Reality Bites provides the best coverage of current affairs and political issues related to Halifax and City Council anywhere in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Oh, and we bring the snark, too. Contact jacob@thecoast.ca to send a tip.

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

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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?

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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.
  • VIA YOUTUBE

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.
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Monday, November 5, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2013

Graham Steele on the end of Nova Scotia's NDP government and Selena Ross on the story of Rehtaeh.

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2018 at 1:59 PM

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Former finance minister Graham Steele is with us as we dissect the NDP government's collapse back in the 2013 provincial election. Then, award-winning journalist Selena Ross chronicles the story of Rehtaeh Parsons and her time working with a dream team of reporters and editors at the Herald.

All this plus Halifax baristas unionize, Joachim Stroink celebrates the holidays, Chris Brown doesn’t come to town, Benjamin Moore doesn’t paint the city and The Coast turns 20.

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Friday, November 2, 2018

WE Day Atlantic not happening

Non-profit walks away from $65,000 in municipal funding but promises it'll be back again next year.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 7:10 PM

The scene last year at WDA. - VIA INSTAGRAM

For the first time since 2013, there will be no WE Day in Halifax.

The Canadian non-profit confirms it has no plans to host a WE Day Atlantic this year, even with $65,000 in public funding available from the city.

“Thank you for reaching out,” said WE Day’s press team via email. “WE Day Atlantic Canada returns in the 2019/2020 school year. Date to be announced in 2019! Let us know if you have any questions at all.”

Follow-up questions about why the event was not taking place this year were not answered.

WE Day is run by WE Charity, an international non-profit that promotes youth volunteerism to aid children in developing nations by hosting star-studded stadium shows. Last year’s WE Day Atlantic was attended by 8,000 youth and educators, and past events have featured appearances from Margaret Trudeau, Joseph Boyden and a performance from Gord Downie.

But WE Day has also faced public criticism for its business practices. A recent investigation by news site Canadaland revealed that WE is connected to at least three corporations known to use child and slave labour in their supply chains.

WE Day Atlantic has already received $380,000 in public funding from HRM since its first event five years ago. The non-profit is in the final year of a three-year funding agreement with the city worth nearly $200,000.

City spokesperson Victoria Martin says the charity would be required to re-apply for any funding next year or for any future events, but couldn't say definitively what will happen with this year's current $65,000 allotment because HRM is still waiting for a cancellation notice from WE Day.

“Until we receive communication directly from WE Day, staff would not be able to comment on their funding,” says Martin. “The general practice if an organization which is receiving event funding were to provide official cancellation correspondence, then the event grant amount would be released back to its funding source.

Even without an Atlantic Canadian event this year, WE Day doesn't show many signs of slowing down. This fall has already seen WE Days hosted in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and New York. Events in Ottawa and Vancouver are scheduled for later this month. 
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Police launch investigation into mishandling of evidence

Four civilian employees in the Exhibit and Property department put on administrative leave.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 6:35 PM

Blais, speaking to reporters earlier this year. - THE COAST
  • Blais, speaking to reporters earlier this year.
  • THE COAST

Halifax Regional Police have launched an internal investigation into four of their own employees over the mishandling of evidence.

A release from HRP says the investigation comes in response to information that materials in HRP's Exhibit and Property department were improperly handled.

Chief Jean-Michel Blais said an investigation was immediately initiated after the allegations were brought to police on Wednesday.

“At this time, it is unknown if there will be grounds for criminal charges,” Blais said in a statement. “Although that process is still at a preliminary stage, in the interest of transparency and public interest, we chose to communicate the available information. HRP will also conduct a review into the circumstances.”

While it conducts its investigation, the police department has restricted four civilian employees from the property section to administrative leave.

The Property and Exhibit Section handles items seized or surrendered to police, along with items found by officers on patrol. Lost items are returned to their proper owners when identified. Seized or surrendered materials are kept for investigations and court purposes before being either returned or destroyed.

Police say the materials in this incident were already scheduled for destruction and were not related to any drug investigations.

