I’m Suzanne Rent and I’m filling in for Tim today. You can follow me on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

News

1. Dartmouth pharmacies make right choice in addressing period poverty

Today, Highfield Park Pharmachoice in Dartmouth will start giving away feminine hygiene products to their customers in need. The pharmacy made the announcement on their Facebook page on Wednesday. I gave manager Cassidy Bellefontaine a call Thursday morning. She says she and staff made the decision to give away feminine hygiene products just on Tuesday after she read an article on MLA Karla MacFarlane’s private member’s bill that would add feminine hygiene products as a special need for those on income assistance.

“I didn’t think much of it until I started reading the comments,” Bellefontaine says. “There really is a need for this.”

She took the idea of providing products to customers in need to the owner, David Chiasson, who told her to go for it. She discussed the idea with staff, who came up with ideas on what products customers might want, including reuseable cups and cotton pads. Right now, Pharmachoice will cover the expense and they are matching customers’ purchases, but also accepting donations.

After the news was posted on their Facebook group, Bellefontaine says she was overwhelmed with the comments and support, including private messages she received from those willing to donate. There were a few negative comments on the post, including those who said some customers will abuse the offer, but Bellefontaine says she was quick to address or delete the comments.

“I can’t see how people will abuse tampons,” she says. “This is not something people want; this is something people need. There shouldn’t be a brick wall for people to get their necessities.”

Cashiers at the Pharmachoice started asking customers Thursday if they wanted to donate to the campaign. Bellefontaine says customers who want to pick up products just need to go to the pharmacy, which is in a separate area of the store. That will give customers more privacy. While shelters and food banks distribute feminine hygiene products, Bellefontaine says not everyone has access to those places.

“What a better place than a pharmacy to get those products?” Bellefontaine says.

Bellefontaine says she’s already thinking bigger picture for the campaign, and would like to see other Pharmachoice stores offer free feminine hygiene products. And later on Thursday, Highfield Park Pharmachoice’s sister store, City of Lakes Pharmachoice at 80 Portland Street, announced it would also offer free feminine hygiene products to those in need. Like the Highfield Park store, they will match purchases and accept donations.

Bellefonatine says she hopes other pharmacies like Lawton’s and Shoppers Drug Mart, will follow (Shoppers now has Tampon Tuesday and donates hygiene products to shelters and food banks). Bellefontaine’s also working with other local initiatives to purchase reuseable Diva Cups at wholesale prices, so the pharmacy has more available for those who ask.

“I want this to be a conversation everyone is having,” Bellefontaine.

Such a simple and the right thing to do that can make a big difference in addressing period poverty. Good on Bellefontaine, Chiasson, and the Pharmachoice staff.

2. “8 is NOT Enough”: Disabled adults and their supporters demand more action on community housing from McNeil government

Jen Powley

Jennifer Henderson reports that a group of organizations representing disabled adults who need housing presented a letter with 1,300 signatures at a news conference at Province House on Thursday.

Frustrations were running high at the news conference held at Province House yesterday. Many people in wheelchairs wore buttons emblazoned with the words  “8 is NOT Enough.” Eight is the number of small options homes that have been promised in the past three provincial budgets: two homes are open and six are still in the planning stages.

The premier says “work is ongoing” but rejected a written formal request for funding for more housing.

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3. Wortley street check reports reveals other disturbing stats

Photo: Halifax Examiner

El Jones was on CBC’s Information Morning yesterday talking about a “disturbing statistic” in Scot Wortley’s report on street checks in Halifax.

While the report released last week found black people in Halifax were six times as likely as to be stopped by police as white people, the report also found that between 2006 and 2017, a third of black men were charged with at least one criminal offence. Compare that to 6.8 per cent of white men were charged with a criminal offence in that same time period.

Jones, who was joined by Toronto human rights lawyer Anthony Morgan on the show, talked about what that stat means for the black community.

In this province we had a statistic that showed that while black people are only two per cent of the population, 14 per cent of the provincial jail admissions are black people for adults and 16 per cent of the youth jail.

When we look at that stat, we don’t know too much about it. We don’t have that disaggregated — what are those crimes for? But one of the numbers we do have disaggregated is that four times the amount of charging for cannabis occurred. So, of course with legalization there’s been a real lack of attention to the impact that criminalization of cannabis had on black communities and black people.

