Savvy subscribers will notice a new name in the byline today. I’ll make my introduction brief as we’ve got some news to get to.
Nine months ago — that’s a decade in pandemic years — I was a student at King’s College, getting ready to wrap up the school year and start a radio internship. Two lockdowns, four jobs, three layoffs, two moves and one two-week quarantine later, I got a call from my former instructor, now colleague, Yvette d’Entremont, followed by an email from Tim Bousquet, asking if I wanted to help out with the Morning File. With immense gratitude and relief, I said yes.
And that’s how I wound up here today, happy to be a part of the Examiner team. There’s still a few weeks left in 2020 so there’s still plenty of time for more excitement.
But enough about me; let’s get to today’s stories:
1. COVID-19 update: First batch of vaccine to arrive in N.S. next week; 7 new cases
The light at the end of the tunnel grows a little brighter next week.
On Tuesday, December 15, Nova Scotia will receive its first batch of the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
This first batch will be limited, containing enough doses to vaccinate 975 people. Each individual will require two doses to be vaccinated.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the province expects to receive a new delivery each week following this first arrival. A total of 150,000 doses are expected to have arrived in the province by the end of March.
Initial doses will go to health care workers dealing most directly with the COVID-19 response in the Central Zone, where the vaccine will be stored. The reason it will begin with workers in that region is that Pfizer requires the first batch not be transported far from its deep cold storage unit. As more deliveries come in, Strang said the vaccine will be given out to a larger and larger circle of people, expanding to other health care workers, the elderly and those at high risk. Strang said he doesn’t expect everyone in the province to receive the vaccinebefore the fall.
Click here for Tim Bousquet’s full COVID-19 update and a breakdown of how the province plans to disseminate the vaccine in the months ahead.
There were also seven new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia yesterday:
- Central Zone – 4
- Western Zone – 2
- Northern Zone – 1
Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):
And here is the active caseload for the second wave:
2. Emera profits
Jennifer Henderson reports that Emera has decided not to lower its profit margin, despite a request from the Utility and Review Board that it do so to ease the financial burden on ratepayers. This means Emera will maintain its current guaranteed profit selling electricity, while Nova Scotia ratepayers wait for benefits that have yet to come from delayed additional power from Muskrat Falls.
Emera is the parent company of both Nova Scotia Power (NSP) and Nova Scotia Power Maritime Link (NSPML). NSPML is the company created to bring power from Muskrat Falls to NSP.
In 2017, the Utility and Review Board (UARB) set the profit margin for NSPML at a guaranteed 9%, with the expectation being that ratepayers would benefit in the long run from the inexpensive hydro power they’d get from Muskrat Falls. This power would come to Nova Scotia through the Maritime Link, a subsea cable that Nova Scotia Power ratepayers paid to build, and NSPML is now charged to operate. At the time, NSPML indicated that even if the hydro power generated at Muskrat Falls was delayed in getting to Nova Scotia, ratepayers would still benefit from additional energy sales carried by the Maritime Link.
Well, the energy from Muskrat Falls has been delayed, and the pandemic isn’t helping to speed things up. It’s now not expected to be ready to get here until the end of 2021. But, as Henderson writes:
The issue now…is that those additional energy sales have not materialized, at least not to the degree predicted in 2017. That is: Nova Scotia Power ratepayers aren’t seeing the promised benefits of cheap Muskrat Falls power, but NSPML is still getting a 9% guaranteed profit for operating the Maritime Link.
That is why the consumer advocate and others suggested Emera voluntarily settle for a NSPML profit of 8.75% instead of 9%. The change would amount to $1.4 million this year, but it’s not so much about the money but rather the principle involved.
Instead, Emera has opted to make a $1.5 million donation to the Salvation Army’s annual Heat Fund program to help pay the heating costs of ratepayers most in need this winter.
Perhaps this excerpt from a November 30 UARB decision letter best sums up why the board’s made the request:
“[G]iven the gross overestimation of the benefits of the Maritime Link versus the actual benefits as noted above, and given the costs of the further delays caused by COVID-19, which are being entirely borne by ratepayers, the Board believes it very reasonable to ask NSPML to reconsider its position.”
To see how the still-delayed hydro power from Muskrat Falls would factor into Nova Scotia Power’s recent plan to reduce their carbon footprint, you can read this report Henderson wrote on the subject last week.
3. Police Officer under review says he’s ‘tired’ of being accused of racial profiling
“A Halifax police officer accused of racially profiling a Black man in 2018 says that he’s tired of people accusing him of racial profiling,” writes Zane Woodford:
Const. Brent Woodworth took the witness stand on Tuesday at a police review board hearing dealing with a complaint from Adam LeRue and his partner Kerry Morris.
Woodworth and another officer, Const. Kenneth O’Brien, arrested LeRue and Morris in February 2018 after O’Brien encountered the couple parked in their vehicle in Sir Sandford Fleming Park in Halifax after hours. The couple testified they’d stopped in the park, better known as the Dingle, to make a call after picking up a pizza.
This is a hearing that began in July, resumed briefly in October and then continued last night with further testimony and two videos of interactions between the officers and Lerue in the booking area presented to the review board. Woodford draws on information from these videos and testimony from both sides from multiple dates of the hearing to lay out a thorough narrative of that night.
