1. Atlantic Loop

A white man with grey hai and wearing a plaid suit with a white shirt and pink, blue, and black striped tie talks to reporters with microphones.
Premier Tim Houston. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

“Premier Tim Houston says he is “no longer optimistic” that a proposed and much-discussed Atlantic Loop project that would deliver renewable energy from Quebec to the Maritimes is viable,” reports Jennifer Henderson.

The estimated $5.5 billion project involves building 800 kilometers of new overhead power lines, as well as a new transmission line at the border of New Brunswick-Nova Scotia, to deliver 500 megawatts to Nova Scotia Power. That’s just slightly more than the current capacity of the Maritime Link, a submarine cable that delivers hydroelectricity from Muskrat Falls, Labrador to Cape Breton. 

On Wednesday at the legislature, Houston was asked about a comment made two days ago by Dominic LeBlanc, the federal minister for intergovernmental affairs and infrastructure. LeBlanc said he was “very optimistic” an agreement in principle to proceed with the Atlantic Loop could be reached by mid-summer. Leblanc told reporters the federal government’s lead negotiator was “encouraged” by conversations among Emera, New Brunswick Power, and Hydro-Quebec.    

The latest federal budget mentions the Atlantic Loop as a project that might qualify for a portion of $20 billion allocated to the Canada Infrastructure Bank for “greening electricity infrastructure.” 

Houston’s response was, essentially: show me the money. 

Click here to read “Houston ‘no longer optimistic’ about Atlantic Loop.”

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2. Housing rally

A crowd. Signs read: people over profits, homes for people, not for profit, affordable housing for all.
People hold signs at a housing rally outside Province House on Wednesday, April 5, 2023. Credit: Zane Woodford

“Dozens of people took to the sidewalk across from Province House on Wednesday to call on the government to fix the housing crisis,” reports Zane Woodford.

Sam Krawec, a co-organizer of the rally, read an open letter to Premier Tim Houston’s PC government. Krawec called on the government to immediately build more non-market housing, create permanent rent control with a 3% cap, and abolish fixed-term leases.

“Landlords have been using fixed-term leases as a loophole to get out of their responsibilities towards tenants, avoid the rent cap, and sidestep the eviction process,” Krawec said.

“So long as this loophole exists, tenant rights will be continually under threat and profit-driven landlords will continue to abuse their power.”

A few people who live outside spoke, too, including Lauren Oliver:

“Is people sleeping on the streets truly a problem based on lack of structures? A world full of garbage we throw away and burn and we can’t come up with enough four-walled structures to house people? Surely, I am not that foolish and I hope sincerely hope anyone here is not that dumb, too,” Oliver said.

Click here to read “Halifax housing rally calls for more non-market homes, no fixed-term leases, real rent control.”

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3. Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin

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MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin speaks with reporters at Province House on April 4, 2023. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

“The Progressive Conservatives will not pursue a motion to expel Independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin from the legislature,” reports Jennifer Henderson.

The MLA for Cumberland North had accused the PC caucus of signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) aimed at silencing a young staffer alleged to have been the victim of sexual harassment in 2017.

Premier Tim Houston told reporters on Wednesday the purpose of the motion was to correct the allegation made by Smith-McCrossin because no such NDA exists and the document she produced was not what she claimed.

Houston said the PC Caucus agreed to accept, as a form of retraction, an answer Smith-McCrossin gave journalists during a scrum late Tuesday.

Click here to read “Progressive Conservatives won’t pursue motion to expel Smith-McCrossin.”

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4. Sister act

A Black woman in a white nun's habit
Sister Marie Lutgarde at the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Abbey in Rogersville, New Brunswick. Credit: Lois Wheeler contributed to Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle

Evelyn C. White has this lovely essay about Black nuns, including Sister Marie Lutgarde.

Curious about the backgrounds of the women who’d “taken the veil,” I was stunned to discover that an African-American, Phyllis Rae Johnson, had joined the convent in 1951. A native of Michigan who’d been raised Episcopalian and envisioned a teaching career, Johnson, then age 24, instead converted to Catholicism and decided to become a nun after reading The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.

Published in 1948, the volume details the quest that led Merton — a former New York college professor and jazz enthusiast — to forsake secular life and become a Trappist monk. Johnson longed to emulate Merton but was unable to enter an American convent because of prejudice.

“White nuns did not want to live with Black women and girls called to consecrated life,” notes Shannen Dee Williams, author of Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle (2022). The book stands as the first full-length history of Black women in the Catholic church — a group that includes a Nobel Laureate in Literature born Chloe Ardellia Wofford.

