Top of the Mornin’ File to ya. Here’s the news…
1. COVID-19 update
It’s a quick one this morning. A lack of coronavirus news is always nice to wake up to.
From Tim Bousquet’s Tuesday report:
Two new cases of COVID-19 are announced in Nova Scotia today (Tuesday, March 16).
Both cases are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone — one is a close contact of a previously announced case and the other is under investigation.
There are 17 known active cases in the province. Two people are in hospital with the disease, both in ICU.
For a breakdown of the location of currently active cases, as well as a summary of newly scheduled pop-up testing sites for the coming days, check out the full report here.
One year ago today was the day the last remaining parts of my pre-pandemic life (job and internship) were lost to the shutdown. In the spirit of Yvette d’Entremont’s recent sneak peek into her yearlong pandemic diary, here are some of my quick personal stats from the last 12 months:
- One 14-day quarantine
- Two pieces of IKEA furniture assembled (coffee cart and wardrobe)
- Two pairs of track pants added to said wardrobe — total is now four
- Three cotton swabs jammed through my nose and into my brain
- Zero: TV shows binged, loaves of bread baked, new languages learned
- 200-plus: bags of chips consumed, naps taken, walks around the block
- 168 days: current streak of going to the store without having to make two trips because I forgot my mask.
I’m really proud of that last one.
2. New downtown Dartmouth development one step closer to approval
“The municipality’s Design Advisory Committee is recommending in favour of a new development proposal for downtown Dartmouth,” writes Zane Woodford in his report Tuesday.
“Through his company, Canal Capital Ltd., developer Alec Chedrawe (Danny Chedrawe’s son) wants to build a seven-storey, 37-unit residential building with two levels of parking and one level of commercial space at 186, 188 and 190 Portland Street.”
The current properties hold two parking lots and a small apartment building with a vacuum shop in the front.
The committee actually met virtually last week, but there was no public broadcast. Instead, the staff minutes were posted online yesterday.
In a staff report presented to the committee, principal planner Sean Audas wrote that the proposed design, put forward by Zzap Architecture and Planning, meets the requirements of the municipality’s Centre Plan, and the developer isn’t asking for any variances.
Chardrewe is also planning a second development in the area: a taller building for the Moffat’s Pharmacy and its parking lot, also on Portland Street.
To read about how the developer hopes to keep the character of the old pharmacy building in its new development, as well as what happens next with the first proposal, read Woodford’s full report here.
My first thought on reading this story: a development that doesn’t ask for variances to the Centre Plan or exceptions to bylaws? It is possible.
3. Changes to Seaport Market
The Seaport Market is open again. Victoria Walton, reporting for the Coast, writes about what changes we can expect to see there:
“The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market opened last weekend in its new space at Pavilion 22, immediately beside the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. It’s just 350 metres south of its former waterfront home, where the market had been since opening in August, 2010.
On Saturday morning, the crowd was strong. Because of COVID-19 capacity concerns, the market has been counting shoppers on the way in and out of the market–security told The Coast that about 1,500 people had come into the new space by 11am, while only half that number was typical at the old market in recent weeks.
The Halifax Port Authority, which manages the market, says 54 vendors opened to customers, bragging in its press release that this “compares to 30 at the previous location last Saturday.” (Although the market’s website lists 70 vendors, several are outdated, and the map still links to a long-ago visual of the old market.)
Walton reports that some vendors decided not to make the move to the new location, opting instead to open separate entrances to their stands in the area, surrounding what will become The PIER, a planned tech hub near Seaview. Others, like Gourmandises Avenue Chocolatiers, Shawarma Stop and Chenpapa are closing their shops for good at the market. Walton also writes there is no seating in the market for public health reasons, and the market will “move outside to the Pavilion 22 parking lot, where a ‘dedicated structure’ is being built.” The market is open again this weekend from 8am to 2pm on Saturday and 10am to 2pm on Sunday.
