In the harbour
1. Stadium envy
Former Moncton CAO Jacques Dubé has been hired for the same position in Halifax.
In December, CAO Richard Butts abruptly resigned and took a job as president of Clayton Developments, the largest development firm in the area. Then-city solicitor John Traves has been operating as interim CAO ever since, but Traves has neither the temperament nor the background to handle the job on a permanent basis.
Dubé’s hiring was a surprise, as I figured council would wait until after the October elections to fill the position. Moreover, Dubé is deeply connected to the Conservative Party, reports the CBC:
Dubé was also a deputy minister in Bernard Lord’s government and after that he served as chief of staff in Ottawa to Greg Thompson, who was the regional minister for New Brunswick in Stephen Harper’s government before moving to Moncton.
Working for the Conservatives doesn’t (and shouldn’t) disqualify one from working as Halifax CAO, but I found it surprising because the Halifax council is dominated by Liberals. Perhaps party politics don’t run as deep as I thought they did.
A better explanation for the hire, however, is that when he worked in Monction, Dubé secured $107 million in federal and provincial funding for the Downtown Centre, “a 9,000 seat multi-purpose sports and entertainment facility.”
Put plainly, I believe Halifax councillors hired Dubé because they think he can deliver a stadium.
Interestingly, Moncton’s Downtown Centre was in part sold via a consultant’s report that compared Moncton’s struggling downtown with Halifax’s booming downtown — evidently, the ridiculous “rivalry” Halifax has with Moncton also works in reverse:
This downtown [Moncton] population decline is in stark contrast to many other urban areas. Downtown Halifax, for example, saw its population rise strongly between 2006 and 2011 (+9.7 percent) – well above the CMA growth rate.
The population is aging. The median age in the downtown core area is 49.4 years. In the expanded downtown the median age is over 45 years. This compares to a median age of 40.1 in the City of Moncton, 41 in the Uptown Saint John area and a remarkable 28 years old in downtown Halifax – where young professionals and the student population make it the youngest downtown of any CMA in Canada.
Some Monctonians (Monctonites?) were opposed to the Downtown Centre project, and started a Change.org petition against it, arguing:
City Council, under Mayor LeBlanc, are rushing to embark on building a new rink in downtown Moncton that will cost in excess of $107 Million. This is at a time when we are in serious financial difficulty as a province, and facing $100’s of Millions of repairs to failing infrastructure, and other required projects, in this city.
Moncton Council has a poor record of completing projects on budget, or on time. The Resurgo Place is a great example. It was about 30% over budget, has several problems including lack of parking, and there are lawsuits before the court for unpaid bills. The Proposed Downtown Centre is a 14 times the budget of the Resurgo place, which would represent an additional $30 Million, if the cost overruns and mistakes are repeated, bringing this rink budget to almost $140 Million.
Despite the naysaying, anti-progress, Moncton-hating minority, Moncton’s city council went ahead with the project. But the whole thing came to a screeching halt, reported the CBC in April 2015:
There’s growing anxiety over the future of Moncton’s $107-million downtown centre as several key deadlines continue to be missed.
Construction was supposed to start this spring or summer but everything has been put on hold since December.
Coun. Brian Hicks said he is not as confident the project is still alive.
“I think it’s been on life support for a couple of years,” he said.
Hicks said the promised federal money is unlikely since it would break the prime minister’s statement in 2011 that no federal money would go toward sports arenas
Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe Conservative MP Robert Goguen has said the federal government is prepared to find money from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
It is also willing to give money to Moncton to pay for infrastructure, such as roads or water and sewer lines. The city would then use the savings to put its own money into the downtown arena.
Hicks said if the federal government makes an exception for Moncton, it will suddenly find itself with all sorts of demands from other cities in Canada for similar help.
“That would have to be used in Quebec City. probably 14 or 15 other major cities in Canada that would like to have funding for arenas,” he said.
“You just can’t play that shell game in Moncton, it would have to be a federal program and I really can’t believe the federal government is going to buy into that.”
As for provincial money, Hicks said he wonders how Premier Brian Gallant could give money to Moncton for a downtown centre after making deep cuts and tax hikes
“To me that would take him completely off message of, ‘We are in difficult financial times here,’ that $24 million would pay for 90 nursing homes beds in Moncton, it would pay for a lot of things,” he said.
Somehow, however, those worries got ironed out, and the federal and provincial funding commitments held. Construction started on the Downtown Centre project earlier this year.
My guess is that Halifax councillors looked at Dubé’s success in keeping the project alive and thought those skills could translate into building a Halifax stadium.
