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.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Smiling Goat owner suing former employees

Kit Singh is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from what he calls a conspiracy to ruin his reputation.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 7:47 PM

Jagpreet "Kit" Singh is suing his former employees. - SOUTHWEST PROPERTIES
  • Jagpreet "Kit" Singh is suing his former employees.
  • SOUTHWEST PROPERTIES

The owner of the Smiling Goat chain of cafes is claiming his former workers and the Service Employees International Union conspired to harm his business and ruin his reputation.

Jagpreet “Kit” Singh and his Hebron Hospitality Group filed two different lawsuits this past week against six former employees and the SEIU Local 2.

According to statements of claim from Caravel Law lawyer Bernadine MacAulay, the defendants engaged in conduct that was defamatory to Singh and “unlawfully conspired among themselves with the predominant purpose of harming Hebron’s economic and business interests.”

Employees at four Smiling Goat locations voted back in March to become part of the SEIU, joining two previous Just Us! cafes—bought by Singh months earlier—that were already part of the union.

The workers immediately went to the media and held public protests alleging that dozens of their paycheques had bounced over the past several months and that they were living primarily off of tips.

In court documents, Singh contends the “chanted words” at rallies suggesting he stole personal wages and the claims baristas were living off tips aren't true.

Singh also takes issue with comments made by former Smiling Goat worker Keith Karding on Facebook and in the media that Singh used employee wages to take his family on a trip to Disney World.

The Florida trip, according to the statement of claim, was a gift from Singh's parents to the family’s four young children.

Regardless of who paid for it, it was during that family vacation that baristas organized and voted to join the SEIU, “at a time where Mr. Singh was not able to respond or react.”

MacAulay claims the SEIU told employees not to quit their jobs until the union certification vote on March 23. Soon thereafter, Hebron lost “70 percent of its barista staff.”

A ruling from the province’s Labour Board in May says that all employees working up to the date of the vote were eligible for union certification, notwithstanding that nine of the 15 voting employees had since left the job.

Another employee singled out in the lawsuits is Michael Sampson, who worked at the Smiling Goat on Spring Garden Road. Hebron claims Sampson falsely represented working a shift and failed to recruit and train nine new baristas, despite accepting a $300 bonus to do so.


Singh also alleges Sampson quit without sufficient notice and refused to provide Hebron with the login info for Smiling Goat’s social media accounts.

The company says Sampson should pay damages for Hebron's inability to access its social media accounts—either by covering the costs for a social media consultant to crack the login or, “failing that, costs to create new social media accounts.”

None of the claims made by Singh and Hebron have been tested in court and the respondents have not yet filed a response.

Singh quietly became a major player in the local cafe scene two years ago when he moved to Halifax from England and purchased the two existing Smiling Goat cafes. He quickly opened four more locations—including the former Just Us! cafes on Spring Garden Road and at King’s Wharf.

Very quickly accusations started to mount of bounced cheques, unpaid suppliers and even taxes taken off employee wages that were never remitted to the CRA.

Since then, coffee suppliers, bakeries, landlords and lawyers have gone after Hebron for unpaid bills totalling tens of thousands of dollars.

A recent Labour Standards Board ruling ordered Hebron to pay nearly $1,000 in unpaid wages owed to a single employee.

The business owner was even sued by the very law firm that helped him purchase the Smiling Goat in the first place.

Boyne Clarke partner Robert Miedema is quoted in court documents saying that never in his career has he wasted more time bartering fees with a client.

“The value of the time we have lost with your discounts and our collection efforts might now actually exceed the value of our efforts that were charged to you.”

According to court documents, sales at each Smiling Goat location decreased by 50 percent during April and May.

The lawsuits state that in recent months, Singh has had to sell $40,000 of his personal assets and borrow $80,000 from family members to keep the business afloat.

Hebron is looking to be awarded a total of $78,500 in lost revenue, $100,000 in general damages for conspiracy to inflict economic harm and $250,000 each from the SEIU and ex-employee Kateri Lawson.

The company is also seeking $4,000 from Sampson, which includes $3,600 (or six weeks wages) for not giving proper notice before quitting, $250 for breaching his recruitment commitments and $75 for saying he worked a shift he didn’t.

But that’s not all.

Singh is also looking for punitive damages of $250,000, money to cover the insufficient resignation notices he says were given by employees, general damages for future loss of revenue and reputation and also an accounting of cash from the employees’ “tip jar” and GoFundMe campaigns.

Hebron is also requesting that the union certification order approved by the Labour Board be rescinded.

In related news, former Smiling Goat baristas are opening a cooperative cafe dubbed Glitter Bean at the former Just Us! on Spring Garden Road.
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25 for 25: episode 1996

The iconic Jane Kansas visits to talk Halifax Pride and Glenn Walton tells tales from the set of Titanic.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 4:03 PM

image_uploaded_from_ios.jpg

If you haven't heard prolific writer, former Pride co-chair and all-around lovely person Jane Kansas spin some yarns about the mid-'90s LGBTQ+ scene, you're in for a treat.

