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1. Graphed: COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, April 15, 2020

Thirty-two more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. That brings the total to 549. Nine people are in hospital with four of those in ICUs. 137 people have fully recovered. Three people have died.

Tim has all the graphs here, but he points out that while testing is increasing, the percentage of positive tests is stable.

The province released its modelling projections on Tuesday. Those projections include more details for the geography of the positive cases.

The previous maps had numbers for the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s zones. This map breaks that down a bit more, including describing the Dartmouth SE area.

Read the full story here.

2. Daily COVID-19 update: Zero businesses have been charged with violating the public health orders

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil (left) and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang, at the daily COVID-19 briefing, April 15, 2020. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia.

On Monday, Tim wrote about what he calls the “construction loophole.” At construction sites across the province, it’s still business as usual. So, Tim asked Premier Stephen McNeil about this. McNeil says:

Well, it’s part of, when we were looking at the issues of how to follow public health orders, we looked at construction sites where the six-feet, two-metre protocol could be followed. Um, I was actually on my way here today and noticed some work happening on the 101, a construction site near Windsor where everyone was either using equipment or well past six feet apart. The same thing can happen at apartment buildings where we can actually have people on different floors.

We also have to have some economic activity going on in our province. We can’t completely go to a complete standstill. Where we’ve seen issues that we felt with the advice of Dr. Strang that there was a workplace that couldn’t operate or that didn’t have the appropriate protocols, we would close it.

That’s why the service industry, we aggressively moved early on. We were one of the first provinces in Canada to ensure that the service side of our economy was closed. And then we moved to the other aspects of our economy — is there a way to have parts of it operate? And we felt that was the case.

I can tell you we have inspectors on work sites. Where there are issues, people are being identified, and our inspectors are enforcing what is our regulation and we will continue to monitor that, but as we deal with COVID-19 and we continue to have progress on trying to control that with inside our province, we need to also make sure that our economy is in somewhat a position to allow us to come out of this whenever the public health orders are lifted.

Tim wrote more on that here, but he also contacted the Department of Labour asking about workplace inspections during COVID-19, including if new inspectors had been hired, how many inspectors are inspecting construction sites, how many sites have been inspected since the state of emergency, and how many companies have been fined for violating public health orders.

Department spokesperson Carley Sampson wrote back:

Since March 11th, the date of notice of pandemic from the World Health Organization, we’ve completed 37 inspections of construction workplaces. These inspections resulted in 20 orders and 2 administrative penalties, none of which dealt with COVID-19. All issues were resolved and there were no charges issued. We have 35 inspectors; all involved in workplace inspections. We did not hire any new inspectors; this is part of our normal work planning activities. Our inspections of construction sites will be increasing over the next few weeks to ensure workplaces are following COVID-19 social distancing protocols.

As Tim notes, Halifax Regional Police have issued 110 tickets to people, while the RCMP have ticketed another 116 people.

3. Letter from Black community to Premier and Chief Medical Officer has been vandalized with racist comments

El Jones writes about an open letter to Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang that was vandalized by racist comments.

The letter, which has about 250 signatures, calls for an apology from the premier and Strang made about North Preston, East Preston, Cherry Brook, and Lake Loon area during their daily press conference on April 7.

The ill-advised choice to single out North Preston has caused harm and also signals the inability of the Premier and Chief Medical Officer to understand how anti-Black racism impacts our lives and our health care. The following day, Dr. Strang claimed he did not know why people were being stigmatized and judged. We state that the reason for this stigmatization and judgement is racism. Anti-Black racism is not simply calling people by the n-word. It is also the daily micro- and macro-aggressions Black people encounter. The impacts of racism makes us members of the “more vulnerable” and this must be acknowledged.

A comment left on the form to collect signatures says, “How about you people apologize to us for infecting Dartmouth instead of blaming everyone else take responsibility for your actions.”

OmiSoore Dryden. Photo: omisooredryden.com

Community members who have shared the letter also say they are receiving racist messages via social media. Dr. OmiSoore Dryden, one of the organizers of the letter says she’s also received racist messages through sharing the letter and speaking to media. Dryden tells Jones:

Not only have people gone to the online form to leave racist messages, they have dm’d me on various social media platforms. Confronting anti-Black racism remains urgent and necessary. It is important work. Rightfully, people of North Preston, East Preston, Cherry Brook, and Lake Loon immediately spoke out about how the actions of the Premier and Chief Medical Officer would exacerbate already existing stigmas and this is exactly what is happening.

