News

1. Former Halifax mayor Peter Kelly accused of ‘devastation’ of Eagle Head Beach

Construction has begun on a small parcel of land at Eagle Head Beach owned by former Halifax mayor Peter Kelly. Photo: Tim Bousquet / Halifax Examiner

Tim Bousquet drove to Queens County yesterday where residents near Eagle Head Beach are trying to stop construction at an oceanfront site owned by former Halifax mayor Peter Kelly. Cathie Mourre wrote in a press release that the “devastation is extreme.”

The sea grass is gone. The sand is being moved about and trucked away. The ponds are being infilled. The wildlife is being displaced. And the beach is forever changed.

Bousquet got a look for himself after resident Brian Mourre took him on a tour of the area. Bousquet writes:

Kelly and P.E.I. resident Diana Girouard purchased the property last year for $175,000. It is assessed at $22,000. The property is a 4.7-acre triangular parcel; about a third of the parcel is a large pond that Mourre says is visited by beaver who have built a nearby den and by migrating seabirds. The house is being constructed on the portion of the property wedged between the pond and Eagle Head Beach, which is publicly owned. Kelly has installed “no trespassing” signs along the beach. Mourre said the beach is a popular swimming site for residents.

As I could observe from a nearby hilltop, and as seen from drone photos nearby residents provided to me, the construction so far consists of one large excavation pit, which is presumably being prepared for the foundation of the house. A hose runs from that pit to a smaller pit nearby, which is presumably a temporary holding pond for water pumped out of the large pit. While I was nearby for about an hour Wednesday, two large dump trucks delivered stone to the large pit.

Moure said he has inquired about permits, and was told that a building permit for a large foundational wall is pending.

Bousquet writes about the residents’ concerns about the destruction of the wetlands in the area and the blocking of public access to a historic path. Plus, he took lots of photos so you can see for yourself.

Bousquet reached out to Kelly for comment on all of this, but hasn’t yet heard back. He’ll update the story when and if he does hear from Kelly. In the meantime, you can read Bousquet’s story here.

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2. Committee recommends heritage registration for former Home for Colored Children

The Home for Colored Children, in 1921. Photo: NS Archives

“A committee of council is recommending heritage registration for the former Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children,” reports Zane Woodford.

At a virtual meeting on Wednesday, the Heritage Advisory Committee considered the application from Akoma Holdings for the former home at 18 Wilfred Jackson Way in Westphal.

The proposed heritage registration is part of Akoma’s redevelopment plan for the land surrounding the former home, for which Halifax regional council approved bylaw amendments last May. Akoma also received $2.7 million in federal funding through the Rapid Housing Initiative for eight affordable modular housing units.

The old home opened in 1921 to house and school Black children who weren’t welcome in white orphanages. In the 1990s, former residents launched a lawsuit over decades of physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the old home. The lawsuit was settled, and in 2014, then Premier Stephen McNeil apologized to former residents of the home and later launched a public inquiry, with the final report tabled in 2019.

Devon Parris, African Nova Scotia Cultural Heritage intern with HRM, acknowledged the “complicated” history of the building in his report and presentation to the committee on Wednesday.

This is the second time the home went before the heritage committee. As Woodford writes, the home’s former director applied for heritage registration back in 1998. But the home was deteriorating at the time. It has since undergone renovations, and the municipality used different criteria to consider the application as a heritage site, not a heritage property.

Click here to read Woodford’s story. 

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3. Last Hope camp wraps up time at Beals Brook

Campers celebrate on the last day of the Last Hope camp Tuesday. Photo: contributed by Nina Newington

Ethan Lycan-Lang has this report on the Last Hope camp, a group of protestors who spent 202 days at Beals Brook in Annapolis County protesting a planned cut at the site. The protestors set up camp back in December and spent the last 202 days there in all kinds of weather, but thanks to the discovery of at-risk lichens earlier this year, the site now has added protections from the province. Lycan-Lang writes:

Though they had sought to have the province’s logging approval revoked entirely, the campers were satisfied with added protections following the discovery earlier this year of three at-risk species of lichen: Black-Foam, Wrinkled Shingle, and Frosted Glass lichens.

Nina Newington has been involved with the camp since day one.

“Where government is failing to protect the natural world we all rely on, citizens are stepping up. That is the big message of our Last Hope camp,” she said in a news release Tuesday. “Government biologists sit behind their desks, signing off on harvests. Ministers hand off decisions to industry. But citizens, working with Indigenous traditional government, are saying no, we do not consent to the ongoing destruction of nature.”

