News

1. Blackface

Blackface at Brock. Image from CBC.

Last Monday, some Dalhousie students protested at the welcoming reception for incoming interim president Peter MacKinnon. As I noted Tuesday, the students were particularly riled over MacKinnon’s book, University Commons Divided: Exploring Debate & Dissent on Campus, which included a section that downplays and excuses the wearing of blackface while mischaracterizing and sidelining those who object to it.

On Saturday, El Jones wrote a detailed critique of MacKinnon’s view of protests over blackface, noting that MacKinnon ignores a considerable academic literature on blackface, and failed to contact even one scholar about it. So, Jones contacted them.

Click here to read, “Racist, Full Stop.”

2. Encounter on Urban Environment

Writes Stephen Kimber:

In 1970, a dozen outside experts came to Halifax for a week to turn the city ‘upside down.’ This week, you can see excerpts from ‘Encounter on Urban Environment,’ the NFB’s documentary on that cataclysmic week in Halifax, and discuss whether it’s time for another upside-downing.

Click here to read “Encounter re-encountered, with lessons for today.”

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3. DisabilityX

Left to Right: Paul Vienneau and Will MacPherson Brewer (town crier). Doug Rafuse and Kelly Leblanc in background. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“Part performance and part town hall meeting, ‘DisabilityX’ attracted more than a hundred paying customers at The Bus Stop Theatre last week,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

“DisabilityX is people telling stories to illuminate their lives so we can see the commonality in all of us,” said Paul Vienneau, the Master of Ceremonies who presided over the evening from his wheelchair at centre stage. A crew filmed the event as part of a documentary about his successful crusade for a legislated Bill of Rights to improve accessibility to government services.

4. Living wage

At its meeting tomorrow, Halifax council is being asked to continue to develop ideas for addressing poverty as outlined in the United Way’s “Building Poverty Solutions” report. It’s great to see the United Way undertake this initiative, and it’s even better seeing that the report includes urging the city to adopt a living wage policy:

Work with HRM to implement a living wage ordinance for all municipal staff and third party contractors.

So good on the United Way. But good dog in heaven, city staff has been kicking a living wage policy down the road for four years and still haven’t come back with any concrete proposals — the living wage is (strangely, to my eyes) part of the Public Safety Strategy, which references a 2015 report issued by the United Way and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that called for a living wage ordinance.

This is not rocket surgery; plenty of cities across North America have adopted living wage ordinances, and they work.

At this point, the continued “study” and “developing” amounts to staff actively opposing implementation of a living wage ordinance. I again remind you that over 600 city employees are earning over $100,00o a year, and councillors make over $80,000 a year, and yet staff and councillors conspire to pay shit wages to people doing the necessary work of the city. It’s outrageous. No one should be in the employ of the city or its contractors and working for poverty wages.

Councillors should demand that the living wage policy be implemented pronto, no more study, no more development, no more delay.

5. Arsenic

“A hole drilled for a mineral exploration company seven years ago is leaking contaminated water into the environment, and although the Nova Scotia government learned of the problem last year, staff decided not to fix it,” reports Frances Willick for the CBC:

The incident raises questions about how the province regulates exploration activities.

Water tests taken next to the hole found arsenic and iron levels that were more than 10 times higher than what the federal drinking water quality guidelines allow and, in the case of the arsenic, more than 25 times the Canadian Council for the Ministers of the Environment guidelines for freshwater aquatic life.

Emails show department staff discussed the problem and possible solutions over a four-month period. Two days after a site visit in August, a mining engineer for the province wrote a report outlining four options for dealing with the hole, including excavating and sealing it.

The fourth option, which he dubbed the “Do Nothing Option,” notes that “if the environmental and human health impacts from the discharging water are considered acceptable,” the water could be left to flow indefinitely.

About a week later came the response from the province’s manager of mineral development and policy: “Management has decided to take Option 4 with the condition that we continue to monitor and intervene if results justify.”

Willick goes on to interview SMU prof Linda Campbell about the risks of arsenic.

6. Bus Stop Theatre

“The Bus Stop Theatre Co-op has launched a plan to fund the purchase of its building to avoid eviction at the end of the year,” reports Robyn Simon for The Signal, the King’s Journalism School publication:

Sébastien Labelle, Bus Stop’s executive director, said it’s the only option to ensure the performance venue’s future.

The theatre located at 2203 Gottingen St. has been open for over 15 years, functioning for the last four as a non-profit co-operative. The building’s owner can no longer afford the space’s upkeep and has decided to sell in December.

The owner has given The Bus Stop first choice to purchase the building, but it will cost the co-op “many hundreds of thousands” of dollars, said Labelle.


Views

Moving the port to Dartmouth

Former finance minister Bernie Smith is weighing in on moving HalTerm to the old refinery site in Dartmouth:

The Halifax Port Authority has commissioned a study that has examined the issues to be addressed in a port move, but it has not been released, and, as a result, those of us who are interested in this situation are denied the benefit of this information.

At first glance, this seems like a further example of “silo think.” The port, presumably, is making its own decisions based on what is best for the port, but what of the interests and needs of the entire city? What of the potential for providing land for housing at a time when we are seeing our working population steadily pushed out of the city core, leaving a population of students and wealthy retirees? Shouldn’t there be a broad and healthy discussion of the issues involved here?

Many of the benefits are obviously at the municipal level: freeing up considerable port and railway lands for housing; removing obsolete railway tracks from the Dartmouth waterfront, giving Dartmouth’s downtown a great opportunity; the probable clearing of the Halifax rail cut for transportation use (while almost certainly solving the downtown Halifax truck traffic issue).

Because the study is secret, no definitive dollar value has been placed on such a move. I’ve heard figures like two billion dollars, but as far as I know, those are guesstimates; the real figure could be much larger. My understanding is that such a move would also involve a massive dredging project.

