A good friend of mine has the misfortune of having to live in and around the Halifax area. Outside of the natural environment, my friend has basically nothing good to say about the province of Nova Scotia or its people. It follows then that the only attempt at urbanity in the Maritimes is a total load of shit. When the most significant event that your city can point to in its history is the largest man-made explosion before the invention of atomic weaponry obliterating a major district of your city (not to mention the Mi’kmaq community that was washed from the earth by the subsequent tsunami and subsequently forgotten by Canada), you may not have a whole lot to work with.
Indeed, the city of Halifax is the closest and probably only thing resembling civilization in the Maritimes. Like the province it inhabits, Halifax is poor, overpriced, and devoid of meaningful civic space.
Let’s look at some numbers:
Median after-tax income/year: $31,759 (S)
Income for minimum wage earner, full-time work: $21408 (S) ($11.15/hour, 40hr/week)
Typical rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1093/month (S)
Food cost per month, one person: ~$250/month (S)
Cost of rent + food as percent of minimum wage earner’s income: 75% (!!!!)
I hope you don’t like fun if you’re working a minimum wage gig in Halifax, because eating and living alone are gonna cost you 75% of your income. I know that people will often pick up roommates and the like, but if you’re, say, a single parent the notion of grabbing some drinking buddies and squatting in a shithole apartment with them and your kid doesn’t quite appeal. Considering that the minimum wage is currently an embarrassing $11.15/hour and that the average Nova Scotian needs to make $19/hour to stay afloat, Halifax is a case of fiscal bed bugs that would make Winnipeg blush – 59,000 people there live in extreme poverty (out of a population of 300,000), and one-in-five Haligonian children are impoverished. It doesn’t help that Halifax is also neck-deep in extreme housing cost increases. Because fuck it – not like you want to actually live anywhere, right?
If you’re not doing so hot in Halifax, chances are you’re living in Dartmouth North, where the average income is about half of what you’d be making in Halifax proper. Or you could be living in the ridiculously poorly-designed manufactured slum of Pinecrest-Highfield Park (side note: why can’t cakers come up with better names for their communities? I swear every fucking city in this shitheap has a dumpy-ass hellhole of a neighborhood called Pinecrest). And did you think a tiny speck offering the only vague prospect of civilization in the Maritimes could be without gun crime? Think again, says Uniacke Square, a pile of puke-tinged disappointment that was the scene of Halifax’s hip-hop scene back in the 80s. So many shitty neighborhoods to choose from! Do you want unaffordable hipster investor bullshit, or pitiable desolation bullshit, or long wait times for inferior public housing? Halifucks has it all!
I hope you weren’t thinking that these shitty neighborhoods with boilerplate names are actually connected to one another by anything more than personal vehicle use, because Halifax Transit is completely useless at the best of times. It’s so bad that it costs people a chance at a job because it can’t be relied upon to actually show up. And God help you if you have a disability that forces you to use “Access-a-Bus”, whose name serves as a cruel joke. It is no surprise that Halifax Transit keeps losing ridership because of its inferior service and tickets that are the size of $5 bills. The solution to these problems, according to the brilliant brain trust that runs Halifax Transit, is to give supervisors Dodge Chargers that are stronger than the actual buses they’re supervising. Yeah, that’s totally a good use of public funds.
Alright. So you’ve decided to go to Halifax anyways. You’ve braved the shit transit, avoided the myriad rancid turds that pass as neighborhoods, and somehow found a way to make enough money to stay alive without selling your soul to the Navy or to the Irving Family. What can you do to relax without falling into the classic caker trope of drinking yourself into a stupor? Not a whole lot, it seems, beyond looking at hideous modern buildings and getting stuck in construction. The city’s current plan to avoid sucking is to…invest in the CFL? Dude, nobody cares about the CFL except Hamilton and Saskatchewan, and those two places are not votes of confidence for your plan.
In fairness, if you like the outdoors Halifax is a treat. But that’s mostly because you can get out of Halifax. I’m not here to judge Canada’s wilderness, so I know that I’m missing at least some of the appeal of the place. But as a city Halifax shouldn’t have to lean on its non-urbanity to justify its shit urbanity. And as a city Halifax is a boring, intractable, unusable mess of me-too mega-projects mired in the same morass of poverty and roiling disappointment that the rest of Canada’s urbanity is.
So, before I sign off on this I’m going to take one last dump on Halifax by way of taking its terrible hospitals to task. The IWK Healthcare Center had a CEO named Tracy Kitch, who decided that the public healthcare system was her personal piggy bank. She was joined in this endeavor by Stephen D’Arcy, whose name is a funnier insult than anything I could come up with. Now, sketchy shitbag executives ruining public infrastructure is hardly uncommon; Canada’s hospitals are choking on superfluous kleptocratic “executives” whose primary job seems to be having a job. But it took the police an entire year to figure this shit out. Halifax has serious problems with wait times, and the shoddiness of Halifax Hospital (including, as it turns out, its shoddy bullshit reporting system for expenses that allowed this latest scandal in the first place) is something I’ve written about before on this blog. But it’s in Halifax, so it’s going back on the board as something to make fun of. Shit hospital for a Shit City.