News

1. Convention centre

Oh, running out of time for this… I’ll write it up today for tomorrow’s Morning File.

2. Smoking ban

On Monday, Dartmouth councillor Sam Austin published a blog post saying he was reconsidering his support for the smoking bylaw, weirdly wanting to keep the provisions of the bylaw as they pertain to cannabis but not to tobacco:

The changes to the Nuisance Bylaw are starting to feel like the worst of all worlds, a ban that’s not really a ban, that will consume a lot of time and energy and that is simply not practical. This feels like micromanagement of public space and I have come to conclude, as much as I would like smoking to disappear, that HRM’s approach doesn’t make practical sense.

The entire point of the recent changes to the Nuisance Bylaw is to deal with the legalization of cannabis and I believe that’s where the municipality should refocus its efforts. What I will propose tomorrow as an added agenda item (my colleagues have to be willing to add it to the agenda) is a request for a staff report to revisit changes to the Nuisance Bylaw to remove tobacco from the prohibition on smoking on municipal property. Removing tobacco from the Bylaw would mean that it would still prohibited to smoke cannabis on all municipal property. Maintaining restrictions on cannabis is important because we’re setting the post-legalization community standard for HRM. It seems reasonable to me that since you can’t walk down the street drinking a beer, the same should be true of cannabis.

Council agreed to consider Austin’s request, and during the council meeting the YWCA issued a statement in opposition to the bylaw:

Position on Proposed Halifax Smoking By-Law

Key message:

The proposed smoking by-law will disproportionately affect Halifax’s Black, Indigenous, homeless, and poor citizens. It is, in effect, a social policy whose outcome is to criminalize the poor and increase scrutiny and risk into their lives.

We recognize the harms and costs associated with smoking. However, supportive smoking cessation in the context of trauma, violence, and poverty is what’s needed.

Key points:

1. Those who are poor are disproportionately among smokers. In Nova Scotia in 2013, 65% of all smokers made less than $29,000 annually.

2. Those who are poor have the highest rates of smoking but also the fewest options. For example, where they live in smoke-free rental housing, they are required to go outside and smoke on the sidewalk. They simply don’t own their homes where they can make these types of choices.

3. For those who are poorest and the most vulnerable, i.e. homeless, day-to-day existence happens in public spaces. In 2012, a survey of the health status of homeless people in Halifax revealed that 88% of those surveyed were smokers.

4. The evidence suggests that the smoking-related restrictions [that have] have impact on smoking rates need to be understood from an income lens. According to a 2015 report, rates of smoking didn’t decrease at all in the lowest income categories, while decreases in middle and upper income brackets are driving reductions. In short, increased restrictions don’t tend to affect poor smokers.

5. Pushing smoking into corners heightens vulnerabilities and risk. For example, where do women go to smoke when they leave the bar, especially if they’re inebriated?

6. Using a complaints-based mechanism will (1) heighten scrutiny on the poor and (2) likely lead to further marginalization of those affected by trauma, colonialism and racism as there is clear evidence that links them to poverty.

7. Fines, even as low as $25, can have deleterious effects on poor people as their inability to pay means the fines go to collections, affecting their credit ratings and even collection of HST rebate cheques. Fines are unanticipated expenses and can provide hardship to those who are just barely scraping by.

Contact: Miia Suokonautio, Executive Director, YWCA Halifax

Later in the meeting (I had left by then), council agreed to ask for the staff report.

Let’s step back and consider why council wanted to ban smoking in the first place. Smoking tobacco and/or cannabis may cause cancer, and may be an annoyance to passerbys with allergies and sensitivities, but that’s not why council approved the bylaw. I was at the council meeting where council enacted the bylaw, and so far as I can recall, the word “cancer” was never uttered (if it was, it was immaterial to the thrust of the debate).

In any event, the health issues related to smoking haven’t changed between two months ago and today.

Rather, the main reason for banning smoking was the odour from cannabis. Time and again, city solicitor John Traves told councillors that staff had surveyed their counterparts in Boulder and Denver and found that the main complaint after legalization in Colorado was the smell of cannabis. That’s why staff in Halifax recommended banning smoking of cannabis on city sidewalks, and that’s why growing cannabis plants outdoors in the urban area was prohibited — to keep the smell away.

Traves admitted that the “smell” complaints came mostly from older residents of the Colorado cities. Traves never said, not once, that those older residents were concerned about anything other than the smell, like their health, but that simply the smell was the nuisance. It is, in short, a moral panic over legalization: Oh noes! People are smoking pot, and I’m aware of it!

