For some reason, this Friday will mark the date that malls have come to deem it socially acceptable to start playing non-stop Christmas music. Avoid the pre-December Bing Crosby, as well as the crowds, by doing your holiday shopping online this year; give your friends and family the reasonably priced gift of in-depth, local journalism by purchasing them a subscription to the Halifax Examiner. You’ll also be giving our reporters the gift of being able to dig deeper in their coverage of the big stories happening in this province. Scroll below to one of our readers’ testimonials to see why it’s worth gifting to yourself too.

Now that I’ve properly promoted the Examiner’s November subscription drive, let’s get to the news…

News

1. Council votes to provide more funding to buy modular units for HRM’s homeless; original units deemed unsuitable for purchase

An overhead map view from an HRM council report showing the Dartmouth site for the new modular units.

We’ve finally got an update on the modular housing units that HRM announced would be coming to house people living in public parks: we need to buy different new modular units for more money.

Council voted unanimously to approve $3.2 million for the purchase, installation, and maintenance of modular units for unhoused residents at two sites. (Here’s the funding request presented to council yesterday). One will site will be at the location pictured above, a parking lot near the Dartmouth Common and Alderney Landing Ferry Terminal. The other will be in Halifax, but the municipality still has yet to nail down a location.

Previous updates seemed to suggest HRM had already used $240,000 (of $500,000 previously authorized for housing needs in the municipality) to purchase 24 modular units that would house 73 people. That turned out to be erroneous. And now HRM needs more funding to buy suitable modular units. Yvette d’Entremont reports:

In a media release issued late Tuesday afternoon, the municipality stated that while “previous updates indicated the municipality had purchased 24 modular units,” following inspection the purchase was rejected after HRM determined none were suitable.

On Tuesday morning, reporter Victoria Walton published a piece in The Coast titled ‘A look inside the 73 modular units rotting at a Halifax construction yard.’

(In the piece, published hours before the vote, Walton said the units were likely those HRM had discussed buying, though she couldn’t confirm).

d’Entremont writes:

While it wasn’t specifically mentioned during Tuesday afternoon’s council discussion, Coun. Tony Mancini seemed to allude to it when it was his turn to speak on the motion for emergency funding.

“I commend staff for recognizing what we were originally going to purchase was incorrect and we could’ve forced that and just showed up with that, and what you’re seeing on social media right now and pictures happening, that’s not what we’re presenting,” Mancini said. “These are to be brand-new units.”

The municipality will buy the modular units from a Quebec-based company, and pay for installation, maintenance and utilities on the sites. In a media release put out shortly after council’s vote, the province announced that Out of the Cold Community Association will operate the sites and offer services to residents that will include permanent housing solutions, mental health and addictions support, life stability and community connections, and employment support. The province says it will pay $2.7 million for these operational costs.

There have been very few updates from the municipality on this since the modular units were first announced in September. It’s obvious the new funding will be costly, but the delay will be costly too. There are still plenty of people living in tents around town and it’s already cold out there at night. It’ll only get colder in the months ahead. New shelter options can’t come fast enough.

Read the full story on the planned modular units, how the new funding surrounding them will be used, and what councillors had to say about it all before voting, by clicking this link and heading to d’Entremont’s report.

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2. More Halifax regional council news: councillor wants review of current noise bylaw

Image from halifaxsociable.ca

Zane Woodford’s off on vacation, but he isn’t the only Examiner reporter who can pump out back to back council articles in time for the next day’s Morning File. Yvette d’Entremont has her second story from last night’s meeting:

Months of noise bylaw complaint calls has prompted one councillor to request a report reviewing HRM’s current noise bylaw to determine an acceptable – and measurable – decibel level.

“This came about because of a spring and summer full of calls around noise bylaws and neighbour against neighbour, people saying ‘How do you determine it? Sound should be measured,’ all of those kinds of things, and also an extensive call out to policing services,” Coun. Cathy Deagle Gammon told her colleagues during Tuesday’s regional council meeting.

