Erica Butler here, filling in for Tim while he’s off learning stuff.


News

1. Cape Breton Hospitals: two down, two expanded

The province has announced a plan to close two Cape Breton hospitals, replacing them with community health centres. Emergency room services and acute care beds will be absorbed by expanded facilities at two other hospitals, Glace Bay and Cape Breton Regional hospital in Sydney.

The premier was booed during the announcement, and the CBC has reported the PC health critic theorizing that politics came into play in the decision. The Chronicle Herald report included a wide range of reactions, some positive and some negative, including the requisite hyperbolic comments from opposition parties:

“This is Black Monday for health care in Cape Breton,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill.

Eddie Orrell, a Cape Breton MLA and the Tories’ health critic, said the changes will bring chaos.

The overarching theme of the reactions so far seems to be surprise, which is in keeping with the McNeil Liberals’ modus operandi.

2. RCMP facing massive harassment lawsuit, possibly involving tens of thousands of complaints

The RCMP are facing a potential $1.1 billion lawsuit over “systematic bullying, intimidation and harassment”  going back decades, and affecting possibly tens of thousands of people, reports Rachel Houlihan and Dave Seglins for the CBC. The lawsuit was filed under the names of two lead plaintiffs, but could expand well beyond that, explain Houlihan and Seglins:

The new lawsuit seeks compensation for potentially tens of thousands of people, on a force that has 29,751 employees, not to mention thousands more dating back decades.

If the court certifies it as a class action, it could cover anyone who has ever worked for the RCMP and suffered what former commissioner Bob Paulson acknowledged in 2016 was a “culture of bullying and intimidation and general harassment.”

3. Housing situation “severe”, while office vacancy rate hits 20%

Josh Healey of the Chronicle Herald reports on the Canadian Rental Housing Index, which rates Nova Scotia as the fourth unhealthiest rental market in Canada, calling it “severe” by national standards, according to supply and affordability data from the 2016 census.

In Halifax, 68,735 households out of 172,790 are classified as renters, making up nearly 40 per cent of the city’s abodes.

The number of renters in Halifax is far above other Canadians cities, Clifford said.

“Forty per cent is a high proportion. For instance, in Calgary only 28 per cent of households are renters,” he said.

The average cost of rent and utilities in Halifax is $1,034, only slightly higher than the provincial average of $909.

Nova Scotia sits above the national average for both households spending over 30 percent and households spending over half of their income on rent and utilities.

Meanwhile over at the Globe and Mail, Lindsay Jones writes about Halifax’s growing office vacancy rate and the impact the Queen’s Marque development will have on it when it opens in 2020. But apparently the issue, according to CBRE vice president Robert Mussett, is not incoming Class A space such as the Queen’s Marque, but rather an abundance of out-of-date Class B and C office space. Jones writes:

When compared with cities across the country, Halifax has the most Class B office space at 59 per cent. London, Ont., follows at 49 per cent and Montreal at 42 per cent.

“Not only do we want more development downtown, we need it,” said Mr. Mussett. “Halifax in some ways is under demolished. It’s stock that is really antiquated space. Maybe it shouldn’t even be there.”

4.  Salt marsh restoration spearheaded by Saint Mary’s University

The Canadian Press (via Chronicle Herald) reports on a $1.8 million project to restore 75 hectares of marshland around the Bay of Fundy. The project is headed up by Saint Mary’s geography professor Danika van Proosdij and involves “realigning and decommissioning dikes that were originally built by Acadian farmers about 300 years ago,” writes the Canadian Press.

One of the restored salt marshes will be established along the Cornwallis River as it winds through Kentville, N.S., where a dike was breached by flooding earlier this month.

A second tidal wetland will be restored near the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border just north of Amherst, N.S.

5. Shambala leader issues public statement on harm caused in past relationships

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and Shambhala International. Photo by robertivanc – robertivanc’s flickr account, CC BY 2.0

Lion’ Roar (formerly Shambala Sun) reports that Sakyong Mipham, the head of the global Shambala organization, has issued a letter acknowledging past relationships with women who have “shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships.” The Sakyong says he is “issuing a public apology” and “entering a period of self reflection and teaching,” according to Lion’s Roar, which published the short letter in its entirety.

