1. RCMP and rural policing
“The RCMP’s rural policing strategy has been for many years an ongoing disaster and a danger to the public in Colchester County, say two municipal councillors with law enforcement backgrounds,” reports Paul Palango:
Most of the victims killed in the Nova Scotia massacre of April 18-19 lived in Colchester County, the majority of them at Portapique at the south end of the roughly 3,800 square kilometre county. Others were killed near Wentworth, just over the western edge of the county in Cumberland County.* The final three killings, including RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, took place in Shubenacadie, just south of the county.
“I know for a fact that we are not getting the proper policing that we’re paying for and this in turn has left the community very vulnerable,” said Wade Parker in an interview with the Halifax Examiner. Parker, a former corrections supervisor, is a councillor for the Municipality of the District of Colchester and chairman of the police advisory board.
His comments were supported by Michael Gregory, who spent 25 ½ years in the RCMP, where he worked in various capacities from highway patrol, the force’s drug section, and criminal investigations. Gregory’s final assignment before retirement was as Corporal* Commander of the Tatamagouche, NS detachment. As an elected representative, Gregory is also a member of the police advisory board and a separate entity overseeing the RCMP contract with the municipality.
“Over the past several years, the RCMP policing has gone completely downhill,” said Gregory in an interview. “It’s pretty sad.”
2. Phone line for prisoners
“A new phone line has been launched by East Coast Prison Justice Society (ECPJS) to monitor conditions in provincial jails during the COVID-19 epidemic,” reports El Jones:
Sheila Wildeman, Chair of the ECPJS, says that the line grew out of a planned project to monitor provincial jails. When COVID-19 closed facilities to visitors, the Society decided to open a phone line to ensure prisoners had an avenue to communicate:
The original idea was to have civil society representatives go in to provincial jails to hear from prisoners about the conditions and treatment they are experiencing, bring what we hear to the attention of corrections and justice authorities as a form of systemic advocacy, and produce periodic public reports.
With COVID-19, it is all the more critical to hear from those inside whether or how they are being protected.
3. Day camps
“Halifax will hold some modified day camps for kids this summer after a vote by regional councillors on Thursday, but the details are sparse,” reports Zane Woodford:
The city cancelled all day camps in mid-April. The move was announced by chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé along with layoffs of nearly 1,500 casual and part-time city employees, including those who run these camps.
But now, parks and recreation director Denise Schofield says it will be possible to hold some day camps.
“It will not be the typical programming,” Schofield said.
“We will not be able to have 15-20 kids in group settings.”
Schofield said her staff are looking at 10 to 12 recreation centres where the city will hold the camps.
“This is not all facilities and all day camps. This would certainly be a phased reopening,” she said.
4. Frontline worker: Emergency Department housekeeping
Suzanne Rent completes her series of profiles of frontline workers with a piece about Maria Boutilier, a housekeeper in the emergency department at the Halifax Infirmary.
Boutilier does essential work, and I can hear the weariness in her voice as she describes the various procedures. And then the story takes a delightful turn, as we learn that:
Boutilier is also an artist and exhibits her work under her maiden name, Maria Valverde. She’s now working on a solo exhibition that will be at the Nova Scotia Archives in December 2022. Working on her art at her home studio is a way to relax after a shift at the emergency room. Her art includes drawings, textiles, and multimedia. “Art is a good way for me to unwind,” Boutilier says.
5. Slow streets
Yesterday, the city announced it is creating “slow streets”:
The following streets will be designated as ‘slow streets’. They will be open to local traffic only, to reduce vehicle volumes and to create a space for residents to walk, roll and cycle while adhering to physical distancing guidelines.
Only those motorists who live, are visiting, or are accessing a business on these streets are considered local traffic.
