1. HRP’s new police chief
Dan Kinsella, a veteran of the Hamilton, Ontario police force, is the new chief for the Halifax Regional Police, reports Francis Campbell at the Chronicle Herald.
Kinsella has 32 years of experience with the Hamilton Police Service and is now its deputy chief of operations. In a statement, Kinsella says he’s looking forward to leading an “exceptional police service” in Halifax.
I’m committed to building and championing positive relationships with the communities HRP serves as well as partnering with them to enhance public safety. This includes working collaboratively to address important community safety and policing issues such as street checks.
Councillor Steve Craig, who’s the chairman of the police commission, says Kinsella was the “best candidate for today.”
Throughout all of the processes, we found that the requirements that we looked at, all the questions we had, the confidence in Mr. Kinsella just grew as we moved through the process. He has a tremendous amount of experience in the Hamilton police force, experience in the community working with groups, working with employees. We had a very, very good discussion throughout the whole process where he just rose to the top.
Deputy chief Robin McNeil will serve as the interim chief until Kinsella starts on July 1.
2. Rent in Halifax
Zane Woodford at The Star reports the apartment vacancy rate in Halifax has hit a low of 1.6%. That figure is based on data from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s October survey of privately-owned rental units. The rate is down from 2.3% in the CMHC’s last October 2017 survey.
According to the report, the average rent is up by 2.1% from $1,027 last year to $1,066 this year. Apartments with two or three bedrooms have the lowest vacancy rate at 1.3%. More people in the city, primarily from immigration, was a factor behind the increased rental demand.
Woodford interviews Neil Lovitt at Turner and Drake, senior manager of planning and economic intelligence at Turner Drake, who says the city could be headed for a crisis.
Really if we don’t get back to a higher vacancy rate, we could start to see some of the price increases that we’ve seen in other markets like Toronto and Vancouver, which spells trouble for a lot of the existing residents.
It’s kind of evolved over decades, really. And now you’re getting to a point where we haven’t really done anything about that for quite a long time, and a lot of forces beyond our local control could really turn that into a crisis quickly.
After reading this, I feel pretty lucky about the rent I pay. I won’t say the amount here, but I’ve been in the same two-bedroom apartment in Clayton Park for 11 years and this is the first year the rent will increase (by $50 starting June 1).
In 1998, I moved out of a one-bedroom apartment in Scotia Towers on Brunswick Street. I was paying $500 for rent, which included utilities, heat, and hot water. Someone on Twitter pointed out she lived in the same building four years ago and paid $750. I can’t find the rent for the same unit now, but rents for a one-bedroom in the buildings on either side of Scotia Towers are $1080 and $1270 (the three buildings are owned by QuadReal). I emailed the company to find out the rent for a one-bedroom in Scotia Towers, but haven’t heard back. A follower on Twitter says she lived in Scotia Towers in 1996 one of the other buildings from 1997 to 2000 and paid $575.
A number of people posted on Twitter what they paid in rent in Halifax around the same time I lived downtown and then we compared that to what rent is in the same place today. Here’s some of what they shared:
A one-bedroom at Cunard Court from 1999 to 2004. Rent was $705, which included utilities and five appliances. The rent now is $1,200.
A one-bedroom in Ogilvie Towers in the south end in the late 1990s. Rent was $550 and it’s now $1,014 to $1,392 for one and two bedrooms.
Off the peninsula, the rent for a two-bedroom at 50 Barkton Lane in Clatyon Park in mid-90s was $750. A one bedroom in the same building is now $950.
I don’t know how anyone can afford this, especially since wages in the city seem stagnant. Right now, I’m happy I don’t have to move, although I see many people on social media looking.
3. Cavanagh talks workplace safety, elections, and minimum wage
Michael Lightstone at Halifax Today interviewed Danny Cavanagh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour. Lightstone asks Cavanagh about issues like workplace safety, the federal election in October, and the minimum wage. Cavanagh says a $15 minimum wage could benefit employers in Nova Scotia.
