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1. Staffing at Burnside jail

A long brick building with red roof is seen in the distance across a field of yellowish green grass and a few stubby shrubs.
The Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Credit: Halifax Examiner

“The union representing Nova Scotia’s correctional officers says “critical” understaffing at the provincial jail in Burnside has led to increased assaults on staff,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.

In a media release on Monday, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) said a Department of Justice recruitment strategy has failed, and staffing levels are “now the worst in the history” of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (CNSCF). 

The union said this is putting correctional officers at risk.

“Staff are telling us that this is the worst staffing crisis they have seen in the 22 years that this facility has been in operation,” Hugh Gillis, NSGEU 1st vice president, said in the release. 

The union said that late last week, there were only two correctional officers on two of the units where a minimum of five officers should be on each shift. The union also said assaults on the job have led to staff being put off work, leading to understaffing and creating “increasingly problematic and violent behaviour from offenders, who are frustrated due to extended lockdowns.”

Click here to read “Staffing levels ‘worst in the history’ of Burnside jail; correction officers at risk, union says.”

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2. Kerian Burnett

A young Black woman wearing a grey toque and a fleece jacket over a striped top. She has a lanyard around her neck and behind her is a pink fabric sign that says MSI for Migrant Workers Now!
Kerian Burnett. Credit: Suzanne Rent

“A migrant worker who got a cancer diagnosis two months after arriving in Nova Scotia in 2022 said she’s “overwhelmed” with the news she’ll receive health coverage, and wants the province to provide health insurance to other migrant workers as well,” I reported on Monday.

Kerian Burnett, a mother to six and grandmother to two, arrived in Nova Scotia from Jamaica in April 2022 to work on a strawberry farm. In September that year, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and her employer terminated her contract, leaving her without health insurance.

The Halifax Refugee Clinic and No One Is Illegal worked with Burnett to help her stay in Canada for treatment. In December, they sent an application to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) for discretionary health care funding, and finally received a response on Friday, Aug. 11. Burnett will be permitted to stay in Canada to receive treatment until January 2024. Since her diagnosis in 2022, Burnett has undergone radiation, chemotherapy, and has had three surgeries.

“I’ve been going through a lot, but I give thanks to everyone who is trying to help me in this fight,” Burnett said at a press conference at the Halifax Refugee Clinic in Halifax on Monday. “So far, I’m doing pretty great. I thank everyone for their support and their love that they’re sharing throughout this devastating time for me. I also thank the IFHP … it’s truly good news for me.”

Click here to read “Migrant worker with cancer has application for temporary health care approved by feds.”

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3. The Atlantic Loop and the 2035 Net-Zero grid target

A map of the Maritimes shows a bright yellow loop leading from Labrador to Nova Scotia, through Quebec.
The proposed Atlantic Loop Credit: Emera

“Last week, federal cabinet ministers Jonathan Wilkinson and Steven Guilbeault added a new twist to the ongoing Atlantic Loop soap opera,” writes Larry Hughes, a professor at Dalhousie University.

The ministers announced that to qualify for the proposed 15% federal Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit, electricity providers would need to show a viable plan to achieve a net-zero grid by 2035.

At present, Nova Scotia does not have a plan. 

Granted, Nova Scotia Power (NSP) has produced a new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with 21 scenarios based on a variety of sensitivities. Each scenario includes its annual electricity production, the energy sources used, their emissions, and required revenues 2025 to 2050.

Twelve of the scenarios use the Atlantic Loop

The premier and his ministers no longer support the Atlantic Loop. Instead, they talk of a future with unspecified volumes of electricity from offshore wind, solar, tidal, storage, and nuclear power.

Since NSP’s IRP is the closest we have to a plan, an examination of its scenarios can give us an idea of Nova Scotia’s electrical-energy future.

Click here to read “The Atlantic Loop and the 2035 Net-Zero grid target.”

