1. Partners for Care closes up shops
Partners for Care, the non-profit group which ran half a dozen gift shops at the QE2 Health Sciences Centre for 25 years, abruptly closed the doors at its remaining four locations Tuesday.
A charity without charitable activities to operate raises some interesting questions, particularly as Partners for Care evolved from the QE2 Health Sciences Centre Auxiliary, which succeeded a charity begun at the Victoria General in the 1970s.
An emailed statement to employees from Jane Davies, the executive director of Partners for Care, announced the large gift shop at the Halifax Infirmary (Robie Street entrance) as well as three smaller stores at Camp Hill Veterans’, the Dickson Centre, and Centennial sites were closing immediately. Four people are now out of steady jobs.
2. Halifax rents up 3.8%, vacancy rate down to 1%
Zane Woodford takes a look at recently released rental market numbers for Halifax, and finds some worrisome trends:
Halifax’s apartment rental vacancy rate has dropped to a new low of 1% — below that of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) released its 2019 fall rental market survey on Wednesday. The numbers represent privately-owned apartments in buildings with three or more units, based on an annual survey conducted in October.
Last year’s vacancy rate, 1.6%, was lower than it had been since CMHC started tracking this data in the late 1980s.
The plummeting vacancy rate has pushed average rent in Halifax up 3.8% to $1,113.
3. Retraining forestry workers
Jennifer Henderson wrote this item.
Information sessions organized by Nova Scotia Works and Service Canada to provide career counselling and re-training for people who work in forestry are getting a mixed response.
Close to 200 unionized workers at Northern Pulp have been given layoff notices for the end of April but hundreds of others who cut pulp or work in the woods could be unemployed at the end of this month once the 53 year-old mill closes. Weather was not a factor this past Tuesday when just six people turned up for three sessions advertised in New Glasgow, Middle Musquodoboit, and Liverpool.
Three more Nova Scotia Works open houses are scheduled for today in Sheet Harbour, Bridgewater, and Antigonish and there are others advertised throughout the Province in the upcoming weeks.
Shannon Kerr, a spokesperson for the Labour Department, says attendance was high last week.
“Our first in-person sessions were held last week in Pictou for Northern Pulp employees. Approximately 225 employees attended, and they told us they want to keep working in Nova Scotia. That’s what we want to hear, and our information sessions are designed to help them do just that.”
Yesterday, Communications Nova Scotia issued a news release to say the provincial government is creating “new training paths” in response to concerns expressed by these mill workers facing layoffs. The release says:
The Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency and Nova Scotia Community College are working together to enhance programming to connect these workers to opportunities in the skilled trades.
Workers who participate will have free access to one-on-one career counselling and a skills training plan customized to their individual needs. Those who are ready to be certified in a skilled trade can have the fees waived.
Opportunities could include a steamfitter/pipefitter in an industrial setting who may want to become a plumber, a person who operates heavy equipment in the woods and wants to become a heavy duty equipment technician, someone who has done electrical work at a sawmill and wants to become a construction electrician or someone who works with equipment or technologies or as a labourer who would like to acquire a skilled trade.
Workers who are interested can register by calling the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency at 1-800-494-5651.
The government news release goes on to say people with work experience in a particular trade may be able to challenge for certification which would improve their re-hiring prospects. Others may need to apprentice in a new trade entirely. The province is assigning $1.5 million from the $50 million Transition Fund to support this training it believes could help up to 200 people working in forestry, which includes mill workers but is open to others employed in the woods.
In addition to open houses being offered by Nova Scotia Works offices, the government has set up a couple of phone lines for information and emotional support. Impacted workers and businesses who have questions or need help can call the toll-free support line at: 1-888-315-0110. There is also a professional counselling support provided by Morneau Shepell, toll-free at: 1-866-885-6540
4. Transport Canada won’t increase runway safety zones
Transport Canada has failed to upgrade regulations covering runway end buffer zones, reports David Burke for CBC News, despite urging by the Transportation Safety Board that it follow international example and do so.
