Sumo wreslters can’t eat here

In April 2013 my wife and I bought a dining room table from Gallery 1 in Burnside. It looked solid and sported a beautiful finish. It was artificially “distressed”, a look that we don’t normally care for, but it was well done. The price was $1,200, which was a tad high by our standards, but we told ourselves it was time to invest in a “quality” table. Gallery 1, as you might expect, assured us that this was indeed a quality piece.

Above: End-view of dining table made by Canadel and sold by Gallery 1. The gap is known in the trade as a “crack” caused by a “lousy piece of wood”. However, says Gallery 1, Canadel reasons that because the “crack” took more than a year to show up, it cannot be a manufacturing defect. (Note to self: stop inviting Sumo wrestlers to dance on our dining table.)

Unfortunately, the manufacturer, Canadel, must have turned the dial on their customizer from “distress” all the way up to “create premature failure” when making this table. The result is that three years later, this “quality” piece of furniture now features a large “crack”, to use the technical terms. Consequently, it no longer accepts the extension that came with it and, when you move the table, one leg swings out from under by about 15 degrees.

Again for the technically-minded, the table cost twelve hundred “dollars”.

This happened less than three years after we bought the table, during which time we used the extension maybe twice.

The table was guaranteed for one year. A smarter shopper would have rejected the item on seeing that. My bad.

In any case, neither Canadel nor Gallery 1 felt they had an obligation to fix it, although Gallery 1 offered me the name of a repair person. Here is Gallery 1’s final word on the issue: “Unfortunately, Canadel has declined the claim (because) they feel if it were a manufacturer’s defect it would have happened in the first year.”

I would agree with that if we had been dancing on this table, but those days are long behind us. (BTW, we’ve owned $200 tables upon which Sumo wrestlers could safely dance away the night.)

If you follow Canadel’s logic to its conclusion, purchasers of their fine tables can expect to use the extension once, maybe twice, before it breaks.

By way of contrast, I’ve been buying Apple computers since 1993 or so and never had to replace one because it broke. On two occasions, I encountered problems well after the guarantee had expired. But Apple identified both problems as “known issues” and fixed them anyway  —  at no cost. That is to say zero — no parts, no labour, no shipping. My only expense was driving to the Apple outlet.

Thus, I will continue to buy Apple products, despite their slightly higher prices. The company, even though it’s a behemoth, stands behind its work.

I cannot say the same for Canadel or Gallery 1.

If you need furniture, my advice is to wait for the new Ikea store.

Order! Order, please!

Here are some questions about the procedure for  tomorrow’s HRM Regional Council agenda (Sept. 6). Perhaps there are some experts out there who can help us.

1. HRM Counc. Reg Rankin’s motion to hobble the acquisition of parkland for Blue Mount-Birch Cove project is the first item on the agenda.

The motion was deferred on July 26 so that staff could prepare a report on the situation for Council. But now they’re going to consider Rankin’s motion before the report is introduced, so what was the point in deferring the motion in the first place? How does Council get the full benefit of the report if it doesn’t have a chance to discuss it before Rankin’s motion?

Q: Is this an abuse of procedure?

2. Rankin’s motion and the motion that follows the staff report on the agenda are antithetical. For example: the first motion directs staff to begin “secondary planning”; the second motion is to refuse to engage in secondary planning. So, chronologically, we have two deeply conflicting motions separated by a staff report on the matter at hand.

Q: Is this good procedure?

3. Rankin’s motion arguably contradicts at least two previous ones directing staff to proceed with land acquisition in a businesslike fashion.

Q: Does it nullify the previous motions? Technically, is it effectively a motion of rescission? Does that mean it would require a two-thirds majority to pass? Is it out of order? (See , Article 62, beginning on Page 30.)

Again, knowledgeable comment would be helpful here because citizens have no way of raising a point of order at a Council meeting. If you can help, the best place to contribute is likely the FB site where you found the link to this post.

Procedure aside, Rankin’s motion is mischievous and insulting to the 1,421 citizens who submitted comments in support of a project that will benefit our descendants more than it will benefit us. When is that last time 1,421 people spoke up for something instead of against it?


In online discussions, people have noted that Halifax councillors—on average—got one-third of their campaign contributions in 2011 from what CBC calls “the development community.” It’s a little naïve to think this amounts to bribery. Only a fool would risk a jail sentence for a few thousand dollars to help a campaign they might not win. Real bribes are more sophisticated and not the topic here.

