News

1. Progressive Conservatives win surprise majority

Tim Houston. Photo: pcpartyns.ca

There was talk yesterday that the election might be so tight we wouldn’t have a clear winner until today. Instead, the magnitude of the Progressive Conservative triumph was such that it was clearly the party would form the next government within a couple of hours of the polls closing.

The electoral map looks like a sea of blue this morning, with a few orange and red outposts.

Zane Woodford has your election roundup here, including the latest on the few seats that remain up in the air. He writes:

Houston promised to fix Nova Scotia’s health care system with his new mandate, the first for the PCs since 2009.

“I will give you everything I have to fix health care,” he said. “I will give you everything I have to make this a better province, it won’t happen overnight. And it will cost money. But if we work together, we can get the job done because there’s an opportunity right here in front of us to seize a brighter future.”

When networks called the election they did so saying it wasn’t clear if the Tories would govern as a majority or minority, but there is no doubt this morning:

When vote counting was suspended in six ridings early Wednesday morning, Houston’s PCs had 31 of the 55 seats in the Nova Scotia Legislature. The Liberal count was knocked down to 17 and the NDP were on the verge of gaining one seat to end the night with six.

Three of the lost Liberal seats were held by cabinet ministers — Randy Delorey, Lloyd Hines, and Suzanne Lohnes-Croft — and another was trailing, Labi Kousoulis.

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, who was kicked out of the PC caucus and ran as an independent, looks like she will retain her seat.

There will be a lot to think about and analyze in the days and weeks to come, but a few things stood out for me last night.

First, the argument that the Conservatives won because the NDP and Liberals split the vote on the left. For this to be true, you would have to argue that the Nova Scotia Liberals are a party of the left, which is a tough sell for a party so firmly centrist. The argument also always puts the onus on NDP voters to back the Liberals, rather than on Liberals to not vote Conservative.

But what happens if we look at the popular vote province-wide? In 2017, the Liberals got 39.5% of the vote and the Conservatives 35.7%.

This time, the Conservative share is 39.1% while the Liberals got 36.8%.

So the Liberals went down 2.7 percentage points, while the PC’s gained 3.4 percentage points. The NDP vote remained relatively stable: 21.5% in 2017 and 20.9% yesterday.

The other thing that really struck me was Iain Rankin’s concession speech. First, the timing. He started to speak while Gary Burrill was speaking. Bad form. Then he said he “had fun” during the campaign (that’s nice) and that he “wouldn’t change anything.”

Really? You’re reduced to 17 seats after a disastrous campaign and your takeaway is that you wouldn’t change anything? I had a hard time believing what I was hearing. On CBC Radio’s Information Morning today, political scientist Tom Urbaniak talked about Rankin’s concession speech, saying, “If he had shown a little more humility that would have been a good first step.”

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2. Cops evict people in tents from parks

Police surround a tent in Horseshoe Park, preparing to evict the person living in it. Photo: Drew Moore

Yesterday, Zane Woodford reported on Halifax issuing eviction notices to people living in tents in city parks:

On Monday, the municipality posted notices on tents and delivered them to residents telling them to remove their tents and belongings from parks.

“Failure to act in accordance with this Notice is an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not less than one hundred dollars and not exceeding ten thousand dollars under the Municipal Parks By-Law and/or a fine of not more than five hundred dollars under the provisions of the Protection of Property Act R.S.N.S., c. 363, s. 1,” the notices read.

“Failure to remove any temporary or permanent accommodation from any Municipal Park following this direction from the Halifax Regional Municipality as owner, is an offence under the Protection of Property Act for which any person can be arrested by a peace officer and removed from the property.”

An eviction notice duct-taped to a tent in a municipal park in Halifax. Photo: Halifax Mutual Aid

Woodford asked for an interview with Mayor Mike Savage, but he declined. Previously, after the city had put eviction notices on crisis shelters, Savage had said there would be no evictions of people living in shelters (after a couple had apparently already been evicted). The city, you may recall, hired an empathy consultant to advise on approaches to dealing with encampments of people who have no homes.

Trying to find out what the eviction notices actually meant, Woodford approached the city’s communications people:

The Halifax Examiner asked the municipality’s communications department why people are being threatened with arrest and whether they’ve been offered shelter.

