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Connors and his partner Joel Flewelling live just two blocks from FRED. The proximity of their flock to their cafe allows them to reduce the miles their food travels. The hens feast on scraps from the cafe kitchen and produce the eggs used in the cafe's baked goods. Connors uses the flock's manure as fertilizer for his backyard garden. Herbs and vegetables from the garden end up in salads and entrees at the Agricola Street cafe. Connors says his food system is "not radical. It's just common sense."
District 14 councillor Jennifer Watts says there is a small community of people like Connors, raising hens in their backyards. "If they are cared for properly, the problems associated with them, such as rats, can be controlled," says Watts about urban chickens. The Peninsula Community Council will meet in September to review a staff report, taking an in depth look at the urban chicken issue. A public hearing may follow, if council considers amending the Land Use By-Law to permit urban hens.
Connors hopes the city's legal action against him will bring awareness to the importance of food security and producing high quality food locally. But there appear to be some communication barriers. "I was deleted by the mayor on Facebook as a friend," he exclaims. "This is so Grade 3."
In April, The Coast broke the news that the provincial Department of Tourism spent $600,000 in support of the 2009 Paul McCartney concert on the Halifax Common, and had floated private promoter Harold MacKay with a $3.5 million cheque to cover McCartney’s upfront fees. This was over and above the $150,000 the city spent in support of the concert.
But that government support for the private concert promoter evidently wasn’t enough. Earlier this year, MacKay asked Percy Paris, minister of the department of Economic and Rural Development, for an additional $700,000 in taxpayer money to cover expenses incurred during last year’s McCartney and KISS concerts on the Common.
MacKay wrote a letter to Paris on March 29, 2010 requesting $400,000 in “infrastructure costs” related to the concerts and $300,000 for “project development incentive to be used to acquire capital assets,” confirms department spokesperson Toby Koffman. What is a project development incentive? “I don’t know what he means by that,” says Koffman.
After receipt of the letter, there were face-to-face meetings between Paris, MacKay and Halifax mayor Peter Kelly. “I was there,” confirms Kelly. “I probably helped arranged the meeting. It was a matter of intro, discussion and I would leave and they would continue on. But I did not stay for the meeting.”
The Coast’s story on the initial $600,000 provincial contribution in support of the McCartney concert was published April 13 on thecoast.ca, and April 15 in the paper edition. On April 15, Paris wrote a response letter to MacKay, rejecting the request for additional funding.
In The Coast’s April article, we quoted an anonymous source with knowledge of ticket sales figures. Even though other media reported 50,000 people had attended the McCartney contest, our source said just 26,000 tickets were sold. MacKay subsequently dismissed our reporting. Although we did not report it, in April the same source claimed MacKay lost $700,000 on the McCartney concert, a figure that matches MacKay’s request to Paris.
This week, CBC implicitly questioned the economic viability of Common shows by reporting that “hundreds, perhaps even thousands” of free tickets had been given out for last weekend’s Black Eyed Peas concert. The Chronicle-Herald reported that 20,000 people attended the show, but didn’t say how that figure was calculated, or what percentage were admitted on free tickets. And even though the city contributes $100,000 in support of each show, ticket sales and attendance figures are considered proprietary information and are not released to the public. MacKay did not respond to a request for comment.
Update, 1:15pm Friday, July 30: This morning, the Chronicle-Herald followed up on The Coast's exclusive report from Thursday. In the Chronicle-Herald article, promoter Harold MacKay claims his request for $700,000 in funding from the department of Economic and Rural Development was related to this year's Black Eyed Peas concert, and not to the McCartney or KISS concerts, as I reported above.
MacKay's statement contradicts what I was told by ERD spokesperson Toby Koffman. I went back and checked the audio recording of my interview with Koffman. The relevant part follows Koffman giving me the dates of the two letters.
Bousquet: And they're related to the concert in 2008, is that correct?We went on to clarify that both concerts were actually in 2009.
Koffman: Yes. It makes reference to the Paul McCartney concert and the KISS concert.
This morning I called the department back, for clarification. Koffman has the day off, but spokesperson Vicki Roberts called back, and said that while she hasn't read all the correspondence, MacKay's request was related to the Black Eyed Peas concert, not the McCartney and KISS concerts.
I have asked for a copy of MacKay's letter but, citing proprietary information contained in it, the department declined to release it.
The owners of a Century 21 franchise in the north end, who have spent upwards of $10,000 replacing smashed windows and erasing graffiti, plan to launch a project this week to work with them, not against them.
David Yetman and Patrick Johnston have primed their office exterior at the corner of Windsor and North Streets by mounting two large plywood canvasses.
"Rather than putting vinyl siding up and making a really ugly building look uglier, we decided to get started," says co-owner David Yetman, who hopes commissioning graffiti artists will curb the vandalism of his building.
A contest launched last month calling artists to bid for a chance to have their work showcased on a busy street corner. Two artists made the cut this time, but Yetman and Johnston plan to host the contest annually.
Kicking off the project are Ben Swinden, a student at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and Shawn Boucher, an automotive collision repair specialist.
