1. Premier “anxious” about increasing COVID cases

A photo of Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston standing at a microphone during an announcement about health care in Nova Scotia.

Remember when we were ready to drop public health restrictions and take our first tentative step into a reopened Nova Scotia? That was 10 days ago.

Now, still suspended in phase 4 of the province’s reopening plan, COVID numbers are inching upward (41 new cases and one death yesterday — see News Item #2 below) and the premier says he’s “anxious” about the increase. Jennifer Henderson reports:

“COVID-19 is still in our province and the actions of Nova Scotians are critical right now,” Houston said. “Please get vaccinated, stay home if you are sick, and continue to follow public health protocols.”

Houston spoke to reporters late Thursday afternoon after he, Health Minister Michelle Thompson, and senior NSH executives completed four days of meetings with front-line health workers across the province. Journalists asked Houston if the latest rise in COVID cases has him considering requiring masks be worn indoors after the province moves into Phase 5 on Oct. 4, when most restrictions are due to be lifted.

“That’s a full discussion we will have with Dr. Strang,” Houston. “If he (Strang) suggests that we move to kind of a modified Phase 5 where masking remains, he will have our support on that.”

The premier said the province is still working on fine tuning its proof of vaccine policy. The Department of Health confirms the federal government is developing a scannable code for cellphones that Nova Scotians may eventually be able to download to gain access to leisure activities such as restaurants, bars, gyms, concerts, and sporting events. As of now, a hard copy of the email Canimmunize sends out after vaccinations will suffice. Proof of vaccination will be required to access a number of services and businesses in this province starting October 4.

Also discussed yesterday: how the premier intends to “fix” healthcare, a platform Houston’s Progressive Conservative Party ran on in August’s provincial election. Houston says a number of short-term solutions will be unveiled in three weeks, while other health care solutions like expanded virtual care, increased doctor recruitment and retention, and decreasing ambulance wait times will take longer to start showing results. See more of what he had to say about how his government intends to fix health care by reading Jennifer Henderson’s full report on Premier Houston’s meeting with the media yesterday.

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2. The rest of your daily dose of pandemic news…

COVID 19 spelled out in white pills, with viruses made from styrofoam balls with swabs stuck in them. All on a red background.
Photo: Edward Jenner/Pexels

As per usual, Tim Bousquet has the full roundup of everything you need to know from yesterday regarding the pandemic in Nova Scotia. So head to his full report for a thorough look at vaccination numbers, testing site locations, case demographics, and potential exposure advisories. If you just want the quick hits, below are the three biggest takeaways from Thursday’s COVID announcements in Nova Scotia:

  • On Thursday, the province announced that a woman in her 80s who lived in the province’s Central Zone died from COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. She’s the 95th person to die from the virus. The province will report her vaccination status next week.
  • There were 41 new cases of the virus reported yesterday, bringing the total known caseload to 147. Eleven are hospitalized with the disease; one of those 11 is in intensive care. Twenty people are considered newly recovered, meaning they are no longer contagious. Of the new cases, three were related to travel, 18 were close contacts, and twenty under investigation.
  • As of end of day yesterday, 73.9% of all Nova Scotians have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. If you include approximately 8,000 military personnel stationed in Nova Scotia who’ve been vaccinated through the military’s vaccination program, the double-dose percentage for the entire province is 74.8%. (And yes, in both cases that includes those ineligible to be vaccinated).

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 pandemic coverage free to the public. If you’d like to support the Examiner in its reporting, you can subscribe or donate here.

