Two weeks ago, Halifax poet laureate Rebecca Thomas read her poem “Not Perfect” before city council:
The reading had two effects. The first was that councillor Shawn Cleary was moved to ask that Halifax council revisit the issue of renaming Cornwallis Street and removing the statue of Cornwallis in the south end. (Councillor Waye Mason had asked council to look at the issue last year, but council refused.) Cleary made a “motion of intent” later in the council meeting, a necessary step to formally introducing the issue at yesterday’s meeting.
The second effect was not so public, at least until yesterday. Councillor Steve Streatch was also moved by the poem. Understand that Streatch is pretty much the stereotypical right-wing conservative white dude. He’s a farmer, and represents the rural Musquodoboit Valley. He’s a climate change denier. He votes reliably horribly on all issues. But, said Streatch yesterday, after Thomas read her poem, “I talked to that young lady, and I’ve come around.” He didn’t say exactly what he and Thomas discussed, but whatever it was, he came away understanding the hurt and pain of the indigenous community caused by the Cornwallis commemorations, and was prepared to support Cleary’s motion.
This was a remarkable moment in Halifax politics. Profound, even.
Over the two weeks since Thomas read her poem, Cleary’s motion had evolved from a simple rehash of Mason’s failed motion from last year to a more nuanced call for a panel of experts to examine the issue. It reads:
That Halifax Regional Council, in the spirit of the Council-adopted Statement of Reconciliation of December 8, 2015, request a staff report with terms of reference and a recommended composition for an expert panel to review and advise Council regarding any changes to the commemoration of Edward Cornwallis on municipal assets, including Cornwallis Park and Cornwallis Street, and recommendations to recognize and commemorate the indigenous history in the lands now known as Halifax Regional Municipality.
The debate went pretty much as expected. You can read Brett Bundale’s account here, Zane Woodford’s account here, Jacob Boon’s account here. Maureen Googoo sent intern Samantha Calio to follow the meeting, and you can see her account here.
At the same 2015 meeting where they passed the reconciliation motion, the naming of the donair as the official city food was also passed; the latter issue made national news, eclipsing the far more important reconciliation motion.
Several councillors noted that whenever the Cornwallis issue comes up, they are bombarded with racist phone calls and emails.
A poignant moment in the debate came when Lindell Smith, the only Black councillor, told his fellow councillors that “if we can’t have this conversation… then I might as well leave this council table and never come back.”
But with Streatch agreeing to the motion early on, it took the wind out of the sails of the other right-wingers on council. That, however, didn’t stop Steven Adams from offering up what I dubbed the “dick move amendment” to include the words “evidence-based” or “fact-based” before “recommendations” in Cleary’s motion — directly implying that the resentment and pain caused by Cornwallis’s scalp bounty is an emotional rather that factual response. The motion was defeated on a 12-4 vote, and council went on to pass Cleary’s unamended motion on a vote of 15-1, with only Adams voting no.
The discussions coming from the expert panel will no doubt be painful and contentious, but as several councillors noted, it’s precisely that difficult discussion that is needed.
We are making progress. Slow progress, but progress all the same.
And let’s acknowledge the power of poetry.
2. The awful death of Jack Webb
Reporting for the Canadian Press, Michael Tutton reviews emergency room crowding and the resulting effects on patients, including the awful death of Jack Webb:
Jack Webb had had enough.
He’d languished for six hours in a chilly emergency room hallway, had a broken IV in his arm, and was bumped from his room by another dying patient during five days of struggles in Halifax’s largest hospital.
On his last day, he heard staff yell the clincher: “If he stops breathing, don’t resuscitate.”
Not long after, the retired businessman turned to his wife and made slicing motions on his Halifax Infirmary identity band.
“He said, ‘Cut it! … Cut it!’ ” recalled Kim D’Arcy, who sat by the 68-year-old’s bedside as he fell into despair.
“I believe Jack was terrified. … He wanted to go home.”
Webb died hours later on Feb. 1, after receiving care that Dr. Alan Drummond, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, says is an example of “the distinct level of human suffering associated with crowded emergency departments and crowded hospitals” plaguing Canadian medicare.
3. Court Watch
This week, Examiner court watcher Christina Macdonald explains why and how sexual assault cases are sometimes tried in Provincial Court and sometimes in Supreme Court, looks at the Sandeson murder trial, and discusses courtroom etiquette.
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The scattershot disaster-spewing machine that is the Donald Trump administration has struck Nova Scotia via a new tariff on softwood lumber, reports Paul Withers for the CBC:
After a day of uncertainty, the Nova Scotia government admitted late Tuesday afternoon it has lost a long-standing exemption from U.S. border taxes on softwood lumber exports from the province, at least for now.
As of May 1, a 19.88 per cent tariff will be imposed on Nova Scotia softwood forest products shipped into the U.S.
