Reality Bites provides the best coverage of current affairs and political issues related to Halifax and City Council anywhere in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Oh, and we bring the snark, too. Contact jacob@thecoast.ca to send a tip.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Halifax Transit rolls out stop announcements

If all goes well, the auditory and visual messages could be on every bus route come the new year.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 2:28 PM

Maybe we'll stop getting lost now - DANIELLE CAMERON
  • Maybe we'll stop getting lost now
  • Danielle Cameron

Starting next week, your bus might start talking to you.

More specifically, Halifax Transit is rolling out automated stop announcements on 13 of its bus routes.

Audio stop announcements will be delivered through speakers on both the inside and outside of the bus. The information will also scroll across the "stop request" display sign at the front of each vehicle.

This means passengers won’t have to rely on bus drivers or fellow riders to tell them when their stop is. A release from HRM says the service will help passengers who are deaf or blind, as well as those visiting the region.

The pilot phase is meant to “allow transit staff to closely monitor the new system’s performance and make any necessary adjustments.” It will start Monday on routes 2, 7, 20, 21, 35, 54, 59, 60, 72, 80, 87, 89 and 400.

When Halifax Transit feels the system is up and running as it’s supposed to be, it will be activated on the rest on the city’s buses. This is all part of HRM’s $43-million transit technology revamp.



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Police overtime spikes in wake of homicides

Halifax Regional Police department has spent almost all of its overtime budget in the first two quarters of the fiscal year.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 4:00 AM

VIA ISTOCK
  • via iStock

The police department has blown through nearly its entire overtime budget in the first two quarters of the fiscal year.

Halifax Regional Police (HRP) confirm $2.25 million has been spent on overtime between April and October of this year. That leaves less than half a million in the department’s $2.7 million budget for the next six months.

A not-insignificant portion of that cost can be attributed to the nine homicides the city has seen since April 1.

“Complex criminal investigations (e.g. homicides) are a significant driver of our overtime budget,” writes spokesperson Theresa Rath Spicer in an emailed statement, “as is staffing in Patrol, Integrated Emergency Services and our Prisoner Care Facility.”

Overtime costs for the six homicides investigations that took place during the first two quarters of 2016 came out to $636,500. The police department couldn’t provide overtime costs related to HRM’s most recent homicide cases—Shakur Jeffferies, Terrence Izzard and Tyler Keizer—as that paperwork is still being processed.

As a result, Halifax police are forecasting a $1.3-million increase in overtime spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. In 2015/16, HRP ended up spending $3.5 million on overtime—$900,000 more than what was budgeted for the year.

Overall the department is now facing a projected $869,000 net deficit going into 2017. More information can be found in the fiscal update being presented to HRM’s Audit and Finance Committee on Wednesday morning.

Rath Spicer stresses that all budget forecasts are still subject to change as the year progresses.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

All-you-can-build buffet in the urban core

With the Centre Plan on the horizon, 18 developments are being presented to the public all at once.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 10:35 PM

Possibly coming to the corner of Robie Street and College. - VIA HRM
  • Possibly coming to the corner of Robie Street and College.
  • via HRM


Think of it as a really, really, really expensive Christmas craft fair.

On Wednesday proposals for 18 developments in the urban centre will be presented en masse to the public at two planning information meetings (held from 12-2pm and 6-8pm) in the Atlantica hotel.

It’s a way for HRM’s planning department to tie off loose ends as Halifax races towards a finalized Centre Plan that will make it much more difficult (on paper) to build beyond the municipality's planning regulations.

“Part of the problem we have with the existing rules is they’re so outdated and often times arbitrary and contradictory,” says Sam Austin, councillor for Dartmouth Centre and former urban planner. “One of the reasons council has been free to kind of freelance a little bit is our rules are so out of date, it’s hard to put any meaning into them.”

Many of the proposed buildings fall on the Robie Street corridor, including 14 storeys at the corner of Pepperell Street, 16- and 30-storey towers at Spring Garden Road and two 20- and 26-storey towers replacing heritage properties at the corner of Robie and College.

Those projects, in particular, have planning advocates in The Willow Tree group concerned that developers are trying to crash the gate before the Centre Plan comes online and take advantage of a city hall currently more amenable to the sort of land-use bylaw amendments required for the 18 proposals.

