May 212015

1. After a review by their head office in Toronto, Metcap Living Property Management has started declining tenants with bad credit scores. This comes after large rent increases; a one bedroom apartment in the notoriously bad Jackson Rd properties now starts at $680 plus power.

2. The Department of Community Services is refusing to provide damage deposits to people on social assistance for units with rents above $600 a month. The maximum shelter allowance they provide for a single person is $535 a month.

3. Minimum wage jobs are increasingly part time and temporary. Even with full time hours, a minimum wage worker would spend close to 50% of their monthly earnings on housing living in a Metcap property.

4. Metcap Living is the private sector housing of last resort, especially for people labelled “difficult to house” due to their mental illnesses, addictions and experience with being homeless. These are often people who have been criminalized, and generally are experiencing severe social exclusion.

5. Metcap Living is a slum landlord with a monopoly on low rent housing in Dartmouth North, the 500 block in Spryfield, and the Roleika Drive neighbourhood in East Dartmouth. In Nova Scotia and across the country, their corporate interests are tied to extracting maximum profit while investing as little as possible in maintenance.

6. Metcap Living is known nationally for deplorable conditions in their buildings, and have been the subject of media attention and organized actions due to severe, ongoing violations of the safety, dignity and rights of their tenants.

7. With Metcap Living gone as an option for the lowest waged and unemployed workers, Halifax is at risk of an intensified housing crisis. We are likely to see an increase in homelessness, and a growing numbers of low rent properties with even worse conditions than Metcap’s; such as the rooming house owned by Hasan Yildiz condemned by the city last fall.

8. The Halifax city government is responsible for enforcing decent conditions in rental properties, and have shown no interest in taking that role seriously. In their campaign to implement a municipal Landlord Licensing program, Nova Scotia ACORN has been told city staff are working on a report on improving standards enforcement. That report has yet to be released, despite assurances to tenant activists it would be forthcoming.

9. The city government is refusing to take leadership in affordability of housing in Halifax; perhaps not surprising considering Mayor Mike Savage and a number of councilors have their campaigns bankrolled in large part by landlords and real estate developers.

10. If Halifax is to avoid a housing crisis, swift intervention is needed. The government will do nothing to ensure housing affordability unless low wage workers, people on social assistance, unions and poor people’s groups organize and take bold action.

11. Capitalism treats housing as a commodity, to be bought, sold and rented in the interests of the 1%. As long as the provision of housing is a for-profit enterprise, there will be sizeable parts of the population who experience homelessness and housing insecurity. We need Landlord Licensing, Rent Control and zoning policy that ensures affordable housing but we need to start exploring more systems solutions, such as expropriating the properties of slum landlords to be run as public housing and taking development decisions out of the hands of private real estate developers and putting them to a participatory, democratic process.


May 122015

Federal Infrastructure Funding Needed for Municipalities

  1. Talks have broken down between the city’s water workers and Halifax Water. The workers are members of two CUPE locals, Local 227 and Local 1431. In total there are more than 330 workers between the two locals.  The workers deal with water, waste water, and storm water systems across the Halifax Regional Municipality.
  1. The main issues at the bargaining table are around the pension plan and wages. The employer is proposing cuts to both workers’ wages and pension payments for retirees. This is in spite of the fact that Halifax Water received a major increase in water billing.  Workers have voted over 90% in favour of strike action to back their contract demands.
  1. Halifax Water applied for and received a double-digit rate increase over the next two years. Rates are going up by 12% over two years – far above the rate of inflation.
  1. So why is this happening? Why are water rates going up dramatically while the employer is simultaneously trying to reduce workers pensions?  At the end of the day in comes down to Stephen Harper.
  1. The Federal Conservatives have refused to invest federal dollars in infrastructure across the country. This has led to an infrastructure deficit estimated at over $400 billion across the country.
  1. This infrastructure deficit means our schools, parks, water and waste water systems, recreation centres, sewers, roads, ports, garbage and recycling, airports, and more are becoming run down and do not have the resources they need to build a modern economy. Under capitalism, the municipal services we all depend on are underfunded leading to cutbacks and closures.
  1. This is why Halifax Water is dramatically increasing water bills and cutting labour costs. Halifax Water is downloading the cost of the water infrastructure onto the backs of workers.
  1. Federal investment in infrastructure would make it possible to reduce water rates and pay water workers fair wages and pensions. It would mean that Halifax Water would have the resources it needs to repair and renovate existing water and wastewater systems in our city.  This would reduce costs for residents.
  1. Water is a human right. Every human being deserves the right to have access to clean water. And the workers who care for this basic necessity deserve the right to a fair and decent living.
  1. The right to collective bargaining and the right to strike are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and for good reason. These rights are enshrined in our charter to ensure that workers have the capacity to collectively fight for better working conditions and for better public services.
  1. This struggle is not isolated. Tax breaks for the wealthy, cuts to the public service, attacks on unions and the erosion of public goods (including water systems) – these are the tactics through which capitalism funnels public resources into private hands. This fight is for more than just 330 workers and this families – this fight is for all of us, and our collective well-being.


