1. Province House
Yesterday, Jennifer Henderson went to Province House to, among other things, ask Premier Stephen McNeil about the province’s legal costs in Alex Cameron’s defamation lawsuit.
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She additionally reports on a variety of other provincial issues. The following items (cruise ships and ferry boats, waterfront gallery, wood allocation, and Glen Assoun) are written by Henderson.
Cruise ships and ferry boats
Premier Stephen McNeil says the federal government, which has jurisdiction over the waters on which cruise ships sail and dock, is considering whether to allow them into the country because of the potential strain on hospitals if passengers develop COVID-19. The premiers meet Friday with the federal government to discuss such issues.
Once passengers disembark, they become the responsibility of the province. The first cruise ship is due at the Port of Halifax April 10.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Lloyd Hines was asked if the Maine-Yarmouth ferry schedule could be impacted by COVID-19. Hines said “I’m aware of that possibility but it’s not keeping me up at nights.” Hines says Bay Ferries is advertising tickets on the Bar Harbour ferry although the minister has yet to receive confirmation the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service has signed off on the renovations to the Bar Harbour ferry terminal paid for by Canadian taxpayers. Until it does, that ship doesn’t sail.
Waterfront Art Gallery
New regulations are being drafted under the province’s Coastal Protection Act that will attempt to protect new buildings from the threat of rising sea level and storm surges associated with climate change. The regulations will include standards for the elevation above sea level that future buildings should be built, as well as the setback distance from the water’s edge. The best estimate for when those new regulations will come into effect is January 2021.
That’s well along in the process of a design competition currently underway for a new $130-million waterfront art gallery on Lower Water Street in the parking lot across from Keith’s Brewery. Minister Hines said that as of February 20, many expressions of interest have been received from architecture and engineering firms around the world competing to pre-qualify for the job. Hines was asked if the Art Gallery would be built to the standards contained in the new regulations being drafted under the Coastal Protection Act.
“Yes, this is a consideration that has to do with climate change,” replied Hines. “We certainly are seeing sea-level rise on many of our coastal roads across the province and we certainly will take guidance from those regulations into consideration when we are designing this piece of infrastructure.”
Wood allocations after Northern Pulp closure
Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin was asked if allocations on crown land that had been leased to Northern Pulp to harvest pulpwood might be reduced now that the mill is not in production. Rankin noted some allocations might potentially change when they come up for renewal in September but said “we’re not there yet.” Rankin noted they are in active discussions with sawmills in the central region of the province.
“Those central mills tell us they want similar volumes of wood whereas in the western region, where Northern Pulp had a specific allotment, intuitively you would think that should be reduced because the company is no longer operating. However, 60-70% of their volume would have gone to the western sawmills (such as Freeman & Sons) and then the pulp went to Northern Pulp. That licence is active until September so we have time to monitor markets and see what changes might happen in the allocations. But its’ not really the time to tell sawmills they would be reduced in supply.”
Why so long for an apology to Glen Assoun?
Glen Assoun is the Dartmouth man wrongfully convicted in the murder of 28-year-old Brenda Way. He served nearly 17 years in prison and then another five years on restrictive bail conditions before being fully exonerated of the violent crime in March 2019. Throughout that period, Assoun steadfastly maintained his innocence.
Yesterday, Justice Minister Mark Furey was asked why it has taken more than a year for the provincial government to apologize to Glen Assoun.
Furey said discussions are ongoing between Glen Assoun’s lawyer, the federal Justice department, and the provincial government over how much compensation he should receive for the years he spent behind bars during which his health deteriorated. Errors were made during the police investigation and the prosecution of the murder case. (Editor Tim Bousquet’s note: “Errors” is putting it kindly. These issues will be fully explored in the upcoming podcast I’m working on for the CBC.) Furey said he would “prefer” for the compensation issue to be settled prior to an apology or the possibility of a public inquiry, as Assoun has requested.
“Compensation is the most important element at this point in time and hopefully we will find some resolution in the near future,” said Furey . “These are complex discussions, they are not easy from a legal perspective and the outcomes of those discussions could inform future decisions. So I just want to be very careful to ensure when we land, we have addressed all of the relevant issues.”
