News

1. Halifax Transit turns down electric buses

“City staff are ‘mothballing’ an electric bus pilot project for which council had already approved $1 million in funding, in the process turning down another $2.25 million in federal funding secured to help fund the project, according to documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request,” reports Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:

An electric bus generates about 62 fewer tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year compared to a diesel bus, according to a 2017 WSP study co-commissioned by Halifax Transit and Nova Scotia Power. Electric buses also cost less to operate, significantly so. The City of St Albert has been operating slow-charge electric buses since August 2017, and it spends on average $0.09 per kilometre on electric buses, compared to $0.45 per kilometre on fuel for their diesel buses.

The Halifax-focussed WSP study doesn’t break down per-kilometre fuel costs, but rather calculates a total lifecycle savings. Despite the much higher upfront cost of battery-electric buses (roughly twice the price of diesel at the moment) WSP estimated that if Halifax Transit started making half its replacement bus purchases electric, the city would save $162 million over the next 20 years.

And that’s without calculating diesel cost increases expected due to Nova Scotia’s cap and trade program, or any future carbon taxes. The study also did not consider the upfront capital funding opportunities available right now for transit electrification projects, which significantly lower the costs for electric buses.

Despite this, transit director Dave Reage wrote in internal emails, “I have no doubt we’ll be getting into electric bus at some point but not for the next three years at least it’s not likely something we can as there are no funds allocated in that timeframe.”

Click here to read “Who killed the electric bus?”

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2. Workplace deaths

Irving Shipyard. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Writes Jennifer Henderson:

In March, firefighter Skylar Blackie died when pressurized equipment failed; last week, Trevor O’Neil, a worker at the shipyard, died while operating a pressurized sandblasting machine. But the shipyard worker didn’t learn from the firefighter’s death because of Labour Department secrecy.

Click here to read “Was Trevor O’Neil’s death preventable?”

3. Janet Knox retires

Janet Knox (centre) mingles at the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s annual general meeting in Truro. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“About 150 people turned up for the annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Health Authority in Truro yesterday,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Janet Knox, the president and CEO of Health Authority who led the planning and has been the leader at the helm for the past five years, is retiring at the end of August. Health Minister Delorey stiffly thanked the nurse and former administrator of the Valley Regional Board for her dedication and exemplary service. In her final speech, Knox acknowledged the ongoing challenges faced by the province during her leadership.

“Nova Scotians have high rates of preventable chronic diseases,” Knox told the audience of mostly doctors nurses and health care professionals. “Our population is aging… more care providers are retiring as global demand for them increases. This makes vacancies more difficult to fill. Our health system has not adapted fast enough to respond to these realities. As a result there are Nova Scotians who don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, or who are waiting too long for mental health care, a test or procedure or a nursing home placement.” (The bold type for emphasis belongs to Knox.)

Click here to read “Janet Knox: helping people develop a healthy lifestyle would be a better investment of health care dollars.”

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4. VistaCare

On Tuesday, I wrote about VistaCare’s filing for bankruptcy protection, noting that Bruce Phinney, a part owner and director of the company, told the court that financial projections for the company had been overstated:

In 2018, the Companies discovered that there were issues with the financial forecasts that had been provided by particular members of management. While the investigation into the reasons for the misstatement is ongoing by the Companies, it was discovered that the financial results had been inaccurately reported with performance materially and substantially inflated for both the previously audited year ended October 31, 2017 and the internal statements for the year ended October 31, 2018.

The result of the misstatement was the profitability of certain projects was lower than forecast and the profitability margin was inflated. Once the misstatement was discovered, steps were taken immediately by the shareholders to rectify the issues facing the Companies. This included a review of operations and the Companies making operational and financial changes in order to improve profitability. In addition, changes were made to the senior management of the Companies.

“As I read it,” I commented, “Phinney is suggesting that VistaCare is the victim of executive fraud.” However I was unable to find a change in executive leadership that would identify the “senior management” involved.

A reader points out that VistaCare president Wayne Gillian left the company in November 2018, after a presidency that lasted just three years.

5. Cape Breton Island Airport Community Interest Company

Also on Tuesday, I mentioned that Ben Cowan-Dewar had registered the Cape Breton Island Airport Community Interest Company with the Registry of Joint Stock Companies.

