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.

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 end 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 an end to 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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Monday, February 25, 2019

Common Roots Urban Farm awaits approval of their new home

City council will vote on next steps for the community garden.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2019 at 6:56 PM

Jayme Melrose, Common Roots Urban Farm's business developer stands in the farm's soon-to-be former home. - RILEY SMITH
  • Jayme Melrose, Common Roots Urban Farm's business developer stands in the farm's soon-to-be former home.
  • RILEY SMITH
It's up to city council to decide on recommendations for Common Roots Urban Farm’s relocation plans passed by the community planning and economic development standing committee. If passed, the community garden, which has called the land outside the QEII Health Sciences Centre Emergency Department home since 2012 will be broken up, with 110 of the 200 plots moving to Bi-Hi Park between the exit ramp of the 102 and Bayers Road.

click image The new location at Bi-Hi Park is currently underused green space. Members would access the farm from Bayers Road.
  • The new location at Bi-Hi Park is currently underused green space. Members would access the farm from Bayers Road.
Business developer for Common Roots, Jayme Melrose says the location is ideal because it means the garden gets to stay on the peninsula while moving closer to a large portion of its users who are new Canadians living in Fairview area. The new location would also be adjacent to the ISANS community garden, and Common Roots’ new partner organization MetroWorks.

Halifax's community planning and economic development standing committee discussed the report on Thursday and passed the recommendations through to regional council. Councillor Lindell Smith says that for the committee to support Common Roots and “shows that we are willing to put our resources. I think shows that we do think about community development and engagement.”

Common Roots has also asked the city for help moving the remaining 90 plots that won’t fit at Bi-Hi Park. Angela Green, manager of recreational programming says the city is looking at integrating the plots with their 23 community gardens, nine of which are on the peninsula. It’s also recommended by the committee that council direct city staff help with the big move of the 90 plots to their future homes.

When it started in 2012 the original 42 plots were handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis, and in following years a waiting list was used to manage the plots. They were divided into community garden plots run by individuals, market garden plots which facilitated a cross-cultural learning centre and commons garden plots which were run by and for volunteers. Decisions haven’t been made yet on how the plots will be divided once the move happens but Melrose says they’ll be doing public consultations to help navigate the “complicated logistics” of this aspect of the move.

A crowd-funding campaign last fall successfully raised $10,000 which will go towards the move’s estimated cost of $60,000. The standing committee report says that any costs related to helping move the plots would be absorbed within the existing operating budget for parks and recreation and transportation and public works.

At the standing committee meeting Councillor Tim Outhit raised some concerns for safety considering the park was right beside the exit to a 100-series highway, but staff say they look to use the Bayers Road side of the park for access.

The deadline for the move is April, which Melrose says is “anxiety-inducing" but so far she’s been pleasantly surprised by the city’s support and is hopeful things move forward.

———
Editor's note: This story initially said the decision would be made at City Council on Tuesday February 26, however it will happen at a later date.
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Friday, February 22, 2019

Halifax activists get face-to-face apology from Trudeau

“The work starts now.”

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 3:04 PM

Trayvone Clayton says Trudeau's apology is just the beginning. - SUBMITTED
  • Trayvone Clayton says Trudeau's apology is just the beginning.
  • SUBMITTED

Halifax leaders who spoke up about a racist incident at Parliament this month got their apology in a big way yesterday. 

Prime minister Justin Trudeau met with Halifax activists Trayvone Clayton and Kate Macdonald in a closed-door meeting at the Black Cultural Centre in Dartmouth yesterday. 

Clayton, a Saint Mary’s University student in Halifax, spoke up on social media after seeing a security guard approach a group of Black youth at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa who were there for meetings after a weekend at the National Black Canadians Summit in the capital. The guard started with “I’m not trying to be racist, but…” and then referred to a group near Clayton and Macdonald as “dark-skinned” in response to a complaint that had been sent to security.

After the incident, Clayton told The Coast a letter wouldn’t be enough: “I can throw that out.” He was asking for a face-to-face meeting with Trudeau, and it happened. 

