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Nova Scotia in Review: January

The Halifax Media Co-op's Review of underreported news from December

by Moira PetersHillary LindsayBen Sichel

Nova Scotia in Review: January
Nova Scotia in Review: January

HRM city council was hit with a $21-million bill - $11-million over budget – for construction of an overpass linking Bayers Lake’s Big Box stores to Clayton Park. Environmental approvals were ignored, and a council meeting in June which intended to discuss the cost of the project was cancelled due to Queen Elizabeth II’s visit. Multinational engineering firm SNC Lavalin could be heard laughing all the way to the ATM at the Bayers Lake Wal-Mart.

The NDP government and the province’s school boards continued to talk tough, with the government claiming the province’s 9 boards carried a $45-million dollar surplus last, year, and the Halifax Regional School Board (the largest in the province) countering that much of its own surplus consisted of funds raised by students for school trips. The Strait Regional School Board announced the proposed cuts to the provincial education budget would mean cutting 249 jobs in the Strait Region. The Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union asked for clarification on the proposed 22% cuts.

The Nova Scotia Post-Secondary Education Coalition announced the results of a public opinion poll that shows 83 per cent of Nova Scotians want tuition fees reduced. The province of Nova Scotia announced it will permit a three per cent tuition increase. Undergraduate students pay the third highest tuition in the country; graduate students pay the most, and Nova Scotian students graduate with the highest average debt. "By increasing tuition fees, Darrell Dexter is not only turning his back on students, but the vast majority of Nova Scotians who support reducing fees," said Gabe Hoogers of the Canadian Federation of Students.

Fred George, former CEO of Halifax-based Gammon Gold, was listed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as the 6th-highest-earning CEO in Canada, making in one day what the average Canadian worker makes in an entire year. CEOs raked in these disproportionate salaries even during the recent recession, the CCPA noted.

The Department of Natural Resources announced funding for a bio-massive biomass-burning project by Northern Pulp in Trenton, despite no apparent evidence that the province’s forests can sustainably provide 1.5 million tonnes of biomass each year. “Several times we’ve asked the Department …for their report on how they arrived at the 1.5 million tonnes of wood available for biomass harvesting per year,” said Jamie Simpson of the Ecology Action Centre.  “We can only assume…that there is no report that provides comprehensive justification for the claimed biomass supply.”

On Martin Luther King Jr Day, the Halifax Peace Coalition also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address, in which he warned "against the acquisition of unwarranted influence...by the military industrial complex.” The coalition picketed outside the Canadian Forces Stadacona Base, protesting Canada's decision to buy 65 F-35 fighter jets. The jets will cost at least $16 billion, and the deal—the largest military procurement in Canadian history—with weapons giant Lockheed Martin guarantees no jobs in Canada. Lockheed Martin has an office on the base.

Central Nova MP and Minister of Defense John MacKay signed a Canada-Israel Principal Memorandum of Understanding (PMOU) on defence cooperation. MacKay was hosted by the Israeli Minister of Defence, Ehud Barak, and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, leaders of the Israeli opposition and Palestinian authorities.

As part of its move to close  every Service Canada Community Office in Canada, the federal government announced five office closures in Cape Breton by the end of March. The offices provide information about, and assistance with, a variety of federal government programs from Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan to Revenue Canada and passport issues. They were created to give people in remote communities better access to government information.

A proposed mink ranch development in Yarmouth, NS, was given the green light, despite the community's concern that mink ranches in the area are contributing to the proliferation of blue-green algae in the lakes.

Two hundred people, many holding babies or pushing strollers, rallied in downtown Halifax to demand better access to midwifery services. Currently, only four midwives are legally employed in the entire province of Nova Scotia.

A handful of people rallied at Grand Parade Square in solidarity with the Egyptian people’s uprising against US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak.

American Indian Movement (AIM) activist John Graham was sentenced to life in prison for the 1975 kidnapping and murder of fellow AIM activist Anna Mae Aquash, a Mi'kmaq from Nova Scotia. "The truth hasn't come out here," Graham, a member of the Champagne First Nation in the Yukon, told Aquash's daughters in court, upon hearing his sentence. The Aquash investigation remains open.

Stepping Stone, an advocacy group for sex-trade workers, drew the attention of bus-goers and news-readers with an ad campaign promoting the message that “sex workers are people too.” “We really wanted folks to see sex workers for what they are, and that is people,” said Stepping Stone director Rene Ross.

The Yarmouth diocese agreed to pay $1.5 million to six people who, while they were between three and 16 years old, suffered sex abuse by religious leaders in the Catholic Church in Nova Scotia in the 1950s and ‘60s. Recipients of the settlement money, disappointed by the amount, say there are hundreds of other victims. Local dioceses struggle to raise the money, selling“non-core” church properties -- sports fields, houses and rural community buildings -- to pay settlements. The Vatican, which actively covered up reports of sex abuse, will not contribute to settlements.

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