1. Climate Change Action Plan
Tim Bousquet takes a critical look at Nova Scotia’s Climate Change Action Plan, released yesterday:
It is perhaps overly reliant on the introduction of electric vehicles as a mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation.
The plan mentions “transit” just once, and that’s in relation to electrifying existing transit systems with the help of federal money; no mention is made of increasing the percentage of commuters who use transit instead of private vehicles. Neither does the plan propose that the province fund the expansion of transit. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars are planned to be spent in coming years to expand the existing highway network.
The plan also hopes to increase the use of so-called “green hydrogen” but doesn’t specify how that hydrogen will be used. I asked Environment Minister Tim Halman if they province has given up on the (terrible) idea of using natural gas as a “transition fuel,” and he responded that hydrogen can be used in natural gas pipes.
For me, a highlight of this story is seeing the environment minister referring to coal mining as part of “a holistic approach.”
2. Proposed Nova Scotia Power rate increase
Nova Scotia Power submitted its proposed rate increase to the Utilities and Review Board yesterday, Jennifer Henderson reports:
If a proposed deal negotiated among Nova Scotia Power and consumer advocates and environmental groups is approved by the Utility and Review Board (UARB), residential Nova Scotia Power customer with a power bill of $100 a month could expect to pay $16.40 more each month by January 2024.
Homes that heat with electricity are looking at closer to $23.40 dollar a month increase by 2024. The more electricity a household consumes, the more the bill increases.
The Houston government is asking the UARB to reject the deal, and wants the power company to explain how it’s going to meet targets for increasing grid reliability. The company says it doesn’t know yet, because the province keeps messing with it.
Henderson puts it better than that in her story, and gets into a lot more of the background and potentially difficult decisions ahead.
Over at the Cape Breton Spectator yesterday, Mary Campbell was writing about Nova Scotia and the UARB, too. Campbell quotes the Starr’s Point blog, in which Richard Starr argues that Premier Tim Houston’s call for the UARB to reject the Nova Scotia Power rate increase is anti-democratic populism.
From the Spectator:
Starr argues, if the board bows to the self-declared “voice of the people” Houston and rejects the settlement agreement, it will also be rejecting the work of: “…the Consumer Advocate, the Small Business Advocate, lawyers representing large industry, Dalhousie University and municipal utilities as well as representatives of the Ecology Action Center and the Affordable Energy Coalition.”
Houston’s letter, says Starr: “…makes clear his contempt for them all, suggesting that in signing the settlement agreement those establishment intervenors are either scofflaws or dupes of Nova Scotia Power.”
I have to admit, this take on Houston’s kerfuffle with the UARB hadn’t occurred to me until I saw it spelled out—I am as guilty as the next person of automatically seeing Nova Scotia Power as the villain in any given situation (and don’t get me wrong, I still see a privately owned power corporation prioritizing shareholder profit and CEO compensation over the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia as a villain, it’s just that I don’t think in this instance Houston is a hero.)
In late July, someone attacked trees in the Halifax Public Gardens. We still don’t know who did it or why, or whether any of the girdled trees will survive.
In a story published yesterday, I speak with several thoughtful people about the attack, and what (if anything) it might mean. I also look at tree vandalism in other cities. One thing that struck me in writing this story is the language people use to describe these crimes and their perpetrators: assassin, massacre, a mass shooting, but against trees.
One of the questions that arises in the piece is whether or not motive matters:
[Professor emeritus Peter] Duinker says people keep asking him what he thinks motivated the attacks. “I don’t know, and I don’t care,” he says. “The police are unlikely to find the perpetrators. So where does that line of inquiry get you?”…
But [University of Ottawa professor Nomi Claire] Lazar says motive does matter, and it’s natural for us to seek meaning. “The only way that we can exist together, socially and politically, is by trying to understand each other,” she says. “The violence against the trees is also a kind of a violence against public space, public discourse, collective political life.”
In some ways, that makes it a perfect crime for the times. “Destruction for its own sake,” Lazar says, “does seem to be very much of the moment, where everybody is kind of unsettled, and not sure what things mean.”
I asked the Halifax Regional Police for an update on the investigation, and instead of being granted an interview, I got emailed the greatest police quote ever, from HRP spokesperson Const. Nicolas Gagnon:
…investigators are conducting a thorough investigation and are exploring all avenues to advance the investigations.
I will admit I considered not including the quote because, well, it says nothing, but I think it’s also illuminating in its own way.
Just up the road from me, at Burchell’s Wharf, there’s a restored wooden fish house with large round painted sign. It shows a mackerel with a red line through it. Below are the words “Out of business.”
The mackerel nets that stretched into St. Margarets Bay have been gone for a couple of summers now, because of a ban on fishing the depleted stock. Now, Paul Withers reports for CBC, “Canada is lobbying the United States to add Atlantic mackerel to transboundary fish stocks jointly managed by the two countries on the East Coast — but so far has not landed an agreement.”
