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Jane Gagle-Bennett writes:

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1. Fatigue and a living wage


The city yesterday issued a Request for Proposals for a “Fatigue Management Program.” The successful proposer will:

…design and develop and implement a train-the-trainer program related to fatigue management in the workplace. The program will be used in Transit, Police, Fire, Parks and Recreation, and Transportation and Public Works (TPW). The goal of the training program is to raise awareness of issues related to fatigue and to introduce tools for supervisors and employees to use to help manage the issue and reduce stigma in the workplace.

The RFP has all sorts of warnings about the dangers of being tired at work, including this bit:

The Conference Board of Canada briefing from September 2016 outlines that:
• “lack of sleep and poor sleep are linked not only to physical safety and health, but also to psychological safety and health, as well as other employee performance and productivity outcomes.
• A wide range of work and non-work factors contribute to fatigue—not only work shifts and schedules.
• Employers and employees need to share the responsibility for preventing fatigue and reducing its negative effects, as well as recognize the importance that organizational
culture plays in successful fatigue management programs.”

Ah, there’s that “shared responsibility” again.

Look, people are tired because their bosses expect too damn much from them, and now they’re going to be told that on top of all the other bullshit management projects they’re saddled with, they’re going to have to attend an “in-person classroom” and get involved in “self-directed learning” so they won’t be so tired. Maybe they should stay up late and study for the classroom exams.

One goal, as stated above, is to manage “non-work factors,” so this will apparently involve yet another intrusion on employees’ personal lives. You don’t work to live; rather, you live to work. And so every aspect of your supposed non-working hours is to be managed to maximize your work “performance.”

Here’s an idea. Instead of micro-managing employees’ personal lives, how ’bout we pay them enough so they can actually enjoy their non-work lives, chill out, relax, not worry about work, and they can later return to the job as happy, rested, and effective employees?

The RFP continues:

Furthermore, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety states that:

“Some research studies have shown that when workers have slept for less than 5 hours before work or when workers have been awake for more than 16 hours, their chance of making mistakes at work due to fatigue are significantly increased.

You know who sleeps for less than five hours and has been awake for more than 16 hours? People who are paid minimum wage and have to piece together two or three jobs while juggling family duties in order to survive. You know, like those people working for minimum wage for city contractors.

Sackville Sports Stadium. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Sackville Sports Stadium. Photo: Halifax Examiner

As I wrote Monday, last week city council approved a contract for janitorial services at the Sackville Sports Stadium that relies on a minimum wage-paying contractor so that the city itself doesn’t have to employ people directly and pay them decently.

No one can live on a single minimum wage job, and so the people cleaning the stadium will be taking second and third jobs to make ends meet. They’ll be tired, and so they’ll make mistakes. Granted, their mistakes probably won’t have the same ramifications as the mistakes made by a tired bus driver, but the services rendered will suffer. Or, they’ll burn out and/or get fired for not “performing” adequately, and then they’ll end up as a social or health problem that has to be dealt with via another pot of taxpayer money.

Before the election, six councillors gave either very enthusiastic support for, or were at least interested in learning more about, a living wage ordinance that would apply to the city itself and to all contractors hired by the city. On Monday, I suggested that those councillors add a living wage ordinance to the list of “council priorities” that was discussed at yesterday’s council meeting. I’m out of town so couldn’t make the meeting, but:

That the city issued an RFP aiming to reduce fatigue on the same day that councillors refused to make a living wage ordinance, which would reduce fatigue, a priority, is sadly ironic.

I can’t think of why it should be, but maybe councillors thought the priorities meeting was the wrong place to bring up a living wage ordinance. OK, any councillor at any other council meeting can put forward a motion to ask for a staff report on a living wage ordinance.

Surely, simply asking for a staff report on the issue isn’t too much, is it? Can’t we at least learn what a living wage would cost us in immediate monetary terms, what its long-term benefits would be, its economic impact, and what it would mean in terms of worker health and happiness?

Or is a living wage ordinance simply off the table, and all that pre-election talk was just political bullshit?

2. “Conquered people”

YouTube video

“Premier Stephen McNeil was making every effort to move from insult to consult after a meeting Thursday with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs,” reports Francis Campbell for Local Xpress:

“The meeting started out this morning with an opportunity for me to express my regret and my apologies to the chiefs and to members of their communities,” McNeil said.

“The words that were attached to a brief that went before the court were not mine and not my feelings. I believe the foundation of this province and this country is in those treaties. We have a duty to consult, the Supreme Court has dealt with this issue a long time ago and it’s my responsibility as the premier of this province to make sure that we follow through on respecting the rights of the Mi’kmaq.”

