There were three new cases of COVID-19 announced in Nova Scotia on Saturday, and zero on Sunday.
There are now 10 known active cases in the province. Two people are in hospital with the disease, one of whom is in ICU.
The active cases are distributed as follows:
• 3 in the Halifax Peninsula / Chebucto Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 1 in the Dartmouth/ Southeastern Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 1 in the Bedford/ Sackville Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 1 in the Pictou Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 1 in the Cape Breton Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone
• 2 in the Inverness, Victoria & Richmond Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone
• 1 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network in the Western Zone
Nova Scotia Health labs conducted 1,408 tests Saturday.
Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (now at 1.3) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):
And here is the active caseload for the second wave:
Here is the updated possible exposure map, removing the now-expired ferry crossing warnings:
2. Billion-Dollar Bridge
“A consultant hired by the Halifax Dartmouth Bridge Commission (or Halifax Harbour Bridges, HHB) recommends that the MacKay Bridge be replaced with a new six-lane, cable-stayed bridge with a 500-metre long main span, costing $1.05 billion,” I reported yesterday:
The consultant is Darryl Matson, a senior vice-president with COWI North America Ltd., a bridge and tunnel engineering firm. COWI was hired to “support HHB’s application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) for a toll rate increase due to the significant spending requirements anticipated in the next ten years (2021-2030).”
The proposed toll increase would see cash fares for cars go from the existing $1 to $1.25, and the MacPass fare for cars from 80 cents to $1.
Preliminary scoping work for the new bridge is proposed to be conducted during the 2021-25 period, at a cost of $1.06 million. And early design work, land acquisition, and environmental assessments are proposed for the years 2026-30, at a cost of $12.42 million. That total of $13.48 million is included in the [quarter-billion budget], and therefore in the application to the UARB for a toll increase; the bulk of the $1.05 billion price tag for the new bridge, however, is not included in the toll increase proposal, as those costs will be incurred after 2030. The report does not say if further toll increases are anticipated to cover those costs.
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As I reported, none of the financial projections underpinning the requested toll increase have been examined by an independent third party, including the public advocate. There’s a long way to go yet to get even to the toll increase, much less a new bridge.
As for the bridge proposal, I’m ambivalent. The current bridge is a piece of junk, built on the cheap with no regard for it lasting more than a few decades. It makes no sense to keep dumping money into repairing it without at least considering scrapping it entirely and building anew.
But the consultant seems not to have thought about the adjacent Shannon Park land, which supposedly will be developed into some urban paradise, or maybe a football stadium, either of which will supposedly have a ferry terminal attached. Whatever happens to Shannon Park, it should be done in concert with the bridge, possibly with increased access, but also with some coordination with what a ferry would mean vis-a-vis transit on the bridge. That Shannon Park isn’t mentioned at all by the consultant shows how far we are from a coherent plan.
But theoretically, at least, as the new bridge is proposed, it adds no further capacity for cars. The two additional lanes are supposedly to be dedicated to buses, but that could easily morph into a “high occupancy vehicle” lane, and then into no special status at all. I’ll note that currently only six bus routes use the bridge.
Who knows how the world will change by the year 2040? Hopefully, there will be no more combustion engines on the road, and so cars and trucks won’t be adding appreciably to greenhouse gas emissions, at least from their tailpipes (how wide use of cars affects land use patterns and therefore greenhouse gas emissions is another issue entirely, but one I don’t have the time or space to get into here).
With rare exceptions, I cross the harbour at least twice a day, and sometimes as often as eight times a day. I make most of those trips by bus, so I’ve given a bit of thought about transit and harbour crossing. The biggest problem now is that the Macdonald Bridge’s car traffic slows down the buses, a problem that could be somewhat relieved with a transit priority lane through the toll plaza, but for whatever reason, Halifax Harbour Bridges seems reluctant to make that happen.
Much larger cities have commuter train crossings of their harbours, but we just don’t have the population to make that practical. Our only transit-only crossing of the harbour is the ferry, which struggles to find ridership. I sometimes dream of a high-speed gondola crossing of the harbour, but I have no idea whether the numbers would work for it; probably not.
That leaves bridges or tunnels. Besides being a bad idea for land-use reasons, building a third crossing from the south end to Woodside is prohibitively expensive, especially if a billion dollars is going into a MacKay Bridge replacement at the same time. (All the figures in the article are 2020 dollars, and the real figures will inevitably be much higher due to inflation.)
A billion dollars is a lot of money! Even if it’s paid for entirely with tolls and creative financing, it’s still a lot of money. Is there a better way address this problem? Maybe. If so, we’ve got some time to figure it out, but we should start talking about it now.
3. Liberal Leadership voting begins
“The 8,100 people who paid $20 each to elect the next Liberal leader — and therefore the next premier of all Nova Scotians — begin voting today,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
Votes for the candidates (former Health minister Randy Delorey from Antigonish, former Labour and Advanced Education Minister Labi Kousoulis from Halifax, and former Lands & Forestry Minister Iain Rankin from Timberlea-Prospect) can be cast online or by telephone until 3pm Saturday.
Premier Stephen McNeil’s replacement will be announced at the “virtual” convention this weekend. At this point, only a fool would predict who will get the job.
