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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Halifax mentioned in national list

Facing stiff competition, we make the cut for "buildings needlessly destroyed"

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 4:40 PM

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Showing once again that Halifax isn't some second-rate, small-town city that can't compete with the big boys, the demolition of the former Halifax Infants' Home has been selected by Heritage Canada The National Trust as one of their top four historical losses this year.

The 115-year-old testament to our shared history was boldly (and surprisingly) demolished last week, despite some crybaby moans from those who hate progress.

"This important historic institution once gave shelter and medical support to single women and their infants," Heritage Canada boasts. "It stood as a remarkable testament to the emerging role of women in late-19th-century Halifax."

Not no more, it don't!

Saint Mary's University, who had owned the building since 1998, figured it was just cheaper to buy a new building then save the current one. The Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia suggests the building could have been saved for a fraction of SMU's estimated cost, but we all know what sort of jerks they are.

Including the Infants' Home, Nova Scotia had two of Heritage Canada's top four losses. The Point Aconi Lighthouse in Capstick, Cape Breton earned a spot by burning down in February. Though an act of nature doesn't sound at all as impressive as a big wrecking ball smashing shit.

Some might say the loss of any culturally-significant property without full and proper public consultation is an insult to our heritage, but those people are stopping us from succeeding and should be expelled from our borders.

The historic destruction of property glass is half-full, you know?

Some pioneer house in Shilo, Manitoba and a mansion in Quebec were also on the worst losses list.

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Twelve hundred daughters, sisters, mothers

With renewed calls to investigate the killings of First Nations women, a sister tries to get closure in Halifax.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 1:23 PM

The preliminary inquiry into Loretta Saunders' murder begins next week.
  • The preliminary inquiry into Loretta Saunders' murder begins next week.

It’s always a good time to be reminded about the confounding number of murdered and missing First Nations women in Canada, but today it’s sadly even more relevant.

As reported in Metro, and via her own Facebook page, Loretta Saunders’ sister, Audrey, is seeking donations to help travel to Halifax next week for the preliminary inquiry into her sister’s murder.

Loretta was the pregnant SMU graduate student and Inuk woman killed back in February. Her body, unceremoniously dumped on the Trans-Canada Highway in Moncton, was found two weeks later.

Blake Leggette, Loretta’s roommate, and his girlfriend Victoria Henneberry have been charged with first-degree murder.

Audrey, who lives in St. John’s, is unemployed with a six-year-old daughter, but still wants to make it down to Halifax for some sort of closure in her sister’s death. Donation info can be found here. We’ll update this post with any more details we get on how to help, but you can always reach Audrey directly via her email or Facebook if you have anything to give.

This week was also the launch of a new community-led database website, documenting the violent deaths and disappearances of indigenous women across the country. The project is a joint effort by No More Silence, Families of Sisters in Spirit and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. The organizers say it's a way to chronicle the staggering number of cases, while also honouring the women in question and providing family members with a way to document their loved ones’ passing.

The site comes days before the inquiry into Loretta’s death, days after the unfathomable assault on Marlene Bird in Prince Albert, a year since Bella Laboucan-McLean’s death in Toronto, and likely dozens of other “anniversaries.”

There were renewed calls put forth this week during the 35 annual Assembly of First Nations, taking place in Halifax, for a national inquiry into missing or murdered aboriginal women. Back in May, prime minister Stephen Harper insultingly deemed such an investigation unnecessary, despite the almost 1,200 women missing or killed in the last three decades.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Former Pride executive charged with stealing funds disappears

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 5:50 PM

Embezzling former Pride executive disappears - @RELLEVARTNS
  • Embezzling former Pride executive disappears
  • @RellevartNS

A former vice-chair of Halifax Pride is missing in action after he allegedly stole $16,400 from the festival last year. After making every attempt to contact him, police have an arrest warrant out for 27-year-old Chris Scullino, who they believe is currently in Quebec.

