What a year.
Because our annual subscription drives are in November, this is the time of year when I look back and consider the growth of the Examiner and think about the future.
I started the Examiner in the summer of 2014, and it was at first a one-man operation. I was shocked at the initial response, the many people who subscribed before I even published a thing.
My aim was to put out Morning File every morning and try to get one more article published every day. For a couple of years that meant getting up at 6am, even when I was travelling to visit family (so, 5am in the Eastern time zone). In December 2014, I came upon the Glen Assoun story, and so I found time to work on that while doing everything else.
Subscription numbers continued to slowly rise, and so I started hiring freelancers, first to write Morning File occasionally, and then for stand-alone pieces. El Jones regularly contributed, looking at social justice and prisoner rights issues. Stephen Kimber, who has been commenting on the local political scene since the 1970s, began writing a regular weekly column. Erica Butler focused on transportation issues. Recently retired from the CBC, Jennifer Henderson started reporting for the Examiner on provincial and health care issues. Linda Pannozzo and Joan Baxter came onboard, producing in-depth investigative articles on resource issues. Still other contributors wrote less often. I also hired Iris, to take over the day-to-day administrative tasks.
I long ago stopped thinking of the Examiner as “me,” and began thinking of this project as “us.” The Examiner is now much larger than me, and much better for it.
In the summer of 2019, Glen Assoun was finally exonerated. The Examiner (with the CBC and the Canadian Press) went to court to get the court files in the Assoun case unsealed, and we prevailed. And then the CBC hired me to work on the Uncover: Dead Wrong podcast. I started working on the podcast about this time last year.
To free up my time to work on the podcast, we had three writers — Erica Butler, Philip Moscovitch, and Suzanne Rent — take over Morning File three days a week (Erica has since found work as a full-time reporter in New Brunswick, but Philip and Suzanne still take three days a week between them).
So by the end of 2019, everything was going swimmingly for the Examiner. We were a small operation, but plugging along. We were demonstrating what a subscriber-supported media site could do, and the Examiner was increasingly being pointed at as the new model for local news.
Then came 2020.
In March, COVID-19 came to Nova Scotia, and I decided that the Examiner would go all out to cover the pandemic, sparing no resources. We’d tap out the company bank account, max out the line of credit and credit card. We hired Yvette d’Entremont, and I figured the Examiner would be completely broke by May.
By the end of March, there was a small crew of us constantly writing about the pandemic, so much so that we sometimes began walking on each others’ stories. That’s when Philip suggested we set up an Examiner Slack account, so we could discuss with each other what we were working on, help each other out with story angles, and so forth. We were in more or less constant communication on Slack by the first week of April.
Then, on April 18 and 19, the mass murders occurred. Obviously, this was traumatic, an earth-shattering moment. But at the Examiner, it seemed as if we had been preparing for it. Immediately, we used our Slack to collaborate on articles, including articles naming the victims and building a timeline for the crimes, among many others. We had stories with up to eight coauthors. I can’t stress enough how much this was a team effort. Jennifer helped shape what our coverage would look like. Erica built a map and timeline. El used her social media skills to uncover new angles to the story. Joan plied her connections in the community to find interview subjects, and she and Jennifer separately drove around the province to get a first-hand view. Linda, Philip, Suzanne, and Yvette brought their reporting skills to the project and filled in details the rest of us had missed. The Examiner is a tiny operation, but our reporting was exhaustive.
And the summer never stopped, news-wise. Up through the middle of July, I was still working on the podcast. There were absurdly frantic days when I’d be going into the studio to do voiceovers, Jennifer or Yvette would be at the virtual COVID update, and Zane Woodford (who was hired in June) would cover the RCMP press conference about the mass murders.
The Examiner also joined a media consortium that went to court to get search warrants in the mass murder investigation. That’s still going on, and the Examiner is by far the smallest news organization in the consortium. Legal costs are so high that two much larger organizations — the Canadian Press and PostMedia — have dropped out, but the Examiner has remained in, at least for the time being. I’m going to court two or three times a month to watch the latest proceedings.
