News

1. Communications specialist: “hundreds of thousands of dollars” were spent to produce “blatant lies” for the campaign against the Biodiversity Act

CPLC ad in the Chronicle Herald

Joan Baxter has a fascinating  piece on the Stop Bill 4 ad campaign from the Concerned Private Landowners Coalition, which doesn’t really exist, against the Biodiversity Act. Baxter talks to a local communications professional and renewable energy expert about the ethics behind the campaign, which included full-page ads in The Chronicle Herald. In a Morning File last week, Phil Moscovitch wrote about another ad from the coalition in The Masthead News.

You have to read all of it, but I was especially interested in reading what Sarah Riley, a communications specialist and the director of strategy at R&G, told Baxter about the campaign. Riley says she was “really shocked” by the campaign she calls “blatantly false.” Says Riley: 

I’ve seen organizations advertise their adherence to ecological limits as plusses, saying things like, “We don’t do X or Y damaging activity within three kilometres of the watershed.” But that’s just advertising that you follow the regulations. I think that’s a pretty standard way of communicating to folks that you’re trying to be responsible. But I have not actually seen an advertising campaign in the market that felt this blatantly Astroturf-ish, if that’s a word. 

And then there’s the question of the money behind the campaign, which Riley says would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Baxter writes: 

[Riley] says a campaign as large and well-orchestrated would have taken a long time to put together, and involved a large and expensive team of professionals, including strategists, designers, copy writers, layout and production people, with “blended hourly rates from $90 to $200.” 

Just one full-page colour ad in the Chronicle Herald costs $7,148. 

Riley notes that a project to develop a logo can cost $5,000, and take weeks of back and forth. 

As for the whole Stop Bill 4 campaign, Riley says, “We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, easily hundreds of thousands.” 

The Halifax Examiner contacted Forest Nova Scotia executive director Jeff Bishop, and also the administrators of the social media accounts and website of the “Coalition” to try to find out more about the campaign, who paid for it, how much it cost, when it was prepared, and which PR agency, if any, handled it for them. 

Neither Bishop nor the Coalition has replied to the Examiner’s questions about the Stop Bill 4 campaign, which are listed at the end of this article.[i] 

This is part 1 of a two-part series on this campaign. Click here to read part 1. 

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2.Halifax committee recommends in favour of nine-storey Young Street development

A rendering of the proposal for 6189-6191 Young St. included in the report to the committee. There are no actual trees in the area around the development. — HRM/WM Fares

A proposal for a nine-storey apartment building on Young Street got a recommendation from the Design Advisory Committee on Wednesday night.  

As Zane Woodford reports, municipal planning staff recommended in favour of the project, telling the committee that the proposal conforms to the Centre Plan. The application for the project was made by WM Fares Architects on behalf of Alessandra Investments Limited, which is owned by Luigi and Marilisa Benigno.  

The project includes eight floors of residential space with 58 apartments. There’s one floor of commercial space and underground parking.  

A few members of the committee questioned some aspects of the design, including that some of the bedrooms in the building have no windows. “I understand that Canadian legislation allows for interior rooms. In your case, you’re really taking it to the limit,” Cristina Verissimo said. 

This article is for subscribers only. To subscribe, click here.

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3. COVID-19 update: two new cases, and Bousquet gets his shot

Tim Bousquet receives his first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Natalie White at a clinic at Dalhousie University in Halifax on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Tim Bousquet has the latest COVID-19 update. Two new cases of the COVID-19 virus were announced on Wednesday. There are a total of 42 active cases in the province. Of the new cases, one is in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone, the other is in the Eastern Zone, and both are connected to travel outside Atlantic Canada. 

You can get tested at these pop-up sites: 

Friday: St Andrew’s Community Centre (Bayers Rd./3380 Barnstead Ln.), 10am-5pm
Sunday: St Andrew’s Church (Coburg St.) 1pm-5:30pm
Monday: St Andrew’s Church (Coburg St.) 10am-5:30pm

And as you can see, Bousquet got his first shot of the AstraZeneca on Wednesday. 

If you over the age of 65, you can book a vaccine appointment here. People 55-64 can book appointments to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Click here to read Bousquet’s story.

