It’s Friday the 13th. Stick a horseshoe in your pocket and finish the week strong, Halifax.
Here’s what’s happening…
1. Vaccine passports: an interview
Linda Pannozzo kicks things off today with a discussion about the ethical concerns surrounding vaccine passports. She writes:
A few days ago, Liberal leader Iain Rankin announced that if re-elected his government would bring in a COVID-19 vaccine passport system — what he called a “Scotia Pass” — which would provide proof of vaccination for individuals, and it would also be used by businesses and organizations as a way to limit access to their services.
Referring to whether the vaccine pass system would be voluntary or mandatory, Rankin was quoted as saying, “If we see a surge in cases, we’ll do whatever we have to do to keep Nova Scotians safe,” meaning it could be forced on people. But let’s face it, even if not mandated, a policy that makes vaccination status a precondition for participation in daily life makes it de facto mandatory.
So what’s the big fuss? It’s necessary to be vaccinated against certain illnesses when you travel to certain countries, right? If you don’t want to get vaccinated, fine. But stay home, right?
Well, it’s not quite that simple.
To explore concerns over the ethics, legality and constitutionality of the proposed “vaccine passport,” Pannozzo sits down with Wayne MacKay, Professor Emeritus of Law at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, who’s recognized for his work in the area of Constitutional Law, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Human Rights, Privacy Law and Education.
Check out their full discussion and see why this issue isn’t as cut and dry as you might think. You might come out of it with the same opinion you had going in, but I doubt you’ll read through it without finding something you hadn’t considered before. And that always makes for worthwhile reading.
2. COVID report: crawling closer to phase five
Nova Scotia continues to stave off the fourth wave — just four new cases of COVID-19 announced in the province, bringing the total known caseload to 24 active cases. (The province actually announced “seven new cases,” but three of those “are from earlier this year and were identified during a review of Panorama data” — why call those new cases? I don’t know).
Anyway, COVID fatigue isn’t just some buzzword phrase. It’s real and it’s prevalent.
So enough numbers; let’s to get to the real question — when does this thing end?
The short answer is we’re getting closer to entering the province’s final phase of reopening and easing public health restrictions, but we’re getting there slowly. Let me quote the tired tweeter above:
Of those eligible to be vaccinated (those 12 years old and older), 87.1% have received at least one dose, while 76.7% have received two doses. That’s a rough estimate on my part, using my best guestimate of population age cohorts.
Assuming 8,000 military personnel living in Nova Scotia have been double-dosed, about 63,300 people still need to get their second dose to reach the Phase 5 threshold of 75% of the entire population double-dosed. Yesterday, 2,439 people got their second dose. At this rate, the province will reach 75% double-dosed, the Phase 5 threshold, on Labour Day, September 6. It could be sooner, if more people move up their appointments.*
*[The bold is my own added emphasis]
For more information on the new cases from Tuesday, as well as information on vaccination and testing sites, case demographics, and places where you might’ve been exposed to the virus, you can read long-suffering pandemic reporter Tim Bousquet’s full provincial COVID update here. Don’t let his irritability be in vain.
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3. 12-storey Bedford Row development approved
“A citizen committee has approved a proposal for a 12-storey building on the site of the Great Wall Restaurant, despite some concerns about a blank wall on the back of the building,” writes Zane Woodford this morning.
The development is planned to be built on Bedford Row, the quaint little side street that runs behind the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Specifically, it will occupy the space currently taken up by the Great Wall Restaurant. As Woodford writes above, the back of the building will be completely windowless, giving it a strange blank look. The reason? All the apartments will face Bedford Row — the building is expected to have 33 residential units — and the architect anticipated future redevelopment of the surrounding properties, meaning exterior windows could eventually become obstructed. One windowless section of the exterior would also require fire shutters for each window that would cost $5,000 a piece. To compensate for the odd, blank look of a windowless wall, panels of varying sizes have been designed, hopefully giving the back of the building a little character.
