News

1. Stadium details

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 for either Burnside or Bayers Lake.

Yesterday, Bedford councillor Tim Outhit posted details of the stadium proposal on his Facebook page:

Next Tuesday Regional Council will be asked to give direction to the CAO to officially enter into investigations and preliminary negotiations with the private group looking to bring a regional CFL team to Halifax. They will need to build a 25,000-seat-plus stadium. Here is what I believe the “ask “ will ultimately be from the group, if council votes to enter discussion. However, I stress that there has been no official request yet and I am stating only my opinion for transparency and to solicit your feedback.

A stadium of this size will cost at least $200M.

It will not be located on the peninsula or in Bedford.

HRM will likely be asked to allow commercial and residential development around the site.

The group will request that they pay no property tax for 20 to 25 years for the stadium or for the surrounding development.

The team would be privately owned and operated.

The stadium would be privately owned and operated.

HRM and likely the province will be asked to put the infrastructure in place to bring services and transportation (access) to the development and to the stadium.

Though the stadium venture will be privately led, and in my opinion only at this time, there will additionally be a capital request of somewhere between $50M and $150M from the various levels of government. Time may prove me wrong, but I cannot see a stadium of this proposed size being completely privately funded.

Thank you Tim Outhit! This is the kind of straight-forward information that should have been provided to the public many months ago. The exact details of the “ask” may vary from Outhit’s description, but there was no reason why the broad outlines of the proposal couldn’t have been made public long ago.

Outhit asked for citizens’ opinions, and it spans a wide range. It’s worth reading through the responses. My own view is close to that of Andrew Younger’s; he comments:

So no property tax revenue which means no way for the city to recoup money (even if you count designating property tax as recouping money), plus taxpayers foot the bill to bring services to the site, AND make a capital contribution. That’s insane.

I even agree with Peter Moreira:

I’d warn against it because there are too many risks. If there are cost over-runs, governments will be pressured to put up money. Same goes later if the team loses money. It would be a perpetual case of being told the government has to step in or the team would leave.

Ah, but we’ll be told that the city will “recoup revenue” through a smoke-and-mirrors scheme that posits that the commercial and residential development that will surround the stadium will generate taxes that will offset the municipality’s costs for the stadium. There is a word for this argument: horseshit.

We’ve been through this before. The revenue generated by property taxes is not tied to services to the specific parcels (or even neighbourhoods) that produce it; rather, that revenue serves the needs of the entire municipality. Exempting a parcel from taxes necessarily means that every other property in the entire municipality bears a greater tax burden. (We agree to this arrangement for churches, but that exemption too should be seen for what it is: a government subsidy for churches.)

Besides, even the horseshit smoke-and-mirrors scheme doesn’t work on its own terms: roughly the same scheme was used to justify the city’s expenditure on the new convention centre, and early projections (they’re about to get a lot worse) are that over the next decade, the “new” taxes generated by the Nova Centre will be $25 million less than initially conceived. Whoops.

Beyond that, I’d wager that the supposed $200 million cost of a stadium will very likely morph into a hell of a lot more, and I’d be surprised if Maritime Football Limited proposes to contribute as much as $150 million to the stadium, or even $50 million, but we’ll see I guess.

Moreover, what happens if the Halifax Schooners are a failure and Maritime Football files for bankruptcy in, say, 2025? What will be the city’s potential liability? In such a scenario, the city’s financial hit could balloon quickly, on the order of a half-billion dollars.

2. Halifax man verbally abused after complaining about apparent police misconduct in Pennsylvania

This item is written by El Jones.

On June 28th, Sean Williams was sitting on a curb in Lancaster, Pennsylvania when a police officer fired a stun gun at his back. 

Williams is Black.

On June 29th, Halifax student Brody Stuart-Verner saw the viral video online.

“I thought it was sickening and inhumane,” Stuart-Verner says of watching the video. “It was especially startling because he was sitting on a sidewalk not even doing anything.”

A campaign on social media encouraged viewers to contact the Lancaster City Bureau of Police and complain.

https://twitter.com/ShaunKing/status/1012457662506782721

“I wanted them to be aware that people are watching and people care,” says Stuart-Verner. “And that people know that what the police are doing is wrong. As a white person, I think it’s important that we use our voices to speak out against racism and police violence.”

Halifax student Brody Stuart-Verner.

Stuart-Verner called the Lancaster police department. As the phones were busy, he entered an extension number and reached the voice mail of a female officer.

