News

1. The border

Writes Stephen Kimber:

In the past month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped 21 vessels in the Gulf of Maine “looking for illegal immigrants.” Illegal immigrants? From Canada? Or should that be to Canada?

Click here to read “Donald Trump and the border: He stands on guard for he.”

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2. Cop bling and cat bling

For Saturday’s Morning File, writes El Jones, “[there is] a video from the province [that] says Waterville is a ‘fabulous’ place. I interrogate that. Playgrounds and why climbing is training for the revolution. Racial profiling still working for HRP. And what’s up with SiRT and sexual assault allegations?”

Click here to read “When You See That Cop Light Bling, That Can Only Mean One Thing.”

There’s no subscription needed to read Jones, but we pay her all the same. So, ya know, maybe help us with that. Click here to subscribe.

3. Chocolate Lake drowning

A police release from last night:

On July 8th at approximately 6:35pm a 911 call was received of a male that was possibly drowning in Chocolate Lake in Halifax. A joint response was conducted by both Halifax Regional Police and Halifax Regional Fire. Extensive efforts were made by Police, Fire and members of the public to locate the male however these efforts were unsuccessful. It is believed that the male drowned as a result of the incident.

The male was involved in personal boating prior to the incident and was not wearing a Personal Flotation Device. Efforts will be made to recover the male on July 9th by the Provincial RCMP Dive Team. The identity of the 28 year old male is not being released to the public at this time.

4. Stadium

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.

“The likely stadium sites are Dartmouth Crossing and a property behind the Kent store in Bayers Lake business park,” reports Francis Campbell for the Chronicle Herald.

Sigh. I’ve been opposed to a stadium, but if we’re going to get one, I’d prefer it be somewhere in the urban area, not out in the suburbs. It’s like we’re stuck in the 1970s.

Campbell quotes Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, as follows:

“We think it has to make sense for the municipality but we also want something that’s transit oriented,” Mayor Mike Savage said of a potential stadium after regional council met in camera with the Maritime Football group last month. “I don’t think anybody is interested in building an old style stadium with 20,000 parking spots.”

This, folks, is someone who doesn’t know the first thing about how transit works in this town. It’s beyond obvious that Savage has never had to navigate a bus schedule. I’m guessing he’s never been on the bus except for the odd photo op.

Both Burnside and Bayers Lake are about as transit-unfriendly as you can get in Halifax. I’ve found it easier (if that’s the word) to walk from my house near downtown Dartmouth to Burnside than to take the bus:

I could’ve taken the bus, but you need a couple of graduate degrees to figure out the bus scheduling (seriously, you try to figure it out), and then impeccable timing to make it all work.

And Bayers Lake? We’ve been through all this before when the province sited the Outpatient Centre at essentially the same location:

Meanwhile, the report says the Banc site [in Bayers Lake] is supposedly serviced by the 21 and 52 [bus routes]. But saying the Banc site is served by bus routes is true only in the most technical sense; anyone who actually rides the bus knows this is not a meaningful statement.

And no, we cannot simply change the entire bus schedule for six or eight home games a year. Even if Halifax Transit added special shuttle buses to the stadium on game nights, no one much would take them because the kind of people who are going to shell out $40 to $100 per ticket and another $50 for beer and swag are not going to take the bus, and even if they do, who’s going to pay for that?

Speaking of costs, Campbell continues:

The question of funding for the stadium, which would seat about 25,000 people and likely cost in excess of $200 million to build, remains a bigger riddle than a potential site.

“We certainly think it’s the right way to go,” [team owner Anthony] LeBlanc said of the stadium redevelopment plan at Landsdowne Park in Ottawa that was part of the successful strategy to bring the CFL and the expansion Redblacks to Canada’s capital four years ago.

But Landsdowne is a “successful strategy” only so far as the governments were suckered into it; it is yet to be seen that the financing for Landsdowne is successful, that is, that it will meet projections.

