News

1. Halifax Regional Council

Drivers navigate deep water on the Bedford Highway during a rain storm in 2019. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford had a busy Tuesday. His first of a few articles is this round-up of what happened at Halifax regional council’s meeting yesterday. First up, councillors moved to put the stormwater right-of-way charge on tax bills instead of their Halifax Water bills. Woodford writes:

In 2016-2017, council moved the charge to tax bills as a flat fee of $42. That had the unintended consequence of charging some condominium owners three times — once each for their unit, their parking spot and their storage space. So, back to the Halifax Water bill, where it’s been a flat $40 fee since 2018-2019.

Deputy Mayor Pam Lovelace moved in September 2021 to put the charge back on tax bills, but instead of charging a flat fee, she proposed to make it part of the general tax rate. That would mean property owners would pay different amounts based on the value of their homes.

In a staff report to council in March, and then another one on Tuesday, municipal financial consultant Andre MacNeil recommended leaving the charge on Halifax Water bills.

Councillors rejected that advice on Tuesday, unanimously agreeing that the charge didn’t belong on water bills because lots of people who don’t pay a water bill benefit from municipal roads.

Also in this article: more on Dartmouth Cove, a new use for Gray arena, and a proposal on two tall towers in Cowie Hill.

Click here to read Woodford’s complete round-up.

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2. Housing Trust of Nova Scotia

Halifax City Hall in August 2020. Photo: Zane Woodford

“Worried about a “swath of renoviction,” Halifax councillors have voted to spend $445,500 to help a non-profit keep hundreds of homes affordable,” reports Zane Woodford. 

As the Halifax Examiner reported on May 2, the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia is working to buy a portfolio of hundreds of apartments in HRM.

The trust asked for financial help with the purchase from the city, and on Tuesday, council received a staff report on the request from grants manager Peta-Jane Temple.

The report revealed that the trust is looking to buy 295 units in total, spread across five properties — 122 units at two properties in Dartmouth within the Circumferential Highway and 173 at three properties in Halifax, off the peninsula.

Click here to read Woodford’s story. 

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3. Record number of people without safe, permanent housing in Halifax

Tents fill most of Nick Meagher Park, where unhoused people in HRM have been camping since mid-August. The site has been informally renamed “People’s Park” by volunteers and residents. Photo: Leslie Amminson.

As of April 7 this year, there were 586 people in the municipality without a safe, permanent home. That number is from a point-in-time count that was conducted by the Navigator Street Outreach Program. Zane Woodford learned more about the details of that count during a Zoom panel where Eric Jonsson, program coordinator with the Navigator Street Outreach Program, said “there’s so many people homeless, way more than we’ve ever seen.” Woodford writes:

Jonsson led the count by speaking with people living in shelters, short-term transition housing, hotels, tents, emergency shelters, and the Burnside jail, offering them $20 to participate. The count covered peninsular Halifax, downtown Dartmouth, Dartmouth Crossing, Clayton Park, Spryfield, Bedford, and Sackville. The number does not include people couch surfing, living in hotels they’re paying for on their own, living in unsafe domestic situations, or in secluded rural areas.

The last such count, conducted in 2018, found 220 people. While Jonsson said they were able to find more people in suburban and other locations this time thanks to the work of community organizations, there are still a “huge” number of unhoused people not accounted for.

Charlene Gagnon, who worked as a data analyst on the count, told the panel there are more seniors unhoused than ever before because they’re being renovicted from their long-term housing. Meanwhile, Sheri Lecker with Adsum said money the government spends on putting people in hotels could go toward helping non-profits buy up existing housing stock. She said that would help stop the cycle of renovictions.

Click here to read Woodford’s story. 

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4. Bystanders can help improve survival stats from cardiac arrest

Photo: Heart and Stroke Foundation

“Of the 1,000 Nova Scotians who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year, only about 6% (60) of them will survive,” Yvette d’Entremont reports. 

Yesterday, the Standing Committee on Health heard from experts on cardiac arrest about how we can all help when someone goes into cardiac arrest. d’Entremont reports:

It turns out bystanders can play a key role.

“The unfortunate reality is that the large majority of patients do not survive a cardiac arrest,” Dalhousie University professor and assistant dean of clinical research Dr. John Sapp told the committee.

