News

1. Cabinet roundup

Province House. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Jennifer Henderson offers a concise and informative roundup of the day’s news from virtual Province House, following yesterday’s cabinet meeting.

The short version: the province and feds are still trying to work out the details of an inquiry into the April 18-19 mass murders, school may or may not be on in some form in the fall, and there are more details on the Northwood inquiry.

Henderson also notes that Northern Pulp has filed for creditor protection*, in BC:

Northern Pulp closed at the end of January when it failed to pass a provincial environmental assessment to build a wastewater treatment facility to replace Boat Harbour. Documents filed by Northern Pulp state it owes $311-million to more than 20 companies. It has loans worth $85 million owed to the province of Nova Scotia. “The company is going through its own issues but we fully expect the repayment of those loans to be made,” said McNeil, when asked about the issue.

I believe this about as much as I believed the Yarmouth ferry was going to run this summer.

2. On the police beat

Photo: Halifax Examiner

Zane Woodford has a couple of stories related to policing. The Board of Police Commissioners is finally set to meet again, and the municipality wants to measure “citizen satisfaction” and confidence in the police.

For the first story, Woodford reports that the Commissioners’ meeting agenda is clearly influenced by recent events and calls for defunding the police. He writes:

The board will hear a “to be circulated” presentation from the city’s public safety officer on defunding the police, including an overview of the city’s current public safety programming and the United Nations’ Safe Cities report.

Next is an update on the Wortley report recommendations, including those around community engagement, data collection, the ban on carding, and an extension for data access — presumably referring to the December deadline for citizens to access their street check data via freedom of information.

Coun. Tony Mancini has three motions coming to the board: requesting “a report detailing the feasibility of a body worn video pilot program,” “an update detailing the status of traffic enforcement and community policing during COVID-19,” and “a written update that details the status of the Wortley Report recommendations.”

I hope we don’t do the usual Nova Scotia thing and adopt the cutting-edge technology from five years ago (in this case body-worn cameras) just when everyone else is realizing it’s not actually all that effective.

Meanwhile, the city is looking for a firm to survey citizens on their level of satisfaction with the police. In February, the firm Narrative Research made a presentation to the Board of Police Commissioners.

Woodford writes:

Narrative Research, then known as Corporate Research Associates, led surveys of more than 500 residents in Halifax, Ottawa and Calgary in 2018.

Those surveys led to the creation of a set of standardized questions for police across the country to use to gauge public opinion.

Those questions include asking respondents to what degree they agree with the following statements: “The police make decisions based on facts;” “The police treat people with respect;” “The police provide the same quality of service to all citizens;” “The police are dealing with the things that matter to people in this community;” “I feel a moral duty to follow police orders;” “I generally support how the police usually act;” and “I would help the police if asked.”

3. Oh yeah, the parkade

Paul Vienneau and horse at the winter picnic to protest the proposed new hospital parkade. Photo courtesy Paul Vienneau

At one point early in the pandemic, I suddenly remembered the controversial parkade originally slated to go up right beside the Wanderers Grounds in Halifax.

Man, that seemed like a long time ago.

Well, the new version of the parkade is still a thing, and now contracts have been issued for its construction, the indefatigable Zane Woodford reports.

He writes:

Lindsay Construction will lead the design and construction of the new parkade and pedway on Summer Street as part of the QEII hospital project, the province announced on Thursday…

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of a motion paving the way for the new plan at a special meeting in early April, reluctantly approving the pedway and a driveway over municipal land off Bell Road.

“This is not as bad as it could have been,” Coun. Shawn Cleary said during that meeting.

The municipality has no control over the size or design of the project because it’s on provincial land, but multiple councillors called on the province to prove with the parkade that it’s capable of decent design.

The Friends of the Common are still not impressed, Woodford adds. Read the whole story here.

4.  The changing forest

Fall foliage in temperate forest at High Head, Wentworth, Nova Scotia. Photo: Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter has a long read well worth your time on the changing nature of forests in our region.

The story begins with a CBC radio interview, during which UNB professor Tom Beckley said forestry practices in New Brunswick were leading to borealization — the replacement of the mixed species that make up what’s known as the Acadian forest, with trees typically found farther north.

JD Irving, who have a bit of an interest in forestry, followed up on this — not by contacting Beckley, but by phoning his dean to ask if Beckley had any peer-reviewed science to back up the statement.

You may recall that Irving likes to fancy itself the tree-planting company on signs and billboards. It might be bad PR if someone were to point out the trees they are planting are not typical to the region, and that even as climate change brings warmer temperatures, our forests are taking on the look of a much more northern environment.

