1. Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lakes
“Halifax has signed a ‘statement of collaboration’ with Parks Canada, with the two levels of government agreeing to work together toward the creation of a national urban park at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes,” reports Zane Woodford:
The federal government announced on Wednesday it plans to spend $130 million to create a network of national urban parks across Canada.
The release doesn’t mention Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes by name, but municipal spokesperson Brynn Budden confirmed that the agreement is specific to the picturesque wilderness area between Bayers Lake and Hammonds Plains.
“Halifax and Parks Canada have agreed to work in a collaborative manner around the feasibility, scope and features of the potential designation of a national urban park at Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes (BMBCL),” Budden wrote in an email.
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While the discussions are preliminary, this is fantastic news. As Chris Miller points out in the article, bringing Parks Canada into the mix might be what’s needed to make the big land purchases on the eastern side of the wilderness and bring the long-proposed park to fruition.
2. Dartmouth development
“There’s a big building coming to the corner of Wyse Road and Nantucket Avenue after a vote by councillors on the Dartmouth side of the harbour,” reports Zane Woodford:
[The Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council] considered a proposal from Fathom Studio on behalf of developer Alex Dunphy for a 20-storey building with a four storey podium at the corner of Wyse Road and Nantucket Avenue, across the street from the approach to the Macdonald Bridge. There’s a brick building on the site now, formerly a Scotiabank, now plastered with ads for Preszler Injury Lawyers.
The proposed development would contain 160 residential units, 25,000 square feet of commercial space and 100 parking spaces. Of the 160 planned residential units, 25 are bachelors, 94 are one-bedrooms, and 41 are two-bedrooms.
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As Woodford points out, the architectural renderings of the proposed building submitted to the city show a completely fictional scene, with a one-way Wyse Road, a middle-aged man riding a bicycle without a helmet, and the absence of the ever-present panhandlers on the suddenly non-existent median strip. Council should reject any and all proposals that are accompanied by such fictional renderings, just on principle.
I walk through the intersection on my weekly trips to the bagel shop, and drive through it on the bus at least twice a day on my forays across the bridge, so I’m quite familiar with the area. I’m not opposed to high-density development in the neighbourhood — I’ve long wondered why the decrepit Dartmouth Shopping Centre hasn’t been redeveloped into a series of towers, and the empty lots along the south side of Wyse Road cry out for high-density housing — but this particular spot is problematic. I don’t know how 100 cars are going to navigate in and out of the building onto one of the busiest intersections in town (a similar issue exists at the Willow Tree), and honestly, even pedestrians are going to have a difficult time of it if they are going anywhere other than the Bridge Terminal.
But like the fictional architectural renderings, councillors seem to take all this on faith.
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
There were no fireworks or fisticuffs during a debate on CTV last night among the leaders of the three main political parties running to form the next government. Maybe that’s because politicians have learned Nova Scotians don’t reward spiteful attacks or because veteran anchor and newsman Steve Murphy warned he would intervene quickly if the leaders began talking over one another. Viewers don’t like that.
Mostly, the leaders agreed to play nice and, no matter how pointed the question, took the opportunity to reiterate promises to fix health care (the Progressive Conservatives), provide leadership as they did through the pandemic (the Liberals), and promise to freeze rents and increase the minimum wage for people struggling (the New Democratic Party).
It was a kinder, gentler debate than the first, which aired on CBC a week ago. For example, at the very end of the 90 minutes, host Steve Murphy raised the impact of social media’s “digital history” on recruiting candidates and asked “at what point can candidates be forgiven their past”?
It was a veiled illusion to the “double standard” the Liberal party has been accused of perpetrating after discouraging a female candidate in Dartmouth South while accepting the candidacy of a male candidate (Iain Rankin) who has one conviction for impaired driving and beat a second charge more than a dozen years ago.
“People have made errors of judgment in the past and I’m one of them,” said 38-year-old Rankin. “I chose to be a better person, move on, and serve the public the best way I could. I don’t think it should hold people back when they make mistakes…because nobody is perfect.”
“It’s the number one thing candidates ask me when I ask them about putting their name forward,” said PC leader Tim Houston. “They are always concerned people are going to smear them. So I think candidates need to be open and honest and just say this happened and this is the action I took. Did they apologize, were they remorseful? Is there a criminal element to the activity? That’s obviously a consideration.”
