News

1. Rent and development

Apartment buildings in Halifax. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“The Progressive Conservative government has tabled legislation to extend the cap on rent increases, but there are still loopholes allowing landlords to hike rent for tenants on fixed-term leases,” reports Zane Woodford:

It does protect tenants from rent increases between fixed-term leases, with the cap applying “if a landlord enters into a new fixed-term lease with an existing tenant for the same residential premises.” The current cap contains the same clause, but landlords have found a way around it.

Mark Culligan, a legal worker with Dalhousie Legal Aid, said he’s seen one scenario consistently playing out: When a fixed-term lease ends, the landlord is under no legal obligation to sign a new lease with the same tenant, so if a tenant doesn’t want to pay higher rent, the landlord just finds another tenant.

“We’re seeing these fixed-term tenancies as a kind of weapon that landlords are using to exert even more control in the relationship between landlord and tenant because you’re taking away all security of tenure,” Culligan said in an interview Thursday.

“Any time that the tenant tries to enforce any rights to repairs, to proper rent, the landlord can always retaliate by just ending the tenancy at the end of the fixed term.”

Culligan believed the government was going to fix these issues after a meeting earlier this year. He’s been speaking out against the amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act tabled last week that don’t fix those issues.

Click here to read “Nova Scotia rent cap would continue under proposed PC legislation, but loopholes remain.”

Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr speaks to reporters in Halifax on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

In a second article, Woodford reports that:

The provincial government formalized its plans to dip into municipal affairs on Thursday, introducing bills to create a new agency on transportation and an executive panel on housing in Halifax Regional Municipality.

The two new groups are part of Premier Tim Houston’s plan for affordable housing, announced last week, and were met with criticism from representatives of the municipal government…

The Act would also give Lohr the ability to create “special planning areas.”

“On the recommendation of the Panel or the request of the Municipality, the Minister may make an order designating an area of the Municipality as a special planning area, if the Minister is satisfied that the order is required for the purpose of accelerating housing development in the Municipality,” the Act reads.

The Act enshrines broad powers for the minister to intervene in HRM’s plans, including the Centre Plan passed at council this week.

Lohr could “amend or repeal a land-use by-law within a special planning area,” “make an amendment to a municipal planning strategy,” or “approve a development agreement or an amendment to a development agreement.” Those are processes that require a public hearing under the HRM charter, but under the Act, the municipality would just provide notice that the amendments were approved.

Click here to read “PC government bill would allow minister to approve Halifax developments without public consultation.”

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2. Province House

Province House in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

Job Security for Nurses

Premier Tim Houston has promised every graduating Registered Nurse and Licensed Practical Nurse a job for the next five years. 

Houston said positions will be available in hospitals, at the IWK Children’s Hospital, and in long-term care. A recent report on CBC News said nursing graduates had received offers from out-of-province recruiters before being approached by local employers. 

“I don’t want there to be any doubt that if a nurse wants to work here in this province, we have a spot for them,” said Houston.

The PC government took over from Nova Scotia Health the responsibility of headhunting nurses two months ago. The province currently has more than 1,000 vacancies for nurses and the nursing shortage is part of the reason for frequent closures at Emergency Departments and long waits for surgery. Nova Scotia nursing schools graduate about 700 people a year.

Zach Churchill, the Liberal MLA for Yarmouth, asked Health Minister Michelle Thompson if the province’s mandatory vaccination policy for all health care workers was creating more vacancies among nurses, as some other provinces have experienced.

“Currently there is no immediate impact,” replied Thompson, a Registered Nurse by profession. “We do know that after November 30, people who are not vaccinated at all will be excluded from the workforce. People who have begun the vaccination program and have a second dose booked will not be excluded from the workforce for a period of time. So we are working with partners in long-term care as well as Nova Scotia Health and we have seen an uptick in the number of people who have got vaccines.”

Churchill, who was the minister of Health in the Rankin government, wants the PCs to commit to providing monthly updates on recruiting efforts to hire more nurses.

During yesterday’s Question Period, opposition leader Iain Rankin asked Houston why he didn’t extend to nurses the same income tax holiday the premier has promised to skilled tradespeople under the age of 30.

“We know we are in a housing crisis in this province and we need to attract trades people… to help build them,” replied Houston. “I believe it will be very successful and we will also build on that success and look to extend it to other industries after we have proved it with this pilot in the trades”.

Street checks

Houston was also quizzed by Rankin on whether he would amend the Police Act to end the practice of street checks. 

The legislation had been changed after a 2019 report by sociologist Scott Wortley determined African Nova Scotians were stopped and questioned six times more frequently than white residents. Despite a change to the wording of the Act, African Nova Scotians say the practice has continued because of a “loophole” that allows officers to stop anyone based on “suspicious activity.”

