News

1. Affordable housing plan approved for Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre

A rendering of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre’s plans for College Street, as seen from College Street looking west. HRM/MNFC/Fathom Studio
A rendering of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre’s plans for College Street, as seen from College Street looking west. HRM/MNFC/Fathom Studio

“The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre has cleared the final hurdle for its affordable housing development on College Street, receiving council’s approval following a public hearing Tuesday evening,” writes Zane Woodford this morning.

The plan is to redevelop the Friendship Centre’s College Street property, which was previously used as a federal halfway house and an emergency shelter, to “create a 30-bed shelter, 10-room shared housing and seven one- or two-bedroom unites for urban Indigenous people.” The new development, which will be named the Diamond Bailey House, will have different options for the chronically homeless, those transitioning to long-term housing and those who are more independent and can live in bachelor-style apartments.

The site needed rezoning to accomodate more housing, but council has now given it the OK. The project will be one of three that councillors chose to receive federal Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) funding. The Friendship Centre’s plan will receive about $2.9 million of the total $8.7 million of RHI funding in HRM. There is also an additional $832,000 in provincial funding for operating costs available through the municipality. All three levels of government, including the Assembly of First Nations were involved in the project.

Council heard from a neighbour in the College Street area who was concerned about the lack of parking for staff on the small residential street. Woodford writes that one other person spoke at the meeting, giving their take on the importance of this new development:

[C]ouncillors heard from Raven Davis, who identified themselves as an Indigenous resident of the city who has experienced homelessness.

“Being homeless is like no other experience. I wish it on nobody,” they said.

Davis said the project would help people connect to the services they need, but “most importantly, the Diamond Bailey house will be a place where human dignity will be restored.”

“A bath. Running water. A place to wash your face or care for your body after a miscarriage, abortion or sexual violence. It is a place where we can go to access the basic needs that everyone deserves: menstrual products, condoms, toothbrushes, tenant-landlord support,” Davis said. “It’s a place where people can seek a communal sense of belonging, here in K’jipuktuk, here in Halifax.”

Check out Woodford’s full article for all the details on the much-needed affordable housing development.

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2. COVID-19: One new case, travel restricted from Newfoundland and Labrador

Tim’s updated chart tracking daily numbers of new COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia during the second wave.
Tim’s updated chart tracking daily numbers of new COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia during the second wave.

Still good news on the pandemic front today in Nova Scotia.

Yesterday the province announced one new case (in the Central Zone, related to travel outside Atlantic Canada). There are now nine known active cases in the province. One person is hospitalized. They are currently in ICU.

For Tim Bousquet’s full breakdown, click here.

The province also announced new travel restrictions. Due to increasing cases in Newfoundland and Labrador, those coming from the province into Nova Scotia must now complete the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in form before their trip and then self-isolate 14 days upon arriving.

A news release from the province says the new rule, which came into effect today, does not apply to everyone:

“The public health order exempts some people from self-isolation if they do not have symptoms, including:

  • certain workers who must travel for their jobs
  • people who are dropping off or picking up a child within about 24 hours as part of a legal custody agreement
  • people traveling to and from essential health services, with accompanying support people
  • people can participate in a legal proceeding but must otherwise self-isolate

Specialized workers doing critical urgent work that cannot be done by anyone in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island can enter Nova Scotia to do their work but must otherwise self-isolate.”

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3. Council to consider selling land to Shelter Nova Scotia for new development next to Metro Turning Point

Halifax owns the property at 2190 Barrington Street, the corner of Barrington and Cornwallis. Photo: Google Maps

More shelter news from Zane Woodford this morning:

Metro Turning Point may be moving next door, and building up.

Halifax regional council voted Tuesday to request a staff report on the possible sale or lease of municipal land at 2190 Barrington Street to Shelter Nova Scotia “to allow for the development of a mixed-use community service centre, emergency shelter and affordable housing development.” The report will also initiate “a comprehensive master plan for the block of Cornwallis and Barrington Street between Cunard Tower and Cornwallis Street,” and consider “a contribution of up to $50,000 to Shelter Nova Scotia.”

