It’s November, the month of Halifax Examiner’s annual subscription drive. The Examiner is supported entirely by subscriptions and donations from its readers and supporters. If you don’t already subscribe, please check out the subscription options here. Oh, and anyone signing on with a new annual subscription (over $100) gets an Examiner t-shirt, too.
Contributors Stephen Kimber and Philip Moscovitch have already mentioned this, but it’s important to share again. The Halifax Examiner treats its contributors well and that includes paying them fairly and promptly. As you read this Morning File, Iris the Amazing is already sending me the payment for writing it.
For a freelancer, this makes a huge difference. While taking care of our finances is part of the job, chasing down payment from clients who don’t want to pay shouldn’t be. A 30-day payout is typical in the freelance business, but many freelancers, including myself, have waited for months to get paid for work. I remember one client telling me the months-long delay in paying me was because of their new system in accounts payable. I told them that new system obviously wasn’t working correctly.
I have a few other clients who pay promptly, too. When a project is done, they all say, “make sure to send your invoice!” Like the Examiner, these clients will send payment quickly, often the same day. And also like the Examiner, these clients are also just better to work with. For example, the feedback process is easier and more respectful. This isn’t a coincidence. Paying your clients on time is just a sign of respect for freelancers and their work. After working for clients like these ones, 30 days seems far too long to be waiting to get paid.
When the Examiner pays us on time it means we can spend our time chasing and researching stories rather than chasing payment for the last story we wrote.
Thank you to all of you who continue to support the Examiner with your subscriptions. Again, you can subscribe here. Please know your support means a lot to us contributors, too.
1. Nova Scotians are ordering online groceries more than other Canadians
If you’re ordering more of your groceries online these days, you’re not the only Nova Scotian doing so. Yvette d’Entremont writes about a report released yesterday by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab that found 4.2 million more Canadians are ordering their food online at least once a week compared to six months ago. And 49.4% of these new online shoppers plan on continuing their online shopping even after the pandemic is over. d’Entremont talks with the study’s lead author, Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois, who says people are ordering online not just because of fear of exposure to COVID-19, but because it’s more convenient. Says Charlebois:
The level of service we get is outstanding compared to just eight months ago. We can order from grocers, we can order from farmer’s markets, we can order wine, we can order a lot of things we couldn’t order before COVID because many companies have pivoted and decided to establish a relationship with consumers.
But it’s Nova Scotians who are ordering their groceries online more than anyone else. Out of the Canadians surveyed for the report, Nova Scotians (20.4% of them) ordered groceries online because of fear of the virus. Quebec came in second at 18%.
2. Tideline with Tara Thorne: Episode #5
Episode #5 of The Tideline, with Tara Thorne, is out!
This week, poet and activist Rebecca Thomas stops by the show to discuss her debut book of poetry, I Place You Into the Fire, a meditation on navigating life and love. She talks about the embarrassment of interrogating her feelings, her time as poet laureate of Halifax, and her experience as an advocate for Indigenous justice. She reads a couple poems too. Plus: The Bitter End?!
The Tideline is advertising-free and subscriber-supported. It’s also a very good deal at just $5 a month. Click here to support The Tideline.
3. Council waives permitting fees for non-profits, but water fee remains
Zane Woodford reports on Halifax regional council’s decision to waive most permitting fees for non-profit organizations building affordable housing. Fees that can be waived include building permit fees, plumbing permit fees, development permit fees, streets and service permit fees. But there’s one fee that can’t be waived unless the province steps in. Those are Halifax Water’s fee. As Woodford reports:
Last month, Nova Scotia’s Utility and Review Board (UARB) ruled that Halifax Water can’t waive that fee due to limitations in the provincial Public Utilities Act.
As an example of the fee, Mancini mentioned the Affirmative Ventures project in his district.
“The HRM fees on that project is $52,000, so waiving those fees is a big help,” Mancini said. “However, the biggest fees of all are Halifax Water, and on this particular project it’s $225,000, which is significant.”
Coun. Lindell Smith asked whether the municipality could use its affordable housing grant program, initiated in September and becoming effective in April, to offset the Halifax Water fees.
Municipal planner Jillian MacLellan told him the grant program is “quite broad, and it could be used for fees such as the Halifax Water regional development charge.”
“It can be used for any component that’s involved in the construction or renovations of affordable units,” she said.
Coun. Waye Mason said it would be “unfortunate” if the municipality had to use up the grant money to pay Halifax Water. He suggested council could try to use its dividend from Halifax Water, as its sole shareholder, to offset the fee.
Mason suggested that the provincial government either needs to hand the responsibility for housing to the municipality or step up in order to solve the crisis in Halifax.