Respect was not at the forefront in a Nova Scotia Supreme Court appeal case last week when Justice Department lawyer Alex Cameron described the complainants, the Sipekne’katik band, as a conquered people who had surrendered their sovereignty to the British Crown in the 1700s, negating the duty of the province to consult on industrial projects.

While McNeil’s apology is welcome, so far as I can determine, it wasn’t issued directly to the most aggrieved party: the Sipekne’katik band itself.


Premier’s office says Chief Sack from Sipekne’katik First Nation was there and direct apology was given to him #NSpoli @Tim_Bousquet

— Marieke Walsh (@MariekeWalsh) November 25, 2016

The legal brief was, after all, filed in defence of the band’s appeal of the Minister of Environment’s approval of the Alton Gas project. And yet, Sipekne’katik Chief Micheal P. Sack doesn’t sit on the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.

In January, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs issued a press release in support of the Alton project, contrary to the position of the Sipekne’katik band.

In response, the Sipekne’katik band made a point of saying they are not represented by the Assembly and criticized the Assembly, additionally pointing out that:

Sipekne’katik is a Mi’kmaq Band in Nova Scotia with 2,598 members. Sipekne’katik is unique as it stands alone in representing itself in all consultation and negotiation matters that concern Sipekne’katik. The Mi’kmaq of Sipekne’katik is the original signatory to the 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty.

So let’s note: the McNeil government insulted the Sipekne’katik band in a legal brief by calling the band a “conquered people,” even though the band itself was the signatory to the Peace and Friendship Treaty that demonstrates the band is not a conquered people; then McNeil apologized for the insult to the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs, which do not represent the Sipekne’katik; and therefore McNeil apologized to a group that is in support of the project that the Sipekne’katik oppose.

Th first rule of apologies is to make the apology directly to the people you’ve wronged. The second rule of apologies is you don’t make them for political purposes.


1. Cogswell and Østerbro

An apartment building in Østerbro with rooftop gardens. (Is that a rat trap on the sidewalk?) Photo: Stephen Archibald
An apartment building in Østerbro with rooftop gardens. (Is that a rat trap on the sidewalk?) Photo: Stephen Archibald

“Recently we attended the Project Kick-Off event for the Cogswell Street Interchange redevelopment,” writes Stephen Archibald:

This reminded me of another fresh start we visited earlier in the fall: Østerbro, a new community on the edge of Copenhagen, Denmark. We went to see the architecture and sample the urban planning, both of which are not universally loved.

Archibald continues with a photo tour of Østerbro, not much of it successful by my eyes. The problem, as I see it, is that Østerbro has lost any sense of human scale, which appears to be why humans have largely neglected it — “Sometimes it felt like you had stepped into an architectural rendering or a movie set,” notes Archibald. “Unlike downtown Copenhagen there was little street life, except for us.”

He continues:

It was not obvious that Østerbro was a successful community, but it is still young and worth a visit, and a complete contrast to the narrow, winding, picturesque streets of old Copenhagen.

My wish for the Cogswell project is that the architecture is interesting and thoughtful enough that Haligonians and visitors will be excited (in a good way). Wouldn’t we love to see the development as click bait on a BuzzFeed 10 best list? That would be real success!

Perhaps. But it feels like it’s out of our hands. I’m hopeful that the firm hired to reengineer the streets at Cogswell will do reasonably well given the constraints of the site, but who knows? Anymore, “public input” seems not really about, well, public input, but rather to be an exercise in PR.

But even if the street design at Cogswell is successful, there’s no indication that the buildings that will one day be constructed there will at all be, in Archibald’s words, “interesting and thoughtful.” I’m even less hopeful about the private/public interface between the buildings and the streets, which is more important than the buildings or the streets taken alone.

If you look at the track record of recent development, it ain’t good. I can count three buildings that are inspired — the library, the Vic, and (judging by architectural plans) the Alexander, now under construction next to the old brewery.

All the hundreds of other developments that have arisen or are about to arise in Halifax are schlock and worse. The signature development in Halifax, the Nova Centre, is an abomination, a bulging, puss-gushing wound on downtown that won’t heal until the thing is demolished sometime around the year 2050. And now, Waterfront Development is destroying the waterfront with Queen’s Marque. Beyond those megadisasters, there are dozens of shitty eight- to 12-storey apartment buildings in the Maynard and Isleville corridors and a bunch of “nothing” highrises going up along Young Street, tall enough so their glass sheen will reflect the morning sun into the eyes of passing drivers, but otherwise utterly unremarkable.

