NEWS

1. Province House briefs

This item was written by Jennifer Henderson.

Gas prices as of June 21, 2022. Photo: Suzanne Rent

‘Windfall’ from tax at the pumps?

Cape Breton Liberal MLA Fred Tilley wants to know why despite the finance minister’s assurance last spring there would be “no windfall” from tax revenue on fuel, the provincial government is now in possession of a $20 million surplus in its motive fuel account. 

On Wednesday, Tilley put Finance Minister Allan MacMaster on the spot during Question Period in the legislature by asking MacMaster why the government isn’t putting the surplus money into the hands of Nova Scotians?

With one minute left during the time allotted for the daily Question Period, MacMaster did not provide a response to why the government is banking the surplus. 

Instead, he downplayed the idea of “a windfall” by suggesting the reason the government has collected more tax is because most Nova Scotians must drive to work, so demand for gasoline has remained consistent, despite rising prices at the pumps. 

Nearly half the price of gasoline consists of the federal excise tax, the provincial excise tax, and the HST (harmonized sales tax) added to the total. 

Jessica Cooke and Sophie Saunders-Griffiths are early childhood educators with the Wee Care Centre in Halifax. They joined other ECEs at a rally in September in downtown Halifax asking for better wages. Credit: Suzanne Rent

Day care woes

NDP leader Claudia Chender asked Premier Tim Houston if the government will be able to keep an election promise to establish 1,000 new day care spaces for children by the end of 2022. 

Chender noted that a growing number of privately owned day care centres appear to be closing their doors because they can’t find staff or can’t fund operating costs, despite a new federal-provincial funding model that has reduced fees for parents.

Houston acknowledged that “there is no denying the implementation of the Canada-wide agreement is not without its difficulties. It is not without its stress for those private operators. We understand that. But our focus remains on getting through that transition and making sure Nova Scotian families have access to affordable child care.”

Houston did not comment on whether the government would be able to meet its target of 1,000 new spaces.

NDP Leader Claudia Chender. Credit: Contributed

Chender tabled a letter from an early childhood educator (ECE) complaining “I could go to Costco and make more money.” The ECE complained the new wage scale that offers ECEs $17 an hour to start and a maximum of $24 an hour is not adequate compensation for long days caring for young children. 

Chender said day care closures are not an issue confined to families but will also impact employers for whom it is going to be even more difficult to hire and retain workers if more day care centres continue to close.

Timberlea-Prospect MLA Iain Rankin (right) Credit: Jennifer Henderson

Carbon tax

Timberlea-Prospect MLA Iain Rankin turned his attention to what efforts or plan the Houston government has made to shield Nova Scotians from the brunt of a federal carbon tax that will take effect in January. 

Ottawa’s pricing on carbon has been law for almost five years. A recent study by Dalhousie University electrical engineering professor Larry Hughes has calculated annual increases in the range of $1,100 to $2,000 a year that factors in the size of the household, as well as the heating source and energy-efficiency of the home.

Hughes’ study argues the Houston government should negotiate with Ottawa to increase the size of a federal rebate it will send to Nova Scotian households to assist with energy costs that are higher here and will be higher still once the carbon tax is introduced.

Former Liberal premier Rankin put this question to Tim Halman, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change:

This government had three options: keep cap-and-trade, a carbon tax, or a hybrid system. The government chose to submit a last-minute, faulty, half a plan to the federal government. Now Nova Scotians will have a carbon tax on gas, diesel, propane, and natural gas making everything cost more. Will the minister tell Nova Scotians if they have figured out how much of a rebate they will get and will it be more or less than in other provinces?

Halman would not play ball:

I disagree with the premise of that question. Over the past year we have done a lot of ongoing analysis in terms of what the best approach would be. And we have landed on a very simple response: ‘no carbon tax at the pumps here in Nova Scotia.’ This government will never stop defending Nova Scotia and that’s what this is about. We want to ensure the reduction of greenhouse gases but we also want to ensure affordability and that power rates are manageable.

Natural Resources and Renewable Energy Minister Tory Rushton bristled at suggestions from Rankin that without the construction of overhead transmission lines or an underground cable that would deliver hydroelectricity from Quebec — a concept known as the Atlantic Loop — Nova Scotia will continue to burn coal well after 2030. 

Twenty-seven scenarios outlined by Nova Scotia Power for shuttering eight coal-fired generating stations by that deadline all include the Atlantic Loop project to meet that time-line. Closing the Trenton plant has already been delayed by one year.

“We haven’t written off the Atlantic Loop, maybe the Opposition has,” said Rushton.