The province has provided Assoun with an interim amount of money to take care of his living expenses until compensation can be finalized. The sum has not been disclosed publicly.
2. CFIB: Paid sick days? Let’s not get too radical here
On the assumption, I guess, that it’s better for workers to come in sick and infect everyone around them than to risk lowering revenue for businesses, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has come out against increasing the number of paid sick days for Nova Scotian workers.
In a CBC story, Alex Cooke writes that the CFIB’s Jordi Morgan:
believes the government shouldn’t get involved in legislating sick day policies.
“Forcing businesses into a one-size-fits-all model for paid sick days makes them less able to offer their employees that kind of flexibility when they need it,” he said.
See, it’s good for employees to not have paid sick days. That’s one of the things that makes Nova Scotia, with its generous three days of unpaid sick leave per year, a workers’ paradise.
Cooke also quotes Gordon Stewart, who heads the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, and you will be shocked to learn he doesn’t like the idea of paid sick days either. Stewart has previously complained that lowering the legal alcohol limit for drivers hurts business, argued that bars should not have to offer free water (“obviously it’s a cost to them and no revenue coming back”), and offered this statement on the issue of bars closing at 2:30 AM instead of 3:30 AM:
“I think you’ve got to look at the full range of things going on downtown, the whole shift of young people going downtown that don’t even go in the bars. I think you need to look at the drug trade and what’s going on in the drug trade.”
Meanwhile, Cooke quotes our disingenuous or laughably naive Labour Minister, Labi Kousoulis:
Kousoulis said he expects employers to “use their common sense” in the event of an outbreak.
“We shouldn’t have to regulate everything for employers in all aspects,” he said. “But I expect our employers would use common sense in terms of how they treat their employees.”
I loved Halifax Magazine editor Trevor Adams’ tweet about the CFIB stance.
3. Municipal auditor worries about fleet monitoring
Municipal auditor general Evangeline Colman-Sadd has concerns about light-vehicle fleet monitoring, Francis Campbell writes in the Chronicle Herald:
Halifax Regional Municipality and Halifax Water provide shoddy oversight and monitoring of the use of their light-duty fleet of vehicles, the municipal auditor general found in an audit released Wednesday…
“We expected to see a good look at what are fleet vehicles being used for, what percentage are being used and do we need all of them,” Colman-Sadd said outside council chambers after presenting her findings to the audit and finance committee.
One of the issues Colman-Sadd raised was paying a flat monthly car allowance vs reimbursing for mileage. She found that Halifax Water and HRM both have poor controls when it comes to determining how to reimburse employees for vehicle use.
Colman-Sadd said the audit determined that there is not a lot of monitoring of employees potentially using company vehicles for personal use.
While Colman-Sadd doesn’t think there is widespread abuse, she points out it’s hard to know without proper monitoring.
4. Council votes down heritage designations
Hearing significant opposition from nearly every property owner to the imposition of heritage registration on their buildings, regional council has decided not to follow a staff recommendation to register 17 unregistered properties in downtown Halifax.
Heritage planning staff recommended council create three new heritage streetscapes, defined as groups of historic buildings that create “a sense of time and place.” The three streetscapes proposed were for Birmingham, Queen and Grafton streets, and comprised 17 properties — five on Birmingham Street, seven on Queen Street and five on Grafton Street.
The proposal brought to council was to protect not just individual buildings, but streetscapes. Of the Queen Street proposal, Woodford writes:
Coun. Lorelei Nicoll put forward an amendment to remove the colourful buildings at 1520, 1526, 1528 and 1530 Queen St. — owned by nearly 150-year-old marine industry company I.H. Mathers — from the list. The company’s CEO, Brian Lane, told council he started the process of redeveloping those properties in 2014 and the registration would “derail” it.
Confusingly, Nicoll also complained about the process of councillors removing individual properties from the proposed list. From Woodford’s story:
“You either support heritage or you don’t,” said Nicoll. “I support heritage.”
Shawn Cleary tweeted this morning that he is “pretty embarrassed with Council.”
