The weekly reported death count from COVID in Nova Scotia, since January. Note that due to a change in the reporting period, the week ending April 11 has just six days.

Nova Scotia has reported eight new deaths from COVID, for the latest reporting period, August 16-22. I won’t have the age or vaccination status of the deceased until Sept. 15.

Additionally, for the same reporting period, 34 people were hospitalized because of COVID; this is down from 40 the previous week. Due to a technical issue, Nova Scotia Health did not immediately have the numbers of people in its hospitals with COVID yesterday.

The weekly new (lab-confirmed) case count, since January. The gap reflects a temporary change in testing protocol that makes weekly comparisons meaningless. Due to a change in the reporting period, the week ending April 11 has just six days.

Also for the reporting period, there were 1,360 new lab-confirmed (PCR tests) new cases. This is the lowest weekly count this calendar year. PCR testing is limited, and lots of people test positive with only the rapid take-home test, or don’t test at all. So don’t read too much into the declining new case count.

In short: every day, hundreds of people contract COVID, five or six people are hospitalized with the disease, and on average one person dies from COVID.

Chief Medical Officer of Health has scheduled a press briefing for later this morning, I’m guessing to discuss the return to school and/or masking at universities, but I don’t really know. It’s the first COVID briefing in a long while.

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2. Brenda Lucki must go

A white woman in a white blouse with rainbow zebras on it makes a hand gesture
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki testifies at the Mass Casualty Commission on August 24, 2020

Yesterday, I published a commentary saying that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki must either resign or be removed from her job.

That wasn’t my intention when I started writing. Initially, I was trying to avoid getting into the gun control/political interference issue, so I simply wanted to explain how gobsmacked I was about Lucki’s ignorance of events in Portapique and immediately after. But as I transcribed her testimony before the Mass Casualty Commission, I realized the problem was larger than I originally thought:

Such exchanges characterized Lucki’s entire testimony: She’s in charge of a big and complex organization so can’t possibly know the details of what happened in Portapique and after. She has “people” attending to those details, but she can’t say who those people are or what they’ve done. She promises reform, but vaguely.

To be sure, the RCMP is an enormous organization. But Portapique was not a obscure detail that doesn’t need her attention. Twenty-two people were killed, including an RCMP constable. As a result of the policing failures, there is a crisis in confidence in the RCMP. And most importantly, it is of utmost importance that the policing failures be addressed forthwith so that they not be repeated come the next terrible event. Lives are at stake.

If anything deserves Lucki’s attention, it’s Portapique.

Lucki’s strategy for testifying before the commission was to toss out a bunch of bureaucratic details — oh, there’s a learning and development group, we have a contracted National and Indigenous Policing board, there are “people” and processes — anything to take the responsibility off herself.

Lucki presented herself as just a hapless person atop a giant bureaucracy. She wants good things to happen, she wants reform, she has all the good intentions, but she’s failed by the stagnant institution.

Lucki was hired into the job to change the institution, but she is evidently unable to do so. Time for her to leave and let someone else give it a shot.

Click here to read “The view from 10,000 feet: RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki must go.”

I believe that there will be no more witnesses testifying before the commission. Next week, lawyers will begin making presentations about what they think should be included in the commission’s final report. I’ll be following along, but remotely.

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3. Cops on buses?

A Halifax Transit operator navigates traffic on Portland Street on April 14, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

“A regional councillor wants staff to look into options to make Halifax Transit safer for users and employees amid an alleged spike in incidents,” reports Zane Woodford:

Coun. Tony Mancini brought a motion to council’s Transportation Standing Committee’s virtual meeting on Thursday calling for a staff report “that outlines opportunities and challenges related to public safety in the Halifax Transit system and options to mitigate these challenges.”

Mancini said he’s been getting reports from residents and transit staff, particularly about the transit terminals.

