1. Reaction to delays at Muskrat Falls
On Monday, Jennifer Henderson reported on more delays at Muskrat Falls and how that will almost certainly mean a hike in Nova Scotians’ power bills.
Today, Henderson got reaction from political leaders after she sent out this question to all three parties: What action would your party take to protect ratepayers from even higher power bills associated with delays in receiving hydro from Muskrat Falls?
You can read all the reactions in the story, but Henderson also wrote about the work being done by Christine Runge, an employee of the Power Advisory Group, who was hired by the Houston government to present an argument to the UARB on behalf of the province. Henderson writes:
Runge is an economist who previously worked for the electricity regulator in Alberta. Her evidence doesn’t get into whether residential consumers ought to be charged an extra $5 a month for electricity. Instead Runge makes a number of recommendations to the UARB to try and protect ratepayers from other additional increases.
For example, Nova Scotia Power wants to reduce its risk for paying for cleanup after major storms that cost more than it has budgeted. As proposed, ratepayers would pay the difference if storm costs go over budget. Runge, an expert witness for the province, says Nova Scotia Power should also then refund ratepayers if storm costs come in under budget. She argues this proposal must be revised to reflect that or the UARB should reject it.
Runge says Nova Scotia Power should not be allowed to set up a Decarbonization Deferral Account to spread out the costs of closing coal plants — ballpark estimate is in the range of $700 million to $1 billion — until the company provides more precise information about the costs and how they would be depreciated. And she says trying to include in the Deferral Account the cost of “new” renewable generation such as wind farms and battery storage projects should be rejected because that’s “business as usual” for any power company.
2. Another story about staff shortages which includes no interviews with staff
Will McLernon at CBC has this story about worker shortages in Nova Scotia restaurants.
According to the latest Statistics Canada data, there were 24,580 job vacancies in Nova Scotia in May, an increase of more than 22 per cent from April, with more than 1,600 in accommodations and food services.
“We probably have never seen anything like this in the history of the restaurant industry in Nova Scotia,” said Gordon Stewart, the executive director of Restaurants Association of Nova Scotia.
“The labour issue will be longer and tougher on restaurants than the COVID issue will be and it will last at least until 2030.”
Stewart said it takes around 32,000 people to run the provincial food service industry, but the current figure is closer to 27,000.
I guess we’ll be reading more of these stories for the next several years. To deal with the staff shortages, many restaurants have had to cut their hours, reduce the number of items on the menus, and close for at least one day a week.
McLernon also interviewed Bill Pratt, who owns 21 restaurants, all of which are now closed one day a week. Pratt wants the feds to spread up the processes to get more foreign workers employed in restaurants. As for the local workers, Pratt says he raised wages, but he’s also lost workers who moved out of the provinces to work in restaurants offering signing bonuses. “When you start eating each other, what does that do to our industry? It kills us,” he said.
McLernon learned that the the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia surveyed industry staff and found that it was the staff with more than 10 years of kitchen experience who were the majority leaving the industry.
Yet, not a single worker was interviewed for this story. Many of these stories don’t include comments from workers.
Back in July, this report by Alex Cooke from Global Halifax caught my attention, because Cooke interviewed workers about the labour shortage. She interviewed 22-year-old Ben Coleman, who left his job at a grocery store because of terrible wages. He now works at a bar. “Had there been better wages or better benefits, it might have given me reason to stay, but I just felt I would have been better suited elsewhere,” Coleman told Cooke.
Cooke also interviewed Chantelle Comeau, 38, who’s worked in the hospitality industry for the last 20 years, most recently in the kitchen of an inn she called “one of the worst places I’ve worked.” She now works in a Bedford pizza shop where she says she’s treated well and paid well. She told Cooke:
Employers can’t underestimate word of mouth between employees. Some of the chronically understaffed restaurants in the city have developed “reputations” among workers, she said, resulting in fewer skilled people being willing to apply.
If you don’t value your staff, if you aren’t willing to pay your staff, you’re not going to find staff.
