News

1. Party leaders debate economic policy

Jennifer Henderson reports on yesterday’s leaders’ debate hosted by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. Not surprisingly, the focus was economic issues, although health care and mental health care (why are we still making this distinction?) figured in the debate as well.

Henderson writes:

So which party should you trust to manage the economy for the next four years? How would their approaches differ? That’s essentially what Halifax Chamber of Commerce president Patrick Sullivan asked the three leaders during a 90-minute “conversation” on Zoom. Their answers may surprise you.

“In eight years of government, we haven’t once increased taxes or fees,” said Rankin. “We need to make sure that we are living within our means. The spending that is proposed by both opposition parties are in the billions — adding structural deficits that we cannot incur right now. I heard Gary (Burrill) reference a supposed cut, there are no cuts to services under this government.”…

Burrill reminded the audience of cuts to the film tax credit and layoffs at the Department of Rural and Economic Development when the Liberals replaced the NDP Dexter government eight years ago. And Burrill challenged Rankin’s four-year commitment to balance the budget when other Canadian provinces estimate it will take six years to get back on track after the jolt from COVID-19.

Houston claimed a PC government would balance the budget within six years. He asked the Chamber of Commerce audience to support a PC policy idea designed to put more money in workers’ pockets at a time when the cost of living is on the rise.

Henderson is her usual comprehensive self in this piece, so you should read it to get the full story.

I just want to ask what the hell is going on in the graphics featuring the leaders at the top of this page? Houston looks like he’s about to con you out of your house, Rankin looks downtrodden, and Burrill — well, I guess Burrill looks OK, but that that slogan “Something better” just seems completely underwhelming to me. Like, what is the lowest possible bar you could set?

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2. COVID-19 long-haulers relieved as province releases tracking and support tool

Halifax resident Jennifer Mont, 29, became ill with COVID-19 last April and can no longer work because of her debilitating symptoms. Photo: Contributed

For a significant subset of people infected by COVID-19, symptoms persist long after the individuals are no longer infectious. For months these people, known as long-haulers, have felt largely abandoned by the provincial government, which seemed to offer them few resources.

Now, they have a new tool to help track symptoms, provide information on what to expect, and help in finding support, Yvette d’Entremont reports.

Last November, d’Entremont wrote about long-haulers who were frustrated. COVID-19 had left them weakened, sometimes with trouble breathing, and yet there seemed to be little official recognition of their plight. At the time, d’Entremont spoke with long-haulers Doug and Lisa Cochrane of Hacketts Cove. Doug described his post-COVID experience as feeling closer to 75 than his actual age of 55. He said:

Sometimes I get out of bed and my feet are so sore I can’t stand on them to use the washroom or to let the dogs out. I just can’t walk. I don’t want to sound maudlin or anything like that, but sometimes I feel like I’m feeling what the end of life feels like, some days it’s just really that bad, not mentally but physically. It’s not a good feeling.

Lisa added:

I’d like the Premier and Doctor Strang to understand that they’ve done an admirable job doing what they can do. However, they need to take a step farther and they need to look at long haulers. They need to acknowledge us. They need to make sure that we have access to treatment or access to rehabilitation.

Now, d’Entremont reports, the province has announced the launch of a new website for long-haulers called MyCOVIDRecoveryNS.ca.

She writes:

“Recovering from COVID-19 is different for everyone, and it does not matter how old you are or how healthy you were before you got COVID-19,” Dr. Christy Bussey, medical lead for the QEII COVID-19 inpatient service at NSH, said in the news release.

“Some people feel better in a few weeks. For others, it may take months. Our hope is that this website will help individuals navigate their journey and support them as they work with their health care providers toward recovery.”

d’Entremont speaks with Joe Cullen, a long-hauler she interviewed previously, and finds he welcomes the site.

This is just fantastic. I think it’s awesome that they’re doing this…Obviously it couldn’t have been available last year, but had it been it really would have been amazing for me personally.

Back literally a year ago it was more of a panic for me not knowing if this was going to be the new normal for my body, aka if I’m going to have to live like this for the rest of my life, or if there are ways through it, or what procedures I’d need to get it checked out, how do you move forward, that kind of stuff.

