1. Mainstreets Plan
“Sometime in the 70s we should have hit peak ‘designing for the car’ days, because it was around then that people started to realize the pickle we were getting ourselves into by doing strictly that,” writes Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:
But the reality is we just kept designing that way for decades, and in many cases we still are, partly because we are conservative by nature, and partly because it’s a heck of a lot of work to change municipal plans and bylaws.
Enter the Halifax Region Mainstreets Plan concept, which could significantly reduce the time required for updating individual suburban and rural plans by eliminating the repetition. There’s variety among our non-urban communities, but there’s also a lot they have in common in terms of needs and obstacles. And they essentially have the same suite of planning tools and concepts available to help overcome those obstacles: things like Complete Streets, mixed-use planning, and transit-oriented development.
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2. Northern Pulp Mill
Prince Edward Island’s Premier Wade MacLauchlan has released a letter to Catherine McKenna, the federal minister of Environment and Climate Change, and to Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil. It reads:
Dear Minister McKenna and Premier McNeil;
I am writing you today regarding Northern Pulp’s plans for a new effluent treatment facility for its Pictou County mill.
Specifically, I share the concerns of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island fishers that an outflow pipe placed into the Northumberland Strait could have unintended consequences for our commercial fishery and aquaculture industries.
The Northumberland Strait has one of the more sensitive areas within the Gulf of St Lawrence with unique tidal and water circulation patterns. The federal government has committed to increasing and enhancing protection for all marine species, habitat and sensitive ecosystems in the Gulf through the development of Marine Protected Area Networks.
An effluent pipe that would allow as much as 75,000 cubic metres of fresh warm water to be directed daily into the Northumberland Strait is not a project that our government will support as proposed.
I understand that a Level 1 environmental assessment will be conducted this summer. I ask that a more comprehensive assessment take place and that the impact on Island fisheries is taken into consideration as part of this work.
I am confident that we all agree that any development that risks the habitat and reproductive cycle of species such as lobster or that threatens the livelihood of thousands of families dependent on the fisheries in the Northumberland Strait cannot proceed.
I am confident our shared commitment to both our environment, and the jobs and economic impact associated with the fishery, will prevail and that a decision will be made based on sound science and the input of all partners.
I look forward to discussing this environmentally sensitive matter in greater detail.
Premier of Prince Edward Island
3. Another north end Dartmouth homicide
The medical examiner has ruled that the weekend’s second “suspicious death” was also a homicide. A police release from yesterday.:
The suspicious death that occurred on Sunday in Dartmouth has been ruled a homicide.
At 4:08 a.m. on January 21, Halifax Regional Police responded to a report of a suspicious death at 3 Farthington Place, Dartmouth. Officers located an adult woman who was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Based on yesterday’s autopsy, the Medical Examiner has ruled the death a homicide and identified the victim as 63-year-old Deborah Irene Yorke of Dartmouth. Our thoughts are with the victim’s family and friends at this difficult time.
The investigation, led by the Homicide Unit of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division and including Forensic Identification officers, is ongoing and officers will remain on scene at Farthington Place. Officers have cleared a Jackson Road location where a search warrant was executed yesterday in relation to this investigation.
The map is getting depressingly cluttered:
4. School boards
“A new report has given Nova Scotia’s school system a failing grade, and recommends seven of the province’s eight school boards be scrapped in favour of a single ‘aligned model,'” [the eighth is the Acadian board, which would be preserved] reports Keith Doucette for the Canadian Press:
Education consultant Avis Glaze released a report Tuesday that says the system is not working because of a “lack of clarity and coherence,” and students are in many cases performing below average compared to the rest of the country.
Glaze — whose report was ordered by the provincial government — says the administrative system should be realigned to reflect a unified and province-wide focus on students, with any savings directed back to classrooms.
Asked whether eliminating elected English-language boards could be seen as undemocratic, Glaze said that was for the government to decide.