Anyway, Beckley co-led a study on borealization (probably not the outcome Irving was hoping for) and confirmed that it is indeed a phenomenon.

Baxter writes:

Whereas temperate forests are typically multi-aged and diverse in species composition, borealized forests have fewer tree species and the trees are more similar in age, leaving them more vulnerable to fire, pests and wind events. “Old forest is rare,” they wrote. And that is “widely recognized as a conservation concern.”

The authors also observe something they call “forest bifurcation,” which they define as “a transition in the landscape away from natural mixed wood communities toward pure hardwood or softwood.” Where there has been high-grading of softwoods such as White Pine, Red Spruce, and Eastern Hemlock, they conclude that this leads to pure stands of hardwoods. Where there has been silviculture designed to promote conifer growth — planting, thinning, and spraying with herbicides — this has led to pure softwood stands…

As for possible professional repercussions for Beckley for his work on borealization of the Acadian forest in New Brunswick, given that his mere use of the term in a CBC interview in 2018 resulted in JDI calling his dean to challenge him on it, he replied, “That is why I love tenure and I love having the union.”

We love to do this kind of labour-intensive reporting here at the Examiner, but it takes time and money. Please subscribe.

5. The Churchill statue only went up in 1980?

Image from wikipedia.org

Jon Tattrie reports for CBC on the “Walk against Winston” march, which saw demonstrators apply stickers to the statue of Winston Churchill outside the old library on Spring Garden Road. The stickers bore some of his appalling quotes including ones about using “poison gas” against “uncivilized tribes” and how Hinduism was a “beastly religion.”

(Unless I’m missing it, Tattrie doesn’t say when this event took place, other than “a fine summer evening.”)

Tattrie talks to Mount Saint Vincent anthropology professor Alex Khasnabish and writer and historian Lee Pollock, the former executive director of the International Churchill Society. Both agree on the complexities of Churchill and his legacy.

Here is Tattrie quoting Pollock:

“Quite clearly, Churchill had a view of the world that isn’t one that comports with how we think about the world today,” he said.

Churchill believed that “white, Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking countries and civilizations” had most improved the world, Pollock said, a view many white, Anglo-Saxon Brits and Canadians at the time shared.

“Churchill was wrong about a lot of things,” Pollock said. “But against that you have to set a unique accomplishment of being one person at a unique time and place in history who literally changed the world.”

Khasnabish makes the point that statues like that of Churchill celebrate the “great men” view of history, personalizing struggles and ignoring larger movements. But that doesn’t mean he wants the statue to come down: “I’m willing to continue to celebrate what I think his myth is meant to celebrate, which is a grass-roots anti-fascist resistance.”

Tattrie also gets into the history of the statue and how it came to be commissioned. It only went up in 1980.

Despite the thoughtfulness and nuanced views of those quoted in this story, I fully expect to see it shared around with comments about erasing history, snowflakes offended by everything, etc etc etc.


Views

Logan Trewin (l) and Emmet Petersmann (r) with their homemade go-kart.

Last weekend, we went camping at Porter’s Lake Provincial Park. There were several of us, on different campsites, including a couple of sets of kids, ranging in age from 7 to 16.

One of the joys of camping for kids is the freedom that it brings. In lives that are typically heavily scheduled with organized sports and other activities, camping provides an expanse of free time. It also provides freedom of movement. There’s an assumption of safety at a campground, and so you see kids visiting with each other, riding their bikes, heading off to fish, or whatever.

In a story I wrote a couple of years ago for Our Children magazine, I quoted my nephew, Sasha Martin-Maher (then 14) about this aspect of camping. He said, “It’s not like the city. When you’re camping you can go wherever you want – as long as it’s not too far away – because there are almost no cars.”

Because my kids (a couple of whom were with us) are adults now, I got to watch the younger members of our extended group with some detachment. Our campsite was by the water, downhill from the access path. As I watched two kids bombing down that hill on bikes (including two on one bike), I turned to my partner and said, “They’re like 70s kids.” My partner said that thanks to the pandemic “they’re all like 70s kids now.”

Fewer organized activities, fewer cars on the streets, more freedom.

I was curious about this, so I spoke to Dalhousie professor Sara Kirk, who teaches in the School of Health and Human Performance. In addition to her research, she is also a bike advocate and member of Velo Canada Bikes, which encourages cycling and lobbies for better cycling infrastructure.

Kirk lives in Halifax’s West End. Last month, she was struck when she saw a few kids pile into Ardmore Park.

Sara Kirk. Photo contributed.