In an emailed statement that matches one sent from chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé to citizens hours earlier, spokesperson Laura Wright confirmed the notices went out on Monday.

“The first step in enforcement is always education. Further to the ongoing engagement with tent occupants by community outreach workers to offer services and support, municipal staff have made a concerted effort to advise tent occupants on municipal property that they must remove their tents immediately,” Wright wrote.

“If attempts at education prove to be unsuccessful, the municipality will have the ability to use the enforcement options. The enforcement approach is not preferable, however, it may be warranted depending upon the associated risks.

That was yesterday.

Halifax sent out a press release at 6:47 this morning saying ” the municipality has taken a progressive approach to education and awareness related to the installation of tents and temporary shelters in municipal spaces” (insert spitting out coffee GIF here). The release touts the “empathy-based approach” (maybe saying it makes it true?) and adds:

This morning, Municipal Compliance officers are following up with tent occupants to aid the safe removal of tents from municipal parks. Staff members from Parks and Recreation and Halifax Regional Police are onsite to assist with removal efforts if required.

All members of the public have a right to use and enjoy the entirety of municipal parks, not just the portions otherwise occupied by temporary dwellings. With the safety of all residents as a top priority, it is the municipality’s obligation to address the hazardous conditions posed by this encroachment through appropriate enforcement of existing laws and regulations.

Notice that the cops are not there to evict anyone. Just to “assist” with “the safe removal of tents.” The release refers to health and safety issues, but does not specify what those might be.

As I write this, police have moved into parks and are telling people to leave. Woodford spoke to two people being evicted from Horsehoe Park. On Twitter, he wrote:

They were woken up at 6am and told they had an hour to leave. They haven’t been offered housing, but they have been fined $300.

When they asked where they’re supposed to go, they were told to leave the peninsula.

One of the people evicted from Horseshoe Park. Photo: Zane Woodford

The Halifax Examiner is hosting the second in our series of virtual community sessions on housing tomorrow, from 6pm to 8pm. Anyone can attend and the event is free, but you do need to register here. The Examiner is committed to in-depth reporting on the housing crisis, and we want to hear from you. As the event description says:

The Halifax Examiner is hosting an online reader engagement session to gather stories, ideas, angles, and issues on the housing crisis in Nova Scotia.

Please join us and share your stories.

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3. Record number of Black MLAs elected

Tony Ince, Angela Simmonds, Ali Duale and Suzy Hansen are headed to the legislature. For the first time in its history, Nova Scotia has elected four Black MLAs, after a record of 11 Black candidates ran in this election, Matthew Byard reports.

Of the group, Ince is the only incumbent.

Byard notes that the PCs failed to elect any Black candidates. He also wonders if the party’s focus on mental health care will take into account the links between racism and mental health:

Another key platform issue for Houston was his pledge to address and revamp mental health services in the province. Last October, Houston released a Universal Mental Health Care plan. It will be interesting to see what, if any, direct parallels the PCs make between racism in Nova Scotia and North America and any potential negative effect it has on the mental health of Black people and people of colour. Despite Houston’s Universal Mental Health Care plan being released in the immediate aftermath of the provincial and global Black Lives Matter movements, and in the wake of highly publicized racism toward the Sipekne’katik First Nation, terms like “racism,” “anti-Black racism,” “prejudice,” or “discrimination” do not appear in the document.

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4. Council doesn’t give the boot to boots, but does aim to set some rules on them

A “vehicle immobilization device,” otherwise known as a boot, is seen on a vehicle. Photo: Flickr/TonyWebster

There was a whole lot going on at Halifax Council yesterday, and Zane Woodford has your full report here.

The highlights include a new bylaw setting rules for booting cars. Boots immobilize vehicles that are parked on private lots. Drivers then have to pay a company to remove the boot. The new rules would set a maximum amount of time the company would have to show up and remove the boot, and cap fines at $100. The original bylaw set a cap of $60, but that was raised after an amendment from Coun. Trish Purdy. Woodford writes:

The owner of a booting company, Daniel Watson of One-Shot Parking Solutions, said he’s currently charging $100 to remove the boots, and the cap of $60 would put him out of business.

The regulations still have to come back for second reading before being enacted.

