1. WestFor 1, Extinction Rebellion 1
Yesterday, Justice Kevin Coady of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled in favour of WestFor’s bid for an injunction against Extinction Rebellion protesters blocking logging roads at two cutting sites. But Coady ruled against the forestry company’s bid for further injunctions. And he refused to award costs against Extinction Rebellion.
From her story:
“I am not prepared to award costs as against Extinction Rebellion. This organization, and similar public interest groups, are well-intentioned and play a role in our modern-day democracy,” wrote Coady.
That written decision also concluded that the group’s evidence about the precarious state of the mainland moose was “irrelevant” to the case before the court…
In going to court to request a permanent injunction against the protesters, WestFor had to prove continuing blockades would cause the company “irreparable harm. WestFor lawyer Ian Dunbar pointed out that the $348,000 the company had spent to build logging roads to the two sites would be lost as well as the $240,000 paid to obtain the two harvesting permits.
Author and protestor Sandra Phinney was one of the nine people charged by the RCMP for disobeying the temporary injunction last December. Phinney told the Examiner she is “thrilled with the outcome and grateful beyond measure.”
I have to say, it’s good to see a judge affirm the role of protest in a democracy.
2. Which clearcutting rules apply?
More forestry from Jennifer Henderson: It’s been two and a half years since the release of the Lahey Report into forestry in Nova Scotia, and Jennifer Henderson writes it’s still not clear when the report’s recommendations will be adopted or what rules apply for clearcuts previously approved but not yet carried out.
At yesterday’s meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, NDP MLA Lisa Roberts read from a letter raising concerns about a rush to clearcut before the new rules come into effect (whatever they may be, and whenever that may be).
NDP Forestry critic Lisa Roberts questioned what rules industry will play by once new harvesting rules are finally implemented. She read from a letter written to former Forestry Minister Derek Mombourquette last November signed by half the members on the minister’s Advisory Committee on the Lahey Report.
The letter asked for a moratorium on clearcutting on Crown land until recommendations from Lahey are implemented. It expressed concern that “harvest plans that specify heavy cutting are being submitted and approved at a rapid pace.”
If you can get your cutting in under the old rules, presumably you can log a lot more trees off the land. Henderson explains:
The old rules prior to the Lahey recommendations allowed forestry companies to clearcut Crown Lands leaving behind only 5% of the trees. The Interim Guide until Lahey’s ecological forestry model gets implemented requires 10-30% of the trees be left behind. The future rules in the Silviculture Guide (now in its third draft) propose leaving behind 20-60% of trees on a portion of Crown lands Lahey calls the “ecological matrix.” Those forests would see “a lighter touch” or far less clearcutting applied to most of the area while still allowing heavy cutting on a much smaller amount of Crown land, depending on the species of the trees in the stand and the soils.
Henderson knows the provincial politics beat inside out and, as usual, the story is well worth your time.
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3. New Tideline podcast, featuring Keonté Beals
Episode #21 of The Tideline, with Tara Thorne is published.
The young R&B artist Keonté Beals — Tara’s former NSCC student, by the way — started out singing in church in North Preston and performing popular covers before digging into who he is as an artist. On his debut album KING, he sings about love, loyalty, and authenticity. He zooms in for a chat about its creation, his children’s book, and how not even a pandemic can keep him down.
This episode is available today only for premium subscribers; to become a premium subscriber, click here, and join the select group of arts and entertainment supporters for just $5/month.
4. Delayed transit plan moves ahead
Yesterday, councillors approved Halifax Transit’s proposed operating budget for the coming year. In Halifax, as in many other cities, ridership fell off a cliff because of the pandemic. As a result, revenues have dropped dramatically.
Woodford notes that despite the reduced budget for this year, the transit authority is moving ahead with some major planned upgrades, including ticketing systems (you’ll be able to use your phone!) and — most significantly — route changes. He writes:
Notwithstanding the still-reduced fares, Halifax Transit is moving ahead with new electronic fare systems this year, with a request for proposals going out soon, [transit director Dave] Reage said. That will allow passengers to use their phone to pay and then display it to the driver like a transfer. Passengers will still be able to use cash and tickets as well, Reage said.
Halifax Transit will start buying electric buses in 2021-2022, and begin renovating its Ragged Lake transit facility to accommodate charging.
And after delaying the implementation due to COVID-19, Halifax Transit will implement the final route changes of the Moving Forward Together Plan. That plan, approved by council in 2016, is a redesign of the city’s bus system, aimed at a transfer-based network.
A transfer-based system, as I understand it, involves fewer super-long routes. Instead, shorter routes connect with more frequent corridor routes. You may wind up having to transfer more often, but the system is also more flexible, and service on the corridors is frequent, so you don’t have to wait long.
Woodford then breaks down every single route change for the coming year, complete with maps, and the cost implications of each one. I’ll bet this is better than anything you’ll find on the city’s website, so bookmark it.
5. COVID-19 update: one new case
As usual, Tim Bousquet has your daily COVID-19 update. The news is good: one new case, related to travel. We are also back down to one person in the ICU.
