In the harbour
1. Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness
Yesterday, Halifax council took the most sensible action possible with regards to the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness park I discussed yesterday. Council voted to push the entire issue back to its September 6 meeting, at which time all the relevant information, including all til-then secret staff reports and maps, will be made public.
2. Online privacy and cyber bullying
“Online privacy is the topic at the heart of a four-day international conference underway at the Metro Centre organized by two prominent Nova Scotians — retiring Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas Cromwell and the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia, Justice Michael MacDonald,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
Nova Scotia is no stranger to cyber-bullying. The Province pushed for federal legislation that defines and outlaws the public sharing of intimate visual images without consent after 17-year-old Rehteah Parsons took her life in 2013. Parson’s mother Leah said it was the public shaming of her daughter — photos posted on social media of Rehteah having intercourse with young men at a drunken party — that led her to leave school and eventually commit suicide. [The law was subsequently withdrawn.]
It’s unclear how effective the new federal law, Section 162.1 of the Criminal Code (formerly Bill C-13) will be.
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3. Energy East
“Environmental groups have released a report saying the proposed Energy East pipeline would drive a huge increase in crude tanker traffic, jeopardizing the environment and marine life between New Brunswick and the U.S. Gulf Coast,” reports the Canadian Press:
The report, prepared by the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defence Council in partnership with groups such as Greenpeace and the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, says the pipeline would result in a 300 to 500 per cent increase in tankers delivering western crude to refineries in the southern United States.
Anthony Swift, a spokesman for the report, says the large number of crude tankers creates extraordinary threats to the U.S. East Coast and marine life in the Bay of Fundy.
The group has launched a petition calling for a moratorium on tankers carrying oilsands bitumen in U.S. waters.
The report can be found here.
4. Marilla Stephenson’s rank hypocrisy
Bruce Wark points us to the job description for the position of Managing Director Corporate and External Relations at the Executive Council office which was created by Stephen McNeil for Marilla Stephenson:
The position will lead the development of, and provide advice, plans, and strategic approaches that will inform decisions and assist with proactively managing issues. The Managing Director will lead, manage, consult and provide expertise in planning and execution of strategic, systems approaches to assist with managing issues, crisis and to proactively provoke strategic activities to assist in the delivery of the government’s agenda and support corporate priorities. Serves as a primary point of contact and liaison between the Premier’s Office and government departments.
“That bafflegab,” writes Wark, “makes sense because it hides what Stephenson will really be doing, i.e. spinning issues in ways designed to prevent journalists and the public from fully understanding what the government is doing, especially when the shit is hitting the fan.”
Also, Parker Donham reminds us that while she was still a columnist with the Chronicle Herald, Stephenson wrote two columns damning McNeil for the 2013 patronage appointment of former CBC reporter Glennie Langille as the province’s Chief Protocol Officer. Wrote Stephenson:
Any hopes that Premier Stephen McNeil planned a route on the high road careened sharply into the ditch Tuesday. Ironically, it was a political ambush completely of his own making.
With dozens of appointments looming on provincial boards and commissions in the months ahead, McNeil has begun with a backward step that sets a poor tone for voters’ expectations of qualified appointments and fair hiring practices in the provincial bureaucracy.
The premier has thumbed his nose at Nova Scotia’s civil servants by demonstrating preferential treatment for a party loyalist in filling the protocol job.
“Two months later,” writes Donham, “a release of emails under the Freedom of Information Act showed how thoroughly the fix was in for Langille, just as a release of emails this week showed how the fix was in for Stephenson. Stephenson pounced again in a February 7, 2014 column headed, “Brave new world, same old patronage.” Again, Stephenson wrote:
The more things stay the same in Nova Scotia politics, the more they stay the same.
Any voters who are in denial about how party loyalists access the spoils of power in the wake of an election victory may wish to take a spin through a collection of internal emails outlining how Glennie Langille became the province’s chief of protocol.
After the Langille appointment became public in December, McNeil defended his choice, saying she was qualified for the job.
But that, sadly, is not the point. The integrity of the public service — access to which is supposed to be based on merit, not patronage — is damaged when a premier feels compelled to remove a job from its jurisdiction in order to reward a good friend and political loyalist.
The premier declared in December that he was being “up front” about the appointment, and in almost the same breath defensively said Langille’s resume was the only one to land on his desk.
Of course it was. That’s exactly the way he engineered it.
This is not the sort of change Nova Scotians voted for when they chose the Liberals, and McNeil, to put Nova Scotia first.
