1. Robie Street bus lane plan

A bus is seen on a busy street on a sunny day. On the front, it says 7 ROBIE.
Halifax Transit’s Route 7 bus leaves a stop on Robie St. near Almon St. on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Credit: Zane Woodford

“A handful of people who live near Robie Street are opposed to the city’s plan to widen the street to add a bus lane,” reports Zane Woodford.

Halifax created the Robie Street Transportation Reserve during the Centre Plan process in 2021. The reserve sets aside land the municipality wants to buy.

“When a transportation reserve is applied through a municipal planning strategy and land use bylaw, it prohibits development and provides the Municipality with up to five years to purchase the property from the time the transportation reserve is in effect,” planner Ross Grant wrote in a report to the Regional Centre Community Council this week.

“After five years, the lands revert to the underlying zone. Property owners affected by the reserve can also request that the Municipality purchase the designated lands within a year; if the Municipality does not purchase the lands within one year of the date of this request the reserve expires and the lands revert to the underlying zone.”

HRM needs the land to complete the second phase of its Young and Robie streets transit priority project. Phase 1 saw the municipality install a bus lane on one side of the street, northbound between Young Street and Cogswell Road, in 2020. HRM also added a southbound bus lane to part of the street, but not between Almon and Cunard streets.

That’s because the road in that area isn’t wide enough to accommodate an extra lane. That section of the bus lane is Phase 2.

Woodford gets into more detail on Phase 2, but he also talks about the opposition to that phase by some residents in the area, who say no one even told them about the transportation reserve.

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2. ‘Devastated’ maple syrup industry

A man in a dark sweater, brown boots and a ball cap stands at the base of ripped up tree roots in the woods.
Peter MacLean stands near one damaged area at his Dalhousie Maple Products camp on Nov. 27. Credit: Yvette d'Entremont

Yvette d’Entremont recently spoke with several maple syrup producers across Nova Scotia who lost many of their trees in Hurricane Fiona. d’Entremont interviewed Peter MacLean who owns Dalhousie Mountain in Pictou County about the damage Fiona did to his operation:

Last year, Dalhousie Maple Products produced 650 gallons of maple syrup. MacLean bought a new evaporator and was preparing to expand (double) his operation this season from 4,000 taps to 8,000. 

But then Fiona hit, destroying at least 4,500 trees. About 2,000 of those were tapped. 

Despite the significant setback, MacLean is pragmatic. He expects his operation will be back to 4,000 tapped trees–or very close to it–by the spring. 

“It’s Mother Nature. Nothing you can do for her but grin and bear it,” he said. 

MacLean’s operation has weathered many storms, with some taking up to 30 trees in their wake. But the thousands of trees felled by Fiona made it by far the worst storm MacLean has experienced since launching his maple syrup operation in 1992.

“We really have no idea how much it affected the trees. A tree might look good but it might be split right up the middle for all we know,” MacLean said, glancing around the forest.

As d’Entremont learned, maple producers across Nova Scotia lost an estimated 30% of their tapped trees. That figure is higher in the hardest hit areas of Antigonish, Pictou, Colchester and Cumberland counties where some operators have lost up to an estimated 90% of their tapped trees.

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3. Sackville Wilderness Area

Five people stand behind a large map with green and yellow areas noted on it.
Walter Regan, centre, during a presentation about protection of the Sackville Wilderness Area in Middle Sackville on Dec. 12, 2022. Credit: Contributed

“Nova Scotia now has six new nature reserves and eight expanded wilderness areas, including the newly designated Sackville Wilderness Area. The new nature reserves and wilderness areas represent 9,300 hectares of protected land in the province,” I reported on Monday.

The province made the announcement on Monday at the Springfield Lake Recreation Centre in Upper Sackville. Walter Regan, former president of the Sackville Rivers Association, was on hand for the announcement and said he was “ecstatic” about the news about the Sackville Wilderness Area. Regan has been lobbying since 2013 to protect that area, which consists of 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of land. He said it’s the first park of its kind for Upper Sackville.

“The 70,000 people that live near the Sackville River now have a wilderness park,” Regan said. “If you look at a map of Sackville in your mind, on one end, you have Second Lake saved, 800 acres. You have the hopefully expanded park at Sandy Lake in Bedford, which is now 1,000 acres, we’re trying to get 2,800. And topping that off, at the top end is Upper Sackville, the Sackville Wildnerness Area. The people of Sackville and HRM are the winners here.” 

