News

1. Habeas Corpus

The Burnside jail. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Five prisoners at the Burnside jail filed more habeas corpus applications last week, claiming that they were inappropriately kept in lockdown for up to four days.

As has become typical, by the time the habeas applications could make their way to a court hearing before a judge, four of the prisoners had either been released from custody completely or their conditions had changed such that there was nothing for a judge to decide.

However, one prisoner, James Hardiman, pressed on, and on Monday got a telephone hearing with Justice Joshua Arnold. I attended, and listened to Hardiman explain to the judge that he had been in lockdown for four days, not allowed “air court” or “air cell” time — that is, a half hour a day in the tiny patch of walled-in, screened-over “outdoors” space. And, said Hardiman, he was not allowed to phone his lawyer.

As with the previous four cases, Hardiman’s condition had changed by Monday’s hearing: he was no longer in lockdown, and he had finally spoken to his lawyer. Arnold gave a visible shrug as he explained (kindly, it should be noted) that there was nothing he could do for Hardiman. Hardiman clearly understood his predicament; he struck me as intelligent but frustrated. What else could he do but tell someone his story?

It’s easy for all of us to collectively shrug off these habeas applications, but the documents filed by the prisoners tell a compelling and difficult story we should pay attention to. I’ll take just one as an example. It comes from a prisoner named David Tanner, one of the five who filed last week but who never made it before a judge.

First, Tanner explained his conditions: “We are not given any time to leave confinement of our cells and are under 24-hour lockdown for reasons stated by COs [correctional officers] that there is a work shortage and intercom issues. There has been no visible change in CO supervision numbers or intercom functionality.” Other prisoners also mentioned staff shortages and broken intercoms as the reasons for the lockdown — that is, it had nothing to do with prisoner conduct. (These allegations have never been and never will be tested in court.)

OK, so lockdown. But Tanner continued:

For myself, this has been 20 hours straight of lockdown. We believe as offenders in the facility, we are entitled to a minimum of 30 minutes of air court time and minimum one hour cooperative range time outside our cells. We understand in the event of violence or security concerns, these may be restricted, but our unit has experienced no incidents in the last two weeks. They have refused phone calls and privileges, including important calls to legal support. It appears that the situation is causing myself and others emotional and physical distress, and unfortunately an inmate/offender has attempted suicide by cutting wrists in response to these conditions.

Most of the prisoners in Burnside are on remand, and so haven’t been convicted of the crime they’ve been charged with. But even those who have been convicted and are guilty of some harm to society are, well, human beings. Jail is intended to deprive prisoners of their liberty, to remove them for a period from the outside world — not to torture them. But Tanner’s habeas corpus application illustrates, in his words, the emotional and physical distress that is being placed upon them, to the point that one of them has attempted suicide.

I asked the Justice Department for comment on Tanner’s claims, and received this response from spokesperson Shannon Kerr on behalf of the department:

We are unable to speak to specific questions related to any inmate’s confidential health information. We can confirm that 5 Habeas Corpus applications have been filed, however we cannot speak to specifics as these are before the courts. The technical issue regarding intercoms within the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility has been resolved, and the units have returned to normal operations at this time.

2. IWK

“Nova Scotia’s auditor general says he was ‘shocked to see the extent and severity in weaknesses and basic financial controls’ at the IWK Health Centre,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC. (Gorman owns this story.)

In a report released Tuesday, Michael Pickup said there were no policies covering fraud, hospitality and internal meeting expenses for the Halifax-based children’s hospital, and that financial controls that were in place were not effective.

In a video accompanying the report, Pickup lays the blame for the situation squarely at the feet of board members “who did not live up to what was expected of them.”

“I believe poor IWK board performance created a culture that allowed bad things, like weak controls and poor accountability, to be the norm at the IWK.”

That culture seeped into management at the hospital, he said, who “fiscally managed the IWK as they chose to.”