A “Community Interest Company” is a corporate designation created in 2016 to facilitate the development of “social enterprises,” which is sort of a woo-woo term for “yeah, we’re capitalists but not like the asshole capitalists you’re used to.” “These companies will have characteristics of both businesses and non-profits, combining entrepreneurship with a social purpose,” explained a government press release at the time:

Social enterprises use business practices to advance health, social, environmental, cultural or other community goals. Examples include farmers’ markets, used clothing banks, community-owned wind farms and businesses run by charitable organizations or employing a marginalized or disenfranchised group. They often have a buy local focus and are gaining momentum worldwide as people seek to create and support businesses that contribute to the common good.

An airport is exactly like a farmers’ market.

“Try the asparagus,” says Ben Cowan-Dewar.

In any event, I learned from the press release that:

As a part of the application for the new designation, a company will be required to declare its community purpose and provide a community interest plan on which it will be required to report annually. A Community Interest Company will be restricted in the amount of dividends it may declare and will also be required to make its financial statements public.

And so I dutifully trotted downtown yesterday to get the Cape Breton Island Airport Community Interest Company’s required filings.

The Cape Breton Island Airport Community Interest Company hasn’t yet filed a financial statement; I suppose that’ll wait til the end of its fiscal year, so next April. But it has filed a Community Interest Plan, as follows:

CAPE BRETON ISLAND AIRPORT COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY

COMMUNITY INTEREST PLAN

Community purpose:

The Cape Breton Community Island Airport Community Interest Company (“CIC”) will invest in tourism development on Cape Breton Island. Specifically, the CIC will:

  1. attract incremental tourism to Cape Breton Island (people otherwise not destined to visit);
  2. improve First Nations visitor economies by making direct investments in indigeneous tourism development; and,
  3. generate economic growth in western Cape Breton Island resulting in broad public benefits, a healthier tax base, and stronger communities.

Rationale

Despite the presence of world class tourism attractions, the lack of convenient access is a major impediment to the full development of tourism in western and northern Cape Breton Island. Short excursions (2 to 4 days) are discouraged by long drives from Halifax and Sydney airport [sic]. A convenient airport facility and fly-in service will increase demand for western and northern Cape Breton Island and attract incremental visitors — i.e., people not otherwise destined to visit Cape Breton Island (or Nova Scotia).

The Cape Breton Island Airport (the “Airport”) will be an economic driver. New businesses will be enabled by this connection and existing businesses such as food service, accommodations, car rental, and attractions will expand. When scheduled service comes on line, other sectors with high value exports such as fishing will benefit from improved access to market. There will be increased demand for home ownership throughout western Cape Breton Island, which will lead to both new home construction and renovation investments.

Cabot Links has already proven that the right investment can attract new incremental business. Upon opening, this rural development attracted 44% of its visitation from the US and 25% from Ontario. Most impressive is that 90% of Cabot Links’ American visitors, and 50% of it’s [sic] Ontarian visitors were first time visitors to Nova Scotia, with the majority arriving by air. This mix of tourism business, and in particular the attraction of incremental international visitors, brings new export revenue to create sustainable jobs and build healthier communities. Inverness County and Cape Breton Island will witness immediate and long-term economic and social benefits from the airport service.

The business case for the Airport recognizes the strong demand for indigenous tourism experiences among potential travellers to Canada, and the opportunity this presents for new product development.

Let me turn this over to Mary Campbell:

Another spectator directed me to the Golf Advisor website so I could read some of the Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links reviews and get a sense of what these golfers — who are doing so much for Cape Breton tourism — have to say about the island beyond the golf courses.

Let me begin by thanking the gods my life does not require me to spend time with golfers, because I can tell you right now, it would not end well — it would be nothing but tears and flying golf clubs.  (“You say 17 is a blind tee shot that toys with the cliffs and then, with enough carry, tumbles down a steep hill to the green? Really? Have you ever tumbled down a steep hill yourself? Why am I asking? No reason.”)

This a completely unscientific, random, sampling of comments from Golf Advisor website and as such is every bit as valid as the “evidence” I’ve seen marshaled in favor of spending public money on an airport to bring more of these specimens to Cape Breton.

