News

1. John Perkins sues

John Perkins after his release from custody. Photo: Joan Baxter

“Sixty-eight-year-old John Perkins of Earltown is striking a blow for democracy after he says he was forcibly hauled out of a public meeting by an RCMP officer last May,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Perkins held a news conference in Halifax yesterday to explain why he is filing a lawsuit against Atlantic Gold Corporation which hosted two information sessions on May 23 at the Sherbrooke Fire Hall to answer questions about a proposed, controversial open-pit gold mining operation at Cochrane Hill near the St. Mary’s River.

Perkins is an environmentalist and member of Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia who attended both sessions. He alleges Maryse Belanger, the CAO of Atlantic Gold, authorized Atlantic Gold’s security manager to make a 911 call to the local RCMP and have Perkins removed from the meeting.

“I feel strongly that it is my duty to hold them accountable for the injuries and harm they have done to me and to do what I can to stop this from happening again,” Perkins read from a prepared statement. “I have done this because I do not want people to think that corporations are legally permitted to make false accusations against members of the public in order to have them arrested and removed from public meetings. I have done this because I do not want people to think that the RCMP can act on such false accusations and remove people from public meetings without any investigation whatsoever.”

Click here to read “Roughed up by the RCMP at a public meeting, John Perkins sues Atlantic Gold and the cops.”

2. New chapter in the Peter Kelly saga

Peter Kelly. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Tim reports that “Peter Kelly, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the city of Charlottetown, is accused of improperly, and possibly illegally, exceeding his authority with the awarding of contracts”:

The allegations were made by councillor Bob Doiron at the monthly meeting of Charlottetown council Monday night.

Reached by phone at his home Tuesday evening, Doiron said that Kelly:

• awarded over $1 million in untendered paving work;
• approved cost overruns of $500,000 related to water and sewage work, without bringing that expenditure back to council; and
• approved a no-bid contract to a Halifax consulting company for studying parking issues in Charlottetown.

Doiron said that council must approve any expenditure greater than $25,000.

Click here to read “Charlottetown CAO Peter Kelly accused of exceeding authority and awarding untendered contracts.”

I don’t know about you, but I am shocked, shocked I tell you.

3. ExxonMobil fined just $40,000

The heavy lift ship Forte, carrying the Noble Regina Allen drilling rig, was anchored near McNabs Island in November 2017. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“ExxonMobil Canada has paid a fine of $40,000 for failing to comply with an offshore regulation that nearly cost a man his life,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The fine was issued July 12 by the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) after a lengthy investigation into a reported incident last November 5, 2018. On that day, 225 pounds of rigging equipment, including a 52-foot chain and tackle, fell within one foot of an employee working on the platform of a drilling unit hired to plug abandoned natural gas wells near Sable Island.

Click here to read “ExxonMobil Canada paid $40,000 fine for incident that nearly cost a man his life.”

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4. Transit fares rising

Sitting on one of these will soon cost you a bit more.

No surprise here. Council voted yesterday to increase fares by 25 cents to $2.75 for adults and $2.00 for seniors and youths. Council had originally floated the idea of raising seniors’ fares to $2.75. Councillor Tony Mancini unsuccessfully argued they should stay at $1.75.

Pam Berman’s story on the fare increase also gets into the question of whether or not to charge a fee at the park-and-ride lots:

On Tuesday, council rejected a staff recommendation to look into charging fees at all park-and-ride lots.

But Coun. Waye Mason thinks the vote should be reconsidered to allow for a study of certain lots.

He pointed out that the park and ride at the Woodside Ferry Terminal is frequently filled with students from the nearby waterfront campus of the Nova Scotia Community College. There is no fee to park at that terminal, while NSCC students must pay to use their campus lot.

The lots (at least the ones I’ve seen) have video surveillance. Can it be that hard to enforce the rules against parking there all day if you’re not taking the bus?

In other council news, Berman reports that councillors voted against building a walking/biking trail alongside the soon-to-be-built Burnside Expressway:

Some councillors said it would be short-sighted not to add the active transportation trail along the expressway.

“I would hate to see us lose an opportunity,” said Coun. David Hendsbee. “This is going to become a very busy corridor and we need the connectivity.”

Halifax planners will negotiate with provincial officials to determine whether the Burnside Expressway can be built in such a way to allow the construction of an active transportation route in the future.

