News

1. 26 new cases of COVID-19 announced

Photo: Markus Winkler/Unsplash

Nova Scotia announced 26 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, with active cases now at 198.

Tim Bousquet has the run-down on all the data you need here.

Asymptomatic pop-up testing continues today, from noon to 7pm at the Halifax Convention Centre and Centennial Arena.

One of my kids works near the Convention Centre, so he picked up some home self-test kits for us yesterday. I’ve used these once before, and the process was very easy, and the instructions clearly explained. Regular testing, especially before larger get-togethers — can help us monitor potential trouble.

Testing has become so normalized in Nova Scotia that I’m taken by surprise when I see people in other jurisdictions talking about going to get a test for the first time. I would love to know what percentage of the provincial population has had at least one COVID test.

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2. Engineering firm says Pieridae stiffed it for $800K

The “site office” for Pieridae Energy’s Goldboro site. Photo: Halifax Examiner

This item is written by Tim Bousquet.

Pieridae Energy wanted nearly a billion dollars from the Canadian federal government and untold millions from the province. In return, the company said it would build a liquified natural gas plant in Goldboro that would employ thousands of workers and bring untold riches to the province.

But those plans were aborted, and instead of bringing riches, Pieridae left over $800,000 in unpaid bills.

That anyway, is the accusation laid out in a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia by Wood Canada Limited.

Wood Canada is a Toronto-based engineering and project management firm that was hired by Pieridae as a consultant for the Goldboro project. Wood Canada says it built a budget for the project, scheduled maintenance, wrote the environmental assessment, oversaw permit applications, and conducted consultations with First Nations.

But on July 8, 2021, a week after Pieridae told investors it was pulling out of the Goldboro project, Pieridae cancelled its contract with Wood Canada and acknowledged there were outstanding invoices.

The amount due to Wood Canada is $812,213.59, which includes HST and interest at an unstated contractural amount. Pieridae has not paid the bill, says Wood Canada.

On August 30, Wood Canada registered a builder’s lien for that amount on two parcels in Goldboro. One of the parcels is 48 acres on the waterfront in Goldboro and is assessed at $46,500. The second parcel is up the hill across Highway 316 from the first parcel, and consists of 219 acres assessed at $105,300.

The properties are owned by a numbered company whose directors are Thom Dawson and Yvonne McLeod. Dawson is a director for Pieridae and McLeod is Pieridae’s vice-president for Drilling, Completions & HSE.

The allegations in the statement of claim have not been tested in court, and Pieridae has yet to file a defence.

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3. How’s that smoking bylaw working out?

Photo: Andres Siimon/Unsplash

At Global Alex Cooke decides to find out how things are going three years after Halifax enacted a (ridiculous) blanket smoking ban.

As you may recall, the ban forbids smoking anywhere within the thousands of square kilometres of the municipality, with the exception of 91 smoking areas, marked by ugly butt-holders.

Cooke writes:

“I wouldn’t say it’s been effective,” said Paul MacKinnon, the CEO of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission. “People still smoke — whether it’s cigarettes or marijuana — kind of anywhere.”

MacKinnon tells Cooke that crews hired by the commission picked up half a million cigarette butts from downtown last summer. Councillor Sam Austin (who was in favour of the bylaw and then opposed it) agrees that it’s basically useless:

“I don’t think anyone changed their behaviour on smoking, really. I think any sort of use of the smoking stations, to me, has been happenstance. If there is a station right where someone was going to smoke anyway, they’re using it.”

Enforcement of the bylaw is complaint-driven, but he said the very nature of smoking makes it difficult to enforce.

“Someone lights a cigarette, they have their smoke, and then they’re done, right? It’s not exactly something that’s easy to catch someone doing,” said Austin, adding that bylaw officers are “really busy folks.”

Cooke notes that bylaw officers haven’t issued a single ticket, while Halifax Regional Police have handed out 13.

In September 2018, Tim Bousquet raised concerns about the bylaw:

There’s been a lot said about this already, so I won’t rehash it all. But as I see it, we can’t have a bylaw and enforce it in a discriminatory fashion. That is, we can’t turn the other way when visiting conventioneers go out to Argyle Street to light up, and then sic the bylaw officers on locals with no smoking options except the sidewalk.

