News Digest: April 6-9

News from around the peninsula, as reported by other news outlets.

Boy, 9, dies in Halifax hospital after house fire, mother remains in critical condition (Metro News) 

A nine-year-old boy lost his life Monday morning at the IWK Health Centre due to critical injuries from a house fire. The fire took place on Friday evening in Cape Breton, where police said they found the boy and his 34-year-old mother standing outside the burning home. His mother remains in critical condition and police say the investigation is ongoing.

Shell Canada’s $600K donation to Dalhousie University spurs protest (CBC News)

Students gathered on campus Tuesday to protest Dalhousie University’s relationship with oil and gas companies. The students were rallying against the university’s decision to accept $600,000 from Shell Canada, $100,000 of which will be dedicated to offshore exploration.

 Three-year wage freeze for Nova Scotia MLAs, non-union civil servants (The Chronicle Herald)

Halifax’s provincial government introduced a three-year wage freeze for MLAs and non-unionized government workers Tuesday. It also announced that the public service award would be frozen at current levels and inaccessible for new non-unionized workers. The MLA traditional allowance, which has a maximum payout of $89,000 when a fully pensionable member leaves office after 12 years, has also been cancelled. Finance Minister Diana Whalen said the government is looking at changing austerity measures to improve the province’s finances.

Police seek help in search for missing teen, 14 (Global News)

Investigators are seeking the public’s help in locating a 14-year-old girl who was reported missing on Tuesday. Ashley Mombourquette was last seen inside her Dartmouth home at around 11 p.m. Monday. Police say there is no evidence to suggest foul play but that there is concern for her well-being given her age.

N.S. forecasts $98M deficit, cuts public sector, hikes tobacco taxes (CTV News)

Nova Scotia is cutting public sector jobs, changing the restrictions on tuition fee increases and increasing tobacco taxes in a new budget with the attempt to bring down the province’s deficit. Reductions in the provincial tax credit for the film and TV industry were also made. Finance officials say this change might weaken the province’s ability to compete with other jurisdictions for film sector money. The budget predicts a deficit of $97.6 million for 2015-16 with the net debt pegged at $15.1 billion.


Sydney Jones

Pollyanna’s Entertainment ‘finds the beauty in every woman’

Pollyanna’s Entertainment provides a male entertainment service to women in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

It’s Saturday night.

A chorus of excited shrieks and “holy shit’s” bounce off the walls glowing yellow in my dimly lit living room. Several young women sit in a circle, squeezing each other’s knees and covering their nervous smiles with fingers painted the colour of night and crimson. I hit the play button and The Black Eyed Peas’ Pump It blasts from a set of speakers on the table.

A box containing the board game Twister and an unopened can of whipped cream sit in the corner of the room.

The table in the centre of the room has been pushed aside to make space. We’re half-hypnotized with anticipation as we stare at each other wide-eyed, thrilled with nervous excitement.

Enter Damon.

Barefoot, he walks into the room wearing black pants and what looks like a bulletproof vest. A plastic grenade dangles off his chest. A black ball cap with SWAT printed on it sits low on his head, hiding his face.

He walks inside the circle of women. His eyes move slowly as he lifts his gaze to one of my friends sitting on the couch.

He closes the curtains with a flick of the wrist.

Damon is silent as he sways his hips onto my friend’s lap. He gently wraps his fingers around her wrists and slowly moves his hands into hers. Her cheeks turn a dark pink. He takes her hand and guides it to the middle of his chest. Every woman in the room is blushing.

This is the last time we see Damon fully clothed.

Damon's personal business card. (Photo: Sydney Jones)
Damon’s personal business card. (Photo: Sydney Jones)

Damon’s debut

I found Damon a few weeks ago through an ad titled “Male Entertainment for Ladies” posted on Kijiji, an advertisement website open to the public. He told me that Damon is not his real name, but is what he goes by with clients.

I contacted the owner of the business through the site, and instead of setting me up with a traditional interview, she offered to send Damon to my apartment for a performance.

About a year ago, the businesswoman behind Pollyanna’s Entertainment noticed Damon in a Nova Scotia bar and asked him if he would be interested in a job as a male entertainer. After agreeing to an interview and performing a dance routine, Damon was hired.

Pollyanna’s Entertainment specializes in male entertainment for women and serves clients in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

“It encourages women to take control of their sexuality and be OK with being a sexual being,” says Polly, the woman who created the business. For reasons of privacy, she chooses not to use her real name and refers to herself as Polly instead.

“For men to have a strip club that they can go to is pretty commonplace,” she says, and explains that there is no place for women to go to have similar experiences.

The job isn’t for everyone

Damon is one of three male entertainers who work for Pollyanna’s Entertainment. In addition to being physically fit, confident, and having the ability to dance, Polly says one of the most important requirements of the job is “to be able to find the beauty in every single woman.”

“I don’t think everyone can pull this off,” says 26-year-old Damon, putting his everyday clothes back on after his performance in my living room.

“You can’t be self-conscious, have to be confident with your body, be social — that’s probably the biggest thing, aside from maintaining your physique and eating properly.”

Although being a male entertainer is a full-time physical commitment, the gig is only part time for Damon. Along with working a number of other jobs, he is also a full-time university student.

Polly says she likes to help young students because she understands the burden of student loans. “I have three degrees and I know how long it’s taken me to pay off.”

The male entertainers are paid around $100 an hour and are busiest during the spring and summer months, when there is high demand for events like pool parties and butler service.

Pollyanna's Entertainment does not allow photos or videos to be taken during a performance. (Photo: Sydney Jones)
Pollyanna’s Entertainment does not allow photos or videos to be taken during a performance. (Photo: Sydney Jones)

What clients should expect

Clients are given the opportunity to engage with the entertainers with games like ring toss, Twister and whipped cream body shots.

During the booking process, Polly says she asks the clients whether they prefer a “wild” or a “mild” party so the male entertainer can prepare himself accordingly.

“You’ve got to be able to have fun with it,” says Damon. “If you’re awkward, that makes them awkward, which comes back to you.”

Damon says it’s important to feel out the mood of the women in the room, and says he wants to make every woman feel comfortable with the experience.

“Halifax is much more conservative than I thought it was,” says Polly, adding she was surprised after launching her business that there wasn’t a larger market for this type of enterprise in Nova Scotia.

Polly says the job is part time for her and she has a lot of fun with it. She hopes it will encourage more women to feel comfortable with their sexuality.

“I’m hoping in the next five or 10 years that it’s not going to have such a dirty feel to it,” she says.

HeadsUp app wins $25,000 at Canadian Business Model Competition

An app that notifies customers of estimated arrival times, location of deliveries and late employees through text messaging won the first place prize of $25,000 at the Canadian Business Model Competition Saturday.

An application that improves communication between customers and service companies won the first place prize of $25,000 at the final round of the Canadian Business Model Competition (CBMC) at Dalhousie University Saturday.

HeadsUp notifies customers of estimated arrival times, location of deliveries, and late employees through text messaging. Developed by Michael Reid, Jeremy Tupper and Dimitry Galamiyev from the University of Waterloo, the app also allows for customers to give instant feedback to businesses the minute the employee has left their home.

“I’m super excited,” said 22-year-old Reid, the business developer of the team. “Right now we have a couple pilot projects we’re going to set up, so we’re probably going to spend the money on hiring people to help us get to where we want to be faster.”

Reid said the app would work with Google Maps to allow for a non-invasive vehicle tracking system.

Michael Reid, Jeremy Tupper, and Dimitry Galamiyev, answer questions from the judges after their presentation. (Photo by: Sydney Jones)
Michael Reid, Jeremy Tupper and Dimitry Galamiyev face the judges for questions after their presentation. (Photo: Sydney Jones)

“We’re currently working with a number of companies to put these tracking devices in the reps’ cars, and then we’re going to be sending the text messages with the ETA times as well as feedback messages to gauge responses,” he said.

In addition to the cash prize provided by Deloitte Canada, the developers of HeadsUp have qualified for a spot at the International Business Model Competition, which takes place on May 1-2 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Between 40 and 48 teams from over 30 countries are selected to compete at the international competition. This will be the second year a Canadian team has competed at the international level.

Dalhousie has been hosting the CBMC since 2013. Thomas Battle, one of the organizers of Saturday’s event, said the competition has seen a dramatic increase in both quality of presentations and number of competitors since it began.

“The first year we did it we had five Dalhousie teams…last year we had 17 teams from 10 to 12 schools, and this year we have 30 teams from over 20 schools across Canada,” said Battle.

On Saturday, two other teams were awarded with cash prizes. Ourotech, a three-dimensional printer for hospitals developed by Duleek Ranatunga and Zain Roohi, won the second place prize of $15,000.

Developed by Cole Campbell and Mitchell Hollohan, Intelligent Site Innovations, which proposed an automated system to replace human flaggers on construction sites, finished in third place and was awarded a $10,000 prize.

Of the six teams that competed in the final round, only two were from universities in Nova Scotia.

Indoor food truck a winter success

Food Wolf, a company which operates out of a mobile food truck during the summer months, moved indoors in October and has hosted a successful Night Brunch event for four months.

A food truck is wrapping up its Night Brunch event after a successful winter season indoors at the Mayflower Curling Club.

Food Wolf, which operates out of a mobile food truck during the summer months, moved indoors in October and has hosted the Night Brunch event for four months.

Co-owner of Food Wolf, Natalie Chavarie, prepares for a busy Brunch Night. (Photo: Sydney Jones)

“It’s been a great relationship for us,” said manager of the club Melanie Hughes. “They more than fulfilled their expectations.”

This is the first winter that Food Wolf has partnered with the Mayflower Curling Club located in the north end of Halifax.

Virgil Muir, co-owner of Food Wolf, said they see anywhere from 100 to 120 customers every Night Brunch.

“It’s been growing since the first one we had,” he said. “We almost doubled in customers after the first night.”

The event, which co-owner of the business Natalie Chavarie said is meant to push culinary culture, features new international menu items every Brunch Night. Most of the items on the menu, like caramelized apple pancakes and Mexican roast beef sammy, have never been made by the kitchen before.

A Double Down dish ready to be served. (Photo: Sydney Jones)
A Double Down dish ready to be served. (Photo: Sydney Jones)

On Sunday, many of the customers walked in with sports bags over their shoulders and a curling broom in hand. The curling club members make up a large portion of Food Wolf’s customers during the winter months.

“At first it took a lot of trust-building for them to understand why we were selling Southeast Asian and Korean-influenced food at a curling club,” said 34-year-old Chavarie. “Now, they have a great ownership over the whole deal.”

The business operates six days a week on the second floor of the curling club, but opens its doors to customers once a month at night on a Sunday for the Night Brunch event.

Natalie Chavarie prepares the kitchen before a busy night. (Photo: Sydney Jones)
Natalie Chavarie prepares the kitchen before a busy night. (Photo: Sydney Jones)

“It’s brunch for the working class, it’s brunch for people who are working in the service industry or in the creative class — they don’t have much leisure time,” said Chavarie.

The Night Brunch on Sunday ran until around 1 a.m. Chavarie said Food Wolf will most likely be partnering with the club again next winter.