One thing I did not know before reading d’Entremont’s story: 30 to 50% of people who contract COVID-19 still have symptoms three months later.

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3. Two new cases of COVID-19: Both people 19 or younger

Nova Scotia announced two new cases of COVID-19 yesterday; both are people age 19 or younger. One case is related to travel, while the other is a close contact of a previously announced case.

In his daily COVID-19 roundup, Tim Bousquet shares this graph, showing vaccination coverage among those 12 or over. (None of the vaccines are approved for children under 12.)

Bousquet also links to a helpful article in Slate on why you shouldn’t panic when you hear that, say, three-quarters of all people infected in an outbreak have been vaccinated. The short version: When a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, it’s not surprising to see many breakthrough cases. But your odds of contracting the disease when vaccinated — and of requiring hospitalization — remain low.

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4. The Tideline, episode 40: Adam Reid and Halifax Pride

In this week’s episode of The Tideline, Tara Thorne catches up with Adam Reid, executive director of Halifax Pride, to talk about how the pandemic helped organizers create a “thoughtful” event for this year.

Click here to listen to that episode for free!

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5. New interactive map: This should be housing

The Bloomfield Centre site in March 2020. Photo: Zane Woodford

I had planned to write something about a new project called This should be housing, but I see Robert Devet at the Nova Scotia Advocate is already on the case, so I will point you to his story, here.

The This should be housing is an interactive map (meaning you can add to it) conceived by Halifax-based journalist lorax b. horne.

The Advocate piece says horne got the idea for the map from “This should be housing” stickers created by Halifax Mutual Aid. The idea is to note locations on the map that are either empty or under-used, highlighting that the housing crisis is not an issue of supply.

The map’s “About” page says:

We believe housing is a human right. This map was created to serve a dual purpose: a memory aid, and a space for proposal.

Critical times call for critical imagination. The Housing For All plan talks about how to create “30,000 units of permanently affordable housing, enough for all those in core housing need and who are homeless” in Nova Scotia. The plan was written by many front-line workers and advocates and requires a capital investment of $531 million each year for 10 years plus about $161 million a year for operating spending. Such a commitment means every person can afford to think creatively and get involved in facing the crisis.

“This should be housing.” is made independently by coders and journalists in collaboration with Halifax Mutual Aid and the Anti Eviction Mapping Project.

Screenshot of the “This should be housing” map.

The map is colour-coded, indicating properties that are privately, municipally, federally, or provincially owned (or whose ownership is unknown). People placing pins don’t hesitate to editorialize a bit too, as you can see in the image above.

Devet writes:

When I lived in Amsterdam in the seventies the lack of affordable housing caused people to occupy empty buildings there and elsewhere in the country.

It was both a protest against real estate speculators who weren’t interested in providing housing, and a direct action born of necessity, because these people literally had no roof over their head.

That was at a different time, and in another country. The dutch “krakers” or squatters were successful because they had broad public support, and also because there were unintended legal protections that made eviction difficult once an occupied space was established as a home.

But with landlords chopping at the bit to increase rents by hundreds of dollars as soon as the Covid emergency is lifted, the need to keep pressing all levels of government to act rather than study and tread water is clear. In that context This should be housing is a wonderful tool to help keep the pressure up.

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6. Rich people ruin everything: latest installment

Some of the shorefront Andrew Metlege has applied to infill after purchasing a house at 1454 Birchdale Ave. Image: Google Earth

Chris Lambie has a good story in the Chronicle Herald on Templeton Properties head Andrew Metlege’s plan to infill 1,668 square metres of what is now water on the Northwest Arm. One resident tells Lambie that likely represents more than 1,000 loads of fill.

Metlege has applied to Transport Canada for permission to carry out the project.

Lambie speaks to Halifax mayor Mike Savage, who, he writes, “is concerned there’s been too much infilling while politicians are trying to figure out the best way to regulate the practice.”

