News

1. Just what the hell’s going on with natural gas in this province anyhow?

A screenshot from Pieridae’s website, taken Mar 31 2021. Although the headline seems to state that the coming of Canada’s first East Coast LNG export terminal is a foregone conclusion, Joan Baxter reports that funding is still very much up in the air.

“If the Halifax Examiner inbox is anything to go by,” writes Joan Baxter in her comprehensive summation of the Goldborog LNG plant story from yesterday, “there is no shortage of critics of Pieridae Energy and its plans to pipe natural gas into Nova Scotia, build a $10-billion liquefied natural gas plant in Goldboro on the province’s Eastern Shore, and then ship the LNG to Germany.”

If you’ve been keeping up with the Halifax Examiner’s extensive reporting on resources here in Nova Scotia, you’ll have noticed a lot of talk about natural gas, the Goldboro LNG project, and Pieridae, the energy company that owns it. The Examiner covered the project in depth in a two part piece, the Goldboro Gamble (here and here), in October.

But the project, meant to bring a liquified natural gas (LNG) plant to the province, has been a sprawling, decade-long saga that still lacks a clear conclusion. So it’s understandable if you still have questions about it.

Questions like:

How is this proposed $10 billion project going to be funded? Has it really secured a US $4.5 billion loan guarantee from the German government?
Answer: It hasn’t.

Is natural gas a so-called “bridge” fuel, that could wean us off fossil fuels in the long run and help us reach our provincial goal of a net-zero emissions by 2050?
Answer: It isn’t.
In fact, the Nova Scotia Environmental Assessment Review panel says “the Project would increase Nova Scotia’s greenhouse gases by approximately 18% (above 2010 emission levels), and the Goldboro LNG facility would be the largest single GHG emitter in the province.” Despite that, Nova Scotia Environment approved the project in 2014.

Will Pieridae be able to source gas from aging wells in the foothills of Alberta to be brought to the proposed plant? And if so, who will be liable for the inevitable clean up from drilling into old reserves? The company or the public?
Answer: That’s still unclear.

Does the project have any guaranteed revenue once it’s up and running?
Answer: Yes. A German energy company’s agreed to buy half of Goldboro LNG’s gas for 20 years. But the agreement has been amended five times because the company couldn’t agree on a delivery date. The first revenue wouldn’t come in until August 2025 at the earliest now, and the price that Pieridae will be paid for the gas is still unknown, so it’s unclear what revenue they’ll be taking in.

Is the government funding any of this?
Answer: As of this moment, no. But Pieridae has asked the federal government for just shy of a billion dollars in grants, loans, and loan guarantees. They’ve also asked the provincial government for funding, but Premier Rankin has said the province won’t provide any financial backing (though he hasn’t rejected the idea that natural gas is a “transition fuel” that will help us get to net-zero emissions).

What have those opposing the project had to say?
Answer: One industry insider agreed to speak with Baxter anonymously to criticize the financial viability of the project. He calls it a “boondoggle” and says if the government were to consider funding the project with taxpayer money, he’d go public and advocate against it, even though the project would likely benefit his business. Also, a group of activists wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister and Premier Iain Rankin, among other politicians, urging governments not to fund the project.

How has Pieridae responded to its critics?
Answer: By threatening legal action, meant to intimidate the opposition and silence them, a strategy known as “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” or SLAPPs.

Goldboro site of proposed Pieridae LNG project. Photo: Alexander Bridge

There’s a whole lot to this story. I mean A LOT — far too much for a Morning File blurb. I mean, I’ve just included a few key points. If you really want to know the full story, there’s no one better to guide you through this mess than the Examiner’s chief resource writer, Joan Baxter. This latest piece on the LNG plant will fill you in if you know nothing about it, clarify things if you’re spotty on the details, or put events in a clear, chronological order and act as a refresher for those who’ve been following it all along. If you care about the land in your backyard, if you care about where your tax dollars could go, if you care about lowering the province’s emissions and fighting the climate crisis, if you care about the right to protest, I urge you to read through this comprehensive summary of the proposed Goldboro LNG project. If you only have time for one long-form article this week, make it this one.

