A word from Examiner editor and publisher Tim Bousquet:

Hello! I hope everyone had a nice, if wet, holiday weekend. 

As we just ended our June subscription drive, I’ll provide an update on the Halifax Examiner. 

There’s been so much terrible news in the news biz lately, I don’t know if I can list it all, but it includes cuts and layoffs at Bell, including at its radio stations and CTV; cuts and layoffs at Postmedia; cuts and layoffs at Global News; cuts and layoffs at Overstory Media Group; cuts and layoffs at Quebecor; Brunswick News being swallowed by Postmedia, which will likely lead to more cuts and layoffs; Postmedia and Torstar discussing merging, which will… well you know; SaltWire on the verge of collapse…

The Halifax Examiner isn’t immune to financial pressures. In May, I was so concerned about the finances of this operation that I feared having to scale down expenses with, yep, cuts and layoffs, but I decided to appeal directly to readers by making our annual subscription drive biannual. 

I know that subscription drives are annoying, and believe me, I’d rather be doing other things, but this was necessary. And thankfully, readers came through. We’ve garnered enough new subscribers to stave off any immediate cuts.

Thank you! Thanks to our new subscribers for joining the wonderful group of existing subscribers who make the Examiner possible. Without all of you, we couldn’t do this.

We’re not out of the woods. I still worry about the long-term financial health of the Examiner, and frankly, we need still more subscribers to reach financial stability. If you haven’t already, you can still subscribe.

In addition to subscribing themselves, there are two other ways readers can help the Examiner.

The first is to spread the word about the Examiner — I’m still astonished at how many people don’t even know the Examiner exists. And I worry that the collapse of Twitter and limitations Facebook and Google are threatening to impose on the sharing of news articles will make our presence even less known. So please, when and where you can, talk up the Examiner. 

Second, encourage your friends, family, and workplaces to subscribe

Again, thanks so much.



1. Freedom of information legislation

A smiling white woman
Tricia Ralph, Information and Privacy Commissioner for Nova Scotia Credit: Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner

“Tricia Ralph [Information and Privacy Commissioner] is right to be frustrated, but wrong to be hopeful. This is, after all, Nova Scotia, where our political leaders change their lies to suit their own in/out-of-power circumstances,” writes Stephen Kimber.

Consider that during the 2013 provincial election campaign, then-Liberal leader Stephen McNeil promised — in writing, no less — that if we elected him premier, he would “expand the powers and mandate of the [privacy commissioner], particularly through granting her order-making power.”

We did.

He didn’t.

This brings us to Tim Houston. As Tory Opposition leader in 2019, he took the McNeil government to court to pry open details of the government’s secret management contract with the operators of the Yarmouth-Portland ferry.

“The privacy commissioner has said this is information that should be available to Nova Scotians,” Houston declared, conveniently for his purposes at the time citing a finding by then-privacy commissioner Catherine Tully. “So, this is the time to take a stand and say that’s not good enough, government should be better.”

Houston outlined his own supposed political philosophy in his 2021 campaign pitch: “Words matter. Promises matter. That’s what is too often missing in politics.”

Right. He did promise. He just never said he would deliver.

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2. How Dexter Construction avoided two charges under the Environment Act

A muddy pond with fallen trees.
A wetland near the Arlington dump was clearcut. Credit: Annapolis Waterkeepers

“Nova Scotia’s Minister of Environment & Climate Change has admitted his department negotiated with Dexter Construction before the Public Prosecution Service withdrew a charge against Dexter under the Environment Act,” reports Jennifer Henderson.

The charge was for altering a wetland without prior approval.

The wetland is next to the Arlington Heights C&D (construction and demolition) dump, which receives truckloads of asbestos, construction materials, and hazardous wastes from Halifax sites 175 kilometres away. 

Before it was bulldozed by Dexter in November of 2021, the large wetland (its size is in dispute) acted as a natural buffer to prevent leaching of hazardous materials or silty runoff from the site.

The Arlington facility has been operating for almost 20 years atop the North Mountain in the Annapolis Valley. 

