November subscription drive
Phil Moscovitch and I worked on some of the same publications for years. We only met in person earlier this year, around the time I started regularly contributing to Morning File. Moscovitch is a full-time freelancer and he’s often traveling, meeting and learning about people and telling us all about them.
I especially enjoyed his chat with Becky from Lockeport, which he shared in in Morning File back in July. Moscovitch was in South Shore community at the Sable River Community Hall giving a talk about fermentation. He’s a local expert on this topic; I’ve yet to make the sauerkraut with the recipe he sent me last year.
At the meeting, Moscovitch noticed a woman who was wearing a t-shirt that said “Future Proofing Lockeport.” Intrigued, he decided to find out all about her:
Her name is Becky Williams, and she’s lived most of her life (she’s 53) in Lockeport. Becky remembers when the town had around 1,500 year-round residents. She says it’s down to about 450 now. Of course, the numbers go up in summer, and some retirees have chosen to move (or move back) to the town. Young people? Not so much.
As I was talking to Becky, I was struck by her resourcefulness. Like so many people in rural and small-town Nova Scotia, she’s had to figure out how to make a living so she can live in the place she loves. Becky started out as a hairdresser nearly 34 years ago, but she started to lose regular customers when the Alberta oil boom came along, and as some of her older customers passed away.
“I lost nine monthly clients, who would pay $100 a month, because they were moving out west to the land of milk and honey as I call it, or they passed on. That’s $900 a month gone. Holy smokes! I needed to find something else!”
As for that Future Proofing Lockeport t-shirt, says Becky:
We are a citizen-led coalition that is basically about revitalizing and future-proofing Lockeport for generations to come.” The group is a non-profit society, which she chairs. For now, they are holding weekly meetings — an hour long, every Tuesday, near the beach, where residents are working on a wish-list of items they’d like to see. Some are infrastructure-related, some have to do with attracting more tourists, some are about dealing with climate change and making the town attractive to young people and tradespeople (apparently if you’re a carpenter you can do well in Lockeport).
This is what I love about the Examiner: The interesting, insightful, and often quirky stories that come from the simplest observations. Moscovitch is good at this. I also enjoyed his recent article Remembering the Dead, which included photos of shrines he saw on his trip to Greece.
Oh, and if you didn’t already know, Moscovitch has a new book out, Adventures in Bubbles and Brine, in which he learns about the history of fermentation in Nova Scotia and includes some recipes. He’s giving a talk on his book, as well as a demonstration tonight at the Tantallon Public Library. We should raise a glass of kombucha to that and to the Examiner.
When you subscribe to the Examiner, you’re supporting writers like Moscovitch, who shares the stories of Nova Scotians, giving us a look into communities we might otherwise pass by.
So, please subscribe!
1. Windsor Halloween display opens generational wounds of racist violence
El Jones writes about residents in Windsor facing harassment after speaking out about Halloween decorations in the yard of another family in the town.
Kevin Upshaw, an African Nova Scotian man born and raised in Windsor, said he was shocked when he first saw the decorations, which appear to depict figures with black faces hanging by their necks from the branches of a tree. For the Black community, the figures evoke images of lynchings.
“I honestly couldn’t believe it at first,” says Upshaw. “I just stood there for a second. I went home and went to bed and tried to let it go, but I couldn’t.”
On Halloween, Upshaw made a post on Facebook about the figures. He says that as soon as he made the post, white people in the community began attacking him. Upshaw says he is disappointed by the response, and that he made the post to try to draw attention to the issue and to express the discomfort members of the Black community feel in the hopes that the figures would be addressed.
Upshaw did call police, who said there was nothing they could do because the decorations were on private property. The decorations have since been taken down.
Upshaw tells Jones this incident is not just about decorations, but about racism in Windsor and how that’s shaped his experiences growing up there.
When I was little, I didn’t have a nice childhood. I was in a very racist neighbourhood with multiple racist families. We got beat up regularly. We’ve had people call us the n-word. I had a dog sicced on me as a child by a kid’s parents. I’ve been threatened with bats and pieces of wood.
I dealt with racial incidents monthly in junior high school. I’ve been called a dirty n-word. My mom had to go talk to the principal and basically threaten him to deal with it and after all that the student only got a 5-day suspension.
I’ve been dealing with this my whole life, and when I fought back in high school I got put into anger management for defending myself.
I was born and raised in this town and it’s just getting to the point where I can’t handle it anymore. There’s too much weight on me. I can’t take it.
