News

1. Police board recommends HRP budget increase

Halifax Regional Police cruisers lined up behind headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford spent last night at the Board of Police Commissioners’ public hearing — he live tweeted the entire meeting here. At the end of it all, the police board recommended in favour of a 2.3% increase to the Halifax Regional Police budget.

Last month, Woodford reported Chief Dan Kinsella asked for that increase, to pay for 26 new sworn officers and 10 new civilian positions.

Well, at last night’s meeting a couple dozen people had their say. Woodford writes:

On Monday night, the Board of Police Commissioners held its first ever public meeting on the budget virtually, and heard from 24 people. They were nearly all opposed to the budget increase.

Numerous speakers cited a lack of evidence for the proposed new officer positions and a lack of detail in the budget, along with the recent report from the Subcommittee to Define Defunding Police (Examiner contributor El Jones was an author of the report). They spoke about August 18, 2021, when Halifax Regional Police pepper sprayed and arrested protesters at the old Halifax Memorial Library after kicking homeless people out of city parks.

Kate MacDonald, who, like many of the speakers, was at that protest, questioned how the extra money would make policing more effective in the city.

“And how will $2 million make HRP more culturally competent and less racist?” MacDonald asked. “How do we know that this isn’t an investment in more violence, as trends show that it actually is?”

Gary Grant, the second of two retired RCMP officers to speak to the board, wasn’t vocally opposed to the budget increase, but said the police should be presenting the public with more details.

“There’s so much that isn’t there, that I don’t know how you can make a proper decision on it,” Grant said.

The budget goes to Halifax regional council’s budget committee on February 23, where public speakers will have another opportunity to have their say.

Click here to read Woodford’s complete story.

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2. COVID update

Illustration: CDC

Tim Bousquet had the Monday COVID update, which included news that three more Nova Scotians died from the disease. The deceased are:

• a man in his 70s who lived in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone
• a woman in her 70s who lived in the Western Zone
• a man in his 80s who lived in the Western Zone

Here are the hospitalization numbers: 93 people in hospital who were admitted because of COVID symptoms, 15 of whom are in ICU. Those 93 range in age from 1 to 100 years old, and the average age is 68.

Also,

• 116 people admitted to hospital for other reasons but who tested positive for COVID during the admissions screening or who were admitted for COVID but no longer require specialized care
• 142 people in hospital who contracted COVID in the hospital outbreaks

And there are 256 new cases.

Bousquet’s update also includes details on hospital outbreaks, vaccination, and testing.  Click here to read his full update. 

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3. Electric vehicle infrastructure needs a boost

Photo: Clean Foundation

Jennifer Henderson had this in-depth report on the problems with the infrastructure for electric vehicles, specifically the charging stations. Last month, the province announced it was spending $1.7 million to expand the network of charging stations for EVs across Nova Scotia. Henderson had details on that news:

Businesses, including Irving, Nova Scotia Power, and Heritage Gas, municipalities, and community organizations will receive funding for at least 50% of the cost for buying and installing charging stations through a new program called EV Boost, administered by Clean Foundation (formerly known as Clean NS). The non-profit organization applied for the money last spring and received $1.2 million under the federal Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program. Then last week, the province decided to top that up with another $500,000.

What’s not to like, I thought. Surely expanding the locations where the driver of an electric vehicle can find a charging station should encourage sales and lower carbon emissions.

So Henderson spoke with actual owners of EVs who had different stories about the troubles with charging stations and more. It turns out not all charging stations are the same: some are slow and others are fast. Henderson writes:

Two of the three car owners were disappointed a lot of public money is going to be spent on “slow” chargers when there is a growing demand — and opportunity — to supply “fast” chargers.

At the risk of oversimplifying, plugging into a “slow” — or Level 2 — charging station takes about three hours to give an EV enough juice to go another 100 kilometers.  “Fast” — or (Level 3) — chargers take less than 30 minutes to deliver the same amount of power. The difference in price is as significant as the speed: the Level 3 ”fast” charger” costs $50,000. That’s about 10 times more than the “slow” Level 2.

There is one Level 3 fast-charging station between Halifax and Tatamagouche, where contractor David Baxter lives. In the summer, the power he gets from plugging in his used Chevy Bolt at home overnight means he can make the roundtrip without needing a boost.

“But if you’re doing a return trip from Tatamagouche to Halifax during the winter, you don’t want to pull into Stewiacke and sit there for three hours at the PetroCan to get enough charge to get home. That’s ridiculous,” said Baxter. “You want to pull into a Level 3 charge station as if you were getting gas and spend 20 to 25 minutes getting an extra 80 kilometres so you can get back home.”

Besides the issue with the charging stations, there’s also the issue of the cost of a charge itself. And sometimes in the winter, drivers have to shovel out the public chargers themselves.

Click here to read the full story.

