News

1. Tuition

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“A proposal by Dalhousie’s Budget Advisory Committee to raise tuition next fall for the seventh year in a row drew criticism during a budget presentation to the Dalhousie Senate this week,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

“You can’t put all the burden on students because we just can’t take it anymore,” said Senator Masuma Khan, vice-president for Dal Student Union. “Students aren’t happy with what we are paying and the fact we can’t find jobs here after graduation. This university has to start prioritizing students: increasing tuition should not even be on the docket.”

Click here to read “Dal students and faculty oppose higher tuition fees.”

2. Profiles in cowardice: Gordon Wilson, Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, Ben Jessome, Brendan Maguire, and Hugh MacKay

“Liberal MLAs who sit on the Nova Scotia Legislature’s public accounts committee have, once again, used their majority to further limit the work of the once-powerful accountability body,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:

Last September, the governing Liberals voted to restrict the committee’s work to topics dealt with in reports filed by Nova Scotia’s auditor general. That decision sparked a short-lived walkout by the opposition parties.

On Wednesday, Liberal members rejected topics put forward by PC and NDP MLAs. The PCs had wanted to discuss the “mental-health crisis in Cape Breton,” while the NDP had sought to add “family doctor resourcing” and “managing home-care support contracts” to a future agenda.

The issues were examined in Auditor General Michael Pickup’s November 2017 report, but backbench Liberal MLA Ben Jessome argued Wednesday they should instead be dealt with at the newly established health committee.

During an agenda-setting meeting Tuesday for the health committee, Liberal members voted to exclude topics put forward by opposition members, including emergency room overcrowding and ambulance offload delays, and physician working conditions.

As its name implies, the Public Accounts Committee was established to hold the government accountable, which means free-wheeling questioning from MLAs from all parties about anything concerning the expenditure of money that they want to bring up. It’s right there in the committee’s mandate, as established by the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia [Section 60(2)(b)], the legislation governing how the assembly and its committees operate:

The standing committee on public accounts reviews public spending, reports of the auditor general and any other financial matters respecting the public funds of the province.

Stephen Kimber calls the five Liberals on the Public Accounts Committee — Gordon Wilson, Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, Ben Jessome, Brendan Maguire, and Hugh MacKay — the “Fangless Five and/or the Craven Cabal of Liberal Nobodies.”

And truly, as NDP MLA Susan Leblanc pointed out, the five Liberals’ actions are “an abomination of democracy.”

For myself, I don’t have enough choice words for Wilson, Lohnes-Croft, Jessome, Maguire, and MacKay. We can start with the A-words — abominations, abased, amoral — then move on to B — bad, beastly, bullshitters — and continue to work our way through the alphabet: cowards, dastards, evil, flatigious, godawful, heinous, ignominious, and so forth.

No matter how cool you are on social media or how pretty your kids are in your campaign literature or how many rubber chicken charity dinners you attend, to cavalierly toss away one of the foundations of our parliamentary democracy for short-term, petty political purposes makes you a horrible person.

Sure, limiting questioning at Public Accounts will help control the PR messaging of the government — for a while. But as with all governments, this Liberal government will one day be replaced and the next government will not restore the full functions to the Public Accounts Committee. We’ve probably lost any meaningful accountability within the legislative process, forever. (The only hope of bringing it back is a minority government, I think, and even that seems unlikely.)

This is a huge loss to democracy.

3. Transit fares

“A ride on the bus or ferry will cost a quarter more later this year if council approves Halifax Transit’s final budget,” reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax:

Councillors debated the 2019-2020 operating budget for the transit service during its latest budget committee meeting on Wednesday, voting in favour of a proposal to bring in an extra $812,000 in revenue by raising transit fares from $2.50 to $2.75.

The hike would be effective Oct. 1 and would be the first change since 2013, when fares rose from $2.25.

[Transit manager Dave] Reage said the current plan is to raise the cost of 10 bus tickets from $20 to $22 and the cost of a monthly adult pass from $78 to $85. Those numbers are subject to change, and he didn’t say what effect the increase would have on children’s and seniors’ fares, currently set at $1.75 — the second lowest among comparable cities.

I’ve come around to the view that transit should be free to the rider — the cost savings in road expansion and repair from putting more people in buses would far outweigh the expense to the city for free bus ridership. Besides, just Tuesday council declared a “climate emergency” — that either means something or it doesn’t.

4. Road fatality

A police release early this morning:

Halifax Regional Police are investigating a fatality motor vehicle accident that occurred this evening in Halifax.

At approximately 8:05 pm Police responded to the 400 block of Old Sambro Road to a report of a two vehicle accident with injuries.

According to witnesses the vehicles collided while travelling in opposite directions causing both vehicle to leave the roadway.

A 45-year-old male driving a sedan was travelling inbound along Old Sambro Road towards Sussex Street when he collided with an SUV travelling outbound. There were no passengers in the vehicles.

Police EHS and Fire were on scene within minutes. Life saving measures were attempted, unfortunately the 45-year-old male operating the sedan was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The 64-year-old male driver of the SUV was treated by EHS and released at the scene.

