1. District 12 candidate rescinds offer to bring motions to council for every $100 donation. Now says he’d do it “for free.”
Zane Woodford reports on District 12 candidate Eric Jury’s offer to bring any motion to council for donors who contribute a minimum of $100 to his campaign — and on Jury’s follow-up, rescinding the offer.
District 12 incumbent Richard Zurawski yesterday shared a link to a video shot in Jury’s car, in which he says:
Basically, if you guys want to donate to my campaign, anybody that donates over $100, I’ll guarantee you guys will have a voice on council. I’ll bring any motion you want forward. My donation… you can donate to me through e-transfer at [email protected]
Woodford details the various statutes that the offer may have contravened, and looks at what the consequences of overtly bringing motions written by donors to council could be. Then he asks the city about it. Woodford writes:
“The returning officer for the election has reached out to this candidate, and the video has been removed. No further action will be taken at this time,” municipal spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray said in an email.
Spray did not say whether Jury’s offer was illegal, but addressed the question about what fines he may face with a reference to the Criminal Code and the bribery section of the Municipal Elections Act:
“In terms of penalty, if the Candidate was convicted under the Criminal Code, they face up to 5 years imprisonment. If the Candidate is convicted of bribery under the Municipal Elections Act, they face a fine of between $1,000 – $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term of between 90 days and 12 months, or to both, and they are disqualified from voting at any election for six years.”
After Woodford’s story ran, Jury contacted the Examiner with a statement and sent two new videos, in which he says he as councillor he would bring any motion to council from anyone in the municipality, but, “It’s got to be something good, right?” (The story’s been updated.)
I spent a bit of time yesterday looking at websites and social media for our candidates here in District 13. Our councillor, Matt Whitman, is running for mayor, so there is no incumbent.
In past elections I’ve been frustrated by the number of local candidates whose pitch is essentially, “I want the job” or “I would be a good councillor.” Candidates often make the mistake of telling us too much about themselves (I grew up in the district and I have a BA, and years of experience in business…), making the most basic marketing mistake out there: telling people about your attributes rather than what you can do for them.
Anyway, looking at the information put out there by our (many!) candidates, I was pleasantly surprised. Lots of engagement with issues, real differences in approaches, priorities, and so on. It was refreshing.
One thing that did dismay me though, was the number of typos, poorly constructed sentences, and just plain awful writing. Nothing says attention to detail like using apostrophes for plurals and misspelling common words. Look, everyone makes typos. After this Morning File publishes I’ll probably note a couple we missed in writing and editing, and then go fix them. I get it. But also, if you are running for council, please ask someone who knows what they are doing to proofread your materials before you publish them.
2. Parents and teachers detail back-to-school worries
The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.
Jennifer Henderson reports on a joint news conference held yesterday by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education, outlining their concerns over the provinces school re-opening plan.
Is our Back to School Plan good enough to keep families and communities safe?” asked NSTU president Paul Wozney. “Is it good enough that students and teachers won’t be protected by the same six feet of distance as patrons at retail outlets? Is it good enough that instead of smaller class sizes, more physical distance, and proper ventilation students are instead getting promises of more hand sanitizer and windows that might open?”
“I’m not a handwringing, hysterical mother,” said Christine Emberley, the parent of two children entering Grades 3 and 6 who is also a teacher. “Our legislature remains closed while MLAs in Prince Edward Island spent three hours checking on school readiness. We wait for sporadic information from multiple sources but New Brunswick has committed to regular, central communication with families. Ontario has outlined procedures for dealing with outbreaks in schools. B.C. has delayed opening schools to students to ensure it can meet the challenges to keep everyone safe.”
Henderson reports on the concerns and also looks at the province’s boast that independent experts have assessed the Back to School plan as being one of the best in the country. (Spoiler: the assessment appears to have been based in part on incorrect information.)
If you’ll permit me a little aside here, I think one of the things that sets Henderson’s — and really, the Examiner in general — apart is the willingness to dig a little deeper into so many stories. Henderson could have written a perfectly fine piece just straight-up reporting on the conference, but instead she digs deeper.
If you appreciate this kind of reporting, please subscribe. Subscriptions are the Examiner’s only source of revenue. We literally can’t do this without you.
