No excuse to skip the gym this morning, Halifax…

News

1. COVID-19: the road to reopening continues

A sign approaching Burnside on March 23, 2020, reminding drivers about the state of emergency. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

Why not have a few friends over for dinner tonight?

At 8 o’clock this morning, Nova Scotia moved into “Phase 2” of its reopening plan, easing some of the province’s current public health restrictions. The news was officially announced at a briefing Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the myriad of new rules and restrictions regarding public health were to come into effect. Wednesday was the original projected date for the second phase of reopening, so, given the province’s dropping case numbers, the only surprise about the news was how late it was announced.

A few highlights of what’s now allowed with “Phase 2”:

  • Gatherings of 10 people inside and 25 outside without social distancing or masks
  • Restaurants and bars can open indoors so long as tables are two metres apart. Retail stores can operate at 50% capacity.
  • Seasonal property owners and people moving to Nova Scotia permanently can apply to travel to Nova Scotia. They’ll still have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
  • Long-term care residents can go for a walk off facility grounds and go through a drive-thru when going for a drive with a designated caregiver. Vaccinated residents can also leave the facility to visit outdoor public places such as parks.
  • “Fitness establishments” (gyms, yoga studios, etc.) can operate at 50% capacity.

You can find the full list of the updated restrictions here.

There are five phases in the province’s reopening plan. Phase 3 is expected to begin in two weeks, and Phase 4 is expected to start two weeks after that. Phase 5 — the promised land of the post-pandemic — will be reached when 75% of the population has been fully vaccinated with two doses. The current projection for this phase is September. Here’s the link to the reopening plan in full.

Also announced at the briefing Tuesday, Premier Iain Rankin said the Atlantic bubble will reopen on June 23, so Cavendish, Gros Morne, and the Hopewell Rocks should be back on the table as possible family vacation destinations this summer. Plus, the province is providing funding that will make admission free to 28 Nova Scotia museums and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for July and August.

Numbers

The province announced four new cases on Tuesday. Three were in the Central Zone (all close contacts of known cases) and one was in the Eastern Zone (travel related).

Here’s the daily new case numbers and the seven-day rolling averages (at 16.3 Wednesday) since March 28, the last day Nova Scotia had zero new daily cases:

There are now 97 known active cases in the province, so we’re back on the right side of the century mark. Six people are hospitalized with the virus, four of whom are in intensive care. There were 29 people considered recovered Tuesday.

In school news, in response to a question from Tim Bousquet, Dr. Strang confirmed that two Halifax school-connected cases announced last night were misidentified as being connected to Joe Howe Elementary School; in reality, they are connected to St. Joseph’s-Alexander McKay Elementary, and there is a third case announced today connected to Sir John A. Macdonald High School in Tantallon.

For more details on the numbers and info announced at yesterday’s briefing, head to Bousquet’s full COVID-19 report from Tuesday. It’s also got all the information you need on vaccination stats, case demographics, where you can get tested, and where in the province you might have been potentially exposed to COVID-19.

There was only one potential exposure site announced last night:

Potential COVID exposure advisory at the Chickenburger: pic.twitter.com/Mi5UAN4VQm

— Tim Bousquet (@Tim_Bousquet) June 15, 2021

Bousquet also has ongoing updates on potential virus exposures on flights and Halifax Transit, as well as answers to the COVID-19 questions he most frequently gets asked.

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing or donating.

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2. Store school buses now, ask for permission later

School buses in Dartmouth. Photo: Zane Woodford

“A company in Lucasville will be allowed to continue to store school buses on its property following a decision from a community council this week,” writes Zane Woodford in his report from Halifax’s North West Community Council meeting on Monday.

For the past 15 years, the former school board, and now the Halifax Regional Centre for Education and its contractors, have been storing school buses in a yard on Lucasville Road next to Timber Trails Mobile Home Park. They’ve been allowed to do so by the property owner, Blaine and Tracey Hefler’s Slate Holdings Limited, even though this is in contravention of the land’s zoning. Now, the community council has changed the zoning to permit a modified version of the current set up.

From Woodford’s report:

[Municipal planner Shayne] Vipond advised the committee that the applicant originally wanted to change the property’s zoning to a mixed industrial designation, which “would also allow a range of industrial uses not currently permitted on the site.” Community opposition to that idea led to a modification of the proposal, which sought to change zoning for the whole area to allow “School Bus Yard” as an approved use under the mixed use designation.

The bylaw amendments limit the school bus storage to 25% of the lot and prohibit maintenance and fuelling of school buses on the property.

