Hi, I’m Suzanne Rent and I’m filling in for Tim this morning. You can follow me on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent


1. Cogswell plan needs more input, group says

Cogswell interchange. Photo: unfocusedphotos.com

Council will vote today on design plans for the Cogswell Interchange, reports Francis Campbell at The Chronicle Herald.

The plan includes commercial and residential space, green and plaza spaces, plus bike and bus lanes, and is expected to be the gateway between the north end and downtown.

But a group of 26 businesses and organizations with the North End Business Association say the plan still needs more public input. Patty Cuttell say the plan is just an “infrastructure plan.”

It’s just a bunch of ideas without an overall vision. Because they’ve separated out the infrastructure from the land use, those two pieces aren’t informing each other. All we really see is a road network and some parks. We have no idea at this point what the buildings are going to look like.

Councillor Steve Adams disagrees, saying the public had its say.

There have been comments but we need to move forward. It’s as simple as that. My concern is not with public input — that is what we need. But at what point is there enough. There has been a lot of public participation in this project. There’s been a lot of groups available. At some point, we draw the line. I think the line is drawn tomorrow (Tuesday).

2. Online hatred a “big red flag”

The Barho family

One week ago, Kawthar and Ebraheim Barho lost their seven children, Ahmad, Rola, Mohamad, Ola, Hala, Rana, and Abdulla, in a horrific house fire at their home in Spryfield. Like many others, I have thought about those parents and children every day. For the past week, thousands of people have expressed their kindness and grief for the family through online donations, words of support, and by attending vigils and the childrens’ funeral on Saturday. I believe many people are good and kind and we saw the best of humanity in the past several days.

But some of the online stories about the fire and the family attracted hateful, racist comments. Sarah Ritchie at Global interviewed Alex Khasnabish, an anthropology professor at Mount Saint Vincent University, who says those comments are “big red flags” and “outright hate speech.”

It’s really easy to write this off as a speech issue, and even worse as a free speech issue, that people have the right to say basically totally violent, conspiratorial, baseless things that are intended to whip up violence against people.

I would just hope that people would look in the mirror, at this moment, and challenge themselves to be better.

We have to confront this kind of speech from everyone, including family, friends, coworkers, and commenters online. People often don’t want to get involved because they want to be nice, or they want to avoid negativity in real life or online, or because the commenter is older and things were different in their day. Seniors can get a discount at the drugstore, but they don’t get a pass on hatred.

Call out the hatred. Don’t be a bystander, online or in real life.

3. Docs urge patients to get checked for lung cancer

The head of thoracic radiology at the QEII Health Science Centre is urging Nova Scotians to seek medical advice for lung issues after a study shows most cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in emergency rooms, reports Carolyn Ray with CBC.

Radiologist Dr. Daria Manos was one of several physicians in the province who took part in a study on lung cancer diagnoses from 2014. According to their findings in the study, of the 1,000 cases of lung cancer that year, one-third were diagnosed in the ER. Three-quarters of those patients died within a year. Manos says one factor affecting the numbers is patients ignoring their symptoms.

Often, unfortunately, with lung cancer, they’re ashamed because of the high association with smoking. And another reason is that they’re afraid of the cancer diagnosis. So they may have a rumbling suspicion in the back of their head that, ‘Geez, this might be a sign of lung cancer and they just don’t want to deal with it.’

Manos says there’s a need for an early-detection program in the province, similar to those that screen for colon, breast, and cervical cancers. Just over seven per cent of the patients included in the study didn’t have a family doctor. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.

The study, the first of its kind in Nova Scotia, was published in CMAJ Open.

4. Safety in our crosswalks

The man who was arrested on the weekend after a 57-year-old pedestrian was killed on Pleasant Street in Dartmouth was in court on Monday. Matthew Gerald Kennedy, 24, of Bedford was on released on conditions. Kennedy must stay at a residence in Bedford, is not permitted to drive a vehicle, leave the province, or apply for a passport. He will be back in court on April 10.

Drivers in this city keep hitting pedestrians, including this hit and run on Chebucto Road, a 76-year-old woman who was hit in Dartmouth, and another accident on Cornwallis. That’s just a few from January and February.

