1. NS announces back-to-school plan
Monday was the first COVID briefing in weeks and we finally got to learn about the province’s back-t0-school plan. Zane Woodford and Tim Bousquet reported on the briefing and the plans for school.
And it was the first briefing with premier-designate Tim Houston, who said “part of life returning to some semblance of normal means a return to school.”
The back-to-school plan includes full in-class learning, outdoor learning, and continued use of masks until the province reaches Phase 5, which is expected to happen mid-September.
As for Phase 5, chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang said when we reach that stage, masks, gathering limits, and physical distancing won’t be necessary.
I’m sure there are mixed views on this. Some will be thrilled to get rid of masks and others will be nervous to stop wearing them. That’s totally normal. It’s time to start living more with COVID. Even if we see rising case numbers that would’ve previously meant province-wide restrictions, our vaccine coverage means that we can carry on with only border restrictions, and maybe if necessary, targeted local restrictions.
Houston was asked about rent control, and said “I don’t believe that rent control is a solution to the housing crisis,” although he didn’t offer any short or long-term solutions beyond increasing supply. And he was also asked about police action around the eviction of unhoused people from city parks last week.
This story also includes all the usual COVID details, including new cases — there were 17 announced for a three-day period — as well as testing, demographics, and potential exposure advisories. Vaccination data was not available yesterday.
2. Black News File
Matthew Byard has this week’s Black News File, which is packed with stories from Black communities in the Maritimes.
In this week’s edition, Byard reports on the housing encampment that is in central Halifax, and learns how the housing crisis will affect vulnerable Black residents in the city. He also learned more about the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia (AUBA) and its annual gathering — the longest-running annual gathering of Black people in all of Canada. And finally, he reports on a virtual discussion called Defining Reparations in a Canadian Context that was recently hosted by the Africentric Learning Institute (ALI).
I’m always impressed with Byard’s ability to dig up stories. He has a natural curiosity and ability to connect with people that serves him — and the Examiner! — well.
3. Landlords have tenant blacklists
Robert Devet at The Nova Scotia Advocate reports on lists of “bad tenants” complied by a group of local landlords. The lists were found by Members of Nova Scotia ACORN, an organization that works to helps the poor in the city — including on housing issues.
For the last year and a half ACORN members have been part of a Facebook group called ‘Landlords Unite’.
“Described by the group as “a Nova Scotia based ‘Information Only’ Group for Landlords, Managers, Superintendents etc. …… a place to voice concerns, make recommendations, post Ads, ask questions & share experiences” – the group is most frequently used by landlords to give tips on evicting tenants, getting around the residential tenancies act, and sharing the names of “Bad Tenants”, which they have compiled into a Do Not Rent list, an announcement on the Nova Scotia ACORN Facebook page states.
One list has 256 names, another with nearly 3,200 names on it was compiled through reports on a hidden Facebook group “Amherst Landlord Associates”, and by scanning police records for tenants who have never even interacted with the landlords who created the list, ACORN reports.
Not only do such secretive lists open the door to all kinds of questionable info, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada finds them illegal.
“Our office has found that landlords do not have the right to disclose information such as a poor payment history to an unregulated or ad hoc bad tenants list,” the Privacy Commissioner’s website explains.
4. Students can’t find housing
Amber Fryday at Global Halifax reports that students, like so many others, are having a very tough time finding housing. Fryday spoke with Jesse Sutherland, the president of the Student Union at Mount Saint Vincent University, who said every school year she helps students find housing, but this year, with rising rents, the situation is more dire.
Sutherland told Fryday that landlords are asking international students to have three months’ worth of rent up front. She said international students also have more challenges because they don’t have the understanding of local tenants’ rights and rental laws, and no family in the province.
5. Housing community sessions
I’ll be at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherrybrook on Thursday from 6pm to 8pm to host a community session to talk about the housing crisis. Matthew Byard, who is covering the stories of Black communities in Nova Scotia, will be with me, so if you have other stories you’d like us to cover, this is a great chance to meet.
You have to register to attend, but it’s free. Just click here to register.
If you can’t attend, you can always call or text our housing message line at 1-819-803-6215.
1. We are more than our jobs
In last week’s Morning File, I talked to three workers, William, Bryn, and Perry, about their work lives. That story was in response to all the stories I continue to see in which employers who are struggling to find workers blame the workers themselves. After that Morning File was published, someone shared a comment with me in which they said all of those workers were just making their lives better.
I thought of that comment when I read this guest column in the New York Times by Dr. Esau McCaulley called We Weren’t Happy Before the Pandemic, Either.
In the essay, MacCaulley talks about the death of his father and his complicated relationship with him and how that eventually had him rethinking his career. But as MacCaulley writes, a lot of people have had the same thoughts over the last almost two years living with COVID-19:
The pandemic has led to one of the largest shifts in jobs in recent memory, with millions of Americans making changes. The housing market is exploding as many people reconsider where they want to live. We are in the midst of a societal shift, an awakening to how much we want our lives to be different. But the changes leave an issue unaddressed: Why didn’t we know all of that before?