5. Mental health money for vets going to… TM?

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Over at Global, Alexa MacLean reports on two federal funding announcements (is there an election soon?) “to support mental health initiatives for veterans.”

Two groups are sharing $700,000 to provide mental health services. MacLean quotes veteran Bill Gard on how vets used to avoid discussing mental health challenges at all costs. Then she gets into where the money is going:

The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia will use their funding to support a 12-week day treatment program called Landing Strong.

The program, which focuses on social inclusion and acceptance, is based in Windsor, N.S.

OK. What about the rest of the money?

The other program receiving support is the Canadian Women’s Wellness Initiative which offers stress-reduction training through transcendental meditation.

“TM [transcendental meditation] is very simple. You sort of go within, you settle down, you experience that quietness within and yes, it can be as effective as pharmaceuticals and medication as well but far less expensive,” Helen Creighton said, the national director of the program.

It’s not surprising that the Canadian Women’s Wellness Initiative would find TM helpful. The organization describes itself as “the women’s wing of the Transcendental Meditation organization in Canada.”

I would love to know more about the process of that went into deciding how to allocate these funds.


Views

1. Bike licences, etc

I had one of these bike licences growing up. Photo: Nick Day

Yesterday, I wrote:

David Hendsbee once again floated the nonsensical idea that bicycles should be licensed, leading to the usual array of commentary about gas taxes paying for roads, etc. I may write some more about this in tomorrow’s Morning File.

Well, here we are.

I mostly grew up in Beaconsfield, a suburb on Montreal’s West Island. I was lucky to live in an area called Beaurepaire that had once been an actual village, so it still had something of a town centre and was not simply cul-de-sacs and endless sprawl. Of course, we biked everywhere. While my friends had cool 10-speeds and bikes with banana seats, I had a boring burgundy “standard” three-speed to get around. I’d leave it unlocked wherever I went, hoping that someone would steal it so I could convince my parents to buy me a 10-speed. (Kids can be jerks.) I did eventually get a road bike, and despite my father’s worries, did not ruin my back by leaning forward while riding it.

The municipality had a bike registration system in place. I can’t remember what it entailed. It might have been connected to the safety rodeos the police would put on in the school parking lot once a year, or maybe we’d go down to city hall (a short bike ride away) to get the licence. But I do remember having a little licence attached to the frame beneath the seat. Others who grew up in the same town remember these licences going back to the 1950s.

In the mid-1990s, when I lived in west-end Montreal and worked at the National Film Board, I regularly biked to work. This was in the era before there were protected bike lanes everywhere, and I’d find myself zipping through rush hour traffic, generally finding myself beside the same cars at every traffic light. On the days I did drive, it took just as long — or longer — than biking. There is an adrenaline rush to urban cycling in these circumstances. You’ve got to be focused and alert. Is that car going to turn right suddenly and cut you off? Are any of the people in the parked cars on the next block suddenly going to fling a door open in front of you? I would get to work feeling exhilarated, have a shower, and get on with my day. I’m not romanticizing the fear of being killed by cars while commuting to work. A more relaxed ride would have been great. But there was definitely a rush to it.

My bike commuting ended the day I failed to anticipate a door opening in front of me. It threw me into the middle of a busy street, where I lay until the driver came over and picked me up. I was dazed and — looking back — clearly concussed. The driver loaded my mangled bike into his car and drove me home. In my confused state, I felt grateful to him for getting me there .

Most cyclists are not going to get hit by cars. But when a bike and a car hit each other, guess who’s likely to sustain more damage?

Monday, while on the Rick Howe show, District 2 councillor David Hendsbee said he’d like to see cyclists paying more to ride.

Victoria Walton wrote about Hendsbee’s comments for Halifax Today:

“I wouldn’t mind seeing $20 per adult bike and $10 per child’s bike, to be sold at Canadian Tire or the bike shops across the municipality,” Hendsbee says.

However, the current power given to HRM under the provincial government wouldn’t allow them to do that.

“I would hope the province may look at or give the municipality the ability to charge locals service tax,” Hendsbee said.

Hendsbee would want the money collected from that charge to go towards active transportation improvements like bike lanes.

“That money goes directly into active transportation infrastructure, because right now they’re not paying anything directly,” he adds.

The councillor even went so far as to say cyclists should be road registered in a similar way to cars.

“Hike the bike fees,” he said. “I believe the cyclists should be registered, insured and licensed.”

Holy handlebars, Batman! Let’s take these one at a time.