It doesn’t seem realistic to me, but without access to the study, who knows?

Smith, by the way, knows where all the bodies are buried. He should write a tell-all book.


Government

City

Monday

Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (Monday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — the Edelstein family is constructing a five-storey building at 2165 Gottingen Street, but wants a bylaw amendment that would allow them to add an additional storey at the rear of the property.

Tuesday

Special Joint Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council and North West Community Council (Tuesday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — just a quick meeting before the council meeting to approve “housekeeping amendments” to Dartmouth bylaws.

City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — lots on the agenda this week, including two heritage hearings that would allow for moving around and altering registered heritage buildings so those two ginormous buildings can be built at Robie Street and Spring Garden Road; a proposed splash pad on the Dartmouth Common (by the skateboard park); a mountain biking strategy; a “park naturalization strategy” that basically allows for dead zones in parks to go to weeds; a Daffodil Garden for Cancer at Ferry Terminal Park in Dartmouth; and councillor Richard Zurawski wants to declare a “climate emergency.”

Also, see #4 above.

Province

Monday

No public meetings.

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Tracey Taweel, the CEO of the Atlantic Immigration pilot project at the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration, will say how swimmingly everything is going.

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — another “agenda setting” meeting in which no contrary agenda items will be allowed.


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace (Monday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — screening and Q&A.

Tuesday

Law & Technology Society Eminent Speaker Series (Tuesday, 12:30pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Matt Peters will talk about newfangling in the legal profession. Peters is the “strategy lead” for something called MT>Play, which is a division of the McCarthy Tétrault law firm dedicated to making money off people addicted to gambling.

Performance Psychology Workshop (Tuesday, 5pm, Room 111, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — led by Christine Carter. Contact: jmailhio@dal.ca

Mount Saint Vincent

Monday

Data Privacy Day Lunch and Learn (Monday, 12pm, Seton 404) — four presentations for International Privacy Day: “If It’s Free Online, You Are the Product” by Sandra Sawchuk; “Student Privacy Rights and Protections” by Kim Campbell; “Privacy Implications of Research Data” by Brenda Gagne; and “Privacy in Office 365” by Ken Munro. Light refreshments will be provided. Contact ken.munro@msvu.ca for more information.


In the harbour

05:00: Dalian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
05:30: Shanghai Trader, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
07:00: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
07:00: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, moves from Pier 26 to Pier 41
11:30: Skogafoss sails for Argentia, Newfoundland
17:00: JPO Aries, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Genova, Italy
17:00: Maersk Palermo, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
18:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
20:00: Dalian Express, sails for sea

Where are the Canadian military ships?



Footnotes

I’ve had a very strange and eventful January.


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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. As a practical matter, the land where any commercial port facility is located has tainted with all sorts of toxic chemicals ( often including arsenic asbestos and oil) and other hazardous substances. At best, port sites are “brownfields” ,and are not suitable sites for residential housing , playgrounds or schools for young children without substantial and expensive remediation. There are clearly better, less time consuming and less expensive ways to improve Halterm’s operations…perhaps by creating a short line to carry all containers and goods( for all of HRM’s port facilities) to a transshipment location on an existing brownfield site outside of HRM. This is what other competitive ports have done to minimize truck traffic carrying containers on downtown streets.

    1. I can’t see how that port land would be appropriate for development with anticipated sea level rise, but then I felt that way about the Queen’s Marquee.

    2. The port has already reduced truck traffic and has plans for further reductions. The oil refinery site has sufficient water depth without dredging, the main problem is the need to infill to provide a surface for container cranes and containers. Halterm will be in business for many more decades.

  2. HRM cannot implement a minimum wage policy because they need more money for the Platinum Plated Pension Plan – the only public sector pension plan in Canada where the plan is governed solely by members of the plan. I’ll be suprised if the contibution rate does not increase late this year.
    The special meeting on Tuesday at 12.30 is to set a date to have a meeting for a public hearing.

    1. The police received a 2.75% annual raise every year for 5 years, where physicians negotiated 0, 0, 1 & 1.5% over the same time period. Apples and oranges but still…

  3. And your point is? “A hole drilled for a mineral exploration company seven years ago is leaking contaminated water into the environment, and although the Nova Scotia government learned of the problem last year, staff decided not to fix it.” Naturally occurring minerals are trickling up out of the ground, into a watershed where they are diluted well beyond any harm to anyone or anything. Iron, Arsenic, (and manganese and even SHOCK – Uranium!!) all occur in local geology. You would probably have to kneel down and slurp the water coming out of the ground every day for 5 years to experience any health problems. Since when is something that is a part of our environment a “contaminant”? You don’t think that same groundwater is running via fractures into lakes and streams? I for one applaud someone with the guts to not spend the $10,000 plus of taxpayers’ money to “fix” a problem that doesn’t really exist. And please, someone in the media ought to be able to figure out what the CCME Guidelines are. Hint: They are not limits of safety, only levels that suggest one find out why they are at that level. All of peninsula Halifax would be a contaminated site if we blindly took those cautionary limits as absolutes.

  4. Hard to imagine how moving the port to the refinery site would result in the removal of tracks in downtown Dartmouth. There is no way to build an alternate rail connection to Woodside that wouldn’t involve demolishing existing residential or commercial developments, unless they propose to rebuild part of the Musquodobit Railway and then go up through Cherry Brook and Waverley. I can’t imagine anyone taking that seriously – the existing route is not bad, with only three level crossings plus Alderney Gate between Windsor Junction and Woodside.

    Of course the study might be based on the “inland gateway” concept, so Dartmouth would instead get non-stop convoys of trucks going between Woodside and the gateway along the 118. The tracks would still be there though – they are mostly used to serve the Autoport.