News

1. COVID-19

Reader Laura Kenney created a Maud Lewis-inspired hooked rug with a COVID theme.

Nova Scotians are on edge about the latest outbreak of COVID-19, which is concentrated in several communities in HRM.

After eight new daily cases were announced Thursday and 10 on Friday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang imposed new restrictions on HRM, including shorter bar hours, a prohibition of sporting competitions, and a ban on non-essential travel into and out of HRM. (See the full list of restrictions here.)

Strang also urged people to get tested, and thousands heeded the call, forming queues that stretched around the block at the pop-up testing site at the Halifax Convention Centre — the pop-up clinics saw four times the average daily traffic at previous clinics. And Nova Scotia Health labs conducted 4,839 tests Saturday, a single-day record.

There was considerable relief when daily new case numbers returned to the low single digits — four on Saturday and three on Sunday, with four of the seven weekend cases involving travellers and not community spread. But we can’t attribute the declining numbers to the new restrictions, which won’t have their intended effect for another two weeks. So everyone is just waiting to see what happens.

There are now 38 known active cases in the province. Two people are in hospital with the disease, both in ICU.

More pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites and times:

• Monday: Halifax Central Library, 10:30am-6pm
• Monday: Halifax Convention Centre, 3:30-9:30pm
• Tuesday: Halifax Central Library, 10:30am-7:30pm

Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (today at 4.6) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

Here is the active caseload for the second wave:

Over the weekend, Public Health issued potential COVID exposure advisories for multiple sites in HRM:

Anyone who worked at or visited the following locations on the specified dates and times should immediately visit covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.
For the following locations, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate while you wait for your test result. If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 you do not need to self-isolate while you wait for your test result.
  • Head Shoppe Mic Mac Mall (21 Micmac Blvd, Dartmouth) on Feb. 17 between 9:15 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 3.
  • Lawton’s Drugs Westphal (90 Main St. Dartmouth) on Feb. 18 between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 4.
  • NSHA Blood Collection Clinic (5110 St. Margaret’s Bay Rd, Tantallon) on Feb. 18 between 12:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Feb. 22 between 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 8. (Testing recommended for anyone that visited the clinic on the above dates and times who have not already been contacted by Public Health).
  • Winners Mic Mac Mall (21 Micmac Blvd, Dartmouth) on Feb. 19 between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.
  • Chapters Mic Mac Mall (21 Micmac Blvd, Dartmouth) on Feb. 19 between 12:00 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.
  • Walmart Bedford Commons (141 Damascus Road, Bedford) on Feb. 23 between 11:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 9.
  • Dollarama Dartmouth Crossing (100 Gale Terrace, Dartmouth) on Feb. 24 between 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 10.
  • Costco Dartmouth Crossing (137 Countryview Dr, Dartmouth) on Feb. 24 between 11:30 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 10.
  • Sobeys Tacoma Plaza (60 Tacoma Dr, Dartmouth) on Feb. 24 between 12:45 p.m. and 2 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 10.
  • NSLC Tacoma Plaza (62 Tacoma Dr, Dartmouth) on Feb. 24 between 12:30 and 1:40 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 10.
Anyone who was on the following flight in the specified rows and seats should visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.
  • Air Canada flight 614 departing from Toronto on Feb. 24 (2:18 p.m.) and arriving in Halifax (5:05 p.m.). Passengers in rows 12-18, seats A, B, C and D are asked to immediately visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. All other passengers on this flight should continue to self-isolate as required and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 10.

Here is the updated potential exposure map:

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2. Water fight

The view of Lake Banook from Grant’s property included in the 2017 listing. Photo: ViewPoint Realty

“A lawyer who used to work for the municipality has won a personal legal battle with Halifax Water over a pipe running under her property in Dartmouth,” reports Zane Woodford:

In a decision released Friday, a three-judge panel of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Kirby Eileen Grant, ordering Halifax Water to pay her $15,000 and remove a pipe running under her property.

Click here to read “Former city lawyer wins fight with Halifax Water over pipe under her property.”

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3. Dentistry

Dr. Leigha Rock is the Dalhousie University co-lead on a national study examining occupational risks associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection rates, transmission risk, and immunity in dental schools across Canada. Photo: Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry

“Dental and dental hygiene students and staff continue to regularly attend Canadian college and university campuses during the pandemic, but little is known about the occupational risks they face working in university dental clinics, labs, and offices,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

On Thursday, the federal COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) announced $1.4 million in funding to investigate infection rates, transmission risks, and immune system responses in this population.

“When we look nationally at what my colleagues are concerned about, it’s a profession that has been targeted as potentially being very, very high risk. That being said, we’re so far speaking anecdotally, and not seeing higher numbers within the profession,” Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry professor Dr. Leigha Rock said in an interview Friday.