Bousquet provides charts showing new cases and active cases, and details on where you can go for rapid testing today through Sunday, in St. Margaret’s Bay and Elmsdale.
I went to the Spryfield rapid testing site last Friday in the gym at the Spryfield Lions rec centre. The last time I’d been there was for a professional wrestling show. The atmosphere was far more sedate for the rapid testing. The woman who checked me in said that they’d done about 400 tests so far that day. There was no wait for the test, and I had my results in 20 minutes.
6. Lionel Desmond had no psychiatric care for 2 months
At CBC, Laura Fraser writes about the gap in continuity of care that saw Lionel Desmond cast adrift after being released from a psychiatric facility in Quebec and moving back to Nova Scotia. (As I write this, Fraser is live-blogging from the Desmond inquiry.)
Fraser says each of the six doctors Desmond went to seeking out help testified at the inquiry:
Their combined recollection was of a man who fell “through the cracks” as he left the military health-care system and moved to the civilian one. As a psychiatric patient at Ste. Anne’s Hospital in Quebec, his days were rigorously scheduled — filled with appointments for counselling, nature therapy, social work and medication consultations — but then he came back to his home community in Guysborough County, N.S., in August 2016 to find no support in place…
“You know that they’re moving, so is it your responsibility to know that they’ve connected with a care team in their new home — or is it the patient’s responsibility?” said [Adam] Rodgers, the lawyer for Lionel Desmond’s estate, in an interview.
“In an ordinary case, you may lay more of that responsibility on a patient, but in a case like Cpl. Desmond’s, and many other veterans who have mental health issues [and] who have difficulty dealing with crowds and bureaucracy, that responsibility falls back on the care team.”
I think about all the assumptions that are made when it comes to the expectations of people’s abilities to navigate complex mental health and other systems. It can be hard at the best of times. For someone with PTSD and other mental illnesses it’s even more complicated.
7. Epoch Times receives federal government funding
The Epoch Times is a newspaper that claims to offer unbiased reporting based on “Truth and Tradition.” It has balanced and unbiased articles like, “Donald Trump: Bastion Against Marxist America” and refers to the virus that causes COVID-19 as the “CCP virus” — as in Chinese Communist Party.
The paper is so appalling that when it started landing unsolicited in the mailboxes of people across the country, some letter carriers were upset they had to deliver it, and several stories ran with complaints from recipients.
The Epoch Times uses some of the same techniques as publications like The Rebel — casting themselves as fighters and scrappy outsiders. When I first went to their website, I was greeted with a banner congratulating me for having gotten around the tech giants to make it to the site. (Guys, I clicked a link.)
Yesterday, in Montreal-based newspaper La Presse, Joël-Denis Bellavance wrote that the Canadian edition of the Epoch Times received $455,000 from the federal government.
The money came through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and through a special round of funding from the Canada Periodical Fund designed to help publications hurt by the pandemic.
Bellevance quotes Jean-Hughes Roy, a professor in the Université du Québec à Montréal’s media school, who says:
This newspaper’s reputation became quite tarnished over the last few months, the last year. Its pivot to conspiracy theories became apparent in 2020. If you look at the newspaper today, this is a subsidy that makes no sense
Bellevance says that for Roy, “there is no doubt the publication is a vehicle for disinformation.”
Meanwhile, he quotes federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who says there is “no question” that past issues of the Epoch Times have been a vehicle for promulgating stereotypes against Asian communities, which he firmly denounces.
Nonetheless, he noted that it is not up to him, as minister “to determine for Canadians the content of the news and opinions they should read or avoid. As a government, our role is to act in advance to prevent disinformation and to educate and create awareness.”
He also underlined that freedom of the press “is essential to the proper functioning of our democracy, and must be protected, no matter what the circumstances.”
(The story is in French and the translations are mine.)
Of course the minister should not have the power to determine what Canadians can and cannot read, and I don’t think anyone wants individual funding decisions to occur based on whatever the minister of the day finds palatable. But surely the issue here is whether or not the eligibility criteria under which the funding was issued should be reviewed.
Shocker: Fraser Institute proposes spending cuts
I was thinking recently how we haven’t heard much lately from the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), the free-market think-tank which is now part of the Fraser Institute. Maybe their message that government spending is catastrophic wasn’t right for a moment in which government spending was critical to keeping the economy afloat during a pandemic.
But in what may be a sign of the pandemic’s approaching end, AIMS is back, with a report called Atlantic Canada’s Precarious Public Finances. And you will be shocked to learn that the Fraser Institute folks believe that Atlantic Canada’s finances are precarious, and that the answer is to cut government spending. In other words: the same message they’ve delivered over and over and over again.
Before we look at the report though, can we just marvel at that image from it, shown above? I guess the message is that the ship of government is facing imminent danger as it approaches the threats listed on the ice — what?— ice floes? Icebergs? Little bits of ice floating in the water? Does that ice look like it would offer any challenge at all to the ship? Also, they are all crowded close together, and doesn’t it look like the ship could very easily make a minor course adjustment and avoid them all?
Anyway, our challenges, according to the report, are as follows: too much public debt, high debt-maintenance costs relative to other provinces, aging population, over-dependence on federal transfers, and taxes that are already too high, so they can’t be raised to address the debt problem. Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before. It’s like a greatest hits album.