4. Could vaccine passports help reopen businesses?
Here we are on St. Patrick’s Day and bars and restuarants are still restricted in what they can offer for dine-in service.
CBC’s Cross Country Checkup looked at how “vaccine passports” could open things up sooner, but there are concerns around the inequity such a model could create between Canadians who’ve been vaccinated and those who haven’t:
Toronto restaurateur Vito Marinuzzi says that he would welcome the introduction of vaccine passports as part of a plan to reopen his industry — as long as they’re implemented fairly.
“The way it rolls out is what’s going to make it acceptable, what’s going to make it fair, what’s going to make me say yes to it,” said Marinuzzi, who co-owns three restaurants in the Greater Toronto Area.
Only a small percentage of Canadians have received a COVID-19 vaccine, and Marinuzzi says he would consider implementing a vaccine passport requirement only when the shot is “fairly offered” to Canadians.
“If you choose not to have it and I’m [requiring] a COVID passport to enter my business, you made that choice and I made that choice to exclude you — and I’m OK with that because we were both offered the vaccine,” he told Cross Country Checkup.
Vaccine passports — physical or digital documentation offering proof of immunization against COVID-19 — have been touted as a way to reopen the economy. The certification could be required for travel, and even to access restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.
Several jurisdictions, including Denmark, Israel and the European Union, have announced — or launched — vaccine passport programs that would offer immunized residents the ability to move more freely.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concerns on Friday that such an approach could lead to greater inequity for some Canadians, however.
“The idea of certificates of vaccination for domestic use does bring in questions of equity. There are questions of fairness and justice. There could be discrimination,” he said in French.
1. Raising a glass to the pub
As I mentioned briefly above, the impact of the pandemic fully hit me on St. Patrick’s Day of last year. This is my one year anniversary.
The first cases in the province had been announced on that weekend. I was covering the national university hockey championships at the Metro Centre before the tournament was cancelled partway through. My classes had moved online and soon ended entirely. Gatherings were now limited to 50 people and all bars and restaurants were cancelling dine-in service before the end of the week.
But two things happened on Paddy’s Day last year that made me realize everyday life was about to change in a big way.
That day a friend and I took a lunch trip to the pub for one “festive” pint. We figured one Guinness was obligatory, and we didn’t know when we’d get the chance again to go out and grab one, so we took a stroll across the soon-to-be-closed Commons to the North End and settled on the Brown Hound for a round. Although bars were still open, some had put off their St. Patrick’s Day plans out of concern for staff health and safety, so going out was already a controversial decision. I admit, we were still a bit naive to the situation.
Upon entering the pub, we immediately regretted going. It was the most depressing bar I’ve ever seen — and, if you’ve ever been to a bar, you’ll know that’s saying something. The small pub, usually packed tight under dim, cozy light, was now all but empty — and on Paddy’s Day of all days — with every other table off limits with chairs stacked on top. My friend later told me that when we sat down, not far from an old man at another table, it was the first time she’d felt uncomfortable about being out — the first time she realized she might actually be threatening someone’s health and wellbeing.
The staff were huddled behind the bar, clearly unhappy to be there. There was just a horrible awkwardness hovering over the place. In hindsight, the tiny, close-quarters bar was the worst possible choice, as was going out at all (nine days later the Examiner reported that the province’s first community spread was likely linked to a party on March 17). We finished a quick pint and went home.
When I got there I found out I was getting laid off from my part-time job, and my spring internship was cancelled, effectively killing off the final vestiges of my pre-pandemic life.
It was the last time either of us would go out for a long time.
Looking back at that day got me thinking: I really miss going to a packed bar. I know the bars are open now, and have been off and on, in varying capacities over the past year, but I mean going to a bar without plexiglass, mask mandates, and limited, distanced seating. I miss the table mixing, pulling up chairs, meeting strangers, running into old friends and swimming through a sea of people to cross the room.