Then, film professor and local actor Glenn Walton is here to share stories from the set of Titanic—his special relationship with James Cameron, the film's champagne budget and the movie Bill Paxton only thought he was making.

Plus, Jacob and Tara talk about the polyamorous marriage that was HRM's amalgamation, the international shame of the Maersk Dubai stowaway case and we imagine an alternate future for Thrush Hermit. 

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If you like the podcast, please feel free to give us a nice rating or leave a review. If you hate the podcast, want to correct something we got wrong or have comments about any events we forgot to mention you can email us at letters@thecoast.ca.

Volume four, number 13 (December 12, 1996 to January 16, 1997). AKA, Tara Thorne's job-shadow issue. - THE COAST
  • Volume four, number 13 (December 12, 1996 to January 16, 1997). AKA, Tara Thorne's job-shadow issue.
  • THE COAST
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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Where are the fireworks to this weekend

Wanna see a light show this Canada Day weekend? Here's how to catch one of six fireworks displays within HRM.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 3:56 PM

PHOTO VIA ISTOCK.COM
  • photo via istock.com

Canada Day weekend means a few things: Summer is finally in full swing, you're about to get a much-needed long weekend and there's so. many. fireworks. While last year's Canada 150 celebrations saw the mother of all firework shows take over the Halifax Common, year 151 leaves a little more room for your schedule (or for you to take in multiple sky sparkler sessions, you fireworks fanatic). With the current weather forecast boasting sunshine every day but Friday, here's the lowdown on where and when they'll be poppin' off all weekend long:

Thursday, June 28

Bedford Days' Kids Extravaganza sees all sorts of family fun take over DeWolf Park, and the evening of face painting, horse drawn carriage rides, Nerf tag and mermaids is capped off with a fireworks show. The fun goes from 7-9pm, and you can call 311 or check @hfxcivicevents on Twitter if misty weather has you questioning if the show will go on.

Friday, June 29

The Village at Dartmouth Crossing is so pumped for the long weekend it gets the party started early with a concert by R&B up-and-comer Keonte Beals that's followed by fireworks. Held at the Pondside Amphitheatre (74 Hector Gate, Dartmouth) from 8-10pm, you can get updates and more info at dartmouthcrossing.com/news-and-events or calling (902) 445-8883.

EPIC Dartmouth—the three-day cardio session that sees runners and walkers smash their daily step records—celebrates the end of day one with an equally-epic afterparty featuring The Mellotones (who also boast a headline slot at Jazz Fest this year!) and fireworks. The fun goes down on the Great Lawn of Lake Banook (at the north end of the lake) at 8pm—and you don't have to be an athlete to take part in the sparkling good times. Get more info on EPIC Dartmouth at epiccanadian.ca.

Saturday, June 30

Sackville is a spot to be all week long with the 2018 Patriot Days dishing up lots of family fun, but June 30 sees the good times get even better as a firefighter display and concert in the Kinsmen Park (71 First Lake Drive) is capped off with some fireworks. Rain date is July 2.

Sunday, July 1

The Bedford Days Canada Day Celebrations sees the skies at DeWolf Park aglow for the second time this weekend as the Lower Deck Bar & Grill fave Donair Supply provides the tunes. Start time is 10pm, and if the weather looks iffy, you can call 311 for updates or check the @hfxcivicevents Twitter feed.

The Official Canada Day Fireworks cap it all off at 10pm, after the free concert featuring Allan Rayman and Mo Kenney wraps at Alderney Landing. The city says the best viewing spots are at Alderney Landing or Ferry Terminal Park, so pack a lawn chair and plan accordingly—and, yup, hit up 311 or @hfxcivicevents if the weather turns cloudy. After the last firework fades, Skratch Bastid will start spinning tunes at Alderney Landing for all your booty-shaking needs.

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

25 for 25: episode 1995

Mike Campbell takes us back to when MuchMusic went MuchEast and Chris Parsons breaks down some classic labour hits from the '90s and today.

Posted By on Sun, Jun 24, 2018 at 10:20 PM

podcast-1995.jpg

This week on the podcast, Tara and Jacob try to clean up the mess that was the G7 summit, stroll down to the waterfront hoping to hit the jackpot at Halifax’s newly opened casino and find out what Bon Jovi got up to after the band's Natal Day concert.

The Carleton owner Mike Campbell also drops by to tell us all about the early days of MuchMusic and his one-man show in Atlantic Canada, MuchEast.

Then, labour organizer and fellow podcast host Chris Parsons is in studio recapping some of the hits and misses when it comes union battles in the mid-'90s. 

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If you like the podcast, please feel free to give us a nice rating or leave a review. If you hate the podcast, want to correct something we got wrong or have comments about any events we forgot to mention you can email us at letters@thecoast.ca.


