I wanted to take a moment to update my email from last month regarding the awful way the Province closed the Christ Church Shelter, forcing vulnerable people with no other options to go live in our Parks (if you missed it, read it here). Since June, some space at the Double Tree (now called the Bridge) has opened, which is good, but most of the former hotel rooms still aren’t available and there isn’t enough space for everyone in need. We still desperately need the Province to take action to address the crisis that’s unfolding on our streets. Unfortunately, there seems to be no urgency or even a basic understanding of what’s happening in the Provincial government.
Last week, the Minister of Community Services, Karla MacFarlane, commented in a scrum after cabinet that more tents in parks is a “natural evolution” of summertime. This is a completely uninformed statement and worrisome that it came from the Minister in charge of the department that is supposed to be dealing with the crisis. The number of tents in HRM’s parks is not natural. It’s very much unprecedented. The only time we have had more people living outdoors was after the Halifax Explosion. Our current situation is only exceeded by literal disaster and yet, the Minister feels it’s just what happens in summer?
Anyone who spends anytime in the core of Dartmouth or Halifax knows the number of people sheltering outside is way up. Tents are everywhere. There is no shelter space available, HRM’s designated encampments are full, and several unofficial encampments are full now too (Victoria Park, Grand Parade). There is nothing “natural” about the current situation.
What is natural is broken social programs create homelessness. The “natural evolution” of closing the Christ Church shelter with no plan for the residents who were living there is more people living in our parks. The natural evolution of refusing to consider new public housing is more people living in our parks. The natural evolution of making rent supplements harder to get is more people living in our parks. The natural evolution of inadequate services for mental health, addiction, income support, youth in care, etc is more people living in our parks.
The Province can act decisively when it wants. It recently announced they will be bringing in modular housing for folks who lost their homes in the recent wildfires. I’m very glad the Province is taking quick action to help the wildfire victims, but it’s hard to not see the stark contrast in response and it’s harder still to not conclude that the difference, is fundamentally, about who is homeless.
I firmly believe that nothing is going to get substantially better unless the public demands it. Please, write the Provincial government, and demand better. They clearly aren’t going to do anything significant unless they’re forced to by public pressure. They’re okay with the current crisis continuing because they seem to believe it’s just a “natural” part of summer.
Minister of Community Services, Karla MacFarlane
Minister of Housing, John Lohr
Premier Tim Houston
Disc Golf Returns
Good news for disc golf fans, HRM has secured an experienced contractor to make last year’s pilot course on the Dartmouth Common permanent. The permanent course will be basically the same as the pilot with one major difference: hard-surfaced tees. Last year’s pilot was extremely popular and all of those feet eroded away the grass at each tee. We’re going to fix that problem with the permanent course.
The earliest HRM’s contractor can start work on the Dartmouth Common is the week of August 7. Work is expected to take a few days. August is a ways off and more than halfway through the peak summer season, so the contractor graciously agreed to bring back the baskets from last year’s pilot. The baskets are in place now and the Common course is open. Many thanks to HRM staff and the contractor for the flexibility to ensure that people get to enjoy as much of the summer season on the Common as possible.
All the construction at Grahams Grove is finally complete. The two new buildings provide space for the Kiwanis and the Dartmouth Dragon Boat Association. There is also a new public bathroom and water fountain. The parking lot has been paved as well and the Banook multi-use trail properly connects across the site for the first time. It’s a whole new Grahams Grove. Stop by for a Kiwanis ice cream cone this summer!
The summer season brings a lot of people to our lakes and we’re lucky in Dartmouth to have several supervised beaches to choose from. Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who like the beach. Albro Lake Beach in Dartmouth North has been really overrun by a growing flock of Canada Geese. The Geese love the nice short grass and are attracted by the prospect of an easy meal being offered by people, either directly, or through garbage left behind. Unfortunately, the flock’s droppings can really make the space unusable. Enter local resident Paul Lewis and his Border Collies.
Border Collies are herding dogs and are uniquely suited for controlling Canada Geese. From a goose’s perspective, they look and behave like predators. Paul has been working to keep the geese off Brightwood, Banook and Penhorn and has graciously agreed to add Albro Beach to his rounds. The geese have some goslings with them right now and so they can’t relocate from Albro just yet. It’s a stand-off at Albro with Paul and his dogs restricting the geese to parts of the lake where they won’t interfere with the summer swim season. Once the goslings can fly, we will hopefully be able to convince the flock that Albro isn’t a great spot for them.
I really want to extend a thank you to Paul for this. Paul is volunteering his time and dogs, which is pretty awesome. It’s not a small commitment! If you see Paul and his dogs, say thanks, but more importantly help out by not feeding the geese and disposing of any garbage you might bring with you to the beach. We can all help to keep Albro clean by making it a less enticing spot for the geese.