The countervailing duty, announced Monday night, ends a three-decades old exemption granted by the U.S. in recognition that Atlantic Canada’s forest industry is not subsidized.
There’s no rhyme of reason to impose the tariff on Nova Scotia, and even the US timber industry didn’t want it imposed on Nova Scotia wood. Of course, one Canadian exporter is exempted:
The region’s odd province out is New Brunswick, which the Americans claim is subsidizing its forest industry, dominated by J.D. Irving.
Irving asked to be specifically included in the U.S. Commerce Department’s investigation into Canadian softwood. As it turns out, Irving was slapped with a three per cent countervailing duty on Monday night, the lowest for any producer in Canada.
Every other producer in Atlantic Canada is now facing a countervailing duty of nearly 20 per cent.
5. Shelburne councillor has a problem with Black people
On Monday, a group of lawyers and activists announced a plan for an Environmental Bill of Rights for Nova Scotia. Included in the announcment was Louise Delisle, a Black woman from Shelburne, reported Jennifer Henderson for the Examiner (behind paywall):
Delisle says an Environmental Bill of Rights might have helped answer this question: “Why has the black community in the north end of Shelburne become a community of widows?” Delisle says today there are only two men over the age of 55 remaining, and cancer was the cause of a high proportion of deaths in that part of Shelburne. She suspects the cause may trace back to the dump located at the top of the hill in the black neighbourhood. Delisle remembers it burning brightly most nights during the 1950s and beyond, off-gassing everything from the shipyard’s industrial waste to medical waste from the local hospital. A subsequent landfill operation at the same location was closed just last year by the Department of Environment after the municipality violated rules about what could be buried there.
This set off Shelburne town councillor Rick Davis, reports Robert Devet. Davis took to Facebook and excoriated Black people complaining about the dump:
“I think it’s time to stop playing the racism card. It’s old. And I think it’s time to stop grasping at the looking for ‘compensation’ game,” the councillor writes.
And in what appears to be a spiteful move, Davis announces that he intends to “(make) a motion at council to rescind our ruling to close the yard waste portion of the dump, as it’s utterly ridiculous.”
“Mr. Clyke, who has lived well into his age living directly across from the “dump” for many years, is in very good health,” writes Davis, as if the example of one negates the disproportionately high amounts of premature deaths that the community has experienced over many decades.
Davis also suggests, contrary to historical evidence, that the Black community chose to live so near to the dump.
“To begin with, there appears to be implications that white people were purposely targeting Black people, or somehow forcing them to live by a Dump, or that the dump was put there because that’s where black people lived.”
Actually, Black people lived near the dump because it was convenient, Davis argues.
“The reality is, that many black people relied on that dump for a living, because they, unlike many others I suppose, were the only ones that would deal with the removal of town trash,” Davis writes.
6. Yarmouth ferry
“The Portland [Maine] City Council unanimously approved a contract Monday to extend the season for the Portland-to-Yarmouth Nova Scotia ferry service by two weeks,” reports Randy Billings for the Portland Press Herald:
All told, the amended agreement is expected to generate an additional $16,600 in revenue for the city, which last year received $265,000 in rent, parking and fees.
While the previous agreement with the city contained so-called blackout days to avoid conflicts with Portland’s busy fall cruise ship season, the new agreement limits The Cat’s arrivals and departures to four or five days each week during the fall.
The Cat’s current schedule indicates the ferry will run five days a week through the end of June, then six days a week until the end of July, and then seven days a week until the early September. It will go back down to five days a week in September, and four days from Oct. 3 to 15. It departs Yarmouth every day at 8:30 a.m. Atlantic time and leaves Portland at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.
7. Westlock County, Alberta news
Because I’m always curious about what’s going on in Westlock County, Alberta, I religiously read the weekly Westlock News. This week, reporter Eric Bowling, er, reports that $70,000 worth of “tablet notebook computers” intended to be used by the county road crew are sitting unused on a shelf:
Reeve Don Savage noted that the tablets would have been at the mercy of the elements if they were installed into graders.
“The biggest problem with the tablets is that if they’re left in the grader overnight in -25C, they’re almost junk,” said Savage.
“You just try leaving your cellphone in your car in a 20 below night. You can’t leave that stuff out in that kind of weather.”
He recalled that the original decision to purchase the tablets was made by former director of infrastructure Bill Mills, though with the amount of turnover the county has had in administrative staff over the last few years, determining who decided what and when was a bit of a mystery.
“There’s been so many changes in management, it’s hard to point the finger at anybody,” said Savage.
You know what I’m thinking.
A full report on the matter will be presented to the county council on May 23.
8. Mother Canada™
One man’s quest to have Canada’s largest war memorial erected in Green Cove, Cape Breton, is met with fervent responses from a community that’s divided on the issue. While some fight for the ecological integrity of the park, others are adamant that the project go forward in hopes it will help boost the local economy.
