A healthy dose of pre-election buzz came to a rather anticlimactic head on October 16, when metro voters chose overwhelming in favour of mayor Peter Kelly keeping his job.
Going into the election, Kelly faced three challengers: folksy Mike Flemming, a school board member and former bus driver; sharp-tongued city planner Ernie Brennan, who repeatedly accused Kelly and others in city hall of mismanaging funds; and flashy Victor Syperek, a successful bar and night club owner whose last-minute blitz campaign gave him an edge over his fellow contenders.
Ultimately, though, it was a one-man show. The mild-mannered mayor collected an impressive 100,625 votes to Syperek’s 12,448. Flemming and Brennan finished with 6,994 and 2,254 votes respectively. Together, the three challengers managed just 20 percent of the vote.
More contentious was the ever-polemical Sunday shopping issue. Municipal election day coincided with a provincial referendum on whether Nova Scotia should break with its age-old tradition of keeping super markets and other businesses closed on Sundays.
A slight majority of metro voters opted to lift the shopping ban, but were ultimately outvoted by the rest of the province. Overall, 53 percent voted against Sunday shopping.
Justice Minister Michael Baker responded by declaring Sunday shopping a dead issue.
Opponents of the shopping ban, however, are vowing to continue their campaign. Valerie Payn, president of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, says we haven’t seen the end of this issue.
“We may not have a chance to revisit the full deregulation of store hours for quite some time—at least until the next provincial election—but this issue will resurface,” she says. “Look around HRM on Sunday, especially now, during the holiday season. Consumers are shopping on Sundays, the market demand is there, and many businesses are responding to this demand by opening.”
Mother Nature continued to pound Halifax with some knock out blows this year.
Six months after the infamous Hurricane Juan came the blizzard of 2004. On February 18-19, 2004, what became known as “White Juan” dumped more than 95 centimetres on Halifax in about eight hours. Roads were impassable, flights were cancelled, thousands of people lost power.
For the first time in recent history, the city invoked a curfew so the snow clean up of the streets could take place unhampered by traffic. It took over four days for the city to peer out of its blanket of snow and begin to come alive again. Haligonians had survived Juan twice in six months. But Mother Nature wasn’t finished yet.
Nova Scotian’s witnessed another storm—this time wet snow and wind combined—on November 14. The unusually early storm occurred when most Haligonians didn’t even have their winter boots out of the storage.
This was the last straw for frustrated Nova Scotia Power customers who had enough of power outages and the length of time it takes to repair them. Complaints poured into HRM, causing mayor Peter Kelly to call for an independent audit of the company and its emergency readiness. More than 100,000 customers were without power for days.
All-ages music scene
Halifax’s struggling all-ages music scene received a welcome boost this year.
On August 27, music entrepreneur Chris Smith reopened the Pavilion, a downtown music venue on the Halifax Common that, prior to its sudden closure in January 2003, had for years been the city’s only viable all-ages option.
The Pavilion’s nearly two-year closure—originally due to fire code violations—had placed tremendous strain on Halifax’s all-ages music scene, The Coast reported in March. The estimated 10,000 people who annually attended Pavilion shows (plus the bands that played there) suddenly found themselves with no place to go on Friday and Saturday nights.
Now, however, the Pavilion is back—newly refurbished and complete with a new stage and flash website (thepavilion.com).
The person responsible for the new-look Pavilion is 29-year-old Smith, a self-described campfire guitarist who believes strongly that the health of the music business as a whole depends on making sure live music is available to people of all ages.
Smith says he wanted to offer both touring and local bands a place where they could play to younger fans. He also wanted to give high-school bands a place to play for their peers. “It gives them a chance to get their chops up,” says Smith, “to know what it’s like to play on a professional stage.”
The “professional” stage is one of several changes to venue. The Pavilion’s original stage was built on cinderblocks, and stood just inches off the ground. In reopening the place, Smith installed a 2.5-foot professional stage—that together with new sound and lighting equipment provided by Buckley’s—gives it “a real stage feel,” the young entrepreneur says.
