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 to send a tip.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Halifax’s bike network dream in jeopardy

More money and fervent council commitment needed to finish the city's ambitious active transportation project.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2018 at 3:49 PM


Despite the best-laid plans of council, Halifax's ambitious hope for a bike network throughout the urban core won't be possible by 2020.

In fact, based on city hall's current budget it might not meet the original deadline of 2022 at all.

“Obviously, we won’t be able to build this out to 2022 with the draft numbers that have been tabled so far,” David MacIsaac, HRM’s active transportation supervisor, told council on Tuesday.

Plans for an “all ages and abilities” (AAA) bike network were approved last year as part of the Integrated Mobility Plan, amongst great excitement and enthusiasm from city hall and the public.

Council was so over-the-moon about the whole idea that a motion was passed asking staff to bring the bike network together two years quicker—by 2020—to make up for Halifax’s typically glacial pace in establishing new cycling infrastructure.

So far, 20 percent of the bike network has been built and over half of its priority projects are in motion to be completed by 2022.

“From a planning and design perspective, for getting the work done to have a project shovel-ready, we’re reasonably confident,” said MacIsaac. “This is a reasonable picture of what we can implement by 2022.”

Reasonable only if a few million in extra funding can be conjured from city hall’s pockets.

The city’s proposed multi-year capital budget from CAO Jacques Dubé has a grand total of $11 million slotted over the next three years for all active transportation projects. The capital cost for the bike network alone is $25 million. So far, only $3 million of that money has been approved.

“Therefore, without having a clear understanding of Regional Council’s direction regarding future capital and operating budgets, it is difficult to commit to a 2020 or 2022 implementation timeframe,” warn staff.

Shawn Cleary, who brought forward the bikeway network for discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting, believes money to keep the IMP rolling can be reallocated from other sources. If not, he hopes a tax increase for more complete streets will be easier to swallow than putting funds towards non-essential fantasy projects.

“Clearly, we have a lot of things we want to do and a very limited amount of money to do it with,” Cleary says. “If we’re increasing taxes to pay for things like stadiums, well that’s different than raising taxes to pay for things like [the IMP].”

There’s also the cost of not building a bike network. The Integrated Mobility Plan says spending $190 million on active transportation infrastructure could save HRM $700 million in future road widening costs. Walking and cycling also destroy asphalt far slower than cars, lessening pressures for repaving and pothole repairs.

“It is the most efficient, most economical, most sound argument in terms of a sustainable way to create a system for the future and for now,” says Kelsey Lane, sustainable transportation coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre and former executive director of the Halifax Cycling Coalition. “We’re going to be paying for transportation either way, but if we can fix the system now we’re setting ourselves up and future generations for a system that works for them.”

Lane says she can live with an extra two years to get the bike network in place, provided city hall ensures its funding. Given what’s already been budgeted by the CAO, that initiative will clearly have to come from council.

“We need their leadership to make this a reality,” Lane says. “We can’t afford to wait.”

Cleary ended the discussion yesterday warning his fellow councillors that some tough choices will need to be made in the new year when the capital budget is up for debate.

“We’re not out of the woods,” he said. “If we’re committed to the Integrated Mobility Plan, we’ve got some discussions to make about how we’re going to do that.”
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , ,

Monday, December 10, 2018

Arts hub gets $10 million in public funding

Proposed Culture Link facility will bring an “unprecedented number of creative sector entrepreneurs” under one roof, says minister.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2018 at 3:03 PM

A culture link is like an arts hub, but more innovative. - VIA HRM
  • A culture link is like an arts hub, but more innovative.

Looks like downtown will finally get some Culture.

The Link Performing Arts Centre will receive $4.5 million in funding from the federal government. Pablo Rodriguez, minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, made the announcement on Monday alongside Halifax MP Andy Fillmore.

“The Halifax region has benefited greatly from arts and culture for many years,” Fillmore said in a news release. “The Link Arts Centre will give our city and the whole region an additional asset. The artists, creators and the general public will now have access to modern and accessible spaces, right here in downtown Halifax.”

The province has also agreed to chip in $5.7 million, with roughly half coming from Invest Nova Scotia and the remainder from Communities, Culture and Heritage.

Culture minister Leo Glavine said on Monday that the proposed $13-million arts hub will bring an “unprecedented number of creative sector entrepreneurs” under one roof.

“The Link Arts Centre will be transformative for the arts and cultural industries in Nova Scotia and an economic driver for both Halifax and the province.”

The money will be used to renovate the former Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre, which George Armoyan's Armco bought from the province two years ago for $13.5 million. Armco will provide a 20-year, below-market lease, as well as $2 million towards the project's capital costs.

