News

1. Police board recommends 0.4% increase to HRP budget

A Halifax Regional Police officer in their cruiser in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

I did not think I would find myself laughing out loud at a story on the Board of Police Commissioners and the budget increase they proposed for the Halifax Regional Police.

Of course, policing is not a laughing matter, and neither is the intractability of police funding. But here are a few excerpts from Zane Woodford’s story on yesterday’s police board meeting:

  • The motion kicked off a debate over the civilian oversight board’s authority to actually provide civilian oversight. Resistant to that kind of oversight, [Halifax Regional Police chief Dan] Kinsella argued the motion was out of order… I do not think that the motion is out of order,” [municipal solicitor Marty] Ward said. Even after the legal advice, Kinsella disagreed.
  • Coun. Becky Kent argued the chief shouldn’t have to provide evidence to back up his requests.

At the heart of the story lies not the issue of the budget itself, but the issue of how much and what kind of oversight the civilian board is mandated to undertake. Essentially: If the board is increasing the budget, how much can it tell the police what to do with the money?

As Woodford writes: “That distinction between operations and policy is important. Generally, police boards are meant to set policy while the chief is in charge of day-to-day operations.”

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2. Lisa Banfield and officers first on the scene in Portapique to testify

Members of the Mass Casualty Commission taking video.

Tim Bousquet reports on the latest from the Mass Casualty Commission, including news that Lisa Banfield will testify under oath, as will the first officers on the scene:

Banfield was the common-law spouse of the killer, and told investigators that on April 18 the killer had attacked her but she managed to escape into the woods; hiding in the root structure of a large tree, she heard gunfire and explosions, and only came out of hiding at daylight.

After the murders, Banfield was criminally charged with providing ammunition to the killer. She was to stand trial later this month. Her lawyers said that given the pending court case, she would not agree to testify at the inquiry, but yesterday morning she agreed to a restorative justice plan that makes that upcoming trial moot and clears the way for her to testify before the commission.

As for the officers:

The first three RCMP constables on the ground in Portapique — Stuart Beselt, Aaron Patton, and Adam Merchant — will testify at the commissioners next public meeting, on March 28. They will testify together as a “witness panel.”

As well, a fourth officer, Cst. Vicki Colford, will be required to testify later this month. Colford established a road block at the top of Portapique Beach Road the night of the murders, and was told by Kate MacDonald about a second exit route from the community.

Click here for the full article.

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3. Councillor suggests paying staff $7/hr less than a living wage — and that’s an improvement

Photo: flickr user fredisonfire

Remember the much-vaunted, much-delayed, many-loopholed municipal living wage policy? Passed in 2020, it added paying a living wage to the code of conduct for municipal suppliers. The policy does not apply to municipal staff. As Zane Woodford reported at the time:

Though he had an amendment prepared to address that disparity, [Coun. Lindell] Smith was told that chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé would bring that information, along with information on the cost of the living wage requirement, to council’s budget talks early next year.

Coun. Shawn Cleary thinks the city should consider paying higher wages to municipal staff who make minimum wage or just a bit more. He put forward a motion for a staff report on increasing their pay to $15/hr.

Woodford writes:

Coun. Cleary brought a motion to a virtual meeting of council’s Audit and Finance Standing Committee on Wednesday asking for a staff report on a $15 minimum wage for all staff.

“I think it would look bad for the municipality to simply wait for the province, which has been just moving on this way too slow over the last decade, to increase minimum wages,” Cleary said.

The motion covers HRM employees, along with those working at Halifax Public Libraries and multi-district recreation facilities like the Zatzman Sportsplex and Canada Games Centre, and it covers part-time, casual, and temporary staff.

Most of the city’s direct full-time staff make more than $15 an hour, Cleary pointed out.

Coun. Trish Purdy who voted against Cleary’s motion, not for an increase but for a staff report on the increase, offered this gem:

“Every business person I’ve spoken to about this — because this is very interesting to me, this living wage concept, because it seems like yes, obviously amazing idea — but not one business owner has said that this is good because of the implications that this will cause.”

