1. “Living with COVID”
Besides in health care, long-term care settings, and a continued mask mandate (for three more weeks) in schools, all Public Health restrictions in Nova Scotia related to COVID-19 have been removed, and the state of emergency has been lifted.
I don’t have anything especially insightful to say about this, except to note the exchange I had with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang on Friday:
Bousquet: Dr. Strang, with 15 deaths this past reported week, 16 the week before that, are we going to continue to see this number of deaths going into the future?
Strang: So it is important to understand, and I’ve said this many times, that deaths actually reflect the activity of virus about a month ago, so the deaths that we reported this week and last week, you know, early March, they really reflect what was going on in early February. So we will we will see one of the things we’re watching is as our hospitalizations have been going down, they’re now plateauing a bit as we get more. As we reopen, we’ll watch that carefully. But and what we should, we look at hospitalizations and deaths. But again, I think it’s important for people to understand the time lag — deaths really reflect what was happening with much greater levels of virus circulation around a month ago.
Strang has indeed said this repeatedly. Here’s what he said on Feb. 23:
But what we’re seeing in deaths now, we have to remember that deaths are reflective of the disease activity several weeks ago because there’s a time lag between people getting infected and then getting severely ill and hospitalized and dying. There were a lot of questions recently about, ‘well, how can you do this when there’s such a high death rate?’ But those deaths are not reflective of what’s currently going on, and we are starting to see the death rate go down.
On March 4, I wrote about how the Department of Health had started hedging on deaths, making a distinction between the actual date of death and entering that death into the computer database:
The Dept. of Health started hedging the death count figures two weeks ago, saying the deaths being reported on any day may have occurred weeks before, so therefore the daily death count doesn’t “reflect the current extent of the virus.”
I asked the department:
Have COVID deaths always been from days or weeks before the day they are reported? If so, why is this explanation only coming out this week? If not, what explains the difference?
And received this response from Department spokesperson Marla MacInnis on Feb. 18:
Depending on the nature of the death, it can take time to determine whether it is COVID related or not. In situations that are more complex, such as a person who dies with multiple contributing factors, the cases are reviewed by clinicians to determine whether COVID-19 may have contributed. This has always been the case throughout the pandemic; however, many of the deaths recently have required time for review and we felt this was important context to share with Nova Scotians to convey that these deaths don’t reflect the current extent of the virus, but rather its extent several weeks ago.
So, I guess the deaths around Feb. 18 may have been from several weeks before, so the record death count for the week of Feb. 12-18 wasn’t as really as bad as the daily numbers seemed, except the death count now is about as high as it was for the week of Feb. 12-18, and if the deaths this week were from deaths several weeks ago, then in fact the numbers for the week of Feb. 12-18 were as bad as they seemed then even though we were told they weren’t, as reflected by the death numbers now.
You may want to write this down and make annotated diagrams.
The point is there seems to be a decision to ignore the fact that a large number of people are dying, and that we are in the highest death stage of the entire pandemic, right now.
Moreover, if death counts lag two or three weeks behind case counts, and we’re now experiencing case counts at about the same level as we saw two or three weeks into the Omicron wave, then… well, let’s mumble something about vaccination and pretend none of this death stuff is happening.
Confusing the matter even further, the new weekly reports are now from a Wednesday-Tuesday week (who does this?), while my spreadsheet has tracked the data by weeks ending on Friday. So let me recast the data… and here’s the recast data for the weeks of Wednesday-Tuesday for this year:
If I’m to understand Strang, he’s saying that the death in the first two weeks of March (16 and 15), reflect the status of virus from the first two weeks of February (when there were 14 and 20 deaths), which in turn reflect the status of the virus in early January (when there were 5 and 11 deaths).
This appears to be a game of shifting the metrics to make it all-but-impossible to track the number of deaths accurately.