The renovated centre will serve as a cultural hub for theatre, dance, music and film. Its 84,000 square feet of space will include an 1,800-seat performance venue, along with room for production studios, offices, dance floors and a cinema.

Organizations who've so far expressed interest in long-term leases at the centre include DHX Media, Sonic Entertainment, Carbon Arc, AFCOOP, Youth Arts Connection, the Pop Explosion, the ECMAs, Devour and Halifax Pride, among others.

The Link's organizers say other potential clients interested in short-term rentals include Dapopo Theatre, Eastern Front, Halifax Circus, Dance Nova Scotia, Mocean Dance, Music Nova Scotia, the Halifax Urban Folk Festival and the Jazz Fest.

Music Nova Scotia's Scott Long, chair of the Link Performing Arts Society, said in Monday's release that the centre “will cement Halifax as the cultural capital of Atlantic Canada and help nurture the next generation of creative entrepreneurs in our region.”

The non-profit Link Performing Arts Society is organizing the venture with Culture Link, a community interest company from film producer Marc Almon and editing impresario Rob Power.

Unlike traditional non-profits, a CIC can turn a profit, but only if 60 percent of the proceeds are redistributed towards the organization's stated mission of community benefit.

The Link proposal will be one of potentially a handful of new arts hubs coming to the downtown over the next few years. Culture Link's proposal was submitted at the same time council approved the $1-sale of the old Khyber to the 1588 Barrington Building Preservation Society, along with a one-time grant of $250,000 to create a cultural arts incubator.

Though the two plans share some overlap, city staff say they’re fundamentally different in scope and service. The renovated Khyber will act as a community-run centre for emerging visual artists, while the Link will be a multi-disciplinary, creative industries hub.

“By supporting both venues, Halifax will be enabling the development of a distinct cultural district that will provide space and opportunity for artists and artist-led community-facing organizations as well as cultural industries and entrepreneurs,” says staff.

With today’s funding contributions from the province, federal government and Armco, that leaves just $800,000 needed to complete The Link.

A funding request of $1 million from city hall's coffers goes before council tomorrow, having already received an initial stamp of approval from HRM’s community planning and economic development committee.

Pending approval of all monies, The Link is set to open in 2020.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Slower response-time targets proposed for HRM firefighters

Halifax falls short of its self-imposed emergency response targets “by a wide margin,” says consultant's report.

Posted By on Sat, Dec 8, 2018 at 9:04 PM

Smaller budgets; faster service, current fire stations. Pick two. - VIA SHAUN LOWE
  • Smaller budgets; faster service, current fire stations. Pick two.
  • via Shaun Lowe

A staff report headed to Regional Council recommends lowering the targets for the city’s emergency response times, because the current time targets are rarely met.

Halifax firefighters in urban areas are expected to respond to structural fires within seven minutes, 90 percent of the time. For rural firefighters, that target is 12 minutes. Volunteer firefighters in rural areas have 17.

Now, city staff are proposing an extra 30 seconds be added for dispatch times. Rural and urban firefighters would also get an additional 30 seconds for turnout—the time it takes to get on the road.

The recommendation comes out of data collected by Pomax Consulting. Looking at the past two years of operations, Pomax found that Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency missed virtually every dispatch, turnout and response time target set by the municipality.

According to the consultant, the 60-second window for dispatch in HRM was met only half the time over the past two years. A substantial part of the blame, says Pomax, is the triple role HRM dispatchers have to play responding to police, fire and 911 calls.

“No matter how conscientious call takers and dispatchers are, it is very difficult to change roles ‘on the fly’ between being a 911 call taker, fire call taker and police call taker, plus remember to capture all the time markers,” reads the report.

In the urban core, the 60-second targets for both dispatch and turnout times more often take two and three minutes, respectively. The expected eight-minute response time for multiple units to a structural fire, meanwhile, comes in closer to 10.

Rural and suburban firefighters fare even worse. Those first responders only made their 60-second turnout window around 10 percent of the time. Volunteer firefighters were only able to meet their six-minute target for turnout times on 69 percent of calls.

Halifax Fire and Emergency is “unable to achieve an effective firefighting force” according to the city’s own standards, the report concludes.

“We anticipate the only way to achieve the 2006 standards for multiple unit response is via new stations and new staff for those stations in order to reduce travel time,” Pomax writes. “Adding stations may cause excessive response area overlap with existing stations, meaning that some existing stations may have to be relocated because of redundancy.”
Response times, in seconds, for firefighters in the urban core. - POMAX
  • Response times, in seconds, for firefighters in the urban core.
The same chart for the city's rural and suburban firefighters. - POMAX
  • The same chart for the city's rural and suburban firefighters.