“Who decides that loud is too loud? And so the noise bylaw just being as subjective as it feels and appears to be, we were hoping that there could be a review to assess how staff currently determine that an activity unreasonably disturbs the peace and tranquillity of a neighbourhood and whether a measurable and objective means of determining noise level is more appropriate.”

The councillor representing Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley said based on her own brief review of noise bylaws in a few other cities, she believes it’s possible that HRM’s noise By-law N-200 could be amended to provide greater clarity.

The motion for a staff report reviewing the bylaw passed unanimously, with a few other councillors speaking up to say they’d heard similar complaints about noise from constituents.

Coun. Shawn Cleary did ask how easy it would be to create a tighter, clearer noise bylaw given that there’s a lot of subjectivity involved. He wondered if staff wouldn’t likely go through a lot of time and effort to create a report that recommends maintaining the status quo.

“I can’t wait for this to come back in about,” said Cleary, who ultimately supported the motion. “I’ll probably not be on council then, but it’s all good,”

I like to think of myself as an overall decent person, usually laidback and slow to anger. But that idea of myself has been tested numerous times over the years. One of the hardest trials of my life came when I had to work at 5am and my upstairs neighbours decided to host an all-night rager. I’m ashamed and frightened to say that, if I hadn’t been so tired, I may well have got up and murdered them around 4am. Luckily, I didn’t do that. All I’m saying is I understand noise bylaws aren’t just there to protect stuffy squares from innocent scamps who are just trying to have a bit of fun.

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Skip Hambling. Photo contributed

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3. COVID update: one death in Eastern Zone, growing outbreak at Pugwash nursing home

East Cumberland Lodge. Photo: East Cumberland Lodge

Here’s the latest COVID news you need to know.

On Tuesday, the province announced the 102nd COVID-related death in Nova Scotia: a man in his 80s who lived in Nova Scotia Health’s Eastern Zone.

The province also announced 56 new cases of COVID yesterday. That brings the total known active caseload in Nova Scotia to 281. Ten people are in hospital, and two of those 10 people are in ICU.

By Nova Scotia Health zone, the new cases break down as:
• 30 Western
• 18 Central
• 7 Northern
• 1 Eastern

An outbreak of the virus at the East Cumberland Lodge nursing home is growing, with a total of 17 residents and two staff members now having tested positive for COVID. One of those residents is in hospital as a result. Tim Bousquet reports that some of the newly announced cases at the home only tested positive on Tuesday, meaning they won’t show up in the daily case count until today. The Department of Health says the outbreak — as well as community spread in the Northern and Western Zones — “is primarily related to ongoing transmission from a faith-based gathering that occurred in late October.”

For more information on the numbers from Tuesday, as well as the latest news on testing, vaccinations, case demographics, and potential exposure sites in Nova Scotia, check out Tim Bousquet’s most recent COVID report in full right here.

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4. Gary Burrill says he’ll step down as leader of NDP

NDP leader Gary Burrill in 2017. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Gary Burrill, the leader of Nova Scotia’s New Democratic Party, says he’ll be stepping down from that role.

In a media release from the party Tuesday, Burrill is quoted saying he will remain leader of the Nova Scotia NDP until a replacement is chosen. Once that replacement is found, Burrill says he’ll remain on as MLA for Halifax-Chebucto.

Here’s Burrill, quoted in the release:

One of the most important parts of leadership is knowing when the time has come for renewal, and knowing when to bring your own leadership to a conclusion. In my judgement, this is that time.

Our caucus has just completed a strong session, in which we were able to achieve several important things, including a two-year extension of rent control and a commission on environmental racism. The strength of our caucus, particularly in terms of gender and diversity, is clear.

Five of the current NDP representatives in the legislature are women. Burrill is the lone man on the caucus.

It is the right time for us to renew our leadership so as to build towards the next election on the basis of these strengths.”

In the latest provincial election held in August, Nova Scotia’s NDP won six seats, receiving 20.93% of the popular vote. It was Burrill’s second provincial election since he became party leader in 2016.

