1. Kaitlin Saxton and NDAs

Before we get into this issue, we should recognize that Kaitlin Saxton was a full person, with interests, family, friends, abilities, and experiences that have nothing at all to do with what’s now bringing her into the news. I made a point of rereading her obituary and watching the video tribute to her this morning, with the hope that I’m not reducing her to simply an alleged victim of sexual harassment.

I think that also probably explains Saxton’s family’s reluctance to speak publicly about this. They remember and cherish her for who she was, and not as a pawn in the political game now playing out at Province House.

With that in mind, let’s review.

While in University, Saxton served as a page in the legislature. After graduating, she worked as a researcher in the Progressive Conservative caucus office in Halifax for about seven years.

Jamie Baillie

That job ended in January 2018. “Her departure coincided with a unanimous vote by the PC Caucus in January 2018 to force PC leader Jamie Baillie to resign following a third party investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour, including sexual harassment, in the workplace,” Jennifer Henderson reported yesterday.

Her obituary doesn’t mention any job Saxton held over the three years after leaving the PC caucus job.

In 2021, Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin was kicked out of the PC caucus after she supported a roadblock at the New Brunswick border by people protesting COVID restrictions.

According to Saxton’s obituary, in October 2021, Saxton went to work for Smith-McCrossin in the MLA’s constituency office in Amherst.

Just 33 years old, Saxton died in June 2022 of a brain hemorrhage.

The NDP has introduced a bill in the legislature limiting the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). While the PCs say they support the legislation in theory, the Justice Department is performing a seemingly interminable jurisdictional review of similar legislation, and both the NDP and the Liberals are criticizing the PCs for stonewalling.

In walks Smith-McCrossin.

Last week on the floor of the legislature, Smith-McCrossin claimed that Saxton “was coerced into signing an NDA with the Progressive Conservative caucus.”

The purported NDA that MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin tabled at the legislature on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. The handwriting at upper right is the clerk of the legislature’s note. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

Smith-McCrossin tabled a document she said she recently found in her constituency office, which Smith-McCrossin purported to be a non-disclosure agreement that reads in part, “Certain events have caused Kaitlin Saxton to terminate her employment with the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Caucus on a mutually agreed basis.”

This is odd. Smith-McCrossin tabled what appears to be a blurry photo of a document, not the document itself. It doesn’t have Saxton’s signature, or anyone else’s. And why would a document from three years before Saxton started working for Smith-McCrossin be in her office in the first place? And how does it suddenly get discovered just as the legislature is debating a bill about NDAs?

Still, the circumstances line up.

But on Monday, MLA Karla MacFarlane, who was the chair of the PC caucus when Baillie was removed as party leader, and who is now the minister responsible for the Status of Women, introduced a motion demanding that Smith-McCrossin retract her claim and apologize, or be expelled from the house.

MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin speaks with reporters at Province House on April 4, 2023. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

On Tuesday, Smith-McCrossin refused to back down.

Yesterday afternoon, Jennifer Henderson contacted Baillie, and the two had this email exchange:

Jennifer Henderson:  Did you ever sign any type of non-disclosure agreement with Kait Saxton? And I’m not talking about the unsigned, undated document Ms. Smith-McCrossin produced. I’m talking about whether YOU signed any non-disclosure agreement with Kait.

Jamie Baillie: I do not make a habit of commenting on matters before the House and will not start now.

That’s disingenuous. All the other 1,037,781 residents of Nova Scotia seem capable of commenting on matters before the House, and there’s nothing preventing Baillie from doing so either.

Even if the terms of an NDA prevented Baillie from speaking about it, as Saxton is deceased there would be no penalty for talking about it, and that might bring some much-needed clarity to the issue.

By not clearly denying he signed an NDA with Saxton or acknowledging that he did, Baillie does a disservice to her memory.

Last night, Henderson reported that Smith-McCrossin “told reporters her lawyer is filing a court challenge to a motion brought forward by the Progressive Conservatives to expel her from the legislature,” and:

All political leaders have used the word ”tragic” to describe what happened and the fact Saxton is now being used as a political football in a dispute over whether to pass legislation aimed at restricting how NDAs can be used in cases involving workplace harassment. 

MacFarlane left the legislature visibly shaken after a briefing with reporters in which she said it’s possible the PC caucus may decide to withdraw the notice of motion to expel Smith-McCrossin, who was initially elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA.