Racial profiling continues to be a hot button issue in this city. March of 2021 will mark the two-year anniversary of the Wortley report, which found black people in Halifax are six times more likely to be subject to street checks. Street checks have since been banned in Halifax, though some argue the practice still continues.
Just last month, there was a hearing before a Nova Scotia Human Rights board of inquiry in which a black man claimed he’d been profiled when arrested for jaywalking and Santina Rao’s controversially violent arrest in a Wal-Mart took place only at the beginning of this year. And of course the killing of George Floyd in the United States this spring sparked rallies, protests and conversations about police-race relations across the continent.
In his full article here, Woodford is careful to lay out all the details — details that have come to light in multiple hearings — to give as full an account as possible of a sensitive case.
4. Winter of our discontent: latest national report finds Canadians’ mental health is worse than any point in the pandemic
Feeling tired? Anxious? Has the pandemic and all that’s come with it been weighing on you? You’re not alone, according to the latest national report tracking the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on Canadians’ mental health.
The report has been published monthly since April, and this month the national psychological health risk score is 2.8 points lower than the previous low, which occurred in the first month of the pandemic. Extended mental strain and dissatisfaction at work are two major factors cited.
In her article on the report, Yvette d’Entremont looked at some of the other reasons behind the findings:
Canadians are now dealing with the pandemic’s secondary impacts. While many are moving forward with a sense of optimism about nationwide rollouts of a vaccine over the coming months, concerns remain about the pandemic’s economic impact on small businesses, ongoing job losses, school disruptions, and increasing COVID-19 case counts.
Paula Allen, the global leader of health and total well-being at the firm that conducts the report, said she hopes increased awareness will lead to those whose mental health is suffering to seek help.
She also recommends physical exercise. With everyone encouraged to stay home and the weather turning colder, that can be harder to incorporate into the daily routine.
I’ve taken up yoga myself.
For a comprehensive look at the state of Canada’s mental health this past month, you can read d’Entremont’s full article here.
5. Air Canada to suspend flights to and from Sydney Airport
As of January 11, Air Canada will not provide service to Sydney Airport, reports Alexander Quon of Global Halifax.
The small airport is now in a tough spot financially, writes Quon:
…with WestJet’s decision in October to suspend 80 per cent of the airline’s capacity in Atlantic Canada, the airport is now in dire straits.
The decision by Air Canada effectively means the second-largest city in Nova Scotia no longer receives any flights from major carriers.
You can find Quon’s full article here.
1. The other human crisis
Only once in my life have I been unable to finish a book because I was too scared to keeo reading. It was H.G. Wells’ classic work of apocalyptic science fiction, The War of the Worlds, in which humanity is nearly decimated by an unstoppable fleet of Martian invaders. I was 10 at the time.
Now, in my twenties, I’m in the middle of another terrifying book. It’s one I’ve had to put down many times, but will ultimately force myself to get through. This one is a piece of potentially apocalyptic nonfiction.
It is The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells. In it, Wallace-Wells combines findings from recent research papers and interviews with scientists to look at both moderate and extreme hypotheticals for the future in the face of the climate crisis. I’ll spare the details, you’ve no doubt heard many of them, but this excerpt from the opening passage illustrates that this book is the antithesis of a light, beach read.:
The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn’t happening at all, and comes to us bundled with several others in an anthology of comforting delusions…that it is a crisis of the “natural” world, not the human one; that those two are distinct, and that we live today somehow outside or beyond or at the very least defended against nature, not inescapably within and literally overwhelmed by it; that wealth can shield us against the ravages of warming…
I don’t bring this book up because I want to terrify anyone. I bring it up because its subject matter is as important now as it was when 10,000 Haligonians took to the streets last September, and it’s made me realize just how one crisis this year has pushed another into the background.
As 2020 is coming to a close, it’s natural to review it. So I’ve done that a bit this week. And what happened this year?
Well, a lot, obviously. But what happened more than anything? COVID-19. A worldwide, deadly emergency which required a society-changing, all-encompassing focus and response to deal with. And, unlike the reaction to a similarly deadly emergency, the world (or most of it, anyway) did respond with quick, drastic action. Things shut down, masks became commonplace overnight, social distancing and constant sanitizing became commonplace.
But as the world has changed, our impact on it hasn’t really. It may have been lessened because we didn’t drive or consume as much, but our window to act on this crisis is only closing. By most accounts, this is the decade that will decide the what the earth will look like in the future.
Just over a year ago, there was an incredible surge of momentum building in terms of environmental awareness. Great reporting from Nicoletta Dini showcased the potential consequences that rising waters caused by human activity could have on Halifax, a federal election occurred in which no political party had any chance of success without at least some serious consideration of a climate response in their platform, and of course there was a massive rally in which thousands filled the streets of this city to pressure our leaders to make environmental action a top priority.
Then the pandemic hit. Understandably, it required urgent action and most other issues were pushed aside for awhile as we figured out how to combat the crisis. But now, nine months in and still nearly a year away from getting the majority of the population vaccinated, I wonder if the climate crisis can’t take equal footing with the pandemic. Can we try to combat two crises at once?
