News

1. Renovictions spike, but let’s not forget the plight of landlords

Dalhousie Legal Aid’s former offices on Gottingen Street in Halifax. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

Organizations that support tenants fighting eviction say they have seen an increase in requests for help since the province lifted its renoviction ban, Leslie Amminson reports.

Renoviction refers to landlords kicking out tenants, making some upgrades to their units, then putting the units back on the market at higher rates.

Amminson says the province “introduced stricter rules around when and how landlords can evict tenants to do renovations.” But, you will be shocked to learn, “advocates and support workers say landlords are finding ways to get around those rules.”

Mark Culligan of Dal Legal Aid tells Amminson how the process is supposed to work:

In order for a landlord to evict a tenant, Culligan said, there are processes they’re supposed to follow. Landlords are required to formally notify tenants that they plan to renovate, and both parties must agree on when the tenant will move out. If they can’t agree on a date, the landlord needs a court order from Residential Tenancies to evict the tenant.

The landlord must have just cause, Culligan said, which can include renovation. But there has to be proof that the renovations will be substantial enough to justify eviction. Then, the tenant is still entitled to three months’ notice and at least one month’s rent as compensation.

The problem, Culligan said, is that a lot of tenants don’t understand their rights. Some landlords try to avoid the formal eviction process, which can be lengthy and costly, and hope the tenant doesn’t fight them.

There are a bunch of other ways that landlords can evict people in order to perform renovations without doing it properly. One of those ways is just to tell people that they have to leave,” Culligan said. “That happened throughout the pandemic. That stuff isn’t going to show up in the court records, because it wasn’t legal to do that. But people were doing it anyway.

Yesterday, CBC profiled Franchesca Ranger, a small-business owner and landlord who became homeless. She said she sold her home, then wanted to evict her tenant so she could move in to the place she was renting out. When the tenant refused to leave, she had nowhere to go.

The story quotes the chair of an Ontario landlords’ association, arguing for speedier evictions:

“During the wait time, the landlord is going crazy,” said Boubacar Bah, chair of Small Ownership Landlords of Ontario (SOLO), a non-profit that provides resources and advocates for working-class landlords.

Bah said he knows at least 50 landlords involved in his group who became homeless. He said the toll on their mental health has been “huge.”

If you go to the SOLO website, you will find a March 21, 2022 story on a homeowner who says her family of five were left homeless when a tenant refused to leave their home.

Image from the Small Ownership Landlords of Ontario website.

In fact, you will find several stories like this. It’s a whole genre, and clearly a storyline the association has being pushing. The stories are illustrated with the kinds of terrible stock photos usually used to illustrate stories on mental illness (don’t get me started).

More misery from the Small Ownership Landlords of Ontario.

And that CBC story? It appears to have originated from the one illustrated with the photo above, called “SOLO Landlord Story #12: Homeless since September 3, 2020,” which was published anonymously. Let’s compare elements of the two stories.

Note that I’m not suggested plagiarism or an ethics problem with the CBC story; I’m just pointing out that Ranger’s story seems to have first appeared on the website of a landlord advocacy group.

CBC:

Franchesca Ranger, a small business owner in Ottawa, found herself homeless during the pandemic after selling her marital home due to a divorce. She decided to move into her rental unit, a townhouse in Barrhaven, and gave her tenant a 75-day termination notice with a move-out date of Aug. 31, 2020.

SOLO Landlord Story #12: Homeless since September 3, 2020:

How is it possible that I own a townhouse in Barhaven and I have been homeless since September 3rd, 2020?… I was going through a divorce and the marital home had to be sold.

CBC:

Three days before the hearing, the tenant asked for the hearing to be conducted in French, so she had to wait four more months for a second hearing. It took three months after that for an eviction decision, and about another three for the sheriff’s office to come and enforce the eviction.

