News

1. A year-long crisis

Yesterday, a woman in her 90s died from COVID-90 while at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. She was the second Nova Scotian to die from the disease. (I’ve tracked the progress of the disease, and the response to it, here.)

But more deaths are ahead of us. As I wrote in the daily update, if even just 1% of Nova Scotians become infected, that will mean that over 100 people will die from it. If 5% contract the disease, over 500 will die. And an infection rate of 1% or 5% is very optimistic — it depends on strict adherence to social distancing and the other practices recommended by health officials.

But how long will the restrictions be in place?

CBC reports:

When exactly the public health measures would be lifted wasn’t immediately clear, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated at his daily briefing Thursday that efforts to keep case numbers down will take “months of continued, determined effort.”

“The initial peak — the top of the curve — may be in late spring, with the end of the first wave in the summer.”

The prime minister, citing Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr.Theresa Tam, said there would likely be “smaller outbreaks” for several months after that.

He said “this is the new normal” until a vaccine is developed.

[Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert] Strang said today that he expects the first spike of COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia in about three weeks, in late April, but there will be a second wave in the fall, and then a third wave in early 2021. He said the second and third waves won’t be as bad as the first. But, he said, the current restrictions will likely be in place until June, and after that the restrictions will be tightened and loosened as needed. He could not predict exactly what that meant.

This won’t be easy. The federal government’s technical briefing released yesterday explains that:

Success is staying in the epidemic control scenario.

This means we are aiming for the lowest possible infection rate to minimize illness and death and to shorten the period of intense disease transmission in Canada

We recognize that even if we are successful, continued public health measures will be required over time to manage future waves, including:
• Physical distancing
• Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
• Restrictions on international and domestic travel
• Case detection and isolation
• Quarantine of contacts and incoming travellers

And the technical briefing provides this chart:

It’s too early to say exactly how this will unfold, but it looks like travel restrictions will be in place for a good long while. That means our tourism industry is kaput.

The restaurant industry will have a very difficult recovery. Even after restaurants can reopen, there will probably be social distancing restrictions in place; those close tables will have to be separated, reducing the potential clientele. And older people will be reluctant to dine out, as the disease will still be out in the world, even if less so; older people are a big chunk of revenue for a lot of restaurants.

So it won’t be that come mid-June we’re back to normal. People will continue to be out of work, businesses will fail completely, and restrictions will come back into our lives every few weeks or months.

That means we have to think about and plan for the long haul.

For the most part, the income replacement policies will come from the federal government — it has the printing presses and controls monetary policy. While policy is still being developed, the Trudeau government is going about this wrong. The strategies miss too many people completely, and there’s this weird obsession with means testing, such that even if you technically qualify for assistance, you’ll still have to fill out a million forms and provide documentation, which is a significant challenge for a lot of people. “Means testing” is “having your paperwork together testing.”

It’d be far better to just give everyone money, and tax it back from wealthier people. The most efficient system of means testing is the progressively indexed income tax. (An actual wealth tax would be helpful too, but we already have in place the income tax system, so that can immediately be used.)

Just give everyone money.

On the provincial front, the premier understandably has been responding to the immediate crisis. For the longer haul, however, we should adjust government policy in expectation of high unemployment and underemployment.

Consider universities. What happens in the fall, when it’s very likely that the international student contingent won’t be able to come to Nova Scotia because of continuing travel restrictions? And when local young people won’t be able to afford going to university because they have no job and their savings are exhausted?

We’re going to have get the economy going again, but that’s a long-term project. Not many people will be able to work for tips in a waterfront restaurant, or work for minimum wage servicing tourists. They might, however, be able to gain the knowledge, skills, and certifications needed to build a successful career several years down the road.

The pandemic should be the excuse to do what we should’ve been doing all along, which is providing the opportunity for people to build rewarding and socially useful lives. No one cares about a government deficit anymore — it would be irresponsible to not go into debt during the pandemic. We should therefore think big, and spend money in ways that will be most helpful for the future.

We need to spend money as it was spent during the Depression, with ambitious government programs that put money in people’s wallets and helped plan for better times.

So let’s make university and college free, and even provide a stipend so students can feed and house themselves while they study over the summer and next school year. It’s now obvious that we need more health care workers, and at least continuing care workers can be taught and certified while the pandemic is still with us. Lots of people — young people just starting out, or older workers who find their industry suddenly non-existent —  can spend the next few years learning and training for any number of useful occupations.

It’ll be interesting to see how university works in the fall. Will classes be limited in size, with social distancing in place in the classroom? Perhaps there will be a hybrid system of online lectures with smaller once-a-week classes on campus attended by students split into, say, three rotating sections. I sure hope the universities are planning for this now.

