I’m Suzanne Rent and I’m filling in for Tim today. You can follow me on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent


1. Budget day in Nova Scotia

It’s budget day in Nova Scotia and as expected healthcare will be one of the key spending areas. In an interview with Keith Doucette from Canadian Press, Finance Minister Karen Casey says health will be a focus and hinted that mental health care might get more funding.

If you look back to our capital plan and to this operating budget we have recognized that there are things that have to be done in the health care system and we are prepared to put our money there.

We know that mental health is a priority for Nova Scotians, we recognize that.

Education and highways are other areas where the budget will focus.

2. Getting rural transit right

Rose Gault, the driver for MusGo Rider Valley-Sheet Harbour Cooperative Ltd. with its wheel-chair accessible van.

In her latest column, Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler talks rural transit. As Butler says, Halifax Council is doubling available funding for rural transit organizations like Bayrides and MusGoRiders, which are growing. But that funding doesn’t kick in until the 2019-20 fiscal year.

In the meantime, Halifax Council has to deal with the funding for rural transit this year, which is trouble for those same transit operators. Butler reports the HRM needs to look at new funding formulas that deal in everyday reality of rural transit operators.

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Over on Twitter Monday night,  Don Mills was talking transit, too, saying how “bloated”  Halifax Transit is. CBC’s Jean Laroche, a regular transit user, chimed in.

I agree with Phil Moscovitch, who says about Mills, “Can someone explain retirement to  him?”

3. Sister of car crash victim organizes online fundraiser

Michelle Stewart. Photo: GoFundMe

An online fundraiser was set up to help the family of a teenage girl killed in a car crash in Eastern Passage on the weekend, reports Jack Julian at CBC.

Seventeen-year-old Michelle Stewart was one of three people in the vehicle when it crashed into the woods on early Sunday morning.

Amber Lee Neil, Stewart’s sister, started a GoFundMe Page to help support her family.

She was 17 years old, a daughter, a sister, a friend. She was adventurous and wild and had so much life to live. We appreciate every little bit of help and support we will receive as a family.

The names of the other two people in the car have not been released.

Meanwhile, firefighters who were on the scene of the crash are getting counselling, according to a report by Ian Fairclough at the Chronicle Herald. Firefighters and first responders who were at the fire on Quartz Drive in Spryfield that killed seven children in the Barho family last month are still receiving counselling.

4. Street check report results to be released Wednesday

Jean-Michel Blais. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The Board of Police Commissioners met on Monday night and are waiting for a report on street checks in Halifax. Francis Campbell at The Chronicle Herald says the report from Scot Wortley, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Criminology, will be presented at the Halifax Central Library “Wednesday morning”; Campbell doesn’t say what time, and as of publication, the release is not listed on the city’s event calendar. The Human Rights Commission ordered the report in 2017 after police check data showed black people in the city were three times more likely to be stopped than white people.

Councillor Steve Craig, who sits on the police board, says the board is also still in the process of hiring a new police chief. He tells Campbell that the hiring process, which had 30 applicants from across Canada, is connected to the street check issue.

When we looked at and advertised for a police chief, diversity was definitely in there. They certainly were aware of the diversity of the police commission. We would not have been silent on that because it is so important.

Chief Jean-Michel Blais is expected to stay on the job until a replacement is announced.

5. Not-so-GR8 PL8S in Nova Scotia

Image from cbc.ca

Alexander Quon at Global News reported on Monday some of the custom licence plate names that were rejected by Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

According to the data released under a FOIPOP request, 107 names were rejected over a two-year period, from March 24, 2017, to January 30, 2019. Quon reports the names were rejected for a number of reasons, such as they including racial slurs, curse words, sexually explicit content or references to alcohol or drugs. Examples included IPA, HOTNAN, RUMRUNR or RARN2GO.

As Quon mentions, this story brings to mind the Lorne Grabher case in which the province said his license plate with his surname was “socially unacceptable.” Grabher, meanwhile, says the plate celebrates his Austrian-German heritage.

Look, my last name is of German-Swiss heritage, but if I put RENT (or worse, 4 RENT) on my licence plate, people will be asking to borrow my car for a fee (I remember a cousin making one of those wooden signs with the name Rent burnt into it. It hung next to our front door and yes, people stopped in to see if the house was for rent. The sign was taken down pretty quickly).

The judicial review of the Grabher case goes back to court April 23.

I’m sure staff at the TIR have some fun reading the requests, but can we do away with the entire vanity plate process? Let’s use some common sense here.


