1. Power rates

A man in a dark suit sits at a table next to Nova Scotia flags.
Premier Tim Houston speaks with reporters on Nov. 24, 2022. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

“Premier Tim Houston is unhappy with an agreement between Nova Scotia Power and advocates representing consumers, businesses, an environmental group, and low-income people that would see power rates rise almost 14% over the next two years,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Nova Scotia Power has declined a request by the Halifax Examiner to estimate how much the monthly bill will increase in January but calculations based on information that has been filed suggest the average residential consumer will see an increase in the neighbourhood of $11-12 each month.

Henderson shows that Houston’s posturing is mostly irrelevant when it comes to controlling the actual costs to ratepayers:

Houston repeatedly said his only objective was to “protect ratepayers.” However, at the time Bill 212 was introduced, he also acknowledged fuel costs have to be paid. 

What he didn’t say but must have known is that fuel costs require more than half the revenue raised from power rates. And if that’s not enough, the unpaid balance gets pushed down the road to be paid later. 

As Natural Resources Minister Tory Rushton said when he introduced the bill for final reading, “ we did what we could to control the expenses we could control.”

 A 1.8% increase in power rates was only ever going to represent a portion of the total increase, regardless of posturing by Conservative politicians. 

Nova Scotia Power filed evidence in September showing fuel costs for 2023 and 2024 were projected to be over $600 million, up one-third since the spring estimate. The settlement agreement reached by other participants in the rate hearing spreads out that pain over a longer time period. It will be up to the independent regulator, the Utility and Review Board, to decide whether to accept or reject that proposal. 

Click here to read “Houston asks UARB to reject power rates deal.”

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

2. Schools

The backs of children's heads are seen as a teacher gestures at the front of the classroom standing to the side of a large whiteboard.
Photo by Anni Roenkae on Credit: Taylor Flowe/

“Public schools in Nova Scotia are in crisis,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

That was the message delivered to the province’s standing committee on human resources Tuesday afternoon by the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) and teachers representing Educators for Social Justice.

“Our schools are in crisis every day because we do not have the right number of substitute teachers. They (teachers) are being pulled from our most vulnerable kids,” NSTU president Ryan Lutes told the committee. 

“Our teachers are overworked because of it. It is a crisis. It’s a crisis that requires government action, in my view, today.”

Lutes said it’s no secret the past months and years have been challenging for schools. 

“A perfect storm of population growth coupled with a COVID pandemic and now the current respiratory illness increase has only served to exacerbate a teaching shortage that has been building for nearly a decade,” he said.

Click here to read “‘Schools are in crisis’: more subs, better working conditions needed, union president says.”

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

3. Bank of Canada doing its best to worsen the housing crisis

Apartment buildings in Halifax. Photo: Zane Woodford

Yesterday, StatCan released the third quarter 2022 report on GDP, income and expenditure.

Among other details, the report relays “Housing investment declines”:

Housing investment (-4.1%) declined for the second consecutive quarter, coinciding with higher interest rates. Renovations (-6.6%) were down for the second consecutive quarter, and resale activities (-13.8%) were down for the third consecutive quarter. These declines were partly offset by new construction (+2.4%), which rose after four quarters of decreases. Ontario, the western provinces, and Nunavut recorded increases in new housing construction, while the Atlantic provinces and Quebec posted decreases. On a nominal basis, housing investment represented 8.2% of GDP, a decline from the more than double digit proportion from early 2021.

The higher interest rates didn’t just drop from the sky. They are a conscious policy decision to induce a recession, specifically in order to cut wages to working people. That policy is wrong-headed, and isn’t addressing reality. As economist Jim Stanford notes, the Bank’s “”narrative that inflation is driven by overheated domestic demand is fantasy. Domestic demand has been weakening for a year, and now is shrinking outright.”

Besides depressing wages, higher interest rates make it more expensive for people to get home loans, so we can expect a further downturn in new home construction. And higher interest rates make it harder for builders to finance new construction of residential buildings, so new housing supply will decrease. Together, these factors are setting up an even tighter housing crunch in the years ahead.