It was only back in January that HRP closed its two-year internal investigation into the findings from a Drug Exhibit Audit that documented widespread problems in the department's evidence control system.

Even after the extensive review, investigators were unable to locate thousands of drug and cash exhibits. Officially, it's believed those items—including 30 kilograms of cocaine, 5,400 opioid pills and $8,000 in cash—were improperly destroyed.

Property and Exhibit storage is a different physical location and wouldn't handle illegal drugs or cash. The drug audit and subsequent correspondence about evidence control within HRP, however, highlighted several failures in the tracking and handling of evidence including employee training, a lack of complete paperwork and inadequate supervision that could allow for severe mishandling of exhibits.

The investigation into drug exhibits came about after constable Gary Basso was accused in 2015 of stealing a chemical "cut," used to dilute drugs, from an evidence locker at police headquarters.

The Crown stayed and withdrew those charges last winter after delays in prosecution. Basso is set to face trial later this month on separate charges for allegedly assaulting a homeless man.

Since the drug audit came out in 2016, the police department has implemented all 34 of its recommendations for improving exhibit security and plans to conduct full inventories of all evidence lockers on an annual basis.
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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

No clear answers on stadium finances

Halifax says it's taking on no financial risk with the proposal. Maritime Football Limited says otherwise.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 1:05 AM

Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton is the blueprint for what Maritime Football wants to build in Halifax. - PHOTO BY JFVOLL, VIA WIKIPEDIA
  • Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton is the blueprint for what Maritime Football wants to build in Halifax.
  • PHOTO BY JFVOLL, VIA WIKIPEDIA

The city’s CAO says Halifax won’t be taking on any financial risk to help pay for a proposed $190-million CFL stadium. The consortium behind the plan, however, has a different view.

City council unanimously voted Tuesday to prepare a business case analysis for Maritime Football Limited Partnership’s dream to build a stadium at Shannon Park.

The city will also work with the province to figure out potential funding options for the potential 24,000-seat structure, which would be the home field for a CFL expansion team that’s due to be announced next month.

Maritime Football would own the team, the stadium and—most importantly—the debt, according to chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé. City hall would only step in with some debt repayment support but wouldn’t be acting as a guarantor on any loans.

“Our current position is the private sector owns the debt,” Dubé told council on Tuesday. “We’re not looking to take financial risk on the project.”

No capital costs for construction. No ongoing maintenance or operational expenses. No risk at all, Dubé promised council.

But MFLP partner Anthony LeBlanc says his group will need the government “involved at the table in some fashion” in order to put together the stadium’s financing structure.

“The conversation about how the money will flow, who will sign up for it, those are to be determined,” LeBlanc told reporters after the meeting.

The former president of the Arizona Coyotes stressed that Maritime Football will take on the $3 million a year in operational risks from running the stadium.

Only the operational risk, he was quick to clarify. Not the financing risk.

“No, no, no, no, no, stop, stop. I didn’t say we’d take on the [financing] risk. We would take on the operational risk. We were very clear we would take on the operational risk. That’s not the financing risk. We said we would take on the operational risk.”

LeBlanc wouldn’t say whether he wants the province or the city to guarantee his company’s loans for the stadium or whether MFLP would be looking to borrow money under the province’s generous financing rates.

About the only thing he was certain of was that the public was going to have to take on some level of risk if it wants a CFL stadium in Halifax.

“There hasn’t been a single stadium built in North America that doesn’t have some sort of public involvement,” he said. “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.”

The municipality thinks it can support the proposal through Tax Increment Financing. Property taxes from the stadium and nearby commercial development would be set aside to pay the debt payments, which staff estimate will work out to $9 or $10 million annually.

Unless that plan doesn’t work. Any TIF funding would still be vulnerable to changing property assessments and other external factors. As HRM staff warn in their own report, a major risk “would be that the proposal simply shifts development from one area of the municipality to another and as a result, there would be no incremental tax revenues.”


