three metres from her on Tuesday morning.

“Certainly close enough to make me jump, it startled me,” said Hayes, a commissioner with the Nova Scotia Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal.

Hayes wasn’t hurt. She said construction workers witnessed what happened, but didn’t do anything to address it.

“I know that at least one of them heard the brick come down and looked over, but nothing was said to me. Nobody apologized to me or made any other comment and I just went on my way to work. But, yeah, frightening incident nonetheless,” Hayes said.

5. Wrights Cove Transit Terminal

The proposed layout of the Wrights Cove Transit Terminal.

The city has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for design and build of the Wrights Cove Transit Terminal at the corner of Bancroft Lane and Market Place Drive, in Burnside just behind the McDonald’s on Windmill Road. The RFP explains that:

Wrights Cove Terminal is required to provide capacity for projected growth in demand for transit services in this area. The terminal will provide operational benefits by reducing redundancy on the route network and will act as a transfer for people travelling to or from Burnside Business Park. It is anticipated that this site will see passengers transferring between routes as well as passengers accessing or egressing the terminal from Windmill Road or the adjacent residential buildings and commercial shops and facilities. The terminal is operationally required to pursue the full implementation of route changes outlined in the Moving Forward Together Plan.

The terminal will support the high density residential and mixed-use development planned and under construction within the vicinity of the site in addition to meeting operational requirements as described above. The aesthetics of the design will be expected to be congruous with the quality, aesthetics and consistent with the Halifax Transit brand, encouraging adjacent developments and community to be more transit-orientated.

The terminal will have consist of 12 bus bays, a “layby lane” for waiting buses, and an indoor space of 2,000 square feet that includes passenger and driver areas and passenger and driver washrooms. A foot path will connect Windmill Road.

If all goes according to schedule, the RFP will be awarded by August 31, and design and cost estimates produced by October 26. A second, more detailed project RFP will be issued next year, with council approving the package in September 2019. Construction is to be completed by June 2020.

6. Highway 104

The province announced yesterday that the federal government is kicking in $90 million towards the $194 million Highway 2014 twinning project:

The project will include a new, 10 kilometre, four-lane alignment between Barneys River and James River, south of the existing Highway 104, made necessary by the area’s topography and terrain as well as a river and rail line.

Yesterday’s announcement doesn’t say if the province has decided to use the Design Build Finance Operate Maintain model that was contemplated in March.

7. Agricola Street

“The Agricola Street Improvement Plan was the topic of discussion Tuesday morning as the North End Business Association and the Halifax Cycling Coalition hosted an information session for Agricola St. businesses, residents and the general public,” reports Yvette (don’t call her Yvonne) d’Entremont for StarMetro Halifax:

They shared details of the Agricola streetscaping project, scheduled to begin in the spring/summer of 2019. Planned improvements for the busy thoroughfare include curb extensions (bump-outs), tree planting, benches and signage.

“This isn’t like a major streetscaping project like Argyle or the project that we’re initiating now with Spring Garden Road, which is going to be like a major kind of redo. This is our Complete Streets Program,” explained Hanita Koblents, Halifax principal planner with urban design and transportation planning.

Koblents said the planned Agricola streetscaping is a direct result of the city’s new Integrated Mobility Plan, which was approved by regional council in December 2017. In the Complete Streets section of the IMP, scheduled recapitalization projects like repaving can include streetscaping improvements up to 15 per cent of the total project budget.

The amount budgeted for the Agricola St. streetscaping project is about $72,000.

Hey, maybe we can make it $75,000 and add a couple of water fountains, eh? Or bump it up a bit more and add one of these self-cleaning toilets:


Government

City

Wednesday

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) —  The agenda includes approval of HRM’s year end financial statements for 2017-2018, along with what to do with the $17 million surplus from the general tax rate. About $5 million will go to the multi-district facilities reserve to cover the shortfall of the $48 NSF Fee Centre. Another $2 million is slated for the Convention Centre reserve, and nearly $10 million will go to general contingency reserve.

Thursday

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — the committee is being asked to endorse the Green Network Plan.

Province

No public meetings this week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

No public events.

Thursday

Thesis Defence, Biology (Thursday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Tara Imlay will defend her ​​thesis, “Understanding the Drivers of Population Declines for Swallows (Family: Hirundinidae) Throughout the Annual Cycle.” Bring your own swallow.

