News

1. Spring Garden Road

Cross section of proposed Option Three, just east of South Park, near the Fickle Frog.

Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler walks us through the three options presented for the reconstruction of Spring Garden Road.

Click here to read “Making room for pedestrians on Spring Garden Road.”

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Butler suspects merchants along the street will push back against the most radical option, Option 3, because it will eliminate on-street loading zones. But, as she notes:

Of course loading is necessary in any commercial district. But a remake of Spring Garden Road with widened pedestrian zones has been in the making for over a decade. There’s been ample time for landlords to come up with solutions to make sure tenants get access to deliveries, be it through smaller scale transportation options from side streets or alternative access within buildings.

Other than the loading issue (Option 2 keeps on-street loading, Option 3 does away with it), I don’t see the point in Option 2. We may as well go whole hog, and get private cars and trucks off the street entirely, at least through part of the day, as proposed in Option 3.

One thing sitting out there that seems unaddressed is the taxi stand outside Park Lane. There’s another one right around the corner on South Park Street, but maybe an additional stand on Dresden Road across from Pete’s makes sense.

Nearly every European city has pedestrianized zones much larger than the few blocks proposed for Spring Garden Road, and things work out well. Streetcars use the roads and plazas, and there are allowances for cars ferrying the frail and elderly and people who use wheelchairs, but otherwise these areas become shopping and dining destinations precisely because they’re otherwise void of cars.

2. Public Accounts

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Liberal members of Nova Scotia’s public accounts committee have once again used their majority to keep the group’s work focused exclusively on Auditor General Michael Pickup and his reports,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:

They rejected a motion Wednesday to have Catherine Tully, the province’s information and privacy commissioner, appear before the legislative committee next week alongside Pickup.  

Pickup and Tully plan to release reports Tuesday outlining how the government handled a breach of its access to information portal.

Last spring, a 19-year-old man was able to download thousands of documents that were supposed to be protected. The government originally called in police saying the site had been hacked, with Premier Stephen McNeil accusing the young man of “stealing” information.

The man was arrested in connection with the privacy breach but investigators later determined there were no grounds to lay charges.

PC MLA Tim Halman said it would be useful to hear from Tully and Pickup when the committee deals with the issue next week, but Gordon Wilson, the MLA for Clare-Digby who led the charge for the Liberals, said no. 

Speaking to reporters afterward, Wilson rejected the claim he’s not interested in what Tully might have to say. He said he simply wants the focus to be on the AG and his report.

3. Taxi safety

“With sexual assault charges laid against two more taxi drivers in Halifax this past week, some are questioning just how safe women are while riding in cabs,” reports Heidi Petracek for CTV.

On Monday, police announced that an unnamed 36-year-old male taxi driver was arrested on charges related to an alleged sexual assault of a woman passenger early Sunday morning.

Then, on Tuesday, police said that a 74-year-old taxi driver, Seyed Abolghasem Sadat Lavasani Bozor, was arrested on November 27 and charged for an alleged sexual assault of a woman passenger on September 17. Bozor was to appear in court later in the day Tuesday.

Why did it take so long for police to announce that Bozor had been charged?

Petracek reveals that:

The fact that Bozor was charged was only made public by police Tuesday, the same day his licence to operate a cab was suspended.

On Wednesday, police said it shouldn’t have happened that way.

“In this case it would appear that it wasn’t done in the appropriate time frame that we would usually hope to do it in,” MacLeod said. “We are looking into it to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future.”

In an interview earlier Wednesday, MacLeod says the charge against Bozor was actually laid “in December” and the taxi commission should have been notified then.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says as soon as the taxi commission knew about the charges, it pulled the licence, but that didn’t happen soon enough.

So Bozor was driving taxi for more than a month after his arrest.

Petracek goes on to interview taxi safety advocates Chrissy Merrigan and Amanda Dodsworth, who understandably are alarmed about the number of sexual assaults in cabs.

It’s long past time that every cab be equipped with cameras and GPS systems, with the data stored. Petracek says such systems are being tested; I don’t know what regulatory requirements are planned.

The deal with taxi regulation was that in order to make the job worthwhile for drivers, the number of taxis on the road were limited and constrained to certain geographic zones, and uniform fares established so drivers couldn’t low-ball each other. It was a price support system. But in return, drivers would be tested, regulated, and inspected.

