Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Daily case counts are through the roof, but hospitalizations are relatively low, albeit as I reported yesterday, it’s impossible to fully comprehend the hospital situation.

I don’t have anything new to add this morning, except to note that the anxiety in the community is palpable.

That’s understandable. We’re in uncharted waters, and we don’t have clear signposts about the best path to take (can we take paths in waters?). Schools are set to reopen next week, and that brings up a host of fears and worry. And just as everyone was hoping this damn thing was ending, it’s blasting us with a power hook.

Last week, Premier Tim Houston told us that “it’s not fair to criticize and question Dr. Strang and Public Health.” That’s nonsense — no one is beyond criticism, and while I respect Strang and his team, I most definitely will question him and criticize him when I feel it is necessary, as I did yesterday.

That said, in the heightened stress of these times, we tend to fall back on our worst instincts. We lash out, we politicize, we turn those who have different assessments and opinions into monsters wanting to needlessly kill people.

Strang ended yesterday’s briefing with what I heard at the moment to be a throw-away line, but on reflection, needs to be heard again:

We will get through this. Pandemics do end… The challenges we are facing are … temporary, but the legacy we leave with our response will be permanent.

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2. COVID at the Burnside jail

The inside of a cell at Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside. It's super small, and everything is painted beige. There are two bunks, one obscuring the small window. There's a tiny table bolted to the wall, and one stool bolted to the floor. The toilet sink combo is in the corner by the door. Very homey.
A jail cell in the north wing of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Thirty-one prisoners at the jail in Burnside have tested positive for COVID-19,” reported Zane Woodford on Friday:

The provincial Department of Justice announced the outbreak at Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in a news release on Friday. It said no one has been hospitalized, and none of the cases are in the female unit of the jail. “Several staff” have also tested positive, the government said.

Correctional Service Canada said in a news release on Tuesday that there’s a COVID-19 outbreak at Nova Institute for Women in Truro. On Tuesday, there were eight positive cases. The most recent numbers, posted online and last updated Wednesday, indicated 19 active cases with the first cases reported on Dec. 25. In an email on Friday, Correctional Service Canada spokesperson Mylène Arseneau said 25 staff have tested positive.

[update: there are now 20 positive cases among prisoners at Nova Institution and one at Springhill]

Women’s Wellness Within chair Martha Paynter called on Wednesday for the federal government to address the situation and “facilitate early release for as many prisoners as possible, as quickly as possible.”

On Dec. 21, East Coast Prison Justice Society wrote a letter to public health officials and the provincial Department of Justice calling for the government to release prisoners to reduce the COVID risk, as it has previously.

“The Omicron variant is by far the most contagious strain of the COVID-19 virus to date. For this reason, it is our view that only adequate defense to the spread of COVID-19 inside our jails, and consequent preventable deaths, is strategic decarceration—that is, ensuring that admissions and numbers of prisoners held in facilities are as low as possible, consistent with public safety,” co-chairs Harry Critchley and Sheila Wildeman wrote.

Click here to read “Nova Scotia reports COVID-19 outbreak at Burnside jail.”

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3. Frank Eckhardt

A screen shot of Frank Eckhardt in a ZDF documentary on preppers

“For the second time in a month, police have arrested Frank Eckhardt, a controversial land seller and survivalist who advertises his advisory services to German-speaking ‘new settlers’ in Cape Breton, and who featured in several German and Canadian media articles in the past two years because of his far-right views and alleged gouging of German clients,” reported Joan Baxter on Friday:

Eckhardt, 56, was first arrested on December 10 on extortion charges, and an RCMP media release today says that he was arrested again on December 23, and this time charged with a long list of weapons offences. They are:

Careless Transportation of a Firearm (3 counts), Careless Storage of a Firearm (4 counts), Unlawful Possession of a Firearm (2 counts), Possession of a Firearm while Knowing Possession is Unlawful (2 counts) and Possession of a Weapon Obtained in the Commission of an Offence (2 counts).

Eckhardt, who operates what he calls an “Eco-village” on Smith Road about 20 kilometres east of St. Peters, has featured in German online interviews promoting his prepper lifestyle and property development in Canada.

Two members of the German-speaking community who have interacted with Eckhardt and asked to remain anonymous because they are afraid of him, described him as a “psychopath.”

One expressed fears that he may still have more weapons on his property on Smith Road.

“We don’t want this Nazi shit here in Cape Breton,” the person said. “We want to live here in peace and without fear. He threatens people here.”