Yellow Floating Heart
Across the street from Big Albro, Little Albro Lake has a different issue: Yellow Floating Heart. Yellow Floating Heart is an invasive plant native to Asia. It can outcompete native species and has completely taken over Little Albro Lake. I have been pushing for a solution to this problem since being elected, which resulted in a trial program using mats to smother the plant. The mats worked, but to treat the whole lake would be labour intensive and the pilot revealed would have negative environmental impacts on life that lives on the bottom. So, instead, Council agreed to apply to use a newly devleoped herbicide, Florpyrauxifen-benzyl (aka Procella).
Procella has been used successfully in drinking water reservoirs in the United States to deal with Yellow Floating Heart, but it wasn’t legal in Canada. That changed at the end of May when Procella was given Health Canada approval. HRM will now work with the company and the federal and provincial governments to get specific approval to use Procella in Little Albro Lake. Hopefully HRM will be in position to deploy Procella next year. Yellow Floating Heart has been a problem in Little Albro Lake since at least 2008. With Health Canada’s approval of Procella, a solution appears to be just around the corner.
Crichton Park Cell Tower
HRM has issued a letter regarding the application to the federal government by Rogers to locate a cell tower on the grounds of Brightwood Golf Course near Birchwood Terrace/Frederick Street. HRM’s planning department reviewed the application and has indicated to the department of Innovation, Science and Technology that the proposed tower is not acceptable to HRM. The basis for HRM’s decision is:
- The proposed tower is located near an already existing tower on the property, and that colocation of equipment should be further considered,
- Brightwood’s Park and Community Facility zoning isn’t supportive of telecommunications towers,
- The tower would be less than 20 metres from HRM’s street
- The tower would be less than 75 metres from the nearest home,
- It would be located in the view terminus of Frederick Street, which goes against the design principles in the Centre Plan
Although HRM is not recommending the current tower proposal proceed, the municipality is not the final decision-maker. Innovation, Science and Technology will make the final call.
Did you know that you can file reports for minor crimes online? When, for example, someone rifles through your vehicle or grabs something off your porch, it can feel like something that’s not worth reporting. Halifax Regional Police, however, want that data. They use crime reporting, even for minor offences, when making decisions on how to distribute resources. It can also be useful in identifying patterns that then might even lead to a future arrest. It’s valuable information for them and it only takes a minute or two to file. You can make a crime report online here.
Oathill Lake Bluegreen Algae
Still with our lakes, Blue Green Algae has been found in Oathill Lake. The Blue Green Algae isn’t actually an algae, it’s a bacteria called cyanobacteria. The cyanobacteria in Oathill Lake is growing in mats on the bottom. When some varieties of cyanobacteria are stressed they release toxins into the water. This typically happens at the end of their life cycle. HRM has tested the mats in Oathill Lake and, unfortunately, they’re a toxin producing variety.
The Oathill Lake Society organized a community meeting with HRM staff who work on water issues last week. The key takeaway from the meeting is that no toxins were identified in the water when HRM tested it and when cyanobacteria mats have been found elsewhere, the water above the mats hasn’t been found to have high concentrations of toxins. The risk when the mats are on the bottom undisturbed appears to be very low. The main risk is when the cyanobacteria reaches the end of its life cycle and detaches from the bottom. The blackish floating material can be harmful if ingested. If you’re swimming and you see a floating mat of pond scum, stay clear of it and don’t let your dog eat anything along the shoreline. Pets are particularly at risk because they’re drawn to the smell.
Many thanks to the Oathill Lake Society for organizing the community meeting and to the HRM staff who are working on water issues.
Downtown Dartmouth Concert Series
The summer concert series in Downtown Dartmouth’s Ferry Terminal Park is back for another season. Concerts started on June 25 and are being held every Sunday and most Saturday’s until after Natal Day, totalling 24 concerts in all. It’s an eclectic mix that has something for everyone. For a complete list of concerts, check out HRM’s webpage here.
Bridge Commission News
I want to thank the Bridge Commission, Transit, and the Halifax Cycling Coalition for their cooperation on recent work on the Macdonald Bridge bike lane. The lane was resurfaced and, as a result, had to be closed for several days. The parties worked out that while the lane was closed, passage across for cyclists by bus or ferry would be free. Transit tracked the number of cyclists crossing via Transit and the Bridge Commission is paying the cost of the fares. It all seemed to work really well and I’m hoping that this will be the new template for when work, inevitably, disrupts crossings in future.
In other Bridge Commission news, changes are coming to MacPass. The old velcro attached transponder is being replaced with a sticker. No more rustling for your transponder or trying to hold it up if the velcro has lost its grip. To get a new sticker MacPass, visit the Bridge Commission’s website or the Commission’s Customer Service Centre on Princess Margaret Boulevard by the MacKay. The Bridge Commission has a good youtube video explaining how to request a sticker.
North American Indigenous Games
The largest sporting event to ever hit Halifax is taking place this week, the North American Indigenous Games. Over 5,000 athletes plus spectators are in town for the event. As part of the Games, there is a cultural showcase taking place on the Halifax Common featuring food, music, arts and crafts, and more. For the cultural village’s schedule, check out of the NAIG website here. There is also a schedule for the sporting events, which includes Lake Banook. The sport schedule is here.
