News

1. Cornwallis

Photo: Tim Bousquet

“There was little support for Halifax’s controversial founder at the first public meeting to help determine the future of the statue, park and street bearing his name,” reports Zane Woodford for Star Halifax:

Multiple speakers connected Edward Cornwallis to this week’s finding that Canada has enabled a genocide against Indigenous women and girls.

The Task Force on the Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and the Recognition and Commemoration of Indigenous History held the first of four public meetings Thursday night, asking Haligonians how to recognize and commemorate Indigenous history and what to do with the statue of Edward Cornwallis and the municipal park and street named after him.

“Having a man’s statue that represents this genocide, to me, is not the way that you would go toward reconciliation,” Denise Pictou-Maloney said at the meeting.

“He’s not welcome here in Mi’kma’ki.”

2. School buses

Yesterday afternoon, the province announced it is ending its school bus contract with Stock Transportation after the 2019-20 school year, for service in HRM:

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education is preparing a request for proposals to determine what options other than Stock Transportation may be available for school bus service in Halifax.

“We heard loud and clear from students and families of the challenges and frustrations they’ve experienced with school bussing this year centreing on the Halifax Regional Centre for Education,” said Zach Churchill, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. “Families can be confident that immediate and long-term improvements to strengthen student transportation are on the way.”

More than 8,000 people across the province completed an online school bus consultation survey.

The results showed that respondents outside of the Halifax region were satisfied with the service. Concerns among respondents were strongest in Halifax.

The top three areas of concern were communication, safety and service reliability.

3. Dead whale

Photo: Marine Animal Response Society

“A dead male minke whale has been reported on Queensland beach near Hubbards, Nova Scotia,” announced the Marine Animal Response Society on its Facebook page yesterday:

While minkes are common in Nova Scotia waters, it is important to investigate all dead animals in the effort to learn more about them and potentially why it may have died. A team is en route to further document and sample the animal.

Thank you to those who’ve called to report the animal and share images.

4. Rage

I’m not sure if this is road rage or ‘roid rage or what, but somebody does not like it when other drivers stop for pedestrians. An RCMP release:

The RCMP is asking for public help to identify a man involved in a road rage incident last evening on Nordic Cres., in Lower Sackville.

At approximately 8 p.m., Halifax District RCMP got a call about a disturbance on Nordic Cres. After arriving on scene, police were told that earlier that evening, a woman and a child were in a car, driving on Glendale Dr. The woman stopped at the Pinehill Dr. intersection crosswalk to let a pedestrian cross.

A man driving behind her swerved into another lane, honked his horn and yelled at her. The woman continued driving after the pedestrian crossed and eventually pulled into a driveway on Nordic Cres.

The man who had previously honked and yelled pulled up near the woman and got out of the vehicle. He yelled at her and punched the vehicle he was driving on the hood and roof, causing dents. The man then punched in the air toward the woman and punched the curb, possibly hurting his hand.

Halifax District RCMP would like to speak with the man involved in this incident. His vehicle is described as an older grey Honda Civic with a black bug deflector on the hood. The man is described as white and approximately 35 years old with brown hair.

5. Everyone act quaint!

We’re all going to be rich! Photo: Halifax Examiner
We’re all going to be rich! Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Melanie Colpitts says it’s the small things like a welcoming smile that may brighten a tourist’s day,” writes Chris Shannon for the Cape Breton Post:

The director of Aquila Tours out of Saint John, N.B. said upwards of 40 per cent to as much as half of passengers on a visiting cruise ship will take the time to wander their port-of-call rather than book an excursion. 

Atlantic Canadian cruise destinations like Sydney need to find ways to engage the guest when they arrive at a shop, restaurant or tourism operation, she said following a panel discussion at the Cruise Canada New England Symposium in Membertou on Wednesday. 

“How can you create a ‘wow’ moment for your guests that they are going to be talking about, sharing on social media and spreading the word about the great time that they had here,” Colpitts said. 

Shops with outdoor signage welcoming cruise passengers can attract attention, as well as having maps at the port to outline easily accessible sights and attractions in the local vicinity, she said. 

Sydney Downtown Development Association has taken steps in recent years to up its tourism game by displaying floral arrangements at participating businesses and having musicians perform at outdoor sites on days when a cruise ship is in port. 

