1. Pitch your tent here … or else
A Halifax staff report proposes sanctioning overnight tenting in some parks, and evicting people from all others in the municipality. The staff report, by parks and recreation special projects manager Max Chauvin and parks and recreation executive director Maggie MacDonald, comes to council today, Zane Woodford reports:
There are 562 people experiencing homelessness in HRM as of April 27, according to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, and there are only 220 shelter beds in the municipality.
In response, Chauvin and MacDonald’s plan would allow 20 people to stay in parks long-term, while allowing another 44 to sleep in select parks overnight.
In the overnight locations, tents will have to be removed by 8am, and can only be set up after 8pm. The report also notes that tenting will be permitted for people without homes, not for recreational campers.
While Chauvin and MacDonald acknowledge that enforcement action left people traumatized and damaged trust between HRM and its residents, their report leaves the door open for the same thing to happen again.
“If the occupant of a tent, shelter or other structure in an area not designated for shelter refuses to move and the occupant has been offered a suitable housing alternative or space in a designated area, the municipality may require the occupant to move through enforcement actions,” Chauvin and MacDonald wrote.
In a CBC story by Nicola Seguin, Deputy Mayor Pam Lovelace says:
“This report is so important because it is a culmination of conversations with dozens of stakeholders and residents, community groups, service providers, folks who have lived unhoused. And this report is their voices.”
But, Woodford reports (as does Seguin) that P.A.D.S Community Network says no unhoused people were consulted for the report.
What could possibly go wrong?
2. COVID-19 infection increases pregnancy risks
Yvette d’Entremont looks at a new study on how COVID-19 affects pregnancy. The study, Association of SARS-CoV-2 Infection During Pregnancy With Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes, looked at 6,012 completed pregnancies between March 2020 and October 2021 in six provinces, including Nova Scotia.
Deborah Money of the University of British Columbia obstetrics and gynecology department said that being being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, significantly increases the risk of hospitalization, ICU admission, and premature birth:
The data showed that being pregnant was associated with a significantly increased risk of COVID–19-related hospitalization compared with cases among all women between the ages of 20 to 49 in the general population of Canada (7.75% vs 2.93%).
Pregnant people also experienced an increased risk of intensive care/critical care unit admission when compared to the same non-pregnant population (2.01% vs 0.37%)…
Money said it’s critical that clinicians and public health planners be aware that pregnant people are at risk for more serious disease from COVID-19 infections and need to be closely monitored. Knowing the increased risks, she said they should also be considered a priority for preventative or therapeutic COVID-19 medications.
Money also tells d’Entremont that, “Our study is one of the few in Canada that really demonstrates that individuals that were non-white had both higher rates of infection and higher burden of complications.”
3. Yes, but how much does it pay?
Over the weekend, CBC ran a story about salary transparency. The story, by Gillian Wheatley and Lien Yeung, notes that young people in particular want to know what jobs pay:
A recent survey from Bankrate.com, a personal finance website in the U.S., says young people are breaking the taboo around talking about money. Approximately 40 per cent of millennial and generation Z employees have told coworkers what they make.
That’s compared to 31 per cent of gen-Xers, those aged 42 to 57, but only 19 per cent of baby boomers, those aged 57 to 76.
The writers speak to Spencer Miller, who works for a software company called Bench, which posts salaries in job ads:
He describes the current job market as “a candidate’s market.” And says by posting the information, they’re creating a relationship of trust from the get-go…
As part of that wider push for transparency, Bench also began posting current job titles and salary bands so that people working within the company have an idea of where they could go…
“It turns out that when you do the right thing, it often generates really great outcomes as well,” Miller said.
There’s also a quote that kills me from University of Colorado economics professor Hani Mansour:
“It’s creating a lot of headaches for HR departments,” he said. “There’s now a bigger effort to standardize job codes, figure out you know whether job titles make sense or not [and] what is comparable work.”
In other words, you know, doing their job.
