1. COVID-19 update: Two deaths, 153 new cases, hospitalizations going up
I will confess that lately I have days where I find it hard not to panic. It’s not a flat-out panic, but a low-grade background anxiety that flares up. And I am someone who has immense privilege when it comes to this virus: living in a place with easy access to the outdoors, and in a household where both of us work from home.
Yesterday, as we waited longer and longer for the new COVID-19 numbers to be released, I could see others on Twitter also waiting, and waiting, and waiting with a feeling of mounting dread.
As always, Tim Bousquet has all the COVID information you need in one spot, with handy links at the top of the story, in case you want to quickly skip to a particular section.
With the surge in cases, I think we all feared that deaths would follow, and yesterday we learned that two people have died from COVID-19, one in their 50s and one in their 70s. Both died at home, and public health was not even aware that the person in their 50s had the disease. As of Bousquet’s writing yesterday, 37 people were in hospital with COVID-19, eight of them in the ICU.
At the briefing yesterday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang urged people to not hesitate to call an ambulance if they had COVID-19 symptoms. He expressed concern that some people may not be calling because they worry they can’t afford the cost of the ambulance trip. Bousquet writes:
Strang said there have been cases where people have not called an ambulance when they had respiratory problems signalling potential COVID infection because they couldn’t afford the ambulance fees. As a result, the province is waiving ambulance fees for any such person. I asked Premier Iain Rankin today if, as people are not calling ambulances because of fear of the cost, it made sense to do away with all ambulance fees, not just potential COVID calls. In response, he said that there is a program providing assistance to people with low incomes who call ambulances, which kind of begs the question, as obviously that program isn’t sufficient to put the people who have COVID symptoms at ease.
Exchanges like this show the absurdities that the pandemic has highlighted. If you can make ambulances free for people who think they have COVID-19, why can’t you make them free for everyone? Is there a population that would abuse this? If you can cap rent increases because of the pandemic, surely you can find a way to cap them the rest of the time too. And on and on and on.
Here is Bousquet’s graph of daily new case numbers since the pandemic began, in March 2020:
And here is where you can go for asymptomatic pop-up testing for the rest of this week:
Alderney Gate Public Library, noon-7pm
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
St Andrews Community Centre (Halifax), noon-7pm
Centre 200 (Sydney), 3-7pm
St Andrews Community Centre (Halifax), noon-7pm
Centre 200 (Sydney), 3-7pm
St Andrews Community Centre (Halifax), noon-7pm
Centre 200 (Sydney), 3-7pm
I have seen some confusion about the mobile testing. These are different from the rapid test sites. You need to make an appointment to go to a public health mobile testing unit.
Nearly 30% of Nova Scotians have had at least one dose of vaccine, but the province’s COVID-19 dashboard shows only 3.8% of us have received two doses of vaccine. Remember, immunity takes about two weeks to build after you get your shot.
2. Halifax council passes $1 billion+ budget
Zane Woodford reports on yesterday’s council meeting, at which councillors “quickly and unanimously” approved the municipality’s budget for the coming year.
We’ve known what’s coming in the budget for some time, since councillors have been hashing out the details in budget committee meetings.
Some highlights from Woodford’s story:
- Halifax Regional Police will spend $265,400 on polygraph testing in 2021-2022, for instance, a 2% increase over last year’s $261,900. [Note that polygraphs have been repeatedly debunked as useless, but they can serve to intimidate frightened suspects, who don’t realize they are not admissible in court.]
- The staff report to council laid out the exact tax figures for 2021-2022. With the tax rate reduced from .815% to .813%, the base tax bill for the average single family home will rise $21 to $2,036. The bill rises while the rate falls because the assessment increase from 2020-2021 to 2021-2022 is 1.3%.
- For the average commercial property, assessed at $1,465,300, the base tax bill will rise $436 to $43,270, with the tax rate falling from 3.000% to 2.953%.
Read Woodford’s full story, which includes some of the new ideas councillors are considering for changes to commercial tax reforms.
Yesterday, was the anniversary of Woodford’s first day at the Halifax Examiner, and he’s become such an essential part of municipal coverage it’s hard to imagine the joint without him.
3. Development for former Home for Colored Children lands approved
During Tuesday’s public hearing, council heard from speakers including Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, who spoke in favour of the proposal.
“It is time to move forward, Halifax regional council,” Bernard said.
“This will have tremendous impact on the economic, social and political economy of this region. This development will bring pride. This development will bring empowerment. This development will bring … economic justice. This development must be allowed to proceed. To block this development would be to block our economic progress.”
