News

1. Boat Harbour

Aeration pond at Boat Harbour. Photo: Joan Baxter

Though the deadline of January 30, 2020 was set five years ago, it’s looking as if the province of Nova Scotia will not be strictly enforcing the Boat Harbour Act until April 1 this year, to allow Paper Excellence to run a power boiler throughout remaining winter months. Joan Baxter and Jennifer Henderson unpack the situation for Examiner readers, parsing a press conference by the Premier yesterday and statements from Pictou Landing First Nation leaders.

The premier reiterated production will stop January 31 and “no new effluent” will flow to the holding ponds at Boat Harbour. What will flush into those huge Boat Harbour lagoons — amid concerns from Pictou Landing First nation that odour could worsen after January 31 — are the leftover toxic chemical and wastewater contents inside the pipe which connects the mill to the effluent treatment facility.

You can read the full story here. This piece is behind the Examiner paywall; you can support local journalism by subscribing here.

2. It’s official: Halifax.ca really does suck

A broken link at halifax.ca is shown on the photographer’s phone in front of Halifax City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford’s latest report from city hall looks at the auditor general’s assessment of the widely reviled HRM website redesign which happened just under three years ago:

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has logged on to halifax.ca: the city’s auditor general has confirmed that the redesigned website was riddled with errors when it went live in 2017.

But in a report published Tuesday and presented to council’s audit and finance standing committee, auditor general Evangeline Colman-Sadd wrote that management knew there were errors, but didn’t think they were a big deal.

To read Woodford’s full story, click here. To subscribe to the Examiner, click here

3. Kevin Arjoon

Kevin Arjoon. Photo: Twitter

This item is written by Zane Woodford.

The city clerk appears to have been fired and no one is saying why.

Kevin Arjoon’s last day was Friday. He was the municipal clerk and returning officer since January 2016. The city confirmed he’s no longer employed, but had little else to say.

“As with any personnel matter, the municipality is not in a position to publicly share details about someone’s departure, as we are bound by the requirements of Part XX of the Municipal Government Act,” municipal spokesperson Brynn Budden wrote in an email on Tuesday.

“The municipality will be initiating recruitment efforts shortly in order to fill the position permanently as soon as possible.”

When reached on Tuesday, Arjoon said he couldn’t comment “at this time.”

AllNovaScotia first reported Arjoon was out. Coun. Matt Whitman confirmed the news to the Examiner, but didn’t have anything to add.

“I’ll be careful on that one, but he’s not with us,” he said. “It was Friday.”

Before taking the job in Halifax, Arjoon was deputy city clerk in Peterborough and Kingston, Ont.

In Halifax, the municipal clerk’s office runs the public-facing side of government — organizing council and committee meetings, handling access to information requests, keeping records and archives, and running elections.

Arjoon made $120,427.80 in total compensation in fiscal 2018-2019, according to the city’s sunshine list.

Budden said deputy clerk Sherryll Murphy will serve as acting clerk till Arjoon’s replacement is found.

The situation is reminiscent of 2017, when chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé fired chief planner Bob Bjerke. Councillors were left in the dark around the abrupt decision that shook up the planning department and likely caused further delays in the Centre Plan process.

4. Ships Start Here and more public money follows

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

It seems like only yesterday the provincial government led by Premier Darrell Dexter announced a $260-million forgiveable loan to the Irving family to upgrade facilities at the Halifax Shipyard to build the next generation of warships for the Canadian Navy. It was 2012. How much (if any) of those millions the company will pay back depends on how close to 4,000 full-time jobs it creates over a 29-year period. Both the tracking and accounting of those job has the potential to be both complex and litigious but the Examiner will attempt to get a preliminary update from the provincial government and Irving Shipbuilding for a subsequent report.

Yesterday the provincial government led by Premier Stephen McNeil announced a $2.5 million payroll rebate for one of the most successful and well-established defence and aerospace companies in the province. Ultra Electronics Maritime Industries in Woodside, Dartmouth used to be known as Hermes Electronics back in the 1970s, when it designed and manufactured acoustic and sonar systems for navies around the world. It’s been in the electronics engineering business 47 years. These days the company is a division owned by Ultra Electronics headquartered in the UK with employees there and in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. https://www.ultra-ms.com/

Ultra is a profitable and successful firm generating over a billion dollars a year in revenues with 4,400 employees worldwide. In an email, the president of the Maritimes division, Bernard Mills, said because of Ultra’s role related to the 15 warships Irving Shipbuilding will start to build later in the 2020s and the current overhaul of the sonar systems on the Halifax-class frigates:

We are anticipating growth to over 400 people over the next decade. This is a great example of how Canada’s investment in leading naval capability is not only contributing to a world-class fleet for the Royal Canadian navy but is also directly creating high tech jobs and innovation right here in Nova Scotia.