“The message I left was a very strong criticism of what I saw as totally reprehensible behaviour. In my message I said something along the lines of how we are seeing this video in Canada, and how troubling the behaviour of American police is,” he recalls. “But my message was non-threatening, and there were no personal attacks or name calling or anything like that.”

Stuart-Verner left his name and number in the message. He didn’t expect to hear anything further.

On July 6, the evening of the same day Lancaster mayor Danene Sorace announced the officer would not be fired or suspended, Stuart-Verner woke up to three voicemails that had been left on his phone while he was asleep.

The voicemails are from a man and a woman. While one number was restricted, the other two voicemails trace back to a Pennsylvania number (area code 484). Stuart-Verner does not know anyone in Pennsylvania, and the only occasion he can think of where he left his number for anyone in the region is in the message he left for the female officer with the Lancaster police. He says he did not comment on the case anywhere on social media or on news sites.

In the expletive-filled voicemails, Stuart-Verner is repeatedly called a “faggot,” a “pussy bitch,” and a “motherfucker” by the male voice. In the message left by the woman, Stuart-Verner is told:

You should probably get the facts before you comment on the video you saw. You’re ignorant. You should probably get the facts. Stay in your country. Mind your business. If you have issues, then you can come to the United States to investigate whatever you think is going on, but otherwise, stay in Canada and mind your business and keep getting the D [slang for dick] that you’re getting. 

Stuart-Verner is gay.

The voicemails can be heard on Brody Stuart-Verner’s Facebook page, here.

Click here to read Jones’ full article, “Halifax student Brody Stuart-Verner called the Lancaster, Pennsylvania police department to protest the tasing of Sean Williams; soon after, two people from Lancaster called Stuart-Verner back and hurled homophobic slurs at him.”

3. Province issues Stop Work order after death

A view looking out from the weigh station at the fill operation. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour has confirmed that it is now investigating a workplace fatality after a body was recovered under the MacKay Bridge on Monday,” reports Alexander Quon for Global:

The incident is said to have occurred at 6245 Africville Rd. in Halifax, and the department says that a stop work order has been issued at the site as occupational health and safety officers investigate.

The address is listed as the Fairview Cove Sequestration Facility, a location for the disposal of pyritic slate, according to the Port of Halifax.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour, Port of Halifax and Halifax Regional Police have all declined to name the company that operates the facility.

Late last night, Quon’s colleague Sarah Ritchie tweeted:

The province says the stop work order was issued at Scotiascapes Landscaping. The response came late this evening after we were off the air. https://t.co/67JqvFWgiF

— Sarah Ritchie (@SarahRitchieTV) July 11, 2018

I don’t know, but I don’t think Scotiascapes operates the facility; rather, I believe that it is one of many companies that dumps fill there. I’ll clarify when that information becomes available.

In 2016, reporter Chris Lambie took a detailed look at the Fairview Cove Sequestration Facility for the Halifax Examiner. He wrote:

Since 2011, the Halifax Port Authority has created four hectares of new land in Fairview Cove by allowing companies to dump stone — mostly acid-bearing pyritic slate — excavated from construction sites around the city into the waters of Bedford Basin northeast of the existing container terminal.

That’s roughly the equivalent of four football fields that weren’t there four years ago.

“The developers need a place to put this stuff and we provide that option,” said Lane Farguson, who speaks for the port authority.

“The contractors who are hired by the developers to move this material, they don’t want to be hauling it any further than they have to. So a location on the peninsula is also good for them and it’s good for their fuel cost.”

“The construction material is being handled in a responsible, environmentally acceptable manner,” Farguson said.

I asked Lambie to report on the infill project because it startled me that such a large change to contours of the harbour could be made with no public input. I still wonder what the point of the exercise was beyond simply collecting dumping fees, as there doesn’t seem to be any plan to expand the Fairview Cove terminal.

The new land at the port is arching towards the Africville church. Photo: Halifax Examiner

4. Maritime Launch

They made a pretty picture of a rocket in space, so everyone in Nova Scotia thought it must be real.

“The company behind a proposed spaceport has made its pitch to the environment minister for approval, but a professor at the University of British Columbia is raising concerns about an ‘exceedingly toxic’ rocket propellant that will be used at the Canso, N.S., operation,” reports Frances Willick for the CBC:

The environmental assessment’s bottom line on the environmental effects of the project is that they will be “of low significance or not significant.”

But Michael Byers, a political science professor at UBC, said there is a danger associated with a propellant called unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, or UDMH — known in Russia as “the Devil’s Breath.”

