Monday, November 12, 2018

Residential Parking Under Attack by HRM

Who's in favour of better transit? Bike lanes? 

I think we all want whats best for our city as long as it doesn't impact us.  The old NIMBY syndrome makes those opposed to a concept the bad guys. However, sometimes you need to look at the issue from the other side before you label someone.

I have lived in the Creighton/Maynard area since 1990 and throughout this time there has been fair bit of change in the landscape, but nothing like what is occurring presently since the introduction of a express bus lane and the proposal of bike lanes to our narrow streets.

Since the bus lanes has been introduced, more and more cars are parking on Creighton Street causing lots of congestion and annoyance to those who live on the street.  Yes, the residents have bought parking permits, but now they are under siege by the municipality again to host bike lanes which will cause the elimination 15% to 50% of on street parking.  

At an information Dog & Pony Show held a few weeks ago, HRM Staff ask the residents to read over the information boards and to pick which concept they liked best.  Unfortunately, they failed to mention option "D".  Option D purposes that there be NO bike lane, but to use the street as a multi- trail with painted decals on the street like Vancouver.  No Speed Bumps, No Curb Extension, just a Sign depicting that the street is utilized by both cars and bicycles.

From Vancouver

Guess what,this would be a WIN-WIN for all involved and it would cost a fraction of the price.  Moreover, residents would not lose any parking.  By the way, bikes and cars have been traversing on  this street in harmony since cars were invented.  They can still co-exist without the removal of parking.

Let me describe the area that is being impacted on:  on one part of Creighton Street between Cunard and Buddy Daye there are 65 dwellings.  Some are apartments, some are single homes.  out of that 65 dwellings, there are 8 private driveways.  It doesn't take a Rhode Scholar to understand that there is an issue with the removal of parking.  

Maynard & Creighton Street

Many of the residents are extremely upset with the bike lane proposal.  One mentioned the other day that because they rent, they weren't even aware of the proposal and felt disfranchised.  

HRM has been working on two planning exercises to stop urban sprawl by allowing more densification on the peninsula.  HRM by Design encourages, in-law suites/ granny flats, yet does not take into consideration that people own cars.   On the other hand, Gottingen was thriving with local shops, restaurants and businesses and they added an express lane that doesn't even stop on the street!

So Please consider this side of the issue.  The residents and owners on these streets pay taxes, they should define what they want on their street, not HRM Staff.  

Just to let you know, many are not against bikes, they are against the loss of parking.
Adopt plan "D" .  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ever been given a second opportunity of a lifetime?

Dawn and Jimmi in the audience (Tuesday April 8th, 2014)

Ever been given a second opportunity of a lifetime?

It occurred last Tuesday at the Nova Scotia Westin, in the Commonwealth Room thanks to the Downeast Streeters Society. 

The society secured Jimmi Harkishin, an actor who has portrayed Dev Alahan for 15 years on the incredibly popular UK Soap Coronation Street and had asked me if I would like to host the evening.  Was I excited to meet another member of Corrie?  You Bet!

Last Autumn I received a call asking if I would like to host the Streeters upcoming "An Evening with Marc Baylis" event and accepted immediately.  Really,  how many opportunities in a lifetime would a Corrie Fan have to meet and interview these iconic tv personalities?

Thank you to my BF George

So where do you start?  How do you prepare to entertain the masses and be witty?  I began with watching all the great interviewers of my generation and  hoped for a miracle to happen!  Should I try to channel their style, energy, and ability to have that quite essential bond with their guest or be low key?  Was my research is correct?   
Will miss you and your shows My BF @strombo

My favourite interviewer and satirical  "Boyfriend" on Twitter and Facebook page George Stroumboulopoulos was my inspiration during the lead up to the events. His wit, ability to put his guests at ease even with a video "throwback" of their career inspired me to not a boring host.  George has always been able to connect with his guests and to bring out that other side of the guest that many of us has always wanted to know about bout would never have the opportunity to find out on our own. Thank you George. I am going to miss your show on the Nation's Mother Station.  Sniff...  back on topic....