But staff felt a ban on smoking cannabis alone was impracticable because how could you tell if someone had cannabis or tobacco in that cigarette? That of course is an entirely sensible consideration, and rational people would’ve just dropped the idea of further regulating smoking altogether. But instead, staff doubled down: all smoking would be banned from city sidewalks.

That got us into the mess we’re in now, and now Austin proposes to address the micromanagement of public spaces by micromanaging them even more. If Austin is successful, the bylaw officers (and when they’re off duty, the cops) will have to investigate what people are smoking — is it cannabis? Is it tobacco? What if it’s a spliff? Is there some magic cannabis-to-tobacco ratio that transforms one from an innocent cigarette smoker into a criminal cannabis smoker? Will we have roadside DNA testing of smoking products?

Talk about micromanaging public spaces.

Look, the Trudeau government is legalizing cannabis for entirely sensible public safety and public health reasons. Trudeau and the Liberals ran on an election platform that included legalization; voters liked that plan and elected the Liberals into office. We all know that the war of drugs has been a failure, and has been used to disproportionately criminalize people of colour and other disenfranchised people. Trudeau has taken the first step to improving public policy around cannabis; for sure, there are many details that still need to be worked out, and we’ll inevitably get some of it wrong, but I think down the road everyone will recognize that legalization of cannabis didn’t cause the sky to fall, and indeed it will be used as the model for decriminalizing and/or legalizing all other recreational drugs.

I’ve long been a supporter of bans on indoor smoking. Workers and patrons at businesses and sporting events and so forth shouldn’t be subjected to second-hand smoke, and telling smokers they have to go outside to light up is reasonable. It’s also reasonable to expect smokers to be considerate in terms of how and where they smoke in public spaces, but beyond restrictions on smoking near doorways or in playgrounds, further regulating smoking in public spaces is not just unnecessary, but as the YWCA puts it, is a social policy whose outcome is to criminalize the poor and increase scrutiny and risk into their lives.

Stop this madness.

Yes, we’re going to see people smoking cannabis. We’re even going to smell it.

And it won’t be the end of the world.

3. Ferries, Yarmouth and potentially otherwise

The Alakai. Photo: Halifax Examiner

While Bay Ferries is trying to get Bar Harbor, Maine to agree to becoming the U.S. terminus of the Yarmouth–Maine ferry run, a second company is also hoping to commence ferry operations, reports Tina Comeau for the, what do we call that now?, oh, the Tri-County Vanguard:

Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines, which has been operating sailing and boating excursions in and around Mount Desert Island and other parts of Maine for over 30 years, has submitted a proposal for a 10-year lease to operate its own international service from the ferry terminal property. The company says its proposal differs from that of Bay Ferries which has asked for a five-year lease with options to renew.

Captain Steve Pagels says the Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines proposal envisions the use of a smaller-sized displacement monohull ferry – which the company has not yet secured as this, for now it is only putting forth a proposal. It is proposing in its first seasons of business to operate three one-way trips a week from Bar Harbor to Nova Scotia and three one-way trips from Nova Scotia to Bar Harbor. Initially they would look to operate with a late-spring to early-fall schedule with the intention of expanding in future years into the shoulder seasons with a reduced schedule. And after some time they may look at operating two vessels back and forth during the summer in sailing in opposite directions.

Much further down the road Pagels says they might even explore the possibility of year-round service on a reduced schedule. Yarmouth is one port they are looking at in Nova Scotia but Pagels says they would also explore other options. There have been no discussions on the Nova Scotia side, Pagels says, as for now this is only a proposal being put forward.

Comeau has more details about Downeast at the link.

4. FOIPOP

Catherine Tully, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Nova Scotia, will release two reports related to the security failure of the FOIPOP website today at 10am. I’ll read the reports and report on them as soon as is possible.

Update, 10:05: I must have misread this last night; the reports are on a pharmacist prying into personal health records. Still interesting, but not what I was hoping for.

5. Baby

“A baby born in the passenger seat of a 2006 Honda Civic on Gottingen Street in Halifax Monday morning is at the IWK Health Centre, resting with his parents,” reports Anjuli Patil for the CBC:

Hiroshi Masui’s parents, Brett Cantlay and Yuki Masui, were driving to the hospital from their home in Dartmouth when they needed to pull over.

“I delivered my baby in my passenger side seat this morning,” said Masui, in an interview with CBC News Monday afternoon outside the hospital.

The most astonishing thing about this story is that a baby was born on Gottingen Street and yet somehow Brett Ruskin wasn’t involved.

