1. Nova Scotia Power, province discussing how to reduce rate shock from soaring fuel costs
“The Utility and Review Board (UARB) has approved a request by Nova Scotia Power to delay the filing of its 2022 fuel costs update from August 19 to September 2 so the company and provincial government can continue discussions about how to prevent power bills from climbing above the 10% already proposed,” reports Jennifer Henderson.
As first reported in the Halifax Examiner on August 8, fuel costs for 2022 are expected to be $174 million higher than forecast due to delays of renewable hydroelectricity from Labrador, as well as higher prices for oil, natural gas, and biomass. These fuel costs — in addition to a $92 million overrun for 2021 — will eventually be rolled into or recovered from ratepayers through our power bills.
The UARB insisted Nova Scotia Power provide a fuel cost update based on current market conditions prior to a public hearing scheduled for September 7 on its request for an average 10% rate increase over three years. The general rate application (GRA) did not include these higher fuel costs for the last 12 months but it does include changes to increase profits for shareholders and decrease its business risk or exposure when it is unable to meet environmental regulations on carbon emissions.
Nova Scotia Power also sent a letter to the UARB requesting a two-week extension to its deadline for filing the fuel cost update for 2022.
2. University students and housing
Karla Renić and Amber Fryday at Global had this story on how university students are desperate to find housing as the beginning of the school year approaches. Renić and Fryday report:
President of the student union at the University of King’s College (UKC) in Halifax, Victoria Gibbs, said there are still many first-year students on the hunt for accommodations.
“They’re reaching out with desperate pleas, like, ‘Please, do you know anyone that you can connect me with? I’m looking for a roommate and I’m looking for a place to live. I can’t get in anywhere,’” said Gibbs.
“There is simply not enough housing both on campus and off campus in Halifax that’s affordable and accessible for students.”
Gibbs says there 15 first-year students on the university’s on-campus housing waitlist. Still many others are trying to find off-campus housing.
Finding housing is also an issue for the students attending NSCC campuses across the province.
The NSCC manager of housing Chauncey Kennedy said there’s a variety of problems with housing.
“We’re seeing a bit more increase in housing prices, as well as some of the property owners getting out of the rental market… and engaging in other types of rental or selling family homes,” Kennedy said.
In an effort to address the housing shortage, Kennedy said NSCC has put out the call to their alumni, asking those who have spare rooms to consider renting to an NSCC student.
“It really is a wonderful opportunity to welcome people who are here, dedicated to make themselves better.”
There will be more new housing at NSCC campuses in Dartmouth and Pictou, but that housing won’t be ready until 2024 and 2025.
3. Masks and back to school
Michael Gorman at CBC reports that Opposition MLAs want more information about the state of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia and the details on a plan, if any, for back to school in a few weeks. Gorman writes:
With about three weeks to go before students return to classrooms, it remains unclear what public health protocols, if any, will be mandatory for students and staff. The province removed a mandatory requirement for masks in schools last spring with about a month left in the school year.
In a statement on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Education Department said the well-being of staff and students is a priority and public health experts would be consulted in planning, but provided no further details. Some universities in the province will require face masks in class this fall.
“As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, we are ready to respond as necessary to the challenges of COVID,” said the statement. “We will be sharing back-to-school messages with staff, students and families prior to the start of the year.”
NDP MLA Suzy Hansen told Gorman, “I would like it if this government had a plan and they reassured parents that, you know, safety is No. 1, is paramount for our kids’ learning.”
Hansen said she’d also like to return to regular COVID briefings and a return to mask wearing in classrooms.
Gorman also interviewed Dr. Joanne Langley, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the IWK Health Centre, who said families should get vaccinated, use masks, and keep their distance from people who are sick.
I think we could get more information pushed out to the public about the importance of this, but ultimately Public Health has to decide what they think is important and what is less important among competing priorities.
4. Health care crisis
Laura Brown at CTV interviewed Dr. Mike Howlett, president of Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, who says the current health care crisis in Nova Scotia has been in the making for decades.
