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 news@thecoast.ca to send a tip.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Bonfire of the vanity plates

Alberta "freedom" organization grabs onto Grabher in personalized plate campaign.

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 2:15 PM

Jay Cameron believes in the constitutional powers of licence plate cases. - JUSTIN GOLLOP
  • Jay Cameron believes in the constitutional powers of licence plate cases.
  • Justin Gollop
An Alberta advocacy group seems driven to distraction by personalized plates. Last week’s hearing in Halifax Supreme Court about Lorne Grabher’s plate is the third case the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has backed in April alone.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a right-wing law organization, represented Lorne Grabher in court last week.

The Centre sees acts of controversial speech as “minority viewpoints” that may be representative of “unpopular ideas,” as addressed in a report filed in response to Wilfrid Laurier University in 2018.

Since 2011, the Centre has published an annual report, titled the Campus Freedom Index, that critiques a university based on its constitutional freedom policies and practices—universities will receive better grades if there are no policies within the university and student union that prohibit offensive or inappropriate speech.

Almost 60 campuses were evaluated in the 2018 Campus Freedom Index, including Dalhousie University, which saw F’s in the student union policies and university criteria—the Centre critiqued the Dalhousie Student Union’s mission to “actively represent the diverse interests of Dalhousie students,” while the university itself got penalized for the 2015 suspension of dentistry students who made comments related to bullying and harassment on a private Facebook page.

The Centre also hosts an essay contest on its website, where students and professors can submit papers based on legal rulings and new law-related bills. The topic for 2018 was around Bill C-16, which states that the refusal to use preferred pronouns for transgender individuals in court can be deemed as discrimination—the Centre asked if it should be required by law to use gender-neutral pronouns when referring to those who identify outside of the gender binary. The three winners all argued that, while non-binary transgender individuals are able to freely choose to use gender-neutral pronouns, others should freely choose whether they want to accept those pronouns.

“Canadians have the right to freedom of expression and any time the government censors people's expression, it's an important issue,” said Jay Cameron, the Centre’s litigation manager, last week in a scrum outside court.

In 2016, Grabher’s personalized licence plate displaying his last name, which had been in service for 27 years at the time, was revoked by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles after an anonymous complaint, saying that the plate promoted gendered violence against women. (As in Donald "grab 'em by the pussy" Trump's bragging about assaulting women leading to more assaults.)

In 2018, the province commissioned Carrie Rentschler, a professor of feminist media studies at McGill University, to write an expert report stating reasons why the plate endorses sexual violence against women. The Centre commissioned its own expert report, written by Debra Soh, a science journalist with 11 years of experience in researching the psychology of sexual offenders, which stated why the plate does not condone gendered violence and should be allowed on the road. In the hearing last week, Rentschler and Soh testified to their qualifications to write their respective reports.

The Centre started representing Grabher after his plate was revoked, and took up not one but two other cases around personalized plate recalls since then. Cameron said in a scrum that the censoring of licence plates has become more than just issues with personalized plates and could be used for freedom of expression defences across Canada: “There are several plate cases right now before the courts or that will shortly be before the courts, but whatever decision comes out first will be a landmark decision.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which sits on the left side of the political spectrum, agrees with the Centre and believes that, although the freedom of expression is not concrete, the government has not given enough reasoning for censoring the licence plates.

“There can be reasonable limits placed on [the freedom of expression], but we have a pretty high threshold for making the state make out that case for reasonableness and demonstrating that there's some genuine harm that could come from the expression in order to justify restricting it in some way,” said Cara Zwibel, director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program of the CCLA.

“I don't think that case has been made here.”

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has seemingly put a lot of money into Grabher’s legal battle, with the Centre filing several affidavits on Grabher’s behalf, Grabher’s 2018 award of $750 being paid to settle a previous issue with Rentschler’s report, the two days of court last week, paying the lawyers for their work on the case, the investment of renting out two billboards displaying the plate—one on Main Street in Dartmouth and one on Barrington Street in Halifax—that can be about $1,200 to $1,500 each, the production costs of bumper stickers the Centre sells in support of Grabher and paying for expert consultation in the fields of sexual assault.

“I was compensated for working on this case,” said Soh in a scrum, but was unsure if she was “allowed to publicly comment” on the compensation amount.

In response to the billboards, a gofundme page was circulated around Twitter to donate to Adsum, a charity to support vulnerable women and children, along with a proposed fake billboard saying “HELPHER.” The page was set to a $500 goal, but has already exceeded that, with the gofundme sitting at over $3,000.

