News

1. Are gun control and red flag laws the answer to reducing gun violence?

Linda MacDonald (l) and Jeanne Sarson. Photo contributed

It was a busy long weekend here at the Examiner, with a couple of new features published, Jennifer Henderson’s latest, plus Stephen Kimber’s weekly column. (I figured Kimber would take the week off, but what do I know?)

Let’s start with Joan Baxter’s feature, “Canada is an after-the-fact country.”

The title is from a quote by Carleton University criminology professor Darryl Davies. He tells Baxter that when it comes to preventing gun violence:

…we’re an after-the-fact country. We do things after the fact. People are dead. … we have a problem as well because we have all these coroners’ inquests in Canada. None of them can find culpability. None of them find anybody responsible. None of them are binding in law. None of them are usually even acted upon. And so it’s a farce.

After the Nova Scotia mass shooting, the federal government moved quickly to ban about 1,500 models of guns, and there is talk of introducing red flag laws. Baxter asked the public safety ministry what those would entail, and got back a reply attributable to the office of minister Bill Blair:

The red flag laws we plan to introduce will expedite the process of suspending a firearms license. Under existing laws, this process can take days or weeks. We know that in dangerous situations, we don’t always have days or weeks before that situation becomes deadly.

We plan to bring forward legislation at the first opportunity to introduce red flag laws, in conjunction with stricter firearm storage regulations, additional resources for law enforcement, and new offences and penalties for individuals who break the law.

To some, gun bans and red flag laws may seem like self-evident positive measures. Baxter digs deeper, revealing the challenges and complexity of the issues.

One of the voices I appreciated in this story was ER doctor Alan Drummond, a gun-owner and member of the Conservative Party of Canada:

Let’s forget the term gun control. Let’s call this a reduction of firearm violence. So it has a number of different faces. Yes, there is one component that is criminality. One component is that it is difficult to diagnose a mass shooter. But if we’re trying to reduce mortality, then mental health comes to the fore, because 75% of all gun deaths in Canada are due to suicide. [There is also] intimate partner violence … femicide … but there’s also the use of firearms as a mechanism of intimidation in a domestic violence scenario.

Read “Canada is an after-the-fact country” here.

We need more of this kind of in-depth, thoughtful journalism, and it is simply not possible anymore at many outlets.

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2. Northwood Centre has wanted to end double-bunking for years, but the government didn’t provide funding

The Northwood nursing home on Gottingen Street in Halifax. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Jennifer Henderson looks at the double-bunking situation at the Northwood Centre and speaks to Carolyn Van Gurp, a resident of Northwood Towers. Van Gurp’s mother lives next door, at Northwood Centre, where COVID-19 has caused so much suffering and death. (The buildings are adjacent, but not connected.) Henderson writes:

“From day one I have racked my brain thinking of ways to protect my mother from the virus,” continues Van Gurp. “The high level of care my mother requires means that it is not possible to move her to my apartment or offsite. Northwood sought government funding before the pandemic to reconfigure from shared to single rooms. I can think of nothing doable beyond what Northwood has already done to protect our loved ones.”…

On February 28, during a debate over the provincial budget estimates,  Halifax Needham MLA Lisa Roberts asked Health Minister Randy Delorey why — for three consecutive years — the government did not support a capital funding request from Northwood to build new floors above to eliminate some of  the  “double and triple-bunking” of residents in the Centre…

Delorey characterized the Northwood proposal as “a complete replacement” and said discussions with the Department of Health were continuing. He noted the province had allocated $15 million more for new long-term care facilities and had announced a total of 162 new beds for Cape Breton, Meteghan, and Halifax.

Henderson also clears up confusion about Northwood, noting there are three separate buildings, with very different populations, but that the media often lump them all together as “Northwood.” (I have been guilty of this and will do better.)

Read “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” here.

3. Backroad deal (and no, it’s not about bootlegging)

A stand within the community-proposed Ingram River Wilderness Area. It contains a 400-year plus eastern hemlock tree. Many other trees are in the 150-year-old range. Photo courtesy Mike Lancaster

More in-depth, thoughtful journalism. Linda Pannozzo is back, with the first in a two-part investigative series about an access road through the woods by Ingramport.

As he came up over the plateau, [Mike] Lancaster spied a clearing in the distance.

“I just got a sinking feeling,” he says. As he got closer he could see that it was a clearcut for what looked like a new road, right through the proposed wilderness area, spanning about a kilometer and a half long and 100 metres wide in some areas.