All these changes that people are embarking on during the pandemic make me think that we weren’t that happy before the pandemic. What about our lives prevented us from seeing things that are so clear to us now? When I talked to friends and neighbors about this, two themes emerged. The pandemic has disabused us of the illusion of time as a limitless resource and of the false promise that the sacrifices we make for our careers are always worth it.
MacCaulley’s essay reminded me of a post I saw in the late winter on LinkedIn from a financial planner I met with several years ago who helped me with some financial planning of my own. In the post, he shared a bit of his story about how he struggled with his mental health early on in the pandemic and after climbing the career ladder in his field, he decided to take a bit of a step back. I messaged him on the weekend to see if he wanted to share his story — I agreed to not use his name or share the name of his employer, so I’ll call him Jason.
Jason has worked at a bank for a long time and worked his way up through roles. A few years before the pandemic hit, he started a new role that offered more money, but also more work and pressure. When the pandemic hit, he said the job became “pandemonium. ” No more in-person meetings, no more handshakes. Clients panicked and pulled out investments.
I was taking calls and emails from 10, 11, 12 at night. That was for months on end.
Jason’s job was based on commissions, but his employer restructured how they got paid so he and colleagues could still earn a salary, even though it wasn’t as much as they previously made.
What I realized was what I was making and how hard I was working, it didn’t matter because I was giving up family and friend time. During the pandemic even if I was making good money, it didn’t matter there was nothing to spend it on. During the pandemic, like a lot of people, I went into a dark hole. My mental health just continued to deteriorate. I struggled with anger management in the past. It got out of control. I almost lost my marriage because of it. I had to finally acknowledge I had to change something. I had a breakdown. I emailed my employer on a Sunday night and said “I quit.”
Jason was lucky to have a very supportive employer who said they’d work with him. They offered benefits, including short-term disability and mental health support (I was surprised by this, honestly). His employer gave him back his old, less-pressure job.
My experience is very different from a lot of people in that I have a really supportive employer. Despite the fact that everyone has issues, if there’s something going on in my organization, my employer had our backs.
Jason said he understands his good fortune. He and his wife bought a house years before the home prices increased. He and his wife both have good jobs. Jason said the last year taught him about the place of work in his life.
Now when people ask me what I do, I say I do this for a living, but I also say I have a family and kids. I find it’s changed how I perceive myself and how tell other people about myself. I’m still career driven, but what I reconciled is that I have a young family and my priorities needed to change.
Jason said the last six months have still been challenging. He started therapy, after he realized it was better to vent to a third party instead of family or friends. He said he knows the importance of a good outlet. He used to spend 90 minutes a day at the gym. He now suffers from chronic pain that resurfaced from a previous back injury. So, he got into music and plays guitar, which he even brings to his office to play during his lunch break (with headphones, of course.) He says after playing, he feels “recharged and ready to go.” His story illustrates the issues of mental health supports for men.
When I grew up and the schools I went to, men were discouraged from talking about [their emotions]. I feel like emotionally, men have a hard time talking about these things because it’s not something men are supposed to do. I feel like we have a whole generation of men who have a hard time talking about it because we don’t even know the emotion we’re feeling.
Jason said he thinks all of this still would have happened without a pandemic, although he said that was likely the catalyst. When he shared his story on LinkedIn, he got a lot of messages of support, including from colleagues. He says one person who messaged him said his post inspired them to do something similar in their life.
I really posted it there because I really wanted to get in front of the message. My fear was when I stepped out of the job and went back to the old level, people would say I couldn’t cut it. I didn’t want to do that job in the first place and COVID helped me realize if I didn’t love it, why would I do it. I spent too much time at work at a job I didn’t want to do, just to pay the bills.
Jason said he and his family experienced other losses over the last number of months, including deaths and illness in the family.
Having me be present has really helped everyone. I felt like I was getting numb and work was just there as a filler. Having addressed those things and taken a job with less responsibility, I felt like after work I should shut myself in my room for an hour to decompress, now I find myself spending more time with family, which just changes everything day to day.
I try not to complain too much because I think I’ve had it so much better than people who wanted to work, but couldn’t or those who owned a business and had to shut it down. I always feel like it’s really not my place to say how bad I felt I had it. But for anyone who is in a similar situation to me, if you’re not under financial pressures that require you to earn that income, if you don’t like your job, take a step back. … killing yourself for a job you don’t like or putting in time that’s taking you away from your friends and family, my realization is that life is too short to spend it all at work.