For 12 years, the independent agency has urged Transport Canada to introduce new rules to force airports to expand the flat, empty spaces at the end of runways that give pilots extra room to stop if a plane can’t be halted in time.
“It has a safe place to decelerate and that would reduce the risk of injury or death,” Kathy Fox, chair of the Transportation Safety Board, said in an interview last year.
The risk of overruns has become clear in Nova Scotia, where in the last 14 months two planes have gone off the runway at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
While other airports in Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver have already adopted 300-metre safety areas recommended by the TSB, the Halifax airport is sticking with the regulated 150 metre zones until Transport Canada changes its requirements, reports Burke.
The Halifax airport said all of its runway end safety areas are 150 metres in length. If Transport Canada should require a larger area, the airport will make the changes to keep up with the regulations, an airport spokesperson said in an email.
Some airports have gone further and adopted the full recommendation from the TSB. The Ottawa International Airport, the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport and the Vancouver International Airport all extended their runway end safety areas to 300 metres.
The 300-metre area best reduces the hazards involved in runway overruns, according to the TSB. It’s also the length recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency that helps develop international rules for aviation.
5. Child poverty report shows little progress in Nova Scotia since 1989
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has released its 2019 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Nova Scotia, and the news is not great. Child poverty rates for Nova Scotia (along with Ontario) appear nearly stagnant when compared to the state of affairs in 1989, the year an all-party resolution to end child poverty was passed in the House of Commons.
While Nova Scotia’s rate appears flat across this thirty-year period, the incidence of child poverty has been fluctuating. The report cites a significant increase in child poverty between 1989 and 2000, and then a significant decrease since then, putting us back nearly where we started three decades ago.
The report also highlights the effect of government transfers (things like federal and provincial Child Benefits, the Goods and Services Tax credit, the Working Income Tax Benefit, Employment Insurance, Income Assistance, and the Affordable Living Tax Credit) on child poverty rates, noting the significant effects of the Canada Child Benefit.
6. Uber reacts negatively to having drivers licensed the same as taxi drivers
In a story that could be filed under “No Surprise Here,” Global News’s Jesse Thomas reports that Uber is concerned about the possibility that ride-hailing drivers will be required to hold a Class 4 Nova Scotia license, similar to taxi drivers. What is surprising is that Uber’s claim that requiring a Class 4 license would be a “barrier to offering safer rides” actually made it into Global’s headline, completely unchallenged.
I think we can all see how a more stringent licensing system might mean fewer people take up working for Uber or Lyft, but it seems like more of a stretch to assert that this is a barrier to safer rides, and I can’t find evidence to support it. Passing along possibly false assertions without question, particularly in a headline, is certainly not going to contribute to an informed public debate on ride-hailing, or any topic.
City council’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee will hear a staff presentation on “Priorities for Determining Free Ferry and Transit Service” at their meeting Thursday at 4:30pm.
Halifax Transit’s revenue last year from fares and passes was $33.68 million, which is a pretty big chunk of money to replace in a budget. It is possible by nearly doubling the current tax rate which funds transit (a combined regional transit rate and a local transit rate, for those living within one kilometre of a stop.) Considering that councillors have a hard time letting taxes rise even enough to match inflation, this seems like a political obstacle that no-one is ready to overcome. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth thinking about.
Making transit free would eliminate the need for discount programs like the low income transit pass and the E-pass, as well as the income assistance pass program, making access to transit much fairer across income groups. It would instantly and effortlessly give us all-door boarding, which could actually speed up the bus system, though this is also possible to accomplish within a fared system. And it would eliminate fare management as a concern, and save Halifax Transit from fumbling their way to giving riders an actually convenient and modern way to pay a fare. Most of all, it would make transit a true piece of municipal infrastructure, funded by property taxes and not user fees. Just like, say, most city streets.
One thing free transit would likely not accomplish, however, is more people choosing transit. At least there’s not much evidence that it would, based on the experience of places that have tried it. (The oft-cited free transit experiment in Tallinn, Estonia probably caused an increase in ridership of only 1.2%, according to this study.)
