1. Province touts ECE pay increase — but for many it’s still below a living wage
Suzanne Rent reports on the province’s announcement of wage increases to early childhood educators in regulated settings:
Under a new wage scale, announced Tuesday, the province says most of the 2,600 ECEs working in regulated child care centres will see a wage increase in the range of 30%. Those wages will be retroactive to Jul. 4, 2022. The wage hikes will be between 14% and 43% from the current wage floor, depending on classification level and experience of the ECE.
The new wage structure starts in November and the retroactive pay will be paid to ECEs in mid-December. Nova Scotia Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Becky Druhan made the announcement at the NSCC’s Akerley campus.
But the increases may not be as good as they sound. Rent speaks to Bobbi Keating, a director at a child care centre in Halifax:
“We’re all very disappointed, and still trying to process everything,” Keating said. “Obviously, there is still a lot of information and questions we have to get answered.”
“This is a starting point for all new hires, but if we’re understanding this correctly, a level 3 ECE that is making $19/hour now, is only going to be up to $24/hour in five years.”
Rent also notes that, even with the increase, many ECEs will be earning considerably less than a living wage.
Jennifer Henderson follows up on Rent’s story with union reaction. She writes:
Late last evening the union representing a large portion of Early Childhood Educators issued a news release expressing “disappointment” in the five-year wage package presented by the province.
“The Houston government’s true colours were shown today, with contempt for workers in the early learning and child care sector, who are virtually all women,” said Nan McFadgen, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Nova Scotia.
“The top hourly wage for ECEs will be $24.39 (four years from now). That’s where wages should start off,” said Margot Nickerson, president of CUPE 4745. “Minister Druhan and Minister Gould are out of touch and don’t know what it means to be the ‘working poor.’”
Nova Scotia’s living wage rates are $23.50 for Halifax, $22.55 for the Southern region, $22.40 for Annapolis Valley, $20.40 for the Northern region, and $20.00 for Cape Breton, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“The struggle to lift ECEs out of poverty continues,” said Nan McFadgen. The release said CUPE will support any job action ECEs wish to take to convince the government their work remains under valued.
2. World Juniors should go on despite Hockey Canada scandals, council says
Halifax and Moncton are co-hosting this year’s IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, starting in December, and both cities want the tournament to go ahead, despite the revelations of Hockey Canada’s using minor hockey players’ fees for a fund that paid out sexual assault settlements. Hockey Canada continues to lose major sponsors, and yesterday the CEO and entire board resigned.
Last night, Halifax council affirmed its support for the tournament, while expressing strong concerns about Hockey Canada itself, Zane Woodford reports:
“I found it very difficult to get excited about this upcoming tournament without at least acknowledging what had been taking place or what had taken place,” [Coun. Patty] Cuttell said.
“I think not acknowledging the issues surrounding not only Hockey Canada, but hockey culture in general, would be very, very tone deaf and, and probably look poorly on us as well as being as being hosts.”
But along with other councillors, she expressed support for the tournament going ahead.
“I don’t really think that the young players or the hockey fans should be punished because of the actions of a few or because of the enabling organization that we’ve witnessed over the last few months. I do support moving forward with the event,” Cuttell said.
Coun. Lisa Blackburn and Deputy Mayor Pam Lovelace expressed similar views. Blackburn said:
“I’m not a hockey parent. I’ve never been a hockey parent so I’ve never paid a dime to Hockey Canada in fees. But as an outsider looking in I see an organization in need of complete systemic change through their actions. They’ve taught these boys, who are now men, that it’s okay to use women any way they want and they’ll be supported. They’ve taught these boys through their actions, these boys who are now men, that it’s okay to cover up that wrongdoing and bury it from scrutiny,” Blackburn said.
“As we discuss the world juniors we also have to remember that our concerns are with Hockey Canada and not the IIHF and the numerous businesses that will benefit from holding this event.”
Click here to read Woodford’s story. For a different perspective, please scroll down to the next item.
3. Three feminist leaders call for cancelling World Juniors
Three feminist leaders who issued a statement titled “dropping the puck on rape culture” applauded Tuesday’s decision by Hockey Canada leaders but argued it does not go far enough.
“A decision to cancel the World Junior Championship would respect the voices of the women and young men who have been tortured — that decision would show young people that we value healthy relationships. I call on Premier Houston to take a stand against sexualized violence,” said Linda MacDonald.
MacDonald has advocated for women who have been victims of human trafficking and is the co-author with educator Jeanne Sarson of the book Women Unsilenced — Our Refusal To Let Torturer-Traffickers Win. MacDonald argued the hazing of 15-year-old boys in locker rooms and the grooming of young girls who are often plied with alcohol before being sexually assaulted by a group of men in motel rooms are forms of torture. She said these ritualized actions dehumanize people and often leave victims traumatized.
