A poster with animations of people. The text says "Please be kind. We are here to help. Every day, Nova Scotia Health team members work to support patients and families."
A portion of a poster from Nova Scotia Health that was shared on social media. Credit: Nova Scotia Health

I’ve been reading Morning File since Tim Bousquet started the Halifax Examiner in 2014. I kept reading when he brought on El Jones — this story, ‘Remember, you are a lady,’ is one of my favourites by Jones — and then Stephen Kimber, whose work I’ve been reading for years. They were all writing about issues that no one else in the city were covering.

I said to my self, “Self, one day, you’ll write for the Examiner.”

In 2017, I was laid off from my job. During my job search, I noticed all kinds of job postings, particularly in communications, that had long lists of qualifications and responsibilities, yet not the salary to match, if the posting listed the salary at all. Many of the jobs were a few jobs in one. Sometimes those jobs paid just over minimum wage. Sometimes the jobs didn’t pay anything at all, except for “exposure.”

This probably wasn’t a great way to get noticed by potential bosses, but I started tweeting about these jobs. Other people on Twitter were doing the same. Around the same time, Tim was writing about living wages, so I started reading and learning more about that.

I never met Tim in person at that point, and I can’t remember exactly how it all unfolded, but Tim commented on one of my posts that I should pitch him a story. Then in 2018, I wrote my first Morning File.

People were still sending me job postings listing lots of responsibilities with no pay to match. I decided I’d collect those into Morning File pieces like here and here.

Sure, a few employers sent me nasty emails, but I got far more emails from readers and social media followers with jobs with crappy pay. And now here I am, more than four years later, still writing for the Examiner and still covering issues around labour and wages (I have a story in this Morning File you can read below).

The connection between the Examiner, its team, and its readers is one of the best parts of working here. I love hearing people’s stories and reading those job postings. Keep sending them.

Thank you for subscribing and sharing your stories. You can subscribe here.


NEWS

1. Council roundup

The Macdonald Bridge on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. Credit: Zane Woodford

It was a busy day at Halifax regional council on Tuesday, and Zane Woodford has a few stories today. First up, this council roundup, including this bit on the Macdonald Bridge bikeway. Woodford writes:

The flyover would connect cyclists directly to North Street from the bridge, removing the steep and intimidating climb from the bottom of Barrington Street.

In a report to council, project manager Ahmed Allahham recommended spending about $100,000 more on consulting fees to ensure the chosen option is the best one.

Council approved that motion on Tuesday despite concerns about the price tag, and about the city’s slow progress in implementing its all ages and abilities (AAA) bike network.

David MacIsaac, manager of active transportation, made the case for the flyover to councillors.

“This is a significant connection. If you’re bicycling right now, there might not be a worse place to ride a bike and it’s one of our most important places,” he said. “There’s a lot of cars, there’s buses, there’s grade. The current situation is inconsistent with what we’ve been directed to do in terms of providing a safer network.”

Also in the roundup, details on the West Bedford roundabout and Sam Austin is named deputy mayor.

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

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2. ‘Shelters, not tents’

Two of Halifax Mutual Aid’s shelters and two tents outside the old Halifax Memorial Library on Friday, July 9, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Woodford also has this story on a a report on Tuesday, National Housing Day, about 15 recommendations based on stories from unhoused people collected over the summer. Halifax regional council negotiated with the United Way “to convene a lived experience committee to advise staff,” and Eric Jonsson with the Downtown Halifax Street Navigator Program and Charlene Gagnon with YWCA Halifax did the work. Woodford writes:

Jonsson and Gagnon spoke to 16 people living outside, 10 in Halifax and six in Dartmouth.

Fourteen of them were living in tent encampments and two in more secluded wooded areas. Six were living in Halifax Mutual Aid shelters, nine in tents, and one in open air. Eleven of those surveyed were men, three were women, and two were transgender. Twelve were white and four were Indigenous.

Jonsson and Gagnon asked each of the people 29 questions, including a few about their identity, their living circumstances, their experiences with police, and what it would mean “if decision-makers would listen to and value your recommendations.”

Woodford details some of the stories they heard. Click here to read those.

