November Subscription Drive
Jane Gagle-Bennett writes:
The Halifax Examiner is independent journalism at its best, and when people ask me why I subscribe — you live in Portland, Indiana, and you subscribe to The Halifax Examiner??? That’s in Nova Scotia! In Canada! — I tell them that I’ve learned to look at my town, county, state, country and the world in a different way because of the perspective I get from reading the Examiner. Portland and Halifax both have zoning and planning issues and school systems and municipal elections, etc. Of course, in spite of the name, Portland doesn’t have a harbour.
November isn’t over yet; support independent journalism and subscribe to the Halifax Examiner!
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.
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”
“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.
— 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
“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.”
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
6am: Maersk Pembroke, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Montreal
Here’s the view from my balcony this morning: