News

1. Halifax preparing police as People’s Park residents stay put

Meagher Park, otherwise known as People’s Park, in December 2021. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

We’ve known for nearly two months that, despite what Halifax councillors have previously promised, and fears of a repeat of last summer’s chaos, police would eventually be involved again in evicting people camping on public land. It was just a matter of time.

That time appears to be fast approaching.

As Zane Woodford reports, Halifax regional council met yesterday to discuss the closure of People’s Park, the self-dubbed camp site on Meagher Park that the city has tentatively tolerated for close to a year. Park residents were supposed to move out on July 17, but many — including those who’d said they’d comply with a July 5 eviction notice — are still there weeks later. So, council met Tuesday to get an update on the situation.

Police, they were told, are ready to enforce the eviction.

Activists from P.A.D.S. Community Network and Halifax Mutual Aid, which have been involved with the park over the past year, have said they will resist the removals. The so-called Freedom Convoy and its affiliated provincial political party, Nova Scotians United, which are just now getting involved, said they’d resist removals, too.

“I’m feeling really awfully nervous about this,” Coun. Cathy Deagle Gammon said Tuesday. She echoed concerns from other councillors, worried that a standoff with police could escalate as it did last year. Still, councillors said there was no other option but to evict and send in police as a last resort.

Halifax Regional Police officers arrest a protester at the Halifax Memorial Library site on Aug. 18, 2021. Police were enforcing evictions of tents on public space. Photo: Zane Woodford

Since council voted to designate permissible tent sites at four parks in Halifax and Dartmouth in June — a plan that was originally supposed to only involve civilian staff, not police, in the move from unsanctioned sites like Meagher Park — the writing’s been on the wall.

The makeshift community is squeezed into a small grassy lot surrounded by residential houses, blocks away from two schools. While many neighbours have been supportive, there’ve been complaints of noise, garbage, violence, rats, and discarded needles. In the long run, it’s not ideal for park residents or their housed neighbours.

Increased housing stock is the ideal long-term solution. But that takes time to build, and deeply affordable options, the kind people living in tents could possibly attain, don’t appear to be on the way. Not in any great number, anyway.

As for the immediate short-term options: Halifax’s shelters remain backlogged, the new modular units are mostly full, and new designated tent sites, slightly better than a lateral move, will only have space for 32 people.

The municipality has had a year to prepare for this park’s closure. Councillors have expressed the same concerns over police presence and involvement since the events of last August, saying civilian staff would need to lead any future eviction. Yet once again, the city will rely on police to move people out of their tents.

While council has said it’s exhausted all options that don’t involve police, it’s hard to say city staff have spent the last year working in lockstep with people living in tents or the advocates who’ve helped organize communities like People’s Park. People living there, for instance, have never had a clear idea of how long their tents would be tolerated. You’d think some steady in-person communication on that front, from consistent, recognizable staff,  would go a long way.

“There is on all sides a loss of trust in the police, government, and elected officials,” Max Chauvin, Halifax’s special projects manager on homelessness told council Tuesday.

“On all sides, everybody feels that they have been left out without support and without safety and are really struggling.”

HRM can make excuses for the lack of housing (that’s the province’s job, right?) or for their decision to clean up the park. You can say they’ve been more transparent than they were in the lead-up to last year’s evictions — not hard a hard bar to clear. But the municipality has failed to put in the work this past year to regain the trust of Halifax’s homeless population, or the public’s trust in the local government’s ability to respond to this growing crisis

Yes, there have been bi-weekly posts online updating the public on homelessness and what the city is doing. But how far does that go in building relationships with homeless people, advocates, and communities?

How were residents of People’s Park informed the park was closing in 12 days? By staff who’ve been visiting the park multiple times each week and working with residents there? No, that notice of eviction was typed up and delivered in a letter.

There is no defined timeline for the likely inevitable police-enforced evictions, but they’ll likely come quick. Woodford has the full report on what to expect here.

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2. Pictou County getting new arts and cultural hub 

A rendering for the renovations to the deCoste Centre for Arts and Creativity and the Pictou Library. Photo: Contributed

This item was written by Suzanne Rent. 

