1. “Cautiously optimistic” activist hoping for dignified housing solutions
Sixteen people are currently living in a small park at the corner of Chebucto and Dublin streets in Halifax. Formally called Meagher Park, it has come to be known as “People’s Park” since Halifax Regional Police evicted people from tents and emergency shelters in parks around the city.
The municipality estimates that there are currently 81 people sleeping rough in Halifax. Sixteen of them, or nearly 20%, are living in this one park.
Yesterday, Yvette d’Entremont spoke with Claire Chadwick, of PADS (Permanent Accessible, Dignified, and Safer) Housing Network about the challenges faced by people in the park, the community they’ve built, and how they hope to have the city’s cooperation in finding a new place to stay. Chadwick is part of a team of volunteers helping people currently living in the park.
Because the site is entirely run by volunteers and not professionals, Chadwick said that despite desperately trying to connect people to services, they’ve been unable to reach or get help from any offered by the city or community organizations. Noting that people are often unhoused due to a lack of services and not just a lack of housing, Chadwick described the situation as “really frustrating.”
“We’re obviously trying to be proactive in getting some of these folks care so that we don’t have to invite police into this space via a 911 call, but it feels like we keep coming up against dead ends. We called shelters for a minor and were told ‘Oh we’re full. Good luck,’ again and again and again,” she said.
“I think all of these services are so under-resourced and overcapacity that people see the folks in that park as being cared for in some capacity and want to wash their hands of them because there are other people in even more dire straits.”
Chadwick tells d’Entremont the situation is “unsustainable” but that she is “cautiously optimistic that this will lead to something more sustainable in the short term, and then definitely for permanent, accessible, dignified, safe housing in the medium to long term.”
2. 7 new COVID-19 cases announced but nobody is in hospital
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Seven new cases of COVID-19 were announced in the province yesterday, Tim Bousquet reports.
Four are related to travel and three are close contacts of previous cases.
I admit that on Monday, when 31 cases were announced, I felt a momentary tightening in my chest. Even though I knew this was a three-day total (so an average of just over 10 per day, which is not a disaster), the number seemed big!
I think our reactions to numbers of COVID-19 cases is fascinating. I could have seen 10 cases a day three days in a row and not thought much of it. But seeing 31 at the same time, even though I know it is actually 10 per day still caused a visceral reaction. Then we were down to three yesterday. Phew! But today the number has more than doubled, so suddenly that seems bad again.
None of this is rational, of course, but we are generally not rational people.
I’ve also wondered what would happen if we had regular dashboards for other conditions. If we could access real-time (or almost real-time) data on how many died of a heart attack in the last 24 hours, or suffered a stroke, or even were hospitalized for influenza, would it change the way we view those conditions?
Anyway, back to Bousquet. As he has previously noted, we will get new infections, but the most important thing to keep our eyes on at this point is how many people are in hospital with COVID-19, and the answer to that one is zero.
I wonder if people are getting more lax about testing now that we have relatively low case counts and a super-high vaccination rate. Last Tuesday morning I woke up with a bit of a sore throat and runny nose. I wanted to attend a funeral that afternoon, but there was no way I was going to go with symptoms. I booked a test and headed off to Bayer’s Lake that afternoon, texted a friend to say I would not be able to meet up at the beach, and then waited for my results the next day. (Negative.) It’s important that we keep testing, so we have a good sense of the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community.
Here are this week’s rapid testing sites:
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate, 10am-2pm
Dartmouth Summer Sunshine Series, 5:30-7:30pm
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Dartmouth Summer Sunshine Series, 5:30-7:30pm
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Dartmouth Summer Sunshine Series, 5:30-7:30pm
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Dartmouth Summer Sunshine Series, 5:30-7:30pm
Rapid testing is only for those with no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, book a more accurate PCR test here.
I got a same-day appointment (5pm) and had my results at noon the next day.
3. Houston fires health authority CEO and dissolves board
The new CEO of the Nova Scotia Health Authority has no experience in health care, Tim Bousquet reports.
Yesterday, Tim Houston fired NSHA CEO Dr. Brendan Carr, replacing him with former Port of Halifax CEO Karen Oldfield. The board is being replaced by a four-person “leadership team.”
The shake-up at the NSHA comes at some cost.
First, Carr’s severance is $400,000, as per terms of his contract.
But another cost comes with the removal of the NSHA board of directors, which included both a Black and an Indigenous member. Now, the entire governing structure at NSHA is white. Asked about this, and about the appointment of Pat Dunn, a white man, as Minister of African Nova Scotia Affairs, Houston said:
“In terms of the appointment of a minister, there’s a certain reality. Nova Scotia has elected a caucus of PC members. We had a very diverse slate of candidates, excellent, excellent community leaders. They didn’t happen to get elected this time. So I formed my cabinet from the caucus that Nova Scotia sent to me. Not that I sent — that Nova Scotians sent to the legislature. And I respect the wishes of Nova Scotians.”
CBC reporter Michael Gorman interviewed Dryden about the dissolution of the board:
“I wasn’t expecting it. It really felt like it came out of the blue,” she said in an interview.
Dryden said she knew changes would come with the new government, but didn’t expect them to be so far-reaching. She felt the board was beginning come together as a group. She said she has concerns about the lack of diversity with the new leadership team, although she’s reserving judgment pending a phone call she has scheduled with Thompson at the minister’s request.
“Without having that conversation with her, what it seems like is that there is a lack of expertise in this new iteration of responsibility for N.S. Health. So, while everybody is responsible for addressing systemic racism, confronting and addressing anti-Black racism — especially with the ways in which it affects health disparities, health access and health equities — I don’t know if the current four-member team has that experience.”
4. Council report: chickens, Forum redevelopment, and more
Zane Woodford reports on a few of the non-housing issues that came up at Tuesday’s virtual meeting of Halifax council.
One of the surprises of the meeting was that the proposal to sell part of the Halifax Forum property to fund the site’s redevelopment was placed on the consent agenda, meaning it passed without debate. (A final decision will come back to council after public consultations.)
Chickens were also on the menu, as council tried to come up with uniform rules for the municipality.
Like many municipal bylaws, the rules governing chickens differ wildly between areas of HRM…
Aiming for one set of rules for the whole municipality, planner Ross Grant brought a suite of proposed rules to council for first reading on Tuesday. Among those rules: a limit of six hens per lot, no roosters, no slaughter, no sales of eggs or meat, required coops or fenced-in areas, a set-back of one metre from the property line.
Peninsula councillors like Waye Mason and Shawn Cleary were quick to point out that the limit there is 10 chickens, and no one seems to complain about it. The first half of the Centre Plan, approved in 2019, created that 10-chicken limit, and Mason and Cleary argued it should stay.
Coun. David Hendsbee also took issue with the limit, but suggested another solution: different limits based on lot size.
Under Hendsbee’s amendment, up to 10 chickens would be permitted on lots less than 4,000 square metres, 20 chickens on lots between 4,000 and 6,000 square metres, 30 chickens on lots between 6,000 and 10,000 square metres, and 40 chickens on lots larger than 10,000 square metres. Those numbers were later amended slightly, but councillors never said the numbers aloud during the meeting.
Hendsbee’s proposal makes sense to me. We used to have chickens (and, briefly ducks). We live on a property set back about 800 feet from the road, with the nearest neighbours hundreds of feet away and miles and miles of woods behind us. Being limited to six or 10 chickens because that’s what makes sense on the peninsula doesn’t seem all that reasonable.
Council also looked at funding for sports fields in Spryfield, including one at JL Ilsley High School, where councillors balked at the province’s expectation that the city pay the full cost.