The “community opposition” that helped shape the bylaw amendments included three members of the public who voiced their concerns at the virtual meeting. The chair of the Lucasville Community Association argued there’s no need for industrial zoning in her community, while another member of the community association complained there wasn’t enough public notification leading up to Monday’s meeting. There were 464 letters mailed to members of the community and a newspaper ad was taken out, but many locals didn’t receive letters and the ad didn’t mention the property address, or even that it’s on Lucasville Road.

The above is a 360-degree Google street view of the school bus parking area.
The third member of the public to speak at the meeting, Natalie Downey, was concerned about the precedent that a “retroactive” zone change could set:

“I’m just tempted to go out and build on my house and then ask for the permit later,” Downey said, “because that’s exactly what people who have the money then to hire consultants to do the work to work with the city are able to do that the average citizen, or average member of Lucasville, would not have the privilege to be able to do.”

Council passed the bylaw change unanimously.

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3. Pisiquid Canoe Club 

Photo: Pisiquid Canoe Club website

The Pisiquid Canoe Club is moving to a new home, reports Paul Palmeter for the CBC:

“For the first summer in 46 years, kids will not be paddling in Windsor, NS. A ministerial order to improve fish passage has altered the man-made lake in Windsor and has left them with no water to paddle their boats.”

A ministerial order to improve fish passage between the lake and the Avon River, which are divided by a man-made causeway holding up a stretch of Highway 101, has been in place for three months now. The order mandates that the gate between the two bodies of water be opened 10 minutes with each tide, meaning the lake has remained dry since March.

As a result, the Pisiquid Canoe Club is moving 25 minutes away to Camp Mockingee for the summer.

The Canoe Club, along with Ski Martok and some local farmers whose land sits beside the dykes that hold the water back, are among those who would like to see Lake Pisiquid, which is an artificial body of water on the banks of Windsor, remain full.

Others, such as locals in the community, fishermen, and indigenous activists, want to see the water let in and out for better fish passage.

It’s a complicated issue. There’s far too much information to possibly be broken down in a two-minute video.

For a real comprehensive look at this issue — what it’s all about, the grievances of fishermen, the canoe club, the government, and others — check out Joan Baxter’s article Small Dam, Big Controversy from December. The Avon River causeway hasn’t been all over the news lately, but the issue is anything but resolved.

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4. Sable Island shrinking

Horses on Sable Island. Photo: Parks Canada

“New research shows portions of Sable Island have shrunk dramatically in recent decades — at times by ten metres per year on the south side, where several freshwater ponds and a lake disappeared entirely amid storm surge, shifting sands and sea-level rise,” reports Paul Withers for the CBC this morning.

Researchers have used photographic evidence from the past 50 years to track the moving coastline, predicting a further loss of 10 hectares go “vegetated areas” by 2039. The prediction is based on the current rate of sea-level rise.

According to the article, the island has been changing shape long before human-caused climate change came into play — it was likely 10-15 times bigger at the end of the ice age — so changing geography, while concerning, isn’t necessarily cause for alarm:

[Lead author of the recent study, Joran] Eamer is hopeful, but does not offer an opinion on whether the island can withstand the climate change forecast that could result in sea-level rise in the North Atlantic by 80 centimetres — or nearly a metre —  over the next 80 years.

“That has significant implications for what is going to get overwashed and where that water is going to go on the island,” Eamer said.

A key question is whether the dune system can respond to changing sea levels.

“It’s a pretty big unknown, what that means going forward. A lot of questions to be asked. But generally the theory is that beaches and dunes can react to sea-level rise if you give them enough room to and you have enough sand around for them to to feed on.”’

I’ve never been, but it’s been on the bucket list since I read Pit Pony back in elementary school. Maybe I’d better get cracking sooner than later.

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5. Rita’s place

“Rita’s Retreat” in Big Pond. Photo: Airbnb

Been at home too long through the lockdown? Now that the reopening process is moving along, why not take a drive to scenic Cape Breton and rent out a Nova Scotian legend’s house for the weekend?

In the Coast yesterday, Morgan Mullin wrote about a prominent Airbnb listing that’s popped up online: Rita MacNeil’s former estate:

Consider a pilgrimage to Cape Breton’s answer to Graceland: A new Airbnb called Rita’s Retreat, a sprawling lakeside home that was the late singer’s estate. The two listings — one for the main cottage and one for a self-contained bachelor suite — popped up on the vacation rentals site this year, and range from $228 to $514 a night. With an indoor pool, basement bar, and multiple jacuzzis, it’s large livin’ —though our favourite detail of all is definitely that MacNeil’s own piano remains in the home’s living room.

