A young Black boy wearing a black top and pants and a long gold chain around his neck sits on a step outside a home.
Demario Chambers


1. School support workers

Three striking support workers with CUPE signs that include the slogan ‘Houston, We have a problem” react positively to passersby on the road honking their horns in suppprt.
Striking school support workers in Lower Sackville react to passersby honking their horns in support on Friday, May 26. Credit: Yvette d’Entremont

“As striking school support workers in HRM wrap up another week on the picket line, one educational program assistant (EPA) has written a letter to Premier Tim Houston pleading with him to intervene,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

Tylor McDuff began working as an EPA almost 20 years ago. He hasn’t wanted to do anything else since.

About 1,800 Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) EPAs, support workers, and pre-primary teachers went on strike May 10. Although he’s trying to remain positive as the labour dispute continues, McDuff said it hasn’t been easy. Especially in light of the fact that no further talks are in the works.

“None of us want this. We really just are floored that there aren’t even conversations,” McDuff said. 

“That’s what really hurts the most. Not that we’re not getting raises. Not that the offer is so small. But that we just aren’t even worth continuing to talk about.”

After speaking to other striking workers, a disheartened McDuff crafted a letter outlining his own thoughts and some of those conveyed to him by fellow strikers. On Thursday he sent it to the premier. 

Click here to read “Halifax EPA pens letter to premier asking him to intervene in school support workers strike.”

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2. Parents to rally for support workers

A group of parents has organized rallies for school support workers on Sunday at noon. Locations are:
• Tantallon Public Library
• Canada Games Centre
• Dartmouth Crossing (229 Countryview Dr.)
• Cole Harbour District High School

More information here.

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3. Health care travel, meningococcal B vaccine

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

As of June 1, the Houston government is introducing a one-year pilot program that could reduce the number of people waiting for surgical procedures in Nova Scotia. 

The total number of people waiting for surgery stands at approximately 20,000 — just 3,500 fewer than before COVID hit in March 2020 — and the pilot program aims to reduce that backlog.

A media release issued on Thursday by the Department of Health and Wellness said about 2,400 people could be eligible for a new travel allowance program. The program has a budget just under $1 million at $946,000. The health department release says:

 To be eligible for the program, Nova Scotians must:
• have a confirmed surgery or endoscopy/cystoscopy procedure date
• be on the Nova Scotia Health wait list for surgery, or an endoscopy or cystoscopy procedure
• be a resident of Nova Scotia with a valid health card
• have a gross family income of less than $35,000 per year
• not have private insurance that covers travel or accommodation costs.

People can apply here.

An endoscopy uses a thin tube to peer inside the upper gastrointestinal tract (throat, stomach) or lower gastrointestinal tract (bowel, colon). 

The average wait for that procedure is currently 222 days, or 7.5 months, according to Nova Scotia Health. A cystoscopy uses a thin tube mounted with a camera to help examine or repair bladder tissues. 

Most regional hospitals offer endoscopy and cystoscopy procedures and a new “one stop shopping” portal launched two months ago will allow doctors to see which hospitals have some availability to do all types of surgeries. 

Appointments for consultations can be booked by doctors online through a digital referral system called Ocean eReferrals. Once booked, patients are supposed to receive email updates about where they stand in the queue for an initial consult or a date for surgery. 

The travel allowance program for patients with less than $35,000 a year in household income will provide:

• transportation costs at $0.57 per kilometre when using personal vehicles
• accommodation costs of up to $85 per night if travelling more than 50 kilometres (one-way)
• transportation/accommodation costs for someone to travel with the patient if necessary.

In Nova Scotia, the average wait time for all types of surgery is in the range of 273 days, approximately where it stood prior to the the pandemic. 

Tables showing average wait times.
Average time that patients waited for hip and knee joint replacement surgeries in Nova Scotia Credit: Nova Scotia Health

Wait times for hip and knee replacements remain among the longest in the country, above the national benchmarks.

