News

1. School is weeks away. What’s the plan?

Photo: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

We’re less than a week away from a provincial election. We’re also less than a month away from kids returning to schools across the province. Whichever party wins the vote next Tuesday, teachers are worried that none of them will have a plan ready for getting students and staff back to class safely until after a new government is formed. And that won’t leave educators with a lot of time to prepare for the fall semester.

“I’m really disappointed that no party in this election campaign has made a safe return to school a central plank of its campaign platform,” said Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) president Paul Wozney in an interview with Yvette d’Entremont. “It’s just completely missing from the discourse at large by all three parties, which is absolutely unconscionable to me.”

In a briefing with reporters last Thursday, the province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said a return to school plan will be unveiled in the “coming weeks.” As of this morning, there’s been no update. Teachers are waiting on directions around masking, as well as guidelines for when and how to close schools in the event of a potential exposure or outbreak. The longer they wait for a plan, the less time they’ll have to prepare for the new school year and the new set of health guidelines that will have to be maintained and enforced.

While the province is moving closer to fully reopening, the finish line is still unclear, and Wozney and the NSTU are concerned about how safe schools can be without adequate time to properly prepare for new (and still unformed) pandemic regulations:

Not many places are back to school yet, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that we are sending the largest unvaccinated population of Nova Scotians into classrooms where physical distancing has never been possible and where ventilation remains abysmal.

Teachers are also worried about how clearly and effectively they’ll be able to communicate with parents to address their concerns over the health and safety of their children, if teachers themselves could be left scrambling to learn and implement new COVID guidelines for their classrooms, said Wozney.

Teachers were taxed to the absolute limit in terms of their own mental health and well-being last year, and my major concern right up front is that teachers are going to go from the frying pan into the fire at the beginning of another school year.

Potentially ‘a school year like no other, part deux’ is on the horizon and it’s a tough spot to be in…We definitely hope that this year COVID has a very minimal presence and impact in our school system, but from the looks of things, COVID-19 is far from over and a fourth wave is a very real concern.

To read about the full list of concerns that teachers and their union have regarding the upcoming school year, and to hear what’s making one Sackville mother so anxious about all this, head to the full article from Yvette d’Entremont, Teachers: political parties are ignoring school reopening.

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2. One new COVID case announced in NS yesterday

A mandatory mask pandemic sign in HRM in June, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

The province announced one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total known active cases in Nova Scotia to 17. The case was found in the province’s Central Zone. It involves a woman aged 20-39 and is related to travel.

Read Bousquet’s full report from yesterday to get caught up on all the pandemic news you need to know, like vaccination numbers, case demographics, testing locations, and potential exposure advisories. Bousquet’s also updated his list of flights with potential exposure warnings after potential exposures were announced for flights on Aug. 1 and 2.

In other pandemic news, Newfoundland and Labrador lifted its mask mandate yesterday, leaving Nova Scotia as the lone Atlantic province still enforcing mask-wearing in most public places. The province has said mask restrictions will likely be lifted in Nova Scotia when 75% of the total population is fully vaccinated, moving us into the fifth and final phase of reopening. As of yesterday, 67.1% of all Nova Scotians (including those ineligible to be vaccinated) have received two doses.

If you’d like to move up your second dose and speed up the province’s reopening plan without the hassle of changing your booking online, there are currently sixteen drop-in, no-appointment-necessary vaccination clinics scheduled in the province. They’ll all be closing this Sunday, but before then, you can find out where these clinics are here.

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing or donating.

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3. Police investigating homicide in Eskasoni

Image from cbc.ca
Early Monday morning, police responded to a report of a 30-year-old man’s sudden death on Beach Rd. in Eskasoni.
In an RCMP news release Tuesday, police say the death, which was initially ruled suspicious, is now being investigated as a homocide. Police are looking for any information anyone might on the incident. Tips can be placed here.
The investigation is being led by the Northeast Nova Major Crime Unit.  The Nova Scotia Medical Examiner’s Office, RCMP Forensic Identification Services and Eskasoni RCMP are also supporting the crime unit in the investigation.