Trudeau sat down with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled up, “ready to talk,” says Clayton. His words were “genuine” and he gave both Clayton and Macdonald space to say what they wanted to say. 

But “political and genuine are in and of themselves contradictory,” says Macdonald. “Truthfully, the work begins now.

“An apology is the very beginning of how you actually say sorry for something.”

Trudeau was in Dartmouth visiting the Black Cultural Centre for the first time. It surprised Clayton that this was the first time a prime minister had ever been in the building. “That building shows all the history of Blacks throughout Canada. That's where the first Black person came, is here to Nova Scotia in Canada.” 

Clayton listed off important leaders that came before him, from Portia White to William Hall to Viola Desmond. “These are the people that set the trend for us to keep pushing,” says Clayton. ”They passed on the torch to us to keep going for it.”

It’s names like that, says Macdonald, “that should be rolling off the prime minister’s tongue with ease.” 

After receiving national attention since speaking out, Macdonald, who has been an activist and educator in the community for years, says it felt good to “have a national spotlight brought back home on your terms. To have a spotlight during this month, during this decade, focused here.”

With the verbal support of the PM Macdonald and Clayton are going to make sure they keep advocating for Black youth coming up behind them in their community and across the country. 

“My next step is to keep moving forward and see if he’s really there or not,” says Clayton. “Just because I got my apology, it’s not over.” 

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Taxi changes aim to fix gender disparity and safety issues

Halifax regional council passes big changes for the taxi industry

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 4:53 PM

Will adding 600 roof lights to the Halifax taxi industry improve long waits and safety concerns? - VIA ISTOCK
  • Will adding 600 roof lights to the Halifax taxi industry improve long waits and safety concerns?
  • via iStock

Council moved Halifax’s taxi reform on to the next stage this week by passing all recommendations put forward by staff in the Vehicle for Hire Licensing Program Review.

Sweeping “housekeeping changes” from making GPS units mandatory, increasing language testing requirements, tightening the rules around talking on the phone while driving passengers and making credit and debit machines mandatory are among the changes intended to increase rider safety. 

The change facing the most opposition from the city’s taxi drivers is to add 600 new owner licenses or “roof lights” to the current cap of 1,000. The increase has been met with fierce criticism from taxi roof-light owners—and praise from the over 230 roof-light renters. The number is designed to increase supply and address gender disparity among drivers. 

Staff says that adding 600 owner licences is the only way to fairly introduce more women into the industry, as the current waitlist for new owners has over 500 people on it (some of whom have been waiting 13 years).

Anything less would mean “The women who are on that list are not going to see an owners licence for eight years” says Sally Christie, supervisor of regional licensing. 

There are 13 women on the waitlist who would benefit from this, one of whom is Chrissy McDow. 

McDow runs the female-only airport taxi and limousine company Lady Drive Her and says 600 is too many.

“If they’re trying to wiggle down to 500 names just to get a female, I don’t want them to do that,” says McDow. “I don’t want to see 600 [more] lights because my ladies are going to take forever to make a living.” 

The push for more women in the industry comes in response to safety concerns: 66 percent of respondents to the citizen survey said they would prefer an all-female taxi service because passengers would feel safer.

But as of right now, the change would only add 13 more females to the 25 who already have owner licenses. (There are 36 women with driver licenses, and it’s likely the 11 of them without owner licenses are on the waitlist). Over 1,400 men have driver licenses and own 975 of the 1,000 owner licenses. 

McDow says she’d be lucky if she saw even 50 women come forward if they open up the licensing. With that and the 600 increase, women would still make up only 5 percent of the industry.

McDow says “if it’s only 13 women, give the 13 women their permits, just take them off the list and give it to them.” When asked in council on Tuesday if this was a possibility, Christie says they wanted to make sure they dealt with the waitlist in a fair way. They didn’t want to put women who had been on the waitlist for five years ahead of men who had been on the waitlist for 13 years, and they need to get more people working and on the road.

“We do not have enough supply to meet the demand. That’s really the bottom line,” says Christie.