The Coast reached out to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms to inquire about the financial side of Grabher’s case, but the Centre exercised its freedom to not comment.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

UPDATE: Rugby gets kicked in the crotch by NS sports federation

In a surprise move, today the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation cancelled rugby in high schools across the province.

Posted By on Thu, May 2, 2019 at 6:53 PM

Rugby players are used to hard knocks, but the NSSAF's sudden rugby cancellation was a surprise.
  • Rugby players are used to hard knocks, but the NSSAF's sudden rugby cancellation was a surprise.

UPDATE TWO, TUESDAY MAY 7: So. On Thursday the NSSAF canned rugby, then Friday the education minister made his statement demanding its return, and that seemed like the last word. But despite the minister’s convincingly stern tone, the NSSAF didn’t reverse its decision; at the start of the week rugby was still sidelined. Today, however, the game really is back on. Rugby Nova Scotia has agreed to manage the remainder of the high school rugby season, including regionals and provincials, with the support of the NSSAF. A joint statement, released after a meeting on Tuesday by the Nova Scotia education department and the NSSAF, says they decided to work together to find a plan for students to continue to play. The statement also mentions future plans for rugby: “Over the summer, NSSAF will work with the government, Rugby Nova Scotia, medical experts and others on safety in sport.”

UPDATE, FRIDAY MAY 3: The day after the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation kicked rugby to the curb and it seemed like the game was lost, education minister Zach Churchill gave rugby a rousing half-time pep talk and sent it back out on the field to keep playing. In a statement, Churchill says the cancellation was done without proper consultation—and hints that it was made using bad data on injuries—therefore "I have called on NSSAF to reinstate rugby for all high schools immediately for the duration of the season." By the way, that petition is now approaching 25,000 names, with more still coming.

"All Rugby play within the NSSAF shall cease effective 12:00pm May 2, 2019." That's the thrust of a memo released today by the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation, delivering a hard tackle to players in high schools across the province.

The memo spins rugby's cancellation as deliberate and carefully considered, a move that the NSSAF's board of governors chose to make "at their regularly scheduled spring meeting" after "a thorough review of incident report data" from an insurance provider.

However it's clearly a hasty decision, coming as a surprise not just to players and Rugby Nova Scotia, but to the NSSAF itself, where as of this writing the rugby provincial championships are still listed (along with table tennis, slo pitch and track and field provincials) on the federation's homepage under "Important Dates." According to CBC, a student in Cape Breton got injured during a rugby match yesterday.

Six hours (and counting) after the NSSAF board's announcement, the NSSAF website still says rugby is on.
  • Six hours (and counting) after the NSSAF board's announcement, the NSSAF website still says rugby is on.

Rugby Nova Scotia, the sport's provincial governing body, was completely blindsided by the school sport federation. Jack Hanratty with RNS says they "were not previously aware of the announcement before its release and were shocked to find out."

Hanratty empathizes that "sports are a large and important part of growing up 
The NSSAF memo cancelling rugby in Nova Scotia high schools.
  • The NSSAF memo cancelling rugby in Nova Scotia high schools.
and living an active lifestyle." To the extent that injuries motivated the NSSAF's decision, Hanratty points out "you can get injured in any sports," and he doesn't see why rugby should be singled out. RNS has requested a meeting with the NSSAF to find out the process behind the cancellation, and see what can be done to reinstate the sport.

A change.org petition to "Bring Rugby back to NS schools" was created shortly after 2pm. Five hours later, there were over 5,000 signatures.
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Monday, April 29, 2019

HFX Wanderers looking to turn their luck around in pro soccer home opener

After a loss in BC, Halifax's team in the new Canadian Premier League goes for an east coast win Saturday.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 29, 2019 at 5:30 PM

Halifax midfielder Mohamed Kourouma wants the Wanderers' fortunes looking up at Saturday's first-ever home game. - VIA HFX WANDERERS SITE
  • Halifax midfielder Mohamed Kourouma wants the Wanderers' fortunes looking up at Saturday's first-ever home game.
  • VIA HFX WANDERERS SITE
A new era in Canadian soccer began last weekend with the start of play in the professional Canadian Premier League.

In front of a sold-out crowd Sunday night in Westhills Stadium in Langford, BC, the HFX Wanderers lost their first game 1-0 to Pacific FC. During a slow start for Halifax in the first half, Pacific's Hendrik Starostzik headed the ball into the net in the 23rd minute, scoring the first-ever goal for Pacific.

