Note: As Tim Bousquet mentioned yesterday, in lieu of our annual subscribers’ party (not happening because of COVID-19), the Examiner is taking the opportunity to have some fun and answer questions from readers.
We’re taking questions until October 31. After that we’ll record a special podcast in which Bousquet and the rest of the Examiner crew reply.
Has a provincial politician ever said anything that truly floored Jennifer Henderson ? What’s the most surprising thing Linda Pannozzo has uncovered during one of her investigations? Where does George Soros send our cheques?
Ask and we shall answer. Get your questions to me, your friendly neighbourhood “Ask Us Anything” podcast producer, by emailing me at [email protected] Or, if you prefer, tag me with your question on Twitter, or drop it in the comments below. Even better, haul out your phone, use the built-in voice recorder to record your question and email it to me so we can hear your voice.
We’ve had some really good ones so far, and I’m looking forward to hearing answers to them from Bousquet and the rest of the gang.
Thanks to everyone who has sent in questions so far! And for those of you who haven’t — what are you waiting for?
1. Bear River First Nation making plans for moderate livelihood fishery
Jesse Thomas reports for Global on the Bear River First Nation’s intention to move ahead with a fishery.
“Our community has fished St. Mary’s Bay as a traditional fishing ground since time immemorial,” wrote Chief [Carol Dee] Potter.
“We currently fish St. Mary’s Bay for both communal commercial and food, social and ceremonial purposes, although over the last few weeks our fishers have been forced out of this area due to the ongoing dispute.”
Potter says nobody from DFO, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan’s office, or the Sipekne’katik First Nation consulted with the band before the launch of the Sipekne’katik First Nation moderate livelihood fishery. Her band, she says, is consulting with other Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq chiefs.
2. COVID-19 and travel restrictions
On October 2, the Chronicle Herald ran a story by Bill Spurr, introducing travel agent Elayne Pink’s idea to extend the Atlantic bubble to Cuba. Yes, Cuba.
Instead of this non-story dying, others are picking it up now, because Pink is offering specific proposed dates for travel. CTV and Global both have stories on it today. A story by CTV’s Ryan Van Horne and Nick Moore leads with a tantalizing headline: “Will Atlantic bubble expand to Cuba this winter?”
“There is a plan to expand the Atlantic bubble — all the way to Cuba” the story says. The idea is for travellers to stay at a resort reserved for people who live in the Atlantic provinces.
Yeah, OK. I have a plan to become a bestselling author. I also have a plan to write a feature for the New Yorker. I don’t know how the New Yorker feels about that. But I have a plan.
How is Pink’s plan progressing? A Dal prof says it’s “innovative” and people on the street like it. Provincial and federal authorities had no comment other than to say international travellers have to quarantine on return to Canada.
So yeah, it’s a plan.
Meanwhile, in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, Michael Bociurkiw, who describes himself on his website as a “writer, global affairs analyst, speaker and humanitarian” whose current “passion is investigating human being’s [sic] relationship with technology, especially smartphones” calls for selective easing of travel restrictions.
Bociurkiw is more thoughtful in this than many others. His plan does not call for Caribbean vacations, but is aimed at easing the pain for border towns like Sidney, BC, where he lives, through shorter quarantine periods.
But he notes that “the current quarantine period is unreasonably long” without offering any evidence to support the assertion. It is long because it is disruptive, but it’s also designed with the incubation period of the virus in mind.
Ottawa needs to consider going even further than the Alberta pilot program [reducing quarantine time] by easing the restrictions on business travellers and people with family members on the other side of the border.
Such efforts are safely under way in other countries around the world. In Colombia, inbound travellers are asked to produce a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight, with officials requiring such tests to be taken no later than 96 hours before travel. In the Netherlands, a 10-day quarantine has been deemed a reasonable amount of time for people entering the country. Recently, the World Health Organization – which has lately been discouraging strict travel and trade restrictions – suggested that one week or so should be sufficient quarantine for symptoms to appear.
The Netherlands, I see, just set a 24-hour record for new infections.
In addition to reduced quarantine, Bociurkiw suggest considering travel corridors (a bit like the way the Atlantic bubble extended into Quebec border communities, until infections started to rise in northern New Brunswick).
Canada could also pilot a program of cross-border travel corridors. Given the dire economic impact of the closing on border towns – Sidney’s main street is now on life support, and the nearby Victoria airport has lost its international designation after both U.S. carriers pulled out – Ottawa should consider, in consultation with the provinces, allowing travel with U.S. border jurisdictions that are showing low infection figures and are willing to establish joint strategies such as mandatory mask wearing. As with the Alberta pilot, the exercise should be on a trial basis while data is collected on any potential effects on our COVID-19 numbers from the increased flow of traffic.