2. Greenhouse gas emissions
“Halifax is among the least sustainable cities in Canada according to a new study that compares average household greenhouse gas emissions in major centres across the country,” reports Chris Lambie for Local Xpress:
The study looked at household gasoline and electricity consumption in 17 metropolitan areas between 1997 and 2009.
The average Halifax household produced 13.276 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year, nearly triple the same home in Montreal, which produced 4.474 tonnes of the greenhouse gas. Only Edmonton, with 13.684 tonnes of CO2 per average household, and Saint John, with 17.414 tonnes of the greenhouse gas for an average family of about 2.5 people, scored worse than Halifax in the study.
“Where your electricity comes from makes a huge difference to the average emissions and, unfortunately, Halifax has a bunch of fossil fuel and even some coal in their electricity generation,” Sumeet Gulati, an environmental economist at the University of British Columbia who co-authored the study, told Local Xpress.
“If you look at Nova Scotia, it’s pretty much the second-worst in terms of its composition of electricity in the country, right after Alberta.”
3. Publication ban
Frank Magazine editor Andrew Douglas has been charged with violating a publication ban in the preliminary inquiry of Chris Garnier. Garnier is accused of murdering Truro cop Catherine Campbell.
Douglas tells Ian Fairclough of Local Xpress that “this is the exact opposite of a black and white case. Our story was published before the publication ban was implemented.”
Typically, a publication ban is issued in murder trials for all evidence that hasn’t yet been presented to the jury. During the trial, reporters are free to publish testimony given to the jury, and the publication ban on all evidence is lifted after the trial is over.
“Halifax’s Taxi and Limousine Liaison Group is recommending the municipality put GPS units in all cabs and launch education campaigns after a special meeting behind closed doors Wednesday to tackle the topic of sexual assaults in taxis,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro.
5. Ship of Theseus
“For the first time, the Bluenose II is offering the experience of being a deckhand for the day,” reports Katy Parsons for the CBC:
Lucky landlubbers can sign up to help crew Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador on an eight-hour cruise of the islands of Mahone Bay.
A chance to swab the decks or take a turn at the wheel of the storied schooner comes at a cost of $495.
Once on board, tasks could include swabbing the decks, shining the brass, keeping look-out, taking a turn at the wheel, handling the sails, and helping to properly anchor the 300-tonne schooner.
1. Cranky letter of the day
First I would like to thank all the volunteers who worked so hard and raised money for the events, (well done).
Getting to the parade, it was very disappointing. Some of it was OK – the bands, the RCMP and others. My beef is that there were too many cars, jeeps, trucks and no floats. I heard the same comment from a lot of folks who felt the same way. People came from afar to watch this parade. If they want to see vehicles they can go to the dealers.
Pictou Town should have had a float in the Carnival and also Pictou merchants. What do you think?
Hopefully it will be better next year.
Sarah Bronson, Pictou
Economic Development (10am, City Hall) — the Neptune Theatre wants $50,000, and Reg Rankin wants to protect the Bayers Lake Mystery Walls.
Investment Committee (noon, City Hall) — I always enjoy the suggested reading material, and sometimes I actually read it.
No public meetings.
Thesis Defence, Biology (9:30 am, C140-CHEB Building, Dalhousie) — B.Sc. candidate Jiwon Yang will defend her thesis, “Mitochondrial Genome Evolution In The Deep-Branching Heteroloboseids Amoeba ‘Bb2’ And Pharyngomonas Kirbyi.”
Maps (3:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Patrick Brown, from the University of Toronto, will talk about “Geostatistics for Aggregated Data, and Making Maps in R: a Talk in Two Parts.”
Political Animals (6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — Will Kymlicka, from Queen’s University, will lead a panel discussion on animal law, the philosophy of biology and ecology, the philosophy of animal minds, and the political status of nonhuman animals.
Scheduled as of 7am:
5:30am: Tokyo Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
6am: Dolphin II, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
7am: Bruarfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Argentia, Newfoundland
8am (delayed from yesterday): A.R.C. Gloria, the Columbian navy’s sailing ship, sails from NC5 for sea
10:45am: Mylin IV, superasshole’s superyacht, sails from Switzer Dock for sea
11am: Boheme, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England
11:30am: Bruarfoss, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
3pm: Tokyo Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southhampton, England
4:30pm: Dolphin II, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
4:45pm: Boheme, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 31
9pm: Boheme, car carrier, sails from Pier 31 for sea
9am: Valiant Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Bremerhaven, Germany
I’ve mastered that accent aigu thing.
We’re recording this week’s Examineradio today.
Please consider subscribing to the Examiner. Just $5 or $10 a month goes a long way. Or, consider making a one-time contribution via PayPal. Thanks much!
