News

1. Halifax and West Community Council approves eight-storey addition to South Street heritage building

A rendering of the updated design of the proposed addition to Stairs House. — Screenshot/HRM/Fathom Studio

“During a meeting Wednesday night, the Halifax and West Community Council voted unanimously in favour of the proposal from Southwest Properties for the South Street heritage building known as Stairs House, originally constructed in 1838,” Zane Woodford reports.

Southwest Properties, via the affiliated Summer Wind Holdings, also owned by Paul Murphy, Jim Spatz, and Gordon Laing, plans to build a modern eight-storey building behind Stairs House, in the space between South and Harvey streets. The old and new buildings would contain a total of 112 units, with 75 underground parking spaces. The plan involves the restoration of Stairs House, the demolition of an old addition, and the demolition of three old, but unregistered buildings on Harvey Street.

This article is for subscribers only. You can subscribe here. And remember, the deadline to lock in the price of your basic annual subscription is Saturday, Oct. 15, no exceptions! That’s for the basic subscription, though, and not the joint subscription.

(Copy link for this item)

2. Province announces projects to improve access to health care

People line up outside the Tacoma Medical Centre in Dartmouth in September. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“Premier Tim Houston and Health Minister Michelle Thompson visited the Dalhousie Family Medicine Clinic in Halifax on Wednesday to announce new initiatives designed to help recruit more family doctors and to help more people access health care,” reports Jennifer Henderson. 

Houston and Thompson said recent changes made at the Dalhousie Family Medicine Clinics located in the West End Mall and in Spryfield have resulted in 780 patients coming off the Need a Family Practice Registry. By the end of June 2023, Thompson expects approximately 3,500 people will no longer be without a health care provider.

Changes being trialed by the Dalhousie clinic where student doctors are trained include hiring a licensed practical nurse, a physiotherapist, and a social worker to form a collaborative team that can provide ongoing care to people with chronic health issues such as diabetes and COPD. Teamwork means more patients can be seen without necessarily involving a medical doctor or a nurse practitioner. If consults are required, the visits will be shorter.

The licensed practical nurse or “rapid onboarding team” is another idea targeted to reduce some of the paperwork associated with taking patient histories and dealing with patient referrals that consume a lot of time. According to Dr. Joanna Zed, the medical director of Dalhousie’s Family Medicine program, that one change has increased the capacity of the Dal clinics to see about 30% more patients.

Over the next four years, these changes being tested at the Dalhousie Family Medicine Clinics will be offered across the province to other community clinics and family medicine practices.

Henderson interviewed Liberal leader Zach Churchill and NDP MLA Gary Burrill, who were also at the clinic on Wednesday, to get their thoughts on the new changes.

Click here to read Henderson’s story.

(Copy link for this item)

3. In unshocking news, food costs more now

A new report released on Thursday suggests the grocery industry of the future is going to look very different from its pre-COVID-19 days. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

Arthur Gaudreau, who’s behind the social media accounts Halifax Retales, has been keeping track of food prices at grocery stores for the past five years. Gaudreau has a Google doc with the prices of 29 food items at a few grocery stores: Sobeys, Superstore, Walmart, and No Frills. You can find that document here. 

Gaudreau’s also been sharing his findings on Twitter and Facebook, and yesterday he was on CBC’s Maritime Noon talking about what he learned (here’s an excerpt from that show):

How did the grocery stores compare in 2017?

Typically, back in 2017 Walmart was the cheapest. Superstore wasn’t far behind and Sobeys was significantly more expensive than the others by like six or seven per cent.

And then fast forward to today, what do you see now? 

Today Superstore and Sobeys are much more in line. Walmart is still the cheapest and I’m also now looking at No Frills — Superstore’s partner — and they come in between Superstore and Walmart.

The Superstore basket from 2017 to 2022 increased by 45 per cent … I was surprised. I would have expected an increase just because, but I would have expected somewhere in the 20 per cent range, not 45.

He also calculated price increases from February 2022 to October 2022 and found that prices at all the stores went up, but the prices at Sobeys went up the least (Gaudreau notes Sobeys was the most expensive to start with).

Gaudreau said he discovered that items like chicken don’t go on sale as often now. And many dry good have increased in price by 10 or 20 cents, or even by a dollar.

Gaudreau shared his own tips for grocery shopping, saying he avoids the big supermarkets, and shops instead at smaller markets like Gateway and Dave’s in Dartmouth, as well as ethnic markets. He did say he goes to Walmart because the prices are lower.

If I can, I usually go to the Superstore very early, like 7am, and get those “pink sticker” deals, which means items are half price. I went to Giant Tiger last week just for a last minute items, and noticed their prices are good, too.

You can listen to the interview with Gaudreau here. 

