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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Design advisory committee scratches the surface of HRM's Centre Plan

Draft version of new policy guidelines met with questions and a call for deeper discussion.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 5:32 PM

Today is where the draft Centre Plan begins. The rest is still unwritten. - VIA HRM
  • Today is where the draft Centre Plan begins. The rest is still unwritten.
  • via HRM

Halifax’s Centre Plan just got its initial dose of feedback from the municipality’s Community Design Advisory Committee, and it’s a mix of excitement, as well as a few concerns.

The idea behind the much-anticipated Centre Plan is to create a “blueprint” of sorts, updating planning policies and outlining growth ideas in HRM’s urban core. Several public events over the last few weeks have been held to show off the plan’s concepts to the general public, but Wednesday’s meeting was CDAC’s first chance to offer its perspectives.

Urban design program manager Jacob Ritchie kicked off the discussion with a review of the complete draft plan. The hefty 156-page document didn’t lend itself to a page-by-page look, so he highlighted some key points.

One of the recent changes was a shift in the number of “centres”—the Agricola Street area is no longer included in that category.

“Agricola Street was always a very interesting place for development, we know it’s a popular place for development,” explained Ritchie. “But when we labelled it as a centre in June, there was some concern that the redevelopment was going to get out of hand.”

Ritchie also touched on allowing more varied spaces for commercial use.

“What you’ll notice in our urban structure is the word ‘commercial’ does not come up as a segregated, separate use that has its own policies,” he said. “Rather than having commercial in some areas and not in others, we have support for commercial in all the classifications of structure.”

This caught the attention of Halifax South Downtown councillor Waye Mason, who noted residents in his district have had negative experiences with residential-commercial zoning.

“We’ve got pizza shops open at three in the morning right next to single family homes, and it makes people crazy,” said Mason. “I’d need to know a lot more about that to have any level of comfort.”

At the same time, Mason said he was “very excited” to see the Centre Plan delivered and is looking forward to more conversation.

Outgoing Peninsula North councillor Jennifer Watts echoed that excitement: “I think you have captured a lot of what people have been asking for,” she told Ritchie. Watts then asked him to clarify where development agreements can be used.

“The document we’re putting out today is broad with the intent of eliciting a response so that we can then make it specific,” said Ritchie.

Harbourview–Burnside–Dartmouth East councillor Tony Mancini, who said members of the public often complain HRM isn’t listening to them, wanted to make it explicit that the changes so far incorporated into the Centre Plan have all been coming from residents.

“The fact that the maps change, that we listened to some of the comments they made, and we actually held up that commitment,” said Ritchie. “We’ve certainly said it a lot, but probably putting it in material to show the changes would be an added benefit.”

Wednesday’s feedback only came from a few members of the CDAC, prompting chair Fred Morely to suggest the committee figure out a more efficient way to comment on the plan at its next meeting in November.

The municipality’s planning department will next take the Centre Plan through “community conversations” before bringing the draft to council. An estimated timeline has the complete plan finally adopted and implemented in early 2017. You can read the full draft report embedded below, or click here.

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Nova Scotia’s teachers are ready for a strike

Union members overwhelmingly vote in favour of work stoppage after latest offer from the province rejected.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 12:34 PM

Some iStock students, expressing solidarity with NS teachers. - VIA ISTOCK
  • Some iStock students, expressing solidarity with NS teachers.
  • via iStock

A strike vote of 96 percent on Tuesday means Nova Scotia’s 9,300 teachers could be walking off the job as early as December 3.

“Public school teachers have spoken loud and clear,” said NSTU president Liette Doucet in a press release. “We feel strongly about providing better education to Nova Scotia’s students and are willing to take action to make meaningful change for the learning and teaching environment in this province.”

The provincial government has twice reached a tentative agreement with NSTU negotiators, but both deals have been subsequently rejected by members. The union’s contract expired in 2015.

Doucet writes that free and fair collective bargaining, maintaining benefits and a reasonable salary package are all points of contention in the latest negotiations, as is freeing up resources for teachers to work with students.

“Teachers haven’t been genuinely consulted in government decisions affecting classrooms and schools and as a result we are spending less time doing the things that matter most to students.”

Education and Early Childhood Development minister Karen Casey called the vote a “disappointment for parents and students, and for government” in a press release, and claimed the education of Nova Scotia’s students remains top priority for government.

“The teachers' union admitted a strike will cause short-term pain for students,” writes Casey. “That's not the best way to address challenges in our classrooms. The best way to do that is by working with us to avoid disruptions for today's students.”

Voter turnout on Tuesday was 107 percent, allowing for substitute teachers working who were also allowed to cast a vote.

According to the union, the last strike vote was on October 3, 2002. There has never been a province-wide teachers strike.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lindell Smith makes history in Halifax Peninsula North

Newly-elected councillor wins by a landslide in District 8.

Posted By on Sat, Oct 15, 2016 at 11:24 PM

Lindell Smith poses with his daughter while watching the election results come in. - VIA ALEXANDER QUON
  • Lindell Smith poses with his daughter while watching the election results come in.
  • via Alexander Quon

There were cheers and chants of “history in the making” at Lindell Smith’s headquarters as the results came in on election night.

Smith walked away with over half of the votes cast in Halifax Peninsula North, beating six other candidates by a wide margin.

“Just take a moment and look around this room,” Smith, 26, said in his acceptance speech to a packed house at Alteregos Cafe. “There’s not one person that’s the same. This campaign, it’s something that’s never been done in this city. We showed that if we all work together—no matter our backgrounds, no matter our gender, no matter where we come from—we can do it."

