News

1. Power back on after being cut for incident in South End

NS Power cut power to thousands of residents in the South End Monday evening due to an incident on Harbourview Drive, which runs parallel to the rail cut and NS Power transmission lines. The information from police, via CBC News, is that the public was never in danger and power was cut as a precautionary measure.

Fire officials told CBC News the request to cut power was made in case its rescue team had to be called in to assist police.

In an email sent later Monday night, Halifax Regional Police said the power was shut down to reduce the risk to all parties involved.

“The subject was on top of a … power tower which has very high voltage,” read the email, without further elaboration.

By 9:33 p.m., power had been restored across the city.

Just before 10 p.m., Halifax police issued another news release saying the incident on Harbourview Drive was resolved and the street had reopened.

2.  Liberals reject changes to emissions goals, despite nearly unanimous message from presenters at committee

Fridays for Future march along Brunswick Street, Halifax, May 3, 2019. Photo: Erica Butler

The Liberal bill to update Nova Scotia’s emissions targets has passed another legislative step. Bill 213 made it through Law Amendments Committee on Monday completely unchanged, even after 40 presenters asked the government to consider increasing the main emissions reduction target. According to news reports, many presenters echoed a request by the Ecology Action Centre to increase the Nova Scotia 2030 reduction target by another 5% off 2005 levels. The Liberal plan aims for a 53% reduction as compared to 2005 levels by 2030, while the EAC was pushing for 58%.

Coverage on the committee hearing highlighted the many youth presenters. Michael Gorman of CBC News reports:

Julia Sampson was at Province House on Monday to remind MLAs that they hold her future, and the future of all of Nova Scotia’s youth, in their hands. 

“You are deciding whether or not you will fight for my ability to live, to grow old and to have children. And right now, your plan isn’t good enough,” she said.

The 17-year-old Citadel High School student was one of 40 people who presented to the legislature’s law amendments committee on Bill 213, the Sustainable Development Goals Act, which sets out updated environmental goals and emissions targets.

Almost uniformly, presenters Monday said the bill doesn’t go far enough and it doesn’t act fast enough.

“We need guts. Greta has thrown down the gauntlet,” said Geoff LeBoutilier, referring to climate activist Greta Thunberg.

3. Two arrested and charged for violent attack

According to CBC News:

Two men have been charged with assault and weapons offences after a man was sprayed with ignitable fluid and lit on fire Monday night outside the Salvation Army building in central Halifax.

Halifax police were called to 2044 Gottingen St. at around 8:30 p.m. after a 47-year-old man sustained minor injuries when the fluid was briefly ignited. He was taken to hospital for treatment and is expected to recover, police said in a news release.

4. Halifax RCMP officer charged with domestic assault

According to a news release from the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), the independent unit has “laid one charge of assault against Cst. Darren Michael Simpson, a 51-year-old member of the RCMP.”  The release continues:

On October 27, a 911 call was received by police dispatch about a complaint of domestic assault. RCMP Halifax District responded to the location and arrested a male member without incident.

In accordance with the Police Act, the RCMP immediately referred the incident to the Serious Incident Response Team, which assumed responsibility for the investigation.

5.  Council to consider piloting free menstrual products in city buildings, even though they are already piloting free menstrual products in city buildings

City council will today consider a potential year-long pilot project to supply menstrual products in 16 different HRM facilities. If today’s recommendation is approved, city staff would then include the cost of the pilot in their budget planning for the next fiscal year, meaning the earliest it would happen, if approved in the budget process, is next spring.

Presumably the idea of the pilot would be to learn from the experience, and use the information to decide whether or not a rollout of free menstrual products (along with the free toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels already provided) is feasible in all city buildings. Meanwhile, there are already at least 14 city buildings with free menstrual projects in their bathrooms. For a while now all 14 branches of Halifax Public Libraries have been stocking small baskets of free tampons and pads in their public bathrooms, and absorbing the cost in their operating budget. But for some reason, city staff still think we need to pilot the service in another 16 city buildings.

The report on the proposed pilot outlines considerable costs: about $23,000 to install dispensing machines (instead of say, baskets) in each and every bathroom at the 16 facilities, and about $250,000 to refill those dispensers daily, assuming they were completely emptied on a daily basis. It makes one wonder if Halifax Public Libraries is currently taking a quarter million dollar hit to their operating budget too, or if perhaps these city staff calculations are a bit unrealistic and needlessly inflated.

Councillor Lorelei Nicoll is the impetus behind the current proposal, though in an interview with Haley Ryan of StarMetro, she expressed some concern about the limited nature of the pilot.

Nicoll said she’s happy to see that the proposed pilot would offer tampons and pads in male and female washrooms as well as gender-neutral ones where available, but is concerned that people who use these products will then be left confused by the patchwork nature of the pilot.

“You’re kind of countering your whole inclusive thing,” she said.