White’s work is always such a pleasure to read.

Click here to read “Sister Act: in 1951, a young Black woman left Detroit, moved to New Brunswick, and became a Catholic nun.”

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5. Heather LeBlanc

A white woman with short grey hair, glasses, and wearing a red scarf under a navy blue winter coat stands outside a historic building with white shingles, red doors and shutters, and chimneys on its roof. The ground is covered with about a foot of snow and two black cannons are in the right-side of the photo.
Heather LeBlanc at historic Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal. Credit: Suzanne Rent

Heather LeBlanc, the project designer behind Mapannapolis, is my latest profile in my series on women over 50 who, in their own often quiet ways, make significant contributions to our society outside of the corporate world. Mapannapolis is a digital-mapping project that takes stories, histories, photos, and maps and puts them into storymaps on a website.

I wrote about Mapannapolis and its work before back in October. At the time, Micha Cromwell with the the Black Loyalist Descendants Committee at Mapannapolis, led a group of volunteers and staff from Boreas Heritage Consulting in searching for the graves of Black Loyalists in Garrison Graveyard. But this time, I got to learn all the history of Mapannapolis from LeBlanc, the woman who leads its work.

The article chronicles how Mapannapolis got started and LeBlanc’s own background. I especially enjoyed learning about LeBlanc’s own ancestral connections to Annapolis Royal:

Her father, Herbert, grew up in an Acadian community in Saint John, NB that went back for generations. But the community was becoming poor, so in 1924, Herbert’s parents moved the family to a nearby English community. LeBlanc said Acadians were often bullied for their culture and language.

“I remember talking about this,” LeBlanc said. “Not very often, but once in a while he’d talk about what it was like to grow up and how they were treated as a family.”

LeBlanc said the family encouraged younger members to become Anglophones.

“My dad was the first person [in the family] to marry a non-Acadian. We all grew up and all my cousins were all Anglophones, even though we’re Acadian.”

When there was a resurgence and interest in Acadian culture in New Brunswick starting in the 1960s, LeBlanc said her father was “thrilled” that people were interested and sharing Acadian stories.

Decades later, when Mapannapolis was doing the work to uncover Acadian graves and the church in the cemetery at Fort Anne, LeBlanc was thrilled to learn more about her own roots.

“Moving here and being involved with an Acadian project here and finding the graves and finding the church, it was probably one of the most moving experiences of my life. Being able to hold a bit of a piece of pipe, or knowing that this was there and underneath my feet were my ancestors, and knowing how proud my dad and uncles and my aunts would have been,” LeBlanc said.

Click here to read “Heather LeBlanc: Mapping the stories of Annapolis County.”

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What Maud Lewis’ life can teach us about how to appreciate, compensate artists of today

A hooked rug of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis with a red winter hat and coat. Maud is holding a sign that says "Maud Lewis" with red and yellow flowers on it. The background of the rug is a black and white design with hearts and small colourful flowers.
A hooked rug called “AGNS’s employee of the month” by Laura Kenney. Credit: Laura Kenney

Like many Nova Scotians, I have read and wondered about the life of folk artist Maud Lewis.

Lewis lived much of her life in poverty, selling her colourful paintings and postcards from the tiny home in Marshalltown she shared with her husband, Everett.

Lewis’ work now sells for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars. John Risley has a collection of 300 of her paintings. Back in January, I listened to this episode of The Current talking about Lewis’ work, the people who are selling fake paintings, and the people who own her work. Risley said this of his collection:

I’ve told my kids that they can sell pretty well anything after I die, but they can’t sell the art. If they want to sell, it’s going to a museum. So. I don’t want the value measured in financial terms. I don’t want it just turned into money.

How Lewis’ life would be different if she enjoyed even some of that money now.

It’s not that we don’t like art, music, theatre, or anything else creative. It’s just that we don’t always want to pay a lot money for these things directly to the people. So many creatives are expected to do their work for next to nothing or “exposure.” Many work other jobs so they can keep doing the creative work they love on the side.

Many of these folks’ livelihoods took a huge hit when the COVID pandemic shut everything down. When COVID restrictions started lifting, I remember reading about what people missed when they were stuck at home all the time. That often including going out to listen to live music, seeing a play at the theatre, going to art galleries etc. Art, music, and all of it makes our lives more fun, interesting, and beautiful, yet we don’t appreciate or compensate the people who create (the same goes with the people who take care of our children).