Reader Peter Ziobrowski pointed out to me yesterday that under the new bylaw conventioneers can probably smoke legally in the Grafton Street Glory Hole, but the Glory Hole is a disgusting, dangerous mess. No, they’ll want to go out to Argyle Street and smoke in the sun, or shade I guess.

What are the chances that enforcement of the bylaw includes aggressively responding to complaints of visiting conventioneers smoking on Argyle Street? Slim to none, I’d guess, as those visiting conventioneers are seen as the source of prosperity forever, amen. We wouldn’t want to advertise Halifax as being unreasonably unfair to visitors, would we? I can imagine the event planner discussion boards lighting up with outrage at how badly Halifax treats them.

So if the bylaw officers don’t cite the Calgary businessmen and Vancouver sales reps who smoke up on Argyle Street while visiting the convention centre, then anyone else cited should use them as proof of a discriminatory application of the bylaw.

I’m half tempted to set up a smoking cam on Argyle Street to document the thousands of people who will violate the bylaw.

Former District 13 councillor Matt Whitman was one of two votes against the bylaw, and he had it right. From a July 2018 CTV story:

“The enforcement folks are all of a sudden going to be giving warnings, and keeping track of how many warnings they got, and when it comes from a warning to a fine,” said District 13 Coun. Matt Whitman. “It seems like a lot of money to almost have the illusion of enforcement.”

Maybe when I’m done with the Morning File I’ll drive the 27 kilometres to the nearest municipal receptacle and have a smoke.

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4. Tories introduce 50-metre “safe access bubble” around hospitals and patient homes

Halifax Infirmary in July, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

Spurred by anti-vaccination protests outside hospitals, the provincial government has introduced legislation to provide a buffer zone to protect patients and health care workers from protesters.

Keith Doucette of the Canadian Press quotes Premier Tim  Houston:

“This is all designed to make sure that our health-care professionals know that their government supports them in having a safe and healthy workplace.”

The premier added that while people have a right to protest, they can’t be allowed to disrupt access to health care. “There are places where (protesting) should be done and there are places where that should not be done,” he said.

I mean, you have to be an asshole to harass people on their way in and out of a hospital, pharmacy, or whatever. But restrictions on protest can be dangerous. Doucette notes that the law would also apply to health care workers picketing.

From Doucette’s story:

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin and NDP Leader Gary Burrill both expressed support for the idea behind the legislation, but they said they needed to evaluate the bill further before staking a position.

However, both said they wouldn’t support a law that would also prohibit health workers from setting up union pickets during labour disputes.

“People have a right to collective bargaining and a right to protest, and I think that is foundational to our democracy,” Rankin told reporters.

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5. How we pay for family doctors and why it matters

If you want to be a living donor in Nova Scotia, you need a primary caregiver. Photo: Unsplash

Dr. Aruna Dhara, a family physician and co-director of the Dalhousie health humanities program, has a helpful opinion piece at CBC today.

The doctor shortage is a complex issue, and I appreciate a piece like this that looks at one aspect of it and offers a clear explanation, without attempting to provide a simple solution.

Dhara looks at fee-for-service, salary, and capitation (better than decapitation, I guess) and the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Fee for service, for instance, allows doctors to be paid for multiple services in one visit:

Fee-for-service medicine seems like a straightforward payment model; in it, each service is coded and assigned a dollar value so physicians who do more per visit are ostensibly paid more — as are physicians who see more patients.

The incentive is for efficient, high volume care that packs as much as possible into a single visit. The government’s view seems to be that a standard office visit could include taking someone’s blood pressure, refilling a prescription, addressing the patient’s back pain, counselling about contraception or all of the above.

But, on the other hand:

A lot of the work of keeping patients healthy doesn’t fit well into those MSI codes — for example, much of the counselling doctors provide is actually ineligible for billing and, even when it is, patients are only allowed a couple of hours per year. And the critical time that physicians spend building relationships or co-ordinating care for complex medical issues doesn’t fit neatly into those codes.

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6. Remembering Robert Devet

Images of Robert Devet were projected onto the former Memorial Library at a memorial for him last night. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson

It was quite a sendoff for a guy who worked tirelessly after his retirement from the provincial civil service to provide “a voice for the voiceless.”

