1. CBRM and Bill 340

A white woman with reddish-brown long hair, glasses, and wearing a grey blazer over a black top and a red poppy on her jacket sits at a table speaking in front of microphones. There is a stack of paper cups in front of her and black chairs lined up against the wall behind her.
nCBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall speaks to the law amendments committee on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson has this report on what happened at the legislature’s law amendements committee meeting on Monday when mayors and staff from municipalities across Nova Scotia had their say on the Municipal Reform Act.

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality, in particular, has concerns about the act, Bill 340. Henderson writes:

Like most of Nova Scotia, Sydney and its neighbouring communities in CBRM have seen a recent increase in population, to more than 100,000. Bus service has expanded by 400% since 2016 and the city just installed a $13 million wastewater system that has added $2.5 million to its debt load. Education costs will rise by $1 million this year.

And it’s not cheap to live in Sydney. The tax rate in CBRM is $2 per $100 — the highest in the province — which works out, with other charges, to an annual tax bill of $5,475 on a house worth $250,000, according to CBRM’s chief financial officer Jennifer Campbell. For the first time in recent memory, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has a deficit budget this year.                         

CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall was adamant that Bill 340, as it is written, will result in tax increases for citizens in her area.  

“Hypothetically, we are at a point now that an option to end all transfer agreements between CBRM and the province would make more sense than this proposed MOU,” McDougall told the committee. 

“We would actually be better off financially if the province stopped sending us our municipal capacity grant and we stopped collecting taxes and remitting them for provincial services. [That amount is $16.5 million] It’s an absurd thing to think about …but this bill needs amendments or it will burden and harm every resident in CBRM.” 

Click or tap here to read “CBRM seeks changes to Municipal Reform Act.”

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2. Rickola Brinton

A smiling Black woman in a black robe with red sash and white tie holds a book while a white man in a black robe and white tie and glasses applauds.
Hon. Chief Justice Michael MacDonald, left, during Justice Rickola Brinton’s appointment to the bench on March 31, 2017. Credit: Nova Scotia Barristers' Society/Facebook

“A Nova Scotia provincial court judge who filed a lawsuit against the province and another judge for $5 million over a dispute related to COVID-19 vaccination status has since dropped her case against the province’s attorney general,” I reported this morning.

News about the lawsuit was first reported in On Sept. 28, lawyer James Manson filed a notice of action on behalf of Justice Rickola Brinton that names Justice Pamela Williams, the office of the chief judge of the provincial court of Nova Scotia, the court of Nova Scotia, and the attorney general of Nova Scotia as defendents.

On Oct. 20, a notice of discontinuance was filed by Manson, Brinton’s lawyer, discontinuing the case only against the attorney general. The case will continue against the other defendents, who haven’t filed a defence. Brinton’s claims have not been tested in court.

The statement of claim details months of disputes over Brinton’s vaccination status and her work responsibilities.

The events started with an email from Williams to all the court judges on Sept. 29, 2021, in which she wrote that the Nova Scotia bar asked them about their COVID vaccination status. Williams asked the judges if they would share their status with each other, and then the bar, in a private letter.

Click here to read “Judge drops attorney general from lawsuit related to COVID vaccination status.”

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3. Nora Bernard Street

An older woman is seen in a black and white photograph. She has white hair and glasses.
Nora Bernard Credit: YouTube/MacEwan University

The former Cornwallis Street is now officially known as Nora Bernard Street. Bernard was a Mi’kmaq activist and residential school survivor.

As Jonathan MacInnis at CTV reported, a renaming ceremony was held on Monday morning that was attended by Bernard’s daughter, Natalie MacLeod Gloade:

Bernard led the largest class action lawsuit in Canadian history in support of 79,000 other survivors. The Canadian government settled for nearly $5 billion dollars.

“I’m so proud and honoured that Halifax has stepped up to the plate and [is] making history. This is history, this is a historical event,” says MacLeod Gloade.

Gloade told CTV that Millbrook First Nation is working on erecting a statue and renaming a community hall in Bernard’s honour.

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4. Cocaine overdoses

A woman sits on a bench in front of the Halifax Infirmary's emergency department.
Halifax Infirmary emergency department in July, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

“An illegal drug that’s been around for decades has quietly become implicated in a growing number of overdose deaths in Nova Scotia, according to data that suggests the public discussion around drug fatalities needs to broaden beyond the focus on potent opioids,” reports Richard Cuthbertson with CBC.

