1. Windsor & Hantsport Railway
“A Virginia businessman wants a piece of the action before the city can turn the old Windsor & Hantsport Railway into a trail,” writes Rick Grant:
Robert T. Schmidt’s claim to all of the rail line is contested, and the province has gone to court to force him to maintain his dilapidated property, but Schmidt says he wants taxpayers to pay him millions of dollars.
Click here to read “A Virginia businessman wants a piece of the action before the city can turn the old Windsor & Hantsport Railway into a trail.”
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2. Teachers and McNeil
“Premier Stephen McNeil talked on Monday about a possible ‘compromise’ in the dispute between his government and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:
It was the first sign of a thaw in what has been an ice-cold relationship between the union and the provincial government.
“I don’t know if we’ll get to where everyone wants to be but I do believe there’s always room for compromise in that,” McNeil told reporters after his hour-long meeting with union president Liette Doucet at his office Monday.
“I believe we have certain objectives. They have certain objectives. We won’t agree on everything but I believe there is definitely room for us to compromise.”
The government is backing off its plan to immediately bring in legislation to make the administrative changes it wants. The plan had been to introduce at least one bill tomorrow, at the start of the spring sitting, but McNeil said that would not happen.
Compromise? Not so fast. Graham Steele reminds us:
The Effective Citizen, page 222: “This is the most fundamental maxim for effective citizens who deal with politicians: it’s actions, and only actions, that count.”
The premier’s tone today is more conciliatory than it has been, which is great if your ultimate objective is to have the premier sound more conciliatory. (Hint: That’s nobody’s ultimate objective.) For an effective citizen, the only thing that counts is what he actually does.
I was thinking the same thing when listening to Tim Bousquet’s latest Examineradio podcast, about the meeting in Halifax last week at which the federal immigration minister spoke to protesters about Abdoul Abdi. The minister said all the pretty words, but nothing changed.
Demonstrations are planned outside Province House today, starting at noon. The legislature sits at 1pm.
3. Lebanese student
I reported yesterday on the death in Halifax of a young man from Lebanon. His death is being called a “murder” in the Lebanese press, but there have been no recent murders reported by local police.
Today, Haley Ryan has more for Metro:
In an email to Saint Mary’s University (SMU) residence students on Sunday, the university said they were “saddened” to inform them “of the passing of student Hasan Kheireddine last week.”
On Monday, Halifax Regional Police confirmed they are investigating the Feb. 23 death of a 23-year-old man in relation to an incident that occurred on Feb. 13 at a SMU residence, but said “there is no evidence to suggest the death is suspicious.”
However, a crowdfunding campaign for Kheireddine’s funeral say the death was related to a stabbing incident, and various international media outlets have referred to as a “murder.”
In an interview, Const. Carol McIsaac said Halifax police are not talking more about the case “due to the sensitive nature of the matter. It’s not something we would talk to the media or the public about.”
McIsaac said police are not treating the death as a homicide, but when asked what the Medical Examiner has ruled she said “you’d have to contact the Medical Examiner in relation to that.”
In a statement, the Medical Examiner’s Office said they do not release autopsies to the public “as they contain confidential personal health information. As this is an active police investigation, we are unable to provide further comment.”
4. Right whales
“Scientists say they haven’t spotted a single North Atlantic right whale calf in their usual breeding grounds, raising even greater concern over the fate of the endangered mammal,” reports Alison Auld for the Canadian Press:
Clay George, a biologist with Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, says the whales give birth off Georgia and Florida from December until the end of March, with the peak period in January and February.
But he says coastal surveys have not turned up one mother-calf pair — a grim discovery following one of the highest mortality rates for the imperilled animals in recent history.
5. Northern Pulp
“Groups representing fishermen’s associations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. say they won’t meet with representatives from Northern Pulp unless the paper mill provides an alternative to its plan to pump treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait,” reports Richard Woodbury for the CBC:
On Monday, representatives from the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board (GNSFPB), the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association and the Maritime Fishermen’s Union went public with the decision, which was announced at a meeting with Northern Pulp last Tuesday.
“They’re asking us to take all the risk. One hundred per cent of the risk is going to be borne by the fishermen. If something goes wrong, it’s our fishery,” said Ronald Heighton, the president of GNSFPB.
“If something goes wrong, they’ll still keep cutting trees. They want us to take 100 per cent of the risk and they want to be zero per cent responsible.”
6. Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation
Reporting for the Globe & Mail, Jessica Leeder profiles the Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, which was physically divided by the construction of Highway 104. Now, a new highway interchange is raising hopes of economic development.
7. City council
Halifax city council meets at 10am today. Usually, early start times to the meeting means a packed agenda, but not today. There are a few relatively noncontroversial items (testing Lake Banook for pollutants, the Halifax Water budget) and one item that should be controversial but isn’t — selling naming rights for the new Dartmouth four-pad arena to some unnamed but undoubtedly horrible corporation. Otherwise, the agenda is taken up by what I suspect will be a four- or five-hour long closed session, which includes these discussion items:
16.4.1 Dealing with Complaints under the Code of Conduct Policy (Administrative Order 52)
That Halifax Regional Council convene to in camera to discuss the matter.