Nearby residents, whose wells are downslope, remain unconvinced by statements from the Environment Department that the dump’s soils are “impermeable” and there is no contamination leaching from the dump into the groundwater. 

In February 2022, Dexter Construction was charged with altering a wetland without permission under the Nova Scotia Environment Act. As Henderson writes, the Annapolis Waterkeepers asked about that charge in the spring and the Examiner contacted the environment department on May 5 looking for an update. Here’s Henderson again:

Communications advisor Mikaela Etchegary wrote that a charge had been filed under Section 50 (2) and any further information would have to come from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS). 

It’s now clear that the case had already been settled — and the charge against Dexter withdrawn — by May 5, the date when the Examiner requested information from the government. 

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3. Summer emergency department closures

A group of people socially distanced and lined up in front of the Cobequid emergency department waiting for it to open its doors for the day.
Lineups at the Cobequid Community Health Centre’s emergency department before its 7 a.m. opening. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont.

As many were preparing for long weekend celebrations, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) was expressing its concerns about summer emergency department closures across the country. 

In a media release issued on Friday, the CAEP said it was “once again deeply concerned” about the increasing trend of such closures during the summer months.  

“These closures not only pose significant risks to patients but also place additional strain on an already overwhelmed healthcare system,” the news release said. “CAEP rang the alarm bell last summer with this release and unfortunately governments and policymakers have failed to enact positive changes to prevent future closures.”

The association is also renewing its call for the implementation of measures that would help.

“Unexpected emergency department closures during the summer months can have dire consequences for patients. Emergencies don’t take a vacation, and people continue to require urgent medical attention regardless of the season,” CAEP president Dr. Michael Howlett said. 

“It is crucial that we maintain a robust and accessible emergency care system year-round.”

While staff shortages, limited funding, and increased demand are often cited as reasons for emergency department closures, the CAEP said all levels of government, health care administrators, and policymakers must prioritize the stability and accessibility of emergency care services, “particularly during peak periods such as the summer months.”

This is the second summer in a row the association has recommended the following measures to mitigate the impact of emergency department closures:

  • Address systemic issues of community and long-term care that are insufficient for patient care instead of reliance on the emergency department and acute care hospital to solve all problems
  • Develop a hospital bed capacity strategy that reflects actual need. Canada has one of the lowest number of beds per capita of OECD countries
  • Develop a national human health resources strategy to stabilize and create a healthy workforce including working toward a national licensure
  • Increase the training and education opportunities in nursing and medicine
  • Actively manage the health and well-being of ED front-line workers. All responsible parties should be required to monitor, produce, and disclose their burnout prevention and mitigation strategies and results for front-line emergency providers, and be incentivized based on results. Future systems rely on a healthy and robust workforce, but they are leaving in record numbers. The costs to hire and provide orientation to Health Care providers is more expensive than strategies to improve workplace satisfaction and safety.
  • Address issues of ED escalating workplace violence

This year, the CAEP is also calling for a national summit with government leaders to discuss its recommendations. 

The association said by implementing its suggested measures, members believe emergency departments can “continue to fulfill their crucial role in safeguarding the health and well-being of Canadians, regardless of the season.”

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4. Sick notes

A physician in a white coat, shot from the neck down, checks his watch as he walks by a hospital gurney.
Photo: RODNAE Productions/Pexels

Nova Scotia has new rules around sick notes.

According to a new release from Friday, starting today, employers across the province can only ask for a sick note from an employee if that person has been absent for more than five working days or has already had two absences of five or fewer working days in the previous 12-month period.

Also, when workers do need a sick note, they can get that note from other health care professionals, not just a doctor. Sick notes can now be provided by a nurse, pharmacist, dentist, physiotherapist, or social worker.

The release says that the Nova Scotia’s Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness consulted doctors about the burden of sick notes and found that doctors spend about 50,000 hours a year writing those notes.

