1. Nova Scotia Power fine hike

Three red and white smoke stacks against a bright sky are seen in the background of a street lined with trees with colourful leaves on a sunny afternoon.
The smokestacks at Nova Scotia Power’s Tufts Cove Generating Station, seen from Springhill Road in Dartmouth on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Credit: Zane Woodford

“Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton says an amendment introduced to the Public Utilities Act on Wednesday will make Nova Scotia Power ‘more accountable to ratepayers,'” reports Jennifer Henderson.

The proposed amendment to the Public Utilities Act will increase the maximum amount the company can be fined for failing to meet performance standards around reliability, as well as the frequency and duration of power outages.

Those standards were approved by the Utility and Review Board and have been in place for half a dozen years. The current maximum fine is $1 million per year and the proposed amendment would increase that to $25 million per year. 

“We’re increasing the maximum potential penalty for things like power outages and reliability. This will make the utility more accountable and motivate better service delivery,” Rushton said during a briefing with reporters. 

But will it make any difference?

Click here to read “Province hikes Nova Scotia Power’s potential maximum fine to $25 million.”

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2. Bedford library

A map with illustrations added shows an area on the water, with a ferry terminal noted in white, with a connecting roadway.
An overhead view of the planned Mill Cove ferry terminal property in Bedford. — Screenshot/HRM

“How much space in a new Mill Cove Ferry Terminal should be devoted to a library, if any? That’s the question Halifax regional councillors hope to answer with a staff report requested on Tuesday,” Zane Woodford writes.

The growth of Bedford has far exceeded its small rented library space on Dartmouth Road.

“For almost 30 years, Bedford has needed a new library. It’s 6,000 square feet. For the population size of Bedford it should be something closer to 30,000,” Bedford-Wentworth Coun. Tim Outhit said.

In an information report to council on Tuesday, Philip Dugandzic, director of facility design and construction, outlined the cost of including the library in the new Mill Cove Ferry Terminal.

“Incorporating library space within the proposed Mill Cove Ferry Terminal would require an increase of $14M to the 2023/24 four-year capital plan, plus an additional 12 FTE’s and $723,000 in annual staffing and operating costs when the library opens for service, estimated for 2027,” Dugandzic wrote.

Click here to read “Council looks for options to include new Bedford library with ferry station.”

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3. TSB releases report on sinking of Chief William Saulis

A fishing boat with a green hull sits in a body of water not far from land. In the background is a rocky beach, grassy hill, and a white house.
The Chief William Saulis. Photo: Facebook

“The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has identified an industry-wide surveillance issue following its investigation into the December 2020 fatal sinking of the scallop boat Chief William Saulis off the coast of Digby,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.

“Over the past 30 years, the TSB has been sounding the alarm over the numerous safety deficiencies that continue to put at risk the lives of Canadian fish harvesters,” TSB chair Kathy Fox said in the release. 

“Safety is a shared responsibility. Too many fish harvesters still don’t make it home from what could have been a preventable accident. How many more people have to be lost at sea before these changes are made?’’

As a result of its investigation, the TSB is issuing a recommendation to Transport Canada. It recommends the Department of Transport “ensure that each inspection of a commercial fishing vessel verifies that each required written safety procedure is available to the crew and that the crew are knowledgeable of these procedures.”

Click here to read “Loss of 6 crew on scallop boat off Digby caused by insufficient crew training, says Transportation Safety Board.”

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4. NSTU wants violence in schools addressed

The brown and orange facade of Charles P. Allan High School in Bedford.
Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford in July, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

“The president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) is calling for increased staffing and a provincial strategy to address school violence,” writes Yvette d’Entremont.

The NSTU sent out a media release on Wednesday, two days after a stabbing at Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford. d’Entremont writes:

On Wednesday afternoon, NSTU president Ryan Lutes said in a media release that what happened at the high school has “sparked a broader and necessary conversation” about not only combatting school violence, but improving access to mental health supports for students. 

While pleased the incident is being thoroughly investigated, Lutes said he’s asking the province to take “urgent steps” to help make Nova Scotia schools safer.

The NSTU is requesting a reversal of staffing cuts made at HRM’s most populated high schools in 2021. Lutes said they also want to see additional resources allocated to all high schools outside of HRM to “enhance student supervision and support.”

Click here to read “President of NSTU calls for more staffing, provincial strategy to address violence in schools.”