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3. Recommendations on defunding the police

A stenciled “defund the police” seen painted on a Halifax sidewalk on April 13, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“Yet another committee to review a set of recommendations on defunding the police will have to wait for a staff report,” Woodford reports in his next story.

Halifax regional council voted on Tuesday to ask for a staff report on a motion from the Board of Police Commissioners on Dr. El Jones’ Defunding the Police: Defining the Way Forward for HRM. The board voted earlier this month, as the Halifax Examiner reported, to recommend council create a committee to implement that report’s 36 recommendations.

The committee was to include two members of the board, two councillors, two HRM staffers, one representative each from the provincial Department of Justice, HRP, and RCMP, and four community members.

Municipal clerk Iain MacLean told councillors they shouldn’t move right to a committee. He said they should, based on their procedure, first ask for a staff report. In writing the report, staff will canvass councillors’ interest in joining the committee.

Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé said the staff report will come back to council in February. That will mark a full year since Jones released the report.

Click here to read that story.

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4. Sobering centre

Surveillance video from the booking area at Halifax Regional Police headquarters shows constables Justin Murphy (left), Donna Lee Paris (centre), and Ryan Morris (right) preparing Corey Rogers’ personal belongings for booking. Rogers is laying on the floor with a spit hood over his head. — Photo: Screenshot/Nova Scotia Police Review Board/HRP

“Halifax is moving ahead with a pilot project to create a safer alternative to the drunk tank, with some details still to be worked out,” Woodford writes.

“If we had a sobering centre, would this have made a difference to Corey Rogers and that family? I don’t know,” Coun. Tony Mancini said during council on Tuesday.

“But I think doing this work is the right thing to do for our municipality, and the direction we’re going in, the growth providing supporting services.”

Municipal public safety advisor Amy Siciliano first recommended in favour of the idea in June 2021, as the Halifax Examiner reported.

As Woodford reports, there were some concerns over provincial jurisdiction and councillors Paul Russell, Pamela Lovelace, and Trish Purdy voted against the plan.

Click here to read that story.

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5. Justice for Workers — Nova Scotia

Suzanne MacNeil, left, and Kevin Levangie with Justice for Workers knocked on doors to tell residents about their campaign for a $20 minimum wage. Credit: Justice for Workers NS

On Tuesday, I spoke with Suzanne MacNeil, one of the volunteers with Justice for Workers — Nova Scotia, formerly known as Fight for $15 and Fairness. That volunteer-led group is out knocking on Nova Scotians’ doors to get the word out about their demand for a $20 minimum wage, 10 paid sick days, and better labour standards. MacNeil told me a bit about why they upped their demands from the previous $15 minimum wage.

MacNeil said they’re demanding a $20 minimum wage rather than the current living wage rate because it better reflects an appropriate minimum wage for all communities across the province. According to the most recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the living wage in Halifax is $23.50/hr while it’s lower in other communities: Cape Breton ($20/hr); Annapolis Valley ($22.40/hr); northern Nova Scotia ($20.40), and southern Nova Scotia ($22.55/hr).  

“We want the minimum wage demand in the same ballpark of reality of the living wage. But we also think while wages are the central demand, it’s not the only thing that will affect affordability,” MacNeil said. “Part of the reason we have such a high living wage in Halifax is because the rent is way too high. We believe not only should we have higher wages but there needs to be other interventions by government and others to bring down the rental rate, make it something more reasonable.” 

Click here to read that story.

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6. Carbon tax, rebate cheques set for July

Photo by Anni Roenkae on Pexels.com

“Nova Scotians will begin paying a price for carbon contained in fuels used to heat homes and operate their vehicles starting July 1, 2023,” Jennifer Henderson reports.

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault made the announcement about the Climate Action Incentive Tuesday afternoon.

Nova Scotians will receive their first quarterly rebate cheques the same month the tax comes into effect. That amount will vary based on the number of people in the household. Residents of rural communities will receive an additional 10%.

Until recently, the expectation was that Ottawa would implement the carbon tax in Nova Scotia and increase the price per tonne from $50 to $65 in other provinces starting on Jan. 1, 2023.

