News

1. COVID

The pandemic is far from over. In the week from March 16 to March 22, 13 people died from COVID in Nova Scotia.

While the death count is at near-record levels for Nova Scotia, the provincial reporting of deaths has changed.

From the start of the pandemic until the beginning of January 2022, deaths were the first thing mentioned in the headline and in the body of the provincial press release. This release from November 29, 2021 is typical: “Two Deaths, 59 New Cases of COVID-19, 58 Recoveries.”

This makes sense: obviously people dying are of most concern. And that template was used over and over again in the press release.

But by late January 2022, the template was changed, such that deaths were the last thing mentioned in the headline of the release, and moved down a bit in the body of the release. This is from January 31, 2022: “10 New Hospital Admissions, Nine Discharges, Three Deaths.”

The template for the releases was changed a third time when the province shifted from daily to weekly reporting. Now, there’s no mention of death at all in the headline, and no details about those who died in the body of the release. Here’s the release from this week: “Covid-19 Weekly Data Report — March 24.”

Note that as the release template was changed to downplay deaths, more people were dying from COVID, not fewer, and at the same time fudge factors were thrown into the mix — some of the deaths were from several weeks ago, we’re told, but we’re not told how many are late entries into the database or what the actual date of death was, and the reporting week is weirdly a Wednesday-Tuesday compilation.

These were quite obviously communications strategies designed to confuse the public and take our collective attention off the mounting death toll.

Moving on, there were 42 people in hospital yesterday who were admitted due to COVID and who still have active cases. Last Friday that number was 38. They range in age from 0 (i.e., an infant) to 100, with a median age of 65. Thirteen of the 42 are in ICU.

From March 16 to March 22, there were 3,453 lab-confirmed (PCR testing) new cases, just shy of 500 per day on average.

At end of day Tuesday,92.2% of the entire population has received at least 1 dose of vaccine:
• 5.0% with 1 dose only
• 23.8% with 2 doses but not 3
• 63.4% with 3 doses
• 7.8% unvaccinated

These percentages haven’t moved much over the past week, reflecting that Nova Scotia is at the practical limits of vaccination — something like 5% of the population are children under 5 who are ineligible for vaccination, children from 5 to 12 are slowly getting their second shots, and people over 12 are getting boosted as they become eligible. There are a small number of adults who can’t get vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons. That leaves about 2% of the population who simply refuse to get vaccinated, but who make an awful lot of noise.

Jeremy Mitchell MacKenzie. Photo: Twitter
Morgan May Guptill. Photo: Facebook

Two of those who make a lot of noise are Jeremy Mitchell MacKenzie, 36, of Pictou and Morgan May Guptill, 31, of Cole Harbour, who were charged by the RCMP with Criminal Harassment, Mischief, Harassing Phone Calls and Intimidation of a Health Professional — related to protests the two conducted outside the Fall River home of Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang.

You’ll note the emblem on MacKenzie’s sleeve in the photo above. This appears to be the Viking compass. Viking symbolism has been expropriated by many white supremacists and others on the far right:

Viking symbols are everywhere among the ultra-right. When the Unite the Right rally took place in Charlottesville in 2017, some protesters carried banners featuring the Norse god Thor’s hammer, popular among the Nazis and neo-Nazi groups.

The perpetrator of New Zealand’s Christchurch massacre last year wrote, “See you in Valhalla” — referring to the great hall where heroes of Norse mythology go after they die-at the end of his manifesto.

Closer to home, the Soldiers of Odin-a Finnish white supremacist movement named after another Norse god in 2015-have recently emerged in Alberta and throughout Canada.

White supremacists began idealizing the Vikings in the late 19th century in the United States. At that time, Italian Americans were using their newfound political power to get Christopher Columbus recognized as the “discoverer of America” and to be celebrated with holidays. White supremacists didn’t think of the “swarthy” Italians as truly white, so pushed for the Vikings to be named the “true” and earlier discoverers of America.

Of course, America was actually “discovered” by people many thousands of years before Vikings or Italians even existed. Besides that, modern-day Norwegians find the association with white supremacy repugnant.

The photo of MacKenzie was posted on Twitter in January. I’m told that he was at a gun shop. Also in January, MacKenzie “allegedly pointed a pistol at another man’s head in Cape Breton last month while he was drunk on whisky,” reported Chris Lambie, citing search warrant documents. MacKenzie was subsequently arrested.

According to the website antihate.ca:

MacKenzie is the original creator of the concept of Diagolon, a fictional country running diagonally from Alaska southeast towards Florida. Stating this new country would encompass all the “sane” regions of North America, what began as a joke has broadened as a symbol for his larger community of supporters. United behind “ol’ slashy,” a black flag with a large white line cutting diagonally through the middle, supporters of his cause also have embraced MacKenzie’s phrase of “Gun Or Rope” when it comes to dealing with their ideological enemies, as well as the government.

In response to criticism, MacKenzie vehemently denies accusations of racism and antisemitism levelled against him and the digital community he presides over, regularly pointing to racialized members within it.

