Suzanne MacNeil

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 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.

Apr 292015

The university is one of the few remaining spaces for critical resistance against capitalism and neo-liberal dogma. Bill 100 represents a frontal assault on what little space we have left by stripping away academic freedoms and collective bargaining rights. Bill 100 aims at fundamentally changing our way of thinking about our public institutions by paving the way for the government to restructure universities as research and training facilities for corporations and government.

  1. In the midst of one of the most severe austerity budgets in the province’s history, the government of Nova Scotia is introducing Bill 100—the “Universities Accountability and Sustainability Act”. According to Kelly Regan, the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education, the act will allow the government to better assist institutions facing financial difficulty.
  2. What does all of this actually mean? When a university faces a period of financial difficulty the payment of further public funds will be contingent on the implementation of a ‘revitalization plan’. The plan will be implemented by a panel, which is appointed by the minister.
  3. Once this plan is implemented, the university can no longer be seen an independent institution: its fate rests in the hands of an externally appointed panel.
  4. The external panel is not accountable to the university community—its students, faculty and workers—but to the Minister. Further, there are no specific details about how that panel is composed. Is it likely to be members of the university community, or, representatives of corporate interests and government bureaucrats?
  5. If this isn’t enough, the plan suspends fundamental worker’s rights, including the right to strike and the grievance process. Any collective agreements that contravene the revitalization plan are considered null and void. In other words, Bill 100 gives the university the right to suspend fundamental constitutional rights in order to get its finances in order. Students, faculty and workers will be made to suffer for the mismanagement of professional university administrators and the bungling of our government.
  6. It is not only a threat to academic freedom and institutional integrity, but to the fundamental rights of workers within institutions of higher education. Academic freedom is protected through collective agreements. Bill 100 puts the power to suspend those agreements, and in turn the principle of academic freedom, in the hands of university administrators. Further, the Bill makes no mention of the salaries of the highly paid professional administrators who run these institutions, but threatens low-wage contract staff and support workers for whom the grievance process and right to strike are essential.
  7. Further government grants will be contingent on the university entering into and complying with ‘outcome agreements’. These agreements allow the government to dictate the purpose and goal of any taxpayer-funded research. Along with the restrictions on worker’s rights and the violation of academic freedom, we find the government mandating the scope and value of university research. With this the government is accelerating the restructuring of the university around a neoliberal model in which the value of university research is considered on the basis of the public good.
  8. Reflected in this Bill is the Liberal government’s belief that the burden of economic austerity should rest on the shoulders of those who are least able to carry the weight. The calculated targeting of the working class, students, racialized groups and the disabled is quickly becoming the new status quo in Nova Scotia.
  9. Academic freedom is being attacked from two directions: first, it makes the university subordinate to the power of an externally appointed panel; and, second, it suspends fundamental rights that permit internal opposition to the university administration.
  10. Any so-called ‘revitalization plan’ presents the government the opportunity to fundamentally restructure the university away from a place of critical learning to a training ground for corporations that are in the process of stripping this province dry. The removal of fundamental worker’s rights makes any form of internal opposition to this restructuring process virtually impossible.
  11. We must reject the government’s attempts to undermine both the principles of academic freedom that underlie our province’s universities and the fundamental rights of all workers. We must not allow the institutions that enrich our public life to be reduced to corporate training grounds or playgrounds for a small elite.
Apr 292015

By Solidarity Halifax member Kyla Sankey, originally published in the Halifax Media Coop

Nova Scotia municipalities have been ordered to develop climate change action plans, yet the 2015 budget calls for cuts to renewable electricity and renewable energy. [Photo: via flickr]

Nova Scotia municipalities have been ordered to develop climate change action plans, yet the 2015 budget calls for cuts to renewable electricity and renewable energy. [Photo: via flickr]

To say the environmental crisis is the urgent challenge of our times is an understatement. And here in Canada we are at the heart of the storm. In the chilling and infamous words of climate scientist James Hansen, extracting Tar Sands would equal “game over” for the climate. If we are to avoid reaching the disastrous climate tipping point, 85 % of the Tar Sands oil must be left in the ground. However, with billions of dollars of investments tied up in the Tar Sands, the desperate needs of our planet have come into a head-on collision with the profit making strategies of giant fossil fuels corporations.

