1. COVID-19 Update: 7 new cases in N.S. Tuesday

The new daily cases and seven-day rolling average since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1)

Here in Nova Scotia, there were seven new cases of COVID-19 announced yesterday, as Tim Bousquet reports:

Three of the new cases are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone and are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. The other four cases are in the Northern Zone and are close contacts with previously announced cases.

There are now 40 known active cases in the province. No one is currently in hospital with the disease.

With restrictions slightly eased in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone this week, and our friends in Ontario set to enter another lockdown, it’s a relief to see numbers staying low. We can continue to do our part by holding off on the Tibb’s Eve parties this year.

Here’s the updated possible exposure map from Tim:

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2. Small claims court gives Dartmouth tenants more time to appeal renoviction; Province’s renoviction ban could be tested.

The apartment buildings at 252 and 254 Victoria Rd. — Google Maps

Zane Woodford reports that tenants at two Dartmouth apartment buildings who were facing eviction on January 1 will now have a little more time to appeal after a decision in small claims court.

On Oct. 1, the owners of two buildings on Victoria Rd. gave notices to quit to 17 tenants. The notices gave them until the end of the year to vacate the property so that the buildings could undergo interior renovations.

Between Nov. 16 and 23, Residential Tenancy Officers (RTOs) issued eviction orders to the tenants, requiring them to leave by Jan. 1. Tenants could have appealed the decision within 10 days of the date of order, but none was filed. The RTO Orders were made orders of the court between Nov. 30 and Dec. 12.

On Dec. 7 and 11, the tenants facing eviction applied to the court “for an order extending the time to file an appeal of the RTO Orders.”

This came after a temporary ban on renovictions — evictions carried out so that landlords can renovate or repair units — that the province implemented on Nov. 25.

Woodford writes that the small claims court adjudicator in this case, Augustus M. Richardson, decided in favour of granting an extension to the tenants:

[Richardson] wrote that he admitted the buildings were in need of repair, but said it would be difficult for the tenants to find new places to live given the city’s 1% vacancy rate and escalating rents. Richardson went on:

These factors posed problems for the Tenants, most if not all of whom were on some form of social assistance with very limited resources. Some had physical or mental disabilities. Some had educational limitations which meant that they could not read or understand the RTO Orders (other than that they were being evicted). Many did not understand their legal rights, or thought they had none, at least insofar as the RTO Orders were concerned. Mr Gillett and fellow housing support workers were doing all they could to find alternate accommodation, and to obtain supplements to their social assistance or pension income. However, it was virtually impossible to find apartments in the same range as the rents currently in effect in the Buildings (which were in the range of $600-$700/month). He thought that it would be possible to find alternate accommodation with time, but that January 1st was unreasonable given the state of rental housing in the city.

The landlord argued the orders to evict “had been obtained in good faith. The rules had been followed.”  They noted the tenants took no steps to appeal the orders in the 10 days allowed.

“I recognize that none of the Tenants made any effort to file appeals within the 10 days allotted to them. However, I take the state of their ability to understand or exercise their rights to be limited,” Richardson wrote.

For the full report on the case, and how it tests Nova Scotia’s temporary ban on renovictions, you can read Woodford’s full report here.

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3. Province has laid 32 environmental infractions against Atlantic Gold, in relation to gold mine operations at Moose River

Atlantic Gold’s Touquoy gold mine at Moose River Photo: Raymond Plourde / EAC

Multiple concerns have been raised about the environmental impacts of gold mining in Nova Scotia’s moose country, and now Environment Nova Scotia has taken legal action against Atlantic Mining NS, the company that operates the Touquay gold mine for Atlantic Gold and its Australian owner, St. Barbara, out of Moose River.

In her report, Joan Baxter interviews multiple local residents who’ve witnessed the environmental impacts of the mining first-hand. Here’s one such account:

On December 9, Krista Gillis was out doing what she loves best, wandering through the woods and along the waterways near Mooseland, a small community about 80 kilometres east of the Halifax airport.

Gillis, an avid angler and lover of the great outdoors, has family roots that stretch back generations in the area, and while she has a residence in Halifax, she spends as much of her time as she can in her home nestled into the woods near Mooseland, where she plans to retire.