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3. In July, RCMP ordered a provincial candidate and an HRP superintendent out of their vehicle at gunpoint. Now, a Halifax councillor is concerned about an email the RCMP sent about the investigation into that incident

A photo of Angela and Dean Simmonds. Angela Simmonds is a Liberal  MLA and Dean Simmonds is a high ranking officer with the Halifax Regional Police.
Angela and Dean Simmonds

Before we get to yesterday’s report from Zane Woodford on Halifax’s recent Board of Police Commissioners meeting, let’s revisit this report from Matthew Byard for the Examiner in July. It covered an incident involving a now-elected MLA (then candidate), an HRP Superintendent, and a drawn gun:

Halifax Regional Police Superintendent Dean Simmonds, who is Black, and his wife Angela Simmonds, who is also Black, said they were racially profiled nearly two weeks earlier when RCMP stopped them and ordered them out of their vehicle at gunpoint with a C8 carbine rifle.

The RCMP said they were investigating a shooting that had been reported in North Preston, where the couple lives. In a statement, the RCMP acknowledged that “The high-risk traffic stop involved a vehicle that matched the suspect vehicle description, with an out-of-province license plate, that was coming from the direction of the nearby community.”

In a joint statement released by the couple last Friday, Angela Simmonds said “The interaction with RCMP police officers provides yet another example of the way Black people continue to be subjected to inhumane treatment and are regarded as dangerous, dishonest, guilty, criminals.”

An investigation is now underway.

Now that we’re up to speed, Zane Woodford has an update on that investigation. A Halifax councillor is concerned about an email then-acting Halifax-district RCMP chief Jeremie Landry wrote days after the incident that became public. The email was sent only to Halifax regional councillors whose districts fall within the RCMP’s jurisdiction.

At Monday’s Board of Police Commissioners meeting, a letter from Coun. Waye Mason drew attention to the email. In that letter Mason outlined his concerns.

So just what did Landry write in that email?

Well, we don’t know exactly. Waye Mason attached a copy of the email in the letter he sent to the Police Commissioners Board, and since correspondence to the board is public, the Examiner requested a copy of the letter Monday. On Thursday, the Examiner received a copy of Mason’s letter, but the attached Landry email was completely redacted, under sections 475(1)(a) and 475(1)(c) of the Municipal Government Act.

To get a detailed look at Mason’s concerns, what he’d like to see the board do, and to see what current RCMP Chief Superintendent Janis Gray had to say when Mason’s letter was discussed, check out Woodford’s full update here.

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4. Examining the public’s right to know in Nova Scotia, part 2

A document completely redacted with grey, floating on a mysterious dark blue background
From a 2019 FOIPOP to the Department of Energy and Mines.

Joan Baxter is back this morning with the second part of her two-part look at the state of freedom of information in Nova Scotia. (You can read the first part here).

Baxter looks at a recent FOIPOP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) request she filed (as she did in part one), speaks with experts about the public’s right to know, and asks why Nova Scotia hasn’t updated its FOIPOP Act since 1977. Why Nova Scotia is ranked worse than Russia in terms of public right to information laws. And just what can be done to improve transparency in this province.

Read the full article here for the conclusion to Baxter’s report from Tuesday.

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1. A few final thoughts on the federal election

A circular yellow sign with a black arrow and the word VOTE printed six times around the circle is seen taped to weathered blue-green cedar shingles.
Signage outside a polling station in Dartmouth, N.S. on Election Day, Sept. 20, 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

A friend of mine sent this article from Jen Gerson, writing for the Canadian online editorial site, the Line.

It was published just before the election, but I was in a fog that week (more on that in Noticed) and haven’t had a Morning File to write in that time, so I thought I’d drop an excerpt here.

It’s a long article, delving into what Gerson sees as the failings of both O’Toole and Trudeau. And her arguments are worthwhile reading — where conservatism in Canada is going, where the Liberal Party might’ve lost its way, what the election means for Trudeau — but it’s this excerpt below that I found most interesting. A thorough, concise poking of holes in the facade that is the Canadian national identity.

I’ve always found the Canadian attitude a little more smug than modest, so I always appreciate a good check. This piece is a good sobering read:

If the collapse of Afghanistan, the anniversary of 9/11, and the rise of China has not made this all abundantly clear by now, we are in the middle of some kind of re-alignment of the world order, as lately evidenced by a major defence pact between America, the U.K. and Australia. A pact we are conspicuously not present for.

