E-News September 2020

September’s e-news unusually early! (three opportunities for public consultation coming up next week and the week after that I wanted to plug)


Racist Graffiti:
Probably many of you saw my post earlier this week concerning racist graffiti that appeared in District 5 on a power pole outside a person of colour’s home. The word “noose” was written on the pole. The family has been deeply affected by it. In their own words:

In the past 3 years I’ve been physically and verbally attacked several times. We have dealt with it privately. That approach emboldened the bullies. This time they came to our door. There is nowhere to retreat other than to leave the province which we don’t want to do.”

The outpouring of concern from the wider community has been encouraging and the family has indicated to me that they very much appreciate the community’s support in what has been a deeply upsetting situation. Being afraid in your own home, being afraid to go outside on your street is an awful thing. Dartmouth’s support means a lot to them.

After posting my blog, I received notes from a few people indicating that this might not be the targeted attack that it first appeared. Noose seems to be someone’s graffiti tag that they’ve been using throughout Dartmouth for at least a year or two. I have been given several photos of a similar tag in other places and I have passed that information onto police. Thank you to the folks who reached out. Social media can be an impressive tool sometimes!

No one has been able to speak to the perpetrator, so it’s impossible to say for sure what the motivation was for choosing this pole in front of this family’s home. Was that pole chosen deliberately knowing they lived there, or was it, for whatever reason, an opportune place to tag? Assuming that it’s the same person spray painting noose everywhere, why did he choose that word in the first place? Has it been a hateful message all along that has gone unnoticed until now or is it a terribly ill-considered choice of tag? Short of talking directly to the perpetrator, there are unanswered questions.

What I will say is that regardless of the intent, the impact is definitely not “just a tag.” It certainly isn’t for the family affected. Given the handful of people who contacted me indicating that the graffiti might be a tag versus the many who saw the picture and recoiled, speaks volumes. Whether intentional or not, the person who is spray painting noose around Dartmouth is traumatizing people of colour in our community and that isn’t acceptable. Intentional or not, the result causes harm. I’m no expert on tagging culture, but as I understand it from the conversations I have had this week with arts folks, it’s seen as an anti-authority art that challenges the statusquo and the elites. By tagging “noose” all over the place, it feels to me like it’s doing the exact opposite, it threatens people of colour, a group who has been and still is, mistreated in our society.

On the off chance that the perpetrator reads this and this is in fact a tag that has gone horribly wrong and isn’t meant to be an expression of hatred, I would say it’s time to choose another tag. The one you’re using is far too easy to interpret as a hateful and threatening message. There is no scenario where spray painting noose around Dartmouth, removed of any context, is somehow okay because it’s a tag.

Penhorn Lake:
Summer isn’t over quite yet at Penhorn Lake. Lifeguard hours were scheduled to come to an end on Monday, but HRM has been able to extend the season until September 7. Hours for Chocolate and Kearney Lakes have also been extended.

I did have a conversation with staff about lifeguard hours back at the beginning of the season in June. As our climate is changing, the usual swim schedule of July/August is less clear cut. It has been my observation that there are increasingly hot June and September days that have people wanting to go swimming (we had some really scorching days mid-June this year), but there is no lifeguard service at those times. HRM’s challenge with extending the lifeguard season on either side of July/August is twofold. First, our lifeguards are primarily young people working a summer job. They typically go back to school and aren’t available in September. Second, the requirements for training each year make it hard to get them out there before July. The result is it’s difficult to extend the lifeguard season beyond its traditional start and stop dates. It’s something that HRM may have to figure out in future as summer heat becomes less and less restricted to July/August. For now, a September 7 end day versus August 31 is welcome!

Still with Penhorn Lake, construction of the new washroom is behind schedule. The contractor was supposed to wrap up work in mid-August. HRM is hoping the contractors will be finished by mid-September. It’s really unfortunate that this year was a year of portable toilets at the lake, but the end result of getting rid of the old cinder block bunker and getting a new new, accessible building will be worth it. Short-term pain for long-term gain.