Let’s hear from more workers on this issue, please.
3. Homelessness on the rise in Cape Breton
Kyle Moore at CTV Atlantic reports that the number of homeless people in Cape Breton is rising at an alarming rate. According to a recent study out of Cape Breton University, there are about 50o people on the island struggling with homelessness. The majority of those people are over the age of 29.
Moore spoke with Jodi McDavid, executive director of Cape Breton Transition House, who says rising costs and the lack of affordable housing are the issue.
It’s easy at times to not notice if you’re not in certain areas of the community or if you don’t associate with certain people, but there are lots of people living in tents in Sydney. There are people sleeping on the street. There are people living under staircases of commercial buildings.
You are talking about people who were already having a hard time to make a go of it. It is an emergency. It’s definitely an emergency.
Erika Shea, president and CEO of New Dawn Enterprises, a social welfare organization that provides supportive housing, told Moore that CBRM will soon see tent cities popping up if something isn’t done. Shea says Ally Centre of Cape Breton, a harm-reduction based organization in Sydney, isn’t able to keep donated tents in stock.
4. New waterfront plans
Develop Nova Scotia released a tender for new plans on the Halifax waterfront. Looks like they want more people in the water down there.
Brett Ruskin at CBC tweeted out some of the details on the plan this morning:
And wow, there’s already plenty of responses about swimming in poo.
The dedicated interpreters living Nova Scotia’s history
A few summers ago, I went to Lawrence House Museum on Highway 215 in Maitland. If you don’t know, Lawrence House was the former residence of William D. Lawrence, who in 1874 constructed the largest wooden-hulled, fully-rigged ship ever built in Canada (Maitland was a shipbuilding hub at the time).
It was my first time there and the guide (whose name I don’t remember, sadly) knew everything about the house, Lawrence, and the history of shipbuilding in Maitland. She told me she had worked at the museum since it opened 40 years ago.
Then last summer I took my kid to Sherbrooke Village, which I’ve visited a number of times. During this visit, we signed up for the “explore” tour, which meant we got to dress up in Victorian costumes. Helen Moore helped us get ready; it took a while, and yes, those dresses are hot. But like the guide at Lawrence House, Moore, who started working at Sherbrooke in 2002, was a huge wealth of knowledge about Sherbrooke and the lives of its residents there during the Victorian era.
Meeting both Moore and the guide at Lawrence House got me thinking that the people who work at our museums have a massive collective knowledge about our province.
Here are some stats about the province’s museums I got from the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage:
- There are 28 museums under the Nova Scotia Museum umbrella.
- There are 350 staff at these museums.
- Thousands of people visit the provincial museums each year. The number for the 2019 season is 559,400 visits between April 1 2019 and March 31 2020.
But there are other museums, too. I emailed Maggie MacIntyre with the Association of Nova Scotia Museums (ANSM) who told me besides these 28 museums, there are another 100 museums, including municipally-, provincially-, federally-, and privately-funded institutions. And there are about 1,000 volunteers who keep those museums running.
I couldn’t possibly profile all of them here; it would be like an award acceptance speech in that I’d inevitably forget someone. But I wanted to tell you about a few of the folks I talked with recently.
Helen Moore is the interpreter I met at Sherbrooke last September. I spoke with her at length then, and we chatted over the phone this past weekend. She’s from Bermuda and came to Nova Scotia for university. There she met her husband, Charles, who introduced her to Sherbrooke Village when they were married in 1974. That wasn’t long after the museum opened.
Moore started working at Sherbrooke in 2002, after she got that empty nest feeling when her two children went on their way. Moore’s sister-in-law was one of the first employees at the museum.
Moore, who had homeschooled her own children, started out working with the children’s program, teaching young students about the museum, village, and its history. The kids dressed up in period costumes and made crafts, tools, and artwork on site, all of which they took home.
“I like the idea of teaching children history in eras,” Moore says. “The Victorian era, to me, is easy to teach when you see costumes, you see houses, furniture, and patterns of behaviour. That’s how I think children should learn history.”