Former HRM councillor Patrick Murphy came in second place with around 17 percent of the unofficial results (final vote tallies will be released by HRM on Tuesday). Brenden Sommerhalder was third, followed closely by Chris Poole and Irvine Carvery. Martin Farrell and Anthony Kawalski trailed behind with roughly one percent of the votes each.

As the results came in, Sommerhalder crossed Gottingen Street from his campaign office to join the party with Smith’s team and congratulate the new councillor.

“This has been the most supportive campaign among candidates, I think we will only have positive memories on this campaign,“ Sommerhalder said. “We've always said candidates need to support each other and it will only be true if we continue to after Election Day. So Lindell has my support and he has my assistance. I'm willing to give it.”

The North Memorial Library community worker replaces Jennifer Watts in representing Peninsula North. Watts stepped down after two terms in office while calling for more diversity on council.

Smith becomes the second African-Nova Scotian councillor ever elected to city hall. He follows in the footsteps of Graham Downey, who spent 27 years as an elected representative before losing his seat in 2000.

“This night will forever be marked in the history books," Smith told the crowd at Alteregos. ”We showed that someone like me, an average joe from the community, can make a difference.”

with files from Alexander Quon

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Waye Mason reclaims seat for Halifax South Downtown

The District 7 incumbent isn't going anywhere.

Posted By on Sat, Oct 15, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Mason showing his pearly whites at Spencer House on election night. - ADINA BRESGE
  • Mason showing his pearly whites at Spencer House on election night.
  • Adina Bresge

For the second time, Waye Mason has defeated Sue Uteck.

The incumbent councillor won another term in office, claiming the District 7 race Saturday night over Uteck and political rookie Dominick Desjardins.

“It's a real vindication of the changes we brought to council and to the government in HRM in the last four years to get almost two-thirds of the district voting,” councillor Waye Mason said of his decisive re-election win.

The returning incumbent beat his opponents with over 60 percent of the (unofficial) vote. This is a big change from back in 2012, when Mason beat Uteck (former area councillor of 12 years) by a mere two percent vote margin.

“I was out there for five months, I gave it my all and I respect the decision,” said Uteck over the phone. “I've got a full-time job that I'll return to and we'll just go from there. I'll still be involved in the city whether it's on a board or a committee.”

Mason’s term in office earned him wide popularity, and a respect for his energetic approach to politics, but also his critics. Both Uteck and Desjardins campaigned claiming he didn’t push the Centre Plan fast enough, and put small businesses and heritage properties at risk. Mason says downtown construction is the most obvious concern of the district, one which HRM will have to attend to further during the next four years. The councillor says he's ready for the challenge, and takes this election as an official thumbs-up from area residents.

“There will be no break,” said Mason. “The most important thing is land use by-law change on the peninsula...That's what we heard over and over again at the doors, is concern about development.”

Unofficial voter turnout in District 7 was just 30.6 percent, with 4,811 total votes cast. Finalized results will be released by HRM on Tuesday.

With files from Adina Bresge.

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Sam Austin takes Dartmouth Centre

New candidate takes the highly contested open seat for District 5.

Posted By on Sat, Oct 15, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Austin outside his election "kitchen party." - VIA MOIRA DONOVAN
  • Austin outside his election "kitchen party."
  • via Moira Donovan

Urban planner Sam Austin is the new councillor for Dartmouth Centre, with 30.6 percent of the (unofficial) vote.

The wide open race had eight candidates vying to replace longtime incumbent Gloria McCluskey (who stepped down this month). Behind Austin came Tim Rissesco at 21.6 percent, and Kate Watson at 20.4 percent.

Austin celebrated the news in his home with family and friends. He said the results were hard to believe.

“You know it’s a surreal experience, it honestly is, to have so many of your fellow neighbors and friends and people vote for you like that, and especially to follow someone like Gloria McCluskey.”

Austin ran in 2012 against McCluskey, finishing second.

Second-runner-up Watson said she was disappointed by the defeat—not only for herself, but also for the sake of gender parity on council.

“It’s a feeling like, I’ve worked hard and I would be a good councillor. Not to say that the other people wouldn’t, but when is it our time? This is 2016 and I think there are going to be fewer than 25 percent women [on council]. Why are we going down instead of up?”

Austin agreed with her sentiment.

“I would hope that in the next election more women step up to run, that’s the only way we’re going to get more women on council, is to give people more choice,” the new councillor said. “Congratulations to everybody that did step up to run, it’s an amazing experience.”

Runner-up Tim Rissesco was, like Watson, disappointed with the night's results, but expressed thanks to his campaign team and acknowledged that Austin would do a good job on council.

“The fact that it split this way was disappointing, but at the end of the day, as a resident of Dartmouth Centre, I’m pleased we’re going to have a good representative on council,” he said.

Aside from Rissesco and Watson, Gabriel Enxuga, Ned Milburn, Adam Bowes, Derek Vallis and Warren Wesson also had their names on the ballot.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

King's College stands alone in rejecting tuition reset

Already high tuition and declining enrolment are reasons not to hike fees, says university president.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 4:00 AM

  • via Wikipedia

Unlike other Halifax-area universities, the University of King's College won't be hiking students fees by implementing a tuition reset.

Yesterday, new university president Bill Lahey put forward a motion not to implement the tuition reset for the next two school years, an option which was previously left open for this academic year and the next. According to a press release from the student's union, King’s is the first university to pass on this opportunity.

This means King's won't be imposing an extreme hike, an option given to the school when the provincial Liberal government granted a three-year window for Nova Scotian universities to increase tuition fees without a cap back in 2014.

Lahey says the primary reason behind this decision is that the university has experienced a drop in enrollment.

"We're doing a lot of work on improving our recruitment and our enrollment situation, and a reset would potentially counteract the value of that work that we're doing," he says.

