1. Five-year housing plan

A white man with salt-and-pepper hair and a beard wearing glasses and a grey suit sits at a dark wooden desk next to a white woman with long wavy red hair and wearing glasses and a blue top under a black blazer. Behind them is a video screen that says "Our homes, action for housing" with a graphic print of homes in green and blue. Flags on flagpoles stand on either side of the video screen.
Housing Minister John Lohr, left, and Vicki Elliott-Lopez, senior executive director, Housing and Municipal Affairs. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

Housing Minister John Lohr announced a new five-year housing plan on Monday, that members of the Opposition are calling “underwhelming” and “vague.”

According to a press release, the plan, called “Our Homes, Action for Housing,” will spend $1 billion “to create the conditions” to build 41,200 homes across Nova Scotia. A provincial housing needs survey was also released on Monday, and the five-year plan is based on data in that survey. The housing survey notes the gap in housing right now is 27,300 units. That number is expected to increase to approximately 41,000 by 2027.

That survey was completed by Turner Drake and Partners and is based on feedback from 21,000 Nova Scotians, 115 employers, and more than 100 organizations.

“Housing is a shared responsibility, and we need all levels of government, non-profits, developers and communities working together to solve these unprecedented housing challenges. This plan is a collection of action we’ve already taken and a road map of where we intend to go as we continue to work diligently with our partners,” Lohr said in a press release. “This plan was not built in a boardroom. It was crafted with input from the voices of thousands of Nova Scotians representing our province’s rich diversity.”

The new plan doesn’t appear to include any money for public housing. The only public housing the province has committed to build is the $83 million for 222 units it announced in September in partnership with the federal government. That announcement included $60 million worth of public housing in HRM, with $48 million of that being built in Sackville.

There is a commitment in the new plan for 26,000 new units for “fast track development” in special planning areas. The government is clearly relying on the private sector to build most of the new units. The only wiggle room is the “3,000 new units” on provincial land.

Braedon Clark, the Liberal MLA for Bedford South, called the new housing plan “underwhelming.”

“It’s less of a strategy than a summary of ideas… most of which have not shown many results,” Clark said. “So, I don’t see much new information or new cash in there that is going to make a difference for people any time soon.”

The Halifax Examiner asked NDP MLA Suzy Hansen, Halifax Needham, to respond to Lohr’s comment that the housing strategy is also about hope.

“No, I don’t see it. It’s just the same words we hear often but not action,” Hansen said. “The plan lacks definition and any actual marker for affordability. It’s really vague.”

With files from Jennifer Henderson.

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2. Acadian group wants special electoral district for Chéticamp

A fleet of fishing boats docked at a wharf are shown just outside the homes and other buildings in a small fishing village. the village is just at the base of some mountains.
Chéticamp. Credit:

This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont.

The organization representing the province’s Acadian and francophone community appeared in court on Monday asking for an exceptional electoral district for Chéticamp. 

In a media release, the Fédératoin acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FANE) said many community members from Chéticamp and Sydney attended the Nova Scotia Supreme Court hearing in Port Hawkesbury. 

At issue is the April 2019 final report submitted by the Electoral Boundaries Commission of Nova Scotia. While the commission recommended the reinstatement of protected electoral districts for the Acadian regions of Clare, Argyle, and Richmond, it didn’t recommend one for Chéticamp. 

“We believe that the Commission did not consider certain important factors, such as the fact that Chéticamp is one of the four founding homelands after the Deportation as mentioned by Dr. Rémi Léger in his expert report,” Réjean Aucoin, one of the lawyers who argued the case in front of Justice Pierre Muise, said in the media release. 

“In addition, there is no mention to the French Language Services Act, which the preamble and Article 2 indicate the promotion, development, and preservation of the Acadian community.”

The court is being asked to determine if the commission’s recommendation infringes on Article 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If so, it’s asking the court to order the provincial government to re-establish an Electoral Boundaries Commission to re-investigate the electoral boundaries around the Chéticamp region. 

“We remain convinced that Chéticamp deserves an electoral district,” FANE executive director Jules Chiasson said in the release. “We are very eager to hear the Court’s decision on this legal matter that the Fédération acadienne has pursued for over three decades. We would also like to thank the community members who travelled to Port Hawkesbury today. (Monday).”

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3. Health care prizes

A white man with short grey hair and wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and purple tie.
Premier Tim Houston Credit: Jennifer Henderson

Health care workers in Nova Scotia have a chance to win prizes for their ideas on how to fix health care.

