1. Mapping the money
It’s raining money in Nova Scotia! The map above shows all the new money — $59,314,000 — the Rankin government has showered around the province since June 6. The map does not include $36 million in additional spending since March, when the the provincial budget was approved; that COVID-related spending includes $36 million to assist the tourism and accommodations sector and $20 million for small businesses through Impact grants and other programs.
2. Provincial judges argue ignoring pay raise recommendation was “political decision”
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
Provincial and Family Court judges have finally had their day in court during a review of the McNeil government’s decision to reject salary recommendations from an independent tribunal.
The Nova Scotia Provincial Judges Association, represented by lawyer Susan Dawes, argued that the 2017 decision by Stephen McNeil’s government to ignore recommendations that would have seen judges receive an 8.9% raise was “a political decision” that violates the principle of an independent judiciary.
At the time, the 40 provincial and family court judges were the second lowest paid in the country and the recommended pay raise would have increased their salaries to $238,513 per year. (Today they are the lowest paid in the country although they are among the “one percent” of Nova Scotians.)
As far back as 2015 during an interview with CTV’s Steve Murphy, Premier Stephen McNeil compared the tribunal’s function to “arbitration” and openly balked at his government being hostage to the decision of “three people on a tribunal.”
The McNeil government amended the Provincial Court Act in 2016 to make the tribunal’s recommendations non-binding, a decision lawyer Susan Dawes argued was unconstitutional during yesterday’s judicial review before Justice Ann Smith.
Dawes said only in an emergency such as “a bankruptcy or a war” could a government overrule the authority of the tribunal, although it could request the tribunal keep judges’ pay increases in line with other provincial civil servants. That’s exactly what Stephen McNeil was determined to do in 2017.
In February 2017, the McNeil government rejected the report of the tribunal which recommended salary increases of 8.9% over three years to bring judges closer to the national average. His government was in tense and protracted contract negotiations with teachers and thousands of other civil servants, which eventually resulted in a two-year wage freeze and a 1% increase imposed through legislation in August. (Remember that battle?)
McNeil understandably didn’t want the judges to break the wage pattern established for other groups negotiating with the province, although the judges argue their pay scale is actually none of the government’s business. (Their salaries, however, are paid with public money.)
The position of the Provincial Judges Association expressed in the court case yesterday is that the judges were the victim of “a political decision.” This was supported by documents presented to cabinet before the ministers made their decision to reject the tribunal’s recommendations. The documents were only obtained after a lawyer for the Provincial Judges Association convinced the Supreme Court of Canada (this crowd has money to go all the way to the top court) to waive the principle of “cabinet confidentiality” to allow the disclosure of a “communications plan” presented to the premier and his ministers.
The communications plan stated “any salary increase may have an impact on current labour negotiations.” And, “if the government accepts the recommendations of the tribunal, members of the public may wonder why government enacted legislation to control judges salaries in the first place.”
In summing up, Dawes — appearing by video from Manitoba — said: “the government chose to mirror that public sector wage proposal when it made its submission for judges. To boil down our position, if you accept the government’s position that ‘the wage envelope’ had to govern for judges, the tribunal would become a largely pointless exercise. The outcome would, in effect, be pre-determined by government. We say this runs entirely contrary to the concept of the tribunal being an independent, objective, and effective tribunal when the goal of it is to de-politicize judicial compensation.”
Dawes requested that Justice Smith impose the wage settlement proposed by the tribunal back in 2017. The review should finish today with arguments from the province.
3. Another ZERO new case day; blockades at the border
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No new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia on Wednesday. That’s the second day this week of zero cases. Tim Bousquet will have today’s numbers (maybe another zero day?) when they’re released this afternoon, but for now, here’s his roundup from Wednesday, which includes these breakdowns:
The big COVID news from yesterday was the blockade at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border. As you may recall, on Tuesday Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang announced “modified” border restrictions with New Brunswick, whose premier Blaine Higgs decided to open to the rest of Canada. As Bousquet explains in the update, by 5 pm the border was blocked. There were protestors there along with Cumberland MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin.