Former MLA Yvonne Atwell, the first Black woman elected to the Nova Scotia legislature, told council that this kind of development is something the community has never seen.
“We have had pieces, the glimpse of possibilities, but this is a big deal,” Atwell said.
Read the story to get the full background on the development and its history.
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4. Quarantine? For people associated with Irving?
In the midst of the worst the pandemic has been in Nova Scotia, Brett Ruskin at CBC reports that 78 Irving Shipbuilding employees and contractors are on their way to the province for a sea trial of one of the new Arctic and offshore patrol ships.
One source said workers have arrived from Ontario, Quebec, the United States and Scotland. The source said workers did not self-isolate upon their arrival in Canada, adding that one “flew in last week.”
Other workers are possibly coming from Germany and Poland, based on matching their names and employment details with the home listed on their social media accounts.
A list of precautions for the ship’s crew says “physical distancing shall be maintained throughout the sea trial where feasible.”
My seagoing experience is limited to ferries and tooling around parts of the South Shore with my brother in his various boats, so I’m no expert here, but I’m going to guess that it is hard to maintain physical distance on a vessel with this many people.
And are there any restrictions on what the folks who are not quarantining can do when they are on shore?
5. Chief Andrea Paul seeks Liberal nomination
Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul is hoping to run for the provincial Liberals in Pictou East. The seat is currently held by PC leader Tim Houston.
[Paul] submitted her application to the Liberal Party this week after having conversations with her family and elders in her community.
“We’re in an era now where First Nations people need a place in government, and I’m willing to take that risk in terms of putting myself out there,” she told CBC News on Tuesday evening.
Paul said she’s always been passionate about relationships and government, First Nations and otherwise, and there are relationships that “need to continue to be fostered.”
1. Is the census music to your ears?
Statistics Canada has put together 11 playlists, on YouTube and Spotify, of music you can listen to while filling out your census form:
As Canada’s statistical portrait, the census is a reflection of who we are and what makes us Canadian. Listen to our Spotify and YouTube playlists while you complete your 2021 Census questionnaire to experience the different facets of Canadian culture through the sounds of our celebrated musical talent. If these songs aren’t already among your favourite tracks, we hope that you have the opportunity to discover something new as you fill out your questionnaire online in May.
Get comfortable, press play, and let’s experience Canada’s musical talent together.
I am listening to the Contemporary Francophone playlist as I write this. It’s good.
I worked on the census once, back when I was an undergrad in Montreal. The first lesson I learned, after going to the wrong place for our first training meeting, was that when anglo Montrealers say Ste. Catherine Road, they mean Chemin de la Côte-Ste Catherine and not Rue Ste-Catherine.
My area was extremely very diverse, both in terms of culture and income.
Two things stand out for me from that census experience. The first was a family of Vietnamese immigrants who lived in a small apartment and wanted to participate, but couldn’t understand it well. They asked me to stay and help them with the forms. I was uncomfortable about it, saying the information was confidential and so on, and they reassured me that it was fine. We sat at the kitchen table, they served me tea, and I asked them the questions and filled in their responses for them. Maybe this wasn’t allowed? I don’t know.
The other was a man who refused under any circumstances to fill out the form. I don’t remember exactly how this worked, but our supervisor had us following up with people who had not completed the census. We needed to remind them that filling out the census was their legal obligation, and that penalties included the possibility of jail time.
This gentleman was elderly and had a big beard. I followed up with him a couple of times and he angrily told me he was not filling out the census. I, an idiot, gave him the party line about the census being obligatory. He got angry with me, told me he was a Holocaust survivor, that he was not filling out the census, and that I should leave him alone. I went back to my supervisor, who, thankfully, agreed that I should let him be.
I remember being baffled a decade ago when the federal Conservatives began their attack on the census. For some reason, a big deal to them was the idea that the government should not know how many bathrooms are in your house.
This is from a CBC story from 2010:
“The government’s position is clear,” Harper responded in French. “We recognize that some people are a bit reluctant to give personal information, and we intend to work in co-operation with the public.”
Government House leader John Baird quipped to the CBC’s Julie Van Dusen that the government has no place in the bathrooms of the nation, alluding to a question on the compulsory census regarding the number of bathrooms in a respondent’s home.
And in the House of Commons, Industry Minister Tony Clement asked MPs from the Liberal, Bloc and New Democratic parties: “If someone in your riding does not want to complete the 40 pages of personal, private questions about their ancestry or parts of their belief system, about their day-to-day routines or about the state of repair of their homes, is it the appropriate government response to harass them until they relent and comply?”
