Photo: Aaron Segaert/ Heritage Canada
Photo: Aaron Segaert/Heritage Canada

News

1. Musical buildings

Chronicle Herald reporter Michael Gorman today explores the likely demolition of the historic Dennis building and the possible future of the site. I have no idea if the building is, as minister Labi Kousoulis says, “absolutely useless,” or, as Heritage Trust president Linda Forbes says, salvageable, but we sure are tearing down a lot of historic buildings lately.

That aside, Gorman only briefly mentions the musical buildings game we’re about to play:

[Kousoulis] said the building [to be built at the Dennis site] would likely house government offices. There is uncertainty about the future of the World Trade and Convention Centre, which houses a number of government offices — including Kousoulis’s. If they are forced to relocate, the minister said keeping them downtown is the logical move.

Ah, that “uncertainty” is the rub.

See, the Nova Centre is supposed to be “substantially completed” by January 1, 2016, just 15 months from now. I walked down Argyle Street yesterday, looked at the construction, looked at my smart phone calendar, looked back at the construction…that’s going to be one impressive rush job, I think.

I keep walking by the site because I’m waiting to see if the Argyle side of the project gets above three storeys, all that is needed for the convention centre part of the project—”substantially completed” applies only to the convention centre and hotel (on the Market Street side of the project) parts of Nova Centre and not to the 18-storey office tower part. If construction on Argyle goes above three storeys, then we’ll know that either developer Joe Ramia has secured tenants for the building or is foolishly moving forward without tenants.

No matter what Ramia does, in 2016 the city is required to buy that crappy old WTCC tower above the existing convention centre. The dirty secret that no one besides the Examiner ever admits to is that the province has been subsidizing Trade Centre Limited for decades by renting office space in the WTCC tower. When the city takes the building over, there will be no good reason for the province to keep its offices there, and so they’ll likely move out to better digs, hence Kousoulis’ musings about moving into a Dennis building replacement.

Without provincial tenants, what’s the city going to do with the WTCC tower? The general assumption is that the city will spend four years and a gazillion dollars renovating the building and then in 2020, when its lease on Duke Tower expires, move all the existing Duke Tower city offices across the street to WTCC.

That move, in turn, will leave Duke Tower empty, which probably explains why the Sobeys, who own the Duke Tower-Scotia Square complex, are now embarking on a renovation/reconstruction as a sort of Hail Mary attempt to stay relevant in the soon-to-be flooded commercial office space market.

We may as well throw the Thiels into this mix as well. They are now renovating and expanding the TD Centre on the other side of City Hall and are about to embark on the 22nd Commerce Square project one block down the hill.

So we’re going to get something like two million square feet of new office space downtown—maybe closer to three million square feet if the province builds a Dennis replacement—without a single new substantial commercial tenant and while existing commercial renters are cutting their office needs.

This will not end well.

2. 420

Supporters of medical marijuana had a march to and smoke-in at the police department yesterday. Reporter Hilary Beaumont is writing her account of events; check the Examiner home page for it.

3. Police suspect arson

The fire that destroyed 5426 Portland Place last Sunday is suspected arson.

4. Three pedestrians hit in crosswalks

Sigh. “If last year is any indication, we’re about to have a bunch more pedestrians get hit,” I said Thursday. By Friday morning that observation proved correct. The police release:

At 9:31 a.m., police responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision at the intersection of Robie and South Streets in Halifax. A 22-year-old woman crossing Robie Street in a marked crosswalk was struck by a car turning left from South Street onto Robie Street. She suffered non-life threatening injuries, was treated at the scene by EHS and later attended hospital. A 42-year-old woman was issued a summary offence ticket under section 125(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. This ticket carries a fine of $693.95 and four points on a driver’s license upon conviction

At 9:58 a.m., police responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision at the intersection of Hawthorne Street and Prince Albert Road in Dartmouth. A 30-year-old woman, pushing a stroller carrying a 1-year-old girl was crossing Hawthorne Street in a marked crosswalk. She was struck by a delivery truck turning right from Hawthorne Street to Prince Albert Road. The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to hospital by a family member. The baby girl was not injured. This incident is under investigation at this point and no charges have been laid.

At 10:10 a.m., police responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision at the intersection of Robie Street and University Avenue in Halifax. A 40-year-old man using a mobility scooter crossing University Avenue in a marked crosswalk, was struck by a car turning left from Robie Street onto University Avenue. He suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to hospital by EHS. A 75-year-old man was issued a summary offence ticket under section 125(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. This ticket carries a fine of $693.95 and four points on a driver’s license upon conviction.