  1. “I wouldn’t mind seeing $20 per adult bike and $10 per child’s bike, to be sold at Canadian Tire or the bike shops across the municipality.” Where do these numbers come from? (Yes, I know. Nowhere.) Why $20 and $10? And bike shops are going to administer a registration scheme for the city?
  2. “I would hope the province may look at or give the municipality the ability to charge locals service tax,” Hendsbee said. OK. So this proposal isn’t even allowed under the city’s charter. But the city can charge property taxes which — guess what — fund things like infrastructure.
  3. Hendsbee would want the money collected from that charge to go towards active transportation improvements like bike lanes. How far would “$20 per adult bike and $10 per child’s bike” take us when it comes to raising funds for bike lanes? Is it going to be significant? I don’t know how many bikes would be licenced, but it’s hard to imagine this having any kind of impact at all. But I don’t think actually raising money to pay for bike lanes is the point, because…
  4. “right now they’re not paying anything directly.” This seems to be one of the main arguments made by people who favour licencing schemes. They’re not paying anything! They’re getting something for nothing! It has more to do with some kind of moral imperative than actually raising money for infrastructure. More on this below.
  5. “Hike the bike fees,” he said. “I believe the cyclists should be registered, insured and licensed.” So now we’ve moved beyond a fee you pay when you purchase a bike, to registration and insurance. (Several people on Twitter pointed out that generally, homeowner and renter policies include liability insurance that covers you as a cyclist if you injure someone.)

Hendsbee was on talk radio, pulling numbers out of thin air and describing a poorly thought-out plan. What else is new? It’s tempting to not take this stuff seriously. But the problem is that misunderstanding the most basic facts about things like how roads are paid for is rampant. And the idea that cyclists need to be registered and/or licensed is one of those zombie notions that keeps coming up over and over again by people who think it’s some bold new idea.

I don’t know. Has it been tried anywhere else? Can we learn from experience in other cities?

First, this notion that cyclists aren’t paying anything. It’s easy to chop people up into different categories, like they don’t overlap: Consumers love this, but employees don’t. Cyclist, pedestrian, transit rider and car owner are not discrete categories. Ever see a car with bikes on the back of it? If there was a bike lane on the Peggy’s Cove Road, damn right I’d ride to Tantallon and take the Metro X into the city. I don’t currently have a decent bike (it’s a beat-up 1970s road bike, much like the one I had as a kid), but when I get one I’m considering making trips to the city by driving to the Rails to Trails and biking in, then maybe put my bike on the bus and riding back to my car on transit if I’m tired. Cyclist, transit user and driver. All in one trip. Taxpayer and citizen too.

There’s a persistent myth that road maintenance is paid for through gas taxes and vehicle registration. I see this argument over and over and over again, with no figures to back it up because… it’s not true.

On Twitter, Distrct 9 councillor Shawn Cleary didn’t mince words in replying to Hendsbee:

Since drivers contribute directly only a fraction of costs related to road infrastructure & damage causes [sic] by larger, heavier vehicles is a magnitude higher, I find this an inane argument. We need to get more people out of cars to meet our modest mode shift IMP targets.

Matt Spurway also came up with some suggestions.

If you think Hendsbee’s primary concern here is saving money, let me point you to his vote yesterday to extend a road from one Hammonds Plains subdivision to another. (I’m familiar with these subdivisions. Driving from one to the other right now is hardly onerous.)

I don’t know why drivers think there is something special about the taxes they pay when they buy gas, versus the taxes we pay on anything else.

What about licencing though? It can’t hurt, right? What’s a couple of bucks?

This line of thinking holds that doing something is better than doing nothing, even if we don’t know if that something is effective. This is the thinking that got us the disastrous DARE anti-drug program in schools (zero evidence it has any effect on lowering drug use) and, the far less disastrous but still problematic crosswalk flag program.

Various cities have tried bike registration, ostensibly as a way to cut down on theft and to be able to return recovered bikes to their owners. Salt Lake City, which charged a $2 fee for this, recently made registration free.

But there is a darker side to registration too. I read a fascinating paper by history professor John Bloom, published in the March 2017 issue of The American Quarterly. (I can’t link to it because it’s behind a paywall.) The paper is called “’To Die for a Lousy Bike’: Bicycles, Race, and the Regulation of Public Space on the Streets of Washington, DC, 1963–2009.”