The full article is behind the paywall. The Halifax Examiner has gone all-in in terms of covering resource issues in Nova Scotia. This takes considerable resources, and we could do so much more with more support. If you support this work, please subscribe, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

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2.

Atlantic Bubble 2.0 unlikely for now, and other COVID-19 news

Premier Iain Rankin at the COVID briefing, April 13, 2020. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

This time the bubble looks like it’ll burst before it’s even formed.

Effective Thursday, travellers coming from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia will once again have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Premier Iain Rankin made the announcement at a COVID briefing on Tuesday, citing recently climbing case numbers in New Brunswick — a breakout in Edmunston, variants of the virus in Saint John, and new cases under investigation in Moncton — as the reason for renewed restrictions. Rankin said he’ll be meeting with the premiers of the other three Atlantic provinces to discuss the future of a renewed bubble, but he expects it won’t reopen until sometime in May at this point.

Tim Bousquet asked Dr. Strang on Tuesday about the details of travel into Nova Scotia and the current cases related to travel — how many travelers from outside the Atlantic provinces? How many international travellers? What percentage are positive cases? How many are temporary foreign workers, rotational workers, snowbirds… Strang’s response was light on specifics:

“I don’t have a breakdown of all that information. We’re certainly looking at temporary foreign workers to make sure — I talked with my team today — we’re going to start looking at tracking much more closely the temporary foreign workers and what kind of — what’s the results of our testing as they’re in quarantine. But I don’t have a breakdown of all the different kinds. We could probably get it. Everybody who comes in has to go through our safe check in process online, and that data is in there; we just haven’t gone through and pulled all that data out to get a sense of that. To me, it doesn’t matter where they’re coming from and what reason. If they’re coming here, they have to either quarantine or follow a strict protocol — if they’re exempted from quarantine, it makes no difference why they’re traveling — the quarantine or their exempted protocol, and the testing that goes with it, is the important piece.”

Also from Bousquet’s regular roundup of COVID-19 news yesterday:

There were six new cases of COVID-19 announced in Nova Scotia Tuesday. All six cases are travel-related: five from international travel, one from travel outside Atlantic Canada. There are now 45 known active cases in the province: three are hospitalized, but none are in ICU.

To see a full break down of pandemic-related numbers in Nova Scotia, as well as links to vaccination booking sites and Bousquet’s virus exposure map, check out the full pandemic report.

Below is a chart tracking the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (today at 4.9) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

Pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites:

Friday: St Andrew’s Community Centre (Bayers Rd./3380 Barnstead Ln.), 10am-5pm
Sunday: St Andrew’s Church (Coburg St.) 1pm-5:30pm
Monday: St Andrew’s Church (Coburg St.) 10am-5:30pm

Just a reminder, the Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 related coverage free during the pandemic. To help support our reporting, please subscribe or donate. Thank you!

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3. More charges laid against former King’s College prof, Wayne Hankey

Wayne Hankey. Photo: University of King’s College

In February, the Halifax Examiner reported on sexual assault charges that had been brought against Wayne Hankey, a former professor at King’s College in Halifax. Hankey, who retired from his post at King’s in 2015, had been suspended in the early 90s following a formal complaint from a student who’d accused Hankey of sexually assaulting him for two years in the 1970s. In February of this year, Hankey was charged with sexually assaulting another young man in an incident in student housing in 1988, “three years before he was suspended.”

On Tuesday, Halifax Regional Police put out a news release, saying the former professor was now facing new charges:

Investigators have charged Wayne John Hankey, 76, of Halifax, with one count of sexual assault (Section 246.1.1) in relation to an incident against a man that occurred in 1982, and one count of indecent assault (Section 156) in relation to incidents against a different man that occurred between 1977 and 1979. In both cases, the charges are as per the criminal code that was in effect at the time the offences occurred.

There were no other details released, but HRP are encouraging any other possible victims to come forward.

