1. New month, new government
Welcome to September, Nova Scotia. You’ve got a new government today.
Yesterday, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston was officially sworn in as the 27th premier of Nova Scotia, two weeks after his party won a majority in last month’s provincial election. New cabinet ministers and other assignments were also announced Tuesday afternoon. Below is a quick snapshot of some of the selections:
- With the province still under a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michelle Thompson will become Minister of Health and Wellness. (She’ll also lead the new Office of Health Care Professionals Recruitment).
- Barbara Adams, a physiotherapist who is now in her second term as MLA, will head the newly created Department of Seniors and Long-term Care. As has been widely written about everywhere, including here at the Examiner, the problems and stresses facing the delivery of long-term care in this province have been amplified during the pandemic. Here’s what the PCs promised to do about the issue in their campaign platform last month.
- Susan Corkum-Greek will inherit the late and post-pandemic recovery as Minister of Economic Development.
- Agriculture will be led by Greg Morrow.
- Steve Craig will be the new Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
- Tim Halman takes over from Keith Irving as Minister of Environment and Climate Change. One of his main concerns should be helping the new PC government fulfill its pledge to get the province to 80% renewable energy by the end of the decade. Reaching that goal won’t be easy, as evidenced by a CBC article from yesterday, which could win the headline award for biggest understatement of the year: “80 per cent renewable by 2030 could be a challenge, expert says.”
- Brad Johns is the new Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
- The former Department of Lands and Forestry combines with the former Department of Energy and Mines to form the new Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, which Tory Rushton will head. Among the things he might want to look at: recent photos that suggest a possible tailings leak at Atlantic Gold’s Moose River mine. There’s also the implementation of forestry recommendations in the three-year-old Lahey Report, the status of Owl’s Head, dealing with the province’s biodiversity crisis… Actually, I’ll stop listing things. Let’s just say he’s got a lot of things to look at.
- John Lohr is Minister for the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Lohr was on hand with Tim Houston at the press conference that immediately followed Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony. Tim Bousquet took the opportunity to question the two about the housing crisis. Specifically, what immediate relief will renters get if the new government lifts rent control measures when the state of emergency comes to an end, something they promised to do on the campaign trail. Here’s a snippet of that interaction between Bousquet, Houston, and Lohr:
Houston: “…[W]e’re only interested in real solutions. We’re just not interested in sloganeering. So my message to them is the same: I understand their concern. I grew up in a family and I’ve had those discussions with my own parents about the concerns that they had from time to time. Rental increases were coming. I get it. I understand it. And my commitment is to find real solutions to the problem, to the issues facing this province.
Bousquet: What do you say to the hundreds or thousands of people who have gotten notices saying that their rent is going to increase 50% and more when the state of emergency is lifted?
Lohr: I’m not I’m not aware of that number, but we we do care immensely. And we are tracking all of these things very, very closely in order to support those who are in need.
To see the full response from the premier and his minister, and to get the full picture of what the new provincial cabinet looks like, check out Bousquet’s full article on the newly sworn-in government here.
2. Halifax municipal council admits mistakes in forceful tent evictions last month; votes to fund 85 affordable units and pledges $500k in new housing spending
“Almost two weeks after the city’s police-enforced eviction of people living in tents and shelters in city parks, Halifax regional councillors are admitting some fault and promising dozens of affordable housing units,” writes Zane Woodford, in his first of two reports on housing this morning; this one from Halifax municipal council’s meeting Tuesday.
The meeting opened with a statement from Mayor Mike Savage, who spoke about the events of Aug. 18, when Halifax Regional Police forcefully evicted multiple people from tents from parks around Halifax, and arrested and pepper-sprayed a number of protestors in a crowd outside the old Memorial Library on Spring Garden Road. Savage admitted that several of those who were evicted from their tents were not offered alternative shelter. This contradicts what Savage said the day after the Aug. 18 evictions, when he claimed that everyone evicted had been offered housing.
Savage did not officially apologize for the incidents that day, but he did bring forward a motion that would authorize CAO Jacques Dubé to spend up to $500,000 from Fiscal Services to address “immediate and emergent needs including measures such as the fit-up of spaces for temporary accommodations, renting of hotel and other spaces and further, and to coordinate and collaborate with community-based social services providers and the Province of Nova Scotia.”
