It’s a slow summer news day, but the province is moving closer to fully reopening.
And I’ve decided to share my frustrating experiences with pandemic dating for your reading pleasure!
To check that out, scroll to Views.
To read about things you actually need to know, here’s the News…

News

1. COVID-19 Update: reopening Phase 4 of 5

Photo: Government of Nova Scotia

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free through the pandemic. If you want to support this reporting, you can subscribe or donate here.

As of 8am today, the province has entered the penultimate phase of reopening from the pandemic lockdown.

Here’s a link to the full list of the new, lighter restrictions that come with phase 4. Below is a sample of the new guidelines (it’s been announced gyms can open to full capacity so long as masks and distancing are maintained):

The province will move into the fifth and final phase of reopening when 75% of the total population has been fully vaccinated with two doses. As of Monday, 74% of the entire population has received at least one dose.

At a news briefing to start the week, Dr. Strang continued to urge Nova Scotians to reschedule their second dose for an earlier date, saying we could enter this fifth phase by August if vaccination appointments are moved up. If this is the case, the province could see the easing of public health measures and “a move into the new normal of living during COVID-19,” according to the province’s website.

Starting today — and going through Sunday — anyone 18 years old and over can walk in without an appointment to the Dartmouth Community Vaccine Clinic at the spot next to Chapters at Mic Mac Mall to get a second dose, if 28 days has passed since their first dose. Hours are 9am to 6pm and the vaccine is Moderna. A health card number and ID are needed at this site.

People 12 years old and older can book a vaccination appointment here.

As for the numbers …

One new case in the province yesterday. That brings the total number of known cases in the province to 31 — two people are hospitalized with the virus, one of whom is in ICU.

Head to Tim Bousquet’s full COVID news roundup from Tuesday for more details on the numbers, as well as news on testing (stats and locations), case demographics, and potential exposure sites.

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

There’s a COVID briefing at 3pm today. You can watch that here.

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2. Upcoming provincial election: Elections NS taking early vote-by-mail registration now

Canada Post mailboxes in June, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

Elections Nova Scotia announced yesterday that eligible voters in the province are now able to apply to vote by mail.

A provincial election has yet to be called, but a recent series of spending promises from the current Liberal government seems to signal it will be soon. Elections Nova Scotia says that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it expects more Nova Scotians than ever before will choose to vote with a write-in ballot, so early applications will better allow them to prepare for an influx of registrations for mail-in ballots.

You can apply early for a write-in ballot here.

Here’s what you need to know about voting by mail, according to the Elections Nova Scotia website:

  • You must be an eligible voter in Nova Scotia — 18 years or older, a Canadian citizen, and have lived in Nova Scotia for six month or more from the day the election is called.
  • You must first apply in order to vote by write-in ballot when the election is called — you can apply before an election is called (please see application information below).
  • Once the election has been called and your application has been processed by Elections Nova Scotia, you will receive your write-in ballot kit with instructions on how to fill it out and return it.
  • During the election, you must vote by write-in ballot (instead of at an in-person voting location) once your kit has been issued.
  • If you need assistance applying early for a write-in ballot, you can contact Elections Nova Scotia (1-800-565-1504).
  • When you receive it, your write-in ballot kit will include important information about how to fill it out, deadlines to return it, and how to get assistance if you need it.

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3. Mayor: people using emergency shelters won’t be forcibly evicted

An emergency shelter being removed from an HRM park Friday morning. Photo: Halifax Mutual Aid/Twitter

Yesterday was HRM’s self-imposed deadline to remove all emergency shelters from public property around the municipality. Last Tuesday, the municipality had announced it was giving residents one week to remove their belongings and leave and giving Halifax Mutual Aid,  the group that built the emergency structures for homeless persons to take shelter in during the pandemic, one week to remove the shelters before HRM would do so.

On Friday, Zane Woodford reported that the municipality had removed three of the Halifax Mutual Aid shelters before the deadline:

The municipality removed the shelters on Friday — one from Crathorne Park on Jamieson Street in Dartmouth, one from Victoria Park on South Park Street, and one from Raymond Taavel Park at the corner of Inglis and Barrington streets.

“One shelter was occupied by someone who … [was] never offered any housing options by the city. They were at work when their shelter was removed,” Halifax Mutual Aid said in a post on Twitter.

The article continues with the explanation from HRM for the early removal:

In a statement released after 5pm on Friday, the municipality said its deadline “was not a commitment by the municipality to refrain from removal of the temporary shelters prior to this date — rather, it was a notification that the shelters must be vacated by occupants and removed by those who installed them no later than July 13.”