The municipality has undertaken a hiring process to try to better meet those targets, but as the consultant’s report notes, “the balance of hiring is for the purpose of offsetting overtime.”

The city awarded the $86,000 contract to Pomax—the only bidder—two years ago, amid heated debate about HRFE staffing levels and the reorganization of HRM’s fire stations.

Fire department brass previously delivered an operational review to council back in 2014 recommending several stations be decommissioned and others staffed by volunteers.

The proposal was not well received. Residents and even a couple of councillors denounced now-retired fire chief Doug Trussler and begged council to go against the advice of its experts. Trussler was hauled before council several times over the next two years, always repeating his belief that the reorganization wouldn’t impact service.

But council went another direction, instead choosing to keep the stations largely as they were and throw money at the problem by hiring a few million dollars worth of new firefighters.

Of course, that consolidation of fire staff and stations was largely designed so that HRFE could better meet HRM’s response times. Having rejected more efficient service, some councillors were worried staff would recommend the only other option—slowing down response time targets. And that’s exactly what happened.

Staff suggest the implementation of the new response times should happen, bit by bit, over the next three years. Year one would have a benchmark of 120 seconds for turnout; year two would be 105 seconds; and year three, 90 seconds.

The report, which also recommends new fire resources for the Halifax airport and switching Fall River’s fire station to 24-hour service, comes to council on Tuesday.
  • Pin It

Tags: , ,

Friday, December 7, 2018

Want to reduce clearcutting? Clear out Natural Resources

The department overseeing Nova Scotia's forests has lost the public's trust by kowtowing to industry demands, says advocate.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 2:53 PM

A woodlot without lots of wood. - ECOLOGY ACTION CENTRE
  • A woodlot without lots of wood.

If the province wants to reduce clearcutting on Crown lands, first it needs to clean house over at the Department of Natural Resources.

So says Raymond Plourde, wilderness coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, who believes the current departmental leadership has lost the public's trust.

“It’s largely because of their single-minded focus on giving the big mills what they want and keeping the public’s expectations at bay,” says Plourde.

Earlier this week, the provincial government released its response to professor William Lahey’s independent review of forestry practices. Minister Iain Rankin accepted the report's recommendations for a drastic reduction of clearcutting on Crown lands and a new “ecological forestry” system.

“Forestry is a longstanding economic driver in Nova Scotia and it’s important we get it right,” said Rankin in a press release.

Nova Scotia will begin work immediately—four months after the report first came out—to shift to a new “triad model” of forest management, where some Crown lands are protected, some are lightly harvested and some are sacrificed to high-production industries for clearcutting.

Currently 80 percent of Nova Scotia’s harvested trees are felled by clearcutting. The practice makes up 90 percent of harvesting on private woodlots and 65 percent on Crown lands. Lahey’s report recommends the latter number be reduced to somewhere between 20 and 25 percent.

Changing the marching orders isn’t enough, though, says Plourde. The people inside the old bureaucracy also need to change. Otherwise, says the forest advocate, time passes, governments change and the Lahey report’s mandate could fade from priority.

“That’s the danger.”

The department's oversight of Nova Scotia's forests has been a continual point of criticism from conservationists who argue DNR relies on bogus science and obfuscation to produce industry-friendly decisions.

Lahey’s report notes there’s a “significant gap between what the DNR says it is doing to manage forestry on Crown land and how it is actually managing forestry on Crown land.”

Conservationists believe the department is beholden to industrial interests, writes Lahey, pointing to DNR's refusal to implement commitments from the Natural Resources Strategy, as well as the number of former forestry executives now holding senior positions with the department.

Allan Eddy, a former Bowater woodlot manager and NS Power executive who was in charge of forestry management, was hired four years ago as the new associate deputy minister for DNR. He's since moved on to work for Port Hawkesbury Paper, lobbying the province in a government relations role. Aside from Eddy, there's former Resolute Forests Products manager Jon Porter (now executive director of DNR’s renewable resources branch) and former Northern Pulp lawyer and lobbyist Bernie Miller (who's now the deputy minister for the Department of Business). Among others.

“Bottom line is if you’re going to have a major change in the department and the way it behaves,” says Plourde, “then you need to bring in new people who actually agree with that approach and don’t need to be dragged kicking and screaming.”
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Zero tickets so far for smoking violations

Latest numbers show 11 complaints have been made over the last three weeks about smokers on public property.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2018 at 1:54 PM

Who are these 11 people calling 311 on smokers? I really need to know. - THE COAST
  • Who are these 11 people calling 311 on smokers? I really need to know.

Concerns about Halifax's draconian smoking ban may have been premature.

There are precious few complaints coming into 311 about smokers, and those that have been logged with the city still haven't resulted in any penalties.