Marc Baylis 
I began by doing my due diligence with regards to researching the actor, his acting career, the dish on him in the tabloids (which I discounted from the interview), compiling photos, thinking up questions & activities for the show. From the feedback from the first show's audience, I achieved my goal!

Dawn  cracking up after Marc does his impression of Steve (November 2013)
"An Evening with Marc Baylis" was a hit although Marc and I confessed minutes before taking the stage that we were both very nervous as all heck.  It was his first time performing at such an event and when I revealed to him it was my first time hosting, we vowed to have fun on stage and hugged on it.  Marc is an awesome hugger by the way.

Marc was clearly nervous when we hit the stage...  I was too, but when we started conversing about his career and a few of the roles he played prior to Corrie, we both fell into a relaxed groove.

Jimmi Harkishin
With Jimmy, it was like history was repeating itself.  He too was nervous and really not sure what to expect when we hit the stage to a packed house.  After a little banter, audience interaction....  Jimmi and I were able to relax and enjoy the evening of video throwbacks, interesting life stories, and audience participation.  
Dawn and Jimmi on Stage Tuesday (April 8th, 2014)
Pssst ....  Jimmi is a great hugger as well!

Thank you to Downeast Streeters Society for asking me to host both of these events, their support and, trust in me is stellar!  You have made this Corrie Fan a very happy camper!

Would I host another?  Hells YES!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Marc Baylis Visit to Halifax November 12th!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Better Solutions for Halifax's Wastewater Woes

leaking pipe infiltrating a water source.
"Water water everywhere and not a single drop to drink"  is a phrase coined from a poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poem is about sailors who are stuck at sea.  I feel like those sailors.  We have financial issues in our municipality, an solutions all around us.So why aren't we using them?
Since the Halifax Regional Municipality's  announcement to go forward with the trunking of sewage from Timberlea to the sewage treatment plant in Downtown Halifax, I feel like a sailor cut adrift in a rubber dingy.  I had sent out distress calls as far back as 2001 that our wastewater/sewage treatment was in peril which needed a "true fix", the localized treatment otherwise known as decentralized treatment.

After a few google searches, I had found wastewater solutions that could be utilized for hard to service lots, development outside of the serviced area for both residential and commercial buildings.  I requested during a Regional Council meeting on the topic of future wastewater solutions, but it fell on deaf ears.  No alternatives were brought forward in the years to come, nor were they brought forward during the Original Regional Plan.  I did revive the discussion during my time on the Regional Plan +5 Review, but my time was cut short.

Over the past 2 weeks I have had several discussions with qualified wastewater engineers regarding the issues with Halifax's sewage problem.
All have stated the same points which I will summarize:
"Sewage treatment should be as close to the source as possible.  All pipes leak at some point from either age, installation failure, or the shifting of the earth. This high possibility of leaks can be mitigated by having shorter runs of pipe."
 "If there is pipe failure the effluent or sewage infiltrates the groundwater, and can cause contamination to lakes, waterways, or well/water sources or flooding of dwellings."

I decided to "interview" one Engineer who has just introduced a new wastewater solution to Nova Scotia to hear his thoughts on the "Timberlea Trunk" or as it is now being called "Chain of Lakes Trail".

J. Micheal O'Connor is  a practising Engineer for over 30 years and is the Principal Engineer for Matrix Consulting Inc. who are now the sole distributors of Aquarobic International in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes.  I posed a few questions to him, and here is the Transcript of our conversation.

DMS: As an Engineer,does the trunking of sewage from Timberlea to the Downtown make sense ?"

JMO: No. There are viable solutions that could be implemented which make more sense.         Decentralizing or treating sewage close to it's origin is the ideal solution.  Burying miles of pipe, constructing lift stations and/or pumping stations to keep the sewage moving works but is a waste of money these days. 