DFO has been criticized by opposition Conservative MPs and fishing industry groups who question the point of imposing a Canadian shutdown when fishing continues on the same stock in U.S. waters.
Mackerel that spawn in the Gulf of St Lawrence migrate to the United States to overwinter.
According to U.S. data, last month American fishermen caught 1.5 million pounds or 680,000 kilos of mackerel on the U.S. side of Georges Bank, a shared fishing ground off southern Nova Scotia.
The mackerel do not recognize international boundaries.
5. Privacy rights for the unhoused
Over at SaltWire, Eric Jonsson has written a commentary on privacy rights and unhoused people. Jonsson is program co-ordinator with the Downtown Halifax Navigator Street Outreach Program. He writes that media reports can be very detailed in describing places unhoused people are living — and that can come with serious consequences:
A few weeks ago, there was a news story about a couple living in their car behind a local grocery store…
When I spoke to the couple afterwards, they said they thought that letting people know where they were living might lead to someone reaching out and trying to help them.
Unfortunately, the opposite happened.
The morning after the story came out, the couple was approached by a property manager and told they had to move on.
Jonsson notes that many people sleeping in cars or tents are trying to get away from abusive situations, including young people who may “have very good reasons not to be staying with their families.” Regardless, they should also have a right to privacy.
This isn’t a piece that craps on the media, by the way. Jonsson describes the story on the couple as “a good story that showed how difficult it is to be homeless in Halifax these days, and how hard it is to find housing.”
And he says he understands the importance of detail in reporting. But he is also concerned about the consequences of this reporting, and of the municipality’s public lists of encampment locations.
6. Education and the workforce
Last week, Rob Csernyik published a commentary in the Globe and Mail called, “Canada’s overly educated workforce is nothing to be proud of.”
Csernyik, who is writing a book on minimum wage work, argues that there are plenty of people with degrees doing customer service and minimum wage jobs, and that we’ve seen how important those jobs are — so why are they almost entirely absent from political conversations about work, education, and training?
My first-hand experience has also shown me how little attention is paid to working conditions, wages and other concerns of sub-white-collar-workers in Canada. Yet people not wanting these jobs is often categorized as a failure on the part of workers, rather than a systemic one…
For many workers in this country, the earnings power education is supposed to create isn’t the case. That’s why attention should be turned to what can be done in fields such as retail, food services and skilled trades in order to fill the positions that help keep our country running. This involves everything from living wages, to housing affordability initiatives – so workers can afford to live in the communities where they work – to shedding societal stigmas about these careers.
Digging through connections between archaeology, colonialism
I have been making a concerted effort to stop listening to so many gloomy political podcasts. I’m not turning my back on current events by any means. For one thing, I need to keep up on them for work, but there is a limit. Similarly, I’ve noticed a bunch of people who quit Twitter saying things like wow, I just read news stories now instead of feeling like I have to follow a story moment-by-moment as it breaks, and that’s just fine!
I may be cutting back on the political podcasts, but I do like listening to people talking about issues and ideas that matter. So, I’ve been turning to more history podcasts.
And that brings us to Tutankhamun, aka King Tut. This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the discovery of Tut’s tomb, and the decade-long excavations that brought its treasures to light. To mark the occasion, the History Extra podcast released an episode last month called “How is Tutankhamun’s legacy shaped by colonialism?” The episode featured Christina Riggs, professor at Durham University and author of Treasured: How Tutankhamun Shaped a Century.
Riggs tells interviewer Kev Lochun that archaeology and colonialism are “absolutely inseparable,” and that the legacy of colonialism shapes how we view finds like the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Think of how the discovery of the tomb is presented: two Brits, Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter uncover the tomb and bring its treasures to the world. Photographs of the excavations are published in The Times of London, causing a sensation. Who’s missing from all this? Well, the Egyptians without whom none of it would have happened.
Archaeology in Egypt would have been absolutely impossible without the local knowledge, the information about the landscape, and familiarity with their own history and own surroundings that the Egyptian people brough to it… You get Egyptian people who wind up working with and providing information for archaeologists, and that includes Howard Carter, who relied on a team of Egyptian archaeologists, very experienced, to do all kinds of work for him from supervising the excavation… working together on the tomb to do the clearance of the tomb and the objects, working on the photography… Everything!…But it becomes all about Howard Carter, the British archaeologist.
When the photographs were published in the press, and up until the present day — I see this happen all the time — when those photographs are published, the presence of an Egyptian archaeologist is not even mentioned.
And about those photos? Carnarvon had negotiated an exclusive with the Times, to help offset the cost of the excavations. At a time when Egypt had just gained a measure of independence through home rule, Riggs says Carnarvon and Carter “totally misjudged the situation in Egypt… For Egypt to have its independence and be able to plan for free elections is a huge moment, and yet Carter and Carnarvon behave as if the tomb of Tutankhamun belongs to Britain and not to Egypt.”