Overdose deaths in the province linked to cocaine have risen significantly in recent years, mirroring a trend in other jurisdictions, including the United States where they are seeing more deaths involving a mix of opioids and stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. 

“It’s very early days in whatever this is, but it’s something to watch carefully,” Dr. Matthew Bowes, Nova Scotia’s chief medical examiner, said of the province’s cocaine overdose numbers.

Nearly half of the 79 accidental overdose deaths last year in Nova Scotia involved cocaine, a threefold increase from 10 years ago when it played a much smaller role in drug fatalities. 

The worrying trend comes as the province’s health authority said cocaine and the opioid hydromorphone were among the drugs reported to have been used in a “cluster” of suspected overdoses, including a death, on Oct. 15 in Cole Harbour, N.S.

The majority of deaths involving stimulants in Nova Scotia also include an opioid. But what’s not clear from the data is if the victims intentionally used both cocaine and opioids, or whether they unknowingly took cocaine tainted by an opioid, something that has been the source of a number of warnings in recent years.

Cuthbertson interviewed Joseph Friedman from UCLA who researches overdoses in the U.S. Friedman said it’s important to study the mixing of drugs, because while opioid use can be treated with medications, there’s no similar treatment for cocaine and methamphetamine withdrawl.

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5. Stunting

On Monday, Nova Scotia RCMP released its data into stunting charges for July through to September. In a press release, RCMP said 35 drivers were charged with stunting on highways across Nova Scotia, and cited these cases in particular:

  • 188 km/h in a 100 km/h zone on Highway 101 in Kingston;
  • 177 km/h in a 110 km/h zone on Highway 102 in Enfield;
  • 171 km/h in a 110 km/h zone on Highway 104 in Westchester;
  • 156 km/h in a 100 km/h zone on Highway 103 in Tantallon;
  • 147 km/h in an 90 km/h zone on Highway 105 in Baddeck

The fine for a first offence is $2,422.50.

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6. Harness racing

Horses with jockeys in carts line up behind a gate attached to the back of a yellow truck on a race track.
Harness racing at Truro Raceway. Credit: Suzanne Rent

Steve Bruce at CBC in P.E.I has this story on how a horse drug case has people in the harness racing industry calling for change.

Bruce writes:

The controversy stems from the Atlantic Provinces Harness Racing Commission’s handling of a recent horse drug violation case involving P.E.I.’s Marc Campbell, one of the region’s top harness racing drivers and trainers. 

Gary Fraser, a long-time race horse owner and past trainer and driver in Nova Scotia, says the case has created division and frustration in the harness racing community.   

“It kind of puts a black mark on the industry because of the way [the commission] handled it,” Fraser said.

“I was on [P.E.I.] from the 6th to the 9th of October for the sale and the races. And good God, you even mentioned it to anybody, they’d get right into a big uproar, talking about it … All [the commission] did was just make the public more suspicious about the racing game.”

As Bruce reports, the Atlantic Provinces Harness Racing Commission gave Campbell a suspension after four of his horses tested positive on drug tests in one year; three of those horses tested positive on drug tests just in the month of August.

Campbell appealed, and the indefinition suspension was lifted after some testimony from a vet about the drugs one horse tested positive for.

But they fined Campbell $750 for drugs found in another horse, and gave him a 34-day suspension in that case. It’s that 34-day suspension that got people riled up. The suspension ended just one day before the Atlantic Breeder’s Crown. According to the rules, the suspension for use of that particular drug should have been 60 days.

It’s a case that has people saying Campbell got special treatment and there are concerns, too, because all four provincial governments in Atlantic Canada contribute a combined $400,000 every year to help with the commission’s operating funds, plus more money to support the industry.

Also, I just like reading about horses.

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The myth of ‘low-skilled work’: time to change the words of the workforce

A group of people stand outside a storefront off a city street. A few people are holding a large sign that says "we, the customers, are urging Pete's and Sobeys to do better for their workers and the communities they do business in. We promose not to cross any future picket lines." A few other people hold signs that say "SEIU 2"
Workers and customers rally outside Pete’s Frootique in Halifax. Credit: SEIU Local 2

“You can’t find good customer service anymore.” That’s one of those phrases I see on Facebook or hear someone moan when they’re out shopping. It’s like that saying “no one wants to work anymore.” People just toss it out there without actually considering what they’re talking about.

