News

1. Environment Minister Gordon Wilson orders two-year environmental assessment of Northern Pulp Mill’s proposed effluent treatment system

Environment minister Gordon Wilson (left) and department employees released their decision on Northern Pulp’s proposed effluent treatment system yesterday. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson looks at what yesterday’s decision on Northern Pulp’s proposed effluent treatment system means for the future. Environment minister Gordon Wilson told Northern Pulp to produce more information and complete a full environmental assessment before he will approve the mill’s plans for a wastewater treatment plant and a pipeline that will move effluent from the plant to the Northumberland Strait.

Wilson says the decision “weighed heavily on him.” He received a recommendation from his staff on Dec. 3, but says he needed more time to make the decision.

While I appreciate the work that has gone into the focus report, there is more to do,” said Wilson. “The company has identified potential air pollutants and made progress on the baseline survey of freshwater fish. It is of the utmost importance to adequately assess the way this project might impact fish and fish habitat. There must be a very detailed plan to address the impact a leak [in the pipeline carrying treated effluent] could have on the Town of Pictou’s water supply. I also have questions about air emissions. An environmental assessment report will be expected to address all these issues, and others, to be successful.

In its statement, Northern Pulp says it was disappointed by Wilson’s decision.

Our team put forward an in-depth plan based on sound science that showed no meaningful environmental impact, represented a significant operational improvement, and ensured Nova Scotia’s forest sector and the thousands it employs could remain a vital part of our economy.

Premier Stephen McNeil’s released a statement this morning. Tim has tweeted it here.

Read the full article here. 

2. Pictou Landing First Nation: “We are sticking to the January 31, 2020 date”

A 2018 “No Pipe” rally of Mi’kmaw chiefs and other opponents of Northern Pulp’s proposed effluent treatment system. Photo: Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter reports on some of the comments from Northern Pulp after yesterday’s decision from Environment Minister Gordon Wilson that the mill would have to submit a full environmental assessment for its new effluent treatment facility. Brian Baarda, CEO of Northern Pulp’s parent company Paper Excellence released this statement:

To date, we have been following the federally and provincially agreed process to obtain the necessary approvals to construct our proposed wastewater treatment facility and ensure the long-term sustainability of thousands of jobs in Nova Scotia’s forestry sector. Our team put forward an in-depth plan based on sound science that showed no meaningful environmental impact, represented a significant operational improvement …

Currently, we are reviewing the decision and our options for the future of Northern Pulp.

An Environmental Assessment and the continued operations of Northern Pulp require an extension to the Boat Harbour Act.

Representatives from Paper Excellence and Northern Pulp will have no further comment until the Government of Nova Scotia decision on the extension of Boat Harbour is known.

The decision was good news for the people of Pictou Landing, who opposed the mill’s proposal. Chief Andrea Paul tells Baxter in a Facebook post:

I am pleased with the decision. The Minister just didn’t have enough information to accept or reject. Glad he didn’t accept with conditions and satisfied that he is asking for a full EA [Environmental Assessment report]. Basically [this is] what we wanted from the federal department. And we are sticking to the January 31, 2020 date.

Baxter also speaks with Brian Hebert, PLFN legal counsel, who says PLFN met with provincial officials on the consultation for Boat Harbour. Hebert says the officials say they “were not aware of any initiative to change the Boat Harbour Act.” But if the province changes the deadline for the closure of Boat Harbour, Hebert says the reaction from PLFN would be “swift and certain” and they’d look at legal options.

The province is aware of this, and doesn’t want to go down that road. Northern Pulp has put itself in this position, and tried to make Pictou Landing First Nation the scapegoat. But even the most ardent supporters of the mill don’t want PLFN to suffer more.

Read the full article here. 

3. Province won’t protect Owls Head park from development

A developer wants to buy the lands at Owls Head park on the Eastern Shore to develop up to three golf courses. Photo: Google maps

Michael Gorman at CBC reports that Owls Head provincial park on the Eastern Shore, an area with a “globally rare” ecosystem, is no longer on a list of provincial properties that will get legal protection.

American couple Beckwith Gilbert and his wife, Kitty, owners of Lighthouse Links Development Company, already own 138 hectares next to the Owls Head property. In an email to CBC, Gilbert says it was their “dream to own and preserve an unspoiled, natural ocean beach,” but they also recognized that employment opportunities were needed along the Eastern Shore. They approached the province about the land to build up to three golf courses there, similar to Cabot Links or Cabot Cliffs in Cape Breton.