May 122015

Solidarity Halifax member Shay Enxuga takes a look at the bigger picture behind the labour struggle at Halifax Water. Originally published at the Halifax Media Coop.

Halifax Water looming strike over pension benefits and wages is only one piece of the puzzle, says Shay Enxuga. Rate increases, a crumbling infrastructure, and Federal neglect also need to be considered. It's all part of austerity capitalism. Photo Robert Devet

Halifax Water looming strike over pension benefits and wages is only one piece of the puzzle, says Shay Enxuga. Rate increases, a crumbling infrastructure, and Federal neglect also need to be considered. It’s all part of austerity capitalism. Photo Robert Devet

Bargaining has broken down between Halifax Water and 330 CUPE members in two different locals. These workers manage infrastructure that is essential to daily life across the Halifax Regional Municipality: our water.

More than 90% of these workers have voted in favour of strike action to back their demands. Halifax Water is proposing both a reduction to the pension plan that would reduce the incomes of pensioners as well as a wage increase that is well below the level of inflation (essentially a pay cut). Faced with a double reduction in both their pension plan and wages, it is not a stand that these workers are taking lightly.

In order to fully understand this struggle we need to consider several things. The pressure placed on CUPE unionized workers is only one piece of the puzzle. While slashing workers’ wages and pensions, Halifax Water is also increasing the cost of water.

In 2013 Halifax Water successfully applied to the Nova Scotia Utilities and Review Board to increase the rates they are allowed to charge customers. As a result, water rates will increase by more than 12% over two years – an increase far greater than the rate of inflation.

Nova Scotia will be impacted by elevated water rates across the board. Businesses, homeowners and renters will all bear some of the costs of rate increases. As per usual, the most heavily impacted Nova Scotians will be poor people living on a tight budget.

Why are these things happening at once? Why is Halifax Water hiking fees to increase their revenues, while at the same time trying to nickel and dime their workers over just and reasonable salaries and pensions? The answers become clear when looking at the big picture.

Since coming to power in 2006 the Conservative government has allowed Canada’s infrastructure deficit to grow to over $400 billion. A huge number of our schools, parks, water systems, recreation centres, roads, and garbage and recycling systems are not being provided with the maintenance they need to continue serving public needs. The federal government is literally letting the infrastructure needed to provide basic services across Canada crumble to pieces.

This is not a simple symptom of penny pinching and it is not an oversight of the government. Under capitalism – particularly the radical type of austerity capitalism embodied by our federal government – a huge amount of energy is expended in the service of moving public wealth into the pockets of a wealthy few. Tax breaks for the wealthy, cuts to the public service, attacks on unions and the erosion of public goods (including infrastructure like that administered by Halifax Water) – these are the tactics through which public resources are funnelled to private entities.

Stronger federal investment in infrastructure would make it possible to both reduce water rates and pay workers fair wages and pension. It would mean that Halifax Water, and other utilities like it across the country, would have the resources it needs to repair and maintain existing water and wastewater systems in our city. It would mean that the men and women who work at Halifax Water can go on living and working with the security that a fair wage and a fair pension brings.

Labor struggles like the one between Halifax Water and CUPE members are not isolated. What is at stake here in this struggle goes beyond the livelihoods of 330 workers and their families – this is a larger fight for our collective wealth and our collective wellbeing.

What do unions represent? That another world is possible.


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

May 102015

cropped-racism-logo1Talking Radical Radio interviews Folami Jones (Kwacha House Cafe), Matthew Byard (Ujamaa) and Ben Sichel (Solidarity Halifax) about the Working While Black in Nova Scotia project. It is a response to anti-Black racism in workplaces in the province, and it is organized around a website where people may anonymously share their experiences.


Talking Radical Radio


May 082015

Originally posted at the Halifax Media Co-op.

On April 7 2015, Solidarity Halifax member Kyla Sankey hosted a discussion on Venezuela’s National Liberation Struggle and Obama’s war in the Americas. Does this nation represent a threat, or a hope for peoples’ struggles across the world?

Hosted by:
John Kirk
Isaac Saney
Errol Sharp
Chris Walker
Kyla Sankey


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