News

1. Report: Canadians plan to avoid restaurants ‘for the foreseeable future’

A recent survey shows 52% of its respondents will be avoiding dining in at restaurants for “the foreseeable future.” Yvette d’Entremont spoke with Sylvain Charlebois, a Dalhousie University professor and the lead author on the survey from Dalhousie University and Angus Reid. Says Charlebois:

I think a lot of people are envisioning their next (restaurant) visit and they’re thinking about how far apart they can be with other people. In some places let’s face it, it’s almost impossible.

And so, they probably are not going there, at least for a little while, because physically they just can’t see themselves being far enough apart from other patrons.

Twenty-six per cent of Canadian respondents intend to avoid restaurants because of the physical layout. Ten per cent said they’ll avoid them based on their reputation for food safety. Another 22% said they’ll avoid restaurants for an undisclosed reason.

Charlebois says restaurants that offer buffets or shared menu items may suffer more.

I think a lot of people will pass on those for a while, in fact probably for a very long time. We saw that with SARS back in 2003, especially in Ontario, they struggled for a while.

But this pandemic is global and affected everyone almost the same way, and so I suspect that people everywhere will be a little bit more cautious about their choices and what establishments they want to visit.

Read the full story here.

2. Gunning for change: Doctors in the gun control debate in Canada

Roadside memorial for Lillian Hyslop on Hwy 4 in Wentworth, who was one of 22 victims of the mass shooting of April 18 and 19, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter talks with doctors about the gun control debate, including Dr. Rod Wilson, who says the mass shootings in April reminded him of a murder-suicide early in his career as a first responder, but also the 1989 Montreal massacre at École Polytechnique. Wilson tells Baxter he reached out to Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG) and says he liked their approach:

It was doctors speaking to evidence that would support changes. And I had respect for Dr. Ahmed in Toronto who was kind of standing alone. I also thought that it was being portrayed as a big-city-doctor issue. And really, gun safety is not just a big city issue. It’s a national issue. And growing up in a small community in eastern Ontario and working in small communities, I also thought that it was being portrayed in the media as just downtown big-city doctors not understanding the world. Really, they do understand the real world.

What I was thinking was how could I help colleagues who were providing evidence to suggest there were options? And again, why would we not try in Canada [what other countries had done] and had success through [gun control] legislation? And how could I help support [efforts to show] that gun violence is not limited to Toronto? Unfortunately, we were brutally reminded in April it is a rural issue as well, something we knew.

Baxter also talks with Dr. Michael Ackermann, a family physician and emergency doctor in Sherbrooke, on the Eastern Shore. Ackermann tells Baxter the only weapons that should be prohibited are machine guns and artillery pieces. Ackerman gave the Examiner his “Firearms Résumé” that shows he is a qualified Civilian Range Safety Officer in Nova Scotia, and an instructor for the Nova Scotia Hunter Safety Course. He says Canadians should be permitted to have a gun for personal defense.

We law-abiding gun owners are all of us very concerned with safety, of course, but we’re also very concerned with basic human rights. And the most fundamental human right is your right to life, right? We all have the right to life. And that right to life can only be assured if that life can be defended against events, animals or people that would harm you. This is where the American mindset and the Canadian mindset differ. The Americans believe that there’s nobody else with you at your moment of peril than you. Therefore, you are your only first defender, your first responder, and you better have the training and tools to allow yourself to carry out that role. This is a view I personally share. Most Canadians don’t share that view. Most Canadians are willing to abdicate that responsibility to the police. Maybe they watch too many police shows. But I can tell you in Canada, the police will not be there in time for you, as absolutely proven by the events of mid-April here in Nova Scotia … So you better have a plan to make yourself safe, OK?

You really need to read this entire story. It was tough to get past Ackermann’s idea that kids in elementary school should have training in the basic functioning, fundamentals, and history of firearms. Read it all here.

3. How Halifax got its hands on 100,000 N95-equivalent masks as the pandemic hit Nova Scotia

A 3M N95 mask. Photo: Unsplash

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.

Zane Woodford reports on how the city got 100,000 N95 masks just as Nova Scotia had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. The masks were sourced through Nichent Energy Inc., a lighting company based in Bedford. Says Terry Klironomos, Nichent president:

These were COVID supplies, they were masks deemed necessary to keep their necessary staff in working order. I was the only one that was able to fulfill that at the time with my logistical channels in China. They reached out to me and I was able to fulfill what they needed.

Woodford found the purchase orders in a summary of awarded contracts that goes to council on a quarterly basis and which was published online Friday.

