Feb 142015

Living WagwA new coalition is working to raise the minimum wage in Nova Scotia to $15/hour!Coalition members include: ACORN Nova Scotia, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council and Solidarity Halifax.

Solidarity Halifax and ACORN member Evan Coole is interviewed by CTV:

>Click here to watch the video






Feb 142015

The Nova Scotia Citizen’s Health Care Network launches a campaign to eliminate ambulance fees. Provincial coordinator for the Network and member of Solidarity Halifax James Hutt issued the following press release.

Sign the petition!  http://chn.ge/1CQO9tn

1 in 4 Atlantic Canadians Deterred by Cost

psephc_all_sans_serif_arrowed1Halifax, NS –The Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network is calling for the province to eliminate ambulance fees entirely, a move they say would cost only $9.7 million per year and lead to longer term savings.

Further evidence for this long overdue step comes from a recent investigation by CBC’s The Marketplace which has found that 19% of Canadians are deterred from using ambulances due to their cost. In Atlantic Canada, that figure increases to 23%.

“No one should have to pay to receive care when they need it” said James Hutt, Provincial Co-ordinator for the Health Network.

“Ambulance fees are keeping people from getting treatment, putting their lives in danger and adding costs to the health system due to increased complications.”

In 2013/2014, Emergency Health Services billed patients $12.2 million for ambulance trips, yet expects to collect only $9.7 million.  The agency estimates 20% of bills go uncollected ever year. Hutt anticipates the actual cost of eliminating fees to be even lower, as subsidies and low-income waivers are redirected.

Emergency Health Services recorded approximately 141,000 trips in 2013/2014. It waived $575, 000 in fees for low-income patients, and spent $856,000 to offset the cost for nursing home residents and patients with reduced mobility.

An ambulance ride in Nova Scotia costs $142 per trip, with partial subsidies for patients with reduced mobility and those living in long term care facilities. In 2012, Nova Scotia waived fees for low-income patients. Patient transfers between hospitals are free, but patients must pay to get themselves to a hospital in the first place.

The CBC investigation comes in the wake of a review of Nova Scotia’s collaborative emergency centres. The review, led by health consultant Mary Jane Hampton, pointed to ambulance fees causing patients to drive themselves to hospitals despite being medically unwell. While ambulance fees were outside the scope of the emergency centres review, Hampton noted that she consistently heard of incidents at each centre of patients foregoing the service because of the cost.

“For less than $9 million, Health Minister Glavine could ensure that all Nova Scotians can get to a hospital in a crisis.” Hutt concluded. “This move would get patients earlier treatment, saving costs, and help save lives, especially in rural areas.”

For more information, contact:

James Hutt

Provincial Coordinator

Nova Scotia Citizen’s Health Care Network

Office: 902-406-9422

Email: james at nshealthcoalition.ca


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Feb 092015


Nova Scotia needs a raise!

Right now, minimum wage is not enough to pay for the rising costs of rent, food, transportation, and the other necessities of life. A living wage is the rate of pay required for workers to afford a decent quality of life. Here in Halifax, we feel that $15/hour would be fair living wage for workers.

Workers, students, families, and low-wage earners across Nova Scotia are coming together to demand a living wage.

Join us for the launch of new campaign!

Living Wage Town Hall:

6 – 8pm
Thursday, February 12th
George Dixon Centre (2502 Brunswick St)

This event is being organized through a coalition between ACORN Nova Scotia, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council and Solidarity Halifax.

Feb 072015

By Solidarity Halifax member John Hutton. Originally published in The Chronicle Herald.
John is an undergraduate student at Dalhousie, pursuing a degree in international development studies and economics.


Protesters gather at Victoria Park in Halifax on Wednesday as part of provincewide Student Day of Action marches. (INGRID BULMER/The Chronicle Herald)


After four years of tuition fee increases, funding cuts and even talk of university mergers, students had good reason to be optimistic when a new provincial government was elected in October 2013.

Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil had promised in his platform that “education isn’t a line item in a budget; it’s our future.”

In saying so, he was correct.

Post-secondary education is beneficial for the economy, returning an estimated $8 to Nova Scotia for every $1 invested, and is an important source of good jobs in Wolfville, Sydney, Antigonish and Halifax.

Education results in higher earnings and lower unemployment (yes, even BAs). That means a bigger tax base for important social programs.

Education is more than just a good investment, of course. It has a transformational effect on people that improves quality of life and society as a whole.

According to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, education measurably boosts social benefits such as dynamic impacts through innovation and knowledge creation, knowledge spillovers that increase skills and productivity of less-educated workers, reduced crime, increased civic participation, improved health, intergenerational benefits passed on to children, increased volunteerism and charitable donations and more.

Education helps us make sense of society, imagine a better world, have free and open discussions about how to make these ideas a reality, and then do it.

So Mr. McNeil was really on to something when he said that education shouldn’t be seen as one more expense to trim when trying to balance a budget.

Unfortunately, but perhaps unsurprisingly, that was just rhetoric to win votes. Since coming to power, the Liberals have eliminated interest on the provincial portion of student loans, saving students roughly $800 —roughly equal to the cost of one year’s worth of tuition fee increases.