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4. Housing reporting series

Last night, the Examiner hosted a virtual community session where readers joined us to talk about ideas, issues, and angles that will inform the reporting on our housing series this fall.

But we’re not done taking questions, ideas, and tips. We will have other sessions soon, including in-person sessions, but if you can’t make those you can always call or text our message line to share your stories and ideas. That number is 1-819-803-6215. You can also email us at housing@halifaxexaminer.ca.

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5. China upholds death sentence against imprisoned Canadian

This isn’t exactly local news, but it’s worth relaying here anyway.

The Chinese government has upheld the death penalty for Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who has been detained since 2014 when he was charged with plans to smuggle drugs out of China. The ongoing international case has been surrounded by accusations that China has politicized its justice system to punish Canada, a claim the Chinese government denies. Here’s the BBC’s report from yesterday:

Schellenberg was initially sentenced to 15 years in jail, but in 2019 an appeal court said this was too lenient, leading to a retrial and a death sentence.

The verdict comes as relations between Canada and China remain fraught.

The Canadian ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, condemned the Chinese court’s ruling, saying it was “no coincidence” that the verdict was released while an extradition battle involving senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was ongoing in Canada.

Ms Meng, the daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecoms company, is currently detained in Canada on a US warrant.

Fellow Canadian detainee, Michael Spavor, was sentenced shortly after, receiving eleven years in China for espionage.

So many people I know have traveled to and from China on vacation since Schellenberg was first arrested seven years ago. My cousin even taught in China for a number of years before moving back recently with his wife, who was part of his school’s faculty there. Near the end of my undergrad, I chatted with him about what it was like teaching English as a second language over there. I thought it might be an interesting thing to do for a year after school, but I ultimately decided against it. I’m glad I did.

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Views

The final stage of addressing the climate crisis: acceptance

A few weeks ago, the Toronto Sun published an opinion piece that argued — based on a recent report from the Fraser Institute about the cost/benefit of hitting the Paris Accord’s goals — that “[t]rying to achieve the United Nations’ target of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels will do more social and economic harm than good.”

Well, this week, as if in direct response to that article and report, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave their own sunshine account of the state of the climate. Among the key takeaways:

  • The globe has already warmed 1.09 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. Humans are accountable for about 1.07 degrees of that temperature rise.
  • Since 1750, concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased faster than any time in the last 800,000 years.
  • The heat waves and forest fires we’ve been seeing this summer (and the past few, really) aren’t going anywhere. Extreme weather will become more regular. So start your long-term preparations for hurricane season.
  • Certain things are now believed to be irreversible, even if we can stabilize the earth’s temperature: ocean acidification, melting glaciers, sea level rise. We can still prevent the worst, but we can’t prevent these things from happening entirely.
  • At the current pace we’re burning fossil fuels, we have about 12 years before we use up our “carbon budget” and we lose any chance we have of stabilizing the world’s temperature at 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, avoiding some of the more catastrophic events severe global warming could bring.

So it’s another fatiguing report saying things are worse than ever, but we still have time to avert complete disaster, though the window’s rapidly closing. I can’t believe that “doing nothing” and letting the world burn is less harmful to humanity than trying to reach our international, potentially-planet-saving international and domestic climate goals. Still, I agree with one thing from the Sun article: doing something is going to take an incredible amount of work — not just setting goals, breaking them, and then drafting some new, amended ones a few years later.

We need to start realizing and truly accepting that our current way of life is unsustainable. That we’ve boxed ourselves into such a corner that the difficult but necessary switch from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy is not a one-off, catchall, light switch solution to the climate crisis. We need to come to terms with the fact that we’ll have to let go of some of the most comfortable luxuries we’ve acquired over the past 250 years.

We don’t have to go back to the stone age, but we have to begin reconsidering the way we farm and eat. The way we travel and commute. The way we trade, package, and ship. The way we manufacture, sell, and consume. The way we do just about everything. We don’t have time to compartmentalize our environmental values and our 21st century actions.