Lahey also listed the school's currently high tuition fees and the concerns of students as additional reasons why he doesn't think King's should reset its prices. The university doesn't want to increase "difficulties or situations of hardship" that students already face, he says.

The King’s Students' Union (KSU) is calling this decision a “major victory.”

“Today’s victory is concrete proof that tuition fee hikes are not inevitable,” said Aidan McNally, KSU president. “When students come together and pressure our decision makers to oppose tuition fee increases, we can win.”

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Plenty of challenges await Halifax Regional School Board candidates

Review of Cole Harbour and Auburn schools will be a ‘hot topic’ for new board.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 4:00 AM

The future of Cole Harbour District High will be one of many challenges for the newly-elected school board. - VIA EVERETT COLDWELL ON WIKIPEDIA

On October 15, residents in HRM will cast their votes for Halifax Regional School Board members during the municipal election. 
With a budget of over $400 million, the new board will have big decisions to make.

Chief amongst them will be the fate of 21 schools within the Cole Harbour and Auburn families. That will be a hot topic for the board over the next year, says District 3’s acclaimed candidate Gin Yee.

“Everything is on the table,” during reviews, says Yee. “In the past we’ve seen recommendations from building new schools, renovations, moving populations to certain schools or a potential closure.”

Selection is underway for the committee that will put forth the recommendations to the school board. The board will make the final decision. The 10-month review process will also allow for public engagement during community meetings.

The new high school in Eastern Passage (set to open in 2018) also means the future of the Cole Harbour District High building is uncertain. The high school will lose nearly half of its students to the new school. Figuring out what to do with the property will also be on the review committee’s plate.

“You would probably want to keep the building, but the question is how do we use it,” says Yee.

Nova Scotia School Boards Association spokesperson Trish Smith says the school reviews are one of the most contentious issues for the next school board, but are not HRSB’s only upcoming task. The new board will also have to tackle policy development.

While policy development sounds dry, it effects students at a high level by helping to shape the delivery of programs and services in schools. School boards often review, change and create polices based on new needs or circumstances.

“It is a really serious oversight job that they do. It’s an important role,” Smith says.

Just another reason Smith says people should pay attention to the role the school board plays in HRM’s communities.

“We all rely on the education system at one point or the other…Our future teachers, doctors, service folks, trades people, everybody goes through the education system,” says Smith. “We should be interested in the education they’re receiving.” 

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

School board candidates talk diversity and inclusion in HRM schools

Learning while black is still an issue for African Nova Scotian students.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 1:45 PM

Morton Simmonds is running for the Halifax Regional School Board in District 1. - VIA YOUTUBE
  • Morton Simmonds is running for the Halifax Regional School Board in District 1.
  • via YouTube

Nearly 22 years after the BLAC Report on Education detailed the systemic racism in the Nova Scotia school system, problems still persist for African Nova Scotian students.

“Things have somewhat changed,” since the report was released, says the incumbent African Nova Scotian School Board Member candidate, Melinda Daye. “But for anyone to say that we’ve arrived, never.”

In May, a report from the school board found that 22.5 percent of suspended students were black, while the same group only made up about seven percent of the total student body.

During a March meeting, school board staff reported that students of African descent performed at a lower level on provincial math and reading tests.

“They’re not getting the best education,” says Morton Simmonds.

Simmonds, the province’s first African Nova Scotian correctional officer, is running for school board in District 1 in this week’s municipal election. If elected, he says he plans to bring a better understanding of other cultures to the municipality’s schools. That’s something he says has been missing, such as in the planning for the new high school in Eastern Passage.

“African Nova Scotians had no input on the school,” says Simmonds. “Especially from the community in North Preston, we had no input at all.”

The new school will make a dent in the population of Cole Harbour District High, where many North Preston students attend. The high school will lose nearly half of its student body.

That’s just one example, says Simmonds. Inclusion of African Nova Scotians is an overall problem in HRM’s school system. 

“We must have a voice on every committee,” the candidate says.

Suzy Hansen, school board candidate in District 5, also feels inclusion is an important topic. She wants to ensure every voice in the north end as well as in other communities in her district is heard.

“The only way we are going to be able to make changes is if we speak together collectively,” Hansen says. 

Internet and telephone voting in HRM’s council and school board elections continues until 7pm on Thursday, October 13. Election day is this Saturday, October 15. Find more info on how to vote here.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information laws are dangerously toothless

How politicians avoid accountability, and how to change that.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Who's got the government's PIN? - VIA ISTOCK
  • Who's got the government's PIN?
  • via iStock

Changes need to be made to Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information Act. That’s the call being made by critics after premier Stephen McNeil’s admission to using personal phone calls to get around the government’s duty to document.

In September, the Office of Information and Privacy (OIP) published a report stating that texts, MMS and Blackberry messenger PINs are considered records and should be made available for Freedom of Information requests.

Surprisingly, the premier responded to the report by admitting to local reporters that if he wants to have a private conversation about government business he’ll pick up the phone and call the person, leaving no recorded trace of what was said.

Catherine Tully, the information and privacy commissioner for Nova Scotia, says she was surprised by the premier’s remarks. She recommends that the government should maintain a duty to record discussions about potential policies.

“The premier said in his letter a few years ago he wanted to ‘expand the powers and mandate of the review officer, particularly through granting her order-making power,’” says Tully, referring to an election promise signed by McNeil and sent to the Centre for Law and Democracy in 2013. That promise hasn’t happened, yet. As it stands, Tully’s office can only make recommendations to the government and has no real power to enforce them.

“This government has made promises, when it was running for election, about more openness and improvements to FOI, and we haven’t seen those,” says Fred Vallance-Jones, a journalism professor at the University of King’s College and freedom of information advocate.

While he understands that government officials need to have private conversations, they shouldn’t be trying to avoid accountability all together, says Vallance-Jones.