Regan also told me about the next plans for the wilderness area. And the article includes a list of the other nature reserves and wilderness areas.

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4. Affordable housing in Bridgewater

A rendering of an apartment complex of modern design.
The design for an affordable housing complex for King Street in Bridgewater. Credit: Contributed/Family Service of Mi’kma’ki

“A non-profit in Bridgewater that serves clients across the South Shore is asking Bridgewater town council for a tax exemption, among other requests, for an affordable housing project it plans on building on King Street,” I reported this morning.

Art Fisher, the executive director of the Family Service of Mi’kma’ki, gave a presentation on the requests to Bridgewater Town Council on Monday evening.

The project started in 2017 when Fisher said the housing crisis was already emerging in Bridgewater and Family Service of Mi’kma’ki was a “first-hand witness” to it. The site at King Street was formerly a hardware store, which has since been was remediated, yet construction on the housing remains at a standstill.

The project will provide 68 units of deeply affordable housing in downtown Bridgewater. Some of those units will be set aside for women and their children who are fleeing situations of domestic violence. The housing will also be connected with the community’s Coordinated Access to Housing System that will provide needed supports to tenants. The project will also be a net-zero-energy build.

Fisher and Family Service of Mi’kma’ki have more asks of the town than the tax exemption, but he ran out of time during his council meeting. Still, Fisher told me he was optimistic the council would come up with a positive decision, which is expected in January:

For me, the optimism is around us recognizing, and hopefully the town recognizing, that we’re only going to be able to do this if we do this together. It was very helpful to point out tonight to the town the millions of dollars of program funding we’ve brought to this community since 1998.

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Attitude of gratitude? No thank you

A pink notebook that says "today I am grateful" on its cover sits on a table next to a gold writing pen and a branch of dark green leaves.
What people really mean when they talk about gratitude. Credit: Gabrielle Henderson/Unsplash

Tis’ the season of gratitude. I’m seeing it everywhere now. Calls to make lists, not for Santa, but about what we’re grateful for. The simple things, the everyday things.  

But I am not a fan of this kind of gratitude.  

Now, I can hear you saying, “what do you have against gratitude?” Well, it’s not that I don’t appreciate or understand gratitude, including for the simple things in life. But I take issue with how gratitude is often used. It’s a lot like the calls to Be Kind stuff, which I always say really mean Be Quiet. I’m not a fan of gratitude as used as a social media meme, a marketing scheme, or, what I see most often, as a performance.

I am grateful for many things, like living in a time where, as a woman, I can be single, make my own money, vote, and live in a lot of freedom. I am grateful to the women before me who fought for those rights. Yet, I can still point out that many of those movements left out — and still leave out — many women, including poor women, disabled women, Black women, women of colour, immigrant women, trans women. But when I point that out, I am, as a woman, told I am negative, difficult, and yes, an ingrate.  

Here’s the thing: when some people ask or even demand that you be grateful, what they’re really saying is, “that’s enough for you.” 

You may have heard this line before: You should be grateful to have a job. This is how many workers lived for years, being told to be grateful for jobs, even if those jobs made them miserable, stressed, and sick.  

During the pandemic, those reluctantly grateful workers suddenly found themselves realizing those jobs weren’t so good for them. They went all Johnny Paycheck on their bosses, and suddenly thought about how they wanted to spend the rest of their careers. They switched jobs, went back to school, and are still fighting to work from home instead of commuting to offices they dislike. And it’s shaping the workforce for the better.  

Last year, Kate Morgan at BBC asked the question, “Should you be grateful for a job?”

It’s a thoughtful piece on how gratitude is often a misguided emotion in the workplace and can be used against certain workers, including women who “are particularly vulnerable to imposter syndrome, and may find themselves giving outsize thanks for their jobs.” And Black workers, who may be more vulnerable to layoffs.

Morgan spoke with Sarah Greenberg, a California-based psychotherapist and corporate mental-health consultant, who said forced gratitude can backfire and be bad for us.

