Tribute to Alan Ruffman, FHC director, by Howard Epstein

“He did seriously live his values and show people how to make things better. And what better thing can be said about a person?”

The passing of our friend ‘Citizen Ruffman’ was a terrible way to end a terrible year. Linda and Alan have always been a fixture of intelligent, articulate, and progressive local politics. I realize that I have known Alan for almost 50 years. He was around in the early days of the Ecology Action Centre and already involved in keeping a close eye on the doings of our municipal council, which never failed to disappoint him.

Alan was central in the populist agitation to stop the proposed ‘Harbour Drive’, resulting in the saving and later renovation of what is now ‘Historic Properties’, a rare outpost of valuing Halifax heritage.

We have worked together with many others to try to resist the worst of local planning and other decisions: proposals for around the Citadel, for elsewhere in the Downtown, for intrusions on The Common, for the Offshore.

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Please Sign the Petition to Stop the Demolitions

Is Halifax’s Centre Plan an undiagnosed pandemic? Its triggered 100s of building ‘deaths’ – Please sign to stop: 

The Robie Street buildings above are some of dozens in HRM that are going, going, gone….

We’ve no record of how many units but a map of 454 building demolition permits since January 2020 shocks. We all see, feel and understand that these demolitions harm affordability, community, character & climate. Photos remind us how negligent and wasteful it is. Continue reading

Robie Street Widening – Citizens to HRM: “Don’t Wreck the Neighbourhood, there are better options!”

Citizens living in the Robie Street neighbourhood between Cunard and North Street oppose HRM’s plans to expropriate private land to widen the Street.  Thanks to the many who wrote or presented at the HRM Regional Centre Community Council’s  December 14 public hearing in Dartmouth.  Widening will result in as many as 18 buildings being demolished and at least as many beautiful mature trees – most are Elm.  A simple, cheaper solution to create bus lanes would be overhead bi-directional signals (like on Chebucto, the MacDonald Bridge or Toronto’s Jarvis Street).  Why not plan to keep the character, community and health of the city?

Overhead bi-directional signals like Chebucto Road would reallocate existing road space for bus lanes based on the time of day. (Photo: Bob Murphy, CBC)

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Halifax Common Master Plan, Wanderers Block & Public Garden Greenhouses Needs Full Public Consultation

FHC want the Friends of Public Gardens’ proposal for new greenhouses on the Wanderers Block to be included as part of the on-going public consultation for the Common Master Plan.

Plans for a Victorian greenhouse proposed by the Public Gardens Foundation on the Wanderers Grounds. – Public Gardens Foundation

While supportive of the concept FHC worries that so far HRM staff and consultants refuse to include the Wanderers Block during the any phase of the public consultation although asked to. The on-going lack of real and transparent public consultation has led to a loss of open space and failure to recapture or add to that space.

HRM’s secret dealings with Derek Martin’s Sports Atlantic have privatized the use of the Wanderers Playing Field. Martin is now looking to turn his for profit trial ‘temporary pop up stadium’ into a 10,000 seat permanent venue. “Because there is a history of projects proceeding on the Halifax Common on an ad hoc basis, there is a significant lack of cohesion within the Common – it is a collection of parts,” writes Howard Epstein, FHC Director.

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2022 FHC AGM- Tuesday November 29, 6:30-8:45 Halifax Public Library

Dear Friends of Halifax Common, Please join FHC for our 2022 AGM.

Our meeting will focus on the draft Halifax Common Master Plan. That’s because
In February HRM Mayor & Council asked HRM staff to undertake more public consultation on the draft Plan, but apart from an on-line survey HRM staff has been silent. See details here:
After a quick update on FHC work there will be five short presentations by FHC Directors about the draft Plan. The goal is to help you better understand the draft so you can complete the survey and or send comments to HRM Staff and Council. We also want to hear from you so there will be a Q&A. Details below:

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HRM Pulls Switcheroo on Premier / Minister with Common’s Pool Building

Say one thing, do another.  In April 2021 HRM’s Jacques Dube asked the NS Government’s Law Amendments for permission for HRM to construct a building to support the new pool on the Central Common. FHC presented our concerns to Law Amendments then; drawings showed two buildings; the public had never been consulted on the design; and the Master Plan public consultation was on-going. Now it seems HRM pulled a switcheroo on the NS Government— there are two, much larger buildings placed in a different location than HRM requested.

