For the headline piece, scroll to Views.
For today’s stories, here’s the News…

News

1. COVID-19 Update: Nova Scotia’s borders to close to non-essential travel; PEI and NL exempted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID briefing, April 20, 2021. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

What’s the old line about making plans and God laughing?

On Tuesday, one day after the Atlantic Bubble was originally set to reopen, the province announced that all non-essential travel into and out of Nova Scotia will be banned.

The new restriction comes into effect 8 a.m. and will be in place until May 20, though it could be extended. Visitors from PEI and Newfoundland will still be able to enter Nova Scotia, though they will have to self-isolate.

Speaking at Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Strang said the ban is in response to rising case numbers in the province related to travel, as well as a 400% increase in visitors coming in from Ontario, not including those visiting by air. Ontarians who bought a house in Nova Scotia before April 21 — I’m assuming that’s half the population of Toronto by now — will still be allowed to come into the province to reside here.

For now, the upcoming Women’s World Hockey Championship will continue, as players will be fully isolating from the community during their stay.

In other restriction news, rotational workers will now have to isolate from their family members until they get a negative test result. Following a negative test, rotational workers can return to the current modified form of isolation that allows them to interact with their family and be in outdoor places in the community. They’ll also be able to attend medical appointments.

Check out Tim Bousquet’s full COVID-19 update to see what essential travel will be permitted with the new restrictions, as well as a list of possible exposure sites, a fuller explanation of Dr. Strang’s concerns about Ontario travel, and information on where you can get tested and how to book vaccinations.

Below is Bousquet’s COVID-19 exposure map. There are quite a few locations pinned on it today.

There were nine new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nova Scotia Tuesday, bringing the total number of known active cases to 68. Two of those infected are in hospital, though none are in ICU. A full breakdown of numbers and current cases can be found in Bousquet’s full piece.

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 related coverage free during the pandemic. To help support our reporting, please subscribe or donate. Thank you!

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2. Report to HRM council: review of policing and public safety will be complete by Dec. 2022

Photo by Taymazvalley via Flickr.

Yesterday, in the United States, former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder for his role in the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd. Floyd’s death at the hands of three police officers last May raised questions about the nature of policing in America and across the world, as well as whether law enforcement budgets should be scaled back.

Here in Halifax, municipal council asked last August for a report that would outline a timeline and process for a “broad review of policing and public safety, which shall examine the potential for shifting or creating programs for civilian delivery of non-core police functions.” On Tuesday, that report finally arrived.

Eight months after council’s initial request, we now know that the city’s review of policing in Halifax will be complete about a year and a half from now.

Zane Woodford has the story:

The report to council on Tuesday lays out how the municipality will complete that review, focused on one central question:

Why have we, as a society, depended on police for so many of the problems we are faced with today, and what are more appropriate or alternative solutions for Halifax?

Written by public safety advisor Amy Siciliano, the report says the process will be broken into two phases, led by an external consultant. The first “focuses on the feasibility of shifting or creating programs for civilian delivery of non-core police functions; the second on creating a strategic plan to guide the future implementation of the proposed changes.”

A timeline included in the report says community engagement will begin in September. Progress reports will come to council in November, January and March 2022 including an “assessment of non-core police services to be considered” and “proposed changes for non-police service delivery.” And then a draft final report — tentatively titled the “Community Safety and Wellbeing Strategic Plan” — will come to council for adoption in December 2022.

Recently, Woodford and the Examiner have reported on two other police reviews underway:

The Board of Police Commissioners has appointed a committee, led by El Jones, to define the concept of defunding the police and make recommendations. That report is now expected to be complete at the end of June. And at its last meeting, council asked for an independent review of the city’s unique joint policing model, with Halifax Regional Police and RCMP splitting the duties across HRM.

The reviews of the joint policing model and, according to HRM chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé, the report on the joint policing model will be presented to council within a few months of each other.