Matt Whitman meanwhile, who spent part of last week tweeting photos of buildings and asking followers if they thought the buildings should be protected, also tweeted this morning that he supports heritage. It’s like listening to a neighbourhood group complain about a proposed halfway house: everyone supports the idea in theory, just not here, or now.
As an aside, I don’t understand how the SaltWire website works. I found this story via Woodford’s Twitter feed. It’s not on the Salt homepage, and when I searched the site for “Woodford” it returned zero results.
CCPA proposes social policy framework
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has released a report called Creating the future we all deserve: A social policy framework for Nova Scotia.
Christine Saulnier is the CCPA’s Nova Scotia director and one of four authors of the report. (She also ran federally for the NDP in the last election.) In an op-ed for the Chronicle Herald, she writes:
It is clear, as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows in a new report, that many people in our province do not have the means nor the opportunities to fulfil their potential and participate as full and equal members of our society. Meanwhile, a small minority continuously prosper.
In Nova Scotia, the share of income of the top 10 per cent has seen a fairly consistent trend upwards. Top incomes are now 16 times the income share of the bottom 10 per cent, compared to 11 times in 1988. The size of the gap between the top and the bottom matters for our collective well-being…
We have the resources; all that is required is the political will and good public policy. We have the good public policy covered: use our social policy framework, follow our 10 principles (Interconnectedness, Decolonization, Social Inclusion, Universality, Climate Justice, Decent Work and Well-Being, Public Provision, Fiscal Fairness, Shared Governance and Democratization) and you have a roadmap that will ensure that all policies strengthen our communities, protect the most vulnerable among us, and ensure that Nova Scotia has a just and sustainable future.
As the report’s name would suggest, it doesn’t offer policy solutions, but a way to think about issues and develop policies accordingly. One of the principles is a return to universality — to social programs that cover everyone. Universality was once much more the norm in Canada.
The federal government ran the family allowance program from 1944 to 1992, providing no-strings-attached payments to women with kids under 16, and later 18. My parents put mine into Canada Savings Bonds, which they later gave me to help pay for university.
In a post from the CCPA blog Behind the Numbers, not-my-relative Allan Moscovitch (he’s playwright Hannah’s dad though) and Nick Falvo look at the history of child benefit payments in Canada. Here’s what they say about the end of universality:
In 1992, the federal government eliminated the Family Allowance altogether. During the 1984 election campaign, Brian Mulroney, then leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, had described universal social programs as a sacred trust, successfully reassuring Canadians that the views of his party were not far from the mainstream. But soon after election, social benefits in general and the Family Allowance in particular became targets of the Progressive Conservative government. By 1989, the government had introduced targeting of the family allowance; and in 1992, they were able to eliminate it entirely without opposition, as the ideology of austerity took hold in the country. Funds from the family allowance were folded into a reformed child tax benefit.
Universality may seem like a waste of money. Why are we giving government funds to those who don’t need them? But the CCPA argues that the benefits are far worth the costs. From the Social Policy Framework report:
Universal programs are more durable, as their popularity and impact on every citizen makes them less vulnerable to cuts. Programs that are targeted to improving conditions for marginalized communities are much less likely to be supported by powerful communities. Also, when programs are accessed by everyone, service quality tends to be higher and we avoid the stigma that is often attached to targeted programs and to the communities who rely on them. There is evidence that universal programs are better at promoting gender equality and social inclusion for diverse communities.
When rich people are covered by social programs, even if they don’t really need them, they care more about the programs.
The report is worth reading as a way to think about social policy, even if the odds of the McNeil government considering, say, intersectionality in developing social policy seems, how can I put it…. slim?
Last week, my son Eli and I went to Florida for four days of spring training. We had planned the trip back in November, to coincide with a trip my father-in-law was making there. We figured we could hang out together and watch baseball for a few days.
I got back late Sunday night, and had planned to write about spring training for the Morning File on Monday. But I was too tired and didn’t have enough time, so I figured I’d write it up later and leave it til today. Monday seems like ages ago. Last week, when we left, seems like another lifetime. I was on the fence about whether or not to travel, but figured with precautions it should be fine. This was before things got terrible in Italy. I considered just deleting this post because it feels sort of foolish now, but I’m going to keep it, even though it kind of feels like a dispatch from a different world.