The latest figures from HRM show that 31 calls about the smoking bylaw have been made over the three-week period from November 12 to December 2. Twenty of those were general information requests. Only 11 calls were actually complaints about smoking on public property.

None of the complaints resulted in a ticket, nor has the city handed out any tickets so far for violations of its much-maligned ban.

The legislation came into effect just before the legalization of cannabis on October 15. Under the revised rules, smoking and vaping of any tobacco or cannabis product is banned on municipal property outside of specially designated smoking areas.

Possible fines for violating the law range from $25 up to $2,000 for flagrant abuse.

Upon the controversial bylaw’s implementation, HRM promised enforcement of the smoking ban would be “relatively light” for the first few weeks.

“I think tickets are a last resort,” CAO Jacques Dubé told media at the time. “If people continue to want to flaunt the law, after many warnings, then we may have to impose the fines.”

City hall says it will be monitoring the smoking ban weekly and reporting back to council on its successes and failures sometime in April.

Halifax is spending $1.5 million on its initial cannabis legalization measures. Ongoing costs to the city are estimated at $3.5 million per year.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Police continue arresting labour activists

Ottawa cops show solidarity with fellow officers in Halifax by jailing picketers outside mail facilities.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 3:37 PM

A screenshot from the video showing Ottawa police confronting activists picketing for Canada Post employees. - VIA FACEBOOK
  • A screenshot from the video showing Ottawa police confronting activists picketing for Canada Post employees.

Labour activists protesting the back-to-work legislation forced onto unionized Canada Post employees keep running afoul of police.

A news release from the group Organizing 4 Justice says cops in Ottawa arrested four protesters early Wednesday morning as they were picketing outside a mail processing plant.

A video shared on Facebook shows a man identified as Peter Whitaker—a representative for the National Organization of Retired Postal Workers—being told by police to move to the sidewalk so as not to obstruct Canada Post business. Another video shows police escorting the man away in handcuffs as the assembled crowd chants “shame.”

It’s remarkably similar to the scene outside the Canada Post offices on Almon Street this past Sunday when Halifax Regional Police arrested six protesters for mischief and obstructing a peace officer.

Police say the protesters were impacting two-way traffic by blocking Canada’s Post’s access to Monaghan Drive, which “could have resulted in an injury to a member of the public as it posed a serious public safety threat.”

Responding officers tried to move the protesters and vehicles, but when that failed six picketers were led away in handcuffs.

Brad Fougere, Austin Hiltz, Justin Whitten, Darius Mirshahi, Art Bouman and Tony Tracy were subsequently released from custody the next day and are scheduled to appear in court to enter a plea on January 4.

In the interim, they’ve been barred from being within 300 feet of a Canada Post facility.

In a post to Facebook, Tracy says he and lawyer Joel Pink will be fighting the charges in court.

“The right to full and fair collective bargaining, and the fundamental Charter-protected right to strike, are always worth defending,” Tracy writes. “Bosses and governments have never given us rights that we haven’t fought for, and those ‘rights’ are meaningless if not defended.”

A release from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers this week says various blockades of Canada Post facilities continue to happen at locations across the country.

Canada Post calls the ongoing protests “illegal pickets” now that the Trudeau government has enforced back-to-work legislation.

“We’ll continue to take appropriate action to address illegal activity impacting the collection and delivery of mail and parcels,” the corporation has told media.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Review committee finds flaws with Nova Scotia's minimum wage formula

New report proposes an annual increase of 55 cents for the next three years, bringing minimum wage to $12.65 per hour by 2021.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 4, 2018 at 3:54 PM

Protesters calling for a $15/hour minimum wage take to the streets back in October. - VIA GARY BURRILL ON TWITTER
  • Protesters calling for a $15/hour minimum wage take to the streets back in October.

Minimum wage workers in Nova Scotia could see a big bump in pay next year, if the province follows through with new recommendations from its minimum wage review committee.

The panel is proposing Nova Scotia increase its minimum wage annually by 55 cents over the next three years, raising it to $12.65 an hour by 2021.

The recommended multi-year adjustment is meant to rectify an error in how wage increases are currently calculated. The formula used by the province since 2008 fixes the rate each year based on inflation, as set by the Consumer Price Index.

The goal is for a full-time employee making minimum wage in a community the size of Sydney to meet Canada's low-income cutoff (LICO). But the current formula uses a work week of 40 hours, and not the 37 hours for which full-time employees are actually paid and with which Statistics Canada sets the CPI.

“Once we looked at Stats Canada’s numbers, then we realized that both of the numbers they used are based on the 37-hour work week,” says Danny Cavanagh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour and a member of the review committee.

