1. Slow on deliveries from Muskrat, but ratepayers are still paying
Yesterday, the Utility and Review Board (UARB) issued a 94-page decision in which it acknowledges that after four years of delays, consumers are still receiving only a portion of the NS Block from Muskrat Falls. That same decision also said consumers paid $205.5 million to buy other sources of replacement energy over the past four years, Jennifer Henderson reports:
Officials with NSPML have been unable to provide a firm date when all the energy will arrive because of ongoing delays with the software that controls the transmission of electricity from the dams to mainland Newfoundland via the Labrador Island Link.
That uncertainty appears to be one factor in the UARB’s decision to “hold back” $2 million each month from what Nova Scotia Power can bill ratepayers until most of that electricity is received. (That’s a significant amount, equal to 10% of what the provincial grid consumes today.)
“The Board has determined it is appropriate to continue a form of holdback to provide some continued protection to ratepayers,”explained the UARB in its written decision. “The holdback monies will be used to pay for the cost of any replacement energy that may be required as a result of the failure to achieve the 90%, to a maximum of $2 million per month. Any portion of the $2 million not utilized to pay for replacement cost energy would be paid over to NSPML.”
The “holdback” starts this April and will be reviewed by the UARB next January.
2. Anaconda Mining joins the gold rush on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore
Joan Baxter has a three-part series on gold mining on the Eastern Shore. Today, we have part 1. In this article, Baxter focuses on Anaconda, which has entered the gold fray in Nova Scotia in recent years. Anaconda’s gold mine doesn’t even exist yet and the company hasn’t registered its Goldboro gold mine project for environmental assessment with the province of Nova Scotia. But as Baxter writes, that’s not stopping all the fanfare for the project.
On January 11, 2022, the Toronto-based company signed a “benefits agreement” with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG). It promised Anaconda Mining will have “targeted measures” to recruit local employees, and contribute “annual grants for community groups, organizations and community projects within the Municipality” and “bursaries for local high school students” who want to work or apprentice at the mine.
The way it is presented, one could be excused for thinking the mine – the details of which have not been submitted to government regulators — is a fait accompli.
Predictably, Anaconda’s promises garnered glowing media coverage and elicited effusive praise from industry-friendly MODG warden, Vernon Pitts, who was quoted in the press release:
We have enjoyed open dialogue and communications with Anaconda and have confidence that the Goldboro Gold Project will be operated in an environmentally sustainable manner that meets or exceeds all regulatory standards, while bringing significant social and economic opportunities.
A little hasty, perhaps?
3. CCAs getting a raise
Well, this was some excellent news this week. Continuing care assistants (CCAs) across Nova Scotia are getting a 23% raise. The news was announced at yesterday’s COVID briefing — more on that below — and will kick in today. Yvette d’Entremont reported on that story:
In a media release, the Premier’s Office said the wage increase for unionized and non-unionized CCAs at all levels in the publicly funded sector will bring the top annual salary to $48,419.
For most full-time CCAs, that means an increase of about $9,000 a year. Those at the top of their pay scale will reach the top salary immediately.
During Wednesday’s briefing, Houston said what he heard from CCAs during Tuesday evening’s call had a “big influence” on the decision to immediately increase their wages.
The Examiner got an audio recording of that conference call with CCAs and Houston. And there was one conversation with a CCA that Houston said “might be one of my lasting things from today.” Here’s d’Entremont again:
In that exchange, a CCA working in home care confirmed to the premier that a wage increase was definitely a top priority. She described CCAs as struggling to survive as the cost of essentials like food and fuel continue to skyrocket.
She said a certified CCA working for home support made $16.67 an hour in 2009. In 2022, that wage was $19.24 an hour.
“We are on the road pretty much all day. It’s not like we go to one place and stop and be there for eight to 12 hours,” the CCA said.
“Some girls start work at 7:30 in the morning and some of them don’t get home till 10, 10:30, 11 o’clock at night. We also do night shifts as well.”
She added that the gas mileage amount home care CCAs can claim hasn’t increased despite the high cost of fuel eating into their salaries. She also shared how one worker was being forced to sell her house.
This wage increase will make an immediate difference in the lives of CCAs, many of whom are women.
4. COVID update: 5 new deaths; restrictions being lifted Monday
There was a COVID briefing yesterday afternoon and Tim Bousquet was there live tweeting. He also wrote this update. Five new deaths were announced.
