November subscription drive
We’re just over halfway through our November subscription drive, and we’re not meeting our target for new subscribers. If you’ve been putting it off, this is the time to subscribe.
1. Colchester won’t pause on wind
This item is written by Joan Baxter.
At a special meeting last evening in Truro, the Council of the Municipality of the County of Colchester defeated a motion to approve amendments to its Wind Turbine Development By-law with seven votes against the motion and four in favour.
The amendments would have put a pause on all wind turbine developments until December 31, 2024, when council will have approved a county-wide Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-law.
That means two massive wind facilities that EverWind Fuels has planned for Colchester County — the 98 megawatt, 16-turbine Kmtnuk and 340-megawatt, 54 turbine Windy Ridge projects that together will spread over more than 32,000 acres — can proceed without a year’s delay.
EverWind needs the wind facilities in Colchester County to power the first phase of green hydrogen and ammonia production in the plant the company plans to build in Point Tupper — all that by 2025.
The motion to press pause on wind project development until council has finished its municipal planning strategy was put forward by Councillor Marie Benoit, and supported by Councillors Laurie Sandeson, Karen MacKenzie, and Victoria Lomond.
Opposed to the amendments were Mayor Christine Blair, Deputy Mayor Geoff Stewart, and Councillors Eric Boutilier, Mike Cooper, Tim Johnson, Lisa Patton, and Wade Parker. Councillor Mike Gregory who represents communities around Tatamagouche, has shares in a local wind company and recused himself.
Before the vote, council heard presentations from 22 people — of whom 14 strongly supported the amendments that would delay new wind project applications until the new land use plan is in place.
Six spoke in favour of the EverWind projects, meaning against the amendments.
Among the six who spoke in favour of EverWind’s projects were Membertou First Nation Chief Terrance Paul, and Rose Paul of Paq’tnkek First Nation and CEO of its Bayside Development Corporation. Membertou First Nation is a majority owner of EverWind’s Kmtnuk wind project through its company, Wind Strength.
Three others who spoke against any delay in wind project development in Colchester were men working in the industry. Another was an EverWind employee working at its Point Tupper site.
The vote came just two evenings after EverWind CEO and founder Trent Vichie presented his wind and green hydrogen projects to council, making grandiose promises about the economic benefits of the projects to the county and to Nova Scotia, as the Halifax Examiner reported here.
Vichie also downplayed the actual raison d’étre of EverWind’s set-up in Nova Scotia, which is to export the ammonia it produces with wind energy in Nova Scotia to Europe. Rather, he made the case to council that EverWind is primarily in the business of helping Nova Scotia reduce its own emissions and fossil fuel dependency, and making life better for Nova Scotians.
His long-winded tales and fast talk seem to have done the job.
Just three weeks ago, on October 26, the same council gave first reading to the very same amendments that it turned around and defeated last evening.
Those amendments, according to Paul Smith, Colchester County’s community development director, were passed in October because council “expressed the view that the municipal planning strategy and land-use by-law appears to be the most effective and appropriate tool to manage these critical issues arising from large-scale wind turbine developments, not the least of which is impact on resources, communities, and a compatibility with other developments or potential development.”
But that was then, before EverWind upped the PR pressure in its efforts to get support for its massive wind projects in Colchester County.
It was also before Vichie went before council and talked up a storm — about himself, how hard he works and how much money ($200 million) he says he has spent, and about how, if council approved the by-law amendments that would delay his wind projects by a year, that would throw EverWind into “chaos” and put an end to Nova Scotia’s chance to “shine.”
Although dozens of protesters gathered outside the Municipal Building in Truro while council met to show their opposition to EverWind and its proposed wind projects, and although the majority of citizens who spoke to council before the vote asked that it approve the amendments, the motion to press pause was soundly defeated.
Trent Vichie, an Australian who made his fortune in private equity in New York, must be a happy man.
Later today, the hard-working Vichie, who has three high-powered lobbyists working the corridors in Ottawa seeking grants and tax breaks, is scheduled to appear with Sean Fraser, Canada’s Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities and Mike Kelloway, MP for Cape Breton-Canso, in Port Hawkesbury for — wait for it — “a funding announcement.”
2. Speed limits
“HRM’s active transportation advisory committee met to discuss how speed limits in the urban core of Halifax can be reduced to 30km/h, even though it’s the province that has jurisdiction over changing speed limits,” reports Suzanne Rent:
Paul Young, who is a member of the active transportation committee, made a presentation at its virtual meeting on Thursday. That presentation was based on a report called Slow the Blazes Down: A Major Behavioural Change.
“This is not just changing speed limit signs,” Young said. “It’s a major behavioural change, it really is.”
“It has the potential to change how people think about how they get around, and what they do to get around.”
This item is written by Suzanne Rent.