In a statement released on the King’s College website, university president William Lahey wrote that the school is reviewing the incidents internally as well:

King’s established an independent review on February 1. On March 4, we confirmed the appointment of Janice Rubin and her law firm as the independent reviewers. These new charges fall within the scope of that review. You can read the terms of the review here. The work of the review is now underway. Members of our community have been invited by Janice Rubin, the lead reviewer, to contact her with any information that may assist her work.

He also wrote:

More will be said after our independent review is complete, when we have the benefit of the reviewer’s findings and recommendations. For today, we acknowledge these additional developments, confirm that the existing terms of the independent review are broad enough to encompass these further developments, and recognize those who have had the courage to come forward.

King’s College is a pretty small, tight-knit community. As someone who had Hankey as a lecturer during my first year at the school, these charges are pretty unsettling, to say the least.

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4.  Lessons learned during Northwood tragedy spared residents and staff during second wave

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson

Deputy Health Minister Dr. Kevin Orrell admitted there were “challenges” around providing Personal Protective Equipment to healthcare workers, and how and when it should be used, immediately after the province declared a State of Emergency March 22, 2020.

After the first continuing care assistant (CCA) at Northwood tested positive for COVID on April 6, the facility supplied its staff with masks and gloves because the province did not have adequate supplies on hand. COVID eventually led to 53 deaths at Northwood and four more at other nursing homes.

Orrell said “lessons learned” and steps taken to improve infection prevention and control as a result of recommendations from two separate reviews have helped to prevent the emergence of even a single case of COVID-19 (knock on wood, fingers crossed, we-are-not-out-of-the-woods-yet) since last summer in Nova Scotia nursing homes.

In contrast to the ongoing outbreaks at nursing homes in other provinces, including New Brunswick next door, it’s worth re-visiting what Orrell told the Legislature’s Committee on Health yesterday.

When you go back to late March 2020, information about COVID-19 and how to prevent the spread of the virus was often unclear and constantly evolving.

“There was no playbook”, said Orrell, reminding MLAs that the first advice public health officials provided health care workers was to wear gloves and wipe down hard surfaces. (Today most information suggests the virus is spread by airborne, microscopic droplets.) Orrell noted that managers at Northwood supplied staff with masks and made wearing them mandatory a few days before the national Public Health Agency came out with its directive.

Two reviews commissioned by the government after the Northwood deaths produced several recommendations, including reducing the number of shared rooms and bathrooms in nursing homes. “Those recommendations have helped us recognize where we could do better”, said Orrell. “That included the provision of the PPE and the education of people who were going to be using it and how to dispose of it properly.”

The recommendations also suggested Nova Scotia Health be put in charge of operations in the event of another outbreak, acknowledging confusion around roles and responsibilities during the first wave hampered nursing home managers responding to the pandemic. Orrell said change would not have been possible without good cooperation among the Department of Health, Nova Scotia Health, and the nursing home operators.

“I think it was only through the synergy of that collaboration that we were able to do a good job with the second, and what is now being described as a third wave, that we have not had an infection in our long-term care facilities since that time,” said Orrel.

Orrel was also asked by the NDP MLA Susan Leblanc if estimates in the provincial budget for 2022-23, which show a $209 million drop in departmental spending, would lead to significant cuts to health care services and health care staff.

“We anticipate as we proceed, and God willing the epidemiology remains good, there will be less spending in the next fiscal year for COVID,” replied Orrell. “Those expenses (including COVID testing sites, contact tracing, vaccination clinics, and purchase of PPE) should decrease and would allow us to save money. We do not anticipate there would be any reduction in any of the health care human resource spending planned in the budget.”

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5. Gutted Biodiversity Act passes at Province House

Entire sections of the Biodiversity Act were crossed out after pressure from industry lobbyists.

“MLAs passed Nova Scotia’s beleaguered Biodiversity Act late Tuesday night after more than three hours of debate that included pointed criticism from the opposition parties and the lands and forestry minister pushing back against the suggestion that not enough consultation went into drafting the bill,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC this morning.