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5. Mayor speaks at rally for Black workers

A Black man in a baseball hat, winter vest, and grey pants speaks to a white man wearing a dark suit and blue tie. The men are standing outside in a town square on a sunny day. There are other people milling around nearby.
Raymond Sheppard speaks with Mayor Mike Savage during the rally in support of Black HRM workers. Credit: Matthew Byard

“Halifax Mayor Mike Savage spoke to attendees at a rally this week organized by an advocate who’s been supporting Black HRM workers,” reports Matthew Byard.

The rally, which took place outside Halifax City Hall on Tuesday, is the third event for the workers who say they are the targets of racist discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

After attending a proclamation reading and flag raising ceremony for World Down Syndrome Day at the other end of Grand Parade, Savage stopped at the rally on his way back to city hall. 

“I can tell you my commitment is that we want people to live in a community where everybody is respected. Whether it’s the police, or fire, or the public works,” Savage said addressing the crowd.

Savage highlighted steps HRM is taking to combat systemic racism. He mentioned initiatives including the city’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, hiring more African Nova Scotians, the African Nova Scotian Economic Action Plan, and an anti-Black racism action plan adopted by city council.

But as Byard reports, the Black workers say they are still facing harassment and discrimination and it’s affecting their mental health.

Click here to read “Halifax mayor speaks at third rally for Black HRM workers who allege racial discrimination.”

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6. Rent cap

Three similar concrete apartment buildings are seen in a row, with balconies protruding. In the background, we see the tower of a green suspension bridge.
Apartment buildings in Downtown Halifax on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. Credit: Zane Woodford

“The provincial government is extending the cap on rent hikes to the end of 2025 and increasing the amount landlords can raise rent to 5%,” report Zane Woodford and Jennifer Henderson.

Colton LeBlanc, the minister responsible for Service Nova Scotia and the Residential Tenancies Act, introduced amendments to the Interim Residential Rental Increase Cap Act on Wednesday.

The current rent cap of 2% expires at the end of 2023. The former Liberal government imposed the cap during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Premier Tim Houston’s PC government extended it. Last month, LeBlanc told reporters “all options are on the table” with regard to the rent cap.

The new amendments extend the cap to Dec. 31, 2025. The province said it “intends” to set the new maximum hike at 5% through regulations as of Jan. 1, 2024. That means landlords would be able to increase rents by 5% on Jan. 1, 2024, and again on Jan. 1, 2025, or whenever leases renew.

The cap applies to the renewal of periodic and fixed-term leases.

As Woodford and Henderson report, the legislation doesn’t close the loophole on fixed-term leases. Some landlords have been using fixed-term leases to jack rents up by 46%. LeBlanc said he was “hopeful” the 5% rent cap will “alleviate some of these challenges.” 

Click here to read “Nova Scotia to extend rent control to end of 2025, increase annual cap to 5%.”

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7. Save Our Old Forests campaign

A poster that has a photo of a forest in the background with a logo of a bird. The text says Campaign Launch, Save Our Old Forests, Saturday March 25 2023 12 pm to 3 pm Bridgetown Legion, 20 Jeffrey Street. Program of events: Free lunch, welcome and opening, and a list of talks, including Old Forests, Wildlife and Old Forests, Close of Silent Auction, Save Our Old Forests.

The Arlington Forest Protection Society and the Citizen Scientists of the Southwest Nova Biosphere will launch its Save Our Old Forests campaign this weekend. The event takes place at the Bridgetown Legion on Saturday, March 25 from noon to 3pm. Here’s the goal from the campaign’s petition:

WHEREAS our Government has committed in law to protecting 20% of Nova Scotia’s lands and waters by 2030 but is continuing to permit logging of old forests of high conservation value on Crown land, 

THEREFORE we, the undersigned residents of Nova Scotia, call upon the Premier to pause all harvesting and roadbuilding activities in forests over 80 years old on Crown land in Annapolis County until such time as 20% of Nova Scotia’s lands have been permanently protected.

Click here to learn more.

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Poverty and financial literacy: you can’t budget if you don’t have the money

A small red piggy bank with white polka dots sits on a wooden table. There's no money in the piggy bank.
Your piggy bank remains empty if you have no money. Credit: Andre Taissin/Unsplash

Recently, I’ve been thinking about money and the term financial literacy, which gets tossed around often, especially to people on low incomes.  