No word on whether you have to share a bathroom with the Men of the Deep.

Since we’re on the subject of Rita, you should listen to this recording of Working Man from 2021 ECMA Rising Star Mike McKenna Jr. It’s off his latest album, At the Edge of the World.

Or just check out some original Rita below and spend the rest of the day with Flying On Your Own stuck in your head.


Views

The long grind of reopening

Somewhere toward the end of May, when I hadn’t had a haircut in two months and my increasingly unruly mop was starting to slap my face and sting my eyes with sweat as I jogged, I realized I’m pretty well ready for this pandemic to be over. I mean, I’ve always been ready for the pandemic, and the dangers and restrictions that come with it, to be over. And April and May of 2020 was the longest, most uncertain stretch of the whole thing for me, and I imagine many others. But now I find I feel more drained than ever. I’m really just tired of it.

Not tired of it in a way that’ll inspire me to go up on Citadel Hill and protest masks as an infringement on my personal liberty — 25 Nova Scotians have died since the start of the third wave in March, and who knows how much higher that would’ve spiked had the province not entered its third lockdown. But I’m more tired than ever of the up and down of it all. I know I’m not alone.

I think Tim Bousquet summed up the collective feeling in this province nicely in his Morning File on Monday:

I’ve noticed heightened anger and anxiety over the last month related to COVID, far more than the 14 months previous. I think people are just done with this thing; I know I am — I want an end to this hyper-vigilance, I want to travel, I want to be able to wander around and hop into places on a whim, I want to stop by a pub and bump into people and have interesting or at least entertaining unexpected conversations, I want to stop having COVID dreams. And I need a haircut.

The stress of going another few months with restrictions and worry is bringing people to the breaking point, I think. People are short tempered, are quick to jump on one another.

I was in my local bookstore the other day, perusing the back shelves, and I overheard a passionate conversation between the proprietor and a regular customer. The customer was complaining that he’d been told to pull his mask over his nose by some teenaged cashier at the grocery next door. He said he felt like a criminal, and he was fed up with all these restrictions. The owner responded with his own complaints about the precarious financial footing his business was on, and how government shutdowns were overkill.

After listening to their respective diatribes, I’d put these two in the actively anti-pandemic-regulation camp, but I’ve noticed a changing attitude in even the most public health oriented individuals too. Although the vast majority of people I know are still being careful, I’ve seen a slip in how strictly some have been in adhering to certain restrictions and guidelines. I know a few people, for instance, who haven’t completely adhered to the one-shopper rule for the past month. I haven’t seen many households completely cut themselves off from socializing closely with other small groups outdoors either.

I wonder if we were all so ready for a return to a semi-normal summer before the most recent spike. The Atlantic Bubble was opening, businesses were gearing up for tourists and patio season, we were able to meet with more and more family and friends. Then it was ripped away. Again.

Along with the frustration, there’s been an apathy growing with this never-ending way of life.

Business owners I’ve spoken with through this latest lockdown have been pretty well unanimously upset with unclear communication from the province, what they feel is inadequate financial relief, and overly harsh shutdown measures that favour big-box stores over local shops. Restaurants have had to stay on their toes, ready to open and close at the drop of a hat. (In a CBC report, Preston Mulligan spoke with some restaurant owners who were frustrated with the province’s late announcement of “phase 2,” forcing them to scramble to rehire employees and set up indoor dining last minute).

I have a part-time gig at a restaurant myself, where I work with a few high schoolers. They’re as ready to be back to normal as anyone.

They’ve been in and out of the classroom for over a year now. Some have barely experienced high school without a mask and the looming threat of mandated school closures. I’ve asked them now and then how they’ve been doing with school in the pandemic. Aside from the disappointment they’ve had missing proms, dances, social events, and sports seasons, most I’ve spoken with say they’ve found online classes, shortened semesters and restricted in-class learning pretty uninspiring and uninteresting. (I know a lot of kids hate school even during “regular times,” but this feels different).

Then there’s the university students. Some have missed out on graduations. Others have started their undergrads without ever meeting their classmates, paying regular tuition for half the educational experience while having to deal with the stigmas that come with being an undergrad these days — the suspicion that, as young people, they care more about partying than public health and safety, regardless of how they’ve individually behaved since living on their own for the first time.