One thing we do have going for us though is this:
…The cost of some inputs (land and labour, for example) to public services are less expensive in Atlantic Canada than in other parts of the country…
Yay! Wages are lower, so that’s a plus.
The “possible solution” to all this is — wait for it — to cut spending. Innovative, I know.
The report is dated February 17, and I hadn’t noticed much uptake on it in the news. Yesterday though, SaltWire ran an op-ed by two Fraser Institute analysts, hammering home the message that we need to lower the debt and cut spending:
Again, government debt has both immediate and future costs for Nova Scotians. Governments must pay interest on their debt, just like households pay interest on mortgages, credit cards and vehicle purchases. Nova Scotia’s government debt interest payments total $743 million annually (or $758 per person); that’s money unavailable for crucial services including health care. And that number will grow if the government in Halifax continues to run deficits and/or if interest rates rise.
Of course, many COVID-related factors are beyond the government’s control. But it can control spending. For example, the Rankin government could unwind emergency spending implemented early in the pandemic.
Comparing government debt to household debt should get you an immediate op-ed suspension.
Lost… and found: tales of people gone astray
Two quick things to note here about being lost.
As I learned 20-odd years ago while working as a writer on the documentary Lost, being lost is a near-universal experience, and many people’s most pronounced memories come from times they were lost. Memories of being lost are often among the earliest we have. (For me: at the Fairview shopping centre in suburban Montreal, looking at a sea of adult hands, trying to figure out where my mother went.)
Over the weekend, MLA Lisa Roberts put out a call for help on social media. Her sister, Sarah Roberts, had gone looking for a waterfall and did not return home. Nobody had heard from her. On Sunday evening, Sarah Roberts found her car and texted her sister to say she was OK. Later, she wrote about her experience in a harrowing but illuminating Facebook post.
Roberts writes about failing to find the waterfall and then turning back, only to realize she’s not really sure if she’s heading back in the same direction or not:
I trekked on, seemingly forever, to trees that looked familiar, rocks that .. had I seen before?… and ice formations that I swore was our second get together.
Then.. the river!! But it wasn’t where it was supposed to be! Unless it wrapped around beyond the road but my map didn’t give me that much detail.
This is incredibly easy to do in Nova Scotia, where we have a lot of thick growth and few sightlines allowing us to see any distance. And our woods tend to be fairly uniform in any one particular area.
Roberts gets her feet wet, sleeps outside, and starts hallucinating. (Being lost can bring on a state similar to psychosis.) She writes:
The second day my imagination was at its peak. I saw a beautiful cabin. 2 stories with a hammock on the verandah and people cooking supper inside.I wanted to call out but decided I would wait till I got closer.I thought I saw a white car, a brown van, a green house… all the colours of the environment around me.I am afraid my mind was simultaneously trying to protect me and stubbornly lie to me.
Within days, Kreuz became an honorary member of the Penobscot Indian Nation, had a folk song written about him, was thrown a 50th birthday party and was visited by the governor of Maine. He was even gifted an acre of scrubland in northern Maine as an act of goodwill.
The Bangor Daily News, in one of many stories on the wayward German, compared him, somewhat lovingly, to the town seal, whom Kreuz kissed for a photo op…
The San Francisco Examiner did indeed foot the bill for Kreuz to extend his vacation and finally head out west. When there, he was treated like visiting dignity; he met with Mayor George Moscone half an hour before the mayor met Prince Charles. It was Moscone whom Kreuz told about his 17-beers-a-day diet, to which the (alleged) heavy-drinking mayor replied, “Well, that beats me.”
Back home, Kreuz got fired from his brewery job, and eventually he tried to move to Bangor, where all he could find was a minimum wage job as a janitor.
The piece is interesting, because it’s not just about Kreuz, but about the sense of joyfulness in the coverage of his initial mishap.
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available
Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — live broadcast of audio and all Power Point presentations
Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am) — contingency date
Caregiver Support Group (Thursday, 12pm) — online meeting
Race and Party Platforms in the Coming Nova Scotia Elections (Thursday, 1pm) — Zoom panel discussion with Dorene Bernard, Aruna Dhara, El Jones, Lynn Jones, and Ajay Parasram.
Race has always been a defining, and silenced aspect of Nova Scotia politics. Race intersects with gender, class, sovereignty, development, gentrification, and so much more. Join us while we discuss what all provincial parties need to address in their next policy platforms to be taken seriously on the politics of race.
A “Brutalist” Beauty: the Killam Library on its 50th anniversary (Thursday, 3:30pm) — online lecture with Christine Macy:
PIE Day (Friday, 3pm) — PIE = Public, Intentional, Explicit support for a just and inclusive community. Slices of pie (cherry, pumpkin, lemon, blueberry, etc.) will be available for donations to the DalOUT & South House Student Bursary Funds. Supplies are limited. Pre-order here, then pick up your slices of pie at the Loaded Ladle, SUB. More info here.
In the harbour
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
13:00: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
I would like to take a couple of weeks off work and just read my way through the pile of books on my “want to read” list.