1. More ambulance concerns

Ambulances line up outside the QE2 in January 2022. Credit: Tim Bousquet

“Lynn McLaughlin says she got “great care” from surgeons and nurses at the QE2 Health Sciences Centre after being rushed to hospital early Sunday evening, December 18,” reports Jennifer Henderson.

McLaughlin was seen immediately in the Halifax Infirmary Emergency Department after passing out several times from the severity of the pain in her gut. Staff told McLaughlin’s daughter Erin her 67-year-old mother might not make it and she should “say her good-byes.” 

McLaughlin describes the experience as “pretty traumatic.” She spent the next four and a half days on the surgical ward recovering from what was diagnosed as a perforated bowel. 

She was discharged before Christmas and will need follow up visits to the surgeon.

That’s the good news part of the story.

The bad news is that Lynn McLaughlin says she could have died because no ambulance was available to transport her from her home in Tantallon, 34 minutes away from the hospital in Halifax. 

Click here to read the story.

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2. Valley store’s Pride flags vandalized

A person in a cap, burgundy sweater, and jeans stands in a store holding two multi-color Pride flags. The store has old wood floors and a kitchen in the background.
Candice Zaina, co-owner of Bee’s Knees General Store in Lawrencetown, holds the Pride flags that were vandalized. Credit: Sue Littleton

“A couple who recently opened a general store and bakery in Lawrencetown say the community has come out in support of them and their work after someone vandalized the store’s Pride flags four times in the past month,” I reported this morning.

Sue Littleton and Candice Zaina moved to the valley this year and opened Bee’s Knees General Store and Bakery earlier this month. Not long after, the Pride flag that was hanging outside the shop was taken down. Littleton told me they didn’t think too much of it. Then the flag was ripped down again, three more times over the past 10 days. The last time the flag was taken down, a pile of human feces was left on top of the flag and a Mi’kmaw flag the couple had hanging outside.

In an interview with me on Tuesday, Littleton said she had a message for whoever took down the flags:

I put a post out the second time it happened that was a video just me talking about how we feel about this situation. I sort of stand by that. I feel really sorry for whoever is doing this, that they’ve closed themselves off to some great experiences in life. We’re doing something really fun and exciting and we’re really passionate about what we do. We want to offer great hospitality and really excellent baked goods.

Click here to read the story.

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3. Search suspended for missing fisherman

A blue and green map of the southern part of Nova Scotia. A red balloon indicates the location of Cape Sable Island.
Cape Sable Island, NS. Credit: Google Maps

“The search for a missing Nova Scotia fisherman who went overboard on Boxing Day morning was suspended early Tuesday afternoon,” reports Sarah Smellie with The Canadian Press.

Lt. Commander Len Hickey said that despite a robust search effort that carried on overnight Monday and into Tuesday morning, rescue crews were unable to locate the missing man. The file will be handed over to the RCMP to be treated as a missing person case, he said.

“The time of year just makes it that much more tragic,” Hickey said in an interview.

Halifax’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre received a mayday about a man overboard at 8:21 a.m. Monday, he said. The man had fallen from a 12-metre long fishing vessel called The Little Weasel Too about 11 kilometres south of Cape Sable Island, which sits just off Nova Scotia’s southernmost tip, Hickey said.

In a Facebook post, the Atlantic Canada Fishermen’s Association wrote that 27-year-old Christian Lee Atwood is the man who went overboard.

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4. Small houses

Three tiny houses on a grass location under a blue sky. In the distance you can see water while trees hang overhead near the houses. A bicycle with a basket leans against one of the houses.
Will tiny homes and other small dwellings help with the housing crisis? Credit: Karl Hedin/Unsplash

Moira Donovan at CBC has this story about “the benefits of thinking small” when it comes to housing. Donovan spoke to Sonya Mullins who purchased a mobile home in Hubbards when she realized most housing in the city was far out of her reach. Donovan writes:

Mullins grew up in Halifax, but spent the bulk of her life in Montreal. Prior to the pandemic, she was thinking about moving back to Nova Scotia. But by the time she seriously began looking, housing prices had jumped so much that a traditional, single-family house was out of her reach. 

“I never even considered a mini-home [before],” she said. “But it was an option that I was able to afford.”

Mullins did some research and purchased a mini-home in Hubbards west of Halifax for $180,000, sight unseen. “I will tell you it is probably the best choice I’ve ever made in my life.”

Small houses just seem like a no-brainer to me. When did the trend of big McMansions become the standard? Not everyone wants or needs a big house. The cleaning required is enough for me to not want a big house.

Donovan spoke with Kate Greene, director of regional and community planning with HRM about two recent bylaws that encourage more density in the city:

One was to allow shared housing  — which includes rooming houses and seniors’ housing — in all residential areas. 

Bylaws were also amended to strike size limits from eight areas where there were minimum size requirements. They also changed rules so that mobile homes, including tiny homes, could be considered single-family dwellings which allows them to be put in more places. And a prohibition against using shipping containers as backyard suites was eliminated.