Whenever a pedestrian gets hit, even when the driver is ticketed, social media lights up with people talking about how careless pedestrians are. The argument is essentially, “one time some stupid kid was looking at his cell phone and walked right in front of me, therefore a woman pushing a baby carriage walking in the crosswalk with the light deserved to get hit.” I’m sure this morning will be no different.

5. Warships being retired

Ken Hansen, of Dalhousie’s Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, criticizes the government’s decision to decommission the Preserver, Algonquin, Iroquois and Protecteur. “The navy is becoming significantly less capable today because of this decision. The future is a big question mark, because the new ships have even yet to be designed. They’re a long way away from being delivered,” he told the CBC.

Sure, we gotta show off our toys and wave our, er, armaments around because that’s what “real” countries do. But what exactly are we preparing for? Are the Norwegians going to come bomb Halifax? Better to use the human and monetary resources put into armament-waving into something that actually helps people.


Views

1. Open Government

The Centre for Law and Democracy has submitted its comments as part of the federal government’s “open government consultation.” Just because it’s so much fun, here’s how they tell the story I related last week:

In this regard, it is worth noting an incident which took place at an Open Government event organised by CLD in Halifax immediately following the government’s OGP 11 September consultation, which was attended by three Treasury Board representatives. The event was meant to be an opportunity for meaningful dialogue between the government and a smaller group of expert stakeholders. Among the participants were two journalists, who were invited by CLD because they are known to be prolific users of the access to information system. As soon as the government representatives learned that there were journalists present, they announced that they would be unable to speak in the session, or respond to any of the points raised or questions asked since, according to Canadian government policy, a media representative would need to be present for them to make any comments “on the record”. The fact that Canada’s open government representatives were unable to discuss the country’s open government strategy without being overseen by a press relations officer speaks volumes about the problems in the government’s approach to openness and why there is scepticism about the government’s commitment to openness. Open government is not about public relations, or presenting a groomed and crafted image to the public of what the government is doing. On the contrary, it is about honest, open relations and information exchanges between government and the people. 

I was one of the two reporters.

2. Decorating with moose

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald notices everything, and takes pictures of it.

3. Duffy and Harper

Stephen Harper will never be called to testify against Mike Duffy, predicts Dan Leger. That’s because the constitution prohibits the prime minister from being called before the court while parliament is in session, and for 40 days after. Writes Leger:

Prime ministers also decide when parliamentary sessions begin and end, so Harper controls whether or not he appears. While Parliament is in session he doesn’t answer to the court, nor to the prosecutors and certainly not to Mike Duffy.

4. Clearcuts

I’ve speculated in this space that Nova Scotia is now cutting timber at record rates, and today Ralph Surette says we are, and explains why:

Here’s what’s really going on. We’re in a full-fledged wood-fibre panic—not enough wood in our degraded forest to feed the demand, and so the scheme in the Kremlin-like upper reaches of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is to, as secretly as possible and without tipping off anybody, not even other interested parties in their own government and operational people in their own department, hand off those Western lands to Northern Pulp and other big operators. When the fibre panic is on, decades of planning driven by citizen participation can go hang, along with ecological sensitivities.


Noticed

I have no idea what this map is about, but I like it.


In the harbour

(click on vessel names for pictures and more information about the ships)

 Arrivals

Cma-cgm Montreal, container ship, Montreal to Pier 42
Don Juan, vehicle carrier, to Autoport
Queen Mary 2, cruise ship, Saint John to Pier 22
Hnoms Frjtof Nansen Norwegian warship

Departures

Cma-cgm Montreal to Rotterdam
Don Juan to sea
Queen Mary 2 to sea

Of note

Wait… the Norwegians have warships? And they’re here? We better build a bunch more warships for ourselves, just in case.

The past few days I’ve chronicled cruise ships’ problematic environmental record, norovirus outbreaks, and people gone overboard and otherwise missing. Now we can add child abuse to the list. The Queen Mary 2, in port today, was one of three Cunard line ships Paul Trotter worked on as youth supervisor for four years. In 2012 he admitted to sexually abusing 13 boys under his care on the ships. A few months later, Frommer’s named the three Cunard ships the “Best Cruise Ships for Kids.”

The Queen Mary 2 also was the scene of a bizarre human smuggling plot in 2011. The New York Daily News reported:

The accused smuggler, Fatt Kwee Wong, told agents he was paid $3,000 for each of the nine passengers by an unidentified person in China. The illegal immigrants also forked over $500 each when they boarded the ship in Dubai, according to court papers.

