My Nova Scotia Hosting The Great Mid-Life Road Trip Thu, 20 Feb 2020 18:07:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 My Nova Scotia 32 32 125914392 Court documents allege premier, others knew of plan for ‘unconquered people’ argument Thu, 20 Feb 2020 18:07:25 +0000

Newly released court documents allege Premier Stephen McNeil and some of the most senior members of the Nova Scotia government knew of and supported the plan by a former Justice Department lawyer to make a court submission that the province did not have a duty to consult the Sipekne’katik First Nation on a proposed natural gas storage project.

Alex Cameron was removed from the case in December 2016 after a public relations firestorm developed from coverage of the matter, in which he argued the province did not have a duty to consult because that requirement only applied to “unconquered people,” which he implied was not the case with Mi’kmaw communities.

Cameron ultimately retired from the department at the end of April 2017 and a few days later filed his lawsuit against McNeil and former justice minister Diana Whalen.

At the time, both McNeil and Whalen disavowed Cameron’s suggestion there was no duty to consult “in light of historical evidence of a ‘submission’ to the British Crown.”

But in Cameron’s affidavit, which was released Thursday after the Supreme Court of Canada denied the province’s request for leave to appeal in hopes of keeping the documents from the public eye, Cameron suggested otherwise.

According to the affidavit, Cameron said then-deputy justice minister Tilly Pillay and Julie Towers, CEO of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, were made aware of the plan ahead of hearings in 2016 and raised no objections during a meeting to prepare for the case.

Former Justice Department lawyer Alex Cameron was removed from working on the Alton Gas project file after his ‘unconquered people’ argument became public and sparked outcry. He subsequently retired. (CBC)

“At the conclusion of the meeting, it was my understanding that all were agreed to advance the arguments I raised, including the sovereignty argument,” said the affidavit.

According to the document, Cameron said problems first arose when his brief was raised during a session of question period at Province House in November 2016. At the time, the premier was asked if he supported the suggestion that the Sipekne’katik First Nation were a conquered people. Cameron said the question mischaracterized his argument.

As tensions grew in the public as media attention increased around the story, Cameron said in his affidavit that during a conversation with Pillay, she told him she thought it was likely that the sovereignty argument would be abandoned “and that I would be ‘thrown under the bus.'”

It was then that Cameron contacted Bernie Miller to loop him into what was happening. Miller, the deputy business minister, was the deputy minister of the Office of Priorities and Planning at the time and a senior adviser to the premier.

In the lead up to the November hearing, Cameron said he was told during a conference call with senior government officials on Nov. 12 that unless he heard otherwise, he should assume he would advance the sovereignty argument. He asked that government “publicly clarify that the positions advanced in the brief were those of the province, and not those of me personally,” something that never happened.

A Mi’kmaw camp is seen on the shores of the Shubenacadie River in Fort Ellis, N.S., on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. Indigenous protesters set up the camp to oppose a plan by AltaGas Ltd. to create large underground caverns to store natural gas. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The next day, he was informed the province would not advance the argument that there is no duty to consult. Miller, who was copied on the email, replied that he “did not agree” with the decision.

A subsequent email from Miller to Cameron said he was working with senior staff to try to clarify instructions. In that email, Miller refers to “Laura” and “Ryan,” whom Cameron said he believes to be then-deputy minister to the premier Laura Lee Langley and the premier’s then-deputy chief of staff, Ryan Grant.

Eventually, Miller told Cameron that if the issue of his brief comes up in court, “it should be emphasized at all times that the Crown, as a matter of policy consulted fully and submits it met the duty to consult.” Cameron said he got a call from Miller the morning of the hearing to tell him not to abandon the sovereignty argument, but to treat it as “subsidiary.”

“Mr. Miller advised me that the instructions were those of a ‘very tall gentleman’ who I understood to be the premier.”

For two days following the hearing, Cameron said his instructions did not change. But as more negative media coverage brewed around the case, McNeil and Whalen both made statements to reporters that they had no idea the argument was coming and that it did not represent their government.

