1. Cleanup continues
The province is stepping in to assist the city in downtown snow clearing.
Metro Transit is back to full operation, and there’s no fare through Sunday. I don’t know who made the no-fare decision, but it’s a good one. Especially with the all-day street parking ban still in effect, transit is a good alternative to driving.
Walking around yesterday, I found drivers were mostly courteous and understanding of the situation, but there were a couple who were peeved at pedestrians in the street. In many places still, the sidewalks are not usable. Please be patient and careful.
Environment Canada can’t say exactly what will happen yet, but it will either snow or rain tomorrow. Weather Underground’s 10-day forecast for Halifax is showing more snow next week, and temperatures barely getting above freezing for the rest of the month.
Peter Dubois has filed a criminal harassment complaint with the RCMP, saying that he is being unfairly singled out by Customs inspectors at the Stanfield International Airport, reports the Chronicle Herald.
Dubois flies frequently to Southeast Asia for business and carries a wide assortment of electronics with him:
Dubois carries two tablet computers, two cellphones and a high-tech wristwatch that downloads health information to one of the phones. He also carries a camera and a couple of small, portable memory devices.
The tablets contain games and pictures, he said.
The electronic devices seem to have attracted the attention of border agents, Dubois said, holding him up at customs once last year and again earlier this month.
Agents were rude and aggressive, he said, and one told him he was being watched because of the devices.
“He said they are red flags for a pedophile,” Dubois said.
“This is not on. You just don’t stand there and say because I’ve got some electronic equipment that I have red flags to be a pedophile. I mean, it’s ridiculous. I carry electronic equipment with me all the time. I use it all the time.”
While probably on the extreme end of the spectrum, Dubois’ array of electronics is not unusual. When travelling, I sometimes carry two laptops, an iPhone, an external hard drive, a camera, two voice recorders, and a few thumb drives. That’s basic equipment for many people.
3. Tara Gault
Tara Gault has pleaded not guilty of assaulting Andrew Younger, and a trial date has been set for November 4, reports the Globe & Mail:
The 28-year-old Gault must abstain from contacting Younger and his wife, as well as another woman, except through legal counsel.
The rumour mill says the alleged assault was over a dispute about the other woman.
4. Ryan Millet
High tuition rates were at the heart of Ryan Millet’s decision to to admit guilt by submitting to remediation in the Dalhousie dentistry scandal, writes Moira Dononvan:
When universities increase tuition to a level where students risk bankrupting themselves if they fail to graduate for whatever reason – students for whom the only safety net is a crowdfunding campaign – it’s difficult to see how a fair and transparent relationship between students and universities can exist, and how university administrations, and not just students, can be held accountable for their actions.
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1. Allan Rowe
“And then someone dies, or becomes very ill. It’s a shocking reminder for MLAs of their mortality, and of the shallowness of whatever might be that day’s political hot potato,” writes Graham Steele of the death of Allan Rowe, the MLA for Dartmouth South. Steele read through all of Rowe’s statements on the floor of the legislature, and found Rowe’s reflection on the death of federal finance minister Jim Flaherty:
…it gave me an opportunity to reflect on all of our lives here and the fact that we are here to spend some time on this Earth and perhaps do the best we can to try and achieve what we think is the right thing to achieve, to do the best we can for ourselves and for the people around us.
In the case of all of us in this House, it’s for all of our constituents; it’s for the people of Nova Scotia.
I read an article about Halifax’s snow removal budget and decided to find out how much we spend. Three hours later (ok, maybe four by the time I finished typing this novel)…
Mississauga’s total “Winter Maintenance” budget for 2014 was $22.5 million ($24.7 million actual) and $13.8 million of that goes to contractors; we’re in year 1 of a new seven-year deal (the $22.5 million includes around $4 million for sidewalks and $2.5 million for bus stops & crossings).
The City of Mississauga mandates the type of equipment to be used and sidewalks must be cleared with articulated plows with blowers and spreaders. All equipment (whether city-owned or contractor-owned) is outfitted with real-time tracking that feeds a system that ensures routes are being cleared and service levels are being met — they track not just location of the gear but they can also tell if the plow is up/down, etc. Contractors are responsible for meeting service levels as well as for any damage caused during snow clearing. I have an app on my phone that allows me to see where the plows are at any point in time and to tell me what’s already been cleared.
The budget covers 5,500 km of roads, 2,400 km of sidewalks, 3,700 bus stops and miscellaneous special programs (eg: driveway windrow clearing for seniors and people with physical disabilities). In advance of the tender that led to the new seven-year deal, council decided that safety and mobility objectives were priorities so they added 1,000 km of sidewalks that were previously left to citizens to clean (this is similar to HRM’s decision to include “secondary” sidewalks) and increased the service levels that cleaning crews had to meet.
By comparison, Halifax’s budget for 2014 was $20M and their reserve fund was $4.4M. What I found really interesting was that HRM’s actual spend was just over $24M which was almost identical to Mississauga’s $24.7M. While the service levels (as defined) appear to be roughly the same, HRM only clears 3,765 km of roads (Mississauga: 45 percent more), 953 km of sidewalks (Mississauga: 153% more) and 2,295 bus stops (Mississauga: 61% more).
