News

1. NSP asks for rate increase

Nova Scotia Power wants customers to pay more for electricity.

Yesterday, Nova Scotia Power (NSP) was at the Utility and Review Board asking for a rate increase, which means customers will pay 1.5 per cent more each year for the next three years. NSP says it’s asking for the rate increase because of rising fuel costs.

Jennifer Henderson reports on NSP’s request, but also talks with customers like Chelsea Sawatzky who was also at the hearing asking the URAB to dismiss the request. Sawatzky is a member of the Lower Power Rates Alliance of Nova Scotia.

I struggle to pay my $463 a month power bill even though I would be considered by society to be earning a high wage. More and more, people are looking for a way out from this way of living. Our lack of control of the power company is the sole reason for this. Nova Scotians are consistently among the poorest people in the country. Nova Scotians also pay some of the highest electricity prices in the country. We are unable to accept any more increases in electricity prices: we are on the brink. I appeal to you to research how much money Nova Scotia Power makes for its investors every year and you will deny this application.

Click here to read Nova Scotia Power wants 1.5% rate increases for each of the next three years.

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2. Wood chips boat to China

Great Northern Timber’s chipping facility in Sheet Harbour, photo courtesy Joan Baxter.

Linda Pannozzo reports on the FP Wakaba, a ship that will arrive in Rizhao, China with a load of wood chips from Sheet Harbour. While Pannozzo says shipping of wood pellets and wood pulp out of Nova Scotia has been steady over the years, shipping wood chips to China is new.

As of this past summer, the US had placed 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports and threatened to tax another $300 billion. In retaliation, China imposed a 25% tariff on $60 billion worth of US products, including a very long list of wood-based products, paper products, and raw wood materials, including wood chips. It’s estimated that wood exports to China from the US have dropped by 42%, as a result.

Pannozzo had a back-and-forth with a spokesperson with the province’s Intergovernmental Affairs to find out if China is a new customer of wood chips (China does import wood pulp from Nova Scotia) and talks about what this could mean for the province’s already degraded and devalued forests.

Click here to read Tomorrow, a ship carrying wood chips from Sheet Harbour will arrive in Rizhao, China. That’s terrible news for Nova Scotia’s forests.

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3. MacKay charged with DUI

Hugh MacKay

Yesterday, Chester-St. Margaret’s MLA Hugh MacKay released a statement saying he was charged with driving while under the influence over the Thanksgiving weekend. MacKay didn’t give details of the arrest.

Anjuli Patil with CBC reports that Halifax District RCMP arrested a man during a traffic stop in Glen Haven late Sunday night, although they wouldn’t confirm to CBC if that was MacKay.

In his statement, MacKay says he’s struggled with alcohol addiction for several years.

This relapse has not only impacted myself, my family, my colleagues and my community – but as an elected official, I am also aware of how much this news may impact people from throughout the province. I am truly and deeply sorry for my actions and the negative affect they have had on all those I love and respect.

Premier Stephen MacNeil says he knew MacKay was a recovering alcoholic, but he didn’t know about the relapse.

My message to anyone, whether it’s with this particular issue or other circumstances, if you’re struggling, reach out to people who care about you. That’s the message for us.

This is not judgmental on my part, I would have preferred to know about this a long time ago, so I could have helped him.

MacKay was not at yesterday’s sitting at Province House.

4. Apartment not fit to live in for Halifax couple returning home

One Halifax couple had to leave their apartment again after finding unwanted guests living there. Photo: Tim Bousquet

One Halifax couple who were out of their apartment for a month because of an emergency evacuation order in their neighbourhood, had to leave moments after arriving home on Monday when they found their place filled with mice and mouse feces.

Anjuli Patil at CBC spoke with Rebecca Carole who lives with her partner in an apartment above the Eastlink location at the corner of Spring Garden Road and South Park Street. The couple left on Sept. 9, a couple of days after a construction crane collapsed nearby during Hurricane Dorian.

Carole says they tried to clean up the mess, but decided it wasn’t healthy to stay.

We turned on the light and almost every surface was just covered in mouse poop and all the food that was on our shelf, like non-perishables, even like flour, sugar, oats and stuff was just completely torn into.