On the weekend, Laura Kenney, a professional artist who creates wonderful and colourful hooked rugs, including those inspired by Maud Lewis, tweeted this out:

So earlier this week, I messaged Kenney to get her thoughts on what can be done to help artists in Nova Scotia. Here’s the list she sent to me:

  • Basic income for artists would help 
  • Building the new AGNS would help 
  • Folk art is a big part of our identity as a province, and I have been an artist with the Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival in Lunenburg for 15 years. It’s a big draw for the town. I know of ONE folk artist that has been successful in getting a grant from Nova Scotia. If we are being used to entice people to the province, then help us out. 
  • Every time I hear of more or less art funding it seems to have no effect on me as an artist. More or less money is going to those working within the arts, the administrators. Need a way to get DIRECT help for artists 
  • We have had and have so many great artists here in Nova Scotia. Maud Lewis, Alex Colville, Tom Forrestall, Nancy Edell, Letita Fraser, Alan Syliboy. The list goes on. Less focus on dang golf courses and more on attracting artists to the province and people who love art. 

There are national organizations working to get a basic income for artists like the Case for Basic Income for the Arts. Last week, I spoke with Elizabeth Kay-Raining Bird with Basic Income Nova Scotia, about a conference it hosted last week. She mentioned how a basic income could support artists:

“Gig workers, musicians, artists, for example, have a very hard time living off of their art or their music, and so they have to spend a lot of their time working part-time low-paying jobs to make ends meet,” she said. “A basic income could support those workers and allow them to focus their attention on what they do best.”

Last year, Ireland started paying a basic income to 2,000 artists in that country. According to this article by Robbie Meredith at the BBC, 9,000 artists applied for the Basic Income for the Arts and then 2,000 were selected anonymously and at random. The basic income is not means-tested, so the artists can still make income from their work and can receive welfare payments. Here’s a breakdown of who was accepted into the program:

At 764, Dublin has the highest numbers of recipients, followed by Cork (212) and Galway (148).

More than 700 visual artists have been selected to receive the payments, along with 584 musicians, 204 working in film and 184 writers.

About 170 actors and others working in theatre were also selected, along with 32 dancers and choreographers, 13 circus artists and 10 architects.

The plan for the basic income was recommended by a taskforce led by Catherine Martin, Ireland’s Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media, who told the BBC the program had the “potential to fundamentally transform how we support the arts and creativity”.

“Ireland could lead the way on a new model to support people active in the sector, recognising its importance to all people,” she added.

A steel replica of a small house with a peaked roof sits on a grassy lot surrounded by trees. There is a wooden bench to the left of the house and an interpretative panel to the righ. A small gravel path leads up the replica house's doorway. And a bush with bright yellow flowers is in the bottom corner of the photo. The sky is sunny and blue
The steel replica of Maud Lewis’ original house at the Maud Lewis Memorial Park in Marshalltown, NS. Credit: Suzanne Rent

Last July, I visited Maud Lewis Memorial Park in Marshalltown, just a few moments outside of Digby. There’s a steel replica of Lewis’ original house on the site. While there are gardens, flowers, and benches at the site, it all somehow felt more bleak.

Maybe it was because the memorial is far from the city Lewis visited before she was married and where her original home now sits in the AGNS downtown. I could picture Lewis standing outside her door, selling her paintings to passerbys for a few dollars each. As one tale goes, Lewis once sold a painting for a grilled cheese sandwich. Last year, that painting sold for $350,000.

Others have had the same thoughts, too. On that Twitter thread Kenney shared, Dr. Emily McEwan wrote this:

I think about this every time I’m at AGNS. How it wasn’t worthwhile to Nova Scotia to help her during life except by buying a painting for cheap. Her husband, murdered in a robbery in 1979. Even after her death, for years only a small group saw value in her house as a monument.

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The singlehood penalty

An older woman with grey hair swept up on the side wears a blue shirt and stares off in the distance, head tilted up towards the right. .
Credit: Kindel Media/

Brandie Weikle at CBC’s Cost of Living had this story on the weekend about how inflation is affecting single people who are supporting themselves — and maybe others — on one income. Weikle spoke with Jenn Dumaran, a 41-year-old marketing professional, who lives on her own in a 595-square-foot apartment in Toronto. Weikle says she’s finding it tough to get by:

Since she was last apartment hunting in 2019, snagging this place for around $2,000 a month, rents have shot up. The average one-bedroom is now $2,458, according to a national report from in February. An apartment with a little more room and some backyard space for the adopted rescue mutt she dreams of would run her closer to $3,000 — and that’s a hefty price tag for just one person.

