News

1. Iain Rankin steps down as leader of NS Liberal party

Premier Iain Rankin speaks during a funding announcement in July 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

Back in February, when Iain Rankin was elected to replace then-premier Stephen McNeil as leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, Stephen Kimber wrote this in an article for the Examiner: 

When Rankin is sworn in in the next few weeks, he will become the third-youngest premier in the province’s history.

In case you’re wondering, the youngest was Nova Scotia’s long-forgotten sixth premier, William Thomas Pipes. He was just 32 when chosen by his caucus after the Liberals — then without a leader — unexpectedly won the 1882 election. He served, according to Wikipedia, for just one year and 347 days before resigning the then-unpaid position.

Rankin’s run as premier would last only 190 days. His run as party leader, it turns out, wouldn’t last much longer.

Iain Rankin is stepping down from his role as leader of the Nova Scotia Liberals. He announced the decision in a media release Wednesday, saying the decision was the “best path forward” for the Liberal party.

The Liberals had been in power since 2013 and were riding a wave of public goodwill from their handling of the pandemic. In his short stint as premier, Rankin squandered some of that goodwill by asking public health rule breakers, “What is wrong with you? How come you don’t take this as seriously as you should?”

Rankin, who had served previously as Environment Minister and Minister of Lands and Forestry, was also unable to pass the Biodiversity Act without gutting it or implement the ecological forestry recommendations laid out in the 2018 Lahey Report.

In July, Rankin’s government called a provincial election. The campaign saw news leaked concerning drunk driving charges from Rankin’s past, but I think most Nova Scotians were willing to forgive those transgressions. What I don’t think they could forgive was his lack of charisma. He lost to Tim Houston’s Progressive Conservatives who took power on August 31.

Despite the loss, Rankin had made no indication he would be stepping down as leader until yesterday. He will remain MLA for Timberlea-Prospect.

Rankin becomes the second prominent provincial party leader since the election to announce their resignation. Nova Scotia NDP leader Gary Burrill said in November he’ll be stepping aside.

For more on Rankin’s announcement, head to Yvette d’Entremont’s full report from Wednesday.

(Copy link for this item)

2. COVID update: in-person classes delayed, isolation requirements change

Premier Tim Houston at the COVID briefing, Jan. 5, 2022. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Premier Tim Houston and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Strang held a COVID briefing Wednesday with the latest update on schools, numbers, and restrictions.

First, the most recent round of restrictions will be extended until January 31. Also, self-isolation requirements are changing for those who test COVID positive. They’re are based on age, household situation, and vaccination status, so it’s a little tedious to sum them up here. But you can find a full list of the new requirements in Tim Bousquet’s report from Wednesday.

Second, classes will be online when students return from winter break next week. They were originally supposed to return to the physical classroom right away, but that’s been pushed a week, to January 17. Why? According to Premier Houston, the delay will give the government time to “address four themes of concerns:”

  1. Ventilation in schools
  2. Providing three-ply masks to all children
  3. Lack of test kits
  4. Improving communication procedures

Houston also acknowledged there will be COVID in schools, but said the work done in the delay “will make the school system even safer.”

In a media release, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) said it supports the decision to delay in-person classes a week. An NSTU study  found the “overwhelming majority” of teachers and school specialists consider in-person learning unsafe right now. (More on that further down the Morning File).

As for numbers, there were 842 new cases announced in Nova Scotia yesterday. This number doesn’t include people who’ve tested positive using take-home rapid tests.

There are 45 people in hospital for COVID; the average age is 70. Since December 8, 86 people have been hospitalized due to COVID.

There have also been outbreaks discovered at multiple hospitals and nursing homes. Head to Tim Bousquet’s full article for all the details, as well as info on vaccinations, testing, and potential exposure sites.

(Copy link for this item)

3. Survey: majority of teachers believe in-person classes would be unsafe right now

Photo: MChe Lee/Unsplash

A Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) survey shows why the NSTU is happy with the province’s decision to delay the return to classes for schoolchildren.

In a media release Wednesday morning the NSTU said of the 4,418 teachers and school specialists who responded to the survey, 83.9% believe in-person learning is “not currently safe” for students and their families. Only 6.79% of respondents felt confident schools would be safe on the original Monday start date, while 9.51% were unsure.