Scullino is accused of depositing money meant for Halifax Pride in his own bank account on two occasions, Halifax police spokesperson Pierre Bourdages tells The Coast. Court documents reveal he allegedly snatched the funds between April 30 and September 1, 2013. Festival chair Ramona Westgate says the organization noticed the money was missing a few days after the festival ended on July 28.

Pride organizers contacted police for advice right away, she explains. Once they received paperwork from various sources in September, police started their investigation.

"What we really want to put out there is that the discrepancy was noted immediately and actions were taken immediately," Westgate says over the phone. "Unfortunately once we start getting into the specifics we could affect the ongoing investigation and we don't want to impede that in any way. Hopefully all of that will come out in the legal process."

As far as she and other board members can recall, this is the first time a financial issue of this magnitude and nature has happened to Halifax Pride. As a result of the incident, Westgate says financial polices and controls have been changed, but wouldn't be any more specific about those changes.

The missing funds barely dented the organization's total budget of $292,000. Despite the alleged robbery, Halifax Pride still ended 2013 with nearly $77,000 in net income.

Scullino was appointed to the Halifax Pride board in 2012, however the 39 festival members who voted him in may have missed a possible red flag when he was up for election. At the 2012 AGM, Scullino, who was new to the city and had no previous experience with Halifax Pride, presented a recommendation letter from former executive director of Pride Toronto, Tracey Sandilands, who resigned amid financial controversy in 2011.

Under Sandilands, the Toronto festival lost almost $432,000 in 2010. The same year the organization spent an extra $100,000 on staff salaries and benefits. Pride Toronto also paid Sandilands' partner $40,000 in 2011 while simultaneously laying off six staff. The former ED also made headlines when Pride Toronto attempted to censor signs in the Pride Parade.

The last time board members saw Scullino was during the 2013 festival, Westgate says. Unlike civil proceedings, the case can't proceed until Scullino appears in court. But, the Pride chair hopes he will be brought to justice. "We have faith in the legal process," she says.

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Raymond Taavel remembered at Pride

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 5:48 PM

Buy these pins and support The Youth Project.
  • Buy these pins and support The Youth Project.

It's been over two years since Raymond Taavel was murdered, but the respected community leader isn't soon to be forgotten. Now, those wishing to honour Taavel's memory can purchase a memorial pin created by his family and partner Darren Lewis.

"Ever since this whole tragedy started, the family and myself wanted to do something in his name that would help out the community in some fashion," says Lewis.

The rainbow and gold pins launched on what would have been Taavel's 52nd birthday back in June, selling for $10 each. All proceeds go to non-profit The Youth Project, which provides support services to youth and those under 25 around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. The cause was close to Taavel's heart.

"I know how we all felt about The Youth Project, and how necessary it unfortunately still is," Lewis says. "He always thought it was a real worthwhile community project."

Some $500 has already been raised through sales, Lewis estimates. The memorial pins are currently available at Alteregos Cafe on Gottingen and Venus Envy on Barrington Street. Expect to see them for sale "here, there and everywhere" during Pride events. While only 250 were originally made, Lewis says he's not opposed to ordering more if there's demand.

"It's something that's not as much in your face, but still that iconic image people recognize," he says of the pin. "Something you can wear on your lapel."

Pride will also honour Taavel at this year's flag raising event in Parade Square. Lewis will present mayor Mike Savage with a rainbow pride flag in a commemorative case featuring a dedication to Taavel. The case and flag will be permanently displayed in City Hall.

"Way back when Raymond was chair [of Pride], he basically camped out at City Hall trying to get the mayor to participate," Lewis recalls. "It was a real struggle, but he finally got them to fly the flag... Now, there will always be a flag in city hall with his name on it."

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Friday, July 11, 2014

City wisely asks public for help on dog park replacement

Posted on Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 3:43 PM

PHOTO BY ALEXANDRE ALACCHI
  • Photo by alexandre alacchi

The city of Halifax is inviting residents to share their thoughts in what's so far been a staid, respectful debate over how best to replace the current Africville dog park.

On July 23, compassionate citizens can calmly assemble at the Halifax Forum to deliberate on whether the proposed strip of land to the right of the Africville Park parking lot would serve as a suitable alternative fenced-in, off-leash area.

Surely, there will be no dismissal of civic history as municipal officials and the informed public work together to identify a replacement and return the lands of Africville back to not being a place designated primarily for dogs.

Council has hopes that the new park will be in place by the end of 2014, and then that'll be the end of racism in Halifax.

Anyone not able to attend the consultation session on July 23 can voice their feedback to Holly Richardson in Real Estate and Land Management. But this isn't really a topic anyone has had thoughts about recently, so I doubt she'll receive many emails.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

NSCAD receives $3 million dollar donation

Granville street location renamed Fountain Campus

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 1:36 PM

KRISTA LEGER
  • Krista Leger
The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design has received a $3-million donation, courtesy of arts advocates and philanthropists Margaret and David Fountain.

The money will allow NSCAD to undertake a number of major improvements on its downtown Granville Street building, which is now renamed Fountain Campus in appreciation of the gift.

Margaret Fountain, who has been on NSCAD's Board of Governors for 14 years, spoke this afternoon at the university's Anna Leonowens Gallery about why it was important to protect the school's rich history.

"These halls are living and breathing daily," she told the crowd, which included NSCAD president Daniel O'Brien and Mayor Mike Savage. "For this monumental past, we must make sure NSCAD moves forward."

According to O'Brien, the money comes at just the right time, as NSCAD recovers from years of financial turbulence which he says had "seeped away" confidence in the institution.

"It's a wonderful confidence builder to attract this level of support," O'Brien says. "For the immediate future, mid-term future, we're going to stay put here. We're going to stay here. But the consequence of staying here means we have to make some investments in maintaining the property."

Previously, a heavy debt and a $2.4-million deficit (which the province stepped in to cover in 2011) raised fears NSCAD would sell its downtown campus and relocate all activities to its Brunswick Street and Marginal Road facilities. Now, O'Brien says the school's debt sits at $13 million and its deficit is "virtually in control."

While he dissuaded the notion that the money would be directly used to renovate and lease out NSCAD's ground floor retail spaces, O'Brien did point to increasing property values in the Historic Properties and NSCAD's commercial desirability as beneficial for the institution moving forward.

"We are maximizing the surface space that we have and using it to our advantage," he says.

The president also wouldn't rule out the possibility that NSCAD would still look to sell its Brunswick Street campus. That idea had been floated earlier in the spring as a quick cash grab for the beleaguered university.

"We're going to hold all our assets right now, but we haven't removed from the table the prospect of potentially, eventually selling the Academy building."

In a press release, NSCAD Student Union President Caleb Hung urged his school not to squander the investment, and use the money to improve accessibility at NSCAD, expand its studio space and provide 24-hour access. The Student Union also called out for a restoration of core government funding of the university.

"Naming rights can only be sold once, but government funding provides the long-term financial security our institution so badly needs," Hung says.

O'Brien noted students would be involved in all governance decisions, and mentioned the board is "eager to augment some of the student occupied spaces, the student lounge, the student cafeteria, so those things that would have immediate benefit to students."

Where the rest of the money will go, or how it will be potentially divided between NSCAD's three campuses, is yet to be determined.

"It's a university president's dream to have a gift of this magnitude with such few conditions."

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Income assistance frozen

Department of Community Services cuts back on annual raise for low-income Nova Scotians

Posted By on Fri, Jul 4, 2014 at 5:09 PM

The province has given a cold shoulder to those struggling with low-income, freezing an annual increase in the personal allowance received by anyone on income assistance.

That allowance has seen an increase every July 1 for the last four years, rising by 22 per cent since 2010. That’s now stalled while the Liberal government conducts a "comprehensive review."

