1. Nova Scotia government refuses to raise income assistance rates
“Liberal MLAs are calling on the Houston government to raise basic income assistance rates, which have been frozen for two years since they came into office,” Jennifer Henderson reports.
From the story:
The response from the Progressive Conservatives is that they have introduced “targeted supports” like the $750 seniors care grant and the Heating Assistance Rebate Program — $1,000 last year and $600 this year — to better support those living on fixed incomes.
“They say they are focused on targeted supports, but these targeted supports are failing our most vulnerable. They are not working,” [Kings South MLA Keith] Irving said.
“The government is taking in $125 million more this year. Does the minister not believe we have a moral obligation for our most vulnerable? Will he increase income assistance now?”
The short answer is no.
I would love to know how many members of the government have lived on income assistance, or had people close to them on assistance. I am guessing few, if any. The notion that people on assistance are somehow getting free money for nothing, which seems to be the operating assumption for some decision-makers, is so wrong it would be laughable, if it wasn’t tragic.
Governments love to roll out a tangle of boutique credits, top-ups, “targeted” plans, and so on, instead of doing the obvious thing and just giving more money to the people who need it most. People on assistance are not just going to go out and magically find a job if you starve them enough.
2. Province won’t say when emergency winter shelter will open, or where it will be
Jennifer Henderson also reports on questions about a temporary winter shelter. The province says it has secured a location for a 50-bed emergency shelter for people to sleep during cold winter nights. But it won’t say where it is, or when it will open.
During a scrum with reporters, Premier Tim Houston was asked if he thought there would be people sleeping in tents all winter.
“Unfortunately, yes,” Houston said. “I know it’s come up before with the changing of the seasons — I read a CBC article where a gentleman said ‘I sleep rough all year round.’ There’s no question there are more people sleeping in tents in the summer than in February. There are people who live rough all year round and that’s a sad fact in the state of the world.”
Too bad, so sad. What could we possibly do about it?
The HFXGO mobile ticketing app for Halifax Transit is now live (at least in the Google Play store; I don’t have an iPhone, but assume it is in the Apple app store as well).
Halifax regional council learned on Wednesday afternoon that the app would be ready for download on Thursday. That’s when the official launch will take place. HFXGO will allow passengers to purchase and use tickets and passes with their smartphones.
Maybe within a decade we can get a tap-and-go system.
Yvette d’Entremont reports on a new app to help Nova Scotians access health care services:
Through the app, Nova Scotians can book blood tests, x-rays, flu shots, and COVID-19 vaccine appointments. It also includes access to predicted emergency department wait times and vaccination records.
In addition, there’s a search tool to pinpoint closest health services, and the option to chat with a “care navigator” who can help patients determine what services or information they need.
I just downloaded the app to take a look, and you know what? The interface looks clean, and the information is clearly presented. The quick links on the landing page (as you can see above) are for COVID-19 and flu vaccine booking, booking bloodwork, x-rays or EKGs, and mental health and addictions.
I did, however, have to cringe at Premier Tim Houston’s “There’s an app for that!” Although maybe it’s appropriate that he would be repeating a phrase that was current a decade ago when we were all going to be saved by the digital startup ecosystem.
5. Old growth forest found in proposed Goldsmith Lake Wilderness Area
This item is written by Suzanne Rent.
Citizen scientists have found old growth forest in the proposed Goldsmith Lake Wilderness Area in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.
According to a press release from Citizen Scientists of Southwest Nova, one of their scientists discovered huge hemlock trunks when she was out kayaking in the area. Those trees were found on a peninsula that separates the two arms of Goldsmith Lake.
As the press release notes, the Department of Natural Resources (DNRR) and WestFor, a consortium of mills that has a licence to log in the area, previously said the forest on that peninsula was early mature, ranging in age from 40 to 80 years old.
“When members of the group went back for a closer look, they found a stand of very large, old yellow birch and sugar maples covering a 4.2-hectare slope and, between the slope and the lake’s edge, many hefty hemlocks including one measuring 97cm in diameter at breast height,” the press release said.
