Welcome to Weekend File, with links to all the articles you might have missed last week. Jump to the days:
Monday, July 25
1. Will the mass casualty commission report even matter?
Last week, Examiner editor Tim Bousquet asked ‘What’s the point of the Mass Casualty Commission?’ In his column this week, Stephen Kimber offered a (slightly) more hopeful take. He says it’s too soon to know.
2. A quietly negotiated trade agreement with Indonesia is a bad deal for Canada
Through its subsidiary Paper Excellence, the giant Asia Pulp & Paper conglomerate already controls much of Canada’s pulp industry. The company is now suing Nova Scotia for $450 million, and the new deal will expose Canadians to even more corporate litigation before judges who are not appointed by elected governments. As Joan Baxter reported, it’s the latest “bilateral trade agreement” that threatens labour and environmental protections.
3. Morning File: Irving Shipyard wants to fill in a 13-acre chunk of the Halifax Harbour
Tim Bousquet recently learned about Irving Shipyard’s proposal to infill part of the Halifax Harbour. As Bousquet noted, the infilling would take place in the part of the harbour where the ships Imo and Mont Blanc collided in 1917, causing the Halifax Explosion. Irving’s giant shipyard building already blocks the view from the memorial in Needham down to the harbour. The infilling could be more erasure by Irving.
4. Halifax councillors consider letter in support of abortion access
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage may write a letter to the federal health minister “opposing any bill or motion that is intended to restrict abortion or reduce access to abortions in Canada.” As Zane Woodford reported, the letter was the idea of Council’s Executive Standing Committee and inspired by the “devastating decision” from the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. The letter still needs approval from Halifax regional council, though.
5. Owner of roller dome optimistic business will skate to success
Halifax now has an indoor roller skating arena that’s attracted a lot of older folks looking to get back into skating. Matthew Byard spoke to Shane Upshaw, the owner of Upshaw’s Roller Dome, about his new business, which he came up with during the COVID lockdowns. Upshaw told Byard he was tired of being in the house. So after searching YouTube videos on roller rinks in the US, Upshaw decided to open his own in Spryfield.
6. New awareness campaign encourages neighbours, friends, family to speak up about domestic violence
Suzanne Rent wrote about a new public awareness campaign based on a program created by researchers at the Western University in Ontario. The campaign, called Neighbours, Friends, and Family, includes four animated videos and three downloadable brochures where Nova Scotians can learn what domestic violence is and how they can help someone experiencing violence get help.
7. Federal, provincial governments pledge millions to preserve Nova Scotia co-op, nonprofit housing
The province announced $13 million in forgivable loans, split 50-50, to preserve co-operative and nonprofit housing units in Nova Scotia. Zane Woodford was at the news conference on Monday when the news was announced. The money will go toward preserving 145 community housing units in communities in Dartmouth, Wolfville, Sydney, Lower Sackville, and Halifax.
Tuesday, July 26
1. New mother and MLA Kendra Coombes isn’t allowed to attend the legislature virtually
When the emergency session of the legislature got underway this week, there was one elected member missing. Kendra Coombes, MLA for Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier, who gave birth via C-section just two weeks ago, wasn’t permitted to attend the session virtually. A legislative clerk recently conducted a poll of all 55 MLAs to indicate “yes” or “no” whether they would support Coombes’ request to work from home. But that request was denied.
2. Morning File: ‘The gymnastics of my mind’: Living with serious mental illness
Philip Moscovitch recalled meeting Philip Tétrault on a bench in downtown Montreal decades ago. Tétrault, who was a poet and subject of a book and documentary, died on July 14. Moscovitch wrote a touching and thoughtful story about what Tétrault taught him about living with serious mental illness and how we can improve our broader understanding of mental illness beyond marketing campaigns.
