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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Stephen McNeil gets grilled during leaders’ debate

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 10:03 PM

  • via CBC

Jamie Baillie and Gary Burrill didn’t hesitate to dig into Stephen McNeil during the first debate between the three main political party leaders.

“Mr. McNeil, I hate to interrupt this litany of wonders,” Burrill chimed in as McNeil listed off “strategic investments” such as a trade deal with Europe. “Do you acknowledge as a fact that food bank usage in Nova Scotia has risen faster in the last year than any other province in our country?”

CBC Nova Scotia hosted the debate earlier Thursday evening, putting the spotlight on topics such as healthcare, labour and education. Outcry from the public on the need for family doctors and recent labour disputes with the province coloured the conversation.

A question from the audience honed in on an issue the leaders had yet to discuss: Policy on legalization of recreational marijuana.

“We think we have a lot of the skills to conduct this regulation in the right way in the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission,” said Burrill. “We’ve got over a year until this needs to be worked out and there is ample opportunity for us to have a full consultation.”

Baillie’s first instinct was “protect our kids. Eighteen is way too low” an age to buy weed. He also took a jab at the federal government for “imposing” the legislation “in a very short timeline.”

“That is a shame, because this is a major change in the health and safety, particularly of young Nova Scotians.”

McNeil pointed out that the Justice minister and attorney general “has been working with her counterparts across the country” on the issue.

“One of the things that was missed when the national government made their commitment was, what happens to edibles?” he said. “That was never part of the conversation, which I believe will be a big part of this.”

Burrill and McNeil found common ground on environmental issues, who both agree Nova Scotia should continue its fracking ban. Baillie, on the other hand, opposes this.

“I do believe communities should have that choice.”

Baillie only threw shade at the NDP once or twice, appearing to be more concerned with McNeil. Likewise, Burrill focused his criticisms on the Liberal government.

As a result, McNeil spent the majority of the time defending himself.

Both the PC and NDP leaders were quick to bring up the Nova Scotians who’ve been unhappy with McNeil–namely teachers, who were forced back to work without reaching an agreement at the bargaining table during the strike last winter.

McNeil countered that collective agreements have “to be the capacity we can afford.”

“Previous government prior to me to gave a seven and-a-half percent pay raise, took $65 million out of classrooms,” he added. “I, in all good conscience, couldn’t do it.”

Asked by Burrill if he stands by his decision to lock students out of school in December, McNeil said yes.

“I reached out—our government reached out to Nova Scotia Teachers Union executives and said: ‘Can you guarantee the safety of those kids?’ They would not.”

The film tax credit was also a hot topic, during which McNeil was grilled about breaking his promise to extend the film tax credit. Baillie and Burrill have both pledged to revive the tax credit if elected.

Baillie referenced the film Maudie, which has recently become a go to example of the province’s film industry troubles. Although the story is set in Nova Scotia, the movie ended up being filmed in Newfoundland.

“I think people see if we want to get those jobs back, we are going to need to change the government to get them,” he said.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Past social media posts claim two more political candidates

Conservatives drop Jad Crnogorac and Bill McEwen withdraws from NDP over unearthed online comments.

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 4:57 PM

Jad Crnogorac campaigning last week. - VIA TWITTER
  • Jad Crnogorac campaigning last week.

Deleting your social media accounts is the secret to a happier, more fulfilling life, but it’s also particularly important if running for public office.

Case in point, this week on the provincial campaign trail two more political candidates were betrayed by their timelines.

On Monday evening, NDP candidate Bill McEwen withdrew from the race for Dartmouth East after CTV Atlantic uncovered sexist content he published online in 2011. On Tuesday afternoon, Jad Crnogorac was dropped by the Progressive Conservatives in Dartmouth South over tweets she wrote about sexual assault and race.

On a now-offline website known as The Bullpen, McEwen previously wrote that “in a world of breast implants, fast food and cheap beer, what’s not to love about being a man.” According to CTV’s report, he also posted offensive slang words for LGBT+ individuals on Facebook in 2012 and 2013.

Meanwhile, Crnogorac tweeted in 2015 about a co-worker’s joke that “women’s viagra” is “called a Roofie.” She also posted last year that “Not one white person nominated for a BET award. If that’s not inequality I don’t know what is.”

There’s been no comment at press time from Crnogorac, but In a Facebook post in response to the party dropping her as a candidate, Crnogorac tore into the Conservatives for quickly deciding her “lapse of judgement” was worth dismissal while male PC candidates like Matt Whitman remain on the ballot despite their own transgressions.

Whitman drew social media ire back in March when he shared a video of himself running around a car after yelling “Chinese fire drill.” The city councillor publicly apologized for remarks that many called racist, but stopped short of dropping out of the race for Hammonds Plains–Lucasville.

“I am incredibly let down by Jamie Baillie and his senior campaign staff," Crnogorac writes on Tuesday. “In 2017, a woman should never be asked to cover up, shut up and step aside. That's exactly what I was asked to do. On the other hand, my male counterpart whose actions were arguably worse than mine, was protected and defended. The PC party claims to support women in politics. Aside from allowing women to run, I have yet to see proof of this.”

Crnogorac says she's declined an offer from the Tories to step down and help them “make this go away as quickly as possible” and is exploring options to run as an independent.

McEwen, meanwhile, issued a statement Monday night taking “full responsibility” for the remarks and apologizing for what he called “really poor judgment.”

“Sexism, misogyny and homophobia are pervasive within our culture,” writes McEwen. “We must work hard to combat these, and other forms of oppression within our communities and within ourselves.”

Party leader Gary Burrill distanced himself from McEwen in comments made to the Canadian Press, saying the party overlooked the posts during the vetting process.

Candidates dropping out when offensive social media posts are daylighted has become a routine occurrence now in the internet of politics. The federal election in 2015 saw a plethora of candidates exposed for sexist, racist and insulting remarks posted in years past.

This election has seen all three of Nova Scotia’s major parties cast-off collateral damage because of inexcusable browser histories.

Only a week ago a similar scandal ended the campaign hopes of Matt MacKnight in Pictou East. The Liberals quickly dropped MacKnight after his four-year-old posts—one of which seemingly mocked people with Down syndrome—were published by Global News.

