News

1. Woodford report: new budget, new deficit for convention centre, and more from Halifax council

A man waits for a COVID-19 test outside the Halifax Convention Centre on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford sits through another Halifax Regional Council meeting so you don’t have to. In his roundup of news from city hall Tuesday, Woodford tells us about the following:

• The Halifax Convention Centre is expected to lose $8.4 million this year, according to Event East’s 2021-2022 budget. The provincial and municipal governments pay off that deficit and HRM is expected to cover $4.2 million of this updated deficit. Two weeks ago, Woodford reported that the deficit for 2020-2021 grew about $200,000 to $11.3 million from the budget. The new budget from Events East, a Crown corporation jointly owned by the municipal and provincial governments, was submitted for council’s approval yesterday, almost halfway through the fiscal year. Council approved the budget, but one councillor asked why there was no presentation from Events East during the meeting.

• Canadian Tire is in talks with HRM about putting $1.5 million toward building a new playground at an HRM park yet to be determined. Council approved a motion Tuesday to allow a city park to be named after Canadian Tire’s charity arm Jumpstart. Once it’s decided where this “Jumpstart Park” will be, the proposed name will come back to council for final approval.

Pockwock Falls. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

• Coun. Pam Lovelace made a motion — that passed unanimously — to request a staff report concerning a popular hiking trail in her district. She wants to look into creating a formal trail from Pockwock Road to Pockwock Water Falls. The trail, which is part of the old Annapolis Road, is currently a mix of private and municipal land. There is no formal maintenance, and years of illegal dumping along the trail have led to friction between hikers and locals.

• Earlier this month, the Examiner reported that HRM’s auditor general and her team found Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s inspection program isn’t meeting the legislative requirements for the municipality. Too many inspections are happening years late, and follow-up is lax. Now, council is giving the department 60 days to come up with an action plan on how the inspection program will be fixed.

And that’s nearly all you need to know from yesterday’s Halifax Regional Council meetings yesterday. But Woodford’s not done quite yet. Scroll down for more…

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2. Priced Out: council approves mobile shower pilot program

A mobile shower trailer. Photo: therighttoshower.com

Despite HRM’s “best efforts” to provide adequate shelter for those sleeping rough in the municipality, there are still a number of people in Halifax sleeping on the street and tenting in parks. For those living in these conditions, access to basic hygiene can be severely limited (Philip Moscovitch wrote about the lack of access to public bathrooms in the city here and here last year).

As Zane Woodford reports in his second article from Tuesday, a newly approved pilot program is looking to change that.

On Tuesday, Halifax regional council passed a motion approving a mobile shower pilot program.

For the next nine weeks starting Friday, temporary showers will be available three days a week from 1pm to 4pm for anyone who needs them. The showers will operate out of a mobile trailer, although the location hasn’t been decided on yet.

The program is expected to cost $17,000, with most of the money going toward the trailer rental and contracting two employees from Mainline Needle Exchange to operate the facility.

Woodford’s full article looks at more of the specifics of the pilot program, what permanent shower options are being considered, as well as other council news on affordable housing grants and the issue of homelessness in the city.

This piece is part of the Halifax Examiner’s new “Priced Out” series, an ongoing investigative reporting project focused on the housing crisis.

You can learn about the project, including how we’re asking readers to direct our reporting, our published articles, and what we’re working on, on the PRICED OUT homepage.

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3. COVID update

Photo: Edward Jenner/Pexels

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 pandemic coverage free to the public. If you’d like to support the Examiner in its reporting, you can subscribe or donate here.

A 97th Nova Scotian has died of COVID-19. The man, who was in his 70s and lived in Nova Scotia Health’s Northern Zone, is the fourth person in this province to succumb to the disease since Aug. 25.

The province reported the death on Tuesday. Also reported yesterday: 32 new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, bringing the total known active caseload to 205. Here’s a breakdown of where those new cases are:

  • 27 Central Zone
  • 2 Eastern Zone
  • 3 Northern Zone

In this latest announcement, Nova Scotia Health repeated that “there are signs of community spread among those in Central Zone aged 20 to 40 who are unvaccinated and participating in social activities.”