“If HRM changes the laws to approve them, a small group of developers would receive hundreds of millions of dollars in discretionary development rights,” Janet Stevenson with Willow Tree writes in a release. “This development frenzy distorts HRM’s real needs. It also undermines the Centre Plan process, which is attempting to establish new regulations for development in the Regional Centre for the next 15 years.”

Austin doesn’t see that sort of mad rush to beat the Centre Plan, noting that one of the developments proposed for Dartmouth originates in 2012. As for developers trying to build beyond bylaws, he places most of the blame for that on HRM’s utterly outdated planning guidelines.

“There was always the expectation you could apply for more though this process,” says Austin. “It’ll be nice to get away from that because it’s very needlessly adversarial and cumbersome.”

Visuals and information on all the proposals, along with an electronic comment form, will be online at halifax.ca as of December 8. Feedback will be reviewed by staff before a report on each individual application is brought to council in the new year.

Slideshow
Proposals from HRM's development open house
Proposals from HRM's development open house Proposals from HRM's development open house Proposals from HRM's development open house Proposals from HRM's development open house Proposals from HRM's development open house Proposals from HRM's development open house Proposals from HRM's development open house Proposals from HRM's development open house

Proposals from HRM's development open house

By Jacob Boon

Click to View 19 slides

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Children locked out of school by province

McNeil government shuts down all public schools to avoid union action from teachers.

Posted By on Sat, Dec 3, 2016 at 12:28 PM

Premier Stephen McNeil reading to students. - VIA THE PREMIER'S FACEBOOK
  • Premier Stephen McNeil reading to students.
  • via the premier's Facebook

Instead of locking out unionized teachers, the Liberal government has decided to lock out Nova Scotia’s students.

All public schools in the province will be closed starting Monday, December 5. Education minister Karen Casey made the unprecedented announcement at a press conference held Saturday morning.

The province says the planned work-to-rule action by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) is a public safety issue. Work-to-rule would have limited teachers to only perform contractually-mandated work, and the NSTU had directed staff to show up 20 minutes before and leave 20 minutes after classes. But leaving kids unsupervised violates the Education Act, claims Casey, and that takes precedence over labour negotiations. Students on school grounds would be “left at risk,” said the minister.

"The safety of all of our students is paramount," said Casey. "If only one student is stranded by the action directed by the union, that would be one too many."

It’s an unusual admission from the province that the current school system is apparently unmanageable without teachers working above-and-beyond the terms of their contract.

The legislature has also been recalled for an emergency meeting to rush through a new bill designed to end any future strike action by the NSTU. The “Teachers’ Professional Agreement Act” will impose the tentative agreement reached with NSTU’s leadership in October. Teachers overwhelming voted down that agreement and moved to strike later in the month.

According to a tweet by PC MLA Chris d’Entremont, ramming through the new legislation will take at least a week, and possibly longer as the bill will likely face heavy opposition every step of the way by NDP and Progressive Conservative MLAs.

Parents now have fewer than 48 hours to figure out childcare arrangement for Monday morning, and likely the rest of the week.

The 9,300 members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union are still required to show up for work on Monday despite not having any students to watch over.

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Hundreds of Nova Scotian students walk out in support of teachers

Protest comes days before planned job action by NSTU.

Posted on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 6:35 PM

Halifax West students ready to rally - VIA FACEBOOK
  • Halifax West students ready to rally
  • Via Facebook

Students across Nova Scotia are walking the walk.

On Friday, students from about 25 schools—including Dartmouth High School, Halifax West High School and Citadel High School—participated in a walk-out in support of their teachers' labour battle against the Department of Education.

According to a release from the Students for Teachers Facebook group, the goal of the protest is to send "a strong message to the government that we do not support them, and we are fighting alongside our teachers for our education."

Hundreds of students in downtown Halifax made their way to Province House for the protest. Other rallying students elsewhere in the province were encouraged to protest outside their MLA’s office if it was nearby.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike on October 25. On November 21, talks between NSTU and the provincial government broke down, with premier Stephen McNeil saying the province couldn’t afford to meet the union’s proposal.

Starting Monday, December 5 teachers will only perform the mandated duties of their expired collective agreement under a work-to-rule job action.



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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Halifax scrubs rubber ferry tub toy tender

Nobody bothered to bid on pilot project for tiny Halifax Transit playthings.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 5:24 PM

You know, for kids. - THE COAST
  • You know, for kids.
  • THE COAST

Hope you didn’t have ‘rubber ferry tub toy’ on your wish list this year. Plans for bathtub toys shaped like Halifax Transit ferries are dead in the water.