Dubé said the municipality has recently identified three sites around Halifax that could potentially house up to 40 people. He also said there are currently 81 people sleeping rough, in tents, emergency shelters, or otherwise. (Here’s how they got that number).
Along with the $500,000, council voted to submit a proposal to the federal government to open up funding for more affordable housing units. Woodford writes:
Next, council voted to submit a proposal to the federal government to use nearly $13 million in funding from the Rapid Housing Initiative to create 85 units of affordable housing.
These units are meant to be deeply affordable, with rent geared to income, meaning tenants pay 30% of whatever they receive monthly.
This is the second round of Rapid Housing Initiative funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation after council voted late last year to direct more than $8 million to Adsum, the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, and the North End Community Health Centre to build 52 units within a year.
Woodford’s full article contains all the details on how HRM would plan to use the additional funding from the Rapid Housing Initiative, as well as quotes from Mayor Savage, CAO Jacques Dubé, and multiple councillors concerning the August evictions and the backlash that followed. Check it out and see what could come out of the ugliness of Aug. 18.
And a reminder, Suzanne Rent will be at the Spryfield Lions Rink tonight from 6pm to 8pm for an in-person session to hear any tips, ideas, and stories you in the community have about the housing crisis. The Examiner has been hosting these sessions in different communities to learn more about how the crisis is affecting different people in different areas as part of our investigative series PRICED OUT. You can register for tonight’s session here.
If you can’t make it to our events in person, you can text or call us at our PRICED OUT message line: 1-819-803-6215.
3. Last year, 27 units of affordable housing in Halifax were sold off cheap. And the province approved the sale.
In his second report today — also part of the Examiner’s PRICED OUT series — Woodford has the story of how 27 units of affordable housing in Spryfield were quietly sold off last year with the government’s approval:
New Armdale Westside Housing Co-operative Limited sold 19 properties to 3340837 Nova Scotia Limited in November 2020 for $1,220,000. The properties are mostly one- or two-unit buildings, and are scattered around the Spryfield area. Their combined assessed value for property taxation, typically much less than market value, is $3,514,800.
The buyer has since renovated and sold some of these properties on the open market — three three-bedroom townhouse-style condo units, all between $275,000 and $292,000. They’ve also sold two other properties, a vacant piece of land, and a duplex. After all that, they got their investment back and then some.
So, New Armdale Westside Housing Co-op gave up more than half the affordable housing units it had in 2015, all during the middle of a housing crisis. The question is, given the desperate need for affordable housing in Nova Scotia, why did the province sign off on the sale? The co-op has a 25-year mortgage with Nova Scotia Housing Development Corporation for $3.2 million, signed in 2008, covering 40 properties, including the 19 sold. That meant the provincial government had to approve the sale.
In his full article, Woodford looks at why the province approved the sale, why there wasn’t a public tender process, and how financial struggles can make it hard for housing co-ops not to sell much-needed affordable housing. Check it out and decide for yourself if the province has been acting appropriately given the state of the housing crisis right now.
4. COVID Update
The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing.
We ended August with three new COVID cases announced yesterday, all in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone. Two were travel related; the other, a close contact of a previously known case. That brings us to 65 known active cases in Nova Scotia this morning.
As of the end of day Monday, 70.9% of all Nova Scotians — that includes those ineligible for the vaccine — have received two doses. That keeps the province on pace to hit the 75% mark by September 15. That’s when the final phase of the provincial reopening plan, when most public health restrictions will be lifted, is expected to begin.
Find Tim Bousquet’s full COVID report from Tuesday here, and get all the info you need to know on vaccination numbers and where to book appointments, testing sites, case demographics and potential exposure advisories.
5. Glace Bay-Dominion recount
The Examiner reported last week that the triple-John riding of Glace Bay-Dominion (quadruple-John if you count Liberal John John McCarthy twice) was headed for a judicial recount Monday. Yesterday the Canadian Press reported that Progressive Conservative candidate John White’s victory was confirmed following the recount — though his lead over second-place NDP candidate John White slipped from a 33-vote margin to 29.
