1. Regulators concerned about Bill 256

A white woman with long brown hair with glasses and wearing a pale colour blazer speaks into a microphone. The text says Standing Committee on Law Amendments, Patient Access to Care Act.
Raylene Langor speaks at the Standing Committee on Law Amendments.

About a dozen health profession regulators spoke at the Standing Committee on Law Amendments on Monday about their concerns with the language in Bill 256, Act to Improve Patient Access to Care. Jennifer Henderson writes:

“I know that even though a family doctor may have received training in surgery 20 years ago, I don’t want that doctor doing a hip replacement on me,” Raylene Langor told the legislature’s Law Amendments Committee yesterday.

Langor is a practicing lawyer with expertise in regulation and describes herself as a concerned citizen. She is one of more than a dozen health profession regulators who say changes are needed to the government’s proposed legislation to improve access to health care. 

Langor wants to see the language in Bill 256 tightened up to prevent the government from expanding the scope of practice without authorization from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia or regulatory body that is expert in that area. 

Langor noted that “not once” in the wording of Bill 256 does the phrase “public safety” appear. It’s also difficult to find the word “competent” in the proposed Patient Access to Care Act.

Some of the language that regulators find troubling is the term “good standing,” which they said is a poorly defined term that could simply mean a health care professional paid the annual dues or professional fees to practice in a location.

Click here to read “PCs reject move to tighten language in Bill 256 to protect patients from poorly trained or unethical health care providers.”

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2. Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area

The bow of a canoe is centred in the foreground on a still waterway. In the background, green trees, red huckleberry, and yellow grasses stand along a shoreline, along with some granite rock. The foliage is reflected in the blue, still water.
Canoeing through a stillwater between Susies and Big Cranberry Lakes in the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Wilderness Area. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“The provincial and federal governments have moved to the next step in planning for a national urban park at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes, but an advocate for the park is worried the process isn’t moving fast enough,” reports Zane Woodford.

The province signed an order in council on Friday “to authorize the Minister of Environment and Climate Change entering into a contribution agreement with Parks Canada to support work associated with the proposed National Urban Park in the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area.”

Department of Environment and Climate Change spokesperson Mikaela Etchegary told the Halifax Examiner this is the second stage in the process to create the park.

“The federal national urban park designation process consists of four stages: pre-feasibility, planning, designation, implementation,” Etchegary said in an email.

“We are now transitioning from pre-feasibility to planning. This Order-in-Council gave the Province the authority to enter into an Agreement with Parks Canada and the Government of Canada to allow Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change to support ECC’s role in the planning stage.”

Diana Whalen, a founding board member of Friends of Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes, tells Woodford the group is worried the plan isn’t moving as quickly as development in the area, calling it a “race against time.”

Click here to read “Planning for national urban park at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes moves to next stage.”

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3. Amherst emergency room reopens

A blue sign that says Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre stands outside a hospital complex with numerous cars parked outside.
Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre. Credit: Google Street View

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

A new and improved emergency department opens today at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst.

Since a flood caused significant damage and disrupted operations last May, staff have been operating out of a makeshift space. The hospital was thrust into an unwelcome spotlight last January when 37-year-old Allison Holthoff died after waiting seven hours in emergency to see a doctor. The renovation of the original space took 10 months to complete. Here is a part of a statement from Nova Scotia Health on Monday:

The changes focus on the efficient flow of patients in and out of the department and an improved patient experience. Some of the featured upgrades and renovations include additional private exam rooms and new registration and triage areas to create a more welcoming environment for patients.

The original renovation schedule was to have been completed last fall. The delay was caused by a lack of available contractors (due to both demand and illness), inspections, revised material delivery timelines and weather.

A quality review undertaken by Nova Scotia Health into the circumstances of Holthoff’s death is due to be completed soon.

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4. Mentorship program for Black students

A group of young smiling Black students stand on a wooden platform with a lighthouse standing on rocks in the background. The day is hazy and there are some white caps on the grey ocean water.
Students from the Black Youth Development Mentorship Program (BYDMP) in 2022. Credit: Contributed by Sierra Jordan

“Applications are now open for a summer jobs program for Black high school students in Nova Scotia aimed at getting more Black people involved with careers with the provincial government,” reports Matthew Byard.

The Black Youth Development Mentorship Program (BYDMP) is now in its third year. The program offers jobs throughout various provincial government departments specifically to students in grades 11 and 12 who identify as persons of African descent. The students must be pursuing post-secondary education at a university or community college.  

“I would say don’t be intimidated, apply, and take advantage of this opportunity because you never know what doors it could open for you,” said Sierra Jordan, who entered the BYDMP the first year of the program in 2021 as a Grade 11 student. 

Each position is for an eight-week full-time work placement, Monday to Friday. The jobs pay above minimum wage.