As always, you can find more about yesterday’s numbers, as well as info on vaccinations (74.4% of Nova Scotians are now fully vaxxed), testing, case demographics, and potential exposure advisories in Tim Bousquet’s latest COVID update from yesterday right here.

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4. Lisa Banfield files claim for part of mass murderer’s estate

The Portapique sign on Highway 2 was adorned with a Nova Scotia tartan sash following the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

“The common-law spouse of the man who murdered 22 people across Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19, 2020 wants a part of the killer’s estate,” writes Tim Bousquet in his report from Tuesday.

On Friday, Lisa Banfield filed a claim in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, asking the court to declare that she is entitled to “a share of the proceeds” of GW’s estate [the Examiner refers to the killer by his initials, GW]. She provides no dollar figure or percentage share for the claim.

The estate consisted of two adjacent properties on Portland Street in Dartmouth that included his denture clinic, three properties in Portapique, $705,000 in cash, Guaranteed Investment Certificates, and other assets. Some of the property may have been sold by the estate since GW’s death.

Bousquet continues:

By making claim to part of the estate, Banfield is attempting to at least in part preempt a class action lawsuit filed by family members of GW’s victims; the lawsuit specifically excluded Banfield from the class action. That class action will likely be certified next month.

This could be a thorny issue, as Banfield is charged with two counts of unlawfully providing GW with ammunition he used in the murder spree. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Two of the strangest parts of this story: first, in her claim, Banfield doesn’t mention the mass murders and merely states that GW “died on the morning of April 19, 2020.” GW was shot dead that morning by an RCMP officer. Second, is this argument in Banfield’s claim, that says potential creditors of the estate — which include the victims’ families who have sued the estate — “would be unjustly enriched if some of the assets held in the name of [GW] at the time of his death or the value of those assets were not transferred to [Banfield].”

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5. Halifax’s King of the Ring

Pro wrestler JP Simms. Photo: Contributed

You don’t need to be a fan of pro wrestling to get swept up in this profile piece on Halifax wrestler JP Simms from Matthew Byard.

Take it from me. I know that the WWE changed its name from WWF when I was a kid because World Wrestling Federation shared the same acronym with the World Wildlife Foundation (who would’ve thought a bunch of wrestlers would’ve backed down to some tree-hugging hippies). And I know who Vince McMahon is. That’s the extent of my wrestling knowledge.

But even I had a great time reading about Simms, a 33-year-old who grew up in Kline Heights, dreamed of being a pro wrestler dreams, flew to Calgary to train with a pro, returned home to wrestle on small tours for years, and is starting to find some serious success in the ring.

Not convinced this is your cup of tea? Let me give you a taste.

Here’s an excerpt of Byard describing Simms match against heavyweight champion Covey Christ this summer:

JP Simms suddenly found himself down one fall and facing defeat in his two-out-of-three falls challenge for the Kaizen Pro Wrestling heavyweight championship this past July.

“While Christ caught his wind, Simms’ disbelief transformed into desperation. What had just happened? How did he get here? Just moments ago, 50 Cent’s ‘I Get Money’ blared through the theatre speakers, as Simms oozed with confidence while he entered the theatre and then the ring, to the polarized reaction of the crowd.

Back to reality. Simms had to act fast. And so, he did what any ‘bad guy’ or ‘heel’ wrestler would do. He grabbed a steel chair.

Spoiler alert: he doesn’t use the chair to sit down and take a breather. To see just how that episode with the chair unfolds, and for the story of a local man’s struggles and successes in balancing pro wrestling, family, and life, check out Matthew Byard’s story about “The Real Maritime King of the Ring.”

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Views

A sign reading, “No reconciliation without justice” on the gates of Province House in June 2021.  Photo: Zane Woodford

1. New traditions for a new national day

Tomorrow is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It will be observed across the country, and in three provinces, including this one, it will be a statutory holiday.

So what is this new national day supposed to entail?

The federal government’s website describes the day this way:

The day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.

We’re encouraged to wear orange — today is Orange Shirt Day, a day meant to honour the children who survived Residential Schools and to remember those who didn’t.