4. Opportunities afforded by the re-development of the Cogswell
Jen Powley writes that Halifax regional council needs to take another look at the redevelopment of the Cogswell interchange and how to get it right. Powley says council should look at carbon emissions:
The construction of the type of highrises outlined in the Cogswell plan along with the projects already approved or are expected to come before HRM council may put Halifax over the allowable carbon emissions. Halifax has already committed to the development on Spring Garden Road for the former Mills Brothers building between Queen and Birmingham Streets and developments along Spring Garden Road and Robie Street for four towers. Add to that the parking garages and the new buildings at the Halifax Infirmary, as well as the expected new buildings at the Victoria General site (Halifax must approve these buildings as they are provincial), and Halifax may be close to the limit set out in HalifACT 2050.
And Powley says the redevelopment could be a chance for reparations to the African Nova Scotia and Indigenous communities. Writes Powley:
Halifax owes the African-Nova Scotian community something in reparations for the destruction of Africville and other discriminatory practices. Indigenous people deserve reparations for the land the settlers have taken. Other groups may also deserve special consideration; their claims would need to be brought forward to the Municipality. Reparations won’t solve the earlier injustices but it can be the start of a new way of doing things.
5. Call centre confessions
Over at the Cape Breton Spectator, Tera Camus writes about her experience working for Sydney Call Centre. You may remember the centre being in the news a couple of years ago when it was shut down just before Christmas. Writes Camus:
The center is run by Todd Riley, who became something of a local hero in December 2018, when the former ServiCom Call Centre suddenly shut down, tossing about 500 people out of work. Like a Christmas miracle, though, the center reopened weeks later, when American investor Anthony Marlowe of Iowa bought it for $1.5 million in an auction that was part of ServiCom’s bankruptcy proceedings in the United States.
Soon after staff returned to work (hugging and in tears, according to Riley at the time), the provincial government announced a $2.5 million payroll rebate to MCI through Nova Scotia Business Inc. As of March 2020, $637,500 of the rebate had been disbursed.
This is a very detailed article on Camus’s experience working at the centre, including how management avoids paying staff for stat holidays or giving them time off in lieu. Camus documented a lot of her experiences here, saving files, paystubs, and emails. In October, Camus filed a complaint with the Labour Standards Division of Nova Scotia about the call centre’s breach of provincial labour laws.
In Nova Scotia when it comes to stat holidays, staff must meet these two criteria:
- be entitled to receive pay for at least 15 of the 30 calendar days before the holiday, and [emphasis in the original text]
- have worked on their last scheduled shift or day before the holiday and on the first scheduled shift or day after the holiday
But at the Sydney Call Centre, the management has a work-around for this. Writes Camus:
In the days leading up to every stat holiday, an email arrives from a Canadian or American supervisor. Agents in Sydney are managed by Canadian supervisors who answer to their bosses in the States. It was common to get communications from both sides of the border whether it was about changes in policy, offers to work over time, or communications over stat holidays.
Here’s the one sent by a Canadian supervisor on August 27 to the Sydney team – about 60 agents at the time – on the BDF account:
Good Morning Team,
As you all may know, Labor Day is Monday September 7th, 2020.
BDF has provided us with a Holiday Schedule, only 25 agents will be needed and will be scheduled on a volunteer first come, first served basis. Please respond to this email if you are interested in working
11:00a-7:30p on Monday September 7th 2020.EASTERN STANDARD TIME
If you normally work Monday’s [sic] and do not opt in for the holiday schedule or are not selected, you will be scheduled off on Monday 9/7/2020 and scheduled for a regular shift on your normal day off to adhere to the 40 hour week.
Identical messages were sent to our team for Canada Day, Good Friday and Memorial Day (yes, the American stat holiday).
There are multiple teams onsite in Sydney making or taking calls for MCI on contracts with companies like BDF, OnStar, AT&T and Sirius Radio. I’ve been told by workers from two of those other teams that they, too, get similar notices prior to stat holidays.
The pay is not the only issue at the Sydney Call Centre. Camus says of the 23 people she trained with, only two are still working at the centre. “Of the rest of us quit over labor code violations, witnessed or suffered; poor training and complicated computer programming; or all the nit-picking and micro-managing,” Camus says.
High turnover is one of the signs of a toxic workplace. This is a great, but disturbing, read.
Like the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported. Click here to subscribe. You can even get a Examiner-Spectator combo deal for $15 a month!
Fashion’s sample sizing doesn’t measure up
I went shopping with someone on Friday night for some fancy dresses. I don’t especially enjoy shopping and make my shopping trips short stints, but this particular trip was a reminder that many designers don’t design their clothing with most women in mind.