Attached to the motion online is a letter from Shelter Nova Scotia executive director Linda Wilson, who wrote to Mayor Mike Savage asking council to consider the sale or lease and the $50,000 contribution “to develop a comprehensive master plan … including service provider and community engagement, especially with abutting land owners.”

The letter outlines Shelter Nova Scotia’s “vision and preliminary plan for increased social profit in the Halifax Regional Municipality, which includes the land next to Metro Turning Point, at the corner of Cornwallis and Barrington Street.”

The lone councillor to vote against the request for a staff report was Lower Sackville’s Coun. Paul Russell, who wants to see shelters spread more evenly around HRM, not just concentrated downtown. But Coun. Mason argued that the need is highest in the downtown area

Also, isn’t there already a Poplar Street in the Westmount neighbourhood? Please don’t confuse my GPS, Halifax.

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4. Halifax mayor to write province about Eastern Shore school plans, and the rest of your council news

A still from a 2016 HRCE YouTube video showing renovations to Eastern Shore District High School.

Zane Woodford did some heavy lifting this morning. Here’s his third story this morning:

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage will write a letter to Education Minister Zach Churchill questioning the provincial government’s decision to build a new school for the Eastern Shore in an industrial park.

The provincial government, in a news release last Tuesday, Feb. 2, “confirmed a decision by Halifax Regional Centre for Education to consolidate Gaetz Brook Junior High and Eastern Shore District High School into one building following an extensive consultation process.”

“The new school will be built on industrial land in East Chezzetcook, which will allow for future development in the area including a community hub of recreational services,” the news release said.

That land is the Eastern Shore Industrial Park — about 6 km from Gaetz Brook Junior High and 10 km from Eastern Shore District High.

My gut tells me that putting a school on industrial land is one step above putting an educational institute in an abandoned prison. Will the football field be in the parking lot next door? Will the view of concrete, 18-wheelers and chained-link fence be conducive to learning? Check the full article to see what some of the councillors had to say.

But wait, there’s more!

Woodford has a few other quick hits from council’s busy Tuesday. A best of the rest, if you will:

  • Council is asking for a report on restoring Sir Sandford Fleming Cottage in Armdale (an issue Philip Moscovitch wrote about for the Examiner last month)
  • A motion passed unanimously for a staff report “to identify options for considering an indoor skate park space” in HRM after Coun. Waye Mason brought a petition with over 5,000 signatures to council.
  • And councillors voted to again pledge their support for a municipal park in the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area

I don’t know who was busier yesterday — council or Woodford. Check out his third article for more details on these stories.

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Views

Atlantic Canada’s post-pandemic potential

Waiting for the great leap forward. Photo: publicdomainpictures.net

The Financial Post ran an article by Joe O’Connor this week titled Atlantic Canada is the new land of opportunity even if the rest of Canada doesn’t know it yet. I tend to be a sucker for positive national or international media coverage of our region. We’ve so often been an afterthought on the big stage (anyone who’s spoken to someone who considers Ontario “the east” will know what I’m talking about) that any mention of us from beyond our borders is guaranteed clickbait for me.

And we’ve received some of that lately. Through sacrifice and regional solidarity, we’ve handled this pandemic better than most and it’s been refreshing to be leading the charge on something lately. The New York Times even featured Nova Scotia’s pandemic response in an op-ed last year.

When I opened the Financial Post’s article, however, I was disappointed. It wasn’t the pat on the back I was hoping for.

There was some praise of our pandemic response and our land’s natural beauty, as well as the usual clichéd talk about the laid-back, homely disposition of our people (myth buster: there are assholes everywhere – not just TO), but when it came to talking about what made Atlantic Canada a burgeoning “land of opportunity” — how we could create jobs and inspire young people to stay or return as innovators and entrepreneurs — the focus was pretty narrow.