Then they eliminated the $50-million Graduate Retention Tax Rebate. That money was not re-invested in more effective debt relief for students.

Finance Minister Diana Whalen, who criticized the 2007 tuition freeze by saying, “We would prefer a more aggressive reduction in tuition,” said of the dismayed students: “Are they entitled? Do they think they’re entitled to that money?”

Meanwhile, Ms. Whalen’s been musing about removing the top income tax bracket and lowering corporate taxes, which would cost $72 million to implement.

Perhaps she thinks they’re entitled to that money.

This year, the government will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Nova Scotia university presidents — something that’s done every three or four years to regulate fees and allow for multi-year planning.

For the first time, students were excluded from these negotiations, which is not a good sign. As they say, if you’re not sitting at the table, you’re on the menu.

Labour and Advanced Education minister Kelly Regan, who once said, “Why is it OK to be on the side of students when you are in Opposition and then ignore them when you go into government?” now has more to say about cutting $50 million than about making education more accessible.

There is good news, thankfully.

The first piece is that there are plenty of good alternatives.

That $72 million that Mr. McNeil thinks we can get rid of? That could convert 100 per cent of Nova Scotia student loans into grants and reduce tuition fees by 24 per cent instead.

So we can afford to reduce tuition fees.

Given that students in Nova Scotia pay the third-highest fees in the country, graduate with $37,000 in debt on average, and graduate into an economy with an 18 per cent youth unemployment rate, reducing tuition fees is a really good idea, too.

The other piece of good news is that students have the power to change things. We saw what happened in Quebec when the Liberals there tried to raise tuition fees by 75 per cent — students brought down the government and unseated the premier.

But even here in Nova Scotia, student action has won victories for students: a 2007 provincial day of action won a four-year tuition freeze; a 2011 day of action stopped plans to deregulate tuition fees; student actions in 2011 rolled back a proposed increase in international differential fees from 10 per cent to six per cent; student petitions at Dalhousie in 2012-13 reversed cuts to library hours and academic journals.

So student action works.

Despite the ideological support of the McNeil government for tax breaks for the rich and cuts for everybody else, students should be optimistic and energized.

What the politicians offer isn’t the way things need to be. Through collective and persistent actions, students have the power to change things, too.

We know that education matters. We know that education is worth fighting for, and we know that affordable, accessible education is possible.

So students, let’s remind Mr. McNeil that education isn’t a line item in a budget. Education is a right.


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Feb 052015

Solidarity Halifax member Mary-Dan Johnston writes down her thoughts on the importance of student activism and days of action. Originally published at marydanjohnston.wordpress.com

When I started my undergrad, the students at St. Thomas were not particularly organized. Simply speaking the word “fees” (if you were Ella Henry​ or Craig Mazerolle​) got you booed in a crowded auditorium. There were no free buttons or colourful posters declaring opposition to mounting student debt. Advocating for reductions in tuition fees in union elections was seen as unrealistic; utopian, even. If you self-identified as a student activist or organizer (as opposed to a student politician), you could expect to be branded a radical. The nomenclature was fair, I think.

In 2009, a few second-year sociology students started getting together to talk about inequality and post-secondary education, weaving the theories in our readings together with the stories we told about ourselves, about our lives, doubling back every now and then to correct some ideas that didn’t make sense anymore: that you had to pay for something in order for it to have value, that education ought to be a private investment, not a public good. While the group was small, it was something. A few folks cut up magazines and newspapers and made collages to draw some attention to the group. Lots of the collages were posted around campus…I remember many of them being ripped down.

St. Thomas is a small, liberal arts, primarily undergraduate university, which also offers a few professional second degree programs. When I was there, the majority of enrolled students received some kind of government assistance, through provincial or federal grants or loans, which meant they had to qualify for that help in the first place. There were plenty of first generation university students from smaller towns in rural New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island: places with high unemployment rates, hollowed by deindustrialization, resource collapse, outmigration. Most of us were women. These things needed to be said aloud.

When we started organizing teach-ins, we brought people who could shed some light on the history of the student movement to speak. While hearing Dorothy Smith talk about being at Berkeley in the ’60s was certainly powerful, it was the space that such events created that was truly precious. The teach-ins were opportunities for students to talk openly about their struggles in ways that were not abstract. We gathered to be heard in our pain and anxiety; to name not just the crushing burden of debt, but the structures that rendered it seemingly inescapable; to see that in dreaming of another world, we weren’t alone.

When we started speaking about the impact that high tuition fees and soaring debt had on our education and our own lives, it was easier to see how the privatization of the university degrades education more generally: discouraging students from pursuing disciplines less readily monetized, and dissuading students from racialized and working-class backgrounds from enrolling at all. With less diversity, the quality of thought itself is corrupted. This is to say nothing of the impact that cuts to public funding for post secondary education have on teaching and research in the modern university, characterized as it is by ballooning administrations and the separation of the professoriate into tiers. To reflect and say together that we do not want what is being imposed on us, that we do not consent, that we can imagine and build something better and more just is a sign of our abilities and our potential.

The Day of Action is an effective lobbying tool. Mass mobilization gets things done in government, but it does more than that. It is an exercise in hope. It is a powerful articulation of our values. We write the future we want with our bodies, in the streets, together.


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.