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April 20, 2018

The Arms of Nova Scotia - Now and Then

The way ahead for Nova Scotia involves fundamental changes.


                1625                                                 2018

I like heraldry, but it isn't a forward-looking exercise.

In 1625 heraldry the unicorn was the symbol of Scotland. The unicorn was chosen because it was seen as a proud and haughty beast which would rather die than submit, just as Scots would fight to remain sovereign and unconquered.

Just what the First Person is doing is unclear, but his hand is clasped by a mailed fist above.  Military symbols abound - an arrow, a chain, a helmet.

The motto is MUNIT HAEC ET ALTERA VINCIT; One defends and the other conquers.  It expresses a top down, antagonistic, great-chain-of-being world view that just won't work in the 21st century.

In 2018, people are leaving.  Old ways of thinking - witness the Convention Center - lead down the path of financial ruin.  Ditto the model of social support endorsed by the Department of Community Services.  We need to reward participation, economic success and education.  Instead, we encourage dependency, poverty and isolation.

Not many people get this.  In his welcoming address to the Accessibility Advisory Board, Justice Minister Mark Furey said "We will expand accessibility in employment, education and the delivery of consumer services and programs.........Our partnership will help create a more accommodating and compassionate province."

What he meant to say is "We need people, ideas, customers, entrepreneurs, team members, immigrants and fairness.  Compassion won't get us where we need to be.  Now, make it happen!"

Some of the smartest Nova Scotians I know are on the Access Advisory Board.  They can get us to where we need to be if we embrace their vision.  They don't need compassion, they need our attention.

March 30, 2018

James McGregor Stewart Award 2018 Open for Nominations

The James McGregor Stewart Society is pleased to announce the opening of nominations for its 2018 award. The official description of the award follows. I can think of dozens of folks who deserve serious consideration, and I bet you can too. Please nominate people who have worked so hard for themselves and their community. The deadline for nominations is April 

An award to recognize outstanding contributions of individuals living with a disability

The purpose of this fund is to provide an award recognizing high achievement by a Nova Scotian with a disability. It honors the accomplishments of Mr. James McGregor Stewart who overcame many barriers, despite a reliance on crutches throughout his life as a result of childhood polio. First in his class at Dalhousie Law School in 1914, he was also President of the Students’ Council. He was shortlisted for the Rhodes Scholarship but was not successful, in part due to concerns expressed about his physical disability by the Dalhousie University Senate. Nevertheless, Stewart went on to head a Halifax law firm that became the present day Stewart McKelvey. He was Chairman of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors. In 2000, Canadian Lawyer magazine named him as one of Canada’s ten greatest lawyers. This Fund was established by a friend of the James McGregor Stewart Society and donations by The Maple Tree Fund to recognize Nova Scotians living with a disability for their leadership, personal accomplishment or effective advocacy.


Nominations are accepted for residents of Nova Scotia with disabilities.

Selection Criteria 

Nominees will be evaluated for determination and achievement in conquering personal or externally imposed boundaries, with emphasis on leadership, personal excellence and advocacy.

Award Frequency and Value

The one-thousand dollar Award will be presented annually on June 30th, (probably a day or two earlier this year) the anniversary of the birth date of James McGregor Stewart.

Past winners

2015 Sarah Dube
2016 Clary Stubbert
2017 Gerry Post

You can easily make an online nomination here

-Gus Reed

James McGregor Stewart Society
(902) 482 4017

March 25, 2018

The more you need, the less you get

In Canada, you can be “officially” disabled by applying for and receiving a nonrefundable Disability Tax Credit (DTC).  Not a deduction or an exemption, but a credit against the amount of tax owed.  The purpose of the DTC is to provide for greater tax equity by allowing some relief for disability costs, since these are unavoidable additional expenses that other taxpayers don’t have to face.  

For 2017, Canada Revenue allowed 765,072 claims totaling $ 1,310,660,890.  

The DTC is worth around $8,113 with a supplement of $4733 available for dependent children under 18.  Sounds promising.  

But the average allowed claim was just $1713.12.  That's because you need the tax liability to offset the DTC, meaning that the more you earn, the more you benefit.

If you are in a minimum wage job - $10.70 x 2000 hrs = $21,400, your income tax will be about $2,424 and you can claim a DTC of $2,424.  You will need twice the income, $42,000, to get the full benefit.  

This is totally upside-down.  Those that need the benefit most receive least.  For those on social assistance - getting around $1,000 a month - it's entirely moot because social assistance is not taxable.  So if your income is entirely social assistance, there's no reason to file for a DTC and you get no credit. 

This is a concern not only because people are missing out on the credit itself but also because eligibility to the DTC – which is not automatic – is a gateway to other important and more valuable benefits such as the Child Disability Benefit and Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP).

I attended a meeting the other day where people enumerated the difficulties of being poor and disabled -  access to employment transportation and medical care chief among them.  Now I learn that this government program does exactly the opposite of what is desired.  I'm beginning to think government programs are the main problem.

I'm not a tax expert, but the obvious solution is to make this a refundable tax credit.  Sort of a guaranteed income, but only for people medically certified for a DTC.  The minimum wage earner gets a refund of $5689 ($8,113 - $2,424), the social assistance recipient gets a refund of $8,113.  The middle income earner gets a refund of up to $8,113 of withholding.

A more complicated but perhaps more complete approach (and palatable to the private sector) would be to allow syndication of the credits.  A private investor would buy the unused credit from the taxpayer.  The tax credits can only be applied in certain situations:

  • low-income housing
  • investment in rural communties
  • making historic properties accessible

The taxpayer with a certified disability gets the money, and society gets socially beneficial programs.


University of Calgary paper in January 2018 estimates the uptake on the DTC is around 40% - low because the program is not well known, the rules are complex and it requires a medical opinion.  765,072 is 40% of 1,912,680 - a vastly different number than 3,775,910 Canadians with disabilities reported by Statscan in 2012.  That's around 5% of the population.  In Nova Scotia it's 50,000 people.

To be eligible for the DTC, an individual must have a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions, as defined in the Income Tax Act and as certified by a medical practitioner. Eligibility is not based on a diagnosis, but rather on the effects of the impairment on the ability to perform the basic activities of daily living (as described in the Income Tax Folio S1-F1-C2, Disability Tax Credit). 

Ontario is experimenting with a guaranteed income.