What the Examiner examined in 2021. Before we ring in the new year, let’s get in one last skate and look back on 2021.


1. COVID update

COVID 19 spelled out in white pills, with viruses made from styrofoam balls with swabs stuck in them. All on a red background.
Photo: Edward Jenner/Pexels

On Thursday, Nova Scotia announced 511 new cases of COVID-19. Here’s the Nova Scotia Health zone breakdown:

  • 331 Central
  • 56 Eastern
  • 59 Northern
  • 65 Western

These figures are based on PCR testing at Nova Scotia Health labs; they don’t include those who test positive with take-home rapid tests.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said Thursday the province will be moving away from counting daily cases. Instead, the province will monitor the seven-day average of cases and focus on trends — new cases remaining stable, decreasing, increasing, and so on. With so many new cases coming in, Strang emphasized the number of hospitalizations due to COVID, as well as ICU and medical beds in use, are currently better indicators of the severity of the disease province-wide:

[T]he most important number and the one that we report publicly is out of all of our cases, how many people are ending up in hospital because of severe COVID infection? And so far, it’s very low. We’re probably less than 0.5% of the known cases [being hospitalized]. And if we assume that there’s a lot more cases that aren’t known, our percentage of hospitalization is even below that 0.5%.

That’s cause for a little encouragement.

The latest estimate for total active cases in the province is about 5,100. There are 25 people in hospital, three of whom are in ICU.

There are four new nursing home outbreaks and two new hospital outbreaks, though none involve more than five patients who’ve tested positive. Head to Tim Bousquet’s full COVID update from Thursday for a list of those hospitals and nursing homes, as well as updates on existing outbreaks at Parkstone Enhanced Care in Halifax and the Halifax Infirmary.

In other pandemic news, the province is expanding the booster vaccination program. Starting next week, Nova Scotians aged 30 and older will be able to book booster doses, provided it’s been 168 days since they received their second dose. Boosters are currently available in Nova Scotia to people 50 and over for whom 168 days have passed since their second shot.

The vaccination program is also being expanded and new vaccine clinics will be popping up in the next couple weeks. Find more details on that here. Due to the coming expansion, the province is asking for help from “anyone who is able to help administer vaccine, including existing and retired healthcare professionals.” Such people can go here to offer their services.

For everything you else you need to know on the COVID front in Nova Scotia — including an update on potential exposure advisories around the province — read Bousquet’s full report here. 

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2. Police: two men stabbed, one dead in Halifax homicide Thursday

Halifax Regional Police cruisers lined up behind headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021. They're so shiny and white.
Halifax Regional Police cruisers lined up behind headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

In a news release yesterday, Halifax Regional Police (HRP) say they are investigating a homicide that occurred Thursday morning at a Halifax optometrist’s office.

Around 9:15am yesterday, police responded to a “weapons call” at a business in the 1500 block of Brunswick Street. The Examiner has learned the business is Insight Optometry.

A man had entered the business yesterday morning, stabbed two men, and fled on foot. Police arrested a 25-year-old male suspect a short time after the incident. One of the men who’d been stabbed was taken to the hospital where he later died from his injuries. He was 55. The other man, who was 66, was also taken to hospital. His injuries aren’t believed to be life-threatening.

During the morning of the incident, police temporarily closed Brunswick Street between Sackville Street and Spring Garden Road, as well as part of Doyle Street, but had reopened them by early afternoon Thursday.

Homicide investigators with HRP’s Special. Investigations Section are now looking into the homicide. Yesterday’s media release stated it’s “too soon to comment on the motivation behind the incident.”

Police are now asking for tips and information on the incident. Thursday’s media release has a list of police contacts where the public can get in touch.

This is the fifth homicide in the Halifax area in the last six weeks. The other four involved gun violence.

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3. Progress report: How is Nova Scotia doing on its climate targets?

A photo showing the earth and Nova Scotia from space.
Photo: Photo: NASA Earth Observatory

We’ve completed another year in what they say is the most important decade in the fight against the climate crisis. Two weeks ago, the Examiner reported that HRM is off track to meet its climate targets under the HalifACT 2050 plan; the municipality could blow its carbon budget by 2028. Nova Scotia, like HRM, has some ambitious goals of its own. Is the province faring better with its lofty targets?

That’s what Jennifer Henderson tries to find out in an article published this morning.

We saw the Lahey Report forestry recommendations delayed again, but we also saw Alton Natural Gas Storage and Pieridae Energy’s LNG terminal projects shuttered. So how are we doing on the environmental front now that the decade is well under way?

Here are the province’s goals, as laid out in October:

  • 80% of Nova Scotia’s energy to be supplied by renewable energy by 2030
  • Reduce GHG emissions to at least 53% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050.
  • 30% of vehicle sales by 2030 to be zero-emission vehicles
  • Conserve at least 20% of total land and water mass

They are more ambitious than anything the province has laid out in the past. In her full article this morning, Henderson looks at the feasibility of hitting these targets. Articles like these are of the utmost importance these days. It can be comforting to hear that governments are pledging big changes, but it only matters if action is possible and underway. Given how quickly the climate is changing, it’d probably be worthwhile to have an update like this every three months, not just at the year’s end.