The PCs say their caucus made no payment to Saxton related to an NDA. Perhaps Baillie made a personal payment?

While Saxton’s family is under no obligation to do or say anything, they might be in a position to look at Saxton’s banking records to see if any large payment was received, and if so, from whom.

As Henderson notes, what’s being lost in all this is the proposed legislation itself. It doesn’t simply ban NDAs, and that’s a good thing. There are circumstances when people who are sexually harassed or sexually assaulted want to remain anonymous and find that a payment suits their individual needs. Rather, as I understand it, the proposed legislation requires that such agreements first be vetted by legal counsel for the alleged victim.

Kaitlin Saxton doesn’t deserve to be at the centre of this debate.

Beyond that, last week the Mass Casualty Commission’s final report detailed the indifference to and tolerance of misogyny that permeates our society, and that women aren’t the only victims of it — it affects us all.

Sexual harassment is on the spectrum of misogyny that includes the terrible treatment of Lisa Banfield, both at the hands of her commonlaw spouse and by the attacks on her by the wider community.

We shouldn’t stand for any of this. The PCs should pass the NDA legislation immediately.

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2. Apartment registry

A group of people holding signs stands around the stairway leading to an old building. The biggest sign says, "LANDLORD LICENSING -INSPECT BUILDINGS -ENFORCE STANDARDS -COMPEL REPAIRS WRITE YOUR COUNCILLOR!'
ACORN members rally outside Halifax City Hall on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Credit: Zane Woodford

“Halifax regional council has passed a bylaw to create a registry for apartments and landlords in the municipality,” reports Zane Woodford:

The new Bylaw R-400, Respecting Registration of Residential Rental Properties, will require landlords to register their rental properties in HRM by April 2024. They’ll also need to have a maintenance plan. Staff told council the bylaw will help the municipality shift from a complaint-based inspection system to a proactive system. It passed second reading during council’s meeting on Tuesday, along with amendments to beef up Bylaw M-200, Respecting Standards for Residential Occupancies.

“The intent of this is to require that you have to be registered to rent, and then stay on top of making sure that people are getting the minimum standards,” Coun. Waye Mason told reporters on Tuesday.

Click here to read “Halifax council passes apartment registry bylaw.”

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3. Rent subsidy income threshold raised

A white man with grey hair wearing a black pinstriped suit, white shirt, yellow tie and glasses speaks at a podium. In the background are three Nova Scotia flags, coloured blue, yellow and red.
Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr speaks to reporters in Halifax on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

As of January, the rules around who is eligible to receive a rent supplement from the province changed. 

The change was announced on the Municipal Services and Housing website. Qualifying for a supplement now requires proof that at least 50% of household income goes toward paying rent; the previous threshold was 30%.

In the legislature on Monday, Housing Minister John Lohr defended that change. 

“We are in a housing crisis and we see the demand for rent supplements increasing to a point where we were realizing, late last fall, that we were going to run out of money, frankly,” said Lohr. “So, we said ‘how are we going to address this?’ We wanted to prioritize those most in need.”

Lohr reminded MLAs the recent provincial budget allocated an additional $21 million to bring the total number of people who will receive supplements to approximately 8,000. The change is expected to help 1,000 more renters. 

Anyone who had been receiving a rent supplement under the old rules (30%) will continue to get it and no one will be cut off, Lohr promised.

The housing spokesperson for the NDP suggested a more effective response to the growing number of people losing their homes would be maintain the 30% eligibility threshold and further increase the budget allocation so more people can continue to rent.

“If this government noticed there was an increased need or demand for the rent supplement, they should have worked to make sure there was enough money for everyone in need instead of changing the threshold from 30 to 50%, which makes it harder for people to qualify,” said Suzy Hansen, the NDP MLA for Halifax-Needham.

There are about 300,000 tenants in the province.

During Question Period, Rafah DiCostanzo the Liberal MLA for Clayton Park West, asked the Community Services minister how many homeless people the government is currently putting up in hotels and what is the cost. 

Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane tabled numbers that showed the government paid out $5.6 million to house homeless people in hotels during the nine months between April and December 2022.

As of the end of last month (March 28), the Department of Community Services was paying for rooms to house 183 people in HRM and another 44 people outside the city. Well over 200 people. The document said this does not include others housed in hotel rooms through partnerships with seven community agencies outside Metro.

