News

1. 198 workers out of a job as Web.com closes Yarmouth location

Almost 200 employees at Web.com in Yarmouth were told yesterday that their location is shutting down next year. The company offers internet services to businesses and has locations in New Glasgow and Halifax. The Yarmouth location has been operating for 18 years.

Tina Comeau with Tri-County Vanguard reports the Municipality of Yarmouth and the province are working to find a new employer. The company’s opening in April 2001 was headline news. Twenty workers were hired to start and the company said it expected to grow to employ 300 people with a $48.8 million payroll. Nicole Cassis, Web.com vice-president of communications, told Comeau Wednesday the business is evolving and “we have made workforce changes across various locations to align our organization with these new capabilities.”

Yarmouth mayor Pam Mood says the news was devastating.

Today we are focused on the great people and their families with obvious concern about what lies ahead. We are a resilient community and have weathered such storms in the past and will again. The employees are highly trained, skilled and loyal, and we cannot afford to lose such talent and their families. Today is a difficult day and the town is fully on board to work towards solutions for those displaced by the closure.

On its website, NSBI has a 2016 interview with Sandy Ross, Web.com’s senior vice-president for Canada, in which Ross talks about Web.com’s growth in Canada.

I think most importantly you can expect steady growth, opportunity and security. Web.com has been operating in Yarmouth now for 15 years. In that time, it has grown from being a call centre into a full business operation centre handling many different facets of our business. We also believe in promoting from within. Almost every Supervisor, Manager, and Director is from the area. We have never had a layoff, and have grown overall wages and total employment almost every year.

By 2016, Web.com had received three payroll rebates from NSBI.

2. Nursing homes

Jennifer Henderson wrote this item.

Shannex Inc. appears to have hit a nerve with a letter sent to family members of 36 residents of Debert Court, a long-term care facility in Debert, about 10 kilometers west of Truro. The letter outlines a policy change that will refuse admission to anyone without an existing family doctor and may deny re-admission to a resident who is discharged from hospital, to be determined on “a case-by-case basis” in conjunction with Continuing Care staff from the Department of Health. Below is a copy of the letter Shannex sent to families of Debert Court residents:

Shannex spokesperson and communications manager Katherine VanBuskirk says the policy change is being made because Debert Court has been unable to secure the services of a family doctor who will visit the home once a week and take calls from nursing home staff in the role of “attending physician.” Regulations under the Homes for Special Care Act require nursing homes to provide residents with access to a family physician but with more than 12,000 people in northern Nova Scotia wait-listed for a family doctor, there is currently no one who wants the Debert job.

VanBuskirk says Shannex has been in discussions since June with the Department of Health which regulates nursing homes and the Nova Scotia Health Authority which is responsible for recruiting doctors.

Another 25 residents who do not have their own personal family doctor at Shannex’s Cedarstone Enhanced Care facility in Truro could also find it difficult to return, if they require follow-up after being discharged from hospital. Shannex says it is talking to Doctors Nova Scotia about exploring online or “virtual” interactions between nursing home staff and family physicians as a potential solution to a growing problem.

Kevin Chapman is the director of Partnerships and Finance at Doctors Nova Scotia. Chapman sent this statement to The Halifax Examiner when asked about the issue.

“We’re interested in exploring how technology or virtual care might be used to support physician services in nursing homes, particularly in the short term for things like prescription refills and minor issues, so that it saves seniors from an unnecessary trip to the emergency department,” continues Chapman. “Discussions are underway to see if the current non-face-to-face fee code could be extended to support long-term care facilities.”

That seems like a common sense fix. The “non face-to-face code” Chapman is referring to is what a doctor charges a patient to explain the results of a blood test or MRI over the telephone or through email, avoiding an office visit. It’s not difficult to imagine extending that fee to cover conversations between a doctor and a nurse at a long-term care facility about a change in a resident’s condition or an adjustment to a prescription.

“Unfortunately, physician coverage of long-term care facilities is an issue in other parts of the province too and we need a creative solution,” continued Chapman. “Doctors Nova Scotia has worked with government and our partners on solutions to problems such as inpatient care, and long-term care is the next service we need to focus on because not every problem was solved through the new contract”.

Under the new four-year contract, doctors will receive a slightly higher fee for going to visit seniors in long-term care residences than what they would receive for seeing a senior at the office.

