News

1. Go with the flow: new attempt at tidal power to launch next year

Abandoned tidal turbine. Photo: Cape Sharp Tidal

Jennifer Henderson reports on a new effort to generate electricity using Bay of Fundy tides:

A renewed effort is underway to harness Bay of Fundy tidal power using a floating platform technology with six mounted turbines to capture wave energy. The Pempa’q In-stream Tidal Energy Project will build upon the knowledge gained during a two-year field test at Grand Passage near Digby where the PLAT-I produced 280 kW of electricity.

Pempa’q is a Mi’kmaw word meaning “rising tide.” The next generation of platform will involve millions of dollars of investment from global players headquartered in Germany and Scotland before the device is lowered into a berth at the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) near Parrsboro. The target date for deployment is the second quarter of next year, 2021.

You may recall that some recent efforts have not ended well, after the Bay of Fundy beat the hell out of the turbines. (“Beat to hell” is the technical term, I believe.)

Henderson writes:

Examiner readers will recall tidal projects like these require very deep pockets. Two separate turbines launched in the Minas Passage by a joint venture between Open Hydro (an Irish company acquired by a French defence contractor) and Emera were both knocked out of commission shortly after being deployed. The second turbine (designed to sit mounted on the ocean floor) is still there despite attempts by the NS Department of Energy to find a company willing to spend $4.5 million to retrieve it in return for berth space to field test their own turbine design. So far, no takers.

This new project takes a completely different approach. Read about it in Henderson’s story, which is for subscribers only.

Subscribing is easy! Just follow this link. $10 for one, or sign up with a partner and share a subscription for $15. There is an option for everyone.

How much is $10/month? As the brilliant satirical political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow says, $10, “for comparative purposes, is literally less than any common item or experience you can think of that would cost you more than $10!”

2. Restaurants are not likely to just bounce back

No more coffee shop meetings: According to a new survey report, fewer Nova Scotians plan to frequent eating establishments on a daily basis during the work week compared to before the pandemic. This is in part due to the numbers of people working from home, a trend that’s expected to continue and possibly grow. Photo: Andrew Neel

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage free.

Yvette d’Entremont reports on a new study showing that the effects of the pandemic on (surviving) restaurants is likely to be long-lasting. As in, years. That’s not just because of fears of eating out, but also because the rise in people working from home means fewer trips to coffee shops and lunch spots.

She writes:

“This will force urban cores to redefine how they accommodate retail businesses, including food service, and so if you’re a coffee shop in downtown Halifax you’re probably going to see fewer brainstorming meetings, fewer chats over coffee, fewer business lunches,” said Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois, the report’s lead author.

“It’s much harder to generate business when people are staying home. What it means is that the food service industry will look very different in a year or two from now.”…

“I do believe that people will want to congregate physically and meet up over coffee. That’ll continue. We’re social beasts, and you can actually bring in the best tech possible but I don’t think you can replicate that. But if you’re a restaurant owner you’ve got to think about how to get to people living either in HRM outside the peninsula or even more remote locations.”

d’Entremont digs into a lot of the numbers in the report, and the implications for the restaurant business are not pretty.

I think my family have actually eaten out in restaurants more than usual in the last couple of months. (We rarely eat out, mind you.) That’s because we want to help keep some of our fave local businesses going. With only one exception — the cavernous Taste of India, in Charlottetown, where our table was probably 20 feet from the next closest set of diners — all those meals have been outdoors. I suspect the winter is going to be a lot harder on the industry.

d’Entremont’s story is a good one, and I encourage you to read the whole thing here.

3. GW’s very odd day: Who gets a speeding ticket for driving “1-15 km/h” over the limit?

From a traffic ticket issued to the Nova Scotia mass killer on Feb 12, 2020

Paul Palango continues to dig into the events leading up to the April 18-19 murders in Colchester County. In his latest for the Examiner, Palango takes a close look at one particular day: February 12, 2020.

On that day the killer, who the Examiner refers to as GW, had a run-in with police outside his downtown Dartmouth denture clinic. It’s probably a safe bet that most people want to stay out of Frank magazine (though being excoriated in its pages can also be a point of pride). But GW not only called Frank, he persisted, insisting they run a story on how pissed off he was with the cops. Later the same day, GW was pulled over on a little-travelled rural dirt road and given a ticket for going barely over the speed limit.

I’ll turn it over to Palango:

On the surface, at least, it certainly appears that GW is truly unlucky or that the police had it in for him. Yet the question remains: what truly innocent person advertises their run-ins with the police? Who wants their name publicized and attached to a speeding ticket for all the world and insurance companies to see?

