News

1. Annual provincial deficit on track to be lower than expected

When you look up “debt” on stock photo website Unsplash, you get lots of pics of women with their hands in the air. Have they gone into debt travelling to the mountains, or are they celebrating getting out of debt by travelling to the mountains? Photos: Persnickity Prints / Becca Tapert / Unsplash

In a financial update held Wednesday, Finance Minister Allan MacMaster said the provincial deficit for this fiscal year will be lower than expected. Jennifer Henderson reports here:

Instead of a deficit of $585 million dollars predicted in the spring budget introduced by the previous Liberal government, the province is now forecasting a shortfall of $444.5 million. The smaller deficit comes despite increased spending, caused by the pandemic, and is largely due to payments from the federal government, along with an increase in personal income taxes collected, and “an $88 million windfall when an investment by [the province’s] venture capital agency, Innovacorp, turned out to be a winner. Innovacorp recently sold its equity stake in Meta Materials, a company based in Dartmouth that engineers a suite of products using light and nanotechnology, for a profit of $101 million.

Earlier in the week, Tim Bousquet wrote of this sale:

The one stock sale could provide housing for every last person sleeping rough in the province.

Why are we in the investment business if it’s not going to result in some positive good?

Henderson adds:

Reporters asked MacMaster whether the province’s financial position is strong enough for the PCs to keep all the financial commitments they made during the election campaign.

“Even though we made the commitment for deficit-spending, if necessary, to fix health care, we still need to watch every dollar that goes out the door,” MacMaster said. “Even though we are in the middle of a fiscal year, it’s time for us to put our stamp on things as a new government and some of the changes we want to make I believe Nova Scotians are looking for.”

She notes that NDP finance spokesperson Lisa Lachance responded to the update by saying the party was disappointed, given the pandemic, that more money wasn’t going into affordable housing and climate change.

Interestingly, Henderson reports that the provincial economy is expected to return to its pre-pandemic level by next year which, honestly, considering what we’ve gone through over the last 18 months, seems surprisingly soon.

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2. Proof of vaccination requirement starts Monday; vaccine mandates coming

The Canadian proof of vaccination will be available to Nova Scotians starting on Oct. 1.

Tim Bousquet has a full report on all things COVID-19, including what you need to know before proof of vaccination becomes mandatory to access a wide range of spaces.

As of October 4, you will need to show proof of vaccination (either printable card or QR code) to get into restaurants, bars, gyms, concerts, movies, and theatres among other places. Interestingly, libraries are considered essential and so do not require proof of vaccination, but you do need it to attend library programs.

The full list of where proof of vaccination will and will not be needed is here.

I’m going to see the new Clint Eastwood movie tonight. Is it better to go today — attendance limit in theatres — or Monday — proof of vaccination required?

While mandatory proof of vaccination kicks in Monday, the tech is not quite ready yet. Bousquet writes:

Everyone who is vaccinated will be able to download the Canadian proof of vaccination on October 1, by going to novascotia.ca/proof.

The Canadian proof of vaccination will have a QR code, but unfortunately the app that can read it, called the VaxCheckNS app, will not be available until Oct. 22.

“That QR code will support a number of things that are going to come in play, but it’s also the QR code that the federal government intends to use for international travel,” said Tracey Barbrick, the province’s associate deputy minister of the COVID-19 Immunization Strategy. “They haven’t announced an effective date of that, but they had have said fall. So that QR code, given that every province and territory is going to comply, will allow them to use your own proof of vaccination.”

“The intention is on October 22nd, Nova Scotia will have produced a free app that can be downloaded by anyone that wants it, including ourselves, for that matter, if you want to scan your own for some reason or another,” continued Barbrick. “And that that that app will be called VaxCheckNS. And what that will allow you to do is scan for a business to scan that QR code with having nothing else except the QR code, and they will get either a checkmark or an X confirming that you’ve been fully vaccinated, or not.”

Once the app is available, it will immediately read the code people have downloaded onto their phones, but they’ll still be able to use the paper forms if they want.