The deceased are:
• a woman in her 60s who lived in the Northern Zone
• a woman in her 70s who lived in the Western Zone
• a woman in her 80s who lived in the Eastern Zone
• two women in their 90s who lived in the Central Zone
In total, 164 Nova Scotians have died from COVID, and 54 since Dec. 3.
Also, at the briefing Premier Tim Houston announced that wage increase for CCAs, and chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang announced a three-phase plan to lift restrictions. The first phrase will kick in on Monday, February 14 and covers border restrictions, gathering limits, sports, arts and culture, faith services, weddings and funerals, fitness, leisure and recreation, businesses, education, and long-term care. Here’s what Strang said about the plan:
We anticipate that each phase will last about a month. This will give us time to monitor how things are going and make adjustments if necessary, at a high level.
In Phase 1, which starts 12:01am, February 14th, will allow events again, increased gathering limits and business capacity limits and remove border restrictions. And in Phase 2, gathering and capacity limits will increase again, and in Phase 3, there will be no more gathering or capacity limits, and we will also lift physical distancing requirements. And for now, masks are still required in indoor public places, and proof of vaccination is still necessary for discretionary activities. And we will let our evolving epidemiology guide us when we can safely change these two components.
This update also includes an exchange between Bousquet and Strang moving to COVID being endemic.
5. The Tideline, Episode 66: Gabrielle Papillon
In this week’s episode of The Tideline, Tara Thorne interviews Gabrielle Papillon. Here’s the write-up on the show:
It’s been a pandemic full of learning and experimenting for Gabrielle Papillon, whose latest record Shout is an art-pop celebration of self. That includes building and producing from a home studio, mentoring with producer friends, composing and presenting an original musical (very common), and managing to squeeze in a UK tour in between lockdowns. She stops by to chat about all of this, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and the uncertain future.
Women’s wellness and white supremacy
I’ve been skeptical about the wellness industry for a long time. At first, I thought it was just foolish. Yes, it was filled with pseudoscience, but maybe it wasn’t too harmful. What they were selling never made much sense. You know the stuff I’m talking about: the detoxes, the cleanses, the weird diets. But a lot of people seemed really into it.
Then I noticed how predatory it was. So many of the wellness “gurus” and influencers seemed to market themselves the same way. It’s almost like there’s a wellness marketing kit (many people in the coaching industry must use this same kit). They started their wellness business because they had a “wellness story” or “journey” to share. They love that bullshit, nonsense language and use phrases like “manifesting” and “setting your intentions.” They tell their clients, and just about everyone, how much they love them. They sign off their blogs with hearts or xoxos. They post inspirational quotes — usually said by someone else, of course, but not always credited to that person. They’re very attractive. They have all kinds of posed and polished photos of themselves wearing gorgeous outfits while in their spotless and lavishly decorated homes (I notice they like posting photos of their feet and shoes, for some reason). And they’re almost always white women.
I always said these wellness types were preying on women’s insecurities about their lives, their bodies, and more, and there’s big money in that, sadly. I am a very white woman and this stuff is marketed to women like me, often through social media. And these wellness gurus are women who are incredibly privileged. Yes, a healthy diet and exercise are important, but these women don’t have to think about food insecurity, housing, social isolation, lack of access to leisure or recreation, or lack of access to health care, all determinants of actual wellness.
But it’s all even more nefarious than that. Women’s wellness is very connected to white supremacy. Toronto-based journalist Stacey Lee Kong noticed this years ago and has written about it before. She wrote about it again last Friday in this post, Looks Like the Wellness-To-White-Supremacy Pipeline Is Alive and Well, on her newsletter, Friday Things.
Kong was inspired to write about the women’s wellness industry and its connections to white supremacy when Angela Liddon, a Canadian food personality, who writes about veganism in books and her website Oh She Glows, talked about her support of the trucker convoy. Now, I never heard about Liddon, but she hits a lot of those wellness requirements I mentioned above. Anyway, last week, Liddon shared this Instagram post in support of the trucker convoy.
Look at the language, the “love” and “positive change” with the heart, all in the same post where she says she and others are experiencing segregation and censorship (no, they’re not).