And it was really clear the mice had been kind of living it up in there, so we just couldn’t stay.

Carole says a cleaning crew will be at the apartment today and she estimated the costs will be at least $1000.

5. Female firefighter’s human rights case dismissed

Former firefighter Kathy Symington. Photo: Kathy Symington

A Human Rights Commission board of inquiry dismissed the case of a female Halifax firefighter because of “no evidence,” reports Haley Ryan with The Star.

Kathleen Symington’s case went before the board in May. Symington alleged the Halifax Fire Service discriminated against her because of gender and disability. She also alleged she was retaliated against her for another human rights complaint she filed in 2004.

Symington joined the fire service in 1997. She testified at the hearing that she was sexually harassed by a colleague starting in 2001. She was disciplined after an internal investigation concluded those charges were unfounded. The letters of discipline were never removed from her record, which was against Halifax fire policy. One of Symington’s lawyers said not removing those letters was a “clear act of discrimination.”

Symington asked for accommodation on the job after she had spinal surgery following a car accident in 2004. Symington said that accommodation took too long. She filed another human rights complaint in 2016, alleging the fire service discriminated against her based on gender and disability.

In his decision, board chair Dennis James said leaving the disciplinary letters in her record was “inexcusable,” but her record also included a record of note to remove those letters.

As for the claim of gender discrimination, James said Symington didn’t suffer discrimination because she wasn’t in the workplace at the time.

There was nothing in the documentary evidence that showed anything other than Halifax Fire trying to bring Ms. Symington back to work within the department. She did not suffer any adverse treatment due to gender.

6. Scientists concerned over shark-tagging methods

Hilton the shark is one of several great white sharks tagged by Ocearch, whose tagging methods have some scientists concerned. Map: ocearch.org

Ocearch continues to track great white sharks it’s caught and tagged off Nova Scotia this summer, but other scientists say they are concerned with the group’s methods. In an interview with Michael Tutton with The Canadian Press, several researchers talked about the methods Ocearch uses, which include bringing the sharks onto a platform on the boat to gather blood, parasite, muscle, fecal and semen samples.

Heather Bowlby, the lead research at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography’s (BIO) Canadian Atlantic Shark Research Laboratory, tells Tutton BIO doesn’t use methods that include hooking sharks or bringing them on boats. Instead, they use lures and harpoons to attach tags to the sharks’ dorsal fins.

There’s been a general shift in the shark research community to move away from bringing sharks on board a boat,” she said in an interview. “All of their muscle is concentrated in their back and it does press down. They don’t have a rib cage. They’re not designed to be out of the water, and that’s why we have moved to tagging inside the water.

Gregory Skomal with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries says the methods could create long-term problems for the sharks’ reproductive success.

Aaron MacNeil, the Canada Research Council chair in fisheries conservation at Dalhousie University, is also critical of the group’s methods and is concerned about the research vessel in waters where people swim and dive. That could bring sharks closer to people.

In my view, the federal Fisheries Department still needs to establish a safe distance for shark-fishing to occur relative to recreational users and exclude shark-fishing within this zone

Chris Fischer, the expedition leader and founder of Ocearch, says the information they’re gathering will help with fisheries management.

These will be the most comprehensively studied individual white sharks in history here in Canada.


Views

Making living in apartment buildings more social

Two weeks ago, I moved out of the apartment building I lived in for 11 years. I now have a flat in a house with a backyard. It’s much quieter than multi-unit apartment living. Besides having a not-so-great landlord who was getting lazy with the maintenance, that building I used to live wasn’t very family-friendly. There are several families who live there with children under the age of 11. The kids would often play outside, but only had the parking lot where they could hang out and ride their bikes. It’s a busy parking lot and wasn’t the safest spot for them. There’s a school up the street with two playgrounds, but maybe some parents preferred a play space closer to home. Over the years, I got to know a number of the longtime tenants, but no one really socialized.