I recently traveled roundtrip from Halifax to Rogersville, New Brunswick via VIA RAIL. Train was on time, peaceful, relaxing, comfortable seats. The antithesis of air travel. During the stop in Moncton the train lingered a bit giving smokers a chance to light up, etc., I was stunned to look out the window and see construction workers going FULL-TILT BOOGIE on the city’s downtown stadium/arena. Have never set foot in Moncton but will probably now visit. Later at quaint train station in Rogersville picked up current Moncton tourist guide which is awash with images of people of colour sunning, funning, frolicking, etc. Have not seen current Halifax tourist material so don’t know if it is comparable. But appears to me that Moncton has its diversity groove on — big time. At least on paper.
Take the trip in early February and report back.
I know we have been rooting for a stadium since the Metro Centre ($5 NSF fees baby!) opened … but why?
Are they trying to attract an NHL team? Concerts? Pretty expensive for not much economic return:
I will never understand why the concept ‘new stadium’ is so attractive … or why it is a vote getter. Do people just really like sports? THAT much? Thoughts anyone?
All cities have their boosters who think that “if you build it, they will come” and don’t really listen to the opinions of experts; one Boris Johnson’s primary legacy as London mayor was a series of these, culminating in the biggest one – hosting the Olympics. (https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2016/jul/27/bikes-buses-bridges-boris-johnsons-biggest-design-blunders)
I am not sure whether these sorts of megaprojects with dubious economic basis are as popular with the voters now that it’s known that a lot of the economic benefits won’t come and it will take money away from things that they actually need. Just as a recent example, the Toronto, Oslo, and Boston Olympic bids were met with strong, focused public opposition and died before they could get off the ground.
The danger, I think, is that now public officials with suspect motives will just find ways to fund the things anyway and completely ignore the democratic process as well as internal review processes. Just as an example, the government of Cobb County, Georgia redirected funds allocated for their public parks towards building the Atlanta Braves a brand new stadium.
I think the other recommendations coming out of the taxi meeting are more interesting. Specifically, let’s educate women not to sit in the front (where the temptation to assault them might just be too great to resist) and let’s educate drivers about appropriate treatment of customers (because there’s a real grey area as to whether it’s ok to sexually assault passengers.)
The CAO of the Halifax Regional Municipality is the most powerful individual public servant in the entire Province of Nova Scotia. He or she is paid far more than a provincial Deputy Minister, has more direct responsibility for massive budgets and services to more people than any public service office in the Province, (and by virtue of the size of HRM, probably the entirety of Atlantic Canada.)
The office and incumbent are often conspicuously overlooked by the media who tend to be distracted by the gesticulations of the Mayor and Council. Meanwhile the really big power is held and decisions are made by the CAO. All real power in the City is rooted in the chair of the CAO. The management style and leanings of the CAO are reflected through the entire organization.
Past CAO’s of this sprawling municipality have chosen to wield their power in different ways. Some have ruled by fear and intimidation, some by benevolent dictatorial style, some by delegation. In all cases, rule has been supreme and absolute.
This new CAO seems to be cut from a completely different fabric than any of his predecessors. He will be one to watch over the coming years of his tenure.
Considering how much control and power the CAO wields, it really makes me wonder why we bother with the farce of having a council and Mayor. It really only serves to give us the illusion of having a say.
Watching Council’s wilderness park debacle – the train wreck it is – I’d exactly same thought and was tempted to write it. You have, P_Greathead, and you’re not alone in your opinion. Calling it an illusion is kind. Farce is my choice.
All the more reason to vote for people who are knowledgeable, passionate and are willing to look past petty potentates like Richard Butts and reestablish enlightened governance and the virtues of public service – you know serving the public rather than burnishing a resume and managing a career.
Butts and his minions have given the bureaucracy a bad name.
Now that Butts is gone hopefully his minions are quaking in their boots.
As the Examiner documented many good managers have left. Maybe this is a chance to get some back.
I have no way of knowing if the stadium thing is the reason why Dube was hired (I have my doubts about that being the motivation, to be honest), but if it is then council miscalculated. As the first half of your note on his hiring mentions, Dube was extremely well connected with the federal Tories. Those connections won’t help him negotiate for a pile of election year infrastructure money with a Liberal government.
Welcome Jacques Dube.
Hopefully you can fix the mess Richard Butts left behind.
Is the Bluenose III hurting for cash or something? $500 per day is laughable for a day cruise.
I don’t criticize volunteer-run parades because I was involved with one in Ontario and know how hard they are to organize. Having said that, we didn’t allow car dealerships to drive the contents of their lots down the parade route. The hardest thing is getting enough bands — you can never have too many marching bands. It was hard to pull off in a city so I imagine in a small town it must be even worse.
“Monctonians” is correct. “Monctonniens” en français.