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4. Three designs

Residents of Sackville Manor Mobile Home Park have to cross at Exit 2 on Highway 101 to get to the nearby bus terminal and shopping mall. Photo: Google maps

Pam Berman with CBC talked with Coun. Paul Russell about three options for a pedestrian bridge from the Sackville Manor Mobile Home Park to the nearby bus terminal and shopping mall. Right now, people cross Highway 101 near the Exit 2 off-ramp. Russell says two people have been killed crossing here.  

Berman reports on the three options, all of which are accessible for people in wheelchairs or those using strollers. She writes:

The estimated costs are $4.6 million, $3.9 million and $3.4 million for options one, two and three, respectively. 

The three options involve building multi-use pathways and infrastructure to cross the highway. The first two options have the same crossing point at the highway, but all three have different end points. 

Russell said he prefers the second option, which has the pedestrian bridge going over the highway near the off-ramp. 

“It’s certainly the shortest route. It’s the way they go now,” he said. 

Russell tells Berman the project could take years to be built. The transportation committee will talk about the options this afternoon.  

I grew up in Lower Sackville and this has been a problem for too long. People are always crossing here and walking along the side of the highway. A safer crossing should have been built long ago.

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Views

Who’s paying the price for payday and high-interest loans?

Photo: Chronis Yan/Unsplash

Last week I was meeting Iris the Amazing for coffee and as I was waiting I saw two young people walking down Young Street with huge signs advertising $10,000 lines of credit from Cash Money just up the street. Cash Money offers payday and other high-interest loans, which can leave borrowers in a terrible cycle of debt. Of course, I wondered how much these two were getting paid to walk around with these ad signs, but I also wanted to know how the payday and high-interest loan businesses were doing in this pandemic.

I called the Cash Money branch and was told to call their spokesperson Bill Baker (he didn’t call me back). But I learned from the branch that customers can apply for those lines of credit for any amount from $1000 to $10,000 at a 46.93 APR (annual percentage rate.) 

Payday and high-interest loans are regulated in Nova Scotia and several other provinces. A spokesperson with Canadian Consumer Finance Association, which represents most of the regulated providers of small-sum, short-term credit — including payday loans, installment loans, term loans, lines of credit, and cheque cashing services in Canada — sent me this statement:

Beginning in March 2020 all of our members took steps to help borrowers who were impacted by the pandemic. This included reducing or waiving interest on arrears, restructuring loan payments or suspending loan repayments. Contrary to some perceptions, the payday loan business has not increased as a result of the pandemic. Demand for credit has steeply declined due to a) loss of a steady source of income for many borrowers; b) reduced spending by the population and c) federal income supplements. A study of payday lending across Canada conducted by the CCFA found that loan volumes declined 80% in the first 3 months of the pandemic and then stabilized at roughly 50% of traditional volumes.    

ACORN Canada did its own survey on high-interest loans in 2020, which you can read here. ACORN wanted to capture the experience of people who’ve taken out high-interest loans, especially the loans applied for online. They collected 376 surveys and here are some highlights: 

  • 70% of respondents stated taking out a high interest loan. 
  • While a majority of consumers (i.e. 70%) continue to take payday loans, there is a surge in people taking installment loans. In 2016, the proportion of people taking out installment loans was 11% which has gone up to 45% in the latest study.   
  • Notably, the study points out that either people take these loans only once, or they are caught in a vicious cycle of debt. While 30% of respondents reported taking these loans only once in the last 12 months, the second highest number of times reported was more than 10 times in a year, by 13% of the respondents.  
  • To no surprise, 80% of respondents said that they took out a loan to meet everyday living expenses such as rent, groceries, hydro etc. 22% of respondents mentioned that they took it out to improve their credit rating as they were promised it would help them do so.  
  • 45% said that they were rushed to sign the loan agreement with the lender.  
  • 12% of respondents were never informed about optional products — such as home and auto insurance, credit protection, and credit improvement policies — until a large sum was debited from their account.
  • Almost 30% stated that they took out an online loan. Reasons for taking a loan online were primarily because people found them convenient and quick. 
  • 17% said that they have not been able to make payments as they are facing a tough financial situation due to COVID. Only 7% found the lenders extremely considerate. 
  • 40% approached banks before they took out a high interest loan, and were denied. Only 3% said that they prefer a high interest loan. 
  • With regard to online loans in particular, the study shows that the nature of issues that affect these loans when taken from the storefront or online are broadly similar. However, there are certain specific issues that pertain only to online loans and hence it’s important that all consumer protections applied to storefront loans must apply to online loans as well. 
CashMoney storefront on Robie and Young. Photo from facebook.

