News

1. Coronavirus update as the province prepares for COVID-19 cases

Wash your hands.

The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, gave an update on what Nova Scotia is doing to prepare for COVID-19 yesterday. In the Chronicle Herald, Stuart Peddle covers the press conference and also finds out what plans are for jails, schools, and the military.

Strang is asking Nova Scotians who have been out of the country to stay away from nursing homes for two weeks after their return. Seniors’ residences have been the site of outbreaks on the West Coast, and, as you can imagine, once the virus takes hold in them the infection rate is high. (The advisory doesn’t apply to staff in the residences.) He also said testing centres will be set up outside of ERs, and that the province will consider home testing.

When it comes to schools, Rankin writes:

“We want to assure families and educators that work is underway to develop a plan in the event of any school closures. The Regions/CSAP are working closely with department officials to review plans that were created for H1N1. That work and those plans will act as a guide as we make any necessary updates to the plans, with the help of Health officials.”

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education is focusing on prevention and preparation, spokesman Doug Hadley said in an email, including hygiene recommendations and “disinfecting high-touch surfaces including washrooms, doorknobs, handrails and desktops. Additional hand sanitizers and pumps have been ordered and schools will receive an enhanced cleaning during March Break.”

Paul Wozney, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said the NSTU is in touch with the education department on COVID-19 so when the time comes to go forward with new plans, everyone will be in the loop.

Stock says it’s disinfecting buses daily. As with hand-washing, I’m sure we’ll find that all kinds of practices that should have been in place (properly cleaning stuff!) probably weren’t.

The CBC report on the press conference has a great quote from Strang:

Strang said residents should be taking appropriate steps to prepare, but there’s no need to panic.

“It’s very reasonable that people buy a few extra groceries, canned goods that have the shelf life, in the possibility that you may have to be home for a period of time,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy all the toilet paper.”

In Cape Breton, a restaurant that banned Chinese students over fear of the virus (they were welcome to order delivery) shut down, ostensibly for vacation, but has yet to reopen.

2. More taxi driver chutzpah

In Salt, Zane Woodford has the story of a taxi driver from Lower Sackville appealing the suspension of his licence.

Donald Charles Swinimer, 50, of Lower Sackville, was charged Feb. 3 with sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and sexual exploitation.

The charges all relate to someone who was under 16 at the time. Woodford writes:

Swinimer was released on $3,000 bail under conditions including that he not have any contact with the complainant or another person named in the documents. He’s also not to have contact with anyone under the age of 16, “except while in the course of your employment and in the immediate physical presence of a person over 18 years of age.”…

In a handwritten letter dated Feb. 6, Swinimer wrote that in writing the conditions for his release, a justice of the peace “took consideration that I was a taxi driver in HRM and made the conditions in my release order to enable me to work as a taxi driver in HRM.

“I am a law abiding citizen and will abide to these conditions with no exceptions,” Swinimer wrote.

But, according to provincial court records, Swinimer has a criminal record dating back to 1991, including convictions for assault, uttering threats, break and enter, mischief and, most recently, for impaired driving in 2012.

Woodford tries in vain to get any information about the case out of the city, and details some of the appeals committee’s greatest hits when it comes to returning licences to suspended drivers.

Oh, and if you’re not familiar with the concept of chutzpah, it’s a Yiddish word meaning brazen nerve. As Leo Rosten’s classic The Joys of Yiddish (I just happen to have a copy sitting on my desk) puts it:

Gall, brazen nerve, effrontery… presumption plus arrogance… Chutzpah is that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.

3.  Wortley recommendations: the slow pace of change

Dalhousie professor Barb Hamilton-Hinch, who teaches in the School of Health and Human Performance, says the Halifax Regional Police are dragging their feet when it comes to implementing the recommendations of the Wortley report, released in March 2019. Hamilton-Hinch was reacting to documents the NDP got hold of, detailing the Halifax Regional Police’s progress.

In the Chronicle Herald, Andrew Rankin writes:

The update showed HRP had not begun working on 21 of the 54 recommendations, while work on 14 of the recommendations are in progress. Most of those yet-to-be-acted on recommendations concern measures to improve relations with the black community, including tighter screening of recruits and antibias, cultural competency and race relations training and testing for all officers.