Sapp, who’s also a practicing cardiologist at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, said when a cardiac arrest strikes, irreversible brain damage begins within about four minutes. After that, the survival rate drops by about 10% per minute.

Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) increases the chances of survival by ensuring the continuation of some blood flow. It can prolong the window long enough to prevent brain and organ damage in a patient until someone gets to them with a defibrillator.

A repeated refrain during Tuesday’s meeting was the importance of raising a generation of heroes — bystanders who recognize the signs of cardiac arrest, can perform CPR, and know how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) while waiting for first responders to show up.

Other experts speaking to the committee said we need to teach children these skills.

Click here to read d’Entremont’s story.

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5. Nova Scotia Power easing backlog on solar installations.

Jennifer Henderson spoke with David Brushett, chair of Solar Nova Scotia, who said Nova Scotia Power is now working to address the backlog of solar installation projects. Henderson writes:

Companies affiliated with Solar Nova Scotia went public a few weeks ago with complaints that plans for projects submitted to Nova Scotia Power for review in January and February had yet to be processed. Those companies said as a result, the industry was at “a virtual standstill”— unable to order panels or schedule jobs this summer unless Nova Scotia Power sped up its planning review process.

“We are optimistic things are moving in the right direction right now. We have seen an improvement,” David Brushett, the chair of Solar Nova Scotia, told the Examiner. “We feel Nova Scotia Power has taken action over the past few weeks and we are hearing positive responses from installers.”

Brushett said meetings between Solar Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Power have improved communication and installers say plans for new installations are finally getting off the drawing board. Brushett said he hopes that dialogue will continue.

Click here to read Henderson’s story.

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6. New housing developments

A rendering of the Dartmouth Non-profit Housing Society’s plans for 1 Circassion Dr. in Dartmouth.

Zane Woodford has this report on the province’s announcement it’s making 37 properties available for new housing development. Unfortunately, there’s no specific affordability requirement for the new units.

The properties are scattered across Nova Scotia, with 10 in Halifax Regional Municipality. Housing Nova Scotia is issuing partnership opportunity notices, sort of like requests for proposals, for the properties. It’s starting with five properties in West Hants, Cumberland County and Queens County. The 37 properties include one on King Street in Dartmouth, for which Develop Nova Scotia solicited proposals earlier this year. Another 31 properties need more due diligence before they’ll be made available.

Yesterday’s announcement also included the news that the Dartmouth Non-Profit Housing Society won the rights to build an 18-unit affordable building at 1 Circassion Dr. in Dartmouth.

Click here to read Woodford’s report.

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7. ‘Direct to triage’

The Emergency Health Services (EHS) logo on an ambulance. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

Starting today, paramedics in the province will use a new ‘direct to triage’ system that will have them back on the road quicker to respond to other emergency calls. Yvette d’Entremont has the report and writes:

In a media release Tuesday morning, the Department of Health and Wellness said the Emergency Health Services (EHS) “direct to triage” initiative will see paramedics taking low-risk patients to emergency department waiting rooms to be assessed by health care staff rather than waiting with patients until a doctor takes over care.

A low-risk patient is described as someone with normal vital signs who can sit, stand, or move independently without risk of falling.

Paramedics will still wait in emergency departments with high-risk patients, including those with chest pain, potentially life-threatening injuries, suspected stroke, and children under the age of 16.

Click here to read that story.

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Views

Lessons from Iceland on why our cats might need a curfew

Catfight: Donovan giving Stewart the smackdown. Photo: Suzanne Rent

If you own a cat that hangs around outdoors, you might want to read this article by Egill Bjarnason at Hakai Magazine on why Iceland is cracking down on allowing kitties outside.

