Fantasy streetball, Japanese style

Baseball season begins a week from today. This is just to get you in the mood.

It may not be completely obvious to speakers of English, even those who watch to the end, but this is a Toyota commercial.

H/T:  Bill Cohen, via Effectively Wild’s FB page, via Jrock Radio.

Why Quebec is not the answer to NS Power’s coal addiction

Power_Lines_at_Point_Lepreau

NS Power and NB Power have agreed to do something sensible. They will dispatch their thermal generating plants jointly, which means the two utilities will be able to use the cheapest available electricity sources in their combined fleets at any given time. They expect savings of $20 million annually.

This good news on the electricity front produced an email query from longtime energy gadfly Peggy Cameron to Tim Bousquet of the Halifax Examiner:

If NSP can collaborate on grid interconnection with NB Power why aren’t we buying electricity from HydroQuebec and shutting down coal-fired generating plants?

It’s a good question with a perfectly reasonable answer. The transmission line that connects Amherst NS and Moncton NB is very small. The west-to-east transmission line that brings electricity to Moncton and PEI is bigger, but full to capacity.

So the combination of limited capacity east of Moncton and congestion west of Moncton means there is no transmission capacity available to bring significant quantities of electricity from Quebec to NS. To buy power from Quebec, ratepayers in NS would have to pay for construction of a massive transmission line through two other provinces.

Once built, such a transmission line would make NS Power a captive customer of Hydro Quebec. As Joey Smallwood discovered at Churchill Falls, that is a dreadful position to find yourself in.

We tend to blame Quebec for this, but Ottawa is just as much the culprit. When Hydro Quebec exports power to the United States, US law requires that it must also agree to let other power producers transmit (or “wheel”) power through its territory to US customers.

Canadian law imposes no such requirement. Ottawa has never had the gumption to force Quebec, or any other province, to permit wheeling of electricity through its territory. We have free trade for electricity with New England, but not with Quebec.

That’s why buying Labrador power via the Maritime Link was a much better deal for NS Power customers, because the two parties negotiated firm longterm prices and amounts in advance. Even after the deal expires, we will be in a strong position to negotiate reasonable prices, because any power Nalcor sells will have to come through NS.

Thousands more megawatts of hydro power await development in Labrador. Future generations of Nova Scotians will thank their ancestors for having had the wisdom to open a route for that power to our province.

Emera and Nalcor plan to sell some Muskrat Falls Power to New England. This will flow, east to west, through that congested transmission line that serves Moncton. Ironically, if a transmission line is full of west-to-east traffic, and you introduce more electricity in the east-to-west direction, this frees up an equal amount of capacity in the previously congested east-to west direction.*

So the completion of the Maritime Link, and resulting electricity sales to New England, could actually create opportunities to buy Quebec power on the spot market when the price is advantageous.

All this is a illustrates the technical, logistical, marketing, and political complications that beset electrical utility policy. And as H. L. Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple—and wrong.”

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* This is also why the hilarious claim by Keith Cronkhite, NB Power VP of business development, that the energy swaps will exclude nuclear power from Point Lepreau, is pure, unmitigated bullshit.

The ethics of forced mental health treatment

Stalin

Florizone

On March 15, I criticized Dalhousie University for forcing whistleblower Ryan Millet, as a condition of graduating and on pain of financial ruin, to undergo treatment by a psychologist of Dalhousie’s choice, even though Millet suffers no psychological ailment or condition. Yesterday, a psychologist wrote that Millet was being treated not by a psychologist but by a social worker selected by Dal, adding:

I cannot imagine any professional, particularly a psychologist with their stringent ethical codes, cooperating with Dalhousie’s repugnant agenda with regard to this honourable young man who has the ardent support of many clear thinking people and the gratitude of many feminists.

This caused me to wonder aloud why social workers don’t have “ethical standards that would bar its practitioners from being co-opted to such an agenda.” More than one social worker responded, including this one:

I feel compelled as a social worker to respond to your statement that social workers are not applying their ethics in the same way as a psychologist would. I think there is so much assumption built into your statement that it is important to consider the following:

  • That this young man might benefit from some support during this difficult situation
  • That even though counselling can be ordered by a third party, it is defined by the two people in the room: Ryan and the social worker or therapist.
  • That the social worker or therapist would have their client’s interests at heart, not an agenda of educating or “re-training” him
  • That a feminist social worker or therapist would be especially mindful of the role of power in relationships and the ways in which Ryan has power and the ways in which he is experiencing powerlessness. 