3. Halifax water gets OK to accelerate lead pipe removal
Zane Woodford reports on UARB approval for Halifax Water’s accelerated programming to remove lead water service lines for both public and private properties. Halifax is the only municipality in the country whose water utility is covering the full cost of lead pipe removal. There are more than 5,000 lead pipes in peninsular Halifax and urban Dartmouth. Halifax Water also got approval from the UARB to leave water rates unchanged for now.
In June, the utility appeared before the board to make its case for keeping rates flat for 2020, and for accelerating its replacement of existing lead service lines in the municipality.
After originally planning to increase rates by 5.8% for the average residential ratepayer effective Sep. 1, the utility amended its application to keep all rates flat for 2020.
“Halifax Water’s initial request to increase rates was filed prior to the pandemic,” general manager Cathie O’Toole said in a news release Thursday.
Halifax Water’s board approved the lead service line proposal in December following a nationwide collaborative investigation led by Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism. That investigation uncovered dangerous levels of lead in drinking water in schools and wells across Nova Scotia, and revealed a testing history of high levels of lead in homes in Halifax amid lacklustre uptake in the utility’s rebate program.
He is too modest to write that he was a key part of that investigation.
This story is for subscribers only. You know the drill.
4. Celebration of life for Regis Korchinski-Paquet to be held Saturday
Haley Ryan reports for CBC on local reaction to the news that the Toronto police officers involved in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet have been cleared of any wrongdoing. Korchinski-Paquet fell to here death from the balcony of her apartment after her family called police in hopes of getting her some help.
Seeing all five Toronto police officers cleared in Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s death was a “slap in the face” for some in her mother’s home community of North Preston, N.S.
Miranda Cain, a North Preston resident and community advocate, was with Korchinski-Paquet’s mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton, and other family members in a local restaurant when they heard the news…
“We shed a couple of tears. A lot of frustration, anger,” Cain said Thursday.
“I was just there to comfort her and to lend her my support. She anticipated this.”
Cain said Beals-Clayton is originally from North and East Preston, historic Black communities just outside Halifax. Korchinski-Paquet lived in the province until she was a teenager.
The story gets into what charges family lawyer Howard Morton believes could have been laid, and discusses the Ontario Special Investigations Unit’s decision to clear the officers involved. A celebration of life for Korchinski-Paquet will be held at Africville on Saturday, from 5 to 8pm.
After the SIU’s decision was announced, Desmond Cole tweeted:
NEWS: the SIU says Regis Korchinski-Paquet spent her final moments trying to block a police officer from following her onto her balcony
the SIU has cleared the cops of criminal charges, but their response led to her death. we need a different response
Whatever happened in that apartment — whether the police pushed Korchinski-Paquet, or whatever the details of how she came to fall — the undisputed truth is that, as Cole says, the police response led to her death.
Yesterday, CBC reported on video of an RCMP officer in Saskatchewan coming into house with an axe as part of a wellness check. (“Wellness check” here makes me want to simultaneously laugh and cry.)
From the story, by Stephanie Taylor:
RCMP in Saskatchewan are reviewing the behaviour of an officer captured on video yelling, swearing and carrying an axe into a home where a man had harmed himself…
The 33-year-old Cree man says he was experiencing depression and was speaking to his mother-in-law, who called the local clinic to check on him…
It appears that the officer hits the window hard three times with his fist and yells: “Open the door now.”
“The (expletive) clinic is here to check on you. Open the door or I’m coming back with a sledgehammer,” the officer is heard saying.
As Cole says, we need a different response. And the response is not to pair police with mental health professionals for these calls. The officer in this story was accompanied by two nurses.
5. Getting stoned in self-isolation
The study was conducted by PhD student Sara Bartel and supervisors Simon Sherry and Sherry Stewart.
Sherry said comparing the data collected before and after the pandemic suggests participants who adhered to self-isolation used more cannabis than they did before the pandemic.
“Our research has the advantage of studying people at two points in time,” said Sherry. “This type of research is rare. A lot of our understanding of COVID-19 comes from cross-sectional data that provides a single snapshot of what happened.”
The findings are especially noteworthy since Nova Scotia has the highest percentage of cannabis users in Canada. According to Statistics Canada data from late 2019, 27.5 per cent of people surveyed in Nova Scotia used Cannabis at the time.