Geriatric office visit:

Year 1  $47.81

Year 2  $50.91

Year 3  $55.23

Year 4  $56.33

Nursing home visit:

Year 1 $53.89

Year 2 $54.97

Year 3 $56.07

Year 4 $57.19

Dion Mouland chairs the Board of Directors at Ocean View in Eastern Passage outside Dartmouth. Some 177 residents are covered by two family doctors who have recently scaled back their practices. He writes: “As of today, Ocean View has four vacant beds that we cannot fill as a result of the lack of medical coverage. Current Ocean View residents without a physician are also more likely to need to be transferred to emergency or acute care, putting pressure on an already burdened system.

This issue is of great concern to our Board of Directors and leadership team. The Department of Health and Wellness and Provincial Health Authority were notified of this issue in June 2019 but we still have no viable long term solution to this situation. We have proposed two possible innovative solutions to the Minister of Health and Wellness, Honourable Randy Delorey, and are awaiting his response.”

3. Bryony House gets temporary shelter

Staff from Bryony House and its union, PSAC, held a rally last month calling for a new temporary shelter. Photo: Robert Devet/Nova Scotia Advocate

Bryony House has found a new temporary location after a three-month search, reports Fadila Chater with The Coast.

In a post on its Facebook page, Bryony’s executive director, Maria MacIntosh, wrote that the temporary shelter will be up and running within the next two weeks.

The temporary shelter will allow us to operate at full capacity, and it meets a number of the operational priorities based on our Bryony House service delivery model. The thoughtful design of the temporary shelter dignifies survivors by meeting their needs for self determination, security and connection.

Thirteen women were moved to hotels or other accommodations, including transition houses elsewhere in the province, after Bryony’s 200-year-old house suffered damage in Hurricane Dorian. Staff at the shelter and its union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, held a rally last month, protesting the closure of the shelter, although MacIntosh says they were still operational and still had a 24-hour distress line and one-on-one counselling.

Earlier this year, Bryony received $2.56 million in funding from National Housing Co-Investment Fund to build a new shelter. That project is expected to cost $6.5 million.

4. Man tasered during arrest on Quinpool

A screen grab of a video showing an arrest of a man on Quinpool Road yesterday afternoon. Photo: Twitter

A video of a man being Tasered during an arrest was making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter last night. Police responded to the video, saying the man allegedly assaulted a cop. In a news release, HRP says officers saw a car driving unsafely down Quinpool Road. While the officers were giving the driver a ticket, he allegedly physically assaulted one of the officers in the arrest.

CTV reports there is no word on injuries and the driver was released on promise to appear.

5. Logging scars may prevent reforestation, increase carbon debt

Logging scars from a the logging industry in Ontario may prevent reforestation. Photo: Wildlands League

The Guardian reports on the long-term damage from Canada’s logging industry. Conservation group Wildlands League released a report, Boreal Logging Scars, yesterday that talks about “logging scars,” the remains of roads, landings and turnoffs for the heavy machinery used for logging, that are so compacted there’s little to no chance of reforestation.

Using drones to survey the 27 sites in northern Ontario, Trevor Hesselink, a land-use planner and former forestry policy analyst, found that the scars made up anywhere from 10% to nearly 25% of the areas where forests had once been logged.

“The extent of the scarring, and getting on the ground to see the longevity of the suppression effect, surprised me the most,” Hesselink told the Guardian.

Wildlands estimates that nearly 650,000 hectares of forest in Ontario – eight times the area of New York City – have been lost in last three decades due to scarring.

In his re-election campaign, Justin Trudeau promised to plant two billion trees to fight climate change. But the Wildlands’ report says Canada has a growing carbon debt and is underreporting the impacts. Wildlands says the logging scars mean lost carbon storage that could reach up to 41 megatons by 2030.


Views

Halifax Transit Moving Forward Together, but not everyone’s on board

On Nov. 25, Halifax Transit made significant changes to its bus routes and schedules as part of its Moving Forward Together plan, which will organize transit service for the next 20 years. I’ve seen lots of complaints about those changes, but I wanted to look at a few in particular, namely those changes made to routes in Sackville and Beaver Bank. I grew up here and took buses, including the #80 and the Beaver Bank Transit (aka the Beaver Bank Bullet) for more hours than I care to recall.

There was a community meeting about the cuts to the Beaver Bank service at the Beaver Bank Kinsac Community Centre last night. CTV was at the meeting and talked with resident Lyle Mailman and Ken Wilson, ATU’s president, about the community’s longstanding agreement about the service. (The clip starts at the 10:15 mark.)