Counselling is a beneficial practice that assists many people, even those who are ordered by third parties.  I don’t know how this counselling experience will be for Ryan but I trust that his defined goals of treatment will be defined by him.  Not by the social worker. Not by Dalhousie. Not by you.

I find social workers to be strong advocates for justice and very skilled at understanding the complexity and layers of injustice in situations like this one. Of course, Ryan will be the only one who can let us know how he found the counselling and if it was indeed helpful.  The issue of whether or not it should have been ordered needs to be dealt with separately from slamming a professional for their individual response in accepting a referral in this difficult situation.

I realize that courts sometimes order psychological assessments and even treatment, but context matters. Ryan Millet:

  • Did nothing remotely serious enough to warrant official sanction
  • Did much that was right
  • Was tried in secret, over his protests and at Dal’s insistence
  • Was forbidden to record or transcribe the secret proceedings against him
  • Was prosecuted, tried, convicted, and sentenced by faculty under a cloud, with a stake in demonstrating how tough they are on misogyny
  • Was punished more severely than the actual misogynists whose threatening behaviour caused the whole mess
  • Was coerced into a program of “remediation” that included mandatory sessions with a therapist not of his choosing.

I raised these points in an email exchange, and the social worker quoted above responded:

I really am responding to your thought that social work is not as ethical as it should be in taking on this situation. 

I can’t speak to the social worker involved, but I know that third party referrals happen with clients who do not want to be receiving counselling. This happens with social work and psychology.  There are many psychologists who do assessments regarding whether a client might have an addiction and testify in various courts about their findings. This situation is not a legal process and that certainly complicates things.

I guess I just think that I would rather have a forced meeting with a therapist who has a social justice background than one who doesn’t.  And that would mean someone who is able to understand how Ryan has been mistreated and maligned by this situation. That is someone I would prefer to speak to if I were forced to talk to a counselor.

No one likes the lack of choice. Certainly not the counsellor. Certainly not the client. But it doesn’t mean that something beneficial can’t come out of it.  It doesn’t mean the social worker is lacking in ethics.

It is also possible the social worker tasked to treat Millet did not know the multiple injustices and hypocrisies Dal committed against his involuntary client, since the Halifax media dropped the ball on this aspect of the story. I think an ethical counsellor who knew the context should have declined the assignment.

But the real question is how Dal can get away with this behaviour.

Dal’s psychological gulag turns out to be a social work gulag

In a March 15 post, I wrote that, in order to graduate and begin paying off his massive student debt, whistleblower Ryan Millet would have to comply with a series of humiliating requirements set down by the very university administration that brushed aside his warnings about the climate of misogynist abuse at the dental school.

Among the requirements of his “remediation program,” was a stipulation—as I put it— that he “undergo counselling by a psychologist chosen by Dalhousie, even though there is no evidence Millet suffers from any psychiatric illness or psychological disorder. This genteel Halifax version of the Soviet psychiatric gulag ought to disquiet all citizens of this province.”

A reader whom I do not know personally, but who I know to be a psychologist, and who shares my disgust at Dal’s treatment of Millet, offers the following correction:

Millet is not undergoing counselling with a psychologist chosen by Dalhousie, but with a social worker chosen by Dalhousie.

I cannot imagine any professional, particularly a psychologist with their stringent ethical codes, cooperating with Dalhousie’s repugnant agenda with regard to this honourable young man who has the ardent support of many clear thinking people and the gratitude of many feminists.

I believe my correspondent to be correct, which raises the question why the social work profession does not have ethical standards that would bar its practitioners from being co-opted to such an agenda.

