November subscription drive
Last week, Phil Moscovitch wrote about the articles the Halifax Examiner doesn’t publish because they don’t work out:
The truth is, we put a lot of time and energy into stories that, for one reason or another, simply don’t work out. In a chat yesterday morning, Examiner contributor Jennifer Henderson (who called herself “the queen of stories that didn’t work out”) compared the process to fishing. You can have a bunch of lines in the water, but you’re not going to get bites on all of them.
There are many reasons stories don’t work out: circumstances change; a key source changes their mind and no longer wants to speak to a reporter; information turns out to be incorrect, but it takes a lot of time to chase that down and determine that there isn’t actually a newsworthy story there.
Today, I’d like to briefly discuss another reason we don’t publish articles: we don’t have the resources to report them.
I have a long list of potential articles that likely have merit, or at least need to be further investigated to determine if they have merit. And more come across my desk every day.
These potential stories include public corruption, corporate wrongdoing, police malfeasance, and more.
Sometimes the Examiner crew thinks up potential news stories just by brainstorming in our weekly editorial meetings. Sometimes we find reporting angles in something gleaned from a public document — an inference from a court decision, an unexplained reference in a legislative report, like that. And very often, someone out there in the world will bring us tips — already this morning we’ve been contacted by a government employee alleging terrible behaviour on the part of a manager.
Readers have seen many of these potential stories become published articles — we’ve done the reporting work necessary to nail down the story.
What you haven’t seen are the potential articles that we’ve had to leave by the wayside because we don’t have the staff or the money or the time to do the reporting work.
Some of these “lost” articles particularly pain me because they involve people who are suffering. Sometimes I’ve developed a rapport with people, and I still am unable to get their stories out. Some people are angry with me, and I don’t blame them — I’ve failed them, and I feel terrible about it. But we can only do so much.
Other times, there are potential articles that are just super-interesting. I know in my gut that there’s something big there, but I just don’t have the staff to assign to it.
Every day is a juggling game. Do we cover this or that daily news story, or do we spend the day researching something more substantive? Which tipster do we call back? Should I spend the afternoon researching property records related to story X, interviewing someone for story Y, or doing background research on story Z?
We’re a small team, and we do a lot of great work. I’m proud of this little outlet, and know we punch way above our weight. But we could do so much more. A little money to pay for another freelancer, or to hire a full-time reporter, or pay for some investigative resources, and a lot of those lost stories could become reality.
So if you’d like to see us get more important reporting out into the world, please support us with your subscription. It’s subscriptions that fuel this operation, that make the work possible.
Thanks so much!
1. Carbon tax rebates
Larry Hughes has detailed the real-world effects of removing the carbon tax from home heating oil.
Hughes looks at each type of housing — older, “average,” and newer homes using electricity or heating oil for heat, in rural and urban settings in Nova Scotia, and compares the tax paid to the rebate received. The short of it: almost no one will pay more in tax than received in rebates.
Click or tap here to read “The effect of the heating oil carve out in Nova Scotia.”
2. Infilling and wronging Africville again: there will soon be no view of the sea from Seaview Park
“Halifax councillors approved an amended bylaw restricting infilling in the Northwest Arm, and a supplementary report on infilling in Dartmouth Cove will come from staff later,” reports Suzanne Rent.
Rent follows the discussion at council, and in particular Councillor Sam Austin’s fear that Dartmouth Cove will be lost (If it’s filled in, it won’t be a cove):
Austin said he included the letter request in his amendment because there currently is an application to infill at Dartmouth Cove. As the Examiner previously reported, that application was filed by Bruce Wood, owner of 4197847 Nova Scotia Ltd., to fill a 2.7-hectare water lot at 1 Parker St.
“The feds are actually going to run out of time in Dartmouth Cove and be looking forward to make a decision,” Austin said. “They could be signing it this afternoon, for all I know.”
