Reality Bites provides the best coverage of current affairs and political issues related to Halifax and City Council anywhere in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Oh, and we bring the snark, too. Contact news@thecoast.ca to send a tip.

Monday, August 19, 2019

New IPCC report flags diet and land-use changes to curb climate chaos

Suggests planting trees, eating less meat and reforming agricultural practices

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 4:56 PM

Producing 1,000 calories of beef takes 36,000 calories of feed, uses more than 430 gallons of water and 140 square metres of land and generates nearly 10 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Producing 1,000 calories of beef takes 36,000 calories of feed, uses more than 430 gallons of water and 140 square metres of land and generates nearly 10 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions
Land and agriculture are critical components in the climate crisis. According to a new Inter governmental Panel on Climate Change report, land use—including agriculture and forestry—accounts for 23 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions, while “natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to almost a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry.”

Simply put, the way we manage forests and grow, process and distribute food is contributing to climate disruption, but protecting and restoring natural landscapes will help absorb excess Carbon Dioxide.

Our footprint is huge. Climate Change and Land, by 103 experts from 52 countries, says human use directly affects 69 to 76 percent of ice-free land surface, and agriculture accounts for 70 percent of global freshwater use. It notes “the per capita supply of vegetable oils and meat has more than doubled and the supply of food calories per capita has increased by about one third” since 1961, while 25 to 30 per cent of total food produced is lost or wasted, all of which increases emissions. Changing consumption patterns have also created a world where two billion adults are overweight or obese while at least 821 million are undernourished.

The report examines food security, desertification, droughts, soil erosion and degradation, and solutions ranging from plant-based diets and sustainable animal agriculture to reducing deforestation and protecting green spaces. “Sustainable land management can contribute to reducing the negative impacts of multiple stressors, including climate change, on ecosystems and societies,” it says.

“Land already in use could feed the world in a changing climate and provide biomass for renewable energy, but early, far-reaching action across several areas is required,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the IPCC working group that prepared the report.

“Many land-related responses that contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation can also combat desertification and land degradation and enhance food security,” the report says. David Suzuki Foundation research shows protecting and restoring natural systems provides benefits beyond sequestering carbon and addressing climate disruption—such as reducing flood risks, filtering water, controlling erosion and more—at much lower costs than built infrastructure.

Some say the IPCC study doesn’t go far enough. Because governments around the world must approve its reports, they tend to be conservative.

UK climate writer George Monbiot calls the report “a tragic missed opportunity” that “shies away from the big issues and fails to properly represent the science.” His Guardian article questions the IPCC’s tendency to play it safe. “Was the fear of taking on the farming industry—alongside the oil and coal companies whose paid shills have attacked it so fiercely—too much to bear?”

Monbiot argues the report authors underestimate agriculture’s contribution to emissions by failing “to capture the overall impact of food production,” noting, for example, that producing one kilogram of beef protein uses an average of 1,250 kilograms of carbon—“roughly equal to driving a new car for a year, or to one passenger flying from London to New York and back.”

Rowan Jacobsen writes in Outside that developments like “Beyond” meat products spell the end of commercial beef consumption. He notes producing 1,000 calories of beef takes 36,000 calories of feed, uses more than 430 gallons of water and 140 square metres of land and generates nearly 10 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. “In comparison, an Impossible Burger uses 87 percent less water, 96 percent less land, and produces 89 percent fewer greenhouse-gas emissions.”

In Wired, Megan Molteni suggests gene editing crop plants with Crispr technology could reduce land-use pressure and fertilizer use, and make crops more nutritious and less environmentally damaging. “But it’s still early days,” she writes, “and the impact Crispr could have is not fully understood.”

International director and co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association Ronnie Cummins argues in the Independent that “regenerative food, farming and land-use practices” could “fix our climate, restore the environment, improve the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities and produce more nutritious food.”

Planting trees, protecting green spaces, eating less meat and reforming agricultural practices won’t save us from climate chaos on their own. But, along with reducing waste, increasing energy efficiency and conservation and shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy, they’re all part of the solution.

———
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor and Writer Ian Hanington.
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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

John Perkins says he'll see Atlantic Gold, RCMP in court

"I do not want people to think that corporations are legally permitted to make false accusations against members of the public in order to have them arrested and removed from public meetings."

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2019 at 4:58 PM

John Perkins after making his lawsuit announcement. - THE COAST
  • John Perkins after making his lawsuit announcement.
  • The Coast

John Perkins has filed a lawsuit against Atlantic Gold Corporation and
the RCMP after his hasty caught-on-video arrest at a public information session on mining in Sherbrooke this past May.

The information meeting was hosted by Atlantic Gold, whose plans to construct three gold mines in Nova Scotia put them at the forefront of this province's new frontier in gold mining.

Two months after the incident Perkins told The Coast, “my physical injuries are pretty much healed. My emotional, cognitive injuries are still an issue” He says he can’t bring himself to watch the video of the incident, which has been viewed over 11,000 times.

Perkins, the founder of Sustainable Nova Scotia, says in a press release that he is standing up "to counter the chilling affect the arrest could have on public discourse about the environment: 'I feel strongly that it is my duty to hold them accountable for the injuries and harm they have done to me and to do what I can to stop this from happening again. I have done this because I do not want people to think that corporations are legally permitted to make false accusations against members of the public in order to have them arrested and removed from public meetings,.'"

In the world of Nova Scotia gold mining, as one government department spends millions to clean up polluted sites from previous gold rushes, another department’s involved in making the next gold rush happen. Globally, the price of gold is on the rise, and last week hit the highest it's been since 2013. Good news for those set to profit off the mining industry, bad news for the rest of us as gold's value "tends to rise at times of geopolitical uncertainty."