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4. More Emera solar charges

The solar panels on the Ikea store in Dartmouth. Photo: NSCC

Last week, Jennifer Henderson reported that Nova Scotia Power is proposing to add an $8 per kW per month “system access charge” for all new customers who want to generate their own electricity and then to sell the extra back to Nova Scotia Power through what’s known as “net-metering.” Customers signed up before today won’t have to pay the proposed fee.

Well, a reader sent us this article from a news station in Florida where solar advocates and companies are pushing back on a controversial bill — HB 741 — that would change that state’s existing net metering program. Note that Tampa Electric Company is an Emera company, and Emera’s subsidiary Nova Scotia Power is now making a similar proposal in this province to charge people using solar power who use net metering.

Reporter Mitch Perry interviewed Steve Rutherford, the founder and President of Tampa Bay Solar, who said the proposed changes would mean 70% of his 30 employees will be out of work because there wouldn’t be the customer base for solar. As Perry reports:

Rutherford said that while those who invest in rooftop solar appreciate the fact that they’re using an alternative and cleaner energy source, the vast majority of his customers commit to it because it’s a financial investment.

“They know that within 10 years, they’re going to be able to get their money back from their investment and they’re going to be able to live with low energy bills for the rest of the life of their system,” he said.

Rooftop solar customers in Florida have swelled to around 90,000, but that’s still only about 1% of the more than 8.5 million ratepaying customers in the Sunshine State.

You can read the full article here. 

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5. Black News File

Matthew Byard is back with his Black News File, a roundup of stories from the Black community. In this edition, Byard looks back at stories he covered in January, including those on Cecil Boutilier who was fighting COVID restrictions at a Dartmouth halfway house, a new web series that tells stories from the Black community, and Lindell Wigginton’s debut in the NBA, which happened to take place on his mother’s birthday.

Click here to read Byard’s complete news file.

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Views

Lucy Mitchell and the Annapolis County Poor House

Lucy Mitchell. Photo: Nova Scotia Archives

Brenda Thompson has been researching and writing about poor houses in Nova Scotia for years (she documents her work at her website here). I last interviewed Thompson about poor houses and her book, A Wholesome Horror, back in February 2020, which seems like eons ago, for this Morning File.

Well, Thompson continued her research and in December published the second edition of A Wholesome Horror that includes several new chapters. For this book, Thompson said she wanted to take a closer look at how people survived in poor houses, particularly women and children.

While there were several stories she found in her research, the story about Lucy Mitchell stood out.

“I knew about [Mitchell] from Maxine Tynes, who lived around the corner from where I did in Dartmouth,” Thompson recalls. “I had a copy of her book that she personally signed for me. The story of Lucy Mitchell always stuck with me. I had no idea where Bridgetown was in the early 90s. Of course, I ended up living in this area.”

That book Tynes wrote was a collection of poetry called Borrowed Beauty that was published by Pottersfield Press in 1987. One of the poems, Crazy Luce, was about Mitchell. In her poem, Tynes wrote that if Mitchell had been born in another time, “…you would be Diana Ross, Moms Mabley, Pearl Bailey.”

Mitchell was born in Bridgetown in about 1810. She was well known around town for her colourful clothing. She did domestic work, likely as a laundress, servant, or nanny for white families in the town. But Mitchell lived in a segregated poor house most of her life.

Like most counties across Nova Scotia, Annapolis County had its own poor house. In her research, Thompson learned that by 1897, the poor house in Annapolis was over capacity, so a new, more modern building was built. The white inmates were sent there, leaving the African Nova Scotian inmates in the older building, which was in worse condition. By 1899, Mitchell was one of 43 Black inmates who lived in the segregated poor house, the only one in the province.

The Annapolis County Poor House on a postcard. Photo: Brenda Thompson

“She had some mental [health] issues, she was Black, and a female, and not married, so she didn’t have any protection,” Thompson said. “And she survived.”

Thompson said Mitchell was always herself.

“She was not going to bow down and dress how other people thought she should,” Thompson said. “She wasn’t going to behave how other people thought she should. She just remained true to Lucy.”

Thompson said there’s a well-known drawing of Mitchell chasing a white man down a street in Bridgetown because he made fun of the way she was dressed and suggested she joined the circus that was visiting town.

Mitchell died in 1910, around the age of 100. She is buried in an unmarked grave in a field where other inmates of the poor house, Black and white, were buried.

Thompson said once she put out her first book, all sorts of other stories found their way to her. She said she got a letter from someone who read the first edition. The letter was heavily redacted, but detailed how this reader’s grandmother in the 1920s tried to get her children back after she was forced into the poor house when her husband left her. The younger children were put up for adoption and the older ones were sent to work as indentured servants until they reached adulthood.

Thompson also included a story from her own family about her grandfather, Frank, who made his mother an inmate at the Waterville Poor House because she got in his way of getting his inheritance.