‘This will be an issue’

An email from communications staff following a scrum with reporters noted: “This will be an issue. For both minister and the case.”

In a subsequent conversation with Miller, Cameron said he was told the premier “was a reasonable guy,” that he’d had a “bad week” and that Miller believed “he would ‘come around’ and recognize what he had done.”

Cameron asked the clerk of the executive council for an apology, but one never came. Miller later told him the government needed a scapegoat but that he didn’t think it would be him, according to the affidavit.

On Dec. 5, 2016, Cameron was told the file was being reassigned, but that it was expected he would continue to work on his other files. Publicly, however, government officials would not say if Cameron had been punished or if his employment situation had changed. Fifteen days later, with a new lawyer on the file, the sovereignty argument was withdrawn as McNeil had a face-to-face meeting with Mi’kmaw chiefs to try to distance his government from the argument.

Diana Whalen formerly served as the province’s justice minister. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Cameron said a third-party review of the file was conducted and he participated “because it appeared to me at the time to be the quickest way to restore my reputation.” The report was completed and presented to government, but according to his affidavit, Cameron was never given a copy.

“The foregoing events have been extremely distressing and upsetting to me,” he said in the affidavit.

“My reputation has been shattered, and I have lost significant economic opportunities.”

None of the allegations has been proven in court.


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Nova Scotia seeks to bar employers from asking about past salary to curb gender wage gap Thu, 20 Feb 2020 17:55:48 +0000

The Nova Scotia government is hoping proposed changes to the Labour Standards Code will make it harder for employers to pay women and new hires a lower salary than men doing the same type of work.

The amendments introduced Thursday by provincial Labour Minister Labi Kousoulis will make it illegal for employers to ask prospective employees about their last salary. It will also prohibit employers from ordering staff to keep their salary confidential.

Kelly Regan, the minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, stood alongside her cabinet colleague during a briefing on the bill to reporters.

She said women in Nova Scotia make, on average, $0.73 for every dollar earned by a man doing roughly the same job.

“Even in women-dominated sectors, men make more than women,” said Regan.

‘It follows them through their life’

Both ministers said that needs to change and they hope the proposed changes will spur a move toward equal pay for work of equal value.

“We know that people agree with the principle of equal pay for equal work and addressing that gap is good for the economy. It’s important to have legislative and policy frameworks in place that support gender equality,” said Regan.

The move to make it illegal for an employer to ask about a previous salary aims to make it harder for those employers to set a wage based on what people earned previously.

Regan said that was a question often asked of prospective employees.

“Many businesses in Nova Scotia do ask that question and they base their remuneration on what they hear instead of what they’re willing to pay for the job,” she said.

“And unfortunately women and new workers tend to see the effects of that and it follows them through their life.”

Other changes to the Labour Code should make it easier for military reservists to get time off sooner from their civilian jobs, and may make it easier from them to get more time off to fulfil their military obligations.


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Another global shipper warns it may bypass Halifax due to rail blockades Thu, 20 Feb 2020 17:43:22 +0000

Another large shipping line that calls on Halifax is prepared to route cargo away from the city’s port because Indigenous protests have paralyzed the rail system in eastern Canada.

German-headquartered Hapag-Lloyd told its customers in a notice Wednesday on its website that “various options to move/divert cargo out of Halifax are being explored.”

“The blockade in Ontario remains in place, and CN’s Eastern Canadian network is more or less shut down,” the company said.

CN Rail operates the only rail line serving Halifax. Last week, it stopped moving cargo in and out of the Maritimes because of blockades of the main line near Belleville, Ont., by protesters supporting Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.

ACL ships bypass Halifax

While Hapag-Lloyd considers its options, long-time New Jersey shipper Atlantic Container Line (ACL) has decided it will divert cargo from Halifax to U.S. ports because of what its president, Andy Abbott, called “this ridiculous situation.”

The routing away by ACL means two vessels originally bound next week for the Ceres Corp. container terminal at Fairview Cove in Halifax will instead skip the port.