The Wanderers almost tied it up four minutes later and continued to fight for the entire game, but fell short. Watch the recap here:


After that tough opening game, the Wanderers are heading to Halifax for their debut home game in the seven-team league. They hope to have better luck with their fans cheering them on against Forge FC, the Hamilton club that played to a draw in its first game. 

The game happens Saturday, May 4 at the Wanderers Grounds stadium at 2pm. Tickets range from $15 to $35.
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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Ferry service betweem Sir Sandford Fleming park and Jubilee Road to launch

Operator hopes the six-minute, 4$ trip will get people off the roads and onto the sea.

Posted By on Sat, Apr 27, 2019 at 11:25 AM

Big ol' house on the Northwest Arm. You'll be able to see it from the ferry. - VIA SUPERCITY REALTY
  • Big ol' house on the Northwest Arm. You'll be able to see it from the ferry.
  • via Supercity Realty

During the summer, 24-year-old David Backman starts each day with a jump in the Northwest Arm, just like the late Jim Gowen, a noteworthy Halifax journalist known for swimming in the Northwest Arm 365 days of the year.

And this spring, the ‘Jimmy Gowen’, Backman’s 22-foot pontoon boat will ferry residents and commuters across the water between the docks in Sir Sandford Fleming Park and the bottom of Jubilee Road.

Backman hopes to launch the service in early May, but is awaiting approval for temporary use the docks at St. Mary’s Boat club while the city puts in newer dock at the bottom of Jubilee Road. The docks are returned to the water every year, and open to the public.

Backman says the service could help alleviate some of the congestion caused by the Quinpool Road bridge closure but also geeks out about it being a “resurrection of a traditional ferry route.” He says the tradition of ferries on the Arm has been around since the 1880s.

In January, Councillor Shawn Cleary pitched a similar ferry idea to council that didn’t get approved. But he’s says he's glad to see a private business taking over the project and enabling people to take more sustainable modes of transport.

Backman encourages regular commuters to purchase a weekly or monthly pass to reserve a spot during “peak hours,” says Backman, as the ferry can only transport about 10 people and four bikes at a time. For $4 you can take the six minute trip across the Arm on the Jimmy Gowen, which will leave every 15 to 20 minutes between 6am and 10am and 3:30pm and 6pm. Backman says the cost will be just enough to cover operational costs, as his main goal is to increase awareness about his summer water taxi service: North West Arm Boat Tours, which takes tourists and locals to McNabs Island and around the peninsula.

Backman has taken over $2,500 worth of courses and certifications while setting up his water taxi business, and all his drivers are certified with marine medical, marine first aid and commercial marine radio certifications.

Backman went to school for marine training and has spent time on ships but doesn’t consider himself much of a “roughneck person.” He preferred working for himself and hopes his ferry can bring some life back to the Northwest Arm.


He’ll be putting the boats in the water this weekend, and they’ll sleep at their private moorings in the Arm until the end of the summer season.  If he gets approval to use the St. Mary’s Boat Club—which turns 100 this year, Backman adds—docks North West Arm Ferry will be up and running in early May. Otherwise, they’ll be waiting until the new dock at Jubilee is completed by the city.

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

The not-ready Centre Plan strikes back while moving forward

Where we’re at and who’s stuck in the middle.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 4:29 PM

The Centre Plan should mean that new developments don't require case-by-case bylaw amendments. - AISHA GOYETTE
  • The Centre Plan should mean that new developments don't require case-by-case bylaw amendments.
  • Aisha Goyette

HRM's Centre Plan is marginally closer to actually existing. The community design advisory committee reviewed all the land use bylaws included in the Centre Plan on Wednesday, and gets two more meetings to pick it apart, a version of progress that's coming too late for councillor Sam Austin’s constituents, who blame "broken" bylaws for a 16-storey hotel going up on the shore of Lake Banook. 

The land use bylaws are only the first huge-ass chunk of the Centre Plan to move through the advisory committees so far. The caboose of the plan is supposed to focus on residential areas, industrial areas and parks. It hasn’t yet been scheduled for public engagement. 

Going through the land use bylaws is a particularly labourious point in the Centre Plan process, which has already stretched on for six years. In order to make a truly omnipotent plan that simplifies zoning laws for the Halifax-Dartmouth core, committee members are tasked with thinking up every conceivable question the plan will need to answer. That ranges from how tall new buildings can be, to whether public art needs to be regulated.