“We have a lot of folks that are using terminals as a place to get out of the weather, utilize our Wi-Fi, use the washroom. There’s some behaviour that’s not appropriate behaviour. In no way am I suggesting that anybody that is homeless or living rough, that they’re all folks that are in this category, but those are some of the folks that we’re hearing from staff and riders,” Mancini said.

“Are we able to engage with HRP and increase patrols at terminals? Can we have HRP riding some of our most busiest bus routes? Other cities have transit police,” Mancini said.

Click here to read “Should Halifax put cops on buses? Committee wants report on public safety on transit.”

I ride the bus pretty much every day, and have done so for the nearly two decades I’ve lived in Halifax, so I’ve been on the bus maybe 15,000 times, and have been in terminals hundreds of times. For all that experience, I’ve experienced just a handful of “incidents,” which really weren’t even so bad.

A few times, I’ve told some asshole rider to shut the fuck up. Twice, I’ve positioned myself between a woman and someone acting inappropriately towards her, and that was the end of it. I pay attention, in case I need to intervene in disputes between passengers, but it’s never come to that. Once, a cop entered a bus I was on on Barrington Street and pulled some dude sitting in front of me off the bus, but the dude wasn’t doing anything inappropriate on the bus, so I assume it had to do with something before he got on.

Sure, street-ish people hang around the terminals sometimes to charge devices, and what of it? Heck, I charge my own device there sometimes (perhaps I’m a street-ish person). Shout out to the fellow at the Bridge Terminal the other morning who was drinking a six-pack of beer out at one of the bays; I kind of laughed with him, told him he was just going to bring a world of trouble onto himself, and he agreed and left.

Oh, a few weeks ago, I got on a bus at the terminal and an older man who appeared to be having a mental health crisis was up in my face about Trudeau being part of some conspiracy, and because I was ignoring him (the older man, not Trudeau), I was in on it too. I just got off the bus and got on the next one, and the driver gave the man what for; she seemed to know him.

That’s it. I won’t say my experience is typical — certainly women have deeper concerns — but my anecdotal experience is that riding the bus is safer than, say, going to a sports game, or hitting the bars, both of which are pretty safe too.

There’s a certain mindset that wants to involve the cops in every uncomfortable social situation, and I believe Mancini is tapping into that.

Bringing in cops is problematic, on so many levels. For one, it introduces at least the potential for state violence, and legitimizes that potential violence.

But more deeply, calling the cops on someone who is otherwise harmless — charging a device, or ranting incoherently, for example — brings that person in contact with the police and justice system, and they may never escape it. An unnecessary interaction with police can become a minor charge related to disruptive behaviour, can become a fine, can become a failure to appear charge, can become a stint in jail, can become an entire life of fines that can’t be paid, having to dealwith cops and probation officers, and the resulting worry and stress that puts the person in an even worse place. Is it really worth bringing that on someone because they smell bad or don’t meet your standards of social behaviour?

People should call the cops if they honestly fear for their physical safety. Otherwise, maybe try speaking with people, or just ignoring them.

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4. Nova Scotia Loyal

Screenshot showing a stylized drawing of a house with a heart in it, and the words loyalty comes from our heritage
Screenshot from the Nova Scotia Loyal website.

“‘Silly,’ ‘completely stupid,’ and ‘offensive’ are some of the words a popular farmers’ market vendor uses to describe the Nova Scotia Loyal program,” reports Philip Moscovitch. 

Farmer Ted Hutten and his produce have been a fixture at the Halifax Brewery Farmers’ Market for decades. For the last three weekends, the market has participated in the “prototyping” or research phase of Nova Scotia Loyal, which is supposed to reward shoppers for buying local products.

“I think promoting local, buying from Nova Scotians, is a great idea. There are a lot of reasons why a customer like you should be buying from a Nova Scotian like me,” Hutten said in an interview.  “And I think the chance to win a gift card is about at the bottom of the list of reasons I could probably think of. There are environmental reasons, social justice reasons, quality of product reasons, and people in urban areas supporting rural infrastructure. There are reasons related to ethics, social justice, and transportation.”