Click here to read “Controversial Cape Breton land seller Frank Eckhardt arrested for the second time in just two weeks, this time on a slew of weapons charges.”

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4. Investment hype runs the economy

The “site office” for Pieridae Energy’s Goldboro site. Photo: Halifax Examiner

CBC reporter Frances Willick looks at the collapse of proposed energy megaprojects in Nova Scotia — the Alton Gas natural gas storage project on the Shubenacadie River, Pieridae’s Energy LNG plant in Goldboro, the not-dead-yet Bear Head LNG project in Port Hawkesbury, the Donkin coal mine, and the lack of interest in the offshore — and tries to find a unifying theme:

Jennifer Tuck, the CEO of the Maritimes Energy Association, said the industry’s transition away from fossil fuels is affecting the energy landscape in Nova Scotia.

“Focus on climate change, achieving global emissions reductions targets, all of those things, I think, make it challenging in the fossil fuel sector,” she said.

Tuck said investment funds have been pulling out of funding oil and gas projects, and federal policy changes are focusing more on clean energies and technologies.

Noreen Mabiza, an energy co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, points to community opposition to such projects, and I certainly don’t want to discount that — with AltonGas in particular, the delays caused by protests and court challenges led by Indigenous people gave time for the weak financial underpinnings of the project to be laid bare for all to see.

But Larry Hughes gets at what I think is the heart of the issue:

Larry Hughes, who teaches energy systems analysis at Dalhousie University and is a founding fellow of the MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance, said there were different factors — including finances, logistical hurdles and opposition — involved in the demise of the different energy projects in Nova Scotia, but what was consistent was the hype behind each.

Hughes said Nova Scotia has a “colonial mentality” when it comes to energy projects, primarily thinking about exporting resources such as gas or coal to other areas instead of using them at home first.

“These projects get so hyped up by the province, that this is going to set us on the course to riches, we will become a have province, no more equalization payments.… There’s a constant wishful thinking.”

I’ve written extensively about Nova Scotia’s love for megaprojects that inevitably fail — much of my work past, present (i.e., this article), and future is or will be a rewrite of my 2013 Coast article “Two decades of world-class delusion” — and while energy projects loom large in Nova Scotia’s megaproject catalog, they are simply a subset of the larger phenomena.

So Hughes is nearly completely right: Nova Scotia’s colonial mentality is certainly at play here, but I’d like to make two addenda.

First, the colonial mentality isn’t a societal-defining trait; it’s not like arsenic in the water that everyone drinks and is affected with. While some of the public is hoodwinked by prospects of jobs! jobs! jobs!, in general those who think they’re going to get a 6-figure job at the local LNG plant are victims of the fraud, not perpetuators.

Rather, the colonial mentality is a constructed narrative that serves the interests of the relatively small slice of the populace that will stand to profit from the megaprojects even if they never materialize or (more so) if they fail spectacularly after a billion dollars worth of public money is sunk into them — the politicians, government bureaucrats, economic development charlatans, and that amorphous managerial class that seems to hover over and around all these projects and somehow profits no matter what happens (think of Fred MacGillivray’s crew and the Commonwealth Games bid). There’s always money to be made selling dreams to suckers.

Second, while Nova Scotia produces many of these schemes all on its own, it is also especially receptive to outsiders shilling their schemes — from that American huckster using a false identity who was hawking a Fukushima-style nuclear power plant farm on Stoddart Island in Shag Harbour, to Peter Munk and his Clairtone Sound, to Clifford Frame and Westray Mine, to Alfred Sorensen’s Pieridae Energy, to… well, you get the point.

Certainly Nova Scotia’s receptive colonial mentality leads to many of these schemes washing ashore here, they or some version of them would exist without Nova Scotia — selling dreams to suckers is basically the foundation of late stage capitalism (or maybe just of capitalism generally).

I think of Stephen Matier, the man behind Maritime Launch Services and the proposed Canso spaceport. As I’ve written, I don’t think the spaceport makes any sense financially on its own terms. (I’m not an investment consultant or an expert in rocket launches, so Matier may prove me wrong yet, and this is simply my musings, not, you know, advice.) And while I don’t know what the day-to-day workings of his company are, I would think he’s probably getting a salary to continue pushing this dream. And if that’s the case, while he undoubtedly wants rockets to fly one day from Canso, even if that never happens, so long as he can keep the dream alive and attract at least some investors along the way, well, he’s employed.