Currently, an employee paid 37 hours a week, 50 weeks of the year, would have to earn $11.90 per hour to reach the low-income cut-off point—nearly a dollar more than what they make today.

By keeping pace with inflation, plus adding an additional 30 cents a year to make up for the 40-hour overcalculation, Nova Scotia's 27,000 minimum-wage employees will finally meet the definition of low-income by 2021.

“The committee believes LICO is still a rational approach to establishing a fair minimum wage for employees,” states the review committee in its report. “However, it believes the calculations for setting the rate at LICO should properly reflect accurate data regarding an average work week.”

Nova Scotia currently has the lowest minimum wage in Canada. Saskatchewan beats us by just six cents. The province last increased its minimum wage back in April by 15 cents, bringing it to $11 per hour.

The province also has an “inexperienced” minimum wage rate where workers can be paid $0.50 less than the minimum if the employee has fewer than three months total work experience.

Activists and labour advocates have long called for Nova Scotia to dramatically increase its regulated wages, with a protest held back in October outside labour and advanced education minister Labi Kousoulis’ office arguing for a $15 minimum.

Gary Burrill, leader of the Nova Scotia NDP and a speaker at that rally, said on Tuesday that the wage review committee's latest recommendation doesn't go far enough.

“It’s absurd that under this plan, people making minimum wage in Nova Scotia will make less in three years than workers in Ontario, Alberta, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are making today,” Burrill said in a press release. “Our economy cannot succeed without the improved purchasing power that a $15 minimum wage would provide.”

Cavanagh agrees with that assessment and says he still plans to fight for a $15 minimum wage. But he also points out that the five-percent raise being proposed by the review committee—about an extra $20 a week—would still mean a lot to many low-income Nova Scotians.

“We still don’t think that goes far enough, right, but it’s better than what they received last year,” he says.

The province says a decision on Nova Scotia's minimum wage will be made in early January.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , ,

Monday, December 3, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2017

Looking back at 25 years of Halifax with special guest Steve Murphy.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 3, 2018 at 1:59 PM


The end is here! The 25th episode for 25 years of our little podcast experiment. For one last time, we look back at the bars, bands, businesses, big news stories and Barrington Streets that defined Halifax.

Who better to join us on that journey than the most trusted name in Atlantic Canadian journalism? Steve Murphy started hosting CTV's supper-hour newscast 25 years ago and he's with us in-studio to talk about the “recurrent themes” of the past quarter-century, why he doesn’t believe in “fake news” and whether or not he once took a helicopter to a family reunion.

Also on this episode, we go over the highs and lows of 2017. It's the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion and the debut of Cape Breton pizza on the mainland. The Proud Boys show up to defend Cornwallis, Lido Pimiento plays the Pop Explosion, the Convention Centre finally “opens” and Michelle Coffin tells her story. We've got street checks, Saltwires and Joel Plaskett trapped on Georges Island. What else could you want?


Thank you to all of our guests over the past 25 episodes: Jay Ferguson, El Jones, Todd McCallum, Sharon Fraser, Mike Campbell, Chris Parsons, Jane Kansas, Glenn Walton, Mike Savage, Susan Dodd, Brian Titus, Emily Tipton, Stephen Kimber, Andrea Dorfman, Rick Conrad, John Simmons, Allison Saunders, Lia Rinaldo, Michael Karanicolas, Joyce Carter, Stephanie Domet, Delvina Bernard, Mary Vingoe, Phonse Jessome, Kirk Jonson, Condon MacLeod, Gloria McCluskey, Lezlie Lowe, Erica Butler, Jamie Bradley, Benita Ha, Brian Heighton, Jonathan Torrens, Lindell Smith, Kelsey Lane, Joel Plaskett, Matthieu Aikins, Tim Bousquet, Juanita Peters, Rich Aucoin, Stephanie Johns, Barry Boyce, Sean MacGillivray, Graham Steele, Selena Ross, Emily Davidson, Kate Leth, Cory Bowles, Tom Michael, Rebecca Thomas and the great Steve Murphy.

Also thanks to the bands whose music we’ve featured on these episodes: jale, Rebecca West, the Inbreds, the Superfriendz, Thrush Hermit, Classified, Plumtree, The Hylozoists, Hopeful Monster, Wintersleep, Jill Barber, Dog Day, Jenn Grant, Joel Plaskett, Amelia Curran, Tanya Davis, Rich Aucoin, Jennah Barry, Ria Mae, Thrillah, Quiet Parade, Erin Costelo and Dance Movie.

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

Catch up on past episodes here.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2016

Tom Michael hits rewind on the legacy of Video Difference and Rebecca Thomas speaks truth about her time as poet laureate.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 1:04 PM


This week on the podcast we're joined by Tom Michael, owner of the dearly departed Video Difference, who shares his memories of running Halifax's beloved cinematic landmark.