Henderson’s story details why the deadline was changed and also reports on Premier Tim Houston’s response to the carbon tax, and then Guilbeault’s response to Houston.

Click here to read the story.

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VIEWS

Stories behind the signs of the times

A poster from Nova Scotia Health that was shared on social media.

On Sunday, I was at a coffee shop I visit each week. In the drive-thru, there’s a sign that says verbal and physical abuse by customers won’t be tolerated. I’ve seen that sign many times now and decided this week I’d get the story behind it.

I called and spoke with a staff member, who said the sign was put up after a customer threw a sandwich at a worker behind the counter. Apparently, there was too much mayo or not enough mayo on the sandwich and for some rude and bizarre reason, the customer thought tossing it back at the worker was an appropriate response.

I asked to speak with the manager, but she didn’t want to do an interview. In fact, she said, such incidents were becoming less frequent, which was good to hear.

Still, I’m seeing more of these signs and wanted to get the stories behind some of them. There’s one at another coffee shop I frequent, but I couldn’t get in touch with their manager before I wrote this Morning File. And I’ve seen the signs at hospitals and at my own doctor’s office.

Over the last couple of years, Nova Scotia Health and the IWK have been sharing messages asking patients to be kind and patient.

So, I reached out to Brendan Elliott at Nova Scotia Health, who connected me with Dr. Janet MacIntyre, an emergency physician at the Halifax Infirmary and the clinical chief at the Charles V. Keating Emergency & Trauma Centre. I’ve seen signs at emergency rooms, including Cobequid Community Health Centre in Lower Sackville, and wanted to find out from MacIntyre more about the abuse by patients. We chatted over the phone on Tuesday.

MacIntyre has been an emergency physician since 2005 and she told me the rates of verbal and even physical abuse have increased over that time.

“If you look at news articles and reports or if you look in medical literature, you see more and more reports of this,” MacIntyre told me. “It’s an escalation of verbal interactions or abuse and some physical abuse. It’s become a focus of national groups as well. If you look at the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians or the American College of Emergency Physicians, they both have quite detailed position statements regarding workplace violence and harassment is a form of workplace violence.”

And emergency departments are a “hotbed” for this behaviour because it’s often the first place a patient goes before they filter into the rest of the system.

“Certainly, it’s been recognized for a long time that the emergency department, particularly emergency nurses, experience harassment or violence on a really regular basis,” MacIntyre said. “So, the rate of incidents of workplace violence is four times higher in health care professions than other professions. And the highest rate of that is in the emergency department.”

MacIntyre couldn’t detail any specific incidents for me, but she said patients have lots of frustrations and we’ve all know them well: the long waits, lack of space, shortage of health care staff, and a shortage of beds. It all impacts morale for everyone.

“The emergency department is really seen as a safety net in health care and so patients are often arriving in the emergency department with the expectation that the emergency department can act as safety net,” MacIntyre said.

“And I think the emergency department, in particular, is the public access to that system. That’s often where they can vent or where we see their frustrations. It can be a lot of pressures in our waiting room for our triage staff for patients coming in frustrated or stressed or concerned about being able to access care. And they’re also frustrated with the length of time they’re waiting in our department to be seen.” 

Short of any miraculous changes to the health care system, MacIntyre said she and the staff work on acknowleding the stress they’re all under. They also look at ways to make the emergency department safer, while also looking for ways to improve the flow of access for patients. Still, those bad interactions with patients is behind the burnout rates for health care workers.

“The pressure is huge and the impact on morale is very big right now,” she said. “I think this is a significant issue for health care workers moving onto other areas of health care.” 

“Health care workers come to work every day to help people and try to provide care. They are involved in this work because they believe in helping people and caring for people. And it’s very stressful to come to work and experience that hostility. I think there are many things contributing to burnout in professions across health care, but this is something that’s a major contributor. It’s hard on people and it makes the work environment very difficult.” 

Fortunately — and this was great to hear — MacIntyre said most patients are “polite, kind, and supportive of health care workers.” The signs are often inspired by the few bad stories.

“It’s certainly not all bad,” MacIntyre said. “But I do think that people need to have an understanding of the pressures on health care right now and taking a minute to think about the impact of the negative interaction on that health care worker and their ability to do their best and perform at work. People do need to have an opportunity to voice their concerns, but I think we are able to listen to those concerns. It just needs to be in a respectful way.” 