Because it’s past the deadline for candidates to withdraw, McEwen’s and Crnogorac’s names will awkwardly remain on the ballots in Dartmouth East and South. The NDP and Tories will be unable to nominate any replacement candidates.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Provincial politics still far too much of an old boy's club

“Women are continuously struggling to be valued and recognized and supported within this political spectrum,” says Pamela Lovelace.

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 6:55 PM

Wait, which one is which again?
  • Wait, which one is which again?

Nova Scotia is gearing up to decide which white man will become premier on May 30. 

In the meantime, the Nova Scotia Women Vote rally is taking place Saturday to mobilize political action around women’s issues, during a provincial election where two-thirds of major party candidates are men.

Pamela Lovelace, chair of Equal Voice NS, believes the real issue isn't the number of women running, but what the parties are doing to support women candidates in running a successful campaign.

Lovelace was a potential provincial candidate for Hammonds Plains-Lucasville in 2013 and ran in District 13 for the municipal election last fall, but she isn’t affiliated with any party.

“If the political parties and the leaders who are elected in the legislature right now considered themselves mentors for those who are coming up, then the conversation isn’t about numbers and isn’t about money, it’s about support,” says Lovelace. “Ask her what she needs, and support her.”

The topic of women in politics has heated up over the last two weeks, in part due to a breakdown of gender disparity within the three main political parties.

As first reported by Marieke Walsh of Global News
, the Liberal party is fielding the most men, followed by the Tories and the NDP. The Liberals have 12 women out of 51 candidates, while the Progressive Conservatives named 16. The NDP, which is running this highest number of women candidates, still falls short of gender parity: only 23 of 51 candidates are female.

In response to the controversy, Liberal leader Stephen McNeil defended his party by telling reporters he wants “women in seats that we can win” in “meaningful ridings.”

“I completely do not buy the argument that the Liberals put women in winnable seats,” counters NDP candidate and Halifax Armdale incumbent Lisa Roberts.

McNeil’s statement was also jumped on by the PCs, including Cumberland North candidate Elizabeth Smitt-McCrossin.

“Every single candidate who puts their name on the ballot is making a meaningful contribution to democracy in our province,” she writes in a release. “Women have worked very hard to earn a place in our democratic system. We must always be looking for ways to attract more girls and women to politics and comment like these hurt this important effort.”

Leader Jamie Baillie took things a step further, announcing the day after McNeil's comments that the Conservatives would increase per-vote funding for women, Indigenous and African Nova Scotian candidates if elected.

Lovelace feels the McNeil used unfortunate terminology. She points out that every riding is meaningful.

“Typically, political parties will have women or men as spare candidates,” she says. In other words, the name is on the ballot, but the candidate isn’t supported financially. “All political parties have done it.”

Former Justice minister Diana Whalen countered complaints about McNeil’s words on her own Facebook page.

“As a woman, I urge our political leaders to refrain from making gender a partisan political issue,” she writes. “It can deter women, and all good candidates, from seeking public office.”

If that’s true, it probably isn’t the only thing that can deter women from seeking public office.

“Women are continuously struggling to be valued and recognized and supported within this political spectrum because it is traditionally a male-dominated,” says Lovelace,

That's difficult when they're judged on their appearance in ways exclusive to female politicians. For an example, just look at Frank Magazine’s choice to grace its latest cover with a photo of PC candidate Jad Crnogorac wearing a bikini. The accompanying text implies her body is a "secret weapon" for the Tory's election success.

“I’m a personal trainer—that’s my job. I’m a nutrition coach, so it’s not like that was a secret,” says Crnogorac.

“I’m proud of who I am inside and out, and I have to be judged by my appearance.”

She says the magazine called her a couple days before the issue went to print with photos originally posted on her Instagram.

“I’m criticized for working hard and taking care of my body and my health, and I thought that was a bit unfair,” says Crnogorac. “If I didn’t take care of my body, I’d probably be criticized for it. So it’s like you can’t win.”

Although Baillie’s announcement is a possible incentive for women, Crnogorac says the women who are running “aren’t looking for a break or a bonus.”

“They want to make a change.”

The Nova Scotia Women Vote takes place this Saturday, 1pm at Grand Parade.

with files from Jacob Boon
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Liberals not offering details on Harrietsfield cleanup plans

Premier's office has plans for fixing toxic water, but what they are and how HRM is involved has yet to be disclosed.

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 5:38 PM

Maguire making his announcement on Wednesday. - VIA FACEBOOK
  • Maguire making his announcement on Wednesday.

Whatever plans the Liberal party has for cleaning up toxic water in Harrietsfield, HRM knows as much about it as the general public.

In a Facebook Live announcement on Wednesday, incumbent MLA candidate Brendan Maguire announced the province and HRM would be working together to finally flush out toxic heavy metals leaking from the RDM Recycling facility on Old Sambro Road into the area’s drinking water.

“I just got off the phone with the premier’s office,” Maguire says in the video. “We just got a commitment, and it has been released to the media, that the province and this government will work with the city to clean up the RDM site.”

No such release was sent to The Coast and nothing appears on the party's website, but leader Stephen McNeil later told Global’s Marieke Walsh that the party was “talking to the municipality about options for cleaning up the site.”

Shaune MacKinlay, chief of staff in the mayor's office, says she received a call Wednesday—before Maguire's video went live—from Kevin Musgrave, a strategic initiative analyst in the premier's office.

“We were just told that they would be looking at addressing the contamination on site and that they would be making some request of us to consider it,” says MacKinlay. “We have not received any formal request. We've not initiated any further conversation, and that's where it is right now.”

There were no other communications between the Liberals and the municipality, nor was MacKinlay aware of any other details or potential financial commitments.

“All it is, at this point, was a five-minute conversation.”

A statement from the Liberal campaign sent out late Friday afternoon wasn't any more forthcoming about the specifics.

“We have had an initial conversation with our municipal partners and we'll be seeking to meet with them to discuss a partnership and the best option for cleaning up this site.”

It’s unclear if the proposed cleanup is only an election promise or some form of official government commitment. In his Facebook video, Maguire appears unsure himself.

“What that plan looks like right now, I don’t know, but I can tell you this is huge news to the community,” he says.