Click or tap here to read “Council approves amended bylaw on infilling at Northwest Arm; staff report on Dartmouth Cove to come later.”
I’ll use Rent’s article as a jumping off point for something that has long bothered me. Let’s start with Councillor David Hendsbee’s comments yesterday:
Coun. David Hendsbee asked where in HRM could pyritic slate could be safely dumped, and suggested the pre-Confederation water lots on the Northwest Arm could be those locations.
“We have some spots along the Bedford Basin. I know the Port of Halifax, it looks like there will be infilling in part of their pier… to make their piers longer for larger ships. As we create more housing opportunities, we’re going to be digging up more pyritic slate. Where are we going to deposit it? We need to find those locations,” Hendsbee said.
Indeed, the Port of Halifax’s infilling has concerned me ever since I became aware of it. Way back in 2016, I employed reporter Chris Lambie for the duration of the Chronicle Herald strike, and I asked him to look into the infilling operation at Fairview Cove. He did the reporting, and one Sunday I went out and took a bunch of photos. The result was an article, “The development boom’s echo: filling in Halifax Harbour.”
“Since 2011, the Halifax Port Authority has created four hectares of new land in Fairview Cove by allowing companies to dump stone — mostly acid-bearing pyritic slate — excavated from construction sites around the city into the waters of Bedford Basin northeast of the existing container terminal,” reported Lambie:
That’s roughly the equivalent of four football fields that weren’t there four years ago.
“The developers need a place to put this stuff and we provide that option,” said Lane Farguson, who speaks for the port authority.
“The contractors who are hired by the developers to move this material, they don’t want to be hauling it any further than they have to. So a location on the peninsula is also good for them and it’s good for their fuel cost.”
The project is also “allowing the Halifax Port Authority to increase land mass by developing port land for future use,” Farguson said in a follow-up email.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada initially approved the dumping of 350,000 cubic metres of fill into Fairview Cove. The plan outlined in the environmental screening report for the project says the work would create 48,000 square metres of land “in preparation for a potential future extension of the pier” at the container terminal that was, and still is, operating at one-third of its capacity.
“The way we would rather frame that, of course, is we can triple our capacity with no changes to infrastructure,” said Farguson, noting the expansion, including new crib structure, was completed in 2014.
I was particularly concerned about the effect off the infilling on Seaview Church and the Africville Museum, so climbed up the hill towards the MacKay Bridge ramp and took this photo:
The infilling at Fairview Cove is going on under the watchful eyes of former Africville residents, who grew up in the area skirting the cove and the Narrows, not far from where pyritic slate is now being dumped in the harbour.
“We have to keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t interfere with our site there,” said Irvine Carvery, past president of the Africville Genealogical Association.
“There’s no contentious issues at this time with what the port is doing. It’s just that, like you, we’re trying to find out what’s the long-range plan here? You don’t just do this for nothing. There must be some kind of a plan. But they keep telling us at this time there’s no plan for the development of those lands. They’re just using it as an opportunity because there’s so much construction going on in Halifax to fill-in and get some more land.”
Residents of the historic black community were relocated by the city in the 1960s to make way for the construction of the A. Murray MacKay Bridge.
Carvery was 13 years old when his family left.
“I have living memory of Africville,” he said.
Former residents and their descendants – who return every third weekend in July for a reunion — don’t want the infilling to get in the way of the view from the replica of Seaview African United Baptist Church, a museum built in 2011 by the city to make amends for bulldozing the community.
“We’re keeping an eye to it to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the aesthetics of our site and our view lines from our land out over the Bedford Basin.”
The view is beautiful from the spot declared a national historic site in 2002, he said.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” Carvery said. “You get the full sunset when you’re out there. There is nothing more peaceful than sitting out there on the water’s edge, especially in the summertime.”
The shoulder seasons are equally pleasant, he said. “Even in the wintertime, if it’s not too, too cold it’s nice. I go out there year-round to enjoy the tranquility of the site.”