By the end of this month, the government is expected to share additional information about a pending deal to convert the DoubleTree beside the Macdonald Bridge in Dartmouth into a hotel for homeless people. The Department of Community Services already leases a couple of floors in that building and some hotel staff have received layoff notices. 

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4. The death of Sarah Rose Denny

A woman smiles and spreads her arms in a green field on the coast on a sunny day.
Sarah Rose Denny Credit: Contributed/Brian Knockwood

This item is also written by Jennifer Henderson.

Justice Minister Brad Johns will not commit to a public review of Sarah Rose Denny, a 36-year-old Indigenous woman who died from pneumonia while in provincial custody

Johns said he is waiting for the autopsy report from the medical examiner’s office, a procedure that often takes months, before he makes any decision on whether a review is warranted.

The family of Sarah Rose Denny said they have received very little information about the circumstances that led to her death after a brief stay in hospital on March 26. 

NDP leader Claudia Chender says a public review is required.

“We heard Minister Johns say something like, ‘we understand that Indigenous and African-Nova Scotian people are over-represented in the justice system and we are working on doing something about it,’” said Chender.

“I think the death of a young woman in custody absolutely calls for a public inquiry, so we join with the family and with other victims’ organizations in calling for that. Further, I think the minister needs to put his power where his mouth is and call for an inquiry so that we can begin to understand how a tragedy like this happened so it doesn’t happen again.”

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5. Halifax Mussels

Hockey players in bright pink sweaters with their pronouns on their sleeves sit on the bench at a rink during a game.
The Halifax Mussels at the Annual Mardi-Gras Recreational Hockey Tournament, playing in Summerside. Credit: Halifax Mussels Facebook page

This morning, Philip Moscovitch profiles the Halifax Mussels:

On its website, the Mussels (the name refers to coming out of your shell) describe the team as dedicated to creating a “safe, inclusive and accepting place to play and learn to play hockey in a positive supportive environment” for “everyone including members of the LGBTQ+ community and our allies.”

Last weekend, the Mussels played in the Annual Mardi-Gras Recreational Hockey Tournament in PEI. Centred in Summerside, it’s a massive affair, with more than 125 teams registered, and games spread out over arenas in several towns. On Twitter, Forbes, a letter carrier with Canada Post, said the Mussels were “the first ever openly and proudly queer team to participate.”

Click here to read “‘Openly and proudly queer’: Halifax hockey team participates in PEI tournament for first time.”

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6. Older drivers

Last month, I noted a press release from Halifax police that read:

On March 21 at approximately 12:30 p.m., police responded to a vehicle pedestrian collision in the 2300 block of Gottingen Street. The driver of a vehicle was heading southbound on Gottingen Street and struck a pedestrian who was crossing in a marked crosswalk.  

The 29-year-old pedestrian was taken to the hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the vehicle, an 89-year-old man, was issued a summary offence ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

“Taking the car keys away from an elderly family member is difficult, as it can mean making their world less expansive,” I commented. “(I’ve been in this situation myself.) That’s yet another reason to invest in transit: so old people can get around without having to drive.”

I wasn’t aware at the time that the incident had been discussed on social media, including by one person who said, angrily:

There have been far to many recently. People need to stop walking out in front of cars, LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING THE ROAD! Frig, I learnt that in elementary school. Just cause you have the right of way doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind.

Such comments are typical after every pedestrian is hit, facts be damned.

Other commenters said news photos of the scene showed that the pedestrian wasn’t in the crosswalk, so again, the pedestrian was at fault, and again, who cares about the facts?

Today, the CBC reports:

The mother of a man who was hit by a car at a marked crosswalk in Halifax is calling for mandatory driving tests for older drivers. 

Sarah March’s 29-year-old son, Damien Tomsett, was walking east on a Gottingen Street crosswalk at Buddy Daye Street around noon on March 21 when he was hit by an SUV driven by an 89-year-old man. 

Tomsett uses cochlear implants for a hearing impairment and also has limited peripheral vision.

“He didn’t see me and he drove over another 30-40 feet before other pedestrians jumped in front of him, stopping him. So they could pull me out from under the SUV,” Tomsett said.

March and Tomsett argue that, as is required in other provinces, older people be periodically tested for their driving ability.

