News

1. Peter MacKay says something stupid

From the CBC:

With the anniversary of the 1989 Montreal Massacre just days away, Justice Minister Peter MacKay set off a political firestorm on Tuesday afternoon when he told the House of Commons that “we may never understand … why these women were singled out for this horrific act of violence.” 

The comment prompted New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair to make a rare mid-question period intervention to point out to the minister that, thanks to the manifesto penned by shooter Marc Lepine before the attacks, we know why these women were singled out:  

“It’s because they were women.”

2. Pedestrians struck by cars

Yesterday afternoon:

At 1:34 p.m., police responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision at the intersection of Queen and South Streets. A 64-year-old woman crossing South Street in a marked crosswalk was hit by a vehicle turning left from Queen Street onto South Street. She suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to hospital by EHS.

A 63-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.

Last night (CBC):

An elderly woman was taken to hospital Wednesday night after being hit in a Halifax crosswalk.

It happened in the city’s south end just before 8 p.m. 

Halifax Regional Police say she was walking with her grandson in a marked crosswalk on Coburg Road at Oxford when she was struck by a car. 

Paramedics took her to the QE II hospital. She is expected to recover. 

Police say the driver has been issued a summary offence ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

3. One bus rider, two bus riders…

Yesterday, I reprinted a chart from a Halifax Transit report showing flat ridership numbers for the last few years. Transit manager Eddie Robar has elaborated on those numbers, reports the Chronicle Herald:

“Ridership is calculated based on the revenue we collect,” Robar told the city’s transportation committee Wednesday. “Last year’s September sales were significantly inflated prior to our fare increase.

“It looks like we’ve got a dip in ridership, but it’s hard to say if that’s the case, given the huge increase in ticket sales we had in September last year before (the) fare increase.”

At the end of September last year, the adult cash fare increased to $2.50 from $2.25. Robar suggested that many people stocked up on tickets ahead of the jump in prices.

The fare increase was meant to pay for new technology on the buses, including so called “smart” meters which will, ya know, count the passengers. One of these days, the meters might actually get installed.

4. Photo bombing Jean Béliveau

Hockey great Jean Béliveau died yesterday at the age of 83, and by all accounts he was a gentleman who deserves all the praise being lavished on him.

Some of that praise came from Mayor Mike Savage, who wrote a thoughtful and respectful blog post, “Farewell to a Gentleman Athlete,” about his memories of Béliveau:

Too often we aggrandize athletes as being better people than they are athletes. Sometimes it isn’t true. In the case of Beliveau it was. He taught people, even skeptical Welsh Irish doctors, that sport can be tough and graceful, passionate and respectful. 

There are few people who live their life in the limelight and remain unblinded by the light. Jean Beliveau was one of them. The next Montreal home game is going to be special.

With permission, the CBC reprinted Savage’s blog post, and put an old locker room photo of Béliveau with the post:

For some reason, the ceeb later in the day decided to crop the photo:


Views

1. Unique Solutions

Incredibly, the Chronicle Herald has published yet another puff piece about Unique Solutions. As I reported in October, the Dartmouth firm is essentially worthless, having burned through most of a $5.6 million investment from Nova Scotia Business, Inc. through a failed plan to put “body scanning” booths in American malls.

The Chronicle Herald should’ve been on this story. Columnist Peter Moreira is an investor in the firm so has access to the company’s financials, and before he worked at the paper Associate Publisher Ian Thompson was the deputy minister who OKed the investment in Unique Solutions, so Thompson presumably has a good understanding of the failed expansion plan. Still, the Chronicle Herald’s reporting on Unique Solutions has been abysmal, with reporters simply rewriting press releases and uncritically passing along the company’s spin.

Yesterday’s op-ed piece was written by Dennis Connor, the former chair of the board at Unique and a principal in the First Angels Network, a coalition of investors based in Halifax. Connor is obviously a self-interested party—were the company publicly traded (it’s not), his op-ed would probably violate securities law. He very clearly wants people to have faith in the failed company, and to invest money in it.