The transit authority was toying with the idea of selling the keepsakes to residents and tourists for five or six bucks a pop, and issued a tender back in April for 1,000 of the playthings to test out as a pilot project.

That request for proposals came up dry. Municipal spokesperson Tiffany Chase confirms there were no bidders. Halifax’s procurement team did phone up a promotional company looking for a price quote, says Chase, which came in at $16 per unit with a minimum order of 5,000 (or $80,000 total).

“We were hoping to sell them just to break even, so we didn’t move forward on ordering them as we felt the price point was too high for such an item,” writes Chase in an email.

“It’s possible we may revisit the design in future to see if the cost per unit could be reduced to provide a more acceptable price for consumers.”

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Halifax argues against proposed Africville class action

Certification hearing ends with reserved decision.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 5:27 PM

THE COAST
  • THE COAST


A Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice has reserved his decision on whether a lawsuit against the Halifax Regional Municipality by the former residents of Africville will go ahead as a class action.

Robert Pineo, the legal representative of Nelson Carvery and other members of the historic black community, argued in front of a packed courtroom on Wednesday that the lawsuit should include all former Africville residents who had a property interest in communal lands later expropriated by Halifax.

“This action is for compensation for the loss of the communal lands,” Pineo said. “The lands that weren’t held individually, but the lands that the community had access to.”

African Nova Scotians began settling in Africville in 1840. In the 1960s, the city cited urban renewal as its reason to evict those who lived there and bulldoze the community.

The proposed-class action is the most recent case in the fight for justice by former Africville residents and their families. In 2010, then-mayor Peter Kelly formally apologized for the community’s destruction and offered a $3 million settlement that went towards building the Africville Memorial Church.

“That’s not personal compensation,” said Tony Smith, spokesperson for former Africville residents hoping for the class action. Smith stressed the former lands were taken illegally, without adequate notice to the residents.

“The people at the time…they thought they were doing something for the community. They didn’t know the information that we know now,” he said.

During the proceedings, Pineo said Africville’s communal lands were used for various activities—most of them economic, such as fishing and farming.

“It’s the individual’s use of the communal lands that are being claimed for compensation,” he said.

This compensation would be split equally among the class members. It’s not yet known how many there will be, but Pineo suggested it could be in the realm of 300.

Karen MacDonald, HRM’s legal representative, countered that the claimants’ case is unclear as to the use of the common lands.

“How can one determine compensation?” she said. “It’s unclear what the lands were used for, by whom they were used and for how long.”

Justice Patrick J. Duncan has given the lawyers two weeks to provide him with any additional documentation before he makes a decision.


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Auditor general report slams province over plans for new schools

Facilities not needed were approved without reason. Late, disjointed P3 decisions could cost hundreds of millions.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 4:24 PM

Stephen McNeil during a visit to Prospect Road School in Halifax. - VIA THE PREMIER'S OFFICE
  • Stephen McNeil during a visit to Prospect Road School in Halifax.
  • via the premier's office

A report from Nova Scotia’s auditor general says the provincial government is doing a poor job planning for the future of its schools.

The report, released Wednesday, says the department of Education and Early Childhood Development has “an overall casual approach to decision-making” and is without a longterm capital planning process. Auditor general Michael Pickup says that’s “led to inconsistent results.”

Among those inconsistencies is a failure to prepare for the end of the province’s P3 school leases. All 39 of those public-private partnership leases are coming to an end in the next few years, and advanced notice needs to be given by the province if it intends to purchase the schools, renew the leases or return them to the private sector.

But despite having 17 years to prepare for the day, Pickup’s office found the province has failed to meet the P3 notification deadlines due to “late, disjointed and inadequate” decision making.

“[Government] delayed to the point where school boards are rushed to make their choices and the province is forced into a weaker negotiating position with the private service providers, thereby costing tax payers an unknown further amount to obtain the necessary delays and extensions,” writes the Office of the Auditor General (OAG).

The province has already agreed to purchase 25 of the 39 P3 schools, at a total cost of $149 million. Pickup’s report pegs the total taxpayer cost for the P3 school system at $700 million so far, and says Nova Scotia will possibly spend an additional $200 million more to buy back all the schools.