Rushton claimed that as of this week, officials from the federal and provincial governments were still having conversations with representatives from Nova Scotia Power. No mention was made of Quebec, a province that has many long-term export contracts with several US states.

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2. New project looks to understand needs of caregivers in Nova Scotia

Photo by Anni Roenkae on Pexels.com Credit: Matthias Zomer/Pexels.com

This item was written by Yvette d’Entremont.

According to the most recent Statistics Canada numbers, more than one quarter (28%) of Nova Scotia’s population are unpaid caregivers who provide 221 million hours of care each year. 

A new project that officially launched this week aims to identify and understand the current needs of family/friend caregivers in the province and to determine what kinds of services, programs and/or policies might better support them. 

To ensure the voices of caregivers are heard, researchers want to hear from them directly. 

A Strategic Review of Family/Friend Caregiving in Nova Scotia is a collaboration between the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging at Mount Saint Vincent University and Caregivers Nova Scotia. 

They’re gathering input from caregivers (and the people who work with them) through several in-person community sessions across the province starting this week. 

They’re also conducting live virtual sessions and seeking input via an online survey that launched Tuesday. A separate survey for those who work with family/friend caregivers is expected to launch next week.

“What caregivers do, and the challenges they face in their role, can contribute to physical, financial and mental consequences,” notes an MSVU webpage outlining the project.

“Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated some of the issues faced by caregivers, such as, burnout, feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression, while decreasing respite opportunities.”

Family/friend caregivers can include spouses, partners, parents, children, siblings, other family members, friends, or neighbours who help those living at home or in a group residential setting. Their work can include helping around the house, transportation to appointments and shopping, and providing personal care.

“Many caregivers are at risk of burnout, having endured significant challenges during the pandemic because of service disruptions, periods of isolation, etc,” a media release from Mount Saint Vincent University said. 

“While we have come to rely on family and friends for this important care work, their contributions remain undervalued and their needs often overlooked.”

Links with information on how to register for upcoming community and virtual online sessions can be found at the bottom of this page

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3. Dal study to look at how vaping affects lung function of young adults

Miguel Arcanjo Saddi/ Pexels Credit: Miguel Arcanjo Saddi/Pexels

“Although the number of young Nova Scotians who vape continues to climb, little is known about vaping’s impact on their lungs and whether it can cause permanent damage. A recently launched Dalhousie University study on vaping and young adults could help bridge that knowledge gap,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.

“Vaping has come at us very quickly. We don’t know a lot about it and it’s something that at least until now hasn’t been very well regulated in Canada or anywhere else in the world,” Dr. Sanja Stanojevic said in an interview. 

Stanojevic, an assistant professor in Dalhousie University’s department of community health and epidemiology, is the study’s lead. She said researchers want to better understand vaping’s effects because although many people believe vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes, we really don’t know much about how it directly impacts our lungs. 

“Given the gravity of how many people are using vapes and the fact that we’re making these assumptions about safety when we really don’t know, I think any information at this point will be useful,” she said.

Click here to read d’Entremont’s story.

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4. Committee recommends heritage registration for another Dal building

The Dalhousie President’s Residence at 1460 Oxford St. in May 2022. Credit: Halifax Regional Municipality

“Another Heritage Advisory Committee meeting. Another Dalhousie University building. The committee met virtually Wednesday and recommended in favour of an addition to the heritage registry: 1460 Oxford St.,” reports Zane Woodford.

The Halifax Military Heritage Preservation Society submitted a third-party application for the Dalhousie-owned property near the corner of Oxford Street and Coburg Road in January 2022.

It’s the third such application for a Dalhousie building to come before the committee this year. Council voted to register 1245 Edward St. after a contentious heritage hearing this month. And the committee has recommended heritage registration for 1322 Robie St.

The committee also voted in favour of a plan to systematically register dozens of other Dalhousie buildings. The university argues it’s been a good steward of its historic properties, and opposes any registrations. It did not, however, submit any correspondence for or against Wednesday’s proposal.

This article is for subscribers only. You can subscribe here.

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5. Nova Scotia’s ‘green’ energy plant is not so green

Rendering of EverWind’s Point Tupper hydrogen project (contributed by 3D Wave)

“In mid-September, the government of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia announced a blockbuster, 5bn-watt “green” hydrogen plant,” reports Joan Baxter in The Guardian.

The plant was meant to deliver 200,000 tonnes of ammonia to Europe each year, without the use of fossil fuels.

Heading into November there is no prospect green power will be available by the time the EverWind Fuels facility begins operations, the Energy Mix and Halifax Examiner have learned in a joint investigation in partnership with the Guardian.

