Orange Crush

Today’s guest editor is Russell Gragg. 

On campus
In the harbour


1. Welfare bums

Nova Scotia’s Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard decried the length of time people are utilizing various forms of social assistance, according to CTV.

Joanne Bernard (source:
Joanne Bernard (source:

Her department estimates that the average Nova Scotian on income assistance stays on the program for four years. In other words, less than half the amount of time the minister herself spent on it.

She believes that up to one-third of Nova Scotians on social assistance are ready to wean themselves off the help, though was unable to provide exact numbers to back up her claim.

In the 1990s, after learning she was pregnant,

Bernard moved in with her parents, applied for income assistance and decided to earn a degree at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.

“I never looked back,” she says. She soon moved out of her parents’ house and took advantage of every support program available.

I’m in no position to judge her circumstances or her decisions. In fact, I think most social programs should be expanded. Still, this comes across as stunningly hypocritical.

2. Safer Universities and Colleges Act

A new bill introduced by NDP MLA Dave Wilson will attempt to address the lack of sexual assault policies at the majority of Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions, according to Metro Halifax’s Julia Manoukian.

After 2013’s rape chant scandal at Saint Mary’s and the Dal Dentistry Facebook fiasco last year, this might be one of those rare private members’ bills that gets passed.

Key points of the proposed legislation

  • Each university and college will adopt an official sexual assault policy with “significant” student input, and be renewed, with student input, every four years
  • Each institution will set up complaint procedures and response protocols, specific training and prevention programs and 24 hour support for victims
  • The institutions will collect and report on sexual assault data to the public, including the effectiveness of their programs

3. Political appointments

In another fairly progressive move the NDP is asking for all senior appointments to Crown corporations be vetted by committee, according to the CBC. This would also include top appointments at provincial agencies and boards.

According to interim NDP leader Maureen MacDonald,

This is a government that has pushed more and more of the decision making into these unelected, unaccountable, not very transparent entities of government. If you’re going to do that then the public accountability process needs to be tightened up and improved considerably

Maureen MacDonald (source:

The caveat in this motion, however, is that the deputy minister in charge of the respective department would have to appear before said committee within three months after the hire. This makes it a mostly toothless motion. Unless the committee can prove the already-hired candidate was grossly underqualified, had fibbed on their résumé, or had really messed up in those first 90 days, their continued employment in the role is virtually assured.

It would make far more sense to build a two-week period into the hiring process for the committee to approve or reject the preferred candidate prior to them starting the job. It would also cut back on the likelihood of wrongful dismissal lawsuits.

4. Film industry? Still pissed

Several members of Nova Scotia’s film industry and their supporters appeared in front of the provincial legislature’s law amendments committee, reports the Chronicle Herald.

Bubbles and Julian (not exactly as shown)

While Screen Nova Scotia cautiously supports the revised film tax credit plan, I suspect this will continue to dog the Liberals throughout their term in office. Especially if the next season of Trailer Park Boys becomes an homage to Going Down The Road.


1. Student loans as economic catalyst

Dalhousie University professor Kathy Cawsey posits an interesting suggestion to essentially wipe out student loans for graduates who choose to remain in Nova Scotia.

In a nutshell, Cawsey suggests that if a Nova Scotia university student remains in the province and pays taxes for five years upon graduating, their student loan would be forgiven.

Here’s her stab at the economics:

University in Nova Scotia costs about $5,500 per year. The provincial income tax rate for someone earning $40,000 is 14.5 per cent or $5,900 (the average salary in Nova Scotia is $43,000, including those without university degrees). So if the government offered free tuition after five years of paying taxes in Nova Scotia, they could cover the loan in the first four years and make a profit in the fifth.

While I applaud any innovation to make education more affordable, I have a few slim bones to pick.

First, I’m willing to bet that the average graduate isn’t clearing $40,000 in their first five years in the job force unless they came out of a very select handful of programs. Engineering, certain trades, maybe business. The average salary may be $43k, but that takes into account a large percentage of people who’ve been in the workforce for decades. That’s not to say this isn’t still a worthwhile idea, just that the province wouldn’t likely be making a profit off the vast majority of these loans, as Cawsey suggests.

Second, she makes no mention of whether or not these graduates would have to make payments on their student debt for the five years leading up to that wonderful forgiveness date. If so, would those payments then be credited back to them?

Third, I’m naturally leery of any op-ed piece which uses a quote from NSBI head Laurel Broten to bolster a claim toward greater economic self-sufficiency.

Regardless, it’s an idea with merit.

2. Nurses, university staff, who’s next?

With Bill-100 still on the table at the legislature, Saint Mary’s professor Judy Haiven takes a look at the Liberals’ antagonistic attitude toward labour in the province.



Police Commission


Legislature sits (9am, Province House)

On campus

No public events today.

In the harbour

A detailed list of the comings and goings of seafaring vessels will be back before weeks’ end, I promise.