But enough of me, let’s hear what the boys on the links have to say:

If you go, I’d suggest staying at the resort to get the full experience, as it made everything very convenient, plus I do not think there are many other options close by the golf courses.

Actually, I hear that 10 minutes out from either course it’s nothing but spruce trees and broken bagpipes. Amazing they even bothered to build a road.

Most people at Cabot stay for a couple days because it’s not easy to get there and often end up playing 36 holes a day, so it’s nice to have your room right there were you can go rest and maybe change/shower between rounds. Also, right off of the resort lobby are locker rooms with showers, so even if you had to check out of your room prior to your last round, you can still take a shower and clean up after golf (before leaving to go home).

Yes, really, I don’t know why more people don’t just curl up in a ball on the first hole and sleep there.

There are a couple of great breakfast places downtown, but for dinners your best bets are the Cabot restaurants or bars. For a good meal off campus you will need to head about 15 mins South to Mabou which has the Glenora Distillery where they have a nice restaurant or the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou, just 5 mins further South from the distillery.

Lucky, lucky Glenora Distillery to be situated within that magic, 15-minute-by-car radius that’s been medically recognized as the precise distance a true golf enthusiast can travel from a course without getting the bends.

The only drawback I can come up with is it is a bit of a challenge getting there (more than 3 hrs from Halifax airport) but I clearly felt it was worth the trip. I’ve played Pebble and may have enjoyed this more.

And a three-hour drive was a challenge because they sent a golf cart to collect you? Did no one tell you about the airport in Sydney?

I first played here in 2012 and went around it seven times in 3 days and wanted more.

And by “more” I assume you don’t mean, “more Celtic music, more opportunities to buy local crafts, more time hiking the Skyline trail,” do you?

 Plenty to do when not golfing; at least, that is what I hear-played 36 each day.

Of course you did.

And an aside from golf, I really love the lodge at Cabot, which blends traditional and modern design influences very well. Be sure to get at least one cup of lobster chowder while you’re here, and the fish & chips are also awesome. Finer dining can be had upstairs, and make a reservation, it’s a popular spot.

Oh, see, some of them can see beyond the golf course — all the way to the lodge.

Restaurant was not fancy, but the food was excellent. If driving to Nova Scotia, I would also recommend Fox Harbour for another nights stay. Also near Inverness, a wonderful alternate restaurant is at the Glenora Inn and Distillery.

That would be another golf course he’s recommending (they’re all “he”s, I’m not being sexist). And a distillery. Fifteen minutes from the golf club.

Let’s end with my favorite hot take:

Although the golf course alone would merit a journey, a visit to Cabot Links and Cape Breton Island (located in the Atlantic time zone) is nothing if not an adventure. The closest commercial airport is Halifax on the Nova Scotia mainland, 3.5 hours away. (Private fliers can use Port Hawkesbury Airport, 50 miles from Cabot Links.) From the moment you start driving, you know you’re in a different country and in for a unique experience. While Cape Breton’s natural scenery is ruggedly beautiful, it’s population is sparse. Commercial establishments tend to be unprepossessing mom-and-pop stores and eateries, not chains. In many ways, you think you’re in a time warp. The town of Inverness has Scottish roots and parades Gaelic culture. Gaelic music is everywhere. Elsewhere on the island, Arcadian influences are evident.

The closest commercial airport EXCEPT FOR SYDNEY, which is actually mentioned in the “getting here” section of the Cabot Links website.

Is this really the type of visitor we need to encourage? The type that finds every other tourist operation on the island “unprepossessing?”

The type that longs for “chains?” (“My game was off — you know how I like to hit that final putt with an Olive Garden breadstick.”)

Honestly, I heard they expelled the Arkadians for less.

I overly quoted from Campbell, so if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the Cape Breton Spectator. Or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
White space

6. Sinkholes

Buses deliver mass death enthusiasts to the Fairview Cemetery. Google Street View

Halifax Water has to spend $1.53 million on an emergency replacement of the combined storm and wastewater sewage line beneath Chisholm Avenue.

