1. Two Examiner articles with impact
I’m always proud of the work from the Halifax Examiner crew, and two recent articles exemplify why we’re in this work to begin with.
We like to reward subscribers with initial exclusive access to our deeply reported articles, and so publish them behind the paywall for a while, but then we take them out from the paywall for the broader public to read. And these two stories will probably be re-reported elsewhere, so we kept the period of exclusivity short, meaning they’re no longer behind the paywall.
On Saturday, we published Yvette d’Entremont’s reporting on sexual assault allegations at Université Sainte-Anne. Click or tap here to read “‘Left me there like trash’: Sainte-Anne students, staff, say university has failed to properly address sexual assault on campus.”
And yesterday, we published Suzanne Rent’s investigation of Sobeys cornering the bread market in the immediate vicinity of its grocery stores. Click or tap here to read “‘They don’t let us’: Dollarama stores sell bread, unless there’s a Sobeys nearby.”
Rent and d’Entremont always do good work, but they’ve exceeded themselves with these two articles. This was tough reporting.
While you can now read the two articles without a subscription, it is in fact your subscriptions that make this work possible, so if you’ve been holding off, now’s as good a time as any to subscribe.
2. Uninspired at SMU
The “Sobeys Inspiration Hub” opens today at Saint Mary’s University.
According to the university’s website, the $37 million project is funded in part through a $18 million grant from Sobeys, and according to a press release from the university, $12 million will come from the university itself and $8 million from the federal government. Yes, that’s a total of $38 million; I have no idea why the university’s accounting doesn’t add up.
That seems to be the way these projects go: throw out a bunch of nonsense and hope nobody interrogates it.
For instance, what are we to make of this?:
The expansion will be a catalyst for superior interdisciplinary learning and applied research that will boost activity in entrepreneurship and data analytics for the benefit of our students and drive prosperity and resilience in our home province and region.
Does that mean anything at all?
If Sobeys Inc. is any measure, the “entrepreneurship and data analytics” being taught will be along the lines of price-fixing and taking the maximum possible amount of money from those who need it the most — people who are so on the margins that they have to buy their bread at Dollarama.
And as used today, “prosperity” and “resilience” are terms that are at odds with each other:
• When we say someone is prosperous, we mean they’ve been able to game the system to hoard wealth without paying taxes commensurable with fairness.
• When we say someone is resilient, we mean that despite the best efforts of the prosperous to steal from them, overwork them, remove community supports from them and, ultimately, to kill them, they have somehow survived. So, you can’t be both prosperous and resilient.
And just as they couldn’t do simple arithmetic for the capital costs of the building, no one at Saint Mary’s was thinking about the real meaning of words when they wrote that mawkish bullshit. It’s just a bunch of pretty sounding words meant to lull the population and impress dumb people.
For that, Saint Mary’s University gets the Bullshitter of the Week Award.
3. Yet another way for landlords to be terrible
“The head of a Bedford-based charity that rescues cats and adopts them to new owners said the province needs to do more to help pet owners who are surrendering their animals because they can’t find pet-friendly housing,” reports Suzanne Rent:
Linda Felix started Spay Day HRM in 2011. They offer a spay-and-neuter program for low-income pet owners, and adopt out many cats. In the past dozen years, Spay Day HRM has spayed or neutered more than 5,800 cats.
On the weekend, Spay Day shared this post on its Facebook page. The post features a photo of a ginger cat named Carlos that was surrendered to the shelter by its owners, including a young boy, who have owned the cat since he was eight weeks old. The post says many other cats have been surrendered to the shelter as well, calling it the “theme of 2023.”
Felix said in some cases apartment buildings are sold and the new owner puts in a no-pet policy. If those tenants can’t find another place to rent that allows pets, they will bring them to the shelter. She said other owners have to move into tents, campers, or are couch surfing and can’t bring a pet along with them or the animals are abandoned on the streets. Felix said she neutered a cat whose owners lived in their vehicle.