While people haven’t been getting payday loans during the pandemic, it doesn’t mean they won’t be a problem for those who do, especially when we all get back to “normal.” Loans Canada gathered some data from Statistics Canada and ACORN Canada on who typically uses payday loans:

  • Single-parent families were three times more likely to use payday loans than couples with no children.
  • Single female-led households were more likely to use payday loans than single male-led households.
  • Young families (ages 15 – 24) were three times more likely to use payday loans than older families (ages 35 – 44).
  • Renters were almost three times more likely to rely on payday loans than those with a mortgage.
  • Families with a debt-to-asset ratio greater than 0.50 were 3.2 times more likely to use payday loans than families with a debt-to-asset ratio of less than 0.25.

Yesterday, I talked with Leanne Salyzyn — managing partner of Salyzyn & Associates Limited and a licensed insolvency trustee — who says most consumer insolvencies include payday loans as creditors. As Salyzyn puts its, “As long as there are payday lenders, there will be people using payday lenders.”

These loans are easier to apply for now, too. Customers can simply apply online. And again, it’s people with lower incomes who may not be financially literate who apply for these loans. Says Salyzyn:

I always say buyer beware. They didn’t force the consumer to come into their door and take the proceeds. They’re there for a reason and they do legitimately help out individuals. However, you have to be careful if you’re going to dance with the devil, you better know what the music is. Most people don’t take the time to understand, ask questions, read the paperwork. They need money and they’re getting the money quickly to help them out of that emergency. It’s a vicious cycle and it’s difficult to get out of.  

Salyzyn tells me insolvency rates are the lowest they’ve been in 20 years. And more people have been saving during the pandemic because, well, for months we couldn’t go anywhere or spend much. She says some people who earn lower incomes even managed to save because they received CERB or other benefits, which paid more than their jobs — which is disturbing, of course. Says Salyzyn:

The pandemic has shown us more than ever that having a savings safety net is so important to everybody’s financial plan. The problem is most people just live paycheque to paycheque and that’s the difficulty. If all of a sudden your income gets sliced for an entire month and you had to come up with your rent and your car payment and your groceries … most Canadians don’t have the savings they should in case of emergencies.

Salyzyn says people should take a closer look at their finances now because creditors, who provided some relief over the last year, are likely to get aggressive again in the fall. But maybe the pandemic is teaching us about money, too. Salyzyn says:

We’re afraid to talk about money, but it’s important to talk about it so we can be more educated, and to educate the people around us. 

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Noticed

Halifax Blogger Stephen Archibald visited St. Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Newfoundland in 1969. The French islands are looking to join the Atlantic bubble. Photo: Stephen Archibald.

St. Pierre et Miquelon, the French islands of the coast of Newfoundland, recently asked the join the Atlantic bubble, which, as we know, is not happening as soon as we’d all like.  

Stephen Archibald at Halifax Bloggers was in Saint Pierre in 1969 and dug up some photos of his trip. Archibald was working at Louisbourg that summer and he and some friends traveled to St. Pierre via a freighter from North Sydney that carried supplies to the islands.  

Archibald’s photos had me reminiscing about my trip to St. Pierre back in 2008. St. Pierre was long on my list of places to visit. My daughter was five at the time and we took a flight from Sydney after visiting relatives there. The flight, on a tiny Cessna, was her first plane ride.  

We arrived on July 14, Bastille Day. There were celebrations and a carousel in the town square. The Route Halifax-St. Pierre Ocean Race was also on that week, so the place was quite busy.

I tried to find some photos of our trip, but I don’t know where the heck I put them. My daughter doesn’t have many memories of the trip, although she does remember falling down on an uneven sidewalk and cutting her knee (she still has the scar).

