News

1. Strang: Nova Scotians becoming too lax about COVID

Dr. Robert Strang at a COVID briefing in February.

If you’ve been out enjoying a summer free of gathering limits and mask mandates, wondering whatever happened to COVID, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer has news for you: it’s still around, and you should still be taking precautions.

“I am concerned that over the past few months we have collectively become too complacent and unconcerned about COVID,” Dr. Robert Strang told reporters on Friday. Yvette d’Entremont had that story. 

“Surely we are not where we were in 2020 or 2021, or even last spring, but COVID is still a significant issue that requires our collective attention and action.”

Strang announced no new public health restrictions, but reminded the public that this province is, like the rest of Canada, currently in a summer wave of COVID cases. Though we’re doing better than we were this time last year, Strang cautioned that COVID isn’t over just because mask mandates and other pandemic regulations are gone.

While Strang ⁠— who recently had COVID himself ⁠— didn’t tell reporters that any public health restrictions would be returning, he did urge Nova Scotians to voluntarily mask up, avoid crowds, self-isolate, and generally look out for the health of others. Preventing the spread of COVID, he said, at a time when the health care system continues to be stretched thin, is key to avoid an autumn wave of COVID and avoidable strain on hospitals and medical workers.

Reporters asked Strang why he and the province chose not to mandate masks in schools this fall if there’s such concern about the spread of the virus. In response, he said students should be masking up in crowded classrooms and buses, but a mandate still isn’t necessary.

One of the best steps we can take to lower the threat of COVID, Strang said, is to keep up to date with vaccinations.

You should also keep up-to-date on vaccination news. Also on Friday, the province’s Department of Health and Wellness issued a vaccine update for the fall. Elementary school-aged kids will be eligible for their first boosters in September, and second boosters will become more broadly available later that month.

If you’ve had questions about the current state of COVID in this province, or the more hands-off approach the government has taken to the pandemic this summer despite its insistence that COVID remains a threat to public health and the infrastructure surrounding it, you can read d’Entremont’s full article here.

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2. Donald Sobey, Derek Power, and the lasting impact of a ‘pardoned’ sexual assault

Donald Sobey.

Last week, Stephen Kimber co-authored an article for the Globe and Mail with business reporter Joe Castaldo: Donald Sobey’s Sexual Assault of a Young Man was an Open Secret, Now his Victim is Finally Telling his Story.

On Sunday, Kimber followed up on that article here at the Examiner, going into detail about why he and the Globe ultimately decided to publish the story, even though the case in question ⁠— in which Sobey pleaded guilty ⁠— is now more than 30 years old and Sobey has been dead more than a year. Kimber writes:

In August 1991, Sobey, then 56 and the chair of Empire Company Ltd., the Sobey family holding company, pled guilty to a summary offence of sexual assault against a 20-year-old male student and paid a $750 fine. As soon as he was eligible, Sobey applied for and was granted a federal pardon, meaning the police and court records are no longer available. A year later, Sobey launched his family foundation, which has since donated millions of dollars to education, the arts, and various environmental causes. He was eventually named to the Order of Canada and awarded eight university honorary degrees.

When he died on March 24, 2021, Sobey was lauded not only as “an astute businessman who helped the grocery store business his father founded in rural Nova Scotia expand into a multi-billion-dollar national company,” but also and “equally, as a philanthropist who championed Canadian visual art and post-secondary education.”

Which again raises those niggling questions. Why publish this story at all and, especially, why now — 31 years after his sexual assault conviction, nearly a year-and-a-half after his death?

The short answer is because this is not just Donald Sobey’s story. It is also the story of Derek Power, the then-20-year-old university student who was the victim of Sobey’s assault.

Power, who now lives in Toronto and is a father of two, first reached out to Kimber almost a year after Dalhousie University announced plans in 2020 for a new “international restorative justice lab,” which a school news release said was thanks to “the generous support of the Donald R. Sobey Foundation.”

Power sent Kimber an email in which he said he was shaken away by the hypocrisy of it all. Kimber and Castaldo spent over a year working to tell Power’s story and ensure the victim’s voice in all this would be heard.

Read Kimber’s thoughts on his recent Globe article, the Sobey legacy, and Power’s story, by clicking here.

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3. Left-turn speed bumps coming to Halifax temporarily

Halifax’s planned temporary left-turn speed bump in animated action. Photo: HRM

Halifax Regional Municipality is planning to shake up six of the city’s intersections in September with a new pilot project.

So brace yourself, Halifax comment sections.

HRM will introduce temporary rubber speed bumps meant to slow down left-turning cars at the following intersections:

  • South Park Street and Spring Garden Road
  • Lacewood Drive and Dunbrack Street
  • Lacewood Drive and Parkland Drive
  • Cobequid Road and Glendale Drive
  • Joseph Howe Drive and Dutch Village Road
  • Main Street and Major Street

A depiction of the plan is mapped in HRM’s graphic above.

The idea is cars will take a longer route around speed bumps on left turns, forcing them to slow down and avoid cutting corners.

Wondering if this will be yet another hastily attempted pilot project that fails in Halifax? Sue Uteck, executive director of Spring Garden Area Business Association, shared those concerns when speaking with Callum Smith at Global.

As an association, we can live with the changes. But it’s a lack of communication from the city all the way along. The bus pilot project failed because of a lack of communication and here we are having another implementation with no communication again.

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4. Child care services coming to existing centres in rural Cape Breton

Photo: Beth Bap Church/Unsplash

There are no licensed child care centres north of Englishtown in Cape Breton, but Emily Latimer at the CBC is reporting that some provincial funding and a not-for-profit could soon bring much-needed child care services to those rural areas.

Taigh Curaim Daycare Society has received $1.2 million to expand child care services in rural Cape Breton, and the non-profit now plans to put a centre in Bay St. Lawrence and one in Ingonish. The new facilities will be run out of existing community centres, which will be updated to meet standards for child care.

It’s a huge part of the province to go unserved with licensed child care, so two new centres could go a long way. From Latimer’s report:

Resident Sabrina Bonnar has already applied for the centre’s child-care program for her three-year-old son.

She hopes his application is accepted so she can go back to work.

“It’s gonna help a lot of people around the community, I think,” she said. “Especially me, as being a busy mother, it’s going to be very helpful.”

MacKinnon said the new centre will open soon.

The provincial government’s affordable child-care agreement with Ottawa is scheduled to see $10-a-day child care offered by 2026. Jarabek said that will make a difference.

“Ten dollars a day will literally change the decisions that people make in terms of how they organize their lives,” she said.

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Views

Sunshine sketches of a small city airport

Stanfield bag check this Sunday. I avoided it entirely.

I’m travelling a bit right now, so today’s Views will be brief.

That’s the subject of today’s piece actually. Not brevity, but travel. Specifically, air travel.

Yesterday I took my first flight since the global airport meltdown hit its peak earlier this year. For months I’ve seen videos of yelling matches between would-be passengers and powerless clerks, opinion pieces blaming airlines, the government, and airports for mismanagement and greed, social media posts suggesting you arrive for domestic flights three hours early just to be sure you make it.

I was a little bit terrified going in.

Articles like the one Richard Warnica wrote about YYZ in July had put the fear of God in me when it came to flights. Just read this excerpt from that article:

More than 8,000 flights have been cancelled at Pearson so far this year… a number so large it almost renders abstract the sheer volume of misery it represents.

What a terrific sentence about such a terrible fact. I was ready for the worst.

But this was Stanfield, not Pearson. And I was flying Porter, not Air Canada or WestJet. I was only flying direct to St. John’s. Surely I’d avoid the infuriating hellscape I’d heard airports had become.

I hadn’t heard much out of Stanfield before arriving. I’d seen some reports of bad baggage handling — I decided against checking a bag, which, in my opinion, is always wise if you can swing it  – and I’d heard about staffing shortages at the airport, but it was my understanding most of the empty jobs were related to the shops in the airport, nothing travel related.

Even Pearson, I hear, is only the second worst airport in the world for delays now.

My girlfriend, who I was travelling to meet, told me she saw a video from Stanfield online that showed the security line backed up nearly to the bag check. (I still haven’t seen that video, but I love her, so I believe her). As such, she told me to get to the airport three hours ahead of time.

Lucky for me, I crashed at a pilot friend’s the night before, and he told me I’d be fine if I left for the airport two hours before. Normally, there’s no one in the world I trust more than my partner, but when it comes to travel times and not falling out of the sky, I’ll put my faith in a pilot first.

So I got there about an hour and a half before my flight. It was busy; bustling even. But lines were moving. The longest queue was the one for the lone coffee shop in the terminal. I made it through security in 10 minutes, even with a bag screening.

No boarding delays, no waits on the tarmac. The only difference I noticed was at the terminal grab ‘n’ go shop. Global inflation has finally brought real-world prices in sync with airport prices, so I didn’t feel guilty shelling out $7 for a subpar egg salad sandwich this time.

In fact, all those fears from nightmare airport reports made the whole experience easier. It almost made me forget what a terrible time airports and plane travel are even when things are going smoothly.

Then I strapped into the world’s smallest plane seat on the world’s smallest plane — there’s a reason Porter provides a complimentary drink on its flights — and I remembered.

All this is to say, I can personally report that it’s still possible to buy a plane ticket, get through security, be granted the service you actually paid for, avoid a cancellation, and arrive at your destination with your original luggage. Airports are not entirely broken.

Now that I’ve successfully jinxed my return flight — I have to be back for my best friend’s wedding this weekend and, just like on that Porter seat, wiggle room is scarce — I’ll relax on my vacation and sign off.

Good luck to all you jet-setters out there.

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Noticed: Mapping the future of Eisner Cove Wetland

Bill Zebedee of the Save Our Southdale Wetland Society walks over cutdown trees on Clayton Developments property near the Eisner Cove wetland in March 2022. Photo: Zane Woodford

Since the province announced nine “special planning areas” in Halifax Regional Municipality back in March, effectively giving Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr the power to fast-track housing development approvals without public consultation or municipal input, locals in some of those areas have been speaking out about the lack of environmental concern..

Port Wallace and Sandy Lake are two examples.

A third is the Eisner Cove Wetland in Dartmouth, where local community groups have been rallying for months to stop Clayton Developments from starting construction that would massively upset the habitat of the large green space in the metro area.

The Examiner reported on the two groups most heavily involved in the protest last week, Save our Southdale Wetland and Defend Eisner Cove Wetland. The groups are asking the province to give Clayton Developments a different plot to build on, one in a less ecologically sensitive part of HRM.

Currently, the development plan covers about 45 hectares of untouched greenery. (Mostly untouched, that is; Clayton Developments started cutting trees a little ahead of schedule). The development will lead to 700 “attainable housing units,” meaning housing that middle-class people can probably afford. It will also displace wildlife habitats, including species at risk, and potentially release large amounts of carbon now stored in the trees and vegetation.

To illustrate why locals are so concerned about the loss of the wetland — the planned development has sparked multiple rallies and a protest that turned dangerous — concerned citizen Shanni Bale has created an interactive map that clearly shows a before and after look at Eisner Cove.

It’s easy to use and shows what’s going to happen to the land better than any article can. Try it out here if you like.

But allow me to include some screenshots here as well. I hate jumping around links too.

Below is the wetland as it stands now. The colourful dots represent reported wildlife sightings. The bright purpley-white streak shows areas considered “climate-resilent,” meaning the habitats are primed to adapt and support the same species long-term, even as the climate warms. The brown border outlines the development area.

Eisner Cove wetland, untouched, from above. Photo: Shanni Bale

As we slide the map to the post-development view, things start to change.

The planned Eisner Cove development from above. The left side is what it looks like now. Photo: Shanni Bale

Most of the mature forest is gone. And it’s unlikely as many dots will reappear for wildlife sightings once the neighbourhood is in place.

The planned Eisner Cove development from above. Photo: Shanni Bale

Once we go through with this development, there’s no going back to what we had. So it’s worth taking a look at what we’ve got right now before we go ahead with this fast-track development. Sadly, whatever you think about the development, right now only one Nova Scotian has a say in the matter: Minister John Lohr.

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Government

City

Monday

No meetings

Tuesday

Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, online) — agenda

Province

Monday

No meetings

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) —appointments to agencies, boards, and commissions

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — vaccine booster shots, with Jeannine Lagassé, Kathleen Trott, and Dr. Robert Strang


On campus

Dalhousie

PhD Defence, Pharmacology (Monday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building, and online) — Stefan Heinze-Milne will defend “Effects of Low Testosterone on Frailty and a Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator on Frailty, Frailty Mechanisms, and Cardiac Structure and Function in Older Mice”


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: NYK Remus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Hamburg, Germany
06:00: Algoterra, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for Quebec City
07:00: CMA CGM Montreal, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Bremerhaven, Germany
07:00: Celebrity Summit, cruise ship with up to 2,100 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from St. John’s, on a 12-day cruise from Reykjavik to Boston
07:45: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor, on a seven-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
08:30: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik
11:00: MSC Tamara, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
11:45: Skogafoss sails for Portland
16:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Bilboa, Spain
17:45: Zaandam sails for Sydney
18:00: Celebrity Summit sails for Boston
21:00: NYK Remus sails for sea
22:30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John

Cape Breton
06:30: CSL Metis, bulker, sails from Point Tupper coal pier for sea
07:00: Norwegian Pearl, cruise ship with up to 2,873 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Charlottetown, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston
10:00: Sonangol Namibe, oil tanker, arrives at Port Hawkesbury anchorage from Girassol offshore terminal, Angola
10:30: Tanja, bulker, arrives at Point Hawkesbury Paper from Portland
13:00: Algoma Mariner, bulker, sails from Atlantic bulk terminal (Sydney) for sea
16:30: Norwegian Pearl sails for Halifax
18:00: CSL Argosy, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea


Footnotes

I saw the Wales women’s rugby club at the airport Sunday. They got smoked 31-3 against our Canadians Saturday at the Wanderer’s Grounds. Shout out to my good friend Georgia who took her bachelorette party to the game ⁠— she’s no longer a bachelorette ⁠— for what I’m sure was a great, rowdy time. Congrats to her and the Canadian club.


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Ethan Lycan-Lang

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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6 Comments

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  1. The CMOH’s of Canada should face the scrutiny of a royal inquiry or some other equivalent process. They have largely given up on protecting the public from COVID and are not being held accountable by anybody.

    Despite his words that we should not be complacent, his actions have directly caused that complacency in many cases.

    When you hear the average person talk they say things like, ‘back when covid was bad’, or ‘when the pandemic was happening’ and it’s not just a slip of the tongue.
    The average person does not track the covid numbers and assumes that because mandates and restrictions have been removed that it is because the risk is no longer there. That’s the impression that I get from a lot of people who have gone back to doing whatever, whenever and taking few to no precautions. That illusion of safety has been created by the actions of the CMOH, removing restrictions and being myopic about vaccinations as the solution instead of only part of it.

    Immunologists, virologists etc. have been so clear on what needs to be done now that vaccination has largely been implemented (less the under 5 tots). Proper ventilation systems in buildings, masking in shared air spaces, and isolation when sick.

  2. As a biologist I cringe when people use phrases like ‘untouched’.
    Firstly it’s incredibly colonial and discounts the fact that these lands were actively managed by humans for thousands of years.
    Secondly, it’s just very unlikely. As somebody who has seen an awful lot of forest in this province and has a few co-workers who have seen even more (likely more than 99.9% of the population has), it is incredibly rare to come across a primeval habitat that has seen only indigenous management and zero signs of colonizer management of the past 400 years.
    Ecosystems don’t have to be framed as ‘old growth’ or home to species at risk or ‘untouched’ in order to be important. An average functioning forest wetland ecosystem with no species at risk is also important and worth fighting for in the context of a large sprawling city around it.
    Applying the idea of ‘untouched’ to a place that is a stones throw from an industrial park, a four lane highway and a trailer park, in an area where colonizers have lived already for a few hundred years, is incredibly misguided, not helpful and likely quite opposed to the actual ecological and human history of the site.

    I don’t want to see this site get developed. There is no shortage of places to build new developments. Even if it did go ahead the buffer around the wetlands should be at least 100m to preserve the buffering function that the forest provides to the wetland. Building a road through the wetland where they plan to is just incredibly unnecessary.

  3. I emailed Minister Lohr on June 8 to express my concern about the proposed development at the Eisner’s Cove wetland. On July 28 In received a reply from Vicki Elliott Lopez, CEO, HRM Housing Task Force Secretariat, on behalf of the Minister. In her reply she states:”I can assure you that all environmental and permitting requirements will still be required for new development in special planning areas.” She goes on to state that if I have any “additional questions, concerns, and feedback on this site…” “HRM is gathering this information for the Task Force at https://www.halifax.ca/about-halifax/regional-community-planning/regional-plan/special-planning-areas.” Nice to hear that HRM is gathering this information, but does it mean there has been or will there be an environmental impact study?

    1. One would almost think from reading the HRM website that the Municipality supports the whole idea of “special planning areas” despite the fact that I can’t find any public record of Regional Council agreeing to a process in which it will not officially have any say on the outcome as would otherwise be the case (whether there will be councillor input behind closed doors is another matter) and any public consultations is totally at the discretion of the Minister.

      The website states that development of the Morris Lake expansion area is being proposed by Dartmouth East Holdings which is a partnership between Clayton Developments and Cresco. With Clayton Developments being the beneficiary of such a significant amount of these “special planning areas” and with the public having so little say, if any, on the outcome, one would think that Clayton Developments should be paying for the considerable time that HRM staff has and will be spending on these large and significant development projects..

  4. Hi there, Halifax Examiner.
    It’s Shanni Bee… Landscape ecologist, conservation GIS expert, and yes… *deeply* concerned citizen.
    Thank you so much for publishing these maps and making Eisner Cove the top story of today’s Morning File. <3 (Thank you for your previous articles as well.) It means a lot. We need an army of land protectors, and I'm hoping this will help increase interest, engagement, and involvement with the cause.

    For HFX Examiner readers who, like Mr. Lycan-Lang, "hate jumping around links", both interactive maps can be viewed and shared as stand-alone apps as well.

    Swipe map showing Eisner Cove Wetland pre- and post- development: https://arcg.is/0894OH0

    Online map where user can toggle the various environmental & anthropogenic impact layers on & off: https://arcg.is/05aze90

  5. The reasons to defend against the destruction of Eisner Cove wetland are many and it is NOT a “not in my back yard” issue. The publicly owned land should never have been sold. It was done so with no process or consultation. There are many of us who oppose this development because of what the lack of process means and the precedent it sets for anywhere in HRM. In some ways it is the same principle for supporting Ukraine. It could be us next.