News

1. COVID-19

Zero new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia yesterday (Thursday, Jan. 27).

There are now 11 known active cases in the province. One person is in hospital with the disease, although not in ICU.

The active cases are distributed as follows:

• 4 in the Halifax Peninsula / Chebucto Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 3 in the Colchester / East Hants Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 1 in the Pictou Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 3 in the Inverness, Victoria & Richmond Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone

Nova Scotia Health labs conducted 1,763 tests Wednesday.

As of end of day Wednesday, a total of 13,504 doses of vaccine have been administered, and of those, 2,709 were second doses.

Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

And here is the active caseload for the second wave:

Last night, Nova Scotia Health issued a potential COVID exposure advisory for WestJet flight 3346 from Toronto to Halifax on Jan. 26:

Anyone who was on the following flight in the specified rows and seats should visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether you have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access, or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

• WestJet flight 3346 travelling on Jan. 26 from Toronto (9 a.m.) to Halifax (12:25 p.m.). Passengers in rows 1-6, seats A, B and C are asked to immediately visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether you have COVID-19 symptoms. All other passengers on this flight should continue to self-isolate as required and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated anyone exposed to the virus on this flight may develop symptoms up to, and including Feb. 9.

Here is the updated possible exposure map:

The new potential exposure advisory suggests there will be at least one new travel-related case announced today.

Dr. Strang and Premier McNeil have ambitiously scheduled a COVID briefing for 1pm today. Very often, when a briefing is scheduled for 1pm, it is postponed to 2pm or 3pm. Whenever it’s scheduled, it invariably starts later than the scheduled start time.

(Copy link for this item)

2. Vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

I’m adopting the following from a Twitter thread I wrote last night.

There’s been much criticism aimed at Nova Scotia for its vaccine roll-out, some of it reflecting online vaccine trackers, which continue to show this province is dead last in comparison to other provinces, both in terms of percentage of doses received that have been administered and of doses administered per 100,000 population.

But that criticism is misplaced for two reasons: it’s way too early to make any concrete judgments one way or the other about the rollout and the stats don’t relate Nova Scotia’s decision to hold back the second doses.

In these early months, the province is expected to receive just a tiny number of vaccine doses — if all goes well, 140,000 through April. It’s only after vaccine production ramps up that Nova Scotia is expected to receive very large numbers of doses — over a million over a three-month period beginning in mid- to late-April.

So health officials have decided that for the time being, the small number of doses will go to health care workers, nursing homes residents and staff, and very old (80+) people in the community.

By the end of day Wednesday, the province had received just 28,850 doses. Of those, 13,504 doses have been administered (and 2,709 of those have been second doses). That’s a rate of “just” 47%, which many people point at as being the worst in Canada.

Specifically, 7,678 health care workers have received vaccine, with 954 of those having received their second dose, while everyone at Northwood and three other nursing homes has been vaccinated, and progress is being made at the other homes, although so far only three people in nursing homes have received their second dose.

Is that “worst in Canada” claim fair? I think not.

First, the province has also held back 9,668 doses for the second shot. If you include those doses in the “percentage administered” — because there’s almost no doubt they’ll be delivered into arms within the 21-28 day period recommended — that percentage becomes 80%.

Other provinces have adopted a firehose approach to vaccination — get all doses received out into people as quickly as possible and hope that the second doses arrive on time, and if they don’t arrive on time, delay the second dose for as much as seven or eight weeks after the first. They’re doing this because the virus is running rampant in those provinces, and the thought is that the first dose provides at least some degree of protection.

The data aren’t yet completely clear, but one dose doesn’t provide much protection, and delaying the second dose is not recommended because doing so could give the virus more opportunity to evolve in harmful ways.

Here in Nova Scotia, given the nonexistence of virus in the wild (i.e., the lack of community spread), it made more sense to hold back some of the vaccine in order to make certain it was available for the timely delivery of the second dose. That conservative strategy proved its worth when it was announced that Pfizer would deliver no vaccine next week.

What about the other 20%? Well, 5,850 doses were received just last week. So, there’s a lag, but not a huge lag — after the doses already put in arms and the doses held back, there are just 5,678 un-administered doses — fewer than the number received in the last week. Given that the vaccine is received in Halifax and then transported to cold storage sites around the province, and then brought to nursing homes, a delay of a few days doesn’t strike me as unreasonable. And besides, given that no vaccine is arriving next week, it’s possible that the percentage of doses either delivered into arms or held back for the second dose will be very close to 100% of those received.