For starters, we don’t believe that that’ll put anybody in jeopardy. In fact, I think having a lower minimum wage has put them in jeopardy. I know around this province, and others as well, a big concern that’s being raised more and more every day is the inability to hire workers, to get workers, to find workers (for) many of those restaurants or retail shops, or whatever the case might be. If people pay a higher minimum wage, they’re actually going to have somebody that’s going to be around for a while. When we see the businesses that want to invest in the workers by providing them with a better wage rate and maybe some benefits, and those kinds of things, then it turns out in spades for (employers) because they can rely on their workers.
Today is International Workers’ Day and there will be a rally and march at Grand Parade at 5pm.
4. Sankofa Songs
A new CD released on the weekend highlights songs folklorist Helen Creighton recorded from the African Nova Scotia community in the 1940s, reports Sherri Borden Colley at CBC.
The CD called Sankofa Songs is a remastered version of a CD from a two-CD compilation called Lord You Brought Me a Mighty Long Way: An African Nova Scotian Musical Journey, which was produced by the Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia and the CBC in 1997.
Folklorist Clary Croft and black-culture consultant Henry Bishop worked on this current CD project. Bishop says the music connects Black communities in Nova Scotia with those in the U.S. and beyond.
What we’re trying to do is show people, ‘Look, here’s Africa’s, Nova Scotia’s history … and there’s connections from all parts of the world where our ancestors came from.
One of the songs featured on the new CD is the anti-slavery song No More Auction Block For Me, sung by William Riley of Cherry Brook. Creighton was in Cherry Brook in 1943 recording the music of its residents.
If you haven’t listened to some of the recordings in the Helen Creighton collection, you really should. It’s quite a thing listening to the voices from our past. These are our stories in music. The Nova Scotia Archives has the collection here and you can learn more about Creighton’s work at the Helen Creighton Folklore Society.
5. Income assistance numbers on the decline
The number of people on income assistance is declining, reports Robert Devet for Nova Scotia Advocate. Devet reports that as of March 2018, the number of cases (25,874) and beneficiaries (38,611) are at their lowest in 20 years. The numbers come from the annual Maytree Social Assistance Summaries, which collects numbers for all provinces and territories.
Devet asks DSC’s media relations advisor Shannon Kerr about the fluctuations.
Caseload numbers can change for a number of reasons, including changes due to social and economic reasons, policy implementations, and the impact of changes to federal benefits. Over the last number of years, the overall decline in ESIA cases and beneficiaries is due to the caseload being made up of more single recipients than families.
Devet points out that child poverty, minimum wage, and food-bank use aren’t improving and he’s concerned about income assistance recipients going “off the grid.”
1. The evidence for a basic income program
On Saturday, I attended the Basic Income Conference at the Halifax Central Library and I wanted to write about some of the research that was shared on how a basic income program could improve the lives of low-income Nova Scotians. The conference was hosted by Basic Income Nova Scotia, which has been calling for a feasibility study to understand what a basic income program could look like in Nova Scotia.
Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard was the first to speak and provided a human and personal story of basic income.
Bernard grew up in East Preston. Her presentation included a photo of her at 18 months old with her three-year-old sister. When Bernard was 12, her father was killed in a car accident, leaving her mother, Marguerite, a widow at age 39. Marguerite had to raise 13 children, including two of her own grandchildren and a godchild, on her own. The youngest of the children was 18 months and the oldest was 18 years.
Bernard’s mother went to work as a domestic worker to support her family. Eventually, she went to work at as a housekeeper at a motel one of her clients opened in Lower Sackville. Every day, Marguerite left home at 5am and took a bus from East Preston to Lower Sackville. This was in the 1960s and there were no express routes, so she travelled the long way on Bedford Highway. She earned $25 a week, not nearly enough to support her family. But with the help of a case worker, Marguerite managed to get income assistance while she worked a job.
“I think my mother’s experience was an invisible, unspoken experience in basic income,” Bernard said. “We survived because her low income was supplemented. That’s a basic income.”