The Progressive Conservative party quickly seized on the issue, claiming in a press release that Maguire was “playing games” with the people of Harrietsfield.

“The McNeil Liberals owe voters in Halifax Atlantic an immediate explanation about why they are misleading families about securing municipal and provincial funding to clean up the RDM recycling site,” writes Tory spokesperson Angie Zinck.

Requests for comment from Maguire were not returned, though the Liberal party defended his Facebook announcement in its statement.

“Brendan Maguire, as MLA for this community, was a tireless advocate for the people of Harrietsfield. He felt it was very important to communicate our party's intention to address the cleanup of this site.”

The quasi-announcement comes days after Maguire faced sharp criticism during a community meeting on safe drinking water, and two weeks after area resident Marlene Brown became the first person ever to file for private prosecution under Nova Scotia’s Environment Act. Brown wants to take the two numbered companies behind RDM Recycling to court for their continued failure to remediate the former industrial dump.

Journalists Chris Benjamin and Rebecca Hussman detailed the long history of the Harrietsfield crisis and Brown’s unyielding fight for clean water in last week’s issue of The Coast.

Contaminated drinking water in the community stretches back years, across multiple governments formed by all three major Nova Scotian parties. Industrial runoff from the RDM site has caused levels of arsenic, uranium, lead, boron, cadmium and other heavy metals in the area's water supply far exceeding Canadian safe drinking-water standards.

Despite Ministerial Orders, court rulings and political promises, the land’s private owners have refused to pay for its cleanup. As Benjamin writes, the reluctance of Nova Scotia's government to enforce its own orders and the opaqueness of is legal procedure has left area residents perplexed.

“The residents have never been kept apprised,” Lisa Mitchell of East Coast Environmental Law told The Coast. “Multiple requests for meetings have been denied with the minister’s polite dismissal, ‘We’re taking care of it.’”

If the province was committing to taking over the estimated $10 million cleanup costs, it would be a dramatic shift in the policy landscape.

Halifax, and the residents of Harrietsfield, will just have to wait to find out.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Jane's Walk Halifax goes the extra mile this weekend

Citizen-led walking tours return to bring the city's history, architecture and urban planning down to street-level.

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 3:42 AM

Rain or shine, HRM residents will be out this weekend to see their city in a new light. - VIA JANE'S WALK
  • Rain or shine, HRM residents will be out this weekend to see their city in a new light.

This weekend you’ll be able to stretch your legs with fellow residents all throughout Halifax and Dartmouth.

Pick any of the 15 different jaunts which are a part of the internationally known and citizen-led neighborhood walking tours known as Jane’s Walk.

The event is named in commemoration of American-Canadian journalist, author and urban activist Jane Jacobs, who passed away in 2007.

Throughout her life, Jacobs was a strong advocate against “slum clearances” and neighborhood development that opposed the needs of the people who lived in cities.

She first gained notoriety in the 1960s, when she fought against New York City planner Robert —who wanted to scrap landmark neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, SoHo and Little Italy to build the Lower Manhattan Expressway. Due in part to Jacobs’ activism, the construction project never came to be.

In 1968 Jacobs moved to Toronto, where she opposed the Spadina Expressway proposal and continued to support people-friendly urban development.

Throughout her life, Jacobs championed the idea of cities being for people and not for cars, and it is with that notion in mind that Jane’s Walk first got started in Toronto.

Organized locally this year by architectural enthusiast and blogger Peter Ziobrowski, the walks are intended to be fun, educational and for people of all ages, classes and cultures.

If history is your thing, then you’ll love the Edward Cornwallis-themed tour with author Jon Tattrie. Starting at 10:30AM on Saturday, May 6, Tattrie will take walkers from Murphy’s Cable Wharf, through Parade Square and on up to Citadel Hill—telling stories along the way about the divisive founder of Halifax.

Wondering about all the latest development projects happening on the peninsula? Let local urban planner and sustainable development consultant Kourosh Rad show you around. He’ll give walkers the skinny on all the biggest, boldest and newest buildings popping up all over the downtown core. Participants will want to meet at the Garrison Grounds, on the corner of Sackville and South Park Streets on Saturday at 1pm.

Further north, Jenny Luger will take walkers around what the Canadian Institute of Planners dubbed one of the “Great Places in Canada.” Luger will talk all about the famed Hydrostone neighbourhood, including its history and how it’s been a dynamic and changing part of the city since its inception after the Halifax Explosion in 1917. The meeting place for this tour will be on the corner of Agricola and Young Street, by the Oland’s brewery, on Saturday at 2:30pm.

If those don’t do the trick, you can find the full list of walking tours on the Jane’s Walk website. Each and every walk goes ahead, rain or shine, so considering this weekend’s forecast you may want to bring an umbrella.

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Water crisis an election issue in Halifax Atlantic

Liberal incumbent faces criticism from challengers over long-festering environmental problem in Harrietsfield.

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 3:13 AM

Don't drink the water. - VIA ISTOCK
  • Don't drink the water.
Water is on the minds of voters in the riding of Halifax Atlantic.

As detailed in this week’s cover story of The Coast, for more than 10 years people in the community of Harrietsfield have been unable to drink or use their tap water due to the presence of uranium, lead and other toxic substances from a nearby recycling depot

The issue has once again bubbled to the surface with the recent dismissal of the contaminated property owners’ latest appeal, and Marlene Brown’s groundbreaking private prosecution filing under the NS Environment Act.

What voters this provincial election will most likely want to know, however, is what each party plans to do about the ongoing environmental crisis if elected.

Liberal incumbent Brendan Maguire says he understands the issue better than most.

“I grew up in Harriestfield just two homes down from RDM [Recycling], so for me this is personal.”

Addressing the crisis was “literally the first call I made as an MLA,” says Maguire, and the Liberals have “made more progress on Harrietsfield than any time in the last 20 years.”

Most recently, that involved the municipality and province coming to an agreement on providing free water filtration systems to homes “directly impacted” by the contamination.

But that’s only for eight homes, says NDP challenger Trish Keeping.

“Eight! Give me a break.”

The chemical fallout could be impacting many more residents. Keeping claims the number could be as high as 80 homes, which she calls totally unacceptable.