There’s a lot of big money in the big economy, the billionaires and hedge funds and financial and tech firms that slosh trillions of dollars this way and that and always end up on top no matter what happens because they basically own the planet. But there’s also relatively (relative to the trillions of dollars) small money to be made greasing the system, offshoring the accounts, facilitating the cash flows, lobbying the governments, creating the subsidies, and so forth. And so there’s an army of these (mostly) guys willing to serve the masters, and here we are.

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5. Roman

a baby
Roman Dube. Photo: Dube family via CTV

I was hoping the first baby in Nova Scotia in 2022 would be born in the back seat of a 1975 Chrysler New Yorker rambling across the Cobequid Pass because the maternity ward at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre was closed and frantic parents-to-be were rushing to the Truro Hospital but the baby just wouldn’t wait.

Such a child would be named “Cobey,” of course, and would be the subject of song for generations to come.

But nature had different plans.

“Angela and Brandon Dube welcomed their newest addition, Roman, at 12:03 a.m. on Jan. 1 – making him the first baby born in Nova Scotia in 2022,” reports Natasha Pace for CTV. Brandon was born not in the back seat of a car, but rather at Valley Regional Hospital.

Welcome, Roman. It’s a scary world and everything is falling apart. But we’ll do what we can for you.

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1. House of Cars

a parking garage
Summer Street Parking Garage. Photo: Stephen Archibald

One of the kindest, most gracious, and just darn nice Haligonians — scratch that, the kindest, most gracious, and nicest Haligonian — is Stephen Archibald.

But I gotta say, I like Angry Stephen, and he brings out all the righteous anger with his condemnation of the new parking garage across from the Halifax Infirmary:

At this point I should note that I’m an old person who has occasion to visit the hospital regularly and I’m very fond of having a convenient place to park. My issues with this parking structure have been: the Province’s embrace of secrecy about their plans, their apparent lack of understanding of the landscape they wanted to build on, their “we don’t care what it looks like” attitude. “But parking” is the beginning and end of the story they care to tell.

The New York Times has labeled parking garages “the grim afterthought of American design.” It appears that is what we are getting.

Maybe there is going to be an exciting lighting scheme for the building, or reflective solar panels attached to the sides, or a landscaped viewing terrace on the top level. In this clever and creative province you’d think there were people who could design a structure that began the healing process as you parked your vehicle. But it feels like we should be satisfied with parking. Parking is enough. Enough. Just like in “Love Actually.”

In Halifax there is lots of talk and action on how to make the city more livable. Traditionally some provincial civil servants seem to go out of their way to show that they don’t really care about such niceties. This parking structure is a good example.

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In the harbour

01:00: One Hangzhou Bay, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
02:30: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
06:00: MSC Pamela, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
10:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
17:00: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s

Cape Breton
06:00: CSL Metis, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Sydney
13:30: Nordtulip, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
14:30: Front Siena, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from FPSO Armada Olombendo, Angola


I have more on stuff falling from the sky, but I ran out of time.

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  1. “We lash out, we politicize, we turn those who have different assessments and opinions into monsters wanting to needlessly kill people.”

    I would certainly agree that we do that in times of heightened stress such as now. But it should also be noted that the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers have been doing that since pretty much the beginning of the pandemic, as well as before the pandemic.

    And they’re getting worse. Trust me, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

  2. Pity multistory standalone car parks like that can’t be built underground, preserving the surface for something more attractive. As long as we have the transit we do though, people will continue to need cars and thus car parks.

    Maybe that could change when time-share driverless electric vehicles can be summoned on your phone to take you directly from your door to your destination. Then there will be less need for privately owned cars, taxis, Ubers, car parks and Metro Transit.

    It may happen some day, but don’t hold your breath.

  3. Welcome Roman.

    You are a beacon for our collective future. We are all counting on you, but we will do our part to make sure you have the best chance to do good in this life.

  4. City of Halifax councillors have happily expropriated the Common for many years. Faux outrage from one councillor is quite normal and no doubt he fully supports a mini stadium taking away one more piece of what was once open public space. I can’t get too worked up about the parking garage because the hospital complex should be in Bedford/Sackville where it would be closer to the greater number of people than the present location.

    1. Agreed, there are an awful lot of folks living out that way.

      It feels to me like these folks are not well served by a smallish Cobequid Centre, that closes at night, forcing people to seek health carein Dartmouth or Halifax.