6. Groundwater pollution at the airport

This morning, Transport Canada issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) from firms that can provide groundwater monitoring at the former Fire Training Area at the airport. The Terms of Reference in the RFP explain that:

Transport Canada (TC) – Environmental Affairs, Programs Branch, has a requirement for one groundwater and surface water monitoring event for the Former Fire Training Area (FTA) at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Enfield, Nova Scotia. Data from the groundwater monitoring event will be used to determine plume stability and if natural attenuation is occurring…

The former FTA is located on the southern end of the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, adjacent to taxiway “TAXI A.” The FTA operated from the early 1960s until it was taken out of service between 1999 and 2001. Prior to 1990, there was no containment of the fuels used during fire fighting exercises, and unburned fuel would percolate into the surrounding environment. In 1990, a clay berm was constructed around the FTA mock-up to contain the fuels sprayed on the mock-up while simulating aircraft fires. In 2002, the FTA mock-up and fuel distribution infrastructure were removed from the site.

The Terms cite no fewer than 21 different groundwater studies at the site over the past decades, consistently showing contamination of benzene, toluene, and sulphate concentrations at levels higher than the Federal Interim Groundwater Quality Guidelines (FIGQGs) allow, albeit those concentrations appear to be decreasing. In some of the studies, free-standing contaminants were found.

7. Football

Edmonton Sun sports columnist Terry Jones, who is perhaps the biggest promoter of a Halifax CFL team (more so than even Anthony Leblanc, the prospective team owner), asks:

Can you imagine Schooner fans converging on Halifax from Dildo NL, Balls Creek NS, Crapaud PEI, Happy Adventure NL, Sober Island NS, Spread Eagle Bay NL, Mushaboom NS, Bacon Cove NL, Quispamsis NB, Come By Chance NL, Blow Me Down NL, Lower Economy NS, Cocagne NB, Goobie NL, Cardigan PEI and Witless Bay NL?

To which I answer: No.

Jones compares an eight-hour drive from Calgary to Saskatoon to a 21-hour drive and ferry and drive some more from Dildo to Halifax, implying they’re the same sort of thing.

And would we want a bunch of Spread Eagleans, Dildoers, and Come By Chancers in town anyway? I know football is a testosterone-driven pursuit employing all sorts of sexual metaphors, but we gotta have a least some standards, no?


Views

1. Carleton patio

Gus Reed draws our attention to the Carleton patio, complete with an “Accessible” sign affixed next to a substantial step. Reed points us to the city bylaw regulating patios, which in turn relies on the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Accessible Design for the Built Environment (CSA Standard B651), which require that patios have no steps higher than 13 millimetres. Notes Reed:

13mm is about half an inch. From the picture you can see that the step up to the patio is 20 times that. Here are some possible  reasons for that disconnect:

1. No one pays any attention to Council anyway
2. Council didn’t really mean CSA Standard B651, but possibly the standard for Donald Trump’s wall.
3. The building inspectors get confused between millimeters and inches
4. The restaurant industry, with its own definition of “public” has the power to exclude anyone it wants.
5. People with wheelchairs aren’t real people anyway.

Draw your own conclusions. Mine are:
1. No one bothers to read any by-law because they’re boring
2. Some poor staffer Googled “accessible” and B651 came up first
3. The building inspector exam doesn’t cover that metric thing
4. The restaurant industry gets confused between “wining and dining” and “whining and dining”
5. People with wheelchairs are always pretending to be what they’re not

Update: the Carleton responds to Reed’s concerns as raised by Parker Donham on the Carleton’s Facebook page:

Hi Parker… Karen, owner of The Carleton here. We completely support your advocacy for accessibility and want to clarify this distressing report. PATIO: The south side of our patio (with flat Argyle St pavers) is immediately accessible by wheelchair – photo attached. The north side has a riser – you are correct – because the Argyle St pavers slope down towards Prince Street at such a steep angle that it was impossible to build evenly and still adhere to city requirements for visibility around the Argyle/Prince corner. We worked thru several plans with the city to come up with this compromise. BUILDING: We have a portable ramp available to place over the steps for interior access. RESTROOM: We introduced gender neutral private washrooms including one with full wheelchair access.Parker, we welcome your input on how we can continue to improve access. Feel free to reach me directly at karenspaulding.carleton@ gmail.com.

2. Makushi

John Demont profiles Ron MacDonnell, a priest from Antigonish who is helping the Makushi people in the Brazilian Amazon keep their language alive:

Makushi has its peculiarities says MacDonnell.

For example, shortening or lengthening a vowel changes the meaning of a word while other words mean something entirely new depending upon whether, for example, a male or female is speaking them.

In Makushi there are no prepositions, just postositions, MacDonell tells me.

Makushi, I am informed, also features plenty of examples of the glottal stop which, as I understand it, is the sound made when the vocal cords are suddenly closed. (Think the abrupt pause in the middle of “uh-oh.”)