Much like in Newfoundland, the houses in St. Pierre are all painted in bright colours.  We also took a boat ride to L’Île-aux-Marins, a small island off St. Pierre, which once had 700 residents, but now only a handful of people live here on a seasonal basis.

St. Pierre dories lined up at the dock. Photo: Stephen Archibald.

A couple of highlights from that trip: First, the fog. The day we arrived the island had been in the fog for 23 days. Our plane attempted landed twice and we finally landed on the third try. The fog lifted the second day we were there. 

And secondly, the bakeries. They open early in the morning and sold freshly-baked baguettes and treats. We bought pastries called Souris, which were shaped like mice with an icing tail, covered in chocolate, and filled with vanilla cream.  

The streets of St. Pierre. Photo: Stephen Archibald.

St. Pierre is such a fascinating place and I’d love to go back, although I don’t suspect I’ll be going this year, even if the Atlantic bubble opens. I’d love to travel via freighter like Archibald did.  

During Prohibition St. Pierre became a wholesale trading post for booze to Americans. Here’s a good piece in Smithsonian Magazine that says between 1911 and 1918, the island imported a total of 98,500 litres of alcohol.  

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Government

City

Thursday

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — live broadcast

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm) — virtual meeting

Province

Thursday

Legislature sits (Thursday, 12pm)

Friday

Legislature sits (Friday, 9am)


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

TRPC & TRPM4 channels in cardiac function & remodeling (Thursday, 11am) — Marc Freichel from Heidelberg University will talk.

Friday

Excited Electronic States with the Resonant HartreeFock Approach (Friday, 1:30pm) — Lee M. Thompson from the University of Louisville will talk via Zoom.

King’s

Thursday

The Harmonic World of Bach (Thursday, 3pm) — online event: an illustrated lecture with Neil Robertson, accompanied by a concert. $15/20; more info and tickets here. You can watch the event for up to two weeks after purchasing ticket.


In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: Suomigracht, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Eemshaven, Netherlands
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
13:00: Suomigracht sails for sea
16:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
20:00: Elka Hercules, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
21:00: Rosalia, bulker, arrives at Pier 27/28 from Philadelphia

Cape Breton
21:00: SFL Trinity, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from New York


Footnotes

It looks like I’m helping to plan a mini prom now that schools can’t plan them this year. Ideas welcome!

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Suzanne Rent

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

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8 Comments

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  1. Re: payday loans story: “Cash Money offers payday and other high-interest loans, which can leave lenders in a terrible cycle of debt.” I assume you mean borrowers? The institutional lenders might be in debt too, but that’s less of a concern.

  2. Regarding our forests – I am deeply depressed to see this kind of social media manipulation happening in Nova Scotia, shades of Fox News … It is shocking, the Liberals would go ahead and vote based on the this tainted, fabricated information provided by Forest Nova Scotia executive director Jeff Bishop, and vote KNOWING IT IS FABRICATED. Even more shameful is the notion of putting Bishop on the Environmental forestry committee. This kind of corruption, and that is what it is, should be strongly stamped down. Bishop should be facing a court hearing for his lies and the poison he has injected into our forestry debates. It is OUR forestry, and the inheritance of our children. These are not his forests. This not HIS world. It belongs to all of us, and desperately needs to be protected.

    1. I agree. The transition team posting op-eds in the Herald every week with misinformation too. The moaning and bullying is supported too, by politicians, such as the NS PC members in the the debates, and MODL writing letters on behalf of the “district” without polling the district… it is layers of corruption.

  3. Payday loans are the worst of parasitic capitalism and represent a MASSIVE failure of government to provide non-market based solutions to people who are unbanked.

    Just because there is a market for potentially desperate people to pay their bills does not make it something a fair society should want.

    1. Agreed. I just get nervous when people talk about closing them down without acknowledging the need they fill. And the users are not necessarily unbanked, financially illiterate, or low income.

  4. I used payday loans several years ago. They fill a need for people who are working but do not have cash or credit on hand for an expense. And, in my experience, the staff treated customers with respect and dignity – something you don’t get from banks or other institutions when you are poor and need to borrow money.