Over the years, some of those kids come back as adults, bringing their own children. She told me about a truck driver who once drove past the gate near the entrance of the village and shouted out the window, “I still have my beanbag and my hammer!” referencing the crafts he made during a childhood visit.
“That meant a lot to him as a child, that he would mention that driving by,” Moore says.
Moore took a year off from working at the museum when her husband passed away in 2018. When she returned, she took on a new role as a supervisor of interpretation — Angelina Jack, another longtime employee, is another supervisor of interpretation, too. Moore says this year there are quite a few new employees, so they are matched with the more experienced staff so they can learn all the history of the village and how to interpret that information for visitors.
A number of the museum’s artisans have worked here for decades, too. There’s Joey Jordan, who’s a woodturner, Patty Lou McGrath, who leads the printing and binding shop, Heather Rudolph, who is a weaver, Suzette Jordan, an ambrotype photographer, and Tony Huntley, the longtime blacksmith.
“They really are the background of teaching someone what it was like in the Victorian times,” Moore says. “When a child comes in to see, they have to drop the idea of power by electricity and they start to see how the human body was used to make things … it makes quite an impression on a child, I think.”
“That’s why our interpreters are so important. They tell you what you’re seeing and how to relate it to modern day. Without that interpretation, you’re just going into buildings and looking at things.”
Last year, Moore and I talked a lot about women’s lives and work during the Victorian era, and how they were really considered second-class citizens. I think this is an insight not everyone might think about when they visit. And yes, those dresses are hot to wear and it takes forever to get properly dressed.
Moore, who is now 70, said she’ll continue working at Sherbrooke “as long as she could skip.” One year she broke bones in both feet, but she can still skip, so she’s still interpreting.
“I am still enjoying it, but when I feel I can’t give to the museum 100% I will retire.”
When I contacted Sherbrooke to get information about Helen Moore, I was told Keith Gallant would be another great longtime employee to speak with. Gallant got his first job at Sherbrooke Village in 1976. He was an education officer and worked with school kids and developing school programs. Prior to that, he worked at Highland Village in Iona for three summers while he was at St. FX.
He stayed on as an education officer for a couple of years, but took on other roles, eventually becoming the director of personnel. He retired from that role in February 2016 but is still very involved in Sherbrooke Village. Gallant is a wealth of knowledge about the museum, and Sherbrooke, and the county, and clearly is very fond of the talent there.
“Whatever job I’m looking to have done, whether it’s mechanical or whatever, if I can’t get it done in Sherbrooke, then I really don’t need it done,” Gallant says. “The skillsets that are there on our 60-acre property, the range is fascinating. From the woodworking shop, the sawmill, the blacksmith shop, the weaving studio, the pottery, the print shop. It’s something else.”
Gallant is now a member of the Sherbrooke Restoration Commission on a term role that involves getting new information for the St. Mary’s Genealogy Research Centre. He’s also involved in helping with the local library and volunteers with the fire department. He credits the volunteers at the museum, too, for sharing its story.
“They’re the backbone of your community,” Gallant says. “They’re the fibre and spirit who help you get through the good times and the challenging times.”
Gallant says the workers at the museum live throughout Guysborough, Antigonish, and Pictou counties.
“The community isn’t Sherbrooke anymore. It’s the whole municipality and county,” Gallant says. “What we are rich in, in the Maritimes, is our history.
Gallant says when he started at Sherbrooke many young people were leaving the province for work, heading to Ontario or Calgary. He lives in a house that overlooks St. Mary’s River valley.
“I have fresh air, I’ve got space. As far as having a social life, isn’t doesn’t look any different from when I was working until now. When you’re involved with volunteer organizations, your day is always full and you’re always around good quality people.”
As director of personel, Gallant says he always looked for the keeners in the community. That might include young people who were connected with other community organizations. And he says those keeners catch on.
“If they haven’t been interested in history before, and not just the facts, I think they get motivated,” Gallant says.