Bohemian Rhapsody — updated

While bellicose Haligonians spent the week fulminating over the failure of municipal politicians to make six inches of ice and three feet of snow disappear instantaneously, a flock of Bohemian waxwings settled in to feed on an unobtrusive flowering crabapple bush on the Halifax waterfront. Joshua Barss Donham captured these images Friday:

Bohemian Waxwing 20-1 Bohemian Waxwing 20-2

By Saturday, when Joshua took the photos below, the flock had grown to more than 70 birds.

birdtree5 copy

Bohemian Waxwing 21-1

The Bohemian waxwing is a starling-sized visitor that breeds far to the north and west, in northern Canada and Alaska, also in northern Eurasia. Sightings in Nova Scotia—almost always in late fall or winter—are sufficiently infrequent to mark the highlight of a birder’s day. We are at the southeastern fringe of its North American winter range.

A slightly smaller cousin, the cedar waxwing, regularly breeds throughout province, and may be found year-round in southwestern counties.

Distinguishing the two is tricky: apart from size and season, the cedar has a yellow wash across the belly but is white under tail. The Bohemian has a grey belly and is rufous under tail. The Bohemian also sports a rufous flare on the forehead and under the eyes, which the cedar lacks.

A good reason to plant crabapples.

UPDATE: When it comes to Bohemian waxwings, “invasion” seems to be a relative term. A South Shore reader who discovered a flock of 40 Bohemians in her yard this week was inspired to check out the Wikipedia entry:

In some years, this waxwing irrupts south of its normal wintering areas, sometimes in huge numbers. The fruit on which the birds depend in winter varies in abundance from year to year, and in poor years, particularly those following a good crop the previous year, the flocks move farther south until they reach adequate supplies.They will stay until the food runs out and move on again.In what may be the largest ever irruption in Europe, in the winter of 2004–2005, more than half a million waxwings were recorded in Germany alone. This invasion followed an unusually warm, dry breeding season.In 1908, an American flock 60–90 m (200–300 ft) wide was noted as taking two to three minutes to fly over.

In case you’re wondering, as I was, “irrupt” is the apt verb. You could look it up.

A tangible way to show support for Ryan Millet

ryan-millet-dalhousie

A friend and supporter of Ryan Millet tells me he can’t wait to get out of Nova Scotia. Who can blame him, after the abusive treatment he received at the hands of Dalhousie University?

A group of Dalhousie professors, led by Leslie Barnes, Assistant Professor of Health Promotion, has turned to the Indiegogo crowdfunding site to show Millet most Nova Scotians admire and support him.

Lets Help Ryan see Nova Scotia and Dalhousie differently
Ryan Millet is the fourth year Dentistry student who was the whistleblower for the Dalhousie Dentistry “Gentlemen’s” Facebook group. He and his family with three young children suffered punitive measures as a result of his bringing the misogynist Facebook page to light. Let’s help him see that Dalhousie, Nova Scotia residents, and others applaud what he did and want to help him weather the crisis.

You can contribute to the fund here.

Mindful of Millet’s enormous student loans and legal fees—he’s nearly $500,000 in debt—sponsors have set a $300,000 goal* for the fund. I doubt they’ll get anywhere near that total, but I believe the dollar amount is less important than donor numbers.

Even if you can only afford to contribute $1, why not register your support, and let Ryan know most Nova Scotians are disgusted at Dalhousie’s use of a secret trial to shame a student whose courage and integrity the university should celebrate?

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* An organizer tells me they intended to set the goal at $30,000, but unfamiliarity with the Indiegogo process led to the erroneous entry of $300k. 

The coerced confession of Ryan Millet

Dalhousie didn’t strap Ryan Millet to a board and pour water over his mouth and nose to simulate the terror of drowning. But surely Millet must have felt as if he were drowning over the last four months.

All Dal did was say to this married, 29-year-old father of three—a non-citizen of Canada who has racked up nearly half a million dollars in debt pursuing a dental degree—that he will not graduate or receive a diploma unless he participates in a “remediation program” of public and private events contrived to humiliate him for his passive membership in the Facebook Group whose abuses he took repeated steps to correct and expose.

  • He must undergo counselling by a psychologist chosen by Dalhousie, even though there is no evidence Millet suffers from any psychiatric illness or psychological disorder. This genteel Halifax version of the Soviet psychiatric gulag ought to disquiet all citizens of this province.
  • He must produce written essays and undertake public lectures satisfactory to the Dal’s Orwellianly titled “Academic Standards Committee.”
  • Most seriously, the committee has found Millet guilty of “blatant unprofessionalism,” a finding that may prevent Millet’s certification by licensing bodies in the two states where he has received job offers, even after he completes the committee’s so-called “remediation” program.