It was a nice day that Wednesday, Gillis tells the Halifax Examiner, and it was about 10:30am when she passed a brook, in which the water was normally crystal clear, that was brown with mud.

Krista Gillis (right) with her daughter Megan (contributed)

Gillis says she was heartbroken to see the muddy water in the brook, and headed straight home to take to the phone to “scream and holler” and send out emails to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to the provincial Department of Lands and Forestry, and to Atlantic Gold.

It turned out that the sedimentation was caused by erosion from a site nearby, where a contractor working for Atlantic Gold was excavating clay for the mine tailings facility at the Australian company’s open pit Touquoy gold mine in Moose River, about two kilometres from the brook.

The brook flows down from Cope Lake and around Cope Hill, where the clay mining was on-going, into Camp Lake, and then eventually into Scraggy Lake adjacent to the Moose River gold mine.

Veronica Chisholm, a manager with Atlantic Gold, told Gillis they would follow up with her, and also encouraged her to reach out to the contractor doing the clay mining.

Four days later, on December 13, Gillis’ nephew, Mitchell Glawson, an avid hunter and fisher who lives near Shubenacadie but also owns a home in Mooseland, headed to the brook to see if the water had cleared.

It hadn’t.

It’s a massive story and Baxter gets multiple perspectives to tell it. Far more than I can summarize here. To see her full article on the legal troubles now facing the mine, and the impacts the mining has had on the region, its wildlife, and its people, click here.

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4. Giving back with grocery runs

Here’s a nice heartwarming holiday story from Alex Cooke at the CBC.

It’s the story of a Syrian refugee, Abdul Jalab, who arrived in Nova Scotia in January. Cooke reports that Jalab was so touched by the welcome he received in this province, he’s been on a mission to give back now that the pandemic has made times tough for his new community.

Here’s an excerpt.

When the coronavirus arrived in Halifax… Jalab had a work schedule where he had three to four days off each week.

That’s when he got the idea to spend those days running errands for people who weren’t able to.

“I need to do something, I need to give back,” said Jalab. “I have the power, I have my car, I have the time to do it, so why not?”

Back in April, he made a post on Facebook offering to run groceries for people who were vulnerable, self-isolating or otherwise couldn’t make it to the store. Shortly after, requests started to come in through a Google form he made.

Jalab’s project keeps him fairly busy, and the 31-year-old said he normally has an order or two on his days off.

But along with the requests came offers for help. There’s a roster of five to six people who fill in when he’s unavailable, but he does most of the errands himself.

“It’s just so much fun to get out and see people,” he said.

The service is free — except the cost of whatever he’s picking up — but Jalab has taken payment before in the form of home-cooked meals.

“Sometimes people, they give you a lunchbox or something, and I think that’s really cool, so you will be able to taste Canadian cuisine… from people’s kitchen, and it’s made with love,” he said.

You can read the rest of Cooke’s piece here.

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1. What can filuftsliv do for Halifax?

A sidewalk that has been cleared but with pockets of residual snow, one to several inches in depth.
The “after sidewalk clearing” photo, from the city’s snow clearing guidelines page at

A friend of mine once compared Haligonians in the winter to rats scuttling from one hole to the next to avoid the cold, never really enjoying the outdoors within the city. While I think it’s a dramatic, off-putting metaphor, I admit I have occasionally felt that way in past winters here, racing from building to bus to building, always in search of shelter and central heating.

I’ve never been shy of the cold. I’ve spent winters in the Valley and the Rockies where I was out in the snow most days. In Halifax though, I’m mostly indoors this time of year. The only sustained activity I do outside, unless I leave the city, is skate on the oval — (which is set to open January 4!)

For many of us during this pandemic, outdoor activity has been a saving grace as we’ve been limited in ways we can safely get out of the house. It’s a way to take a quick break from the now all-too-familiar surroundings of home; getting outside keeps us sane and active while distanced in the open air, so to lose the outdoors to the cold makes this winter a bit more daunting.

On Monday, the day of the solstice, local non-profit PLANifax released a video that considered how Halifax could become a city that’s easier to navigate and enjoy outdoors during the winter months, especially in light of pandemic restrictions.

YouTube video

Here’s a piece of narration from the clip:

Since studies have shown that transmission of COVID-19 is reduced in outdoor environments, spending time outside in addition to social distancing and wearing a mask, seems to be the safest way to enjoy the winter months.

