News

1. Hurricane relief

Premier Tim Houston (left) and Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr announced Fiona relief programs on September 26, 2022.

On Monday, Premier Tim Houston announced a number of Hurricane Fiona relief programs for Nova Scotians. Tim Bousquet was in on the conference and had details of those programs:

• $100 for every household that lost power for at least 48 hours to cover the cost of spoiled food
• $250 for every person that has to pay for tree or debris removal from their property
• an additional $250 on top of the existing $750 seniors care grant to help with storm repairs
• $150 to all current income assistance recipients, including Disability Support Program participants receiving income support
• $1,000 per household in emergency funding for people ordered out of their homes or who cannot return to their homes

There are other programs for businesses and community organizations.

I saw a number of people online saying they planned on donating their $100 for the loss of spoiled food to other Nova Scotians in greater need.

Click here to read Bousquet’s story. 

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2. Power failures

Workers on Woodlawn Road in Dartmouth after Fiona, on Monday, September 26, 2022. — Photo: Zane Woodford

There are still about 140,000 Nova Scotians without power, according to the Nova Scotia Power failure map.

Nova Scotia Power says as of noon on Monday, it had restored power to 230,000 Nova Scotians.

Schools across Nova Scotia are closed again today, too.

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3. No insurance for coastal flooding

Ocean waves swept through this home in Neil’s Harbour, Cape Breton leaving behind a layer of seafoam. Photo: Kate McKinnon

Clare O’Hara at the Globe and Mail has this story about how the lack of insurance for coastal flooding damage means that most of the costs for recovery will fall onto homeowners and disaster relief programs. Gunn writes:

The total cost of damages has yet to be determined but estimated losses could range between $300-million to $700-million of insurance claims, said Marcos Alvarez, the head of insurance of DBRS Morningstar. Hurricane Juan in 2003, the most expensive hurricane or wind event in Atlantic Canada in terms of insured losses, cost $192-million.

The wide range in estimates is a moving target that will depend on how many home and business policyholders purchased additional protection for weather-related damages, Mr. Alvarez said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

“A hurricane is not a frequent event for the Canadian East Coast so it really depends on what each individual insurance policy covers; so certain homeowners will not have purchased any type of flood coverage for their house because it is not typically something they are automatically provided upfront in a policy. And that is a problem,” Mr. Alvarez said.

In Port Aux Basques, NL, about 76 homes were damaged or completely destroyed in Hurricane Fiona. Homes in Cape Breton also suffered extensive damage.

As O’Hara reports, most residential insurance policies don’t offer coverage for flood damage. Amanda Dean, vice-president, Atlantic, for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said even if you can get an add-on for flood damages, that doesn’t mean there’s coverage for damage done by storm surges.

Insurance works by pulling together the premiums of many with similar risk profiles to pay a few customers with similar risk profiles. With coastal dwellings, only a small portion of customers share the same risk and therefore the pool is too small and the risk too high to make the coverage affordable.

Apparently, only The Co-operators Group Ltd offers insurance for storm surges, and it’s very expensive and limited in scope.

O’Hara writes:

Ms. Dean said the insurance industry has been working with the federal government to create a national insurance program for all overland flooding that offers protection to all Canadians.

“However, this plan is very much in its infancy and no one leading up to Fiona would have had storm-surge protection on their home insurance policy,” Ms. Dean said.

Mr. Stewart said taxpayers typically pay for disasters like Fiona through disaster financial assistance programs.

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4. Botswana, Bessie Head, and a Rolls Royce

Evelyn C. White’s Rolls Royce

“The Queen. In addition to the late British sovereign, the words remind me of the Royal Band that honoured Aretha Franklin by playing ”Respect,” her signature hit, outside of Buckingham Palace on the day the vocalist was laid to rest, in 2018,” writes Evelyn C. White.

“A salute from the Queen of England to the Queen of Soul,” a friend later said about the stirring tribute that can be found online.

As was Franklin and untold millions of other Black people, I’m a descendant of Africans who were forcibly removed from their homeland and held in bondage during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. British trading in “human cargo” began in the 1500s and flourished until 1834 when the barbaric practice was banned in most of the Empire’s colonies. Of course, the impact of enslavement continues to diminish the lives of Blacks throughout the African Diaspora.

I’ll leave debates about the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II and the future of King Charles III to others. As for me, I marked the end of the monarch’s 70-year reign by hanging the flag of Botswana in my backyard.