It seems someone else was thinking about this, too. Sheri Lecker, the executive director of Adsum for Women and Children, who tweets out messages from the organization’s Twitter account, shared this message last week: 

Hearing once again that people living on a grossly inadequate income need to learn ‘financial management’. Y’know the real problem? People don’t have enough money to meet basic needs like food and housing, not an inability to manage on less than $1000/month all in. 

Terms such as financial literacy or financial management are often said by the same people who say, “work harder” or “no one wants to work anymore” or “get a real job.” I decided to get some insight on all this, so, I contacted Lecker to ask about her tweet and financial literacy and poverty. We didn’t have time to talk on the phone, but she sent along some thoughts in an email: 

We hear about this often, that people just need to manage their money better. As if the issue was about personal management skills and not the actual envelope of money that people have to work with, to survive, to pay essentials like food and housing. And over-the-counter medicine, and toothbrushes, and tampons.
As a landlord, Adsum receives many rents directly from income assistance (when tenants are eligible recipients). This is always, though, the choice of tenants. The payments they receive monthly are eligible to them, not us; they have to determine and direct their caseworkers that they want their rent portion sent to us. We cannot demand it (although many landlords do). 
As for the $380 a month that is the personal portion — maybe less if folks dig into it to cover rent — how exactly do you survive on that amount unless you are excellent at budgeting?   

Lecker told me about a tenant who kept a running list on their fridge of their monthly expenses. That list was calculated down to the last few cents that remained for cat food; even that’s gone up considerably. She said she’s had tenants with Costco memberships offering a way to help other families on low incomes who might benefit from discounts on bulk items and prices. Lecker continued: 

And what about “essentials” like a small birthday present for your child or grandchild? Or an ice cream cone while walking on the boardwalk in the summer? Must we also deny that tiny pleasure to people living on low income?  

Yes, financial literacy is valuable. Having a bank account and experience making direct payments. Being able to understand bills and how to compare prices. Walking around a grocery store. These are good skills for everyone, but our problem is when we blame people for not making ends meet when they simply have too little to live on. Those comments are often made by people who have the privilege to buy a fancy coffee, people who have never had to experience or manage themselves on a meagre income.
I know that people who work hard and pull up their socks think that everyone else can just do it. But it’s not that simple. 

On April 1, minimum wage will go up to $14.50/hr. There will be another increase on Oct. 1, putting the minimum wage at $15.00/hr. The fight for $15 has been going on for years, but in that time costs have increased even more. I contacted the Department of Finance to get numbers on how many Nova Scotians earn minimum wage, but haven’t heard back yet.

Meanwhile, the living wage for Halifax is at $23.50 (in Cape Breton, the number is $20; in the northern region, $20.40; in the Annapolis Valley, $22.40; and in the southern region, $22.55).

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA-NS) calculates the living wage based on living expenses for a family of four with children between two and seven. The expenses include housing, food, clothing and footwear, transportation, child care, health care, contingency or emergency expenses, “parent education,” household expenses, and “social inclusion.” None of these expenses are luxuries.

As we’re hearing in recent stories, there are working families and professionals who are struggling to find an affordable place to live as landlords jack up rents.

A white woman with long light brown hair and wearing a purple shirt leans against a stone wall with her arms crossed.
Christine Saulnier, director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia. Credit: CCPA-NS

I contacted Christine Saulnier, the director of CCPA-NS, to chat about this issue of financial literacy and poverty. We covered a lot of ground in our 30-minute chat, but I wanted to highlight a few points about all of this.

“When we’re talking about low-wage workers, when we’re talking about people living in poverty, especially if they’re living on income assistance, they are so far below the poverty line it isn’t about budgeting,” Saulnier told me. “They don’t have enough for essentials, period.”  

Saulnier said she knows low-income earners are often the most resourceful people because they have to be resourceful.  

“They don’t have any options,” Saulnier said. “The recent research that came out around food insecurity where parents were sacrificing their own nutritional needs for their children, families who are doing that are doing everything they can to provide essentials. If you don’t have enough income in the first place, it’s not about budgeting.” 

Saulnier said living in poverty is expensive. I’ve heard this before, too.  

“I don’t think we talk about that enough,” she said. “You don’t have the time or the gas, because you’re having to take the bus to even shop. To find out where the cheapest thing is takes time and it usually takes gas. The moment the cheque bounces, you’re paying the fee because the cheque bounced. You’re paying the banking fees that people who have enough money in their accounts don’t even pay for. We reward those people who have money and we really make it really difficult for those who do not. Nobody gives you a break.” 