SOLO:

I paid to put my belongings in storage, but I still had to pay my mortgage, insurance and property taxes. Without a home, my two cats had to be surrendered to an animal shelter. I waited 8 months for a hearing that was finally scheduled for March 15,2020. My tenants requested French language three days before the scheduled hearing and it was cancelled. A new hearing was rescheduled for April 15,2021

CBC:

The tenant stated his wife was disabled and on ODSP and she’d have medical difficulties if evicted because her medical professionals “were all in the vicinity of the rental unit.” He said the family would be homeless if evicted and he requested Ranger pay him to leave sooner and find another rental unit.

SOLO:

Why is the province of Ontario paying this man ODSP that includes a housing allowance and he is not paying his rent?

Several months ago, the Citations Needed podcast did an episode on exactly this kind of story. Stories pitched by landlord associations to credulous reporters. While the mom-and-pop landlord stories are effective because they’re personal — are you not going to feel bad for the homeless family of five? — they are used as an excuse to gut protections, affecting vastly larger numbers of tenants and putting them at risk of homelessness. (Kind of like the “red tape” excuse is used to gut planning processes. And, on that note, see item 4, below.)

In the episode, co-host Adam Johnson says, “The media-burnished image of the beleaguered, barely-scraping-by landlord puts a human face on policies that further enrich a property-owning class while justifying the forceful removal of renters from their homes.”

Johnson and co-host Nima Shirazi interview Alexander Ferrer, policy & research analyst at Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, described as “a Los Angeles-based organization focused on tenant rights, healthy housing, and equitable development.”

Ferrer says:

Sure. I think a lot of the time, the way in which the mom-and-pop discourse is mobilized is kind of to suggest that if you do anything to constrain the profit-making ability or legal capacity of landlords to evict or make any effort to hold landlords accountable for poor conditions or harassing their tenants, that those regulations will fall harder on mom-and-pop landlords, and then what that will lead to is these landlords selling out to bigger landlords, and we don’t want bigger landlords, the kind of rationale of that line of argument. In the report for SAJE, we talk about large landlords and their misbehavior, but certainly small landlords can absolutely be just as bad. So, I think on its face, this is not our very helpful line of argumentation for tenants, certainly and all landlords share in the spoils of these gutted protections, and I don’t think that there’s really a lot of compelling reason to believe that small landlords would be more burdened by sort of basic tenants rights.

Again, does this mean all tenants are great and all landlords are evil? Of course not. Can the systems for adjudicating disputes be improved? I’m sure they can. But groups representing landlords use these stories of individual hardship for landlords to justify removing protections that will lead to far more misery for far more people.

In a follow-up on the SOLO story, the landlord, presumably Ranger, writes:

I will continue to contribute to the SOLO Legal Fund, even though as of today I am no longer a landlord (a.k.a. ‘hostage’). The Landlord Tenant Board and the Ontario Government allow and sanction rent theft, extortion (“cash for keys” ), bullying (renters have more rights than owners) and vandalism.

(Copy link for this item).

2. Henderson report: paid sick days return, province wants to end Airbnb free-for-all

Illustration by Callum Moscovitch for the Halifax Examiner. All rights reserved.

With COVID-19 cases … I want to say climbing, but without hard data it’s hard to say if they are climbing right now, peaking, or just below their peak … let’s just say with lots and lots and lots of cases of COVID out there, the province is re-introducing its temporary paid sick day program. It will provide up to four paid sick days, Jennifer Henderson reports.

Last Thursday’s weekly COVID report showed positive PCR lab tests hovering around 1,000 a day. The government had money left over from the sick days budget approved by the previous Liberal government, which did not get many applicants. Perhaps employees and employers had no idea how or where to file a claim? When the sick days program came in last May, it had a budget of $16 million. About $1 million was spent between May and July 2021. About $226,000 was used for the program from January to March 2022, although people still have until the end of April to file a claim.

“I’m actively engaged in conversations with labour ministers across Canada about a permanent paid sick leave program,” said Jill Balser, Minister of Labour, Skills and Immigration. “In the meantime, while COVID is still very active in our communities, we want to make sure Nova Scotians can access this temporary program, which people have told us has been helpful in keeping COVID out of the workplace.”

Last week, Maple Tree Montessori owner Michelle Cleary was quoted in a CBC story saying:

“I’d love to give 10 paid sick days a year to employees, but if you make it available, everybody will take it.”