It’s also unclear whether the TIF would cover just the 20 acres of stadium land and ancillary buildings or if it would be applied to the entire 90 acres of Shannon Park up for redevelopment. Both options seem to be on the table, despite the latter completely upending residential redevelopment plans already assembled from multiple public engagement sessions.

“If it includes the entire site, there’s no way I could vote for that,” warned Dartmouth Centre councillor Sam Austin.

Even though many of the specifics remain unspoken, Dubé did tell council during Tuesday’s meetings that he expects revenue from the TIF to equal about $5 or $6 million annually.

The remainder would potentially have to be made up from the province, with staff suggesting increased hotel room levies and a new car rental tax.

City solicitor John Traves says Dubé’s estimate isn’t based on anything specific other than the $190-million projected cost for the stadium from MFLP.

“We’ve had some discussions that we’re not able to talk about yet which would give us an idea of what else would they build that they wouldn’t build otherwise if not for the stadium,” Traves told reporters.

Maritime Football, working with real estate developers Jones Lang Lasalle in Atlanta and Gensler Architects in Los Angeles, is basing its estimated $190-million construction cost off of the $145-million price tag for Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, plus some inflation.

Hamilton’s stadium opened late and unfinished in 2015 and has since cost that city $2.5 million in repairs for everything from persistent leaks and unsafe railings to missing draft beer lines and rain-damaged television screens.

Staff will now go off and put together a detailed report on MFLP’s proposal, including other costs for the municipality to build up roads, sewer and transit infrastructure around a new stadium district. It’s estimated the business case analysis won’t return to council for at least six months.


In the interim, Maritime Football will be lobbying HRM and provincial officials about finance options while continuing negotiations about purchasing the property from Canada Lands Corporation.

A season ticket drive and team name will be announced next month to test how willing HRM is to play out its football fantasy.
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Monday, October 29, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2012

Remembering Raymond Taavel with Barry Boyce and talking Halifax Locals with Sean MacGillivray.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 12:37 PM

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This week on the podcast we look back at the life and death of Raymond Taavel with his longtime friend and coworker Barry Boyce. Then, Sean MacGillivray stops by to talk about the contentious online community of Halifax Locals, which shut down in 2012.

Plus, the Morse's Teas sign is painted over, bus drivers go on strike, King of Donair leaves Pizza Corner, the city sells the Bloomfield Centre to the province, Peter Kelly leaves politics (for now), Mike Savage takes over city hall and Beep drink is back.

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

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Halifax tackles funding options for $200-million CFL stadium

Maritime Football Limited wants Shannon Park—and a lot of government help—for its proposed football expansion.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2018 at 3:59 PM

MFL's proposed stadium location. The peninsula jutting out beyond the blue border belongs to the Millbrook First Nation. - VIA HRM
  • MFL's proposed stadium location. The peninsula jutting out beyond the blue border belongs to the Millbrook First Nation.
  • VIA HRM
Maritime Football Limited wants to buy 20 acres of land at Shannon Park for a $200-million football stadium—but first the province and the municipality have to agree to help pay for it.

A staff report on the much-anticipated stadium proposal coming to city council on Tuesday recommends that HRM completes a “thorough business case analysis” for a stadium district on the Shannon Park land before agreeing to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in public tax revenue to the private business venture.

Council asked for the report back in July, after multiple closed-door meetings with MFL’s representatives and—until now—no publicly disclosed financial details. The ownership consortium has been jointly negotiating with the city and the CFL on plans for a new expansion football franchise and a place where the team could play. Securing one has been conditional on securing the other.

According to HRM’s staff report, the city would partner on capital costs to construct the 24,000-seat stadium—buffered by surrounding mixed-use commercial and residential developments—and possibly partner with MFL for ongoing repairs and maintenance work. Initial construction estimates fall “in the range” of $170 to $190 million.

City hall would cover those costs by creating a Tax Incremental Financing model. Property taxes from the new stadium and surrounding buildings would be redirected from general operations and instead be put towards a $10-million annual payment for debt financing. It’s the same model HRM uses for the Nova Centre to try and recoup its annual payments for the Halifax Convention Centre.

