1. Tenant fights renoviction and wins; landlord takes her to small claims court
Brandy McGuire has won her renoviction case against landlord John Ghosn, and Ghosn is in turn taking her to small claims court, Zane Woodford reports:
A Halifax-area landlord is taking a former tenant to small claims court after he was ordered to pay more than $13,000 for an illegal renoviction.
Residential tenancies officer Jason Warham ordered John Ghosn, owner of Bluenose Inn and Suites on the Bedford Highway, to pay Brandy McGuire after she was evicted from the building last spring.
Ghosn claimed the motel was no longer habitable, but Warham disagreed:
I do not accept the landlord’s position that the true intent is simply to “retire” the building. Evidence was presented from the landlords website of its intentions for the construction of a new building. Permits were provided. I do not accept this characterization. It is clear that what is actually happening and/or intended is a demolition/renovation as contemplated under these new provisions.
Tenants fighting for their rights is good news, and fighting and winning is even better news.
2. Orrell gets a new job; another deputy shown the door
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
The former CEO and president of the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment, Dr. Kevin Orrell, has emerged with a new job.
After leaving his post in July, he has now accepted a newly created position at Cape Breton University. He will be paid the same $350,000 a year he was making as head of the office established by the Houston government a year ago to address persistent staff shortages in health care.
The government news release says Orrell will work as special adviser to CBU president David Dingwall (the former federal Liberal cabinet minister) on the university’s strategic health initiative. The government says this work is focused on getting more health care professionals trained and retained in Cape Breton and across Nova Scotia.
Earlier this year, government announced a $5 million investment at Cape Breton University for “a strategic health initiative” and a proposed expansion of CBU’s health faculties. The university currently has an accredited School of Nursing as well as programs in nutrition and occupational health.
“The Houston government is excited to have CBU as a partner in this important work, and Dr. Orrell will bring experience to his role as a special advisor to the President,” states the news release.
Questioned further, Michelle Stevens, a spokesperson with the Premier’s Office, indicated that Orrell will be employed by Cape Breton University, but his $350,000 annual salary will be cost-shared by the province as a result of a negotiated agreement among Orrell, CBU, and the government.
The $350,000 salary is more than what the premier earns but reflects what Orrell was making as CEO of the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment. It also reflects what he could expect to earn if he had continued to practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Sydney with more than 30 years of clinical experience.
Orrell was originally recruited in January 2020 by Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil to become deputy Health minister. Although his new appointment became effective on September 1, the government announced it only yesterday — three weeks later and one hour before a media briefing on a topic that’s seized everyone’s attention: emergency preparations for tropical storm Fiona.
Also, today’s normally scheduled Cabinet meeting has been cancelled, which means the premier will not have to answer questions about changes within the top ranks of the civil service.
Appointed in September of 2021 by a premier who vowed to “fix health care,” there were high expectations for Orrell and the three other members of the health leadership team. It is led by Karen Oldfield, former Chief of Staff to Tory premier John Hamm and “interim” CEO of Nova Scotia Health. Orrell reported directly to Health Minister Michelle Thompson.
But the reasons for Orrell leaving the helm of the Recruitment Office remain shrouded in mystery. After his abrupt departure from the recruitment office in July, Orrell did not respond to our requests for an interview or explanation. A spokesperson for the Premier’s Office, Michelle Stevens, says Orrell is not receiving severance.
Meanwhile, the government has announced “a team” of two people to replace him. Dr. Nicole Boutilier, Vice-President of Medicine at Nova Scotia Health, and Craig Beaton, Associate Deputy Minister at the Department of Health and Wellness, will be responsible for the recruitment office in addition to their regular duties. The Office of Recruitment employs a staff dedicated to recruiting doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other healthcare professions in scarce supply across North America.
More changes at Education
The Houston government has also decided to put a new leadership team in place at the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
Cathy Montreuil was appointed deputy education minister four-and-a-half years ago, in March 2018. The government’s news release did not offer any explanation for her departure.
In response to a question from the Halifax Examiner, Stevens, the spokesperson for the Premier’s Office, said Montreuil will be receiving severance in the amount of $227,289. The severance indicates she did not resign but was fired.
While recruitment for a permanent deputy minister gets underway, Rosalind Penfound, a retired provincial deputy minister, will return to serve as interim deputy education minister. Penfound served in DM roles from 2004 to 2013, including deputy education minister from 2010 to 2012. She most recently served as vice-president at the Nova Scotia Community College.
Elwin LeRoux, the former executive director of the Halifax Regional Education Centre (formerly the Halifax School Board), will serve as the new associate deputy minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. LeRoux had been with HREC since 2013 and has decades of experience as a teacher, principal, and administrator.