Then there’s those who haven’t had the chance to live on their own, stuck at home at 19 or 20. I know two university students attending different schools in Ontario. Both are living with their parents (every young adult’s dream). One got the chance to live in Toronto for a few months; the other has never even seen their Ontario campus.

I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Most of my family and friends are nearby. I’m not immuno-compromised and I’m far from the frontlines. But COVID fatigue is setting in all the same.

I think it’s important to remember this is a pretty common feeling right now. There’s no point in feeling guilty about being tired just because you don’t have it as bad as someone else. All we can do is keep muddling through — which’ll be a little easier now that we can gather together again — and keep doing what we can to stop the spread until we reach those target vaccination numbers in September (or earlier). Then we can get back to getting frustrated and apathetic about the ceaseless normality of everyday life, just like we used to.

Also, I did end up getting my hair cut. No more sweat in my eyes when I run. The only thing I have to fear now is running itself.

Nice style, Ethan!

I could probably stand to buy a brush and a razor though.

According to Twitter, my editor is still waiting for his post-lockout trim.

We’ll be presentable again by Phase 5 of reopening, I’m sure.

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Noticed

Reopening tourism

Shouldn’t it be the role of a politician — a public speaker by profession — to deliver his own message at a news briefing rather than make us watch a commercial?

It just seemed a bit odd to me that Premier Rankin would host a viewing party for an ad encouraging local tourism in Nova Scotia this summer, rather than — I don’t know — encouraging us himself. Then again, his bland delivery at these pressers doesn’t lead me to believe he could inspire me to visit the Cumberland Shore or Digby Neck with a speech, so fair enough I guess. He must know his limitations.

That’s all beside the point of what I’m writing here though.

I’m a fan of the concept of “rediscovering Nova Scotia” this summer. Local tourism has been pushed a lot since the Atlantic Bubble first opened last year, and it’s great to see people staying close to home, supporting local economies and connecting to the communities around us. And the province has backed up this message by announcing $18.2 million in funding to assist the tourism industry in its recovery as travel restrictions begin to lighten.

I have a love/hate relationship with tourism as an industry though. It’s a necessary evil in my opinion. I wrote a bit about my thoughts on it in a previous Morning File in February. Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

I’ve always been ambivalent toward tourism. Here in the Atlantic provinces we rely so heavily on it that we consider it a major industry. Any place that works to make tourism — or catering to the experience of people who don’t live in the place you’re doing business — a major part of its economy just seems backward to me. Just as fame should be the “perfume of heroic deeds,” not a pursuit in itself, I always thought of tourism as something that should be the byproduct of a place where people have built a unique, livable culture.

I hate fighting through throngs of tourists on the waterfront, or tacky tourist traps around the harbour. I hate selfie sticks, and long lineups, and the whole idea of “buying” an experience.

The ad the Premier aired at yesterday’s briefing was fine, if a bit hokey, but it reminded me of an ad I’ve been seeing this past week for Explore Canada, which is essentially “Tourism Canada.”

It’s a flashy piece of marketing. A pretty classic modern ad full of extremely quick cuts, bright colours, a driving background rhythm that’s supposed to make things feel like a hustle, and a bunch of young, hip, diverse Canadians being young, hip and diverse in different Canadian locations. It’s pretty much the same style as all those ads that tell you where the cool kids do their banking and get their investment tips.

Those taglines though. Who came up with them? There are two.

The one in the thumbnail:
We are tourism

And the one that ends the commercial:
Tourism is the heartbeat of Canada

We are a country with a long, full history stretching back thousands of years, checkered by colonialism and racism, but also enriched by instances of peacekeeping and compassion.
One with a rich history of thinkers and artists, an inclination to straddle the borderline between modesty and smugness, a country with a giant, shadowing neighbour who’s instilled in us an indelible inferiority complex that we can’t seem to shake, no matter how embarrassing things get south of us.

Using nothing but manpower, we built a railroad from coast to coast — through the god damned Rocky Mountains — connecting the country while also callously killing thousands of Asian immigrants in the process. We put an arm on the International Space Station, drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — a document that wiped out all injustice, if I remember my history — fought in two world wars, gained our independence (civilly) from a royal family across the sea, beat the Russians in ‘72, implemented universal health (somewhat successfully), and have strived imperfectly toward an equal and just society, while struggling to reconcile with the darker chapters of our past. Like every other place on earth, we contain multitudes.

So what are we?

Tourism.

What’s our heartbeat?

Tourism.