Read the full story here.

4. Dangerous Pitbull on the loose, but RCMP doesn’t say much more

This morning, the Nova Scotia RCMP tweeted out this about a dangerous pitbull:

THEN, they tweeted out this:

Then Blair Rhodes at CBC tweeted this:

The Nova Scotia RCMP really needs to reconsider how it uses Twitter in its communications.

Update, 10:15am:

5. HRP “open” to idea of body cameras

Photo: Halifax Examiner

With more than 100,000 signatures on an online petition calling for officers with the Halifax Regional Police to wear body cameras, plus protests around the world, local leaders and police are reviewing the idea, according to a report from Noushin Ziafati with The Chronicle Herald.

HRP public information officer Cst. John MacLeod tells Ziafati police will look at the value and use of cameras.

We have looked into these body-worn cameras in the past and … we didn’t feel it was going to bring the necessary results, so we didn’t move forward with it at that time.

Certainly our chief is aware of the interest in them again and, as always, if there’s a tool that will help build confidence with the public, we’re certainly open to that.

Mayor Mike Savage says the city should be considering body cameras.

If it’s something that is going to build trust between police and the populations that they serve, then I think it’s something that we certainly need to look at. And if it’s just a matter of money, then I’m hopeful that we will find the money.

Erin Johnson, who started the online petition, says she will take the petition to council and police later this week, telling Ziafati she hopes both will take the issue seriously.

6. Province looks to reconcile COVID-19 data

Dr. Robert Strang speaks at the Friday, June 5 COVID-19 update. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

While the province didn’t report any new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths, it has said it’s working to reconcile its data that has been confusing over the last few months.

Numbers coming from the province haven’t always matched those coming from Northwood. As CTV reports, the province reported one new case on Sunday, with a total of 1,059 confirmed cases, 61 deaths and 999 recoveries, which would result in -1 active cases.

Chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang says data has come from different sources and different reporting periods. CTV reports that in a news release from Monday, “data sources are being reconciled and consolidated to ensure all publicly reported data comes from a single source, Panorama, the province’s public health reporting system. Updated data will be reported this week.”

7. Advocates: COVID-19 shows universal childcare possible

Michael Gorman at CBC speaks with childcare advocates who say the COVID-19 crisis proved universal childcare for working parents is possible and necessary. Gorman reports that while daycares were closed in March, the province covered providers’ bills and has spent $21 million to pay parents’ fees. The province will continue to cover those fees until Sept. 1 or when a child goes back to daycare.

Miia Suokonautio is the executive director of the YWCA. Photo: Contributed

YWCA executive director Miia Suokonautio tells Gorman public education and free dental checks for children are seen as a given, “and yet if you lived in another jurisdiction that didn’t have those things, we’d perceive it as extraordinary. And so for me, I feel like there are jurisdictions that don’t require the type of fees for child care that we do.”

Jewell Mitchell, executive director of the Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Educators, tells Gorman universal access to childcare would lead to the public education system.

If we want to build our economy, if we want it to come back and be stronger and even more resilient in the future, then you build in those first five years and you make sure that the whole infrastructure around care and learning for our children until they reach their adulthood is taken care of and is secure and is equitable and accessible for all citizens.

Read the full story here.


Views

1. The lessons of bad bosses and toxic workplaces

Lisa Cameron is giving a talk about her experience with bad bosses and toxic workplaces. Photo: Lisa Cameron

Lisa Cameron has had several bad bosses and she’s going to tell you all about them in a talk on June 17th* with Equity Watch. I talked with Cameron on Monday about her bad bosses and some of the lessons she’s learned.

When she was 21, Cameron says her first toxic workplace was working under-the-table for a flower vendor at a farmers’ market in Kingston, Ontario. Cameron says the boss was invasive, asking questions about her health and physical strength, and she would send her home on days she was menstruating because she thought Cameron would be too physically weak to work.

Even at that age, with little experience, I knew that was a human rights violation. I think that was the first really toxic workplace I had.

She was hired at a restaurant where she says the boss was known to be “creepy” with the female servers. She says on her first day on the job, the boss walked in and pushed the server who was training Cameron against the wall, grabbed her behind, and said, “Just so you know, I can grab my waitresses whenever I want.”

She also worked in low-paying retail jobs where shifts would often be cancelled last minute.

That’s very hard to budget. It’s keeping you from finding other work because you have this obligation. How are you supposed to budget if you’re not earning the money you’re supposed to earn?