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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Deniers deflated as climate reality hits home

As it gets harder to deny the reality of climate change, ridiculous claims and agendas arise

Posted By on Thu, Aug 8, 2019 at 1:00 AM

"Those who continue to spread doubt and confusion about climate science are starting to look even more ridiculous with their many conflicting, insubstantial arguments."
  • "Those who continue to spread doubt and confusion about climate science are starting to look even more ridiculous with their many conflicting, insubstantial arguments."

Climate science deniers are becoming desperate as their numbers diminish in the face of incontrovertible evidence that human-caused global warming is putting our future at risk. Although most people with basic education, common sense and a lack of financial interest in the fossil fuel industry accept what scientists worldwide have proven through decades of research, some media outlets continue to publish inconsistent, incoherent opinions of people who reject climate science.

Over the past few weeks, Canada’s Postmedia chain has run columns denying or downplaying the seriousness of climate change, by Fraser Institute senior fellow Ross McKitrick, defeated politician Joe Oliver and fossil fuel executive and Fraser Institute board member Gwyn Morgan, who is also former chair of scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin.

McKitrick, an economist, has also signed the Cornwall Alliance Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which says, in part, “We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence—are robust, resilient, self-regulating and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.” Other prominent deniers, including Roy Spencer and David Legates, have also signed.

South of the border, the Heartland Institute, a leading US denial organization with ties to Canadian organizations such as the misnamed International Climate Science Coalition, still holds its annual denial-fest. But even that organization is feeling hard times in the face of evidence—similar to the proof that made it walk back its previous support for the tobacco industry to the point that its members now admit smoking is bad but defend vaping and other “smokeless” tobacco industry products.

Heartland’s 13th International Conference on Climate Change—held at the Washington, D.C., Trump International Hotel—was down from three days to one. It once attracted more than 50 sponsors, but this year drew just 16—and one was fake. Fossil fuel companies have also cut funding, realizing denial is not an effective way to gain social licence. Attendance was limited to a couple hundred mostly older white men.

As usual, the conference speakers’ reasons for denying climate science were all over the map.

Some simply rejected all evidence. According to British eccentric Christopher Monckton, who has no scientific credentials, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes are decreasing; sea levels are falling, not rising; and rising carbon dioxide emissions are improving life on Earth!

Others argued that Carbon Dioxide levels aren’t rising, while some claimed the planet is cooling. In other words, the arguments were mostly easily debunked, contradictory nonsense in service of the most profitable and polluting industry in human history.

You’d think Heartland would be riding high under a government that shares its anti-science views. But even holding the conference in a Trump hotel blocks from the White House didn’t gain it the profile organizers would have liked. Tom Harris, a discredited Canadian fossil fuel promoter who works with Heartland and the International Climate Science Coalition, penned a sad article with fellow denier, Heartland “science director” and convicted criminal Jay Lehr, crying, “no one from the Trump administration will be in attendance,” which, they whined, is “a huge loss since ICCC-13 will reveal that neither science nor economics back up the climate scare.”

Lehr, a groundwater hydrologist by training, also worked for The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, an organization founded by Phillip Morris and by PR firm APCO Worldwide to cast doubt on the scientific evidence regarding harms caused by tobacco. Harris also worked for APCO Worldwide.

It’s getting harder for anyone to deny the reality staring us in the face. Those who continue to spread doubt and confusion about climate science are starting to look even more ridiculous with their many conflicting, insubstantial arguments.

Even some prominent deniers have come around. Political consultant Frank Luntz—who once advised the US government to cast doubt on scientific certainty around climate change and to use the term “climate change” rather than “global warming” because it sounds less scary—now says, “I was wrong in 2001.” In recent testimony before the US Senate, Luntz said, “Rising sea levels, melting ice caps, tornadoes and hurricanes more ferocious than ever. It is happening.”

Yes, it is happening. And it’s time for deniers to accept evidence and reason or get the hell out of the way.

———

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David SuzukiFoundation Senior Editor and Writer Ian Hanington.

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Next stop: transit fare increases

Posted By on Thu, Jul 25, 2019 at 6:20 PM

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Proposed changes to transit fares for kids, adults and seniors were approved by the transportation standing committe this week.


If things go ahead according to schedule, adult fares for Halifax Transit will go up from $2.50 to $2.75 on September 30—an increase that was approved during the 2019/2020 budget process.


The extra quarter will fund increased wages, more expensive fuel and service increases like new routes from the Moving Forward Together Plan.


Staff supported the increase by comparing Halifax Transit’s fares to other similar cities in the country, and the fare here was one of the lowest. To make up for the fact that wages in this region are also much lower than those in other parts of the country, staff say they looked at fares in other parts of Atlantic Canada, where Halifax Transit fares were relatively similar.


Councillor Sam Austin says if you look at “where inflation is, in some ways, it’s not really an increase at all.”


Staff recommend changing passenger classifications, removing the student classification, redefining youth and increasing the age where children can ride free from under 4 to twelve.

Councillor Waye Mason put forward an ammendment to give a bit more thought to the implications of staff's final classification change, removing the senior fare category.


Marc Santilli, manager of technical services for Halifax Transit, says part of the reasoning behind removing the senior category was census data that showed populations over 65 were now doing better economically than they were in the 2001 census. He adds that since it's early in the process, the city hadn’t done any actual consultation with seniors yet.


Mason hopes his amendment will allow the other changes to go forward while doing further research into the effect of changing or removing the senior fare. “The first thing is to determine who our riders are and then determine what their needs are,” he says, making sure seniors who don’t fall below the current low-income qualifications, but still by other measures would be considered low-income and benefit from the lower fares, are considered.