I am not saying Bociurkiw falls into this category (he doesn’t), but I have found it truly fascinating to see how much some are willing to sacrifice to maintain a fundamentally pathological economic system.
3. Potential Dal strike: what about students and employees who receive funding through grants?
In the Nova Scotia Advocate, Dalhousie University political science grad student Noel Guscott argues that the university doesn’t seem to care about either students or grant-paid employees.
Conciliation talks between the faculty union and the university have gone nowhere, making a strike more likely. Guscott writes:
Unlike individual faculty who address strike concerns to their classes or research teams every working week, Dalhousie has not been forthcoming about the impact of a potential strike on students. There has been no news release about how students will be impacted in terms of funding, jobs, grading, or more. Instead, the University has made vague promises in wordy news releases about doing “everything we can to ensure the academic term is completed.”…
This pattern of behaviour isn’t new. There is a pattern of exploitative and opportunistic behaviour from the Dalhousie Board of Governors more akin to a multi-million-dollar corporation than a university. For example, this is the same Board of Governors that reported a $39.5 million surplus in 2019-2020. Though in June they reported a potential budget shortfall due to lower enrolment and other factors, a summer update reported enrolment was better than expected and could result in a better financial outlook. Enrolment numbers remain unclear as of September 21, but were “higher than expected.”
If there is a strike, look for lots of stories about concerns that the semester will be lost, etc, even though this has not ever happened in Canada, despite numerous faculty strikes over the decades.
4. Resident does not like proposed bike lane (yes, the singular is correct)
Pam Berman has a story at CBC about one resident upset about a proposed bike lane on Dahlia street:
June Nixon, who lives at the corner of Dahlia and Maple streets, said she does not think the route is a safe option.
“It makes no sense,” said Nixon. “I see, on my corner, at least one accident a month.”
I have no idea whether or not Dahlia makes sense, but I am happy to see the city is serious about connecting the disparate parts of the cycling network. And, despite Nixon’s concerns, it’s not true that the city is not consulting people on this. There is a consultation survey right here.
Yesterday, I was interviewing Dalhousie professor Sara Kirk, who teaches in the School of Health and Human Performance. The talk turned to bike lanes — Kirk is a huge cycling fan — and I said something about politicians who rail against them because they think nobody is using them.
Well, you know, actually, because they didn’t go anywhere… If we had a connected minimum grid, we would actually see more people cycling. There’s oodles of evidence to support that.
This summer, we went camping at Porters Lake Provincial Park. One of our nephews joined us, cycling all the way from the Woodside ferry terminal. Other than a short stretch after the ferry terminal, he could do the whole thing on protected trails. A few weeks later, he rode out from Halifax to St. Margaret’s Bay, again on trails almost the entire route (the worst part was riding on Highway 333, which can be hair-raising). Connecting trails and lanes vastly expands what’s possible for riders of all ages.
Finally, what’s reader Andrew McLaren doing sharing a reasonable and well thought-out comment on a news story? Doesn’t he know that you’re supposed to post inflammatory opinions without having read the story?
To be fair it’s somewhat better access to the short-cut to the bridge, than going further down Ochterloney up King St/ Edward St through the lumpier bits of pathway. It’s better than taking the Alderney/Windmill route to get there. Though it is also true, there is no perfect solution in traffic planning, just best compromises.
Unrelated to this story, I do wish that whoever is writing headlines at CBC would stop using the word “crazy” in them. Today it’s a story referring to “these crazy times.”
5. If no news is good news, what’s non-news?
To borrow from Tim Bousquet, the Suspicious Packages performed another gig in Halifax yesterday.
A few years ago, it seemed like there was a Suspicious Packages gig every other day, and Haligonians tired of the band. I mean, look at this, from a tour schedule Bousquet put together in 2018:
March 2017: two days after an attack on the British parliament, someone left something in Gorsebrook Park, and so access to and from the IWK and the Special Education Authority was limited for three hours.
May 2017: during the Youth Run associated with the Bluenose Marathon, a woman left an empty picnic basket near the fountain in the Common. Somebody mistook the basket for a suitcase and then that became a big hullabaloo, with police issuing a release looking for the woman so they could ask her why she littered.
May 2017: someone left a backpack on a bench outside Pier 21. The bomb-sniffing dog was employed and found only undescribed “personal items,” but evidently not a personal bomb.