“Whenever an occupant vacates a temporary shelter — prior to, or as of the deadline of July 13 — the municipality will take steps to remove the vacant shelter in as timely a manner as possible,” the statement said.

Yesterday, Haley Ryan with the CBC reported that Mayor Mike Savage has said HRM will not force evictions from these shelters going forward:

Last week, the city posted eviction notices on 11 shelters, saying that people living there had to be gone by July 13, after which point the shelters and items inside would be removed by the municipality.

But on Tuesday, Mayor Mike Savage described the city’s communication as a “timeline.”

“I’m not going to force a deadline and say if people aren’t out by this point in time then they’re going to be forcibly removed. That’s not my intent,” Savage told reporters outside City Hall.

“We’re not intending to have any kind of a confrontation over this. We don’t want to criminalize homelessness. We just want to find a solution that’s safe for everybody.”

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4. Federal-provincial agreement will provide $605 million in funding to reduce costs for families

Family huddled around a tablet. Photo: Alexander Dummer

In a news release Tuesday, the province announced an agreement between the federal and Nova Scotia governments to provide $605 million in funding for childcare to “reduce costs for working families and women and expand access to more quality care across Nova Scotia.”

The province will provide $40 million over five years, while the feds will provide the rest of the funding over that same period of time through the Canada-Nova Scotia Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement.

According to the release, the plan is to use the funding for the following:

  • reduce child care fees by an average of 50 per cent by Dec. 31, 2022
  • ensure child care fees are, on average, $10 per day by 2026
  • create at least 9,500 new early learning and child care spaces by March 31, 2025, including new spaces for infants and toddlers, and a new three-year-old early learning program with priority access given to vulnerable and equity-seeking families
  • enhance before and after care options at schools

Also announced in the release:

“An additional $22.5 million in federal funding … This includes an $11.6 million extension of the Canada-Nova Scotia Early Learning and Child Care Agreement for 2021-22 and a one-time $10.9 million investment to support Nova Scotia’s Excellence in Early Childhood Education workforce strategy.”

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Views

Dating apps and the pandemic

A few months ago, Tim Bousquet asked Examiner reporters to photograph public health signage, testing clinics, vaccination sites, and other soon-to-be relics of the COVID-19 era so as to compile a comprehensive archive of this time in history — a time that could be gone before we know it. Yvette d’Entremont also published her pandemic diary in the spring, a year after the world began shutting down, as a snapshot of what life’s been like through all this.

Now that restrictions are lightening, gatherings are growing, and public spaces are reopening more fully, I thought I’d do my part. At the risk of embarrassing myself and turning the Examiner into Nova Scotia’s version of Cosmopolitan, I offer my own personal experience of dating in the pandemic …

Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

When the parks reopened in May of last year, I took my bike from my apartment on Queen Street over to the greenway on Beaufort for a roundabout trip to Point Pleasant. It was a warm, blue-sky day, made especially bright by the prospect of getting some much needed greenery after a month of seeing nothing but the inside of my apartment or the office at work. I was excited for the variety. Anything but cement. Anything but my roommates and co-workers.

On the way, I cut across the football field at Saint Mary’s and found myself neck and neck with a young, female cyclist. We were going at a pretty good clip in the same direction and, as we copied each other’s turns and accelerations, a tacit understanding formed between us that we were both taking the same route to the park. At that point, we started a playful little race down Tower Road, exchanging a few smiles as we jockeyed back and forth for the lead.

When we got to the bike rack, I was out of breath. I was also out of practice with small talk, let alone flirting — at that point, I wasn’t even going to the grocery store, so I was pretty rusty — but I did my best. We had a good laugh and some light teasing about our “race,” and a short chat about the “strange times” we were living in, and how great it was to be outside again. Then we gave each other a smile and said goodbye.

She jogged away. I walked toward the Arm. And that was that.

Barely a minute had passed before I was hit with a heart-sinking pang of regret: When was I ever going to have the opportunity to strike up a conversation with a stranger again, much less an attractive woman my age? Why didn’t I ask for her number?

This was a time when people would cross the street if they saw someone else coming toward them, so chance encounters were scarcer than toilet paper. I’d just blown a gift from God.

It was then I knew it was finally time to do what pretty much everyone else my age had long ago done. When I got home from the park, I opened my phone and entered the world of dating apps.