In our misguided zeal to eliminate regulations, we’ve somewhat done away with the old taxi zones and lots of people want to do away with the price support system entirely by bringing in Uber and other ride-sharing apps. But we’ve seem to have overlooked the “tested, regulated, and inspected” side of the equation.

I was a taxi driver for five years in California. It was a rough-and-tumble industry there, with violence among and between drivers a regular occurrence and disregard of the rules standard. My observation is that much the same situation holds here too. It shouldn’t be that way.

I’m all for making sure drivers are paid well and are protected from unfair competition by the likes of Uber. But additionally, we should go back to requiring drivers to take tests about the city’s geography and taxi regulations, and licensing should include mandatory training about customer care and driver etiquette. A dress code should be established, or even uniforms. Cars should be spot-inspected at night for proper licensing and cleanliness. And yes, interior cameras and GPS should be mandatory.

Driving taxi is an important profession. It should be valued, both by customers and by drivers. I don’t know if drivers realize that their livelihood is being threatened by criminal drivers. It’s the drivers themselves who should be demanding stepped-up regulation and inspection.

4. Immigration

“The results of a recent poll suggest that a record number of Americans are thinking about migrating to Canada, and one Dalhousie University professor says Halifax should seize the opportunity to entice them to the area,” reports Taryn Grant for StarMetro Halifax:

Last week the American polling company Gallup released the results of a phone survey that asked Americans whether they would permanently move to another country, given the opportunity. Two years into the Trump presidency, 16 per cent of Americans said they would rather leave the U.S. than stay, which is a marked increase compared to the previous two administrations.

Among those who currently say they want to emigrate, Canada was the top pick for a hypothetical new home. Sociology professor Howard Ramos said we should capitalize on this information.

“There’s a huge opportunity for Canadian universities, Canadian businesses and Canadian cities and provinces to try to attract people who might express that sentiment and may be willing to make some action based on that,” said Ramos, whose studies include immigration.

Atlantic Canada in particular, he said, could benefit from an influx of American immigrants to help grow the population and the economy.

I dunno; I’d be wary of American immigrants coming to Halifax — you never know what they might get up to.

Ramos (or at least Grant’s take on Ramos’s comments) doesn’t get into why growing the population is a good thing in and of itself. And while I think it’s true that more immigration can diversify and therefore strengthen the economy, it doesn’t necessarily lead to that, and as I’ve said before, I fear the focus in official circles at least is to encourage immigration merely to bring down the price of labour:

As an immigrant myself, I see increased immigration as a good thing — immigrants bring a much-needed cultural and intellectual diversity to an oftentimes overly staid province like Nova Scotia. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with increased immigration and a whole hell of a lot right with it. We should do what we can to encourage immigration, and to keep immigrants here.

But if the point of encouraging and keeping immigrants is merely to keep hiring people for shit wages, we’re doing it wrong. And it won’t work in any event — soon enough, like the home-grown young people before them, immigrants will skedaddle for points west, where their honest work will be respected with honest pay.

5. Erratum

On Tuesday, in my detailed analysis of provincial payments to Northern Pulp Mill, I wrote that $6 million in payments from the department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal to Northern Pulp in support of planning the new effluent pipe from the mill “were never announced publicly, but the CBC found them tucked into Public Accounts.”

Actually, that discovery was first made by Stacey Rudderham, who noted on her blog:

Yet, the media never asked about $6 Million given to Northern Pulp last year, apparently to pay for design costs for a new effluent treatment facility and 10 kilometre pipe into the Northumberland Strait that will cost taxpayers $100 Million to install in order to keep the Mill running. It never hit any news outlet until it was brought up by private citizens and community groups after a post on social media (mine) asked why?

I should’ve caught that, as Joan Baxter noted as much when she filled in as a Morning File writer right here at the Examiner:

The Friends of Northumberland Strait and Northumberland Fishermen’s Association learned about the $6 million from a social media post by Stacey Rudderham on August 13. Rudderham had combed through the 351 pages of the 2018 Public Accounts statements (Volume 3 Supplementary Information), and dug out the list of public monies handed over to Northern Pulp in the 2017 – 2018 fiscal year. Rudderham is an investigative citizen who reports on all things environmental and political in Nova Scotia on her website, “One Not So Bored Housewife.

FONS and NFA picked up on her social media post, and then issued their press release, after which the media picked up on the story.