This is such a great piece and you really should read it all. Kong reminds us that while the trucker convoy may have started out about vaccine mandates, it is “less about vaccines and more about overarching right-wing hate and paranoia.” Kong also tells us more about Liddon and how she got into the business by sharing her story about her relationship with food. Liddon started her business with a blog in which she wanted to share her “transformation” with others.
But the industry Liddon was getting into had long had connections to white supremacy, which Kong says has been “working overtime” during the pandemic.
I’ve written about wellness quite a bit recently, both in Friday Things and in my journalism, and have often touched on its racist roots and the ways it gets co-opted by nefarious forces. Yoga was probably the first tentpole of Western wellness, and as soon as it took hold, its deep breathing and intentional movement was immediately decoupled from its cultural and spiritual context. Instead, it became a way for (mostly) white ladies to feel better, especially in the face of traditional medicine’s bias against women. From there, wellness quickly grew to encompass other forms of fitness, healthy eating, personal care, nutrition, meditation, alternative medicine, spa services and weight loss. (Especially that last one.)
And its market share increased in lockstep with its popularity. A 2021 McKinsey & Company survey estimated the value of the global wellness market at more than US$1.5 trillion, while the Global Wellness Institute says it’s likely much higher: US$4.5 trillion. It’s also likely to continue growing according to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, which quotes Wendy Liebmann, the CEO of retail strategy and market research firm WSL Strategic Retail, as saying, “what this pandemic has revealed is that taking care and control of your own health—individual, family, home, etc.—is even more critical than before.”
Many in the wellness industry simply reject Western medicine. But many consumers of it find their way there when they are rejected by Western medicine. That includes many women, who feel they aren’t heard by their doctors, and that their concerns about their health aren’t taken seriously. This is a real issue, but it’s also one that the wellness industry exploits. And it also exploits the practices of other cultures — think yoga — while leaving out the traditional practitioners (Gwyneth Paltrow, likely the queen of wellness with her Goop site, once said ‘You have this job because I’ve done yoga before’ to a young woman behind the counter at a yoga studio in LA).
At the same time, racialized, Indigenous, queer, disabled and poor people rarely have access to wellness spaces as customers, much less the opportunity to become practitioners themselves, even though many wellness trends are derived from their traditional practices, then repackaged as “ancient secrets” or “mystical knowledge.” It all creates the perfect opportunity for white supremacy to flourish—and for the wellness industry to do serious harm.
As a 2021 Vox piece on the rise of conspiracy theories in wellness pointed out, this industry is rooted in cultural appropriation and Orientalism, and that’s part of the reason why misinformation has gained such a foothold in the space.
“It’s ‘New Age capitalism’ at work: A robust system of knowledge is taken apart piecemeal, divorced from any philosophical or religious roots, and transfigured into a commodity, something that can be bought and sold to improve consumers’ lives,” writes Terry Nguyen, who goes on to explain that cherry-picking meaning like this also makes it easier to layer political meaning on to personal choices. This is particularly true when it comes to food and nutrition influencers, who are often rich white women who gatekeep veganism.
As I was researching more on this topic, I found this article, Wellness Doesn’t Belong to White Women, by Kelly Gonsalves in The Cut, in which nine Black women talk about their experience working in the wellness industry. These women — who work in various parts of the industry, from yoga to diversity training — share stories about being treated as a novelty, only to be shut down and treated poorly. Other women talk about being asked to offer their work for free or seeing their work mimicked by a white woman. One women recalled a patient calling her the n-word and not being supported by colleagues.
And white women’s wellness has been given a big platform to spread misinformation and hate. Kong writes that for too long media have given the wellness industry too much time and space to share their views and very few are calling them out (I am so glad Kong is). Kong writes that Liddon, who has more than 600,000 followers on Instagram where that post was shared, has always got all kinds of promotion from major media outlets, including Chatelaine and the Food Network. Kong writes:
Now that she’s promoting white supremacy to her hundreds of thousands of followers, though, we don’t have anything to say. (And this is not to mention the other public figures who are doing the same thing. When I posted about her Story on Instagram, Friday’s followers named several other wellness influencers, all of them privileged white women, who were posting pro-convoy messages.)
Maybe this is starting to change, though. Just yesterday, EJ Dickson with Rolling Stone wrote this article about why wellness influencers are attracted to the trucker convoy. Dickson mentions Liddon, but also another wellness influencer, Ange Peters, who is CEO of HOL:FIT, a holistic training and nutrition brand that actually sells essential oils (UGH).
