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1. “Call back the house until everybody’s got one”

A protestor holds a sign up to traffic outside Province House in Halifax. It says "N.S. has a housing crisis."
Photo: Leslie Amminson

Ethan Lycan-Lang and Leslie Amminson were in downtown Halifax on Sunday afternoon reporting on a rally organized by P.A.D.S. Community Network. The protestors chanted “call back the house until everybody’s got one,” and demanded the province call an emergency session of the legislature to declare the housing crisis and emergency.

As Lycan-Lang and Amminson noted in their story, the weather is getting colder and volunteers are winterizing shelters and tents at People’s Park. But it’s not nearly enough, of course. They write:

“We’re here to call out this [provincial] government for what it can do,” P.A.D.S. volunteer Rachelle Sauvé told the crowd Sunday. Sauvé led the rally, which had six speakers address the crowd. Speakers included a lawyer representing protestors arrested during the August 18 evictions, a resident of People’s Park, and other community advocates.

“[Elected officials] are on break ‘til spring now,” Sauvé said. “They put in a couple weeks of work, they put out a plan that really says nothing about the immediate moment for unhoused persons.”

Tents remain in Meagher Park in Halifax. New tarps have been added to winterize the encampments.
As of Sunday — the day of the PADS rally — tents remain at Nick Meagher Park, or People’s Park, in Halifax. New tarps have been added to “winterize” the encampents. Photo: Leslie Amminson

Click here to read their full story.

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2. “Please don’t sell Nova Scotia”

Bras d'Or waterfront for sale on Evans Island, Richmond County, Cape Breton. Photo: Joan Baxter
Bras d’Or waterfront for sale on Evans Island, Richmond County, Cape Breton. Photo: Joan Baxter

We have part three of Joan Baxter’s series on the sale of land in Cape Breton to German-speaking non-residents. This time, Baxter looks at the issue of taxes those non-residents pay. Baxter writes:

The question of whether those who own land, reside and pay taxes in Nova Scotia should pay lower property taxes than those who do not has been debated, discussed, and disagreed on since the 1960s.

In 2000, the province proposed legislation that would have enabled municipalities to levy additional taxes on non-resident property owners, but the government didn’t proclaim that part of the Municipal Government Act, “pending further discussions with the public.”

The following year the province set up a “voluntary planning board on non-resident land ownership” to carry out those consultations, because, as the press release at the time stated:

Nova Scotians have voiced real concerns about rising property tax bills, higher land prices and reduced access to ocean and inland waters,” said Mr. [Jim] Moir [chair of the Voluntary Planning Task Force on Non-Resident Land Ownership], of Mill Village, Queens Co. “Yet we’re also aware of the positive effect of the investment dollars flowing into our province from non-residents who are building homes and providing employment for many of our fellow citizens. These are some of the issues we need to look at.”

The task force came, listened, reported, and went, and little changed, something we’ll come back to.

The legislation that would have allowed municipalities to hike taxes for non-resident landowners was never proclaimed.

Now, 20 years later, it looks as if the government of Tim Houston has decided, just like that, to impose a levy on property taxes for non-residents who own property in Nova Scotia.

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A photo of Stewart Legere smiling for the camera, while the photographer reaches out of squeezes his chin. Legere is at a party and there are other folks in the background. Legere is wearing a black ball cap and black tank top.
Stewart Legere. Look at that face! Photo: Michael Kushnir

Stewart Legere

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3. Power tripping

Two guys on a power pole in an ad forNSP
Nova Scotia Power… not exactly as claimed (Facebook).

It’s been four years since Nova Scotia Power has met its regulator mandated customer service and reliability standards. And Stephen Kimber wrote on Sunday that the utility is quadrupling down on a campaign to lower the standards to ones they can actually meet. Kimber writes:

With the 2016 standards up for mandatory review this year, the UARB instructed Nova Scotia Power to sit down with “lawyers representing residential, small business and large customers, but there was no consensus on standards. Instead, Nova Scotia Power submitted its own revisions.”

Oh, that’s… not good news.

As company spokesperson Jackie Foster told the CBC: The revisions the company has proposed are not intended as a relaxation of the current performance standards but rather were brought forward following several years’ experience with how the current standards operate.

Translation. The company wants the rules relaxed to some stretchy-pants flexible standard so the company can then meet them without spending real money on improvements or maintenance.

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4. Friday’s COVID update

A photo of an empty syringe stuck into a model of the coronavirus, which is made out of a styrofoam ball painted purple, with multicoloured quilter's pins sticking out if it, with a white background.
Photo: Ivan Diaz/Unsplash

On Friday, parents across Nova Scotia booked vaccination appointments for their kids as the province opened online bookings for five- to 11-year-olds.