An overview of retail sales at cannabis stores across Canada between October 2018 and September 2019 showed Nova Scotia had the third highest sales per capita in the country at $68 average sales per person.
“It’s alarming that in the context of already heavy cannabis use, we have a situation where Nova Scotians are using even more cannabis,” said Sherry.
1. How I started reading books again
Growing up, I read a lot. I didn’t understand why being sent to your room was a punishment. Being sent to my room? That’s where my books were. Fine. (I think my parents must have figured this out too, because they maybe sent me to my room twice during my entire childhood.)
I read superhero comics and Tintin and Asterix and the Hardy Boys, and Greek children’s books, and since I had a dad who was both much older than the other dads around and who was an anglophile, I read British schoolboy books like 1066 and All That and books I’m pretty sure most of my contemporaries weren’t reading, like the Stephen Leacock’s Frenzied Fiction. (Actually, I read a whole lot of Leacock.)
When I got a bit older and had literary pretensions, I read all the young guy literary pretension books, and when we moved to Nova Scotia and had access to the Halifax library system, which was far, far superior to what was then available in Montreal, it was great. We got books from the bookmobile, from books by mail, and then from the branch, when one opened up not too far away.
You have probably read enough accounts by now from people with a similar background to know what comes next: At some point, I more or less stopped reading. Or reading just to read.
But over the last six months or so, I’ve started to read a lot more, and it’s not just because of the pandemic. Here are a few things I’ve observed (or noticed, I guess).
First, there are a few reasons why I gradually read less and then my reading fell off a cliff. I’m not sure what I make of the “Google broke my brain” argument, but I certainly became more susceptible distraction. A few times I’ve watched my kids in dismay, reading with their phone in the book so they could frequently check it, but really, I was no better.
Second, I went back to school (see the picture at the top of this section) and did an MFA in creative non-fiction at King’s. So, for a couple of years, much of what I read was related to that.
Third, I wrote a friggin’ book myself at the same time, so whatever other little energy or time I had went to reading first-person accounts of growing up in Blandford, and treatises on the history of cheese-making, and diaries of young people growing up in places like Big Tancook Island, and histories of brewing and so on.
Reading is a habit — especially reading that doesn’t have a specific purpose, like researching a book, and like any habit you can fall out of it.
Some people are really into data. I’ve seen folks sharing their reading spreadsheets on Twitter, and I will admit that when I saw one of these, accompanied by an explanation of how the person read a book a week for a year, I found that helpful. Like oh, she can do this, so can I. I’m not huge on data and my freelance life means I need a lot of scheduling flexibility, so logging my hours, or creating a spreadsheet is not all that appealing to me. I do have a Goodreads profile which, for some reason, I started updating recently, but I’m probably not going to keep it up. It just feels like too much work for little benefit other than providing Amazon with more data. Instead, I have a notebook in which, if I remember, I write down what I’ve read and a few thoughts on each book.
I can understand using tools like Goodreads for reading challenges, but the gamification of reading and an over-reliance on data and metrics leads to absurdities like people choosing to read a book rated 3.4 over one rated 3.1, and writers who feel like if they get anything under five stars it’s a slap in the face.
I am also not a reading evangelist who thinks everyone should read more. If you’re into some other leisure or educational activity, great. But for those who do want to read more, here is what has worked for me.
- Phone out of the bedroom at night. I never really had an issue with falling asleep after looking at my phone. I like doing crosswords, I have a crossword app, and bed is a good place to do them. But, having my phone in the bedroom also meant that I inevitably reached for it as soon as I woke up, ignoring the stack of books and magazines I had aspirationally piled up on my nightstand. Wake up, scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, feel anxious. Particularly bad in the early pandemic days. Now the phone stays in my office most of the time. (Exception: when I’m writing Morning File and need the alarm.) If I wake up and want to read, I can read a book or a magazine. If I really want the phone, I have to get up.
- I bought a Kobo. It’s easy to get books from the library, it’s easy to use it to buy books, and it’s small enough to fit in my pocket. I can go away for the weekend and bring a ton of books with me in one compact package. I can arrange my library holds, so they roll in on a schedule that works for me, meaning there is always something new to read. And if I wake up in the night and want to read, it’s right there. The Kobo does have a built-in web browser, but it’s so terrible (I can only think this is deliberate) that it’s best not to even try using it.