“One is about the what, and one is about the how. Those two reports, one looking at the structure and this particular one, will at some point meet together with a comprehensive report to council,” Dubé said.

“Within 18 to 24 months, these two reports will come back to council.”

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3. Mercury rising

A bin full of tubes from fluorescent lights. These tubes contain traces of toxic mercury, which can be a danger to humans and the environment when disposed of improperly. Photo contributed by Dave Hall

Mercury. Quicksilver. Element number 80 on the table.

It’s been used as a cure for syphilis (please don’t try this), a gauge of temperature in thermometers and an aid for extracting gold in the mining industry. It’s used in everyday items like fluorescent lights and CFL bulbs.

It’s also a highly toxic chemical element, poisonous — even potentially fatal — when exposed to the human body. And the potential for exposure increases when mercury seeps into our soil and groundwater, or escapes as a vapour, creating risks to the health of the public and the environment.

So it’s important that mercury is disposed of properly. That might seem obvious to you, but while products containing mercury can be safely recycled, they often just end up in landfills. There, mercury can be absorbed in the surrounding environment. And it’s not easily removed.

There’s currently no ban on mercury in landfills, but for the past few years the province has had a program that’s worked toward diverting mercury from ending up in landfills. According to Efficiency One, the program has diverted 175 kilograms of hazardous mercury waste from landfills since 2015. In February of 2020, though, Nova Scotia Power pulled its funding from the program, effectively ending it.

Jennifer Henderson brings us the story of a mercury recycling plant that’s seen the amount of hazardous waste coming through its doors drop significantly since the end of the program. How significantly? According to the owner, the business has gone from operating on average at eight hours a day, five days a week, to just one hour every two weeks. In fact, the owner says it’s unlikely his business will survive as less and less mercury is sent in for safe disposal.

It all raises some serious questions:

How has the end of Nova Scotia’s mercury diversion program decreased the amount of mercury being safely recycled in the province? And what does more mercury in landfills mean for public health? What government action — at the federal, provincial and municipal levels — is the owner of a recycling plant calling for? Did the old mercury diversion program really help decrease the amount of mercury Nova Scotians are exposed to, or did it just allow Nova Scotia Power to offset more mercury emissions from coal-fired plants? When we demolish old buildings, why isn’t it mandatory to remove and recycle fluorescent tubes that contain mercury? And how do we ensure that, when mercury is sent to recycling plants, these businesses are truly disposing of it in a safe manner?

See what answers Henderson finds in her full article: Nova Scotia has mostly given up on recycling mercury.

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4. The Zane Woodford Council Roundup

Image from wikipedia.com

For a year now, the pandemic has combined two of humanity’s most painful inventions — video conferences and city hall meetings — into one giant ball of dryness.

Lucky for you, Zane Woodford, as always, is here to sift through it all so you don’t have to. Here’s everything you need to know from Tuesday’s Halifax Regional Council meeting.

Parking in the city

Since October, when peninsular Halifax and downtown Dartmouth brought in new pay stations for parking, municipal staff have been collecting data on their use. On Tuesday, staff brought recommendations for changes to these stations to council. Woodford reports on council’s reaction:

A parking pay station in Dartmouth in September 2020. — Photo: Twitter/@hfxgov

Following the recommendation in a staff report, council voted to amend an administrative order to set new “hourly parking rates that reflect actual time-of-day demand based on data” and remove the four-hour time limit for paid on-street parking.

The new rates are based on demand in specific zones and times of day, ranging from a high of $3 an hour to park near the hospitals and universities (Zone D) between 8am and 1pm, and a low of $1 an hour to park in any zone between 5 and 6pm.

Councillor Waye Mason also moved that staff make a report with recommendations and financial impacts for investing in projects that promote parking, such as more free parking and heavily subsidized parking spaces. While such measures could promote car culture over transit and active transport, Mason said businesses in his district wanted cheaper parking to increase business downtown. The motion became an amendment to the main motion, and it all passed unanimously.