(Copy link for this item)

4. Neighbour group finds 3,700 homes lost to short-term rentals

Nicola Seguin at CBC recently spoke with a group of neighbours in Halifax’s north end who complied data from the province’s short-term accommodations registry and the short-term rental data analytics website AirDNA, and learned there are 3,792 short-term rentals in Nova Scotia listed as an “entire home.” Neighbours Speak Up learned that there are 2,000 short-term rentals in Halifax and 1,630 of those are “entire homes” with two to five bedrooms.

Seguin writes:

“The important fact here is these are secondary homes that could be used for housing, given our present situation,” said Bill Stewart, spokesperson for Neighbours Speak Up. “[They] have been used for short-term purposes. And we think even a portion of those would help many people deal with the housing situation.”

South Shore housing advocate Kristi Tibbo says she sees the “profound impact” of the relatively new vacation rental sector in communities like Lunenburg, Chester and Mahone Bay.

“This housing stock is being taken away from local families [who want] to purchase homes that they would like to stay in and grow their family. The pricing for one is a lot of times unattainable,” said Tibbo, an intensive case manager with the South Shore Open Doors Association.

At issue is housing that’s been taken off the local market because owners can collect higher prices from vacationers.

As Seguin reports, back in April Tourism Minister Pat Dunn introduced an amendment to the Tourist Accommodation Registration Act, but there are still no regulations and the act isn’t yet law. Neighbours Speak Up say that delay is a huge issue, and leaves municipalities “helpless to really move much further down the road to addressing this problem.”

(Copy link for this item)


Views

It’s not unkind to criticize systems that keep us in the dark

Photo: Cherry Laithang/Unsplash

Last week, thousands of people still without power after tropical storm Fiona took to Twitter to vent. Their frustrations were valid. Those people, some in Nova Scotia and many others in PEI, had gone more than two weeks without power. They weren’t getting answers from the power companies. Any relief they were to get from their governments seemed caught up in endless red tape and delays. They waited in lines. Their lives were disrupted. And they were angry, and at home waiting in the dark for the lights to finally come on.

And then people chimed in to tell them to “stop complaining” or to “be kind.” The crews were working as hard and as fast as they could, they were told, although no one was complaining about the linespeople. Imagine being told to be kind after living more than two weeks without power. 

I’ve long disliked the Be Kind movement for many reasons. It’s part of the larger concept of toxic positivity that asks people to happy and positive regardless of the situation and that any other emotion you have is bad and shouldn’t be expressed at all.

It’s not that I don’t like kindness. Yes, please be kind! All those folks out helping others after storms or every day represent the best of us. But the Be Kind expressed in social media memes often means something else: Be Quiet. It’s a way to shut us up about systems that continue to fail us.  

Others had seen those comments too and just as I was fuming from reading them, Nicola MacLeod, a reporter and producer with CBC in PEI, shared this thread, saying this: 

Emotions are high right now, but it’s important to note that folks can support and show gratitude for people doing the cleanup (Maritime Electric employees, CAF etc.) and still ask questions of elected governments and the profitable, privately-held utility with a monopoly.

No one controls when storms happen, but it’s someone’s job to ensure infrastructure will hold up in a storm. It’s someone’s job to make sure relief money gets in the pocket of people when they need it. It’s someone’s job to make sure survival information is communicated ASAP.

I’ve seen a lot of this; the inability to separate the work being done by the power crews and the work not being done by the power company. I certainly hope no one is out yelling at line crews; I am sure anyone who’s waiting for days and weeks to have their power turned back on is grateful to see the crews working on the lines on their street.

But the management at power companies don’t deserve our kindness. As Jennifer Henderson has been reporting, Nova Scotia Power continues to ask ratepayers for more money, including for an additional charge called a “storm cost recovery rider” to help pay for damage after major storms like Fiona.

But the demands for kindness and to “stop complaining” don’t only happen when the lights go out. Think of the responses after mass shooting in the US when people will say “thoughts and prayers” or “now is not the time” to talk about why those shootings keep happening. It’s all the same vibe.

During that weekend of April 18 and 19, 2020 when a province was frightened and wanted answers about the mass shooting at Portapique, the RCMP held its first conference and many of us felt we weren’t getting clear answers. Online, again, people wondered aloud what was going on. And others yelled back, “let them do their jobs!” when it was clear they weren’t.  

I kind of get where the Be Kind people are coming from. There’s a lot happening, especially these past two years. A pandemic, the climate crisis, the housing crisis, and many people are just getting by, if at all. It’s a lot and can be overwhelming! I suspect many of the Be Kind people just want to not think about it all and bury their heads in the sand. “I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life,” they’ll say.  