5. New Tideline podcast, this time with the amazing Jane Kansas
The new episode of the Tideline is live, and you can listen free here, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Halifax legend Jane Kansas drops by the show to talk with host Tara Thorne about her new Fringe play My Heart Attack, which covers a quadruple bypass, six hospital visits, multiple infections, and nearly 170 days total in hospital. Like her previous shows — My Funeral: a dry run and My Dead Dad: stories from the front yard — My Heart Attack promises to be a unique mix of sharp observation, startling nuance, and sneaky tears. The Halifax Fringe Festival runs September 2-12; Tara makes some good show recommendations based solely on who’s involved.
1. Martha Paynter: As a Canadian nurse who provides abortion care, I worry for my colleagues in Texas
In a commentary for the Examiner, Martha Paynter writes about the new Texas law essentially banning abortion. (Abortion is now illegal after six weeks; at that point, many people aren’t even aware that they are pregnant yet.) The law also allows individuals to sue anyone involved in procuring an abortion past the six-week mark.
Paynter says we tend to be disproportionately influenced by US media when it comes to perceiving the state of abortion care in Canada, where it has been decriminalized since 1988. As a result, there is often a perception that abortion is harder to access than it really is:
It does not matter that abortion is completely decriminalized and has been since 1988, that medication abortion is Health Canada-approved and widely available in local pharmacies, and that aspiration (surgical) abortion is a safe, 10-minute procedure provided by family practitioners: you don’t know what you don’t know, and this ignorance is an enormous barrier to access. So usually when I write about abortion it is to demystify and spark optimism.
This week, however, I want to lean into US news, and I will admit my despair.
It was a tweet from Whole Women’s Health Texas clinic that got me. As abortion care providers we can be a bit hardened, but I was teary: The clinic staff were working until 11:59pm on August 31, 2021, the waiting room still full, trying to get everyone cared for before midnight, when Senate Bill 8 came into effect…
On August 31, Whole Women’s Health performed 67 abortions in 17 hours. In a typical eight-hour day I might see five patients. These Texan providers are heroes…
At 30 million people, the Texas population nears that of Canada. There are about 50,000 abortions in the state each year. The implications of the new restrictions are enormous. Not only is care criminalized, S.B. 8 sets a $10,000 bounty on the heads of clinic staff, health care providers, and even the Uber drivers who get people to abortion care. It must be stated that this ban will disproportionately affect Black and Indigenous women, people in poverty and experiencing intersecting oppressions. Rich Texans will travel for care.
Paynter provides an informed and passionate commentary, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.
2. Assault with a breakfast sandwich
Barbara Darby may no longer live in Halifax, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop noting what she’s got going on at her occasional blog, The Mind Wanders.
In her newest post, she looks at legal cases involving breakfast sandwiches.
Darby opens with the case of a man convicted of assaulting a parking enforcement officer who was sitting in his car with the window open. The man apparently had a knife and breakfast sandwich in his possession at the time. (He was charged for possession of the knife.) One of the pillars of his defence was that “the Egg McMuffin was not preserved” and therefore there was a lack of real evidence.
I have been unable to find out what the trial court’s disposition of the McMuffin issue was. Maybe this defence was dropped, because the assertion that the breakfast sandwich was not preserved might backfire, and be considered an admission that the sandwich was thrown, which doesn’t help the case that they got the wrong guy. Maybe this defence was dropped because it was ridiculous.
Lucky for us, though, this leads her to look deeper into cases involving breakfast sandwiches:
In 2015 Rachid Btiti crunched into a piece of glass alleged to be in his McMuffin. He didn’t break a tooth, but “experienced pain in his tooth” for several months and even 4 years later, the tooth “is moving a little.” Btiti sued McDonald’s. As I noted in my last blog entry, “real evidence” that is difficult to bring into court is often represented by photographic evidence. Btiti too failed to retain the McMuffin, although he did think to photograph the sandwich and the piece of glass before he (literally) asked to speak to the manager. Plaintiff’s Exhibit 1 was “Photo du sandwich.”…
Btiti was able to prove that the sandwich was dangerous, and McDonald’s liable. Btiti sought compensation for his out of pocket expenses: $18 for the dental bill, the balance being covered by the insurer, and $2.20 for painkillers. He was awarded the full $20.20. He sought an additional $14,979.80 for his pain and suffering (it was a small claims action, presumably capped at $15,000). He was awarded $1,750. McDonald’s did not appeal.