But wouldn’t cancelling the World Junior event be unfair to athletes who have been training for years and who are not responsible for the actions of other players and coaches in the past? Why should they be penalized?
“I don’t see the cancellation as a loss but as an opportunity,” responded Linda MacDonald. “There is a crisis in hockey and I think it’s a teachable moment for hockey players to learn respect for victims of crime.”
Judy Haiven is a retired Saint Mary’s professor and founding member of Equity Watch, a Nova Scotia-based organization dedicated to fighting workplace discrimination. Haiven said refusing to host the Junior Championships would send a strong message that sexualized violence will not be tolerated.
“Which will it be — money or morals?” asked Haiven. “I would like the mayor of Halifax and the premier of Nova Scotia to have the guts to stand up to the hotels, the restaurants, and the bars who will demand that this event go ahead because they don’t want to lose money.”
4. Petition opposes proposed 22-storey tower in Lower Sackville
“Some residents of Lower Sackville signing onto a petition say a new development proposed for the area is too tall,” Zane Woodford reports.
The proposal involves building three towers — six, 15, and 22 storeys — near the Sobeys on First Lake Drive. From the story:
In total, the three buildings would contain 800 homes, with 186 units in the six-storey building, 300 in the 15-storey, and 314 in the 22-storey. The units in the tallest building range in size from 48-square-metre (517-square-foot) one-bedrooms to 117-square-metre (1,259-square-foot) three-bedrooms. The three buildings would also include 2,509 square metres (27,000 square feet) of commercial retail space in the ground floors.
Jeffrey Thibeau, who lives nearby, started a change.org petition opposing the development last week, and has garnered more than 250 signatures.
“That is a massive proposal for this neighbourhood. It’s almost going to double the population in the directly adjacent community,” Thibeau said in an interview on Tuesday.
“There’s no 22-storey buildings outside of downtown Halifax. It’s very out of place.”
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5. Province launches mental health and addictions peer support number
In a press release yesterday, the province announced the launch of a peer support phone line for “Nova Scotians with mild mental health or substance use concerns.”
The peer support line is only available Wednesday and Friday evenings, and 11am to 11pm on weekends. The release says in most cases, callers will get to speak with someone the same day or the next day. The number to call is 1-800-307-1686, and the line goes live today.
Nova Scotia has a number of peer support programs available, for instance those offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Nova Scotia Division.
This new service, however, is being provided by a corporation called MHI. As is often the case, the “About” page tells us very little that’s actually useful. We learn that MHI’s vision “is a future where wellbeing is achievable for all.” Its mission “is to lead innovative and sustainable change to enhance the mental health of all people.” And they have “decades of experience in organizational wellness.”
The company’s website seems largely focused on saving employers from having to pay out disability claims:
In today’s modern and fast-paced workplace, mental health problems have become the leading cause of disability.
The impact of mental illness on workplaces and organizations has naturally become a prime concern for many leaders looking to foster a healthier work environment and prosper over the coming years.
Under “Peer Support” the website says this:
Formalizing genuine human connection to provide safe and effective support is a game changer. Our clients have reported lower LTD and STD claims, increased access to care, improved organizational culture, and increased engagement.
The company also offers a program called WeCARE, which is designed to train employees to care about each other, and to prevent small problems from becoming big. The training “takes less than 40 minutes to complete.” From the program description:
WeCARE is a complement to professional clinical solutions, not a substitute. The idea is to show one of your greatest resources, your people, how to intervene before little problems become bigger ones.
By teaching employees to demonstrate care for each other early on, your workplace can avoid the costly consequences of more serious clinical illness for your teams.
I wonder if it works as well as the empathy-based approach councillors got last year for dealing with homelessness.
Me and my monitor: measuring CO2 in indoor spaces
For the last few weeks, I’ve slipped a carbon dioxide monitor into my pocket, or clipped it onto my belt wherever I go. Why? Because carbon dioxide levels are a helpful indicator of the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and I was curious about CO2 levels in the indoor spaces I visit. (If you’re wondering about the URL on the monitor, it’s from the place I bought it: a social enterprise that uses proceeds to provide high-quality masks to those who want them but can’t afford them.)
In July, I wrote about a New Zealand journalist measuring CO2 and interpreting the results, and I was curious about what I would find here.