The title comes from a sting operation set up by DC police. Concerned about bike thefts, they left an unattended bicycle outside a supermarket. This kind of “bike stakeout” was common at the time. Soon after, a black teenager (who had had four bikes stolen) got on the bike — a friend says he thought it was his. A few minutes later, he was was shot in the back and killed.

Bloom writes:

Police reported that Officer Pender’s gun had fallen from its holster, accidently [sic] firing the fatal bullet. Witnesses disputed this, saying that Pender appeared to have fired his weapon deliberately. Gregory’s father, Lancelot Coleman, told the Afro-American, “The whole thing was senseless that my son had to die for a lousy bike.”

District police have monitored African Americans on bicycles to transcend the city’s racial boundaries since the late nineteenth century, when bicycle patrols jailed African American bicycle club members for riding in Georgetown after dark without lamps. In the early 1970s, young working-class and poor African Americans were the population at the center of debates over the use of bicycles in the city. Particularly in the wake of the violent uprisings that rocked Washington in April 1968, District officials saw African American youths as a potential disruption to public order and attempted to contain and funnel their presence in urban public spaces through bicycle stakeouts and ordinances seeking to regulate bicycle mobility.

Once bicycle registration came in, you will be shocked to learn that checking compliance became a means of racial profiling.

Statements that Chief Wilson made to the press clearly demonstrate that he favored mandatory bicycle registration guidelines in order to expand the power of police patrols to track those who might be considered suspicious, through “investigatory” or “pretextual” stops. It is also clear that African Americans riding expensive bicycles, or who were simply using their bicycles to unapologetically transgress the city’s geographic racial boundaries, would draw the most suspicion from police. In other words, police could use mandatory bicycle registration not only to arrest suspected bike thieves but also to maintain segregated public spaces and streets. In a revealing article during the summer of 1973 that expressed concern over such transgressions, Wilson used the local print media to lobby for mandatory bicycle registration. In an article that conjured up fear of young African American men, Wilson explicitly reasoned that the law would give his force the authority to randomly detain citizens on bicycles.

Can cyclists hurt other people? Absolutely. My neighbour Edward and I once decided to play an ill-advised game of chicken in the parking lot of the school across the street. The game ended in a crash and a trail of blood leading from the parking lot to Edward’s front door.

More seriously though, cyclists on sidewalks can run into pedestrians. One regular reader of this site has commented several times on cyclists riding up behind him on the Dartmouth Common, without properly signalling their presence. On very rare occasions, cyclists have killed pedestrians. On February 12, 2016, Charlie Alliston crashed into 44-year-old Kim Briggs in London, as she was crossing the road. She suffered a brain injury and subsequently died.

Alliston was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The bike he was riding was illegal.

Richard Windsor writes in Cycling News:

Judge Wendy Joseph QC describ[ed] his riding as an ‘an accident waiting to happen.’

“I am satisfied in some part it was this so-called thrill that motivated you to ride without a front brake shouting and swearing at pedestrians to get out of the way,” she said.

“I’ve heard your evidence and I have no doubt that even now you remain obstinately sure of yourself and your own abilities.

“I have no doubt you are wrong in this. You were an accident waiting to happen.

“The victim could have been any pedestrian. It was in fact Mrs Kim Briggs.

“If you bicycle had a front wheel brake you could have stopped but on this illegal bike you could not and on your evidence, by this stage, you were not even trying to slow or stop.”

How would registration have helped here? Especially considering Alliston was already riding an illegal bike.

If you want to read a lot more reasons why bicycle registration is a bad idea, you can start here and here.

I have no illusions that this idea is going to go away. Plenty of bad ideas stick around for decades, seemingly immune to any sort of evidence. But let’s stop with the bogus arguments. Bike registration is a way to police people’s movement and to feel like you are doing something while also sticking it to those scofflaws who you see as getting a free ride.


Noticed

I don’t understand why there are more spoons than forks on this book cover.

When I wasn’t thinking about the end of humanity while on holiday, I read Bee Wilson’s book Consider the Fork. It’s one of those great books that thinks about all kinds of things we take for granted. Why do we eat the way we do? How did forks come to be dominant in Europe and chopsticks in China? What are the implications of different types of kitchen design?

There are so many things to love in this book: Renaissance-era recipes and their implications, the working conditions of those who toiled in British kitchens, the significance of how and what we measure. I could go on and on.

I’ve put in a library request for Wilson’s latest book, The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

If you’ve got 20 minutes, the Splendid Table podcast recently ran an excellent interview with Wilson.


