1. International students and housing

A white man with a beard, wearing a blue suit jacket and purple patterned tie, gestures with his hand.
Housing Minister Sean Fraser Credit:

“According to student visa numbers, there are now more than 800,000 international students in Canada, double the number in 2015,” writes Stephen Kimber:

That means they have become a convenient, identifiable target for anyone frustrated by the difficulties of trying to find housing in Canada — and for politicians looking for someone to blame for the lack of affordable housing.

The problem is that the problem isn’t international students. And we won’t solve our real problems by capping their numbers.

Kimber is responding to federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser’s comments as reported by Marieke Walsh in the Globe & Mail:

The federal government should reassess its policy on international students and consider a cap on a program that has seen “explosive growth,” putting pressure on rental markets and driving up costs, Housing and Infrastructure Minister Sean Fraser said…

“The reality is we’ve got temporary immigration programs that were never designed to see such explosive growth in such a short period of time…” He said the growth of the program for international students is happening in concentrated regions of Canada and is putting an “unprecedented level of demand” on the job market but even “more pronounced” demand on the housing market.

Universities have been put in the position of increasingly relying on international students for funding, notes Kimber:

One of the many trickle-down-into-a-torrent impacts of slashing taxes on the wealthy and corporations beginning in the 1980s has been a decades-long cratering in public funding for universities — from 82.7% of Canadian university operating revenues in 1982 to under 25% today.

That, in turn, led to a tidal wave of ever-increasing increases in student tuition and other fees. According to a 2022 report by the Canadian Federation of Students:

Since 1980, average undergraduate tuition fees have increased by 926 percent and average graduate tuition fees have increased by 1,244 percent, meanwhile, overall consumer prices have increased by 311 percent.

Put simply: international students provide much-needed cash.

They provide a lot of other things as well: new perspectives and a diverse campus environment that helps learning overall, international connections for all students post-graduation, and a two-way sharing of global values and understanding. All good things.

I doubt, however, that this is an arrangement that can last much longer. Other countries are working hard to develop their own extensive quality post-secondary education systems, and there will be less reason for students to come to Canada. Sooner or later, Canada is going to have to pay for its universities without relying on foreign cash infusions.

Regardless, as Kimber points out, we’re where we’re at — relying on international student tuition to fund our universities, and those students impacting our housing market to whatever degree — because we’ve gone so far down the path of attacking government, slashing taxes on the wealthy, and defunding universities. University students from abroad certainly aren’t to blame for that; that’s home-grown.

Click or tap here to read “Don’t blame international students for the housing crisis; blame Arthur Laffer.”

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2. Councillor has public debt related to trucking firm

Councilor Becky Kent stands at a podium during an official ceremony.
Coun. Becky Kent at council’s swearing-in ceremony in 2020. Credit: Zane Woodford

“A bank is suing a Halifax regional councillor who acted as a guarantor on loans to a trucking company worth $125,000,” reports Zane Woodford:

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) filed notice of action for debt against Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage Coun. Becky Kent in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Aug. 10.

Kent describes herself as the co-owner of Jesse James Trucking Inc., and was listed as the registered agent for an earlier version of the company.

Click here to read “Bank suing Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage councillor over trucking company’s debt.”

There’s no shame in having a go at a business and then that business failing. Our society celebrates the spirit of entrepreneurship, and this is the necessary downside — most businesses fail, and most of those fail within a few years.

But it is worth noting that a public official is involved in the legal process related to an unpaid public debt.

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3. Thursday night, Halifax police shot a man; there’s no reason for the public to trust the SIRT investigation of the incident

A sign for the Serious Incident Response Team
Credit: Tim Bousquet

Thursday night, Halifax police shot a man in Clayton Park. At around midnight, police issued this release to reporters:

Halifax Regional Police refer officer involved shooting to SiRT 

Halifax Regional Police have referred an incident involving discharge of a service weapon that occurred last night to the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT). 

Last night, at approximately 10:15 p.m., officers were in the 100 block of Plateau Crescent in Halifax looking for a man in connection with an aggravated assault involving a stabbing that had occurred earlier in the evening. As officers approached the man, he pointed a firearm towards the officer, following which the officer discharged their service weapon. The man has been taken to hospital with what are believed to be life-threatening injuries. As the incident has been referred to SiRT, they will handle all further inquiries related to this incident while their investigation continues.