4. RCMP to continue to use roadside testing, despite court challenge

The RCMP is picking up the tab for a Middle Sackville woman to get her car back after the failed a roadside saliva test earlier this year. But RCMP officials say they won’t change their practicing regarding the testing, according to a report by CBC Nova Scotia.

Michelle Gray was stopped and tested at a checkpoint on Jan.4. Gray uses cannabis for multiple sclerosis. She was arrested and spent several hours at the police station, her car was towed, and she lost her licence for seven days. Gray says she’ll challenge the legality of the testing in court, saying the tests are unreliable. But Const. Chad Morrison, a drug recognition expert co-ordinator for the RCMP in Nova Scotia, says while they shouldn’t have suspended Gray’s licence for seven days, the RCMP won’t be stopping the testing.

They are a good tool to further our grounds to make an arrest and then leading to subsequent testing in the form of a blood draw or a drug influence evaluation.

Gray says she doesn’t want to see other users of medicinal cannabis in the position she’s in.

5. Nova Scotia blown over in wind storms

It looks like the winds in Halifax will be calmer today, after a couple days of strong winds knocked out power across the province. The Star reports winds reached over 100/km per hour in some communities yesterday. It looks like the top wind speeds were in Grand Étang, Cape Breton, where they reached 135 km per hour.

Power poles, power lines, and trees were down. Spring Garden Road was shut down for a bit as crews worked on downed power lines on the street. The power was supposed to be back on for most customers Thursday night, but how would you know since even the Nova Scotia Power outage map is down.

I’ve lived in the same place in Clayton Park for the last 11 years and the power rarely goes out, even in the worst of storms. It seems to go out elsewhere when someone breathes on the wires. The last outage I can recall in my neighbourhood was in the summer of 2017 when there was a fire at a house down the street (no one was hurt).

I don’t know what the power lines are made out of in Clayton Park, but maybe Nova Scotia Power can replicate that in other communities. In the meantime, if your power goes out, come visit me! Bring snacks.


Views

1. New Westminster: A living example of a living-wage policy

The last time I wrote about living wages in the Morning File, I mentioned that New Westminster, B.C. was the first Canadian city to create a living wage policy, which came into effect in that city January 1, 2011. Under the policy, all city staff are paid a living wage (this year the hourly living wage rate in New Westminster is $20.91) and all firms contracted or subcontracted by the city must also pay their staff a living wage.

I’ve been wanting to talk with someone on council there about how the policy is working eight years later. This week, I spoke with Jaimie McEvoy, the councillor in New Westminster who advocated for the living wage policy.

McEvoy tells me the push for the policy started when he got a visit from their local chapter of ACORN Canada, which was looking to launch a campaign to get a living wage policy in B.C. McEvoy says the group was surprised by his response.

“I said, ‘Sure, let’s do this,’” McEvoy says.

But McEvoy already had an understanding of poverty. McEvoy is the director of the Hospitality Project at the New Westminster Food Bank where he saw the effects of low incomes on their clients.

“A lot of people I saw in poverty had a job, but that job didn’t provide a decent living or cover their expenses,” McEvoy says.

McEvoy says advocating for a living wage meant two things: helping people understanding the real cost of living for those with lower incomes, and also putting a human face on poverty.

McEvoy says they asked city staff to do a study on how a living wage policy would work and include iron clad facts that would hold up against arguments against a living wage policy.

“We didn’t want to make any mistakes here,” McEvoy says. “We needed to be honest with the people in the community.”

First, they got the numbers. McEvoy says they used reports and figures from Living Wage Canada British Columbia to learn the real costs of living. For example, dietitians laid out the real costs of food for people living in poverty.

McEvoy says councillors and people in the community started to realize they knew the people — the janitors, cafeteria workers, security guards — who weren’t making a living wage.

“Through that six-month process, it became about those people and then it became a human story,” McEvoy says.

Part of the city’s research included details on how people spent the money they received from an increase to a living wage. McEvoy says they found through a study done by the New York Times that employees used that money to pay off debt, improve their education by taking a course or going back to school, or they spent more time with family because they didn’t have to work a second job to get by.