 Treating sewage at the source or as close to the source is not new to the world of wastewater solutions.The company that I represent, Aquarobic International, was established in 1974. It is a NSF 40 Standard system approved by the Department of Environment of Nova Scotia last Fall.  Although it was designed in Canada, it has been used in hard to service areas in the United States but is now available in Atlantic Canada.

DMS: "So how would this system work in this case of  the Brunello Development?

JMO: Well, instead of  trunking sewage 25.2 km to a wastewater treatment facility on the Halifax Peninsula, the wastewater could be treated in the area as Aquarobic has the capacity to treat up to 1,000 homes.  It can also be utilized as an "add-on" to existing plants.  The technology does not use any chemicals as it uses aeration technology and a  "Timed Sequenced Batch Reactor".
The aeration speeds up the natural decay of the sewage by 1000 times and is faster than the normal septic process. 

I recommend a series of Aquarobics units in series that would do the same job or better for the 25kms of piping instead of adding to the load on the already overwhelmed scotia sq location treatment plant. And the Aquarobics system would be a fraction of that expansion cost. Also for the larger units ( 10,000 USG range ) we don't use french drains. There are many options.

Basically it releases the treated effluent into a dispersion area in small batches so that it can be absorbed into Mother Earth.  Typically, with a septic field there is no hold on the amount of influent being released, that's when you see soggy waterlogged areas of lawns.  With Aquarobic, this doesn't occur with any size of the units.   

DMS: What about the pipes and necessary land for such a product?

JMO:  The units are all underground so the land surrounding the units can be landscaped and utilized.  As for piping, the length of the required pipes would be significantly reduced!  If you are treating a subdivision for example, it could be yards away from the treatment unit as opposed to 25.2km.

DMS: So this is a less expensive method of treatment, non obstructive to the landscape, uses no chemicals, but has not been considered as a "solution"?

JMO: Unfortunately, you are correct.  

The other issue that relates to this is who is paying for new infrastructure for developments in general.  I think we all now the answer to this.  It relates to the "Capital Cost Contributions" or CCC's as they are known.
CCC is the deal between a developer and the Municipality when a development is planned within the physical boundaries of the Municipality. Defined by CG Acres in a 2006 study:
"An infrastructure Charge is a specific dollar value per lot or  per acre that a municipality imposes on a developer to finance the off ­site capital costs associated with new  development.” 
 CCC’s Include:
  •  New Growth Related Capital Costs  
  •  Construction, engineering, interest, land, surveying, professional studies

CCC’s Do NOT include:
  •  Operations & Maintenance
  •  Replacement ß Rehabilitation/renewal  
  •  Costs that result from past growth
What is the rationale for the Municipality supplying funds for new development?

"Developers reap an economic benefit from their  activities, and part of that benefit accrues from public infrastructure”

New Tools for New Times, A Sourcebook for the Financing, Funding and Delivery of Urban 

Infrastructure, Canada West Foundation, 2006

In other words municipalities are supplementing the new infrastructure which is draining the municipal coffers which should be used for maintenance of existing infrastructure and allowing developers to make a substantial profit by using funds from the taxpayers therefore municipalities defer the required maintenance on the existing infrastructure in established neighbourhoods. Failures are bound to occur, but at the rate HRM has been?   How many times have we heard in the past 5 years of watermain breaks, sinkholes opening up on city streets?  Too many in my opinion.

After reading several articles from the C.D. Howe Institute by Harry Kitchen and Enid Slack (2 economists based in Toronto) I pressured Regional Council to request a study on Capital Cost Contributions.