Several hundred people of all ages and walks of life turned up in front of the former Memorial Library last night to pay their respects to Robert Devet, the publisher, editor, and writer of the Nova Scotia Advocate. Devet died September 27.

The Advocate was Robert Devet, a lefty news outlet that focused on social justice issues such as poverty, racism, affordable housing, discrimination, and human rights.

Disability rights activist Vicki Levack speaks at the memorial for Robert Devet. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Devet didn’t believe in being an objective or neutral reporter, said disability rights activist Vicki Levack. “He called bullshit on that,” she said.

Devet was proud to show his readers where his sympathies lay. “When the Muslim community would hold a protest,” said community activist Rana Zaman, “the only two journalists who always showed up were Robert and El (Jones, a contributor with the Examiner).” Jones helped organize last night’s tribute to Devet and acted as moderator.

Kendall Worth told the crowd Devet had encouraged and helped him write about his experiences living on income assistance.

Photo: Matthew Byard

Members of the First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities, as well as representatives for migrant workers and the Voice of Women, all spoke about how Devet, unlike others in the media, had taken the time to understand their issues and continue to follow and analyze them.

Devet was a champion of the underdog, a grumpy guy at news conferences who didn’t fraternize much with other reporters. While we were dazzled by the bright shiny objects of “what’s new,” Devet wrote seriously about the stubborn old problems that just won’t go away. It’s sad and worrisome to have lost this important voice and The Nova Scotia Advocate .

He will be missed by many.

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Views

1. Small is… if not beautiful, at least something we should learn to live with

Geography and Planning professor Maxwell Hartt. Photo: Queen’s University

What if we stopped fighting shrinking populations?

Halifax is growing, and has been for decades, but there are plenty of municipalities in the province with more-or-less stagnant or declining populations. And these towns rely on a variety of strategies to increase the population so that — one day — they can thrive.

Queen’s Geography and Planning professor Maxwell Hartt has thought a lot about these issues, and he thinks it’s time for municipalities like CBRM to stop chasing growth and instead figure out how to live with smaller population numbers. The province itself, of course, is hoping to double its population by 2060, and is launching a $2.5 million campaign to attract new residents.

But Hartt’s focus is on municipalities.

Last week, Mary Campbell at the Cape Breton Spectator spoke with Hartt, the author of Quietly Shrinking Cities: Canadian Urban Population Loss in an Age of Growth, a book that uses Cape Breton Regional Municipality as one of two case studies (he has roots in Cape Breton).

Campbell explains:

In essence, Hartt’s argument is that we should plan for the people who actually live in shrinking municipalities like CBRM rather than for those who do not; that is, we should adopt policies that improve life for residents rather than policies designed to attract and retain new residents. This means “rightsizing” infrastructure and services and it’s a difficult prescription to swallow in a society where growth is everything and a municipality that accepts shrinkage looks very much like a municipality that has simply given up…

But as Hartt points out, the CBRM has been in “decline” in terms of population since 1961, when we hit our peak of 120,000, which means we have been coping with the realities of decline for 60 years without ever quite accepting it. Instead, we’ve looked to immigration, foreign students and the infamous “alphabet soup” of development agencies for the key to returning us to our former glory.

What if we just admitted we’re a municipality of about 100,000 and got on with it?

These are conversations Hart tells Campbell we should be having across Canada:

Realistically, we know Canada is an enormous country, very unique in that it’s just huge…with these very small pockets of growth and also population and…if you look forward…five or 10 or maybe 15 years, the way the global economy is going, you don’t see a bright future for every town in Canada…[T]o me, that needs to be, first of all, just a discussion, just to say, “Okay, we need to rethink this, how we think about our country and what success is. It can’t all grow endlessly and find these new pockets of economic development and not everywhere can be a tourist haven or [attract] international students…there’s limitations on this, so I think there’s a big conversation that needs to be had…

Campbell tries to press Hart on concrete planning actions the city could take. Should it shut down libraries? Close roads? But she says “he was not falling for it” — insisting instead that the specific decisions should come out of a transparent planning process with clear goals.