3. Some asshole broke into Halifax Public Gardens and vandalized trees
This story captured the attention and anger of the city and province this week. As Zane Woodford reported, someone broke into the Halifax Public Gardens overnight on Tuesday and vandalized 30 trees in the beloved park. Some of the damaged trees were more than 100 years old and the favourites of Haligonians and Nova Scotians’ memories. As Woodford reported, the suspect “girdled” the trees, removing a strip of bark from each one. Park staff and experts are still working to save the trees.
4. Crown heads roll
Jennifer Henderson had this report on the news that the CEOs of Nova Scotia Business Inc, Develop Nova Scotia, and Innovacorp are out of jobs. The province is consolidating five government agencies down to two. Then the news came out that friends of Premier Tim Houston would take on the CEO roles at the new Build Nova Scotia and Invest Nova Scotia. As Henderson wrote, Houston told reporters he’s “fans” of both entrepreneurs.
5. Dalhousie professor hopes symposium encourages Black students to consider studying STEM
Matthew Byard spoke with Dr. Afua Cooper, the principal investigator for A Black People’s History of Canada Project which hosted the Past/Future: African Canadian History, Arts and Culture in STEM Education symposium this week. Cooper talked about the goal of the symposium: to look at the ways in which Black history can connect with the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math.
6. Legislators vote to not increase their pay
The Houston government introduced amendments to the House of Assembly Act that will prevent MLAs from receiving pay raises recommended by an independent review panel. The amendments would also see Premier Tim Houston take a voluntary pay cut of $11,246.01. Jennifer Henderson had all the details on what happened in the emergency session.
Wednesday, July 27
1. Morning File: Behind the backlogs: waiting and waiting some more for health care
Ethan Lycan-Lang collected news stories from across Canada that demonstrate the struggles of the health care system. There are a lot of issues to be concerned about, but he focused on backlogs for surgeries, which aren’t unique to Nova Scotia and what it means to wait for a surgery. “The current state of the health care system, across the country, is deeply concerning,” Lycan-Lang wrote. “These so-called non-urgent surgeries can restore quality of life, relieve pain, and prevent future life-threatening operations.”
2. New Art Gallery of Nova Scotia project put on hold
In other big news this week, Premier Tim Houston announced the province was putting the new building for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on hold. The project, which was originally estimated to cost $137 million, was now projected to cost an additional $25 million. In a press release, Houston said “now is not the time” to build a new art gallery. Suzanne Rent had the details.
3. Halifax heritage committee recommends in favour of eight-storey addition to Stairs House
The Heritage Advisory Committee recommended in favour of a big addition to Stairs House. As Zane Woodford reported, the proposal from Summer Wind Holdings has been a long time coming. The proposal has been at the committee before to get approval on substantial alterations. This time, the committee was tasked with considering the actual development.
Thursday, July 28
1. The Tideline, Episode 89: Shakespeare by the Sea/Hamlet
To sleep, perchance to dream — in this humidity?! Shakespeare By The Sea’s production of Hamlet — its first staged tragedy since 2019 — opens on August 5, and director Drew Douris-O’Hara and the man himself, Deivan Steele, stop by the show before rehearsal to chat. Topics include: Climate change’s effect on outdoor theatre, the timelessness of Shakespeare’s most popular work, the failure of funding models in all times (not just during COVID), and the resilience of squirrels.
2. Chender, Churchill concerned shelving new art gallery may mean cuts, delays for other projects
Jennifer Henderson got responses on the province’s decision to put the new art gallery on hold indefinitely. Liberal leader Zach Churchill said “it was clear” shelving the gallery means the Houston government has no plan to deal with the pressures of inflation. NDP leader Claudia Chender, meanwhile, said she’d be watching to make sure the decision to cut the art gallery won’t be followed by other cuts impacting people who earn a living as artists and musicians.
3. Morning File: The perks of not waiting around for anyone
After hearing an interview in which two Nova Scotia women talk about their solo hiking adventures, Suzanne Rent wrote about her own solo experiences, including signing up for pole dancing (there’s a good joke in here). As you’ll learn, Rent said there are benefits in not waiting around for people to join in on your fun.