“These people can’t even drink what comes out of their tap,” she says. “[They] have a right to clean drinking water.”

That point is echoed by Progressive Conservative candidate Bruce Holland, who says he went through a similar process back in the ‘90s with the junkyard out near Five Island Lake. It ended up costing $20 million to remediate the site, which was contaminated by discarded old transformers.

The long-term strategy in Harrietsfield should also be remediation, he says, “to make sure that the funds were made available to do whatever is necessary to make sure these people get clean drinking water.”

For the Green Party, issues like Harrietsfield are the “whole motivation for why we are here,” according to party leader Thomas Trappenburg.

Halifax Atlantic candidate Chelsea Carter was unavailable for comment, but Trappenburg says Harrietsfield is an “environmental crisis” that needs to be cleaned up immediately; and needs to inspire sharper laws to prevent similar problems in the future.

“These kinds of things are terrible,” he says. “They are important and they should be changed.”

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Uniacke Square security cameras slammed as invasion of privacy

Residents and community advocates strongly opposed to housing authority’s plans for new surveillance system.

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 11:02 PM

Josh Creighton and Kyturera Jones are both members of the North-End Community Action Committee. - THE COAST
  • Josh Creighton and Kyturera Jones are both members of the North-End Community Action Committee.

There are far better ways to improve standards of living in Uniacke Square than throwing up dehumanizing security cameras.

So says Josh Creighton, who used to live in the public housing community. He calls plans to install a new surveillance system in the area an invasion of privacy, and proof of the wide disconnect between the Metro Regional Housing Authority (MRHA) and its tenants.

“The number of complaints [MRHA] has received about the standard of living in Uniacke Square, and they haven’t done anything to address those issues,” he says. “But they have money for surveillance cameras? It’s just crazy.”

On Wednesday, the MRHA issued a request for proposals to supply eight closed-circuit security cameras on streets within the north-end community.

Department of Community Services spokesperson Heather Fairbairn says the CCTV system is an attempt to address ongoing problems with unauthorized parking and illegal garbage dumping.

Those complaints peaked during the winter parking ban. At the time, the housing authority hired a security company to monitor and restrict access to only authorized vehicles. But that option’s apparently not financially sustainable in the long-term.

Hence the cameras.
“While MRHA works with the Halifax Regional Police department to support its efforts in the community, our primary focus is addressing the needs of our residents and responding to the issues of unauthorized parking and garbage disposal that they have brought to our attention,” writes Fairbairn in an email.

Stop The Violence organizer Quentrel Provo says the official explanation is just a smokescreen.

“There’s been garbage and parking [problems] in all sorts of communities,” he says, “and are the cameras going up?”

While it's true police patrols and security guards come with their own set of problems, those problems have a face. Security cameras don't even offer that small bit of humanity.

“It’s not only an invasion of privacy, but it’s going to result in the community having an even more apathetic attitude towards the housing authority,” says Creighton.

In an editorial written this past winter, Nova Scotia privacy commissioner Catherine Tully called the unwarranted surveillance of law-abiding citizens a worrying trend that’s increasing across the province.

“Video surveillance is a highly privacy-invasive activity because, while it may record evidence of crimes, we can be sure that it captures the personal information of law-abiding individuals going about their everyday activities.”

More bluntly, Creighton calls the cameras dehumanizing. They are an unknown authority staring down, unblinking, at a largely-Black neighbourhood that’s historically been disenfranchised.

“It’s like animals in a zoo, in a cage,” says Provo. “You’re putting up these cameras to watch humans, like they’re not even human.”

Kyturera Jones, a current resident of Uniacke Square, wonders why the MRHA is suddenly so concerned about its residents—and if there aren't better ways it could be investing in the community.

“They don’t upkeep their units,” she says. “If they’re worried about our safety, they should come full-force about that.”

Creighton and Jones are both members of the North-End Community Action Committee; an organization of local young people who came together earlier this year to oppose gentrification.

They are both acutely aware of the problems in their neighbourhood. And this? This is not a solution.
Area councillor Lindell Smith says news of the extra security came as a surprise to the municipality.

“There was not really communication between HRM and the province,” he says.

In a statement posted on his website, Smith explains that the cameras are solely a provincial initiative, and not connected with ongoing work he’s involved in as part of HRM’s Safer Community Strategic Plan.

Still, a heads-up might have been nice.

“Not taking anything away from the province, but for us, next time, let us know so we can work together on something.”

According to the councillor, prior CCTV cameras in Uniacke Square were taken out years ago after a reassessment of safety strategies.

Halifax Regional Police still maintain security cameras at the department’s community office on Olympic Court—across the street from Cragg Avenue, where the new cameras are to be installed.

Cragg was also the location where Terrance “Terry” Izzard, 58, was killed last fall. It was one of 12 homicides in HRM in 2016 and the only one that occurred inside Uniacke Square.

In response to that violence, Smith and Souls Strong manager DeRico Symonds have hosted three public engagement sessions over the past several months. The councillor says he’s also hand-delivered information flyers in Uniacke Square and Mulgrave Park, hoping to garner feedback as part of developing the municipality’s safer communities plan.

“We don’t want residents to think this is part of what we discussed,” Smith says about the new CCTV system. “We understand that cameras are not something the community welcomes as a safety measure.”

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Andrew Younger resigns over allNovaScotia article

Dartmouth East MLA says his family has been subjected to “unsettling and offensive” privacy breaches.

Posted By on Wed, May 3, 2017 at 6:49 PM

Former MLA Andrew Younger says he's dropping out of the provincial election over privacy and health concerns. - PATRICK FULGENCIO
  • Former MLA Andrew Younger says he's dropping out of the provincial election over privacy and health concerns.

Just days into a re-election campaign, Andrew Younger has suddenly resigned from public life.

In a lengthy statement posted on Facebook, the former MLA for Dartmouth East says he’s withdrawing from the current provincial election due to “unsettling and offensive” breaches of his privacy.

“With the latest breach of our personal privacy, we have decided as a family, that it is not healthy for us to be part of a system which encourages the release of confidential, personal and health information of its elected officials, those seeking office and their families,” Younger writes.