"You don't have to be an economist to know if there isn't an increase, it's effectively a cut," says community activist and Solidarity Halifax member Evan Coole.

Only an extra $47 per month increase over the last four years, the raise might not seem like much. But for those receiving income assistance, every dollar counts.

"That extra few bucks could be a meal of your choosing. It could be a bus trip," says Coole. "That's what's really frustrating in this."

The freeze was expected since the spring, when the Liberal government and the Department of Community Services began their still-underway comprehensive review.

According to an email from DCS spokesperson Elizabeth MacDonald, that review will produce "a number of measures that will improve the IA program as a whole." MacDonald wasn't able to mention any specific improvements in a follow-up call.

“They don't even know what the recommendations are going to be,” she says.

For Coole’s part, he says he can appreciate bureaucratic complexities, but expected better communication about the freeze from the province.

"If I was the minister right now, I probably wouldn't know how to fix it...but to not communicate it when these increases have been coming steadily over the last few years, it's concerning.”

According to the Department of Community Services, as of June 30 there's 11,111 cases of income assistance in Halifax, equalling approximately 14,000 people.

Since coming to power, there have been several initiatives by the Liberal government to provide expanded support to low-income Nova Scotians, including loosening the eligibility rules for the NS Child Benefit and increasing the Senior Citizens Assistance Program.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Former mayor Peter Kelly's new career?

Target Pest Control says Kelly has joined the team.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 3:41 PM

We just received a press release from Target Pest Control, saying they have an announcement to make because of "the number of calls Target Pest Control has been receiving." That announcement is that Halifax's former mayor Peter Kelly has joined the business. Target president Stephen Taylor says “His business and public sector background, as well as his business development skills and knowledge of Halifax and Nova Scotia will be invaluable as we look to grow our company.”

It's unclear whether the "number of calls" they've been getting refers to a high volume of pest complaints, and Taylor is assuring customers that his company is scaling up to better deal with the wasps, bed bugs and whatnot. Or if word has leaked about the disgraced Bedford politician resurfacing, and Taylor is making it official. Or if this is some sort of late April Fool's Day joke involving a rat politician becoming a rat catcher. Or maybe early for April Fool's 2015.

President Taylor hasn't returned our call yet to shed more light on the announcement. Here's the press release for you to marvel at yourself.

Press release asserting that disgraced former mayor Peter Kelly joined a pest control company.
  • Press release asserting that disgraced former mayor Peter Kelly joined a pest control company.

And the text of that release...

Due to the number of calls Target Pest Control has beeen receiving. the company wishes to issue the following statement:

Kelly Welcomed by Target Pest Control

HALIFAX, NS- Target Pest Control, is happy to welcome the addition of a new partner, Peter Kelly.

Kelly will be acting in the capacity of Business Development. Prior, to joining Target Pest Control, Kelly has worked for over 30 years in both the private and public sectors as well as on many volunteer boards and organizations. Mr. Kelly brings many years of managerial and business consulting experience. Kelly holds a Masters of Business Administration from Saint Mary’s University and a Diploma in Hospitality Management from NSCC.

“ We are very pleased to have Mr. Kelly join our team, ” said Stephen Taylor, President of Target Pest Control, “His business and public sector background, as well as his business development skills and knowledge of Halifax and Nova Scotia will be invaluable as we look to grow our company.”

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

City Hall: The dog park days of summer

This week at council

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 3:34 PM

When the Africville Heritage Trust wanted to turn the historic site of the Africville community into a properly developed heritage site—educational plaques and all—they asked the city to move the off-leash dog park that currently resides there.

Virtually nobody disagrees with this. When you think of the somber dignity of a commemoration, you don’t associate it with long-eared mutts, galloping after tennis balls and frisbees, drool dangling from their gums. Or the inherent digging and excrement that comes with hosting dogs.