The letter, released Monday, comes in advance of the final report of Project Sunshine, an independent investigation into sexualized violence in the Shambala community. The first Project Sunshine report was published February 15, 2018, a few days after Shambala leadership issued a statement acknowledging sexual misconduct within the community.

The original Project Sunshine report documents several instances of child sexual abuse.

On June 21, 2018, Project Sunshine report author Andrea Winn announced a final report would be forthcoming on June 28th, and that her work on the project would conclude on June 29th.

6. Residential solar power rebate program could take the Solar City to a new level

A screen cap of HRM’s solar map, showing the “high potential” rooftops of the Halifax Forum and Canada Post facility on Almon Street. Look up your own rooftop here!

Halifax is already a Solar City… That is, we have the Solar City program, in which the municipality offers low cost financing of solar rooftop projects. After a 2-year pilot in 2013-15, which saw 400 solar hot water systems installed, the city came back in 2016 with another round of Solar City, this time including photovoltaics — panels that actually produce electricity and which can help feed the grid and lower power costs through net metering. (Under net metering, when people are producing and not using electricity, they build up credit with Nova Scotia Power, lowering their power bills. If they produce more power than they use over the course of a year, Nova Scotia Power will pay them for it.)

Although the price of solar panels has been dropping, it’s still a major investment for most homeowners. Enter the new SolarHomes program announced Monday by Efficiency Nova Scotia, which will provide a $1/watt rebate for rooftop photovoltaic installations in Nova Scotia.

Tim Arsenault of the Chronicle Herald reports that the program is looking to hook up 2,000 homes in the next 4 years, and will save homeowners about 30% on rooftop solar installation. Funding comes from Efficiency Nova Scotia, the federal government, and the province.

More solar means less coal, so this is a good news story. It could be better though. If there’s going to be a rooftop solar bonanza in Nova Scotia, we should probably be asking why more large institutional rooftops are not getting hooked up. And considering the cost savings in terms of power bills, Nova Scotia’s 11,560 public housing units should probably be first on the list to get set up with panels and net metering.

7. It’s beach cleanup season.

From the Friends of McNab’s Island website at mcnabsisland.ca
From the Friends of McNab’s Island website at mcnabsisland.ca

This month, the Friends of McNab’s Island executed their annual beach cleanup and collected 500 bags of garbage and recyclables that had washed ashore the large island in Halifax Harbour, which makes about 13,000 bags since the event started in 1991.

My next favourite thing to actually going to help out with this annual event is reading about the odd mix of items that end up getting collected, outside of the ubiquitous plastic tampon applicators and Tim Horton’s cups:

Severe winter storms brought more than 30 lobster traps up on the beaches of the island. Marine debris included fibreglass boat parts, part of a kayak, several paddles and fishing gear. Divers from the Seawolves Scuba Club hauled up old broken bottles from the waters near Maugers Beach, and a 50-year old intact Sussex Ginger Beer bottle, and then pulled up a toilet from under Garrison Pier. Other unusual items included a toy rocking horse, a tiny plastic rhinoceros, a cross-country ski and a mini Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Clothing items found included Ville de Quebec ball cap and a high-heeled shoe.

The CBC’s George Mortimer reports on a beach cleanup getting started on a Cape Breton beach, where massive amounts of fishing gear and other garbage are putting local wildlife at risk. This made me think of the new revelations about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, specifically that a goodly portion of it is made up of fishing gear. Laura Parker reports in National Geographic about a study that found “fishing nets account for 46 percent of the trash, with the majority of the rest composed of other fishing industry gear, including ropes, oyster spacers, eel traps, crates, and baskets.”


Noticed

CTV reports on a serial dine-and-dasher, but leave it to a Reddit user to point out the most egregious part of the story: the server at the Athens where one incident occurred was left covering the unpaid bill. CTV interviewed server Brittany Paquette about the incident:

Paquette says the woman promised to be right-back, but never returned, leaving her to pay the tab of approximately $65

With servers such as Paquette on the hook for unpaid-bills, she says will be keeping a closer eye on customers from now on.

“Here I am, 24-years-old, I live on my own, trying to pay my bills too, and she hits me with that,” Paquette said.

As the Reddit user insino93 pointed out, that’s gotta be illegal.