The biggest risk factor, however, is that a TIF is incredibly susceptible to changes in property valuations, real estate trends and other external factors. It’s why tax revenues from the still virtually empty Nova Centre are now expected to be $25 million less than original estimates.

Another concern, says the report, “would be that the proposal simply shifts development from one area of the municipality to another and as a result, there would be no incremental tax revenues.”

The city will the province's authority if it wants to create a new TIF and put a special property tax agreement on the stadium. More importantly, both MFL and HRM will also need the province to come on board as a funding partner.

Premier Stephen McNeil previously has shot down that idea unless a new source of revenue could be found to put towards a stadium. City staff are now proposing that money could be taken from an increased tax on hotel rooms and a brand new tax on car rentals to cover the costs.

Maritime Football Limited claims a new stadium will contribute $171 million to Nova Scotia’s GDP and create 1,951 full-time job equivalents. Football operations would bring in another $97 million to HRM’s GDP, claim the business owners.

Of course, all of these arguments have been heard before. Shannon Park has been proposed several times in the recent past for a stadium; always unsuccessfully.

In 2006, HRM paid $2.4 million for a report on the feasibility of a 25,000-seat stadium on the site as part of the city’s failed Commonwealth Games bid. Five years later, the city tried again. Council spent another $500,000 on a consultant’s report to see if a stadium could be built in time for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. It couldn’t.

“Stadiums on their own only have the potential to create a small amount of new spending that would not have otherwise occurred and instead redistribute spending that would have occurred elsewhere to the area surrounding the stadium,” reads the staff report from years ago.

In 2012, council asked staff to buy 40 acres of the former Department of National Defence lands for future stadium use. By 2015 those plans had evaporated and the city began planning for Shannon Park to be redeveloped as a “future growth node,” creating a compact community and potential housing for 7,000 residents. The city also recently offered to sacrifice the land to Amazon during a failed bid for the e-retailer’s new corporate headquarters.

Shannon Park’s 95 acres were used for military housing from the 1950s until 2003 when the site was declared surplus. Canada Lands Company currently owns the property and has been consulting with both HRM and MFL about possible redevelopment scenarios. 



This latest staff report says CLC will need to see a public engagement process from the city before supporting the stadium proposal.

The Millbrook First Nation, which is purchasing nine acres of Shannon Park to add to its ancestral reserve lands next door, will also need to be engaged in the stadium process and confirm its support before the idea moves forward.

If council votes for the business case analysis on Tuesday, HRM staff will also have to factor in what impact the new stadium district could have on roads, transit and housing, a growing concern that the chosen site is vulnerable to storm surges and rising sea levels, along with all other “assumptions underlying the business plan.”

Only five percent of residents ranked a new stadium as their top infrastructure project, according to an HRM citizen survey conducted this past summer. Polling conducted by CRA for Maritime Football Limited during the same period “suggests” 63 percent of HRM residents support a stadium being built with financial support from the public.

Maritime Football Limited plans to launch a season ticket campaign for its non-existent team next month, with average ticket prices ranging from $40 to $60.

According to MFL’s polls, 50 percent of residents say they would either definitely or probably attend at least one CFL game in Halifax.
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Monday, October 22, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2011

Rich Aucoin goes behind the music for We're All Dying To Live and Stephanie Johns prints a curse word on our cover.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 at 11:08 AM

THE COAST
  • The Coast

This week on the podcast, all-around awesome person Rich Aucoin (one of the tallest people Tara knows) is with us talking about his triumphant year in 2011; headlining the Pop Explosion and releasing his long-awaited album, We're All Dying To Live.

Then, arts editor Stephanie Johns is back with stories of outrage from the one time The Coast printed a swear word on its cover. It's pretty fucked up.

