News

1. Tent sites in city parks

Tents fill most of Nick Meagher Park, where unhoused people in HRM have been camping since mid-August. The site has been informally renamed “People’s Park” by volunteers and residents. Photo: Leslie Amminson.

Zane Woodford was covering Halifax regional council on Tuesday where councillors, after a long debate Woodford chronicled on Twitter, decided to move ahead with with a revised version of a staff proposal to create designated tent sites for people who are unhoused. Woodford writes:

But significant questions remain about how and when people currently living in municipal parks will be asked to leave, or whether they’ll be forcibly removed.

“I think it’s the least worst option,” Coun. Waye Mason said on Tuesday.

“This is starting to bring a little bit of order, to enable us to better provide human rights-based protections and services to folks who find themselves in this critical bit of need that no one should find themselves in.”

As the Halifax Examiner reported on Monday, the staff proposal was for tent sites at 16 city parks — five long-term and 11 overnight — with a maximum of four tents per site. At the overnight sites, people would only be allowed to stay from 8pm to 8am.

That was councillors’ main concern with the plan during their virtual meeting on Tuesday.

“In my opinion, having overnight camping and then having someone — police or bylaw, whomever — shake that tent and say, ‘OK you’ve got to leave’ at 8am is problematic,” said Coun. Tony Mancini.

“It’s a potential for conflict to occur.”

Unbelievably — or maybe believably; who knows anymore — people currently living in parks weren’t consulted for the staff report. I mean, it’s not like the staff don’t know which park unhoused people are living in right now. Woodford writes:

[Deputy Mayor Pam] Lovelace was also concerned about a lack of consultation with the people most affected — those actually living in parks.

“They’re not in this report. Their voices are not in this report. Certainly we have voices from people who were unhoused, but the most important people that we’re trying to help, we haven’t heard from them,” Lovelace said.

That was one of the central criticisms of the staff report from those working with unhoused people, like P.A.D.S. Community Network, which said staff didn’t speak with a single person living in a city park.

Max Chauvin, parks and recreation special projects manager and one of the authors of the report, said he had conversations with “two people that have identified that they have lived experience with sleeping rough.”

Chauvin did suggest that a committee of people with that lived experience could be ready to go via the United Way next month.

Woodford’s article includes the full motion that councillors passed last night.

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2. Officiating Academy

Anthony Williams, left, and Vince Williams. Photo: Matthew Byard

Matthew Byard has two stories in today. First up, this one on two local referees, Anthony Williams and Vince Williams, who recently joined the CFL’s Officiating Academy. The academy, which will start up on May 13, is aimed at training football referees and former athletes to officiate at a professional level for the CFL. But its other goal is to encourage inclusion and diversity in the officiant community. Byard writes:

Anthony’s brother, Andre Williams, served with Anthony and Vincent last year in the Nova Scotia high school football championship game. It was the first high school football championship game in the province where three of the seven officials were Black. It was also the first where the head official, Vincent Williams, was also Black.

“We’ve identified dedicated and passionate individuals who can expand the officiating footprint across the country —  not only geographically, but also with under-served communities,” said Laurence Pontbriand, manager, football and officiating development, as well as co-chair of the league office’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Committee.

Click here to read Byard’s full story.

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3. High Powered Customs

Stefan Williams. Photo: Malaya Simms

In his second story, Byard profiles Stefan Williams, owner of High Powered Customs Apparel, a clothing and printing company. Williams makes swag for local Black-owned organizations and companies, including for Upshaw Roller Dome, which is opening this summer. Byard writes:

Stefan Williams, who owns and runs High Powered Customs Apparel, said he never met Shane Upshaw, the owner of Upshaw’s Roller Dome, until recently when Upshaw approached him about doing business.

“It’s very important to support black businesses to help the money circulate thru the community,” said Williams in an interview with the Examiner. “ A lot of Black businesses don’t last due to lack of support from the Black community.”