From a press release:

A new contest, the Healthcare Improvement Challenge, starts today, October 23, and runs to November 22. Eligible participants can submit one or more common sense ideas with a focus on improving healthcare in Nova Scotia.

“We have no shortage of talented people who work across the spectrum of healthcare in our province, providing care to Nova Scotians every day,” said Premier Tim Houston. “They live and breathe the system daily, and many of them have great ideas that can improve healthcare for patients and for their colleagues. We want to hear those solutions and put them into action.”

Ideas should be simple and easy to implement with little to no funding. Eligible submissions will be entered into a random draw for up to 50 prizes of $1,000.

A panel will shortlist and review 20 submissions from all entries. Nova Scotians will then vote on the top 10, which will be made priorities, if feasible.

The deadline to enter is 11:59pm on Nov. 22.

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4. Homeowners and wildfires

A burned out stove and other items from inside a home destroyed by wildfires
Remnants of a home damaged by a wildfire are seen in Hammond’s Plains, N.S., during a media tour, Tuesday, June 6, 2023. Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/POOL, Tim Krochak

Bruce Frisko at CTV spoke with people who lost their homes in the wildfires in late May, and how they are moving onto new homes rather than waiting to rebuild in their former neighbourhoods.

“After being in five different rentals and feeling so displaced, we started to look for a house,” Amy Fletcher, a Highland Park property owner, told CTV News Monday.

“We just wanted to feel like we had a home.”

She and her family purchased a new home in Boutiliers Point and are settling in nicely.

Fletcher says there were growing disputes with the insurance company and disheartening news from the contractor they had been dealing with.

 “When we spoke to the builder, he said, ‘I’m going to be transparent with you. It’s going to be two-and-a-half years.’ We already felt so displaced, we didn’t want to wait that long,” said Fletcher.

Pam Lovelace, the councillor for the area, told CTV that the insurance industry is “upended”, not just with the wildfire claims, but also from damage to homes by floods and hurricanes.

This morning, I contacted John Engram, whose family home in Tantallon was damaged in the wildfires, and who knows this situation all too well. In July, I wrote this story about Engram’s struggle with his insurance company to get money for a rental and other items for his family of four.

In an email, Engram told me he and his family are still renting a home in Bedford, and likely won’t be back in their Tantallon home until at least early spring. He said the situation with his insurance company is moving a bit faster now, but the process is still slow.

“It’s a battle for everyone and every household has a story,” Engram said. “The ‘damage house’ people have had a lot already.”

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5. Mobile mental health team ‘overwhelmed’

“Every night across Halifax Regional Municipality, a mobile mental health team responds to dozens of people in acute distress, adding up to more than 2,000 calls each month,” reports Josh Hoffman with CBC.

“I think that’s an overwhelming number,” said Bev Cadham, co-manager of the Halifax-Dartmouth branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. 

For people who are suicidal, anxious, depressed or experiencing a psychotic episode, the mobile team is an alternative to police for non-violent incidents. 

But the demand for the Mobile Mental Health Crisis Team — made up of mental health professionals and a non-uniformed police officer — should be reduced, Cadham said.

She said they need more backup in the form of improved mental health services in the province. That could prevent people from reaching a state where they need to call the provincial mental health and addictions crisis line in the first place.

Nova Scotians are currently not able to access the proper mental health services in a timely manner, she said, and when they do, there’s no guarantee anyone will follow up with them. There’s a need for more psychiatrists to reduce long wait times. And when someone is admitted to hospital for psychiatric care, they need to get a followup after discharge.

Hoffman writes that about 6% to 7% of the provincial budget goes to toward mental health services. Cadman, meanwhile, said the world average is about 12%.

She tells CBC she’d like to see more money from the feds. The Liberals made a promise in 2021 to create a Canada Mental Health Transfer. That fund would give $4.5 billion for mental health services to provinces and territories over five years.

Matt White, director of Mental Health and Addictions for the central zone, told CBC the mobile crisis team responds to calls ranging from someone experiencing a mental health crisis, to someone looking for a food bank.

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6. Dartmouth College and Irving Oil

A historic red building building with a white clock tower in the middle stands on a property surrounded by trees. People are gathered on a grassy common area out front of the building where there is a u-shaped pathway.
Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Credit: Dartmouth College/Facebook

“As pressure mounts on post-secondary institutions to cut ties with oil and gas, an Ivy League college in the U.S. is calling out a Canadian fossil fuel giant Irving Oil,” reports Cloe Logan with National Observer.

Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. is home to the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy & Society. It was founded in 2016 with an $80-million gift from Irving Oil, the Irving Foundation and members of the Irving family. Fossil Free Dartmouth, a student group focused on climate, says the college’s ties to the Irvings “contribute to greenwashing, perceived conflicts of interest, and the undermining of research credibility.”

Overall, according to the group, the Irvings have contributed over $160 million to the institute. The figures are documented in a report they released Tuesday titled, Investigating Irving, said Kate Yeo, an undergraduate student at Dartmouth and co-author of the report.

“It presents a fundamental conflict of interest for clean energy research and programs. Do we trust that a fossil fuel company would be willing to finance its own demise? Especially a company that has lobbied hard against clean energy legislation?” said Yeo.

“… At a time when we need to be moving away from fossil fuels and stripping oil companies of their moral legitimacy, Dartmouth is instead openly embracing them.”

As Logan reports, Dartmouth has divested fossil fuels from its US $8 million endowment fund, but students want the school to commit to reducing its own emissions and disassociate from fossil fuel companies.

Irving didn’t respond to the National Observer’s request for comment.

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Feminism: the fights won and the battles to come

A sign on cardboard that says "smash the patriarchy" being held up by a woman in a beige winter coat at a protest.
Credit: Chloe S./Unsplash

My daughter was born in December 2002. Just a few months before her birth, I was looking for work after having graduated from journalism school that year. I had an interview where I carefully covered my belly with my briefcase, so the person I was meeting with wouldn’t see I was pregnant.  

Months later, in 2003, that boss hired me, giving me one of my first media jobs in Halifax. I was nurturing a child and a career at the same time. 

I’ve long been grateful for the women who came before me and who fought for rights I now have, rights that my daughter has. When I was born, women were routinely fired when they become pregnant. I knew things were better, but that was in the back of my mind when I was looking for jobs 20 years ago.

I will never know all of their names, but I know there are women who fought and won many battles over decades, centuries even. They were jailed, beaten, and threatened for standing up for themselves and other women. And I am grateful to them all.

I was born in 1970 amid the second wave of feminism. That year, the report on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women was tabled in Parliament. That report included a number of recommendations including updating the legislative system and addressing issues that affected women such as poverty, family law, and the Indian Act.

In 1971, amendments were made to the Canadian Labour Code to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and marital status, reinforce equal pay for equal work, and provide 17 weeks of maternity leave.

Six years later, in 1977, the Canadian Human Rights Act was passed. That act forbids discrimination on the basis of sex and ensuring equal pay for work of equal value for women.

In 1981, women’s rights were enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I was 11 years old.

Further back, women in Nova Scotia won the right to vote in 1918. My Cape Breton grandmother was two years old then. She was a devout Catholic who had prayer cards and dried palm leaves shaped into crosses stuck in the doorframes of her Sydney River home.

She gave birth to nine children between the ages of 28 to 43; yet when someone asked her if she would have taken the birth control pill had it been available, she said she “would have taken the box and all.”

My grandmother was a quiet and stubborn woman, but also a firecraker. She once told me not get married before the age of 30.

She said that on election days, my grandfather would tell her how to vote. She’d fire back, saying she’d vote for whomever she wanted to vote for.

The right for women to vote that was hard won in 1918 didn’t extend to all women in Nova Scotia. That didn’t happen until 1960, just a decade before I was born. 

Oct. 18 marked Persons Day in Canada. It was on that day in 1929 that Canada’s highest court of appeal handed down a decision in which women were included in the legal definition of persons so they could be appointed to the senate.

But like the right to vote, this decision didn’t include all women, notably leaving out Indigenous women and women of Asian heritage and descent.

In 1969, abortions were permitted in Canada but only in certain circumstances and only if a committee of doctors decided the woman’s life or health was in danger without an abortion.

In 1988, the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s abortion law, saying it was unconstitutional, and violated Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I was in high school then and remember watching the local news when there were protests outside of an abortion clinic on McCully Street run by Dr. Henry Morgentaler.

But there are still horrific reminders that some people will always hate women. Like when on Dec. 6, 1989, during my first year of university, a man entered École Polytechnique in Montreal and murdered fourteen women. 