ACL’s so-called next-generation vessels, which can carry both containers and vehicles, unload hundreds of containers each week in Halifax destined for the midwest on the CN Rail line, and pick up containers for export.

“Export rail cargo is not coming into Halifax and import volume already here is not moving out therefore congesting the terminal. We now have two vessels scheduled to bypass the port,” Fritz King, ACL’s manager for Canada, told CBC News in an email Thursday.

“What other choice do we have available; our customers expect and deserve service?”

ACL can move Halifax cargo through three other U.S. ports on its regular rotation: New York, Baltimore and Virginia Beach, Va.

ZIM warns of delays

ZIM, another major shipping line that uses Halifax, told its customers Wednesday it “will continue to monitor the situation closely and will keep you updated on any further development.”

ZIM said some cargo is getting through “by alternative routes” to reach the Brampton, Ont., rail terminal, although the company did not detail how. It did warn customers to “expect delays with cargo delivery.”

On Wednesday, ACL’s president expressed his frustration in a statement to CBC News.

“Our Canadian and U.S. midwest operations have been shut down for almost two weeks now over this ridiculous situation,” Abbott said.

“Meanwhile, Ottawa does absolutely nothing but give lip service while the country’s transportation system has been shut down over an issue totally unrelated to the railroads.

“CN Rail, Halifax and Canada are the losers here. And you can quote me.”

Abbott told the business website that ACL will return to Halifax when the rail disruption ends.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is also concerned about the situation.

“We can’t continue to allow the economy to be slowed down and we can do that through dialogue,” he said. “That’s great, but we need to make sure that the goods and services have the ability to move across this country.”


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N.S. nursing home goes to Kenyan refugee camp to solve staffing shortage Thu, 20 Feb 2020 10:00:00 +0000

A New Glasgow, N.S., nursing home believes part of the solution to a staff shortage is found at a Kenyan refugee camp.

Lisa M. Smith, the CEO of Glen Haven Manor, and several other representatives from Pictou County travelled to Kenya in November on the recruiting mission. They conducted job interviews in Nairobi and at the Dadaab refugee camp, one of the largest such camps in the world.

“The calibre of the candidates was truly amazing. It was certainly more than we ever expected,” said Smith.

Glen Haven extended 11 job offers during the trip to Kenya. The home also made four offers to refugee candidates who were interviewed by Skype from Jordan and Lebanon, for a total of 15 new offers.

All the candidates have backgrounds as nurses or doctors, and will be working as continuing care assistants until they can get their Canadian credentials assessed.

Lisa M. Smith is the CEO of Glen Haven Manor. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

“They were very excited and very emotional,” said Smith. “There were a few candidates that said they were thankful not only that we made the trip to Nairobi, but that we gave them their dignity back.”

The job offer includes the opportunity for candidates to move their families to Canada. That wasn’t something all the candidates knew about during the initial application, said Janice Jorden, the home’s employee relations specialist.

“There was a lot of tears of excitement. It’s not something I get to experience every day,” she said. “Of course, I make job offers all the time, we hire all the time, we’re a big organization. But to see that it makes that much of a change in their life, to see that excitement in their eyes, I don’t get to see that very often.”

Staff and residents prepare to sing together during a music therapy session at Glen Haven Manor on Tuesday, Feb. 18. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

The job offers depend on each candidate successfully applying to enter Canada through an economic immigration stream. That paperwork is underway right now, and Smith said she expects the first candidates will start arriving in New Glasgow within a few months.

Glen Haven is owned by the towns of New Glasgow, Stellarton, Trenton and Westville. It has 222 residents and 300 staff, but more staff members are required.

Although recruiters search locally and within Canada to attract continuing care assistants, the home hasn’t been able to fill 20 positions.

Five years ago, Glen Haven started to recruit internationally to fill the staffing gaps. So far, approximately 20 people have chosen to move from other countries to the Pictou County area, coming from as far away as the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Janice Jorden is Glen Haven Manor’s employee relations specialist. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Noel Lagumbay moved to New Glasgow in 2015 with his girlfriend after researching Canada for about a year.

