News
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In the harbour
Footnotes


News

1. Power

The Canadian Press reports:

NB Power and Nova Scotia Power say they’re teaming up for a pilot project they say could save the utilities up to $20 million in fuel costs and may help reduce rate increases for customers.

The Crown-owned New Brunswick utility and Nova Scotia Power (TSX:EMA) say a new dispatch system will allow them to purchase electricity from each other at cheaper rates on a daily basis.

Keith Cronkhite, the vice-president of business development at NB Power, said Friday key savings will occur as the two utility companies buy power generated at plants burning coal, oil or natural gas. He said the system will allow either utility to buy energy based on which plants are able to get the best price for the fuels.

[…]

Cronkhite said he doesn’t expect nuclear power from the Point Lepreau plant in New Brunswick, wind, solar or other renewable energy to be exchanged under the system and it won’t have a significant impact on each province’s carbon emissions. But a limited amount of hydroelectricity will flow between the two provinces, most likely during the spring runoff, he added.

I’ll leave it for people smarter than me to explain how nuclear power can be separated out from the power grid. (I’m not opposed to using nuclear power from Point Lepreau, especially as a backup for intermittent wind farms; just, the statement sounds silly.) But reader Peggy Cameron asks me via email, “If NSP can collaborate on grid interconnection with NB Power why aren’t we buying electricity from HydroQuebec and shutting down coal-fired generating plants?”

2. Dal Jungle

Without her permission or knowledge, a photo showing a 17-year-old female student performing oral sex on a male student was posted to an Instagram account called “Dal Jungle” shared by male students living in the Howe Hall dorm at Dalhousie University. Chronicle Herald reporter Frances Willick interviewed a source pseudonymously named Hanna for the story:

Although Hanna believes the student who took and posted the oral sex photo should have been kicked out of school, she didn’t want the others to face serious consequences.

“Most of the guys who were following this account were not bad boys,” she said. “They just were following this account because they were friends with these guys and they had nothing to do with it.”

She estimates there were about 50 followers of the Dal Jungle account.

Four male students were kicked out of residence in mid-November, Hanna said, and a fifth was kicked out about a week later. The male student who was receiving oral sex in the photo was moved to a different residence.

A second student source confirmed to The Chronicle Herald that the “users” of the Instagram page are no longer living in Howe Hall.

About 15 students were also banned from drinking alcohol as a result of the investigation, Hanna said, adding that none were expelled.

3. Examineradio Episode #5

This week, Coun. Linda Mosher found not guilty of traffic infraction after hitting cyclist with SUV; Halifax (née Metro) Transit to finally get long-awaited GPS system; Coun. Waye Mason weighs in on what to do with the Khyber Building; and Halifax Fire Chief Doug Trussler defends his reorganization plan after getting an earful from city council.

Listen to Episode #5 of Examineradio below, or subscribe to the Examineradio podcast via iTunes. Starting yesterday, Examineradio is now also broadcast on CKDU, 88.1 FM, Fridays at 4:30–5pm.

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4. Tunnels

Every place I’ve ever lived has myths of “secret tunnels” running under the town, and Halifax is no different. Sunday, CBC is airing Halifax Underground, a documentary by filmmaker Scott Simpson and Tell Tale Productions, which explores the tale of myriad tunnels under Halifax, including the absolutely absurd notion that there’s a secret tunnel running from Citadel Hill to Georges Island.

Recently, a Facebook page that discusses my old hometown of Chico, California was discussing the “Chinese tunnels” that supposedly exist under that town, and I went and dug up something I wrote about the tunnels in 2000:

Old Town, on Flume Street between Fifth and Sixth, was a center of the various vice trades—gambling, prostitution, and above all, opium— and the police would periodically raid the houses. The Chinese soon learned to connect their basements, and even to extend new tunnels under Flume Street, so that when one building was raided the occupants could safely emerge down the road and escape out the back of another. This is the origin of the legendary “Chinese Tunnels” in Chico. Many decades later, at the turn of the twentieth century, competing and non-cooperating utility companies established an elaborate network of tunnels beneath the streets in the business district of town—one for water, one for gas, another for sewers, and a fourth for electricity—none of which had anything to do with the Chinese, but in the common mind the earlier labyrinth beneath Chinatown was confused with business district tunnels, such that nowadays every utility service duct in town is referred to as a “Chinese Tunnel.”

It was easy to dig through the loam of the Sacramento Valley. Not so much in Halifax.

Still, I suspect that much the same sort of conflation of past events is at work here in Halifax. Early on, there may have been a handful of tunnels dug for military purposes, especially on the drumlin of Citadel Hill, where it was relatively easy to dig through the clay. But beyond inter-connecting basements, any hard-dug tunnels through the slate in the business district were for profit-driven utility companies, and would be as short and narrow as possible. Such tunnels are only “secret” because who pays attention to utility lines? I bet most readers don’t even know where their own water meter is. Do you know where the sewer flows outside your house? Which direction the water main comes from?