“It absolutely blows my mind that those reasons are not mentioned in the promotion of a ‘buy local’ campaign.”

The Houston government has said it wants 20% of food purchases in Nova Scotia to have been produced locally by 2030. To that end, it’s launched a “Nova Scotia Loyal” website and social media campaign, and hired consulting firm Davis Pier to do research on what would motivate Nova Scotians to buy local, including different rewards. (Davis Pier did not respond to an interview request.)

Moscovitch interviewed other vendors, as well as customers on their thoughts about the Nova Scotia Loyal program and got their thoughts on what would work better to promote buy local

Click here to read his story.

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5. Jun Espino

Jun Espino. Photo: Facebook

The Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission has suspended Jun Espino, a salesperson formerly licensed with Keller Williams Select Realty in Bedford.

According to the commission’s website:

The evidence supports that Mr. Espino committed a very serious breach of trust. Mr. Espino attended a property viewing and was videotaped by the seller breaching the seller’s privacy. Specifically, Mr. Espino accessed personal items of the seller in several dresser drawers, without permission on two separate occasions.

Espino was suspended for five years, effective August 1. And after that suspension, he’d need to reapply and take the commission’s Salesperson Licensing course and pass the examination.

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6. Carbon tax

Larry Hughes. Photo: Dalhousie University

“A week ago the Houston government submitted to Ottawa an alternative proposal to the federal government’s plan to price carbon by means of a carbon tax,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Larry Hughes is a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Dalhousie University as well as Dal’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies. He has read the 13-page letter Premier Tim Houston wrote the federal government asking for a tax exemption. Hughes agreed to offer the Halifax Examiner his observations on the province’s position.

Hughes concludes:

It is undoubtedly unpalatable to be responsible for an increase in the cost of energy; however, the federal carbon pricing system has been reworked so that it reduces the impact to those on low-income by issuing quarterly rebates and encourages behavioural change in those who can afford to make the changes.

The province should look carefully at the federal carbon pricing system, note its faults, and develop a made-in-Nova-Scotia program using evidence-based data. Ideally, the province can develop a carbon pricing system that meets both Nova Scotia’s and the federal government’s commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Click here to read “Does the Houston government’s proposed carbon plan make sense?”

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7. Black mothers and child welfare

Close-up shot of a Black woman with long dark braids
Renise Robichaud is a social work student at the University of Moncton doing her master’s research on Black mothers’ experience in the Nova Scotia child welfare system. Photo: Renise Robichaud.

“A social work student in New Brunswick wants to interview Black mothers in Nova Scotia who’ve been involved with child welfare servces and the Department of Community Services for child neglect within the past five years,” reports Matthew Byard:

Renise Robichaud is working on her masters thesis at Université de Moncton. She said Black mothers are overrepresented in the child welfare system and the main issue is the Department of Community Services relies heavily on people reporting parents to the offices of child welfare, which accounts for the majority of the cases they receive.

“It’s really hard in Nova Scotia to find our data on social welfare and social services,” Robichaud said in an interview with the Halifax Examiner. “There are no right or wrong answers. And I’m not here to judge anybody. I’m just trying to create some sort of data on it.”

Robichaud said she decided to explore the issue of Black mothers in the welfare system because no local research exists. Any that does exist is from the US, with a smaller portion from Quebec and Ontario.

She said it’s difficult to make clear distinctions because despite similarities between Black Canadian and Black US cultures, there are also differences. That means the research doesn’t always translate to a Black-Canadian perspective.

Click here to read “Social work student collecting data about Black mothers’ experiences with child welfare system.”

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8. Climate change and women’s mental health

A young woman in a huge crowd stands against a blue sky on the streets of downtown Halifax on Sept. 27, 2019 holding a sign that says 'If it was called father nature maybe we'd give a sh*t"
One of the many signs during the large climate strike event in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2019. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

Reports Yvette d’Entremont:

Greater risk of heat stroke. Increased spread of vector-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and dengue fever. Reduced cardiorespiratory functioning due to worsening air pollution. Drought, flooding, and melting ice that puts food and water security at risk.

