News

1. Meet the new health boss, same as the old health boss

Leo Glavine  has been named health minister again. Photo: Zane Woodford
Leo Glavine  has been named health minister again. Photo: Zane Woodford

Jennifer Henderson covers yesterday’s provincial cabinet shuffle, focusing in particular on Leo Glavine’s re-appointment to the health portfolio, which he previously held from 2013-2017.

As part of his job, Glavine inherits the long-term care mess. Henderson writes:

There are currently more than 1,500 people waiting for admission to a long-term care facility, a number which grew by approximately 300 since March, when most homes weren’t admitting new residents for fear of spreading the virus. Ninety beds are being held vacant at Northwood to avoid the double-bunking and communal bathrooms identified as one factor in the death toll between April and June. Ninety beds are the equivalent of losing one full-size nursing home. Meanwhile, people too weak or frail to continue to stay in their homes are ending up in hospital, occupying beds normally used by patients recovering from surgeries.

Henderson pushes Glavine when he offers platitudes as answers. After he points out that in his last go-round as health minister the number of people waiting for long-term care dropped from 2,500 to 1,000, Henderson asks about the current number.

“There are 1500 people on the wait list, correct?”

“There is that number that is there,” admitted Glavine reluctantly.

I also love the dry touches in Henderson’s writing. For instance:

It’s fair to say not even a new minister can put a happy face on the hundreds of people waiting for long-term care.

Read Henderson’s full story here.

This story is free to read, but please consider subscribing.

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2. Survey says…

Photo: Wikimedia

This has been the year of the candidate survey. In the absence (for the most part) of in-person debates, surveys asking municipal mayoral and council candidates their positions have flourished.

The Halifax Examine sent a five-part questionnaire to all candidates. Other media and groups with particular interests did their own survey.

Zane Woodford has compiled all the Halifax municipal election candidate surveys he could find in one handy place, so you can see candidates’ answers (and find out which candidates didn’t bother to answer at all). It’s also interesting to see who answers by not answering certain questions.

There are surveys on cycling, children, the environment, development, and more. There is still one to come on immigration, and Woodford will update when it is published.

For instance, the Halifax Cycling Coalition asks the mayoral candidates (Max Taylor did not respond) how they would “prioritize the implementation of active transportation infrastructure connections in transportation deserts and low-income communities.”

Matt Whitman: “I believe in spending smart according to priorities that will benefit the most taxpayers.”

I always go check my local candidates’ responses in these surveys, and I was surprised to learn that one of our candidates favours relying in part on private funding for infrastructure projects. No thank you.

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3. Who is causing chaos?

Freshly caught lobster. Photo: Krista Fulton

Commercial fishermen in Southwest Nova Scotia held a rally against the Indigenous moderate livelihood fishery. Former provincial fisheries minister Sterling Belliveau spoke at the event, warning of “chaos” if the Indigenous fishery continues outside of the commercial season, according to a report from the CBC’s Paul Withers.

Then, last night, “An angry mob of non-Indigenous lobster fishermen trapped two Mi’kmaw fishermen inside a lobster pound in southwestern Nova Scotia late Tuesday evening,” Maureen Googo reports at Ku’Ku’Kwes News.

Googoo speaks with Indigenous fisherman Jason Marr, from the Sipekne’katik First Nation. He says he heard a mob was coming to his boat for his lobsters, so he stowed his 5,000-lb catch at a lobster pound in West Pubnico, at the pound owner’s invitation.

Googoo writes:

Marr said the RCMP told him and Sack that the non-Indigenous fishermen would let them leave the pound if they hand over the lobster.

Marr and other Mi’kmaw fishermen live-streamed what happened next.

In the videos, many non-Indigenous fishermen could be seen standing in front of the lobster pound. There were several shouting matches between them and the Mi’kmaw harvesters.

At one point, the fishermen turn their attention to a building next to the lobster pound. The video shows one of them ripping apart cardboard boxes and throwing the bait inside onto the ground.

According to the video, Marr’s family members were able to get inside the lobster pound only to find all but ten crates of lobster missing. The remaining lobsters appeared to have been poisoned with a can of PVC cement.

Marr also says his van was set on fire.