- Leaman, Drummond, and Isleville streets between Leeds and Almon streets
- Connolly Street between Windsor Street and Chebucto Road
- Elm Street between Chebucto and Quinpool roads
- Beech Street between Quinpool and Jubilee roads
- Peter Lowe Avenue between William Hunt and George Dauphinee avenues
- Liverpool Street between Connaught Avenue and Windsor Street
- Oak and Allan streets between Connaught Avenue and Windsor Street
- Welsford Street between Windsor and Robie streets
- Vernon Street between Pepperell and Watt streets
- LeMarchant Street between Watt Street and University Avenue
- Norwood Street between Connaught Avenue and Preston Street
- Shirley Street between Preston and Robie streets
- Chappell Street between Pinehill Drive and Wyse Road
- Slayter Street between Albro Lake Road and School Street
- Dahlia Street between Victoria Road and Crichton Avenue
Additional areas are being considered and will be communicated once confirmed.
The above slow streets are effective today. I went out at 7:30am to have a look at Dahlia Street, and there was no signage to indicate the new status of the street, but hopefully that’s coming.
And suddenly, we can do all sorts of things that were deemed impossible before.
6. Abandoned rail line
Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator brings us up to date on the province’s subsidy payments to the “disused Cape Breton portion of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia (CBNS) short-line railway.”:
In case you’ve just tuned in to this soap opera, the province has been paying Genesee & Wyoming, the American company that owns the CBNS, “up to” $60,000 a month since 2017 to keep it from abandoning the section of the rail line between the St Peters Junction (near Point Tupper) and Sydney. The province is doing this, it says, because the rail line will be essential to Montreal advertising-executive-turned-port-promoter Albert Barbusci’s plan to turn the Port of Sydney into a transshipment hub for ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs).
Campbell follows the bouncing balls of property transfers and subsidy payments; the gist of it is that Business Minister Geoff MacLellan seems to have become a bit skeptical of the justification for the subsidy payments, but not so skeptical as to kill them outright. Instead, he’s halved them, from “up to” $60,000 a month to $30,000 a month.
MacLellan has extended the subsidy for a year, so it will end at roughly the same time Barbusci’s “exclusive” agreement with the CBRM does. My guess? MacLellan is no more persuaded by Barbusci than I am, but doesn’t want to be accused of jeopardizing Nova Scotia’s “economic future” by kissing the rail line goodbye. So the province will pay $360,000 to keep the dream alive for one more year, Barbusci will make increasingly exotic announcements until his time is up, at which point he will request an extension to his agreement (probably arguing COVID-19) and council will…well, that’s the great unknown. Because it will be a new council by then, and possibly a new mayor, and maybe even a new era — one in which the CBRM is an older, more generally skeptical municipality.
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7. The economy
The Conference Board of Canada yesterday released its forecast for provincial economies. The section on Nova Scotia reads:
Nova Scotia’s economy will shrink by a record-breaking 3.8 per cent in 2020, pulled down by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting provincial and global economic shutdowns. Across industries, the accommodation and food services sector will suffer by far the largest losses as it is battered by travel bans and physical distancing measures. (See Chart 7.) Mass layoffs across industries will skyrocket this year, causing the province’s unemployment rate to exceed 11 per cent — its highest rate in the past two decades. Consequently, household consumption and business investment will be held back in the near term as Nova Scotians face both economic uncertainty and the impacts of the pandemic.
The effects of the pandemic will also ripple through the province’s export-intensive industries. Dried-up global demand for lobsters in the first quarter of this year, coupled with a two-week delay in the spring lobster season, are weighing on the outlook for the province’s exports this year. Moreover, the closure of the Northern Pulp Mill early in the year, followed by the closure of the Freeman Lumber sawmill, will put a dent in the province’s forestry and manufacturing sectors. On top of all that, the closure of the Donkin coal mine, which followed the shutdown of two natural gas fields, has brought the province’s mineral fuels production to a halt.