The scathing report also criticizes Nova Scotia’s lack of long-term planning for, and limited information on the conditions of, the province’s 388 schools.

Then there are the four school projects worth $63 million that were approved by Nova Scotia’s Executive Council, jumping ahead of much higher-priority undertakings. Two of those are new schools in the ridings belonging to premier Stephen McNeil and Education minister Karen Casey.

“We are lost to understand why these schools were approved given the analysis provided to us,” writes the auditor general’s office in its report.

Pickup also took aim at the new Eastern Passage High School, which was approved by the previous NDP government in 2012 “despite no analysis supporting it.” A 2010 report from the Halifax Regional School Board found there was no need for a new school in Eastern Passage. The Liberal government awarded a contract to build the unnecessary $21-million school back in September.

“No one at the Department [of Education] could tell us what led to the desire for a new Eastern Passage High School,” reads the OAG report, “but the evidence provided prior to that decision consistently showed it was not necessary.”

The new school, set to open in 2018, will empty out nearby Cole Harbour and Auburn high schools, reducing enrollment by up to 50 percent and causing big problems for the district’s ongoing review process.

“The school board will now have to make difficult decisions regarding the future of multiple schools at all levels across the region to avoid redundant space rather than focusing on other areas in need of attention,” says the OAG, which recommends an immediate review of the EPHS decision.

The province, in response, says that it’s honouring the capital construction commitments made by the previous government and won’t be putting that EPHS decision under review. In a news release, Pickup says he’s “very disappointed” with that decision, which will have “such a negative impact on schools in the surrounding areas.”

The poor report card from the OAG comes just days before Nova Scotia’s teachers are set to enact work-to-rule job action after contract negotiations with the Liberal government fell apart late last week. Hundreds of Nova Scotia’s school kids are planning a walk-out on Friday morning in solidarity.

Stephen McNeil, in Boston today for that city’s Christmas tree lighting and to try and sell the province to New England's business leaders, was unavailable for comment. The premier was scheduled to go to Washington, D.C. after Boston, but is cutting his trip short to be back in Nova Scotia on Monday in response to the teachers union’s labour action.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Survey shows Canada's military (still) has a sexual assault problem

About 27 percent of women who responded said they'd been sexually assaulted.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 4:45 PM

VIA ISTOCK
  • via iStock

It’s not surprising, but it is disturbing.

Statistics Canada has released some damning numbers in relation to sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, and a former naval reservist says the military doesn’t do enough to help victims.

“What they’re doing is to say: If you report, that’s the only way, pretty much, you can fix this problem,” says Marie-Claude Gagnon, who started It’s Just 700. The organization helps members of the CAF—past and present—who are dealing with military sexual trauma.

“Putting the onus on the victim is a lot, especially when the victims are 18 or 19 years old.”

In total, 43,000 people replied to the survey. This includes both members of the regular force and the primary reserve.

While Gagnon doesn’t think there was any ill-intent, she noticed the survey left out groups such as regular force members on initial occupational training.

“That’s pretty much the first two years of your military experience,” says Gagnon.

At first, she wondered if this would downplay StatCan’s results, but the survey still revealed a significant number of issues.

For example, 79 percent of regular force members said they saw, heard or personally experienced inappropriate sexualized behaviour during the past year.

Over a quarter of women (27.3 percent) reported having been sexually assaulted at least once since joining the military, and 3.8 percent of men reported the same. Women are more likely to be sexually assaulted by a supervisor while men are more likely to be assaulted by a peer.

The report noted that sexual misconduct isn’t unique to any one environment or workplace, but women in male-dominated fields are at bigger risk of experiencing it.

“When you have one or two females in an operation with 100 men, what have you been doing to make sure that this person will be safe?” says Gagnon. “There’s no safety measure taken.”

The StatCan figures come about a year and a half after the release of the external review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces, which drew from the experiences of more than 700 CAF members. This is where It’s Just 700 takes its name.

“When the report came out, there was a lot of victim-blaming,” says Gagnon. “One of the arguments that was often coming was it was ‘just 700’ people that contributed in the survey.”

Gagnon had tried to push existing veteran groups to create a branch for sexual trauma survivors, but she had no success. So she took matters into her own hands.

“You should be entitled to have some kind of support, even if you chose not to report,” she says.