There is a Facebook group featuring businesses that promise to not enforce the rules (or, in the language many of them use, not to “discriminate”). One thing I found fascinating was that many of the people saying they would not ask for proof of vaccination owned the types of businesses that are specifically excluded, or where the question would be moot anyway. I am, however, irritated to own a pass to a yoga studio whose owner “welcomes everyone” regardless of vaccination status. Yes, it’s a pass for online classes, but I still feel icky about it.

The other major piece of news to come out of the COVID briefing on Wednesday is the province’s announcement of a vaccination mandate for many health care workers and people working in schools. Bousquet writes:

There will be vaccination mandates for a variety of jobs, by Nov. 30: 

  • Public School teachers and all school staff
  • paramedics, LifeFlight nurses and some other staff at EHS
  • workers in facilities and those providing placements for children and youth in the care of the Minister of Community Services (excluding foster family placements)
  • Nova Scotia Health and IWK.
  • workers in long-term care and home care
  • Hearing & Speech Nova Scotia
  • residential facilities and day programs funded by the Department of Community Services Disability Support Program
  • physicians and other service providers to the above organizations; for example hairdressers and contractors

There are medical exceptions to the vaccine mandates, but very few people fit into this exemption — fewer than 2,000.

Notably absent from the list are daycare workers.

I also thought this tweet from Bousquet, written while covering the Wednesday briefing, was interesting:

A couple of us asked if the vaccine mandates would result in staffing issues at schools or hospitals, and the answer was that NOT having the mandate would result in a larger staffer issue as vaccinated workers would leave.

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3. Black News File #10

Liberal MLA Angela Simmonds, RCMP Insp. Jeremie Landry, & HRP Sgt. Dean Simmonds

I really like Matthew Byard’s weekly Black News File feature. Each week, Byard provides a roundup of stories about or involving Black Nova Scotians.

This week, two of those stories involve Liberal MLA Angela Simmonds. The first is about her election (along with the NDP’s Lisa Lachance) as deputy Speaker, while the second involves ongoing fallout from an incident last summer in which Simmonds and her husband, Halifax city police Sgt. Dean Simmonds, were pulled over at gunpoint by a member of the RCMP.

Byard also tells us about the positive effects of the East Preston Empowerment Academy, recaps his story on musicians Kaleb Simmonds and Andru Winter, and points us to a Nova Scotia Advocate story by the late Robert Devet (see “Views” below) on accusations of racism against a Halifax Harbour Bridges worker.

Byard writes:

[Ross] Gray says he “was spoken down to and bluntly told that he was lying when he explained he walked all the way across the bridge, bicycle in hand,” according to the article. Gray says the commissionaire who approached him claimed they had surveillance footage of their claims, only for the Halifax Harbour Bridges to later admit that that wasn’t true and apologized to Gray.

Gray told the Advocate:

This apology is worthless, as far as I’m concerned, because nobody is held accountable, ever.

What happened to me is a systemic thing. I’m a 57 year old man, and my accuser is probably in her thirties, but she was talking to me as if I was a child, I felt like a damn dog. You don’t talk to a human being like that.

I can see the change in my son’s face when I’m talking to him about it. I have always taught him to treat people with respect. And now I find myself trying to build a wall around him, and he senses that.

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4. Trailers for people living in parks

Tents and emergency shelters are seen in August in the park at the corner of Dublin Street and Chebucto Road, which residents and activists there are now calling People’s Park. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford reports on the latest in the city’s efforts to — depending on how you look at it — find housing for people sleeping rough, or getting unhoused people to stop sleeping in parks.

The city seems to have pivoted from “it’s not our responsibility” to “look how much we’re doing. (That’s enough with the editorializing from me, for now.)

The municipality is currently housing people at the Gray Arena in Dartmouth, but that’s obviously not a permanent solution. The next step is to provide some kind of modular accommodation. Woodford writes:

The municipality is committing to securing the 24 modular housing units that will house 73 people, providing a site for them, and installing them.