Workers at the Halifax location of Pete’s Frootique will strike on Saturday morning. The union that represents the workers is organizing a solidarity rally for Sunday.
According to a press release from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2, there have been no new offers from Sobeys since a conciliator determined an impasse had been reached in negotiations on Oct. 30. A notice to strike was then sent to Minister of Labour Jill Balser.
From the press release:
“We are striking and fighting for a fair wage offer,” said Tyson Boyd, an employee with four years of service who currently works in the floral department. “It’s clear to us that Sobey’s is not serious about negotiating; How can you say you want to continue bargaining and at the same time offer workers a nickel?”
Pete’s Frootique pays employees $15 per hour, the provincial minimum wage, and the most recent offer from Sobey’s would provide for a 20 cent per hour raise or less for over 70% of the workers. Most would only see a five-cent increase. There are close to 100 workers in the bargaining unit
In October, the Examiner interviewed two workers, Emily MacKinlay and Nick Piovesan, who spoke about their experiences working at the grocery store.
Pete’s Frootique employees voted overwhelmingly to join SEIU Local 2 in May 2022. SEIU Local 2 represents 20,000 workers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.
Sobeys challenged the rights of several workers to be part of the Union at the Labour Board in March 2023, but the company eventually dropped its challenge.
Sunday’s rally will start at 1pm in front of Pete’s Dresden Row location.
War and the search for hope
As the Hamas attacks against Israel on Oct. 7 unfolded, I thought much as I did on Sept. 11, 2001: So it’s come to this. And as with 911, I also knew that the response would be irrational and horrible.
I’ve been there, to Israel and the occupied territories.
It was 1989, and I was somehow identified as worthy to be included on a “fact finding mission” to the Middle East by the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS), which as I understand it, was funded by the Kuwaiti government. They paid for the air fare to Tel Aviv and a hotel in East Jerusalem for about 10 days, but I paid all other expenses. This was during the intifada, the “uprising” against the Israeli occupation.
While the organizers put together day excursions to meet with various Palestinian groups, I was completely free to do whatever I wanted with my time, and that included dinners out in the Jewish sector of Jerusalem, and a couple of nights at the cosmopolitan bars in the international hotels, Israelis and Palestinians drinking together with international visitors.
My mission consisted of myself, a Pakistani lawyer, and (weirdly) about a half dozen Catholic priests. I had grown up Catholic but had never been able to find faith, and by this time I was happily atheistic, but I had a lot of respect for the priests, and became friendly with one. He asked me to join him for a trip to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where Catholics believe Jesus was crucified and entombed. My priest friend was given permission to say a mass there, and the experience was deeply moving for both of us.
It may surprise you, but the Palestine of that time was remarkably diverse. I was given a tour of the old city by a black man who identified himself as a communist. I had no idea there were Black Palestinians, much less communist ones, but here we were. I also met a Jewish Palestinian; figure that one out.
Many of the Palestinians I met were Christian. They were the professionals — doctors, lawyers, business people — who comprised the middle class in the Bethlehem area.
One day, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl who spoke five languages guided us through a circuitous route to avoid Israeli army checkpoints so that we could meet the leaders of the tax revolt in Beit Sahour, again, mostly Christian professionals. The tax revolt was the perfect non-violent response to the occupation: why should the occupied pay the costs of the occupation? But for this, the Israeli army invaded the town, arrested some of the organizers, and seized property in order to meet the unpaid taxes.
The army was everywhere. In East Jerusalem, I saw soldiers running after children. Driving around the West Bank was a constant series of army check points, which were onerous even for a group of mostly American priests who were waved to the front of the queue; Palestinians would spend hours of every day at the check points.
One day my group met with teachers who had organized illegal schools for the children of Ramallah, and during a break I wandered around the city alone. I found a little falafel stand in a square, and bought lunch. As I ate, a group of boys set a tire on fire across the square. So far as I could tell, there was no reason for this other than the symbolism — the black smoke was a big ‘fuck you’ to the occupiers. On cue, an army jeep pulled up in front of me and a couple of soldiers jumped out and started firing what I assumed were rubber bullets at the kids. They threw stones back at the soldiers as they ran for cover into the streets behind.
We visited a hospital in Nablus, and seemingly everyone was smoking. Mostly we were being told about how difficult it was to obtain needed medical supplies, but during our visit a woman patient saw one of the priest’s collar and asked him to provide last rites to her fetus, which had been aborted during a tear gas attack. I don’t think the theology made sense, but the priest obliged. I’ve been thinking of that hospital this week.
We also went to Gaza. The downtown of Gaza City had the architecture of any Mediterranean city, but there was a sprawling refugee camp adjacent, consisting of tarps stretched over pallets, creating makeshift homes. Raw sewage flowed down a trench in what passed for a street. I understand that over the decades since the camp has been developed into a functioning part of the city, with proper buildings and services. But I guess that’s mostly gone now.