There are these misconceptions that minimum-wage work is entry-level work and there’s this trajectory that minimum-wage work is for university and high school students and this will give them the experience they need to excel later on professionally, or this is character building. And I think what confronted me when I got my third minimum-wage-paying job the reality was quite different than that. People were sustaining families on minimum-wage work, sometimes two, three, or four minimum-wage-paying jobs at a time. It was a harsh reality that confronted me and it was quite different than the stories I heard.

It was her first job working in an office that led her to labour activism. At that job, she says she finally felt like she had freedom from abusive minimum-wage-paying jobs. She had heard this boss was abusive, but she says she was happy to be earning more than minimum wage. There was also an in-house human resources department. But she eventually learned women were being paid significantly less than the men. When women talked about getting raises, Cameron says they were offered items like ice cream bars instead. At one point, Cameron needed two weeks off for urgent surgery. Her bosses asked her to provide three separate medical notes to explain the planned absence. When she returned from the surgery, she wrote a letter explaining why it was important the company adopt policies on how it treated its workers. After that, she says she was bullied extensively by male managers and was getting reprimanded for little situations like using too many Post-It notes and going to the washroom too frequently.

It was very clear the company took issue with me taking issue with their conduct.

She filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, which she says was a daunting process with limited support. She says she was well set up to access the process, but learned it would be awful for workers who didn’t have citizenship, or had children, or didn’t speak English as their first language.

What was so shocking for me in that situation was that it was impossible to get justice.

She was told because she spoke to a lawyer via a 1-800 number three months before, that she sought outside counsel, which made her unable to use legal support offered through the tribunal. Eventually, she went into negotiations and got a very small settlement.

It was really disappointing for me because I thought they should have been held accountable for what they had done. There’s a pattern of sexist behaviour, discriminatory behaviour, bullying, and intimidation. Also, the stress in pursing a bad boss is so unreal. You kind of want to be done with it at some point.

She says her colleagues were supportive and some added their names as witnesses. Eventually, she got into advocacy work, including the Fight for $15 and Fairness and the Halifax Workers’ Action Centre. She also works as a union organizer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

This isn’t dumb luck I’ve had with bosses. This is a climate we have in employment where bosses are able to get away with these kinds of things without any kind of consequences. Employees are really limited in solutions to this kind of abuse.

Workers know what kind of solution they are seeking. Having a democratic process for workers to find solutions at work is really imperative and I’d like to see that process simplified and made available to workers.

She’d also like to see employers be banned from requesting medical documentation to substantiate short-term illnesses. As well, she’d like to see every worker get 10 paid sick days a year, increases to the minimum wage, equal-pay-for-equal-work legislation, access to legal aid when needed, and stricter laws that would prevent employers from hiring workers as independent contractors. And she’d like to see proactive workplace investigations. Right now, the onus is on the worker.

Once a worker has made a complaint to the labour board, occupational health and safety, or to the human rights tribunal, it’s important that the workplace be investigated.

Cameron says being a good boss has its benefits.

Employers have so much to gain from treating their workers well. You see it with increased wages, safer working conditions, you see higher morale, lower turnover rates. The cost for training a new employee, I imagine, is quite high to the employer. When workers are more rested, they’ll be more dedicated to their job. Workers who are sick and are forced to come into work because they can’t afford to take a day off, they’re not going to be as productive, but they also risk exposing that entire workplace to that illness, which may have a longer-term effect on productivity … When you raise the minimum wage, the money is invested back into the local economy. Bosses benefit from a society that isn’t impoverished.

Cameron says for her talk with Equity Watch she wants to provide personal insight into workers’ concerns and big issues.

I would like to make clear that there’s no real value in looking at these issues individually, your struggle with your boss individually. That’s how were trained to look at it and see it. But there are real systemic issues that are making low-wage, marginalized workers — even above that, workers generally — that employers are allowed to behave in these ways and workers are limited in what they can do about it. This is a systemic, pervasive issue, not just one worker’s issue.

It’s really important the province of Nova Scotia makes an effort to improve labour conditions through basic minimum standards because workers’ ability to unionize is so limited. It’s pretty clear here and no coincidence that so many of us have had bad bosses in our lives. It speaks to a huge imbalance between boss and worker.

To register for the free webinar, Bad Bosses: My experiences in toxic workplaces with Lisa Cameron, click here.