Saulnier pointed out a lot of people get caught in payday loans or paying reconnection fees when their cable or power is shut off. If they have any savings at all, that money is likely to pay for those situations. The living wage calculation actually includes an amount for savings that can be a cushion for such situations. 

Plus, people in poverty don’t often have the networks of people who might be able to help them out. Like a friend who can lend them a couple hundred bucks if they need it.

“We take for granted the networks we draw on,” Saulnier said. “The payday loan is an example of why living in poverty is so expensive. The banks are not providing affordable solutions for those who really need it.” 

“We are still stuck in the individual responsibility narrative, whether that has to do with why someone is homeless or why someone is in poverty or why someone needs to go to the food bank. It used to be that you could work at a gas station, at what we would call low-wage work, when it was possible to buy a house and work at those jobs. The bottom wasn’t where the bottom is today.” 

Yes, it’s true that financial literacy is important, but that’s true for anyone earning any income. The problem is people living in poverty or on low incomes have far fewer choices and struggle to live day to day let alone get ahead.

“I think we’re putting onto people’s shoulders choices they don’t actually have,” Saulnier said. “People are just trying to pay the rent, they’re trying to eat. Until we provide them with more income, they are just doing what they can with what they have.”

Saulnier also sent me the links to a couple of reports: this report says that food insecurity is reduced not by food interventions like food literacy education or community gardens, but by helping with a household’s overall financial situation. This second study found that when families received a significant increase in the child tax credit, they did, in fact, spend it on their children, but also for rental income and food.

Telling people to budget their money better really is just lazy thinking. It’s just as lazy as saying “get a real job,” “work harder,” or “no one wants to work anymore.” It’s easy to toss out these lines without understanding a person’s or a family’s circumstance.

And, as we’re seeing now, there are lots of people in troubling circumstances who are having to make choices between necessities. There are people who have jobs who have to choose between food and rent. They simply don’t have enough money. And no amount of financial literacy will fix that.

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The real beauty in aging

YouTube video

Last week, I watched this segment from 60 Minutes Australia about women over 50 embracing aging. They interviewed former supermodel Paulina Porizkova and former actress, Justine Bateman. I was a teenager in the 80s, so I know both of them well; Porizkova from the fashion world, and Bateman from the sitcom Family Ties.

Porizkova and Bateman, who are both 57, say they are done with feeling badly about getting older. Both women wrote books about their experiences: Porizkova’s book is No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, and Bateman’s book is Face: One Square Foot of Skin.

After her husband Ric Ocasek died in 2019, Porizkova started documenting her grief on Instagram. She also talks about feeling invisible as she got older. She now has millions of followers on social media where she shares photos, including pictures of herself in bikinis. She admits, though, not everyone is a fan of her photos. People have told her she should cover up, calling her a “desperate grandma” (does the shaming of women for what they wear never end?)

Bateman, meanwhile, works as a film director and said she prefers hiring actors with “expressions that are natural.” Bateman said she hasn’t had work done on her face because she feels it would erase her authority, but also because she likes looking in the mirror for the evidence that she’s a different person now than when she was 20. Porizkova described her own face as a novel of her life.

I’m glad celebrities are starting to talk about this. I’m hearing more of it, for sure, and hope it starts a bigger conversation.

I don’t plan on getting any work done. Quite frankly, I have better things to do with my time and money. And while I do believe women should go ahead and get work done if they want, I find it concerning when the beauty industry pushes Botox, fillers, and whatever surgery on women, including women in their 20s and 30s. Besides, the work won’t stop you from getting older.

Part of the reason I started the series featuring Nova Scotian women over 50 doing amazing work in their communities is for this exact reason (click here to read the profiles I’ve done so far). Women over 50 do become invisible in many ways, but the work they do is not invisible. In fact, it’s often holding many communities together. I have been inspired by all the women I wrote about. Almost as soon as I leave the interviews, I know exactly how I will write their stories.

I’ll have more stories to come, but in the meantime, this segment is worth watching and thinking about. It’s good to have a discussion on why we value women of any age for only their appearances.

