A must-read weekly review of the policy news, issues and events that are driving change in Atlantic Canada

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PPF: Atlantic Momentum Newsletter

PPF’s Atlantic Canada Momentum Index offers proof that the region is on the upswing, outpacing the rest of the country in several key economic indicators. Each week, this newsletter looks at factors either driving or impeding that momentum. Here’s everything you need to know:

Housing cash, strings attached

The federal government continues to pour money into housing, last week announcing a new $6-billion Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund for building and upgrading the water, stormwater and solid waste infrastructure cities need to expand. Of that, $1 billion will go directly to “urgent infrastructure” required for shovel-ready projects, with $5 billion to be doled out to provinces and territories over an as-yet-undefined period of time.

Provinces have until next January to secure agreements with Ottawa, and must meet certain requirements. They must commit to more “missing middle” homes — triplexes and fourplexes, and multi-unit buildings — and freeze development fees for three years in cities with more than 300,000 people. If they don’t reach agreements, the money will flow directly to municipalities.

Which put some noses out of joint. Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters that municipalities have, and should have, the right to decide what gets built where. They would “lose their minds” and “wouldn’t stop screaming” if the province decreed fourplexes were permitted everywhere. New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs took issue with the federal government’s divide-and-conquer strategy: “I think it’s unfortunate for them right out front to put a condition, ‘Well if you don’t agree, we’ll go direct to municipalities.’ I think that’s kind of an unfair statement for them to make.”

The Atlantic premiers had similar objections to the federal government’s $4-billion Housing Accelerator Fund, increased by another $400 million last week, but municipalities in the region have been quite happy to take the money.

The federal government also announced a $15-billion top-up last week to its Apartment Construction Loan Program (ACLP), bringing it to $55 billion. It too has strings attached. Provinces will need to commit to building on government, non-profit, community-owned and vacant lands and to streamlining approval processes to no more than 12 to 18 months. If the provinces don’t like the conditions, they can expect to be end-run on it too. “If a province decides it doesn’t want to be ambitious on housing, that’s their decision,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “We will work with the municipalities within that province that are ambitious.”

LISTEN: On the podcast WONK, Halifax mayor Mike Savage talks about housing and the challenges of managing a growing city.

Big developments

Developers in Nova Scotia are certainly getting ambitious; last week saw two massive projects unveiled. In Bible Hill, outside Truro, Five Corners Properties has pitched a $1-billion project that would see 3,000 homes built over the next 10 years. It would triple the size of the village and be the largest property development undertaken outside the Halifax Regional Municipality. It’s based on a 2007 master plan for the area that had never proceeded. Former cannabis entrepreneur Evan Price, now CEO of Five Corners, says they’re “picking up on a 16-year-old idea that’s 30 years overdue.”

The company has submitted its proposal to the Municipality of Colchester, which has asked for more information but seems positively disposed to the idea.

In Halifax, development company Banc Group wants to build 5,867 housing units on the Exhibition Centre property west of the city, along with 45,000 square feet of commercial space and a public park. The development will include a number of high-rise towers ranging from eight to 18 storeys as well as townhomes and stacked townhouses — but no detached, single-family homes. Besim Halef, CEO of Banc Group, bought the land sight-unseen in 2016 for $2.5 million, which given the centre’s ageing buildings and the fact the city had built a convention centre downtown may have been a fair price. It looks like a bargain now. His son Alex Halef, meanwhile, is leading his own proposal to build 6,216 housing units, mostly in high rises, over the next 10-12 years in Bedford Commons.

Everwind hits a hydrogen milestone

Everwind Fuels announced completion last week of design and engineering work for its green hydrogen plant in Port Tupper, on the Canso Strait. It’s the first North American green hydrogen project to hit this milestone.

The plant will produce green hydrogen which will be converted to ammonia and shipped to Europe to be converted back. The massive amounts of electricity required will come from three wind farms Everwind is planning in partnership with the Membertou, Paqtnkek and Potlotek First Nations, along with Renewable Energy Systems Canada. Some of the power will go back to the province as part of Nova Scotia Power’s plan to decarbonize the electrical grid. Membertou Chief Terry Paul called the announcement “the beginning of an exciting journey towards a cleaner, brighter tomorrow.”

Everwind is working to finalize its supply agreement with Nova Scotia Power and to convert Memorandums of Understanding with two German utilities into firm purchase agreements for the ammonia.

“We’re driving as hard as we can,” said Everwind CEO Trent Vichie. He expressed confidence construction would begin this year. The $2.3-billion project is expected to create 11,000 full-time equivalent jobs during the construction phase, half of them in Nova Scotia. The company has plans for a second green hydrogen/ammonia facility on Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula.

“This is a chance for Atlantic Canada to step up and take a lead in a sector that is going to be critical going forward,” Vichie said. “In the global economy, access to green power will be critical to manufacturing, industry and business. What we are doing here is unlocking the start of that.”