The breach refers to an article published on Wednesday by news website, written by political reporter Brian Flinn, which contains details about a hospitalization Younger underwent over the weekend and an emergency protection order that had been sought by his wife. The article is behind a paywall, but the headline "Bullet: Younger Drops Out" is visible at the site's front page.

Nancy Irvine, Younger’s constituency manager, says the outlet shouldn’t have published what both parties involved wanted to remain a private matter.

“They had absolutely, 100-percent no need to post that today,” says Irvine. “No need.”

In an emailed statement to The Coast, allNovaScotia publisher Caroline Wood asserts a clear journalistic imperative for publishing.

“Allnovascotia obtained a court document Tuesday that detailed an incident involving Andrew Younger. We reported on a public figure running for public office.”

Younger’s statement on Facebook claims his hospitalization resulted in a previously unknown health issue being identified, “that will require my full attention.”

The former HRM city councillor was elected as a Liberal MLA in 2009, but was ejected from cabinet and caucus in 2015 after using his parliamentary privilege to avoid testifying in court. Younger had been called as a witness in the trial Tara Gault, a former party staffer who had been charged with assaulting him.

He's sat as an independent MLA ever since.

After his separation from the Liberals, premier Stephen McNeil’s former chief of staff, Kirby McVicar, leaked Younger's personal health information during a scrum with reporters. McVicar subsequently resigned over the privacy breach.

Given the past two years, Irvine says Younger isn’t interested in continuing his political career at the cost of his family’s privacy.

“For the sake of his family, he’s not going to drag his family through an election campaign,” she says.

“I hope I have contributed positively to life in Nova Scotia. But that will be for others to judge,” writes Younger. “Thank you all who have supported me over the past 13 years. It has been a privilege and honour to serve.”

His departure leaves the race for Dartmouth East wide open. The riding is currently being contested by Edgar Burns (Liberals), Tim Halman (Progressive Conservatives) and Bill McEwen (NDP).

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Kyley Harris back on Liberals’ campaign team

Party not commenting about communications director, who was fired three years ago after domestic assault.

Posted By on Wed, May 3, 2017 at 11:29 AM

For his service with the party and Premier's Office, Harris was eligible for a $45,000 severance when he was fired. - VIA TWITTER
  • For his service with the party and Premier's Office, Harris was eligible for a $45,000 severance when he was fired.

Lying about an assault cost Kyley Harris his job. Three years later, he appears to have climbed back up the career ladder and is once again director of communications for the Liberals.

Harris was working as communications director for the Premier’s Office in 2014 when he was charged with assault after striking a woman in the face during a domestic argument.

He pleaded guilty to the charge and was given a conditional discharge and nine months probation. The Canadian Press reported at the time that Harris told the court his actions were “inexcusable and disgraceful.”

Stephen McNeil fired his spokesperson, not for the criminal charges, but after it became known Harris waited four days to tell his superiors about the matter. A year later, while still on probation, Harris was hired back to do research in the party’s caucus office.

This week, his name showed up in an official press release as one of four spokespeople handling the Liberals’ re-election chances, with the job title of “director of communications for the central campaign.”

Harris didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on his new position. Neither did Liberal party spokespersons Stephen Moore and David Jackson. The media contact number for Harris connects to a voicemail message for Wanda Atkinson, another communications employee for the party.

Ardath Whynacht, a sociology professor at Mount Allison University who has studied intimate partner violence, says his presence on the campaign team should be a cause for concern.

As the provincial government for the last four years, Whynacht says the Liberals should be acutely aware of the justice system’s failures in reducing gender-based violence—and the optics of re-hiring someone convicted of said violence.

“I think it’s clear that the Liberals are more committed to solidarity with the ‘old boys club’ than making a clear and public commitment to reducing intimate partner violence in this province,” says Whynacht.

“The message is clear. If you are a white man with a demonstrated commitment to keeping other white men in power, then your sins will be forgiven.”

Lisa Roberts, the NDP incumbent for Halifax Needham, says McNeil needs to address the matter

“Why is this his choice for someone to be at a very high level in his campaign for re-election?” she asks. “How can he assure us that he’s running for re-election on a basis of really having the concerns of women front and centre in the campaign?”

The Liberal party has come under fire—and fought back—this week over its choice to run women as candidates only in “meaningful ridings” where they’ll have a chance to win.

Opposition critics called the statement demeaning, while Stephen McNeil and several prominent female members of the party have defended the Liberals’ support for women and commitment to gender equality.

But Roberts says Harris’ new job undermines all those speeches.

“I worry more so about the overall culture of politics, and given the realization that only 12 Liberal candidates are women, and then given Kyley’s prominence in their campaign team, I wonder how comforting and welcoming and supportive that campaign is for women.”

Whynacht says Harris is entitled to live his life. He’s made amends in the eyes of the law and apologized for his actions. He’s not entitled, however, to a very public PR job with a political party hoping to form Nova Scotia’s next government.

“Yes, we should hire folks with a criminal record when they leave prison,” says Whynacht. “But no, we should not give high-profile appointments to privileged and wealthy white men who abuse their partners and lie about it.”

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Historical designation sought for Great Beech Hill

Lower Sackville resident wants area preserved from company’s development.

Posted By on Mon, May 1, 2017 at 1:04 PM

Jane Zathey wants to preserve Great Beech Hill's history. - THE COAST
  • Jane Zathey wants to preserve Great Beech Hill's history.

When Jane Zathey first moved to Great Beech Hill 12 years ago, she became fascinated by its history.

“I consider myself a steward of the area,” she says. “I’ve been, I don’t know if you’d call it talking, or praying, or meditating on that path pretty much ever day for 12 years.”

But now she’s worried a local developer might alter a place she’s come to care about deeply.

Great Beech Hill is located just off Cobequid Road in Lower Sackville. The gravel path on the hill was originally part of the old Cobequid Road. All that remains of the old road is a small crescent with a new street sign, specially installed by the Halifax Regional Municipality at Zathey’s request. Her house is the only one on the path.

Recently, Stoneridge Properties has purchased a piece of Crown land on one side of the former road. Stoneridge already owned a parcel on the opposite side. Company owner Kevin Saunders was contacted but declined to comment about his plans for the property.

