News

1. 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.

Yesterday, I went to Halifax City Hall expecting to hear councillors discuss cannabis legalization; I was preparing for a hilarious debate about the evils of smoking the ganja.

But before that conversation could get going, the Maritime Football Ltd. people showed up and council kicked the public out of chambers so they could hold a secret meeting to discuss a stadium.

The commissionaires were even instructed to not allow reporters to get near the MFL people as they entered the building, lest, I dunno, a pointed question took them off their game. So instead, all we reporters sat in Halifax Hall playing with our phones and watching Russia embarrass Egypt in football on the TV. An hour went by, no word. After two hours, we were told councillors were taking a break, but no councillor spoke to us. Council went back into secret session. The three-hour mark passed, still nothing. Nearly four hours into the secret meeting, Steve Streatch showed up and said he was just getting away from the debate; there was still a long list of councillors wanting to speak, he said, without giving any particulars. So I left; the other reporters stuck around but to no end — no announcement was made even when council finally broke for supper sometime after 5pm.

Before the secret meeting started, councillor Tim Outhit did make an attempt to open the discussion up to the public. Outhit noted that the matter was agendized as a “contract negotiation,” but there was no actual contract being negotiated. Moreover, he pointed out, even if there were a contract, it wasn’t a competitive bidding process — there isn’t another potential CFL football team looking to get the city to build it a stadium — so secrecy serves no real purpose besides keeping the pesky public at bay. But Mayor Mike Savage and CAO Jacque Dubé would have none of it — the Maritime Football people had asked for secrecy, and that was the end of it, as far as Savage and Dubé were concerned.

My informed guess is that we’ll soon see a proposal that includes a mix of government funding for a stadium — I don’t know if the federal government will play along, but I suspect there will be some provincial funding and a lot of municipal funding. Total costs are going to be something on the order of $300 million, give or take $100 million.

The whole thing is going to be wrapped in financial smoke and mirrors: a district around the new stadium will be defined, and as a result of the new stadium, tax assessments in that district will rise, we’ll be told. The increased property tax receipts from the district will supposedly “pay back” the city’s portion of the stadium costs over time, 10 or 25 years. But this isn’t how property taxes are supposed to work. All tax money received is used across the municipality for a vast range of purposes, and not just to service the property where the taxes are generated. And commercial property tax receipts in particular are used to offset residential rates, so setting aside a portion of commercial tax receipts to pay for a stadium necessarily means that either residential rates will need to increase to make up the difference or that services will have to be cut. Moreover, even if you agree with the “pay back” logic, as we’ve seen with the Nova Centre, which was premised on the same scheme, it doesn’t work. In the first 10 years alone of the Nova Centre, we’re losing at least $25 million from the property tax scheme.

But, you know, bread and circuses. Circuses, anyway (politicians are no longer big on the “bread” part of the equation, which I could sign onto). Ten or 12 football circuses a year, and that’s enough to get the proles excited enough to not vote against you next election.

The location of the stadium is up in the air. I think if the MFL people had their way, it’d be out in the Bedford Common surrounded by a sea of parking lots. But Savage and company want to sell this as a Lansdowne-like project, complete with a surrounding tax benefit district. It’s not clear that Lansdowne is the success it’s being sold as, but even if it is, there’s no comparable area in Halifax. Still, I think there’s at least a push for a peninsula site for the stadium. Maybe on Port land? I dunno.

The stadium proposal will have to be rolled out publicly at some point, so the current secrecy only serves to keep the public uninformed about the debate that will lead to it. Councillors had dozens and dozens of questions and debating points yesterday — four hours’ worth — but none of that complex politicking and compromise will ever be known. We’re supposed to just accept whatever end is reached and not question it.

This makes me think the stadium is a done deal. We’re getting a stadium, whether we want it or not.

Which makes me want to smoke some dope.

2. Willow Tree

This see-through building has been approved for the Willow Tree intersection.

To no one’s surprise, last night “Halifax regional council voted to approve bylaw amendments to allow the controversial Willow Tree development,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro:

The proposal has changed many times over the years, starting as two towers, then morphing into a single 29-storey tower, then to 20 storeys then to the 25 approved Tuesday.