Some readers may read rank hypocrisy into Stephenson’s words, but that’s because they don’t understand how these things works. Stephenson never wrote with true conviction, or at least not with any more conviction than with which McNeil leads a government.
This is all just a game of spoils. The McNeil Liberals won government so all the goodies go to them and their friends. I don’t know even know if I could make a complete list of the patronage appointments, but such a list would certainly include:
• McNeil’s friend Glennie Langille, hired without competition as the province’s chief of protocol at a salary of $85,000 annually
• Liberal insider Laurel Broten was appointed president of Nova Scotia Business Inc at a salary of $210,000 annually.
• Former CTV reporter Laurie Graham, who also happens to be Saint Ray Ivany’s spouse, was hired as the premier’s principal secretary at the whopping salary of $160,000 annually
• Former Chronicle Herald columnist Marilla Stephenson hired as the Managing Director Corporate and External Relations at the Executive Council office at a salary of $106,000 annually.
My working theory is that McNeil simply can’t resist women with the letter L in their names.
There have also been questionable contracts awarded to the premier’s family and friends, including a $16,750 contract for training the Transportation department’s compliance officers, which was awarded to Seventeen Consultants, owned by Stephen McNeil’s brother, Chris McNeil.
And then there’s the $1.5 million in payroll rebates Nova Scotia Business Inc (with Liberal insider Laurel Broten at the head) has given to Oxford Frozen Foods (owned by the Liberal-connected John Bragg).
As for Stephenson, well, you know, we all gotta survive, amirite? A hundred K and change might land her a nice house in the suburbs.
5. Cogswell interchange
The city is working towards the demolition of the Cogswell Interchange by 2020, but the three-year demolition and reconstruction project means traffic now using the interchange will have to be diverted. The biggest issue is for trucks coming to and from HalTerm in the south end; one solution put forward for staff would send the trucks down Morris Street, north on South Park to Bell Road, then to Robie Street and north to the MacKay Bridge.
This is unnecessary. Undoubtedly, the Marriott and the casino will continue to operate through the construction years, which means that Upper Water Street will remain open. There’s no reason trucks can’t be shifted onto Upper Water, at least until enough of the new street network is built to accommodate them. It may require temporarily widening the northerly portion of the road (by the casino, which is now one-way) so trucks can pass each other, or people holding flags could let northbound and southbound trucks take turns. But there’s no reason to send the trucks through the residential and shopping districts.
“As Millennials (born 1980 to 200) reach their prime working and spending years, they will significantly impact the local housing market,” reads a TurnerDrake report released yesterday:
To many Millennials living in Atlantic Canada, often saddled with high student debt loads and minimal job security in the current economic climate, renting is a sound financial alternative to purchasing a home… in the short term. Research by Turner Drake and Partners Ltd. shows that Millennials in Atlantic region may save on monthly payments by renting a home.
Our data is based on a 10% down payment on a 5-year fixed rate mortgage (2.59%) with a 25- year amortization period, and the average rental value from CMHC historic Rental Market reports. We took into account the most common additional costs typically unique to home owners, including home and mortgage insurance, heating, maintenance and property tax. With those assumptions in place, for a five year period, renting costs less in all four Atlantic provinces, the difference being $725 in Nova Scotia, $627 in Newfoundland and Labrador, $558 in New Brunswick, and $472 in Prince Edward Island.
CHMC’s recent Housing Market Outlook report projects that mortgage rates are expected to increase slightly by the end of 2017. The rent vs. buy gap in Atlantic Canada is expected to maintain its current pattern, and Millennials will enjoy monthly savings if they rent instead of buy. Overall, it is 40% cheaper to rent an apartment of any bedroom type compared to buying a house in the first five years.
1. Ironwork in the north end
“It’s hard to keep up with all the big changes happening in the old North End of Halifax,” writes Stephen Archibald:
I’m more of a small change kinda guy so I’m offering a little visual collection of decorative ironwork found north of Citadel Hill. Many of these confections have disappeared since I started taking photos in the 1970s and some remain for you to enjoy today.
2. Cranky letter of the day
To the Charlottetown Guardian:
It is increasingly obvious there is mismanagement in both Northumberland FerriesLtd. (NFL) and at Transport Canada (TC) for the Wood Islands/Caribou essential and important service. Both NFL and TC need to be held accountable for this quandary. Many questions arise that Canadian taxpayers should have answers to:
Why was the Hon. Lawrence MacAulay not informed earlier about the MV Holiday Island’s issues? Surely, NFL and TC management should have made Minister MacAulay their first call giving him advance warning so he could tackle the issue much earlier. Instead, they embarrassed the service’s “advocate general” as he learned about the repair issues in the media.