In another visit, the citizen scientists took core samples of a mid-sized hemlock and two large yellow birch trees. Those samples showed the hemlock had 276 rings, while the yellow birches are estimated to be around 350 to 376 years old.
Furthermore, many of the hemlocks and three yellow birch were covered in coral lichen. That’s the only lichen included in DNRR’s protocol for assessing old-growth forest.
Another lichen, frosted-glass whiskers, was found on ancient red maples. That lichen is a species at risk.
Nina Newington and Lisa Proulx were two of the citizen scientists who found the old growth on the east side of the peninsula.
“I just kept finding coral lichens on the hemlocks. I have never seen anything like it,” Proulx said in the release. “When we met up again we were so excited. This lake and the surrounding forests and wetlands, it’s so full of treasures.”
Meanwhile, Newington said it was “amazing” to find old growth forest in an area WestFor said wasn’t worth protecting.
“WestFor’s big point was that the whole area was owned by Bowater Mersey and had been clearcut in the 1970s then sprayed with herbicide and ‘managed’ for timber production,” Newington wrote in the press release.
“Of course that is what happened to some of the forest here. But not, as it turns out, all of it, regardless of what DNRR’s Provincial Landscape Viewer map says.”
Citizen Scientists of Southwest Nova said the finds have been reported, and Peter Bush, an old growth forest coordinator with DNRR, has agreed to assess the stands this fall for possible inclusion in the Old-Growth Forest Policy Layer.
In May, a hold was put on logging at Goldsmith Lake. In November 2022, the Citizen Scientists called for a stop to all logging in the area after discovering a logging road in October that year when about a dozen citizen scientists went into the area to complete a biodiversity survey.
6. Farewell Beaujolais Nouveau
Paul Withers at CBC reports on the decline and fall of a marketing gimmick.
1. Grappling with the past while slowly paddling forward
A couple of weekends ago, I went canoeing at Keji. I learned how to canoe at a summer camp in Georgian Bay, Ontario, and my skills got an upgrade decades later through a few backcountry trips in the Tobeatic, led by Brian Braganza. (Brian is an interesting character, and I may do something here about his writing; but that’s for another day.)
Canoeing gives you a lot of time to think (at least when conditions are calm), and I got to thinking about how appalling the education people my age, and presumably many others, got when it came to the history, culture, and lives of Indigenous people in Canada.
The summer camp I went to — Camp Hurontario — did not go heavy on fake “Indian” activities and dress. But there were definitely some, and I had thought I might mention them, but even at this great distance in time and space it feels just too embarrassing for me, and unnecessarily painful for the people whose culture we were blithely and ignorantly appropriating.
I grew up in Montreal, and I have no idea how my dad decided to send me to a summer camp in Ontario, attended mostly by upper-class kids from Upper Canada College and Trinity College School in Port Hope. My brother went to the same camp, a decade or so before me. When I asked my dad why Hurontario, years later, he was already in the early stages of dementia, and he told me he did not remember, and I should have asked him before he started losing his memory. But I suspect it was an outgrowth of his having grown up very poor, and wanting the legitimacy that came with the trappings of middle class life.
The whole time we were learning how to be “woodsy,” feeling superior about our sense of environmental stewardship, and appropriating Indigenous culture at camp, I — and presumably most of the other kids — had absolutely no idea that there were actual Indigenous communities not all that far away.
School wasn’t much better. In elementary school, the units on Indigenous nations (which, of course, were not called that) were simplistic and focused primarily on relationships with European settlers. Residential schools? Nothing. Racism? Nothing. Anything at all about the lives and experiences of Indigenous people living close by, just across the water? Nothing. And high school wasn’t any better. I recall one year-long mandatory high school history course, divided into two parts: “Man the builder” and “Man the conqueror.” Fun times.
When it came to learning about relationships with Indigenous people, about colonialism and its effects, and so on, our education was essentially propaganda in the service of a nation-building project. For crimes against Indigenous people to be made palatable, there had to be a narrative of historical inevitability, and a sense that the past is the past, it’s done, and the European takeover of this continent was progress. In fact, it wasn’t even really presented as a takeover, since standard teaching at the time was that the continent was essentially empty, or at least very sparsely populated by people who were just inevitably going to fade away into history.