The report says the board failed to ensure reports from management were accurate and complete, and that staff could buy things without approval, change existing purchase orders without approval or override previous approvals.

Read Pickup’s full report here.

3. Northern Pulp Mill

We’ve taken Joan Baxter’s latest piece, “Containing Northern Pulp’s Mess,” from behind the paywall, meaning it is now available to all. You could still subscribe, of course.

Speaking of Baxter, she is still on the mining file, and yesterday provided an update on her investigation:

This is what most of the 1597 pages look like that came in response to my “Freedom Of Information” request to the Nova Scotia Dept of Energy & Mines for communication on the Warwick Mtn Gold Project. Govt transparency, NS style. @Tim_Bousquet @MaryPCampbell pic.twitter.com/yVJpIYBMiQ

— Joan Baxter (@joan_baxter) December 11, 2018

4. Canada Post gets injunction

Photo: Halifax Examiner

I skipped out of yesterday’s council meeting for an hour so I could run over to the courthouse and hear Justice John Bodurtha issue his oral decision to grant Canada Post a temporary injunction prohibiting various John and Jane Does from blockading Canada Post facilities in Nova Scotia.

The protestors are still “at liberty to engage in a peaceful, lawful, and safe protest,” said Bodurtha.

There was a bit of surreality about the courtroom, as Canada Post had three lawyers present, while the protestors were unrepresented as they are unknown and therefore unnamed. Although, my guess is that one or more of the protesters were among the half-dozen spectators in the gallery.

Bodurtha’s decision mirrors similar decisions issued in British Columbia, Ontario, and New Brunswick, and the language of the injunction itself was lifted from a Vancouver injunction.

The injunction is in place until there is a hearing on the larger Canada Post lawsuit against the protesters, which will be held in the new year.

5. Halifax council’s hat trick

Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday, Halifax council approved three large capital expenses for buildings the city doesn’t own.

The first was $1 million for the YMCA, which still strikes me as the playpen of some rich and connected business people that won’t benefit people from the wrong side of Citadel Hill.

The second was $500,000 for the Hospice Society to build a hospice down on Francklyn Street behind the Atlantic School of Theology on the Northwest Arm (to my amusement, “Francklyn” is misspelled as “Franklyn” throughout the staff report). There’s no doubt that a hospice is badly needed in Halifax; less certain is the notion that this is the city’s responsibility.

The third approved expenditure was $1 million for the Link Performing Arts Centre, which has also landed a gazillion dollars from the provincial and federal governments, all of which I can only see as part of a complex funding switcheroo intended to further enrich George Armoyan.

I could report on the back-and-forths at council, the debates and non-debates, but why bother? In the end, all that matters is who has the political connections.

Borrowing councillor Steve Adams’ calculations, were they to be simply added to the tax bill, the three capital expenditures approved yesterday would represent a half per cent increase in taxes. I guess we’re rich.

6. Marring South Street

Out of idle curiosity, I scan through property tax appeals every week; I usually don’t report on them, but they give me an indication about where developers are coming from. Anyway, recently Matt Fitzgerald appealed the tax assessment on a property he owns at 6174 South Street, stating simply that “land and building value [is] too high” and “sale prices around the base date indicate a lower value, uniformity is wrong.” Well, maybe. The property was put on the market in August 2016 for $1,399,000, but sold to Fitzgerald in October 2016 for $1,290,000, and it is assessed at $1,243,300. Judging from other appeals, that’s right when there was a short downturn in the market, and developers seem to be winning these appeals; I don’t have the expertise or knowledge to otherwise comment intelligently on the merits of Fitzgerald’s argument.

What I can comment on, however, is that that is one damn ugly building:

Fitzgerald didn’t build it, but whoever did has marred South Street. There is nothing at all redeeming about this building; from the ugly rooflines to the splash-a-dash colouring to the eerie six eyeballs and the two nostrils and the House of Usher-esque mawwing of the garage door (if this building had legs, it would chase you down and devour you) to the concrete parking pad at the sidewalk to the perverse joke of “green space” scratched out in front of some poor soul’s bedroom window, this building has managed to incorporate every possible architectural sin into one compact how-not-to textbook example. Adding insult to considerable injury, Nova Scotia Power has butchered the street tree that may have otherwise partially hidden the monstrosity behind it.

