News

1. Complicated legacies

Lionel Desmond and his wife Shanna with then-infant daughter Aaliyah

“Was Lionel Desmond a victim of his war demons?” asks Stephen Kimber. “Or was he a villain, a perpetrator of domestic violence who murdered his own family? Or both? We may never know.”

Click here to read “Complicated legacies.”

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2. The danger of silence around STIs

Sexual health educator Rene Ross. Photo courtesy Sexual Health Centre of Cumberland County

At Halifax Today, Victoria Walton extensively quotes Rene Ross, executive director of the Sexual Health Centre of Cumberland County, on the importance of open talk about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Reacting to news of a syphilis outbreak in Nova Scotia, Ross says it’s important to talk about sexual health and STIs:

The sexual health educator says that her centre is working hard to get the conversation more out in the open.

“Many people will actually have at least one sexually transmitted infection in their lifetime. STIs are actually a lot more common than what folks think,” she explains.

As with mental illness, there’s a lot of talk about stigma, but stigma is only one barrier. You need to actually be able to get treatment — something Ross acknowledges:

“We have no dedicated walk-in clinic. It is a very very long wait if you do have a doctor to get in to your doctor,” explains Ross. “Two of our walk-in clinics have closed within recent months, and we know that even in the city this past week the STI clinic at the VG hospital had to turn people away.”

Ross says patients from Cumberland County travel to Halifax frequently for services, and that she has referred others to New Brunswick, and to outpatients at the closest hospital.

3. More on hospital parking

Photo: Jennifer Henderson

More from the annals of hospital parking. Brent Kelloway at CBC has a story about a man who keeps getting parking tickets while he’s at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre, receiving chemotherapy:

MacDonald said there are only 10 parking spots available outside the centre, but they are usually full.

He said he usually parks his vehicle in a no-parking zone close to the cancer centre because he is too weak to walk farther…

“You’re giving a $25 ticket to a cancer patient that’s suffering financially,” he said.

MacDonald said he’s already struggling to pay for extra medication and supplies for his treatment, and finds it hard to believe he’s also being penalized for parking while undergoing treatment.

More on hospital parking in the Views section, below. I just want to reiterate, though, that when it comes to the proposed Halifax parkade I have seen nobody, except for two or three people on Twitter, argue that there is no need for adequate parking at the hospital.

I find it interesting that hospital parking is such a flashpoint. Charge too much and you are putting an unfair burden on sick people and their families. Charge too little and you’re subsidizing parking for people who may not be even visiting the hospital.

4. Surprise! Banks being jerks again

Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash

Yvonne Colbert has another of her consumer service pieces up at CBC this morning, this time about people unwittingly paying thousands of dollars for credit card insurance they never asked for.

The story focuses on 79-year-old Dartmouth resident Sheila MacIsaac, who checked her credit card statements after seeing a CBC story on credit card insurance. Sure enough, she’d been unwittingly paying a monthly fee for the service, even though she didn’t want it.

The part that really interests me about this story is what MacIsaac then had to do to get redress. Colbert writes:

She went to her local branch, but staff there referred her to Visa, which in turn sent her Assurant, the company that handles RBC’s credit card insurance claims. She was told they’d “look into it.”

She said she subsequently received a call from a woman named Beverley at Assurant who played a recording of a call previously made to MacIsaac in which the salesperson was trying to sell her the product.

“It was me, years ago, talking to some man telling me all the benefits of balance protection and you’ll hear me saying, ‘Oh, I see,’ but that’s not saying I signed up for it,” MacIsaac said.

MacIsaac winds up having to go back and forth with people who don’t seem to particularly care about her case. Then she goes to CBC. After that, RBC refunded her nearly $4,000.

Some time ago, Tim pointed me to Michael Lewis’s Against the Rules podcast. I found the episode called The Seven Minute Rule particularly striking.

It starts with Lewis trying to sort out a mess after someone applies for credit in his name and then defaults. Lewis then goes on to talk to other people being screwed over by financial institutions whose processes seem designed to ensure it is as hard as possible to get restitution if you’ve been wronged.