Both of them worked as registered nurses in the Philippines and became continuing care assistants at Glen Haven, and have transferred their credentials to become registered nurses in Canada. They have since married and are expecting a baby girl.

He said the move was a big change for himself and his wife, but the people were friendly and his aunt who lives nearby helped them adjust. Lagumbay dreamed of being a registered nurse as a child.

“I like talking to people and I get attached to them, so I think it helps a lot for me to pursue my profession,” he said. “I like my job and I like working with different kinds of people, hearing their stories and connecting with them.”

Noel Lagumbay, a registered nurse, moved from the Philippines to New Glasgow in 2015 with his partner. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Lagumbay has some thoughts for the 15 new staff members who will soon be arriving from other countries.

“My only advice is just believe in yourself and continue to pursue your dream,” he said.

‘Unmistakable joy and gratitude’

That’s a point that isn’t always foremost in refugee resettlement, said Simar Singh, the senior programs manager at RefugePoint, the international organization that worked with Glen Haven to put together the longlist of candidates to interview.

Singh said refugees are often asked about painful memories that caused them to leave their homes.

She noticed many of Glen Haven’s candidates came out of the interviews pleasantly surprised they weren’t asked to talk about the difficulties they’ve endured, but about their skills and training.

“There was this unmistakable joy and gratitude that we felt, just sort of talking to all of these refugee candidates, where it seemed as though they had, even if it was just briefly, a moment to revisit aspects of their lives that they often are not asked about, or had to in some ways leave behind,” she said.

Refugees stand in line at Kenya’s sprawling Dadaab refugee complex on July 12, 2016. (Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images)

Singh said one man came up to her after his interview and told her that “Even if this process doesn’t go further, this 30-minute interview has been the highlight of my year.”

Glen Haven is using economic immigration instead of sponsorship, which is the method many community groups traditionally use to bring refugee families to Canada.

Economic immigration doesn’t require the care home to give supports to their new employees, but Glen Haven has made plans for extra support anyway. It has leased one house and recently purchased another seven-bedroom home, so that all new employees arriving from outside of Pictou County will have a furnished home a few minutes walk from work.

Singh said if the Glen Haven model is successful, it could be used elsewhere in Canada. The project is being backed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.


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Owls Head land sale put on hold as potential buyers explore their options Wed, 19 Feb 2020 22:07:56 +0000

The couple that wanted to buy Crown land in the Little Harbour, N.S., area for a proposed golf course development has hit pause on the plan.

Beckwith and Kitty Gilbert had a letter of offer from the provincial government to try to negotiate the purchase of 285 hectares of coastal Crown land known as Owls Head provincial park. The couple hoped to acquire the land, which isn’t actually a provincial park, and merge it with 138 hectares they already own to develop as many as three golf courses.

But on Wednesday, the couple issued a statement to CBC News through their lawyer saying they would not be proceeding at this time.

“After reflecting on the feedback from Nova Scotians, the Gilberts have decided to take some time to explore multiple options for their existing properties in Little Harbour, Nova Scotia,” said the statement. “This will allow for discussion with members of the Little Harbour community, provincial and federal governments, and environmental groups.”

The statement goes on to say the golf course proposal was intended to “preserve the natural beauty of Little Harbour, including the magnificent seaside, rugged coastline, white sandy beaches, and breath-taking seaside views. They planned to preserve the lands and provide greater public access to enjoy the natural beauty of Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore.”

What isn’t clear from the statement is whether the Gilberts are completely abandoning their attempt to buy the Crown land or if they’re simply pressing pause on the plan for a golf development should they successfully fulfil the requirements of their letter of offer with the provincial government. The couple’s lawyer said they would be making no further comment at this time.

A spokesperson for the Lands and Forestry Department said they’ve received no notice of the Gilberts’ intentions.