While I’m sure there are good reasons why the cost per km in Halifax is higher than in Mississauga (Maybe Mississauga provides equipment/facilities that contractors are responsible for in Halifax, more firms competing for the business here, etc.), our experience suggests that contracting out doesn’t have to lead to lower service levels (as I mentioned before, from what I’ve read and seen, Mississauga does a phenomenal job).
HRM’s budget for this year was a staggering $10.5M less than last year’s actuals and even if you think it’s a more reasonable number on a cost/km basis you can’t just wish away $10M in expense. Especially since HRM actually wanted the service levels to increase (complaints skyrocketed) and sought a legal opinion on terminating some of the contracts after poor contractor performance in 2013.
Five years ago HRM spent over $18 million and it has only gone up every single year since (the July 2014 report says $20 million is “adequate to cover ‘average’ winters.”). While you can’t wish it away I guess you can write bad contracts, let contractors decide what equipment to use, and turn a blind eye to service levels. I don’t think this is incompetence, I think it’s straight up cooking the books. Having said that, incompetence is the most generous explanation for why the folks who’ve made these decisions continue in their roles while formal complaints (311 calls) more than double year-over-year (not even including this winter) and the actual spend continues to increase.
The July 2014 report Morrison mentions is here. It’s worth a complete read by anyone interested in snow and ice clearing operations.
Lezlie Lowe hangs out with a 311 operator.
4. Cranky letter of the day
I started reading Jade Nauss’s article “Ableist sales staff can cramp a shopper’s style,” but had to stop when she wrote about 20 percent of Nova Scotian women having a disability, “the highest percent of any Canadian province” (The City, March 5). I didn’t bother reading any further. I’m not going to waste my time reading anything with gross exaggeration, hyperbole and outright lies. I cannot bother to trust that the rest of the article may have had some redeeming feature. THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME YOUR PAPER PUBLISHED SUCH STUFF, ANOTHER OF YOUR WRITERS DID THE SAME THING LAST WEEK. It is well-known that we are among the healthiest provinces in Canada, as we have the oldest population in the country. You don’t get to these long lifespans by being sick or disabled. If I see any more such untruths in your paper, I will no longer read it. And I’m not alone.
Charles Carey, Halifax
The Coast responds, saying the 20 percent figure is correct, or at least close enough.
No public meetings.
Oceanography grad students (noon, University Hall, Macdonald Building)—Oceanography grad students and post docs will be giving 15-minute presentations about their work.
Dithiolene and Diselenolene (1;30pm, Chemistry Building, Room 226)—Eric Bushnel will talk.
Planetarium show (2:30pm, Room 120, Dunn Building)—”The stars have no break” is the title of this show:
Some of the brightest stars visible are ‘up’ in the constellations of the clear Winter-Spring night sky; this year Venus and Jupiter shine brightly amongst them. Come and learn where to find these objects and what makes them shine.
Five bucks at the door. No screaming kids.
Economic insecurity (3:30pm, Mona Campbell 1108)—Conchita D’Ambrosio, from the University of Luxembourg, will talk about “Relative measure of economic insecurity: An application to EU countries.”
Racial discrimination (noon, Burke Theatre A)—students from the Conflict Resolution Society and Peaceful Schools International will talk about their experiences working in peace education and the prevention of discrimination within elementary schools in Halifax and Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Imperial estates (12;20pm, AT 217)—Myles McCallum will talk on “Understanding the Role of Imperial Estates in the Italian Countryside.”
We should be alarmed. In a piece headlined “The melting of Antarctica was already really bad. It just got worse.” Washington Post science reporter Chris Mooney reviews the latest research on Antarctic ice shelves:
“The idea of warm ocean water eroding the ice in West Antarctica, what we’re finding is that may well be applicable in East Antarctica as well,” says Martin Siegert, a co-author of the study who is based at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.
The floating ice shelf of the Totten Glacier covers an area of 90 miles by 22 miles. It it is losing an amount of ice “equivalent to 100 times the volume of Sydney Harbour every year,” notes the Australian Antarctic Division.
That’s alarming, because the glacier holds back a much more vast catchment of ice that, were its vulnerable parts to flow into the ocean, could produce a sea level rise of more than 11 feet — which is comparable to the impact from a loss of the West Antarctica ice sheet. And that’s “a conservative lower limit,” says lead study author Jamin Greenbaum, a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin.
Much as with the ocean-abutting glaciers of West Antarctica, just because a retreat has been observed — and because the entirety of the region implies a sea level rise of 11 or more feet were all ice to end up in the ocean — does not mean that we’ll see anything near that much sea level rise in our lifetimes. These processes generally are expected to play out over hundreds of years or more. They would reshape the face of the Earth – but we may never see it.
The problem, then, is more the world we’re leaving to our children and grandchildren — because once such a gigantic geophysical process begins, it’s hard to see how it comes to a halt. “With warming oceans, it’s difficult to see how a process that starts now would be reversed, or reversible, in a warming world,” Siegert says.
In the harbour
I provide a lot of information for free on the Examiner site, and I’ve set subscription rates at a fair and low rate. Yesterday, however, I discovered that someone took an article I’ve placed behind the pay wall and posted it in its entirety, without a link or even attribution, on a free hosting service. This is not cool.
If readers find any such articles out there, please alert me so I can issue a take-down notice. I won’t get rich with this enterprise, but I do have legitimate costs to cover.
The headline today is a reference to this Tom Waits song: