I’m Erica Butler, your friendly neighbourhood Examiner transportation columnist, filling in for Tim this morning.
“A handful of Colchester County residents will get their day in court next year to try and halt a one-year pilot project that would burn tires for fuel at the Lafarge Canada cement plant in Brookfield, 12 kilometres south of Truro, near Shortts Lake,” reports Jennifer Henderson for the Halifax Examiner:
Yesterday, in a process to set court dates, Lafarge lawyer John Keith said the cement company plans to use its kiln to begin test-burning in May 2018.
March 6-7, 2018 is the tentative hearing date for a judicial review of Environment Minister Iain Rankin’s decision to allow tire-burning limited to 20 tonnes a day, or 15 per cent of the company’s fuel supply, subject to conditions that include the monitoring of air quality, noise, and the establishment of a community liaison and complaints process. Supreme Court Justice Josh Arnold will hear the appeal filed by Allan and Lydia Sorflaten, Jim Harpell, Kendall McCulloch, and Fred Blois.
Through their lawyer Bill Mahody, the citizens are asking the court to declare the Minister’s decision “unreasonable” on the grounds there are too many environmental unknowns, including how the tire-burning process might affect groundwater.
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2. Transit data
The best could be yet to come in terms of improvements made possible by our relatively new automatic vehicle location technology now that transit planning staff have begun analyzing the data and using it to inform scheduling and planning.
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3. Apprenticeship training goes tuition-free
The province is making it a bit easier to get certified in a trade by waiving tuition for training courses for apprentices. The CBC reports that this will save one apprentice electrician $3,000 over the course of their training. A government press release says there are about 2,200 people in apprenticeship training each year, a number the government says will grow with the new tuition-free offer. The cost of the program is $1.3 million. According to the CBC, Nova Scotia is the sixth province/territory in Canada to make the move to free apprenticeship training.
Now if only Nova Scotia could see clear to making high school upgrading tuition-free. Baby steps, I guess.
4. In Camera at Council: Bjerke firing and Purcell’s Cove Backlands
Council got a “verbal update” about a personnel matter at yesterday’s regional council meeting, which was presumably where councillors could ask their CAO what the hell was going on with the abrupt dismissal of chief planner Bob Bjerke last month. But the matter was in camera, so it seems we will have to wait to find out why CAO Jacques Dube suddenly decided to fire the senior staffer whose most recent claim to fame was recommending against a handful of development proposals (while recommending in favour of many more).
In other “in camera” news, council yesterday heard a motion to approve the recommendations in a confidential report regarding the Purcell’s Cove Backlands and the Shaw Group/Nature Conservancy. The motion also included a recommendation that the report not be released to the public.
5. Paying for parking vs. paying for the bus
I recall being at a meeting of the previous council where then-councillor Linda Mosher commented how crazy it was that we expected car drivers to carry around change with them to fill parking metres. This scourge on the city is well on its way to being eradicated now that Halifax Council has heard second reading of some incredibly detailed bylaw changes that will allow the city to install smartphone and credit card compatible pay stations for on-street parking.
Meanwhile, transit riders will continue to fumble for tickets or change, as the latest tech council just approved for purchase involves automatic cash validation and transfer printers, but nothing so fancy as what will soon transform our parking meters. Sadly, card/phone payments for the bus, and even ticket vending machines, have been punted down the line to an indeterminate future phase of the ongoing transit technology upgrade.
So just in case you wondered where staff and council priorities were, well, the proof is in the payment technology.
6. Council turns down Hendsbee’s plea for a redo on pension plan
Councillor David Hendsbee’s request for a staff report looking into the possibility of the municipality making retroactive pension contributions for councillors who, like him, failed to opt in to the city’s pension plan, was voted down at council.
I am trying to imagine which would have been more awkward, Hendsbee making this motion to his peers at council, or Hendsbee informing his family that he turned down a plan that would have netted him somewhere in the neighbourhood of $250,000 in employer contributions toward his retirement. Some of the chatter about this paints Hendsbee as greedy, when he is basically just asking for whatever any other opted-in councillor has already got stashed in their pension account. So greedy, no. But shortsighted and a bit foolish? Definitely.
