1. COVID by the numbers
Let’s just get straight to it, shall we.
It’s been two weeks since the province as a whole went into (what was intended to be) a 14-day full lockdown with tighter public health restrictions. Although numbers have improved slightly this week, this lockdown — I’m sure to no one’s surprise at this point — will not be ending today.
On Tuesday, there were 118 new cases of COVID-19 announced in Nova Scotia.
But, in his regular roundup of pandemic news, Tim Bousquet reports that “there’s still not much clarity on the state of the backlog of unrecorded positive cases that was announced Friday.” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Strang has said he expects the backlog to be cleared by midweek. So… today? Tomorrow? It’s still unclear. I guess we just have to take Tuesday’s new case numbers with a grain of salt for now.
Assuming the numbers are reasonably accurate, that means Tuesday saw more recoveries (178 reported) than new cases, so the active caseload in Nova Scotia has gone down for the first time in a while. It now sits at 1,589 known cases.
On the more unpleasant side of things, there are now 64 people hospitalized with the virus, 10 of whom are in intensive care.
Outside of numbers, the other big news from yesterday: Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now available for Nova Scotians aged 40 and over. You can book here!
For the Examiner’s usual breakdown of case demographics, testing numbers and locations, vaccinations, schools (still closed), and potential exposure advisories in the province, check out Tim Bousquet’s full report from yesterday. With the new layout, it’s quick and easy to find all the info you need to stay safe and in the know.
Here’s his updated map of potential exposure sites in the province.
2. No money, no problems: the company that owns eight insolvent mills in N.S. (including Northern Pulp), just made a $3 billion dollar purchase
Paper Excellence, the company that owns Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation, has purchased Domtar, a US-headquartered pulp and paper giant, for $3 billion. The company now has entry into the U.S. market, but where’d it get the $3 billion for the purchase? Paper Excellence owns eight pulp mills in Canada, and has a family of seven companies – including Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation — all of which are said to be “insolvent.”
Joan Baxter reports on these discrepancies:
Here are a few things that Paper Excellence Canada Holdings seems unable or unwilling to do:
1. come up with just over $213 million to bail out its Northern Pulp family of companies in Nova Scotia;
2. make payments on the debt of more than $85 million that its Nova Scotian family of companies owes to the people of Nova Scotia;
3. submit a satisfactory plan for decommissioning for Boat Harbour that it was supposed to provide to the province, despite being given a six-month extension on the deadline, or come up with the $19 million required to remove the sludge, thus leaving that to the citizens of Nova Scotia to pay.
And yet here is something Paper Excellence Canada Holdings seems to have had no problem doing: finding $3 billion to buy Domtar.
Usually when I file my taxes, I just get frustrated, stressed out and angry. But last month, I was filled with pride, knowing I could chip in and do my part to help clean up Boat Harbour. Somebody has to, right?
For a full, dizzying look at how Paper Excellence might’ve been able to find $3 billion dollars to purchase a U.S. company despite their financial arrears in this province, click this link to Baxter’s article.
3. From behind the paywall: Everything you wanted to know about natural gas in NS
Here’s another piece from Joan Baxter. It’s a month old, but that means it’s now free for all to see, even non-subscribers. (The Examiner may be small, but when our reporters choose to cover an issue, they cover it. This article’s a prime example.)
Here, Baxter takes a thorough look at natural gas.
For the last decade, there have been attempts to get a liquified natural gas plant going in Goldboro, a project the Examiner has covered extensively here and here. It’s been a hot button issue. Some — including the current premier — have (falsely) called natural gas a transition fuel, a way to wean us off more harmful GHG emitting resources like coal until we can make the full switch to truly clean energy sources. Even if it were true, there are other problems to consider here.
The Goldboro project, owned by the energy company Peridae, is a bit of a…shall we say…sprawling mess.
Never heard of it? Or maybe you’re foggy on the details? Don’t worry — Baxter’s got you covered with a comprehensive recap of a complicated issue that could have a serious impact on the environment in our province.
It involves a $10 billion project that is relying heavily on precarious, non-guaranteed funding from the German government in order to get going. The company has also asked for funding from the province and feds, leading one industry insider — who spoke to Baxter on condition of anonymity — to say he’d publicly condemn the project, which he calls a “boondoggle,” if any taxpayer money is ever promised toward it.