Now comes yet another big story: the lobster fishery. And the Examiner is doing what we can to provide in-depth coverage (see #1 below).
We’ve been able to do all this because readers came through with still more subscriptions, and even donations. I kept moving that “completely broke” date back a bit, to the end of July, then September, then, well, never.
So now the Examiner has three employees (not including myself), a group of six regular freelancers, and a handful of other contributors. They’re a fantastic group! We all seem to feed positively off each other. I know I am constantly learning from the group, and I’ve developed deep and respectful professional relationships with all of them. It’s truly rewarding.
And we can do still more. We are missing important stories because we don’t have the people and resources to cover them. There’s plenty of work to be done, but it requires more money.
The Examiner is entirely subscriber supported. There is no advertising revenue, no Soros money. It’s just a bunch of people in the community contributing a small amount every month. That’s it. That’s what makes this work possible.
So if you believe in the work we do, please become part of that growing group of subscribers and help us continue the work and to grow. Or, if you’re already a subscriber but want to help some more, consider dropping us an extra few dollars.
I appreciate it. We all appreciate it.
1. Arthur Bull
“To try to make some sense of the recent turmoil [related to the lobster fishery], I turned to Arthur Bull, who is currently an advisor to the World Forum of Fisher Peoples,” writes Linda Pannozzo:
Over the years, Bull has held positions as Chair of the Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia, Chair of the Nova Scotia Coastal Communities Network, and Co-Director of the Rural Communities Impacting Policy Project — and has been a stalwart advocate of the independent inshore fishery and its vital connection to the fabric that holds coastal communities together. He has also participated in a number of major, multi-year initiatives that were based on collaborations with Indigenous communities, including the Turning the Tides and Coastal CURA projects. As Executive Director of the Bay of Fundy Marine Resource Centre, he worked closely with Bear River First Nation (one of the founding members of the centre), on fisheries, conservation, alliance building, and learning circles. Bull has also been involved in the commercial fishing sector as Coordinator of the Fundy Fixed Gear Council, and President of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association.
This is a lengthy interview, but if you care at all about the “moderate livelihood” fishery and the violence around it, I urge you to take the time to read it.
Bull walks us through the history of the current conflict, shows how the interests of Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen are aligned, how peace and cooperation have worked in the past, and can be still be achieved, even now.
There’s lots of information here, but I was especially taken by this poignant moment:
AB: Well, in St. Mary’s Bay, after Marshall, there was a lot of fishing going on and there was such confusion and panic and the Reform Party was down here telling people they were going to lose their homes. It was just a terrible, toxic situation. So there were at least 600 or 700 boats tied up in Yarmouth, belonging to non-indigenous fishermen who said, “We’re going to go out and deal with this ourselves.” And they said to their leaders, “You got to meet with those chiefs and we’ll give you until our next meeting, later this week, and then we are going to go and do this.” These folks are deer hunters, and there were rumours about guns being present. Really scary. Really frightening. And so they said to their reps, “Go meet.”
There was no government there, no DFO, no media, no lawyers, no facilitators. They were in a little village outside of Yarmouth. There was no publicity or anything. We got there and two chiefs from this part of the province were going to be there, and one of them showed up and the other one didn’t show up. And we sat there, it was really tense, nobody was speaking, the tension was rising and finally in came Chief Frank Meuse from Bear River First Nation, with an eagle feather. He said, “Well, I’d like to ask a favour, if we could just pass this thing around and the person holding it will speak. But I’d like you to speak not for yourself, but for your grandfather, for your grandmother.” So the eagle feather goes around and everybody breaks down. People start to talk about their childhood, about poverty. It goes around and it’s very emotional. It comes back around and Chief Meuse says, “I’d like to send the eagle feather around again.” So it goes around again. Very intense. So, it takes a long, long time and finally it comes around and people get up and actually hug.