The approved cutblock, located near Beals Brook, originally covered 24 hectares of land. But the province reevaluated the area in January after rare lichens were discovered on trees around the site. These species-at-risk require a 100-metre buffer from harvest operations. When applied, the total approved area was reduced to about 10 hectares, protecting about 60% of the site’s forest.

While Last Hope is no longer at the site, Newington told Lycan-Lang they’ll move on to a Last Hope campaign, which they plan to use to educate Nova Scotians on how to protect forests.

Click here for Lycan-Lang’s story.

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4. Inflation at almost 40-year high

Gas prices as of June 21, 2022. Photo: Suzanne Rent

Yesterday Statistics Canada released its consumer price index for May and the numbers aren’t good. As Yvette d’Entremont reports, Canada is experiencing an annual inflation rate it hasn’t seen in almost 40 years:

[The CPI] reported a 7.7% increase compared to last year. That’s up from 6.8% in April and edging closer to January of 1983 when the consumer price index gained 8.2%.

In Wednesday’s consumer price index report, the agency said energy prices rose 34.8% compared to one year ago. Gasoline prices increased 12% in May after a 0.7% decline in April.

In addition, shelter costs rose 7.4% last month and grocery prices also remained elevated, with prices for food purchased from stores rising 9.7%, to match April’s gain.

d’Entremont interviewed Dr. Lars Osberg, McCulloch Professor of Economics at Dalhousie University, about what these numbers mean for Canadians. You should read the whole interview, but this response to d’Entremont’s question about wondering where we go if there’s a recession stood out to me:

And that (recession) is bad news, particularly for low-income Canadians because they’re the ones that are primarily exposed to the risk of unemployment. Relatively few salaried professionals get laid off in recessions or even find their salaries affected. People who are retired, which is an increasing fraction of the population, recessions come and go. That doesn’t really affect them. The costs of a recession are really concentrated on the less advantaged.

Click here to read d’Entremont’s article and interview. 

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5. AG report: HRM has to do more to be a respectful workplace

A group of African Nova Scotian employees of Halifax Regional Municipality gathered for a protest in front of city hall in May 2018. The group was calling on the municipality to implement the recommendations of a 2016 report that found racial discrimination within the municipality. Photo: Zane Woodford

“Halifax’s auditor general says the city is failing to create a respectful workplace culture, and the chief administrative officer suggests the release of her report could make it worse,” reports Zane Woodford. 

Woodford writes:

Auditor General Evangeline Colman-Sadd tabled her office’s Management of Respectful Workplaces Audit at a meeting of council’s Audit and Finance Standing Committee on Wednesday.

The audit looked at whether HRM has adequate systems in place to “prevent, identify and address workplace behaviour incidents to ensure a respectful workplace” and whether there’s a “fair, effective and confidential” process to manage complaints. It covered the time period from the start of 2018 through to the end of July 2021.

“We found there’s a lack of senior oversight of respectful workplace activities in HRM, and we identified some gaps that need to be addressed,” Colman-Sadd told the committee.

“The harassment prevention policy and workplace violence procedure both need to be updated. As well, we note that HRM does not have a whistleblower policy.”

As Woodford reports, the HRM has a history of toxic environments. A consultant’s report from 2016 included recommendations that the recent auditor general’s report found the HRM didn’t follow. And the AG report also found an appropriate whistleblower policy was lacking.

So, what did outgoing CAO Jacques Dubé say about the report? Well, he thinks it could make things worse at HRM:

Unfortunately, the timing of this particular report has potential to negatively impact employee morale, where we’re just collectively rebounding from the significant impacts of COVID-19.”

But, you know, at the end of the day, the auditor general has a job to do and she’s doing it.

Click here to read Woodford’s story. 

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6. The Tideline, Episode 84: Pillow Fite/Flutter

On The Tideline this week, Tara Thorne catches up with duo Pillow Fite:

After a year’s worth of singles and videos, the Halifax duo is finally releasing its first recorded project in the form of FLUTTER, a six-song genre-agnostic EP that’s deeply personal and incredibly catchy. Art Ross and Aaron Green return to the show a year later to dish on their music-industry immersion, why Ross’ sapphic lyrics strike all kinds of chords, and where you can see them this summer.

Listen here!

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Views

Back to the office? Some employees just aren’t having it

Photo: Anna Shvets/Pexels

I’m reading a lot about workers returning to the office now that some people, including employers, think the pandemic is over. And it seems that this is not going so well for everyone. I am seeing words and phrases like “revolt,” “resistance,” and “disciplinary action” in headlines as employees fight their employers’ decision to get back to the office five days a week. 