With that being said, how can the HRM promote spending more time outside? It’s undoubtedly true that to get folks to spend time outdoors in winter, there needs to be an incentive.

The video goes on to talk about how Norway has incentivized outdoor activity in winter, through the concept of friluftsliv, which translates to open-air living.

Diligent winter maintenance of sidewalks and bike lanes, and the creation of facilities like the aforementioned oval are examples of how cities can encourage friluftsliv. These are things aimed at making the outdoors seem as inviting as the indoors — for the most part anyway. It helps communities stay connected to the surrounding environment and each other, even during the colder parts of the year.

To me, Halifax has always felt like a city where you shield yourself from winter, in catwalks and pubs, instead of embracing it.

It’s understandable. The winter weather here is far more capricious than in Norway, or Canadian towns in the interior. Ottawa can build infrastructure for skaters along the Rideau Canal because it will reliably freeze. Here, getting around on snowshoes, or planning winter festivities (after COVID-19) isn’t easy when the snow turns into rain the day after it arrives, then refreezes into some gross, slushy concoction. That first big snowfall we had last week, for instance, has already come and gone.

But the cold, dark winter nights still stretch on for months in Halifax, so it’s worth seeing if the city could become more winter-friendly.

Ensuring our walkways and paths for active transportation are clear and well-maintained would be a good start. That makes it easy to get around and take the increasingly popular stroll around the neighbourhood.

Earlier this month, Yvette d’Entremont wrote about a national report that suggested the mental health of Canadians during the pandemic has continued to deteriorate through November. In that article, she interviewed a member of the firm that conducted the report, who said she “urges people to build physical activity into their daily lives because that’s known to positively impact mental health.” Walking, cycling and winter travel such as cross-country skiing are great ways to exercise in the pandemic while keeping transmission risks low.

Beyond the mental health benefits, getting around a city on foot helps build communities and our connection to them. Even now, when you’re unlikely to meet strangers on the sidewalk or be in and out of local shops, just seeing people from a distance, noticing new developments and potential problems like underused lots or unmaintained roads, connects us to our neighbourhoods.

Neighbourhoods should be designed to benefit those who live and work in them. So if you continue your walks around the block this winter, take stock of your surroundings. What would make it easier for you to get out in the winter? Are there potential lots or parks that could better serve as public spaces for outdoor markets or festivals once we’re through this pandemic? Would you drive less if you felt more confident in bike lanes in January, or if you didn’t have to hop a snowbank to get on the bus? Do you have mobility issues, and if so is there something that would make it easier to get around this time of year? Or is winter simply something to be endured for a while, and you’re happy to settle for a little light therapy at the library until April?

The second part of Halifax’s Centre Plan is set to be reviewed at some point in 2021, after being pushed due to the pandemic. This part of the plan is concerned with — among other things — residential areas, parks and Halifax’s downtown. It will eventually complement the first part of the plan that came out last year, and become part of the long-term strategy for growth and development in Halifax’s central region. Essentially, it will shape the way the city looks and operates in years to come.

Until December 31, the HRM is offering an online tool taking input from Haligonians on the second part of the Centre Plan. The tool takes the form of a map where users can drop a pin on a location in town and write a comment on the area: what’s working in the community? What isn’t? And what can the new centre plan do to serve your area? What do you think is unacceptable, and what are you willing to compromise on? If you get walking around this week and get some ideas on how to better winterize your part of Halifax, or on how to improve it any other way, you can add to the map and have your say.

Maybe next winter could be an outdoor renaissance for Halifax. Maybe even this winter.

If you do continue to go outside in the coming months, be sure to stay safe, bring a mask and keep your distance.

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2. A true National League: my last word on hockey

If the NHL season goes ahead, it will have a division with all seven Canadian teams in it. Photo:

I wrote about hockey last week, and I promise this is the last I’ll write about it for a long time, but I’m getting antsy and there was big news over the weekend. Sorry.

The NHL said there’s going to be a season. Who knows what’ll happen between now and early January, but if nothing unexpected happens, then starting January the Canadian teams will all play each other — and only each other — in a 56-game race to the playoffs. It would be glorious: regular battles of Ontario and Alberta, new rivalries between teams in the east and west, Leafs-Habs matchups every other Saturday. Maybe it’ll all make up for the fact a team from Florida beat a team from Texas to win the Stanley Cup this year. In September.