Thompson, who is a longtime anti-poverty activist, said there are lessons in her work on poor houses and poverty. Thompson has researched the history of poverty back to Henry VIII, and it shows that poverty is systemic.

“It’s built into our system,” Thompson said. “So, we blame people in their situations without admitting what our own culture and our own political system has done to put them in there and keep them there.”

“It’s where we come from and we need to change it,” Thompson said. “I tell people in my talks that in a hundred years from now, or even less, somebody will be talking or writing about how badly we treated poor people. We have an opportunity to change it. We need to change it. We can do better.”

But for people like Mitchell, there were other factors in play, such as systemic racism, misogyny, and mental health issues.

“That was it. She was trapped,” Thompson said. “But she was determined to be herself, even though she was trapped. I wish more people felt comfortable being like that. Being different is all she was.”

Thompson is working on another book called Runaways, which are stories of runaway slaves, indentured servants, and wives, all based on ads taken from old newspapers. She’s also working on creating a database of men and women in Nova Scotia who owned slaves.

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Noticed

I can’t think of anyone who sees the details in so many scenes and places across the province more than Stephen Archibald does. In his latest photo album, titled Old Album, Number Twelve, over at Halifax Bloggers, he takes a look at some of the details in Halifax architecture in photos he took in the 1970s and 80s.

First, there’s this photo: Archibald says, “The back of an 18th-century gravestone in St. Paul’s Cemetery is so alive to me. Every whack on the chisel left a mark and records a decision. Timeless.”

Photo: Stephen Archibald

I especially like these photos where Archibald said he just looked straight up a building. How many of us do that?  

There’s this 1979 photo of the Halifax Academy, Brunswick Street …

Halifax Academy. Photo: Stephen Archibald.

… and this photo of the City Club on Barrington Street that Archibald took in 1983.

The City Club. Photo: Stephen Archibald

And I also love these storm porches. There’s this Italianate-style storm porch on South Street. Archibald took the photo in 1974.

And this masonry storm porch on Tobin Street, which is still there.

Photo: Stephen Archibald

You can see all the details in all the photos in the old album here. 

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Government

City

Tuesday

No meetings

Wednesday

Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting

North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — virtual meeting

Province

Tuesday

Community Services (Tuesday, 10am) — video conference; Recreation Facilities: Impact and Recovery from COVID-19, with Jennie Greencorn, Recreation Facility Association of Nova Scotia

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — video conference; Nova Scotia Cap-and-Trade Program, with Lora MacEachern, Department of Environment and Climate Change


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Library Engagement in a Pandemic & Post Pandemic World (Tuesday, 12pm) — virtual public lecture with Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress, and the first African American to lead the national library; registration required

Wednesday

Tools and Techniques to Support Linguistic Diversity (Wednesday, 11am) — online, interactive two-hour workshop; $50

Massive intein content in three Anaeramoeba genomes reveals new aspects of intein mobility in eukaryotes (Wednesday, 4pm) — Lucie Gallot Lavallee from Dalhousie University will talk

Saint Mary’s

Plumes of Power: An Evening with Senator Donald H. Oliver (Tuesday, 7pm) — Via Zoom; he will read from his recent book, A Matter of Equality, The Life’s Work of Senator Don Oliver. Register in advance.


In the harbour

Halifax
11:30: Maersk Patras, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Bremerhaven, Germany
15:00: Minerva Xanthe, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
16:00: MSC Tianjin, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
16:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Baltimore
17:30: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
19:00: Larvik, oil tankers, moves from outer harbour to Tufts Cove

Cape Breton
15:00: Rosaire A. Desgagnes, cargo ship, sails from Government Wharf (Sydney) for sea


Footnotes

Here’s a joke my kid told me in 2015. The memory popped up in my Facebook memories on Monday.

My kid: “Mom, how long does it take to eat a tire?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
My kid: “A good year.”


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Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. Great morning file! I appreciate so much that you share the photos and tales of Stephen Archibald, which are educational and illuminating/uplifting. We need to hard news, oh for sure, but also a bit of cheer, especially in these endless times of…well, whatever this is. Thanks, Suzanne!

    1. I also like Stephen Archibald’s photos – and I also take photo looking straight up. usually at trees. IMHO – Storm porches should come back. Useful appendages.

  2. There are watershed moments when true institutional and societal change seem possible – Occupy Wall Street, The Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, a global pandemic.

    All seem to run up to a wall of intellectual and moral cowardice and outright hostility from the powers that be and their vested interests.

    Disappointing to see that the Police Commission is showing itself as such. I presume council will be like minded.

    I look forward to El Jones’ response in the Examiner.

    1. Call your councillor and your MLA and ask her/him to ask the Premier to stop sending the annual $4,500,000 for extra police officers at HRP & RCMP – HRM has been receiving funding for extra officers since 2007.