“Some surgeries and procedures mean Nova Scotians have to travel quite a distance from home and sometimes stay overnight to be closer to the hospital and those costs can add up,” said Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson. “This pilot program will ensure patients pay less for travel and accommodation to get the surgeries or procedures they need.”

Last week, the province announced that 1,873 more surgeries were carried out in 2022-23 than before the pandemic. But that’s still well below the target of 2,500 additional surgeries a year needed to clear the backlog by 2025. This latest pilot program aims to help people waiting for surgery in one area of the province the option of travelling to another hospital without being out-of-pocket for transportation and accommodation expenses. 

Free meningococcal B vaccine

The province also announced on Thursday it will make two shots of meningococcal B vaccine available to adults under the age of 25 who live in university or college residences or military barracks. 

Nova Scotia residents who move outside the province to live in a group setting of more than 13 people will also be eligible for the free vaccine. 

Prior to this announcement the vaccine cost about $300. 

The bacteria that causes the disease is found in saliva and can spread through kissing or the sharing of utensils and e-cigarettes.

“Invasive meningococcal disease is very rare and not spread easily, but it can be life-threatening. There are certain factors that put people at increased risk of infection, such as youth living in a large group setting for the first time,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Adding these specific groups to our existing high-risk policy is an important step in supporting such individuals to reduce their risk.”

People can book appointments starting Monday, May 29, here

The government estimates the cost to inoculate young adults in congregate settings to be in the range of $1.3 million this year. 

A public awareness campaign about the danger of meningitis B was started by the family of Kai Matthews, a 19-year-old student at Acadia University who died from the bacteria in 2021. In December 2022, Maria Gaynor, a first-year student living in residence at Dalhousie University also died from meningitis B.

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4. Dartmouth hotel

A tall building under construction is seen on a grey day. In the foreground, a pedestrian crosses the street.
The building under construction at the corner of Prince Albert Road and Glenwood Avenue on Thursday, May 25, 2023. Credit: Zane Woodford

“The developer behind a controversial 16-storey hotel project in Dartmouth has applied to convert the unfinished commercial building to residential,” reports Zane Woodford:

Monaco Investments originally sought approval to build an apartment building at the corner of Prince Albert Road and Glenwood Avenue.

After a contentious public hearing in 2018, the Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council approved an eight-storey building for the site. Residents of the area felt it was too big, while councillors felt it was a fair compromise after earlier proposals for 15 and then nine storeys.

On Feb. 1, HRM’s open data portal shows the developer applied for a renovation permit to convert the building, with an estimated value of $10 million. The number of storeys is listed as 17.

Click here to read “Developer wants to convert unfinished Dartmouth hotel to apartment building.”

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Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

The province updated the weekly COVID dashboard for the last time yesterday. Ending the weekly report isn’t such a terrible thing as it long ago stopped conveying much meaningful information. The reporting of deaths lags so much that the dashboard often provided a distorted view of the current situation by underreporting the true number of deaths in any given week. It did, however, provide a better snapshot of the current hospitalization situation.

So for what it’s worth, the last update adds one more death to the ongoing COVID death count. So far, through the pandemic, 866 Nova Scotians have died from COVID.

Nova Scotia Health reports the COVID hospitalization status as of yesterday (not including the IWK):
• in hospital for COVID: 20 (fewer than five are in the ICU)
• in hospital for something else but have COVID: 49
• in hospital who contracted COVID after admission to hospital: 30

I’m told that hospitals no longer test everyone who is admitted to hospital for COVID, just those who have symptoms, so take these figures with a grain of salt, too.

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6. Chinese are not cornering the lobster market

“A Nova Scotia member of Parliament is raising concerns about growing Chinese ‘influence and control’ on the province’s lobster industry supply chain, especially at Halifax Stanfield International Airport,” reports Paul Withers for the CBC:

The Halifax International Airport Authority denied the claim. And a major Chinese seafood exporter — whose influence is being questioned — called it “kind of racist.”