I am willing to take his word on it. Since 1993 MacDonnell has completed a Makushi-Portugese dictionary and a series of radio programs about learning Makushi.

He has helped publish a collection of Makushi legends and just last year finished translating The Children’s Bible into Makushi.


Government

City

Wednesday

Special Regional Watershed Advisory Board (Wednesday, 5pm, HEMDECC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — here’s the agenda.

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee(Thursday, 10am, City Hall) —

Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — the committee is considering what me looks to me like two noncontroversial zoning changes.

Province

No public meetings for the rest of the week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Thesis Defence, Process Engineering and Applied Science (Wednesday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Mariam Alhattab will defend her ​​thesis, “Surfactant-Aided Dispersed Air Flotation as a Harvesting and Pre-Extraction Treatment for Chlorella Saccharophila.”

BRIC NS Student Seminar Series (Wednesday, 12pm, Room 266, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Jaimie Carrier, a recipient of the 2017 BRIC NS Student Research Award, will present “Exploring the Employer Perspective on the Implementation of RN Prescribing in NS.” Jennifer Searle will present “Queer Primary Healthcare in a Canadian Context: Shifting the burden, mapping gaps in knowledge, and discovering how stigma shapes LGBTQ2S health inequities.”

Thursday

No public events.


In the harbour

3am: Nave Pulsar, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from New York
5:30am: Morning Crown, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
6am: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Baltimore
6am: CAP Portland, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
7am: Feng Huang Ao, asphalt tanker, arrives at McAsphalt from Tarragona, Spain
8am: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,058 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John
10:30am: CAP Portland, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
3pm: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
6pm: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for New York
6:30pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s


Footnotes

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

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. All the fuss about ferries and no one is interested in putting in a ferry to the States that would be useful! I would be jumping for joy if there was a regular ferry out of Halifax going to a US port such as Boston or Providence or New York, where one could link up with Amtrak or Acela. Flying to the Northeastern US is a pain these days.

  2. This is one of those very rare occasions where I agree with the City Council. Quite apart from Mars, there may be a blue moon tonight.

    “Trudeau and the Liberals ran on an election platform that included legalization; voters liked that plan and elected the Liberals into office.”
    The Liberals may have brought out never before seen numbers of young people to vote for them largely because of cannabis. Yes, given the time and money wasted in the courts, enforcement and corrections, this likely is good policy (depending on how it’s drafted) but for Trudeau the big take away is that young people might be a bit pissed about how “2015 will not be the last first past the post election”, and are barely aware of the mess his government has made of F35A procurement or “three small deficits with a return to balanced budgets in the fourth year”, but they sure as Hell will torpedo his electoral prospects in 2019 if he fails to deliver on dope.

    “The proposed smoking by-law will disproportionately affect Halifax’s Black, Indigenous, homeless, and poor citizens.”
    This is arguable, but since neither the McNeil government nor the City showed any interest in the plight of these people before, I don’t see why the legalized cannabis smoking should suddenly broaden their moral horizons. To me this is a red herring.

    “…Smoking tobacco and/or cannabis may cause cancer”
    After all these years Tim I don’t think any sane person wouldn’t know smoking increases risk of cancer. In fact that may be true any time you choose to suck in fumes from burning plant material near your face. I’m not aware of a similar cancer link to cannabis. That may be because it really hasn’t been studied or it may be because users don’t ingest it with the same frequency they smoke cigarettes (although maybe that may change after legalization).

    “… “smell” complaints came mostly from older residents of the Colorado cities.”
    I’m a non-smoking older resident, I don’t like the smell either and would like it kept off the streets, buses, ferries etc.

    “…staff felt a ban on smoking cannabis alone was impracticable because how could you tell if someone had cannabis or tobacco in that cigarette?”
    Because of the smell Tim. Do we need to fly in another expert from Ontario to draft an expert report on this for The City?

    My $CD 0.02

  3. I was fully in support of a total smoking of anything ban. However since I know and respect Sam Austin, I carefully read his argument. I also read the YMCA position ( who rarely make such effort). Given their well made points, I can see the argument. Sam is right. The bylaw was unenforceable and just created victims.

      1. I stand corrected. Yes the YWCA is an important advocacy voice where’s the YMCA is normally silent on public issues.

  4. Legalizing cannabis has another aim also, to make it harder to traffic it illegally. Like the end of prohibition, this is possibly a hindrance to gangs operating to the detriment of every community they operate in.
    It’s a good smell, that.

  5. Memo to Anthony Leblanc and Edmonton Sun sports columnist Terry Jones: Why not just go for broke and ask how the potential CFL players (hmm, wonder from which racial group they’ll be recruited?) will feel about scoring touchdowns in Suck Me Boy, Halifax?