Councillors also debated Centre Plan regulations and passed a bunch of zoning amendments, including this very reasonable one:

Coun. Waye Mason moved an amendment to refine the definition of adult entertainment under the Centre Plan to exclude retail uses. That definition, he said, keeps businesses like Venus Envy from getting approved for occupancy permits.

There’s more — much more! Climate change action, Bayers Road cost overruns and a section under the marvelous sub-head “Otter Lake beef simmers.” Please read the full report.

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5. This week’s Black News File

Emancipation Parade in Halifax, August 14, 2021. Photo: Rana Zaman/Facebook.

Matthew Byard is back with his latest Black News File, a roundup of news you need to know. Byard has a lot going on in this piece, so I will note a couple of items and encourage you to read the whole thing.

The Examiner has covered issues around vaccine passports before, and Byard weighs in here:

The same day as Rankin’s announcement[of a proposed Nova Scotia vaccine passport], research was published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) and talked about how existing inequities amo ng “ethnoculrual communities” in Canada were worsened by the pandemic.

In a comment under a post about the research on Black Nova Scotia News on Facebook, former PC MLA candidate Irvine Carvery remarked:

“That’s why more thought needs to go into any decision around COVID passports. What percentage of these communities have been vaccinated? If it’s low would we be discriminating against them.”

On the July 21 podcast episode of Black In The Maritimes, co-host Hillary LeBlanc talked about “Black people who disproportionately cannot be reached” with respect to getting vaccinated, and observations she’s made through her work with community health centres.

As I say, Byard has lots, lots more in his roundup, including pieces on Andre Fenton and lack of Black representation on school staff, and you should read it.

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6. Oh yeah, the COVID report

Photo: Edward Jenner/Pexels

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

One new case announced yesterday, updates to the exposure map, and vaccination status. It’s all here, in Tim Bousquet’s daily report.

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Views

1. “To me, that’s what spirituality is: to be challenged, to have your faith challenged, to grow”

Walter Hayward (1943-2021).

Seven years ago, I made a documentary for the now-defunct CBC Radio show Maritime Magazine, on minister Kevin Little and his two very different pastoral charges. One of them was (and remains) Brunswick Street United Church, where services are held on Sunday evenings with people sitting in a circle. When I was making the doc, a 12-step program held its meetings in the basement of the building at the same time as the church services, and people going to the meeting would sometimes walk through the door and mistake the church service for the meeting. Little took this as a compliment. I am not a churchgoer, but I very much enjoyed attending Brunswick Street United Church while making the doc, and have been back a couple of times since.

It was the kind of place where a member of the congregation could do a little ad-libbing while reading the Bible (“Another time, the tax gatherers, and other wicked accountants, and other badass characters…”) and nobody would bat an eye.

One of the regulars at the Brunswick Street services was Walter Hayward, who died recently. A retired accountant (but presumably not of the wicked kind), Walter lived nearby, at the Gordon B. Isnor Manor.

I loved speaking with Walter. He was quiet, determined, and funny in an understated way. A member of the United Church from age 15 on, he saw faith as a force that challenges complacency. He was an early supporter of gay rights within the church, and was proud that the United Church Moderator was a gay man. For him, faith was constantly evolving. He said to me:

Some people’s faith is in a box. They buy the package that the church puts forward. My faith is a growing faith. It’s continually growing… To me, that is what spirituality is: to be challenged, to have your faith challenged, to grow. And even though I’m a senior citizen, I’m still willing to learn.

Walter started his career as a field auditor for Revenue Canada, performing audits at people’s places of business, rather than having them come into his office. Then he started his own accounting firm, which he ran until 1992. He served on the board of the Brunswick Street Mission, and spoke admiringly of an accountant who came to the mission to do people’s tax returns for free.

One of the great injustices of our tax system is the number of benefits that require people to file a return. No return, no HST credit. Walter said that one of the best anti-poverty measures he’d seen was simply having someone come to the mission to file people’s returns:

He started to do tax returns four years ago, for nothing. Most of the people who come in don’t have their T slips, so he has a contact at Revenue Candidate who faxes T slips. He puts in the numbers and immediately sends them up. First year he did 20. Last year, he did 1,400. Now, every one of those would not get the HST credit if it wasn’t for him. So there is $150 dollars every three months. That’s $600 a year by 1,400, and it’s going into the economy now because of him.