Most of the article looked at the potential for the Atlantic provinces to create our own homegrown airline to replace West Jet and Air Canada as they pull out of some of our smaller airports. Establishing our own airline industry could create a whole new slew of jobs while improving our transportation infrastructure, O’Connor writes. I was hoping for a broader vision.

The article, while unsatisfying, did get me thinking about the potential for the Atlantic provinces coming out of the pandemic. How could this “great reset” benefit our region in the long-run?

First off, this pandemic has shown we can coalesce our Atlantic power to work together on big issues that might otherwise overwhelm our small provinces individually. Constant communication and cooperation amongst the four provinces allowed us to save some semblance of normalcy this summer. The Atlantic Bubble was a success deep into the fall, before the second wave hit. Businesses were able to reopen and many of us got the chance to become local tourists and rediscover our own part of the country.

This type of intense, regional coordination could continue after the pandemic to meet big challenges like the climate crisis. We are four provinces surrounded by rising sea levels, looking straight into the eye of more powerful hurricanes in the future. Could a more interconnected Atlantic region be what’s needed to work with the federal government and accomplish the lofty goal of the Atlantic Loop, the cable connection that would help Nova Scotia and New Brunswick phase out coal with electricity sent from Muskrat Falls in Labrador? (The CBC reported last month that the first of the long-promised power from the hydro-electric facility finally has arrived in NS).

Instead of the old idea of a Maritime or Atlantic union, maybe we can stay separate while working together on common interests to accomplish bigger, forward-thinking goals, like combating the climate crisis.

Of all the changes that have come out of the pandemic, I think the normalization of remote work could stand to benefit us the most.

In the fall, the Guardian published an article about the “huge potential for rural areas offering quality of life but not much potential for employment.” The Atlantic provinces seem primed to benefit from this potential.

As you’ve probably noticed, Atlantic Canada has a lot of rural areas, and keeping and attracting young workers has long been an issue here — as has employment outside centralized areas like Halifax. The viability of working from home and the lower housing costs (yes, HRM is in an affordable housing crisis and houses around the province are routinely being snapped up above the asking price, but it’s still a vast improvement over costs in places like Vancouver) could attract more young people to move, return and stay.

I’ve already had friends move back from Toronto during the pandemic — friends I’d thought were long lost to Ontario — to buy property here while continuing to work online. That, admittedly, is one issue with the potential of remote work. We might be able to draw young workers to our struggling communities, but how many of them will be working remotely for companies in Halifax, Fredericton or St. John’s, and how many will keep working for companies in the west, Ontario or the States? Still, when international travel and immigration is a long way off from restarting, the benefits of this new working dynamic are worth considering.

Atlantic Canada is still a struggling region. Despite our overall successes in combating the pandemic, we are going to come out of it with an economy that continues to struggle, increased debt, and a public health system that, while providing heroic service these past few months, is still overburdened, with huge wait times for surgeries and a desperate need for family doctors.

The pandemic has made every region on earth a “land of opportunity.” The key is to find what unique opportunities we have here, to come out of this dark stretch with a long-term vision of what our region could be, so that we not only survive this pandemic, but overcome it in a way that will allow future generations to thrive here.

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Noticed

Frantically changing all his passwords. Photo: unsplash.com

Safer Internet Day.

If you happened to be on the internet yesterday — and since you’re online right now and it’s the year 2021, I’ll assume you were — you might’ve noticed ads for this “event” on different sites. It was, apparently, the 18th edition of Safer Internet Day, an international day first initiated by the EU to promote internet safety, privacy and security.

Major sites made reference to it. Google, for example, put a reminder on their home page to check your privacy settings, while Youtube had a whole page of safer internet commitments like “curbing extremist content” and “fighting misinformation.”

I remember the first time I saw a video on YouTube. After a checkup, my doctor kept me back to show me a Belgian TV interview (that I’d later learn was fake). In it, a man who’s been left castrated after an unfortunate hospital mishap is interviewed by a host who can’t stop laughing at his guest’s high-pitched voice. At no point during those two minutes did I think, “If they aren’t careful with this website, it could break democracy.”