Mills said until the beginning of 2019, employment at the Dartmouth defence contractor was stable at about 140 “but since then we have been experiencing rapid growth and are currently breaking through 200 employees.”

This is good news on the skilled, high-paying jobs front. But NSBI’s payroll and innovation rebates — which don’t kick in until after the company has created the requisite number of jobs — also raise the question of why we need to bribe some of the world’s most successful companies (like banks and defence contractors and tire manufacturers) to create jobs here. This rebate offers Ultra $2.5 million if it adds 150 employees over the next five years.

In a news release, Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) justifies the deal by calculating the income tax and consumption tax revenues these 150 additional employees would spend. The province’s math suggests after subtracting the $2.5 million cost of the rebate, an additional $2.2 million in tax would flow to the Nova Scotia economy.

In an email response to a question from the Examiner, NSBI spokesperson Mel Rusinak also suggested that payroll rebates have become the cost of doing business with global firms that can move their operations on a dime.

“This is an agreement NSBI negotiated with Ultra,” said Rusinak. “We’re pleased to work with Ultra on its growth opportunities here in Nova Scotia, this is a competitive situation for Nova Scotia. These jobs could be happening at competing operations in the US or UK.”

5. Indigenous people are grossly over-represented in federal prisons, and it’s getting worse

The Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger, issued a damning press release yesterday, citing statistics showing that Indigenous people are even more over-represented in federal prisons now than they were four years ago. From the release, quoting Zinger:

“Four years ago, my Office reported that persons of Indigenous ancestry had reached 25% of the total inmate population.  At that time, my Office indicated that efforts to curb over-representation were not working.  Today, sadly, I am reporting that the proportion of Indigenous people behind bars has now surpassed 30%.”

While accounting for 5% of the general Canadian population, the number of federally sentenced Indigenous people has been steadily increasing for decades. More recently, custody rates for Indigenous people have accelerated, despite an overall decline in the inmate population. In fact, since April 2010 the Indigenous inmate population has increased by 43.4% (or 1,265), whereas the non-Indigenous incarcerated population has declined over the same period by 13.7% (or 1,549). The rising numbers of Indigenous people behind bars offsets declines in other groups, giving the impression that the system is operating at a normal or steady state. As Dr. Zinger noted, nothing could be farther from the truth.  

The Correctional Investigator suggests that surpassing the 30% mark indicates a deepening “Indigenization” of Canada’s correctional system. Dr. Zinger referred to these trends as “disturbing and entrenched imbalances,” noting that the numbers are even more troubling for Indigenous women, who now account for 42% of the women inmate population in Canada. The Correctional Investigator drew attention to the fact that federal corrections seems impervious to change and unresponsive to the needs, histories and social realities behind high rates of Indigenous offending.

Zinger clearly points the finger at Corrections Canada culture and policies as exacerbating a problem which also has roots in a wider racist system. The stats are shocking, but not surprising, says Zinger. The release continues:

Year after year, his Office has documented that Indigenous inmates are disproportionately classified and placed in maximum security institutions, over-represented in use of force and self-injurious incidents, and historically, were more likely to be placed and held longer in segregation (solitary confinement) units.  Compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts, Indigenous offenders serve a higher proportion of their sentence behind bars before granted parole.  Finally, a recent national recidivism study shows that Indigenous people reoffend or are returned to custody at much higher levels, as high as 70% for Indigenous men in the Prairie region. 

Though many of the causes of Indigenous over-representation reside in factors beyond the criminal justice system, Dr. Zinger pointed out that all of the outcomes noted above fall under the exclusive domain of the Correctional Service of Canada.  For too long, CSC has recused itself from any responsibility for Indigenous over-representation, preferring instead to simply reiterate that corrections, being situated at the back (or receiving) end of the criminal justice system, exerts no control or jurisdiction over “upstream” factors that decide who is sent to prison, for what reasons or for how long. 