And to Georges Island? Please. With all our modern technology, explosives, and detailed geologic maps, we’d have a hard time digging a tunnel through the slate beneath 18 metres of ocean today, and such an enterprise would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. There is no way people in 18th or 19th century Halifax would even seriously contemplate such a project, never mind successfully complete it, and in secret no less. That’s just delusional.

5. Snow

“Snowfall amounts of 10 to possibly 15 centimetres by Sunday morning,” says Environment Canada.


Views

1. Homeless

We should help the homeless, says Jim Meek.

2. Energy efficiency

Rachel Brighton gives a detailed explanation of the evolution of energy efficiency programs related to electrical generation over the past few years, including the cynical removal of the energy efficiency surcharge on power bills (cynical because it didn’t save customers a single penny, but hid the charge in overall power rates). But, she concludes, because Nova Scotia Power is now in a position to battle over over the particulars of measures proposed by the new efficiency agency, EfficiencyOne — to argue about the efficiency of efficiency, if you will — power users may benefit:

So in a strange turn of events, Nova Scotia Power, which regularly comes under public scrutiny for its executive salaries, will be standing on the side of customers, checking every nickel and dime spent by EfficiencyOne, including the remuneration of its staff.

If the utility can extract a better deal from the new efficiency czar, ratepayers may yet find a reason to thank Andrew Younger.

I think Brighton is entirely too optimistic here. She’s right that Nova Scotia Power might save money in the short term by cutting back the most marginal efficiency proposals, but the point of energy efficiency measures is to reduce consumption in the long term, so that the province doesn’t need to build another generating station, which will end up costing ratepayers far more than the relatively puny costs of added efficiency.

There’s also that cataclysmic climate change thing, but I guess no one cares about that anymore.

3. Snow clearing pt. 1

Lezlie Lowe is righteously angry about our loss of sidewalks:

This has nothing to do with record snowfalls. It’s about the abject dismissal of a truth: sidewalks are equal players in the municipal game. They are not luxuries, not peripheral to municipal transportation. Their users are not merely out for leisurely strolls. Sidewalks are heavily used, essential pieces of infrastructure that need to work properly for the city to properly work.

4. Snow clearing pt. 2

Phillip Cochrane managed Halifax’s snow-clearing operations for 30 years before retiring in 2002. He tells the Chronicle Herald today that the poor state of our roads and sidewalks this winter is a governance failure:

Cochrane dismisses the “it’s a bad winter” argument. 

“We haven’t experienced anything this year that we haven’t experienced in other years,” he said. “I don’t think they can excuse it by things like climate change. They were not prepared with what they needed to handle this winter.

“They can’t keep passing the buck and saying it was a bad winter or it was an anomaly. Good managers who know about snow and ice always plan for the worst-case scenario.”

Cochrane blames years of belt-tightening at city hall dating back to amalgamation, not the workers on the ground doing their best to improve conditions. 

“Snow- and ice-clearing is a crucial service but it hasn’t been given the priority it should have over the years. This hasn’t happened all at once. It’s been a slow, steady, downhill support for equipment and manpower to do the job right.

5. Snow clearing pt. 3

Allison Sparling got a couple of businesses to cough up some gift certificates as prizes for a contest she is hosting. People can enter by shovelling their sidewalks and taking photos of it. Sparling adds:

Many people rely on active transportation such as cycling or walking to get where they need to go. It’s important to encourage this to be proactive about healthcare in our province. I feel I need to indicate that the city really screwed up here. Their reaction to the most recent storm seems to have been as good as it possibly can be, but the last 3 months of miserable sidewalks where people can barely leave their house has been embarrassing. This winter was full of abnormal weather, but not so abnormal that it couldn’t have been managed better.  We need political action to ensure that this does not happen next year, but right now we just need to make it through this season. It’s important to note that these are my personal views, and not the views of any other people / businesses, but I want to highlight that this is a stop gap, not a solution.

6. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

Seriously, are you kidding me? All this whining and complaining about the snow state of Halifax? Blaming everyone you can think of, but the real culprit is Mother Nature. What a bunch of spoiled brats we are. Yes, I got it. HRM should have been on the ball in earlier storms, no doubt there. Yes, I’ve complained, too, because it wasn’t what it was.

To the gentleman (March 24) who compared HRM managers to the Toronto Maple Leafs: your attack on winter operations director Darrin Natolino was almost personal. Shame on you. If you’ve stuck with the loser Leafs this long, you must still believe. Then believe in your city. (I’ve been a fan since 1968 and I still believe, too.)