I won’t tell you how often Alex Goldkind barfed after eating a McMuffin, although he was not able to prove McDonald’s caused any food poisoning.
There is more! You should read it.
3. Bad design can be disastrous
Regular readers may remember that, like Tim Bousquet, I have an interest in design and how it affects our daily lives. (Bousquet and I are both fans of Donald A. Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things.)
As we look at the cloudy skies and wait for the remnants of Hurricane Ida to bring lots of rain today, I want to point you to a blog post by Robert Prehn, a software engineer and consultant who describes himself as “very interested in the intersection of economics, technology, and justice. I believe that technology can make our lives better, but that won’t happen automatically.”
Prehn and his family evacuated by kayak as the streets around their house flooded with rain from Ida. Then he tried to access emergency information:
At the time I most needed information to know what to do for the safety of my family, it was unavailable to me. And it was unavailable to me for stupid, petty reasons. We had cell service and battery power. However, I was unable to track the path of the storm, receive information about power outages in my area, or determine passable evacuation routes away from the storm.
The outage information page for my electric utility weighs in at 5.1 megabytes. It takes 17 seconds to load over the broadband connection from which I write to you. The neighboring electric utility that covers the other half of the region clocks in at 4.8 megabytes and loads a little quicker at 6 seconds. Both refused completely to load over LTE, which is exactly how you would expect customers to access this information when they need it.
As of the time of writing, the website of NOLA Ready, the official emergency communication channel for the city of New Orleans, will not load at all. One assumes that it has fallen over under the load of everyone in the New Orleans region trying to access emergency information at the same time— a thing people tend to do during emergencies. Or quite possibly, the server is located somewhere in the city of New Orleans, which has no electricity at the moment. Either way, I feel that there is some lack of foresight here.
Have you ever used the Nova Scotia Power outage map on your phone when there is a power failure? It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. I generally have a relatively recent phone, so I have no idea how it works on older devices. I do know when the power is out I tend to be the one checking the site and letting others who have a harder time accessing it know what to expect in terms of restoration time.
Prehn argues that this is definitely a case where less is more:
“Design” failed us. We need real design. Design that centers users, understands their needs and their context, and builds from there. Instead, we got the kind of mediocre design I despise. Design that centers the most highly paid person in the room and/or advertising networks. Design that centers design for the sake of design. Design as pretty, but vapid, commercial art objects. Design that centers mindless adherence to “best practices” where “best practices” is defined as never-ending user surveillance in the service of “analytics” and “A/B testing.”
Ironically, what we need here is less sophisticated solutions. Our needs after the storm could have been served by plain old unstyled markup, and clear, concise written emergency communication. Hell, plain text files would work. All served from static file hosting instead of some lumbering beast of an enterprise CMS [content management system].
The Armour Group is a prominent and successful development company whose head, Scott McCrea, was named to head Premier Tim Houston’s transition team.
In a story about the McCrea family’s political donations to the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party, Tim Bousquet and Jennifer Henderson wrote:
The Armour Group is associated with many real estate developments in downtown Halifax: the good and the bad. Engineer and company founder Ben McCrea helped preserve and develop the iconic Historic Properties area along the Halifax waterfront. He also built Founders Square, an office building on Hollis Street that once housed many government departments and still has a display of historic Nova Scotia figures in its atrium.
After Ben McCrea’s death in 2013, his son Scott completed the RBC Waterside building. Scott is the driving force behind the recently completed Queen’s Marque monolith on Lower Water Street, a commercial and residential development that was approved by municipal councillors despite concerns raised by HRM planning staff about the building’s size and design. Other writers have praised Queen’s Marque as both modern and “iconic.”