The blockade continued into Wednesday. Brett Ruskin at CBC interviewed one protestor named Jenn Moodie, who pronounced Rankin’s name as “Ranklin” and said vaccines were “poison.”
Smith-McCrossin, meanwhile, was hanging out in Halifax looking to speak with Rankin, who was in Lunenburg announcing money for the film industry. Later in the day, Smith-McCrossin wrote this on Facebook:
Update: last night I requested protesters to open the highway for safety reasons & everyone them I would go to Halifax to meet with the Premier on their behalf to have their voices are heard.
Chambers of commerce in Halifax and Moncton wrote statements about the effects the blockade was having on businesses in both province. People on social media mentioned how patients were missing appointments, including for cancer treatments. Workers were stuck and couldn’t get to their jobs.
I’ll admit I tried to avoid the whole thing on social media, but Bousquet wrote:
It’s entirely possible the protest against the restrictions was “hijacked” by, well, some anti-vaxxer nutbars. But if so, Smith-McCrossin hasn’t called them out in unambiguous language. By all appearances, she’s not willing to make a meaningful statement against a blockade that she herself personally inspired.
Which is too bad, because lost in all this is some rational discussion of the restrictions.
You can read Bousquet’s entire update here.
Oh, and there’s a COVID briefing at 3pm today. You can watch that here.
4. Constable says he didn’t know Corey Rogers chugged half-pint outside Halifax hospital before arrest
Zane Woodford continues his coverage of the Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing where three Halifax Regional Police constables, Justin Murphy, Ryan Morris, and Donna Lee Paris, are testifying about the night Corey Rogers was arrested and placed in a cell at headquarters on Gottingen. Rogers died that night in June 2016.
On Wednesday, Murphy testified he didn’t think Rogers needed medical attention after the three constables dragged him into his cell. Woodford, writes:
Jason Cooke, lawyer for Jeannette Rogers, Rogers’ mother, cross-examined Murphy on Wednesday, asking the officer for more detail about the night he and his colleagues arrested Rogers outside the IWK hospital in Halifax.
Cooke asked Murphy about his knowledge of Rogers’ level of intoxication, citing the call to police stating Rogers was “extremely intoxicated,” and Murphy’s previous dealings with Rogers.
Murphy testified he knew Rogers had an alcohol problem, and recognized him from his time “on the wagon,” working the police van in downtown Halifax.
In one of the videos shown to the board this week, Morris is heard saying he was “impressed” how quickly he saw Rogers chug a half-pint of alcohol outside the hospital, before Murphy and Paris arrived on scene.
Murphy testified he didn’t know about the half-pint until Morris made that comment, after dragging Rogers into the cell, but he still wasn’t concerned about the amount because Rogers was an alcoholic.
Cooke asked whether it would have been helpful to know how much alcohol Rogers had consumed.
“It would be helpful, yes,” Murphy said.
Const. Paris is expected to testify today. Click here to read Woodford’s complete story.
Woodford will be back at the hearing today, so expect an article later this afternoon.
5. Study needs participants for “mix and match” vaccine research
The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing.
Yvette d’Entremont continues on her COVID-19 beat, and her recent article is about a Canadian research study that is looking for Halifax participants to learn more about mixing and matching COVID vaccines. It seems people are still “vaccine shopping” for their preferred vaccine, even though there’s no significant differences between them. d’Entremont talks with the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Joanne Langley, who says, “there’s no qualitative difference between Pfizer and Moderna.”
Langley tells d’Entremont these studies help scientists learn more about the mixing and matching and participants in these studies can help them find out:
It’s true that we don’t have a huge amount of information on mixing and matching (COVID-19) vaccines, but this is the way that we do that, by citizen participation. And in Nova Scotia, we’ve been really fortunate that there are people that want to advance science and are willing to help us do that.