Felix said adding a no-pet policy to a lease is a way for landlords to get around rent caps and renoviction rules. She said she’s heard that from a colleague who works at a vet clinic who said “quite bluntly” a landlord putting in a no-pet policy is a way to force people out of their apartments.
And then they raise the rent and move new people in. There’s a loophole there that isn’t covered under Nova Scotia laws and regulations. We call them renovictions. Well, we’ll have to make a term for pet evictions, and there’s no policing on this because there is no law about it. Nova Scotia needs some rules and regulations on this and enforcement. If a little old lady has lived in her apartment for 10 years with her cat, all of a sudden the building declares no pets, and she has to get rid of her only companion, it’s very sad and there’s no need for it.
4. Nova Scotia Power wants more of our money
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
Nova Scotia Power is asking ratepayers to pick up $117,748,086 in overspending for 2022.
That’s a big bill and a big ask. The largest amount is for damages and repairs due to Hurricane Fiona last September, which the company says cost it $89 million. Here’s an excerpt from the case Nova Scotia Power submitted to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board yesterday:
The 2022 Annual Capital Expenditure (ACE) Plan budgeted approximately $3.9 million based on a five-year average of historical storm routine costs (excluding storms classified as extreme events) plus annual inflation of 2 percent. NS Power experienced an unprecedented number of impactful storm events in 2022, resulting in 9 significant event days, 16 major event days and 3 extreme event days. The largest storm event was Hurricane Fiona, which accounted for all the extreme event days, 4 of the major event days and 1 of the significant event days. The damage and associated cost of replacement caused by the following storms are the main driver for the increased spend:
When the UARB approved a 13.8% increase in power rates from 2023-25, it also agreed to let Nova Scotia Power recover some costs incurred due to large storms that led to repairs and the restoration of downed power lines and equipment.
“Operating and maintenance costs” due to storms that exceed the level forecast for the period 2023-2025 can be billed back to ratepayers if they are judged to be “prudent.” This “storm rider” is for a two-year trial period and it is not retroactive to 2022 so it cannot be used to pay for the massive damage caused by Fiona.
In its request to the UARB to recover these 2022 storm costs, Nova Scotia Power notes that even if the storm rider did apply, it wouldn’t cover assets that were so badly damaged they had to be “retired,” i.e., written off. In its submission the utility “strongly suggests” that during its next rate application, the UARB consider embedding an amount in power rates to help cover the loss or retirement of equipment due to future storms.
Higher costs to connect new residential customers
Nova Scotia Power also spent more than it forecast hooking up new residential customers in 2022.
The company wants ratepayers to cover the $9,699,868 it went over-budget. The utility claims that amount is mostly related to having to pay workers overtime to complete the new installations.
Here’s how Nova Scotia Power defends that ask in its submission to the UARB:
The number of line upgrades/extensions required to connect the customer will vary year over year based on the nature of new residential customer developments (e.g. an individual customer home or a multi-unit development). In 2022, the cost per unit was significantly affected by delays in completing work due to the unprecedented number of days that were instead required for storm response in 2022. This resulted in significant increases to both overtime labour for internal NS Power crews (100% increase) and contractor PLTs (104% increase) to complete the work.
Nova Scotia Power notes that although the number of installations was close to what had been forecast, the jobs were larger and more complex. Probably more multi-unit buildings.
The company said the increase in size and complexity of the installs was reflected in a 73% increase in how much customers paid for the work. The utility says the larger and more complex housing projects also resulted in higher than budgeted costs for labour (regular and overtime) and materials.
The regulator will make a decision next year on these two requests from Nova Scotia Power totalling more than $117 million.
Ratepayers are invited to send their comments to the UARB at email@example.com no later than Jan. 18, 2024. Those interested in becoming intervenors must write to the UARB by Sept. 11.
