1. Rent supplement
Nicola Seguin at CBC has this story on how hundreds of Nova Scotians have been denied a rent supplement after the province changed the rules on the program in January. To qualify now, an applicant must be spending at least 50% of their gross income on housing. That’s up from 30%.
Numbers provided recently to CBC News by the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing show that since the change, 324 applicants have been denied for not meeting the new 50 per cent threshold.
The province said it is offering more rent supplements than in previous years. But the new restrictions mean some applicants who would have qualified under the old rules are now out of luck.
Housing advocates argue the new thresholds don’t recognize the reality of skyrocketing rents, and that it’s no longer just the lowest-income people who can’t afford somewhere to live.
Seguin also spoke with Tara Kinch, the community support and outreach manager at Chebucto Connections, who works with low-income clients helping them apply for rent supplements. Kinch said more applications are being denied and wait times to get support have increased:
“It’s a much wider population that’s struggling with housing security,” she said. “We’re looking at people that have full-time jobs, and some working multiple jobs, that are housing insecure or are trying to access the shelter system or living in their cars. So it’s not just people on income assistance or it’s not just seniors.”
As Seguin writes, the rent supplement calculations are based on CMHC average market rent in communities, rather than what actual rents are now, which are much higher. And housing support workers say the solution is not rent supplements, but to build more non-market housing.
2. Emergency alerts
Sarah Plowman at CTV spoke with Tera Sisco, the mother of Colton Sisco, the six-year-old boy who died in the floods a few weeks ago. Sisco tells Plowman she was working the night of the floods when she sent a message to Colton’s father, Chris, at 2:28am.
“And woke him up and when he put his feet over the bed. He said he was in water. I could hear the panic in his voice,” Sisco said.
As Chris called 911, Sisco also called to wake up Chris’ neighbours, the Harnish family.
As it was described to her, Sisco said the house was starting to crack. Chris struggled to open up the side door and it took two people to push and pull open the front door. The group tried to flee in the one vehicle left but they were in trouble.
“With the tide coming in the river and the water coming out it literally turned into a whirlpool in that area and they got stuck in it,” Sisco said.
As Plowman reports, the Brooklyn Fire Department requested an alert at 1:12am, but the alert wasn’t sent until 3:06am.
Now, Sisco said she wants to see changes around emergency alerts and when they are issued:
She believes there should be less red tape and fewer barriers in place for an alert to go out, and more trust placed in those on the ground.
“I feel as though if people were able to listen to the boots on the ground, the people in it, I feel that amongst the lives that were saved that night, which there was many lives saved, that there at least would’ve been two more,” she said.
Sisco also believes alerts need to be held to a certain response time standard, similar to first responders.
“I think our EMO system should be no different. We should have that ready to go. It should be delivered within a timely manner and almost two hours is not acceptable,” she said.
Heather Fairbairn, communications advisor with Nova Scotia EMO, told CTV there is a process to follow in issuing alerts, and it was followed that evening. From Plowman:
Fairbairn points out that situations can evolve quickly and vary greatly from one area to the next and the response, including public safety messaging, for each may be different.
“That is why centralized coordination of resources and messaging within the jurisdiction is necessary,” Fairbairn said.
A debrief will be done to understand the impact and make improvements.
Plowman also spoke with Mark Phillips, CAO with West Hants Regional Municipality, who said they are working on a report about the municipality’s emergency response. Phillips told Plowman there was a “break” in communication the night of the floods, and sometimes emergencies “exceed those scenarios that you train for.”
Meanwhile, Anjuli Patil at CBC reports that Premier Tim Houston is considering decentralizing the province’s emergency alert system, so municipalities can issue their own alerts.
“It’s incredibly important the officials who have their eyes and ears on the ground who are right there in the thick of it, that they’re listened to and respected and that they have proper training in issuing alerts if they’re the ones making those decisions,” Premier Tim Houston told reporters on Wednesday.
