1. From the campaign trail: Liberals unveil environment platform
Jennifer Henderson continues her coverage of the 2021 provincial election trail this morning with her report on what the parties were up to on Tuesday.
The big news from Tuesday was the announcement of the Liberals’ plan to protect the environment — a four-year strategy worth an estimated $173 million. A few highlights of the plan:
- $15 million over four years for major upgrades to provincial parks, including Rissers Beach and Graves Island (no word on Owls Head)
- $12 million over three years for a Sustainable Communities Challenge Fund to help municipalities adapt to climate change
- $10 million over four years for electric vehicle charging stations
- $8 million over four years for community solar projects
Head to the article for the full list of promises and Henderson’s take on whether the Liberals are likely to live up to them. I have my own thoughts on that in down in Views.
As for the other parties:
The NDP promised to invest $40 million a year in building 1,000 affordable housing units over the next four years if elected.
And PC leader Tim Houston announced his idea for a “Rink Sustainability Fund” that will help with maintenance and repairs for 81 arenas that depend on support from municipalities and receive very little from the province. Houston also promised that if a PC government is elected, every family will receive a yearly kids activity tax credit worth $500 per child to support their enrolment in sports or arts programs.
The Greens remain committed to environmental issues, saying they’d focus all government departments on climate change as a number one priority if they are elected.
2. COVID Update
On Tuesday, the province announced six new cases of COVID-19 for a three-day period over the long weekend. There are now 12 known active cases in Nova Scotia; one person is in ICU.
In vaccination news, about 72.4% of the population that’s eligible to be vaccinated (12 and older) have received two doses, while 86.3% have received at least one. Below is Tim Bousquet’s chart tracking vaccinations for those eligible in Nova Scotia.
There are 12 drop-in, no-appointment-required vaccination sites around the province right now. They’ll close Aug. 15. You can find them here.
More info on vaccination numbers, case demographics, testing, provincial data, and potential exposure sites, head to Tim Bousquet’s COVID report from Tuesday. He’s back from vacation and recharged to bring you all the pandemic news you need to know.
3. Feel-good story of the day
Your daily dose of sunshine comes from Haley Ryan at the CBC this morning, who has the story of an American couple who retired to Liverpool late in life, then gave $4.8 million to the Queen’s General Hospital Foundation when they passed on. Diane and Tim Ledvina moved to Liverpool in 2005 and gained close ties with the hospital after Diane became sick.
Ryan reports that a health check as part of the immigration process of moving to Canada revealed that Diane had cancer. She passed away in March of 2012, but during those years the Ledvinas felt supported and well cared for at the Queens General Hospital, said Tim Ledvina’s brother, Tom.
They both appreciated having the ease of Tim being able to visit the hospital regularly, rather than having to travel to larger centres like Bridgewater or Halifax.
Although Tom said he was initially surprised Tim and Diane wanted to spend their retirement in Nova Scotia away from family, once he visited after Diane’s death he realized how much friendship and warmth his brother was experiencing.
That was instructive to me because I was preparing for retirement myself … and that taught me how to go about it. Tim had all the support he needed right there.
Tim passed away in 2015. The money they left the hospital foundation has been held up by international red tape for some time since then, reports Ryan, but is now being used to refurbish offices, improve facilities for clinical services like mental health, and to allow more room for nurses and doctors.
And they say Maritimers are hospitable.
4. Police investigate shooting
In a news release late Tuesday morning, Halifax Regional Police said they’re looking into a shooting that happened in Halifax on Sunday:
At approximately 4:30 a.m. on August 1 police responded to reports of shots fired in the 0-100 block of Main Avenue. Officers located an unoccupied vehicle that had been struck by multiple bullets.
The investigation is ongoing, and police do not believe this to be a random incident.
Police are asking for anyone with any information on the incident to contact them.
Set your goals first and figure out how to reach them later. Much later
Yesterday, against the pristine backdrop of Long Lake — still a provincial park, to the best of my knowledge — Iain Rankin announced his Liberal Party’s platform on environmental issues in Nova Scotia.
Seeing as we’re a year and a half into what could be the most pivotal decade in the worldwide fight to mitigate the causes and worst impacts of human-caused global warming, environmental issues should be at the forefront of the political discussion this election (and beyond, really). Of course, Nova Scotians have other things to worry about too. Urgent environmental issues have to compete with the acute concern of a global pandemic (and our recovery from it), a crisis in affordable housing, and cracks in health care and long-term care services, to name a few other prominent issues facing the province right now.
Still, it’s undeniable the environment will play a major role in all party platforms. As it should. The state of nature in this province is of paramount importance to our future quality of life and economic health.
Both the NDP and PCs have committed to drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Each has their own timeline for phasing out coal and fossil fuels. It’s not an option anymore. That’s encouraging.
Also encouraging: the environmental platform the Liberals laid out yesterday is the most comprehensive and thorough plan any party’s come out with, with the exception of the Greens. The Liberal plan has its rehashes (off coal by 2030) and abstract vagueness (Liberals will continue to advocate for the completion of the Atlantic Loop). But in some places, it’s hearteningly specific. An increased target to make 17% of Nova Scotian territory into protected land, up from the previous goal of 14%, $20 million over two years to incentivize low-income families to retro-fit their homes, and other specifics you can find in Jennifer Henderson’s report on the platform from this morning.
Less encouraging: the province’s track record on environmental policy and protection in recent years. It’s been so discouraging at times, I might even call it a “reason for doubt” when looking at this year’s environmental promises.
I don’t mean to pick on the Liberals here. But they’ve been in power the better part of a decade. And, frankly, there’s a lot to single them out for.
Here’s a quick highlight reel:
- The quiet delisting of Owls Head as a provincial park so it can be sold and made into a golf course. (Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court denied a request for judicial review of the delisting and potential sale of the park, saying Nova Scotians should decide its fate at the polls).
- Saying gold mining is necessary to the province’s investment in green technologies, since gold is a critical mineral “needed for clean technologies such as batteries, solar panels, as well as for telecommunications.” As Joan Baxter clarified when reporting on the party’s stance on gold mining — in lieu of answers to the questions she sent the NS Liberals about gold mining, she received a written statement from the party — gold isn’t one of the 31 “critical minerals” that the federal government has identified for the transition to a “clean and digitized economy, which it says are “critical for the sustainable economic success of Canada and our allies.” Baxter has also written extensively for the Examiner about the environmental impacts of Atlantic Gold’s operation and open pit gold mining in general.
- Gutting the Biodiversity Act and dragging heels in implementing the recommendations included in the Lahey Report on forest practices, a now three-year-old report that supports “using forest practices that give priority to protecting and enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity.”
- Requiring a court order to ensure the government meets the obligations of the Endangered Species Act.
- Considering natural gas a “transition fuel” and biomass burning a “renewable” source of energy, despite the consensus of the scientific community.
So, while I’m happy to see all parties making the challenge of the climate crisis a serious part of their platforms, I can’t help but be skeptical. There was a particular point in the Liberals’ platform announcement yesterday that stood out for me here. It’s something Iain Rankin said:
The centrepiece of our platform is our commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 53% below 2005 levels by 2030 — the most ambitious target in the country. And we will also become the first province to become net zero before 2050. We were the first province to legislate that.
That’s all true. These are ambitious (and necessary) targets, and Nova Scotia was the first province to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050. However, we might be the last province to figure out how to reach that goal.
That’s because the Sustainable Development Goals Act (SDGA), created in 2019 to replace the Environmental Goals and Sustainability Prosperity Act, and (as the province’s website puts it) “set ambitious new goals to fight climate change and will continue advancing Nova Scotia’s economic, social, and environmental well being.”
It has set the aforementioned ambitious goals that ultimately lead to a net-zero province, as Rankin said. But in the nearly two years since the Act came into legislation, there’ve been no regulations put in place to guide us to those goals. In fact, the public consultation required to start drafting those regulations was conveniently delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. That consultation finally happened virtually (as it could have at any point in the pandemic) starting in May and ending last week, just in time for a provincial election. The feedback from these online consultations will go into a new climate plan that the Liberals say, if re-elected, they’ll have done by the end of this year.
As of right now, the SDGA is three major GHG reduction targets surrounded by definitions of pleasant-sounding, abstract principles like “circular economy” and “Netukulimk,” around which future regulations should be made.
I could say I’m going to the moon by 2050. I just need to ask my friends how they think I should do it before I start to come up with a plan for getting there. I think I’d be neck and neck with the province’s push to give the SDGA some teeth.
For politicians, a favourite cliché is “the time for talk is over.” It rings incredibly true here. When the health of our land, air, water, forests, and wildlife are all at a crucial point, be it due to forestry practices, mining, or fossil fuels. We have already entered the 10 most crucial years for reducing our impacts on the environment and avoiding the worst possible outcomes of a warming planet. Inaction, while still an option, is becoming an increasingly unthinkable choice. Enough talk.
I’m still happy to see the Liberals come out with a comprehensive plan on the environment. Just as I’m happy to see the NDP wants to distinguish themselves as the most climate conscious major party in the race (there’s a lot of overlap between the plan they released two weeks ago and the plan the Liberals announced yesterday), or that the PCs feel obligated to consider the environment in their platform now.
But we’ve lost the luxury of using the environment as a political talking point. Whoever wins on Aug. 17 had better understand that.
On Monday, Philip Moscovitch wrote about bad behaviour on the roads when it comes to cycling, and how cities like Halifax can do a better job of road design and education to make biking safer here. He speaks with a number of Halifax cyclists who sum up pretty well what the Halifax bike experience is.
As a former daily cyclist in downtown Halifax, I thought I share a couple things I’ve noticed regarding city cycling.