1. In Nova Scotia you can work for free!

Last week on Twitter, I saw a thread started by Hannah @hpstrawberries talking about a job posting for a social media coordinator at a local non-profit. The requirements were typical for such a gig and I listed them below.

But the catch?  It was a volunteer role. The lucky candidate gets to work for free!

Apparently, this wasn’t the first time this volunteer gig was posted.  The original poster added to the top of the post that the position was still open because the first person to accept it stopped returning their emails. Really now? I wonder why!

Hannah sent me the detailed posting. She told me it reads like it was copied and pasted from another job ad and she’s right. I won’t share the entire posting or name the organization, but here are the requirements for the “job.”

  • Develop, write and edit innovative and creative media across all social media platforms.
  • Collaborate with team members to ensure a cohesive social media identity.
  • Create and maintain relevant social media accounts
  • Set up tasks and all activities for social media outlets to keep the public aware of issues
  • Keep track of social media trends and complimentary groups such as SANDS, PAIL, NILMDTS, etc
  • Deliver to the board reports with statistics and results for each account
  • Research and identify relevant content to share with followers
  • Apply style and format standards to ensure consistency across all platforms
  • Identify creative ways to engage both new and existing followers
  • Create social media policies for the board and volunteer use

This job requires significant knowledge of social media strategy, not just someone who can post to Facebook or Twitter once in a while. Beyond the passion for the cause and previous social media experience, this position also requires at least one year of social media or public relations experience, a DEGREE in public relations, business administration, marketing or communications, and a list of other skills, including time management and organizational skills, experience working with public, writing skills, computer skills, and experience working with families of different lifestyles and cultural values. Experience in fund development is listed as an asset (fund development is a job in itself, and a tough one at that).

This is a typical posting for a social media coordinator who would otherwise be PAID to do this job (and at a living wage, we hope). People like to pay their bills with money from paycheques, not with their passions they give away for free.

Volunteering is important to our communities. There are so many organizations whose work relies on volunteers. These organizations provided needed services to marginalized people. Also, volunteering is a good way to give back to your community, use some of your skill set, learn new skills, and meet interesting people whose values you share.

Running a non-profit is tough and means you’re always working to find money. Donors often want their money to go directly to the people affected by a particular issue. But it’s qualified and talented people who need to run the programs that benefit those people. And like any job, those qualified and talented need to be paid a living wage. Perhaps non-profits need to explain this better to donors or the entire donor relationship in non-profits needs to change.

A lot of volunteer work in our communities is done by women and I am getting pretty tired of how we undervalue women’s contributions in our society, whether it’s through paid or volunteer work. Think of the childcare sector. We value children, but not the people who take care of or mentor them. Or administrative work, which often doesn’t pay well. Take the administrative assistant out of your office and see how well it functions. Administrative assistants are often central  command in an organization. And women dominate the work done in non-profits. About 87 per cent of the workers in Nova Scotian non-profits are women.

This gig either needs to be a paid job at a living wage or a volunteer role that requires less of the skill set, less of a time commitment, and more of a learning opportunity for the candidate.

Something has got to give with employers in Nova Scotia. Welcome to the province where we pay you less than a living wage or no wage at all.

2. Get out into the country, city slickers!

One argument I’ve read about the Yarmouth ferry is that the people most against the ferry  are people from Halifax who are against any money going to rural communities, in particular Yarmouth and other communities on the South Shore. Taxpayers have every right to question spending on infrastructure and I don’t think the rural-urban argument is necessarily correct here. Hello, stadium?

But rather than debate the value of the Yarmouth ferry, I decided to share with you all the rural Nova Scotia adventures I have had over the years just to prove city slickers like me know what’s going on in and appreciate villages and small towns around Nova Scotia. Here we go.

Burncoat Head Park

I visited Burncoat Head Park for the first time in 2018. It’s on the shores of the Minas Basin and when the tide is going out (check the schedule before you go) you can walk on the floor of the ocean.  Bring the appropriate shoes because it’s very muddy. There are a few ways to get to the park, but one of the easiest is straight up Beaver Bank Road, technically Highway 354. I grew up just past Kinsac Road and never went further north than Kennetcook, but the Noel Shore is a beautiful spot. When you’re done at the park, drive along Highway 215 down to Maitland, an endearing village of colourful storefronts. And Lawrence House Museum is here, too. William D. Lawrence was a shipbuilder who built the largest wooden-hulled, fully-rigged ship in the country. His shipyard was across the street from the house. During the Nova Scotia’s shipbuilding heyday, Maitland was home to the most millionaires in the province.