Despite the serene picture, Carvery said he is bothered by all of the infilling he’s seen around Halifax Harbour.
“How much of our harbour and basin is going to be left?” he said.
I went to Seaview Church this past weekend, and took this photo from the back steps of the church:
The infilling has completely wrapped around what was previously an unobstructed view of the Bedford Basin from the church.
And it’s apparent that the Port will soon install cranes and related infrastructure on the new land in order to accommodate the large container ships that call at Fairview Cove. That infrastructure is already being installed just to the west; here’s the view looking out over Eddie Carvery’s trailer:
All of which is to say, that very soon, there will be no view of the sea from Seaview Church.
The church and the surrounding Africville Park has become a nice little oasis, a place for reflection and remembrance of the historic Black community and the wrongs done to it by a racist society. I’ve often seen Black families walking along the meandering paths in the park, reading the plaques about the homes and lives lived in Africville, an experience underscored by the salty breeze from over the Bedford Basin.
But soon there will be a permanent crane dominating that once contemplative landscape. And most days, instead of looking out onto the Basin, there will be a giant container ship blocking whatever will be left of a view of the Basin.
The single-minded, unreflective drive to expand the port, without any consultation with the stewards of the church or the Black community that celebrates it, is yet another wrong done to Africville and its descendants.
Reports Jennifer Henderson:
Attempted to hire a carpenter lately? A plumber? An electrician? It’s no secret that with the amount of construction underway in Halifax there is an acute shortage of skilled labour across the province.
So short that some projects, including public schools and apartment buildings, could be delayed years despite having financing and zoning approvals in place.
A month ago, Jill Balser, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Labour, Skills, and Immigration announced a slew of changes worth $100 million over three years aimed at turning out more tradespeople faster. Today’s article digs into the proposed changes.
Click or tap here to read “Nova Scotia wrestles with shortage of skilled tradespeople.”
“Five homes in Halifax were added to HRM’s registry of heritage properties,” reports Suzanne Rent:
The heritage designation restricts what kind of alterations can be made to the house, and in return, the property owner becomes eligible for up to $15,000 in grants for “exterior conservation work” on the house.
The newly registered houses are at 6484 Jubilee Rd., 1741 to 1743 Henry St., 1745 Henry St., and 6038 Charles St.. Rent details the history of each of the houses.
Click or tap here to read “Council adds five Halifax homes to registry for heritage designation.”
5. Home care treading water
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
About 35,000 people in the province receive home care and the system is struggling to keep its head above water.
That’s despite recent improvements to wages and free tuition for Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs) who provide the in-home help.
“Human resources are our biggest challenge,” said Jeff Densmore, a regional director with the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). The agency provides 2 million visits and 3,000 Meals on Wheels a year in this province.
Densmore appeared yesterday before the Legislative Committee on Health.
VON is short 170 CCAs and about 85 nurses. On a monthly basis, that means VON can’t respond to home care requests totalling 5,000 hours.
VON is one of 18 agencies contracted by the Department of Health and Wellness so seniors can stay in their home communities without having to move to a nursing home or a hospital bed.
According to Deputy Health Minister Tracey Barbrick, there are about 900 Nova Scotians waiting for some type of home care, half of whom are receiving support but qualify for more hours. Barbrick estimated the vacancy rate for CCAs working in home care and long-term care at 10% across the province, about half what it was two years ago.
CCAs and nurses who work in home care earn the same wages as those who work in nursing homes and hospitals. They are represented by several unions, including the Nova Scotia Nurses Union (NSNU) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Nan McFadgen is the president of CUPE, which represents about 450 CCAs working in home care, 50 people fewer than a year ago. McFadgen told the politicians retention is just one issue of concern:
Recruitment is even harder when workers are told they can’t have a regular schedule. Workers are told they may get only 20 hours a week but they need to be available for 40 hours… Does your pay cheque vary from week to week? It’s pretty hard to get a bank loan for a mortgage or a car when your hours are always changing…that kind of sucks.
