1. COVID-19 update: Three new cases
Tim Bousquet has the latest update on COVID-19. Three new cases of the virus were announced in the province on Monday, all of which are in Nova Scotia’s Health Central Zone. One case is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada, one is a close contact of a previously reported case, and the third is under investigation.
If you want to get tested, there are pop-up testing sites scheduled for:
Tuesday: Eastern Shore Community Centre, 11am-6:30pm
Wednesday: Eastern Shore Community Centre, 9am-4:30pm
A COVID-19 briefing with Premier Iain Rankin and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Strang is scheduled for 11:45 a.m.
2. A look at Premier Iain Rankin’s green plan
Jennifer Henderson reports on the “huge expectations and devilish details” of Premier Iain Rankin’s promises of a greener grid. Rankin’s commitments included closing coal-fired generating plants by 2030 and a goal to have all provincial government departments operating on renewable energy sourced within Nova Scotia by 2025.
But Henderson looks at how Rankin will get to meet his promise of greening the grid. Henderson writes:
One key answer — besides importing hydro from Labrador and potentially building another transmission line at the New Brunswick border to import hydro from Quebec – is the Green Choice Program.
“The Green Choice Program will enable large energy users in Nova Scotia to enrol and have renewable energy procured on their behalf to meet their energy needs and climate change goals,” states a February 24 news release from Rankin. The release also committed $19.5 million for housing retrofits and rebates for electric cars, and promised, “The Green Choice program will also drive new renewable energy investments in Nova Scotia.” Those expenditures could lead to the installation of new wind farms adding up to 350 MW of electricity to the grid.
Henderson also looks at the myth of high green energy costs and how green Rankin’s plan will be.
3. Video shows humiliation of woman prisoner at N.S. jail
Over the weekend, the Examiner received a video that appears to have been taken in the East Unit at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. El Jones and Tim Bousquet report on the video, which shows a female prisoner in her cell. The caption on the video, which originally appeared on the social media app SnapChat, says “Feeding this fat fucking retard ice cream at 1:30am so she’ll go back to sleep and stop crying ‘diabetic low.’”
Jones and Bousquet write:
The Examiner has viewed the entire video; in it, the woman is identifiable. Her clothing is of the same variety as worn by prisoners at the jail, and other women who have been jailed at the facility tell us the video was likely taken from the vantage point of “the bubble” — the area where guards sit to observe prisoners during the guards’ shifts.
To protect the privacy and identity of both the woman filmed and the person who provided the clip to the Examiner, we will not publish the entire video. However, here is a redacted still from it:
On Monday, Women’s Wellness Within released a statement on the video, saying:
The video is an affront to the filmed woman’s dignity and rights to privacy and confidentiality. It also raises grave concerns about the clinical care that prisoners are receiving at CNSCF, the responsibility of NS Health, and of how their health care needs are perceived by correctional staff employed by the Department of Justice.
You can see their full statement here.
4. Virtual events open up the world
Earlier in March, a Facebook memory popped up reminding me that in March 2020 I was at a conference in Halifax with hundreds of people. When I read that memory, I couldn’t imagine attending a conference in person now. But I have been to — and even hosted — online events over the last year.
Technology has really changed events, not all for the better, of course. Many of us are Zoomed out. But technology is playing catch up on accessibility and that means some people, including people with disabilities, can take part in events like never before. I recently spoke with Jewelles Smith with the Council for Canadians with Disabilities about this.
Smith says Zoom is more accessible than MS Teams. Zoom allows users to “pin” the video of the ASL interpreters to the top of their screen to make them visible though the entire event. Zoom also has captioning, although Smith says it’s not as good as professional captioners like those who use communication access real-time translation (CART). Zoom also works with screen readers for those who are blind or partially sighted. She says screen readers don’t work as well with MS Teams, the platforms many governments, including Nova Scotia, use. And with Zoom, you don’t need a computer and can simply call in.
Not having to travel makes it easier for many people with disabilities, too. Smith, who is disabled and lives in British Columbia, says travelling for meetings in Ottawa can be physically demanding for her. For others, she says, attending events from home is much easier, too.
“I have heard from so many colleagues in the disability community about how amazing it is you can have your attendant there and have camera off if your support worker shows up,” she says.
Most of the event planners I spoke with think the virtual-in-person event is here to stay, but I hope the technology that allows more people to take part continues to be updated, too.
5. Local journalism is dead. Long live local journalism!
On Sunday, besides digging up a rather handsome photo of Bousquet taken several years ago, Stephen Kimber recalls what he thought when Bousquet first started the Examiner and what this recent announcement means for local journalism. Kimber writes:
While you can find the details in Tim’s announcement and more background here, one of the key takeaways for me is that there will be funding to allow Tim to hire a new employee, whose presence will “take much of the business side of the operation off of my shoulders, freeing me up to do more reporting.”