“We in the NDP are not looking for perfect people,” said Gary Burrill, a former United Church minister who spent years in the forgiveness business. “We are looking for people who share the values and the concerns of our Party and who are straight forward and forthcoming about who they are.”
The only time the debate really caught fire was when Murphy asked Rankin “what is the future of Owls Head under a Liberal government?” The Owls Head provincial park along the Eastern Shore had been on a proposed list of protected places until the Treasury Board de-listed it after an American developer expressed interest in buying the land to develop a golf course. Rankin was minister of the Environment at the time; before he entered government, Rankin obtained a diploma in golf club management. The decision by Treasury Board to de-list it was upheld by a Supreme Court of Nova Scotia judge just last week.
But it’s not a legal opinion but the court of public opinion that counts when you are the leader of a political party that has staked much of its reputation on tackling climate change and being “a champion of the environment.”
“The process is important,” said Rankin “and it is important we listen to communities, in this case Little Harbour. It (Owls Head) was on a list for consideration to be protected and now it’s being reviewed to see if we should protect it or entertain a potential project.”
“You can’t on one hand call yourself an environmentalist and then on the other hand do what you did at Owls Head,” shot back Houston. “I’m a process person too,” he continued, “but in this case the only process was Iain went through a back door and did a backroom deal to take this off the list. That should be a public process and he needs to explain.”
“Tim knows that the process was followed,” said Rankin, “It was Treasury Board that made the determination after the MLA, the Member of Parliament, and Senator (Tom) McInnis from the area all knew the community wanted this project looked at. Let me say it again: I will not support a project that will create long-term, adverse impacts to a sensitive ecosystem. This was a piece of land along with 150 other pieces of land for government to consider. I had a mandate when I was minister to protect 13% of Crown land and I have now extended that to 17%.”
Burrill then weighed in.
“There is no room for posturing or hypocrisy when it comes to the emergency of climate change and the related issue of land protection,” said Burrill. “Owls Head was secretly de-listed in a way that was hidden from public process. I think it is not credible for Mr. Rankin to attempt to present himself as a person of environmental concern when he was the author of this great mistake.”
“I care for the environment, Gary knows that,” said Rankin. “Public engagement is happening now as well as consultation with the Mi’kmaw. Cabinet has not made a decision.”
Predictably, Houston went hard on health care. New numbers yesterday show 71,666 Nova Scotians are now on the wait list for a family doctor. That translates into 13% and 14% of households in the Western and Northern health zones, respectively.
Murphy noted no previous government has been able to “fix” health care by throwing money at the problem, and challenged Houston to explain where he would find the new doctors and 2,000 additional caregivers for nursing homes he has promised to hire.
“With our unparalleled quality of life people want to live in this province, that includes health care professionals,” replied Houston. “It won’t happen overnight. But right now, I was talking to a CCA before she went in on her shift and I said, you must be terrified. And she said, ‘well I don’t know how many people are not going to be there today or whether I will get a lunch break.’ The culture that’s been created under this government has to be changed. Our message is we are going to respect health care workers and we’re going to invest. In order to change the culture, you have to change the government.”
Fighting words. But Rankin gave as good as he got.
“There are hundreds of millions of dollars we had to spend for COVID — this government proved we will spend money when we need to and we did that during the pandemic,” said Rankin when asked where he would find the $209 million he plans to cut from next year’s budget. “Especially for those most vulnerable with $100 a month increase for those on income assistance. We are prepared to do that. But we are not prepared to buy votes with billion dollar deficits that we are pushing on to the next generation.”
The talking points made by the three leaders during the debate were reinforced through the endless repetition of political advertisements during the commercial breaks. There are 11 days until Election Day, August 17. If you aren’t busy, Elections Nova Scotia is still looking for workers.
Nova Scotia announced four new cases of COVID-19 yesterday.
All four of the new cases are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone, and all of them are related to travel.
It feels like the pandemic is winding down, at least in Nova Scotia, which has among North America’s highest vaccination rates. At a press briefing yesterday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said that if all the people currently booked for a second dose appointment show up for those appointments, we’ll pass the 75% threshold needed to get to Phase 5 of the reopening, when most public health restrictions will be lifted. However, many of those appointments are in September, and about 15,000 people still haven’t rebooked for earlier appointments. If those 15,000 people don’t rebook in August, we won’t reach Phase 5 until sometime in late September. Strang stressed that there is enough vaccine in the province right now to get everyone doubled dosed. So, rebook your shots.