Houston said he’s instructed the province’s Emergency Management Office to meet with fire chiefs, police chiefs and municipalities to talk about how to decentralize the system, to what extent they want to be able to issue alerts, and what training and support they would need. He said he hopes those meetings can happen in the next couple of weeks.
“I feel the urgency to get this, to get this right for Nova Scotians,” Houston said.
HRMFireNews, who shares information about fires, floods, and other emergencies on his Twitter account, will now be sharing that information on a page with the Examiner when and if Twitter isn’t available:
In recent months, it has become clear that there are issues with the technical reliability of Twitter as well as concerns about the platform’s sustainability. Until now, the HRMFireNews page has operated as a single-platform entity, exclusively on Twitter. However, this is a vulnerability in the event of technical issues on Twitter, or even if Twitter were to be shut down altogether. In order to ensure that the public has access to HRMFireNews’s reporting at all times, the Halifax Examiner has generously offered a section of their website for use as a complement to posts on Twitter.
I follow the account on Twitter and it’s been an excellent source of information during the wildfires, the floods, and just everyday incidents. I have personally relied on that account, too, because it provides steady, accurate, and fast information on emergencies.
Nova Scotia Power is doubling its tree-trimming budget to get ready for more powerful hurricanes. From The Canadian Press:
The added funds will reduce the probability of damage to power lines when massive gusts take down trees and branches, Matt Drover, director of energy delivery at Nova Scotia Power, told a news conference Wednesday.
“It will definitely help. It will reduce the likelihood of trees falling into power lines. But with (hurricane) winds that high, that will always have (an) impact on trees,” Drover said.
“Our goal is to reduce that as much as we can with this investment.”
Trevor Beaton, forestry manager at the utility, said the tree-trimming annual budget will increase to almost $45 million in 2024, compared with budgets in recent years of about $20 million to $25 million.
Beaton said the new money will help its tree-cutting teams grow to about 85 crews, up from about 45, increasing total staffing from roughly 100 people to up to 180 employees, he said.
As the story notes, most of the tree trimming will happen in rural areas of the province where the forest borders electricity lines.
5. Mitch Maltby
A special advisor to the province’s Minister of Economic Development has apologized for retweeting a tweet that included an offensive word.
Mitch Maltby, who according to his LinkedIn has worked for the province since September 2021, retweeted the post on Tuesday night during the Preston byelection. The tweet in question was from an account called “Real Albanian patriots” and said “Thousand Year Houston Reich.” Maltby responded with “Preston turning blue.”
Other Twitter/X users noticed the retweet, including Adsum for Women and Children, which had this to say:
This is deeply offensive. The term has not been used officially in decades for reasons an advisor to the NS government might want to learn. Take it down.
Yesterday, Maltby tweeted this apology:
Last night while retweeting celebratory messages about the byelection I accidentally retweeted a message with some truly disgusting content. I deeply apologize for amplifying this hurtful language. I promise to do better and review content closer in the future.
Bringing new life to Riverport’s Old Confidence Lodge
Shari Porter and Chris Jackman lived in Toronto for 17 years before deciding to make a pandemic move to Nova Scotia. The couple both work in the arts and their in-person work dried up during the pandemic. So, they moved their jobs online, which gave them the opportunity to work elsewhere, including in Newfoundland where Jackman is from. But that change of life got them thinking.
“We got back to Toronto and kind of were blasé about it,” Porter said in an interview on Wednesday. “I started thinking about moving to the East Coast, but I didn’t want to move to Newfoundland. So, I did a search [online] and the lodge popped up. I knew right away it was ours.”
The lodge is Old Confidence Lodge, a former Oddfellows Hall in Riverport in Lunenburg County that was built in 1929. Over the years, the historic hall was used for assemblies, dances, and a restaurant. At one point, it housed a recording studio. But the building stood empty for about five years before Porter found it in her online search.
Porter said she was used to seeing “weird” buildings pop up in her online real estate searches. The lodge stood out because of its theatre space, but it had an apartment as well where she and Jackman could live with their young son, KJ.