From all I’ve read, I’m not the only one who signed up for one of these apps during the pandemic. The BBC, for some reason, has done a lot of reporting on the subject. How dating apps have been used to form virtual relationships more than physical ones since the start of the pandemic, how Tinder broke records for daily “swipes” multiple times during the first month of the pandemic and staff at Bumble were recently given a week off to recover from burnout after the number of users went up 30% over the past year.

So I can’t be the only one to just start using them this past year. I’m glad I did, for the most part, but I never would have joined without the push of a global pandemic.

I just never liked the idea of these apps from the get go. Their business model was based on making money off people’s fears of loneliness, and it just seemed awkward to me to quite literally put yourself on the market — advertising your looks and interests to unknown masses of prospective partners — messaging digital avatars to see if they might want to sleep with you. Some of these apps are now used more predominately to find dates and relationships, but in the beginning they were almost purely for hook-ups. I might be in the minority, but it all felt so seedy to me. (I have since come around somewhat).

I’m also a notoriously terrible texter. Not good if these platforms are designed to make connections over messaging.

There’s something about the idea of getting to know someone over the phone that I hate. I may be a writer, but it’s not my medium. Unversed in emojis. Unable to intuit the proper number of y’s to put at the end of a “heyyyy.” My messages often erred on the side of cold-shower formality. And it could lose girls quickly.

The ones who did stick around for a chat, would often engage in some meaningless — and more frustratingly, endless — conversation, trying to use messaging as a substitute for an actual first date. Things would simply fizzle out online before they had a chance to ever manifest themselves in a real-world meeting. It was just mentally draining stretching out what would have been a 15-minute conversation in real life into a day long text chain. Especially when so many of them led nowhere.

Ghosting was widespread too. You could be having a pretty good exchange with someone, but when you directly asked if they wanted to meet up, it was immediate and eternal radio silence. Not even the courtesy of telling me they were going to the bathroom before never coming back.

It was also hard to organize meet-ups. There was the awkward song and dance of how comfortable we were with getting closer than six feet, or whether we should just wait until restrictions lifted and carry on online until then — a nightmare scenario for me. And when we did meet up, the options were limited.

For the first few months of the pandemic, there were essentially three dates you could go on in Halifax: hike a nearby trail, have a picnic in a park, or go for a walk. If you were lucky enough to have a backyard — I wasn’t — or you had space in your one household bubble — I didn’t — you had the fourth option of having her over for dinner and a movie.

You could also have someone over illegally. I know plenty who did. I don’t have to tell you that isolation was a lonely time. But for me, the usual spice that comes with breaking the rules just wasn’t there when the stakes were possibly spreading or contracting a deadly virus. The virus also made navigating the first move incredibly awkward when, on top of gauging her interest, you had to consider whether you were threatening someone’s life when you went in close.

When I did take someone out, the lack of variety led me to settle into the same template first date every time. I opted for about a dozen walks around the Hydrostone, culminating in a picnic at Fort Needham, or an ice cream at Dee Dee’s, just to mix things up a bit. Some were good, some were bland, but the one good thing about dating in the pandemic — especially early on — is it was near impossible to have a bad date. At worst, when there was no connection, you got to talk with someone new for an hour. No small thing when your social circle was limited to your house and work.

I did eventually meet someone I clicked with. She was working as a nanny and I was at a homeless shelter, so we decided to keep our distance to prevent spreading the virus and potentially infecting children or shutting down a shelter. That meant we essentially spent a summer walking around Halifax together before going our separate ways when I moved off the peninsula. It was kind of nice, in a way, but I doubt I’ll ever have another relationship (or whatever you want to call it) like that again.

After I moved, I was fed up with the apps and I suspended my accounts. Keeping up with them was too exhausting, and so often it just took up my time and energy without going anywhere. Most people were dating multiple people at a time, and that meant you could be in a conversation with someone, then not hear from them for a few days, only to see them resurface when another guy didn’t work out. It was a real momentum killer.

I went back to the real life search for awhile, despite how impossible the pandemic made meeting people. I eventually resorted to dating a coworker over Christmas, something I vowed never to do again after one hellish experience with a hotel clerk in Lake Louise three years ago. But where else was I gonna meet someone? (Luckily, this most recent office romance ended amicably after a month when she moved home to BC after being laid off).

I’ve adapted to a lot of remote socializing over the past year and change, but I never quite figured out dating apps. I’ve still used them off and on over the spring and I think I’ll continue to use them off and on going forward, but I’ll never be able to rely on them as my primary source for meeting people.