Byers has examined scientific literature on the effects of UDMH and found rates of “unusual cancers” doubled in some areas of Kazakhstan and Russia where people were exposed as a result of spills or rockets that ruptured in the atmosphere and dispersed propellant particles in the air.

He said there were also reports of widespread death among livestock and fish exposed to UDMH.

“It’s intensely dangerous stuff. You know, one way to describe it is that one drop of hydrazine in an Olympic-sized swimming pool would kill anything in that pool,” he said.

You can read the Environmental Assessment here.

Meanwhile, Maritime Launch continues its lobbying of the federal government “to ascertain what funding streams may be available to aid them.” As I reported in May, Maritime Launch has hired Brett James and Liam Daly of the lobbying firm Sussex Strategy to approach the government about potential funding.

At that point, the lobbyists had met with Josh Bragg, the Special Assistant for Atlantic Regional Development in the Office of the Minister, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; John Hearn, the Parliamentary Secretary Assistant and Atlantic Desk in the Office of the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; Alaina Lockhart, the MP for Fundy Royal (a New Brunswick riding), who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Small Business and Tourism; Jean-Frédéric Lafaille, the Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet for Special Projects at the Privy Council Office (PCO); and Darren Fisher, the MP for Dartmouth.

Since then, Daly has twice met with Rodger Cuzner, the MP for Cape Breton Canso, and once with Katherine O’Halloran, at the Atlantic Regional Desk in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Marc Boucher, the publisher of the website SpaceQ, which serves as a cheerleader for the space industry, has more details on Maritime Launch’s efforts:

MLS CEO Steve Matier said that Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her staff are supportive of the project. As well, local MP Roger Cuzner was to visit the site the following day.

Matier had earlier in the month met with MP Cuzner and New Brunswick MP Alaina Lockhart in Ottawa. Lockhart’s riding is Fundy Royal which straddles Saint John and Moncton. On that same trip Matier went to Toronto to visit Jacobs Capital Management, the company they’ve hired to help them raise funds. That meeting included discussions with unnamed potential investors.

Ah, the “unnamed potential investors,” code phrase for “we’re making this shit up on the fly.”

5. Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp Mill. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“If the Department of Environment doesn’t give the green light to Northern Pulp’s proposed new effluent treatment plant, taxpayers may be on the hook for the lost profits of an idled mill,” reports Aaron Beswick for the Chronicle Herald:

A 1995 indemnity agreement signed by then-supply services minister Gerald O’Malley puts taxpayers on the hook for, among other things, any “liabilities, losses, claims, demands, actions, causes of action, damages (including without limitation lost profits, consequential damages, interest penalties, fines and monetary sanctions) . . . as a direct or indirect result of the construction, location or existence of the facility or reconfigured facility.”

It’s the indemnity for “lost profits” as a result of the “location or existence” of the effluent treatment facility that is relevant to the consequences for provincial government coffers if the Department of Environment were to refuse to grant an environmental approval for Northern Pulp’s planned replacement for Boat Harbour.

Asked whether the indemnity agreement means the province would have to pay those “lost profits” associated with an idle, [Sara Seck, associate professor in the Schulich School of Law’s Marine and Environmental Law Institute] first qualified her statement by saying she is not an expert in contractual law, before saying “it doesn’t look good.”

That’s the same view Jill Graham-Scanlan, a Pictou-based lawyer and president of the Friends of the Northumberland Strait, has of the indemnity agreement.

Calling the agreement “ironclad,” she said “the province is too close to this to make an objective decision. That’s why there must be a federal environmental assessment.”

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal did not directly answer The Chronicle Herald’s question as to whether it believes the province would have to pay lost profits to Northern Pulp’s parent company, Paper Excellence, in the event its proposed new treatment facility were to be refused on environmental grounds.

6. Another provincial website is down

The Utility and Review Board’s website has been down since at least 8pm last night, and is still down as of 9am this morning. And the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy website has been down since April 5, when a worker at the Archives discovered a security failure that was subsequently falsely blamed on a 19-year-old Halifax man.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Business Inc. has agreed to up to $3.1 million in payroll rebates to a company called BeyondTrust, “a global cyber security company dedicated to preventing privilege misuse and stopping unauthorized access leading to data breaches.” That’s rich.

BeyondTrust is a privately owned American company that is not listed in either the Nova Scotian or Canadian federal corporate registries, so I’m not sure how it can legally do business in Halifax. Perhaps the company operates under a different registered name, but if so, government press releases should use that name.


