News

1. For the first time in Nova Scotia election history, all the candidates in one riding are Black

In Monday’s Morning File, Tim Bousquet introduced readers to the Examiner’s newest reporter, hired through the Local Journalism Initiative, Matthew Byard. Byard (whose last name coincidentally rhymes with “hired”) has been brought on to cover African Nova Scotian communities in HRM and across the province.

Byard’s first article for the Examiner, published Tuesday afternoon, covers an historic first for the province.

“For the first time in Nova Scotia history,” he writes, “there is a riding in the upcoming provincial election where all of the candidates for MLA are Black.” Byard continues:

In the riding of Preston, which encompasses Nova Scotia’s most predominantly Black community, Angela Simmonds (for the Liberals), Archy Beals (for the PCs), and Colter Simmonds (for the NDP) are all vying to replace Liberal MLA Keith Colwell, who has served four terms as the riding’s MLA since 2003.

Colwell, who was the riding’s sole white candidate in the last election, announced that he would not be reoffering earlier this month, just two days before it was announced that Angela Simmonds would be running for the Liberals instead.

It might surprise a few Nova Scotians that this is still uncharted territory. Especially for an area like Preston, which has the highest population density of Black people in Atlantic Canada. Still, it’s worth noting that the riding of Preston contains more than just the community of Preston. The riding itself is still believed to contain more white voters than Black voters.

Read Byard’s first full piece here to find out more about the individual candidates, as well as Byard’s take on what a field of Black candidates could mean for African Nova Scotian issues — “topics such as Afrocentric education, racism in the justice system, racism in healthcare, specific allegations of racism toward RCMP and municipal police forces, racism within municipal services, any specific correlation between racism and the hot topic of mental health and mental health services, or even racism in of itself beyond general talking points” — in the upcoming election. Particularly in the riding of Preston.

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2. In other campaign news…promises of a toll-free highway, rent control, and rebates for buying local

Premier Iain Rankin on the campaign trail. Photo: Liberal Party

Tuesday was day four of the official provincial election campaign in Nova Scotia. Jennifer Henderson has the latest news from the trail in her roundup from yesterday. We got new election promises from three of the major parties.

Liberals

The Liberals added to their list of “if re-elected” commitments. (As the Examiner has been reporting, the Liberals have been in a de facto campaign for the past six weeks, in which time Rankin’s government “spent more than $300 million on promises that included a fleet of electric buses, $10 per day childcare, multi-use recreational trails for many communities, and upgrades for nursing homes, firehalls, and hockey arenas.”)

The latest Liberal promise: doing away with the tolls at the Cobequid Pass. At least, doing away with them for passenger vehicles belonging to Nova Scotians. Truckers and all other drivers from out of province will still pay the toll. According to a Liberal spokesperson, the plan to remove the tolls in October would mean the province would forego about $2.25 million in revenue, about half the total revenue from Nova Scotia’s non-commercial motorists during a non-COVID year.

As Henderson reports, removing the tolls could prove popular with voters in the area: “This ought to help [Cumberland North Liberal candidate Bill] Casey win votes in a constituency that belonged to Progressive Conservative Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin before she got tossed out of that party for helping organize a protest that shutdown the NS-NB border.”

I can’t believe it took me until this morning to realize the irony of the name McCrossin in that story. Smith-McCrossin is now running in that riding as an independent.

Progressive Conservatives

Tim Houston’s PCs announced they’re prepared to offer rebates for Nova Scotians who choose to buy local products. Consumers would receive points that could be redeemed at stores partnered with the government — or on government services themselves — when they buy products with a local label on them. The idea would be to give Nova Scotians 10% off local food products and 3% off the pre-tax price of all other products made in the province.

“[Nova Scotians] are rewarded for shopping local and local producers receive the benefit,” Houston said Tuesday. “As a result, more money will stay right here in our province, while ‘food miles’ are reduced ensuring a more sustainable, environmentally responsible way to shop.”

NDP

Left to right: Halifax Needham candidate Suzy Hansen, NDP leader Gary Burrill, and Garry Williams. Photo contributed

As for Gary Burill and the NDP, the party promised that, if elected, rent controls will remain in place permanently, even after the COVID-19 induced State of Emergency expires.

“There are currently more than 122,000 people who rent homes in Nova Scotia and they deserve better than living in fear of the next rent increase that will force them from their home,” said Burrill, who in addition to leading the party is a candidate in Halifax Chebucto. “The housing shortage is also getting worse in rural communities, leaving people at risk of homelessness or being forced to pay more rent than they can afford.” 