Hamilton-Hinch, who grew up in the African Nova Scotia communities of Beechville and Cherry Brook, said HRP needs to make education in these areas a priority for its officers. That starts at the community level, working to repair decades worth of damage.

“Change is taking too long and while we wait people of African descent are being affected, drastically affected when we’re continuing to hear, see and experience insult and harm at the hands of HRP.”

Meanwhile, the CBC’s Shaina Luck has reaction from the Board of Police Commissioners to a letter sent last week by police union head Dean Stienburg, complaining about the treatment of officers who violently arrested a black teenager in Bedford last month.

Chief Dan Kinsella placed the officers on administrative leave–desk duty. The union complained Kinsella’s decisions were “inconsistent, rash, and unpredictable.”

Luck writes:

[Board of Police Commissioners] Chair Natalie Borden said it’s not appropriate for the board to get involved in an “operational issue,” such as what happened between the teen and the two officers.

“What I would say to the community would be that, you know what, the process has been followed the way that it should be,” she said. “The investigation is ongoing. And it’s the results of that investigation that we certainly await that will be important.”

In the story, El Jones points out the officers haven’t been fired or suspended, and the fact that the union is pushing back so hard shows how difficult change is going to be.

“What they’re complaining about is that these officers were put on administrative leave,” she said. So not suspended, not removed from the job. Simply not in uniform at this point. And this is the reaction we see to even that small amount of accountability for officers, or that small move to protect community members from these officers.”

I note that Kinsella points out most interactions with the police are professional, blah blah blah. That’s like saying pedestrian deaths aren’t a problem because most pedestrians cross safely every day.

4. Next time someone says there is no such thing as systemic discrimination…

Source: Statistics Canada

In the Nova Scotia Advocate, Robert Devet takes a look at a Statistics Canada report released last month, entitled Canada’s Black population: Education, labour and resilience.

Devet writes:

The situation is bad in Canada, and, compared to other large cities, the situation is especially bad in Halifax…

The actual wage gap between Black people and the general population is substantial, with white men in Canada earning some $15,000 more than Black men. That gap widened substantially between 2001 and 2016.

Again, Halifax stands out in that in our city Black men earn on average almost $20,000 less than other residents. For Black women the gap is around $8,000.

Yesterday, a student I know tweeted that a guy in her class said there was no such thing as systemic discrimination, before another guy chimed in that, as straight white people, they had to be very careful about what they said because they face oppression. (The tweets are from a locked account, which is why I’m not linking or sharing the writer’s name.)


Views

Living on a plane, or in a network

Peter Moreira is paid by government agencies to promote the companies he writes about in his Chronicle Herald column.

Every so often, I go read Peter Moreira’s Entrevestor column in The Chronicle Herald. You could create a random Moreira-column-generator pretty easily, I would think: disruption, innovation, entrepreneurship, Nova Scotia, and a bunch of company descriptions that leave you wondering, but what do they actually do?

Maybe it’s an ongoing performance art project.

Anyway, the latest installment is about a company called MotionHall (love that camel case!), which is maybe from San Francisco, and maybe not, but “has never NOT been a Nova Scotia company,” according to CEO Rachael Craig. Hall says you could say she “lives on a plane or in a network.”

What does MotionHall do? Maybe one of you can explain it to me:

MotionHall has developed software that helps people working in pharma, biotech, and life sciences venture capital find the right information about drug candidates to accelerate deals. It uses data analytics and artificial intelligence to help deal-makers find innovations that will help them bring new drugs to the market…. [The founders began working on] a solution that would help people working on new drugs find the scientific information they need for their work and helps facilitate mergers and acquisitions or licensing agreements.

Moreira says it’s “hard to pin down” where the company (total staff: 15) is based, because in addition to its headquarters in San Francisco, it has employees in Vancouver and in Nova Scotia. There are four people working for MotionHall here, and they want to hire more, all, Craig tells Moreira “in a junior capacity.”

I would say your company is probably not based in the place where you’ve got your junior people. Doesn’t seem that complicated to me.


Noticed

Last week, Matt Whitman, currently the only declared mayoral candidate, added to his ongoing Twitter campaign thread by thanking supporters and then tagging everyone under the sun.