As I say, it’s very early days; the number of doses received is tiny, and Nova Scotia has the luxury of moving methodically on the vaccine front because the disease case numbers are so low and there’s no community spread (at least that we’re aware of).

As I see it, the real test of the vaccination program will come in late April and early May, when the mass inoculation program begins and health officials will be tasked with vaccinating about 12,000 people a day while keeping the second doses on track. That will be a truly monumental program.

Look, I’m the first to criticize Public Health when I feel it’s warranted. Health officials can do a better job. They are far too secretive with case specifics, especially when it comes to detailing how transmission has occurred — “close contact” is not a helpful category because it can include everything from an infected person’s spouse sleeping in the same bed to a server at the local pub who lingers a bit long while explaining the beer menu, and “under investigation” can be translated as “we’re never going to tell you.” There’s no reason at all Nova Scotia can’t adopt a New Zealand-like reporting system.

But on the vaccine front, so far at least, I don’t see that criticism is warranted.

(Copy link for this item)

3. Re-funding the police

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella speaks to the board of police commissioners during a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. Photo: Zane Woodford

“The city’s board of police commissioners is recommending an increased Halifax Regional Police budget for the year ahead,” reports Zane Woodford:

At a special virtual meeting on Thursday, the board voted unanimously in favour of a 3.1% increase to the HRP budget — from $86.3 million in the current fiscal year to $88.9 million for 2021-2022, the fiscal year starting April 1.

But the board voted to include an extra $332,000 for what the police called “service enhancements.”

Those include $85,000 for a one-year term employee to write a detailed report on body-worn cameras after the board pushed that issue ahead a year, $101,200 for an online training technician, and $60,000 for a training course, and $85,800 for a new court dispositions clerk.

Click here to read “Re-funding the police: Halifax police board votes for budget increase.”

The proposed increase in the budget still must be approved by the regional council, which approves the size of the police budget but can’t change particular budget items.

I predicted that calls for “defunding police” (reducing the police budget) would morph into a narrative of “reforming the police” (bringing in better practices), which in turn would result in an increase, not a decrease, in police budgets. Here’s what I wrote last June:

I can see how this might play out: putting cameras on cops will actually lead to an increase in the police budget. First for the purchase of the cameras, then for the costs of maintaining them, then for ongoing training of officers (via a contract to some connected insider), all in the name of “improving trust” or some such bullshit.

Along the way, there will be cultural sensitivity training for cops and the like, ballooning the police budget even more.

There’s not an easy fix to police violence. More training or some quick tech gimmick won’t address the issue.

Meanwhile, as Philip Moscovitch points out, the city of Austin, Texas is actually taking money away from the police budget and using it to directly address social issues in the community:

The Austin City Council voted today to purchase one hotel and turn it into 60 units of permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness…

Under the measure, the city will spend approximately $6.7 million from its Housing and Planning Department’s general obligation bonds to acquire one hotel and use some money from a recurring $6.5 million fund taken from the police department’s budget to provide services to the residents of the hotel. At full occupancy (which wouldn’t happen this year), services and operating costs for the hotel are expected to be about $1.6 million annually.

“In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests this summer, we made a significant cut to policing dollars and reinvested that in things like this,” said Council Member Gregorio Casar, who led the effort to cut police funding and sponsored an amendment last August that set aside $6.5 million in recurring funding to be used for permanent supportive housing and services. “That’s how we’re paying for this. That’s the only reason we’re able to do this.”

(Copy link for this item)

4. “Equal pay for equal work”

Daphne Hahn, Early Childhood Educator. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“’This is a request to the government to provide equal pay for equal work,’ said Claudia Chender, the NDP critic for Education and Early Childhood Development,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Chender was talking about the significant gap in wages and benefits paid to people who provide preschool education in daycare centres compared to people who provide preschool education to four-year-olds in public schools. Most of those workers are women.

In 2018, the government introduced free pre-primary programs to help better prepare children for school, particularly those in families with no access to daycare. 

The qualifications of the approximately 3,200 child-care workers who work in licensed private and non-profit daycares are the same as the roughly 880 who work in the school system. Both groups are regulated by the Department of Education. So why do Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) who work in schools receive higher wages and better benefits than those who work for in daycare centres owned by either a private employer or non-profit group?