“I really feel like I need to stay here because you can’t find anything that is even within that price range for a one bedroom,” Dumaran told The Cost of Living.

Weikle writes that singles are feeling the high prices of, well, just about everything because of the “singles tax.” That tax is defined as the cost a single person pays for rent in an apartment compared to what that apartment would cost per person if it were shared by a couple. Here’s Weikle with some numbers:

According to that same rental report, the average one-bedroom apartment in Toronto was $2,458 as of February. At that rate, over the course of the year, a single person will pay nearly $30,000 to live there, instead of around $15,000 if they were sharing that space with a partner. Therefore the “singles tax” is almost $15,000.

In Vancouver, the average one-bedroom is $2,730, so the extra cost borne by a single person is $16,380. In Halifax, rents are a little more reasonable, but the singles tax still adds up to around $10,300.

I laughed when I read that line that the rents in Halifax are “a little more reasonable.”

Anyway, we singles don’t get noticed much when it comes to budgets or tax credits or just about anything. And we should. The number of single-led households is on the rise.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2021 there were 4.4 million people who lived alone. That’s a record number and up from 1.7 million in 1981.

And situations are different across the single spectrum. There are single parents, co-parents who each run a home on one income, single child-free folks, single seniors, and more. All of these singles are experiencing the housing and affordability crisis much differently. I know anecdotally many of the people being renovicted from their homes are single senior women. They don’t speak out for fear they will be blacklisted from finding a new place to live. Many are good tenants who are quiet and pay their rent on time.

Quite frankly, we do live in a world that prefers — and rewards — people for coupling up. If singles talk about their particular situations, some will respond with, “well, someone should put a ring on it,” which, of course, is not the answer.

The situation is especially precarious for older single women, many of whom are facing or currently live in poverty.

Moira Welsh at The Star wrote a couple of articles recently about the circumstances of older women in Canada. There’s this one about how Canada is failing older women, many of whom had children, are widowed or divorced, worked low-paying jobs that offered no pension, and are now facing poverty.

Welsh interviewed 80-year-old Sheila Hagens, who worked a career in non-profits and teaching overseas, and was a divorced mom who raised two sons. Welsh writes that Hagens is now “entering the poverty of old age.”

Hagens lives in a 12-by-18-foot room in the basement of a High Park home. Once a doctor’s manse, it is now divided into 16 apartments. Hagens’ is the smallest, found in a rush after her previous landlord “took back” her apartment, with two-months’ notice.

At one end of Hagens’ room is a tiny window with the view of a laneway fence. At the other is her fold-up bed. It takes five steps to walk from the futon to the kitchen sink. Seven to the washroom. Hagens pays $1,410 a month for these 216 square feet, which is $410 more than her budget allows.

“I should be grateful, and in fact I am, and yet it is costing me the earth,” Hagens says. “And I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep doing it.”

This is a long, detailed article that looks at a lot of the challenges older woman face. As Welsh writes, some people tell older women to simply move in with their adult kids. But as she notes, those now grown children have families of their own to support and older women still want to live independently (I don’t blame them). Plus, older women are at risk for elder abuse or simply being left at hospitals when their families can no longer take care of them.

There are solutions, including co-housing or shared housing, which I wrote about before.

But bigger plans are needed. This week, Welsh wrote about a five-year strategic plan from the federal CIHR Institute of Aging that addresses the negative impacts poverty has on older women’s health. Welsh writes:

The strategic plan, called “Reframing Aging,” is meant to sharpen the focus of government policy and independent research projects funded by the Institute of Aging. It is one of 13 organizations within the federal government’s Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). In 2021-22, CIHR invested $1.3 billion in research grants and awards throughout all of its institutes.

Overall, the plan highlights a wide range of health-related issues for seniors that need new research, including options to age in the “right” place; chronic-disease prevention; the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and greater community access to primary care (which includes a mix of doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists or physiotherapists).

Welsh’s article also talks about the housing issue and the gender pension gap because women still make less than men as they age.

There’s other research from Australia that has similar findings. Donna Ward, who lives in Australia, calls it the “singlehood penalty” that women pay when they get older:

“We’re living in an economy now that depends on two incomes to maintain a roof over your head, food on your table, clothes on your back,” she tells ABC RN’s Life Matters.