I was thinking about that phrase on Friday when I was writing this article about the 92 workers at Pete’s Frootique in Halifax who are demanding better wages and paid sick days from their employer, Sobeys. (Sobeys bought Pete’s from its previous owner, Pete Luckett, in 2015).

The people who complain about the lack of good customer service are often the same people who say providing customer service isn’t worth a living wage. If good customer service is a skill, one that we value, then why shouldn’t that skill be compensated fairly? No one can seem to answer that one.

When the COVID pandemic hit in March 2020, it was the lowest-paid workers — including grocery store clerks, cleaners, and other retail staff — that we relied on the most, and who kept the essential services running.

As Nick Piovesan, who works at Pete’s Frootique told me on Friday, those workers only got “hero pay” for the first few months into the pandemic. And only if they worked more than 20 hours per week.

Those workers paid a price, too. As Piovesan noted, he and his colleagues suffered from burnout and exhaustion, and many took stress leave. Here’s what Piovensan said about that time:

I felt like I was losing it, and I just wasn’t able to be at work every day anymore. I was struggling myself and I was surrounded by other people who were also struggling, and it started to take a toll.

And the hero pay disappeared as quickly as it was tacked onto paycheques in those early months of 2020.

We saw this again during Hurricane Fiona in late September 2022. A few days after the storm, I wrote this Morning File about how, once again, it was the lowest-paid workers who were on the frontlines. The staff at Tim Hortons who filled cups with double-doubles as cars lined up in the drive through. How the workers at the McDonald’s in Clayton Park served a packed store of customers looking for a hot meal because the power was out at home. The gas station nearby was jammed packed, too. Some of the busiest workers on that day were making the least money.

Think about your typical week and what workers keep your life going, even when there’s no emergency. Think about the grocery store clerk, the gas station attendant, the barista at the cafe, the person at Walmart, the hardware store, or the dollar store. Think of the workers who keep all these places clean.

If all of these workers decided not to show up to their jobs for the day, the province would shut down. We tell ourselves they’re not essential, they’re low skilled, and don’t deserve living wages, but the jobs they do are essential to our everyday lives.

Working on your feet all day is physically exhausting and dealing with abusive customers is mentally harmful. Both take a long-term toll health on these people.

Nova Scotia employers have long relied on the skills of workers they refuse to pay fairly. As we learned in September, more than half of working Nova Scotians earn less than a living wage.

Emily MacKinlay, a supervisor who works at Pete’s Frootique, told me she works two jobs, and she and her husband live with her parents because they can’t afford to live on their own. I don’t imagine she can afford to buy many of the products sold at Pete’s either.

Young people who work more than one job are missing out on crucial life milestones not because they’re not working hard enough, but because their employers aren’t paying them enough.

The U.S. group National Fund for Workforce Solutions suggest the language around so-called “low-skill workers” needs to be changed. In this article from 2022, the term “low-skilled/unskilled labor” is “used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to categorize work that requires little or no experience or training to do or consists of routine tasks. These positions do not require the workers to have obtained any post-secondary degree or credential.”

Workers in this category make up a large proportion of our economy and include the millions of workers we rely on to keep us fed, housed, and healthy — in a pandemic or otherwise. Line cooks, farmworkers, construction workers, and grocery clerks, among others, are all considered “low-skilled labor” according to the BLS. While these jobs have few formal requirements to obtain, do they involve little or no skill to do?

Working as a line cook on a busy night requires concentration, coordination, and impeccable timing. Harvesting grapes by hand all day takes endurance, precision, and efficiency. Calling jobs “low-skill” obscures the particular set of skills required to succeed in them and tacitly justifies the low wages earned by workers in these positions.

In 2021, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions released The Words of the Workforce, which provides an overview of key words and concepts used to describe work and workers, and calling for changes in the ways in which we talk about workers.

“Low-skill worker” erases the skills that all workers bring to their jobs. Furthermore, labeling people “low-skill” puts the burden on the individual to gain “better” skills, rather than on employers or industries to invest in their frontline workforce, improve the quality of their jobs, and provide supports that allow workers to succeed and advance.

We can and should do the same in Canada.

No one who runs a company and pays their staff minimum wage (or just above) is an innovator, yet the big pay and the big awards go to the CEOs.

A CEO can take a day or more off from work, yet it’s the lowest-paid workers who will keep the wheels of the economy turning, even through emergencies.