Two past investors in the company have contacted me separately, each telling me that the company has asked them to invest more. The line, they told me, was that more investment was needed in order to keep the company afloat and so they would not lose the entire value of the first investment.

So how does Connor make a case for Unique Solutions? No kidding: by citing the Ivany Report. Yep, 20 years before the Ivany Report was written, Unique Solutions founder Tanya Shaw was enacting its recommendations, and now, writes Connor:

I want Nova Scotians to become more aware of the efforts, challenges, and determination of entrepreneurial ventures such as Unique. They are living the “Now or Never” theme daily.

The Ivany commission has called for bold action on many fronts and I would suggest that Tanya Shaw, the team at Unique, and its many supportive investors define exactly the kind of boldness this province needs to get behind.

Let’s count the bullshit buzz words, shall we? Entrepreneurial, check. “Now or Never,” check. Ivany commission, check. Bold, check. Boldness, check. OK, five shots of Jager, all around. And that’s just in two paragraphs. Someone run to the liquor store.

But wait, it gets better.

I wanted to call Connor up and ask him a bunch of rude questions like “How can you write crap like this with a straight face?” and “How much money have you lost on this, anyway?” so I googled his name, and found the First Angels Network website, went there to get his contact info and, whoa!

The Tunisians have it out for Canada for various reasons, all of them named Harper, and somehow First Angels got caught up in that. I see this morning that First Angels has got their site back up and running, so I’ll try to call Connor today.

But here’s what he says about the great investment opportunity at Unique Solutions:

Equity investors are aware of risks. The journey has taken longer than anyone, particularly early investors, hoped for at the beginning. Unfortunately, this is the nature of pursuing a big dream. One hopes that all investors will someday benefit from their patient capital.

Translation: I know we lost all the money you’ve given us, but give us some more money and we’ll make good on it, double pinky promise. Bold. Ivany. Entrepreneur. Bold Again. Now or never. Probably never, but now, OK?

2. Pedestrians

Looking at all the pedestrian–car incidents in Halifax, Douglas Smith asks: Should the Car be more Responsible?

To drive a car one needs to go through a process of tests and time to gain experience to be free to drive. The law says a course is required. Either defensive driving or a driving instructed course. A person has to have a certain eyesight, physical ability, and be over the age of 16 (in Nova Scotia). Even with all that the government says driving is a privilege that can be removed if found driving recklessly, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, uninsurable, and many other things likely. Sounds like driving a motor vehicle is a pretty serious matter with responsibility.

How about the pedestrian? How do you gain the right to walk? Medical tests? Knowledge exams? Age restriction? Oh wait, we are born with that right! We can walk and walk and walk in public all we want with only a few restrictions. So sharing the road (the sidewalks are interconnected to the motor roadway) with the motor drivers are people of all ages. Kids that are 9 years old, seniors that are 99 years old. Blind people, drunk people, folks who can’t pass their driving exam, sleepy people, people who obviously don’t meet the criteria of having a drivers licence or should be driving. So why then is the road safety responsibility equal? Why is the highly trained and able person who is driving the 4,000lb steel Dart not held to a higher standard since they are the ones who can cause deadly damage to other road users? During hunting season do those hiking or bird watching have to watch out and avoid the sight of a hunters gun scope? The hunter should bear the sole responsibility of where they point and pull their trigger. The same should go for road users.

3. Mall

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Halifax Shopping Centre yesterday announced a big reno project, which was reason enough for Stephen Archibald to pull out his old photos of the mall, including this one, back in the day when people brought their gigantic dogs shopping.

4. Red light

The cops ran a red light, nearly hitting Chronicle Herald columnist Claire McIlveen, who takes them to task for it.

5. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

…However, the trip was uneventful until I tried to get up the hill on Route 321 heading to Pugwash…

It was around 7 p.m. and, by the looks of the road, it had not been plowed even once. Everyone who travels Route 321 even once in a car knows the abysmal condition the road is in (save the tourist-trap bit off Sunrise Trail that was paved a couple of years ago). Will the lawn mowers be brought out next summer? And now we aren’t even going to get plowed in the winter?