The changes to the sick note policy are in the Medical Certificates for Employee Absences Act, which was passed in the legislature this past spring as part of the Patient Access to Care Act. Before the changes to the act, employers could ask their employees for a sick note regardless of how much time they missed from work because of illness or injury.

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5. P.E.I. ferry

A boat with white and blue paint and NFL in red written on it sails in the water.
MV Confederation Credit: Gordon Leggatt/Wikimedia Commons

“It is past time for the federal government to consider replacing MV Confederation, the interprovincial ferry that broke down on Sunday for the third time in a month, says John Dalziel, a naval architect and adjunct engineering professor at Dalhousie University,” reports Kevin Yarr with CBC.

Northumberland Ferries cancelled Monday’s sailings between Wood Islands, P.E.I., and Caribou, N.S. due to “a further mechanical issue that resulted in a service disruption,” the company said Monday.

“An attempt to resolve the issue was not successful. However, the required parts are enroute and repairs will be completed as quickly as possible once the parts are onsite,” a news release said, adding that the company expects service to resume no later than Saturday, July 8.

MV Confederation is currently the only ferry available for the Northumberland Strait route, at the height of the region’s summer tourism season.

As Yarr writes, the other ferry, Holiday Island, caught fire last summer and was scrapped. A replacement ferry is currently in dry dock and won’t be ready until mid month. Thirty-year-old MV Confederation was having technical problems in early June and then again mid month.

Yarr spoke with Dalziel on Thursday, before the ferry’s most recent breakdown, and said the ship has to be replaced.

“Generally when a ship is 30 years old, it’s ready to be retired,” he said. “Take some nice pictures of the ship, take some mementos if you want, ship’s bell and some other things, and send her to the scrapyard. That’s where, quite frankly, a ship of that age should go.”

Pictou mayor Jim Ryan called the ferry a vital link and is also calling for it to be replaced.

A new ferry was included in the 2019 federal budget. That ship would be ready for 2027, but the feds announced in June that launch has been setback for another year.

Meanwhile, reporter Teresa Wright tweeted this out in response to the news that MV Confederation wasn’t sailing:

Two tweets: One from Omar Alghabra that says "a service status has been issued by PEI Ferries for the MV Confederation. The required parts are on their way and will be done as quickly as possible to ensure the ferry can be back up and running." That tweet is quote tweeted by Teresa Wright, who added, "Given that the only other PEI Ferries vessel won't be replace until at least 2028, perhaps it's time Ottawa responded to the province's call to lower Confederation Bridge tolls. The only way to get to PEI is now the bridge. It costs over $50 to leave.

Could be a tricky summer for travelling to the Island.

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The housing crisis is several crises in one

Tents are set up on the lush green grass of a city park. Behind the tent are trees and tall buildings.
Tents in Victoria Park in downtown Halifax. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

On Friday, we published this story about Phil Langille, who was renovicted from his apartment on Tower Road. Langille was having a tough time finding a new place to live. One option he had was to stay at a cottage in Digby that his mother owns and which she offered to him as a last resort.

After that story was published, Langille emailed me to say he was leaving for Digby. He had to be out of his place on Tower Road by noon Friday and hadn’t found a place elsewhere in the city. Langille worked at the hospital, so he had to quit his job, too. 

I was thinking about Langille’s story after he told me he had to leave the city. I thought this housing crisis is about more than housing. It’s a workforce crisis. It’s a health care crisis. It’s other crises that have yet to unfold.

If workers can’t find affordable places to live and then choose to move elsewhere, how is that supposed to help the city? We will have fewer workers. Fewer young families with children. Leigh MacLean from Welcome Housing said the same thing at a housing forum in May that I reported on here. She said the clients she helps find housing for include nurses, teachers, librarians, housing support workers, and public servants from all three levels of government.

“Who’s going to work when it gets too expensive for anyone to live here?” MacLean asked.

When people pay more for rent, much more than they can afford, that means they’re paying less for other things such as food, saving for their future, savings for their children’s education, even a night out once in a while.

