How far we’ll go

Photo: Tony Webster (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I didn’t have a clue what to write about for this Editor’s Message, so I sat down with Advocate Media managing editor (and my boss) Ken Partridge and Halifax Magazine contributor Kim Hart Macneill to hash it out.
It quickly turned into an intervention.
In a revelation that will surprise no one, they explained that my editorial tone is best described as “exasperated” or “annoyed” or “vexed.”
Clearly they’re wrong, but to spare their feelings, let’s take a sunny look about what’s good in Halifax this year.
We have a municipal election coming in October! I love municipal elections. Firstly, it’s nice to see that once every four years Matt Whitman can be civil to people. But more importantly, municipal politics are where government most intersects with our day-to-day lives, so these elections focus on intensely local issues.
You don’t need a fortune, or political party ties, or years of behind-the-scenes experience to run for local office. That means municipal races are full of outsiders and idealists, people who are fired up and running to make a difference.
Some trade on local celebrity (which isn’t a knock; Lisa Blackburn, stadium vote aside, was an excellent addition to Council). Others are policy wonks, who bring their unique expertise to the race (hello Sam Austin). Throw a few populists (Hendsbee, Whitman) into the soup, and the results are never dull.
Journalists love municipal elections because they give us lots of new stories to tell; everyone should love them because their outcome will affect every aspect of the city you live in.
We’re finally waking up to the climate emergency. The planet is heating, which makes weather more dangerous and erratic, and human activity is the largest cause. Every reputable scientist accepts those facts but it took a shockingly long time for our leadership to realize that it isn’t enough to just acknowledge the facts, they actually have to do something to respond to them.
We haven’t begun to do nearly enough, but in every election and policy discussion, the climate emergency is now part of the debate, and that really is progress.
We’re starting to question car culture. For too long, we took it for granted that automobiles must be the default transportation choice. We planned our cities and our lives with the assumption that cars and drivers must come first, with cyclists, walkers, and transit users grateful for any crumbs they get.
No doubt related to the previous point, we are finally starting to reconsider that. In fits and starts, we’re modernizing our transit system. We’re building bike lanes and bus-only lanes.
There’s still much to do. It’s far too dangerous to be a pedestrian in this city and cars remain ludicrously over prioritized. But we’re no longer taking it for granted that cars are king. It’s a good start.
We’re becoming a more diverse city. While much of the Western world is giving in to xenophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria, Halifax welcomes more newcomers every year.
Go to a library on a Saturday morning, when newcomers are filing in by the dozens for their English lessons. Look at the way students from around the globe flood into the city every September.
Take a look at a list of local restaurants, and see flavours from Ethiopia, Turkey, Vietnam, Jamaica, China and all points in between.
Visit one of the city’s many art galleries and see the styles and influences from around the globe. Halifax is becoming more cosmopolitan and we are—economically, culturally, intellectually—richer for it.
We’re learning the value of what we have. For much of Nova Scotia’s history, we’ve allowed what we lack to define us. See also: the pernicious “have-not province” label.
In colonial days and for decades after, we were not Britain, but very much wanted to be. Since then, we’ve often wavered between dreading America, or even worse Toronto, and wanting to be it. The oft-misapplied marketing adjective “world class,” reflects those fears of inferiority. But increasingly, we’re learning to embrace the things that make us special. The craft-beer industry is one small but important example: it showcases local ingredients and talents, it creates work and spreads revenue around the province.
Small-town breweries celebrate local heritage and support community causes. They require and reflect self-reliance. These sorts of industries, decentralized and scalable, can reinvigorate rural Nova Scotia. And the same is true of food producers, which is why our cover story this month is about some of the (many) people transforming the province’s food culture. See Kim Hart Macneill’s report here.
What do you see as 2020’s bright spots? What are we doing well? What can we do better? Email tadams[at]

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the story “Rising from the ashes” in our December 2019 issue gave an incorrect date for the Halifax Explosion. See the corrected story here. Halifax Magazine regrets the mistake.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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