1. COVID-19 update
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Tim Bousquet and Jennifer Henderson covered yesterday’s COVID-19 briefing and has the latest numbers, plus a report on vaccination progress and the early re-opening of the Eden Valley poultry processing plant (reasonable accommodation or playing favourites?) Plus, of course, he has updated the potential COVID-19 exposure map.
On the poultry plant, Henderston writes:
The poultry plant is co-owned by the Chicken Farmers of Nova Scotia, an influential group. The president of that association publicly urged the Department of Health to reconsider the 14-day shutdown citing economic hardship for Valley poultry producers.
The Department of Health appears to have been won over. Last Thursday Health Minister Leo Glavine — who is also the representative in the legislature for the Berwick area — indicated a limited recall of workers was being considered. A “kill and chill” operation which will allow Christmas turkeys and chickens to be placed in freezers and processed at a later time essentially prevents farmers from losing money…
The company’s public statement says only workers who have had a second negative COVID test will be returning to work. And they must continue to stay home when they are not on shift until their 14 days of self-isolation end on Christmas Eve. The workers have also been vetted to make sure they were not “close contacts” of those who got COVID.
We can argue or discuss the reasons for our region’s success in managing the second wave of the virus, but whatever they are, I feel incredibly grateful to be living in a place where hospitals are functioning more or less as normal, and the caseload is stable or dropping, and there have been no deaths from COVID-19 since spring.
Yesterday, I was emailing with a writer from LA, where each day last week saw between 11,000 and 22,000 confirmed new cases daily. What do you say? “Hope you are well?”
Yesterday, on Twitter, Bousquet even wondered if it makes sense to talk about a second wave in Nova Scotia. Maybe, he said, “outbreak” would be more accurate.
2. Really big housing announcement, eh?
I appreciate a good lead on a story. The opening sentence on Zane Woodford’s piece on the supposedly big local federal-provincial housing announcement falls into that category. Woodford writes:
With great fanfare and little detail, the provincial government announced on Monday that it will spend $1.8 million over 20 years, supposedly to cover the municipality’s expected share of operating costs for more than 50 units of federally-funded affordable housing.
“Great fanfare and little detail” covers an awful lot of government spending announcements, wouldn’t you say?
Here’s the background: The federal government has committed rapidly available funds to municipalities to quickly build affordable housing. In Halifax, the money will support the creation of 52 units within a year. The non-profits managing the housing are the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, Adsum Women and Children, and the North End Community Health Centre.
Rents are unlikely to cover operating costs, and nobody wants the non-profits left holding the bag. The city had already said it would cover any deficit. So yesterday’s announcement is that the feds will cover the city’s costs for covering operating losses. Up to a point.
And that point is, to repeat what Woodford writes above: $1.8 million over 20 years” (emphasis added).
I just went to the Examiner homepage and typed in “convention centre deficit” in the search bar. The results:
The convention centre is running a $4 million operating deficit this year… and that’s just the beginning of the costs
Halifax on the hook for $2.65-million deficit for former Metro Centre
Halifax Convention Centre to lose $11.1 million this year
$48 NSF Fee Centre costs Halifax an extra $500,000
The convention centre is costing governments $11.6 million this year, and no one benefits except Joe Ramia
Halifax expects the convention centre to lose $5.6 million this year — and that doesn’t include the impact of COVID-19
There’s more, but you get the idea. Affordable housing? $1.8 million to cover the shortfalls on 52 units over 20 years.
Having given you the background, I suppose I should actually quote from Woodford’s story at this point, yes? He writes:
[Adsum Women and Children executive director Sheri] Lecker said as part of its submission for the funding, Adsum built a budget based around rents, inclusive of heat and utilities, equal to 30% of provincial income assistance rates. Those rates haven’t seen a meaningful increase in more than 20 years, and they’ve actually gone down when inflation is factored in …
“We are showing a loss every year,” Lecker said. “And so you could say, will this $1.8 million, divided by three organizations, cover that loss? And I would say, ‘Yeah, but there are a ton of things that aren’t here.’ There’s no staffing … Nobody else would be expected to model their housing this way.”
In building the budget for the new housing over the next five years, Adsum wasn’t able to include the cost of its support staff and factored in a smaller than usual reserve fund.
The province could change this situation.
3. Too broke to pay child support?
The lawyer for a Nova Scotia man, Michael Power, says he is too broke to pay the half million dollars he owes in child support.
At CBC, Jack Julian quotes Power’s current wife, Tara Power, on the couple’s financial situation. (They were living in Montreal; Power is currently in custody in Nova Scotia):
She told the court her husband has been unable to obtain photo ID since his passport was seized for failure to make payments. Without an ID, he has been unable to get the specialized cardiology and hematology care he needs because he can’t establish residency in Quebec.
