The short of it: unless some surprise treatment emerges, this will probably become a global pandemic along the lines of the Spanish Flu of 1918, with it abating somewhat in the spring and summer and then coming back in full force in the fall.
If Covid-19 develops like that, it means maybe half of all people will become infected. Most will fight it off no problem, others will get very sick but recover, and about 2% of those infected will die. The way the podcast put it, people have an average of 300 people in their circle of friends and immediate associates; and unless there’s an unexpected cure, you’ll know two or three people who will die from the disease. The mortality rate is highest in people over 50 who smoke or have smoked (because they have a harder time fighting off respiratory problems). Children seem to have higher immunity.
On the upside, a vaccine will likely be developed and become available in about a year or so.
I see this as a test of public policy and government response. It worries me that many US workplaces don’t have sick leave and that many people can’t access basic health care. Perhaps widespread illness and death from the virus will bring about universal health care. We’re better off in Canada, but it will still be a challenge of our systems.
For the weeks ahead, the more we can do to delay the spread, hospitals won’t be so overwhelmed and fewer people will become infected before a vaccine is available. (I wonder if the anti-vaxxers will have a change of heart.) Saudi Arabia has closed Mecca to foreign travel and is considering cancelling this year’s Hajj, and Switzerland has banned events with attendance of 1,000 people or more. These seem like sensible precautions.
As Joan Baxter writes below, Canada hasn’t yet developed a coherent policy about large events.
By the way, the coming cruise ship season is going to be a bust, I think. Who knows? Tourists already seem to think sleeping on a floating norovirus petri dish is a good idea, but they might draw the line with the Disney Covid-19. We’ll see, I guess.
2. PDAC and COVID-19
This item is written by Joan Baxter.
Does mining promotion trump Canada’s public health?
That is what I wanted to know when I joined a media teleconference from Ottawa late yesterday afternoon, during which Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, were updating journalists and fielding questions about the latest on the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Earlier in the day, CBC reported that Ontario had just registered its sixth case of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in Canada to 13. The news from around the world was worrisome. In the previous 24 hours, seven new countries had reported COVID-19 cases, and World Health Organization Director General, Tedros Adhanom, warned that “the virus does not respect borders” and countries with cases should “move swiftly” to contain the virus that has “pandemic potential.”
According to the CBC report:
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo said Wednesday that Canadian officials would consider asking people to use “social distancing” measures in the event there was more widespread transmission of the virus. That can include things like cancelling mass gatherings and public events.
“So that’s all in the future. We’re certainly not there yet, but we are actually taking a close look and making sure we’re prepared for that,” Njoo told MPs at the House health committee.
This was all of particular interest to me.
A couple of weeks earlier I had applied for and obtained media accreditation for the Prospectors and Developers of Canada Association (PDAC) convention, which its organizers describe as the “World’s Premier Mineral Exploration & Mining Convention,” to be held March 1 – 4, 2020, in Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre. PDAC boasts that its convention is the “leading convention for people, companies and organizations in, or connected with, mineral exploration.”
PDAC features some of the most powerful (and controversial) mining magnates on earth as key speakers. Its biggest sponsor this year is none other than Teck Resources that just this week cancelled its plans for a giant new bitumen mine in northern Alberta.
PDAC promotes itself to prospective attendees this way:
In addition to meeting over 1,100 exhibitors, 2,500 investors and 25,800 attendees from 132 countries, you can also attend technical sessions, short courses and networking events.
The four-day annual convention held in Toronto, Canada, has grown in size, stature and influence since it began in 1932 and today is the event of choice for the world’s mineral industry.
Since I received my media accreditation, I’ve been checking in to the PDAC website for the latest news and updates on the convention, making a list of booths and events I wanted to visit and report on for the Halifax Examiner.
And this week, I’ve been paying close attention to a boxed item on its webpage entitled: “CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19).
On Thursday, that read:
The health, safety and well-being of attendees is our top priority. We are paying close attention to direction from the World Health Organization, Public Health Agency of Canada and Toronto Public Health. At this time, there are no programming changes scheduled.