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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Cool-as-hell teens are tagging this city with some kickass graffiti

Rock on, youths. 🤘😜

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Fuck yeah. - VIA CTV ATLANTIC'S WEBCAST
  • Fuck yeah.
  • VIA CTV ATLANTIC'S WEBCAST

The kids, as they say, are alright.

Some seriously awesome youths have picked up their spraypaint cans and unleashed anarchy on Halifax's streets.

“On a busy-stretch of the Bedford Highway, a billboard advertises a garden centre, but only the sharpest-eyed motorists would notice it’s now also advertising something else,” reports CTV Atlantic's Bruce Frisko.

“Although definitions vary, the general consensus is it’s a symbol of anarchy, a political-system advocating self-governed societies, and Haligonians have been seeing a lot of it lately.”

The apparently mysterious symbol has been found on a billboard, retaining wall and bus shelter in Bedford. Earlier this week, the same culprits or perhaps different cool people also tagged the Catholic Church on Oxford Street and—amazingly—five different greens at “a popular golf course.”

This is tremendous. Well done. - VIA THE INTERNET
  • This is tremendous. Well done.
  • VIA THE INTERNET

The golf course improvement happened the same night similar graffiti was spraypainted onto statues at the Mount Olivet Cemetery on Mumford Road.

The Coast's news department (me) wants to stress that damaging the final resting place of people's loved ones is not something we support.

But vandalizing golf courses always has been, and always will be, extremely awesome.

In its continuing coverage of this vital issue, CTV reports that Halifax Regional Police investigators have not yet determined if there's a pattern to the madness, “but investigations could ramp-up quickly if that changes.”

The supper-hour newscast notes the anarchy symbol is “sometimes associated with the left-wing political-network called ‘Antifa.’”

Though the group does “have a presence” in Nova Scotia, CTV says they’re denying having anything to do with the bitchin' paintwork.

“Why would we attack a religious institute of any sort?” someone on Facebook tells CTV. “Where would that make any sense? We step-up and fight against racism and ignorance. What would be the point of vandalizing any church property of any form?”


Of course, there's no proof yet it is, in fact, the youths behind this entrepreneurial endeavour. The anarchy symbols could just as easily have been spraypainted by some radical seniors or ageing Gen X'ers.

About the only thing we know for certain is that whoever is behind these acts, they are certifiably cool.

If someone you know is tagging all these bus shelters, billboards and golf courses, let them know they're absolute legends.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

TorStar CEO wines and dines Halifax bigwigs with mini lobster rolls

Toronto Star publisher John Boynton talks future of media at The Bicycle Thief

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2018 at 3:32 PM

An attendee who was not the mayor sent the above scrumptious photo to The Coast. - SUBMITTED
  • An attendee who was not the mayor sent the above scrumptious photo to The Coast.
  • SUBMITTED

Halifax officials got some Star treatment on Monday night.

TorStar chief executive officer John Boynton was in town, hosting various city hotshots for dinner at The Bicycle Thief.

According to one attendee, the event was to dialogue about how the Toronto Star and its StarMetro Halifax paper can shift the way they target and portray news stories.

Mini-lobster rolls and charcuterie boards were served.

In attendance were politicians such as mayor Mike Savage, Halifax Regional Police chief Jean-Michel Blais and HRP research coordinator Chris Giacomantonio.

“TorStar talked about their plans with the—what do you call it? The Metro Star, Star Network,” says Savage, who listened to Boynton speak for about 45 minutes.

“He talked in broad terms of where he sees newspapers going these days and media in general. It was an interesting conversation.”

Boynton was brought on as president and CEO of TorStar last April in an effort to turn things around for the second-largest newspaper publisher in Canada.

There’s lots of good people in the industry who are way better at running news companies than I am,” he said at the time. “I’m here because I know how to turn around and transform a company.”

Boynton did not respond to a request for comment sent to his LinkedIn.

Torstar Corp. rebranded its Metro dailies—including the former-Metro Halifaxback in April to better fit the Toronto Star brand and redirect traffic to the flagship paper's website.

In announcing the news, the company said 20 new reporters would be hired at its Metro newsrooms in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. No additional journalists were added to the Halifax operation.

Staff at StarMetro Halifax apparently did not attend Monday's soiree.
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Halifax council looking for staff report on CFL stadium

Mayor says Maritime Football is in field goal range of securing a franchise.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2018 at 2:12 PM

A rendering of the refurbished stadium inside Landsdowne Park in Ottawa. - VIA CFL.CA
  • A rendering of the refurbished stadium inside Landsdowne Park in Ottawa.
  • VIA CFL.CA

It's official. The municipality will once again tackle whether or not to build a stadium.

Councillor Steve Craig is asking for a staff report on the “opportunities and risks” involved with establishing a mixed-use development, CFL franchise and football stadium in Halifax.