If the Premier and Chief Medical Officer are truly concerned about all of us then they must unreservedly apologize for the harm they have caused some of us. African Nova Scotian lives also matter during this pandemic. This is the only way forward.

4. How effective is Public Health messaging?

Jennifer Henderson reports on a global survey that will help psychologists understand what messages are working during the COVID-19 crisis to change human behaviour.

Here’s a sample question from the survey: “What do you think of the actions taken by your government or local health authority to prevent and/or reduce the spread of COVID-19?”

Choose one of the following answers

  • Too strict
  • About right
  • Too lenient
Dr. Michael Vallis. Photo: Obesity Canada.

As Henderson reports, the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre has more than 100 researchers in 20 countries looking at public attitudes to health measures put in place during COVID-19. Dr. Michael Vallis, a health psychologist and professor at Dalhousie’s medical school, is one of the researchers taking part. Vallis says the goal is to have 100,000 people fill out the online surveys over the next couple of months (You can find the survey here). All the findings will be analyzed and sent off to government officials.

Vallis says he’s interested to learn about people’s responses in other countries, including Brazil.

There you have a president who has been downplaying the risk of the virus. Ironically, in the favelas or shantytowns that are run by gangs and are so violent the police won’t go there but only the military, it’s the gangs in the favelas who are organizing social distancing and putting in curfews. So there, a group that is perceived as anti-social is prepared to act when they see that the president is not acting.

There will be a follow-up survey in May that will look at people’s emotional impact during the pandemic, including those around domestic violence and substance abuse.

Read the full story here.

5. Tender calls for ferry service to Georges Island

Georges Island. Photo: historicplaces.ca

Alexander Quon at Global reports on a tender document from Develop Nova Scotia looking for a provider for a passenger ferry to Georges Island. That service could start this summer, if life gets back to normal. That service would start July 3 and run until September 3, although there’s a possibility service could be extended to November 15. There would be several sailings a day between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The ferry is part of a $3.67 million infrastructure project announced last year with the goal of opening the island to the public. The tender does acknowledge that plans for the service could be halted because of COVID-19.

Commencement of this service will be predicated on public health and safety concerns related to COVID-19 as assessed and directed by the Province of Nova Scotia, Develop Nova Scotia, and or Parks Canada and in consultation with the successful proponent(s).

As Quon reports, a wharf where the ferry will dock is already being constructed on the north side of the island.

Maybe we can put the anti-vaxxers on the island for now.


Views

1. COVID-19 and lessons from Southern Ontario’s Basic Income Experience

These days Laura Cattari spends all of her time in her condo in Hamilton, Ontario. Cattari lives with chronic pain, diabetes, and is immunocompromised, so right now she can’t go to the lobby of her building to get the mail, take out the garbage, or pick up a delivery at the main entrance. “If I catch [COVID-19] I probably wouldn’t survive,” Cattari says.

Cattari works part-time with the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction. That’s how she learned about the Southern Ontario Basic Income Experience back in 2017. She applied and qualified. Cattari has extensive experience as an advisor and policy consultant, including helping the previous provincial government look at income security issues, which are detailed in its report, Income Security: Roadmap for Change.

Until March 2019, Cattari was also getting about $540 a month as a participant in the Southern Ontario Basic Income Experience. Combining that with her part-time income and her Ontario Disability Support Program Income, made a big difference in her life. “It was enough to bring me to a living wage locally,” Cattari says.

Laura Cattari.

The basic income pilot started in October 2017, but was cancelled by Premier Doug Ford’s government in March 2019. The evaluation for that program was also cancelled.

Cattari was part of a webinar from the Tamarack Institute last week where she spoke about the findings of the experience. I actually signed on and listened in (you can watch the recording here). Cattari was joined by Tom Cooper, director at the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and Dr. Wayne Lewchuk, of McMaster University, one of four authors of the report on the Basic Income Experience. You can read that report here. 