Home care workers must provide their own vehicle and although they are paid mileage, McFadgen said the rising cost of repairs, insurance, and gas means it’s costing many people too much to work.“Our home care system literally drives on a subsidy put in the tank by low-paid, overwhelmingly female workforce,” said McFadgen. “This is shameful and the car allowance needs to be increased.”
McFadgen argued that because home care saves the government big money — a long-term care placement costs five times more and a hospital bed much more than that – some of those savings should be re-invested in home care to improve working conditions and the quality of care for seniors.
Janet Hazelton is the president of the NSNU. It represents nurses who work for VON. She’s concerned about the safety of nurses who go into homes at all hours of the day and night, alone, in areas of the province still without cellphone coverage.
Hazelton wants the government to cover the cost of two people to make the initial home visit and assessment.
Liberal Clayton Park MLA Rafah DiCostanzo asked about the availability of home care for people whose first language is not English or French. The province’s population of elderly and of immigrants is growing fast. But so far, there’s no ability to provide home visits from caregivers who can speak languages such as Arabic or Hindi.
Integrating internationally trained nurses to provide care in someone’s home is a bigger challenge than starting a new job in a hospital or a nursing home.
In the past, Canadian-born nurses needed at least five years experience before they could switch to community nursing. But chronic staff shortages mean home care providers are also recruiting overseas.
As Carol Curley, a regional director for VON in northeastern Nova Scotia, said:
Since 2021, we’ve recruited about 100 internationally trained nurses — including a large group from the north of India — who are currently working as CCAs in areas where we are most short-staffed. (Those areas include Colchester, Pictou, and Annapolis counties.)
Our managers tell us if they are well-supported, they will stay. We have buddied newcomers with local staff. The experience has been rewarding and difficult all at the same time. We now have a more diverse workforce and the rate of retention among newcomers has been better than among our other staff.
Curley told the committee all of the internationally trained nurses are still working as CCAs. She said some wish to continue in the same job while others are preparing to “bridge” to nursing jobs through programs set up to ease that transition.
“The investments and focus on the continuing care sector in the last two years are unparalleled,” said Barbrick, the deputy Health minister. “And we know we have more to do.”
Barbrick outlined a new service that will be piloted by VON for 300 households this winter. The service is modelled on one developed by the John Hopkins University Nursing School. Nova Scotia will be the first to try it in Canada.
The pilot is called “CAPABLE.” A team that includes a registered nurse, an occupational or physiotherapist, and a handyman will be assigned to support an individual or household so the family can stay in their community.
The Health Department pays the home care bill for three-quarters of Nova Scotians whose household income (for two people) is between $29 -44,000 a year.
“It’s high time we focussed on community care because our hospitals are full,” said Hazelton, the NSNU president. “Workers often bring clients food because they know how empty the fridge is. The job is difficult on a good day but seeing these things make it more difficult.”
6. The financialization of housing
CBC reporter Andrew Lam provides a very good and very detailed analysis of the rental housing market it Halifax, and especially in relation to the large real estate investment trusts that dominate the market:
It’s been three years since Nova Scotia imposed a two per cent rent cap, yet rents have been rising faster than they have in decades.
Examining the public financial records of some of Halifax’s largest landlords — companies that own buildings like the Park Victoria Apartments and Quinpool Towers — sheds some light on why that is.
Since the rent cap was implemented in November 2020, two of these companies have reported year-over-year average rent increases in the municipality that were higher than the two per cent threshold.
Killam Apartment REIT (Killam) reported an average rent of $1,324 for its Halifax rental units in September, which was 4.3 per cent higher compared to the previous year. That’s according to the company’s management discussion report, which was released in November.
Meanwhile, Canadian Apartment Properties REIT (CAPREIT) reported an eight per cent increaseover that same time, with average rent in the municipality rising from $1,380 to $1,490.
