Yvette d’Entremont and Zane Woodford.

I want to tell you a little bit about my colleagues Yvette d’Entremont and Zane Woodford. They joined the Examiner not long after both lost their jobs as reporters with The Star Halifax when The Toronto Star closed down all StarMetro newspapers. I often linked to their stories from that newspaper in my Morning Files. Now, I get to work with both of them.

Woodford and d’Entremont both have an incredible wealth of knowledge of their beats: Woodford about City Hall and policing; and d’Entremont about health, particularly COVID-19, which she continues to cover (she won a gold Atlantic Journalism Award for her pandemic coverage).

Woodford often edits my stories and I’ve learned so much from him, including how to make the right tweaks to headlines and where I should cut my stories when I write too long. My work is better with his editing skills.

And d’Entremont and I often chat about health issues that affect women, including menopause. She’s covering these stories in a way no one else locally does. She weaves data, studies, and personal stories from Nova Scotians into her articles that give us all a beter picture of what’s going on.

If I am writing about a story that mentions anything about either of their beats, I know I can go to them to find out more. Such an in-house resource is invaluble to our work. You don’t see it each day, but we’re often chatting behind the scenes, bouncing story ideas off each other and suggesting angles and sources. They’re such pros and I appreciate them both for their talent, work, expertise, and the occasional laughs.

Thank you all for reading and supporting us all. I always appreciate it! Click here to subscribe.


NEWS

1. Development for Eisner Cove wetland gets approval

Signs are seen on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 at one of the entrances to the Eisner Cove wetland, along Highway 111, where Defend Eisner Cove Wetland has set up camp to slow development. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford reports that the controversial development at Eisner Cove wetland, one of nine special planning areas designated by Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr, is going ahead.

As Woodford writes, Clayton Developments and A.J. Legrow Holdings want to eventually build 1,875 homes in the area. The approval, which happened last month, was announced in an ad in the Chronicle Herald on Wednesday. Woodford writes:

Halifax Regional Municipality updated its public consultation page on the proposal as well, writing that “The Executive Panel on Housing in the Halifax Regional Municipality did, on Tuesday, October 25, 2022 recommend the approval.”

That’s Lohr’s so-called housing task force, chaired by deputy minister of internal affairs, Geoff MacLellan, and including representatives from the province and HRM. Lohr created the task force with legislation introduced in October 2021, giving him the power to override HRM’s planning processes.

The task force meets in secret, and posts agendas and minutes weeks after its meetings. The last agenda posted is Oct. 13. The last minutes posted are from Sept. 22.

Had the Eisner Cove project proceeded through the municipality, there would’ve been public hearings on both the municipal planning strategy amendments and the development agreement. Instead, public input comprised information meetings and an online survey.

Click here to read Woodford’s story.                              

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2. Province House

Gas prices on Nov. 10, 2022. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

This item was written by Jennifer Henderson

PCs refuse to take tax off gas prices at the pumps

Increases in the price of gasoline have generated an additional $20 million for the province’s motive fuel tax account. For the first time since June, on Wednesday when reporters began asking the Nova Scotia finance minister if he would reduce the provincial portion of the tax at the pumps to help drivers with rising costs, Allan MacMaster gave a different answer. 

In reply to a question from Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the Independent MLA from Cumberland North, MacMaster said the province “is not allowed to do that” because the federal government has said reducing the provincial tax would send the wrong signal to consumers by “off-setting the federal carbon tax.”

MacMaster referred to a document issued by the federal department of Environment and Climate Change that his office later provided to reporters.

Reporters were puzzled by MacMaster’s response because: (a) Nova Scotia does not yet have a carbon tax on gasoline or furnace oil; (b) the province has refused to comply with a separate federal directive mandating all provinces to establish a price for carbon or Ottawa will apply the federal version; and (c) Newfoundland, Ontario, and Alberta are all provinces that have reduced the provincial portion of the tax on gasoline and diesel.

The document explaining how the federal carbon tax will work as the price of a tonne of carbon increases each year does include restrictions on reducing motive fuel taxes. The document discusses new benchmark criteria from 2023 to 2030.