“It is a crisis, make no mistake. It is a serious crisis when you can’t staff departments adequately, when you can’t get people into hospital, eventually bad things will happen,” he said. “Emergency departments are not the cause of the problem. They’re not the sole problem. The crowding is just a symptom of this lack of planning over the last 20 or 30 years.”
He noted that the crisis stems from cuts and poor planning made decades ago — planning that didn’t consider a growing and aging population, or the possibility of a global pandemic.
“All that ended up happening was, by being more efficient, they took the means to produce good health out of system, such that there were no redundancies left,” he said. “There’s no way for parts of the system to cover for each other when there’s a crisis.”
Brown also spoke with Dr. Leisha Hawker, president of Doctors Nova Scotia, who said governments and health authorities need to do much better planning for the future than their predecessors.
“We have a lot of senior family doctors in Nova Scotia, many who probably would have wanted to retire five, ten years ago and have continued to work,” she said. “So in the future, we need to do a better job of human resource planning so that we don’t get into this crisis again.”
On Monday, Jennifer Henderson had this great health care system check-up with lots of data on the state of the health care system now.
The dreadful and dangerous habits of Nova Scotian drivers
On Sunday I was in Lower Sackville waiting to turn right to exit a parking lot, when I saw another driver in front of me, going straight, give up her right of way to let another driver turn left in front of her into the parking lot opposite me. The driver who wanted to turn left didn’t move while the driver going straight through almost demanded that driver turn. I could see her frustration. And then another driver in the outside lane suddenly drove through.
Had that left-turning driver actually turned, her car would have been hit by that car in the outside lane. Yet, the driver who forfeited her right-of-way yelled at her out her window, “You could have gone!”
Such is a typical day of driving around these parts.
Now, I am not a perfect driver and neither are you. We all make mistakes we’re fortunate don’t lead to serious collisions. But there are some pretty bonkers moves drivers do that make for incredibly dreadful and dangerous driving. Giving up the right of way and waving another driver through traffic is just one of them. I often see drivers who have the right of way to go straight on a green light let drivers turn left instead. I have no idea why they do this, but stop it!
Tim Bousquet has tweeted about this “giving up the right of way” issue many times, including here and most recently here. That most recent tweet was about this court case about a collision between two cars driven by Arnold Messervey and Emily Boone, on Windmill Road in December 2017. Here’s the bit Bousquet tweeted:
Due to the traffic, Ms. Boone had to wait for five to ten minutes to commence her exit onto Windmill Road. Eventually, one by one, the lanes of outbound traffic stopped to allow her to enter the road. She crossed over the first two outbound lanes. As she approached the third outbound lane (closest to the centre line) a driver in that lane waved to her. Ms. Boone crossed over that lane, entered the two-way left-turn lane and collided with Mr. Messervey’s vehicle. The accident occurred in Mr. Messervey’s lane of travel (in the two-way left-turn lane). Neither driver saw the other before the collision.
As Bousquet said in his tweet, stop being “nice” and waving people into traffic.
On Sunday, I was thinking about how we all might need a refresher on driving. Of course, we should all be driving less in general. I certainly am, but unless cars disappear by the end of today, we’ll still be on the roads for a bit.
So I was reviewing the Nova Scotia Driver’s Handbook, which is online here, and other driving resources, and thought I’d share some of the rules of the road.
Merging correcting is probably a rule many drivers forget or ignore. So here’s is the rule about merging from the Motor Vehicle Act:
111A (1) Where two lanes of a street or highway merge into one lane, the driver of a vehicle in the left lane shall yield the right of way to a vehicle in the right lane unless the driver of the vehicle in the right lane is directed by a sign to yield to the vehicle in the left lane.
This is a yield sign:
According to the driver’s handbook, this is what you do when you see a yield sign:
The yield sign means that you must reduce speed as your vehicle approaches the intersection. You must give the right of way, stopping if necessary, to any other traffic in, or closely approaching, the intersection.
There is a yield sign coming from Princess Margaret Blvd up onto the MacKay Bridge that I am sure most drivers don’t see and just head into that far lane for the toll booth. It can’t be the only yield sign in the province people ignore.
And let’s talk about another kind of merging: the zipper merge!
This has to be one of the most talked about rules of the road. We all know how a zipper works, right? Those teeth in the zipper work together, one tooth at a time, until the zipper is done up. This is how cars should work, too, when two lanes go down to one lane, like at a construction zone.
I know some drivers think those drivers are cutting in, but if you do a zipper merge correctly, it’s much faster for everyone. Here’s a good video on how it works:
A lot of drivers forget about the equipment in their cars that make driving safer for them and others. I’m thinking in particular about signal lights, turn indicators, blinkers, or whatever you call them. Use them! Yet, some drivers never use them; I guess their cars are out of blinker fluid. Here’s what the handbook says about signal lights:
Signal lights or turn indicators are required to signal an intention to start from a parked position, to turn at an intersection (whether you are in a marked lane or not), to stop from a moving position, or to change lanes. These lights must give a flashing white or amber (yellow) signal to the front, and a flashing amber or red signal to the rear. On vehicles 2.05 metres or more in overall width, each signal must be plainly visible in normal sunlight from a distance of 150 metres. On vehicles less than 2.05 metres, the signal must be visible for 100 metres. A signal must not project a glaring or dazzling light.
The handbook has details on some of the most common car-cyclist collions:
“Right Hook”: Many motorists misjudge the speed of bicycles; they can travel faster than you think! (Experienced cyclists can travel at 25-35km/h on a flat surface and up to 50km/h going downhill.) This misjudgment causes the motorist to pass and turn directly in front of the bicyclist. Scan the side of the road for bicyclists, and if it is not safe to pass before turning, slow down and move behind the cyclist before making the turn. DO NOT pass and cut!
“Left Cross”: Motorists making turns which cross oncoming traffic must watch for cyclists as well as motor vehicles. Too often, motorists misjudge the speed of an oncoming bicyclist and turn in front of them. Motorists should always stop and wait for oncoming traffic, including bicycles, to pass before turning.
Getting Doored: When exiting your car, look behind you for approaching bicyclists. Don’t open your door unless it’s safe to do so.
Please keep in mind that bicycles are much more vulnerable in a collision. Motorists must realize that they are operating a large vehicle and with that comes the responsibility to ensure that it is safely operated.
That last point is what I try to remember: drivers are in the bigger vehicle and can do more damage.
Crosswalks and pedestrians
This one always need to be said. From the handbook:
Every intersection has a crosswalk. Many are unmarked. Drivers must yield to pedestrians at all intersections, whether crosswalks are marked or unmarked.
I personally now prefer driving on the highway, although drivers make plenty of mistakes there, which is scarier because cars are driving highway speeds.
A personal pet peeve is those passing lanes on highways that for a short section allow drivers to pass cars in the right-hand lane. Eventually the passing lane comes to an end, but drivers will speed up trying to get ahead a car length or two, resulting in a few cars trying to get into that single lane all at once.
In some cases, I’ve seen drivers in the right lane slow down too much or even pull over a bit to let these drivers racing to the end of that temporary inside lane through. I haven’t seen any crashes in these lanes yet, but I suspect it’s happened.
I asked the people of Twitter some of the most common errors drivers make and here’s a list:
- rolling stops at stop signs
- drivers staying in the passing lane
- parking in fire lanes (oh, I see this often. Unless you’re a fire truck, stay out of the fire lane)
- texting/talking on the phone while driving
- running red lights or racing through to the light when you see it turn amber
- Not making a full stop before the line at intersections
- Failing to yield to cyclists in the bike lane
A few Twitter folks mention this one: Not turning into the closest lane after turning in an intersection. Apparently the drivers using the intersection near the Irving on Lacewood Drive are bad at this. Here’s a diagram of how those turns should be made:
I have to tell you about the two most dangerous moves I’ve experienced with other drivers. I once was leaving the Sobeys at Clayton Park and was in the lane to turn left. A driver was in the lane on my right to go straight through the intersection. When the light turned green, I approached the intersection to turn left, and that driver next to me, who again was in the lane to go straight ahead, started turning left too, completely oblivious to me even being there. She drove on her merry way.