Dalhousie insisted on trying Millet in secret, despite his lawyer’s repeated pleas for a public hearing. The committee denied permission to record the proceedings, or for a court reporter to create a transcript.

Secrecy had obvious appeal for Dal. Millet is the only male student who took pro-active steps to tip off the female colleague who was the target of the most abusive comments on the notorious Facebook group, and to assist her in gathering the evidence that touched off the Dalhousie Dental scandal. Those actions embarrassed Dalhousie, and put the entire dental faculty under critical scrutiny for its possible role in fostering an atmosphere of misogyny. (The committee that investigated, prosecuted, tried, judged, and sentenced Millet is made up, in whole or in part, of those impugned faculty members.)

There is nothing in the record examined by the committee that could conceivably lead a fair-minded adjudicator to a finding of blatant unprofessionalism. A Canadian appellate court has already rejected the notion that mere passive membership in a Facebook group can justify a finding of guilt. Of the six images Dal says Millet should have reported to the school administration, he had never seen two, he had taken no active participation on three, and he had clicked “like” on one, a sophomoric bit of sexual double-entendre available on numerous internet humour sites.

To those defenders of Dal who speculate—without evidence—that Millet may have scrubbed the Facebook site of his own participation before turning over the keys to its primary female victim, the committee heard no such evidence and made no such claim. This counterfactual hypothetical formed no part of the case against him. Civilized societies do not require accused persons to prove their innocence.

Dal’s treatment of Millet would be repugnant for any public institution, let alone a university. Equally shameful is the silence of Nova Scotia’s robust feminist community, understandably vociferous in its criticism of Dal when the scandal broke, for remaining silent as Dal frog-marched an obviously innocent student through a secret trial that flouted due process and common decency. This moral failure is stark in a group that so frequently directs moral exhortations at others.

In a statement emailed to selected media yesterday, Millet said he would attempt to complete the steps ordered by the committee in the interests of saving his chosen career and protecting his family’s livelihood. Here is the full text.

After thoughtful consideration, I will be completing the remediation as ordered.

The ASC Committee’s basis of my two month suspension and prescribed remediation program was my membership and limited participation in the private Facebook Group displaying at times, elements of sexism, misogyny and homophobia. I tried to address issues within the group, however imperfectly. I did so both before and after the controversial Facebook entries became public. I attempted to do so in a balanced and respectful manner, without pushing my own religious morals and values upon others. The Committee has concluded that I had a proactive duty to report and subsequently disassociate myself from the Facebook Group, which I did do, but not in the timetable they desired.

However, my unsuccessful defense of my actions is secondary to more important things. I have three children under the age of four. My wife is a very busy fulltime Mom. I am too far invested in my chosen career to discontinue. My wife and others know I am not misogynist, sexist or homophobic. I must be content with that support, regardless of any contrary opinions of the Committee.

I am willingly engaging in the remediation training sessions with an open mind to further my education in this subject. I recognize that everyone can learn further and accept more responsibility in addressing these important societal issues.

I acknowledge we live in a society, which too often condones these types of attitudes. While I regret that the ASC Committee concluded that my solo efforts in confronting those issues were not enough, I do share the Committee’s desire to highlight the hurt and consequences of such attitudes.

I have decided to concentrate all my efforts on completing my degree and supporting my Family. I hope the media and public will understand my need to focus on what is presently most important in my life.

I wish to offer my thanks to all who have assisted my Family throughout this overwhelmingly difficult time. I recognize and am grateful for all the instructors and students who have gone out of their way to welcome me back into the clinic. I offer special gratitude to all my patients who have expressed faith in my work and continue to stand behind me. Your love and support has meant more to me than you can ever imagine. I look forward to conclude my excellent dental education with a strong finish.

Some in the media may construe this as an admission of guilt. I feel dirty just reading it.