You can see a particularly stark example of this — all tied up in a catchy song — in the Schoolhouse Rock segment called “Elbow Room.”
Tim Bousquet wrote about Schoolhouse Rock earlier in the week, so I won’t repeat too much, but essentially it was an American project to teach kids history and civics through music and animation.
“Elbow Room” is about how the settlers on the East Coast of the United States needed to expand, because they were living crowded together (all in one town square apparently). So, with a need for elbow room, elbow room, they just raced across the mostly empty continent, until they hit the west coast.
Here is the video.
To summarize: Jefferson makes a deal with Napoleon, “the Louisiana territory was given to us without a fuss” and this provided Americans with “elbow room.”
Let’s check out a few more of the lyrics:
The way was opened up to folks with bravery
There were plenty of fights, to win our land rights
But the West was meant to be
It was our Manifest Destiny,
The “plenty of fights” line is accompanied by a settler’s hat being punctured by a cartoon arrow with a suction cup on the end of it.
Now we’ve got a lot of room to be
Growing from sea to shining sea
Guess that we have got our elbow room.
Once we become too “crowded up again” we will seek more elbow room — on the moon. Another empty place is the implication, I guess.
The song opens with a jingle including “Knowledge is power.” Indeed. What kind of knowledge was being suppressed here?
You get older, and you see this process of rewriting and skewing history taking place with events that occurred during your own lifetime. And you see how disingenuous the excuse that “it was another time” becomes. A recent episode of the Citations Needed podcast looked at what they called the “product of his time” defence. The guest on the episode is historian Erin Bartram, associate director for education at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.
Bartram recalls teaching history to students who referred to U.S. intervention in Central America under Ronald Reagan as being from a different time. We knew in the 1980s that assassinating priests and creating death squads to terrorize villages was wrong. It wasn’t some long-ago different era. People who were creating and carrying out genocidal policies knew what they were doing and were, in fact, very open about it. Claiming that they were just doing it because those were the times does a disservice to everyone involved, including those who opposed these policies. As Bartram says, the argument that this is just how it was makes a judgment about which people count as human:
When one says ‘people,’ who is the default ‘people’ that is being talked about? I’m thinking of a way that it would crop up, “Well, when ‘people’ had slaves,” or “when ‘people’ fought against the Cherokee” or something…you’re kind of artificially circumscribing what the discourse is. Like, you get a unitary discourse when you essentially carve out the smallest possible chunk, and then just erase those differences…
You’ve got it pared down to a certain group of white men and then you can just assume they probably all thought the same thing, which would be news to them.
She then offers a striking example from her work:
So, every month I put up at the museum, some little short bit from Twain’s writings that tends to be unfamiliar. And I have up this month this section of his autobiography. So, this is written, you know, about 10 years before he dies, so 1897–98. He says, “In my schoolboy days, I had no aversion to slavery. I was not aware that there was anything wrong about it. No one arraigned it in my hearing. The local paper said nothing against it. The local pulpit taught us that God approved it. If the slaves themselves had an aversion to slavery, they were wise and said nothing. In Hannibal, we seldom saw a slave misused on the farm. Never.” And this is a piece I use in programs all the time. I often just start with the first line, “I was not aware that there was anything wrong about it.”
And I ask people, ‘Was there anyone around him growing up who maybe thought that slavery was wrong?’ And I have never had a program with teenagers or with adults, where anyone instantly said, ‘Well, yes, enslaved people probably thought it was wrong,’ I always have to say, ‘Please remember that enslaved people were people,’ and then it happens.
But it’s so much the default, to just not think about the people who had different opinions, even if they were just white men with slightly divergent opinions. But I think it’s the most pronounced. And then there’s just the erasure of it that I think you see with slavery, and that I think you see with Black civil rights in the 20th century. Because people don’t want to grapple with how long people fight for things before they happen. The idea that, like, well probably abolitionists just did some stuff for a couple years, and then the Civil War happened, or no one thought about civil rights until the mid ’50s and then it happened. When, in fact, there are long histories of dissent and activism and, in fact, the changes don’t happen. And then, that’s the thing, that nothing changes for a very long time and then all of a sudden, it does. But I think that sort of other challenging aspects of thinking historically reinforces and helps kind of flatten what the range of possible ideas was at any given point.