In response to the IPCC report, five climate researchers published a sobering opinion piece on the Conversation. It ends with these sobering facts and an honest assessment of what we need to do:

Global warming stays below 2℃ during this century only under scenarios where CO₂ emissions reach net-zero around or after 2050.

(A goal our province has ambitiously laid out, though we have yet to come up with a comprehensive plan for reaching it).

The IPCC analysed future climate projections from dozens of climate models, produced by more than 50 modelling centres around the world. It showed global average surface temperature rises between 1-1.8℃ and 3.3-5.7℃ this century above pre-industrial levels for the lowest and highest emission scenarios, respectively. The exact increase the world experiences will depend on how much more greenhouse gases are emitted.

The report states, with high certainty, that to stabilise the climate, CO₂ emissions must reach net zero, and other greenhouse gas emissions must decline significantly.

There are no geophysical or biogeochemical barriers stopping us from stabilising the climate.

We also know, for a given temperature target, there’s a finite amount of carbon we can emit before reaching net zero emissions. To have a 50:50 chance of halting warming at around 1.5℃, this quantity is about 500 billion tonnes of CO₂.

At current levels of CO₂ emissions this “carbon budget” would be used up within 12 years. Exhausting the budget will take longer if emissions begin to decline.

The IPCC’s latest findings are alarming. But no physical or environmental impediments exist to hold warming to well below 2℃ and limit it to around 1.5℃ – the globally agreed goals of the Paris Agreement. Humanity, however, must choose to act.

This latest climate report, like every other climate report from the past 50 years, asks us to choose between despair and resignation, or hard acceptance and action. For once, let’s choose the latter.

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Noticed

A picture’s worth a thousand votes: The art of the headshot

Look deep into their eyes. Iain Rankin (liberal.ns.ca), Gary Burill (nsndp.ca), and Tim Houston (pcpartyns.ca)

As part of a temp gig I’ve had through the election, I’ve had the small task of hounding campaign managers from all the province’s parties for candidate headshots. Once I get the headshots, I rename them so they can be found easily, then I send them off to a graphics team so they can be reformatted for television broadcast.

Of all the work I’ve done over the past month, this task has been one of the most…tedious.

At this point, I’ve looked at the headshots of about three quarters of all 230 candidates in this province. And there’s been some variety.

There’s the classic polished political look. A suit and tie, or maybe just a sharp dress shirt if you don’t want to look too stiff — in my riding, signs of PC candidate Derrick Kimball in a blue blazer and striped tie clash mightily against the backdrop of Valley cows and corn. The candidate then smiles, warm and relaxed, looking straight into the camera. The arm-cross is optional and, like a pair of high rise jeans, not everyone can pull it off.

Party leaders Gary Burill and Tim Houston of the NDP and PC parties, respectively, fall into this polished category. Both masterfully exude warmth through the camera, and both opt out of the bold arm-cross maneuver. A classy choice, in my opinion.

But some can’t pull off the polished look at all, arms crossed or not. This second class of candidate headshots is what I like to call the Uncanny Valley headshot. Where you’re looking at a candidate who, if you didn’t know any better, almost appears to be human.

Iain Rankin falls just shy of this category, barely staying in the realm of the polished politician.

These candidates understand the concept of a political headshot, but the execution is lacking. They put on the sharp clothes, stand tall, and look straight at the camera trying to smile, but something just seems “off.” The arms are rigidly by their side. Their smile is big, but incredibly forced, deplete of genuine enthusiasm or pleasantness. The eyes stare out at you unsettlingly, as if they were trying to burn a hole in the camera when they snapped it. It’s like they learned how to stand and smile for a photo from reading a textbook for five years. The understand the concept, but the execution is lacking.

[Side note]: At this point I should say, since I still need a few photos from the parties and I don’t want to ruin my relationship with any campaign managers just yet, I’ll refrain from posting any unflattering — or just plain bizarre — shots from this year’s election. I’m sure you’ll see a few of them over the next week. And if you want, you can do a quick scan through each party’s “members” webpage and easily find a handful of shots that make you think, “that’s what they decided to go with, eh?”