The announcement came nearly 12 hours after council met behind closed doors with Maritime Football Ltd. representatives Anthony LeBlanc and Gary Drummond about plans to bring a Canadian Football League team to the east coast.

Maritime Football apparently did not discuss any specific financial numbers for its plan, but mayor Mike Savage says they've “certainly advanced the ball.”

“I think that they’re just outside field goal range,” Savage says of the group's chances for scoring a CFL team. “Second down.”

According to a report earlier in the day by TSN, republished by the CFL on its website, Maritime Football has reached an agreement for a “three-step process” to secure the Canadian Football League’s 10th franchise.

Any hope of that process reaching the end zone, however, will depend on securing both land and financing to build a new stadium.

A prior attempt to start up a CFL franchise on the east coast imploded back in 1984 when a stadium deal for the “Atlantic Schooners” couldn’t be reached.

Mayor Savage has long championed the stadium dream in HRM, even as staff have repeatedly shot down any business case for what would likely be a $200-million venue.

That hasn’t stopped Maritime Football from selling the idea. Owners LeBlanc, Drummond and Bruce Bowser have commissioned a third-party analysis of the benefits a stadium could bring to the city and province.

The group has also held in-depth discussions with both HRM and the province about its plans. All of those meetings have happened away from the public's eye.

On Tuesday, Tim Outhit made an attempt to bring this latest in-camera discussion into the light of day. The Bedford–Wentworth councillor pointed out there was no contract being negotiated during council’s secret “contract negotiation” agenda item and thus no reason not to talk about the proposal in public.

The plans presented last summer, for example, for the “pop-up” soccer stadium currently nearing completion on the Wanderer’s Grounds were openly debated at council in front of residents and reporters.

Savage says there are still contract issues and real estate matters that have to be dealt with privately. But he did agree city hall is “at the point where this needs to come out.”

It’s heavily speculated Maritime Football will be pitching a financial model similar to the Lansdowne Park plan in Ottawa. Any upfront costs paid by the municipality will be recouped—or so everyone hopes—over the next couple of decades from increased tax assessments in the new commercial and residential developments built up alongside the stadium.

“Stadiums aren’t free,” says Savage. “The question is, is there a way the city can contribute to that without digging deep into capital.”

Speculative locations bandied about for the stadium have included everywhere from Shannon Park to Dartmouth Crossing and even the Halifax Common.

The mayor wouldn't comment on what property is being discussed. Council wants the best deal possible for Halifax residents, he says, but it’s not at a point yet to determine if that’s the case.



“Let’s wait and see what this looks like,” cautions Savage. “It could be a lot more than even just a football stadium. It could allow us to get back into the concert business. It could allow us to do a lot of things.”
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Racism, sexism and bullying will now be publicly reported to Halifax council

Discrimination complaints within HRM's workforce to be presented in quarterly reports, instead of being exposed decades later in the media.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2018 at 8:28 AM

Council chambers inside City Hall. - VIA HRM
  • Council chambers inside City Hall.
  • via HRM

It’s not a public inquiry, says deputy mayor Waye Mason. It’s better than that.

“A public inquiry would be a moment in time. This is an ongoing commitment.”

In response to continuing outcry about the discrimination faced by HRM employees, Halifax Regional Council approved a motion Tuesday requiring CAO Jacques Dubé to provide quarterly public progress reports on racism, sexism and harassment within the municipality’s workforce.

The updates will contain details on any open or completed discrimination complaints involving bullying, sexual harassment or racism that are reported through human resource channels or HRM’s new confidential employee complaint hotline. Personal information will be redacted before the report comes to council.

The deputy mayor’s motion also directs the CAO to include any findings from an ongoing human resources review of HRM, along with progress reports on implementing the recommendations from both that external review and the 2016 Employee Systems Review.

In the past, says Mason, all of that information would have been presented behind closed doors.

“It wouldn’t have even touched the council floor,” he says. “Now we’re in a position where not only are we going to get that, it’s not going to be in-camera. It’s going to be public. We’re going to talk about these issues every time.”

The approved motion is a direct response to last month’s Human Rights board of inquiry decision that exposed decades of brutal racism and bullying faced by Black and Indigenous employees at Halifax Transit’s Burnside garage.

Mason told his colleagues on Tuesday that upon reading the details contained in that decision he was sick to his stomach.

“I’ve never been more upset in my time on council.”

Dubé publicly apologized for the discrimination inside Halifax Transit once the Human Rights decision was made public. The CAO has said that since the complaint was initially filed in 2006, Halifax has implemented a number of workplace policy reforms to increase diversity and help reduce harassment across its workforce of 4,000 employees.

But a copy of the ESR report leaked to the press two years ago still describes an overwhelming culture of discrimination for Black employees inside HRM’s public works and operations department.

“I still get calls from folks in regards to these issues,” councillor Lindell Smith said Tuesday.