A mural would be nice, no? I guess if they expect it to be covered soon, maybe not. Just a thought.
Also discussed at Thursday’s virtual Design Advisory Committee meeting — the committee that currently approves downtown Halifax developments — was the upcoming Centre Plan Package B and some of its potential impacts. The second part of the Centre Plan, which will impose new design rules and height and density limits on downtown Halifax, could lead to the Design Advisory Committee taking over more design review for most of downtown Halifax. It could also make the Design Review Committee redundant.
To see why that is, and to get a comprehensive look at the newly approved Bedford Row development, head to Woodford’s full report here.
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4. Federal election appears imminent
Multiple news outlets are reporting that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is preparing to meet with Canada’s new governor general, Mary Simon, on Sunday to ask her to dissolve Parliament and declare an election.
Here’s a snippet of one report, this one from Rachel Aiello at CTV, whose sources tell her an election could be scheduled as early as Sept. 20:
If the campaign kicks off this Sunday, with an election day on Sept. 20, the 2021 federal election would be 36 days in length, the shortest possible permitted under elections law. Triggering the election means that Canadians would be in for at least five weeks of campaigning, seeing the federal party leaders crisscrossing the country and pitching themselves, their candidates, and their platforms, under ongoing COVID-19 public health restrictions.
The next election isn’t required to be called until October 2023, but the Liberals must feel they can regain the majority they lost in the last election.
My biggest memory of that election — it took place less than two years ago, if you can believe it — is sitting in the Central Library, feeling vaguely depressed as I watched the leaders debate broadcast on the big screen in the back hall. Five people trading one minute answers and talking over each other. Some surfaces were scraped, if I recall correctly.
Speaking of debates, here in Nova Scotia, where we’re wrapping up our own election, Stephen Kimber has two write ups on the provincial debates so far. His first is a critical look at the campaign’s opening debate. His second is part response to criticisms that terrifyingly savvy Examiner commenters levied against his first piece, and part a collection of some ideas on how to improve the debate format and the politics surrounding it. Maybe some of his suggestions could apply to the federal format too.
5. South Shore resort raises base wage to $15/hour in effort to find labourers
You may have heard talk about a labour shortage going on around the continent right now, especially with service and hospitality industries looking for low wage workers. It seems many people would prefer to stay home and take employment insurance rather than get paid a few bucks to be on their feet all day dealing with unreasonable tourists and bachelorette parties.
In an effort to combat this problem and attract much-needed workers, White Point Beach Resort is raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than $2 an hour higher than the legislated minimum wage.
According to Rose Murphy at the CBC, the new wage will go up on Sept. 5. The Queens County resort’s general manager, Dylan Meisner, considers it a “huge financial gamble,” but hopes the new wage won’t just attract new workers, but will raise morale among staff in the long run. Murphy reports that staffing has been a problem for a while at White Point:
In the three years Meisner has been at the resort, he said there’s never been a full complement of staff. White Point now employs about 145 people, but in the past it’s had up to 225 employees.
Meisner said the resort will not increase its prices or reduce employees’ hours in order to pay for the wage increase.
People have been calling for $15 an hour minimum wage for some time now. I’m sure there are plenty of people rooting for this experiment to succeed.
1. There’s a lot to take in right now. Just breathe
We’re four days away from a provincial election, one that will decide what government will lead us out of the pandemic and onto the road to reopening and recovery (hopefully). The Examiner’s been covering it diligently. Along with the Stephen Kimber debate analyses I mentioned in the News section, the Examiner writers have been covering the different party platforms and news from the campaign trail, as well as reports on polls and campaign issues like Owls Head, the public health plan for school this year, and gold mining in the province.
But there’s a lot to take in these days, and it’s hard to stay focused on our local campaign when the world seems to be on fire.
Despite my best efforts, I’ve sometimes found myself relating a bit too much with this recent Tweet from my boss.
