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Allowing Uber Will Make Halifax a Better City

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Uber is available in almost every other major Canadian city. By not allowing Uber, Halifax is showing itself to be a city that is stuck in the past.

Other Canadian cities have embraced the service. Some examples include:

  • Calgary
  • Edmonton
  • Toronto
  • Mississauga
  • Ottawa
  • London, Ont
  • Windsor, Ont
  • Regina
  • Saskatoon
  • Barrie
  • Kitchener-Waterloo
  • Montreal

The appeal of the service is not hard to understand. It is more affordable, quicker, simpler and more reliable than traditional taxis. That’s why it has taken so much of the market. Uber is an innovative, 21st century service that has revolutionized the taxi industry.

According to a poll (done by us) with over 1,000 respondents, the overwhelming majority of Haligonians support allowing the service here. Of course, polls like this aren’t scientific, but they are a solid first look into what the public thinks.

Uber will undoubtedly be an issue during the upcoming municipal election. I imagine councillors and candidates who oppose allowing the service will have a hard time at the doorstep. The war over allowing (or disallowing) Uber continues to rage on in the Twittersphere:

If Halifax wants to show itself to be a forward-thinking city that isn’t “stuck in the past”, allowing widely used ride-sharing services would be a good start.

The Rose Bushes on Dunbrack are Being Cut Down for “Safety Reasons”

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According to a statement by Councillor Russell Walker, the bushes are too dangerous and need to be removed.

The bushes have long been celebrated by the residents of Clayton Park. They really add a charm and give the community a natural vibe.

The decision to chop down the rose bushes is almost as perplexing as council’s unanimous decision to scrap a plan for commuter rail, although there was more to that story. There is not more to this one, it is all council’s fault.

Hopefully some peaceful resolution can be found and the bushes can be sparred. They are awesome.

Nova Scotia is Crushing the Ivany Report Goals

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At the time, the goals set out by the Ivany Report looked difficult, if not impossible. Unexpectedly, Nova Scotia has beaten and surpassed many of the goals, years ahead of schedule.

The first goal in the Ivany Report was to “increase interprovincial migration to a net positive of 1,000 per year”. In 2012, Nova Scotia lost 3,000 people to interprovincial migration. As of 2018, Nova Scotia is gaining around 2,000 people per year due to interprovincial migration.

Source: Wikimedia

Halifax is very well known for it’s many universities. International students come from every corner of the globe to study here, but we have historically had a hard time convincing them to stay. One of the goals in the Ivany Report was to “increase the rate of retention of international students to over 10%”. In 2011, the retention rate was an abysmal 4.1%.

As of 2018, 12.9% of foreign students who come to study here stay. That not only crushes the Ivany Report goal, but represents a tripling of the amount of university graduates who stay in our province. No wonder the start-up scene in Halifax is booming.

Seafood exports have more than doubled since 2010, easily exceeding the Ivany Report targets. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is declining, a reflection of solid fiscal policy and good economic management. We are on track to meet the debt reduction goals set out by the Ivany Report.

Will we meet all the goals set out by the Ivany Report? Maybe, but probably not. What is most significant is that the goals we are meeting are the ones we where not expected to meet, which is great news.

Changing the Narrative​ – Our Announcement​

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Urban Halifax was started as a challenge to the assumption that Halifax is a city on a path to nowhere.

Over the past few months, our positive message has resonated. In the month of June alone, our content reached a whopping 180,000, 90% of whom live in the Halifax area.

The launch of Urban Halifax’s groundbreaking new website will disrupt the media environment in Halifax. It will be an effective advocate for building a better city.

I am amazed at all of the talent who are interested in writing for us. Our site will have numerous contributors and feature editorials from familiar names.

UrbanHfx.com has been built on a solid foundation. From a technical aspect, it is built of steel. It has more than enough bandwidth and can handle incredible traffic.

The goal of this project is to help build a better Halifax. Halifax is turning a corner, but there is still work to do.