The Government of Canada has expanded its travel health notices. Please ensure you have the latest information and advice before departing you country of origin.
We will provide further updates to attendees and participants accordingly.
Although I’m not one prone to panic about travel and health issues, having lived and worked for so long in parts of the world where travel and health risks are much greater than they are in Canada, I admit that I had started to wonder about the risks – in this, the time of COVID-19 – of bringing together 25,000 (or so) people from 130 (or so) countries for four days for any reason, be it to promote mining or for a tournament of tiddlywinks.
So yesterday I wrote to Toronto Public Health to ask if there was any consideration of asking PDAC organizers to postpone the convention, and if not, what it would take to do so. This is the statement I received from Dr. Herveen Sachdeva, Associate Medical Officer of Health at Toronto Public Health:
Toronto Public Health (TPH) follows the advice, guidance and recommendations of Public Health Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada on travel restrictions and determining whether or not local events should be adjusted. The COVID-19 virus is not circulating locally; however, given the global spread, we are actively working with our City and health partners to plan. We continue to carefully monitor this situation and encourage residents, conference planners, and attendees to stay informed by regularly reviewing credible information sources. This includes reviewing travel notices before international travel. The WHO and Public Health Agency of Canada are credible information sources that we recommend consulting for this area. The conference organizers have reached out to TPH and we have provided advice in line with the guidance from our public health partners.
To put it exceedingly mildly, I didn’t find this all that elucidating or reassuring. Which is why I joined that media teleconference, so I could put my questions about the wisdom of holding a global mining party in Toronto at a time when Canada’s Public Health Agency says its aim is to contain the spread of COVID-19 directly to Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer.
Specifically, I asked Dr. Tam what she would advise anyone planning to attend a convention that would be bringing about 25,000 people from about 130 countries to Toronto from March 1 until March 4.
Until then during the media teleconference, Dr. Tam had been extremely eloquent and articulate in responding to journalists’ questions about the way the Public Health Agency of Canada is handling the threat of COVID-19, and the measures in place to contain it. Unfortunately, she seemed flummoxed by my simple question, to which she offered this nebulous reply:
So I think from the Public Health Agency’s perspective, we work with the provinces in providing guidance, public health guidance for managing community based events. So I think … obviously the provinces and territories or the local wherever that event is, I believe you said Toronto, would be having the advisers really try and have those planning discussions ahead of time. This one is happening very fast, it sounds like. But … looking at, you know, that this current moment in time, of course, Canada doesn’t have community transmission. We do not have, you know, outbreaks of the COVID virus in Canada. But, you know, I don’t know enough about the attendees. But again, like all travelers coming into Canada, there should be advice provided to them in terms of the monitoring of symptoms, etc. But I think that the most appropriate thing to do is, of course, for the local public health, provincial public health and the organizers to get together, use some of the guidance that’s provided and make some decisions based on the exact timing of the event, etc. And of course the public health agency is there to provide support should they require any advice or any other kind of support.
I then asked Dr. Tam at what point the Public Health Agency of Canada would start to request that such large mass gatherings not be held, given the COVID-19 situation. And once again, her answer failed to provide one:
So in terms of roles, responsibilities, you know, in general, that will be at the local level. But we’re here to provide technical support or guidance or potentially surge capacity, if that’s required to manage an event.
This left me more than a little confused. The Public Health Agency of Canada was saying that decisions on whether it is advisable to go ahead with events such as the PDAC 2020 convention in Toronto are to be made at the “local level” in Toronto. And the Toronto Public Health was saying that it was up to the province and the federal agency to decide on travel restrictions and “whether or not local events should be adjusted.”
And neither seemed willing to answer my question as to whether this is really an opportune time for many thousands of people from all over the planet to gather in Toronto’s convention centre to talk mining, and let’s face it, mostly mining money.