“My concern overall is the growing influence of China and the control of our lobster industry itself and that’s throughout the supply chain,” said Rick Perkins, the Conservative MP for South Shore-St. Margarets, where lobster fishing is a cornerstone of the economy.

When an MP makes such allegations, you have to report on it. But Withers does a good job at exploring whether there’s substance to them. The short answer: No.

It’s undeniable that China has become the largest market for Nova Scotia lobster. That’s because of a growing Chinese middle class, the collapse of the Australian lobster fishery, Trump’s trade war with China, and because every Nova Scotian premier goes to China to promote the industry. Withers notes:

Canadian shipments of live lobster to China, mostly from Nova Scotia, were worth over $450 million in 2022.

Nearly 16,000 tonnes of lobster — valued at $293 million — moved through Halifax Stanfield in 2022, according to the airport. First Catch [the export company Perkins obliquely referred to] represented about 14 per cent of the exports.

Chinese demand has been a boon for lobster fishermen in Atlantic Canada, keeping prices up even as landings rose.

With that sort of money at play, it’s completely understandable that people of Chinese descent who understand the market will get involved in the supply side of the market. That’s not a problem, so long as no one violates regulations to “control” the market, as Perkins alleges.

Perkins has offered no evidence for such wrongdoing, and as Withers reports, there’s no evidence that exporters have to rely exclusively on First Catch or any other Chinese-owned company.

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While Demario Chambers waited over three years for justice, the cop who beat him up was paid more than $300,000 for doing no work at all

A young Black boy wearing a black top and pants and a long gold chain around his neck sits on a step outside a home.
Demario Chambers

In yesterday’s Morning File, Suzanne Rent linked to Matthew Byard’s article, “Halifax constable referred to restorative justice for 2020 assault on Black teen.” The most important and saddest part of the story is Demario Chambers’ ongoing struggles related to the incident. In his statement read in court, Chambers wrote in part:

Since that day my mental health has not been great. I don’t really leave my house, to be honest. I hardly leave my room. I tried to kill myself a few times because I couldn’t handle the pain. I still have nightmares and flashbacks. I don’t eat much, or sleep. I don’t enjoy life like I should. I feel like I got robbed. I’ve gotten severely bullied since that incident. I failed a class. I deal with back pain every day. I battle every day to just get up. This is just a mini summary of what I had to go through but it’s been hard for me.

So concentrate first on Chambers. But can we also talk about the cop, Const. Mark Pierce?

As I reported in October 2020, related to the police beating of Chambers, Pierce was charged with assault by the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT).

And as Byard reports, Pierce has been on paid leave ever since the February 2020 incident.

Over that period, Pierce consistently landed on the city’s Sunshine list — he was paid $103,560.02 in 2020, $102,004.97 in 2021, and $102,727.32 in 2022 — for doing no work at all.

I understand procedural fairness, but there has got to be a better way to deal with these situations.

I think of the struggles we’ve all dealt with over the past three years — the psychological, health, work, and financial issues faced through the pandemic — all while Pierce was comfortably awaiting the court system, itself slowed by the pandemic, to peddle through this case.

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No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

05:30: Morning Lynn, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
06:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
06:00: NYK Meteor, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint John
07:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 42 from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Horizon Arctic, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 28 from Altamira, Mexico
09:00: Seven Seas Navigator, cruise ship with up to 550 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney, on an 11-day cruise from Montreal to New York 
16:00: Em Kea, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
16:30: Morning Lynn sails for sea
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
18:00: IT Integrity, supply vessel, sails from Pier 9 for sea
20:30: Seven Seas Navigator sails for Shelburne
04:00 (Saturday): CMA CGM Pride, container ship (150,783 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Tanger Med, Morocco
04:30 (Saturday): NYK Meteor sails for Southampton, England

Cape Breton
03:30: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Sydney


This has been a physically demanding week for me, and I’m wiped out. I foolishly thought that by waking up an hour earlier I could get more work done this morning, but instead it just made me more tired. Oh, well, that’s what weekends are for, I guess.

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

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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