Williams said Upshaw wanted to use an upcoming roller-skating event as an opportunity to promote the opening of the roller dome. He contacted Williams to order apparel for Upshaw’s Roller Dome to sell at that event, and eventually for the business itself.

Click here to read the story.

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4. Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp Mill at night. Photo courtesy of Tony DeCoste Photo-Video

Joan Baxter’s article, Northern Pulp and its wealthy owners seem intent on taking Nova Scotians to the cleaners, is now out from behind the paywall.

Baxter writes:

Late last year, Northern Pulp and nine other Paper Excellence companies, together with their owners Paper Excellence Canada and Hervey Investment B.V., with an address-of-convenience in Netherlands (the world’s 4th top tax haven), filed a statement of claim against the province for what they called “indemnified losses” caused by the 2020 closing of the pulp mill and loss of the use of Boat Harbour for its effluent, nine years before its contract ended in 2030.[1]

They calculate those losses at $450 million, and that is the amount of the legal action they launched against the province.

A lawsuit against the “province,” of course, really means against the people of Nova Scotia, as they are the ones who will be paying when the $450 million lawsuit and other legal claims and disputes are “settled.”

The BC court order forcing the province into an unwanted mediation process about the claims was not an April Fool’s Day joke, but the people of Nova Scotia could be excused for wishing it was.

It is definitely not good news for the province.

Click here to read the full story.

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5. Non-resident property tax

Premier Tim Houston at the COVID briefing, Feb. 23, 2022. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

The Houston government is making changes to the non-resident property tax plan that inspired a lot of op-eds over the last few weeks. Jean Laroche at CBC reports that Premier Tim Houston made the announcement on Tuesday during his state-of-the-province speech for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. The plan, which was announced in the spring budget, included a tax of $2 per $100 of assessed value for non-residents, plus a five per cent deed transfer tax for non-residents who purchase a property. That deed transfer tax is staying, but as Laroche reports, the property tax levy will now be tiered. Laroche writes:

The changes will see an exemption for active members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the introduction of a tiered tax regime based on the property assessment.

According to the province, the changes will benefit the owners of smaller properties like cottages. Similar to income taxes, property values will be taxed at different rates.

  • Properties assessed at $150,000 or less will be exempt from the tax.
  • Properties worth more than that will pay 0.5 per cent on assessed values between $150,000 and $250,000
  • Any additional property values over $250,000 will be taxed at the original two per cent levy
  • All vacant residential land owned by non-residents will be taxed at two percent regardless of assessed value.

Those changes will mean a $42 million hit to the province’s original revenue target, reducing the anticipated new revenue amount to $23 million, instead of the $65 million anticipated in the budget, according to Nova Scotia’s Finance Department.

In his speech, Houston said, “We are not so arrogant that we can’t admit when we need to adjust.”

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Views

What mothers want and need every day, not just on Mother’s Day

Moms need more naps every day. Photo: Adrian Swancar/Unsplash

Mother’s Day is on Sunday, and of course in the last week I’ve seen lots of articles on gifts to buy for mom on her special day, and so on. And while mothers love a nice gift, all those articles got me thinking about what mothers might really want and need every day, not just on Mother’s Day. Certainly, these “days” when we celebrate particular groups of people are nice and all, but they don’t always lead to significant change to make the everyday lives of those people better.

Yesterday, I asked the Mothers of Twitter what they wanted and needed every day and I got some really great answers. There were the practical and important requests like “empty the dishwasher” and “let me sleep in.” I thought I’d share some of their comments here:

  • Not to have to decide between meeting our own needs and our children’s needs. The capacity to do both.
  • Someone to actually do all the things that I do each day: cooking, folding clothes, putting clothes away and dealing with the dishwasher, etc, etc, etc.
  • I just want my children to be happy and healthy.
  • One night away at a “hotel of solitude.”
  • Mothers want the same as everyone else — for those around them to safe, secure (in finances, housing etc), healthy and content in their lives — everyday.
  • Eradication of the motherhood penalty in our careers. Affordable childcare. Less judgment. Choice, flexibility, and support to do what’s best for our families. Y’know. The little things.
  • Someone to help meal plan and manage schedules. Time to myself to practice my hobbies or exercise.
  • To have our invisible labour recognized, celebrated, and compensated.
  • For my kids to be healthy & safe and for every other mother’s child to be healthy & safe because we all know that’s just not the case. Beyond that everyone in my house to say yes to every single whim I have that day without question, LOL!
  • Universal Income
  • Sleep. And happy kids.
  • Need to be shown that their child(ren) are going to be the good people we hope we are raising and that we are still relevant in their lives. Bonus for really liking your kids.
  • Space to feel whatever complex and contradictory feelings they might have about being a mother. This year Mother’s Day falls on my birthday. I will be filled with the greatest amount of gratitude but also some significant heavy heart. Another mother will be grieving.
  • The “village” from the saying, “It takes a village.” Our individualist society expects so much of mothers and provides very little support for most.
  • A village. A support system of family and friends that show up and help when needed (in person, not just a kind text). Also affordable childcare and an understanding work environment.
  • Someone else that puts the toilet paper on the holder…
  • To have a designated time (even just an hour) when no one asks me for something or where something is.
  • For society to understand that mother is a verb not a noun, that anyone can do that work, and atomizing it so it mostly falls to one person in a nuclear family set up is not great for them, for kids and for the rest of us.

See? Lots of good stuff here that can actually be accomplished.

That last comment got me thinking about the mother of a longtime friend of mine. She already had five children, and was for years a single mom, but still took in kids who, for whatever reason, had to leave their own homes. She created a place for them that was supportive and fun. I think there are a lot of people like this. Mothering means nurturing, supporting, and looking out for others, and as that tweet said, sometimes those who take on that role do so in a way that’s not great for them. Still, they do it anyway.

I also reached out to the Canadian Women’s Foundation to see if they had any research on the state of motherhood in Canada. As we know, the last two years has been tough on mothers and people who take care of others. The foundation is now compiling data from a survey called The Mother Rising campaign. While they couldn’t give me final data for this year’s survey, the campaign was created “to help diverse mothers, caregivers, women, and people of all genders to move out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence and leadership.” Here’s what the foundation sent to me about the results from last year’s Mother Rising survey results:

Last year’s formal survey results (which are statistically significant) indicated that 46% of mothers were reaching their breaking point, and 70% were concerned about their family’s mental health.  This year, despite pandemic restrictions lessening, initial survey results are indicating that women and caregivers are still struggling. We are awaiting results of the formal survey update to last year’s numbers, and in meantime we are running an informal survey that received 170 responses from across Canada (Note: not statistically significant).

  • When asked, respondents indicated that their mental health is their number one concern, followed by their emotional wellbeing.  
  • When asked to rate their overall well-being today compared to before the pandemic, 74% said they feel worse off now 

 To gain some more insight into the struggles that women are facing, here are some things we heard back from informal survey respondents: 

  • “As a single parent, I am running from early morning to late at night without a break. Full-time work, medical appointments, both children have anxiety and mental health challenges, wrapped up a bitter divorce that drained me and left me financially strapped, just trying to feed us is stressful with costs rising. There is stress everywhere I look.”
  • “As a senior leader, I’ve had to shoulder the emotional needs of a large workplace while trying to meet the emotional needs of my children and partner. The balancing act has been extremely difficult and overwhelming, especially when working long days and being faced with continually having to work from home in the evenings. The never-ending work as a result of the pandemic has led me to struggle emotionally.”

So, there are plenty of things mothers want and need every day! A final request from me: please, don’t call mothers “superwomen” and “heroes” on Sunday and then don’t do anything to support them year-round.

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Noticed

In March I wrote this story, New life for old churches, about how people were buying and repurposing churches across Nova Scotia. It was interesting to learn what people were doing with these historic churches as their congregations shrink, and the expenses to maintain the buildings became too much.