Iceland is a land of cat lovers — apparently Reykjavík banned dogs until 1984. Iceland loves cats beyond the ones in the funny videos and memes on the internet. Each Christmas, they celebrate Yule Cat, a mythical monstrous feline that eats children who don’t have new clothes for the holidays. (This is a little much.) And many Icelanders adopted more kitties over the last couple of years to keep them company during the pandemic (that happened elsewhere, too). But the cats in Iceland are causing havoc, and, as Bjarnason learned, there are towns trying to do something about it. Bjarnason writes:

In April, Akureyri—the largest municipality in the country’s north, with a population of 19,000 people and some 2,000 to 3,000 cats—decided to ban their feline residents from night roaming outside. Neighboring Húsavík banned cats several years ago from going outdoors day and night. Other Icelandic towns are considering bans as the issue of free-roaming cats increasingly makes its way from online forums to local politics, with the arguments generally falling into two categories. Some people—the “no animals in my backyard” or NAIMBY-ists—proclaim free-roaming cats are nuisances that should be confined like any other pet. Others think beyond the anthropocentric: cats kill birds and disrupt ecosystems.

My family had cats when I was a kid, including a stray I found in the woods and brought home. They were always outdoor cats. The last cat we had, Prickles (don’t ask), who we all just called Kitty Bitty, somehow managed to live to the ripe old age of 21. She didn’t kill birds, but she did kill squirrels after she chased them up trees. But the other cats we had weren’t so lucky, and were still young when they were run over by drivers speeding down the road.

I adopted two cats in 2008 and they were both indoor cats. Both died over the last year or so. Our female cat, Devine, definitely would have been a hunter had we allowed her to go outside. Indigo, the sweet gentle giant who weighed 20 pounds, would only have killed a bird if he sat on one. My current cats, Donovan and Stewart, are both still very young and destructive. Donovan ruined our Christmas tree and Stewart has wrecked every set of curtains in the house, so I can’t imagine the damage they’d do outdoors, including to other animals. Birds especially are at risk when cats are roaming free. Bjaranson writes:

The International Union for Conservation of Nature Invasive Species Specialist Group lists cats as one of the 100 worst invasive species in the world. Their paw prints are all over the scene. Numerous studies have implicated cats in the global extinction of at least 63 species—40 birds, 21 mammals, two reptiles—and contributed to the endangered status of another 587 species. And nowhere do cats, particularly unowned cats, cause more damage than on islands: free-roaming cat islanders are linked to at least 14 percent of global bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions. In Iceland, a country with only one native terrestrial predator, cats have contributed to the dramatic decline of seabirds and have preyed on off-shore bird colonies.

Solitary habits also make cats hard to count and explain why global cat population estimates range somewhere between 500 and 700 million and why estimating the ecological damage of cats has a huge margin of error. Cats kill between 1.3 and four billion birds annually in the United States alone (excluding Hawai‘i and Alaska). The numbers are based on meta-research pulling big-picture data from previously published articles estimating the number of free-roaming cats and their appetite for birds, such as by using stomach and scat analysis. A Canadian study, applying a similar formula, estimates that cats kill between two and seven percent of birds in southern Canada, where most residents live. The first-ever study estimating the problem in China, published in 2021, blames cats for the annual death of 2.9 billion reptiles, four billion birds, and 6.7 billion mammals, on average, in addition to a staggering number of invertebrates, frogs, and fishes.

Curfews for cats aren’t even new. Here’s Bjaranson again:

In Australia, two municipalities in Melbourne introduced cat curfews: Monash in 2021 and Knox in 2022. Earlier, in 2015, the country embarked on a mission to cull two million feral cats. From mid-2015 to mid-2018, Australia killed 844,000 feral cats with poison and traps. In Europe, two Dutch law professors, writing in an environmental law journal, argued that allowing free-roaming cats violates the Nature Directives, the oldest European Union legislation on the environment. Citing studies of cats’ impact on birds, the authors conclude that cat owners must manage their free-roaming cats and “stray and feral cats … must be removed or controlled when they pose a threat to protected species.”

Not everyone in Iceland is a fan of banning cats from going outdoors, though:

Last November, the town of Akureyri voted to ban outdoor cats entirely as of 2025. Outraged cat supporters all over the country threatened to boycott the town’s famous dairy products in protest. A local artist rallied support for the Cat Party ahead of local elections scheduled this past May. So, four weeks before election day, the ruling majority softened the total ban to a nighttime curfew, and the debate keeps going, defined by idiosyncratic fervor.

Stewart and Donovan. Photo: Suzanne Rent

All of this reminds me of the cat fights here in Halifax. Remember that controversial cat bylaw back in 2007? Tim Bousquet wrote about it here in The Coast in 2009 when then Coun. Jim Smith suggested the HRM consider adopting a trap, neuter and release program for feral cats.

