November subscription drive
November is subscription drive month at the Halifax Examiner. What this means, is that we ask you to subscribe. (Seems kind of self-explanatory.)
But why have a subscription drive? Why not just ask people to sign up whenever?
Well, a couple of reasons. First, I don’t know about you, but whenever I have a task that I’ll get to “whenever,” that usually means I’m not going to get to it, even though I may feel guilty about it. (Those of you who run into me and tell me that you keep meaning to subscribe or resubscribe know what I’m talking about. And I get it!)
Secondly, having a subscription drive allows for better planning. Tim Bousquet has told you about the fantastic Original Sin series he has in the works. But in order to dedicate the time needed to do the reporting, Tim needs to have a sense of what revenue is going to look like for the coming year. Enter the subscription drive. Essentially, the number of people who subscribe to the Examiner in November determines the course of the publication for the coming year.
You can subscribe here. There’s also a sweet deal going where, if you buy a gift subscription for someone else, you get a 20% refund on your own membership. (Email Iris for details.)
Every so often, people ask about the ability to purchase one article, rather than subscribing to the Examiner. Bousquet and I have both written about this in the past: the reason that doesn’t work is that your subscriptions support the whole operation. If every story had to turn a profit, there would be no stories. The truth is, we put a lot of time and energy into stories that, for one reason or another, simply don’t work out. In a chat yesterday morning, Examiner contributor Jennifer Henderson (who called herself “the queen of stories that didn’t work out”) compared the process to fishing. You can have a bunch of lines in the water, but you’re not going to get bites on all of them.
There are many reasons stories don’t work out: circumstances change; a key source changes their mind and no longer wants to speak to a reporter; information turns out to be incorrect, but it takes a lot of time to chase that down and determine that there isn’t actually a newsworthy story there.
Let me give you an example from my own experience. Several months ago, I spent many hours working on a story, but I never wound up writing it. There were a number of reasons for that, but the most important one was that I could not find a way to tell it without inadvertently revealing the identities of some people who had spoken to me. And, for their own safety, it was critical that they not be identified. Was the whole thing a waste of time? No, because it informed subsequent reporting that has been published in the Examiner, and because it’s possible circumstance will change in such a way that I’ll be able to tell that story in the future.
This is the kind of behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on all the time at any news organization. I don’t know what the ratio is of stories that get published to stories that don’t work out, but it’s significant. All that research takes time, and it doesn’t get directly rewarded. Yet it is critical, because if we only told stories that we knew would work out, then we’d only be telling easy stories. And that’s not what Examiner readers want.
So, help us tell the hard stories. Subscribe here.
1. Teacher shortage
Yvette d’Entremont reports that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) is concerned about the effects of the ongoing teacher shortage on the province’s most vulnerable students. Part of the problem is that specialists like resource and early literacy support teachers get called away from their duties to teach regular classes when substitutes are not available.
Among respondents to the recent NSTU survey, 81% said they’ve felt pressure to attend school while feeling sick, or to cancel medical appointments due to the lack of teachers. In addition, 70% said that since 2022 they’ve lost marking and prep time to cover for a colleague who’s absent. Also, 29% indicated they’d been asked to supervise multiple classrooms simultaneously as a result of the teacher shortage.
Click or tap here to read “Union says Nova Scotia’s teacher shortage impacting vulnerable students.”
2. Department of Health sues doctor
“The Department of Health and Wellness is suing a doctor in Antigonish over her refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” Suzanne Rent reports.
Dr. Lesya Skerry is a physician who immigrated to Canada, and enrolled at Dalhousie University’s medical school in 2014. She signed an agreement with the Department of Health and Wellness, under the terms of which it would help pay for her medical education in exchange for her commitment to practice in regions of Nova Scotia needing a physician for a period of four years.
Skerry completed a residency in Saskatchewan and returned to Nova Scotia. She was slated to start working in Antigonish in November 2020. Note the date.
On Sept. 29, 2021, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang announced a requirement that all employees of Nova Scotia Health would need to get the COVID-19 vaccination by Nov. 30, 2021.
On Nov. 21, 2021, Skerry submitted a request to the Department of Health to be exempt from getting the COVID-19 vaccination on religious grounds.
The resulting fallout meant, the department claims, that Skerry could not fulfill the terms of her contract.
Skerry hasn’t filed a defence and the allegations haven’t been tested in court.