“They are trailer-like structures,” [Assistant Chief of Emergency Management Erica] Fleck said. “There are some bunk houses that house eight to 10 people. There are also modular units that would have a kitchen area, one with bathrooms and showers.”

Fleck would not guarantee that there would be no more evictions of people living in parks:

Fleck said she came to a written agreement with the volunteer group previously running People’s Park, P.A.D.S. (Permanent, Accessible, Dignified, and Safer) Housing Network, that no one would be forcibly removed from the park without being offered a safe alternative.

But she said she wouldn’t agree to a moratorium on evictions from parks because HRM wasn’t going to change its bylaw banning camping in parks. The bylaw allows the municipality to give permission to camp, but Fleck didn’t mention that.

Asked what assurance people living in Victoria Park have that they won’t be woken up and evicted by police at 6am, Fleck said no one has been evicted from Victoria Park unless there was a health and safety concern.

“People are not being woken up for no reason and told move on, but our next bound as I mentioned earlier is that we, I, personally, and the team of a whole pile of people, we’ll be working with the residents that are living in Victoria Park right now to again, transition them peacefully, to an appropriate space that works for them.”

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5. New Tideline podcast: Stephanie Domet and the AfterWords literary festival

Stephanie Domet, co-founder of the AfterWords literary festival. Photo: afterwordsliteraryfestival.com

Tara Thorne is back, this time with Stephanie Domet. I have not listened yet, but this promises to be a fun one.

The show description:

Tara’s first boss and current life coach Stephanie Domet drops by the show to talk about AfterWords, the literary festival she co-founded with Ryan Turner. After an auspicious live debut in 2019,

AfterWords is now marking its second — and hopefully final — round online with the likes of Katherena Vermette, Sheila Heti, Ann-Marie MacDonald (marking 25 years of Fall on Your Knees), and many more, all at very reasonable prices with many free events. They also chat about the state of journalism — keep your finger near the volume button for that segment.

I have tremendous respect for Stephanie Domet and her contributions to community and the arts. I could go on and on here, but I won’t. Just put the episode into your queue.

You can listen here.

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6.  Mi’kmaq History Month starts today

House displaying the Mi’kmaq Grand Council flag. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

Today marks the start of Mi’kmaq History Month.

There are several Weekend of Reconciliation events planned for the waterfront at Salter today and tomorrow. Today is Treaty Day, with a traditional salmon dinner for 500 at 11am, a history of treaties in Mi’kma’ki, live music and videos on treaty conflicts throughout the day.

Tomorrow is Family Day, with an open mic, crafts for kids, and music and dance demonstrations. Events both days wrap up at 3pm, and staff from the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre will be on hand all day to answer questions.

The Friendship Centre is also the host of a new online archive of photos and audio recordings:

Our vision is to let people hear and learn the long and often unacknowledged history of our people whose history and culture were passed down orally through stories and songs, as well as through dances and many other artistic forms. These archives allow for people to hear the language and songs of this land, see the dances, and gain first-hand knowledge of the experience of those who have always called this land their home.

Cassidy Chisholm delves into the history and purpose of the archive at CBC:

“I do believe that these archives are a start of something wonderful, something beautiful,” [executive director of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre Pam] Glode-Desrochers said.

In 2018, Glode-Desrochers teamed up with Trudy Sable, the director of Aboriginal and northern research at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, to establish an archive based on Sable’s personal collection.

Sable collected hours of interviews with Mi’kmaw elders and individuals after she was hired by Parks Canada in the 1990s to study history and culture within First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada.

In addition to the materials from Sable’s collection, the archive will soon offer materials donated by community members as well.