I grew up in the “don’t talk about money” era and didn’t really think much about it. Then, back in the 1990s, I went to cover a talk by a woman who was a professional fundraiser, and who had been one of the founders of the first women’s shelter in the US. I no longer have the story I wrote, so I don’t remember her name, but I do remember her saying that taboos around discussing money helped only employers. If you don’t know what others are making, it is much easier to exploit you, and women and young people suffer disproportionately.
I cannot think of a single reason that benefits employees to hide this information. Not disclosing it wastes people’s time and shows a real lack of respect. I recently interviewed for a position editing a quarterly magazine, and the organization stated in their call for applicants that everyone who was selected for an interview would be paid $75, in recognition of the effort that goes into preparing. That seems like a policy that shows respect to applicants and also enforces some discipline on the selection process.
New York City is set to require salary ranges in job ads, and Colorado and Washington State already mandate this.
As a freelancer, I am consistently appalled by publications that don’t explicitly state what they pay. I recently read a very comprehensive 2,500-word set of writers’ guidelines for a magazine, with not one word about what they pay, other than the rates for fiction and poetry. Even worse, these guidelines were pitched as everything you need to know. Er, not quite.
4. Renaming Bridgey McBridgeface
Organizations love contests for naming things. And, often, they also love ignoring the results. Back when the Confederation Bridge was being built, there was a name-the-bridge contest. As I recall, Abegweit, an Anglicized version of the Mi’kmaw name for PEI, which is Epekwitk, was the most popular choice among Islanders. It was also the name of one of the ferries that did the Northumberland Strait crossing before the bridge was built.
But the federal public works minister at the time, Diane Marleau, decided on Confederation Bridge as the name.
Saint Mary’s University English professor Raymond Sewell, who is from the Pabineau First Nation, wrote his master’s thesis on the history of the bridge. In a CBC story about the naming of the bridge, Arturo Chang writes:
Sewell wrote in his thesis that by choosing that name, the federal government shifted the dynamic from the region and toward the federation, and was the perfect opportunity to reinforce a narrative of Canadian-ness which began with that historical event.
“The word ‘confederation’ [means] a sovereign union coming together with a common action or purpose. In this case, it was the scourge and removal of Indigenous people from the continent,” he said.
“Confederation is not benign. In this context, it’s extreme. It’s celebrating the daddies of Confederation coming together to destroy environment, resources — you know, Indigenous intellectualism. So for me, it meant everything then and it means everything now.”
The PEI legislature voted unanimously last week to urge the federal government to change the name of the bridge to Epekwitk Crossing.
Rhetoric ramps up over non-resident property tax
The “Why the non-resident property tax is unfair to me” column has replaced the “Why I moved to Nova Scotia during the pandemic” column, which in turn replaced the “Why I am leaving Nova Scotia” column.
I know my strengths and weaknesses, and taxation policy in general is not one of my strengths. I don’t know if the increase in taxes on properties by non-residents is good public policy or if it is misguided. I don’t know if it casts too broad a net or not. I don’t know if it will have the effect the government hopes (presuming that effect goes beyond collecting more general tax revenue.)
What I do know is there seems to a lot of over-heated rhetoric about the policy.
Writing in the Globe and Mail on April 22, Noah Richler, who owns a property in Sandy Cove, opens with this sentence:
It’s harder and harder to believe in Canada these days.
The most recent example of this is taking place in Nova Scotia, where Premier Tim Houston’s Progressive Conservative government is on its way to passing a budget with new and onerous property taxes to be imposed exclusively upon the approximately 27,000 homeowners from out-of-province. These fellow Canadians, in most instances, are being penalized – and demonized.
Again, disagreeing with the policy? Sure. But this is the latest example of why “it’s harder and harder to believe in Canada”? Really? In case you think this rhetoric is overheated, Richler then casts himself in the last paragraph as a brave Canadian standing up to these forces of evil:
More to the point, I shall never renounce my citizenship to the greater country – to, pace Ms. Corkum-Greek, the greater idea. Which is Canada. From coast to coast to coast. The whole of Canada is home and we all have a right to be anywhere in its glorious variety – without penalty or prejudice.