“(Cruise lines) want their passengers to interact with local people where they experience life the way they do.” [said Christina Lamey, the port’s manager]

This stuff cracks me up. The American layabouts on the boat supposedly want to see how we actually experience life, but then we put on an affected version of ourselves, prettying ourselves up beyond all recognition, or falling into ridiculous stereotypes like the kiddie porn guy:

If cruise ship passengers want to see how we truly experience life, let’s talk to them about how there’s always money for port developers and economic development managers but never enough for people on social assistance; or how the Chamber of Commerce bigwig pays his employees crap wages and people cleaning the toilets at City Hall don’t have enough money to feed their kids; or…

Come to think of it, there’s real money in local disaster tourism. Halifax tried to profit by celebrating the excruciating burning death of 2,000 citizens in the Explosion, and the Titanic graves are a regular stop for the tour buses. People like death and destruction, and will shell out real money for it.

Maybe we could broaden the spectrum of dark tourism a bit, giving the Americans tours of call centres, where they can speak with real people! with cute accents toiling away at minimum wage by trying to upsell Ohioans into more expensive data plans; or we could provide day excursions by helicopter over once-forested land, showing the tourists the patchwork patterns of clearcuts; or we could take them on ride-alongs with local Black people to experience racial profiling firsthand.

The possibilities are endless.

6. Food fetishization

Food fetishization has reached the zenith of absurdity.


Views

1. Dumbing us down

Stephen Archibald takes a look at three younger buildings that have been torn down or completely rebuilt, all of which happen to be churches — the Christian Science Reading Room, Canadian Martyrs Church, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help at the Mount.

“The Reading Room had been a gem of a building,” comments Archibald; “we can only hope that what comes next is as generous and thoughtful to people passing by on the street.”:

I took this photo in the 1980s, probably not too long after the Reading Room was built as a wing to a small nineteenth-century church. The Reading Room had a square footprint, but only half was enclosed. It appeared as if the structure had been sliced in half, with one side open to the air under a skeleton roof, while the slice through the enclosed part of the building was sealed with a wall of windows.

Photo: Stephen Archibald

When it was built, the Reading Room felt very modern and clever, and remained one of the best examples of postmodern style of architecture to be found in Nova Scotia.

Archibald goes on to tell us why we should care about such buildings, then concludes:

I don’t mind change and understand that buildings can lose their usefulness, and churches are particularly problematic. But here were fine, regional examples of three distinct architectural styles, postmodern, modernist, and brutalist. We should expect that when excellence is removed, it will be replaced with excellence. These days it feels like that is not working out for us.


Noticed

Earlier this year, the government of British Columbia published a commissioned study on money-laundering, Combatting Money Laundering in BC Real Estate, which among many other things tried to get a handle on just how much illegal money is flowing through the Canadian economy.

“In fact, there are few estimates of the flow of monies to be laundered in total for the world or for other countries,” notes the report:

In 2005, FATF suggested that the variety and complexity of money laundering activities made estimating it impossible. A 2015 report from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) reviewing the various methodologies used to estimate money laundering flows, which was recently released in response to a freedom of information request, indicated that:

The task of estimating money laundering globally or within a specific country remains very challenging. Analysis has been done on this issue for approximately 20 years; however there appears to be no consensus about which methodology, if any, can be relied on for this purpose.

That is not surprising. Money laundering is by nature secretive and complex, and it innovates rapidly in response to AML efforts. The full range of money laundering techniques is not well understood and is continually expanding. Many known techniques are, by their nature, difficult to distinguish from legitimate transactions.

Admitting that there is a great deal of uncertainty in calculating these things, the report nonetheless went on to use what is called the “Utrecht gravity model of money laundering,” which is considered the best stab in the dark at calculating money laundering, to try to get a handle on the Canadian situation. The report explains:

In essence, application of a gravity model to money laundering involves estimating how much of the proceeds of crime in a given country are laundered within that country and how much flows to each other country in the model. Those flows depend on an attractiveness index based on characteristics that measure how attractive a given country is to money launderers, including GDP per capita, and a distance index that measures how close each pair of countries is geographically and characteristics that measure distance from a cultural perspective. The money laundering in a country is the sum of domestic proceeds of crime that remain in the country plus the flow into the country of monies for laundering from all other countries…

In order to apply the model to Canada, six regions were defined: BC, Alberta, Prairies (Saskatchewan and Manitoba), Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic (New Brunswick, PEI, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador). Each of the regions was treated in the model as if it were a country in order to determine the allocation of money laundering within Canada.