The problem is we are at the whim of mostly clueless developers, and there exists no public check on them. The Design Review Committee is a joke, a rubber-stamping collection of self-congratulating professionals who are experts at polishing turds but incapable of flushing them away. Planning rules exist to be broken in favour of developers wanting to construct monstrosities looming over the Common, but the same planning rules are immutable when it comes to wanting to stop an asshole car dealer from bulldozing an entire neighbourhood. Historic preservation regulations are always coming next year, or maybe the year after, while the demolition of Young Avenue continues apace and giant bullseyes are being painted on the historic buildings that comprise the supposed South Barrington Street Historic District.

If we want a reputation for “interesting and thoughtful” architecture, we’re first going to have to build institutions that can ensure it.

2. Teachers

Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Reflecting on Premier Stephen McNeil’s problem with teachers, Graham Steele notes:

The fundamental message from teachers is that they’re drowning. The reasons are many and varied but they’re drowning.

They don’t want to hear that more money is being spent by someone, somewhere, on something. They’re looking for a lifeline.

The premier’s response has been self-praise. Can the teachers not see everything the Liberals have done for them?

McNeil’s arguments didn’t work when the first deal was rejected, or when the second one was or when the strike mandate vote passed. 

But instead of changing his arguments, the premier is repeating them more loudly and more testily. That’s not a winning communications strategy.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

This week marks an important milestone for educational technology on Prince Edward Island, with the launch of wireless Internet for students in a pilot project at Colonel Gray Senior High School.

This network, and the “bring your own device” policy that allows students to connect their phones, tablets and laptops to the Internet from anywhere in the school, puts a powerful tool into the hands of young, curious minds. Those involved in bringing together the technologies and policies required to get us to this point deserve our thanks.

But what about students who don’t have a device to bring?

Devices are expensive, even more so when you add the ongoing cost of Internet to support learning in the home. This is not a burden that all families can bear.

As we outsource responsibility for purchasing and maintaining technology to families, we disenfranchise some students, and we abrogate our responsibility, established more than 160 years ago, to provide free schooling for all.

There are creative solutions to this challenge used in other jurisdictions; we need to find an approach that will work here, one that ensures agency for all, and implement it in parallel with the laudable efforts to bring the digital school to life.

Peter Rukavina, Charlottetown (A father)


No public meetings.

On campus


Brain Development (3:40pm, Room 5260, Life Sciences Centre) — David Picketts, from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, will speak on “Intellectual Disability and Brain Development: Role of Epigenetic Regulators.”

Saint Mary’s

Tough as Silk (11:30am, Atrium AT101) — Jan K. Rainey will speak on “The Molecular Features Underlying Spider Wrapping Silk Toughness.”

Graphic Novels (12pm, McNally North MN519) — Sailaja Krishnamurti will speak on “Gender and the Disruption of Mythological Themes in Graphic Novels by Women.”

6th Annual Stories from Overseas (2:30pm, The Atrium, AT340) — Study abroad students talk about their journeys to Norway, China, Japan, Germany, Korea, Ireland, Scotland and more. Refreshments served afterwards at a Meet and Greet reception.

In the harbour

6am: Bruarfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
9am: Fotini Lady, oil tanker, arrives at Anchorage from Antwerp, Belgium
11:30am: Bruarfoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
2pm: Fotini Lady, oil tanker, sails from Anchorage for sea
4:30pm:  Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre


Maersk Pembroke. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Maersk Pembroke. Photo: Halifax Examiner

6am: Maersk Pembroke, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Montreal


Here’s the view from my balcony this morning:


Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. This RFP like too many corporate/government worker-well-being initiatives is hypocrisy at its finest (ha!) In addition to the exploitation of minimum wage workers middle and high-income workers also have been enslaved by their performance bonus-driven bosses’ demands for increased productivity with decreased manpower, resources and appreciation.

    Cut-backs and automation in the name of profits make every job precious and the fear of job loss is the foundation of the stress that makes workplace fatigue a workplace hazard. Being available 24/7 by cell, the workers’ own buy-into the consumer-driver belief that they must own a home, live beyond their means and spend most of their money on daycare and most of their off-time driving children all across the province to play competitive sports adds to that stress.

    Ironically, more money usually makes matters worse as there is more to lose. Ask any CEO. Workers, however, unlike management, don’t have the luxury of scheduling stress days on the golf course or holiday time when it suits them.

