1. Nova Scotia Power fined $375,000
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) has slapped Nova Scotia Power with a $375,000 fine for failing to meet performance standards established more than five years ago.
The utility filed its annual report last March and the data show it failed to comply with four of 13 established benchmarks. The benchmarks are designed to measure the system’s reliability, response to storms, and customer service.
The company failed to meet standards around the average duration and average frequency of power outages. The company also failed to improve reliability of chronic underperforming circuits in Cape Breton that include areas near St. Peter’s and Whycocomagh. The UARB notes the number of planned system outages increased in 2021 to 572 from 490 the previous year.
According to the report:
• Planned outages increased again, this time from 490 in 2020 to 572 in 2021 (i.e., 16.7% deterioration). In 115 of those outages, only one customer was affected, while between two and 10 customers were affected during 131 of those outages. Also, about 85 of those outages were due to planned transmission-related work.
• Average duration of a planned outage decreased again, this time from 2.76 hours in 2020 to 2.59 hours in 2021 (i.e., 6.2% improvement).
• Average number of customers experiencing a planned outage remained essentially the same at 258 customers in 2021, compared to 257 customers in 2020.
There was only one large storm in 2021, so storm response was not an issue. The main area of concern with respect to customer service involved connecting new customers where poles had to be installed. Wait times were longer than the targets for the last five months of 2021.
Under the Public Utilities Act, the UARB has the authority to levy a fine of up to $1,000,000 if the power company does not meet performance standards.
The Board called this year’s report “disappointing” but noted performance was still better than in 2019. That was the first time the UARB fined the company — a fine of $250,000 — after the company did not restore service to customers fast enough following storms.
The company will appear before the UARB on Monday to begin a month-long proceeding to adjudicate its request for an 11.6% increase to residential power bills and a request to increase and retain more of its profit for shareholders.
2. Early childhood educators
“Dozens of early childhood educators (ECEs) gathered at Grand Parade in downtown Halifax on Thursday demanding a living wage,” reports Suzanne Rent:
In January, the province announced an improved wage and benefit package as part of the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement. But ECEs at Thursday’s rally said they’ve waited long enough.
Bobbi Keating was one of those ECEs who spoke at the rally. She started working as an ECE in 1989 and recalled that after just 16 months on the job, she attended a rally at the legislature fighting for fair wages.
“Imagine 33 years fighting the same fight,” Keating said in an interview with the Halifax Examiner. “It never gets fixed.”
In her speech, Keating painted a story about how ECEs get by, often eating at the daycares because they can’t afford groceries. She said others couldn’t afford bus tickets or gas for their cars, if they can even afford a car.
“There are lots of people who don’t understand,” Keating said. “They see early childhood educators and think, ‘Well, they must be getting paid well. That’s the most important job there is.’ And you realize, no, $15 an hour you can’t afford rent, you can’t afford food. It’s educating people to know that even though we’re there for your children every day, we can’t feed our children at night. It’s really important people understand that.”
Keating added that ECEs needed to spread the word about their work and they want to know when the compensation is coming.
“It needs to be tomorrow, it needs to be today,” Keating said. “Any time we wait is too long.”
3. 10 new COVID deaths
Nova Scotia is reporting 10 new deaths from COVID, for the most recent reporting week, Aug. 30- Sept 5. In total, 507 people have died because of COVID in Nova Scotia through the pandemic, 395 of whom are considered Omicron deaths.
The monthly demographic (age) data and vaccination status of the deceased are released on the 15th of the following month.
Additionally, during the same reporting period, 33 people were hospitalized because of COVID. On Tuesday, there were 51 people in hospital because of COVID, 10 of whom were in ICU. The ICU numbers recently have been relatively high.
For the reporting period, there were 986 lab-confirmed (PCR tests) new cases. This is the first week this calendar year that has recorded fewer than 1,000 new cases. I don’t know how or if the long holiday weekend may have affected testing. Additionally, PCR testing is limited, and many people don’t bother to get a PCR test regardless.
“The municipality’s Design Review Committee has approved the addition to and restoration of the historic Elmwood hotel building, despite some concerns about the plan for the building’s main floor,” reports Zane Woodford:
The building dates back to 1826, but was mostly completed in 1896, when it was converted to a Victorian hotel.
As the Halifax Examiner reported in May, the developer plans to restore the Elmwood on its new foundation, tear down an old addition, and then build a nine-storey, 79-unit apartment building in the back.