A lot of women have a tough time expressing their anger. It’s not how we are raised. We’re supposed to be nice, even to our own detriment. But as we get older, all of the rage about the unpaid emotional labour we do, the opportunities we’ve lost to less talented men, the money we didn’t make, all those times we were told we weren’t enough, yet somehow too much at the same time, all comes bubbling to the surface. Some women let it out in anger. Still others let that fury seethe and instead head to Facebook and post an inspirational quote. But we can’t motivationally quote our way through a crisis or systemic issues.

It’s not that there isn’t anger out there. Just on Sunday, I saw yet another sign at a coffee shop asking that customers not be verbally or physically abusive to staff. We’re sending out our anger in the wrong direction. There’s no kindness here. The people who take care of us, whether it’s with coffee or health care, don’t deserve it.

As I was writing this, about 1,000 people in PEI are still without power, just about three weeks after the storm. Three weeks. It seems so unfathomable. I said last week that with the next storm some of us will go without power for more than a month and will wait in more lines for some relief, yet there will be someone to tell them to Be Kind or stop complaining. 

This is what the systems want us to do. They want us to Be Quiet. But it’s never, ever kind to be told to keep quiet while living in the dark.  

(Copy link for this item)


Noticed

Paul Fairie, a researcher and instructor at University of Calgary, tweets out threads of newspaper clippings that tell the short histories of complaints we’ve always had. Over the last few months, he’s tweeted threads including “A list of things people blamed on dancing,” “A brief history of kids today are too rude,” and “A list of things people blamed for the divorce rate.

This week, Fairie focuses on “A List of Things People Blamed for the High Cost of Living.

Daylight Saving Time. This just reads like another version of “no one wants to work anymore.”

Women and girls were blamed a lot for high cost of living, but what else is new?

Fairie should do a thread on the history of people telling high school girls what to wear:

Ah, the lazy housewife who’s also not frugal enough.

“Saving at the spigot and wasting at the bunghole.”

It’s the cost of high living, not the high cost of living! Got it?

And when you can’t find something specific to blame, just blame everyone:

I always enjoy these threads Faire puts together. We’ve always complained about the same things! You can read the most recent thread here.

(Copy link for this item)


Government

City

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda

Province

Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Epigenetics in Diabetic Kidney Disease – Marking a Paradigm Shift (Thursday, 12pm, online) — Ferhan Siddiqi will talk

Friday

Health and Social Justice: Charter Rights and Charter Wrongs (Friday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building and online) — Martha Jackman from the University of Ottawa will talk

48th Atlantic Canada Economics Association Conference (Friday, 1:30pm, Collaborative Health Education Building) — until Oct. 16; registration and more info here

“This Sculptor is a Cop”: John Reginald Abbott, Murder in Montreal, and the RCMP’s Criminal Identification Masks (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Jamie Jelinski will talk (here’s the link.)

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

Women in Retail: Impacting Our Communities With Purpose (Thursday, 9am, Loyola Conference Hall) — tickets and more info here

Friday

“The Massacre of the Tonsil”: Tonsillectomies and Medical Malpractice in Mid-Twentieth Century Canada (Friday, 1pm, AT 216) — Blake Brown will talk


In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: Onego Duero, cargo ship, moves from anchorage to Pier 27
07:00: Enchanted Princess, cruise ship with up to 4,402 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
07:00: Gaia Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for Montreal
11:20: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
11:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
12:00: Hyundai Faith, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
15:00: AlgoNova, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Montreal
16:15: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
17:45: Enchanted Princess sails for New York

Cape Breton
06:30: Celebrity Summit, cruise ship with up to 2,100 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Quebec City, on a 12-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston
07:00: Ocean Explorer, cruise ship with up to 162 passengers, moves through the causeway en route from Halifax to Pictou, on a 14-day cruise from Boston to Quebec City
13:00: Arctic Lift, barge, with Western Tugger, tug, arrives at Mulgrave from Souris, PEI
15:00: MM Newfoundland, barge, and Lois M, tug, sails from Sydport for sea
18:00: Celebrity Summit sails for Boston
19:00: Radcliffe R. Latimer, bulker, arrives at Sydney Coal Pier from Montreal


Footnotes

I have managed to avoid buying — and eating — Halloween treats well before Oct. 31. I avoided buying Quality Street, too, even though they were on sale last week. Alas, someone bought a tin for me over the weekend. Sigh.


Subscribe to the Halifax Examiner

We have many other subscription options available, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Suzanne Rent

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

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

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.
Cancel reply
  1. Air BnB is a scourge as much of the tech world has become. Greedy homeowners and investment property owners reveal the free market as depraved as so many people cannot afford something that should be a human right.

    I’m also waiting for the expose on developers malfeasance. Take a look at the corner of Cunard and Robie Streets. There has been a vacant block there for over 2 years as the developer has sat on the land after having razed 7 houses of multiple units of affordable housing.

    What does the city do? Nothing, preferring to concentrate on evicting homeless people in tents and having private, undocumented meetings with developers in council offices.

    God save us from the free market.