The only problem, says City Hall, is that it wouldn’t be fair to kick dog owners out of the park until they have somewhere else to go. The best council could do was promise the dog park would be removed as soon as a new location was found for it.

The debate prefacing this decision revealed politicking rarely seen in this city, and highlighted the uncomfortable reality that not a single city counsellor could speak to the issue as a member of the black community. Surprising, when you consider that Halifax has a significant black population.

Cue the mad rush for councillors to publicly stress that they hold the black community’s needs as first priority. You know council is nervous when somebody actually voices the concern that if they don’t agree to a request, it will look bad in the papers. Think nightmare headlines, like “City denies Africville commemoration in favour of dogs” or “Dogs allowed to dig up historic site.” Those are not headlines you get re-elected with.

Realistically, council handled the issue in the best way possible—given the circumstances. To relocate the dog park immediately is logistically impossible, and if council had voted to close the dog park without a replacement, they would have faced heavy criticism. But if they denied the request to close the park it would have alienated the black community. Not only that, but at simplified face-value (ie. black community vs dogs) it would have come off as callous and enraged anyone of any race who values cultural diversity and sensitivity. Either way, somebody was bound to be disappointed. At least this way each side won’t lose in the long run: the dogs will get their park, and the black community will get its historic site. Just not right now.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sex workers, supporters rally against Bill C-36

The bill could recriminalize activities surrounding sex work

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 5:12 PM

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Red umbrellas were fitting for June 14's rally in support of sex workers. Many of the 40 or so people who attended carried them, not only to shield their bodies and signs from the pouring rain, but as an international symbol against discrimination.

Advocacy organizations and people in the industry gathered in cities across the country last weekend to protest a new bill they say makes it more dangerous to work in the sex trade. Sex work has always been legal in Canada, but the activities around it, including brothels and communication for the purpose of prostitution, have been criminalized. It's these laws in particular the Supreme Court found last December violated sex workers' Charter rights to safety and security. The court gave parliament one year to pass new legislation before existing laws would be struck down.

The government's response is Bill C-36, which if passed will amend the Criminal Code to, among other things, make it illegal to buy sex, advertise sexual services or sell sex where minors could be present. However, sex workers and advocacy organizations say the proposed amendments recriminalize the activities around sex work that the Supreme Court struck down.

"In some ways this is actually worse than what we have," Halifax MP Megan Leslie said over the megaphone at the Halifax rally. Not only that, but the government is rushing the proposed legislation through, she added. As expected, the bill passed its first reading Monday and will be read and debated a second time, and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Prior to releasing the bill, the government consulted with 16 organizations—11 of which did not represent sex workers. It was a "false consultation" that was "set up to give the government what they wanted," says Fiona Traynor, chair of the Halifax advocacy organization Stepping Stone. Criminalization of the activities around sex work has killed four people Traynor knew.

Adult sex workers need human rights and health protection, and the resulting legislation will be challenged again, she predicts. "Peter MacKay, he's going to have blood on his hands," she says of the Nova Scotia politician who introduced the bill.

Since the Supreme Court decision, adult sex work exists in a "legal void," says Halifax Regional Police chief Jean-Michel Blais. To his knowledge, no charges relating to adult sex work have been laid in Halifax since the December 30 decision. HRP has been watching the case closely, but must wait for final legislation before deciding how policing might change.

Recently, HRP has moved to an understanding that sex trade workers are vulnerable people who shouldn't be re-victimized. As recently as five or 10 years ago, the view was that it's a sex worker's choice to be in that industry, and if they die, that's their problem, the police chief says.

"It's society's problem," Blais continues. "We have to be able to treat them with the same respect as we treat anyone else in our society."

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Down with the Cogswell Interchange

A video report about Halifax city council finally dealing with the worst road in the city.

Posted By on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 6:25 PM


The latest video report from The Coast and PLANifax collab is all about the Cogswell Interchange. It’s some of the most valuable real estate in Halifax, being used for a road to nowhere, yet despite repeated reports urging its destruction and near-universal public hatred, city council is only now talking seriously about getting rid of the concrete monstrosity.