Come to think of it, it’s probably not worth $1,243,300.


Views

1. Petit Paris

Photo: Stephen Archibald

“It’s distressing to see all the destruction in Paris during the serial demonstrations and associated riots,” writes Stephen Archibald. I don’t know; I haven’t really thought about it, but my first instinct is that the Paris riots are an example of working people rising up to throw off the chains of an oppressive overclass, but what do I know?

Anyway, Archibald and his wife Sheila visited Paris in October; he writes:

Before the visit I learned that for Parisians nothing is “huge, fabulous, awesome, amazing or tremendous. In Paris, big is not beautiful.” Petit, in French means “small” or “little.”  Parisians use petit to convey images of simplicity, moderation, and conviviality. It usually designates pleasurable activities.

Once cued to watch for petit, the word turned up regularly in the names of shops. Sheila was particularly good at pointing out petits, because I’m basically illiterate.

And so we get a baker’s dozen photos of things named “petit,” now shelved on level six of row NN4 in the warehouse.

There are worse things than wandering around Paris looking for things called “Petit.” Like, pretty much everything else is worse than that.


Government

City

Wednesday

Heritage Advisory Committee Special Meeting (Wednesday, 1:30pm, City Hall) — rescheduled from Dec. 6.

Halifax and West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Port Wallace PPC- Meeting (Wednesday, 6:30pm, HEMDCC Large Meeting Room 1, Alderney Gate) — no agenda posted.

Thursday

Police Commission (Thursday, 10:30am, City Hall) — this is a flat out illegal closed session meeting called to hear an update on the street checks report. If we had any money left in the Examiner legal budget, we’d be siccing lawyers on the commission.

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — among other items, the committee will be approving plans to rebuild the Mumford transit terminal.

Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — preparing for the year ahead, the committee is buying brand new rubber stamps.

Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — nothing much on the agenda.

Public Information Meeting – Case 20983 (Thursday, 7pm, St. Peter’s Anglican Church, 3 Dakin Drive, Halifax) — Azmi Arnaout wants to build a 90-unit apartment building and 10 townhouses at the southeast corner of the intersection of Dunbrack Street and Wentworth Drive. That’s a rendering of the development proposal above, and good enough excuse to link to this essay from Patrick Sisson, “Why do all new apartment buildings look the same? The bland, boxy apartment boom is a design issue, and a housing policy problem.” Even better is a piece by art historian Michael Paglia, “Denver Is Drowning in Awful Architecture: Here Are the Hateful Eight” (albeit, sadly, the article is on the website for Westward Magazine, which has its own horrific design problems, including not one, not two, but three pop-ups you need to navigate before getting to the article, and then a hit-collecting anti-reader format that requires you to click through to continue reading). See also: rubber stamp-buying Design Review Committee above.

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Auditor General Michael Pickup will appear before the committee.

Thursday

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Genomics: Biology and Medicine in the 21st Century (Wednesday, 3:30pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — John Archibald will speak.

Thursday

The Minimal Superpermutation Problem​ (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Nathaniel Johnston from Mount Allison University will speak. His abstract:

We discuss the open problem of finding the shortest string on n symbols that contains all permutations of those n symbols as contiguous substrings (for example, in the n = 3 case the string ”123121321” contains each permutation of ”123” as a substring). We present the best known upper and lower bounds on the minimal length of such a string and discuss how those bounds have improved over time, including recent advancements made by an anonymous poster on the ”4chan” internet forum as well as science fiction author Greg Egan.​

I kinda wanna drop acid and go to that.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

Science Photo Contest Winners (Wednesday, 12:30pm, Atrium 101) — Cake! Coffee! Calendars!