You can book a vaccination appointment for that age group here.

Also on Friday, the province announced 28 new cases of the virus. Here’s the breakdown by Nova Scotia Health zone:

• 16 Northern
• 12 Central
• 0 Eastern
• 0 Western

There are now 172 known active cases in the province. Fourteen people are in hospital with the disease; five of those people are in ICU.

Click here to read the full update. 

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5. Expansion of gold mining on the Eastern Shore meeting with stiff resistance

Unspoiled wetlands and scrubby spruce woodlands in the Beaver Dam area. Photo: Simon Ryder-Burbidge
Beaver Dam area. Photo: Simon Ryder-Burbidge

Joan Baxter also had this story on the opposition to Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia (AMNS) and its plans for a gold mine in Beaver Dam on the province’s Eastern Shore.

The latest in the story is that the company’s most recent Environmental Impact Statement for the mine is now undergoing a technical review. As Baxter wrote, all the documents for the EIS are on the website of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC). The public and Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia have until December 16 to review and comment. Baxter is also going through the documents, too, noting all the contradictory numbers, including those around the haul road and how the ore will get from the mine to the processing facility.

As for those comments from the public, they’re piling up. Baxter reports:

But not “all Nova Scotians” think this mine is anything to “take pride in.” As of this writing, there are 23 comments on the latest proposal from people strongly opposed to the mine, all offering individual explanations of why. This comment from Bradley Gaetz, for example:

What parts of the hundreds of devastating scientific reports on wildlife decimation, species depletion and looming climate change disaster do government and business proponents of these vast, open pit gold mines not get?  The few, dead end jobs created and illusional royalties, never seen after tax and capital investment writedown manipulation, don’t even come close to a creating justification for the dystopian moon scrapes left behind by foreign mining interests. For what other purpose?  Human vanity and hubris.

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6. Recovery plan for mainland moose

A photo of a mainland moose standing in an open field
Mainland moose

Ethan Lycan-Lang had this story of the province’s announcement about a recovery plan for the mainland moose. Lycan-Lang was downtown on Thursday afternoon as Extinction Rebellion held a protest, in front of the offices of the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, asking to meet with department minister Tory Rushton.

Lycan-Lang writes:

Released Thursday, the Recovery Plan for the Moose in Mainland Nova Scotia sets the strategy for bringing the moose population in mainland Nova Scotia back to a healthy, sustainable level.

In the plan, the recovery team writes that recovery of the mainland moose population is feasible, but it will require “changes to forest management practices in Nova Scotia, addressing road density disturbance and other developmental pressures, the designation, protection, and management of Core Habitat, and significant financial resources to address threats and implement actions for recovery.”

Lycan-Lang also got comments on the plan from Nina Newington, who led Thursday’s protest, and wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft.

You can read the whole story here. 

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Minding your mental health in the hospitality industry

A photo of an empty restaurant with tables that are set.
Not 9 to 5, a non-profit that promotes mental health education in the hospitality industry, has a new program called Mind Your Health aimed at educating employers about mental health.

Last week I read this article, “Restaurant owners say they have the answer to the current labour shortage: Better pay, benefits and balance” in the Globe and Mail. After months of hearing restaurant and bar owners blame labour shortages on lazy employees who’d rather get CERB/CRB, it was refreshing to read about bosses who started paying their staff more, giving them benefits, sick days, and so on.

But this paragraph caught my attention:

The food services sector has traditionally had a high churn rate of employees, in part because of the high-stress environment. Not 9 to 5, an advocacy group for hospitality workers, surveyed 673 of them this summer and found more than half expressed feeling anxiety or burnout. Of those, more than half cited alcohol as a way to cope with stress. The survey was funded by the federal government’s Future Skills program.

Hassel Aviles, co-founder and executive director of Not 9 to 5, said she’s seen restaurants make positive changes for employees, but that it is still new for the industry.

“It took us centuries to get here so it will take us a long time to course correct and repair damages,” Ms. Aviles said.

A photo of Hassel Aviles sitting at a restaurant booth. She's wearing a blue dress and has long dark hair.
Hassel Aviles with Not 9 to 5. Photo: Contributed

I decided to learn more about Not 9 to 5 and its work. On Friday I interviewed Aviles about the non-profit she founded, which she calls a global leader in mental health advocacy for the food and hospitality sector.

Aviles’ first job in the industry was as a hostess when she was 17. She worked her way up through the industry, eventually owning her own restaurant. She says the entire time she worked in the industry — about 20 years — she also lived with depression and anxiety. She says she never felt safe talking about her mental health in the workplace. About three and a half years ago she spoke about her mental illness at an industry event, and about how working in the sector intensified and complicated her illness.  