As of right now, the earliest that the project could deliver natural gas — assuming it receives enough funding to get started — would be 2025, and an assessment from the Nova Scotia Environmental Assessment Review panel says the Goldboro LNG facility, once operational, would be the largest single GHG emitter in the province.
Remind me again how this is a transition fuel? And just how big is the window to switch to clean energy? Aren’t we supposed to be getting 80% of our energy from renewable resources by 2030? And be at net-zero emissions by 2050?
And if this project’s a step in the right direction environmentally, then why has Peridae threatened legal action against environmental activists?
You can read all about it in Baxter’s full article — Peridae’s pipe dream — here, in all its paywall-removed glory.
It’s a great refresher for subscribers who’ve been following the story, and it’s a great way to catch up for anyone unfamiliar with the issue. If you’re not a subscriber, but you like what you’ve read and want to see more in-depth, local coverage like this, you can help the Examiner provide it by subscribing or donating.
It’s reporting worth supporting.
4. Clarmar Residential Home
Last Tuesday, Jennifer Henderson reported on the Clarmar Residential Care facility — the only nursing home/residential care facility in the province with active COVID-19 cases — and its history of failure in meeting regulations.
Since that time, the home — which cares for the physically and intellectually disabled — has been closed temporarily. On Friday, Dr. Strang announced the closure at a briefing, saying three staff and three residents were infected.
In her article this morning, Henderson follows one N.S. man’s search for his brother, a resident at Clarmar, following Friday’s announcement:
Dave MacQueen was listening to that briefing from his home in Cape Breton. His brother Ian “Hoss” MacQueen has been a resident of Clarmar for almost 10 years as a result of chronic ill-health associated with alcoholism. Where, wondered Dave, was Hoss living now?
Dave has power of attorney for his brother. He picked up the phone and began calling the one telephone number that is listed for the Clarmar Residential Care Facility at 200 Main Street in Dartmouth.
Nobody answered. There was no recorded voice mail message to provide any further instruction. The Clarmar website contains no other phone numbers or even an email address. MacQueen spent the weekend dialing that one number and hoping Clarmar staff or someone from the Department of Health would call to tell him where Hoss had been moved. That didn’t happen.
The story follows MacQueen through a maddening maze of bureaucratic channels, phone tag, emails to no one, and conflicting answers as he tries to track down the whereabouts and condition of his brother. This latest lack of communication, on top of the facility’s poor regulatory history, leads Henderson to ask the question: should Clarmar be closed temporarily? Or for good?
5. Temporary shelters: more money on band-aid solutions
In a news release Tuesday, the province announced $350,000 to add temporary shelter beds to the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax’s North End until the end of 2021. According to the release, there are currently 206 beds in the Halifax shelter system and this latest boost will bring the number of beds at the Friendship Centre from 25 to 40.
The need to physically distance people in the pandemic has proved very difficult for shelters this past year. It’s difficult to keep people separated when they’re sleeping on cots in the same room, sharing bathrooms, dining tables, computers, etc. So temporary solutions to these problems is laudible to a degree. But I’ve seen firsthand the stress, frustration, and apathy that comes from putting these men and women in shelters that have a shelf life, never knowing if funding will be renewed for another month, another week, another few days, before they have to pack up and move to the next location, or even back on the streets.
We’re over a year into this pandemic. Perhaps it’s time to stop spending a few hundred thousand dollars to buy a little time for the homeless in our communities. Public space is extremely limited during this pandemic. These people deserve a safe, dependable space to take shelter.
Same storm, different boats
The National Hockey League is wrapping up its regular season and there was some excitement over the past few days. Connor McDavid reached a hundred points in just over 50 games, and the Canadiens clinched the final playoff spot in the North Division (by OT loss, yikes) so we’ll see Montreal and Toronto play each other in a series for the first time in 42 years.
But there’ve been some speed bumps. The season was supposed to be done by now, but has been delayed by coronavirus infections. The Vancouver Canucks, notably, have a backlog of catchup games they have to get through before the postseason can begin (most of the team was out with the virus for a long stretch that caused multiple games to be postponed).
But the season has survived.
It really made me take another look at the disappointment surrounding the cancellation of the Women’s World Hockey Championship.
Though I sympathized with the players at the time of the announcement, I felt that it was undoubtedly the right decision. The spike in numbers that’s followed in this province certainly seems to justify it. And the women weren’t the only ones who couldn’t play. The QMJHL shut down all Maritime games for the remainder of the season.