In 1957, Ghana became the first African nation to gain independence from Britain. Hence, I was delighted to visit the country — recently celebrated for its dancing pallbearers — during my first trip to the continent, in 1975.

White goes on to tell us about the work of Bessie Head, who fled to exile in Botswana in 1964. And how watching some of the coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II — “in small doses” — reminded her of a time she saw a young Black girl in the back seat of a Rolls Royce about 30 years ago.

White has such a lovely way of tying larger stories with her own memories and experiences.

Click here to read White’s story.

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5. Black Ice premiere

Black Ice premiere.

“The director of a documentary chronicling the experiences of Black Canadian hockey players said it wasn’t until he and his crew visited Nova Scotia that he was able to make the connection between today’s Black players and those of the former Maritime Colored Hockey League,” reports Matthew Byard.

“That was the throughline I actually thought was really interesting and I didn’t realize that at the time,”  Hubert Davis said during a Q&A following the screening of Black Ice at the FIN Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax. “I had assumed it was kinda a blip, but actually it was a lineage that has always existed.”

Black Ice, named after and based in part on the 2004 book Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895-1925, written by brothers Darril and George Fosty, is set to debut at the Calgary International Film Festival this week.

It premiered earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festival before screening at the FIN Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax.

Byard shared pieces of the stories Black hockey players shared in the film about their own experiences with racism, including in the NHL.

Click here to read Byard’s story.

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Views

Another emergency and the lowest paid workers become the heroes once again

The lineup at the McDonalds in Clayton Park is shorter than it was on the day after Hurricane Fiona hit Nova Scotia. Photo: Suzanne Rent

On Saturday morning, after Hurricane Fiona slammed the province, I headed out to see the damage around my neighbourhood and get some photos we can use here at the Examiner.

I went to the Clayton Park Shopping Centre, which seemed to be the only place with power in the entire Clayton Park and Fairview area. And the Tim Hortons and McDonald’s there were hopping with business. Each of the drive-throughs had lineups of cars. The traffic went out onto the street and backed up into nearby intersections. And dozens of people lined up at the doors of each restaurant.

Meanwhile, across the street at the Sobeys, people were already lining up to get in the store, which also had power.

In Monday’s Morning File, Tim Bousquet wrote about the same situation on Bedford Highway where cars lined up to get to the drive-through at the Tim Horton’s near Flamingo Drive.

Car lineup while waiting at the drive-thru at the Tim Hortons on Young Street in Halifax, Saturday, September 24, 2022. Photo: Tim Bousquet

I was thinking about those workers when I got home after taking a few photos — not of the lineups, sadly. They’re the workers too many people tell to get “real jobs.” They’re often the workers who are accused of not wanting to work anymore. And they’re the workers who customers don’t treat with kindness or respect.

These workers even helped us get ready for Hurricane Fiona. They stocked shelves with and rang in our storm chips. They worked at gas stations where we filled our car fuel tanks. They were at the hardware stores and Walmart where we went to buy flashlights, batteries, and other supplies to cover us for a few days without power.

And on Saturday morning, as many of us were just figuring out what havoc Fiona had wrought, these workers got out of bed and went to work because people apparently needed their double-doubles and Egg McMuffins just hours after a hurricane had its way with us. These workers, many of whom make minimum wage, and not much more, were the heroes in an emergency once again.

Sure, some of these workers had a day off because their workplaces didn’t have power. But those days off likely meant a day or two loss of pay from an already lean paycheque. They don’t have those protections of even sick days, let alone paid days off during a hurricane.

There are already articles and studies on how climate change and extreme weather events will affect workers in agriculture, manufacturing, and emergency response. These workers are at risk working in the heat and extreme weather or the heat inside of suffocating factories, all while facing dehydration, worsening work conditions, and so on.

But the workers in grocery stores, gas stations, and fast food places are at risk, too. They don’t have paid or sick leave, often don’t have reliable schedules, and often can’t afford to put cash into an emergency fund that may cover some of the lost days at work or any other emergency that might arise like getting their own emergency kits ready for their families.

During the the pandemic lockdowns, it was grocery store workers, fast food workers, gas station workers, who were keeping the province, and all of us, going. And they did it all while being exposed to a deadly virus and getting paid minimum wage.

Sure, they got some “hero” pay for a bit, but it was quickly snapped back from them as the world opened up again. Yet, the pandemic goes on, and these workers’ paycheques and working conditions didn’t get any better.