On April 30, SaltWire published a piece by Robert Scott called “Nova Scotia taxman targeting my 200-year-old heritage.” Scott, who lives in London, England, talks about his family’s deep roots in Nova Scotia, and how every summer, even though they now live elsewhere, they all gather at their cottage in St. Margaret’s Bay. You can see a photo of the home if you click on the story. The writing is a little florid, but effective. I felt for Scott.
Then the rhetoric ramps up:
These are my roots, and it keeps me grounded wherever I may be in the world. Only now, the Nova Scotia government has dangled this all above the flames and asked how much money I am prepared to pay to keep it. My new property tax bill is expected to be about $20,000 per year, which is something I cannot make work. I am told that I am part of the problem, unwelcome, and perceived as an oligarch.
And then it really ramps up:
The true victim here is a part of our soul and our culture. Now, we all have to ask ourselves how much those ties that make us Nova Scotians are worth in dollars and cents, and see if it’s enough to cover the titanic new bill from the government.
I feel like I’ve been hit with extortion from the mob, only in this case, I can’t call the police. The long-term damage here is clear, and it’s not about the money.
Thinking of politicians, I remember the inspiration from Eileen O’Connell, a former MLA, but also my English teacher at Halifax West, who finally turned me on to literature with Albert Camus’ The Outsider. I still recall the last lines. They seem appropriate to me now, trying to keep down the complex emotions I feel at the final cut and ripping out of my roots, like a stubborn old alder tree that has finally lost hold. “For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.”
In case we didn’t get the point, yesterday SaltWire ran a piece by Roger Roome called, “Nova Scotia’s new non-resident tax an attack on my family.”
Again, the writer discusses his deep roots in the province. Roome lives in Halifax, and used to share a cottage he built with his sister. She lives in Florida now, and she bought him out in 2003:
She is healthy and active, and planned to keep coming every summer until she couldn’t anymore, and then leave it to her son. She spent the last 30 summers coaxing along fruit-bearing trees which are now mature, so that generations who are not born yet might eat peaches, plums, apples and cherries from their own property, and be stunned by the same sunsets making the sand bars turn gold. It’s a basic, small cottage but comfortable and it’s what my sister could afford.
She is retired and alone, on a fixed income, and cannot absorb tripled taxes, not even for one year.
Roome manages to make his case in a clear and straightforward way. Honestly, it was refreshing. He ends, not by casting himself as a freedom fighter, or referring to a public execution:
My sister and I are both ninth-generation Nova Scotians. But I am a resident of Nova Scotia and I vote here. Do you think I will forget who did this to my family?
Earlier this week, journalist Shannon Proudfoot (one of my favourite Canadian features writers) shared an image of old-timey elementary school gym apparatus on Twitter. One of those “Who remember this?” posts. And the replies were filled with people talking about how it was so fun when that climbing set came out, and how they loved climbing the ropes, and doing the flexed-arm hang, and chin-ups and so on.
I felt like I was peering into a parallel universe. These were the people who liked elementary school gym class, which, to me, was mostly a source of misery (floor hockey and handball excepted.) The nadir of gym class for people my age was the Canada Fitness Awards, where we had to go through a series of tests to show how unfit we were compared to 65-year-old Swedes (enter the dreaded flexed-arm hang).
As an adult, I eventually came around to the idea of working out, going to the gym, even sometimes enjoying it — though, really, most of the time still being somewhat reluctant about it.
I know this experience is far from unique. And I was thinking about it while reading the latest from Amanda Mull in The Atlantic, who asks this simple question: “Why is beginner-level exercise treated like a niche?”
For decades, exercise instruction for adults has functioned on largely the same principle. What the fitness industry calls a “beginner” is usually someone relatively young and capable who wants to become more conventionally attractive, get swole, or learn a trendy workout such as high-intensity interval training or barre. If you’re a novice looking for a path toward these more intense routines, most of the conventional gyms, fitness studios, and exercise experts that offer them don’t have much for you—come back when you’ve developed on your own the endurance and core strength to avoid barfing, crying, or injuring yourself in the first 10 minutes. The situation is even worse if you have no designs on getting ripped and instead just want to build a baseline of capability, whether that’s for hoisting your toddler, shaking off the stiffness of a desk job, or living independently as you age.