That’s right, our lifeblood — our very existence, when you get right down to it — is to shill ourselves out to visitors who’ll buy our t-shirts and crowd our boardwalks. How can a country’s reason-to-be be focused on people who don’t even live here? Are the Parliament Buildings just a giant kiosk for tourists? Shouldn’t the heartbeat of a place be beating for the place itself?

Or is this country, at its essence, nothing more than the Harbour Hopper and a big nickel?

I’m all for people visiting us, but what a ridiculous commercial.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am) — live on YouTube

Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am) — live on YouTube

Virtual Public Information Meeting (Wednesday, 6pm) — Case 23512, application by FBM Ltd. for the property at 65 Dellridge Lane, Bedford to add ‘Dog Care Facility’ to the list of uses allowed on the property within a previously-approved development agreement

Thursday

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — live on YouTube

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — live on YouTube

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm) — live on YouTube

Virtual Public Information Meeting (Thursday, 6pm) — Case 22879 – Phase 3, Lovett Lake, Beechville: application by ZZap Consulting Inc., on behalf of Armco Capital Inc., requesting substantive amendments to the existing development agreement for Lovett Lake to add additional lands and allow for a Phase 3 of Lovett Lake with 91 residential units, resulting in an increase of residential units from 257 to 348 units on the site

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Primary Health Care Learning Series (Wednesday, 12:30pm) — Via Zoom, Robin Urquhart and Cynthia Kendall will present “Innovative navigation programs to help individuals and families affected by life-limiting chronic illnesses navigate end-of-life: a realist evaluation.”

Breaking the Dogma. NPC2 deficiency does not induce cholesterol accumulation in neuroblastoma (Wednesday, 4pm) — PhD candidate Aaron Woblistin will explain.

Open Dialogue Live: Design and our Healthcare System (Wednesday, 6:30pm) — livestreamed discussion with Bryan Langlands and Benjie Nycum, about how Canadian and United States healthcare designers are impacting how health centres function and how this has impacted healthcare delivery before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

Thursday

Working Together to Bring Home Care Home (Thursday, 1pm) — panel discussion:

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on Canadians over the age of 60, accounting for nearly 97% of all deaths in Canada. Though these effects have been more visible in long-term care (LTC) facilities, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an overwhelming strain on the entire continuing care sector, including home care. The system continues to be under immense pressure as it grapples with neglect as well as an aging population.

As such, there is an urgent need for significant investment and reform in continuing care. As part of a wider national advocacy campaign, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) Nova Scotia Chapter has developed five priority actions to transform home care in the province and across the country.

Speakers include ​​​​​Sandra Bauld, Retired Director of Home Care, Northwood; Mary Jane Hampton (chair), Health-Care Consultant and CBC Columnist;​ Donalda MacIsaac, Health Advocate and Community Volunteer; Bill VanGorder, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Policy Officer, CARP; Grace Warner​​, Professor of Occupational Therapy, Dalhousie University.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

No events

Thursday

International Co-operative Governance Symposium (Thursday, 10:30) — until Saturday; an “interactive and participatory gathering of governance professionals, experts, and researchers from various countries,” which will “showcase and debate new and different governance frameworks that focus on the people-centred, democratic, and jointly-owned nature of co-operatives”


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
12:00: Siem Commander, offshore supply ship, sails from Dartmouth Cove for sea
14:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
15:30: Helena G, bulker, sails from Pier 9 for sea

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


Footnotes

  • One thing that struck me upon second-viewing of that tourism ad: how strange is it to see Dundas Square empty? My sister’s told me a few times how eerie and apocalyptic Toronto’s looked through the stricter parts of the city’s shutdown, but I guess I haven’t seen too many photos myself. I wouldn’t say it’s unsettling in the video, but it is weird to see.
  • In other “phase 2” news: pool halls are open again. I didn’t realize how much I miss billiards until I read that. I’ll have to get a few rounds of nine ball in tonight.
  • While gyms can now operate at 50%, patrons are still encouraged to operate at 110%.
  • The Atlantic Bubble will open a little under a month before Regatta Day in St. John’s, so good news for you rowing fans out there! (Supposing things stay the course).

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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. As a former neighbour of Rita’s, I’d like to point out that the picture doesn’t show her Big Pond property, where she enjoyed a quiet little cottage nestled in between the trees and the lake. It’s probably the place she had at Coxheath but I’m guessing you’ll be pretty comfortable if you stay there.

  2. As a parochial Nova Scotian who enjoys travelling to other places, I really appreciated your tourist rant. I grumble about tourists as I walk around the world’s cities.

  3. Side by side pictures of young and, er, less young, reporters: beware the future, Ethan!