A year ago, Tim Bousquet wrote that small businesses should be concerned about the housing crisis, too, not only because it means potential workers are having a tough time finding affordable places to live, but because it’s potential customers who are paying those high rents, too. “Every time rent increases more than pay, it’s a direct hit to small businesses,” he wrote.

And there’s a cost to the stress of paying rent you really can’t afford. People’s health suffers when they’re dealing with such chronic financial stress.

On the weekend, Maryse Zeidler at CBC had this article in which analysts said maybe it’s time to get rid of that 30% formula to calculate housing costs. You know, the formula that long said a homeowner or tenant shouldn’t spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs. Zeidler writes:

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation began adopting the rule in 1986. 

“The 30 per cent threshold continues to be a useful benchmark to consistently measure housing affordability in Canada and other parts of the world, including in the United States and Australia,” CMHC said in an email.

However, the corporation says it introduced the “housing hardship concept” in 2020 to acknowledge that, for some households, keeping housing costs to 30 per cent of their budget still isn’t enough to cover all their essential needs.

Zeidler spoke with Anne Arbour with the Credit Counselling Society who said we need to ditch the 30% rule and instead go by our own specific circumstances. This reads a lot like we need to take personal responsibility for the fact that housing costs have skyrocketed and people are getting renovicted. Maybe you could afford too high rents if you just budgeted better.

I’ve lived most of my adult life in Halifax. First downtown and then I moved to the Clayton Park and Fairview area. It used to be that living downtown Halifax was more affordable. Sure, the South End was more expensive, but there were other places on the peninsula you could afford. When you got tired of living downtown or wanted more space, you could move to Dartmouth or Clayton Park where you’d find a nice spot for less money. 

There are now tents in Victoria Park and on one of the boulevards on University Avenue near the hospital. As Heidi Petraceck at CTV Atlantic reports, there are tents in front of City Hall now, too. Petracek spoke with Darrin Smith, who works with the unhoused in the city, including the folks living in the tents in front of City Hall:

“There was no tents here in Grand Parade last summer, and as you can see we have nine here now,” he says. “And that’s only been within the last two weeks.”

Smith points to one of the tents, which he says was the first one set up here.

This blue one here, he’s one that’s actually working every day,” he explains.

Smith says those forced to live in tents have all faced different circumstances, but many, he says, simply can’t afford the city’s high rental rates.

“There’s five people that I know of right now that are living in tents and they work, but they don’t [earn] enough money to make rent,” he says.

As Zane Woodford reported in February, Max Chauvin, director of housing and homelessness at HRM, warned that the city would “have to figure out how refugee camps work” if the province didn’t extend the rent cap beyond the end of 2023. The province did extend that cap, but the tents keep appearing.

Communities like Fairview and Lower Sackville were where working-class families could find homes at a decent price. In the 1960s and 70s, Lower Sackville was the site of the largest co-op housing project east of Montreal. Thousands of young families built their first homes there. That included my parents. Housing in Lower Sackville is out of reach for a lot of people.

Now there’s a sanctioned tent site on a ballfield on Cobequid Road where several residents are living in tents. Souls Harbour just opened a new drop-in centre in Lower Sackville on the weekend. And Beacon House has an overnight shelter in a former church. Outside in its parking lot are smaller individual shelters for others who can’t find an affordable place to live. All of these groups are doing what they can, of course. They want to see more permanent affordable housing, too.

Once in a while I’ll think about the Hydrostone, a neighbourhood built for working-class families displaced by the Halifax Explosion. The houses were built with blocks made in Eastern Passage and brought over to the city by barge. Now those same houses built for workers are selling for prices well out of the grasp of working-class families.

I wonder if we’ve become used to the tents. Maybe some people have come to accept that having people living in tents is the cost we all pay so some people have a lot more money or so we become a world-class city, whatever that means. Maybe some people don’t notice the tents anymore. Maybe others try to ignore the tents knowing they’re closer to living that reality than they are to becoming rich. And surely, there are more Nova Scotians living in tents and campers in rural areas where we don’t see them so easily. 