Much of the reporting that came after the shooting simply reworded that press release. Zane Woodford, however, went to the scene, and did some independent reporting, including interviewing a potential witness:

Lisa Slaunwhite lives in an apartment building next door, and told the Halifax Examiner she heard someone swearing at someone else, and then five gunshots.

“I heard, ‘You stupid fucker, get the fuck out of here. You fuckin’ fucker, you’re gonna get it. Fuck off,’ and boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,” Slaunwhite said.

Slaunwhite’s comments raise questions about the official police version of events — she doesn’t report hearing any police warnings shouted, for instance.

There may be a good explanation for that — maybe there wasn’t time to issue the warning, maybe she was too far away, or something else. I don’t know.

Additionally, however, Slaunwhite recalls five shots — boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. This could suggest shots fired by multiple cops, or one cop firing five times. But the police release obscures the number of shots, and the casual reader can be forgiven for taking away that one cop fired one shot — “the officer discharged their service weapon.”

The police release says “officers,” plural, approached the man, but only one “officer” shot the man. Were the other officers simply standing around watching this unfold? Was this the case of a trigger-happy cop? Again, I don’t have enough information to have an informed view. I can certainly imagine many scenarios where one cop shot a man five times while a bunch of other cops did not — some of those scenarios would be completely explainable and a reasonable use of force, but some of them would not.

Properly, an independent third-party investigator would do a proper investigation of the incident and come to some independent conclusions.

That’s why we have the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), right?

Well, here’s SIRT release about Thursday night’s shooting:

Investigation Begins into HRP Involved Shooting


The province’s independent Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) is investigating the shooting of a suspect by a Halifax Regional Police (HRP) officer.

On August 24, 2023, officers were investigating a matter on Plateau Crescent in Halifax.  While investigating, officers observed a man who produced a weapon and pointed it at the officers. One of the patrol officers shot the man.

The man was taken by EHS to the QEII hospital and is undergoing treatment for his injuries.

As a result of the injuries, in accordance with the Police Act, HRP contacted SiRT shortly after the incident.  SiRT responded to the scene and have assumed responsibility for the investigation into the shooting.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident is asked to call SiRT at 1-855-450-2010.

Is it appropriate that SIRT simply re-iterates the police release’s assertion that “officers observed a man who produced a weapon and pointed it at the officers,” without noting that that is the cops’ version of events? As the SIRT release is written, it is a fact that the man pointed a gun at police. Well, hell, if you’re going to just assume that’s true, why have an investigation at all?

Recall the SIRT investigation of the shoot up of the Onslow Fire Hall. During the April 19 manhunt for the man who was then in the midst of a killing spree that left 22 people dead, constables Dave Melanson and Terry Brown drove up near to the fire hall and — mistaking Const. Dave Gagnon’s actual police cruiser for the killer’s fake police cruiser and mistaking Colchester EMO coordinator Dave Westlake for the killer — opened fire on the hall, Westlake, Gagnon, and potentially three civilians in the fire hall.

The matter was referred to SIRT.

As I reported in April 2023, the Mass Casualty Commission (MCC) faulted that SIRT investigation:

The ensuing SIRT investigation became utterly muddled with inappropriate communications between the RCMP and SIRT.

As SIRT investigated the fire hall shooting over the next year, the RCMP H (Nova Scotia) Division investigators were also investigating it, and the two teams of investigators were sharing information back and forth.

The SIRT report fails in its responsibility to inform the public, says the MCC’s final report.

Here’s what the MCC found:

For instance, a member of the public cannot know from reading the report what evidence underlies the SiRT’s finding that prior to firing their carbines, the constables yelled “police” and “show your hands,” and nor is it apparent that the SiRT received contradictory evidence on this point. There are no photographs, radio transcript excerpts, or witness statement excerpts included in the report, and it does not refer to any police training or policy.