5. Coastal Protection Act
Speaking of Fiona, the National Observer last week looked at the state of Nova Scotia’s non-implemented Coastal Protection Act:
In Nova Scotia, all eyes are on the Coastal Protection Act, which will decide where it’s safe to build new homes and buildings along the shoreline of the province as sea levels rise and climate change contributes to greater erosion and flooding. Although the act was passed in 2019, Premier Tim Houston has given no timeline on when Nova Scotians can expect the law to go into effect after multiple deadlines — and hurricanes — have passed.
Nova Scotia should follow P.E.I.’s lead and prevent further coastal development until the act is in place, said Will Balser, coastal adaptation co-ordinator at Ecology Action Centre in Halifax. The government has said more consultation is needed before the act is put in place, but climate groups say it’s a vague excuse, as does Nova Scotia NDP Leader Claudia Chender. Chender, as reported by the Halifax Examiner, pointed to Houston being concerned about private property owners not having “access to the coast in whatever manner they want.”
Large landowners and developers on the coast are now largely unregulated, Balser said. “So, it’s much faster and easier for them to put properties and developments in known erosion and flood risk areas,” said Balser.
Last fall’s hurricane Fiona was Atlantic Canada’s costliest weather event to date, which makes it all the more pressing that the Nova Scotia government put the Coastal Protection Act into place, said Balser. There is a strong financial argument to do so: the Canadian Climate Institute estimates every dollar spent on adaptation saves between $13 and $15.
“And now we’re talking about dragging it out with more staff for two more years. All the while we’re paying for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage every hurricane season.”
I somehow missed that Fiona destroyed Tea Cup Rock.
Evelyn C. White relates the journeys of several people breaking through the societal silence with their sexual and gender identities.
Board of Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 4pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate, and online) — agenda
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda
Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Worried Earth Panel (Thursday, 12pm, Halifax Central Library) — discussion before the official launch of the public art exhibition at 3pm (see below)
Worried Earth Exhibition Launch (Thursday, 3pm, outside) — along the fence next to The Butterfly Garden, adjacent to the north wing of the Henry Hicks Building (6299 South St, Halifax). Follow path between MacDonald and Henry Hicks buildings. From the listing:
This public art exhibition features photographs and narratives by youth climate activists from across the lands that are currently politically known as Canada. Youth were invited to participate in research that invited them to take photographs that were representative of the emotions they experienced through thinking about climate change and engaging in activism. Photographs then served as anchors for interviews exploring thoughts and feelings related to each image.
The Volunteers: How Halifax Women Won the Second World War (Thursday, 7pm, Halifax Public Library) — the launch of the new King’s MFA book club, featuring Lezlie Lowe
In the harbour
06:00: One Hawk, container ship (145,407 tonnes), sails from Pier 41 for Dubai
07:30: Norwegian Sky, cruise ship with up to 2,405 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor, on a 10-day cruise from Baltimore to Quebec City
08:00: Layla, cargo ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
08:30: Vision of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,443 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a nine-day roundtrip cruise out of Baltimore
11:30: Tamesis, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
15:00: NYK Delphinus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
16:00: Gotland, cargo ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Moa, Cuba
17:45: Norwegian Sky sails for Sydney
19:00: Vision of the Seas sails for Baltimore
20:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Berth TBD from Jacksonville, Florida
06:30: Zuiderdam, cruise ship with up to 2,364 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Charlottetown, on a seven-day cruise from Quebec City to Boston
12:00: Strymon, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from Teesport, England
16:30: Zuiderdam sails for Halifax
Major props to the city for waiting until school starts to pave Thistle Street next to two schools, and for closing Spring Garden Road for the first two weeks of university. It takes a lot of thoughtful planning to impose such maximum pain on commuters.
I’m a little worn down from travelling, but had a great time on the road. I didn’t know what to expect from getting older but so far, thankfully, just getting tired more easily is the worst of it.