The view of Liscombe River from Liscombe Lodge

The Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia is one of my favourite places. I feel like so many people don’t know about it, so I’m telling you now. I’ve explored most of the Eastern Shore from Musquodoboit Harbour to Canso. Martinique Beach is one of my favourite beaches in the province. Some other favourite spots are Liscombe Lodge. Stay in the cabins on the river, although every room in the main hotel has a river view. You can take a boat cruise on the river, too. Sherbrooke Village is just a short drive away. This, of course, is the Sherbrooke that Stan Rogers sings about in Barrett’s Privateers.  I also love Guysborough and last year spent a night at Debarres Manor Inn, which was once the home of Supreme Court Justice W.F. DesBarres. My daughter and I took the cooking class with the chef. We helped her make our three-course dinner. That meal included an herb-filled bread baked by the chef and it was some of the best I’ve ever had, second only to my late grandmother’s sweet bread. Also, check out the Days Gone By Bakery. Authentic Seacoast owns a distillery, the Rare Bird Pub, a bakery, and is apparently building a winery where the Osprey Golf Course once was.

I spent most of my summers as a kid with family in Big Pond or Sydney River. And even though I have a musical family and listened to a lot of John Allan Cameron as a kid, I never saw a lot of Cape Breton talent live elsewhere on the island. Okay, I saw Trooper at Smooth Herman’s where I spent a of summer nights in my early 20s. Then I went to Celtic Colours in 2016. A highlight was hearing Stuart Cameron, John Allan’s son, perform at the school in Boularderie. The festival brings in Celtic talent from everywhere and they play at venues all over the island. I stayed at a bed and breakfast in Baddeck and there were visitors from around the world, some of whom visit the island every year and volunteer at the festival. Also, there are late night parties called Festival Club at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s where all the performers meet after the main shows. These parties go on until morning, I’m told, but I think I made it until 1 a.m. The festival is in October, which is the best time to see the Cabot Trail in its fall colours.

Port Williams in the Annapolis Valley has really made itself into a destination. It all started with The Port Pub, which was opened by a group of doctors in 2007. There is lot to check out here, including Planter’s Ridge Winery, Sea Level Brewing, Prescott House Museum, Starrs Point Steers, Willowbank U-Pick Farm, Planters Barracks Country Inn, Wood and Hive Honey, Down to Earth Gardening, Country Barn Antiques, Gates U-Pick, Hazel’s Hand-Picked Clothing, Barrelling Tide Distillery, Wayfarers’ Ale Society, The Noodle Guy, Taproot Farms, and Foxhill Cheese. All of these businesses market themselves together as the Starr’s Point Loop, which has a brochure mapping out all the businesses along the eight-kilometre loop. You can drive, bike, or even walk the loop, to work off all that beer and cheese.

Dakeyne Sunflower Farm

Another favourite spot of mine is the Dakeyne Sunflower Maze in Falmouth. Really, this place just makes me happy as soon as I get there. Each year, the owners plant about 100,000 sunflower seeds over acres of their land. And then they create a maze inside that field, usually in the shape of some sort of insect. They have a small shed on site where they sell sunflower crafts. You can take home a few real sunflowers for about $5. The best time to go is in September when the flowers are at their tallest, although the maze opens around mid-August. You can take Highway 1 back to the city and stop into Uniacke Estate Museum Park, the former country estate of Nova Scotia’s first attorney general Richard Uniacke. Oh, and stop into the The Helm Pie Bakery in Middle Sackville. They have great pies.

Seafoam Lavender Farm

The Seafoam Lavender Farm is another excellent place off the beaten path. I had to go by myself last year as my kid is getting older and told me to “geek out” on the lavender on my own. The lavender blooms in July when the farm hosts its annual Lavender Festival. You can learn all about the lavender (there are hundreds of varieties), pick a bunch to take home, or buy the lavender-laced products, including soaps and chocolate bars. The farm is about halfway between Pictou and Tatamagouche. You can see the Northumberland Strait on the drive. If you go to Tatamagouche, check out the Appleton Chocolates Co. They make hand dipped truffles on site, filled with Nova Scotia ingredients like blueberries or maple. The Tatamagouche Brewing Company is just down the street. And the Tipperary Bakery and Café is just next door.