In case you missed it, Cathal Kelly had a great piece in the Globe and Mail a few weeks before this news officially broke where he posited what an all-Canadian division could mean for the league and the sport. In it, he argues the division is a genius idea that should be made permanent. I sure hope so; it’d make the slog that is the regular season a lot more fun.

Kelly’s sports writing has always focused far more on the human interest of athletics than on contract negotiations and player stats. He’s one of my favourites.

I’m aware there’s a paywall to this link, so here’s an excerpt from Kelly’s article in case you can’t read the full piece:

“Hockey fans could use some harmless fun. The NHL could use a boost. Broadcasters could use a win. The Canadian division is the tide that lifts all boats.

But what about the year after that?

After taking people to the promised land, is the NHL really going to make them return to the wretched division system that existed before? The one that locates Winnipeg’s natural rivals in Texas and Tennessee?

The Canadian division is a solution to a problem no one wanted to talk about until COVID-19 forced them to. It makes societal concerns the central organizing point of the league, rather than geography.

It creates the most interest where the biggest audience exists. That isn’t stacking the deck. That’s just good planning.

A permanent all-Canadian division means that, for a quarter of the league at least, the regular season starts to matter again. It isn’t just six months of jockeying for a slightly better playoff position. It recreates, in a very small, but still significant way, the glamour of the Original Six.”

Just another reason I can’t wait to make it to 2021. Now I’ll shut up about hockey for the rest of the winter.

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YouTube video

I saw this the other day and, silly as it is, I thought I’d share it for a bit of light, festive fun to end things on. It’s Tibb’s Eve after all; just two days to Christmas. Might as well include something festive.

In a PSA from the province, encouraging people to continue sticking to health and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19 over the holidays, a variety of Nova Scotian musicians put their own spin on old holiday classics to deliver the message. Artists including Adam Baldwin, the Town Heroes and Gabrielle Papillion reinforce good pandemic practices by singing lyrics like “I saw mommy didn’t sanitize,” “Sanitize is sticking around” and “Hark! The Hand Sani-tizing.” As you can see, they lean on the “sanitize” wordplay pretty hard. But it’s nice to see instructions that have been drilled into us all year delivered in such a goofy way by some local favourites, even if it is cheesy at times. Seeing these talented people online really makes me miss seeing them in concert.

Aquakulture, one of the musicians featured in the video, even made the Coast’s retrospective on the best music of 2020, which came out yesterday. Here’s an excerpt from the article written by Morgan Mullin, Alec Martin and my former classmate, Seyitan Moritowon:

As the pandemic disembowelled touring—one of music’s last moneymakers—many artists were left with no viable source of income. It would’ve probably been enough to kill any other industry. But lucky for us, music is resilient. No amount of shuttered bars or fractions of a cent-per-stream will stop musicians from creating. In the year when music could’ve died (read that in your mind to the tune of a Don McLean song), instead it lived. Thank god for that. And also, thank musicians. Now’s the best time to send a tip or buy an album from an artist you love. And if you’re wondering what music we’ve been loving these past twelve months? Read on for 10 of the best things we’ve heard this year.

You can read on here.

On a side note, since I haven’t been out to malls, restaurants and shops this season, I’ve found Christmas music much more tolerable this year. It has a renewed freshness for me, since I haven’t been bludgeoned over the head with it for the last two months. Terrible as the pandemic is, it continues to have its small mercies.

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No meetings.

On campus

No events.

In the harbour


Hockey is coming.

My squirrel problem’s been fixed.

The second wave seems to be on the way out.

And the days are getting lighter.

Happy Holidays, Halifax.

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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. We need a ‘Pedestrian Priority’ policy in HRM. The word ‘pedestrian’ would include people in wheelchairs and they would be of the greatest priority followed by people with a walking disability. The proposed new ‘Traffic Safety Act’ should include such priority and I agree with the proposal that only children under the age of 11 be allowed to cycle on sidewalks. A ‘Pedestrian Priority’ policy would ensure that sidewalk construction, repair and replacement be the top priority in the annual Capital Budget