The Onslow SiRT Report states that the SiRT reviewed an expert report on the use of force. However, it does not set out the expert’s opinion, or state whether the SiRT relied on that opinion in reaching its conclusion that the constables’ use of force was authorized under section 25 of the Criminal Code. Through the Commission’s process, we learned that then SiRT director Felix Cacchione did not rely on the expert opinion the SiRT obtained in the Onslow fire hall shooting investigation because he was concerned that it was “kind of one sided.” …

The Onslow SiRT Report identifies factors that support its conclusion that the con- stables had reasonable grounds to fire their carbines at Mr. Westlake. However, the report does not indicate whether the SiRT considered, accepted, or rejected any evidence that did not support the reasonableness of the constables’ use of force.

It’s beyond obvious that SIRT, which includes police investigators seconded to SIRT, is too willing, perhaps always willing, to take police explanations for the use of force as a given, unquestionable.

Given the long track record, and the Mass Casualty Commission’s findings, there’s no reason for the public to have any trust whatsoever in a SIRT investigation into police use of force.

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No meetings

On campus


Improving the safety and effectiveness of medication use in aged care (Monday, 12pm, Room 310, Burbidge Building) — Janet Sluggett of the University of South Australia will talk

In the harbour

05:30: Celebrity Summit, cruise ship with up to 2,100 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from St. John’s, on a 12-day cruise from Reykjavik, Iceland to Boston 
07:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
07:00: MSC Sao Paulo, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Boston
07:45: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
07:45: Zuiderdam, cruise ship with up to 2,364 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor, on a seven-day cruise from Boston to Quebec City
11:45: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Portland
16:30: Atlantic Sun sails for New York
17:30: Celebrity Summit sails for Boston
17:45: Zuiderdam sails for Sydney

Cape Breton
07:00: Norwegian Pearl, cruise ship with up to 2,873 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Charlottetown, on a seven-day, roundtrip cruise out of Boston
16:30: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Halifax
16:30: Norwegian Pearl sails for Halifax


I spent the weekend driving from Halifax to Toronto. Partly that’s because it was cheaper than flying, partly because I have an irrational and yet very real fear of flying, and partly because I have things to do en route both ways. So, I’m part of the problem, but let me say: our automobile-based transportation system is insane.

Every year, the traffic gets worse and worse around Montreal and then the 401 into Toronto. At one point, I thought about writing a short story about a couple who meet in a three-day traffic jam like they have in China; surely, we can’t be too far from that reality.

I’m having a hard time grasping where all the steel and plastic and concrete comes from, and I’m thinking either I’ve severely underestimated the size of the globe or we’re consuming way more than is reasonable.

But I’m slightly heartened that hundreds of thousands of people can maneuver giant hunks of steel through relatively narrow corridors and not injure each other, at least not so much. It speaks to something, although I’m not sure what.

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

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  1. How is the debt of a private company public debt? Even if the person named is a public official. That should not matter, unless I am missing something. Is BDC publicly funded? A crown corporation? – yes. Publicly funded? It does not seem so.

    1. The Business Development Bank of Canada is a federal crown corporation owned entirely by the government of Canada.

  2. It is absolutely astonishing the lengths all levels of government are going to to protect the private real estate market.

    You want to solve the problem all levels of government? Build public housing, build student housing. Look at what’s happening on the NSCC waterfront campus. They are converting a useless parking lot into student housing. This should not be revolutionary nor enlighted.

    The last numbers of years have proven that the private real estate market is failing thousands of Nova Scotians and millions of Canadians.


    1. The Globe and Mail has a proprietary dynamic paywall, so different articles are paywalled for different people. That’s not to suggest people shouldn’t post Globe and Mail articles, but it is possible they will be open for some, and paywalled for others. (In this case, it’s behind the paywall for me.) The Globe is now selling this technology to other media outlets.

      1. Thanks. I wasn’t aware of that. I pay what I’ve always understood to be for full subscription (which is only a little over 3X what I pay for the Examiner). I’ve always assumed that articles with a key symbol indicated that they were behind a paywall and this one didn’t have one.

  3. The SiRT report says it was one of the officers who did the shooting but, strangely, does not say the man was pointing a firearm at the officers, but rather a “weapon”. That could be a knife. If they are going to be vague in their statements, the least they could be is consistent.