Robert Young, a low-income senior, says, “I would expect a big pushback from seniors on this issue.” He uses transit often—when not riding his bike, which he’d ridden to the meeting to see what committee members had to say—and while he says he doesn’t have a problem with the 25-cent fare increase, he also says that the free rides for seniors on Tuesdays, outside of rush hour, aren’t very beneficial. The free Tuesday rides for seniors won’t see any change.


Staff also recommends increasing the cost of the UPass given to university students in line with other areas in Canada, which usually is an automatic cost folded in to their tuition costs. As well, staff recommended increasing the airport fare from $3.50 to $6, but councillor Waye Mason says he hopes to be able to make sure that doesn’t affect people getting on and off in Fall River, who use the 320 airport route for regular commuting—though that wasn’t included in staff’s recommendation passed by the committee this week.

The committee also approved the recommendation to look into charging for parking at the Halifax Transit Park and Rides, specifically those at the Woodside Ferry Terminal, which sees increased parking from NSCC Waterfront students who park there instead of paying for parking at the school.


And while a utopic end goal of the Moving Forward Together Plan could be to have entirely free transit, Mason says there’s “about 35 million reasons” Halifax Transit couldn’t adequately make that change, as fares currently generate $33.68 million according to the staff report, so taxes would have to increase to make up for the revenue loss.


The approved recommendations with Mason’s amendment will go to regional council in a few weeks for further discussion before any final decisions are made.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Martha Paynter talks about abortion on the big screen

Don’t worry about missing Unplanned in theatres, here’s seven on-screen representations worth watching

Posted By on Fri, Jul 19, 2019 at 11:52 AM

shrill_abortion_.png


The Coast sits down with Martha Paynter to talk about abortion on the big screen. From drawn-out, dramatic representations to quick and empowering montages—set to “Silent Night”—Paynter shares her thoughts on seven noteworthy examples of abortion on TV and in the movies. 

“How many billion labours and births have we seen on screen? There are 100,000 abortions a year in this country. So, we absolutely need to have these representations to normalize this aspect of reproductive health care,” says Paynter. “But misinformation is a really big problem in health care. The danger of misinformation, of incorrect portrayals is that people will be afraid, and not even seek the health care they need.”

1. Dirty Dancing

"So, Penny has to have an abortion, but not everything is shown. It's just shown that she basically ended up butchered, and needed help.

That was early exposure. Dirty Dancing was pre-Morgentaler decision in Canada. It just shows that if you do not have safe access to abortion, people will use other means. Dirty Dancing was a really important movie, and a cult favourite watched by I can't even imagine how many people, how many times. Everybody’s seen Dirty Dancing more than once.

I know in her research prior to all the changes in PEI, Colleen MacQuarrie was involved in a research team that did hear about women in PEI using illegal and self-harming means to get abortions. So we know it happens.”

2. Degrassi High
season 1, episode 2

"In 1989, immediately after the Morgentaler decision, Degrassi High was an incredibly popular show. And that does show realistically what people faced going into a clinic [at the time]. The intimidation and scare tactics, lies, violence that people face. In in the late ’80s, early ’90s, that was a time of a lot of lawsuits raised, a lot of Morgentaler's work was happening at that time. And there was very aggressive anti-abortion protesting, including the firebombing of [Morgentaler's Toronto Abortion] clinic in 1992. It was an intense time in the history of abortion access in Canada. And that clip on Degrassi shows very realistically what people would face.

So here in Nova Scotia, our only abortion clinic is within a hospital. It's a locked unit, you can't get into it. It's several stories up. And we do abortions every day of the week. And so we don't really have protesters that come. You don't know what somebody is going into the QE2 for. Having services within a hospital anonymizes people and makes it a lot safer in that sense.

The other thing that's interesting about that, is that the twins…weren’t pro-choice people. And Heather gave her sister a really hard time. What Spike says [when asked for advice from Heather] is beautiful, and a really important message that everybody should hear: That what's right for me is not necessarily right for somebody else. And it is it's not up to me to determine what somebody else does. And it's pretty basic, but it's really profound. And I like that Heather supported her sister at the end."

3. Grey’s Anatomy
season 7, episode 22/season 8, episode 1

"It's just very straightforward. And that's the reality. Yes, a lot of abortion patients are young people who haven't quite figured out how to manage their reproduction and end up with an unplanned pregnancy. But it also happens to professionals. It also happens to people who already have a bunch of children. It happens to all kinds of people.

In 2011, this had to be shown terms of…she had to have an extraordinarily valuable career and be this force who contributes so much to society as a brilliant surgeon. And that makes it justifiable. And almost 10 years later, I think we are at a point where you can just not want it.

Christina's abortion [is] very medical, very anaesthetized, very sterilized. They make it seem like it's a big operation. That's not the reality at our abortion clinics. And it's not the reality in a lot of places where abortion is a procedure. A surgical abortion isn't always done an operating theatre with full sterile fields."

4. Rita
season 2, episode 1

rita3.png

"In Rita, you get a woman in Europe, who just gets the pills and goes home and takes them. It's not a big deal. In Europe, they've had Myfegymiso for 30 years, it's a normal part of reproductive health care. Rita is an older professional, and she has an affair, and she has an abortion. It's the only of these examples where the medical abortion is chosen. And when you choose medical abortion, it's not very dramatic. You take the pill, and you have a miscarriage at home. And so you don't have the operative theatre, you don't have all the health professionals looking at you. None of that happens. So it's not as cinematic I guess. But that's what happens. In reality, you get your prescription at the pharmacy, and then you go home, and you take the pills. So I appreciated that, because it's the only representation of medical abortion that I can think of, and it's very straightforward. Which is 99 percent of the time how a medical abortion proceeds.