Building a new beach in Cow Bay

Access to Silver Sands Beach in Cow Bay has been restricted in recent years by coastal erosion and a history of industrial excavation of sand. In June of 2018, Tim Bousquet wrote about the “short strip of gravel” the popular beach destination had become. People can still access the beach, but must do so by crossing a narrow strand of private property.

On Tuesday, following a staff report citing the eroding path to the beach and growing conflicts between local property owners and beachgoers, council voted to ask chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé to look into buying property “for an improved or alternative access.” The city would pay for that through its parkland acquisition fund.

Street lights

Last on the roundup — are Halifax’s lights too bright?

That’s what Coun. Pam Lovelace asked in a motion she brought to council, requesting “a staff report to review street lighting procedures and policies across HRM. The report should also include consideration to adopt a mechanism for street light removal and a policy on under- or over-illumination.”

Lovelace said she’s concerned about light pollution and energy waste. She believes there’s unnecessary, excessive street lighting that could be removed in Halifax to benefit the environment and quality of life for local residents.

The motion for a review of Halifax’s street lighting passed unanimously.

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Views

The day after 4/20

Photo: Sonya Yruel and the Drug Policy Alliance

While out for a jog yesterday I ran past a particularly pungent patch of pot smoke wafting from what appeared to be student housing. It didn’t strike me as anything unusual, although it was a bit more overwhelming than the average plume. It’s not an uncommon scent in my day to day travels around my neighbourhood.

It was only after I got home that that I realized the time and date — it was 4:20, on 4/20.

This was the third celebration of what has become the St. Patrick’s Day of pot: an excuse, based on some arbitrary social agreement, to get stoned in the afternoon, eat some cheese-covered tortillas and listen to Bob Marley.

When pot was finally legalized back in 2018, many argued it was safer than alcohol. Weed was a substance with multiple mind-numbing benefits, but none of the negative side effects connected with drinking. It was a magic bullet cure for anxiety, insomnia, and stress. The “wake and bake” method has even been touted as a cure for the alcohol-induced hangover — something weed also doesn’t give you.

The concept of cannabis as a consequence-free miracle drug is perhaps best encapsulated in this brief scene from the woefully underrated movie, Dewey Cox.

As legalization has brought potheads out of the clandestine corners of house parties and darkened basements and into the mainstream, cannabis has become more and more a part of the cultural furniture. Just as (for better or worse) alcohol is a pretty common sight at any Maritime gathering, now weed is taking a similar place.

It’s also become a coping mechanism through the pandemic. I spent a year living a block away from the cannabis store on Clyde Street. During the pandemic, the line would start forming outside about half an hour before doors opened and it would often stretch around the corner onto Brenton (to be fair, physical distancing did increase the length of the line).

The growing prevalence of cannabis in our culture and its ubiquity among people in my generation are, I believe, part of what why I didn’t connect the smoke I smelled yesterday afternoon to 4/20 celebrations. There’s just no novelty to it anymore. Seeing (or smelling) any number of people smoking up on a weekday afternoon isn’t anything out of the ordinary. Hell, some people do it right on the city street in broad daylight.

Full disclosure: I’ve smoked on and off over the years, fluctuating between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. It’s ranged from something I’d do once in a blue moon at parties (high school through most of university) to a practically-every-day habit (my two winters ski bumming in the Rockies). But no matter my usage, it’s something I never discussed much with friends or family. And I’ve become wary of how little we talk about the negative affects of the drug.

I’ve had times where I used weed just to relax, socialize or just blow off some steam at the end of the week. But I’ve also had stretches where it became a crutch — the thought of a long bus ride, or a movie or night out (or even in) while sober would become stress-inducing. And I’ve had friends who become incredibly irritable and anxious if they can’t remain constantly buzzed throughout the day.

I’m still all for legalization.

