June subscription drive

Earlier this year, I sent an email to Tim Bousquet pitching an idea. I wanted to write a series about women over the age of 50. At the time, I was seeing a lot of social media posts about awards honouring the top 30 under 30, the top 40 under 40, and so on. You know, the typical corporate awards handed out every year.

I write a lot about women’s issues for the Examiner, so I wanted to highlight the work of older women that, sadly, I think often goes unnoticed and uncredited. These women do the quiet work that contributes to our society well beyond the corporate world. We unofficially call these profiles the “anti 30 under 30” series.

I sent to Bousquet a list of women I wanted to interview; Joan Baxter had some suggestions for me, too, as did readers and folks on my Twitter feed. Bousquet told me to just go for it, saying he trusted my judgment.

And so I did. Since February, I’ve been to Canso to interview Marie Lumsden about why she’s fighting plans for a spaceport in her town. On another Saturday, I headed to the North Mountain to meet Nina Newington to learn about her direct action to save Nova Scotia’s forests. Later that day, I headed to Annapolis Royal to meet with Heather LeBlanc to talk about Mapannapolis and her efforts to preserve the historic town’s stories.

And still on another day, Zane Woodford and I met up with Iris Drummond and Debra Lucas, two women I’ve known for years, to learn about the volunteer work they’ve done in Lucasville, a historic Black community (Woodford took the excellent photos). You can read the other profiles here.

Each of these women allowed me to be part of their spaces for a couple of hours to learn about why they do the work they do and what makes them tick. And I think — and hope — that I was able to capture in words the work they’re all so passionate about and why it’s important for the rest of us.

Readers, I likely wouldn’t be able to write such a series anywhere else. Editors might say readers wouldn’t care. Worse, salespeople might say advertisers wouldn’t care either.

But the beauty of the Examiner is that I know readers do care about these stories. And after we started publishing these profiles, readers sent along more suggestions for women to write about. That list keeps getting longer.

In one of our weekly team meetings, Bousquet suggested I just keep going on these profiles. Readers, this also wouldn’t happen anywhere else either!

I haven’t published a profile in a few weeks; as you know, we’ve been busy with other stories. But I have a couple of profiles in the works now and a growing list of women to still interview and write about. And it’s our subscribers who make this series possible.

So, I want to thank you for allowing me to get out across Nova Scotia, learn more about these women, and share their stories. Of course, if you know a woman over 50 I should write about, you can contact me here.

Maybe you have a female friend or family member who would enjoy reading these profiles, as well as the other reporting in the Examiner. If so, you can purchase a subscription here.

Thank you!


1. Barrington Lake fire update

A firefighter dressed in bright yellow gear holds a fire hose and shoots a spray of water on blackened trees and ground in the woods. Parts of the ground and tree trunks glow orange.
Annapolis Royal volunteer firefighter Jason Rock sprays hot spots in the Birchtown area, Shelburne County, on Saturday.. Credit: Communications Nova Scotia

The wildfire in Barrington Lake is now under control. According to a press release, the fire covered 23,525 hectares and is not expected to spread. Firefighters from the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR), the Department of National Defence, Newfoundland and Labrador, the U.S., and from volunteer and municipal departments are still in the area doing a mop up to extinguish hot spots.

And the province has lifted the burn ban and the remaing restrictions on travel and activities in the woods. And the press release states, “even with the provincewide burn ban lifted, the fine for burning when not allowed is still $25,000.”

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2. School support workers speak with Houston

Two white men stand on a sidewalk speaking with a white woman in a floral ball cap, black t-shirt, and holding a sign that says "CUPE 5047 Day 26."
School support worker Beverly Slaunwhite speaks with Premier Tim Houston and MLA Tim Halman outside of Halman’s constituency office in Dartmouth. Credit: Suzanne Rent

“Striking school support workers had a chance to speak with Premier Tim Houston and MLA Tim Halman face to face when they showed up Halman’s office on Tuesday,” I reported on Tuesday.