Convinced that a section of the new road contained an old growth forest, Lancaster immediately started to collect age data on the cut stumps and found some of the trees were between 150 and 180 years old.

Later, he confronted DLF Minister Iain Rankin to let him know what he discovered and asked how it could have happened, especially given the unwritten promise of a clearcutting moratorium at least until the biodiversity assessment was completed. What’s more, the province’s Old Forest Policy stipulates the province is to “conserve the remaining old growth forests on public land,” not cut them down. 2 Lancaster told Rankin that if he didn’t receive a justifiable explanation, he (and the Saint Margarets Bay Stewardship Association) would go to the media with the story.

After consulting with staff, Rankin responded that the road was necessary for the $140 million Highway 103 Twinning Project — a 22 kilometre expansion from west of Exit 5 at Upper Tantallon to approximately two kilometres west of Exit 6 at Hubbards.

When is a road more than a road? When it cuts through old-growth forest, opens access for clearcutting, and seems designed in part to benefit the well-connected promoters of a an asphalt plant.

Pannozzo is relentless in ferreting out emails and documents and holding decision-makers to account. As someone who lives in the general vicinity of where this story is set, I’ve heard all kinds of stories. It’s fascinating to see Pannozzo lay it all out.

Read “Backroad deal” here.

4. The ferry’s going to run this year, no really, absolutely, for sure

Lloyd Hines. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Stephen Kimber brings us the latest installment in his comedy series: “Lloyd’s Ferry Fairy Tales, Spring 2020 edition.”

All right, it’s an accidental comedy series, starring transportation minister Lloyd Hines, having a laugh with us over the fantasy that the Yarmouth ferry is on track to set sail again this summer. (Last year, Hines managed to keep the routine going until long past it was obvious there would be no sailing, so I guess he decided to offer a return engagement.)

Kimber writes:

You may recall that, when we last saw our finger-in-the-reality-dyke transportation minister sometime last October, Lloyd Hines was still bravely predicting the Yarmouth-Bar Harbor ferry would begin its 2019 summer season any day now, even though everyone knew that ship had long since (not) sailed.

Last year, Nova Scotia taxpayers forked out $17.8 million to subsidize the non-operator’s non-ferry service. Not to forget foregoing millions in never-seen Yankee tourist dollars that never made landfall in Nova Scotia because the ferry — did we mention — did not sail.

But that was then. What’s past is prologue. Life goes on…

The company appears so uncertain there will be a season, in fact, that MacDonald acknowledged…“no material marketing investments are being made.”

Pandemic aside, the ongoing renovations to the ferry terminal in Bar Harbor Maine, which Nova Scotia is paying for, still aren’t even complete.

Read “Lloyd’s Ferry Fairy Tales, Spring 2020 edition” here.

Meanwhile, the province is urging tourists to stay home.

Interestingly, while looking around on the Nova Scotia tourism website, I found perhaps the most succinct and clearly explained list of what’s open, what’s not, what’s allowed, and what isn’t. Useful for residents as well as tourists.

5. About that exclusive interview with the premier…

Premier Stephen McNeil at the daily COVID-19 briefing, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia.

Remember the Star Halifax/Star Metro Halifax (the only publication I know of whose title depended on whether or not you were reading the print or online version)?

Let me refresh your memory: It was a free daily, part of a network of papers across the country run by The Toronto Star. Last year, in an effort to cut costs, the Star eliminated the print versions of the regional Star/Star Metro papers, laying off all their journalists, but saying they would later be hiring for their digital-only versions.

A couple of those laid-off writers, Zane Woodford, and Yvette d’Entremont, have become valuable contributors to the Halifax Examiner.

I guess The Star/Star Metro carried on locally in some zombie capacity, because every so often I would see a tweet with relevant local stories, like how Toronto students are feeling about not being able to go to prom.

Join me also in enjoying the absurdity of this:

Every current story but one that I clicked on the Star Halifax home page this morning was from the Canadian Press. (I got tired of clicking at a certain point, so it’s possible there are some from other sources.)

What is the one exception I saw? Well, I guess the Star is back, baby, because it’s an exclusive interview with Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil.