On Dec. 6 of every year, the week I celebrate my daughter’s birth, we remember those women, saying their names so no one forgets:

Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

In December 2018 I took my daughter to get her beginner’s licence. I quizzed her on the first thing to check before she drives away. I expected her to say “put on my seatbelt” or “check the mirrors.”

She said, “check the backseat to make sure no one is there.”

And I realized at that moment that I do the same thing. 

Occasionally I will tell my daughter that there will be people who don’t think she can accomplish what she wants to because she’s a woman, and that they may not want her to accomplish those things, because she’s a woman. And I tell her to do those things anyway. 

At least five generations of women in my family have lived during the tiniest sliver of time in which significant battles were fought and won for women. There are many “firsts” for women in my lifetime. In 1980, when I was 10, Alexa McDonough became the first woman to lead a political party. In 1993, Kim Campbell became Canada’s first female prime minister. And in 2000, Beverley McLachlin became the first female chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Those firsts continued well after my daughter was born, such as the first gender-balanced federal cabinet in 2015.

I will be 53 soon, an age at which many people expect women to become invisible, our youth and fertility long gone. But I feel in my prime, ready to take on new challenges, to tell more stories, ready to be visible. I see other women my age and older who are shining bigger and better than ever.

Today, Oct. 24, 2023, my daughter left the house for her job. She was wearing a navy blue dressed I helped zip up in the back, and a colourful scarf around her neck. My girl, now a young woman — who loves tattoos, animals, roller derby, and who has a poster on her bedroom wall that says “well behaved women rarely make history” — benefits from all the fights, both before she was born and after.

As she walked out the door I smiled at her, knowing that she can do what she wants because of those battles. And I hope I prepared her for the battles to come.

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Writing your own obituary

A white woman with shoulder-length wavy dark hair and wearing glasses, a red blouse, and red nail polish and lipstick.
Author Jane Doucet. Credit: Contributed

Local author Jane Doucet, whose third novel Lost & Found in Lunenburg was just published by Nimbus, is hosting a workshop on writing your obituary.

Doucet’s obit writing session runs from 1pm to 2pm this Thursday at Cruikshanks Halifax Funeral Home on Windsor Street in Halifax. It’s free to attend, but you have to call 902-455-0531 to register.

I’ve known Doucet for years and I’ve interviewed her about her first novel, The Pregnant Pause. Doucet also used to write half-page obituaries for the Globe and Mail, so she has experience.

On Monday night I messaged her about why she wanted to host this session. Here’s what she said:

I told my friend Caroline, who used to be my late dog’s vet tech and now works for the funeral home, that I wrote a draft of my obituary a decade ago after a friend my age died. I was single at the time, with no children, and I wanted to tell my own story in my own way.

Caroline and I chatted about that when she dropped by to pick up a copy of my new novel, which is about death, grief and healing. She asked if I wanted to present this workshop with her and I said yes.

I’m a long-range planner and I was having my first will drafted around that time. I was healthy (still am, touch wood) but wanted to take care of future business.

Doucet will be a thoughtful host, and will bring some humour to it as well.

I am sort of a long-range planner, too, but I haven’t yet written my own obituary. I have written obituaries before, including when I was a journalism student in Toronto in 2000. It’s common for media outlets to write obituaries for well-known people while they are still living.

For my school assignment, I wrote an obituary for Alexa McDonough. During a casual job stint at CBC in Toronto in 2001, I updated some obits that were written by other producers about people including Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016, and economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who died in 2006.

And in April 2022, I wrote the obituary for my father, Kenneth.

I’ve written about obituaries before, including in this Morning File about some of the lovely obituaries I’ve read over the years. That piece included bits from obituaries of Patti Atkinson, who was the elder sister of a school friend of mine, Melissa.

And who can forget those radio funeral announcements and sometimes obits we still hear on small-town stations across Nova Scotia.

It’s tough putting into words what you will say about other people after they’re gone, let alone what you’d write about yourself. But I’m sure it’s also rewarding to put into words the message you want to send about your own life, well before it’s over. I should get crackin’ on writing mine.