Here’s the language MacMaster referred to in response toSmith-McCrossin’s question. The Examiner has put the relevant section in bold:

  • A clear price signal. The new benchmark includes requirements to ensure that:
    • government measures do not weaken the price signal, for example by giving instant rebates that are tied to the amount of carbon price paid or by explicitly reducing fuel taxes in order to offset the carbon price; and
    • output-based pricing systems for industry are sufficiently stringent to create strong markets that maintain a clear price signal across all covered emissions that is aligned with the minimum carbon price.

Okay, that document could restrict the Finance Minister from reducing the provincial portion of the tax on gasoline and diesel starting six weeks from now — January of 2023 — but it doesn’t stop the government from giving consumers a break today, or yesterday, for that matter.

Reporters asked MacMaster why the PC government is willing to comply with this federal directive and not another one requiring provinces to add a carbon price on gasoline and heating fuels. It seems inconsistent. When asked to explain why the province is following one federal directive while saying a clear “no” to levying a carbon tax, MacMaster had this to say:

So, all of our negotiations are led by the provincial environment minister. However, because this is a tax and it has revenue/expense implications, I’ve been involved as the minister of finance. So, I know anytime during discussions, I have always heard you cannot reduce the excise tax on fuel because it would mute the impact of the price increase caused by the carbon tax.”

An alternative, somewhat speculative, explanation may be that the provincial government doesn’t want to upset Ottawa while the Nova Scotia Environment Minister pleads with his federal counterpart to accept the made-in-Nova -Scotia plan to limit carbon emissions by industrial polluters such as Nova Scotia Power and cement manufacturer Lafarge.

Environment Minister Tim Halman has said if Ottawa doesn’t accept the Output Based Pricing System submitted by the province, environmental compliance costs for Nova Scotia Power could drive up power rates another 8% over two years.

Red tape at college of nursing delays some new hires

Also on Wedneday, Ben Jessome, Liberal MLA for Hammonds Plains-Lucasville, raised the issue of a  registered nurse who started her career in Nova Scotia 17 years ago. She moved to another province with her husband and young family where she upgraded her education. Jessome says upon returning to Nova Scotia, the mental health nurse discovered she can’t get licensed to work in her field because she spent five years out of the workforce, in part due to a maternity leave. Jessome told the Legislature the RN’s options include paying to take a comprehensive exam that doesn’t recognize her specialty or enrol in an 18-month training program. Jessome asked the Minister of Health Michelle Thompson to explain why experienced nurses living in Nova Scotia are not being credentialled?

Thompson laid the issue at the door of the Nova Scotia College of Nursing.

“There is a requirement through the college that each person work a basic number of hours in a five-year term. That allows for study and maternity leaves. There are criteria about how you maintain your hours. If your hours lapse, then there is a requirement you either challenge an exam or do a re-entry program,” Thompson said.

That didn’t satisfy Jessome, who asked the minister to take a closer look at licensing requirement through the Nova Scotia College of Nursing. The college recently relaxed some rules to permit the hiring of nurses from Ukraine. Thompson reminded Jessome the primary role of the college is to protect the public and that’s why licensing regulations continue to be in place.  

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3. National action plan on gender-based violence ‘an historic milestone’

Federal Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, Marci Ien, during Wednesday’s announcement in New Glasgow. Credit: Screenshot

This item was written by Yvette d’Entremont

Federal Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien is calling the endorsement by Canadian provinces and territories of a national action plan to end gender-based violence (GBV) “an historic milestone.”

The announcement of the endorsement was made in New Glasgow on Wednesday morning during the 40th annual federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) meeting of ministers responsible for the Status of Women. 

“This is not small. This is a big step. It is born of collaboration and tenacity, passion, empathy, between the federal government, provinces and territories to address gender-based violence,” Ien said in her opening remarks. 

Described as the result of years of collaboration between federal, provincial, territorial governments and Indigenous partners, Ien said the plan was created through engagement with survivors of gender-based violence, frontline service providers, gender-based violence experts, and stakeholders.

In a media release, the Government of Canada said the 10-year national action plan establishes a framework “for anyone facing GBV to have reliable and timely access to protection and services, no matter where they live.”  

Budget 2022 committed $539.3 million over five years (starting in 2022-23) to support provinces and territories to implement the national action plan.