This was my second time going to spring training in Florida with Eli. We’ve also been to Jays spring training games in Montreal, and I wrote about one of them here. We went to four games in four days (plus a hockey game), and saw Matt Shoemaker throw four no-hit innings on Sunday. Here he is in action, and you can see me in the background, if you look hard.
Spring training seems to be a ritual for many families. We saw a father and son in Phillies jerseys who had been going for 15 years (the son had grey hair) and at one of the games we sat behind a mother and daughter who were avid fans and kept score.
I’ve been thinking about what makes the experience so pleasant (in addition to the fact that it’s in Florida in February and March).
I’ve enjoyed going to sports since I was a kid, even though I grew up in a household with non-sports-fan parents. My dad was great about taking me to Canadiens games even though he knew little about the game, and when I was in high school he happily signed a note excusing me from class so I could go to the Expos home opener. The vice-principal was so convinced I’d faked the note that he called my dad, who said yes, the note was real, and why was I still at school so close to game time? I’ve been in the stands for some pretty intense and emotional moments, including a Canada Cup final, Canadiens playoff games, José Bautista’s last game with the Jays, and Curtis Pride’s incredible two-run pinch hit double for the Expos in the middle of a pennant race.
Pride is one of the few deaf players to have played Major League Baseball, and this was his first big league hit, on the first pitch he saw. He is now a college baseball coach. You can hear him talk about his life here.
There is something to be said for the feeling of intensity. I mean, that’s one of the reasons sports are so popular. But it can also lead to an uglier side. For a lot of people, being a fan seems to mean being angry all the time: complaining about the umpires or refs constantly, throwing up your arms at your team’s ineptitude, or, worse, yelling misogynist insults at opposing team players. (I sat through a good half hour of this at a soccer game last summer.)
In my experience, you don’t get any of that at spring training. Sure, some dude sitting 50 feet away from the plate might complain about a called strike, but it seems particularly absurd in a game that doesn’t count, largely being played by players many in the stands have never heard of. Depending on where you are sitting (or standing) tickets range from cheap to moderately priced. The stadiums are small, so you’re close to the players, and if you call them over many are likely to sign autographs. There’s lots of drinking, but I’ve yet to see visible drunkenness. Your team can score seven runs in an inning and still lose 19-13 and you can leave the stadium happy. If your team is likely to be terrible, you can get a glimpse of its future by watching prospects do their best. You root for players more than teams, and you develop attachments to some of them and hope they make it. The staff at the ballparks don’t particularly care if you change seats, and at one stadium, they accepted my father-in-law’s friend’s screenshot of a ticket. One thing that was new since the last time we went: more hand sanitizer and free sunscreen dispensers.
This being Florida, accessibility seemed great too: free shuttles from parking lots to the gate for those who wanted them, plenty of accessible seating near the action, and wide, not too steep ramps. I am not an expert, but accessibility seemed good to me at the parks we visited.
We took precautions — lots of hand-washing, avoiding handrails, using sanitizer when hand-washing wasn’t possible — but, of course, you never know. We were still around lots of people. Fortunately, my work mostly involves staying home alone, so that’s what I’ve been doing since we got back, just in case.
Some teams were instituting changes. Looking into the Blue Jays’ bullpen before their game on Sunday we saw players doing toe-taps with each other instead of handshakes or high fives.
A week makes a big difference. Given how quickly this illness is spreading, it seems foolish that teams are still carrying on, with only minor changes, like barring media from the clubhouse. Teams playing in areas where large gatherings are banned are considering holding the game at neutral third sites, which seems foolhardy at best. Sure, pro sports is big money, but I can’t see how bringing thousands of people in close contact with each other for an entertaining but absolutely non-essential activity is a good idea. In 1919 the Stanley Cup finals were cancelled because of the Spanish flu. Cancelling made sense then, and it makes sense now. The NBA has shut down, there are no fans allowed at the March Madness tournament, but Major League Baseball seems to think moving games to Arizona or something will be OK. It’s foolish. As André Picard wrote in the Globe and Mail, shut it all down.