The province is spending $2 million on a new library and an updated arts and cultural hub for Pictou County, while the federal government will spend $6 million on the project. The funding announcement was made at the deCoste Centre for Arts and Creativity in Pictou on Tuesday.  

Troy Greencorn, executive director for the centre, said they spent the last six years working with the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, the Town of Pictou, and the Municipality of Pictou County on the project. Input from residents was gathered at public meetings. Greencorn said since the current centre opened in 1982, it has been a community hub for West Pictou and the county in general. 

“It’s setting in motion an incredible project that will forever change West Pictou,” Greencorn said at the announcement. “It will spark an exciting next round of waterfront development here in Pictou.” 

According to a press release, the project includes a 2,100-square metre expansion of the current deCoste centre and will include a new library, a renovated theatre, visual arts exhibition facilities, and meeting spaces for community and cultural groups. The space will also have accessibility features to make it more inclusive. 

Central Nova MP Sean Fraser was on hand to announce the federal government’s portion of the money for the project.  

“When I think of what the pandemic has done to people in the performing arts, literally shutting down their opportunity to work, it gives me great joy to see that so many artists have hung on,” Fraser said. “Today’s announcement is going to do wonders to make sure our community continues to support the arts and those who rely on it for their livelihood.” 

Premier Tim Houston spoke about the importance of the arts to the community.  

“I often think of the words of my friend and mentor, Donald Sobey, who talked about the value of the arts and culture to communities. He told me at one point, he said, ‘You can’t have a successful, thriving economy without a successful, thriving arts and cultural sector.’ When he told me that I was a young chartered accountant and I kind of thought he was a little crazy, but I certainly understand and agree with that,” Houston said.  

Karla MacFarlane, MLA for Pictou West, said libraries and cultural organizations such as the deCoste Centre play an important role in enhancing local economies and improve the health and well-being of residents.  

“The arts are a vital part of any thriving community. We all know that. They draw visitors, they bring people together, and they introduce us to new ideas and experiences,” MacFarlane said. “They open our minds and expand our world. The deCoste Centre is a treasured part of not only my constituency of Pictou West, but also to the broader community and the entire province.” 

Mayor Jim Ryan pointed out that the current library has been operating from the second floor of the town’s municipal building for decades. Ryan said while the library is “very well used,” the programming and gathering space at the library has been limited. 

“This new space will welcome an increased number of residents and visitors to our downtown, creating an increased vibrancy and commercial activity in our town centre.” 

Click here to view the video of the announcement.  

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3. Goldboro gold mining project approved with conditions

Proposed Goldboro mine plan from p 264 of technical report shows the historic tailings in green downstream from Gold Brook Lake.

CBC reported on Tuesday that the province has approved the Goldboro gold mining project in Guysborough County, though some conditions apply.

Signal Gold, formerly known as Anaconda Mining, wants to develop the mine, which will include “two open pits, a processing facility, a tailings management facility, waste rock storage areas, as well as water management infrastructure such as collection ditches, culverts, settling ponds and water treatment systems.”

In his decision to approve the project, Nova Scotia’s minister of Environment and Climate Change Tim Halman wrote he’d taken possible environmental impacts into consideration:

“I am satisfied that any adverse effects or significant environmental effects of the undertaking can be adequately mitigated through compliance with the attached terms and conditions as well as through compliance to the other licences, certificates, permits and approvals that will be required for operation.”

CBC highlights the following conditions:

  • Develop a wildlife management plan with Nova Scotia’s Department of Nautral Resources and Renewables, as well as Environment and Climate Change.
  • Develop and implement a complaint resolution plan for receiving and responding to complaints related to the project.
  • Develop a Mi’kmaw communication plan.

Will these conditions reasonably protect the environment in the area, you might ask?

You might find some answers, or more questions, in Joan Baxter’s three-part in depth look at Anaconda Mining/Signal Gold and the Goldboro site the company is now approved to develop. She goes through the company’s track record with government regulators, as well as the toxic legacy of tailings from the historic gold mining site in Goldboro. A huge amount of waste from past mining still lies buried at the site, and this new project could create upwards of 60-million cubic metres of waste to store, according to a 2022 technical report.