This despite pushing well-worn conspiracy theories about outsized Jewish control over global affairs and governance, his assertion that there is already a “race war” taking place within the United States, and mentions of the “slow genocide” against white European people within the west.

“Fantastic, but be peaceful as you’re being massacred, as the slow-motion genocide continues,” he said during a July 2021 stream.

“Accelerate, accelerate, there’s no way out. This is going to come to total shit, so let’s just get it over with. If you’re going to be in a fight, hit first, Vladimir Putin said that.”

Other streams from MacKenzie include overt threats against political and public figures, including health officials.

In contrast, judging from her Facebook page, Guptill seems like your run-of-the-mill conspiracy theorist, railing against vaccines and grabbing hold of a bizarre theory that the Portapique killer was in league with Jeffrey Epstein.

So that’s who the people protesting outside Strang’s house are.

2. Yesterday at Province House

Province House in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

The cheque is in the mail

The 38,000 people who receive income assistance (welfare or disability support) will receive a cheque for $150 sometime in the next two weeks. The province says the one-time payment is “to help address the immediate impact of rising fuel prices on the cost of living.”

The province will also provide an additional $150 to Nova Scotians struggling to pay home heating bills who apply for assistance through the Heating Assistance Rebate program. This program is still taking applications to the end of the month and single people earning below $29,000 a year and families with an income below $44,000 a year are eligible to apply.

“Record high fuel prices have created challenges and put financial strain on many Nova Scotians, especially those with low incomes,” said Colton LeBlanc, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services. “We recognize the impact this is having so we are increasing the rebate we give through the Heating Assistance Rebate program so we can provide more financial help.”

According to the figures provided yesterday, 45,000 people use the Heating Assistance program and receive $200 on average. The Houston government is also providing $1.2 million to Feed Nova Scotia and other food banks as the cost of buying groceries has soared and more people are forced to visit food banks. 

The cost to the province for cheques to income assistance recipients, heating rebates, and food banks totals $13.2 million.

In the legislature, NDP House Leader Claudia Chender said 150,000 households that live in energy poverty often must choose between eating or heating. Chender asked Premier Tim Houston if he would commit to ensuring no household would go without heat. Houston wouldn’t go there. He said: “We are doing what we can and we take these issues seriously.”

Nova Scotia Power rate hike

During Question Period yesterday, opposition Leader Iain Rankin and other Liberal MLAs grilled Houston about what he knew prior to Nova Scotia Power’s January 27 application to the Utilities and Review Board for a 10% increase for residential customers. Houston has publicly expressed his unhappiness with the move and said the province will challenge the proposed rate increase during the UARB public hearing in September. 

“I knew about the potential for a rate increase,” admitted Houston after persistent questioning from Rankin. “It’s my understanding they were prepared to make the rate increase early in the fall but after meeting with me and seeing my response, they held off.“

And in response to a question from Liberal Bedford South MLA Kelly Regan about who knew what when prior to the January 27 filing by Nova Scotia Power, Houston also noted: “There were discussions around a rate increase but I was shocked they went through with it.”

Houston told the legislature he was unaware of another proposed change in the rate application that would have negatively affected solar companies and increased costs for homeowners with solar panels. “ I would say I was made aware of it about two hours before I killed it,” he bragged. 

But convincing the UARB regulator that the power company’s costs haven’t gone up enough in the past 10 years to justify passing them on to consumers will be a much tougher fight than the spat over solar.

Racism

For the first time in Canadian History, a bill was introduced in the legislature to deal with hate and racism.

Bill 96, an Act to Dismantle Hate and Racism, is the product of an agreement by all political parties and consultation with 2,000 Nova Scotians. According to a provincial press release, the bill “outlines the government’s approach to addressing systemic racism, hate and inequity and commits to developing a provincial strategy and a health equity framework by July 2023.”

Angela Simmonds, the Liberal MLA from the Prestons and an African-Nova Scotian, said what this bill does is “ it won’t let you forget it. It requires further action with specific timelines so we can make real progress.”

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3. Housing protest

A sign outside Province House on Thursday. Protestors called for solutions to the province’s housing crisis. Photo: Leslie Amminson

“Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the Nova Scotia legislature Thursday to demand the provincial government do more to address poverty and housing gaps,” reports Leslie Amminson:

Protestors at the rally, which was scheduled for the first day of the Nova Scotia legislature’s spring sitting, called on the province to increase its minimum wage, address the lack of affordable housing in the province, and strengthen protections for tenants.

A variety of organizations planned the rally. Some of the groups, like ACORN and P.A.D.S. Community Network, advocate directly for tenants’ rights and affordable housing in the province. Others advocate for better living conditions for low-wage workers, migrant workers, and people with disabilities.

Click here to read “Protestors rally outside legislature demanding minimum wage increase, more affordable housing, tenant protections.”

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4. Bayers Road bus lane

The final plan for Bayers Road bus lanes.