In this film you’ll find out not just where we’re going, but how we got here. Let’s just say the interchange seemed like a good idea at the time. Sorta like Sriracha and water.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

City Hall: Let's copy Montreal

Posted By on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Boring council operations aside (ie. sewer renewal and road maintenance), there are two notable topics that surfaced this week at City Hall. The first is a proposal to build a mixed residential-commercial complex on the corner of Quinpool Road and Robie Street. There were even murmurs of tying that development to that of the St Pat’s property next door.

The other exciting tidbit was the approval of recommendations made in a report—that few have ever heard of, despite the fact that it was purportedly assembled through pubic participation—called "Downtown…I’m In." It means we’ve recognized that downtown Halifax is officially among the lamest urban cores in the country (their words summed up), and we’ve decided to fix it. Here were some of the key suggestions:

Providing free public wifi access: Because nobody likes burning through their entire data plan while they wait for a bus.

Burying power lines: Let’s face it, in this century having tree corpses strung-up with an abundance of rubber cables lining our streets is not scenic. It’s an eyesore. And let’s not forget it also leaves our power supply exposed to notoriously temperamental Nova Scotian weather.

Pedestrian-only streets: This is a tough one, because we have a known parking shortage downtown, which raises the question as to how people would get to said streets if they can’t drive or park on them.

More local cafes and restaurants: Great idea. A must for any great city. However, in Halifax these kinds of suggestions always draw from the woodwork an otherwise invisible populace who just can’t bear the noise of clinking cutlery or muted conversation. They believe our streets should be silent like the grave, that a sidewalk is only a means to attending church or going to work.

Making public transportation better: We’ve all talked to somebody who says “Metro Transit isn’t that bad.” The first sign that something’s bad is usually when you have to quantify it by saying it isn’t that bad. We can do better. And if we want people from all parts of HRM to enjoy downtown Halifax, we need to do better.

For the whole report click here.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Convention centre video report

See what all the fuss is about when city council lets Nova Centre avoid HRM By Design's rules.

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 1:35 PM


This first video in a collaboration between The Coast and PLANifax takes a look at the recent changes to the Nova Centre's design that were approved by city council. There will be more on the convention centre and more videos in future, although not necessarily together.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Reconsidering Cogswell

One of downtown’s longest-standing mistakes finally has a plan

Posted By on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 5:49 PM

How downtown could look after cleaving the Cogswell Interchange blockage. illustration courtesy Ekistics Plan+Design
  • How downtown could look after cleaving the Cogswell Interchange blockage. illustration courtesy Ekistics Plan+Design

Halifax is about to press redo on a major piece of downtown infrastructure. Mounting repair costs along with a fresh city council are edging the city closer to the redevelopment of the Cogswell Interchange.

Finished in 1973 and considered progressive by urban renewal advocates, few would argue the concrete dinosaur has stood the test of time. When he was elected mayor in 2012, Mike Savage stated that the "outdated" relic's demise was a priority, and the public jumped at the chance to muse about the downtown land's future.

Released in April after public consultations, a new report produced by Ekistics Plan+Design will guide council in deciding the future of the area. The interchange's purpose as a four-wheel thoroughfare is "the direct antithesis of the vision for the Cogswell District almost 45 years later," the report states.

Bulldozed in the 1960s to make way for the interchange, the historic downtown grid should be rebuilt, the report recommends. The extension of the waterfront pedway and multi-use trail along Barrington Street would improve walkability and connectivity between the north end and downtown.

High-density residential with ground-floor retail should be a priority in the redevelopment plan, the report continues. Situated in one of the largest viewplane-free areas of the downtown, the Cogswell lands allow for higher buildings, and at their feet, a sunny, public square should be created to anchor Granville Street, the report recommends. The pedestrian and cyclist experience should also be improved along with connectivity to the waterfront.