Overall, despite the jaw-dropping 22 per cent contraction expected in the second quarter of this year, we believe that the recession will be short-lived. Economic recovery will begin in the second half of the year, leading to a 5.5 per cent rebound in the province’s real GDP in 2021. In the post-pandemic economy, low interest rates will encourage borrowing and spending by businesses and households, helping to support the recovery. Over the medium term, the $10-billion Goldboro LNG project, along with the Nova Scotia government’s healthy fiscal condition, will boost economic growth in the province.
Is the nod to “Nova Scotia government’s healthy fiscal condition” a reflection of a Liberal Party bias, or simply a neoliberal bias? If the former, it seems misplaced. If the latter, it’s contradicted by the report’s (appropriate) support for Keynesian policies being adopted by governments everywhere.
But I don’t put a lot of stock in these sort of forecasts. For instance, I don’t see that the Conference Board of Canada predicted the global financial meltdown of 2008/09; if you couldn’t see that coming, why should we trust you with any other economic forecast? And in December 2019 — just five months ago — the Conference Board of Canada predicted that “Real GDP is forecast to expand by 1.8 per cent in 2020 and 1.9 per cent in 2021.”
Of course, just like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects the global pandemic, but that’s exactly the point: the real world has a way of intervening with even the best crafted modelling.
Or, as Yogi Berra put it, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” If it were easy, we’d all have perfect lives, except we’d be bored senseless. It’s the unexpected that makes life worth living.
Still, I think the very near-term forecast of the Conference Board of Canada is probably reliable. It basically measures what happened over the past couple of months and projects it forward a bit. That’s useful.
But how can a recovery be predicted? That prediction starts with what I think is a safe assumption — that governments will undertake big stimulus spending — but then it looks like a bunch of hand-waving from there:
Policy-makers are keenly aware of the need to shore up demand and have responded with an unprecedented number of stimulus measures to help keep businesses afloat and to ensure that households will be able to spend when restrictions are eased. In our forecast, we assume that firms gradually begin to rehire in May and that the combination of improving labour market conditions and government income supports will be enough to push growth into positive territory by the third quarter of the year. Growth will accelerate further in the final three months of the year as confidence in the rebound improves and firms and households increase their spending. With the rebound expected to be in full swing by next year, the Canadian economy is expected to grow by 6.0 per cent.
Or there will be another three waves of COVID, or an asteroid plummets into the City of London, or a solar flare wipes out the electrical grid of North America, or a newly reelected Donald Trump decides to bomb Canada, or…
My prediction is that over the next few months we’re going to be seeing a lot of talk about “consumer confidence” and an exhortation to go shopping.
The dismal science has been turned on its head, having been transformed into a cheerleading squad for stock markets.
Spring, part 7
Stephen Archibald continues to document spring at Cove 17. I fear he may soon have to move on to a new subject — summer? In any event, along with photos of rhodos and other blooming things, we get a look at Archibald’s artistic sensibilities:
Here is a little case study of how easily I’m amused. Years ago we had a little fenced area installed to allow us to grow a few vegetables that were protected from the ravages of marauding deer. The wire is eight feet tall but the gates were shorter so I began assembling arches of odd shaped branches. New twigs were added as they turned up, and old ones rotted away. In my mind the installation looked like the collections of antlers sometimes seen in hunting lodges. A good look from my point of view.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed (from the kitchen window) how early morning sunlight illuminated my arches.
I’ve taken to walking in the garden early in the morning and can now estimate time by when a ray of sunlight hits the twigs, about 6:00 am last week.
In the harbour
06:00: Golden Empress, bulker, arrives at anchorage from Montoir-de-Bretagne, France
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
11:00: Taipei Trader, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
11:00: Golden Empress sails for sea
11:00: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
16:30: Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre
20:30: ZIM Vancouver sails for New York
Did Canadians grow up reading the British adventure stories about James Bigglesworth? It was totally absent from my American childhood. A couple of months ago, I started googling around about “Biggles” because the name pops up in two pop culture references: in the lyrics of Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick” — “where the hell was Biggles, when you needed him last Saturday” — and as Cardinal Biggles in Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition bit noted above. It turns out that Ian Anderson was a big Python fan.
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