“It was beautiful, too, and it just all made sense,” Porter said. “I showed it to Chris and we have a pattern in our relationship where I have a grand idea and Chris is the reality check.”
What did Jackman’s reality check have to say?
“It wasn’t the kind of place you show up and live [in],” Jackman said. “We could make this a family business and open it up and create a community arts hub, which both of us have so much history in the arts. It seemed at first like one of those faraway plans, like, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be lovely. Wouldn’t that be nice. Over about half a year, we kept thinking about it… and figuring out ways we could make it happen until it seemed like this could be a reality. It was something we believed we could do now.”
So, they flew to Nova Scotia to check out the lodge and Riverport and Lunenburg County, too. That was the long weekend in May 2022. They decided to put in an offer. But they got other news that same week: Porter was pregnant.
“We decided there was going to be a lot of change and we were going to go with it,” Jackman said. “The building itself almost exceeded our expectations. It was really easy to fall in love with.”
They packed up and moved to Nova Scotia permanently in November 2022 and Porter gave birth to their daughter, Amy, in January 2023. And they’ve been working on the Old Confidence Lodge renovations ever since.
Porter said it seems everyone in the community has an “amazing” story about the lodge.
“There is just a vibe here. We’ve been in a lot of theatre spaces that are creepy and we don’t want to be in during the nighttime because they just don’t have good energy,” Porter said. “This isn’t one of those places. It is in very good condition, but it is beyond that. It’s a vibe and a feeling of welcoming that’s really hard to explain, but everyone here understood.”
Still, there’s a lot of work to be done, mostly bringing the building up to code. They’ve put new insulation in the walls, added new accessible washrooms, a new access ramp, emergency exit, and they also installed fireproofing along the ceiling of the main hall.
“We want to preserve the original feel of it as much as possible,” Jackman said. “This is very much a space the community has owned for a long time, so we’re happy to be stewards of it to keep that feeling alive.”
But beyond the actual technical skills of renovating a space, Jackman and Porter said they know they have what it takes to “breathe new life” into the building.
“With Shari’s background in music and my background in theatre and administration, we thought we had a unique combination of skill sets that it would take to bring this place back to life,” Jackman said.
The family has quickly become part of the community. Porter said she and KJ came to Nova Scotia first, while Jackman wrapped up his work in Toronto. She said there was a two-week period where she didn’t know anyone, but added that as soon as they started to meet new people, they were helping out.
“What is very unusual for me and Chris and KJ is how quickly we’ve fallen into close friendships here,” Porter said.
“It feels like a bit of a gem that we’re happy to have discovered ourselves to share with others,” Jackman added.
Porter said they’ve met residents who’ve been in the community for years and others who are new to the area. She said a lot of them are artists, too.
“They are very excited because a lot of them are here for similar reasons, too,” Porter said. “We met a lot of people who’ve been here forever. We are recognized everywhere we go. I’m very active on social media. Because we are delayed in hosting here because of the renovations, we wanted to make sure people get to know us, so we go to lots of things and I post a lot about our family and plans on Instagram. Everyone is very, very excited and welcoming and very, very helpful.”
While the lodge isn’t ready for entertainment just yet, the couple has partnered with the Riverport District Community Centre to host events that will raise money to pay for the work needed on the lodge. The renovations are a bit slow because some of the materials are on backorder. And some of the costs from the renos were unexpected. In April, Jackman and Porter started a Go Fund Me and they are about halfway to their $25,000 goal.
“It goes to show how much people want to see arts and culture in their own backyard,” Jackman said. “And what we’re bringing forward, which is really humbling.”
When the lodge is ready, they want to host dances, musical performances, comedy nights, weddings, plays, and any celebration.
“Maybe this is the Newfoundlander in me, but I love people coming into the house to have a good time,” Jackman said. “This is a version of that writ large. We want the doors open, we want a lot of activity. We want to give young performers opportunities to share their work that they might not have had in larger, longtime venues. We’re really excited to have this place alive with that kind of energy.”