“When I think of my family—my immediate family—almost 100-plus years of experience in the city. And I’m not making that number up. I have aunts, uncles and my mother and father who all worked for the city. Over 100-plus years of experience working for HRM. You can imagine the stories I’ve heard through them.”

The fallout from the Human Rights complaint and ESR protests have included repeated calls for a public inquiry from citizens’ group Equity Watch, former HRM councillors and the family of Randy Symonds—the man most victimized by the racism inside Halifax Transit.

Dubé has previously told The Coast he doesn’t believe a public inquiry is needed given the reforms already in place. Mason says this new motion goes one better.

“I’m not sure what a public inquiry would get us that’s different from having constant public reporting that you’ll be able to comment on every quarter,” he says.

The deputy mayor tells The Coast it was very frustrating and demoralizing learning about the situation inside Halifax Transit. It's of the utmost importance, he stresses, that the municipality's employees are treated with the dignity they deserve.

“Nothing we do is more important than this because everything is tainted by this,” says Mason. “Building a great city, making a better library or having a better transit system or having really beautiful Public Gardens, none of that matters if the employees are being bullied at work or harassed, racially discriminated against.”

The quarterly progress reports will start arriving at council no later than September.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Weekends on Argyle Street will be car-free this summer

Council votes to close downtown street to vehicles between noon on Friday to midnight on Sunday during July and August.

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 3:47 PM

Councillors Tony Mancini, Matt Whitman, Lindell Smith and Sam Austin pose like silly boys. - VIA TWITTER
  • Councillors Tony Mancini, Matt Whitman, Lindell Smith and Sam Austin pose like silly boys.
  • VIA TWITTER

Argyle Street will be the “fun street of Canada,” promises Halifax mayor Mike Savage.

City council voted Tuesday for “routine non-special event” closures of Argyle Street this summer. The road will be closed off to vehicles between Prince and Blowers from noon on Friday to midnight on Sunday during July and August.

The pilot project was brought to council by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission in order to prioritize pedestrians during the busy summer season.

At its own expense, the business commission will collect data during the street closures—including the opinion of visitors, businesses and property owners—and report back to council before May of next year.

“This is a test,” deputy mayor Waye Mason said Tuesday. “If it works, it’ll be extended further in the season—extended more time and more days. We’ll see how that goes.”

The block has been closed down for special events a handful of times since the shared Argyle/Grafton streetscaping project was completed last fall.

Despite initial complaints about the construction, that streetscaping has seemingly proved popular with local businesses. It was also touted by StreetsBlog as one of 2017’s Best Urban Street Transformations.

The idea of increasing the number of vehicular closures on Argyle was, for the most part, embraced by council on Tuesday.

Concerns from David Hendsbee about a lack of accessible parking were brushed off by staff, who pointed to an accessible drop-off space on Sackville Street available to patrons of Neptune Theatre.

“This is a very good thing for safe outdoor fun in downtown Halifax,” said Matt Whitman. “I think it’s part of our charm and our draw to be a fun downtown.”

Council previously voted back in February to allow alcohol to be served on Argyle and Grafton Streets during closures for special events.
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Nova Scotia offers $1.8-million rebate for innovative ice cream

Agropur apparently has plans to disrupt the way we think about ice cream.

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 2:27 PM

We need to think beyond vanilla and chocolate. Maybe add a strawberry in there.
  • We need to think beyond vanilla and chocolate. Maybe add a strawberry in there.

Nova Scotia Business Inc. is giving Quebec dairy giant Agropur a $1,843,776 rebate to create an “innovative production line, novel to the national ice cream market in Canada.”

The presumably bold and world-class ice cream will be produced at the former Scotsburn plant in Truro.

Agropur purchased the Nova Scotian company two years ago to expand into the ice cream market. The multi-billion-dollar company subsequently laid off 346 people in Atlantic Canada.

Scotsburn was itself a previous recipient of government funding. The province gave the company a $5.5-million loan toward its expansion back in 2013, repayable over 15 years. NSBI also gifted Scotsburn with a $480,000 forgivable loan for job creation and another $2 million for a “novelty ice cream machine.”

As announced Tuesday, tree fruit cooperative Scotian Gold will also receive a $477,333 rebate from NSBI to expand its storage technology, equipment and software “in order to increase fruit quality and extend the marketing season.”

The Coldbrook company stores and packs over 50 percent of the province's apple productions.

Nova Scotia's Innovation Rebate Program offers a 25 percent rebate for projects with costs between $2 million and $15 million and is only paid out once the project is complete.

Both Agropur and Scotian Gold are eligible for the maximum amount provided they complete their innovative new projects within three years.

Just don't fuck with Moon Mist, guys.
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Monday, June 18, 2018

SIRT director says more resources needed to police the police

Felix Cacchione has had a busy first few months on the job.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 3:12 PM

SIRT director Felix Cacchione speaks to reporters Tuesday inside City Hall. - THE COAST
  • SIRT director Felix Cacchione speaks to reporters Tuesday inside City Hall.
  • THE COAST

The province's police watchdog is being stretched thin investigating cases across Atlantic Canada.