Chisholm Avenue runs westward from Connaught Avenue, behind Fairview Cemetery; the Google Street View of the road shows tour buses parked on the street, presumably delivering ghoulish mass death enthusiasts who want to gawk at the Titanic graves. Otherwise, the street is a fairly high-density residential area. Luckily for the residents of the street and the mass death enthusiasts, there wasn’t another mass death event nor was anyone injured in the three separate rainstorms this spring that caused sudden and massive sinkholes on the street. (Although, come to think of it, it would be tragically ironic were there a future tourism industry that caters to mass death enthusiasts who come to gawk at the graves of current-day mass death enthusiasts killed when their tour buses tumbled into a Chisholm Avenue sinkhole.)

Cathie O’Toole, who now has the title of “general manager” at Halifax Water, an apparent promotion from her previous CFO position (you’ll recall that O’Toole left a similar position at City Hall after she alerted the world to the concert scandal), explained the events in an emergency application to the Utility and Review Board, as follows:

The first failure occurred on May 6, 2019. Repair included casting the compromised section of pipe with a flexible concrete form and pouring lean concrete over the pipe surface to close the break. The area was then backfilled to grade and asphalt reinstated.

The second failure occurred on June 24, 2019. Again the failed pipe presented as a large sinkhole near the intersection of St. Andrews Avenue and Chisholm Avenue. Crews again excavated the pipe to investigate cause. Again, a section of Heritage Gas main was exposed and protected during the repair.

This time it was determined that the concrete repair from May 6, 2019 had been pushed away from the pipe by hydraulic pressure and the resulting void allowed engineered gravel from the pipe bedding to be washed into the pipe and carried away by flow. This time the repair involved pouring a collar around the pipe in an effort to encompass the pipe as much as possible, given the fact that the bottom of the pipe has corroded away.

The third failure occurred on July 1, 2019 and again presented as a sinkhole near the intersection of St. Andrews Avenue and Chisholm Avenue. Crews exposed the section of pipe to determine that a corroded section of pipe had deformed creating a void that allowed gravel to be carried into the pipe. Again, a section of Heritage Gas main was exposed and protected during the repair.

The proximity of the natural gas pipeline to the failing pipe is also a significant safety concern. Should another pipe failure occur, it could affect the integrity of the gas main, possibly causing a leak with subsequent risk of fire or explosion.

“Fortunately,” comments O’Toole dryly, “each failure has been identified before the motoring public or general public have been involved in an accident at the location.”

The existing sewage pipe was installed in 1963 and is made of galvanized corrugated steel, which is no longer used for such pipes. It will be replaced with a concrete pipe.

The money for the emergency replacement comes from two sources. First, because the Sewage Plant Estates redevelopment project is behind schedule (surprise!), there’s $375,000 available to be shifted into the Chisholm project. The remaining $1.115 million will be absorbed into Halifax Water’s capital from debt budget.

Click here to read O’Toole’s report.

7. Atlantic Compassion Club Society raided

From a police release:

At 5:10 p.m., 10 July, the Unit Halifax Regional Police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police Integrated Drug Unit executed a Cannabis Act Search Warrant at the Compassion Club, 141A Main Street Dartmouth.  Officers seized a quantity of cannabis and cannabis related products, drug paraphilia including scales, and a quantity of cash. 

Police have arrested and charged 13 adults (6 males and 7 females), all were held for court in Dartmouth and will be facing charges of Trafficking Controlled Substances and Drug Related Charges.

The same place was raided in December, when nine people were charged.

8. Swatting

From a police release:

At 8:00 p.m. [last night], Halifax Regional Police responded to a report of a Kidnapping and Threats to Caused Death to an adult male in Halifax.  At approximately 10:00 p.m., investigators were able to trace the phone of the victim to an address in the 0-50 Block of Rosedale Avenue Halifax. Investigators were not able to make contact with the occupants of the Rosedale Avenue residence. At approximately 1:25 a.m., 11 July, members of the Emergency Response Team arrested three adults (2 males, 1 female) from inside the Rosedale Avenue address and located the victim, in good health. The victim was not harmed. Shortly after, investigators were able to locate and arrest the suspect responsible for the threats phone call in the 3800 block of Mont Blanc Terrace Halifax. 