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4. Ditch tax

Muddy waters fill a neighbourhood street and front yards late in the evening as lights from the flooded homes and cars in the driveways reflect off the water.
Part of the Sunnyvale subdivision in Lower Sackville was among many neighbourhoods significantly impacted by flooding on Friday night. Credit: Yvette d'Entremont

Bruce Frisko at CTV has this story on Halifax resident Robert Leblanc who is refusing to pay the “ditch tax” after the culverts in his driveway were damaged after recent floods. Frisko writes:

He had been complaining about the failing culvert for years and has filed an appeal of Halifax Water’s storm water charges against his property.

To say the municipality’s storm water system has been put to the test this summer may be the understatement of the year.

Halifax Water is responsible for it, but the utility says it’s got a lot to do right now after several record-breaking rainstorms.

“We want customers to know that we are working quickly and safely to repair the damage,” writes utility spokesperson Jeff Myrick in an email to CTV.

“We know people are frustrated, but we respectfully ask for patience. The severity of this damage will take time to repair.”

As for the tax, Myrick writes, “If the ditch or culvert no longer allows water to flow, Halifax Water will repair or replace it at no additional cost to the property owner. This is part of the service they pay for through their stormwater bill. This involves Halifax Water dispatching crews, trucks, and excavators to complete the work.”

Frisko also spoke with Halifax MLA Brendan Maguire who said the ditch tax is one of the “worst values we have as taxpayers.”

He says the tax collected for the specific purpose of maintaining and fixing ditches is proving to be a failure.

“All you have to do is drive around in your communities, look at the ditches, if you have a ditch, and see the state of it, they’re either overgrown and the water is actually coming out of the ditch, or the culverts are actually collapsed or full,” he explains.

Coun. Becky Kent, who sits on the Halifax Water Board of Commissioners, said there is confusion over jurisdiction between the municipality and Halifax Water.

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5. Basements

Preston Mulligan at CBC asks “do we need basements?” As weather gets more extreme, there will only be more floods in basements. According to Mulligan’s report, there are 1.5 million homeowners in Canada who can’t get home insurance because of recent basement flooding. And those who can get insurance are paying up to 25% more.

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Ecum Secum resident organizes petition to get cell tower for Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore

A green road sign that says Ecum Secum standing along a rural highway. There are lots of trees in the background.
Photo: Halifax Examiner

Last week, Sue Amberg started a petition to get a cell tower on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. In just a few days, she’s collected stories from residents about how the lack of proper cell phone service in the area has negatively affected their lives.

Amberg has lived in Ecum Secum on Highway 7, Marine Drive, in HRM for the past 10 years. She said the lack of cell service is always a topic of discussion in the community.

“It’s a crucial situation these people are in,” Amberg said in an interview on Monday. “What got me into it is when you’re in a group and you talk about cell phone service, everyone complains about it.”

Here’s the text of the petition:

We the undersigned request the installation of a cell tower that is accessible to all residents on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia

All residents of  Canada have the right to a reliable cell phone service

We are asking that cell towers be placed in appropriate positions to serve the residents of the Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia for the following reasons:

When a hurricane hits our area, there is usually no power and the internet goes down at the same time, the result being that there is no way to communicate with the outside world.

If there is a fire or flood in our area, there will be no cell phone alert to advise us of imminent danger.

Firefighters and Paramedics rely heavily on a cell service

In case of illness, there is no way to call for an ambulance when there is no power

Many residents pay for a cell service, despite the fact that there is no tower close to our homes.

We are asking Bell Aliant to provide a STABLE cell service along the entire Eastern shore.

Government of Nova Scotia may be asked to provide a grant to assist in the erection of a cell tower, should Bell claim that they cannot justify the cost.

FEDERAL.  We ask that the Federal Government provide funding to help provide a stable cell service in Nova Scotia

Amberg posted a paper version of the petition at stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and other locations in Sheet Harbour and Sherbrooke. Amberg said she didn’t want to do an online version of the petition because she wanted the petition to be more personal. She’s also collecting Facebook messages and comments from people via Facebook groups such as Highway 7 Online-Eastern Shore Nova Scotia.