As a condition of those extra five storeys, from 20 to 25, Armco will have to provide public benefit to the municipality, but it has some options.

Ideally, the developer will bury the electrical wires around the site and provide 10 units of affordable housing under a 15-year agreement that will price those units at 60 per cent of market value — currently calculated at about $750.

If it can’t bury the wires, Armco has the option to provide 20 units of affordable housing under those same conditions, provide 10 and $900,000 toward a yet-to-be-established affordable housing fund, or provide $1.8 million toward that fund.

It’s a formula derived partly from Councillor Shawn Cleary — described by Councillor Sam Austin and quoted by many members of the public on Tuesday as “the epitome of ad hocery” — and partly from a meeting between municipal staff and the developer’s representatives at the last council meeting on the proposal.

Austin said he couldn’t support a deal made up “on the back of a napkin.”

3. Cyclist badly hurt

A police release from last night:

At 5:38 p.m. police responded to the 0-100 block of Inspector Court in Halifax after a resident located an injured male on their lawn. The matter is still under investigation but it is believed the 18-year-old male from Halifax failed to navigate a turn, lost control of his bike, hit the curb and then struck a vehicle that was parked in a driveway. He was taken to hospital with injuries that were possibly life-threatening.

Inspector Court is in Spryfield, just north of McIntosh Run, and is an entry point to the trails along the creek.

4. Superstar

Superstar Lounge

One of the oddest businesses along Gottingen Street is the Superstar Lounge, which occupies a basement space under what used to be the North End Community Health Centre (which has now moved to the MacDonald building), at 2099B Gottingen Street.

Superstar is a karaoke bar with a clientele that is entirely Asian students, which is fine except that they seem downright hostile to everyone else. Some years ago, I arranged to meet someone there at 5pm one day, just after the business opened; the couple running the place looked at me warily and asked me what I was doing there. “Just meeting someone… can I have a beer while I wait?” All they had was Budweiser, and the single bottle cost me something like eight dollars. I looked around — there were sofas and tables, with a handful of private booths/rooms. There wasn’t a stage, but a TV sat in one corner for karaoke. The menu looked interesting — lots of Asian food, but more what I would describe as pubgrub Asian than actual meal food. It felt like a sort of glorified teenager basement, like the one the kids smoked dope in on That 70s Show. The entire time I was there, the couple peered out at me from behind a curtain that masked the kitchen, and in an obvious manner. My meeting partner never arrived, so I finished my beer, thanked the pair and left.

I’m told this is not unusual. The business’s target audience is Asian students, and there’s no attempt to welcome anyone else. The bar doesn’t advertise in any English newspapers, and way back when I worked at The Coast they didn’t respond to my multiple attempts to interview them for the ShopTalk column. I’m told Shaun Majumder wanted to come down one night to sing karaoke but wasn’t allowed in, for unknown reasons.

According to its website, Superstar charges $8.88 admission later in the evening, but that includes a free drink on Thursday nights. I don’t know if the triple eight thing has some meaning that eludes me or if they just think nine bucks would be too steep.

Anyway, it appears that Superstar also wasn’t so welcoming to a liquor inspector who showed up at the establishment last September 15, a Friday night, and now the business and owners Yezhen Ouyang and Hongyue Wang have been charged with violating a slew of liquor laws, including Sections 45(a)(b)&(c), 61(2), 64(1) and 79 of the Liquor Licensing Regulations.

Section 45 relates to unaccompanied people under the age of 19 being allowed on the premises; Section 61(2) is that “a licensee must not permit a person who is drunk to be in their licensed premises”; Section 64(1) is that “a licensee must not permit any activity in or about their licensed premises that is detrimental to the orderly control and operation of the licensed premises”; and Section 79 is that “a licensee must not obstruct an inspector while the inspector is performing their duties or exercising their powers.”

The matter has been referred to the Utility and Review Board, which will soon schedule a hearing.

5. Abdoul Abdi

Yesterday, there was a court hearing for Abdoul Abdi’s immigration status. El Jones was there, and I believe she’ll be writing something for the Examiner about it this morning. Check back.