GHOST: Recovering historical signal from heterotachously-evolved sequence alignments (Thursday, 3:30pm, Room 1108, Mona Campbell Building) — Bui Quang Minh from the Australian National University, Canberra, will speak.


In the harbour

Wednesday
2:30am: Arsos, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
5am: Horizon Star, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from the offshore
5:30am: Boheme, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
6am: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Algeciras, Spain
4:30pm: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
9pm: Boheme, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea

Thursday
5:30am: Rockies Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
7am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney
11:30am: Rockies Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
3:30pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor


Footnotes

I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm, along with StarMetro reporter Zane Woodford.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. I’m with Ted above. While I wholeheartedly embrace legalized pot smoking, I do not want to breathe OPC anymore than I want to breathe OPT. I too have a problem breathing other people’s smoke, whether tobacco or cannabis.

    1. I agree, Jean. I don’t like the smell of either. Both are pungent. The cynical side of me has no problem making the lives of smokers miserable. Nothing like seeing the hordes huddled around a smoke shack trying to keep dry from the winter rain. It warms my heart.

  2. We already live with the twin threats to health and safety of tobacco and alcohol that for ages have been cauIsing immense damage to health, costing taxpayers millions and driving up insurance rates, etc. etc. So many people are perfectly okay with that, per conditioning I guess – but terrified of what cannabis might do. Too bad the government isn’t enlightened enough to air public service announcements setting things straight to calm the fear. But surely anyone ought to be able to grasp the plain fact that weed will never, ever, ever be on the list of (or even come close to) the top causes of sickness and death, and that on the contrary, it seems on its way to becoming an essential aid in the treatment of a host of illnesses – which will only do good in the long term. So what if it smells? Cigarette smoke is horrid, nasty poison, and unlike weed smoke, it never goes away. Get some perspective my friends.

  3. Before I dare take a closer look at the violent image that is the Convention Centre or the violence to come in the form of a stadium (built, like the Convention Centre, in an equally terrible location), I must first say, leave it to HRM to turn the new cannabis laws into a money-grab AND also trample on federal law and Charter rights. Wonderful, guys; you’re nothing if not consistent! Money-grabbing fines and trampling on fundamental rights are both par for the course. We can count on even more bogged-down court dockets and many years of wrangling before HRM is made to respect the higher laws of the land – if that ever happens at all.

    Equally annoying is the CAO’s notion of the maximum amount at which a fine would not be considered to target “marginalised groups”. Only someone earning six figures would put it at $2000. !! Clearly he has no clue that an awful lot of non-marginalised Nova Scotians would also have trouble paying such amounts. It begs many questions, including, if $25 is an amount he feels is commensurate with the violation, then how on earth could fines of up to 80 times larger ever be reasonable? Why should such a big jump be necessary (other than a money-grab)? Wouldn’t a maxiumum of, say, $100 suffice? And there is already far too much discretion in the hands of by-law officers when it comes to fines and all penalties. I don’t know of any HRM by-law or policy that sets down criteria or guidance as to when the lower amount or the higher amount is appropriate. Lack of guidance in the law and randomness in enforcement means judges have nothing to go by either. So if you decide to go to court about the fines – or, for that matter, the rest of the hare-brained restrictions they’re contemplating which I can’t even – don’t expect a positive response, no matter how outrageous they are.

    Needless to say, all Nova Scotians might soon afford to pay higher fines if weed were bought and sold on the market – i.e., truly legalized – and the benefits spread to all sectors of the private economy, generating much more tax revenue for the province than they’ll get from the government monopoly. God knows within weeks of legalization the Denver housing market boomed and all kinds of new businesses started up, in a lasting boom. We have the great benefit of the lessons learned in Colorado and now California and many other states and nations – oops – I forgot the longstanding tradition of blinders – never looking beyond our own backyards when it comes to policies and laws and precedents…

  4. Worth clarifying here that the law doesn’t just prohibit “the smoking of cannabis on city sidewalks”, but rather *all* smoking of anything on municipal property, including roads and sidewalks. I am surprised there wasn’t more debate about that comprehensive ban, which would include tobacco smokers, vapers, etc.

  5. The cannabis conundrum for me is such that I believe it should have been legalized years ago, decades ago but I can’t stand the smell of it and I have empathy for those who have serious reactions to the smoke and smell.

