1. Nurse recruitment during the pandemic is challenging, but going reasonably well
Jennifer Henderson reports on the recruitment of retired or inactive nurses needed to work in testing centres, vaccines clinics, and as contact tracers. So far, 508 nurses have stepped up.
To get the nurses ready to go back to work, the College of Nursing created a re-licensing program that Henderson says is one of the first, if not the first, in Canada. Henderson writes:
“From mid January 2021 until now, we have added 322 nurses by issuing conditional or restricted licences,” says Sue Smith, the registrar and CEO for the College of Nursing, which regulates the nursing profession. “This is unprecedented across the country. The licence is good for four months, it is free of charge to the nurse applicant, and it can also be extended by another four months.”
Nurses who have been out of practice more than five years can work in the mass immunization effort but aren’t eligible to care for patients in other settings.
Last March, when the first wave of the pandemic arrived and it looked as if more nurses would be needed, the College worked with the Department of Health and NS Health to issue temporary licenses to nurses who had been retired less than five years.
“Last May it was about making some additional nurses available,” recalls Smith. “In the past we had issued short-term conditional licences to graduates from nursing schools who had been waiting to pass their RN exams. But we had never had rapid re-licensure for retirees.”
Nova Scotia still has a shortage of nurses, even though the nursing workforce has grown by 2% a year for the last 10 years.
2. Coalition wants national standards for long-term care enshrined in federal law
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
A coalition of citizen health groups from across Canada has released its proposal to the federal government aimed at getting national standards for long-term care homes enshrined in federal law.
Nursing homes are currently a provincial responsibility and are not governed or included in the Canada Health Act. Since 1984, this Act has provided standards for hospitals and financing to provinces so people can access doctors and clinics regardless of their income. Provinces that don’t adhere to federal standards around wait times for surgeries, for example, risk losing health transfer income from the federal government.
COVID-19 exposed concerns about the care provided to frail elderly people living in nursing homes.
Canadians were shocked by the living and working conditions in some for-profit nursing homes in Quebec and Ontario, where hundreds of people died from the virus. In Nova Scotia, 53 people died at Northwood, the province’s largest and one of its oldest nursing homes, where bathrooms and bedrooms were shared by two and three residents.
In January of this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued Health Minister Patti Hajdu a formal letter authorizing her to work with the provinces and the Minister of Seniors to establish national standards for long-term care. But the content of those standards, and whether they should be included in the Canada Health Act (by way of amendments) or through a new stand-alone Act, remains an open question.
“We need federal funding for Long-term Care to be tied with provincial compliance with national standards and to transition from for-profit providers to the fully public non-profit system,” said Steven Staples, the policy director for the Canadian Health Coalition. The Coalition hired lawyer Steven Shrybman from Goldblatt Partners to prepare a legal analysis, which was made public during a Zoom news conference yesterday. You can find it here.
“Nova Scotians have been sounding the alarm on the crisis in long-term care for over a decade and the pandemic has highlighted the need for urgent action on staffing, infrastructure, funding, and oversight,” said Chris Parsons, provincial coordinator, Nova Scotia Health Coalition. “As the need for long-term care continues to grow in the province, having clear and enforceable national standards are critical in ensuring that Nova Scotians get the care they need and deserve.”
The legal opinion prepared by Shrybman and endorsed by a dozen health care groups across the country proposes that future amendments to the Canada Health Act or new legislation follow these Guiding Principles:
• Long-term residential care is an essential component of the Canadian health care system, and requires proper federal funding and conditionality (standards) to improve the availability and quality of care.
• The operation of provincial LTC programs must be overseen by a publicly funded, transparent and accountable public body that ensures adherence to the criteria and conditions for federal funding for such services;
• Publicly funded LTC services must be accessible and available to all Canadian residents who require such care, and be provided according to their need, not ability to pay.
• Publicly funded LTC services must be of an appropriate and high quality. Organizations and other entities that receive public funding to provide LTC must be accountable to: residents and their families, their staff, administrators of the LTC program, and to the public. This requires routine public financial and performance reporting that is audited and verified.