To give credit where it is due, this is what Rudderham posted a week before the media picked up the story of the $6 million to Northern Pulp:

According to Nova Scotia Public Accounts the following sums were disbursed to Northern Pulp in 2018 (April 2017 – March 2018)

$29,076.50 – Labour and Advanced Education (Grants and Contributions)
$464,480.45 – Natural Resources (Grants and Contributions)
$31,353.38 – Natural Resources (Other)
$6,001,238.13 – Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal – (Grants and Contributions)

[Total] $6,526,148.46

My apologies to Rudderham.


Views

1. Business interactions

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Today, Stephen Archibald goes a little astray from his usual visual contemplations to tell us about bad and good interactions he’s had with businesses.

The bad: Volkswagon, which first lied to him, and then failed to own the lie, injuring Archibald all over again:

The reason I am telling this story now is that just before Christmas I took the car to the dealer to finally be made honest, that is, meet the specifications VW had originally promised. The company had already given us some money, conjured up by lawyers and courts and class action suits, but I wondered if they would offer some last little gesture that said “I know I took advantage of you, but look, I got you a kitten.” That sort of story.

So I arrived at the dealership in that frame of mind. The always helpful and efficient service guy said, “oh, you’re here for the recall.” What I saw as a colossal ethical failure had been reduced to a recall. So I continue to recall, VW lied to me. That’s all I got.

“Early in the VW scandal I heard a comment that has stuck with me,” notes Archibald. “Deceptions like the one we experienced only happen in a company that has a culture that allows and rewards such practices.”

Volumes have been written about corporate culture, but the same observation applies to our larger culture: when we have culture that rewards theft and breaking the rules, thieving and rule-breaking will run rampant, without constraint. But even worse than the thieving and rule-breaking is the resulting broken social contract; with little hope of anything resembling a just society, people turn on each other, often with vile ugliness. We’re 40 years down that rabbit hole.

Far more uplifting are Archibald’s stories about the incredibly helpful staff at Eliot & Vine and about how Lee Valley recognized they had a problem, owned it completely, and did right by their customers.


Government

City

Thursday

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — the committee will consider George Armoyan design for the old convention centre.

Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — no discussion of the mucked-up icy paths on the agenda.

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — the committee will approve some changes to that development across from the secret duck pond on Linden Lea in Dartmouth.

Open House – Herring Cove Road Enhancements (Thursday, 6pm, Multipurpose Room, Captain William Spry Community Centre) — have your say.

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

No public meetings today or Friday.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Dalhousie Libraries’ First Open Textbook (Thursday, 3:30pm, Biology Lounge, Life Sciences Centre) — launch of Environmental Science: a Canadian Perspective by renowned conservation biologist Bill Freedman (1950–2015).

This Changes Everything (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — screening and discussion.

Friday

Sherry Pictou  Photo: MSVU

Indigenous Women: Struggle, Resilience and Resurgence (Friday, 12pm, Room 2190, Marion McCain Building) — Sherry Pictou from Mount Saint Vincent University will speak.

Organometallic Gold Compounds for Atomic Layer Deposition: How Do They Compare? (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Sean Barry from Carleton University will speak.

Europe Looks East: Wolff & Leibniz on China (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, McCain Building) — Simon Kow from King’s College University will speak.

Saint Mary’s

Friday

Buried Dancing Pavilion by Bev Pike

Bev Pike: Grottesque (Friday, 8pm, SMU Art Gallery) — Opening reception. RSVP here.

Mount Saint Vincent

Friday

Dim sum: the significance and art of Chinese Brunch (Friday, 2pm, Keshen Goodman Library) — Ashley-Jane Chow will speak at this first lecture of this weekly series Explore China! From the event listing:

This series will explore the many interesting topics about China from the perspectives of different lecturers who have all been travelling, working and/or studying in both China and Canada. Reflecting on their rich cross-cultural experiences, the lecturers will demonstrate various enticing aspects of contemporary China such as its landscape, geography, cuisine, social life and custom, cities and histories, literature and arts, as well as prominent cultural gaps and institutional differences between China and Canada.

King’s

Slave Lives Matter (Thursday, 7pm, Alumni Hall) — Harvey Amani Whitfield from the University of Vermont will speak:

Dr. Whitfield will present several short biographies of Black slaves in the Maritimes, building on his current book project Biographical Sketches of Black Slaves in Atlantic Canada, which documents the lives of 1,300 enslaved Black people. While the focus of the lecture will be individual slave experiences, Dr. Whitfield will also cover the broader context of regional slavery, including the details of slave work, slave families, and slave-related court cases.