The report has a long section detailing the limitations of the gravity model, but then gets into the details. The model predicts that there is “likely in excess of $40 billion” being laundered each year across Canada, then breaks it down by region with this chart:

There are lots of ways money is laundered, but real estate is probably the best of them. Developments can be financed through sketchy offshore companies and then ownership shuffled through numbered companies that make it hard if not impossible to identify the primary owner, and sales and rental incomes provide a steady legalized stream of future income.

That, I believe, is the primary reason for the global explosion in construction, and for the resulting boom in housing costs: the entire global real estate market is awash with trillions of dollars in illegal money, the proceeds of the drug and armaments trades and other illicit activity.

There’s a local notion that somehow Peter Kelly was stopping development in Halifax and then Andy Filmore saved us and so we now have a bunch of construction cranes downtown. But that’s not at all what happened. What happened is this: over the past few decades, rich people and crooks (the Venn diagram is, er, telling) found there was no real money to be made through traditional boring but useful investments in manufacturing and provision of services, so increasing amounts of wealth were dumped into the ponzi scheme we call the international finance industry. Then, after the global financial collapse of 2008/09, even finance wasn’t reliable, so the wealth was dumped in stuff like art and wine and of course real estate, and here we are. Halifax is no different than any other place on Earth; the construction boom is pretty much everywhere.

Let me be clear that I don’t think most of our local developers are consciously laundering money. I think some are, and others probably know they’re complicit but turn a blind eye to how their financial backers got their money in the first place. But most are relatively ethical, within the very loose ethical framework that operates. Still, there’s no telling where most of the financing for these projects comes from, nor where the money comes from when buyers come calling.

The problem isn’t so much the local operators or even the international criminals laundering money. The problem is that regular everyday people going about their hapless lives as best they can, working shit-paying jobs and being decent enough citizens, are finding themselves paying increasing rents that make life all but unliveable.

The problem is that the housing stock is just another commodity like art or wine to be traded in a capitalist system gamed against renters by crooks and capitalists generally. And the solution is to build a significant housing stock that is not part of that capitalist system: social housing, co-op housing, non-market based housing, and so forth.


Government

City

Executive Standing Committee Special Meeting (Friday, 2pm, City Hall) — yet another committee is spending time and money on the Centre Plan, which will be ignored at the first opportunity to please a developer.

Province

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Elisabeth Mann Borgese Ocean Lecture – “The Blue Revolution”: Challenges and Opportunities (Friday, 7pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — Renée Sauvé from Fisheries and Oceans Canada will tell us how we’re all going to get rich forever amen! by killing the oceans, then Ratana Chuenpagdee from Too Big to Ignore, Susanna Fuller from Oceans North, and Sigrid Kuehnemund from WWF-Canada will explain why that’s maybe not such a great idea. More info here.

Mount Saint Vincent

Monday

Imagining Black Justice (Monday, June 10, 7pm, McCain Rooms 105-106) — El Jones, Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies, hosts four of Canada’s leading Black thinkers and activists in a discussion about state violence, policing, incarceration, Black mental health, and Black feminism.

At a time when street checks are being challenged by Black communities, in the wake of reports on policing and Black incarceration, and inspired by the Movement for Black Lives, we ask the question of what worlds are possible beyond prisons and policing.


In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
05:15: Glorious Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
06:00: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
06:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
06:30: Lomur, cargo ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
12:00: Ef Ava sails for Portland
15:30: Glorious Leader sails for sea
15:30: Atlantic Sea  sails for Liverpool, England
16:30: ZIM Tarragona sails for New York
16:30: Lomur sails for sea
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
21:00: MOL Partner, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk


Footnotes

I asked Zane Woodford what I’m supposed to call the company he works for. He said the dead tree paper is still called StarMetro Halifax, but the online version is simply Star Halifax. They should hire Bousquet Branding, Inc. for ONE MILLION DOLLARS to come up with a seamless brand identity across multiple platforms. (Do I have the babble down?)