    This post-industrial society is at a turning point where the ethos of the past no longer works, but the new conceptualization of the work world is not yet in focus. In my humble opinion, the matter is mostly out of our control until the philosophers, governers, ethicists, economists, sociologists, etc. ,etc. show us more viable paths to the brave new world.

    In the meantime, the best bosses and workers can do to ease the transition is be kind to each other. (ha!)

  2. I’ve worked for the Environment Department and found the environmental assessment people to be serious-minded, competent and dedicated to preserving the environment. So, it’s interesting to see Alton opponents describe the Department’s work as “bad science”.

    Here is a report done for the Department on brine dispersion, one of the hotter areas of dispute:
    It’s clear you need considerable expertise to declare it bad science; and you should be ready with detailed criticism to back your claim. Just saying the words is not enough.
    In fact, most of the Department’s huge environmental assessment is “science”:

    In my experience, the Department was quite happy to defend its science, but there were few takers.

    1. I don’t know anything at all about the specifics of the Alton project, so can’t speak to the merits of the band’s case pro or con.

      However, I fall in Bill McKibben’s camp. He writes:

      In other words, if our goal is to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius—the upper limit identified by the nations of the world—how much more new digging and drilling can we do?

      Here’s the answer: zero.

      That’s right: If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production.

      McKibben didn’t specifically mention digging caverns in salt deposits to facilitate moving natural gas, but surely he would agree that the Alton project adds to the fossil fuel infrastructure that is destroying the planet.

      So I don’t know what the people at the Department of Environment think, but I’m pretty sure they’re not climate change deniers.

    2. The DOE wasn’t too ready to defend any science at Northern Pulp.

      But the more important question is ‘why is this here?’ It makes little sense to me, unless the real plan is to make a lot of money selling gas to the spot market at really high prices.

  3. People are too busy playing identity politics with Alton. You can bet the company loves this as is distracts from asking the really important questions.

  4. Or maybe the Sipekne’katik band is just wrong on the science, and the continuing campaign against the Alton Gas project is mostly a manifestation of internal band politics. The fact that a band—or any group—is protesting or striking or complaining doesn’t automatically make them right. That other bands don’t support them should serve as a caution.

    Alton did a horrible job of aboriginal and public relations. When the project was originally proposed, they went through some sort of public consultation process, and thought the box had been checked off. When the project was revived after a long hiatus, they assumed they didn’t have to do additional consultation. But when Sipekne’katik protested, the province forced Amton into a second round.

    Being consulted does not mean getting your way. The core complaint against the project, that the injection of salt will harm the river—seems to be unsupported by evidence. My understanding is that the incremental impact of salt injection on saline levels in the river is less than the natural fluctuations due to tidal inflows and outflows. Moreover, the company is not allowed to discharge salt when natural salt levels are high.

    For the record, absent the heated language, I think Joanne Cooke is right that Lawyer Alex Cameron was out of line trying to re-litigate the Marshall Case and Mi’kmaq treaty rights.

  5. The Design Review Committee polishing turds.

    Just had a vision of a Mythbusters episode where the dudes were actually polishing turds to prove the truism. Of course they could.

    All they need do is come to Halifax to show it is very much true in our development community – let’s call it dorodango the Japanese art of polished dirt balls.

    Funny about the city reaction to fatigue. Perhaps hiring two people to do two persons’ work rather than having one person do the work of two might help.

  6. I like the Cogswell interchange the way it is. It would be nice, though, if container transports from Halterm were re-routed through the abandoned side of the south-end railway cut.

  7. I disgusted by this whole affair. I don’t believe any of his hand-waving for an instant. He is the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs & the Premier. I know how it works – and I know how, politically, it SHOULD work.

    Incompetence at best, a roll of the dice in the hopes it wouldn’t get noticed at worst. A certain lawyer has been champing at the bit for years to find a test case to try to overturn Marshall.

    That argument would normally have been cleared by an ADM and the Deputy at Justice, and should have been brought to the attention of the DM at OAA. In their turns, given the political implications, those DMs would have to give the “Executive Assistants” (in quotes because they are POLITICAL aides) to the Minister of Justice and the Premier/Min of Aboriginal Affairs a heads-up.

    So either the lawyer in question finally went entirely rogue, or layers of people were asleep at the switch, or they all decided they could get away with it.

    And for him and his advisors not to know about the tensions between the First Nation and the Assembly – staggering. Unless, come to think of it, that was WHY they thought they could make that argument – if they perceived the Band was weak and isolated, and had no support from the other Chiefs … which in itself would indicate a staggering naïveté.