Kristin Gardiner and Dominique Amit with The Signal spoke with some residents in mid November, before the changes happened. Some residents, including Melissa Walton, said they felt like “second-class citizens.” Walton lives about three kilometres north of Kinsac, the new end to the route #86.

They have now cut off my lifeline from society. I’m going to have to become a hermit in my own home.

Halifax Transit cut its 400 service north of Kinsac. The community is now fighting to get it back. Photo: Matt Dagley/Dagley Media

Beaver Bank Transit started its first run was in December 1985. I was 15.

The first Beaver Bank bus, aka Beaver Bank Bullet, wasn’t very fast, but it got you where you wanted to go. Photo: The Beaver Bank Kinsac Bulletin/Facebook

The bus in this clip from the Daily News was the first bus, but I remember there was an old blue school bus that served the route, too. This bus meant I could get out of Beaver Bank without relying on someone to drive me. I remember the first years of service were a little rocky. One day, the bus broke down and the driver picked up several passengers in his orange Chevette. We all put our fares into an ice cream container. There was also no service on Sundays. One Sunday, I walked home from Downsview Mall, about eight kilometres, after spending the night at a friend’s place. The entire trip from Kinsac to downtown Halifax took about an hour and a half. But for the most part, it did the job, although such infrequent transit influenced my decision to eventually want to live in the city, for good.

Now that bus route is cutting off service past Kinsac, leaving riders along the seven kilometres north of there without transit. I guess everyone is moving forward without anyone from north of Kinsac Road.

I guess if you live north of there and relied on transit, you may not have made that meeting last night. Deputy mayor and councillor Lisa Blackburn, who lives in Beaver Bank, couldn’t make the meeting last night, but I asked her about the decision and she sent along a social media post she made just before the changes went into effect:

Last week, some transformational change came to transit service in Beaver Bank, but I am disappointed that for residents in North Beaver Bank, the Moving Forward Together Plan will be moving forward without them.

I want you to understand how we got to this point and what work has been done to help residents in North Beaver Bank who rely on transit.

About a month after I was elected to office, the Moving Forward Together Plan was passed by council. By that time, the routes had already been determined and the public consultation complete.

I was not happy with the cancellation of the North Beaver Bank route and did not buy the passenger numbers used to justify the cancellation. In my mind, they were too old and didn’t accurately reflect the number of folks actually taking the bus. I asked that a new count be done in early 2017, but the numbers were still below the threshold needed to maintain the service.

In August 2018, I asked staff for a report on the possibility of keeping bus service during morning and afternoon peak hours. That suggestion was voted down by both the Transportation committee and Council as a whole in January of this year. (https://www.halifax.ca/…/…/regional-council/190115rc1432.pdf)

The changes coming now were actually not supposed to happen for another year, but upgrades to Transit software meant it could be fast-tracked.

Since then, I’ve met with concerned community members to see what alternatives would work. I’ve met with or spoken directly to three of the community transit service providers in the province (MusGo Rider, East Hants Rider and West Hants Transit). They all require permission from the provincial Utility and Review Board to expand their service area and none were interested in expansion at this time.

I also studied a pilot project being conducted in Cape Breton right now that uses local taxi services to provide transit options in rural communities (http://communitytransitns.ca/). While great in theory, it requires grants from the municipality be given to taxi drivers. Under the Halifax Charter, we are not permitted to do that. Changes to the Charter can only be made by the provincial government.

The folks from the Ivy Meadows facility do have a bus for residents, but was not interested in expanding the service.

Last week, the province announced a Rural Ride Share Field Test that uses ride sharing to help with public transportation in rural areas (https://www.cbc.ca/…/ride-sharing-programs-rural-communitie…). I have written to the minister asking that North Beaver Bank be considered for the pilot project.

But none of this means anything to a resident who has taken the bus for 30 years and now has nothing. To those people, I am very sorry. If I had the ability to demand the route be maintained, it would have been done long ago, but sadly my powers are limited. But do know this: I am not done fighting for some kind of service for North Beaver Bank. It may mean going back to our roots and the days of the Beaver Bank Bullet, but will take a community effort to do so. I will work with any group to support such an initiative.

I have also suggested residents look into HfxRidematch.ca, a carpooling register that could help residents looking for rides.

For the majority of Beaver Bank, these transit changes will bring a level of service unheard of in our history. It’s my hope that express bus service and a more consistent/expanded schedule will entice residents to take the bus.