In many ways, the report asks downtown Halifax to return to its pre-urban renewal state. Popular in other North American cities in the 1960s, urban renewal was the risky experiment of wiping out high-density neighbourhoods, mostly in downtown areas, in favour of "improved" infrastructure. (The planning theory also played a part in Africville's fate.) Coupled with the then-popular idea that car-and-truck traffic should be prioritized over congestion-causing pedestrians and cyclists, the Cogswell experiment cut off pedestrian traffic from the waterfront, and discouraged shoppers from travelling between Gottingen and Barrington Streets.

Even so, Halifax dodged a bullet by today's planning standards. Following construction of Scotia Square, the plan was to build Harbour Drive, a multi-lane highway that would plow through the downtown and circle the peninsula, entirely severing foot traffic to and from the harbour.

Longtime planning activist Alan Ruffman was part of a group that fought Harbour Drive in the 1960s and '70s. But they didn't defeat it. Instead, he recalls the city couldn't fund the project, so "it just atrophied and went away." It's one less thing Halifax has to undo. "We should never have built it," Ruffman says of the Cogswell structure on death row. "You can't even go from Barrington Street to Barrington Street without going through that damn interchange."

He hasn't read the report, but he thinks the idea of extending the downtown grid is a good thing, as is an emphasis on residential development. Higher buildings in that area, he says, likely won't be a problem. --Hilary Beaumont

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Waterfront wants public voice in Bedford

Basin development taking new direction from 2010 plan

Posted By on Thu, May 1, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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This week, residents of Bedford will have an opportunity to discuss the waterfront development that has been on hold for almost four years.

The Mill Cove development was stopped after the release of the Bedford Waterfront Planning Study in June 2010. Though the report claimed residents were consulted about plans to develop the area, Waterfront Development soon learned opinions differed from the results. "We started to hear some new ideas from the community that we hadn't heard before," says Andy Fillmore, vice-president of Waterfront Development. "We are grateful we heard these new voices because they are important and ultimately had a shaping influence on what's to come."

One of these voices was Mark Currie's, president of the Save Bedford Waterfront group. He went to the original planning sessions but he didn't feel like residents' concerns were being addressed. "We were becoming a focal point for this collective voice of unhappiness," he says, "that was disappointed about what was going on."

Through their MP, MLA and city councillor, Currie and the group were able to access hard-to-find information. Sharing this information---including the confirmation that acid slate was trucked in from Bridgewater and New Brunswick, and dumped into the water without a full environmental impact assessment---with the public was the main goal. "The most amazing thing that happened was we started sharing the information that we have learned," he says. "People say based on what we've uncovered and what we've found, they agree with us."

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Along with natural habitats that the Save Bedford Waterfront wants protected, Currie says incorporating more public space with protected natural space is also important.

There is no going back on what has already been developed, which amounts to around 18 acres of the basin already filled. But what happens next will be the main topic of discussion this week. Fillmore says the amount of accessible waterfront will be doubled, and there is enough land to ensure the project pays for itself through building residential property to be sold.

"What we found is that we could do an economic project that would still bring about 1,300 units on more or less the existing fill and that, in the business case, makes sense," he says. "There is enough revenue from the sale of those units to pay for a well-designed, high-quality public realm."

Longtime resident Rachelle Goguen says public space is exactly what Bedford needs. "I think people just forgot that that is how we built the park that we all love now, with the playground," she says of DeWolf Park, "and that is where we have the Canada Day fireworks. Everybody uses and loves that park."

Despite some differences of opinion, Currie applauds Waterfront Development for realizing that they should take another look at the project, with community input. "With Andy Fillmore at the helm of this re-engagement," he says, "we have a real opportunity here to do something really cool for that waterfront."


Bedford Waterfront Community Re-engagement Sessions
May 1-3
Sunnyside Mall, 1595 Bedford Highway
see schedule here

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Vol 22, No 7
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