Consider the amount and quality of the reporting Tim has managed to do — can you say uncovering the Glen Assoun wrongful murder conviction, covering the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic, doggedly demanding answers about what really happened during Nova Scotia’s mass shooting and why — all while managing a demanding, growing business.
That alone makes last week’s announcement excellent news for Tim, but even better news for Examiner readers and for journalism in Nova Scotia.
6. Court to decide future of Owls Head
Jennifer Henderson looks at Friday’s decision by Justice Christa Brothers on the future of Owls Head on the Eastern Shore. Henderson reports:
Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Christa Brothers heard an application or a judicial review of “the Minister of Lands and Forestry’s decisions to de-list Owls Head Provincial Park from the Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan and to enter into an agreement to sell the land to a private company, Lighthouse Links, for development into a golf resort,” explain East Coast Environmental Law in a press release:
The applicants, Robert Bancroft and the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association, have argued that the province should have consulted the public before de-listing Owls Head. The park, while not legally designated under legislation, had long been thought to be a park. Additionally, it has been managed by the Department as a park for many years under its Parks Program.
“For forty years the people of Nova Scotia have trusted successive governments which assured us that Owl’s Head was protected as a Provincial Park. Governments must be required to tell the truth about public land, and to consult the public when such a major decision is contemplated”, says Barbara Markovits, a director of the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association.
The outcome of the judicial review could have wide-ranging consequences for the public’s interest in having its parks and specially protected Crown lands, which are managed for the benefit of present and future generations, set aside in favour of private development.
Bob Bancroft pointed out the need for governments to act more in the public’s interest as a key issue. “The secrecy of this government in de-listing this park to offer it for private sale at a bargain price, and its cavalier attitude about transforming a biologically rare coastal site into golf courses that will pollute the ocean, shines a spotlight on elected officials who are not acting in the public interest”.
Justice Brothers has reserved her decision.
And as Henderson writes, it appears Premier Iain Rankin won’t be reversing the de-listing of Owls Head.
Time to change the rules for drinking in public
On Thursday, April 1, I read this story by Luke Dyment at The Signal. Dyment interviewed Al Littlefair who lives in Halifax and wants to see a loosening of restrictions around drinking in public places in the city.
Littlefair learned about the more relaxed public drinking rules in Paris where his brother lives. So, Littlefair started a Twitter account hoping to get the conversation started. Littlefair tells Dyment:
People were enjoying a glass of wine or a beer on the street and there was no stress to it. (My brother) was dumbstruck in the moment. He was thinking, ‘Why can’t we have this?’”
Littlefair shared some ideas on how this could work. For example, Argyle Street, where there are already lots of bars, could be a designated drinking area.
As Dyment reports, there are fines in Nova Scotia for drinking in public places like parks (the fine is $467.50). But other places in Canada have looser restrictions. In Montreal, you can have a drink in the park as long as you have it with a meal. And Vancouver is trying a pilot project that would allow people to drink in some parks in the city.
I’m not a big drinker. I had a glass of wine a month ago when I went out for dinner. I think it was a month before that when I had another glass of wine. I started working in bars when I was 22 and left my last bartending job about six years ago, so I spent about 22 years in the bar scene and have had quite enough of it, thank you very much. I still have nightmares about being in a bar.
So, my first reaction to this story was not a good one. Then I thought about it more. I might like to have a can of wine with a picnic in a park or on the beach. That might be pleasant. But I might not have that drink too. I’d still go to the beach or park anyway, even if the person next to me had a drink of wine. I know people who could go to a park, have a drink, and not cause trouble. You know them too. When proponents of loosening of these restrictions say the government should treat us like adults when it comes to drinking in public, this is what they’re talking about. And let’s face it: People are already taking their drinks with them into public spaces.
I’ll go to a pub for dinner and maybe have a drink, but I always know when to leave (and it’s not just because I can’t stay awake until after 10 p.m. anyway.) I don’t go to these places not just because I don’t want to drink excessively, but because I don’t want to be around other people when they’re drinking excessively. And that’s the whole purpose of bars and pubs. They are designed to make people drink. There’s the music, the crowds, the banging into each other, all of which can lead to slobbering all over each other and then maybe the fights, and so on.
Even though there’s security and bouncers and laws and training around overserving, people still get drunk at bars.
When I worked in bars, the marketing also promoted drinking — and drinking to excess. There were the $1 bar shots (this was the 90s), but even at the restaurants I worked, open bar tabs and unlimited drink tickets during Christmas or work parties were always cause for trouble because they encouraged binge drinking, including among people who wouldn’t drink a lot if they had to pay for it.
Public parks and beaches wouldn’t have this.
If there were designated spots for public drinking — like on Argyle Street, all fenced in and patrolled by bouncers — I still wouldn’t go because it would just be the outside version of what’s inside the bars on the street.
Tim Bousquet wrote before about how The Forks Park in Winnipeg allows public drinking. As Bousquet writes, the successful way to allow public drinking is all about environment:
The evening I was there, there was a cross-section of people in the park: hipsters, families, teenagers, joggers, and a perplexed reporter. People shared drinks at the tables, and signs politely told them to not take alcohol out of the immediate area; no fences or bouncers were present, and people happily and civilly complied.