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Board of Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 4pm, online) agenda



Legislature sits — 1pm


Public Accounts (9am, One Government Place and online) — more info here

On campus



I3V Seminar Series (Tuesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Dr. Stuart Turvey from the University of British Columbia will talk

2023 Stanfield Conversation: “Can democracies meet the challenge of climate change?” 

 (Tuesday 7pm, Joseph Strug Concert Hall) — With featured speakers Megan Leslie, Naheed Nenshi, and Mark Jaccard will talk about Megan Leslie, Naheed Nenshi. More info here


Voice Noon Hour (Wednesday, 11:45am, Joseph Strug Concert Hall) — free performance by students of the Fountain School of Performing Arts

Woodwinds Noon Hour (Wednesday, 11:45am, Dalhousie Arts Centre, Room 406) — free performance by students of the Fountain School of Performing Arts

CH&E Guest Speaker: Child maltreatment has health and social consequences up to 40 months later (Wednesday, 12pm, Tupper Medical Building) —Dr. Steve Kinsley from the University of Queensland will talk

Saint Mary’s

TED Talk: Why art is important (Wednesday, 2pm, Arthur J. Irving Entrepreneurship Centre, SH 212) — Katerina Gregos will talk

An evening with Michael Crummy and Holly Hogan (Wednesday, 7pm, Saint Mary’s Art Gallery) — The award-winning writer and the acclaimed biologist will talk about their new books, The Adversary and Message in a Bottle: Ocean Dispatches. More info here

In the harbour

05:00: NYK Constellation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint John
07:45: One Crane, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Dubai
08:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for West Palm Beach, Florida
09:30: Liberty of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,414 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor, on a nine-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
11:00: MSC Surabaya VIII, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Baltimore
13:00: GPO Sapphire, heavy lifter, moves from anchorage to IEL
16:00: NYK Constellation sails for Southampton, England
16:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Sept-Iles, Quebec
16:00: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
20:00: Liberty of the Seas sails for Saint John
22:00: Lagrafoss sails for Reykjavik

Cape Breton
05:30: Serenade of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,580 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Boston, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston
08:00: Explora I, cruise ship with up to 1,473 passengers, arrives at Sydney anchorage from Gaspé, on a 14-day cruise from Quebec City to Miami 
09:30: Insignia, cruise ship with up to 800 passengers, arrives at Liberty Pier (Sydney) from Halifax, on an 11-day cruise from Boston to Montreal 
12:00: NordLotus, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
15:30: Serenade of the Seas sails for Halifax
17:00: Explora I sails for Halifax
18:30: Insignia sails for Charlottetown


I finally booked an appointment to get a shingles vaccination. I am quite excited about this.

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

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor who enjoys covering health, science, research, and education.

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  1. I enjoy reading obituaries to see how people lived and what they valued, although for my own self I’d prefer not to leave a marker or a plot or indeed anything to show that I was here. I’d like to be mentioned in passing at cocktail parties or in noisy bars, “Whatever happened to Peter & Judy?” “I remember them, I think they disappeared somewhere in Africa, was it on the road to Marrakech?”

  2. Thanks for posting the piece on reading/writing obituaries. I’ve read some great obits that really do tell an interesting story of a person’s life; particularly those written by the dearly departed themselves. The funeral home websites offer a real opportunity to have your own say and is a wonderful permanent bookend to the end of a person’s time.

  3. Re: Health Care Prizes

    Maybe the Premier should go to and read the report (or at least the highlights) for Nova Scotia. I was one of the 34 volunteers who helped craft this report and believe that each and every one of this group of volunteers should be eligible for a prize.

    I know his office would have gotten notice of the report; further, some members of the NSHA and others working in health care were present back in July when we, the volunteers, read out the draft version of the report.

    1. Thanks very much, Vel, for posting that link … the ideas and goals expressed in the Nova Scotia video would be widely supported if the population knew what was being asked of the province’s leadership. That 2:45 minute video should be turned into 30 second soundbites and broadcast during the 6 pm evening news and local news morning programming. Instead of Zack Churchill ridiculing the idea of having a contest to generate ideas he should be encouraging citizens to send in ideas. He does not inspire confidence or hope in the future … very small-minded. A great example of what not to be. And I’m not a big fan of the Conservative bunch either but we need to speak up when the opportunity presents itself.

      1. You are welcome. Please share the link with your contacts and ask that they share it as well. I agree the population needs to know what our group is asking of this province’s leadership. The 2025 provincial election is really not that far away and Premier Houston won the last one on a promise to fix healthcare. He may be making some small gains, but there is so much more he, and others in leadership position, could and should be doing. I firmly believe that the OurCare NS Priorities Panel report contains some of the best recommendations.