June subscription drive

Working in the news is making the news a lot these days. In Monday’s Morning File, Tim Bousquet wrote about layoffs at The Athletic, a subscription-based sports website owned by The New York Times.

Well, on Wednesday the big news about the news business was this story about Bell cutting 1,300 positions and closing or selling off nine of its radio stations across the country.

For those of us working in the media, every one of these stories — and there have been a lot of them — stick with us.

The way news is being delivered has changed a lot and will continue to change, but the stories are still out there. As Bousquet has mentioned before, the Examiner is a small operation, but we cover a lot of issues. And while we have Halifax in our name, our stories have a larger impact well beyond the city.

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1. School support workers reach tentative agreement

A group of striking school support workers stand on a sideway by a roadway with CUPE placards around their necks. Several are dressed in white and pink, and their signs include sayings like: "Fair deal now," "Schools work because we do," "Hey Tim, remember when you said we can't ever turn our back on a child in this province?" and "Houston we have a problem."
Striking school support workers picketing in Lower Sackville on May 26, 2023. Credit: Yvette d'Entremont

“After more than a month on the picket lines, the union representing Halifax-area school support workers and the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) have reached a tentative agreement,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.

The news was announced late Wednesday afternoon.

“This agreement was made possible by the fierce determination of school support staff in HRM, whose strike action forced government and the HRCE back to the bargaining table,” CUPE Local 5047 President Chris Melanson said in a news release. 

“It is only because of CUPE members’ job action that there was any willingness from government to make improvements on the deal members rejected decisively in May.”

Melanson wrote that the agreement “offers one possible step towards the change we need to see in the education sector.”

No details of the agreement will be released to the public until school support workers have seen it and voted on it. 

Click here to read “Halifax-area school support workers reach tentative agreement.”

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2. Carbon tax

A blue, red, and white gas pump that offers regular, extra, and supreme fuel options.
Gas prices are expected to increase by 14 cents a litre on July 1. Credit: Suzanne Rent

“For months, Premier Tim Houston has railed against what he calls “the federal carbon tax,” which will impose an additional 14 cents a litre on gasoline and 17 cents a litre on home heating fuel starting July 1,” reports Jennifer Henderson.

Nova Scotians have been insulated from these big increases. The tax on carbon has been in place for 4.5 years as a means to price pollution and change people’s behaviour. In most provinces, that has meant an 11-cent increase, but in Nova Scotia, the tax on gasoline has increased only one cent to 1.5 cents a litre over the same period because of an alternative emissions system known as cap-and-trade.

On Wednesday, Liberal leader Zach Churchill issued a news release in which he called the impending 14-cent increase at the pumps “the Houston gas tax.”   

Here’s the Liberal’s explanation in a news release: 

Nova Scotia will face the steepest increase in the country on July 1 because the province previously benefited from the cap-and-trade program which only charged 1 cent per litre while raising nearly $100 million for a dedicated green fund to fight climate change. 

Negotiating new terms of the cap-and-trade program that expired under the Houston government would have put a gradual price on pollution while continuing to support the green fund. Houston’s carbon tax will do neither.

The Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative government sent out its own press release in response.

Click here to read “Liberals ask Houston to help Nova Scotians as carbon tax set to hike fuel costs on July 1.”

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3. More Nova Scotians added to MOVEit hack list

A white man in a blue suit sits before flags.
Colton LeBlanc, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Cyber Security and Digital Solutions, speaking with reporters about the MOVEit privacy breach on June 6, 2023.

“The provincial government has identified more people whose personal information was stolen through the MOVEit global cybersecurity breach,” reports d’Entremont in her second story on Wednesday.

They include 13,000 current public school teachers and staff, about 100 patients who visited the early labour and assessment unit at the IWK Health Centre, and 17,500 water and tax bill accounts with the Region of Queens Municipality.

To be clear, all of this is in addition to the groups of people announced in our news conferences last week — civil servants, staff at Nova Scotia Health, IWK, certified teachers, Community Services clients, and incarcerated people,” Cyber Security and Digital Solutions Minister Colton LeBlanc said during a media briefing Wednesday afternoon.

LeBlanc said “significant progress” has been made identifying those affected by the breach. He said his department was confident all groups of Nova Scotians whose sensitive personal information was stolen have been identified.

LeBlanc said letters will be sent out next week to those Nova Scotians impacted by the breach.

Click here to read “Teachers, IWK patients added to list of Nova Scotians whose info was stolen in MOVEit hack.”