“With all due respect, you’re not rewriting history. You’re putting us back to the past decade,” Beverley Slaunwhite, an educational program assistant (EPA), said to Houston when he arrived with Halman.

“We are at the table,” Houston told the workers as cars drove past with drivers honking their horns in support. “We were at the table on Saturday. We would have been at the table Sunday. I believe in the collective bargaining process.”

“The negotiations are ongoing,” said Halman, who once worked as a teacher.

The support workers have been on strike since May 10. Their union went back to the bargaining table on Friday.

Click here to read “Halifax school support workers get face to face with Houston over strike, talks with CUPE.”

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3. John Lohr, the Avon River aboiteau, and Fire Chief Jamie Juteau

A sign that says Save the Lake: A better solution exists stands in a lake with low water levels. There are grasses and weeds sticking out of the lake's water and there are trees along the shoreline. In the background is a highway.
The artificial Lake Pisiquid behind the Avon River aboiteau, which had been empty since 2021 when the aboiteau was opened, began to fill up again after John Lohr ordered it opened in defiance of a DFO ministerial order. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

“Citing the risk of fire, on the evening of Thursday, June 1, John Lohr, the Nova Scotia minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, ordered the closing the aboiteau at the Windsor causeway,” reports Tim Bousquet.

Citing the risk of fire, on the evening of Thursday, June 1, John Lohr, the Nova Scotia minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, ordered the closing the aboiteau at the Windsor causeway.

Lohr’s order was in contradiction to a 2021 ministerial order of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to keep the aboiteau open so fish could travel up and down the Avon River, and thus in and out of the Minas Basin in the Bay of Fundy.

DFO re-issued the order every two weeks, and with the aboiteau open, the artificial Lake Pisiquid, on the upstream side of the causeway, emptied.

Lohr was able to override the DFO order because the province had declared a state of emergency related to the wildfires across the province.

“At a time when wildfires across the province continue to spread out of control, we need to take every precaution to prevent further fires, protect communities and maximize the water supply resource available for our ongoing response,” said Lohr in a press release.

The closure of the aboiteau would “maximize the water supply available for wildfire suppression efforts,” said the release.

Lohr sent a text to Darren Porter the next morning, saying they had a request from the Windsor fire department for water resources in Lake Pisiquid. The same day, CBC published a story about Lohr’s order, but Windsor Fire Chief Jamie Juteau says he didn’t make such a request.

This story was updated with a press release from the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs.

Click here to read “EMO Minister John Lohr said he ordered the Avon River aboiteau closed after a request from the Windsor Fire Department. But Fire Chief Jamie Juteau says he never made that request.”

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4.Bridge collapse

A transport truck sits partly in a river and partly on a riverbank bank with its wheels up in the air. The roadway of the rural bridge is collapsed into the river and the green iron rails of the bridge are twisted. In the background are two people assessing the damage.
Credit: Nova Scotia RCMP

“The driver of a transport truck was not injured Tuesday when a bridge collapsed as they were driving over it in Nova Scotia’s Colchester County,” reports CBC.

The RCMP said the bridge on Lake Road near Tatamagouche collapsed around 7 a.m. AT. But according to the Department of Public Works, the truck should not have been on the bridge in the first place.

“The class of truck on the bridge was not permitted on that section of Lake Road due to the road’s classification for truck weight and configuration,” department spokesperson Gary Andrea said in an email.

One summary offence ticket has been issued and others are pending, he said.

Fines for violating the road’s classification for truck weight and configuration, said Andrea, can range anywhere from $237 to $4,100.

Andrea told CBC that 14% of the province’s bridges — or 600 bridges — have a rating of poor condition or worse and are in need of upgrades. Those bridges, he added, are still considered safe, but undergo more frequent inspections.

I’ll remember this on the next rural road trip I take.