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Tim Bousquet

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  1. The shittificiation of architecture is awful. I live downtown, among shitty concrete and glass buildings that, if I look at them too long, cause me physical pain. I’m not religious but it is so sad that so many churches are falling apart – they are generally very nice buildings. I am fortunate enough to have visited Notre Dame, and the experience of stepping out of the hot Parisian streets into the cool darkness of the great church, lit by candles and stained glass, is supernatural even to this avowed atheist.

  2. While I agree that housing and real estate are an effective and common way to launder money; I would expect launderers investing in construction to make housing more affordable, not less.

    If there are a bunch of money launderers pushing money into the system, they will be competing for ways to spend their money. By definition they have already made significant profits and will be chasing lower, but safer returns. That means they will charge less for use of their money.

    As they build more properties, that would increase the availability of housing. If this is a construction glut, should be seeing a large number of empty properties. The increased supply of housing would again push prices down.

    There is a significant issue with money laundering and its impact on real-estate in the ownership market, but the symptom is low tenancy rates and high prices. Halifax (seems to be) suffering the opposite: high prices and high tenancy… I’m left wondering where the people are coming from, but the prices aren’t dropping like I would expect with an investment glut.

    1. Good points Jeff! I was going to ask the writer of the article (Tim Bousquet) the same question. How is the money laundering increasing rents when one would expect more rental units on the market to lower rents?

      I believe the increasing local population is from new immigrants to Canada. The mayor would like to see 7000 new people come each year. Overpopulate, overload the roads, cut all the trees down, and develop it all until there is no more environment. Modern economics/free market capitalism is nonsensical in a finite environment.

  3. In February 2012 there were 12 cranes on the Halifax skyline.
    I looked at the financing of Kings Wahrf several years ago. The 5 big banks p were involved, with CIBC the leading lender. The information is easily available. I looked at other major projects and
    all the financing was led by a big 5 bank.
    The vacancy rate in metro is 1.6%. Are foreign students driving demand for apartments and why is that good for the province ?

    1. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) annual October survey of privately owned rental units, has the overall 2018 vacancy rate in Halifax at 1.6 per cent. That’s down from 2.3 per cent in October 2017, which was the lowest vacancy rate since 2003. The decrease in vacancy is 2.3 – 1.6 or 0.7%

      A May 8, 2019 CBC story shows that Halifax has 0.63% of its rental units listed on Airbnb. That’s only slightly (0.07%) less than the change in the vacancy rate.
      https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/whistler-canada-airbnb-story-1.5122722 Unregulated. Go figure.

      1. I think it is a coincidence. Traditionally AirBnB are individual units which would not be tracked by CMHC anyway. There have been more large landlords getting in on the AirBnB action though. The CMHC figures are very inaccurate considering they only include buildings larger than 3 units and they are dependent on landlords’ willingness to answer their survey. Many wouldn’t bother and many would not provide an accurate figure.

        “CMHC collects data on the primary and secondary rental market annually, in the fall. These data refer to the primary rental market, which only includes rental units in privately initiated apartment structures containing at least three rental units. The secondary rental market covers rental dwellings that were not originally purpose-built for the rental market, including rental condominiums. The primary vacancy rate and rent level is based on all surveyed structures, while the rent increase is based only on structures common to the survey sample in both the current and previous year. “

  4. My parents built their first house in Lower Sackville under a co-op program. They were in their 20s and had three kids and lived on one income. Sackville was built under this program in the 60s/70s. I actually have the mortgage documents. I won’t tell you what they paid.

  5. While I don’t think she’s published it yet, Dr. Karen Foster out of the Dalhousie Sociology and Social Anthropology department has been doing some work on understanding the rural Atlantic Canadian informal (i.e. underground economy), with the draft paper at the time which was called “The Ethics of Work and Consumption in Rural Atlantic Canada.” She gave a presentation on some of this research a year or two ago at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, although I suspect it might have been expanded since.

    It’s not quite the aim of the more formalized underground economy research (which is largely looking to provide context to much larger streams of money laundering, like real estate as you mention), but if you want a bit of qualitative direction and context to the cultural awareness and reception of some components of the underground economy (i.e. casual labour, barter-like exchanges, etc.) it’s a useful paper.