On the surface, this is pretty dumb.
We had the Canada Fitness Awards; the US had the Presidential Fitness Test:
If you’re not familiar with the test or have repressed those memories, it was a biannual quasi-military exercise developed in the 1960s that required children as young as 6 to, among other things, run a mile as quickly as possible, do as many pull-ups as their little arms could handle, and get weighed, usually while all of their peers looked on. The criteria for passage varied over the years, and, in between tests, schools weren’t required to teach kids anything in particular that would help them improve their scores on the skill components. Instead, the test reflected the priorities of the system that created it: For example, kids deemed “overweight” couldn’t fully pass the test, even if they outperformed their classmates. The whole system was a big missed opportunity: Instead of engendering curiosity about physical activity and giving kids skills to build their capability, PE separated them into the physical haves and have-nots…
As it turns out, you can’t just teach millions of children that exercise is painful, humiliating, or a punishment for their failures and expect them to swan into adulthood with healthy, moderate beliefs about their bodies. Instead, they follow the lessons they’ve learned about themselves, and about exercise: Some people avoid ever entering a gym again and shy away from activities that might draw attention to their physical capabilities, such as hiking or dancing.
The whole piece is worth your time. Moving your body should be good and fun and not filled with stress. It struck me a couple of years ago when I was interviewing Dal profs for a piece on fitness that they never said the word “exercise.” Too many negative connotations. They talked about movement, pleasure, finding things you like that get your body going and focusing on those.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 2pm) — virtual meeting
Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Housing Options for Cape Breton, with representatives from Cape Breton Island Housing Authority, Cape Breton University, and Dept. of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Nova Scotia Power’s Proposed Rate Hikes, with representatives from Dept. of Environment and Climate Change, Dept. of Natural Resources and Renewables, Efficiency Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Power, and Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board
Diverse genomes and mitochondrion-related organelles in a novel clade of metamonads (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Building) — Shelby Williams will talk
Mount Saint Vincent
Wicked Bodies (Tuesday, 7pm) — virtual screening and discussion of documentary series; from the listing:
A project dedicated to holding space and bringing a more compassionate lens to disordered eating in the queer community. These free events welcome 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, community service providers, scholars, students, healthcare providers, and the general public to a screening and facilitated discussion of Wicked Bodies – a toolkit to help to reduce stigma, generate hope, and invite more open conversation among 2SLGBTQIA+ folks struggling with disordered eating, eating disorders, and body dysmorphia.
In-person screening Thursday, May 26, 7pm, room EVR104
In the harbour
06:00: MSC Santhya, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Naples, Italy
06:30: Thunder Bay, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Montreal
10:00: Atlantic Marlin, cargo barge, moves from Pier 6 to IEL
10:30: MSC Brianna, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
15:30: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
16:00: Maersk Penang, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
20:00: Thunder Bay sails for sea
23:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Baltimore
11:00: Mia Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Government Dock (Sydney) for sea
14:30: Indigo Sun, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
My Morning File soundtrack for today was Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan. It’s a pandemic home studio recording. And it’s really good.
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I would appreciate if someone could point me to the data that indicates non-residents are outbidding locals or are responsible for the cumulative gap between listing prices and sale prices, particularly in rural areas where many “second homes” are actually just simple cabins rather than luxurious lodges. There are plenty of born and bred Nova Scotians residing in NS who are gleefully ready to pay whatever they can to own a home on the peninsula or just outside. The province really wants to have its cake and eat it too, huh? Welcoming enough to outsiders with just a hint of nativism.
I can’t share data but the “tourism Nova Scotia” Instagram feed is a comedic spoof and has a pretty funny one about how to drive up the prices for Ontario bidders who are FaceTiming a real estate buy.
After reading the banal tripe of your incredibly underinformed and socialist writer it leaves me with disdain .
For many communities in the province the only reason the arts ,restaurants and local community philanthropic support exist is due to what the “seasonal” Canadian and NS expats bring back to the province.
