#203 – Shit City, Part Two: Halifax, Nova Scotia

A good friend of mine has the misfortune of having to live in and around the Halifax area. Outside of the natural environment, my friend has basically nothing good to say about the province of Nova Scotia or its people. It follows then that the only attempt at urbanity in the Maritimes is a total load of shit. When the most significant event that your city can point to in its history is the largest man-made explosion before the invention of atomic weaponry obliterating a major district of your city (not to mention the Mi’kmaq community that was washed from the earth by the subsequent tsunami and subsequently forgotten by Canada), you may not have a whole lot to work with.

Indeed, the city of Halifax is the closest and probably only thing resembling civilization in the Maritimes. Like the province it inhabits, Halifax is poor, overpriced, and devoid of meaningful civic space.

Let’s look at some numbers:

Median after-tax income/year: $31,759 (S)
Income for minimum wage earner, full-time work: $21408 (S) ($11.15/hour, 40hr/week)
Typical rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1093/month (S)
Food cost per month, one person: ~$250/month (S)

Cost of rent + food as percent of minimum wage earner’s income: 75% (!!!!)

I hope you don’t like fun if you’re working a minimum wage gig in Halifax, because eating and living alone are gonna cost you 75% of your income. I know that people will often pick up roommates and the like, but if you’re, say, a single parent the notion of grabbing some drinking buddies and squatting in a shithole apartment with them and your kid doesn’t quite appeal. Considering that the minimum wage is currently an embarrassing $11.15/hour and that the average Nova Scotian needs to make $19/hour to stay afloat, Halifax is a case of fiscal bed bugs that would make Winnipeg blush – 59,000 people there live in extreme poverty (out of a population of 300,000), and one-in-five Haligonian children are impoverished. It doesn’t help that Halifax is also neck-deep in extreme housing cost increases. Because fuck it – not like you want to actually live anywhere, right?

If you’re not doing so hot in Halifax, chances are you’re living in Dartmouth North, where the average income is about half of what you’d be making in Halifax proper. Or you could be living in the ridiculously poorly-designed manufactured slum of Pinecrest-Highfield Park (side note: why can’t cakers come up with better names for their communities? I swear every fucking city in this shitheap has a dumpy-ass hellhole of a neighborhood called Pinecrest). And did you think a tiny speck offering the only vague prospect of civilization in the Maritimes could be without gun crime? Think again, says Uniacke Square, a pile of puke-tinged disappointment that was the scene of Halifax’s hip-hop scene back in the 80s. So many shitty neighborhoods to choose from! Do you want unaffordable hipster investor bullshit, or pitiable desolation bullshit, or long wait times for inferior public housing? Halifucks has it all!

(S) Looks like a great place to get shot

I hope you weren’t thinking that these shitty neighborhoods with boilerplate names are actually connected to one another by anything more than personal vehicle use, because Halifax Transit is completely useless at the best of times. It’s so bad that it costs people a chance at a job because it can’t be relied upon to actually show up. And God help you if you have a disability that forces you to use “Access-a-Bus”, whose name serves as a cruel joke. It is no surprise that Halifax Transit keeps losing ridership because of its inferior service and tickets that are the size of $5 bills. The solution to these problems, according to the brilliant brain trust that runs Halifax Transit, is to give supervisors Dodge Chargers that are stronger than the actual buses they’re supervising. Yeah, that’s totally a good use of public funds.

Alright. So you’ve decided to go to Halifax anyways. You’ve braved the shit transit, avoided the myriad rancid turds that pass as neighborhoods, and somehow found a way to make enough money to stay alive without selling your soul to the Navy or to the Irving Family. What can you do to relax without falling into the classic caker trope of drinking yourself into a stupor? Not a whole lot, it seems, beyond looking at hideous modern buildings and getting stuck in construction. The city’s current plan to avoid sucking is to…invest in the CFL? Dude, nobody cares about the CFL except Hamilton and Saskatchewan, and those two places are not votes of confidence for your plan.

In fairness, if you like the outdoors Halifax is a treat. But that’s mostly because you can get out of Halifax. I’m not here to judge Canada’s wilderness, so I know that I’m missing at least some of the appeal of the place. But as a city Halifax shouldn’t have to lean on its non-urbanity to justify its shit urbanity. And as a city Halifax is a boring, intractable, unusable mess of me-too mega-projects mired in the same morass of poverty and roiling disappointment that the rest of Canada’s urbanity is.