On the ever-contentious height issue, under the new plan development size will be determined by a formula looking at floor area ratio and height. Loosely, the amount of land the building has to topple over on determines how high it can be. The cap for downtown areas will increase from 20 to 27(ish) storeys. 

If you’ve been sitting on your mountains of cash waiting to develop, you might want to get on it. Anything that isn’t already in motion will be subject to the new plan, while existing development agreements will be grandfathered in to use the pre-Centre Plan rules. Same goes for proposed amendments to existing  agreements.

Which, to councillor Sam Austin’s dismay, means the recently announced lakeside mega-hotel will get to happen, too. Austin and residents have spent years fighting a condo proposed by Monaco Investments Partnership, and they had leverage because residential developments need city approval. By last fall, Monaco's proposed 15-storey condo had been whittled down to eight storeys that the community could live with.

But hiding behind the heated back and forth was the as-of-right opportunity to build a hotel on the land. Monaco decided to exercise that right, scrapping the condo to build a 16-storey hotel at the corner of Prince Albert Road and Glenwood Avenue.

At city council this week, Austin asked for a hail-Mary staff report to see if there is anything that could be done to stop the hotel development. The request is a longshot, but mayor Mike Savage gave the motion his blessing: “If there’s a week for miracles, this is the week for miracles, Easter weekend.”

Pressure to get the Centre Plan finished was “lurking in the background through all this” says Austin. Councillor Matt Whitman says it’s “another case of the not-ready Centre Plan striking back.” 

As for when it will be ready, once the design committee finishes with its amendments to the plan, the hot potato is tossed over to the community planning and economic development standing committee. The plan is also being reviewed by a number of other advisory committees. Then it gets picked over by standing committees that are supposed to send the plan onto the lap of regional council on June 18. 
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Council approves 2019-20 budget

The cumbersome process for dollar decisions is done.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 3:02 PM

Money money money, must be funny. - JESS REDLARSKI
  • Money money money, must be funny.
  • Jess Redlarski

City council approved $163 million in capital spending and $793.7 million municipal expenditures in the budget for 2019-2020 this week. The city's been shaking up the budget process for over five years, and this year’s parking lot of shopping expenses was the latest attempt to make the process more effective. Tuesday’s meeting was more ceremonial than conversational—apart from the last-minute attempt to strike funding for an Armoured Rescue Vehicle from the budget.

The $3,704,100 of parking-lot expenses range from library salaries to fire-hall jobs, and include snow clearing, trees and money for transit—and only make up a tiny part of the whole $955.7 million budget. ($162 million of that is mandatory provincial costs that the city gets no say over.) 

Only councillors Tim Outhit and Matt Whitman voted against the budget. Whitman objected to the number of big projects in the budget, saying “I thought we had talked about spending more money on more projects, spreading the money around rather than doing these huge projects like are proposed here.”

Outhit says that this, his 11th budget, just doesn’t do enough for small business, so he can’t allow it anymore. 

The biggest-ticket items include new transit technology for $10.6 million and $15.4 million for new buses. $36.1 million on road and bridge work, $7.6 million for active transportation projects as part of the Integrated Mobility Plan, $1.6 million on parking technology, $2.7 million on sidewalk renewal, $7 million on parkland acquisition, $3.2 million more for St Andrew’s Community Centre. Whitman also contested the expensive price tag on Scotiabank Centre’s new scoreboard (part of the over $5 million budgeted for renovations at the arena—to mostly happen after Halifax hosts the Memorial Cup). 

After provincial costs and fiscal services, Halifax Transit swallows up 12.7 percent of the budget, followed by transportation and public works at 10.6 percent and Halifax Regional Police at 10.4 percent. Of HRP’s $99,507,900 million budget, compensation and benefits accounts for $92,157,600, or 93 percent. Transit spends 67 percent. 

By trying to make the budget process more of a value judgement process, the connection between dollars and decisions gets blurry. Library snacks valued at $50,000 are argued for or against as passionately as a half-a-million dollar armoured police vehicle, and more so than a $3.2 million addition in funding for community centres. 

After voting not to spend surplus money to keep the rate down, residents will see a 2.3 percent increase in the average tax bill. The inflation rate was set at 2.6 percent so in theory councillors worked to save residents 0.3 percent. In theory. On the average HRM property, which is assessed at $241,400, the tax bill will increase $42.85 to $1,967. 