Discriminating through punitive taxation on those living just outside the borders of the province based solely on location will come back to haunt the province.
Come visit, but don’t stay. “Nova Scotia for Nova Scotians only.”
Meh. The people who work in the restaurants, bakeries, hospitals, shops are struggling to live anywhere because the first rung on the property ladder is now untenable. Sellers know they can ask more and local buyers can’t afford it. You can split hairs about 3 season family shacks or 2 milllion dollar estates not being realistic options for families in need but many of those, because of when they were bought or built are assessed well below market value. If I have a million dollar cottage that I paid 250k for 10 years ago, it may be assessed at 275k. If I buy a 275k house today they’re both paying the same tax. The million dollar cottage on the sea and the 275k minihome. It’s a messed up system.
I have been working at my desk since dawn and I have not finished my task – but I have to move because I think my blood has stopped carrying oxygen to my brain.
Time for walkies – the dog’s word for exercise…
This non-resident tax policy is a huge story in rural Nova Scotia, for many of the reasons articulated in the Roger Roome piece. Our family members are being gouged by an ill-informed policy that has no data to support it. The economic impact will be huge as many of these property owners- who by the way pay the same property taxes as their Nova Scotian neighbours- invest heavily in local commerce, the arts and infrastructure like local charities in support of hospitals, museums, etc. It is a fiasco and Premier Houston should have the courage to change his mind.
Most of these”come from away” property owners reside as citizens in extremely well heeled countries like the USA or Germany. If you look at the exchange on USD to CDN, you can see right away they are already receiving quite a tax break. I have no sympathy for people from away who are destabilizing our housing market, making it impossible for Nova Scotians of all ages and incomes to afford to live in their homeland. Our island is precious, if you want to be here- pay for it. Otherwise, we don’t see the value in you sucking up our natural resources, land, and housing.
Right on. Good to read a post that recognizes the serious implications of the proposed new property tax policy. It’s way more than just cottages. “Fiasco” sums it up perfectly. As for “over-heated rhetoric” and “sob stories”, people have been sucker-punched and are speaking out, as well they might. Oh wait! News flash. Shifting whispering sands; stay tuned for another episode of “we don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re doing it anyway.”
The sheer entitlement of these sob stories about their vacation cottage in Canada getting taxed more is so gross. I doubt these taxes will help with the housing situation – it will make it easier for rich Nova Scotians to buy cottages relative to “outsiders”, but cottages don’t provide primary housing close enough to jobs and services. I do like that it places the tax burden on asset owners rather than workers – maybe next we can start taxing all homes worth more than a million dollars regardless of who owns them.
… or counting windows in lieu of valuations? Groan. Iain T.
Everyone who should have a say in what we call the bridge to PEI has agreed on the name of the bridge to PEI. Epekwitk Is what it should be. Canada Day would be a good time to make it official. I am sure there will be all kinds of wringing of hands and othe BS processes that will be cited. Just do it. It should have been named that from the get go.
Next to your comrades in the national fitness program
Caught in some eternal flexed arm hang
Droppin’ to the mat in a fit of laughter
Showed no patience, tolerance or restraint
I hated gym class as a child because of the Canada Fitness Award. I was a chubby kid and never did well on any of the test exercises. I’m still a chubby adult and I do tend to avoid gyms, although I have had a gym membership in the past (back when I could afford one) Today, I refer to the great outdoors as my gym and get my exercise primarily from walking, along with a few body weight exercises that I can do on a yoga mat in the privacy of my own home. I only compete with myself and I think I’m doing pretty well. I’m not as chubby as I was. According to outdated BMI charts, I’m almost out of the obese category (just a few more kgs to go). That’s my goal for 2022 – to get into the overweight category. I think I just might make it. 🙂
“The whole of Canada is home and we all have a right to be anywhere in its glorious variety – without penalty or prejudice.” I suspect plenty of newcomers to Nova Scotia, especially when looking for work or accommodations, would be amused to hear someone with deep roots in Nova Scotia make that claim.