Click here to read “‘Equal pay for equal work’: Early Childhood Educators point to wage gap after adoption of universal pre-primary programs.”

(Copy link for this item)

5. Living wage

A construction crew at work in Dartmouth last year. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“Paying workers enough to live in Halifax is a ‘substantial burden’ for employers, the construction industry told a committee of council, claiming the policy is ‘hurting the lower wage people,’” reports Zane Woodford:

Representatives from three construction industry associations made a presentation to council’s Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee at its virtual meeting on Thursday outlining their concerns with the living wage requirement added to council’s social procurement policy in September. The requirement comes into effect for all new contracts on April 1. It means some contractors working with the municipality will have to pay their employees at least $21.80 — the current living wage as defined by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Click here to read “Construction industry complains about Halifax council’s living wage policy.”

It’d be even less of a burden on the industry if we reintroduced slavery or child labour.

(Copy link for this item)

6. Rents

Apartment buildings in Halifax. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“It’s theoretically easier to find an apartment in Halifax than it was a year ago, according to the latest data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), but the Crown corporation says the city still needs more units to meet demand,” reports Zane Woodford:

CMHC released its annual Rental Market Report for major Canadian centres on Thursday. The report is based on a sample survey of rental buildings with more than three units, conducted in October 2020.

The findings for Halifax this year: the rental vacancy rate is up from last year’s record low of 1% to 1.9%. Average rents are also up, however, to $1,170 this year — an increase of 4.1%, according to CMHC. According to CMHC’s data last year, average rents were $1,113, meaning the actual increase would be 5.1%.

By unit type, according to CMHC:

• Bachelor: vacancy 1.8%, average rent $865 (up 6.5%)
• One-bedroom: vacancy 1.9%, average rent $1,016 (up 5.9%)
• Two-bedroom: vacancy 1.9%, average rent $1,255 (up 4.4%)
• Three- or more bedroom: vacancy 1.8%, average rent $1,455 (up 4.7%)

Click here to read “Apartment vacancy rate moves up to 1.9% in Halifax, but average rents are up too.”

Obviously, average wages did not go up 4% last year. Even the increase in the minimum wage announced this week, from $12.55 to $12.95 an hour (criticized by the usual people who hate working people), is just a 3.2% increase, and that won’t take affect until April, after the next round of rent increases. Working people are falling further and further behind.

(Copy link for this item)

7. Quintez Downey

Quintez Downey. Photo: Facebook

The CBC has identified the victim of Wednesday morning’s shooting in North Preston as 20-year-old Quintez Downey:

Darryl Johnson, Downey’s former youth worker and basketball coach, confirmed Downey’s death on Thursday. Condolences for Downey’s friends and family have also been shared on social media.

Johnson called Downey — who often went by the nickname Q — a “super human being” who was always positive, very sociable and liked to joke around.

“He could have been an ambassador. He’s that type of kid. He was just so friendly,” Johnson said. “Whenever he walked into my office, immediately he would just bring a smile to my face because of his positive attitude.”

Downey attended Crandall University, a Christian school in Moncton, N.B., and was pursuing a bachelor of arts. He spoke of becoming a fashion model and planned to continue playing basketball at school.

(Copy link for this item)

8. Bullet dodger

Whenever there’s violence in the Black community, the absolute worst kind of racism pops up. We can, alas, predict that from the knee-jerk ignorance on social media, but it enters an even more problematic realm when it’s made as a conscious business decision.

Take, for example, the photo of “Bullet Dodger” wine sent to me by a reader, found on display at Bishop’s Cellar and listed on its website. The wine is made by an Australian winery from Italian grapes. I don’t know that Australia is any better or worse than Canada on the racism front, but there is an obvious flat out racist depiction of Aboriginal peoples on the label, which seemed not to bother whoever the buyer was in Halifax.

Do better, Bishop’s Cellar. You could start by giving more prominent display space to products from the Change is Brewing Collective. I’m particularly partial to the Black is Beautiful stout.

(Copy link for this item)


Views

1. Bells Lane

Stephen Archibald is reviewing some of the photos he took in the 1966, as he romped down Brunswick Street and through downtown.

Barrington Street, 1966. Photo: Stephen Archibald

He notes:

The Scotia Square and Cogswell Interchange zones were cleared without my notice. When I wandered into the area (perhaps on the same day I visited Brunswick Street) there were only a few buildings remaining on Barrington giving a taste of the district that had been leveled. In the foreground are some of the hectares of wasteland.