Afghanistan and COVID have revealed profound limitations at both the national and provincial level, including a federal bureaucracy so sclerotic that it is falling to perform some of its most basic duties, whether these might include evacuating former staffers now in danger abroad, to standard military procurement, to running a payroll system.

Meanwhile, I possess no certainty about what our post-pandemic recovery is going to look like, presuming there is even a post-pandemic to look forward to. We need to prepare for some really hard and fast ramifications of climate change. I’m not just talking “my carbon tax is better than your incomprehensible carbon savings account” nonsense. I mean, the real economic consequences of energy transition, disaster planning, food supply, refugee re-settlement, and national security.

In calling this election at this moment Trudeau stumbled into a moment of unique historic significance. And what the fuck have we spent the last six weeks faffing about on?

“Two-tier health care” — a phrase I had not heard in a decade prior to this election. Something something abortions. Something something guns. When to raise flags all the way back up the mast. A $10-a-day daycare scheme that I have no faith will culminate in a high-quality, universally accessible system. We’re moving forward. Or securing our future. What we’re moving forward to, and what we’re securing our future from is unclear to me.

This isn’t an election. It’s a dozen brilliant little talking-point gems sparkling with the patina of a dozen focus groups, and intended to chip away a few hundred accessible votes in key swing ridings.

What a damnable waste of everybody’s time. This was an election about nothing. It’s a tribute to vanity, and an excuse for the callow pursuit of a power with no aim.

I don’t agree with the article entirely (but I do agree with her more than any other libertarian from Calgary I met in my time out west). For example, aren’t all elections just a “dozen brilliant little talking-point gems”? But it helped me feel a little less exhausted and indifferent to whatever that election was.

A callow pursuit of power with no aim? A waste of over $600 million? A clear mandate for the Liberals to lead us out of the pandemic?

Whatever it was, it’s over. But the actual work of preparing for the next election, er, I mean dealing with the issues facing Canadians, has only just begun.

PS: Dear government, political griping aside, please deal with the climate crisis immediately and drastically.

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I know it’s been a few days since the election, but let me vent…

A group of black, white, and grey fake headshots and profiles.

How was the election for you? Glad it’s over? That makes two of us.

Here’s a little something I wrote in a Morning File during the provincial election:

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

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

As soon as I wrapped that gig, the federal election was called, and I was asked to help out again.

Turns out, up until then, I didn’t know the meaning of the word tedious.

Whereas, on the provincial election collecting, renaming, sorting, and uploading headshots was only a small part of my job, the federal election was a much larger operation, meaning headshots were almost my only job this time around. I didn’t know what I’d agreed to.

For those of you who weren’t keeping score at home, there were A LOT of candidates in the federal election. Like, 2,010 candidates, to be exact. If you’d asked every person who ran to give their elevator pitch on why you should vote for them, you would have been listening to talking points from the time the election was called to the time the polls closed. All I’m trying to say is I had a few more headshots to deal with than I did in the provincial election.

So for four days a week, for four agonizing weeks, I hunted down, cropped, reformatted, renamed, and slowly uploaded headshot after headshot of candidates to a shared file, passing the drudgery torch to the graphics department for colourizing and finalizing. I’ve never looked longingly out a window as much as I did this past month. And I was in grade school for 13 years. Plus I worked in document processing at a Michelin plant for a summer. Neither could fully prepare me for this soul-draining task though.

Let me give you a brief glimpse into the mind as it descends into madness while tracking down over a thousand headshots for a federal election broadcast.

Day 1: You’ve been told that in 2019, there were 1,473 headshots. If you put five minutes into finding, renaming, and uploading each headshot, that’s 120 hours of work. Or three full work weeks. This sounds awful, but you tell yourself you’re ready for it. You are not.