If your goal is to increase transit mode-share — to get people to chose transit over private vehicle use more often — then transit needs to be faster and more reliable, and it needs to be these things more than it needs to be free.
Riding transit is already far cheaper than owning and operating a private car, but people still chose to drive, mostly because of TIME. When people cite reasons for not choosing transit, the “it takes 10 minutes by car and 45 minutes by bus” argument always surfaces, and for good reason. Time is precious, and taking public transport, in most cases in this city, takes up far more of it.
There’s also the reliability factor. Owning your own transport is not without its hiccups, but at least you feel in control of it, mostly. Relying on a public system for transport can feel riskier, because you can’t control it. It’s not just about “will the bus show up on time?”, but also, “will it run when I need it?” Late buses, and routes that appear and disappear over the course of a day or week erode rider trust in the system, and make transit less attractive.
Of course, fares matter too. The higher they are, the more that people might perceive driving as a cheaper option (or soon, Uber’s or Lyft’s artificially deflated prices.) But on the whole, investments of political time and energy would be better spent on things like transit-only lanes, increased bus frequencies, and expanded service hours. You know, things that would make transit a better choice, even at $2.75.
In a related matter, Halifax Transit is asking for feedback on its relatively new program offering free fares to kids 12 and under, put in place at the same time as the last fare hike in the fall. You can weigh in here, but be warned, you will be asked to sign in or create an account.
I was surprised to see this chart come across my Twitter feed last week, showing data from a report by the International Energy Agency and put together by Blake Shaffer of the University of Alberta.
Shaffer’s piece in The Conversation explains some of the whys and hows behind Canada’s shameful #1 place at the top of this list. Our fuel consumption per kilometre was actually dropping until 2013, when it flattened out and started to increase. Around the same time, the Canadian penchant for trucks and SUVs surged, with truck sales outstripping cars in about 2010.
What the trend comes down to, writes Shaffer, is cost.
Far and away the biggest reason for Canada’s fuel inefficient vehicles comes down to cost. Simply put, the cost to purchase and operate a gas guzzler in Canada (or the U.S.) is far less than the rest of the world.
This cost difference comes in two forms: upfront charges for vehicle registration and gas prices.
In Europe, vehicle registrations are often based on the vehicle’s fuel economy or emissions profile. In France, for example, car buyers face a sliding “bonus-malus” scale (or “feebate”). High-emitting vehicles incur a registration charge up to €10,000 while zero-emission vehicles receive €6,000 in rebates. And in Norway, where new vehicles are subject to a 25 per cent value-added tax and up to €10,000 in registration fees, electric vehicles are exempt from both charges. It is little wonder that Norway has highest share of new sales of electric passenger cars.
And then there’s gas prices. While we often think of the obvious effect of low gas prices, ie that people drive more, low prices also affect decisions that impact average fuel economy, like what kind of car you buy. The trend line shows that average fuel consumption tends upwards as gas prices tend down, with Canada’s relatively low prices landing us on the high end for average fuel consumption.
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday,4:30pm, City Hall) — among other items, there’s a discussion of free ferry and transit service.
Port Wallace Public Participation Committee (Thursday, 6pm, Cafeteria, Dartmouth High School) — to discuss the Port Wallace Master Plan.
Budget Meeting – Contingency (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall) — agenda here.
No scheduled meetings for the rest of the week.
Newfangling Rounds: How emerging wireless technologies can shape the future of healthcare (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune ballroom, VG Site) — Srini Sampalli will talk.
Komqwejwi’kasikl (hieroglyphic) Birch Bark Workshop with Michelle Sylliboy (Thursday, 4pm, Indigenous Student Centre, 1325 Edward Street) — art supplies provided, limited space. Register here.
The Human Right to Food (Thursday, 6pm, Community Room, Halifax Central Library) — a panel discussion. Email here for more info.
Architecture Lecture (Thursday, 6pm, Halifax Central Library) — Nicholas Demers-Stoddart from Provencher_Roy will talk. Poster here.
Medical Students Art Show 2020 (Thursday, 7pm, Tupper Building Link and Foyer) — the theme is “Everyday Victories.”