After two years of successfully working remotely, workers are wondering why they hell they have to put on hard pants, endure a long commute, and sit in a cubicle all day to do a job they did successfully — and possibly better — from home from the last two years. And frankly, I don’t blame them. 

On Friday I listened to The Current on CBC and host Matt Galloway interviewed two women who were fighting to continue to work remotely, or at least have the flexibility of a hybrid options that works for them. The show was part of The Current’s series Work in Progress, which looks at how work has changed during the pandemic. 

Catherine (not her real name) is an administrator at a small company in Alberta. She told Galloway that she and her colleagues were told to go back to the office in March after working remotely for the last two years. Catherine said she prefers working remotely, for a number of reasons.  

I like that there’s less stress involved in working from home. There’s a lot more flexibility, a lot more understanding, and a different level of compassion than you’d see working in an office, typically.

At an office there always seems to be a level of — you have to be on for eight to 10 hours, or however long you’re at the office for.

Catherine said when she and her colleagues returned to the office, they were told they had to be there from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Flexible hours weren’t an option, and a hybrid model was “disregarded” because the company was worried about productivity. 

The return to work was a challenge for her, and there was an adjustment period.  

“I am very much an introvert and I do not thrive on social interaction,” Catherine said.  

She said colleagues are constantly coming into her office, asking her questions, which of course would affect her productivity. There are no colleagues knocking on that home office door!  

So she said she often shuts her office door so she can be productive and focused. But for closing her office door, she was called into a meeting and called “anti-social.”  

Employers want productivity, but don’t want workers to do things like shutting their office door so they can be productive. Which is it? 

Catherine said she was in a car collision, so she has appointments to attend that take place during work hours.  

As for productivity, she said she has no problem going into the office for some of the work she does, such as cheque deposits, but she already has the tools, including a laptop and an internet connection, at home.  

Most of my job can be completely anywhere, anytime. I feel like there should be flexibility on my part, but the flexibility I am showing doesn’t feel like it’s been reciprocated.

I’ve gone back, and I just haven’t been as happy. And that’s something I have to grapple with and figure out. I really hope they are open to a conversation in the future about implementing a genuine hybrid model that allows for flexibility.

If not, Catherine said she’d look for another job. 

Galloway also spoke with another worker who didn’t want her name used at all. She worked in IT and her return to the office was flexible at first. She just had to choose two days to work in the office, but she said that was quickly changed to a mandated two days in the office with those two days being chosen by upper management.  

This woman is a primary caregiver to a child who is immunocompromised, so she’s trying to keep him out of before-and-after-school care.   

I am able to work in the office, just not the days mandated to me because I am the primary caregiver to my son.

That’s not cutting it for this woman’s employer, who told her if her son could be in school, he could be further compromised by going to a before-and-after school program. 

This woman said her employer was unclear about the requirement for mandated days in the office. 

We have tried to get a better understanding of the approach. The only answer that was given to me was that it was about ‘butts in seats’ … just to visually have the team back.  

She called the whole situation “incredibly stressful,” and she’s now being treated for anxiety. 

Probably one of the most stressful experiences I had with any employer in my lifetime, not due to the mandate, but due to the lack of understanding and compassion. 

Galloway asked both women if they understood their employers’ perspectives. The second woman interviewed said she understands the value of being in the office, but that she’d like to have more say on when, based on her caregiving schedule. 

If I were in a situation where I didn’t have a child who wasn’t immunocompromised, I would certainly be in there with any hesitation.

Still, she said she was working with her employer on a solution, and was nervous even doing the interview for fear anything she said could identify her and she’d lose her job. 

Galloway also interviewed Mark Rose, CEO and chairman of Avison Young, a global real estate firm with headquarters in Toronto. He riddled off all sorts of numbers about how many people were actually in the offices in the Before Times — and it never really was five days a week. Rose himself said he’s in the office five days a week unless he’s on the road. 

Rose talked about one of the negatives of working remotely from home, which is that working from home means workers are missing out on the verbal and non-verbal cues and important face time that could lead to a promotion. 

I call bullshit on this one. Sure, there may be “cues” workers are missing, and yes, face time is important, but it doesn’t apply equally to everyone in an office. Some cues are more equal than others. And sometimes cues get certain people further ahead than talent or even productivity. If you’ve worked in an office, you know who these people are. 

As for productivity, Rose said there’s no way employees are productive from home for a full week, despite what they say. Fortunately, he did say it was a mistake to say workers have to be back in the office five days a week, and there should be an acknowledgement of those who are caregivers, who are disabled, or who have concerns about mental wellness. 