Smith is also trying to branch out a bit musically. So far he’s had rap and acoustic shows to complement the Pavilion’s traditional staple of punk and hardcore performances. The latter, he admits, “still seem to go over the best.”
In early October, Canada lost its first submariner in nearly 50 years when a fire on board the submarine HMCS Chicoutimi took the life of Lieutenant Chris Saunders.
The 32-year-old lieutenant died October 6 of smoke inhalation, one day after an electrical fire broke out onboard the Chicoutimi. Eight of Saunders’ crewmates also sustained injuries.
A week later, on October 13, Saunders’ friends, family members and colleagues gathered in Halifax to honour the fallen lieutenant. Saunders’ wife and two small children were on hand for the Halifax funeral, held at St. Andrew’s United Church on Spring Garden Road.
The events—and a resulting blame game—continue to make national headlines.
The HMCS Chicoutimi is one of four second-hand submarines Britain sold to Canada as part of an $800 million lease-to-buy deal. Sailing under a Canadian flag for the first time, the nearly 20-year-old submarine was on its maiden voyage—from Scotland to Halifax—when the fire broke out.
Allegations have since surfaced that the British Royal had long experienced problems with the Chicoutimi, formerly named the HMS Upholder. Others say the vessel’s Canadian crew was too inexperienced to handle an onboard fire. Still others blame the Canadian government for under-funding the military, brokering an on-the-cheap arms deal that literally blew up in the country’s face.The navy’s investigation is ongoing.
More than 300 tall ships and sailing vessels sailed into Halifax Harbour for this year’s Tall Ships Challenge. This year the celebration, A Salute to l’Acadie, was in honour of the World Acadian Congress.“It enhanced our celebrations and gives tourists another culturally oriented event to attend,” says Bill Campbell, acting president of the Waterfront Development Corporation.
More than 550,000 visitors witnessed the majestic sight of the ships. The Port of Halifax was one of nine stops on the North American east coast. It also appears to have been the favourite.
“We are very pleased,” says Campbell. “We have won the Best Port for the third time.” The award means a lot to Campbell because it’s voted by all the captains and crew of participating ships.
“We got voted because of the strength and the dedication of all of our volunteers,” Campbell says. The award was presented to Halifax by the American Sail Training Association at a ceremony in Washington this past November.
It took three years for the Tall Ships project to come together, and required the skill of more than 600 local volunteers.
The travelling event is organized by the ASTA, a non-profit organization based in Newport, Rhode Island, that promotes deep-water sailing as a way to teach young people how to navigate the ocean. Most of the boats that take part in the races are privately owned and boat owners are encouraged to take young people on as crew and teach them the skills required to sail. Peter Mello, executive director of ASTA, commented on the role the organization can play in a young person’s life.
“Our mission is to encourage character building through sail training, to promote sail training to the North American public and to support education under sail. The Tall Ships Challenge is really a means to an end, and the end is to change lives,” said Mello, this past summer.
Bill Campbell says the Waterfront Development Corporation is currently in talks with the ASTA about future Tall Ships events.
Morrissey didn’t know how good he had it when he penned the lyrics to the classic Smiths tune, “This Charming Man.”
“I would go out tonight,” he wrote, “but I haven’t got a stitch to wear.”
And that was the extent of his problems—nothing to wear. Lucky for Mr. Morrissey, he wasn’t living in Halifax, circa 2004.
These days the message is more, “all dressed up and nowhere to go.” OK, that’s not entirely true. There are still quite a few places in Halifax to don your duds and strut your stuff. But what about those folks who want something a little more cutting edge, somewhere that preferably involves live music of one variety or another? Where, pray tell, have all the venues gone?
Two thousand four has been an admittedly difficult year for the city’s live music scene.
In January, owner Craig Ferguson closed his hip and very intimate Khyber Club. The downtown nightspot had simply become too much work for one person, Ferguson said.
The Khyber Club has since reopened under new management, but live music fans haven’t been so lucky with other favourite nightspots.
Last winter The Danube, a quirky folk venue, closed. In September it was The Planet—now set to reopen as a call centre. And a month later The Velvet Olive shut its doors.