Click or tap here to read “Department of Health suing doctor over COVID-19 vaccine refusal.”
Longtime — some might say legendary — Citadel High football coach Mike Tanner has been benched, pending the results of an ongoing investigation, Glenn MacDonald reports for SaltWire.
Tanner is 74, and has been coaching football for 50 years. MacDonald writes that Citadel principal Joe Morrison won’t say what the high school is investigating, but that it should make a decision by Friday on whether or not reinstate Tanner.
MacDonald’s sources say the investigation refers to a letter Tanner sent to football parents, berating them after a fundraising auction failed to meet its targets. In his story, he quotes from the letter. After having said this was the worst auction in 30 years, Tanner writes:
“A good friend once said, when you are looking for an excuse any one will do,” he continued in the letter. “I am wondering if these parents who did not attend couldn’t get their asses off of the sofa or were able to manufacture a lame excuse for not attending.
“Your absence was an indication of how little you care about the program and was disrespectful to (the volunteer committee), to our volunteer coaches who spend countless hours in an effort to make your child a better football player and a better person. Most importantly, it shows a lack of support for your child’s efforts!
Tanner goes on to tell parents he hopes he has offended them:
“I hope that I have offended you ‘Never do Anything Parents’ for not attending. Do not expect any kind of an apology, because you have offended me but most importantly you have offended the Football program and your child!”
I know nothing about high school football. I’ve attended a couple of games, and that’s about it. Well, it’s not true that I know nothing, because I certainly was familiar with Mike Tanner’s name. You can be a hard-nosed coach who will put everything into the game. But I don’t know — we’re kind of living in hard times, when people are having difficulties putting food on the table and rents are skyrocketing. Surely it can’t be that hard to understand that maybe raising money for football is not going to be as much of a priority for everyone.
4. Jack Wong wins GG
Halifax-based writer and illustrator Jack Wong has won the 2023 English-language Governor General’s Literary Award in the category of Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books. Wong was given the award for his debut picture book When You Can Swim, published by Scholastic.
The book’s blurb describes it as a “celebration of learning to swim among a diverse cast of children and families who each experience the mysterious joys of water in nature.” The Governor General’s Award jury noted that the book “especially reaches out to those who have historically been excluded from learning to swim.” Not an insignificant population.
Wong has an interesting background. He was born in Hong Kong, and moved to Vancouver. But in 2010 he decided to switch careers (he was a bridge engineer), enrolled at NSCAD, and moved to Halifax.
Wong’s second picture book, The Words We Share (Annick Press), was published in September and is a nominee for the Ontario Library Association’s Blue Spruce Award.
Speaking of Ontario children’s book awards, the Writers’ Union of Canada says the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, in Ontario, is limiting access to four books currently up for awards, including the Blue Spruce Award. (I am a member of the Writers’ Union, and the editor of their magazine.) One of the affected books is by TWUC chair Danny Ramadan. (Note to people who want to screw with kids’ access to books: maybe it’s not a great idea for you to pick on a book by the head of the country’s largest authors’ organization.) In a press release, TWUC says:
According to a memo and related emails leaked on social media, at least four Children’s and Young Adult books on current Forest of Reading (FoR) shortlists have had significant access restrictions placed on them by the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. The memo states:
“The Blue Spruce, Silver Birch Express and Silver Birch Fiction books listed below have been catalogued as PRO because they don’t align with the Family Life curriculum… Before JK-Grade 6 students may borrow these books from the library, a teacher must provide the Catholic context…”
Books listed as PRO, or professional, are not immediately available to students in WCDSB classrooms, and may in fact never be made available…
Run by the Ontario Library Association (OLA), The Forest of Reading is Canada’s largest recreational reading program, and is hugely popular with educators across the country. FoR awards prizes based on reader votes for shortlisted books accessed primarily through schools and libraries. It is clear that any book with limited access to the competition’s voters sits at a distinct disadvantage. The OLA itself insists their FoR programs “are designed so that all 10 titles per program are included, ensuring a balanced reading list for young readers, and allowing them the opportunity to see themselves, see others, learn, grow and become lifelong readers.”
There’s now an open letter urging the Forest of Reading program to “to take a strong stance against book banning and shadowbanning by requiring all participating organizations to sign an agreement that indicates they will provide equal access to all nominated titles, without segregation.”
5. Provincial ministers face angry questions from municipal councillors
Jennifer Henderson has a roundup of “angry questions from municipal councillors yesterday during a bearpit session at the annual conference of the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities.”