[Right now in Canada], it’s mostly an issue about eligibility. Do people have access to the things they need to have access to, in order to be eligible for medical abortion? Are people aware of their bodies enough that they catch that they're pregnant? And depending on the circumstance you might need a little bit more time off work. Because the surgical abortion is done in 15 minutes, whereas a medical abortion can take a couple of days."

5. Obvious Child

"The only thing [that’s different] about this one is that she struggles to find the money. [The difference in Canada is] that only at a few places, as reported recently by the Globe and Mail, would you ever have to find the money [for an abortion]. You should not have to pay for it anywhere. But then it just depicts it as a positive experience in her life. And she makes the right decision for herself and she's well-received. And that's the reality. For most people. This is a pretty straightforward decision. 

We don't talk enough about how every single one of us knows someone who's had an abortion. We also saw when her mom tells her that she's had an abortion, you know, a third of women have an abortion. So that means a third of our mothers have had an abortion. It just does a really good job of normalizing it."

6. Scandal
season 5, episode 9

"It's the same with Grey's Anatomy in that a lot of people saw it. It’s very similar: It’s by Shonda Rhimes, it’s a woman of colour. It’s important that it's not just white women who are represented having abortions. It's an extremely professional, has-her-stuff-together woman. But also, the actual procedure isn't given much airtime... Just think about that. When we only give a minute of airtime to a really positive decision for someone, that's censoring the reality of how normal and generally positive this decision and health care experience is for people, right?"

7. Shrill
season 1, episode 1


"It is the best. I love how they covered how the pharmacist didn't educate Annie about how Plan B doesn't work if you're over 175 pounds. So the show is doing some sexual health education right there. 

And then in the actual abortion, the physician was very realistic, she's freezing the cervix, and she starts the dilation, opening up the cervix. She's talking her way through it and explains ‘I’m two-thirds of the way done the procedure.’ 

And I loved her friend was at her side but unfortunately, that's not how things work at our clinic here. Friends and family have to wait in the waiting room. But there is a nurse at your side, holding your hand and just supporting you, and I just loved how it was so supportive, and realistic, and kind. 

And then afterwards, Annie is able to say, ‘Oh, I made that decision about my body. And I'm going to make some good decisions about my life. And I'm not going to let people treat me badly.’ This show recognizes that this is not a horrible part of people's lives. It's the time that they can take some control and can direct their future. And that's not bad."

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Climate protection is not a partisan issue

"It’s absurd to think an issue like climate change belongs to one party"

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 at 1:00 AM

city-web.png

Media and politicians often regard environmentalists as a special interest group with political priorities served by “green” parties. If a Green politician isn’t present or allowed to participate in a public debate, journalists tend to eschew environmental questions, considering them the purview of the absent party.

It’s absurd to think an issue like climate change belongs to one party. It should be the highest priority for every politician and candidate and should receive daily media attention.

All parties should have policies to protect life-sustaining air, water, soil and biodiversity and to encourage renewable energy. Those of us who prioritize these factors are not like opera, rodeo or car-racing buffs, yet that’s how we’re often perceived.

In November 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report, a gauntlet thrown to challenge all humanity. If we don’t reduce fossil fuel use by almost half by 2030 and 100 per cent by mid-century, climate chaos could destroy the underpinnings of civilization, including food and agriculture, coastal communities, ocean productivity and the global economy. This is not a Green issue; it’s an urgent challenge confronting all people. We can’t ignore it as we head toward a federal election on October 21.

Global warming affects everything and everyone. United Nations groups dealing with immigrants and refugees worldwide can’t cope with the masses of people leaving their homelands. As ocean levels rise and flood heavily populated areas; heat waves, drought and weakening monsoons destroy agriculture; pest outbreaks ravage forests, and changing ocean currents and temperatures transform marine ecosystems, tens of millions of people will be forced to seek liveable asylum. Climate change and its solutions must be addressed by all those concerned about immigration and refugees. The repercussions for Oxfam, Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International and so many other organizations will amplify in coming years.

For years, medical professionals and health organizations have warned that climate change will exacerbate consequences such as cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems and spread of illnesses like Lyme disease, malaria, Zika and dengue. A recent report in The Lancet points to the urgent health consequences of climate change.

In Canada, where temperatures are rising at twice the global average rate, we’re already experiencing impacts: shorter outdoor hockey and skiing seasons; forest infestations of pests like the mountain pine beetle; vanishing glaciers that feed watersheds; loss of Arctic sea ice on which animals like seals and polar bears depend; extinction of populations of temperature-sensitive salmon like sockeye; increasing ocean acidity that inhibits shellfish growth; destruction of park ecosystems; explosive growth in rat and poison ivy populations; extended prairie droughts; deaths from heat stroke; huge fires; massive floods…

Canada’s recently revised food guide acknowledges climate impacts. In a radical departure from the meat- and dairy-dominated guides of the past, it indicates that a primarily plant-based diet is not only better for our health but reduces the risk of climate change.

Global warming affects almost everything in our lives and the biosphere. It’s not a special interest touted by enviros or the Green Party. It’s a crisis for all humanity. The bar set by the IPCC report is challenging, made worse in Canada by almost a decade under a government that didn’t prioritize climate change. If we accept the goal of a 45 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, we have to start on it immediately and on an enormous scale. This is a challenge for us all and must be the highest priority for every party. We shouldn’t let any candidate for office avoid discussing climate risks.