As I’ve noted before, this seems to be the conscious aim of policy makers:

That double whammy on the private housing industry far outstrips any supposed positive effects on the construction of new housing brought on by John Lohr firing up the bulldozers in Eisner’s Cove or fast-tracking the arsenic poisoning of Lake Charles.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the two levels of government are acting at cross purposes: that the Bank of Canada’s raising of interest rates depresses new residential construction just as the provincial government is trying to increase new residential construction by reducing alleged bureaucratic obstacles to construction. But that assumes that creating so much new housing that it becomes affordable is the goal.

If, however, the actual policy goal is to transfer wealth from working people to wealthier people, then the actions of the two levels of government are perfectly aligned: the Bank of Canada raises interest rates to depress wages, and the provincial government decreases regulatory costs on investors; total supply of housing is irrelevant so long as it is tight enough to keep prices high.

If either level of government truly had a goal of more affordable housing, it would simply build it.

Give up on the developer fluffing, and build some damn housing. Stop playing PR games with tiny non-profits that can’t build or manage anywhere near the number of existing affordable units that are torn down each year to make room for new high-end housing, and build some damn housing directly: social housing, co-op housing, off-market housing — massive housing construction paid for and managed by government itself, and either rented or sold to people without the huge profits demanded from private developers. Build some damn housing.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

4. Emergency response

EHS ambulances lined up outside a hospital
On Monday, Jan. 10, 16 ambulances were lined up outside the Queen Elizabeth II hospital. Photo: Tim Bousquet

Yesterday morning, Kevin Davison, who is a Kentville-based musician and who works as a paramedic for EHS, posted about his stressful job on Facebook:

This will likely get my hand slapped. There were well over 800 ambulance calls in 23 hours, when I left work at 11 pm last night. There were 9 waiting calls in the valley alone, with no ambulances to respond. There were still ongoing calls when I left, probably a dozen, with no ambulances. I left work with my stomach in knots, knowing that if my family or friends needed medical attention, they would not get it. To top this all off, a 911 call, right here in our beautiful valley, came in at 8:35 am. When I left at 11 pm last night, they still did not have an ambulance. I don’t know what time they got one, if they even did. Over 14 hours and we still could not get to a resident of the Annapolis Valley. There were several calls that were waiting for 4, 6, 10 plus hours. When is Tim Houston going to do something? When his family is waiting for 14 hours for help to arrive? Hiring 100 transport operators has helped slightly, but its a drop in a bucket. Paramedics are quitting every single day, or going off work with mental health issues because nobody is stepping up. I just don’t know how much longer I can go to work knowing people are suffering. It’s killing my conscience to the core. I’m sure this post will make people talk for 5 minutes and then, everyone will forget about it, like the last 3 years. You are all in danger, and nobody gives a crap.

I recently happened upon a tragic situation, which I won’t detail in order to protect the privacy of the people involved. But the essence of it is that I saw someone in circumstances that led me to believe the person was dying. The person was being assisted by others, and police arrived at the scene very quickly. I could offer no help, as I’m not medically trained, and I felt I was intruding on people’s trauma, so I continued on my way.

After I left the scene, four more police cars passed me en route to the emergency. But it was about 10 minutes before an ambulance passed me.

I don’t fault the cops at all for this, but they’re likely not medically trained to the point where they could have offered much help. I’m sure they were badly affected by witnessing the scene.

My point is that we over-resource cops, and under-resource other emergency responses.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

5. Kayla Borden

A white man with glasses and wearing a dark coloured jacket over a pale blue shirt sits at a table in front of a microphone.
Const. Scott Martin testifies at a Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Credit: Matthew Byard

“The appeal hearing into a complaint of racial profiling against members of the Halifax Regional Police heard testimony from one of the constables about his training in anti-Black racism,” reports Matthew Byard:

Const. Scott Martin, one of two Halifax police officers named in the complaint made by Kayla Borden, testified on Tuesday. The other officer, Const. Jason Meisner, testified at the hearing on Monday. 

Martin was the officer who arrested Borden on June 28, 2020 when Borden’s car was mistaken for another vehicle that sped away from police and had no headlights on earlier that night. 

During his testimony on Tuesday, Borden’s lawyer Asaf Rashid asked Martin if he received any training around anti-Black racism or racial profiling.    

Martin said he completed a course on hate and bias-free policing and a program called Journey to Change within the last two to three years.   

“It was really about being aware of your implicit biases and being able to recognize them and to act appropriately,” Martin said.   

