Stephen Kimber is my sounding board. When I’m uncertain about how to cover something, it’s Stephen I turn to for advice.
That’s happening right now. I’ve got a giant project on the go. It’s a sprawling multi-faceted reporting job, touching on a half dozen separate issues connected through an astounding and disturbing storyline. (This project won’t see publication for months to come.) I’m not quite sure how to structure this thing, so I’ll soon be meeting with Stephen to get his input.
That’s for a few reasons.
First, Stephen is the master at narrative nonfiction — he taught the course in narrative nonfiction at King’s College’s School of Journalism, and has employed it in his many books.
And Stephen has a wealth of knowledge with all things Nova Scotia. I’d be foolish not to consult with him for such large projects.
But most importantly, Stephen is a great guy and I like speaking with him. We don’t do that enough, so any excuse will suffice.
And Stephen brings all that skill, experience, and knowledge to his weekly column in the Halifax Examiner.
I know that readers value Stephen’s contribution to the Examiner — many have told me as much. If you too value Stephen’s work, please consider subscribing to the Examiner so that we can continue to host it.
Oh, also, you can now purchase a Halifax Examiner gift subscription for your Secret Santa workmate or your hard-to-buy-for loved one or your uninformed local politician (you’d be surprised how many people buy gift subscriptions for politicians). Just click here, select whether you are giving one or two gifts, and then follow the easy instructions. Your lucky recipient will get an email informing them they’ve been given a subscription on the date you select. So, you can sign up today, and specify a date (say, Dec. 25), and your workmate//loved one/politician will get the email that day.
If you are currently an Examiner subscriber, you’ll get refunded 20% discount of the gift subscription cost.
1. African immigration
“A team of African immigrants in Halifax have created a YouTube web series to help keep other African immigrants informed on issues specific to their new community,” reports Matthew Byard:
The show, which is called Community Update, was created by Gbenga Akintokun. Promise Akoi is the current host.
“This is a platform where African immigrants have found expression,” Akintokun told the Halifax Examiner in a recent interview. “It’s kind of like a showcase platform where we also talk about issues that are going on in the community, where we pass information about what is going on around us here in Canada.”
2. Leaf blowers
“Halifax councillors are looking into a ban on ‘inefficient and noisy’ gas powered leaf blowers,” reports Zane Woodford:
Deputy Mayor Sam Austin brought a motion to Thursday’s virtual meetingof council’s Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee. The motion, which passed, called for a staff report “on restricting or banning the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers.”
“There is a growing movement across the United States and Canada to restrict the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers due to noise and environmental impacts,” Austin wrote in the reason for his motion.
Nova Scotia reports 15 new deaths from COVID recorded during the mast recent reporting week, Nov. 22-28.
Just one of those deaths occurred during that reporting week, and 14 were from before Nov. 22. The reporting of deaths lags, so we should expect a larger number of deaths that occurred during the Nov. 22-28 period to be reported in the future.
In total, throughout the pandemic, 657 people in Nova Scotia have died from COVID, 545 of whom are considered Omicron deaths (since Dec. 8, 2021).
The ages and vaccination status of the most recent deaths won’t be reported until Dec. 15, but in general, over 90% of the deceased have been 70 years old or older, and unvaccinated people die and are hospitalized at around three times the rate of vaccinated people.
Also during the Nov. 22-28 reporting period, 43 people were hospitalized because of COVID.
Nova Scotia Health reports the current (as of yesterday) COVID hospitalization situation (these figures do not include any, if any, children hospitalized at the IWK):
• in hospital for COVID: 38 (6 of whom are in ICU)
• in hospital for something else but have COVID: 135
• in hospital who contracted COVID after admission to hospital: 76
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
“As part of my mandate, I am committed to enhancing the local voice of families, students and staff, and seeking out ways to improve our public education system,” said Becky Druhan, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development in a statement released late yesterday afternoon.
In the absence of local school boards that were axed by the previous government, Druhan is casting about for “ideas” to give parents, teachers, and others more input to shape Education Department policy on topics from literacy and student achievement to masking at schools.
Masking has not been required, despite a strong recommendation from Public Health to do so in indoor congregate settings, unprecedented waits at the Emergency Department of the IWK Children’s Hospital, and high absenteeism among both students and staff.
Druhan’s news release says she “will use an online survey and a platform called ThoughtExchange, with the aim of improving opportunities for school community members to provide input on education policy and decision-making. Feedback will be collected until December 23.”
Apparently consultations on this very topic took place last spring with school advisory councils (a mix of parents, teachers, and community members) that make recommendations to their local school principal but have no actual authority. The Department will also conduct focus groups and is collecting written comments submitted here.
Fill your boots, but hurry.
“Crisis” in schools
At first blush, the promise to consult appears to be a reaction to statements from the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union on Tuesday afternoon.
NSTU president Ryan Lutes told a Legislative Committee on Human Resources that “public schools are in crisis” and he compared teachers to pilots driving “a plane that’s on fire.”
