1. Do yourself a favour and subscribe to the Halifax Examiner
Yes, it’s time for the Examiner’s annual subscription drive. Before moving on to the rest of today’s Morning File, I want to share a story-behind-the-story anecdote with you.
As a freelance contributor, one of the things I appreciate about the Examiner is editor/publisher Tim Bousquet’s openness to letting me run with quirky story ideas, and to pay me well enough to make them worth pursuing. Last year, when a few schools in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education changed their names, I got to wondering about who Nova Scotia’s schools were named after. I figured this would be a pretty straightforward affair. Find a spreadsheet somewhere, and look at the names.
Well, I did find the spreadsheet, which was organized by centre for education, but then I broke it down into categories: schools named for geographic features, streets, famous people, not-so-famous people, and so on. The thing is, looking at the list of names of people, I had no idea who many of them were. And, it turned out, neither did some of the staff at those schools.
In Nova Scotia, I was surprised to learn, vanishingly few schools are named after major contemporary or historical figures…
Instead, you’re much more likely to find the names of local doctors and priests, school administrators, local or provincial politicians, war heroes, and an array of local landowners, trailblazers, artisans, and people who became community fixtures. They include a beloved caretaker, a teen hockey player fatally injured on the ice, and a blacksmith turned city councillor…
A plaque at Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School in Antigonish shows a man with a slightly rakish smile and a carnation in his lapel. It says that Gillis, the supervisor of town schools for Antigonish (he had a PhD in education) “was an ever-present advocate for education and believed one had to do everything in their power to help a student. Dr. Gillis suffered a severe stroke at age 45, and lived for another 27 years before passing away in 2007.” Someone I know who attended the school in the 2010s told me everyone just called it “Regional” and he’d never really thought about who it was named after.
One of the things I learned is that almost none of the schools in the province are named after women. Elizabeth Sutherland is one of the few exceptions. That’s her portrait at the top of the page.
This story was labour-intensive and took a while to write. It involved phoning lots and lots of schools and asking, “Can you tell me who X is?” This wasn’t an earth-shattering investigation. It wasn’t going to break open a scandal, or expose wrongdoing. But it spoke to an important aspect of community — especially in rural areas. I can bring a story like that to Examiner readers, because the publication is willing to provide the time (i.e. money) and space to fully explore it.
Of course, you can subscribe to the Examiner any time you feel like it. But doing it now (and, honestly, why wait?) is helpful, because it allows for more long-range planning. If the bulk of new subscriptions and renewals come in this month, the Examiner team has a better sense of how much money is available for hiring, investigations, and so on in the year ahead. And, ultimately, that benefits you, the reader. There are a variety of subscription levels available. Subscribe here and feel good about supporting local independent journalism.
2. Red Roof Events: a ‘global leading speakers agency’ with an interest in Northern Pulp — and no website
The lawyer is Jamie Simpson, and he was asked in an email to speak at, “a private online conference regarding environmental challenges of current times.” What followed was a very weird Skype call, and an increasingly suspicious interest in Northern Pulp. Oh, and the fact that the “global leading speakers agency” did not have a functioning website, and that it’s CEO spelled his name differently in his email address than elsewhere:
Simpson understood that [Red Roof CEO Alkinous] Theodotou was in Luxembourg.
As Simpson recalls it, “It was just him [Alkinous Theodotou] with what looked like a white sheet behind him.”
“I thought it was a little strange,” he says. “But then I thought maybe his office is messy or something and he wanted a clean backdrop for the meeting and no distractions.”…
As the meeting went on, it went from the general to the specific and he really started to zero in on certain aspects of my involvement with the Northern Pulp file. He was very interested in knowing what sort of lobbying efforts the fishing organizations that I represented had been involved with the government. I did not answer any questions like that.
And then he wanted to know how I had gotten specific information that was referenced in the newspaper articles. And I said it was through freedom of information. And he said, “Yeah, but you must have had some sort of contact in government to tip you off or to or to point you in the right direction, didn’t you?”
Red Roof, eh? How about Red Flag?
This story is for subscribers only. You know what to do.
In plain language, deliveries from Muskrat Falls were late to non-existent in 2021, and the missing renewable energy meant Nova Scotia Power substituted by burning more coal, natural gas, and biomass. Prices for fossil fuels had increased, and this substitution also led to higher carbon emissions, which in turn added to Nova Scotia Power’s cost to purchase carbon credits.
Henderson also looks at ongoing problems with software that controls power transmission through the Labrador Island Link cable, and has more on the ongoing biomass fiasco, which she calls, “infuriating” but “a side show compared to dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel cost overruns that will be included in power rates.”
This item was written by Yvette d’Entremont
A new study led by Dalhousie University and University of Calgary researchers found that almost 40% of Canadians don’t know what sepsis is, how serious it can be, and what can be done to prevent it.