In his comments, Dr. Zinger addressed this long-standing fallacy in direct terms. “In failing to close the outcomes gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous offenders, the federal correctional system makes its own unique and measureable contribution to the problem of over-representation. CSC needs to accept its share of responsibility, recognizing that tweaks around the edges of the system simply won’t cut it.  The Service needs to make dramatic changes to reduce readmissions and returns to custody, better prepare Indigenous offenders to meet earliest parole eligibility dates and more safely return Indigenous offenders to their home communities. Reforms of this nature will require a significant and proportional realignment of CSC priorities and resources.  The government of Canada needs to lead and direct these efforts.”

6. SIRT to investigate violent arrest of young Black woman at Walmart

After a referral from police chief Dan Kinsella, the provincial Serious Incident Response Team will investigate the arrest of Santina Rao, the young Black mother of two who was accused of shoplifting and then injured by police officers while shopping at the Walmart on Mumford Road. SIRT must report back to the public within three months.

7. Eskasoni pageant to include transgender girls

Shaina Luck for the CBC reports on a decision to allow transgender girls to participate in Eskasoni First Nation’s annual winter carnival pageant. Reports Luck,

The Eskasoni Winter Carnival has been running for decades as a fundraiser for the local Holy Family Parish. The pageant is one of the most popular events of the festival in Cape Breton.

“To have this as one of the biggest symbols of gender affirmation for people who are trans is a total success and a very historic moment, not only for Mi’kmaw people, not only for people in Eskasoni, but for transgender women and girls all across this world,” said Geordy Marshall, who is with Pride Eskasoni.

8. Bayers Road transit lanes take another step towards completion

Next week, members of the public will get a look at the detailed designs for transit priority lanes on Bayers Road, running from Windsor past the Halifax Shopping Centre, and ending at Romans Avenue. 

The municipality is planning to widen the road to make way for dedicated bus lanes in both directions with minimal impact on private vehicle lanes. Private vehicle drivers will no longer be able to turn left into the Halifax Shopping Centre from Bayers Road, and instead will need to use a separately constructed roadway off Connaught to access the mall. There will be a loss of one traffic lane between Connaught Avenue and Windsor Street. The project also includes a multi-use path to be built on the south side of Bayers Road, from Romans to George Dauphinee, one part of a plan that will eventually see the peninsula connected to the Chain of Lakes Trail with an all-ages and abilities multi-use pathway. 

The work will happen in two phases, with the first between Romans and Connaught expected to be built in the upcoming 2020 construction season. The second phase, between Connaught and Windsor, would theoretically follow, if council funds it. Right now, there’s $3.7 proposed in the capital budget for 2020 (most of which is leftover from last year), with another $3.6 million proposed for 2021-22. That could be enough to cover the full project, which was estimated at $4.8 million without counting land acquisition back in February 2018 when the functional design was approved by council. The detailed designs being presented next week will likely have more accurate cost estimates. 

Bayer’s Road bus lanes were first approved by council as part of the Moving Forward Together plan, in early 2016. Contractors WSP have been working on the detailed design since July 2018, but ran into complications.

In December, staff asked council for an increase in the budgeted amount for detailed design of the project, from $114,324 to $250,805. The reasons included accommodating changes coming from NS Power, Eastlink and Aliant, integrating plans with Halifax Water (who plan to build separated sewers at the same time), and preparing the project to be built in two phases, with construction drawings to accompany the tenders for both phases. 

For those interested in weighing in, here’s the low-down on the open house from this functioning link on the HRM website:

We’re hosting an open house to present details of the Bayers Road project, as well as the expected implementation approach and time frame. The drop in, open house session, will take place on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. in Maritime Hall at the Halifax Forum, 2901 Windsor Street. The snow date will be Thursday, January 30, 2020 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the same location. Everyone is welcome to attend. Municipal staff will be on hand to answer your questions.


Views

Crossing Gottingen

The remnants of a really useful crosswalk.

Last week as I attempted to cross Gottingen to get to the North End library, I noticed something felt different. Drivers weren’t yielding as they had in the past when I’d crossed there. Something was missing. Turns out, it was the whole damn crosswalk.

Some time before my uncomfortable crossing last week, workers removed the buttons and flashing lights and filled the curb cuts, leaving just a shadow of stripes across the street.  Turns out this incredibly sensible crosswalk — which created a bridge between the library and the residential/retail block across the street, improved access to two mid-block bus stops, and also managed to slow down traffic in a heavy-pedestrian-but-high-speed zone — was only a temporary measure. It was installed by the developers of Velo 2 at the Gottingen and Cunard corner, at their expense, to make up for the inconvenience of shutting down the entire sidewalk along their development. And so when they re-opened the sidewalk, they removed said crosswalk, again at their expense. 