Case numbers are up, too, but given the changes in testing protocols, it’s also impossible to track those accurately. The one number that seems to be going down is those hospitalized with active cases on Fridays — why the reporting week ends on Tuesday but hospitalizations are provided for Friday is beyond my comprehension. But while newly hospitalized numbers have gone down, the number of those in ICU has remained steady. Who knows what that means for future death counts, which of course when they occur will be reported as past death counts, so don’t pay attention to them.
The only understanding I can take away from all of this is that the pressure on the hospitals has eased somewhat, but people are still dying at record or near-record numbers.
I guess that so long as it’s not you or one of your loved ones dying, that’s what “living with COVID” looks like.
But someone be explicit about what level of death is acceptable. We do this for everything else — about 100 people die on highways in Nova Scotia every year, and that’s a big yawner, apparently. Just, car crashes aren’t contagious.
2. One Window
“On November 1, 2018, a year after Atlantic Gold produced its first gold bar at its Touquoy open pit mine in Moose River, 11 provincial public servants gathered for a two-hour meeting with four high-level representatives of the gold mining company,” reports Joan Baxter:
Two were with Nova Scotia Environment, six with Lands and Forestry, and three with Energy and Mines.
At the next meeting in December, 16 public servants and five high-level reps from Atlantic Gold were present.
Public Accounts from 2018 shows that the average salary of those provincial officials was $114,323. Their time is obviously paid by Nova Scotian citizens, not by Atlantic Gold, which has paid $0 in provincial taxes since it began gold production in 2017.
These meetings are part of the process known as “One Window,” which dates back to 1994, the time of the Liberal government of the late John Savage.
Basically, what that means is that a mining company is given a seat at the table for long discussions with government ministers, deputy ministers, and a dozen public servants from a host of government departments, a privilege that is rarely — if ever — afforded public and journalists.
Nova Scotia’s One Window process doesn’t look all that different from the “one-stop-shop” investment promotion formula, part of the neoliberal dogma that the World Bank Group has promoted and financed in countries all over the world to encourage extractive industries and benefit the companies and investors involved, particularly in impoverished but mineral-rich ones in Africa like Guinea and Sierra Leone. The one-stop-shop works more or less as a red carpet for mining companies and their investors.
Click here to read “Up close and privileged: Nova Scotia’s ‘One Window’ process gives mining execs seats at the table in the halls of power.”
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Friday morning police announced that a man was shot at 2:35am on Gottingen Street, and later died in hospital. Friday night, police identified the deceased as 25-year-old Treyvhon Alrick Bradshaw. No arrests have been made.
I’m told the shooting took place outside The Den nightclub.
4. What would you do with $8.28 million?
“On Thursday, March 17 — a day that is all about the green and the blarney — we learned that Scott Balfour, the president and chief executive officer of Emera, took home $8.28 million last year in salary, bonuses, and other benefits,” writes Stephen Kimber:
How could Scott Balfour’s compensation package be better spent on… well, let’s start with improving services to the customers of Nova Scotia Power?
There are currently postings for a number of “Maintenance Person Certified (Shift)” at Nova Scotia Power. These are union jobs paying $42.20 an hour. You could hire more than 100 of them with Scott Balfour’s take-home alone. Or, you could get even more bang for your buck by hiring close to 180 also unionized Utility Worker IIs, whose duties include “repair maintenance duties” at $25.37 an hour.
How many of us who have spent hours, often days, waiting for Nova Scotia Power to restore our power after a storm — or even a light breeze — believe $8 million might be better spent than in fluffing up Scott Balfour’s pay packet?
But let’s make this a game anyone can play.
What would you do with Scott Balfour’s $8 million?
Click here to read “What would you do with Emera CEO Scott Balfour’s $8.28 million compensation package?”
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5. Chignecto Isthmus
“An engineering study looking at ways to protect the piece of land connecting New Brunswick and Nova Scotia suggests the top three options will cost between $189 million and $301 million,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:
The Chignecto Isthmus is a 21-kilometre wide stretch of land linking the two provinces and is the only land bridge connecting them. An estimated $35 billion worth of trade is conducted annually via this corridor between Amherst, NS and Sackville, NB.