Described as a life‐threatening complication of the body’s response to infection, the study’s authors noted the high financial, medical, and psychological costs of sepsis to the health care system and to individuals. Because most cases of sepsis originate in the community, they said public awareness is essential for early diagnosis and treatment.
The study is described by the authors as the first examining general knowledge and public awareness of sepsis among adults in Canada.
“Our study provides a valuable baseline measure of what Canadians seem to know and not know about sepsis,” study co-lead Dalhousie University professor Dr. Jeanna Parsons Leigh said in a media release.
“Our findings will help us create Canadian-focused resources for targeted campaigns promoting sepsis awareness. Our end goal is to engage, educate and empower Canadians to make informed decisions for their own health.”
The Global Sepsis Alliance describes sepsis as something that occurs when the body responds to an infection by injuring its own tissues and organs.
“It may lead to shock, multi-organ failure, and death — especially if not recognized early and treated promptly,” states the non-profit organization’s literature.
“Sepsis is the final common pathway to death from most infectious diseases worldwide, including viral infections such as SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19.”
The study, published online Thursday in the clinical medical journal Critical Care, involved a survey of 3,200 Canadian adults.
While 61% of respondents indicated they’d heard of sepsis, only 32% had general knowledge of the symptoms, risk factors, and prevention measures.
The more common signs of sepsis — fast breathing, mental confusion — were recognized by fewer than one-fifth of respondents.
In addition, only 25% of survey respondents knew that keeping vaccinations up to date was a preventive strategy to lower the risk of sepsis.
“The strongest predictors of sepsis knowledge were previous exposure to sepsis, healthcare employment, female sex, and a college/university education,” the study’s authors said.
“Respondents most frequently reported hearing about sepsis through television (27.7%) and preferred to learn about sepsis from healthcare providers (53.1%).”
Microorganisms that can cause sepsis include viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
Those that commonly lead to sepsis include pneumonia, parasites like malaria, stomach infections, and viruses like COVID-19 and influenza.
Sepsis Canada shares that individuals with sepsis can have one (or more) of the following signs and symptoms:
- S–Slurred speech or confusion
- E–Extreme shivering or muscle pain/fever
- P–Passing no urine all day
- S–Severe breathlessness
- I–It feels like you’re going to die
- S–Skin mottled or discoloured
Philip here: You will be amazed to learn stock photo libraries are not filled with great selections for illustrating sepsis.
5. IWK ER at capacity — and it’s only going to get worse
The emergency department at the children’s hospital hit its highest-ever recorded number of visits in a single day on Sunday at 200 patients. This was after the hospital’s emergency department saw 165 patients on Saturday and 140 on Friday…
The fact they’re breaking records this early in the season is a concern. [Dr. Kirstin] Weerdenburg said during the colder winter months there tends to be a lot more viral illness. She can’t imagine more than what she’s seeing now.
6. NSCC building more student residences
Construction has begun on student residences at NSCC’s Akerley and Pictou campuses, with the Ivany campus to follow next week, Zane Woodford reports. The residences will have a total of 350 beds, and will cost $6,800 to $10,000 a year.
Taralee Hammond, NSCC’s associate vice president of student affairs, said access to affordable housing is a known barrier to education.
“I’ve heard first hand student concerns about housing availability, an issue that appears to be growing nationwide,” Hammond said.
7. Why did the Spring Garden Road car-free pilot fail so badly? And what’s next?
The project, which closed Spring Garden Road to cars from 7am to 8pm every day, was supposed to run for a year, but was instead shut down after four days.
The story looks at what went wrong, what we could do differently, and what we can learn from other cities. One of the people I talked to was urban designer Ken Greenberg, who said the best approach is to “literally… block off the street so nobody can drive through.”
Dalhousie health promotion professor Sara Kirk told me:
Knowing what we know about human behaviour, and driver behaviour is human behaviour, if there is a road, you’re going to drive down it.
I don’t know about you, but living off the peninsula, I’m constantly hearing from people who say they never go downtown, never drive to Spring Garden and so on. Interestingly, nearly three quarters of people who visit Spring Garden, for work, shopping, the library or whatever, come by bus, bike, or are on foot. Drivers are a definite minority.
For a while there, it looked like the pilot was dead and gone, but read the story to see what they are planning for its revival — and learn about what other cities have done.
8. Who will think of the landlords?
This morning on Twitter, Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator tweeted:
Find someone who loves you the way the CBC loves a struggling landlord.
She then linked to a CBC story about a landlord (a “commission-based mortgage specialist”) sleeping in his car, because his tenants owe him so much money, and he has been unable to evict them.
