NEWS

1. Is West Mabou Beach the new Owls Head?

Cabot Group included this map of its Mabou Golf Course proposal in its letter to nearby residents. Credit: Cabot Group


The Cabot Group wants to build a third Cape Breton golf course, this one within a
provincial park, Jennifer Henderson reports
:

In 2018, Nadine Hunt and other citizens who serve on the West Mabou Beach Provincial Park advisory committee rejected Cabot’s proposal to build a golf course on part of the publicly owned park. Facing that opposition, Cabot did not ask the McNeil Liberal government for permission to lease a portion of the land.

But yesterday, Hunt received an email and attached letter titled “Mabou Golf Course Information Package,” details its intent to lease as much as one-third of the 215-hectare beach park to build a golf course.

“I can’t think of a worse place, ecologically speaking, to have a golf
course,” says Hunt. 

Henderson offers details of the proposals, some of the dubious claims Cabot makes, and highlights the company’s attempt to get support for the proposal by offering to funnel money into local groups if it goes ahead.

Click here to read “Cabot wants to build a golf course on Mabou Beach Provincial Park.”

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2. Nova Scotia’s new housing philosophy: move fast and break things

Protesters at the police eviction of a homeless encampment at the former Memorial Library in Halifax, Aug. 18, 2021. Photo: Tim Bousquet / Halifax Examiner

Last year, the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission, made up of people from government, non-profits, and industry, released a report, calling for the province to set up an independent housing body.

But the provincial government’s response seems to be, “Nah, we’re good.”

In fact, as Zane Woodford reports, under the new Housing Supply and Services Act, the province is moving in the opposite direction, consolidating housing under one Crown Corporation:

The new agency will, according to the Act: “maintain, manage and operate safe and suitable subsidized housing accommodations for low-income households in the Province;” “attain acceptable levels of tenant service;” “manage applications and tenancies for subsidized housing;” and “deliver in whole or in part, on behalf of the Minister, such programs undertaken by the Minister as the Minister may direct.”

Housing Nova Scotia will disappear altogether, and according to the release, “all non-public housing programs and functions will transfer from Housing Nova Scotia to the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing.”

The word “independent” does not appear in the new legislation.

Click here to read “Nova Scotia government’s housing governance bill ignores commission recommendation.”

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3. Stacey Gomez’s apartment is condemned by HRM

Stacey Gomez stands outside her apartment following her residential tenancies hearing on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Stacey Gomez successfully fought her renoviction. Now, she has to leave her apartment anyway, because of poor air quality caused by mould in the building, Zane Woodford reports:

HRM spokesperson Klara Needler confirmed there was air quality testing completed at Gomez’s apartment.

“The building is deemed to be unsafe due to air quality issues. For the owner, this means the building must be vacated, and the issues addressed, before the units are reoccupied,” Needler wrote in a statement. 

The municipality also issued multiple orders to fix the unit in August, punishable by daily fines of $237.50. But it hasn’t fined Ranjbar.

Gomez says Ranjibar not only failed to correct the mould problem, but exacerbated it. Ranjibar, who formerly ran the @halifaxhouseflips Instagram account, tells Woodford “he always keeps his buildings in ‘top shape and top maintenance.'”

Click here to read Halifax tenant resisting renoviction says apartment condemned due to mould

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4. Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes

The Fox Lake Lookoff, just within the Annapolis Group’s lands in Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes. — Photo: Richard Vinson

Our third Zane Woodford story of the day is also related to housing. The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear Annapolis Group’s case against HRM, Woodford reports. The development firm owns a bunch of land (that’s the technical term) it was hoping would be rezoned to allow for a subdivision. Instead, in 2016 the municipality decided not to rezone the property, in order to protect the proposed Blue Mountain-Birch Cove wilderness park.

Woodford writes:

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled a developer’s lawsuit against Halifax can go ahead, overturning an earlier decision by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

Annapolis Group filed a claim against HRM in June 2017, alleging the municipality effectively expropriated its land without compensation. It sought $119 million in damages…

The developer’s entire lawsuit against HRM can now go ahead. It also includes a claim of “abuse of public office and unjust enrichment.”

This is an important case, and one municipalities and other interested parties across the country will be watching closely. Woodford does a nice clear job of explaining the issues and the stakes in his story.