While this crosswalk was not “ours” as local area councillor Lindell Smith put it on Twitter, or “not associated with the municipality” as city spokesperson Brynn Budden put it over email, the municipality was certainly aware that it went up, and that it was coming down. Staff spoke to Smith about it before it was removed, and explained to him that this crosswalk wasn’t far enough away from other crossings to warrant leaving it there. 

The erstwhile crosswalk fell almost exactly dead centre between the next two legal crossings, at Cunard and Buddy Daye, which are about 180 metres apart, meaning it’s about 90 metres in either direction to the next crossing. That’s good enough for Halifax pedestrians, says the city. “Given the presence of the existing crosswalks,” says spokesperson Brynn Budden, “a pedestrian is less than 100 metres away from a marked crosswalk with overhead flashing lights at any point along this block.”

A standard of 100 metres in either direction, so up to 200 metres between crosswalks, is setting the bar very low, Halifax. We need better if we are to increase both our walking and transit mode share.

In their Transit Street Design Guide, NACTO recommends, “safe pedestrian crossings should be provided at all transit stops, including mid-block stops, unless the distance to the next crossing is short, typically 100 feet or less.”  That’s about 30 metres or less, to you and I. The library bus stop beside this former crosswalk is 80-90 metres from crossings in either direction. If you get off the bus at the library, crossing the street means walking or rolling about 160-180 metres in total. 

The NACTO urban street design guide also recommends: “Install a midblock crosswalk where there is a significant pedestrian desire line. Frequent applications include midblock bus stops, metro stations, parks, plazas, building entrances, and midblock passageways.”

This location was a natural for a crosswalk, and it had the users to prove it. But that’s just my lived experience, and it may have been coloured by the fact that I was so delighted when this crosswalk was installed, that I especially noticed whenever someone used it. Unfortunately, city staff didn’t take the time to observe or document use of this crossing before giving the okay on its removal. So while I can tell you it was heavily used anecdotally, there’s no actual counts to back that up. But I will say, when I went down to snap a pic for this story, a woman walked up and stood there, waiting, as I had done last week, for the traffic to yield. It didn’t. She looked across the street at me, confused. Wasn’t there just a crosswalk here? Yes, yes there was. 

Halifax needs to get serious about pedestrian convenience. And providing safe crossings, in a tight grid, is the baseline for pedestrian convenience. 

An artist’s rendering of Quinpool Road, and maybe Gottingen too. Illustration: Claes Tingvall of the Swedish Road Administration. Source: ggwash.org

I see two ways street design on Gottingen can go: towards Spring Garden Road, with its throngs of pedestrians able to legally and safely cross every 50 metres or so, or Quinpool Road, which may as well be a moat keeping pedestrians stuck on whatever side they happen to be on. Based on this decision by HRM, I’d say we’re headed for the moat.


Noticed

Halifax Transit’s ridership went up nearly 10% when comparing July-September 2019 with July-September 2018. Revenue also increased, but not by as much, coming in a 6.5% higher.

That’s a pretty significant increase, and it appears to be happening across the system, with no single routes standing out.

Transit staff are presenting a report on the system key performance indicators for the second quarter of 2019 at Thursday’s meeting of the transportation standing committee.


Government

City

Wednesday

Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — a look at the Transit and Library budgets.

Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Prospect Road Community Centre, Hatchet Lake) — no action items on the agenda.

Thursday

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — Here’s the agenda.

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Power House Youth Centre, 1606 Bell Road) — Here’s the agenda.

Province

Wednesday

House of Assembly Management Commission (Wednesday, 11am, One Government Place) — the commission “makes regulations under the act with the purpose of providing resources to members in fulfilling their public duties, to promote accountability and transparency in the spending of public funds, and to aid public understanding of how funds are spent in relation to members’ responsibilities.” That’s worked out really great, hasn’t it?

Special Committee to Review the Estimates of the Auditor General and the Chief Electoral Officer (Wednesday, 11am, One Government Place) — this committee exists to, ah, screw it.

Thursday

No public meetings for the rest of the week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Welcome Reception for Deep Saini (Wednesday, 1pm, Atrium, IDEA Building) — Dalhousie’s 12th president and vice-chancellor.

A high-throughput approach identifies novel nutrient-sensing G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Jillian Rourke from Mount Allison University will talk.

Thursday

Robin Urquhart. Photo: Twitter

Prevention research across the cancer control continuum: Optimizing patient and health system outcomes (Thursday, 12pm, Theatre C, Tupper Link) — Robin Urquhart will talk.