But campaign contributions get you better access to the winners you backed. This is legal, and even ethical—we all have the right to speak to elected representatives. Political parties trade access for contributions in plain view at fund-raisers.

So what? Well, examine your feelings when you’re in the presence of power and money. You’ll likely find a powerful desire to co-operate.

That’s the real problem. Without strong self-discipline, meeting with the mighty can bring out your inner brown-noser. No cash required.

BMBCL parkland potentially worth $67M


View from Costco on Chain Lake Drive: left, BANC Developments; right, wilderness area. Trees aren’t worth much until someone cuts them down.
NOTE: I have corrected this report to reflect the fact that a much-quoted $6 million figure demanded by developers actually refers to an offer made with respect to just 210 acres. H/T Waye Mason.

A 2013 sale of city-owned land to BANC Developments suggests the land adjacent to the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area could be worth $67 million to its current owners.

But that’s only if is re-zoned to allow development. As it is now, the same land is assessed at only $2.4 million.

Our team of crack analysts also believe that the owners, primarily Annapolis Group and Stevens Group, would prefer to hang on until this or a future council decides to re-open the whole question. This is a manoeuvre known as a “full Rankin”.


Halifax Council has decided not once, but twice, to buy the 1,308 acres of designated parkland near the Bayer’s Lake Business Clusterpark. This idea originated in 2006 and it inspired the province to declare roughly 3,200 adjoining acres a protected wilderness area. The city land would be an ecologically vital buffer for the wilderness area and an accessible green-space for folks who aren’t hikers or canoeists. It would be 20 minutes from downtown Halifax and reachable by bus.

The province has done exactly what it promised. And so, really, has Halifax Council. All that remains is for staff to negotiate the terms or start expropriation. They have been directed to do this after due process. The owners want $6 million; the city is offering $2.8 million.


Yes. In 2013, after meeting in secret, Council authorized the sale to BANC Developments Ltd. of 183 acres behind Kent Building Supplies and Staples in Bayer’s Lake. You can easily see the demarcation between wilderness area and BANC’s “developed” land from the Costco parking lot across the street. (Please see photo above.)

At $9.3 million, the sale price is $51,070 per acre. If that price were applied to the 1,308 acres in question, it would work out to $66,799,224.


No. The Facilitator’s Report rejected by staff last week mentioned 210 acres that Annapolis felt was worth $6 million, vs $2.8 million suggested by the city. In the absence of real information, I think it’s fair to extrapolate, giving us $37.4 million for 1,308 acres. The city’s valuation for those 210 acres extrapolates to $17.4 million. (I do not apologize for these seat-of-the-pants valuations. This is what happens when your government won’t release hard data.)

So, I offer four conjectures for the value of the land:

Mine: $67 million

Annapolis Group: $37.4 million

The city: $17.4 million

Also mine: $2.4 million, based on the total current assessment.

The differences are based on what you’re allowed to do with the land. $67 million is possible if the land is zoned industrial/commercial, like the BANC land. However, if the land cannot be developed in any way, which has been the case for 10 years, I would argue the value is closer to $2.4 million.

In essence, the developers are arguing they should be paid as if the current zoning magically changed in their favour. But it won’t unless Council can be pressured into doing that, so the owners deserve bottom dollar. It’s tough, but that’s business for you.

Again—the direction to staff to buy the acreage as identified almost 10 years ago is done and dusted. Negotiations are taking place in that context. Obdurate Councillor Reg Rankin would have you believe otherwise, but he is as wrong as a flat-earther.



A favourable re-zoning would be worth big money and worth waiting for.

If it were re-zoned as, say, residential, then you could subdivide and build spectacular lakeside homes for wealthy people right next to a wilderness area and 20 minutes from downtown. The value would jump to at least $67 million, as noted.


Yes. Council memories fade with time. Sometimes they change their minds after new members are elected. And, sometimes, councils just get tired of dealing with a particular issue and will do anything to move on.

If Turpin Labs were advising the landowners, we would tell them to delay sale until one of those things happens. After all, land only gets more valuable with time. And developers are patient—much of the land hasn’t changed hands in more than 30 years.


If we were advising Council, we would recommend bringing this deal to a close quickly, even if it means overpaying. Alternatively, there’s expropriation, which would probably put the matter in the hands of the courts. That can be a crapshoot, but there’s just as much risk posed by the ongoing pressure to close the purchase after 10 years of delay.


It’s possible someone will propose swapping the 1,308 acres for all or part the  Williams Lake backlands. It would be pitched as a grand compromise but, in fact, would be a $67m rip-off.