1. Social media mayhem and the Halifax Examiner
Social media are bad for us!
Social media take too much of our attention. They elevate conflict over discourse. They set unrealistic and unattainable social and personal standards for everyone, but especially for young people who suffer all sorts of self-esteem issues as a result.
We’d probably be better off if we all returned to the world of going directly to websites to read our news instead of getting it curated for us by whichever bad actor is fomenting divisions and dissent.
And yet, like it or not, social media are the primary, er, medium for spreading Halifax Examiner articles.
But now that we’re in what Duncan Black calls the “singing Daisy stage of Twitter,” I worry that people soon may not be able to find the Examiner or its articles.
Here are some ways you can continue find the Examiner and keep up to date with our work:
1. Bookmark halifaxexaminer.ca and check the site often!
2. Sign up for email notification of the daily Morning File, here.
3. Follow our other social media accounts.
Honestly, it’s beyond silly that I have so many accounts — I didn’t even mention the Examiner’s inactive Instagram account. But for now, I’m simply posting the same links on each of them, so it’s not too much extra work, and hoping that one or the other is through the ribbon first and wins the race to become “the next Twitter.” Or that we give up on social media entirely and people just go to halifaxexaminer.ca.
I abhor Facebook. I don’t engage on the platform, and I don’t allow comments on Examiner posts to Facebook, because have you seen Facebook? It’s full of reprehensibles! Still, about half of the people coming to the Examiner are coming from either Facebook or Google. I don’t know how many of those readers become subscribers, but I worry that if the threats from either or both companies to ban the posting of news articles materialize, it’s going to be a big hit on this tiny operation.
2. Rockets Start Here
The video above was taken from the nose cone of the Goose 2 rocket as it was launched last August from Timmins, Ontario as part of the Launch Canada 2022 contest. The Goose 2 is a creation of engineering students at the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University. The rocket reached 18,157 feet of altitude, and for that the students won third prize at the contest. Congratulations, students!
Unfortunately, as the video shows, the lines of the parachute released at apogee got entangled with each other and so the rocket returned to Earth much faster than anticipated, careening at 100 km/hr into the forest. Thankfully, it didn’t hit any people, and the rocket itself wasn’t damaged. “We built our fiberglass to be tough!” exclaimed the students.
The students polished the rocket off, then set it up in the barroom at AJ’s Pub in Canso, because who doesn’t want a rocket sitting in the midst of a bunch of drunken Cansonians? Presumably, or at least hopefully, the on switch or whatever launches those things was disabled — could you imagine Gary from Guysborough firing that rocket up in the middle of a Jays game?
The students brought the rocket to Canso because it’s going to be launched from the Moms Gone Wild Spaceport down the road. That launch might happen today, if the weather clears a bit (a correspondent from Canso tells me the fog was as thick as pea soup yesterday), but if not, they’ll go for Thursday or Friday.
As SpaceQ breathlessly reports:
It may be a couple of days after the Canada Day long weekend, but Maritime Launch Services (MLS) has a present for Canada. Spaceport Nova Scotia will host its first rocket launch attempt on July 5.
A NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) was posted to NAV Canada (NAVCAN) that shows a launch window on July 5, 6 and 7 between 13:00 – 16:00 Atlantic time (12:00-15:00 ET).
MLS had said that a York University small launch vehicle would be the first to launch from a newly constructed launch pad for small rockets. The York University rocket will reach a height of no more than 25km.
While this will be a milestone for Spaceport Nova Scotia and a thrill for York University students, for MLS the primary goal is to work through the process of launch, or concept of operations (CONOPS), with various local and federal government organizations such as Transport Canada.
I’ve long been struck by how credulous the tech press is about all things supposedly tech. Whether it’s declaring for over a decade that driverless cars will be on the road in two years, or that a husky voiced Stanford dropout has a miracle blood testing kit, or that crypto is going to revolutionize the financial industry, and on and on and on, there’s never any real investigative reporting of the claims, nor even any skepticism. It’s always rah, rah, rah. That’s both because the reporters are practicing a kind of access journalism — Sam Bankman Fried won’t continue to answer your phone calls if you hint that he’s full of shit — and because the publications’ business model is basically to play to stock manipulators.
And now the tech press has become the cheerleader for the space industry, and both Ars Technica and SpaceQ publish article after article uncritically re-reporting whatever press release is put out by any aspiring rocket launcher.
And so a third-place rocket that careened into the woods getting fired off from a concrete pad no bigger than those pads you see in the a business park awaiting the next fast food franchise constitutes a “milestone.”
But we have questions.