“We’ve had two years to strengthen safety measures inside schools so in-person learning could be sustained during outbreaks,” said NSTU president Paul Wozney in the media release.

“Unfortunately, much has been said about the protections we all know contribute to safe and sustainable in-person learning, but precious little has actually been done. It’s time to use the financial resources available, to provide teachers and students with the safe learning and working environment they deserve.”

The province has now given themselves a week to make things safer.

Yvette d’Entremont has the full results of that survey showing what teachers are feeling.

I’ll finish this blurb by saying, simply, that I really feel for students who’ve had to go through two years of COVID protocols in, and outside, the classroom. I don’t think I would’ve done well with them. Let’s hope they can get back in the classroom safely as soon as possible.

(Copy link for this item

4. Union for early childhood educators says COVID-19 public health measures endanger workers and children

Photo: Beth Bap Church/Unsplash

School-aged kids aren’t the only children affected by public health measures right now.

Yvette d’Entremont continues her coverage on education and COVID this morning with a look at union concerns over the safety of children and workers in child care centres.

In a media release issued after Wednesday afternoon’s provincial COVID-19 briefing, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) representatives said Nova Scotia’s public health measures endanger children and early childhood educators (ECEs).

Margot Nickerson, an ECE and president of CUPE Local 4745, said the union sent a letter to education minister Becky Druhan on Tuesday asking for N95 respirators and rapid test kits for staff and children and calling for reduced class sizes.

One concern that separates younger children from those at grade school: kids under five years of age aren’t eligible for vaccination.

“Early childhood educators are essential front-line workers who provide very close contact learning and care for children who are still waiting to be vaccinated. It is known that COVID-19 spreads more rapidly among unvaccinated populations,” Nickerson wrote to the minister.

As d’Entremont writes, the current COVID situation is making a stressful job even more stressful. (And what’s more stressful than caring for kids?)

Read her full article for a deeper look at how the union says the province is failing workers and children, as well as what they are demanding the government do to make things safer.

(Copy link for this item)

5. Black News File

Matthew Byard has this week’s Black News File out this morning.

This week he covered at the funeral of eight-year-old Lee-Marion “Mar-Mar” Cain who tragically lost his life in a shooting in Dartmouth just before Christmas. He also looked at the abrupt adjournment of the Kayla Borden appeal hearing, the appointment of Sharon Davis-Murdoch to the Order of Canada, the upcoming conclusion of the Lionel Desmond inquiry, and other stories.

(Copy link for this item)

6. The Tideline: Episode 61, Duane Jones and Art Pays Me

Duane Jones.

We’ve got a new episode of Tideline ready for you this morning!

Art Pays Me’s founder Duane Jones kicks off the new year with hope and advice as he details his journey from failed accounting student to founder of Halifax’s favourite streetwear line. He beams into the show to chat about his years at NSCAD, what happened when he realized his talent was being exploited, and how he turned that into a brand that demonstrates his personal ethos. Plus he and Tara discuss the series finale of Insecure, and whether Issa’s choice was the right one.

Click here to listen for free.

(Copy link for this item)

7. Tim Houston’s Cabinet hasn’t met since December 8

Province House in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford
This item written by Jennifer Henderson
There is NO provincial cabinet meeting today for the fourth week in a row. The last time ministers and Premier Houston met was December 8.
A Christmas break is one thing but this is a bad look for a New Year. The premier’s press secretary, Catherine Klimek, provided the following excuse:
“As you can appreciate, we are in the middle of the fourth wave of COVID-19. Omicron has brought new challenges and a lot of resources are dedicated to setting up programs, answering Nova Scotians, finding the right supports, setting up infrastructure, and communicating with Nova Scotians. It’s all hands on deck!”

Makes an observer wonder just how decisions are getting made these days. Houston’s office says ministers will be available to take questions from reporters at a cabinet meeting next Thursday.

(Copy link for this item)


Views

Blue Monday

Some say January is the saddest part of the year. I’m not so sure. Photo: Unsplash/Marcus Prado Paulo

My birthday’s coming up soon. This year it’s on a Saturday. Seeing as dancing, packed bars, large parties, and general crowded fun aren’t exactly kosher right now, a weekend birthday doesn’t mean much to me this year.

It could be worse though. It could be on a Monday.