Bill VanGorder, a spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, told the CBC such tests amount to ageism, and younger drivers do all sorts of stupid shit (I’m paraphrasing) that put people more at risk than the geezer set (paraphrasing again, and I can say that because I include myself among them).

I dunno. March suggests the testing should start at about her age — 60. I’m fast approaching that age, and I’m not upset by the suggestion. The older I get, the more I’m cognizant that I’m driving around a giant hunk of steel that can do real harm should I not be super attentive, and no one can be super attentive all the time. I don’t think my reflexes are fading to the degree of being a particular hazard, but how would I know, really? Maybe everyone, at whatever age, should be periodically tested.

Besides the testing issue, many of us know, without doubt, that the old people in our lives are a driving hazard and can potentially kill people. Those are difficult conversations to have, but have them we must.

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7. Bill Moore

A man in a police uniform sits on a stool. Behind him is a sign reading, "POLICE HEADQUARTERS."
Bill Moore prepares to take the ice bucket challenge in a still from a 2014 video. Credit: Facebook/HRP

“Bill Moore, a former deputy chief of Halifax Regional Police, has a new civilian job working as the executive director of HRM’s new public safety business unit,” reports Zane Woodford:

Moore retired from HRP in 2017 to become the executive director of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. He’s recently been working with the municipality as a project manager on a report looking at HRM’s unique joint policing model, with HRP and RCMP.

The job has a salary range of  $176,950 to $222,710.

Click here to read “Former deputy chief of Halifax Regional Police named executive director of public safety at HRM.”

I like Moore. I don’t know if that’s because as co-deputy chief he was playing good cop to Chris McNeil’s bad cop, or if it’s because he’s friendly when I run into him at the grocery store. But he lacks the defensiveness that most cops demonstrate reflexively.

We could do worse, is all I’m saying.

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Environmental and Sustainability Meeting (Wednesday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda 

Women’s Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — agenda 



Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)


Legislature sits (Thursday, 9am, Province House)  

On campus



Reflecting on Power Dynamics in Classroom Interaction (Wednesday, 1pm, online)— registration required 

Dalhousie Medical School – Black Learners Admission Pathway (Wednesday, 6pm, online) —  More info here


ICG seminar (Thursday, 10am, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Saima May Sidik, freelance science journalist, Somerville, MA will talk 

Panel Discussion on Disasters, Community Healing and Global Wellness (Thursday, 2pm, online) — more info here 
This is What Freedom Sounds Like (Thursday, 7:30pm, Joseph Strug Concert Hall,) — Dr. Tammy Kernodle with the Dalhousie Jazz Ensemble Directed by Chris Mitchell; more info here 

In the harbour

11:00: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
12:00: Theben, car carrier, arrives at Pier 9 from Southampton, England
15:00: Brooklyn Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
16:00: Theben moves to Autoport
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
16:45: BBC Challenger, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Montreal
22:30: ZIM Vancouver sails for New York

Cape Breton
07:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Sept-Îles, Quebic
18:00: AlgoScotia sails for sea


One aspect of geezerdom is I tire more than I used to. The past week has been especially busy for me. I used to be able to pile up busy weeks no problem and carry on. But now I need a bit of slow time after. Which is to say, I had an article in the works yesterday, but figured it could wait. So sue me.

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

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. Speaking personally I am all for drivers being retested periodically, say every 10 years.

    It is ridiculous that it has been 50+ years since I was required to demonstrate a skill set to drive responsibly and safely.

    Equally ridiculous that it has been 50+ years since I had to demonstrate a knowledge of the rules of the road.

    A lot has changed in the past 50+ years.

    Driving is a privilege, not a right. All drivers should be required to demonstrate their competence on an ongoing basis.

    If we ever dream of achieving Vision Zero, or even Towards Zero, society needs to get serious about having competent drivers on our roads, those that respect speed limits, come to complete stop, yield to pedestrians and on and on.

    While only a small step I encourage all to take this Quiz to assess how aware you are of the NS MVA as it relates to crosswalk infractions.

    Yours in crosswalk / road safety.