Adding the 600 licenses would also free many drivers with driver licenses but not roof lights from expensive and difficult leasing arrangements. The full extent of these arrangements is unknown, but Casino Taxi alone has 230 drivers in leasing arrangements. Deputy mayor Tony Mancini says many of the people in these leasing arrangements are newcomers who are being taken advantage of. 

“It’s wrong, it’s truly wrong,” says Mancini. 

Council also passed recommendations for another report, which would look specifically at how to handle the “inevitable” arrival of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber or Lyft, and that the mayor writes a letter to the province asking permission to subsidize the accessible taxi industry.

Councillor Lindell Smith asked staff if there was a way to guarantee that increasing the number of owner licenses by 600 wouldn’t cause the city’s only 16 accessible drivers switch to regular roof light licences. The hope is that with the added subsidies this won’t be a problem. There’s no waitlist for an accessible license, yet drivers would rather wait up to 13 years for a regular roof light than drive an accessible taxi. “Right now, the taxi system does not make enough money for a taxi driver to drive. They are losing money when they are on the road,” says councillor Waye Mason.

After municipal staff draw up the by-law amendments, they’ll return to council for further debate. 

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Friday, February 8, 2019

Halifax activists speak out against racism in Ottawa

Halifax’s Black community rallies behind youth speaking up about a racial profiling incident in Ottawa

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2019 at 11:16 PM

click image Kate Macdonald, Marcus James and Trayvone Clayton at the press conference at the George Dixon Community Centre. - THE OBJECTIVE NEWS AGENCY VIA TWITTER @THEOBJECTIVENS
  • Kate Macdonald, Marcus James and Trayvone Clayton at the press conference at the George Dixon Community Centre.
  • The Objective News Agency via Twitter @theobjectiveNS
A coalition of Black, human rights, labour and youth organizations held a press conference at the George Dixon Community Centre in Uniacke Square, Halifax today. Kate Macdonald, Marcus James and Trayvone Clayton spoke to their community and media about an incident of racial profiling that happened on Parliament Hill this past week.

Macdonald and Clayton were in Ottawa with Black leaders from across the country for the National Black Canadians Summit celebrating Black excellence and meeting with leaders “who had been through racism but got to where they are today,” says Clayton.

The incident took place after the summit and involved a security guard on Parliament Hill racially profiling the group Macdonald and Clayton were with. Macdonald, a local community educator and activist explains at the press conference that the guard referred to a group near them as “dark-skinned” in response to a complaint that had been sent to security.

Clayton had just started a media interview nearby when he heard the guard say “I’m not trying to be racist, but,” which stole his attention. The comments hurt Clayton and members of the group he was with. “It ruined my day,” he says. “The parliament building is a place for everyone in Canada. It’s not a place to create problems, it’s a place to solve problems.

“I expected to be treated equally and fair. I was excited because I get to step in the most powerful building in Canada.”

Clayton and Macdonald are speaking out because they want things to change for themselves and the kids in their own community.

“It is for all of us who are here now. But it’s also for the generations that are to come that aren’t here yet,” says Macdonald. “Kick down a few of those doors. Blaze a few of those trails. And hopefully, things are easier for them. That’s how we’re here now, you know? Because people did that for me, people did that for us.”

Over 15 organizations supported Macdonald and Clayton in denouncing the incident and over 25 people stood with Macdonald and Clayton as they spoke at the press conference. “I’m very proud of the African Nova Scotian people and folks and community that stood with me, and sat with me, and said their piece and sang with me,” says Macdonald.

Andy Fillmore and Liberal MP Greg Fergus spoke about the incident in the House of Commons on Wednesday. There is currently an investigation to what happened underway, but Clayton says a piece of paper or a letter isn’t enough for him. He wants to meet with Prime Minister Trudeau face-to-face.

“It’s time for us to be heard. We need change and we need it fast,” says Clayton. “Canada is supposed to be a safe place, but yet people are still walking about here in 2019 uncomfortable. Not knowing what to do with their head on a swivel.”
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