The biggest blow, however, came in mid-November, when the Marquee, Halifax’s largest live music club, announced it will close for good in the new year. The club’s general manager, Gordon Lapp, is still hopeful for a last minute miracle. “Who knows, if the city can sustain us, maybe we’ll be held over a little while by popular demand,” he said in November.
But, barring divine—or municipal—intervention, Halifax’s largest and biggest name-draw venue looks to be no more.
Municipal efforts to clean up Halifax’s sewage-infested harbour gained real momentum in 2004.
Construction has already begun on a new Halifax sewage treatment facility—set to open in 2006 at the corner of Cornwallis and Barrington Streets. And just this month, mayor Peter Kelly inked the final phase of HRM’s Harbour Solutions clean-up plan, signing a $12 million contract to build a “biosolids” (sewage sludge) processing facility at AeroTech park, near the Halifax International Airport.
“It’s all a very good thing,” says marine geologist Gordon Fader, who served on both the Halifax Harbour Task Force and the Halifax Harbour Solutions Advisor Committee. “The time is now. We have to get on with it.”
For years, the city has pumped its raw sewage directly into the harbour, leaving a legacy of filth that has literally piled up on the basin floor. “Halifax has been doing that for 250 years,” says District 12 councilor Dawne Sloane. “The sediment that’s down there is quite thick. Let’s not kid ourselves.”
HRM’s Harbour Solutions project looks set to improve the situation dramatically. Under the Solutions plan, sewage is to be collected and treated in three new processing plants, set to open in Halifax (2006), Dartmouth (2007) and Herring Cove (2008). The procedure, The Coast reported in April, is pretty basic. Raw sewage is screened and pumped into settling tanks. Combined with chemical coagulants, the solids sink to the bottom. These “biosolids” are then collected and transported to AeroTech park, where the sludge will be combined with cement dust to make a saleable agricultural fertilizer. The effluent (liquid from the top of the tank), meanwhile, is subjected to high-intensity ultra-violet lights and pumped into the harbour.
It’s not an ideal solution. Councillor Sloane, for example, objects to the fertilizer production phase of the plan. “I don’t agree with putting waste such as that on any field,” she says. Nor is she thrilled about the location of the new Halifax plant. Located “at the gateway to the city,” she worries the sewage treatment facility could hinder downtown development.
Gordon Fader adds that the Harbour Solutions plan won’t change the harbour’s pollution problems over night. “There’s a legacy of contaminated sediments, and that won’t change for a long time.”
The city, nevertheless, has made tremendous progress this year, the marine geologist insists. Under the plan “there’ll be no floatables,” Fader says. “The aesthetics will be better, and will smell better. There’ll be an influx of new organisms. The harbour will begin to rejuvenate itself.”
Costume designer and self-described movie fanatic Kate Delmage is determined to forge ahead on her quest to provide Halifax with a rep cinema, despite a series of substantial setbacks in 2004.
Since the closure of Wormwood’s, nearly seven years ago, the city has been without an art movie house. It’s something fans of alternative cinema have sorely missed, says Delmage, who’s spent the last several years working to fill that void.
In February 2002, Delmage and a group of friends launched the Paradise Sisters Film Society, a not-for-profit group whose goal is to eventually create a permanent home for full-time rep cinema.
Two years later, that dream appeared deceptively close to becoming reality. When The Coast caught up with Delmage last February, she and her partners had already raised over $110,000. They’d leased a 112-seat space on Market Street and were looking forward to opening their Paradise Cinema in time for the Atlantic Film Festival—in September.
The grand opening never took place.Over the summer, the Paradise Sisters Film Society pulled out of their Market Street lease. Unable to come up with the extra funds needed to open the cinema, Delmage and partners started losing money as costly lease payments began swallowing up their savings.
Several months later, Delmage admits she’s still disappointed about losing the Market Street site. “I won’t be able to go in there for probably a year,” she says, “just because I’m so sad that it isn’t ours.”Delmage, nevertheless, remains committed to her project. “We’re more relaxed,” she says. “We just understand at this point that it’s going to take time.”