Rashid asked Martin if he could remember any examples of how racial biases could play out in policing.   

“I don’t remember any specific examples from the course, it was a few years ago that I took it,” Martin said.   

Martin said he could tell Borden was “a Black individual” as soon as he approached her. He said he acted in good faith and wouldn’t have done anything any differently, adding they had “ample grounds to affect the arrest” based on Const. Stewart McCulley description.   

Click here to read “Cop testifies about anti-Black racism training at Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing.”

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

6. Margaret Crowell’s enormous water bill

A woman in a bathing suit lays on a raft in a giant swimming pool.
Margaret Crowell used this photo to illustrate the absurdity of her enormous water bill.

Margaret Crowell moved into her Dartmouth-area house in the spring of 2019, and began dutifully paying her quarterly Halifax Water bill, usually around $235. But on July 4 of this year, she received a shockingly high bill, for $1,552.

A bill totalling $1,552.
Margaret Crowell’s Halifax Water bill from July 4, 2022

The bill reflects extremely high water usage in May — averaging 15,426 litres per day, about 25 times her previous average daily usage.

Crowell immediately called a plumber who inspected her property and issued a report:

Minimal service call for one person

Minimum service call covers one hour and a half plus truck charge of $40 arrived on site due to extremely high water bill with a extremely high consumption readings checked every fixture in the home nothing dripping and nothing leaking all toilets operating properly not loosing water trap seal primmer working properly. No pool, outside hose bib operating properly. When all fixtures are turned off the meter is not moving comes to a complete stop took video of this. No explanation as to why such a increase in consumption. Everything is operating properly there is no reason for consumption to be that high. I don’t know how a residential home could possibly use that much water daily for a short period of time then go back to normal consumption with nothing changing inside or outside of the home. Also thought it was unusual that home owner was not contacted about about the unusual increase in consumption.

Crowell has appealed her bill to the Utility and Review Board (UARB). In the appeal, she notes that Halifax Water did try to contact her about the high usage, but did so with an email account. “This email was not received by the customer, and arrived in the customer’s Junk Inbox, as HW had never before established email communications with this customer,” she writes. “No alerts were sent through Customer Connect. The customer is not sure how HW got this email address.”

Crowell’s appeal is detailed. You can read it all here. I find her case compelling. Three points stand out.

First, Crowell underscores the absurdity of such high water usage. Her total billed usage for May was 426,318 litres of water; she writes:

426,318 litres would fill 28 water trucks (each holding 15,000 litres..); 1,705 aquariums (55 gallon); 71,053 toilet flushes with a 6L toilet, or 2,292 daily flushes; 8,526 loads of laundry with a 50 litre washing machine, or 275 daily loads of laundry; a 40,107 minute long shower … or enough drinking water for 142,106 people to drink 3 litres of water per day (population of Dartmouth was 92,300 in 2016). 

Crowell says that such a large amount of water could not make it through the sewage lateral from her house, and that it would definitely lead to structural damage, and yet there is no structural damage.

Second, Crowell objects to how Halifax Water arranged for her meter to be tested — she asked to accompany the meter to Halifax Water’s Cowie Hill testing facility, but was refused. Therefore, she says, there is a chain of custody issue, and fears that the meter may have been tampered with or tested out. That’s a suggestion rejected by Halifax Water.

Third, Crowell says she’s spoken with other Halifax Water customers who have received very large bills, and “we have established that we share a commonality: there is a fire hydrant on our properties.”

Here’s a picture of Crowell’s house:

Two houses with a green lawn in front of them, and a red fire hydrant by the road.
Margaret Crowell’s house (left). Credit: Google Street View

Crowell’s situation reminds me of Allie Fineberg’s appeal to the UARB about her water bill. Fineberg lost the appeal, as Zane Woodford reported on in January 2021:

In a written decision last week, the UARB ruled Halifax Water had followed its regulations when it billed Allie Fineberg $2,526.04, alleging she used 18,000 litres of water per day for seven weeks. That’s more than 100 times her typical consumption, enough to fill a four-foot deep pool 15 feet in diameter every day.

“To put this daily average use in context … the Board calculates that if your outdoor faucet were left fully open, it would take nearly 4 hours for 18,000 litres of water to flow through your water meter,” board member Stephen McGrath wrote in the decision, addressed to Fineberg.