And then there are those who don’t understand the concept of the political headshot at all. I understand that small provincial elections mean parties have to find candidates for up to 55 ridings, some nominees are bound to be a little out of their element here.

There are a surprising number of candidate headshots that are actually just pictures of them fishing. I know this is Nova Scotia and fishing’s a big part of our culture, but I’d still think most candidates wouldn’t opt for the fishing photo most guys reserve as their Tinder profile. If I didn’t have to go through the hassle of asking for another photo when I received these, they’d be my favourite style. And it really is a style. I’m not lying when I say multiple candidates have tried to get away with pictures of their fishing trips as headshots for TV.

Also on the amateurish side, there are a decent number of selfies, a few classy black and white pictures for mystique, and a number of candidates who’ve been cropped awkwardly out of whatever background they were in, and dumped against a blank, white void.

In a provincial election, where parties must quickly find candidates to run across 55 ridings, political headshots are often an afterthought for smaller campaigns. They shoot them themselves, instead of bringing in a photographer, and hope for the best. And why shouldn’t they? There are bigger things to think about than how you look in a photo. Most of these headshots will be lost and forgotten after they’re flashed a few times onscreen during the election. Why spend any time on them?

In my heart of hearts, I want to believe this. But it’s true that a fishing photo, while it could appear refreshingly honest, usually just comes off amateurish, regardless of what the candidate’s competence is. A poorly taken selfie subconsciously tells me this person is disorganized, out of touch with modern times, and that their campaign has been hastily thrown together to give their party a candidate in their particular riding. Whether any of that’s true, the impression’s there. I don’t think a headshot could ever make a candidate, but after looking at nearly 200 of them these past two weeks, I’d say a bad headshot could lose someone the edge.

There’s an interesting article the Atlantic published over a decade ago in which writer Virginia Postrel questioned what made a good political photograph, as well as how much we can doctor these photos or enhance them without losing honesty. It’s a really interesting read, and it only takes about five minutes, so I’d encourage you to check out the whole thing. There’s a fascinating bit about John McCain’s outrage that a magazine ran a cover picture of his then running partner Sarah Palin without touching it up first. And why that matters more than you might think.

But there’s one paragraph that speaks a bit more to what I’m writing about here:

Partisans demand that magazine portraits glamorize their heroes for the same reason my friend hired a professional photographer. Humans seem hard-wired to assume that good-looking means good and, conversely, to equate physical flaws with character flaws. We may preach that beauty is skin deep, but we’re equally certain that portraits “reveal character.” In a media culture, we not only judge strangers by how they look but by the images of how they look. So we want attractive pictures of our heroes and repulsive images of our enemies.

Although objectively and scientifically I believe this to be false, my skin crawls a bit when I look deep down inside, and I know that it’s at least partly true.

Even still, to all the selfie-taking, background-cropping, fishing-trip-photo politicians out there, don’t let me stop you. Keep ’em coming.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9am) — live streamed on YouTube

Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — live streamed on YouTube

Thursday

Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — live streamed on YouTube

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm) — live streamed on YouTube

Province

No meetings


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, moves from Pier 9 to Gold Bond
09:30: CMA CGM J. Adams, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
10:30: Conti Annapurna, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
10:30: MSC Angela, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
11:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
16:00: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
21:00: NYK Romulus, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Caucedo, Dominican Republic
22:00: Atlantic Sun sails for New York

Cape Breton
11:00: Arctic Lift, barge, arrives with tug Western Tugger at Port Hawkesbury from St. John’s
11:00: Almi Navigator, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
12:00: NS Laguna, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from New York


Footnotes

1) I really feel for the teachers, students, and parents who’ve had to deal with the stresses of figuring out school through a constantly changing pandemic. I count myself incredibly lucky to have graduated before all this.