MP Andy Fillmore and Senator Stan Kutcher have also expressed reservations. But the best part of Lambie’s piece is his interview with Justin Stewart of Eastern Passage, who fishes lobster in the Arm. (Did you know there was any lobster fishing in the Arm? I did not.)

Stewart says it’s a great spot to lay traps, and that infilling threatens to turn it into a “mud river.” He tells Lambie:

“Along the edges (of the Arm) are all harder bottom rock. You get out in the centre and you get out in mud. There’s no chance for anything to live or grow out there.”

Lambie writes:

He puts about 75 of his 250 traps out in the Arm each spring. More than a dozen of them go in front of the Metlege property, just south of the Waegwoltic Club…

Lobsters aren’t the only creatures he sees regularly in the spot now earmarked for infill. “There’s a lot of other life there – crab and flounder, perch and everything. There’s lots of other fish living there, too,” said Stewart, noting he’s also seen porpoises and seals frolicking in the Arm.

He points out that Fairview Cove, which has been infilled for over a decade, was once good lobstering.

“Those lobsters all left along there. They’re not back yet,” Stewart said. “I think they get scared away or crushed – like killed. Then the habitat is all (ruined); it must take years for everything to grow back.”

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Views

Diversity and access in the great outdoors

Little Stillwater on the Big Dam/Frozen Ocean loop in Kejimkujik National Park. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

My partner and I spent Monday to Wednesday of this week at Keji, paddling the Big Dam-Frozen Ocean loop. (We finally managed to score the coveted Site 10.)

I’ve been doing backcountry canoe trips for 30 years or so. Some of the techniques and skills I’ve used haven’t changed much over that time. But changes in materials and other technologies like water filtration have led to real improvements. We used to dissolve horrible-tasting iodine pills in water, or pump it through bulky and inconvenient systems that seemed to inevitably clog up. On this trip, we’d just dip a bottle with a built-in microfilter into the lake or river. Couldn’t be simpler.

But one thing that hasn’t changed much is a lack of diversity and of representations of diverse populations enjoying the great outdoors. I recently had coffee with a friend who said, “Mountain Equipment Co-op is the whitest place in Halifax.”

A few months ago, while I was producing a podcast for the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, (I’ll say a bit more about it below, in “Footnotes”), I interviewed Chúk Odenigbo, who has thought a lot about these issues. Odenigbo is a doctoral student in medical geography at University of Ottawa, an avid fan of the outdoors (though not of camping) and a campaigner for making outdoor activities more accessible to broader populations. While I was in the back-country, I thought about our conversation, only part of which made it into the podcast.

Odenigbo told me that the classic image of the outdoorsman as a white guy who can survive in the woods with little more than a knife and a backpack has consequences to this day (our interview was in French; the translation is mine):

People are amazed when they see a Black man out on a hike. Or a Black woman camping. There have been plenty of stories written sharing the voices of Black people in outdoor spaces, talking about people being surprised or shocked to see them in the outdoors, and offering advice because they assume they are beginners when it comes to outdoor activities. So that’s a problem.

He said some Black people in North America may have a complex relationship with the outdoors, because of inter-generational trauma going back to the days of slavery.

I’ve read some interesting papers by Black writers saying they were ill-at-ease in fields, because it made them think of ancestors being brought to them and forced to do very difficult work for which they were not paid. When slavery ended in Canada, it was still dangerous to be in a rural area or in nature, because you could be captured and hidden in someone’s house and forced to work for them. So urban areas were safer. You had less of a chance of being recaptured and hidden in someone’s basement because they wanted a slave. So we can see that nature represented danger. Now, my generation, the generation before mine and after mine, are trying to reclaim nature and change the relationship between Black people and nature.

Referring to a social media campaign, he said:

The hashtag #BlackInNature is even more powerful, because it’s not just a question of representation, which is important, but it’s also about changing our relationship with nature so the next generation doesn’t have to experience the same inter-generational trauma.

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Noticed

I’ve been listening to a limited-run podcast released last year by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation called Stuff the British Stole, and I’m really enjoying it.