It just seemed like another in a series of bad breaks for the women’s game.
The collapse of the Canadian Women’s league in 2019, the boycotting of the rival National Women’s league over what more than 200 players considered inadequate pay, the subsequent cancellation of that league’s championship — along with the World’s — due to COVID.
The women’s game has been trying to build up momentum, find a place where the best players can play for reasonable pay and get some exposure to a larger audience, but any time there’s progress, it seems to be cut down almost immediately.
But what can you do in this case? We’re in a pandemic. It’s tough, but them’s the breaks, right?
Well, some of the players got angry at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s lack of planning for a possible cancellation here in Nova Scotia. And, two weeks ago, retired player and current broadcaster Cassie Campbell-Pascall made some on-air comments during a Leafs/Habs game in which she said Premier Iain Rankin should apologize for listening to Dr. Strang’s recommendation that the World Championship be cancelled.
The backlash from Nova Scotians was immediate.
Willy Pavlov compiled some of the social media fury in an article for SaltWire, like this one:
The health and safety of not only the players, but the volunteers and staff required to put on that tournament is way more important than ANY reason she could give. Sit down, Cassie. With the cases hitting NS right now, you look ridiculous. Give your head a shake.
— Geordie (Like Jordy, except not spelled the same) (@guitarded71) April 29, 2021
And Sheldon MacLeod, reporting for the same publication, gave his two cents:
“So this well-respected athlete and broadcaster is accusing the new premier of being inexperienced and dismissive of Dr. Strang. Hello, Cassie, where’s your medical degree from? And are you that disappointed that you haven’t noticed the widest spread of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia since the pandemic was declared?”
Though I do think Campbell-Pascall’s request for an apology from the premier went too far — and I can’t really argue with the province’s decision — I’ve come to sympathize more and more with these players who’ve twice had their biggest platform (outside the Olympics) taken away. I don’t think it’s necessarily Nova Scotia’s problem, but can’t somebody host this tournament for television viewers? They’ve had over a year to figure this out.
The National Hockey League — the men’s highest platform for hockey — will have played two seasons, and held two Stanley Cup championships, by the time this tournament gets played — assuming it is played somewhere this summer, as the CBC reports it might.
When female athletes talk about their discouragement with the pay disparity between the genders, it’s easy to point to the huge differences in revenues between men’s and women’s hockey, the NBA and WNBA, etc. — pretty much anything outside of tennis.
For my part, I think it’s more ridiculous that Austin Matthews is making well over $10 million to play hockey than it is that female players were making an average of about $10,000 in the NWHL.
Say what you will about the pay disparity, how is it that a men’s league can play two seasons, traveling across the country, playing in Toronto and Calgary — two huge hotspots for the virus — and the best women in the world can’t compete in a bubble isolated from the town that hosts?
If that’s not inequality in sport, I don’t know what is.
Yesterday a flight incident from February — prior to the current outbreak, or third wave, of COVID-19 — was logged by Transport Canada.
Tim Bousquet tweeted his “Icarus Report” on it last night:
Thinking about this. I’m a white knuckle flier, and I often tell the flight attendants, “hey, I have issues,” or whatever, and they’re always quite kind with me. So I have some sympathy for people who lose it on planes. But this is so over the top… no sympathy.
— Tim Bousquet (@Tim_Bousquet) May 12, 2021
I was inspired to include my own thoughts — three of them brief, one of them long, personal and self-indulgent:
What an obnoxious, irresponsible asshole.
Is there a higher level than “Level 3 Unruly,” and what are the parameters?
Do pilots have an actual, physical red card in their breast pockets at all times?
I once took a red-eye from Calgary to New York to attend a cousin’s wedding. I’d been at work until 10:30 p.m., then I hopped on the plane at midnight and planned to sleep on the plane for five hours, spend part of the day in NYC, then take a bus to Rhode Island for the wedding rehearsal. But I sat next to two drunken, obnoxious businessmen whose breath smelled like vodka, burps and decay (three of my least favourite things).
The whole flight they yelled at each other about the girls they’d been with when they were 18, the flight attendant’s skirt, the amount they’d had to drink and the amount they planned to continue drinking, the litigation they were threatening their neighbours with, and a myriad of charming, anecdotes of past drunken nights — all of which prevented me from getting a minute’s sleep even though I could barely keep my eyes open. They even tried to take a selfie with me when they thought I was passed out. It was then that I had the innocence-shattering epiphany that all human beings, deep down, have the capacity for murder. (I didn’t act on it though, just to be clear).