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Police Commission makes recommendation to suspend street check practice

Canada's most diverse police commission isn't fucking around.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 11:12 AM

Carlos Beals says "when you target a specific group of people based on the colour of their skin and are allocating resources to monitoring and surveillance of said group of people, that is discriminatory and that’s illegal.” - CAORA MCKENNA
  • Carlos Beals says "when you target a specific group of people based on the colour of their skin and are allocating resources to monitoring and surveillance of said group of people, that is discriminatory and that’s illegal.”
  • Caora McKenna

UPDATE: On Wednesday, April 17, justice minister Mark Furey directed police across NS to suspend street checks of both pedestrians and passengers in vehicles until further notice.


The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners put its weight behind ending the practice of street checks at this week’s meeting following Scot Wortley and the NS Human Rights Commission’s report released in March. Aware of its inability to mandate any operational changes, the commission made a point of officially recommending to suspend the practice. 

Commissioner and District 8 Councillor Lindell Smith introduced the motion, saying if there are people who perceive that “our force, who swore to protect our residents,” is not there to keep them safe, says Smith “…we are not doing—as the commission—our citizens justice as the oversight body.”

The report looked at 12 years of Halifax Regional Police street check data and found that Black men were nine times more likely to be stopped by HRP for a street check, followed by Arab men and Black women.

The report echoed what leaders from Halifax’s African Nova Scotian communities have been saying for years.

Wortley’s report, as District 15 Councillor and commissioner Steve Craig says, gave more than one option for going forward. Craig described the options presented in the report, saying “A. Ban street checks,” which received applause from the audience, or “keep street checks and regulate it so that there isn’t a violation of human rights,” which was met with “impossible” from members of the community attending the meeting.

Whether street checks are always a violation of human rights, and therefore illegal, was also debated at the meeting. The commission’s legal counsel Martin Ward explained that street checks on their own are not illegal, but when “the basis of you stopping that person and asking them questions is because of prohibited grounds under the human rights act, then that’s illegal.” 

“When you target a specific group of people based on the colour of their skin and are allocating resources to monitoring and surveillance of said group of people,” says commissioner Carlos Beals, senior manager with Ceasefire Halifax, “that is discriminatory and that’s illegal.” 

For an official ban or end of the illegal-when-discriminatory practice, “the minister is the person who holds the hammer here,” says Ward, but the commission's recommendation sends a message to the TBD-chief of police and minister of justice Mark Furey. 

“The way members of our community have been harmed through this process is appalling, abhorrent, and I can’t understand why we would perpetuate this kind of process,” says commissioner and vice-chair Carole McDougal. 

“I think it’s a good place to start,” says Kate Macdonald, a community stakeholder on the Wortley Street Check committee and was at the meeting. “We’ve been having this conversation for decades and it feels like now things are starting to take a little bit of a turn for the better. So let’s keep this momentum going.”

Furey failed to take any official stance on the issue before the closure of the legislature on Friday but maintained that street checks are a useful tool for policing. 

Commissioner Natalie Borden says that the data on street checks being discriminatory is here, and data on the effective work of street checks as a policing tool, is not. Borden also warned that the problem is deeper than a moratorium or a ban on street checks. “We have an issue with how the police interacts with the Black community,” says Borden. “And [I] would just caution people from thinking that once we ban street checks that all goes away.”

This increased street-check contact with Black Haligonians means “we are seeing more have criminal records due to interactions with our police force.” says Smith. Between 2006 and 2017 one third of the Black male population was charged with a criminal offence. Only 6.8 percent of white males were. 

It's been almost three weeks since the report was released, and while the province and both the RCMP and HRP knew it was coming, they haven't rushed into any serious changes. RCMP inspector Robert Doyle and HRP Superintendent Don MacLean spoke to the board about what actions have been taken since the release of the report, Doyle noting that all staff had been encouraged to read up on policies, procedures and the report itself.

Superintendent MacLean says there was immediate direction "in terms of a reminder that any quota system was to cease—if it was in fact in place.” 

He insists that “there’s never been an incentives program for street checks.”

However, whether or not street checks were used as a quota tool is unclear. Smith says he's spoken "to many frontline officers, and every single one of them has said there have been quotas on street checks.” 

This “huge gap” between police leadership and front-line officers needs to be addressed, says Smith. It’s a disconnect similar to the gap between responses from police officers in Wortley’s report and the unending echoes of unfair and discriminatory treatment by police from Black Haligonians. 