Senior Tax Rebate Program
The Province is accepting applications for its tax rebate for seniors. The rebate provides eligible low-income seniors with up to $800 to help pay their property taxes. To be eligible, you must have paid your 2022 property taxes in full, and be receiving the the Guaranteed Income Supplement. Application is linked to the Heating Assistance Program as well. To apply visit the Province’s website here.
LakeCity Works (aka LakeCity Woodworkers) has recently launched their Helpers program. LakeCity supports people in our community who are living with mental illness by providing meaningful employment opportunities. LakeCity’s new Helper program delivers yard and lawn care to seniors and other folks who might struggle with those tasks. LakeCity provides discounts or even free service to folks who have reduced financial means. For more information, visit LakeCity’s website here.
To keep you informed about what is going on at Council, I’m writing a regular blog after each meeting. Each of my entries is about what I saw as noteworthy from a District 5 perspective and my views on the issues. We might not always agree, but I think it’s important to provide a record of how I voted and why.
Council Update, July 11
The Forum returns to Council, and a bunch of transit items. Read it here.
Council Update, June 20
Regulating e-scooters and the potential for bikeshare in HRM, Regional Plan, Youth Worx expanding to the Sportsplex, and Inclusionary Zoning. Read it here.
- Asphalt Overlays Phase 2, Dexter Construction, $3,083,140
A skim coat of ashpalt and some traffic calming at various locations around HRM, including Macrae Avenue in District 5. Macrae will get fresh paving, but also two speed tables to slow traffic.
- Planar Patching, Atlantic Road Construction and Paving $998,535
Pavement patching throughout HRM, including on Brookdale Crescent in District 5.
- Lyngby Avenue Street Recapitalization, Ocean Contractors, $1,195,617
Rebuilding Lyngby Avenue. A complete pavement rebuild, plus curbwork and traffic calming
Oathill Lake Invasive Species Pull
Friday, July 21, 9:30 am
Oathill Lake Park (near Beckfoot entrance)
Come join the Oathill Lake Society as they continue their multi-year effort to rid the parkland around Oathill Lake of invasive species. Friday’s target is multiflora rose! Multiflora grows extremely fast and can grow up native trees, shearing off their branches and eventually killing them. A healthy lake depends on a healthy natural buffer and multiflora rose doesn’t help the cause. Bring water, long handed loppers and pruners if you have them. Long pants and sleeves are recommended to ward off any thorns. Mank thanks to the Oathill Lake Society for all their efforts to protect and improve the parkland around Oathill Lake.
Community Art Market
Mondays, 4:00 – 8:00 pm
Southdale Neighbours Community Garden
40 Rodney Road
Every Monday through June, July and August, a community art market is taking place at the Southdale Neighbours Community Garden at the corner of Rodney Road and Portland Street. The market includes craft vendors from across the city as well as some local artists performing or creating on-site. There are around 20 vendors each week.
I Sing Therefore I Am
Third Thursdays, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
26 Newcastle Street
Like to sing? Like to sing with others? There is a new group for that. The I Sing Therefore I Am sing-a-long group is led by experienced song leaders Céo Gaudet and Rob Hutten. Songs include a wide variety from folk to pop. No previous singing experience is required — your voice will be one among many. There is a suggested donation of $10, with all proceeds going to the Dartmouth Heritage Museum Society. Registration is required as seats are limited. For more information and to register for the next ISTIA, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tunes by the Tracks
Fridays, July 7 – August 25, noon
The Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission and the Public Library have partnered to bring some lunchtime music to Downtown Dartmouth on Friday’s for the summer. The free concert will take place outside the Library in the plaza at the foot of Portland Street. For a complete list of who is playing, visit the Business Commission’s website here.
Sunday, July 23, 2:00 pm
The Pride Parade is happening this weekend, Sunday July 23 and the route is a bit different this year. The Parade will start at the intersection of Quinpool and Robie and circuit around the Halifax Commons before heading down Spring Garden Road. The Parade will end in front of the Central Library. For more details visit Pride’s website here.
August 2 – 7
Alderney Landing/Ferry Terminal Park
The Busker Fest is back for a second year in Dartmouth. Buskers are now a cross-harbour event with activities on both the Halifax and Dartmouth waterfronts. The landing at the foot of Portland Street will have busker acts for the whole festival and the fair/midway will be setup in the Alderney Landing parking lot.
August 4 – 7
Natal Day is just around the corner and this year’s holiday weekend features music, the traditional road race, Parade and fireworks over the Harbour and Lake Banook. For complete details on everything going on Natal Day weekend check out HRM’s Civic Events page here.
Sunday, August 6, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
The annual Bridgewalk returns this year on Natal Day weekend. Take in one of the best views in the city from the Macdonald Bridge. There will also be music, an “ask an engineer” booth for bridge questions, safety demonstrations, the Ecology Action Centre Bike Station, and an HRM firetruck. A frozen treat will be waiting mid-span! For more information, check out the Bridge Commission’s website here.