Conservation biologist Chris Miller, executive director of the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, says he’s concerned about the proposal.

It’s a place where conservation values and nature need to come first and human and economic development is only within the context of protecting those values.

Some of the species that nest in the area including piping plovers and barn swallows, as well as species of “conservation concern” like the ruby-crowned kinglet and common elder.

Bonnie Sutherland, executive director of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, says they were working to include Owls Head as part of its 100 Wild Island Legacy project.

Iain Rankin, minister of Lands and Forests, says the land wasn’t a priority for legal protection. Removal of the designation means the land can be appraised and negotiations for a more formal sale can start.

The province is also negotiating with the feds on the company’s behalf for 17 hectares of surplus land next to Owls Head. There’s an automated light beacon and helipad on that property.

Miller is asking the province to confer legal protection to all 90 properties with pending protected status from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan of 2013 .

The government has been dragging its feet and this is exactly the problem. The longer it goes before the legal designation is applied, the more and more likely that it’s going to get chipped away and that one site here will get tossed [and] another site will get tossed.

Some economic opportunity of this or that will come along and before you know it the entire plan is undermined.

4. NDP looking at law to create bubble zones at abortion services

Dartmouth South MLA Claudia Chender. Photo: claudiachender.ca

The NDP are looking to introduce legislation next year that would create “bubble zones” around abortion services to prevent women from being harassed, according to a report in The Star Halifax/Canadian Press. Pro-life groups have been protesting outside of the Women’s Choice Clinic at the Victoria General Hospital. In a statement released yesterday, MLA Claudia Chender says it’s concerned for the safety of women using those services.

Reproductive health care is a right, full stop. No one should have to face harassment or intimidation to access the health care services they need. Establishing bubble zones would help protect the safety and wellbeing of patients.

The legislation would create the bubble zones around clinics, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, hospitals, or a doctor’s home. British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador already have bubble zones around clinics.

5. Grand Parade to be accessible for New Year’s Eve concert

Grand Parade will be completely accessible for this year’s New Year’s Eve concert. Photo: Wikipedia

Paul Vienneau, disability activist and advisor to Halifax Regional Municipality’s CAO Jacques Dubé says the Grand Parade will be completely accessible for this New Year’s Eve celebrations for the first time. Yesterday, told 95.7’s Sheldon MacLeod a section in front of the stage will be reserved for those in wheelchairs. Latex-free balloons will also be handed out. Vienneau says some people who are deaf use the balloons to help feel and hear music. He’d also like wayfinding features to be added to the area for those who are visually impaired.

Vienneau says making the area more accessible will help everyone feel more “invested in the system.”

You don’t have to be a political animal to feel represented or to take part in our democracy, you just need to have physical access to where democracy happens, at City Hall and Grand Parade.


Views

Sharing the good news of North Dartmouth

Christmas is one week from today and maybe it’s because I am in the spirit (not the rum-and-eggnog kind), but I wanted to share a good new story. It’s about a little community newspaper called the North Dartmouth Echo. I have served as its editor for the past nine years. I don’t even live in North Dartmouth, but this is a community I’ve come to know well, so I wanted to tell you a bit about them and the Echo.

The Echo got its start in 2003 when Sylvia Anthony, a resident in North Dartmouth, got tired of hearing the bad news about her community, particularly in the mainstream media. She wanted to do something about it, so she went to the office of then MLA Jerry Pye and told him her idea.

Every time you read the paper, it was always Dartmouth North and it was always something bad.  I said, ‘This is ridiculous. There are so many good things out there. Maybe we should start a bulletin.’

Anthony got a group of residents to talk about the idea. They met with someone who published a community paper in Spryfield to get some advice. The first issue of the Echo was published in September 2004. It hasn’t changed much since. Sylvia has kept at least one copy of every issue published in the last 15 years.

Some of the first issues of the North Dartmouth Echo, which started in 2004. Photo: Suzanne Rent

I got involved in 2010. The company I worked with at the time prints the Echo. The account executive who took care of the Echo account knew Sylvia and the team were looking for an editor. He asked me if I was interested. I met Sylvia and Gaelle McNeil, our designer, for the first time that summer. My first issue was the September 2010.

We’re not breaking any stories at the Echo. We’re not analyzing policy or big government decisions. Echo readers know the challenges of their community: the violence, the poverty, the lack of services and infrastructure. No one is ignoring those issues. They want and expect something different from the Echo. We chronicle the good news stories of the residents who are responding in their own way to the challenges they know well. Little by little, they work on solutions together.