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4. Feeding residents at The Bridge

A building with several stories and a large corner piece with a sign that says Double Tree by Hilton. There is only one small beigh car in the parking lot out front. A glass structure is attached to the side of the building and under that is a drive thru area to the main door.
The former Double Tree Hotel that now serves as a shelter called The Bridge for unhoused people. Credit: Suzanne Rent

“When the non-profit organizations Adsum for Women and Children and Welcome Housing agreed to turn a Dartmouth, N.S., hotel into the province’s largest shelter, they knew the people they would house would need to eat,” reports Jean Laroche at CBC.

But there was neither money, nor a plan, to supply them with food. Despite that, both groups decided to dig into their own funds to buy snacks and fresh fruit, at first, and now full meals.

“We’ve been cobbling it together,” said Sheri Lecker, the executive director of Adsum. “We have just gone ahead and done what we needed to.”

Lecker said several local businesses joined the effort, contributing either groceries, frozen food or prepared meals. 

Today, the roughly 90 residents at The Bridge, which opened this spring at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel by the Macdonald Bridge, are being served hot meals or can heat up frozen dinners.

Every floor of the former hotel is stocked with a toaster, microwave, coffee maker and kettle. Those serve-yourself stations are also stocked with bread for toast, peanut butter and jam, as well as oatmeal packets and baked goods.

“As long-time providers of services, we know how important it is that people eat. In the same way that people need a safe place to stay and they need shelter, they also need food,” said Lecker.

Now, the province will reimburse Adsum and Welcome Housing for the money they spent on food. That committment was made to CBC during an interview with Joy Knight, executive director for the province’s employment support and income assistance division, on Tuesday.

Knight said the province is looking at how it can offer food to residents in shelters. Right now, it’s through a mix of provincial funding and fundraising.

Earlier this week, The Bridge advertised for a job for a manager of food services and supports for the shelter on Wyse Road.

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Wine Witch on Fire: a memoir on a vintage year, wine mom culture, and sexism in the wine industry

A white woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and dangling red earrings, a short-sleeve top, and a red and black chunky necklace.
Natalie MacLean. Credit: Contributed by Natalie MacLean

Natalie MacLean was born in Cape Breton and grew up in Lower Sackville. When she was in her 20s, she and her then husband discovered wine after a waiter served them a “full-bodied, delicious Italian” brunello. MacLean hadn’t had wine before that; she grew up in a family with a “long line of hard drinkers” and beer and whiskey were the more popular libations.

After taking courses at George Brown College to become a sommelier, MacLean eventually gave up her career in high-tech to pursue a career in the wine industry full time.

During her career, MacLean wrote columns, books, and much more about wine. But her most recent book, Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much, is a memoir about her life in 2012, a year she calls her “terrible, no-good, very-bad vintage.” MacLean’s book includes stories about her divorce, which kicked off that year, to the online mobbing she experienced about her wine reviews.

But she also writes about sexism in the wine industry and wine-mom culture, which she calls “very much a double standard and troublesome.”

MacLean still writes about wine and food pairings, hosts a podcast called Unreserved Wine Talk, and created mobile apps that consumers can use to help them find reviews and shop for wines.

There’s certainly a lot in her book we could cover, but I wanted to speak with MacLean about her thoughts on wine-mom culture and why its marketing is problematic, and how we can address sexism in the wine industry. We spoke on Wednesday.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Halifax Examiner: Do you recall any of this sexism before 2012, which you wrote about in your book?

Natalie MacLean: When I was off on maternity leave, I thought, “Why not call the most famous wine writer I can think of for career advice?” So, I called him up and we were talking for a while and I said, “What about becoming a wine writer? I’m really interested. Do you have any suggestions?” and he said, “Well, I suggest you treat it as a weekend hobby, sweetheart.” I thanked this gentleman and we ended the conversation shortly thereafter, but it’s been sprinkled along my career and the careers of many women in this industry. They did an industry study and 89% of women in the wine industry reported they had experienced some form of sexual harassment on the job. There’s a structural issue, I think, that’s contributing to this in that most wineries in North America have fewer than 20 employees, few have an HR department, let alone a harassment policy. Most people learn one-on-one… and there’s a great power differential. All of that makes the wine industry very different from the restaurant industry, which is more organized, larger, there are more chains, and more group learning. That’s why, I think, we’ve heard more stories about sexual harassment and chefs and celebrity chefs. The stories in the wine industry haven’t been as forthcoming because you can easily get your career cancelled. There’s a very active social grapevine, pun unintended, but it’s really hard to speak out in our industry.

HE: The wine mom marketing seems to be quite recent. When did you start seeing that marketing in the industry?