The promise goes against a May report from the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission that recommended against long-term rent control as one possible solution to the housing crisis. The report argues “rent control can suffocate supply and divert investment away from residential rental units, leading to deterioration. When rental rates do not keep pace with the cost of maintenance, building operations, and renovations, this disincentivizes housing providers to preserve existing affordable units.”

PLANifax released a simple breakdown of the rent control issue at the start of the week. Check it out for a beginner’s guide to the pros and cons of the concept. (Don’t be deterred by the opening line that says “rent is a beautiful thing.” There is no way of looking at rent that will make me think it’s beautiful. Necessary, maybe, but never beautiful).

As for the rest of Henderson’s roundup, there’s also a quick look at the PC candidate in Annapolis, and some violent online comments of hers that are resurfacing. As well as a dispute she’s currently in with the Environment Department over material at a landfill site she owns that may have been buried without authorization. Get all the details on that, and more, in Henderson’s full article from Tuesday. 

3. Council news: Changes coming to landfill at Otter Lake

A worker operates conveyer belts in the front end processor at Otter Lake in a photo in a slide deck included in the staff report to council. — Photo: HRM

Zane Woodford is off this week so Tim Bousquet has the city hall beat today:

Halifax councillors yesterday voted to make a fundamental change at the Otter Lake Landfill. The dump operators and a triad of consultant reports say the change won’t make any difference besides saving money, but critics say it could lead to increased smells, birds, and varmints and affect nearby neighbourhoods.

At issue are the Front End Processor (FEP) and Waste Stabilization Facility (WSF), which the municipality has been trying to shutter for years. Zane Woodford reported on this on July 5 — (even when he takes a holiday, Woodford still gets his city hall reporting into the Wednesday Morning File):

When garbage trucks pull up to Otter Lake, they dump their loads onto the floor of the FEP. The waste then goes through stages of sorting. First, big bulky items, recyclables, and things like gas cylinders and batteries are sorted out, and then the larger material goes directly to the landfill and smaller material goes to the WSF for stabilization. In the WSF, the smaller waste is aerated and turned for 15 days, and then sent out to the landfill as low-grade compost.

The process came from the 1995 Integrated Waste/Resource Management Strategy, adopted by the municipalities that later became HRM — Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, and Halifax County. That strategy was focused on composting, and led to HRM’s green cart program in 1999 — one of the first in North America. It also set the parameters for a new landfill in response to the community concerns from the last dump, along Highway 101 in Sackville.

Now, back to Bousquet:

At yesterday’s meeting, Andrew Philopoulos, the municipality’s director of Solid Waste Resources, told councillors that the FEP/WSF wasn’t necessary and might even be adding to, not reducing, odours at the dump.

Should the facility be closed and complaints about birds or odours increase, Philopoulos said that dump operators would make sure operations at the “tipping face” — where trucks empty their loads into the cell — are up to standards. For example, birds can be controlled with falcons, said Philopoulos, and operators can increase the dirt covering of new loads.

Philopoulos said that because the FEP/WSF will be on “standby” mode, if problems persist, they can be re-activated in a matter of weeks. He said they would be maintained in good working order for at least five years.

Bousquet notes that it’s unlikely any of the dump’s operations will close down long-term. In 2014, then-Provincial Environmental Minister Sterling Belliveau wrote a letter to the municipality saying that the province would not allow the facilities to be closed. And there’s reason to believe that Premier Iain Rankin, whose riding is Timberlea Prospect, and his father Reg Rankin, will use their influence to keep the dump running as is.

Read Bousquet’s full article here to find out why that is, as well as to learn more about what changes could be coming to the dump, and how they could affect the local wildlife, land, air and water quality surrounding it.

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4. COVID update

Graphic: Martin Sanchez/Unsplash

Not much to report here today. I’m never too upset about that.

Like I said, Tim Bousquet was off covering City Hall yesterday, so nothing new from our chief pandemic correspondent today. And no new COVID numbers were announced Tuesday due to a scheduled update to the provincial database. As of Monday, no new cases had been announced and there were seven known active cases in Nova Scotia. There are also no COVID briefings scheduled this week — a welcome mid-summer break to a year and a half of endless pandemic news.

The CBC did report yesterday that a second positive case of COVID-19 was found on board HMCS Halifax, the frigate whose crew, returning from a six-month deployment, had to remain on board the docked ship Monday after a first case was found.

The CBC reports what’s happening now:

The military said the two crew members who tested positive will quarantine by themselves for 14 days in military housing at Canadian Forces Base Halifax.