The recommendations are stuck in the quagmire of the Centre Plan and the Regional Plan +5.  Will this ever see land?  Like the poor sailors stuck in the doldrums...  the need for CCC reform is in a dingy...  being circled by sharks.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A little Patch of Yummy in the middle of the city - Urban Strawberries

Everbearing Strawberry
Years ago I lived in a tiny apartment with a seriously neglected postage stamp for a backyard.  It was pretty well shaded by a large elm on the southern exposure and a brick 2 storey building.  Although the conditions were not fantastic, I decided to try to grow strawberries.

After building a garden border with scraps of wood from a junkpile and carrying in several bags of soil through the house (no access to the backyard), I set out on a mission to find the best berry for the poorly lit area.

After a fast Google search, I found the answer "Everbearing  Strawberries"  also known as "day-neutral strawberries".  These plants produce sweet red berries from early summer to autumn and while June-bearing strawberries produce one hearty crop early in the growing season,but  tend to taper off  as the season goes on. 

First year yielded a small crop and I was just happy to see something growing!  The plants began to spread via runners from the original plants so the patch doubled in size within a year.  The patch was getting a little bit out of control by the third year so I donated a dozen plants to Victoria Hall as they were constructing a garden on the premises for their residents.  

I moved in 2004 and had to leave my plants behind which really sadden me, but the circumstances were beyond my control.  In 2005, I began to landscape my new backyard which was the total opposite to the old backyard.  Full sun for 3/4 of the day, no brick-walls or trees blocking the southern exposure.

I purchased more Everbearing Strawberries in the Spring of 2005 from a nursery and planted them on the norther side of the garden.  This spot receives full sun for approximately (9:30 am to 4:00pm) 7 1/2 hours.

The existing soil was rocky and filled with debris from the former house that was demolished decades before, so I bought planting soil (Super Soil)
which as a good mix of soil and peat and made a raised bed with the existing foundation rocks as a border. The rocks work well in retaining the heat from the sun and allow for good drainage. 

Since that initial planting the 12 plants have exploded into a huge patch of strawberries that have begun to infiltrate the neighbouring flower bed.  I will have to re- arrange the plants in the Autumn so that I can regain control of this spreading delicious fruit.

Crop from Last Evening

Here are some helpful hints that I have used over the last couple of years from a very reliable website (

Helpful Tips


Prepare a sunny spot with soil that drains well. Everbearing strawberries grow best with a soil pH no lower than 5.5 and no higher than 7.0. Contact the local extension office to perform soil testing several months before you plant the strawberries so any necessary amendments have time to work.


Cut the bare roots of strawberry plants to 6 inches long before planting in spring after the risk of frost passes. Plant the strawberries so the crown is just above the soil, as burying the crown causes it to rot. Space the plants at least 5 inches apart with 42 inches between rows.


Mulch around the berry plants with straw to keep the bed clean and retain moisture.


Irrigate the strawberry plants just enough to keep the soil moist without soaking the plants. A total of 1 inch of water weekly between rain and watering is usually sufficient.


Feed the plants with compost tea to encourage growth. Fertilize everbearing strawberries every two weeks, since they prefer more frequent smaller feedings. Too much fertilizer, especially early in the growing season, causes too much leaf growth and rotten or soft fruit.


Pinch off the runners that develop during the first growing season to produce larger berries. Allowing runners to grow in subsequent years produces more but smaller berries. Continue pinching off the runners or allow them to grow, depending on your preferred size of berries.


Pull weeds by hand as they appear to keep the everbearing strawberry plants healthy.


Cover the strawberry plants with floating row covers if birds, mice and other pests eat the crop.


Dig up old everbearing strawberry plants that become less vigorous or produce poorly. Plants are often replaced after three to five years.


Harvest the strawberries as soon as they are ripe. Look for fully red berries that are soft to the touch. Check the berries at least every other day throughout the growing season, since berries ripen constantly. Letting ripe berries rot encourages insect and disease infestations.