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The year that was

I think I’m pretty well over New Year’s at this point in my life.

More often than not, in my experience, making plans for December 31 is a pain. The parties that result are often busts, and I wake up hungover, already behind on my New Year’s resolutions. On top of that, we’ve just been through 2020 and 2021: it’s not even fun to reflect on the past year anymore.

But reflect I shall. Disillusioned or not, it’s the thing to do at this time of year.

So below I present a snapshot of the stories the Examiner examined in 2021. It’s more of a sketch of the year than a detailed photograph, but I’ve attached links for those who wish to refresh their memories and do a little deeper reading.

For the Examiner, the first article of 2021 came from Stephen Kimber, who welcomed readers to the new year thusly:

Welcome to 2021! In addition to figuring out the appropriate trash folder into which to dump all of 2020 (along with last week’s plethora of pleading emails — Last chance to take advantage of 2020 savings… Last chance in 2020 to donate to this worthy cause… First chance to take advantage of 2021 savings… First chance in 2021 to donate to that worthy cause…), I guess it is finally, reluctantly, time to pay attention to that other matter of moment.

Which is… Which white he — and he will definitely be a white he — should be our next premier? Randy Delorey? Labi Kousoulis? Iain Rankin?

Spoiler alert: Iain Rankin won, becoming the second of three premiers who would lead this province through 2021.

And so we said goodbye to our premier of the past seven years, Stephen McNeil. More importantly, we lost the duo of the decade:

Two pictures in one. The top shows Dr Strang and former Premier Stephen McNeil sitting at a press conference. The image below shows the Muppets Stadler and Waldorf. The resemblance is uncanny.
Photo: Twitter/Halifax News and Info

After taking office in February, Rankin asked Nova Scotians what was wrong with them, passed the long-awaited Biodiversity Act with a few amendments for lobbyists in forestry, and apologized for a DUI in his past, before losing a provincial election in August to Tim Houston’s PCs. (There was also a federal election around the same time, if you can remember it).

Houston would have his own troubles, pushing ecological reform of Nova Scotia forestry practices another two years down the road and implying minimum wage positions — many of which have been considered essential work through the pandemic — aren’t “real jobs.” (Before he was even elected, he had to deal with a bizarre ordeal involving a then-member of his caucus and a blockade at the New Brunswick border).

An MLA standing in front of the Welcome to Nova Scotia sign at the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border
Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin as a greeter at the border. Photo: Facebook

Not to say it’s been all missteps. Houston’s only four months into the gig, and when he has screwed up, he’s shown himself to at least be able to admit his mistakes and compromise. Whether those qualities are refreshing, or just meant to appease the public, is a topic Stephen Kimber wrote about twice this year (here and here).

In natural resource news, the Examiner continued to cover Atlantic Gold’s efforts to avoid taxes, avoid court, deal with 32 provincial and three federal environmental charges, and ramp up the government lobbying, all while trying to expand its mining operations in the province. We also looked at the end of two natural gas projects — Alton Gas and Pieridae’s Goldboro proposal — and the continuing aftermath of the Northern Pulp shutdown.

As for parks, Owl’s Head won’t be turned into a golf course — for now — and the fate of Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes is heading to the Supreme Court.

In specifically Nova Scotian news, we found out the provincially-subsidized Yarmouth ferry to Maine would sit out another year. We found out why the crane collapsed in the hurricane and why NSCAD’s president was let go. We also found out what people think of the new Peggy’s Cove deck.

The Examiner looked at the housing crisis and how HRM has “handled” homelessness.

We looked at the loss of two prominent members of the Nova Scotian community: musician Jerry Granelli and advocacy journalist Robert Devet.

We saw wait times at hospitals increase, wait times for ambulances improve, reconciliation attempts begin at the former Shubenacadie Residential School, and a delay in the Mass Murder Commission’s investigation of the Portapique shootings.

In spring, we hit the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, hopeful that the end was in sight. (It wasn’t, in case you haven’t noticed). That benchmark gave us maybe my favourite Examiner article of 2021, Yvette d’Entremont’s “pandemic diary.”

I don’t know if I can keep going on about what we covered without this becoming an endless list. It was a big year. And the Examiner did some big work.

The Examiner itself also got some help in 2021. The Examiner joined the Google News Initiative Startups Lab, which provided capital and business coaching for the publication. And the Local Journalism Initiative allowed the Examiner to hire Matthew Byard, who’s done some extensive work covering the African Nova Scotian community.

It takes a lot of work to cover the issues that matter to Nova Scotians. And it takes even more work to dig beyond the surface level. Trying to recap the year at the Examiner is a losing battle. There’s too much work to showcase, even though we’re a small outfit.

If you like any of the work I’ve highlighted above, why not subscribe and help us fund another year of thoroughly researched journalism in this province? If 2022’s anything like 2021 — hopefully it isn’t — there will be a lot to report. It’s readers like you that make it possible to do so.

Happy New Year, Nova Scotia.

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The ice in Nova Scotia has been fantastic this week.