I wish someone could tell me what we get for our taxes—garbage pickup that many didn’t and still don’t want is about the only thing I can identify. I am sure that we could hire private road services for our taxes. That would be a great improvement over what we now get, winter and summer.

Please ensure that maintenance on Route 321 is improved significantly, starting now.

Rick Cheeseman, Roslin


Government

City

Investment Policy Advisory Committee (noon, City Hall)—discussing the city’s investments can be mind-numbingly boring, but I like that the committee is given a bunch of stuff to read, including “Occupational Hazards of Working on Wall Street” from financial industry critic Michael Lewis, who writes:

One moment this herd of graduates of the nation’s best universities are young people—ambitious yes, but still young people—with young people’s ideals and hopes to live a meaningful life. The next they are essentially old people, at work gaming ratings companies, and designing securities to fail so they might make a killing off the investors they dupe into buying them, and rigging various markets at the expense of the wider society, and encouraging all sorts of people to do stuff with their capital and their companies that they never should do.

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (1pm, City Hall)—councillor Jennifer Watts is pushing to make district energy part of the Cogswell Interchange redevelopment project.

Harbour East–Marine Drive Community Council (6pm, Nantucket Room, Dartmouth Sportsplex)—there’s a Lake Loon development proposal that has at least one nearby resident worked up. It calls for a seven storey building, a six-storey building, and 44 townhouses behind the gas station and bowling alley at the corner of Forest Hills Parkway and Main Street.

Province

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Today

Thesis defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Thursday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building)—PhD candidate Marie-Laurence Tremblay will defend her thesis, “The Structural Characterization of Argiope Trifasciata Spider Wrapping Silk by Solution-State NMR.”

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology seminar (Thursday, 4pm, Theatre D, CRC Building)—Lawrence McIntosh, from the University of British Columbia, will talk on “Where is the Proton? Electrostatics and pH-Dependent Enzymatic Reactions.”

Planetarium show (Thursday, 7:15pm, Room 120, Dunn Building)—”Signposts in the sky.” Five bucks at the door.


Noticed

Back in September, I told this story:

Something quite weird, and quite telling, happened to me yesterday. Michael Karanicolas of the Centre for Law and Democracy had very kindly invited me to meet with representatives from the Treasury Board, who were in town as part of their duties to “coordinate” the federal government’s “open government Action Plan.” I wasn’t able to make the morning session, but from later discussion I gather that the three Treasury Board employees gave a dog and pony show explaining how the federal government was really trying, honest, to open up government, improve the Access to Information process, and usher in a new era of informed democracy.

The afternoon session was billed as an “open discussion” with the Treasury Board employees where participants could “talk about problems with the current open government processes and how they can be fixed.” When I arrived, seven or eight people were sitting around a table at City Hall, and they made room for me to join in. Then, we went around the table introducing ourselves. Michael introduced himself and explained the role of the Centre for Law and Democracy. I was next, and said simply that I’m a reporter in Halifax. Then the others introduced themselves, some people doing academic work on open government, a couple of people involved in non-profits, like that. But when we got around to a woman—and I’m sorry, I didn’t catch her name—who worked at the Treasury Board, she asked who I worked for and left the room to make a phone call.

When she came back, she said that with a journalist in the room, the Treasury Board employees were not authorized to speak without a government media professional in the room. That’s right—a session on open government could not proceed without a media minder present because the discussion might go off the government’s talking points.

Toby Mendel, president of the Centre for Law and Democracy, who was also present, said the incident is illustrative of Canada’s failure of open government, and that Canada is far behind the rest of the world when it comes to open government processes.

Well, that aside, Treasury Board president Tony Clement had made public the “Open Government Action Plan,” reports Michael Geist for The Tyee. Geist hits on something I’ve been on about for a long while: governments purposefully confuse “open data” with “open access.” We see this in Halifax: yea, the city will make its GPS mapping system public (sort of), but it won’t give us basic governance info we need to be fully informed citizens.