There is, however, a large chunk of people who can’t get vaccinated — those under 12 years old — and I’m quite concerned how that will play out, especially when schools reopen.
That’s why I’ve been tracking the demographics of new cases — all four of yesterday’s new cases are men, one aged 20-39, two aged 40-59, and one aged 60-79, but the day before, the two new cases were both 19 years old or younger. Unfortunately, the province includes everyone 19 and under in one age cohort, even though those 12-19 are highly vaccinated while those 11 and younger are completely unvaccinated.
So I asked Strang yesterday if that data could be broken into two groups: 11 and younger and 12-19. That’s the kind of information that would be helpful to gain an understanding of just how much at risk our youngest children are. Strang said he would bring my suggestion back to his department for consideration.
5. Barry Sheehy
“Barry Sheehy — ‘author, historian, businessman and veteran’ — barged into my summer on Tuesday, via one of his trademark screeds for the Cape Breton Post,” writes Mary Campbell in the Cape Breton Spectator:
Although his bio acknowledges he is “involved with Sydney Harbour Investment Partners, which is marketing the port [of Sydney] for development,” he writes the piece from his preferred vantage point, that of the objective observer. The only man in Nova Scotia who sees what “we” (he identifies very strongly with us) must do to increase our exports and raise our per capita income
And what “we” must do, per Sheehy, is follow the example of the Port of Prince Rupert (PPR), BC, a hinterland port established to handle over-flow from the Port of Vancouver as part of a “coherent west coast strategy.”
Prince Rupert, writes Sheehy, has:
…achieved an enviable balance between imports and exports by exporting raw materials, much of it in bulk. In fact, more than half of Prince Rupert’s exports are raw materials such as coal, grain, and logs, and semi-processed materials such as wood pellets and wood products, propane, LNG and plastic pellets.
Sheehy’s argument (which he’s been making since he first appeared on our scene in 2014) is that we need an Atlantic Gateway strategy that mirrors this west coast strategy, with Sydney playing the role of Prince Rupert (although he doesn’t actually mention Sydney in his op-ed, leaving people free to believe he’s supporting the terminal project at Melford.)
Sheehy has been living rent-free in my head since I read the thing, so consider this my attempt to evict him.
Campbell goes on to deconstruct Sheehy’s entire argument, looking at why Prince Rupert has succeeded (sort of, but it still hasn’t met the promised goals), CN’s involvement in Prince Rupert and non-involvement in Sydney, and the problematic future economics of containers.
On that last item, “I would you point you to this March 2021 New York Times article by economist and historian Marc Levinson, author of The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger,” writes Campbell. “Levinson was writing about the Ever Given, the container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal, which he viewed as a metaphor for the problems with long-distance supply chains.” Writes Levinson:
Meanwhile, the ultralarge container ships like Ever Given that have entered the world’s fleet over the past few years have made long value chains even more problematic. These vessels, some carrying as much cargo as 12,000 trucks, steam more slowly than their predecessors. The complexity of loading and unloading often puts them behind schedule, and the sheer number of boxes moved on and off a single ship tangles ports and delays deliveries.
So long-distance trade is slower and less reliable than it was two decades ago…
In globalization’s next stage, ships carrying metal boxes full of stuff will no longer be at the center of the story.
Hey, wait, where have I read that before? Oh, that’s right — I wrote it! on June 25:
Speaking of “ultra-large vessels,” the CMA CGM Brazil is scheduled to arrive in port tomorrow morning at 4am. This is a really big ship — it can carry just over 15,000 containers; in comparison, most of the container ships that call in Halifax can carry 4-5,000 containers. When the CMA CGM Brazil first visited Halifax and the US east coast ports of New York, Norfolk, and Savannah last September, it was the largest ship to ever call at those ports.
Last month, however, its sister ship, the CMA CGM Marco Polo, eclipsed the “biggest ship” record at all those east coast ports (including Halifax). The Marco Polo can carry just over 16,000 containers.