[…]

The illegal immigrants were not stowaways—their names appeared on the boat’s manifest—and they had access to the ship’s spectacular amenities. The QM2 boasts a Canyon Ranch spa, Royal Court Theater, planetarium, gourmet restaurants and the “largest ballroom at sea,” according to the Cunard website.

Wong carried a Japanese passport and aroused suspicion at the immigration checkpoint when he was stumped when asked the names of his nine companions.

A fingerprint check showed Wong, 49, was wanted for smuggling aliens into Bermuda, court records show.

It appears that Cunard failed to conduct even basic passport and criminal record checks of its passengers.


Footnotes

Morning File takes Sundays off, so we’ll see you Monday.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

Join the Conversation

13 Comments

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
Cancel reply
  1. L’europe animale – each country is represented by an animal and the explanation given as to why the animal was chosen, example . england electric eel (?) because England shines on the political situation of Europe. France a groomed and attentive rooster, Spain a bull wearing a choir boy’s collar . . . on and on
    Where did you find this?

    1. bad translation – should read electric octopus illuminating the European political situation – please correct for me . .you should have way for us to edit our fooooolish mistakes

  2. Hmm, well, from what I’ve observed as both a driver (auto and motorcycle) and pedestrian there are faults on both sides of the cage. I see many pedestrians walking into (off the curb) when they have the signal right-of-way without looking left or right. Having the right of way does not negate the responsibility of the pedestrian of looking for potential traffic problems. Far too often do I see this happening, and it is more often adults than minors. In addition to this I often observe pedestrians walking off the curb without looking when the signal is flashing *do-not-walk*.

    This being said, it is true that making a left hand turn in traffic at a set of lights, or otherwise, may cause the driver to pay more attention to on-coming traffic than to what (who) may be in the parallel crosswalk to their left – this is especially true at night when autos placed perpendicular to your left turn with their lights on tend to blind your vision with regard to crossing pedestrians.

    I’ve lived/driven in large cities the world over and years ago was rather proud of the way Nova Scotians drove their cars concerning pedestrians; however, this has not been the case, at least, in the last decade. I, too, live just South of Thistle Street in Dartmouth and have encountered left turning vehicles that I’ve had to jump back from when I had the signal right-of-way. In one instance, years ago, I had to grab my eight-year old son’s collar to haul him back from a woman who floored it making a left hand turn when she felt she could beat the oncoming traffic…

    There are also other problems that the police need to deal with: mothers/fathers stopping on overly busy narrow streets (e.g. Victoria Road across from Bicentennial School) in the morning to let their children out where the older ones j-walk across the street when there are crossing guards at the lights twenty meters or less away… and the parents could care less. On top of this, these same parents sit in no parking zones at the end of the day for up to fifteen or twenty minutes and honk their horns for the same kids who, often, j-walk to get to their parent’s cars.

    While every driver needs to be vigilant, it is also incumbent on pedestrians to pay attention when attempting to cross at any marked, signaled, or unmarked cross-walk.

    So, while it is true that drivers do need to pay more attention concerning their actions in operating a large machine, and that is what it is, pedestrians do need to pay more attention to what they are doing when approaching an intersection which is nothing less than dangerous. I always ensure that I make contact with a driver’s eyes; which, of course, still does not ensure that your presence is acknowledged.

    These are some of the *rules* that I had learned early on from over thirty-five years of auto/motorcycle driving in addition to being a pedestrian.

    JMHO

  3. Actually we don’t know how many pedestrians were hit yesterday.

    Three were serious enough to be sent to hospital for medical attention but with the new police reporting protocol only those requiring transportation to hospital are now reported when they occur.

    There were 13 vehicle-pedestrian collisions in August and I don’t believe one was reported prior to the month end summary.

    So we know at least three pedestrians were struck, but it may have been four or five, or maybe only three. We don’t know.

  4. Regarding pedestrians hit in crosswalks: It’s significant that in all three cases yesterday, and several previous cases, including fatalities, the cars were turning. When a driver is turning left, they look straight ahead for a gap in the oncoming traffic. They won’t see a pedestrian crossing their destination street from the left. Hopefully they’ll scan the crosswalk before turning, but if they are rushing to make a small gap in the oncoming traffic, a quick glance may not be sufficient. When a driver is turning right, especially on a red light (as apparently the case yesterday), they are looking to the left, again for a gap in traffic. They won’t see a pedestrian crossing from their right, even if the pedestrian is in front of them. I routinely see drivers at red lights and stop signs who are planning to turn right and staring left, oblivious to pedestrians.