Click here to read that article.

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4. A “new” Northern Pulp needs new “friends”

Friends of a New Northern Pulp lawn sign

Joan Baxter reports on a new campaign by a group called “Friends of a New Northern Pulp.” Who are they?

Baxter writes:

This is how the “Friends of a New Northern Pulp” describe themselves on their website:

“We are Nova Scotians who care deeply about our province, our forests, and our communities. We are the 36,000 Nova Scotians who own small and large woodlots.”

So, just one line in and the BS begins.

Baxter goes on to note there is nothing new about Northern Pulp, nothing really new about who the “friends” are, and that this all seems like it’s coming from a very familiar old playbook.

There’s more unintentional hilarity here, as the group’s slogans include “Science first,” and, even better, “A healthy forest needs a mill.”

[Forester Mike] Lancaster tells the Examiner that this claim about forests needing a mill used to make him smile.

“It is so ridiculous that I didn’t think anyone would be taken in by it,” he says. “However, after seeing the phrase become somewhat of a slogan, repeated endlessly on social media and by supporters, I have become more concerned about its dangerous impact.”

Baxter notes:

There are a few key things that the Friends of a Northern Pulp don’t get around to mentioning in their PR blitz.

Here’s one of them: Northern Pulp and its owners have launched a lawsuit against the people of Nova Scotia for $450 million.

Click here to read the article.

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5. Mental health day hospital to open next month

Seen at the 2017 Festival of Hope, held at the Nova Scotia Hospital’s Hugh Bell Centre in Dartmouth. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

I am thrilled the province has announced the opening of a new mental health day hospital. The idea is to provide more intensive treatment than regular out-patient care for those who need it, without requiring in-patient admission.

Yvette d’Entremont reports:

Dr. Sanjana Sridharan, head of acute consultation and emergency psychiatry, Mental Health and Addictions Program with Nova Scotia Health, told reporters the day hospital will bridge a gap for patients who need intensive treatment but don’t require inpatient care.

She expects the day hospital to decrease the number of overnight hospital admissions and ease existing pressures on psychiatric units, emergency departments, and emergency health services “without compromising patient care or clinical outcomes” for people living with severe mental illness.

Admissions to the day hospital will come from community mental health clinics and emergency departments. People discharged from inpatient psychiatric care can also be referred to the day hospital for follow-up care.

“I think it’ll be a really good program for patients who are already connected with our outpatient system but need that intensiveness over a period of time,” Sridharan said.

This kind of care is not uncommon elsewhere, and it is good to see it coming to Nova Scotia, finally.

Click here to read the article.

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6. Anna Quon on The Tideline

Anna Quon. Photo: Contributed

Writer and artist Anna Quon is Tara Thorne’s guest on The Tideline this week.

Anna Quon is the author of three novels. The first two, Migration and Low, also feature the characters of Joan and Adriana, sisters of a sort. In her third, the brand-new Where the Silver River Ends (Invisible Publishing), Quon centres a wandering Joan in Bratislava, Slovakia, on the heels of a sudden exit from Budapest. There she meets a young Roma man who guides her through the city, and helps her find a job all while dealing with constant racism against his people. It’s a story of of mixed-race identity, systemic oppression, family reconciliation, and forging one’s own path. Anna stops by the show to discuss the book’s writing—beginning with a summer in Slovakia 30 years back—using sensitivity readers, and what’s next.

I have not listened to this episode yet, but let me just say a word here about sensitivity readers. There’s been a lot of fuss about this among certain people inside and outside the world of books. A friend recently asked for recommendations for a sensitivity reader for a specific purpose — ensuring a character he was writing rang true to life — and he was deluged with Facebook comments from highly offended sounding people going on about how everyone is offended by everything these days. One particularly funny/irritating guy went from “what’s a sensitivity reader?” to “sensitivity readers are stupid and a sign of everything that’s wrong with civilization” (I’m paraphrasing).