He also appreciated that there was no collection plate at Brunswick Street United Church, and talked about how people can feel excluded from more affluent churches if they can’t donate an amount seen as enough:

We don’t pass the offering plate… We find that if a person comes up from the Metro Turning Point and an offering plate passes in front of them, and they don’t have the money to put in it, they don’t necessarily feel welcome. I know for myself that when I was poor back in the ’70s and they had all these fundraisers — from dinners, to buying Christmas ornaments, you name it — and when you can’t afford to buy those, you don’t feel as much a part of the congregation. You don’t feel you’re contributing to the congregation. So we try not to do that here.

You can read Walter’s obituary here. It is a two-parter, starting off as a typical obituary, and then segueing with the words “And now, a different take on a life well lived…” to a more irreverent approach:

He had few regrets, although photographic fashion evidence from the 1970’s suggest he should have had a couple more. He left behind a heck of a lot of things, so if you want 800 paperback books or bags of used Kleenex, well it’s actually too late.

Unlike previous times, we can assure you that he is not just avoiding creditors and rivals, he is really gone. (We Think).

Walter’s family requests that donations in his honour be made to the Brunswick Street Mission.

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Noticed

Screen grab from Ready When You Are, directed by Douglas Kiefer and John N. Smith. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

A thousand kids with ukuleles and only one bathroom. A military helicopter flying past over and over again, with an increasingly frustrated cinematographer on board. A film director who wonders if it might be possible to move a couple of destroyers out of the way. “The destroyers have got to move back… They’re in the way of the bridge shot.”

It’s all part of Ready When You Are, a very funny 12-minute NFB documentary I just watched for the first time yesterday. The film has a Christopher Guest/Waiting for Guffman vibe, only it’s an actual doc and not a mockumentary.

It’s 1975, and the great Chalmers Doane, then music director for schools in the City of Halifax, is set to lead the kids in music and song on Jetty 2 at the Halifax dockyard. The NFB has sent a crew to capture the event. (I was briefly an NFB employee and still freelance for the organization, mostly as a French-English translator.) Here’s how Albert Ohayon, the NFB’s-language curator describes the film, which aired on CBC as part of a series of shorts on Atlantic Canada:

Ready When You Are is probably the funniest short doc of the series. In it, 1,000 school children attempt to play a song on their ukuleles at the Port of Halifax. The NFB sent a huge crew to film this. Of course, this turned out to be an exercise in frustration. The NFB got help from the Canadian Armed Forces, including being allowed to set up a camera on one of their helicopters to film the event. You can guess things aren’t going to go well when director John N. Smith asks if a destroyer can be moved out of a shot early in the filming. Then there’s the matter of the one and only bathroom available to the children. While this entire exercise must have felt like a hellish journey for everyone involved, it makes for a hilarious film.

The film is delightful. Rather than make a straight-up short shooting the kids arriving, the song, and so on, at some point the creative team decided to do this as a film about making the film which, honestly, is a lot more interesting and fun.

The kids pour off a city bus, and Smith tries to arrange them in rows, by height.

Screen grab from Ready When You Are.

Then he’s got to try and deal with a helicopter shot, coming in over the Macdonald Bridge, as cinematographer Tony Ianzelo tries, over and over, to zoom in on the kids during a flyby without shaking. “How many takes is it so far John,” someone off-screen asks director John N. Smith. “God knows,” he says, arm raised up in the air.

Director John N. Smith in a frame grab from Ready When You Are.

Interestingly, Ohayon writes, CBC had originally planned to run a series of short films profiling both BC and Atlantic Canada in one program called “Coastal Peoples.” (Central Canadian bias, much?) Instead, we wound up with our own show, called Atlanticanada.

Many of the people involved in making Ready When You Are went on to bigger and better things. Tony Ianzelo was director of photography on nearly 100 films and directed two documentaries that were nominated for Oscars. Kent Nason (who now lives in Nova Scotia) has more than 200 films to his credit, as a cinematographer and director, and won a best cinematography Gemini Award. Meanwhile Smith, who co-directed Ready When You Are, went on to direct dozens of films and TV shows, including The Boys of St. Vincent, which helped blow the lid off the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in Newfoundland, and Dangerous Minds, starring Michelle Pfeiffer.