She said:

One day I was in the park and I saw these kids. They came down one of the streets on the other side of Oxford, and they cycled along that road, and then they stopped and waited to cross the road pretty carefully. And then they went into the park and they sat on the little tables there. They were just playing, talking, hanging out. And it was like, I haven’t seen that for years. That’s what my childhood was like, back in the 70s. You know, we would leave the house in the morning and we didn’t come home until it was meal time and there was no parental supervision…

The positive part is more kids are now going out. We’ve seen a reduction in the amount of traffic on the road. And I think actually that was the other thing that really sort of struck me about this is the reawakening amongst people around how public spaces are allocated, and when we suddenly saw fewer cars on the road, we saw that it was quite obvious how much of our public space has been given to the automobile.

I asked Emmet Petersmann, one of the kids who was racing down the hill at our campsite, how he felt about the loss of some his scheduled activities this summer, and what’s changed for him.

Emmet is 13, and an avid soccer player. His summer sailing camp is still on, but an overnight camp he was planning to go to has been cancelled, and so have soccer games. He said this summer “definitely feels different. I kind of like it, because you don’t feel stressed to get to things on time. I can relax more, not having such a tight schedule.”

One of the big changes Emmet sees is that it’s become a lot easier to hang out with friends. Less scheduling means less organizing. “We hang out more. We can just call each other and say, hey do you want to hang out, and we do whatever we want for the rest of the day,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot more mountain biking, which I really like, and going to the skate park” on the Common.

Kirk shared a slide showing the distances that kids from a family near Sheffield, England, were allowed to travel at similar ages in different decades. Great-grandfather George could walk six miles to go fishing when he was eight. Today, eight-year-old Ed is allowed to walk 300 yards to the end of his street.

Roaming through the ages. Image: Sara Kirk

Structured activities have their place, Kirk said.

However, what we know is that unstructured activity is even more important… One of the attractions of moving over here [from England], actually, was that it was safer than my neighbourhood in the UK. And  my kids could go outside and play in our cul de sac in Cole Harbour, where there wasn’t much through traffic. But think about kids growing up on some of the streets that are much more busy. Where do they go? How do we how do we give them that experience? It’s actually so good for their confidence in their health and their well-being.

On an early episode of the radio show/podcast This American Life, host Ira Glass spoke to Roger Hart, who spent a summer tracking the movements of kids in a small-town in Vermont in the early 1970s. (Hart wrote a book about it called Children’s Experience of Place.) He found that the kids all had secret places of their own that they had built or modified, and that even though he did his research in a small town, he’s seen the same phenomenon in large cities as well.

In his interview with Glass, Hart said:

The greatest users of the outdoor space were children and, ironically, the elderly. They’re the people who have to find close to home an interesting environment for themselves.

So the world has changed enormously for children. Children now spend much more of their time in either programmed activities or supervised activities, under surveillance, you might say. Children are not outside. You don’t see kids in the street in most neighborhoods. You don’t hear them at night or in the early evening like you used to.

Both Kirk and I made the same observation, comparing kids this summer to the way we were growing up. But it’s important to promote more active lifestyles and freedom for children without falling into nostalgia. I belong to a Facebook group for the area I grew up in, and recently someone posted a photo of the big hill in our neighbourhood. I can remember that biking down it was both exhilarating and terrifying. Google StreetView doesn’t provide a great look, but here’s the hill.

Allan’s Hill / Apple Hill in suburban Montreal.
Allan’s Hill / Apple Hill in suburban Montreal.

The comments on the photo generally fell into two categories: 1) That’s it? It seemed so big at the time! 2) I/my brother/my friend broke my leg/arm/collarbone there.

Kirk agrees we shouldn’t idealize the free-wheeling 70s environment because, in many ways, “it wasn’t safe.” But she also said there is value in risk.

Risk is good for kids. There is a whole literature on risky play and the value of that, of children’s learning about their boundaries. And often if you as a parent can step back and watch, if you can can allow your kid to explore, they might fall over but it’s unlikely that will cause huge damage. And actually, more damage is done by not allowing kids to explore their environment and not developing that confidence.

As for Emmet, one of the summer projects he’s had time for is building a go-kart with his friend Logan. “We keep adding modifications,” he said. “We added brakes a couple of weeks ago. We just ride it down the street. Really fun.”


Noticed

Photo: seadoo.com

In his Halifax Shipping News Blog, Peter Ziobrowski looks at last Friday’s Sea-Doo crash in Halifax Harbour. Two watercraft crashed in the harbour, and the driver of one of them, a 15-year-old, was sent to hospital with what the police called life-threatening injuries.