I wish I had a more coherent argument to make here. I think I’ve just been grappling with these notions of how we see the past, how the past is deliberately distorted to make the present more palatable, and how we must resist efforts to perpetuate that project. Acts like renaming Cornwallis Street to Nora Bernard Street are not changing or erasing history. They are small steps to reclaiming history and present experiences that have been suppressed in the interests of normalizing genocide, fostering a sense of superiority among settler populations, justifying ongoing oppression.
I am one of the many, many people for whom reading Don Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things was life-changing. (Read it and you will never look at a door handle the same way again.)
Norman is now 83, and is horrified by how terrible design is when it comes to the needs of old people. And he says one of the worst offenders is Apple — a company he used to work for.
In a piece published in Fast Company, Norman makes a case for inclusive design that respects the needs of seniors. This is a case that should not have to be made, because inclusive design should be the norm. But clearly we are far from having reached that point.
Despite our increasing numbers the world seems to be designed against the elderly. Everyday household goods require knives and pliers to open. Containers with screw tops require more strength than my wife or I can muster. (We solve this by using a plumber’s wrench to turn the caps.) Companies insist on printing critical instructions in tiny fonts with very low contrast. Labels cannot be read without flashlights and magnifying lenses. And when companies do design things specifically for the elderly, they tend to be ugly devices that shout out to the world “I’m old and can’t function!” We can do better.
If it was feasible, I would quote the whole story here. You should definitely read it. Here’s another excerpt:
New technologies tend to rely on display screens, often with tiny lettering, with touch-sensitive areas that are exceedingly difficult to hit as eye-hand coordination declines. Physical controls are by far the easiest to control–safer too, especially in safety-critical tasks such as driving a car, but they are disappearing. Why? To save a few cents in manufacturing and in a misplaced desire to be trendy. Speech can be a useful substitute for physical controls, though not as helpful as proponents claim.
Then there’s the aesthetic problem. When products are developed for the elderly, they tend to be ugly and an unwanted signal of fragility. As a result, people who need walkers or canes often resist. Once upon a time, a cane was stylish: Today it is seen as a medical device. Why can’t we have walkers and canes for everyday use, to help us in everyday life, to carry our packages, provide a way to sit when we are tired, or viewing some event, and yes, to maintain our balance? Make them items of pride, stylish enough that everyone will want one.
About a year ago, I injured my leg by falling in the woods. It was a goofy kind of accident. I saw a physiotherapist who often works with injured young people. He said in many cases the best thing is to use a cane, but that’s the one thing nobody wants to do. (I told him I had no problem using a cane!)
Anything that speaks of age or disability is immediately stigmatized. Think about the resistance to wearing hearing aids. We wear glasses without thinking twice about it, although there is usually a rueful “ugh” at the thought of progressives. Hearing aids have become incredibly unobtrusive. If I’m sitting next to someone wearing hearing aids, odds are I won’t realize it. Meanwhile, everyone else around me is wearing AirPods, massive noise-cancelling earbuds or Beats-style headphones, and that’s perfectly normalized. Why? Because it doesn’t imply aging.
And, of course, as Norman writes, just because various ailments are associated with the elderly doesn’t mean they only affect the elderly. (Hello from your Morning File writer, who had cataract surgery in his early 40s.) Here’s Norman:
Every ailment that I described that impacts the elderly is also present in people of all ages. Designs that make it easier for elderly people often are of equal value for younger people. In fact, for everyone. Help the elderly, and the results will help many more, including yourself, someday.
I use a browser that blocks most of the stuff I don’t want to see, but Norman’s article still had a distracting uncloseable video playing in the corner of the screen. This made me wonder what his article on design and accessibility would look like if I opened it in Microsoft Edge. My browser showed it was blocking some three dozen trackers and other undesirable elements. Here are the nightmarish results in Edge (after I closed the AI assistant window that took up a third of my screen):
Talk about wildly unfriendly design.