Then, former HRM poet laureate Rebecca Thomas is with us in the studio, talking about spoken word, Cornwallis and her history of activism.

All this plus Jacob uncovers missing evidence, Tara writes about the changing music scene and we argue about the Internet Black Widow.


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

Catch up on past episodes here.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

City hall to pay for side guards on garbage trucks

Council agrees to spend $238,000 retrofitting the life-saving devices onto the privately owned fleet of vehicles.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 6:31 PM

REgroup trucks like this one will soon be outfitted with side guards. - VIA FACEBOOK
  • REgroup trucks like this one will soon be outfitted with side guards.

Halifax will spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars installing side guards on trucks owned and operated by private businesses.

Regional council voted on Tuesday to cover the costs for the life-saving devices on the 83 solid-waste collection trucks belonging to GFL Environmental and REgroup, respectively.

The total cost to HRM works out to just over $238,000.

Last year, the city started requiring side guards on all contracted service providers' vehicles over 4,500 kilograms. Tuesday's motion, however, marks the first time city hall has agreed to pay for a private business to install the protective barriers—something that didn't sit well with some councillors.

“Here we have taxpayer money being spent on a private business and in two years time they could all leave and a new fleet come in,” said Halifax–Bedford Basin West councillor Russell Walker. “Are we going to do it again?”

In fact, we will. Halifax always pays for upgrades to its contractors' garbage trucks. Usually, that cost is just baked into the tender price though.

The question before council this week was whether to wait two years until the current waste collection contracts end—hoping no one is killed in the interim—or move up the timetable and pay out of pocket for the side guards today.

“Council’s going to end up paying for this, whether it’s part and parcel of the tender cost of paying for it separately,” said legal director John Traves.

Council eventually agreed to get the side guards on the road as soon as possible. Only Waverley–Fall River–Musquodoboit Valley councillor Steve Streatch voted against the motion.

“I think it’s great HRM is forcing this to be an issue here in Nova Scotia,” said Halifax South Downtown councillor Waye Mason. “Like pesticides and compost, and our recycling program, this is an example of how HRM is leading the province and causing change.”

Side guards work as a barrier, positioned between a truck's front and rear axles, preventing cyclists and pedestrians from sliding underneath during a collision. Their implementation has been championed by researchers and cycling advocates as an effective way to save lives, but the cost has also been criticized by the trucking industry.

“Being safe, it costs money,” countered councillor Richard Zurawski.

The Timberlea–Beechville–Clayton Park–Wedgewood representative noted that Tuesday's meeting began with a moment of silence for MaCali Cormier, the four-year-old girl run over and killed this past weekend in Yarmouth's Christmas parade.

It's unclear if side guards would have made any difference in that death, though it's known side guards could have prevented four fatal collisions with right-turning vehicles on HRM's streets over the past 11 years.

“We have these huge vehicles that need to have some sort of restraint from causing more carnage,” said Zurawski. “I can't put a cost on it. Someone's life. Someone's maiming, the hurt—we are an extended family. It affects us all when we hear of tragedies that happen.”

Side guards will be retrofitted on HRM's own fleet of vehicles as replacements are needed, with a total conversion expected by 2022.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , ,

Friday, November 23, 2018

Raymond Taavel to be memorialized with city park

HRM staff want to rename a small south-end park after the prominent LGBTQ+ activist, who was killed in 2012.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 23, 2018 at 2:32 PM


A small park at the corner of Barrington and Inglis Streets is set to be renamed after Raymond Taavel, six years after the celebrated LGBTQ+ activist’s tragic death.

Taavel was one of the city’s most prominent voices for gay rights—instrumental in bringing about HRM’s first public proclamation of Pride Week, raising the rainbow flag at City Hall as well as efforts to have equal marriage and transgender rights enshrined in Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Act.

“In the early 2000s—a time when the LGBT community across Canada was raising its profile with city halls in a very significant way—Taavel began a decade of work as one of the foremost leaders of Halifax Pride,” reads a staff report recommending the change, which comes to city council next week.

The 49-year-old was killed outside of Menz Bar in April of 2012 while trying to stop a fight. The next evening over 1,000 people filled Gottingen Street in an outpouring of appreciation. Similar vigils were held throughout the Maritimes and across Canada.

Efforts to celebrate Taavel's legacy began almost immediately thereafter.

Lieutenant governor JJ Grant posthumously awarded Taavel the QEII Diamond Jubilee medal, and his name currently adorns both a plaque on Gottingen Street and the commemorative display case for a rainbow flag within City Hall.