Negative reaction to potential land sale

News of the golf course proposal sparked widespread community outrage because the government removed the land from the pending-protected status list of the Parks and Protected Areas Plan without public notice or consultation. The land had to be delisted before the government could consider its sale. There were also concerns about what the proposed development would mean for the land’s ecological value.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin has said the land, which includes a globally-rare ecosystem and is home to several endangered species, is not as significant as other properties the government intends to protect. The province has made several major land protection announcements since last fall.

An online campaign to prevent the sale and extend legal protection to Owls Head quickly started up and a former provincial biologist filed papers in court seeking a judicial review of the decision to delist the land. Last month, the federal government said it would not sell surplus Crown land to the province, which the Gilberts hoped to eventually acquire as part of their proposal.

One of the conditions in the letter of offer with the Gilberts was that they conduct a public engagement plan and Premier Stephen McNeil has said that ultimately it would be up to his cabinet to decide whether to sell the land.

Rally planned for Thursday

The Gilberts’ statement said they’ve “been a mainstay” in Little Harbour for more than 16 years and that they’ve come to enjoy the people and community. Along the way, they’ve made donations to the local school and helped back local businesses, according to the statement.

“This care for the community grew into a vision for an eco-tourism destination to preserve the natural environment and create sustainable employment opportunities,” said the statement.

A rally to oppose the sale of the land is scheduled for Thursday in downtown Halifax to coincide with the first day of the spring sitting at the Nova Scotia Legislature.

‘Strong and growing opposition’

Chris Trider, a former provincial park planner for the Nova Scotia government, planned the rally and told CBC News on Wednesday it’s still going ahead.

“That announcement doesn’t change the sequence of events that have unfolded where the cabinet of the McNeil government met in secret to remove Owls Head from the list of protected properties area from the parks and protected areas plan and entered into a purchase and sale agreement,” Trider said.

“I’ll take any good news I can get on this particular issue, but it doesn’t change the facts of the situation. I think that perhaps through their lawyer, the developer has been made aware of the strong and growing public opposition to this action by the government.”


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‘Fed up’ shipping line diverts cargo from Halifax over rail shutdown Wed, 19 Feb 2020 19:38:24 +0000

A major container line is diverting cargo away from the Port of Halifax because of the ongoing disruption of rail service caused by Indigenous protests blockading rail lines in Canada.

“Our Canadian and U.S. midwest operations have been shut down for almost two weeks now over this ridiculous situation,” Andy Abbott, CEO of Atlantic Container Lines, said in a statement to CBC News.

“Customers are finally fed up and we are routing cargo away from Halifax/CN to US Ports/US railroads.”

The company said its North Atlantic rotation includes New York, Baltimore and Virginia Beach, Va., and that’s where the Halifax cargo could be sent.

The rail blockades are a show of solidarity for the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who oppose the construction of a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline through northern British Columbia.

CN Rail operates the only rail line serving Halifax.

Last week, the railway stopped moving cargo in and out of the Maritimes because of blockades of the main line in Ontario.

‘Major problems’

Abbott said the shutdown of rail service has far-reaching impacts.

“We have virtually run out of containers in Ontario — as have many others carriers — so Canadian exporters now have major problems to move their cargo,” he said. “Canadian importers cannot get their parts, so Canadian manufacturing is being affected.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to talk Wednesday with Canadian premiers about the rail blockades.

Abbott is unhappy with the Trudeau government’s response.

Rallies have been held across the country in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who oppose the construction of a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline through northern British Columbia. This rally was held in Toronto on Feb. 8, 2020. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

“Meanwhile, Ottawa does absolutely nothing but give lip service while the country’s transportation system has been shut down over an issue totally unrelated to the railroads,” he said. “CN Rail, Halifax and Canada are the losers here. And you can quote me.”

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is also concerned about the situation.

“We can’t continue to allow the economy to be slowed down and we can do that through dialogue,” he said. “That’s great, but we need to make sure that the goods and services have the ability to move across this country.”

Atlantic Container Lines has decided to divert its cargo from the Port of Halifax to the U.S. because of the rail blockades in Canada. (CBC)

There have been concerns in Nova Scotia the rail shutdown would cost the Port of Halifax business.