Over the weekend, I visited a friend who lives in a very new development not far from me. Two things I noticed: 1. There are no spots for visitors to park (there were no visitor parking spots in my former building either), although the area was quite busy with visitors for the Thanksgiving dinner, I’m guessing. The building is on a bus route, though. And 2: there are no common spaces where kids could play or tenants could congregate. There is a large grassy area next to one side of the building, which seems like a perfect and accessible spot to place a small playground, an area with benches and picnic tables, and maybe even plots tenants could use for gardening.

Besides families and young professionals, a lot of seniors live in these buildings and they have social needs, too. Seniors are at high risk for isolation because of a loss of friends and family, and they often have limited mobility. We talk a lot about affordable housing, as we should, but maybe there are ways to make apartment living more social and less isolating for tenants.

I messaged Joe Gnemmi, a real-estate advisor and planner I follow on Twitter, who sent along a link to an organization called Happy City, an urban planning, design and architecture consultancy based in Vancouver (the operations manager and master planning lead, Houssam Elokda, is a Haligonian.)

They have a visual toolkit that includes graphics demonstrating some of the design elements that can boost social well-being in apartments. The features are broken down into categories like walkability, nature, comfort, and social group size. Here are a few of the ideas:

All illustrations: Happy City (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

I also read this article, The Case For Cohousing: Where Responsibilities Are Shared And Life Is A Little Less Lonely. Author Ben Brock Johnson talks about his experience living in a cohousing community in the U.S. He was inspired to move into a this community after his aging parents moved into one. They wanted to reduce their carbon footprint, while Johnson liked the idea of a co-housing community to support his young family. The neighbourhood has 32 units on 24 acres with all kinds of features, including a common house with a gym, sauna, library, bike room, mail room, guest rooms, a professional-grade kitchen, a dining room for community meals, solar power and a garden where they produce their own food. But Johnson says many of the benefits are the social ones.

Social events are part of what makes cohousing work — meals, birthday celebrations, and holidays. Older people who live alone in the community are anything but — they can find a board game or movie partner or a project helper easily.

As a new parent, I benefit enormously. The gaggle of children that run the property help watch my 2 year olds. It’s difficult to overstate just how important this is for my wife and me as full-time working parents. Sometimes, when we’re exhausted at the end of the day, we hear a knock at the door — on the other side is the friendly face of a kid who wants to hang out with our toddlers. Part of cohousing’s origin story is the idea that “Every Child Should Have 100 Parents” — and it’s true. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. My wife and I also have more free time and more potential friends than we would otherwise.

As a first-time homeowner, I can access the institutional knowledge of my neighbors about how my house works, how to grow things in my garden, what to do when an appliance goes on the fritz, where to get local supplies and what businesses are trustworthy. I would never own a sit-down lawnmower, but here, I have one, along with a full wood shop and bike repair station. I can borrow any tool, a car, pretty much anything I can conceive of just by asking.

Creating social spaces in multi-unit buildings also requires the initiative of the tenants, too, who can organize get-togethers and playgroups. But the built-in features could help get them started. Although as Johnson points out, there’s no obligation to take part. People need their own space, too.

I’d like to know if there are developments in the city that have more social components than others. Meanwhile, I’m thinking ahead to the Golden Girls compound I’ll build where everyone has their own compact space but share some resources and chores in a common space. There will be cheesecake, too.

Thank you for being a friend who makes it fun to live here. Photo: NBC Universal

Noticed

I broke several hearts on the weekend.

I’m the admin for a Facebook group called Stories of Prince’s Lodge Rotunda, which I started after I wrote a story about the last person to live in the historic white round building on the Bedford Highway. A local photographer posted a photo of the heart-shaped pond in Hemlock Ravine Park to the Halifax Noise group. I shared that photo to my group. A number of commentors on the original post said they heard the pond was built by a monarch for his mistress. This story has been going around for years, so I shared on my group that that story wasn’t true. The responses were swift:

I was a child when I read that history. A Prince, a heart-shaped pond. I feel you broke the balloons. Your history isn’t (from what you said) a romantic history.

I’ll keep believing in the romance. Where’s your proof or source?

I’m sticking with the heart-shaped pond love story. Time to start a “Heart-Shaped Pond Truthers Movement.”

I am heartbroken in the fog of Halifax.