Hydro pressure

Bad weather has caused more headaches for the Labrador-Island link that carries electricity from the massive Muskrat Falls hydro development. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said last week the link had been offline for a week due to damage to a four-kilometre stretch of power lines caused by a late March ice storm. Repairs are expected to take another week or two, and in the meantime current generating capacity is meeting demand. Snow and ice have already caused problems for the link, necessitating a four-year, $28-million project to replace turnbuckles on hydro towers, which have trouble when the lines start to bounce or “gallop” due to wind and ice.

The need for more power, and more connectivity, became clearer last week when Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro released a long-term demand analysis. It predicted electricity demand would grow by 14 percent on the island by 2034, an increase equal to about 40 percent of Muskrat Falls’ generation last year.

Population growth and the increased electrification of transportation, industry and home heating were all cited as reasons for the jump. The utility urged new generating capacity be approved “in a timely manner to maintain a reliable electricity system.” It’s currently studying options, including a new diesel-fired turbine at the Holyrood power station and another power unit at the Bay D’Espoir hydroelectric dam. Electricity demand growth for Labrador is expected to grow only modestly — unless all major mining projects being proposed by Rio Tinto-IOC and Tacora Resources move forward, in which case demand could grow by 173 percent in the next 10 years.

The end of the line

A rail link across Cape Breton, quiet since 2015 and slowly being overgrown with shrubs and bushes, looks like it will finally fade away. Nova Scotia announced last week it was ending a subsidy for the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway. It’s put $18.3 million into the rail line since 2003, including subsidies of $30,000 to $60,000 per month since the last car rattled down its tracks, all in hopes its owners — or someone — would step up and revive it.

Genesee & Wyoming, the U.S. railway company that owns the line, said back in 2015 there was not enough business to keep it going. CN Rail has since bought a stake in Genesee & Wyoming, rekindling hopes, but it has reportedly told Susan Corkum-Greek, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Economic Development, that it was focusing investment elsewhere. For a time, it looked like a planned container port in Sydney Harbour, which would need rail service, might be its salvation. But Novaporte, the company behind the plan, is now focused on building a marshaling yard to import parts for large offshore wind turbines, which are moved strictly by ocean-going vessels. Construction is expected to start this year.

Local MLAs and the mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality were annoyed at the news. But the minister said it would take $500 million to revive a rail line that’s crumbling away. It’s “a cow path,” she said. Rail service might someday return to the island, she added, “but it is going to take a business plan identified by the private sector to do so,” she said.

Save the date: PPF Frank McKenna Awards 2024 celebrates leaders making Canada and the Atlantic region richer through their ingenuity and initiative. This year’s event will take place on Oct. 10 at Pier 21 in Halifax. Register now and stay tuned for announcements about our 2024 honourees.


Two weeks after protests by harvesters led the Newfoundland and Labrador government to restructure the fishing industry, the snow crab fishery — the world’s biggest and the province’s most lucrative — failed to launch as planned this week.

Harvesters threatened last week to keep their boats tied up, and the industry shut down, when the season starts. (In most areas, it was to begin Saturday.) They were unhappy with the price for snow crab established by the province’s Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel. The panel takes in two pricing proposals, one from the Association for Seafood Processors (ASP), which represents fish plant owners, and one from the Fish, Food & Allied Workers (FFAW) union, which represents harvesters and plant workers. It then picks one of the two. This year it took the ASP’s proposed floor price of $2.60 per pound. That’s up from last year’s $2.20 — which itself prompted a six-week tie-up — but short of the union’s $3 per pound.

It was a setback for the union, whose protests two weeks ago led the province to meet two of its key demands: to throw open the market to out-of-province buyers — eight of whom have applied for a buyer’s licence — and to increase processing limits. FFAW president Greg Pretty was resolute: “This injustice must be corrected, and we expect that harvesters will support leadership’s position to not fish.”

The ASP said their proposal included a formula to raise the price as market prices went up, as they expect will happen, and expressed disappointment. “We’re very worried about the situation unfolding as it is, with a select group of harvesters deciding what the future of rural Newfoundland is going to look like,” said Jeff Loder, executive director of the ASP. By which he meant the jobs of fish plant workers in rural areas, who are indeed concerned.

“We’re all worrying,” said Doretta Strickland, who has worked at a plant in Triton for 40 years and is present of the FFAW local. “We’ve got to worry. We’ve got families. We’ve got bills.” Last year’s delay meant some workers couldn’t get enough weeks to qualify for full employment insurance benefits, and some have seen benefits run out weeks ago, she said. “We can’t be against fish harvesters either for doing what they have to do to survive,” she said. “We have to stick together, but sometimes it’s hard to do that.”

On the horizon


  • April 10, Building permits (February)
  • April 12, Home Price Index (March)
  • April 15, Housing starts (March)
  • April 16, Federal Budget 2024 (released at 4pm)
  • April 30, GDP (February)


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This newsletter is produced by journalists at PPF Media. It maintains complete editorial independence.