These are Sou’west Nova fishermen… not exactly what we were expecting, and somebody says, “Wait a minute, we didn’t talk about the fishery at all. We didn’t figure this out.” So we sat down and in about 10 or 15 minutes we figured the whole thing out: How many traps, how many boats, how would a buyout plan work? Basically, that was it, and then somehow Chief Frank Muise got a roll of paper towels and these colored markers and all together, we made this banner that said, “peace.”
Then they went to the meeting at the Yarmouth high school with all the fishermen there and Chief Debbie Robinson from Acadia First Nation went up on the stage, and got a standing ovation. So that moment was why there wasn’t shooting here, and that’s why there were 10 years of collaboration and common ground and not everything was perfect, but it was transformative and was needed. That wasn’t technocratic, it wasn’t even talking about treaties. There was a much deeper meeting of people.
Click here to read “In Search of Common Ground: An interview with Arthur Bull about the lobster fishery crisis in St. Mary’s Bay.”
Linda Pannozzo has worked on fishery related issues for many years, and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the current story. She teamed up with Joan Baxter, an indefatigable researcher, to produce the three-part “Lobster fishery at a crossroads” series on the the lobster fishery, and the pair continue to work on the story — we’ll publish another piece from Baxter very soon, and we’re looking at still more coverage.
Linda, Joan, and I have had long conversations about how to report on this story responsibly, without further inflaming the situation. I think that so far we have hit the right chord, stressing that the interests of Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen are more aligned than not, and that the moderate livelihood fishery is a minor issue compared to the larger looming threats to the industry.
I don’t know that any other media outlet can do this kind of in-depth reporting. Because there is urgency to the issues being discussed, and everyone should think about them, we’ve made the articles free for all to read. But of course it takes time and money to do this work, and your financial support makes it possible. Please consider subscribing, or drop us a donation. Thanks!
2. USA! USA! USA! (Canada! Canada! Canada!)
“On Thursday morning, as is my wont, I was reading “The Morning,” my daily email briefing of all the news the New York Times deems fit to digitize,” writes Stephen Kimber:
I was greeted with my usual cheery “Good Morning” from editor David Leonhardt, followed immediately by the cold slap of the latest global news headlines: “France and Germany impose new lockdowns. Hurricane Zeta hits the Gulf Coast. And not all virus outbreaks are the same.”
Still, I couldn’t stop my eyes from being drawn back to the day’s inelegantly titled lead item: “Where the Virus is Less Bad.”
Above the headline was an iconic 2020 back-to-school photo — a family of four, dad holding an infant, mom hand-bumping with a masked little girl, her pink backpack beside her, as they stood by the side of a road waiting for the school bus, all set against an unmistakable landscape of… wait for it. “Parents sent their daughter off to school in Prince Edward Island, Canada, last month,” the caption read.
In this item — about the reality that there are better ways than Donald Trump’s science-free, “rounding the corner,” “it will disappear” approach to the coronavirus — Canada was not just a random photo illustration. We were also graph stars
Click here to read “What is it about Canadians that makes us different from Americans?”
This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.
3. University enrolments
“The number of full-time students attending Nova Scotia’s 11 universities this year dropped by 2.9%, for a total of 39,619 students,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
The decline was more pronounced in this province than for the Atlantic region as a whole where full-time enrolment was down only 1.3%.
However, the number of international students who pay more than double the tuition fees Canadians do declined by 10.8%, which will create financial impacts at most but not all Nova Scotia institutions.
Click here to read “University enrolments survive COVID punch.”
This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.
4. Water fees for non-profit housing
“Nova Scotia’s Utility and Review Board says it has no authority to waive Halifax Water’s fees for non-profits building affordable housing, and those fees are likely going up,” reports Zane Woodford:
In a decision released Thursday, the UARB approved Halifax Water’s request to increase its regional development charge, or RDC. The RDC is meant to pay for direct sewer and water connections to the buildings, but also for the increased load on the surrounding system from new development.