Author and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich died on September 1. She wrote Nickel and Dimed, On (Not) Getting By in America, after spending a year working low-paying jobs, including as a waitress, Walmart greeter, and maid. (Back in 2006, I remember reading Jan Wong’s series “Maid for a Month” about working as a maid in Toronto and being fascinated and infuriated by what she learned).

There were plenty of tributes to Ehrenreich after her death, but this clip from this 2005 documentary American’s Ruling Class written by Lewis Lapham stood out for me.  

Lapham plays himself, the editor of Harper’s Magazine, while Caton Burwell plays “Jack Bellami” a young Yale graduate exploring his career options. The two head to an IHOP where Ehrenreich is working as a waitress. Lapham had filled Bellami in about Ehrenreich’s work, and Ehrenreich explains to Jack about the millions of workers who are just barely getting by in America. “One of the very humbling things for me to learn is that there are no unskilled jobs,” she tells him. “All jobs take skill, and intelligence, and experience.”

Near the end of the clip, Jack said it was the wealthy who were the philanthropists giving away millions of their wealth to help others, to build affordable housing, and more. Here was Ehrenreich’s response:

Don’t tell me about philantropy, Jack. The real philanthropists in our society are the people who work for less than they actually can afford to live on because they are giving of their time, their energy, and their talents all the time so people like you can be dressed well, and fed cheaply, and so on. They’re giving to you.

The next extreme weather event will happen sooner than we’d like. And when it does, it will be those low wage philantropists who will be out there taking care of us. Now, what will we do to take care of them before that happens?

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Noticed

Are you being quietly fired from your job? Photo: Ron Lach/Pexels

In this Morning File from August, I wrote about “quiet quitting,” the new phenomenon among workers that’s not quitting at all, but rather just doing the job you were hired to do and no more. That piece included a bit on “quiet firing,” which involves giving workers more responsibilites for no more pay or time off and basically making life and work so miserable for workers they just quit instead of waiting around to be fired.

Well, last week Jennifer Keene with CBC’s Cost of Living did this bit on quiet firing, which is not a new phenomenon at all. Keene spoke with Maryann Kerr, who thought she landed her dream job as a vice-president at a non-profit, but a few months into the new gig, things started taking a turn for the worse. Kerr said on a day off, she got a call from the CEO, who “ripped into” her, yelled at her, and called her “honey.”

Nobody had ever spoken to me like that. Not in my personal life. Not in the worst argument I ever had, ever with anyone. I was just blown away.

While Kerr said she tried to make the situation better, it really only got worse. She was excluded from meetings, her coworkers wouldn’t respond to her emails, information was being withheld from her, and she was told her colleagues didn’t like her.

Kerr was being quietly fired.

Keene also interviewed Nita Chhinzer, an associate professor of human resources at the Department of Management at the University of Guelph. Chhinzer said quiet firing is quite common in Canada because our employment laws make it tough to actually fire someone, well, loudly.

We have to prove there was a fireable offence. And then we have to engage in a verbal warning and then a written warning. And then final termination with opportunities for improvement in between. So, generally firing an employee in Canada does take quite a bit of time.

Chhinzer said a common way employers quietly fire someone is they just ignore them: they don’t invite them to meetings or lunches, and overlook them for professional opportunities.

Quiet firing happens to low-wage workers, too, and usually just means the boss won’t put them on the schedule for shifts, so they have to go elsewhere to get work. In one extreme case, Keene said a company quietly fired a worker when it moved its entire office to a new location without telling one worker about it. The employee went to work into the old, empty office, but still refused to quit.

As I was listening to this, I was thinking that some people just really never leave junior high where friendships are often ended by just ignoring and isolating kids. But that’s too flippant because bullying in junior high and quietly firing as an adult are both serious business.

There is another term for quiet firing employees that may sound a bit more familiar: constructive dismissal. Emily Douglas at HRD Magazine has this article on quiet firing, and says  quiet firing is not just “bad HR,” but can even be considered constructive dismissal:

Essentially, quiet firing occurs when organizations fail to give employees constructive feedback or details on their career trajectory. Managers may decline salary requests, or forget to pass on information that employees need to succeed – leading to frustration, low morale, and even lawsuits.