Were any of you reading this part of the filming? I would love to hear your story.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am) — live streamed on YouTube

North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — live streamed on YouTube; Public Information Meeting – Case 21639: Middle Sackville Master Plan, Phase 1

Thursday

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm) — if required

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

A Conversation about LGBT Seniors’ Archives in the Atlantic Region (Wednesday, 1pm) — online event; Jacquie Gahagan, founder of the Nova Scotia LGBT Seniors Archive, and panelists from the Atlantic region will discuss the importance of preserving and sharing our histories.

This sounds super-interesting.

Primary Health Care Learning Series (Wednesday, 12pm) — online seminar with two topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic:

“Primary Care Access, Attachment & Innovations in Nova Scotia Before & During the Pandemic”; Speakers: Emily Gard Marshall and Mackenzie Cook

“Helping Parents with Anxiety and Depression Symptoms During COVID-19: An iCBT Longitudinal Study”; Speaker: Teba Hamodat

Thursday

The role of iron chelation in pulmonary inflammation (Thursday, 1pm) — Nazli Alizadeh-Tabrizi will present this thesis defense.


In the harbour

Halifax
140:00 APL Dublin, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from As Suways, Egypt
16:00: Johanna C, cargo ship, sails from Pier 28 for sea
16:30: ZIM Monaco, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York

Cape Breton
11:15: Navig8 Perseverance, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea


Footnotes

  • My one and only film audition was for John N. Smith’s Train of Dreams (1987). I pretended to be drunk and singing loudly on the Metro. I was terrible and did not get the part.
  • One of the clues in today’s New York Times crossword puzzle refers to the article “10 surprising ways to use mayonnaise around your home.” One of the uses is to rub it on houseplants. Do not recommend.

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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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    1. Simply being listed in the Paradise Papers doesn’t mean anyone is guilty of any wrongdoing. Houston worked for a financial institution that does a lot of perfectly legal (alas) tax sheltering stuff. I have no idea if he was involved himself in any of that work, and there’s nothing I’ve read that implicates him in any illegal acts.

      1. “Simply being listed in the Paradise Papers doesn’t mean anyone is guilty of any wrongdoing”……I agree. In fact that’s what I mentioned to some other folks on social media. Sadly, they weren’t willing to listen.

  1. Is there a more undervalued national treasure than the NFB?

    I have the app on my AppleTV.

    Canada’s cinematic history all in one place…..and everything free.

  2. Just when one thinks HRM can’t get any lower, they go way lower. If Council really, truly believes there is a need to evict the homeless from city parks, just say so and do it. Stop the lying, stop insulting our intelligence with ridiculous, false communications, don’t show up at 6:00 am to evict people, and certainly don’t fine them $300 (or anything). That is just vindictive, homeless-hating, and vile. Any HRM elected official who doesn’t speak out against how this was done is not fit for office and is either a homeless-hater or an homeless-hater enabler. Perhaps it’s time for a review of the HRM Charter and whether it is actually fit to govern itself.

  3. Halifax Council’s sanctioning the borderline fly-by-night car booting business is quite troubling. For Trish Purdy to take such a ridiculous stance that $60 fees are not enough is infuriating. First of all, booting itself should be illegal as it essentially is depriving someone of personal property of significant value. Secondly, there already is a parking enforcement system. Use it!
    Councillor Purdy seems to forget the role of a municipal councillor. Siding with shady businesses is not part of that.

  4. Rankin’s election night behaviour was well, pathetic, as was his brief stint as premier. I hope the federal Liberals – who I think had a strong hand both in getting Rankin elected as leader (Rankin was seen as the Fed’s man) and subsequently at least in the broad brush for the campaign (the feds campaign being pretty well from the same playbook) – learn something from it. I would be far more worried about a Tory majority in Ottawa than I am about one held by Huston’s NS Tories; some good people were elected to their side. They deserve – and got – “a chance”, ‘wish it was a Minority but it ain’t. If the mess it up Burill will succeed them I figure, like the last time.

    1. Was it Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?