All this plus the city hits peak scandal, the sleepwatcher is big news, Babylady disappears, we debate James Franco's stardom and The Coast apologizes to Stan Kutcher. This is a good one, folks!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Quebec shipyard not happy with “Ships Stay Here” campaign

Davie spokesperson strongly takes issue with comments from union and city officials that jobs are being stolen from Irving.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 4:02 PM

What greets visitors at the Unifor website. - VIA UNIFOR

A spokesperson for Davie Shipbuilding strongly takes issue with comments that the Quebec company is stealing work from Halifax.

“It’s being portrayed as if Quebec will steal jobs, contracts from Irving,” says Fred Boisvert, vice-president of public affairs for Davie. “Where if you look properly, closely, there’s nothing like it happening at all.”

Federal procurement officials are currently discussing options on whether to split contracts for planned maintenance work on seven Halifax-class frigates between the Irving Shipyard in Halifax and Davie, near Quebec City.

The prior contract for that work was owned solely by Irving. Sharing the work with Quebec could lose the Halifax Shipyard hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years.

“The loss of this work would be a loss for the Nova Scotian economy and families across the province,” reads a statement on Unifor's website. “Logistically and economically, it makes sense to keep the work in Halifax.”

Irving Shipyard is also the primary beneficiary of the national shipbuilding strategy contracts for Arctic Offshore Patrol vessels and surface combatant ships back in 2011. But union officials fear a two to three-year gap between those contracts could result in hundreds of layoffs without the maintenance work.

Boisvert says that’s all a bit rich. No one in their right mind could believe there are production gaps at Irving, he says, given the sum total of $65 billion in federal contracts the shipyard has secured.

“Guys, guys, you got $65 billion,” he says. “I mean, please, you won’t get a tear from me. You’re flush with contracts. You’ve got 20 years stability in terms of that shipyard.”

Davie has laid off some 1,000 workers itself over the past year due to dwindling federal contracts. “We’re bleeding people here,” says Boisvert.

Regardless, the potential loss of work is being rallied against by shipyard employees and Halifax's municipal government. As workers protested outside City Hall yesterday, Regional Council unanimously voted to voice its opposition federally to the planned contract split.

“We're talking families and lives here,” said councillor Stephen Adams, who brought forward the motion.

Union officials, meanwhile, have created a public awareness campaign spinning off of the advertising slogan used for the national shipbuilding strategy seven years ago—changing “Ships Start Here” to “Ships Stay Here.”

But Boisvert says the union is wrong to conflate the maintenance jobs with the national shipbuilding strategy and fires back at comments from Halifax CAO Jacques Dubé that those jobs were meant for Halifax.

“No, I’m sorry. They were not. They just were not.”

Boisvert says it’s in the taxpayer’s best interest for shipbuilding to move away from the semi-monopoly of Irving's Halifax operation and Seaspan's shipyard in Vancouver.

“There are a lot of contracts to be delivered by Irving and so far, I’m sorry, after seven years of that strategy...there’s not a single ship delivered and operational as we speak.”



The Halifax shipyard launched the first of six Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships last month, though work on the HMCS Harry DeWolf won't be completed until next year.

Both Irving and Davie have received huge government investment to modernize their facilities and keep operations afloat. Irving received a $304-million forgivable loan from the province and a substantial tax break from the municipality several years ago for its shipyard. The province of Quebec also recently announced it was pumping $188 million of public money into the Davie shipyard in Lévis.

The department of National Defence has said that the government will announce any changes to its frigate maintenance contracts in the coming weeks.

“We’ll see what the federal government decision will be,” says Boisvert, “but Davie is ready to get up to speed and get to work.”
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City council refuses to voice offshore drilling opposition

Recent dire warnings about the planet's future not enough for Halifax to send a toothless letter to the province.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 1:23 PM

BP's massive oil platform is currently performing exploratory drilling off Nova Scotian waters. - VIA BP CANADA
  • BP's massive oil platform is currently performing exploratory drilling off Nova Scotian waters.
  • VIA BP CANADA

It was a largely symbolic gesture about the future of the planet. And Halifax Regional Council shot it down.