But I wonder what the future of these giant ships is. Most of the container ships that call in Halifax have a turnaround of between six and 12 hours from the time they arrive until the time they leave; when the Marco Polo was here, the turnaround time was just over 24 hours. I don’t think that was because it was unloading or loading any more containers than other ships do in Halifax — the bulk of the goods on all the ships travel on to US ports — but rather because it’s logistically complicated to move the containers around on the supersized ships…
The Marco Polo was berthed at the Pier 41/42 jetty next to Point Pleasant Park. Usually, that pier can handle two or even three ships, but when the Marco Polo was here, it consumed the entire pier, such that no other ships could be processed there.
All of which is to say, economies of scale work, until they don’t. Big isn’t always better.
Look at that, I had the same thought as some smart guy in the New York Times.
Anyway, the heart of Campbell’s argument is that CN could invest in a Sydney port, but doesn’t want to because, evidently, unlike its Prince Rupert investment, it makes no sense economically for the company to invest in Sydney:
This needs to be emphasized, given that, very early in the game, Sheehy and his partner, Albert Barbusci, struck out with CN, as I discovered in materials FOIPOPed from the CBRM.
They were told the rail operator had “put quite a bit of focus on Sydney in past years” but that “the economics didn’t work, particularly with Halifax not operating at capacity.” They were also asked if they had “a real live shipper” ready to commit “new traffic.” They didn’t. Which is why they are now trying to convince the provincial and federal governments to build them a rail line.
CN is a private company that has invested hundreds of millions in infrastructure to service the Port of Prince Rupert. Why? Because it made economic sense.
If the business case for the Port of Sydney is equally compelling, why isn’t Sheehy making it to CN or to the new owner of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Railway? Why is he trying to convince Nova Scotians that building the rail line to service his port is our responsibility?
Campbell is providing an invaluable service here, a gut-check to the otherwise unchecked parochialism cheerleading for the port of Sydney.
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6. Lyme disease
We’ve taken Joan Baxter’s two–part series, “A plague of ticks, tick-borne diseases, and poli-ticks,” out from behind the paywall.
1. Poverty and child care
“It came up only briefly but the subject of Nova Scotians’ lagging family incomes produced one of the livelier exchanges in last week’s leaders’ debate,” writes Richard Starr:
Responding to a question about plans for the post-pandemic recovery, Iain Rankin recited the familiar pre-pandemic catalogue of Liberal talking points on the economy. He mentioned growth in population, exports, tourism and employment, proof in his view that the Liberal government was “on the right track before the pandemic hit and we need to get back to that.”
“Right track,” interjected an incredulous Gary Burrill. “The truth is that we had going into the pandemic the single lowest median income in all of Canada. We had that after one term of the Liberal party and we have it now after a second term of the Liberal party.” To the NDP leader, Rankin’s notion of the “right track” indicated “a great remove from the reality of people’s daily financial life,” a view shared by PC leader Tim Houston, reporting on the stories of financial struggles from people he’s been meeting on doorsteps.
The latest income data from Statistics Canada, released in mid-July, provided fresh ammunition for the opposition leaders’ attack on the Liberal record. Estimates of family and individual income generated from 2019 personal income tax returns allow for analysis of incomes over the six years of Liberal government preceding the pandemic.
The numbers do indeed show that as Burrill asserted, Nova Scotia had the lowest median income in the country in 2019 and at the end of the first Liberal term in 2017. The numbers also reveal that this is a drop in ranking since 2015, down from third lowest ahead of New Brunswick and Quebec.
A couple of noteworthy points emerge from the data in the table. First, Nova Scotia’s increase of 11.7 percent since 2013 was more than 20 percent lower than the national increase of 14.9 percent over the period. As a result, Nova Scotia’s median family income fell from 90.1 percent of the national average in 2013 to 87.6 percent in 2019.
The second thing to note is the increase in family incomes in Quebec, up 16.5 percent between 2013 and 2019. A complete explanation for that is beyond me, but one hypothesis is that it’s the result of Quebec’s superior day care system allowing more parents to join the workforce.
Indeed, the notion that there’s a connection between improved family incomes and better child care dawned on the Liberal leader in response to the derision with which his opponents greeted the initial recitation of Liberal economic achievements. Ten dollars a day child care, promised for 2025 as a result of a recently announced agreement with the Trudeau government, was belatedly cited by Rankin as evidence of a Liberal commitment to “an equitable recovery.”