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5. Tent encampments in Charlottetown

Tents at a park in Halifax are covered in tarps. The park is small, and some tents are collapsed. Garbage and tarps are strewn on the ground.
Nick Meagher Park, or People’s Park, on Friday morning, the same day as the rally outside the Friendship Centre shelter. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

“Charlottetown is in the early stages of forming a group to deal with impromptu tent cities, but who will be in that group or how it might respond has yet to be decided,” reports Tony Davis with CBC in Charlottetown.

City councillors unanimously passed a resolution to support the creation of a city-led response team at their meeting Monday evening.

“We’re trying to be proactive instead of reactive,” said Coun. Kevin Ramsay, who chairs the city’s protective and emergency services committee.

It’s unclear what some of the wording in the resolution means. It states the team would be put together to “address” encampments. What addressing encampments means will be defined by the terms of reference attached to the resolution, and those have not yet been developed, Ramsay said.

In January, the city of Charlottetown had the tent encampment at Charlottetown Event Grounds taken down after a small fire started. Ramsay told CBC that safety will be one of the issues the new group will discuss.

Ramsay added he hasn’t heard any word about encampments being set up elsewhere. Davis writes:

“I think they are slowly starting to make that move and were hoping to stop it right at the first because it wasn’t a pretty sight last year and it was an unsafe site,” Ramsay said of the temporary campsite at the event grounds near the Hillsborough Bridge.

The Park Street Emergency Shelter was set up by the province this past winter to prevent some people from having to sleep in tents. The 50-space facility has been well used, with 44 people staying on average each night through the month of May. In April, the shelter averaged 48 occupants a night. 

“Things have been working out all winter. Now, it is going to keep working out? That is the million-dollar question,” Ramsay said.

Rob Lantz, P.E.I.’s minister of housing, land and communities, told Jack Morse with CTV that the shelter would remain open in the warmer months.

“It’s accessible,” said Rob Lantz, Minister of Housing, Land and Communities. “There’s a lot of amenities and services for the comfort of people who are unhoused, so I expect to it will continue to have fairly good usage throughout the summer.”

A shelter in downtown Dartmouth closed this month, leaving several people to set up tents nearby. Coun. Sam Austin wrote about this in his recent newsletter.

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Wildfires reignite debate over banning sale of consumer fireworks

A flashing red, white, and green sign that says BEM Fireworks Sold Here.
Credit: Suzanne Rent

Almost two years ago, I wrote this Morning File about fireworks. That bit was inspired by my own experiences frequently hearing fireworks being set off in my neighbourhood. At one point, it seemed there were fireworks at least once a night.

Fireworks have been in the news lately, after the recent wildfires across the province. And the use of fireworks was banned with the province-wide burn ban, although that didn’t ban the sale of fireworks.

HRM has this webpage that details rules around fireworks. There’s no provincial law around fireworks and no HRM bylaw either. The federal Explosives Act governs the sale, storage and use of all fireworks.

The province did have the Fireworks Act, which included rules for the sale, purchase, and use of fireworks, but that was repealed in 2002. A recommendation report was presented to Halifax regional council in 2009 that considered a bylaw banning the sale of fireworks, but that report noted the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter doesn’t have the authority to ban fireworks, and recommended instead that the province take up the issue.

Still, there are some folks that want to see more laws around the use of fireworks.

On Tuesday, I spoke with Hugh Chisholm, a retired veterinarian, who is part of a group called #FireworksHurt: Ban Private Fireworks in Nova Scotia. That group was started by a woman in 2022 when she read a story about a horse that broke its leg after someone fired off New Year’s Eve fireworks near the horse’s paddock. The horse’s injuries couldn’t be fixed, and the horse had to be euthanized.

With the recent wildfires, Chisholm and members of the group continue to ask that the province ban the sale of consumer fireworks. They don’t want to ban larger firework shows like those on Canada Day and New Year’s Eve.

