We have a packed Morning File today. And Tim Bousquet is back!
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1. The three main parties answer our questions
A week ago, the Examiner published questions we received from readers requesting comment or commitments from the three major political parties. Well, Jennifer Henderson put together the answers we got. The topics covered included prompt payment that will set minimum standards for when contractors get paid; cycling; long-term care; and the closure of large facilities for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.
Henderson has more election trivia, too.
2. Learning to share the road
Philip Moscovitch dug into the issues cyclists face getting around the city. Cyclist Sarah Manchon told Moscovitch about biking through the roundabouts on North Park Street and said there’s “really close passing, aggressive acceleration, that kind of thing.” And drivers also yell at her.
‘What the hell are you doing?’ ‘Move out of the way!’ I do recall someone saying ‘Next time I’m going to hit you!’ I’ve shared that in meetings and other people have very similar experiences of the roundabouts specifically.
Moscovitch interviewed several cyclists who said the same spots around the city cause problems for them.
In interview after interview for this story, cyclists pointed to the same locations. In addition to the North Park roundabouts, those spots included Bayers Road, the Bedford Highway, and routes on and off the peninsula, such as the Armdale roundabout, the Windsor Street exchange (for those actually intrepid enough to bike it), and the Chain of Lakes Trail where it reaches Joseph Howe Drive.
Moscovitch learned about the design issues of multi-use trails, including the one that runs along Bayers Road between Romans Avenue and George Dauphinee Avenue. But one cyclist named George said drivers are also just too polite and that can be dangerous. (As a driver, I notice drivers are like this with other drivers, and I agree it can be very dangerous).
This quote from Alec Soucy, an anthropology professor at SMU — who along with Dalhousie health promotion professor Sara Kirk started a bicycle research project called The Halifax Bike Lab — stood out for me:
One of the big things we can do is try to shift people out of cars… As long as you make it more appealing to drive a car, people will drive a car. In order to make it so that people are going to make the switch I think we need, you have to put in much better transit and you have to put in much better infrastructure for walking and biking — for active transportation. And you have to make it more difficult to drive. It sounds extreme, but things like closing the Bedford Highway completely to cars. If people want to drive onto the peninsula, they use the highway. Put in a toll: $20 a day if you want to get onto the peninsula. That would lead to people leaving their cars behind.
I’m all for getting people out of their cars. It’s one of the reasons I love working from home; I rarely drive anywhere Monday to Friday. I can’t imagine riding a bicycle in the city — I wouldn’t feel safe at all. Honestly, I don’t even like driving on the peninsula now. But closing down the Bedford Highway to cars and charging a $20 toll to get on the peninsula is not going to cut it with a lot of people.
But Moscovitch also interviewed Angie Schmitt, an urban planner who lives in Cleveland, who said this:
We do want to make it easier for people to choose transit… but we don’t want to force people out of their cars where it’s going to wreck their life if they have to have transit and they can’t take care of their daily needs or get to the doctor.
There are a lot of people who won’t get on bikes for lots of good reasons. There has to be better options for them, too.
3. Going to the candidates’ debate
Stephen Kimber wanted to avoid last week’s leaders’ debate while he was out for a walk in his neighbourhood, but tuned in anyway and had some thoughts on how it all went. In short, it was spectacle and not substance, and even the spectacle wasn’t that much. Kimber wrote:
Iain Rankin was still the boy in short pants trying to explain why he deserved to sit with the big kids. Tim Houston played the semi-reformed schoolyard bully trying to impress his teachers but still couldn’t resist firing off the occasional cheap shot. Gary Burrill did his turn as the avuncular uncle, mostly ignored by the others who understood he was unlikely to change enough votes to change the larger outcome and so was free to play the adult in the room.
I wasn’t taking notes as I walked, so I quickly lost count of the number of times a leader began his answer to a question with, “Thank you. That’s such a great question, Tom/Amy/Katy/fill-in-the-blank…” and then proceeded to give his standard-issue response. His answer more often than not included a folksy anecdote about someone — usually referred to by their first name — the leader had met on the campaign trail (or who had, more likely, been invented for the occasion by their debate-prep coaches), an angry/frustrated/sad voter who had had to wait too long for an ambulance/couldn’t find affordable housing/…
4. Liberals release platform on affordable housing, anti-racism
Jennifer Henderson reported on the Liberal Party’s social policy platform, which included its plans for affordable housing, and inclusion and anti-racism initiatives. For affordable housing, the platform includes forgiving the provincial portion of the HST for developers who build affordable housing and a requirement that landlords give a cheque to tenants who are being “renovicted”.
The plan also includes a lunch program for students in grades primary to six. And the party’s inclusion and anti-racism initiatives include $500,000 to hold and fund seats for 25 African Nova Scotian undergraduate students at the School For Social Work at Dalhousie University starting in 2022.
5. Quizzing the parties on gold mining in Nova Scotia
As you all know, Joan Baxter knows a lot about gold mining and gold mining issues in Nova Scotia. So, she decided to send the same nine questions to all four of the main political parties running in the provincial election to see what their plans were around gold mining.