The province could also vastly increase its support for musicians and other artists, providing grants for performances online right now, and paying for practicing and rehearsing for the live performances that will be held once we can start to gather in public again. (Dog knows we’ll need all the social gathering opportunities we can get.)

I’m sure there are other ways to think about bridging this coming year with an eye not just to meeting immediate needs but also looking towards the future. I’d love to hear your ideas.

2. Cermaq abandons plan for fish farms in Nova Scotia

Shoreline along St. Margaret’s Bay near Hubbards, one of the bays in which Cermaq has an Option to Lease. Courtesy Linda Pannozzo

“Cermaq Canada just announced the end of its Hello Nova Scotia tour and that it will not be proceeding with its proposed expansion to the east coast, letting all of the Lease Options awarded by the Nova Scotia government expire,” reports Linda Pannozzo:

The firm is part of Cermaq Global, formerly a Norwegian state-controlled salmon producer purchased by Mitsubishi Corporation in 2014 for $1.4 billion, with operations in Norway, Chile, and British Columbia.

The company was proposing a $500 million expansion to develop between 15 and 20 open-pen Atlantic salmon farm sites, four hatcheries and two processing plants and needs a minimum annual production of 20,000 metric tonnes of fish.

Click here to read “Facing ‘overwhelming opposition,’ aquaculture giant Cermaq kills plan to open fish farms in Nova Scotia.”

3. Eating disorders

Shaleen Jones. Photo: LinkedIn.

“The executive director of Eating Disorders Nova Scotia says COVID-19 has more than doubled demand for services, and she’s concerned about an explosion of new cases when it’s over,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

“We’re looking across the country with the other non-profit groups that work in eating disorders and we are just very concerned with the fall out that’s going to happen six months from now,” Shaleen Jones said.

“That’s when we’ll have folks who didn’t struggle with an eating disorder who come out of it with an eating disorder because of the loss of control issues, the changes around food access, the increased levels of stress. It is really the perfect storm.”

Jones said since March, demand for her non-profit organization’s online support services has gone “through the roof.” She doesn’t see it slowing down any time soon.

Click here to read “Eating disorders worsen with COVID-19.”

4. Bus driver tests positive

A bus driver has tested positive for COVID-19, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority is warning that passengers may have been exposed:

NSHA Public Health is advising of a potential public exposure to COVID-19 on Halifax Transit buses:

• April 3 on Route 10; 5:56 PM to 1:04 AM
• April 4 on Route 62; 12:27 PM to 1:33 PM; 4:27 PM to 5:33 PM
• April 4 on Route 60; 1:33 PM to 4:27 PM; 5:33 PM to 8:20 PM

Public Health is directly contacting anyone known to be a close contact of the person who was confirmed to have COVID-19. While most people have been contacted, there could be some contacts that Public Health is not aware of.

It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named dates on these bus routes may develop symptoms up to, and including, April 18, 2020. People should self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

5. Carrie Low

Yesterday, Justice Ann Smith published a decision in the Carrie Low case.

On May 13, 2019, Ms. Carrie Low filed a public complaint (the “Complaint”) to the Nova Scotia Police Complaints Commissioner (the “Commissioner”).  The Complaint expressed a number of concerns about the police handling of her May 19, 2018 report to the Halifax Regional Police (“HRP”) that she was the victim of a serious sexual assault.  Form 5, the form provided to Ms. Low entitled, “Form 5 – Public Complaint – [Section 31(1)] Police Act Regulations” asked Ms. Low to provide the “Name(s) of Police Officer(s) being complained about.”  Ms. Low wrote, “Cst. Novakovic and Cst. Jerrell Smith.”

The Complaint was signed by Ms. Low on May 13, 2019 and date-stamped “received” at the Officer of the Police Complaints Commissioner on May 13, 2019.

On May 21, 2019 the Commissioner wrote to Ms. Low advising that her complaint against Cst. Novakovic was filed beyond the six-month time limit for filing complaints against municipal police officers as Cst. Novakovic’s involvement “appears to be limited to May 2018.  Given this, we are unable to process the complaint.”  Ms. Low had been advised by the Commissioner’s office on May 14, 2019 that Cst. Jerell Smith was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) and not a member of the HRP.

On June 13, 2019 Ms. Low sent an email to the Commissioner asking that the Commissioner’s decision not to process the Complaint be reconsidered and reviewed on the basis that Ms. Low did not discover the “true nature of the negligence and lack of care” in her case until she received a copy of the HRP Policy on Investigating Sexual Assaults.  This information was disclosed to Ms. Low as a result of her request for information pursuant to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act 1993, c. 5, s.1and was attached to a letter to Ms. Low from FOIPOP Coordinator, Inspector Donald Moser, dated April 23, 2019.  Ms. Low also stated in her email to the Commissioner that the six‑month time limit should only apply once there was “discoverability of negligence.”