Speaking of money, even if the COVID-19 virus seems not to have put the damper on PDAC 2020, it is certainly being felt on the Toronto Stock Exchange, which is where more than half of the world’s mining companies are registered. This week, the TSX lost 7% of its value before the sell off was pre-empted yesterday because of a “technical halt.”
No such halting of PDAC, at least not yet. In fact, just as I finished writing those words, a new PDAC email popped into my Inbox, and — no surprise — there are still “no programming changes scheduled,” but there is exciting news about the Capital Markets Program at the convention, which is:
Intended to create a forum for dialogue on a range of topics related to the financing of mineral exploration. Access to capital is the lifeblood of the mineral exploration industry.
There will be sessions on “Financing the mineral industry: Investment banker perspectives” and “Creeping expropriation: How government policy risk overseas is impacting access to capital.”
These things matter, apparently.
Maybe even more than public health concerns.
3. Willow Tree
Armco Capital has sold the Willow Tree property to Shannex. Armco issued a press release yesterday afternoon announcing the sale:
The sales agreement ensures all parameters approved by Halifax Regional Council in October 2019 will be adhered to, including the 25-storey building height, integrated bus shelter, setbacks to enhance the pedestrian experience and the $1.8 million contribution to the municipality’s affordable housing fund.
“We are grateful to George Armoyan and his Armco Capital team for choosing Parkland to assume ownership of this sought-after development opportunity,” said Jason Shannon, President and Chief Operating Officer at Shannex Inc. “This active adult living community will be the first of its kind in the region and is based on the concept we are using in our new locations in Ontario. We have considered every detail to enrich the lives of residents who are looking for a lifestyle and a variety of suite options and amenities with the convenience of being able to purchase additional services as they choose.”
Expected to open in 2024, the building will feature spacious suites, stunning views, multiple restaurants, a spa, fitness centre, simulation and virtual reality rooms, library, games room and multiple outdoor spaces.
The seniors will have their own Holodeck, I guess.
Writing for The Tyee, Patrick Condon favourably reviews Fredrik Gertten’s film “Push”:
The movie, shown as part of Kwantlen Polytechnic’s KDocsFF this week, follows the experiences of Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, in her quest to understand why more and more people around the world were being pushed out of homes they had long inhabited, and pushed out of cities where they’d long resided.
If the movie had a central message for Vancouverites, it is this: our problems are not unique, they are global. The “financialization” of housing is an out-of-control global pandemic, driven by the hunger of the financial management industry to find things to buy that will increase in value in a world where too much money is chasing too few assets — and where those assets are returning less and less profit as a result.
I’ve been writing about the “financialization of everything” for many years, but I’ve recently begun to seriously look at the financialization of housing. I’ve been going to the courthouse two or three days a week for a few years to check for the filing of new civil suits, but only in December did I recognize a trend that has been developing for the last couple of years and had been staring me in the face all along. I wrote about it in a Twitter thread:
Highfield Park was purchased by a Toronto equity firm in August 2017. Since then, Highfield Park Residential Inc. has filed 185 claims against tenants in small claims court.
On its face, such a large number of actions against tenants (the previous owner also took tenants to court, but at nowhere near this level) suggests that rents are being raised very quickly and that tenants can no longer afford rent.
The number of small courts claims against tenants is now about 250, and residents tell me that indeed rents are going up, hundreds of dollars a month. And not just in Highfield Park, but all across the city.
Cynthia van Kooten relates her experience of renting in Dartmouth via a letter to the Chronicle Herald:
How is rent control a bad idea? After a $50 rent increase in 2019, Urchin Properties informed me of a $100 monthly increase for 2020! Now almost half of my income will go to pay rent for a one-bedroom apartment with absolutely no perks. $945!!! I am being priced out of a place to live on Dundas Street in Dartmouth.
I am a single woman with no dependents, thankfully. Ridiculous — and without rent control, these raises will happen every year. Way to fight for your voters, Stephen McNeil (of which I was not one). Maybe I could live at your house!