I don’t know what Power does for a living, but Julian cites the lawyer for his ex, Angela Power, who says in years he was not making support payments, Power was sometimes billing $20,000 a month.
These are the kinds of “deadbeat dad” stories that understandably rile people up. You can be all teary and offer an apology to the court, but maybe you shouldn’t be half a million bucks short on the support you owe to your own kids.
I think it is also important to remember though that “deadbeat dad” laws can cause disproportionate harm to people who are, well, let’s just say who don’t bill $20,000 a month.
A Guardian piece by Kirk E. Harris from a couple of years ago looks at how this can work:
Four years ago the state of Illinois suspended the driver’s license of James (not his real name) for failing to fully meet his child support obligations, which he was not earning enough to pay. Now, unable to drive to work, he lost his full-time welding job. He found a lower-paid job he could reach using Chicago’s patchy suburban public transport system, which makes commuting difficult for people in some of the city’s economically isolated and racially segregated communities.
Today, James’ wages are still insufficient to pay off his mounting arrears, so he remains barred from driving. Ironically, his lack of driving privileges makes it impossible for him to cast a net for a better-paying job that would allow him to meet these payments. That paradox illustrates the regressive, counterproductive policies I have encountered during two decades of working with low-income black fathers in Chicago. The vast majority of these men desperately want to be good fathers, but the system seems to punish them for even trying.
On the other hand, there are the guys who populate the comments section on a story on The Good Men Project website (gag) about how men should — get this — stop resenting child support and seeing it as free money their exes get for doing nothing. Let’s just say buddy who feels that his ex owes him a detailed accounting of every single thing she spends money on for the kids so he can then not pay a penny more does not sound like a good man.
4. Smart is the new stupid
Back in April, I wrote a Morning File whose headline was “Calling connected devices smart is propaganda.”
I think “smart” in this context is propaganda. We’ve bought into the idea that connected = good, and because it’s more complex and offers more controls, that makes it smart. A couple of years ago I interviewed an executive for a company that makes a bunch of these smart devices, and he told me he couldn’t figure out the appeal of the smart lights. “I can turn on a light by myself,” he said.
Today, the latest instalment in smart is stupid: “smart” gloves from Toronto-based company Quanta Vici.
Adrien Beyk created Quanta Vici, a line of gloves and socks that are connected to the user’s smartphone and can be electronically heated at the touch of a button…
“I would say the biggest thing about this is that they’re smart,” Beyk told CTV News. “We actually spent three years working on this.”
Beyk, originally from Iran, came up with the idea while studying engineering at Ryerson University in Toronto and dealing with Canadian winters.
“It’s like a three-minute walk, but my hands and feet would freeze,” he said.
You know, you could just make…. warm gloves.
As Twitter user “knitting by bicycle” (in whose feed I first saw this story) wrote:
Gloves made out of wool/natural fibres are warm, but we don’t use that anymore because $$$.
Now we make winter clothing out of acrylic fabrics, that have next to no heat retaining abilities, so we need to add tech & a $200+ price tag to get warm gloves.
Capitalism is amazing.
5. Job losses as NSHA outsources health records management
CUPE and the NSGEU are upset about a deal that will see health record management outsourced to US-based company Iron Mountain, Robert Devet writes in the Nova Scotia Advocate.
The deal will see the elimination of 91 jobs, “many in rural Nova Scotia,” Devet writes. He adds:
“There will be some jobs with Iron Mountain, but I don’t know anybody who lives in rural Nova Scotia making $22 an hour who’s going to pick up and move to the city, where there’s no affordable housing, no sensible childcare, and where the cost of living is through the roof,” says [CUPE Nova Scotia president Nan] McFadgen.
“The collective agreement provides opportunities to move into other jobs, and some will take early retirement. But the bottom line is that the work is no longer in the rural communities,” McFadgen says.
The unions are also wondering, Devet writes, “why the province chose to use alternative procurement and directly went to Iron Mountain, bypassing the regular tendering process.”
I’ve seen those Iron Mountain trucks around town and assumed they just did document shredding. Clearly not.
6. Happy times at the Convention Centre
All right, this is not news, but I’m going to drop it in here anyway, especially since Tim Bousquet was writing about TCL/Events East yesterday.
It’s been a horrible year for conventions all over the world, understandably. The Halifax Convention Centre is losing millions, the place is mostly empty, and there isn’t a lot of good news on the horizon.
In the midst of this, the folks running the Convention Centre released a short video on Twitter celebrating their third birthday. I can understand an organization wanting to celebrate a milestone. (Is three years a milestone?)
But seriously, no concession at all to the fact that things may be hard now, but we’ll be back, better than ever… or something?