No other positive cases were found following the latest round of tests. Most of the remaining crew members were permitted to head home Tuesday, though they will have to isolate for a minimum of seven days and provide two negative test results.

Of those crew members, 23 are unable to return home to isolate for various reasons. They will quarantine instead at CFB Halifax.

For more information on COVID in Nova Scotia, head to the Examiner’s “FAQs about COVID” page or to Tim Bousquet’s regularly updated page for potential virus exposures on transit, cabs, and flights.

Below is the schedule for drop-in, no-appointment-necessary vaccination clinics.

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5. Who benefits from Atlantic Gold’s Nova Scotia operations?

Atlantic Gold Touquoy gold mine. Photo: Joan Baxter

Also, this story from Joan Baxter is out from behind the paywall today. So it’s available to non-subscribers now too.

Ever wonder who really benefits from Atlantic Gold operations in Nova Scotia? According to the public relations message, all Nova Scotians benefit. But the company paid no taxes to the feds or the province in 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020. Their employee wages are low. And their mines risk leaving behind a legacy of toxic tailings that will be with us for a long, long time.

Get up to date on the story by checking out Baxter’s June 21 article, Who benefits from Atlantic Gold’s Nova Scotia operations?

And if you think this is local reporting worth supporting, please subscribe or drop a donation here.

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6. Tell us your housing stories!

In addition to great resource reporting, the Halifax Examiner is looking to dive deeper into the housing issues that are plaguing the province right now.

We want to hear how you’ve been affected by the housing crisis. Did you have to move out of your community because of rising rents? Are you looking to buy a house, but finding yourself priced out of the market? Whatever the story, we want to hear more, so let us know.

The Examiner has a few ways for you to connect with us to share your housing stories, ideas, angles, or issues. As you may know, we’re working on a housing reporting project, and right now we want to hear from you. So, you can call or text us at 1-819-803-6215 or you can email us at housing@halifaxexaminer.ca.

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Views

Misinformation

Photo: unsplash

It took a surprisingly long time this morning to upload the photos in the Noticed section below, so I’ll keep my Views brief today.

I was listening to the New York Times’ Daily podcast yesterday while frying eggs. It was about the United States Surgeon General’s recent public address, saying that the online spread of misinformation had become a public health concern in the fight against COVID-19. Vaccination numbers have plateaued in the U.S., and the Biden Administration was placing a lot of the blame on conspiracy theories spread over social media platforms. Platforms they want to hold accountable.

The sizzle from the stove made it hard to hear what the reporters were saying, but at first I thought they’d said that the US Surgeon General had held a conference to say social media was now considered a public health concern for Americans. I had to skip back to make sure I’d heard that right. I hadn’t.

But it did make me think. 

I’ve been reading and watching some old Bo Burnham interviews this past month. I became more interested in his more recent work — I hadn’t followed him much since I was a teen — following his latest special on Netflix. (I recently highlighted one of his songs in another Morning File).

Between that special, and his discussions on internet culture and social media in his interviews, I believe he’s become one of the most articulate critics of the online world that we have today. Although he doesn’t criticize much specifically. Mostly he just questions whether the internet is being used in a way that’s actually serving humanity.

What he really does best is capture the feeling of living online. The anxiety and stress that comes with the pressure to perform all the time, to constantly express your thoughts and opinions lest you risk disappearing socially, but then having to live with everything you’ve ever posted living forever — all your mistakes haunting you, only a Google search away.

In many of Burnham’s interviews, he talks about the dangerous way the web has rewired our brains — it’s been written and talked about quite a bit, probably most famously on the Netflix doc, The Social Dilemma. How we often live our lives in service of our virtual selves and let our real world lives take second priority.

The speed at which the internet and its culture grows and changes doesn’t allow for much reflection. Children have to learn so much of it all for themselves, and by the time they’ve grown and had a chance to reflect on their relationship with the web, they can’t pass on much advice to the next generation because a few updates and new apps have made most of their guidance obsolete.

The internet is here to stay. And a lot of it’s been beneficial to society. You can get information instantly, communicate cheaply with people around the globe, pay your bills and do your banking from home. I work, get published and paid all online, so I can’t really knock it completely.

It’s removed so much of the friction of day to day life — maybe too much. Pumping the brakes on the speed of modern day life, news, and culture might be a good thing now and then.

All this is to say, when I thought I’d heard that the US Surgeon General had essentially given Americans a health warning against social media (which I reiterate, he didn’t) it made me think of a quote from Burnham in one of his interviews.

In it, he asks if we’re using the web in a healthy way, if it’s not just adding to our anxiety, stress and creating dissociative disorders in people of all ages.