Now, I don’t think those tiny homes are for everyone. But it’s interesting that homes have gotten bigger, even though families are smaller. And lots of people are single and living on their own. Of course, there’s precedent for smaller homes, as Donovan writes:

Following the Second World War, demand for housing spiked, but because of the Great Depression and the war, little housing had been built for a decade.

In response, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation designed and built hundreds of thousands of one-and-a-half storey, 900-square-foot dwellings called “victory houses” in communities across the country.

Over time, houses have grown. The average home built today is 2,200 square feet. As cities look to fit more people onto existing parcels of land, Green said downsizing might be the answer. 

“[Tiny homes] are less intensive use of the land. They are smaller, so you could create places where you have more units on a given piece of land than you could with a big single-family home. So it creates more options,” said Green.

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Paying for essential services with fundraising lotteries is quite the gamble

A blue, red, and yellow graphic advertising a 50-50 draw for Nova Scotia Firefighters
The last jackpot for the Nova Scotia Firefighters 50-50 was a record-breaker. Credit: Facebook

Last Thursday, just before Christmas, Kayla Eldridge of Falmouth became a millionaire. Eldridge was the winner of the record-breaking Nova Scotia Firefighters Weekly 50-50 jackpot. Eldridge won over $1.4 million in the draw. The rest of the proceeds went to fire stations across the province.

The 50-50 draws are held each week, but have only reached this kind of jackpot a couple of times. The first time the jackpot went over $1 million was in December 2021. That week’s winner, Vanessa Ross, won $878,050. Most weeks’ draws take in a few hundred thousand, which is still a nice chunk of change for the winner. For Eldridge, who is a part-time LPN and studying to be a registered nurse, it’s a lifechanging chunk of money. Good for her.

I got to thinking about these 50-50 draws after Eldridge’s win, not because I didn’t win, although I’ve purchased tickets before, but because I am disturbed by the trend of fundraising lotteries to support essential services. I mean, it’s great for the fire departments, especially the rural ones that rely on volunteers. According to the Fire Services Association of Nova Scotia, there are 6,000 volunteers firefighters and 600 paid firefighters in the province. So, the fire services workforce is mostly volunteers. But are fundraising lotteries the path we should be taking to fund services we need like firefighting?

The Nova Scotia Firefighter Weekly 50-50 got its start during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rural fire stations, like a lot of other non-profits, lost their sources of fundraising when just about everything shut down. No more pancake or bean dinners or bingos.

And 50-50 draws became a big deal. Many of the 50-50 draws in the province are organized by Rafflebox, which I wrote about back in August 2020. The Nova Scotia Firefighter Weekly draw is their largest fundraiser in the country, although other groups like Hope for Wildlife and the Nova Scotia SPCA use Rafflebox, too.

Sheldon MacLeod at Saltwire, who is a volunteer firefighter himself, spoke with Andrew Wallis with the Amherst Firefighting Association last week when it became clear last week’s jackpot would go over $1 million. It was the Amherst Firefighting Association that got the 50-50 started back in 2020.

As Wallis told MacLeod, the Amherst Firefighting Association lost its usual fundraisers like dinners when COVID hit. They were approached by Rafflebox to host a 50-50 with the goal of raising $50,000 that year. They quickly hit that goal by August 2020 and had more fire stations come on board.

Now they have 269 fire services that take part and they’re adding one more in 2023 (people who buy tickets choose a station they’d like to support). And they’re Rafflebox’s biggest customer.

Not all fire services can join, although firefighters can buy a ticket (Wallis can’t since he’s the guy who hits the button for the winner). The fire service has to be a registered non-profit to take part.

MacLeod asked Wallis if the 50-50 was fair to all stations considering some of those fire services receive support through their municipalities. For example, Wallis said the Amherst Fire Service is funded by the town, but they do more than buy trucks and fix their firehall. They donate to other charities and help people in need in the community.

“Every department has a different need with what they’re doing with those funds,” he told MacLeod. “None of it’s getting wasted or stockpiled, that’s for sure.”

But some people do have questions about the funds that come in. As Wallis said, some municipalities thought they may have hit the jackpot with the lotteries:

I can tell you quite honestly there’s been a couple of candid conversations with municipal groups and a couple of provincial caucus members because there are some people out there who think that because they’ve been successful and these fire departments are raising some funds, maybe they don’t need the tax money or maybe they don’t need any more help or assistance at the government level. And that was certainly not what this was supposed to be about and thankfully those discussions turned out quite positively in the end.

Fundraising lotteries, of course, aren’t new. Providers of essential services, including hospitals across the county, host these lotteries each year. In Nova Scotia, the QEII Home Lottery has two draws each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. According to its website, to date, that lottery has raised $97 million to help fund health care in the province. And it points out the winners, just like Eldridge in the 50-50 draw, get a “lifechanging” prize.