So of course, I found this article by Alex Bozikovic in the Globe and Mail interesting, too. (Bozikovic is the Globe’s architecture critic who is the co-author of the book 305 Lost Buildings of Canada, which I wrote about in this Morning File).

Bozikovic interviewed Tim Blair, CEO of Kindred Works, a real estate company associated with the United Church of Canada, which has plans to “transform” the church’s properties in the country into rental housing over the next 15 years. Those properties will eventually house 34,000 people, and a third of those rentals will be below-market, and with financing from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Right now, Kindred is working on eight church projects, including four churches in Toronto, one in Saint John, and one each in St. Catharines and Orillia. Those projects will include 600 homes. But that will increase to 1,500 homes by the end of the year, as Kindred adds another dozen projects to work on. All the design work is being done by KPMB Architects. Bozkovic writes:

This is the most wide-reaching solution yet to a growing challenge of finding uses for old churches. Canada has about 28,000 churches, a large number of which are underused and in danger of closing. Many individual congregations have sold all or part of their facilities to fund repairs and operations. One non-profit, the Trinity Centres Foundation, has a goal of preserving and repurposing churches of all denominations.

But Kindred Works aims to do such work on a unprecedented scale. “We are trying to pioneer an approach to property development that creates social, economic and sustainability benefits for everyone,” Mr. Blair said. He started working with the United Church in 2020 after years in real estate banking and private equity.

I remember a reader commented on my story about people buying old churches and how those spaces could be used for unhoused people. The churches I wrote about were relatively small churches in rural communities. And while those communities need housing, too, I also wondered what would happen to the much larger stone and brick churches in cities that no one person would likely buy as their personal house.

Saint Luke’s Church in Toronto. Photo: Wikipedia

Bozikovic also spoke with Marianne McKenna, an architect with KPMB, about one of the trickiest projects so far — Saint Luke’s in Toronto, which was built in 1887. McKenna, who said Saint Luke’s is a “big barn of a space,” was built to hold a congregation of 800 people. The current congregation is about 200. And like many old churches, it needed work; it recently had its roof repaired. Here’s what Bozikovic wrote about the plans for Saint Luke’s:

KPMB’s solution, designed with the heritage specialists ERA Architects, rethinks the entire church complex. Their plan keeps the original 1887 building, and mostly demolishes a series of later additions. In their place, the architects imagine a 12-storey building that contains 100 homes, 20 of them with three bedrooms.

This would wrap two sides of the original church and also reach one arm above its roof. A new square would widen the sidewalk out front on Sherbourne Street, where food bank patrons line up. And a new café and rentable event space would provide income for the church and also bring more people into the building. “There’s an opportunity,” Ms. McKenna said, “for an integrated community that is more than the sum of its parts.”

I reached out to Kindred Works yesterday to find out if the United Church of Canada has any properties in Nova Scotia, and their spokesperson sent me this statement from its CEO, Tim Blair:

Kindred Works is exploring a number of sites and opportunities in Halifax and across Nova Scotia. It is excited about the potential of providing attainable housing in the province.

Housing supply is such a critical issue in Halifax and Nova Scotia as it is in other cities and communities throughout Canada. As such Kindred Works is looking forward to working with congregations, municipalities and community groups to explore these opportunities, and to help churches unlock their full potential and realize a financially sustainable future.

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Government

City

Wednesday

No meetings

Thursday

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee  (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting

Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — virtual meeting

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual meeting

Province

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Nova Scotia Power’s Proposed Rate Hikes, with representatives from Dept. of Environment and Climate Change, Dept. of Natural Resources and Renewables, Efficiency Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Power, and Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board


On campus

Dalhousie

Diverse genomes and mitochondrion-related organelles in a novel clade of metamonads (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Building) — Shelby Williams will talk

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

No events

Thursday

Trace (Thursday, 6:15pm, Room 101, Atrium Building) — free screening of award-winning documentary, followed by Q&A with co-directors Raluca Bejan and Ioan Cocan. Masks required.