4. One of Premier Tim Houston’s ‘friends’ tapped to run Crown corp wants to infill Dartmouth Cove
Tom Hickey, one of the ‘friends’ Premier Tim Houston hired to take on running the province’s new Crown corporations, is also the owner of a company associated with the application to infill Dartmouth Cove. Zane Woodford had more of the details, and also spoke with Jill Brogan of Friends of Dartmouth Cove, who said the connections are a bit fishy.
5. Historical society hopes to restore cemetery in former Black community in Guysborough County
Suzanne Rent interviewed Chris Cook, president of the Guysborough Historical Society, about the work they’re doing to restore a cemetery in a long-abandoned Black community called Birchtown, in a remote part of Guysborough County. Cook said it looks promising that something will be done to preserve the graves and cemetery. “These folks toiled, lived, prayed, raised families, and nobody, regardless of who they are, should be forgotten,” he told Rent.
Friday, July 29
1. Valley hospital’s Team Lavender supports spiritual, emotional, psychological needs of health care workers
Yvette d’Entremont spoke with members of Team Lavender, a project launched at Valley Regional Hospital in January 2020, to help support health care workers dealing with stressful or traumatic events, and also with accumulated stress that builds up over days, weeks, and months. Team Lavender has been very successful at the hospital and, as d’Entremont learned, the goal is to eventually introduce it to hospitals across Nova Scotia.
2. Grants for seniors, gold mining, the premier’s ‘friends,’ and more from Question Period
Seniors who live on less than $37,500 a year will be able to apply for a $750 non-taxable grant from the provincial government. NDP leader Claudia Chender asked Premier Tim Houston about his ‘friends.’ And the premier talked about his support of gold mining in the province. Jennifer Henderson had the details from Thursday’s Question Period.
3. Halifax denies former Const. Brian Johnston sexually assaulted girl, but admits she complained to police in 2009
Zane Woodford had the latest on the case of a plaintiff who is suing the municipality and the federal government, alleging she was sexually assaulted by two police officers as a girl in the 1990s. In this report, Woodford wrote that while the municipality denies that a former Halifax Regional Police officer sexually assaulted a teenaged girl in the early 1990s, it admits the same person later complained to police about the officer fathering her child.
4. Morning File: Remember when Premier Stephen McNeil gave $5 million of our money to Sandpiper Ventures to help women-led businesses in Atlantic Canada? A lot of that money went to Vancouver and Winnipeg
Tim Bousquet wrote about Wayne Crawley and his connections to Unique Solutions, “the steaming pile of poo” that Bousquet has covered over the years. And he tried to track down what Sandpiper Ventures did with the $5 million of public money that former Premier Stephen McNeil gave them in 2021. “At least some of Nova Scotia’s public money isn’t going towards ‘innovation in the Atlantic region,’ but rather to shill plates and bowls in Vancouver,” Bousquet wrote.
5. Former football pro hopes to inspire Black youth with free camp in North Preston
Matthew Byard spoke with Micah Brown, a former professional football player, who founded BATLX, a football training and athletic development facility. On Saturday Brown is hosting a free football camp in North Preston where he hopes to encourage more kids to get into the sport. “I’m really passionate about this because I was that kid that if I didn’t know how to throw a football, I probably wouldn’t have got recruited to go to university,” Brown told Byard.
From our archives
Monday is Emancipation Day. Now a national holiday, the date honours the British Slavery Abolition Act, which came into effect in 1834, freeing about 800,000 Blacks from bondage. In 2021, Evelyn C. White shared her thoughts on how she’d spend the national holiday “Emancipation Day will also find me reflecting on the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and my recent sighting of a cardinal as it flitted about in my backyard,” White wrote. “Long abundant in the US southeast, cardinals have been extending their range northward for decades, according to The Audubon Field Guide. For sure, I’ve seen the birds with increasing frequency and, in homage to the stage name of the bodacious rap artist born Belcalis Almanzar, I’ve even christened one, “Cardi B.”
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