I was lucky to have a this revelation about my career in the Before Times, after working in a toxic workplace that almost completely drained me. Then, after leaving another job I didn’t like, with a crappy boss, I started freelancing and just got by for a while. But I’m one of the whitest women I know with oodles of privilege, so it wasn’t long before I got back to a place that is far better than I’ve ever had. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve worked with over the last few years, including here at the Examiner.
When employers are supportive, they get better workers. But many workers struggle daily, which is why I write about living wages and how employers should just pay people more and treat their staff better — it’ll be better for everyone. Still, there is more to life than work. As MacCaulley writes in his essay:
The pandemic has reminded us that life is more than what we do. It is about whom we spend our lives with. We cannot hug a career or laugh with a promotion. We are made for friendship, love and community.
2. Housing and employment
This Facebook post caught my attention last night. It’s from Jessika Hepburn, president of The Biscuit Eater Cafe and Bookstore in Mahone Bay. This cafe/bookstore has been closed since August 17 and shared in previous posts that they would open on September 8 after a rest. But they’ve been struggling to find staff. They’re offering wages of $18/hr for front-of-house staff and $21+/hr for kitchen staff. Those wages are much better than those at White Point, which announced a couple of weeks ago it was raising its minimum wage to $15/hr. Plus, The Biscuit Eater said it has housing arrangements for a couple of people in an apartment above the cafe. Here’s the post:
Doing a last big push over the next couple of weeks to hire staff and management @biscuiteater so we can reopen in September!
Able to pay skilled folks $21+ for kitchen management and $18+ for front of house, housing is also possible. Ideally a couple or friends in the industry could live in the apartment above the cafe & make around $40 an hour combined + have their housing covered. If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a cafe or busy restaurant this could be an opportunity to give it a try and save money without all the debt of ownership. Visit thebiscuiteater.com/jobs to see all the postings.
After almost 5 years of trying (and failing) to run the cafe while also trying to create safer, equitable communities it is time to choose either the cafe or community work and the priority is supporting @seedshelburne & following through on @birchtownretreat + working on being a good parent and person.
The goal was always to turn the cafe into a cooperative and keep it in community to build wealth & legacy for BIPOC communities on the South Shore but if we can’t find staff soon no matter how hard it is to let go we will need to sell it & hopefully find buyers who share those values. Have ideas? Want to work in the kitchen or help run our award winning community cafe & bookstore? Email [email protected]
Yesterday on CBC Information Morning, Portia Clarke interviewed Venessa Cavicchi Downing of Cavicchi’s Meats in Upper Tantallon. Like The Biscuit Eater, they’ve struggled to find staff, too. I didn’t hear a mention of wages in the interview, although I could have missed it, but this chat at least didn’t blame workers by saying they were choosing to stay at home collecting EI or CRB. Cavicchi brought up the lack of affordable housing in the area as well as the lack of public transit. Here’s a recent Facebook post from them:
To our valued customers & community,We would like to share some updates with you & trust you’ll appreciate the candor.
When the pandemic began, theoretically we dimmed our lights… now seventeen months later we find ourselves truly struggling to turn them back on.
As a small business in a community without public transportation or affordable housing we find ourselves in a place we’ve never been before. Two years ago in August we had over 30 local employees & were open almost 80 hours a week. Starting Monday, we will be down to approximately 15 employees for wholesale + retail combined, able to operate for 56 hours a week at best.
Due to the industry wide labour shortage we’re again forced to “pivot” NOT because we’re giving up but because we are deeply committed to making sure we’re serving you in the best way can.“It’s better to do one thing right than do two things half a$$!” -Grant Cavicchi
SO, while it finally feels like our challenges no longer stem from pandemic restrictions & capacity limits- the new reality of having VERY, VERY limited staff is forcing us to cut down store hours again in hopes that we can remain open seven days a week.
Starting Monday hours will be 10-5 across the board. This will hopefully keep you well served for fresh groceries & give you lots of opportunities to continue coming for breakfast, lunch & takeout!
NOW, keep in mind: this isn’t forever, but for the foreseeable future our small but MIGHTY & COMMITTED team will work our tails off to keep you happy! We love you & appreciate your patience, understanding & support.
Sincerely,Grant, Bev, Luke, Venessa & Team
We’ll see more of this in the weeks to come, I’m sure.
On my road trips around the province, I often notice the mottos or nicknames on signs in towns and villages. Many of them are quite familiar. During a recent day trip, I drove past the sign for Centreville in the Annapolis Valley. Its motto is “A good place to live and grow.” That’s not much different than the motto of New Minas: “A good place to live.”
And then there’s the Municipality of East Hants and its motto “We live it!” Apparently, there’s lots of livin’ going on in some of our communities.
I started digging around, sending out emails, and making phone calls to find out how some of these communities came up with the mottos or nicknames that we see on signs.
As for New Minas, Ian Morrison, town CAO, Clerk Treasurer, and Commissioner of Oaths, sent me this response about its motto “A good place to live.”