First, there seem to be conflicting accounts of what time the rocket is to be launched. NAVCAN says the launch will be between 1300 and 1600 Atlantic Time (1-4pm), while NAVWARN has it between 1300 and 1600 UTC (Universal time, or here during Daylight Saving Time in the Atlantic Time zone, 10am-2pm). If the various regulatory agencies can’t agree even on the time, can we truly trust they’ll get any of the rest of it right?
I am amused by the Navigational Warning issued for the sea east of Canso:
A rocket will be launched from the area of Cape Canso between 051300UTC and 051600UTC Jul 2023 with alternate launch dates July 6 and July 7. Potential debris may splash down within 7.5 miles of 45 13.637N 060 53.416W. Caution
I would’ve put some sort of punctuation after the word “caution” — if not an exclamation point, maybe an ironic question mark. Without the punctuation, seafarers may not take the warning particularly seriously.
It just so happens that not one but two billionaires — Juergen Grossmann and Larry Silverstein — or at least their megayachts, the Aquijo and Silver Shallis, respectively, are in Nova Scotian waters today. The Aquilo is leaving Liscomb at noon, heading north, and the Silver Shalis is leaving St. Peter’s at noon, heading south. That places them both in the area off Canso during the launch window. I don’t know what billionaires do in these nautical hookups, but it undoubtedly involves perversity, and there would be a delicious ironic justice to the world if an errant bronze-winning rocket disrupted their nefarious exploits. A boy can dream.
But how does Maritime Launch even have approval for a rocket launch? Transport Canada’s rocket launching regulations state that “In no case shall the minimum dimension of the launch site be less than one half the estimated maximum altitude of the high power rocket,” in which a “defined area of land/sea which has been cleared of all persons and third party properties which could be damaged by components of a launch vehicle impacting in the area.”
The Goose 2 has an aspirational goal [insert your own joke about rockets and aspirational goals here] of reaching 25km altitude, so half of 25km is 12.5km. The Canso hospital, incidentally, is 3km from the launch pad.
We contacted Nova Scotia Health to ask them whether they were concerned that a rocket might blast through the Canso facility later today, and spokesperson Brendan Elliott got back to us, emailing:
We were aware of a rocket launch for this coming Thursday. Apparently it’s a group of university students. We have not heard of any restrictions and neither has EHS.
Twelve and a half kilometres is about 7.8 miles. The Navigational Warning is for an area 7.5 miles in radius — close enough for government work, I guess — but it extends from a point out at sea, and not from the launchpad, and the hospital is outside of the zone. There might be some logic to putting the safety zone around the potential splash point and not around the launch point, but if there is, that logic should be explained.
Joan Baxter is looking into the regulatory side of the story, and we’ll have more on that in coming days.
With files from Joan Baxter.
Yesterday, the province announced that it is spending $7.4 million to buy 25 modular homes that can be rented by people who lost their homes in the recent wildfires:
Kent Homes will supply, deliver and install the two-and three-bedroom homes. People will have the option to place the home on their current property while they rebuild. The Province is also working to identify land with adequate services where modulars can be placed.
Rents will be based on the average market rate and will range from about $1,000 to $2,000 a month, depending on people’s circumstances, such as location and insurance status. Leases will be month to month to ensure flexibility.
The Nova Scotia Provincial Housing Agency will lease and manage the homes, and the Canadian Red Cross will work with the agency to offer referrals and rent supports as needed.
That works out to $296,000 per modular house. Probably most people who lost a home in the fires have insurance that will cover the rental costs. A renter paying $2,000 a month would pay a total of $48,000 over two years, which I’m guessing would be the average reconstruction time for the primary house. Of course, the province would then own a modular house that it could deploy elsewhere.
Still, it’s hard not to contrast this entirely appropriate action taken to assist wildfire victims with the lack of meaningful action on the homelessness file.
As I say, we can afford what we want to afford. There’s always millions for this or that pet government project, but never enough for those most at need.
At, say, $1,000/month for costs to house a homeless person (which seems excessive to me, but for the sake of argument), $7.4 million could house about 300 homeless people for two years. I realize it’s not as simple as that — there are supportive costs, the capital needed to construct housing, etc. — but the government absolutely could and should address the housing situation for those at the bottom of the economy with the same urgency it helps the mostly middle class people who lost houses in the fires.
Speaking of housing and those most at need, I had a conversation yesterday with someone who is familiar with the Poverty Reduction Credit (PRC), a payment given to the very poorest of the poor.
The PRC is four payments of of $125 cash, for a total of $500 a year. To receive the PCR, a person has to be receiving Social Assistance and have an adjusted annual income of less than $16,000. So, these are people who don’t really have enough to live.