Multiple members of It’s Just 700 collectively filed a notice of action against the attorney general of Canada on Monday. The group is claiming sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, and misfeasance of public office in the CAF.


click image STATISTICS CANADA
  • Statistics Canada
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Talks break down between province and teachers

NSTU members could begin strike action as early as December 5.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 8:40 PM

Members of the NSTU at a rally in Halifax on Labour Day. - VIA FACEBOOK
  • Members of the NSTU at a rally in Halifax on Labour Day.
  • via Facebook

Negotiations for a new collective agreement between the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) and the province have broken off.

The two sides had met this week with a conciliator to try and stave off a strike. A work stoppage could now happen as early as December 5, though what form that will take has yet to be announced by the NSTU.

“Government invited us back to the bargaining table but remains unwilling to negotiate working conditions into our collective agreement,” the teachers union writes in a press release. “Teachers have been crystal clear. They want real, concrete improvements to the system. They want to teach, not more empty promises and rhetoric.”

Two previous agreements from the province that were recommended by union leaders were rejected outright by NSTU rank and file.

In a press release from the premier’s office, Stephen McNeil said he was disappointed a new agreement couldn’t be reached and blamed the NSTU for walking away from the table

The premier says the province’s most recent proposal included everything in the NSTU’s previous agreement plus an extra $10 million to address classroom conditions, with the spending of that determined by a working group of teachers, school boards, NSTU and the department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

“The Nova Scotia Teachers Union continued to ask for more and presented a proposal that the province simply cannot afford to pay,” writes the premier.

The NSTU says information on what could be the first ever province-wide teacher strike will be released next week.

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Who got served? Council sets HRM’s priority outcomes for 2017 and beyond

Launching innovation missiles from neoliberal silos.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 12:05 PM

Council, at a meeting this week inside City Hall. - THE COAST
  • Council, at a meeting this week inside City Hall.
  • THE COAST

Halifax’s government is on its knees looking for an answer: are we human, or are we customer?

Councillors new and old came together Thursday afternoon to set HRM’s priority outcomes for the next four years. It was a high-altitude planning session that came down to some precise word choices.

Nowhere was that more evident than in Peninsula North councillor Lindell Smith’s request to change “serving customers” in HRM’s priorities to “serving people.”

“Not all of our residents are ‘customers,’” Smith said.

Tony Mancini took exception to that. The councillor for Harbourview–Burnside–Dartmouth East said the municipality has neither “residents” nor “taxpayers.”

“The people in our communities are customers,” Mancini said. “It’s critical we start using that term.”

Jacques Dubé, Halifax’s new CAO, has already stated that a customer service approach is key to local government. It’s a political theory that loosens red tape in order to make government interactions quick and painless. It also conflates citizens with consumers; a slippery bit of neoliberal pantomime that reduces democracy to buying and selling. The councillor for Timberlea–Beechville–Clayton Park–Wedgewood made that explicit at Thursday’s meeting

“I’m so much more than a customer,” said Richard Zurawski. “It’s such a neoliberal silo.”

Zurawski's comments seemed to confuse some members of council, who appeared to feel they were being called Liberal party members.

Mike Savage, famously Liberal, jokingly mentioned councillors Steve Streatch and David Hendsbee—both longtime Conservatives—in response to Zurawski’s comment. The mayor did, however, agree with the sentiment.

“We can give customer service to people but not just refer to them as that,” said Savage.

The mayor also wanted to amend “family, youths and seniors” in HRM’s priorities to read “all citizens” or “all inhabitants” in order to better encompass the homeless, single persons, permanent residents and everyone else living in the municipality.

VIA HRM
  • via HRM

The in-depth discussions at the four hour meeting were a far cry from eight years ago, when Cole Harbour–Westphal representative Lorelei Nicoll recalled council being put in a room at the World Trade & Convention Centre with some Post-It Notes and a vision board to determine HRM's strategic framework.

Officially HRM’s vision for the future is to enhance quality of life by fostering the growth of healthy and vibrant communities, a strong and diverse economy and a sustainable environment.

Councillor Waye Mason asked to change “fostering the growth” of vibrant communities in that statement to “supporting” those communities, in recognition that some of our communities are, in fact, already vibrant.

The Halifax South Downtown councillor also requested that HRM “foster a corporate culture that values innovation and bold ideas” at city hall. That statement was meant to free up CAO Jacques Dubé and his team to become more nimble with testing out new pilot projects. It brought some debate between Mason and councillor Tim Outhit about whether a government should spend time and money on a project when it doesn’t know if it will be successful. “That’s business,” said Mason.