We’re also encouraged, as the website description says, to publicly commemorate this part of our history. Not easy with COVID, but there are events happening around the province. In Halifax, the Grand Parade will be lit up orange tonight in tribute and tomorrow there’ll be a ceremony in the evening with a survivor of the Shubenacadie Residential School speaking alongside Landyn Toney, the boy who walked from his home in Valley, Colchester County this summer to the reserve of Annapolis Valley First Nation to raise awareness for the residential school students who never made it home. And the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre will be putting on events along the waterfront through the weekend.

But we won’t all make it to ceremonies tomorrow. So how should we observe the day? What new traditions might come out of this legislated chance to reflect on our past?

You can educate yourself on this part of our past, familiarizing yourself with the history of the Indian Act, the Royal Proclamation of 1763, and the UN declaration on rights of Indigenous peoples. You can read Indigenous works, like the great Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese or From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle, works of fiction and autobiographical account, respectively, that beautifully and painfully illustrate the lifelong, personal impacts residential schools had on the individuals forced to attend them.

I suppose for most of us who want to actively observe this day, this new national day is a chance to deeply reflect on the effects of centuries of colonialism and usurpation — deeply uncomfortable topics to think about, let alone discuss — and try to understand what reconciliation could truly mean.

I had a conversation with my dad a few months ago when the first graves of children were discovered at the school near Kamloops. We were trying to talk about what reconciliation meant and what it would look like going forward. 

Ultimately, my dad said he understood it was important and necessary, but was unsure that anyone could actually pin down what reconciliation is. 

A federal commission working on a seven-year project resulting in a six-volume report with 94 calls-to-action might disagree that no one can pin down what reconciliation looks like. But it’s true that it can seem like a nice idea, but a vague, abstract one at times.

There are concrete outlines for reconciliation. Requests to repeal the law that allows teachers and other adults to use “reasonable” force with children, for example. But I admit, when we think of how we reconcile for the decades of state-sanctioned abuse, as well as a whole history of a country formed on stolen land, it can be a bit overwhelming to the point where it feels impossible to make up for the past.

Still, I was surprised yesterday when I heard former senator Murray Sinclair talking about reconciliation on CBC’s Unreserved, and saying he was still a bit unclear about what reconciliation will truly look like in this country. And this is the man who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

And if he still feels a little confused, I figure I’ll give him the last word. This is part of his response to the question of what true reconciliation will ultimately look like:

It’s the question I often challenge Indigenous people to think about, and that is, if we had been allowed to continue our lives uninterrupted, what would we be doing? What would our elders be empowered to do? How would our grandmothers and grandfathers be treated? Where would they be sitting in the councils? I think that most Indigenous people don’t know the answer to that and because they haven’t yet figured out who they are and who their people are and what their teachings are, so that process needs to be gone through. But I would say I’ve seen inklings of how Indigenous governments can work if we allow it to work, and how Indigenous people can function…without outside interference. And I’d say that’s what we need to strive for as part of the process of reconciliation.

He then concludes by saying reconciliation is more of a relationship that we must build and work on between the Canadian government and the Indigenous peoples of the country, than an end goal: 

I did say … at the end of the TRC report that we will not achieve reconciliation in my lifetime. We will probably not achieve it in the lifetime of my children. We may not even achieve it in the lifetime of my grandchildren.

But if we make a concerted effort … then eventually we will be able, some day, to wake up and, to our surprise, find that we are treating each other in a way that was intended when contact was first made.

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Caption: The Mi’kmaq Flag on the Macdonald Bridge to honour The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, 2021. Photo: Halifax Harbour Bridges

Remember how I just asked what new traditions might spring up from tomorrow’s inaugural national day? How about hanging the Mi’kmaq National Flag above a bridge named after a man who helped develop the residential school system. (Though I know waving a flag on the bridge in support of a people’s heritage hasn’t always been well-received). It’s up there already, and I’m sure it’ll be back next year.

And since we’re looking at the bridge in the context of the first Truth and Reconciliation Day — how have we not renamed that bridge yet?

I’m not calling for the erasure of John A. Macdonald from the history books here — I’m not blind to his significance and accomplishments in this country, or to the muddy, conflicting nature of human beings — but I think there are two good reasons for ditching the Macdonald name here.