    1. Joanne – I was thinking the same thing!

      Knowing how the process works I am astounded that the Premier is being allowed to get away with the “I didn’t know” and not only that but that the Minister of Justice is also getting away with the “I didn’t know” approach.

      At the very least someone tracks court cases in Justice and what the position of the gov’t is on it and at the very least Aboriginal Affairs tracks their outstanding or current legal issues, treaty or not, and at the very least those are discussed at briefings between the DM, Executive Assistant and Minister.

      So my question is where is the break down! A FOIP on this won’t result in any details because it will all be protected as ‘advice to minister” but there is a break down here and its a HUGE problem.

    2. Joanne, I completely agree. This is probably the most shameful action of this government (and there’s a lot of competition). McNeil’s “Aw shucks, I’m just the Premier, nobody tells me anything” routine is getting hauled out way too often.

      Of course, all of this overlooks the question of why our government is wasting time and money in the courts to fight against consultation instead just consulting properly in the first place. This has been a pattern for years at both the federal and provincial levels. The money wasted on losing legal battles against First Nations rights is staggering.

  8. Re: Living wage ordinance

    HRM will never adopt a living wage ordinance because it is all about money. They will stand up and bluster and pontificate and get scrummed by the 2.5 real reporters who are left to cover council matters, but at the end of the day contracts will go to the lowest bidder who pays as little as possible to workers.

    1. Why stop at the wage ?
      Why not require contractors to pay the equivalent level of benefits – pension, medical, dental, disability, maternity leave, long service award ?

  9. HRM has few is any newly constructed developments with any discernible architectural significance because the builders of today are far too enamored and wedded to the higher tech building materials of today. Stone masonry is fast becoming a lost skill and almost all of the truly awesome heritage structures have a significant masonry structural component. Developers today are by far more concerned about building for profit, than building for eye-pleasing esthetics that might be worthy of a heritage-type distinction in the future. One cannot create magnificence by building structures based on low-balled economic reasoning. If one desires architectural excellence, someone has to be willing to pay the price to achieve it.

    1. I suspect a lot of the buildings of the past were also built with an eye to cost; people of the past weren’t more “honourable” than us when it came to buildings. What has changed is the relative cost of various building materials. Masonry was the cheap and abundant material at one point, now it’s concrete and glass.

      1. Also: Survivor bias. The ugly we ignore in the current, or don’t care for in the past and let be demolished without ceremony.

      2. An eye may have also been on cost back in the day of the masons, but architectural style was far more prevalent. Today’s materials lend themselves to a sterile, clean and efficient look but lack significantly in style when cost effectiveness rules the day; but that is not to say that with a bit of imagination that these materials cannot be cobbled together in a manner that looks awesome instead of a construction made up of metal, glass and other materials that only looks like an arrangement of stacked boxes. There is little style to a box, one looks pretty much like another. Back in the hey day of the stone masons, they could have built efficient stone clad box-like structures as well and saved a lot of money in the process; but the developers back then cared more about the visual esthetics of the end product and that is what makes those structures stand out when compared with most of today’s new buildings.

    2. Not all heritage buildings are Victorian. A couple of actually rather attractive ’60s-era buildings to be concerned about losing: Sexton gym (Barrington St), Canadian Martyrs church (Inglis St), police station (Gottingen St)

  10. I too was struck by the fatigue management RFP. Former CAO Richard Butts cut staffing drastically under the brand of vacancy management, but the workloads were not cut. And paying overtime was seen to be less expensive than having more staff, so people were expected to work longer hours. Council heartily supported it to keep taxes from increasing.

    Now HRM is looking for outside help in training tired workers.

    Reads like a Joseph Heller novel.

    1. Speaking of Joseph Heller, recently on the NY Times Book Review podcast (my favourite!) there was an interview with the editor of Catch 22. Right up until publication the working title was Catch 18. And then all of a sudden Leon Uris’ Mila 18 appeared, so they changed the title at the last minute. Somehow, I don’t thing that Catch 18 has a the same resonance as Catch 22.

      1. Very interesting! Heller’s “Something Happened” is one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read.

  11. Thanks, Tim, for the podcast list you posted a few days ago. I was looking for some new podcasts, and your list came at exactly the right time. We had some overlap, but there were several that were new to me and that I’m now enjoying. Maybe every week or two you could get someone else to do the same. Maybe ask whoever your Examineradio guest is.