Felix Cacchione, director of the Serious Incident Response Team, explained the problem Tuesday during a presentation to the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners.

Last month, Nova Scotia witnessed its first police shooting death since SIRT was formed in 2012. The next morning, there was another in Prince Edward Island. The back-to-back deaths “sucked all our resources,” says Cacchione.

“You can’t just send one person and ask one person to do all that’s required for a proper investigation.”

The independent police watchdog investigates deaths, serious injuries, sexual assaults, domestic violence and other crimes involving police officers across Atlantic Canada.

Along with Cacchione as director, SIRT has a team of just four handling all those cases—two civilian investigators and two seconded police officers.

More money, says Cacchione, would allow for more investigators.

Already this year SIRT has launched two investigations on PEI and three in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“If we have to send someone to Labrador, that’s quite a piece away,” says Cacchione. “It’s difficult to get to. You can’t have people just sort of fly in and fly out because investigations aren’t done in a day or two days.”

While other Atlantic provinces cover travel expenses when SIRT takes on a case, their governments don't contribute any funding to the Nova Scotian-backed watchdog.

Recently, Newfoundland and Labrador set aside an initial $250,000—and $500,000 annually after the first year—for a new independent police oversight agency of its own, though it's unclear whether that group will be independent of SIRT or work with its Nova Scotian cousin.

Cacchione says he hasn't brought up the request for additional resources to Atlantic Canadian Justice ministers yet and can't say if there's any political will for the idea.

“It requires further discussions.”

The retired Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge was named director of the Serious Incident Response Team back in March, replacing founding SIRT director Ron MacDonald who left last October.

The first few weeks on the job have not been quiet.

Aside from the aforementioned shooting deaths, so far this year there have also been two cases of sexual assault involving RCMP officers—one in Newfoundland and one in Nova Scotia—along with accusations of police brutality in dealing with a teenager girl and charges against Halifax Regional Police officer Gary Basso for assaulting a homeless man outside a shelter.

Despite the busy caseload, Cacchione praised the objectivity and diligence of his investigators on Tuesday.

The SIRT director told the board of commissioners his years on the bench installed something of a subconscious bias towards police officers, who he's previously watched “circling the wagons” when accused of criminal misconduct.

But Cacchione—to his pleasure—says he's found his team fully committed to their work.

“They don’t like, excuse me, dirty cops and they’re prepared to call one dirty if necessary,” he says. “That was a relief for me.”
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Richard Florizone leaving Dalhousie for quantum super-position

University president announces his resignation to go work for non-profit research lab.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 11:43 AM

Bazinga! - VIA DAL.CA
  • Bazinga!
  • VIA DAL.CA

Richard Florizone is leaving Dalhousie for a “once in a lifetime” opportunity in quantum computing.

The university president's resignation was announced Monday in a memo from the school's Board of Governors.

Board chair Lawrence Stordy writes that the news comes “with mixed emotion.” 

“We have benefitted greatly from his leadership and vision these past five years,” says Stordy about Florizone. “We are saddened to see him leave, yet we share his enthusiasm as he embarks on an exciting, ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to lead the new Quantum Valley Ideas Lab, based in Waterloo, Ontario which will benefit all of Canada.”

A former board member for the Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology with a PhD in physics from MIT, Florizone will be helping QVIB in its mission to develop quantum computer technology.

Florizone has been serving as Dalhousie’s 11th president since 2013. Previously, he was vice-president at the University of Saskatchewan, before working in Washington D.C. as a senior advisor to the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation.

Over his five years as head of the province's largest university, Florizone helped the school secure several high-level research grants like the 2016 Ocean Frontier Institute, renovated buildings like Dalplex and the Sexton campus and oversaw Dal's 200th-anniversary celebration.

But Florizone's tenure has also been criticized by students for the school's steadily increasing tuition fees and lack of interest in fossil fuel divestment. Likewise, the president has found himself in the spotlight several times as Dalhousie faced national scrutiny for everything from the DDS Class of 2015 Gentlemen dentistry scandal to the vitriol directed at student Masuma Khan.

The outgoing-president will remain at Dalhousie until January. No word yet on when a search committee will be struck to find his replacement.
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Friday, June 15, 2018

Former Sandy Lake Academy student says school preached gay conversion

“I attended those meetings in hopes to find a ‘cure’ for myself,” writes Matt DeMerchant. “What I found was self-loathing.”

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 4:24 PM

The Academy is a junior primary to Grade 12 school serving families in Halifax, Bedford, Sackville and surrounding areas of Nova Scotia. - VIA SANDYLAKEACADEMY.CA
  • The Academy is a junior primary to Grade 12 school serving families in Halifax, Bedford, Sackville and surrounding areas of Nova Scotia.
  • VIA SANDYLAKEACADEMY.CA

The author of an online petition against Coming Out Ministries visiting Nova Scotia says the anti-LGBTQ+ group has previously preached gay conversion at one of the Halifax's private Christian schools.