North Dartmouth was one of the very last affordable neighbourhoods in HRM, and now people are being priced out.
Wages are not going up, and rents are soaring. This is not sustainable, and it is having a very real quality of life impact on renters.
No doubt someone is going to houseplain to me that rents in Vancouver and Toronto are higher than in Halifax so… so, I dunno really — we’re not supposed to be concerned about people in our own community?
Why should people in Halifax and Dartmouth — working people, seniors on fixed incomes, our friends, our coworkers, our employees, our parents — see their limited wages and pensions absorbed by rent increases and suffer real life consequences just so that private equity firms and REITs in Toronto, Calgary, New York, and London can make huge fortunes? International finance is leaching off the lives of everyday people in Nova Scotia; it is immoral, and downright obscene.
I’d like to do some deep dive reporting on this issue in coming months, and I’m trying to put together a reporting team for the housing beat. If you have a personal story about how rent increases have played out in your life, please email the Examiner at “housing” “at” halifaxexminer.ca.
And I’ll see if the Examiner can sponsor a local screening of “Push.”
5. The Hotel Barmecide
Yesterday, Sutton Place announced a bunch of job openings for its Halifax hotel above the convention centre, including accounting manager, chef concierge, corporate sales manager, executive house keeper, guest services manager, and a housekeeping supervisor.
Some of the positions don’t close until into April, so it appears Sutton Place will miss its promised first quarter of 2020 opening.
6. Hugh MacKay
“Two members of the Chester-St. Margaret’s Liberal district association have resigned following concerns about how allegations of drunk driving against MLA Hugh MacKay were handled,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:
Katherine Williams, the association’s treasurer and official agent, resigned Thursday … Ron Meagher also resigned on Thursday.
It’s hard to comprehend just how over-the-top the drunk driving allegations against MacKay are. This is not someone who had three glasses of wine instead of two with dinner and drove home with a .10 blood alcohol content. The allegations are contained in an email the CBC obtained earlier this week:
Around 3:30 p.m. that day, the writer said he received a “frantic” phone call from Penny Lawless, who works in MacKay’s constituency office, saying MacKay was “very drunk, texting and calling her while he was driving.”
He said he eventually found MacKay approximately 10 kilometres south of the intersection of Highway 12 and Forties Road.
The writer said MacKay was sitting in the driver’s seat, the engine was running and there was a bottle of vodka on MacKay’s lap.
The writer said he told MacKay he was there to take him home, but MacKay refused to go with him and drove off, and ran over his foot in the process. The man wasn’t injured.
He followed MacKay in his car south on Highway 12. He said he flashed his lights at MacKay’s SUV, but MacKay kept driving.
“It was clear he was extremely drunk. My observations consisted of erratic driving, the smell when I opened the door (I am very sensitive to alcohol smells), his speech and his apparent lack of awareness of his situational surroundings,” he wrote.
The chase continued, the writer said, from New Ross to Chester Grant, and then MacKay began driving on Highway 103 toward Halifax and alternated between driving at estimated speeds of 30 to 150 km/h.
MacKay pulled off and headed toward the Tantallon Shopping Centre, rolled through a red light, lost control of the SUV and plowed into a “lamp stand” at the entrance of the plaza’s parking lot around 5:20 p.m., the writer said.
Today, Gorman tells us who wrote the email:
The allegation, which according to Williams’s letter was made by Michael Lawless, also said there are text messages and video evidence to support his claim that he followed MacKay on that night in an attempt to get him to stop driving. Lawless alleges he was discouraged from contacting police in order to protect MacKay’s job and those of people who worked for him.
At the time of the alleged incident, Lawless was married to MacKay’s constituency assistant. They subsequently separated.
7. Armed at Province House
“Proposed legislation in Nova Scotia would require the legislature’s sergeant-at-arms to carry a sidearm and have the same firearms training as police officers,” reports Graeme Benjamin for Global:
Justice Minister Mark Furey says changes to the House of Assembly Act would also designate the position as a peace officer and give the sergeant-at-arms the authority to pursue people who leave the premises of the legislature when required and appropriate.