“Your measured water consumption spiked during this period for no apparent reason. The evidence provided to the Board in this proceeding does not identify a clear reason for your water consumption to have suddenly increased and then suddenly stopped.”

This got me wondering… and yes, there’s a fire hydrant across the street from Fineberg’s house:

Two white houses on the left side of a street, with a red fire hydrant on the right side of the street.
Allie Fineberg’s house (left) Credit: Google Street View

Crowell speculates that her high meter readings were related to work related to upgrades on Halifax Water’s Lake Major supply plant, which began on May 2.

Fineberg and Crowell are not alone. I’ve seen several of these appeals come through the UARB, and so far as I know, none have been successful.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)




Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, online) — agenda

District Boundary Resident Review Panel (Wednesday, 3:30pm, City Hall) — if required


Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, online) — agenda

Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, online) — agenda

Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, Alderney Landing) — agenda


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, One Government Place) — 2022 Report of the Auditor General – Immigration and Population Growth; with representatives from the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration, and Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia

On campus



Accessibility in action: Sharing highlights from new projects at Dal (Wednesday, 12pm, Room 2600, Killam Library, and online) — more info here

Dr. Merlinda Weinberg’s Legacy of Diversity and Ethical Practice (Wednesday, 5:30pm, online) — paneldiscussion with AI-generated captions

7 Stories (Wednesday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — a Fountain School of Performing Arts production, until Dec. 3; $15/$10, more info here


Overcoming Colonialism to Recover Africa in Modern Medicine (Thursday, 5pm, online) — OmiSoore Dryden, Oluwatoyin Oduntan, and Jonathan Roberts will discuss

perspectives on the histories, practices, and futures of medicine and health equity in Africa and its diasporas.

This is part of the James R. Johnston Chair’s broader Black Analysis Lecture Series, which focuses on Health Disparities and the impact on Black Life. #BlackAnalysis Lecture Series explores issues experienced by Black people, and related to Black Studies, and health, medical education, and patient experiences.

7 Stories (Thursday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — a Fountain School of Performing Arts production, until Dec. 3; $15/$10, more info here

In the harbour

05:00: NYK Romulus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Caucedo, Dominican Republic
06:00: Supreme Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
10:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
11:30: Supreme Ace sails for sea
11:30: IT Integrity, supply vessel, arrives at Pier 9 from Port Alberni, B.C.
14:00: Advantage Point, oil tanker, moves from Imperial Oil to Bedford Basin anchorage
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 42 from St. John’s
17:00: NYK Romulus sails for sea
23:59: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at anchorage from Saint-Pierre

Cape Breton
07:00: Arctic Lift, barge, with Western Tugger, tug, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Cap-aux-Meules (Grindstone), Magdalen Islands
07:30: Baie St.Paul, bulker, transits through the causeway, en route from Trois-Rivières to Halifax
08:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Halifax
10:00: Algoma Victory, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
15:30: Lowlands Serenity, bulker, sails from Outer Anchorage (Canso) for sea
15:30: CSL Tarantau, bulker, sails from Outer Anchorage for sea


Seeing that Zane wrote that article in January 2021, almost two years ago, and almost a year into the pandemic, made me suddenly exhausted.

A button which links to the Subscribe page

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

Join the Conversation


Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
  1. “The higher interest rates didn’t just drop from the sky. They are a conscious policy decision to induce a recession, specifically in order to cut wages to working people.”

    It is not clear to me what evidence this conclusion or broad statement is based on. Quoting Jim Stanford might proivide an opening into both evidence and discourse, but no more than that.

  2. We have a housing crisis because we are not building fast enough to support the rate of population growth that Ottawa has chosen, and we are not building fast enough because we cannot afford to. Buildings are essentially made from diesel fuel and labor, neither of which is cheap now. Low interest rates let us keep building by supporting enormous housing prices, but that increased the money supply too much.

    If we want to maintain the same per-capita levels of housing while the population grows this fast, we are going to have to pay a lot more for housing, which leaves less room for other things. Raising taxes is unpalatable, so instead people who do not yet own a home pay, either by spending more on rent or by living in crowded conditions. If people do manage to escape renting, they will pay more for their home as a result.