Before the city's elected leaders on Tuesday was a motion from councillor Richard Zurawski in opposition to offshore drilling and oil exploration in Nova Scotia.

Zurawski wanted council to write a letter to the province voicing disapproval of the practice—not only due to the disastrous impact potential spills could have on marine ecosystems, but also in recognition of the dire warnings contained in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, Global Warming of 1.5°C.

“Probably the scariest report” that Zurawski says he's ever read.

“The old rules are gone,” he told his colleagues. “There will be no future unless we begin to act and I think we need to push our provincial brethren off the fossil fuel bandwagon...In the name of our young.”

The IPCC special report was prepared by 91 researchers across 40 countries, based on over 6,000 scientific resources. It’s message is unequivocally clear. Rapid, unprecedented changes across all aspects of society are needed to limit global warming to 1.5C and avoid cataclysmic environmental devastation.

We only have 12 years left to make that change happen. That means this city is just three municipal elections away from large portions of Halifax being underwater, heatwaves killing elderly residents and huge portions of the province being rendered useless for agriculture.

Zurawski's pleas, however, were met with a range of criticism. Although David Hendsbee expressed concern about the impact of an oil spill on HRM’s coastal areas, the councillor noted offshore issues are not “our jurisdiction.”

Ironically, earlier in the day council unanimously approved a motion to send a similar strongly worded letter to the federal government, which argues Canada should keep all maintenance work on its naval frigates here in Halifax. That matter is also not a part of HRM’s jurisdiction, but council agreed the government's decision could impact jobs and tax revenues.

“We're talking families and lives here,” said councillor Stephen Adams.

In response to Zurawski's concerns, Dartmouth Centre councillor Sam Austin suggested HRM write a response in general to the IPCC report, rather than “cherry-picking one specific thing.”

There’s lots we can do on climate change that’s directly in our wheelhouse rather than writing the province about sort of one-offs,” said Austin.

But Zurawski stressed the motion’s purpose was to take a stand and show the public that council recognizes it must take steps to stop climate change immediately.

“Right now we have a dire report coming out saying that the continued use of fossil fuels is bad and what epitomizes the use of fossil fuels is offshore drilling of oil,” said Zurawski. “This is an important issue. It may be, in fact, a one-off issue in some minds. However, it is the principal issue.”

Not enough of an issue for some city councillors, it would seem.

The motion was ultimately defeated six-to-10. Only councillors Adams, Shawn Cleary, Lisa Blackburn, Waye Mason and Lindell Smith voted with Zurawski. Mayor Mike Savage was absent.

“The speech you gave was a nice speech,” councillor Steve Streatch told Zurawski shortly before the vote while stating in no uncertain terms that he was against voicing any opposition to offshore drilling. “Absolutely not. Not me.”

Deputy mayor Waye Mason pointed out that other municipalities have passed similar motions, though those letters have been based more on concerns about what a blowout could do to coastal communities.



“Well good for them,” replied Streatch, off-mic.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2010

Talking with Juanita Peters about Halifax's Africville apology and more events from eight years ago.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 5:49 PM

2010.jpg


Filmmaker and Africville Museum general manager Juanita Peters is with us in the studio talking about the day Halifax finally apologized for its biggest mistake—the razing of Africville and forced displacement of its community members.

Tara and Jacob also dig into the infamous MLA expense scandal, then we expose some drunk city councillors and wade through the concert scandal fallout. All this plus the fire department sues our comment section. Neat!

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Council calls on feds to keep shipbuilding work in Halifax

“Those jobs were meant to be in Halifax, always were,” says city's CAO about plans to split up multi-billion work with shipyard in Quebec.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 5:46 PM

Council weighing in on a federal matter.
  • Council weighing in on a federal matter.

Those jobs were always meant to be in Halifax, says HRM's chief administrative officer, Jacques Dubé. “Always were.”

Regional Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to voice its opposition to a proposal for splitting up naval maintenance work between shipyards here and in Quebec—calling on the federal government to keep shipbuilding jobs in Halifax.