Bernard says a basic income program can benefit women, Indigenous Canadians, sexually/gender diverse Canadians, and those with disabilities. She says access to a basic income means less stress, less anxiety, less depression, and less use of food banks. Recipients would make healthier food choices.
Bernard also talked about the concept of the undeserving poor versus the deserving poor and why that’s holding us back from creating a basic income program. She says her mother received help because as an employed woman who lost her partner, she was considered the deserving poor. Whereas, a single mother without a job is considered the undeserving poor. Creating a basic income program means changing the stigma of poverty.
“Is it not time for us to get rid of the Elizabethan poor law attitude?” Bernard asked. “I think that’s the reason in this country why we’re not moving toward a basic income.”
Evelyn Forget, the author of Basic Income for Canadians, spoke about Mincome, the basic income project in Manitoba in the 1970s. This is the project Ontario used to create its basic income pilot, which it then cancelled in 2018. (Erica Butler interviewed Forget before the conference). The purpose of the Mincome project was to find out if people would choose to work less if they received a basic income. There were two groups that took part: a control group in Winnipeg that didn’t receive the basic income; and another group in Dauphin that did. The program was cancelled after three years. Forget says the data was archived into 1,800 cardboard boxes, which were housed in the Library and Archives Canada.
Some of the data was later analyzed and found working hours for men dropped by one percent and for married women working hours dropped three percent.
There were two groups whose participation in the workforce was affected the most. Married women stayed out of the workforce longer after giving birth. At that time in the 1970s, women only had four weeks of maternity leave, so many mothers used the basic income to stay home with their children longer. The second group affected was young, unattached males. About 80% of those young unattached males left the workforce when the basic income program was in place. Forget later learned these young, unattached males were actually teenagers: before the experiment, this demographic had typically left school to go to work to support their families; when their families started receiving the basic income, many in the same demographic returned to school.
Forget also examined some of the health outcomes related to Mincome. She found hospital visits in Dauphin during the time of the project declined by 8.5%. The visits with the greatest increases were those for accidents and injuries or a mental health component.
Forget also included a personal story from Mary Richardson, a Dauphin resident whose family received the basic income. Forget says Richardson told her the basic income allowed her to buy “luxuries” such as school books for her children, and take them to the dentist for the first time.
“Everybody was the same and there was no shame,” Richardson told Forget.
Forget also pointed out a potential interesting connection between basic income and the living wage. With a basic income, people have the choice on the kinds of jobs they want to work and can turn down jobs with low wages. That could mean employers would have to improve working conditions and wages to attract employees.
Forget says the difference between basic income and income assistance is that a basic income sets the floor for a level of money Canadians would need to always live a modest, dignified life. Receiving a basic income is also unconditional and there’s no reporting or rules like those now involved in receiving income assistance. Simplifying the administration of a basic income could save money.
Forget says Mincome showed that basic income reduces stigma around poverty. People are healthier, their diet is better, they are happier, they use the income to pay for job training or education, their children stay in school, and their attitudes towards others improved. Basic income is good economic policy and good social policy.
“If we treat people properly, we build a better society, a more productive society,” Forget says.
Basic Income and food security
Catherine Mah, an associate professor in the faculty of health at Dalhousie and the Canada Research Chair in Promoting Healthy Populations, talked about the connection between basic income and public health.
What was interesting about Mah’s talk was she pointed out we already have examples of basic income that improve the lives and health of recipients. When Canadians turn 65, they receive Old Age Security (OAS), Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and CPP. Mah says food insecurity among seniors over 65 is cut by half because of these programs.
Food insecurity affects certain groups, such as the Black and Indigenous populations and children the most. Mah says about 60% of Nova Scotians who now experience food insecurity already have a job. A basic income would make a significant difference in their food choices and health outcomes.
Designing, costing, and financing a basic income program
Kourtney Koebel, a PhD student at the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto, is working on a couple of projects related to basic income. She broke down some of the ways a basic income could look. Like Mah, she pointed out Canada already has programs like Old Age Security, GIS, and even the Canada Child Benefit that provide a basic income, but with conditions; in these two cases the condition is the age of who receives the benefit.