First, I thought I’d share a favourite video of mine. It’s a bike messenger gliding seamlessly and smoothly through New York City traffic. His bicycle has no brakes or gears, and his heart, I assume, has no fear or common sense. But he reads the road like Wayne Gretzky read the rink. It’s incredible to watch. Even more incredible: all the filming is being done by a cyclist who has to keep up behind him while traffic closes off the lanes the lead cyclist just took. For something that sounds incredibly stressful, it’s actually quite relaxing to watch. Like ASMR for the eyes.
Second, I wanted to share what I’ve noticed about biking in the city from my own personal experience. Here are a few notes to help you pedal around town:
Halifax biking isn’t the put-your-life-in-God’s-hands horror show some people make it out to be. I honestly don’t find it that bad if you avoid a few troublesome areas and stay aware of your surroundings. Biking is a great way to get around fast without worrying about parking.
That being said, things could always be better. There are still neighbourhoods without bike lanes, and there are parts of the peninsula that remain incredibly difficult to navigate or get to by bike. It’s also not that easy to get to communities surrounding the peninsula. I’d love to bike to Bedford or Crystal Crescent beach, but I don’t think I’d enjoy the ride as things stand now. It’d also be great if bike lanes to other communities made cycling a viable option for more commuters.
Bayers Road is to be avoided whenever possible. That’s not a recommendation for cyclists. Just good advice for anyone, really.
Take care of your bike. Clean, grease, pump, tighten, fix, replace, and so on. If you can rely on your bike, you can spend more time worrying about wide-turning trucks and pedestrians stepping into bike lanes.
Helmets are pretty awful. They’re bulky to wear and carry around town, plus they mess up your hair. If you want to go without, I can’t blame you. But if you want to avoid fines, brain damage, and death, I can’t help but recommend one in the city.
You see and hear a lot more of the strange happenings that Halifax has to offer when you opt to bike instead of drive. It can be quite entertaining. It can also be pretty unsettling.
Getting stuck behind the tailpipe of a bus on a gridlocked street while biking will make you appreciate the push for an electrified transit system so much more.
There are two parks on the poles of this peninsula (too much?). To get to Point Pleasant, you float downhill from the Citadel and let gravity pull you along a guarded path that elevates you above the plebeians on the sidewalk and the maniacs on the road as you pass mansions and treelined boulevards, arriving at a lovely little gate across the street from the park. To get to Africville, you bike uphill for a few kilometres through the north end until you’re forced to get on the Bedford Highway where there’s no shoulder, but lots of speeding cars and blind spots.
Here is a path behind a guard rail though! Make it there and you’re home free to the marginal road that takes you to the park. The bike ride to Point Pleasant might be nicer, but the ride to Africville offers the rush a person can only feel when they narrowly escape the clutches of certain death. So they each have their merits.
Going along the bike trail beside Joseph Howe Drive and slipping out of the city traffic into a calming canopy of greenery that leads you out toward Tantallon and the Bike and Bean Cafe is like taking a long shower after working all day in the dirt. Biking to Joseph Howe Drive is not as refreshing an experience. [See note above on Bayers Road].
The route I’ve biked the most in Halifax: the Central Library to the Killam Library, via Morris Street and University Avenue. It’s a 12- to-15-minute ride on a Sunday afternoon. About six minutes if class is about to start. Hot tip: be on the look out for students and hospital visitors opening doors from parked cars.
Worst places to bike: Bedford Highway; anything between Bayers and Joe Howe; Quinpool Road and the terrifying Willow Tree intersection; the Armdale roundabout (I’ve never even tried, but how could it be good?)
Best places to bike: Hydrostone; South Park Street to Point Pleasant; the trail behind the Dalplex where Oxford turns into Beaufort; the waterfront in the early morning; Chain of Lakes Trail.
Best way to avoid getting yelled at by motorists: don’t bike.
Best way to get around the Halifax metro area: bike.
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — live streamed on YouTube
Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — live streamed on YouTube
In the harbour
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:00: Morning Cornella, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
11:00: Aristomenis, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Charleston, South Carolina
15:30: Morning Cornella moves to Autoport
17:00: Enna, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Rognan, Norway
22:30: Morning Cornella sails for sea
09:30: Gaia Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Gaspé, Quebec
Like Philip Moscovitch, “baseball on the radio has been a staple in my life for almost as long as I can remember.” Now that the Jays have an actual radio announcer again — instead of just using the non-descriptive TV commentary for radio too — I listened to the new and improved broadcast on 95.7 while driving to Shubenacadie Monday. It was surprisingly comforting, like having a coffee with an old friend after a long absence. There’s something so relaxing about having a ball game on in the background, imagining a perfect sunny park instead of an ugly cement dome with plastic grass. I didn’t realize how much I missed the experience.
Then the Jays blew the game with some shoddy relief pitching in extra innings and the magic was lost. Typical.