Councillor Stephen Adams put forward the motion during Tuesday's meeting, in response to concerns from JD Irving and its unionized workers that hundreds of skilled jobs could end up lost if the lucrative maintenance contracts are shared with Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec.

Adams admitted shipbuilding decisions are a federal jurisdiction, but Halifax nevertheless has a stake in the matter given how the loss of work will impact residents and the city's tax revenue.

“That is part of our mandate,” said Adams. “We're talking families and lives here.”

Irving won the contract for maintenance on Halifax-class frigates back in 2011, but that deal is nearly expired and procurement officials in Ottawa have expressed an interest in splitting future repair work between Halifax and Quebec. According to media reports, the Department of National Defence doesn't believe Irving can handle the workload while also building its new surface combatant warships.

Union officials representing Irving workers say as many as a third of the Shipyard's 900 unionized workers could face layoffs if the maintenance work is split with Quebec.

In response, Unifor has launched a petition and lobbying campaign, dubbed “Ships Stay Here,” which asks the public to share its support for Shipyard workers.

“The loss of this work would be a loss for the Nova Scotian economy and families across the province,” reads a statement on Unifor's website. “Logistically and economically, it makes sense to keep the work in Halifax.”

Dubé took time during the brief discussion on the item to assure council the matter was serious. The CAO previously served as deputy minister for Service New Brunswick some 15 years ago, back when the federal government agreed to pay $55-million in “economic readjustment” so that Irving could permanently close its mothballed Saint John shipyard and transfer work to Halifax.

“I spent many an hour with JD Irving in Ottawa negotiating this matter,” Dubé said on Tuesday. “Today, what we’re seeing is not what we agreed to at the time. So this is absolutely not sensational. This is real.”

Seven Halifax frigates need maintenance completed over the next five years. Repairs on each vessel represent the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into the Shipyard.

Irving has already received some $3 billion out of $40-billion worth of shipbuilding contracts for Canada's new Arctic, Offshore and combatant vessels. Nova Scotia has also invested heavily in the company's shipyard operations, with the province offering a $304-million forgivable loan to upgrade Irving's facility and Halifax council approving a substantial tax break for the property.

“It’s extremely important that we maintain those jobs and that we support, not only JD Irving, but the workers and the unions going forward on this file,” Dubé told council before the vote on the item, earning a spattering of applause.

The Department of National Defence has told media that the government will announce any changes to planned maintenance contracts in the coming weeks.
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“We owe an apology to the public”

Halifax’s deputy mayor and CAO admit the city’s new smoking ban—which everyone hates—has had a rough start.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 2:56 PM

Check out the map of approved locations here. - ADOBE STOCK
  • Check out the map of approved locations here.
  • ADOBE STOCK



“I feel like we have let the public down,” deputy mayor Waye Mason says about the launch of Halifax’s new smoking ban.

With hours to go until cannabis is legal across the country, Halifax is admitting that its complicated, city-wide ban on smoking needs some fine-tuning.

“I think we owe an apology to the public for the fact there aren’t enough designated smoking areas on the rollout,” says Mason.

There were only nine designated smoking areas ready in time for the nuisance bylaw’s launch on Monday morning (dozens more have been added since).

“Are we going as fast as we’d like? No,” CAO Jacques Dubé told reporters at City Hall on Monday. “Are we going as fast as we possibly can? Absolutely.”

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners heard an update on Monday afternoon about how the new legislation will be arbitrarily enforced going forward. According to Dubé and director Kelly Denty, enforcement of the smoking ban will be “relatively light” for the first few weeks.

Bylaw compliance officers and police will engage with any smokers they come across, handing out little cards with details about where smokers can legally light up instead of issuing fines.

“It’s more of a, ‘Hey, did you know?’” said Denty, instead of giving out tickets. “Obviously we’ll do that when we need to but it’s not the initial approach.”

Complaints about smokers can be made by members of the public to 311 from 8am to 8pm. After dark, residents can call HRP’s non-emergency line to narc.