We believe the original, “A Good Place to Live” came from an elementary school contest many years ago for students to design a community sign for the Village. For many years that sign with the blue chevron and the logo served us. Now since we have grown and evolved, there is a stated sense by some that we should be rebranded as “A Great Place to Live and Do Business.”
Morrison told me in a follow-up email the town didn’t have any plans to rebrand.
I also talked to Jody MacArthur, a communications officer with the Municipality of East Hants, who gave me a bit of history about the motto “We Live It!” MacArthur said that around 2010 the municipality hired a company to do some destination branding, which included information sessions. MacArthur said out of that work, the municipality connected with an artisan named Jennifer Marlow, who came up with the motto “Nature Created This Wonder. Our People Live It.” MacArthur said people found that description to be “powerful” but the company they worked with decided “We Live It” was a better, more concise version. Said MacArthur:
It can be used in lots of different applications and it can mean lots of different things to different people.
Amherst has changed its motto over the last hundred years or so from Busy Amherst to “Pride in our people, faith in our products.” More recently, the town is using #seewhyweloveithere, a more modern motto complete with a social media hashtag. Yesterday I spoke with Amherst’s CAO Jason MacDonald, who said the recent motto was the idea of Bill Schurman, former director of recreation, who now works as the director of recreation services with the Municipality of the District Lunenburg. MacDonald said the motto “Pride in our people, faith in our products” was around for years, including in 1999 when he started working with the town. “Busy Amherst” dates back much further to the early 1900s, according to the town’s website.
Amherst is not the only town whose motto has had a rebranding. Kentville’s motto “A breath of fresh air” was adopted by the town several years ago. Revolve Branding and Marketing helped the town come up with a new motto through public engagement sessions. That’s quite a change (a breath of fresh air even) from its previous motto: Shire Town of Kings.
Here are some other community mottos:
Yarmouth: Its official motto is “Progress,” although as the town website says, it’s also known as “the Gateway to Nova Scotia.”
Stewiacke: “Halfway between the North Pole and the Equator.” I really think the motto should have Chicken Hill in it, or the mastodon.
Bedford: “A traditional stopping place since 1503.” For years, there was a sign on Highway 102 with this motto on it. It seems to have been replaced by a sign before the exit to Lower Sackville that says “Live. Shop. Love,” although this sign was put up by the Sackville Business Association. Is Bedford no longer a stopping place?*
Oh, and how about Dartmouth’s motto? No, not the “City of Lakes,” but “Dartmouth: NOT Halifax.”
Phil Moscovitch pointed me to this post on Halifax Subreddit in which a poster said he was working on a thesis about town mottos. Many of these I already knew, like Oxford is the “Wild Blueberry Capital of Canada” and Windsor is the “Birthplace of Hockey.” But here is a list of others I didn’t know:
Wolfville: “A cultivated experience for the mind, body and soul”
District of West Hants: “The Best of Everything” (competition for East Hants where they’re living it).
Truro: “Make the Connection”
County of Cumberland: “Strong vibrant communities through support and leadership”
New Glasgow: “Let New Glasgow Flourish”
Stellarton: “Spirit, People, Pride”
Trenton: “Strike While the Iron is Hot”
County of Inverness: “Canada’s Musical Coast”
County of Victoria: “Naturally Connected”
Cape Breton Regional Municipality: “Simple and Straightforward”
District of Guysborough: “The Natural Advantage”
Mahone Bay: “We love the beauty around us and welcome you to share it”
Clark’s Harbour: “Unity with Independence”
Shelburne: “It’s All Here”
And my personal favourite is from Port Mouton, whose motto is “Sheep Overboard,” which according to the community’s website comes from Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons who settled here with his in 1604. A sheep was lost overboard during the voyage there.
*Correction: The sign for Bedford: A traditional stopping place is still on Highway 102. We apologize for the error.
Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm) — live streamed on YouTube, with captioning on a text-only site
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — live streamed on YouTube
Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm) — live streamed on YouTube
Greening Your Business to Save Money and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint (Wednesday, 12pm) — This webinar will introduce the 50 Shades Greener Method.
Safe Space for White Questions (Wednesday, 12:30) — a series of free monthly drop-in sessions
In the harbour
11:30: Tidal Pioneer, utility vessel, arrives at Pier 9 from Ponta Delgada, Azores
13:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
15:00: X-press Irazu, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
08:00: Arctic Lift, barge, with Western Tugger, tug, transits the causeway from north to south for Aulds Cove quarry from Souris, PEI
16:00: Arctic Lift, barge, with Western Tugger, tug, sails for sea
I grew up in Beaver Bank and we didn’t have a motto, not an official one, anyway. Classmates from high school in Lower Sackville called it “The Sticks.” I don’t even recall seeing lots of beavers there — just the one that lived in the pond behind our house.