Day 2: You hear back from two of the major parties who already have half their headshots ready for you. And they’re all conveniently located in one file! Great! You’re off to a pretty good start. At this rate you might get things done ahead of time and move on to some more interesting work. Unfortunately, although you already have 50% of the photos for two parties, it will require another 30 days to track down the remaining 50%.

Day 4: You’re one week in. You awake from the fog. You lie to yourself that it wasn’t so bad and you’re up for another three weeks of this.

Day 8: Have you ever read that Sherlock Holmes story where the guy gets hired by a mysterious organization to transcribe the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica, and it turns out that the job was given to him by thieves as a way to get him out of his shop during the day so they could drill through his basement undetected toward the bank vault next door? If I lived next to a bank, by this time I would’ve seriously begun considering that this headshot job was a similar criminal scheme. But no, my tedious task is no ruse. Sadly, I must persevere.

Day 15 : Halfway there. Your producer asks you to rename all the jpeg files of Conservative headshots. You didn’t use the proper party abbreviation in the file name so the photos won’t automatically upload to the broadcast software the station uses. You curse technology and your own life. You shed a tear for each of the 250 files you start to individually rename.

Day 20:  You are now getting daily breathing-down-your-neck messages from the higher-ups. You are not getting daily messages from the people you’ve asked to send you more headshots.

Day 23: Your friend asks you what the inside scoop is on the election. What way does your team think the wind is blowing? ‘I don’t know,’ you say. ‘I’m just a headshot machine; all I know is headshots. I am one with the headshots and nothing else.’ You say this via text while seated at your laptop. It’s too close to the election to ever leave your laptop.

Day 25: You take a trip to Newfoundland, as far east as you can run, but you can’t escape collecting headshots. The internet is everywhere. You cannot run away.

Day 28: You start to reflect on the precious, finite nature of time, realizing that each moment passes us never to return. You wonder if this is how you should spend this irretrievable resource. You wonder why you went to school for this. You watch children biking down the street from your window. Somehow, you resist the urge to tear off all your clothes and run into the ocean, and you keep scrolling on your computer.

Day 29: You’ve stared at so many pixilated faces over so many hours that you begin to lose your sense of self. You see the faces that make up this great national fabric of ours. The different colours, ethnicities, genders, styles, and bodies that can be found across this great country. Each with their own story and their own drive to put themselves out there and try to serve their homeland. Your ego begins to dissolve and your spirit floats above the material world. You become a part of the great light and energy that runs through all things and travel to a place where time and space don’t exist. Then, just as you approach enlightenment, you get an email notification from the boss and you fail to grasp a universal truth that you’d almost had your hands on. Almost like you squeezed it and it was gone. Then it’s back to uploading photos.

Day 32: You go to visit your sister in Toronto. You don’t see her for the first two days because you’re too busy with headshots. You pray you won’t regret this lost time when you’re on your deathbed.

Day 35: You’ve done everything you could. You still couldn’t get every headshot hunted down by election day, but you don’t care anymore. You go out to vote and natural light seems foreign. You long for the blue hue of your phone or laptop. You try to watch the broadcast that night and see some of the photos you did nothing but sort, but you pass out in a fever dream at 8 o’clock.

Day 36: You wake up from the fever dream and seemingly nothing has changed. Was this all some nation-wide in-joke to make you miserable for a month? Or did you just wake up from the most boring dream of your life, but you check the news and see an election did actually happen. At first, you just sigh and thank God it’s at least over. Then you cry because a minority could mean you have to do it all again well before you have time to fully recover from the 2021 federal election. You vow never to look at another photograph or portrait in your life, and step back into the world, hopeful that they’ll wait five years.

BONUS: Look at this video the CBC published on Election Day, showing the evolution of the election night broadcast through the years. Not once do you see a graphic of a headshot. Looks like all my work, and all the mind-numbing hours that went into producing it, will be lost…”like tears in rain.”