The Echo is an old-fashioned print product. We send out a PDF of each issue so local organizations can share it on their websites. That’s about as digital as we get. We don’t even have a Facebook page.

Over the years, our team has grown smaller, but contributors have included Kate Watson, Leigh Beauchamp Day, and Allana Loh. Writers Sandi Weagle and Doris Buffett MacDonald have contributed since day 1 in 2004. Rebecca Douglass took many of our photos for years until she moved to Calgary. Doris Wornell sits on our board of directors. Sylvia’s daughter, Tania, works as our board secretary. More recently we’ve had younger contributors join us, including community activists Kayley Dixon and Cheyenne Hardy. Tyler Colbourne is now writing profiles on community residents.

I have learned so much about North Dartmouth, its residents and leaders, that some readers are convinced I live there. Sylvia moved away years ago when her daughter built a new home elsewhere in the city, but she remains connected to North Dartmouth.

I may sleep in East Dartmouth, but I live in North Dartmouth.

A few times I tried to challenge our readers to talk about the bigger, tougher issues in North Dartmouth, but the were having none of it. The Echo is not the space for that.

The Echo shares the stories of groups and residents throughout the community doing good work. This is a community that takes care of its neighbours.

There’s the Public Good Society of Dartmouth, a group of residents, businesses and other organizations that work to serve the needs of the most vulnerable citizens here. Its community navigator, Kevin Little, heads out into the community each week, with a backpack, helping residents find the resources they need. They have a community van that drives people to the local food bank.

Joe Gibson and the team at The Freedom Foundation of Nova Scotia and have helped hundreds of men recover from addictions like alcohol and gambling, all from a simple home in north-end Dartmouth.

The Take Action Society works with kids in the community. They teach them cooking and life skills and take them to McNabs Island for an annual cleanup. The kids get opportunities to mentor younger students.

The Dartmouth North Community Food Centre makes community meals, has an urban garden and a weekly market where they sell affordable produce.

At the Dartmouth Learning Network there are programs for adults who want to upgrade their skills or get their high school diploma.

Between the Bridges is a collective of groups and people from Dartmouth North and the provincial government, all working on a plan to help break the cycles that affect many residents here.

Farrell Hall Benevolent Society works with other local organizations to improve the lives of people in the community.

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Halifax works with young people, offering recreational programs after school.

All of these groups and their work make regular appearances in the Echo.

And then there are people like Frances Hunter who’s volunteered in the community for more than 60 years. You can find her at the local food bank, handing out groceries and hugs. There are more like her, too, including the volunteers who are now working to put together Christmas hampers for families in need. We may never know their names, but their work makes an appearance. At a time when everyone shares selfies of themselves committing random acts of kindness, the Echo chronicles the quiet deeds of charity.

Every year we cover the Walk Against Violence, which was started to remember Jason MacCullough who was killed in a park in North Dartmouth in 1999. His family marches, too, and are now joined by the families of other victims of violence, including Chelsea Probert, who was killed in June 2017.

We share stories from all the schools. Sometimes the students themselves will write poems or articles. Front page stories include Kayley Dixon’s 18th birthday where she collected menstrual hygiene products rather than birthday presents.

Like any other newspaper, the Echo has had its challenges. We pay our print bill with advertising revenue. When that revenue declined, as it has for every other newspaper, we cut down the number of issues from six to five. On occasion, we cut the page count from 16 to 12 pages. Our designer is the only paid member of the team. The rest of us donate our time and skills. In 2016, we hosted a trivia night as a fundraiser. We had a sold-out crowd who were challenged to trivia about Dartmouth. But Sylvia told me yesterday not once has the paper been in the red.

Sylvia Anthony, left, and Doris Buffett MacDonald were two of the residents who started the North Dartmouth Echo in 2004. They still work on the community newspaper today. Photo: Suzanne Rent

She will not be pleased I say this, but there’d be no North Dartmouth Echo without Sylvia Anthony. Sylvia knows everyone in the community. She grew up in Dartmouth North, lived here during her the years when she was first married and had her daughter. She’s been called the honourary Mayor of North Dartmouth (apologies to Gloria). Sylvia sells the advertising for every issue like she’s done since the beginning. She delivers copies of the paper to businesses, schools, libraries, and other places around the community. Sylvia started the Echo has a senior. She’s now 80 years old.