To get to Rafah, on the Egyptian border, we again had to divert around army checkpoints, once by driving through an orchard. At the border, there were two parallel fences that must have been about 20 feet high — one on the Egyptian side, the other on the Gaza side — with a no-man’s-land of about 50 metres in between. The border split families, and so in those pre-internet days, people would write letters to loved ones and tie the letters to projectiles — a tin can or a rock or some such — which they’d then attempt to launch across the two fences. Many of the letters didn’t clear the distance, and so the no-man’s-land was littered with undelivered missives of love and concern, blowing in the wind. It was both sadly and beautifully poetic.
The people of Rafah didn’t see many foreigners, and especially not foreigners wearing priest collars. They wanted to tell us about their plight, and word spread about our presence. Our guides worried about our safety and hurried us back to our cars, but it was too late. A mob formed arround us, people just wanting to touch us, to talk. Please tell our story said one woman to me. The crowd drew the attention of the army, and a helicopter dropped tear gas. We drove away, leaving the people to suffer through the gas.
While these were unpleasant experiences, to put it mildly, there was also immense hope. The non-violence of the intifada was making its point, and for the first time in decades, the international community was paying attention to the plight of the Palestinians. There was a palpable expectation that there would one day be a two-state solution, a real Palestinian nation.
There was a realism among the people I spoke with. They knew Israel wasn’t going anywhere, and so some sort of peaceful coexistence would have to be built. I remember a mid-level Fatah functionary spoke with us, and the issue of American aid to Israel came up. “I tell you what,” the man said wearily, “I don’t care if you double the aid to Israel, just condition it on respecting our rights.”
I thought then, and I still think, that the only route to peace anywhere, but especially in the Middle East, is for regular people on all sides of the conflict to have hope that their children can have a path to normalcy. That they can go to school and get a job, have some level of usefulness and purpose in their community, living without fear. I’m cynical enough now to think that probably means that the Israelis and Palestinians need to figure out how to market peace as part of a tourist industry, but if that’s what it takes, so be it.
For several years after my trip, I would present a slide show about Palestine to anyone who wanted to see it. There was some push back from people in the extreme pro-Israel camp, but these were mostly evangelical Christians. There’s probably some level of mutual self-selection here, but most of my Jewish friends have wanted some kind of free Palestine.
Over the years, I’ve been to synagogues a couple of dozen times. I was even going to be married by a rabbi (that never happened because the relationship fell apart, through no fault of the rabbi). And I’ve been to mosques a few times. I’m uncertain about all religions — I’m simply incapable of the religious impulse — but Jews and Muslims alike seem mostly decent people trying to find a meaningful place in the world.
It’s the world that has changed. The year after my visit to Palestine, Iraq invaded Kuwait, forever shaking up the politics of the Arab world, and leading ultimately to a crazed U.S. foreign policy of intervention and pointless wars, made possible in part by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Palestinian moment was lost, and ever since they’ve taken a back seat to other agendas. Two generations of Palestinian children have since been brought into the world, each with less hope than the previous.
Into this despair, radicals have taken hold. We don’t hear much about the Christian Palestinian middle class any more, probably because there’s not much of a Palestinian middle class of any sort any more. Gaza was lost, hived off by Hamas from the Palestinian Authority, which was purposefully prevented from having real power.
Killing innocents is beyond criminal. I’m horrified by both the Oct. 7 attacks and the resulting Israeli bombing of Gaza.
Who cares what I think? It’s immaterial. But I’ve been frozen by the inhumanity of it all. By the hatred, by the antisemitism, by the antiIslamism, by the never-ending justifications to kill forever more. There’s always a good reason to kill. Maybe I should rephrase it: I’ve been frozen by the humanity of it all.
There are times I absolutely abhor our species, and this is one of them. Maybe I’m just too old in spirit. I don’t know how to find hope any more.
So forgive me that I haven’t spoken up publicly. I take heart that people are taking to the streets, demanding at the very least a stop to the killing. I’m especially heartened that young people get it. If there’s any hope at all to be found, it’s going to be young people who find it.
Housing Engagement Series, Session 3 (Friday, 11am, in the auditorium named after a fossil fuel company) — Innovation in Housing – including brainstorming proactive solutions
Network-thinking in evolutionary biology: Can we still uncover surprising interactions involving the microbial world? (Friday, 11:30am, Room 3-H1, Tupper Medical Building) — Eric Bapteste from Sorbonne University, Paris will talk
In the harbour
15:30: MSC Leigh, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Sines, Portugal
15:30: Nolhan Ava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 42 for Saint Pierre
17:00: Bakkafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland, Maine
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for St. John’s
19:30: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
19:30: Pacific Trader, cargo ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
22:00: Bakkafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
I’m going to take a few days off.