The recommendations from the board will be delivered to Halifax Regional Police and the minister of justice.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Hurricanes' Saturday playoff tiebreaker tests traffic woes to come

Hoop dreams compete with construction nightmare.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 6:15 PM

Halifax Hurricanes' Terry Thomas finds an open lane against the Cape Breton Highlanders' Theron Laudermill. Fans driving to Saturday's playoff climax might not be so lucky. - HALIFAX HURRICANES
  • Halifax Hurricanes' Terry Thomas finds an open lane against the Cape Breton Highlanders' Theron Laudermill. Fans driving to Saturday's playoff climax might not be so lucky.
  • Halifax Hurricanes

The Halifax Hurricanes lost a harrowing game 105-94 in overtime Wednesday night after a last-minute scoring push by the Cape Breton Highlanders. The National Basketball League playoff series now stands at two games apiece. The tie will be broken Saturday night, the winner advancing to the Atlantic division finals. Tickets at the Scotiabank Centre went on sale Thursday at noon.

Hurricanes fans living on the other side of the Armdale Roundabout may want to leave early to make the game on time, thanks to the Quinpool Road exit's ongoing closure. Plus the Highway 102/103 interchange project near Dunbrack Street will be active all weekend, causing detours as bridge girders get replaced.

Quinpool Road will look like this until October at least. - ANDREW BETHUNE
  • Quinpool Road will look like this until October at least.
  • Andrew Bethune

Construction season will make things even more annoying later in playoff season. If the Hurricanes win Saturday, they'll be playing another series, just like the Mooseheads of hockey, who are getting ready for their third round matchup. Game schedules aren't set yet, but they might overlap with MacKay Bridge maintenance, which is causing lane closures most weekends in May. 


Traffic snarls will certainly affect the Memorial Cup, the Canadian Hockey League's championship, hosted in Halifax by the Mooseheads May 17-26.

Yet to be scheduled this year are the Cogswell Street interchange project and the Bedford Highway project.

For any events you plan to attend this spring and summer, you can expect very congested downtown traffic and little to no parking, whether you like sports or not.    

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Welcoming tourists with a snow storm

Cruise ship passengers get a cold reception in Halifax.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 8, 2019 at 5:44 PM

Cruise ship season in Halifax started a few weeks earlier than usual–hours ahead of a late spring #NSstorm.

Over 1,200 passengers, aboard the Oceania Cruises' vessel Marina, docked Monday morning for a crisp, maritime spring day.


Lane Farguson, manager of communications and media relations for the Halifax Port Authority, has worked six seasons in Halifax and says this is the earliest cruise ship call he can remember. Usually, the season starts closer to May, when the late spring flurries are sure to be gone.

But while Haligonians grumble about bringing the patio furniture they just put out back inside, cruise passengers signed up for the experience.

The cruise is technically a “global repositioning,” says Farguson, a one-off run that's happening because Oceania is reassigning its boat to a new job in Europe.

Cruise companies turn a profit when moving a vessel to a new region by turning the relocation into a cruise itself. The Marina departed in New York City and its final destination is London in the United Kingdom.

Oceania sold its voyageurs an Atlantic Encounter, complete with beer-based tours in both Halifax and Dublin, Ireland, and tours showcasing the rich Atlantic coastal history of Canada.

“These guests would have known about the weather ahead of time,” says Farguson. They’re probably more prepared than any Halifax resident wishing they’d waited another week to change their winter tires.

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Monday, April 1, 2019

April brings Godzilla, traffic delays

It always was the cruelest month.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 1, 2019 at 5:12 PM

West end Halifax commuters found themselves at the receiving end of what seems like a bad April Fool's prank: the first day of a four-month-long repair work project on the Quinpool Road CN Rail bridge.


With traffic backing up on Herring Cove Road and Chebucto Road, this morning's rush hour on the Armdale Roundabout was no joke. The irony was not lost on commuters, who took to Twitter to voice their thoughts.


Meanwhile, another group of Haligonians spent April Fool's Day on their feet at the Fight for $15 Fairness rally, which started at noon on Barrington Street.

The rally is a response to today's 55-cent increase in the minimum wage, making the rate for experienced workers $11.55 per hour. That raise is a far cry from the $15 per hour the Fairness fighters want to see.


With all this going on in Halifax, it is no wonder no one but this one lonely tweeter has noticed Godzilla rampaging through the streets. Drivers can only imagine how they will have to factor this into their evening commute.

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Mark Butler announces resignation from Ecology Action Centre

After 23 years, the last of which might have been his most challenging, Mark Butler will resign in October.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 4:05 PM

onradar-2.jpg

After 23 years with the Ecology Action Centre, policy director Mark Butler is resigning. In an email to members Butler says he’ll be finishing up in October 2019. 