7. Rail news
The province has signed a one-year preservation agreement with Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway Ltd. to maintain the existing rail line between St. Peter’s Junction (near Port Hawkesbury) and Sydney. According to a provincial news release:
Under the agreement, the company will not apply to abandon a portion of the rail line and the province will reimburse valid expenses up to $60,000 a month.
Repairs or improvements of the rail line will not be reimbursed, but expenses directly attributed to the line such as salaries, insurance, security and building maintenance will be covered under the agreement.
Meanwhile, Halifax Deputy Mayor Steve Craig has asked for a city staff report about developing a rails to trails facility along the abandoned Windsor and Hantsport Railway.
1. Saving cinema in Halifax?
Halifax expat Myles McNutt laments the sale of the Oxford to a developer, all before the community had a chance to at least try to rescue the cinema.
If they had simply announced the theatre was closing, perhaps the community would have had time to come together and find a way to preserve the Oxford for Quinpool Road and Halifax as a whole. But that didn’t happen because Cineplex and the Nanco Group are acting as though the Oxford is a historical shell and that what happened inside that theatre carries no cultural significance. They’re wrong, of course, but it would seem that Halifax won’t get the chance to prove it to them before the doors are closed for good.
Meanwhile, the Carbon Arc Cinema is hosting a focus group to discuss its future plans for a full time theatre. The Carbon Arc currently runs a fall and winter season out of the Museum of Natural History on Summer Street, with Friday night screenings of independent new releases. It’s been at it for several years now, so some growth could be in order.
There’s also a Save the Oxford Theatre group getting started on Facebook. Because, remember the Oval? YOU NEVER KNOW.
2. Halifax should just Jump In
Tristan Cleveland is throwing his support behind the waterfront swimming hole idea being floated by Anika Riopel and her group Jump In Halifax. The proposal is for “docks, swim lanes and a jumping platform next to the drunken lampposts at Bishop’s Landing on the waterfront,” reports Metro.
A diving platform would send the message that the water really is safe. It would also create a fun place full of people playing and jumping in the ocean.
But it would provide more than just a place to swim. The world’s best downtowns create a sensation that something fun and impressive is around every corner. To get there, we need many, diverse projects like Jump In, things that generate excitement and a buzz when added up.
And as far as cool projects go, a platform to jump off isn’t costly, especially if the Waterfront Development Corporation and Halifax split the bill.
The city will have to provide lifeguards and regular water quality testing, and that will cost something. But these are things we already provide for public beaches, so it will just be another spot on the list.
A mama seagull hatched a wee one on the green roof of the Central Library this summer.
— Halifax Public Libraries (@hfxpublib) July 20, 2017
FCM 2018 Conference Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 1pm, City Hall) — the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is holding its annual confab in Halifax next year, supposedly in the new convention centre, which will supposedly be finished by then, which will then supposedly bring us prosperity forever, amen. And so there’s a committee preparing to pave the streets with gold.
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm, Sackville Public Library) — all about the proposed Tantallon asphalt plant.
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, Universalist Unitarian Church of Canada) — nothing much on the agenda.
No public meetings this week.
IWK Research Rounds: Us and Them or We? Microbiome Beyond Diversity (Thursday, 9am, Cineplex OE Smith Theatre, IWK Health Centre) — Johan Van Limbergen will speak.
In the harbour
6am: Vera D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
6am: ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Algeciras, Spain
7:45am: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship with up to 3,000 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Portland, Maine
4:30pm: ZIM Monaco, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
5pm: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
6:30pm: Vera D, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Mariel, Cuba
8pm: HMCS Halifax, frigate, moves from Graving Dock to Machine Shop Wharf
Looking forward to Nova Scotia Facebook becoming awash in back-to-school pics tomorrow.