“Well this is not a business,” countered Outhit.

“Yes, it is,” replied at least a couple of HRM’s managers in attendance from under their breaths.

Those employees were on hand to give presentations about their respective departments. Some information imparted to council from the various staffers included: residential garbage has decreased by 24 percent this year while recycling is up 13 percent; non-violent crime is down in HRM but violent crime is increasing; youth-at-risk programs are currently at full enrollment; high-speed data collection using a “Google Earth-type” vehicle has begun for pavement repairs; LIDAR data collection will soon begin on all HRM watersheds; library visits are up; and staff are working on strategies for how Halifax will respond to both the current opioid crisis and the upcoming legalization of marijuana.

The amended priority outcomes for the next four years will come back to Regional Council at its next meeting for final approval.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Halifexit? Survey says nearly half of HRM residents want to split city from county

“I believe that we’re stronger together,” responds rural councillor Steve Streatch.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 4:39 PM

This flag is our flag... - VIA HRM
  • This flag is our flag...
  • via HRM

Twenty years after amalgamation, some residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality are still in favour of bringing back the county.

That’s according to a new survey from Corporate Research Associates, which found nearly half of the 401 HRM residents surveyed supported splitting the municipality into an urban city and rural county.

Overall results of the small sample (just 0.1 percent of HRM) are accurate to within plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, says CRA. Support for the purely hypothetical idea is also slightly down—54 to 47 percent—from the last time CRA asked the question nine months ago.

“While the gap has narrowed, many residents continue to believe that splitting Halifax Regional Municipality into two units would be in their best interest,” writes Corporate Research CEO Don Mills in a release.

But one of the councillors who actually represents those rural residents is baffled as to why Mills keeps beating a dead horse.

“Why does Corporate Research and Don Mills continue to ask this question?” says Waverley–Fall River–Musquodoboit Valley representative Steve Streatch. “In my view, that discussion is passé.”

It was mayor Mike Savage’s father, premier John Savage, who wed the former Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County back in 1996 to streamline political services and end administrative redundancies. Since that time, former councillors like Dartmouth Centre’s Gloria McCluskey have criticized spending projects on the western side of the Harbour (like the Central Library and Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes) as of no interest to Dartmouth residents, and groups like Save Rural HRM have protested a lack of services under the flag of the old County. Some members of that group have explicitly called for a return to rural governance.

Streatch says some residents voiced similar thoughts while he was on the campaign trail last month during the municipal, but they were “very few and far between.”

Surprisingly, given that the outcry on social media is largely related to those rural issues and Dartmouth identity politics, CRA’s survey found urban residents of Halifax are the ones who most support a conscious decoupling. Only 40 percent of Dartmouth and Bedford/Sackville residents polled were in favour of a split, compared to 46 percent of former county residents and 55 percent of those living in the former Halifax city.

Fourteen percent of the 401 adult HRM residents over 18 that CRA surveyed didn’t have a preference or opinion on the breakup. Streatch isn’t one of them. He wasn’t surveyed, and he certainly has an opinion on the subject.

“I believe that we’re stronger together,” says the councillor, while acknowledging that can sometimes lead to conflicts between HRM’s communities. “That doesn’t mean you take your toys and go home. It means you work hard to make the situation better for those residents.”

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Nova Scotia needs to anticipate a serious fentanyl problem

Health minister and chief medical officer talk about attending national opioid conference.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 4:15 PM

click image Chief public health officer Dr. Robert Strang - PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Chief public health officer Dr. Robert Strang
  • Public Health

Health and Wellness officials say fentanyl use hasn’t escalated in Nova Scotia yet, but the province needs to work quickly to “get ahead of the problem.”

Minister Leo Glavine and chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang, who both attended the national conference on opioid use in Ottawa last weekend, told reporters at a press conference Wednesday that the steps taken over the next few months will be vital in combatting the addiction crisis 

Those steps will include more opioid replacement programs and amendments to Bill C-2, which Glavine said will reduce the barriers to setting up safe injection sites.

“Research is showing that it’s leading to stronger entry into harm reduction.”