The goal is to have the lodge open for September or October, knowing that the timelines of renovations often change. Jackman would like to have a Halloween party.
Porter said she’d like the lodge to become an artistic hub in the community where people can go for music lessons and where artists can grow and share their love of the arts well beyond the lodge. Porter is already teaching young children to play piano.
“I am really excited to watch these kids grow up and be a part of that and to see how it shapes the community, which is already very musical,” Porter said.
Jackman said they’d like the lodge to support local tourism as well. He said Riverport is a great day trip for travellers and offers beaches, entertainment, and restaurants.
“We’re excited to be a part of that and understand the growth and development of this area, which is really very exciting,” he said. “It benefits all of us. To be a part of that is a real honour.”
Rob Csernyik, a contributing columnist for The Globe and Mail, has this opinion piece on tip inflation, the value of work provided in certain sectors, and specifically the increased complaints from some customers about having to tip at all. You have probably noticed yourself those prompts on debit machines asking for tips, asking for different amounts ranging from 15% to 25%.
With Canada among the top countries for cashless payments, it’s no surprise more customers are getting prompted with tip screens than ever before. Tipping options are displayed in all sorts of businesses large and small – even retail stores, where tipping is considered untraditional. And the suggested amounts are increasing, a phenomenon detractors call “tip creep” – concurrent with a loud and embarrassing chorus of frustration.
Spare me. I challenge anyone who thinks a service job like barista is simple to go do it for a shift, try to live up to today’s lofty customer service expectations and then tell me they don’t deserve any gratuities.
During other gigs in chain stores, I had to wrap gifts, provide decorating advice and carry heavy furniture out to vehicles. If restaurant staff get tips for providing service, why not retail workers? And with inequality continuing to rise, there is justification for tipping more than the arbitrary 15 per cent.
Moreover, even if you feel otherwise, a tip prompt is hardly an imposition. At their own discretion, customers can hit a button, skip the tip and move on with their lives.
I’m with Csernyik on this one and anyone who’s worked in industries where workers are tipped “gets” it. I’ve seen those tip prompts countless times, too, and how the amounts have increased, but I don’t take it personally. Csneryik rightly points out any complaining about tip inflation and the supposed “extortion” of those prompts has more to do with the guilt of customers than it does of the demands of workers. Csneryik again:
But I’ve never experienced or witnessed an electronic tip-related dressing down, and even the countless media reports on tipping fatigue don’t describe workers creating a culture of shame. Thus, feelings of tipping-related inadequacy are irrational anxieties about workers making bad-faith judgments about customers. Yet the increasingly circular discussion of tipping fatigue often turns into making bad-faith judgments about workers instead, devaluing their work to the point of suggesting they don’t deserve tips at all and that, somehow, the spread of “tipflation” is caused by delusions of grandeur.
It’s a thoughtful read, but this issue isn’t really about tips; it’s about what we think certain workers deserve and why.
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm, online) — agenda
Public Open House – Case 2023-00728 (Thursday, 7pm, Eastern Shore Community Centre, Musquodoboit Harbour) — a development agreement to build a new grocery store at 8990 Hwy. 7, Head of Jeddore
In the harbour
05:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Fairview Cove to Autoport
06:45: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 41 from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Caribbean Princess, cruise ship with up to 3,756 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a 10-day cruise from Quebec City to New York
09:40: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania
10:00: GPO Grace, heavy lifter, moves from anchorage to Woodside
10:00: USCGC Forward, coast guard cutter, sails from Dockyard for sea
10:30: Hellas Fighter, oil tankers, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
11:00: Mineral Maureen, bulker, sails from anchorage for sea
11:00: NACC Providence, cement carrier, arrives at anchorage from Providence, Rhode Island
15:30: Caribbean Princess sails for Bar Harbor
15:30: Atlantic Sail sails for Liverpool, England
On Saturday night, a friend and I are going to Uniacke Estate Museum for a “behind the ropes” tour of parts of the museum not usually open to the public. Apparently, there will also be cake.