The Commissioner responded to Ms. Low’s request to reconsider the Complaint by letter dated July 9, 2019.  The Commissioner stated that the Complaint alleged that “the negligent actions occurred between May 2018 and March 2019.”  The Commissioner noted that Cst. Novakovic’s involvement in Ms. Low’s case “appears to be limited to May 2018 and is outside of the six (6) months.”  The Commissioner stated, “Both the RCMP and Nova Scotia Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner consider the date of the occurrence, or incident, giving rise to the complaint to be the starting date for the timeline.  In your case that date is May 19, 2018 and the six (6) months starts then.”  The Commissioner concluded her letter by stating, “As I have no authority to extend this six (6) months, your complaint against Cst. Novakovic cannot be processed.”

Justice Smith reviewed case law on the narrow issue of whether the police complaints commissioner should have considered Low’s complaint, and not on the substance of the complaint (i.e., the allegation that she was sexually assaulted by a cop), and then ruled:

The Commissioner’s July 9, 2019 decision refusing to reconsider her May 21, 2019 decision, and that decision as well, are set aside.  The matter is remitted back to the Commissioner for determination after applying the doctrine of discoverability to the Complaint and processing the Complaint in light of this Court’s conclusions on reasonableness and procedural fairness.


Views

1. Spring, Part 3

Photo: Stephen Archibald.

Stephen Archibald no longer messages me to alert me to new posts, but I have spies! so I learn about them anyway.

Really, I won’t complain. We need all the pretty pictures Stephen can give us.


Noticed

I normally take stat holidays off, but I wanted to get some thoughts off my head this morning, and later I’ll be publishing at least two (maybe more) articles from contributing writers, and my own update on the pandemic, once the Nova Scotia numbers come in this morning.

This is Good Friday, however. I’m now a godless heathen, but I grew up in the Catholic tradition and some of that still resonates a bit, if oddly so. That means once I’m done my work this morning, I’ll plop down in front of the TV and watch Jesus Christ Superstar, with a chaser of Monty Python:

I was born on Easter Sunday. I’m told that Mom had a full day. She woke up and got the five older kids dressed in their finest, packed them off to Easter Sunday mass, then back home for the big Sunday breakfast (breakfast always after mass). After breakfast, she managed an Easter egg hunt for the kids, then started cooking Easter dinner, a ham and fixings. After dinner she washed the dishes (such was the division of labour, that a woman nine months pregnant still had to wash the dishes), then oh, off to the hospital to have a nine-pound, two-ounce baby boy by 9:02pm.

Mom did all the work; I just complained about it. So I’ve always called Mom on my birthday to thank her. This will be the first birthday she’s not there to call, and that’s sad.

But Mom timed her death perfectly. She wouldn’t have wanted to be cooped up in the hospice room with no chance of her children coming to say good-bye. So next week (my birthday rarely falls on Easter), I’ll finish my work, then make a martini and give her a toast.


Government

No government meetings.


In the harbour

22:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea


Footnotes

Always look on the bright side of life.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Free tuition is a good idea. After all few students will have good jobs, or even any jobs, this summer. According to our cultural expectations, students work in the summers to earn some money toward tuition and expenses. That’s not going to happen. The parents won’t be earning much and can’t help them out. Fees & tuition are $8,000 or so a year. That’s for domestic students. The universities can forget receiving the grossly inflated tuition fees from international students, who mainly had to return home at the start of the outbreak. There are the few international students who are still living surviving in a university residence to wait out the virus. We will see all univ. courses going online in the fall, I predict. Who wants to pay for the “privilege” of online courses, most of which are based on rote learning, and are pedagogically rather dull.
    I predict that student loans will be forgiven. Those students who have graduated in recent years and who carry $40,000 or more in debt have no hope of paying off their $400 a month loan payments. Already working in marginally paying jobs, now their jobs have ended so how will they pay? Let’s hope the government recognises this and wipes out all their debts.

  2. There may be a silver lining from this crisis for post secondary educational institutions. Hopefully they will pull back from their obsession with bricks and mortar and start using more virtual classrooms. Then maybe they can wean themselves off of their addiction to international students and redirect their focus to providing attainable education opportunities for students who have come through our educational system.

  3. Thank you so much Tim for this edition. I am sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds amazing!

    We need to move forward, and this begins with “ creating “ a vision for the future, even starting now while in this form of physical isolation. And where is this movement of renewal most evident? In the artistic community that you speak of. That’s where the vision is. This effort could certainly be galvanized and funded by government. I have recently started activity on Facebook and I notice the visionary posts are from my artistic creative Friends. This could inspire and unite us as well, as creativity comes from all backgrounds.