The Halifax Examiner reported last month that the Biodiversity Act had been stripped of its teeth after a propaganda blitz from Forestry NS lobbyists posing as the “Concerned Private Landowners Coalition” pressured the government into removing sections of the bill that would allow for better protection of forests and biodiverse habitats on private lands in NS. The revised bill had been passed by the Law Amendments Committee prior to about two weeks prior to Tuesday night’s vote.

Gorman writes that regulations are still to come and that provincial members of the NDP voted for the bill “because they said some legislation to protect biodiversity is better than no legislation,” but were not happy with it in its ultimate form.

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Views

It ain’t easy bein’ green

A very small compostable coffee cup in a very large three-fingered hand. These cups aren’t as environmentally friendly as I’d like to believe. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

For the past few years I’ve refused to order coffee to go unless I’ve had a travel mug with me to take it in. With the amount of coffee I drink, it just seemed irresponsible to order a single-use cup with a plastic lid whenever I got the impulse for a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon. I was always baffled at the number of these to-go cups I’d see around town or at school. While people called for a ban on straws, shopping bags and other single-use plastics, coffee cups — certainly one of the most prevalent, wasteful single-use items going — rarely got any attention. Only bottled water makes my skin crawl more.

But when the pandemic hit, coffee shops — understandably — refused to fill up personal mugs out of concern for the health and safety of staff and customers. With no option to dine in, cafes switched solely to paper cups in an effort to reduce contact and the spread of germs. Even when they reopened for dine-in service, some businesses decided not to bring back their in-house mugs for those who decided to sit down with their coffee. And I’ve yet to see any cafe start accepting personal travel mugs again (obviously there’s less control over sanitizing and cleaning when the mug comes from outside and I assume we’ll have to wait for the end of emergency restrictions to fill up our own mugs again).

So this past year I’ve cheated on what was once a staunch no-paper-cup rule. About once a week I’d order a coffee to go as a special treat and I’d try not to think about the waste.

Even though they’re “paper,” most are lined with polyethylene to preserve the cup’s integrity and handle the heat of the drink, so they aren’t easily recyclable. It made me cringe every time I ordered a coffee only to throw out the cup and lid twenty minutes later.

Then I found that a cafe nearby was offering its coffee in compostable cups. I still wasn’t a fan of something built to be disposed of so quickly, but it did help ease my guilt. I upped my takeout orders to about twice a week, picking up a latte on my way through town, then throwing the cup in the compost and the lid in the plastic recycling bin when I was done. And so my principles and my coffee habits once again lived in harmony with each other.

But this week I noticed some small print on the cup that said it was only compostable at “industrial compost sites.” It seemed odd to me that something deemed “compostable” would need anything other than the earth to decompose. So I did a little research and found that the cups needed to be composted at a higher heat than regular compost in order to break down. I also found out that the plastic lids I’d been “recycling” were made of no. 6 plastic, i.e. the same class as styrofoam, one of the hardest materials to break down and recycle. So my green conscience took a devastating hit.

During the pandemic, one of the big stories has been how much our human impact on the environment has lessened since air travel and commuting have been cut back. But there’s a flip side that hasn’t received quite as much coverage (though it has received some). In our emergency efforts to fight the virus, we’ve become more wasteful and less concerned with single-use products. Most of the waste comes from PPE — the CBC recently ran stories on discarded masks and their effects on litter and wildlife — but I’d add coffee cups and takeout containers to the list.

If the Canadian government really wants to stop plastic waste by 2030, I think coffee cups — like straws and plastic bags — ultimately have to go. If you walk down the street in Halifax, or drive along the highway, how much of the trash you see strewn around is cups from Tim’s and Starbucks? I’m not sure “compostable” cups are a long-term solution. Even if we do produce cups that are truly biodegradable without any industrial help, it’s still a hell of a lot of waste produced so you can enjoy a few sips of coffee before throwing the rest away when it becomes lukewarm. Besides, most of the people I see buying these things just toss it all in the trash without sorting it anyway.