But now big, heady ideas like free speech, censorship, and the dangers of misinformation come up when we talk about the future of the internet and its platforms. The laissez-faire internet we know and love/hate could become an early blip in the internet’s history. So I thought I’d look back to a simpler time, when our main internet concerns were chat room predators, email scams, and your mom needing to use the phone. I was interested in what earlier discussions there had been over internet regulation. How has the world wide web been the wild west for so long?

Flashback to May of 1999 — right around the time I would have started going online — and the CRTC’s decision to officially wash their hands of oversight of content on this new communications medium. As the internet grew more popular and began to rival radio and TV, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission released a public notice that said “the majority of services now available on the Internet consist predominantly of alphanumeric text, and, therefore, do not fall within the scope of the Broadcasting Act and are thus outside the Commission’s jurisdiction.”

That’s right: alphanumeric text — or, to put it in laymen’s terms, writing — does not qualify as broadcasting. The Commission also noted that users’ ability to customize their experience and create their own content further separated the new digital frontier from traditional broadcasting.

So there you have it. They looked at how to enforce a new, messy network that transcended borders and they essentially took the “not my monkey, not my circus” approach.

Still, the Commission acknowledged that some shady stuff does happen online, but they said that that was (and still is) for the courts to take care of. “Alphanumeric text” and user customization were cited once again:

“The Commission acknowledges the expressions of concern that have been made about the distribution of offensive and potentially illegal content on the Internet…The Commission acknowledges the views of the majority of parties to the proceeding that generally-applicable Canadian laws, coupled with self-regulatory initiatives, rather than the Broadcasting Act are more appropriate means for dealing with offensive material in new media. The vast majority of such content, particularly hate propaganda, is beyond the regulatory jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Act because it consists predominantly of alphanumeric text. As such, it falls outside of the definition of a “program” set out in the Act. In keeping with the overall policy stated earlier, significantly customized content does not fall within the definition of broadcasting and that content which is broadcasting will be exempt from regulation.”

The CRTC also dismissed other concerns, like the lack of mandated Canadian content — enough Canadians post online that that takes care of itself, they said — or that the internet was encroaching on the business of radio and TV stations, both of whom are subject to licensing fees and strict regulation:

“The Commission considers that new media have not had any detrimental impact on conventional radio and television audiences. The Commission is of the view that the effect of new media on television audience size will be limited at least until such time as high-quality video programming can be distributed on the Internet.

The Commission also agrees with most participants in the proceeding that there is no evidence that the Internet has had any negative financial impact on the advertising revenues of traditional broadcasters. In fact, radio advertising revenues have increased since 1993, and television advertising revenues have grown steadily over the past twenty years.”

Those trends, I believe, have not continued — I’ll have to do some digging.

The internet was a different place when this came out. I expected this CRTC notice to be a more quaint read, a good laugh at the naiveté of the past, but even before the new millennium the Commission saw the potential dangers of hate speech and the threat an unregulated internet could pose to old broadcast markets. For better or worse, they decided to keep those issues at arm’s length.

Maybe it’s time for an update?

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Government

City

Wednesday

Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — live webcast, with live captioning on a text-only site

Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting; no dial-in or live broadcast

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting; no dial-in or live broadcast

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — live broadcast of audio and Power Point presentations

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm) — virtual meeting; no dial-in or live broadcast

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — video conference to discuss “Homes for Special Care: Identification and Management of Health and Safety Risks – June 2016 Report of the Auditor General, Chapter 1”, and “Managing Home Care Support Contracts – November 22, 2017 Report of the Auditor General, Chapter 3.” With Kevin Orrell, Deputy Minister, Department of Health and Wellness.