Halifax Water applied last year to increase those charges significantly to finance its infrastructure planning. The water portion of the charges, which is currently $182.88 per unit for single-unit dwellings and $122.83 per unit in multi-unit residential would rise to $1,810 and $1,216, respectively. The wastewater charges would see more modest, but still 20%, increases.
Also included in the decision released Thursday is disappointing news for nonprofit organizations looking to build affordable housing.
For years, those nonprofits have identified the regional development charge as a barrier to the creation of below-market housing in the municipality.
The UARB has ruled it does not have the authority to waive those fees.
Click here to read “Utility and review board says it can’t waive Halifax Water fees for affordable housing.”
The weekend saw a worrying uptick in new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, with five announced on Saturday and two more on Sunday. Of the new cases, three are in Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Central Zone, two are in the Northern Zone, and two are in the Western Zone. Four of the cases are related to travel outside the Atlantic Bubble, and one is “related to a previous case.” The other two cases (announced Sunday) are still under investigation.
There are now 13 known active cases in the province.
I can’t be certain, but it appears that two advisories about potential COVID exposure issued Friday are related to the cases announced over the weekend.
The first concerns two flights into Halifax;
• Air Canada flight 7488 from Montreal to Halifax on October 25, 2020. The flight departed Montreal at 7:15 p.m. and arrived in Halifax at 9:50 p.m. Public health is advising that passengers in rows 21 to 27, seats D,E and F monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and call 811 for advice if needed.
It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on flight AC7488 may develop symptoms up to, and including, November 8. Those present on this flight but not in the identified rows and seats should continue to self-isolate as required and self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 until November 8.
• Air Canada flight 622 from Toronto to Halifax on October 27, 2020. The flight left Toronto at 6:40 p.m. and arrived in Halifax at 9:40 p.m. In this case, the passenger moved throughout the plane. Public health recommends all passengers on this flight monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days and call 811 for advice if needed.
It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on flight AC622 may develop symptoms up to, and including, November 10. Those present on this flight should continue to self-isolate as required and self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 until November 10.
The second concerned a restaurant in Debert:
Nova Scotia Health is advising of potential exposure to COVID-19 at Glenholme Loop Petro Pass Restaurant, located at 3376 Hwy 104, Debert, on October 25, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Anyone present at this location during this time are asked to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, November 8.
Mary Campbell points us to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) database on superspreader events:
I discovered this site the way I discover most interesting, COVID-related content, via a tweet — linking to this Global Investigative Journalism Network Article by Rowan Philip– from Toronto epidemiologist David Fisman.
The database includes a bubble map with a timeline of superspreader events [above], which allows you to watch them as they occurred in time.
The database features interactive bubble maps and animated timelines, and focuses on the settings of outbreak origins and their relationship to factors like the flu season. The project website warns that the 1,500 cases are just a fraction of the likely total of superspreading events around the world, and volunteers are being sought to grow the dataset.
He notes that the 1,500 superspreader events documented led to about 200,000 infections, that almost all occurred indoors, that none (to date) have been traced to “movie theaters, libraries, or theme parks,” but that:
At 7.6% of total cases, religious events accounted for almost 10 times the cases contracted from bars.
6. Death at the Sydney train station
Campbell’s blurb about the superspreader database is included in her regular Friday “Fast and Curious” column, which is always worth a read, but is especially poignant this week as she looks at a death in the abandoned Sydney train station and the media coverage that followed.
The train station has become a homeless encampment. While details about the death have yet to be released, the person was presumably someone without housing.