And finally, I was once driving on the Bedford Highway heading to Bedford when the driver in front of me who must have wanted to turn left up to Bayview missed their chance, and instead turned a very wide left and went up the lane off the Bedford Highway heading up Bayview from Bedford. If you look at this photo, they turned left up that lane next to the Halifax Eye Institute. Clearly that lane is for drivers heading from the Bedford direction up to Bayview. I think a few drivers’ jaws dropped watching that one.
Anyway, I don’t have enough time to share here all the rules of the road, but again — we probably all need a refresher. So here’s the Nova Scotia Driver’s handbook again.
None of this will come as a surprise to the single people out there.
Julia Carpenter at the Washington Post has a story this week about how the money gap between young married couples and young singles has widened because of inflation and the increasing cost of housing. Carpenter writes:
The median net worth of married couples 25 to 34 years old was nearly nine times as much as the median net worth of single households in 2019, according to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In 2010, married households’ median net worth was four times as much. And now, after a spell of rapid inflation and more than two years of pandemic living, single people are getting left further behind, say economists at the Fed and elsewhere.
“This 25-to-34-year-old age is a time of transition, it’s a time of household formation, and I think it matters whether or not you can pool your financial resources with someone else,” said Lowell Ricketts, a data scientist for the Institute for Economic Equity at the St. Louis Fed.
Having combined assets was particularly helpful over the past decade as many households’ wealth was compounded by rising housing prices and a strong stock market.
Now, I am older than these young singles, but this absolutely applies to older singles, too. It’s not worth marrying a rando to save money, but being single is expensive.
Carpenter interviewed Alyssa Cruz, a 27-year-old library cataloguer living in Columbus, Ohio, about the costs of single life.
With prices for essentials such as gasoline and groceries going up, she said the progress she made last year feels shaky. These days, she regularly donates plasma when she needs help stretching her budget and shoring up her emergency fund. She can donate as often as twice a week, earning roughly $50 to $60 for each donation.
Bigger assets, such as homeownership, still feel far away.
“If we’re going off what Facebook looks like, everyone is getting married and buying houses,” Ms. Cruz said. “I’m stuck where I am, and I’m doing OK, but it’s a renting future.”
It’s tougher for single women because of the gender pay gap and because women live longer. And as Carpenter points out, there are more singles than ever. This is US data, but the number of solo households has doubled in the last 40 years. It would be great to hear from singles about the costs of being single.
Married couples get parties and cash to celebrate their lives together. We singles need parties and cash, too.
Public Information meeting – Case 24045 (Thursday, 6pm, online) — regarding Carriagewood Estates, Beaver Bank
PhD Defence, Biology (Wednesday, 8:10am, online) — Felicia Vachon will defend “On Cultural Inheritance: Evolution, Behaviour and Social Structure of Eastern Caribbean Sperm Whales”
PhD Defence, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Wednesday, 10am, online) — Trevor Kelly will defend ” Sedimentology and Reservoir Characteristics of the Carboniferous Joggins Formation, Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada”
Main Group Ambiphiles: Metal-Free Catalysis and Small Molecule Activation using Main Group Elements (Wednesday, 11am, Chemistry Room 226) — Marc-André Légaré from McGill University is the visiting chemistry speaker.
PhD Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Thursday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building and online) — Jeffrey R. Simmons will defend “From Soluble Protein to Anchoring Filament: Understanding the Structural and Mechanical Foundations of Pyriform Spider Silk”
Phd Defence, Physics and Atmospheric Science (Thursday, 1:30pm, online) — Brian Boys will defend “Global Trends in Satellite-Derived Fine Particulate Matter & Developments to Reactive Nitrogen in a Global Chemical Transport Model”
In the harbour
08:00: Caribbean Princess, cruise ship with up to 3,756 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York, on a 10-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
16:30: Caribbean Princess sails for Sydney
18:00: John J. Carrick, barge, arrives at McAsphalt from sea
19:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Portsmouth, New Hampshire
20:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
09:30: Borealis, cruise ship with up to 1,685 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Halifax, on a 15-day roundtrip cruise out of Liverpool, England
10:45: Phoenix Admiral, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
14:00: CSL Koasek, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Belledune, New Brunswick
17:30: Borealis, cruise ship sails for St. John’s
I’m going back to read more rules of the road.