Zathey is worried that the developer might get rid of the path entirely, redeveloping it—and the surrounding woods—and destroying what she says is a site of historic importance.

She says Great Beech Hill has archaeological evidence of past Mi’kmaq presence, which is why she’s been seeking municipal historic designation for the land. Zathey has a signed statement from a former neighbour that reads, “I, Timmy Thompson, was born in 1956. I remember, as a child, children of the neighbourhood of Great Beech Hill, hunting for arrowheads and artifacts... ”

Local historian and former regional councillor Bob Harvey says he’s not surprised that people may have found Indigenous artifacts on Great Beech Hill. He hasn’t encountered any himself, but he says the area is “very likely to have been travelled by the Mi’kmaq people.”

In his book, Historic Sackville, Harvey describes how the origin of Cobequid Road was a trail leading through the woods, originally travelled by the Mi’kmaq.

Zathey is hoping any development can be held off while archaeologists dig up the area and see what else can be found.

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Women’s rights not a side issue in provincial election

In a follow-up to the Women’s March on Washington, next week’s Nova Scotia Women Vote rally aims to empower voters and hold politicians to task.

Posted By on Mon, May 1, 2017 at 12:08 PM

The crowd at Grand Parade Square on back in January for the Women's March on Washington. - THE COAST
  • The crowd at Grand Parade Square on back in January for the Women's March on Washington.
  • The Coast

With the upcoming provincial election, feminist group “March on Nova Scotia” is encouraging women to have an open conversation about voting.

As a follow-up to the Women’s March on Washington, the new group is holding the event Nova Scotia Women Vote at Grand Parade on May 13, to remind women of the importance of voting and how they do have the power to affect change.

Jackie Barkhouse, former city councillor and the event coordinator, left the Women’s March on January 21 already thinking about what she could do next.

This is the next step.
Jackie Barkhouse
  • Jackie Barkhouse

“The day was wonderful. It was empowering. It was enlightening.  It was a great opportunity for women to get together and recognize that it is the time to revitalize the women’s movement and be the change we want to see,” says Barkhouse.

She was determined that the march wasn’t the end. They weren’t just going to go back to their “comfortable lives and forget about the things that still impact women.”

The organizers are providing a list of speakers to touch on topics of interest to women, in hopes that they will leave this rally with questions for potential candidates in the upcoming provincial election.

Linda MacDonald, one of the chosen speakers, focuses largely on women’s health and human rights. MacDonald has been a human rights activist for almost 24 years and works specifically with women who have been tortured.

She says that in her work as a feminist she has come across research stating that, “Unless women’s rights are listed as a core concern in society, we don’t really evolve to the society that we can be. We don’t reach our full potential.”

MacDonald raises this issue in her upcoming speech to try and discontinue the trend of keeping women’s rights as a side issue in political discussions. She adds that the Women’s March “mobilized women differently” into a larger, global platform.

“It’s timely. We have an election coming, and we’ll find out what our politicians are going to do to support women and girls’ human rights,” MacDonald says.

Jenna Brookfield, a health and safety activist, will also be speaking for the need to be more politically engaged.

“We have a tendency to tune out of politics. We just see so much negativity and it can be scary.”

Brookfield adds that these tendencies are playing right into the hands of those currently in power, “if we let that cause us to disengage.”

One of her main concerns is that politicians exploit votes from certain groups of society.

“My community, the trans community, is often targeted in other jurisdictions with the wedge politics, and the so-called ‘bathroom bills.’” Brookfield says that these prevalent topics are used in extreme cases and turn one group into something to be afraid of. This strengthens voting out of fear rather than hope.

She would like to see people consider what they would ask politicians when they show up on their doorsteps.

“We have to let them know that our votes are contingent on seeing some delivery on the issues that we are passionate about,” she says.

The organizers of Nova Scotia Women Vote haven’t invited any politicians or candidates to speak at the event. Their interest isn’t in party promotion but rather equipping women with information to form these questions.

Barkhouse says that this movement and diverse group of speakers can plant a seed, and can have a direct impact on the upcoming election.

“I think people are going to look at things differently when they show up and not just take a pamphlet. The candidates should be prepared to answer some questions.”

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spoiler alert! Provincial election called for May 30

Biggest surprise of the year announced on Sunday as premier Stephen McNeil drops writ.

Posted By on Sun, Apr 30, 2017 at 8:23 PM

The premier greets his fans. - VIA FACEBOOK
  • The premier greets his fans.

To the shock of literally no one, Nova Scotia’s next general election was announced on Sunday.

Premier Stephen McNeil finally ripped off the Band-Aid and asked Lieutenant Governor J. J. Grant to dissolve the legislature, ending months of speculation and confirming Nova Scotians will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 30.

"I encourage all Nova Scotians to exercise their democratic right to vote," wrote the premier in a brief press release announcing the election.

The news was leaked—twice—by McNeil’s own party ahead of Sunday’s meeting. On Friday a campaign ad, accidentally released, announced the May 30 date while promising to “buld” a better Nova Scotia. Liberal Agriculture minister Keith Colwell added to the discourse earlier this morning by mentioning the election on Facebook before the premier’s trip to Government House.

After announcing the news, the Liberals held a campaign rally at the Lebanese Cultural Centre in Halifax, during which the party promised to continue the work its done over the past four years.

“We need to be returned to government by Nova Scotians so we can deliver a tax cut to the middle class and those who need it most,” wrote McNeil in a subsequent press release. “And we need to continue our work so that we can embark on the largest infrastructure investment in recent history—one that will improve our roads and create thousands of jobs.”

The governing party was oddly enough the last off the line for campaign launches—coming a day after the Progressive Conservatives and a week after the NDP. On Saturday, opposition leader Jamie Baillie told a crowd at the Nova Scotia Community College’s Akerley campus that a visionless Liberal government has held Nova Scotia back.

“Only the Progressive Conservative Party has the plan to allow Nova Scotia to stand proudly on its own two feet again,” said Baillie. “I have faith in our people and confidence in our future...I believe in my plan because I believe in Nova Scotia.”

The NDP, meanwhile, promised at last week's campaign launch to institute a $15-per-hour minimum wage, cap class sizes and provide free community college tuition if elected.