Work on the Chignecto Isthmus Climate Change Adaptation Engineering Feasibility Study began in 2018, and the final report was released March 16. The study notes a combination of climate-induced rising sea levels and coastal subsidence is forecasted to threaten most Atlantic Canadian coastal infrastructure before the year 2100.
This means the Chignecto Isthmus dykes and the infrastructure they protect are at risk. The isthmus trade corridor includes the TransCanada Highway, CN Rail, 138 kV and 345kV electricity transmission lines, a wind farm, fibre optic cables, agricultural cropland activities, and other utilities.
The report’s authors recommend three options to preserve the national trade corridor: raising the existing dykes ($200.2 million); building new dykes ($189.2 million); and raising the existing dykes and installing steel sheet pile walls at select locations ($300.8 million).
Click here to read “Engineering study: three top options to protect Chignecto Isthmus will cost between $189 million and $301 million.”
6. Rick Mehta, again and again
Last month, I noted the bizarre case of Rakesh (Rick) Mehta v. Wolfville Animal Hospital, Dr. Carrie Terry Family Dentistry Inc., and Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey R. Hunt’s quite sensible summary judgment against Mehta.
Last week, a second ruling against Mehta was published, this one in the case Rakesh (“Rick”) Mehta v. Acadia University and Acadia University Faculty Association, with Justice Ann E. Smith presiding.
I could outline Mehta’s claims, but to do so would give them more credibility that they deserve — like Hunt before her, Smith categorically dismissed all of them because they’re bonkers (my word, not hers).
However, I think it’s worth looking at some of Mehta’s correspondence with the court.
At one point, Mehta wrote that “This dispute is taking place in the larger context of a war between God and Satan with me being aligned with Jesus Christ and with the defendants being aligned with Satan.”
In another submission, Mehta wrote:
The Charter starts by stating “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law;”. Similarly, I have observed that the court sessions at this courthouse begin with the declaration “God Save the Queen”, not “Queen’s Counsels Save the Queen”.
To state the obvious, the “supremacy of God” is a prerequisite to “rule of law”. The “supremacy of God” is making reference to the King James Version of the Bible, which dates back to 1611.
Recognizing the “supremacy of God” in a Canadian courtroom means that if the court officers, judges, and/or lawyers are members of secret societies or are worshippers of Satan, they are expected to set aside their oaths to secret societies and/or their Satanic beliefs while they are on the job because they recognize that only God is supreme.
In a letter to Smith, Mehta wrote:
On November 24, 2021 – You wore a face mask even though you were sitting by yourself in your office in Halifax, something that the counsel did not do. This fact is important because in the Statement of Claim that I submitted against two health care clinics on May 19, 2021 (a separate but related matter), I stated that the two matters that I submitted are “taking place in a context in which much of the Western world is in a state of mass psychosis, as evidenced (as one example) the seemingly large number of people [who] believe that putting underwear on their faces is going to protect them from the world’s deadliest disease”, I went on to explain how even the legal profession in this province is not immune and therefore is also in a state of psychosis. I was proven right on these points during the court session that was held on December 14, 2021, in which Justice Hunt claimed that we are living in the midst of a “pandemic” but failed to produce any evidence for this claim; similarly, the counsels for the defendants – who were the ones who raised these issues – did not refute my claim that we are living in an age of mass psychosis and failed to provide any evidence that the legal profession in Nova Scotia is of sound mind. Thus, the only conclusion that can be derived is that the court has repeatedly discriminated against me for not being mentally disabled.
I ask that the court stop discriminating against me.
In his proposed remedies, Mehta asked for (among other absurdities):
I ask that the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia recommend that all parts of Canada remove their trade union acts and provincial-human rights acts.
I ask that the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia rule that it is not longer recognizing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the Charter is incompatible with a free society and that, on a go-forward basis, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia will act as if the Charter is null and void.