As I was reading Campbell’s story, I was thinking, “What about Detroit?” because I had a notion of the city making a comeback after its population cratered. Campbell was clearly thinking along the same lines, because she asks Hartt about Detroit:

At its peak in 1950, the Motor City had a population of over 1.8 million and, writes Hartt, “was considered by many to be the future of urbanism and the embodiment of the American Dream.”

By 2017, as a result of a variety of factors (including white flight and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs), the city had been forced to declare bankruptcy, its population had dropped to just over 670,000 — a decline of 64% — and Detroit had become the “poster child” for shrinking cities. The city has rebounded since its bankruptcy, which was approved in 2014, but it becomes clear when I ask Hartt for an example of a city that has rightsized effectively that Detroit isn’t necessarily it:

“Detroit’s a strange one, I’m talking about Detroit often…and some people could say, right now, it’s a success story — the downtown is very vibrant and anyone who went to Detroit even 10 years ago probably wouldn’t fully recognize downtown now. It’s very exciting, there’s a lot of development, a lot going on, but you cross a certain street and then it drops off in a huge way. Other people would say that Detroit’s gotten worse because inequality has grown between the periphery and the downtown…”

The question then arises, says Hartt:

“Who’s the city for? Is it for creative types of a certain demographic who can come downtown and afford [to] play in an exciting city? Or is it for the people who’ve lived there and who’ve kind of gone through this whole process?…I think there are some good things that have happened, but it’s tricky and like all cities, nowhere’s perfect.”

There is much more to the story, including Hartt discussing the notion of decoupling population growth and economic growth.

Click or tap here to read “Quietly shrinking CBRM.”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.

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Noticed

WEJKUAGAMIT by I’thandi Munro. Photo by James MacLean, from the Nocturne website.

The annual Nocturne night-time art festival is back. The full list of projects is here. (If you go to the homepage, ignore the “Learn more” button at the top, because it will take you to an announcement from last March.)

As always, lots of interesting-looking projects, including Nbiish, by former Nocturne curator Raven Davis. It’s a “projected movement piece incorporating media, dance and light” on the fifth floor of the Halifax Central Library, though it is best viewed from the library courtyard (is that the space in front of the building, on Spring Garden?) according to the website.

The piece focuses on water:

The liminal moment where we can choose to change how we are in relationship with our resources or ignore our complicity and continue depleting our future generations’ right to clean drinking water. The space between allows us to reconsider our sustainability efforts. It allows us for the readjustment of our environmental responsibilities. It allows us to reconsider our responsibility to the water, our entitlement to it, the monetary value and the inequitable distribution of water in our territories.

Stray Hair and Blood Portraits by Kim Morgan also caught my eye. The first is based on dust and ash samples on people, and the second on images of donated blood. Maybe this stuff creeps you out, but I find it fascinating.

I have a thing for revolving doors, but Killa Atencio’s rEvolving is not like the doors you get your suitcase stuck in at the airport. Atencio writes:

The project will feature an interactive poetry installation that is designed to be walked through, similar to a portière made up of poetry printed on clear plastic sheets that are meant to move with natural elements like wind, similar to a mobile or curtain. The purpose of this project is to act as a symbolic space of transformation between where you were, and where you are going and to bring awareness to how Indigenous identity fits in that experience.

I also noticed Francesca Ekwuyasi (who you may know as the author of Butter Honey Pig Bread) has an experimental short film called Lacuna at Venus Envy: “One of the film’s main points of exploration is the psychological and emotional impacts of the culture of queerphobia in Nigeria on queer Nigerians and the tensions in seeking home, safety, and a sense of belonging in the diaspora.”

On the fun side, the augmented reality piece Interchanges, at the Museum of Natural History, sounds entertaining. There are two different six-minute stories, and you participate with a partner.

There is much more. I’ve only got time this morning to point you to a few pieces and hope you’ll get out and explore the works.

My one wish for people writing descriptions of their projects (and this applies not only to Nocturne, and not only to arts, but to so many other areas) is this: Please tell us clearly what the project is. I can’t tell you how many websites I’ve looked at for non-profits and startups where I’m reading the “about” page and trying to figure out the answer to the question, “But what do you do?”

