Updated March 19 with response from Tim Houston added to the text below.
When we ask ourselves how did the situation for renters in Halifax get so bad, a common answer is that the majority of the decision makers in this province are homeowners. The theory is they just don’t quite remember the low, burning pang of fear that you live with when a rent increase or renoviction might happen any time, and your home could no longer be yours at the drop of a hat. But a recent report by Davide Mastracci in the progressive Canadian publication Passage goes one step further, connecting the dots between pro-landlord policies and elected officials who are landlords.
Mastracci pored over publicly-released disclosure data that details which elected officials (or their spouses) either earn rental income or own rental properties.
Of the 51 MLAs in Nova Scotia, five and/or their spouses make rental income and/or own rental property–that’s 9.8 percent. (Alberta has the highest level of MLA landlords, at 31 percent.) One of those five is the province’s millennial-in-chief, premier Iain Rankin–though the documents show his property is in Orleans, Ontario. Karen Lynn Casey, Randy Delorey, Rafah DiCostanzo and John Lohr are all either owners or part owners of rental properties in Nova Scotia.
There are four more MLAs who listed property on the provincial disclosure form, but didn’t explicitly say those properties were income properties, so Mastracci left them off the list. They are Lina Metlege Diab, Tim Houston, Labi Kousoulis and Murray Ryan. Ryan’s is vague, listing “Millville NS” as the location and “ownership” as the nature. Metlege Diab lists four or five properties (the handwritten forms are hard to parse), two of which are definitely apartments. The Coast has followed up with each for clarification on the nature of the ownership.
Since reaching out, Houston said the property listed is vacant with no buildings, just a Bell cell tower.
Mastracci also reported that Halifax’s money-from-Ottawa-in-chief, Andy Fillmore, also owns a rental property. Records say that Fillmore has “sole ownership of rental property located on Kane Place in Halifax, Nova Scotia.”
Only one other local member of parliament, Darrell Samson of Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook, is on the list, with “joint ownership with spouse of rental property located on Veronica Drive, Halifax, Nova Scotia.”
With the Nova Scotia government tasked with implementing permanent legislation around renting once its state-of-emergency measures expire–like a cap on rent increases when a tenant stays put and a ban on evictions–it’s worth paying attention to whose best interests rise to the top.
An update posted March 22 by Mastracci means that there likely are even more MLAs who are landlords in Nova Scotia.
"This means that, for example, an MLA elected in 2013 who reported rental income wouldn't have to do so again for the same property in subsequent disclosures. As such, the current disclosures likely undercount the number of MLAs who earn rental income and/or own rental property."— Davide Mastracci 🤌🏼 (@DavideMastracci) March 22, 2021