Clearly annoyed, Smith noted:
Dr. Mehta has repeatedly demonstrated that he has no regard or respect for this Court, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, Court officials or opposing legal counsel. In fact, it seems that in this process, anyone who disagrees with anything Dr. Mehta says is faced with a barrage of complaints and personal insults. For example, he has stated that this Court needs to be “spanked” “on the bottom” seemingly for trying to help him understand the Court processes that needed to be followed in order for his matter to be heard. He has completely disregarded the Court’s directions about the kind of documents which he may file with the Court.
On November 3, 2021, a few days after the October 29, 2021 case management conference, Dr. Mehta emailed the Court and the Defendants providing a draft order for the Court in which he stated, “the judiciary of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia is not of sound mind and therefore is incompetent”. He further stated in this email that “all lawyers in Nova Scotia [should be] disbarred immediately unless they can provide proof that they have represented individuals in their struggle against the effects of the Health Protection Act order”. He stated that “the Schulich School of Law be told to revise their curriculum so that the first year of their program is devoted to getting future lawyers to understand why the Bible is the cornerstone of a free society”.
…Dr. Mehta emailed the Court and the Defendants enclosing a letter to the Court and the Defendants in which he accused the Court of “being naughty on October 29”. He requested that this Court begin the next court session by saying, “It is clear that Acadia University, AUFA, their counsels, Dr. Wayne MacKay and Arbitrator Kaplan – who henceforth shall be referred to as “Silly Billy” – have been naughty, and now it’s going to cost them. What is the price of being naughty in a free society? The legal equivalent of a spanking on your bottoms is given with the hope that you repent from your sins. Since these naughty little boys – often described as ‘beta males’, ‘soy boys’ or ‘cucks’ by truth tellers such as Paul Joseph Watson – believe that the law is a toy for their amusement, in my capacity as not only a judge but also a mother, I am first going to take away their toys […]”.
Dr. Mehta seems to think that he can abuse the processes of this Court with impunity. He cannot. The Court’s decision on costs will reflect that.
In fact, Smith rejected the normal guidelines for determining costs, and went considerably higher. She ordered Mehta to pay $10,000 each to the university and the faculty union.
Talking privately with someone, we wondered whether Mehta is of sound mind, but I’m not a mental health professional and I don’t want to armchair diagnose someone I’ve never met in any case.
Still, it’s worth noting that millions of people share his beliefs, so what are we to make of that?
I’ve of course have had a lifetime of political disagreements — who hasn’t? — with a wide range of people. Sometimes, I thought those I disagreed with were evil: Colin Powell’s obviously constructed “evidence” for invading Iraq come to mind, as does the Republic “southern strategy” of dog-whistling racism. Sometimes I thought they were putting forward incredibly dumb arguments: see, for example, the Laffer Curve. Often, I understood the disagreements as simply a battle of values: some people valourize any random fetus over anything else, while I favour the right of women making choices about their bodies for themselves.
But only lately have I questioned the mental health of broad swaths of the people I disagree with. This bothers me greatly.
7. The dining preferences of seagulls
“Researchers in the UK have discovered that Scottish seagulls will travel dozens of miles to visit their favorite fish and chip shops,” writes Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator:
The study, led by Dr. Nina O’Hanlon, focused on the habits and habitat of Herring Gulls during the non-breeding season. Researchers used GPS technology from 2014 to 2015 to track 20 gulls from five colonies in two regions along the west coast of the UK:
In the southwest Scotland region we tracked birds in the Southern Hebrides (Oronsay and Islay) and Firth of Clyde (Lady Isle and Pladda), and in the northwest England region from Walney
While the birds exhibited “an overall preference for intertidal habitats” where the menu was likely to include mussels and worms, Storrar says:
The data revealed that several of the gulls from Scotland visited the Wee Hurry Chippy in Troon, while an individual tagged on Lady Isle in the Clyde even took a trip to the Ayr Racecourse.
