Today, about a thousand miles southwest of us, an old man officially leaves his job so another old man can pick up the pieces…
Here’s what else is happening.
1. Vaccines delayed in getting to N.S.
Tim Bousquet’s regular COVID-19 update includes news that the next shipment of Pfizer vaccine will be delayed getting to Nova Scotia. We’ll likely see 13,500 fewer doses delivered over January and February, though the exact numbers aren’t yet certain.
Though more details of the delay are unknown, Dr. Robert Strang said in a briefing Tuesday that he’s been assured that whatever expected shipments are lost in the coming weeks, he’s been assured that they’ll be made up for by increased shipments in March, to put us back on schedule.
The postponement is due to the shutdown of a plant producing the vaccine. It’s been temporarily closed for renovations that will allow for increased production upon re-opening.
As of Monday, Nova Scotia had received 23,000 doses of the vaccine since Dec. 15. So far, 8,250 have been administered. The province has held back on delivering second doses, following Pfizer’s recommendations, and there will be no disruption in delivering second doses.
According to Strang and other officials who spoke yesterday, the delay is not excessive or worrisome to the province’s current three-phase plan to distribute the vaccine to Nova Scotians. We are currently still in the first phase, which is focusing on front-line workers and the most vulnerable in our population.
“The point of vaccine distribution at this point,” writes Bousquet, “is to protect the very most vulnerable in nursing homes and to learn the ropes of vaccine distribution so as to be prepared for the very large rollout when one million doses of the vaccine arrive in Nova Scotia from April through June.”
The second phase will begin in May and will expand distribution to remaining health-care and essential workers.
Phase 3, beginning in the summer, will include all Nova Scotians. Vaccinations in this phase will be distributed by age, with older members of the population receiving doses first. Each round of vaccinations will then expand to younger and younger Nova Scotians.
Yesterday, Bousquet asked Dr. Strang if, once we reach the third phase, younger people with health problems that make them more vulnerable to the virus will be able to receive their doses earlier, despite their age.
Strang said the plan for now is to stick with the age hierarchy at that point:
[W]e do understand those concerns. But we also have to understand that by far the biggest risk factor for severe disease, hospitalization and death is age. Other health conditions factor in, but nowhere near the extent of age.
So also knowing that as we do the planning, we really recognize that as we move into communities, basing it on age cohorts, it will actually allow us to move more quickly through the population and is the most efficient and fastest way to get all Nova Scotians access to vaccine. And we and even people who may have an underlying health condition, who may be younger, they will be protected as more and more people around them are immunized as well. So we’re really focused on age as the main way we prioritize.
The other way we’re looking at is where do we have vulnerable populations based on long standing socioeconomic factors — our First Nations, our African Nova Scotia communities. We also have vulnerable populations who are in congregate living settings like our shelters, like our correctional facilities, that need to be put out there up front about how we make sure they get vaccinated as well.
But I come back to that really this is about getting the opportunity for all Nova Scotia to get immunized in the most efficient, fastest way possible. And sticking with an age-based cohort approach as we get into community clinics will get us there.
Other COVID-19 news:
- Four new cases were announced in Nova Scotia Tuesday
- 3 in Central Zone, all related to travel. One is a student at two universities, living off campus
- 1 in Northern Zone, who had close contact with previously known case
- There are now 22 known active cases in Nova Scotia. None hospitalized.
Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):
And here is the active caseload for the second wave:
2. Atlantic Gold is being taken to court
Joan Baxter continues her reporting on Atlantic Gold and the environmental issues surrounding it.
In her last piece on the subject, Baxter reported that 32 environmental charges had been laid against the mining company, which is owned by the Australian parent company, St. Barbara.
Now, the charges will be tested. Atlantic Gold will have its day in court on Jan. 26.
Clay excavation at the mining site has muddied the water at a nearby brook multiple times with sediment from the site’s tailing facility. Locals have brought their concerns to the company and Nova Scotia Environment, but it’s kept happening.
Of the 32 environmental charges, Baxter reports that
26…relate to alleged “silt releases” at the Moose River mine, three to “alleged violations of the company’s industrial approval,” and another three to “alleged violations of water withdrawal approval for exploration activities.”
None of the charges are related to a spill that occurred in 2019 that involved “380,000 litres of contaminant-laced slurry, which flowed from the processing plant where ore is crushed and gold extracted, and down a trench underneath the double-lined 500-metre pipe that should have been carrying the effluent to the tailings pond.”
Baxter pokes holes through the excuses Atlantic Gold has come up with for the contamination of local waters — heavy rainfall is a common one. Considering Nova Scotia’s weather and the increasing threat of global warming, it’s also a weak one. Baxter includes the voices of locals, Atlantic Gold reps, Nova Scotia Environment officials, reports from other publications, and information from long court and public documents, to paint a clear picture of an intricate, important environmental story in our own backyard.
It’s comprehensive reporting like this that keeps businesses honest and prevents exploitation of our province and land from being hidden in the shadows.
It’s behind the paywall, but if you’re a subscriber you can read the full story here. It’s worth delving into. There’s far too much in this story to include in one Morning File blurb. I’d urge you to check out the full piece if to see just what Atlantic Gold’s up to in this province.
3. Art Gallery of Nova Scotia asking HRM to contribute $7M toward new waterfront site
This past year has been hard on the wallet for most of us. There’ve been no shortage of people and institutions asking for financial relief: the unemployed, small businesses, affordable housing projects, health facilities… now you can add Halifax’s new proposed art gallery to that list.
On Tuesday, Zane Woodford reports, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) asked Halifax regional council to consider contributing $7 million to the construction of the city’s new waterfront gallery.
The new gallery project, set to be built on what is currently a parking lot beside Salter and Lower Water streets, is estimated to have a total cost of $130 million — $97 million in total building costs; $30 million in consulting, project management, testing and inspection costs; and $3 million in moving costs. The winning design was announced in November and is pictured above.
AGNS is still fundraising for the new gallery, but here’s the breakdown so far:
- $70 million dollars to come from the province
- $30 million promised from the federal government
- $10 million dollars donated from the Sobey Foundation
Assuming council agrees to give the requested $7 million — which they would pay out over five years — that still leaves $13 million needed to pay for the project. Even then, AGNS is hoping to raise closer to $40 million (including the Sobey donation) in order to add to the gallery’s collection once construction’s complete.
Yesterday, AGNS director and CEO Nancy Noble made her case to council during an Audit and Finance Standing Committee meeting, who in turn requested a staff report for future review.
Woodford covered the meeting:
Mayor Mike Savage asked whether AGNS would be able to make it work without a contribution from HRM.
“It will be a lot more difficult for us to raise the full amount if we don’t have some contribution from the city,” Noble said.
“It’s a very difficult time and I recognize that, but it’s also made our job difficult too because raising money isn’t as easy as it was 18 months ago. It is integral, it absolutely is integral.”
Savage said he was open to the capital funding request, but he’s not willing to pay for any operating costs.
“I’m certainly interested in considering what we’re being asked for, which is a contribution to capital, considering it’s a difficult time and it’s a significant ask. It’s kind of the largest I’ve ever seen, but I’m prepared to consider that,” he said.
The staff report on the request will be reviewed by council’s budget committee during its debate on the 2021-2022 budget. Last week, Woodford reported that councillors had voted to build the next budget around a 1.9% increase to the average property tax bill.
Council will also have to decide what to do with Salter Street, shown above in Google maps. The municipality currently owns the street and has agreed that part of the street next to the Salter block could be considered part of the gallery land, though they’ve yet to agree to sell or grant it to AGNS.
Considering the price tag, I really hope the bottom of Salter stays high and dry for the foreseeable future. In 2019, Nicoletta Dini wrote about the potential effects of rising harbour waters around HRM, and found that rising sea levels could start submerging waterfront properties before the end of the century. Here at the Examiner, Jennifer Henderson raised the issue again one year ago when the province put out a request for proposals to design the new building. The 91 page RFP made no mention of rising sea levels in its building requirements.
4. Councillors to billionaire: two regular-sized mansions will have to do
In another report from (virtual) City Hall, Zane Woodford writes that Halifax and West Community Council has denied billionaire John Risley’s request to connect his two south end mansions.
The mansions in question, which Woodford first reported on earlier this month, sit on adjacent properties overlooking the Northwest Arm. Last summer, Risley had applied to get around a land-use by-law requiring buildings in the neighbourhood to be six feet from the property line. Connecting the buildings would obviously require the buildings to be zero feet from that line.
It would also create one 22,000-square-foot mansion with two kitchens, eight bedrooms and 15 bathrooms.
A report from two city planners justified the decision to deny Risley’s appeal:
“[T]he [land-use bylaw] intends to limit the ability for a building to be located on more than one lot and intends to limit buildings in the area to a single dwelling unit. All other lots in the area are subject to the same requirements and the properties in question have no unique physical conditions that require a variance to allow orderly development.
The appropriate response to the desire to link the two buildings for a single occupancy is to connect the structures, consolidate the lots and remove one of the two kitchens.”
But Risley, who called in on the meeting to make his case, said he wanted the connected houses for hosting guests and fundraisers, and therefore needed the two kitchens. Woodford writes that Risley didn’t think it would be a problem having two kitchens in one unit, since he already built a two-kitchen home in the south end before.
All but two councillors voted to deny Risley’s request. Coun. Shawn Cleary compared the situation to a homeowner connecting a garage to a house and noted that none of the neighbours objected. Coun. Patty Cuttell argued the circumstances were so unique that an exception to the bylaw in this case was unlikely to set a precedent for future buildings in the area.
In the middle of an affordable housing crisis, Risley will have to continue to walk outside to travel between his two homes.
5. Development agreement approved for Adsum project receiving federal housing cash through Halifax
Halifax and West Community Council also approved a development yesterday. Here’s Zane Woodford again — going back to back to back, Reggie Jackson style — with his final story in today’s Morning File:
Halifax councillors voted Tuesday to approve a new development agreement for one of three affordable housing projects receiving federal funding through the municipality.
After a public hearing at the Halifax and West Community Council, councillors voted unanimously in favour of the development agreement for Adsum Women and Children’s property in Lakeside.
The proposal from Adsum is one of three receiving federal Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) money through the municipality, with Adsum planning to spend $3,977,188 on its property at 158 Greenhead Road in Lakeside to create 25 units for women, families and trans persons at-risk of homelessness.
The Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia made the application for a development agreement on Adsum’s behalf.
The planned development has been modified to meet the requirements of the RHI. These changes will include employing passive house design to the new building to cut energy use by as much as 70% and adding five panelized housing structures to the site for a total of 25 permanent units.
In the article, Woodford quotes a woman who lives in Adsum’s Dartmouth housing. She spoke at the public hearing, saying the organization had saved her life:
“If I hadn’t found the supportive, affordable housing opportunity given to me by Adsum, I would have continued to struggle with mental health issues and homelessness, I’m sure of that,” she said. “Without this kind of support, the cycle of homelessness continues.”
Hearing something like that reminds me why Woodford sits through the drier parts of council meetings: they can have real impacts on people who need help in our communities.
6. DAL releasing COVID coping cartoons
The pandemic has changed the way things look in our everyday lives. Pubs are sparse, lines at the grocery are spaced out, masks are everywhere.
Now, even our cartoons have adapted.
As Yvette d’Entremont reports, Dalhousie University’s Healthy Populations Institute (HPI) is releasing five animated videos to share their research in a way that’s accessible to kids and non-academics alike:
Academics have been busy capturing the experiences of children, families, and communities as they live through the pandemic and its restrictions and challenges. At HPI, they wanted to share that information along with evidence-based coping strategies. They hit on the idea of creating short, family-friendly, easily digestible animated videos to share their research with the broader public.
“Research is meant for practical use and it’s not meant to live within the walls of academia. It’s meant to get into the hands of people and organizations that can make meaningful use of it,” Ritcey said. “We’re really excited at the Healthy Populations Institute to have a mandate of disseminating knowledge in interesting, meaningful ways so that people can actually change based on it.”
While acknowledging that public health restrictions are required to limit human-to-human transmission of the virus, Ritcey said those restrictions have resulted in many unintended consequences that have left people struggling to maintain healthy lifestyles and behaviours.
The videos are being released tonight on an online event called Healthy at Home. It’ll be an hour-long virtual discussion with researchers from DAL’s Faculty of Health about the emerging impacts of COVID-19 on our wellbeing.
If you don’t have time tonight, the videos will be released on HPI’s Youtube channel after the discussion.
For the full story on what went into the cartoons and why HPI decided to share their research this way, check out d’Entremont’s full article here.
7. Fishing groups have status in Northern Pulp appeal
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson
Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Heather Robertson is allowing several Maritime fishing organizations to participate in Northern Pulp’s appeal of an order issued by the N.S. Environment Minister back in May 2020.
Members of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, PEI Fishermen’s Association, and Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board fish in the Northumberland Strait near the mill which discharged effluent into the same waters for 52 years until closing down a year ago. (Northern Pulp had not opposed intervenor status for the Pictou Landing First Nation, which lives adjacent to the toxic waste site)
The Minister’s Order imposed 25 conditions on Northern Pulp dealing with the monitoring and decommissioning of the Boat Harbour wastewater treatment facility next to the shuttered mill. In her oral decision given today, Robertson noted that the thrust of Northern Pulp’s appeal revolves around the company’s assertion it is no longer responsible for what happens during the de-commissioning because that responsibility rests with the province, which terminated the company’s lease of Boat Harbour 10 years early.
Robertson said while the company’s decision to appeal the order may be about who is responsible, the de-commissioning of the facility is the subject of the Order. She ruled that subject is “of concern” to various fishing groups which have demonstrated their “interest and potential adverse impact on them” during other proceedings — including the Environmental Assessment of a replacement treatment facility.
“They have a real interest in the decommissioning of the Boat Harbour facility,” noted Robertson, referring to the fishing groups.
It may turn out to be a hollow victory since the court appeal of the minister’s order isn’t going anywhere, at least for now. When the judge asked lawyers for Northern Pulp and the province how they intend to proceed with the appeal, both Harvey Morrison for Northern Pulp and Sean Foreman for the province indicated active “discussions” are underway that could yield results which will make this legal skirmish go away.
A bigger legal drama continues to unfold behind the scenes. It’s well known the company owes the province close to $85 million for loan repayments over the past decades. And Premier Stephen McNeil has said on several occasions the decision to shut down the Boat Harbour wastewater treatment facility could wind up costing the province millions of dollars, if Northern Pulp follows through on its threat to file a lawsuit over breach of contract.
Northern Pulp Nova Scotia has indicated it will continue to pursue another provincial Environmental Assessment aimed at re-opening its dormant property in Pictou County. Discussions among lawyers continue.
8. Liberal leadership candidates’ positions on welfare of seniors
Jennifer Henderson reported last week on provincial concerns over how to improve long-term care for seniors. So, with the convention to pick Stephen McNeil’s successor slated to start Feb. 5, where do Liberal leadership candidates Randy Delourey, Iain Rankin and Labi Kousoulis stand on senior policy? Click here for the full story.
As the U.S. changes the guard, let’s keep our borders closed to deeply divisive politics
It’s impossible to ignore the magnitude of the news from the U.S. today. The country has become deeply divided culturally and politically in the past four years, culminating (hopefully) on Jan. 6 when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. And while the outgoing president isn’t responsible for all the tumult down south, he hasn’t done much to stop it. He’s been evasive in condemning acts of violence from the far right and, furthermore, been impeached for actively stoking it.
Here in Canada, American influence is strong, and that’s worrisome given what’s going on down there right now. Ideas and trends spill over the 49th parallel, even when the border is closed. As our current Prime Minister’s father once famously said that living next to the U.S. is like sleeping next to an elephant; we feel every twitch and grunt no matter how even-tempered the animal is.
And, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, it hasn’t been particularly even-tempered lately.
It’s been difficult to watch the news unfolding in the States with the usual Canadian smugness. “Oh those crazy Americans” has given way to concern for a neighbour in trouble, and a worry that the divisive rhetoric that’s become commonplace below us could be adopted up here.
That’s why I was relieved to see Conservative leader Erin O’Toole distance himself and his party from the far right this week. First, in a statement on the party’s website and then in his rebuke of and dissociation with MP Derek Sloan. You can be cynical and say both acts were obvious political moves — an attempt to distance the party from the shit show that the American conservative-leaning party has become — but it would have been just as easy for Canadian politicians to have tiptoed around condemning far right extremism, or to tacitly condone racism in this country. The last four years of American politics show that that strategy can be very successful. Perhaps not in governing a country, but in attaining power, the results are there.
But in the statement released Sunday, O’Toole said “There is no place for the far right in our Party” and unequivocally condemned the violence on Capitol Hill earlier this month. Well done.
In the same statement, unfortunately, he goes on to accuse the Liberals of “import[ing] some of the fear and division we have witnessed in the United States” by trying to place that far right label on the CPC. Not exactly unifying. (The Liberals have their own problems, but given the right-leaning politics of the CPC, they have the greatest opportunity to stoop to capitalizing on recent far right populism and anger).
If O’Toole is angry about this label, he can’t be totally surprised. Last year, the Conservative Party adopted some of the divisive tactics we’ve seen used down south. O’Toole ran on the slogan to “take Canada back” and Andrew Scheer’s exit speech as party leader over the summer compared the Liberals to the former Communist Bloc:
“In the 1980’s, the Soviet Block and Eastern European countries all had the same rhetoric – their policies were supposed to help the poor and promote equality – the exact same rhetoric that the left is using today. But all it caused was misery.”
There’s something about taking our country back and accusing the opposition of being in favour of communism that’s very off-putting for me.
In that same exit speech, Scheer urged Canadians to “check out smart, independent, objective organizations like the Post Millenial” for their news, a publication who released a video yesterday entitled “Western separatism surging! Can it be averted?” In it, the Post Millenial speaks with a member of Project Confederation, a western group looking for Ottawa to either essentially grant Alberta independence to govern itself within Canada, or to allow the province to secede. It’s the Post Millenial’s second video on secession in as many weeks.
But O’Toole hasn’t doubled down on populist rhetoric this week. He hasn’t sidestepped a clear rebuke of far right extremism. Four years ago that would’ve seemed the obvious political move. Today, given what’s happened to American politics, it’s a relief.
So if it seems like kicking Derek Sloan out of the Conservative caucus for accepting a little over $100 from a white supremacist is overkill, or that the statement against the far right is just a politician paying lip service to what the larger public might deem appropriate, just look south and remember how quickly cultural divisions can fester and explode when politicians remain silently complicit on hate, racism and violence.
So hats off to the CPC this week. In a country as large and multi-cultural as Canada, there will always be divisions and disagreements. That’s not a problem so long as our politics remain rooted, at least somewhat, in respect, good will and reality.
I hope American politics begins the slow crawl back to those ideals today.
Nova Scotia Crystal made the announcement last week that they’d be closing their doors permanently, another victim of COVID-19 restrictions (although construction on the Queen’s Marque couldn’t have helped). An outpouring of condolences for the unique business flooded social in the following days. From Mayor Mike Savage to Adsum House, from Nova Scotians all over the province and from people all over the world who’d received handcrafted gifts from the waterfront staple, it seemed everyone was a little heartbroken to hear the news and wanted to pay tribute.
Feature writer extraordinaire, John Demont, wrote his own tribute in the Chronicle Herald Monday that captured the magic of the shop (which is still open by the way). How it feels like you’re stepping into another world when you walk in, surrounded by glittering pieces of perfection against the backdrop of the massive fiery kiln that glows through a window looking into the shop. Demont really captures what I believe many of us will miss about this special store. Not just the crystal products themselves, but the magic of the place.
From the beginning of this pandemic, and the restrictions that have come with it, it’s been a concern how small businesses will fare. We’ve already started to see some of the dominoes fall. Nova Scotia Crystal is just the latest in a list of closing Halifax businesses. In a recent stroll around Schmidtville, the neighbourhood where I spent the first two thirds of 2020, I’ve already noticed the city’s changing face. Aside from the demolition of the Mills Brothers Building — unrelated to the pandemic; I assume it was taken down to maintain Halifax’s crane-to-pit ratio — I noticed the Fickle Frog and Rock Bottom pubs have changed names. And Humani-T on South Park, where I worked part-time during school and received my first layoff of the pandemic, has shut its doors for good.
For a comprehensive look at some of the businesses we’ve lost in HRM over the past year, check out Victoria Walton’s retrospective published last month in the Coast. In a year where I didn’t really care to look at any best-of lists, this look back is a bittersweet look at Halifax before the world shut down:
While we were all at home trying to feed sourdough starters and making dalgona coffee, local businesses were mourning the loss of our patronage. Some of them applied for federal government aid, like the CEBA account and CEWS grant. But that financial drop in the bucket couldn’t prevent a tidal wave of forced closures and its devastating effects.
Many have managed to switch their business models to take-out and quickly create online shops to stay afloat against all odds—and many more are staggering on their last legs—there are dozens of restaurants and businesses that have closed their doors permanently this year.
So pour one out for them. Reminisce about the time you went to Humani-T Cafe on South Park Street on a busy summer day and waited in line for two hours to order oreo vegan gelato, even though you weren’t actually vegan. Or the time you walked by Bramoso Pizza on Quinpool Road and went inside on a whim, only to discover what was possibly the best pizza of your life.
And don’t forget to patronize the small businesses that are still out there, treading water in this vast sea of unknown, waiting for their customers to return.
That last part’s important. Keep supporting local as best you can.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — live webcast, with captioning available on a text-only site.
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — virtual meeting; live broadcast not available.
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — live audio broadcast with PowerPoint presentations.
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting; live or dial-in broadcast not available.
Moving Through Trauma: Indigenous Futurism, Survivance, and the Apocalypse in The Marrow Thieves (Wednesday, 7pm) — online talk with writer Tiffany Morris.
Indigenous Futurism is a field of literature, art, and other expressions that roots Indigenous presence in the future, removing the stereotypical historicization of Indigenous Peoples from the present. In The Marrow Thieves, the future is dystopian and apocalyptic, signaling the continuation of colonialist trauma from past to future. This talk explores how the apocalypse can create narratives of survival and survivance that situate The Marrow Thieves and other Indigenous literature in the future.
Can I Get a Witness? (Thursday, 7pm) — benefit show and virtual book launch of Lissa Skitolsky’s Hip-Hop as Philosophical Text and Testimony: Can I Get a Witness?
No public events.
Mawio’mi (Thursday, 11am) — an online celebration of the Indigenous spirit, featuring Mi’kma’ki drumming, dance, storytelling, and song
No public events.
Living in Reciprocity: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on Indigenous-Black Relations (Thursday, 7pm) — Zoom lecture and Q&A with Bonita Lawrence from York University
In the harbour
06:30 Nolhan Ava, cargo ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00 Selfoss, container ship, arrives Pier 42 from Argentina
11:45 Selfloss sails for Portland
16:30 MOL Motivator, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
18:00 CSL Tarantau, self-discharging bulk carrier, arrives at Pier 9 from Sydney
Good luck, America.
Also, is Alberta really looking at opening up the Rockies in the south of the province to coal mining? Outside of increasing the province’s fossil fuel extraction, the idea of scarring what is arguably Canada’s most beautiful landscape is heartbreaking. It reminds me of an old Onion article: Secretary of interior says knocking down Rocky Mountains could really open nation up. Unfortunately, it’s not an Onion article this time. Just a shortsighted reality.