“People feel the status quo is not working,” Glaze said. “We have had an opportunity to improve the achievement of the children of this province and it is not happening. They felt that they need a new structure in order to make that happen.”
School boards at one time were the mechanism for direct citizen control of the schools, so it’d be shocking to see them scrapped altogether. But we’re long past the days when a local district could levy a new school tax to buy new supplies or fire a teacher or whatever. For better or worse (mostly better, I think, given the horrors I’ve witnessed in super-local school districts in the States) most of the administration of schools has been centralized at the provincial level and is now at considerable remove from local control, so I wonder what eliminating the boards means in practical terms. What power do school boards really have, anyway?
But, what do I know? I’m neither a parent nor an educator, and have no first-hand experience with schools beyond showing up for the annual Christmas pageant where a young relative performs. So, happy to be wrong.
5. Abortion pill
“The abortion pill remains out of reach of most Nova Scotia women, because doctors still cannot bill the province for providing it,” reports Brett Bundale for the Canadian Press:
Last fall, the province announced funding of Mifegymiso, a two-drug combination using mifepristone and misoprostol to terminate an early pregnancy up to 63 days gestation.
But despite public coverage of the abortion pill, most women are unable to obtain a prescription for the drug because the majority of family doctors — and the province’s only abortion clinic — don’t yet offer the alternative to surgical abortion.
At issue is the lack of a provincial billing code that pays doctors for overseeing pregnancy termination using the abortion pill.
1. The Dockyard clock
“Some people like to believe that I have an endless supply of older photos, when the reality is I’ve posted virtually all my collection over the years,” writes Stephen Archibald. “However, I’ve just been flipping through sheets of slides and identified a few images that you might not have seen. Here are some random treats.”
A few of those treats involve the Dockyard Clock:
The Dockyards have always been mysterious to me, a forbidden world in the middle of the city. A walk on the bridge was a good opportunity for a gull’s eye view, particularly of the Dockyard clock…
Turns out the British made clock is a survivor. In 1772 it was installed on the Dockyard’s Number One Store, a wonderful, huge, building seen here in a c1883 Archives photo.
…After the fire hall was demolished in 1986, the clock was given to the city and is now the feature of Chebucto Landing, as a Monument to our long heritage of Lost Buildings.
The Dockyard Clock is described “as the last tangible evidence of the original naval dockyard in Halifax.” I’m pleased that considerable effort has been put into displaying it in one of the most significant locations in the city. But you have to admit it’s a little kooky, elevated on stilt like legs. I tried to think what the clock installation brought to mind; was it a traditional Weber barbecue or perhaps a 1960s Futuro House?
2. Electronic Voting
“[Provincial] elections staff, seeking efficiency, proposed that early voters, roughly 30 per cent of the electorate, be encouraged to poke their choice of candidate on a touchscreen ‘voting tablet,’ which will then neatly print a ballot with the individual’s decision clearly marked,” writes Anne Farries in the Chronicle Herald:
“The members of the Election Commission are unanimous in their support of this recommendation,” states the report.
Why is that dangerous? What did the Election Commission overlook?
The proposal is a rehearsal. The first stage before unleashing a fully electronic system, which will absolutely, inherently, intrinsically be vulnerable to people who can rip open software as easily as prying the lid off the canned milk that you pour in your tea.
Like sneaky magicians, code artists create hidden software that does its work then vanishes, leaving no trace. A tiny nudge of the numbers here, a tweak of the totals there. Just enough to overturn a close race, steal a win from the people’s choice.
Scoffing? Banks told us their systems were safe. Know anyone whose chequing account was invaded? Credit card copied?
Heard of a data breach at a large corporation? Seen a social media account cloned?
I don’t know how anyone can think electronic voting is a good idea. If we’ve learned nothing else from the Equifax, Yahoo, and Sony data breaches, from the alleged North Korean hacking of American military computers, from the Russian attempts to invade U.S. voting databases, and on and on, it’s that there are armies of hackers out there trying to wedge themselves into every possible online space and process. I say this to people who defend the city’s E-voting program: who runs that, the same people who designed the city’s website?