We envision a Halifax where kids don’t have to leave to make a living. We envision a modern, cosmopolitan city where artists thrive and small businesses prosper.

Join us in carrying this flag.

John Grant, Founder of Urban Halifax

Connect / john@urbanhfx.com

Halifax Council Just Killed Progress Right in its​ Tracks

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Commuter rail has worked in cities of our size. Kitchener, Ontario (Pop: 523,000) is reaping hundreds of millions in economic benefits from their system. Oh, and also, Halifax used to have light rail up until the 1970s.

Unlike most cities, Halifax already has much of the infrastructure needed for LRT. Add in the fact that we have a growing population and a well-used transit system as it is, and the idea of LRT in Halifax becomes more convincing. 

LRT would create thousands of jobs. LRT stations would become hubs for business and development, and create a positive economic feedback loop. A LRT system would also say to the rest of Canada that Halifax aspires to be more than a costal outpost. We would like to be a serious player on the Canadian scene.

The Port of Halifax
The Port of Halifax

Anyone who complains about “sprawl” should be outraged at council’s lack of forward thinking on this topic. If current growth continues, Halifax’s population could be close to 600,000 in 20 years, making the process of building out an LRT system much more expensive. Building a system now would be cheaper and easier from an urban planning aspect.

NS Net Migration
NS Net Migration

The issue of LRT in Halifax will not go away because of council’s recent short-sightedness. It will be back, in some form, in very short order.

To the Stars! Canada’s First Spaceport Approved for Canso, NS

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A Nova Scotian startup just got the green light to build Canada’s first Spaceport in the small town of Canso. According to the CEO of Maritime Launch Services, shovels in the ground are expected this summer.  Could the Strait Area become Canada’s headquarters for exploring the final frontier?

The project is being spearheaded by “Maritime Launch Services“, led by CEO Steve Matier. If all goes to plan, the site should be able to launch payloads of up to 5,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit (LEO). 

Not unsurprisingly, Greenpeace and Greenpeace affiliated groups are upset at this announcement. Their very understandable concerns include:

– The fact that rocket fuel used at similar facilities is very toxic

– Debris falling from the sky after a launch

– The effect rockets will have on local wildlife

Artist's rendering of Spaceport facilities
Artist’s rendering of Spaceport facilities

If all goes to plan, Guysborough county may become the “Cape Canaveral” of Canada. According to Matier, half-a-billion worth of clients have already been lined up, awaiting construction which the company predicts will be completed by 2021. 

More information about MLS can be found on their website: https://www.maritimelaunch.com

How the Lebanese Built Halifax

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Halifax has had a unique bond with the people of Lebanon since the late 1800s. Without our vibrant Lebanese community, Halifax would be unrecognizable. Their many contributions to our city and province show that a community rooted in faith and family can truly make a difference, and prosper.

Not all of the Lebanese people in Halifax came under favourable circumstances. The Lebanese Civil War caused hundreds of thousands to die and millions to flee their homeland. Unspeakable violence occurred, but out of that violence, the Lebanese Diaspora grew. 

Lebanon, like Canada, is a country of great diversity. Unlike Canada, Lebanon has struggled with keeping the peace between the large Muslim and Maronite Catholic communities within its borders. Like many countries in the Middle East, Lebanon still deals with sectarianism, but things are improving. Before the civil war, Lebanon was known as the “Switzerland” of the Middle East, and published close to half of all works of literature in the Arabic language, quite an accomplishment for a country of only 5 million at the time. The civil war, ignited by foreign actors and religious fundamentalists, took its toll on the country, but Lebanon is beginning to once again beginning to lead the Middle East in terms of economic growth and quality of life. 

Lebanese GDP (1970-2015) | Notice the 300% increase between 1990 and today.
Lebanese GDP (1970-2015) | Notice the 300% increase between 1990 and today.