On the weekend Arthur Gaudreau of Halifax ReTales noted he wouldn’t be shocked if Sobeys just shut down Pete’s Frootique rather than pay its staff more. That wouldn’t shock me either.

But we still need our grocery stores and the staff who work them. It’s time we value these people for the work they do.

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No meetings


Special Meeting – Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda

Public Information Meeting – Case 2023-00368, Evening 1 (Wednesday, 7pm, Sackville High School) — application to request substantive amendments to an existing development agreement for lands at 70 First Lake Drive, Sackville


Private and Local Bills (Tuesday, 11am, One Government Place and online) — Bill No. 351 – Bethel Presbyterian Church, Sydney, Act (amended) (no representation)

On campus



Enigmatic archives of magmatic processes: Decoding mineral zoning and melt inclusions with Fe-Mg isotopes (Tuesday, 11:30am, Milligan Room – 8007 Life Sciences Centre) — a talk by Corliss Kin I Sio from the University of Toronto; from the listing:

Mineral zoning and melt inclusions reveal the inner workings of volcanoes. For example, mineral zoning may be used to infer the timescales of magmatic processes. Melt inclusions, on the other hand, may record primary melt compositions and depths of entrapment. Though potentially valuable, interpreting these magmatic archives is far from straightforward. Similar patterns of mineral zoning can result from crystal growth or chemical diffusion. Melt inclusions may incorporate disequilibrium compositions arising from boundary layer formation. I will demonstrate how stable isotopes can reveal the nature of these magmatic archives, allowing appropriate crystals and melt inclusions to be identified for diffusion chronometry and geobarometry studies. Stable isotopes are powerful discriminators of equilibrium versus kinetic processes, adding a dimension to petrologic studies that yields conclusive interpretations.


Rossetti-Watson Travel Scholarship Exhibition (Wednesday, 9am, Exhibition Room, School of Architecture) — findings of seven Master of Architecture students who traveled around the world to do thesis-related studies; presentations at 5pm

Creative Music Ensemble Noon Hour (Wednesday, 11:45am, Joseph Strug Concert Hall) — selections from students’ repertoire

Chamber Music Residency Open Rehearsal/Career Discussion (Wednesday, 5:30pm, Room 111, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — with Peter Allen, piano, Mary-Elizabeth Brown, violin, Elizabeth Upson Perez, viola, and Shimon Walt, cello; more info here



No events


Artists’ talks (Wednesday, 12pm, Anna Leonowens Gallery) — with Gavin Snow, Tabatha Cass, and Fraya McDougall; more info here

In the harbour

05:15: MSC Maureen, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
08:00: Marella Discovery, cruise ship with up to 2,074 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a 14-day roundtrip cruise out of Port Canaveral, Florida
19:30: Marella Discovery sails for Boston

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I love Halloween. I am giving out chips, treat bags, and glow sticks. I am sure I will have leftovers.

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

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  1. Cocaine overdoses.
    Can anyone explain the total silence of Dr Strang?
    And the abject failure of Dr Strang to realize that PUBLIC Health is about protecting & informing the PUBLIC ?

  2. It is not so much that it is low skilled work, it is supply and demand. Almost everybody can be a cashier, and yet demand for cashiers is limited. Therefore, the price to people who employ cashiers is low. It took me about a week to become competent at my first job, which paid minimum wage, because making fries and burgers is something that any 16 year old can be trained to do in short order. I am doing far better now because you can’t spend a week training a teenager to do my job. These jobs ARE low skilled because if you can train people to do them in a week, then there isn’t much skill required. Think about self checkouts. These machines exist because most people can master being a grocery store cashier with no training – you scan stuff, enter codes, and put it in a bag. Pretty easy.

    Instead of pretending that garbage processors and grocery store cashiers are actually irreplaceable workers with unique talents, perhaps we should just say they are people who do a job that needs doing and they should be able to have a decent life doing it.

  3. Two comments: First, I agree the term ‘low-skill worker’ has to go. We must respect and fairly recompense all workers.
    Secondly, I was on a Transit bus today around 3pm and the announcement came on “next stop Barrington before Cornwallis Street”. It became Nora Bernard Street on Monday morning. Transit should have changed its system by now. How long will it take for them to catch up?

  4. I agree 100%. Just the other day I was thinking about this, especially as it relates to those who collect and process our garbage.