Police won’t likely be responding to those individual complaints, though. Chief Jean-Michel Blais assured commissioners that his officers had more pressing matters.

“We have more important things to do,” said the chief.

Instead, Halifax Regional Police will examine trends and adjust police patrols to those areas where there are problem smokers. Or, more accurately, to those areas where the kind of people who call 311 to report a smoker will feel unsafe.

Fines for breaking the new bylaw will only be issued to repeat offenders who “flaunt the law,” says Dubé.

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


But the CAO says compliance officers and police on patrol won’t be tracking IDs of those individuals who they give a warning to, leaving it something of a mystery of how officers will know someone has had “many warnings.”

More likely is that whether a ticket is issued will be an arbitrary judgment made by compliance officers and police in the moment. Indeed, Dubé admits the issuing of fines is up to the officer’s discretion.

“Look, they’re all professionals. They’ve been trained,” he says, in response to concerns about the potential for abuse.


Dubé says the officers have already received special training in dealing with homeless residents and have visited “group homes” to talk about the new bylaw. 



“The bylaw officers are very sensitive,” he promises.

The Board of Police Commissioners, meanwhile, is still dealing with the fallout from a decade of street check data that documented how a police policy was abused to aggressively target racial minorities.

The smoking ban is yet another tool in that police toolbox when it comes to stopping and carding residents. But Dubé believes it will be applied fairly because cannabis isn't a black or white issue; it's green.


“The misuse of cannabis is not necessarily a racial issue. I think cannabis has a broad spectrum of users and I don’t make a connection with the racialized issues at all.”

City hall will be monitoring the smoking ban weekly for “the first little while,” according to the CAO, with the first formal report on its successes and failures coming to council in six months time.

Halifax is spending a $1.5 million on initial cannabis legalization measures, with ongoing costs estimated to be upwards of $3.5 million per year.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Dartmouth 4-pad named after bank

RBC joins fellow banks, BMO and Scotiabank in buying an arena's name.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2018 at 7:22 PM

Confetti does not spawn excitement no matter how much you try. - VIA TWITTER
  • Confetti does not spawn excitement no matter how much you try.
  • VIA TWITTER

Surprise! It's a bank.

It was announced today that RBC will dump $1 million over the next decade into Halifax's Dartmouth four-pad arena. As a result, the facility will now be formally known as the RBC Centre.

The bank purchased the right to stick its branding all over municipal property by offering up $100,000 per year for the next 10 years.

RBC’s “investment,” comes after months of closed-door negotiations between HRM and RBC. It also includes a “commitment to programming,” with RBC offering RBC Family Days and RBC clinics with RBC-branded Olympians.

RBC.

“The RBC Centre brings together people from across our region, and is an important part of our shared commitment with RBC to invest in healthy, livable communities,” mayor Mike Savage said about RBC in a press release.

Newly opened in September last year, the $43-million facility quickly united community members in frustration over design flaws. Since then, HRM estimates it has welcomed some 1.5-million visitors.

It's what the municipality calls a “hub for sports.”

“The RBC Centre is a space that helps kids and families create memories together, develop friendships and build the foundation for a healthy active lifestyle,” states RBC regional president Roger Howard.

It's the latest bit of municipal infrastructure purchased—in name, at least—by a major bank. The RBC Centre joins the BMO Centre in Bedford and the Scotiabank Centre downtown.

The naming rights for those buildings were sold on similar 10-year contracts: Scotiabank offered $6.5 million to brand the former Metro Centre, while it's not been disclosed how much BMO paid for the four-pad arena in Bedford.

Up next on the naming rights sales block will be the under-renovation Dartmouth Sportplex. Whenever it's finished, that is.

The municipality announced this week that extreme humid conditions from this past summer have delayed completion of that $28-million construction project.

The future CIBC Centre or TD Centre or whatever will now officially reopen to the public and begin recreation programming next February.
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In Print This Week

Vol 26, No 24
November 8, 2018

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