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Audit Committee and Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Thursday, 1:30pm, City Hall, and online) — Audit Committee agenda; Audit and Finance Standing Committee agenda

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, City Hall) — special meeting


No meetings

On campus



Indigenous Centred Approaches to Health and Wellness (Thursday, 5:30pm, online) — panel discussionwith Elder Malcolm Saulis, Gail Baikie, Brent Young, Michelle Brun, and Cheyla Rogers; with AI-generated captions


Access to Essential Medicines: More Than Just a Human Right (Friday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building, and online) — Nav Persaud, from the University of Toronto, will talk

Voice Lecture (Friday, 1pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Glen Nowell will talk; masks mandatory, more info here

Dreamers and Thieves Devised Theatre Masterclass (Friday, 1pm, Studio 2, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — with Alex McLean; masks mandatory, more info here

From noble dream to nightmare: public opinion and economics in the tragedy of Canada’s Prices and Incomes Commission, 1968-72 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building and online) —Shirley Tillotson will talk

Research in Oral Health Student Presentations Showcase (Friday, 5pm, Dentistry Building) — Hear third-year dentistry and second-year dental students talk about their Research in Oral Health projects and view their posters and presentations, from literature reviews to original research.

Saint Mary’s

Why we need John Henry Newman NOW: His courage, wisdom and witness (Thursday, 7:30pm, Room SB 255, School of Business named after a grocery empire) — Michael W. Higgins from the University of St. Michael’s College, U of Toronto, will talk

In the harbour

06:00: ZIM Shekou, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from anchorage to Autoport
11:00: UBC Santos, cargo ship, sails from Pier 28 for sea
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 41
11:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
12:00: MSC Zlata R, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
15:30: Bess, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
16:00: ZIM Shekou, container ship, sails for New York
16:00: AS Felicia, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York 
21:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Belledune, New Brunswick
04:00 (Friday): AS Felicia sails for Kingston, Jamaica

Cape Breton
07:00: Evans Spirit, cargo ship, sails from Mulgrave for sea
13:00: Sheila Ann, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Sydney


I had an extra long weekend last week. I got in a couple of visits with friends, went horseback riding, took some naps, and swept under my sofa. Good times.

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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. Landlords have been abusing fixed term leases since the 2012 changes to the Residential Tenancies Act gave immediate security of tenure with all renewing leases. Certainly the amount of abuse of fixed term leases has increased in the past few years, but that trend started before the temporary rent cap. Thinking that an increase from 2% to 5% is going to make any sort of dent in the problem demonstrates a real ignorance (at best) on the part of the provincial government of the experiences of renters and the dynamics of landlord-tenant relationships in this province.

  2. I have an old clipping from The Coast on my fridge. It is the Philosopher Cat by Jason Logan and the balloon says “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how expensive it is to be poor.” That statement was true when I first clipped it out and it is still true today.

  3. Re poverty issues: The notion that improved financial literacy will reduce poverty is up there with the notion that better enforcement of child support will reduce poverty. Both are examples of the government avoiding social issues by pretending poverty is an individual problem.
    People who pay child support, and especially people who are behind on their child support, get very little sympathy for their money woes. However, poverty can be an issue for support payors.
    Federal and provincial income assistance plans, tax credits, rebates, and so on are all based on income BEFORE child support deductions. Even if a support payor qualifies for any of these programs, they may not receive the funds since all payments can be seized. And support payors are not entitled to any child tax credits. Support recipients are, but if they have little or no income, those credits may be of little value – saving the government money at the expense of divided families. A single income divided family can pay more tax than a single income intact family with the same income.
    A support payor in arrears, for any reason, incurs annual penalty fees on top of their arrears (i.e. they are fined for being poor). Any EI payments are reduced by 50%. And if a support payor has arrears, for any reason, NS regulations permit salary garnishment up to 100% (which only encourages under-the-table work).
    Bankruptcy programs start with the assumption that a bankrupt person needs a minimum monthly allowance to meet their living expenses. In 2022, this was $2355 for a single adult. Bankrupt persons are also allowed to keep some assets. Child support programs have no such threshold or limits on asset seizure.
    In theory, court-ordered child support is affordable for the payor, since it is based on their income. However, the courts can choose to order support based on an imputed income rather than an actual income (there are no limits on income imputing), and a support payor’s financial circumstances may change.
    Again, in theory, a support payor can return to court to get payments changed, but in practice a support change can take many years to process, and all the while the support payor incurs arrears and penalties.
    Obviously, if support is not being paid for any reason, the recipient and the children suffer, and unpaid support is one cause of poverty among children. We all hear stories of wealthy support payors evading their responsibilities. But when the support payors themselves are poor, no one benefits from programs and policies intended to punish payors that only make their poverty worse.