I’m now teaching my 16-year-old daughter how to drive (don’t worry; we’re signing her up for lessons, too). But teaching your kid how to drive has allowed me to see how horrible drivers are and how I can improve my own driving. Drivers here are incredibly aggressive and impatient. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter was driving and was stopped at an unmarked crosswalk, waiting for a pedestrian to make it completely across the road. Another driver behind us, honked and drove around us. The pedestrian was well out of the way, but the driver didn’t seem to care otherwise.

I often see drivers make left-hand turns while pedestrians are still in the crosswalk. I’ve been a pedestrian in a crosswalk as drivers make left-hand turns.

One habit I got into while driving is waving to pedestrians who want to cross the road. I found eye contact wasn’t enough. All sorts of factors can limit the effectiveness of eye contact: sunglasses, poor weather. But when I wave to a pedestrian, it’s a more visual symbol that tells them I saw them. Pedestrians will often wave back.

I’m not talking about the wave of death in which drivers give up their right of way and wave pedestrians across dangerous roads or wave other drivers to make left-hand turns when they shouldn’t (don’t do this!). I’m talking about a slight hands’ up acknowledging I saw them waiting to cross the street.

Of course, I also slow down and come to a complete stop at an intersection before I wave. And I adjust my driving for the conditions and look both ways before making a turn (looking both ways needs to be a habit we teach drivers as well). As a driver, I can cause more damage to others on the road, particularly pedestrians and cyclists. It’s simply my responsibility to improve my driving skills to do that. If a little wave helps, I’m doing it.

Twenty-five years ago, I was on a bus and saw a pedestrian get hit at the intersection of Duke and Barrington Streets. The driver was making a right-hand turn and ran into a pedestrian walking across Duke. The pedestrian rolled over the hood of the car, fell onto the ground, got up and brushed himself off, thinking he was okay. He wasn’t, but the driver got out, helped him into the car, and, I’m guessing, took him to the hospital. I don’t know what happened then. Yes, the driver should not have hit him. But what would a driver today do?

Last year, the municipality in its Heads Up Halifax campaign, asked for proposals on how to make roads safer for everyone. The application deadline has closed and the successful proposals will be announced in March.

But here’s a proposal: Drivers, we need to do better. Maybe drivers need to be re-tested every once in a while. There needs to be more penalties for drivers who hit pedestrians. But drivers simply need to pay attention and be better drivers every day. We have the bigger responsibility.

5. Archeologists dig up mysterious vault at Province House

Photo: Halifax Examiner

On Monday, CBC’s Jean Laroche reported on a mysterious vault found during construction at Province House in August. The vault was discovered when crews were digging trenches for a new electrical system.

Principal archeologist April MacIntyre says the find was a “complete surprise” since it wasn’t on any old plans of the property. The vault was too unsafe to send a person inside, so investigators explored with remote cameras.

In MacIntyre’s recently filed report to the government, she described the mysterious chamber as “a subterranean stone-walled feature measuring approximately six metres north-south by four metres east-west and approximately three metres high to the top of the silt that has collected on the floor.”

In her report, MacInytre says the structure is similar to an underground store that was built in Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal. The report is still being reviewed to decide next steps.

Twitter was digging Laroche’s story on Monday. The article was only about 100 followers behind news about Lady Gaga as of noon yesterday.

But here’s what I want to know: Was Geraldo Rivera in there?


1. Run, politicians, run

As someone who has run for office and knows how engrossing and time-consuming the process is, I have a real problem with councillors running for other levels of government while being paid to be councillors.

— Kate Watson (@DartmouthKate) February 18, 2019

Recently Kate Watson tweeted out that she has a “real problem with councillors running for other levels of government while being paid to be councillors.”

Watson ran for District 5 in the municipal election in 2016, losing to Sam Austin. There are currently two councillors running for other offices: District 15 Councillor Steve Craig is running for Progressive Conservatives for the upcoming provincial byelection in the Sackville-Cobequid riding (Craig ran unsuccessfully for the Progressive Conservatives in that riding in 2006). And District 12 Councillor Richard Zurawski is planning a federal campaign as the Green Party candidate in the Halifax West riding, now held by House of Commons Speaker Geoff Regan (my district and riding!)