There are A LOT of cats out there in HRM. About 10 years ago, I wrote an article for Halifax Magazine ⁠— I can’t find it online now ⁠— in which I researched the issue of stray and feral cats in the city. I spent some time with local cat rescuers ⁠— all women, by the way ⁠— who trapped cats, took them to local vets to be spayed or neutered, and then released them back outside. One rescuer estimated the stray/feral population in HRM at that time was about 100,000. One night I joined the rescuers in an area in Spryfield where people just dumped unwanted cats. They were looking to trap a pregnant cat that was roaming around ⁠— they didn’t get her that night. Neighbours in the area helped out by providing little shelters lined with hay where the cats could sleep. The SPCA and the Spay Day Society have operated a Trap, Neuter, and Release program for feral cats for five years now.

Iceland has its issues with feral cats, too, and researchers have tracked them to learn how on some islands they decimate bird populations.

I honestly think keeping cats inside is better for the cats. Lost cats have got to be one of the most popular posts in community Facebook pages. In my neighbourhood Facebook group, there was a post about one cat that just returned home last week after being missing for 18 days. On Twitter, people are frequently sharing photos of posters around town of missing cats. Cats are pretty independent, but many people treat them as disposable and with less respect than we treat dogs, which have their own daycares. (Are there kitty daycares? Would the cats even tolerate that?)

And while I keep my cats indoors, I have no clue know how well a curfew for cats would go over here and how that would even be enforced. I mean, rounding up your cat to get its arse in the house at a certain time of night would be like, well, herding cats.

By the way — if you’re not familiar, here’s Halifax’s Animal Bylaw A700, which details the responsibilities for cat owners.

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Noticed

A couple of weeks ago I went to a talk hosted by the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia (GANS) featuring Dr. Allan Marble, who was talking about the Spanish Flu and its impact on Nova Scotia. Marble recently published his latest book, The History of Medicine in Nova Scotia from Confederation to Medicare: the Transition from Allopathic to Scientific Medicine.

At almost 400 pages, it’s a beast of a book and I’ve yet to read it all. Summer reading, perhaps? There are chapters on hospitals in rural communities, country doctors, the prevention, treatment, and control of infectious diseases, and the medical and nursing care of the injured during the Halifax Explosion.

Marble did a tremendous amount of research on the Spanish Flu in Nova Scotia, including searching death certificates submitted to Department of Vital Statistics from 1918 to 1920. According to those records, the first Nova Scotian to die from the flu was 26-year-old Marjory B. McDonald of Inverness. The virus was brought to that community by soldier Murdo Kennedy, who died from the disease two days after McDonald did.

The first death in the Halifax area was Murray Dorrington of Beechville, who was just an infant. In total, two thousand Nova Scotians died from the flu.

And Marble tells the stories of the doctors and nurses who risked their own lives to save others. Some of those health care workers died from the virus, too, notably the nurses who helped patients with the flu over the course of several days. There were nurses from Nova Scotia who went to Massachusetts to help with patients who had the flu there. Through his research, Marble learned that out of 33 Nova Scotia nurses who went to the US for those efforts, 12 died from the flu.

Here’s a table of the number of deaths and death rates from that flu in the nine Canadian provinces:

At the talk at GANS, I asked Marble if there were any conspiracies around the flu, like the conspiracies we see around COVID-19 today. And there weren’t, because back then people didn’t even know what the influenza was. As Marble said, the virus that caused that flu wasn’t identified until 1930. And, of course, there was no social media, so information spread much slower.

At the time, Nova Scotia had 38 newspapers, most of which were weekly, so Nova Scotians weren’t getting any information, including news on the flu, instantaneously like we are now. And many countries censored newspapers to prevented causing a panic about the flu among the general population.

The chapter wraps up with a page about the flu’s legacy in Nova Scotia. As Marble writes, the most notable legacy was that the province and the country realized its public health systems needed to be re-organized and made a priority. Nova Scotia and much of Canada simply wasn’t prepared for this virus. Marble writes:

Although people were used to the arrival of influenza each year the disease was not considered to be life-threatening as were smallpox, diphtheria, and pulmonary tuberculosis. As a result, Public Health Officials were completely surprised and overwhelmed by the arrival of the Spanish Flu in September 1918 which caused the death of over 37,000 Canadians.

