1. A tick-ing time bomb?
Nova Scotia is Canada’s hotspot for Lyme disease. Yesterday, the Halifax Examiner published part 1 of Joan Baxter’s series “A plague of ticks, tick-borne diseases, and poli-ticks.” Today, in part 2, Baxter looks at how we can minimize and manage risk related to tick bytes and Lyme.
Baxter seeks with self-described “Lyme warrior” Rob Murray, a retired Lunenburg dentist whose retirement was thrown into disarray by Lyme disease. “Death from Lyme can occur but is infrequent — you just wish you were dead,” he tells Baxter.
Murray has made it his mission to advocate for people with Lyme and to get governments to take the threat it represents more seriously.
While Baxter got no response to requests for an interview with the provincial government, she does have a great conversation with Robbin Lindsay, a research scientist in zoonotic diseases and special pathogens at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. Baxter writes:
Lindsay says that the federal government has been keeping tabs on the changing tick populations since black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) that carry Lyme were first discovered in Nova Scotia in the early 2000s.
“We put systematic surveillance in place, and as more sites became obvious, we detected more locations with these ticks present in them,” he says. At first, they did what he calls “passive tick surveillance,” which meant asking the public, physicians, or veterinarians to submit ticks to a central location.
They followed this up with actual surveillance of tick populations in the field, and found that the ticks were spreading throughout southwest Nova Scotia, then north into the Pictou area, and that the population expansion in the province was “quite dramatic over a 10-year span.”
According to Lindsay, the problem in Nova Scotia is that there is a “very healthy nymphal tick population and they’re busily transmitting infection.” He explains:
Ticks at that teenage stage are not as abundant in other jurisdictions. That’s what is driving the infection prevalence or incidence of infections — lots of nymphs in the environment, lots of opportunities for people to be bitten by these very tiny ticks that they don’t notice and don’t promptly remove.
To sample for ticks, researchers drag a square of one-square-metre piece of white cloth mounted on a pole and tied to a piece of rope through the environment.
Lindsay says he has sampled for ticks in both southern Ontario, which is where black-legged ticks were first detected in Canada, and also in Nova Scotia. He found that tick nymphs were “nowhere near as prevalent in Ontario” as they were in the Lunenburg area.
In summer months, he says it is not uncommon in Lunenburg to pick up as many as 100 tick nymphs in one hour of dragging. “It’s a real phenomenon,” says Lindsay, a “perfect storm” for ticks and Lyme disease.
I have noticed a huge increase in ticks in our area this summer. Seeing ticks used to be a rare occurrence. Now it’s pretty much daily.
Baxter’s story is packed with all kinds of information, including good tips on preventing tick bites. The article is for subscribers only. Please subscribe here.
2. City will remove any emergency shelters still standing on July 13
This morning, Halifax issued a statement that all emergency shelters on public land in the city will be removed, Zane Woodford reports. The shelters have been built by Halifax Mutual Aid as a way to provide a roof over the heads of people who have been sleeping rough.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Halifax said it’s notifying residents of the shelters that by next Tuesday, “they must vacate and remove all personal belongings.” It’s also notifying the builders of the shelters, Halifax Mutual Aid, that they must remove the structures themselves.
“A deadline date of July 13, 2021 has been given to remove the shelters — failing which, the shelters, and any personal items contained within the shelters, will be removed by the municipality on or shortly after this date without further notice,” the statement said.
The city notes that it contravenes a municipal bylaw to build structures in parks.
Having said that the city accepted the shelters in winter, it goes on to say it won’t accept them in future:
Housing as a human right does not mean that this right can encroach upon the rights of others. With the safety of all residents as a top priority, encroachment must be acted upon by appropriate enforcement of existing laws and regulations.
Moving forward, upon being made aware of the installation of temporary shelters on municipal property, the municipality will take steps to facilitate removal or stop installation in a timely manner. It is important to remember that those experiencing homelessness can choose to accept or decline housing options and offers of support.
As Woodford writes:
The statement sets the stage for the kind of eviction carried out in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park, where police violently removed shelter residents and their homes, with a fence and security guards, keeping journalists from watching what was happening.
You likely saw photos of the hundreds of police marshalled to evict the residents of the encampment at Trinity Bellwoods. One aspect of the story I hadn’t seen was that the police destroyed a pollinator garden during the raid.
3. To sort or not to sort?
Sorting your garbage, organics, and recyclables is not the last step in keeping unwanted materials out of the landfill in Halifax. That final step is carried out by the people who work at the Front End Processor (FEP). They visually inspect the garbage and remove items that don’t belong.
This, of course, costs money, and as Zane Woodford reports, the municipality is arguing (for the third time) that this step is unnecessary. Limiting the number of bags people can put out for household waste, mandating clear bags, and allowing industrial, commercial and institutional waste to be sent to other municipalities have proven successful policies in keeping unwanted materials out of the landfill, so the FEP is no longer necessary, the city argues.
