News

1. Partial victory in aerial spraying fight

Aerial application of glyphosate. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Forest Service.

Those fighting against aerial herbicide spraying of forests won a victory this year. But how much of a victory was it? In her latest for the Examiner, Joan Baxter looks at the early conclusion to this summer’s spraying program.

Baxter notes that of the 43 sites across the province identified for spraying this year, only four were spared, representing 249 of the total 1,498 acres originally slated to be sprayed.

Still, Baxter writes, activists are claiming victory:

In a telephone interview, Nina Newington of Extinction Rebellion Annapolis County said it’s “not a total surprise” that the spraying went ahead in Colchester and Cumberland Counties.

But, she added, “It’s really disappointing to hear that they succeeded in poisoning as much forest in Nova Scotia as that,” she said…

Newington believes much more public notification is needed because, in her view:

“For the spraying to work, there has to be enough poison to kill off all of that broadleaf growth. That means that pretty much every frog and amphibian in the area is going to get glyphosate on its skin and that’s a death sentence for amphibians because they breathe through their skin. And you start thinking about the birds eating the seed and the hunters hunting the deer, and the whole food chain. If you’ve recently sprayed and somebody like me that likes to go out berry-picking goes out berry-picking there’s really almost nothing that’s going to warn you.”

Don Osburn told the Examiner in a phone interview that it is still a “big victory” that four sites were not sprayed this year. He said it is impossible to know whether their occupation of the parcels helped deter the contractors and landowners from going ahead with the spraying in the Hants, Kings, and Annapolis Counties. But one thing he is sure of is that “Nova Scotia Environment didn’t do a damn thing.”

Osburn said he was particularly impressed that the Annapolis municipality backed their cause.

Although spraying is finished for this year, Osburn says the coalition of those who protested it this year are already looking ahead to next, when they intend to focus on what he says is the “real issue” — clearcutting.

Read all of Baxter’s story here.

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2. Where is the “pandemic premium?”

Signs of appreciation for frontline workers are attached to the fence outside the Northwood seniors’ complex in Halifax on April 22, 2020. Photo: Erica Butler.

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.

Frontline health-care workers in Nova Scotia are supposed to have received “pandemic premium” pay  of up to $2,000 for the four-month period running March 13 to July 12.

But, Jennifer Henderson reports, many — including at least 450 workers at Northwood, the province’s COVID-19 epicentre — have yet to receive the bonus.

Henderson writes:

The province left it up to each nursing home (privately owned or community-run) to get a signed declaration from each worker and submit an invoice to the Department of Health by the end of August. All funds were supposed to be disbursed by the end of September (tomorrow), according to a government news release last July.

However, an email yesterday from Department of Health spokesperson Marla MacInnis states that the province “extended the August deadline” for Northwood.

Frustratingly, nobody seems to know how many of the 45,000 eligible workers have receive the premium so far.

Paramedics got their cheques last week and most people who work in hospitals employed by the Nova Scotia Health Authority (now Nova Scotia Health) appear to have received this top-up.

Those who work in long-term care appear to be waiting longer and they are among the lowest paid. Continuing Care Assistants earn between $16 and $18 an hour.

The Examiner reached out to several representatives from different unions — Unifor, CUPE, and NSGEU — to try and figure out which workers have yet to be paid. None could provide a definitive answer to what still appears to be a work-in-progress.

Read all of Henderson’s story here.

This article, like all of our COVID-19 coverage, is available free to all. But it costs money to produce. If you can, please subscribe.

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3. Higher tax bills for big box stores could be on the way

Sprawl, what sprawl? Photo: Google Street View

Zane Woodford reports on a proposal to change the way the municipality assesses commercial taxes. Currently, there are two rates: urban and rural. A council committee has proposed that these two be replaced with a five-zone system.

Woodford writes:

Under the proposed new system, five zones would replace the suburban/urban and rural area rates: big box; high density; small, medium enterprise; industrial; and rural.

He notes that a report to council makes the case that this will not increase overall tax revenue from commercial property tax, but will change who pays how much:

“These rates generate the same general tax revenues across the municipality as the current urban, suburban, rural rate structure,” financial consultants Andre MacNeil and Kenzie McNeil wrote in an information report to council earlier this month.

MacNeil and McNeil note that there are pros and cons to the proposal…

Overall, MacNeil and McNeil write that the changes would shift taxes “from small firms, toward areas with large concentrations of big box firms,” and “small commercial properties will benefit the most, assuming landlords transfer benefits to tenants.”

Woodford quotes a 2016 column by Tristan Cleveland from the now-defunct Metro Halifax, which makes this striking analogy:

Walmart sprawls. Its property is the size of every single commercial property on the south side of Quinpool Road combined, plus two thirds of the street’s north side. Walmart pays, however, four times less property tax.