Swamped by feelings over the pond of love. Photo: Sharon Ingalls

Oh boy. I heard this story, too, but learned in my research that the pond was first an oval shape twice the size of what it is now. It was shaped into a heart in 1869 when Prince Arthur, the son of Queen Victoria and grandson of the Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, was visiting Halifax. The city hosted a picnic for Arthur’s visit and reworked the pond into a heart to honour the Duke and his mistress. The rotunda and pond were part of a larger estate owned by Sir John Wentworth, the first lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia. He loaned the estate to Prince Edward while he was in Halifax building the city’s garrisons. Edward’s mistress Julie de Saint-Laurent was in Halifax with him.  Edward had vast English gardens created around the estate, which included the pond and the rotunda. The rotunda wasn’t built for Julie either. It was a popular style of building found in English gardens at the time. And the trails in Hemlock Ravine don’t spell out Julie’s name. I’m sure Edward and Julie really liked each other—they were together for almost 30 years—but the pond and rotunda weren’t created in her honour.

I learned all of this from Sharon Ingalls, who along with her husband, Wayne, studied the history of the park, pond, rotunda, and former estate. After I wrote the post debunking the story, Ingalls shared a map of the property from 1816 showing the oval pond, the round house, and other garden features like a Chinese temple that have long since disappeared. She also shared an article she wrote in 1996 about the history of the area, again debunking the romantic story behind the pond and the rotunda. Still, several group members were having none of it.

This heart-shaped pond/rotunda love story is a pretty innocuous story to hang onto, but it shows how some people cling to their beliefs, even when presented with evidence to the contrary. I get that people like the romantic version, but I think the real story and its history are just as interesting.

Now I feel like fact-checking a Harbour Hopper tour and reporting back on that.


Government

City

Wednesday

Public Information Meeting – Case 22198 (Wednesday, 7pm, Ship Harbour Community Hall, Lake Charlotte) — Charles Dalrymple wants to open a salvage facility in Clam Harbour.

Thursday

Community Planning & Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — Here’s the agenda.

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — Here’s the agenda.

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Youth Power House, Bell Road) — Here’s the agenda.

Public Information Meeting – Case 22485 (Thursday, 7pm, Saint Margaret of Scotland Anglican Church Hall, 3751 Robie Street) — Application by Doug Hubley requesting to rezone lands at 3620 Highland Avenue, Halifax from R-2 (General Residential) zone to the R-2T (Townhouse) zone to allow the construction of a 4 unit townhouse. Details here.

Province

Wednesday

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)

Thursday

Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Noon Hour Voice Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, Sculpture Court, Dal Arts Centre) — Students of Betty Allison and Christina Haldane will perform.

Peroxisomes grease the wheel of the immune system (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Francesca Di Cara will talk.

Shared Humanity: Generating Hope in an Era of Despair (Wednesday, 7pm, McInnes Room, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — the 2019‑20 Shaar Shalom Lecture at Dalhousie featuring Michaëlle Jean.

Thursday

Kimberley Brewer. Photo: medicine.dal.ca

How Molecular Imaging can improve the clinical translation of novel cancer therapies (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune Ballroom, VG Site) — Kimberley Brewer’s talk focuses on how a collaboration with IMV Inc. has used molecular imaging to evaluate the cancer immunotherapy DPX and improve its application for clinical trials. Register here.

Sandra Turcotte. Photo: atlanticcancer.ca

Lysosomes and phosphoinositides: Good target for kidney cancer?​​ (Thursday, 11:30am, Room 3H-01, Tupper Medical Building) — Sandra Turcotte from Université de Moncton will talk.

Recent developments ​​in the numerical analysis of Volterra integral equations (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Hermann Brunner from Hong Kong Baptist University will talk. His abstract:

In the first part of my talk I will give a brief survey of the convergence properties of collocation methods (in spaces of continuous or discontinuous piecewise polynomials) for classical Volterra integral equations (VIEs) of the first and second kind (including equations with weakly singular kernels). The second part will focus on VIEs whose underlying operator is not compact (also known as cordial VIEs). Since such an integral operator possesses an uncountable spectrum, the existence of collocation solutions is not always guaranteed. A number of concrete examples will be used to illuminate various aspects of this problem.