But considering how past federal Liberal promises have failed to materialize, Rankin would be more convincing if, recognizing the economic and social benefits of child care, he had committed to going ahead with or without the feds.
I’ve been sitting on this news item from February, not really knowing what to do with it, but I find it super interesting:
Archeologists in Alaska have unearthed a handful of Venetian glass beads they believe to be over 540 years old, making them the earliest European objects discovered on the continent.
If true, it would mean the marble-sized spheres made it to North America decades before Christopher Columbus did.
Since 2004, the researchers have uncovered beads across three different archaeological sites in the northernmost US state, including Punyik Point, which sits amid ancient trade routes from the Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean. To get there, the little objects traveled some 10,000 miles from Italy.
With more research under their belts, [Mike Kunz from the University of Alaska Museum of the North and Robin Mills from the Bureau of Land Management] now believe that the beads made it to Punyik Point sometime between 1440 and 1480. The Niña, Pinta, and Santa María didn’t sail the ocean blue until 1492.
But one question remained: How the hell did they get there?
Italian craftspeople often traded with people throughout Asia, the archeologists explain in their paper. It was along the Silk Road that the beads likely made their way eastward toward China before finding their way into the aboriginal hinterlands and, eventually, to the Russian Far East, Kunz and Mills explain.
From there, a trader may have pocketed them and kayaked across the Bering Sea to present-day Alaska. The researchers believe the objects came through Shashalik, an ancient trading center on the western coast, and were then carried on foot, or by dog, to the Brooks mountain range. There their journey was paused for five-and-a-half centuries.
It says something that this is framed as an Asian trader paddling across the sea to America, when it’s equally likely that an American trader paddled across the sea to Asia and came back with the beads. In any event, as the Inuit saw and see it, the Bering Sea wasn’t and isn’t a hard line between continents but rather simply a travel route; they undoubtedly went back and forth regularly without thinking they were making a momentous intercontinental journey.
Last weekend, I went to Newfoundland and among other things, checked out the archeological dig in L’Anse aux Meadows. Honestly, the site and Parks Canada exhibits far exceeded my expectations, and I have a much better understanding of it as a result. It’s worth a visit.
But I’m struck by the prevailing narrative, which goes something like this: The Norse people in Greenland struck out across the Baffin Sea in search of timber and other resources, and established a sort of base camp at the northern end of Newfoundland of about 80 or 90 people. From there, explorers went further south to “Vinland,” probably into modern day New Brunswick (there’s good evidence for this at the archeological dig). But the transport line was simply too long, and couldn’t be maintained economically by the small Greenland Viking population (at around 500 or so people), so the entire enterprise was abandoned after just five or 10 years.
Well, maybe. But maybe there’s another way of seeing the story.
By the time they had arrived in L’Anse aux Meadows, Norse people had already militarily conquered much of Britain, and had settled the previously unpopulated Iceland. The southern portion of Greenland, where the Norse settlements were established, was likewise previously unpopulated. But searching for wood, mostly, they came upon first the people they called “Skraelings.” It’s not clear if the term applied to only the Inuit of the Baffin Bay area, or if it was a generic name that included people farther south in Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Either way, relations were not cordial.
So why is the Viking foray into North America framed as a too-ambitious economic endeavour and not as a failed attempt at conquest? Imagine if Baffin Island and New Brunswick had been completely unpopulated; then the Norse could have simply moved onto the land, as they did in Iceland and Greenland. But North America wasn’t unpopulated. The Norse were violent people, as their conquests in Britain demonstrate, but evidently they were no match to the people in North America.
Can we not give the Indigenous people credit for fending off the first European stab at conquering them?
As people of European descent write history, we have this annoying habit of failing to give Indigenous people agency. They have long, complex histories, trading and warring extensively. Nations rose and fell. Religious movements and art forms arose and spread, and were in turn supplanted. They had technologies and sciences that deserve our respect and attention. And, they resisted conquest, often successfully. Let’s stop writing them out of our histories.
In the harbour
05:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
08:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
10:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, sails from Pier 9 for sea
14:00: Dee4Elm, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
16:00: MSC Tamara, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
16:30: Atlantic Star sails for New York
22:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
20:00: Leontios H, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Ras Lanuf, Libya
Rain, looks like.