Estimates on how much women spend on menstrual products, on average, vary from $30 to $65 per year, per person.  Most calculations assume women are buying in bulk, which is not always possible if someone’s period were to arrive unexpectedly while, say, attending a meeting at City Hall on a Tuesday afternoon.


Views

1. Money Mart donates money to alleviate poverty, while its business model is built on keeping people in poverty

Last week my kid came home with a notice in his backpack letting us know that his school would be getting 175 new winter coats to distribute free of charge to all kids at the school.  The initiative is delivered by Operation Warm, a $25 million/year charitable outfit that manufactures and distributes coats to kids all over North America, in an effort to provide “warmth, confidence and hope to children in need.”

This particular effort, the notice told me, was being graciously sponsored by none other than Money Mart, a pay-day lender whose business model is based on offering short term, extremely high interest loans to people with no alternative sources of credit. In other words: they prey on poor people. And they make people poor, by trapping them into spiralling debt situations, with annualized interest rates in the hundreds of percent.

Needless to say, it’s disturbing that thanks to Operation Warm, Money Mart now has a direct marketing line to every family in my school community.

There’s plenty of good reporting on the impacts and dangers of payday loans out there. The Chronicle Herald’s Andrew Rankin told the story of a man who turned to Money Mart in order to make his car payment, and then spent years in a spiral that nearly cost him his home.

The Ellershouse resident managed to meet his car payment but he was also sucked into what turned out to be a two-and-half-year debt cycle. That $300 loan carried $66 in borrowing fees ($22 per $100), an insurmountable amount for a senior living on a meagre $1,400 per month (Canada Pension Plan) with zero savings.

Payday loans are big business in the province. From July 2017 to June 2018 in Nova Scotia there were over 200,000 payday loans issued, with a total value of over $100 million.

A payday loan currently costs $22 per $100 borrowed, which over a two-week payback period amounts to an annual interest rate of more than 500 per cent. Compare that to a typical line of credit with a seven per cent annual interest rate, or overdraft protection on a bank account at 19 per cent annual interest. A cash advance on a credit card generally charges 21 per cent annual interest.

This Global News piece tells another tale of an instance of need turning into years of mounting debt. Mary Campbell over at the Cape Breton Spectator has given a thorough look at the payday loan situation. This piece last year was prompted by the introduction of an NDP bill that aimed to have the province guarantee small short term loans through credit unions, as a way to provide a safer alternative to the Money Mart model.

2. Council to set transportation priorities without mentioning modal shift

Council’s budget committee (the whole council, but with looser rules to allow for more discussion) will meet today to discuss its “priority outcomes” for the next fiscal year, 2020-21. The discussion is meant to inform planning for the budget process soon to follow. Presumably, if council can properly communicate their priorities, then staff will present a budget that reflects them.

Which is why it’s worth scrutinizing the language used in this high-level document.

The priority areas include: economic development; governance & engagement; healthy, liveable communities; service delivery; social development; and transportation.

Transportation happens to be my jam, so let’s take a peek there. First off, despite council’s declared climate emergency, and despite the goals of both our Regional Plan and our Integrated Mobility Plan to reduce the proportion of trips being made by vehicles, there is no mention of this significant goal in the priority statements. Instead of supporting a modal shift (and the reduction in GHG emissions associated with such a shift), the transportation priority here specifically mentions “economic growth” (even though economic development is its own stand-alone priority area.)

And considering that council just approved the Integrated Mobility Plan unanimously in 2017, it’s puzzling as to why the priority goal for transportation is “to create a plan.”  Surely the goal is to implement the plan we’ve already created?

In terms of setting priorities, this document also fails to echo two other key elements that did make it into the 2017 Integrated Mobility Plan: a hierarchy of vulnerable road users and “Towards Zero”. Although pedestrian safety is specifically highlighted, instead of prioritizing the mindset-shifting concept that people who are most vulnerable on streets should receive the highest priority, HRM staff have doubled down on the vague concept of shared responsibility, as if kids and little old ladies are on equal footing with your average SUV driver. And there is no mention of the IMP’s “towards zero” goal, a sort of version of the Vision Zero philosophy being adopted in other jurisdictions.

If this is the high-level, priority setting document that will inform the budget process, I won’t be surprised to see another budget that underfunds the potentially transformational transportation projects that are ever-so-slowly unfolding in Halifax.


Noticed

A king tide in Portland, Maine caused some urban flooding on Monday. h/t @ryansnoddon


Government

City

Tuesday

Budget Committee and Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — Regional Council agenda here. Budget Committee agenda here.

Task Force on the Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and the Recognition and Commemoration of Indigenous History (Tuesday, 6pm, Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre, Halifax) — a facilitated conversation circle to discuss how the Halifax Regional Municipality should recognize and commemorate Indigenous history. RSVP here. More info here.