Many people make the false assumption that Halifax is the only place in Nova Scotia with a connection to Lebanon. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our current Minister of Education, Zach Churchill, belongs to a prominent Yarmouth Lebanese family that has called the tri-county area home for more than a century.

So far, PEI has had 2 Lebanese premiers, and I would be surprised if Nova Scotia didn’t have a Lebanese premier sometime soon. There are currently 3 Lebanese members of the House of Assembly, all of whom happen to be high-ranking government ministers. Lena Diab is the current Minister of Immigration and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the aforementioned Zach Churchill is the current Minister of Education, and Patricia Arab serves as the Minister of Communications, Internal Services and Service Nova Scotia.

In the world of business, the Lebanese have also made their mark. Some of Halifax’s most prominent developers trace their roots to Lebanon, including the official consul of Lebanon in Halifax, Wadih Fares. 

Source: WMFares (Wadih Fares' company)
Source: WMFares (Wadih Fares’ company)

Lebanese dishes have influenced the cuisine of Halifax. Lebanese owned restaurants serve thousands daily, including franchises like King of Donair and Mezza.

Donair
Donair

The success of the Lebanese community in Halifax goes to show the diverse and inclusive nature of our city. The two major Lebanese festivals serve as a celebration of Lebanese culture, with the 2019 Cedar Festival just wrapping up, well attended and successful as always. The upcoming Halifax Lebanese Festival will be another chance to celebrate Lebanese culture, and will most defiantly be a fun experience for all who attend. We may differ in terms of our beliefs and our heritage, but in the end, we all bleed the same blood, and we’ll all need to get along if we want to build a better city.

Correction: Originally, it was stated that the donair originated as a fusion of Lebanese and Maritime cuisine. The donair may have been influenced by Lebanese cuisine, but it was also influenced by Turkish and Greek cuisine. In fact, it was invented by someone of Greek heritage.

Gatineau (Pop: 284,000) is Getting Commuter Rail. Why Can’t Halifax?

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Gatineau is about half as big as Halifax, yet a 28-stop LRT system is going to be built over the next 9 years.

The Gatineau LRT will have two connections with the neighbouring Ottawa O-Train system, but the City of Gatineau will be the owner of the system.

As Halifax continues to grow, the possible cost of building out an infrastructure for LRT will only grow. The project in Gatineau shows that LRT is feasible in a city smaller than 1-million, and not impossible from a political standpoint

Halifax did at one point have a streetcar-type LRT system. Unfortunately, it closed decades ago, to make way for some of the broader streets downtown. The method or LRT may be the source of much debate in the future, but the benefits or Light Rail Transit are undeniable.

Map of Halifax Ca. 1910
Map of Halifax Ca. 1910

Expect LRT to be a key issue during the upcoming Halifax Municipal Elections. Polling on the topic isn’t plentiful, but according to polling we’ve done online, there is overwhelming support for LRT among our thousands of readers.

Exclusive: Lenore Zann Talks Politics in Wide-Ranging Interview

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Longtime NDP MLA Lenore Zann is quitting provincial politics to seek a federal seat in the riding of Cumberland-Colchester under the Liberal banner. Urban Halifax founder John Grant spoke with Lenore over the phone for a wide ranging interview that touched on politics, life and her new foray into the spotlight.

Q: What first led you into politics?

A: The thing that first got me involved happened during the financial crisis of 08′. I looked at the front page of the Globe and Mail and saw all the world leaders and noticed that with the exception of Angela Merkel, they were all men. I thought to myself, “it’s 2008, why are the decision makers still exclusively men”. I had thought that by that time things would have moved along and there would be more women at the table, but there were not. This stuck with me, and it pushed me to offer myself as a candidate.

Q: What is one interesting fact about you that not many people know?

A: That’s an Interesting question. One thing that not many people know is the fact that I am the voice of “Rogue” in the XMEN cartoon series, and I also voice “Starcatcher” on My Little Pony. Another character I played was Lorca on Dragon Tales. In total, I have played hundreds of characters on shows that kids from all around the world have grown up watching and loving.