“Many other ports on the Eastern Seaboard would love these shipping lines business and they would gobble it up as quick as they possibly could,” Kevin Piper, president of local 260 of the International Longshoremen’s Association, said on Tuesday.


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Banks do little to help consumers resolve their complaints, review finds Wed, 19 Feb 2020 18:25:30 +0000

If you’ve ever had a problem getting your bank to address a complaint, you’re not alone.

A review of Canada’s Big Six banks released Wednesday by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) found the institutions are in no hurry to resolve complaints, have no clear process for dealing with them and take far longer than they should.

The review found more than five million Canadians file at least one complaint with a bank each year. It said 76 percent of those “relatively simple complaints” were resolved at the first point of contact.

But it cited many areas where banks need to deal more effectively with complaints, saying it’s often left to the customer to push for resolution as banks take their time in addressing concerns.

The banks examined by the agency, which is tasked with ensuring federally regulated financial entities comply with consumer protection measures, were Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, CIBC, National Bank of Canada, Royal Bank and TD.

Consumers get frustrated 

The agency found banks’ procedures are not accessible, timely or effective when it comes to more complex cases. The report also said the ability to resolve more of those cases “declines significantly” when consumers escalate their complaint beyond the frontline.

The review found delays in processing complaints are caused by inefficient bank procedures, and leave many people so frustrated and worn out by the process and lengthy wait times they give up and drop their complaints.

Banks were criticized for not providing customers with the information they need to escalate complaints.

The agency said it’s directing banks to design better policies and procedures for resolving complaints objectively, make it easier for customers to understand and navigate complaint-handling procedures and ensure there are adequate staff to handle complaints.

Staff training inadequate or ‘totally absent’

The review found banks’ procedures for handling complaints objectively “are inadequate,” noting the same frontline staff who deal with them “are under pressure to make sales and control costs, and these pressures may influence their decision to reimburse the customer.”

The FCAC requires banks to show that employees who handle complaints have proper training, but the review found that training “generally inadequate” and in some cases “totally absent.”

Banks are required to provide customers with brochures in their branches about their complaint-handling process. But the agency found employees don’t know when to give brochures, which in some cases do not provide clear information on escalating the process and in one case contained outdated information. 

It takes too long

FCAC guidelines require banks to resolve the majority of complaints within 90 days, which the review said is about 50 per cent longer than the standard in the U.K. and twice as long as permitted in Australia. 

Agency guidelines don’t require the 90-day clock to start until the complaint has been escalated to a bank’s senior complaints officer, “which means the time consumers spend going through various steps at the first level is not counted.” It points out most jurisdictions start the clock when the complaint is first submitted.

The review found four unnamed banks take anywhere from 107 to 207 days instead of 90 days.

The agency said it is addressing these issues through “ongoing supervision and oversight,” and will require banks to make improvements. 

A separate review was conducted of Canada’s two banking ombudsmen, the not-for-profit Ombudsman for Banking Service, and the ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds Office, which is a business.

Some consumer groups say there should be just one independent ombudsman.

The FCAC said its findings validated some of the broader concerns, and that the current system is “not consistent with international standards and results in inefficiencies.”

The review also expressed concerns about allowing banks to pick the ombudsman they want to investigate complaints against them, saying it has a negative effect on how customers view the fairness and impartiality of the system.


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N.S. government fuels election talk after announcing record capital spending Tue, 18 Feb 2020 18:18:59 +0000

The Nova Scotia government is fuelling talk of an election after it announced plans Tuesday to spend a record amount on roads, buildings and repairs.

Finance Minister Karen Casey unveiled a capital budget that will see spending top $1 billion, which is 51 per cent higher than last year’s $691-million budget.

Although the plan will drive up the debt faster than forecast last year by Casey, she defended it as “good debt.”

“We call putting money on the debt to keep the lights on and operate the departments bad debt,” she told reporters following a briefing by senior department officials.

“We consider putting money on the debt that is investing in infrastructure that will serve the residents of Nova Scotia for years to come as good debt.”