6. The Tideline: Episode 34, Adam Warren / waants
Tara Thorne chats with the former leader of Glory Glory, who has spent the past few years building out his name as a go-to producer in the city. His debut album Love U Forever is due mid-July, so Warren gives us a preview of its offerings and discusses the long period of questioning his life choices from which it emerged. Listen to the full episode here.
The Tideline is free to listen. Check out some of the past episodes here.
Digging up the stories of Halifax’s Old Burying Ground
For the past few years, Craig Ferguson has been exploring cemeteries around Halifax and Dartmouth and telling the stories of the people buried in them through his Twitter account, Dead in Halifax. This month, Ferguson is running the new Twitter account for Halifax’s oldest cemetery, The Old Burying Ground, which is also a National Historic Site.
Ferguson recently joined the Old Burying Ground Foundation, and its members wanted to use social media to tell more about the cemetery, or as he puts it,” bring this 18th century burial ground into the 21st century.” Ferguson admits he used to find cemeteries “creepy,” but his attitude around them is changing as he explores and tweets the stories.
For me, I don’t know if I am less frightened of the prospect of death than I ever was, but I’m not scared of the things that surround it. I think that every headstone is a story of somebody’s life and I used to think every headstone was a story of someone’s death. If I could get other people to see it that way, then I succeeded.
The Old Burying Ground opened the day Edward Cornwallis’s ship landed ashore in Halifax. Ferguson says where the site sits now was then the city limits. The grounds, which are owned by St. Paul’s Church, are just one part of what Saint Mary’s professor and archeologist Jonathan Fowler calls the Halifax Necropolis, which includes the Poor House Burying Ground where the Memorial Library is, the Old Catholic Cemetery or St. Peter’s Catholic under the Taz Record parking lot, the Old Methodist Burying Ground next to St. David’s Church, and a lost Jewish burying ground. Ferguson says it’s a “whole complex” with about 10,000 bodies, but only about 10% of those graves have markers.
While Ferguson has tweeted about the Old Burying Grounds before via his Dead in Halifax account, he says the cemetery has “revealed itself over time at different levels.” At first, he was curious about the gravestones, which are really interesting at this site.
Deborah Trask, the secretary with the foundation — who spent three decades as part of the curatorial staff at the Nova Scotia Museum — knows The Old Burying Ground “like the back of her hand,” as Ferguson says. She’s identified the carvers of the stones, some of which were imported from Boston. There are homegrown carvers, including James Hay, who created one of the most frequent styles you see in the cemetery. Ferguson says those stones have carvings of skulls and crossbones, hourglasses turned on their side, or cherub heads. He adds the carvings in the headstones reflect what people thought about death back then.
People were a lot more matter-of-fact about death. Nowadays we talk about vaccines a lot and obviously those gravestones are from the days before immunizations and you can see, unfortunately, a lot of graves for children, and multiple children in a single family.
But the carvings on the stones evolved and included angels, urns, and the inscriptions say, “in loving memory of” or “in hopes of a glorious resurrection.” Says Ferguson:
It’s not about the body in the ground reminding people they will, too, die. It’s about the individual person and their life and what the afterlife might hold for them.
There are a lot of prominent Haligonians buried here, including British general Robert Ross, who’s most famous for leading the command during the burning of Washington in 1814. But Ferguson says there are people buried at the grounds whose stories haven’t been told, including Indigenous people and Black refugees from the War of 1812. Their graves don’t have markers.
The Old Burying Grounds functional life ended in the 1840s when it closed and the city open Camp Hill. Ferguson says the foundation has used sonar to find out about what’s under the ground there. He says they periodically find new stones and do what they can do restore those.
Besides tweeting the stories of the Old Burying Ground and other cemeteries in the city, Ferguson is also working on a book (also called Dead in Halifax) that will tell the stories of five of the city’s cemeteries: The Old Burying Ground; Fort Massey; the Little Dutch Church Burying Ground; Holy Cross; and Camp Hill. He says The Old Burying Ground chapter includes information on the Poor House Burying Ground.