Once accepted, each participant is paired with a mentor within their department who identifies as a person of African descent.

Click here to read “Nova Scotia wants to hire Black high school students through summer mentorship program.”

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5. Booze prices up

A row of vodka bottles on a shelf at the NSLC.
Alcohol products on an NSLC shelf in July, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

Bruce Frisko at CTV Atlantic spoke with NSLC customers who say they were shocked at prices of alcohol when shopping on Monday.

Retiree John McCracken was picking up his usual bottle of wine when he spoke to CTV News outside the NSLC store on Joseph Howe Drive in Halifax.

“I bought last week, the same bottle was $2 less,” said McCracken. “We’re talking like $15, $16 bottle of wine. So not high-end wine.”

“If you go into that liquor store right now, people are going to be shocked.”

CTV also got comment from NSLC, which said the overall cost increases amount to 3%, less than inflation:

“It has to do with overall costs to our supplier community. So that could be anything from freight, transportation, commodities costs, things like glass or aluminum, or other commodities like barley — all of those things are seeing an increase in price, and that’s what factoring in to the overall price increase,” said Allison Himmelman, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC).

In January, NSLC reported an increase in earnings of 6.6%. On April 1, federal excise taxes are set to increase another 6.3 per cent; that’s the biggest hike in 40 years.

Dimo Georgakakos, owner of the Gus’ Pub & Grill in Halifax, said some of those increased costs in booze will have to be passed onto customers:

“We’ve been absorbing so many things, and in the bar business we’re a stoic bunch, and we just sort of put our heads down and keep doing it. And now, they just sort of do that and we’ve got to pass it on and it’s going to make customers come here less,” said Georgakakos.

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Swamped with offers in just days, listing for historic Acadian church taken off the market

An aerial shot of a church made from grey granite stones. The church has three red doors and a stone cross on top. In the background is the ocean while a two lane highway runs in front. There is a lineup of cyclists driving on the road. A few pickup trucks are parked in a grassy area across from the church. Houses are located along the road.
Saint Bernard Catholic Church. Credit: Trevor Jones/La Société Héritage Saint Bernard

A real estate listing that was posted on Thursday got so many offers that the listing was taken down and now the seller is considering the many offers that came in.

Remax posted a listing for Saint Bernard Church at 3623 Highway #1 in the St. Mary’s Bay area. As the listing said, the church took 32 years to build and was opened in 1942. But as the number of people attending church dropped, the archdiocese decided to put the church up for sale. The asking price? $250,000. Here’s more from the listing:

Stone structure with reinforced steel. Over 8000 blocks of granite were used in its construction. They were transported by railroad and oxen from Shelburne NS to St. Bernard for a period of 20 years, a distance of 120 miles by railroad. Built by local parishioners, over a 32 year period, construction began in 1910 and was completed in 1942. The building has close to one million cubic feet of inside volume, which qualifies it to rank among the largest churches in eastern Canada, 96 tons of mixed plaster completes the inside of the building. The Douglas fur plywood used in the pews and wall panels was brought from British Columbia. Includes the pipe organ, with 20 stops and 32 feet base pipes. Unbelievable acoustics. 

Here’s a video of the church on YouTube:

YouTube video

I had this Views all written when I noticed the listing had been taken down. In an email, realtor Lester Doucet said they were “swamped with calls and emails and offers.” I contacted the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth and spokesperson Aurea Sadi sent this in an email:

The listing received more offers than expected. It is not sold yet. The Archdicoese, along with the parish leadership, are in the process of reviewing all the offers in an effort to accept the offer that would be the most beneficial to the local community.

Many in the church community have worked for years to find a plan to save the church. That includes Jean LeBlanc, president of La Société Héritage Saint Bernard, a group formed in 2001 to raise funds to maintain the building as a community and cultural centre. LeBlanc said the society isn’t opposed to the sale of the church, but they’d like to see the plans for the space benefit the community.

“It is great to see such great interest in the building, we hope that if somebody buys it they will make something wonderful for the community with it,” LeBlanc told me in a message this morning.

LeBlanc and I first spoke on Saturday, a couple of days after the listing first went up. He told me the church actually closed for services because of COVID, although the number of people attending mass was down to about 30 or 40 each week. The church was deconsecrated in June 2022.

A black and white photo of a stone church. The photo dates from about the 1940s. There are people milling about outside the church and old cars are lined up along the loop of a driveway in front of the church.
Saint Bernard Church. Credit: La Société Héritage Saint Bernard

The society has worked for years to find ways to keep Saint Bernard in the community in some way. They have written letters to the archdiocese and have a detailed history of the church and a Facebook group where they post historic photos. LeBlanc said the community knew decades ago that the future of the church was uncertain. And, of course, the church is an important landmark for the Acadian community.