(Lawyers please note: it is Jackson, not me, who fails to note the trademark in the film title, so sue him and not me, OK?)
1. Outpatient centre
Last week, the McNeil government announced plans for a new “community outpatient centre” in Bayers Lake. “Yet again, the province sticks it to city planners,” writes Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:
So what’s the deal? Do the province and the municipality ever chat about this stuff? Or do we live in some sort of “Gift of the Magi” dystopia where one branch of government tries to buy us something nice but just ends up ruining the nice transportation network the other one had planned?
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And Bill Turpin reports that no municipal politicians were invited to the announcement of the new centre:
The city acknowledges they weren’t invited, but diplomatically declines to complain. The Premier’s Office, 24 hours after a query from me, declines to explain the omission — if that’s what it was. It’s also possible the premier just didn’t care about City Hall. Another possibility is the premier was in such a hurry to make the announcement before calling an election that his people overlooked protocol.
Turpin goes on to get to the crux on the matter, that “Stephen McNeil has a bit of a hate on for our city”:
I’ll go further: is it possible the real reason for creating a single health authority was to move health services away from our downtown to areas that lack the population density to support them — without taxpayers noticing? Would the defunct Capital District Health Authority have supported the location of the new “centre”?
If McNeil can justify spending provincial tax money to support the lifestyle of rural Nova Scotians, that’s just fine. But I’m not willing to force our sick to take a bus ride of two hours-plus, with transfers, to get routine diagnoses.
2. Federal budget
Polling finds that the public doesn’t much care for the latest federal budget produced by the Trudeau government, writes Richard Starr:
With only one out of twenty firmly positive, participants were clearly unimpressed with the budget, and its lack of a plan for eliminating the deficit seems to be a sore point. On the balanced budget question, four in five said it was important to have a plan for eliminating the deficit. Less than one in ten said having such a plan was unimportant.
Normally I would be inclined to regard the findings as just more evidence of the unfortunate triumph of right wing anti-tax, anti-government ideology. However, in this case the opposition parties and the people polled by Nanos research for the Globe may be on to something.
The two main opposition parties approach the matter differently — for the Conservatives it’s mostly about the evils of public debt, period. During the brief budget debate in the House of Commons the Conservatives harped on about the debt burden being passed to our children and grandchildren. (Amazing how Conservatives can fret about that burden while ignoring the legacy of a fossil-fuel degraded environment being handed to the next generation). The NDP’s take was more salient, boiling down to “deficits for what?” Good question.
Starr goes on to detail the problems with the budget, noting that many of the spending promises are backloaded until after the next federal election.
Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — all about the Centre Plan.
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — an application by the owners of the Clarke-Halliston House, a registered heritage property at 1029 South Park Street (photo above), to make “substantial alterations” to the building. Details here.
Integrated Mobility Plan Presentation (Wednesday, 6pm, Cafeteria, Ecole Secondaire du Sommet, 500 Larry Uteck Boulevard, Halifax) — details here.
Public Information Meeting – Case 20332 (Wednesday, 7pm, Sackville Heights Community Centre) — Armco Capital wants to build a 5,000 sq ft commercial building on a half-acre site between Hamilton Drive and Rosemary Drive, Sackville
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Integrated Mobility Plan Presentation (Thursday, 6pm, Acadia Hall, Lower Sackville) — info here.
Public Information Meeting – Case 20151 (Thursday, 7pm, Chocolate Lake Community Centre, Halifax) — Banc Properties Limited, flush with $75 million from the community outpatient centre deal, wants to build some stuff out by Long Lake.
The legislative calendar isn’t saying, but I believe the house is sitting through at least Thursday, when the budget is dropped.
Caching (Wednesday, 11:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Khuzaima Daudjee will speak on “Learning to Cache Through Predictive Execution.”
No public events.
Thesis Defence, Geography (Wednesday, 9am, Burke 207) — Masters student Jodi-Ann Francis-Walker will defend her thesis, “To Stay or to Leave: An Assessment of the Social, Economic, and Political Factors That Influence International Students When Deciding to Remain in, or Leave Nova Scotia Upon Graduation.”
Thesis Defence, IDS (Wednesday, 2pm, Atrium 340) — PhD candidate Shane Theunissen will defend his thesis, “The Interface Between Global Hegemony and Cultural Marginalization: Agency, Education and Development Among Indigenous Peoples.”
Thesis Defence, IDS (Thursday, 1pm, Atrium 306) — Subrina Buly will defend her thesis, “Climate Change or Local Anthropogenic Impacts? Comparing Effects on Livelihoods and Sustainable Development in a Rural Coastal Village of Bangladesh.”
In the harbour
4am: Crawford, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Irving Oil
6am: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, arrives at anchorage
6am: ZIM Virginia, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
11am: Torino, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
11:30am: Eastern Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Portbury, England
4pm: Eastern Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4:30pm: ZIM Virginia, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.