Is it miserable to have tenants owing you more than $30,000? I’m sure it is. Does it suck to have your heating oil costs go up? I’m sure it does. But everyone is facing increased energy costs.
From the CTV story:
Property owner Mike Burgess owns 77 rental units in Dartmouth, N.S., and says oil costs are by far his biggest expense.
“Right now, we’re chasing over $2,000 for a fill,” Burgess says.
That’s at just one of his buildings. In the winter, he says that’s closer to $2,500 a month.
With the 2 per cent rent cap in place in Nova Scotia, that cost is coming out of his own pocket and is unrecoverable.
The story notes that the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia wants the province to provide a heating oil subsidy.
I’ve lurked on enough landlord groups to know that when tenants complain, the standard response is along the lines of too bad, we’re running a business here. That logic only seems to apply when it’s tenants facing cost increases though.
‘Those acorns are expertly finished’: Sue Goyette takes us to the imaginary ‘Nova Scotia Forest’ of the future
I don’t suggest you read Sue Goyette’s new book, Monoculture, the way I did: quickly. It’s one to take your time with and dip into over several days, or maybe even weeks.
Gaspereau Press, the publishers of Monoculture, list it as poetry, and while it does contain clearly identifiable poems, most of the book is made up of comments left on a fictitious website.
Let me explain. The premise behind Monoculture is that clearcutting in Nova Scotia has continued apace, to the point where there is only one forest (called “Nova Scotia Forest”) left in the province — and it’s a tourist attraction. The book is made up of comments from visitors to the forest, interspersed with poems. It’s described on the title page as “a commentary of monologues.”
I talked to Goyette about the book, ahead of its launch last week. She said she received a grant to research clearcutting in the province, and had been dismayed by the NDP government’s dissembling over clearcutting, and the faux landowners group set up forestry interests to protest the province’s attempt to pass a biodiversity act. But, she told me, she was struggling to find the right form to write about all this. “I didn’t know how to write about what was obvious. We all knew about it!” (In the book’s acknowledgments, Goyette credits the Halifax Examiner, and in particular Joan Baxter and Linda Pannozzo, for “stellar reporting on the forestry debacle in Nova Scotia.” There’s another reason for you to subscribe.)
Because she wanted to write about the issue “meaningfully, in a way that leads to conversation,” she came up with the idea of website comments on an imaginary forest. The book sticks to the conceit, from the opening page, which outlines terms and conditions (“Thank you for visiting the Nova Scotia Forest website… comments posted on the Nova Scotia Forest website may be reproduced, including but not limited to print or electronic form”), to the complaints about parking, design, and the behaviour of other visitors, the occasional spelling mistakes, and the spam comments.
“Can we go traipsing through the woods and get lost again said no one ever,” reads one of the comments.
Another says, “Way to convert ecological catastrophe into a memorial that’s vaguely organic looking.”
Some of the comments are overtly political, raging against the governments and companies that reduced the forest to this. Some are self-consciously clever, or trying to be, while others don’t seem to grasp the concept of natural at all:
Those acorns are expertly finished. Do you know if I should use carbide tipped tools on the lathe if I were to make them in mass? I mean, the curves are stupendous. Masterful. And the etching on the caps? That’s might fine craftsmanship. Is there a design somewhere?
If you think this is over-the-top exaggeration, let me tell you that when my kids worked at Peggy’s Cove they would come home with stories of tourists asking questions like, “Where do you put the rocks in winter?”
Reading the commentary in Goyette’s book reminded me of a scene in Dave Eggers’ satirical novel The Every, in which employee of the Every, a mammoth tech company that’s essentially Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, and more combined, go on a day trip to see elephant seals on the beach:
“Are they dangerous?” said a second Everyone, already backing away.
A third, looking at her phone, added, “This says they can cover thirty feet in ten seconds.”
There was a swirl of talk about the fact that, outside of a few orange cones, there was indeed no barrier between the humans and the elephant seals, most of whom weighed in the thousands.
“Are we okay to be here?” asked a young Everyone…
“Why do we have to be so close?” asked another Everyone.
“There should be clearer boundaries,” noted another.
One thing that stands out among all the comments Goyette has written (I had to remind myself a couple of times that this was all the work of one person, and not actual website comments) is how self-centred almost everyone is — from the people complaining about the placement of rocks and how they didn’t see a bear, to those who make the forest all about their experience of how amazing it was (and how they need to share the experience).
The publisher’s blurb actually captures this well:
Goyette speaks through a chorus of voices to explore the long consumptive, anthropocentric attitude that permeates our relationship with the natural world.
“It was an amazing experience to write, because it gave me an opportunity to think about the roles forests play,” Goyette said. “The book is just comments, and I consider each comment like a tree, and reading the book is something like being in a forest, being lost, being found, and coming out at the end thinking ‘What was that?’ I hope people read it and start thinking about their own relationship to trees, and the land, and water, and all the things we’re living with at this time.”