Road conditions were poor at the time of this incident.

5. Deaf school abuse

Photo: Halifax Examiner

Wageners Law Firm issued the following release yesterday:

The Province of Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority have consented to the certification of a proposed class action concerning allegations of systemic sexual, physical and mental abuse inflicted on children who attended the School for the Deaf in Halifax and the Interprovincial School for the Education of the Deaf in Amherst (later named the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority — Resource Centre for the Hearing Handicapped and subsequently the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority — Resource Centre for the Hearing Impaired). The Province and APSEA are named as defendants in the class action filed by Wagners in January 2016.

The provision of the Defendants’ consent means the motion for certification is unopposed. However, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court still must approve the certification of the class action. A motion for this purpose will proceed at the Halifax Law Courts on January 31, 2019.

Richard Martell and Michael Perrier are the proposed representative plaintiffs. If the Court certifies the action, they will act as representatives of the class, which consists of all students who attended and/or resided at the two schools during the class period of 1913 to 1995 (when the Amherst school closed).

Wagners has been contacted by over 230 former students who allege abuse while attending these segregated educational institutions.

Click here to read the entire release.

According to the Atlantic Provinces Special Educational Authority:

The Institution for the Deaf and Dumb was established in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1856, incorporated in 1982, and it was renamed the School for the Deaf in 1913. The original building on Gottingen Street in Halifax was demolished and a new school built and opened in 1896. From 1896-1961, this school served deaf children from the Atlantic Provinces. Under the Interprovincial School for the Deaf Act (1960), the governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick assumed joint responsibility for the operation of the school, moved it to Amherst, Nova Scotia and renamed it Interprovincial School for the Education of the Deaf. Students from all four Atlantic Provinces attended the school. In 1965, Newfoundland students stopped attending, since a new school for deaf students had opened in St. John’s. A vocational school opened on campus in Amherst in 1966 and some students from Newfoundland returned in 1972 to attend this program. Off campus programs in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were introduced beginning in 1967 and this movement to decentralize educational programs began to grow. In 1975, the school was renamed the Atlantic Provinces Resource Centre for the Hearing Handicapped (APRCHH). The Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA) was formed to oversee both APRCHH and the new Atlantic Provinces Resource Centre for the Visually Handicapped (APRCVH). The Amherst facility’s name changed again 1989 to the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority – Resource Centre for the Hearing Impaired (APSEA-RCHI).

By 1991, mainstreaming resulted in enrolment declines in both APSEA-RCHI and the Sir Frederick Fraser School for the Blind in Halifax, and merging the two schools was under consideration. The decision was made in 1994 to consolidate the schools and APSEA-RCHI closed at the end of the 1994-95 school year, moving some operations and services to the APSEA Centre on South Street in Halifax. Students were then educated in mainstreamed settings or in various day classes throughout the province and came to the APSEA Centre for assessments and short term placements.


Government

City

Thursday

Heritage Advisory Committee (Thursday, 12pm, City Hall) — Darren Burke wants to build a three-storey, 12-unit apartment building in the side yard of the Uniacke-Sawyer House, a registered historic property he owns at 5720-5722 Inglis Street. Staff is recommending approval.

Community Information Session – Aberdeen Court Park (Thursday, 6:30pm, East Dartmouth Community Centre, 50 Caledonia Road) — Aberdeen Court Park is getting a “playbox” filled “with equipment to play with your friends and family.” Evidently, people you don’t like and who aren’t related to you won’t be allowed to use the playbox, which is an interesting parks department innovation. In any event, you can show up and say what kind of toys you want in the box.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21813 (Thursday, 7pm, Eastern Passage Buffalo Club, 625 Cow Bay Road) — Arthur Rhyno wants his property on Cow Bay Road rezoned so he can build a “single unit dwelling” on it.

Friday

Budget Committee (Friday, 11am, City Hall) — the capital budget will be debated.

Province

No public meetings Thursday or Friday.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Assessing the Trudeau Foreign Policy Record (Thursday, 11:35am, Room 270, Student Union Building) — Kim Richard Nossal from Queen’s University will speak.

(Photo)catalytic Conversion of Water and Alcohols for Selective Chemical Synthesis (Thursday, 12pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Hiroshi Naka from Nagoya University will speak.

Active Learning Workshops in Large Classes (Thursday, 2:30pm, B400, Killam Library) — Sean MacKinnon talks. Info and register here.

Statistics Colloquium (Thursday, 3:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Gary Sneddon from MSVU will speak. Title TBA.

L’Étoile (Thursday-Saturday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — directed by David Overton, music by Emmanuel Chabrier, English version by Jeremy Sams. Sensory-friendly performance Sunday, February 3 at 2:30. Info here. Tickets here.

Profit, People, and the Planet (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — Hari Balasubramanian and Matthew Schnurr will speak.

Friday

SURGE VR/AR Deep Dive 2019 (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 2660, Life Sciences Centre) — Register here.