“The sadness is they don’t know what is going to happen to the building,” LeBlanc said on Saturday. “They don’t want to see it destroyed.” 

The society even worked with Jost Architect in Annapolis Royal to come up with a high-level plan for 28 apartments in the church. That report had a breakdown of the revenue the rents would generate from the apartments (the plan included apartments with one, two, and three bedrooms). LeBlanc said just like every other area in the province, St. Mary’s Bay needs housing.

“It’s a beautiful location,” LeBlanc said. “Who wouldn’t want to live in that building?”

That kind of project would cost, though, with estimates at about $10 million.

“You would need outside help either from someone really generous or government input from the federal, municipal, provincial level,” LeBlanc said. “Who knows, maybe even the archdiocese would add money for goodwill to make something like that happen.” 

“I think if they want to save it they will have to find a developer to work in partnership with somebody, either government agencies or something like that. If it was in the city, it wouldn’t be a problem, but since it’s in a rural area, it’s hard to find a big developer like that.” 

Certainly, turning an old church into housing isn’t a new idea. I wrote about this before in this story, New Life for Old Churches. This former church in Hunter River, PEI was turned into condos, which are now for sale. According to that listing, there are five condos left at a starting price of $259,000.

On Monday, I spoke with Suzanne Lefort, who was the former parish treasurer and now sits on the finance committee for the Parish of Notre Dame d’Acadie, an amalgamtion of six parishes in the community.

“I hope it goes to someone who will either develop or use it for something that will benefit the community,” Lefort said. “That’s everyone’s wish. No one wanted to see it closed.”

A church made of grey stone on a sunny summer day. There is a step of steps leading up to three doors that are painted in red.
Saint Bernard in the summer of 2022. Credit: Suzanne Rent

Saint Bernard isn’t the only church in the community residents have rallied behind to preserve. Église Sainte-Marie in Church Point, about a seven-minute drive from Saint Bernard, is now closed, too. That church, the largest and tallest wooden church in North America, was built in 1905. It held its last service on Christmas Eve 2019. Société Édifice Sainte-Marie de la Pointe worked for three years to find funding to save the church, but the costs rose to $10 million to save it.

There are a number of statues inside the church now that won’t be sold with the building. LeBlanc said he and the community would like to know what will happen with those statues. He said he’d like to see those items put in a catalogue of sorts. Lefort, meanwhile, told me that those items will be stored in other churches that are still operating. The cemetery in the back of Saint Bernard was separated off from the property on which the building sits and will be maintained by the parish.

On Saturday, LeBlanc told me he thinks there’s a “50-50 chance” Saint Bernard will be saved.

“I think if it gets saved, it would have to be done before the end of next year. Next year is the World Acadian Congress… the only time the three levels of government would get together to preserve the building and help the community.”

I guess it’s now a wait-and-see if any of those offers turn into something.

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The latest in “no one wants to work anymore” stories

A white sign with black font that says Help Wanted is taped to a window
Quiet hiring just means more workers will be exploited. Credit: Tim Mossholder

Erin Pottie at CBC speaks with business owners in Cape Breton who say despite offering perks, they’re still struggling to find people to work. Pottie writes:

Trina Doucette and her husband own Doucette’s Market and Eatery in Ingonish Ferry, N.S., located along the Cabot Trail. The year-round business has been open for more than three decades, but Doucette said finding staff has been nearly impossible in recent years. 

“If we do manage to get somebody in the door to work they just don’t last,” Doucette said. “It’s like a revolving door. They’re there for, at most, a couple of months and then they’re gone.” 

The family-run business pays its lead cooks $20 per hour, well above the current $13.60 minimum wage in Nova Scotia.

They’ve even purchased a three-bedroom house next to the business, along with two travel trailers, for employees to rent at a cost of $500 per bedroom. But all of those spaces are empty.

Doucette said there are fewer young people living in the area. Cape Breton University offered a shuttle service to bring students from Sydney to seasonal businesses in Richmond, Inverness, and Victora counties. Doucette said while that helped a bit, because of the distance between Sydney and Ingonish — a two-hour drive — it doesn’t work for students at the end of the school year.

Mary Devoe owns Jane’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, which is half an hour outside Sydney, but is still having trouble finding workers. Devoe said she pays her top cooks $18/hr and blames people’s work ethic for not being able to find workers:

“I don’t want to offend anybody by saying it, but the work ethic is just not there for me — that’s how I feel,” Devoe said.

She also said workers are staying on just to get enough hours to quit and then apply for EI.

Listen, if there are businesses like these everywhere looking for workers, those workers will choose jobs that are closer to home. That’s especially true if the workers don’t have a car and have managed to find housing close to school. Students won’t give up their housing during the school year to stay in temporary housing hours outside the city, no matter the pay. If there are jobs in the city, they will take those. I don’t blame them.