I am very interested to hear what Quon has to say. You can listen to the episode here. 

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7. Cruise ships return, but do we want them back?

The cruise ship Crystal Serenity at Pier 22. Photo: Halifax Examiner

For the latest issue of Unravel, I wrote about the impending return of cruise ships to Halifax, and the economic and public health implications.

I talked to business owners cautiously optimistic about the return of cruise passengers, a critic who says cruise industry studies on economic impacts are “a quagmire of bullshit,” and a lawyer who has been suing cruise lines for 25 years and calls them “corporate felons.” I also interviewed people who pay attention to the tourism industry.

From the story:

Spend any amount of time looking into the world of cruises and you can start to feel like you’re dealing with parallel worlds. [Ambassatours Gray Line CEO Dennis] Campbell, who calls cruising “the most nimble part of the travel industry,” thinks it will “come back with a vengeance,” and adds, “The cruise lines have done a wonderful job to adjust and create new cleaning and sanitizing protocols. I’ve got to say, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

[Memorial University professor Ross] Klein, on the other hand, says when it comes to health and safety, the cruise industry “puts their head in the sand.”

One thing I learned: the markup on those bus tours to Peggy’s Cove and other destinations is much higher than I expected.

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Views

Life, labour, and mental health in the big leagues

Fenway Park. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

As you may have noticed, Major League Baseball spring training is not currently underway. That’s because the collective agreement between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association has expired, and the owners have locked out the players. (Two years ago today, I was just back from spring training and thinking that given this virus stuff, maybe eating at the Golden Corral buffet on the outskirts of Tampa was a bad idea.)

The labour dispute is often framed along the lines of millionaire players vs billionaire owners, so I was interested to see this interview by writer P.E Moskowitz with pitcher Trevor Hildenberger. The piece appears in Moskowitz’s newsletter, Mental Hellth, and is called “Baseball, Capitalism, and Panic Attacks.”

Like most baseball players, Hildenberger is not a huge star. He’s appeared in 134 games over four seasons — and just two in 2021. He is now “coming off a couple arm surgeries and rehabbing.”

He talks about life in the minors — a familiar story of extremely low pay and exploitation, the pressure to make it to the big leagues. He started having panic attacks. But once he made it, he thought those problems would be behind him:

But then in 2017 I reached the big leagues, and I felt like I had achieved my goal, and then I felt like I should be happy, but I wasn’t. I felt that pressure to do well, and also to respond to a lot of people who reach out to you and ask for tickets, and want to see you in every visiting city. You feel a responsibility to entertain people. So I had relatively high anxiety that year. You don’t pitch well in a major league game and you get messages on social media, Twitter DMs and Facebook DMs and Instagram DMs calling you a bunch of names, telling you you suck, saying that you owe them money because they bet on the team, saying you’re letting their team down, embarrassing their city. As silly as it sounds coming from random people, it sticks in your brain, it’s hard.

Hildenberger got help from a therapist, first on his own, and later through the San Francisco Giants — the team that picked him up about a year ago. He says the team therapists are great, but there are still issues mental health treatment won’t fix:

People say, “this is a kid’s game, you get to play a kid’s game, you shouldn’t be able to complain,” and that’s just not true. It’s a job like any other job. We do get to play a game, but you don’t always love your situation, you don’t always love your coworkers. Yeah it’s a game but it’s still labor. And you still feel exploited, especially in the minor leagues. You’re creating so much value, you’re putting in year-round work to be a professional top level athlete. And it sometimes doesn’t feel like you’re treated like that. So it can get frustrating when people can’t sympathize with us…

Seeing a mental health professional is kind of putting a band-aid on the problem. As long as players are exploited to the level that they are, there’s still going to be all this stress and pressure. But that’s capitalism at its core: extract the most value from your workers while paying them the least, suppress wages as much as possible, have them work as many hours as you can. Until we start valuing labor, and the value that that labor delivers, I’m afraid people will still be suffering from mental health issues in baseball. One of the silver linings of the lockout is that it might open some guys’ eyes, the ones who haven’t been paying attention to the labor battle. With how tough it’s been over the last few months, and how obvious it is the owners don’t care — about the games, about your and your family or your well-being, that they just see everything as a dollar sign and that’s how they view all their workers — I hope all that will open players’ eyes and make them realize we need a fundamental change in the game, and in labor in general.