• The fiduciary obligation of for-profit corporations to maximize shareholder value and investor returns is incompatible with the need to treat the well-being of residents in long-term care homes as the first priority. Therefore public funding should be used in priority to support not-for-profit LTC homes with the goal of reducing the role of for-profit providers.
In his legal opinion, Shrybman expands on the reasons why the federal government should in the future tether its funding for new nursing homes only to those operated by non-profit organizations:
The need to police the profit taking proclivities of private LTC homes has led to the proliferation of detailed and extensive regulations. However, no matter how well fashioned, the imperative to take profits creates a strong incentive for private companies to find ways finesse or game the rules, as a report of the BC Seniors Advocate documents.
The collateral damage of this regulatory cat and mouse game is to impose overly burdensome regulations on non-profit and publicly owned LTC homes, depriving them of the flexibility required to ensure that all available funding is most effectively used to meet residents’ needs.
Non-profit LTC service providers also suffer from having much more limited access to the capital financing required to build or modernize LTC homes than do for-profit providers who can often access private equity capital. This explains the substantial growth in equity investment in the LTC sector.
In other words, the current regulatory and financial playing field is tilted decidedly in favour of for-profit ownership. Unless that imbalance is corrected, the endemic problems associated with for-profit ownership will persist, and worsen as current patterns persist.”
In Nova Scotia, 45% of nursing home beds are operated by private companies such as Shannex, Gem, and the MacLeod Group. The other half are operated by community or non-profit groups. Northwood Group is technically a non-profit corporation although it includes several separate companies and has assets worth tens of millions of dollars.
3. COVID-19 update: two new cases
Tim Bousquet has the latest COVID-19 numbers and all the graphs of cases and more. Two new cases of the virus were announced on Monday. That brings the total known active cases to 20. No one is in the hospital with the disease.
This morning, the province released update timelines on when Nova Scotians can expect to get their first dose of the vaccine. Tim Bousquet tweeted that out here:
4. Northern Pulp misses second deadline to submit cleanup plan
Northern Pulp missed a Feb. 28 deadline to submit a decommissioning plan so now the province will spend $19 million to dredge Boat Harbour. That announcement was made in this press release from the province on Monday.
The release says “the cleanup will begin once the federal environmental assessment process is complete and approved. The approval is expected in 2021, with the cleanup to start in 2022.”
The cleanup can’t start until Northern Pulp removes the top layer of sludge down to a 1997 baseline level. But Northern Pulp hasn’t submitted a decommissioning plan. Its deadline to submit that was Feb. 28. That was an extension from a previous deadline of Aug. 1, 2020. As the release says, decommissioning activities can’t overlap with the remediation project. Lloyd Hines, minister responsible for Nova Scotia Lands, from the release:
We cannot continue to wait. Taking one management approach makes good sense to ensure it’s managed in a responsible way and timelines stay on track. Our ultimate goal is to return Boat Harbour, or A’se’k, to its original state as a tidal estuary. It’s a commitment to the people of Pictou Landing First Nation and Pictou County and we intend to keep it.
Joan Baxter and Jennifer Henderson have reported extensively on Boat Harbour, including here, here, here, and here. You can also search our archives for more articles using the search box on the home page.
5. Amherst mayor: Border not really open
Dr. David Kogon, the mayor of Amherst, tells Jesse Cook at Global Halifax the border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick really isn’t open unless New Brunswick drops its requirement that people returning to that province must self-isolate for 14 days.
Last week, we learned the Atlantic bubble will open sometime before April 19. But on Friday Premier Rankin announced Nova Scotia would open its border to New Brunswickers.
When Premier (Iain) Rankin announced that he was going to allow New Brunswick residents to come into Nova Scotia without restriction, it sounded well and good but unless Premier (Blaine) Higgs offers the same thing to Nova Scotia it doesn’t really impact on our ability to cross the border.