Dickson interviews Rachel Moran, a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for an Informed Public, a research institute at the University of Washington that looks at mis- and disinformation, who tells Dickson she’s seeing all kinds of conspiracy theories about the convoy coming from the wellness industry.
“We’ve been calling them the Girl Boss misinfo types, ones who are staunchly anti-vax and sell these anti-metal toxin sprays on their Instagram feeds. They’re spreading all sorts of conspiracy theories about FBI partnerships with Canadian authorities and Ottawa police to surveil the protesters, and it’s all tied to the downfall of the Deep State.”
“There’s this prominent through-thread of anti-elitism and individualism that white female wellness influencers in particular are drawn to,” says Moran. “This idea that you’re drawn to your own destiny is what has connected them with a lot of these protests, not just the current one…. it mirrors this take on wellness that modern medicine is bad for you and can’t be trusted and it’s all up to us individuals to spread the word. That narrative ties this all together.”
Dickson learned there’s another name for all of this: Pastel QAnon, a term coined by researcher Marc-Andre Argentino “to describe influencers using Instagram grid-friendly, feminine aesthetics to broadcast extremist views.”
We’ve seen all kinds of misinformation being spread during the last two years. Fortunately, some people have been calling it out, even when it’s wrapped up in nice, pastel packages. As Kong writes, it’s our responsibility to “counterweight the misinformation:”
It’s essential for journalists to explicitly name white supremacy instead of using ‘softer’ terms like alt-right, which only serve to rebrand the racists. Some experts recommend avoiding interviewing these extremists entirely. During this news cycle, in particular, news outlets need to acknowledge the differences in how their journalists treat these protesters compared to how they have historically covered Indigenous and racialized protesters. And I think it’s fair to add to that list holding even non-protesters accountable, especially when they’re legitimizing harmful rhetoric.
On Sunday, a friend shared a pro-trucker convoy post on her Facebook profile. It was this one.
Now, this wasn’t just a random Facebook friend. This was a friend I’ve known since we were about eight years old. If it had been just an acquaintance, I would have simply removed them from my friend list. But I wanted to share a comment on this friend’s post. Something nice, but informative. I wrote something, then deleted it. Rewrote it, deleted it. But I did eventually comment.
I can’t remember what I posted word for word, but I pointed out that we can go to restaurants now, and I planned on going to a restaurant later that day. Secondly, I said public health measures are in place to protect all the public, but especially the most vulnerable people. And those same public health measures prevent hospitals getting overwhelmed. I also noted the public health measurements were temporary and some, in Nova Scotia at least, were being lifted this week.
But within moments of posting my comment, this friend blocked me from her Facebook. Again, this was someone I’ve known for more than four decades. I am sure many of you have had the same experience; cutting ties with someone you know, or them cutting ties with you; maybe a relative or friend whose opinions and posts about this pandemic you don’t agree with. Maybe those ties were cut on social media, too. It was bound to happen to all of us.
When I read Stephen Kimber’s column about the convoy a couple of Sundays ago, so many things stood out to me, including how the need for actual discussions on what we all do next is being drowned out by the occupation in Ottawa. But another part of that column also struck me, too. It was an interview by Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur who went along with one group of pro-convoy protesters. Arthur spoke to one unvaccinated mom named Dasha, who was at the protest with her two-year old child. Arthur asked Dasha why she was at the protest. Here was the conversation:
“Freedom,” she said, “for the people.”
How do you define freedom, I asked.
“To do anything we’d like to do. Like we did before. To go back to normal…”
But the hospitals are full. Vaccines help keep people out of hospitals. She laughed.
“Well, if you go online, you’ll see that there’s a lot of videos, a lot of doctors speaking up. If you go online and listen, it’s very easy to see… The hospitals are full of s—, that’s what they’re full of…”
Why would they exaggerate the hospital numbers? I asked Dasha.
“Well, maybe you should ask Trudeau about this.”
But Trudeau isn’t in charge of hospitals.
“This is the whole plan, OK?
“I don’t know exactly. I don’t know why you’re asking me. I’m just a regular person that wants to go back to normal. Why can’t we just call it a day and say this is a regular flu just like any other flu?”
“I’m just a regular person that wants to go back to normal.”
Maybe this is what my friend was thinking when she shared that post. Maybe that’s what a lot of pro-convoy folks are thinking. They don’t understand why, but they’re frustrated because they’re regular people who want to go back to normal, but they can’t.