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Noticed

1977 photo of a panel set into the asphalt at the St. Mary’s Basilica parking lot. (It’s from a grave, and now in the care of the Nova Scotia Museum). Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald continues to comb through his archives, and he is back with Old Album Number Fifteen: Barrington Central Tee:

In the 1970s I kept returning to the intersection of Barrington and Spring Garden to take pictures of the three iron fences that line the corner where two of our historic commercial streets meet.

I have walked by these fences countless times and barely paid any attention to them, but then, I’m not Stephen Archibald.

Archibald provides lots of close-ups of fences and other metalwork, plus, of course, context. But this is one of my favourite pics from the series.

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Of the fence, Archibald writes:

The fence around the Old Burying Ground flows down Spring Garden and then curves onto Barrington. It was an important element in the redevelopment of this area in 1860 when St. Matthew’s, the Court House and the Crimean War Memorial were all new. The fence once continued in front of the Court House visually stitching the block together.

Read the whole thing for some good old-fashioned snark about the Maritime Centre, too.

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Government

City

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm) — virtual meeting

Friday

Budget Committee (Friday, 1pm) — virtual meeting

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Problematizing Eurocentric Social Work Education (Thursday, 5:30pm) — online panel discussion with AI-generated captions

Friday

Challenging nickel-catalyzed cross-couplings enabled by ligand design (Friday, 9:30am) — PhD Chemistry defence by Ryan Thomas McGuire

Finite Economies and Alms Competition: Bequests to the Friars and the Poor in the Court of Husting Probate Records, c.1260-1430 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, McCain Building and online) — Hannah Wood from the University of Toronto will talk

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

No events

Friday

Making Room for Wetlands: In Review (Friday, 11am) — Zoom webinar

Black Mother, Black Daughter (Friday, 5pm) — online screening of the film by Sylvia Hamilton and group discussion


In the harbour

Halifax
08:00: CCGS Kopit Hopson 1752, Canadian Coast Guard cutter, arrives at IEL
10:00: Seamax New Haven, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
11:00: Morning Calypso, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
15:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
16:00: Morning Calypso sails for sea
17:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre

Cape Breton
06:00: Mia Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Corner Brook
10:00: Cherokee, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Jubilee, Ghana
22:00: Mia Desgagnes sails for sea


Footnotes

After weeks of working in the living room, I have returned to the office (upstairs, near the bedroom). Also, my first Morning File in a long time without a daily COVID report. Feels a bit strange.


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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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  1. Is that the same Councillor Trish Purdy that previously offered this gem:

    “I’m naive, this is new to me, so I’ve been trying to read about climate change and everything. From what I understand climate change is a global issue. Global. So, one little municipality is not really going to impact climate.”

    Yes, I believe it is.

    I am going to need a lot of popcorn.

  2. Sure Ambassatours and similar businesses which have deals with the cruise lines do make money, they are unique. The Halifax Port Authority makes lots of money from the fees it charges to cruise ships and the rent it charges to vendors (some who are obligated to be be there on port days). But these Halifax businesses are the exception to the rule.

    Cruise ships in HRM do not contribute to small business bottom line, even for those who have space at and near where the passengers disembark. Passengers don’t usually have Canadian dollars and can and are encouraged to buy all sorts of souvenirs in the multiple onboard stores. Passengers are not allowed to bring food or liquor onboard the ships and this is apparently enforced. Finally, other HRM visitors and HRM locals tend to avoid waterfront businesses when cruise ships are there.

    Even before COVID, cruises to HRM were notorious for bringing Norovirus into the local community. So we really do not need these ships.