Political scientist Jamie Gillies tells Cook he thinks there could be a “coordination issue at the political level or health level.”
Something went wrong in terms of trying to do this between two provinces and having similar rules and regulations on who can travel where.
For its part, New Brunswick says it will continue to watch the COVID-19 case numbers and follow public health advice.
1. Women don’t choose low-paying jobs; society just doesn’t value our work
Last week on Twitter, Lisa Olie tweeted that she was listening to a guest on CBC Mainstreet.
Now, I missed the show and emailed them to get the name of this guest, but I didn’t hear back. But for women, hearing this is not news.
As a woman who works and likes earning money, this always baffled me. I like paying my bills and having money to raise my kid, get groceries, and maybe go on the occasional road trip with some snacks. Why would I purposely choose to make less money?
So, yesterday I asked the women of Twitter this question:
And women answered. You can read the entire thread here, but here’s a sample of what they said:
You can see a lot of trends in these answers: Women get paid less because the kind of work they do (caregiving work) is valued less. Women pay a penalty for having a family. Women in the same jobs as men still get paid less. Women of all ages pay penalties. Women don’t get the promotions. When men get into fields traditionally done by women (for example, coding) wages go up. Here’s a good article from History.com on that particular sector).
Although it’s not clear exactly how much programmers earned in the ‘40s and ‘50s, it definitely wasn’t comparable to Google’s $106,900 “early career median pay” of today. Women could be promoted to other technical jobs, but could not advance into “big-money sales and management jobs,” Abbate says. By 1969, the median salary for female computer specialists was $7,763, Abbate writes in Recoding Gender. In contrast, men earned a median of $11,193 as computer specialists and $13,149 as engineers.Women pay penalties at every age.
There’s all kinds of research out there that talks about this issue and confirms what these women say. Here’s a good piece by Ri’An Jackson on the myths about the gender pay gap that addresses this issue:
Myth: Women are paid less because they choose lower-paying jobs
Truth: Although it is true that women and men take up different careers, choice is not the issue when it comes to pay disparities. It is more to do with unconscious bias or automatic, learned stereotypes about certain groups. Instead of thinking of women as preferring lower-paying jobs, think about why women take these lower-paying positions. And there isn’t one particular answer to this. Ariane Hegewisch, program director of employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told TIME that “it isn’t choice. It’s constraints on choice.” Women are typically seen as being more competent in the arts and so, they are typically led to excel in certain subjects like English in their childhood. Boys are typically led to perform well in math and science, which are fields that tend to pay more.
In addition, society at a whole tends to devalue women’s work. When men choose the same lower-paying jobs as women, they make more money — this can be seen in careers like nursing or childcare. According to a 2017 Medspace report, male registered nurses made an annual average of about $84,000, compared to $80,000 for women. Even in the same field, women are making less, debunking this myth completely.
The pay gap is worse for Indigenous, racialized women, and women with disabilities. Check out this from the Canadian Women’s Foundation on the gender pay gap in Canada:
No woman is choosing this.
The word tradition came up a lot in the Twitter responses to my question. This is important because not only are women paid less for jobs that are regarded as “traditional” for women because they often do that work for free, but women getting paid more upsets the tradition of having men as the breadwinners. This is also ridiculous. Why wouldn’t a man in a family want to have his spouse make more money when it can help the entire family?
As Colleen O’Dea pointed out — and I’ve seen this, too — women still get paid less for the same jobs as men who have less experience and less education. So, we’re paying for more education to train for jobs that pay us less.
It’s not because women don’t ask for more money, but we pay a penalty for asking for raises and for what we’re worth (I know this well). We’re labelled as difficult and so on. I bet my question and the women’s replies got a few eyerolls. Again, another myth busted by Ri’An Jackson:
Myth: Women have lower salaries because they don’t negotiate or aren’t assertive enough while negotiating
Truth: Women do negotiate; they just don’t receive the higher wages they request. A 2018 Harvard Business Review study found that when women asked for a raise, they only received it 15 percent of the time, while men received one 20 percent of the time. This may be because when women ask for a higher salary, they can be perceived as demanding. Some women may even be turned off from negotiating to avoid being seen unfavorably after doing so. In fact, actress Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay about not getting paid as much as male co-stars, saying she didn’t want to ask for a raise because she didn’t want to be seen as difficult to work with.