I only really understood the reasoning behind this late last year, when I listened to a segment of WNYC’s On the Media podcast called “Trump’s Sabotage of Public Data.” While it wasn’t Canadian, the points made by guest Samanth Subramanian gave me one of those “aha!” moments as I thought back to the Conservatives’ census reluctance and destruction of materials in various federal research libraries.
Undermining data, Subramanian says, can serve a number of purposes. Without good data on environmental harms, governments are less likely to pass regulations. You can also avoid the messy business of promoting an ideology that runs counter to the data. And by undermining confidence in the whole enterprise, even if the data clearly contradicts the aims of what a government is doing, it matters less — because the data can’t be trusted.
These data collection processes can slowly be repaired. What will not be as easy to reconstruct is for the public consensus on what data means. Over the last four or five years, we’ve already witnessed a divergence of consensus on, for example, how much the news can be trusted on how much government officials and their statements can be trusted, on what the nature of truth is. And so when a data set is presented to the public as justification for a policy, that may not necessarily be any assurance that every single party has been trust what the numbers say, 100 years after this, federal data collection processes began. Suddenly we witnessed this huge rupture in what these data collection processes even mean. What are the fundamental truths that you can agree on before you even start discussing the kind of policies that should be made? If you can’t agree on that, policy making is essentially dead.
In Monday’s Morning File, Tim Bousquet ran a photo from the Nova Scotia Archives taken by Clara Dennis. I wrote about the Clara Dennis collection at the Archives for the Examiner two years ago, so Bousquet’s reference gave me a prod to dip back into it.
As a refresher, here’s what I wrote on April 11, 2019:
It turns out the Archives have a wonderful online collection called Clara Dennis Tours Nova Scotia.
I had never heard of Clara Dennis, but she sounds like a remarkable person. Part of the same Dennis family who owned The Halifax Herald, Dennis travelled the province by car, taking photographs, and published three books, which the Archives call “completely forgotten”: Down in Nova Scotia (1934); More about Nova Scotia (1937); and Cape Breton Over (1942).
“Dennis had an observant eye, a keen sense of history, and captured a Nova Scotia that no longer exists. Her love of automobiles — look for her own in many of the photographs — and the freedom that they brought is a reminder that by the 1930s, Nova Scotia was on the cusp of modernity and significant change. Few women yet drove their own vehicles up into the Cape Breton Highlands and the ‘motoring tourist’ was still a novelty, but the call of the open road was already ushering in a completely new travel audience, and tourist-focussed amenities and services were not far behind.”
The collection has some 2,500 images — architecture, landscapes, records of events (there are several photos of Canadian Authors’ Association gatherings), and, my favourite, quirky portraits.
There are several interesting photos related to lobster: A field fertilized with lobster shells, traps piled up, a lobster pound, and several photos of people holding large lobsters.
The collection has several pages of photos of Peggy’s Cove. Some of them look almost like they could have been taken last week.
The road to the Cove, on the other hand, looks somewhat different.
Sometime, I’d like to set aside a day and spend it on the Archives’ website, going through the whole collection and touring Nova Scotia with Clara Dennis.
North West planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — video meeting via YouTube
Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — livestreamed on YouTube
Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — livestreamed via YouTube, with captioning on a text-only site
Innovation! (Wednesday, 12pm) — The Office of Research Services will hold an information session on the Canada Foundation for Innovation – Innovation Fund (CFI IF) competition.
The NAOSH Symposium and a Celebration of OHS Professional Day (Wednesday, 1pm) — The Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) Nova Scotia Chapter presents this three-hour Zoom symposium, to discuss “Preventing serious injuries and fatalities through focus, systems, learning, and involvement.” Mark Fleming and Kevin Kelloway from Saint Mary’s will speak.
I know Kevin Kelloway and he’s a good speaker.
In the harbour
05:00: One Maxim, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
06:00: MSC Aniello, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
12:00: Kibaz, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
13:30: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
13:30: John J. Carrick, barge, with Leo A. McArthur, tug, arrive at McAsphalt from Montreal
15:30: One Maxim sails for New York
16:30: MSC Aniello sails for sea
12:30: NS Laguna, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
13:30: Harmonic, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Point Tupper
15:00: Algoma Vision, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea
18:00: Niagara Spirit, barge, moves from Mulgrave to Aulds Cove Quarry
I keep thinking about the signs Parks Canada had posted at the Stanhope campground in PEI last summer saying “You are responsible for your own safety” and how wrong-headed they were.
After finishing the Morning File, I will try to not obsessively worry over what today’s numbers will bring. Readers, I hope you can stay safe.