The city is doing its best to help. It recently gave the society a $25,000 grant towards equipment costs, and is helping the group find a new location for their proposed Paradise Cinema, says Delmage.
In the meantime, the Paradise Sisters Film Society continues to organize rep film screenings. Starting in January—in the Khyber Club—they will run a once-a-week series of political films. Showtime will be Wednesdays, at 7pm. And they’re fundraising by way of selling a “Film Houses in Halifax” 2005 calendar.
“We just know that it’s going to be a challenge to find a place,” says Delmage. “But we’re not going to quit. We’re going to continue to show movies, and develop more interesting programming and just keep working.”
Gerard Veldhoven of Amherst speaks from personal experience when he says it’s been a “very good year” for the gay and lesbian community.
Three months ago, Veldhoven married Norman Carter, his partner of more than 30 years. Their October 16 wedding marked the first time a same-sex couple has publicly married in Nova Scotia.
The historic ceremony took place just three weeks after Nova Scotia became Canada’s sixth jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage.
On September 24, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Heather Robertson ruled as unconstitutional existing laws aimed at barring same-sex unions. “With the stroke of a pen,” editorialist Bruce Wark wrote in the September 30 issue of The Coast, “the Supreme Court justice ended centuries of discrimination based on hatred, ignorance and fear.”
Marriage in Nova Scotia is now defined as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”
“After 30 years,” says Veldhoven, “we thought we’d take advantage of it and not wait. We’re both in our 60s. We’re not spring chickens.”
In 2001, the provincial government introduced a “domestic partnership registry,” giving both gay and straight couples the option of registering their partnerships and thereby receiving many of the benefits afforded to married couples. Nova Scotia was the first province in Canada to take such a step.
Since then, however, a growing list of provinces—plus one territory—have opted for full, legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Leading the way was Ontario (June 10, 2003), followed by British Colombia (July 8, 2003), Quebec (March 19, 2004), the Yukon Territory (July 14, 2004) and Manitoba (Sept. 16, 2004). With Nova Scotia and most recently Saskatchewan (Nov. 5, 2004) joining the pack, the total number of Canadian jurisdictions now recognizing legal gay marriage stands at seven.
It now appears likely that same-sex marriages will soon receive sanction at the federal level, with Prime Minister Paul Martin promising to introduce pro-gay marriage legislation early in the new year.
Just this month, Martin’s promises received a huge boost from the Supreme Court, which ruled on December 9 that there is nothing unconstitutional about such proposed legislation.
“We’re proud,” says Veldhoven, “of society as a whole.”
It’s been a banner year for Dependent Music, a 10-year-old indie record collective whose members include founder Brian Borcherdt, Jill Barber, the band Wintersleep and others.
In April, Coast readers chose Dependent Music as “the best independent record label in Halifax,” an interesting accolade for a group that tends to shy away from the term “label.”
Dependent, says Jud Haynes of Wintersleep, “is owned and operated 100 percent by the bands on its roster.” Members refer to the group as a collective. Dependent artists have traditionally helped each other out—putting up the money to assist up-and-coming acts in gaining recognition. But the “label” doesn’t expect to retain a percentage of music sales in turn. As Haynes said back in April, “Every CD that sells by these artists, they get back every cent of it. And by that nature alone we’re automatically not a record label.”
The same fan base that guaranteed the music collective’s “best independent record label” designation also helped support a long list of successful 2004 Dependent releases. Jill Barber started things off early last year with Oh Heart. Coast readers later named her “best female artist.” Kary (Light), Contrived (This is why the stars shine through me, at this speed, on fire), Brian Borcherdt (The Remains of Brian Borcherdt), Heavy Meadows (their third self-titled album) and Jose Contreras (Extra Virgin) also released CDs.Haynes is expecting 2005 to be even busier. Bands Contrived, The Motes and Haynes’s own group, Wintersleep, are all expected to release new albums within the next three months.