Bury the strawberry plants in 2 inches of mulch over the winter, especially in climates that drop below 20 F. The mulch prevents heaving of the strawberry root system due to frost. Pull back the mulch each spring when the temperatures rise.
Now it's time to see if there are more strawberries!
Last Night's Snack

Monday, July 1, 2013

Working with Mother Nature - Urban Gardening

Pea Blooms
For the past few years I have dabbled in growing a few vegetables in my back yard.  Nothing major; few bean plants, lettuce, peas.  the usual fare.

Basically it was a little challenge I posed upon myself. Just to see if I remembered my childhood tasks on the family farm outside of Halifax where I spent my weekends and Summers.

At first I could only recall the unrelenting weeding and picking rock out of the garden plots. 2 chores that I found no love for what so ever.  I did remember the little sense of joy when a plant produced a product though and the amazing flavours of the fresh organic crops in mid Summer like baby potatoes, green beans, beets, and lettuce.

So this year, since I have a lot of time on my hands between deciding on a new career and grieving my old public service, I decided to expand my thoughts to actions and to attempt a larger Urban Garden in my back yard (known as the back 40ft) consisting of veggies, berries, and produce (potatoes, corn, beets)

 Other variables that convinced me to try this:
  • Cost - seasonal produce is expensive if you are on a fixed income.
  • Health - Gardening is a good form of exercise, and is a great form of meditation (in my opinion), Furthermost, the benefits of eating veggies is well known, but often not practiced because of time constraints. 
  • Taste- nothing comes even close to fresh organic food, this means without pesticides, herbicides, or is some cases human feces. 
  • Self satisfaction - the end results are so gratifying
Each year I have stepped up the challenge; adding more variety to the little backyard in the middle of the city and have somewhat pushed the boundaries of our fickle growing season by starting and growing plants to food production in my home.  Typically planting beans and spinach in containers and placing them in the South Western exposure windows.
Bean Seedling

The results have been positive! Green beans before the last frost, spinach to munch on or add to a salad before the first of May.

So this year I took it a little farther by constructing something I like to dub "the McGyver Greenhouse".  Using a 3'x 6' cold frame, 4 bamboo hoops, a sheet of plastic, and a lot of bricks salvaged from the ruins of the old home that stood on the property I found buried, I made my first attempt to cheating Mother Nature at her cruel Nova Scotian Spring.
Transplanted Indoor Garden to McGyver Greenhouse
I transplanted the plants to the greenhouse in the middle of April, secured the plastic around the frame with the bricks, and for added measure, planted more seeds around the transplants.

To my surprise, everything survived and grew!  Herbs from the previous year thrived, onion sets I had forgotten sprung back to life, and nasturtium seeds began to grow.

With much enthusiasm, I began to plan an expansion of the McGyver Greenhouse. Thankfully I have leftover supplies from the other construction and didn't have to purchase anything for the additions.  As you know, Halifax weather in the Spring can be two ways: Crappy and or Shitty; so trying to construct these greenhouses meant braving cold temperatures and hoping that the heat from the sun would keep the interior of the McGyver's warm enough to grow the seedlings and or transplants.
2 more Greenhouses (far back in photo)
To alleviate my fear, I doubled the plastic on the structures for the first month (March to Mid- April), and removed the extra plastic when the temperatures rose.  Moreover I added chicken wire to the end of the greenhouses to allow the plastic to be rolled up on unseasonably warm days so not to steam the plants and to keep my neighbour's cat from pooping in and on the crops.

McGyver Greenhouses basically become a microclimate and will draw the water out of the soil and "rain" back down on itself making it easy to water (once a week).

While awaiting growth in the McGyver's, I began to work on the landscape of the back 40ft.  Adding more flagstones, re-establishing the stone borders of the existing garden plots, and enjoying the rapid growth of the garlic and mint patch.
Mint and Garlic Patch next to stairs

Although 85% of the back 40ft is dedicated to vegetables, I do enjoy growing flowers.  I have been able to introduce tulips and daffodils into the mix by growing them among the established plants such as the mint and garlic, and the large plot where I have a "transient" plant selection.  Each year I either add new annuals or plant sunflowers, cosmos, lillies, hollyhocks, and whack of other flowers.