They [the people who hung the decorations] don’t care that it upsets an entire community of people. It’s 2019 and it’s time for something to give and I can’t take no as an answer.
2. Lead in the water at Nova Scotia schools
The Star, with reporters Robert Cribb, Halifax’s Zane Woodford, and King’s student Lyndsay Armstrong, continue with their investigation into drinking water in Nova Scotia, this time focusing on schools around the province.
The water in some schools has never been tested, while the results from tests in other schools are alarming, reports The Star.
Unlike Ontario, which mandates lead testing in all schools and daycares and publishes the results online, no such transparency exists in Nova Scotia. Provincial officials concede there is no comprehensive repository of lead test results from schools and daycares accessible to teachers, parents, students and staff. And the two-thirds of schools on municipal water supplies –including most in the Halifax area and some of the largest schools in the province – are entirely absent in the data because they have never been tested for lead at the tap.
Children are especially at risk because lead can affect cognitive development, IQ levels and general health.
One of the schools featured in the piece is Scotsburn Elementary School in Pictou County. The water there has not been drinkable for years. The Star talked to parents and former teachers, who said they were never told about elevated levels of lead in the water.
The Star reporters contacted Education Minister Zach Churchill, who said testing will soon start for those schools on municipal water. But testing may not even pick up the lead properly.
Experts and published research say lead in school drinking water is primarily caused not by municipal pipes feeding the school, but by fixtures, taps and fountains within the schools. These are contamination points that would never be flagged by municipal water pipe testing.
3. Well talks break down between Shelburne residents, town
Robert Devet at the Nova Scotia Advocate reports that talks between Black residents in the south-end part Shelburne who want access to potable water and the Town of Shelburne have broken down.
The town and the South End Environmental Injustice Society (SEED) were in disagreement over the location of a new well for the residents. Actor Ellen Page agreed to pay for the drilling and construction of the well after filming a documentary, There’s Something in the Water, on environmental racism.
Louise Delisle with SEED asked that Page’s offer be discussed at town council last night, but the offer was refused.
We are not trying to cause trouble. It’s just that this well is much needed, and it is much needed in the south end, not downtown. That idea that we are somehow causing irreparable damage really hurts me.
Rural Water Watch has found coliform bacteria and E. coli in a majority of wells.
4. Bridge closures to span next several years
Commuters should expect more bridge closures on both of the MacKay and Macdonald Bridges, reports John MacPhee with The Chronicle Herald.
Halifax Harbour Bridges released its annual report yesterday, which says the aging bridges — the MacKay is 49 years old and the Macdonald 64 — simply need more ongoing maintenance.
MacPhee interviewed CEO Steve Snider, who says traffic volume is also up from 28 million crossings to 34 million over the last 25 years.
So the combination of age and wear-and-tear take their toll, so to speak, and we need to be more vigilant with our maintenance program. So we have for a long time recognized that it’s our job to stay out of the way of the travelling public as much as possible. That’s the reason for the majority of our work occurring at night and on weekends
Upcoming projects for the bridges include an expansion joint replacement on the Halifax end of the MacKay and replacement of the original bearings on the Macdonald.
The annual report also talks about a long-term plan for the MacKay could mean rehabilitating the bridge deck or replacing it with a new bridge.
5. Lidar maps show communities at risk of flooding
Several communities in Nova Scotia are at risk of increased flooding, according to maps produced by U.S. group Climate Central.
Jack Julian at CBC spoke with Climate Central’s spokesperson Peter Girard about its lidar maps, which show how ocean storms will affect coastlines in 2050.
Coastal flooding, borne by sea level rise, affects a great deal more land and a great deal more people than previous assessments could have told us. The maps also show coastlines are two metres lower than past estimates.
The communities most at risk are those along the Bay of Fundy like Wolfville, as well as Amherst and Yarmouth. In Halifax and Dartmouth, Tuft’s Cove and Shannon Park, when redeveloped, are at risk, too, as are beaches like Rainbow Haven. Girard tells Julian it’s not “doomsday.”
You have a relatively rocky coast, and you don’t see those big, broad plains where there are just acres and acres of vulnerability.
But if you look at the maps, you absolutely see some areas that will need to be defended or will be subject to increased flooding and higher tides.
Tim Webster, a professor at NSCC, tells Julian the maps are better looking at coastlines on a global scale, rather than at details of specific properties.