It is also here in Canada that we suffer the brunt of fossil fuels extraction and climate change. The first in the line of fire have been First Nations peoples, who continue to resist appropriation of their territories in the hands of extractive fracking projects, logging clear cuts and other resource extractive schemes, for example. In Nova Scotia we are faced with the prospect of severe storms, the destruction of coastlines, loss of fresh water, chemical contamination and damage to local agriculture. Local farmers are at greater risk from salt contamination, chemical pollution and pests. Workers not only face declining salaries, but we are also hardest hit by the rising energy costs and the potential loss of water supplies. Higher sea levels, more extreme rainfalls and storm flooding, will have a drastic impact on the coastline, which is home to most of our population. Yet the infrastructure currently in place is inadequate to cope with this prospect. The livelihoods of Nova Scotians and our future generations are facing devastation, and in the context of rising inequalities it is those of us from the working and marginalized classes that will suffer the most.

Given this scenario, this country’s abysmal attitude to global warming is alarming. Canada’s record on the climate is the worst in the Western world, ranking last among 58 countries in a 2014 performance index survey. Blind to the demands of protestors and against the will of the majority of the Canadian population, the Canadian government continues to favor the interests of corporate profits over the desperate needs of the planet. Estimates have suggested that the Canadian government gives away $34 billion to fossil fuels companies every year in the form of low royalty rates, tax break and lax regulations. This is equivalent to $800 for every Canadian.

The solution: austerity?

Right now the crucial problem is this: the government is enforcing an economic model that is hopelessly incapable of facing up to the desperate needs of the people and the planet. This model is euphemistically labeled “austerity”. Austerity is an upshot of the great crisis of 2008, when the government bailed out banks leaving soaring fiscal debts. According to the logic of austerity, the solution to this budgetary deficit has been to seek additional fiscal revenues in two main ways: cuts to the public sector and rampant extraction of unconventional oil reserves in the Tar Sands.

Here in Nova Scotia, premier Stephen McNeil’s austerity budget proposal is a demonstration of the Liberal government’s utter incapacity to face up to this crucial issue. Cuts such as $2.5 million to “Non-Electricity Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Transportation and Conservation Grants”, and a $300,000 cut in funding to renewable energy have eroded our ability to respond collectively to new environmental needs. The logic of austerity sees public institutions and services as barriers to corporate profits, which means public protections are being gutted and starved just when they need strengthening more than ever.

On the other hand, when it comes to corporate profit making strategies, the logic of austerity operates in a somewhat different manner. The liberal government has handed out lavish subsidies to oil corporations, and in the 2015 budget petroleum resources increased by $880,000. These policies facilitate the ascendance of corporate power at a time when the future of the planet relies precisely on our capacity to rein this power in.

We are told that what is needed is more energy efficiency, yet spending on this has been cut. Low income efficiency spending was not cut, but nonetheless in the face of declining salaries and cuts to income support, how will those of us from poorest sectors of society be able to afford these programs? The current low-income efficiency program, which allows Nova Scotians to make efficiency upgrades to our homes, is a case in point. It works great for those who can take advantage, saving them $500 a year on their bills, but the program is only available for homeowners, and the majority of people on low incomes are, of course, tenants.

The solution: moving beyond capitalism

To confront the environmental crisis we must tackle it at its root. This means challenging a socio-economic system where the interests of corporate profits and capital accumulation trump the needs of the planet and the people. The transition towards an environmentally sustainable world must be integrated with the struggle to create a new society based on the values of social justice, community and co-operativism. This move towards an ecologically and socially sustainable system will be led by struggles of workers and communities. These groups also stand to benefit greatly from the move: renewable energies create 3 times more jobs than fossil fuels, and energy efficiency creates 5 times more jobs. However, the transition must be part of a new, environmentally sustainable and socially just system in which green resources are commonly owned through a mix of public ownership and workers’ cooperatives. It is only by moving beyond the capitalist system of ever-increasing profits, accumulation and wasteful consumption, that we can build a world where our social cycles are realigned to work in harmony with ecological cycles, and production takes place for the purpose of human development and the maximization of our human potential, not corporate greed.