At that time, when he won the leadership, reporter Michael Gorman, then writing for Local Xpress during a strike at the Herald — the article link no longer works — spoke to Burrill, who had this to say about the political climate at the time:

I think we see lots of evidence in the last couple of years that there is a burgeoning and a simmering hunger for a politics that talks straight about the fact that the one per cent in this city make $330,000 while the average income for 90 per cent of the people in Nova Scotia is under $27,000.

Something’s wrong somewhere, I think there’s a general understanding about this.

Five years after saying that, and just a week before his announcement to step down, Burrill asked our now-premier Tim Houston why the province refuses to look at raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in light of a recent report that found the lowest living wage in the province is $18.45 an hour (that’s in Cape Breton; the highest is $22.05/hr in Halifax). The premier responded with some remarks on the value of minimum wage work, and then walked those remarks back the next day.

The “burgeoning and…simmering hunger for a politics that talks straight” about this stuff remains, I guess — even as Burrill’s leadership goes.

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Views

What’s in a name?

Cornwallis Street. Photo: Tim Bousquet

I’ve got a quick personal rant for Views today.

Yesterday, Phillip Moscovitch got his article on the origins of school names in Nova Scotia published. (It was worth the wait, by the way — check it out here).

You’ll remember that Sir John A. Macdonald High School and Tallahassee Community School were both renamed due to troubling histories surrounding their namesakes. 

Sir John A. Macdonald’s personal and political history were the source of the renaming of that school. You’ve probably also heard a lot of talk about renaming Prince Andrew High in light of allegations against the prince in recent years.

And, of course, anything named after Cornwallis in this province is sure to stir up debate. In another Morning File this week, Tim Bousquet received a thorough comment in response to a Saltwire story he shared about a heritage preservation group wanting to keep the name of Cornwallis Street.

As these name change debates rage on, it makes you wonder why we name places after people to begin with. Everyone’s flawed. Some a lot more than others. I don’t know anyone personally, for instance, who’s put a price on the head of an ethnic group. And places are supposed to be public. Unless it’s your house, it’s strange to me to name places after people.

Does anyone remember who the 2nd Earl of Halifax was, by the way? Doesn’t K’jipuktuk make more sense simply because it at least describes the place. Take colonialism out of it; it’s still more appropriate to name it Great Harbour, right?

Moscovitch’s article opened my mind a bit, though. Most schools in Nova Scotia, for instance, aren’t named after the rich and famous. Many are named after local people who helped out in their communities — doctors, teachers, and so on. It can be a way to pay tribute (even if the people behind the names eventually get forgotten) and to educate and inspire the next generation.

I still think we should stop naming places after people, but forget place names for now.

What’s always baffled me is having people on money.

Remember when there was the big discussion about how Canada had no women on our money (outside the Queen, who’s on most of it). Now, that did say something about our society, for sure. And seeing Viola Desmond on the $10 bill is a nice tribute.

But my question is, why do we have people on our money? I don’t care if you had a troubled history or not. Why do we do it? We put a person on legal tender that we use to purchase goods and services. We’re not in the age of empires. We don’t need to show that this money belongs to the Commonwealth by putting the Queen’s face on it, or to Canada by putting Sir John A.’s face on it.

It is such an instrumental part of daily life, that it just seems bizarre to me that we put anyone’s face and name on it. Why is there a drawing of an old lady who lives across the sea on the bill that I use to buy milk and eggs? Maybe we should just put a maple leaf on it, go back to the pictures of pond hockey and the Canadian Arm, and stop feeling the need to put our leaders on things to show how important they were. We have textbooks and art, don’t we?

Does it really matter if our name or face lives on? No one can use it. Including our dead selves. It’s the impact of our actions on future generations that matter, right?

Or maybe we should keep using place names as a way to pay tribute to the people who made a difference in the world, good or bad. It’s an interesting discussion for sure. And I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.

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Noticed

Remembering George Lawrence Price

Where I grew up, in Port Williams, there’s a small cenotaph behind the post office. It’s not much. No marble pillars or copper statue. Just a large granite boulder with a plaque nailed to it, surrounded by a little walkway, a couple flags, and some signs listing locals who were killed in combat.