It is hard to overstate the importance of the cultural legacy of the treasures of Tutankhamun. They have been museum blockbusters several times over the decades. In an opinion piece published earlier this year in the Globe and Mail, Riggs wrote:
Tutankhamun has found more fame and influence as a cultural icon than he’d ever wielded as a king. In fact, the world hit Peak Tutankhamun not in the Jazz Age but in the Cold War era, when his treasures toured Western Europe, Japan, the Soviet Union and North America. (Toronto is one of three cities, alongside Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., to have hosted a Tutankhamun exhibition three times.) Events to mark the 2022 anniversary will try to recapture that past magic, but amid the hype, it’s worth asking who benefits – and whose histories the Tutankhamun industry has failed to tell…
A tour of Japan in 1965-66 saw the gold mask leave Egypt for the first time, welcomed by Crown Prince Akihito and three million visitors, raising US$1-million for UNESCO. In 1967, Tutankhamun met similar success in Paris. But the Six-Day War that summer, when Israel defeated an Egyptian-led coalition, made the pharaoh’s work as cultural ambassador harder. Only in 1972 did Tutankhamun finally find his way to London – the home that Carter and Lord Carnarvon had once imagined for him. Queues snaked through the streets around the British Museum, which hosted a record 1.6 million visitors during the exhibition’s nine-month run.
Here is another artifact from the 1970’s era of Tut-mania.
Nova Scotia RCMP still suck at tweeting
On Tuesday night, just before 11pm, an emergency alert went out with respect to a vulnerable missing woman.
After seeing the alert, local audio producer Tina Pittaway, er, alertly headed to the RCMP Twitter feed. There, she saw the tweet above, asking people to call 902-883-7707. According to canada411.ca, that number belongs to an individual in Elmsdale.
So, at 11:08pm, the RCMP issued a correction.
This time the number was 902-880-7077. I don’t know whose number this is, but all the 880 numbers in my contacts — and there are many — are for cellphones. Hopefully whoever owns this number did not get too many late-night calls.
So, it was time for another correction. This time around, it took whoever was tweeting another 30 minutes or so to notice their mistake.
Now, people were asked to call 902-883-7077. This is (according to the RCMP website, so who knows) the correct number for the East Hants detachment. This tweet does not note that it is correcting a previous error. It just gives the right number.
The woman has been found, so the RCMP have deleted the tweets. But Pittaway had grabbed screenshots, and shared them with me.
Police delete social media posts after missing people have been found, so that their lives are not forever defined by the fact that they were once missing. This is the proper thing to do, and also a good argument for only sharing missing person posts from the police, because others may not be deleted.
However, it would be helpful if the tweets contained accurate information.
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda
Agar, toothpicks, sequencers and the human microbiome (Thursday, 2pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — Michael Surette from McMaster University will talk. Bring your own toothpicks.
ODE TO JOHN: A Retrospective of a Theatrical Genius (Thursday, 6pm, 1385 Seymour Street) — exhibit and reception celebrating John Pennoyer’s contribution to theatrical costume and design; RSVP here
Open Dialogue Live: Clean energy of the next generation (Thursday, 6:30pm, location TBA) — more info here
Analyses of microeukaryotes rewrite the “rules” of genome evolution derived from studies of macrobes (Friday, 10am, Theatre B, Tupper Building) — Laura A. Katz from Smith College will talk
SMU Reading Series: Annick MacAskill and shalan joudry (Thursday, 7pm, Art Gallery) — an evening of poetry in the midst of the Gallery’s current exhibition, JIM, a collaboration among Jack Bishop, Ivan Murphy and Mitchell Wiebe; more info here
The SMU Writers Meet (Friday, 10am, Room 225, in the building named after a grocery empire) — informal gathering where poets, songwriters, and fiction writers from the fall creative-writing classes meet and share their work
Sing Choirs of Angels (A King’s Christmas) (Friday, 7:30pm, St. George’s Round Church) — Neil Cockburn directs the Chapel Choir of the University of King’s College; tickets $15 to $55, more info here
In the harbour
09:20: AlgoCanada, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Montreal
11:15: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 36
18:30: GM 11103, barge, and Genesis Eagle, tug, moves from Irving Oil to anchorage
21:00: Humen Bridge, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
22:00: MSC Angela, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
22:30: Vayenga Maersk, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
08:15: Shelia Ann, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Sydney
19:00: John J. Carrick, barge, and Leo A. McArthur, tug, transit through the causeway en route from Halifax to Sarnia, Ontario
If you are not familiar with the term “copaganda” you can familiarize yourself with it by reading this Chronicle Herald story, which is a fine example of the genre.