It’s not the alcohol. The Examiner reported twice last year (here and here) on the dangers of increased drinking during the shutdown, and it’s not like bar restrictions have stopped people from buying booze. I’m not nostalgic for drinking on the town. It’s the meeting space I miss. The community, the spontaneity of the crowd and the constant potential to meet someone new. That’s what’s been lost.
I’m glad these businesses are able to operate today, and it’s great to go out and support them safely, but it’s not the same. It’s the pre-pandemic pub I miss.
I’m longing for the pub with character. The one that attracts characters. The neighbourhood hideout with its private corners, open conversations, and chance meetings.
Gus’s on Agricola, in all its grimy glory; The Knot and the Fo’c’sle down on the South Shore, perfect for a post-sail pint; the Duke of Duckworth in St. John’s, stuffed into an alleyway above George Street, keeping patrons safe and warm from that cold Newfoundland wind; the original Gahan House in Charlottetown, or my beloved Library Pub in Wolfville, across the river from my hometown, whose whole premise was jamming as many sardines into the tin can upstairs, then letting them mix and shuffle around each other, exchanging laughs, drinks, ideas and phone numbers. When musicians came in for the evenings there they’d often be so crammed that they’d become part of the corner table. I miss that.
For better or (most likely) worse, drinking and pub culture has always been linked to St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland.
The country’s most famous novel, Ulysses — equal parts beautiful, hilarious and maddeningly indecipherable — covers one day in Dublin at the turn of the 20th century, and, if memory serves, about half of it is set in pubs. About a century after James Joyce’s masterwork, I’m reading Roddy Doyle’s latest book, Love, which came out in the fall. It takes place in modern day Dublin, and still features pubs at the centre — it’s set during a crawl when two older men reunite in town to catch up and reminisce about their lives.
It’s a few passages early on — when one of the men is remembering a time in their youth when they’d first started frequenting a pub for the atmosphere, rather than just going out to get drunk — that really speaks to what I miss about a full barroom. It describes the evening rush coming in on a Saturday night:
“The door swung open, and open, and open, and a new population slid in and took over the room… We were at the back, near the coat hooks and the top flights of stairs, down to the Gents and up to the Ladies. People flowed in so quickly, it was as if one big gang of friends was arriving at once. They occupied the area near the door, then it seemed to send out scouts to the remaining corners. Passages opened and two or three stepped in and took the remaining stools at the bar and the tables and benches along the walls. They were all at home, all of them linked, somehow. Although I could see now, it wasn’t just one polite mob. There were men in twos and threes, there two men alone, there were couples, and couples with couples, and two bigger looser groups of friends. But there was something about them. Confidence, perhaps. Physical ease — they stood, sat and crossed their legs like they’d been trained to do it properly.”
That last bit might be a bit of a stretch. It’s rare to go to a bar where everyone looks comfortable and smooth, but I guess it’s more about the characters’ perception than the reality of the place. It continues:
“We were recovering. Starting to feel the buzz of the previous week. These would be our people now…Soaking it in, soaking in it. I could feel myself melting — it was good — flowing slowly into the noise, the accents, the jokes, the stories, the geography. Listening. Hoping someone would say something to me. Male, female — a way in. The start. It was why we’d been coming to town. To make the break. To live up, somehow, to the music we loved, the books we read. To walk the streets instead of roads, cross a real river, sit in the pubs…
Sure, it’s a bit sentimental. How can you romanticize a place where people go to act like idiots, where a $6 pint is considered “cheap,” where what’s written on the bathroom stalls is often only slightly less disgusting than what’s left on the bathroom floors, where meaningless fights, public rejection, and self-medication are a part of the furniture. How can a person long for that? How can they romanticize that? Certainly a few of my worst nights have had a bar as their backdrop. I’ll readily admit that. I know I’m not alone. But some of my favourite times have been spent with friends, stuffed into a booth in a crowded bar. So, what can I say? I miss a full pub, and the energy that comes with it.
