News

1. Retired firefighter sues city, claiming racial discrimination

A Black man who is a retired firefighter has filed a lawsuit against the Halifax fire department, alleging that he has been discriminated against because of his race.

George Cromwell’s detailed Statement of Claim references incidents that date back to soon after amalgamation of the predecessor governments into the Halifax Regional Munipality in 1996, and continue on until the present. In his claim, he outlines several instances that he alleges illustrate incompetence on the part of fire department managers. One of those incidents involved a district chief recklessly risking the lives of firefighters, claims Cromwell.

I published this story this morning. Click here to read “Retired firefighter George Cromwell is suing the Halifax fire department, claiming racial discrimination.”

2. Transit passes for those on income assistance

The venerable #1 Spring Garden. Photo by Michael Taylor.

“Starting this week, Community Services will be mailing out about 3,300 new annual transit passes to Halifax residents who are on income assistance, along with their spouses and dependents,” reports Examiner Transportation columnist Erica Butler:

Another approximately 7,700 people are currently eligible to receive the passes, and over the course of the year, it’s estimated a total of 16,000 passes could be issued.

“We’re in the full swing of things on this,” says Brandon Grant, executive director of the Employment Support and Income Assistance (ESIA) program, who says the first of the annual passes will go in the mail this week. “This is an incredible step in the right direction,” says Grant.

Butler goes on to detail the program, and makes a suggestion for improving service for the additional low-income riders who will soon be using the system.

Click here to read “The first transit passes for people on social assistance arrive this week: a great start that still needs some tweaks.”

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3. Troubled financial waters for tidal?

Photo: Lynn Sawyer

“Just days after deployment of its latest OpenHydro turbine in the Minas Passage, Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. could be facing an uncertain future,” reports Bruce Wark:

Two Irish newspapers, the Irish Times and the Irish Examiner are reporting that its French parent company, Naval Energies, is no longer willing to support the money-hemorraging OpenHydro and has applied to an Irish court to wind up the company.

Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. is a joint venture between OpenHydro Technology Canada Ltd. and Emera, parent company of Nova Scotia Power.

In a statement issued yesterday, Emera gave little indication of what might happen next.

“We understand that a petition has been filed in Ireland for creditor protection,” Emera said. “We are taking the time to understand what this means for the Cape Sharp Tidal project and we are working to get a better understanding of next steps.”

According to the Irish papers, the High Court in Dublin appointed provisional liquidators yesterday after hearing that OpenHydro is “seriously insolvent”  with debts of approximately 280 million Euros (about $426 million in Canadian dollars).

Wark tells me he is still working on this story and will update his article later this morning.

4. Gottingen Street bus lane

The aptly named Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen Street.

Yesterday, Halifax council’s Transportation Committee approved a revised plan for the Gottingen Street bus lane, reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax:

Municipal staff originally proposed a continuous northbound bus lane on Gottingen St., but after the outcry about lost parking and loading zones, council voted to only ban parking in the bus lane during peak hours; 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. That means parking spaces and loading zones will be free during all non-peak times.

Staff also prepared a parking loss mitigation plan and have hired a consultant to work on a study to see whether buses could use the ramp from Barrington St. up to the Macdonald Bridge. Currently, a number of express buses that don’t service the area travel outbound on Gottingen St. because staff say buses can’t make the right turn off the ramp and onto the bridge.

The area business group wanted the committee to hold off on approving any plan until the bridge ramp study is completed, but the committee said it needed to move quickly in order to access federal and provincial funding for the project.

5. Trade Centre Limited debt and Fred MacGillivray’s superpension

Yesterday, the province published the Public Accounts for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2018. It’ll take a while to dig through all the numbers, but I wanted to take a quick look at the convention centre accounting.

Some $7,049,313 in “government transfers” went into operation of the new convention centre. The bulk of that, about $6.5 million, came from the provincial Department of Business; that money was for “marketing and business development activities for the new convention centre.” The expenditures are explained in this accounting note:

I’ll ask for more details later today, but I suspect that much of what appears to be a previously unbudgeted $3,178,114 was for “incentives” for convention planners to rebook into the new convention centre after construction was delayed.

Ownership of the assets of the old Trade Centre Limited (TCL), including the convention centre, was transferred to the new Events East on February 28; “all contractual obligations related to the convention centre operations were assigned to Events East.” That makes sense for the smooth operations of the convention centre itself, but it’s unclear to me why other non-convention centre obligation was also transferred from TCL to Events East — specifically, why should Events East take on TCL’s accumulated debts and liabilities?

I first raised this question in 2012:

Because Trade Centre Limited is a provincial crown corporation, wholly owned by the province, the deficit is ultimately a provincial responsibility. Should TCL ever go out of business, or if there were some horrendous tragedy that killed a hundred people and TCL couldn’t pay the resulting lawsuits, the province would be on the hook. Normally, however, this deficit wouldn’t be an issue — it’d be rolled over from one year to the next, it would come down a bit some years, go back up others.