It’s Living Wage Week!
Last week, I compiled a list of employers that pay less than a living wage. These postings are often an eye-opener for people who may not always know what crappy wages employers in Nova Scotia pay.
For this Morning File, I decided to talk to employers that do pay a living wage because it’s Living Wage Week in Canada. There aren’t many living-wage employers here in Nova Scotia. Adsum House is one. In February, I talked with Sheri Lecker, Adsum’s executive director, about how its living wage policy came about and what it’s meant for staff.
And I also spoke with Jaimie McEvoy, a councillor in New Westminster, B.C., the first city in Canada to adopt a living wage policy for its staff and contractors.
I recently spoke with four organizations in Hamilton that have living-wage policies. That city saw an increase in its minimum wage back in January 2018, jumping from $11.40/hr to $14/hr. And this week, new living wage calculations were announced for Ontario. The living wage in Hamilton is $16.45/hr.
One thing that’s clear among the leaders in these organizations is that paying a living wage is not about the money; they all agreed it was the right thing to do.
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
This school was the first elected body in Ontario to have a living wage policy. It started in 2013 when Alex Johnstone was serving her first term as a school board trustee. As a part of her role, Johnstone also served on the Hamilton Roundtable on Poverty Reduction. But for Johnstone, who was in her 20s at the time, the living-wage issue was a personal passion. There are 50,000 students in the school board. Hamilton has the second highest child poverty rate in Ontario with one in five children living in poverty. In the city centre, 34 per cent of children live in poverty. Johnstone says that’s the equivalent of 370 classrooms of students visiting food banks in the city each month. And child poverty is one of the biggest factors that influences educational outcomes. The board had programs for breakfast and lunch but she knew they could do more.
One of the best ways to combat child poverty is to make sure their parents earn a living wage. Children simply cannot concentrate when they are hungry. There were multiple reasons this made sense. We value our workforce and want them to live in dignity.
Johnstone says the board did its research on the living wage first. Many of the board’s 7,000 employees already made above a living wage, but others like custodians, education assistants, and administrative assistants, did not.
We did a cost analysis and it made sense.
She then introduced a motion, which was passed by the board unanimously.
Johnstone says there are financial concerns when implementing a living wage policy, but the costs weren’t as great as many people suspected. And she says the board also knew a living wage would contribute to better retention and more dedicated employees.
Living Wage Ontario Network has different levels employers can reach as living wage employers. Johnstone says she’s hoping the board can reach for top status. Johnstone says when they adopted the policy six years ago, they were approached by other school boards in Ontario on how to do the same. She’s given talks about the board’s policy to living wage conferences in Canada.
I think it was the right decision at the time and continues to be the right decision. I encourage all levels of government to look at what they can do to be a role model and reduce child poverty.
Reuben Vanderkwaak, owner of Donut Monster, started making donuts as a hobby, eventually selling them to coffee shops owned by friends. He then hired someone part-time and started thinking about living wages then. He says he felt the responsibility of providing someone with their livelihood.
I remember thinking I can’t pay anyone less than what I could live off myself.
In the first year of business, Vanderkwaak and his wife and business partner Heidi had four employees. That has since grown to 35 employees at his shop and bakery and a pop-up location in Toronto.
At the time they opened the shop in 2018, Hamilton increased its minimum wage from $11.40/hr to $14/hr. Vanderkwaak says he heard the arguments from other businesses that the increase was too high. He was also just starting out, so he was in a position to work the living wage, which was $15.85, into his business costs.
If you can’t afford to pay your staff that then there’s something wrong with your business model.
Vanderkwaak pays his staff living wage or above, depending on their position. A baker, for example, would make more than an entry-level employee working the counter. He also offers his full-time staff a medical plan that include health, dental, and optical benefits. He says about 20 full-time staff members have opted into that plan.
He’s also increased his starting rates to $16/hr to keep up with inflation. And he’s developed a matrix of raises and increases based on the employee’s position and positive performance reviews.
He says he’s not sure if the living wage policy at Donut Monster has affected employee retention, saying he’s hasn’t been in business long enough to keep track of the data. Although, he says when an employee leaves, it’s usually not because of the wages, but other factors like working late-night hours, which is typical for a bakery.
Vanderkwaak says there was also a brief challenge with what he was paying staff at the pop-up store in Toronto where the living wage is about $4/hr more than in Hamilton. He adds that employees in Hamilton were offered the opportunity to work in the Toronto shop, too.