Yesterday, of course, was the first annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, and APTN ran an interview by Melissa Ridgen with retired Senator Murray Sinclair, who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Sinclair says:

I think there is a growing body of reasonable people out there who are trying to figure out what to do and what they can do to contribute to the process of reconciliation but the difficulty they face, the difficulty that Canada faces generally is that there is a group of very vocal, very influential people in Canada who hold significant positions of power who are working hard against reconciliation. People who are holding positions of privilege, who are benefitting from the riches of this country that have been taken away from Indigenous people. The people who have been taught to believe that they are superior to Indigenous people and don’t want to think they are not. I said at the end of the TRC report getting to the truth was hard but getting to reconciliation will be harder because I knew that there would be people working very hard, very forcefully, even violently against reconciliation.

And so one of the things I make sure non Indigenous people understand is we don’t need you to help heal us, we need you to fix yourselves. We need you to get those people out there who are perpetrating this process of working against reconciliation under control. We need you to straighten yourselves out, we don’t need you to just step forward and say well here is what we can do for you because my question is always, what are you doing for yourself? What are you doing to get rid of that violent vocal force that is holding us all back, holding us all, holding this country back? Because that is what’s going to stop reconciliation.

In terms of September 30, he says it will take awhile to “figure out what to do with it:”

We may not get it right initially the first few times but I think we will learn from our experience and I think that we should not give up on ensuring that our days of honouring those who involved in residential schools and our acknowledgement of the nature of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this country has come to an end, must come to and end, and that we will recommit on September 30 to having a better relationship with each other. It’s like renewing our vow that we put into the treaties.

The whole interview is well worth your time.

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7. Beth MacLean, who led fight for people with disabilities, has died

Beth MacLean. Photo: Alice Evans.

Michael Tutton of the Canadian Press writes about the death of disability rights activist Beth MacLean.

MacLean was one of three people who were forced to live for years in hospital, because the province had failed to provide appropriate housing for them. They took the province to court and won.

Tutton writes:

In 2019, a human rights board of inquiry determined the three had suffered discrimination individually; however, it rejected arguments that placement in small options homes is broadly applicable to people with disabilities…

The board of inquiry ruling determined the province violated the rights of MacLean, Joseph Delaney and the late Sheila Livingstone — who died before the hearing ended — because they were held at the Emerald Hall psychiatric unit in Halifax despite opinions from doctors and staff that they could live in the community.

Marty Wexler, the chairman of the Disability Rights Coalition in Nova Scotia, said in an email Wednesday he was saddened to hear of MacLean’s death and extended the coalition’s condolences to her family, support workers and “all who assisted Beth in her fight for her dream of a life in the community with others.”

“After decades of struggle and unnecessary institutionalization in which Beth was forced to fight her own government, she achieved her dream of life in the community,” he wrote.

Alice Evans, executive director of Prescott Group, knew MacLean. Prescott Group promotes “the rights of persons with disabilities to be in control of their own lives, to make decisions, and work towards their own goals in employment, skill development and community participation.” Evans said that MacLean loved music, and that the sign she is holding in the photo above nicely captures her personality.

MacLean was 50.

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Views

1. In memoriam: Robert Devet

Robert Devet, tireless champion of justice and publisher of the Nova Scotia Advocate. Photo: Twitter

On Wednesday, Nova Scotia Advocate publisher Robert Devet’s son shared the sad news of his father’s passing. In a tweet, he wrote:

It is with great sadness that we are announcing the sudden passing of Robert Devet on Monday Sept.27.

This is a terrible loss for Simon, his son (writing this tweet), Bonnie, his girlfriend, and all his family. It is also a great loss for the communities he tirelessly supported.

Devet was the founder and publisher of the Nova Scotia Advocate, which worked tirelessly to uplift marginalized voices and hold those in power to account. Devet founded the Advocate five years ago:

Founded in January 2016, the Nova Scotia Advocate provides a voice for the many Nova Scotians who too often are ignored.

On this site we write about poverty, housing and gentrification, workers and bosses, City Hall, the environment, racism, homophobia and misogyny, refugees, people living with disabilities, prisons, the arts, and so on. We like the stories other news media overlook, and we focus on Nova Scotia and the Atlantic provinces.