Initial Central Common pool and buildings design near Cogswell HRM proposed. (3)

Pool buildings being built- larger and in a different location

FHC has written to Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs as they both oversee Municipalities and authorize decisions made by the Law Amendments Committee. In this case Bill 103 was an agreement to a particular request from HRM. But HRM did not proceed as it presented it would.  Continue reading

Todd Veniotte & FCH: What’s Wrong with the HRM-Emera Secret Deal?

"EMERA" Oval

LOTS! HRM Mayor & Council ignored all FHC’s good reasons why making secret deals with any fossil fuel corp is bad news. So now Emera, NSPI’s parent—gets naming rights (along with some very cheap green washing) to the Halifax Common’s Oval. Can someone remind those HRM decision makers we’re in a climate crisis? And that decision-making for the Halifax Common shouldn’t be secret deals?

Here’s the FHC letter… Continue reading

News 95.7 Todd Veinotte re Wanderers Grounds Privatization

News 95.7 Todd Veinotte and FHC director Peggy Cameron. FHC director talk about why the Wanderers Grounds must remain public. It’s been used to full capacity by amateur players for many sports- all ages, any gender. COVID showed us there are more and more demands on the little remaining public space on the Halifax Common. There isn’t any room to share  any field with a private developer. HRM can work to manage the developers’ need for a permanent 10,000 seat stadium and for $20 million by finding a better location.

The Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players until HRM Mayor & Council gave it over to a private developer for his profit for $2400/game.

FHC Letter to Mayor: Private Permanent Stadium on Public Land is Foul Play

FHC call on you to confirm to developer Derek Martin that his request to make his private “temporary” pop-up stadium on the public Wanderers Grounds permanent and for $20 million of public money are both not going to happen. Mr. Martin needs to purchase his own venue with his own money, not continue to make a profit by privatizing the public field. No level of government should be considering giving him public money for his private stadium. Here’s why:

The Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players (1) until HRM Mayor & Council gave it over to a developer for his private profit @ $2400/game.

Amateur Players: A 2017 HRM staff report states that the Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players (football, lacrosse, rugby, touch football, ultimate frisbee and soccer) averaging 325 hours/year and near its limit. [1] These players book the field and pay HRM for its use. Any limitation in the amateur player use was simply due to the field not being well maintained. The Wanderers Grounds is one of the few remaining amateur playing fields on the Halifax Common. HRM intends to add 35,000 residents to the Centre Plan area. Less than 20% of the Halifax Common is public space. It is not appropriate to privatize the Wanderers Grounds for a for-profit private business deal.

Private Use for Private Profit: HRM Mayor & Council contracted the Wanderers Grounds to the developer for his private profit initially for $1200 and then for $2400/game, without any public consultation. This contract has never factored in the value of the land itself. As an example, around the same time as the privatization began a similar city-owned central property, the former St Pat’s High School sold for ~$32 million.

Better Options: FHC wrote to you when the developer put forward his business plans suggesting HRM use a better process to determine both the location and the developer. For example, an RFP with specific criteria to be evaluated.

FHC also met with the developer Derek Martin in 2016 to suggest better options than privatizing the Wanderers Grounds including: partnering with the Universities to improve their sports field venues; finding central locations with available land: ie Burnside, Dartmouth Crossing, Exhibition Park or the Stanfield Airport.

Misleading the Public: Mr. Martin stated at the meeting with FHC that he intended to take over the Grounds as a permanent location. He named his professional team the Wanderers Club. The pretext of a “pop-up” stadium to be removed seasonally fell apart after one season. HRM revised the contract taking out this requirement. Martin’s recent public claims that his proposed use is consistent with historic uses of the property is simply not accurate This is not just from the professional/amateur point of view but also from an exclusive use point of view. Mr. Martin’s denial that his use has been exclusive are also not accurate. Two FOIPOP’s done by FHC show that Sports Atlantic has almost entirely excluded amateur players other than a very few sponsored events. [5]

HRM Public Consultation: The 2017 HRM staff report confirmed HRM’s commitment to include questions on the eventual desired use of the Wanderers Grounds as part of the Halifax Common Master Plan public consultation [2]. Just ahead of any public consultation HRM permitted the temporary pop-up stadium by contract. That was just as HRM closed the field in 2017 for improvements spending ~$1 million of public money. During the Master Plan public consultation both HRM staff and facilitators at the public consultation refused requests to include the field as part of the consultation. [3] All of the decisions regarding the Wanderers Grounds lease arrangements with Martin have taken place without public consultation and outside of the Halifax Common Master Plan process.