6. Cumberland South

PC candidate Tory Rushton handily won the Cumberland South provincial byelection yesterday. Unofficial results have him with 3,417 votes; the next highest challenger was Liberal Scott Lockhart with 1,829 votes. The NDP and Green Party candidates received fewer than 300 votes each.

7. Atlantica Party

According to its website, Elections Nova Scotia has suspended the Atlantica Party, effective today:

The main issue involves a loan between the Party and its former leader. To date, an agreement to satisfy this loan has been unable to be reached due to the Party’s limited resources.

The Atlantica Party believes that we have strong legal and ethical arguments to successfully overturn this suspension and look forward to sharing more information with our supporters and all taxpayers of Nova Scotia as soon as the parameters for a fair and transparent hearing are established. [emphasis in original]

Just a couple of weeks ago, I received a press release saying a 20-year-old whiz kid was going to save the party:

The Atlantica Party Association of Nova Scotia is proud to announce Bryden DeAdder as our new President.

Already a political veteran at the young age of 20, Bryden, born and raised in Kentville, understands first hand the needs of Nova Scotians and has the tools capable of unlocking the potential of this beautiful province.

Politics in Nova Scotia has always been an old boys club. It is the best practice, however, to employ the individual that is the most capable for the job — Indiscriminate of identity politics. The Executive firmly believes that Bryden is the right choice to steer our ship towards the next election.

Bryden was our candidate for Kings North, obtaining 72 votes in the constituency against veteran politician and current PC leadership candidate, John Lohr. In September, he will begin a Business program at the NSCC, and we are confident that he will be able to effectively balance his role as President with the demands of student life.

“Nova Scotia’s greatest resource is her people,” says Bryden.

“This is a province that’s in a stranglehold of bureaucratic red tape. It doesn’t help anybody. We need to help ourselves before we can stand to help anybody else. Ending government monopolies and giving everyone the equal opportunity of access to the economy will breed success for everyone indiscriminately. There are a lot of people here suffering and it’s a shame because when Nova Scotians succeed, Nova Scotia succeeds. The greater the freedom, the greater the prosperity, and that’s something worth fighting for.”

Sincerely,
The Atlantica Party Association of Nova Scotia Executive

Maybe the party needs to embrace a bit of identity politics — the identity of “capable,” at least.

Nothing against young people in general — I’ve known some amazing young people — but there is no one more annoying than a 20-year-old Libertarian.


Views

1. Vehicles

“Statistics Canada [has] released some troubling data showing that the number of registered motor vehicles in the country increased by almost 550,000 last year,” notes Richard Starr:

That’s 100,000 more than our population increase of 443,500 in 2017, continuing a trend going back to at least 2013. Between 2013 and 2017, registered motor vehicles increased by 8.2 per cent, the population by only 4.4 per cent.

The figures cited so far are for all 34,320,737 registered vehicles, including large trucks, buses, and off-road vehicles. A subset, registered vehicles weighting less than 4,500 kilograms  – which would include cars, SUVs and vans – also exceeded population growth from 2013 to 2017, increasing by 6.7 per cent to 22,678,328.

The pattern of vehicle growth outnumbering people growth was even more pronounced in Nova Scotia. Total registrations were up by 1.95 per cent in 2017, but the population increased by only 0.55 per cent. Between 2013 and 2017, Nova Scotia’s population went up 1.1 per cent while the population of registered motor vehicle rose 4.5 per cent – more than four times faster.

When it comes to GHG emissions, having more cars on the road seems to have offset any reductions resulting from more stringent fuel efficiency standards introduced over the past decade. The latest federal government estimates for GHG emissions from road transportation are for 2016. They show an increase in emissions from road transportation from 129 million tons in 2005 to 143 million tons in 2016.

Starr seems to think people will embrace a carbon tax if they understand that it would cause some people to take transit and drive less, thereby giving everyone else less traffic on the roads. But he ignores all the class and rural issues related to the carbon tax — when you’ve got to drive to work because transit doesn’t exist or isn’t workable, the carbon tax is just a penalty for being alive.