Student Newfangledness, Discovery and Entrepreneurship Showcase (Wednesday, 1pm, in the lobby of the building named after a grocery store) — from the listing: “Ellen Farrell and her students invite you to: Student Newfangledness, Discovery-entrepreneurship Showcase. CoFounder’s Pitches – MTEI Newfangled Projects – Mini Ventures Kiosks – Our Venture Grade.” Oh joy.


In the harbour

05:30: Euphrates Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
07:00: Don Carlos, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
13:00: AlgoNorth, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
15:30: Euphrates Highway sails for sea
16:00: Don Carlos moves to Autoport


Footnotes

I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.


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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 come late to this story so stand to be corrected but this Link deal looks like a classic P3 boondoggle, only worse. Armoyan buys the building for $13.5 million, the public, through three levels of government spend at least $10 million for renos (initial estimates were $5-$7 mil). Then arts groups (many subsidized by government) rent space at below market rates (whatever those are) while Armoyan retains ownership of a prime piece of downtown real estate. What is to prevent him from flipping the property when the economic time is right, pocketing a nice profit and leaving tenants on the street? Or do we have to buy it back to prevent that? And if an Arts hub in an abandoned public building was desirable, why could it not have been developed by the public sector, especially given all of the public money now being poured into it? As noted, I stand to be corrected and/or enlightened on this.

    1. Correct. We have a council and provincial government full of neoliberal corporatists who’s ideas of public service lies somewhere between Donald Trump and Stephen Harper.

      From the Tyee, 2014:

      What is ‘neoliberalism’ and why would a Conservative love it?

      The ideology the think-tanks promote is properly called neoliberalism because, in contrast to libertarians who want a small, powerless state that leaves people alone, neoliberals require a strong state that uses its power to create and enforce markets, and prop them up when they fail, as happened after the 2007–08 financial meltdown. Their utopian dream is a state governed by market transactions and not democratic practices. It’s based on the principle that economic freedom must come before political freedom. Political freedom may not even be necessary. It’s fair to say they believe in government, but not in democracy.

  2. Tim, the Board of Police Commissioners meeting is marked public in the Google Calendar event for it. I assume it would be illegal to close it to the public as it would contravene section 51 of the Police Act on Public and private meetings or is there some other section I missed?

    “51 Meetings of the board are open to the public, but all matters relating
    to discipline, personnel conduct, contract negotiations and security of police operations
    may be conducted in private and, where the matter relates to a complaint
    against or the discipline of the chief officer, the chair may request that the chief not
    attend and the chief shall not attend. 2004, c. 31, s. 51.”

  3. So HRM has given the Y another million to ensure that the boys with the beamers have a place to work out to keep their golf game sharp. Great investment.

      1. The South Park location is there to serve the elite membership. The Dartmouth Y used to serve the whole community until the Halifax Y took it over and sold all the assets to keep the South Park location afloat. the Halifax North y does good work, but the Y folks keep it very separate and distinct from their main operation.

      2. This Y certainly does. Imagine what one million dollars would do for the community Y on Gottingen Street.

  4. I hope a lot of media and TV cameras show up at the closed door Police Commission meeting; assuming the public are allowed into City Hall. Perhaps the Commissionaires will be told to not allow people beyond the glass doors.

  5. That is indeed an ugly building, made all the more hideous by the bleak front parking lot and the garage door front and centre. It looks like a great place to live if you’re a car. But it is difficult to single out one new or relatively new building in Halifax as being the worst example of Sore Thumb School of Architecture. Halifax planners and developers seem intent on destroying as much as possible of the built heritage of the city, the buildings which made Halifax an attractive city in which to live and to visit.

  6. The Paris riots really are something. I’m amazed nobody has gotten killed yet. I find it interesting that no matter what corner of the internet you go to, everyone manages to paint the Gilets Jaunes with their own ideological brush. I don’t think anyone outside France really knows what is going on.