    Hard to reconcile and I have sympathy for lawmakers in coming up with a healthy compromise.

  6. “Still more problematic is the provision in the bylaw that prohibits the smoking of cannabis on city sidewalks”

    This was a reasonable provision. I have a problem with people smoking joints on sidewalks. I think the vast majority of people also have a problem with it. It’s a health hazard for children’s brains and a nuisance for those of us who don’t want to breath the second hand smoke.

    1. I don’t know whether you can safely assume the vast majority have the same problem you do, Ted, nor have I heard of any research findings about children’s brains. But I do have a problem with people smoking cigarettes on sidewalks – and certainly second-hand smoke is a long-established health hazard to both children and adults, so it’s not just me. Yet as far as I know, it’s not illegal, nor is anyone considering making it so.

      1. “nor have I heard of any research findings about children’s brains”

        It’s well established in the scientific community that thc is very bad for kids brain development.

        As just one example, Doctors Nova Scotia advocated for higher age limits and non public consumption because of the health effects on kids.

        Provincial government ignored the recommendation when they passed their cannabis legislation last month which opened up public smoking of cannabis everywhere And changed the smoke free places act to allow municipalities the right to institute their own changes to the smoking bylaws. In the process they also downloaded the cost of enforcement on the municipalities.

        If anyone is happy about this bylaw being an overreach they should start by asking their MLA why they refused to put in place reasonable protections in the first place.

  7. Good luck enforcing no grow bylaw on a deck or porch. Are we going to have an army of bylaw types searching for it? I think kitties by their nature are stoned without any herbal help btw.

    On an upbeat note if we all grow diff types of herb, the office Christmas cookie exchange is gonna get a lot more fun!

    1. It’ll almost certainly be complaint-based, so just make sure you keep in your neighbours’ good books by sharing the fruits of your labour.

  8. Aww, “stoned kitties.” Love it, Tim – the whimsical insert, not stoned kitties; it’s one reason your writing style has such appeal.

  9. I don’t think legal weed is going to really cut into the illegal market as much as people think. Like alcohol, the top 10% of marijuana users smoke, eat and vape almost all of the marijuana consumed. I don’t know the exact figures for marijuana, but for alcohol the figure is 80% consumed by the top 10%. These individuals obviously know where to buy weed, and are paying good prices (and often selling to their friends to cover some of their costs), not the $10 (and up) the government is proposing to charge.

    I suspect that the legal weed will be popular with people who don’t consume very much of it, and there will be modest growth there – lots of people would smoke a modest amount twice a week or something if they knew where to buy it.

  10. As I wrote yesterday the Dartmouth Sportsplex is responsible for more than $5,000,000 of deficits which will be covered from a transfer from the $15,000,000 surplus. The paragraph in the staff report is poorly worded and less than careful readers can, and obviously are easily misled.

  11. There’s no “may” become a multi billion dollar industry. Rather “has” or “soon will be”. The unfortunate part is that it’s been set up to benefit the same people the current capitalist system always benefits, large corporations and shareholders. Outrageously, many of these people are ex law enforcement who were given early access to the new market. Another model, used for decades in northern California, BC and elsewhere, has been crushed through regulation, legislation and selective legalization. Instead of allowing and encouraging “mom and pop” farms, the creation of middle class livelihoods and the subsequent injection of $millions into local economies through spending and taxation, the Liberals have gone a different route. Due to erroneous and unnecessary regulation only a multi million dollar investment, (and in Nova Scotia a personal relationship to the provincial Liberal party) would allow you to become a Licensed Producer. And then the retail market has been given exclusively to the government liquor board. The laws in place no longer protect the public from the ‘evils of marijuana’. The new laws protect corporation’s exclusive privilege to deliver the ‘evils of marijuana’ to the public. The government would like the battle cry to be;
    “The old drug lord is dead, Long live the new drug lord”.
    Many of us prefer; Long live the underground market. And suggest we all buy our weed the old fashioned way, from your local drug dealer. The corporatization of the selling of weed is nothing to get excited about.

    1. Well said. The province is being robbed of a prosperous future (and a happier, healthier present) thanks to short-sighted, uninformed decision makers that find it reasonable to ignore the findings of experts they themselves have hired. I doubt the PC party or the NDP would have done much differently, sad to say. And with the ability to continue busting people, jails will stay full and law enforcement is not unhappy at the prospect of business as usual.