“We need to make sure those consultations continue and that we get the language right,” said Houston. “Everyone has the same goal. But we have now seen two examples with the legislation and the subsequent ministerial directive of well-intentioned words that left a loop-hole. We don’t like it, we don’t want a loophole, we will do everything we can to fix that loophole and if in our first attempt, we don’t properly close it then we will keep trying until it is closed.”

QR code frustration

Liberal MLA Fred Tilley (Northside-Westmount) said non-profit groups such as the Northside Minor Hockey Association in his Cape Breton constituency need help from the government to check the vaccination status of people attending games at the hockey rink. Tilley said not only will the non-profit group have to pay someone to check for proof of vaccination but the machines the province purchased to scan the QR codes will have limited use. 

“A lot of people in our small communities and a lot of seniors don’t have the technology to use the code readers,” Tilley told the legislature. The federal agency called CanImmunize sends people who have been vaccinated a QR code by email. To download the black-and-white QR code, a person requires a smartphone with up-to-date applications or a computer and a cellphone. The process is not without its frustrations.

Health Minister Michelle Thompson told the MLA she will work to figure out a process that will help non-profit groups with checking for proof of vaccination. 

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3. Abused while in provincial care

A jail cell in the north wing of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner

This item contains discussion of childhood sexual abuse.

“From the time I began working with incarcerated men in Nova Scotia, I heard stories about abuse at the ‘Youth Training Centre’ for supposed young offenders in Waterville,” writes El Jones:

These patterns of abuse in institutions — youth jails, group homes, locked treatment facilities — are widespread, and they are common among adults who end up in prison.

There is a direct connection between childhood sexual abuse, trauma, and incarceration. Those doing time now who were abused then are at least partially behind bars because of what was done to them when they were children.

These men, victims of abuse and the indifference to that abuse by the people charged both with punishing and protecting them, are still living their lives inside carceral institutions under the control of the same system that allowed them to be abused. Many are doing hard time in high-security institutions, labeled the worst of offenders.

To have to speak about the sexual abuse you lived through in a youth institution while serving time is its own kind of hell. To have to speak to the police, and then go back to your cell under the eyes of the whole range, and to be unable to show any pain in an environment where weakness can make you prey yet again is another unhealed wound. To live still under the control of the same system that abused you is an extreme form of powerlessness.

And, as these survivors of abuse have discovered, they cannot even get counselling to cope with the effects.

Click here to read “Martin was abused when he was a child in provincial custody at the Youth Training Centre in Waterville; now he’s an adult in provincial jail and can’t get counselling.”

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4. Antivaxxers go to court in a hopeless bid to stop Dr. Strang from requiring proof of vaccination for children

Yesterday, the province announced 31 new cases of COVID-19, and over half of them (16) were among children aged 11 and under who cannot get vaccinated.

For the past couple of weeks, under-12 age cohort has consistently had the highest number of new cases, followed by the 20-39 age cohort. Curiously, the 12-19 age cohort has had relatively lower case counts.

Which brings us to vaccination.

New case rates per 100,000 people in each vaccination status. Graph: Tim Bousquet

We know that — as demonstrated by the vaccination status of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths reported each Friday afternoon — vaccination provides very good protection against the disease.

Let’s look at how that plays out by age. As of last Friday, this was the vaccine uptake by age cohort:

(The percentages are approximations based on 2019 population estimates of each age cohort, so despite the 100% vaccination figure, there is a small number of people over 70 who are not vaccinated.)

The 12-15 age cohort has among the highest vaccination rates, and is well on its way to becoming fully vaccinated — they were the last age group to have access to vaccines, and so there are still a large number who are waiting for their second shot. But the 16-19 age cohort has the lowest percentage of people with at least one dose.

That mix of high vaccination rates among younger teenagers and low vaccination rates among older teenagers has resulted in the 12-19 age cohort having middling new case counts.

To illustrate, here are the cumulative case counts since Monday, by age cohort:

• 43 are aged 0-11
• 14 are aged 12-19
• 35 are aged 20-39
• 34 are aged 40-59
• 5 are aged 60-79
• 0 are aged 80 or older

Of course each age cohort consists of both a different number of years (12 years for the 11s and under, eight years for the 12-19 cohort, 20 years for each of the older cohorts) and a different population, so it’s hard to make direct comparisons, but it looks like children 11 and younger have very high relative case counts because they are completely unvaccinated, while the 12-19s have a bit of protection because the 12-15s are highly vaccinated.

Chief Medical Officer of Health at the COVID briefing, May 10, 2021. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

But some antivaxxers want to halt the very good progress in getting 12- to 15-year-olds vaccinated.

Wednesday, the Citizens Alliance of Nova Scotia (CANS) filed a Notice for Judicial Review in the provincial Supreme Court in Yarmouth, asking that the court intervene to stop Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang and Health Minister Michelle Thompson from requiring that people under 16 show proof of vaccination in order to take part in non-essential activities like eating in restaurants and going to sporting events.

CANS uses a mailbox at the UPS store on Robie Street in Halifax as its address, so I don’t know why it didn’t simply file the action in Halifax. The group has assigned someone named William Ray as its registered agent, and perhaps Ray lives in Yarmouth.