Before getting to those numbers though, a few words on the utility and limitations of CO2 monitoring. The basic idea is this: We exhale carbon dioxide; when ventilation is poor, that carbon dioxide accumulates in indoor spaces. If anyone in that space is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, higher CO2 levels would indicate a higher risk of transmission, as the limited ventilation means we’re all breathing in each other’s air more than we would be in a well-ventilated space.
In its “Position Document on Indoor Carbon Dioxide” the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) notes that, “All else being equal, higher CO2 concentrations correspond to lower outdoor air ventilation rates and potentially an increased risk of airborne transmission.”
All things, of course, are not equal, as the ASHRAE document goes on to note. A room equipped with a HEPA filter could be very safe, despite elevated CO2 levels. That’s because the filter captures tiny particles — like viruses — but doesn’t reduce CO2. Furthermore, if nobody in a room is infected, it doesn’t matter how high the CO2 levels get — you’re still not at risk of infection. And CO2 can come from sources like gas ranges, which have nothing to do with humans breathing.
Still, a carbon dioxide monitor can help us assess relative risk. Presumably, in most places we go there are going to be at least a few people infected with the virus causing COVID-19.
In terms of understanding the numbers, atmospheric CO2 is about 400 parts per million (ppm). In the New Zealand story I referenced in July, University of Auckland aerosol chemist Dr. Joel Rindelaub said CO2 levels below 800 indicate a well-ventilated space, and over 2,000 is “a huge red flag.”
So, here’s what I found.
For long stretches of the pandemic, I avoided the gym altogether, especially when COVID-19 cases were really high. But there are benefits to going to the gym. We usually go early in the morning, when there are few people there, and I figured it’s probably decently ventilated. This is the highest it spiked while I was on the treadmill. There were maybe a half dozen people in the room. Most of the time, the CO2 level was in the 800-900 range. I noted that the level spiked when I was at the hardest part of my workout, so there’s a good chance much of the CO2 the monitor was picking up was my own.
In the locker room, with just one other person, the level was 750. I imagine that would climb considerably higher in that small space if it were more crowded. Results here were about what I expected. I still feel OK about going to the gym. (I went this morning.)
I expected Costco to be a total shitshow. I went on a Friday evening. It wasn’t crowded, but even when Costco is is not crowded, there are a lot of people in there. I would estimate that maybe 10% of the shoppers were wearing masks. To my surprise, CO2 levels generally hovered in the 700-800 range. They rose above 900 when I was in the produce section, where the aisles are tighter and more people are packed together. It’s a large, cavernous building with high ceilings. I guess the ventilation is not bad.
Halifax Brewery Market
The Halifax Brewery Market tends to be packed with people, few of them wearing masks. (Definitely a higher percentage of vendors in masks, compared to patrons, which, I guess, makes sense since the vendors are in the space much longer.) The photo above is one of the higher readings. Most of the time I was at the market, the monitor recorded levels in the 600 range.
Again, I expected this to be worse than it was. To my surprise, the most crowded room I was in had the lowest CO2 levels — but it also had much higher ceilings, and was close to a door that was regularly opening to the outdoors.
I go to Walmart maybe twice a year. Fortunately for you, dear reader, one of those times was last Saturday. This was the biggest shock I encountered in measuring CO2. Walmart had remarkably low concentrations. In fact, they were so low, I was starting to wonder if the monitor was working properly. (I have calibrated it a couple of times; it works fine.)
As with Costco, the produce aisle was the most crowded part of the store, but even there, the highest the CO2 level got was 575.
In my kitchen
We have a relatively small kitchen. Here’s the reading I got when three of us were in the room, and the gas range was on (with the ventilation hood running). This is a case where I don’t really care about the CO2 level. If someone in the family is infected, there’s a decent chance the rest of us will get COVID-19, just by virtue of living together. If none of us is infected, the number doesn’t really matter.
I ate out twice in the last couple of weeks. A friend and I went for brunch at a restaurant that had a fairly large interior and very few patrons (at least when we were there). The CO2 monitor barely budged above 400. The other restaurant/take-out place was much smaller, but had the door open. There were a couple of other occupied tables. The level was 500-600 most of the time. It briefly went up over 1,000 when a few people came in and stood near us at the takeout counter.
At the Tantallon library, where some staff were masked and there were few patrons, CO2 levels were just over 400, or similar to outdoors.
At a bank branch with maybe four patrons and a few staff, the CO2 level was at 650-750 while I was using the ATM.
In a health clinic waiting room the level was under 500, but there was hardly anyone else there.
On Saturday, I went to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 to see the Karsh exhibit, and to wander through the permanent collection a bit. The museum was not crowded, but there was a decent number of people there. The CO2 levels barely broke 400 the whole time.