At one point, Lewis is sitting at the police station and thinking about how much time and energy he has spent on straightening out his credit because of the irresponsible actions of banks and credit card companies. He’s done absolutely nothing wrong (except fail to shred his statements) and he’s the one paying the price.

It’s easy to tell people to be aware and so on, but if saying “I see” to an agent is enough to get you signed up for useless insurance you don’t want, awareness is not going to do much good.


Views

Paul Vienneau and visiting Bengal Lancers horse Ben at the winter picnic protesting the proposed new hospital parkade. Photo courtesy Paul Vienneau

Last Friday, Andrew Rankin of the Chronicle Herald reported on Liberal MLA Labi Kousoulis’s view of the site of a proposed seven-storey parkade and power plant. The piece of land, between the Wanderers’ Grounds and the Museum of Natural History, was basically useless in its current state, Kousoulis implied:

“The area we’re talking about, nobody uses it,” said Labi Kousoulis, who represents Halifax Citadel-Sable Island. “When I drive by there nobody is sitting there having a picnic.”

When I saw this quote on Twitter, I pointed out that my partner and I had had a picnic there last summer before catching a Halifax Wanderers game. I’m sure we were not the only ones.

Someone came up with the idea of holding a winter picnic on the site as a way to protest the plans and connect with other people opposed to the parkade and power plant. On February 1, about two dozen people turned up.

Winter picnic outside the Museum of Natural History. Photo: Jillian Banfield

Jillian Banfield was one of the attendees. She’s well-known in cycling circles as a bike advocate. She works for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, at both the VG and Infirmary sites, in anesthesia research, and says she and her co-workers have held team meetings in the threatened green space. Banfield says she attended the picnic because

I saw the response on social media from people being against this plan. The community is against this for so many reasons, and I wanted to show my support for that…

I got there a bit early on my bike because I heard from a couple of people who wanted to attend that their kids had afternoon nap times. Around 11:30 people started arriving with kids, and around noon it started to snow. These big flakes started gently coming down and it was just beautiful. People baked cookies and brought apples and sandwiches to share. People brought dogs, and there was a bunch of kids, and the novelty of a picnic on the first of February when it’s snowing was kind of delightful…

It was an opportunity to build community, and a great opportunity for me to talk to people. I’d never talked to anyone from the Bengal Lancers, and I learned about their program and how they are dedicated to the community…

It was pretty happy for a bunch of people pretty upset about something. There was a sense of unity against this proposal from different angles.

Paul Vienneau, who serves as an accessibility consultant for the municipality and other organizations, described the atmosphere at the picnic as “really cool.”

There were just citizens, people from the cycling community, people with kids, and the Bengal Lancers showed up. They had Ben the horse out for a walk to Ronald McDonald house and on the way back to the barn stopped in — 20 or more young girls and a couple of their leaders. They brought us all good luck horseshoes.

Banfield says she understands that not everyone is going to bike to work, and that people visiting the hospital need parking. But she also argues that doing more to encourage health authority staff to use bikes and buses will help reduce the need for parking. “We don’t even have an EPass for transit. It’s such low-hanging fruit.” (The EPass program offers discounted transit passes to employees, paid for through payroll deductions.)

She adds:

I absolutely support that we need parking, accessible parking, the best parking at the hospital. I interact with patients, and I know parking is one of the more negative aspects of the experience at the hospital… We need to listen to people who use that infrastructure. At the picnic, there were grandparents who came from Pictou county and were visiting their kids in the city, and I thought, this really is a provincial issue. I don’t expect them to cycle in from Pictou County, but why aren’t we figuring out what they need?

In that Chronicle Herald story, Rankin writes:

Kousoulis, who also serves as labour minister, said the city’s downtown already has plenty of green space, pointing to Point Pleasant Park and Citadel Hill, and that “he’s all in favour” of anything his “government can do to provide a world-class hospital for people to ensure we can serve them better.”

“For me, hospitals trump everything.”