Household Special Waste
HRM’s Household Special Waste Depot in Bayers Lake is reopening! The depot was closed during the first wave of COVID and will reopen September 12. Hours will be 9:00 – 4:00 on Saturdays. The residential CFC removal program will also be starting back up as of October 1. You can call 311 to make a booking to get refrigerants removed from your old appliances beginning on September 28. Due to COVID, you’ll need to place your old fridge outdoors for CFC removal (technicians won’t be going into houses). For more information about special waste removal, including alternatives to making the trip out to Bayers Lake, check out HRM’s website here.

Photo: Zatzman Sportsplex

Sportsplex Stage 4
Still with reopening news, the Sportsplex is moving onto stage 4 of their reopening plan. Stage 4 takes effect on September 8 and will include new hours. The Sportsplex will be open Monday to Friday 6:00 – 9:00, Saturday 6:00 – 8:00 and Sunday 9:00 – 8:00.

The big change in stage 4 relates to membership. Since the Sportsplex isn’t operating with its regular programming, membership prices are reduced ($70/month for a family, $50/month individual, $30/month senior, student, or youth). Also, since membership prices and programming have changed so much, all existing memberships are being reset. The unused portion of existing memberships from the shutdown date in March to expiry will be credited back to your MyRec account (if it hasn’t been already). The new memberships will only run month-to-month since no one knows right now what the future in our COVID world will bring. The Sportsplex doesn’t want to sell long-term membership in case we get a second wave that forces shutdowns again.

What’s not changing in stage 4:

  • Activities will still need to be booked in advance
  • Physical distancing, face masks, and capacity limits remain
  • No punch passes or day passes
  • Enhanced cleaning
  • Showers not available for use
  • A limited number of lockers are available
  • Check in with staff at the door
  • No food service or vending machines
  • Water fountains operating as bottle refill stations only
  • No loitering
  • Patrons should come as dressed for their activity as much as possible
  • Drop-in or open leagues are not available
  • Directional signage

Halifax Water Rates and Lead Lines
The Utility and Review Board has approved Halifax Water’s modified rate plan for the next two years. The Utility originally planned to increase rates this year and next, but then COVID hit. Understanding that many people have been impacted economically by COVID, the Utility changed their submission. Water rates will not increase in the next two years. There will be an increase in wastewater rates next year, but this year’s proposed increase was also cancelled.

The UARB has also approved Halifax Water’s request to fully cover the cost of lead line removal. Lead exposure is a public health issue. Lead can enter tap water from service lines, lead/tin solder, and brass pipes and fittings. This is typically an issue for homes built prior to 1960. Health Canada sets a maximum allowable lead concentration for drinking water, but it also advises that lead exposure should be kept as low as possible. There is really no such thing as safe lead levels.

Prior to amalgamation, the City of Dartmouth removed all the publicly-owned lead pipes, but often, due to costs, homeowners didn’t opt to remove their portion. The result is that there are still lead lines in Dartmouth, running from the edge of the public right-of-way into homes. The lead is all on private property.

Removing lead lines can be expensive and not all homeowners are interested or able to shoulder that burden. To try and spur property owners to remove the lead, Halifax Water has offered an incentive program to share the costs since 2017. Unfortunately, the uptake has been less than the Utility hoped for. As a result, Halifax Water applied to the UARB for permission to fully cover the cost of lead line removals. The UARB has approved Halifax Water’s submission and the Utility expects that it will take 20 years to fully remove all the remaining lead lines as opposed to the 40 years that they were expecting if it was left to individuals to manage. The Utility will likely proceed on a street-by-street basis in coordination with major HRM paving projects. Halifax Water expects to launch the new lead program in the next few months. For more information, check out their website here.

One of City Hall’s two original bells in storage

City Hall Bells
If you’ve been in Grand Parade for more than 15 minutes, you’ve heard City Hall’s bells toll, or at least you thought you heard the bells toll. The big secret of the City Hall bell tower is there haven’t been any bells in there since the Halifax Explosion. The Explosion damaged the tower and the bells were removed in the aftermath of the disaster. At some point along the way, someone decided to install an electronic chime system so the bell sound you’ve been hearing in Grand Parade is actually a recording (I believe it’s from Westminster in London).