Who is the journalist who scored this scoop? It’s Star staff reporter Ted Fraser. When I click on his name to get his bio, this is what I see:

I am assuming that bio hasn’t been updated for a while, because at the bottom of the interview with McNeil it says Fraser is based in Halifax. His Twitter bio says he’s a grad student at Carleton. (Lots of grad students don’t live in the same city as their university.)

Let’s turn to the exclusive interview itself.

The story starts by quoting Hugh MacLennan, lists the recent tragedies the province has faced, and then asks:

How does Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotia’s premier, keep it together, and lead his province through such a terrible, tragic time?

McNeil, we learn, likes to go for a walk:

Of late, McNeil has tried to mix in some exercise before work to keep healthy.

“There’s been a lot of sadness in Nova Scotia over the last little while, not just due to COVID … and I really had to start finding some time, usually in the morning, to try to go for a walk near where I live, down in the city,” McNeil said.

He praises his colleagues:

McNeil says in addition to Strang, he’s relied heavily on his staff the past month, “who have been carrying the bulk of what I’ve been doing.”

His cabinet have also been crucial in helping to steer the ship, he says, particularly Randy Delorey, the provincial health minister (who has drawn criticism for being tight-lipped on COVID-19), as well the deputy premier and finance minister, Karen Casey.

“Tight-lipped.” Yeah, that’s the way to describe the incredible vanishing health minister.

If Stephen McNeil thinks Randy Delorey has done a great job steering the ship, I’d love to know more about that. Is he active behind the scenes in a way we don’t appreciate? What’s his leadership like?

I don’t know the answer, because the story moves on from there to tell us that after the regular media briefings the premier has more work, and that he also talks to his counterparts and the prime minister regularly.

Look, I don’t blame Ted Fraser for this. He’s got a new gig in a very tough media environment. Every experienced journalist was once a young journalist. I was super-excited when I ran my first piece in the Montreal Gazette, and then I got taken to task for it in a letter to the editor by a writer who called it a puff piece and said I should have questioned more of what the subject of my story told me. And the letter-writer was absolutely right. I’d told this one guy’s story without thinking that some of what he was telling me could have been pretty contentious, and that surely there were other people who didn’t see it the same way as he did. But I didn’t even try to find those people and speak to them.

When you’re talking to the premier though? And you’re touting it as an exclusive? I have to say I would expect more.


Views

Bubble woes

Does your bubble come with free comics and fortunes?

On May 13, Jennifer Henderson reported that chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said “bubble” families were unlikely in Nova Scotia, as a way of easing restrictions:

Strang is not keen on that model because he says it forces people to make stressful choices between their friends (or kids’ friends) and their relatives. He suggests Nova Scotia may go down a different path.

“Right now we have limitations on essential social gatherings for only five people or less,” noted Strang. “Maybe the way to do this is not ‘bubble families’ but loosening some of the restrictions around what type of gatherings and the numbers that are allowed. We continue to look at that in our consultations among various sectors about Phase 1 of the Recovery.”

Well, holy chewing gum, Batman, two days later, Strang confusingly announced that we would be bubbling. Confusingly, because the original announcement specified immediate family members only. The idea is that you can socialize in a non-distancing way with one other household, provided they only do the same with your household.

“Stressful choices” ensued. In our household, the bubble discussion led to the first real conflict of the pandemic, but it was still relatively mild. Others were not so lucky. I asked on Twitter if people would be willing to share their stories with me, and the responses gave me a glimpse of some of the real dilemmas and potential hurt feelings and heartbreaks out there.

When you decide to go into a bubble with someone, you have to implicitly trust them. Your health could depend on their actions. One person who responded to me said:

We have little to no faith in the people we might consider bubbling with.

They were not asking anyone else to be bubble-pals and were hoping to avoid the awkward situation that would ensue if someone asked them.

Someone else, the parent of a young child, said his parents live out of province, so joining up with them was out of the question, and his sibling decided to go with a best friend instead:

I guess our daughter will continue to go without contact with others.

Several people noted that the priorities and language (fire pits, families) seemed to betray a bias for single-family suburban households. “Fall River values” as one person put it.

One respondent to my question said their family is out of province and most of their friends live with roommates or have other close friends they would bubble with, and that having the beaches open meant more to them than the ability to socialize with another household. They added:

Though it does throw into focus how unequal this has been for people living alone vs. people living with families/roommates. Both have good and bad, but living at home with your family for two months is much different than living alone without human contact for two months.

I haven’t seen anything about why Strang changed his mind (perhaps I’ve missed it) but I am curious about the turnaround.