Read the full story for all the details, and for reaction from local Business Improvement Districts.

This story is for subscribers only. Please subscribe.

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4. Candidates answer questions. Up now: Districts 8 and 9

The Examiner continues its series of district profiles, with candidates’ answers to a questionnaire sent out on September 10 by city reporter Zane Woodford.

The latest installments in the series features District 8 (Halifax Peninsula North) and District 9 (Halifax West-Armdale).

In District 8, incumbent Lindell Smith, who was first elected in 2016, faces opposition from Virginia Hinch and Dylan Kennedy.

Both Hinch and Smith offer refreshingly realistic answers to the question of affordable housing. Realistic in that the municipality currently has very little power in this area, and both recognize the futility of making empty promises. Kennedy’s website says “Reject Police Militarization!” in big letters at the top, so I think we can figure out where he stands on the question of police funding.

In District 9, incumbent Shawn Cleary, who won by just over 100 votes in 2016, is running against four other men: Bill Carr, Shaun Clark, Stephen Foster, and Gerry Lonergan.

I found it interesting that Foster argues against contractors paying a living wage because of pandemic-related drops in revenue, but also that there should not be a reduction to the police budget.

And what’s with the “I haven’t read the plan” responses from some of the candidates in these questionnaires? I don’t understand.

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5. Activist feels sidelined by Black Lives Matter street art

Aaliyah Paris’s Facebook profile photo

Last weekend, city staff painted “Black lives matter” in large letters on Brunswick Street and Alderney Drive.

In the Chronicle Herald, Noushin Ziafati reports that African Nova Scotian activist Aaliyah Paris says she was shocked, because she had been planning a similar project for months.

Ziafati writes:

According to Paris, a member of the mural organizing team sent “multiple” emails to HRM council members in June to get approval for the project she was spearheading, but never got a definitive response.

“The response was more so, ‘I don’t know if we can get this done,’ ‘I don’t know if we can do this.’ We didn’t receive any straight answers,” she said.

Paris added the organizers were planning to paint the mural on Sept. 26, but a member of the team heard from a lawyer that they could face jail time “if they stack us with charges, so we had to put that on hold as we didn’t want to put community members at risk.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Savage didn’t seem to know anything about Paris’s community-led initiative, saying the project came from the CAO and diversity and inclusion office.

Ziafati says:

Paris said it’s “very common” for BIPOC community members in Halifax to pitch ideas and for people with “any sort of privilege” to run with the ideas “instead of lending their support or giving their resources to us so we can do that thing.”

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6. Can we avoid the second wave?

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Also in the Chronicle Herald, Nebal Snan talks to Dalhousie epidemiologist Susan Kirkland about whether or not Atlantic Canada can avoid the type of dramatic rise in COVID-19 infections we are seeing in other parts of the country, and about the term “second wave”:

While the term makes it easy for us to speak about the epidemiology of the disease, Deonandan said it could cause confusion. Some people assume that the pattern in which the number of cases increases is an intrinsic property to the virus, but that’s not true.

“You look at countries where this did not happen … like Iran, which is described by one colleague as a ‘ horror blob’ because the graph is not waves, but jagged peaks going around like big mountains.”…

Meanwhile, Ottawa-based epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan says a second wave is not inevitable in Atlantic Canada:

“You’ve got a really good chance of keeping the numbers down,” he said. “So, if anyone can do it, Atlantic Canada can.”

Kirkland said we have a good chance of keeping a surge at bay.

“I will never say that it can’t happen to us, but I honestly feel a lot of things have gone right for the Atlantic region and we just have to keep practising those,” she said.

Of course, we now have people urging us to throw the doors open because things are going so well.

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Views

1. When tramcars ruled

1933 photo of a tramcar on Barrington Street near Sackville, from the Nova Scotia Archives’ W.R. MacAskill collection.

Halifax Magazine had an interesting little story recently about streetcars in downtown Halifax. The story (which featured the photo above, from the Nova Scotia Archives), is about Birney electric streetcars — a wildly popular transit vehicle in service in Halifax from 1923 to 1949.

Writer Dorothy Grant says the Birney cars were relatively cheap, easy to manufacture, and “much lighter than conventional streetcars.”  She writes:

Halifax loved those cars… At the outbreak of the Second World War, Halifax’s Birney Cars carried nine million passengers yearly. During the war, that grew to 31 million passengers per year, requiring the purchase of an additional 23 cars.

The cars had a tendency to derail and get stuck in snow, Grant says, and were eventually replaced by trolley buses.

I was struck by those ridership numbers.