Last year, the department of Culture and Heritage chose Taavel as one of 30 Nova Scotians over the past 150 years responsible for “innovation and change in the face of diversity.”

He was an “activist without anger,” says close friend and former coworker Barry Boyce.

“To this day I think that’s his legacy,” Boyce said last month as a guest on The Coast’s podcast. “He knew how to be fierce and push an agenda but he also knew how to listen and care and not alienate people.”

Inglis Street Park will be renamed for Taavel, barring any objections from council. - WAYE MASON
  • Inglis Street Park will be renamed for Taavel, barring any objections from council.

Boyce and other members of the Public ART for Raymond Taavel initiative have been trying to find a way to honour their dearly departed friend’s legacy for several years.

A vacant lot on Gottingen Street was temporarily transformed into a healing garden by artist Brian Pace in honour of Taavel, but redevelopment plans for the property prompted recent discussions about finding a more permanent space.

Boyce says the group realized that the tranquillity of a community park would be the most fitting memorial for a peaceful man whose legacy was bringing together community.

“This is not about Raymond’s death. This is about Raymond’s life,” says Boyce. “No matter how long Raymond lived, it would have been fitting and appropriate to commemorate him and to commemorate him in a way that represents who he was, because he was about the community. He wasn’t about himself.”
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Halifax's north end to Celebrate Viola

As Viola Desmond’s $10 bill enters circulation, a multi-day festival sets to pay tribute to the Civil Rights hero.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 12:18 PM

The new $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond entered circulation this week.
  • The new $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond entered circulation this week.

Canada’s brand new $10 bill isn’t the only celebration of Viola Desmond happening this week.

Businesses and organizations in Halifax’s north end are hosting Celebrate Viola—a multi-day festival honouring the new banknote’s release and Desmond’s legacy as a business leader and Civil Rights activist.

Marika Paris, event coordinator for the North End Business Association, says the idea was timed around the $10 bill’s launch into circulation. It really came about, however, because Desmond’s story was continually being championed elsewhere in Canada but not nearly as much in the north-end neighbourhood she once called home.

“We saw all of these other different groups in different cities creating parks and naming streets after Viola and there wasn’t anything representative of her in the north end,” says Paris. “We felt it was our responsibility.”

The celebration kicks off Wednesday with a roundtable of African Nova Scotian activists and scholars discussing the history of the local Civil Rights movement. Other planned events include a performance of Viola: An Original Musical by the Charles Taylor Theatre Group, a tribute concert (featuring MAJE, Keonte Beals and Cyndi Cain) and a pop-up street market of African Canadian vendors.

The event is being organized by the business association, the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute, In My Own Voice, the provincial department of African Nova Scotian Affairs, the Black Business Initiative and several other organizations.

“It’s nice that we can create something by the community to really give people insight into the person that she was,” says Paris. “Not only as the activist that she is, but her nature as an entrepreneur and being community-oriented.”

Desmond owned and operated a beauty salon on Gottingen Street and also opened her own beauty school to train other Black entrepreneurs. But she’s most well-known as a civil rights icon who was arrested in 1946 after unknowingly sitting in the whites-only section of a New Glasgow movie theatre.

Her story helped expose Nova Scotia’s segregation and racism, and since that night in jail Desmond has posthumously been awarded an apology and pardon, and commemorated on a stamp, holiday, Heritage Minute and Halifax Transit ferry.

The new $10 banknote featuring a vertical portrait of Desmond and a map of the historic north end went into circulation on Monday. It also includes a picture of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, an excerpt from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and an eagle feather, symbolizing the rights and freedoms of Indigenous Peoples.

Paris says that Desmond being recognized on the $10 bill gives the north end a new sense of pride.

“It shows we should be strong in times we don’t necessarily think we should speak up.”

Celebrate Viola runs through Sunday, November 25, when it will be capped off with a luncheon, sermon and interdenominational service at the Saint George’s Round Church on Brunswick Street. More info can be found here.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , ,

Monday, November 19, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2015

Cory Bowles looks back on #NSFilmJobs and Megan Leslie shares reflections from her political career.

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 5:38 PM


Filmmaker, artist and all-around multihyphenate Cory Bowles is with us reflecting back on when the province killed Nova Scotia's film tax credit.

Then we phone up Megan Leslie to find out why Halifax's former Member of Parliament left behind politics and the city after 2015's federal election.

All this, plus the city is rendered immobile by a hellacious winter, donairs become HRM's official food, the Rainmen are no more, rich people behave badly and The Coast goes to the movies.