“The oxygen of a democracy is the free flow of information so people can make good decisions.”

Where he thinks that change needs to happen is with the act itself, which was written in 1993.

“Times have changed…and the way people access records has changed. It’s all electronic now. The act still exists in a day where records meant hunks of paper. It’s time for an overhaul.” he says.

The practice of using alternate methods of communication by government officials is well documented by many former provincial and public employees. Former finance minister Graham Steele wrote in a column for CBC that “the use of private email within government is widespread and routine. It is not an accident. And it is done precisely to evade FOI.” Former senior policy analyst Greg Beaulieu wrote in 2014 that “politicians and particularly ministers are now aware of how FOIPOP can cause them embarrassment and seem to be well-briefed on how to avoid such pitfalls.”

Tully believes Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information Act needs to be adjusted, and the key to that happening—like in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador—is through public demand.

“I think it’s important we talk about these things and figure out how we want Nova Scotia to work in terms of duty to document,” she says.

The premier did not return calls for comment.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

HRM election debates to binge-watch

Ignore your family this Thanksgiving and catch up with these candidate forums from Districts 2, 12 and 13.

Posted By on Sat, Oct 8, 2016 at 3:29 PM

Elex-flix and chill. - THE COAST
  • Elex-flix and chill.

In between all the turkey and mashed potatoes this weekend will be a lot of down-time to try and ignore family members and escape into a blissful fantasy world of outlandish characters and scripted dialogue.

Sure, Sunday's American presidential town hall just got a whole hell of a lot more interesting, but closer to home there are plenty of local debates to waste the hours on while getting all jacked up about municipal politics.

HRM's sparsely attended mayoral debates have unfortunately soaked up most of the media attention, so there hasn’t been as much coverage of individual district forums. The Coast has already reported on one of those mayoral battles, along with events in Dartmouth Centre, Halifax South Downtown and Halifax Peninsula North.

Thankfully, some patient citizens have uploading videos and live-streams of other candidate forums onto the internet for us all to binge-watch in between Luke Cage episodes.

An all-candidates debate in District 13 between incumbent Matt Whitman, Pamela Lovelace and Harry Ward from the St. Margaret’s Centre (moderated by Rick Howe!) was live-streamed to Facebook and can be found on Lovelace’s election page (or just watch it below).

The Eastern Shore Cooperator has uploaded several short videos from a candidates forum in Preston–Chezzetcook–Eastern Shore, featuring incumbent David Hendsbee and challengers Gail McQuarrie and Shelley Fashan speaking about district priorities, term limits and violence in the community.

Residents of Timberlea–Beechville–Clayton Park–Wedgewood should thank Ben Hovinga, who has uploaded two debates for District 12 to YouTube. The first, hosted by Engage Mainland North on September 22, has candidates John Bignell, Bruce Holland, Iona Stoddard, Scott Guthrie, Richard Zurawski and Bruce E. Smith speaking about transit, active transportation, youth engagement and how they'll handle the demands of being a regional councillor. The forum's topics are conveniently listed in the video’s info to allow viewers to skip whatever parts they're not interested in.

There’s also a two-part video series from a debate held September 15 at the St. Andrew’s Church in Timberlea, again between all six candidates.

We’ll add in any more recordings that we find or that people bring to our attention.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Candidates come prepared for a fight at Halifax South Downtown debate

Past, present and possibly future councillors duke it out over downtown development.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 3:50 PM

Incumbent councillor Waye Mason (left) faces-off against Dominick Desjardins and Sue Uteck in the battle for District 7. - ADINA BRESGE
  • Incumbent councillor Waye Mason (left) faces-off against Dominick Desjardins and Sue Uteck in the battle for District 7.

An incumbent city councillor, his predecessor and a political rookie duked it out over the past, present and future of Halifax South Downtown at an all-candidates meeting Wednesday night.

More than 50 people flooded the room at Spencer House, some watching the proceedings with one foot outside as they straddled the doorway.

Emotions in the audience ran high as the constituents questioned the current, former and aspiring District 7 councillors—Waye Mason, Sue Uteck and Dominick Desjardins, respectively—about the ongoing transformation many feel threaten their neighbourhood, such as the demolition on Young Avenue or the proposed high-rise construction on the site of a church near Saint Mary’s University.

Development concerns took centre stage at the debate, sprawling into issues like heritage protection, bike lanes, property tax, land use, election finance reform and arts and culture funding.

Uteck came prepared to fight for the seat she occupied in City Hall for 13 years before being ousted by then-newcomer Mason, who won the 2012 election by fewer 100 voters. She sparred with Mason over their respective records, each shifting blame for downtown’s development woes on the other’s administration.

Uteck accused the current council of procrastinating on The Centre Plan—a guide for downtown developers set to be released this month. She said the project has been stalled for three-and-a-half years, leaving the district’s heritage sites vulnerable to irresponsible renovation, but was careful not to cast development as a universal negative.

“In the absence of rules, people are going to develop,” said Uteck. “To blame the development community on the current ills of the city is actually simplistic, and just not well thought out.”

Mason said the plan is only running one month behind its original schedule, and people need to give it time to work. He took both his opponents to task for accepting donations from developers, boasting how he led the effort for campaign finance reform on his first day in City Hall to prevent that sort of conflict of interest.

Uteck denied that her political influence could be purchased. Engagement with developers is part of running an “inclusive” campaign, she said, hinting that Mason’s refusal to do so may reflect an anti-development bias.

“The issue isn’t being against development. It’s about being okay with development where it’s not going to damage our communities,” Mason said. “You can’t have corporations treating influencing an election as a business expense.”

As the political rivals traded barbs, novice Desjardins seemed intent on reminding the crowd of his existence. The Cineplex theatre manager has been running a scrappy campaign, capping donations at $200 and touting his lack of experience on council as his greatest asset.