The webinar highlighted some of the key findings from a survey of 217 of the experience’s recipients and interviews with 40 others. Those findings noted that the recipients reported better health. They had fewer visits to see a doctor and went to ERs less often. They had access to medications, smoked less and drank less. Almost 90% reported better mental health. The basic income improved the household, too. There was less anxiety in families and children reported better health. Those who were employed before the pilot reported more security overall. Most of the participants worked in precarious employment situations, but most people who worked before the pilot continued to work through the pilot. Only about one-quarter of the participants stopped working during the pilot. Some in the program went into self-employment. About half of those who stopped working during the pilot developed plans to take up education to improve employment prospects. Some who stopped working did so to help sick loved ones or to leave workplaces with terrible working conditions. About one-third of those who worked before the pilot found better jobs while receiving basic income. Another one-third found jobs with better pay. Overall, everyone who received the basic income benefited from the program.

Even though Cattari’s no longer receiving the basic income, she says there are lessons to be learned from her experience and those of others that apply to the COVID-19 crisis. I spoke with Cattari earlier this week and she shared some of what she learned while taking part in the basic income program that she also highlighted in last week’s webinar.

As she says, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is an emergency test in basic income. But as we’ve seen in recent weeks, rolling out the CERB wasn’t going so smoothly as if we had a basic income program already in place. When the CERB was first rolled out, it left out many workers, including those who are self-employed and worked a few part-time gigs, much like those in precarious situations who took part in the Southern Ontario project. The program has evolved over the last few weeks, though. Yesterday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new changes to CERB, which will now include those who make less than $1,000 per month. That includes a lot of low-income workers and self-employed workers who didn’t lose all their clients. As Cattari says, the CERB is exposing how precarious work is for many Canadians.

It’s a sad way for the government to realize how many people are living on the margins. It’s forced us to look at what the economy is right now. I hope it’s a wake-up call for everyone.

One of the most important aspects Cattari talks about is the stability a basic income provides. As the report mentions, some participants tried self-employment. Others went on to better jobs. In the webinar, Cattari says no employment program can do what basic income can do. Cattari says the basic income pilot reinforces the idea that it takes money to make money.

Hope is an important thing and you don’t feel that when you feel unstable. If you want to empower people, you need to treat them like everyone else.

Basic income also gave participants financial liquidity. Right now, that means access to credit so you can pay for food or other services to be delivered to you. That liquidity will be important, too, once businesses are able to open up again. A basic income gives people spending power.

The ability to weather storms relied on your ability to know how much money you can get your hands on.

Cattari’s own experience highlights some important benefits of basic income. She could afford better food, including meat and fresh fruit and veggies. She’s also diabetic and her condition made a 180-degree improvement.

While Cattari was on the basic income, she realized buying items like a new sofa or mattress were easier. She could plan for the future, too (she says in the webinar “to be able to dream again is huge.) She didn’t have to worry about not eating so she could make bigger purchases.

This was a way to manage long-term purchases you need to make eventually. That was lifted for me with $500.

Cattari can’t leave her condo, but she can keep in touch with internet and a computer. Those aren’t luxuries anymore and, in fact, the digital divide is larger for those on low incomes. “We know people with low incomes are socially isolate to begin with,” Cattari says. A basic income would also allow recipients to afford internet service and the devices to communicate. As many shops and services head online now, they are more important than ever and keep people connected with others, but also provide people with access to food.

COVID-19 is not the only crisis Canada will face. Cattari and Lewchuk say in the webinar that climate change will expose gaps in the system and show who’s most vulnerable during emergencies.

As for paying for it, the Basic Income Canada Network wrote a report that includes a few options for how basic income could look:

The Options:

  • Option 1 is for 18-64-year-olds based on household income, operating much like child benefits, with the $22,000/year ($31,113 for a couple) benefit amount gradually reducing as other income increases; seniors’ benefits remain in place.
  • Option 2 is similarly income-tested and is for all adults, including seniors.
  • Option 3 is a universal model, sometimes called a demogrant, that provides the same benefit amount to every individual adult.

One of the biggest myths around basic income is it would encourage people not to work. Think about everyone who’s staying home right now. Certainly, many of them would rather be at work and back at their routines. But think, too, of who is still working on the frontlines, including some of the lowest-paid workers in our economy, like those at grocery stores. In some cases, those essential workers are earning less than those people receiving CERB right now. That’s true, too, for those on income assistance who can’t afford to buy extra groceries and are less connected to food resources. (In the webinar, Wayne Lewchuck makes a good point about how basic income will benefit the 98% of those participants who still work and their needs shouldn’t be ignored because of the 1 or 2% who don’t work. He also points out people work for more than just a paycheque, but also for connection and purpose).