“This is an incredible place to work there’s amazing people here…There's lots of energy in the organization. This is a good time for me to leave,” says Butler.

Last year, the organization was in the spotlight for turning down a $6.25-million grant for marine conservation. The Coast reported that the rejection was made by the EAC’s board following recommendation from operational directors Mark Butler, Marla McLeod and Carla Vandenberg—Vandenberg announced her retirement early this year. 

The organization was also undergoing a salary review and Susana Fuller, marine action coordinator—who led the funding application—was fired. 

But Butler says the tumultuous events of the year didn’t have anything to do with his decision to resign as he’d been planning to leave for a couple of years. “If anything I would have left sooner.” 

“Whenever there is a conflict in the family that’s never fun,” says Butler. “I’m sad for what happened. 

“We made a difficult decision to not take some funding, and you know what, despite what The Coast said it’s OK sometimes to say no to money.” Butler was approached for an interview for that story but declined to comment.

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Friday, March 22, 2019

Council says no to spending surplus money on parking lot expenses

It's "risky business" spending reserves on recurring expenses says CAO Jacques Dubé.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 4:27 PM

City council votes against spending surplus money to keep tax bill down. - DANIELLE CAMERON
  • City council votes against spending surplus money to keep tax bill down.
  • DANIELLE CAMERON
After much debate, Halifax Regional Council voted against using the $20 million surplus reserve to keep residential and commercial tax rates down. The rate will go to a final vote at council at 2.3 percent, meaning a $43.83 increase
on the average home tax bill of $1,979.

Mayor Mike Savage recommended taking $900,000 from last year’s budget surplus to lower the proposed average tax bill rate from 2.3 percent to 2.1 percent but his amendment was defeated.

“It’s not something you would do very often,” Savage says. “It’s not something you would rely on doing. But I think it’s a statement that we recognize that, for a lot of people, taxes are difficult.” The decrease would shave about two dollars off the average tax bill.

The amendment supported by Councillor Tim Outhit, who compared the 2.1 percent increase to council paying a dividend to the residents who helped achieve the surplus by buying and selling homes last year.

“This is a proposal to put less than 10 percent of the money that came from our residents back to our residents.”

Not everyone agreed.

“We are not a business,” Councillor Sam Austin says, referring to Outhit’s dividend comment. “Our concerns are fundamentally different.”

Austin recently likened the issue to buying groceries with savings–eventually savings run out, but groceries are a constant.

By using part or all of the surplus to lessen taxes, Austin says council might struggle to pay for long-term items in the parking lot list of upcoming expenditures including a $600,000 improvement to transit and Fall River’s $363,000 fire service expansion.

“To me folks, we’re setting ourselves up potentially for more misery next year,” says Austin.

CAO Jacques Dubé agreed with Austin, arguing that using reserve funds to pay for a reoccurring expenditure like yearly taxes is risky business.

Dubé says when you start taking money out of reserves to pay for day to day it's like "taking money from your visa card or your American express card to fund ongoing operations, at some point you’re going to be short.”

After back and forth from councillors Richard Zurawski, Bill Karsten and Matt Whitman, Council reached a stalemate. Eight voted for and eight voted against the amendment, meaning it didn’t pass.

Council then voted on the original motion of a 2.3 percent increase based on their hashing out of the parking lot list which passed and will go to a final vote for council approval next month.
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Thursday, March 14, 2019

NSCAD faculty strike ends, classes resume

Students are happy but teachers and admin are still “so far apart.”

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2019 at 4:00 AM

nscad.png

N SCAD's 95 faculty and librarians ended their strike on Tuesday after just over a week on the picket line. This came as a great relief of the university's MFA students who staged a sit-in demanding the administration agree to negotiating an to end the strike.

The strike meant that faculty supervisors of three MFA projects were unable to see their students' graduation shows. Something Merryn Tresidder, MFA rep on the student union and first year abstract landscape painting master's student says is "absurd."

"It's just not acceptable that we spent two years working with faculty and for them to not be able to come to our show."

NSCAD students were supportive of the faculty's demands, even if the strike put them in a tight spot. Tesidder chose NSCAD because of its faculty, specifically FUNSCAD union president Mathew Reichertz and professor Alex Livingston. He says the administration speak about the four pillars of NSCAD—Nurture, curiosity, connect and steward—and don't mention the students and faculty at all, but "we are the university in reality," says Tesidder.

