News

1. Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp Mill (book cover photo from Joan Baxter’s Book, The Mill). Photo courtesy of Dr. Gerry Farrell

Joan Baxter reviews the new ministerial orders requiring environmental monitoring of the pumping of wastewater from Northern Pulp Mill into Boat Harbour as the mill winds down operations. Baxter finds that the orders are appropriately stringent, however:

As the Halifax Examine reported here, in October 2018, the pipeline sprung a large leak near where it comes ashore at the mouth of the East River. The leak was discovered, as were several previous leaks – including the massive one in 2014 that spewed 47 million litres of toxic effluent onto the sacred Mi’kmaq burial grounds at Indian Cross Point – by William Palmer, a nearby resident who walks his dog in the area.

If Northern Pulp had had “real time flow monitoring equipment at the end of the effluent transmission pipeline,” why did mill staff learn of the leak from Palmer, hours after it happened?

We don’t yet know what caused the 2018 pipeline leak; NSE spokesperson Rachel Boomer said in an email that the investigation is still ongoing.

At the rate that investigation is going, it could be that by the time it’s finally completed, there will be no more pipeline.

Click here to read “The province issues tough new orders to Northern Pulp.”

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2. Politicians’ reaction to Common parking garage

A government rendering of the proposed parking garage on Summer Street appears to show a four-storey parking garage; the tender offer for the structure calls for a seven-storey parking garage.

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

Yesterday, in a scrum with reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting, Premier Stephen McNeil and MLA Labi Kousoulis explained why they are OK with building a parking garage on Halifax Common land.

The proposed site for the seven-storey garage is the existing paved parking lot to the south of the N.S. Museum of Natural History beside the Wanderer’s Ground, plus an additional half-acre of Common green space bordered by Summer Street and Bell Road the province wants the City to sell.

Said Premier McNeil:

I have all confidence that the city will recognize the important part of ensuring that people who are not well have a place to park, and that people who provide care to our citizens also have a place to park. Cooler heads will prevail.

Said Labi Kousoulis, MLA for Halifax-Citadel, whose riding contains the hospital and the Common land:

I’ve heard from a lot of people in support of it and a lot of people who are against it. Many people are misinformed and think we are actually building it across the street on to the green space of the Commons. I’ve had one person say, are you building it on the skate-park ? Are you taking out the soccer field? And I explain, “No, we are building it on the existing parking lot which is between the Museum and the Wanderer’s Ground.”

My point of view is that it is a positive. This helps accessibility because it creates more parking spots. Parking for nurses is a big issue right now and when we expand the size of the hospital, parking is going to be a huge issue.

The intent of the Common land is that it be used by the people. When I look at what services do we need to provide for people, the top priority is health care. For me, hospitals trump everything.

Tim Bousquet adds:

Yesterday, the Examiner reported that:

In the architectural rendering the government released earlier this year, the proposed garage appears to be just four storeys high, just slightly higher than the three-storey museum building next door. But Public Accounts yesterday was told the garage would be seven storeys high.

We weren’t the only ones who noticed. This morning, Marcel Tarnogorski, a Masters of Architecture grad from Dalhousie, wrote a guest post on Halifax Councillor Waye Mason’s website pointing out the same discrepancy, and finding a solution: 

A static render that is carefully crafted to provoke a favourable opinion and technical plans that do nothing to convey the experience of a proposal are not enough to form your own, individual opinion.

A publicly accessible 3D model of a proposal lets us to play with the information, understanding the full impact it will have on the experience of our city. When we are allowed to see the proposal from every angle, we are able to form our own opinions on how the proposal fits into the urban fabric. We can also see how it impacts our day to day life – the walk home from the grocery store, the view from the living room window, the pride we can take in our city.

The model presented here is a step toward the transparency and accessibility needed for civic discussions. The model was traced directly from plans and elevations found in the tender documents issued on January 28th, and are therefore as accurate as possible to what the province is asking to have built on the commons.

Below is Tarnogorski’s revised, more accurate rendering of the proposed garage. Compare it to the rendering above:

Redering: Marcel Tarnogorski

3. Minimum wage increase

The province announced Thursday Nova Scotia’s minimum wage is set to go up a dollar, to $12.55, as of April 1. According to the CBC, this is the largest increase over the past 10 years. With it, Nova Scotia will have the second-highest minimum wage in the region and it’s expected to increase personal income for full-time workers by $2,000 per year.

Despite a significant increase, compared to other years, not everyone is impressed. In a press release quoted by CBC, Restaurants Canada’s Atlantic vice-president, Luc Erjavec is worried about how the jump will impact employers. He said the government promised $0.55 over three years last year, not a $1.00 a year.