Over on Twitter, Chris Miller of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), a longtime advocate for the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove wilderness park, says if the municipality is being sued for “effectively” expropriating the land, it might as well out-and-out expropriate it:

It means the Municipality should initiate the expropriation process right away. If they’re being sued for de facto expropriation anyways, but haven’t actually acquired anything, why wait??

Click here to read “Developer can sue Halifax over Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes, rules Supreme Court of Canada.”

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5. Game changers: Halifax couple win award for their work with Ignite Soccer

Oussama Bedoui, far left, and Hadia Bedoui, far right, with one of the soccer teams they coach. Credit: Matthew Byard

“A Halifax couple with African roots are being recognized for their work in getting African Nova Scotian and immigrant children, and families with financial barriers involved in soccer,” Matthew Byard reports.

Hadia and Oussama Bedoui founded Ignite Soccer in 2020, and have been recognized for their work with an award presented by the Canadian Premiere League (in which the Halifax Wanderers play). Ignite “focuses on providing a culture of diversity among its players and coaches,” Byard writes:

“We have a lot of white local kids, South American, European kids, and I always mix the teams when they practice and when they play,” Oussama said. “And we try to teach them that we all came from a different culture, a different country. We speak differently, but when we play football or soccer, this is what keeps us speaking the same language. And hopefully the message gets there one day.”…

After moving to Halifax, Oussama said he was surprised at the low number of children and players involved in soccer.

He said he’s since made community connections to try to get more Black and immigrant children involved in the sport.

“It always ends up the same story,” he said. “The kid doesn’t want to go to the team or to that club anymore. And so that [leaves] so many questions, what are we doing wrong?”

Click here to read “Halifax couple wins award for getting African Nova Scotian, immigrant children into soccer.”

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6. Two words: “Ship Railway”

Artist’s conception of the ship railway. Photo: Fort Beauséjour Museum.

A couple of days ago, CBC published a piece by Vanessa Blanch on one of my favourite bits of never-was Nova Scotia history: the Chignecto Ship Railway.

Blanch writes:

The Chignecto Ship Railway was a plan to transport ships by rail from the Northumberland Strait across the Isthmus of Chignecto, which connects Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to the Bay of Fundy. Construction began in October 1888, according to the UNB Archives.

Developed by Henry Ketchum, the idea was to lift wooden ships out of the water and place them on rail cars using what’s been described as a hoist and lock system. This would prevent the need for vessels to sail around Nova Scotia — saving hours of travel time and potentially saving lives. 

Blanch speaks to historian James Upham, who points to the visible remnants of the Ship Railway (to which Stephen Archibald has also drawn our attention.):

Upham says more than 125 years later there is still a lot of evidence of the attempt to build the ship railway, including a stone bridge in the northern Nova Scotia community of Tidnish Bridge.

“It is gigantic,” Upham said of the bridge. “The stones are enormous. The stones themselves were quarried in England and then shipped over here for construction.”…

The Chignecto Ship Railway was never finished because the project ran out of money, which “ruined Henry Ketchum,” who had successfully built railways around the world.

“While they were building, it cost more money than anticipated and it took longer … this was basically the end of his career.”

According to the UNB Archives site, by the time the project went bust, 75 per cent of the work was completed, “including the docks at Fort Lawrence and Tidnish Bridge, 16 of the 17 miles of rail-bed, and 13 miles of track.”

It’s a really interesting piece, and includes an interesting bit I did not know about the connection between the Ship Railway and the old PEI ferry.

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7. A whirlwind tour of 1984 Cape Breton

Ad for the 1984 “Ethnic Festival” hosted at Sydney’s Mayflower Mall, unearthed by Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator

Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator says she spent a couple of days reading newspapers from 1984 while researching a story, and “it’s quite a trip.” She describes the world of 1984 as ” incredibly foreign — and I once lived in it.”

Exhibit A, the “Ethnic Festival” in the ad above, in which one of the ethnicities appears to be… pirate? Campbell writes:

It’s a concept I have never before encountered and one I find hard to take seriously, perhaps because of the Mall’s decision to tap “Herbie the Pirate Clown” to represent it.

It’s a fun piece, traipsing through kids raising thousand of dollars for a hospital that wouldn’t be built for another decade, municipal employees encouraged to wear 18th-century clothing on Fridays, and $900 VCRs. You can read the whole thing here.

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VIEWS

Trees are so rooted, and yet forests move

Frozen Ocean Lake at Kejimkujik National Park, in October 2022. Credit: Philip Moscovitch

Over the weekend, I went on my first backcountry hiking overnight. We try to get to Keji at least once a year. This year, our first attempt ⁠— a three-night canoe trip in the southwest corner of the park ⁠— got derailed by the arrival of Fiona. Fortunately, my oldest son and I had already booked a late October weekend getaway, too.