Investigators with the Integrated General Investigation Section confirmed through a thorough investigation, that a 17 year old male, made a prank call advising the victim was kidnapped and would be killed, if his demands were not met. Investigators have charged a 17 year old male, from Halifax with Mischief and released on a Promise to Appear and will appear in court on a later date. The other adults arrested were released without charges.

People can — and sometimes do — die because of stupid shit like this. No matter the circumstances, calling the cops is always introducing the possibility of police violence against potentially hapless people. Calling the cops as a prank is especially dangerous.


Government

City

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — taxi driver Bryan Newby, who had his driver’s licence suspended for driving over the legal limit, is appealing the suspension of his taxi licence. Taxi driver Claudio Benigno, who drove taxi while his driver’s licence was suspended and then continued to drive a taxi when his taxi driver’s licence was suspended, wants the improprieties wiped away and his taxi driver’s licence reinstated.

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 7pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — no action items on the agenda.

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

No public meetings for the rest of the week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Monitoring reservoir response to earthquakes and fluid extraction, Salton Sea geothermal field, California (Thursday, 11:30am, Room LSC3652 Oceanography) —  Taka’aki Taira from UC Berkeley Seismology Lab will speak.

Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Thursday, 1:30pm, Room C264, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Anastasiia Mereshchuk will defend “Investigating Maintenance Of The Yeast 2-Micron Family Of Plasmids.”

Psychology & Neuroscience / Faculty of Science Talk (Thursday, 1:30pm, Room 4258, Life Sciences Building) — Peter Kind, Director of the Patrick Wild Centre for Research into Autism, Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) and Intellectual Disability, and Professor of Developmental Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, will talk.


In the harbour

05:30: Primrose Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
06:00: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
07:00: Pictor J, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
10:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
10:00: Advance II, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
11:00 Pictor J sails for Portland
15:30: Primrose Ace sails for sea
18:00: Jennifer Schepers sails for Kingston, Jamaica


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. I finally looked it up after all this talk about how far Inverness is from Port Hawkesbury. Yup, still there:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaree_Airport

    If you’re not rich, fly to Sydney. If you are rich, fly to Port Hawkesbury. If you’re rich AND antisocial, fly to Margaree.

    There ya go, solved. My consultancy bill is in the mail.

  2. I had a look at the reviews for Cabot Links and Cliffs. Reviews intrigue me when one is led to believe taxpayers should subsidize that private sector being reviewed.

    There are 11 total reviews for Links. One in 2018, six in 2017, one in 2016 and three in 2014.

    Cliffs has 16 reviews. Two in 2018, five in 2017, nine in 2016 and one in 2015 (it’s inaugural year).

    Seems 2017 was a big year. Does that mean more golfed there that year?

    One reviewer recommends not playing there and go to Fox Harbr or PEI instead, lots of comments about the damaged greens, slow play, apparently everyone working at Cliffs say Links is better….

    Pretty sparse written excitement about these courses. Not all of it glowing. $250 should get you more, not much (barely anything) about the local area and tourist options. The rest of it – blah blah blah – like Mary Campbell implied.

    And yet we, who don’t play these courses, are supposed to believe the world would be so much better if rich folks could land their planes right in the middle of them. And we should pay for them to be able to.

  3. The airport for Cabot Links is an excellent plan. Just like the 29 social enterprises serving Nova Scotians with intellectual disabilities – “businesses run by charitable organizations or employing a marginalized or disenfranchised group”. Invernessies will enjoy the opportunuty to be paid less than minimum wage and not be subjected to all those nuisance civil protections the rest of us have. World Class fer sure!

  4. It turns out that a major feature of Janet Knox’s reign at the NSHA was a significant increase in the cost of the bureaucracy as Jim Vibert documents in his column today in the Chronicle-Herald. I believe she saw her first priority as protecting the health of the bureaucracy and not the health of Nova Scotians. By the way, to nit-pick, she was never the head of the Southwestern Health Board, She was head of the Annapolis Valley Health Board. (And as I was remnded so many times when I worked there, it was the South West Nova Scotia Health Board, space between South and West and no ern.)

  5. Man, I bet Jeffrey Epstein sure wishes he wasn’t now in the slammer so that he could jet some of his cronies (on the LOLITA EXPRESS) to Cabot Links.