First, this is a man who famously said “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with his parents who are savages; he is surrounded by savages. He is simply a savage who can read and write.” And he didn’t say that drunkenly on Thanksgiving to a small table of captive relatives.

That was on the floor of the House of Commons. Keep him in the history books, fine, and leave in the good railway and “building a nation” stuff, no problem, but don’t name a major thoroughfare in the middle of the city after him.

Second — and this is more pragmatic — it would really clear things up to rename that bridge. Just put politics aside for a second. For decades now, people have complained that we have two bridges named after “Macs.” Renaming the bridge could wipe away decades of confusion. Now bring politics back into it. We have the political will to rededicate things named after John A. Macdonald. We could take the opportunity to rename the bridge to the Change the name to the “anything-that-doesn’t-sound-remotely-like-MacKay” Bridge. Call it the Friendship Bridge or the Reconciliation Bridge if we want, or the apolitical “Old Bridge.”

Change the name and we take a very small step toward reconciliation while saving future commuters a lot of stress and confusion for years to come. It’s a win-win. Why we started by renaming Cornwallis Park — a park I’d wager most people didn’t even know had a name in the first place — I’ll never understand. Missed opportunity.

Levity aside, it’s a fitting thing to see the flag of an oppressed people hung draped over a monument named after an oppressor. In the long run, I’m sure the flag, and the people it represents, will outlast the name of that bridge. As they should

Editor’s note: bzzz, we made a boneheaded mistake here, mistaking Angus Macdonald and John A. MacDonald. Thanks for all those who pointed it out.


Government

City

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am) — on YouTube

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

The Cost of Leadership and Moral Courage (Wednesday, 2:30pm) — session two of the Moral Courage: Dallaire Cleveringa Critical Conversation Series. Speakers include UN NATO Gender Advisor Deirdre Carbery and Professor Bert Koenders.

Thursday

Ethical Decision Making and Moral Dilemmas (Thursday, 2:30pm) — session three in the Moral Courage: Dallaire Cleveringa Critical Conversation Series. Speakers include the United Nations Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

Global Mobility After the Pandemic (Wednesday, 9:30am) — This webinar aims to

work out the importance of migration and mobility for the creation of human welfare and development through the law of the division of work. It will review the experiences with the “Spanish Flu”, which early in the 20th century contributed to the end of the largely globalized world existing at the time before World War I. Will history repeat? It will then study the experiences we have so far with the mobility consequences of the pandemic and which innovations are under way dealing with it. The conclusions will speculate about the consequences for the future of migration.

Thursday

Omnichannel Retailing: The Present and the Future (Thursday, 10am) — via Zoom

King’s

Wednesday

No events

Thursday

Jungle flower workshop (Thursday, 6pm) — online workshop where people who have experienced abuse and sexual violence can share their stories; open to all students in Nova Scotia


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
11:00: Morning Claire, car carrier, sails from Pier 31 for sea
11:00: Horizon Enabler, offshore supply ship, arrives at Dartmouth Cove from sea
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Pier 36
15:30: Atlantic Sea sails for New York
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
19:00: Horizon Enabler sails for sea
21:00: CMA CGM J. Madison, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka

Cape Breton
12:30: Solana, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
20:00: Algoma Dartmouth, oil tanker, sails from Sydport for sea
23:30: Leif Ericson, ferry, arrives at North Sydney ferry dock from Les Mechins, Quebec


Footnotes

  • A quick correction from a couple weeks ago… in the Views section of my Sept. 10 Morning File, I wrote about the Wolfville Vigil for Peace, a group of activists who gather every Saturday to rally for peace. I incorrectly called one of the members Franklin Wilson. His name is Franklin Wilmot.
  • No Morning File tomorrow. Philip Moscovitch will be back Friday to finish up the week.

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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. Re: New traditions

    First, seriously, how could you publish this without checking on who the bridge is named after? It’s an example of the sloppy bandwagon “all about my personal opinion” reporting we have seen from non-aboriginal reporters posting about September 30. The day is not about your opinion. It is about paying attention to the voices of those who were wronged. Orange Shirt Day has an origin. Research it, and write about that. There are more MacDonalds in Canadian politics than the obvious one. Research who the bridge is named after, and see if it’s relevant. Better yet, interview an elder or residential school survivor, and post that. “Look at me, my shallow, ignorant opinion is the shiny bauble” posts do no honour to those children. And sloppy journalism just makes it even more cringe-worthy. I thought the Examiner was better than this.