That’s the problem with the kind of secrecy that has surrounded this project. No matter what the proposal there will be people who disagree. But at least you can have an open and informed discussion about it. You can’t do that with misleading architectural renderings, secret meetings, and seemingly take-it-or-leave-it proposals.

“There are people who say we need parking and have to expand the parking, and yeah, absolutely, but can we have some critical thought and engagement and problem-solving?” Banfield says.

Vienneau sees it the same way. In addition to concerns about damage to the neighbourhood through loss of green space, he’s also worried about accessibility issues. In order to get to the hospital, visitors and patients will have to cross Summer Street.

It almost feels like they are trying to push this through without consulting the public… The premier’s defence was the consultants OK’d it. The parking garage will be barrier-free and accessible, and the hospital will be barrier-free and accessible, but there’s a 100-metre hole between them.

The common is our common wealth as citizens, and that the province would just come in and want to take this land to put this on there bothers me as a citizen of the city. We are a creative species. Surely putting it where they’re planning to put it is not a creative solution. And this thing about Labi saying he never sees people there — land has value. It doesn’t only have value by dropping a structure that costs millions of dollars on it.

I have seen a few cycling advocates on Twitter argue against having a garage at all, but neither Banfield nor Vienneau took that kind of extreme position. Vienneau again:

A parking garage is really needed. It serves people from around the region. But right now the angle that concerns me is it’s going to be a barrier to getting to the hospital.

I support discouraging car culture. I mean, I have to own a car so I can work, and it’s not realistic to expect people from Enfield to take transit to visit sick relatives every day. Parking is needed and the location of that parking lot is really important to me. All this work is not just for us right now but for people over the next 30, 40, 50 years. Let’s not have to go back and spend a billion dollars later to fix it.


Noticed

Why wouldn’t you just sit here and drink bad coffee? Photo: Stephen Archibald
Why wouldn’t you just sit here and drink bad coffee? Photo: Stephen Archibald

1. Stephen Archibald goes for a walk

We all benefit when Stephen Archibald gets his car serviced. Back in July, he blogged about walking to Schmidtville while his car was at the dealer’s, noticing window boxes along the way.

This time, Archibald takes his Volkswagen to a dealership on Kempt Road for a recall repair: “apparently it could spontaneously careen down a hill.”

Instead of sticking around in a waiting room with “the charm of an airport terminal,” Archibald goes for a stroll, and as is his habit, takes us along.

He contemplates some of the Kempt road architecture, and finds delight in unusual places, before heading across “four lanes of speeding traffic” to visit the Fairview Lawn cemetery for the first time in 35 years. After that?

It was a shock to exit the peaceful and well-treed cemetery, and be confronted, once again, by this soulless landscape. Plant some trees, already.

Not Halifax’s best side. Photo: Stephen Archibald
Not Halifax’s best side. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Read the whole post here.

2. National perspectives

But what does John Ivison think?

Government

City

Monday

No public meetings.

Tuesday

Public Information Meeting – Case 22396 (Tuesday, 7pm, Lakeside Community Centre, 1492 St. Margarets Bay Road) — Ramar Developments Ltd., which is owned by Larry and Darrel Marchand, wants to build a 66-unit subdivision they’re calling Elm Grove (presumably, that means they’ll first bulldoze an elm grove), in Timberlea, next to the Brunello golf course. More info here.

Province

Monday

No public meetings.

Tuesday

Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place ) — CCH, 1588 Society, Bus Stop Theatre, and Eye Level Gallery Re: Funding for Community Arts Organizations.


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Woodwinds Recital (Monday, 11:45am, Sculpture Court, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — more info here.

 African Heritage Month 2020: Focus on Us Flag Raising and Launch (Monday, 12pm, Atrium, LeMarchant Place) — more info here.

Making it Count: Assessing the impact of the Decade for People of African Descent on policy in NS (Monday, 5pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — OmiSoore Dryden, El Jones, Councillor Lindell Smith, and Crystal Watson will discuss the N.S. government’s Count Us In report and its implications on policy-making efforts in Nova Scotia. More info here.