The Education department has recently come under fire from early childhood educators who have protested the length of time it is taking to receive a promised pay raise after Nova Scotia signed an agreement with Ottawa last spring to reduce day care fees for parents.
“Getting our youngest children off to the very best start and preparing all students for success is critical to their quality of life and to Nova Scotia’s economic growth,” said Houston through the news release. “I have every confidence in Ms. Penfound and Mr. LeRoux to advance this work, and thank Deputy Montreuil for her dedicated service, particularly in inclusive education, as she returns to her home province of Ontario.”
The next session of the Nova Scotia Legislature opens Monday.
3. West Bedford roundabout millions over budget
A new roundabout planned for West Bedford is millions over budget before construction has started, and the municipality is proposing closing part of Larry Uteck Boulevard for three months to limit further cost overruns.
The roundabout will replace the conventional intersection of Larry Uteck Boulevard and Broad Street, at the north end of Broad Street. The municipality built a roundabout at the south end last year, and in March, Halifax regional council awarded a sole source contract for $3.25 million for the new roundabout.
Councillors were (to say the least) not keen on the idea of closing Larry Uteck.
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4. That mild case of COVID may not be so mild
Yvette d’Entremont has put together a helpful set of information and resources for people with long Covid. The page will continue to be updated.
A significant number of people who get COVID-19 — including many whose initial infection is mild — wind up with sometimes debilitating symptoms for months, or even years. This is long COVID, and it’s something d’Entremont has been reporting on almost since the start of the pandemic. (Others have been catching up in recent months.)
The condition includes new, returning, or ongoing symptoms ranging from brain fog and extreme fatigue to headaches, sleep problems, mood changes, and cardiac issues. While there are more than 200 symptoms, a list of the most common ones can be found here.
In Nova Scotia (and many other jurisdictions), patients are considered to have long-COVID if they have common, persistent symptoms and at least one functional impairment due to their symptoms 12 weeks or longer after an initial — or a suspected — COVID-19 diagnosis.
She looks at who is at highest risk, what to do if you have long COVID, and links to available resources.
1. “Individual public health measures” is an oxymoron
I was supposed to be at Keji this weekend, enjoying a few days of backcountry canoeing in the southwest corner of the park. I’ve been dehydrating food, updating our gear, and generally looking forward to the trip. But with Hurricane Fiona on the way, the park will be closed. Maybe I should drive up anyway, perhaps in a car festooned with flags and anti-Trudeau decals, and insist on my right to make my own personal health decisions, and camp in the park if I want to, as is my right since, as a Canadian taxpayer, the park belongs to me.
After all, when it comes to COVID-19, hasn’t Parks Canada told me I’m responsible for my own safety? Why should the storm be any different?
Two days ago, Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, shared the tweet above. It urges Canadians to “think about the risks” of COVID-19, and to make “informed decisions” on “individual public health measures.”
What the heck is an individual public health measure? Tam does cite suggestions: “staying home if sick, wearing a mask and improving indoor ventilation.”
These seem like generally common-sense things to do, and also, in contrast to some other messaging, don’t consider vaccines the only real public health measure we need to get out of the pandemic. (Vaccines can prevent you from getting seriously ill, but they do not, unfortunately, prevent transmission.)
It’s easy to tell people to stay home if they are sick, but if public health guidance is that you don’t have to, guess what’s going to happen? And improving ventilation is hardly an individual undertaking. I’m not comfortable using the sauna at the gym these days, because it’s a small, enclosed area that sweaty guys spend a lot of time in. Maybe I should improve its ventilation, and then I could enjoy it.
Astrophysicist Katie Mack replied to Tam’s tweet, asking, “How do I individually improve the indoor ventilation on trains and buses? Is there a form I can fill out?” She also shared a photo of a CO2 monitor on a GO train, showing an astronomical level of 2,941 ppm, indicating very poor ventilation.
Public health, by definition, is about more than individual choices.
Freelance journalist Julia Métraux recently published a piece in Fast Company that gets to the heart of the trouble with the individual choices approach. The title goes straight to the point: “I’m a chronically ill student, and one-way masking isn’t enough.” Métraux is a grad student at U.C. Berkeley. She also has vasculitis (an auto-immune disease), and is hard of hearing — meaning she is very well acquainted with some of the downsides of masking, like the inability to read lips.
Despite masking and otherwise being cautious, Métraux recently tested positive for COVID-19. She goes to a school where students are supposed to make their own informed decisions. She writes:
As an immunocompromised student who must now attend in-person classes, I have planned my life around minimizing my exposure to COVID-19. This includes not hanging out with large groups of people at social events, and turning down invites for in-person work-related networking events…
We’ve now moved into a phase of the pandemic where we are expected to make individual choices about mask wearing. But, unfortunately, individual choice doesn’t work very well when we’re dealing with a pandemic spread via air.