“This industry doesn’t understand psychological safety and really needs to learn that as much as physical safety is important, psychological safety is just as important,” says Aviles.

The survey mentioned in the Globe and Mail article is part of a one-year project called Mind Your Health that Not 9 to 5 is leading. The group’s new website will launch this week, where they will share the survey on what they learned. Aviles sent me some of the data they collected. Besides that figure on alcohol use, there are some other high numbers in the data.

Out of the 673 people surveyed, most felt concerns around their mental health: Most agreed to experiencing anxiety (84%), burnout (87%), depression (77%), as well as disordered eating (63%).

And 67% of those surveyed said they kept their struggles to themselves. Still another 59% said financial barriers were the main reasons they didn’t seek help.

That means people don’t feel safe coming to work as themselves and don’t feel comfortable sharing their experiences. There’s a direct correlation between that data point and the quote-unquote labour shortage. That’s really important to point out.

That stat about workers using alcohol to find relief from the stresses they’re experiencing came in second to talking with family and friends.

Through the project, Not 9 to 5 also built a workplace mental health guidebook, which will be available on the website this week, too. They already have a certification program in mental health support skills.  

They also offered community building events called Kitchen Table Talks. Topics included peer support, interviews with chef Suzanne Barr, and two on workplace trauma. The last one of those sessions is on tonight. Click here to register for that.  

While she has no data, anecdotally Aviles says the rate of suicide is on the rise in the industry.

There’s not a month that’s gone by in the last 12 to 18 months where I don’t hear about one or more suicides. … specifically in the hospitality industry.  I’m not the only one hearing that. 

Aviles says the COVID pandemic has exposed issues that have always existed in the industry, although she says there’s one issue that’s new because of the pandemic:

When you go to work, you’re putting your life on the line. You’re a frontline service worker. All of my community has not had the privilege to work from home like I have. I am running a non-profit so I am at home on my laptop. My community was out on the frontline, serving people and exposing themselves to a deadly virus.

As for the benefits of supporting workers with this program — along with upping wages and offering benefits — Aviles says there’s a return on investment.

In our industry, even before the pandemic, we had a 75% turnover rate, year to year. It’s now at 100% in some cases. That means literally no one is there a year later. The minimum cost a year to replace someone is $6,000 all the way up to over $25,000 if it’s a leadership position. So when you multiply those two numbers, that’s a terrifying number.

Restaurants and bars, Aviles says, need to spend on psychological safety as they already do with physical safety in the workplace.

We have inspectors that check the temperature of our fridges and our ovens and all the time we have a first-aid kit in restaurants and bars. These are all harm-reduction practices. We’re already doing this for physical safety. What’s missing is the same for psychological safety.

I see Not 9 to 5’s program, resources, and tools as harm reduction practices, and suicide prevention tools, and crisis reduction tools. The more people are equipped with words, skills, tools, resources, and learning how to support each other and themselves, the less we will find ourselves in these crisis situations, with these high turnover rates and with this quote-unquote labour shortage.

Aviles says while Not 9 to 5 has long been focused on making the industry better for workers, they’re also working on programs to educate the customers. Not 9 to 5 is working with a coalition of other organizations to create an awareness campaign to educate customers on how the industry works and issues inside of it, but also issues around increasing prices of labour and menu items, as well as the service experience and getting away from the philosophy the customer is always right while bringing some “humanity into the conversation.” 

A culinary experience is a privilege, not a right. Going out to dine and having people cook for you, serve for you is a luxury. So, because of that it needs to be acknowledged as such. These are people who work in an industry that doesn’t acknowledge humanity.

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A photo of a new crash bar early warning system are being lifted into place at the toll plaza at the MacKay Bridge on Sunday. The tolls include several lanes with blue and yellow signs showing where vehicles can enter. The early warning system is a bar that lets large trucks know they may not fit into the lanes with the shorter roofs.
A new crash bar early warning system being installed at the MacKay Bridge toll plaza on Sunday. Photo: Halifax Harbour Bridges/Twitter

On Sunday, Halifax Harbour Bridges shared the above photo on social media that showed a new crash bar early warning system being installed at the MacKay Bridge.

As you may know, trucks have been getting stuck in record numbers at the tolls at the MacKay (I think the  count is up to 20 so far this year; four trucks got stuck in the tolls in 2020). I wrote about it here. At that time, Halifax Harbour Bridges general manager and CEO Steve Snider told me these warning bars would be installed by the end of the year.