McEvoy says the arguments against a living wage policy included that the policy would bankrupt the city and the government shouldn’t be involved in the economy.

McEvoy says it was important to talk about a living wage policy because every year New Westminster council reviews its own salaries and those of senior staff. Yet, at the same time, minimum wage in British Columbia was $8/hour in 2011, and hadn’t gone up in 10 years.

“We were having this discussion and not for the people who needed it the most,” McEvoy says.

During the six months that study, McEvoy says councillors talked to people in the community, anti-poverty organizations, and businesses.

The study came back and recommended the city have an ethical purchasing policy. But McEvoy says that wasn’t what they wanted, so they pushed ahead with more research.

Eventually, the policy went to council and it passed in a unanimous vote. Workers got a raise to $16.74/hour, which was the living wage rate in New Westminster in 2011.

McEvoy says the living wage policy had an immediate impact on staff and workers and a minimal impact on the city itself. He says the cost to increase the wages of city staff to a living wage was about $140,000 that first year. The policy also got national attention. McEvoy suddenly found himself fielding calls from employers across the country asking about creating a living wage policy.

“It was challenging when you have a finance department of two people,” he says.

Now, eight years later, McEvoy says the city has become a role model for living-wage policies.

And he had questions from other municipalities and also employers who wanted to learn how they could create a similar policy. McEvoy met with Vancity Credit Union to talk about a living wage policy.  The credit union adopted its own living wage policy in June 2013, raising its wages for its own employers and putting the policy in place for its contractors.

And the minimum wage in British Columbia increased to $8.75/hour in May 2011. The rate increased again that November to $9.50/hour and then again in May 2012 to $10.25/hour. The current minimum wage is $12.65/hour and the province has plans to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2021.

McEvoy says the city had about 40 contractors and only two decided not to work with the city because of the policy.

But McEvoy says the biggest benefits have been with the employees themselves. He says the living wage policy has increased retention of staff. Turnover in staff, including the interviewing and hiring, costs money.

“People want to work for you,” McEvoy says. “You get more reliable public services when you have happier workers.”

And he says staff have said they have time to spend with their kids and can pay for field trips, vacations, and so on.

But McEvoy says he’s most proud the city took an important step to relieving poverty and the stress and mental anguish it can cause employees. And for McEvoy, as an employer himself, the living wage policy was personal and about his own ethics.

“I don’t believe in a country like Canada a person with a job still has to be poor,” he says. “Never once as an employer did I say, ‘How can I pay my employees as little as possible?’ I was doing this work as a city councillor. Was I being a good person to the people standing in front of me?”

McEvoy says he thinks there are employers out there who might be interested in creating a living wage policy, but don’t know how to do it. So, Halifax Council and other employers, McEvoy says if you want to talk a living wage policy in Halifax, he’s more than willing to tell you all about it. He says you can email him, so here you go: jmcevoy@newwestcity.ca.

I liked chatting with McEvoy. It was clear the living wage issue is a moral one for him. People working a job shouldn’t have to struggle to get by. Get the facts, learn how paying a living wage is a personal and human issue (because it is), and make a policy.


Noticed

1. Buildings of Halifax

Over on Twitter @BrianMoore666 posted this photo of this gorgeous building in Halifax… United Kingdom.

The Piece Hall. Photo: Brian Moore

The building is The Piece Hall, which opened in 1779 as a cloth hall for handloom weavers where they’d sell their wares. The hall underwent a renovation between 2014 and 2017 and now houses bars, restaurants, shops, and hosts concerts, theatre, and sporting events.

I think I shall visit one day.

2. City Nature Challenge

Halifax is one of three Canadian cities taking part in the City Nature Challenge from April 26 to 29, which is hosted by iNaturalist, which offers an app that allows users to upload photos of plants and animals and have scientists and citizen scientists around the world help identify the species. This year there are 170 cities around the world taking part; Calgary and Richmond, B.C. are the two other Canadian cities in the competition. Dave Ireland of iNaturalist Canada gave a talk about the challenge to the Sackville Rivers Association last night. I didn’t go, but I was talking with Walter Regan, president of Sackville Rivers, about the challenge and he wants to see the HRM beat Calgary, so let’s make that happen. I may head outside and take photos and upload them, too. I mean photos of animals other than my cats.