June 2017: someone left something at the Miller Waste recycling facility in Bayers Lake that spooked some easily spooked person, so 50 employees were given an early lunch break, the bomb squad was called, and the streets were blocked off, but it turned out the package was nothing dangerous — presumably just recycling.
Yesterday, the band got back together for an appearance at the Public Gardens. But it turned out to be a dud. The Halifax Regional Police, in typical fashion, gave out the minimum possible information:
Police are investigating a suspicious package left in the Public Gardens in Halifax. Police are asking the public to remain away from the area to allow them to conduct the investigation.
This was later followed by a message which explained all (no):
Police have completed the investigation into a suspicious package at the Halifax Public Gardens. It was determined that is was not a threat to public safety and the area has been reopened to the public.
On Twitter, the CBC’s Brett Ruskin shared a video of cops opening and then carrying away two Amazon boxes that had been left on a park bench.
In other exciting police and media news, some rapscallions went joy-riding in golf carts in PEI, and I mention this only because I just keep thinking, of all the vehicles to steal and go joy-riding in — golf carts? Really?
1. Not just cute tweets, but a “proven and effective” program
Have you noticed the Nova Scotia RCMP’s near-nightly posts on social media urging you to practice the #9pmroutine?
The posts ask us to remove valuables from our cars, and lock car doors and the doors of our home as a regular part of our evening routine, in order to deter theft. They frequently feature cute pet pictures, videos, or photos tied to specific activities. On Thanksgiving, the daily post on Twitter showed a Thanksgiving meal and urged people to follow the routine before having a post-meal nap.
The RCMP took a hiatus from these evening posts for a couple of months. On April 18, they tweeted a GIF of a cat with the words, “It’s Saturday and our #9PMROUTINE is complete! That means we get to relax for the evening and sleep in tomorrow. Are you done your #lockup? When you are, share this post.”
This was a rather unfortunate choice of words, considering that the mass murders of April 18/19 took place that night. After that, the RCMP wisely laid off posting about the 9PM routine until June 15.
I assumed it was just the local RCMP engaging in this perhaps harmless but seemingly useless foolishness, but no.
It turns out the #9pmroutine was developed in Florida, by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, which has copyrighted the phrase. The 9PM routine was part of the county cops changing their social media approach, writes Jack Evans in the Tampa Bay Times:
The 9 p.m. routine is a core part of a social media gameplan that has evolved over the past few years, [assistant executive director Chase] Daniels said. It has been a constant as the agency’s social media team has taken to new tactics and platforms — including Snapchat and TikTok — and shied away from other types of posts. He said the Sheriff’s Office posts mugshots less often than it used to, and that it stopped posting on-scene arrest photos after its “Sad Criminal of the Day” feature came under fire as being exploitative.
As with many unsupported ideas in cop-world, this one has spread to police agencies across North America. Search online for “9pm routine” or similar, and you’ll see lots of press releases and news stories (sometimes these are essentially the same) on local police forces adopting this new initiative to cut down on property crime.
In Naperville, Illinois, the police want residents to:
get into the habit each night of making sure you’ve secured your home and vehicle and taken proactive steps to combat auto thefts and break-ins. The 9PM Routine empowers residents to develop their own personal security routines by having a designated time to perform these tasks every night.
The success of this initiative relies on the participation of our residents. Every person can take personal steps to make our community safer from criminals seeking to target unlocked homes, cars, and sheds. The Raytown Police look forward to joining our residents in reducing crime in Raytown; however, anyone can join the 9PM Routine, no matter what community they live in.
They also have this fantastic image on their website.
Somewhere along the line, this goofy notion of telling people to lock their doors every night came, maybe by virtue of repetition, to be seen as an actual program. When the police in Juneau, Alaska introduced it, they noted in a press release that the 9pm routine is a “nationally recognized program” and a “proven and effective program.”
I haven’t been able to find any evidence to support this, other than a claim by the police in Lincoln, Nebraska, that thefts dropped after its introduction.
But never mind, like the long-discredited broken windows theory that Canadian police forces continue to tout, I’m sure the 9PM routine will be with us for a long time.
2. Africville reparations
In the Chronicle Herald, Jim Vibert makes the case for Africville reparations.
Vibert recaps some of the history of Africville and its treatment by the municipality. Residents paid taxes but did not receive services, the city located the dump, a prison and a hospital for people with infectious diseases nearby, and so on. Vibert writes:
The municipal neglect and abuse came in handy when the city decided it wanted the Africville land for industry and economic infrastructure, claiming the relocation of its residents would improve their standard of living.