The ministers heard from municipal councillors from across the province on issues related to housing, planning, a lack of paramedics, and antisemitism.
I was particularly interested in this exchange on the province’s new extraordinary housing powers, which bypass municipal planning and consultation:
Patti Cuttell, the councillor who represents the Spryfield-Sambro-Prospect area of HRM, voiced her concerns about a new law (Bill 329 passed yesterday during the last day of the fall sitting) which gives Lohr the power to override HRM and make decisions about where and how fast new housing gets built.
Cuttell is an urban planner by profession. She challenged a statement made by Lohr suggesting special powers are needed to deal with not-in-my-backyard sentiments from residents who oppose future development. Cuttell is also worried about what could be a provincial end-run around the municipal planning process. Said Cuttell:
“My concern is by dismissing people as NIMBY we risk missing some important information we would get through a public consultation process — information about the environment and about access and transportation. By bypassing these processes, we aren’t going to be building healthy sustainable communities.
“One example: recently a provincially owned property was approved for a housing development in Herring Cove. I learned about this through the media and I was the one who informed the (HRM) planning department. So when I see decisions like that, I get concerned”…
According to Cuttell, last June the province made the land available to a non-profit group called the Spryfield Social Enterprise and Affordable Housing Society. The group was incorporated two years ago and one of its directors is Bruce Holland, the current executive director of the Spryfield Business Commission.
Holland ran for HRM Council and narrowly lost to Cuttell following a recount. In 2019 Holland ran in the federal election for the Conservative party and in 2017 he finished fourth as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Halifax Atlantic. In a previous political life, Holland served as the Liberal MLA for Timberlea-Prospect from 1993-1998.
Cuttell says the Spryfield-Sambro area is home to other housing providers such as YWCA, Shelter NS, and Habitat For Humanity, which the province should have included before quietly handing over provincial land to a relatively inexperienced group.
Click or tap here to read “Municipal councillors challenge provincial ministers.”
There was a great example out of Toronto recently on what bypassing planning rules can get you. It falls into the would-be-funny-if-it-wasn’t-so-terrible category. Doug Ford’s government used its special planning powers to approve a 50-storey tower. From the Mississauga News:
Former Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark issued a ministerial zoning order (MZO) May 12 involving two commercial plazas in Mississauga — owned by real-estate developer Kaneff Properties — that allowed up to 50-storeys on the sites at the stroke of a pen, overriding existing city planning rules without the typical municipal process, including holding public meetings.
One of those two approvals has since been rescinded. Why? Small matter of it being on the approach to a little airport nearby. You may have heard of it: it’s called Pearson.
According to Global:
Staff with the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, the group in charge of Pearson, contacted the province to explain the building was in an area used as an emergency flight path and that its height could impact their operations, sources told Global News.
The province was effectively told they had allowed a developer to build a skyscraper in the middle of a flightpath relied upon by the country’s busiest airport.
“In response to feedback from the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) regarding its proximity to Pearson Airport, the former minister amended this MZO to remove the northern site located at 5645 Hurontario Street,” a spokesperson for the Ford government confirmed.
Those darn airport NIMBYs. Who’s going to stop them?
6. EverWind lobbying
Joan Baxter has a story on the latest lobbying and PR efforts by EverWind:
EverWind Fuels, owned by Trent Vichie of New York, doesn’t just want to use Nova Scotia land, much of it forested, to put up massive wind facilities to take advantage of Nova Scotia wind resources to power its proposed green hydrogen and ammonia production plants in Point Tupper.
The company is also on the hunt for government monies and handouts.
As of November 2023, EverWind has three lobbyists working the corridors of power in Ottawa, meeting with federal officials and politicians to seek financial assistance and influence public policy on tax incentives for the company.
The federal government lobby registry shows EverWind Fuels is a subsidiary of three of Vichie’s companies that share a New York address — EverWind Fuels Holdings LLC, EverWind Fuels LLC, and Toronto Diamond Laredo.
In addition to Matthew Tinari, EverWind’s chief financial officer and chief strategy officer, the company has two others doing its bidding in Ottawa.
Adam Taylor, a consultant with Export Action Global, focuses his lobbying on getting federal financing and tax breaks and also helping to shape how our government handles those tax credits and advising on public policy.
Click or tap here to read “EverWind is looking for big money and tax breaks from Ottawa for its ‘green hydrogen’ project in Nova Scotia.”