The striking faculty are demanding improved job security for part-time teachers, wage increases and changes in workload. After a series of 18 meetings and 5 days of sessions had led to a stall in negotiation for these demands, they walked out. Reichertz says when they met with administration on Sunday "it became apparent that we are still so far apart."

Because of this they opted for a mediated arbitration process led by Toronto arbitrator William Kaplan in order to get students back to class and have a chance at seeing their demands met.

The return to class means no more graduation shows will be missed by faculty, but the students whose work was on display during the strike packed up last Saturday—the strike ending three days too late to be seen by their instructors.

The NSCAD MFA students said in a press release that the effects on students of the March 1 strike start were "immediate and detrimental." The strike had already compromised "two years of intense study, hard work, and expensive tuition." a

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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Introducing The Coast Cannabis Sessions

Get your questions answered at this day of pot-focused education, April 6 in downtown Halifax.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2019 at 1:00 AM

The first Cannabis Sessions won't have pot samples, but there will be a great swag bag.
  • The first Cannabis Sessions won't have pot samples, but there will be a great swag bag.

The Coast always likes raising awareness around things people consume for fun, whether that’s in print—the annual Beer Guide comes out this week—or IRL with events like Burger Week, Halifax Oyster Festival and the Drink Atlantic cocktail festival. And now that recreational weed is officially on the menu, we are continuing our tradition of enjoyable education by starting an event called The Coast Cannabis Sessions.

Saturday, April 6 will be a full day of discussions for curious, beginner and dedicated consumers alike. The event, downtown in the former Attica Furnishings space, will feature conversations on education, application and the demystification of weed.

Ever wonder about growing pot at home? Want to learn more about the science behind the plant? And what’s craft cannabis all about, anyway? The Cannabis Sessions can answer your questions.

With the legalization of cannabis has come a lot of confusion. For many Canadians, this new wave of weed brings a huge learning curve, yet public information still seems bureaucratic and inadequate. Cannabis Sessions is aiming to address that lacking. For the first time in the region, this will be a safe place for attendees to interact with the recreational pot brands, industry professionals and, of course, other consumers.

“There is a lot of cannabis talk right now and The Coast wanted to create a space where the questions and answers can be spoken in a fresh way,” says Christine Oreskovich, publisher and events producer at The Coast. “This is an event for both avid and new consumers in Halifax, where they can talk to brands and hear from experts.”

Speaking of questions, the first one everybody asks is if there will be cannabis samples at the Cannabis Sessions. There won’t, at least not this year, but there will be a great swag bag included in the $40 admission.

Ready to get informed? Tickets are available here.


Details on the Cannabis Sessions:
Saturday, April 6
10:00am until 6:30pm
1566 Barrington Street
$40 (includes all fees), ages 19+

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Friday, March 1, 2019

NSCAD faculty and librarians on strike

Students and labour union supporters rallied outside of NSCAD’s Granville campus today

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 3:13 PM

NSCAD faculty and librarians are on strike. - CAORA MCKENNA
  • NSCAD faculty and librarians are on strike.
  • Caora McKenna

After 18 meetings and five days of sessions with the university’s administration, NSCAD faculty and librarians are on strike.  Almost 100 students, faculty and community supporters attended a rally in support of the strike on Friday at the university’s Granville campus. 

The striking workers are asking for improved job security for the 56 part-time teachers at the university. Right now part-time teachers only get six weeks' notice of employment for a given semester.

They are also asking for workload changes and wage increases, which faculty union president Mathew Reichertz says are overdue since they haven’t bargained for the last seven years.

While the university was working on staying open amid severe financial trouble, faculty rolled over on contracts to keep their jobs and school afloat. Now that the university has started to recover, Reichertz says “we have a lot to make up for.”

 According to Reichertz, the faculty union hopes to make the strike as short as possible in order to get students back into their classrooms. “It’s a very stressful thing for students,” he says. “But very heartening to see their support.”

Elizabeth Simmons is an art history student at NSCAD. - CAORA MCKENNA
  • Elizabeth Simmons is an art history student at NSCAD.
  • Caora McKenna

NSCAD art history student Elizabeth Simmons was at the rally. The almost one-to-one relationship with faculty means a lot to her and she’s happy to support them but notes that for graduating students it’s much more difficult. 

“To be fair I am a little bit nervous about missing class,” says Simmons, “but what it boils down to is this is, right now, way more important.”


Reichertz says the union is willing to go back to the table “as soon as we hear they are at least willing to talk to us about some of our unresolved issues.” 

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In Print This Week

Vol 27, No 8
July 18, 2019

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