Port Williams cenotaph. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

As cenotaphs go, it’s as humble as it gets. Tucked away behind the post office and firehall in a community of fewer than 1,500 people, it’s unlikely you’ll stumble across it unless you’re looking. But there’s something noteworthy about it. Something that always fascinated me as a kid. Something I’ve thought about every November 11 since I first noticed it years ago.

If you read through the names of local men and women who lost their lives during the two world wars, you’ll find the name George Lawrence Price. Beside that name you’ll find a small asterisk with a corresponding footnote typed out below in small print.

It reads:

Son of James and Annie Price of Church Street, Port Williams, Private George Lawrence Price is believed to be the last soldier to die in battle during the First World War. He died on November 11, 1918, at Mons, Belgium, about 2 minutes before the signing of the Armistice.

George Lawrence Price. Photo: Legion Magazine/Facebook

There were a few articles written about Price in 2018, when the centennial anniversary of the Armistice brought his story back into the light. The CBC published a particularly interesting interview from their archives. In it, the private who was with Price when he was shot recounts the morning that led to his comrade’s death. And Ben Proudfoot directed a short film about Price that same year, starring John Dunsworth (The Trailer Park Boys‘ Mr. Lahey) as an imagined George Price in old age.

But you don’t need to read an article or watch a short film to see the circumstances surrounding his death were heartbreaking. A two sentence footnote is enough to tell that. The timing of it was on par with Romeo and Juliet, except in this case, it actually happened.

As a kid it used to really depress me. Here was a man who’d been forced to join the deadliest war in history up to that point. (That alone was terrifying enough to think about). And he’d survived it all. He was in the clear. Minutes from the end. A few short weeks from home ⁠— a home I could see and feel with my own eyes as I read his footnote. Thinking about it used to fill me an uneasy sense of dread. How could the universe be so cruel?

George Price’s record of recruitment. Photo: Library and Archives Canada

As the years have gone on, and the (superficial) similarities between us have increased, I’ve thought more and more about Price’s life when Remembrance Day rolls around.

Price was born in Port Williams ⁠— though a few records say Falmouth ⁠— at the turn of a century, during a time of relative peace and prosperity in the West that preceded a stretch of global turmoil. Like me, he moved to the western provinces for work; he had a job on the rails in Moose Jaw, I just bummed the ski hills in the Rockies. He had brown eyes and brown hair, again like me, and his records show he was a similar medium build. He was about my age when he died.

I don’t feel that dread or anxiety when I think about his story anymore. I used to get upset to think that a person could be the punchline to such a cruel cosmic joke. But not anymore. I realize we’re all a part of that punchline in our own unique way.

Like every human being in history, he was a product, beneficiary, and victim of his time. He was forced to fight in one of the bloodiest wars in history. I doubt I’ll ever be conscripted for anything, but I am born at a time when the coal-powered electricity and gas-guzzling cars that were becoming prevalent in his life are beginning to have a major impact on mine. He never got to see home again, and the timing of his death is admittedly ridiculous, but he’s not alone in dying senselessly or too young. At least it was quick.

What lives on isn’t his name, or his footnote story.

For every person who fought in those wars, it’s the actions they took, actions that carved what their world, and in turn our world, would become. What’s worth remembering isn’t the names ⁠— there’ll come a time when, not only all the veterans will be gone (that’s already happened for WWI), but all the people who ever met them personally will be gone too, and they’ll transform from real people into abstract shadows in textbooks.

What’s really worth remembering at that point, is how humanity lost its vision for a time and fell into self-destruction, and how the generation of the time worked to overcome the situation they’d knowingly or unknowingly put themselves in. We might not have a world war, but we can take a lesson from that.

There are similar challenges in every generation. And there are, unfortunately, stories like George Price’s in every generation. But I see his story as more inspirational now than heartbreaking. Yes, it would have been infinitely better had he lived, but it might have been infinitely worse had he chosen not to make the sacrifices necessary, giving up his peaceful life in Canada, to bring about a better world.