There are a lot of Paul Langilles out there. Sometimes we hear from them when we publish a story about the housing crisis. These tenants often fit into at least one of several groups: seniors, young people, low-income or fixed income, or single. Sometimes they tell us they want to share their story, but then they change their mind because they’re fearful of retaliation from landlords. That they will end up on a list somewhere of tenants landlords should avoid.

At that housing forum I reported on in May, Heather Jarvis, coordinator of tenant services, said the current housing crisis is “a crisis that’s been built, decided, and designed.”

“Where we are right now, it’s all about decision makers making policy decisions that have led us here,” she said.

That’s continuing. Right now, we’re building, deciding, and designing crises yet to unfold.

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Tip theft

A young white woman with long auburn hair.
Lisa Cameron is the executive director of the Halifax Workers’ Action Centre.

I missed this article by Celina Aalders with CBC from last week in which she wrote about tip theft. That’s when employers take some, if not all, of the tips given to staff by customers.

As Aalders reports, Nova Scotia is the only province in Atlantic Canada without legislation around tip theft. And the Halifax Workers’ Action Centre wants to do something about that. Aalders spoke with Lisa Cameron, executive director of the Halifax Workers’ Action Centre:

Most workers in the service industry, such as servers, bartenders and cooks, make minimum wage. Cameron said they rely heavily on tips to make a more decent income.

Along with an awareness campaign, the Halifax group launched a survey that asks the public about tip theft and their tipping habits in general.

“I think it’s sort of a no brainer, and it’s a matter of just simple right and wrong,” said Cameron. “The majority of folks who we’ve been surveying were not aware that tips were not the protected property of employees before seeing the campaign.”

She said most respondents reported they always, or almost always tip when prompted, under the assumption the money goes directly to the employee, not the employer. 

“The thought of that money ending up in the boss’s pocket is offensive both to the workers and to the customer,” said Cameron. 

Even the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, an industry group, condemns the practice. Executive director Natasha Chestnut said in an email to CBC News the organization recently held a webinar on employers’ rights related to tips.

Most provinces have legislation around tip theft. Cameron said she’d like to see Nova Scotia adopt legislation similar to what P.E.I. has. Here are the Island’s laws around it, according to Section 17.1 of its Employment Standards Act: “Tips and gratuities are the property of the employee to whom or for whom they are given.”

And Section 17.2 says: “Employers are not permitted to withhold tips intended for an employee, or use them as partial wages.”

Aalders also interviewed Courtney Morrison about her experiences with tip theft after working in the hospitality industry for 10 years:

As a banquet server for a major hospitality group in Halifax, she said clients would pay a flat rate for the event, and then an additional 18 per cent would be added as gratuity.

But according to Morrison, she never saw a dime of that 18 per cent. She was told the gratuities would go toward things like staff parties, something that was no help to her when she was trying to earn money to pay student tuition.

“So it’s not really useful to me that you occasionally have a party for staff at a facility that you operate.”

I wrote about this in 2019, and included some of my own experiences with tip theft in my 20 years in the industry. Fortunately, most of the employers I worked for didn’t take tips, but there was one company that had a similar policy as to what Morrison described. They hosted banquets, too, and gave staff an extra $10 for each banquet they worked. Bartenders got nothing (I was a bartender).

But the restaurant policy was to add a 15% “auto grat” onto the total bill. In the case of this restaurant, the company kept most of that money. I recall bartending at one event with an open bar. We had to keep track of the booze we sold and the bill ended up being $5,000. An auto grat on that was $750, but my colleague and I got nothing. And the customers didn’t tip cash because they figured we’d get the tip from the final bill.

I should point out this is different from tip-out systems in which servers give a small portion of their tips to the host, bus staff, kitchen staff, and other colleagues who are actually helping with the dining experience. In tip-out systems at places where I worked, the employer didn’t get a cut.

