1. Basic income
“One of the organizers of a conference featuring sessions about basic income said she hopes the all-day event will teach attendees how a universal basic income (UBI) can help address issues such as housing, poverty, and living on income assistance,” reports Suzanne Rent:
Basic Income Nova Scotia Society is organizing the conference, which will take place on Saturday, in venues in Halifax and Sydney, as well as via Zoom.
Dr. Elizabeth Kay-Raining Bird, a professor at Dalhousie University who advocates for UBI with Basic Income Nova Scotia Society, said there are still misconceptions about basic income that speakers at the conference will address. Those misconceptions include that UBI is too expensive, causes inflation, and discourages people from wanting to work.
“There have been a variety of ways developed to pay for a basic income that would ensure that it is affordable,” Kay-Raining Bird said in an interview with the Halifax Examiner on Tuesday. “These are some of the issues we want to address.”
Over the past weekend, I listened to a New Yorker podcast about the Ozempic fad among Hollywood celebrities.
The thumbnail version is that at great risk to themselves, actors and such are taking Ozempic, a drug for people with Type 2 diabetes, as a weight loss drug. New Yorker reporter Jia Tolentino gets into the social implications of the fad, which might amount to a move away from the broadening of understandings of beauty and returning to the old-school equating of thinness with beauty.
This is perhaps best represented by the Kardashians, says Tolentino. The Kardashians helped redefine beauty as curvy women, but have recently made a quite sudden transformation to thinness.
But how are celebrities getting the drug? Tolentino ran the experiment of going to two different online pharmacies.
For the first, she lied about her weight, describing herself of having a BMI of 30; she stressed that BMI is no real reflection of health, but a BMI of 30 is still considered obese and therefore unhealthy in many medical circles. The online pharmacy simply sent her the Ozempic, no further questions.
For the second online pharmacy, Tolentino gave her actual physical measurements; she describes herself as a slight, slim woman. That pharmacy also filled her Ozempic prescription, with no medical exam required.
I hadn’t intended on writing about the podcast or Ozempic — I know nothing of Hollywood celebrities, and even if I did, it probably wouldn’t be relevant to anything in Nova Scotia (there’s no indication Elliot Page is taking Ozempic).
But yesterday, CBC British Columbia reporter Rhianna Schmunk revealed that 15% of Ozempic sales in British Columbia over the first two months of this year went to US residents. Moreover:
The data showed two pharmacies accounted for 88 per cent of B.C.’s Ozempic sales to American residents. [B.C. Health Minister Adrian] Dix said both businesses were in Metro Vancouver, but did not name them.
Ninety-five per cent of prescriptions to those pharmacies were written in Nova Scotia, data showed, prompting Dix to call on that province’s professional college to investigate why its practitioners are writing so many prescriptions.
So, suddenly the Hollywood celebrity diet drug fad is relevant in Nova Scotia.
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The Mass Casualty Commission’s final report will be issued tomorrow. It will likely be thoughtful and considered, and mostly ignored.
This item details violence.
The Mass Casualty Commission’s final report will be issued tomorrow at noon. Reporters will receive an embargoed copy of the report today at noon, and so I’ll be doing nothing but reading the up-to-3,000 pages of it for the rest of the day and into tomorrow.
I don’t expect we’ll learn anything new about the sequence of events during the April 18-19, 2020 murders, the police response, the perpetrator’s life before the murders, or the policy and societal contexts that the murders were embedded in — all that material has been covered extensively by the commission’s proceedings and in the hundreds of thousands of pages of documents made public by the commission.
The commission’s job is to synthesize all that information, tell a compelling and true narrative, and make recommendations that the rest of us will find convincing and want to implement.
Good luck with that.
I don’t say this to diminish the commission’s work. It was important and necessary to have a public inquiry into the murders. And having watched the commission operate in detail from my typically cynical perspective, I can say with honesty that it’s done a good job in uncovering, making public, and distilling the facts.
But as I’ve been thinking about this process in preparation for reporting on the final report, I keep falling back on how we can’t seem to agree to a concrete shared truth. Bear with me as I detail this.
Let’s start with factual narrative.
I think most of us accept the general outline of events on April 18 and 19, but the particulars get messy right from the start. While the commission has made some reasonable assumptions, we don’t know the exact sequence of the murders in Portapique, or the exact route taken by the killer.