Renee Horton. Photo: reneehortonphd.com

The Power of Believing in Yourself: Reflections of a Rocket Scientist (Monday, 6pm, McInnis Room, Dal Student Union Building) — Renee Horton will talk, with entertainment by Eriana Willis-Smith, Lyris Daye, and more. More info here.

Tuesday

Robert S. Rodger Lecture Series (Tuesday, 7pm, McInnes Room, Student Union Building) — Ray Larkin will deliver the keynote address, followed by an panel discussion on governance featuring Julia Wright and Rohini Bannerjee. More info here, RSVP here.

ThirdYear Devised Theatre Project (Tuesday, 7:30pm, David Mack Murray Studio, Dal Arts Centre) — directed by Matthew Thomas Walker. Runs evenings until Saturday, with a sensory-friendly Saturday matinee at 2pm. $15/$10, more info here.


In the harbour

12:00: Elka Glory, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
12:00: Acadian, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Irving Oil
15:00: YM Essence, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
16:00: MOL Maxim, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
16:30: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 41 for Palm Beach, Florida


Footnotes

I am not a football fan, but I usually watch the Super Bowl with my neighbour and one of my kids. I didn’t even manage that this year though. Apparently Maritimers get together with friends to watch the game and eat donairs.

Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. what is being planned for the land the VG and Dickson buildings occupy? Put parking space there once those buildings are removed. Operate a shuttle.

    Stop using Common land for profitable items. Oh and of COURSE! The Curve Building opens this year! Where else are they going to park? Why, on Summer Street! Hospital staff and visitors, my ass. Let’s get the province to build it and then the condo dwellers will use it!

    *tongue firmly wedged in cheek. Not to mention all the fumes that will enter the museum from a parking garage towering over it. I know! Let’s move the museum!

  2. With all this talk about thoughtful design I really hope someone can come up with a better option than to have three crosswalks come between what is likely a very stressed driver and the emergency department. If it’s an emergency, why are we challenging stressed drivers with crosswalks often filled with those who move at a very slow pace. Why? Do we not already have enough patients being treated there?

  3. I find it very distressing that a parking garage, no doubt with a multi-million dollar price tag and constructed maybe a decade ago is now to be demolished to make way for new clinical services. The Nova Scotia Health Authority and its predecessor incarnations have known for far longer that the old Centennial and Victoria Buildings will need to be replaced. Where is the long term plan for all of these facilities? We cannot be investing precious and already inadequate resources in such an ad hoc fashion. As for the current government’s pledge to operate with transparency – don’t get me started!

  4. Cover the “Commons” (both of them) with sports facilities used by a minority of the population and no one says boo. Decide to use a couple of hundred square meters for a parkade to access a hospital that will be used by *everyone* and people go apesh*t.

    Talk about weird priorities.

    Especially since the parkade could be used by Wanderer’s fans, Lancer’s users, and Commons’ users (all of who would use it when the parkade would be less used by hospital needs). And parking for those “facilities” IS a problem.

    1. Your straw man fallacy aside, since so much of the Common is used by sporting facilities, it’s even more important to preserve what little unprogrammed space is left.

    2. I don’t and will not use the parkade so please stop with the everyone will use it BS.

      The Commons is there for passive and active recreation. Perhaps if more people used it for such (and there are MANY people who do) there would be less of a need for expanded hospitals.

  5. “I mean, I have to own a car so I can work, and it’s not realistic to expect people from Enfield to take transit to visit sick relatives every day.” If we had a real transit system (like elsewhere in the world) you would want to take it to get into town.

  6. There are solutions for the parking situation around hospitals. They just need people who have experienced the trials of daily, weekly, and extended visits to find those solutions with professionals who aren’t objecting to any and all input like the NS Liberals appear to be.