Maybe Doyle sums it up best:
“It was the stool, the counter, the pint in front of me, my friend beside me, the night ahead of us.”
P.S. for a counterpoint to my pub praise, check out Tim Bousquet’s Morning File from March 17, 2017, in which he bemoans the prevalence of prepackaged Irish pubs. I agree with him for the most part. The cookie cutter pub is awful. Check out the Simon Pegg film “the World’s End” for an even more scathing attack on what they call “Starbucking”, the pattern of copying a successful style of bar to manufacture an “authentic” pub atmosphere.
2. The Royals, continued from last week
Last week I wrote about the growing discussion around whether the royals were relevant to the Canadian state anymore, following the bombshell Harry and Meghan interview earlier this month. I asked whether this was even a question. I just assumed the majority of Canadians had now long considered the royals to be part of the country only on a technicality, and the only reason they stuck around was that it would take another Meech Lake-level attempt at constitutional overhaul to remove them.
I said then, as I say now, that I’m not hostile toward the royals; I just don’t think keeping royalty around is in the best interest of their subjects or the royals themselves. I then asked if anyone had a decent argument for keeping them around, besides tradition.
Well, was I wrong — people here do care about the royals.
Although there were some comments following that article that agreed with my position, the longer, more thoughtful comments in the thread sided with keeping the monarchy.
People wrote to say a stable, apolitical head of state can be a constant, unifying body in the ever-changing political landscape of democracies. That they are meant to show us, and our political leaders, a level of dignity we can aspire to. That they can be moral leaders, even if they lack real political power. That they offer a more respectable pageantry than that reserved for reality TV celebrities and sporting events in countries without monarchies. Or that the monarchy differentiates us from the American republic, and is uniquely part of Canada’s history.
I still think royalty is an outdated idea. I don’t think a constant head of state adds much stability to an ever-changing democracy — just consider everything that’s happened in Britain since constitutional monarchy was implemented there in 1688. It hasn’t exactly been three centuries of stability with two world wars and a Brexit blip thrown in there since then.
I also just don’t think keeping the monarchy is fair to those in the royal family. Is it fair to ask them to live to a higher standard than the rest of us? They’re still human beings. Unless we still believe God ordained them to live out their lives doing photo shoots and speaking to us on Christmas. It’s also unfair to ask people to live their lives in a museum, to be completely apolitical, to try to hold themselves to a standard of infallibility (a standard some of them have fallen horribly short of *cough* Prince Andrew *cough*) and to go through life under the microscope of the tabloids just by nature of their birth. (I admit that, as victims of circumstance go, they got the best end of the deal).
Still, I really appreciate the comments. They were so well articulated, polite, and civil. It was downright regal. It really gave me faith in comments sections — maybe they still do have potential as platforms for the civil exchange of ideas and arguments.
It also caused me to reconsider my own thoughts on the monarchy, even if I still landed on the same opinion. I was better able to understand why some Canadians still actively support a royal head of state here. Thank you.
Nova Scotians making news in Hollywood
There were two big stories this week out of the entertainment industry that involved Nova Scotians. They’ve both received a lot of attention already, but I still thought I’d include a brief mention to them here in “Noticed.” I mean, how often do Maritimers get the spotlight in Hollywood news? Let alone twice in one week?
First, there’s Ben Proudfoot, who co-directed the short documentary, “A Concerto is a Conversation,” with musician Kris Bowers. The film is now up for an Oscar for Best Documentary Short. The 13-minute documentary is a conversation between two different generations of an African-American family that traces a line from the bigotry and racism Bowers’ grandfather had to overcome in 1940s Los Angeles, to escaping from poverty, and owning and operating his own business — a business that would provide for his family and eventually help support a grandson who has scored multiple Hollywood movies and become a prominent Los Angeles musician.
In an interview with the Canadian Press, Proudfoot, whose father Gordon Proudfoot passed away last year in Halifax, spoke about the importance of different generations sharing their experiences with each other:
“I do think the film touches on something important, which is intergenerational conversations,” said Proudfoot, whose California-based company Breakwater Studios produced the film.