Government

City

Wednesday

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda here.

Thursday

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Youth Power House, 1606 Bell Road) — agenda here.

Public Information Meeting – Case 22334 (Thursday, 7pm, Sackville Heights Community Centre) — application by WM Fares requesting to enter into a development agreement to allow for a one-storey commercial building at 1401 Sackville Drive, Middle Sackville. More info here.

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Stuart Maclean and Rodney Burgar from Workers’ Compensation Board, and Duff Montgomerie from the Department of Labour and Advanced Education will talk about Claims Management – May 2019 Report of the Auditor General, Chapter 3 and Governance and Long-term Sustainability – December 2018 Report of the Auditor General, Chapter 3.

Thursday

No public meetings Thursday or Friday.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Wednesday, 9:30am, Room C264, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Luke E Hattie will defend “A novel model of elevated mitochondrial cholesterol and the consequences for mitochondrial function.”​

Thesis Defence, Mechanical Engineering (Wednesday, 10am, room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Araf Taher will defend “An Investigation to Enhance Stratification in Solar Domestic Hot Water Tanks using Photovoltaic Power​.”


In the harbour

Oceanex Sanderling. Photo: Halifax Examiner

06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from from St. John’s
06:30: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,446 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a nine-day roundtrip cruise out of Baltimore
08:00: Glenda Melanie, oil tanker, moves from Imperial Oil to Pier 31
16:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, sails from Pier 28 for sea
18:30: Grandeur of the Seas sails for Baltimore


Footnotes

Fun fact: YouTube, which has no trouble pushing truly dangerous videos on people engaged in activities as innocuous as learning to play guitar, warns you that Bicycle Race may contain inappropriate content. (Naked butts on bike seats.)

Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. So, each year HRM police holds a bike auction. They raise a lot of money. Most (maybe all) of the bikes they sell are recovered stolen bikes. My question has always been, what effort was made to get them back to their owners before throwing them in the pile to sell? Bikes have serial numbers. Presumably somebody reports a bike stolen and gives a description. When the police recover a stolen bike, do they even bother to try and find the owner or just consider it more inventory for their next public auction? My nephew got a really good deal on a very nice mountain bike at the auction. All well and good for my nephew but what about the kid who had this bike stolen from him? This was an $800 bicycle when it was new. So perhaps the funds from those auctions should go towards something related to active transportation infrastructure or maybe a better owner tracing system for stolen bikes.

  2. @philmoscovitch

    Another ill-advised policy that was put through because “doing something is better than nothing” is the mandatory adult bicycle helmet law that was introduced in Nova Scotia back in 1997.

    This law resulted in:

    – an estimated 50% reduction in the number of cyclists in Nova Scotia
    – risk of getting injured while cycling DOUBLED
    – risk of sustaining a head while cycling stayed the same

    See this site for more info:

    https://www.cyclehelmets.org/1107.html

    1. The helmet law is ridiculous. I would pay a lot not to have to wear a helmet. Even if it was true that helmets benefit adult cyclists, just like alcohol, slap a sin tax on not wearing a helmet to pay for the supposed health care costs associated with unprotected cycling.

  3. We appreciate some are not fans of our crosswalk flag program. Fair enough.

    But before concluding there is no evidence as to their effectiveness please take the time to read

    http://www.crosswalksafetysociety.ca/resources/The%20Effectiveness%20of%20Crosswalk%20Flags_%20A%20Review%20of%20the%20Evidence.Nov%202017.docx.pdf

    Furthermore we now have collision data at RA-5 (overhead amber lights) for 2017 and 2018. Vehicle-pedestrian collisions during these two years occurred at 3.6% of the locations that have crosswalk flags versus 13.9% of those that do not. Is that evidence crosswalk flags cause the better experience. Perhaps not but perhaps they are a positive contributor.

    Is this evidence conclusive? No. But it all points to crosswalk flags being somewhat effective. We have never been presented with any evidence they do harm.

    Furthermore we do believe it is better to do something than nothing, as do all those who have requested crosswalk flag installations due to their frustration with what they perceive as unsafe crosswalks and a lack of action on the part of HRM to address their concerns.

    1. All the members of council are a case study for term limits.
      Hendsbee will be re-elected every time he has his name on a HRM ballot…….and unlike many of his colleagues he spends most of time with his constituents and actually reads the material distributed
      to council members.
      I believe it is time to elect a woman mayor.