The $1.042-billion capital plan includes spending on major projects:

  • $166 million for purchasing 30 P-3 schools and building 16 more.
  • Twinning highways 103 and 104.
  • Ongoing renovations to the Halifax Infirmary’s third and fifth floors, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, as well as the Dartmouth General Hospital’s expansion.
  • $11 million to replace ferries in Country Harbour and Little Narrows.
  • $5.9 million for new school buses.

Most of the money will go to the construction or renovation of buildings, while highways get the second largest slice of the pie, followed by capital grants and the purchase of new vehicles and equipment.

New Democrat MLA Claudia Chender says there were capital spending spikes in 2013 and 2017, which were both election years. She suspects an election is forthcoming. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

New Democrat MLA Claudia Chender noted during the past decade, there have been capital spending spikes in 2013 and 2017.

“We see peaks in spending when we see a government going to the polls,” Chender told reporters after the briefing.

“From where we sit, it’s frustrating that we continually ask for spending to meet Nova Scotians basic needs [and] we are continually rebuffed until this government might need someone’s vote.”

Casey brushed aside the suggestion this spending is tied to election timing.

PC MLA Murray Ryan says capital spending on the health-care system needs to be matched with increased staffing. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

“This is not an election year,” she said. “I don’t make that call, but I’m pretty sure there’s no election.”

The PC MLA for Northside-Westmount, Murray Ryan, is concerned all the spending on new hospital buildings is not matched by money to retain and recruit more staff.

“I don’t think the solution to hallway medicine is bigger hallways,” said Ryan. “Until we have proper staffing, being doctors, nurses and support staff, building all these new facilities and not having the staff, who’s to say they’re gonna be here in five years time?”


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Former SMU groundskeeper back in court for 3rd sex assault trial Tue, 18 Feb 2020 18:01:14 +0000

Matthew Percy, the former Saint Mary’s University groundskeeper who was convicted of sexually assaulting a student at the Halifax university in 2017, is back in court Tuesday morning for his third sexual assault trial. 

Percy, 36, is accused of sexual assault causing bodily harm in relation to an attack in a Dalhousie University dorm in 2014. 

He has pleaded not guilty and will be tried by judge alone in Nova Scotia Supreme Court. The trial is scheduled to run until Feb. 25. 

The complainant in this case initially went to police on Dec. 8, 2014, two days after the alleged assault. Then 19, the woman identified Percy as the perpetrator and said the incident happened in a residence room.

Halifax Regional Police concluded their investigation without charges less than a month after the complainant came forward. They reopened the case about four years later after Percy was accused of raping two other women.

He was charged Feb. 8, 2018. The trial was scheduled to being in October 2018 in Halifax provincial court but it was delayed after Percy re-elected to be tried in Nova Scotia Supreme Court. 

The complainant’s name is protected by a publication ban. 

The CBC’s Elizabeth McMillan is live blogging from court. A warning, some of the information contained in the live blog is disturbing.

4 cases between 2013 and 2017

Percy’s first trial followed a Sept. 3, 2017 incident at his apartment involving a student he’d met while working at Saint Mary’s. Percy was acquitted of sexual assault, choking to overcome resistance and voyeurism in 2018. 

Last week, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal rejected a bid by the Crown to have Percy face a second trial for that charge of sexual assault.

He was convicted of both sexual assault and voyeurism in connection with a second incident from September 2017. It involved another woman studying at Saint Mary’s. A judge found Percy took videos of the sexual activity on his phone while in a dorm room at the school. 

He completed his two-and-a-half-year sentence for that conviction after receiving credit for time served and spending about five additional months in jail. But Percy has remained in custody because he was denied bail while awaiting trial in the two outstanding cases.

As for the fourth case, Percy is charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm, choking to overcome resistance and assault in related to an incident in 2013 involving a woman he knew. That trial is is scheduled for later this year. 


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‘We need Canadians to show resolve’: Trudeau asks for patience as rail blockades continue Tue, 18 Feb 2020 14:28:07 +0000

Addressing the House of Commons Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Canadians to be patient with his government as it seeks a negotiated end to Indigenous protests that have crippled the country’s transportation network.