Over the last couple of years, I’d say a good three quarters of my book reading has been done on my Kobo. Monoculture, like all Gaspereau books, is beautifully produced. It feels good in your hands. And, as you read it, you can’t help but think about how it’s made from trees.
Last week, after I wrote about forests on the move for Morning File, Nova Scotia-based writer Marq de Villiers wrote to say I might be interested in his most recent book, The Longbow, the Schooner & the Violin. In true self-deprecating writer fashion, de Villiers made it clear he was not asking for a plug in the Examiner. When I told him I was writing about Sue Goyette’s book, so I might mention his as well, he reiterated that he wasn’t looking for publicity. Well, he’s getting a plug anyway.
I confess I have not read time to read the whole book, which was published earlier this year, but I did head over to Chapter 6, “Forests in danger,” as de Villiers suggested. Here, he debunks the forestry industry’s claims that forests are doing well because forest cover has increased. First, if it’s increased from historic lows, that’s not so great. And second, this is an issue of quality and not just quantity. From the book:
Sure, there was tree cover gain in temperate continental forests as well as boreal forests, but much of the “gain” is illusory: monoculture plantations are good for the timber industry, for palm oil harvesting and for pulpwood manufacture, but are horrid for biodiversity, for soil quality, and for carbon retention…
As journalist Rhett Butler points out, “cutting down a 100-hectare tract of primary forest and replacing it with a 100-hectare palm plantation will show up in the data as no net change in forest cover: the 100-hectare loss is perfectly offset by the 100-hectare gain in tree cover.
de Villiers also notes that young trees don’t absorb as much carbon as older ones. So the situation (this is my comparison, not his) may be analogous to the case of fish stocks: pull all the biggest cod out of the ocean and figure the population is still healthy and sustainable, based on sheer numbers, then watch as it collapses.
The chapter also looks at forest migration, and how humans are studying ways they can help forests move into more hospitable territory as climate changes. (Because, as de Villiers notes, whatever the proximate cause is of trees dying en masse, looking for the actual cause always leads you back to climate change.)
Will this help? Who knows? As de Villiers writes:
The problems, of course, are obvious. Forests can migrate by themselves and we can help, but the enormous scale of the undertaking (shifting thousands of square kilometres of forest northwards, often from and into intimidatingly difficult terrain) is a massive undertaking. And do we really know what the climate will be like in sixty years? Do we really know what global warming, climate change, will bring about? Do we understand the havoc that will be wrought by changing patterns of fires, droughts, floods, and storms? The answer is no. Informed speculation is hardly possible at this point. We would be soothsaying, not theorizing. And yet it may still be worth doing.
I’m not going to spend much time talking about what’s happening on the bird app, but it does feel like the end is near. Sure, maybe Twitter will continue on in some form, but since Elon Musk took over last Friday the place feels very different. Musk floated the idea of having verified users pay $20 a month, and when Stephen King objected, he dropped it to $8. (Verification is currently free, and protects people like journalists, politicians and others from being impersonated.) He logged on yesterday morning to make bad jokes about masturbation and tell Americans to vote Republican. He asked which software engineers wrote the fewest lines of code last year, and then fired them. (Number of lines of code is a horrible metric; it’s like firing the people who participated in the fewest Zoom meetings.)
I look at this as being analogous to the end of the dominance of network TV. Everyone used to watch the same three stations, then hundreds of stations came along. We’ve become so accustomed to an internet owned and controlled by a few giants that decentralized networks now seem weird to us, and yet, they may be part of the future.
I created a Mastodon account five years ago, but didn’t get around to posting anything until yesterday. Mastodon is a decentralized, or federated, network not owned by anyone, that has clear moderation rules. It’s not perfect, but it’s interesting. If you want to find me there, my handle is @philmoscovitch.mastodon.social.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
Council Continuation (Wednesday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — if required
District Boundary Resident Review Panel (Wednesday, 3:30pm, City Hall) — agenda
No meetings this week
In the harbour
11:30: IT Infinity, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Mulgrave
15:00: MOL Experience, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
16:00: Algoma Mariner, bulker, sails from Pier 25 for sea
19:30: Augusta Luna, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 27 from Moa, Cuba
20:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
21:00: One Hangzhou Bay, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
07:30: Nordbay, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
20:00: Balsa 86, cargo ship, sails from Mulgrave for sea
20:30: CSL Koasek, bulker, arrives at Atlantic bulk terminal from Belledune, New Brunswick
If you need an off-season baseball fix, you can now stream games from Australia here. Enter “BaseballAustralia” as the promo code on the payment page and it is free. Games are available live and on demand, which means you don’t have to be up in the middle of the night to watch them.