"This is a very exciting project," says Swinden, who has had a hand in similar projects in Toronto. "It does a lot for the community---accepting the art side of the community rather than the vandalism side."
Yetman and Johnston covered all their bases before launching the project, chatting with both the city and Century 21's head office. "I didn't want to get publicity from the stand point of doing something wrong," says Yetman.
"We opted not to go the corporate route," explaining why the art won't be a branding exercise for Century 21. "We're trying to send a message basically that this is art, and this should be viewed as art."
Yetman does not expect the project to generate any business, but "it's going to hopefully save us money having graffiti taken off and replacing windows."
"There was a yacht race taking place," says Tony McGinnis, chief executive officer of the APA, "and there was fog as well."
Language problems played a significant role in the near-misses, says McGinnis. "Orders [from harbour authorities] were mis-understood." Only after the Fulmar passed McNabs Island was a pilot put on board.
McGinnis says the Fulmar captain has given a written apology, and "everyone feels terrible" about the incident. The APA is still investigating and is considering its options, which could include a $5,000 fine, although McGinnis says a fine is unlikely.
In 1917, the French ship Mont-Blanc hit the Norwegian Imo in Halifax Harbour, with disastrous results.
Environment Canada records show that there have been just three 20+ mm rainfalls on July 24 in Halifax over the last 50 years---in 2006 (28.7 mm), 1988 (36.5) and 1965 (35.8mm). But those were all-day totals; Environment Canada doesn't give hourly totals for historic rainfalls, but it seems unlikely any of those three rains would meet Power Events' payback requirements. It's unlikely that even Hurricane Juan dropped 20 mm in three hours---Sept. 28 and 29, 2003 all-day rain amounts were 38 mm and 30.8 mm, respectively.
One historic 20 mm+ three-hour rain was Hurricane Beth, a storm of biblical proportions---the elevator shaft at Fenwick Tower was filled with four metres of water, Dartmouth's Lake Banook overflowed into the Duck Pond and then down Portland Street---which on August 15, 1971 dumped a whopping 185.2 mm on Halifax, the biggest one-day rainfall ever locally. On average, that's 23.2 mm over each three-hour period, which *barely* meets Power Promotions' guarantee.
But don't get your hopes up, concert-goers: as of this writing, there are no hurricanes on the map and Environment Canada says Saturday will be a pleasant 21 degrees, with no rain.
The good news is that the bus system will expand by 10 articulated conventional buses, providing an increase of 29,770 service hours, and efficiency improvements related to the new bus barn will add another 13,690 hours, for a total of 43,460 new service hours. New routes being created are the #8 along the waterfront, the #22 to Exhibition Park and the #57 to Russell Lake. The #1, #20, #32, #65, #72 and #80 will see additional service.
The downside of the service plan is reduced service for routes that don't meet the service standards. The #3 will be eliminated completely, while the #33, #51, #53, #63, #82, #83, #87, #88 and #89 will have service reductions.
MetroLink buses to Portland Hills and Sackville will no longer run at night or midday, but the Woodside MetroLink route will be extended to Penhorn. Community bus service to BeaverBank, Porters Lake and Sambro will be reduced to commuting hours only. The changes will be ruled out from August through November. See complete details here.
In 2001, the group of six New England governors and five eastern Canadian premiers agreed to a regional Climate Action Plan, which called for reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and to 75-85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Nova Scotia is this year about 26 percent above 1990 levels, but the agreement did not specify that each state or province meet the targets (none did).
Still, in 2007 the Nova Scotia legislature passed the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, which mandated specific environmental targets for the province, including that GHG emissions will be 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The EAC report cards praise the progress that has been made in planning for reductions in electricity-related GHG emissions, including tough renewable energy targets, but say that much work will have to be done in the transportation sector as well.
"While there has been significant progress in the past nine years in developing provincial policies and practices aimed at reducing GHGs in Nova Scotia," reads a EAC summary, "the reality is that provincial GHGs have not yet begun to fall."
There are two report cards. The first rates the province's progress on meeting the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act; read it here. The second rates the progress made in meeting NEG/ECP Climate Action Plan goals; read it here
From 1999 to the end of last year, ExxonMobil had spent $2.235 billion on Nova Scotian-produced goods and services related to its Sable operations, resulting in 723 full time jobs and $1.3 billion in royalty payments to the provincial government. Royalty payments peaked at about a half billion dollars in 2007, and were $173 million last year. For comparison's sake, the recent two percentage points increase in the sales tax will bring in $215 million this year.
Production from ExxonMobil's existing Sable wells will continue to fall, until they are decommissioned, in about 10 years. The government had offered ExxonMobile the opportunity to expand drilling into new areas off Sable Island, but the company declined, saying depressed prices for natural gas don't make such drilling economically viable. In addition to ExxonMobile's operations, EnCana will start pumping natural gas from the Deep Panuke field this year, but that field is at best a third of the size of Sable, and so royalty payments will be similarly reduced.