“For the past four weeks, I’ve been inundated with phone calls, because someone is not answering their phone,” Desjardins said. “I can tell you every single call has been returned…That is not what we’ve had in this district in a long time.”

A recent Saint Mary’s University graduate, Desjardins has based his platform on reaching out to residents of District 7, particularly the young ones. Had the community been consulted, Desjardins said, the city could have avoided bedevilled projects like “bike lanes to nowhere” and instead, invested in existing downtown infrastructure people care about.

“Right now, we have city planners that are stamping anything they can get their hands on…when we need more heritage preservation,” he said. “Between my two opponents, with a combined 15 years on council, I think there was ample time that something could have been done.”

E-voting in the municipal and school board is open until Oct. 13. Haligonians can cast their ballots at in-person polling stations between October 8 and 11, or on election day on Oct. 15.

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Pinkwashing motion voted down at Halifax Pride AGM

“We were outvoted by straight, cisgender members of a religious organization who deliberately attended to block our motions.”

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 3:05 PM

There were 106 votes for the motion, and 210 against. Five members abstained. - ALLIE GRAHAM
  • There were 106 votes for the motion, and 210 against. Five members abstained.

Pride's role in supporting the LGBTQ+ community is being called into question after a controversial anti-pinkwashing proposal was voted down at the organization's annual general meeting.

“Halifax Pride failed us,” said Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP) board member Ardath Whynacht after the vote.

Over 300 people were in attendance for the meeting Wednesday night at the Halifax Marriott Hotel, which lasted over four hours and ended after 11pm. Halifax Pride Chair Willem Blois says that last year’s AGM only had about 30 community members attend.

A motion brought forth by the Queer Arabs of Halifax (QAH) was calling on Halifax Pride to remove “pinkwashing” materials and organizations from future festivals. Pinkwashing is a term that describes a company or government which diverts attention from its own human rights record by marketing itself as gay-friendly. The motion was in response to the presence of Size Doesn’t Matter materials mentioning Tel Aviv’s LGBTQ+ community at past Pride community fairs. The Atlantic Jewish Council called the idea anti-semitic, and drew a large, familial crowd to the meeting totalling nearly 200 people.

After an hour of debate and over 30 speakers, the contentious motion was defeated. There were 106 votes for the motion, and 210 against. Five members abstained.

About a dozen members of the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) community walked out of the meeting following the vote.

“It’s so offensive,” said Maxine Kirshenbaum, a member of Jewish Youth for Equality who was supporting QAH and the anti-pinkwashing motion. “The fact that (the AJC) was representing the Jewish community—especially the student Jewish community in Halifax, is not actually representative of how everyone feels.”

Naomi Rosenfeld, director of the AJC, said that despite defeating the “hateful” motion, last night wasn’t a victory for the Atlantic Jewish Council.

“On the one hand, I applaud the Halifax Pride Society for voting down what is a discriminatory and really divisive resolution,” said Rosenfeld. “However, I think even allowing this policy to go to a vote caused such a rift within the community. We saw that tonight.”

Several people who identified themselves as members of the queer community said they felt it was wrong that many of those in attendance to vote were not expressly members of the LGBTQ+ community that Pride serves.

Co-chair of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP), Emily Davidson, handed over a petition with 503 signatures in support of the QAH’s efforts to eliminate pinkwashing at Halifax Pride to the Pride board during the debate. NSRAP also presented its own motion focused on reaching out to the BIPOC community, setting guidelines for organizations that wish to participate in Pride and prioritizing LGBTQ+ organizations involved in Pride festivities and events. It was also defeated. 

“I did a headcount of the room and realized that there were few remaining LGBTQ people, so I left,” said Whynacht. “I realized that the AJC membership would be electing our Pride board, too. We were outvoted by straight, cisgender members of a religious organization who deliberately attended to block our motions.”

Whynacht says that NSRAP has been in talks with the AJC all summer, initially reaching out to them before Pride in attempts to address QAH’s concerns with pinkwashing. Both Whynacht and Davidson say that NSRAP will need to regroup and debrief with its members. She’s unsure how much the LGBTQ+ community will want to engage with Pride moving forward. 

“In 2007, their bylaws made it clear that to be a voting member at Pride you had to be a member of the community,” said Whynacht. “I'm not sure why that changed but as it stands anyone can vote to tell us how to run things.”

Blois said that Halifax Pride will continue to work with NSRAP and the QAH to make the festival more inclusive of all LGBTQ+ community members moving forward.

Later in the meeting the Pride Society resolved to move forward with a paid executive director position and will begin including pansexual in their community definition, and reflection within their mission and values. 

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Rating this election’s campaign signs

We gathered a panel to judge the best (and worst) signs from HRM’s council candidates.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 4:00 AM

I saw the sign, I saw the sign... - PHOTOS BY RILEY SMITH
  • I saw the sign, I saw the sign...
  • Photos by Riley Smith

Being the critical voice for the arts and city politics that we are, The Coast gathered three opinionated experts to sit down and comment on the best (and worst) election signs dotting the HRM. (Also we thought it’d be funny.)

Chris Parsons (activist and occasional writer, @cultureofdefeat), Elizabeth MacMichael (illustrator, @lizmacdraws) and Matt Brand (satirist and editor-in-chief of The Brand Review, @m_brand) graciously took time out of their day to be our judges. Here are some of the highlights.



TIM RISSESCO (Dartmouth Centre)
ELIZABETH MACMICHAEL: All I can say is that I will vote for him because I think I will get ice cream.
MATT BRAND: It looks like Rissesco’s sign shivved Two If By Sea and stole all of its aura.
CHRIS PARSONS: I bet the artisanal cupcake shop that this is a sign for is super dope. The spacing, particularly on “Tim” is jarring. As is the wide variety of fonts.
MACMICHAEL: Why have centre justification throughout and have ‘vote’ being all independent and sassy? Consistency, people!