Matt DeMerchant, a former student at Salt Lake Academy in Bedford, is alleging Coming Out Ministries gave several talks at the K-12 school in the past targeting the conversion of LGBTQ+ youth.

“I attended these meetings in hopes to find a ‘cure’ for myself,” DeMerchant writes. “What I found was self-loathing. I became deeply depressed after hearing their message and even had suicidal thoughts. I was pushed further and further from God and from His church. Their message is dangerous.”

Coming Out Ministries is a group from Ohio whose vision is to restore “all men and women back to the image of their creator god” and which considers gay people “sexually impure.”

The Maritime Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which owns and operates Sandy Lake Academy, has already come under fire for its plan to bring Coming Out to Pugwash in July, including a second petition created by both The Youth Project and Halifax Pride.

“Obviously we’re really concerned if this is happening in any school because we know this type of approach will cause harm to youth,” says Youth Project executive director Kate Shewan in response to this latest news.

“What I’d like to see them do is issue a statement of support for their queer and trans students, and work at putting in supports like a GSA [Gender Sexuality Alliance] in the school and create those structures which help and embrace people of different sexual orientations and gender identities.”

Sandy Lake Academy couldn’t be reached Friday for comment. When previously asked about the school’s stance on conversion therapy, principal Maureen Westhaver declined to answer.

“I’m not willing to go there because I do not know enough about it,” Westhaver says. “I could refer you to the Maritime Conference in Moncton.”

Westhaver, a former Maritime Conference board member, subsequently stated that “what they do is not connected with me” and ended the call.

While the provincial department of Education can only speak for Nova Scotia's public schools, a departmental spokesperson says the guiding principle for those institutions is to provide a safe place that celebrates diversity and promotes respect.

“It’s important that our public schools provide a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of the school community, regardless of background and gender identity.”

Use of practices like conversion therapy on minors is illegal in Ontario and Manitoba, but similar legislation protecting LGBTQ+ youth has not yet been proposed in Nova Scotia.

“LGBTQ+ People already face many challenges,” writes DeMerchant. “We are faced with hatred from all corners of the world. The Seventh-Day Adventist church used to be safe haven where we could be ourselves and worship our God. This is a direct attack on those of us who wish to continue our faith in God and feel safe in our churches.”

DeMerchant could not be reached on Friday for comment, but the Nova Scotian states that he’s no longer trying to rectify his faith and his sexuality.

“I have since found peace within myself,” he writes. “I have found God and will never stop worshipping Him, but I still lead a homosexual lifestyle.”
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The 25 for 25 podcast: 1994

El Jones and Todd McCallum join us to revisit free speech debates at Dalhousie, then Sharon Fraser talks Pandora's feminist newspaper legacy.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 11:23 AM

1994.jpg

Welcome to episode two of The Coast's 25th-anniversary podcast.

This week arts editor Tara Thorne and city editor Jacob Boon talk about Friends and Rita and Friends. We look back at Shakespeare by the Sea, watch as the city makes its first failed effort to make amends for Africville and discuss the practicalities of racing cars over the Halifax Common.

Author and journalist Sharon Fraser joins us in the studio to discuss local feminist newspaper Pandora—how it was born out of the frustrations faced by local journalists in sexist newsrooms, its mission to be intersectional before that word even existed and the Human Rights case that brought the paper to an in 1994.

Then the hosts of CKDU's Black Power Hour, El Jones and Todd McCallum, are here to talk about the original free speech warriors who shut down Dalhousie's attempts at launching an anti-discrimination policy. If you thought the Jordan Petersons of the world were insufferable now, just wait till you hear what they were like 24 years ago.

Here's the iTunes link. 25 for 25 is also available on Google Play, Stitcher and Soundcloud. Oh hey! The nice people at CKDU are also going to be broadcasting the podcast every week (scheduled time TBD but stay tuned).



If you like the podcast, please feel free to give us a nice rating or leave a review. Apparently, it makes the episodes easier for people to find.

If you hate the podcast, want to correct something we got wrong or have comments about any events we forgot to mention you can email us at letters@thecoast.ca.

The full archive of Pandora is available. McCallum also kindly scanned some Dalhousie Gazette articles about the anti-discrimination policy and events on Canadian campuses from 1994, which we've put up online. You can hear the Black Power Hour every Wednesday at 9pm on CKDU.


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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Two more ex-councillors speak up about discrimination inside HRM

Dawn Sloane and Sue Uteck are coming forward now about the bullying, sexism and racism they say has long existed in the municipality's workforce.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 10:44 PM

Former councillors Dawn Sloane (left) and Sue Uteck (right) flank ex-firefighter Liane Tessier and fellow former councillor Jackie Barkhouse. - THE COAST
  • Former councillors Dawn Sloane (left) and Sue Uteck (right) flank ex-firefighter Liane Tessier and fellow former councillor Jackie Barkhouse.
  • The Coast

Two former city councillors are joining with one of their past colleagues in demanding a public inquiry into racism within HRM's workforce.