Practically none of the natural gas pumped from the Sable field---less than 10 percent---went to Nova Scotian residents or businesses to use as fuel, and practically none of the $1.3 billion in royalty payments was spent on building a replacement renewable energy source for Nova Scotians.
Energy minister Bill Estabrooks did not return a call for comment, and government officials have not said how they will respond to lost royalty revenue.
The application asks for no increase in charges for buses, but neither does it call for the elimination of the $1.20 MacPass charge for Metro Transit buses, even though the commission says a new $1.1 billion bridge will be needed if transit ridership doesn't increase. "Users have to pay," says Alison MacDonald, spokesperson for the commission, explaining why the bus charge isn't eliminated. Metro Transit pays $470,000 annually in bridge tolls.
Over the past few years wilderness advocates have successfully convinced the provincial government to designate 1,350 hectares of crown land as the Birch Cove-Blue Mountain Wilderness, and managed to get a similarly named municipal wilderness park written into the HRM regional plan; the city park would incorporate both the crown land and now-privately held land bound by the Bayers Lake Industrial Park, the proposed Highway 113 corridor, the Kingswood subdivision in Hammond's Plains and a ridgeline just to the west of the Bicentennial Highway. The resulting park would include nine lakes that form a continuous canoe loop, the highlands of Blue Mountain and a striking wilderness landscape---all on a chunk of land about the size of the Halifax peninsula, just 15 minutes from downtown.
The regional plan calls for the creation of the park and says the privately owned land can't be developed in the 25-year lifetime of the plan. But the private landowners---which include the two largest development companies in Nova Scotia, the Annapolis Group and Armco Development---have asked the Regional Plan Advisory Committee to amend the plan to allow them to place suburban homes on the land. The developers have been lobbying hard on the issue, and through two meetings of perhaps 50 people crammed into the un-air conditioned Finley Centre, the committee has been fairly responsive. While applying political pressure, the developers have put up "no trespassing" signs and blocked parking on formerly accessible lots off the BiHi. The committee continues its deliberation August 11; see here and here for more information, and I'll follow up in this space as the meeting approaches.
A nuclear disarmament expert told about 200 people at a Halifax Peace conference Wednesday night that big arms firms are blocking efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. During a keynote speech to open a three-day peace conference at Mount Saint Vincent University, Alyn Ware singled out Lockheed Martin, the world's biggest manufacturer of nuclear weapons. He said the company employs 300 lobbyists in Washington to make sure US politicians don't heed growing calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Lockheed Martin was at the centre of controversy last year when peace groups in Halifax sharply criticized the Nova Scotia government for handing the company up to $1.8 million in payroll tax rebates. In return, the military contractor, which enjoyed $45 billion in sales and net earnings of $3 billion last year, promised to create 100 jobs over five years. Lockheed Martin was already working in Nova Scotia on $2 billion worth of federal government contracts to upgrade 12 Canadian naval frigates.
Ware said a threatened boycott of General Electric products led that company to get out of the nuclear weapons business, but a similar strategy would not work with Lockheed Martin because the company does not manufacture consumer goods. Instead, he recommended what he called "divestment" or the withdrawal of public pension investments in Lockheed shares. Peace groups have long criticized the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for investing in big US military contractors including Lockheed Martin, but so far, the Board has refused to withdraw such investments.
Nuclear disarmament progress
In spite of lobbying by big military firms, Ware said efforts to abolish nuclear weapons are advancing steadily. He mentioned the ongoing campaign by Ban Ki -moon, the United Nations Secretary General. He noted that in May, signers of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty reaffirmed their commitment to get rid of nuclear weapons, although they did not agree on a timetable for doing so. And he mentioned the rapid expansion of Mayors for Peace, an organization in which more than 4,000 city leaders in 144 countries have promised to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons. (Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly has so far, refused to join.)
"Nuclear weapons are the ultimate form of violence," Ware said adding they have made it possible for humans to destroy the planet. "They really are a crime against humanity." He added that 20,000 nuclear warheads remain in military arsenals, with 3,000 of them on high alert ready to be launched at a moment's notice.
Ware is a longtime campaigner for nuclear disarmament. In the 1990s, he helped persuade the International Court of Justice to declare that "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law." In the 1980s, he helped persuade the New Zealand government to officially designate the country as a nuclear weapons-free zone.
Education for peace
Ware also spoke about his work in peace education. He helped draft guidelines that became part of the New Zealand school curriculum, and started programs to promote peace in schools throughout the country. He has also served as an advisor to the New Zealand government and the UN on disarmament education.
As part of Wednesday night's program, Ware interviewed 12-year-old Logan MacGillivrary. The Bedford student and filmmaker raised more than $57,000 to pay for two large shipments of sports equipment and school supplies to Sierra Leone. He is currently trying to generate funds for a children's educational centre in the war-torn African country.
"The children are the future of Sierra Leone," MacGillivrary said. "Education and recreation will keep them in the smaller villages." As part of his fundraising efforts, MacGillivrary toured Nova Scotia schools appealing for sports equipment and classroom supplies. "One school gave about 20,000 pencils which is incredible," he said in genuine amazement. "Twenty thousand pencils!"
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