“Halifax is installing an interim outbound bus lane on part of Bayers Road this spring while it continues to buy land for the permanent version,” reports Zane Woodford:

The municipality has already built bus lanes on Bayers Road from Connaught Avenue outbound to Romans Avenue, near the on-ramp to Highway 102. That was Phase 1 of the project, completed in 2021. Phase 2 would see bus lanes added between Windsor Street and Connaught Avenue.

That second phase is scheduled to be completed next year, but buying up the land to widen the road is taking longer than anticipated. [Planning manager Mike] Connors said the municipality wants “to implement parts of that project” now, by adding a bus lane in only one direction without having to move the curb.

The outbound lane will operate from 3 to 6 pm Monday to Friday, between Oxford and Connolly streets, with on-street parking still available at other times. There’ll still be one traffic lane in either direction, and there’s no change to the inbound lane.

Click here to read “Halifax Transit plans interim bus lane for part of Bayers Road.”

I believe the delay is in deciding what to do with three apartment buildings between Connolly and Connaught. Back in 2011, when the Bayers Road plan was more sweeping — at that time, there was a plan to tear the building down simply to make room for a turn lane — I wrote about the potential loss of the buildings for The Coast. I don’t see the turn lane included in the current plans, but the “moving the curb” comment suggests there is some haggling over how much of the land in front of the buildings is required.

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5. Nail gun shooting

Nhlanhla Dlamini in hospital. Photo: Stacey Dlamini

“Family and supporters of a man who was bullied and called the n-word before being shot in the lung with a nail gun will have to wait two months before the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal hears arguments in the sentencing of the man convicted in the September 2018 assault,” reports Matthew Byard:

In April 2021, Shawn Wade Hynes was given an 18-month conditional sentence, which included a period of house arrest, followed by a year’s probation, and community service. Hynes, 43, was convicted in the assault on Nhlanhla Dlamini, 21, at a construction site in Abercrombie in Pictou County where they both worked.

The Crown is appealing the sentence. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal adjourned the proceedings this morning to allow time to obtain transcripts from the trial and the judge’s decision at the sentencing. The appeal hearing is now scheduled to resume on May 26.

Click here to read “Victim’s mother disappointed as court delays appeal hearing of sentence for man convicted in nail-gun shooting.”

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6. Queen’s Marque

Apex Industries has placed a builder’s lien of $648,966.95 on Queen’s Marque. That’s the amount that Apex says it is owed for procuring and installing framing, doors, and hardware on the property.

Apex says it was contracted to do the work on May 22, 2020 and completed it on December 16, 2021, but has not been paid.

The company has asked the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for a declaration recognizing the claim, plus costs, and further, to order Queen’s Marque to make the payment or find it in default and sell the property, with the proceeds going to Apex.

That last is unlikely.

The claim hasn’t been tested in court, and Queen’s Marque hasn’t filed a defence, so who knows? I suspect, however, that this is just another example of corporations delaying payments in order to profit from the float, as it were. Every freelancer in the world knows about this, sadly.

For myself, I wouldn’t want to contract with a company that builds “delay payment until it has to go to court” right into their business plan.

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Government

City

Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall) — contingency date

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Annual Conference of Dalhousie Oceanography Graduate Students (CDOGS) (Friday, 8:30am, McInnes Room, Student Union Building) — also online; masks and proof of vaccination required

Joyful Executions Aboard East India Company Ships c. 1601-1621 (Friday, 3:30pm) —  online; Cheryl Fury from the University of New Brunswick will talk

King’s

Saturday

Infringement Festival (Saturday, 7pm, KTS Lecture Hall) — two one act plays and one short film, all student created; masks and proof of vaccination required; reserve tickets here


In the harbour

Halifax
05:30: Morning Crown, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
15:00: Franbo Lohas, cargo ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
15:30: Morning Crown sails for sea
16:00: MSC Lucy, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
16:30: Manon, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
17:00: Ruby Confidence, bulker, arrives at Pier 28 from Baltimore

Cape Breton
19:00: SFL Trinity, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Mongstad, Norway


Footnotes

I was going to write about Zephyr the dog, but ran out of time. I’ll write it up over the weekend, for Monday’s Morning File.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Our attorney general finally rears his head with this ‘fish in a barrel’ announcement.
    Any other outstanding justice issues on his radar I wonder?
    Something about our provincial police force perhaps?
    He was famous or more fittingly infamous at City Council for grandstanding on issues that were inconsequential and easy targets. puffing himself up to the eye rolls of other councillors.

    1. We don’t need a provincial police force because we have the RCMP, the cost of which is provided at a 30% discount. A provincial police force would be more expensive.

  2. Another tactic Public Health uses on the Covid dashboard is to report the final day of the week really low by hundreds of cases so it seems on the graph that cases are going down. Then they update it to the presumably correct number the following week, but again make the last day shown very low. It may not be deliberate since no one seems to check this thing (they had cases and hospital admissions mixed up for almost 24 hours) but it is deceptive.

  3. Covid stats == yes the govt is hiding the truth of just where N S stands in regard to the pandemic