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.
Click here to read “Brookfield residents go to court to stop tire burning at Larfarge.”
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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.
Click here to read “Transit data: the gift that keeps on giving.”
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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‘s newest tweeter is admiring the bird’s eye view from #CentralLibrary. Little Lori happily hatched on our rooftop this week. pic.twitter.com/2zZWGOzfCX
— 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.
I hope they can save the Oxford. When I lived in Windsor Ontario there was an old theatre called the Capitol which was purchased by a developer, and eventually saved and restored through community action. In that case the developer was a community-minded local man willing to make a reasonable deal. Maybe it will be the same here. You never know until you get a group together.
I grew up in Tilbury and remember that Theatre and the Palace on Ouelette. Saw the exterior last year on a visit and it is an amazing looking building.
” ……. 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. ”
The amount would be a great deal less. In 2009 the contribution rate was 8% of regular earnings, and is now 12%.
His better option would have been a asking for councillors to be given the option to join the pension plan or have an RRSP where a councillor and HRM each make a 5% contribution to an RRSP and the councillor would then make all the investment decisions and the RRSP would become part of the estate upon death.
I’m basing the number on Zane Woodford’s report of council proceedings in Metro: “The councillor told his colleagues on Tuesday that it would cost him $31,000 per year of service to buy back into the plan. He said he wanted the staff report to help future councillors learn about the process – and hopefully to get half of that approximately $500,000.”
Zane is likely just doing the math… About 16 years of service X $31,000 is roughly $500,000. And since HRM matches employee contributions, about half would come from HRM.
Hendsbee’s math could be off, of course.
Whether the contributions go into a pension or RRSP account, Hendsbee would still be 16 years behind on contributions, and asking for a redo.
Prior to the 8% contribution rate the payment was 6% and councillor remuneration was circa $45,000. Today the rate is 12.21%.
In addition, for several of the early years council members were taxed on just 66.66% of remuneration and pension contributions were based on that amount and not the full amount listed as compensation.
Buying back service is a complicated calculation. The cost of buying back service for a year ago is less than for 3 years because of compounding and the rate of interest.
My wife bought several years of service when the calculation was based on a compound rate of 8%. Soon after her purchase of prior service the HRM pension plan reduced the rate.to reflect the decline in interest rates.
The contribution rate doubled in less than 10 years to reflect the unfunded liabilities of the pension plan : http://www.hrmpensionplan.ca/files/Contribution_Increase_Memo_to_Members_Oct_2015_FINAL.pdf
More information is available here : http://www.hrmpensionplan.ca/index.php/about/plan-information/financial-statements/
The downside of buying back pension service is the loss of control of the funds. An RRSP transfers to a spouse but a pension declines by over 30% when the pensioner dies, if the death occurs after several years of receipt of the pension.
My own RRSP/LIF return over 20 years is better than the return of the HRM pension plan and if I died tomorrow all the assets would be transferred to my wife.
It’s not quite as simple as “he is basically just asking for whatever any other opted-in councillor has already got stashed in their pension account”. To buy years, he has to pay the contribution he would have paid plus the interest that contribution would have earned (it’s more complicated than “interest” but let’s leave it at that). Asking the city to match his contribution is asking the city to pay the contributions they would have paid *plus interest*. Instead of the interest coming from investments, it’s coming from city coffers. So yes, it’s the same amount as other councillors of similar service would have, but the source is very different.
One reason why you are on your own for buying back years is there are may be financial advantages to keeping X% of your salary to use how you want: pay off debt, buy investments, or just buy more stuff. But the pension is healthier the more people you have contributing. So the policies include an incentive to participate for the length of your career, rather than via lump sump at the end, to make that advantage less attractive.
Why isn’t the real question “why is someone who is so crap at financial planning making decisions for our city”? Or am I just not reading enough of the commentariat? 🙂
Ask any member of council a series of questions about the pension plan and you will be greeted blank stares.
Ask any member of council to give you the amount of the HRMdeficit/surplus for the past 5 years or any one of those years and you will be greeted with blank stares.
Indeed. The real question is “why is someone who is so crap at financial planning making decisions for our city?” Hendsbee’s inability to make decisions in his own self-interest explains much about his indifference and competence to make good decisions for other citizens. And of course, he blames the municipality for not providing enough information. The councillors who made the sensible decision to join the pension plan must have been geniuses or clairvoyants!
For those in need of a high school diploma, the Adult Learning Program at NSCC has no tuition costs. Heres a link to the costs. In addition, there are provincial programs aimed to assist Nova Scotians, with a connection to EI, to attend this upgrading.
ALP Information – https://www.nscc.ca/learning_programs/programs/PlanDescr.aspx?prg=ALP&pln=ALPLEVEL4
Skills Development/Fast Forward information – https://novascotia.ca/employmentnovascotia/programs/skills-development.asp
Yes, no tuition for the ALP, for those who haven’t graduated. If you have graduated but without the right credits or with an IPP, you will need to upgrade, and you will pay tuition for that.