“I’m happy to take this one. Whether it will work, I don’t know,” Amberg said. “I’ll do whatever I can do, basically. People are giving quite good examples as to why the Eastern Shore does need cell service.”

Here’s one example she received from Nick Bishop:

Jeddore to Ship Harbour is a lot of dead zones with low signal zones. I was in a dire emergency situation in Ship Harbour earlier this year and have [sic] to leave someone in need of care on their own unconscious, to run a few mins just to get service. It’s 2023 and with the technology available, and ludicrous prices we pay each month, that shouldn’t need to happen.

Amberg has had her own challenges with cell phone service. She recalls getting into a car accident on a local highway and a truck driver pulled over to help her, but couldn’t get a cell signal, so he had to drive her to Sheet Harbour for help. She said there are plenty of stories of people driving on roads like the 224 and 374 on the Eastern Shore where people couldn’t get a signal either.

Amberg said she is self-employed and works from home and has a decent fibre-op internet connection (I spoke with her via her internet phone connection on Monday). And over the years, she’s found some workarounds for the lack of cell phone service. Amberg said she knows about a particular spot in her community down a road near the shoreline where she can get a signal. But everyone else knows about that location, too.

“I would park in this one spot that was shown to me by a friend of mine. He pointed me to exactly the spot, and what would happen is I’d have other people lined up behind me, waiting for me to finish making my phone call, so they could then come into my position and make their phone call,” Amberg said. “It’s ridiculous I have to do that. A lot of people know that one particular spot.”

“Ecum Secum, I’d say, is probably close to the top of the list of bad service areas. But I think anyone who lives in different areas will tell you that they are just as bad. It’s bad all the way around.”

Amberg said she’s not sure how many signatures she’s collected so far. She said she dropped off the petition to Liscombe Lodge to collect signatures and learned that visitors and local residents could have easily filled a few more pages. Still, on other copies of the petition there are only a couple of signatures.

Amberg said she spoke with a contact at Bell in Ottawa about the issue who she said assured her he’d pass along the paperwork and petition. On Monday, Amberg said she had another message from a contact at Bell in Nova Scotia who she said is taking on the project. 

“I think they like the idea that there’s a petition going out and there’s something for them to refer to when they pass it along to top management, I don’t know,” Amberg said.

Amberg said she’s also contacted Premier Tim Houston’s office, the office of MP Sean Fraser, as well as Coun. David Hendsbee about the issue, but hasn’t heard back from any of them.

She said those residents who can’t get anywhere to sign a petition can send messages to her Facebook account. She said she will print out comments and stories to send along with the signed petitions.

Amberg said she initially thought she’d keep the petitions up until the end of August, but on Monday said she’ll extend that until Sept. 15. On Sept. 6, she’ll be speaking about the issue at a council meeting in Sherbrooke. 

Then she’ll send all the paperwork and feedback to government officials and officials at Bell. 

“I had a lot of thank-yous from people thanking me for taking the initiative to get things done. I’ve had to explain to people I’m a very small cog, a very small wheel who doesn’t have any experience in this at all. But people seem to be grateful I am doing this, which is wonderful. I appreciate that,” Amberg said. “They all have the same story. It’s so difficult to live without decent cell service, especially if there’s a hurricane, especially if there’s bad weather coming up.”

If you have a comment you’d like to send to Amberg, just contact her via her Facebook page here.

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Helen Creighton: Folklife

A black and white photo of a white woman in a dark sweater and grey skirt sitting next to a tape recorder as an older white man wearing a cap sings into a microphone. A young blonde girl in a dress is sitting in the man's lap. There's a young white boy standing behind the woman in the chair. They are all outside in a rural area with a house in the background.
Helen Creighton and Bill Gilkie in Sambro. Credit: Helen Creighton Folklore Society

Tonight at 6pm, the Nova Scotia Archives and the Helen Creighton Folklore Society are launching Helen Creighton Folklife, an online resource of the entire collection of recordings and other materials collected by folklorist Helen Creighton.