Just like natural gas or biomass, it’s easier to pretend things are green when it’s convenient to our lifestyles. As for me, it’s coffee from home now until my travel mug is welcomed back in the cafe.

It was a nice fool’s paradise while it lasted.

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Noticed

Photo: IIHF

The Women’s World Hockey Championship is back on!

This week Dr. Strang announced that the tournament — one of the first big pandemic cancellations here in Nova Scotia — will be allowed to go on in May. It will be hosted jointly by Halifax and Truro.

Today Team Canada starts their selection camp, inviting 47 players to compete for their spot on the squad. Among them are three Nova Scotians: Yarmouth’s Allie Munroe, Stellarton’s Blayre Turnbull and Halifax’s own Jillian Saulnier. (Coach Troy Ryan — former coach of DAL’s women’s team — is a Bluenoser too.)

In March of last year, the Examiner reported that Nova Scotia had been expecting up to 82,000 fans to attend the games, with projections for $2.4 million in revenue from food and accommodations. Obviously, that won’t happen this year, but the good news is the best players in the world will be able to compete this year and fans will be allowed in the seats to cheer them on.

However those fans will have to adhere to public health guidelines, such as physical distancing, so I’d have to figure a good portion of ticket holders — who were not refunded last year — will have to get their money back or at least be partially refunded and allowed to attend fewer games (many of the tickets were sold as package deals). After all, last year Hockey Canada expected full buildings for the majority of games. I don’t think Dr. Strang will put up with that, so that’s another hit to revenues. It’s also another disappointment to those who’d hoped to be able to watch Team Canada on home ice.

But the important thing is the highest calibre of women’s hockey will be back on display. The last two years have been tough for the women’s game. (TSN put together this handy timeline for those interested in the recent history of the game). The Canadian Women’s league folded in 2019 and the Four Nations Cup was cancelled that same year when Swedish players boycotted over pay and working conditions.

On the other hand, the women’s game also had some serious momentum building in 2019 going into 2020. The National Women’s league remained alive, absorbing many of the players from the Canadian league — though some held out, saying the National league doesn’t pay its players enough. The newly formed Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association put on the successful Dream Gap tour alongside the NHL’s Players’ Association, with stars of the women’s game barnstorming around North American cities to help grow the game.

Then there was the heated rivalry series between Canada and the United States (we lost four of five, sadly), and women participated in the ECHL All-Star Classic.

The best spotlight for the women’s game came in January of 2020 when a 3 on 3 women’s game at the NHL All-Star festivities was by far the highlight of the weekend. Why? Because it took the best players in the game and actually saw them trying, as opposed to the NHL all-stars — a bunch of millionaires playing a lazy afternoon game of shinny.

But COVID-19 interrupted the NWHL championship and the women’s championship and a lot of that momentum was lost.

Now it has a chance to get going again with this tournament, leading up to next year’s potential Olympic Games. Women’s hockey, like so many other women’s sports, has struggled to find a way to adequately pay and resource its players, who train all their lives to compete at the highest level. That’s a problem that’s not going away with this tournament. But these games do give these players the chance to show us just how exciting the women’s game can be.

So check it out. Show some support. I’m hoping my tickets don’t get cancelled with limited seating now in effect.

God, I miss live hockey.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting

Joint Halifax and West Community Council and North West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm) — live streamed, with captioning on a text-only site

Thursday

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

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm) — virtual meeting

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — live broadcast:

Department of Transportation and Active Transit — Paul LaFleche
Department of Lands and Forestry — Paul LaFleche
Nova Scotia Lands Inc. — Stephen MacIsaac

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 12pm)

Thursday

Legislature sits (Thursday, 12pm)


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

No public events.

Thursday

TRPC & TRPM4 channels in cardiac function & remodeling (Thursday, 11am) — Marc Freichel from Heidelberg University will talk.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

All About Diets (Wednesday, 12pm) — Nutritionist Chelsey Landry will provide info on popular fad diets and evidence-based nutrition facts. Email here for Teams invite.