We actually talked about it in the group when the fires started and when the emergency evacuation zone went up. We said, ‘should we be bringing this up now? Would this be unfair given the circumstances and so on?’ The harder we looked at it the more we thought if we don’t do it now we’re going to miss the opportunity to make this an issue in the public eye.

People are realizing that fireworks have the potential to start one of these fires. It’s certainly happened elsewhere. And although these current fires don’t appear to have been related to fireworks, they could have been. The fact that you have potential for any adult, teenager, kid, or whatever to go into a corner store and buy explosives, which is really what fireworks are, and set them off almost wherever and whenever they want without any consequences, it just seems crazy.

#FireworksHurt has a Facebook page with 3,600 members. Chisholm told me that one of their members keeps track of where fireworks are being set off across the province. Apparently, that member has so many reports of fireworks in Fairview — where I live — that it has its own section apart from other neighbourhoods in HRM.

In some places like Fairview, it’s almost happening every night. Not so much during the fire ban. We notice people seem to be a bit more careful now and I think maybe a lot of stores have taken them off the shelves during the fire ban. Things are definitely seeming to change, but there’s always going to be the idiot out there who’s going to think it’s great fun to have a fireworks display for whatever selfish reason and you can’t stop them unless you take those fireworks out of their hands in the first place.

Chisholm told me that he heard the Canadian Tire and Costco in Bayers Lake stopped selling fireworks. I called both stores on Tuesday and staff took my number and said someone would call back. They never did.

According to this article in Huddle, one business, Amazing Savingz Warehouse in Burnside, did stop selling fireworks on May 30, a couple of days after the wildfires started.

As for getting the group’s message out, Chisholm has hand delivered letters to each party’s caucus office, and Premier Tim Houston’s office.

We’ve had absolutely zero feedback from anybody. There have been a few MLAs that have reached out to people in the Facebook group, but nobody has formally contacted the leaders of the group. We’re not surprised by that. Government is busy and they have a lot of things on their agenda, and so I guess at least up until now we haven’t been a priority. But we’re making it a priority and we’ll just keep nattering away until someone does something.

Here’s some data from the National Fire Protection Association in the U.S.

Fireworks started an estimated 12,264 fires in 2021, including 2,082 structure fires, 316 vehicle fires, and 9,866 outside and other fires. 

I contacted Halifax Deputy Fire Chief Dave Meldrum to see if there was any data on fireworks. He didn’t have numbers for me today. But he did forward a link to this May 2021 request for a report from then councillor Lorelei Nicoll about the regulation and safe use of display and consumer/family fireworks in HRM. That report includes some data on injuries related to fireworks, most of which were to people under the age of 20. And there are details on fireworks in other provinces, including in P.E.I, where the sale, distribution, and possession of fireworks is banned. In other provinces, people need a permit to use consumer fireworks.

And I also contacted FireSmart to find data. Jennifer Henderson wrote about FireSmart on Monday. As she wrote, FireSmart is the fire safety program former firefighter Paul Irving wanted HRM to adopt. I wrote to FireSmart on Monday, and program manager Magda Zachara said it was difficult to get national data on the connection between fireworks and wildfires, but sent along this response.

From a FireSmart perspective, the key is to avoid sparks or embers that can then ignite other fuels in the area. This is why fire bans, or fireworks bans are important during dry and fire prone conditions. With fireworks, it is difficult to even know where the sparks and embers land – they can land far from where the fireworks are launched, so it’d difficult to monitor.

Fireworks are mentioned in the HRM bylaw N-200 Respecting Noise, but Chisholm said that’s not good enough.

By the time authorities get to the site where fireworks have been set off, if they even go because they’re often busy with other things. This happens at nighttime when bylaw officers are not available, so it falls to the police to do it. And the police are busy with lots of other stuff. By the time they go to the place where the fireworks have been set off, they’re over and done with and people have left. To say noise bylaws can control this is a cop-out.