“This election presents a clear choice for the people of Nova Scotia,” writes NDP leader Gary Burrill in a release sent out on Sunday. “Do they want four more years of being told what we can’t do with cuts and claw-backs from the McNeil Liberals, or do they want an NDP government that is ready to listen and work together to make the necessary investments in our people?”

Burrill will be the only leader out of Nova Scotia’s three main political parties not running as an incumbent. He’ll be looking to earn his seat in Halifax Chebucto against Liberal MLA Joachim Stroink and PC challenger John Wesley Chisholm.

The battle over the next four weeks will mostly be fought on the McNeil government’s track record. To the Liberals’ favour, the party has produced two budgets in a row showing a surplus. But that austerity has been tarnished with protests over film industry cuts, imposed labour union contracts and political decisions of questionable fiscal value.

As it stands, the Liberals have 34 seats at Province House, the PCs 10 and the NDP five. There’s one independent MLA (Andrew Younger) and one vacant seat—formerly occupied by NDP MLA Marian Mancini, who is not re-offering.

The election announcement also came the same weekend Nova Scotia’s Green Party held its annual general meeting at Dalhousie University. Leader Thomas Trappenberg hasn’t yet announced where he'll be running.

More info on how to register to vote can be found with Elections Nova Scotia. Below you can also watch a time-lapse video Elections NS shot today of supplies being shipped out of the warehouse to every electoral district in the province.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Damage control budget has something for everyone

Provincial budget unveiled as Liberals ready for election trail.

Posted By and on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 10:12 AM

Nova Scotia Finance minister Randy Delorey delivering this year's budget. - THE COAST
  • Nova Scotia Finance minister Randy Delorey delivering this year's budget.
Nova Scotia’s Liberals are presenting the province’s finances in the best possible light.

On Thursday, the government released the $10.5-billion balanced budget for 2017-18, which is showing a net surplus of $26 million.

Changes in spending programs and tax reductions were highlighted yesterday during the announcement by finance minister Randy Delorey, however, opposition critics say the Liberals are just making up for funding that should have been done years earlier.

Two surpluses in a row has the leader of the official opposition, Progressive Conservative MLA Jamie Baillie, thinking the Liberals are spending budget savings “on their own re-election and not on the things Nova Scotians need.”

All the new spending programs are dependent on an election that everyone is expecting to be called within the new few days.

The Liberals will be keen to use this “good news” budget on the campaign trail, but the financial plan is not yet set in stone. Stephen McNeil's government could still make changes if re-elected, and there's no guarantee a Progressive Conservatives or NDP government would use anything presented this week in their own first budgets.

Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie on Thursday at Province House. - THE COAST
  • Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie on Thursday at Province House.

Tax reductions for low-income Nova Scotians
The government announced an increase in the Basic Personal Amount from $8,481 to $11,481. Basically, anyone with an income of less than $25,000 will not be taxed on a larger chunk of their money. It’s the first change to the BPA since 2011.

Anyone making between $25,000 and $75,000 a year will get back an average of $160 in taxes.

Gary Burrill, leader of the NDP, said the tax break was good for Nova Scotians but questioned the timing as suspicious.

Burrill told reporters yesterday that the government has been saying for the last three years that it has no money, yet spent the last few months making millions in funding announcements and now has presented a budget full of new costs.

While claiming Nova Scotia is broke, the province has nevertheless “put both hands on the tap and opened wide,” said Burrill.

Gary Burrill, leader of the provincial NDP, speaking about the new budget. - THE COAST
  • Gary Burrill, leader of the provincial NDP, speaking about the new budget.

Little vision for students
Canadian Federation of Students spokesperson Charlotte Kiddell says the budget had “little spending and little vision for students.”

Most money towards post-secondary education was aimed at community college students, with $3.2 million in post-secondary infrastructure going towards projects at NSCC, and $1.3 million in funding towards apprenticeship tuition coverage for technical training.

University students protesting outside the Legislature on Thursday. - THE COAST
  • University students protesting outside the Legislature on Thursday.

Tinkering with health care
The government plans to add $6 million in funding to collaborative care centres across the province and $5.1 million more for home-care services. Finance minister Randy Delorey said investing in primary care services can give Nova Scotians the care they need and keep them out of emergency rooms.

Baillie says the budget’s $2.4 million commitment to recruiting just 20 new doctors is “tinkering when there’s a crisis in family doctors.” Half of that money is for ten new spots in the family medicine residency program at Dalhousie, which has a 75 percent retention rate. Earlier this week, the CEO of Doctors Nova Scotia told the legislature there were 118 vacancies in the province.

The additional $3.2 million for food and recreation budgets in long-term care facilities is still less than the $4.9 million that was cut last year.


Other highlights

Announced before the budget was a $12.8 million increase in funding for the Nova Scotia film industry, bringing the total government investment up to $22.8 million.

The fuel tax exemption for mining and quarrying industries was finally granted, a promise that was made back in 2014.

An additional $1.1 million will be spent to bring breakfast programming to all schools.

Nova Scotia will put $3.2 million towards mental health initiatives, including a streamlined approach for care and community mental health services in Cape Breton.

Autism Nova Scotia is getting an additional $800,000 in funding to support families of children with autism.

The Yarmouth ferry will get another $9.4 million this year.

You can read the full budget documents here.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Halifax advised province against outpatient clinic's Bayers Lake location

Feedback provided several weeks ago said the area has multiple planning challenges that “would be difficult to overcome.”

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 10:03 PM

The future home of Nova Scotia's newest medical centre (back beyond that Home Outfitters). - VIA GOOGLE EARTH
  • The future home of Nova Scotia's newest medical centre (back beyond that Home Outfitters).

Halifax planning staff told the province that the location of its new outpatient clinic had significant transportation and community-building challenges which “would be difficult to overcome.”

“Evidently,” says the councillor for Halifax South Downtown, that advice was ignored.

“It doesn’t really meet any of our goals,” says Waye Mason.

The provincial government announced last week that it had purchased 15 acres of land—at a cost of $7.5 million—from Banc Commercial Properties to become the future home of a new outpatient clinic.

Part of the QEII redevelopment, the new medical facility will provide several services currently only offered downtown. It will be built over the next four years on a patch of land behind Home Outfitters and Marshalls in the Bayers Lake Industrial Park.