“What the full endorsement means is that provinces and territories have said yes, they understand that this is a plan that was put forward that understands the uniqueness of each province and territory, and now the negotiations begin,” Ien told reporters. 

“Much like what we have seen with regards to Canada’s national daycare plan, those negotiations will take place and then we look forward to making announcements when those negotiations are done and come to fruition.”

Ien said at least $4 million has been set aside for territories to work with, and at least $2 million for the provinces. 

“All of the other details will be worked out in the days ahead. This is what negotiations are for,” Ien said. 

“Each province, each minister, knows what it needs. The grassroots organizations in those provinces and territories know what they need, and so all of this with regards to funding and application will take place in the days ahead at the negotiating table.”

Ien said 80% of the recommendations were unique to each province and territory.

“What Nunavut brings to the table will be very different from what Ontario brings to the table,” Ien said. 

“We understand that in various provinces and territories, different aspects of gender-based violence is centred in different ways, and we’re allowing provinces and territories to do just that when they come to the negotiation table.”

Karla MacFarlane, minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, described the commitment to a national plan as a first of its kind in Canada. 

“A single province or territory cannot do this important work alone. Today’s announcement signals our country’s collective commitment to ending gender-based violence,” MacFarlane said. 

“It will help ensure that the work of our province, other provinces and territories as well as indigenous partners are aligned.”

MacFarlane told reporters the national action plan aligns with work already underway in Nova Scotia, adding that it will “strengthen and accelerate steps” already being taken to end gender-based violence, including the Standing Together provincial initiative. 

“Gender-based violence is a complex issue that can happen in any relationship. We know that women and girls are the primary victims and men are the primary perpetrators,” MacFarlane said during the announcement. 

“Gender-based violence undermines a person’s sense of self-worth, their self-esteem, and it is deeply rooted in harmful stereotypes and has no place in our province or in our country. It’s simple. It needs to end.”

The Government of Canada said more than 11 million people in Canada aged 15 and older have experienced intimate partner violence at least once. It was estimated in 2009 that intimate partner violence costs the Canadian economy $7.4 billion each year, and sexual violence costs $4.8 billion a year. 

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4. Seniors stressed over loss of services at Bridgewater assisted living facility

Drumlin Hills in Bridgewater, NS. Credit: Google Street View

Anam Khan at CBC has this story about seniors at an assisted-living complex in Bridgewater who are so stressed about the upcoming loss of services they’re having mental health breakdowns. One resident, who is 84, was recently taken to hospital because of the stress. Khan writes:

Residents in 24 assisted-living units in Drumlin Hills used to receive meals, laundry and tenant assistance. Those services end on Nov. 30 because the current owner has changed the building’s business model. Now 18 residents remain, living in fear of what’s to come. The rest have moved into homes with their families or even a motel room. 

Drumlin Hills was originally built for seniors by Atlantic Baptist Housing more than 20 years ago, but the cost of maintaining the building it became too high for the non-profit, charitable organization, explained Kenny. Rosedale Investments Ltd. of Halifax bought it earlier this year and announced major changes to the building’s operation about three months ago, including a rent hike and reduced services . 

This came as a major shock for residents who moved in thinking it was a secure place to spend their old age. 

An ad-hoc group called the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada is now trying to find solutions for the seniors living in the complex. Beth Wood, a member of that group, says the seniors are isolated, eating their meals alone, and many are have become depressed over the situation. Wood says the group has joined up with community members to take legal action against the building’s owner, Joseph C. Arab. They filed 13 applications to the director of residential tenancie on behalf of residents. Wood told Khan she served the papers to Arab on Monday.

Khan also spoke with 90-year-old David George Bryant, who’s lived in Drumlin Hills for 10 years. He’s found another, but much smaller, place to live that’s further away from his wife, who lives in a long-term care facility. Bryant told CBC he can’t live in the building anymore, saying, “someday there’s going to be another regulation brought in and it’ll be like living underneath an axe in somebody’s hand, driving me into the ground.” 

Arab didn’t respond to CBC’s request for comment.