Over March Break, my daughter and I visited a few of the Guy’s Frenchy’s locations on the South Shore. We made a day of it and stopped into stores in Shelburne, Liverpool, and Bridgewater. I spent $80 on clothes for both of us. We had a late lunch at Sophia’s Cafe in the Shelburne Mall. The place was decorated by ceiling to floor in Easter decorations, complete with a white tree and colourful eggs. The chowder was excellent and packed with seafood and served with a homemade biscuit. Last year on the same trip, we had lunch at Lane’s Privateer Inn in Liverpool. Last year, we stopped at Sole’d on Main Street. This is a great little shoe store owned by Annette White who imports styles you can’t find elsewhere, that I know of. Guy’s Frenchy’s has locations in Digby, Saint Bernard on the French Shore, and Yarmouth, so you can actually do the loop, stay the night somewhere, and explore the entire South Shore in a couple of days.

What’s most interesting about a lot of these businesses and communities is that people are working together to make where they live a destination for people. And I think we need to support them. I’m always up for a good Nova Scotia adventure. This year, I’d like to check out Pugwash, Parrsboro, and Carter’s Beach outside of Liverpool. And I’ll head down to Yarmouth, too.


1. More support for local

One another note about supporting local, I had dinner at Eldon’s Soup and Sandwiches in Lower Sackville last week. Eldon’s is owned by Eldon Turner, who opened the café after leaving his longtime career as a cabinet designer and maker following a heart attack a few years ago. This restaurant is a dream job for Turner. The café is in the basement of the Knox United Church on Sackville Drive, although it’s not affiliated with the church. As the name suggests, Turner serves homemade soups and sandwiches, but he also makes a dinner special every Wednesday night. For $15, diners get a dinner, like roast chicken, salmon, or boiled dinner, plus dessert.

The place is small and has just one long table that seats about 20, so this is communal dining It’s kind of like the Waltons, so expect to have some chats with other guests. Turner wanted to open a place where the seniors in the community would have a place to go to  have a good meal and meet other people.  In that spirit, Turner also organized an event this past Christmas called No One Dines Alone. More than 300 people from Sackville and beyond showed up for a free Christmas dinner made by Turner and a huge group of volunteers.

Turner is a lovely host and makes all the recipes on the menu from scratch. He’s an excellent cook and his chowder is amazing. And when you support places like Eldon’s café you support bigger community initiatives like No One Dines Alone. And, of course, you get a very good meal at a decent price. So, if you’re looking for some home cooking and a way to support local, visit Turner at his cafe. You can find the menu and more on his Facebook page.

2. From statues to holiday trees

Meanwhile, Councillor Matt Whitman has moved on from complaining about statues being removed from parks to what kind of trees the city uses during the holidays. Yesterday, the city tweeted out a request for trees, particularly large spruce or balsam trees, to be used as holiday trees during lighting ceremonies in Grand Parade and Sullivan’s Pond this December.

“I think you misspelled CHRISTMAS,” Whitman responded back and then he posted this photo. I know half of you must be blocked by Whitman, but I included the link anyway.

At least he took a holiday from talking statues?




Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — nothing seems hugely controversial on the agenda, but the 10am start time suggests that Mike Savage and Jacques Dubé think councillors are going to drone on forever.


Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda 

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — there have been several tweaks to a proposed apartment building abutting St. Patrick’s Church on Brunswick Street. Most notably, the building has been scaled down from nine to eight storeys.

Public Information Meeting – Open House Case 22143 (Wednesday, 7pm, Multipurpose Room, Gordon R. Snow Community Centre, Fall River) — the Shaw Group wants to build 92 single unit houses and 84 townhouses on 134 acres in Windsor Junction.



Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — per diem meeting.

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)


Natural Resources and Economic Development (Wednesday, 9am, One Government Place) — Mark MacDonald of Bay Ferries is going to explain how the Yarmouth Ferries is the best thing ever.

On campus



Testing a Trauma Model to Understand Involvement in Bullying (Tuesday, 11:30am, Room P4258, Life Sciences Centre) — Wendy Craig from Queens University will speak.

Studying Prescription Drug Use with CIHI data: examples of opioids and high cost drugs (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Jordan Hunt from the Canadian Institute for Health Information will speak.

Dad Rock and Child’s Play (7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Jacqueline Warwick from the Fountain School of Performing Arts will speak. From the listing:

In the mid-twentieth century, rock’n’roll represented a generational break, with young people choosing music that their parents loathed.

The recent rise in child stars who rock out note-perfect versions of Van Halen guitar solos and Keith Moon drum fills indicates that rock songs are being passed down to children by their parents, so that rock music has a very different role in family values.

What does “dad rock” offer to modern family life?​


Vanier Institute of the Family Conference 2019: Families in Canada (Wednesday, 9am, Room 307, Student Union Building) — Dal is having a “satellite event” connected to the IRL conference in Ottawa. Info here.

Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Wednesday, 1pm, Room C150, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Calem A. Kenward defends his thesis, “Characterization of Structural and Functional Properties of Class IB Hydrophobins.”