In fact, MacIntrye said patients and health care workers often share the same frustrations with the health care system.  

“We don’t want to see patients waiting in our waiting room. We don’t want to see patients waiting in our (ambulances or) hallways,” she said. “And we’re all working really hard to try and provide care to those patients and try to do things into the flow of the department and their access to care. We want them to have good access to high-quality care. It’s a shared stressor rather than a health care system working against patients.” 

I know people don’t read a lot of those signs, let alone think about the stories behind them. But if you see one, whether it’s at a coffee shop or health care setting, maybe take a few moments to think about the story behind it.

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NOTICED

NSCAD moving on over to the Port

NSCAD University’s Port Campus in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

On Tuesday, NSCAD announced it had signed a “long-term agreement with the Halifax Port Authority (HPA) to create an accessible, unified campus that will be the cornerstone of the vibrant creative and social district at the Halifax Seaport.”

There’s lot of PR language in here, but basically NSCAD will lease out two spots, sheds 22 and 23, at the port that will add it its existing Port Campus.

What’s the cost? Who knows as the release says, “the terms of the lease are not publicly disclosed.”

It looks like the project doesn’t include any student housing either.

There’s no specific timeline, although they mention that all the work should be done by 2030. That’s when the Accessibility Act requires all public buildings in Nova Scotia be fully accessible.

As many folks pointed out on Twitter, the campus on Granville Street is so inaccessible, something had to be done.

Anyway, you can read what they do say here.

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Government

City

Today

District Boundary Resident Review Panel (Wednesday, 3:30pm, City Hall) — agenda

Regional Centre Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, online) — agenda

Public information Meeting – Case 24242 (Wednesday, 7pm, Grand Lake Oakfield Fire Department) — application by Sunrose Land Use Consulting to amend the MPS/LUB to allow for the expansion of Ledwidge Lumber and woody biomass technology at 195 Old Post Road, Enfield

Tomorrow

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

Province

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House and online) — Impact of Government Expenses on ER Understaffing; with representatives from the Department of Health and Wellness and Nova Scotia Health


On campus

Dalhousie

Today

Rossetti-Watson Travel Scholarship Exhibition (Wednesday, 9am, Exhibition room, Medjuck Architecture Building) — presents travel studies by Emily Pyatt (Trondheim/Oslo, Norway), Julia Johnston (southern British Columbia), Peter Lombardi (Rotterdam, Netherlands), and Stefan Gagnier Ruckert (Barcelona, Spain)

Spider silk proteins for development of materials and biologic drugs (Wednesday, 4pm, online) — Jan Johansson and Anna Rising from Karolinska Institute will talk

Tomorrow

Rossetti-Watson Travel Scholarship Exhibition (Thursday, 9am, Exhibition room, Medjuck Architecture Building) — see Wednesday’s listing

Thesis Defence, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Thursday, 10am, Room 344, Ocean Sciences Building) — Caitlin McCavour will defend “Early Effects of Helicopter Liming on Soil and Vegetation in Two Acidified Forest Stands in Nova Scotia, Canada”

Utilising the Zebrafish to Investigate the Importance of Cardiac Autoregulation (Thursday, 12pm, Room 3H1, Tupper Building) — Jonathan Baillie will talk

King’s

Books by Heart (Wednesday, 7pm, KTS Lecture Hall) — Could books save lives? A conversation between Daniel Brandes and Dr. Gabrielle Horne, MD


In the harbour

Halifax
07:20: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 42 from St. John’s
09:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Saint Croix, Virgin Islands
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
16:00: MSC Pilar, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 36
23:00: MSC Donata, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Sines, Portugal

Cape Breton
08:00: Oslo Bulk 8, cargo ship, transits through the causeway, en route from Galveston, Texas to Summerside


Footnotes

My Christmas tree is going up this week. My two young cats will make sure it comes down pretty quickly, though.


Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. Am I the only person questioning why university and community colleges should be located on the prime real estate, not particularly close to either housing or buses, that is the Halifax Harbour waterfront?