While these are among the many widely known health-related impacts of climate change, Kathryn Stone’s research shows that when it comes to our changing climate, women are disproportionately impacted and so is their mental health.

“(Before starting this research) I had no idea the disproportionate impacts that climate change has on women. That was what I was most surprised about, particularly gender-based violence, which was a particular theme that I was interested in and shocked by,” Stone said in an interview.

“We know gender-based violence increases after enduring extreme weather events. But what about longer weather changes like drought, for example, where women have to go further into more remote locations to get resources?”

Click here to read “Study finds climate change disproportionately affects women, their mental health.”

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9. Mackenzie

“The Saskatchewan RCMP confirmed Thursday night they have laid four new charges against Diagolon leader Jeremy MacKenzie,” reports Stephen Mahr for iPolitics:

MacKenzie, an extremist leader from Pictou County, Nova Scotia, faces an assault charge, a charge of pointing a firearm, a charge of using of a restricted weapon in a careless manner and one count of mischief.

iPolitics reported Wednesday that MacKenzie had been charged, but RCMP did not reveal the nature of the charges until Thursday.

The charges were laid on July 18. The RCMP have put out a Saskatchewan-wide warrant for Mackenzie’s arrest, but he is believed to be in Nova Scotia.

None of the charges have yet been proven in court.

The new investigation is in connection with a Diagolon shooting party on a farm near Viscount, Saskatchewan, in November 2021, sources say. Two witnesses have told Mounties that Mackenzie assaulted a woman and pointed a firearm at a man who intervened.

Reached by email before the charges were announced by RCMP, MacKenzie told iPolitics that he’d moved out of Saskatchewan in early October, a month before the shooting party is alleged to have occurred.

“You’re a hell of an investigator,” he wrote. “Good luck with your tabloid.”

A search warrant in the Nova Scotia weapons case says that he moved from Saskatchewan in December.

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No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

08:45: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving oil from Saint John

Liberty. Photo: Halifax Examiner Credit: Halifax Examiner

10:30: Liberty, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
13:45: Norwegian Breakaway, cruise ship with up to 4,819 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
15:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Baltimore
17:00: Vantage, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik,. Iceland
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
23:30: Norwegian Breakaway sails for New York
23:45: Vantage sails for sea
No cruise ships Saturday or Sunday; the Zaandam arrives on Monday.

Cape Breton
05:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for Charlottetown
06:00: CSL Kajika, bulker, moves from Pirate Harbour anchorage to Aulds Cove quarry
14:30: Crude Zephyrus, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
15:30: Green Warrior, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Ras Lanuf, Lybia


Off to get a PCR test. A young person in my life calls the COVID tests a “nose test,” and I’m stealing that.

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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Instead of looking at Security Officers/Police Officers on buses or at more transit terminals; I mean, in addition to those already at the Dartmouth Bridge Terminal, Halifax should be looking at improving supports for those who are using the terminals as refuges from inclimate weather or as resting places. Extending open hours for the official overnight shelters to accomodate for heat or rain and hiring support staff would be money better spent than expanding HRPs funding and responsibilities. I know the that in Nova Scotia, Municipalities don’t fund their own Social Services Departments. More public washrooms would be helpful for everyone and then of course, hiring the staff to clean them. I’ve used the buses daily for 15 years. Sometimes I later meet those same people that are removed from the terminals, in the hospital. It’s not ideal but it’s one way to get patched into the services they need. A shame that it doesn’t happen sooner.

  2. This is why even a reasoned discussion about defund the police was always a pipe dream. People in positions of power whose knee jerk reaction to every ill in society is to involve police.

    Hell if they’re in the superstore why not the buses. Christ Almighty.