“The ride is free because it’s all downhill”
Released in 1970 and shot on a tiny budget, it tells the story of Pete (Doug McGrath) and Joey (Paul Bradley) — two Cape Bretoners who don’t see a lot of opportunity at home, and decide to head down the road to Toronto. “Christ, Joey, I’m not working at any more canneries. That’s why we left!” Pete says. “You’d be working for a buck and a quarter the rest of your life.”
The wheels come off almost immediately, and quite literally. Four minutes into the film, Joey is changing a tire, while Pete berates him for thinking that maybe they should turn back. When they arrive in Toronto, the connection who was going to get them a job says things are kind of slow right now. The relatives whose door they knock on hide from them, hoping they’ll just go away. The guys spend their first night sleeping at the Salvation Army. They are now down to $26 between them — not even enough for gas money to get home. Toronto it is.
Canadian culture critic Geoff Pevere says in his commentary on the film that Goin’ Down the Road is all about trying to obtain the unobtainable, and that plays out early. Pete dresses up and applies for a job at an advertising agency. He hasn’t finished high school, and he has no qualifications, but he likes the ads on TV.
Finally, the pair get a job in a bottling plant for 80 bucks a week. Not exactly what they were hoping for, but it’ll do. As a bonus, they get to leer, hoot, and holler at Nicole, the lone woman in the shop, who has to suffer her co-workers’ sexist longings to conquer her. Pete gets up the nerve to ask her out, and, surprisingly, Nicole agrees. He buys a new suit to impress her, and they go out to a rock n’ roll club, where Nicole dances the night away while Pete sits glumly at a table drinking beer (Pevere says he has never seen another film in which so much beer is consumed). This is not his scene. He takes Nicole back to her place, then, after she goes up to the apartment, hides in the shadows so the boys from work who have been tailing them all night won’t get to see that he didn’t score.
The next night, we see him more in his element: getting drunk with Joey at a Maritimers’ bar, where the band is playing “I’s the B’y.”
Pete and Joey get laid off from the bottling plant, Joey commits the cardinal sin of falling in love with Betty (Jayne Eastwood, who was 21 and paid $600 to be in the film), thereby dividing his loyalties, and things go from bad to worse and even worse. Everything goes to shit: They’re evicted from their Parkdale flophouse, Pete and Joey are on the run from the cops, the dream of Toronto is dead.
Shebib had intended to make a documentary about Maritimers looking for work in Toronto. In a 2011 interview with George Strombolopoulos, he said that he’d made 20 films at that point, but they were all shorts (and I think all documentaries), and he wanted to try his hand at feature drama.
I watched one of those documentaries yesterday. Produced by the National Film Board, and partly shot by Martin Duckworth (if you don’t know his name, you probably have heard of his legendary activist mother, Muriel) called Satan’s Choice. Released in 1967, it’s a portrait of members of the Satan’s Choice motorcycle club: a group of guys (while there are a few women, it is almost all guys) who say they don’t want to conform to society, and whose credo is doing what they want and having a good time. Of course, they all wear identical jackets and conform to a pretty strict biker code of conduct.
The film shows many of the strengths that we’d see in Goin’ Down the Road a few years later. I particularly appreciated the way both films capture people on the margins of the action: the beaten-down guys at the Salvation Army on Pete and Joey’s first night in Toronto; the glum-looking young woman knitting at a biker party; the Satan’s Choice member with a swastika painted on his face, giving the lie to the notion that they’re just guys out to have a good time. Satan’s Choice member Bernie Guindon makes a couple of brief appearances in the film, at one point standing up to the cops while the others chant, “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” Bernie would go on to consolidate power as the leader of the group, and oversee its various wars and eventual takeover or merger with the Hell’s Angels. He also did time for rape. Of the gang at the time he filmed them, Shebib said, “It wasn’t organized crime as it became. But I don’t think you wanted to cross them.” (Notable: the music in the film is by The Sparrows, who would later become Steppenwolf. The original music in Goin’ Down the Road is by Bruce Cockburn.)
So, it’s not surprising that Goin’ Down the Road looks like a documentary. That’s also in part due to Richard Leiterman’s cinematography (he shot many great docs), but also the amazing performances from the cast. When Betty gets up to make supper and asks Pete if he likes Kraft Dinner, and he replies, yeah, that he makes it all the time, it’s easy to forget you’re watching actors. The documentary effect is also heightened by the fact that Shebib didn’t get permission to shoot at locations like Sam the Record Man, or Toronto diners. It’s not that he was setting out to make a guerilla film, but that there was very little in the way of an English Canadian feature film industry at the time. It just didn’t even occur to him to ask for permission, and if he had I don’t even know what the folks at the locations would have said.