And well, the answers range from simple statements to detailed answers. You have to read the article to find out who said what.
Baxter has been covering gold mining for the Examiner since 2018 and at the end of this article is a full list of all the stories she’s written since then. It’s a good resource if you want to learn more.
6. Pharmacists can now check tick bites, prescribe antibiotics to prevent Lyme
This is the summer of ticks and it probably won’t get any better. But as Jennifer Henderson learned, pharmacists in Nova Scotia are now able to check tick bites and prescribe antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease. That will reduce waits at emergency departments and walk-in clinics. Henderson reported:
The Pharmacists Association of Nova Scotia (PANS) posted this notice on its website explaining why pharmacies are joining the front lines to prevent further spread of Lyme disease.
“In response to rising Lyme disease incidence in Nova Scotia and the strain that post-tick exposure visits continue to place on the province’s emergency departments and walk-in clinics, the Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists Council has enabled pharmacist prescribing for Lyme disease chemoprophylaxis effective August 1,” the statement read.
7. Educators for Social Justice NS wants election candidates to implement recommendations to eliminate child poverty
Yvette d’Entremont attended a virtual conference and interviewed teachers with Educators for Social Justice Nova Scotia, an advocacy group that wants political parties in Nova Scotia to lay out their plans to eliminate child poverty in the province. Specifically, the group wants parties to implement recommendations that were outlined in the 2020 report card on child and family poverty published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia (CCPA-NS) in December (the Examiner reported on that here). d’Entremont wrote:
Describing themselves as an independently organized caucus of Nova Scotia Teachers Union members and allies, ESJ-NS members said that as education workers they witness on a daily basis the effects of child poverty.
The group highlighted that one in five children in Nova Scotia live in poverty, with that number jumping to one in three children in Cape Breton and one in four in the Kentville area.
“There’s just no excuse for a fourth, a fifth, a third of our babies and our citizens living in poverty in Nova Scotia. There’s no excuse,” Annapolis Valley-based elementary teacher Angela Wyllie said during the media conference.
8. NS Supreme Court justice dismisses Owls Head review
On Friday, Zane Woodford reported on a decision from Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Christa Brothers who dismissed citizens’ request for a judicial review of the delisting and potential sale of Owls Head Provincial Park on the Eastern Shore. As Woodford reported:
In a written decision released Friday but dated Monday, Justice Christa Brothers argued that the court would be setting too much of a precedent, that accepting the argument would mean decisions about any land “identified as having public value beyond the value of Crown lands generally” would be subject to a public process.
“Judicial acceptance of this ‘public trust doctrine’ would mean that Owls Head, and any other lands the government has recognized as having such public value, could not be sold without public consultation,” Brothers wrote.
“I conclude that recognition of the public trust doctrine proposed by the applicants would not represent the kind of incremental change to the common law that this court is permitted to make.”
In the timely decision, Brothers wrote that if citizens have a problem with politicians’ decisions, they should head to the polls.
“Elected officials on occasion make decisions, and use procedures, that leave some constituents feeling betrayed and even incensed. Where those officials exceed their power, judicial review may provide a remedy,” Brothers wrote.
Making WAVES for women on the Eastern Shore
For a while now, I’ve seen the Facebook posts from a group called WAVES or Women Addressing Violence on the Eastern Shore. Finally, last week I connected with two of the group’s members, Tobbi Dyer and Michelle Graveline, about their work.
WAVES got its official start in 2018, but its origins were in 2012 with shows called VDay on the Shore, modelled after the Vagina Monologues. At those shows, women shared their own stories through song, dance, poetry, and art. Graveline said the intention even then was to grow into an organization. Because of COVID, VDay on the Shore went virtual last year, and Graveline and Dyer said they’d like to get back to in-person events in 2022.
WAVES is small now, and its work is really based on fundraising and the support of the community, but they have big plans. Graveline said:
We would love to be able to offer others services, whether that’s transportation, supporting a woman into town for court appearances or going to appointments … whether that’s helping to support anti-violence services. Ultimately, we want a space that’s a combination of resources and supports and programming and safe spaces for women to stay.
While they don’t have a space, sometimes they do get messages from women. Dyer said it can also take a long time for women to leave a violent situation. And that process often starts by asking what seem like small questions. Dyer said:
Sometimes you’re the first person or the first email they contact. Sometimes it’s just those beginning thoughts of ‘something’s wrong here’ and ‘what am I going to do?’ We don’t see the results until later.
The Eastern Shore has its own particular challenges for women experiencing violence. There are limited transportation options, but there’s also a lot of stigma around violence and reaching out for help. Said Dyer:
It’s hard to do anything privately on the Shore. People can see what you’re doing, where you’re going. In the city, it’s easier to get on a bus, transfer to another bus, no one knows you. Here it’s hard to have something available where people don’t see you.
Sometimes women don’t want to leave the Shore. Their family is here. They don’t have a place to stay when they’re leaving a situation. They can’t necessarily stay with their family, but they don’t want to leave their family. They want to stay on the Shore, so what do you do?
Finances are an issue for women, too. Who pays to connect a woman with safe housing, if it’s available?