- I read some books that were fun and easy to zip through, and that seemed to prime me for having the capacity to tackle longer and more complex ones. I like a wide range of stuff too.
Number four is, admittedly, not for everyone, but it’s gotten me reading a lot more. I started a podcast about books with my friend Jay.
(Me: Tim,is it OK if “notice” my own podcast? Tim: Yes.)
Jay and I have known each other since high school, but we had no contact with each other for a good 20 years or so. Then he messaged me one day to say he no longer lived in Winnipeg, but had moved to about 15 minutes from where I lived. Go figure.
Jay’s experience of grad school was the opposite of mine. While he was doing his MBA he read a lot. And after he graduated, he just kept going. On the podcast we recommend books for each other and then discuss them. The podcast has changed how I read in a couple of different ways. Jay and I tend to like different things, so I’m reading books that are new to me or that I never would have picked up on my own (for better or worse… all I can say is I was not particularly enamoured of Christopher Moore’s Fool). It means I re-read the books I’ve recommended for him more critically (trying to figure out what the hell he will make of them), and it means I spend time planning which books to read on upcoming shows. All that leads to a lot of variety and I like it.
A couple of follow-ups on items on my piece yesterday about the closing of Upper Clements Park and low-key amusement parks in general.
After using a couple of Martin Lewison’s photos to illustrate the story, I contacted Lewison to see if he knew that Upper Clements, which he had visited in 2016, has now shut down. What was I thinking? He is a roller coaster enthusiast whose research interest is in the business of theme parks. Of course he knew. He said the roller coaster community would mourn the loss of the wooden coaster.
Anyway, Lewison told me he thought the flume may sell on the secondary amusement ride market, but that he didn’t remember a lot of other rides that would be likely to go. He also said the photo above is one of his favourite roller coaster pictures.
The other follow-up comes from reader “Matthew M” on Twitter, who points us to the story of Lapland New Forest, on the Hampshire-Dorset border in England. It was an attraction that launched in 2008, promising a magical winter wonderland for the family to enjoy.
“The ‘Magical Tunnel of Light’ was a 6ft net of lights strung between two trees.
“Two fake large plastic polar bears were also hidden behind a chain link fence, the nativity scene was a large picture far across an inaccessible muddy field and the majority of the food was out of fairground vans selling frozen burgers.
“The ‘quality toys’ broke after getting them home, the queue for Father Christmas was over two hours long.
“The ice rink was broken as was half of the play ground equipment.”
Another parent reported her kid seeing Santa smoking next to a porta-potty. A staff member playing an elf was yelled at and slapped by an exasperated patron. (Exasperation does not excuse slapping staff.)
Lapland New Forest lasted six days, and the brothers behind the operation were convicted of violating trading standards laws, though their conviction was later overturned when it emerged that members of the jury had been texting about it during the trial.
Matthew points to what he calls “an even grimier” account of Lapland New Forest in The Guardian:
The attention to detail in our theme park will really wow you,” read the theme park’s website, and that, at least, was true. However, “the only feeling of ‘wow’ that many of the consumers felt was ‘wow, what a con’,” Malcolm Gibney, prosecuting, told the court.
The promised “beautiful snow covered log cabins”, “delicious seasonal food” and “wonderful ice rink” proved equally illusory.
In fact, on arrival at the park, down a poorly signposted, potholed lane, visitors were greeted by a large concrete expanse and a traffic cone on which a sign had been perched reading “Lapland Way In”. Instead of being greeted by an elf, as promised on the website, visitors had to give their tickets to a security guard in fluorescent tabard who, according to contemporary news reports, made a point of telling those coming in that they were being ripped off and later quit after a customer punched him in the head.
Once inside, instead of a “tunnel of light”, guests found a short row of fir trees that had been lightly sprayed with fake snow and draped with a string of fairy lights. In a muddy corner of the site a few huskies were chained to pegs, “howling, yapping and generally looking unhappy”, according to one visitor; a solitary reindeer suffered the same unhappy fate.
In the harbour
05:00: Gotland, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Rostock, Denmark
05:00: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
13:30: CMA CGM Corte Real, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
14:30: ZIM Tarragona sails for New York
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
22:00: Gotland sails for Bilbao, Spain
I’ve been listening to Justin Townes Earle’s melancholy songs and feeling melancholy about his death at age 38.