We should give up on the fantasy that e-voting is safe and return to paper ballots.
3. Crying wolf
Halifax Lawyer Barbara Darby continues her exploration of the word “wolf” as found in the CanLI database of court cases, noting:
For some reason, wolves fascinate me. “To keep the wolf from the door” is to ward off poverty. Wolves blow down pigs’ houses. Not being a pig, I don’t particularly sympathize but having been taught to try to build with bricks — well. And… werewolves. When we “keep the wolves at bay,” the pack is far enough in the distance that we can hear its members crying to each other. That’s a good thing, because of the distance it confirms. We’re safe….for awhile.
Today, Darby looks at the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” fable:
This is….astonishing! A cautionary tale for children, about a child who is sent out to do a dangerous job, and he’s lonely, “too solitary.” He calls villagers “out of fun,” and finds delight when the villagers relieve his boredom and loneliness to look for the wolf. But this kid does something playful too many times, and to be sure, he is diverting folks from their labour (an excellent capitalist lesson to be sure!). But how do they discover the subterfuge? The master shows up too late (note the regret) and discovers, when he arrives to beat the child, that the boy has been eaten by the wolf.
From my limited experience, imaginative, bored children get into mischief, but yet the moral of this story is that even if your arm is broken, or, as an example, you’re devoured, you brought this on yourself. Less than 200 years ago, no one appears to ask whether it is good public policy to send children out to tend sheep in a wolf-ridden world. The greater good doesn’t even seem to be the well-being of the town’s flock but the “tsk tsk” to the departed child-labourer shepherd.
But what further interests me is that this version of the tale confirms that the child is eaten by a wolf. What does this mean? The final cry — WOLF! — is truthful. Some salient questions, dear reader: how often can you can be duped before you cease to put yourself in that particular situation again? Is it fair, if you’re the crier, that you’re not believed when you tell the truth, because you’ve skirted it in the past?
Darby goes on to quote some court cases, but I’ve cribbed enough of her text. Go read her post yourself.
Ursula K. Le Guin died yesterday, at 88 years old. Here’s her obituary in the New York Times.
There were lots of books in my childhood home, books my parents purchased who knows where, books collected by my older siblings for classes or just for the joy of reading. I remember picking up a copy of Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed from an overflowing hallway bookcase; I must have been about 11 or 12. I worked at the first couple of pages, but it was beyond my years. When I was 14, however, I picked it up again, and was transfixed. I read it straight through. I probably read it a dozen times as a teenager, always picking up a new nuance, something else to ponder.
I still think about The Dispossessed. The Times’ obituary calls it Le Guin’s “most ambitious novel,” going on to say:
As the subtitle [“An Ambiguous Utopia”] implies, The Dispossessed contrasts two forms of social organization: a messy but vibrant capitalist society, which oppresses its underclass, and a classless “utopia” (partly based on the ideas of the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin), which turns out to be oppressive in its own conformist way. Ms. Le Guin leaves it up to the reader to find a comfortable balance between the two.
I don’t think that quite does the book justice. It is the perfect science fiction novel, using imagined worlds and a plot heavy in science (the hero, Shevek, is a physicist) to illustrate social and political issues concerning our world in our own time.
The Dispossessed presented some profound insights for an awkward teenage boy trying to make sense of the world. Insights about sex and sexuality. About the joys of being a productive member of society, with or without monetary recompense. About the dangers of blind ideology, especially the blind adherence to the ideology you support.
It’s been probably 30 years since I’ve read The Dispossessed, and still I can recite verbatim passages from it. My favourite is when a man from the capitalistic world of Urras is astounded that most people on the anarchic world of Annares don’t drink alcohol. “How do you escape the woes of the world?” he asks. “Perhaps some woes are inescapable,” answers Shevek. That isn’t a throw-away line about the evils of alcohol, but rather the positioning of the entire novel: there is no refuge from the pain that defines human existence, there is no Paradise, there are no short answers. You just gotta face it, and somehow carry on.