News fatigue, like pandemic fatigue, is nothing new. For me, it hit its peak in late April and early May of last year, when the shutdown was starting to drag, Northwood was in crisis, and the Portapique shootings had just occurred.
Increasingly morbid updates on the status, and potential fate, of our planet; the return of hateful ideologies briefly thought arcane and resigned to the past; political divides that are still somehow deepening; an influx of misinformation from bad actors, and a pandemic that just won’t leave us alone. Plus the Canadiens’ loss in the finals still stings. (Well, that last one devastated me, anyway).
As more and more morbid news about the climate — both in theoretical papers and terrifyingly tangible catastrophes — piles on top of endless pandemic reports, and concerns over the accuracy of information, and the ever-increasing political divide around the West, it can become a bit numbing. I’ve tried to have some stretches without using my phone any more than needed for work. I’ve tried just being indifferent to it. It can all just be overwhelming to the point that it becomes paralyzing. Perhaps it would be better to just accept news of wildfires, political extremism and cultural breakdown as faraway things that exist separately from my personal life.
But I think the more responsible approach is to accept that so much of the news today is overwhelming and beyond our control. Like the old saying goes, accept what you can’t change and have the strength and courage to address what you can.
So what can we address in our neck of the woods? Well, like I said, there’s an election fast-approaching. And while a single vote doesn’t really constitute taking action, it’s a good start. An even better start is getting informed before casting that vote.
That’s right. Instead of burying your head in the sand or drowning yourself in mind-numbing substances, I say dive right into the news and see what you can push to change.
Can you stop the Arctic ice from melting or solve institutional racism in this country? Probably not. At least not by yourself, and likely not in your life time. (If you do those things individually, let me know and I’ll definitely buy you a beer).
But are you concerned with foreign-owned companies coming into our province to extract our resources? Or how you’re going to afford housing next year? Maybe you’re wondering why it’s so expensive in the first place, or why you’re landlord can increase the rent so much in certain situations (if you have any questions or tips on the issue, let us know by texting or calling our housing crisis hotline at 1-819-803-6215). Maybe you’re confused how the Biodiversity Act was gutted of any meaningful power when we’re apparently losing our natural biodiversity in this province at an alarming rate. Why would the government do that? What — or who -—would influence them? And just what the hell is going on with our forests?
Well, why not find out? These issues aren’t done deals. No need to turn a blind eye and pretend everything’s OK. There are sketchy things happening in this province, and many of them are harming our lands and our quality of life. But it’s not cause for despair. It’s reason to get galvanized.
We fear what we have no control over, but we do have control over some things. Taking action and gaining a modicum of agency is heartening.
What we don’t know is what really scares us. So don’t turn away from the madness. See what little madness you can help out with and do what you can with just that. Cast a vote, write a letter to your MLA, volunteer, spread the word about environmental and financial exploitation, build an emergency shelter. There’s still meaningful work to be done. The world’s always been falling apart. It’s only a bit more evident these days. And it hasn’t completely fallen apart yet. So take a news break, take a walk (or roll) around the neighbourhood, and see what needs fixing in your own backyard. Not everything is inevitably and irreparably broken.
And vote. (And I’d recommend keeping an eye on things after the election too).
1. Just one last hit, then I’m done
A few humorous observations from the world of social media. But first, some brief context.
This week, the UN put out its sunshine and rainbows report on the state of the world’s climate, saying we’ve already set in motion some incredibly harsh, and sadly irreversible, impacts of global warming. Boiled down, the 3,900-page report essentially says we have two seconds to get off fossil fuels or harsher, equally irreversible environmental consequences are inevitable. On the same day the report was published, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change defended the government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline, telling CBC’s Power and Politics, “What we’re doing is saying it’s got to be part of the transition, but part of the transition is being able to raise the revenues that enable you to actually make the investments that are required to go there.”
Essentially, we need to move more oil in order to make enough money to invest in getting rid of oil.