George W. Bush
Halifax treated George W. Bush to a lukewarm reception earlier this month, when the recently re-elected US president blew into town as part of his go-go-go first official visit to Canada.
Ostensibly here to thank Nova Scotians for the hospitality they showed US travellers stranded in the province following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, president Bush took advantage of his December 1 visit to crack jokes, plug his missile defense plan and make his case for continued war in Iraq.
“I hope we’ll also move forward on ballistic missile defense cooperation to protect the next generation of Canadians and Americans from the threats we know will arise,” Bush told the approximately 300 guests invited to hear him speak at Pier 21.
In front of the Westin Hotel, meanwhile, approximately 4,000 uninvited guests protested the controversial leader’s presence in Halifax. Shouting “Bush go home,” and waving placards with messages such as “there’s a small town in Texas that’s missing its village idiot,” demonstrators expressed their frustrations with the US president’s policies.
The demonstration remained peaceful and police were quite respectful, said Maja Kasdan, a 25-year-old US-Canadian dual citizen who participated in the protest.
“I was appalled that came here to thank us when he takes such nasty actions in the rest of the world,” she said.
Kasdan didn’t see the protest as anti-American, but rather as expression that Haligonians simply don’t like president Bush.
“There would never be that situation before of people protesting the president of the United States,” she said. “I don’t think that’s ever happened before.”
Sex books aren’t just Madonna anymore. In March, we reported on the new sex education book for Nova Scotia junior and senior high students called Sex?. The province’s Office of Health Promotion, Planned Parenthood and the Department of Education worked together on creating the controversial book.
However, the explicit details on subjects such as oral and anal sex caused discomfort for some Nova Scotia school board members.
Paul Russell, an opponent of Sex? when it was still in draft form, said in March that the book “went beyond the bounds of what we would consider to be appropriate. It was too graphic, some of the terms that were used were far too explicit.”
And yet according to Caitlin Rochon, communications officer for the province’s Office of Health Promotion, six percent of kids in grade 7 are sexually active.
The large gap between what some school boards deem inappropriate sexual information for students, and what students have asked to know is made evident by the fact 250 students in 11 different schools told the Department of Health what they wanted in the book.
“A lot of people don’t realize what’s involved and they’re embarrassed to ask,” said Dee Paul, a 13-year-old grade 7 student from Eskasoni, Cape Breton in March. “It’s good to be safe. We need to know about it.”
Rochon agrees. “The Sex? book was something new, ” she says. “But the information this book gathers isn’t.” The information was compiled from more than 30 pamphlets from other health organizations.When Sex? was finally released from the printers in August, the reaction was subdued.
“We got calls from parents telling us it’s just what our kids needed,” Rochon says.
The Public Health Services determine the distribution of the book with particular school boards. Some school boards have held information sessions for parents about Sex? before it’s released to students. Other boards have sent home parental consent forms for students from grades 7 to 9, but not for students in grades 10 to 12.
“Every school is different,” says Rochon.Every student from grade 7 to 12 is entitled to a book for free. There are copies at every public library and at Public Health Services and their partners, such as Planned Parenthood.
In the wake of the Liberal sponsorship scandal, many Liberals considered Paul Martin’s decision to call the 38th general election for June 28 to be foolhardy at best, and at worst, downright dangerous. Yet, Martin felt compelled to take a gamble that many saw as an attempt to assert his power after a grimy public battle with Jean Chretien for the leadership of the federal Liberal party.
The Liberals put their heads down for the up hill election battle while the Conservatives and New Democrats saw a weak link in the Liberal chain of armor.
This federal election was the first for all three newly elected leaders since the 2000 election. The Democrats rolled out their charismatic leader Jack Layton, while the newly formed Conservatives had their new leader of just two months, Steven Harper, tone down the party’s right wing polices—at least in the public spin of policy information—in hopes of currying voter favour. There were few scandals or major hiccups on the election trail except perhaps for the election polls themselves. Many polls predicted that Harper would be prime minister, showing that there is no predicting voter’s fickle tendencies.