If the FEP and WSF [Waste Stabilization Facility] were closed, trucks would dump the garbage onto the tipping face close to the landfill. The waste would be visually inspected there for prohibited material before being dumped into the landfill cell currently in use, Cell 7a.
The closure would also mean “small quantities of recyclables,” up to 2% or 1,000 tonnes annually of incoming waste, would end up in the landfill, Philopoulos wrote. And HRM’s diversion rate — the percentage of its waste kept out of the landfill — “would drop from 60% to approximately 57% as result of deactivating the FEP/WSF (maintaining HRM’s standing as one the top three cities, amongst participating municipalities in the Municipal Benchmarking Network).”
The increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the extra garbage in the landfill is expected to be offset by the decrease in energy consumption from the facility, [HRM’s director of solid waste resources Andrew] Philopoulos wrote.
If closed, the facilities would be placed in standby so they could be started up again in the future.
4. “It’s raining money” map updates
This item is by Tim Bousquet, with files from Jennifer Henderson.
The Rankin government’s money typhoon continues, with new spending announcements yesterday bringing the total of off-budget expenditures to $109,369,000 since June 7.
And the NDP has entered into election mode, with a new ad featuring folksy leader Gary Burrill chumming it up with smiling people from across the province.
“We want people to understand our vision for what’s next in Nova Scotia,” Burrill told the Examiner when asked to explain the ad. “The premier is making spending announcements across the province, so we know an election could be called any day. When it is called, we’ll be ready to offer something better for the people of Nova Scotia than a government that’s going to cut $209 million from the programs and services that people count on.”
Nova Scotia is the only province that does not have fixed election dates, so the guessing game continues, although an election must be called before May 2022. It seems unlikely that Rankin will wait for the sitting of the legislature in the fall to call an election, so observers expect an election call at any moment.
None of the money political parties are now spending on advertising counts towards the spending limit that will be prescribed during the election campaign itself.
5. Inching closer to the 75% first dose threshold
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One new case of COVID-19 was announced in Nova Scotia yesterday. There are only two people in hospital with the disease, and nobody is in the ICU.
We are getting very close to the milestone of having 75% of the population vaccinated with at least one dose. As of yesterday, Bousquet notes, Nova Scotia was 18,371 people shy of that mark.
Over the weekend, I met a woman who told me she had not intended to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But then, she said, she realized she might need proof of vaccination to go south in the winter, and she hadn’t been south for a couple of years and really wanted to go again. So, she contacted her doctor to find out about getting the vaccine. I suspect there will be a slow ongoing trickle of people getting their first doses for similar reasons in the months to come.
Today’s rapid testing sites are at the following locations:
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Shubenacadie Community Hall, noon-7pm
Rainbow Haven Beach (Public Health Mobile Unit), noon-5pm
There was pop-up testing at Costco in Bayers Lake yesterday, which seemed like a brilliant idea.
6. Assault charges against HRP officer
A Halifax police officer has been charged with assault, but we don’t have a lot of details, Zane Woodford reports.
1. Iain Rankin’s impaired driving charges
The big news at yesterday’s COVID-19 briefing had nothing to do with the pandemic, but with the admission that Premier Iain Rankin was charged with impaired driving twice, in 2003 and 2005. He was convicted in one of the cases; the other was dismissed.
Rankin pleaded guilty to the 2003 charge. Of the 2005 charge, Brooklyn Currie at CBC writes:
Rankin said of the 2005 charges that he was “eventually found to be innocent.” He did not elaborate.
Court records indicate, however, that following a trial he was found guilty of impaired driving, and not guilty of driving with a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit.
He was sentenced to 14 days in jail to be served on weekends. He was also handed a two-year driving prohibition and a year’s probation that included the condition that he attend substance abuse assessment and counselling as directed by a probation officer.
His conviction was overturned on appeal on January 9, 2007, and a retrial was ordered. The Crown offered no evidence, and the charge was dismissed, according to court records.
Apparently, Liberals have known about the impaired driving charges and conviction, but Rankin only disclosed them in public yesterday.
This episode is reminiscent of the case of former NDP leader Robert Chisholm. During the 1999 provincial election campaign, he told a newspaper reporter he’d never been convicted of anything other than a speeding ticket at 16. But, as a CBC story from the time notes, he had been convicted of drunk driving at 19. From the story:
Chisholm said today he was too embarrassed to admit publicly what he had already told his party privately. “The thing that troubles me the most is that people think I lied, that people think less of me because of the way the story gets told.”
Asked if he had forgotten the conviction in the Daily News interview, he said, “There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t remember…I made a decision…I didn’t feel that it was a time for True Confessions.”
In the Chronicle Herald today, Jim Vibert is forgiving about Rankin’s past, but critical of his broaching the subject of his impaired driving charges at the COVID-19 briefing, and even in admitting to the charges, not being fully transparent.
Rankin and his political brain trust made two critical mistakes.