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The Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) has charged Cst. Kwame Amoateng, a member of the Halifax District RCMP, with obstructing a peace officer.
According to a statement issued by Inspector Jeremie Landry, Halifax District Policing Officer, the charge against Amoateng is related to a May 14 incident in the Kemptown area, when Amoateng was on duty; Landry didn’t explain why Amoateng, who is usually posted to North Preston, was in Kemptown. After the incident, Northwest RCMP Traffic Services notified Halifax District RCMP about it.
Amoateng has been with the RCMP for nine years. He is now on administrative duties and in addition to the criminal charge is the subject of a code of conduct investigation.
5. The murder of a reporter
Reporters David Ferrara, Briana Erickson, and Glenn Puit at the
Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles was arrested on suspicion of murder Wednesday evening in the fatal stabbing of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German, whose investigation of the politician contributed to [Telles’s] primary election loss in June.
German spent months reporting on the turmoil surrounding Telles’ oversight of the public administrator’s office.
The 45-year-old Democrat lost his re-election bid in the primary after German’s findings were published. German also had recently filed public records requests for emails and text messages between Telles and three other county officials: Assistant Public Administrator Rita Reid, estate coordinator Roberta Lee-Kennett and consultant Michael Murphy. Lee-Kennett was identified in previous stories as a subordinate staffer allegedly involved in an “inappropriate relationship” with Telles.
German, 69, was found dead on Saturday morning outside his northwest Las Vegas home, the Metropolitan Police Department reported. Police said they believe he was fatally stabbed during an altercation the previous morning.
The article details German’s reporting on Telles and the police investigation into German’s murder.
This article gives an overview of German’s remarkable career.
6. Housing for people with disabilities
“More of the same was the theme of the day on Tuesday as the provincial Standing Committee on Community Services met to to discuss ‘A progress update on phasing out adult residential centre and regional rehabilitation centre facilities,’” reports Philip Moscovitch:
A 2013 report adopted by the then-NDP government, known as “the roadmap,” called for transforming supports and services to people with disabilities, including “a clear commitment and… steps to phas[e] out, over a multi-year period, use of ARCs, RRCs and RCFs as a response to the residential needs of persons with disabilities, in concurrence with development of necessary community-based alternatives.” ARC, RRC, and RCF stand for adult residential centres, regional rehabilitation centres, and residential care facilities.
Nearly a decade later, and almost a year after the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal found the province is discriminating against people with disabilities by not providing adequate residential supports, there wasn’t much progress to report. Eight ARCs and RRCs remain open in the province, and, addressing the committee, Department of Community Services Deputy Minister Tracey Taweel admitted there has only been a minimal reduction in the number of people with disabilities living in the facilities.
1. MacMaster on minimum wage
As Zane Woodford reported Wednesday, the living wage in HRM in now calculated to be $23.50 an hour.
Yesterday, I attended the news conference ministers have after their cabinet meetings, where Allan MacMaster, who is the deputy premier and minister of Finance, was challenged by reporters who suggested that in wake of the living wage report, minimum wage should be increased faster than planned.
I sat agape as reporters Alicia Draus, Michael Gorman, and Keith Doucette had the following exchange with MacMaster. There are two reports discussed in this transcript — one is the living wage report written by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the other is the minimum wage report issued by the minimum wage review committee, a government body.
Draus: In light of the living wage report which found that HRM needs a living wage of $23.50 an hour right now, are there any plans to speed up the minimum wage to $15 an hour? Right now, that’s not supposed to take effect until 2024.
MacMaster: When I think there’s a lot of things affecting affordability right now. And I think as we all know, inflation is the big one and we see the central bank raising rates again this week, which as we know how that is hard on people who have mortgages and other loans. But we also know it will help to fight inflation. So we’re all dealing with it right across the world. And there’s other things, as you know, we’ve had the issue of carbon taxes, which continues to be debated in this province and, you know, that is something that the federal government is choosing to do. It’s making things worse for people. So we’ve stood up on that front. And I think if you ask most Nova Scotians walking the streets today, if they want their gas to go up $0.14 per liter because of the carbon tax, they’ll tell you no. So all of these things are contributing to what they’re talking about in that report.
Gorman: But, Minister, respectfully, you’re talking about the carbon tax that is not even in place yet. This report is talking about the tangibles that folks are dealing with right now. And while I take your point that everybody is dealing with inflation, I think it’s fair to say that not everyone is dealing with it equally. And folks who are dealing with a minimum wage paycheque are probably dealing with it much worse than folks who make $100,000. So in the interim, does it make sense to make minimum wage workers wait two more years before they’re making $7 less than what is considered a living wage in this province?