This year the plot has become a mishmash of flowers and veggies.  Several tomato plants sprung up in a McGyver (from my own compost) so I have relocated them away from the lettuce and other greens as they do not like each other.  Companion gardening certainly helps with produce yield.
Tomato Plants in pots, Mint and Garlic Thriving

Plant near: asparagus, basil, cabbage family, carrots, gooseberries, mustard, parsley, onions, rosemary, sage, stinging nettles
 Keep away from: fennel, kohlrabi, potatoes, walnuts
Tips like this are so helpful and will put your mind at ease to why certain plants are not growing or seem stunted. Moreover the internet can provide you with money saving tips on how to cultivate your crops properly.
A person just the other day asked me about "hilling" potatoes.

Although this video shows a sad looking potato, the method is correct.  I personally like the Potato Bag method.  The ones I purchased a few years ago have a Velcro flap which allows you to harvest without harming the plant.
2 Potato Bags with 3 ft Potatoes in Bloom

This photo taken today demonstrates how well the bags work. I plan on harvesting a few taters for dinner tonight!

These bags were worth the 2 for 20. dollars as the free up the garden beds for other plants and they are quite mobile.  I moved these around a few times over the past months.

Since I live alone and only entertain once in a while,the crop from last year was used up till April of this year when I used the remaining potatoes as seed potatoes for this years' crop.

Growing vegetables organically isn't difficult.  It just means you just have to get back to basics.  Save your table scraps (no meat) and peelings, old veggies and start a compost bin.   Look up natural fertilizers on -line.  I personally like using Epsom Salts.  Plants love magnesium, and this works well.
The Back 40ft. as of this morning.

Enough of this blogging. The sun is coming out and I have spinach to pick.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Time for Accountability for Rehtaeh Parsons - My letter to the Minister of Justice Ross Landry

Dear Ross,
I write to you out of concern, frustration, and sadness over the incidents that lead up to the untimely death of Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17 year old that was taken off Life Support on Sunday evening after being raped, bullied, and cyber- bullied by schoolmates of Cole Harbour High.

My concern stems from the Crown Prosecutor’s decision to not press charges against the 4 boys who raped Rehtaeh even though a photo was circulated to other students of Cole Harbour High.  With all the technology and the ability to trace the IP addresses or MAC addresses of computers, I am puzzled that our integrated police service took so long with their investigation.  Moreover the time span during the investigation it took to interview the alleged rapists.  This is unacceptable.  Our Police Services need to address such heinous crimes in a timely manner and to conduct interviews of suspects in a timely manner!  Allowing months to go by without interviewing a suspect is absolutely unacceptable.

This brings me to my frustration; with respect to the lack of action by the High School Faculty, the Principal, and the Halifax Regional School Board Member/ School Board.  How could this type of bullying, cyber-bullying be unnoticed? Teachers are not immune to gossip and student issues.
The response from the Crown Prosecutor’s Communications person, Chris Hansen, was is just spin-doctor gibberish to deflect the genuine reality that Justice was not served.

My sadness is derived from the disappointment that Rehtaeh has perished without justice being served and that her family has been let down by the Government Agencies that are supposed to protect its citizens.  The 4 boys have gotten away with their horrific actions.  The High School has not fostered an anti-bullying program.  The Police and Justice Services have failed the citizenry of our community.

I formally request a full review of this case and that the 4 alleged rapists are brought to justice.  The Parson family have had to endure so much heartache and they need closure.   Personally, I am requesting this review for all the young women who are venerable to such crimes.  Please have your staff investigate the Todd case in British Columbia and the amendments adopted there with respect to Bullying.

Preventing another rape, bullying and subsequent death of a youth is in your hands.

Dawn Marie Sloane