O’Hanlon told Storrar:
We downloaded data from at least five individuals at the chip shop. Some of the individuals were making repeated visits.
Click here to read “Regular customers.”
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8. Ever Forward
It’s interesting to watch the salvage operations around the Ever Forward, which ran aground in the Chesapeake Bay a week ago yesterday. The Marine Traffic map above shows the massive container ship (green circle) surrounded by two dredgers (blue circles) and two tug boats (blue boat shapes).
The Baltimore Sun reports that:
The plan involves releasing ballast to lighten the load, dredging the bay’s muddy floor around the ship and making space between the propeller and rudder and the seabed, Evergreen said.
The rescue team is mobilizing all available local tugboats to join the operation. Once enough mud is removed and the ship is lighter, the team will work to refloat the ship at high tide using the power of the tugboats and the ship’s main engine, Evergreen said.
The operation stopped for the night and will undoubtedly start up again this morning with daylight. Here’s what it looked like yesterday:
Board of Police Commissioners (Monday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — agenda here
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — with video
Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Legion Capital Assistance Program; with Natasha Jackson, Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage
Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place) — Renewable Energy: Progress Towards Targets; with representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, Clean Energy, and Clean Electricity
Movement Ecology of Marine Predators Under Global Change: Biophysical Drivers, Ecosystem Effects & Conservation Implications (Monday, 10am, 5th Floor Lounge, Life Science Centre) — also online; interview seminar with candidate Dr Neil Hammerschlag, University of Miami, for the position of Professor of Biology and Scientific Director of the Ocean Tracking Network
The journey of UniVenture: A substance misuse prevention and mental health promotion intervention for undergraduates across four provinces in Canada (Monday, 12:30pm) — online seminar with Sherry Stewart and Yunus Fakir
Exploring Postpartum Sexual Health in Nova Scotia Using Feminist Poststructuralism (Monday, 1pm) — virtual PhD defence by Rache Olliver, Department of Nursing
The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem (Monday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, McCain Building) — book launch and performance by Jack Mitchell with special guest and Star Wars super fan, Luke Togni. Books will be available for purchase. Registration required, limited seating, masks must be worn.
Concerto Night (Monday, 7:30pm, St. Andrew’s United Church, 6036 Coburg Road, Halifax) — with the Fountain School’s outstanding student soloists and young orchestra; $15 / $10, info and tickets here
Vision as Scientific Director of the Ocean Tracking Network (Tuesday, 10am, 5th Floor Lounge, Life Science Centre) — also online; with Candidate for Professor of Biology and Scientific Director of the OTN Neil Hammerschlag
Rapid photochemical 3D printing of highly tunable biodegradable poly(propylene fumarate) materials (Tuesday, 12:15pm, Room 1200, Dentistry Building) — research seminar by Alina Kirillova, a candidate for the Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Functional Polymeric Biomaterials in the Faculty of Dentistry
Poetry and non-fiction Author Reading (Tuesday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — with Cory Lavender and Suzanne Stewart; more info here
The Scarborough Charter in the UN Decade for People of African Descent: Transforming Relationships (Monday, 6:30pm) — virtual presentation with Adelle Blackett, McGill University
BSAC 2022 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Monday, 6pm) — presented by the Dalhousie Black Student Advising Centre, an online screening of documentary film Speakers for the Dead, followed by a discussion with director Jennifer Holness and archaeologist Karolyn Smardz Frost
This documentary reveals some of the hidden history of Black people in Canada. In the 1930s in rural Ontario, a farmer buried the tombstones of a Black cemetery to make way for a potato patch. In the 1980s, descendants of the original settlers, Black and White, came together to restore the cemetery, but there were hidden truths no one wanted to discuss.