Our trip was modest by the standards of experienced hikers: 10 kilometres each way. But for first-timers it was a good challenge. Before leaving, I collected what I thought was a modest amount of gear and clothing, then immediately started paring it down, realizing that yes, we were indeed going to have to carry everything. I remember reading a book called Camp Cookery, published in the early 20th century (if you want a recipe for porcupine, it’s the book for you), in which the author made the simple but memorable statement that when you carry food, mostly what you are carrying is water. Enter the dehydrator. Our meals fit nicely into a couple of Ziploc bags, meaning they didn’t take up much space and were easy to carry.

I’ve been thinking a lot about trees lately, in part because of a feature story I’m working on. The hike to our campsite had three distinct sections, one of which was through old-growth hemlock. On Sunday, after having walked about five kilometres, I noticed that my mind was really focussed on the basics: put one foot in front of the other, don’t step on loose rocks or branches.

Step, step, step, notice some amazing-looking mushrooms; step, step, step, look around at the calming vista of trees stretching away ahead of us; step, step, step, hear low croak of a raven, and watch a squirrel leap from a branch to the trunk of a larger tree. Step, step, step.

At one point in this process, I began to think of that feature I’m writing, and where it should begin. No, I told myself. Don’t do that. You don’t need to be working here, even in your mind. Then I thought maybe I could work out some critical plot points in this crime novel I’ve been plugging away at. No, don’t do that. And then I just enjoyed watching, walking, and not really thinking about much of anything. Right about that time, my son said that it was great to be out in the woods, that it calms down your mind and makes it “shut the fuck up for a bit.”

Forests, of course, are changing, including those stately hemlock groves. The woolly adelgid has moved into Nova Scotia, and may well decimate our hemlocks. There is an effort to inoculate trees, but it’s a race against time. As forest ecologist Donna Crossland told CBC, “We treat them, or we allow them to die. And it’s a certain death.”

Hemlocks, I learned recently, pretty much vanished from northeastern North America about 8,000 years ago, and took 2,000 years to return. That’s one of the many fascinating bits in a story in Emergence magazine called “They Carry Us With Them: The Great Tree Migration,” by Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder and Jeremy Seifert. (The article is available in audio form too, from the Emergence Magazine podcast. I’m grateful to my brother-in-law, a forester by training, for pointing me to it.)

The idea of forests migrating is provocative. Trees are so rooted, and yet forests move. And if you take the very long view, what may be huge stretches of time for us, are mere seasons for them:

Although they do not move in a to-and-fro pattern annually in the way of the humpback whale, “migration” still seems an apt word to describe the movements of trees, even if such patterns of movement may take several—or many—human generations to reveal themselves as patterns. Certainly, trees do not migrate seasonally in the way we normally think of seasons, but there are many things trees do that don’t fit easily into our normal human way of thinking—at least from our point of view, which tends to have a breadth of focus corresponding to our roughly eighty-year life span.

For example, if we here in the northeastern United States were to zoom out from our understanding of seasons as annual patterns, and step instead into a deeper time, we might begin to see “seasons” in a different way. From this vantage point, a season may be seen as more akin to, say, an era of glaciation.

In addition to the potential loss of hemlocks, black ash is also under attack by the Emerald Ash Borer, which kills trees essentially by girdling them, so that the leaves and roots can no longer communicate, and which has no local predators. The consequences are significant not only for forests, but for Indigenous people whose cultures are so tied up with the ash, the primary source of material for woven baskets.

The section on paper birch in the Emergence feature, includes this:

This is one of the many unknowns of tree migration: as species transition through their natural life cycles, as forests undergo natural processes of succession, regeneration, and shifts in species composition, invasive species are increasingly able to outcompete native trees at critical moments of transition.

Jesse Wheeler, a vegetation biologist and invasive species expert at Acadia [National Park], kneels on the boardwalk and takes note of a new place where glossy buckthorn is growing. Part of his job, he says, is figuring out what the forests of Acadia are going to look like in the future and how to manage these ecosystems for all the factors that are set to change them.

But as he kneels to photograph a caterpillar for the state entomologist, concerned that it could be winter moth—a species introduced from Europe that defoliates deciduous trees—and as he turns his gaze back to the forest, which is interspersed with buckthorn, he notes that another aspect of his work is helping to ensure that parts of Acadia will have any forests at all.