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VIEWS

Defending the rich won’t make you rich, too

Defending the rich won’t make you rich, too. Credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

I am not a fan of inspirational quotes, but sometimes someone says something that sticks with me. It was this line that was shared in an online discussion where people were, for some bizarre reason, defending the very rich Galen Weston of Loblaws.

I think socially the cult of money-worship is so strong that anybody who has it, regardless of how (unethically) they made it, is by default seen as A Good Person. 

I see this way of thinking play out in many ways, that the rich are better, smarter, and more talented than the rest of us. The rich, some say, create jobs, so we all have to be grateful. But the rich, I say, need the workers, so maybe they should be more grateful for us. I mean the rich only get rich because they’re exploiting something: workers’ time and talents, the environment, and more.

Or a very rich celebrity might give what some consider an inspiring speech at an award ceremony. Then you’ll see people suggesting that the very rich celebrity should run for president. Surely to god we want more out of our leaders than this.

Or still the rich will start foundations where they put their money and have non-profits that often represent society’s most vulnerable people fill out applications to get some of that cash. Then the donor will get years of thank you cards filled with exclamation points of gratitude for being so charitable (I briefly worked in fundraising and wrote too many exclamation points).

And then one day, that rich person will have a building named after them for being such A Good Person.

Vu Le, a writer, speaker, and former executive director of a non-profit in Seattle, wrote this brilliant non-apology apology this week in response to comments he got from a recent webinar he hosted where he said, “philanthrophy has often become a hobby for the rich, and it should not be” and that family legacies of philanthropy are “gross.”

“Not all rich people!” commenters told Le. Here’s some of Le’s response:

Individual donors are the best among us and should never be exposed to even the mildest of criticisms when we discuss systemic inequity. My sentiments that a growing number of donors put money into DAFs [donor-advised fund], take an immediate tax break, then trickle out small amounts into causes they care about, without any legal requirements compelling them to do so ever, and that our sector often turns into a SkyMall catalog of causes for donors to pick and choose from like a “hobby”—were out of line.

I caused indelible harm to donors and fundraisers by bringing up tactless and insensitive points such as that significant wealth has been built on slavery, stolen Indigenous land, worker exploitation, environmental degradation, and tax avoidance, and that nonprofit and philanthropy often serve as a conscience-laundering mechanism for the very inequity and injustice we are raising money to fight. I can imagine donors, each as pure and fragile as a newborn baby bird, hearing these cruel words and weeping for days.

Kylie Cheung over at The Mary Sue wrote about the billionaire superfans who defend the superrich from any kind of criticism.

The crux of what most internet billionaire defenders are saying is that, in so many words, this is just the way things are. Yet, it’s almost paradoxical how delusional this “realism” is—many who defend billionaires are likely one or two missed paychecks away from economic ruin. Still, they preach as if following all the rules of the system will someday make them billionaires themselves, as if billionaires are billionaires because of hard work and not other factors like luck, generational wealth, and exploitation.

Rather than be critical of the morals of those who massively benefit from rapidly growing wealth inequality, or the eight billionaires who own half the world’s wealth while so many of us are forced to crowdfund basic health care, they’re essentially saying we should just be grateful for employment from them, even if that employment is rooted in exploitation.

There are more of us not-so rich than there are billionaires. Yet sometimes we do so little to support each other, thinking maybe if we hike up our bootstraps a bit more and work harder, we’ll be super rich, too.

Last week, Tim Covell wrote another line that is sticking with me, too. It was this tweet:

There’s a disturbing number of folks who are apparently unhappy with their pay, benefits, and job security, and therefore don’t want other low wage workers to get a wage increase. I don’t understand the reasoning.

Someone pointed out to Covell this is “crab bucket mentality.” You know, “if I can’t have something, neither can anyone else.”

I sent Covell a message asking him about his tweet. He told me he shared it in response to comments he was reading about the educational assistants dispute in Ontario. Some of those comments were coming from folks who make less than the EAs, so they argued EAs shouldn’t get more because they’re not getting more.

A couple of years ago, back when I was frequently writing about jobs that don’t pay a living wage, someone joked online that I just wanted people in these jobs to make $20 an hour. What’s it to me if the cashier at the grocery store makes more money? I have all I need: a great kid, great work, people who make me laugh and have my back, and more. If someone gets a living wage, I’d say to them, “good for you.”