Those opposed to reparations will often argue, Vibert notes, that it is unfair to hold them responsible for the actions of their ancestors. The past is the past, and it’s time to move on. Vibert doesn’t buy it:
As a nation and a province we’ve proclaimed that diversity is our strength, embraced affirmative action and created commissions to study discrimination and promote human rights.
Yet the disparities persist between privileged, economically advantaged white Canadians and less privileged and economically disadvantaged racialized Canadians. Again quoting Coates, “vaguely endorsing a cuddly, feel-good diversity does very little to redress this.”
Last week, I interviewed a 27-year-old immigrant to Canada for a podcast series I am working on. His family moved to Calgary when he was 12, and he’s now a doctoral student at the University of Ottawa. He told me he is learning Michif, because he feels that it’s his responsibility to learn an Indigenous language of the territory he lives on. He also said something I found really striking:
Because I see myself as a Canadian, I believe it is important — not just important, but essential — that I be part of the process of truth and reconciliation with Indigenous people. My ancestors were not the ones who sent Indigenous people to residential schools, but because I benefit from my Canadian identity, I have to also take responsibility for helping to create a future in which Indigenous people can live in peace and with respect for their cultural practices… I believe that is important.
1. Grids, swirling cul-de-sacs and everything in between
I recently came across a minimalist mapping tool called City Roads that prompts you to enter the name of a city and then generates a coloured image of the location’s streets. Developed by Andrei Kashcha and Tatsuo Mitsuchi, the tool quickly and easily allows you to see the layout of streets in any location, and how it ignores or adapts (or both) to local geography.
The maps are revealing. Halifax, above, looks like several separate grids that don’t quite interlock. Check out where the blue and green meet along Chebucto near the middle of the map, where you might expect streets to line up, but they don’t quite. Then you’ve got areas with much more suburban layouts at the edges of the grids. See, for instance, the top left of the map, where you’ve got the developments west of the Bedford Highway, which were very suburban decades ago.
Writing for the Examiner in July, I quoted from a 1954 Maclean’s article on Canadians being drawn to the latest fad in housing: the suburbs.
As a suburbanite who lives on Bedford Basin, outside Halifax, puts it, “You wake up in the morning. There are trees all around you. You can look out on the water, not on your neighbor’s back fence; it’s quiet and the air is salty and pure. To hell with the city! It may have more conveniences, but not more advantages.”
Some cities very clearly show the colonial need for laying everything out in a grid.
Not a lot of surprises in Charlottetown.
Some maps held a few surprises.
What the heck is going on in that big blob in the middle of Montreal, I wondered? Answer: roads through the cemeteries on Mount Royal. As with Halifax, downtown Montreal is a city of neighbourhoods (just that, as my brother says, some of the neighbourhoods are bigger than Halifax), which the grids make clear.
Kinshasa has an interesting-looking map.
I know little about Kinshasa, other than that it is one of the largest urban areas in Africa, and that it had its origins as a city in a settlement built by the Belgians during the colonial era. I would assume the heart of the colonial settlement is somewhere in the red grids in the middle, but I don’t know. What I do know is I feel like I could spend several hours gazing at an enlarged version of this map.
European cities that have been around for centuries are fascinating to look at too. This is the greater London area (the City of London itself being quite small).
London, Paris, and Rome (among others) offer a riot of different shapes. Paris is essentially a medieval city overlaid in the 19th century with new boulevards and streets to pull it all together.
Andrei Kashcha, the co-creator of this mapping tool, seems to be a data and map geek with a creative bent. His Twitter feed (he does not have a website) is full of links to his experiments. I cannot tell you much about co-creator Tatsuo Mitsuchi, since his website is in Japanese, but I am intrigued by his photos.
2. This classroom sponsored by…
Outdoor classrooms are springing up at Nova Scotia schools. A couple of months ago, after seeing a school tweet a photo of rough-hewn benches, thanking a local lumber company for the outdoor classroom, I replied:
I find it fascinating that we’ve had years of touting tech as essential to learning and now we are excited about sitting on logs for class.
The sentiment was somewhat tongue in cheek. I mean, I think outdoor learning is great. It just seemed like such a contrast to the hype we normally get about smartboards, Google classroom, and so on.
The tweets have continued to come, from individual teachers, schools, and from the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, which yesterday retweeted three items thanking WestFor for providing outdoor classrooms.
Westfor has a page on its website devoted to its work building outdoor classrooms. It’s right in there alongside pieces on how more of the forest dies off naturally than is harvested by WestFor in any given year, and shows a smiling crew member in a “Nova Scotia needs forestry” t-shirt.