The US response to the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was not weakened by partisan bickering or debate over how serious the consequences would be, how much could be afforded or how the response would affect the economy. The country was united in its resolve to win the war. That’s how we have to respond to the greatest threat to survival humankind has faced.

Once the challenge is seized, opportunities will open up as we transform society’s energy foundation. As U.S. author and business consultant James Womack said, “Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision and gives us the right stuff to turn our dreams into reality.” It’s time to dream big.

———

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.




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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

First phase of transit priority approved for Robie and Young streets

Short-term congestion in exchange for long term improvements

Posted By on Wed, Jul 17, 2019 at 5:37 PM

Parts of Robie and Young Streets to get transit priority lanes. - HRM
  • Parts of Robie and Young Streets to get transit priority lanes.
  • HRM

Transit priority lanes like the ones added on Gottingen Street are coming to Robie and Young streets. 

This week Halifax Regional Council approved phase one of the plan, which will see time-restricted bus lanes on weekdays from 6am-6pm on Robie Street from Young Street to Quinpool Road—hopefully speeding up routes 80, 81 and 7—and a westbound bus lane on Young Street between Kempt Road and Windsor Street. 

The lanes are a product of the Integrated Mobility Plan, which marked the areas as priority in late 2017. Councillor Waye Mason says, "ultimately I think that this is a great start to getting transit priority all the way to Spring Garden Road.” 

Alternate options saw the corridors take up more space on Robie Street, but for now, staff say this phase is the best bang for your buck way to start moving forward. It's expected that single-car traffic congestion in the area will increase, but busses will ideally be less affected and able to run more on time. And worsened traffic in the short-term is for long-term improvements is in line with the integrated mobility approach approved by council. The Robie Street section sees between 15,000 and 25,000 vehicles per day. 

The “preliminary Class D cost estimate for construction” (which basically means the first crack cost estimate) is slated at $1.9 million for the first phase, including the priority lanes, work on the traffic signals and intersection upgrades in the area.

Councillor Lindell Smith supported the project, saying this is just one step towards moving forward with the integrated mobility project. But he also asked that staff focus on lessons learned from the Gottingen Street transit priority project, which saw local businesses and community members unpleased with the way the transit corridors were put in place, affecting traffic volume and parking availability: “The big thing is making sure we engage with the community along the impacted areas and ensure that their thoughts and needs are incorporated to the extent possible.”

Next, staff will move to the detailed design stage, refine details based on councillor feedback and it’ll be up for debate in next year’s capital budget process.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Nova Scotia makes changes for non-binary birth certificates

Option to have an X or no indicator now available

Posted By on Tue, Jul 9, 2019 at 2:01 PM

Birth certificates can now have X, F, M or nothing under the sex indicator.
  • Birth certificates can now have X, F, M or nothing under the sex indicator.
Nova Scotian residents and born applicants can now obtain a new birth certificate or drivers license displaying M, F or X, as well as have the option not to have displayed at all.

As of July 9, these changes include the sex indicator X, which will be available for individuals who do not identify exclusively as male or female. Anyone can apply to have their sex indicator changed to M, F or X.

This comes after consultations with transgender community members who had their sex misidentified at birth. Krista Dewey, deputy registrar general for vital statistics with the department of health at the province, says this change is important because identity documents such as birth certificates are a space which people can see their gender identity affirmed, or where they can see their gender identity misidentified or erased.

According to Dewey, these changes have been in the works since 2015. This was shortly after regulations for transgender Nova Scotians to correct their birth certificates were eased to no longer requiring have a surgery or hormone therapy requirement.

“We had participants who shared anecdotes with us about disturbing experiences that they have had when asked to present a piece of ID, where they’ve been asked invasive questions, or had been judged or even had violence perpetrated against them,” Dewey says. “The option to have a gender marker that aligns with one’s gender identity is a way to better ensure the dignity and safety of some of our most marginalized community members.”

Dewey says this change also acknowledges gender is a spectrum and not a static binary. Both long- and short-form birth certificates plus drivers licenses will now have the option to have no sex indicator displayed, available to anyone born in Nova Scotia, whether they have changed their sex indicator or not.

In consultations, it was expressed by community members that including an X option but not an option to remove the marker could open the ID holder to discrimination. The X would act as a signifier that the owner of the certificate is a member of a marginalized community.

Community members also raised concerns with the RCMP’s current requirement for fingerprints before someone can legally change a name. Dewey says while this still exists for names, it will not be a requirement for gender markers: “That doesn’t exist today, and it will not exist as part of our new process.”

Applicants 16 and older will need to make a statutory declaration to state their preferred sex indicator change. Applicants 15 and younger will still need to provide a written statement from a physician or psychologist. Dewey says this is to show that person understands what they are declaring.

“When we established this process,” she says, “we needed to make sure the person who is making the application needs to understand what they are applying for.”
X cannot be selected for a child at the time of their birth. Non-Nova Scotia-born applicants will receive a certificate of change displaying their updated sex indicator. They must have resided in the province for at least three months to be eligible.

There is no fee to correct your sex indicator with the province.

Dewey says this change arose from consultations with the community: It was expressed that the burden to correct a birth certificate and have it accurately show a person’s sex should not be on the person seeking to correct it. It was also expressed that fees were a difficulty for a population who already faces employment discrimination.

———
Jessica Durling was a part of these consultations and led a petition to ease the requirements in 2015.

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Friday, June 28, 2019

This shit is bananas

Halifax Public Gardens’ June plant of the month is quite appealing

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2019 at 4:46 PM

The musa acuminate is actually a plant, not a tree. - THE COAST
  • The musa acuminate is actually a plant, not a tree.
  • The Coast

Another summer in Halifax, another stretch of months watching a plant die.  