NM: I certainly noticed it for the past five years. Maybe the pandemic exacerbated it. One of the stats that startled me was there was a 323% increase in women drinking during the pandemic, especially for those women with children, versus 39% of the population overall. Wine mom culture, the laugh-out-loud memes, jokes, and so on, have been around for at least five years. But it seems to be more prevalent now than ever. I’m not here to be a downer. Back in the day, I wasn’t a bystander in this whole wine mom thing; I was team captain. I called my glass of wine at 5pm “mommy’s little helper.” Underneath the LOLs, there’s kind of a bittersweet edge of resentment. No one is thanking mom, so mom is going to thank herself by having another glass of wine. 

On another layer deeper than that, the message on some bottle labels is that we’re either babes or battleaxes. The message is women need a reason to have a glass of wine. Either we’re getting together with girlfriends or we’re having a fancy occasion or we’re just getting through another day of exhaustion. Wine is not marketed to men that way. No one asks a man why he wants to have a drink; he has one because he wants one.

HE: How do we go about addressing that issue of marketing to women?

NM: It’s about becoming more mindful as wine consumers because we vote with our dollars. I believe these labels that profit from powerlessness, I think we can make change by simply not buying them and by advocating for wines that are more authentically made by women. There are so many terrific women in the wine industry still not yet in deserving leadership roles. Wine made by women that have a great backstory to them. You can even go back in time to Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin. She lost her husband when she was 27 [in 1805] and at a time when women weren’t in business at all, she built one of the world’s best luxury brands. She got her wines through the Napoleonic blockades and built the first sampling program when the Tsar was born in Russia and that’s how she set the fashion for her wine. 

But there are modern women, too, in Canada, the United States, and around the world. I think we can start celebrating some of these women who have made strides by making wine in the industry. The product has to be good. That would go a long way to countering the, ‘Oh, there’s another pink bowtie. Yay.’

A book cover with a wine glass upside down and flames burning inside it. The cover says, "James Beard Foundation Journalism Award Winner Natalie MacLean, Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the ashes of divorce, defamation, and drinking too much, a memoir".
Cover of Natalie MacLean’s book, Wine Witch on Fire.

HE: What are you personally doing to address the wine mom culture and getting people to think differently about wine? 

NM: Well, I started with the book and I’m really on a mission to get the message that’s in the book out there. I have also, over my career, handed over, if you will, certain gigs and columns that I’ve had in newspapers and TV to give some younger women a break. It’s really hard to break into this industry. I know myself how hard it is. As you become more senior and you have the privilege of having more and more demand to write columns, be on TV, or whatever is it, I’ve been able to give some of those over to younger women so they catch a break.

HE: What else needs to be done in the industry to address sexism, but also help other women break into it?

NM: It would go along a long way if wineries, wine agencies, and other wine-related organizations did have clearly spelled out harassment policies and zero tolerance for sexual harassment at work. You’d think that was blindingly obvious, but our industry, again, is very different. So, a lot of “business events” happen around alcohol that provides a lot of cover for untoward behaviour. They happen at night like a winemaker’s dinner where men can dress the same as they do in the office in the day, but women are expected to wear a cocktail dress. I think there needs to be more awareness, harassment policies need to be in place and enforced. Cultural norms start at the top in terms of what’s tolerated in company culture, even small wineries. 

And I think women, especially in our industry, need to be cognizant we’re operating in a different environment. This is not to blame the women; don’t wear the short, sexy dress. It’s the nature of the business. Everyone is consuming alcohol. You’re out in what most people consider fun, social settings, but keep in mind this is your career as well.

HE: How can the industry encourage more Black women and women of colour to get into the wine business?

NM: There are a number of terrific support groups in the industry now for Black women and women of colour, such as Vinequity and the Hue Society. A number of wineries offer scholarships for studies in the field and/or apprenticeships. There could be a lot more of this.

HE: How has your relationship with drinking through all of this?

NM: I guess you can say my overdrinking was in response to that terrible “vintage”; the depression, the divorce, the anxiety from the online mobbing. So, through lots of therapy, which is [mentioned] in the book, I was able to develop a lot of different techniques to cope with my drinking. First, we had to deal with the underlying issues. And then that need, that sort of automatic reflex of reaching for a drink subsided significantly. But beyond that, I still work with wine, it’s my living. I even considered do I walk away from it completely, especially since alcoholism runs in my family. And that is the best route for some people. But for me, wine gives me so much joy, it’s connected me with so many people. It’s connected me with the earth. I don’t want to give that all up.

I developed tips I sprinkled throughout the book that early readers are finding very helpful. So, for example, I’ll ask myself, “What was the thought just before the thought that said, ‘I need a drink?’” Is it about relieving stress or is it just pure enjoyment of a glass of wine? If it’s about stress, can I find a different way to deal with it? Take a walk, take a bath, watch a show. Just that five-second pause can often break that automatic reflex of reaching for the drink. 