MacMaster: There’s no question people, especially lower income levels, are facing more of a struggle with inflation. Their employers are also facing inflation. And I think we as a government have to be careful as well about creating uncertainty for employers.
Gorman: But isn’t that a chicken and egg argument, Minister? We’ve seen employers, many of them complain that they can’t get people to come to work. But who wants to go to work for 40 hours a week if you’re still going to be poor at the end of those two weeks when you get your paycheque? Well, how can you expect to attract workers if you cannot pay them a living wage?
MacMaster: Sure. I mean, the same is true, if the government suddenly said we’re going to raise minimum wage by $5 or $7 per hour and everybody’s getting paid more, that can also cause further inflation, which doesn’t help those people either. So, you know, there’s government can’t solve everything. We can’t, we don’t have enough money in our treasury to fix all of the problems people face. What we must do is be prudent and try to, you know, and we support the central bank is doing to fight inflation, bring inflation down. We’ve stood up on the issue of carbon taxes that will make the problem worse. We put measures in for those who can who can least afford what they’re facing right now. And I think of the seniors care grants, which we’ve recently topped up, I think of the Nova Scotia child benefit. I think about all of the money we’re putting towards affordable housing. We had the Education Minister here talking about child care today. Those are all things that help, too. And simply just to directly answer the question on minimum wage, just for the government to go and turn away from a report put together that set us on a path going forward on minimum wage. Um, I mean, we respect the direction of that report [but] it’s not all just about minimum wage. There are many factors and we’ve been involved in all fronts.
Gorman: But isn’t the point of government to act in the face of new information? And I take your point about wanting to respect the report, but the current state of things is not what it was when that report was issued. So why put that much stock in something that no longer reflects people’s lived reality?
MacMaster: Well, and I also think the carbon tax, you know, the carbon tax you’re talking about —
Gorman: Minister, I’m sorry, but the carbon tax is not a real thing. I’m talking about a real thing that’s happening right now.
MacMaster: Well, it will very well be a real thing, you know.
Gorman: So it’s not a reason to not help with minimum wage then, because the feds are going to put a carbon tax on us.
MacMaster: Well, it’s, I think you’re kind of defining the issue respectfully as this is a minimum wage issue. But I see this issue has multiple things. I see it as inflation. I see it as interest rates. I see it as carbon tax. Carbon tax.
Gorman: Right now, minimum wage is only 13 bucks an hour. With or without a carbon tax, that’s not enough money to live on.
MacMaster: No, but it’s a front we’ve stood up on. It’s a front that wasn’t even mentioned in this report that you referenced. So the report talks about the costs people are facing and the need to have a living wage. It doesn’t say one word on carbon tax.
Gorman: But that’s my point, Minister. The report is talking about the reality that people are living right now and that reality — your point — could get exacerbated by a carbon tax, but even without the carbon tax, people’s lived reality, is they don’t have enough money to survive. And so the question remains, what is the government of Nova Scotia doing to try to address that?
MacMaster: Well, looking down the road on carbon taxes, we’ve drawn a line in the sand now. We don’t want the federal government to make it worse. We are always looking at ways that we can help. And I see this as many issues and I’ll say it again, you know, it’s about interest rates. It’s about support, we’re giving many, direct supports, targeted support. And we’re always, we have a close eye on this. I mean, this is the issue of the day, inflation.
Draus: Looking in an ideal world, let’s say the federal government sides with you guys and does not implement a carbon tax. That still leaves minimum wage workers well below a living wage. So in that idealistic reality, what is your government going to do, though, to help those low wage earners?
MacMaster: I’m not of the philosophy that the government can control everything. There are many employers who are struggling to find workers and they’re raising wages because they can’t find those workers. So there’s no question for people who are on minimum wage, they are facing difficult times more than anybody else. But we’re also living in an economy where there is a labor shortage and where many employers are having to raise their wages just to get somebody to come in to work. And that is a fact, and that’s the reality that we’re living in.
Draus: So your message is you won’t help?
MacMaster: I would say my message is let us also be mindful of the job creators in this province and let us remember that government just dictating to them what they should be paying people, you know, are there possible negative effects of that? There could be. And I think those are questions you could ask the employers in this province.