All this is to say that, even though I have no way of proving it, I know, in my heart, that one of those two men was the passenger on that February flight in the report above. I’d recognize their blatant disregard for the well-being of other humans and complete lack of decency anywhere.
Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. That flight was three years ago now, but the wound feels fresh. As a reward, let me tell you about one other thing I noticed this week:
Spring Peepers are back!
On Friday, after the province announced even tighter (somehow) restrictions and the New York Times reported on the uncertainty of herd immunity, I was feeling a bit glum.
Then I sat on my deck with a good book and heard the peepers in the distance for the first time this year. It’s always a treat, isn’t it?
Here’s a recording our own Philip Moscovitch made a few years back: a nice soothing soundtrack to get you through some of the tougher slogs of this lockdown.
Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9am) — live on YouTube
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm) — live on YouTube
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — live video conference; COVID Recovery and Response RE: 2020 Financial Report of the Auditor General, with Kellianne Dean (Department of Finance and Treasury Board,) Scott Farmer (Department of Inclusive Economic Growth,) Laurel Broten (Nova Scotia Business Inc.,) Darlene MacDonald (Tourism Nova Scotia,) and Matt Hebb (Dalhousie University)
Daughters of Immigrants Symposium Keynotes and Creative Showcase (Thursday, 1pm) — Asha Jeffers hosts two public lectures and a creative showcase, where scholars from around North America and Europe will be brought together to discuss their research:
Thursday, 1pm: “American Dream, Conservative Immigrants” by Erin Khue Ninh from the University of California Santa Barbara
Friday, 12:30pm: “Kitchen Poets and Sister Griots: Storytelling in the work of Edwidge Danticat” by Susana Morris from the Georgia Institute of Technology
Friday, 6:30pm: a public Creative Showcase featuring a short film by Kourtney Jackson, a poetry reading by Doretta Lau, a film and talk by V. T. Nayani and a musical performance by Falana
SURGE Discover Coding ‑ Python (Thursday, 2:30pm) — six-week workshop series to learn the basics of coding with Python
In the harbour
08:00: Radcliffe R. Latimer, bulker arrives at Aulds Cove Quarry from Port Cartier, Quebec
1- Yesterday the weather app on my phone gave a 100% chance of rain for the afternoon. Is it just me, or have these 100% predictions (I guess it’s more of a guarantee than a prediction at that point) been somewhat prevalent over the last year? I never remember seeing them before. Has meteorology advanced leaps and bounds in recent years or have weather forecasts just got some serious cajones these days? I can guarantee 100% that tomorrow the sun will rise and Tim Bousquet will have the COVID update, but that’s where the list ends.
2- As I mentioned briefly in the Views section, the Canadiens will play the Leafs for the first time since 1979. As a possible preview of what we might see in this year’s upcoming series, here’s a link to the last postseason game the two teams had against each other:
Big Larry Robinson scored two goals — including the overtime winner — as the Habs swept Darryl Sittler’s Maple Leafs to start their playoff run toward their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup.
We also get to see two rarities for a 1970s game:
- A penalty gets called in overtime.
There was a time in the NHL when you were more likely to be charged with assault and battery on a cheap hit in overtime than you were to be assessed a minor penalty. Not here though. Tiger Williams gets two minutes after he dumps Larry Robinson with a high stick to the face. By today’s standards, impossible to argue, but Williams can’t believe it and the commentators debate whether a penalty was warranted given the situation. The crowd at Maple Leaf Gardens voice their displeasure in the traditional way — good ol’-fashioned chants of profanity. After the game-winning goal, Williams has to be forcibly restrained from attacking the referee. He only slashed him across the nose, after all. Let the boys play, am I right?
- Borje Salming sports a full helmet and visor.
1979 was the last year before the NHL made helmets mandatory for all new players entering the league. It would be another 34 years before visors became mandatory too. Thankfully, Guy Lafleur, who had eight points in this four-game series, came into the league before those changes. Salming’s protective headgear may have been ahead of its time, but Lafleur’s hair was timeless. The sport is truly richer for having had it.
This year’s Leafs/Canadiens series isn’t scheduled yet, but whenever they play, I doubt the Habs’ll sweep this time around.