On Tuesday, June 29, Canadians were greeted with the news that they would have the first minority government in nearly 25 years. The Liberals elected 135 members to parliament, the Conservatives 99, the NDP 19, and the Bloc Quebecois 54.
While the Liberals came out on top, it’s clear their confidence was shaken after Canadian voters showed their ire over the sponsorship scandal. A minority government means the Liberals will need to work with the other parties to pass legislation.
Cher and James Brown
We had a diva and the godfather of soul play the Halifax Metro Centre in 2004. Cher—accompanied by her seven-piece band and troupe of eight dancers—played two sold-out shows on August 25 and 26, to more than 10,000 fans. The concerts were her first in Halifax since 1990, and were part of her farewell tour. It had the pomp and circumstance that audience members have come to expect from Cher, including glitzy costumes, wigs and a fake elephant prop on stage, proving she’s still the queen of kitsch after 40 years in showbiz.
November brought us the Godfather of Soul James Brown. Dressed in a a red suit, black tassles, coiffed hair and swivelling like a spin top, Brown wooed the crowds with some of his most classic tunes such as “Try Me” and “The Good Foot.” Tickets were $53.50 and Canada’s own Jacksoul opened the show. The hardest working man in show biz doesn’t seem to age. He still epitomizes the word funk, even though he is 71. Brown was backed by his band, The Bitter Sweets, and rocked over 4,000 audience members.
Salter Street Films
Two thousand four marked the end of the Halifax-owned Salter Street Films. The 25-year-old production company, created by Michael Donovan and his brother Paul Donovan, was responsible for many well loved and Gemini-awarded Canadian TV shows such as This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Codco, Open Book with Mary Walsh, and the children’s show Poko. Known for making wise industry decisions, the company also co-produced Michael Moore’s documentary Bowling For Columbine, which won them an Oscar.
Alliance Atlantis Communications bought Salter Street in February 2001. In December of 2003 it announced it was closing Salter, as well as production offices in Vancouver, Edmonton and London because of a “permanent downturn.”
“Alliance Atlantis is a big company with different interests,” Donovan said in an interview earlier this year. “Big companies are allowed to decide to focus on one area or two areas and not on another area. The fact that that decision was made really said nothing about us.”
Not one to be kept down by corporate oversight, Michael Donovan along with Charles Bishop started the Halifax Film Company. They have taken the production responsibilities of those shows that were left out in the cold by the announcement of Alliance Atlantis—like Poko and Open Book with Mary Walsh—but they are also working on developing some exciting new projects, such as Romeo Dallaire’s Governor General’s award wining book, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, and Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed The World for television.
They have also just received word that North/South, their entry in CBC’s daytime drama competition, was chosen as a semi-finalist. The drama focuses on four ethnically diverse Nova Scotian families who work in the construction industry.
“The region could really use an ongoing series that needs a steady pool of actors, and crew and keeps people working,” says Floyd Kane, vice president of creative and business affairs for Halifax Film company, and the creator/producer of North/South.
NSCAD adds the U
The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design decided earlier this year the college decided to add the official U to its name—making it now NSCAD University. This is a symbolic change as NSCAD U charges into the future with a 23-page strategic plan created by the board of governors. The strategy outlines new programs, a renewed emphasis on research, new funding and more faculty.
“As a university offering graduate degrees for 35 years, NSCAD U has always had a research profile,” said Kenn Honeychurch, senior vice president of academic and research at NSCAD U in an interview in back in September. “What has changed is that NSCAD has become more active in participating in federal programs, which fund research initiatives at Canadian universities.”
“The school is trying to be taken seriously,” says Danielle Sampson, president of the student union at NSACD U. “It has to do with public perception.”
While students welcome these changes, many feel they risk being left behind as NSCAD U gets into a competitive race with other universities.
“A lot of students are worried that the university is too focused on expanding—and the future—and is forgetting about the problems it is facing right now with crowded classrooms, high tuition maintenance that needs to be done,” explained Sampson in the fall.
Many of the changes suggested by the board of governors will be gradual, aimed at improving the reputation of the school. The strategic plan, said Ralston MacDonnell, chair of the board, “is a means to make sure NSCAD U remains a premiere school in visual arts.”