“It actually adds a level of mistrust. Will we believe them next time they say something?” he said. “It’s unfair to put us in this position and to give us such short notice for such a substantial increase.”

Others, like Gary Burrill of the Nova Scotia NDP, said $1.00 isn’t enough to decrease poverty levels. Burrill would like to see a $15 minimum wage.

4. Coronavirus information

Only a few hours before the World Health Organization announced the coronavirus is a public health emergency, Nova Scotia announced a website to keep misinformation at a minimum. According to HalifaxToday the website, which details everything from symptoms to the latest travel advice, will update residents if a case is found in Nova Scotia.

While the risk to Canadians and Nova Scotians remains low, it is important to share accurate information about novel coronavirus,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “I want to assure all Nova Scotians that public health officials here in Canada, and around the world, are working together and that the provincial health system has the necessary screening, testing and infection control protocols in place.

So far, no cases have been found in the province.

5.  Mental health walk-in clinic saved

The North End Community Centre says they’re helping patients get mental health help on their own terms, instead of waiting for scheduled appointments and referrals. Photo: North End Community Centre website

Two days after organizers of Pause: Mental Health Walk-in Pilot Project announced it would run out of funding, the department in charge says it will find more money.

The pilot, located in the North End Community Health Centre, is funded through the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage’s “building vibrant communities” grant, reported John McPhee for the Chronicle Herald.

Social worker Megan MacBridge told McPhee the service is more accessible than others in the area, and had more than 60 people use it, and 60% of those people more than once.

Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine said there was not a specific funding request made for the walk-in clinic, but it’s clear it’s important. “Now that the need has become public, we’ll certainly take a look at what is needed,” he said.

However, there might be a delay on when the clinic can open, unless it receives funding by next week. Marie-France LeBlanc, the centre’s executive director, said the clinic will open as soon as possible.

“I know that our counsellors that run it are very committed to it so as long as we can get them back in place, we’ll make it happen. So certainly our intention is to get it up and running as soon as possible as soon as we get some funding in place,” said LeBlanc.

She said annual cost of the program is between $50,000 and $55,000.

6. Car explosion on Quinpool

Photo: Brad Goodsell/Global News

A car exploded in the Quinpool Centre parking lot on Thursday night, after a man forgot he had a propane tank in his back seat.

Global News reporters Alexander Quon and Elizabeth McSheffrey said the incident occurred shortly after 7pm, when the man lit a cigarette, igniting the tank and causing it to explode.

The man was taken to hospital, but appeared to have non-life threatening injuries. Police searched for the propane tank on the roof of a nearby Wendy’s, thinking it might have ejected.

“We actually found the propane tank was buried in some debris on the floor,” said District Fire Chief Kevin Reade “So it was just the (car) roof actually blew off.”


Views

1. Lack of Transparency

In November, the Dalhousie Student Union voted to not stream council meetings since some council members were uncomfortable speaking when they were streamed. For accountability purposes, they said recordings of the meetings would be available upon request.

Becky Dingwell, editor of the Dal Gazette, has asked for records, multiple times, but hasn’t been given anything yet. You can read her entire thread about the issue here.

2. The short-term rental problem

If the 1% vacancy rate in Halifax wasn’t enough of an issue, lawyer Barbara Darby said there are more issues with Airbnbs than just taking away from long-term rental prospects.

In one instance there was a case involving discrimination and racism when a host refused to rent to someone after they showed up.

In Rai v. Airbnb and another the host was specific to her renters: “If…anyone else asks, please make sure yourself and all your guests know to say that ‘you are family friends staying at the unit.’” Fair enough: she wanted her privacy while renting her space to strangers, and didn’t want “concierges…involved in her business.”

But in this hotel-not-a-hotel world, friends of the family can be kicked (not literally) to the curb (literally). Rai is the Airbnb version of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Atul and Ann Rai, from Wichita, registered to rent for 4 nights in Vancouver from host Richelle Onyschtschuk. Mr. Rai’s evidence was that when the host saw his bi-racial family on the doorstep, her “family friends,” she was suddenly “uncomfortable” about renting to them and terminated the rental, leaving them stranded in the early evening. He attests that “he could ‘feel the hatred in her eyes’ towards him and towards his children when she looked at them.”

In another case, a man from Pictou County claimed his bride-and-groom renters had damaged the floor by dancing and it had to be replaced. The couple said they followed his no-shoes rule.