GW did. But why? Was there a method to his madness?…

On February 12, the day of GW’s two known and public run-ins with the police, the RCMP was in the process of making arrests of more Hell’s Angels and their associates in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The first arrest of an unnamed biker was made on Feb. 17 in New Brunswick, the same day the Frank article was published about GW’s problems with the police. The arrests continued for the next seven weeks, a highlight being a raid on the Red Devil’s compound on Alma Crescent in the Halifax neighbourhood of Fairview. Not much is known about the details of that raid to date, which is unusual. If GW or anyone associated with him was suspected of being the rat, then under the Hell’s Angels code his life expectancy was automatically shortened significantly.

Palango also looks closely at the very odd speeding ticket given to GW. Police don’t tend to be huge sticklers for details. Have you ever read a police media release? Or read a police report? I’ve seen names spelled three different ways in one report.

But the inconsistencies Palango points to in the ticket are in the realm of the truly weird and hard to explain. And he details how attempting to get an explanation (or even the most basic facts) from the RCMP continues to be an exercise in futility:

Why won’t [Nicholas Andrew] Dorrington, [the officer who issued the ticket], say publicly what the Feb. 12 ticket was all about? How is it Dorrington was issuing a traffic ticket on an obscure gravel road in an off-the-beaten path part of the province just at shift change on a crappy, snowy day? And if it really was just a routine traffic ticket, why not tell us that? Even just telling us what he remembers about GW’s demeanour and attitude might be useful. But by saying nothing about the ticket, Dorrington and the RCMP are simply feeding speculation and engendering distrust.

Palango raises a lot of questions worth considering. You should read the whole story.

Even though this story is free to read, please consider subscribing so we can continue to bring you the kind of in-depth reporting you have come to expect  from the Examiner.

4. A teacher imagines what her COVID classroom and school day will be like

Bicentennial School in Dartmouth closed abruptly in the spring because of the pandemic. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage free.

Primary/Grade One teacher Lalia Kerr has written a great piece about what the school day may be like for her and her students come fall. I cannot emphasize enough how good this is — it is an exercise in walking through the day and trying to imagine how it will all run with a bunch of four- and- five- year-olds.

Kerr teaches at Three Mile Plains District School in Hants County. She’s taught these grade levels for a decade, so she knows what she is doing. But when it comes to this fall, she’s not so sure:

My greatest preparation strategy in any year is mentally walking through a day and seeing if it feels like it will work, anticipating the problems areas, balancing doing enough and too much (don’t want to overwhelm the little ones in their first days back, for sure) and looking for places where I can improve.

My problem is, I have trouble picturing a COVID-era classroom — because none of us have ever seen one and the plan, to me, doesn’t address the many questions I have about the day to day nuts and bolts.

Kerr then takes us through those nuts and bolts in great detail. Here’s a sample:

So, the first children arrive, come in, and take off their masks. I’ll have ziplock bags attached to the sides of their tables into which they can put their mask, and a dishpan under their chair where they can put their lunchboxes and water bottles. One at a time (someone will be in the room to supervise) they can take their coats and backpacks to the hooks crowded together in the back corner, and hang them up.

Then they return to their chairs. Usually I’d have toys in ‘center areas’ to amuse them. Now, with no sharing, I suppose they sit in one area and ….I’m not sure. Color a picture? Play with a few math manipulatives? Have a few toys at their table?…

I think we will need to start washing hands for snack. I have a sink in my room so I can have them come up one at a time and wash. That’s going to take a while though, so I assume I’ll just let the others colour or play with the few toys I put in their dishpan. As their hands are washed they can start snack. They will need to open their own things and then put their garbage at their table. I can circulate with the garbage can after I finish supervising handwashing and have them scoop garbage into the can. If I don’t worry too much about sorting the trash at this stage, just sue me or judge me. I don’t really care.

Please read the whole story.

I spent last week camping in PEI. (It was, for the most part, wonderful.) We were there with family, spread over three different campsites at PEI National Park. The group included six children, ranging in age from seven to 16. Watching them, I got this sinking feeling about what school is going to be like this fall and the challenges of trying to maintain any sort of COVID-19 awareness.

Let me be clear that these are all great kids. And most of them were closely related, so there was no expectation that they would maintain distance from each other. So I’m not in any way being critical or judging them.