For some reason, the government hasn’t considered it a priority. I think we need more control over who can buy them, where you can buy them, if they can buy them at all.

Chisholm said he does think public perception about fireworks has changed quite a bit over the last number of years, and that there are more people concerned about the dangers of fireworks than there are people looking for the fun they provide.

Your fun has consequences beyond you and that’s where a lot of these people either don’t think about it or don’t care about it. Maybe your next door neighbour or the guy down the street has PTSD or maybe they’ve got a pet that’s so terrified they are soiling in the house. Or maybe there’s some other situation with a horse. There are so many things that can happen from those five or 10 minutes of so-called fun that are not-so-much fun for other individuals.

Given the way things are going with climate change and what we know about pollution from fireworks in terms of air quality and particulate matter and contamination of soil and water and so on. You kind of get over the fact that this is fun and realize some forms of fun may belong in the history books and this is one of them, as far as we’re concerned.

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Photographs by Darren Calabrese

A book cover in grey with a photo of a white older home with a peak gable above the door sitting on a grassy lawn with a background of full, lush trees. The name of the book is Leaving Good Things Behind, Photographs of Atlantic Canada, by Darren Calabrese.

Earlier this month, I read this piece by Darren Calabrese, Canadians see the Atlantic provinces through a narrow lens. I tried to widen it with my camera, in the Globe and Mail. Calabrese was also on CBC’s Information Morning on Tuesday. That interview is here.

Calabrese is an editorial and documentary photographer in Halifax. He’s from New Brunswick, but as many Atlantic Canadians do, headed west for work. But he recently moved back to the East Coast and now has a book, Leaving Good Things Behind, a collection of photographs from across Atlantic Canada. Here’s a description from his publisher:

When a family tragedy pulled photojournalist Darren Calabrese back to Atlantic Canada, the region both he and his wife once called home, he was confronted with a sense of profound grief. But, on returning to the rural property where he grew up, as a new father, he rediscovered an appreciation for the geographies, histories, and people of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, turning his lens to explore the tension between the perseverance of tradition and the inevitability of change.

Calabrese’s essay in the Globe was a lovely read. I was born and raised in Nova Scotia and left in 2000 for school with plans to never come back. But I did, and I have to say Calabrese’s story is familiar. I’m looking forward to getting his book.

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Board of Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 4:30pm, HEMDCC Meeting space, Alderney Gate, and online) — agenda


Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate, and online) — agenda

Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate, and online) — agenda


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, One Government Place and online) — 2023 Report of the Auditor General – Follow-up of 2018, 2019 and 2020 Performance Audit Recommendations RE: Chapter 2, May 2019 Report of the Auditor General – Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal: Selection and Quality Management of Bridge Projects in Central and Western Districts and July 28, 2020 Report of the Auditor General – Government-wide: Contaminated Sites; with representatives from the Department of Public Works, and Build Nova Scotia

On campus


Chemistry of tricyclic 1,4-diphosphinines and bis(N-heterocyclic carbenes) (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Rainer Streubel from the University of Bonn will talk

Facing uncomfortable truths in academic scientific research in Canada (Wednesday, 5pm, Potter Auditorium, Rowe Building) —Imogen Coe from Toronto Metropolitan University will give the plenary address for the 2023 Canadian Biomaterials Society Meeting, and chair a panel discussion on EDIA in research, particularly in science and medicine. She will speak about structural inequities and steps that can be taken towards sustainable and inclusive excellence in research. Panellists: Emilio Alarcon, University of Ottawa, Marya Ahmed, University of Prince Edward Island, and Kevin Hewitt, Dalhousie University. More info here.

In the harbour

15:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
16:00: MSC Bejing, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Baltimore, Maryland
20:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Saint John

Cape Breton
06:30: AlgoBerta, oil tanker, sails from Government Wharf (Sydney) for Corner Brook


For some reason, yesterday I thought about taking courses on how to become a beekeeper.