I am not sure how a customer could make sure the staff get the tip. An employer that steals staff tips certainly isn’t going to admit to doing so. And with that auto grat policy, it’s easier for an employer to not give tips to the staff since it’s the employer, not the server, who does up the final bill and gives it to the customer. Sure, you could ask your server if they get the tip, but they may not even admit that their boss takes it.

We could have a larger conversation around tipping culture in general, but we have a tipping culture now, and I agree there should be legislation around this. It’s theft of hard earned money from wait staff, plain and simple.

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Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall and online) — agenda


Human Resources (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place and online) — Agency, Board and Commission Appointments 

On campus

No events this week

In the harbour

03:30: One Wren, container ship (146,409 tonnes), sails from Pier 41 for Suez, Egypt
04:45: NYK Remus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southampton, England
05:30: One Swan, container ship (145,407 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:00: NYK Daedalus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cartagena, Colombia
07:00: Morning Capo, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
07:15: Lagrafoss, container ship, moves from anchorage to Pier 42 
08:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida 
10:00: Silver Shalis, yacht, sails from Foundation Quay for sea
11:30: Lagrafoss sails for Portland
13:00: NYK Daedalus sails for Southampton, England
13:00: Morning Capo sails from Autoport 
23:30: One Swan sails for New York

Cape Breton
04:00: Algoma Value, bulker, arrives at Pirate Harbour anchorage from Tampa, Florida
07:30: Nordtulip, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
12:00: Algoma Verity, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
12:00: Algoma Value moves to Aulds Cove quarry
12:00: Aquijo, yacht owned by German billionaire Juergen Grossmann, who made his fortune in steel and tobacco, arrives at anchorage outside of St. Peters canal from Halifax
13:00: Harmonic, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from the offshore Jubilee oil field, Ghana


I see there’s some sun in the forecast, but I’ll go out in the rain. I’m not sugar.

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

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor who enjoys covering health, science, research, and education.

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

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  1. The Premier, his Ministers, the Mayor, the counselors and everyone who frequents the downtown area has seen the population in the Parade Square go from 2 in early June to now 9. I walk by it 5 days a week and wonder what happened to the moral compass of our elected officials. We have watched all levels of government make decisions that have brought us to where we are today. This is why I subscribe to the Examiner … it’s the only publication unafraid to put these stories in front of us.

  2. “Fifty-year-old MV Confederation was having technical problems in early June and then again mid month.”

    MV Confederation is not fifty. She entered service in the autumn of 1993. While not new, it isn’t excessively old for a short-haul ferry.

    By comparison, the late MV Holiday Island was fifty-two at the time of her fire. The “Prince” class ferries both lasted between 25 and 30 years on the Caribou-Wood Islands service, and both remain in operation as ferries.

  3. Would one way to stop employers from stealing tips from staff be to leave tips in cash? Then the wait staff could pocket the tip and not have to go through the employer at all?

  4. The only actual solution to housing is public housing. The market can only do what the market is designed to do, extract wealth. Sadly the city, the province, and Ottawa all seem disinterested in even discussing renewed investments in purpose-built public housing.

  5. Don’t forget the people living with a partner that they would rather not live with, or 30 somethings with what used to be good jobs living in their childhood bedrooms – even if it is better than a tent, essentially everyone who didn’t buy a house or secure a rent-controlled apartment before 2020 is screwed. And even those in rent-controlled apartments face uncertainty – we could be renovicted or the province might cancel rent control.

    We need something like the Antagonish Movement but for housing – but the challenge with housing is that there are real legal obstacles to get around. It wasn’t illegal for farmers and fishers to cut out middlemen and usurers, it is illegal for a couple hundred people to decide that some numbered corporation doesn’t own some tract of land and to build housing on it.

    1. There are people on Facebook complaining that houses in the South End are being converted from single-family dwellings to multiple-apartment units, but this is exactly what needs to happen in order to help address the need for more affordable housing. From experience, these folks fear these units will be occupied by partying university students enabled by absentee landlords who don’t give a shit. This could indeed happen; but it’s also possible they’ll be occupied by two grad students with a baby, or a teaching assistant, or a middle-aged peron who works at the hospital.