Ziobrowski notes that under federal watercraft regulations, a 15-year-old should not be operating one of these vehicles. He gets into the regulations covering who can pilot them (notably, not people under 16). The kid was operating a rental watercraft, so there are multiple levels of failure here, including on the part of Ossama Nasrallah, who owns Harbour Watercraft & Adventure Rentals.

Ziobrowski writes:

Proof of Competency normally takes the form of a Pleasure Craft operator Card or PCOC. To get a PCOC, you take a course, or self study, and write an exam. In the case of rental operators, a checklist serves as an equivalent, and requires the renter to cover important safety topics…

Clearly Transport Canada rules and, the companies own procedures are not being followed. Since the owner was involved in this incident, it suggests the company from has a lax safety culture from the top, since if the checklist was completed, it would require acknowledging in two places that the operator was at least 16.

I didn’t grow up around here, but I understand that drivers racing up and down the 333 while blind drunk was pretty commonplace. That’s changed (not that nobody does it), but the waters still seem to be largely a free-for-all, despite regulations, and every year people lose their lives needlessly, as a result.

Confirming my own personal prejudice that many Sea-Doo owners are hugely entitled assholes, last week I watched a guy with one of these enormous monstrosities stand on the back of his truck and throw a pile of garbage towards the vicinity of a garbage can at the Irving station where he had just gassed up. Most of the garbage fell to the ground around the trashcan, and the woman he was with then picked it all up and threw it away.


Government

No meetings.


In the harbour

10:30: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, sails for New York
10:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Wilmington, North Carolina
11:30: Yantian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
13:00: Maersk Mobiliser, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 27 from the Sable Island field
13:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 41
14:00: Zhen Hua 29, cargo ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
23:00: Wilson Mistral, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Montrose, Scotland


Footnotes

I love it when people read my book and then send me photos of their jars of sauerkraut.

*This piece originally said that Northern Pulp had filed for bankruptcy, which was incorrect.

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. A small legal detail: the Morning File says that Northern Pulp has filed for bankruptcy, but that’s not technically correct. They have filed for protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). Without going into the technical differences between CCAA and bankruptcy, it’s enough to say that companies filing under CCAA hope to emerge later in a healthier form. If they can’t work out new arrangements with their creditors, they may eventually file for bankruptcy.

    For example, Air Canada has filed for CCAA protection at least twice, and they’re still flying. If I remember correctly, Quadriga first filed for CCAA protection, but then soon after, presumably when it became apparent there was no hope of saving the company, it went into bankruptcy.

    Jennifer Henderson gets it right in her story; it’s only the Morning File that makes that wee mistake. I’ll send your law degree in the mail, on a napkin.

    1. Graham, very few journalists in Nova Scotia have a clue about business/finance – haven’t seen one on the Eaxaminer, none at CBC and maybe John DeMont passes the test. How many do you know that can understand a balance sheet or executive compensation ?

  2. Develop NS is full if ‘placemaking’ planners and cyclists and as a provincial crown corporation is responsible for renting space to the seadoo operator. All for the sake of a few dollars.
    No myths about Churchill. Take a minute to imagine what Europe would look like if Chamberlain and the appeasers had remained in power in Britain.

    1. Winston Churchill, genius, irritant, racial bigot, magician… without his vivid imagination and willpower, our world would have been lost to the dark insanity of Adolph Hitler. When you read deeply of how tiny England under Churchillian leadership was able to rally magnificently against the vast well-supplied army of the Fuhrer, you understand why Churchill’s valiant heart has inspired great literature and art for eighty years. For all his racism, he also had the power of humour and love. Humour and love trump everything.

  3. SeaDoo owners and motor boats should be SPEED REGULATED on the North West Arm and Halifax Harbour !!!!!! We regularly kayak the NW Arm, and the idiots on SeaDoos are aggressive and stupid. There are all manner of people swimming, canoeing, rowing, sailing and these creeps have no care for any of them. We are surprised some horrific accident has not happened more often. We think they should be forced to take a license test. There should be regular Water Patrols and hefty fines for bad behaviour. This past week has been particularly frightening in front of the Oakland dock and near the Dingle Tower. We have asked them to sloooooow down, and instead they aggressively splash their wake wash at us. SEA DOOS should be BANNED from ALL LAKES, SMALL WATERWAYS, and the NORTHWEST ARM !

  4. There’s a Japanese reality TV show about children (4-5 years old) going on their first errand to the corner store or something – although Japan is an absurdly safe place compared even to Canada.