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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. Often not considered is the impact of fireworks on wildlife. I’ve heard loons, ducks, owls and songbirds alarm calling during fireworks ‘displays’ during nesting season. Also the fireworks create a bunch of plastic trash which in my experience is often left behind and I’ve found floating in water bodies (which will eventually become microplastics or ocean plastics).

  2. Hasn’t this sentence got it backwards?

    “Still, the $25,000 fine for not burning when allowed remains.”

    1. Hi David. I just tweaked that line and added exactly what’s in the press release: “Even with the provincewide burn ban lifted, the fine for burning when not allowed is still $25,000.”

  3. I would be all for the province wide burning ban to be permanent with exceptions by permit only. I have never seen the purpose to burning other than to be a cheap way of disposing if biomass. Burning even at the best of times puts out tons of greenhouse gasses and particulate pollution.

  4. The provincial fire restrictions page (novascotia.ca/burnsafe/) which sets fire restrictions each day makes no mention of fireworks, but if you click the “Domestic brush burning frequently asked questions” link it states that the Office of the Fire Marshall bans consumer fireworks when the map is red (“no burn”). The HRM fireworks page makes no mention of checking the burn restrictions map.

    So technically fireworks are not allowed when the fire risk is high, but this is not obvious or well communicated and I doubt many people would know to check the burn page before using them.

  5. Not exactly in response to today’s topics, but this may have some bearing on future tent cities in HRM. It was reported that N.S. power rates would increase consumer bills by an average of 6.9% per year over the next two years. Obviously, there is substantial variance around the average as the first post rate increase bill that I just received increased my costs by 50.4% over the previous billing period despite the fact that my energy consumption declined marginally.

    How can that be? It has to do with the “base energy charge” which is imposed on a monthly basis, regardless of energy consumption. My charge increased from $10.83 per mth. to $19.17 – an increase of 77%. For low energy consumers – such as me – the “base energy component” forms a much higher % of the total bill. And, of course, high energy consumers face a smaller % increase, relative to the average.

    Low income households, as well as seniors and retirees on fixed incomes, will tend to be low energy consumers with less ability to absorb the increase and, unlike the energy consumption component, have no ability to mitigate the increase by consuming less.

    In its decision, the UARB acknowledged this aspect as it stated that it “is keenly aware that any rate increase has an impact on ratepayers, particularly low-income customers and those on a fixed income” and endorsed an agreement between the Affordable Energy Coalition, the Consumer Advocate, and Nova Scotia Power to consider possible changes to the bill payment, credit and collection rules for low-income customers.

    Not particularly convinced that relief will be forthcoming but I’m always the optimist. I went for a walk yesterday and noticed that there still appears to be space for some more tents in Victoria Park where free lighting (at least, for now) is available from the city street lamps. But there may be a need for a lot more tent sites in the future given the direction we are going.

    1. The concept of a base rate for a utility that everyone should have access to is so unfair – at least when you are talking about a primary residence. Why should an apartment dweller who might only use $40 a month in electricity have to pay $20 for their hookup, when a homeowner who uses much more pays the same $20 for a hookup that has much higher real costs to NSP?

    2. I had a similar shocked response when I received my last power bill. My previous bills were always under $40 for a two month period. This one was nearly $72. Much of the difference was in the base rate increase. According to Nova Scotia Power that rate hasn’t increased since 2001, so I suppose an increase was due; but there certainly should have been more clarity in terms of what customers could expect. Coming up with an additional $32 when my budget rarely has an extra $2 is a challenge – one I will meet, but a challenge none the less.

  6. I came here to comment how the Examiner’s coverage of women’s issues makes it stand out, but then I realized that its coverage of women’s issues is because the Examiner stands out in *everything* it covers, and that tracks directly to an editorial attitude of following reporters’ judgement. This editorial attitude serves readers well.