Previous downtown and south end councillors Dawn Sloane and Sue Uteck, along with Equity Watch co-founders Jackie Barkhouse and Liane Tessier, held a press conference outside City Hall on Thursday afternoon to describe some of the discrimination they say they witnessed while in office.

“When we were on council, we heard stories of individuals being bullied, racism,” says Sloane. “We heard how others were given the ladder upwards and others were shown the door out. That has to stop.”

The four women are speaking up now, two weeks after a Human Rights board of inquiry decision exposed decades of horrific racism experienced by several employees in Halifax Transit's Burnside garage.

It's the latest firestorm in a depressingly common media cycle. Widespread racism and sexism have been exposed over the past two decades in multiple HRM workplaces.

Before starting Equity Watch, ex-firefighter Tessier spent 12 years in “hell” trying to get Halifax to recognize her abuse. Randy Symonds reported the racist behaviour of his coworkers multiple times—even meeting with the mayor. There was the 2013 public apology to Black firefighters, police sergeant Robyn Atwell's Human Rights Commission complaint, the protests by public works and operations employees—on and on it goes.

Those cases, according to the three former councillors, are just the tip of the iceberg. Harassment and discrimination existed in every department from planning to the councillor support office.

“We have some wonderful people that work for HRM and unfortunately a lot of them left because of issues that had to do with management, bullying and racism,” says Sloane.

Current councillors have told the press they were shocked by the situation inside Halifax Transit as described in the board of inquiry's decision.

It shouldn't be so shocking, says Tessier. Even if they didn't speak to employees directly, there have been dozens of articles and internal reports over the years. But time and again, she says, those complaints were fought, dismissed and forgotten.

“They kept denying and dismissing over and over again...and it’s pathetic,” says Tessier. “HRM can’t be trusted.”

Uteck and Sloane blame city hall management for the lack of progress. Human rights complaints were seen as individual labour issues and kept from council.

City staff treated them like mushrooms, says Sloane: feed them shit and keep them in the dark.

“This council is making the same mistake that the previous council made,” says Uteck. “It’s like we’re on a need-to-know basis.”

The former south end councillor came out to support Barkhouse and Tessier because she says she realizes she could have done more to help while in office.

“I failed to do that,” admits Uteck.

In a press release sent earlier this week, Barkhouse alleged that senior managers and city council were aware of multiple incidents of bullying and discrimination between 2007 and 2012 that were all either dismissed or ignored by city hall. Barkhouse said she informed then-mayor Peter Kelly and legal services about what she knew, “but they did nothing.”

“I wish they had brought their concerns to council,” tweets Bedford–Wentworth councillor Tim Outhit in response to Uteck and Sloane's comments. “They would have had my full support. Better late than never.”

Outhit says he plans to call for CAO Jacques Dubé, mayor Mike Savage, council, department directors and municipal union leaders to “stand together publicly” next week to show the behaviour documented inside Halifax Transit is unacceptable.

The municipality has already announced that it will be launching a confidential hotline where employees can report workplace harassment. An external consultant is also being hired to review human resource practices and report back to council.

Tessier and the three former councillors want those efforts to go even further. They're imploring the mayor and council to ask for an independent inquiry into municipal employment issues—both to clean up the current mess and hold accountable those responsible for past failures.

But chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé told The Coast last week he doesn’t believe a public inquiry is needed.

“We’re not considering that and that’s not something we would believe appropriate under the circumstances,” he said.

Given Dubé himself faced a harassment complaint last year after sending a bizarre and violent email about one of his managers murdering him, Sloane doesn't put much stock in his assessment.

“We’re going to listen to him?” she asks. “He’s part of the problem...Sorry, but I have no faith in Mr. Dubé judgment calls.

Since 2006, when the Halifax Transit complaint was filed, Halifax has implemented a number of reforms the city says have increased diversity and helped diminish workplace harassment.

However, a third-party Employee Services Review leaked to the press two years ago describes an overwhelming culture of harassment and discrimination in the municipal operations workforce, with Black employees subjected to racist, sexist and homophobic language.

Barkhouse, Uteck and Sloane all left city hall behind in 2012. While they can’t speak to any changes that have happened since that time, they do say there was little improvement from 2006 to 2012.

“I’m sure there are many workers out there—both male and female—that are going through tremendous harassment,” says Uteck.

An update on the situation inside Halifax Transit and the board of inquiry's decision is expected to be heard in-camera at council's next meeting this Tuesday.

The three former councillors say they won't be in attendance to see if anything comes of the discussion.

“I don't like sitting in the hallway,” says Sloane.
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Vol 26, No 12
August 16, 2018

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