From the testimony of the bridal couple, the host’s demand for hyper-vigilance related to the Floor ruined their wedding: the main event was “taking care of the floors with a side event of a wedding.” They purchased flip flips for the guests, put a “no heels” sign up, and made guests change their shoes.  According to witnesses, grandma couldn’t dance, either, because elderly guests had to stay seated, their “no skid” footwear having been removed for the sake of the Floor. The bridal party altered their dress styles to respect the Floor, and the bride wore “foot jewelry” instead of shoes, because Floor. The bride’s sister stood guard at the door the whole night with said flip-flops to police footwear status.

There are several other instances Darby notes about Airbnbs that shed a different light on the convenience of home-yet-hotel-like atmosphere of the short-term rental. Read about them here.


Noticed

1. Rush hour and transit safety

Have you ever stood out in the cold waiting for a bus, which is running late, only to find it filled to the brim with people? You’re cold and need to get home, so you get on it for that reason, and because the driver allows it, only to realize you have nothing to hold on to.

Well then, you and I have been in the same situation.

I often take the bus home between 3 and 5pm., depending on the day and weather. I’m usually on the 9A/B or 1, but both buses are doing the same thing: taking on too many people. For the 9A and B, it’s usually full due to students getting out of Citadel High School; the 1’s usually full due to university students and workers finishing their days.

Most people are standing up, with only their own balance to keep them from falling, but even the smallest lurch or stop can cause a tumble. Now, I’m an able-bodied person and I have OK balance, but think, for a second, about those who don’t. By the time the bus reaches Quinpool Road, there’s no room for anyone else, let alone someone with a wheelchair, stroller or mobility issue. If they were on ther bus, I’d be more scared for their safety than my own.

But everyone is in danger when the bus is overcapacity, able-bodied or not.

I’m not faulting anyone for getting on the bus, especially after a long day, or if it’s late, but something needs to be done. More frequent buses during rush hour? Making sure the capacity rules are followed? A separate bus for Citadel High that travels the 9’s route? Something, anything is better than being worried every time the bus turns a corner.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Friday

Scale-Appropriateness in Food Law: Solution for Community Health Disparities? (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Katherine L Mah and Jamie Baxter will talk.

The Portuguese Immigrants of British Guiana and the Wider Caribbean in the 19th Century (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Joanne Collins-Gonsalves will talk.

Saturday

IDEALaw Conference on Law, Social Activism and the Media (Saturday, 9am, Weldon Law Building) — panels and workshops to explore how the media, the law, and activist movements all impact and shape each other.

Panels include Environmental Racism and the Media with Chief Andrea Paul, Louise Delisle, and Ingrid Waldron; Sexual Assault and the Media with Angel Moore, Maggie Rahr, Jordan Roberts, and Ardath Wynacht; Youth Justice and the Media with Shawna Hoyt and DeRico Symonds.

More info here and here, register here.

34th Annual Cameron Conference (Saturday, 9:30am, Room 242, Life Sciences Centre) — featuring Biology & Marine Biology Honours Student Research. More info here.

The New Venture Marketplace (Saturday, 5pm, Keith’s Brewery Market) — with up-and-coming local craft and food businesses. More info here.

Saint Mary’s

Friday

Back to the Classroom: Climate Change Crisis (Friday, 12pm, Loyola 298) — Cathy Conrad “will bring her research from the front lines of climate change in rural West Africa home to SMU with the stories of how people’s lives are being gravely impacted by the climate crisis.” More info here.

Saturday

23rd Annual International Night (Saturday, 5:30pm, location not listed) — the International Student Centre presents performances representing cultures around the world, and a multicultural buffet meal. $25 – $30, tickets and more info here.

King’s

Friday

King’s Infringement Festival (Friday, 8:30pm, The Pit, Arts and Administration Building) — the week-long festival of student-written and -created theatre and art ends Saturday. Tickets $2 at the door. More info here and  here.

Mount Saint Vincent

Saturday

Megan Kyak-Monteith, Whale Hunt: I Think Everyone is Here 2019 (video still)

Prospect 19: Megan Kyak-Monteith—Whale Hunt: I Think Everyone is Here (Saturday, 2pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — opening reception with the artist, a recent graduate of NSCAD from Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), NU who lives and works in Halifax.


In the harbour

06:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
08:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Baltimore (itinerary)
08:00: HMCS Harry DeWolf, Arctic patrol ship, sails from Halifax Shipyard for sea for sea trials
11:30: Ef Ava sails for Portland
11:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
13:00: Atlantic Action II, cargo ship,sails for sea
15:30: Torino, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
21:30: Atlantic Sky sails for Liverpool, England


Footnotes

Since its been in the news, did you know the Halifax Common (yes, that’s Common, not Commons), is bigger just a few grassy areas near Quinpool? It’s 95 hectres (234.75 acres), stretches down to South Street and is currently occupied by many other buildings and institutions, like the VG, the Public Gardens and Victoria Park.