However, Danielle Sampson has reservations about the direction NSCAD U is taking.
“There is a strong push for private funding to make up for the shortfalls in federal funding. We want to keep private money out of the university because there are always strings attached. There is a definite worry about the commercialization of our education.”
World Hockey Association
The World Hockey Association was almost resurrected this year, and may still rise again. With teams supposedly slated for Halifax, Toronto, Hamilton, Dallas, Vancouver and Florida, fans were getting ready to enjoy another hockey franchise. However, it wasn’t meant to be—not yet anyway.
On July 9, the owners of the proposed Halifax IceBreakers, John Marshall and Gino Naldini, and WHA representatives, Bobby Hull and Peter Young, held a press conference to announce the formation of the Halifax franchise. It seemed the sky was the limit.
Speaking to a reporter at the Chronicle-Herald, Marshall said, “The cap is $15 million. We’re certainly not anticipating spending $15 million this year, but we may be around $10 million for the team locally. We’ve been doing the breakdown, it does work out.”
However, it seems that Marshall and Naldini’s clever budgeting and enthusiasm aren’t enough to get the team off the ground and on the ice. By the end of July, the WHA was still looking for a coach and a general manager for the IceBreakers, and they didn’t have a formal lease with the Halifax Metro Centre. The self-imposed WHA deadline for the season opener came and went on October 29 with not a sign of a game.
That might be all about to change. With the NHL still locked in talks, the WHA might get the boost it needs. Accordingly to the WHA website, Ricky Smith, a 47-year-old British Columbian, purchased the rights of the franchise. He has some big plans.
‘The amount of seriousness we’ve put into this is at an extremely high level, and time and money,” Smith told Hockey News in November. “And it’s not just because the NHL is where it is today. The intention of this league was to work parallel with the NHL. We’re going through with our plans.”
Ah, the Grand Parade; Halifax’s historic civic square, a downtown gem—tucked neatly in between City Hall and St. Paul’s, Canada’s oldest Anglican church.
The original site of Dalhousie University, this cobbled plaza still makes a great place for a Sunday stroll. It’s a public space where citizens can gather to make their voices heard. And—if you’re a member of city council, the mayor or a senior staff member in city hall—it makes for a primo parking spot.
That, according to a growing number of voices, including Rebecca O’Brien of the Ecology Action Centre, is a shame. “We can’t understand the reason for it,” she says. “It’s either going to be the Grand Parade, or the Grand Parkade.”
Last May, O’Brien and her EAC colleagues presented city hall with a petition to end Grand Parade parking. They’re still waiting for the city to reach a decision, one way or the other.
That decision ultimately rests with a divided city council, which initially promised to examine the issue last summer. By September, however, council still hadn’t tackled the parking polemic. That’s when The Coast decided to conduct a bit of research of its own. We asked city council members point blank where they stand on the matter.
Among councillors, reactions were mixed. Several suggested maintaining the status quo. Others, such as Sheila Fougere of district 14, voiced their support for a car-free civic square. Mayor Peter Kelly sided with the car-free crowd. “It is time to return this special place to its use as a park and historic site,” he said. “I support removal of parking from the Grand Parade.”
Then, an apparent breakthrough. Last week, city council—on the evening of December 15, its last meeting of 2004—finally agreed to examine the matter. HRM had drafted a staff report. The moment of truth was at hand.
Among its recommendations, the report suggested that city officials, starting April 1, 2005, park their cars around the corner in “an alternate municipal property”—the former site of Birk’s.
And, by a razor-thin 11-to-10, margin, city council opted to defer the vote. District 13 councillor Sue Uteck cast the deciding vote.
A middle-aged couple who’d come down to City Hall specifically because of the parking issue, stood up and left the meeting room in disgust. “I guess this means we’ll have to write Sue Uteck another nasty e-mail,” said the woman, as she made her way out of the building, past 25 shiny cars and SUVs crammed around the Grand Parade’s glittering Christmas tree.