On Monday, I spoke with Clary Croft, who worked with Creighton and was hired by the archives years ago to be the archivist for Creighton’s collection. While the collection was always available for anyone to access at the archives — there’s also a page at the archives online now — with the folklife online resource, anyone anywhere can log onto the archives website and listen to any of the recordings. The online resource also includes supporting documents written by Creighton and Croft, as well as photos from Creighton’s collection.

“To give you an idea, when I was cataloguing the collection, it took me 40 weeks of eight-hour days just to listen to everything she had recorded,” Croft said. “There are thousands of recordings. The wonderful part is these are the voices of the tradition bearers who shared with her. So, we have recordings in Mi’kmaw, we have recordings in Acadian French, from Lunenburg County, German, English, Gaelic, songs from African Nova Scotians. It’s an amazing collection of material.”

“Once we got it all catalogued and organized, we realized it was probably the largest individually collected body of folklore in Canada. It’s incredibly important, incredibly valuable. It’s been used by folk singers, folk scholars, people all over the world, since the 1930s, since Helen first published her folksong books.”

Croft said when he was working with Creighton she told him that the most important thing she did with the collection was that she saved it for people to access and enjoy. But Croft added, the collection also honours those who contributed their voices.

“I have to say one of the singularly most important things about what is happening is yes, we know the name Helen Creighton. Yes, I was involved in the cataloguing,” Croft said. “But this honours the tradition bearers. It says the work that you saved, the songs, the stories, the ghost beliefs, that you shared with Helen Creighton, had validity and they are up there now. You have contributed as much to this collection as Helen or I ever did. There would be no work from Helen or me if it wasn’t for these tradition bearers that said, ‘Yes, of course, I am excited you’re saving these songs and these stories.”

Croft tells me the launch of folklife will be on the Nova Scotia Archives YouTube channel.

Click here to learn more about tonight’s launch.

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North West Community Council (Tuesday, 7pm, online) — Special meeting


Audit Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall and online) —agenda here; Audit and Finance Standing Committee follows

Public Drop-in Sessions (Wednesday, 2pm and 7pm, 61 Gary Martin Drive, Bedford) — Case 23307


No meetings

On campus


Nora Loreto on Politics (Tuesday, 7pm, Alumni Hall) — Jeff Douglas talks with the author, podcast host, activist, and journalist

In the harbour

04:30: One Hawk, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka 
05:00: NYK Delphinus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint John 
07:00: Viking Polaris, cruise ship with up to 378 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Charlottetown, on an 11-day cruise from Toronto to New York
08:00: ARC Gloria, Colombian Navy flagship, moves from anchorage to Tall Ship Quay
13:00: AlgoCanada, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
15:30: Viking Polaris sails for New York
17:00: NYK Delphinus sails for Southampton, England

Cape Breton
07:30: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Port Hawkesbury anchorage from Charleston, South Carolina
14:00: Freedom Glory, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
15:00: Pacific Zircon, oil tanker, arrives at Port Hawkesbury anchorage from Rotterdam


Philip Moscovitch will be on CBC Mainstreet after 4pm to talk about AI and writers. He’s the Examiner’s AI expert!

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

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  1. I live in Prospect and often have very low or no signal. I’m on the ‘largest network in Canada’ as Bell likes to boast.

  2. Other notable cell signal dead zones where there are thousands of people living include Highway 340 from Weymouth to Yarmouth, Highway 203 from Yarmouth to Shelburne and a large area from Greenfield to Pleasant River that includes thousands of cottages and residences on Molega and Ponhook Lakes.
    Add to the list if you know of others! It’s kind of wild how underserviced decently populated parts of this province are for basic cell and data service.

  3. “Coun. Becky Kent, who sits on the Halifax Water Board of Commissioners, said there is confusion over jurisdiction between the municipality and Halifax Water”. An agreement to transfer water, wastewater and stormwater services from HRM to Halifax Water was entered into in 2006 and there is still jurisdictional confusion 17 years later? It might be interesting to do some follow up investigation to find out what the issues are.