Other councillors have run for other offices while still serving on Council, including District 13 Councillor Matt Whitman, who lost, but went back to his job on Council after the provincial election was over.

Watson’s tweet started an interesting conversation on the topic. Watson and her followers debated whether councillors should take a leave of absence when they run for another office and if they should sign a contract to stay on for the four years in council when they’re voted in, thereby forgoing any opportunity to run for office elsewhere. Followers even debated the nature of the job itself: Is politics a career or a public service?

I gave Watson a call over the weekend to chat more. She has a number of concerns about politicians working in one office while running for another, including the perception that municipal politics is an entry-level job to something bigger. “Blech,” she says about career politicians. And she says issues in municipal politics, such as policing and fire, are not less important than federal issues, like tax credits, they’re just “different issues.”

“I don’t see it as a ladder,” Watson says. “It’s not like you start here and end up in Ottawa.”

(Over on her Facebook post on this issue, I chimed in that running for one office while serving in another looks like you’re just in politics for the job).

Watson says taking a leave of absence would leave a district without its councillor, even temporarily. As for that contract issue, Watson says she researched other jobs that require new candidates sign a contract for a specific term: actors taking on a new role in a play or show, etc. Or new recruits in the military. “They invest in you the same way taxpayers invest in these politicians,” Watson says.

Watson says there are always extenuating circumstances in which a politician could leave before the contract ended, for example, health, or personal reasons.

“I don’t think you should be able to leave because you found something better,” she says.

Campaigning is time consuming. That means time away from the councillor’s current job and serving their district. Watson recalls when she ran in 2016, she spent five nights a week in the community, attending events and knocking on doors, besides working her own job. And, of course, current councillors who are campaigning for another role have a nice platform from which to campaign that other candidates don’t have.

“I feel like in some way they are getting paid to campaign,” Watson says.

Watson says this discussion is also tied into the need for term limits. Watson says politicians should only be permitted to serve two consecutive terms in office, from the municipal to federal levels. Former District 8 Councillor Jennifer Watts announced before the 2016 municipal election she wouldn’t re-offer, saying it was important to have new voices and perspectives on Council.

Politics in not a regular job. People often look for jobs while working their current job, but they don’t let their current employers know and search for a new job on their own time. Politics is a public service. Elections are expensive and voters put their time and trust into the people they choose on the ballot. Running for another role before your term is up leaves voters without the voice they voted for.

“To me, it all comes back to the service,” Watson says. “It’s not about you and your self-interests; it’s about the people who voted you in.”

2. Living wages save lives

I wrote about the importance of living wages in past Morning Files. But the New York Times Magazine published this piece on all of the benefits of increasing minimum wages and working toward establishing a living wage for workers. When workers are paid a living wage, they sleep better, exercise, eat healthier foods, and are more likely to quit smoking, if they do smoke. All of these factors benefit families, children, the workplace, and society in general.

A living wage saves lives.


Okay, Tim noticed this and tweeted it out last night. What’s missing in this panel on intercultural learning?

It reminds me of a tweet Scott Brison sent out almost exactly a year ago. I’m so glad I keep these things! Anyone notice what’s missing in this discussion on gender equality?

I don’t know who organizes these events, but they really need to read their event titles before selecting a panel of speakers. And then they need to read it again.




Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 11am, City Hall) — Sewage Plant Estates is at the 90 per cent planning stage.


Public Information Meeting – Case 22051 (Wednesday, 7pm, Prospect Road Community Centre, Hatchet Lake) — application by Sunrose Land Use Consulting on behalf of Hatchet Lake Plaza Ltd. to enter into a development agreement for service station and associated convenience store and drive thru restaurant at 1656 Prospect Road, Hatchet Lake.

Info here.



Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — about recruiting teachers.

Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place) — governments everywhere have been “reducing red tape” — read: slashing regulations that protect people and the environment — for 35 years, but the committee thinks we should slash still more protections, and so they’re going to talk with Fred Crooks, the Chief Regulatory Officer, about, I dunno, doing away with health and safety standards or some such.


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — maybe they’ll talk about the FOIPOP website security failure if the cowardly Liberals let them.

On campus



Gefilte Fish and Roast Duck with Orange Slices: A Treasure for My Daughter and the Creation of a Jewish Cultural Orthodoxy in Postwar Montreal (Tuesday, 1:05pm, 25 Banting Hall, Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, Truro) — the History 3000’s food history seminar turns to Andrea Eidinger’s chapter in Edible Histories, Cultural Politics: Towards a Canadian Food History. Contact Deborah.Stiles@dal.ca.

Insights on Saudi Arabia and the Middle East (Tuesday, 6pm, Halifax Central Library) — Dennis Horak, former Ambassador of Canada to Saudi Arabia, will speak, with Glenn Davidson, former Ambassador to Syria and Afghanistan, sticking around for the Q&A. Register here.


Lift as We Climb: Empowering Black Nurses and Black Nursing Students Through Education, Research and Practice (Wednesday, 12pm, Room 112, Forrest Building, Dal School of Nursing) — Keisha Jefferies will speak.

Assessing Political Bias on Campus (Wednesday, 2pm, B400, Killam Library) — Sean Aitken, a PhD candidate in Psychology, will rag on university people who don’t want to be horrible.

Discomfort in Multiple Spaces and Encounters (Wednesday, 5:30pm, Room 3111, Mona Campbell Building) — an African Heritage Month panel discussion with Wendie L. Poitras, Barbara Hamilton-Hinch, Mario Rolle, Aisha Abawajy, and Devon Bundy. More info: ifeyinwa.mbakogu@dal.ca

Ingrid Waldron

There’s Something in the Water (Wednesday, 6pm, Room 1020, Rowe management Building) — Ingrid Waldron will discuss her book. Tickets here.

Mount Saint Vincent


Kavi Ade. Photo: Safiya Khadi

Kavi Ade (Wednesday, 5pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — from the listing:

Kavi Ade is an activist, arts educator and nationally recognized spoken word poet of Afro & Indigenous Caribbean descent. Kavi’s poetry is deeply personal. Through poetry and performance Kavi speaks on race, gender, sexuality, and social justice, chronicling despair, grasping at hope, and exploring the ways a body can learn to survive. RSVP: ami@msvu.ca by Feb 26, 2019. Kavi’s website.

In the harbour

00:30: Maersk Palermo, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for TK
06:00: Gotland Marieann, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Cape Canaveral, Florida
08:00: Julius-S, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal


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Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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  1. I wouldn’t put much stock in what HRM is doing regarding pedestrian safety. An ad campaign for the past 4 years has done nothing but waste taxpayer money.

    This is from Martyn Williams excellent piece in the NS Advocate:

    What are the fixes?

    The fixes to our bloodshed crosswalks are a constant source of debate for Haligonians, encouraged even by our municipality , which asked us for our ideas on how to make our crosswalks safer in ads still splashed over our buses, only to inform us in the small-print that in fact they would not accept proposals on crosswalk safety from individuals.

    Most agree we do need improved infrastructure and enforcement efforts of some kind. Education has an unproven history, so I was glad when staff recognised the Heads Up Halifax campaign could cause more harm than good by escalating the blame game:

    “Using the perspective of drivers and pedestrians to illustrate unsafe behaviors at crosswalks and the disconnect behind their risk assessment in these situations appears to be spreading the opportunity for key audiences (drivers and pedestrians) to blame each other for collisions in crosswalks.”