Government

City

Wednesday

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Wednesday, 5pm, HEMDCC Large Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — the board will discuss the Green Network Plan.

Thursday

No public meetings for the rest of the week.

Province

“Stakeholder Engagement” —  Proposed Cultural Hub for Halifax Waterfront (Thursday, 4:30pm, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic) — from the email notification:

On March 28, 2018, the Government of Nova Scotia announced it would begin planning for a proposed cultural hub on the Halifax Waterfront to include a new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) University campus, and public space.

Key stakeholders are being invited to help shape the vision for this proposed cultural hub and provide input which will be used to develop a facility plan.

As a valued stakeholder, we are hoping you can join us on July 12, 2018 to be part of informing this exciting new space which will position Nova Scotia as a world leader in the visual arts and the education of the province’s future creative industries leaders, while creating a new place to celebrate and showcase Nova Scotia’s arts and culture.

Your input is valuable and will be appreciated.

This project is being led by the Government of Nova Scotia, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, NSCAD and the Waterfront Development Corporation.

If you’re not a “key stakeholder” or a “valued stakeholder,” you can just bugger off; your opinion doesn’t matter.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

No public events today or Thursday.


In the harbour

6am: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
6:45am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
11:30am: AS Felicia, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
4:30pm: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York


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

El Jones

El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. The proposal to put the stadium in a suburban location means the appropriate Ottawa analogy is not the stadium + at Landsdown Park (which is in the middle of town) but the Senators arena (whatever it is named this year) in far suburban Kanata. When it was originally constructed that arena was intended to be the centre of lots of development (indeed, I believe, the first owners of the Senators were more interested in that development than in owning a hockey team). Needless to say, that development never happened, the Senators attendence has always been iffy, and now they want to build a new arena – in a downtown location.

  2. I wish Halifax Examiner had those little reaction emojis like Facebook, so I could put one of those shocked face emojis on the stadium story. Not only is it almost certain to ask for public funds, and likely some side infrastructure help too I suspect, but “The group will request that they pay no property tax for 20 to 25 years for the stadium or for the surrounding development.”

    Will citizens not rise up against this gross abuse of public funds that are so desperately needed elsewhere? (And I’m a guy who actually likes watching live professional football. ) As I said before this is like the monorail madness episode of the Simpsons…a city can’t be World Class without one.

    And remember, these things always — always — cost more than projected.

  3. The problem with Tim’s list is about how the agenda has already been set and the issues framed as a simple “Do you want good stuff? Yes or No. Framing is one of modern politics most manipulative tools. Framing selects certain aspects of an issue and makes them more prominent in order to elicit certain interpretations and evaluations of the issue.

    So Tim’s first question is “Do you support an investigation to get the facts and options?” This question is a rhetorical device known as a loaded question. It limits possible response to suit a particular agenda. Who could say no, they don’t want the facts? And the use of the word options is breathtakingly daring because there really are no ‘options’ being considered – it’s just Stadium. For those bothered by this I can share that the only way out of this complex question (and it is the classic example of a trick question) is to reject the simple yes or no answer. It’s interesting that many of your commentors had the presence of mind to do that intuitively whereas the majority of the commentors on Tim’s thread simply accepted the framing and the goading of the complex question. “yes, of course, they said, “who doesn’t want facts and options? How could any reasonable person say no?”

    Politics is amazing.

    Tim knows, as many people do, that there have already been millions spent on studies and what the results have been. These studies are themselves a tool to slow walk political and corporate agendas to presupposed conclusions.

    The main manipulation in all this is that the framing presupposes the conclusion that the powers that be want – a stadium – being not just the most important issue, but literally the only option under consideration. Hospitals, education, care for the aging, ending poverty, alternative power systems, investment, infrastructure repair, transportation? Not one of these issues is considered as an option. Those, like me I suppose, who want to recognize and discuss complexity, uncertainty, and actual other options (like schools and beds in hospitals etc.) are called out as being “negative”.

  4. Oh the stadium. Can’t be a world class city without a stadium.

    Does anyone think an expansion team in a moribund league will draw 25,000 people?

    Anyone Searched last years Toronto Argonauts average attendance? 13,913.

    This in Canada’s largest market.

    Perhaps this is The Mayor’s legacy project. It’s obviously why the current CAO is still around. (Yes many of us still remember that letter not to mention the city reaction to gut wrenching racism).

    Thank you Councillor Outhit. Now let’s hear more from the other esteemed members and have some honest to goodness, real (not spinned to death) public input.