One of the larger issues spoken about at the conference was the inappropriate prescription of opioids by doctors. In January, federal health minister Jane Philpott will be sending new prescribing protocols to doctors throughout the country. Strang noted that changing how opioids are used and prescribed should be done cautiously.

“We’ve got to make sure we do that carefully, that we don’t actually take people who have a current dependence on opioids and actually cut off their supply and drive them to the illicit market,” said Strang. “This is a complex issue.”

So far this year, 49 Nova Scotians have died from opioid overdoses. Two of those deaths were from fentanyl.

“This is a very different drug from cocaine and heroin,” said Glavine. “Very small amounts are very, very powerful.”

The drug is making its way to Canada primarily from China. Given the strong effects of fentanyl, those small amounts can be transported through an envelope in the mail.

During the weekend of the conference, first responders in British Columbia were called to 36 overdoses in 48 hours. Most of the cases were tied to fentanyl.

“We have to be prepared to respond to something of a similar scale,” said Strang. “We need to be able to respond to save lives.”

Strang added that while they’re working as fast as they can, more deaths could happen at any time.

“I’m not naive. We’re gonna have some issues,” he said. “But we’re working to minimize the impact and then looking at the longer-term pieces: how do we keep people from entering addiction in the first place?”


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Community-driven response needed to address recent violence says Lindell Smith

“It’s hard to see community members suffering.”

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 9:26 AM

Lindell Smith, speaking to reporters on Tuesday at City Hall. - THE COAST
  • Lindell Smith, speaking to reporters on Tuesday at City Hall.
  • THE COAST


The municipality’s latest homicide has left the councillor for Halifax Peninsula North saddened and offering his condolences to all those impacted by HRM’s continuing gun crime.

Lindell Smith warned those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting of Regional Council that he might be “a little off” due to Monday night’s shooting death on Gottingen Street.

“We’re going through a tough time in the city, in this community,” Smith later told reporters. “It’s hard to see community members suffering, parents burying young guys…As government officials, we need to rally each other and say, ‘How do we support what the community wants?’ But that’s a really hard one to answer.”

Tyler Keizer, 22, was shot inside a car at the corner of Gottingen and Falkland Street late Monday night, later dying in hospital. Halifax police have ruled the death a homicide.

The councillor said he has a number of ideas for how HRM’s government can try to alleviate the increasing gun crime—but is waiting to speak with area residents before putting anything forward officially.

“I’m confident that once we really let the community lead, we’ll be able to make some ground.”

Keizer’s death is the twelfth homicide so far this year in HRM, and the third in the last 10 days. Shakur Oshay Trevez Jefferies, 21 was killed on Washmill Lake Drive on November 12. Two days later, Terrance Patrick Izzard, 54, was shot and killed on Cragg Street, just a couple blocks away from where Keizer was found this week.

Smith, who grew up in the Gottingen area, says he didn’t know Izzard personally, but that knew of his reputation as a guiding force for young people in the community who was “loved by people of all ages.

“He was a guy who didn’t bother anybody,” said Smith. “There are people who, he was their support person, or just that place they knew they could go and be around somebody. Now that he’s gone, I feel like some people are a little lost.”

Smith advised anyone affected by the violence to take advantage of community health and trauma resources, and not be afraid to ask for help.

“We’re all here and we’re all dealing with it, but as a kid you sometimes get very conditioned to what’s happening and you lose the reality of it,” said Smith. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I’m having a bad day.’ Just what I said to council, that today I’ll be a little off. I think it’s important that we recognize those things.”

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Third shooting death within 10 days

22-year-old Tyler Keizer's death a homicide say police.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 10:26 AM

Police tape surrounds the crime scene on Gottingen. - JACOB BOON
  • Police tape surrounds the crime scene on Gottingen.
  • Jacob Boon

A 22-year-old man is dead following a shooting in north end Halifax.

According to Halifax Regional Police, officers responded to a report of gunshots in the area of Falkland Street and Gottingen Street at 10:47pm

Police found a man who had been shot inside of a vehicle. Tyler Ronald Joseph Keizer of Halifax was brought to QEII Health Sciences Centre with life-threatening injuries and later passed away.

The death is the twelfth so far in HRM this year. It’s also the third shooting death in the last 10 days.

A week ago, Terrence Patrick Izzard died after a shooting on Cragg Avenue, off of Uniacke Street. Shakur Jefferies was killed on Washmill Lake Drive two days before that.

The investigation is ongoing.

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