We’ll get the details a week from tomorrow (at the July 17 council meeting), but it looks like we’re going to be sold a bill of goods about tax increment financing and such. As I’ve written before:

My informed guess is that we’ll soon see a proposal that includes a mix of government funding for a stadium — I don’t know if the federal government will play along, but I suspect there will be some provincial funding and a lot of municipal funding. Total costs are going to be something on the order of $300 million, give or take $100 million.

The whole thing is going to be wrapped in financial smoke and mirrors: a district around the new stadium will be defined, and as a result of the new stadium, tax assessments in that district will rise, we’ll be told. The increased property tax receipts from the district will supposedly “pay back” the city’s portion of the stadium costs over time, 10 or 25 years. But this isn’t how property taxes are supposed to work. All tax money received is used across the municipality for a vast range of purposes, and not just to service the property where the taxes are generated. And commercial property tax receipts in particular are used to offset residential rates, so setting aside a portion of commercial tax receipts to pay for a stadium necessarily means that either residential rates will need to increase to make up the difference or that services will have to be cut. Moreover, even if you agree with the “pay back” logic, as we’ve seen with the Nova Centre, which was premised on the same scheme, it doesn’t work. In the first 10 years alone of the Nova Centre, we’re losing at least $25 million from the property tax scheme.

This stadium thing feels like a freight train coming right at us, and there’s not a damned thing anyone can do about it.

5. DEVCO coal

I don’t have space here to detail the long and twisted story of the Cape Breton Development Corporation (DEVCO), but a thumbnail sketch of that history is as follows: In 1965, the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation (DOSCO) announced that it would soon abandon its coal mines on Cape Breton Island, and DEVCO was formed in 1967 and purchased the mines with the intention to “phase out coal” and develop other industries to replace mining. DEVCO  was dissolved in 2010, its assets and liabilities transferred to the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation (ECBC). After a series of scandals, the ECBC was in turn dissolved in 2014, its assets and liabilities transferred to Public Services and Procurement Canada.

At some point in this process — perhaps as far back as the DOSCO days, but definitely by the time DEVCO was running the mines — the miners secured a benefit that must have seemed almost incidental to management at the time: free coal for their home heating needs.

A federal government tender offer for a “Domestic Coal Screening Contract” issued this morning explains:

Background:

In June of 2014 the liabilities of the former Cape Breton Development Corporation were transferred by federal legislation to Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). Included among these liabilities is an obligation to supply coal for domestic heating purposes to eligible former employees of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. The coal for the program is purchased from Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI).

Scope:

The coal is screened by a contractor engaged by PSPC. Screening is performed on site at NSPI’s Lingan Generating Station. Coal is screened into two specific sizes (screened size for shovel feeding and pea size for stoker feeding — hereinafter referred to as screened coal and pea coal). The screening contractor is also required to ship the coal to distribution yards in Dominion, N.S. and Sydney Mines, N.S.

Required yield from screening Operations: 1,200 tonnes

Above total consists of approx. 400 tonnes* of screened and 800 tonnes* of pea coal.

Approx. 250 tonnes of above will be required to be shipped to the Sydney Mines Coal Yard

Screened and pea coal will be weighed upon delivery to coal yards on certified scales provided by PSPC which will verify shipment weight.

* These are the required yields. The amount of coal that must be screened to produce the required yield for each product will be greater than this amount and dependent on the characteristics and quality of the coal being screened. The excess coal will be returned to the on-site NSPI coal bank.

It’s interesting that the federal government finds it cheaper to meet that coal obligation by getting the coal from Nova Scotia Power than by using coal from the newly reopened Donkin mine.

Besides that, it seems to me that the obligation isn’t so much for coal, but rather for home heating. It’s nuts that people anywhere are still using dirty coal for home heating purposes; why not embark on a replacement program to install ceramic heating blocks charged with wind power? As Larry Hughes explained as long ago as 2007:

[E]lectricity generated from the wind can be converted to thermal energy and stored for heating use at a later time. The technology for storing electricity as heat is well-known and widely available; it is commonly referred to as Electric Thermal Storage (ETS). ETS systems come in a variety of configurations, from wall units to heat one or two rooms, to central furnaces to heat entire buildings. Electrical energy is stored as heat in the ceramic blocks of the ETS unit and released over time on demand; since all the electricity is stored as heat, ETS is considered to be 100 percent efficient.