At the first store we visited, a boutique in Bedford, all the sample sizes were only in size 6. They looked tiny. Before stepping inside the store, I incorrectly assumed we could try on any dress in any size. There were about three styles in the entire store that had the correct size we were looking for. I searched the racks and most of the dresses were a six 6. A few were in sizes 8 and 10. I didn’t find a dress above a size 12. What this size 6 is a sample of, I’m not sure, but it’s not most women. The salesperson simply just hung dresses over the bodies of shoppers to see how it might look. How can you accurately judge how something will fit you if you can only drape it over your body and imagine how it might look? What a shitty way to shop.
We went to a second store in Dartmouth. There were more options in more sizes (and the staff were kinder, to be honest). This was a better shopping experience. But sizing was still all over the place. I even asked the salesperson about it. She said each designer follows their own standard. One designer’s size 12 is another designer’s size 18.
None of this is really news to any woman who shops for clothing, although it doesn’t make it less infuriating. Sizes in different labels are so varied most women probably don’t even know what size they are. For example, in my closet right now, I have clothes ranging in size from a small to a large, a size 8 to a size 12. And all of them fit me. What’s my “real” size? Who knows! Maybe something in the middle. It’s all a guessing game. When a salesperson asks me my size, I just say, “It depends.”
But it’s also a head game on women’s self-esteem. While we should be focusing really just wearing whatever the hell we want, but many of us get stuck on that number on the tag. Many of us start not liking ourselves and our bodies when we don’t fit into those sample sizes. I think this feeds into the diet industry, too, and its ridiculous fads and trends.
It was mass production of clothing that inspired the need for standard sizing. Before that, we made our clothes using our measurements for bust, waist, and hips. Clothes were tailored to fit. Of course, this would be more accurate because all bodies are different. I’m a bit larger on the bottom than on the top (or I have more junk in the trunk than in the top drawer, as I always joke). This can make it a challenge fitting into certain styles off the rack like dresses and bathing suits. I always buy a two-piece with different sizes for the top and bottom.
In 1939, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a yearlong study titled Women’s Measurements for Garment and Pattern Construction. Working with the Bureau of Home Economics under a federal project grant, they studied the weight and 58 body measurements of 14,698 women across seven states in the US. They even went so far as to measure elbow girth and ankle height; they were thorough, to say the least.
Unfortunately, the data pool was skewed. For example, criteria stipulated that the women had to be white. While some non-whites did have their data collected, those measurements were eventually excluded from the final statistics.
Once the final data was collated, statisticians analyzed the results and decided that just five measurements were enough to determine the size and shape of a woman: weight, height, bust girth, waist girth, and hip girth.
Although the research team concluded that “weight is most closely related to the girth measurements,” weight was wisely dismissed as the basis for a sizing range. As the report notes:
Practical objections to the use of weight, however, may be raised. Retail stores and homes frequently do not have scales, and it is conceivable that women would object to telling their weights more than to giving, say, their bust measures.
After gathering comments from the clothing industry, the new voluntary sizing standards were given the go-ahead in 1958 and were published as “Commercial Standard (CS) 215-58.”
But the sizing system changed even more since then. Along came vanity sizing: As people got bigger, designers made the size on the clothing smaller.
Eliana Dockterman wrote this excellent piece in Time about her experience shopping and trying on clothes, fitting into a variety of sizes. About vanity sizing, Dockterman writes:
As Americans have grown physically larger, brands have shifted their metrics to make shoppers feel skinnier—so much so that a women’s size 12 in 1958 is now a size 6. Those numbers are even more confusing given that a pair of size-6 jeans can vary in the waistband by as much as 6 in., according to one estimate. They’re also discriminatory: 67% of American women wear a size 14 or above, and most stores don’t carry those numbers, however arbitrary they may be.
“Insanity sizing,” as some have dubbed this trend, is frustrating enough for shoppers who try on clothes in stores. But now that $240 billion worth of apparel is purchased online each year, it has become a source of epic wastefulness. Customers return an estimated 40% of what they buy online, mostly because of sizing issues. That’s a hassle for shoppers and a costly nightmare for retailers, who now spend billions covering “free” returns.
As for those small sample sizes, even the models whose bodies the sample sizes are supposedly made for are fighting back. In September, Beatrice Hazlehurst with Vice, wrote about how models and stylists are petitioning against unrealistic sample sizes, some of which are smaller than the size 6 in that Bedford boutique. A sample size is from a sample collection from a designer, which is created around the size of the models wearing them. That sounds simple, but it’s encouraging models to starve themselves to fit into the sizes. The models are working to fit in the clothing when the designers should be designing to fit the models (and ultimately the women who buy their designs).