Last week, I was downtown looking up at new buildings filled with world-class apartments that I ⁠— and many people I know ⁠— can’t afford to rent. I lived in several neighbourhoods in this city ⁠— downtown, the north and south ends, and now off the peninsula ⁠— for all but two years of my adult life. And on that day last week, I thought to myself if I had to move from where I am now, I’d struggle to find a place to live. That’s the first time living here I thought that.

And on that day I also passed by one of several parks filled with tents where people are living because they can’t find an affordable place to live.

The gap is getting bigger between us and the rich and we’re all closer to living in a tent than we are to being a billionaire. Now, let’s really think about who we want to defend.

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NOTICED

More people ignoring the signs

Nathan Coleman at The Weather Network has this story about why hikers should take care to read signs posted on trails across the province. As Coleman reports, some trails are closed now because of fallen trees left behind from tropical storm Fiona in September.

Coleman spoke with Janet Barlow with Hike Nova Scotia who said trail managers are frustrated that hikers are completely ignoring many of the signs, and putting themselves and trail managers at risk. Barlow told Coleman Hike Nova Scotia is looking for volunteers to help clear out some of those trees, but she also reminded people not to go into the woods with a chainsaw, taking care of that work themselves.

I’m not so optimistic all the hikers will heed the warnings. Coleman posted this video a couple of days ago as he was working on this story. A couple headed out on a trail where the posted sign clearly said the trail was closed.

People ignore signs for all sorts of reasons. Think of the signs at Peggy’s Cove, or no speeding signs, or signs about public health measures around COVID.

I wrote about this before in this Morning File from a couple of years ago.

Here’s Coleman’s full report.

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Government

City

Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda

Province

No meetings


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: Atlantic Sealion, barge, and Atlantic Beech, tug, arrive at Pier 24 from Port Hawkesbury
07:30: Franbo Lohas, cargo ship, moves from anchorage to Fairview Cove, arriving from Savannah, Georgia 
07:30: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for St. John’s
07:30: Nor’easter, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Boston
09:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
15:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia 
16:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 42
17:00: MSC Aniello, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
19:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, sails from Dockyard for sea
23:00: Oceanex Sanderling sails for St. John’s

Cape Breton
08:00: Balsa 86, cargo ship, sails from Mulgrave for sea
18:00: CSL Kajika, bulker, sails from Port Hawkesbury Paper for sea 


Footnotes

I don’t have anything left to say. For now.


Suzanne Rent

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

Jennifer Henderson

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

Yvette d'Entremont

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor, covering the COVID-19 pandemic and health issues. Twitter @ydentremont

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  1. Re: Signs — I think that too many are ignored too often and now no one knows which to believe. I too often think (perhaps in error) they are just there to offset the liability of the owner. Are we really supposed to stay off “The Wave”? Sign says “do not climb” in large letters in concrete, and yet it is daily treated like it is an extension of the submarine playground.

  2. So spot on regarding the piece on the rich. Credit to my wife who reminded me of how society’s values are so warped when the greatest contributors to a healthy society are valued the least. Just think of the contribution of early childhood educators, farmers and essential front line workers and compare that to the what Elon Musk brings to the world? Our kids, eating, basic services are far more important than to our future and well being than some awful tweet.

  3. While I appreciate the concern of Hike Nova Scotia about hikers on trails that have been damaged by extreme weather, I have yet to hear of any instance where hikers have been put in peril, injured or anything more than inconvenienced. I think the dire warnings and closures may be a bit over the top. Hikers tend to be quite resourceful and careful on their wilderness treks.

  4. Billionaire dies, art collection goes to auction house, US$ 1.5 billion proceeds goes to charities. In 2010, he pledged to leave the majority of his fortune to charity after his death. At the time he was the 37th richest man in the world, according to Forbes magazine, with an estimated $13.5bn (then £8.8bn).
    https://www.cnn.com/style/article/paul-allen-collection-christies-auction-record/index.html
    Not to mention Warren Buffett who gave half his money to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
    If governments got their hands on the money you can be sure they would waste it on middle class frills.

  5. Don’t reduce tax on gasoline, that’s playing into the anti-government, anti-tax agenda. Tax and regulate profit instead.