Government

City

Tuesday

The site of the proposed mobile home park near Enfield. Google Maps

Enfield mobile home park (Tuesday, 2pm and 6pm, Riverline Activity Centre, Dutch Settlement) — this is the public information meeting for Cygnet Properties’ proposal to build a 525-unit mobile home park on 1,100 acres on Old Truro Road in Enfield.

Special Halifax & West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, city Hall) — PF Properties wants to build a subdivision consisting of a four-storey apartment building, six single-family homes, and 27 townhouses on 10.6-acre site at the end of Lynette Road and McIntosh Streets in Spryfield. The development would back up on McIntosh Run, and the proposal calls for a 2.3-acre greenway along the stream.

Wednesday

Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — the Centre Plan fiction continues.

Hobsons Lake at night. Photo: Chris Miller

Public Information Meeting RE: Hobson Lake Lands (Wednesday, 7pm, Bedford-Hammonds Plains Community Centre) — in January, the city bought Hobsons Lake and a few hundred acres of surrounding forest so that the land can be incorporated in the Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park. This meeting is to talk about what if any uses will be made of the land, where trails will be built, and (important to the neighbours) where parking lots and entrances will be placed.

Province

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Fernando Nunes, the chair of the Department of Child and Youth Study at the Mount, will be asked about increases in numbers of children in the province’s Early Childhood Education system.

Wednesday

No public meetings for the rest of the week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Board of Governors Meeting (Tuesday, 3pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building) — the board will discuss the proposed sexualized violence policy, and also a Masters of Science degree in Business.

Wednesday

Thesis Defence, Interdisciplinary PhD Program (Wednesday, 9:30am, Room 3107, The Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Ping Lu will defend her ​​thesis, “Tai Chi: A New and Ancient Reality: The Socio-Cultural Context of Older People who Practice Tai Chi in Halifax, Canada and Jinan, China.”

Understanding the biological role of beta-glucosidase 2 [GBA2], a gene mutated in neurological disorders (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — PhD candidate Saki Sultana will talk.


In the harbour

6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
6am: Catharina Schulte, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
6am: Eidsvaag Sirius, cargo ship, sails from Pier 25 for sea
6am: AS Felicia, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Miami
10am: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Saint John
11:30am: Tugela, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
Noon: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
1pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Pier 36
3:30pm: Atlantic Sun, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York


Footnotes

I recently found out that lemmings do not actually run off cliffs willy nilly, just because everyone else is doing it. This is both comforting (good for the lemmings, I guess) and disturbing (how did I go this long not knowing about the lemmings myth perpetrated by Disney?)  Question everything!

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  1. What exactly is a “Master of Science in Business” degree all about? Is there really a science to business? Will this be in the Faculty of Science, or the Faculty of Business?

    Sounds like a scheme to try and get more bums in seats without actually offering any kind of truly new or substantive program …

  2. Interesting about renters. I’ve had my kids tell me they have no intention of owning a house or condo because in their view it is a poor investment. They cited interest on a mortgage, taxes, maintenance etc etc as a reason to rent vs own. I am old enough to have bought into the “greatest investment ever” story line but they have made me question this.

    1. Renting is not a very good long term option for folks living on fixed incomes and with few options for increasing household incomes. Owning a house is not an investment in the traditional sense of the word. Ownership is just a way that one has long-term control over one’s housing costs.If you own a home, you can decide how much you want to spend on a repair, or whether the repair matters to you. But if you rent, the landlord will make the repair that it thinks is desirable and will pass the costs on through rent. My family has its share of longevity and I watched several of my older relatives sell their houses to move into apartments or condos thinking that life would be easier without responsibility for home maintenance. But within a couple of years of moving out of their houses, all of these relatives opted to return to home ownership again because of their rents/condo fees kept going up; but their incomes were not. My relatives were in the enviable position of being able to afford a later purchase of a home. That being said, the older relatives that held onto their houses ended up in better positions since the funds that could have been used for rent or condo fees were plowed back into the old home to make it more age-friendly. My cousins and I are not in the same position as our parents and grandparents financially. We has listened to our elders and are all trying to hold on to our homes and to make them work as long term housing as we age.
      Given the growing proportion of older folks living on fixed incomes in HRM, and the fact that affordable housing is required to be “affordable” for a limited number of years, there may be a real housing crisis looming. Perhaps there should be more of a focus on keeping people in their homes and home ownership.

  3. No, it is not lemmings that jump off cliffs just because others are doing it. It is members of political parties.