Doucette: So even if you take your point that they’re being forced to raise wages on their own, shouldn’t there still be a floor set by government? Because that is government responsibility. It’s why it’s called minimum wage. I’ve talked in the past, as has the premier about doing tangible things that will last as opposed to one-time things. This is something that can last. Maybe an adjustment to the tax credits can also be something that can last. Talk about that?
MacMaster: Yes, sure. You know, when we first start seeing inflation earlier in the year, and the central banks were saying this is transitory. You know, our hope was that it was transitory. We don’t know the future any more than anybody else does. So I would say we’re always looking at this. And, you know, there’s the Minister of Labour is the lead for the minimum wage review committee. And, you know, you can certainly ask her that question. You know, it’s about the committee. But I mean, these are things — you’re right, things change, and we have to be moving and changing as well. Um, but for today, I’m not going to say I’m not going to say anything different than what I’ve said.
I was honestly flabbergasted by this exchange, and uncharacteristically speechless. According to MacMaster, minimum wage shouldn’t be increased any faster than planned because inflation is making it more difficult for people making minimum wage to afford the things they need, and because there might be a carbon tax that will increase the cost of gas for people making minimum wage, and because he’s got to worry about “job-creators.”
I confess that there’s much I don’t understand about the monarchy.
I don’t understand why anyone would want to be of royalty, which strikes me as living in a gilded prison. Can you imagine not being able to, say, take a walk around the block without making it a big ordeal? Or lacking the freedom to do normal everyday stuff — you can’t drop by the coffeeshop or tavern, flirt with that person you sometimes run into at the store, or just be in a bad mood for once.
It’s no surprise that so many royals are horrible people. All the other arguments aside, I think for the sake of the people directly involved, it would be best to do away with the institution. I mean, won’t someone think of the idle rich?
I also don’t understand the widespread public grief for the queen. I’ve never met her, so what do I know? I’ve lost my own parents in the past few years; like Elizabeth, both were in their 90s, and so I know something of the mixture of grief and acknowledgement of the inevitable experienced when one loses a family member to age. Mostly, though, that’s a personal matter, and like all other families, the royal family will deal with their loss as best they can. But I don’t really see how her death affects me all the way across the ocean. The far more important news for me yesterday was that 10 more people in Nova Scotia have died from COVID.
The other thing I don’t understand is the adoration for Elizabeth. I’m confused by the public role Elizabeth played. The New York Times said yesterday that Elizabeth “ruled” Britain for 70 years, but that’s not right, is it? She was a figurehead in a way I can’t comprehend.
When I see the royal family, I see mostly a giant PR machine. The institution spends millions upon millions of pounds crafting and maintaining a certain image, and definitely Elizabeth was the main player in the communications campaign. But did she control it? It seems much of the public believes that she was a strong woman who made her own way in the world, but when it comes to scandal, she was a helpless bit player in the larger institution.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: imperialism, and inherent in that, racism. In recent centuries, the royal family has had no real political power — the family wasn’t instrumental in the Boer War, or the Kenyan concentration camps, or the invasion of Iraq on false pretensions. But the family absolutely benefitted and continues to benefit from the spoils of imperialism. It’s a $28 billion machine fuelled by the human suffering Britain has imposed on the world.
And while Elizabeth didn’t actually mobilize armies, she did sit atop the institution of royal family, including when it treated Meghan Markle so poorly, which seems of a piece with the larger history of British racism.
As an immigrant, I swore allegiance to Elizabeth when I obtained my citizenship. I took that to mean I wanted the best for her personally, and so I was glad she got to hang out with corgis and had an apparently peaceful death.
But I really don’t think a PR firm should be head of state.
Stable Main-Group Radicals and Diradicals Based on Unconventional Carbon-Donor Frameworks (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Rajendra S. Ghadwal from Bielefeld University, Germany will talk.
In the harbour
07:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Reykjavik, Iceland
09:30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Portland
12:00: Norwegian Breakaway, cruise ship with up to 4,819 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
16:30: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
18:00: Polar Prince, tender, arrives at Pier 24 from Churchill
20:30: Norwegian Breakaway sails for New York
17:00: Pearl Mist, cruise ship with up to 216 passengers, transits through the causeway from Pictou
18:00: River Shiner, oil tanker, arrives at Everwind (Point Tupper) from Sikka, India
18:00: Donald M. James, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Belledune, New Brunswick
I’m off to cover today’s proceedings of the Mass Casualty Commission. Deputy RCMP Commissioner Brian Brennan is testifying. I’ll be live-tweeting his testimony on my Twitter account, @Tim_Bousquet.