Now, I’ve worked in offices, good ones and bad ones, and I think of office workplaces as sort of made-up places like junior high and royal courts where what really matters is hierarchy, not productivity. And I’m guessing a lot of the back-to-the-office push is coming from middle managers whose only job is to get those butts in seats so they can keep an eye on them. There are generations of middle managers who put in their time to get a party and a gold watch at retirement. Maybe the pandemic exposed what a lot of workers already knew about this, and middle managers are nervous.  

Remote work likely opened up workplaces for people who were shut out before, including people with disabilities who may not be able to access transportation or the buildings in which offices are located. And I am willing to bet there are workers who enjoyed working from home to avoid harassment at the workplace. Maybe they’re more productive the last two years and enjoyed their jobs more than ever — although a determined harasser will find ways to harass, I’m sure.

And it didn’t shock me that Galloway’s two interviews with workers were with women trying to find the right balance between work, child care, and their own health.  

What I haven’t seen much discussion on is how working remotely can be good for the environment. Remote work — along with better public transit and biking to work — is another way to reduce the number of cars on the road. I work from home and rarely drive through the workweek. Plus, I have more time to spend on work, rather than being in a car or on a bus. Or I can use that time for personal reasons or appointments. This is the flexibility Galloway’s two interviews were talking about.  

The interview ended with Rose’s opinion that downtown cores will be repopulated as more people go back to the office. All this fuss about going back to work is about understanding human behaviour, he said. Rose pointed out that the same people kicking up a stink about working at the office are going downtown for concerts, hockey games, and restaurants, so employers should be patient. “Downtowns are going to thrive again,” he said.  

Getting workers back to the office isn’t really about productivity at all. It’s about control, real estate, and keeping an eye on people. Sure a lot of people want to be back in the office, but a lot of workers thrive with flexibility, too. 

Freelance writer and reporter Karen K. Ho had this Twitter thread on why people didn’t want to go back to the office. Commuting, dress codes, less time with children, no hassle packing lunches (and much more) are on that list.

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Noticed

A screenshot from the Legacy of St. Mary’s River storybook map.

If you’re a paddler or road tripper, the St. Mary’s River Association has a new storybook map that details the history, environment, and protected areas around the province’s longest river. Starting at the top of the map, you can learn about the history of the St. Mary’s River Basin. Scrolling through or clicking on the headers at the top of the map takes you to sections that detail the environmental importance of the river and basin area, the location of environmentally important areas around the river, the social significance of the river, ideas for outdoor enthusiasts who want to explore the river, along with details about the salmon and the vital fish pools in the river.

On Tuesday I spoke with Scott Beaver, president of the association, about the storybook map, which they officially launched last week. Beaver said the map has been in the works for more than a year now, and was built by Matthew Schumacher, who teaches environmental science at St. FX. Beaver said the association’s goal is to get St. Mary’s River inducted as a Canadian Heritage River. He said other heritage rivers across the country have similar storybook maps that tells their stories.

Beaver said the response to the storybook map has been very positive.

We’re having an amazing response; much more than I thought. A lot of this stuff is just in our heads and this map gives us the platform to put it out there for people to view. A lot of our directors and people in the community have helped contribute to a lot of the information we have within it. It really is a one-stop shop where people can come find things like a paddling route, protected spaces where they might hike, camp, or birdwatch. At the same time, the social heritage assets are on there, too.

The map includes details and links on sites including Sherbrooke Village (a fav spot of mine), the Arm Brooke Power Station, The Ross Barns, and the proposed whale sanctuary.

Beaver said the river is “an ecological gem in the province.”

It’s an area that has relatively avoided big industry. It’s the longest river in Nova Scotia and that alone makes it a gem. Our organization has spent more than $3 million in habitat restoration, and we’re still going strong to do this. Our efforts are building on what we already have there to help make it an ecological superpower.

Part of the association’s focus is on salmon restoration. Beaver said they have the largest salmon restoration project on the St. Mary’s River happening, which is the largest in the history of the province. He told me they’ve completed the equivalent of 25 river kilometres of in-water habitat restoration work. Beaver said in November they did a follow-up on one of the sites they worked on in 2015 and found 40 salmon nests. “That means there are 80 salmon in that stretch of water we’ve done our habitat work in,” Beaver said. “That’s remarkable.”

For now, he said they’re spreading the word about the map and hope people will use it for everything from creating paddling routes to visiting social heritage sites.

As for heritage status for the river, Beaver said they have partners across Nova Scotia working on that, and the steps are completed, but they’re waiting on a nomination from Tory Rushton, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables, to move the process to the federal level. Besides that, they have to do a pre-screening report and a background study.

Beaver said he learned a lot about the river and the area during the creation of the map. He also enjoyed the stories about the old foot bridges across the river that people used to get back and forth to communities on either side.