16.4.2 Dealing with Complaints under the Code of Conduct Policy (Administrative Order 52)
That Halifax Regional Council convene to in camera to discuss the matter.
16.4.3 Dealing with Complaints under the Code of Conduct Policy (Administrative Order 52)
That Halifax Regional Council convene to in camera to discuss the matter.
These are evidently citizen complaints levelled against three different councillors.
This is getting silly. Citizens have learned that they can file complaints against councillors and that council has to somehow deal with the complaints. It all started with whacking Matt Whitman around for the idiotic things he’s posted on Twitter, but now people are complaining about councillors who complain about Whitman, and it’s degenerating into childish name-calling all around.
For better or worse, councillors were elected. There shouldn’t be a simple or easy way to remove councillors, or to silence them outside of meetings. (For what it’s worth, Mayor Mike Savage does a reasonable job maintaining a respectful and collegial tone at the meetings themselves.) Councillors can’t kick Whitman off council for anything less than an actual criminal conviction, nor should they be able to.
Nor should council take formal action against him for statements he made on Twitter. Yes, Whitman is a blowhard. But just as certainly, he’s going to claim any attempt to silence him or reprimand him is an attack on free speech — and there may be some truth to that. The proper response is to loudly and publicly condemn Whitman’s racist or stupid comments — as did councillor Waye Mason — and to leave it at that.
Whitman has every right to be an idiot, and the rest of us have every right to call him out on his idiocy. Let’s not muck up that clear exchange with muddled attempts to use a quasi-legal mechanism to reprimand him.
There’s a way to get rid of Whitman, and that way travels through the ballot box.
8. Free speech
“Acadia University has launched a formal investigation into complaints against a professor over controversial comments he made on social media and in the classroom,” reports Brett Bundale for the Canadian Press:
Heather Hemming, vice-president academic at the Wolfville, N.S., school, said in a letter to professor Rick Mehta that the university has received complaints from students, faculty and others with concerns about his views.
“These concerns relate to the manner in which you are expressing views that you are alleged to be advancing or supporting and, in some instances, time that you are spending on these issues in the classroom,” she said in a letter on Feb. 13. “The university has a legal responsibility to provide an environment free from discrimination, sexual harassment and personal harassment.”
Mehta has been outspoken both on campus and on social media about a range of contentious issues including decolonization, immigration and gender politics, garnering both supporters and opposition.
He has come under fire for saying multiculturalism is a scam, there’s no wage gap between men and women and that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has created a victim narrative to prompt “endless apologies and compensation.”
Mehta bills himself as a free-speech advocate trying to build bridges across political divides, but critics say he perpetuates harmful stereotypes and is simply seeking attention.
“He’s just sort of parroting the much more popular Jordan Peterson. He’s very clearly just trying to piggyback on that to gain a certain notoriety,” said Matthew Sears, associate professor of classics and ancient history at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
This is a somewhat different case than with Whitman. Mehta has a job that requires working with young people, and there are reasonable expectations around inclusion, non-discrimination, and respect for students that his employer has a duty to police. I don’t know the specifics of the allegations against Mehta, nor do I know the law around such issues, but it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable for the university to investigate.
That said, let’s understand the game the right plays here. The “professor says something outrageous!” bit is just a variation of the “invited speaker says something outrageous!” thing that has been going on at least since that asshole Edward Teller showed up at my Chico State campus in 1987 to tell us we should all worship the hydrogen bomb and eat irradiated vegetables.
It goes like this: Some marginal student group invites an outrageous speaker and gets student union money to pay them. Students object to the outrageous speaker and to the use of their money to pay them. There are protests, people call for the speaker to be banned from campus. Then, the marginal student group and its marginal political cohorts in the wider world point to the protests as proof! that it is the students, not the outrageous speaker, who hate free speech and everything good. Not-very-intelligent “free speech advocates” jump on the cause, and the outrageous speaker gets a higher profile, is invited to appear on national TV, sells more books. Rinse, repeat, over and over again for 30 years and counting. Ann Coulter has made an entire career out of this. Now that Peterson dickhead is making millions of dollars with his YouTube vids, and evidently Mehta wants on the gravy train.
A word of advice to students: You’re being played. I don’t know what to do about that, but you should be aware of it.
A word of advice for “free speech advocates”: Hey, maybe look beyond the ivy on your campus walls, eh? Where were you when teachers were being told not to voice opinions about the Glaze Report? Your silence about the moves against BDS activists is deafening. What about free speech for prisoners and political detainees? When you advocate for the free speech rights of only a certain kind of right-wing asshole and ignore the free speech rights of people with progressive causes, you’re seen for what you are: a shill.