Thesis Defence, Chemistry (Wednesday, 1:45pm, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Lituo Zheng defends his thesis, “Optimizing and Designing Positive Electrode Materials for Sodium Ion Batteries.”

Thesis Defence, Mathematics and Statistics (Wednesday, 2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Benjamin Cameron defends his thesis, “On the Roots of Independence Polynomials.”

The SNC Lavalin Affair: Implications for Canadian Democracy (Wednesday, 5:30pm, Great Hall, University Club) — Darrell Dexter and Sara Seck discuss the implications of this scandal on the future of party politics, the rule of law, and on Government attempts at reconciliation. Free, with a cash bar. Register here.

Transparency, Accessibility, and Ethics in AI (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Room 127, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Larry Medsker from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, will speak. More info here.

An Evening of Molière One-acts (Wednesday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — translated by Justin Blum, directed by Gabrielle Houle. Evenings until Saturday, matinee Saturday at 2pm.

For centuries, the characters of the Italian commedia dell’arte explored the failings and the ideals of humanity in comic form. Molière’s witty one-act plays arrange those archetypes into configurations that lampoon the attitudes of his time. In these new English translations of The Precious Maidens Ridiculed (1659) and The Forced Marriage (1664), personal ambitions, societal ideals, wicked deception, and blissful ignorance are the lot of the humorous and touching characters. In this energetic production, you will share their hopes and desires which still have much in common with our own.

Tickets $10/ 15 at Dal Arts Centre Box office or here.

In the harbour

href=”https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:327457/mmsi:316003250/vessel:ALGONORTH” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>AlgoNorth, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Quebec City
15:30: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
15:30: Glorious Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
16:00: Ridgebury John B, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands


I’m speechless.

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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. Another great issue today, Suzanne. While I obviously enjoy and appreciate what Tim does on a regular basis, it is always nice to read what other journalists have to offer. Your piece on working for free is important and enlightening.

    And, I enjoyed your Nova Scotia travelogue. One of the joys of living in this beautiful part of the planet is the diversity of travel experiences. I have fond memories of many of the places you mentioned.
    If you haven’t travelled the old # 2 highway from Truro to Cape Chignecto, may I suggest you do so. Two of my favorite stops are That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm in Economy and The Wild Caraway in Advocate Harbour http://wildcaraway.com/Home.html

  2. As reported previously in other media outlets the release of the street check report is open to those who are invited by the Human Rights Commission. The rabble will have to wait outside where chanting is allowed but not obligatory.
    Don Mills is so smart he cannot read and understand the HRM financial statements. His recent comments regarding surpluses and Mayor Savage were so wrong as to be laughable. The twitterati quickly corrected him, but never asked how he could run a business if he didn’t know how to read a balance sheet.

  3. In support of “in Nova Scotia You Can Work For Free” I offer the following….

    Earlier this year when the Hospice posted “jobs” and requirements for them,I was excited for many people I know in those fields. The jobs were for Hair Stylists (professional and licensed Cosmetologists, Music Therapists (a SEVEN year degree), dieticians (a four year degree) etc etc.

    They have raised millions. The millions is for a building in the most inappropriate and insensitive site imaginable in2019…. and it is just assumed that the electricians, carpenters, plumbers and drywallers (male dominated professions) will be paid. But all of the jobs noted above are unpaid volunteers.

    its wrong on every level.

    To add insult to injury they were able to get a “donation” of our tax dollars from the municipality…. which is wrong.

    I believe that we desperately need hospice in Halifax…and in Nova Scotia in general. But taking advantage of predominantly female professions while paying the men 100% is just wrong. If they are 20% short on the budget either don’t do it, or give everyone, including the male and female dominated trades 80%.

    And really… does it belong on the most expensive real estate in town… on a christian campus…. with no services nearby? In what world is this a good idea?

  4. The humour IG account @fucknomtl posts examples of vanity plates in Quebec (besides a lot of other funny Montreal things) Plainly Quebec is much more liberal-minded on vanity plate wording than either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.

    “Let’s use some common sense here”. I am sad to see Halifax Examiner making an appeal to “common sense”, a logical fallacy much beloved by populist groups such as PANB. https://yandoo.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/common-sense-fallacy/ As someone once said, “Common sense is that set of prejudices we attain by the age of 18”. Appeal instead to data and evidence. The truth is often counter-intuitive.

  5. That is rich. An entitled south ender saying transit is “bloated”. I doubt Don Mills has ever been on a transit bus. Perhaps he should stick to his golf cart.