Moving on, Henderson writes:

The scarcity of rental housing has finally prompted this provincial government to find out how many properties are being used to provide short-term rentals for visitors rather than long-term housing for tenants. Clearly there is tax-free money to be made renting to tourists. Yesterday Pat Dunn, the Minister for Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, held a bill briefing to share details about a change to the Tourism Accommodations Act. It will require all suppliers of Airbnbs, even those who rent out only one room in their primary residence, to register with the province. A previous registry established in 2020 exempted this group of Airbnbs.

(Copy link for this item)

3. Heidi Stevenson wanted the RCMP to warn the public about the Portapique killer’s fake police car

Heidi Stevenson. Photo: RCMP

In his latest reporting on the Mass Casualty Commission, Tim Bousquet writes about the events that led to the murders of Heidi Stevenson and Joe Webber. He reveals that Stevenson’s suggestion that the public be informed the killer was driving a fake police car was rejected, and that Stevenson managed to fire 14 rounds at the killer before she died.

Needless to say, this section includes disturbing material.

[Dispatcher Lisa] Stewart and Stevenson wrangled with a new-to-them software program over which Stewart was trying to send a photo of the car. Finally, Stewart sent a “web view” of the photo.

“Unbelievable, this car,” said Stewart…

Later, Stevenson said this to Stewart:

 Has there been discussion about a media release in regard to that vehicle? Just for the public to be on the lookout for that and to also be aware that he may — it — we don’t know if a uniform or access to anything else but just ah, keep an eye out for that car.

Higher-ups considered informing the public, but decided not to.

At 9:00:57am, Staff Sergeant Bruce Briers, the risk manager at the Operational Control Centre (OCC) in Truro, called Staff Sergeant Allan Carroll. The pair had this exchange:

BRIERS: Listen I um, came from one of the members out in eh, Enfield, I don’t know if there’s any consideration about doing a media release about this vehicle, potentially out on the go, so that…

CARROLL: We’re uh, it’s been discussed here uh, I think they’re looking at it…

At 9:08am, Carroll sent an email to Briers: “Thought was given to give release about vehicle, but decision was made not to.”

“Very good,” Briers responded at 9:15am. “Kind of figured they may not want to release.”

We can argue whether or not this decision led to the deaths of several other people, but at the very least there is a compelling case that it was a contributing factor. Joe Webber, for instance, went out to buy furnace oil thinking the carnage of the night before was limited to Portapique — a tiny place whose location he wasn’t even sure of. When Webber saw the aftermath of the collision between Stevenson’s cruiser and the killer’s fake police car, he naturally got out to help.

Stevenson’s actions, meanwhile, may have ultimately led to the killer’s being recognized and shot:

Stevenson was shot “multiple times,” but managed to fire 14 rounds before she died. “It appears plausible that a wound on the upper right side of the perpetrator’s head was caused by bullet fragments shot from Cst. Stevenson’s firearm,” reads the foundational document. The open wound later drew Cst. Craig Hubley’s attention to the killer at the Enfield Big Stop, where Hubley shot him dead.

(Copy link for this item)

4.Lohr guts Halifax planning committees

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

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr’s bill suspending some municipal planning committees is now law, Zane Woodford reports.

The bill has been roundly condemned by municipal politicians. Woodford writes:

“Without changes I believe this bill will result in less engaged voters and residents, more expensive infrastructure costs, poorly integrated housing developments as well as unmet housing needs,” [Coun. Kathryn] Morse said.

“With a higher volume of projects moving through, I feel we need more scrutiny, not less, and residents need to feel informed and able to comment on new developments happening in their neighbourhoods. We need a more democratic approach to growth if we want cohesive communities.”

[Deputy Mayor Pam] Lovelace asked the government to delay the passing of the amendments to consult with African Nova Scotian and First Nations communities, and regional councillors.

“I’m here today to tell this committee that Bill 137 is anti-democratic, it reduces transparency. And takes power away from community,” Lovelace said.

(Copy link for this item)


Views

What the ancients did with old statues

Cornwallis statue being removed. Photo: Zane Woodford

I got to thinking about our old friend the Cornwallis statue, presumably still languishing in a Burnside warehouse, after reading a piece in Slate by classicist Erin L. Thompson.