Mini Medical School (Thursday, 7pm, Theatre B, Tupper Link Building) — Thomas Murray will talk about the “History of Dalhousie Medicine”, followed by Wendy Stewart with “Music, the Brain, and Wellness.”

Federal Candidates’ Panel Discussion (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — co-hosted by the College of Sustainability and Dalhousie Federal Student Voter Society. More info here.

Being Human in the 21st Century (Thursday, 7pm, Room 105, Weldon law Building) — Brett Frischmann from Villanova University will talk. From the listing:

Every day new warnings emerge about artificial intelligence rebelling against us. All the while, a more immediate dilemma flies under the radar. Have forces been unleashed that are thrusting humanity down an ill-advised path, one that’s increasingly making us behave like simple machines?

In this wide-reaching, interdisciplinary talk, Brett Frischmann will examine what’s happening to our lives as society embraces big data, predictive analytics, and smart environments. He will explain how the goal of designing programmable worlds goes hand in hand with engineering predictable and programmable people.   ​

Through new frameworks, provocative case studies, and mind-blowing thought experiments that you’ll find hard to shake, Frischmann reveals hidden connections between fitness trackers, GPS technology, electronic contracts, social media platforms, robotic companions, fake news, and autonomous cars. The powerful analysis provides much-needed resources for imagining and building alternative futures.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

No public events.

Thursday

The Order of Things – L’ordine Delle Cose (Thursday, 6pm, Theatre B, Burke) — presented in Italian with English subtitles.


In the harbour

Wednesday

The Queen Mary 2. Photo: Halifax Examiner

07:00: Queen Mary 2, cruise ship, with up to 2,620 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sept-Iles, Quebec, on a 16-day cruise from Quebec City to Hamburg, Germany
07:00: Silver Whisper, cruise ship with up to 466 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Saint John, on an 11-day cruise from New York to Montreal
10:30: Morning Calypso, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
11:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
16:00: Dalian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
16:30: Silver Whisper sails for Sydney
16:30: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
16:30: Morning Calypso sails for sea
17:30: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Argentia, Newfoundland
17:30: Queen Mary 2 sails for New York

Thursday
03:30: Dalian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
06:00: Ef Ava, container ship, sails from HalTerm for Portland
06:30: Seaborne Quest, cruise ship with up to 540 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Bar Harbor, on an 11-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
07:45: Regal Princess, cruise ship with up to 4,271 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
08:00: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney, on an 11-day cruise from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale, thus ending this season in Canada
16:00: Veendam sails for Bar Harbor
17:45: Regal Princess sails for New York
22:00: Seaborne Quest sails for Charlottetown


Footnotes

On Wednesday, Oct. 23 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., I’ll be hosting a meeting in Dartmouth for the Not Without Us project I’ve been working on. Women with disabilities who’ve experienced domestic violence and the staff at organizations that work with these women are invited. Email me at suzannerentnwu@gmail.com for more details.

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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  1. I’d rented a condo for a month in Houston over a decade ago and was amazed at all the social gatherings. It might have been due to the market crash but they were doing lots to entice tenants. There was a chocolate fondue night, movie night, free Starbucks in the lobby. I think some of the big condos in Toronto also organize gatherings. I can’t imagine HRM being able to impose green space/ common area requirements on development given their current proclivities…

  2. At the September 17 2019 HRM Council Meeting the council had Information Item #5 Right to Know week
    https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional-council/190917rci05.PDF

    Three days later on Friday September 20 the HRM Access and Privacy Office mailed a letter to me that HRM had ‘advised the Acting Commissioner that we do not agree with the recommendation contained in the Review Report’ regarding my 2016 request for information in relation to bonuses paid to non-union staff in the planning department.

    I was out of the country at the time and returned a week ago. I will not be spending money on an appeal to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court; much better to observe the hypocrisy of Mayor Savage, his council colleagues and CAO Dube.

  3. Sign me up for the Golden Girls compound. Sounds a thousand times better than a soulless concrete block with empty ground-floor retail and sidewalks that don’t connect to anything.