At it’s best, it’s the most relaxing recreational drug on the market. It’s an instant, easy hour of carefree bliss. Bad movies become great, boredom dissolves, everything is either hilarious or profound, you finally understand the dozen or so songs you originally thought should’ve been cut from the White Album… not to mention the physical relief it gives those suffering from pain or disease. It’s a communal drug — terrible for a pandemic — but otherwise beautifully fraternal, meant to be shared and passed around amongst friends. And, when it comes down to it, it can be satisfying way to turn your mind off for a while and just escape.

But it’s a superficial, unearned satisfaction, similar to the feeling we get when we distract ourselves scrolling endlessly through the feeds on our phones.

And the positive aspects of weed — no hangover, no nausea or spins, the ability (for many) to function at relatively full capacity while under the influence, the short time it takes to sober up — are also what make it so dangerous. The lack of immediate harmful consequences can lull you in, until you depend on it to make it through any activity, be it going to the beach with friends or doing mundane chores around the house.

It’s a naive idea, that there’s any substance in the universe that has no drawbacks, no potential for excess. When it’s used as a real-life soma, it can rob you of time, ambition and meaningful experience. It doesn’t matter that it won’t shut down your liver like booze or give you cancer like tobacco. There are still downsides, even if they aren’t potentially fatal.

The Examiner’s reported a few times on the dangers of using alcohol to cope with the pandemic (here and here) and I think the dangers of excessive drinking are pretty commonly discussed. I just want to make sure that, as we move farther away from a world where weed was wrongfully stigmatized, we don’t swing too far the other way and forget the more subtle harms of excessive cannabis consumption.

Photo: Elsa Olofsson, unsplash.com

In an article written for Vice in 2017, contributing writer Gabby Bess gave a personal account of her struggle to come to grips with how her pot use was affecting her day to day life. Although she was still functioning fine — working regularly, involved in a loving relationship — she found she wasted a lot of downtime at home, flaked on friends and lost out on a lot of meaningful connections through her smoking habits. I read it at the height of my cannabis use and it really helped me put things in perspective. It’s a great account of how a benign drug can slowly creep into your life and take over.

I’ll end by saying that, used responsibly, there’s nothing wrong with sparking a joint and relaxing on a commitment-free afternoon. I hope I don’t come across too preachy here. Like I said, a lot of this comes from personal experience.

P.S. Writing this, I’ve come to sympathize with the people who came up with those old anti-dope PSA’s. It’s pretty hard to do without sounding like a self-righteous, sanctimonious prick. Please smoke up if you like, just be aware of how it’s affecting you and don’t be afraid to have tough conversations with yourself and friends.

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Noticed

Here’s your daily dose of piffle.

My roommate has a large collection of old books that cover minute areas of Maritime and Nova Scotian culture. I like to flip through them now and then when I’m bored. The other day I stumbled on these two gems from an old English professor, Lewis J. Poteet.

Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

I spent a warm afternoon reading these South Shore phrase books (they’re only 50 pages or so each) on my deck and having a good laugh. Some phrases I’d heard before (Happy as a clam at high tide, using some or right as a substitute for “very,” etc.) but most I’d never come across. The books were written in the early 1980s, so I don’t know how many of these phrases are still in use. In the preface, Poteet says he compiled the terms mostly from things he’d personally heard and read around the South Shore, so they aren’t the most academic works, but they’re good for a laugh.

Below are ten of my favourites from the books. Let me know if you’ve heard any of them before, or if there’s any particular phrase you’d include when you think of the South Shore.

1 – Kanuttering – talking to yourself. Why isn’t this word used more often in everyday speech?

2 – Meringue storm – when the wind whips the waves into a foamy frenzy. Just paints a perfect picture of what it describes, in my opinion.

3 – Lunenburg champagne – rum. It just sounds so much more refined.

4 – Feeding the seagulls – getting seasick. A terrific euphemism if I’ve ever heard one.

