News

1. Irving says ship contract is not being downscaled

Yesterday’s CP report that the federal government is scaling back the number of Arctic patrol vessels to be procured from Halifax’s Irving Shipyard is disputed by company officials. But CBC interviews both an industry insider and an academic who say that it’s very likely the contract will be downscaled.

2. City council

I’ll publish a recap of yesterday’s Halifax council meeting later today.

3. Ombudsman: David Shannon violated procurement rules

David Shannon (left), former CEO of the Human Rights Commission, talks to a high school student in this 2012 photo. Photo: Human Rights Commission.

The Chronicle Herald’s Michael Gorman reports that the ombudsman’s office has found that David Shannon, the former CEO of the Human Rights Commission, violated procurement rules by hiring a friend to write speeches for him. Shannon got around a requirement that all projects costing over $1,000 go to tender by telling the writer of the limit, so the writer could charge just less than $1,000 per speech—$17,050 for 18 of them. Gorman doesn’t say so, but this looks to me like one project was divvied up into smaller projects, which is also against procurement rules.

Shannon also wrote a reference letter for the unnamed writer, which contained this gem of a sentence: “As a result of (the speechwriter’s) skills I have been  able to raise my oratory skills from very good to silver-tongued speaker.”

The ombudsman’s report also took issue with Shannon OKing $4,500 for historical archeology research and directing $95,000 towards a cultural and recreational facility in Bridgewater.

4. Port traffic down

Remember the Atlantic Gateway? Good times.

5. Esso

Someone appears to have it out for Esso gas stations. Bomb threats have been called in to stations in West Amherst and Bible Hill, reports Metro. Yesterday the Esso station on the Bedford Highway was closed for an hour or so for some sort of police investigation. The Twitterverse was talking about it all morning, but the police have released no information about it because that would be fully informing the public, and we can’t have that.

6. MLA Chris d’Entremont booted from legislature

Speaker Kevin Murphy kicked d’Entremont off the floor of the legislature during a cantankerous debate over the Yarmouth ferry.

7. Rich man speaks

CBC dutifully transcribes.

8. Ballot photo

Parker Donham won’t be charged for tweeting a picture of his ballot.


Views

1. Tailgating

The commentariat is remarkably silent today. The best I can do for you is the Cape Breton Post complaining about tailgaters.


Government

City

Police Commission (12:30, City Hall)—this meeting was called at the last minute to discuss the strategic plan, so I should probably go. The meeting agenda says it starts at 12:30am, but hopefully that’s a mistake.

The Linden Lea duck pond. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Public information meeting (7pm, Nantucket Room, Dartmouth Sportsplex)—this concerns the proposed development at 8 Linden Lea. I wrote about the proposal here (behind pay wall). Neighbours might have concerns about the size of the proposed four-story building, but I’m particularly worried about the duck pond across the street. The pond is a lovely, almost secret, spot in downtown Dartmouth, and it’d be horrible if it got polluted or if the ducks were chased away by shoddy construction practices.

I have reason to worry because the developer submitted this bit of wisdom to the city as part of the development proposal:

The site’s close proximity to Downtown Dartmouth and the Ferry Terminal gives the project significance and merit to increasing density in support of policy N-5 goals. The design intent and theology behind the proposed development is to promote a greater neighbourhood and downtown lifestyle of green living targeted at a market for both young working professionals and families alike.

As I wrote in August, I realize planning and design circles have been infected by woo-woo and New Age nonsense, but I’ve never before seen it referred to as theology, so I’m almost certain they’re going to screw this up.

Province

Legislature sits (2-6pm, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Scottish independence (Wednesday, 12:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room, Henry Hicks Building)—Alan Trench, formerly with the University of Ulster, will “look at how the [Scottish]  referendum came to be called, the strategy of the campaigns and how those campaigns played out. It will then look at the emergent plans for further devolution and what those mean not only for Scotland but for the rest of the UK as well.”

Howl (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—Rob Esptein and Jeffrey Friedman’s film adaptation of Ginsberg’s poem.

Saint Mary’s

Arctic Visions, Arctic Lessons (Wednesday, October 22, 7:30pm, Atrium 101)—Nancy Doubleday, a philosopher and HOPE Chair in Peace and Health at McMaster University, will talk about the challenges of self-governance in the Arctic as the rest of the world is trying to exploit the place.


Noticed

This is called the best rejected New Yorker cartoon ever. Hard to argue with that.


In the harbour

The seas around Atlantic Canada, 5:45am Wednesday. Map: marinetraffic.com

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

Crystal Serenity, cruise ship, Bar Harbor to Pier 20, then sails for Sydney
Silver Whisper, cruise ship,  Sydney to Pier 23, then sails for Saint John
Royal Princess, cruise ship, Boston to Pier 22
Zim Haifa, container ship, New York  to Pier 41, then sails for Kingston, Jamaica
Calypso, tanker, New Orleans to anchor
Travestern, tanker, Saint John to anchor
Zim Texas, container ship, Valencia, Spain to Pier 42, then sails for New York

Grand Venus, vehicle carrier, departs for New York


Footnotes

It’s important to maintain our historic buildings, and especially City Hall. I’ve been a big fan of the ongoing restoration of the building, and think the stonework looks great. I’m more ambivalent about the interior work, and I don’t especially like that the wood panel hallway walls have been painted white, but tastes differ, ya know?