As adults, in social situations and at work, we start telling ourselves not to complain, to appreciate what we have. And once we start forcing ourselves to be grateful, we may begin using a tactic Greenberg calls “gratitude bypassing” to avoid other, negative emotions. For instance, she says, an employee may start to think, “I really hate my boss”, then stifle that feeling by thinking, “but I’m so grateful just to have my job”.

Suppressing or avoiding negative feelings isn’t healthy, says Greenberg. “If you’re calling emotional avoidance ‘gratitude’, you won’t see the positive effects of gratitude, and you will see the negative effects of emotion avoidance.”

And Greenburg said gratitude in the workplace can be, well, just weird.

“I think the old school of thought is, ‘well, I’m giving you a pay check, so you owe me’. It’s amazing what employers have come to expect in exchange for that pay check,” she says. “We work such long hours. We’re working remotely more than ever before, and as a result people are just working endless hours; we’re always on. That has such a big toll on wellbeing and health. Still, we’re getting the message that we’re supposed to feel grateful just to get to keep going to work.”

This doesn’t stop bosses from finding ways to use gratitude in the workplace, of course. Simply google gratitude and leadership and you’ll see all sorts of consultants offering ways to help corporate leaders to find gratitude. But in many cases these exercises are merely a way to improve the “culture” of a workforce and make employees more productive. I fail to see how this involves gratitude at all.

In 2015, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote this op-ed about how gratitude is selfish. Ehrenreich, who wrote a whole book about toxic positivity, said in many ways “gratitude is all about you, and how you can feel better.” But she asked if it was always the most appropriate response, too:

Gratitude is at least potentially more prosocial than the alternative self-improvement techniques. You have to be grateful to someone, who could be an invisible God, but might as well be a friend, mentor or family member. The gratitude literature often advises loving, human interactions: writing a “gratitude letter” to a helpful colleague, for example, or taking time to tell a family member how wonderful they are. These are good things to do, in a moral sense, and the new gratitude gurus are here to tell us that they also feel good.

But is gratitude always appropriate? The answer depends on who’s giving it and who’s getting it or, very commonly in our divided society, how much of the wealth gap it’s expected to bridge. Suppose you were an $8-an-hour Walmart employee who saw her base pay elevated this year, by company fiat, to $9 an hour. Should you be grateful to the Waltons, who are the richest family in America? Or to Walmart’s chief executive, whose annual base pay is close to $1 million and whose home sits on nearly 100 acres of land in Bentonville, Ark.? Grateful people have been habitually dismissed as “chumps,” and in this hypothetical case, the term would seem to apply.

And then there is gratitude used as a way to stop collective action against injustice. Sophie McBain wrote about that in this article, “The dark side of practising gratitude during a pandemic,” in The New Statesman.

Gratitude is also linked to expectations: one path to greater gratitude is simply to stop wanting more. You can stop wishing the government hadn’t gambled with tens of thousands of lives and stop yearning for the chance to hug your parents or see your friends, instead focusing on enjoying beautiful sunsets and binging on box sets. But while that might make you feel better, it’s not exactly constructive. Gratitude is the “antithesis of successful organising”, Collette Shade argued in the Baffler. Political progress, in contrast, happens when people imagine how things might be different, rather than resign themselves to what they have. Gratitude can be, in a way, intrinsically apathetic.

From a social perspective, the worst sort of gratitude might be the kind that provides people with a sense of personal absolution: instead of tackling injustice or unfairness, the privileged can focus on being grateful for what they have. At a moment when our predicament demands solidarity and collective action, the wrong kinds of gratitude can undermine it. No one benefits from the self-serving, closed-minded gratitude epitomised by the awful Band Aid line: “tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”. But is that the trap we have fallen into during the Covid crisis? While many NHS and essential workers have felt uplifted by public displays of gratitude, others have expressed their frustration that they don’t need our thanks – they need adequate protection, priority vaccination, decent wages and sick pay, and for us all to play our role in reducing transmission.

There’s really no problem with making lists or journaling your gratitude. But there is a problem with it when that’s all we’re doing. We can’t stop there. There’s more work to be done for ourselves and others. Let’s make a list of those things, too.