Trudeau said his government is committed to “dialogue” with the Indigenous protesters that have shut down CN Rail in eastern Canada and much of Via Rail’s services nationwide by blocking a key artery in southern Ontario.

The blockade has been in place for 12 days and CN has been forced to shutter its network of east of Toronto since Friday — a devastating development for businesspeople, commuters and farmers who rely on the railway for their livelihoods. The protesters from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory say they are acting in solidarity with some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in B.C. who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline project running through their traditional territory.

“On all sides, people are upset and frustrated. I get it,” Trudeau said. “It’s understandable because this is about things that matter — rights and livelihoods, the rule of law and our democracy.”

While the prime minister did not lay out a clear path forward in his speech, Trudeau seemed to be ruling out police intervention at this point in favour of more conversations with the protesters. He said the suggestion from the Conservative Opposition that Ottawa forcibly remove the protesters from camps along the CN tracks in Belleville, Ont. is “not helpful.”

“Finding a solution will not be simple. It will take determination, hard work and cooperation,” Trudeau said. “We are creating a space for peaceful honest dialogue with willing partners … We need Canadians to show both resolve and collaboration. Everyone has a stake in getting this right.”

An hours-long meeting between Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and the Mohawk on Saturday failed to end the blockade. Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett flew to B.C. Monday to meet with Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan hereditary chiefs, but that meeting never actually took place.

Trudeau said that, for too long, the federal government has ignored Indigenous demands to solve lingering land and treaty disputes. He chastised Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (without mentioning him by name) and other politicians he accused of pushing Ottawa to “act with haste and boil this down to slogans and ignore the complexities.”

‘Weakest response to a national crisis’

Scheer called Trudeau’s address “the weakest response to a national crisis in Canadian history.”

He said Trudeau’s speech offered Canadians “a word salad” with no meaningful plan to restore rail service and end the illegal blockades that are hampering the country’s economy.

“The prime minister’s statement was a complete abdication of responsibility and leadership,” Scheer said. “The prime minister has emboldened and encouraged this kind of behaviour.”

Scheer said the Conservatives stand with “everyday hard-working Canadians” and not the “radical activists” he claimed are determined to shut down the country’s energy industry.

On Friday, Scheer said the prime minister should direct the RCMP to remove the protesters. The Ontario Provincial Police are on hand in Tyendinaga but they have not yet enforced a court injunction that gives them the power to dismantle the protest camps and arrest those behind the blockade.

During a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday morning, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said all the players — federal and provincial politicians, hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs and elected band officials — need to come to the table.

“It’s on everybody. It’s not on any one individual,” he said. “I’m just calling on all the parties to come together, get this dialogue started in a constructive way.”

Mohawk Council of Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon called on protesters to end the rail blockades as a “show of good faith.”

“Bringing down the blockades doesn’t mean that you surrender. It doesn’t mean we’re going to lay down and let them kick us around. No, it would show compassion,” he said.

“I’m simply pleading with the protesters … Have you made your point yet? Has the government and industry understood? I think they did.”

National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations spoke with reporters on Tuesday 1:05

Business groups were calling on the federal government Tuesday to take steps to immediately restore full rail service.

Dennis Darby, CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said the situation is “beyond serious.”

The group estimates that goods worth about $425 million are being stranded every day the blockade continues — and it will take three to four days of work to recover from a single day of disruption.

Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said a prolonged shutdown inevitably would lead to shortages of his industry’s products, such as jet fuel for planes, propane for home heating and chlorine for drinking water

Protesters with the Mohawks of Tyendinaga have been stationed beside the tracks near Belleville, Ont., since Feb. 6 to protest the RCMP’s raids in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Via Rail said partial service is set to resume between Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa beginning Thursday.

Almost all other Via Rail services remain cancelled, with the exception of Sudbury-White River and Churchill-The Pas, until further notice.

Via says the partial resumption of service between Ottawa and Quebec City follows a notification received from Canadian National Railway.

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