On June 9, 2009 Howard joined 30 other elected New Democrats to form the first NDP government in Nova Scotia history.
Howard is the son of the late Dr. Ray Epstein and the late Leah Epstein. He has two sisters, Linda and Ruth. He resides in Halifax Chebucto with his partner Mary and has two children, Hannah and Noah.
A native of Halifax, Howard attended Tower Road School, Halifax Grammar School and Queen Elizabeth High School. He has a BA (Carleton University, English Lit.) and a Law degree from Dalhousie Law School (1973). In his private practice, Howard specialized in labour law, municipal and planning law, and environmental law.
Howard was the Executive Director of the Ecology Action Centre from 1991-1994. In that role he represented the EAC in such matters as a proposed PCB incinerator, energy reduction programmes proposed by Nova Scotia Power Corp., HRM’s solid waste plans, the development of the Sable Offshore gas project, and Halifax Habour clean-up. He is a well-known environmentalist and while on HRM Council, he initiated the process that resulted in a pesticide control by-law.
He was first elected to Halifax City Council in 1994 and then elected to the amalgamated Halifax Regional Municipality Council in 1995. He was twice voted Best Municipal Councillor by the readers of The Coast newspaper.
Howard has always been active in community affairs. He has been an active member of many community organizations such as Friends of the Public Gardens, the North End Community Health Centre, St. Joseph’s Children’s Centre, Friends of Point Pleasant Park, Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, Harbour City Homes and Greenpeace Canada.
Howard enjoys gardening and reading in his spare time and has always been a strong supporter of the Arts community in Nova Scotia, attending live theatre, exhibits and concerts.
In January of 2013 Howard formally announced that he will not re-offer in the next provincial election.
Howard’s Legal and Political Interests
There are a variety of links in our Community Connections section on each of the following topics.
The transformation of all sectors of the economy to a basis that respects the carrying capacity of the Earth is a basic, and an urgent priority. Threats to drinking water safety, air quality, and to climate are already a reality even in as wealthy a society as is Canada’s. For 30 years, Howard has been a supporter of environmental organizations.
Globalization is now a basic economic fact. Unfortunately many international treaties tend to be designed primarily for the convenience of large multi-national corporations, and less for the protection of citizens and their communities. They give a secondary place to protection of human rights, advancement of workplace health and safety, or the environment. Fortunately there is a growing worldwide critique and an alternative agenda that is emerging.
Traditional economic questions about prices, employment and government budgeting tend to hide underlying serious problems of sustainability and inequality. All economic and natural systems are interconnected. A new generation of economists and ecologists have written about ways to change agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, energy production, the fishery, and the design of communities. Among these are Hazel Henderson, Herman Daly and John B. Cobb, Paul Hawken, Wayne Roberts, and William Rees, E. F. Schumacher, Michael Jacobs, David W. Pearce.
As a former municipal councillor, Howard follows local government issues closely. He believes there is significant potential for real change in how we live our lives through the design of communities, and how services are delivered. Municipalities deal with water quality, transportation, sewage, solid waste, and zoning. All of these can be approached in ways that promote sustainability, though all too often this is not the approach of local municipal councils.
The Single Mitten Collection
Howard has been collecting single lost mittens for many years. He now has more than 1,000 mittens in his collection. These colourful mittens are hung on Howard’s clothes line to add some life to the often dreary, grey winter.
He was interviewed by Shelagh Rogers, host of CBC Radio’s Sounds Like Canada in 2005 and received many letters, cards and emails in response to the show.
As part of a Veith Street Gallery program called “Lost Kittens in Mittens,” local artists created cardboard kittens which were inserted in mittens and distributed around the city. Howard contributed a significant number of mittens to the effort. For those lucky enough to find one, there was an invite to the gallery and a discount offered on the artists’ works. The CBC Radio One program Mainstreet covered the story and again featured Howard as a collector of mittens.
Land Use & Land Use Planning Law
Howard teaches Land Use & Land Use Planning Law at Dalhousie University, where he is Adjunct Professor. This course is one of the Law School’s specialization offerings in Marine and Environmental Law and thus is an option for second or third year Law students. It is also a mandatory course for students enrolled in the Master’s degree programme in Urban and Rural Planning.
The course is not confined to municipal regulation of land use, but recognizes the roles of the Federal and Provincial governments as well as private law remedies. At the same time, the municipal devices of an Official Plan combined with a Zoning By-law form the core of the course. Starting with the Constitutional Law aspects of land use, it moves through private law remedies, analysis of typical ‘Planning Act’ or equivalent statutes, takes a detailed look at the courts’ approach to Plans and by-laws, and if time allows, considers sustainability issues in planning law.