This project has pushed me a bit to go further and deeper into the social and heritage aspects of the river. I spent a lot of time now within the river system. All that stuff was in my head. Getting that onto the map was relatively easy for me.

Beaver said during their research they found an 1886 Geological Survey map that showed a documented Indigenous settlement very close to the location of a proposed open-pit gold mine (Joan Baxter has reported on that extensively, including here, here, and here).

We’re digging in and trying to show Nova Scotians what the St. Mary’s River has to offer. It’s an attempt at a community level by a non-profit organization of volunteers to say this really is a special spot that’s really not appropriate for these giant open-pit gold mines that are proposed for the basin.

Click here to check out the full storybook map. 

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Government

City

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm) — virtual meeting

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Meet SuperNOVA! (Thursday, 10am, Brunswick Street) — third session, this one is in-person

Art Exhibition Tour with Frances Dorsey (Thursday, 6pm, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — from the listing:

Join Plant Kingdom curator Frances Dorsey for a tour of the exhibition at Dalhousie Art Gallery. Dorsey will discuss some of the ideas that prompted the exhibition and the works included. The tour will highlight the ways that the different artists approached their artworks and the ways they interact with the plant world through both theme and material. No registration is required.

Friday

Dalhousie Art Gallery Planting (Friday, 11am) — Volunteers will be completing a major transplanting of strawberries from within the glyph to the peripheral parts of the pollinator garden. More info here.

Orientation maps in visual cortex: phylogenetic origins (Friday, Room 4260, 1355 Oxford Street) — Michael R. Ibbotson from the National Vision Research Institute of Australia will talk.

The spatial relationships within an image are preserved in the primary visual cortices (V1) of mammals in the form of retinotopic maps. In eutherian cats and primates, neurons viewing each, small region of visual space also segregate into pinwheel-like structures, where each pinwheel segment codes a particular edge orientation. Therefore, each pinwheel codes all orientations in each region of space in an ordered pattern. Eutherian rodents and rabbits also have retinotopic maps in V1, but orientation selective neurons are intermingled randomly, so there are at least two different visual feature mapping strategies in mammalian cortex. What is the phylogeny of these coding strategies in V1? I will describe how we have for the first time studied orientation maps in marsupials, which split from the eutherian mammals 160 million years ago, and how we have combined our findings with investigations in other mammalian branches to create a theory on the origins of orientation preference maps in mammals.

Saint Mary’s

Voces de la Pandemia (Thursday, 7pm, Canadian Museum of Immigration, Pier 21) — launch of the upcoming e-book, a collection of stories written by members of the Hispanic and Latinx community in Atlantic Canada, and a collaborative project between CLARI, Latispánica Cultural Association and different Hispanic studies programs at Dalhousie, MSVU, STFX and Saint Mary´s University.


In the harbour

Halifax
01:30: The Sheriff, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from the Panama Canal
06:15: Vistula Maersk, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from anchorage
08:30: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 36 from St. John’s
08:30: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
09:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
12:00: Oceanex Connaigra moves to Autoport
13:30: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard from sea
15:00: NYK Deneb, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
15:30: Vistula Maersk, container ship, sails for sea
15:45: Zaandam sails for Bar Harbor
16:00: Atlantic Osprey, offshore supply ship, arrives at Naval Dock (Eastern Passage) from St. John’s
17:00: MSC Hong Kong, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Montreal
20:00: Oceanex Connaigra moves to anchorage
22:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania

Cape Breton
17:30: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at Point Tupper coal dock from Baltimore, Maryland


Footnotes

In last week’s Morning File, I wrote about what we can do to reduce the number of collisions between cars and wildlife on the highway. Yesterday, Wanda Baxter sent me a link to Watch for Wildlife, a wildlife collision prevention program from the Sierra Club Canada Foundation’s Atlantic chapter. Baxter developed and ran the program with the foundation from 2016 and 2020. She told me the program will continue when there’s more funding, but it’s a good link to check out now. The site includes tips on reducing collisions, like slowing down and not littering, and a citizen-science reporting section via iNaturalist.org where you can add details on wildlife, alive or deceased, that you see on the roads and highways. That data is verified and used by scientists, conservation planners, and policy makers to make roads safer for drivers and wildlife. Good info to have.


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Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. My company back tracked. I was lucky and as able to stay home when most had to return to site May 5/22. Company is now letting people go back home .Based on employee feed back, a good thing.
    P.S. work from home can be just as stressful it’s not laying on the couch watching game shows and soap operas

  2. work can be stressful , I’ve done it for 62 years . employers expect you to come . Isn’t that part of the deal ?