And as several commenters mentioned, who wants their employer to also be their landlord? Offering rent of $500 for a bedroom is not exactly a perk. Living next door to your job could mean you’re always on call.

People want to work, but they also want to establish a life. Sure, they may want to live in a rural community, but they would prefer to find a more permanent home and not live in their boss’s travel trailer forever. And certainly traveling a couple of hours each way, every day, means your job takes up most of your life. No one wants their job to be their life anymore.

I also don’t buy that people are working only long enough to get the hours they need to collect EI. You have to have just cause for quitting a job in order to collect EI.

Pottie also spoke with Jenna Lahey, CEO of the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce, who rightly said the worker shortage is widespread. Lahey said transportation is a huge issue, adding ride-hailing services need to be more accessible.

“You just can’t accept a position that’s not going to help you meet the needs that you’re seeing,” Lahey said. “It’s really unfortunate that we’re in this position. But that’s the reality of it right now.”

I know, this all isn’t great news for businesses in rural communities, but don’t blame people’s work ethic.

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No meetings


Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall and online) — agenda



Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place and online) — Agency, Board and Commission Appointments

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) 


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, One Government Place and online) — Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission – Annual Report, Business Plan, Accountability Report and Financial Statements; with representatives from Nova Scotia legal Aid Commission

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House) 

On campus



Peer Gynt (Tuesday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — Dal Theatre production, until April 1; tickets $15/$10, more info here


What is frailty good for in people living with cardiovascular disease? (Wednesday, 11:30am, Room C150, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Scott Kehler will talk

Dal Reads 2023: Desmond Cole in Conversation with El Jones (Wednesday, 7pm, MacMechan Auditorium, Killam Library) — the author of The Skin We’re In will talk; from the listing:

In this bracing, revelatory work of award-winning journalism, celebrated writer and activist Desmond Cole punctures the naive assumptions of Canadians who believe we live in a post-racial nation. Chronicling just one year in the struggle against racism in this country, The Skin We’re In reveals in stark detail the injustices faced by Black Canadians on a daily basis: the devastating effects of racist policing, the hopelessness produced by an education system that fails Black children, the heartbreak of those separated from their families by discriminatory immigration laws, and more. Cole draws on his own experiences as a Black man in Canada, and locates the deep cultural, historical, and political roots of each event. What emerges is a personal, painful, and comprehensive picture of entrenched, systemic inequality.

Free event, with free copies of the book available

Peer Gynt (Wednesday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — Dal Theatre production, until April 1; tickets $15/$10, more info here


Representations of Decolonization at a Generational Remove (Tuesday, 7pm, KTS Lecture Hall) — Asha Jeffers will talk

In the harbour

15:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
23:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Baltimore, Maryland
03:30 (Wednesday): Atlantic Sail sails for Hamburg, Germany

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


I think stories on old churches is my new beat.

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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

A smiling white woman with short silver hair wearing dark rimmed glasses and a bright blue blazer.

Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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    1. I didn’t, until you pointed it out. My imagination then showed me what a church with furry walls and pews might look like. Thanks for the laugh. 🙂

  1. In fairness to business owners having trouble finding staff, especially in rural areas, there are conditions hard to overcome with even a generous salary, like lack of child care, lack of transportation, lack of community amenities, and so on. At least some of the blame lies with provincial and municipal politicians who cater to wealthy investors, corporations, and tourists, rather than creating towns where people want to stay or move to. A question worth asking local employers: Are you demanding your politicians create a town where people want to live? Or are you demanding tax breaks?

  2. > She also said workers are staying on just to get enough hours to quit and then apply for EI.

    Displaying in full that she has no idea how EI works. Very good.

  3. When I went to Université Sainte-Anne, I remember going by both churches on my way to the Digby ferry. I certainly hope Église Sainte-Marie can be salvaged, as it is an icon in the community (similar to the old train station in McAdam, NB…they raised the money and kept it as a national historic site).

  4. I love it when capitalists bleat about how they can’t get a fair shake under capitalism, when their hallowed rules about supply and demand and dog-eat-dog competition bite them on the ass. If you can’t make a profit running a cafe in downtown Nowhereville that’s on you for making a bad business decision, not on workers who don’t want to work for you–under the conditions you offer. Change the conditions–offer much higher pay, provide a limo service to and from work. If such things seem beyond reason and are far beyond your capacity you shouldn’t be in business. Private business owners seem to think workers owe them the chance to make money for themselves–a presumption that they somehow do not extend to workers themselves. Capitalism is, by definition, a proud dog-eat-dog economic system. It owes no one a living: not workers and not business owners. That’s the problem. The one business owners never object to–until it’s them.