    It’s hard to break the bad driving habits of rushing and not looking for pedestrians. One possible partial solution might be to prohibit right turns on red lights. Yes, it will slow traffic down, but since rushing to make turns is part of the problem, slowing traffic is part of the solution. Unfortunately, such a measure would be useless where the city has tried to speed up traffic flow, at the expense of pedestrian safety, by putting in turning lanes where drivers never need to stop (Rainnie to Brunswick, Brunswick to Sackville).

    A better solution might be better enforcement of existing traffic rules. We have a pattern of collision/ticket, but just as longer sentences do not reduce or prevent crime, high after the fact fines do not reduce or prevent collisions. People take risks based on the odds of getting caught, not the possible consequences of getting caught. Preventive enforcement would mean, for example, ticketing drivers who turn right at stop signs or red lights without stopping. A cop at any downtown intersection could hand out dozens of these tickets in an hour, and eventually drivers would change their habits because the risk of getting caught is high. As it stands, you only get a ticket if you hit someone, and usually you don’t.

    The police do not seem to be doing any preventive enforcement of traffic laws – if they are, they need to publicize it. I’d feel a lot safer if the police spent less time raiding storefront marijuana lounges and more time enforcing traffic laws.

    If we really wanted to be BOLD, Halifax could consider reducing the speed limit to 30k in urban and residential areas. This has minimal effect on trip times. Although the maximum speed is reduced, the average speed is already low due to lights, stop signs, crosswalks, traffic, and so on. The slower speed significantly improves safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers – it’s easier to avoid collisions as there is more space for reaction time, shorter breaking distances, and less speed differential. When collisions occur, there is less damage and injury. As side benefits, there is also less traffic noise, less pollution, lower fuel consumption, and less wear on brakes and other car parts. There is a movement in England to adopt 20 MPH as the default speed limit in urban and residential areas, and it has had some success. http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk/

    A lower speed limit would not prevent pedestrians being hit when inattentive drivers turn, but it might help change the car dominated culture of our streets.

    1. I could not agree more on the need for proactive police enforcement.

      Rarely do we hear of tickets being issued other than after a collision. Behaviour needs to change. I believe an effective way of doing so is to conduct Proactive Enforcement Initiatives – apparently that was done the other day with a number of tickets being issued for passing a school bus with its red lights flashing. How many more tickets would have been issued had other locations been monitored.

      Whether crossing on the red hand or countdown times or not yielding to pedestrians behaviour needs to change. Both drivers and pedestrians need to put away their cell phones and stop texting while driving or walking. Generally only ticketing after the fact is not working. Police, if they really want to be part of the solution need to be more proactive.

      I very much like the call to action of Halifax’s new traffic campaign … Heads Up Halifax. We all – drivers, cyclists and pedestrians will be safer if we would just pay more attention.

      1. I agree. We could help a great deal by having pedestrians and cyclists obey the same laws as motorists:

        • Stop, look and listen at any intersection they wish to cross – in both directions – twice!;

        • Remove all earphones, i-phones and other devices;

        • Get eye contact with any auto driver who is about to approach the crosswalk or street corner and wait for that contact – a wave or a signal that he has seen you;

        • do not step out if stopping the vehicle will lead to other vehicles having to come to emergency stops to avoid a collision. This is especially important when the auto is turning left and coming towards you.

        • treat all cyclists as _drivers_ and have them obey the rules of the road. If they wish vehicles to stop for them at intersections, then they should dismount and walk their bike across the junction, otherwise take turns like other vehicle.

        Obeying such rules as well as enforcing all the rules for auto drivers about coming to full stops at intersections and clearly looking both ways before proceeding, should stem numbers of tragic pedestrian / cyclist collisions at junctions.

        1. See, this is pretty much exactly what I was talking about. In each of the three incidents, the pedestrian was crossing with the light, meaning the drivers did NOT have the light, so were required to stop in any event. Pedestrians were all in crosswalks, behaving perfectly. Drivers given tickets.

          And we get a long comment about how pedestrians are supposed to behave better.

  5. Good morning Tim,
    Have you ever walked around in DT Montreal? As a pedestrian, it’s actually safer to assume the drivers are going to run you over. “The best offence is a good defence.” #sadfact
    Keep reporting on “daddy government”. Perhaps as tax payers AKA “mindless children” we will eventually have enough courage to stop them from tearing down buildings, and making back room deals for only “those select few”. Then rebuild in “big daddy’s” limited and too select DNA pool.