The first is that they, apparently, had no intention of voluntarily disclosing the premier’s past DUI conviction or charge, but decided to do so only after it became the subject of the somewhat mysterious “questions.”
Secondly, he used the platform from which Nova Scotians expect and deserve COVID and COVID-related news for purely political purposes.
After disclosing his driving record Monday, Rankin said he’d have no more to say about it.
Fair enough, just as long as he knows that stories rarely go away until they are told in their entirety.
Back in May of last year, I wrote a piece for Morning File on the CDC pandemic playbook outlining how to run information briefings. Essentially, one of the keys is to avoid politics. Have a trusted figure deliver the message and don’t politicize. As Vibert writes:
Rankin’s accused his political opponents of playing politics with the pandemic. That line is no longer available to him. He used a forum intended solely to keep Nova Scotians informed about COVID to try to put a potential political problem in his rearview mirror.
One of the things I love about Nova Scotia is how settlers hit on a place name they liked and then thought, what the heck, let’s just use it locally in as many permutations as possible. Take the name “Margaree” for example. According to the Canadian Geographical Names Database, there are nine communities in Nova Scotia with “Margaree” in their names, including:
- Margaree Valley
- South West Margaree
- Margaree Forks
- Margaree Centre
- North East Margaree
Add rivers, beaches, and a few other features, and soon you’re up to to 21 names.
In Guysborough County, “Country Harbour” gets a lot of mileage. There’s no community of Country Harbour, but there is, not surprisingly, a harbour. And then a bunch of communities that include the name of the harbour:
- Cross Roads Country Harbour
- Country Harbour Mines
- Middle Country Harbour
- Country Harbour Lake (which is the name of both a lake and a community)
- West Side Country Harbour
Then you’ve got your Lunenburg County Centres:
- Front Centre
- Back Centre
- Lake Centre
And, of course. the Pubnicos:
- Middle East Pubnico
- Middle West Pubnico
- Lower East Pubnico
- West Pubnico
- Centre East Pubnico
- East Pubnico
- Lower West Pubnico
Malignant Cove, in Antigonish County, is one of my absolutely favourite Nova Scotia names, and while there is only one Malignant Cove (two if you count the community and the cove itself as separate) we are also blessed with the name in other features:
- Malignant Brook
- South Malignant Brook
- Malignant Cove Pond
I am sure there are many other examples.
As the original occupants of the land now known as Canada, Indigenous Peoples named the land and the features around them. As Europeans settled in Canada, they introduced names that reflected their own culture and history. Indigenous heritage is reflected in many place names where European settlers tried to transpose the words they were hearing into either English or French…
Indigenous place names contribute to the preservation, revitalization and strengthening of Indigenous histories, languages and cultures. In recent years, the Geographical Names Board of Canada has worked with Indigenous groups to restore traditional place names to reflect the culture of the original inhabitants of the territory. Some names of European origin have been replaced by traditional Indigenous names, and some unnamed physical features and populated places have been given names in Indigenous languages.
As Zane Woodford reported last week, Halifax council unanimously passed a motion brought by Coun. Pam Lovelace “regarding the end of use and removal of the word Indian from all municipal street and place names, and recommendations on potential new names, including possible use of Mi’kmaq placenames.”
I live between Indian Point and Indian Harbour. There is currently a depressing amount of outraged discourse on Facebook (I know, I know…) about the possibility of changing these names — and one of the things I find most depressing about it is the number of posts that begin with people stating how many generations their families have lived in the area. Nova Scotia cred. One of the candidates who ran against Lovelace in the last election has launched a petition to “stop the government from changing place names in Nova Scotia.”
The Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas does not include a name for the community now called Indian Harbour, but it does for Indian Point: Eske’kewa’kik.
Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Wednesday, 1pm) — live streamed on YouTube
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — live streamed on YouTube
The Future of Long-term Care in Canada (Tuesday, 4pm) — online panel discussion with Joanne Langley, Darrell Dexter, Anne McLellan, Jason Shannon, Samir Sinha, Gaynor Watson-Creed, and Thomas Axworthy
In the harbour
I’ll take a leaf out of Ethan Lycan-Lang’s book and double up on the footnotes.
1) We were in Tatamagouche on the weekend, and stopped in at the Creamery Square Heritage Centre, which houses the Anna Swan Museum (among other exhibits and displays). That led me to revisit Suzanne Rent’s thoughts on Anna Swan, which you can read here. (The anchor leading directly to the piece doesn’t seem to be working, so when you get to the page, scroll down to the “Views” section. The comments are really good too, and point to further reading. One thing I appreciate about the Examiner is you can read the comments.
2) Poor planning again on my part, writing Morning File the day after a Stanley Cup final game. But what a game! Relieved the overtime did not go on very long. (Not only would I be even more tired, I don’t know how much more I could handle emotionally.)
3) Theodore Tugboat has pulled into port in Montreal, where he is known as Théodore le Remorqueur.