On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

BRIC NS Student Seminar Series Primary Health Care Presentations (Wednesday, 12:30pm) — Justine Dol will present “Essential Coaching for Every Mother during COVID-19: Findings from a feasibility, pre-post intervention study of a remote, text message based postnatal educational program for first time mothers”; Melanie Santhikumar will present “Pilot Study: Computer Based Auditory Training for Auditory Processing Disorders from mild Traumatic Brain Injury.”

Thursday

Endomembrane pH Dysregulation and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (Thursday, 12pm) — John Orlowski from McGill University will talk via MS Teams.

Megan Aston. Photo via dal.ca

Global Health Journal Club (Thursday, 12pm) — Megan Aston will facilitate this virtual event, titled “Challenges and Opportunities from COVID-19 for Global Sustainable Development.”

Sarah Kraeutner. Photo via Researchgate.net

Learning, learning, learning: the three stages of my career (todate) as a neuroscientist (Thursday, 1pm) — Sarah Kraeutner from the University of British Columbia will talk.

Clockwise from top left: Charnell Brooks, Zelda Hippolyte, David Archer, Robert Seymour Wright, Barbara Roberts, Nwanneka Ejiofor.

Panel Discussion on Fitting African Centred Perspectives into Social Work Practice (Thursday, 5:30pm) — via Collaborate Webinars, with Charnell Brooks, Zelda Hippolyte, David Archer, Nwanneka Ejiofor, and Barbara Roberts; moderated by Robert Seymour Wright

Bonita Lawrence. Photo via smu.ca

N’in D’La Owey Innklan: Mi’kmaq Sojourns in England (Thursday, 7pm) — virtual launch of Bonita Lawrence’s novel, with guests Marie Battiste, Hannah Beaulieu, Sean Hillier, and Cathy Martin

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

No public events

Thursday

International Day of Women and Girls in Science (Thursday, 2pm) — a Zoom session with Jessica Campbell, Defence Scientist with Defence Research and Development Canada

Afua Cooper. Photo contributed.

African Heritage Month: Rhythm & Poetry (Thursday, 6:30pm) — open mic Zoom event with guest poet Afua Cooper


In the harbour

21:00, Dalian Express, a container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka


Footnotes

Which U.S. record will stand longer: seven Super Bowls or two impeachments?

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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. The Financial Post nonsense about starting an airline is ridiculous on so many levels. To name a few: near-collapse of airline industry due to the pandemic and the ongoing instability of the airline business, massive capital required, Air Canada and Westjet have not gone out of business, and this thing called the climate catastrophe. Floating the idea of high-speed rail would at least show some imagination. I have to wonder if this is planting the idea as a way to squeeze money from gullible (or connected) politicians for projects that will make a few people rich rich rich but never actually be built. Are we not already launching rockets to Mars in Canso?

    1. Canada might be the skinniest country in the world other than maybe Chile, Japan or (western) Australia – nearly all of us live in a narrow strip of land along the US border. A rail line from Halifax to Vancouver plus some branches down into southern Ontario and up into Alberta would serve 85% of us.

      1. I routinely e-mail my MP, Darren Fisher, with pleas to get the VIA passenger service upgraded and increased. The freight line is vitally important for the success of the Port of Halifax. Yet this single shared rail line crosses a vulnerable stretch of land, the Isthmus of Chignecto, which if breached will break rail and road connections and turn Nove Scotia into an island. I’ve read the the rail bed is the only thing preventing this from happening with a not-so-distant-future major storm surge.
        Whatever, rail is more important to us economically and socially than a homegrown tiny airline.

        1. Oh so true and so scary. One good hurricane up the Bay of Fundy (just lucky it didn’t happen last year) and out goes the rail line and we are like the Port of Churchill was for how long? The engineers know what needs to be done — move road and rail line inland — but politicians are still doing studies. Nova Scotia has only a 3-day supply of food, I understand, at any one time. Let’s just DO this work, this year.

  2. Hopefully when people arrive here to work from home and find out how poor internet service is outside of HRM it will put more pressure on Bell and Eastlink to upgrade their infrastucture.