As rents continue to climb in Halifax and across Canada, the “financialization” of housing — the idea that it’s treated as a financial commodity by for-profit companies — has received more scrutiny in recent years among some housing advocates and academic researchers as one of the contributing factors. But some housing rental companies have pushed back against that claim.
To examine the influence of some of the largest landlords in the municipality, CBC News interviewed people who work in the industry, analyzed the companies’ public financial records and listened in on their quarterly earnings calls — where executives answered questions from industry analysts about their latest financial results.
Read the entire article. It’s insightful.
This is the kind of work the CBC should be doing, and it’s great to see Lam rise to the task.
Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall and online) — agenda
Special Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, online) — agenda
Board of Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 4pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate and online) — agenda
Advisory Committee on Accessibility in HRM (Wednesday, 4pm, online) — agenda
License Appeal Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Case 2023-00851: Drop-in Open House (Wednesday, 5pm, Chocolate Lake Rec Centre) — application requesting an amendment to the Halifax Mainland Municipal Planning Strategy to construct two multi-unit residential buildings at 41 Cowie Hill Road.
Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Prospect Road Community Centre) — agenda
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall and online) — agenda
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Power House Youth Centre) — agenda
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, One Government Place and online) — Adaption, EMO funding and preparedness for emergency disasters, output based pricing systems for industry; with representatives from the Dept. of Environment and Climate Change; Dept. of Municipal Affairs and Housing; Dept. of Public Works; and Emergency Management Office
Machine learning for the quantification of drug response in cancer (Wednesday, 9:30am, Room 3-H1, Tupper Medical Building) — Arvind Mer from the University of Ottawa will talk
It’s a Small World After All and Everything’s Connected to: Victory in Ukraine (Thursday, 6:30pm, McInnes Room, Student Union Building) — the 15th Annual Halifax International Security Forum; info and registration here
King’s in Conversation – a new webinar series (Wednesday, 6pm, online) — from the listing:
Canadian news media respond to the Online News Act (Bill C-18)
– what it means for Canadian news media, how this affects their editorial work, what innovative workarounds news outlets are relying on to engage audiences, reflections on the importance of social media for connecting to audiences, and what the average person can do to stay connected and support their preferred news outlets in Canada.
Panelists include Emma Gilchrist, Editor-in-Chief, The Narwhal; Jennifer Hollett, Executive Director, The Walrus; Karyn Pugliese, Editor-in-Chief, Canadaland; Tai Huynh, Publisher, The Local; Matthew DiMera, Founder, The Resolve
Info and registration here
Mount Saint Vincent
Leading from a Race Conscious Lens (Wednesday, 12pm, online) — Barb Hamilton-Hinch from Dalhousie University will talk; RSVP here
WORKSHOP: Porcupine Quillwork Medallions (Thursday, 1pm, Treaty Space Gallery) — third and final session of 3-part workshop series; info and registration here
In the harbour
06:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove west end from Liverpool
10:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Anchorage 7 from St. John’s
10:30: Lake Wanaka, vehicle carrier, arrives at Autoport NB4 from Emden, Germany
13:00: Franbo Lohas, cargo ship, sails from Pier 9B for Portsmouth NH
15:30: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
17:00: Lake Wanaka, vehicle carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Anchorage 7 to Fairview Cove
18:00: Zhen Hua 23, heavy load carrier, moves at pier
19:30: One Falcon, container ship, moves from Anchorage 1 to Pier 42
04:45: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Government wharf from Sept-Iles
11:00: Phoenix Admiral, oil tanker, arrives at Everwind 1 from New York City
13:30: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, sails from Government wharf for sea
14:00: CSL Flexvik, bulk carrier, moves from Anchor Pirate harbour to quarry
I was tempted to write about the multiple horrors we are seeing, but I haven’t been able to fully form a coherent narrative around it. Maybe that’s because there is no coherence. But I’ll keep thinking about it, and maybe something will come out with my next Morning File.