Another tip people have found useful is if you open a full bottle of wine, pour half of it into another empty bottle. You’ll be more mindful of how much you’re consuming and that wine will be fresh for another day because it won’t oxidate.

HE: What is the message you want people to get when they read the book?

NM: For me, the memories that had the greatest impact on me are those that allowed me to have a piece of myself better understood. I always go back to wine. In winemaking, we have a term called dry extract. What happens when all the moisture has been removed from wine and it’s down to its flavour essence. Dry extract is in us, too, as people. It’s when life has boiled down to your essence and you discover the reserves of strength and resilience you never really realized you had. When you are down to that kind of level, I think it’s a wonderful discovery. I don’t wish suffering and terrible things to happen to anybody, but when you go through something… and come out the other side, stronger, wiser, fiercer, you know just how much you can overcome whatever life throws at you.

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Golden Girls on the Gentle Island

An old, larger three-storey home with pale olive green siding and several windows sits on a large landscaped lawn with bushes and flower pots. A gravel path lined with solar lights leads up to the front steps of the home.
Briarcliffe Inn in Fernwood, P.E.I. Credit: Briarcliffe Inn/Facebook

I may have to move to P.E.I.

On Wednesday, I read this story by Colin MacLean at SaltWire about Carrie Caunce and Malcolm Hiseman, who own and operate the Briarcliffe Inn in Fernwood, P.E.I. But the couple has new plans for their bed-and-breakfast: they’re looking to turn it into long-term housing for seniors. Think Golden Girls on the Gentle Island. MacLean writes:

It is their way of staying in a home they love, while also filling a need exacerbated by P.E.I.’s ongoing housing crisis.

“With the housing situation on the Island, and especially (the lack of) safe housing for seniors, we thought this would potentially be a good direction to evolve into. It’s that ‘Golden Girls’ kind of idea … (that) always looked fun to me,” said Caunce, referencing the popular ’90s sitcom which featured a group of senior women sharing a home in Florida.

As MacLean writes, the inn has five bedrooms, all with ensuites, as well as gardens and access to a beach. There are chickens and a wooded pigeon, too. Caunce told MacLean she and Hiseman are looking to retire, but wanted to share the home they don’t want to leave:

“We never bought this house with the intention of ever living in it just the two of us. I love living in this house, but it’s too big for the two of us. So, we either need to come up with a better way to live here or we look for something smaller,” said Caunce.

As for rent, they’re asking $1,950 a month, which includes utilities and food. They said the rent could be adjusted depending on if an applicant can help around the house. They do note this arrangement is best suited to seniors who are self-sufficient as the couple won’t be providing nursing care.

There are a lot of big, old houses in the Maritimes that could serve as longer-term housing for self-sufficient folks or, you know, women in their 50s.

Anyway, Caunce and Hiseman are hosting an open house on Friday and Saturday. I hope there’s cheesecake and a lanai.

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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


No meetings

On campus



No events


From Inequity to Justice – Law and Ethics of AI & Technology Conference (Friday, 9am, Schulich School of Law) — a two-day, multi-disciplinary conference to discuss: In the current digital landscape, what are the leading questions we must address to ensure that technology is developed with privacy, safety, and ethics in mind? How do we address these issues through code, law, and policy? Continued Saturday, more info here.

In the harbour

06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from anchorage to Autoport
08:00: Atlantic Marlin, cargo barge, and Atlantic Fir, tug, move from IEL to Pier 9
11:00: Danae, bulker, sails from anchorage for sea
11:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to anchorage
11:00: Grande Togo, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from Vigo, Spain
11:30: MSC Nuria, container ship, sails form Pier 41 for sea
13:00: GPO Sapphire, heavy lift vessel, arrives at IEL from Aviles, Spain
16:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
16:30: ZIM Luanda, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
21:00: Acadian, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Irving Oil
21:30: Grande Togo sails for sea
00:30 (Friday): Atlantic Sky sails for Liverpool, England

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


This place is not what I had in mind when I think of a Golden Girls’ house.

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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. The Golden Girls idea is a good one. What works smoothly on TV is likely not to work so smoothly in real life, but I am sure the details could be worked out.

  2. The Golden Girls concept is one I have wanted to pursue for many years. But I don’t own a home, and don’t have the means to purchase one. I think the idea can be expanded to include rentals, and could help ease the crisis in housing for all age groups. The problem is getting people together who would be compatible, sort of like a dating service. If anyone has ideas on how to pursue this idea, I’d love to hear them.

    Janet Brush, Halifax [peninsula]