5 – Shithawk – a seagull. (a pretty perfect nickname for them, I might add)

6 – Window party – a social gathering that gets so rowdy that people break windows and household furniture. I’ve attended one such party near Lahave, but I didn’t know there was a name for it until now.

7 – Pleasant as a basket of chips – someone who’s just an all-around good person. This one’s going into my working vocabulary.

8 – Snotlocker – another name for your nose. It’s not very poetic, but it certainly speaks for itself.

9 – Undress a chair for you – take away the clothes folded over your chair so someone can sit.

10 – Home – Nova Scotia. I don’t know why included that as a South Shore phrase. It’s not unique to the region, but it made me smile nonetheless.

Have a great day, Halifax — and everyone from Hubbards to Yarmouth, and everywhere in between.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting, with captioning on a text-only site

Thursday

Budget Committee (Thursday, 9:30am) — contingency date; virtual meeting, with captioning on a text-only site

Province

Wednesday

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm)

Thursday

Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm)


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Primary Health Care Learning Series (Wednesday, 12:30pm) — Zoom webinar; Maureen Coady will present “Informal professional learning in a community-based health education program: The transformative learning of one interprofessional team”, followed by Nicole MacKenzie: “Shared Decision Making: A Missing Link in Pediatric Pain Management?”

Untangling the atomic through nanoscale features that allow the outstanding mechanics of spider silks (Wednesday, 4pm) — Jan K Rainey will talk; Iris hopes there are no pictures of spiders.

Oral Health Is Health (Wednesday, 6:30pm) — Livestreamed via Facebook, this Open Dialogue Live episode features Dr. Tracy Doyle, Dr. Carolyn Mitchell, Dr. Brandon Doucette, and Dr. Mary McNally.

There is a direct association between oral disease and the social determinants of health, such as education, income, and geographic location. Disparities in access to care need to be investigated in all aspects of oral health care, including the allocation of resources, oral health care services usage, and the quality of services.

This Open Dialogue Live episode will explore current issues in oral health care faced by Canadians across the lifespan, from children under care of the government to aging populations in long-term care facilities.

Dr. Rebecca Affoo, Faculty of Health, and Shauna Hachey, Faculty of Dentistry, the co-leads of Dalhousie’s Healthy Populations Institute Flagship Project Putting ‘Oral Health is Health’ into Action, will moderate this session.​

Thursday

Tools & Techniques to Support Linguistic Diversity (Thursday, 11am) — interactive Zoom workshop:

Adult learning environments in Canada have become increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse over the last decade. Linguistic diversity in the classroom – whether that means different languages, dialects, and/or levels of comprehension across the same language –​ can pose new challenges to the way we serve learners and also open new educational horizons and possibilities.

In this interactive workshop, you will learn a range of techniques, strategies and tools to support linguistic diversity in your teaching, training or facilitation context, and more effectively achieve learning outcomes for learners of all linguistic backgrounds.

This workshop is ideal for anyone who works with adults and is looking for key skills to help support and leverage a wide range of linguistic capabilities in the classroom/workplace, including: Instructors, Faculty, Trainers, Facilitators​.

King’s

Wednesday

On Levity (Wednesday, 8pm) — 2021 Alumni FYP Lecture, with Elizabeth Edwards.


In the harbour

Halifax
04:30: One Marvel, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
05:00: Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
11:00: CMA CGM Mexico, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
14:00: Elka Hercules, oil tanker, arrives at Pier 25/26 from Saint John
15:00: Rosalia, bulker, sails from Pier 28 for sea
16:00: Budapest Bridge sails for Rotterdam
16:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, moves from Bedford Basin anchorage to Gold Bond
16:30: CSL Spirit, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
23:00: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from St. John’s

Cape Breton
13:00: Algoma Valour, bulker, sails from Nova Scotia Power Coal Dock for sea


Footnotes

-Here’s a bonus phrase from Poteet’s first book, with the definition written verbatim:

“Tallywagger – penis. e.g.: ‘See that skipper over there? He has a 14-inch tallywagger.’”

