A lot of mess, a little progress, and a beery bright spot

If you commute via motor vehicle, you’ll mostly remember 2017 as the year of unexpected stop signs, rambling detours, unpredictable street closures, and way-behind-schedule road work. After letting most of the summer go by in relative peace, everyone with the power to rip up pavement decided that autumn was the perfect time for a major project.
Most notable was Halifax Water’s giant St. Margaret’s Bay Road project, which missed two deadlines and took almost three times as long as originally planned. But it wasn’t alone; no major artery was spared. The Macdonald Bridge refurbishment continues (also behind schedule), at various times workers closed chunks of Almon, Quinpool, Bayview, Sackville and just about any other street you’d hope to use.
Compounding the aggravation, especially if you own or frequent small downtown businesses, was the ongoing I’ve-lost-track-of-which-schedule-they’re-on construction of the Nova Centre. It’s hard to even imagine a time when the Nova Centre wasn’t a work in progress. For the neighbouring businesses, it’s been a prolonged period of anxiously watching balance sheets and looking at empty chairs where your regular customers are supposed to be.
Endless construction may not be 2017’s sexiest news story, but it’s probably the one that affected the most people around Halifax. It also breathed new life into Halifax’s ongoing debates about how we get around.
If you attempted to battle your way through the Armdale Roundabout and down Quinpool any time this autumn, you likely noticed two things:
1. No one was getting anywhere quickly.
2. Most of those cars clogging your way only had one person in them.
That second realization got a lot of Haligonians talking about transit again. Why don’t we prioritize transit over single-occupant cars? Is commuter rail a viable option? Can we make better use of the harbour? Why do so many employers insist on forcing people who could easily work from home to come to the office every day? Halifax hasn’t really answered any of those questions, but even asking them is progress.
Many will also remember this as the year Halifax Council tried, with passing successes and many stumbles, to address Halifax’s long history of racism. Over the summer, the long debate about the legacy of Halifax founder Edward Cornwallis (who was bad at his job, in addition to being a thug who ordered the murder of Scots and Mi’kmaq alike—i.e., many Nova Scotians’ ancestors) came to a boil.
Many Haligonians (including me), have argued Cornwallis deserves no place of honour in our city. The usual suspects (Councillors Hendsbee and Whitman) made the usual “What’s the big deal?” and “You can’t rewrite history!” and “Where do we stop?” noises, but Council at least agreed to consider the issue, which is relative progress.
But then in October, Councillor Whitman decided to win points in a social-media argument with Councillor Cleary by arguing Mexicans aren’t a race (and no, even in context it didn’t make much sense). Then for bonus points, he used the word “negroes” in a TV interview, arguing it’s not racist because it’s in the dictionary. That led to several citizens’ complaints, yet another Matt Whitman apology, and a self-imposed hiatus from his beloved Twitter.
To end on a happy note, 2017 is also the year can definitely stop talking about how Nova Scotia is developing a great craft-beer scene. The conversation can now, really and truly, be that Nova Scotia has a great craft-beer scene—full stop. There are 40-some breweries around the province, many in small towns, making beers that are as good as any you’ll find across North America.
This isn’t just good news for beer lovers. It’s good news for towns like Tatamagouche, Digby, Shelburne, and Amherst, where those breweries are creating new jobs, generating tax revenues, and attracting year-round visitors. The growth can’t continue indefinitely; some of the weaker breweries will die out. But the industry is here and established. It’s a success story for both rural and urban Nova Scotia.
As always, we want to hear from readers. What do you think was 2017’s biggest Halifax news story? Do you have a question or comment about anything you read in Halifax Magazine? Email tadams@metroguide.ca and we may run your letter in a future issue. (Letters to the editor shouldn’t be longer than 250 words, and will be edited for grammar and clarity.)

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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