It occurs to me now that at least in terms of teenage boys, Ursula Le Guin is the anti-Ayn Rand. Give a teenage boy a copy of Atlas Shrugged and there’s a good chance he’ll grow up to be one of those horrible people who thinks he’s a superman void of any sense of social responsibility and that he’s benefitted not at all from a world constructed precisely to enrich men like him at the expense of everyone else. But give a teenage boy a copy of The Dispossessed and there’s a good chance he’ll, well, he won’t grow up to be that other guy.
I went on to read many other Le Guin novels. The Left Hand of Darkness is perhaps more relevant than ever, reflecting the current understanding of fluid gender identities. The Word for World is Forest explored imperialism and militarism. And which novel is it that pays homage to Mao’s long march? I of course read the Earthsea Trilogy (hasn’t everyone?), but Le Guin’s fantasy work didn’t speak to me as did her “straight” sci-fi.
Another quote from The Dispossessed: “There’s a point, around the age of twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities.” I don’t know that I consciously made that choice, but I’ve certainly let my considerable peculiarities run. And when young people hike through the wilds of their peculiarities, they need signposts when they become lost and footholds when they stumble. Le Guin provided both for me. For that, I am grateful.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — most interesting is the Halifax Transit budget.
Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — the committee will discuss the Integrated Mobility Plan, which might result in tearing up the boardwalk and building a giant building because why not another one, eh?
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — the United Memorial Church on Kaye Street will be added to the Registry of Heritage Properties.
Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Art Room, Prospect Road Community Centre) — minor issues on the agenda.
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — no action items on the agenda.
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Tourism Nova Scotia is going to explain that TripAdvisor thing, maybe. Then they’ll all go play golf.
No public meetings.
Privacy in Big Data (Wednesday, 11:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Sébastien Gambs from the Université du Québec à Montréal will speak on “Privacy and Ethical Issues in Big Data: Current Trends and Future Challenges.”
A Legal Fiction (Thursday, 12:30pm, Weldon Law Building) — lawyer and author Anne Emery will speak. From the event listing:
Anne Emery is a Dal Law grad and the author of the Collins-Burke mystery series, set variously in Halifax, Cape Breton, Ireland, London and New York. She has won an Arthur Ellis Award, an Independent Publisher Book Awards silver medal, and the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction. “A master at creating a sense of place (in this case, her hometown of Halifax), and developing characters …” – Library Journal Starred Review. “One of Canada’s finest novelists.” (Jim Napier, Ottawa Review of Books). Anne’s tenth book, Though the Heavens Fall, will come out later this year. www.anneemery.com
Newfangled Exchange Series (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 2L10, Tupper Building) — a discussion about “the meaningful translation of research to support patient-centred care.”
Signposts in the Sky (Thursday, 7:15pm, Planetarium, Dunn Building) — $5 at the door; reductions for families, but no one under eight years old.
The Hunting Ground (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Room 101, Atrium) — a film screening and discussion led by the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre.
Round Table Discussion (Thursday, 6pm, Room 174, Loyola Academic Complex) — the Women’s Centre hosts an open and in-depth discussion with Audrey MacNevin on the roots of Sexual Violence, how we can address the toxicity of these roots, and how to remedy the attitudes, perceptions, and biases that allow Sexual Violence to persist.
Mount Saint Vincent
No public events today.
Humour for the Humourless Radical (Thursday, 6:30pm, Room 404, Seton Academic Centre) — comedian and filmmaker Sean Devlin will speak.
No public events today.
Ancient Automatons (Thursday, 7pm, Alumni Hall) — Courtney Ann Roby from Cornell University, author of The Written Machine between Alexandria and Rome (2016), will speak.
In the harbour
3:40am: YM Movement, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
4pm: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.