The book was published in Hantsport, which is not on the South Shore. But, if you’ve ever met a Hantsporter, you’ll understand how a publisher in that town might let that example slide…if not encourage it.

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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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  1. I can’t help but wonder how much interaction all the different police report committees are going to have with each other. It seems entirely likely that there will be overlapping areas of study and analysis. Would it make sense to have one big committee with several working groups? I mean… maybe not. Reports with competing agendas and possibly competing recommendations at the end seems like a perfect landing spot for a basket of excuses to not do anything.

  2. Good job on the cannabis story. It is REALLY hard to write about this without having people accuse you of being a Reefer Madness type. I think one good thing about legalization might actually be that some people stop seeing it as a cure for everything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made the exact same argument as you: I am in favour of legalization, but that doesn’t mean there are not problems, and it serves nobody to pretend they don’t exist.

    Oh, BTW, kids I knew from Ontario growing up used “Shithawk” also.

    1. I am glad it is legal just so hopefully weed loses some of its mystique. Who knows which way the causation goes here, but just about everyone I know who smoked a lot early in life didn’t do so hot later. I have no idea what cannabinoid receptors do but I’m pretty sure that they aren’t just for getting high.

      Thinking back, I think weed was mostly fun because it was illegal.

      I would be curious to know what % of accidents or criminal acts (DUI, assault, etc.) have to do with the combination of alcohol and cannabis. I believe it is quite high.

  3. I’m just going to keep on kanuttering (this is a great word that I’m now adding to my vocabulary) while totally ignoring the fact that yesterday was 4/20. That date never held much significance for me. I smoked weed in my early 20’s, gave it up before I reached 30 and don’t yet see a need for it again as I head towards 60. As for the parking meter issue, I too have see people having difficulty with the machines. Funnily enough, my sister was involved in the project that brought them to town – maybe I’ll share the comments with her. As someone who would rather see cars at the bottom of the priority list for any area in the city, I’m disappointed that once again council passed a motion that prioritizes less active forms of transportation. That’s my two cents for today. Back out to enjoy the sunshine I go.

  4. Honestly, I’d rather stay out of the downtown core than use that new parking meter system. So very disappointing. Sorry for the vendors who will be the losers here.

  5. I seem to recall that the city acknowledged that they were too bright before they even began installing them, but they had already committed to buying an entire city’s worth without doing any sort of pilot project/ trials beforehand.

  6. Parking: there needs to be a discussion of the ridiculous design of these parking pay stations. They are not intuitive and clearly have not been vetted for accessibility (the buttons are difficult to push, bank cards have to be swiped multiple times and “might” work, the screen is confusing and you need to stoop down to use it, etc). I am “able-bodied” and have been so frustrated that I would opt to risk getting a ticket. It is not just me, I have stood in line to use a machine where the users ahead of me faced the same frustrations. I know this is a minor issue in the face of a pandemic and climate catastrophe but come on Halifax. Other cities have parking pay machines that take mere seconds to use and are a convenience rather than an irritation. This is reminiscent of the thankfully altered plan for Transit to implement large size tickets–why do technological improvements in Halifax have to be a step backward?.

    1. Darrell,

      I agree about the kiosks: terrible,

      if you have a smartphone, I’d encourage you to use the HotSpotMobile app. It’s fantastic! You can top it up without subscribing to the service (slightly more expensive this way), but no lineups (you can pay in your car!), easy to use, AND you can get your time back if you come back before your meter expires.

      C

  7. ” are Halifax’s lights too bright?”

    100 times yes. The streetlights are obnoxiously bright. I suppose I could get better curtain (I do sometimes sleep with a sleep mask), but really do they need to be as bright as they are at night? If I can read a book in the middle of the street at midnight, they’re too bright, My guess is it will start to play havoc with animals as well