Wednesday

Public Workshop – Peninsula South Complete Streets (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Room 303, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — This project will apply a “complete streets” approach to improving conditions for all people travelling to and through the south end of the Halifax peninsula, with a focus on improving comfort, safety and convenience for people walking, cycling and taking transit. More info here.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21584 (Wednesday, 7pm, Stairs Memorial United Church, 44 Hester St., Dartmouth) — Application by Ekistics Plan and Design, on behalf of the property owner, to enter into a development agreement for an 11 storey multi-residential building on lands at 18 and 22 Rosedale Ave, and Floral Ave, Dartmouth. More info here.

Province

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — a per diem meeting.

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)

Wednesday

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 9am, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

When the Dust Settles: How Do We Hold People to Account After Disasters? (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1020, Rowe Management Building) —  panelists are Lori Turnbull and Kevin Quigley from Dalhousie University; Bruce Campbell from York University; Paul Kovacs from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction; and Jennifer Quaid from the University of Ottawa.

Natural disasters, industrial failures, cyber and terrorist attacks generate intense popular interest and scrutiny. These events raise difficult questions about whether or not enough precautions were put in place to guard against these events. Yet given the complexity of modern systems, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold people to account for failures: there are just too many people and organizations involved. In a highly interdependent setting, what should accountability look like and how do we achieve it?

Free, no reserved seating, live streamed here.

Forward, Upward, Onward, Together: A Cultural Evening in Support of The Bahamian People (Tuesday, 6pm, Dalhousie University Club) — from the listing:

Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas in September 2019 instantly devastating lives and communities across the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

The Dorian Relief HFX group is a Bahamian student and alumni-lead initiative, which has partnered with the SMU Humanitarian Relief Fund to present Forward, Upward, Onward, Together: A Cultural Evening in Support of the Bahamian People. All proceeds will support the Ranfurly Homes for Children in Nassau, Bahamas.

The Bahamian spirit is one of unity, vibrance and resilience. With the support of Bahamian artisans, Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s Universities, Dorian Relief HFX is excited to share a unique part of Bahamian culture. You can learn more about the event on our EventBrite Page.

From the Caribbean to Canada, we have all been touched by Hurricane Dorian. Please join us as we remember those that have been affected, whilst celebrating the strength and beauty of the Bahamian people.

Guided by the Bahamian Motto, we must move “Forward, Upward, Onward, Together”. ​

Tickets ($10 minimum) and donations here or at the door.

Wednesday

Noon Hour Saxophone Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, Room 406, Dal Arts Centre) — with students of Chris Mitchell.

Problematic publishing: The predatory, the deceptive, and the just plain bad (Wednesday, 1pm, Room 3018, Rowe Management Building) — someone’s going to explain

The academic community is increasingly aware of the problem of “predatory publishing” – few published authors have been spared SPAM emails from unscrupulous publishers soliciting contributions to their low-quality journals. Checklists and guidelines for ensuring the legitimacy of a journal abound; and while these provide valuable advice, they may also give a false sense of security. Between unassailable integrity and outright villainy is a grey zone of journals with poor or inconsistent quality control, difficult to distinguish from those more rigorous. Sometimes deceptive, sometimes simply bad, they pose a serious threat to the integrity of scholarly communications. ​

Angela Lee. Photo: Jane Doucet

Why “Frankenfoods” Need Feminism (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Angela Lee will talk.

Food production and consumption practices have significant environmental, social, and ethical consequences. As the world population grows, and appetites for animal products increase, new and emerging food innovations like lab-grown meat and genetically engineered animals are increasingly presented as “win-win” solutions to complicated problems like environmental degradation and global hunger. However, there has also been profound resistance to these kinds of developments.

A feminist perspective offers a different way of thinking about new food innovations and their relationship with the law, in an effort to better evaluate whether or not they can contribute to the building of a more sustainable and just food system for all.​


In the harbour

06:30: Seaborne Quest, cruise ship with up to 540 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Quebec City, on a 12-day cruise from Montreal to Miami, never to return until spring
09:30: Seven Seas Navigator, cruise ship with up to 550 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor, on a 10-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
10:00: Asian Majesty, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
13:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, sails from Pier 28 for sea
20:30: Seaborne Quest sails for Shelburne
21:30: Asian Majesty sails for sea
22:30: Seven Seas Navigator sails for St. George, Bermuda


Footnotes

King Tide?  More like Queen Tide, amirite?

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  1. So streets were closed and power was cut to 19,000 people for 90 minutes, but police won’t say why.

    I have a good idea why, simply from reading Facebook and Twitter, though the rumors I heard wouldn’t meet the standard for publication.

    I expect reporters covering the story know exactly what happened. Yet everyone seems fine with deferring to the authorities’ patronizing assurances: Move along folks. Nothing to see here.

    Are there no self-respecting news organizations left in Halifax?

  2. Predatory loan purveyors have no business at all entering our school system under whatever guise they may choose.

    1. or: Predatory loan solicitors have no business at all entering our City Hall under whatever guise they may choose. (Stadium Hustlers)

      Go (away) Halifax Moochers!