For the first time in history there are bananas growing in the Halifax Public Gardens. The musa acuminate AKA dwarf banana plant has been growing in the gardens for eight to 10 years, and this spring began to produce fruit.

There are over thirty small, green banana fruits growing from the plant, which once it’s done fruiting, will die. As part of nature's own succession planning, there are two small shooting banana plants growing near the bigger plant’s root.

The bananas begin as flowers under the bracts of the reddish-purple male bud. - THE COAST
  • The bananas begin as flowers under the bracts of the reddish-purple male bud.
  • The Coast
Tucked under the bracts—the reddish-purple layers—of the male bud which hangs below the growing bananas, are rows of female flowers which at this point likely won’t continue to become bananas.

Eric Salem has been coming to the Public Gardens around once a week for 24 years and says the bananas are something different. He got word of their arrival on the internet and thought it unusual enough to come check out for himself.

The banana plant, along with pineapple, avocado and pomegranate plants and trees in the fruiting shrub and tree garden, is kept in the greenhouse on Sackville Street all winter, getting watered and fertilized by a team of gardeners.

There are over 1,000 varieties of banana plants in the world, and the one that’s likely browning in the bottom of your bag right now is called a cavendish banana.

Last year, the Halifamous Agave plant met a similar end after a fruitful summer in the Halifax Public Gardens. 

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Monday, June 24, 2019

What is affordable housing, anyway?

Changes in the Centre Plan aim to give HRM more time to figure it out.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 5:41 PM

Participants are asked "What are the most important parts of affordable housing," at the Halifax Central Library. - HFX COLLECTIVE
  • Participants are asked "What are the most important parts of affordable housing," at the Halifax Central Library.
  • HFX Collective

From public housing to transitionary housing, shelters and housing supports or just the notion that spending more than 30 percent of your income is considered unaffordable, much of the inaction on affordable housing comes from the lack of a firm definition.

At two information sessions at Halifax North Memorial Public library and Halifax Central Library last week HFX Collective set up shop to ask Haligonians their opinion with an online survey, and answer people's questions. The collective, a youth-led organization, is working to give the public more reliable information and data around affordable housing.

HFX Collective’s founder Alfred Burgesson says “people are confused right now on what the definition of affordable housing is, and people are confused on who we are building affordable housing for.”

Affordable housing is a huge umbrella term tossed about by advocates, developers, councillors and activists. And as the city’s mega-plan for zoning and development makes significant moves forward—10 years in the making—the role affordable housing will play in new guidelines set out for developers is still up in the air.

At a committee of the whole meeting last week discussing the first parts of the plan, staff recommended rescinding a previous recommendation to only accept affordable housing units on the site of development and work with Housing Nova Scotia to administer those units. 

The Centre Plan now recommends to only accept money-in-lieu for affordable housing. If ratified by Regional Council tomorrow, council will decide—among a ton of other site- and developer-specific amendments—to direct 60 percent of public benefits from the incentive or bonus zoning requirements to affordable housing initiatives, which are currently undefined.

How would cash-in-lieu work for a building like the high-rise going up on Robie and Almon Streets? - CAORA MCKENNA
  • How would cash-in-lieu work for a building like the high-rise going up on Robie and Almon Streets?
  • Caora McKenna

At the information session, HFX Collective was explaining that the 60 percent comes from fines new developers will be charged by the city for going over a certain height or zoning requirements on new developments. Heritage properties being the exception: 90 percent of the value can be directed to heritage conservation on the site of the development.

Jill MacLellan, an HRM policy planner whose main focus is affordable housing, was at the information sessions to answer questions. She says that right now the city is providing minimal funding for affordable housing—housing traditionally is a provincial responsibility—and that the definition coming from organizations like Housing Nova Scotia or CMHC of affordable housing is “still not affordable for most of the community,” says MacLellan. “There still needs to be subsidies on top of that.”

A notice hanging inside the Victoria Hall building at 2438 Gottingen Street to advise residents of possible high-rise development in the back of the historic front lists affordable housing as one of the good things the development could contribute to the area, but what it would look like and who would benefit remains unclear.

“We need to figure out what affordable housing is. As developers are starting to offer more affordable housing as part of their developments, we need to know what that means and know what we're getting” says MacLellan.

HRM spokesperson Brynn Langille says changing from mandatory units to cash-in-lieu for affordable housing in the Centre Plan can help create more long-term affordability by directing the funding to non-profit housing developments.

As a small part of the municipality’s mammoth attempt to re-write some more than 50-year-old development and land use by-laws, if council ratifies the committee of the whole’s recommendations, council will be asked to direct staff to return within a specified time frame after the adoption of the plan with an administrative order that would outline how the funds would be administered.
Burgesson says HFX Collective’s survey will be available all summer, and it’ll be sharing the results with HRM and the province.

Completion and implementation of the Centre Plan is still a ways away, but if the long list of developer-specific amendments at last week’s meeting mean anything, it’s that developers have decided it’s time to start paying attention—the plan appears to be moving forward with gusto.

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Baby, you're a firework

Five spots to ooh and ahh this Canada Day weekend.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 4:00 AM

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It's that time of year again—when folks gather to celebrate the foundation of the confederation with a literal bang. If you're a firework fanatic (and let's be honest, there's a lot of you out there), then consider this your guide to seeing as many sky sparklers as possible before the Canada Day weekend wraps.

Worried about weather? We gotchu and will be updating with the forecast as the big day draws near—but remember for city-sponsored sets (like Bedford Days and the official fireworks) you can call 311 for up-to-the-minute info on cancellations—or check hrmcanadaday.ca.