John N. Grant
When I first spoke with Keith Gallant, he insisted I speak with John N. Grant, who was the second person who was hired for the restoration of Sherbrooke Village 51 years ago. Grant was hired by the Sherbrooke Restoration Commission to research the history of the community, including everything from the sawmills to the folks who lived there. (Stephen Archibald worked on the restoration, too. He has an album of some of the photos he took here).
Grant says the whole concept of a living museum was much newer back then.
“There was a lot of work to be done in terms of how to make it come to life,” Grant says. “It wasn’t just meant to represent what Sherbrooke was in the 1860s and the 1870s, but rural communities as they were in Nova Scotia. Sherbrooke doesn’t just represent Sherbrooke, but that rural way of life.”
Grant says when he did that research in the 1970s on that contract, he spent time at the Nova Scotia Archives and the Nova Scotia Museum in Halifax, but he also enjoyed interviewing older residents in the community who shared their stories with him.
“It was snippets of information that aren’t completely pertinent to what tourists should know but are just interesting. They like to talk about their neighbours and their neighbours like to talk about them. So, you got the stories from two sides.”
Grant told me a story about Captain Byron Scott, who lived in Sherbrooke and was one of the people he interviewed for his research in the 1970s. Scott shared stories of his time at sea. Grant would later go on to tell Scott’s story in his book, The Mystery Ships of Nova Scotia in the First World War.
After that contract ended, Grant, who was a teacher, a university professor, and author, was eventually asked to join the commission and he served three terms there, including as chair. Now, he still gets questions forwarded about the community’s history and so on. He’s also still involved with the St. Mary’s Genealogical Research Centre at Sherbrooke Village. He last visited Sherbrooke in the summer of 2021.
“Physically, it’s in much better shape than it was then,” Grant says. “The last couple of years with COVID and all, there hasn’t been as many people around and so it had a semi-deserted feeling. But at other times, the streets have been full of visitors and commission personnel. It really brings it to life. It really brings that whole end of the municipality to life.”
The staff at the museum “represent that which was,” Grant says. “Their knowledge and experience are really very important. The people who have been in the buildings a long time know all the nooks and crannies. The good ones learn the stories that go with those nooks and crannies. And the very good ones can make all those stories come to life for those who come to visit.”
Grant says museums should be play a bigger part of the education system in the province.
“I know it’s not as formalized as the public school system, and they’re not designed just for people from the ages of five to 18. Not just historical education because museums are about all kinds of things. I think they’re an essential part of citizenship preparation, citizenship education, and reminding us of where we came from, perhaps pointing us to where we might be going. They’re part of the whole roots of the community and accordingly of the whole province.”
Ethel Feener is the gift shop manager at Ross Farm Museum. Feener, who is from New Ross, started working at the museum in 1979 as an interpreter on the farm. She got to show visitors what like was like on a Nova Scotia farm in the 1800s. As an interpreter, Feener made butter, processed wool, made pickles and cookies, and took on other chores on the farm.
Then she moved onto a role as site coordinator and then a few years ago, she took on her current role as gift shop manager, which she works year round.
“I love my job,” Feener said. “I am a people person and I love the people and I’ve made friends over the years.”
Some of the children she met during those tours years ago come back to the museum now with their own children. And they still remember her by name.
“It’s those types of things that keep you there,” Feener says. “It’s all the good experiences you have with visitors. I have people who say, ‘the farm won’t be there same when you leave.’ That’s pretty nice compliment to hear. It makes you feel good about what you do, and they appreciate it when people go out of their way to give you those compliments. It’s very touching.”
Feener says she’s not the only person at Ross Farm who has extensive knowledge of the museum and community. She says staff were taught the history of the museum and the community, but she dug into more research on her own.
“You wanted to be able to learn more. When I first came on, I’d pick up stuff and read it. I took every opportunity to so I could do a better job. I did it because it was part of our heritage.”
As for her favourite part of the job, she says she “likes it all.”