According to a report from Ian Nathanson at Saltwire, White says the recount has caused some headaches for him, despite the confirmed victory:
I had an apartment lined up in Halifax, but I lost that because I couldn’t commit to it and someone else took it. By the time I found out Monday afternoon that I won the recount, it was too late.
This could be a good thing in the long run. If enough of our new MLAs can’t find housing in Halifax, who knows what type of sweeping legislation could be passed to address the issue. I wish him luck with the apartment hunt, though. Rents are set to go up, and tents are still coming down, so finding a spot isn’t going to get any easier for the new MLA this month.
Remembering Echo Lake
I don’t want to get too morbid on a beautiful summer’s day, so I’ll keep this brief.
It was my father’s birthday the other day and I was over when my aunt and uncle called in over video chat to wish him well from Los Angeles.
For most of the conversation, we spoke to my aunt while my uncle was in the other room tracking the Caldor wildfire, which was blazing north of them in the Sierra Mountains. My uncle’s family built a cabin on a remote lake up there, Echo Lake to be exact, in the 1920s, and my uncle spent most of his summers there growing up in the 1940s and 50s. He took his daughters up there, taught them to swim, and brought extended family up (like myself) for weekends spent hiking, boating, playing cards, and singing around campfires.
To me, the cabin is one of those memories from childhood that’s become otherworldly. A place so remote and magical — no electricity, only accessible by boat, surrounded by giant mountains, and rugged forests — that its taken on a life of its own in my mind. One that it can’t possibly live up to in reality.
For my uncle, the cabin is a family treasure. A second home that’s outlasted every other home he’s ever owned. That’s filled with memories from every stage of his life. From childhood, to his university days, to his parents’ old age, to his becoming a husband and a father. It’s a part of him, and always has been.
And now there are wildfires raging within sight around the lake, threatening to destroy the surrounding area, and potentially the family cabin itself.
I can’t remember a time I didn’t know about global warming. As a young kid, it sometimes filled me with the same kind of all-consuming dread that the threat of nuclear holocaust might have might have given my uncle growing up. I was always told that this would be a problem that would begin to impact my generation later in life, or possibly the generation after. It was said as a sort of misguided comfort — that I wouldn’t have to worry about the consequences of carbon consumption for a long, long time, so I should relax knowing we had plenty of time to slow down the worst of environmentally harmful activities.
There’s a particular commercial — one that terrified me as a kid — that illustrates this type of thinking perfectly.
But now it’s clear that we’re already feeling the effects. And it’s heartbreaking to watch that solastalgia — the distress of losing one’s home as the environment changes — play out among the older generations.
My uncle, when he finally did come to the camera, fought back emotion to describe the facts of the fire, how close it was, how well they’d been fighting it off, where the wind was blowing, and so on. The comforting constancy of the earth is slipping away. The return of spring, while still dependable, is running to a different clock every year and certain things we take for granted, like ice to skate on in winter, won’t be a part of our geographical cultures anymore.
My uncle’s brother, Peter Caldwell, wrote a coffee table book about Echo Lake in 2004. It includes pictures of the family through the generations, as well as stunning panoramas of the mountains and the lake on clear, blue summer days.
In the author’s note, Peter wrote this:
For those fortunate cabin owners who have spent many years at Echo, the unique nature of this Northern Sierra gem needs no explanation. Now beginning on a fourth generation of Echo Lakers in our family, summers at Echo are an essential part of our year’s activities. Whether it’s introducing youngsters to the magic of Echo or enjoying the opportunity of sharing cabin time with invited guests, there is always a recurrent thrill in reliving the initial wonder of the Echo Lake experience…
…With generations of care for their lots and the accompanying preservation of the surrounding environment, Echo families remain as watchful stewards of their small part of the forest to everyone’s benefit. Seeing the lake a beautiful mirror on a still morning or watching scattered clouds turn from orange to purple as the alpenglow of evening descends on Echo’s rim never fails to renew our spirits and remind us of the breathtaking and timeless beauty of the area…
I hope this book will provide a more complete picture of our Echo heritage and also give future generations extra incentive to preserve this wonderful place that has meant so much to all of us.”