By my way of looking at it, the way to make a carbon tax popular is to make it redistributional. That is, charge a high carbon tax, but return the proceeds directly to people as a dividend payment. Everyone — rich and poor alike — receives an equal share. Because big corporations and very rich people will pay the bulk of the tax, that means the average suburban commuter or rural worker would see the increase in the price of gas more than offset by the dividend received. They’ll clamour to increase the tax, not oppose it.


Government

City

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee and Audit and Finance Standing Committee — both meetings are cancelled.

Thursday

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — the committee is going to hear about feral cats, and consider a motion to preserve “historic infrastructure” through the upcoming streetscaping plan for Spring Garden Road. The latter started as a suggestion to save the old streetcar poles along the road — I counted eight of them between Barrington Street and South Park Street last time I walked the road — but has since been expanded to include other unspecified “infrastructure.”

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Province

No public meetings for the rest of the week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

A Linear Algebra Problem Related to Legendre Polynomials (Wednesday, 2pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Scott Cameron will speak. His abstract:

I introduce a problem which piqued my interest, namely a question asked in the context of simple linear algebra, and then generalize this problem to investigate further properties. This leads to a study of families of polynomial coefficients for kernels of shifted Legendre polynomials, and the properties which they have. It turns out that there is a general formula for the generating function of each of these families.

A computational study to explore the conformational space of amyloid-beta(Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — PhD candidate Simiao (Michelle) Lu will talk.

Thursday

Inspiration and Impact: Our Year In Review (Thursday, 10:30am, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — from the event listing:

Join Dalhousie President Dr. Richard Florizone and members of the university’s senior administration team for the 2018 year in review. This session will highlight some of Dalhousie’s success from the past year, discuss progress towards the goals of our Strategic Direction and provide an opportunity to answer your questions and hear your feedback. Questions are welcome in person, by email (president.messages@dal.ca) or via Twitter (#dalinspire). ​Following the session, attendees are invited to attend a short reception.

Info: robin.beaton@dal.ca

It’s the Bees’ Knees (Thursday, 6pm, Jenkins Hall) — this is a “chef-curated” dinner consisting of a three-course meal that apparently includes a lot of honey, and while you’re eating you can listen to “various researchers [talk about] honey, bees, poultry and striped bass and their role in agriculture.” Twenty-five bucks per; register to lisha.johnson@dal.ca.


In the harbour

6am: Pantonio, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
6am: Oborshite, bulker, arrives at Pier 27 from Montreal
11:30am: Sagres, Portuguese tall ship, sails from Pier 24 for Miami
11:30am: Pantonio, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
3pm: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
6:30pm: Polar Prince, buoy laying vessel, arrives at Pier 9 from Lunenberg
11pm: Augusta Mars, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea


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. That damn stadium thing is going to move forward, public opinion be damned! You can just smell the pet project and ego boosting all over it. Savage is a booster and he’ll do what he can to facilitate this. I just emailed objections to my councilor and the clerk, for all the good it will do. The karaoke bar sounds hilarious! I can see it as being a hipster activity soon – go get stared down at the weird basement karaoke bar over a nine buck beer. lmao

    1. I was going to post a comment but this one from jvangurp says everything I was going to say so ditto.
      You would think after what was learned from the Nova Centre fiasco that this wouldn’t happen again, but here we go. Load up and aim at the other foot.

  2. I’m interested in another issue that arises out of Richard Starr’s report showing light vehicle registrations growing faster than Nova Scotia’s population with sales of SUVs, pickup trucks and vans outpacing the sales of smaller vehicles. We’re told constantly that public health care costs are bankrupting us, yet my calculations show that Nova Scotians pay more to own and operate their personal vehicles than the $4.3 billion the province is spending on health care in 2018/19. Yes, the province pays for our health system out of taxes that people see as a “burden,” while many, including the news media which depend on automotive advertising, see private spending on the car as a boon to the economy in spite of its steep costs to the private pocket and public treasury as well as the environmental destruction that comes with every km driven.