HRM Staff Report-Larger Permanent Stadium Would be Located Elsewhere: The 2017 HRM staff report also noted that hosting a professional soccer team at the Wanderers Grounds is not consistent with the more general use as the field must be maintained to a higher standard and overuse can impact the field.[4] HRM’s 2017 staff report stated that a “temporary stadium on the Wanderers Grounds will also help indicate the viability of a larger permanent stadium in the region, which would have to be located elsewhere in an appropriate non-parkland context, and where more land is available.” [6].

Poor Location: The inappropriateness of the location is already notable. There is negative impact from noise and traffic in a densely populated area next to hospitals, the Public Gardens and the Halifax Lancers. The Lancer horses have to have ear plugs during games. The organization needs more space. Where is HRM’s consideration for their needs? They are strictly non-profit and do tremendous public service with their many programmes, especially for other-abled. There is also the negative visual impact of an oversized structure with a lot of clutter and 60 portapotties that is already significant, from all views. 10,000 spectators would only add to the harm.

Public Health: During COVID, it was again confirmed that public open space is critical for mental and physical health. Paying to watch professional soccer at the expense of shutting out amateur players is not sensible, practical or affordable. Asking for $20 million of public money shows how out of touch the developer is with what our society needs at a time where almost 600 citizens are homeless.

On-going Halifax Common Master Plan Public Consultation: In a Feb 8, 2022 directive HRM staff was instructed to “undertake public consultation and a review of the Master Plan and return to Regional Council within 18 months with the results of the consultation and any recommended amendments, along with implementation plans as may be advised.”

HRM has enabled the Wanderers Club to grow a huge fan base, garner corporate sponsorships and use connections and PR to cultivate the notion that the permanent location of the Wanderers Club on the Wanderers Grounds is the next logical step. Evidently there is the same presumption for $20 million public money. At the same time all amateur players have been locked out of play since 2016 and no longer have a cohesive voice. It would be inappropriate for the on- going public consultation to engage on the issue of the permanent stadium.

What HRM should do is acknowledge the importance of on-going public access to public space on the Halifax Common and its critical role in public health. Please remember HRM’s initial commitment was for a temporary removeable stadium. As per the HRM staff report the “temporary stadium on the Wanderers Grounds was to indicate the viability of a larger permanent stadium in the region, which would have to be located elsewhere in an appropriate non-parkland context, and where more land is available.

According to the 1994 Halifax Common Master Plan the city committed to plan for the entire Halifax Common granted “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever” in 1763. To date almost all aspirational plans laid out for the Halifax Common by HRM have been ignored, contravened, dropped or still just aspirational.

Less than 20% of the Halifax Common remains as public open space. We ask that there is a firm end to this misappropriation of a public venue. We encourage HRM to work with the developer to find a suitable location. We are not opposed to a professional soccer league but we are opposed to the process that has led us to this place and we are opposed to the continued use of public land for private profit.

Regards, FHC Directors

Peggy Cameron, Howard Epstein, Judith Fingard, David Garrett, Peggy Smith, William Breckenridge, Lawrence McEachern, Beverly Miller, Alan Ruffman,

  1. p. 5, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017 council/170620rc14113.pdf

  2. Ibid, p. 9

  3. FHC raised this at the HRM public consultation facilitated by Co-Lab and was told this was not part of the consultation.

  4. p. 5, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017 council/170620rc14113.pdf

  5. FHC conducted two FOIPOPs asking for a record of games and events.

  6. p. 6, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017 council/170620rc14113.pdf


Todd Veinotte- Why Halifax Common Pool Needs a Better Location

Halifax Central Common Pool re-do — good idea bad location.

News 97.5 Todd Veinotte explores FHC’s concerns and better ideas for where / how HRM could locate the $16 million dollar pool. (Hint: not next to a traffic corridor & 1500 cars worth of pollution)

Halifax Common Pool – HRM Dives into the Wrong End of Planning Process

(Ki’jupuk / Halifax) HRM’s ad hoc planning (get it done) vs long term (do it right) once again drowns potential for the best outcome — in this case for the Halifax Common’s new aquatic centre.