2. Domestic violence and accessibility in Nova Scotia

For the last year, I worked on the Not Without Us Project, which is a partnership between Easter Seals Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities. Over several months last year, I met with women with disabilities who experienced domestic violence and the staff at organizations that work with these women. Well, the final report on what we heard is done and I wanted to share it. Domestic violence is a huge issue in Nova Scotia, as it is elsewhere. It’s certainly a topic we’ve heard about in recent weeks. And many communities are very inaccessible when it comes to leaving situations of violence and working toward an independent life beyond that. This report shares stories from all the women and staff and there are several recommendations based on their ideas.  This is what happens when you get women at the table and listen to them. We talked about accessibility at transition houses, policing, housing, transit/transportation, and communication. I hope this report gets people talking about domestic violence and accessibility in Nova Scotia.

You can the report here.


Noticed

On Friday, a number of businesses that were forced to close because of COVID-19 were allowed to open again. I haven’t been to a bar, restaurant, salon, or shopping since the closures came into effect. But on the weekend, I saw social media posts (I think I have to quit Twitter) commenting on some of the rules. People posted photos from stores where they thought the rules were confusing. Look, everyone is trying to figure this out and the rules will change as we all move along. Many of the workers in these businesses make minimum wage and it’s unfair to harass them because you think the new rules are silly. Even if we weren’t living in a pandemic and staff were making a living wage, it’s wrong to harass staff for policies that are beyond their control. Send an email to head office instead.

I can’t think of a single reason to berate staff or managers at a store or restaurant. Well, unless they were berating me first. We talk a lot about good customer service, but we can also be better customers. Here are some of my thoughts on how to be a better customer, pandemic or no pandemic:

First, rules in stores weren’t made to annoy you. If you don’t like the rules in one store, go to another store that has rules you like. If you don’t like the refund or exchange policy at a store or the rule on how many people are allowed inside at once, shop elsewhere before you decide to harass a worker into ignoring a policy that is out of their control.

Go this way when you’re in the grocery store. Photo: Suzanne Rent

I like the arrows in the aisles in the stores. They should stay. In some parts of the store, the arrows are more confusing than others, like in the sections in the perimeter of the store where the bakery is (my favourite section). But for the most part, the arrows work. But that hasn’t stopped some from ignoring the arrows completely. And don’t be an aisle blocker. Some shoppers will put their shopping cart on one side of the aisle, stand in the other side browsing the items on the shelves, blocking the entire aisle. Others will meet up with a friend and have a nice chat in the middle of the aisle. Last week, I was at a grocery store and a woman was on her phone, very slowly pushing her cart down the aisle, holding up others in the process. I don’t know what she was talking about, but take those conversations outside. I guess some people want their drama to have an audience.

Tip your server. Try to find out how tips are shared with other staff. Rules are different at every establishment. And remember some bosses keep their staff’s tips.

Don’t take your complaint to social media before you try working it out with a manager. Why do people do this? You’re shaming staff, managers, and business owners for an issue that could have easily been solved with a phone call or a brief in-person chat. Were all the likes on that Twitter post worth it?

Put your shopping cart back where it belongs. An open field is not the proper place. Photo: Unsplash

And finally, put your shopping cart back in the corral. This is a personal pet peeve. I see shopping carts left in aisles, at the entrance/exit blocking the doors, and in parking lots where they could hit people or cars. I recently learned about The Shopping Cart Theory that says your moral character can be judged on if you put your shopping cart back or not. I don’t know if I agree with this, and people pointed out the theory is ableist because there are people who can’t easily put the carts back, but for many of us, putting the cart back is a simple and easy thing to do.

That’s it. Oh, and be patient. The rules will change at businesses over the next few months and there will be lineups, but be patient in general.


Government

City

Tuesday

Budget Committee Special Meeting (Tuesday, 10am) – live webcast. Agenda and link to meeting here.

Special Halifax Regional Council — directly after the Budget Committee meeting. Agenda and link here.

Province

No meetings this week.


In the harbour

05:00: Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
10:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
15:00: Maersk Mobiliser, offshore supply ship, sails from Pier 9 for the Sable Island field
15:30: Budapest Bridge sails for Rotterdam
22:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea


Footnotes

Be a good customer.

*We originally got the date wrong for Lisa Cameron’s webinar.

Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. Does nobody on HRM Council read the Halifax Examiner? Are they permitted to read anything that’s not approved by the CAO? In yesterday’s (June 8th) Halifax Examiner Tim laid out the case against body cameras for police. It’s another tactic (like a snitch line) to avoid making any meaningful change and it will increase the police budget. Councillors; read the Halifax Examiner, pay attention.