Many people who are still masking, like me, are asked why we’re doing so when we could just move on. But for many disabled and chronically ill people, moving on isn’t possible. And questions about why we continue masking are awkward at best, and invasive at its worst. They force us to either brush the questions off, or feel pressured to reveal our diagnoses.
Métraux notes that thousands of people a week are dying of COVID in the US, but that school administrators send out emails to the university community telling students, staff, and faculty that the disease is mild. Sure, everyone is tired of it. Métraux knows a thing or too about being tired:
Every time I read about “fatigue” with mask wearing, I have a hard time not rolling my eyes because I understand what actual fatigue is like. I experience fatigue with my vasculitis on a daily basis, and contracting COVID-19 scares me, in part because it can make my fatigue worse.
I challenge people who are not at high risk for COVID-19 complications to think about what it must be like trying to attend university (or go into work every day) while also trying to avoid getting COVID-19.
Crises have a way of making clear what’s often hidden, and one thing that this pandemic has made clear, is just how little many people give a shit about those who are more vulnerable than them.
2. What Serial missed in the Adnan Syed story the first time around
The Serial podcast released episode 13 of its first season the other day — eight years after episode 12.
Serial is the podcast largely credited with both kicking off the podcast boom, and more specifically, the true crime podcast boom. If you weren’t a podcast listener prior to 2014, there’s a good chance Serial (now owned by the New York Times) was the first podcast you heard of.
Season one focused on Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, when he was 17. Despite having allegedly committed the crime when he was a minor, Syed was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years. This week, he was released, after having served 23 years, with prosecutors seeking to vacate his conviction. The Baltimore Sun reported that the police had several alternate suspects, including a man who was convicted of a series of sexual assaults, and another who had directly threatened to kill Hae Min Lee. However, the cops didn’t inform the defense about these alternate suspects. From the Sun:
Despite fighting to uphold the conviction in years past, prosecutors now say Syed may not be Lee’s killer. Prosecutors have known since 1999 of two alternative suspects who may have killed Lee, according to their motion to overturn his conviction…
Syed was convicted, in part, because of cellphone location data that has since been found to be unreliable, according to prosecutors. They also highlighted the inconsistent statements of his co-defendant, Jay Wilds, who testified against him.
“Mr. Syed’s conviction was built on a flawed investigation,” [Syed’s attorney, Erica] Suter said in court. “This was true in 1999 when he was a 17-year-old child. It remains true today.”
Season one of Serial made much of the inconsistencies between Syed’s testimony and that of his friend and co-defendant, Jay Wilds, who testified against him. A journalist friend (who has also produced a true crime podcast) and I were emailing about this the other day, and she pointed out that if Serial were being made today, there would likely be a lot more focus on whether or not the cops were lying, and what they might be hiding.
University of Winnipeg sociology professor Bill Kirkpatrick was more scathing on Twitter:
[Serial host] Sarah Koenig committed journalistic malpractice in #Serial, persuading listeners that either #AdnanSyed or Jay had to be lying. But she should have taken more seriously the possibility that the *cops* were lying. Because of course they were.
Looking back, here’s what Koenig herself had to say, in episode 13:
Adnan’s case contains just about every chronic problem our system can cough up. Police using questionable interview methods. Prosecutors keeping crucial evidence from the defense. Slightly junky science. Extreme prison sentences. Juveniles treated as adults. How grindingly difficult it is to get your case back in court once you’ve been convicted… Yesterday there was a lot of talk about fairness, but most of what the state put in that motion to vacate — all the actual evidence — was either known or knowable to cops and prosecutors back in 1999. So even on a day when the government publicly recognizes its own mistakes, it’s hard to feel cheered about a triumph of fairness because we’ve built a system that takes more than 20 years to self-correct. And that’s just this one case.
All this put me in mind of the Glen Assoun case, and this morning I asked Tim Bousquet about parallels. He wrote:
The initial police investigation (by Dartmouth cops) accepted Glen’s alibi, and never focused on him, while they had too many other potential suspects and no evidence to go on, so the case went nowhere. Only when Dave MacDonald, the Halifax cop, took over after amalgamation, did they start focusing on Glen and all of a sudden all this “evidence” starts popping up.
The evidence, you may recall, included a knife mysteriously found by Brenda Way’s sister, in an area that had been previously thoroughly searched, after she had consulted with a psychic.
When [RCMP officer] Dave Moore popped up seven years later, saying heh, I think this McGray fellow is responsible, they arguably had the legal duty to turn that over to Glen’s lawyer, who at that time was Jerome Kennedy. They didn’t, and even had meetings about it, deciding to do nothing with Moore’s information, then moving him off the case.