  2. Re Older Drivers: I used to hold a small bus licence in Ontario. A condition of the licence was regular physicals (including vision, hearing, and psychological tests), regular written test re-writes, and, less frequently, redoing a road-test. It would be reasonable to have this for all drivers. Just because you were in good health and knew how to drive at 18 does not mean you can safely drive twenty or thirty years later.
    However, stricter enforcement of safe driving abilities would require acknowledging that many people are not fit to drive, and need public transit, more accessible services, and safe ways to use alternate travel methods such as bicycles. Our governments continue to see private cars as the default method of transportation for everyone. Despite healthcare shortages, we built a hospital parking garage. Access NS Centres are located in outlying areas. And more highways is the government go-to public works project. In this environment, the last thing the government is likely to do is tell people they cannot drive. As for the drivers, they may well know they are not safe drivers, but we don’t provide viable alternatives.

  3. What the heck is a “Public Safety Business Unit?” It would make more sense if the mandate was to phase out the “unique” (read dysfunctional) hybrid policing model in HRM. There is a caustic relationship between HRPolice and the RCMP and frankly those of us who are in RCMP coverage areas are paying the price. If we had one police service, like we have one fire service, we likely would not need a very expensive “Public Safety Business Unit” to play referee between two police forces with contrary approaches to policing.

    1. HRM is quite happy to keep the RCMP because they pay just 70% of the cost of their services. Elsewhere in Canada the municipalities pay 90%. RCMP pay and benefits are cheaper than HRP. I note the HRM CAO has not spoken a word about the increased cost to the HRM policing budget for RCMP services
      Read this from March 29 2023 : ” Despite months of municipal advocacy led by the FCM, provincial-territorial associations, and local leaders across Canada, the federal government has indicated in the 2023 Budget that it will not be meeting the request to absorb the retroactive costs associated with the latest RCMP collective bargaining agreement. The federal government’s refusal to absorb these costs – which were essentially negotiated with municipal money but not with municipal input – is not acceptable. Municipal councils will be forced to make incredibly tough decisions, such as making cuts to essential services or passing the bill along to residents, at a time when Canadians’ concerns about local safety and the cost of living are already rising.”

  4. I work in retail. We see many elderly shoppers with impaired hearing, vision and frailty to the point that they need “one on one” assistance to get their purchase and have it placed in their vehicle. Then they climb into that vehicle and drive away. I always offer these folks a company brochure that outlines our home delivery service, which is usually laughed off as a ridiculous option. If we felt they were intoxicated to any level we would be required to phone the police with a license plate number. But these patrons impaired only by declining senses and reaction time, are out there moving from A to B in heavy equiptment. The relationship between declining physical abilities and road safety is now considered to be “ageism” rather than common sense.

  5. I turned in my license when my sight deteriorated. So I’ve been a pedestrian for about 15 years. I have had many near misses, all of them caused by drivers, not by me. I am extra cautious. Of all those close calls, almost all were youngish men driving big SUVs or F150 trucks. I don’t recall a single incident where the driver was a senior. If retesting is to be introduced, make it for everyone, not just seniors.

  6. If it gets people who are too old to drive off the road, I’m happy to get road tested every five years. Although, realistically, the re-testing could be done much more cheaply – I am thinking of those tests they made you do where you had to catch a stick when your partner dropped it, and eye tests and so on. It is not so much a problem if a geezer who hasn’t had to parallel park in 25 years is bad at parallel parking, it is a problem if their reactions are so slow they can’t react to a kid running across the road or something.

    1. There are other factors besides speed of reflexes, like vision. An older person I know voluntarily gave up driving (but maybe mostly because their family insisted, not a doctor) because they were sensible as their eyesight became poor. What about those who don’t acknowledge the problem? I agree with Nick, better to test reflexes, vision, and possibly a couple of other factors rather than an ordinary road test as many older people will no longer be driving out of their comfort zone anyway and would fail even a short spin on a highway they have not driven on for years, or navigating unfamiliar busy city streets, but are still perfectly fine in their normal ambit.

      1. I did say eye tests ;).

        On the other hand, a lot of older people do self-limit their driving. The bar for driving on a sunny day is a lot lower than driving after dark on a rainy night when road markings are invisible and reflections make it hard to see. A mandatory re-testing program risks either being toothless or too restrictive of responsible old people who recognize their limits and switch to being fair-weather drivers.

          1. Yes, and likewise, I have an elderly relative who only drives during the day because his eye condition renders him more or less blind at night. I would hate to see an overzealous mandatory testing program take his license (although I would be fine with his license being restricted to daytime).