A word of advice to everyone else: Twenty-something college students don’t run the world, and what happens on college campuses is ultimately not very important. Worry not! Most of the students will soon enough graduate into jobs where they will fall in line with the banker and capitalist mafias that actually do run the world, and your desire to use the n-word or hate on transpeople or whatever will be forever protected by law in any case.
City Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — a full, but not very exciting, agenda.
Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — all things Centre Plan.
Accessibility Framework Session (Wednesday, 2pm and 6pm, Sackville Sports Stadium) — tip the janitors.
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — there’s nothing on the agenda.
Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — no action items.
Legislature Sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — questions about the redevelopment of the QEII.
Quantum Magic Games (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 310, Chase Building) — Neil Julien Ross will speak.
“Fast Times at Library and Archives Canada. Imagine Sisyphus Happy!”(Tuesday, 4pm, Great Hall, University Club) — Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, will speak.
Loving Couples (Tuesday, 7pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — screening of Mai Zetterling’s 1964 film.
Classical Saxophone Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — students of Chris Mitchell will perform.
Beyond the Ramp (Wednesday, 12:45pm, Room HB4, Medjuck Architectural Building) — Ron Wickman, of Ron Wickman Architect, Edmonton, will talk about designing for accessibility.
Canadian Foundation for Newfangling— (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Room 3-H1, Tupper Building) — buzzwords galore. No need to get a good union job when you newfangle yourself into your own company, which will probably go bankrupt, but that’s on you.
Black Mothers in Hospitals (Wednesday, 6pm, Room 150, Collaborative Health Education Building) — a panel will discuss “Experiences of Black Mothers in Hospitals – Past, Present, and Future.”
Imagined Puppet Life (Wednesday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, King’s) — Dawn Brandes from the Fountain School of Performing Arts will speak.
In the harbour
3am: NACC Quebec, cement carrier, sails from Bedford Basin anchorage for Tampa, Florida
5:30am: Sunlight Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Antwerp
6am: Asian Sun, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands
6am: Zim Antwerp, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York; at 114,000 tonnes and with a capacity of just over 10,000 TEUs, this is the largest ship that calls in Halifax
6:45am: Algoma Dartmouth, oil tanker, moves from Pier 34 to Autoport
10am: Itea, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
11:30am: Sunlight Ace, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
3pm: YM Enlightenment, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
3:30pm: Siem Cicero, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
4:30pm: Asian Sun, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
I have the option of going to City Hall and (likely) waiting around for hours and hours while council secretly talks about Matt Whitman, or I could go to the protests at Province House. I choose the latter.
Old lines are transportation corridors that will eventually be needed in the future, even if transportation uses cannot be justified today. Once an old rail line is converted to some other purpose, it is likely that the corridor will not be easily converted back to meet future needs. The Province should purchase the land at fair market value today and hold on to it for future transportation usage development.
Halifax’s urban/suburban area could have had a robust LRT network, if its old rail lines had been protected rather than re-purposed. Instead HRM now plays around with dedicated bus lane concepts and other bandage adjustments to the public transit system that will never live up to the expectation of the public when it comes to developing a fast and reliable public transit system.
Hindsight is 20-20… and lessons learned should be recalled when it comes to giving guidance for future developmental decisions
What’s funny/sad about Mehta is he’s clearly trying so hard to get some of that Peterson-type outrage attention and hopefully his own six-figure Patreon – except so far he’s gathered about 1800 followers on Twitter, which is less than a third of what the Halifax Examiner has, and a tiny fraction of a percent of Peterson’s half million, or heck the million+ followers Emma Gonzales from Parkland High has picked up in just the last few weeks.
My comment seemed to have disappeared.
My suggestion was to consider using the rail line for commuter and other service between Halifax and the Valley, as is done in Ontario with GO trains. As for being used as a walking trail, people can and do walk on it now, because it sees little in the way of train traffic. I’d rather see it kept and used as a rail line. There are all kinds of trails. i can’t speak of NS, but in NB these trails made from old rail beds are essentially highways for ATVs and snowmobiles, not walkers.
I don’t know anything about this owner, but I can’t blame him for holding on for top dollar or wanting to make something of the line. He paid for it, he owns it. Others with other ideas could have purchased the line earlier if they had ideas. He owns it, and subject to federal law can do with it what he wants.
I think you hit several nails squarely on the head with your comments about the disingenuous game the far right plays over free speech. Yes, free speech is important, but like all other rights it’s never absolute. I greatly admired the late Alan Borovoy, long-time General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association who was a tireless advocate for respecting constitutional rights. But I think he went too far defending the free speech rights of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, a man Borovoy himself called repugnant. I grew up hearing the old maxim “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never harm me.” Unfortunately, words are actually more powerful than sticks and stones as Orwell showed in his book “Nineteen Eighty Four.” We need to keep challenging those who abuse words (and facts) and who then try to hide behind their right to free speech.