(The YouTube video above is a short excerpt from lawyer Joseph Welch’s famous denunciation of Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings, after McCarthy attempted to destroy the career of a young lawyer in Welch’s firm. Fred Fisher, ironically a Young Republican, had once briefly belonged to the National Lawyers’ Guild, a left-wing organization that defended accused Communist Party members. Welch’s controlled rage marked the beginning of the end of McCarthy’s reign of anti-Communist terror. Of course, this only worked because the hearings were public, unlike Dal’s. You can see the whole stirring exchange in two parts, here and here.)

Italian astronauts like Cape Breton, too

Chris Hadfield was forever snapping pictures of Cape Breton, and even Kempt Head, when he commanded the International Space Station in 2013. Now Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, currently orbiting the Earth, is getting in on the act.

CB from Space

Cristoforetti, @AstroSamantha on Twitter, tweeted this February 28 photo Saturday, with the caption, “Fascinating ice patterns in the Cabot Strait last week. #FrozenEarth #Canada.” I just can’t figure out why it’s not all white.

H/T: 101.9 The Giant

Dalhousie’s Kabuki theatre of contrition.

The Court of Star Chamber sat in the Palace of Westminster until 1641. Sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, right of appeal, juries, or witnesses. The Court could impose punishment for actions it deemed morally reprehensible, but not contrary to the letter of the law. This meant it could punish offenders for any action the court thought should be illegal even if it was not. Sound familiar?

The Court of Star Chamber sat in the Palace of Westminster until 1641. Sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, right of appeal, juries, or witnesses. The Court could impose punishment for actions it deemed morally reprehensible, but not contrary to the letter of the law. It could punish offenders for any action it thought should be illegal, even if it was not.

Lots of reader reaction and Facebook comments to my criticism of Dalhousie University’s treatment of whistleblower Ryan Millet. In that Saturday post, I wrote:

This calls to mind the ancient ducking* stool, a judicial instrument that tested the guilt of accused witches by plunging them underwater for prolonged periods. Survival was proof of witchcraft, and led to further punishment. Drowning proved innocence–and cold comfort of the accused.

A reader who agrees with me chose a different metaphor:

Now it’s been flushed into the open thanks to Ryan Millet’s perhaps well intentioned but unfortunate judgment, the Dal disciplinary process feels like a mandated Kabuki Theatre of Contrition. Everyone has to wear the requisite mask and speak the expected lines on cue.

We have seen the public letter from the other 12 that resembles nothing so much as a forced letter of confession in a Soviet show trial.

Now Millet get his turn to confess to crimes he (and his lawyer) claim he did not commit. Dal is not obliged to provide due process to their students in a disciplinary hearing. Their campus is the absolute fiefdom of their Senate, and they can suspend or terminate the academic careers of students they find culpable as they see fit. They are not hindered by notions of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ or even ‘the balance of probabilities’ like a real court. Millet has had the effrontery to not join the Restorative Justice process and beyond that to retain a lawyer to defend him against Dal. His counsel has said mean things about the way the university has managed this matter, and has threatened to take them to the Supreme Court of NS, none of which is likely to endear Millet to the Dal administration.

Having opened Pandora’s box, Millet might yet be saved by its shrill court of public opinion who would find undue punishment for a well intentioned whistle-blower unfair. That and his lawyer who has clearly promised to make the life of the Dal senate hell unless they allow Millet to graduate.

Remember the Halifax police could not find any crime. No woman was ever at risk or being cyber-bullied. Labeling them ‘victims’ is rhetorical IMHO. None of this circus was actually necessary, and the sooner it ends and everyone gets back to their normal lives the better.

I’m with this writer up to the last paragraph. Some of the comments on the DDS13 Facebook group were so vile as to disqualify their authors from ever practicing medicine. Under pressure from the mob, Dal responded badly—but measured action was absolutely required.

In a March 5 speech at the University of Windsor, Dalhousie Bioethics Professor Francoise Baylis, one of the four Dalhousie faculty members whose disciplinary complaint against the members of the notorious DDS13 Facebook group was dismissed by Dal, pointed out some of the shortcomings in the male students’ statement.

For my part, I found the Moonie-like language of the statements creepy and off-putting. I continue to be troubled by the lack of distinction, so far, among those whose membership in the group was passive or even innocent, those who blew whistles, and those whose behaviour warrants barring them from the profession.