To the gentleman who remarked that so many things are “not normal” (March 24 letter): Well, this was not a normal winter. No one could have prepared or planned for this, no one expected it, we were all stunned. But look at you, you survived and still have enough spunk in you to write a letter to the editor. Yay, you! Now, why don’t you put that spunk in your shovel and help all of us get Halifax back to “normal”?

Belinda Gurnham, Halifax


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:30am Saturday. Map: marinetraffic.com

Maersk Penang, container ship, arrived at Pier 41 this morning, will sail to sea
Overseas Atalmar, oil tanker, New Orleans to Imperial Oil
Mermaid Ace sails to New York
Fusion sails to Saint-Pierre


Footnotes

I’ve been noticing that as this never-ending winter continues, the local commentariat has been increasingly silent. It’s as if people have simply given up on being engaged with anything beyond survival. I understand; I too seem not to have the energy I used to have. The plan for this weekend is to catch up on paperwork, and maybe work on a small detail on the website that’s been bothering me. See you Monday.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Ken Donnelly said it and I could not agree more, and certainly no less. Cost cutting and reduction of services has been the HRM CAO’s mandate since he arrived back in 2010. A financial and performance review of the effects of those cuts & service reductions should be done before he vacates that position.

  2. It really concerns me that the CAO has the audacity to say that the performance standards are being met. It is absolutely untrue, and if he actually believes that to be true, he is the only person in the City that does.

    Staff will write a report on the winter maintenance. It is first going to be written by the Superintendent of Winter Works, who doesn’t appear to think anything should change. It will then be reviewed by the CAO who asserts that the City is meeting the standards. It leaves little hope for an honest evaluation and plan to fix the mess we have seen over the last 3 months.

    It doesn’t make sense to allow staff to mark their own paper on their performance, particularly when they are so dismissive of the existence of any problems. Only an independent review can ensure the identification of the reasons behind the obvious shortcomings and get them fixed.

    By the way, all winter there has been no Director of Public Works at HRM, and there has not been a permanent full-tkme person in the post since November of 2013. The assertion that vacancy management has not had a negative effect on operations is ludicrous.

  3. Re: Power

    Saving for the utilities doesn’t mean saving for customers. Historically it just means bigger bonuses for CEOs. The ‘may’ be decreased rate hikes is nothing more than an empty promise and PR bullshit language. It’s getting old and worn out.

  4. “Stop whining and grab a shovel.” That’s what we keep hearing from people in the city who are tired of people whining about the sidewalks. Well, my guess is that the property managers and businesses who care HAVE already shoveled. (Those who haven’t probably either don’t live in Halifax or never have to use the sidewalks around their own property.) Many of us who are pedestrians live in apartments. We don’t own shovels. Our property managers are supposed to shovel (or snow blow), which mine did. And then the city came along and trashed the perfectly clear sidewalks, smearing snow and ice back onto them.

    But, hey, I say we all go buy shovels. We can all walk around with shovels wherever we go. Work places can erect “shovel parks” so you can park your shovel and then pick it back up for the walk home (because you’ll probably need it again). I suppose we could keep track of our time and submit an invoice. We’ll never get paid, of course, but creating useless invoices can be a fun little activity.

  5. I’m with Philip Cochrane on the Rural Siberia experience of Halifax since the first «big dump». Despite the lame protestations, and efficiency hyperbole of Natolino & co., and obfuscations by Mayor and Council, the snow clearing efforts this winter have been nothing short of PITIFUL! Some Major Arteries are STILL, TWO MONTHS (!!!) after the fact, barely passable with many lanes disappearing without warning at dangerous locations.

    Then, COUNCIL compounded the problem by refusing to make the sensible temporary expedient of ordering parking on ONE side of streets only thereby producing the mirror-wrecking and bus and emergency vehicle blocking spectre of «entitlement» drivers DELIBERATELY BLOCKING numerous Peninsula streets.

    A TOTAL DEBACLE, totally unnecessary, but typical of an administration focussed on THEIR egregiously-remunerated well-being and tropical winter vacations, and to grass with the peasants!

    1. Is it time to look at the possibility that the HRM / Haliax Be Bold Experience isn’t working? Wasn’t this amalgamation supposed to solve these type of issues? For a city that really has only had 3 months of winter it’s been a complete failure wrt snow clearing. Halifax Water is another disaster with rate increases on top of made up charges which seem to be nothing more than cash grabs. Is this what was supposed to come out of amalgamation or is it just a sorry side effect?

      1. I agree. After giving it a good go, it seems reasonable that the people of communities from Hubbards to Mushaboom… Sackville, Elmsdale, Bedford, Dartmouth, Halifax, and Musquodoboit Harbour get out their own pen and paper, do whatever analysis they like and work out the answer to a couple questions. Are they better off now than they were before amalgamation? Is their unique vision for their community’s future more likely to be met by some form of local government or through another 20 years of amalgamated big box bureaucracy?