Yet, “we don’t have a common conversation about it”, she says.

“We don’t have the ability to reveal this life so that people’s assumptions can change … so people can understand what this life is like … So that we can be seen and embraced as part of the Australian society.”

Research from Australia, which really applies anywhere, found that older single women are expected to take on more work and less vacation time because workers who are parents get priority. And older single women who don’t have children still take on the responsibilities of taking care of older and sick relatives.

My single friends and I talk about these issues often. And much of these issues worry us as we get older.

Single people need to start organizing. There are too many of us to ignore.

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Legislature sits (Thursday, 9am, Province House)  

On campus


ICG seminar (Thursday, 10am, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Saima May Sidik, freelance science journalist, Somerville, MA will talk 

Panel Discussion on Disasters, Community Healing and Global Wellness (Thursday, 2pm, online) — more info here 
This is What Freedom Sounds Like (Thursday, 7:30pm, Joseph Strug Concert Hall,) — Dr. Tammy Kernodle with the Dalhousie Jazz Ensemble Directed by Chris Mitchell; more info here 

In the harbour

15:00: Theben, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
15:30: MOL Courage, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:30: Grand Dahlia, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
19:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 42 for St. John’s
21:30: Grand Dahlia sails for sea
23:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre

Cape Breton
08:00: Radcliffe R. Latimer, bulker, arrives at Sydney Bulk Terminal from Montreal
19:00: Algoma Value, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Belledune, New Brunswick


Just a shout-out to my colleague, Zane Woodford, for taking terrific photos.

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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

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  1. A lot of good points. Maybe thought should be given to the idea that in the visual arts, photography, painting and sculpture could qualify in some way as an addition to your RRSP. There may be other ideas of musicians, writers and performers.

    I am in no way suggesting that art should be seen as an investment but it can be. At least you have something to show and be inspired by. Mutual funds can go up in smoke as we have seen very often in recent years. Also Tax credits for RRSP contributions to save for our later years make us all participate in the capitalist casino, like it or not.

  2. Has the region ever thought of providing an Art Tour option to the many cruise ship passengers visiting the province every year?

  3. The singlehood penalty is increasingly applying to men as well, a trend that is often overlooked.
    “In 1981, over three times as many senior women (aged 65 and over) as senior men were living alone; solo-dwelling women aged 35 to 64 also outnumbered their male counterparts. In the decades that followed, the number of men who were living alone grew at a faster rate than their female counterparts, particularly those aged 35 and over. By 2016, more men aged 35 to 64 were living alone than women living alone in the same age group, and the gender gap in the senior solo-dwelling population declined to a ratio of 2.2 senior women living alone for every senior man living alone.”

    1. The biggest part of the singlehood penalty is housing costs, and I don’t see why that is a gendered issue.

  4. About “the singlehood penalty”, I have an idea which arose when the housing crisis hit Halifax. I don’t have time to work on it right now – I was evicted last month and will be moving next month. But here it is in brief. Set up a system whereby single people can meet to form a compatible relationship. The two people – roommates – apply for an apartment together, or share a home if one is a homeowner, pooling income and other resources as agreed. As a single senior on fixed income, I know exactly how I can benefit, and I’m willing to compromise. The big job is getting appropriate agencies and groups involved to set up the system, and determine safeguards, etc. I believe such a system can work, and will help a lot of people.

    1. As long as neither is an income assistance recipient. Although often called the “spouse in the house” rule — ESIA hate people “sharing” housing (esp of opposite genders – they do not seem at all worried about same sex partners, at least in some circumstances.) When sharing, they want to call one the landlord (esp if they are NOT on IA) and the other “the boarder” even if both names are on the lease. They seem to feel that if you get organized to make your life a little more bearable – you are somehow cheating the system!! So much BS/judgement/discrimination at Community Services. I have been in absolute shock this year learning about what they are suspicious about/hops they make people jump through… And a gov. that would rather pay subsidies to landlords instead of funding/building non-market housing. How can they make the absolute wrong decision so often? I guess they just want to assist their rich frineds — they do not seem worried bout the poor or unhoused at all.

  5. Re: Artists compensation
    There are a lot of things that should and could be done to provide better compensation for local artists. Building the new AGNS is NOT one of those things. No example better than the Annie Leibovitz attempted tax dodge scandal. Nothing about that has helped a single NS artist and in fact probably detracted from local support. The AGNS could be an engine of support for arts, however the organization is far too preoccupied with building a new gallery in the wrong place for the wrong reasons.