PARSONS: The overall effect is that if feels like a cute advertising template from VistaPrint or MailChimp or something.
MACMICHAEL: You could drive a bus through the space between the last two lines. I think of any of them, though, it’s doing the best job of being “modern” or “trendy.” 


WARREN WESSON (Dartmouth Centre)
PARSONS: This sign is perfect for Wesson. He’s a one-issue candidate and this sign sums it up perfectly: His one issue is pre-amalgamation Dartmouth.
BRAND: This is basically the old Dartmouth city flag. This is a call out to Old Dartmouth, which is to say, he's likely going to have a referendum to separate Dartmouth from HRM.
MACMICHAEL: I mean, that block font is great? Blue is good?
PARSONS: Yeah, best font so far by a wide margin. I mean, aside from the obvious Dartmouth thing, this is good. His one issue is bad, but his sign conveys that one stupid issue really well.


SAM AUSTIN (Dartmouth Centre)
MACMICHAEL: I HATE THIS SIGN OH MY GOD. It reminds me of the sign for that fish-and-chips place in Truro. It was on a billboard and there was a giant french fry with a little crown. I mean, I guess it’s good that this sign is making me want fish and chips.
PARSONS: My first reaction was: ‘Oh, great, more old Dartmouth garbage.’ Second reaction: ‘OH MY GOD HE REALLY INCLUDED THE TULIP.’
BRAND: The tulip is the only thing happening. That and the yellow.
MACMICHAEL: Yellow lettering is the visual equivalent of squirting lemons in someone’s eyes.
PARSONS: Three years ago he got city money to help everyone on his street—Tulip Street! Get it!—plant tulips on their lawns and this is central enough to his politics that he put it on his fucking sign. Austin is a better candidate than this nonsense.


WAYE MASON (Halifax South Downtown)
MACMICHAEL: Yellow, yellow, my god, why do people choose yellow stoooooppp.
PARSONS: I don’t get why the “O” in his first name is highlighted. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The design is modern, clean and lacks any content: It’s everything Waye aspires to be.

MACMICHAEL: Chris with the ace.


SUE UTECK (Halifax South Downtown)
BRAND: I’m confused. Does she want me to vote for Sue Uteck, Sue Uteck or Sue Uteck?
PARSONS: Just in case we weren’t all clear about the fact that she’s the unofficial Liberal candidate in District 7, she helped out with the colour choice.

MACMICHAEL: I think it’s clever. Her name is easy to remember because of the way it sounds, and there’s a trick where you say someone’s name three times when you meet them to remember it.

BRAND: Is there a similar trick to help me forget?


BRENDEN SOMMERHALDER (Halifax Peninsula North)
BRAND: It’s the vanilla ice cream of signs.
MACMICHAEL: It gets the job done.
PARSONS: I am actually kind of impressed with Sommerhalder’s restraint here. Also, his last name is kind of a significant design challenger and the designer did their best to deal with that space issue.


LINDELL SMITH (Halifax Peninsula North)
MACMICHAEL: I love the checkmark placement.
PARSONS (noting that he donated $51 to Smith’s campaign): I don’t like the ‘ItsTime’ slogan, but I admire his commitment to using it throughout his messaging and visuals. The checkmark/clock hands thing is kind of clever and the proportions on the check are perfect.
BRAND: This is my favourite sign. I like the colours. It has a throwback quality to it.


STEPHEN ADAMS (Spryfield-Sambro Loop-Prospect Road)
MACMICHAEL: An abomination unto man. This is my most-hated.
PARSONS: His sign is the perfect argument in favour of term limits. Dude was elected to city council for the first time in 1991! This was probably his 1995 re-election sign!
BRAND: It looks like he stole it from a local scouting troop.
MACMICHAEL: I’m actually okay with his font choices, and the corner tag is good.
BRAND: You have to follow his sign to find the base camp.
MACMICHAEL: I get that yellow is eye-catching and stands out on a lawn, but a sign should be a warm welcome, a firm handshake, a visual hug...
BRAND: Or a kick to the privates?


MATT WHITMAN (Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets)
MACMICHAEL: I think we all know how I feel about this one. To be fair, I like the attempt at a slightly different layout on this

PARSONS: Interesting that Whitman is the first person to go with portrait instead of landscape.
BRAND: It looks like he just sprayed your lawn and this is the sign he puts up to warn the neighbours to stay off.
PARSONS: I do think that if he wanted to include that much text he should have gone with a larger or landscape layout.

BRAND: It’s missing ‘#powertrip.’


PAMELA LOVELACE (Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets)
BRAND: It’s like she tried making her own sign in MS Paint. This was her first attempt, and she went with it.
PARSONS: Yeah, it’s fine. I do think that given the size of the rest of the text, the URL is very small. Should have included that instead of a phone number.
MACMICHAEL: Holy shit, there’s a phone number. Is that normal? Why would you do that? She must get amazing phone calls.
PARSONS: It’s not something I would do. You want to push traffic to your website and collect contact info, not have people cold-call you.
BRAND: I think the phone number is there so you can call her and ask her why she put a phone number on her sign.

MACMICHAEL: “Hey Pam, is your refrigerator running? IT HAS A BETTER SIGN THAN YOU.”