Same goes for so many art projects. And I get it. People create things and are excited by them and want to share as much as they can. Plus, it’s really hard to describe your own work! But this is where we need editors. If I’m reading your description and I still have very little idea what to expect of your project, sure I might head over anyway if I’m intrigued enough, but more likely I’ll pick something else.

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Government

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

A Seat at the Table: Making Space for Indigenous Epistemologies in the Academy (Friday, 2pm) — Sheila Cote-Meek will talk:

Weaving personal lived experiences with her research and academic writing, Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek speaks about her experience moving through the post-secondary education system. She, like many Indigenous scholars, researchers and students faced/face many challenges in navigating the academy. Strategies are shared on how we can mobilize and facilitate real change that extends beyond good intentions. Post-secondary educators across the Atlantic Region are invited to attend Dr. Cote-Meek’s talk and are encouraged to attend the book club that will follow. Presented by Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University and Mount Saint Vincent University.

More info here.

Codifying Blasphemy: ‘Religious Feelings’ Between Colony and metropole (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, McCain Building and online) — Barton Scott from the University of Toronto will talk; Teams link here

Saint Mary’s

Sobey Women In Business: Women In Entrepreneurship | LEADING CHANGE (Friday, 9am) — online event, tickets $10


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: Tulane, car carrier, moves from Pier 31 to Autoport
10:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 41
11:00: My Lady, yacht, sails from Foundation Wharf for sea
11:30: MSC Susanna, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
13:00: Tulane sails for sea
16:00: MSC Veronique, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Montreal
16:00: Algoma Verity, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Wilmington, North Carolina
16:30: ZIM Monaco, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling sails for St. John’s

Cape Breton
16:00: Seaqueen, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
17:00: Homeric, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Odudu Terminal, Nigeria

A car carrier called “Tulane” seems like it might lend itself to some puns.


Footnotes

I listened to the New York Times Daily podcast on “The Great Supply Chain Disruption” while writing this, and thought about maybe bringing you some insights, but all I’ve really got to take away is that maybe building an interlinked global economy largely on the notion of producing and shipping only as much as you need right now, without a view to what you might need in the future, was maybe not a great idea.

Also, the orb catchers in San Francisco made me sad last night (very late last night).


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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. I like the small community where I live and I don’t want it to get any bigger. What if we stopped creating mega-schools, hospitals, housing construction, hotels, streets and returned to neighbourhoods/communities with right-sized schools, hospitals, housing, inns, streets -even within larger cities? with appropriate built-in connections among them, as in streets, services. Would it not save construction/destruction every time school enrollment rises or drops or the community hospital can’t afford the latest imaging equipment? Don’t get me started.

  2. The discussion of shrinking communities is a very important one. I work as a planner throughout Atlantic Canada and in many of the communities with which we work there is often a denial of the population trends and projections we put together. In some cases I think it stems from a dark optimism–“if we don’t acknowledge it, it won’t happen”–and in others it comes from a selective weighting of people’s experience of their community; they see the new bakery opened by someone from Ontario and conclude that the community is growing, but miss the people who have quietly moved away, or the fundamental imbalance between births and deaths. It’s also hidden by the trend of urbanization; communities see growth in their population centres and along the coast, while the abandonment of rural properties is much harder to see.

    My fear is that the great COVID migration is going to eliminate any chances of having an honest discussion about this topic. We’re being inundated with the stories of rapid growth in Atlantic Canada due to everyone moving here, but there’s no discussion of how that growth is distributed. Sure, there are the news stories about the Upper Canadian trading the stressful life in the Big Smoke for the nigh-alien world of Ecum Secum, but is that one story really a reversal of the overall trend? And even if it is for 2020-2021, will that be a sustained reversal or will we go back to decline in many of our smaller communities once COVID is in the rearview mirror? It will at least be interesting to see the 2021 Census data to start putting answers to at least some of these questions.

    The risk of not having these discussions is the damage to the people who are left behind. What happens when your community declines to the point where you can no longer afford to maintain the water system that was put in during the boom-times of the 1970s, for a population that was twice as big? What happens when your school enrolment drops to the point where bussing to a far-away school is now the only feasible option, thus further creating incentives for young families to leave the community? What happens when the only viable option is to leave the community, but things have gotten so unattractive that your house isn’t worth enough to allow you to buy one in another community?