Saint Mary’s

Friday

Futebol in Brazil and the Impact of Pseudoscientific Racism (Friday, 12pm, McNally North 219) — Rosana Barbosa will speak.

Mount Saint Vincent

Friday

Communication Studies Winter Research Panel (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 302, McCain Centre) — Tess Laidlaw will talk about “The Persuasion of Expectant Mothers: How Prenatal Education Creates a Rhetoric of Guilt”; Anthony Yue will talk about “Regrets, I’ve Had a Few: Dwelling on Wabi Sabi, Iki and Regret.” Online stream here.

Gabrielle Durepos

The changing role of women in Chinese society (Friday, 2pm, Keshen Goodman Library) — Gabrielle Durepos will speak.

King’s

Thursday

The Possibility of Gaia (Thursday, 7pm, Alumni Hall) — a conversation with Frédéric Bouchard, Université de Montréal​; Tim Lenton, University of Exeter; Ford Doolittle and Joe Bielawski from Dalhousie University. From the listing:

James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis holds that the biosphere’s global feedbacks are products of natural selection, but traditional Darwinists say this is impossible. Recent approaches in the philosophy of evolution and results of computational modeling studies suggest that Gaia can now be integrated into Darwinian theory.


In the harbour

06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
08:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
16:30: Atlantic Sun sails for New York
21:30: RHL Agilitas sails for Kingston, Jamaica


Footnotes

Probably pretty icy out there. Be careful.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Dear Tim,
    I’m not surprised by the APSEA revelations. Nova Scotia has a sordid history of isolating vulnerable people, not giving a damn about who cares for them and exploiting them. The home for Coloured Children, Shubenacadie, Shelburne – it’s quite a list.
    You and I discussed this years ago, and I can say with certainty that nothing has changed. The thousands of people with intellectual disabilities who are ‘clients’ of sheltered workshops are essentially without protection. DirectioNS, which is a loose association of such establishments, has no uniform requirements for staff and no education program for participants. Although there is minimum wage legislation, participants in sheltered workshops are exempted.
    Community Services is in denial or just plain malicious. A department of enablers. The province values diversity, yet they tolerate segregation in this and many other respects.
    When the shit hits the fan, you need to shoulder some of the responsibility. This is something the province knows about, because I’ve told https://jmcgs.blogspot.com/2015/07/accounting-for-sheltered-workshops.html them over and over. But they are practiced apologists who prefer not to know. You?
    Gus

  2. I am entirely against free transit. All of the substantial benefits of transit are predicated on lots of people using it, and the cost is simply not the barrier. It’s the time. Fares are not the main reason many folks avoid the bus.

    The cost of transit fare is insignificant compared to the cost of owning and operating a car. Many people own one or more cars. The barriers to getting these people on the bus are usually not financial – almost all car owners would save huge amounts of money if they switched to transit. A barrier to getting people on transit is that it generally takes much longer to get anywhere by bus. More frequent and faster service to more of the city is the way to get people on the bus.

    For folks who truly need help with bus fare, there are ways to target less expensive fares, or perhaps free fares. The low income transit pass is one way. Perhaps it is not enough, but it is a better option in my mind than eliminating fares that many folks could easily afford, if they chose the bus. Eliminating fares would mean about $30 million less revenue to run transit. If reduced revenue led to service cuts, it would make life even more difficult for people who depend on the bus. Better to target the subsidies and improve the service.

    1. Other things to think about on the transit front:
      1. Do a study of all transit routes cancelled over the past ten years to see if each cancellation was justified. Had ridership decreased for the route why was this the case? If service had been improved (hours and frequency) could an increase in ridership have been anticipated? Were there alternatives to removing service through rerouting?
      2. Avoid doing any route and service cuts in the future without a thorough study of needs and of improvements to service and routes that would maintain or increase ridership.
      3. When frequency or hours of transit service are reduced decrease the local service tax for transit proportionately.
      4. Increase free Tuesday service for seniors to normal hours on all routes. Currently, limited hours are especially difficult for seniors with physicians’ appointments given the long waits they must face in physicians offices. They also reduce seniors capacity to engage in civic life in the evenings if they don’t have access to a car.
      5. Implement a congestion charge for drivers who have access to frequent transit service during average hours of service, but not to those who have service less frequently than every 30 minutes, fewer than average hours of service, or no service at all.

  3. In interest of our climate emergency and simple equity, HRM Councillors should not be raising transit fares, but should be cancelling various road widening projects and imposing some sort of congestion pricing to discourage people from using their personal cars in the Centre. In order to further discourage car use, HRM should truly implement free transit within the Centre and should eliminate on street parking except for vehicles with disability license plates and for commercial vehicles making deliveries or repairs. If one is wealthy enough to own and drive a car into the Centre, one is wealthy enough to pay for off street parking, which could include a significant parking tax used to fund mass transit). For the rest of us, HRM should build infrastructure like park and ride lots on the periphery and create free 24/7 mass transit within the Centre.

  4. Tim, it’s VERY slippery out. Especially between DHS and the Bridge Terminal if you’re heading that way.