Here’s just one example of that: The city a few years ago changed the way it runs rinks. Used to be, the city just managed the rinks outright, with city staff. The change was to outsource the management of rinks, and a company called Nustadia won the contract for rink management. Was this a good or a bad move? It’s impossible to say: the city won’t reveal the dollar amount of the contract. We citizens are completely in the dark about the matter, and cannot form our own judgment. We just have to trust city officials. This is not how democracy works.

Writes Geist:

…In short, the access to information system is broken. An open government plan that only addresses the information that government wants to make available, rather than all of the information to which the public is entitled, is not an open plan.


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 6am Thursday. Map: marinetraffic.com

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

Arrivals

Mare di Venezia, tanker, Port Arthur, Texas to Imperial Oil
Florida Highway, car carrier, Brunswick, England to Autoport

Departures

Tinos to sea
Alice Oldendorff to Baltimore
Zim Monaco to New York


Footnotes

I got pulled away on a couple of different stories yesterday, and so never got to writing about Tuesdays’ council meeting. One of the stories involves the convention centre, and as soon as I publish this Morning File I’m going to write that up. The other story will take some time to develop, but boy howdy. I’ll get to council.

People keep asking if they can buy Examiner cups and T-shirts without buying the gift subscriptions. The gift subscriptions are kind of the point of the exercise, but I’m hearing you. Mailing the swag (especially the breakable cups) is prohibitively expensive without the accompanying gift subscriptions, so I’ll try to get a table at one or the other of the Farmers’ Markets in the next couple of weeks. I’ll let you know.

Anyway:

Gift subscriptions now available!

This is a special deal good only for the month of December. Buy a gift subscription for someone else (or yourself) and get newly minted Halifax Examiner swag—a T-shirt or a coffee mug. Here’s the deal:

• Buy a three-month gift subscription for $30 and get a piece of swag.

OR

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Click here to purchase your gift subscription. For the three-month gift subscription use the discount code Holiday90. For the one-year gift subscription, use the discount code Holiday365. Once payment is made, we’ll follow up to get details.

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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. If ridership is based on sales, how do they account for pass holders? Just assume a pass holder rides the bus a given number of times a month? And if that’s the case, would this also be true for the passes that undergrads at Dal are required to buy?

  2. The fare increase for Halifax Transit was in part to fund six capital projects – Halifax ferry terminal (next summer), Lacewood Terminal (done in the spring), ferry terminal pontoon at Woodside (done this last weekend), ferry replacement (first replacement arrives Mayish 2015, second year later), Metro X replacement (required in 2016) and biggest piece of all, new transit technology – starting in 2014 and ending in 2016 and costing about $31 million over three years. The pilot for the technology is to start in the new year and the system should be operational early 2016. Why so long? Lots of reasons, but one of the biggest is it takes 7-10 days to rewire the buses and install all the gizmos and the garage can do 4 buses at a time, and that alone means the installation will take about year and a half.

  3. Generally I’m not one to defend Peter McKay but I think that dialog highlights how much easier it is to be the opposition, and Mulcair is very good at being the critical opposition.

    Yes, if you take what McKay said literally Mulcair’s response makes perfect sense, but the intended sentiment was more like “We will never understand the mind of the crazy guy” Yes, he gave a justification, but his justification, of women being women is not sane.

    1. “Not sane” by folks who rightly hold women to be fellow human, equal, and simply different, sexually. Towering intellect has never been a characteristic attributed to Peter MacKay. Until you’ve been female and sneered at by a sane, sober father who says he’s not “wasting education” on you because you’re a girl, please don’t assume that simply being female isn’t enough for some to disparage, feel threatened by, even hate. Misogyny exists in the all-too-sane. Killing because of it is thankfully, mercifully rare.

    2. this is a man who once told a female MP to literally get back to her knitting, so no, he deserves absolutely no benefit of the doubt.