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The winner of this staring contest is a grifter

Dr. Jonathan Stea, a clinicial psychologist and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Calgary, shared a video about the laziest grift I’ve ever seen. It’s a video about Braco (pronounced Braht-zoh), a self-styled healer who people pay to stare at them. That’s it. He does nothing else. He doesn’t even speak. Thousands of people pack auditoriums to have this guy stare at them. Oh, Stea noted that Braco also has a jewelry line with some of the items going for hundreds of dollars.

You know, I might stare at people for free or maybe for “exposure.”

Ria, a member of Braco’s team, says on the video that when Braco stands in front of a group of people and gazes at them, they feel a sense of hope, peace, and that life makes sense again.

“I think people are searching for a sense of fulfillment,” Ria says in the video.

I have to agree with her on this. And this is exactly why people fall for these grifts: they’re looking for sense of belonging, fulfillment, purpose, and hope really because bigger systems are failing them.

Karen Stollznow, an Australian-American writer, wrote about Braco in The Skeptical Inquirer back in 2011. That’s a long time to make a career out of staring at people. Anyway, Stollzow said while Braco doesn’t claim to be a healer, “his advertising does:”

Braco doesn’t call himself a healer because he doesn’t make any claims directly; his claims are made by his staff and devotees. Furthermore, he doesn’t make any claims because he doesn’t speak in public.

Stollznow even attended a session in Denver. The cost was $8, but 3,500 people attended. Here’s what she wrote about it:

The room was filled beyond capacity, with people lining the walls. Reminiscent of a Benny Hinn performance, there were many hoping to be healed, including people in wheelchairs. Everyone filed into the hall to the tune of singing glasses and a female vocalist warbling a mesmerizing song.

The female host appeared and conditioned the crowd for Braco, the “healer who doesn’t call himself a healer.” We were told to “take this time to frame your intentions. Everyone’s experience will be different,” but we were to expect healings and miracles. She assured us that after seeing Braco “skeptics become believers.”

There were some “bliss piggies” in the audience—people who had attended Braco’s sessions all day long. This was the final session for the day and we would be rewarded with some “extra gazing.” But Braco would not address us. “He doesn’t speak in public anymore,” the host explained. “He made a promise eight years ago. It’s not important what he says, but what people see.” However, she claimed that “The Voice” is healing.

New Age music began and all those who were able were asked to stand as Braco emerged and climbed the stairs of the podium. He stood before the room awkwardly at first, and then his pose grew majestic, like he was standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Everyone watched him expectantly.

Then Braco gazed at the audience. For ten minutes.

Meanwhile on Twitter on Monday, someone reported Stea for sharing the video of Braco and his criticisms of the gazer. He better watch out for the evil eye of Braco fans.

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Budget Committee and Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 9:30am, City Hall and online) — Budget Committee agendaRegional Council agenda


Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall and online) — agenda

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda

Board of Police Commissioners Special Meeting(Wednesday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — agenda

Regional Centre Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — agenda

Public Information Meeting – Case 24278 (Wednesday, 7pm, Black Point and Area Community Centre) — application for a development agreement for 5 four-unit dwellings and 14 townhouses on Conrads Road, Hubbards



Human Resources (Tuesday, 9am, One Government Place) — Support Connecting Newcomers to the Workforce; Agency, Board and Commission Appointments; with representatives from the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration, and YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth’s YREACH Program 

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place) — Surgical Backlogs and the Extension of Operating Room Hours; with representatives from Nova Scotia Health, IWK Health, Department of Health and Wellness, Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, Doctors Nova Scotia, and Scotia Surgery Inc 


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, One Government Place) — Report of the Auditor General – 2022 Financial Report, with Kelliann Dean from the Department of Finance and Treasury Board 

On campus

No events

In the harbour

06:30: IT Integrity, supply vessel, arrives at Pier 9 from sea
08:15: MSC Malena, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
15:00: AlgoCanada, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Imperial Oil
23:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


I am grateful you read this Morning File.

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

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  1. I’m grateful to everyone at the Halifax Examiner. The Morning File is consistently is a spot of sanity, clarity and cant-free common sense in a BS-filled world. Thank you!

  2. I agree with your sentiment about demands put upon working/struggling adults to simply be grateful for what they have.

    That said, an Attitude of Gratitude can be very useful for young schoolchildren… as a means to quit their “saucy bad-itude,” for instance.

    (Sorry, a friend of mine is part of the band and today’s headline immediately got this bloody song going in my head.)