I found it instructive to read Withers’ and Googoo’s accounts of the background to these events. They show how subtle differences in language can convey significantly different impressions.

Withers:

The Sipekne’katik band touched off the latest round of protest when it launched its own moderate livelihood lobster fishery last month in nearby St. Marys Bay without authorization from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Googoo:

Tensions have flared between non-Indigenous and Mi’kmaw lobster harvesters in southwestern Nova Scotia since Sipekne’katik First Nation launched its moderate livelihood fishery on Sept. 17, the 21st anniversary of the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Marshall fishing rights case.

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4. Non-residents pay over $1,000 for COVID-19 testing

Sign at the Clayton Park COVID-19 testing centre. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Last December, Cora Huang’s mother, Qin Chen, came to visit from China. Now, she’d like to go back, but first she’ll need a negative COVID-19 test, and the cost for non-residents is prohibitive, Jean Laroche reports for CBC.

Laroche writes:

Huang, a permanent resident, is on leave from her job and only receiving employment insurance benefits.

“And my husband is still looking for a job due to all the stuff happening right now,” said Huang. “And that’s a major financial burden for our family.

“We don’t have that much income right now.”

Nova Scotia charges non-residents $1,017.50 for a COVID-19 test. In New Brunswick it’s $360.

This seems like poor public policy. Don’t we want to encourage access to testing, regardless of someone’s residence status? How many non-residents are waiting for testing in Nova Scotia? Will the overall cost of testing them be a burden on the health-care system? It’s hard to imagine it would be.

On another note, I would have been happier if CBC had chosen to not use “insane” in the headline. I know it’s a quote, but I bet if Huang had said the cost was “crippling” that would not have wound up in the headline. (Note that reporters generally don’t write their own headlines.)

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5. Parents sue over cancelled school trips

One of the sights Nova Scotians did not wind up seeing. Photo: Chris Karidis/Unsplash

Alicia Draus at Global reports on the frustrations of parents trying to get refunds for school trips cancelled because of the pandemic.

Back in March, the federal government issued travel advisories, and international school trips were cancelled. Draus writes:

“At the beginning, there was no issue. The insurance company and the Explorica company identified we would see our refunds within eight to 10 weeks,” said [parent Jeff]  Keizer.

That never happened, and now, seven months after the trip was cancelled, Keizer and many other families are still fighting for the refund they’re owed.

She adds:

A Facebook group has been created for anyone across the country dealing with the issue. The group has already identified 160 schools where trips were cancelled and families haven’t received a refund.

The parents seem to be caught between the travel agencies and their insurance companies, and with neither of them paying out they are now considering a class action.

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Views

1. Turn the convention centre into affordable housing

Home, sweet home? Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday, Tim Bousquet wondered why we aren’t holding jury trials in the Convention Centre, which has plenty of space for distancing and is mostly sitting empty.

He wrote:

I have no further information either, but I’m guessing that the convention centre is too expensive. No, that makes no sense at all. The province owns half of the convention centre (the city owns the other half), so using it would be something like taking money out of your right pocket and putting it in your left pocket. Moreover, the province has to cover half the losses of the centre, which are about $6 million this year. Whatever the costs of paying rent to use it for the courts, that expense simply decreases the end-of-the-year bailout…

On October 1, the province announced it had found space for two courtrooms — on Mellor Avenue in Burnside. As I tweeted that day, it’s not particularly easy  for potential jurors to catch a bus anywhere near the new courtrooms. From the Bridge Terminal, for example, you have to take the 87 to the Highfield Terminal, then catch the 72 to Wright Avenue, then walk half a kilometre to Mellor Ave. In contrast, a bevy of buses passes within two blocks of the convention centre, with the #1 passing by every 10 minutes during peak times.

In the Nova Scotia Advocate, Judy Haiven has another solution for the convention centre space: turn it into affordable housing.

The big hall, which Archibald notes is “really BIG.” Photo: Stephen Archibald
The big hall, which Archibald notes is “really BIG.” Photo: Stephen Archibald

Haiven writes:

Here’s how: On Sept. 21, the Canadian government committed to spend $1 billion over the next six months to help house the homeless, and keep others across the country from becoming homeless. Given our population is 2.75 percent of Canada’s population, Nova Scotia’s share of the federal money could amount to close to $27 million…

It’s time we converted the Convention Centre to affordable and accessible housing. There are more than 200,000 square feet of space, plus another 10,000 for a commercial kitchen. None of it is in use. At an average of 1,000 square feet per unit, we could build close to 200 apartments, with room for hallways, elevators and stairs.