But these aren’t normal times. The city and province just signed a deal for a new convention centre, which will be run via “a new management model.” The agreement calls for operational costs, deficits, any profits (ha!) and liabilities of the new convention centre to be split 50-50 by each government. In and of itself, this is a rotten deal for the city, but let’s leave that aside and think about that TCL deficit.

As presented to city council last week, the agreement for the new convention centre makes no mention of what’s going to happen to the existing TCL deficit. I’ve asked Jane Fraser, the deputy minister of infrastructure, what would happen to the deficit, and she didn’t know. I’ve also asked city CAO Richard Butts, and he didn’t know. I’ve asked Fraser’s staff the same question, and have gotten no response. Likewise, the city’s finance director, Greg Keefe, had no idea what would happen to the TCL deficit.

Here’s what should happen: TCL should cease operations, with all debts and obligations paid off by the province. Only then should a new corporation be created to operate the new convention centre, with the city and province splitting all financial responsibilities from that point forward. Oh, and it should not be assumed that TCL employees should simply move into a new office — there should be a national search for executives for the new corporation, and TCL employees can apply for the jobs just like anyone else.

I fear, however, that that’s not what going to happen. Fraser hints that TCL “might” be the manager of the new convention centre, and everyone I’ve talked to takes it for granted that TCL president Scott Ferguson will run the place. When I suggest that Ferguson should have to apply for the job, I’m treated as if I’m a rude interloper.

But sure enough, Events East has taken all of TCL’s deficit and liabilities, and still no one has given me a satisfactory explanation for why the city should be on the hook for what were previously exclusively provincial liabilities.

As for Ferguson, after causing the concert scandal, he failed upwards, leaving his cush $185,969 (2016) TCL prez job before Events East was created for a presumably cushier position at the World Trade Center Association in New York. But while Ferguson found happier pastures elsewhere and so didn’t need to apply for the Events East job, his replacement, Carrie Cussons, didn’t have to apply either; she was paid a more modest $168,691 last year — but you know, she’s a girl and hasn’t failed at anything much, so far as I know.

Fred MacGillivray’s life is worth precisely $838,800.

Oh, and let’s not forget that other boy who’s still pulling in a big TCL cheque — Fred MacGillivray. You’ll recall that the former (pre-Ferguson) TCL prez had wrangled an extraordinary bump-up in his pension, over and above the public service pension that he and all other provincial employees get. The additional pension payments — $57,200 last year — were approved by the TCL board in 2002, but only given retroactive approval by the province in 2007.

Yep, in retirement, MacGillivray is earning an extra pension that is exactly two-and-a-half times what a minimum wage worker working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year earns. I mean, it’s not like MacGillivray had some special magic skills that warranted this extra pension; a former grocery store manager, he only got the TCL job in the first place because he was pals with former premier John Savage. On the job, MacGillivray racked up millions of dollars in TCL deficits, and then nearly bankrupted both the city and the province with the spectacular failure that was the Commonwealth Games bid.

Anyway, understand this: TCL, owned exclusively by the province, first OKed MacGillivray’s superpension, which was then approved retroactively by the provincial government, with premier Rodney MacDonald himself giving the final OK. The city had nothing at all to do with this — city officials weren’t informed about it, they weren’t asked for their opinion, the pension was never presented in any budget documents given to City Hall, no one at the city approved it. And yet now, the city is on the hook for half of the entire liability, which as of March 31 was forecast to be $838,800 (using actuary tables, the accountants apparently believe MacGillivray will live another 14.66433 years, dying precisely at 3:27pm on December 14, 2032).

Next time you see a city councillor, ask them why the city is paying for MacGillivray’s pension. Let me know what they say.


Views

1. Chairs

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald has pictures of everything:

Don’t you love summer news (when there is little real news to report)? One of the stories that’s received a lot of press locally is about a concrete chair that may (or maybe not) incorporate a piece of Halifax Explosion debris. When a picture of the chair surfaced I was surprised at how good it looked. That sent me searching for a few photos I’ve taken over the last 40 years of outdoor furniture, good looking and maybe not so much. 


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

No public events.


In the harbour

5:30am: Hoegh Bangkok, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
8am: Onego Merchant, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 27 from Szczecin, Poland
9:30am: AIDAvita, cruise ship with up to 1,582 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Sydney
11:30am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
11:30am: Jona, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
3:30pm: Hoegh Bangkok, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4pm: ZIM Luanda, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
8:30pm: AIDAvita, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for St. John’s


Footnotes

Running late today, sorry.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Would someone please pull the fire alarm on the whole trade centre boondoggle? Even before the Nova Centre there were shenanigans. It is mostly the same people and same shenanigans afoot.