It’s a lesson I’m slowly learning, living with today’s unique set of problems and challenges. If our chapter of the history book ends a little better than it began, it’s worth a few sacrifices. It’s even worth being a tragic footnote, if it comes to it. Though, I think we can all be justified in hoping not to become one. We can take a little inspiration from our veterans, past and present, as in civilian life.

Have a peaceful Remembrance Day, Nova Scotia.

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Government

City

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — livestreamed

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

2021 Accessibility Advisory Committee Annual Town Hall Meeting (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — also livestreamed

Province

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — also broadcast live


On campus

Dalhousie

The Pathway Forward (Wednesday, 2:30pm) — Session 8 of the Dallaire Cleveringa Critical Conversation Series, held online

Phase-Separation of Intrinsically Disordered Protein Regions: Biophysics, Biochemistry and Bioinformatics (Wednesday, 4pm) — Julie Forman-Kay from the University of Toronto will talk

Aging, Depression, and Somatic Health: An Online Public Conversation (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — a panel of experts lead an online discussion of factors that promote mental and somatic health

Saint Mary’s

A Step-by-Step Guide to Meal Planning (Wednesday, 12pm) — in this online workshop Shannon Rouzes teaches four easy steps for meal planning, as well as how to safely store food


In the harbour

Halifax
05:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
06:00: Hafina Lise, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Port Neches, Texas
08:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard from sea
08:00: Horizon Enabler, offshore supply ship, moves from Dartmouth Cove to Bedford Basin
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
12:00: John J. Carrick, barge, sails from McAsphalt for sea
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 36
18:00: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Boston

Cape Breton
21:30: Phoenix Admiral, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea


Footnotes

  • If I can make it to 11am tomorrow without losing my poppy, it’ll be the first November in my life where I leave the dance with the poppy I came in with.
  • Some publications and writers use terms like “unhoused people” or the horribly clunky “people experiencing homelessness,” when talking about the homeless. I use the term “homeless” because it’s simple, one word, and doesn’t sound like government bureaucratic speak. I don’t think it’s a dehumanizing or undignified term. I’m sure I could be persuaded otherwise, though. All this is to say I understand that “the homeless” are people in our community, not some abstract separate group.
  • No person is actually a footnote. Just to be clear. Everyone gets the chance to be their own story in their own time.

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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. Your photo of East Cumberland Lodge is actually of the North Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Pugwash. The Lodge is behind the hospital about from where this photo was taken.

  2. Te: noise bylaw

    As far as I can tell, a lot of the noise generating things that happen now already are in contravention of some statute somewhere. If those infractions are not enforced now, how will a new noise bylaw be enforced? I don’t run to Canadian Tire to buy a new tool every time I need to fix something. I dig into my tool bags and use what I already have.

    1. I hate that I agree with this.

      I read last month about the ability for municipalities to enact regulations re: muffler noise before the Traffic Safety Act comes into force some years down the road, and it sounded like a positive development.

      Then I reminded myself how rarely various traffic infractions (namely speeding, distracted driving, stopping at crosswalks, “rolling” turns at red lights) are actually enforced.

      Nobody actually enjoys the deafening rumble of a Harley-Davidson or the amplified whoopie cushion of a souped-up Honda Civis aside from the overaged adolescent operating the vehicle. But do I expect HRP to actually respond to complaints? Not at all.

      The simplest thing to increase safety for ALL users of highways, byways, paths etc. is enforcement of laws which already exist.

  3. Re “unhoused people”.

    I agree. Whitewashing the term (in England they call it rough sleeping) may make some people feel better, but homeless is the best descriptor. It is what they are. And they shouldn’t be.

  4. “by doing your holiday shopping online this year”

    Unless it’s from Amazon, because to hell with Jeff Bezos.

    MANY local businesses now also have an on-line presence. Please spend your money with them!

        1. Agreed. Buy local this season. An Examiner subscription is just a great place to start!