For most of my young adult life I was either in university, working in bars, or ski-bumming in a small tourist town. If you can’t meet people in those three locations, I don’t think a dating app will help you. And I am by no means a ladies’ man. My personal life did well to prepare me for a career in freelance writing and the constant rejection that comes with it. I guess I never felt I needed to add an app to my phone to meet people. Approaching a person in the real world, while sometimes terrifying, is pretty easy. It’s finding something lasting and holding onto it that’s hard. And an app doesn’t help with that. At least when you ask someone out in person you know how they feel pretty quickly. You either get a date or get shot down and move on with your life. It’s the staring at a blank screen all day, checking your phone to see if they’ve bothered to respond that kills me.

Now that public places are opening up (including bars) and gathering limits are increasing (meaning parties will be making a comeback soon!) a little old-fashioned flirting is back on the table.

I already put it to good use in the third phase. Got a date with a cute server out of it (after striking out with a neighbour the day before). Didn’t even have to anxiously wait around for her to message back. It was fantastic.

We’re not back to normal yet though. Your vaccination status is now something you get asked about as commonly as where you work and what your hobbies are. But it seems like that’ll be over soon now too. Dating is complicated enough without public health restrictions to consider, so that’ll be a relief.

Pandemic dating was a weird world where the physical was made virtual, the intimate was made a risk to your public health, and meeting people became an exercise in your ability to patiently swipe from a quarantined bedroom in the hopes she might agree to a Zoom date that would sometimes just lead to another Zoom date. May it die a quick death.

Overall, I’m just looking forward to returning to the world of old-fashioned, real life dating. Where miscommunication and frustration are non-existent. To steal a phrase from the online world: LOL.

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Noticed

Student newspapers

A special edition of Acadia’s student paper, the Athenaeum, published in March. The entire issue argued that the publication remained relevant and deserving of funding. Photo: The Athenaeum

I was flipping through the Grapevine yesterday, the Annapolis Valley’s free bi-weekly arts and culture paper, and stumbled on this short announcement:

“Colin Mitchell, former editor in chief of The Athenaeum, the Acadia Newspaper is proud to announce a feel-good story for the month of July. The Ath has always been known as a venue for creativity and inspiration for students for decades and Joe’s Food Emporium on Main Street, Wolfville has supplied much of the brain food to those creative students for over 40 years. Now, they’re teaming up! For the month of July, Joe’s Food Emporium will donate $1.00 from every order of their famous Scott Skins to The Ath Journalism Award, how cool is that?? So get out there, support locals, and enjoy the sun and fun with a plate of famous Scott Skins and help out The Ath and keep the future of journalism alive and well!!”

The award “is meant to celebrate exceptional journalistic work on campus. Up to $1,000 each year is awarded to a contributor to the paper who has displayed journalistic excellence, commitment to The Athenaeum, and promise in campus journalism.”

For those of you who’ve never had a plate of Scott Skins, allow me to fill you in. Scotts Skins are Joe’s signature dish; a pile of fried potatoes, tossed in a house spice, then covered in cheese and bacon. Here’s a quick look from the Joe’s Facebook page:

They’re best enjoyed after midnight, or not at all.

But enough about Scott Skins. The real question is, why does Joe’s, a private Wolfville business, feel the need to help out with a student newspaper award? Well, the Athenaeum needs a little help.

In the spring of this year, Acadia’s Students’ Representative Council (SRC) floated the idea of stripping the Athenaeum, or the Ath, of its Acadia Students Union (ASU) funding. They discussed doing the same with Acadia’s campus radio station. The SRC cited the ASU’s large budget deficit, and what the SRC’s president, in an email to the Ath, called a “lack of effort to change [the Athenaeum’s] presence and relevance while still continuing to expect full funding,” as reasons for considering the cuts.

If this were to happen, the paper and radio station would become clubs, and would have to apply for grants to receive funding, instead of the guaranteed money they now receive. (That guaranteed funding was $5,700 this past year, down from $10,000 three years ago).

In March, the school paper’s staff, as well as a number of alumni, published a special issue of the Ath in response to these discussions, arguing a free, student-run press remains relevant.

It’s no secret that traditional news media have taken a big financial hit in the new millennium. In theory, you might think student newspapers would be immune to the problems faced by private media publications, since they’re able to rely more heavily on university funding than subscriptions or advertising revenue. But, as is evident here, budget cuts can still make their existence precarious.

And these student-run papers aren’t just frivolous publications where undergrads can write about the five best pizza places in town. At least, they shouldn’t just be that.