  2. Notwithstanding that the bridge was named after Angus L. and not John A., lets change the name anyway. If we look hard enough I have no doubt Angus L. had skeletons in his closet. Stop naming things and places after people. Name them after places, events, animals, plants, anything but those of us who have flaws or, in some cases, are down-right mean.

    1. I still stand by my idea of naming it after the last worker to die working on it. Whatever his flaws were, who is ever going to find out about them now?

  3. I agree – why build an art gallery when these building could be repurposed for just that.

    Joe Ramia and Events East are still taking advantage of Halifax and the spineless citizens in government who supposedly represent our best interest. They don’t. Two vast empty spaces. The so called convention centre and the so called hotel. They are not doing anything for us as a community, and the hotel in particular should be adapted as housing for our desperate young who cannot afford to live in their hometown.

    The idiots who built these two behemoths were counselled by multiple reputable national sources: DO NOT BUILD THEM. We cannot continue to waste public funds here.

    The city council needs to just get over themselves and their posh downtown ideas. A livable downtown is what we need, and a fast injection of young population would be to turn the hotel into low income apartments. Our world is changing so rapidly. There will be no going back to those out of date dreams, glitzy international travel conventions, and we need to provide for the citizens who live here!

    They need clean living spaces, access to food and clean water and clean air, and health care and education for their kids. Anyone on this planet at this point in time who has those things is living the dream. Billions and billions are not.

  4. I’m surprised not to see a link to the 94 calls to action from the truth and reconciliation commission in your article, it seems a natural pairing with your comments about new traditions Ethan. It was eye-opening for me when I finally read the recommendations, especially when some seem so logical and straightforward; yet the government, and by extension the Canadian people, have yet to act on few of them. I wonder how many Canadians have actually read them. If we are to be sincere about at least future generations reconciling, we have to accept the responsibility of engaging with these calls to action now.

  5. It is beyond infuriating that the massive monstrosity of the Nova Centre continues to suck dry the rapidly depleating resources of this province. It was a drain before the pandemic and there is zero chance of it turning around. Time to cut losses and repurpose either the building or the space it occupies for something else. Housing or educational infrastructure. Anything but a money pit. My choice would be to stop the arrogant climate change ignoring art gallery building at the waterfront and redevelop the Nova Centre as such. Why is this travesty allowed to continue?

    1. You have every right to be beyond infuriated. I know I am but do to the lack of balanced reporting by the Examiner which implies it sits idle. Halifaxnoise published a list of events starting the end of September which is quite impressive. The centre will always need to be subsidized as do many good things but one also has to focus on the revenue generated. Come on, Examiner I love reading this but please show a little balance.

      1. The local events held at the convention centre (most of which could be held at many other local venues) add exactly ZERO to the local economy, which was the argument for the thing in the first place.

        1. I have to totally agree. The events were brought to my attention by an organizer of one of the events with attendees from all across the province with only a couple from HRM. How does that not add to HRM economy? Surely someone from Sydney or Yarmouth has to rent a room a and have meals?

          1. The economic development reports that justified building the convention centre are still on line. They were all about bringing people here from other provinces, and didn’t include travel from within the province because it was provincial money being used to increase the provincial tax base, and someone from Sydney spending money in Halifax merely shifts that tax money around, and doesn’t increase it.

            As for the effect in Halifax, I doubt there are brand new 1,000-person plus meetings from Sydney being held because the convention centre exists. For the smaller meetings that people from Sydney are attending, the convention centre is simply stealing long-held meeting business from the Marriott or the Four Seasons. It’s not *increasing* the number of meetings. There’s no net plus to the economy of Halifax.

  6. Is there any evidence that Nova Scotia Premer Angus L. MacDonald “helped develop the residential school system” or was “an oppressor”? I wonder if there has been more than one notable man with the surname MacDonald involved in Canadian politics over the centuries.

    1. Also I should note that the bridge is named after Angus L. Macdonald, the premier of Nova Scotia at the time, not Sir John A. Macdonald.