    As to how that could work, since we don’t want to create a cumbersome bureaucracy,… I guess I don’t know. But this is a resource that needs to be funded and set in motion. An opportunity to create a new way. ( no, I’m not smoking anything ,) Tim Bousquet could lead this initiative!

    Something else I have noticed. Seniors have not been impacted ( mostly ) financially. Us seniors should step up, where possible and make a contribution where we can. We could pay our property taxes early for instance. We don’t need any extra benefits or bailouts.

    Thanks again Tim.

    Unafraid and Excited about the future.

    “ Don’t feel guilty about being happy during this difficult time.You don’t help at all by being sad and without energy. It helps if good things emanate from the Universe now.It is through joy that one resists.Also,when the storm passes,you will be very important in the reconstruction of this new world. You need to be well and strong. And, for that, there is no other way than to maintain a beautiful, happy and bright vibration”

    “… have the aspect of the eagle, which from above, sees the whole, sees more widely”

    Part of a message from White Eagle, Hopi Indigenous 03/16/2020

    1. Our property tax payments are scheduled for the usual date and paid directly from the bank and I have told our councillor we will not need any deferral. Few people will need a deferral. I believe we need a large expenditure on sidewalks, make them wider, safer and eliminate all the bumpy sections – in the budget we need HRM to put pedestrians second, immediately after those with disabilities.
      The author of the letter to staff which omitted the name of one councillor should own up and explain if Whitman was not asked to sign the letter – I base this on the tweet from Gloria who wrote on twitter that Whitman was not asked. The public deserves the truth.

      1. Waye Mason also said on Twitter that Whitman had not been asked to sign the letter. I don’t think it’s a secret:

        “The letter was a repudiation of him and his politics, so no, there is no “rule” that he be asked to sign. He made his position very clear on Rick Howe and on social media. He made his bed, he can lay in it.” https://twitter.com/WayeMason/status/1246147614246125568?s=20

        “To be fair he was not asked, as this was a response to his round of interviews and social yesterday.”
        https://twitter.com/WayeMason/status/1245829105595158528?s=20

  4. in response to “the crisis will last a year”
    1) condolences and hugs on the passing of your mom, death is always hard, kuddos to your mom for impeccable timing (having been at the bedside numerous times I,ve been astounded by the miracles surrounding the passing)
    2) if we can dream of a better world can we consider restorative justice, so that if I steal your car or rob your house I owe my debt to you – not the crown
    3) can we teach and support the young on how to grow food, help our neighbours, provide and support those who are weakest among us,
    4) can we learn from toddlers who couldnt care less the colour, intellectual capacity, family background, wealth or non wealth of their playmates and find ways to do likewise.
    A wise person once said “ in ALL things give thanks” so on this day I shall give thanks for a tiny thing called a virus -I do not have to understand how anything good can come from it but I can believe good will come because of it – happy easter birthday to you Tim.

  5. In response to: “I sure hope the universities are planning for this now.”
    Yes, universities are planning for the possibility of remote delivery of classes (and other, blended models) in the fall term right now. Some universities in the US and other parts of Canada have been told that online delivery in the fall is a certainty, while others in parts of Canada that have more public money available to support their operating expenses, are considering delaying the start of the next academic year until January of 2021. The pandemic dominates all planning discussions (and this includes planning how to move various counselling, financial, and other non-academic processes online, or how to improve upon what we have all hastily put together over the past few weeks as a response to campus closures). This includes input from university administrators, student societies, students in general, full- and part-time faculty unions, staff unions, academic senates, and so on. The only way that free tuition and fees can be part of the discussion is if governments across the country are willing to put a lot more money into post-secondary education than they currently do (the public funds in the operating budgets of most universities in NS hovers around 25%, and a lot of other revenue comes from rental of campus space as well as tuition and fees, obviously, so we are talking about a substantial new investment in post-secondary education on the part of government to cover revenue shortfalls). I am not sure the extent to which this is true of NSCC as well (I don’t know what part of their operating budget is covered by the provincial grant).

  6. There is plenty of need for people to work in the agricultural sector and other areas traditionally filled with TFWs. These sectors need TFWs because they pay people grossly substandard wages to do difficult work in often remote locations. Perhaps this should change.

  7. I have a tear in my eye, thinking of your Mom on the day you were born. And of you phoning her on your birthday each year.

    Happy Easter weekend.Take care and keep well.

  8. Nice thoughts about your Mom, I had similar thoughts about my folks. But they did go through the depression and world war and perhaps would not have been as challenged by the current crisis as we might think.

  9. Re: Bus Driver Tests Positive

    The #60 bus (#62 is within a block) services both ferry terminals and both ferries, however this being Saturday, April 4th, only the Alderney ferry was running.

    Does NSHA not know this, or are they just assuming that no one from the #60 bus subsequently took the ferry to Halifax?