Back in 2013, Charity Intelligence did a study on 30 of these fundraising lotteries, including the QEII Home Lottery, and found how much of the money raised actually went to the charity:

Of the 30 selected charities, an average of 27% of lottery revenue was retained for charity purposes. Compare that figure to 72% for the same charities if the funds were raised via fundraising methods other than the lottery. This is not to say that charity lotteries should be avoided by donors, only that Ci believes that ticket buyers should not think of charity lotteries as a replacement for direct donations. So long as the tickets are paid for out of the donor’s “lottery” budget rather than from their donation budget, the lottery can still be a beneficial fundraising tool

Here are a couple more stats Charity Intelligence highlighted:

Only 5 of 30 studied lotteries were more efficient than the government lottery average of 31% in retaining revenue to fund programs.

While some charity lotteries advertise relatively high odds of winning prizes, average prize payout amounts are usually less than those of major government lotteries.

That’s not the case for the Nova Scotia Firefighter draw since its prize is a monetary one. While half of the proceeds go to the jackpot winner, 36% of the proceeds go to the fire department the winner chooses. And, of course, there are costs to run the lottery.

Still, there are other people out there being saved by fundraisers that are on a much smaller scale than these lotteries. Last week I heard the story of 54-year-old Amir Farsoud of St. Catharine’s, ON, who finally got affordable housing thanks to a Go Fund Me started by a woman named Effie C., who didn’t even know him.

In October, as this story by Josh Marcus at The Independent reported, Farsoud, who lives with a disability, learned the rooming house he was living in was being sold. He worried he wouldn’t find another place he could afford, so he applied for — and was accepted to — the federal MAID program. Marcus writes:

His rationale was that he would be unable to survive being homeless, so while he didn’t wish to die, he would prefer a dignified death at the time of his choosing rather than a slow one on the streets.

After Mr Farsoud’s story gained headlines across Canada, strangers set him up a GoFundMe page, which crowd-funded more than $60,000 and allowed him to regain housing security as he waits for a new social services placement.

“We need humanity to win,” the organizer of the fundraising page wrote. “We are all in this life together and as Canadians we need to help. If the past 3 years taught us anything it’s that without compassion, resilience, community and good health we are nothing.”

The fundraiser allowed Farsoud to pay off some debts and add some money to his disability income each month.

Basically as long as I have enough that I’m not going hungry and not worrying about the basics until however many months or years I went on the waiting list for permanent, stable, affordable housing. That’s all I ever wanted,” he added in his CityNews interview. “People in my shoes don’t want extravagant lifestyles, we just want to move on.

There are so many things wrong with this picture I don’t know where to start.

I agree with Effie C; we do “need humanity to win.” Wallis, the fire services, and other organizations using these lotteries to raise money are doing what they can to help the services they provide. But fundraising to help our fire departments and for people to get housing is quite the gamble, though. How long will the fundraisers be so successful? What do we do then?

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No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

07:00: One Helsinki, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
10:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania
10:30: Talia, car carrier, moves from Pier 9 to Autoport
14:00: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
16:30: MSC Joanna, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea 

Cape Breton
05:30: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Tampa, Florida


It’s the one week of the year when no one knows what day it is. You’re eating the turkey right off the carcass now. Or you’re picking up scraps of cheese or the crappy cream chocolates no one wants that you found under the gift wrap you still haven’t gathered up off the floor.

It’s all a holidaze now.

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Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. As a former volunteer firefighter, I can attest to how much time was spent in fundraising–breakfasts, dinners and dances, flea markets/auctions that were more effort than they were worth as people donated so much junk that had to be carted away. Living in a rural community where we had to fight to keep our fire department, I support the Firefighters Raffle usually a couple of times a month, and the SPCA one as well, when I remember. I don’t eat out or go to movies etc, so I figure throwing 20 bucks in the pot now and again is no big deal. I also support various cat charities around the region, often by knitting hats and mittens, selling the and donating the proceeds to organized groups. (I prefer cats to most people.)

  2. Thank you for the story regarding lotteries. I find that subject interesting. I have never forgotten what my grade 11 economics teacher Mr. Malik taught us– a lottery is a regressive tax.
    If the Examiner ever gets the time, please do a story on the ALC. I asked them some questions a few years ago during their “Ask us anything” campaign. Apparently some questions require a FOI request. I asked questions about the random number generator– that’s the software they quietly began using in lieu of the “bouncing balls machines”.

  3. Re Small Houses: There are lots of reasons that small houses make sense, but small houses in Hubbard’s or other rural areas require costly car ownership and massively subsidized highways. There are also the inherent inefficiencies of single family dwellings versus multi-unit dwellings and well and septic systems versus municipal systems. Downsizing is good, but truly economical and sustainable housing is multi-unit dwellings in urban areas.

    Re charity fundraisers: These are necessary when funds from taxes are insufficient. But while taxation requires wealthy people to pay more, lotteries take in more from poorer people. Fundraising effectively shifts the costs of social services away from wealthier people and onto poorer people.