Public housing

DR. DENNIS CURRY: The shortage of public housing for seniors in Nova Scotia is a permanent disgrace

DR. DENNIS CURRY • Guest review

Dr. Dennis E. Curry is a political commentator and resident physician in psychiatry. He practices in Ontario. He received his MD from Dalhousie University in 2021. Subscribe to his newsletter at

Nova Scotia is no stranger to change, and last year’s out-of-the-box majority mandate for Premier Tim Houston is a powerful example of election surprise.

Health care has been struggling in Nova Scotia for a long time, but the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, determined to make a dent in the stubborn mess of staff retention and access to basic services, ran on change and is now trying to improve accountability.

The recent launch of the province’s Action for Health website is a vivid example of a premier and government thinking outside the box and trying to do things differently. It’s hard to think of a greater need than transparency in Nova Scotia’s health care system, given the disastrous decision-making under the unfocused and unserious McNeil Liberals.

The latter have often been praised for their COVID response. But that applause was still cheap, given the geographic advantages that somewhat insulated Nova Scotia from the harsher realities of the pandemic, the exceptional work of the frontline staff who supported the province, and the leadership of its impressive doctor. chief hygienist, Dr. Robert Strange.

Under Houston, the government has had the opportunity to strut its stuff on health care, and although it is still in its infancy, the introduction of the accountability website, attempts to improve retention of doctors and medical professionals and strategic investments in new mental health care all point to a serious government trying to keep serious promises.

Despite the cause of hope, there is still a lot of work to be done. The plight of Nova Scotian seniors waiting for public housing is a topic that has come to the fore recently following a devastating report by the Auditor General. According to data shared with the Legislature’s Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday, the number of seniors waiting for housing has reached a staggering 3,000. Recent trends show that their ranks are growing and, surprisingly, they represent almost half of all Nova Scotians on the waiting list.

It’s hard to imagine worse optics for Houston’s fledgling administration that seems so nimble and well-meaning in other areas of governance. Who exactly are these types of explanations for? The toddlers?

The remarks of the provincial Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul LaFleche, may not surprise those who are tired of government inaction in Nova Scotia.

Acknowledging that the government had little information about the public housing it owns, LaFleche tried to calm the brewing media storm by estimating that only about half of those on the waiting list were genuine emergency room.

The catalyst of the crisis? Well, that all sounds typically bureaucratic, laden with excuses and empty. The contributing factors, officials say, are the need for legislation, more time and, incredibly, better analysis to understand the true nature of the waitlist.

It’s hard to imagine worse optics for Houston’s fledgling administration that seems so nimble and well-meaning in other areas of governance. Who exactly are these types of explanations for? The toddlers? It seems those who sleep behind the wheel at Province House assume we sleep too.

First, if the waiting list and the waste are related to the need for legislation, then pass legislation. Houston PCs were catapulted to a majority government less than a year ago and he is the nation’s most popular prime minister. He could easily pass any reasonable legislation.

It’s also hard to follow the logic here.

How is it that the Deputy Minister on the one hand is able to sort through and estimate how many of these applicants are actually in need of emergency housing, and on the other hand uses the excuse that the crisis stems from a need to understand the nature of the waiting list?

Nonsense, and any thoughtful person knows that.

At a time when we know more and more about the devastation associated with the health problems of the elderly, as well as the related problems of loneliness and isolation, not fighting for the elderly months ago on this question was a mistake for the government.

At a time when other nations have literally appointed “ministers of loneliness,” the situation in Nova Scotia is nothing more than a disgrace and a black eye.

In his scathing critique of the situation, Suzy Hansen, NDP Housing Critic adventure :

“You run a housing company; how not to know when someone moves? How not to know when to renovate it? Like, these are all major elements of why we’re slowing down units and why we don’t have units for people.

Hansen is right, and the Progressive Conservatives in Houston would do well to act faster on this issue, before it slips out of reach, practically and politically.