As Melissa Walton says, cutting off service to North Beaver Bank is cutting off a lifeline to many residents, some of whom have relied on this bus to get them to Sackville for more than 30 years. The community shouldn’t have to go back to infrequent service and occasional trips in the driver’s Chevette. As housing gets more expensive in the city, people will move to communities like Beaver Bank that aren’t properly served by transit. That just means more cars on the road, which affects traffic everywhere.

Some of the routes affected by changes made under the Move Forward Together plan at Halifax Transit. Photo: Halifax Transit/Twitter

And then there are the routes in Sackville. Jenna Young takes the #8 to and from work most weekdays, travelling from Halifax to Bedford in the morning, then back to the city again in rush hour. She says she was aware the #8 would replace the #80, but she says she wasn’t sure how the timing of the #8 would be different from that of the #80. She says the #8 is often overcrowded, especially during morning runs.

It’s extremely uncomfortable, even for my 10-minute ride. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people travelling most of the route.

She says the evening buses are often late, at least 10 minutes, but sometimes 15 to 25 minutes.

My understanding is that the other buses running along the Bedford Highway have been replaced with the #93, which only runs in the same direction as traffic. So, now the #8 is one of the only buses travelling the length of the Bedford Highway against traffic where there used to be several buses. So, everyone is crammed onto the #8, which still only runs every 30 minutes.

Young sent me a list of several recommendations she has for changes: 

  1. A switch to a hub-and-spoke model, where frequent buses on short routes connect to a number of terminals. These systems are a better fit for our cold and rainy climate than a California-style model where people wait longer at a local bus stop for a bus that takes them to their destination.
  2. Increased frequency on major routes. Ten-minute frequency is considered the gold standard where people stop worrying about schedules and just take the next bus. I think the #1 is the only bus that ever runs at least every 10 minutes, and that’s only at rush hour. All major bus routes should be running at a higher frequency, especially heading into traffic. But the #8 shows that even travellers against traffic can fill a bus when it only comes once every 30 minutes. Even a 20-minute interval would be more manageable.
  3. Access to an electronic payment system/app/card that can accommodate per-use or monthly unlimited-use payments. The dream would be the ability to buy an unlimited-use pass for a day, week, or month, where the clock starts ticking when you first use the pass.
  4. This is outside Metro Transit’s authority, but I’d love to see more bus-only lanes. The handful in the north end are fantastic, but a bus-only lane on the Mcdonald Bridge during rush hour would be a huge timesaver for commuters and encourage drivers stuck in traffic to consider taking the bus that is flying past them.

@neo_peewee on Twitter (he didn’t want to use his real name) also takes buses to and from Sackville for work and school. He has taken several of the Sackville routes, including the #82, which was split up. That route now has the #82 covering the Millwood and the #85 covering the First Lake area. The #82 now only runs every hour rather than every 30 minutes. @neo_peewee says another issue is the transfers and passengers can’t connect with their next bus. His trips can take from 1.5 to two hours.

Part of that is just waiting for the next bus, which just leaves right in front of you. The changes just made that all worse.

Halifax Transit just shrugs and says, ‘Deal with it.’

@neo_peewee says he also took the #185, the link from downtown to the terminal in Sackville, which also reduced frequency.

But @neo_peewee says his biggest frustration with Halifax Transit has been them not listening to riders.

These changes are genuinely affecting people’s lives. The changes have serious impact. The fact they didn’t have ongoing communication is very disappointing.

They are not giving the riders what they need. They are not listening to the public. They need to break down that brick wall.

And then earlier this week, I saw a posting for an Outreach and Engagement Specialist with Halifax Transit, who, it seems, will create some communication strategies and community outreach and events for transit. The pay is $32.43/hr, though!

For its part, Halifax Transit spokesperson Erin Dicarlo tells me they expected an adjustment period after the changes.

New routes are assessed based on ridership as well as public feedback.

As for that Outreach and Engagement Specialist gig, says Dicarlo:

The new position is part of a long-term strategic plan for improving service and meeting Halifax Transit’s mission and vision; it is not tied to any one project. This position was created in an effort to improve the way Halifax Transit engages with the community.


Noticed

The Twitter account Small History NS, which shares short news bits from rural and small-town Nova Scotia newspapers, now has a chapbook.

Small History Nova Scotia, the Twitter account that tweets out bits of daily news from rural and small-town Nova Scotia newspapers published between 1880 and 1910, is now in print. Sara Spike, the historian behind the account, created a chapbook of a year’s worth of the news bits that were the tweets of their day. In a tweet this week, Spike says she created the chapbook for her “very offline mom,” but I suspect a lot of readers will enjoy this look at rural and small-town Nova Scotian life of pie socials, harvests, disputes over calves, the capture of big raccoons, bad roads, and rowdy fights after nights of drinking. I swear the account is subtweeting us from the past. Order the chapbook here for just $10.


Government

City

Thursday

RESCHEDULED Budget Committee (Thursday, 9:30am, City Hall) — the meeting has been moved back to Dec. 10.

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — the Nova Scotia Turtle Patrollers will be making a presentation.

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — Tim wrote about this yesterday.

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

No public meetings Thursday or Friday.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Genomics in Medicine Conference: Emerging Technologies and Bioinformatic Challenges (Thursday, 9:15am, Room 170, Collaborative Health Education Building) — two days of genomic topics and presentations from Dalhousie researchers and their trainees; keynote speakers are Stephen Scherer from the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, and Heleen Arts from the IWK. Registration closed November 28, agenda here.

Thesis Defence, Mathematics and Statistics (Thursday, 3:30pm, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Nancy Kahlil will defend “Stability Analysis of Reaction-Diffusion Models with Delayed Reaction Kinetics.”

Friday

Giving Voice (Friday, 6pm, Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History ) — runs until January 26, more info here.

A Social History of Logic (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Gordon McOuat from King’s College University will talk. He’ll wave his hand a lot and make outrageous and untestable claims.

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

No public events.

Friday

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (Friday, 12pm, Art Gallery)

Mount Saint Vincent

Thursday

No public events.

Friday

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (Friday, 12pm, Elizabeth and Fred Fountain Atrium, McCain Centre)

King’s

Thursday

No public events.

Friday

Saint Nicholas (Friday, 8pm, St. Mary’s Basilica, 5221 Spring Garden Road) — Nick Halley directs Nils Brown, Paul Halley, the King’s Chorus and a chamber orchestra. Tickets $10/ $75 here.


In the harbour

06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
06:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
10:00: George Washington Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
12:00: Atlantic Sail sails for Liverpool, England
16:30: RHL Agilitas sails for Kingston, Jamaica
18:00: Copenhagen, cargo ship, arrives at Sheet Harbour from Bayside, New Brunswick


Footnotes

I need a nap now.

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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  1. Some years ago a family member lived in downtown Dartmouth and worked in Bedford. Public transit took 80 minutes, so she usually drove her car. I was quite pleased to see Route 93 on the transit map, until I realized it only works to bring people from Bedford in the morning and back to Bedford in the evening.

  2. This is why I don’t take transit. Hardly ever. Halifax should look at Stockholm if they want to see how to do public transit right.

  3. Re: Jenna Young’s list.
    No. 3 is quite reasonable. In fact for the past two years we’ve purchased 3 and 30 day unlimited passes from PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) activated on first use. PSTA services St Petersburg, Clearwater FL and area and purchased them from their website and they snail mailed them to me. For a long weekend in Montreal we bought the 3 day pass from the STM kiosk at the airport. Lots of models to look too. Pity that Halifax Transit is so slow on the uptake.

  4. Web.com has received lots of government money and hard working people that were paid, no doubt, shittily. Then Web.com said this; “we have made workforce changes across various locations to align our organization with these new capabilities.”
    What they meant to say was ‘thanks for all the free money and cheap labour, but we’re going to leave and make even more money. so, fuck you all.’
    Hey, free country right. But lets have legislation that insists you give back public money given to private corporations when they leave. Or even better, not give it to them in the first place.

    But no worries. All that public money pumped into the ferry will really pay off now for these workers.

  5. Halifax Transit already has outreach and engagement specialists who connect with clients on a regular basis. They are called bus drivers.

    1. Halifax Transit moving forward together, but without some Beaver Bankers

      And without some Purcell’s Covers too, along with visitors who love to hike and bike and bus home from the Cove.

      Halifax Transit should stop reducing coverage and reducing service on local routes, cut by cut, until it is so reduced it’s almost useless. That is, except as an excuse for maintaining the local transit tax that those near these routes must pay on top of the general transit tax. Reducing service forces people to take on debt to buy cars, further clogging up the streets of the peninsula. It also undermines communities, forcing long-time residents to move away from neighbourhoods where they may have lived all their lives.

      Halifax Transit should make using public transit a journey-to-work condition of employment for all transit planners.

      The Nova Scotia government should require that municipalities when reducing transit service on local routes also reduce commensurately the local transit taxes for those serviced by them.