The CBC later tweeted out a report from Nick Boisvert that quoted the minister’s gotta-sell-oil-to-quit-oil words. Needless to say, there were some strong social media reactions. Like this one:
It’s one of a number of online reactions to the minister’s paradoxical argument that Wet’suwet’en checkpoint’s instagram account generously compiled into one “best-of” post. Here’s a couple more to help you cope with the either-cry-or-laugh comments of our Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
You get the idea. Let’s finish up with one that follows a different thread: not quite as funny, but it sums the whole thing up nicely.
2. Field of Dreams
If distraction and nostalgia are your main coping mechanisms these days, have I got a good one for you.
Last night the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees were part of the first ever Major League ball game ever played in the state of Iowa. It was played on a field Major League Baseball built specifically for the game, only a short distance from the “field of dreams” used in the Kevin Costner movie (that field, while good enough for Hollywood, was not quite up to American League standards).
It didn’t all work last night. Plopping a giant, garish video scoreboard in a gorgeous open plain was a mistake. And the players’ entrance from the corn, while admittedly kind of fun, was hokier than the movie that inspired the game (I’m still a big fan of the film, overly sentimental monologues and all). But the field was the picture of pastoral perfection.
Take a look at these photos:
And the game was perfect too. Honestly, it was. Major League Baseball couldn’t have asked for a better one.
I couldn’t watch it live unfortunately. I don’t have cable and I had some writing to do. Instead, I got out for an hour of ball myself. I always like a little fresh air and activity on a writing day. It helps me
procrastinate clear my head and get the creative juices going. There’s a softball field behind my old elementary school, hidden on a hill and surrounded by woods. Every Thursday night the local rec committee puts on pick up slo-pitch games. I caught a mile high pop up with two hands — good, fundamental ball — out in centre field and it nicked the pinky on my bare hand before it hit my glove. I bring it up because I wanted you to know how tough it’s been typing this morning. Of course, the more important takeaway is that I caught the ball.
Anyway, all this is to say I had to watch the highlights this morning.
It was worth the wait. It turned out to be an epic back-and-forth slugfest on a gorgeous diamond in a picturesque farmer’s field under a rust-tinged prairie sky. It almost ended with a huge 9th inning comeback for the Yankees, but instead ended with a White Sox game-winning smash over the wall and into the sixth row of corn. A fantastic finish (and not just because the Yankees lost) to a fantastic game.
Even if you find the sport as boring as a long drive down an Iowa interstate, I’d suggest you to watch these highlights. If you don’t gain at least a little appreciation for the sport afterward, you never will.
I mean, just look at this rollercoaster finish. A Hollywood ending to a Hollywood-inspired event.
It was a World Series-calibre performance in front of a small town crowd in the middle of nowhere.
To quote another movie, “How can you not be romantic about baseball.”
In the harbour
08:00: John J. Carrick, barge, with Leo A. McArthur, tug, sails from McAsphalt for sea
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
18:00: Atlantic Condor, offshore supply ship, sails from IEL for sea
18:00: Taipei Trader, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
20:00: MSC Anya, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
19:00: Eco Beverley Hills, oil tanker, arrives at Port Hawkesbury anchorage from Greater Plutonio, Angola, an offshore terminal
15:00: Sarah Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Milne Inlet, Nunavut
- If I was a superstitious man, I’d stay in bed all day today. Bad things happen to me on all sorts of different dates, so this one holds no personal significance.
- That was the first Major League baseball game ever played in the great state of Iowa. Also, side note — there was a girl in my class named Kinsella, after the author of Shoeless Joe, the novella upon which Field of Dreams is based. And that’s all I have to say about baseball today.
- You can follow Tim Bousquet on Twitter here: @Tim_Bousquet. I know today’s Morning File made it seem like an incredibly depressing account to check out, but it can actually be quite funny, and it’s always informative!
- The little fan in my room put in some serious work last night. He is my brother now. I’d do anything for him.