“Obviously, the film explores Horace Bowers’ experience as a Black man in America and the bigotry that he faced simply in trying to build a life for his family. But what I find always interesting is that we don’t even need to necessarily look into the history books. Witnesses to history are all around us. All we need to do is ask. And my hope is that more films that spark intergenerational conversation might come of this.”
It’s a topic Proudfoot’s dad, who has Scottish heritage, was passionate about as well.
“He always told me, ‘Your mom and I have a century of experience between us. And if you don’t listen to us, you’re throwing away your greatest resource.’ And I think that’s true.”
Here’s the film. It’s beautifully shot and, at 13 minutes, you can check off an Oscar nominated film before having lunch today.
The second big piece of Hollywood news involves Elliot Page, who announced in December of 2020 that he’s trans.
The prominent Nova Scotian actor, known for roles in Juno, Inception, and Netflix’s Umbrella Academy was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. In the cover story by Katy Steinmetz, Page gives his first major interviews since his December announcement, talking about the difficulties of being himself in the film industry, a problem he says he’s faced since he was a child:
Elliot Page doesn’t remember exactly how long he had been asking.
But he does remember the acute feeling of triumph when, around age 9, he was finally allowed to cut his hair short. “I felt like a boy,” Page says. “I wanted to be a boy. I would ask my mom if I could be someday.” Growing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Page visualized himself as a boy in imaginary games, freed from the discomfort of how other people saw him: as a girl. After the haircut, strangers finally started perceiving him the way he saw himself, and it felt both right and exciting.
The joy was short-lived. Months later, Page got his first break, landing a part as a daughter in a Canadian mining family in the TV movie Pit Pony. He wore a wig for the film, and when Pit Pony became a TV show, he grew his hair out again. “I became a professional actor at the age of 10,” Page says. And pursuing that passion came with a difficult compromise. “Of course I had to look a certain way.”
It’s an in-depth piece, written from two interviews with Page, that looks at how he figured out who he is, how he’s still in the process of doing that, how his queer and trans identity played a role in shaping his career, and what he’s been through personally since coming out as trans. It’s definitely worth the full read.
One part that most struck me was this quote from Page, speaking about his mother:
A day before we first speak, Page will talk to his mom about this interview and she will tell him, “I’m just so proud of my son.” He grows emotional relating this and tries to explain that his mom, the daughter of a minister, who was born in the 1950s, was always trying to do what she thought was best for her child, even if that meant encouraging young Page to act like a girl. “She wants me to be who I am and supports me fully,” Page says. “It is a testament to how people really change.”
It struck me because, when I saw these two stories last week — these stories of two Nova Scotians making careers in Hollywood, one nominated for an Oscar for a film that looks at the racial struggles a family has had to overcome to make it in America, and another about the personal and trans/homophobic struggles an actor has had to overcome to simply be himself in the film industry — I can’t help but think of my grandfather’s Nova Scotian upbringing: Baptist, rural, quaint, often described to me as 10 years behind the rest of the world. Now two of our own seem to be years ahead.
I’ll finish by recognizing that, outside of Hollywood, we still have our own film industry in this province. Since the government repealed the film industry tax break in 2015, it’s been rough going, but you might have seen a recent CBC article from Carston Knox that says film in Nova Scotia could have its biggest year in some time in 2021, owing substantially to our province’s handling of the pandemic.
All around, it’s an exciting time for Nova Scotians in film.
No meetings this week
BRIC NS Student Seminar Series ‑ Primary Health Care Presentations (Wednesday, 12:30pm) — Shauna Hachey will present “Integrating Oral Health and Primary Healthcare: Exploring Knowledge and Practice;” Emma Cameron will present “Access to postnatal health services and supports: The experiences of resettled Syrian refugee women in Nova Scotia.” Info and registration here.