And eyewitness accounts of the killer’s escape through the blueberry field road differ. People whose houses back onto the road say they saw a vehicle on it that night, but they can’t agree on the time that the vehicle was on the road.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Al Carroll told the commission that when he drove down Cobequid Court on the morning of Sunday, April 19, he saw a “chain or wire” barrier across the entryway to the blueberry field road, and that the barrier was in place, blocking entry to the road. This contradicts the testimony of Debra Thibeault, who lived immediately adjacent to the entryway. Thibeault said the barrier was of rope, not chain, and that when she returned to her house in the days after the murder, she found the posts holding the rope barrier had been pulled completely out of the ground, as if someone had driven right through the barrier. She even took photos of it.
Carroll’s testimony doesn’t make any sense. Among other things, he says he waved at a woman sitting on the deck of Thibeault’s house, but Thibeault was out of town at the time.
Kate MacDonald told police about the blueberry field road right at the onset of the murders, but for whatever reason, police didn’t pursue that information. So instead, police spent many hours chasing a phantom of the killer around the woods in Portapique when in reality he was long gone, having moved on to Debert.
Because police were convinced the killer was in Portapique (and, with no evidence at all, thought he had killed himself), no effort was made to look for him elsewhere. Also, it appears that one, and possibly two, RCMP officers drove right past the killer as he was fleeing Portapique on Highway 2 in the fake police car, the RCMP officers completely oblivious to the possibility that the killer was not in Portapique.
We don’t know if police could have found the killer overnight had they looked for him outside Portapique. But had they tried and succeeded, the lives of nine people killed later Sunday morning would have been spared.
Carroll’s narrative supports a view that police could not have possibly known that the killer drove out of Portapique on the blueberry field road, which would resolve them of the responsibility of pursuing that possibility.
Perhaps Carroll was simply lying, but I don’t think that’s exactly right. Hold that thought.
Let’s move on to Wentworth. A man named Reginald Jay told investigators that on April 19 at about 9am he saw a police car with a push bar on it stopped in the median near the intersection of Highways 4 and 307. Jay said he was doing a security check on a property nearby, and when he came back four or five minutes later, the police car was still there.
Jay’s report completely contradicts the timeline for the killer (using a fake police car with a push bar) having at that moment been at Hunter Road murdering Alanna Jenkins, Sean McLeod, and Tom Bagley. Jay’s report also doesn’t line up with video footage of the fake police car coming and going on Hunter Road, before and after the time Day said he saw the car.
Was Jay lying? I don’t think so. Hold that thought.
Then there are the terrible events at the Shubenacdie cloverleaf. Twenty-seven people witnessed the shootout between the killer and Cpl. Heidi Stevenson and the murder of Joey Webber. Some of the witnesses drove right upon the scene as it was unfolding, mere metres away. Others watched on in horror from their houses within a couple of hundred metres.
But here’s the thing: the witnesses’ accounts don’t exactly line up. Some saw Stevenson get out of her car; others didn’t. There are different memories about the sequence of events. They have different explanations for how the cars ended up where they did.
None of these witnesses had any reason to lie. They were all trying to be helpful and truthful.
Then there were the days immediately after the murders. The Examiner crew spent many hours chasing down tips about people having seen the murderer’s car in the overnight hours and Sunday morning during the murder spree. As relayed to us by various people, the car was near Springhill prison, next to Fountain Lake, in Tatamagouche, in Pugwash. None of these reports panned out, and in my subsequent assessment, most weren’t even remotely possible, and those that were conceivable just aren’t true — a lot of people think the killer went north from Hunter Road and then returned to the scene, but there’s absolutely no evidence for that.
What’s going on here? How is it that people see things that weren’t there, or see things that were there differently?
That’s the nature of eyewitness testimony: it isn’t completely reliable. We think we know what we saw, but memory plays games with us. What we think we saw reflects an entire gamut of prior beliefs, biases, speculations, desires, and more. Memories can be distorted. They can even be created out of nothing.
That doesn’t mean people are necessarily lying. I can’t get into Carroll’s head to know if he purposefully and consciously made up a false account about the gate on the blueberry field road, or if it was a created memory that he truly believes. I’ve never met Reginald Jay, but he seems a decent and helpful man; perhaps too helpful, and his mind wanted him to be even more helpful so tricked him into thinking he saw that damn car.