Transport Canada provides a contribution to NFL for the service to pay operating deficits and to maintain both vessels. With the subsidy/contribution, NFL, the operator, not Transport Canada is required to maintain the vessel. Obviously NFL is negligent with its maintenance obligations. Why is this subsidy not based on acceptable service standards and a sound maintenance plan, instead of operating losses? The contribution formula is an incentive for mismanagement.
One wonders if the issues at NFL float outside the Northumberland Strait? The owners of Northumberland Ferries Ltd. operate other ferry services for the federal government including the Halifax based Bay Ferries’ Digby/Saint John service. They also operate two fast ferries in Trinidad on behalf of that government.
In addition, last fall, Bay Ferries signed a very controversial 10-year, $100 million contract to operate the Yarmouth/Portland service. With all these services, I suspect that the Northumberland Strait service was given little or no attention by management other than for benefits received from the federal government’s contribution agreement.
An assessor, independent of TC and NFL should fully investigate why the aging MV Holiday Island was allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that leaves the service with one vessel causing job losses, and a very negative economic impact to both the Provinces of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.
In conclusion, one more question: Given Transport Canada is spending taxpayers’ money subsidizing the service, is it not obligated to tender the Northumberland Strait service on a timely basis? This will expedite a more transparent and accountable process to invite competent and committed companies to revitalize the service and regain the much appreciated support and respect from Minister MacAulay.
Gerry Gallant, Souris West
No public meetings.
Thesis Defense, Interdisciplinary Studies (1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) —PhD candidate Shea M. Balish will defend his thesis entitled “An Intuitionist Model of Sport Motivation.”
Robots (1:30pm, Room #430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — John S. Zelek, from the University of Waterloo, who describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur” (is that like serial killer?) will speak about deep learning, robotic sensors, and building a better map.
Prostate Cancer (4pm, Room 3H-1, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link) — Robert Bristow, from the University of Toronto, will speak on “ Novel Genomic Signatures to Predict Treatment Response in Prostate Cancer.”
“Code Blue: Ending Violence Against Children and Women” (7pm, Central Library) — Paula Donovan, Co-Director of AIDS-Free World and its Code Blue Campaign to end impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers, will speak on “Children: The Ultimate Victims in War and Conflict Today.”
In the harbour
Scheduled as of 7am:
5:30am: Alm Crystal, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
7:15am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
10:30am: Berlin Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
11am: ZIM Alabama, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Barcelona, Spain
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
2pm: A.R.C. Gloria, the Columbian navy’s sailing ship, sails from NC5 for sea
5pm: Alm Crystal, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
5pm: Tokyo Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
8pm: Berlin Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
2am: Dolphin II, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from New York
5:30am: Boheme, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England
10:45am: Mylin IV, superasshole’s superyacht, sails from Switzer Dock for sea
4:45pm: Boheme, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
9pm: Boheme, car carrier, sails from Pier 41 for sea
9am: Valiant Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Bremerhaven, Germany
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.
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Great to see “serial entrepreneur” called out. I have been laughing at this since it came into popular use a few years ago. Correction: I laugh when entrepreneurs feel the need to specify that they don’t flit in and out of entrepreneurship, however I grimace when journalists describe entrepreneurs this way.
Tim: There are a couple of angles to the Marilla Stephenson story that might be worth thinking about.
Graham Steele would know better, but it looks to me that Stephenson’s new position as Managing Director, Corporate and External Relations represents yet another step in reinforcing the power of the Premier and his closest staff. (Stephenson will report to the Deputy Minister to the Premier.) This only clear sentence in the otherwise bafflegab-laden description of her duties reads: “Serves as a primary point of contact and liaison between the Premier’s Office and government departments.” I take this to mean that part of Stephenson’s job will be to read the riot act to gov’t depts that deviate from the wishes of the Premier’s Office.
The second thing worth noting in the wording of the job posting underlines the aspects of Stephenson’s job that will require managing crises.
This Managing Director must be available on a 24/7 basis and is expected to work evenings, weekends and holidays.”
In other words, the Premier and his most senior staff will “own” her. For all I know, this may be standard wording in such senior positions, but it is brutal nonetheless — a further indication of the numbing dictatorial tendencies at the heart of our modern and increasingly secretive governments.