People were upset with that, so it took some education and understanding.
As for the future, Vanderkwaak says they are looking to grow, but want to do so without new partners or going public, which could mean working with those who don’t share their values.
I don’t think people choose to pay a living wage because they want to pay more. It’s a recognition and a humanization of our workforce. You have to care about the people who work for you. They’re living their lives and you can’t just squeeze what you can out of them.
Good Shepherd Centres provide human and social services in Hamilton and beyond. Their services include emergency clothing and food programs, emergency shelters for men, women, families and children, hospice and palliative care, daily hot meals, transitional housing, and supportive housing programs.
The organization has been a living wage employer for the past five years. Katherine Kalinowski, chief operating officer of Good Shepherd in Hamilton, says having a living wage policy simply fits into the organization’s values.
We put our money where our mouth is. We believe a living wage is important in fighting poverty.
Good Shepherd has 500 employees in Hamilton and Toronto. Many of those, like social workers, were already being paid over the living wage, so Kalinowski says creating the policy didn’t mean sweeping changes to the organization. It did have an effect on retention of staff, though.
I think being able to feed your children, pay your rent contributes to staying with your job.
Kalinowski says there was some education needed because they receive government funding and money from donors.
Sometimes I think there can be confusion with your donors. People will ask if their dollars are going toward people we serve.
Kalinowski encourages other organizations, including non-profits, to become living wage employers. That includes learning the facts about what a living wage is and understanding its value.
It’s the right thing to do. There’s a moral imperative. It sends a powerful message to the people who work in your organization, but it also sends the right message to the community. It’s not perfect, but it gives people a chance to be fully engaged in their communities.
We’re incredibly proud to be a living wage employer. I think we need to create a movement.
Mustard Seed Co-op, a small grocery store in Hamilton, created its living wage policy from the get-go. The store opened in January 2014 with 1,200 members and made the decision then that it would pay its staff a living wage. Mary Lou Tanner, president of the board of directors with Mustard Seed, says a living wage policy was part of its values.
We believe in paying employees so the can live a meaningful life and you’d know they wouldn’t have to work a second job.
Tanner says they took into account the cost of living and the cost of housing in Hamilton, both of which have increased significantly over the last few years.
She says offering a living wage also helped Mustard Seed stand out and differentiate themselves from other employers, particularly in a low-employment area like Hamilton.
People are looking for employers that pay more than the minimum wage.
She says they built the cost of the living wage for staff into the pricing of its products, and says the living wage is equally important to their members.
Tanner says they know the grocery business is highly competitive, but they’re sticking by the living wage policy.
We have to be mindful of costs and pricing, but this is not something we’re prepared to walk away from. This is a value-based decision.
Besides paying a living wage, Mustard Seed offers its full-time staff a benefits plan. Employees also get a percentage discount on groceries purchased at the store.
People are proud we are a living wage employer. I know when I talk to employees, they tell us they’d have to work a second job if they didn’t get paid a living wage. We have a stable workforce, our employees are highly committed, which we value immensely.
Everyone I spoke with was excited to share the details of how and why they have a living wage policy. These are good employers, but they’re also good people. There are a few lessons here:
- Educating staff, customers, and the community about how the living wage is part of the process. Do your homework first.
- Paying a living wage is the cost of doing business.
- The actual cost of paying a living wage is outweighed by the impacts it has on employees, employers, and larger communities.
- For living wage employers, paying a living wage has a value beyond the money. Paying a living wage affects several factors from reducing turnover in staff to fighting child poverty
- And it’s important to support businesses and organizations that pay their staff a living wage.
In case you didn’t know, November is #NoNutNovember. I had no clue what this meant until Monday when a colleague told me. Based on the name, I thought it was an awareness campaign for peanut allergies or a call to give up cashews or almonds for 30 days. Like Sober October but for nuts.
Anyway, I won’t go into details but Seinfeld had an episode about this once.
#NoNutNovember started back in November 2011 and picked up some traction again about two years ago when someone found the first posts about it and starting tweeting out the hashtag.
I guess these days some men are using the campaign to increase awareness about prostate cancer, much like Movember and its moustaches. You have to give them a hand for that.
There are no health benefits to going, um, nut free any time of year, so says this article in Men’s Health.
I’m not going to comment on anyone’s November activities, but I will say the days are short and winter is cold. Go nuts.
No public meetings.
Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — the agenda.
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — the agenda.