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  1. The parking garage is a monument to the car, so of course it is built on the commons–this is the limited imagination of the ruling class. We can also see it as a giant tombstone to the fossil fuel industry, as garish and stupid as the over-the-top Mother Canada statue proposed for Cape Breton.

  2. Every hospital has and needs a parking area/garage.
    Summer street should be closed to through traffic for one block and the parking garage should be built adjacent to the Summer street entrance to the QE2 to provide direct access for patients,staff and visitors.
    Here is part of one comment from the twitterati “….. it never occurred to me that a hospital should be required to provide parking for 92% of visitors. It’s a health care service, and that’s how space and resources should be directed. I’d always look to arrive by bus. ”
    Posted by an able-bodied person who apparently never uses a hospital and/or doesn’t understand how the hospitals in Nova Scotia serve people from both near and far.
    The IWK has a 6 storey parking garage.

    This fiasco is another example of needless secrecy by Premier McNeil; an open discussion of the need for and location of a parking garage would have been much more productive.

  3. Another important point about the inaccurate parking garage rendering that the province is using is that it doesn’t show the shadow of the building. I was happy to see the inclusion of a realistic shadow (for that approximate time of day) included in Marcel’s rendering.

    The province has said that the new facility won’t impact either the Lancer’s ground or the Wanderers facility, but I believe they are simply talking about the footprint (and to my knowledge neither of those organizations agrees with them). But what about the impact of a 7 story Borg building on the natural light and atmospheric conditions (e.g. wind-tunnel effects)?

  4. Regarding the Commons parking garage: The politicians supporting it seem oblivious to the fact that many citizens do not own cars, or find car ownership a significant financial burden. Perhaps we could focus on providing better transit, which could benefit everyone, instead of (more) parking.

    We might also improve health services by ensuring there are enough family doctors, so that people are not going to emergency because no other care is available, instead of making it easier to park for those emergency visits.

    1. Well said. How about working with HRM for park and rides into the city? Let’s get less cars on the road, not more.

      Also why is it that the proposed power plant on the opposite side of the museum is not as contentious?

      1. I think because no renderings have been released and so the awareness is not there. As proposed it would be right on the corner, blocking the view of the museum and its green surroundings. No doubt it would lead to a serious decline in museum visitors, tourists especially. This is absolutely terrible land-use planning and I hope the city does all it can to block the proposal.

  5. We at CARP NS are surprised and disappointed that the NS Mental Health Foundation did not step in and give at least bridge funding to the pilot Mental health walk-in clinic. We hope that the large amount of funds raised by the NS Mental Health Foundation could be the seed funding for similar programs across the province.

  6. Your selective quotation of Barbara Darby’s post omits her conclusion. This could mislead readers into the impression she shares the deeply conservative Halifax left’s Reverso-World hatred of disruptive services that actually help consumers of modest means (AirBnB, Lyft, Uber), and its incomprehensible eagerness to defend overpriced hotel chains and the purveyors of filthy, late-arriving, sexual assault-prone, taxis. Here is what she wrote:

    “The undercurrent of anti-STR is that it isn’t the opposition of vacation rental in favour of affordable housing, but the desire to have only people like me in my backyard and no transients at all.”

    1. Thanks for reading it, Parker. I’m very much in favour of services that help consumers of modest means –but I do remain skeptical about how the disruptive services might skirt regulatory protections with regard to safety and human rights. I probably could have put that better in my piece but was rushing to get it out to keep with my one per month schedule!

      1. > “the deeply conservative Halifax left’s Reverso-World hatred of disruptive services … and its incomprehensible eagerness to defend overpriced hotel chains and the purveyors of filthy, late-arriving, sexual assault-prone, taxis”

        Wow Parker. “If you don’t support ‘disruptive’ industries, then you must support the terrible practices of the existing industry”? What’s the term for that particular logical fallacy? Is *that* what “contrarianism” is?

        Following that approach, since you’re so opposed to the “closure culture” that surrounds winter storms (and warnings) and the impacts that you perceive on the economy, you wouldn’t have a problem with me saying:

        “Parker Donham is an eager supporter of injury and death to people who have to travel in adverse weather conditions”.

  7. How much of a minimum wage worker’s earnings go directly to the rich? It is one thing for a person to start a business and extract some surplus wealth – but it is completely absurd that money can be made simply by owning property.