We went to a family birthday with about a dozen people, spread over three rooms: living room, dining room, and kitchen. I spent a good chunk of time chatting with folks in the less-populated living room, where the CO2 reading generally sat in the 800-900 range. (There was an open window.) But when we all gathered to eat, and then, of course, to sing happy birthday, the levels increased considerably.
Then came Thanksgiving dinner. This time there were about a dozen people again, but in a smaller space. Early on, the readings were under 1,000. After we’d been in the kitchen/dining room for awhile they climbed up over 1,000. When I was in a room by myself — OK, I went to the bathroom — the level dropped to 400, and then, as we hung out after dinner, having all been in the house for awhile, the levels were consistently up over 2,000, or very high. Red flag territory.
Dinner was delicious.
What does it all mean?
I think it’s fair to say my partner was worried I would become obsessed and worried about going anywhere once I got my hands on this monitor. I think it’s fair to say the “obsessed” part is somewhat accurate, but I approached the measurements more from a place of curiosity than fear. We’re supposed to be making our own informed decisions, and having this information is one data point we can use. I should note that my goal here was not to be comprehensive, but to see what the CO2 levels were in places I was going to anyway. I don’t generally hang out in bars, so I didn’t go measure the levels in bars.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the ventilation in the retail environments I was in, and I was happy to confirm my assumption that the gym early in the morning would not have particularly high CO2 levels. I was not at all surprised by the results at the family gatherings, but they did make me think of something a friend of mine said about how our brains trick us into thinking certain things are safe. You assume you’re safest with your family.
But the family get-togethers were probably the most high-risk activities I engaged in over the last few weeks. Several people close together, loud talking, extended close contact. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have got together to celebrate. For many of us, being able to celebrate events with those you love is an important part of being human. But I did find it eye-opening just how high the numbers were at those get-togethers. Maybe open a window. Or two.
In early September, signs like the one above sprung up on my part of the St. Margaret’s Bay Road, aka Highway 333. On one side, the signs urge people to slow down. On the other they say, “Make Room We’re a Walking Community.” The signs are sponsored by the federal government, the Healthy Tomorrow Foundation (a non-profit created by Doctors Nova Scotia), and the Clean Foundation.
The thing is, we are pretty demonstrably not a walking community. I had plenty of opportunity to think about this as I walked my dogs and watched car after car whip past on the road. There are no sidewalks, no bike paths either, and our Walk Score is a miserable 7. (“Almost all errands require a car. Minimal bike infrastructure.”) People do walk on the road, of course, but that doesn’t really make for “a walking community.” So, the signs are aspirational, I guess.
While out biking on Monday, I came across this one lying by the side of the road. Seemed somehow appropriate.
Halifax and West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — and via video
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — and online; 2022 Atlantic Provinces’ Joint Follow-up of Recommendations to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, with representatives from Atlantic Lottery Corporation, Department of Finance & Treasury board, and Nova Scotia Gaming Commission
Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)
Epigenetics in Diabetic Kidney Disease – Marking a Paradigm Shift (Thursday, 12pm, online) — Ferhan Siddiqi will talk
Women in Retail: Impacting Our Communities With Purpose (Thursday, 9am, Loyola Conference Hall) — tickets and more info here
Mount Saint Vincent
Flag-making workshop (Wednesday, 12pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — Materials and snacks will be provided for participants to make small flags with words and designs that encourage and celebrate quiet, to be used at the QUIET PARADE on October 15. More info here.
In the harbour
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 36 from St. John’s
07:00: Ocean Explorer, cruise ship with up to 162 passengers, arrives at Pier 24 from Lunenburg, on a 14-day cruise from Boston to Quebec City
07:30: Baie St.Paul, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Sept-Iles, Quebec
08:20: Voyager of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,099 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Portland, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston
10:30: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
10:30: MSC Maria Clara, sails from Pier 41 for Barcelona
10:30: NYK Rumina, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southampton, England
11:00: Hyundai Faith, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 41
11:30: Seaborne Quest, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for Bar Harbor
16:00: Trinitas, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea
16:30: Ocean Explorer sails for Pictou
20:00: Voyager of the Seas sails for Saint John
11:30: Marguerita, bulker, arrives at Port Hawkesbury Paper from Portland
17:00: Algoterra, oil tanker, sails from Government Dock (Sydney) for sea
I love the Quiet Parade idea.
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THANKS for the CO2 report
Thanks for spreading the knowledge of how to make sense of CO2 monitors. For those who are curious but don’t want to commit, some libraries have CO2 monitors available to borrow, so it’s worth checking or making a purchase request.