The location choice drew immediate criticism from transit and planning advocates. Bayers Lake, they say, is the worst of both worlds: as inaccessible as rural Nova Scotia to anyone without a car, and as congested with traffic as the downtown.

“This is the worst-designed, overburdened street [in the province],” says Mason, “and now we’re doubling down on that and making it worse.”

The municipality's planning staff didn’t like the location either.

Halifax spokesperson Lucas Wide writes in an email that there was never any official consultation with city planners. But the provincial department of Transportation and Infrastructure did contact HRM several weeks ago with a request for “high-level feedback” on several properties.

The reason for the request wasn't initially disclosed, but over the course of the discussion, Wide says “it became clear” that the information would be used to site a new health care facility.

Other potential locations the province considered included the Mainland North Common, a Shannex-owned property in Bedford South and the former Rona in Bayers Lake.

Planners with HRM considered the Mainland North Common “by far the best-suited site for transit,” followed by Bedford South and a tie for last between both Bayers Lake locations.

“Municipal staff identified that the site of the Banc property would not be aligned strategically with overall municipal objectives and that it has transportation and community-building challenges that would be difficult to overcome,” says Wide.

The premier at last week's announcement. - VIA TWITTER
  • The premier at last week's announcement.

Part of the problem is that the business park isn’t a business park. It was designed for industrial uses, not retail or mixed-use. Mason says that’s why the road network and water service in the BLIP remains spartan, and why any talk of increasing transit to the area is a pipe dream.

“Nowhere in the world do you have industrial parks laid out like that that are well-serviced by transit because the resident population of the buildings are too low, and the buildings are spread too far apart, and they’re too far back from the street,” says the councillor.

“In order for the city to provide regular transit…the province will have to provide us with operational funding, forever, to pay for that bus.”

Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters at last week’s announcement that he would be discussing the area’s lack of transit with HRM. This week, Liberal MLA Iain Rankin said on Twitter that “there is a good chance” the government will provide Halifax with more money to increase transit to the site.

Rankin also said he expects the municipality will alter its transit operations to service the new outpatient clinic.

“If you don't think HRM will add a bus route from Lacewood directly to the centre when it is built you haven't been paying attention,” tweeted Rankin at NDP MLA Lisa Roberts.

It might not be that easy. The clinic's chosen location clashes with multiple planning strategies HRM has spent the last several years investing thousands of hours of labour and public engagement in compiling—initiatives like the Regional Plan, Centre Plan, Integrated Mobility Plan and Moving Forward Together transit plan.
Provincial spokesperson Brian Taylor wouldn’t comment on the premier’s remarks or councillor Mason’s assessment that a transit route to the new clinic would need operational funding in perpetuity.

Transit is important, says Taylor, but it wasn’t the “sole focus” in determining the clinic’s location.

The government looked at population density, ease of acquisition, ease of development, accessibility and cost. The site had to be 15 acres and fall outside the “radius” of both the Victoria General downtown and the Cobequid Community Health Centre in Lower Sackville.

“When all was considered, the Bayers Lake Business Park was identified as the best site for the new Community Outpatient Centre and the best price for taxpayers,” Taylor writes over email.

The spokesperson says the site's primary users will be the 40 percent of people living outside the downtown core and in rural communities who don’t want to fight traffic on the peninsula for medical appointments.

“Traffic and parking are often cited as major concerns when travelling to the VG site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre.”

But putting anything in Bayers Lake to try and avoid traffic jams is laughable, says Mason.

“It’s absurd to hear anyone say that they are taking that outpatient [clinic] out of downtown because people don’t like driving downtown and then putting it in—what I think most of us would agree, on a Saturday, a Sunday or the month of December—is actually the worst, most congested street in all of Nova Scotia.”

According to Wide, HRM staff remain “committed to continued collaboration” with the province to ensure the clinic supports Halifax's five-year plan for healthy, livable communities.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Taxi safety measures proposed in response to sexual assaults

Emergency alarms, GPS tracking and driver shields among ideas suggested for possible in-depth review of HRM’s cab industry.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 1:56 PM

A $100 Best Buy-bought dashboard camera on a Halifax taxi. - THE COAST
  • A $100 Best Buy-bought dashboard camera on a Halifax taxi.
  • The Coast

A staff report coming to Thursday’s meeting of the Transportation Standing Committee is proposing several improvements for passenger safety in Halifax taxis.

The report recommends an in-depth review of the city’s taxi industry be conducted by outside consultants to study potential technology upgrades like video surveillance, GPS tracking, car shields, emergency alarm buttons and passenger trip logs.

Driver conduct would also be part of the external study, which would review professional, moral and ethical conduct standards, along with possible regulations for automatically suspending or revoking a taxi licence.

The report comes as a response to several high-profile incidents of sexual violence in Halifax cabs that occurred over the last year, including the recent case of Bassam Al-Rawi.

The former cab driver was found by police with an unconscious and half-naked female passenger in his parked cab, and her DNA on his mouth, in 2015. Despite the evidence, Al-Rawi was acquitted of all charges back in March.

Municipal staff had suspended Al-Rawi’s license when he was first charged with sexual assault, but HRM’s Appeals Standing Committee reversed that call and allowed the driver to continue working under special conditions while awaiting trial.

In response to the not-guilty decision—and the community outrage that followed—city council voted last month to review whether the appeals committee should handle quasi-judicial matters like taxi licenses.

According to police, there have been 12 alleged sexual assaults by Halifax taxi drivers since 2012, including five last year.

Public safety fears over those assaults prompted the city’s Taxi and Limousine Licensing Group to distribute decals to cab drivers last summer identifying taxi license numbers.

The placement of the decals is currently voluntary, but draft bylaw amendments proposed in Thursday’s report would make it a requirement for cab drivers to display their license number in both back and front passenger areas of their vehicles.

A previous safety review of the industry was completed by stakeholders in 2008. It was conducted in response to several violent attacks and robberies on taxi drivers.

Despite making multiple recommendations on improving safety, HRM staff say cab drivers and industry participants weren’t in favour of the safety review's mandatory driver protection systems and no bylaw changes were made in response.

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