But I was just watching them and thinking about how kids act. You can tell a group of them to make sure they have washed their hands before a meal, but unless you ask each one individually, odds are there will be one or more who haven’t done it. It’s not hard to ask six kids individually. It’s harder to make sure 30 are properly washing their hands. Younger kids put their fingers in their mouths all the time. Kids share toys. They share lunches. They are built for contact. (I can’t tell you how many times as a visiting writer I’ve had a child launch themselves at me and give me a hug while I stand there awkwardly; maybe this is one of the reasons writer visits will be online this year). They think in immediate terms: I’m thirsty, your glass has water, I’ll drink some.

Are they really going to sit there, not reaching over to the next desk, while each child separately walks up to the sink to wash hands for a full 20 seconds? Is nobody going to grab a tempting treat from someone else’s lunch? And what about all the sitting still? Classrooms have a lot more options in them now: desks, yes, but also chairs that lightly bounce or rock, exercise bikes, stools — all kinds of seating for kids who have a hard time being at a desk all day long. What happens with those alternatives now? Do they get sanitized over and over and over again? Do the kids maintain careful distance as they travel to and from them? Or is the alternative seating just going to be removed?

You can mitigate a lot of these issues with design. Put desks far enough apart, and you’ll cut down on casual contact, for instance. Arrange kids within a school into cohorts, as PEI plans to, and you can somewhat reduce contact among different groups within a school. But it’s hard to imagine that, despite the efforts of teachers like Kerr and others working hard on this, it will all go smoothly.I am not saying we should not open the schools. I would not pretend to be informed enough to have an intelligent opinion on this. Like Kerr, I just found myself trying to think it all through (albeit in less detail than she did) and feeling demoralized about the whole thing.

5. Halifax’s Sexual Health Centre is overwhelmed

Photo: Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition / Unsplash

Shaina Luck reports for CBC on the strains increased demand is placing on the Halifax Sexual Health Centre.

Luck writes:

The Halifax Sexual Health Centre is appealing to the province to inject more funding into the charitable organization, saying the clinic has reached an “unsustainable” level of demand partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Realistically, we are at capacity. So if we want to look at sustainability over the next two, three, five years, we can’t do it currently,” said the centre’s executive director Kate Calnan…

“What we’ve been observing is that we’re filling up within a morning for an entire month. So then we’re telling folks, okay, give us a call in a month’s time and we’ll try to book you in for the next month. And that first day, the phones are ringing off the hook,” Calnan said.

Sexual health clinics offer a whole lot more than STI testing, and it’s shameful that these essential healthcare services are more or less hived off onto a non-profit doing the best it can.


Views

“You are responsible for your own safety”

Sign on a bathroom door at the Stanhope campground in PEI National Park. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

As I, uh, may have mentioned once or twice already this morning, we spent last week in PEI, where we camped at Stanhope, in PEI National Park.

I could share some lovely beach photos with you, but instead I want to talk about bathrooms, design, signage, and the pandemic.

We’ve camped at the national park almost every summer for decades. There were a few changes this year, of course: signs about maintaining distance, some facilities closed, and no yoga on the beach or campfires. There were also changes in the washroom facilities at the campground. Comfort stations with two showers had one blocked off. When we arrived, all three sinks in the men’s room were available, but within a few days a wooden cover had been placed over the middle sink.

Men’s washroom at Stanhope campground, PEI National Park. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Masked cleaning crews came by more often as well, although the last cleaning of the day fell at either four or five o’clock in the afternoon.

But there were problems.

I realize this is just one campground with, presumably, limited staff and relatively low traffic. But it got me thinking about how many of our pandemic-related precautions are designed to give the appearance of doing something, when there are simple steps that could actually make a difference.

Regardless of COVID-19, it’s best to avoid touching washroom surfaces after washing your hands. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of having just washed them. You know those public health signs over sinks that tell you how to wash your hands? They recommend that you dry your hands with paper towel, use the paper towel to turn off the taps, then discard the paper towel and leave the washroom.

Can we do that in the bathroom pictured above? No. For one thing, the paper towel dispenser ran out most mornings. Although the bathrooms were cleaned several times after that, no more paper towel appeared. If you did manage to use paper towel to dry your hands (and turn off the taps) you could discard it in the wastebasket. This had a lid, so you would have to touch it. The wastebasket was also across the room from the door, which had a wooden handle designed to be pulled. I looked at this setup and thought of my interview with Lezlie Lowe about bathrooms. She said:

In any bathroom, you can touch the high touch surfaces. You just shouldn’t touch the door on the way out after you wash your hands properly, and you shouldn’t touch your face. And that’s basic infection control, which we should be practicing all the time.