Koebel looks at two examples of how a basic income could work. It could be universal programs, meaning every Canadian, regardless of income, receives the same basic income. Or the basic income could be targeted to those most likely to fall below a certain income line. Under a targeted program, there would also be a reduction rate for every dollar recipient earned. The more you earn, the less you receive in basic income.
As for financing such a program, Koebel’s work suggests replacing the current income-based refundable and non-refundable tax credits with a basic income program, which would be administered by the federal and provincial governments. There’s a lot of math here, but Koebel says this is a way to keep a basic income program revenue neutral since the cost of a federal basic income program equals the value of the refundable and non-refundable tax credits.
You can find Koebel’s work on designing, costing and financing a basic income program here.
Basic income and human rights
Vince Calderhead, a lawyer with Halifax law firm Pink Larkin, talked about the human rights’ connection to a basic income, pointing out elements in Canadian and international law that could be used to support a basic income.
For example, Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
And then there’s Section 36 (1) of the Constitution Act, 1982.
- (1) Without altering the legislative authority of Parliament or of the provincial legislatures, or the rights of any of them with respect to the exercise of their legislative authority, Parliament and the legislatures, together with the government of Canada and the provincial governments, are committed to
- (a) promoting equal opportunities for the well-being of Canadians;
- (b) furthering economic development to reduce disparity in opportunities; and
- (c) providing essential public services of reasonable quality to all Canadians.
The conference wrapped up with a panel of more speakers talking about how a basic income could affect those in Indigenous communities or rural communities where work is often seasonal and unstable. Two of the panelists, like Bernard, shared personal stories. Poverty activist Wayne MacNaughton talked about how his income increased by 60% when he turned 65 two years ago and moved from receiving income assistance to getting OAS and GIS. And Amy Moonshadow, a poverty and disability activist, talked about living on a meager income.
I noticed a few themes during the conference. First, the connection between a basic income and health. While there is no research on how a basic income program could reduce our healthcare expenditures, which in Nova Scotia represents half of the provincial budget, there certainly is evidence a basic income improves health outcomes. Look at Forget’s evidence from Dauphin how there was a reduction in hospital visits during the Mincome program or how seniors receiving GIS, OAS, and CPP experience less food insecurity, which affects their health. A basic income could help low-income earners not only afford better food, but also access to recreation and social opportunities that reduce loneliness, which also affects overall health. Worrying about money is stressful and impacts physical and mental health. A basic income program could be preventative medicine.
I also thought a lot about the concept of work and how a basic income would make us value people’s contributions to society, rather than just work for wages. People contribute to society in all sorts of ways that are extremely valuable but don’t always pay much money, or any money at all. Think about mothers at home raising their children, adult children taking care of aging parents, volunteers creating and running programs in our communities, entrepreneurs struggling through the first lean years, or artists scraping by to support their art. Imagine society without all of these contributors. And then imagine how much better off we’d all be if they were supported with a basic income.
A basic income could also help young people in the job market for the first time and facing the precarious nature of the gig economy.
There was a lot to take in over several hours and I haven’t covered all of it here. But Basic Income Nova Scotia will have all the videos and Power Point presentations on their Facebook group this Sunday. I highly recommend checking it out. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions in the comments and I’ll see if I can answer them from all the notes I took.
2. Sable Island horses
Over at Halifax Magazine, Zack Metcalfe talks about the horses of Sable Island. Metcalfe interviews Ian Jones, a professor of biology at the University of Newfoundland, about his concerns about the horses and the island’s ecosystem.
Instead of having a National Park protecting unique biodiversity on Canada’s most remote island, we have a pony farm for tourists.
Horses overgrazing has led to desertification, and eating mouthfuls of sand means the horses’ teeth get worn down. No shelter leads to the death of hundreds of horses. The lifespan of the horses there is about four to five years.
Like Metcalfe and many others, I always wanted to visit Sable Island. But I also want it left alone. Still, I always think of those horses. Metcalfe says maybe it’s time for the province to bring the horses to the mainland for medical care and new owners.
The comments on Metcalfe’s story seems mixed on how to best help Sable Island’s horse.
Last month, Frances Willick at CBC reported on the work researchers are doing to learn why the horses on the island are dying. The researchers says there is a “perfect storm” of challenges, including starvation and parasites, that are killing the animals.
The Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s spring dinner is Thursday night and there will be five speakers who will talk on the theme of Work Integrated Learning: Bloom Where You’re Planted. Basically, they will share their thoughts on finding and keeping local employees.
I always find these kinds of events entertaining. All the speakers’ bios are filled with words and phrases like innovation, navigation, empowerment, human capital, and industry disruptor.
Tickets are $205 for members or $305 for future members.
Of course, I don’t know what these speakers will talk about. But do you want my advice on how to attract and keep local workers? Pay them at least a living wage, so they don’t have to work another job or a “side hustle” to get by. Don’t create a job that is five or six jobs for the pay of one. If there’s high turnover in your company, ask your employees why and fix it. Hire and promote older workers, people of colour, and women.
There, I just saved you the ticket price. I see Olands is a sponsor. You can take me out for a beer instead.
Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11am, City Hall) — agenda
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm, Bedford and Sackville Heights Community Centre) — agenda
Public Information Meeting – Case 21916 (Wednesday, 7pm, Meeting Room, Centennial Arena, Halifax) — BANCInvestments wants to build a 12-storey apartment building at 3514 Joseph Howe Drive.
National Youth Week and National Youth ARTS Week (until Tuesday, May 7, various locations) — info here.
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — agenda
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — agenda
No public meetings for the rest of the week.
Dalhousie Conference on University Teaching and Learning [DCUTL] 2019 (Wednesday, 8:30am, Rowe Management Building) — Keynote speakers include Sara Harris from the University of British Columbia and Teri Balser from Dalhousie. Registration and info here.
The Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effect Studies [CNODES]: Observations on Observational Research ‑ Implications for Education, Policy and Practice (Wednesday, 11am, Room 109, Burbidge Building) — Shawn Bugden from Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Manitoba will speak.
Genome research in non-model eukaryotes: Challenges and opportunities (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Claudio Slamovits will speak.
Women’s Health Research: Evidence Impacting Care and Outcomes (Thursday, 8:30am, Cineplex OE Smith Theatre, IWK Health Centre) — Erna Snelgrove-Clarke will speak.
Team Nova Scotia Provincial Science Fair Showcase (Thursday, 12:30pm, McNally Main Theatre Auditorium) — 40 of Nova Scotia’s brightest young scientists and innovators from grades seven to twelve will display their research and design achievements in the fields of biotechnology, computing & mathematical sciences, earth and environmental sciences, engineering life sciences and physical sciences, before they head to the Canada-Wide Science Fair.
In the harbour
07:15: Alice Oldendorff, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from New York
11:00: Siem Cicero, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
11:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, St. Maarten
15:00: Torm Camilla, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Come By Chance, Newfoundland
16:00: Gerhard Schulte, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
19:00: Glorious Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
Jane’s Walk Halifax (Photo: Jane’s Walk Halifax)
On the weekend, Jane’s Walk Halifax is hosting several walks in Halifax and Dartmouth. Walks in Halifax include the playgrounds at Fort Needham, former wetlands and waterways, the neighbourhood around Carlton and Spring Garden, the Quinpool Common Project, Chinese-Canadian history in the city, and why purpose-built solutions lead to failure in urban planning. CTV interviewed local historian David Jones about his walk on the historic walls in Halifax.
Meanwhile, the walks in Dartmouth will check out community hubs and homes in the north end that survived the Halifax Explosion.
You can learn about all the walks on the Jane’s Walk Halifax Facebook group here. This is an annual event and I’m hoping to check it out myself.
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