On a large sheet of natural ice, two games of shinny go on, one at each end of the ice. It's getting dark and snow is beginning to pile on the ice. About two dozen teen boys are playing.
Port Williams Pond on Boxing Day. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

Yes, the Oval opened after all on Monday, but the skating’s been great all over recently. With COVID cases up, restrictions tightening, and dreary winter weather continuing, some outdoor skating is a welcome distraction from the darkest days of the year.

I’ve had enough sitting around eating Christmas cookies and worrying about the news, so I was more than happy to get out on the ice this week. I skated on Miner’s Marsh in Kentville twice on Boxing Day, then played some shinny at the Wolfville Reservoir the day after that.

It was some much-needed exercise. Nothing fires up the lungs and clears the mind like some blood-pumping activity in the cold winter air.

And from what I’ve seen, I’m not the only one who’s been taking advantage of the frozen conditions.

A husky sits on Gaspereau lake with his tongue hanging out. The ice is clear and stretches for kilometres. It's a sunny, clear day. In the background, five people stand, talking on the ice
Gaspereau Lake on Boxing Day. Photo: Facebook -Nor’Easter Natural Ice/Eli Gordon

This past week, members of Nor’Easter Natural Ice have been posting photos online of spectacular ice conditions from around the province. I’ve mentioned Nor’Easter Natural Ice in Morning File before; it’s an online community group that informally tracks and shares ice conditions at ponds, lakes, and rivers around Nova Scotia. Seeing as the weather and ice conditions in this province can change multiple times in the same day, this group has been an invaluable resource for me the past few winters. I check it every day from December to March. If you’re looking to get on natural ice this winter, I can’t recommend this group enough.

three skaters pass by rocks and trees on a frozen Gaspereau Lake. In the background, the sun is setting, golden on the horizon
Gaspereau Lake at sunset, Dec. 27. Photo: Facebook – Nor’Easter Natural Ice/Joel Hornborg

It’s no secret that things tend to lose their lustre as we get older. Christmas is never as exciting as it is when you’re five. Summer breaks, airplane rides, and birthday parties aren’t as exciting as they once were. Spinning in circles and eating full bags of candy, once the pleasant pastimes of youth, become vomit-inducing activities to be avoided in adulthood.

For me — and I suspect it’s the same for many Canadians — a good skate on a frozen pond is one of the few things that’s never lost its novelty. It feels the same now as it did in childhood. Better even, since my speed, strength, and slapshot have all improved tremendously since my grade school days.

a skater in the distance circles an island on a frozen Big Lahave Lake. It's a fairly bright, sunny day
Big Lahave Lake on December 28. Photo: Facebook – Nor’Easter Natural Ice/Joel Hornborg

In a section of his 1983 memoir, The Game, Ken Dryden reflects on the roots of hockey as an outdoor sport, invented by Canadians looking to embrace the long, cold winters, rather than hide from them indoors. He describes a day off in the 1979 hockey season when he took an afternoon to skate with friends on the Gatineau River. It’s a simple scene, light on description. But somehow, it manages to perfectly evoke the feeling of flying across open ice, lost outside time and responsibility:

We spread ourselves rinks apart, breaking into river-wide openings for passes that sometimes connected, and other times sent us hundreds of feet after what we had missed. Against the wind or with it, the sun glaring in our eyes or at our backs, we skated for more than three hours, periodically tired, continuously renewed. The next day I went back again, this time alone. Before I got bored with myself an hour or two later, with no one watching and nothing to distract me, loose and daring, joyously free, I tried things I had never tried before, my hands and feet discovering new patterns and directions, and came away feeling as if something was finally clear.

If that passage stirs anything in you, sharpen your skates and check the recommendations at Nor’Easter Natural Ice. There’s more than just the Oval out there.

Or, if skating and the great outdoors have never done it for you, let me remind you that a frozen lake is great for selfies and Insta shots.

A skater, dressed in heavy snow gear, a mask, helmet and goggles, takes a shot of his reflection in the frozen ice at Shay Lake
Shay Lake in Hants County on Christmas Day. Photo: Facebook – Nor’Easter Natural Ice/Augustine van der Baaren

One last word: you should personally inspect ice conditions and educate yourself on ice safety when you go out skating. Nor’Easter Natural Ice is a helpful tool, but updates aren’t constant, nor are they done by professionals. Be safe out there.

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No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

06:45: CLI Pride moves from Pier 42 to Fairview Cove
10:30: ZIM Constanza, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
12:00: CLI Pride sails for sea
16:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
16:30: Oceanex Avalon, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s

Cape Breton
08:00: CSL Tarantau, bulker, moves from Pirates Harbour anchorage to Aulds Cove quarry
08:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for Tampa, Florida
10:40: CSL Metis, bulker, arrives at Point Tupper coal pier from Puerto Bolívar, Colombia
18:00: CSL Kajika, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea


  • I forgot it’s garbage day in my neighbourhood. I’ll be more organized next year.
  • Of all the Nova Scotian babies born in 2021, 28 were named Wyatt and 25 were named Emmett.
  • Bring on 2022. I’m ready.

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Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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