Your car, my lungs –a powerful mural by Marta Frej, via @WarszawaBezSmog)

While always supportive of and recognizing the need for a new public outdoor aquatic centre, Friends of Halifax Common continue to be disappointed with a process that now has HRM diving into an unsuitable location with an unknown building design for the Central Common swimming pool re-design. 

Ahead of any public consultation HRM established a new aquatic centre as a top objective of the 2017 Halifax Common Master Plan. On-going disregard for public consultation now lands the $16 million-dollar project ahead of a final Halifax Common Master Plan.

This predetermined outcome ignores considering other locations that would increase public open green space and save money with rationalized facility use. It also ignores the Feb 8, 2022 directive HRM staff received to “undertake public consultation and a review of the Master Plan and return to Regional Council within 18 months with the results of the consultation and any recommended amendments, along with implementation plans as may be advised.”

Most importantly better location choices would avoid the well-known harmful health impact of traffic pollution, noise and accidents that will result from the addition of at least 1500 cars using the QEII hospital’s two new $100 million dollar parking garages directly across the street. That the parkades are associated with the hospital redevelopment will not alleviate the grave and known impact that traffic emissions have on children’s health.

Locating the pool near the Citadel High School could have budgeted financial support for the completion of the upper floor(s) of the HRM recreational space inside the school. HRM has paid 7% of the building’s operational fee since 2007 but the upper ~10,500 ft2  remains unfinished and unused. 

Or locating the pool on the Centennial Pool parking lot could have expanded public green space by landscaping/naturalizing that area. And use or expansion of the Centennial’s staff offices, change rooms and washroom facilities could have reduced overall building requirements and facility costs.

HRM staff’s record of public comments at the December 2017 consultation raised concerns about predeterming the prioritization of the pool and many asked that HRM “Wait for Master Plan.” That public consultation did not find that there should be a new building. The design for the aquatic centre area from that time did not show an increase in the building footprint which evidently is now two buildings. 

There has been no public consultation on the present building design- an architectural black box – even though citizens will presumably be users of the year-round community room, kitchenette and performance space. Limiting public consultation can only curtail the imagination and creativity that might lead us to one day design and approve a natural, wild-space play area.

For the future FHC looks forward to a complete, approved and registered Halifax Common Master Plan. That final Plan should reflect proper and fully engaged public consultation and be informed by the 1994 Halifax Common Plan, not the desires of HRM staff. A Plan that protects and plans for the entire Halifax Common granted “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever” in 1763. And a Plan that is in place before beginning to implement, build, renovate or achieve any agreed-upon new elements to the Halifax Common. 

Chronicle Herald: Rally Against Robie Street demolitions

[Stephen Cooke | Posted: April 9, 2022] While a portable speaker played the sound of Joni Mitchell singing “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” Haligonians dismayed by the recent destruction of historic homes on Robie Street gathered in front of the rubble-strewn site across from Camp Hill Cemetery.

Organized by the citizens’ group Development Options Halifax, the rally at the corner of Robie and Bliss streets was held to make residents aware of impending changes to the neighbourhood, and to request they take action against ongoing developments that are changing the character of the city at the expense of affordable housing, the environment and reducing congestion on its streets.

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Buildings For the Climate Crisis – A Halifax Case Study by Peggy Cameron

This new report “Buildings for the Climate Crisis – A Halifax Case Studyby Peggy Cameron, MES reveals the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) released up-front by high rise construction, developments, and demolitions. By comparing these to more climate-friendly in-fill buildings (carbon-neutral or carbon-positive) it offers scenarios that are better matched for what society and Earth need at this time.
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Lloyd Alter: Groundbreaking Study Highlights How Design and Development Decisions Affect Embodied Carbon


Groundbreaking study on embodied carbon comparing new build to retrofit and addition in Halifax Canada ignored by city, author told to ‘stop making things up.” Should be studied closely, big implications.” writes Lloyd Alter, well-known author at Treehugger in a review of the new report, Buildings For a Climate Crisis, by Peggy Cameron. “The lessons of a study from Halifax, Canada can be applied anywhere,”

Read Alter’s review of the study.

Download Buildings For the Climate Crisis

Image: Halifax Waterfront. Henryk Sadura/ Getty Images

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