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News brief: ACORN Nova Scotia rallies ahead of next week’s Liberal leadership convention

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A small ACORN Nova Scotia rally and press conference in downtown Halifax served to remind the three Liberal MLAs running to become the new premier of Nova Scotia that as far as low income Nova Scotians are concerned the current premier left the province in a terrible mess.

One by one an ACORN spokesperson listed off the demands that would spell relief for low income tenants. 

“To stabilize rental rates across the province we need permanent rent control. There is no reason a landlord should be able to get away with 50% to 90% rent increases, like we all saw last year. To increase the number of affordable units and stop the gentrification of our communities we need inclusionary zoning policies that mandate that all new developments in Nova Scotia contain at least 30% affordable housing,” she said. 

“Next, we need to ban term leases that allow landlords to evict tenants for no reason. And finally, and especially important as we’re downtown and surrounded by empty condos and expensive apartments, we need a vacancy tax to force developers to make these units affordable.”

It was good to see that ACORN is demanding a raise in the social assistance rates as well. One of the ACORN folks read a letter on behalf of Janice Pace, Co-Chair of the Halifax-Peninsula ACORN chapter and a single mother on income assistance. 

“I have been on income assistance since 2011. After working for 20 years, I was forced to be on income assistance. Although I use a walker and live with disability I don’t meet the requirements for a disability pension,” Pace wrote.“I live in public housing, which took two and a half years to get into. That’s way too long. Before I got this apartment I was homeless, living with friends for weeks at a time, because I could not find housing I could afford.” 

“It is very difficult to raise a young child on the amount you get from Community Services. If you think about how much things cost, how can you afford a two bedroom apartment and pay for food, utilities and medication for less than $800 a month? There are a lot of other things I need to worry about. Violence, bedbugs, rats, asbestos, but in order to keep a roof over our heads, it seems that you have to put up with that. Tell me where else can I afford to live with the budget that I am forced to live on,” she asked.

Scott, a new ACORN member, explained why he decided to join the organization.

“I believe that there’s strength in unions, especially unions like ACORN that are run by their membership. I agree with ACORN’s demands for a $15 minimum minimum wage in our province, and moving fast towards a living wage. My first priority is that the ban on evictions and rent increases become permanent, and that the government acknowledges that we have a permanent housing emergency in our province,” said Scott.

Refugee claimants are encountering additional obstacles when they try to get settled here in Nova Scotia, said another speaker. They wait for as long as three years for their hearing, and meanwhile no work permits are issued because of COVID, they said, making them depend on income assistance. “

“They must also deal with the racism and the unfortunate stigma that comes along with their immigration status. I have personally seen people being denied housing for family structure, race, and income source. These reasons all go against the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission list of protected characteristics. I’ve also seen landlords get away with purposely making a unit uninhabitable, thinking that newcomers don’t know and will not stand up for their rights, ignoring mold, removing bedroom doors, and even leaving behind abusive messages,” they said.

Towards the end of the meeting African Nova Scotian elder and frequent Nova Scotia Advocate contributor Raymond Shepherd dropped by and spoke a few words. 

Don’t be gullible, Shepherd cautioned, don’t be too quick to believe the promises of the three candidates who want to become our premier.

“Although we sometimes put our trust in politicians, many don’t deserve that trust and develop amnesia as soon as they’re elected. If you’re not going to do justice for the people of Nova Scotia, you should resign and put your head in the sand or, quite frankly, in some other orifice,” Shepherd said.

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