So, before I sign off on this I’m going to take one last dump on Halifax by way of taking its terrible hospitals to task. The IWK Healthcare Center had a CEO named Tracy Kitch, who decided that the public healthcare system was her personal piggy bank. She was joined in this endeavor by Stephen D’Arcy, whose name is a funnier insult than anything I could come up with. Now, sketchy shitbag executives ruining public infrastructure is hardly uncommon; Canada’s hospitals are choking on superfluous kleptocratic “executives” whose primary job seems to be having a job. But it took the police an entire year to figure this shit out. Halifax has serious problems with wait times, and the shoddiness of Halifax Hospital (including, as it turns out, its shoddy bullshit reporting system for expenses that allowed this latest scandal in the first place) is something I’ve written about before on this blog. But it’s in Halifax, so it’s going back on the board as something to make fun of. Shit hospital for a Shit City.

 

 

 

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#192 – the Wreck of the HMS Nova Scotia

On the face of it Nova Scotia is in a better spot than the rest of Atlantic Canada. First, it has a (relatively) sizeable city in Halifax that hasn’t been rendered carcinogenic by the Irvings. Second, Nova Scotia is exporting cakers at lightning speed – in 2013 it and Newfoundland had the dubious honors of being the only provinces where the death rate exceeded the birth rate and where emigration outpaced immigration. Fewer cakers and not being poisoned to death by a soulless caker business? If you can get past the totally absurd condo bubble the place might be inhabitable!

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(S) Though this headline caught Halifax at its best

But that assessment must be tempered by the fact that Atlantic Canada isn’t worth anything, because Atlantic Canada is a failed shitstain on the face of a failed country. We’ll start with the basics – Nova Scotia is fucking broke and what money it does have it doesn’t know how to spend. The province can’t even afford to provide that substandard healthcare cakers love to brag about without federal transfer payments. The province pays out $870M a year in interest payments on its debt; what money it does have it spends on cozy deals for ferry services that leave people stranded for days in the winter because the Coast Guard sucks ass and can’t do its job. Oh, and if you complain about said cozy deal you’re “bad for business“, which is something only a caker business would whinge about. Because why should government care about providing meaningful services for its people with the resources it has when it can support caker business because reasons?

The population of the province is struggling with an above-average rate of bankruptcy, which may have something to do with $200 monthly bills for fucking heating oil. On Cape Breton, 32% of children are living below the poverty line. I can’t express to you enough how pitiful a province we’re talking about here. Like most of Canada this shithole can’t feed itself because of high prices and terrible work prospects, and it’s got the same bizarre affinity for enforcing car dependency on its population by way of terrible transit services. There’s literally nothing in this waste heap that isn’t trying to savage your fiscal – or for that matter actual – health.

This is the part where I talk about substandard healthcare. And oh boy, do I have a story for you. Enter Victoria General Hospital, a shoddy abomination that manages to make one of Medicine sans Frontiere’s emergency clinics look like a top-of-the-line facility. Say what you will about primitive medical facilities – at least the person getting operated on a tent doesn’t have to worry about Legionnaire’s Disease laying unresolved in the OR for 27 fucking years and counting. The water at Victoria General isn’t even potable, which is kind of a fucking problem in a hospital. I’d rather risk having open-heart surgery on a table at McDonald’s. I’d almost rather experience healthcare in northern Canada than risk Halifax’s Victoria General. When Pravda is telling you that the place is a disaster, the place is a fucking disaster. And if that sounds like enough to drive you crazy, I’ve got some more bad news – the mental healthcare system is as failure-ridden as the physical one.

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(S) Nurse Googly-Eyed Hamburger, get me 3cc of ketchup stat!

And that’s Nova Sovietska, a province that is desperate for your tourism dollars and equally desperate that you won’t look at it too hard and see the staggering consequences of rancid, constant caker failure. A province practically owned and operated by the Irvings and the Canadian Navy isn’t going to be much to write home about in the best of times; add to that a culture of chronic desperation and want and an economy whose failure nearly 30 years ago remains unaddressed and disregarded and you have a recipe for the kind of disaster that only Canada can pretend is something to celebrate.

Reviewing Canada’s provinces is yet more evidence that the worst thing that happened to this podunk pile of shit was when it started pretending to be a country instead of a repository for unbridled horror and unrepentant idiocy.