Of more concern is that even with $3 million or so spent so far, the building still does not have a fully accessible entrance; people using wheelchairs have to use the Argyle Street door and buzz the commissionaires to come open the door for them. It’s insulting. Surely a user-activated mechanical door can be installed.

Worse still are the added barriers facing the general public, handicapped or not. I know this is a quaint notion, but having direct access to public servants is an important and necessary part of a democracy. I’m so old I remember walking into my local City Hall, knocking on the mayor’s door, and he’d answer himself. By the time I was working as a reporter, a lone receptionist would sit between the lobby and the dozens of public servants working in the cubicle farm behind, an annoying but perhaps necessary intermediary if only for navigation purposes.

For most of my reporting career in Halifax, I could pick up the phone and call the director of planning or the manager of the Public Gardens or whoever, and we’d have a nice discussion about whatever it is I was writing about. That direct and honest communication ended a few years ago, and now those public servants are safely encased behind a communications wall lest they get off message or speak the truth. If a reporter or anyone else wants to find out what’s going on in city government, you have to deal with propaganda specialists and their castles of bullshit.

And today, a tender has been issued for the installation of glass security doors at the second (main) floor lobby of City Hall, a physical barrier separating we heathens, I mean citizens, from our public servants. They’re not drawing up plans for the invasion of Normandy in there. They’re working for us, doing the important but prosaic work of providing municipal services. They should be accessible and approachable, and not cowering behind security guards and glass doors. What are they afraid of?

I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show today, on News 95.7, at 4pm.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. While I’ve often been a vocal detractor of Government patronage and egregiously over-priced incestuous contracts, I feel for Mr. Shannon who did what any intelligent person would do under the circumstances. Tenders and similar attempts to reign-in outrageous overspending are necessary, but when one pays «peanuts» (and the lowest tender process virtually guarantees that) one gets «monkeys».

    Finding the RIGHT person to do specific writing tasks is a most difficult endeavour. I have had the privilege of doing ghost-writing and translations for several prominent institutions in days past. These jobs were NOT «tendered» because the persons requiring the work knew who was «tops» and who was «useless» and everyone in-between.
    Depending on what was required — hack-work, or artistry — a decision was often made to pay Top Dollar for an exceptional piece, or the least necessary for some piece «required» but of no particular import.

    Sometimes, it PAYS to engage people you KNOW. Trusting an important job to someone you’ve never met can be the genesis of an unmitigated DISASTER.

    John Ruskin’s take is particularly appropriate here:

    “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will
    have enough to pay for something better.”

  2. “… my oratory skills from very good to silver-tongued speaker.” Thanks for the wonderful laugh! Glad I wasn’t drinking coffee when I read that colossal, committed-to-paper display of ego.

  3. The Bunker Mentality is alive and well amongst the HRM troops. However, the installation of «protection FROM the Public» barrier disease has spread almost everywhere, even to many organisations which depend on the Great Unwashed to guarantee a healthy bottom-line. One of the silliest and saddest is the über-remote, über costly, Über-Luxury Bunker-in-the-Boonies abode of the Halifax Regional School Board which jettisoned numerous already-OWNED, and perfectly useful buildings, choosing instead to RENT, at ridiculously-excessive cost, a HIDE-AWAY in the darkest bowels of Burnside, as far as possible from those who might disrupt their peace and quiet. This BUNKER has reserved, video-surveilled, underground parking for those who count, and a remote, walk-miles-uphill to the LOCKED entrance, take-your-chances LOT for the peasants. Arrived at the weather-exposed LOCKED «Public Entrance», and after passing initial interrogation one finds oneself trapped between TWO locked doors while the interrogation continues. Then, once any danger of upsetting the beatific somnulence of the occupants has been eliminated, the second locked door is cautiously opened by a GUARD who will accompany you to your previously alerted destination.
    ««Children: can we say PARANOIA?»

    1. I don’t deal with school board stuff, so I didn’t know about this. It calls to mind, tho, of the school district in California, which took exactly the tack you’re suggesting: It repurposed a delightfully constructed school from the 1920s into the district offices. It was in a residential neighbourhood near downtown, was easy to get to, and added something to the neighbourhood. You’re right: that could’ve been done here in Halifax, with one or the other of the St. Pat’s, or one of the other closed schools.

  4. I love the Linden Lea Pond. As far as I know it was originally created back in the early 1800s for farm animals to drink from, the barn of that farm still stands, nearby. There was also a stream that used to run down the hill along Old Ferry Road from Maynard’s Lake that must have at one time supplied the pond with fresh water. I’m usually a fan of development in the area but not at all costs…It would be really sad if it were filled in.

    1. Well, one thing we can be sure of, if the «theologically-challenged» developer is part of or has good connections with the CABAL of «developers» whose derrières HRM has been generously powdering for decades, the sky’s the limit.
      «« Who wants a bunch of scruffy ducks pooping all over the travertine marble we installed to attract crème-de-la-crème, high-rent tenants… just fill ‘er in, and pave ‘er over for metered parking!»» The SAD REALITY!