Canada Day kickoff concert and fireworks
File this one under "if some is good, more must be better." Rather than limit patriotic revelry to one day in July, Dartmouth Crossing helps you stretch out your celebrations with some kickoff fireworks Fri June 28 at 10pm. Held at the Pondside Amphitheatre in Dartmouth Crossing (74 Hector Gate), these beauts have a rain date of June 29.

Sackville Patriot Days fireworks
The weekend's second light show is poppin' off over Kinsmen Park (71 First Lake Drive, Lower Sackville) as part of your long weekend fun (and as a cap to a full day of Patriot Days programming). See 'em at 10pm on Sun June 30. Rain date is July 2.

BLT Canada Day Celebrations
If going to a party downtown sounds more like a death sentence than a good time, try this showcase held at 1817 St. Margaret's Bay Road. Part of a family fun day replete with bouncy castles and midway rides, the fireworks start sailing at 10pm on July 1.

Bedford Days Canada Day celebration
While DeWolf Park is lit up all week long with Bedford Days fun, it's this do—on July 1 at 10pm—that sees things shine even brighter as fireworks zig-zag the sky.

Canada Day 2019 official fireworks
Yeah, we know, you're probably already at the Alderney Landing Outside Stage anyway, dancing your feet off to the likes of The Sorority and A-Trak. But, come 10pm on July 1, your eyes will be pried from the stage and fixed upon the stars as the city's official fireworks showcase begins. Rain date is July 2 at 10pm, and the city notes that those who want primo viewing of the 'works but aren't going to the concert should get thee to Ferry Terminal Park for front-row feels.

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Friday, June 14, 2019

There's a new trophy in town

But not the one you're thinking of: Boston Red Sox 2018 world series trophy coming to Halifax

Posted By on Fri, Jun 14, 2019 at 4:44 PM

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It’s not quite the Raptors’ NBA Championship trophy, but the 2018 Major League World Championship trophy won by baseball's Boston Red Sox is coming to Halifax this weekend. The Bluenose BoSox Brotherhood is bringing it all the way from Boston for a tour of the town on Sunday and Monday. Unfortunately, Bluenose Brotherhood’s Jim Prime says that the trophy will not be making its way to Halifax on the Yarmouth Ferry. “It was considered, but the logistics—time involved and other commitments in New England—made it impossible. I've wanted to do that for a long time,” he says. “Some day it'll happen.”

Bay Ferries Limited themselves announced a delay in the re-commencement of the international ferry service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbour, Maine earlier this month, citing “complexity of the construction and approvals process” of moving service from Portland to the new spot. It hopes to be up and running mid-summer. And at least Boston can still export some of its hardware, after losing the Stanley Cup finals to the St. Louis Blues in game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals this week. 

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Jurassic Park Halifax is ready for Raptors game 5

1,000 people can watch basketball history unfold at Rogers Square.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2019 at 5:49 PM

The Toronto Raptors’ incredible season could end tonight with the first-ever NBA championship for the team—and the country. And in the city where the Raps played their first-ever game, Jurassic Park Halifax will be the centre of the action.

“People are coming from Moncton, from PEI,” says Gab LeVert, one of the people making JPH happen. “One guy is coming down from Cape Breton, then driving back tonight after the game because he has to work in the morning.”

The Jurassic Park crew (Gab LeVert is second from right, in the Kyle Lowry jersey) before game one.
  • The Jurassic Park crew (Gab LeVert is second from right, in the Kyle Lowry jersey) before game one.

LeVert is co-founder of Tidal League, the local basketball-centric events company that has been bringing JPH to life every game of the NBA finals. “It’s the best Jurassic Park in Canada,” he says, trash-talking the other outdoor watching venues that have popped up around the country in emulation of the OG Jurassic Park, outside the Raptors’ arena in Toronto. The Halifax version happens at Rogers Square, the covered couryard-ish space under the Convention Centre where Grafton Street used to be; one reason LeVert says it’s a quality Jurassic Park is there are loads of double-sided screens mounted from the ceiling of the space, to allow easy viewing of the game even from the street outside the JPH gates.

“Game one was electric,” LeVert says of the Jurassic Park Halifax energy. Game two, a cold night that saw the Raptors lose their only game of the best-of-seven series, was lacklustre at JPH, too. Game three on Wednesday was busy. Then game four on Friday night was “double or triple anything we’ve seen,” with the crowd of fans that couldn’t get into Rogers Square filling Sackville Street to the point the police had to close down the road.


Tonight, with the Kawhi Leonard-powered Raps leading the series three games to one and poised to win the pro basketball title, LeVert wants JPH to be a “family friendly” environment for fans of all ages, which means there’s a bar for adults, and an awareness that things shouldn’t get too rowdy for the kids. A major part of his game plan is that only 1,000 people will be allowed into JPH (there were more on Friday), although untold numbers will be able to watch from the surrounding streets.

“This is the most historic moment in Canadian basketball ever,” says LeVert, whose role in that history includes working on prep and clean-up at JPH—along with his Tidal League partners and crew—from 7am to 4am on game days. LeVert has watched enough basketball that he drops the cliche used by every basketball player who ever did an interview anywhere: “What makes all the work worth it is seeing the crowd and seeing the smiles on peoples’ faces. It’s the fans who make it so incredible."