The Peasant’s Pantry shop/restaurant in Chester Basin had some fun on Facebook with the idea of bubbles. Here’s a pic they shared a few days ago.

From a Facebook post by the Peasant’s Pantry restaurant: “Don’t think of it as not being allowed to picnic here, think of it as choosing not to include the black flies + mosquitoes in your bubble!”

Noticed

Over the weekend, I asked people to share the last photo of themselves on their camera roll from before the pandemic/lock-down/state of emergency. I didn’t specify a date. I think most people have their own sense of when things really changed for them.

I asked the question after seeing someone I follow posting a pic of himself in a park in New York. I did not realize that sharing your last “normal photo” was a thing that was going on at at the same time.

At the time, I had no intention of sharing the photos here, but something about them, really got to me, so I asked a few people for permission to share.

“A trip to Peggy’s Cove following a birthday brunch. What a wonderful day.” Photo: Colin Chisholm

Here are Colin Chisholm and Krystyna Amero-Chisholm, on an outing to Peggy’s Cove after having enjoyed waffles at Edible Matters in Hammonds Plains. Part of a big group birthday celebration. Look at how happy they are.

“A shot of an all-day workshop I went to in Behchokò a week before things shut down in the NWT” Photo: Kaila Jefferd-Moore

Kaila Jefferd-Moore shared this photo of a workshop! In person! With participants sitting close to each other and listening to a speaker who is not on a screen! Everyday things that seem so weird now.

“At the home show! Just before the shutdown! Feels like a year ago!” Photo: Tatiana Pietrantoni

Tatiana Pietrantoni is a tailor who lives in Hubbards. These days, she spends most of her time making masks. (I interviewed her yesterday for a story I’m working on.) Her caption captures the feeling of a lot of these photos. Here is a perfectly normal event that feels like it belongs to another world.

Others shared photos of themselves at hockey rinks (one person shuddered recalling her kid high-fiving a mascot at a Mooseheads game), in restaurants, or getting ready to go out for the kind of evening on the town that is impossible now.

There’s something both uplifting and wistful about these photos. I appreciate everyone who shared with me.


Government

City

Tuesday

1pm: Special Budget Committee — Virtual meeting, agenda here.

Wednesday

10am: Special Budget Committee — Virtual meeting, agenda here.

Province

No meetings.


In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
06:00: Julius-S, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
06:00: Federal Mosel, cargo ship, arrives at anchorage from Port Cartier, Quebec
08:10: Algoma Verity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
10:00: Bold, superyacht, arrives at Dartmouth Cove from New York; it’s the middle of an international pandemic and the global economy is in freefall, but someone has 950,000/week to burn, and didn’t we ban non-essential international travel into Canada?
15:00: Maersk Mobiliser, supply ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
15:00: Atlantic Sky sails for New York
16:00: Julius-S sails for New York
17:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 41 for Palm Beach, Florida


Footnotes

Resisted the urge to eat the kids’ leftover pizza for breakfast.

Also, while looking up something else, I ran across the Washington Post headline, “Trump rails against water-saving toilets.” Remember that? Fun times.

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. Thanks for the photo of Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Samson from Truro. I have heard about these woman for years, and their proposal to the UN about torture as it relates to regular life, and not the state sanctioned abuse.

  2. There is one surprising piece of information in the Star interview with Premier McNeil: that McNeil had never met Robert Strang prior to March 13. I would have thought meeting with the Chief Public Health Officer would have been a priority for the Premier even without a pandemic, given the state of the health care system. In fact, they didn’t meet until almost 2 months after it became clear a pandemic was heading our way, and not until after most businesses and individuals were already making their own plans to isolate. If there was planning going on, the Premier obviously wasn’t part of it.

  3. You raise a very good point about that super yacht The Bold arriving here. Who could possibly be getting an exception to the rules? Is anybody asking?

  4. So the virus has finally killed the stadium, will undoubtedly kill the convention centre and can’t kill the ferry?

    1. Why in the name of all that is sensible is NS NOT negotiating for a suspension or at least a significant reduction in the subsidy we are paying for the ferry? They got a full subsidy last year for doing absolutely nothing, and it looks like it is coming up for the same this year. The world is NOT normal right now. Everything else is being cut, reduced, cancelled etc. It is the height of arrogance to not cut back the wasting of money on that useless ferry.