Not everyone agrees. On Facebook, a Mount Saint Vincent professor accused me of being played by Millet’s lawyers:

[T]he only person who has described Ryan Millet’s participation in the Facebook group publicly is Ryan Millet or his lawyer. You’re presuming he’s told the whole story and accurately as if he was under oath when talking to the news media….

I’m merely pointing out that Dalhousie administration might know something about his involvement that you don’t. I’d actually bet money on it….

You’re also assuming that Dal can tell you what evidence they’ve collected and that them not telling you about it is evidence that they are hiding something. The simple truth is that legally an adjudication process within a university cannot tell you what they found without being sued. In this case by Millet. So the university is in the position that Millet and his lawyer can make any claims they want and the university cannot legally defend itself against any of his claims. Brilliant tactical move on his lawyer’s part, but not at all evidence of wrongdoing by the university….

[I]t was Millet that went to the press, as far as I can tell his exposure lies on he [sic] and his lawyers shoulders. The press interest in his exoneration or lack thereof therefore derives primarily from his actions. As it sits the investigation concluded that he had engaged in professional misconduct, and that is a wide brush neither you nor I know the specifics of. The difference is that you assume you do, and that the label is unfair. I, on the other hand, don’t make those assumptions.

I have elided my interjections from what was an extended exchange with this MSVU prof, because his comments illustrate the extent to which authoritarianism, and indifference to due process, have crept into much politically correct discourse on campus and elsewhere. Consider the sequence of events leading up to the professor’s position, and the logic underlying it.

(1) A faculty comes under a firestorm of credible criticism for contributing to rape culture—an uproar threatens their careers and professional reputations.

(2) Members of that faculty are tasked with adjudicating the behaviour of the student who exposed the mess, despite (or perhaps because of) the obvious pressure on them to be seen as tough on misogyny.

(3) The tribunal acts as investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury.

(4) The “inquiry” and subsequent trial take place in secret (so we must accept on faith that they actually did conduct a good-faith inquiry).

(5) The investigation/prosecution/adjudication operates under the rubric of “academic standards,” rather than “discipline,” so fundamental rules of evidence, due process, fairness, need not apply—or apply in watered down form.

(6) We cannot know the factual findings, if any, of the inquiry, assuming it took place, because, “Dal would get sued if they tell us.”

(7) If a student is found guilty, we must assume that the result is founded on provable facts and reasonable judgments, fairly applied—even if the outcome flies in the face of known facts. We must assume there to be other facts, completely unknown to the public, or to reporters who have focused on this case for months, that support the apparently illogical outcome.We must trust Dal Dental Faculty and Administration made the right decision. In fact, we can bet money on it.

(8) On the basis of his conviction in these circumstances, the accused student must, as a condition of graduating, admit his guilt in a series of “written essays and public lectures,” an unusual punishment reminiscent of the “criticize, self-criticize” sessions that characterized the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

(9) The student’s only avenue of independent appeal is to the courts, a route that will delay the his graduation, the start of his professional life, and his ability to begin paying back massive student loans by at least one year and possibly many years. Only a tiny fraction of Dal students have the financial resources to undertake such an appeal.

(10) If the impugned student or his lawyer complains about the process to the media, he has only himself to blame for not quietly accepting Dal’s judgment.

I wish I were surprised that a tenured university professor could have such a frail grasp of fundamental democratic principles, but lately, I have seen too many profs genuflecting to the mob. If the faculties of US universities had shown this level of deference to authority in the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy might have had a shot at the presidency.

Equally disturbing is the silence of Halifax’s robust feminist community at the treatment according the person who exposed the existence of the DDS13 group and its abuses. Of course, Millet is not a woman. He was merely sticking up for a woman.

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* Ducking (or even cucking), but not “dunking,” as I incorrectly wrote in the original post. Thanks to WCR for setting me straight.

12-second stile

stile – noun [‘stahyl] a structure that allows people to pass over a wall or fence but remains a barrier to sheep or cattle.

From Creatividad con sencillez (creativity with simplicity). H/T: Silas.

[UPDATE] I assume this clever device is located somewhere in South America, possibly Chile or Peru. Contrarian’s engineer friend points out it might not work so well in winter. Especially this winter. Especially in Halifax.

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