Q: What led you seek the Liberal Nomination in Cumberland Colchester?

A: In the beginning, Bill Casey approached me on remembrance day last year during a wreath-laying ceremony. He asked me if I was thinking of running federally, and I explained to him that I was talking to the NDP about running on their ticket. He then asked me if I had considered running for the Liberals federally, to which I said: “no, I haven’t.” He then went on to say that I should think about it because it was going to be very hard to run for the NDP in Cumberland-Colchester. Bill explained to me that he was very worried about the prospect of a Conservative victory in the riding, and didn’t want Andrew Scheer to become Prime Minister, as sheer is very similar to Harper, who had kicked Casey out of caucus. After this chat, I went up to Ottawa around Christmas time and met with Prime Minister Trudeau. We had a lovely chat about issues that were important to me, such as mental health and addictions. Addictions are a very crucial issue to me, I’ve been sober for 23 years, but I suffered from alcoholism in the past, and know how hard it is to break the cycle of addiction. I personally know the struggles other people are going through with depression and anxiety, especially with young people but also with seniors. Another reason why I decided to run for the Liberals was looking at the polling information for the district and seeing that the Federal NDP is polling at around 3.8% in the riding. After speaking to my family and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to accept this challenge and run for the Liberals!

Q: What misconceptions do people have about you?

A: In the beginning, a lot of people thought that I was just a dumb actress who knew nothing about politics and was only in it for the glamour and theatrics. I believe that the last ten years I’ve spent at Province House have proved that to be a wrong assumption.

Q: What do you say to those who call you opportunistic?

A: When I first started hearing that, I noticed that it was coming mostly from very hardline NDP members, many of whom still worked for the party. I got the impression that much of this was part of a messaging strategy from the party offices, and not coming from my constituents. I was amazed at the amount of support I have received from my constituents and how enthusiastic they are for my new endeavour. Personally, I think that it’s kind of ridiculous to call someone who is running for a party that is struggling in the polls and may well lose Cumberland-Colchester “opportunistic”. The two main reasons I am doing this is to support Justin Trudeau and the Liberals and to ensure Andrew Scheer and his ilk never make it to the Prime Minister’s Office. Cumberland-Colchester has been a Conservative riding for 150 years, and I do not want those guys to take this seat back, and I am willing to put my job on the line to make sure this seat doesn’t flip, which would help to lift the Conservatives into majority government status.

Q: What attracted you to the federal Liberal Party?

A: As I said, I like Trudeau, and I love that he is a smart, civil, empathetic young man who makes me feel proud to be a Canadian. It takes more than four years to enact the kinds of changes that he wants, and he deserves another mandate to accomplish even more for Canada. Having been in a majority-NDP government for four years as a backbencher, I witnessed the struggle that progressive leaders face in terms of reversing the damage done by previous Conservative governments. I have also seen the challenge of dealing with lobbyists who seem to push the agenda and appear to have an outsized role in our politics.

Q: Given the recent Sackville-Cobequid results, Do you think Gary Burrill has been effective as the leader of the NSNDP?

A: A lot of people have asked me this question, and I have to say that it is up to the party. It’s not my business to judge Gary on his leadership, and I am not even a party member at this point. I resigned my NDP membership on June 9th, and it is up to the party to decide their future. One thing I will say is that I came in a close second to Gary during the NDP leadership convention, and had I won, I would have taken the party in a somewhat different direction. I imagine my style of leadership would have been fairly popular with Nova Scotians; however, hindsight is always 20/20. I wish Gary and the NDP caucus well, and I don’t wish ill on any of them. I am setting my sights squarely on Ottawa.

Q: Would the Provincial NDP benefit from a new leader?

A: I have little doubt that Gary will lead the provincial NDP into the next general election. The results of that election will determine whether or not Gary will stay on as leader, because at that point, a leadership review will be necessary.

Q: Trudeau just approved the Trans-mountain pipeline expansion. Do you approve of this decision?