According to Tim’s template, I’m to “insert navel-gazing here.”

In brief, I work in media in a variety of roles and formats, from broadcast to print to digital. It’s really all I’ve ever done since discovering the joys of being a late-night punk rock DJ at a college radio station out west in 1986.

I currently produce the Halifax Examiner’s radio show/podcast Examineradio, sit as the chair of the board of directors at CKDU, and work on the organizing committee for the Canadian Association of Journalists’ 2015 conference being held next month here in Halifax (plug: ever wanted to see Seymour Hersh, Canadaland’s Jesse Brown,  and our own Tim Bousquet in one room? Tickets are available to the public).

And finally, I’m an Albertan. You know, one of those hordes of westerners who moved here to Nova Scotia for work. What surprised me actually, after moving here, was how many other Edmontonians I came across. And not just students, either. The genius chef running the kitchen at Stillwell? Edmonton. The hard-working Station Coordinator at CKDU? Another Albertan. The list goes on.

A big part of what’s kept me here (beyond a wonderful seventh-generation Bluenose wife and a daughter who’s never known another city) is the feeling of community and a sense of being able to be part of the civic processes. I don’t presume to speak for all the other ex-pat Albertans making their homes here, though I believe the community must play a role. They certainly didn’t come out here to get rich.

Alberta, since approximately five months after I was born, has been a one-party state. Where if you didn’t agree with the “bigger is better, oil will save us all” mentality, you were relegated to the fringes. That all changed last night when a former neighbour of mine swept the provincial conservatives into the “dustbin of history.” It’s only a handful of hours since the NDP were formally declared the new government in my home province, so my euphoria hasn’t worn off yet.

Still, the sheer arrogance of (now former) Premier Jim Prentice and many of his cabinet members in the weeks leading up to the election hews closely to the lines being spouted by this province’s elected officials. (Remember Finance Minister Diana Whalen’s comments that, while the slashed Film Tax Credit may not work for those in the industry, “It works for government. It works for us.”?)

The Alberta Tories had 44 years to achieve that aura of disdain for the bulk of its citizens. The Nova Scotia Liberals have come close to that benchmark in only 18 months.

Granted, Stephen McNeil hasn’t gotten drunk and thrown loose change at the working poor.

The Alberta election affects Nova Scotians far more than Monday’s provincial election in PEI. After all, more Nova Scotians benefit economically from the vagaries of the oil patch than from the sale of Anne of Green Gables tchotchkes. Overall, I think the NDP will create a net benefit for the average Albertan, which means that it can hardly be a bad thing for the average Nova Scotian.


Thanks to Tim for allowing me (and Natalie Chavarie, Jeff White, El Jones and Rachel Ward) an opportunity to step in as guest editors this past week. Morning File returns to its regular format beginning tomorrow.

Join the Conversation


Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
  1. Students 1: Since the rate of sexual assaults on campuses is lower than the population at large (American stats, but likely true here too), why are universities singled out to provide additional prevention and support services? (Will this also include extra-legal punishments?) What about the less privileged and more likely to be victimized poor youth who take low wage jobs? Perhaps the government should require all institutions, including employers, to provide these services – or, better yet, stop trying to unload services everyone needs and deserves onto other organizations. 24 hour victim support should be available for everyone, not just university students.

    Students 2: Rebates for student loans only benefit those who could afford to get the loans in the first place, and are of no benefit to those who, for whatever reason, do not qualify. Furthermore, connecting rebates into tax returns is complicated. If the goal is to make education more affordable, just lower tuition. Be bold and make it free. If the goal is to retain graduates, they’ll stay if there are good jobs, and go if there are not. No one’s going to hang about for five years of low wage and temporary employment to get their student loan paid off when they could get a good job elsewhere, pay the loan, and still come out ahead.

    1. “… why are universities singled out to provide additional prevention and support services?”


  2. Thanks for a great edition, Russell. Especially enjoyed your navel gaze.
    One little note on Minister Bernard and her short term memory issues. I can see how she might have forgotten her social assistance days, but I found her chosen venue for her last Christmas party both amusing and somewhat perplexing. She must have forgotten that she was an avowed feminist when she booked the Austinville Owls Club, a strictly male only social club in Old Dartmouth. Yes, there is still a men only social club. To their credit the club members gave a nod to joining the 21st century by allowing women to attend special events in the clubhouse, but to this day, women are not permitted to venture up to the second floor. I wonder what else Ms. Bernard has forgotten?

  3. > wipe out student loans for graduates

    Why is this crap always for “graduates”?! How about for anyone who goes to university? I’m more gainfully employed (and pay more taxes) than a lot of people I went to university with. I left because I was helping 4th years with their homework. There was literally no point to being there. Apparently I should have wasted another two years and 20k?!

    I’m stuck with $18k worth of student loans that were signed for as a minor.