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

Catch up on past episodes here.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2014

It's the Khyber, forever, with Emily Davidson, and comic superstar Kate Leth shares her strange adventures.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 1:45 PM


Emily Davidson, noted friend of the Khyber, joins us to talk about her group's efforts to save 1588 Barrington Street from indifferent city staff who wanted the historic arts incubator sold off as surplus back in 2014.

Then, writer and artist Kate Leth calls in from Califonia to reminisce on her strange adventure from local illustrator to comic book superhero.

Plus, HALIFAX buys itself a bold brand, the new library finally opens, NSCAD gets a fountain of money (but loses a micro-gallery) and something called the Ivany report is released. Ever heard of it?


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

Catch up on past episodes here.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Season ticket drive begins for Halifax's non-existent CFL team

Pay $50 for the chance to buy discounted tickets on a team that doesn't yet exist who will play in a stadium that's not even approved.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 9:12 PM

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie (left) addresses the media while MFLP partner Anthony LeBlanc watches. - VIA YOUTUBE
  • CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie (left) addresses the media while MFLP partner Anthony LeBlanc watches.

Atlantic Canadians who want to vote for the name of Halifax's new CFL team will first need to fork over a $50 deposit on season tickets for a team that may never exist.

Maritime Football Limited Partnership and CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie held a news conference Wednesday at Saint Mary’s University announcing the ticket drive and naming contest as they once again look to build public interest in a franchise calling Atlantic Canada home.

The potential 10th CFL team would expand the league from coast to coast, fulfilling what commissioner Ambrosie called “unfinished business” for football fans.

“I think it is the unfinished piece of business that has been on the hearts and minds of football fans for decades,” he said.

Anyone putting down a deposit with TicketMaster will be placed on a priority list to purchase discounted season tickets at a future time, should Halifax ever officially be awarded a team.

The CFL's go-ahead for that decision will be conditional on whether the new Atlantic Canadian football team will have a place to play.

“For this to become a reality, we have to have a stadium,” said Anthony LeBlanc, partner with MFLP.

Halifax council is currently awaiting a staff report analysing the business case for the 24,000-seat stadium MFLP wants to build on 20 acres of Shannon Park in Dartmouth.

Who exactly will pay for the $190-million stadium is still up in the air. Maritime Football has previously said it expects HRM to be “involved at the table in some fashion” when it comes to covering the stadium's debt.

“It’s probably the most substantial hurdle that we’ll cross,” LeBlanc said about figuring out the stadium funding.

Bruce Bowser, another partner with MFLP, grew up in Shannon Park. Although he now lives in Toronto, Bowser's second house is here in Halifax and every time he visits the city he says he becomes more and more convinced that now is the time for HRM to give his organization money. 

“To come here and see the new Trade Centre and the crowds it brings, I think the time is right for the Maritimes to have a team,” Bowser said about the long-delayed albatross that's going to cost HRM million of dollars more than originally expected.

In an “exclusive Q&A” from the CFL, LeBlanc says he's already had “a lot of one-on-ones” lobbying individual city councillors in an effort to combat “misinformation” from the public about the stadium.

“We’re certainly not looking for any type of handout, so to speak. We’re looking for people to look at the proposal,” LeBlanc tells CFL. “The problem is because it’s a stadium, people get polarized and it becomes very political. We’re hoping everyone takes off their opinionated hat and sort of looks at everything through a clear lens.”

“There hasn’t been a single stadium built in North America that doesn’t have some sort of public involvement,” LeBlanc told reporters two weeks ago. “I don’t see how we can continue with a stadium proposal that does not involve at least HRM and the province, if not the federal government.”

Council's stadium report is due back within six months. Maritime Football wants to start construction next summer, with hopes that a team could be fielded by the 2020 season—even if the stadium takes another year to complete. LeBlanc said on Wednesday he’s open to playing the first season in Moncton if Halifax isn’t ready.

In the meantime, the group plans to start a public engagement process for its proposal, which will include handing a detailed business case over to the city to examine and pushing its pre-orders for season tickets.

LeBlanc said the “artificial threshold” for success will be if they can sell 12,000 season tickets to fill half of the 24,000-seat stadium. Customers will be limited to 10 deposits on season tickets per account.

Putting down a deposit also allows people to vote in a contest to name the team, choosing from four pre-selected options or submitting one of their own.

The shortlisted names include the Atlantic Admirals, Atlantic Convoy, Atlantic Schooners and Atlantic Storm.

Only one of those names—Schooners—has already been trademarked by MFLP and the organization “reserves the right” to have final say in the name.

The team name will be announced during Grey Cup weekend later this month.
  • Pin It

Tags: , ,

Recent Comments

In Print This Week

Vol 26, No 51
May 16, 2019

Cover Gallery »

Real Time Web Analytics

© 2019 Coast Publishing Ltd.