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Nearby I photographed Bells Lane, the last cobblestone road that had never been covered in asphalt. All the buildings for blocks around had been torn down. The Scotia Square Food Court is more of less above this location. Think of that while you eat those fries.

Curiosity sent me to the Municipal Archives wonderful collection of photos of this part of town to find Bells Lane.  Here is what that little cobblestone road looked like a few years before my photo, when some buildings were still standing, but already empty.

Photo: Nova Scotia Archives

(Copy link for this item)


Government

No meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

The Matters of Black Health – Resilience and Determination (Friday, 12:10pm) — Health Law Institute Zoom webinar with Sharon Davis-Murdoch from the Health Association of African Canadians, Nova Scotia.

Women Waiting: Gender, Labor, and Public Space in the 1914 Waitresses’ Strike (Friday, 3:30pm) — Alana Toulin will present this Stokes Seminar via MS Teams. Email for invitation link and paper.

Saint Mary’s

Navigating the Census: Census Data Demystified (Friday, 10am) — learn how to access a wealth of census data in this Zoom workshop

Religion, Activism and Secularization: How Ethnography Contributes to Theory (Friday, 12pm) — Zoom seminar with Laurel Zwissler from Central Michigan University.


In the harbour

06:00: Tampa Trader, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
06:00: MSC Sariska, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
08:30: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
16:00: ZIM Shekou, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
16:30: Tampa Trader sails for Kingston, Jamaica
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
22:00: MSC Sariska sails for New York
22:00: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for Bilbao, Spain
22:00: Elka Hercules, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea


Footnotes

Never enough time.

Please subscribe, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

Join the Conversation

12 Comments

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
Cancel reply
  1. While I totally respect your opinion, I have to disagree that in this case Public Health is doing ok with vaccinations. Even if they are retaining 50% for second doses, there are at least 5000 they could have given out (half of what is left). And originally they said they weren’t even going to retain that 50 percent. I know we don’t really need it now, but if we did I have zero confidence in them. The 8 public health doctors that issued their ridiculous statement yesterday (why do we even hire 8 when we have zero GPs accepting patients) shows that tis is an an incompetent and useless department of health, and NSHA is equally so.

  2. Comparing Austin,Texas with HRM is silly. Cities in the USA are responsible for schools,social services, welfare, housing, ambulances and economic incentives for business.
    The BOPC meeting yesterday was an opportunity to see what the board is missing since Commissioner Borden relinquished the position as chair. She was always well prepared, knew the the issues, and knew how to conduct a meeting. In more than a decade of attending meetings, not all of them, I can say she was the most outstanding member of the board. Of the present board I believe it is time for several of them to move on to other pastures. We need and should demand a fully engaged board – showing up and not speaking or not asking questions is not an option.

    1. There’s something very Marie Antoinette about them branding $35 dollar bottles of wine with various revolutionaries and criminals. Interestingly, the Bullet Dodger wine doesn’t seem to be offered – and the same portrait is used for their “Roko Il Vagabondo” wine: https://actofwine.com.au/products/2020-delinquente-roko-il-vagabondo?variant=35753681977511

      According to the link, the face on the bottle is the Croatian grandfather of one of the vineyard owners.

      I’m not sure where people are getting the idea that the person on the label is an Australian Aboriginal person – I mean, I’m not arguing – correct me if I’m wrong, but I just don’t get the connection.

  3. Re: cobblestone streets downtown
    If you have ever wondered where they all went, a lot of them were dumped in the harbour below the Purdy’s Wharf towers.

  4. Tim, tell the Premier and Dr. Strang that you agree with the approach
    they are taking on roll out of the Vaccines.
    A little sucking up never hurts. It could pay off down the road(wink 😉

  5. Write Bishops Wine Cellar and tell them you’re not shopping there until they remove this product. I did.

    And I don’t know about the ‘intentional’ story placement in today file, but I got it – the fact it’s directly below this story – the shooting murder of 20-year-old Quintez Downey – says it all. We cannot afford on any level to promote gun violence !

    1. If we cannot afford to promote gun violence, then I’d give some thought to asking why Tara Thorne interviewed Kye Clayton recently. “Up and coming rapper” so I gave some of his stuff a listen. Too much N*****, B****, and guns for me. I’m sure some of it is theater but still.