SPECIAL REPORT

MAKING HALIFAX TICK

A new breed of movers and shakers steps forward

June 19 1995
SPECIAL REPORT

MAKING HALIFAX TICK

A new breed of movers and shakers steps forward

June 19 1995

MAKING HALIFAX TICK

A new breed of movers and shakers steps forward

Mayor Walter Fitzgerald and police Chief Vince MacDonald spin Halifax’s wheels. When it comes to clout, who can rival the bankers, heavyweight bureaucrats, well-connected lawyers and the heads of Halifax’s five universities, who have held sway as long as anyone can remember? But as Halifax shakes off the dust of almost 250 years of convention, a new group of movers and shakers is stepping to the fore. Many are newcomers, immigrants or Canadians from other cities. Others grew up in Halifax—but outside the circles that usually ensure influence within the class-conscious city. Whatever their origins, they share something undeniable—energy, confidence and the absolute certainty that coming from outside the Establishment is no barrier to making a mark. Maclean’s Halifax Bureau Chief John DeMont provided thumbnail sketches of some of those who help to make Halifax tick:

CHIP SUTHERLAND

(lawyer/music manager): The partners at Patterson Kitz, the ultra-Establishment Halifax law firm, nearly popped their suspenders when Sutherland started talking about a local alternative band named Sloan and how he had just signed them to a recording contract with the hugely successful American label, Geffen Records. “It was,” recalls the 31-year-old Montreal-born Sutherland, “simply beyond their terms of reference.” Not any more.

Sutherland—who helped to put himself through Dalhousie University law school by busking on Halifax streets—does the legal work for virtually all the East Coast’s thriving pop music bands, as well as for clients as far away as Vancouver, Toronto—and Ireland. His company, Pier 21 Artists Management Ltd., also represents The Rankin Family, jazz guitar giant Don Ross and the Kingston, Ont.-based duo The Inbreds, who recently signed with Atlantic Records. Sutherland usually spends a week a month in either Los Angeles or New York City.

THE STAFF at HOPE COTTAGE

(soup kitchen): Twice a day—mid-morning and late in the afternoon—the lineups begin. By the time the last person leaves Hope Cottage, a soup kitchen in the city’s gritty north end, Rev. Douglas Clarke and his mostly volunteer staff will have served some 200 meals. Halifax’s most visible social service agency celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. But the spirit of selfless charity that the home reflects is age-old in a city that still cares. “No one goes hungry in Halifax,” declares Clarke. Not without the help of countless volunteers, who do everything from cook meals to clean up the mess afterwards. Without them, the building would only be a cottage.

DENIS RYAN

(businessman/singer/community organizer): Obscurity seemed to loom when Ryan’s popular band,

Ryan’s Fancy, disbanded back in 1983. In Halifax, though, the 52year-old Ryan seems to be everywhere these days. The regional vice-president of marketing for Altamira Management Ltd., he is about to cut his 13th album (recorded in Nova Scotia and in his native Ireland, where he performed one song with a choir of Benedictine monks). He also hosts a local CBC TV music show,

Up On The Roof, acts as master of ceremonies at concerts, raises funds for everything from the Victoria General Hospital to the D’arcy McGee chair of Irish studies of Saint Mary’s University, and is putting together a deal to bring a group of Irish artisans to Halifax for an as yet undisclosed business venture. “That’s the way I like it,” he explains when asked about his erratic career path. “I am totally disorganized, with no rhyme nor reason to my life.”

JOHN RISLEY

(entrepreneur): Those who think Halifax is all laid-back lifestyle should meet Risley—if they can find him. Running his own shellfish company, with 2,000 employees, and customers worldwide, means he spends nearly half of his time away from his Halifax office. “The reason we stay here is quite simple,” says the 47-year-old head of Clearwater Fine Foods Inc. “Halifax is the best-kept secret in the world.” In a small way, Risley may help change that: his sprawling home is featured in Two if by Sea, a Hollywood feature now being shot in Halifax, starring Sandra Bullock and Denis Leary.

CONSTANCE GLUBE

(judge): The prim hairstyle and sober dresses hardly mark her as a woman used to breaking barriers. Yet, within the bounds of Halifax’s tightly knit, overwhelmingly male legal community,

Glube, 63, is an undeniable pioneer. Bom in Ottawa, but with a law degree from Dalhousie University, she became the first female city manager in Canada when she accepted the Halifax post in 1974. Eight years later, she made history again when she was appointed chief justice of Nova Scotia’s trial courts, the first woman in Canada to don the robes of chief justice. She took the job during difficult times; a scathing 1990 royal commission report into the justice system’s role in the wrongful murder conviction of Micmac Donald Marshall Jr. made the job of everyone on the Nova Scotia bench harder. “There has been a dramatic change in the way judges are viewed and treated,” she notes. But then, for a ground breaker, being viewed differently is nothing new.