The stuck-truck phenomenon has captured the attention of locals for months now. There’s even a calendar that has a photo of a stuck truck for each month.

There’s all sorts of speculation about why this is happening. I am fascinated by it, too. Many people blame the increase in the number of stuck trucks on the design of the toll plaza itself. But the design hasn’t changed in years, so why are more trucks getting stuck now? Are drivers more distracted or more inexperienced? Are drivers suffering from a brain fog because of the pandemic? Is everyone just in a big damn hurry? (This is true of drivers anywhere on the road).

And all kinds of large vehicles have found themselves stuck in the tolls from RVs to a Halifax Transit bus. I’d love to talk with a driver, if they’re willing to chat about it.

Sure, removing the toll plaza would solve the issue of the stuck trucks, but if drivers are distracted, not paying attention, speeding, or inexperienced they’ll just get into trouble elsewhere on the road.

So far today, I haven’t heard anything about how well  the early warning system is working.

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No meetings


Public Information Meeting – Case 23824 (Tuesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting; application by Harvey Architecture on behalf of Northwoodcare Bedford Incorporated to amend an existing Development Agreement to allow a pedway bridge to connect the buildings located at 123 and 185 Gary Martin Drive, Bedford.


No meetings this week

On campus



Cyber sale (Monday, 8:30am, Dal Bookstore, Dal Student Union Building) — more info here; sale ends tomorrow

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology PhD Thesis Defence (Monday, 10am) — Anamika Sulekha will talk via Teams

Linked partition ideals and Schur’s 1926 partition theorem (Monday, 3:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Shane Chern will talk.

Issai Schur’s famous 1926 partition theorem states that the number of partitions of $n$ into distinct parts congruent to $pm 1$ modulo $3$ is the same as the number of partitions of $n$ such that every two consecutive parts have difference at least $3$ and that no two consecutive multiples of $3$ occur as parts. In this talk, we consider some variants of Schur’s theorem, especially their Andrews–Gordon type generating functions, from the perspective of span one linked partition ideals introduced by George Andrews. Our investigation has interesting connections with basic hypergeometric series, $q$-difference equations, computer algebra, and so on.

Adopting Responsible AI in Practice (Monday, 5:3opm) — Ashley Casovan will talk via Teams


The Social Shift Movie Screening (Tuesday, 5:30pm) — via Teams

People, Places and Things (Tuesday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — presented by the Fountain School of Performing Arts, until Dec. 4; $15/$10, more info here


Indigenous People and Canadian Law: Where We Stand Today With Naiomi Metallic (Monday, 7pm, Room 303, Dal Student Union Building) — Also broadcast live, this presentation will focus on how change towards improved Nation to Nation relations is possible under the current constitutional framework and with governments taking a more active role in collaboration with Indigenous groups. An open question and discussion period will follow the presentation. More info and registration here.

In the harbour

05:30: SFL Conductor, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
07:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
09:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Sydney
13:00: BBC Direction, bulker, sails from Pier 9 for sea
14:30: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
15:00: One Honolulu, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:00: Morning Lucy, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
16:30: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
16:30: SFL Conductor sails for sea
22:45: Selfoss sails for Portland, Maine
24:00: Morning Lucy moves to Autoport

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


Yesterday was the first day of Advent. I ate an entire Advent calendar, so I have to celebrate Christmas today.

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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. Housing is a human right not an investment opportunity. That should be the bottom line.

    Heard about this group on the radio. Women in California occupying houses that are not occupied.

    It would be interesting to see how many houses in Halifax are presently empty due to real estae speculators or not rented out due to Air BnB.

    1. If you are a member of a pension plan you may well be invested in real estate. Ask your pension fund managers for a list of real estate investments held by the pension fund. Many public sector pension plans have investments in residential real estate – a reliable source of steady income and very rare to suffer a cut in dividends.

  2. Having spent most of my working life in f&b by accident, I can attest to many of the mental difficulties in the sector. Good to hear that there is some attention being paid for those coming up. Working as a server has only recently been considered a career and a skill, so there is a lot of catch up to be done. Thank you for this attention.

  3. Service industry workers
    While I have no empirical data to support this contention, it does seem to me that there has been a decades long deterioration in the way service workers, especially those in food service are treated by customers. No wonder so many are suffering from mental health impacts. I think it would serve everyone better to remind those seeking services that people are people and treating people with respect and dignity is a basic human value. We can all do our part.

    1. Yes. Part of the problem is that many food service managers/owners don’t support their staff if they are being harassed by a customer. They are more concerned about losing business than setting a proper standard of respectful behavior in their workplace. The public needs to learn that being in a store or restaurant is a privilege and not an entitlement, as the interviewee states.