YouTube video

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On campus


Pandemic Preparedness: Impact of COVID on Hospital Design (Friday, 1pm, Room HB4, School of Architecture) — a talk with architect Bryan Langlands

Working and living in NYC through the first wave of COVID-19, Bryan Langlands will share his personal insights and observations as to how the pandemic has influenced hospital design for his academic medical center clients, ranging from the initial immediate need to create additional capacity through the creation of makeshift clinical spaces to the ongoing planning, design, and construction of hospital projects.

Village Prose, the Thaw, and Soviet Peasantry: A Reading Audience That Was Not There? (Friday, 3:30, Room 1170, McCain Building or online) —Denis Kozlov will talk. More info and complete schedule via this email. Teams meeting link here.

Saint Mary’s

Fall Convocation (Friday and Saturday, 5pm) — in person and via live stream

In the harbour

06:15: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Halifax to Saint-Pierre
07:00: Thunder Bay, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Sept-Îles, Quebec
10:30: Siem Pilot, offshore supply vessel, arrives at Dartmouth Cove from Sydney
16:30: Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre
16:30: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
16:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
20:00: Thunder Bay sails for sea
21:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails for St. John’s

Cape Breton
11:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea
11:15: My Lady, yacht, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminals from St. Peter’s


Now that we’re two days into autumn, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the summer that was. I didn’t swim enough. It seems it’s impossible to go into fall without some level of regret.

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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. Of course the Premier is anxious, aren’t we all? New Brunswick is looking like a disaster, and I’m expecting to see border restrictions back, and possibly travel restrictions within NS again. Covid is far from over.

    Living smack in the middle of the Dal corridor, I cannot tell you how many hundreds of students are roaming the streets this fall. A friend commented that the area around the Dal campus has basically become the downtown for these kids (there are more of them here than in downtown). They are circulating with phones in hand, being texted about parties, which parties are being broken up by police, etc. It’s kind of a mob mentality some nights and is actually scary with the vandalism, urination (friend had 5 girls squatting in her driveway) and the sheer numbers out on the street – we estimated 500 on one night. Why is no-one doing a story on this? There is 0 social distancing at these very large parties, no-one is masked and the single largest group of cases is the 20-40 year olds who are socializing. Duh. Perfect storm. If they want to go on campus, but are taking classes virtually, no need to be vaccinated. Ask Dal how many are in that category. Why are none of our city officials alarmed and talking about this? It’s all down to us, homeowners, and police. No-one else help or does anything, and it’s not rocket science. Please report on this!

  2. So there is a live Facebook video by a woman who claims a school friend of her daughter got the vaccine and her heart stopped. This apparently happened to this 13-year old yesterday in Halifax. It is of course firing up the anti vaxers big time. If true, it is concerning to any parents of young teenagers. If not true it needs to be quickly and soundly debunked.

    1. A child under 10 in HRM was tested and found to be COVID free. After a blood test the child was found to have COVID.

    2. Article on CBC just now has Dr Strang saying the video is fake news. CBC tried to reach out to the woman who posted the video, but hasn’t received a response.

  3. Thanks for the laugh Ethan, as you chronicle your summer of headshots. If anything, at least you have a treasure trove of anecdotes for the Halifax media cocktail circuit…(?)

    And thanks for the link to that CBC video. I know many, if not most, people are not political junkies or election junkies. But I grew up with parents who were, so tuning into CBC on election night as a kid is as fond a memory for me as is roadtripping around the Maritimes!

  4. Countries where I have been vaccinated include Netherlands Antilles.Iran,S Africa, UK, Canada. I’ll never understand why healthy people oppose vaccines.

  5. Re your PS in Views, today is the Global Youth Climate Strike – another opportunity for politicians and leaders around the world to wake up.

  6. I thought the whole two-tiered healthcare talking point was the dumbest thing about this election. We already have many tiers of healthcare. There are people with and without family doctors and people who can fly to get for-profit treatment elsewhere. People point to the United States as an example of the evils of the free market, but healthcare in the US does not operate in a remotely free market.