“It’s effectively setting up employees for failure and creating a toxic work environment that they do not want to participate in so they will be enticed to leave,” Annie Rosencrans, Director of People & Culture at HiBob told HRD.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that this trend is a one-off. According to a recent LinkedIn poll, 48% of employees have witnessed a quiet firing, while 35% have been on the receiving end of one. But let’s not lay all the blame at HR’s door. Quiet firing isn’t wholly an HR issue – it’s a C-suite one. A passive approach to management means that team leaders often avoid ‘difficult’ conversations with their people. This not only leads to confusion and apprehension on the employee’s part, but it could be deemed ‘constructive dismissal’ in serious cases.

Kerr told Keene at Cost of Living that she did eventually get fired from her non-profit job for real. I hope she found a better job with an employer who treats her with respect. Kerr shared some advice on how to handle these situations better instead of using quiet firing:

If you had a respectful conversation with me and said, ‘you know what, this isn’t working out.’ And fire someone with courtesy, kindness, and respect instead of mistreating people for months on end. Wouldn’t that be nice.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Regional Centre Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — agenda

Province

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — appointments to agencies, boards, and commissions; agenda setting

Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place) — Rural Economic Recovery After COVID-19, with representatives from Develop nova Scotia, Department of Economic Development, and Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — 2022 Report of the Auditor General – Healthy Eating in Schools, with representatives from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and Nova Scotia Health


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Smooth Sailing or Stormy Seas: Tourism Makes a Comeback (Tuesday, 11am, online) — a panel will “explore the myriad issues in a sector returning from the precipice”

Wednesday

Novel Catalysts & Materials through Geometric Thinking (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Saurabh Chitnis will talk


In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Jacksonville, Florida
07:00: Norwegian Pearl, cruise ship with up to 2,873 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Quebec City, on a seven-day cruise from Quebec City to Boston (it has bypassed scheduled stops in Charlottetown and Sydney)
07:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
07:00: Vayenga Maersk, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Antwerp, Belgium
07:30: Star Pride, cruise ship with up to 343 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Quebec City, on a 25-day cruise from Reykjavik to Boston (it has bypassed scheduled stops in Gaspé, Magdalen Islands, and Sydney)
08:30: Voyager of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,099 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston
09:30: James Cook, research/survey vessel, arrives at BIO from Vigo, Spain
11:30: Vayenga Maersk sails for sea
13:00: Don Carlos, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
13:00: Augusta Luna, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Bilboa, Spain
13:30: LÉ James Joyce, Irish naval patrol vessel, sails from Dockyard for sea
14:00: MSC Lucy, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
16:30: Norwegian Pearl sails for Portland
18:00: Algoma Integrity moves to Gold Bond
20:00: Voyager of the Seas sails for Saint John
22:30: Star Pride sails for Lunenburg
23:00: Tropic Hope sails for Palm Beach, Florida

Cape Breton
16:00: Front Savannah, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
17:00: Front Seoul, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from Greater Plutonio offshore terminal, Angola
18:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Sept-Iles, Quebec


Footnotes

On Saturday night, my kid and I sat in the dark and played Eye Spy with flashlights and made really bad shadow puppets on the wall. We lit some candles and ate some snacks. I joked that it felt like Christmas Eve. We got power back after 41 hours.


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Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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6 Comments

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  1. Thanks for the great items on low-wage hero/philanthropists and quiet firing. Talk about bonus content!

    BTW The best investigation of workers as philanthropists is, of course, Robert Tressell’s brilliant and heart-rending book Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

  2. Quiet firing is not a new thing, but I didn’t have a name for it when it happened to me. It was in 1980, and the method was unusual. I had taken a job at a plant several miles from the city, only because management had promised to find me a drive to and from work. That worked well for almost two years, until the new boss arrived. He was a former Irving executive, and he expected the same blind fawning obedience expected from Irving employees. I openly disagreed with him on an HR matter, and I had to go. So, he made sure I no longer had a reliable drive. It worked. As a single mother who couldn’t afford a car, I had to find another job.

  3. Constructive Dismissal has been around for a long time. It is an awful thing to do to people.

    That said, I don’t see the point of giving it a new name.

  4. If HRM wants to be seen as taking climate change seriously, why has it not banned drive-thrus? They serve no purpose other than to cater to laziness, and it’s not as if Tim Horton’s, McDonalds etc. would leave this market if they were banned. They would just have to adapt as we all should.

  5. The problem of low wage philanthropy is easy to solve technically and seemingly impossible to solve culturally. People get confused about where the roadblock is, and that makes it much harder to solve.