The park is, in a word, tasteful. I think people generally live up to the physical cues of their surroundings. Provide a nice park with a subdued allowance for drinking amongst the trees, you’ll get one kind of behaviour; build a booze shopping mall on George Street or its local equivalent Argyle Street and erect fences that accentuate the alcohol focus, and you’ll get another sort of behaviour. You’ll get one sort of atmosphere at The Dome, another entirely at a neighbourhood pub. I can’t understand why Halifax can’t get this right.
This would be true of a park or a beach, too. These places have a purpose other than promoting drinking alcohol. And maybe being outside in nature, around the ocean or among the trees, people will drink less and more responsibly.
I still think one of the most dangerous places to drink is at home. That’s where spouses, children, and other family members silently and secretly feel the effects of their loved ones’ drinking, and the abuse and the violence that can go with it. That has bigger effects on society than having a can of wine in the park, but we’re not banning drinking at home. Yvette d’Entremont wrote before how drinking our way through the pandemic, at home, isn’t a good idea. But the province didn’t restrict access to booze at home. In fact, it changed the rules around ordering alcohol with your takeout from a restaurant.
In his article, Dyment talks with Matt Rogers at Bishops Cellar who thinks public drinking laws, if done properly, can help promote responsible drinking. Maybe. But we also need to talk about why people drink in the first place, and especially why they drink to excess. It’s not just to celebrate and have a good time. It’s to cope with life, deal with stress or trauma, to conform, to escape.
That’s a tougher conversation to have than if someone wants to have a drink at the park.
Over the past few weeks, I noticed people on my social media feeds, including here and here, sharing the loss of their pets. Losing a pet at any time is so tough, but I wonder if it’s tougher during this pandemic. Pets don’t know anything about COVID-19, of course, but for their owners forced to stay home more often, pets have offered comfort, stability, routine, entertainment, and laughter. Adoptions of pets has increased since the pandemic. Lots of cats are finding new homes, which is always good news. The National Geographic looked at how our pets have helped us cope with the pandemic, even though we’re worrying about them more.
We lost our cat, Devine, on Feb. 25. She had been sick for a few months and I had to make the decision that no pet owner really wants to make. Her loss struck me incredibly hard. I cried for days after she died. Iris the Amazing sent me a lovely plant that now sits on a table in my living room. Devine’s absence is still noticeable. Our routines and days at home were immediately different. We owners get so used to having our pets around we almost can’t imagine what it will be like without them.
We adopted Devine and our other cat, Indigo, from the SPCA when my daughter was five. Our plan was just to adopt Indigo, but there was a half-price adoption fee and I decided Indigo needed a friend, especially on those days when I wasn’t home for hours. My daughter always carried them around, one under each arm like footballs. For almost 13 years, it was the four of us here. Thirteen years is a long time! My daughter and the cats grew up together. I shared their shenanigans in stories and photos on social media. Devine was mostly my cat though. She was quite the diva and didn’t like too many people, often hiding when we had visitors.
Over the last several months, as many of my meetings went online, Devine made some appearances over Zoom, her tail just floating on the screen as she walked on my laptop.
But for me, the loss of Devine is something more. It means my nest is starting to empty out, and now thanks to COVID-19 I have more time at home to think about it.
My daughter is going to university this fall. She bought a dress for a prom that may or may not happen. And my nest will soon get emptier.
But the loss of a pet also means life goes on even when we think it’s stalled because of a pandemic.
Devine’s ashes are now in a memory box that sits on my piano next to a print of her paw we made in clay a few days before she died. That memory box will be a reminder not only of Devine, but that time we lived through a pandemic and the loss and grief it represented, too.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 11am) — virtual meeting, with captioning on a text-only site
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting, with live captioning on a text-only site
Public information meeting – Case 23058 (Wednesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting
Public meeting – Portland Street / Cole Harbour Road improvements (Wednesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — virtual meeting
Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm)
Legislature sits (Wednesday, 12pm)
No public events.
New functions for an old favourite: Lysine polyphosphorylation as an evolutionarily conserved post-translational modification (Wednesday, 4pm) — with Michael Downey from the University of Ottawa
Mount Saint Vincent
Fireside Chat with Premier Iain Rankin (Tuesday, 6pm) — Via Zoom, he’ll “speak to his career journey to Premier, his experiences in government, and his vision for the provincial economy and tourism sector.” More info and advance registration here.
No public events
Counter Memory Activism Speaker Series (Wednesday, ) — Zoom discussion with Kamiru Collymore
In the harbour
06:00: MSC Brianna, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
15:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
15:30: MSC Brianna sails for New York
16:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, sails from Dockyard for sea
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
19:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond (National Gypsum) from Baltimore
17:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Canso from Norfolk, Virginia
I can’t eat any more chocolate.