In fact, the project touted for its potential to convert wind-generated electricity into a badly-needed green product will be powered partly by coal, at least in its first years of operation.

The picture is further complicated in a province facing a 2030 deadline to shut down the coal plants that supplied 51% of its electricity in 2019, even as the rise of electric heat pumps and vehicles drives up demand for power.

That effort, in turn, is an essential part of prime inister Justin Trudeau’s government’s signature pledge to phase out all remaining coal-fired electricity and cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030.

Click here to read that entire article. You can read Baxter’s work on “green” energy and other stories here.

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VIEWS

Lessons a grocery store employee learned working during the pandemic

The Atlantic Superstore on the Bedford Highway in July, 2021.— Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

On Monday, I signed up to watch this talk by Brad Fougere, an experienced retail worker, hosted by Equity Watch. Fougere worked at Superstore during the COVID pandemic, including during the months when he and his colleagues received “hero pay.” A few months ago, Fougere moved onto another better-paying gig and he seems happier with his work there.  

I spoke with Fougere on Wednesday to ask a few more questions about some of the lessons he learned over the time he worked in a grocery store during the pandemic.  

“I think I learned how powerful the grocery store oligarch PR machine is,” Fourgere told me during our phone interview. “They certainly kicked into overdrive during the pandemic while refusing to make infrastructure changes and refusing to meaningfully improve compensation, even as their profits increased.”  

When he was still working with the Superstore in 2020, Fourgere said he was watching the developments of the strike by Loblaw workers in Dominion stores in Newfoundland. Those workers were on strike for 12 weeks and reached an agreement with Loblaws in November 2020. The new contract included wage increases starting at 35 cents an hour and going up to an extra $1.35 an hour by the end of the four-year contract.  

“It’s a funny thing to talk about your essential workers and at the same time viciously attack their attempts at improving their working conditions,” Fourgere said about that strike.  

Fougere told me about some of the “internal” efforts by Loblaws to improve diversity and inclusion, such as posters in the break room about hiring more immigrants and allowing staff to put their pronouns on their name tags, although that wasn’t required and therefore not truly inclusive. Fougere said “hiring immigrants and paying them minimum wage isn’t model anti-racism.” 

During his chat on Monday, Fougere talked about a worker at another grocery store who created some “cool actions,” including making buttons for staff to wear that said “still essential and still heroes.” A number of staff wore those until the store management cracked down on it.  

And staff at that store also created care baskets for their colleagues who contracted COVID and were home sick. 

“On the one hand, maybe we should be pressuring the grocery stores to do this since they obviously have the resources. But on the other hand, I think it was a really effective organizing tactic because it demonstrated care and it gave people a basis for conversations about what caring for each other as workers with shared struggles could look like,” Fougere said. 

During Monday’s session, I asked Fougere about all those signs I keep seeing at stores, coffee shops, and other retailers that say verbal and physical abuse of staff won’t be tolerated, and whether those signs were any indication management was sticking up for employees. Fougere and I talked about those signs again on Wednesday when we spoke. He said the actions from those signs really depend on the employer.  

“How enforceable that will be depends on the power the workers actually have on the shop floor,” he said. “What can you actually go to your manager about is a real question. When can you actually be sure they’ll be on your side?” 

Fougere told me about some customers he’s had to deal with, including an incident in which one man who came into his current workplace and commented on Fougere’s “face diaper,” and then went on a long rant, yelling to all the customers in the store about freedom. Fougere told me he thought it was “fascinating” how those political views and conspiracies about COVID and the public health measures played out in everyday interactions, including with customer service staff.

“He was absolutely convinced he’d have his Norma Rae moment, and everyone will pull their masks off and join him. That didn’t happen,” Fougere said.

I’m glad Fougere has moved onto a better paying job that he seems to like much more. But he’d still like to see his former collegues and grocery store workers everywhere organize. He said he knows the reality is that younger workers will move on and many older workers don’t see how the situation can change after working there for years. Still, he said he’s hopeful change can happen.

“What I would like to see really for people is to have them get organized, support each other, and find ways to throw their weight around to prevent these things. The reality is messing up the running of a grocery store is not hard. A handful of workers who decide to even just stick to the letter of their jobs – in the context of massive understaffing – can really snarl the whole operation,” Fougere said.

“I would love to see people get to the point they feel they can wield that power to sort of demand not just wages and these obvious quantitative things, but the respect they deserve and to build their confidence so work isn’t this place where they feel like shit all the time, but is a place where they feel some autonomy and self-respect.”

Again, you can check out Fougere’s chat with Equity Watch here.

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NOTICED

Twitter is not your friend: Part 2

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com Credit: Brett Jordan/Pexels

In Wednesday’s Morning File, Tim Bousquet wrote about how Twitter isn’t your friend. In that piece, he wrote about how someone shared with him the story of Daisey Miller who, on the weekend, shared in a tweet that she was enjoying some time in her garden with a coffee and her husband. Other Twitter users piled on Miller, accusing of and attacking her for all of sorts of things. Bousquet wrote, “What the fuck is wrong with people?”

I was the person who shared that story with Bousquet. I haven’t tweeted since last Friday when I shared a photo of my cat, Stewart, with the line, “What a life.” I had hoped that photo would be what people on Twitter call a “timeline cleanse.” Otherwise, I’ve tried to ignore Twitter as much as possible in the last week.

Even before Miller decided to tell the world she was having a nice Sunday morning with her coffee and her husband, Jorts the Cat — an account clearly run by a person because no real cat has time to deal with all of this nonsense — got into trouble for telling someone to go get his own groceries instead of using the delivery service he was complaining about. Jorts — again the person, not a cat — usually tweets encouraging retail workers into joining unions, but this time poor ole Jorts was accused of ableism and everything else.

I was thinking about the ways we treat each other on Twitter, including those pile ons on people like Miller and Jorts who share the most innocent of tweets that for some reason bring out the worst in people.

I wasn’t the only one thinking about this. People on Twitter had some interesting theories on what it is about the site that seems to bring out the worst behaviour.

There was this take from a user named twinkologian:

“privilege” discourse has created this weird thing where people dress up blatant envy as a morally superior stance.

you cannot celebrate a win because someone somewhere is losing. it’s no longer ‘i wish that would happen to me,’ it’s ‘you should never talk about that because it’s not happening to me.’ every celebration is now a show of privilege.

like there is no reason that tweet about that woman enjoying morning coffee and talks with her husband should’ve started this much discourse. y’all are just miserable!

Aja Barber, a contributing editor at Elle UK, shared her thoughts in this thread:

I actually do have a few thoughts about coffee lady situation. I genuinely think social media has gotten us to this miserable place where folks are tired of being happy for other people. It’s the impact of comparison culture while everyone pretends it doesn’t exist.

I understood a long time ago that social media could make me miserable. It started with the Facebook relationship status for me. I was single the majority of my twenties and I began to feel like I was being taunted by social media.

Influencer culture has really turned the highlight reel into the ultimate competition. You’re supposed to follow, constantly cheer for strangers to get good things, believe that they’re just like you, as life hands you nothing and seemingly hands some people everything.

And I do believe that the world LOVES to try and control the emotions of women. So if you have no opinion on someone else’s good news, you’re painted as “bitter” or “jealous” but honestly sometimes folks don’t have it in them to be happy for other people. Can we normalize that?

But it really goes wrong when folks start piling on and projecting all sorts of shit for the wrong reasons. Some folks love using leftist rhetoric to be absolute dipshits on this app. I see it constantly. I began to notice years ago certain folks can twist anything to their will.

There’s more to Barber’s thread, so you can read it all here.

And finally, Karen K. Ho, a reporter in New York I follow who also runs the Doomscrolling Reminder Bot account that reminds Twitter users to get off the “hellsite” and drink a big glass of water, wrote this:

A lot of people are justifiably miserable but are taking it out on other users of this website because arguing here is much easier to do than fighting people in power and the systemic causes behind issues like lack of accommodations for disabilities or American hustle culture.

I like pointing out bad tweets as much as anyone else, but the inherent design of social media platforms actively encourages negative emotional engagement, especially toxic and inflammatory comments, because then you spend more time using them and viewing ads.

Yes, a lot of people are miserable. There’s a lot to bring us down, although sadly I suspect some of these folks find joy in very little of anything. But when you pile onto the writer of a bad tweet — or even the writer of an innocuous tweet — you’re doing exactly what Twitter wants you to do. Is that how you want to spend your time?

I know social media, including Twitter, is a place where people who long never had a voice can finally speak up. I also know people form communities on social media they may not find offline.

Still, much of Twitter is a made-up world where a lot of people obsess about their blue check marks and who follows them and who doesn’t. Most people in the actual world aren’t on Twitter. Not just a few; most. And a lot of the users doing the fighting don’t even use their real names and have a photo of a muppet or a cartoon rather than their real faces. You’d never take these people seriously IRL (in real life), as the Twitter users say.