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — Zane Woodford wrote about the appeal of taxi driver Donald Charles Swinimer here.
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — among other things, the board will be discussion Joan Baxter’s recent series, “Port Wallace Gamble: The Real Estate Boom Meets Nova Scotia’s Toxic Mine Legacy.”
No public meetings.
No public meetings today or Friday.
Dalhousie Reading Circle (Thursday, 9:30am, Indigenous Student Centre Community Room, 1321 Edward Street) — weekly meeting for “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” More info here.
Thesis Defence, Medical Neuroscience (Thursday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Refa’t Ahmad Abo Ghazleh will defend “The Role of Cortical Spreading Depolarizations in Traumatic Brain Injury Outcome.”
Violin Masterclass (Thursday, 12:30pm, Room 111, Dal Arts Centre) — Kerson Leong will perform, a warmup to his performance with Symphony Nova Scotia tonight at 7:30pm. More on his website.
Nostalgia and the Shuttle: Weaving Stories of Place and Belonging in Cape Breton (Thursday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Hilary Doda will talk.
Cuts for Cancer (Thursday, 6pm, Tupper Medical Building) — free haircuts, bake sale, children’s games, and a silent auction in support of the Children’s Wish Foundation.
Theory Sustainability and the Politics of Consumption: A Materialist Feminist Approach (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Krista Hatfield from Carleton University will talk.
Ethical consumerism (‘green’ consumption, fair trade, buying local etc.) generates polarizing debates regarding how neoliberal capitalism either empowers or disempowers the consumer, enables or cofounds consumer activism. This lecture will explore a more expansive vocabulary and new approaches of inquiry in order to understand the many contradictions. strengths and weaknesses of sustainable modes of consumption, including the power and limits of consumer agency.
“Mazel tov, now I’m hotter than a Molotov.” Reflections on Hip-Hop and Jewish Culture (Thursday, 7pm, Room 1011, Rowe Management Building) — Lissa Skitolsky will talk.
Voice Recital (Friday, 11:45am, MacAloney Room)
Composition Masterclass (Friday, 9:30am, Room 121, Dal Arts Centre) — with Jocelyn Morlock. Her composition “My name is Amanda Todd” will be performed by Symphony Nova Scotia Friday at 7:30 pm. More on her website.
Plasmonic Nanobiosensors: From Therapeutic Drug and Environmental Monitoring to Optophysiology of Living Cells (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Jean-Francois Masson from the Université de Montréal will talk.
La Velada 2020 (Friday, 6pm, McInnes Room, Student Union Building) — celebrating Latino culture with food, performances, and music, and an after-party at the Dome. $20/$25, more info here.
Things We Made as Kids (Friday, 7pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — show-and-tell for grownups. ASL interpretation provided; any other accessibility needs or feedback, contact the gallery. More info here and here. I wish I could remember who I recently heard/read lamenting that there is no show and tell for grownups.
Guitar Ensemble Guitars Galore (Friday, 7:30pm, The Peggy Corkum Music Room, 6181 Lady Hammond Road, Halifax) — a wide variety of guitar music spanning classical, Celtic, and jazz; featuring group performances by guitar students, Scott Macmillan, and other Dal faculty. Tickets here, $15/$10.
Alden Nowlan: Poetry and Song (Thursday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, New Academic Building) — performances by Stranger Still and Al Tuck, and a talk by Brian Bartlett. More info here.
Little Death (Thursday and Friday, 8pm, The Pit) — written by Daniel Sarah Karasik, directed by Daniel Halpern. Until Saturday, more info and tickets here.
Here are the Imperial Crowns performing the song Lil Death:
In the harbour
07:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
11:00: Tulane, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
11:30: Ef Ava sails for Portland
20:30: Tulane sails for sea
One of the best post-apocalyptic books I’ve read is Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. I don’t know if I’d recommend reading it right now, but it is superb.
I’ve got deadlines, but I’ll admit it’s hard to focus on them. I feel a bit like I do in the days leading up to a hurricane. You know it’s on the way, you can take precautions, but there’s not much you can do but wait and hope.