I guess the Commissioners who run the metal detector and pester visitors to Province House for IDs aren’t quick enough on their feet to chase down a wayward backbencher who refuses to be whipped into a “yes” in a confidence vote.
No public meetings.
Piano Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, MacAloney Room, Dal Arts Centre)
Troutville: Where People Discuss Fairness Issues (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Yukiko Asada will talk.
Traces of Liturgy: Analysing a Manuscript Fragment from the Binding of the Riesencodex (Friday, 3:30pm, room 1170, McCain Building) — Jennifer Bain will talk.
Policing Black Lives: Is this too much Noise about Nothing? Part 2 (Friday, 5:30pm, Room 1108, Mona Campbell Building) — a panel discussion and workshop with Paul Banahene Adjei, Robert Seymour Wright, Sylvia Parris-Drummond, and Isaac Saney.
Refugees, Migrants, and Development in Turkey (Friday, 12pm, McNally Main 227) — Mehmet Nuri Gultekin from Gaziantep University, Turkey, will talk.
East Coast International Development Summit 2020: Climate Action (Friday 8am, various locations) — for student leaders from across Atlantic Canada. More info here.
Mi’kmaq Women | Mi’kmaq Religion: Researching Mi’kmaq Sovereignty through the Cult of Saint Anne (Friday, 12pm, McNally Main 335) — a talk by Jeanine LeBlanc, a Mi’kmaw PhD candidate in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta.
Mount Saint Vincent
MSVU’s Interdisciplinary Lifespan Developmental Colloquium Series (Friday, 12pm, Room 532, Seton Academic Centre) — Ian Pottie will talk about his research on the development of an imaging agent for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) that targets butyrylcholinesterase, an enzyme that associates with the pathological hallmarks during AD. Email here for more info.
Communication Studies Winter Research Panel (Friday 1:30pm, Room 302, McCain Centre) — Alla Kushniryk will talk on “Using Proxies to Evaluate Trust on Social Media”; Stan Orlov talks on “Open Textbooks in Communication and Public Relations’; and Ellen Shaffner talks on “Towards Intersectional History: A Methodology for Historical Organization Studies.”
‘MAMA Day’ Research Open House (Saturday, 1pm, Centre for Applied Research) — with Kyly Whitfield of the MSVU Department of Applied Human Nutrition and the Milk and Micronutrient Assessment (MAMA) Lab.
A major focus of the MAMA Lab is identifying culturally appropriate public health interventions to combat micronutrient deficiencies in low-resource settings. Currently this includes the exploration of fortification to address thiamine deficiency among breastfed infants in Southeast Asia. The focus of the MAMA Lab is to study infant feeding behaviours and the potential long-term effects of early feeding on eating patterns and disease risk later in life. We also try to understand what the general public knows about infant feeding to better understand breastfeeding culture and feeding norms.
More info here.
When Women Fought for Space ‑ Amy Shira Teitel Talks Space History (Friday, 7pm, KTS Lecture Hall, New Academic Building) — the space historian and author talks about her new book Fighting for Space. More info here.
Imagining futures (Saturday, 10am, KTS Lecture Hall) — students in the History of Science and Technology program present a conference of their work. More info here.
In the harbour
07:00: Inyala, oil tanker, moves from Irving Oil to Bedford Basin anchorage
06:00: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Argentia, Newfoundland
07:00: Theben, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
08:00: Inyala sails for sea
09:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails for New York
09:30: Horizon Star, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from the offshore
10:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship sails from Bedford Basin for Kingston, Jamaica
10:30: Theben moves to Autoport
11:00: ZIM Shekou, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
15:00: MOL Paradise, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
18:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, moves from Pier 9 to Fairview Cove
20:30: Theben sails for sea
21:30: ZIM Shekou sails for sea
Hey, it’s Friday.
Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner.