Subscription drive, 2022.

It’s that time of year, the Examiner’s annual subscription drive, when we will gently prod you to drop us a few coins — about what you would spend on a couple of lattes a month — to keep this publication going and growing.

This year, we’re going to give you some examples of how we use your money. When I think about this, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t the money we spend on investigations or legal costs, although of course that’s important. Rather, the first thing I think about is the people we’ve been able to hire to become part of the Examiner team.

Because let’s face it: this would be a boring and repetitive place if it were only me. Railing against convention centres and such can only take us so far, and my writing voice can be, shall we say, predictable. More to the point, I have a range of interests, but there’s a hell of a lot that falls outside of that range. That’s why when we bring on new people, the first thing I tell them is I want to hear them in their own voice, speaking to their own interests, not some rehashed version of myself.

Here’s today’s example: Suzanne Rent.

Suzanne came on board at the Examiner by filling in for a Morning File on August 27, 2018. Since then, she has written or cowritten 335 articles (a couple more are waiting in draft stage to be published).

I could talk all day about Suzanne’s writing, but one thing that stands out for me is her reporting on the struggles and issues facing working people.

Take as a random example, her Sept. 30, 2020 piece, “Tales of toxic workplaces,” in which she relayed her own experience while working at a toxic workplace, how she learned how to define the problem, and what she did about it (she quit).

And Suzanne repeatedly stresses the underpayment of workers. “I’ve read a lot of stories lately in which employers complain they can’t find workers,” she wrote in August 2021:

Those employers often say workers are staying home and refusing to work because they’re getting the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Employment Insurance (EI), or the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). I find this odd because getting CERB, EI, or CRB is not like winning the jackpot on a Set for Life scratch ticket. For many, these programs are just covering the basics.

So Suzanne found three workers — William Young, Perry Falconer, and Bryn Jones-Vaillancourt — and told their stories, putting human faces and real-world decision-making on unfairly maligned workers.

Suzanne is the exemplar of this kind of human-focused reporting and commentary — see “Back to the office? Some employees just aren’t having it,” “Lessons a grocery store employee learned working during the pandemic,” and “Another emergency and the lowest paid workers are the heroes once again.” Or, just check out Suzanne’s author page for all her articles.

I should add that I additionally saddle Suzanne with a lot of editing and administrative chores, which she handles in a reliably professional and self-directing manner, and which I appreciate more than I tell her.

Suzanne’s presence at the Examiner is valuable. She adds depth and breadth to the reporting, and helps keep the ship on keel. And it’s subscriber money that makes this possible.

If you value the kind of perspective that Suzanne brings to Examiner, please consider subscribing — you can subscribe here. It’s truly your money that makes this possible. Thanks!


NEWS

1. COVID and floors

CUBE project director and University of Ottawa professor Dr. Rees Kassen. Credit: Contributed

“Canadian researchers are ‘floored’ by the success of a new, effective, and simple tool they’ve developed for tracking viruses ⁠— including the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

It turns out floors are like sinks that fill up with accumulated virus. Sampling them can detect COVID-19 up to a week before cases are reported, potentially preventing or containing outbreaks and helping inform infection control decisions. 

Floor sampling helps track viral spread on a smaller scale where large numbers of people congregate and wastewater sampling isn’t necessarily as useful — places like hospitals, schools, long-term care homes, workplaces, and very specific areas in those buildings. 

The surface environmental testing method was discovered by the Coronavirus in the Urban Built Environment (CUBE) research team, part of the national Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network (CoVaRR-Net). 

My first thought on reading this was, ‘uggh, don’t they clean the floors?’ But worry not:

The floor method still works well at detecting the virus even in areas that are cleaned frequently. [University of Ottawa professor Dr. Rees] Kassen said that’s because as soon as someone who’s infected enters a room and starts breathing, the virus begins to accumulate. His team is wrapping up another study looking at the accumulation of COVID-19 in patient rooms in a number of hospital scenarios. 

That study indicates the virus is once again detectable on the floor within hours.

“So somebody comes into the hospital, is diagnosed as having COVID, and they get put into a room that had been cleaned already and then in isolation,” Kassen said. 

“We sample over time and from different distances from the bed of the patient and the short version of the story is that the virus is almost everywhere we sample, from the patient’s bed to the door, within hours.”

Click here to read “Canadian researchers say floor samples can detect COVID up to a week before cases reported.”

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2. Lisa Banfield

Lisa Banfield speaks with a police investigator in Portapique in October 2020. Still from an RCMP video

“With luck,” writes Stephen Kimber, “the weighty combination of legal affidavits, depositions, documents, testimony and evidence will finally shed light on why the Mounties chose to criminally charge a woman the RCMP had previously publicly described as the killer’s ‘first victim.'”

Click here to read “Did the Mounties charge Lisa Banfield to distract from their own failures? Probably.”

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3. David Woods

David Woods accepting an honorary degree. Credit: Matthew Byard

“Pamela Edmonds first met David Woods in the early 1980s through the Cultural Awareness Youth Group Woods had organized,” reports Matthew Byard:

“I was one of the few Black students at Prince Andrew [High School] and I really felt kind of isolated there,” Edmonds said.

The youth group included Black students from several high schools throughout the region who would meet up to take part in Black history quiz competitions, political debates, and other activities.

Now the director and curator of the Dalhousie Art Gallery, Edmonds was one of several people on hand last week as Woods received an honorary doctorate at Dalhousie University’s fall 2022 convocation

“He was a mentor to me in that I discovered the possibilities of doing art, expressing myself, and it actually, I feel, led to my career today,” Edmonds said. “He’s a key person who’s been working behind the scenes and in a lot of ways is unrecognized.”

Byard goes on to detail Woods’ extraordinary career as a Black activist and artist.

Click here to read “‘Exemplary artist’ David Woods receives honorary doctorate from Dalhousie University.”

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4. Ambulance wait times

The Emergency Health Services (EHS) logo on an ambulance. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“A man who fell and broke his hip while walking in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax last Sunday waited 2.5 hours for an ambulance to arrive,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The nearest emergency department was less than four kilometres away at the Halifax Infirmary, but no ambulance was available until paramedics arrived from Milford in Hants County.  

It’s an upsetting story that is shockingly reminiscent of the circumstances reported by Anne MacPhee a couple years ago. Her husband, Kelly, suffered a heart attack and died waiting for an ambulance to come to their home near the Armdale roundabout. 

Thankfully, this story has a much happier outcome. Donna McInnis tells the Halifax Examiner her 78-year-old husband, Kevin, is doing well following his hip surgery. That may be partly due to the kindness of a stranger. As her husband lay on the asphalt parking lot beside the container pier, the first person to come to their aid was a passerby who happened to be a nurse from the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre. 

“She showed me how to immobilize his leg,” McInnis said. “I sat there for 2.5 hours with my knee against his knee. She gave me her jacket and her dog blanket. She helped him get through the first hour while I called the ambulance and kept thinking, ‘Where are they? Where are they?’” 

Click here to read “We ‘need a different system,’ woman says after 2.5-hour wait for ambulance in Halifax.”

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5. High-dose flu shots

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com Credit: Jennifer Henderson

“Free flu shots have been available to Nova Scotians for two weeks. The standard flu shot is effective at preventing illness and keeping people out of hospital which is a good thing,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

But if you want a flu shot that contains four times the protection, you will pay over $80 to get the high-dose Fluzone vaccine, plus another $10 for the pharmacy fee. Both the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in Canada and the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. recommend senior citizens over the age of 65 get the high-dose vaccination, provided they have the choice.

The high-dose flu vaccine contains four times more antigen than the regular vaccine so it provides superior protection against illness and hospitalization. A randomized efficacy study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the trivalent high-dose vaccine was 24% more effective in preventing flu in adults 65 years and older compared to a standard-dose vaccine.

In Nova Scotia, the province covers the cost of the high-dose vaccine for seniors living in long-term care or group settings. In every province and territory except Nova Scotia, Quebec, and British Columbia, provincial governments have chosen to expand coverage to all seniors over the age of 65, regardless of where they live. Presumably the reason is to cut down on the number of people requiring hospitalization once flu season descends in late December.

Click here to read “Experts say seniors should get the high-dose flu vaccine, but Nova Scotia doesn’t cover the cost for all seniors.”

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VIEWS

1. Golf #1

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around Rodney MacDonald’s unblinking support for Cabot Links proposal to expand into West Mabou Beach Provincial Park. Of course he’s getting paid for that support — he’s the “community liaison” for the company — but does he really need the money? Maybe he does. Maybe he sold his resort cabins and is now living in a van down by the river. Who knows?

Or maybe MacDonald really thinks the West Mabou proposal is a great idea that will bring economic prosperity forever, amen. A lot of people think as much.

But the thing with MacDonald is I’ve never gotten the feeling that he’s his own man, with his own thoughts. He always seems to be doing someone else’s bidding, or is being directed by others. When he became premier, it seemed like a backroom deal between the PC functionaries and the money men who run the party: “OK, see, we’ll put up this fiddle player, the electorate will love it, and he’ll do whatever we tell him to do. Prepare to make a mint on the Commonwealth Games bid.”

I mean, I just can’t picture MacDonald slamming his fists on a board table and telling the collected advisors and bagmen and communications people, “NO! We’re not doing that, we’re doing it my way!”

They’re both musicians, but Rodney MacDonald is no Frank Sinatra. One’s the Chairman of the board; the other is just a puppet.

Unlike other premiers, better and worse, I can’t think of a single thing that was clearly a product of MacDonald’s own initiative.

I was musing on this yesterday and remembered MacDonald’s “Top 10” list, as seen in the video above. The background is that Elliot Page appeared on the David Letterman show, and offhandedly said Letterman should visit Nova Scotia. That one-off comment got the premier’s PR machinery fired up.

I’m probably in the minority, as the 14-year-old comments on YouTube suggest — but at the time, I thought the video was cringeworthy. It seemed like the hopelessly desperate attempt of an awkward teenager trying to get the attention of the prom queen. Letterman sensibly ignored it.

Watching the video today, it is quite evidently the product of a PR team, not of any one person, and certainly not of MacDonald, albeit I’ll agree that the fiddle playing is his own.

The video is sad, a little pathetic, and doesn’t hold up.

It makes me wonder: What’s the most cringeworthy product of Nova Scotia’s attempt to gain the attention of the wider world? Some possible answers:
• Rodney’s Top 10 list
ringing the bell on the New York Stock Exchange
• celebrating our world-class time zone
• the proposal of hosting the Olympics by using a flotilla of cruise ships as hotels
Amazon headquarters
• the Mercator One as provincial ambassador

Provide your own examples in the comments.

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2. Golf #2

The Persistence of Memory by Salvadore Dali

Speaking of terrible things and golf…

The older I get and farther north I live, the more I find the time changes disruptive. I’ll be especially cranky and off-kilter for the next three weeks.

If you’re like me and hate, hate, hate the never-ending clock-changing, you’ll be heartened to learn that this is another thing we can (partly) blame golf for.

“The golf industry has historically promoted the expansion of Daylight Saving Time,” wrote Henry Greenstein in Golf Week / USA Today last year:

One of the earliest advocates for setting the clocks ahead in the summer was an English builder named William Willett who wanted to be able to golf later in the day. And after the U.S. standardized Daylight Saving Time (DST) with the Uniform Time Act of 1966, the golf lobby was right there to push for an extra month of DST in the 1980s, which they said would garner an additional $400 million in revenue for their industry.

The thinking goes that extra daylight after work should entice more people to spend their spare time on the golf course.

“I think that most of us spend more leisure time in the afternoon,” said Calvin Schermerhorn, a history professor at ASU who once spoke about DST before the National Conference of State Legislatures. “So yeah, you may want to get out to the links early and have a nice early tee time, but the real sweet spot is in that afternoon.”

“According to Michael Downing, a professor at Tufts University and the author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness Of Daylight Saving Time,” the golf industry once estimated the game would increase revenue by $400 million if daylight saving began a month earlier,” repeats Sam Weinman in Golf Digest:

Those figures were part of a 1986 lobbying effort asking Congress to extend daylight saving from six to seven months, which ended up becoming the norm.

“The reason it’s good for golf is because it creates more daylight when people are likely to play,” said Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation. “It could be going out to play nine holes or even just spending 30 minutes on the putting green. We believe any activity is good whether it leads to increased revenue or increased engagement in the game.”

Mona says the golf industry no longer needs to actively lobby on behalf of daylight saving, and instead just monitors the occasional debate from afar. And to be clear, the concept is not universally embraced.

Studies have suggested that energy usage, one of the original factors behind daylight saving, does not decrease much because of daylight saving. Yes, people use their lights less in the evening hours, but it also means they might increase air conditioner use. And there are even health concerns from the inevitable sleep deprivation that accompanies moving clocks ahead an hour: the New England Journal of Medicine published a report in 2008 that said heart attack risk rose in Sweden following the spring time change.

And those supposed energy savings are only looking at home electricity usage. If people really are using the extra evening daylight hours to drive around to do things like go to the golf course, then they’re using far more energy than had they simply stayed home with the lights and TV on.

For myself, I don’t care which time we chose — Standard or Daylight or something in between — but we should choose one and stick with it, forever. In the meanwhile, I’ll hate on the golf industry.


Government

City

Today

No meetings

Tomorrow

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda

Province

No meetings this week


On campus

Dalhousie

How cancer care will be tailored to you: the reality and promise of precision medicine (Monday, 6pm, Imperial Ballroom, Lord Nelson Hotel and via Zoom) — Picchione Lecture featuring Paola Mercato, Ravi Ramjeesingh, and Graham Wade; register here.


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Saint Croix, Virgin Islands
07:00: One Hangzhou Bay, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
08:30: NYK Deneb, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
12:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
13:00: Algoma Mariner, bulker, sails from Pier 25 for sea
15:30: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Portland
16:00: Lowlands Opal, bulker, pick up pilot at outer harbour, then on to Sheet Harbour, arriving from Trois-Rivières
22:00: Tropic Hope sails for Palm Beach, Florida

Cape Breton
04:15: Nordbay, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from New York
07:15: CSL Tarantau, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for Cape Canaveral, Florida
12:00: IT Infinity, offshore supply ship, sails from Mulgrave for sea
14:00: Balsa 86, cargo ship, arrives at Mulgrave from Kingston, Jamaica


Footnotes

I had brunch on the Armview patio yesterday, wearing a T-shirt. And I was hot. On November 6. Then I worked in the yard for a couple of hours because I’m realizing the snow won’t soon cover up all the debris.

Sure, we’re all enjoying this weather, and saving a bundle by not heating our houses. But this is very, very wrong.


Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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3 Comments

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  1. Re: high dose vaccine

    As a senior who tried multiple ways to find the high dose flu vaccine, I came to the conclusion that it does not exist in Nova Scotia. It is being falsely marketed.

  2. Other cringeworthy products: Clairtone. Bricklin. Monster convention centre. Guysborough LNG. Monster Art Gallery. National football. Thanks heaven some not yet ‘accomplished’.