    Total number of light vehicles registered in N.S. in 2017: 606,346. (A relatively small percentage of these would be commercial fleet vehicles, though StatsCan does not give a breakdown. So let’s be super conservative in our calculations by pretending that all of these vehicles are the size of a 2016 4-dr. Toyota Corolla LE sedan.)

    Using the Canadian Automobile Association’s online car costs calculator, we find that the total cost of driving the car 20,000 km this year would be $7,477.56. (The 20,000 km figure may also be a bit high. The 2009 annual vehicle survey from Natural Resources Canada put the average Nova Scotia driving distance at 17,427 km/yr. and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a more recent figure. Again, however, treating all registered vehicles as though they were Corollas should more than compensate.)

    Total # of vehicles 606,346 X $7,477.56 = $4,533,988,595.76 or $4.5 billion. NS health and wellness spending for 2018/19 = 4,367,099,000 or $4.3 billion. Spending for Community Services (welfare etc.) and Education and Early Childhood Development combined = $3,377,178,000 or $3.3 billion.

    Other government spending that helps support the operation of cars includes Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (highways, bridges etc.): $477,545,000 and Justice (policing, court costs etc.): $354,581,000.

    Bottom line: cars are expensive!

    1. Well, that’s a cheerful start to my day. Bring on the revolution! A friend of mine recently made an interesting suggestion. Apparently the federal government granted a subsidy to some business or private corporation (don’t know the details|) amounting to $22 million. My friend suggested they should just have given every Canadian over the age of twenty-one $1 million. That would have given a great boost to the economy.

  3. Just for my terrible curiosity, can someone list out the Willowtree vote role form last night?

  4. The number 8 is considered the luckiest number in Chinese culture. It’s pronounced “Ba”, which is similar to “Fa”, and “Fa” means to make a fortune.

    It’s pretty ingrained in Chinese culture. Phone numbers with an 8 are often worth more in the open market, apartments/condos on the 8th floor of a building, etc.

    The private room style karaoke is all over Asia. You almost never see a karaoke machine in a public space.

  5. I assume that the public funding will guarantee ticket and concession prices feasible for families of all incomes? If not, this will just be one more way for already wealthy investors to rake in more profit. I have heard many people comment that few can afford to go to an NHL or CFL game in larger cities.

  6. The stadium bullshit should make every citizen of this municipality angry. Secret meetings are undemocratic and contribute to electoral disillusionment.

    This is how democracy dies. Active and wanton disregard of democratic principles by those elected to represent those principles.

    Shameful.

  7. Yesterday Council had a secret meeting that did not meet the requirements of a secret meeting. It also held a public meeting on a development, even though the fix was in when staff wrote up an agreement with the developer on a cocktail napkin at a previous Council meeting. I am surprised that anyone showed up for the public meeting when their input would clearly (no pun intended) be disregarded.

    Maybe Peter Kelly can come back and open the windows wide so democracy can breathe.

    1. We have far too many secret meetings at Halifax City Council.

      This one doesn’t appear justifiable even by their own rules, yet they still insisted upon shutting the public out. Council frequently violates their own planning guidelines in favour of big bucks developers, and even seem to be racing to sneak in developments they know would be denied under The Centre Plan, if it ever arrives. They may not be corrupt, but they sure convey the appearance of it at times. One wonders what’s going to happen to the Art Gallery after hints from provincial government that it and NSCAD might be bundled into some nice waterfront property somewhere.

      And trust me, I will make an emphatic point of voting against any Councillor who votes in favour of a football stadium!

  8. Chaos at the council meeting last night. It ended at 11:45 pm.
    Councillors getting mixed up discussing the two by-law discussions and the solicitor John Traves,Q.C. admitting to mistakes in the documents he was presenting. First reading of by-laws is usually just an introduction and second reading is the discussion and debate, but last night the two by-laws were discussed together.
    A complete shambles as Mayor Savage lost all control in an almost incoherent finale to a long day. He voted against the Armoyan tower – I take that as an indication of his intent to re-offer in 2020.
    It all ended with a brief and nauseating recitation of praise for CAO Dube over his handling of the diversity and employment discrimination issue. They all seem to suffer from memory loss of the Dube inappropriate comments to female staff less than 12 months ago.