Given the complexity of cancer and its rapidly changing landscape (e.g., earlier detection, more personalized and targeted therapies, increased survival), progress in cancer control needs research that moves beyond disciplinary silos and focuses on primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary prevention. Research must also address the gap between what we know and what we do. Otherwise, our ever-increasing knowledge will not benefit our patients and populations.

The Politics of Happiness: Creating Well-being in a Worried World (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Peter Bevan-Baker from the Green party of Prince Edward island will talk about how

Our world is changing at a pace and in ways that humanity has never before experienced. In the face of this change, we are struggling to find ways to live well together — which is revealed in the unravelling of many systems critical to our continued secure and successful inhabitation of planet Earth. Correcting two fundamental relationships — how we live together as an interdependant global human family; and how  collectively we live in harmony with the Earth — are the central questions of this extraordinary time.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

Neurobiology of Trauma (Wednesday, 1:30pm, AT 212) — Discussion about the parts of the brain affected by trauma and how to help those impacted by it. More info here.

Thursday

Bystander Intervention Training (Thursday, 4pm, LA 178) — a workshop for SMU’s Sexual Violence Awareness Week.

King’s

Wednesday

Laundry Room Art Gallery Photography Exhibition (Wednesday, no time posted) —work by students and friends of King’s and Dalhousie; more info here.


In the harbour

00:30: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
05:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
10:00: Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
10:30: MSC Immacolata, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Civitavecchia, Italy
10:30: APL Dublin, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
11:00: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
17:00: MSC Immacolata sails for sea
17:00: Atlantic Star sails for Liverpool, England
17:30: ZIM Tarragona sails for New York


Footnotes

Theory: disappeared crosswalks are a little more heartbreaking below -10 degrees Celsius.

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  1. THOUGHT POLICE & WALMART

    George Orwell imagined a fearsome world with Thought Police to curb political deviance. But even he could not have imagined using Thought Police to curb political deviance lurking in the act of shopping while black. Santina Rao was attacked by police in Walmart who THOUGHT she was going to shoplift. They set upon her before she ever could. An exquisite exercise in social control, with a moral all of us are meant to pick up on–even when shopping while white.

    1. In normal society one usually waits until all the evidence is available. I believe police should
      de-escalate and exercise restraint in such incidents. We don’t know if Ms Rao is telling the truth.
      I do know of 2/3 people who were present and have spoken of what took place and their comments to Rick Howe are quite different from what El Jones has written.
      Best to wait for the SIRT report or perhaps some enterprising reporter at News 95.7 can follow up the statements made by listeners.

      1. To be fair to El she wrote that these were Ms Rai’s version of events. Do it’s probably more correct to say “what Ms Rao’s version of events”. Instead of “what El erote”.

  2. Re Bayers Road:, IMO The light at Romans Ave needs to be taken out and either cut off completely OR turned into one way flow with the traffic only entrances and exits from the neighborhoods. It’s a contributor to congestion on and off of the 102 at peak traffic flows.

  3. All you are going to achieve in whining about a return to where the crosswalks were before the developer was required to install a temporary mid block one (apparently the most dangerous type of crosswalk), is for the bus stop to be relocated farther from the library. Be clear, the temporary one was required by HRM until the sidewalk along Gottingen from Velo I to the corner was re-opened, and it was also required to be removed. Traffic services will fight you tooth and nail over any mid block crosswalk, as will NSTIR in their jurisdictions. Velo II, in its next iteration, will mean the combined building will run corner to corner, with a crosswalk at each. Will people run across Gottingen instead of walking to one of those crosswalks? Yes. Will there be someone hit by a vehicle? Probably. Whose fault will it be? The person obstructing traffic. It is not illegal to cross a street where there are no signals, as long as you do not obstruct traffic.

  4. My husband was happy enough about that crosswalk to tell me about its installation, as he hops on and off the bus at the library to get his haircuts every few weeks on his way home.

    Regarding worsening pedestrian crossings, I noticed some pedestrian lights in Dartmouth along Portland no longer turn to the walk light every cycle, and now require a button push and wait for the next cycle. Is this something the city is still doing at intersections on purpose? It feels like a step backwards when I get off the bus at the Penhorn terminal and wait for my turn at the lights to cross, only to find I didn’t press the button quick enough for the current cycle, and wait for the next.

  5. Wow 30% of inmates are indigenous and 70% recidivism rate for indigenous males in the Praires? That is outragous. The federal government promised a new relationship with indigenous Canadians, but this never seems to come up in that conversation.