Thompson, author of the book Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of American Monuments, says there are hundreds of Confederate monuments in the US sitting in storage — much like the Cornwallis statue.

Most of the American monuments to have come down since 2020 were officially removed, but even the 35 that were pulled down by protesters remain mostly unscathed. No matter how controversial now, they could easily be put back up if the political winds blow the other way. If we don’t want our public monuments to remain in storage ready for redeployment, like some sort of North American Strategic Racism Reserve, maybe we need to take tips from the Mesopotamians on how to lay a statue to rest for good.

The statues = history crowd will love what the Mesopotamians, Romans, and Egyptians did with statues of those fallen out of favour.

Hatshepsut ruled Egypt around 1500 BCE. She was supposed to serve as a regent for two years, but stayed in power for 22. After her reign, many statues of her were smashed (and, Thompson says, archaeologists have been carefully putting some of them back together for years now).

Sometimes old statues were buried. Others were destroyed. The Romans would sometimes repurpose them:

The Romans also give us another, even more practical idea: reusing statues by recarving them into a portrait of someone else. When the notoriously cruel Emperor Domitian was assassinated in 96 A.D., Nerva took over and condemned his predecessor’s memory. Artists killed two imperial birds with one stone by recarving condemned Domitians into new Nervas. Sometimes this didn’t work out so well, like on a set of two reliefs now in the Vatican Museums, which originally showed the gods, including Mars and Minerva, celebrating a triumphal Domitian. Cutting down Domitian’s head into a portrait of Nerva did make the new emperor look like he had a swole neck, but his comparatively tiny skull looks ridiculous.

Thompson writes that smashing statues of Hathsepsut hasn’t made us forget her. But they tell us what her successors thought of her:

The destruction didn’t erase her from history — but it did show how her successors reacted to her memory. We might be horrified at the reasons for their disapproval, but we are certain of their opinions. What will future generations think of our current habit of tucking away monuments celebrating white supremacy in expensive, climate-controlled storage, designed to preserve them indefinitely?

(Copy link for this item)


Noticed: The anti-Instagram

Here I am being real. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Instagram: the place that instead of showing us a slice of daily life has become a cesspit of carefully curated beautiful aspiration lives. The home of the influencer. The app that has led to stuff like this:

Santorini photo shoot tour: pay someone to take you to places where you can be photographed for Instagram.

BeReal (a pun on B-Reel, I presume) is social network/mobile app that’s supposed to be the opposite of that.

You install the app, and every day it prompts you at a different time to take a photo. The app automatically uses both your forward and rear-facing cameras. You have two minutes from the time you get the notification to post your pic. So, no time for curation. There I am at the top of this section, waiting in my parked car.

You can see your friends’ pictures, or just scroll through the “Discovery” section. As far as I can see, there’s no searching, no way to look for anything specific. Just all these photos of people doing banal activities. People sitting at their desks, walking down the stairs, eating. There is something strangely comforting about this. Photos are time-stamped, so if you post outside the two-minute window, others know: “A minute late, 10 minutes late,” and so on.

Curation is inevitable though. More and more, I notice posts marked “1 day late” or “15 hours late.” Even these are often banal: a foot walking on a path through leaves, or someone eating noodles. But it probably marks the beginning of the end. Soon, we’ll be trying to outdo each other to show just how normal and uninteresting our lives are.

(Copy link for this item)


Government

City

Budget Committee and Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall and online) — more info here

Halifax Regional Council, Public Hearing Session (Tuesday, 6pm, online) — Case 23166 – Municipal Planning Strategy Amendments for 7 McIntosh Street, Halifax

Province

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 9am, Province House) — Access to Birth Control and Sexual Health Services, with representatives from Department of Health and Wellness, NSHA, Wellness Within, IWK Health, and Sexual Health NS

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Population Growth Marketing Campaign, with representatives from Labour, Skills and Immigration, and Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Vision for the Scientific Directorship of the Ocean Tracking Network (Tuesday, 5th Floor Lounge LSC and online) — Nigel Hussey will talk

Open Dialogue Live: Data and its impact on health (Tuesday, 6:30pm, online) — from the listing:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted individuals and society in many ways. As we transition out of the pandemic, we need to think about how we view and process health data and what we can learn for future public health events. Heath data collection and restoration (especially data on diagnosis, race/ethnicity, age, geo location, gender) are critical not only to analyze and understand the impact of COVID-19 across our community and the globe but also to respond to the public appropriately, inform our health care system to allocate resources and plan for the future.