Besides that, there are issues of prosecutorial misconduct in both cases, I would argue.
I still to this day don’t know why Dennis Theman was removed as crown on the case. I think — but have no evidence to back this up — that Theman had ethical and professional objections to trying Glen, and so he was replaced.
And the two crowns who took over — MacRury and Fetterman — had to, HAD TO, know their case was bullshit, but proceeded anyway.
Glen Assoun is free, and so is Adnan Syed, for now anyway. But it shouldn’t take true crime podcasts and 20 years for some semblance of justice.
For the last several days, I have been mildly addicted to Alex’s Census Game, designed by cartographer Alex McPhee. (On his homepage, McPhee calls the game “addictive and difficult” and he is right on both counts.
The game, which draws on data from the 2021 census, is simple. You enter the name of a Canadian community, it appears on the map in the form of a dot, and the map shows you the cumulative population total, by province, of all the communities you’ve found. The goal is to name communities that cumulatively account for 50 percent of the population of each province and territory. I’ve had it open in a browser tab for days (not necessary, because the game will save your progress) and every so often as I’m working I’ll think, “Oh! Come by Chance!’Salmon Arm!” and go type it into the box. The screenshot above shows you where I’m at right now.
There are a few inconsistencies related to the census’s definition of “community.” For instance, none of the string of communities along my side of St. Margaret’s Bay show up, presumably because they are subsumed under “Halifax.” But Hubbards, which is also in HRM, does get its own entry. I still haven’t figured out where Parrsboro fits in, because the name doesn’t show up, but neither do “Cumberland” or “Cumberland County” or “Municipality of Cumberland.” But River Hebert, which is part of the municipality does show up. Go figure.
Regardless, the game has been fun and illuminating. A few notes:
- I am shocked at how poorly I’m doing when it comes to BC and Newfoundland and Labrador.
- Clearly, Vancouver carries much less weight, population-wise, than I expected, or else there are a bunch of municipalities that make up greater Vancouver whose names I don’t know.
- Boy, does my knowledge of the North need work.
- Considering that I’ve never lived in Ontario, I’m surprised at how many small-town names there I can reel off: Arnprior (population 9,269), Elmira (population 10,790), Thessalon (population 151), Moosonee (population 1,512)…
- I am not pleased with being below 90 percent on Nova Scotia. No idea at this point which communities I’m missing. Parrsboro would have probably put me over the top.
- On the other hand, delighted to have gotten over 50% in New Brunswick, but I’m torturing myself trying to remember the name of the town just before the Quebec border. It’s been quite some time since I drove to Montreal instead of flying, and the place is on the tip of my tongue, but I’m not getting it. DO NOT reveal it in the comments, please.
All this to say the game makes for a fun, unobtrusive little distraction. Also, McPhee seems like an interesting guy, with all kinds of delightful maps on his website.
Sustainable Ocean Conference 2022 (Friday, 8:30am, 2nd floor, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — continuing tomorrow; this conference will explore complex topics of ocean conservation and sustainability, by navigating below the surface of current marine issues.
Social and Structural Determinants: Where Health Really Comes From (Friday, 12pm, Weldon Law Building and online) — Gaynor Watson-Creed will talk
Masterclass with Walter Borden (Friday, 1pm, Studio 2, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Bringing a Journey of Life to the Stage – An open discussion and exploration of storytelling and artistic practice
“They Will Crack Heads When the Communist Line is Expounded”: Anti-Communist Violence in Cold War Canada (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building and online) — Kassandra Luciuk will talk; MS Teams link here
In the harbour
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
09:30: MSC Angela, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
10:00: MSC Manya, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
10:00: Conti Crystal, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
10:30: Enchanted Princess, cruise ship with up to4,402 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
11:00: Torrens, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to anchorage
15:45: Zaandam sails for Bar Harbor
16:30: Torrens sails for sea
18:00: Morning Chorus, car carrier, moves from Pier 9 to Autoport
18:00: Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre
19:30: Enchanted Princess sails for New York
04:30: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,058 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Saint John, on a nine-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
05:00: Radcliffe R. Latimer, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for Charlottetown
06:00: CSL Metis, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from New York
06:30: Voyager of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,099 passengers, arrives at Liberty Pier from Saint John, on a seven-day round trip cruise out of Boston
10:30: CSL Tarantau, bulker, arrives at Nova Scotia Power (Point Tupper) from Baltimore
12:00: MM Newfoundland, barge, and Lois M, tug, arrive at Sydport from Cap-aux-Meules (Grindstone, Magdalen Islands)
13:30: Adventure of the Seas sails for New York
17:00: Voyager of the Seas sails for Bar Harbor
I am going to find it hard to focus on much while we wait for this storm.