The video opens with two young employees waving slowly at the camera, and then cycles through various images of people packed together, local grandees, various people pointing at their shirts, and cheesy slow motion shots. The people in the image at the top of this story are pointing at the #eastcoasthosts hashtag on the backs of their t-shirts and, as you might expect, it’s mostly used on tweets from Events East, the Convention Centre and related organizations.
That time Farley Mowat smuggled a live V2 rocket out of Germany
Author and former military intelligence officer Major Harold Skaarup was Matt Galloway’s host on CBC’s The Current, where he shared the wild story of Farley Mowat smuggling a V2 rocket out of Germany after the Second World War.
The CBC has an edited version of the interview online, and the audio is embedded on the page also.
After the end of the war, Skaarup says, Mowat was tasked with finding
anything and everything of intelligence value that you think would be useful to the Canadian government and the forces and get it back to us.
He set out … with a vengeance and he managed to get back seven hundred tons of captured material, tanks, guns, artillery, and most interestingly of all, the V2.
Mowat had learned about the location of a number of the rockets, and apparently the British did not want the Canadians to get their hands on them. Skaarup says:
He grabbed a young lieutenant, Mike Donovan, and Lieutenant Jim Hood, and he set out with a plan. They knew that there was a railway siding with about ten of these rockets on it, most of them being pretty shot up, but at least one was intact.
He knew that the British probably wouldn’t let him have it, but he came up with this plan. Mike Donovan, he takes a 30 litre demijohn of Coopers Gin, goes down with the Jeep and he intercepts the British soldiers guarding this trainload. And he manages to get them all singing and drinking, saying, “We know we’re not going to get a rocket from you, but let’s enjoy being comrades together.”
While he’s doing that, Farley’s lieutenant, Jim Hood, sneaks around in the dark to the tail end of the railway tracks, finds an intact V2. They’ve got a tractor trailer with them that was used for towing a submarine. They break the chains and they roll this V2 rocket off the doggone railway siding car onto the trailer and then barrel it on back to Holland.
Read the whole piece for the story on how Mowat and crew disguised the rocket as the British went looking for it.
If you’ve read my Morning Files for any length of time, you have probably realized I have a thing for maps. Bloomberg CityLab asked people to draw personal maps of their world during the pandemic, and the results are fascinating and poignant.
Last spring, CityLab asked people to draw maps of their world at the time. They’ve done it again, but this time with participants looking back over the year.
Some of the maps are relatively straightforward and literal. I love the way the one above, by Danielle Kawasaki of San Francisco, shows the limited horizons for many of life under COVID-19. Kawasaki writes:
I spent most of my days working full-time from home while sharing the house with five housemates. The dots represent the few places I have been outside of my house (“the bubble”), and the squiggled line represents the route to those places. I felt like the city where I live shrank, so my social world did as well. I found joy in the world of music by learning how to play the piano, and I found joy in learning new recipes in the world of cooking. Before the pandemic, I didn’t realize that I was in a fast pace of life. 2020 has taught me to focus more on the small things and myself: Don’t forget your surroundings and don’t forget who you are and who you can be.
Some of the mapmakers are quite literal. Others take a more impressionistic approach. Alfonso Pezzi of London, England, drew a bunch of logos onto the blocks of streets in his neighbourhood: YouTube, Zoom, Netflix, Amazon, and the National Health Service, among others. He writes:
I spend 95% of my time in a tiny apartment in the center of London. I don’t need to take the Tube to go to my workplace, the cinema, my favorite restaurant or church. Everything is delivered to me, seamlessly and instantaneously. I spend the remaining 5% walking in my neighborhood, where I see strangers living the exact same life I live, doing the exact same things I do, all itching to return to some semblance of normalcy.
One of the maps — by a grad student who returned home — is the layout of the family home and garden.
Another of my favourites, by Sine Taymaz of Ankara, is simply drawings of views from the same living room. Taymaz writes:
By working, eating, drinking, socializing and having leisure time in the same space, I watched all four seasons pass by from my window and balcony. From left to right, down to up, I witnessed the changes in nature from all angles within these frames.
I’ve only given you a taste for the maps and write-ups. It’s worth spending time to read the whole story.
In the harbour
06:00: Maersk Patras, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
06:00: Taipei Trader, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
11:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
13:00: Maersk Patras sails for Bremerhaven, Germany
15:30: Taipei Trader sails for Kingston, Jamaica
16:00: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
19:00: Atlantic Swordfish, barge, sails for Sheet Harbour from Pier 9 for sea with tug Atlantic Elm
Patras is a Greek port town in the northwestern Peloponnese, known in part for its big February carnival — which, I assume will not be happening in 2021. There are some truly great Patras carnival photos on Flickr.
This was a five pomodoro Morning File.
Thanks for reading the Examiner this year and please enjoy the holidays.