Three factors which influenced these death rates were: the lack of compliance by citizens in heeding the orders from health officers; the high proportion of the population in the vulnerable age-range 15 to 40 years; and probably the most significant of the three, the success or lack of success experienced by public health officers in isolating members of the general public from one another.

Some of this sounds familiar …

In that chapter, Marble writes that at the turn of the century the National Council of Women (NCW) lobbied the feds to create a Department of Health and Social Welfare that would work to control tuberculosis and venereal disease, but also to provide safe and clean urban housing, reduce child poverty, and improve health and hygiene education. Prime Minister Robert Borden was reluctant, as Marble writes, but that changed with the Spanish Flu. Eventually, a bill establishing a federal department of health was given Royal Assent on June 6, 1919.

Back to that talk: I also asked Marble what he thought the legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic would be and he said, “Believing in science.”

Here’s hoping.

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Government

City

Wednesday

District Boundary Resident Review Panel (Wednesday, 3:30pm) — virtual meeting

Thursday

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting

Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — virtual meeting

Province

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Rising Food Cost and Food Inflation in Nova Scotia, with Sylvain Charlebois and representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Community Services, Feed Nova Scotia, Nourish Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
11:00: CMA CGM Montreal, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
11:30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
13:30: AlgoNova, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
15:30: MOL Charisma, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
18:00: SLNC Severn, bulker, sails from anchorage for sea

Cape Breton
19:30: Tanja, bulker, sails from Port Hawkesbury Paper for sea
19:30: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea


Footnotes

My cats spent most of the morning fighting and running around while I was writing this Morning File.


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Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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  1. As a wildlife biologist and cat lover I’d love to see more cats kept inside because of how detrimental it is for the cat and how detrimental the cats are to wildlife.
    There are however basically two types of cat owners. Those who are willing to put in the work with their cat to keep them satisfied and fulfilled indoors and those who just say ‘well my cat just can’t be kept indoors’ and ‘some cats just will not be kept in’.
    We will never get through to the latter entrenched group… but even getting through to the first group will have an enormous benefit to urban wildlife and result in happy cats, living longer lives.

    1. Absolutely agree. And cats are notoriously more difficult to train. You have to listen to a lot of yowling and deal with a lot of extreme annoyance to get them to break off ingrained habits. It’s work.

      And of course, there ARE ways to have your cat enjoy time outside without letting them free roam. I know plenty of people who trained their cats to accept a harness and go outside on a leash or with a lead to let them roam around only the backyard

  2. I read that HRM had declared itself a ‘bird friendly city’ and IMMEDIATELY thought, here comes the cat bylaw again. I almost RT’d Zane’s post about it and then I thought, no, I don’t want to put it out there myself. Maybe it won’t happen.

    AND HERE YOU ARE, KICKING IT INTO GEAR AGAIN.

    Was it about feral cats? All I remember vividly is some older lady calling into a radio show waxing furious about cats pooping in her garden and digging up her peonies. Maybe it was pansies. It’s been a while.

    I love my two cats. My gentle little girl likes to duck out on the patio and bring in Junebugs to play with. FUN! My cats are rescue kitties, and were at least 3-4 months old when they were brought home by fosters. Which is why my boy kitty is a Fierce Mighty Hunter. Mice, rats, voles, and yes, birds… he’s killed them all. He gets worms regularly. From May to October he’s rarely home. He patrols the neighborhood. The neighbors all know him and so far no one has complained about him.

    Do I wish I could keep him in? YES. Picking the clumps and dirt out his fur is a pain. Paying for worm meds is annoying. He’s beautiful, I would love to have him cuddle with us and enjoy himself.

    It will never happen. There are some cats that will NOT be kept in, and he’s one. If the door cracks, he’s through it. He rarely makes a sound, until he wants out and then he sits by the door and ranges from angry, demanding meows to whines to yowls. Once some cats taste freedom, like some children, there’s no keeping them down on the farm.

    Here’s to another round of cat bylaw debates. Just fantastic. Can’t wait. 😛