According to Halifax Transit’s 2018-2019 Performance Measures Report, the service had just under 27 million “boardings” for the year on conventional transit. Getting on a bus is one boarding, so if you transfer twice during your trip, that’s three boardings.

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2. Whining about CERB

How people on CERB spend their time, according to other people. Photo: Jade Masri / Unsplash

On Saturday night, I was at a restaurant in Lunenburg where the owner lamented being short-staffed, then complained that it was impossible to keep staff because of the CERB, and that he was happy it was ending soon.

To my discredit, I said nothing. The last time a business owner took this line with me, I said that the CERB had been a lifesaver for my kids and many of their friends. It meant, for instance, that they didn’t lose apartments when their workplaces had to shut down. But this line of discussion doesn’t likely change anyone’s mind anyway, because the response is along the lines of “well yeah, your kids are deserving, but what about all those other lazy jerks who should be working and are staying home instead?”

Last night I was thinking about the working conditions of young people I know: employers who don’t do proper payroll, who make endless promises about hours and salaries and then don’t keep them, who routinely violate the labour code. There was the business that had employees sign a document saying that if they worked overtime they agreed to have their hours logged in a different pay period, so that the employer didn’t actually have to pay overtime. The one who paid by e-transfer, but sometimes paid late because they had hit their daily transfer limit. And on and on and on and on. The ones who railed on about lazy workers — lazy meaning that they took a lunch break.

I don’t think it’s just money. I think people are less likely now to be willing to work for jerks, and that’s not a sign that they are lazy or entitled.

Next time I hear an employer rail about how hard they have it and how generous the CERB or other programs are, I think I’ll suggest they go on it themselves if it’s so great.

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Noticed

1. Anonymous cast iron grave markers

One of the many cast iron grave markers made by WH Faulkner’s Moncton Metallic Monument Co.. Photo: Stephen Archibald

In the latest installment on his Noticed in Nova Scotia blog, Stephen Archibald shares images of cast iron grave markers from cemeteries around the province.

As a novice cemetery visitor and less perceptive noticer than Archibald, I had not seen these markers before. Archibald offers a tour of a few different types (the finger pointed to the sky, the cross bolted on top). He says:

Here’s a guide to some relatively common grave markers that are so distinctive you can identify them while speeding past country cemeteries in your touring car. No need to stop, just exclaim with confidence, “did you notice that cast iron monument? Manufactured by Faulkner in the 1880s I surmise.”

Many of these grave markers were made in Moncton, but Archibald doesn’t think they were manufactured for very long, because their design had one, er, fatal flaw:

To personalize these monuments, the deceased s statistics were printed on a card, displayed under glass in a small metal frame. You can imagine how well that worked out: broken glass, water leaks, fading in the sun. I have never seen an original label survive; consequently virtually all of these graves are now anonymous.

Don’t steal the hands off the grave markers. Photo: Stephen Archibald

The popular hand-pointed-to-the-sky design (I’m sorry, I keep seeing a raised middle finger) also lent itself to theft, Archibald says.

Lots of great photos in the original post, as usual, and do click the link at the bottom of Archibald’s blog to a wonderful scene from the 1965 film The Loved One, featuring Liberace as a smarmy coffin salesman offering waterproof, moisture-proof, and dampness=proof coffins, and a choice between “standard eternal” and “perpetual eternal” flames.

2. Buy a book, support prisoners’ book programs

A pair of prisoners walk through the snow-covered grounds of the Nova Institution for Women. Photo: Senate of Canada

If you want to buy a book and help support programs for prisoners, head over to the online book auction to support prisoners.

The auction runs until October 4, and benefits a number of organizations,  including Book Clubs for Inmates, which operates in prisons across the country, including the Nova Institution for Women. Book Clubs for Inmates also operates the Children of Inmates Reading Program (CHIRP), which sees volunteers go into prisons and record inmates reading a children’s book. The recording is then sent to their child, or children. The program’s website says:

This initiative provides a direct connection for the child with his or her incarcerated parent. In addition to the opportunity of hearing a parent’s voice, the reading initiative underscores the value of reading and the importance of books. For a number of the participants, reading aloud to their child has not been part of their pattern of parenting, nor was it modelled for them as part of their early childhood years.

Children are never responsible for their parents’ choices. At the same time, they are the hidden victims not only in the justice and correctional system, but also within our larger community.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am) — virtual meeting, agenda and info here.

Wednesday

If required — Halifax Regional Council (Wednesday, 10am) — virtual meeting, agenda and info here.

Province

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, Province House) —a per diem meeting.

Wednesday

No meetings.