Dig beneath the surface of this mining announcement with Baxter in part one, two, and three of her investigation, Anaconda Mining joins the gold rush on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore.

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4. The vote is in: pay cut for premier, pay stagnant for MLAs, and most other Nova Scotians, too

Province House in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

It’s official. MLAs have voted against raising their own wages, convening an emergency session at Province House requested by Premier Tim Houston.

The Canadian Press reports the bill that passed Tuesday rejects a recommended $11,000 hike for MLAs, keeping their annual salaries at $89,234, and cuts the premier’s salary $11,246 (it’s now $190,754). The bill was introduced last week and the result, supported by all parties, was unsurprising.

Now, for an emergency session on housing, affordability, living wages, and health care. Surely those are coming too, since the current high cost of living spurred this latest vote against what was sure to be an unpopular pay raise.

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Views

Throwaway thoughts on throwaway cameras

We bought two of these for the summer. 54 pics to capture 3 months Photo: wal-mart.ca

In past Morning Files I’ve railed against single-use plastics and excessive photo-taking. Allow me to do a small about-face. and I emphasize small.

Because disposable plastics are something I can’t justify promoting, outside health care and a few unique circumstances  — reducing is better than recycling! And I maintain my position on the photo-happy times in which we live.

That said, I’ve recently become reacquainted with the disposable camera.

I’m not the only one. TikTok trends have made them cool again, though it hasn’t stopped us young folk from filling our Cloud storage with a million shots we’ll never revisit. (Don’t even bother clicking on that stupid TikTok link; it’s not worth your time). In university, it wasn’t uncommon to go to a party where a disposable Kodaks was passed around so the hosts could have a fun look back in two weeks’ time. Elle recently called disposable film cameras the “It-Girl Accessory of 2022.”

And as far back as 2019  — can you say “as far back” for something published only three years ago?  — the LA Times wrote about the comeback of the old 90’s relic among younger generations. 

(I refuse to name these generations. Let’s stop naming generations.)

What’s the appeal?

Well, when I was a kid the appeal was simple. I’d get a disposable camera every summer when my family would visit my mom’s parents in Manitoba. I got to take my own photos and my parents didn’t have to waste their own film or risk putting an expensive camera in the hands of someone still learning to use their hands.

Every year I’d come back with a bunch of blurry night shots, accidental pics of my sneakers, and a healthy number of thumbs in the frame. Usually there’d be one keeper. It was more of a toy than a camera.

How about the appeal today, when I can take as many photos as I want on my phone, and see, edit, and store them in real time.

The small comeback is mostly due to “aesthetic.” Here’s the start of that LA Times piece:

Forget taking countless iPhone shots of the same pose and endlessly enhancing them with filters and photo editing apps. These days, many Gen Zs and young millennials are into grainy, light-streaked photos with overly saturated color snapped on an old-school disposable camera.

“They look more authentic,” said Kate Rozansky, 18, of Encino, Calif., “I love how vibrant the colors are. It reminds me of photos I’ve seen that my parents used to take.”

There’s a reason How I Met Your Mother opens with a bunch of low-grade bar-lit snapshots of the characters. It looks cool. The graininess, the vibe…it just looks like a moment in time. Less artificial. Less produced.

But putting that bullshit aside for a moment — you can get the same effect on an iPhone if you want — I’ll tell you why I returned to the disposable this summer.

My girlfriend Leslie and I decided we wanted to capture our first summer together. We’re notoriously bad for thinking to document anything in our lives with a picture, so we had to make a conscious effort. But we wanted to make sure we only snapped moments we thought were special.

Our archaic solution: buy two cheap disposable cameras — waterproof, of course — and keep our camera roll limited to an actual camera roll. 

We cheated a bit, but mostly we kept our photo taking to our plastic-cased Fuji. Fifty-six photos for three months of summer.

For the first time in forever, I found myself saying, “I wish we’d brought the camera” on days out. I also took a LOT more care when I did snap a pic. 