Well, guess what? The Armour Group is hiring! Specifically, they are looking for a marketing and communications assistant.
The job posting starts off with a description of how great the company is:
The Armour Group Limited is one of the leading construction and development companies in Atlantic Canada. With its dedicated team of professionals, The Armour Group Limited continues a proud history of creating a sense of place in Nova Scotia — carefully designing, developing, constructing and operating some of our region’s most iconic buildings. With more than 45 years of history in our region, this family-owned firm remains committed to a principled approach to development, ensuring that our buildings are environmentally sustainable and integrated into the communities they serve. If you share our values and would like to work with a skilled professional team, Armour is presently seeking a Marketing & Communications Assistant to join the growing team.
This looks like one of those jobs where you are supposed to be able to do the work of three people, but you will be underpaid, because the job has “assistant” in the title. Here are the responsibilities:
- Act as point of contact for M&C requests from internal clients
- Coordinate with the marketing team and internal clients to create materials using existing templates (copy + design)
- Assist with social media including monitoring, development of messaging, posting applicable collateral and tracking performance metrics.
- Prepare project briefing notes, minutes and weekly project updates
- Audit / manage M&C digital filing system for improved optimization; communicate instruction of use and layout to team (includes photo, logo, brand files)
- Prepare and circulate ongoing reports on marketing and sales metrics such as campaign results, web/social media traffic and coverage, conversion rates, CTRs and CPM.
- Source vendors and suppliers aligned with procurement standards.
- Update website as required (WordPress & squarespace)
- Assist with organizing and executing promotional events.
- Become proficient with BrandWorks, Canva, Soho Social and other available marketing tools.
- Managing daily administrative tasks for marketing department and EVP
- Proof materials
- Invoicing, coordinating contracts signatures, document preparation, email responses
- Prioritizing and managing multiple projects simultaneously
The “level of experience” section of the listing calls for “Excellent verbal, written, proof reading skills.” Something this job posting could definitely have used.
To Armour’s credit, they aren’t pulling the usual “five years experience” with this. It’s two to three years, with a bachelor’s or diploma in marketing or PR “considered an asset.”
There is, of course, one key element from the job listing missing:
It’s a mystery!
Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — live streamed on YouTube
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — live streamed on YouTube
In the harbour
05:30: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
06:00: MSC Veronique, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:30: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard from sea
09:00: USS Forrest Sherman, destroyer, arrives at Dockyard from sea
14:45: USS Thomas Hunder, destroyer, arrives at Dockyard from sea
15:30: Atlantic Sail sails for New York
16:30: MSC Veronique, container ship, sails for sea
09:00: Niagara Spirit, barge, and Tim McKeil, tug, arrive at Mulgrave from Aulds Cove quarry
I will be a guest on Niki Jabour’s show The Weekend Gardener on News 95.7 on Sunday, Sept 5 at 10:30am. We’ll be talking about preserving all the beautiful produce around right now, so tune in (or call) if you have questions about fermenting or preserving.
Today is the anniversary of the Swissair crash (also of the day we moved to Nova Scotia). If you have never read it, this 2009 feature from Esquire magazine is well worth your time, as, of course, is Stephen Kimber’s book, Flight 111.
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My guess is that the new NSHA CEO is charged with implementing a healh care “business model” on steroids with a very specific purpose – cut costs, cut costs, cut costs, move to more privatization of health care.
As for design – don’t get me started. Take, for instance: “H upside down V LIF upside down V X” with disjointed parts of it printed all over buses so it can’t be read and just looks stupid.
If you don’t like private health care why did you bargain for private healthcare for the union members you represented ?
I’d love to see dashboards for car crash deaths and injuries. They are entirely preventable, yet we have accepted 5 deaths and about 300 injuries every day in Canada. Car crashes are a huge drain on health, police, ambulance, and other resources. We’ve completely normalized that. For example, a crash on the bridge is news only in that it causes delays to other commuters.