In this particular bathroom, that’s impossible.

Worse, the bathroom features a hot (or, probably, warmish) air dryer.

Hand dryer. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

These are an infection control disaster. A Mayo Clinic Q&A puts it simply:

Avoid hand dryers.The reason for that is that they just increase the air circulation of the viruses, as that air ― either warm or not warm ― is blowing against your hands. That’s been well-demonstrated with other viruses.

Like temperature checks, half-hearted attempts at disinfection may actually do more harm than good, by leading to a false sense of security.

It’s fine to clean bathrooms more often, but more fundamental (and often cheap and easy) design changes are needed too.

I want to say a few words about signage too. You will note that the sign at the top of this item says, “Physical distancing is not possible in this facility.”

There’s also another sign on the same door. Here it is:

Another sign on a bathroom door at the Stanhope campground in PEI National Park. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

The sign says we should practice physical distancing (which the other sign says is impossible) and we should use hand sanitizer — which is not available.

The bottom of the first sign also has a phrase which I saw on signs over and over in the national park: “You are responsible for your own safety.”

Yes, we are responsible for taking precautions, but the idea that we are responsible for own safety is, I’m sorry, manifestly untrue. It’s individualistic, neo-liberal garbage. We are not responsible for our own safety, particularly in the context of a pandemic. We are utterly at the mercy of others. My safety depends on the person who is not feeling well staying home instead of going out to an event they’ve been looking forward to and don’t want to miss. My safety depends on proper ventilation in enclosed areas. My safety depends on those people crowding around the door I want to get through.

My safety depends on the behaviours of those around me in too many ways to list, and the safety of those I come into contact with depends in part on me.

Anyway, don’t use the hand dryer.


Noticed

The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. This image was used on the obituary for Joy A. Stevens. Photo: Shawn M. Kent, via Wikimedia Commons.

Joy A. Stevens passed away last week, at age 87. You probably have not heard of Stevens, who lived most of her life in Lexington, Kentucky.

I know of her only because I have a Google alert set up for “Peggy’s Cove”, so I get emails whenever the term turns up online. The Peggy’s Cove alerts sometimes are triggered by local news stories, but often they are from small-town US media. There are retirement community stories of trips to Nova Scotia (eg, We particularly enjoyed the typical fishing village of Peggy’s Cove), local columnists writing about their cruise vacations and day tours, and so on.

This is what I expected when I hit the link for the alert I got the other day, but instead it took me to Joy Stevens’ obituary. I was taken with the first paragraph:

Mom was born in the town of Colmar, a coal mining town which no longer exists. Grandma told the story that when Grandpa saw her for the first time, he said she looked just like a little bundle of joy. And that became her name.

There is nothing spectacular about Joy Stevens’ life, and no big revelation about a secret life, say, as an undercover spy. And her obituary is not one of those really clever ones about a guy who was a mean jerk, or a hypochondriac finally proven right (I loved that one).

Maybe it is my frame of mind at this particularly fragile moment in our collective lives, but I found something especially heartfelt and moving about this obituary and the way it captured Stevens’ life through particular family details:

-She could sew anything. Pleated draperies, perfectly recovered cushions piping and all, appliqué, cross stitch, knitting. You name it she could sew it.

-She was a great practical joker. You never knew what she was going to do on April fools day. Dead ants in the sugar bowl, unsweetened coffee in your ice tea glass. She glued little rubber frogs in the bottom of our milk glasses one time when Julie had a sleepover. Once she tied our bedroom door knobs together and left for work. We had to climb out the windows.

-She could figure out how to do any home repair task. Electrical, woodworking, she’d cobble (her words) a way to get it done.

-She could play the piano by ear. Name any song, give her a second, and she’d figure it out…

-Easter Sunday when we were little, Mom made matching periwinkle blue dresses with polka dot sleeves for the three of us. She also made Barbie clothes, an entire wardrobe for them.

And Peggy’s Cove? A visit there was the start of a lifelong love of lighthouses for Stevens:

After mom and dad divorced, she married Steve. She left her job at U.K. and they bought a motor home and traveled all over the U.S. and Canada. They particularly loved Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. She began a lifelong affair with lighthouses, visiting as many as she could. Anyone who’s been in her house has seen her collection. From lighted tabletop versions to clothing to notecards to everything in between, the lighthouse became her beloved symbol. They also loved house boating on Lake Cumberland, and spent many summers on their boat “The Fifth Amendment.”

A boat called “The Fifth Amendment.” That’s the one that protects citizens from the cops, ensures access to due process, and so on. I want to know more.