There’s something heartbreaking about reading that now.
Nova Scotia has a lot of its own Echo Lakes that can still be preserved. All I can hope is that the events of this summer will do for the earth what Peter hoped his book would do for Echo Lake, “give future generations extra incentive to preserve this wonderful place that has meant so much to all of us.”
The weird, wonderful world of Halifax Buy and Sell
If I’ve noticed one thing, it’s that people love money, and they especially love trying to make it quick and easy.
I was reminded of this obvious fact recently by a woman who’s been going out with my roommate this past month. Her name’s Taylor, and a favourite pastime of hers is scrolling through the Halifax Buy and Sell page, and archiving the most ridiculous posts she can find. And there really are some ridiculous ones, which she shared with me.
Here, for your reading pleasure, are four of the best listings.
1. Underwear? Under there.
It doesn’t say if they’re used. But I really hope they’re not second hand. Also, I know $50 isn’t a crazy amount of money, but you’re not buying a crazy amount of leather here. Plus, it’s underwear being sold out of the package by a stranger online. I think that has to factor into the price.
My consumer watchdog evaluation of the actual street price of these three items: the customer should be paid about $20 for doing this person a favour and taking this stuff off their hands.
2. Sometimes an elm bushwhacker is just an elm bushwhacker…
I only have three thoughts on this one:
- Why did he carve a head on it?
- Why did he carve a head on it?
- $60 actually seems like a reasonable price for a hand-carved elm bushwhacker. I might be wrong here, too; I’m not sure. Is that a fair deal? Or maybe I’m just one of those group of people that are born every minute.
(Also, it’s a shame the big “X” is a little bit in the way. But you get the idea.)
3. Busted or enhanced?
Where you or I might have seen a broken chair, one ambitious entrepreneur had the vision to see a quick buck. See below, where they try to spin some seriously beat up straw into gold.
It’s an outrageous listing — gotta be a joke — but I salute both the creativity and the audacity that went into listing a broken wooden chair as a recliner with a $300 value. Capitalism just brings out the best in people.
4. Old bag
Here’s the pièce de résistance…
There’s a lot to unpack here — pun intended.
First, marketing plastic bags as vintage — beautiful. Sometimes I see one floating on the breeze and I sigh and look back fondly on a time when I was in my prime and I could walk into any supermarket and pick up a plastic bag. Now, for only $750, I can recapture those glory days. It’s a great price. So outlandish you almost find yourself believing that this old crumpled shopping bag really could be a genuine collector’s item.
Then there’s the category tags. Advertising it under “Women’s Handbags & Purses” is a Don Draper-level stroke of marketing brilliance. It’s not an old plastic bag; it’s a vintage handbag.
But the real fun comes in the product description:
I don’t know what the best thing is about this part of the post. Is it that he felt the need to clarify that this bag came from a Manitoba No Frills? Is it that he listed the condition as Used-Like New and pointed out that it has no stretch or wear in the handles? Or that, on top of the $750, he’ll go through the trouble of delivering it to you for only $5 more? Maybe it’s just the overall air of confidence this guy gives off? “No low balls. I know what I’ve got here.” This man knows how to sell an old grocery bag, I can tell you that much.
In fact, he might know how to sell anything. He put up an ad basically asking people if he can rob them, but he’s got five 5-star reviews. It boggles the mind.
I wonder if someone bought the bag in the end? If this guy was actually able to sell a grocery bag that doesn’t even have groceries in it for $750, he should be the most sought after supermarket cashier in Canada right now. I still doubt any supermarket chain would offer him more than $12.95/hour, though.
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — live streamed on YouTube
Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — live streamed on YouTube
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — live streamed on YouTube
In the harbour
10:00: Horizon Arctic, offshore supply ship, moves from Dartmouth Cove to Bedford Basin
11:00: Wisby Pacific, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
11:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
13:00: Mitera, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
- Don’t panic. We’ve still got three weeks of summer left.
- The last time I was at Echo Lake, Lance Armstrong had just won his seventh Tour de France. My Mom, who is not a cycling enthusiast, wanted to make sure we picked up a copy of the paper at the main cabin before we left, and somehow that’s been burned in my memory for 16 years now.