Maybe the city and province should hold a “what can we do with the convention centre” contest.

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2. The full and diverse spectrum of opinion

National perspectives from Saltwire.

When I want a diversity of views on national issues, I head over to Saltwire.

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Noticed

Bus Stop Theatre. Photo: Facebook

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, my partner and I biked part of the Harvest Moon Trail, which runs from Grand Pré to Annapolis Royal.

As we rode through Kentville, I noticed the marquee on the town’s Centre Stage Theatre, plugging their vintage radio dramas. Since the community theatre group that normally puts on plays in the space can’t perform right now, they’re performing old-time radio pieces. While you can listen free, the group (naturally) welcomes donations. I listened to their current performance, The Adventure of the Tolling Bell, a piece which debuted in 1948. The company debuts another classic radio drama tomorrow.

When we were on lock-down, many of us were sustained by arts and artists. Live-streamed concerts, kitchen parties, and so on. As the pandemic wears on, live theatre has been hit particularly hard. Live music is not impossible right now. Restaurants are hosting concerts, both indoors and outside, and other, more typical venues, have also been able to put on live music, albeit with limited audience capacity.

In New York, Broadway is shut down until at least May 30, 2021, and you’re not going to be filling the seats at the Neptune any time soon either.

I’ve been amazed by the capacity for performers and other artists to adapt, and how quickly they’ve done it. While you can’t go see Neptune shows live, the theatre has a one-year subscription service that gives you access to all kinds of virtual performances and events. Zuppa Theatre has been ahead of the game with a series of immersive app-based performances. The Bus Stop Theatre is holding a “covid-safe” multi-disciplinary performance on Friday called Feeling Distance. Back in May, I wrote for the Examiner about my experience with the Ministry of Mundane Mysteries, a phone-call based show from Toronto-based company Outside the March. At the time, I wrote:

I won’t give away too many details — though, of course, the show is personalized for each participant. On Monday, an inspector called me from the ministry to discuss my case. We had a friendly, relaxed, and wide-ranging chat, most of which had very little do with the missing chopsticks. Little did I realize she was mining me for information.

While performers rethink their roles, an October 12 New Yorker story by Vinson Cunningham says we are also re-evaluating what it means to be part of an audience in the age of virtual theatre. Cunningham writes:

A lot of work goes into seeing a show at home. For one thing, it’s impossible to settle on a seat. I’ve watched plays while sitting at the desk where I write, or on the floor next to the desk, or on the couch across the room, or at the kitchen table, or, least proudly, lying in my bed, under the covers. I’m never even close to dressed up; I’m there to see but not be seen… we are undergoing a worldwide reconstrual of what it means to be a member of the crowd.

There is a certain segment of the “learn to code” crowd who see the arts and artists as somehow stuck in the past. British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak recently said in an interview that artists and musicians just need to retrain because their jobs are no longer viable.

Tech companies keep trying to get us excited about the absurd (wi-fi juicer) or trying to invent things that already exist (see Netflix of books, aka the library). Meanwhile, artists are out there innovating all the time, but not getting millions in venture capital to do it.

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Government

City

No meetings this week.

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Nova Scotia Health Authority; Cybersecurity and Fraud Risks – October 2019 Report of the Auditor General, Financial; with Brendan Carr.

Thursday

No meetings.

On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Nova Scotia Needs Students Rally (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House) — from the listing:

Did you know that Nova Scotia has the highest tuition in the Maritimes and is rapidly approaching the highest tuition in the country? Nova Scotia depends on students for population and economic growth, but post-secondary education in the province is chronically underfunded.

More info here.

Rethinking yeast models of protein misfolding (Wednesday, 4pm) — Martin Duennwals from Western University will talk. Info and link here.