Feener, who wouldn’t share her age, saying “you’re only as old as you feel,” says while she’ll eventually retire, she hasn’t set a date.
“The visitors to Ross Farm are greeted by the wonderful staff we have here. They really make them feel at home. Anyone in Nova Scotia should come and visit the museum.”
Like I said, I can’t profile everyone here, but now I want to know about more of the museum staff. As for the guide at Lawrence House Museum, I was told she retired. That’s 40 years of knowledge that I hope got passed on to a new employee at the museum.
On Saturday I was scrolling through this thread on Twitter:
People shared all sorts of examples, including Trevina, Dougifer, Faustine, Dougena, Raylene, Melvina, Alfreda, Rexanne, Hughena, Geraldlynn, Hughette, Davina, Johnina, Authurette, Randene, Randilyn, Donanne, Bobette, Edwina, Dwightina, Bertina, Gordonna, Bofina, Walterine, and many others.
But there were two names that stood out for me. The first was Garlanda, which was mentioned by a gentleman named Blaine Edwards. I know a Garlanda — our kids have been longtime friends — and send the thread to her. She told me her mother found the named Garlanda in a book of unique baby names and chose it because it was close to Garlanda’s dad’s name: Garfield or Gar/Gary for short.
So, Garlanda jumped into the Twitter thread via her own husband’s account and responded to Edwards. And in the most small world-Newfoundland interaction ever, it turns out Blaine Edwards first heard of the name Garlanda because he knew the Garlanda I know. Here’s the exchange:
Garlanda and I have been laughing about this ever since.
There was another name I noticed in that list: Donalda. One of my dear friends is named Donalda, a name I never heard of before I met her several years ago. She doesn’t have any Newfoundland connections that I know about, so I texted her on Sunday night to ask about the origins of her name.
She told me her mother only ever wanted sons, so she never chose any names if she had a girl. When Donalda’s mother was in the hospital to give birth, she was being assisted by a nurse named Donalda, who described the spelling of her name as “Donald with an A.” That was enough to convince Donalda’s mom to name her new daughter Donalda, who grew up not liking her name (like Garlanda), but appreciates it now.
I wondered if there are other regional baby naming traditions out there like this. I asked a couple of genealogists I know and one, Pamela Wile, mentioned the Scottish tradition of naming children, which goes like this:
Thanks to Garlanda and Donalda for giving me permission to tell their stories.
I did some more digging around, but I couldn’t find any other examples quite like the Newfoundland naming tradition. What other naming traditions do you know, readers?
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda
Special Meeting – Regional Centre Community Council (Wednesday, 10am, online) — agenda
Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
No meetings this week
Phd Defence, English (Tuesday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — Kala Hirtle will defend “Altered States of Consciousness: Gender, Nineteenth-Century Medical Discourse, and Gothic Literature”
PhD Defence, Mechanical Engineering (Tuesday, 10:30am, online) — Owen Hambleton Craig will defend “Material Characterization of Directed Energy Deposition of H13 Tool Steel and Functionally Graded H13-Copper”
PhD Defence, Interdisciplinary PhD Program (Wednesday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building and online) — Jenny Weitzman will defend “Holistic Carrying Capacity for Salmon Aquaculture: The Role of Social Values”
PhD Defence, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building and online) — Bryan Maciag will defend “Geochemistry of Arsenic in Magmatic Systems with Some Results for Antimony”
In the harbour
06:00: Celebrity Summit, cruise ship with up to 2,100 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 on a 12-day cruise from New York to Reykjavik, Iceland
07:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
17:30: Celebrity Summit sails for St. John’s
17:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:45: CSL Argosy, bulker, moves from Pirate Harbour anchorage to Aulds Cove quarry
07:00: MM Newfoundland, barge, arrives at Iona from sea
08:00: Niagara Spirit, barge, arrives at Iona from sea
13:00: Rossi A. Desgagnes, chemical tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Quebec City
“If writing doesn’t work out, you can be a stripper.” – my kid to me after I told her about my first pole dancing lesson, which was great!