See, when my birthday falls on a Monday, it falls on a the saddest Monday of them all: Blue Monday. If you’re my dad, you’ll remember Blue Monday as the day the Montreal Expos blew their only chance at winning a National League pennant. That’s not what I’m talking about here, though.

The Blue Monday I’m talking about is the third Monday of January. It’s the most depressing day of the year. And not just when it coincides with my birthday. (The next time that happens, I’ll be turning 30, so it could be an especially sad Blue Monday that year; for me, anyway).

Maybe you’re wondering how they decide what date is the most depressing. Maybe on April 7, you contracted COVID at the dentist while getting a root canal. Then you went home to quarantine and found a note saying you’re out of milk and your wife’s left you. How could the third Monday of January be a sadder day than that, you ask?

To answer that, let’s turn to the God of the modern age: science.

You see, there’s actually a handy equation that expresses, in “mathematical” terms, just how grim Blue Monday is. Take a person’s monthly salary and subtract their debt. Then add the miserable weather/lack of light and multiply the sum by the time since Christmas to the power of the time since their new year’s resolutions fell apart. Then divide all that by the person’s lack of motivation. On top of that, it’s a Monday.

Makes sense, right?

If you know anything about Blue Monday already, you’ll know the most depressing thing about it — and the equation behind the date — is that it was cooked up by a public relations team trying to persuade people to escape the winter blues by booking trips with a UK-based travel agency. The equation is bogus, as Ben Goldacre explains in a 2011 article for the Guardian. On top of that, there’s no evidence to say people are more depressed this time of year.

reviewed the evidence from more than 30 studies over 130 years on the subject last year. Some find more suicide in spring and early summer, some in spring and autumn, some in summer only, some find no pattern at all.

Many have sampled representative individuals from a population and followed their mood over a year, finding: more misery in summer, more in spring, more in winter, or no peak at all.

I was thinking about that this week, even though Blue Monday is still 11 days away.

It’s funny, the way we use arbitrary dates to justify things. Not making major life choices because some planet is in retrograde, staying inside because a Friday lands on the 13th day of the month, believing things are starting fresh because the calendar year is over. What’s the difference with Blue Monday?

I feel better now than I did over the holidays. I was exhausted through Christmas, but I’m recharged now. I won’t go into details, but I’m pretty happy right now, all things considered. That might change in the coming weeks, but not because of some randomly selected date.

However, I know not everyone’s feeling that way right now. Blue Monday might feel a bit more real for Nova Scotians this year. Students won’t get to go back to school right away, public health restrictions have been extended, and COVID continues to spread in large numbers across the province.

As we approach the two-year mark of the pandemic, it’s easy to get frustrated with seemingly endless restrictions and guidelines. And it’s understandable and reasonable to ask questions about the science behind public health claims. But it’s equally important not to jump to conclusions, but to be critical of scientific claims surrounding COVID, vaccines, testing, and the like.

A lot of COVID science is based on more than a bogus equation. And a lot of COVID misinformation is based on less. Consider the facts over your personal preconceptions.

That’s the most serious lesson we can take from something as silly as Blue Monday. As Goldacre writes in his article debunking the date:

Blue Monday does not put a catchy name on a simple human truth. It only really shows us how easy it is to take an idea that people think they already know, and then sell it back to them. Even if it’s false.

While it might be tempting to try to piggyback on nonsense, communicating on mental health issues – like anything interesting — requires that you challenge stigma and assumptions, not reinforce them.

Bullshit is a slippery slope. All I suggest is that you should think a bit before you step on to the crest.

(Copy link for this item)


Noticed

I never really got into Minecraft, but there are a few people out there who are REALLY into it. Like, so into it that they’re in the process of creating a 1:1 scale virtual replica of the world on Minecraft. If that sounds ambitious and time-consuming, you’d be right.

You might have heard of the project. It’s called Build the Earth, and it involves amateurs from around the world recreating the landscapes of their local areas. Here’s how the project website describes it:

Our mission is to fully recreate the entire Earth in Minecraft at a 1:1 scale. One block in Minecraft equates to roughly one meter in the real world, meaning that this project will fully recreate the size of our planet. Anyone is able to join us and contribute to the largest and most expansive build project to ever have been attempted in Minecraft. Every language, nationality, and regional difference is accepted and regarded as our greatest attribute as we continue our journey to unite all of Humanity’s greatest achievements into a single Minecraft world.