King’s

Wednesday

Counter Memory Activism Speaker Series (Wednesday, 7pm) — Zoom talk with Sylvia D. Hamilton,

an award-winning filmmaker, educator, historian, artist, writer, journalist, public speaker, poet, and activist from Nova Scotia. In addition to teaching in the School of Journalism at the University of King’s College, Hamilton co-founded a program with the National Film Board to provide women of colour and Indigenous women with opportunities to make film. Her films focus on the struggles and accomplishments of African Canadians and include the Gemini Award-winning Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia and Black Mother Black Daughter, the first film from the Atlantic National Film Board studio crewed entirely by women.

Read more and register here.

Thursday

The Harmonic World of Bach (Thursday, 3pm) — online event: an illustrated lecture with Neil Robertson, accompanied by a concert. $15/20; more info and tickets here.


In the harbour

HALIFAX

06:20 – MSC Eleni, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
14:00 – East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Charlottetown
18:45 – MSC Eleni sails for New York

CAPE BRETON

No arrivals or departures


Footnotes

-The Titanic hit an iceberg on this date in 1912. See, bad news isn’t unique to our own time in history.

-The last time the women’s world championship was in Halifax, my mom and I saw Canada play China. I don’t remember the score, but I know the Canadians scored double digits. It’s probably the only hockey game I ever saw where Canadian fans felt bad when Team Canada scored. Hopefully we get a lot of exciting contests this year. I’m sure we will.

-Honestly, you save a lot of money making your own coffee. Wasn’t that how the Wealthy Barber got wealthy?

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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. Living green is a challenge. I highly recommend the book Rubbish: The Archaeology of Garbage. Though published in 1992, much of it is still applicable. Among other things, there is an entire chapter considering the waste impacts of disposable versus cloth diapers. The conclusion – it doesn’t make much difference. Compared to single use, reusables of any sort usually require more energy and waste to produce, are harder to dispose of, and also need to be cleaned for reuse (which takes energy and produces waste). Unfortunately, much of our environmental policy and attitudes are shaped by what feels virtuous instead of what solves problems. It’s also worth noting that we’ve have a long history of throwing away cheap food containers. https://patrickwyman.substack.com/p/uruk-and-the-emergence-of-civilization

  2. Thank you, Jennifer Henderson, for the work you are doing around the issue of staffing at Long-Term Care Homes in this province. There is so much to be done for those who have risked their lives during this pandemic to care for our loved ones who can’t live at home. I am so afraid that once all this is “over,” work situations for those employed in the homes will continue to be the same. Jennifer’s stories are helping all of us discover the difficult situations staff are put in just to follow their chosen careers and earn money to live on. The public MUST speak up for those employed in LTC homes. It is important work – and demands fair and equitable work conditions and pay!

  3. There are now a number of coffee shops in town accepting travel mugs.

    Here’s the list so far:
    Alteregos Cafe (2193 Gottingen St)
    Boyd’s Pharmasave (2525 Agricola St)
    Cafe Lara (2347 Agricola St)
    Coburg Social (6085 Coburg Rd.)
    Coffeeology (1587 Dresden Row)
    Dilly Dally (6100 Quinpool Rd)
    Dinah’s Sourdough (3540 Novalea Dr)
    Espresso 46 (2867 Isleville St)
    Laughing Whale (261 Lincoln St, Lunenburg)
    Local Jo (2959 Oxford St)
    Lucky Penny (6440 Quinpool Rd)
    The Fourth Pull (5687 West St)
    The Nook (2118 Gottingen St)
    The Osney (5783 Charles St)
    The Tare Shop (5539 Cornwallis St)
    The Tare Shop (21 Portland St)
    The Ville Caffeine Bar (5146 Sackville St)
    Uprooted Market and Cafe (7992 Nova Scotia Trunk 7)

      1. Good to know. I think Ethan forgot to mention that he doesn’t live in Halifax, but in another town where there are fewer cafe options.