Such a program could both support the development of wind power and provide residents with clean heating systems.

6. We’re all going to die!

The worst headline of the day is found in today’s StarMetro Halifax:

Tropical Storm Chris headed for Halifax

Yep, the tropical storm is going to run right up the harbour, march up the hill, and destroy the Town Clock.

Well, not exactly. Here’s this morning’s tracking map from the National Hurricane Center:

Even the usually alarmist Environment Canada is hedging its bets on Chris:

At this time it appears this storm could approach Nova Scotia by Thursday, likely weakening slightly as it does so. It has to be noted that there is a good deal of uncertainty at this time in the forecast track and intensity of this system. The Canadian Hurricane Center has been closely monitoring this developing storm for a few days and will continue to do so. If the current forecast track remains as is, it is likely that regularly issued bulletins will begin on this system early Tuesday morning.

Sure, maybe there’s a chance the storm will veer a bit northward and impact Halifax  in a major way, but more likely we’ll just get the typical rain and some big waves at Lawrencetown.

(Incidentally, under the alarming headline, the StarMetro article by reporter Silas Brown is fine.)

On Twitter, we’re wondering which CBC reporter will be sent to the boardwalk in a rain slicker. The consensus guess is Brett Ruskin, who has replaced Anjuli Patil as the go-to for these sorts of assignments:

Brett Ruskin

Noticed

Robie Street is about to become a construction nightmare. There are proposals for 10 new towers along the street, ranging from Abe Salloum’s relatively modest eight-storey apartment building at Cunard Street all the way up to a proposed 30-storey building at the corner of Spring Garden Road. I’ve collected all the development proposals, as well as the potential development sites at Bloomfield and the QE2, on the Google Map below. You can zoom in and click on any of the red pins to get specifics.

City council has already approved Armco’s 25-storey Willow Tree proposal, but the rest of the proposals are at various stages of the approval process. I doubt any of them will be denied outright, but it’s possible some may be scaled back or otherwise altered.

The city seems to do OK-ish (not great) in terms of limiting impacts of construction on car traffic flow, but I have little doubt that Robie Street will soon become essentially unwalkable, and especially so in the high-pedestrian areas around Robie Street and Spring Garden Road, where four towers are proposed.


Government

City

Monday

Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (Monday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Bedford Hammonds Plains Community Centre) — here’s the agenda.

Tuesday

Province

No public meetings this week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Thesis Defence, Oceanography (Monday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Danielle Denley will defend her ​​thesis, “Population Dynamics and Persistence of an Invasive Species in Kelp Bed Ecosystems in t​​​​​he Northwest Atlantic Ocean.”

Tuesday

No public events.


In the harbour

3am: Atlantic Breeze, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Port aux Basques, Newfoundland

Bishu Highway. Photo: Halifax Examiner

5:30am: Bishu Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
6am: Asian Sun, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
6am: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
6:40am: YM Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Rotterdam

Veendam. Photo: Halifax Examiner

8am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor
10:30am: Patroclus, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Rotterdam
3:30pm:Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
3:30pm: Bishu Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4:30pm: Patroclus, oil tanker, sails from anchorage for sea
5:45pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Sydney


Footnotes

This is supposed to be a slow summer, but all I’m doing is working.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Can someone tell me why new development seems to choose the Habitat 67 design cues. A one-off would be OK, but when you build 10 of the same looking buildings it becomes tiresome. It’s almost as if all the developers have the same architect and they just punch out a design on demand.