3. Erratum

Tim Bousquet wrote this item.
In our excitement in getting the news out about the three Halifax Examiner articles that have been named as finalists in the Atlantic Journalism Awards, we neglected to mention that one of them — Joan Baxter’s “Fool’s Gold” series — was a co-production with the Cape Breton Spectator. The series was financed through the Examiner/Spectator joint subscription fund, and Spectator founder Mary Campbell did the bulk of the heavy editing lifting on the piece. We should have made that clear from the onset.

Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

ProtonCoupled Electron Transfer in Organic Synthesis (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — a talk by Robert Knowles from Princeton University.

Corporeality and Princely Sovereignty in the Early Modern Persianate Sphere (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Colin Mitchell will speak.

Signature Event: The Grand Parade (Friday and Saturday, 7:30pm, Pier 21, Marginal Road) — Tickets $15. From the listing:

18th century opulence in costume! Fourth year students of the Fountain  School’s Costume Studies program join with the Dal Wind Ensemble for our annual historical costume show. Join us for an evening of unique exploration in an unexpected setting. This event will showcase the creative pairing of rhythmic and colourful music with lush historical dress, design, and choreography by Fountain School students. We are proud to present this exciting collaboration with the help of the Traves Performance Excellence Fund.


In the harbour

Jennifer Schepers, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
12:00: BBC Brazil, cargo ship, arrives at anchorage from Dubai


Footnotes

Prince’s Lodge rotunda

I’m giving a talk on the Prince’s Lodge rotunda on the Bedford Highway at the Rockingham Heritage Society’s annual fundraising dinner on Saturday, April 13 at 6 p.m. I’ll be chatting about the stories of Prince’s Lodge rotunda, whose history I’ve been following for about two years now (you can check out my Facebook group, Stories of Prince’s Lodge Rotunda).

The Rockingham Heritage Society, in particular member Sharon Ingalls, has been working on an application to get cultural heritage designation for the rotunda and the entire property of Prince’s Lodge, where Sir John Wentworth’s country estate once stood (the Duke of Kent stayed there during his time in Halifax in the 1790s and built the rotunda then). A lot of the archeology of the former estate is still there, but much of it’s on private property. Of course, you can visit the heart-shaped pond and the trails in Hemlock Ravines Park, all of which are part of the former estate. In my talk, I’ll be sharing stories of the rotunda from the time the Duke of Kent built it to its last resident, Wendy Murray, who moved out in 2009.

I know Sharon has put countless hours into researching and writing the application (she and her husband, Wayne, wrote the book, Sweet Suburb, on the history of Prince’s Lodge and the entire Rockingham area. You can check it out at the Halifax Public Libraries). But it’s groups like the Rockingham Heritage Society that have worked hard to save historic places in the province (the rotunda is not in danger; it’s maintained by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal). Sharon is my go-to on any information I need on the rotunda. Scott Manor House in Bedford and Fultz House in Lower Sackville were also saved by groups of citizens and are now both managed by volunteers. I don’t think they get enough credit for saving these pieces of our history. These citizens become part of the story of these historical places, too.

If you want to go to the dinner and support the work of the Society, tickets are $20 and you can buy them by calling Mary Fowler at 902-443-2017. You’re supporting their continued work on preserving our history.


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Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. The living wage discussion continues yo reveal many interesting facts. One “fact” I have yet to see illustrated by anyone supports the arguments made by employers who say “I cannot afford to pay more than minimum wage” yet we see countless example of the contrary. Costco being the best example in retail where they pay a living wage standard and report openly on the benefits: better staff; less turnover. better service to customers etc. Retail tends to be a ghetto for minimum wage earners which is ironic. Pay people more and they spend more and who benefits? retail.

  2. I wrote about the Piece Hall a couple of years ago in a story for Halifax Magazine! It had just opened after being restored, and Robin Tuddenham, the Chief Executive of the town (equivalent to our CAO) was very excited about it because it had been in “a state of decline for a number of years.” The story is here: https://halifaxmag.com/features/halifaxes-around-the-world-2/

    Also, I read Sweet Suburb when I was researching the story of the Duc d’Anville and the rumours of some of his sailors being buried in Rockingham. So interesting. I truly admire people like Sharon and Wayne Ingalls who are so devoted to local history.