Wednesday

Thesis Defence, Physiology and Biophysics (Wednesday, 9:30am, Room 3H, Tupper Building and online) — Griffin Beach will defend “Insights into the Origin of the CNS: Early Development of Aminergic Neurons in Molluscs”

Propriety and protest: Getting Dressed in 1896 (Wednesday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — Historical Dress Showcase 2022 by the Fourth-year students of the Fountain School’s Costume Studies Program. $15/10

The final decade of the nineteenth century saw significant social and technological changes that affected both the construction and consumption of clothing. Many women found greater freedom in a growing variety of athletic and leisurely pursuits, and in the exciting new garments that went with them. Likewise, new styles of business attire reflected expanding opportunities for women in the workforce and at colleges and universities. However, daily life for many women was still governed by strict dress etiquette: longstanding rules that were sometimes helpful and practical, but at other times suffocating and difficult to conform to. Propriety and Protest will explore a wide variety of clothing from 1896, examining the tension between innovation and tradition that marked the era.

Saint Mary’s

Reflections on Nourishing the Learning Spirit (Tuesday, 5pm, online) — guest talk by Marie Battiste

This presentation will explore the nature and effects of Eurocentric colonialism and cognitive imperialism in education, beginning with the affirmation of Aboriginal and treaty rights, the acceptance of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the contemporary influences of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on education systems today. It will explore decolonization and its approaches that nourish the learning spirit of all youth through inclusive and balanced knowledge systems.


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: One Hangzhou Bay, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
05:30: Scheldegracht, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Belfast, Northern Ireland
07:30: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
09:00: Svanoy, ferry, arrives at Pier 9 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
11:30: Scheldegracht sails for sea
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
18:00: IT Integrity, supply vessel, moves from Pier 9 to Cable Grounds

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


Footnotes

There wasn’t much mask-wearing at the Judas Priest concert.


Subscribe to the Halifax Examiner

We have many other subscription options available, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
Cancel reply
  1. The LTB is seriously broken, in this case landlord is living through some unfair/crazy situation because of the growing LTB backlog. And while the LTB was already in crisis before the pandemic, it seems like the Ontario government has walked away from their responsibility to address the issue.

    Furthermore, I wouldn’t call the person living there a tenant. Tenant’s pay rent. This person is a squatter.

    I find that you are missing the point here, we shouldn’t be discussing the moral adjudication though but rather “what are the rules?” and what’s being done to enforce them? Here we have a tenant that hasn’t paid his rent in years. Is LTB irrelevant? is the rule of law irrelevant? is honesty and integrity irrelevant? is normal human decency irrelevant?

    Right now, rules are such that if you are the landlord, you are generally screwed. these owners will basically have no reasonable way to recoup any money they are owed.

    If anyone is wondering why nobody builds rental apartments anymore, all you need to do is look at cases like this.

  2. Small overleveraged landlords have a bigger sense of entitlement to money for nothing than your average crypto bro, news at 11. Any business model, where, fundamentally, what you do is you turn money into more money without doing anything useful is suspect. Landlords do not provide housing, people who build and maintain housing do. All they do is spend money they often don’t have on property and expect the tenants to pay more than they did.

  3. I’m annoyed by that school owner (?) who thinks if people have more sick days they’ll take them. I have never taken a sick day since joining the company I work for, but then I do have the advantage of working from home most of the time, and if I was that poorly that I couldn’t work for a day or two, the days are there. Currently I’m self-isolating in case I was exposed to COVID on the weekend, but I can still work, and feel fine. Just waiting for someone to drop off rapid tests to me, lol.