Government

City

Tuesday

Special Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, virtual meeting) — agenda here.

Province

No meetings.


In the harbour

05:00: Montreal Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Hamburg, Germany
11:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
14:00: Wilson Monsoon, cargo ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
18:00: Maersk Mobiliser, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from the Sable Island field


Footnotes

The Habs move on and the Leafs are gone. Some things are not terrible.

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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. McNeil/Strang have spent months instilling fear, panic and hysteria in the population with no apology and with no thought to the consequences. (I live in a rural area and early on I actually saw a person on a country road wearing a hazmat suit and mask and spraying a mixture on the post of their mailbox, presumably to decovid it. That is hysteria.)

    Personally, I do not want to go out in public or to town and be constantly reminded of disease, pestilence and danger. To not see human faces and to fell less than human. I will therefore minimize my commercial transactions. Who wants to sit in a restaurant trying to figure out who has Covid19 or who just flew into Halifax Airport from Houston? Was that a cough??

    But there are those without options and I pity the poor children who are to now be brought up in such an unnecessary environment. Danger, disease, death lurk in every corner.

    McNeil/Strang have not thought out the consequences of their actions. They shoot from the hip, short term thinking and ignore any potential long term consequences. There are other jurisdictions in the world who have taken a more reasoned, logical approach to the covid problem and are doing very well. Nova Scotians seem unaware there are alternatives.

    And, as affirmation of the above, the Nova Scotia Health Department’s Coronavirus site has been down now for three days at least on my computer. I am unable to get information about government policy during this “emergency”.

    1. I agree with much of what you said. I live in an urban area and have seen people walk into traffic to avoid me when I cough and/or sneeze (always into my elbow) while walking down the sidewalk. I have also had people insist that I should be wearing a mask while I am outside if I’m walking, for example, through part of Dartmouth Crossing. I walk most places I go and I do find wearing a mask extremely difficult, but I am still doing my best to mask up when I need to go inside a public place. I hate online shopping, so will still be going at least to the grocery store. When I put a mask on I tend to cough more often (I believe this is partly asthma and partly just the increased difficulty I have breathing through fabric when the humidity is, as it has been more often than not lately, at nearly 100% and, I’ll concede, a small part may be due to heightened anxiety as it IS more difficult to breathe). I have no intention of doing any shopping or dining out until such time as I can, once again, participate in these activities without a face covering and without people reacting negatively should I cough or sneeze.

      If Dr Tam is correct, this could be what we all have to endure for the next couple of years……I know many places that I used to enjoy may not survive, but I doubt the few dollars of discretionary income available in my limited budget will really make much difference. I ask everyone reading this to please be kind and show compassion to those around you as we all adjust to an ever-changing reality.

    2. ” There are other jurisdictions in the world who have taken a more reasoned, logical approach to the covid problem and are doing very well. ”

      Such as?

      The world was faced with a disease that we knew nothing about and consequently, perhaps, in some situations there may have been an over-reaction.

      In the case of NS, we have weathered the storm very well because of Strang & McNeil (who I do not like or support). Better our situation than northern Italy,or Florida, or the UK, or Brazil, or Texas, or .

      BTW, the site is working now. Can you still not see it? What’s the error or what do you see on your screen?

  2. I went camping recently at Blomidon Provincial Park campground. When I arrived at the campground facility to take my only shower of the trip, I found a sign posted on the door of the female bathroom saying “only one family unit at a time please,” rather than limiting it to just a certain number of people as mentioned above. I heard a woman and child inside, so I waited. When they eventually left, she said “oh, you could have gone in!” to me. I let a child go in ahead of me to use the bathroom, and then eventually got in for my shower. As I was showering and later washing my face at the sink other people came in and out, making little effort at social distancing. Every other bathroom stall was blocked off with pink tape and two out of the four sinks had those wooden blocks on them. There may have been a hand dryer, but there was definitely a paper towel dispenser, which was stocked in the early evening, but the paper kept jamming in the dispenser forcing people to touch it. I don’t really understand the point of having a sign saying “one family unit at a time” when most people ignore it, other than to say “look, we’re trying to promote safety!” Either enforce the rule, or have a free for all, because people are just gonna people. Side note, this is an amazing park.

  3. I’ve camped in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia using a tent, a tent-trailer, and a motorhome. It’s apparent that most campgrounds assume only the tenters are using the washrooms, and neglect them accordingly, assuming people roughing it in a tent are happy not to dig their own hole. That Stanhope washroom looks deluxe compared to many I have seen.