As Hazlehurst writes, we’re seeing more diversity in models now (yeah!), but not in those sample sizes. And some of the models, including those with Shit Model Management, a group of models looking to expose the truth of the industry, have had enough. Writes Hazlehurst:
The anonymous Instagram-anchored fashion industry watchdog made headlines several years ago when they offered an open call to models who’d been harassed by designers, photographers, agents and casting directors — eventually emboldening models enough to call out predatory celebrity photographers on their own. Now, she’s using her platform to confront a different injustice in the industry. After conducting a poll of 4000 models, 65 percent claimed to have developed eating disorders to adhere to sample size expectations. In response, SMGMT created a petition to raise the sample size from size zero through four, to six through eight. So far, 15,000 have signed.
“I wanted to see how many of my followers were naturally [sample] size, and the majority of them are not,” she writes on its homepage. “In order to cut down to the required measurements/weight, they are having to resort to unhealthy means like starving themselves, restrictive diets, overexercising and other ways that severely risk their health.”
It may be a cost-cutting measure for designers to produce small sample sizes that use less fabric. But this doesn’t make it a better experience for shoppers. It’s not only models who are treating their bodies badly to fit into designs and sizes that should be built for the women wearing them. When I shop for new clothes, I want to buy things that fit me when I try them on in the store. No guessing games. No draping clothing over my body and imagining how it might fit. Why can’t there be a range of sizes of dresses to try on? Customers come in a range of sizes. Surely, it must be bad for business to not have a woman’s size instore and turn her away. My size is a good sample of who I am. Your size is a good sample of who you are, too. We may all come in different sizes, but we all deserve styles that fit.
I have a Facebook group called Stories of Prince’s Lodge Rotunda, which is dedicated to the white round building on the Bedford Highway that was built in the 1790s by the Duke of Kent and was part of the garden of the larger estate in the area.
The group now has 1,400 members, all of whom are very curious and protective of this historic place (I started the group after I wrote a story on the building). On Tuesday, one of the group’s member, Robyn McNeil, shared photos of the rotunda when she was in the area picking up litter on the shoreline. It appears someone broken into the building and the door was wide open. Outside, there are drawings on the side of the building and a staircase that leads to the door was torn down and tossed over the embankment.
A few people made calls to the province (the building is part of the province’s inventory and is maintained by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal) and apparently someone will visit and take a look.
There was another break-in back in June. Someone in the group messaged me to say the door was wide open and it appeared someone had been inside. I made calls then. At some point over the last few months, the windows were boarded up.
As I said, the province does take care of the building and maintains the site. It got a makeover in the summer of 2017 with new paint and repairs to the pillars and roof. It looks like an iron gate at one of the entrance’s was added after the break-in back in June.
I’m not sure what needs to be done to secure the site further, but there are people looking out for it. While thousands of people drive past it every day, the site is actually a bit out of the way. It’s not easily accessible, there’s nowhere to park, the building is quite small inside, and the train goes past twice a day. All of these factors don’t make it a good site for a museum either.
Thanks to Robyn for taking and sharing the photos and to everyone in the group who care about the building. Given so many of the city’s heritage buildings are being torn down, it’s nice to see so many people looking out for at least one of them.
Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting; agenda here.
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm) — virtual meeting; agenda here.
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual meeting with live webcast; agenda here.
Reclaiming Power and Place ‑ Virtual Read (Thursday, 10:30am) — a group reading of Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019). More info here.
(geo)Politics (Thursday, 12pm) — architecture lecture with Frank G. van Oort, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, and Maria Chiara Tosi, University of Venice, Italy. More info and Zoom link here.
reimagine NS: Create and Commemorate (Thursday, 6:30pm, YouTube) — academics and community experts look at how art can support healing, connection, community, and artists’ careers in Nova Scotia. More info and link here.
Live Poets (Thursday, 8pm) — virtual poetry reading by Anita Lahey and Steven Heighton. More info and RSVP here.
In the harbour
06:00: X-Press Makalu, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Setubal, Portugal
06:00: MOL Mission, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk (itinerary)
06:45: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
07:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:30: Bylgia, anchor handling vessel, arrives at Irving Oil from Rotterdam
13:30: Algoma Mariner, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
16:00: Front Cosmos, oil tanker, sails from Anchorage 11 for sea
16:00: Tampa Trader, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
16:45: IT Intrepid, cable layer, arrives at Pier 9 from Baltimore
18:00: X-Press Makalu sails for New York
I’m collecting postings of terrible-paying jobs in Nova Scotia. If you see any postings you want to share, please send them to [email protected] I’m curious what job hunting looks like during a pandemic.