In an article on the demise of the college newspaper published in the Atlantic two years ago, writer Adam Willis bemoaned the possible loss of publications that, at their best, “have long served as consistent checks against administrative malfeasance, common forums for campus debate, and training grounds for future professional journalists.” Students still need to know how their student unions are using their money, where their university administrations choose to invest their money, and how campus policy is affecting the mental and physical health of students, among other important student-life issues. I doubt there are many students who aren’t interested in this information. I also doubt there are many students willing to sit through a student union meeting, or sit down with the dean to ask these kind of questions, just as there are few private citizens willing to sit through council meetings (thank you, Zane Woodford) or able to have one-on-one chats with the mayor about his decisions.

These stories still matter on university campuses. After all, these are institutions where student and public money are heavily invested. There should be some student body organized to keep an eye on things.

In my time in university (at three different schools), I can’t say many students read the print copies of the respective campus papers. But that doesn’t mean the stories didn’t get read and circulated, or that they weren’t relevant. DAL Gazette articles were widely shared on social media and regularly popped up on my feeds. Articles from the King’s Signal sometimes got retweets from Haligonians, not just King’s students. Younger generations don’t pick up a physical newspaper anymore. That doesn’t mean that what’s printed in them isn’t still of interest and importance to people. Why do you think the Examiner’s online? Just because Tim’s too cheap to spring for a printing press? No. Because there’s no need for one anymore.

These publications change with the times. In my time at King’s, The Signal had completely forgone its print edition, opting to only publish online and promote itself heavily on social media, and I’d point proudly to a large number of relevant, community-based reporting. It wasn’t just some safe training ground for us journalism students. I’d argue the reporting my classmates did there often added something of merit to the journalistic community of Halifax. The Watch, King’s long-form magazine, took some time to retool in 2019 when the monthly print edition no longer made sense. To maintain relevance, it also decided to scrap its print edition and attempt to reach students online in a format where its articles were more likely to be read.

Obviously, student newspapers are not all hard-hitting journalism, and some articles they publish can be amateurish, but that doesn’t mean there’s not still lots of university news that’s worth reporting and reading. It’s up to student journalists and editors to do the work to keep their stories, and the ways in which they’re delivered, relevant and accessible to their peers. To say campus stories are no longer relevant to students simply isn’t true. And to use that argument as a reason to cut funding to student papers does a huge disservice to a vital part of university life.

In the case of the Ath, Acadia’s SRC ended the spring semester without cutting the paper’s (or the radio station’s) funding. Last week, Saltwire reported that the paper’s staff is now in talks with the SRC to stop taking funding from the AUS budget and instead simply levy all students $2.50 directly each year to run the paper, making them independently funded. They’ll have to wait for the next school year to figure that one out. If it happens, we’ll see if a more independently funded student paper keeps a more dogged watch on the dealings of the Students’ Representative Council.

As for the current Joe’s Food Emporium model, I’ll gladly make a direct donation to the paper, but there’s still only one thing that will ever persuade me to buy Scott Skins: alcohol.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am) — virtual meeting

Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — livestreamed on YouTube

License Appeal Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available

Thursday

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

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

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — via video conference: June 2020 Report of the Auditor General – Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, Phase I; May 2021 Report of the Auditor General – Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, Phase II; featuring Greg Hughes and George Mclellan from NSLC, and Kelliann Dean

Thursday

Health (Thursday, 1pm) — video conference: Recruiting and Training Medical Students in Rural Areas; featuring representatives from Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine and Nova Scotia Health Authority


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: Kibaz, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Irving Oil
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
12:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport

Cape Breton
11:00: Thunder Bay, bulker, sails from Coal Pier for sea
18:00: Eagle Kuching, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
19:00: Zeynep, oil tanker, moves from outer anchorage to Point Tupper


Footnotes

  1. When the pandemic hit, my current roommate actually moved in with his new girlfriend’s family for two months. He’s a braver man than I. Ultimately they split up, but he wound up growing closer to the family than he did to her. He still hangs out with her parents sometimes. “Strange times” indeed.
  2. I always root for the National League in the All-Star game, and they always let me down. Hats off to Vladdy for that moonshot he hit though. Doing the Blue Jays proud.

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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. Post Office is very unreliable these days 4 to 6 weeks average delivery for me . would not use it for a ballot .People at PO say there is no guarantee of delivery because of Covid .

    1. That’s strange. When I send out T-shirts (envelopes) and hoodies (parcels), they generally arrive within two days in HRM, three-four days in NS.