Environmentally, there’s been some reason for optimism. Halifax passed its climate plan in the middle of the summer and Nova Scotia Power recently came out with its own plan for providing net-zero carbon power for the province by 2050. Much of that plan currently depends on hydro power from Muskrat Falls that is still delayed in getting here, but at least there’s a framework for phasing out coal.
Still, it’s an issue that has slipped somewhat from the prominence it held just a year ago. The provincial government, for instance, was supposed to hold meetings to fill in gaps within Nova Scotia’s Sustainable Development Goals Act, but those meetings were postponed due to, you guessed it, COVID-19.
For a more thorough outline of provincial failings on the environment, you can check out Jim Vibert’s op-ed, published last month in the Chronicle Herald.
Saturday will mark five years since the international Paris Agreement, which bound the countries who signed it to commit to keeping the world to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels. Today, at 4pm, another climate strike will be held at the Grand Parade. People are encouraged to keep their distance and drop off candles to bring attention to that international commitment.
Whether you attend, I encourage everyone to remember there’s more than one imminent global crisis in the world today. If there’s one positive thing we can learn from this year, it’s that we do have it within us to make major changes in the way we do things in the face of an emergency.
Noticed several times, actually, through my office window: two grey squirrels sneaking through a hole in my eavestrough and into my attic.
These two freeloading rodents have been making a mess and a racket up there for weeks now. Thankfully, the smell hasn’t spread into the rest of the house…yet. Still, it gets hard to focus when two young squirrels are using your attic as a honeymoon suite.
In a moment of productive procrastination, I started searching online for ways to get rid of pesky squirrels. I’d get a cat but I don’t want to pay vet bills. And shooting them was out of the question due to a traumatic, soul-searching moment I had with a B.B. gun and a squirrel when I was 15. Also, it might not look good with the neighbours.
Anyway, in my search I stumbled on this article from Stu Mills, written for CBC Ottawa this past weekend. It concerns two red squirrel, lightbulb bandits who’ve been stealing hundreds of dollars worth of Christmas decorations around a small Ontario neighbourhood. It gave me some perspective on my problem. I mean, at least my guys haven’t stooped to petty theft. Just a little noise and the threat of chewing through a wire and burning the place down, but I digress.
In the article, Mills writes that the families and authorities involved are still baffled as to what the squirrels’ motive could be. If they’re anything like the ones in my attic, I’d guess they do it for two reasons: a love for cheap thrills and a sadistic, unprovoked malice toward the homeowners.
It’s a fun read. It’s also comforting. When it comes to squirrel trouble, like this current life of self-isolation, there’s a reassuring solidarity in knowing others are dealing with it too.
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Wednesday,10am ) — virtual meeting.
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual meeting.
Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting.
Halifax and West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting with live webcast.
Virtual Public Information Meeting – Case 22651 (Wednesday, 6pm) — Application by Zzap ConsultingInc. request to rezone lands fronting on Hines Road, Eastern Passage (PID40103806, 40103780, 40103772, and 40103798) from R-1 (Single Unit Dwelling) to L-1 (Light Industrial). Info here.
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — virtual meeting.
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting.
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting.
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm) — virtual meeting.
Public Information Meeting – Case 22980 (Thursday, 6pm) — Application by West Bedford Holdings Limited requesting substantive and non-substantive amendments to an existing development agreement for lands off of Amesbury Gate to allow townhouse development. More info here.
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — video conference. 2020 Financial Report – Report of the Auditor General to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, with Terry Spicer and Byron Rafuse. Info here.
Application of AI and Operational Research in Family Medicine Practice (Wednesday, 1pm) — Samira Rahimi from McGill University will talk. Info here.
BRIC NS Primary Health Care Learning Series (Thursday, 12:30pm) — Clare Heggie will present “Invisible Women: Carceral facilities for women and girls across Canada and proximity to maternal health care’” followed by Martha Paynter with “Reproductive health outcomes among incarcerated women in Canada: A scoping review.” More info and registration here.
Constructive Communication During COVID (Wednesday, 12pm) — Bridget Brownlow will lead an open discussion on the use of telephone calls and virtual platforms, and the “surrounding challenges we all face concerning communication during this difficult time.” Zoom link here.
Find Your Inspiration and Become an Engaging Speaker (Thursday, 2pm) — Kanaar Bell leads this Zoom workshop.
In the harbour
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Jacob Joseph C, barge, sails for sea from Fairview Cove with Amy Lynn D, tug
10:45: CMA CGM Chile, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
15:00; Atlantic Kestrel, offshore supply ship, moves from Irving Oil to Pier 9
15:30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s senseless murder outside his apartment building in New York City. Though he’s been gone four decades now, his music and its universal themes of love, fraternity and peace continue to have an impact, even on those of us born well after his time. I was listening to some of his recordings yesterday and one of his most famous lyrics struck me with a renewed freshness:
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
I thought I understood that line before 2020, but I don’t know if I ever truly did.
Anyway, 2021’s on the way. To echo another one of the Walrus’s lines, let’s hope it’s a good one.