The best part though, was knowing we’d have a few shots without having to spend hours sifting through them.

“My problem with excessive photography,” I wrote in a past Morning File, “is that it removes a person from life.”

The limited film roll on a disposable not only makes each pic extra special (assuming it turns out OK), it also lets you forget about getting that Kodak moment for every single minor event in your life.

We got our first film roll back recently and it was so much fun to look back on what we’d taken. The wait and the scarcity made each one more enjoyable. Photos on my phone, while also pretty limited, can just feel like another drop in the bucket.

There were duds, sure. Two thumbs. And this photo of two shadows talking to each other. (If you have cat eyes you might be able to make out a picture of me and my sister).

Two shadows try to understand each other in the dark. Photo: Leslie Amminson

But we also got a photo of Leslie’s first time fishing. It took two seconds to take, and then she was back to catching nothing all afternoon.

Leslie, a Newfoundlander, fishes for the first time. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

Family photos caught a milestone or a day out at the ballpark without taking away from family time.

My cousin graduates pre-school. His proud mother, cousins, and their partners, stand beside him. Photo: David Lomas
A family game of ball during the seventh inning stretch. Photo: Leslie Amminson

And I was able to spend quality time with my cousin’s chickens without being distracted with forced smiles and endless poses. Also, this was a great surprise when the roll came back.

Ethan tries to connect with a chicken and is rebuffed. Photo: Leslie Amminson

When we get our second roll back, the cost of the cameras and development will likely add up to just over a dollar a photo. Some will be unusable. Some have already been trashed. We also almost lost the good ones to the heat of summer; they stuck together on a sweltering day and had to be painstakingly pried apart and put in an album.

But the money was worth the time saved. This time anyway. It’d probably add up if we kept replacing these things.

The responsible thing to do would be to buy a film camera I could reuse. That’d be pretty pricey for a passion I don’t even have. I don’t think I could buy a Polaroid, for instance. It’s the same idea, and they’re pretty popular again now too, but film is expensive and it comes out so small. Maybe one disposable a summer will become the tradition. I think I could live with that. 

Give it a try. Take a digital fast this month and capture the rest of August on some grainy old-school film. You might like what you get back in a month.

I’ll be looking back on the first roll for years to come. And I can’t wait to get the second developed and take a trip back in time.

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Noticed

Another Nova Scotia property for sale. Photo: Zane Woodford

They say you’re never more than 60 kilometres from the ocean in this province, but it took me until the end of July to make it to the shoreline this summer. (That big brown Bay of Fundy doesn’t count for me, beautiful as it is).

This weekend I hit three cottages in three days, driving from Lewis Head Beach to Petite Rivière with a White Point wedding pit stop in between. The sea spray in the morning, the steady roll of the waves at night, the diamonds dancing on the water in the afternoon sun. I didn’t realize the salt withdrawal I was going through until I got there.

I’m a lucky guy to have so many friends down there with cottages and pull-out couches. I hope that luck never runs out. The average recreational property price in the area was just over $300,000 last year.

The South Shore was one of 10 Canadian regions Maclean’s highlighted for a July profile on Canada’s cottage industry.

It’s not particularly insightful or earth-shattering. The Annapolis Valley is also profiled for the list, where we hear from a couple in their 50s who bought a cottage near Wolfville $50,000 over asking in 2019, just before the market really exploded. At the time, they thought they’d spent too much; now they’re happy they bid so high. That’s it. It’s one of 10 (eye-opening? obvious?) “tales from the national frenzy to buy a cottage.”

The look at the South Shore market is equally surface level. But one quote stands out.

Writer Jacob Rutka speaks with Jordan Perry, 30, and Tanya Perry, 27, who just moved into a 2,200-square-foot, A-frame log cabin on Big Mushamush Lake near Mahone Bay. The couple, who have two children, negotiated the whole deal from Ontario.

Jordan, a mortgage broker, told Maclean’s he’d developed “a system for buying from a distance,” seeking out properties that had been on the market for a while and might have been overlooked. In this case, the listing had been up 200 days when they put in an offer.