Supported financially by a small community of readers, we are often able to pay for these stories. How badly the story need to be told is more important than how many people will read it. If you write from lived experience, so much the better.

Devet was firm in his commitment that all content on the site would always be free. He collected donations, took no pay himself, and paid writers.

His final story, published September 23, was on a rally calling on DFO to stop violating Mi’kmaw treaty rights.

When the news of Devet’s death broke, there was shock followed by an outpouring of tributes on Twitter.

Zane Woodford:

It’s a cliché, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” but Robert really did that and only that with the Advocate. What a loss.

Tim Bousquet:

This is terribly sad. I’m in shock, frankly. Robert devoted himself to helping the powerless, which is the best that can be said of anyone.

Dr. Christine Saulnier:

We spent many hours together at many committees. I was always happy to chat with him at every rally and social justice event. What he did with the NS Advocate was a selfless service to our community. Rest in power Robert. You will be missed greatly.

Tony Tracy:

Robert was an incredible person — a very warm and caring human being who put thousands of hours of work into ensuring that the voices of marginalized folks could be amplified and heard. His work with the Nova Scotia Advocate was inspiring & really really important. Robert was at *every* rally, demonstration or protest for social, economic or climate justice in Halifax, taking photos, interviewing participants, and writing articles which were often posted only minutes after the event ended. I am devastating & heartbroken by this sad news.

Rebecca Rose:

Robert was a principled & kind person, activist, writer, publisher & friend. As an editor, he had my back when I was being attacked by a local misogynist for something I wrote for the HMC [Halifax Media Co-op, with which Devet was previously involved]. He created space for so many who didn’t often get that space & will be sorely missed.

There are more — hundreds more — statements of condolence from people in media, activists, and people from a wide range of fields.

Robert’s loss is a deep one.

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Noticed

Protected bike lane in Mile End. Note the bicycle traffic light. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

In mid-September, my partner and I travelled outside the Maritimes for the first time since the pandemic started. In the spirit of a section called “noticed” here are a few things I noticed.

First, cycling infrastructure.

In the late 1990s, when we moved to Nova Scotia, Montreal had some protected bike lanes in place, but the growth since then has been remarkable. Take the Rachel street bike lane (pictured above) for instance, and you can easily and safely travel quite far. Even better, it connects to other lanes, allowing for cross-town travel with little difficulty. One night, we went to dinner in the Plateau, then borrowed Bixis (the bikeshare bikes) to ride an hour to NDG, where we were staying. Distance: 10 km. Protected bike lanes the whole way. (Protected here means physically separated from traffic, either by concrete or bollards.) And these protected bike lanes were heavily, heavily used by a very broad range of people, from kids to guys in Lycra to women in sharp dresses.

Bixi bikeshare vehicle. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

There are Bixi docks all over the place. There is a 50-cent rental fee, plus a fee of 10 cents per minute to ride.

Also striking was the amount of newly created public space and services, some of it created in a hurry because of the pandemic. Portable toilets in public parks and picnic tables on street-corners, are two examples. But there are more ambitious projects reclaiming space for public use too.

Public space on rue Saint-Laurent. Photo: Philip Moscovitch
This used to be a traffic lane on rue Ste-Catherine. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

In Toronto, I used the bikeshare to get around also, but that felt much more chaotic. The supposed bike route down Pottery Road was terrifying, and a lot of the protected lanes simply peter out. Drivers were far, far more aggressive also, peeling through red lights.

Naturally, I attended a baseball game while I was in Toronto.

Rogers Centre. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

This is the “physically distanced” seating area.

As with so many other things, there were plenty of mildly dystopian vibes.

This seemed mildly dystopian. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

This usher did a masterful job of (twice!) kicking out a group of somewhat inebriated-seeming people trying to sit in our section when they were not supposed to be there.

One final observation: I was struck in Montreal by this bus shelter ad. Quebec subsidizes private education, and it’s almost a given for middle-class families that public education is OK for elementary school, but you have to send your kids to private high school. Now the public schools are advertising.