The show is hosted by Marc Fennel, who describes himself in the first episode as a product of colonialism (born in Australia to a mother who is Indian from Singapore and an Irish father.) Fennel says he thinks of himself as “the worst kind of ethnic. I don’t speak any other languages, no accents, no real understanding of my own history. That said I can cook and more importantly, I still count towards your diversity quota.”

The podcast avoids some of the best-known examples of stuff the British stole (although Lord Elgin, whose pilfering of marbles from the Parthenon in Athens does get a message), and it takes a thoughtful and light-hearted rather than polemic approach. Fennel is an engaging host and a pleasure to listen to. Each episode focuses on one item, or group of items.

Here’s how ABC describes the podcast:

Each item will illuminate stories of politics, genocide, heroism, survival, and justice. Ultimately this isn’t really a series about the past. It’s about making sense of the world we have today.

There are traces of the empire in everything from our borders, education, medicine, and of course laws. The way we feel about these traces, whether we should acknowledge them or ignore them, is a hot topic globally — among descendants of colonisers and colonised.

Even if you think you know this story, this series proves that history is not as straightforward as you might expect: for every campaigner fighting for the return of a stolen object, often there’s another arguing that its return would be a sticking plaster over a gaping wound of history.

The first episode looks at a wooden sculpture of a tiger mauling a British soldier, created for Tipu Sultan, known as “the Tiger of Mysore.” One of the great characters we meet is Alice Procter, an art historian who used to lead her own guerilla tours of London museums, pointing out items of dubious providence and how they came to be part of the museum collections, and how they relate to “the darkest parts of colonialism and imperialism.” Procter tells Fennel she was left alone in the museums for a long time.  “They thought I was just a regular tour guide… and people would look at me and think oh yeah, she’s a nice white girl with an art history background, she’s probably an official educator.”

I will confess that I actually cried a bit listening to the episode called The Headhunters, about the once-booming trade in preserved tattooed Maori heads. Fennel meets a Maori tattoo artist, the first MP to have traditional Maori facial tattoos, and the remarkable Te Herekiekie Haerehuka Herewini, who has spent 13 years finding and repatriating these heads. (In his first meeting with staff from a medical museum in Britain he had to leave the room to contain himself after being told the museum would release the heads in its collection because they were of “no value.”)

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Government

City

Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — live streamed on YouTube

Province

No meetings


On campus

Hey, it’s August.


In the harbour

Halifax
04:30: Dee4Elm, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
06:00: Gotland, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Rostock, Germany
11:30: Aristomenis, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Dubai
11:30: Morning Cornella, sails from Autoport for sea
22:00: Gotland sails for Bilboa, Spain

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


Footnotes

I mentioned above that I produced a podcast for Pier 21, so I’ll put in a plug for it. It’s called D’innombrables voyages, and is hosted by Montreal-based writer Kim Thuy.

In the podcast, Kim and I feature interviews with or stories about immigrants to Canada with great stories. I interviewed Odenigbo as part of an episode on a younger generation of immigrants, which also included Isabelle Dasylva-Gill, the first Black woman to head the organization representing Acadians and Francophones in PEI.

We also have the stories of a Chinese woman, Wu Byn, who came to Canada to study French with the aim of becoming a French teacher back home — but who wound up taking a completely different turn — and Montreal celebrity chef Nantha Kumar, who I remember back when we were both starting out on the alt-weekly scene in Montreal. (He was a journalist at the time.) The podcast is in French. Tina Pittaway produced the seven-episode English podcast, called Countless Journeys, telling another set of fascinating stories.


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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. We rented kayaks from an outfitter at the Fairbanks Centre on the Shubie Canal in Dartmouth last Sunday and it was astonishing and really heart-warming to see the diversity among other families doing the same. A lot of them admitted to never having canoed or kayaked before (and it showed!) but they all seemed to be having a whale of a good time.

    1. my partner who is Black went for a walk a few years ago somewhere in the Bedford area, and someone promptly called the police for “suspicious activity”. Police were very apologetic when they arrived and saw that he just went for a walk, but he has been since very reluctant to go for walks by himself.
      More recently, we have run into more Black folks going for walks etc, but I am sure it could be much better than this. It is another negative way how racism impacts mental and physical health of Black folks.