Ferguson says the Old Burying Ground opened early this year so people looking to explore places closer to home can stop in. And the foundation hired a summer student who will be at the site daily starting on Monday to answer questions and tell stories.
The cemetery needs work. The walls that surround it are starting to erode. Ferguson says the foundation is now looking at ways to finance the work that needs to be done and they’ll need help to do it.
The only way we will get people on board is if we can make them feel this is a beloved and cherished part of historic downtown, which it has always been, but sometimes it’s easy to forget it’s there.
One of the stories in the Old Burying Ground is its connection to Lucy Maud Montgomery, who lived in Halifax and attended Dalhousie. In Anne Of The Island, she wrote how Anne Shirley admires Old St John’s Cemetery in Kingsport. Ferguson says Montgomery based her descriptions of that fictional cemetery on the Old Burying Ground. (Ferguson tweeted that story at Dead in Halifax here).
Ferguson first discovered the Old Burying Grounds when he moved to Halifax in 1995. He says he understands that peace, which Montgomery loved too, and captured well in Anne of the Island. The Old Burying Ground is his quiet place, where he sits and listens to the birds and bugs, going on what he calls a “treasure hunt,” looking in the grass for a covered marker and the story he hasn’t seen before. He hopes people who visit the cemetery will feel the same.
You can be in the middle of the city with the honking cars and the new glass buildings and then a minute later, you can be in a space that’s a little bit quieter. It’s some peace and quiet right in the middle of downtown. We have a lot of big trees we’re working hard to preserve. I always said even if the sole function of a historic cemetery in the 21st century is to hold and maintain a little bit of green space, that is a lovely gift from the dead to the living.
Gabrielle Drolet at The Coast talks with René Boudreau, who created Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia. Drolet writes:
A combined love of these two things—community and travel—has resulted in Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia, a project that encourages Black travellers to visit the province. Through social media, Boudreau promotes local Black-owned businesses, spots with rich history and even just places she enjoys, whether they be natural attractions or tourist destinations. The project’s Instagram page showcases bright, joyful photos of Black people enjoying some of these different locales. This is, unfortunately, an refreshing sight: these kinds of photos aren’t common on most travel or tourism websites, which don’t often show diverse travellers.
“You go where you’re represented,” Boudreau explains. “If people from away aren’t seeing themselves represented in the Nova Scotia brochure or Nova Scotia website or wherever, they might think ‘I have no desire to really go there.’”
Boudreau, who works for the Association of Black Social Workers, finally launched Elevate and Explore in late 2019, just months before the pandemic would make international (and even national) travel tricky, to say the least. While this might seem like the worst timing to start a travel-centric initiative, she says it was surprisingly perfect: Restrictions gave her time to really think about who she was trying to reach and how best to do so. Though she was initially focused on travellers coming from outside of the province, the pandemic has allowed Boudreau to focus more locally, reaching Black Nova Scotians who didn’t feel welcome or invited in touristy spaces.
“I have friends who are from here, lived here their whole life, but have never been to Peggys Cove,” she says. “We can be in these spaces as well.”
You can find Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia’s Instagram page here.
I’ve got some new places to visit on my summer list.
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — live streamed on YouTube
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual meeting
Speak Truth to Power Series: They found us and we are coming home – The truth about residential schools (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual forum with Patti Doyle-Bedwell, Natalie Gloade, Graydon Nicholas, and others
Canadian Contributions to the Peace Process in Northern Ireland / North of Ireland (Thursday, 11:30am) — Bridget Brownlow moderates a Zoom panel with John de Chastelain, Ray Basset, and Bonnie Weir
In the harbour
09:30: Thunder Bay, bulker, travelling through the causeway from north to south, from Summerside, PEI
15:00: Niagara Spirit, barge, sails from Mulgrave for sea
16:00: Nunavut Spirit, barge, with Lois M, tug, sail from Sydport for sea
I am heading to Truro this afternoon to get my second dose at a drive-thru clinic there. I’ve never been so excited to get a needle.