4. Save our forests?
“If you met Sandra Phinney, the last words that would probably come to your mind would be ‘lawbreaker,’ or ‘scofflaw,’ or ‘criminal trespasser,'” writes Stephen Kimber:
Phinney is a cheerful 76-year-old Nova Scotia grandmother who now lives with her husband on the edge of Nova Scotia’s Tusket River. She’s had what she calls a few “former lives” in teaching and social work, then filled up close to two decades as an organic farmer before transforming herself once again, this time into an award-winning, globe-trotting freelance travel writer and photographer. That’s how I know her best. I have been a wishful attendee at a few of her travel writing workshops and have worked with her as a fellow member of various writing organizations.
Last year, she told me, she travelled to Jamaica to research stories about community tourism at Treasure Beach, a collection of off-the-beaten-track coves and settlements along Jamaica’s south coast. She’d planned to return this year to follow up, but COVID got in the way. She still hopes she’ll find her way back, she says, but admits, “if I end up with a criminal record, I will not be able to do that.”
A criminal record?
On Dec. 15, 2020, Phinney and eight others were arrested and charged with defying a court order for refusing to take down a blockade they’d set up in a remote area of Digby County on the northern edge of what the province refers to as Harvest Area DI068550E.
Their rag-tag tent community had been erected two months earlier to try to prevent logging contractors and their massive tree-munching machines from gobbling up what remained of the local forest, a habitat for endangered mainland moose. The contractors worked for WestFor, a consortium of 12 lumber mills and private companies established by the provincial government in 2016 to “increase the efficiency of forest management on Crown land in the province.”
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5. Nursing home beds
“The Province of Nova Scotia will add 236 new long-term care beds in and around the Halifax Regional Municipality and replace or renovate seven nursing homes across the province,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
Premier McNeil made the announcement at Friday’s COVID-19 briefing.
“This is the first phase of a multi-year overhaul of our long-term care facilities,” announced McNeil, who has one week left to go as premier. McNeil said the province plans to add $10.5 million to the Capital Budget each year to build and upgrade nursing homes. The province has been allocating only $2.5 million annually.
6. Missouri chucklehead
Maries County, Missouri is a tiny spec of a place in the Ozark Mountains about halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City, population just above 9,000 souls. In the presidential election, Maries County went 81.5% for Trump, with 3,892 votes cast.
The local congressman, Blaine Luetkemeyer, received just seven fewer votes from Maries County in his successful bid for reelection. And on Jan. 6, while the murdered body of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick was still warm, and as custodians were washing the shit and piss off the building left during the failed coup d’etat, Luetkemeyer cast his lot with the plotters, voting against certification of the election of Joe Biden.
That’s what kind of place Maries County, Missouri is: full of ignorant chuckleheads. (I know of which I speak; I lived for a spell in a similar county just down the road in Arkansas.)
So it’s no surprise that the elected sheriff of Maries County, Chris Heitman, is politicizing COVID, and doing so by refusing to serve a ticket issued by Sgt. Jason Galloway of the RCMP detachment in Amherst, Nova Scotia. Galloway had routinely asked that Heitman serve the parents of a 16-year-old with a ticket for failure to quarantine in Nova Scotia, in violation of Health Protection Measures.
Heitman used the ticket as an opportunity for public political onanism by issuing a statement on his Facebook page that “I refused to serve these court documents as, even though it may have been against the law in another country, it is a clear violation of the United States Constitution.”
Last October, notes the Phelps County Focus newspaper, “From October 15 to October 22, 2020, Maries County has had an increase of 56 cases [of COVID] or 643.9 cases per 100,000 population. To put that figure into perspective, the national rate per 100k population for the same time period was 129.5 cases, Missouri was 198.8 cases, and Phelps County was 179.48 cases.”
As of last week, Maries County had 14 active cases of the plague. All of Nova Scotia, with a population over 110 times as large, has 10 active cases.
Such is the price of “liberty.”
No public meetings.
Community Services (Tuesday, 10am) — video conference; Tracey Taweel and Maria Medioli from Community Services, Joyce d’Entremont from Harbourside Lodge & Mountains and Meadows Care Group, and Wendy Lill from Community Homes Action Group will discuss “Phasing Out Adult Residential Centre and Regional Rehabilitation Centre Facilities.”
Impact of Racism on Health: Especially during the Covid‑19 period (Tuesday, 6pm) — MS Teams discussion with OmiSoore Dryden and Tiffany Gordon, with entertainment by Eriana Willis-Smith.
In the past year, there has been quite a bit of discussion surrounding the impact that COVID-19 has had on communities of colour. In particular, on the effect that it has had on Black communities across Canada and the United States. According to medical experts, the lack of access these communities have to healthcare and the high levels of poverty found within them have made them even more vulnerable to the pandemic.
African Heritage Month (Monday, 11am) — live streamed launch with speakers, live performances, and keynote address by Candace Thomas, Deputy Minister, Department of Justice
Integrating Consumer Behavior Into Your Marketing Strategy During The Pandemic (Tuesday, 11am) — webinar with Ethan Pancer
The Librarian Is In: Evaluating Sources (Tuesday, 3pm) — online workshop
In the harbour
05:30: High Trust, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for Antwerp
10:30: IT Intrepid, cable layer, moves from Pier 9 to Bedford Basin for DP [dynamic positioning] trials lasting 5.5 hours, then returning to Pier 9
10:30: APL Yangshan, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
11:00: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Charlottetown
12:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
15:30: East Coast moves to Irving Oil
15:30: Carmen, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
17:30: One Marvel, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
Weather is coming, they say.