In her superb book Weird Sex and Snowshoes: and other Canadian Film Phenomena, Katherine Monk writes:
Pete and Joey set out on the road with big dreams and a taste for adventure, but they end up back where they started: at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. At least before, they had hope. Now they have nothing. Welcome to the great Canadian road movie, where the ride is free because it’s all downhill.
Shebib captures the pathos of the descent in a blur of grainy, saturated blue and grey… Goin’ Down the Road was one of the first English-language Canadian films to show us who were were in all our flawed but remarkably beautiful humanity.
Interestingly, Shebib’s obituary does not mention Goin’ Down the Road, but says, “He is a legend in the Canadian Film Industry.”
The influence of the film on Trailer Park Boys is clear. It’s hard to not think of Ricky’s shitmobile when you see Joey’s car.
And there is a very famous SCTV parody.
Shebib was born and raised in Toronto, but his mother was from Newfoundland, and his father — the son of Lebanese immigrants — was born and raised in Sydney. Barb Sweet of the Cape Breton Post speaks with Shebib’s son, Noah (better known as Drake’s producer, 40):
“You know, those stories of that place that (my father) was so good at telling in such a real and raw and honest way that captivated the rest of the country were incredibly important to me, for myself in my career,” Noah said.
“And Drake … we are two Canadian kids that told Canadian stories and whether or not people wanted to understand or accept for what it was in the beginning and assumed we were a product of a great American machine. But we were not, we were just two Canadian kids doing what I had learned how to do from my father.”
On a personal note, I first saw Goin’ Down the Road in a Canadian film studies class, when I was 17 and in Cegep. (Cegep is Quebec’s two-year college between high school and university.) I had been to mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton once or twice by that point, but could not really tell you anything about the province.
Yesterday, as I finished watching the film again, I wondered how much that film studies class actually affected the rest of my life. I was genuinely excited by the Canadian films we were watching — at a time when I had very little idea that Canadian films even existed. Over the years, I have worked at the National Film Board, edited Canadian Screenwriter magazine, cobbled together a few small writing and other credits on Canadian docs, animation, and even reality TV. I wonder if any of that would have happened without that film class. (And I don’t even remember who taught it.)
Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House and online) — watch it here
Woodwinds Noon Hour (Friday, 11:45am, Strug Concert Hall) — selections from students’ repertoire
Bruce Earhard Memorial Lecture / Undergraduate Awards Day 2023 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 5260, Life Sciences Centre) — Martin Ruck from City University of New York will talk
“I am neither”: Lewis H. Douglass and Racial Categories at the Origin of Electronic Data Processing (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, McCain Building and online) — Aaron S. Wright will talk
Climate Change: Resilience and Adaptations of Deaf Communities (Friday, 10am, Atrium 216 and online) — Caroline Solomon will talk; from the listing:
This presentation will begin with an overview of different frameworks for including people with disabilities, especially the deaf community, in disaster risk reduction and emergency planning. Case studies and testimonials of what deaf people experience during different natural disasters will set the stage for what the gaps are and what deaf people need to do to be resilient and change agents.
In the harbour
08:00: One Apus, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for NYC
11:30: Lagarfoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
12:00: Jessica B, cargo ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
15:30: CMA CGM Chennai, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Tangier, Morocco
16:00: Morning Lady, car carrier, arrives Pier 9c from Bremerhaven, Germany
16:30: Nolhan Ava, ro-ro cargo, moves from Pier 31 to Fairview Cove East
17:30: John J. Carrick, barge, sails from McAsphalt for sea
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for St. John’s
21:30: Morning Lady, car carrier, moves from Pier 9c to Autoport
10:00: Rhythmic, oil tanker, sails from Everwind #1 for sea
17:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Quarry for sea
17:00: CSL Kajika, bulker, moves from outer anchorage to Quarry
17:00: SFL Trinity, oil tanker, arrives at Everwind #1 from NYC
Next week, I am interviewing someone in person for a story, and in our email exchanges, he has described our upcoming conversation as a “chinwag.” Although I know the word, I don’t think anyone has ever used it in addressing me, and I love it.