“Our schools are in crisis every day because we do not have the right number of substitute teachers. They (teachers) are being pulled from our most vulnerable kids,” Lutes told the committee.
“A perfect storm of population growth coupled with a COVID pandemic and now the current respiratory illness increase has only served to exacerbate a teaching shortage that has been building for nearly a decade,” he said.
Halifax-Needham MLA Suzy Hansen is the NDP spokesperson on education. She served on the Halifax Regional School Board when it existed. She welcomed Druhan’s statement but will be watching to see if action follows.
“We’re glad to see any effort to strengthen local voices and include public input in how schools are run. Under Tim Houston and going back to when school boards were removed under the former Liberal government, families and communities have felt left in the dark,” Hansen said.
“When school boards were removed, we lost a key group of local voices that were directly accountable for what was going on in our schools. We’ll be curious to see the results of this survey and what the Minister of Education will do to better support students, teachers, and staff going forward.”
There are also concerns being voiced publicly by parents and former teachers that the disruptions to classroom learning created by the ongoing pandemic have left more children struggling to read and write at their grade level. Achievement targets are not being met in early elementary, with a 5.5% decline as reported in The Halifax Examiner in January.
How to address that problem is a conversation that needed to happen yesterday.
Meanwhile, low vaccination rates among younger children (less than 50% in elementary schools) might have been addressed by holding mass clinics at school at the beginning of the year. Druhan has said that was ruled out after “best practices” show a parent should be present when a young child gets a needle. It’s also possible both Education and Public Health were too short-staffed and exhausted to stand up the clinics back in the fall.
In other education news affecting older students, the province will deposit $550 in the bank account of every Nova Scotian resident who has a student loan to help with attending university, community college, or a private career school. The money will not have to be repaid and will be deposited in January. Advanced Education Minister Brian Wong said the $6.2 million expenditure is designed to assist students with the rising cost of living and help them focus on their studies instead of worrying about their bills.
5. West Mabou Beach Provincial Park
“The list of uncommon and endangered plant and animal species found in Nova Scotia’s West Mabou Beach Provincial Park is growing,” reports Tom Ayers for the CBC:
A rare fern has been identified on land in the park, which is at the centre of a contentious proposal for a new golf course by Cabot Cape Breton.
In 2018, biologist Alain Belliveau surveyed West Mabou Beach and found 17 rare and endangered animals, plants and lichens in the park, including four birds that are listed under the provincial Endangered Species Act.
Belliveau, the Irving Biodiversity Collection manager at Acadia University, said he was excited when he recently got confirmation of an 18th after sending pictures to a couple of fern experts of an upswept moonwort.
The discovery of the rare species may complicate the Cabot Group’s desire to build a golf course at the park. (Cabot already operates two other seaside golf courses in Inverness.)
Which brings us to… Donald Trump.
Yes, yes, I know. There are two groups of wealthy golfers: the crass unsophisticated with no appreciation of the environment or fine dining, and the cultured ubersophisticated who travel the world to celebrate the environment and worldly cuisine, and never the twain shall meet.
The first group drive carts across fragile ecosystems adjacent to Trump’s courses and then gouge themselves with KFC at the 19th Hole while the locals look on with embarrassment. In contrast, the second group delicately fondle rare beach flowers between rounds to better understand the oceanfront ecology before supping on Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb and Herb Gnocchi at Panaroma as they discuss saving the future through Longtermism while the locals look on with admiration and respect.
Still, maybe there are some lessons from Trump’s oceanfront golf course in Scotland.
Despite warnings in 2008 that the construction of an 18-hole course would destroy the sand dunes around it, Trump had pressed ahead, saying: “We will stabilize the dunes. They will be there forever. This will be environmentally better after it [the course] is built than it is before.”
But as conservationists predicted, the part of the highly sensitive ecosystem on which Trump International Golf Links was built was largely ruined. Officials announced in December 2020 that the coastal sand dunes Trump’s the resort would lose their status as a protected environmental site because they had been partially destroyed.
But as I say, that could never happen here. Nova Scotia is special and always gets things right.
Refracting Rhetoric Inside Jean-François Niceron’s ‘Perspective Telescope’ (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, McCain Building and online) — CANCELLED
7 Stories (Friday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — a Fountain School of Performing Arts production; two performances Dec. 3; $15/$10, more info here
In the harbour
04:30: CMA CGM A. Lincoln, container ship (140,872 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Portland
10:30: Don Quijote, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
13:00: U.S. warship arrives at Dockyard
13:30: Advantage Point, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
14:30: Hafina Crux, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Quebec City
15:00: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Reykjavik, Iceland
16:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 36
16:30: Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre
18:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
21:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Trois-Rivières
21:30: CMA CGM A. Lincoln sails for New York
No arrivals or departures.
I don’t much write about myself — frankly, I’m not that interesting. But lately I’ve become more personally reflective. Maybe that’s a thing that comes with age, or maybe I’m trying to work something out, but what, I don’t know. Anyway, I have another personal essay banging around my head. Maybe I’ll get around to writing it.