One of the events the group hosts are its Moonlit Walks, which take place each month on an evening of the full moon on the Gaetz Brook Greenway. (There are rain dates, too.) The walks got started when the Gaetz Brook Greenway became more accessible for all users. For years, the trail was a rugged one used mostly by ATVers or very experienced hikers. When changes were announced that would make the trail more accessible for all, Dyer and Graveline said not everyone was happy about it. There were what they considered some threatening online posts about the changes. Graveline said:
We felt there was some threat of violence, whether it was spoken or even in the community. It was a heated controversial issue. Some people were expressing their fear of going on the trail even in the daylight. We thought [the Moonlit Walks] would be a great idea to take back the night, take back the trail idea.
The group got funding from the HRM to buy hiking poles for those walkers who might need assistance.
Graveline said one of the projects she’d like to work on is discovering what the range of violence is on the Eastern Shore and how to address that and support those women. They also want a website of resources particular to women living in the area. For now, Dyer and Graveline said women can reach them through their Facebook group.
They also offer a scholarship to students who are working to address violence, and Graveline said they’d like to connect with local schools to create anti-violence programming.
Dyer added she wants to continue the camaraderie and support among women on the Eastern Shore, including the support they find during the moonlit walks.
Women don’t always get that. I know for myself I have two sons, which is great, but I don’t always get the support of other adult women. That is a missing piece for a lot of people, and I think with COVID it showed how badly the participants of the walks wanted to get together and have that.
Think your vote won't matter in the NS provincial election? DYK that in 2017 one riding was won by a margin of only 21 votes? Your vote WILL make a difference! #everyvotecounts #novascotia #nspoli #provincialelection #truefauxfilmsinc pic.twitter.com/lAN7VVKZNP
— Truefaux Films Inc (@truefaux_films) July 28, 2021
Voter turnout in any election is abysmally low, but TrueFaux Films in Dartmouth decided to take a close look at the math of who’s winning and by how much. The numbers are quite something to see in film. Watch it at the link above.
On Friday, I spoke with Hannah Minzloff and John Hillis, who started TrueFaux Films in 2007. They work on a lot of social justice projects, and decided as a little side project to create a video encouraging people to vote.
“We feel it’s very important to encourage people to get out and vote and to talk with their candidates because we’ve seen the change that can happen,” Minzloff said.
The pair did a documentary called Six Primrose on The North Grove, the former Dartmouth North Community Food Centre in north Dartmouth, on the group’s Speak Up, Stand Up campaign in 2017 that encourages people to learn about the election process and to vote. (That campaign is on for this provincial election, too.)
We saw the power of engaging the candidates, engaging the community, convincing them that their votes matter. This was a neighbourhood that had very lower percentages in voter turnout. After one season of running this campaign, voter turnout increased dramatically. So anything we can do to support action like that is really valid.
Hillis got the numbers for the film at the Wikipedia page that lists every riding and the results for every candidate in the 2017 provincial election. The page gives the percentage of votes and the actual numbers. From there, Hillis just did the math and got the figures for the film.
I knew there were some close votes. I didn’t know that 12 ridings were less than 500 votes. That startled me. And five ridings less than 100 was really a shock.
Hillis said he’d like to have calculated the eligible population in each riding and compare that with the percentage of the population in each riding that actually voted.
We don’t have a great voter turnout. We have anywhere from 50% to 70% depending on enthusiasm. Not only are some of those ridings a very small margin, but there’s also a very high percentage, somewhere between 25% and 40%, that just didn’t turn out. So they’re winning by small margins and there’s a large percentage [of voters] not voting.
Hillis and Minzloff just released the video last week. They plan on creating a more in-depth series for the federal election when that’s called. Hillis said they’ll work with social service organizations to find out what issues are top of mind. In their films, Hillis said they like to marry stats with a personal narrative.
“We find that’s a wonderful way to tell a story,” Hillis said.
Minzloff said she hopes the film sparks questions and curiosity about why voting matters.
I hope it encourages people to ask, ‘Well, why haven’t I vote in the past? What makes me not want to bother to vote? And what needs to change so I can vote?
We’ve been watching the Olympics and these very small margins, for example, when you’re watching the swimmers or the rowers, the length of an arm, a millisecond of time, and that translates to the same thing in an election. It makes it feels less secure in the knowledge of who might win. It makes it feel exciting, but also chancey.
Hillis said he’d like people to feel more connected and that they are personally part of the system.
It’s often reported that government did this or government said that. We forget the government is us. They represent us. It’s our voice that is doing these things. There’s a disconnect now. This is a small step forward for people to reconnect to the political process, because our political process is inherently about us being involved.
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — live streamed on YouTube
No meetings this week.
In the harbour
09:20: USCGC Richard Snyder, coast guard cutter, sails from Dockyard for sea
10:00: USCGC Escanaba, coast guard cutter, sails from Dockyard for sea
21:30: MSC Anya, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
Saturday marked one year since the mandate came into effect requiring people to wear masks at indoor public spaces in Nova Scotia and people STILL can’t pull their masks up over their noses.