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Public Information Meeting – Case 2023-00368, Evening 2 (Thursday, 7pm, Sackville High School) — application to request substantive amendments to an existing development agreement for lands at 70 First Lake Drive, Sackville
Rossetti-Watson Travel Scholarship Exhibition (Thursday, 9am, Exhibition Room, School of Architecture) — findings of seven Master of Architecture students who traveled around the world to do thesis-related studies
Sciographies season five (Thursday, 5:30pm, online) — final episode of podcast featuring the research of Dalhousie scientists
Housing Engagement Series (Friday, 11am, in the auditorium named after a fossil fuel company, Richard Murray Design Building) — “Innovation in Housing – exploring innovation and creativity in housing, including brainstorming proactive solutions”; panelists TBD
#GoFindIt: Archiving Vintage Punk and Rock Fashion for Film, Television, Music Video, and Retail(Friday, 11am, Sheila Piercey Rehearsal Studio, Fountain School) — Costume Studies lecture with Cesar Padilla:
Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Ryan Gosling, Rihanna, Denzel Washington and the casts of Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, and Vinyl all have one thing in common: they have all been outfitted by Cesar Padilla. Deemed a “cult badass” for his role in preserving, archiving, and repurposing underground punk and rock fashion from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, Cesar Padilla will give a public talk about his varied career as co-founder and curator of Cherry Vintage NYC, the legendary clothing outlet and underground fashion hub in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He will share stories and experiences from his 25 years as a clothing archivist and fashion consultant working with leading directors, actors, and musicians on major film, television, music video, and stage productions. He will also share his thoughts on the meaning and importance of vintage clothing, not only as a window into the past, but also as a vital resource in today’s creative culture industries.
The Hidden History of the American Insanity Defense (Friday, 12pm, via Zoom) — talk by Rabia Belt, Stanford Law School (with closed captioning)
Percussion Improv Workshop (Friday, 12:30pm, Joseph Strug Concert Hall) — with Doug Cameron, Halifax-based jazz and improv drummer, instructor, and composer; more info here
A Composition Masterclass with Alkali Trio (Friday, 2:30pm, Joseph Strug Concert Hall) — a workshop for new compositions written by Dalhousie students for saxophone, clarinet and trombone; more info here
Sewing the Revival Tents: Black Women’s Christian Organizations and the Public Duties of Home-Making in an Apartheid City, 1950-63 (Friday, 3:30pm, Marion McCain Building and online) — Katie Carline will talk; more info here
Violin Masterclass with Mary-Elizabeth Brown (Friday, 4:30pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — more info here
Chamber Residency Concert: Trailblazing Voices (Saturday, 7:30pm, Joseph Strug Concert Hall) — with Leonardo Perez, violin, Peter Allen, piano, Mary-Elizabeth Brown, violin, Elizabeth Upson Perez, viola, Shimon Walt, cello; $15/10, info and tickets here
In the harbour
06:30: One Stork, container ship (145,251 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
07:00: Contship Leo, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
07:15: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 42 from Halifax to Saint-Pierre
07:45: Emerald Princess, cruise ship with up to 3,679 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
09:00: Supreme Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
11:30: Franbo Lohas, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Duqm, Oman
13:00: Supreme Ace sails for sea
17:45: Emerald Princess sails for New York
18:30: One Stork sails for New York
19:30: Contship Leo sails for Kingston, Jamaica
- Earlier this week, I saw Bob Dylan perform in Montreal. This was my tenth Dylan concert. I know people have said the shows on this tour are very good, but I tempered my expectations, because you never know what you are going to get with Bob. A few songs in, I realized this may have been the best I’ve ever seen him. And when he broke out a Leonard Cohen song (“Dance Me to the End of Love”) he brought down the house. When I’ve got a few minutes, I’m going to make myself a nice cup of coffee and read this New Yorker piece by David Remnick: “A Unified Field Theory of Bob Dylan: He’s in his eighties. How does he keep it fresh?“
- I just finished reading Leo McKay Jr’s What Comes Echoing Back, and wow. Highly recommended.
- The WordPress editor now has an “AI assistant” button at the top of the page. The first option if you click on it is “correct spelling and grammar.” I love how basic functionality that has been around for decades is now rebranded as “AI.” (See also: optical character recognition.)