BRAD JOHNS (Middle/Upper Sackville-Beaver Bank-Lucasville)
MACMICHAEL: I am going to refer to him as “BJ Smiles” forever.
BRAND: I think the sign was probably done without the smiley face originally. He looked at the sign and was like, “Not good enough. Needs an emoji.” Extra points for going the extra mile.
PARSONS: Emojis did not exist when this sign was designed and printed. This is the first sign we’ve seen with a sticker covering over outdated information (pre-re-jiggering of districts, he repped District 19).
MACMICHAEL: The smiley face makes me think he’s a conspiracy theorist, or he would have a Facebook group dedicated to Ron Paul.


(Middle/Upper Sackville-Beaver Bank-Lucasville)
MACMICHAEL: I laughed out loud when I saw this one the first time.
PARSONS: You look at that sign and you think: That dude has a LinkedIn account and he updates it frequently.
MACMICHAEL: That text! That tiny, tiny text!
BRAND: This sign screams: “I put my picture on a sign.”
MACMICHAEL: There’s definitely some things done ‘right’ from a design standpoint here, but also, that middle quote. It kills me!

PARSONS: I also like the Facebook and Twitter icons without usernames or URLs. Like you can just fucking click on the sign.


RUSSELL WALKER (Halifax-Bedford Basin West)
BRAND: It’s like he stole the font from his first car.
MACMICHAEL: I applaud that insane font choice. This sign takes no guff.
PARSONS: I feel like I should hate this, but I don’t. The font looks like something I should see on the back of an old Airstream trailer. It makes me want to listen to “Night Moves.”
BRAND: The flare on that W is everything.
MACMICHAEL: It’s giving me goosebumps.


MACMICHAEL: Let it be known that Elizabeth and the Russell Walker sign are happily married. Delayed celebrations with cocktails and reception to be held in a garage.
BRAND: Elizabeth already has half a screenplay written based on the Walker sign.
PARSONS: Lindell’s sign does the best job of incorporating his core messaging into a visual design. Walker’s speaks to my soul.
BRAND: It gives me similar feels to Stranger Things.
PARSONS: I would just add in closing that academic research overwhelming suggests that signs actually do a very bad job of winning votes.

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Who’s running for the Halifax Regional School Board?

Meet the candidates in the municipality’s other election.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Twenty-two candidates battle it in seven contested races. - VIA HRM
  • Twenty-two candidates battle it in seven contested races.
  • via HRM

With a municipal election on the way, signs bearing the names of candidates for Regional Council have flooded the city. But there are other names on the upcoming ballot that you may not have heard as much about.

On October 15, voters will also be selecting representatives for the Halifax Regional School Board and the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial. If they do vote, that is.

“Sometimes people don’t bother voting because they don’t really understand what the role of the governing school board is,” says HRSB’s communications manager, Trish Smith.

It’s worth paying attention to, though. With a budget of over $400 million, Smith says the school board makes big decisions. To help you find out who’s in the running to make those decisions in your district, we’ve gathered up some info on the school board races happening across HRM.


District 1: Eastern Shore-Fall River
In District 1, Bridget Ann Boutilier is hoping for re-election. Boutilier has served on the board since 2004. Kent Smith, the former owner of Eastern Shore Cartage, a business that provides services like garbage removal, is also in the race. Steve Brine is going back after the seat he held starting in 2008 and lost in 2012. Newcomer Elizabeth Lively is also in the running. Lively has worked for more than ten years as a researcher, and her most recent assignment involved adaptive learning strategies. Morton Simmonds, the province’s first African Nova Scotian correctional officer, is also on the ballot. Simmonds pushed for the Morton Simmonds Educational Scholarship which covers the tuition and book costs for African Nova Scotian and First Nations students enrolling in the Correctional Workers' Program at the Nova Scotia Community College.

District 2: Dartmouth South–Eastern Passage–Cole Harbour–Westphal
Incumbent Nancy Jakeman is running to keep her seat against Tim Henman. Henman has been a member and board member of a number of community, athletic and youth groups. He also served as a vice president for the Shearwater Skating Club.

District 3: Dartmouth Centre–Harbourview–Burnside–Dartmouth East
Gin Yee is unopposed and wins another term by acclamation.

District 4: Peninsula South–Peninsula West–Armdale
As the only candidate, incumbent Cindy Littlefair wins by acclamation.

District 5: Peninsula North/Fairview
Christy Linders is hoping to be re-elected with the promise to continue working to make the school board work better for students. Linders helped to form a committee to research the Auditor General’s report on governance, and says the final report will be ready for the incoming school board to take action on. But Suzy Hansen is hoping to take the district from Linders. Hansen says she felt she had to run when she didn’t see any candidates from the north end on the ballot.

District 6: Clayton Park West–Beechville/Lakeside/Timberlea–Spryfield
In District 6, Laura Claridge, a volunteer with the Harrietsfield Elementary Home and School Commitee, is competing for the seat against Charlene Tasco, who says education has been a passion of hers for years while she’s worked as a career practitioner. With experience as a university instructor, candidate Karen Saweczko wants to ensure equality for every student regardless of school or background. The final candidate in the district, Linda MacKay, has worked for the Auditor General of Nova Scotia and as a financial analyst/accountant at Emera.

District 7: South Shore Bedford
Public relations-marketing consultant Steve Warburton is looking to be re-elected. Warburton also served as the vice chair of the board. His competition, Jennifer Raven has been vocal on Twitter throughout the election on issues such as food security in schools. Raven says she will stand with small schools and all schools.

District 8: Lower Sackville/Upper Sackville
Dave Wright is running unopposed in District 8 and wins by acclamation.

African Nova Scotian Member
Retired teacher and former chair of the school board Melinda Daye is competing in a three-way race to get back her seat as African Nova Scotian representative. Her competition includes Archy Beals, an educator with over 25 years of experience. Beals says he has worked in both the secondary and post-secondary school system establishing culturally specific programs for African Canadian learners. Also running for the seat is Marcus James, an employee at the North Memorial library for the past 22 years. James is also the co-chair of the North End Community Circle, which focuses on bringing community partners together.

Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial
Four candidates are competing for the three available chairs on the province’s French school board. Two incumbent candidates, Lucien Comeau and André Surette are looking to be re-elected. Comeua has experience as an evaluator for Health Canada, while Surette has over 12 years of experience as a school board member. Patrice Deschenes, a naval officer and instructor at the Naval Fleet School in Halifax, is also in the race. The fourth candidate, Marthe Craig, has 21 years of teaching experience. During her career, Craig has worked on developing and evaluating programs in mathematics, science, social studies and French. 

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

15 questions with District 5 candidate Derek Vallis

“I have been invested in the Dartmouth community all of my life.”

Posted By on Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Vallis can be reached at 902-802-1511 and, or via Facebook and Twitter. - VIA CANDIDATE
  • Vallis can be reached at 902-802-1511 and, or via Facebook and Twitter.
  • via candidate

The Coast sent all 53 candidates running in HRM’s municipal election the same 15-question survey in order to help their residents and our readers know a little more about who’s running for council. Here’s what Derek Vallis from Dartmouth Centre sent back.


Why should residents of your district vote for you?

I have been invested in the Dartmouth community all of my life. I grew up in Dartmouth Centre, I work and volunteer throughout Dartmouth. Dartmouth is where Beth and I raise our family (sons: Cameron, Aaron and Christian), and I want to contribute more and serve the residents of Dartmouth Centre as their councillor. I have been a sport coach and mentor to youth and have served on and advised many non-profit boards in the areas of governance and risk management. As a lawyer for the past 25 years, I have accumulated a vast breadth of legal experience. I have also run my own law practice and understand the challenges and work ethic required by small business owners to be successful. I worked for the TD Bank Group for just over six years as regional counsel for the Atlantic Estates and Trust Division. This exposed me to workings of the financial services industry first hand. I have served as an officer in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve for over 32 years in senior leadership positions. The most recent was command of HMCS Scotian, one of the country’s largest and busiest Naval Reserve Divisions with close to 200 sailors and civilians, and an annual operating budget of several million dollars. These leadership experiences have made me keenly aware of the need to effectively lead and work with staff. I have always built bridges with interested parties, bringing diverse groups together to effectively build collaborative solutions to problems. I have always acknowledged the need for fiscal responsibility when dealing with public funds and am well versed in the public budgeting process. I understand the workings of public institutions and the large role risk management plays in every aspect of the day to day operations. My career has been quite diverse and skilled. I have exercised real leadership as a business person, a lawyer and a naval officer. My credentials and breadth of experience are significant. I am certain that given the honour, privilege and responsibility of being the councillor for Dartmouth Centre, I will serve the residents of Dartmouth Centre well.

What’s something you wish people were talking about more this election?

I would like to hear more about engaging youth in the many areas of concern to us. I am happy to say that my three sons have been very engaged in the campaign and have been going door to door with me. They have discussed the issues at the dinner table and they have raised very good questions. They understand the importance of the system and their enthusiasm has rubbed off on their friends. Hopefully this will inspire an awakening.

What’s the last thing you Googled?

Poverty and families.

What’s the most accurate criticism someone’s made about you?

I find it difficult to say no when people are seeking help about injustices and I tend to overcommit. I need to find the balance and ask for assistance.

What was the first concert you ever went to?

Cheap Trick at the Halifax Forum in 1977.

What was the last movie you didn’t finish?
The Old Lady in a Van

What pisses you off?

Labeling of people based on what they look like, what they do and where they live. We have to embrace all people and their views. Everyone has something to offer.

What’s changed the most in your district since 2012?

Among other things, I would say that the motor vehicle traffic volume and speed has increased. There is also an increased aggressiveness by drivers, making our streets and roads less safe. I have noticed it myself and I am hearing a lot from residents at their doors about this. There is also an increase in the volume of unnecessary vehicular noise in our neighbourhoods. I feel we have to notch up law enforcement and curb this trend.

What’s a specific moment in politics or your professional life that you really regret?

I do not have any regrets. I have been blessed with two wonderful parents who worked very hard to provide me educational opportunities that they never had. Like many local young people, work opportunities in Nova Scotia were not numerous and I considered going elsewhere. Instead, with the help of family and friends I stayed in Dartmouth, built a business, married and started my family.

What’s the last thing that made you really laugh?

Watching my sons experience the unique humour of John Cleese in the Faulty Towers series. To see their fresh response to the humour was hilarious in itself. It was also very satisfying to see them enjoy something as I did when I was their age.

What’s your go-to meal when cooking?

Anything on the BBQ—year round.

What worries you the most about the Halifax Regional Municipality and the issues it's facing?

I am concerned that we are leaving people behind because of their job and income. I grew up in a sub division where a painter lived next to a Navy Petty Officer, an accountant, a biologist and an insurance agent. Developments seem to focus too much on the same income levels and accordingly, leave out those with less means. I think we need to address this with new developments and ensure affordability for middle and low earners. Whether tax rebates or deferred payment programs, I am willing to investigate this further as councillor.

How would you describe your opponents in this race?

Friendly and dedicated.

What’s something you don’t know, but want to learn?

I would like to learn to surf. I love boogey boarding, and would like to find the time to do the real surfing thing. I also note that Lawrencetown Beach is only a short drive from Dartmouth Centre.

What do you promise NOT to do if elected?

I am partaking in the biggest job interview of my life. As their councillor, my duty is to the residents of Dartmouth Centre. I promise not to make promises I cannot keep. I promise not to squander their tax dollars and I promise not to focus on one part of Dartmouth Centre to the detriment of the others. The entire district is important to me and will receive my diligent attention!

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