This week, someone posted an update of the Minecraft version of Halifax to Reddit. Included are images showing completed images of Dalhousie University’s campus, the Central Library, QEII, the Convention Centre, among others.

Here’s the Minecraft version of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the Public Dominion Building from the waterfront.

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in the forefront; Public Dominion Building behind. A pixelated view of downtown Halifax. Photo: Reddit/Halifax/Liam MacDonald

If you don’t know much about Minecraft, suffice it to say it’s a sandbox-style video game in which players mine a vast landscape for materials, craft tools, and build structures online. That’s as simple a definition as I can come up with. I’m not a gamer, so I hope my ignorance isn’t showing here.

The project began in 2020 and users from around the world are encouraged to help in the building. CBC and CTV Atlantic reported on the Halifax portion of Build the Earth in October of that year.

Corey McGraw and Allan April interviewed Liam MacDonald, who constructed the buildings in the image above, about his progress so far. They write:

[MacDonald] says one of his biggest challenges was the Halifax Central Library, which took him about two days of work to build.

“The library was hard to build because of its weird angles, and I’m still working on the Macdonald bridge, which is hard to build, to find how to make the arch.”

This week’s update shows he was able to figure out the bridge.

Macdonald Bridge in Minecraft. Photo: Reddit/Halifax – TheNoctain

Is it a really cool project? Or a colossal waste of time? I lean toward the former opinion, but you can check out the other updated photos posted to Reddit this week and decide for yourself.

Whatever your opinion, the real question, as posed by one of the commenters on Reddit, is how much for an apartment in Minecraft Halifax?

(Copy link for this item)


Government

City

No meetings

Province

Community Services (Thursday, 10am, Location TBA) — Organizational and agenda setting


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
10:30: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
13:00: NACC Capri, cement carrier, sails from Pier 9 for sea
16:00: ZIM Yokohama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
16:30: Contship Leo, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
17:00: Oceanex Connaigra moves back to Pier 41

Cape Breton
13:30: CSL Kajika, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
13:30: CSL Metis, bulker, moves from anchorage to Aulds Cove quarry
17:00: Mia Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Corner Brook


Footnotes

  • I now have to keep a bag of quarters and loonies in my car.
  • The only time I ever visited Tancook Island was for an elementary school trip as a kid. I don’t really remember much of the visit. What I remember most is my grandfather telling me before I went to get him some sauerkraut while I was there. Guess I won’t get a chance if I ever go again.
  • It’s only been one year since a mob stormed the US Capitol. It feels so distant to me.

Subscribe to the Halifax Examiner

We have many other subscription options available, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

Join the Conversation

9 Comments

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
Cancel reply
  1. I dont tend to comment on stories and the like much. But, Re: footnotes. PLEASE, for your bday get a MacPass. Ain’t nobody got time for rolled change in a car and the procurement of such things. Also, you are making your care a B&E target.

    MacPass is life changing. 🙂

  2. For the record, Tancook sauerkraut has not been made on the island for some time – it’s a Lunenburg town product (or was). And there’s still Krispi Kraut from just up the road in Martin’s Brook.

  3. “Blue Monday does not put a catchy name on a simple human truth. It only really shows us how easy it is to take an idea that people think they already know, and then sell it back to them. “

    I believe this maybe one of the few foundation core values of the Liberal Party that does not change with opinion polls.

    Don’t laugh – it works.

  4. “If you’re my dad, you’ll remember Blue Monday as the day the Montreal Expos blew their only chance at winning a National League pennant.”

    I watched that game as a youngster. It truly sucked, watching my favourite player drift back to the wall until he could only helplessly watch the ball eclipse the fence.

    I finally invested in a SAD lamp yesterday for office use during winter months. But now that Ethan’s added to my anxiety by reminding me of how old I am, maybe I should double my order?

  5. RE Minecraft: I don’t think that’s how 1:1 scale works …
    1:1 mean the same size in real world and in scale world. And even in this case, block sizes are different globally.

    Ethan: get a MacPass. Nothing beats just sailing through the toll lanes.

    1. Here’s what the Build the Earth website says: “One block in Minecraft equates to roughly one meter in the real world, meaning that this project will fully recreate the size of our planet.”