Public accounts of the 2015 European refugee crisis covered the issue through an individualizing gaze placed on the refugee subject. The refugee in suffering, an experience witnessed by us all, as a spectacle, from the distance: images of crowded tents, boats carrying overflowing numbers of people, children dying on Mediterranean shores. Trace turns the gaze outwards, scrutinizing the “space” of the crisis in which people seek refuge. Trace is an independent documentary project and was filmed in Greece, the UK and Canada in 2017.

More details: https://tracedocumentary.com/


In the harbour

Halifax
5:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
06:00: Contship Leo, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
06:00: Ocean Voyager, cruise ship with up to 216 passengers, arrives at Pier 24 from Portland
14:30: Algosea, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Montreal
16:00: MSC Rochelle, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
16:30: Atlantic Star sails forLiverpool, England
16:30: Contship Leo sails for Kingston, Jamaica
17:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
17:45: Ocean Voyager sails for sea

Cape Breton
19:30: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea


Footnotes

There’s nothing more symbolic of a person’s best intentions than all the bananas in their freezer they planned on using to make banana bread. I said this on the weekend when I opened my freezer and took a look at all the bananas in there. So, I went out and bought chocolate chips to add to the banana bread recipe.

Then I ate the entire bag of chocolate chips. So many best intentions.


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Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. Brilliant reporting by Joan Baxter on Northern Pulp and its world class disgusting owners, Paper Excellence as owned by Jackson Widjaja, the son of the chair of the Sinar Mas Group. We as a province must really up our game against a bevy of industrial tyrants who are quietly and effectively raping our beautiful province in almost every area of natural resources you can name. We MUST protect our homeland for our children. We MUST start at least thinking of the next generation, if not the next 7 generations.

  2. Churches housing the homeless! Fantastic. Technically, according to its founder, the church is the people, who should be housing the homeless, and feeding the hungry, etc. Full disclosure: I belong to a church. I have a clergy friend who has often said there is a lot of room in churches for homeless people and their sleeping bags. He would be delighted with this news.

  3. Suzanne! Between your new cat and the old cat and chocolate chip eating your Foot Notes make me laugh my uglies away! I too, have to many bananas …but a pina colada might make good use of them.

  4. Homelessness?

    The solution seems so obvious. 3 levels of government get together and fund the construction of affordable housing for their citizens. No handouts to developers for their profits. Housing for people, housing as a basic human right,.

    The problem of course is that politicians have been swallowing market dogma for 40 years that says the “market” will provide for all at fair and rational prices. Of course that is bullshit and everyone knows it. If they didn’t know it the current housing crisis proves it. The “market” is there to make someone money – the more money the better. The market doesn’t care about simple human decency, for people to live lives with dignity and security, free of worries about paying rent over buying food.

    Markets, of course, were not part of the council discussion. How many councilors have income properties? How many senior bureaucrats? Of course they want market fundamentalism, it guarantees their properties will always be in demand at higher and higher prices and desperate renters coming to them cap in hand.

    Mr Chauvin made a remark about the housing market at the start of his presentation yesterday. I’d like to think it was a sly acknowledgement that the housing market has failed HRM and its citizens living in tents. It may be something our small council can’t change but some acknowledgement could start a different conversation.

    1. I agree 100%. The federal level controls the buik of the money, the provincial level controls what can be built where, and the municipal level has to deal with all the people who cannot find a place to live. If all three could, somehow work together, they might actually make a difference. Housing should be a basic human right and viable programs started under one political leader should not be abandoned when a new leader comes in but rather they should be some sort of continuity.

      I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it – everyone who wants a safe, secure place to sleep each night should have one. There should be places available at all income levels in all communities. The more “luxury” apartments that get built the farther and farther down we (as a society) are pushing those who have more limited means. In fact, from what I’ve read on this site, even those with middle-class means are getting pushed out of their communities.

      I am one of those with limited means. I love my community of Dartmouth North, but if I were to lose my current apartment, I would have no choice but to leave as rents around me start upwards of $1000/month – for a bachelor!