And while Canadians are now missing going to work and being productive, getting a basic income shouldn’t rely on your value as a worker. Cattari says she turned 50 recently and realizes that as the next decade goes along, her conditions and chronic pain may worsen. That may mean she can’t work the job she’s working now. She says ultimately a basic income shouldn’t be tied to work.

What’s wrong with me taking care of myself and volunteering in the community? Do I have no value as a human without work? At what point do I get time to worry about myself and not worry about my survival?

Cattari and I had an excellent chat and we covered more issues than I have time to write about here. But I encourage you to watch the webinar, which you can find here. There’s more discussion on issues like basic income and food security and housing.

I agree with Cattari that COVID-19 is showing us all what the Canadian workforce looks like and it’s made up of a lot of people who are working and living precariously. I know a lot of these people. You know them. The gig economy is getting larger, but it’s definitely not stable. A basic income could give these workers a floor through which they won’t fall, COVID-19 crisis or not.


Noticed

Kevin Cormier is the new executive director of the New Brunswick Library Services. The former head of the provincial libraries, Sylvie Nadeau, is asking Premier Blaine Higgs to review Cormier’s appointment, saying the wording of the ad opened up the recruitment for candidates without library experience. Nadeau says she wants Higgs to “correct this unfair, unjustifiable and incomprehensible decision.” Photo: LinkedIn

In other news, Sylvie Nadeau, the former head of the New Brunswick Library Services, wrote a letter to Premier Blaine Higgs about the hiring of the library service’s new executive director, Kevin Cormier. If you recall, CBC reported back in February Cormier was hired for the job despite not appearing to be qualified for the job at all, including not having previous experience working in or managing libraries.

This week, Bobbie-Jean MacKinnon with CBC New Brunswick spoke with Nadeau about why she wrote the letter to Higgs asking the premier to review Cormier’s hiring. In her letter, Nadeau tells Higgs the wording in the ad left recruitment open to hire someone who wasn’t experienced for the job.

As a citizen, this appointment gives me grave concerns that this might be the new way that the government is going to fill positions anywhere in government in the future: by manipulating the recruitment ads (beyond their officially approved requirements) to ‘tailoring’ them in order to facilitate particular agendas, political appointments, favouritism, friendships, and what else.

Nadeau says she wants the premier’s office to review the recruitment process, including a review of the ad, a look at the screening process and interview panel, and the use of the Corporate Talent Management Program under which Cormier was hired. Nadeau tells MacKinnon, “I think there is … probably enough flaws there to warrant a cancellation of that competition and to rescind the appointment.”

Labour minister Trevor Holder announced in the legislature last month the Corporate Talent Management Program will be reviewed in response to Cormier’s appointment.

Nadeau tells MacKinnon says she knows three senior managers in the library services who were considering applying for the job. She adds two of them asked to use her as a reference. Nadeau says she didn’t get a call for either candidate.

I especially love the cutline under Labour Minister Trevor Holder’s photo in which he says New Brunswickers need to give Cormier time to “prove himself.”

I shared this story on my own social media and a lot of women reacted because watching men get chances to “prove” themselves without qualifications is nothing new to us. So, I was pleased to learn Nadeau is calling for a review of Cormier’s appointment. How this will turn out, no one knows, of course, but women know we don’t get chances to prove ourselves like Cormier has.


Government

No meetings. You can watch the COVID-19 webcast here, and get more info here.


In the harbour

06:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
08:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:30: Boarbarge 37, semi-submersible barge, moves from Woodside to Pier 9
11:00: JPO Aries, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
11:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Autoport
15:00: MOL Maneuver, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:00: Atlantic Sky sails for New York
16:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 41


Footnotes

Tuesday night, my kid walked into the living room and said, “UGH! When will this be over?”

I think she speaks for all of us.

Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. I hope the ferry service to George’s Island is not a monopoly. There are marine operators around the harbour who can also provide a water taxi service. My fear is that one operator (we can all guess who) will be handed the privilege and all others will be forbidden from going to the island.

  2. Great article on guaranteed annual income- or as Tim wrote in the vernacular-give people money. It needs to be a post-COVID habit.

    1. I recently heard an excellent interview on CBC radio with former Senator, Progressive Conservative Hugh Segal, who has been trying to fight poverty in Canada for many years. His book title puts is pretty plainly: “Bootstraps need boots”, and these results of the Ontario experiment paint a clear picture of what that means for real people.