    The cost of parking for people receiving cancer treatments in Halifax is offset by a 50% discount, done by inserting a second ticket in the pay meters. These discount tickets are obtainable only by patients from their clinic for scheduled appointments or from the site manager with a signed approval from the clinic caring for the patient. Anyone using the parking for convenience would never have access to these discounts. If that is available in Halifax, it should be available at every hospital in the Province. One might suggest, flat discounted and open rates, depending on who is using the parkade.

    At the Dixon, a cluster of parking spaces are marked as reserved for patients. Normally, the patients recieving treatments and assessments are not strong enough to walk great distances, so these spaces are a welcome site. There are also 2 hour limited spots in and around the VG entrances. At the IWK, daily and weekly passes are available at a discount. It should also be known, expressed to every patient, that any and all hardships in paying for parking, etc is a problem that multiple organizations are looking to help with. These services should also be available at every treatment centre.

    The expansion at the QEII has been designed in secret, by a secret contractor, and remains secret. In my opinion, if it is foolproof, unchangeable, and the very best possible design, it would not need to be a secret and parking would not need to be down and across the street. My thought is that the designs are a secret because there are many aspects that are not well thought out or best alternatives, or there is a lack of confidence in whether it is indeed good enough, right enough. Maybe a friend of the Liberals was given this immense and honourable opportunity, and it is feared the criticism may create real needs for a redesign and a delay in proceeding with a P3 commitment. Maybe the design doesn’t support the profound costs. The secrecy nurtures suspicion.

    Every hospital to date, has been designed with onsite parking because it is necessary. Not because it is optional. And the existing parking garage at the QEII, is a relatively newer structure. Serving the ER and clinics. The ER has been recently renovated and expanded, so is it being moved and rebuilt again? One would have to make their way much further than just crossing the street to access these sites. They are on the opposite side of the hospital. We could save money by leaving it intact, and building another smaller than proposed garage elsewhere within the footprint of the new expansion. Staff parking could be segregated.

    For such an immense project, there has to be room early in and throughout the process for scrutiny and collaboration. What I see happening is a massive list of change orders creating incredible delays and huge additional costs. There is room and time for further thought.

  7. Why not put the parking lot on Summer Street near the intersection with Jubliee Road. No one would have to cross a busy street to get to the hospital – it could have a direct connection, and the green space (which has value even if no one uses it) can remain.

  8. Yay Picnickers! There is a definite movement for letting our governments know that no one wants to lose more Halifax Common as another group is organizing a picnic scheduled for Sunday, Feb 9th at noon. Bring your lunch, meet people and take away your garbage!

    And just to be clear most people understand that hospitals need parking, what is missed is that Capital Health intends to tear down the existing parking garage on the Robie Street entrance. It’s less than 20 years old and the replacement is costing not just greenspace but $30 million. Why isn’t Capital Health keeping its infrastructure and building its buildings on its own land – They have obtained both the QEHS and the CBC-TV sites so there is lots of land.

    And what has Capital Health done in working with the city and province to manage parking demand? An integrated transportation strategy for the area would support other travel modes besides single-occupant private car and manage parking by plans, pricing, other restrictions, supporting public transport, cycling, walking and technological mechanisms. $30 million would buy 20 hydrogen buses. Its not rocket science, google hospital parking management.

  9. Stephen, always love your acute visual observations and agree that the urban landscape of Halifax seems to be on a downward spiral of neglect and shoddiness.

    Take for example the hundreds of stone block boundary walls falling apart around Pt Pleasant Park and Dal. Built as fieldstone walls (some inherited from original farm fields) they are falling apart with no visible maintenance.

    So too, with sagging power and cable lines (why not start a program of multi-use conduits under ground?) As well as missing or broken boulevard trees lost over many years and not replaced.

    Please invite your readers to contribute favourite examples and locations and shame the city!

    1. Has anyone been out to visit the Bedford “west” development which is sprawling on both sides of the KearneyLake/Uteck Road….power poles …everywhere…..this development commenced in 2019, and is growing, growing….miles of overhead cables.

  10. We continue to import tanker loads of gasoline and diesel from Amsterdam and no doubt the ‘Elka Glory’
    will return in about 22 days.