The 27 people at Shubenacadie obviously retrospectively created a narrative memory that made sense to them, none with any intent to deceive. Those people contacting the Examiner to report sightings of the killer? I don’t know their motives, but I think mostly they honestly thought they saw the police car.
And if we can’t agree on the basic facts, forget about the contextual issues around the facts.
We’re a misogynistic culture, and so it’s no surprise that many have vilified Lisa Banfield and cast her as a witch responsible for the crimes of the man in her life, facts be damned.
There is an understandable and warranted distrust of police, and there were certainly many police failures before, during, and after the murders. The Examiner has documented many of those failures over the past three years. And before the murders, I spent seven years documenting how the RCMP lied and kept Glen Assoun in prison for 10 additional years, even though they had good reason to believe he was innocent of the crime he was convicted of. I’m certainly willing to call the RCMP out on their lies and failures, when the facts support my account.
But there are multiple false narratives about the RCMP in relation to the April 2020 murders: that the killer was procuring sex slaves for the cops, that the killer was a paid RCMP informant, that the cops were somehow indebted to the killer. There’s no evidence at all for any of these claims.
On the other hand, there’s also the prevailing narrative that cops can’t fail, they can only be failed. So in this narrative, any and all police failures merely demonstrate that the police don’t have enough personnel, equipment, technology, and money. Better resource the cops, and they’ll do a better job. No criticism of any particular police officer, or of the institution itself, is allowable.
To some degree, facts are fungible, and truth depends on the context we bring to it. But we can’t let ourselves fall into some postmodernist nothing-has-ultimate-meaning hole; we should at least strive for a shared understanding of events. The Mass Casualty Commission was and remains a good approach.
Still, I fear that the commission will release a thoughtful, considered, and even wise final report, with a slew of recommendations about all sorts of things, ranging from how we deal with intimate partner violence, better ways to limit the importation of illegal weapons, community mental health responses to tragedy, how to improve police training, use of emergency alert systems, and more, but the only set of recommendations that will actually be adopted by policy makers will be those that give cops more money, and anything remotely connecting to police accountability or societal change will be ignored.
Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall and online) — agenda
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, One Government Place and online) — Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission – Annual Report, Business Plan, Accountability Report and Financial Statements; with representatives from Nova Scotia legal Aid Commission
Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)
Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)
What is frailty good for in people living with cardiovascular disease? (Wednesday, 11:30am, Room C150, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Scott Kehler will talk
Dal Reads 2023: Desmond Cole in Conversation with El Jones (Wednesday, 7pm, MacMechan Auditorium, Killam Library) — the author of The Skin We’re In will talk; from the listing:
In this bracing, revelatory work of award-winning journalism, celebrated writer and activist Desmond Cole punctures the naive assumptions of Canadians who believe we live in a post-racial nation. Chronicling just one year in the struggle against racism in this country, The Skin We’re In reveals in stark detail the injustices faced by Black Canadians on a daily basis: the devastating effects of racist policing, the hopelessness produced by an education system that fails Black children, the heartbreak of those separated from their families by discriminatory immigration laws, and more. Cole draws on his own experiences as a Black man in Canada, and locates the deep cultural, historical, and political roots of each event. What emerges is a personal, painful, and comprehensive picture of entrenched, systemic inequality.
Free event, with free copies of the book available
Peer Gynt (Wednesday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — Dal Theatre production, until April 1; tickets $15/$10, more info here
Targeting cardiac hERG channels to protect against LQTS-associated arrhythmogenicity (Thursday, 1pm, online) — Tom Claydon from Simon Fraser University will talk
International human rights and Canada’s role in a polarized world (Thursday, 7pm, 2nd Floor, Dal Student Union Building and online) — conversation with Bob Rae and Roméo Dallaire, moderated by Shelly Whitman; info and registration here
Peer Gynt (Thursday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — Dal Theatre production, until April 1; tickets $15/$10, more info here
In the harbour
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
07:00: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
10:30: SFL Conductor, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Baltimore
13:00: Skogafoss sails for Portland
16:30: SFL Conductor sails for sea
21:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to anchorage
No arrivals or departures.
As I was writing the bit on the Mass Casualty Commission above, I received the first part of the commission’s final report, so I cut Morning File short in order to dive into reading.