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Graduate Student Symposium (Wednesday, 3pm) — “Taking a drug only twice a year for treating HIV?” by Trilok Neupane; “A potent suppressor of ferroptosis identified in protecting against cell death by lipid peroxidation” by Laura McGary; “Are inactive ingredients of drug formulation ‘inert’?” by Anupama Ghimire; “Updated model of autophagy leads to new potential cancer treatment” by Jordan Thompson. Contact this email to receive the link.
On the Never‑Ending Serial Crisis and the Need to Re‑Think Scholarly Publishing (Thursday, 6pm) — Philippe Mongeon will talk; lecture will be recorded and posted on Youtube.
Academic libraries around the world have been in an enduring “serial crisis” for now more than three decades. Despite the massive decrease in the costs of publishing brought by technological advances, the rise of the Open Access movement, and the “big deals” negotiated with scholarly publishers, the costs of access to scholarly literature never ceased to increase and the crisis remains unresolved. This talk will provide a quick overview of the evolution of scholarly publishing over the last 30 years and present the results of an ongoing study on the costs of access to scholarly literature in Canadian universities. The talk will also provide a critical perspective on the so-called transformative agreements (some prefer the term “big deal 2.0”) that recently emerged as a solution proposed by scholarly publishers.
Working Alongside AI (Thursday, 6:30pm) — a livestreamed seminar hosted by Shaina Luck
Artificial intelligence and machine-learning systems are presenting new choices in many domains, from healthcare and law through to journalism and advertising. From diets of data, machines produce bodies of knowledge. As this exchange accelerates and becomes more complex, so do the questions. When algorithms make predictions that are beyond human verification, how do we know what results to trust? As we teach machines to discover previously unfathomable answers, do we need to ask better questions? This seminar explores the dimensions of a coming time when pursuing knowledge is an equal partnership between humans and machines.
No public events
Basics of Open (Thursday, 12pm) — an online session with Amy Lorencz, Patricia Langille, and Jennifer Webb:
What does it mean when something is Open Access (OA)? Is it the same or different from a textbook that is an Open Educational Resource (OER)? What about Open Data, Open Pedagogy? Open is an increasing trend in scholarship and academia but not without its concerns and confusions.
In this session, we will help you navigate what it means to be Open, how Creative Commons licenses come into play (and how to understand their symbols), as well as areas that need extra consideration before they are made open.
No public events
Counter Memory Activism Speaker Series (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual discussion with professor and author Michael Rothberg.
In the harbour
03:30 – Baie St. Paul, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for Hamilton, ON
04:30 – YM Modesty, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
05:30 – Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
06:00 – X -press Irazu, container ship, moves from anchorage to Pier 42
06:30 – Nolhan Ava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
16:00 – X-press Irazu sails for sea
16:00 – Budapest Bridge sails for Rotterdam
18:00 – Algonorth, oil tanker, sails from Pier 25/26 for sea
St. Patrick’ Day doesn’t have to be all about alcohol or chasing snakes out of the country. Why not take a more temperate approach to Paddy’s Day and sit back with a green tea and take in some Irish culture? Here’s some more Irish prose to help you start your morning. It’s Joyce’s famous description of the Irish Sea from the aforementioned Ulysses:
“A new art colour for our Irish poets: snotgreen. You can almost taste it, can’t you?
He mounted to the parapet again and gazed out over Dublin bay, his fair oakpale hair stirring slightly.
—God, he said quietly. Isn’t the sea what Algy calls it: a grey sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea.”
It reminds me of our part of the Atlantic. Not the snotgreen so much, but the last sentence evokes strong memories of swimming on the South Shore.
If you want to check out some newer Irish literature, why not give Sally Rooney a try? She’s got two books and they’re quick reads — you could read them both five times over before you finish Ulysses once. And they’re also both very good — Normal People especially. It’s one of my favourites from the past five years.
Or just ignore the holiday and live your life. Have a great Wednesday, Halifax.