No public meetings for the rest of the week.
Architecture Travel Exhibition (Wednesday, 9am, Exhibition Room, Medjuck Architecture Building) — presenting the work of five Masters of Architecture students who were awarded travel scholarships.
Thesis Defence, English (Wednesday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Michael Fontaine will defend “Ireland’s New Losers: Contemporary Irish Fiction and the Ethos of Failure.”
Noon Hour Voice Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, Sculpture Court, Dal Arts Centre) — with students of Betty Allison and Christina Haldane.
BRIC NS Student Seminar Series (Wednesday, 12:15pm, Room 264, Collaborative health Education Building) — Nicole MacKenzie will present “Parent-Directed Knowledge Translation for Managing Children’s Vaccination Pain: Implications for Researchers and Healthcare Providers,” and Lisa Lachance will present “Integrated youth services and the community-based sector.”
Evolving our understanding of protein biochemistry (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Gregory McCluskey from the University of Ottawa will talk.
Architecture Travel Exhibition (Thursday, 9am, Exhibition Room, Medjuck Architecture Building) — presenting the work of five Masters of Architecture students who were awarded travel scholarships.
Thesis Defence, Microbiology and Immunology (Thursday, 9:30am, Room 429/430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Nandini Nagarajan Margam will defend “Synaptopodin-2, an Actin-binding Protein, is a Promyogenic Factor for Myoblast Fusion and Myofibrillogenesis in Mouse and Zebrafish.”
Reconciliation and Repatriation on Haida Gwaii: Reconsidering Museum Collections and Community Engagement (Thursday, 11:30am, Room P5260, Life Sciences Centre) — a talk with Sean Young, Collections Curator at the Haida Gwaii Museum in Skidegate, British Columbia. Reception to follow in the Fireside lounge, Marion McCain Building.
Hildegard of Bingen and Her Scribes (Thursday, 12pm, Room 406, Dal Arts Centre) — Margot Fassler from the University of Notre Dame and Yale University will talk.
Mini Medical School (Thursday, 7pm, Theatre B, Tupper Link) — “What’s New with Canada Food Guide” presented by Jacklynn Humphrey; and “Get on the Move” presented by Jennifer Manuel.
The Impact of Textiles on Climate Change (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, Marion McCain Building) — Kelly Drennan from Fashion Takes Action will tell us:
We now buy 60% more clothing today than we did 20 years ago – and we keep them for half as long. Every second of every day, the equivalent of a garbage truck full of textiles is either incinerated or dumped in landfill. These are just some of the shocking facts about the impacts that the fashion industry has on the environment. But we are approaching a tipping point, and disruption is all around us. More and more fashion brands are waking up to their role in climate change and are making commitments to cut co2 emissions, reduce water usage and pollution, waste and more. Tech and innovation start-ups are realizing the potential and unlocking solutions at a rapid rate. And as consumers, particularly gen Z and millennials, we are becoming more aware and demanding transparency from this industry, so that we are empowered to make more responsible purchasing decisions, and ultimately know who is making our clothes, and how they are being made.
Barbara (Wednesday, 6pm, Theatre B, Burke Building) — screening in German with English subtitles.
Persephone: Changing Seasons and Selves (Wednesday, 7pm, Laundry Room Art Gallery, Arts and Administration Building) — The first exhibition of the school year, featuring work by “students who are both in a transitional stage of their individual lives, and growing up in a world that is politically and socially in transformation.”
Decoding the News: Truth and consequences in the 2019 federal election (Thursday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, New Academic Building) — Craig Silverman of BuzzFeed News will present the keynote lecture of the 2019 Joseph Howe Symposium. More info here.
Renaissance Music: ‘Tuning’ the Soul (Thursday, 7:30pm, King’s Chapel) — Estelle Joubert will talk. From the listing:
The song of the human voice, cultivated for centuries in medieval Europe’s centres of sacred and secular culture, especially monasteries and courts, developed in the late middle ages and Renaissance into the complex compositional art of polyphony–many voices coordinated together by moving patterns of rhythm and tonal harmonies and dissonances. This lecture will touch on a little of what fascinated both philosophers and artists of the Renaissance period: the awesome power of music to move the soul–whether to the heights of ecstasy or the depths of despair.
In the harbour
07:00: Riviera, cruise ship with up to 1,447 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a 16-day cruise from Montreal to Miami
It’s November 6 and I am still eating those mini bars from Halloween. Someone please stop me.