I want to know has a problem ever been solved by people fighting on Twitter? Is this really how we want to have serious conversations with other people about big, systemic issues?

On Wednesday, Reuters published this story by Sheila Dang that said Twitter is losing its most “heavy tweeters,” those who log on six to seven times a week and tweet three to four times a week. According to Dang, “these ‘heavy tweeters’ account for less than 10% of monthly overall users but generate 90% of all tweets and half of global revenue.”

Also on Wednesday, Elon Musk tweeted a video of himself bringing a sink into the Twitter headquarters. Friday is his deadline for his deal to buy the app. I don’t even know what carrying the sink means, but maybe Musk will take Twitter to Mars or flush it down that sink. Sometimes I think we’d all be better off.

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Government

City

Today

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda

Tomorrow

Board of Police Commissioners Special Meeting (Friday, 11am, online) — agenda

Province

Today

Legislature sits (Thursday, 12pm, Province House)

Tomorrow

Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Today

Digitizing the Ancestors: Communications sovereignty and contemporary cultural resurgence (Thursday, 12pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — a David Shroeder Music and Culture Lecture Series, with Mary Ingraham and Bert Crowfoot:


Digitizing the Ancestors is a community-directed project that has preserved Indigenous multimedia radio and television broadcast recordings since the late 1960s. The project makes accessible long-silent archives, re-sounding the voices of Elders and culture bearers, and revitalizes traditional teachings and lost, silenced, or otherwise forgotten practices. Powwow events, interviews with Elders, politicians, and artists, and sharing of traditional knowledge reflect the richness of the archive. As living communications, these recordings carry messages of well-being across generations, revealing their echoes within contemporary society.

Tomorrow

Sufism, Kingship, and The Politics of Patronage at the Ghaznavid Court: Sanā’ī (d. 1131) and His Royal Patron Bahrāmshāh (r. 1117–1157) (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building, and online) — Parisa Zahiremami will talk. Click here for the online session.

Violin and Cello Masterclass (Friday, 4:30pm, Rom 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — with Robert Uchida and Joseph Johnson

Saint Mary’s

Today

No events

Tomorrow

The Challenges of Mexican Democracy: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and Mexican-Canada Relations (Friday, 12pm, McNally Main 227) — launch of the new Global Development Studies Department, with a guest talk by Dr. Oliver Santín Peña


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: CMA CGM Cassiopeia, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from anchorage to Autoport
06:40: Le Bellot, cruise ship with up to 264 passengers, arrives at Pier 24 from Louisbourg, on a 14-day cruise from Toronto to Gloucester, Massachusetts
06:45: Enchanted Princess, cruise ship with 4,402 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
07:30: Ocean Explorer, cruise ship with up to 162 passengers, moves from anchorage to Pier 24, arriving from Pictou, on a 10-day cruise from Montreal to Boston 
10:45: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
11:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 36
13:00: Hyundai Courage, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
15:30: Grande Baltimora, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Valencia, Spain
17:45: Ocean Explorer sails for Lunenburg
17:45: Le Bellot sails for Lunenburg
17:45: Enchanted Princess sails for New York
18:00: CMA CGM Cassiopeia sails for New York
22:30: Grande Baltimora sails for sea

Cape Breton
07:30: Insignia, cruise ship with up to 800 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Halifax, on a 10-day cruise from New York to Montreal
15:30: Insignia, cruise ship sails for Saguenay
21:00: Marlin Santorini, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
21:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Coal Pier (Sydney) from Baltimore


Footnotes

Sunday morning is my regular horseback riding lesson. I switched to a new stable in the spring and my trainer is excellent. For the last number of weeks, I’ve been riding a horse named Tru, who is a boss mare, the head of the female horses in the herd. She’s sweet and gorgeous with her red-and-white painted coat, and she likes to do things her own way. This means when she’s in the ring she prefers turning left, so that makes it tough for me to steer her right. If the lesson went her way, we’d be going in left-turn circles for an hour. So, at my last lesson while I was riding Tru around the ring, the trainer suggested that as I rode along the fence I should make Tru do a hard right-hand full circle in each corner. This was tougher than it sounds. Tru was pulling at the bit, I was pulling the rein and using my legs to get her to turn. But it became easier with each circle and eventually, Tru would turn right with less effort on my part.

I think there’s a lesson here about how to communicate with others, but I don’t know what it is yet. Tru later snatched the carrot that I had for her out of my back pocket. I went home and took a nap.


Suzanne Rent

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

Yvette d'Entremont

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor, covering the COVID-19 pandemic and health issues. Twitter @ydentremont

Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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