In the harbour
04:00: MSC Donata, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Montreal
05:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
05:00: Torm Voyager, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Saint John
10:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, sails from Dockyard for sea
16:30: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
17:00: Atlantis, research vessel, sails from BIO for sea
21:30: Atlantic Sail sails for Hamburg, Germany
14:00: Eagle Halifax, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Philadelphia
23:00: Torm Laura, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Montreal
My big plan for today is to balance an egg on its end.
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RE: The dining preferences of seagulls
We have a Nova Scotia version of this. We radio tracked Herring Gulls at a breeding colony on Brier Island and they made regular trips far inland to the Mink Farms in Digby County to feed on waste and mink feed as well as outflows of fish processing plants along St. Mary’s bay and to Digby.
Re: “Living with Covid”
My read on what’s going on is this….they’re essentially hoping that the weak (i.e., those most susceptible to Covid) die off so that the death rate #’s drop as they expire. Eventually this will happen, for those most susceptible, and then treating Covid as if it was “over” will appear to have been the correct decision. Except it’s not, but those dying from the consequences of long-term chronic conditions arising from Covid (as much research suggests will be the case) and/or the consequences of repeated Covid infections eroding the nervous and/or immune system will be in the future in someone else’s mandate window and their responsibility, not that of the current government.
Reading the situation semiotically I see few other as likely interpretations.
Yes, this is my assessment as well. Make of the 1 year and 5 year views of Moderna’s stock prices (Pfizer has other products, so they’re doing better) what you will. https://tinyurl.com/yckpyjt3
Regarding the Mehta matter:
HOW did this guy get a job at an accredited and respected university instilling his “views” on the youth of today who will become the leaders of tomorrow? The only mitigating fact of the matter is it appears his “views” are so bonkers (good choice of a word by the way) the overwhelming majority of people can determine they are not based on rational thought or fact and border on delusional at best.
I interacted with him over a Master’s defence a few years ago and I can say that he was a consummate professional, gave good advice and feedback, and acted professionally in his role. So, “why he was hired in the first place?” as a question isn’t that hard to answer….it’s likely that at the time he was hired that it was warranted. Having sat on many hiring committees I can say without qualifiers that at this point he would not be.
Welcome to “living with COVID”; hope you don’t die
Tim, this pretty much sums it all up
Disappointed to see that the Board of Police Commissioners meeting today is not being webcast. Some really interesting and important items on the agenda.
Also the daily case numbers on the Covid dashboard bear little resemblance to the numbers they have been reporting all along. For example in the Omicron wave there were 4 days with over 1000 cases. On the dashboard section ‘Positive PCR tests by date’, the highest number is 926 on Jan 5. Even the most recent numbers don’t match. We would have more confidence if they could at least be consistent in their reporting of the numbers.
One thing that comes from the bizarre Mehta case is the long overdue need to completely secularize the courts and the legal system. The numerous references to singularly Christian ideals is irrelevant at best and polarizing at worst.
Nova Scotia Power has evidently decided that despite worsening weather and the increasing frequency of storms it’s cheaper to send out multiple crews on overtime to repair outages as they occur than it is to do needed maintenance on power lines. There are miles and miles of power lines entangled with trees in Nova Scotia, outages just waiting to happen and our power utility thinks enormous salaries for top executives is more important than the suffering of tens of thousands of Nova Scotians.
It gets pretty rambly, but https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGazJ3MCMC0 is an interesting discussion on the specific of Ever Forward and then the more general infrastructural problems of these big ships. A tad imperialistic at times, too… If its to be believed, and no reason not to, the US is in a bit of a hole here, with the USACoEngineers getting out of the owning dredges business, and industry not yet stepping up to have the emergency capacity to deal with these kinds of problems.
If someone died of COVID 3 weeks ago instead of last week aren’t they still dead?
Thanks for all the updates during Covid, Tim.
I have a feeling that since pretty much all restrictions (why did they not extend the masking on transit like in other provinces … probably because it’s impossible to enforce) are now lifted that we will be getting even less information from the province.
This may be your last Covid update unless things take a bad turn.