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

Apr 212015

By Solidarity Halifax member Jackie Barkley, originally published in the Halifax Media Co-op


If the “new” (code for white and cool and mostly expensive) businesses in the North End want to hire local residents, I’m sure a 10 minute walk to the youth employment centre at the Community Y on Gottingen would work.

Last week the CBC ran a 2-part series on racism and gentrification in North End Halifax.

First of all, thanks to the CBC for naming the R word in the north end of Halifax – and I don’t mean renewal. The recent story on the almost total absence of local faces (read code for African Nova Scotian) as either staff or owners or patrons of the hip restaurant and commercial scene on Gottingen and Agricola, was a great initiative. However the responses of the business owners was frankly disingenuous, just a bit of “Aw shucks, we’d love to have Black people as staff and patrons, and shucks, they should open businesses too………and well, we just hire people we know……..or, I can’t imagine why they don’t apply, or drop in, or whatever?”

Starting with some self disclosure. I have lived in this neighbourhood for 27 years, and as a white woman who had good jobs my whole life, I have personally benefited from the changes in the north end, regardless of my political views. My privilege allowed me the down payment to buy a house in 1987, whose value has quadrupled in the time I’ve been here, and I do mostly love my neighbourhood, and do go to some of the businesses profiled. But I, and cool young white entrepreneurs must own being part of the complex intersection of economics, privilege, and racism by which gentrification serves my demographic, and systemically never serves those who are displaced.

So let’s look at the dictionary definition of gentrification: The process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into the deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents. The operative word here is displacement, that is – the sociology of poverty and exploitation that lowers the value of land when oppressed people live on it, creates slum housing, followed then by cheap buildings and lots bought up by the “creative” class, and turned into funky and mostly very expensive new businesses. Surely the banks had told the new businesses how this worked (now we’re on to Capitalism 101)….and the banks had explained the sociology of hiring funky and creative people to staff these places making them welcoming to their friends and social networks. (If those workers are also making a minimum wage, I have a union contact they can call.) And probably no one had to explain that non-funky minimum wage workers in public or low cost housing, despite also being “creative”, were not likely to patronize places charging $10 for one drink, and charging easily $35 for an entree. Is anyone really surprised?

Moving right along. There are no “white and middle class only” signs on the doors, but there is an amazing quite large sign on the window of one of these businesses on Gottingen just south of Cornwallis. And it shows a very white, hipster couple with their helmets, on bicycles, smiling coyly, with the caption “YOUR NORTH END”………I think that message is very clear.

If the “new” (code for white and cool and mostly expensive) businesses in the north end want to hire local residents, I’m sure a 10-minute walk to the youth employment centre at the Community Y on Gottingen, or the Hope Blooms office on Cornwallis, or the Black Business Initiative office, or the Parent Resource Centre on Uniacke St., or the North Branch Library or the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre would educate them very quickly and easily on ways to at least change the staff profile. Or they could contact UJAMAA, an African Nova Scotian political and economic development organization. If these businesses want to welcome people of African descent, they could perhaps hire Black artists and musicians to play at their venues by calling ANSMA (the African NS Music Association). Or if they need even more help, they could close their place for a day, and invite people from all the agencies and institutions in from the “old” North End to a free mini-conference, and provide free funky food, and do some listening, rather than pretending or ignoring the class and race issues attending the new world order of the North End.

Oh and finally, there is a thriving, but financially strapped coffee shop called Kwacha House, opened by Folami Jones (daughter of the very beloved fighter for justice, Dr. Burnley Rocky Jones), probably without bank funding, and located in Fairview on Dutch Village Road, where all kinds of people of African descent go through the trouble to travel from all over the city, to be where they are welcomed and the environment reflects who they are.

Maybe a field trip is in order for the school of learning-about-what’s-really-going-on?

Jackie Barkley


Jackie Barkley is a social worker and activist who is a long-time resident of Halifax’s North End. She has been involved in anti-racism and anti-poverty work.

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