I did think about the woolly adelgid while hiking through the forest ⁠— but, I’m happy to say not too much. Lamenting the possible future while missing out on the present is something I’ve done far too much of.

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NOTICED

New crossword documentary features Dartmouth sisters

Halifax-based filmmaker Rachel Bower’s latest documentary, Across and Down, airs on CBC this Friday, October 28, at 9pm. (If you’re catching Game 1 of the World Series then, you can always stream the doc later on CBC Gem.)

Bower looks at the question of diversity and inclusivity in crosswords, and features a number of stars ⁠— rising and otherwise ⁠— from the crossworld. (That’s not a typo. Crossworld = world of crosswords. We’re dealing with people who like wordplay here.)

Bower spends time with sisters Lita and Tass Williams, who live in Dartmouth, and who you can see in the trailer above. I wrote about the Williams sisters for the Examiner a couple of years ago, when they made their crossword debut:

They were born in Ontario, and the family moved to Nova Scotia 50 years ago, when Lita was 7 and Tass was 10. (Their dad was in the Air Force.) Williams says the whole family was into puzzles. “My father and mother both loved them, and my brother too. My sister was more of a Cryptoquote queen.”

Lita started solving easy puzzles when she was 10 or 11, and worked her way up to the New York Times crossword. Now, she says she spends “a good percentage of my day making and solving crosswords. It’s become a little bit of an obsession of mine.”

One of the things Lita and I talked about was the importance of representation in crosswords. She said:

They’re so ubiquitous. You open the paper and see a crossword. You don’t really look at the byline or think about the aspect of women trying to get a voice and put their spin on things in a crossword… The great predominance of puzzles are written by men, and that’s still status quo…

As someone who solves at least one crossword a day, and frequently more, I’m really looking forward to this documentary, and to hearing from some of the crossword constructors whose work I have enjoyed.

(Disclosure: I’ve hired the Williams sisters in my capacity as editor of Write magazine; Bower also brought me a t-shirt from the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament after she went there to shoot.)

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Government

City

Today

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda

Tomorrow

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, online) — agenda

Regional Centre Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, Alderney Gate) — text

Province

Today

Private and local bills (Tuesday, 9am, One Government Place) — Bill No. 205 – St. Francis Xavier University Act (amended)

Human Resources(Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Agency, board, and commission appointments

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 11am)

Tomorrow

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — 2022 Report of the Auditor General – Healthy Eating in Schools; with representatives from the Department of Education and Early Child Development, and Nova Scotia Health

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 12pm, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: X-press Irazu, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Lisbon, Portugal  
06:30: Norwegian Pearl, cruise ship with up to 2,873 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston 
07:30: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,180 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Ponta Delgada, Azores, on a 12-day cruise from Southampton, England to New York 
15:00: NYK Meteor, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium 
15:30: Don Quijote, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England 
16:30: Norwegian Pearl sails for Boston  
16:30: BBC Weser, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Belfast, Northern Ireland 
19:00: X-press Irazu sails for sea 
19:00: Anthem of the Seas sails for Boston 

Cape Breton
05:30: Le Bellot, cruise ship with up to 264 passengers, arrives at Badeck anchorage from Cap-aux-Meules (Grindstone), Magdalen Islands, on a 14-day cruise from Toronto to Gloucester, Massachusetts 
06:00: Caribbean Princess, cruise ship with up to 3,756 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Sept-Iles, Quebec, on a 14-day cruise from Quebec City to Fort Lauderdale, Florida 
15:30: Caribbean Princess sails for Halifax 
17:30: Le Bellot sails for Louisbourg


Footnotes

I am giving a talk on fermentation at the Woodlawn library tonight. It’s free, but you have to register. As I write this, there are about a dozen spaces left. If you’d like to come, register here.




Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. The ship railway has always just seemed to me to be another in a long rich history of NS boondoggles. I mean blowing the money shipping stone in from Europe? Like you couldn’t get any stone anywhere on this side of the Atlantic? Somebody’s bread was getting buttered. Some cousin with a quarry in the UK or an uncle with a shipping company…the details are probably lost to time.

  2. In the link to the Annapolis Group / HRM story the title with the link is . “The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear Annapolis Group’s case against HRM” … a minor point but the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling was about what can be argued at the lower court level and not a ticket to argue the actual case before the Supreme Court of Canada.