The problem is the “adjusted” part of the eligibility requirement. It includes all income, including government benefits, and pretty much everyone receiving the PRC is also receiving rental subsidy through the Canada-Nova Scotia Targeted Housing Benefit (CNSTHB).
Here’s the rub: I’m told that fewer people are receiving the PRC this year because rents have increased so much that more people are receiving higher payments through the CNSTHB, bringing their total adjusted income over the $16,000 threshold. They have no actual extra cash in hand, but they’ve lost out on the PRC because their landlord is getting more money.
Think of those on fixed incomes who rely on the PRC for daily expenses like food.
I asked the Department of Community Services for data on the number of people receiving the PRC over the last three years, to see just how big of an impact rising rents are having on our very poorest citizens. I also asked the department for comment. I got no data, but did get this response:
The Department of Community Services is always looking for ways to improve our supports for vulnerable Nova Scotians, and part of this is ensuring that the supports government offers are equitable for all.
Last year, staff at Community Services worked with their counterparts at the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing on policy improvements that saw Income Assistance clients receive an increase to their rent supplements. This increase, as well as other source of income, have pushed some clients over the $16,000 threshold for eligibility for the Poverty Reduction Credit.
Currently, the Department is analyzing the impacts on this change to Income Assistance clients and will consider possible solutions once this review is complete. DCS is unable to respond to the impacts for individuals not currently receiving income assistance.
If any Income Assistance clients need extra help to meet their needs, we encourage them to reach out to their caseworker to see what other supports are available.
We can do better than this. We must do better than this.
5. Black people and housing
“Statistics Canada data compiled in a presentation by an organization led by African Nova Scotians show socioeconomic disparities between Black people and other visible minorities compared to white people in Halifax, and across Nova Scotia and Canada,” reports Matthew Byard:
The statistics indicate that the rate of Black people in need of core housing is roughly double that of white people across Canada, Nova Scotia, and Halifax.
The rate of Black people “in housing ‘not suitable’ for [their] household” is even more than double the rate of the white population across Canada, Nova Scotia, and in Halifax.
The prevalence of low incomes among Black people is also more than double the rate than that of white people. The data also show major gaps in housing affordability rates among Black people and white people.
6. Yarmouth ferry economic impact study
On May 5, Stephen Kimber reported that:
Nearly seven months ago, on October 18, 2022, Public Works Minister Kim Masland told reporters the Houston government was about to request proposals to conduct an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of the controversial, money-sucking Yarmouth-to-Bar Harbor ferry service.
“It’ll be a very broad overview of the economic impacts of the service,” she explained, adding that a tender would be issued “this fall,” and that the methodology for the study would be finalized by the winner of the contract.
It’s worth noting that, on the same day Masland said she planned to commission that study to determine if the ferry service was worth what it cost, the government extended its lease on the CAT ferry for another year. That, of course, is the vessel privately owned, publicly subsidized Bay Ferries Ltd. uses to provide said controversial seasonal ferry service.
Two-and-a-half months later, on January 4, Masland told reporters after a cabinet meeting that her department was still working on the wording of a call for proposals for the study. “It has taken some time to make sure that we are getting this right. This is a study — a broad economic impact study — that has never been done before.”
Here we are two months later, and finally, yesterday, the province issued a Request For Proposal for the study. It will be awarded on July 24. However, the completion of the study is envisioned to take… 16 months. That’s November 2024.
7. Fuel prices
The Conservative Parties, both federal and provincial — Pierre Poilievre and Tim Houston are political bedfellows now — are trying to make hay out of fuel prices.
As of July 1, 2023, the regulated price of self-service regular fuel in Halifax is $1.48.9/litre.
On July 1, 2022, the regulated price of self-service regular fuel in Halifax was $2.03.4/litre.
I’m ambivalent about the effectiveness of the carbon tax — time will tell — but the PCs are disingenuous on two fronts: 1) they don’t mention the tax rebate, which will put more money in most people’s hands, and 2) fuel prices aren’t particularly onerous right now, at least compared to where they were a year ago.
Special Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall and online) — agenda
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate and online) — agenda
In the harbour
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
06:00: ZIM Yokohama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
12:00: GPO Grace, heavy lifter, arrives at anchorage from Aviles, Spain
16:30: ZIM Yokohama sails for New York
06:30: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Charlottetown, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
12:00: Aquijo, yacht owned by German billionaire Juergen Grossmann, who made his fortune in steel and tobacco, sails from St. Peter’s for sea
16:00: Silver Shalis, yacht owned by billionaire Larry Silverstein, the developer of the World Trade Center in New York, arrives at St. Peter’s from Liscombe
16:30: Zaandam sails for Halifax
I’m off for a COVID test.