In other words, this is corporate propaganda, and schools should not be participating in it. You want an outdoor classroom? Great. I am sure there must be ways to make it happen without shilling for corporate entities. You want to be a good corporate citizen? Great. Help build outdoor classrooms without using them as a way to greenwash your image.
Would we find it acceptable to have the Cooke Aquaculture classroom in a school? How about the Irving gymnasium? Higher education is full of corporate naming, to its detriment. I assume there is some consensus that this is not OK in public schools — so why should these outdoor classrooms be any different?
No public meetings.
Human Resources (Tuesday, 9am, Province House) — Department of Education and Early Childhood Development: Cathy Montreuil, Marlene Ruck Simmonds, and Carola Knockwood will discuss the “Achievement Gap.”
Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — Captain Allan Gray and Thomas Hayes from the Halifax Port Authority will brag about geography.
Model bicategories and their homotopy bicategories (Joint work with M.E. Descotte and E.J. Dubuc) (Tuesday, 2:30pm) — Martin Szyld says:
I will present a generalization of the concept of model category to the context of bicategories as well as a corresponding localization construction. The axioms for a model bicategory are a natural generalization to bicategories of those given by Quillen in the sense that they are obtained by requiring the diagrams to commute up to invertible 2-cells, and by considering a 2-dimensional aspect of the lifting properties which relate these families of arrows (in particular, when we consider a category as a bicategory, the two notions coincide: it will be a model bicategory if and only if it is a model category).
I will define the homotopy bicategory associated to a model bicategory C, whose 2-cells are given by homotopies in C. I will also describe a fibrant-cofibrant replacement for model bicategories, and, time permitting, I will show how we have proved that this yields the localization of C (in the bicategorical sense) at the weak equivalences. Our proof of this result uses a “transport of structure”; the application of this technique in this context is, as far as we know, a novel method.
Brexit: Breaking the EU, UK, British Isles… and the Law? (Wednesday, 11:30am) — with Vincent Power from A&L Goodbody, Dublin. Info and link here.
Safe Space for White Questions ‑ Online Pandemic Edition (Wednesday, 12:30pm) — Ajay Parasram hosts
the third of a series of free and public monthly drop-in sessions open to white identifying people who would like to come ask a question or two about a wide range of issues generally captured under the banner of ‘progressive’ politics that you would like to better understand. There’s no judgement, no chance that you’ll offend anyone (unless you’re actively trying to – please don’t do that.) Drop by for a friendly and considerate conversation aimed at helping us all better understand how structures impact us all.
Roll Wisdom: Philosophy and Tabletop Roleplaying Game (Wednesday, 5:30pm) — with philosopher, writer, and game designer Trystan Goetz.
Tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPG) like Dungeons and Dragons are more popular than ever before. But rarely do we pause to consider some of the deeper questions raised by these games. In this talk, I want to argue for two things: first, that philosophy can improve your games; and second, that games can do philosophy. To do this, I will employ C. Thi Nguyen’s theory of games from his recent book “Games: Agency as Art”.
Open Dialogue Live: Neighbourly Relations (Wednesday, 7pm) — This isn’t about the Airbnb party house next door — it’s a panel discussion exploring the impact American politics have on gender, race and class issues, immigration, journalism, Canada-U.S. relations, international politics and trade, diplomacy, and global security. Attendees are invited to participate in the discussion by posting questions and comments during the live event. More info and link here.
No public events.
Proud to be Mi’kmaq: A Speaker Panel Hosted by Raymond Sewell (Wednesday, 5pm) — Sewell and a guest panel of Mi’kmaq knowledge holders and storytellers share their ways of knowing. Info and registration here.
SMUEC Talks: Turning Science into Business (Wednesday, 6pm) — Zoom event. Info and registration here.
Natural solutions: How Canada Can Fight Climate Change and Wildlife Loss (Wednesday, 5pm) — webinar with Megan Leslie. Info and registration here.
In the harbour
05:00: Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
10:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
15:30: Glorious Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
15:30: Budapest Bridge sails for Rotterdam
16:30: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard from Southampton, England
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 36
19:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from New York
21:30: Glorious Leader sails for sea
I would like to know the story behind the naming of the Bahamas-flagged Glorious Leader. Also, do the owners of Asterix also have a vessel named Obelix?
In the latest installment of the Dog-eared and Cracked books podcast I co-host with my friend Jay, we discuss Chuck Klosterman’s heavy metal memoir/essay collection Fargo: Rock City. Jay and I first became friends over a shared love of metal, so we have fun with this one. If you listen, I hope you enjoy it.