Info here.


In the harbour

09:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to anchorage
10:00: Pag, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
10:00: Julius-S, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
11:00: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
13:00: Cinnamon, cargo ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
15:00: YM Modesty, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
21:00: Julius-S sails for New York


Footnotes

I’ve got nothing.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. There are all kinds of people in the US who would love to come here. There are all kinds of people from other parts of Canada who would love come here. The huge impediment right now is access to doctors.

  2. RE: Pt Pleasant Park.

    I have asked that the question of icy roads in the Park and HRM trucks using the compound for city-wide storage be added to today’s agenda of the Pt Pleasant Advisory Committee.

    I have also pointed out the difficulties of citizens who use the Park being able to attend downtown City Hall rather than meeting in the Park offices – its historic place of meeting.

    The relocation for meetings was initiated at the request of city officials who didn’t want to meet in the Park rather than close to their own offices downtown!

    Iain Taylor
    Friends Pt Pleasant Park.

  3. I moved to Canada from the States for political reasons when Bush was President. Thank dog I was already here when Orange Face Diarrhea Mouth got elected. But I will tell you it was an extremely difficult process. I nearly got kicked out of Canada because it took so long to get a work visa. If you can find some poor Canadian sap to marry you? Sure, maybe it’s not too difficult–but coming here from the States with a university degree but no other advanced education or skill considered a shortage? Good luck to you! I’m not saying it should be easy. There is a reason why Canadian citizens are given priority, and I personally agree with many of those reasons, but I will say it IS outrageously hard, depending on how much money you have and what skills and education you bring.

  4. Peninsula Halifax has less than 70,000 residents and comparing pedestrianising SGR with pedestrian oriented streets in European cities is apples and peanuts. In the 60s I spent a lot of time in Rotterdam and enjoyed walking in the Lijnbaan district, an area rebuilt after post-war bombing by Germany. People now avoid the area at night because of the dangers of crime.
    ” The Lijnbaan inspired Stevenage, pictured in 1972. Photograph: ANL/Rex/Shutterstock
    A decline took hold in the 1980s. The original shopkeepers retired or left the area, to be replaced by large chains solely intent on turnover. Where once there had been a variety of high-end shops, there was now a multitude of cheap clothing and shoe shops. It attracted a different crowd. The terraces and aviaries disappeared, and people threw rubbish in the empty flowerboxes.

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    At night the roller shutters went down and the Lijnbaan became a no-go area, where people were robbed and football hooligans would gather after games.

    All kinds of solutions were suggested by urban planners, from demolishing part of the complex to putting a giant roof over the complete promenade. In the end not much happened. New canopies of plexiglass were installed in the 1990s, to little effect because not all shopkeepers participated.

    “Nobody was interested in the Lijnbaan anymore,” Aarsen explains. “Most people regarded it as a heap of old trash”. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/sep/19/walk-lijnbaan-europe-first-pedestrian-street-rotterdam

    1. I spent a month in Bielefeld, Germany, population ~300,000. It both had a partially underground train system, and a pedestrianized area bigger than all of downtown Halifax.

      1. Bielefeld (if it really exists) is a city built on flattish land with no geographical obstacles. In terms of our transit network, the ‘center’ of Halifax is actually on the edge, and is not connected to large parts of the city except by car.

        Strange British men distributing fortifications is no basis for a system of transit planning.

      2. Poor comparison. Bielefeld dates from the 13th century and was originally laid out in a completely different way with large open areas for markets and plazas adjacent to cathedrals, much like many other towns in Europe. Halifax was never designed in the European manner.

  5. Americans! Come for the lowest wages, high cost of living and and governance by small minded churls who burn tires. But stay for the weather.

  6. I for one welcome our new American immigrants (so long as they learn to speak the language before settling.)

    But seriously, can we stop pretending that Americans talking about moving to Canada is anything more than a fashionable expression of political frustration? It’s not simple to move to Canada, but it’s also not outrageously hard, and it’s certainly not hard to actually take some steps in that direction. I’ll only believe in this “trend” when I see numbers about who is actually taking steps to move to Canada, not just who is invoking those magic words.

  7. I have no problem with Americans moving to the area at all, but isn’t that happening already? It seems like every second person I meet on the South Shore has come up from the States.