He then asks how people will look back on the way we lived so much of our lives online. Whether we thought about the health risks. “It’s like the way we look back now on doctors who used to smoke. Maybe you’ll look back some day and be shocked that your psychiatrist had Twitter.”

I think of the internet more like alcohol than smoking. It has its uses, but there should be an established etiquette and set of regulations surrounding it.

What that etiquette and those regulations might be, God only knows. It’s a lot to reign in.

As individuals, taking time to reflect on how our own personal use of the internet is affecting our mental and physical health, as well as the way we live our lives, is a good start.

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Noticed

Vanishing Halifax

A drawing of Halifax from the Dartmouth side in 1969, by L.B. Jenson.

This week, I got back to the peninsula for my first real visit since the start of the third lockdown in April. I had a meeting in the morning, but I took the afternoon to get reacquainted with the city. Judging by the number of pits and cranes I saw around town —I know, I know, but it seems like it’s even more than usual right now — there’s no point in getting reacquainted with Halifax at the moment. So much of it’s going to look completely different in a year’s time. On top of the buildings undergoing demolition, development, and renovation, the financial impact of the pandemic will probably change the look of the city even more, as long-established businesses are forced to give up their leases.

I can see the Halifax I grew up with is moving further and further into the irretrievable past. A few years ago, as I saw the harbour view from the Citadel slowly disappearing behind high rises, all this change only made me bitter and sad. The city’s losing its character to cold condos and glass office buildings. Seeing the “future development” signs nailed to residences and shops along Spring Garden and Robie, warning of bylaw breaches and multi-storey buildings coming in to tower over small backyards, I’d look south toward Fenwick Tower and shudder. (I know it’s called “The Vuze” now, but an eyesore by any other name…)

In recent years though, I’ve become more accepting of the changing face of Halifax. (Although it’s not all good, so don’t take this as a blessing to go crazy, developers).

The new library is a shining example of a modern style, new build that’s become an invaluable part of the community. The construction of additional cycling lanes over the past year has made it safer and easier for many Haligonians to get around town quickly without driving — even if some of them look incredibly ugly with those bright green markers. The newly implemented parking system has removed the need to carry change everywhere or download yet ANOTHER app on my phone in order to park on the street without getting fined. In historic Schmidtville, my old home, where multiple condos are currently under construction and rubble and dust have become a key part of the neighbourhood’s character, things already look immensely different from when I moved out last summer. But I’m excited about some of the coming changes. For instance, Spring Garden Road — which is not a road at the moment — is getting wider sidewalks, as well as more greenery and seating. They’re even putting the wires underground there. (I didn’t even know that was an option in Halifax.) Improvements like these might lead me to go for a walk down Spring Garden even if I have no shopping to do. Normally, I’d avoid walking down it only slightly less than I’d avoid driving down it. I look forward to the new version.

I owe a bit of my newfound relaxed acceptance of the changing city to a recent find at my local book shop.

It’s called Vanishing Halifax, a collection of drawings by L.B. Jenson, published in 1969. The artist created it as a record of the Halifax he knew best. A Halifax he saw disappearing. Here’s what he wrote in the preface:

The old aspect of Halifax, unchanged for so many years, is vanishing. Lofty office and apartment towers arise from the rich heritage of Georgian and Victorian architecture… This collection of drawings is a record of some of the churches, buildings, houses, forts and vessels which have had a role, large or small, in the continuing progress of Halifax.

If he was a bit concerned about lofty towers and the disappearance of the city he knew, more than half a century ago, it’s not such a new problem, and I shouldn’t let it upset me so much (although the Cogswell Street interchange was constructed the year his book was published, so it’s not like his concern about the changing face of the city was entirely unfounded).

The other thing this book showed me was that — despite all the developments, designs and demolitions — so much of Halifax has remained in place for decades, practically unchanged.

It’s pretty cool to see, so I’ve compiled a few of my favourite drawings below, of Halifax as it was 52 years ago.

Let’s start with what looks the same…

The Old Town Clock. On the right, you can see the recently renovated clock faces and a National Historic Site sign, otherwise, the view’s the same. The view from the Citadel on the other hand…

Likewise, a house beside Government House is almost identical to  Jenson’s 1969 drawing, right down to the small, black marker that denotes the boundary of cannonfire — a sort of wartime splash zone, if you will — at the foot of the steps. Even the fire hydrant’s held on.

Some people get quite upset about the colonial roots of the Public Gardens. But whatever its history, you have to admit, it’s a charming bit of greenery to have in the middle of the city. And, as this side-by-side shot shows, its beauty is timeless.

Not only is the lion atop the Crimean Memorial the same, as far as I know, all the dead are still the same dead as in 1969. With this rental market, I wouldn’t give up a plot of land right downtown either. Even if I only used it to sleep.

And here are some places that look a little different…

Jenson calls the Bollord House on the corner of Dresden and Sackville one of the most beautiful pieces of residential architecture in Halifax. Maybe in 1969, but even based on his drawing, I’m not so sure.

It’s July 2021, the provincial legislature is dissolved and Province House is being held together by a cage within a cage. Other than that, things look about the same. It’d be nice if it looked a bit better for the election, wouldn’t it?

The Grand Parade now has a few ropes, a truck and a giant ad for the Bank of Montreal, but it’s pretty well stuck to its roots.

Maybe I should make my own Vanishing Halifax. It’d probably look like this in 2021…

Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

Some say that building’s vanished for good. I’m beginning to believe it…

And finally, I’ll leave you with Jenson’s drawing of Halifax from the old bridge in 1969. The only bridge at the time.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Audit Committee and Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am) — Audit Committee agenda, livestreamed on YouTube; Finance Standing Committee agenda available here

Thursday

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — live streamed on YouTube

Province

No meetings.


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: MOL Glide sails for Rotterdam
10:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
10:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
18:00: IT Intrepid, cable layer, sails from Pier 9 for sea
18:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Tampa, Florida
19:00: MOL Emissary, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
21:00: Atlantic Sky sails for New York

Cape Breton
16:00: Eagle Hamilton, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
17:00: Runner, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Armada Olombendo, an offshore terminal near Angola


Footnotes

Notes on summer heat:

  • The town in the Tim’s commercial is evacuating due to a nearby wildfire.
  • On Friday. When it was in the thirties with the humidity. And garbage day on my block. I thought it’d be a good time to get some fresh air and wake up with a run. I don’t know where my head was on that decision. Running isn’t all that enjoyable at the best of times, but that was something else.
  • I should have cooled off after with a cold watermelon drink at the Tim’s across the street. They say it tastes like watermelon smells. Maybe next garbage day.
  • I might just cool off with some post-second-dose chills tonight instead. Phase 5, here we come.

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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. Re “It’s like the way we look back now on doctors who used to smoke. Maybe you’ll look back some day and be shocked that your psychiatrist had Twitter.”

    Maybe. Or maybe we’ll look back some day and be shocked (or maybe just disgusted) that our liberal journalists presided over the destruction of free speech’s last bastion – aka the internet – by trivializing its significance; ignoring its critical role in providing platforms for analysis, debate and information available nowhere else; and spinning the frontal assault on dissent on those platforms by state-corporate interests as a reasonable attempt to impose “etiquette” and “regulations”.

  2. My housing story is quite simple – according to HRM detailed drawings for the Dahlia street bikeway , tender posted on Monday, our house built in 1917 does not exist and the house across the street at the western corner of Dahlia and Pine does not exist. The drawings are so detailed they show the guy wires for the power poles. I pity the man operating the snow plow next winter.

  3. Rankin and other candidates are being repeatedly cornered by proponents of the Save Owls Head park movement. They keep responding that the park was never really a park only on a list. That is of course false. It was widely understood to be a park, was listed as such and was put into the parks and protected areas plan following extensive research and public consultation. There was no consultation on the decision to delist it and sell it to an American billionaire for about $300 an acre ( imagine anywhere in this province you can buy waterfront property for that!). Bring this up with all liberal candidates and do not fall for the party talking point about “never was a park”. Have fun watching them squirm.

  4. My Halifax

    What have they done to you Halifax?
    My beloved little city by the sea.
    Have they razed and plowed you under
    In a mindless quest for modernity?

    Where are  the historic houses gone,
    Built of wood, sandstone and brick?
    All vanished, gone and lost forever
    A horrible heartless magician’s trick?

    Where are the serene and silent Sundays
    Enjoyed by heathens and holy the same?
    Stolen by that ancient and timeless thief
    That old demon, Progress be thy name.

    F.T. Foster

    1. I’m glad to have the query posed
      ‘Whither Halifax?’
      It’s gone to lovely St. Croix Cove
      The Asbestos and the rats

      Mercury and PCBs
      Washing down the slope
      Nourishment for local folk
      And vanishing Phoebes

      Come visit at your leisure
      See the Infirmary, raise a glass!
      See Cogswell overpass
      That Urban Treasure

      From complex machinations
      Your toxic waste is safely pent
      Protected by Environment
      To profit corporations

      http://www.annapoliswaterkeepers.ca