Sending your kids to private high schools is so common in Montreal that the public schools are now advertising. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

The poster reads: “For an option that suits me, I love my public school. Discover the public high school in your neighbourhood.”

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Government

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

New Facts: Calculating Averages in Early Modern Europe and Britain (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, McCain Building and online) — Jack Crowley from Dalhousie University will talk. MS Teams link here, for more info email here.

Saint Mary’s

Remote Sensing – Observing the earth from above (Friday, 10:30am) — Zoom workshop with Khan Rahaman from Wicked Problems Lab

Satellites capture images of the earth’s surface, depicting changes such as migration, climate, and urbanization. Participants will learn of the types of data captured by satellites, where to access the datasets, and how to begin analyzing the images to track various processes.

Wicked Problems Lab” is a great name.


In the harbour

strong>Halifax
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 31
09:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
10:30: My Lady, yacht, arrives at Foundation Wharf from Sydney
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling sails for St. John’s
22:30: Atlantic Sky sails for Liverpool, England
04:00 (Saturday): CMA CGM Brazil, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka; this is one of the new super-sized ships now calling in Halifax

Cape Breton
11:00: CSL Tarantau, bulker, moves from Sydport to Pirate Harbour anchorage
13:30: Aktea II Osrv (formerly Algoma Dartmouth), oil tanker, sails from Sydport for sea
22:00: Phoenix Admiral, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from New York

In case you are also curious about My Lady, here she is:

“My Lady” Photo: yachtcharterfleet.com

The vessel has teak decks, can accommodate 14 guests, has a range of 6,000 nautical miles, and can carry 82,000 litres of fuel.


Footnotes

The new Clint Eastwood film is Cry Macho, based on the 1975 novel by N. Richard Nash. Eastwood directs and stars. He was originally offered the role in 1988, but thought he was too young at the time. I guess the time is right now that he is 91.

In a story by Kenneth Turan, Eastwood says:

I don’t look like I did at 20, so what?… That just means there are more interesting guys you can play.”


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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. It’s shocking and deeply saddening (if that’s a word) to hear about Robert Devet’s death. He covered a local “On Fire” climate rally September 8 better than anyone else did. That was the last time I saw him. His dedication, hard work and uncompromising consistency in being on the side of regular people who are fighting for their rights was an inspiration. I can’t believe he’s gone – it will be a big loss for Halifax and Nova Scotia.

    1. So nice to see the outpouring of love for Robert. I didn’t follow his 2nd career but worked with him at the Province of NS and can attest to his dedication, hard work plus persistence. He is being missed already. RIP Robert.

  2. I created a covid vaccine proof/verification app last December at my own cost. It made more sense to me to have it available before most were vaccinated but I could get no interest/uptake from the province or feds. It was ready last January. You can fake any vaccine proof now if you’re determined. I’m fond of the one France is using and it seems quite successful and better to have it as a national app than province by province.

  3. When I went to the proof of vaccination site, I got exactly what I got from CanImmunize in June. There is no QR Code. Is it delayed?

    1. Same here. This is the only reportage which says it is available today. Must be a crossed wire.

    2. Hi Jim. Tim reported on this on Wednesday. Here’s what he wrote: “The Canadian proof of vaccination will have a QR code, but unfortunately the app that can read it, called the VaxCheckNS app, will not be available until Oct. 22.”

      1. I understand that they can’t be read as yet but, according to Tim’s reporting on Wed, the proof site was supposed to start providing them today. It is providing exactly the same thing it’s been providing for months.

        1. Hi Jim,

          It appears the site was updated this afternoon, as it now shows a QR code for me, and like for you, it did not show a QR code this morning.

          Cheers,
          Matt

    3. I downloaded mine this evening – an entirely different document, full-page, with a large QR Code.

      NOT wallet-sized, unfortunately, though I guess that’s the old fogie in me, since I’ll have it on my smartphone anyway…..