Raven CleanAir Map is collecting people’s readings, and is a great way of supporting orgs and businesses doing a good job of lowering our dose of “air-backwash”. Zoom in to see quite a few listings in Nova Scotia! Once you’re signed in, you can add a reading by clicking on the map or searching for a location by name. https://www.ravenapp.org/cleanair
One thing would love to see The Examiner pursue: who is deciding how good is good enough, and how exactly are they arriving at those numbers? Like most things, there isn’t really a line in the sand between “safe” and “not safe”, which means any number (like 800, or 2000ppm) is based on someone’s risk threshold. It’s worth asking what that is. For example, if someone says 1000ppm is perfectly fine because they’re relying on outdated assumptions that SARS-CoV-2 is spread primarily by touching contaminated surfaces, you might decide to take it less seriously than one that’s based on more updated information that the virus is spread primarily through inhalation.
Sometimes people arrive at the 800ppm threshold because it corresponds roughly to 6 air-changes per hour in a space the size of a classroom. Early in the pandemic, this was published by several sources including the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard as an aspirational target. It is indeed higher than many modern buildings achieve, but I’ve been unable to figure out where 800ppm/ or 6ACH was *first* published, or the reasoning behind it at the time; if anyone has any clues, please share! But air quality that is “better than we have now” does nothing to tell us *how much* it lowers infection risk, or to help us decide if that’s enough. It’s not easy to do science journalism these days when so many experts seem enamored with using words like “low” transmission or “poor” ventilation, without explaining what they mean by that. But these are quantitative questions, and they deserve quantitative answers — even if those answers are a range, rather than a single definite value, and even if they have to be revised. If “poorly ventilated” means any space where CO2 accumulates, everything that’s not outdoors is poorly ventilated, unless the HVAC is flushing air as fast as people are breathing out. “Poorly ventilated” makes people think of places that feel stuffy or hot or smelly. If we’re talking about infection control, that doesn’t answer any questions about risk.
One source worth checking out is the COVID risk estimator published by University of Colorado-Boulder scientists (https://cires.colorado.edu/news/covid-19-airborne-transmission-tool-available, last update March 2022). It uses room size, number of people, and length of event to estimate how many COVID cases are likely to arise in a particular indoor situation. You’ll need to know your space’s air-changes-per-hour (ACH); you can estimate it based on your CO2 readings using this Harvard School of Public Health Calculator. https://hsph.me/2cr
The COVID risk estimator will give you your results both in expected number of cases, and in how your risk compares to the risk of getting in a car. For example, IF your birthday dinner had had one infectious person present, guessing at a dining room that’s 200sq’ with 8′ ceilings, sitting together for an hour results in each person inhaling about 12 times the virus dose needed to become infected. Which means that every person who wasn’t very recently vaccinated against that specific variant likely gets sick: about 99.8% chance. Risk of someone in the room dying is estimated at over 60,000 times the risk of getting in their car that day.
Cranking up the ventilation to get below 800ppm cuts the inhaled virus down to 6 infectious doses per person: in other words, more than enough for everyone who’s not immune to still get sick. This isn’t a reason not to use CO2 monitors — but to make sure we ask what assumptions scientists are making when they tell us what thresholds are “red flag territory”. I like my risk threshold closer to 0.01% (I’m willing to live with 4 times as dangerous as getting in my car). That means if I’m going to be indoors for an hour, I wear an N95 mask and don’t crack it til I’m outside, give people lots of room (at least 6′), and reserve my indoor time for buildings with CO2 in the ballpark of 500ppm (my local library and community center both meet this). If I want to hang out with someone for longer, or sit next to each other, or eat together, I find out which parks and businesses are investing in outdoor infrastructure (awnings, blankets, and fire pits are not rocket science) and patronize them. Your mileage will definitely vary — which is exactly the point.
The scientists and engineers deciding on these thresholds are using numbers to do it, and it is both worthwhile and doable for us all to have access to what those numbers are.
As far as HRM council is concerned cyclists are more important than pedestrians. The province should have legislation which gives priority to pedestrians on all sidewalks and trails. Pedestrians have legislated priority in Dartmouth Common but the councillor and staff are not interested in enforcing the law.
Saw one of these in Dartmouth Common a month ago : https://www.ebikecentre.ca/product-page/daymak-em2-72v-electric-scooter….. a silent threat to pedestrians.
Those so called “scooters” aren’t just a threat to pedestrians but cyclists as well.
Had an incident on the bike lane on the bridge with one of those, let’s be real, motorcycles.
Needless to say they travel faster than pedal bikes and take up far more room on a narrow bikeway designed for two way traffic. Combine that with a belligerent operator and…….