“It needed some maintenance,” Perry said. “There were holes in the drywall, bright-orange walls, the deck was attached at the wrong place and the roof overhang wasn’t wide enough to protect the cottage’s face from rainwater.” 

Closer to home, Maclean’s interviewed a couple near Wolfville who’d bought a cottage for $250,000 — the asking price was $200,000 — just before the pandemic. They thought it was steep at the time, but told the magazine they’re now grateful they trusted their agent’s advice to bid high:

I had my brother check out the property in person. He didn’t raise any huge red flags, so Tanya and I put in an offer of $500,000. The owners countered with $550,000. Once we got the inspection report, we negotiated our final offer back down to $500,000. I wrote an apology letter to the owners for the low bid, but ultimately, that’s what I thought the property was worth. We bought sight unseen and closed in April, a month after our second son was born.

When I turn 30, and daydream about buying a house, if I offer my imaginary sellers half a million dollars for a log cabin in need of repair and a redesign, and they try to squeeze me for another 50 grand, I vow not to write an imaginary letter of apology for low-balling them at — let me repeat — half a million dollars. If I was writing an actual letter of apology to actual sellers, I’d probably vomit before I could finish.

Even Canadians should have a limit for what they say “sorry” for. At least a young family bought it as a home, not a seasonal lake house. That’s something.

Check out the article, which takes two minutes to read if you’re sleepy, for some photos of this pricy estate in the sticks.

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Government

City

PhD Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Wednesday, 10am, online) — Lindsay Rubinfeld will defend “The Role of Attention and Working Memory in Reading in Young Adults with a History of Reading Difficulties: Mechanisms and Treatment”

PhD Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Wednesday, 10:30am, online) — Meghan Rossi will defend “Sexual Growth and Destiny Beliefs: Associations with Couples’ Sexual Well-being and Coping During the Pathway to Parenthood”

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

PhD Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Wednesday, 10am, online) — Lindsay Rubinfeld will defend “The Role of Attention and Working Memory in Reading in Young Adults with a History of Reading Difficulties: Mechanisms and Treatment”

PhD Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Wednesday, 10:30am, online) — Meghan Rossi will defend “Sexual Growth and Destiny Beliefs: Associations with Couples’ Sexual Well-being and Coping During the Pathway to Parenthood”

Thursday

Visiting Chemistry Seminar (Thursday, 11am, Chemistry Room 226) — Paul Hayes from the University of Lethbridge will talk

PhD Defence, Medical Neuroscience (Thursday, 1:30pm, online) — Tareq Yousef will defend “Nitric Oxide Neuromodulation of Vertebrate Gap Junction-Coupled Retinal Horizontal Cells”

PhD Defence, Physics and Atmospheric Science (Thursday, 2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building and online) — Brendan Brady will defend “Exploring Transient Neural Events in Healthy Populations Using Non-Invasive Neuroimaging”


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: Hyundai Force, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
08:00: MSC Sandra, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
09:00: USCGC Tahoma, coast guard cutter, arrives at Dockyard from Boston
11:00: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
16:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to anchorage
18:00: Augusta Luna, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Balboa, Spain

Cape Breton
08:45: Shelia Ann, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Sydney
15:00: Tanja, bulker, sails from Port Hawkesbury Paper for sea


Footnotes

There’s a big canoe to-do in Dartmouth starts today. Check it out.

I went for a canoe ride in Green Bay this weekend with my sister and her boyfriend, who’s from Ontario. He said we were getting too far out to sea when we made it about a hundred yards from shore. In a bay. With no whitecaps. And the bottom visible through the water. Nothing makes you feel like a rugged man of the sea like boating with a Torontonian.


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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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  1. Most, if not all, “disposable” cameras are recyclable. The 35mm film inside is even in a regular cartridge.

    Sure, the local labs may never have bothered (unless the brands paid for them to be sent home?), but since that doesn’t exist any more, the few chokepoints actually developing film and printing photos for sure are bothering with the very simple refurbishing process.

    Or you can. Consult with Youtube, reload your own, and take the regular film to your local place to be shipped away for regular processing.