Short Takes — Wednesday Edition

I spent so much time on The Codfathers this week, I didn’t really have much left over to cover other issues but there are a few things I’d like to touch on, however briefly:


Affordable Housing

I heard Catherine Leviten-Reid on CBC Information Morning Cape Breton today discussing a new provincial government report on affordable housing. Leviten-Reid, a professor at CBU, was the lead academic on another recent report on the same subject from the Housing for All Working Group of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) in Nova Scotia. Before going any further, I think it’s worth showing you the list of people and organizations that make up the Housing for All Working Group:

  • Vince Calderhead
  • Colleen Cameron, Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition
  • Robert Cervelli, Centre for Local Prosperity
  •  Canadian Federation of Students-NS
  • Chebucto Connections Community Housing Options Initiative through Collaboration & Engagement (Yarmouth)
  • Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia
  • Sherry Costa, Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities
  • Mark Culligan, Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
  • EJ Davis, Housing First & Partnerships, North End Community Health Association
  • Digby & Area Affordable & Supportive Housing group
  • Art Fisher, Family Service Association of Western Nova Scotia (Freeman House)
  • Brian Gifford, Affordable Energy Coalition
  • Pam Glode, Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre
  • Emma Halpern, Elizabeth Fry Society Mainland Nova ScotiaEquity Watch
  • Lina Hamid, Halifax Refugee Clinic
  • Bernadette Hamilton-Reid, African Nova Scotia Decade for People of African Descent Coalition (DPAD)
  • Madison Joe, Nova Scotia Legal Aid Services
  • Eric Jonsson, Street Navigator
  • Jeff Karabanow, Dalhousie School of Social Work
  • Alison Lair, YMCA of Cumberland
  • Sheri Lecker, Adsum for Women & Children
  • Nanci Lee, North End Community Land Trust
  • Catherine Leviten-Reid, Cape Breton University (Academic Lead on the Housing for All Report)
  • Stella Lord, The Community Society to End Poverty
  • Darlene MacEachern, Elizabeth Fry Society of Cape Breton
  • Michelle Malette, Out of the Cold Community Association
  • Lauren Matheson, CCPA-NS
  • Trish McCourt, Tri-County Women’s Centre
  • Nova Scotia ACORN
  • Nova Scotia Action Coalition for Community Well-Being
  • Nancy O’Regan, Affordable Housing Network Guysborough Area
  • Chris Parsons, Nova Scotia Health Care Coalition
  • Jen Powley, No More Warehousing
  • Phoenix Youth Programs
  • James Sawler, Mount St. Vincent University
  • Christine Saulnier, CCPA-NS (Co-Lead of the Housing for All Project)
  • Louise Smith-MacDonald, Every Woman’s Centre
  • Shelburne County Housing Coalition
  • Alec Stratford, Nova Scotia College of Social Workers
  • Sheri Taylor, Leeside Society
  • The Dalhousie School of Social Work Community Clinic
  • Fiona Traynor, Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
  • Tom Urbaniak, Cape Breton University
  • J Tom Webb, Global Co-operation
  • Linda Wilson, Shelter Nova Scotia
  • Women’s Centres Connect

In her discussion with Information Morning host Steve Sutherland, Leviten-Reid was basically asked to compare her group’s report to the new one from the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission. (Full disclosure: I’ve labeled this a “short take” because I haven’t had time to read these reports, but I’m planning a deeper dive next week.)

Catherine Leviten-Reid

Catherine Leviten-Reid

She said that while the commission report did a reasonable job of summarizing the current state of affordable housing, it didn’t do very well in explaining how we got here — how, in the ’90s, when the federal government stepped away from funding public housing, some provinces picked up the slack, but Nova Scotia did not. How this province offers woefully inadequate (my words, not hers) shelter allowances to people on social assistance.

But the main differences she pointed to were, first, the commission’s lack of specific targets — how many units? How quickly must they be introduced? Leviten-Reid’s report said the province needed 30,000 units (a need she discussed with the Halifax Examiner‘s Yvette D’Entremont).

Second, she said she was “disappointed” in the commission’s emphasis on private sector solutions — an emphasis no doubt attributable, to some degree, to the presence on the commission of developers like Jeremy Jackson of Killam Properties and Alex Halef of BANC Group and Gordon Laing of Southwest Properties Limited.

Leviten-Reid said the United States has long turned to the private sector to provide affordable housing and the research shows any improvements resulting from such partnerships tend to be short term — rents are kept low for a time, but when the applicable covenants expire, they shoot up.

I’ve written about this before — most recently with regard to a proposed “social enterprise” for affordable housing in Cape Breton — but the short version is that this is a market problem that the market cannot be trusted to solve. No landlord is going to rent at a reduced rate if the market will bear a higher rate. Which is why it’s up to government to either build more public housing or intervene through rent controls or requirements that new developments include affordable units or restrictions on AirBnB rentals.

There’s lots more to discuss, obviously, but the crux of the issue is captured in the title of the first chapter of Leviten-Reid’s report: “Treat Housing as a Human Right.”



Bottles of COVID-19 vaccineNova Scotia announced this week that it would resume the use of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for second shots only and, following guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the interchangeability of vaccines, would allow people to who received a first shot of AstraZeneca to receive AstraZeneca or Moderna or Pfizer as their second shot.

People who received a first shot of Pfizer may opt for a second shot of Moderna and vice versa, although Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health (and happy Habs fan) has said Nova Scotia’s supply of Pfizer is expected to be more reliable than that of Moderna.

If you (like me) are one of the roughly 58,000 Nova Scotians who received a first dose of AstraZeneca, you’ll receive an email inviting you to reschedule your second dose appointment (it’s not clear from the press release at what point in the process you get to specify which vaccine you want.)

The province has about 2,000 AstraZeneca doses that are set to expire at end-June. It says it can order more if the demand is there. No word (yet) on what happens if there is no interest in these doses, but there’s a COVID Briefing today and I am guessing the question will be asked.

On a related note, Jennifer Henderson reports that a Dalhousie University virologist, Dr. Chris Richardson, and his team of graduate students have been looking at the effects of an AstraZeneca/Pfizer combo:

…a Dal experiment involving two human subjects has yielded promising results. A 66-year-old man and a 66-year-old woman received a dose of Pfizer 33 days after their initial Astra Zeneca shot. Richardson and Dalhousie graduate students Ali Ostadgavahi and Ryan Booth, together with members of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, studied antibodies produced in blood samples taken from the subjects. Richardson says both samples showed a “dramatic increase” in the antibodies that attack the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus following vaccination — especially after their second shot. Significant increases were observed just 13 days after the second vaccination. The results of the pilot study have been submitted and will soon appear in the Journal of Infection in Developing Countries.


Symbolic gesture

"Every Child Matters"I’m glad the CBRM and the province and the country are flying their flags at half mast in honor of the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

I know our response can’t stop at this symbolic gesture, but I think the gesture, in this case, matters — as others have said, if we can do it for a man who lived a life of unimaginable privilege and died at a ripe old age (that would be Prince Philip) we can do it for these children who never had a chance.

Maureen Googoo has written about memorials that have appeared here in Nova Scotia,

And Pam Palmater, in a new online publication called The Breach, makes the case for going beyond “symbolic gestures” and giving land back to First Nations. (If you’re wondering if these means “putting non-Natives on boats back to their countries of origin,” the answer is “no.” Palmater means returning crown lands to First Nations.)