On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Opera in a Digital Age (Tuesday, 4pm) — Michael Hidetoshi Mori and Asitha Tennekoon will “explore the positives that this time of change can have on our art form” in an online DalVoice Discusses session. More info here.

Wednesday

Defining the structures of unstructured amyloid-beta peptide in solution (Wednesday, 4pm) — Simiao (Michelle) Lu will talk. Contact here for link.

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

No public events.

Wednesday

Navigating the New World of Nutrition During COVID-19 (Wednesday, 12pm) — webinar with Kelsey Hoskin. Info and registration here.

Tatjana Takševa and Michele Byers

Back to the Classroom: 25 years of the SMU Women and Gender Studies Program (Wednesday, 1pm) —Tatjana Takševa and Michele Byers will ask “Who is the Women and Gender Studies Program for?” More info and webinar link here.

SMUEC Talks: Online Businesses (Wednesday, 6pm) — Anton Nestel and Adam Olsen, founders of Stocked, will share how they launched a virtual start-up during COVID-19. More info and registration here.


In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
07:00: Julius-S, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Setubal, Portugal
15:00: MOL Maestro, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
15:30: Atlantic Sun sails for New York
16:30: Julius-S sails for sea


Footnotes

It’s a sign

Big news from Pugwash this morning. The province has sent a release (“NOTE TO EDITORS”) about an announcement. Are you ready for it?

Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey will unveil the sign at the future site of the new North Cumberland Memorial Hospital on today, Sept. 29, at 11:30 a.m. at 260 Gulf Shore Rd., Pugwash.”

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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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11 Comments

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  1. CERB apparently had two sides. The good side which really did rescue workers from non-employment during the peak COVID crisis and the questionable side which invited anyone to try to get it despite work they may or not be inclined to do, COVID days or not. I’m sure CERB has been abused as much as it’s been a lifesaver. A great learning tool also for employers paying workers a non-living wage. Want to keep your employees? Do better than CERB which you and every other taxpayer will pay for in the not-so-distant long run…

    1. I’m sure CERB has been abused very, very little. Years and years of studies show abuse of social benefit programs is somewhere between less than 1% and 3%. At that rate it’s not even cost effective to spend money policing the distribution of the benefit. In any event, if someone was working and got CERB they’ll pay it back at tax time. Simple and cost effective.

  2. I think the most interesting thing about the streetcars is how dramatically ridership increased during WWII: 9 million pre-war to a high of 31 million during the War. Perhaps a good reminder of how the number of transit riders can fluctuate wildly based on employment, or lack thereof.

    Interesting to hear that derailments were an issue – talk about a lack of reliability!! Another big problem from perhaps the 1920s on was the worsening traffic and congestion throughout Downtown Halifax. A major weakness of on-street rail is that it can’t maneuver around blockages. Trolleys are very susceptible to traffic when they don’t have their own lane.

  3. Any who claims, writes, or repeats the notion that something (x) is something (y) times ‘less’ than something else (z) gives me a headache. It is nearly impossible to reduce the ambiguity and absurdity of that expression to math.

    The truth is I see the expression as a total and explicit rejection of math including the tacit assumption that readers are also so completely rejection math and basic calculation that they will accept some general narrative meaning of ‘less than but in a big way’ and continue on.

    Innumeracy should be as sorry as illiteracy, not a badge of honor amount the writing class.

    I have 10 reasons to support this argument. If you have 4 times less reasons than me, how many reasons do you have?

  4. CERB was one of the things the Liberal government did right. The virus has shown a lot of people that our economy means your neighbour’s wages are your salary. If your neighbour’s wages ain’t there, guess what, neither is your salary.

    Support people over big corporations and small business owners might find themselves in a happier place..

  5. I think a nifty response to a business owner that complains about CERB goes like this; “well maybe if you paid your workers an actually living wage, you low life, bottom feeding, exploitive, Machiavellian opportunist, thieving fucking liar, you wouldn’t be worried about people getting some of their own tax dollars during a world pandemic”. You could leave out the middle part if you were feeling a little shy that day.

  6. Next time some business owner complains about CERB, what you should do is tell them to pay their staff a living wage. Maybe then CERB wouldn’t be as attractive, even though it is still almost a poverty wage.

    1. Yeahhh. CERB is the equivalent to a salary of $24k/year with no benefits. If someone would rather take that than work for you, the job you’re offering is crap.

      1. HRM is in no hurry to ensure cleaners who clean the premises occupied byHRM staff earn $24,000 a year.
        HRM is in no hurry to ensure cleaners have benefits including a pension plan.
        HRM councillors are in no rush to ensure contractors such as cleaners,school bus drivers and crosswalk guards have wages and benefits equal to those given to HRM employees.