2) As the last Atlantic province holdout, we’ve had this mask mandate over a year now. I can’t wait to be free of them, but I’m in no rush to go back into a fourth lockdown so I’ll be patient if need be. Plus, there’ve been a few pros to go along with the cons of having to wear masks everywhere for so long. In my personal opinion, these are the best and worst changes the mandate has brought to my everyday life…

  • Biggest con: on top of my phone, wallet, and keys, I now have to remember a fourth nuisance to stuff in my pocket every time I leave the house.
  • Biggest pro: I’ve been able to get away with trimming my nose hairs far less frequently. At least I think I’ve been able to get away with it.

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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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  1. I’ve been partial to the handshake to make a measure of the candidate – With the pandemic that is gone so I was thinking of relying on my wife to describe the candidate. On second thought I just read the platforms – When I went to the returning office to vote they asked if I wanted my wife to vote for me (I’m blind) – not a good idea for sure. Perhaps they thought her judgement would be better since she can see the photos?

  2. The complete lack of skepticism of vaccine passport systems that have no clear sunset date is astounding. There is a very obvious way for pharmaceutical companies – which do not exist because God Science loves us and wants us to have medicine, but to make money – to profit from this situation. People say “but you need to vaccinate your children to send them to school” or “what about the viral meningitis outbreak 30 years ago”, but one round of childhood vaccinations or an exceptional situation with viral meningitis (which is 4-13% fatal) is not comparable to the present situation. What pharmaceutical executive, with a legal responsibility to the shareholders to maximize profits, is not going to lobby the government to make as many vaccines as possible pseudo-mandatory so they can sell more doses?

  3. Just an FYI, you shouldn’t be stuffing your mask into your pocket! That’s not exactly sanitary, now is it? I use a carabiner clip on the outside of my backpack to hold mine while I’m out and about. When the mandate first came out, I started hanging a clean mask on the inside of my front door when I was done all my running around for the day. After a year of this, I don’t forget anymore, but I still hang one there just in case the next morning’s coffee isn’t as potent as it should be. (Your nose hair comment made me LOL – and thanks for the laugh.)

    I wish I knew a date when masks would go away in Nova Scotia, but I’m not expecting that announcement until we have a sworn-in provincial leader, so mid-September maybe…….

    In just over an hour I’ll be officially 14 days past my 2nd jab, so I’ve done my part and am now as protected as I can be. That said, I didn’t reschedule until I could get the shot I wanted (Pfizer). If I hadn’t already gotten it, I would be more likely to head for a beach on a day like today than to get a needle, That’s me, though, I respect each person’s right to make the choices that are right for them. To those foregoing the beach to get jabbed, thank you! To those heading for the beach, enjoy this beautiful day!

  4. Obviously it’s near impossible to be sure either way but it does seem worth considering the idea that Spavor and/or Kovrig were actually engaging in espionage.

    I mean, they were both politically connected men one of whom used to work for the Canadian foreign service. The other one, having the connections he had in the DPRK, has almost certainly been frequently interviewed and checked up on by law enforcement and it doesn’t seem far fetched that they’d get him to “run some errands”.

    Schellenberg of course was a meth smuggler, I don’t agree with the death penalty but it’s hard to argue he wasn’t doing that.

    Basically what I’m saying is I think it’s an overreaction to see this as random Canadians getting picked up in China.

    Also, the RCMP shouldn’t have arrested Meng in the first place because she didn’t violate Canadian law and the US law that she did violate is bullshit.

    1. You raise some exc. pts here. When in any country, it is a must that you understand its laws. China, in my understanding, is one of the most heavily ‘surveilled ‘countries in the World; cameras and technology everywhere. Its tolerance for law-breaking is also very low.

      (Two of my friends have spent time in China and they both say the same thing about how secure they feel when there. Such security may come at a price, but it is the norm, and, because of the closed nature of legal proceedings in China, it is very difficult to get a handle of how evidence is weighed and less hard to understand rulings.)

      Speculation about the motivations of the Chinese is just that -speculation, and there are instances of speculation being not just over-reacting but also wrong. When wrong, no one does the mea culpa thing; they just wait in the weeds for another chance to speculate again.
      There may be a resolution to this, but the possibilities are, well, mere speculation.