In Toronto, Raptors fans were already lined up on Sunday to get into Jurassic Park for tonight’s game, which could see the 2017 and 2018 champion Golden State Warriors ejected from their presumptive throne. Monday afternoon, nobody was in line at Jurassic Park Halifax, but LeVert thinks people will show up before gates open at 9pm. He figures arriving by 8pm will be early enough to make it in, but as the Warriors are finding out, there are no sure things in sports.
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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Council approves conditional funding for The Bus Stop Theatre

The battle to save the theatre isn't over, but it just got a little bit easier.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 12:54 PM

The Bus Stop Theatre lives to see another day. - CAORA MCKENNA
  • The Bus Stop Theatre lives to see another day.
  • Caora McKenna

The Bus Stop Theatre’s last Hail Mary has paid off—for now. At regional council on Tuesday, every seat was full with members of the arts community, some of whom had to sit in overflow seating. Councillor Steve Streatch described the scene best when he said, “My god, the difference a week can make.”

Last week, the Bus Stop was facing down city staff’s rejection of its last-ditch $500,000 funding request made in February as part of a multi-level of government, multi-stage plan to save the theatre. Hundreds and hundreds of emails and phone calls followed, and as councillor Lisa Blackburn says, councillor Lindell Smith “pulled a rabbit out of your hat with this one” to find a halfway solution and give the theatre another chance at survival. 

Council voted against staff’s initial recommendation to reject the funding based on bad timing, lack of other committed funders, and insufficient long-term plans, and passed Smith’s new motion for a conditional give of $250,000 over two years. 

This means—pending further logistic and financial investigation and commitment from other government bodies—the theatre has the support of regional council, and can take that as it revisits funding requests from other levels of government and private organizations, something they said was missing in the initial ask process. The theatre’s current lease ends July 3, 2020, but in order to secure the building, they will need to demonstrate funding commitments by July 3, 2019, which means the hard part is just getting started.

Sébastien Labelle says it’s a big relief. “It means that we have a real shot at saving the bus stop theatre, of protecting its legacy, and then continuing forward into the future to really keep building what we’ve built over the last 15 years,” says the Bus Stop’s Co-Op’s executive director.

Though the $250,000 is less than the original ask, Labelle says it’s a commitment that “really allows us to move forward with a lot more reassurance and reassurance that we can offer other investors and partners in the project.”

When Labelle came to council in February, he was late in the budget process and asking for a lot. “I knew that it was a tough ask,” says Labelle, “And I knew that our timeline was very challenging.” He suggests that perhaps council’s outright decline of the ask acted as the catalyst that caused the uprising that has resulted in a second chance for the theatre. “When people kind came to realize that”—the theatre could be lost—“they rose up and voiced very clearly their support for what we do at The Bus Stop Theatre and the space we provide.”

Councillor Sam Austin says the absolute outpouring of support from the arts community changed the conversation. “Anytime you see something like that, it’s pretty darn clear signal that this is an important institution.”

Councillor Bill Karsten reminded the attendees that a big ask like $500,000 that hasn’t been budgeted does need to be grappled with, and pushed for a better framework to make these kinds of cultural capital spends in the future. 

Staff says phase one the cultural spaces plan has been initiated in the form of a museum strategy which should start to frame up important cultural elements over the next nine months to a year. 

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Friday, May 24, 2019

Will the Scotiabank Centre's score clock make it through the Memorial Cup final?

Tick tock on the clock but the party won't stop (hopefully).

Posted By on Fri, May 24, 2019 at 4:47 PM

From catching snoozy texters to best-dressed dancers on camera, the score clock is a big part of the energy in the arena during the Memorial Cup. - CAORA MCKENNA
  • From catching snoozy texters to best-dressed dancers on camera, the score clock is a big part of the energy in the arena during the Memorial Cup.
  • Caora McKenna

Hockey fans won’t be the only people in the Scotiabank Centre holding their breath this weekend. While the Guelph Storm face off against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies tonight, and the winner moves on to take on the Halifax Moosehead on Sunday, Events East staff will be holding their breath too, in hopes that the 17-year-old end-of-its-life score clock holds out till the cup is hoisted above a champion’s head. 

The clock, purchased in 2002 for $2.2 million, is dangerously close to the end of its life. Its replacement is due before the fall and will be put in place by Prisimview LLC. The LED clock contract was awarded in April for $1.1 million. The video production and control room replacement contract was awarded to Matrix Video Communications Corp. for $1.2 million at regional council on May 14. 

At the May 14 council meeting, CAO Jacques Dubé said Events East, in charge of operations at the Scotiabank Centre, has purchased every last part available around the world to keep the clock running. The expectation is “that we should be able to get through the memorial cup without failure. Beyond that, we’re not confident,” said Dubé.   

Spokesperson for Events East, Erin Esiyok-Prime says that changes in technology mean the parts for the clock aren't made any more, and they’ve run through all the spares. She says they’ve been talking about replacing the clock for the past two years and having issues for the past five. 

The Events East team, says Esiyok-Prime, is doing “everything they can in terms of due diligence to keep it running.” 

The clock’s first big tournament was the 2003 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, where team Canada with goaltender Marc-André Fleury lost to an unknown Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin and his team in the gold medal game. This year is the third time in Mooseheads’ 25-year history have made it to Memorial Cup final tournament, its first year hosting. The top team from the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and QMJHL plus the host team get to play in the CHL’s top tournament.

The Mooseheads got a bye to the final—sport lingo for skipping a step—by finishing first in the round-robin play after three games, and second- and third- place finishers the Guelph Storm and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies play each other for the second spot in the final in the semi-final tonight. Fourth place finishers and WHL champions Prince Albert were out of the tournament after finishing last in the round robin. 

Here's hoping the clock (and the Mooseheads) make it through the weekend. If not, the greatest tragedy will be all the flossing fans who don't get their five seconds of fame on the big screen. 

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In Print This Week

Vol 27, No 13
August 22, 2019

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