  2. Is this coal story some kind of a bad joke?! This takes the ever-loving cake! If there was ever any doubt that this province is an absolute political and environmental backwater, this seals the deal. Look, I love this place in many ways, but this kind of continued bullshit is surely going to sink this province. Free coal for home heating, purchased with taxpayer money, from NSPI?! Are you f*cking kidding me?! If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention.

  3. It is interesting that the stadium might be near the location of the proposed new medical facility in Bayer’s Lake. Perhaps an excuse to subsidize a bus service to the area instead of admitting it’s another hand-out to those proposing the money-pit (a.k.a. stadium). I suspect the Liberal buddies municipally and provincially, and perhaps federally, have been talking.

    In the end we all know, including those proposing the stadium as well as bureaucrats and politicians at all three levels of government, building a stadium is a huge money-losing venture for government, especially for cash-strapped municipal government. Thus, unless it can be fully funded by private investors, from land purchase to getting customers to it, it should not go ahead. Not one penny of government money should be put into this scam venture.

  4. Real economic drivers are small businesses that use local products and services and employ local people. A stadium is not an economic driver, especially when it gets funding or tax breaks from the public purse.

    The darned thing takes years to construct and destroys the local community during the construction period and after.If one looks at the areas around stadiums in North America, on finds parking lots, crime and neighborhoods that no one wants to live in.

    So, as I understand it, they want to put the stadium behind Kent, which is the area adjacent to Blue Mountain BIrch Cove? Maybe Burnside makes sense,if there are no public monies and the stadium backers pay for decent mass transit to the stadium as a quid pro quo for the right to develop.

    The Centre of HRM does not need any more development. There is already too much construction which makes the Centre basically unwalkable. Although HRM has construction mitigation guidelines, they are routinely not enforced. Having Robie become a pedestrian hazard when sidewalks are removed for construction and having Robie’s car traffic seek refuge on neighboring streets is just plain bad planning.

  5. Spring garden and Robie is one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the province yet there is no way short of sprinting of crossing before the walk signal turns into ‘don’t walk’. If the city can’t get their sh&@ together enough to adjust the walk signal they have no business adding thousands more residents at that intersection.

  6. Promised “economic benefits” from public spending – I refuse to call it “investment” – in vanity projects like stadiums are almost always moonbeams and bullshit. If the team owners think they can make an honest dollar, fine, let them find the money for the project privately. Spend public money on roads, sewers, schools, recreation fields and pools open to all the public, libraries, parks etc etc. That’s why people pay taxes.

    And at the end of it, its just the CFL you are going to get anyway.

  7. IKEA is an ‘economic driver’ and didn’t receive a nickel from HRM. IKEA brings in hundreds/thousands of people each year,benefitting hotels and restaurants.
    If Mayor Savage thinks a stadium is an ‘economic driver’ perhaps he can explain how he arrived at that conclusion. The Halifax media give the mayor an easy ride – he never holds a press conference.

  8. The only way this proposed stadium becomes an “economic driver” is if it attracts large numbers of fans from outside Halifax. Otherwise, it just provides a different venue for separating Haligonians from their money. It doesn’t create wealth as, say, a gold mine or fishery would, it just re-locates it. Halifax has already coughed up $3.9 million in subsidies, which ought to be enough. Haligonians will also pay in terms of what they don’t get, i.e., the best seats. Those will go to corporations and other high rollers as they do in other sports facilities. Higher ticket prices for proletariat seating will be the result. For the city, it’s a sucker bet. If the promoters are willing to do it on a DIY basis, then good luck to them. They could sell shares at $200 each. I’m sure they could easily sell a million shares in an “economic driver”. Maybe people who want a stadium could voluntarily add the cost of their shares to their property taxes. Otherwise, I wish the promoters would just go home.

    1. Well said, Bill. If it’s going to be such an economic driver, then it ought not to need public subsidization.

  9. I agree a downtown stadium would be my choice Cogswell interchange have Barrington st under the stadium to create a bus terminal. Second choice Bayers Lake at least you have the lacewood terminal down the road that shuttles could run from to the stadium.