I spoke to someone from one of the organizations mentioned in the above tweet, who said they normally don’t respond when they are tagged, but they had to make it absolutely clear that they do not endorse or support individual candidates.

A parade of replies followed the tweet, many along these lines:

Endorsement? What endorsement?

There was more.

Well, all right then.


Government

City

Tuesday

Special Meeting – North West Community Council (Tuesday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — a proposal for a commercial building on Sackville Drive.

City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — nothing terribly controversial on the agenda.

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9am, City Hall) — no action items are on the agenda.

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — Auditor General Evangeline Colman-Sadd will present her report on “Fleet Vehicle Use, Car Allowances, and Mileage Audit.”

Halifax and West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — a 12-storey building on Joe Howe Road.

Public Information Meeting – Case 22704 (Wednesday, 7pm, Basinview Drive Community School, Bedford) — Lydon Lynch Architects wants to change the interior layout of a previously approved building on Fourth Street in Bedford. More info here.

Province

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 9am, Province House) — reps from Doctors Nova Scotia will talk about the doctor shortage.

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — a discussion of contaminated sites; we think this refers to old mining sites.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Saxophone Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, MacAloney Room )

Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Wednesday, 1pm, Room 14B02, Tupper Medical Building) — Dane C. Sands will defend “Investigation of the Amyloid Properties of Winter Flounder Antifreeze Protein (AFP6) and the Application of Aqueous Curcumin in the Detection of this Protein.”

Zoe Finkel. Photo via dal.ca

Phytoplankton in a changing world (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Zoe Finkel will talk.

3 Minute Thesis (Wednesday, 6:15pm, McInnes Room, Student Union Building) — grad student finalists share their research in just 180 seconds. More info here.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

SMU Campus Store clearance sale (Wednesday, 10am)

Mount Saint Vincent

Wednesday

Dinner at Vincent’s (Wednesday, 4:30 – 7pm) — Tourism & Hospitality Management students will make you dinner at this student-run teaching restaurant. Reservations required. For menu options, pricing, and alternate lunch and dinner dates click here.

A History of Food (Wednesday, 7pm, Keshen Goodman Library, Halifax) — Jonathan Roberts talks about “Cows and Wheat: The agrarian and pastoral revolutions (haggis).” The second of a lecture series — a survey of hunting, gathering, preserving, and manufacturing food, from the archaeology of Paleolithic diets, the geography of crop and livestock domestication, the production of foods as commodities, gourmet tastes versus fast food, and the return to local diets. More info here.

King’s

Wednesday

Little Death (Wednesday, 8pm, The Pit) — written by Daniel Sarah Karasik, directed by Daniel Halpern. Until Saturday, more info and tickets here.


In the harbour

10:30: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
16:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten (itinerary)
16:30: Dalian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
17:00: Baie St. Paul, bulker, arrives at Pier 9 from St. John’s


Footnotes

If you want to wash your hands to Bob Dylan’s Hurricane, here you go.

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. I know I’m late to the comments here (often playing catch-up with Morning Files that I want to read but just don’t have the time on a given day), but this quote:

    “MotionHall has developed software that helps people working in pharma, biotech, and life sciences venture capital find the right information about drug candidates to accelerate deals.”

    Makes it sound like the company is building a system to make drug deals for rich people.

    I just finished a book about “AI” called “Artificial Unintelligence” that I think you’d enjoy. Definitely helps to take the “ooooo, aaaah” out of throwing around words like “innovative” “AI” and “machine learning”

  2. What’s going to happen when 100 cruise ships dock here from early May to late October. When tens of thousands of tourists from everywhere descend on Hfx restos, bars , and taxis. What does public health think of that.

    1. Based on the measures we’re seeing in China and Italy, the cruise ship season might be cancelled and restaurants and bars closed.

  3. There are four people working for MotionHall here, and they want to hire more, all, Craig tells Moreira “in a junior capacity.”

    They are probably taking advantage of the new grad rebate. Glad to see it is working as intended and Growing The Economy™.

  4. While I find the income disparity between the black population and ‘the rest of the population’, whatever that descriptor includes, horrifying, I can’t help but notice women in NS are still so far behind men in terms of income it is also enraging. Meanwhile, my 24-year-old white privileged nephew tells me that there is no such thing as white male privilege. I despair.