In any event, the court filing begins with a preamble of a quote from the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the 2019 case Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, which is a super interesting case involving spies and such, that is explained as follows in the decision:

V was born in Toronto in 1994. At the time of his birth, his parents were posing as Canadians under assumed names. In reality, they were foreign nationals working on assignment for the Russian foreign intelligence service. V did not know that his parents were not who they claimed to be. He believed that he was a Canadian citizen by birth, he lived and identified as a Canadian, and he held a Canadian passport. In 2010, V’s parents were arrested in the United States and charged with espionage. They pled guilty and were returned to Russia. Following their arrest, V’s attempts to renew his Canadian passport proved unsuccessful. However, in 2013, he was issued a certificate of Canadian citizenship.

                    Then, in 2014, the Canadian Registrar of Citizenship cancelled V’s certificate on the basis of her interpretation of s. 3(2)(a) of the Citizenship Act. This provision exempts children of “a diplomatic or consular officer or other representative or employee in Canada of a foreign government” from the general rule that individuals born in Canada acquire Canadian citizenship by birth. The Registrar concluded that because V’s parents were employees or representatives of Russia at the time of V’s birth, the exception to the rule of citizenship by birth in s. 3(2)(a), as she interpreted it, applied to V, who therefore was not, and had never been, entitled to citizenship. V’s application for judicial review of the Registrar’s decision was dismissed by the Federal Court. The Court of Appeal allowed V’s appeal and quashed the Registrar’s decision because it was unreasonable. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration appeals.

The court dismissed the appeal, and V is presumably now eating poutine and watching hockey in his comfortable but overpriced Canadian apartment, passport in hand.

But this has nothing at all to do with vaccinations for children, except perhaps to say that children have agency over their persons that is untied to their parents.

CANS takes the opposite view, writing that Strang’s Public Health order requiring proof of vaccination for those under 16:

…was to cause the injection of the largest number of persons under 16 and served no other purpose and thus constitutes coercion and an unlawful act.

Correspondence shows that this campaign including focused efforts to abrogate parental rights concerning medical treatment and obtain “consent” from minor children through coercive and deceptive methods.

So the people screaming “freedom” don’t want freedom for children; rather, they argue children are under the complete medical control of their parents.

Let’s apply the same logic to abortion, and see where that goes. A 14-year-old is raped by her father and becomes pregnant, but in the name of “parental rights” she has no ability to access abortion without parental approval.

The appeal to “parental rights” shows that the antivaxxers are in fact at the extreme right edge of the political spectrum.

In fact, the right of children to access medical care of any kind without parental knowledge or consent is well-established in Canadian law, and there’s no chance at all this court action will succeed.

But CANS will tie up court time and a highly paid provincial lawyer will have to write up a brief all the same. I hope whatever judge slaps this thing down assigns costs.

Should you want to read a bunch of gobbledygook, you can see the court document here.

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Government

No meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

MacKay Symposium – Happiness in Troubled Times (Friday, 1pm) — virtual event to discuss

How can we think about happiness at a historical juncture overshadowed by troubles like the climate crisis, rising populism & xenophobia, increasing social inequality, and the COVID-19 pandemic? Four internationally renowned speakers put happiness into social & cultural context. CART captioning provided for the entire event. More info and registration here.

Queen Elizabeth’s Swedish Gossips: Female Friends and Family in Early Modern England (Friday, 3:30pm, room 1170, McCain Building and online) — Krista Kesselring will talk.

Saint Mary’s

The James Webb Space Telescope: The Countdown Is On (Friday, 7pm, McNally Main Theatre Auditorium and online) — René Doyon, Director of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets at Université de Montreal and lead scientist for Canada’s contribution to Webb, will explain that

The James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the prestigious Hubble Space Telescope, will be the largest telescope ever deployed in space when it launches this winter. Thanks to its unprecedented observing capabilities, Webb promises to revolutionize our understanding of the Universe, Webb will study the population of young galaxies formed early after the Big Bang, and probe the atmospheres of nearby temperate Earth-size exoplanets that may have conditions conducive for life. Canada is a key partner in the development of this observatory, arguably among the most complex machines ever built by humanity.

Free virtual and on-campus tickets available, along with ASL interpretation.


In the harbour

Halifax
13:00: Ile D Aix, cable layer, sails from anchorage for sea
16:30: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, sails from anchorage for sea
16:30: ZIM Constanza, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
18:00: CMA CGM T. Jefferson, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
18:20: Elka Bene, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
21:15: BBC Missouri, container ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea

Cape Breton
10:00: Horizon Enabler, offshore supply ship, sails from Mulgrave for sea
15:00: Algoma Vision, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea


Footnotes

Let the lies about tampered candy begin.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Lines like “Should you want to read a bunch of gobbledygook…” are an enjoyable part the Examiner’s coverage 😉