U.S. Presidential Election 2020: What’s at Stake for Canada? (Wednesday, 7pm) — from the listing:

What’s really at stake for Canada and Canadians? How do the two presidential candidates stack up on critical political issues affecting our continental relationship? Our panel will look at ‘make-or-break’ issues on the North American agenda ranging across the spectrum from diplomacy and defense to trade and the environment to race and equality rights.

Info and link here.

There’s Something in the Water (Wednesday, 7pm) — Movie screening with Ingrid Waldron and David Suzuki; they’re joined in conversation afterwards with community activists Dorene Bernard, Louise Delisle, Michelle Francis-Denny, moderated by Sherry Yano. Info and link here.

Concord Floral (Wednesday, 7:30pm) — Ann-Marie Kerr directs Jordan Tannihill’s play in the Fountain School’s first online show of the season. Performances to Friday evening, matinee Saturday at 2pm. More info here.

Thursday

Reclaiming Power and Place Virtual Read (Thursday, 10:30am) — a group reading of Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019). More info here.

Topos (Thursday, 12pm) — architecture lecture with Kristina Hill from the University of California, Berkeley, and Lola Sheppard, University of Waterloo. More info and link here.

Recent progress in the understanding of the nodal structure of random functions (Thursday, 2:30pm) — somebody’s going to explain that

The nodal set of a nice function defined on a smooth manifold or the Euclidean space is its zero set. The study of nodal sets of Gaussian random fields has positioned itself in the heart of several disciplines, including probability theory and spectral geometry, and, more recently, it has exhibited connections to number theory. We are interested in the asymptotic topology and geometry of the nodal lines in the high energy limit.

In the first part of the talk I will give an overview of the classical results in this field, and the related methods. In the second part of the talk I will describe the more recent progress, related to percolation properties of the nodal lines, inspired by the beautiful percolation model due to Bogomolny-Schmit. Finally, I will describe the recent results obtained in a joint work with D. Beliaev and S. Muirhead on the relation between the percolation properties of the nodal sets and their connectivity measures, that were defined and whose existence was established in a joint work with P. Sarnak.​

More info here.

Concord Floral (Thursday, 7:30pm) — Ann-Marie Kerr directs Jordan Tannihill’s play in the Fountain School’s first online show of the season. Performances to Friday evening, matinee Saturday at 2pm. More info here.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

No public events.

Thursday

Evaluating sources (Thursday, 4:30pm) — Learn how to evaluate search results, articles, websites, and more. Info and webinar link here.

King’s

Wednesday

Live Poets! (Wednesday, 8pm) — with Asha Jeffers and Irfan Ali. More info and link here.

Thursday

Eyo Ewara. Photo from the listing.

Racism, Opacity, Ethics: the Role of Recognition in Racial Justice (Thursday, 7pm) — Eyo Awara from Loyola University will talk. More info and link here.


In the harbour

06:00: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Mariel, Cuba
07:00: Pacific Constructor, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from St. John’s
07:00: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
13:00: GW Dolphin, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Antwerp
18:00: Spaarnegracht, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 27 from Palm Beach, Florida


Footnotes

On October 29, I’m giving an online workshop on fermentation basics, including a hands-on demonstration of sauerkraut making. (Bring your own cabbage and Mason jar if you like.) The event is free, but you need to register here. The workshop is organized by Transition Bay St. Margarets.

To support the Halifax Examiner, please subscribe, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. That remarkably expensive, skyward pavilion which is our empty Convention Centre should be lots of things while sitting like a big, vacant nothing with all that heating & plumbing just wasting away. No person should sleep on a street, in a tent or a library with this heated house of glass in city central and beyond. Hold court in this place, offer shelter and community meetings here and why NOT temporary housing for those displaced by significant rent increases. This Centre was a bone of contention from the get go and here we are. Big and bold, empty and stupid unless this space can be redeemed via society necessity.

  2. Just as a point about the case of Qin Chen’s Covid test. The story says she came here last December. Visitors to Canada are required to leave after 6 months which means she should have left in June. In fact it was in March when the word went out for everyone to get home or leave. There is something not being reported on this story.

  3. Yes, we need more students to keep rents high, and residential real estate prices rising to the stratosphere.

    1. Don’t forget whole classes of workers with diminished rights relative to citizens to keep wages down etc. Canadian governance is largely oriented around maintaining the privileges and comfort of the top 20% or so.