“But speaking anecdotally is one thing and then actually systematically collecting the data is another, which is why we’re going to systematically collect data and then we can speak very accurately to this question.”

The nationwide study is being led by Dr. Paul Allison of McGill University’s Faculty of Dentistry. Investigators representing all 10 Canadian dental schools — including Dalhousie — are also participating. Researchers will recruit 800 dental and dental hygiene students and residents, faculty, and support staff from across Canada.

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4. Desmond Inquiry

“On the evening of Jan. 3, 2017, Lionel Desmond, a 32-year-old former Canadian soldier, murdered his 31-year-old wife, Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, in their home in tiny Upper Big Tracadie, N.S. Then, he turned the rifle on himself,” writes Stephen Kimber:

In the immediate aftermath of that horrific quadruple murder-suicide, we as a society desperately tried to comprehend what had happened and, more importantly, why.

It wasn’t — isn’t — easy.

Click here to read “‘The rest is for the seagulls.’”

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5. Freedom of information, and freedom from applying for jobs

Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator continues looking at Freedom of Information issues in the CBRM, this time regarding an information request from an unnamed citizen:

In a decision released Tuesday, Nova Scotia’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Tricia Ralph says the CBRM did not fairly calculate the fee it proposed to charge a citizen for a port-related access to information request and recommends the municipality waive the fee and release the documents.

This story began in March 2016, when Sydney lawyer Guy LaFosse submitted an access to information request to the CBRM on behalf of an unnamed citizen (who remains unnamed to this day, all I can tell you is that it is not LaFosse, it is not me and it is not former CBRM economic development manager John Whalley, so that’s three of 94,285 people ruled out — if this were an Agatha Christie novel, Poirot would have to assemble the suspects in the Rose Bowl stadium).

It was, as I reported at the time, a “whopper” of a request. The citizen:

…wanted to know more about the expenses of Mayor Cecil Clarke, Port CEO Marlene Usher, CBRM Chief Administrative Officer Michael Merritt, the mayor’s executive assistant Mark Bettens and his communications person Christina Lamey.

The Citizen was also curious about the processes by which Bettens, Lamey, Merritt and Usher were hired. (Of the four, only Merritt was actually required to apply for his job, which, as I write it, reminds me again how utterly amazing that is.)

The Citizen also wanted to know if the CBRM had made any payments to Harbor Port Development Partners (HPDP) or the Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC). And The Citizen was really interested in the financial relationships between the CBRM, Business Cape Breton and the Port of Sydney Development Corporation.

CBRM Municipal Clerk Deborah Campbell-Ryan responded, telling LaFosse she’d consulted with “various CBRM Departments” for an estimate of the time required to retrieve and review and redact the requested information and — at $30/hour with the exception of the first two hours, which are free — plus shipping and handling and photocopying costs (because electronic documents, you’ll recall, did not exist in 2016) the total came to:

$42,804.50

A total Ralph characterized as, to her knowledge, “the highest fee estimate ever issued in the history of this province.” (CBRM FTW!)

Campbell goes into much more detail, but I want to hover over the part about people not having to apply for government and government-adjacent jobs. We see this all the time in Nova Scotia: people just get plopped into jobs, no application needed, no open contests, no searches, no short lists or interview panels.

I’m sure we could build a more extensive list, but just off the top of my head I can think of every president who has ever ruled over Trade Centre Limited and Events East (Fred MacGillivray, Scott Ferguson, Carrie Cussons), and all the various premiers’ communications people (Marilla Stephenson, Jane Taber, and so on), and the dozens of ex-bureaucrats landing cushy post-retirement paid positions on the various boards and commissions.

I’m sure there are some excuses for this — a premier needs people he knows and trusts blah blah blah — but this is just a half-step away from nepotism. More important, it continues the tight circle of connected people, the sort of people who are allowed into the circles of and around power, which logically means that there are a bunch of other sorts of people who are prohibited from the circles of and around power. It’s precisely how we prevent a diverse workforce and therefore don’t allow for a broader range of life experiences, considerations, and viewpoints; it’s how we remain a class- and race-based society.

The job application process isn’t perfect. In fact, it can be and is often used to justify the same-old–same-old. We’ve got to be conscious of biases built into any hiring system. But at least the job application is a head nod towards process and some degree of objectivity, which is a hell of a lot better than “I’ll just hire my buddy’s wife,” or whatever.

Anyway, click here to read “CBRM Told To Waive $4K FOIPOP Fee.”

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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Views

1. Blow it up!

One possible solution to the casino problem.

“Officials with the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation acknowledge the future of Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax will have to be discussed once the pandemic is over,” reports Shaina Luck for the CBC:

The casino has struggled with declining revenues for a decade and COVID-19 kept it closed for most of a year.

Documents released to CBC show one of the options on the table is a move away from the waterfront location where the casino has been located since 2000.

The documents also show revenues from the casino have been sinking to an “unsustainable” level for about 15 years.

Rob Csernyik wrote about the many problems with the casino — most of which were baked in at creation — in his article for the Examiner, “The Casino Crapshoot.”

The solution for the casino is obvious: blow it up! With one small tactical nuclear device, we could rid ourselves of the social and architectural blight, and once we remove the rubble from the fallen casino and adjacent parking garages, we’ll free up waterfront space that will add something actually a little pleasant to the soon-to-be-built Sewage Plant Estates, which will otherwise just be a row of nondescript apartment buildings with no view but lots of stench replacing the Cogswell Interchange.

If nothing else, maybe the harbour breeze unimpeded by the casino will clear the new neighbourhood of the bouquet de biosolids. With a little thought, there could even be a little neighbourhood park, a green nexus between the navy base and the bank towers, and a northern destination for the boardwalk, which now just peters out with no obvious intent or purpose around Purdy’s Wharf.

We could build a monument in the new park, a tribute to the lives broken by the casino, and perhaps to all Halifax gambles gone bad — a remembrance of the ill-fated Commonwealth Games, the failed convention centres, aborted stadium fantasies, and the like. It’d be a tourist attraction!

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Noticed

What’s going on with the CBC?

The ceeb hires lots of talented reporters — people I respect — but in the last couple of weeks they’ve turned out uncritical business promo pieces, such as:

Michael Gorman’s article on the province giving $5 million to Sandpiper Ventures. Counterpoint: the Examiner article.

Frances Willick’s recent article on Anaconda Mining. Counterpoint: Frances Willick’s 2018 article on Anaconda Mining.

Paul Wither’s article on fish farming. Counterpoint: the Examiner’s many articles on fish farming.

These big corporations have PR firms working for them; they don’t need the public broadcaster to do their PR for free.

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Government

City

No meetings.

Province

Monday

No meetings.

Tuesday

Community Services (Tuesday, 10am) — video conference, with livestreamed CART service. Emma Halpern from Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia and Vanessa Fells from African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition will talk about “Overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous People in the Justice System.”


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Orbifolds of topological quantum field theories (Tuesday, 2:30pm) — Nils Carqueville from the University of Vienna will talk via Zoom.

The Last Taboo Workshop: Examining Resources, Supports And Services For Women Facing Violence In The Preston Township (Tuesday, 6:30pm) — Zoom workshop held by The Descendants of African Americans Enslaved Living in Nova Scotia

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

The Librarian Is In (Tuesday, 3pm) — virtual drop-in session to ask library- or research-related questions


In the harbour

05:30: Morning Cornelia, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
13:30: Morning Cornelia sails for sea
14:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
15:00: Nave Equinox, oil tanker, arrives at Berth TBD from Port Neches, Texas
16:00: Hong Kong Eagle, bulker, sails from Bedford Basin anchorage to sea


Footnotes

I’m off for a court session re mass murder investigation search warrants. I don’t know if we’ll get more documents today, but we might.

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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. Hiring in the civil service has always been a joke. The question is will it always be thus.

    Nepotism, favouritism and HR departments devoted to pleasing senior bureaucrats and politicians. It’s in City Hall, Province House and the House of Commons.

    The galling part is how much time is spent pretending it is not so,

    1. Most worrying of all is the UARB, who seem to be the actual governing body of this province. There seems to be no transparency in how they are appointed.

  2. Just wondering about the discrepancy between this: “the total came to: $42,804.50” and this: “CBRM Told To Waive $4K FOIPOP Fee”. Is it $4,000, or almost $43,000?

    1. As Mary explains in the linked article, after the appeal, CBRM reduced the fee to $3,859.20.

  3. I’ve noticed that a number of stories of late – news reports written by reporters – in my local paper, the Waterloo Region Record, have the character, in effect of promotions for businesses. It is both relieving, and troubling, to learn that the CBC is doing it too.

  4. The casino, VLTs and lottery tickets seem to be a tax on the poor moreso than entertainment for the smaller fortunate group that can afford to lose. Given the bent of our current government and their for-the-greater-good policy-making which attempts to protect everyone and save every life no matter the cost or expense in dollars or freedom, I’m surprised they haven’t already “cancelled” the casinos, VLTs and the lottery. Gambling, like other addictions, are diseases which too often lead to death. Sadly, through Covid, the provincial government seems to have become mono-maniacal, as though Covid is the only significant risk to public health worth addressing.

  5. In a story I wrote for Halifax Magazine several years ago, a planner from Toronto (who has worked on major projects around the world) called the casino location an embarrassment and said it was a great example of us aiming low when it comes to what we could do with the waterfront.

  6. That Paul Withers piece is very disappointing. It’s like he just reprinted the company’s press release.

  7. Casinos seem to be a generational thing, like smoking. It’s something my grandparents did, fortunately not to excess.

    I find the CBC to be lazy and mostly uncritical of our ruling class.