But here’s the thing: regardless of what we post online or believe offline or what kind of people we are, we all have one thing in common — we all want this pandemic to be over. No one is saying, “You know, I could deal with another year of pandemic.” No, we all want it to be over.
Here’s another thing: the coronavirus will continue to do its virus thing — like all viruses before it has — which is spread, mutate, and make people sick. Coronavirus doesn’t care if you have a Facebook account, that you do your own research, or have the biggest rig in the convoy. The virus is looking for a host and that host can be anyone one of us.
And here’s another reminder: more than five million people around the world have died from COVID-19. People are still dying. This virus is not “just the flu.” In Canada, almost 35,000 people have died. In Nova Scotia, 164 people have died. And more people will die from it. Public health measurements like masks, quarantines, and vaccines are not new. These are the tools we use to stop viruses from doing what viruses do. If someone is not willing to wear a mask, perhaps the simplest of all the measures, I bet they’re not willing to do much more to look out for you. And these public health measurements are temporary. Yes, temporary.
But you know what else? Normal — like those mythical “good old days” — wasn’t great for everyone. This pandemic has exposed many truths over the last two years. There are many vulnerable people out there, including people with disabilities and those living in long-term care. Some of our most essential workers, like janitors and grocery store workers, who keep services running that we all rely on, are paid terribly. Women still manage the majority of child care and domestic work and they’ve had to sacrifice their careers to keep their children safe and households going the last two years. And far too many Nova Scotians are living paycheque to paycheque, and many more are living on the streets.
Is this the normal we’re all rushing to return to?
Last year in another Morning File I asked, “What shouldn’t go back to normal?” So many people had excellent ideas about what they learned during this pandemic. Many people liked working from home, virtual health care, and how we are more focused on our mental health. Still others pointed out gender inequality, lack of affordable housing, and living wages. Some people even wanted to keep the masks for a bit longer. Under all the grief and frustration, there are opportunities to learn, to see how we could do better.
So, maybe those regular people who want to go back to normal like Dasha had it better than many others. Frustration is not the reason to end public health measures that look out for others.
I did go to a restaurant — a cheesecake shop, actually — on Sunday. It was the first time in almost three months that I was out to a restaurant. What struck me about that outing was how everyone was behaving and even working together, supporting one of the small businesses which we all know have struggled over the last months. The servers at the restaurant were lovely and happy. And the customers were polite, kept their distance from each other, and everyone wore a mask.
We’ve all heard the horror stories online, but that short time offline, in the real world, was a reminder of how it’s possible for us to work together with public health measures. Friendships — the Facebook kind and real ones — may be fractured, and I don’t know how to fix them. But it’s also possible we can work it out because this pandemic will end.
Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am) — contingency date
Panel Discussion on Teaching while Black (2) (Thursday, 5:30pm) — the second of a two-part online panel discussion and interactive conversation with George Sefa Dei; Funke Oba; Gaynor Watson-Creed; Dominic Silvio and Festus Y. Moasun; moderated by Buster C. Ogbuagu, with CART Transcription
Books & Bees (Thursday, 7pm) — Zoom conversation with Francesca Ekwuyasi, author of Butter Honey Pig Bread, and author and beekeeper Cooper Lee Bombardier
Feast or famine? Or feast or work?: the significance of labour conditions to the height development of enslaved children in the antebellum US South (Friday, 3:30pm) — online seminar with Heywot Tadesse
Double Date: A Reading Series of Writing Couples (Friday, 3:34pm) — online conversation with Hannah Moscovitch and Christian Barry
Mount Saint Vincent
Coded Bias – Film Screening & Discussion (Friday, 6:30pm) — in celebration of International Day for Women and Girls in Science, a Zoom screening followed by Q&A with director Shalini Kantayya and Shohini Ghose, NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering – Ontario Region.
Coded Bias explores the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwin’s discovery that facial recognition does not see dark-skinned faces and women accurately, and her journey to push for the first-ever legislation in the U.S. to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact us all.
In the harbour
08:00: CMA CGM Hermes, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
09:00: SD Victoria, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Portsmouth, Englan
10:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
11:30: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Hamburg, Germany
15:30: MSC Leigh, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
21:30: Oceanex Avalon, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
No arrivals or departures.
Always ignore anyone trying to sell you a detox.