Sylvia is a support system for many of us on the Echo team. Gaelle, our designer, calls her mum. I think that’s quite fitting. Personally, she’s been a support for me for nine years. In between issues, she’ll send me an email if she hasn’t heard from me in a while. She’ll send me a joke or a photo of her grandson. She always asks me if I eloped (I never have). When I was laid off a couple of years ago, she made sure to check in. She’s had to listen to my cranky rants.

Sylvia has contributed to the community beyond the Echo, too. She’s involved in more organizations than I know about to share here. I’d ask but she probably wouldn’t tell me anyway. Her husband, Robert, is also connected with the North Dartmouth community. Each year, he raises money through a rock-a-thon in which he sits in a rocking chair in the basement of Holy Trinity Emmanuel Church on Alfred Street. Robert also knows the birthdays of many people in the community. He’ll call them and sing to them. He called me and sang to me last month.

Sylvia and the others behind the Echo are the reason I stay on as editor. They are the reason why the paper gets done in the first place. They’re not only the Echo team; they are the best of North Dartmouth. I admire them all immensely.

I don’t know what will become of the Echo in the future. Our team is smaller than it was nine years ago when I started. We’ve had to adapt and reach out to the community for more support. But somehow, five times a year, we get our act together and put out a paper. As Sylvia says, the North Dartmouth Echo is not just about community news.

You have to do this work one on one. You have to talk with people and be available in the community to do this work. They can’t wait to read it. Some of [the readers] are seniors, so they don’t get out now to know what’s going on in the community. Once it’s out and done and comes to us, I can’t believe it looks so good. The most wonderful thing is when I see it, I can read it, and just enjoy it. I think it has improved the thoughts of some people won’t don’t live in North Dartmouth.

Many communities don’t have an Echo. It doesn’t mean the stories aren’t there. It just means no one is covering them. That’s what we try to do with the Echo. Someday I’d like to look more into the other issues in the community and ask people what needs to be done. But the Echo is not the place to do it. For now, we’ll carry on sharing the good news of Dartmouth North.


Noticed

Driving instructors say there are several ways for drivers to not hit pedestrians, including by developing good habits and taking a refresher driver course.

May Warren at The Toronto Star has a piece called How not to hit a pedestrian in Toronto. According to The Star’s figures, 39 pedestrians have been killed by drivers so far this year. Many others suffered injuries.

There’s lots of good advice here from driving instructors will decades of experience, all of which can be used by drivers in Halifax.

Don’t be distracted, including by your phone, passengers, and even the thoughts in your own head. Develop good habits, check your blind spot, stop when you should, and communicate with pedestrians and cyclists. Watch for stale greens or the “point of no return,” that is the point at which you can no longer stop safely at an intersection. Make sure you can see pedestrians and cyclists by cleaning off your windshield and replacing your wipers once a year. Check before you open your door. And finally, consider refreshing your training. Angelo DiCicco, director of operations at the advanced driving centre with Young Drivers of Canada, says pilots are required to update and practice their skills on a regular basis, but there’s a greater chance of being in a car accident than being in a plane crash.

You have to look at the risk. Driving to McDonald’s is the most dangerous thing you’re going to do today.


Government

No public meetings for the rest of the week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Eggnog Day at the DalUClub (Wednesday, 12pm, Dalhousie University Club) — turkey dinner with eggnog or mulled wine. $13.25/$15.00. 902 494 6511 for reservations in the dining room, first come first served in the Pub.

Thursday

Carol Sing (Thursday, 12pm, Sculpture Court, Dal Arts Centre) — with students of the Fountain School of Performing Arts. Christmas carols, Hanukkah songs, and other holiday favourites. Free light lunch.


In the harbour

10:30: Dimitra C, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
20:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
22:00: Augusta Mars, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Moa, Cuba


Footnotes

Sometimes the hardest part about writing is the writing part.

Oh, and a subscription to the Examiner makes a lovely Christmas gift. Subscribe here or email Iris.

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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  1. Thanks for a great piece on The North Dartmouth Echo. I pick it up occasionally, but not often enough. You have reminded me to keep an eye out. I live on the edge of this community, but I maintain a number of connections and always enjoy my time spent with friends and acquaintances there. I’m most familiar with the Food Centre and The Farm and it seems to me that both are on the cutting edge of community development. And having a community paper like The Echo is part of what makes this place special. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thank you for the nice article about the Echo, Suzanne. I’ve lived in Dartmouth North for 20 years and my husband and I raised our family here. My husband has lived in Dartmouth North almost his entire life. The Echo is an important part of this community — as is Sylvia and the many other dedicated volunteers in our area. My friends and I look forward to every issue.