Climate Goals: Addressing Intersecting Crises (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Meghan McMorris from the Ecology Action Centre will talk.
Welcome Reception for Deep Saini (Friday, 11am, LeMarchant Place Atrium) — Dal’s 12th president and vice-chancellor.
Abortion, Harm Reduction and the New Self-Care Movement (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Kinga Jelinska from Women Help Women International and Mariana Prandini Assis will present this Health Law and Policy Seminar.
Genocidal Studies and the Korean Civil War: Gender and Taesal (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Brendan Wright from the University of Toronto will talk.
Dimers are a Girl’s Best Friend: How Dimerization of Organic Radicals Leads to Interesting Magnetic Behaviour (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Katheryn E. Preuss from the University of Guelph will talk.
Gut Feeling (Friday, 6pm, Art Gallery, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — opening reception of exhibition by emerging artists who explore the
Gut biome, more bacteria than body; if we touch, our biomes change. Biomes exchange, collaborate, and change one another, intuiting needs through intricate communication.
The biome is always a work in progress. It is located in the individual, yet is communal in nature, more-than-human. How do we, in artistic and cultural communities, relate to a biome though artistic practices and processes?
Artist talk and tour Saturday, 2pm. More info here.
Humanitarian Aid and Child Protection (Friday, 12pm, McNally Main 227) — Judi Fairholm will talk.
Millions of children live in refugee or internally displaced camps and millions more are on the move, fleeing conflicts, disasters, violence and/or poverty. Humanitarians respond, but are we protecting these children from further harm, or do we bring more risks with us? If the Convention on the Rights of the Child informs State Parties, how do we action it and apply Article 19? What minimum standards guide this work; are they enough? These are some of the questions in front of us. This presentation will look at the realities, challenges and gaps facing humanitarian aid organizations as they seek to find ways to keep children safe.
Medical Malpractice, Coroner Morton Shulman, and the ‘Conspiracy of Silence’ (Friday, 12pm, MN219, McNally Building) — Blake Brown will talk.
Mount Saint Vincent
Free Physical Activity Program for Children (Fridays, 10:30am, starting January 31) – From the listing:
The MSVU Child and Youth Study Department will be offering its PACE (Physically Active Children Excel) program this winter for children ages 3 to 7 years, on Friday mornings from 10:30am – 11:30am, starting January 31. Children will be paired with student volunteers trained in Canadian Sport for Life Active Start principles and will explore and gain competencies in the areas of physical literacy, movement and outdoor play. Registration required: www.msvu.ca/pace
Crossing the Line: Challenging Stories of War and Peace in Nova Scotia (Friday, 12pm, Room 532, Seton Academic Centre) — Maya Eichler will discuss
the importance of paying attention to what stories are told in Nova Scotia about war and peace: What is the dominant narrative about war and peace; what stories are less visible, and why do these questions matter? Nova Scotia has a long history of military involvement, but also a rich and less well-known history of peace activism. Dr. Eichler will share diverse and often overlooked stories as told by local military veterans and peace activists from an edited collection being put together by the Mount Network for Community-Engaged Research on War.
Heather Hart: Northern Oracle (Saturday, 2pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — informal reception with the artist. From the listing:
Northern Oracle is an ambitious rooftop installation that emerges from the floor of the gallery, and is accompanied by a series of mixed media drawings. Through her work, Heather Hart considers Black histories, access to ownership, taking up physical space, and the significance of having a place to call home. Visitors may access both the rooftop and its floor level attic, while contemplating and enacting upon these vantage points. Northern Oracle provides a performative area: a locale for demonstration of power, influence, and for “shouting from the rooftop.” The “Oracle” is the heart of the work and a shrine where visitors may leave offerings.
American Sign Language interpretation will be provided.
8th Annual Conference of the Early Modern (Friday and Saturday) — Students in the Early Modern Studies Program will present a conference on their work. Further details including a conference schedule available here.
In the harbour
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
11:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
20:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania
21:30: RHL Agilitas sails for Kingston, Jamaica
23:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
Now at the stage of winter when it’s disappointing if the weather doesn’t shut things down.