DAVID BENTLEY and LYNDON WATKINS

(magazine publishers): Their model is Private Eye, the British satirical scandal sheet. But Brit-expatriates Bentley and Watkins—respectively publisher and editor of the Halifax edition of Frank magazine—usually refer to their creation simply as “their organ.” To Haligonians, Frank is a guilty pleasure: no one admits to reading it, yet everyone seems to know who is being trashed in the latest issue. Nearly 10,000 read the older Halifax edition, and twice that number open each issue of its Ottawa-edited sister publication. But Bentley is quick to argue that acceptance does not mean the magazine is losing its edge. “It is just not the same as in the old Buchanan and Mulroney days,” he acknowledges. “But now that [Premier John] Savage is trying to save his ass, things are getting interesting again.”

BRUCE MacKINNON and THEO MOUDAKIS

(editorial cartoonists): If there is a rivalry, it is strictly friendly. In fact, MacKinnon, 34, the editorial cartoonist for The ChronicleHerald, and Moudakis, 30, who signs his cartoons in The Daily News simply Mou, say they bring out the best in each other. The pair are required reading in Halifax, where they make local politicians tremble in their wing tips. Nationally, they have a following, too: MacKinnon won consecutive National Newspaper Awards for best editorial cartoon in 1992 and 1993. Both times, his main competition was his crosstown rival, who had also been nominated for the national awards. “Being nominated and always losing to Bmce is sort of a badge of honor for me,” says Moudakis. But MacKinnon concedes that having good material helps. “So many absurd things happen here,” he says. “It is a cartoonist’s wet dream.”

VICTOR SYPEREK

(designer): Forget about the city’s developers and architects. Nowadays, no one has as big an impact on the city’s bold, new look as the motorcycle-driving ex-set designer. Bom in Leicester, England, raised in Oshawa, Ont., Syperek moved to Antigonish, N.S., 15 years ago. Now, Syperek’s art nouveauinspired signs and interiors seem to be turning up in just about every new café, restaurant and bar in Halifax. His fame is spreading, too: a Swiss restaurateur recently hired him to design a new restaurant in New York’s Rockefeller Center. Back in Halifax, Syperek has decided to try his hand at mnning a restaurant instead of just designing them. Economy Shoe Shop Cafe and Bar—complete with a false front on the third floor and a life-size female mannequin leaning out a window—opened its doors in May. “I expect it will be my calling card in town,” he says. Not that he really needs one by now.

KENNETH ROWE

(entrepreneur): Rowe, 60, has no idea whether managing a business is any harder or easier in Halifax than elsewhere. The reason: IMP Group International Inc., which he started in 1967, is the only company the British-bom businessman, who arrived in Halifax as the local representative of a British aviation company, has ever run. Inexperience has proven no handicap: after starting from scratch, his companies now employ 2,400 people—about 1,000 of them in Nova Scotia—and IMP’S activities span everything from building aircraft parts and managing corporate jets, to ownership of a $70-million hotel in Moscow in partnership with the Russian airline Aeroflot. “The only complaint I have about Halifax is that when you’re flying to Europe on short notice it usually involves taking a flight to Toronto first,” he says. But for someone who has found fortune in the heart of Atlantic Canada, that is a small price to pay.

PAUL and MICHAEL DONOVAN

(film-makers): There is nothing preposterous about trying to ran an international film production company from a 130-year-old Georgian house in downtown Halifax. At least not to Michael Donovan, 42, a lawyer, producer and one of the co-founders of Salter Street Films with Paul, 40, his director brother. “In the world of film there are only two places—in Los Angeles or outside Los Angeles,” the older Donovan says. “We grew up here and actually believe in the idea that you can succeed at whatever you choose to, irrespective of place.” Salter Street earned the recognition of its peers at this year’s Gemini Awards with Life With Billy, the television drama they produced and directed, and This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the political satire series done in partnership with the CBC, taking home six Gemini awards between them. Coming attractions: The Popcorn Channel, a specialty movie listings channel Michael is launching in the United States this year with the New York Times Co. and Torstar Corp.; a new $13-million science fiction series; and a children’s television educational series that helps to explain to younger viewers how the world works.