  2. Pedestrians and other non-drivers who need to use the roads to get around are at the short end of the stick already when it comes to safety.The priority is overwhelmingly with motorized vehicles. We need to get away from the preservation of the sacred “traffic flow” and implement measures that put the priority on pedestrians including advance red intervals, eliminating “beg buttons” at signalized intersections and make the pedestrian cross signal a default; and changing some if not all of the crosswalks at four lane streets to full stop points with red lights for cars. This is all easily doable with not a great deal of cost. It seems to me like HRM planners have established an acceptable pedestrian mortality rate. As long as deaths are below a certain number a year, all is OK. The rate should be zero.
    When there is a fatality like we had this week, the focus should be “what needs to change to make sure this never happens again” instead of the shoulder shrug,and “oh well” we get now. Even worse is the victim blaming that inevitably arises like “he/she should have been more careful” or “not visible enough” or all the other silly reasons they use to spread blame. For God’s sake enough is enough. Make it safe for pedestrians in this city!

    1. I don’t know why they’re so car focused either. I drive and walk, I almost never bike because I don’t think it’s safe in Halifax. If the peninsula and downtown Dartmouth councillors were the only ones voting instead of those representing drive-in suburbs would it be different? It seems like a flaw in the system. When would a rural councillor ever vote to slow traffic in the city?

      1. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DIgrGHeUQAAgPIP.jpg

        When I lived in the suburbs I went to the peninsula only a few times a year. For the majority of Haligonians, whose interests (and votes) are just as legitimate as those who live on the peninsula, walkability on the peninsula is a purely hypothetical matter. As a child and teenager in the suburbs, I went to the peninsula only a few times a year. As a university student, the peninsula was an obstacle in between my suburban home and Dalhousie – I went there Monday to Friday two semesters a year, but aside from a few coffee shops around campus, I never actually went anywhere on the peninsula.

        The fact is that the peninsula is a place for students, young single professionals and the rich to live. Nobody else – the rent is too high for low wage earners, and even for average wage earners housing for a family is too expensive. Although I live on the peninsula (because until recently I had a good job and have no children or debt, my income prospects are way too low to have kids on the peninsula, so it’s temporary) and generally get around by walking, I can sympathize – I get it that the people who can live on the peninsula want to make it into a nice, pedestrian friendly Elysium, free of nasty suburbanites, who, having no realistic alternatives, commute into the city by car because of the blackness of their hearts.

  3. I drive, bike and walk in Halifax and drivers are consistently the worst to deal with in all three cases. They are ridiculously impatient, aggressive, and regularly break basic rules of driving to get very slightly ahead so they can reach that red light faster.

    I find my own driving habits getting worse due to the need to rush through everything so I can avoid aggravating drivers who do things like tailgate you because you’re not going 10km above the speed limit, or pass you on the right because you stopped in an intersection to let a pedestrian pass instead of passive aggressively rolling towards them to make them walk faster.

    People who drive giant pickup trucks are generally the worst offenders.

  4. On the question of a leave of absence for councillors running for another position, employees of Halifax must take a leave of absence SIX MONTHS BEFORE starting to campaign for a position as a councillor. Why should the councillors seeking a different position be any different?

    1. Because federal and provincial elections are not held on fixed dates. I did not know that HRM employees have to take a 6 month leave of absence and I doubt that such a requirement would be sustained if subjected to a constitutional challenge.

      1. Unless they’ve changed it, the law says provincial politicians in Nova Scotia must resign a legislative seat to run for federal office. It would be very simple and desirable to change provincial law to make municipal politicians do the same. (No need to worry about school board members now, but the same should apply to them should elected school boards be restored) The reason it hasn’t happened is that federal and provincial political parties like to take advantage of the profile accruing to en elected municipal councillor or school board member. It should be changed –this is one instance where I regret we don’t have the US system where we could put it out as a Proposition during the next election campaign,

  5. Re: Bridges — Not Walls. No words. But not surprised. After all, this is a town where a city councillor could open his mouth and refer to people of African descent as NEGROES — in 2017.

    I could go on. But I won’t. Except to say that as a so-called “COME FROM AWAY,” my respect for the dignity and fortitude of First Nations and African Nova Scotians who have, for centuries, endured such insults in this province, knows NO BOUNDS.

    And still … they rise.

  6. If there can be cameras at intersections to catch people who run red lights, how about putting them up at some busy intersections where drivers are endangering pedestrians? Then fine the drivers and get them into a course on safe driving, like is done with johns caught in prostitution stings. Show them videos of people getting hit, and people living with the consequences of being hit.