Parade of Sail
The month began with the majestic Parade of Sail over the long weekend. The Dartmouth waterfront was buzzing with activities, including three tall ships, bouncy castles, and tons of entertainment. Our family took in all of the activities, and I was pleased to be invited to watch the tall ships depart from the Halifax harbour from the pier outside of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Watching the Dartmouth flag flying was a definite highlight!
I've spent a lot of time this summer speaking with parents, Early Childhood Educators, and media about the new proposed pre-primary program set to roll out this fall. You can find links to the media conversations on this site. In a nutshell, I am a strong advocate for affordable access to universal childcare. The first iteration of a pre-primary program moved into the pilot phase under the former NDP government. That being said, this rollout is being done in the worst possible way--in a hasty fashion with no consultation and little if any communication.
I have so many unanswered questions about this program, from issues of inclusion, to wrap around care and transportation, to classroom ratios. Beyond all of that, contrary to what Minister Churchill has been telling us, phase I of this program will have a severe impact on existing childcare centres. It seems that we may end up providing free early childhood education to four year olds at the expense of any early childhood education/childcare for 1, 2, and 3 year olds. It's another example of this government's tried and true strategy of creating chaos by rolling out sweeping changes too quickly with no consultation. Let's hope there will be some sober second thoughts here.
I had the pleasure of attending Halifax Regional Council last week as they discussed what to do with the beautiful but crumbling treasure of the Bloomfield Centre. The CSAP and HRSB have expressed interest in the site as a school, and after a failed agreement with the Province to purchase the land for affordable housing it was set to be back on the chopping block for sale. Councillors Mason and Smith, with input from the CSAP, HRSB, Imagine Bloomfield, and Halifax Needham MLA Lisa Roberts introduced a motion to first, divide the property into two parcels, and second, delay a motion to sell it for 120 days to give the Province an opportunity to express interest in it as a school site. The first condition satisfied Imagine Bloomfield, whose core interest was in the south part of the parcel, and the second gives Minister Churchill and other government departments time to express interest in the north part, which would be suitable in size for a school site. So far the Minister has been non-committal, but here's hoping this property stays in the public realm.
Natal day weekend was a blur of activity, from the Bridgewalk to BBQs to the parade featuring none other than Sid the Kid. All of Dartmouth came out to one or more events and it was a wonderful success.
It was with dismay that we discovered that the Department of the Environment has approved the spraying of glysophate to control weeds along the CN rail cut throughout the province. Of particular concern to me is the fact that that rail cut runs the length of downtown Dartmouth: from Shearwater, past Eastern Passage it winds past the NSCC, the Nova Scotia Hospital, Homebridge Youth Society; then through residential areas like Maplehurst and the beginning of Dartmouth Cove. From there it curves through King's Wharf and past the playground, through Alderney Landing, past the Shore Road area, under the bridge, and then through more residential up to Tufts Cove.
Fortunately we have received confirmation from CN via Sam Austin that since the application specifies that they must, "Maintain 30 m buffer zones around dwellings, businesses, schools,
public buildings or other structures designated by an administrator, during ground
spraying," all of downtown Dartmouth is exempt.
Prisoner's Justice Day
August 10 was Prisoner's Justice Day and Books Beyond Bars held an excellent and well attended event at the North Branch Library to discuss the meaning of this day. Zines produced by female-identified inmates at Burnside were handed out, and a panel of folks working with and subject to the realities of the federal and provincial corrections systems spoke eloquently about the cycles of pain and damage caused by incarceration. The Federal Prison ombudsperson also gave a presentation focusing on the data collected by his office, including the skyrocketing number of women being imprisoned, and the office's attempts to untangle some of the big systemic issues in corrections.
Burnside Correctional Facility
Not too long after that I visited the Burnside Correctional Facility along with Justice Minister Mark Furey, PC Justice Critic Karla MacFarlane, and Superintendent, Executive Director and staff of Provincial Corrections.
It was eye-opening to say the least. It's very hard to convey the bleakness that pervades that place. Most alarming about that visit was the discovery that 77% of the people incarcerated at Burnside are on remand, meaning that they have not been convicted of any crime. Nonetheless, there is no distinction made once inside. Staff also report a growing population of female-identified inmates. Close confinement remains a primary area of concern for our caucus and for me personally. Despite assurances that the use of close confinement is falling, we have no data to help us see that. We also don't know the comparative numbers on the treatment and confinement of racialized inmates.
Community Chats: Pleasant Street Diner & Celtic Corner
Back in Dartmouth South, I'm doing my best to get to as many people and communities as possible and to continue the many conversations that were begun during the election. Over the summer and early fall I'm making an effort to host open invitation community conversations. In August we had one breakfast event at the Pleasant St Diner that was well attended, and another with Dartmouth North MLA Susan Leblanc at the Celtic Corner, also very well attended! I'm joining the folks at the Dartmouth Senior Services Centre for lunch once a month as well. Next up will be the Woodlawn Library in September, date TBA. If you have a suggestion of a place, topic or group for a gathering, send me a note. In the meantime, stay tuned here and on FB.
Accessibility Directorate: Gerry Post, first Executive Director
Of course I've been having dozens of meetings as well, both with constituents as well as with community leaders and organizations. One that stood out was a chat with Gerry Post, our new Executive Director of the Accessibility Directorate which was formed late last year as a part of the hard fought Bill 59, An Act Respecting Accessibility in Nova Scotia . He is a passionate advocate for universal design and accessibility. If you have an interest, issue or a question about anything in that area I encourage you to contact their office!