A: I have never been in favour of increasing our reliance on pipelines and fossil fuels. I believe that we need to get off our addiction to fossil fuels as quickly as possible; however, I do understand that governing an entire country is very complex and requires compromise. It is very hard to balance these competing interests, and no matter what you do, people are going to be mad. Many Canadians don’t really understand that green energy and green jobs are the way to go and that we can make more money, have better jobs and more sustainable jobs if we don’t put all of our eggs into one basket. I also believe that we should introduce a “green new deal” for Canada.

Q: You are running for a Liberal nomination, so why are you sitting as an independent in the house and not a Nova Scotia Liberal?

A: Because the nomination meeting is in July, and the house will not be sitting until the fall, and possibly until after the election. I needed to do this ethically, and I felt it would not be possible to stay on as an NDP MLA while seeking a federal Liberal nomination. To me, that’s just not ethical.

Q: What are your plans if you don’t win the nomination?

A: If I don’t win the nomination, which is entirely possible, I will serve out my term in the legislature. Right now, I am thinking one step at a time. As an actor, I know that nothing is certain until it is, and I am putting everything into making sure I get this nomination. I learned this lesson at the age of 22.

Q: How did you keep an NDP seat in Truro for ten years?

A: If I could have the answer to that, I would bottle it and sell that to anyone who wants to run in any election. I’d probably become pretty rich. I don’t know exactly how I did it, but I do suspect people voted for me, and not the party. I think that I am an example of how many Canadians are voing for people, and not parties. Take Bill Casey as another example. He won as a Conservative for 22 years, and then as an independent, and then as a Liberal. During the last election, Bill Casey won every single poll in Cumberland-Colchester with the exception of one. People want representatives who they trust and who they can conncet with on a personal level. 

Q: What is your favourite colour?

A: Purple. Every single bedroom I ever had was purple. My first car was a little purple beetle bug. I had it for like 20 years, and took it all across Canada. To be specific, it was a 1974 Beetle bug, and I bought it in Bible Hill for $5,000. I drove it for like 20 years.

10 Reasons Why Halifax Needs Commuter Rail

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Commuter rail would offer many benefits to our city. Here are a few:

1. It would help reduce traffic.

The Windsor Street Exchange may no longer be a parking lot half of the time if we had commuter rail.

2. It would help the environment

Cars produce a ton of emissions. Commuter rail produces some emissions but would prevent millions of tons of CO2 from getting into the atmosphere.

3. It would reduce sprawl

Commuter Rail would make the downtown more accessible, and make car-reliant suburbs less appealing. Dense cities produce fewer emissions and are generally more close-knit and community oriented.

4. Jobs.

Building out a commuter rail system would create thousands of jobs. Operating the system would also require hundreds of people. This would provide opportunities for countless Haligonians.

5. Lowering the cost of living

Gas is costly. Public transit is almost always cheaper, and having a commuter rail system would encourage thousands of Haligonians to save money by commuting downtown without the need for their gas guzzlers.

6. Safety

Cars are hazardous. Talk to anyone who has ever been in an accident if you have any doubt about that. Commuter rail has the potential to save lives, as car accidents take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year.

7. “Cool factor.”

Commuter rail would be seriously cool. It would show us to be an ambitious, progressive city that is willing to take risks and invest in ourselves.

8. It would save you time

Being stuck in traffic is a huge time waster. Commuter Rail doesn’t have to deal with traffic. Instead, you can rest easy knowing that every 10-or-so minutes a new train will be waiting to rush you to your destination, regardless of how bad “rush hour” is.

9. Encourages a healthier lifestyle

Cars force people to sit. Commuter rail would allow people to get some exercise on the way to catching their train. Every step counts!

10. It will allow you to relax!

Instead of spending 30 minutes stressing out in traffic, commuter rail would make your commute much more relaxing. All you need to do is sit back, relax, and let the train take you where you need to be!

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