Although the bells were removed after the Explosion, they weren’t scrapped. They’ve been in storage for over 100 years, awaiting the day when they could be returned to City Hall! That day is fast approaching. The bells have been lifted back into the tower, and will be installed in the future once it’s possible to bring in the experts from Onatrio to reinstall them. The recording is on its way out

Public Consultation

Centre Plan Surveys
Now till Monday, August 31

Last call for Centre Plan Package B surveys! Package B is the second part of the Centre Plan that will replace all of the existing residential zoning in Dartmouth inside the Circumferential, and Peninsula Halifax, update the Downtown Halifax Plan, and create new zoning for industrial (North Woodside Industrial Park) and institutional areas. Check out this video produced by HRM and Planifax for a good overview of where we are now with Package B.

You can take the surveys on a variety of topics and provide feedback here.

Secondary Suites Public Hearing
Tuesday, September 1, 6:00 pm

There will be a virtual public hearing on Tuesday to consider allowing secondary and backyard suites in all residential areas in HRM. A secondary suite is a separate unit completely contained within a home. They are often referred to as in-law suites or basement apartments. Backyard suites – are separate free-standing buildings, either built overtop an accessory structure like a garage, or simply on their own. They are often referred to as granny suites and could be in the form of a tiny house. Secondary and Backyard suites can be used by aging parents or adult children or can be used as rental units for the general public. The goal is to enable a greater diversity of housing options in a way that doesn’t alter the fundamental fabric of existing communities, and doesn’t create demand for expensive new services. The diagram below shows typical arrangements on a residential property.

Residents who wish to participate in the public hearing may forward a written submission no later than 3:00 pm on September 1 or register to speak no later than 4:30 pm on Monday, August 31. Detailed information regarding the proposed changes and how to participate can be found on the Shape Your City page.

Mic Mac Boulevard Development
Thursday, September 10, 6:00 pm

Habour East Community Council will hold a public hearing to consider case 21951, a proposal by Armour Group to construct a 15 storey building next to their existing seven storey building at 1000 Mic Mac Boulevard. The building would be accessed from the existing driveway for Kingswood at the intersection at Mic Mac Boulevard and Horizon Court. Proposal includes a pedestrian and cycling connection from the end of Crichton Avenue to Mic Mac Boulevard, formalizing that informal connection.

Since the hearing will take place virtually, anyone wishing to speak will need to notify HRM in advance. To be placed on the speakers list, contact the Clerk’s Office by email clerks@halifax.ca, by phone at 902-490-4210, or by fax at 902-490-4208. In your message, please include the meeting body (Regional Council) and the planning Case number (21951), in addition to your name, community of residence, email address, and telephone number.

If you have questions about what is proposed, check out the staff report here and/or contact the planner that has been working on this project, Dean MacDougall, at 902-240-7085 or by email at macdoude@halifax.ca.

Council Updates

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, August 18
A long, long meeting where we discussed Blue Mountain Birch Cove, police restructuring, ride hail, and a number of heritage buildings, including two in Dartmouth. Read about it here.


Given our current COVID shutdown, there are a lot fewer events to report.

Explore Shubie Park
September 19, noon – 4:00 pm
Shubenacadie Canal Commission

This September, the Shubenacadie Canal Commission is inviting the public to rediscover the incredible wilderness in our own backyard with free activities for the whole family at Shubie Park. This new event celebrates the start of fall and provides a chance to learn about Shubie’s dynamic natural and cultural heritage. There will be free activities for the whole family, including kids and dogs!

This event is a fundraiser for the Shubenacadie Canal Commission. While there is no entrance fee, the Commission encourages participants to view their silent auction items and consider joining the Adopt-a-Lock program. All funds raised will go to improvements along the waterway.

Social distancing and other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be in place for this event.