In particular, Campbell rightly questions a Cape Breton Post article published just after the body was discovered:
The Cape Breton Post, though, found a different angle on the story. Instead of focusing on homelessness, it attempted to open a discussion about the bright future in store for the building:
Something ‘new and exciting’ planned for derelict Sydney rail station | Cape Breton Post https://t.co/15R2zNS7Hw
— Cape Breton Post (@capebretonpost) October 29, 2020
The content of this story is almost as dubious as its timing, beginning with the chasm between the headline and its opening sentence:
Ambitious plans might [emphasis mine] be in the works for the derelict building located at the site of a former rail station in downtown Sydney.
[H]ow to explain the tone-deafness of the train station story?
Well, what if someone at CBRM decided a smart response to the unfortunate death, a way to get out ahead of the inevitable criticism coming its way for failing to demolish the building, would be a “good news” story about the train station?
Click here to read “Fast and Curious.”
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
No meetings today or Tuesday.
Trump or Biden?! Canada and the Repercussions of the U.S. Elections (Monday, 6pm) — this webinar will try to help make sense of it all. More info here.
Isotropy Groups of Quasi‑Equational Theories (Tuesday, 2:30pm) — Jason Parker from Brandon University in Manitoba will talk about this:
In , my PhD supervisors (Pieter Hofstra and Philip Scott) and I studied the new topos-theoretic phenomenon of isotropy (as introduced in ) in the context of single-sorted algebraic theories, and we gave a logical/syntactic characterization of the isotropy group of any such theory, thereby showing that it encodes a notion of inner automorphism or conjugation for the theory. In the present talk, I will summarize the results of my recent PhD thesis, in which I build on this earlier work by studying the isotropy groups of (multi-sorted) quasi-equational theories (also known as essentially algebraic, cartesian, or finite limit theories). In particular, I will show how to give a logical/syntactic characterization of the isotropy group of any such theory, and that it encodes a notion of inner automorphism or conjugation for the theory. I will also describe how I have used this characterization to exactly characterize the ‘inner automorphisms’ for several different examples of quasi-equational theories, most notably the theory of strict monoidal categories and the theory of presheaves valued in a category of models. In particular, the latter example provides a characterization of the (covariant) isotropy group of a category of set-valued presheaves, which had been an open question in the theory of categorical isotropy.
 J. Funk, P. Hofstra, B. Steinberg. Isotropy and crossed toposes. Theory and Applications of Categories 26, 660-709, 2012.
 P. Hofstra, J. Parker, P.J. Scott. Isotropy of algebraic theories. Electronic Notes in Theoretical Comp
Bring your own isotropy group.
Fire the Canon! (Tuesday, 4pm) — with Teiya Kasahara and Aria Umezawa from Amplified Opera. More info and Zoom link here.
Sound, Silence, and Ecosperimental Film (Tuesday, 6:30pm) — a program of short films and panel discussion with Dawn George, Lukas Pearse, Rena Thomas, and Sol Nagler asks how experimental film can be made in more environmentally friendly ways. More info and livestream link here.
Murder in the Library (until next Monday) — an online choose-your-own-adventure murder mystery, with prizes. More info and registration here.
Literature Reviews: Conducting and Crafting them for Maximum Effect (Monday, 7pm) — webinar info here.
In the harbour
05:00: YM Mandate, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
05:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
16:30: YM Mandate, container ship, sails for sea
18:00: Tropic Hope sails for Palm Beach, Florida
21:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
It won’t be a slow news week.
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It would seem that the UARB feels constrained by The Public Utilities Act. It would be, I assume, the Provincial Legislature that can amend that Act. So get in touch with your MLA about it.
If the UARB hasn’t the jurisdiction to to waive or reduce the regional development charge, who the hell does? The UARB is composed of 6 lawyers, 1 engineer and 1 accountant — all white. Why would they concern themselves with facilitating affordable housing solutions?
Margo, from my experience most government lawyers will look at ‘why it can’t be done’, rather than how can we accommodate a change that complements public policy. They are an extremely risk averse species…