So, let’s say it again, and louder for the economic analysts who think we need psychologists to figure this out: Women don’t choose lower-paying jobs.
Society doesn’t value the work women do.
We talk a lot about living wages here at the Examiner. Now there’s a book out: Rising Up: The Fight for Living Wage Work in Canada. (The book launch is on Monday, March 29, if you want to watch).
Did you know Canada has one of the highest rates of low-wage work among advanced industrial economies?
Christine Saulnier, the Nova Scotia director with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, contributed a chapter to the book that focuses on the centre’s work to calculate living wage rates in communities across the Maritimes, and on why they do the work.
I reached out to Saulnier to talk about the book and asked her a few questions about it and the work on living wage policies. Here’s what she said:
SR: How do you think people’s concept of living wages has changed because of the pandemic?
CS: The pandemic definitely put a spotlight on the fact that the people we rely on the most are likely those who are paid the least. The hero pay that was instituted by grocery retailers was one indication that these essential workers were putting their health and even lives at risk while being paid a very low wage. That these same retailers have rolled back this hero pay and been able to justify it does mean that government intervention is required, otherwise the market will revert to paying the lowest wage possible. Similarly, our federal government provided additional wage subsidies for those working for low pay in the health and related fields, partially as a way to ’thank’ them, but also presumably because they could not afford to lose these essential workers.
The pandemic also spotlighted another group of low-waged workers as well — early childhood educators — and how essential child care is. However, once again, there hasn’t been a permanent shift to recognize that paying all workers a decent wage needs to be a priority.
SR: I know the book covers living wage movements across Canada, but how does the situation in Nova Scotia compare to the rest of the country?
CS: Some of what has helped the living wage movement realize more gains in other provinces is the support that exists to actually fund organizations that are focused on these campaigns, including ones to certify employers. If one looks to BC, the campaign was supported almost from day one by the largest credit union in the province. In other provinces including in Ontario, there has been funding to set up a living wage network that includes a certification program. We are at a disadvantage here because there is nothing like that out here, and all of our advocacy organizations that support this work are entirely volunteer, including the Fight for $15 or all antipoverty organizations. There has been remarkable mobilization despite that, but the certification program also ensures there are employer voices who are lifted up to speak about paying a living wage, and there isn’t one here — yet.
SR: How has your own understanding of living wage changed over your career? What have you learned?
CS: The focus groups that we did with low-waged workers and our continued research to ensure that the living wage calculations reflect the reality of what people are facing were critical to my understanding of why this work is so important. I heard the voices of parents who shared their struggles and daily stress to provide for what their children need so they can just enjoy being a kid. I heard the voices of low-waged workers who are not asking for much — going to a movie or a little outing or even just buying grapes for their child as a treat. Our work was partially inspired by how little people expect, and to provide evidence that we can and must expect more — from employers and from government.
I never know what to expect when we calculate a new living rate. I have learned that while costs might be slightly different in each community, the needs of workers are very similar. Being able to compare costs across communities does provide some hints about which costs should be urgently addressed. Being able to compare provinces really spotlights how much of a difference universal programs and income benefits make, and that we need to address both the income side and the cost side of the equation.
SR: What do you hope readers will learn from the book?
CS: I hope the book inspires continued mobilization for higher wages and addressing the social inequalities that impact why so many people in our society struggle to make ends meet — despite their best efforts.
Here’s the link for the book launch on March 29. You do have to register.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm) — virtual meeting, with live captioning on a text-only site
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting; captioning on a text-only site
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4pm) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available
Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm )
Accessible Architecture: Beyond the Ramp (Tuesday, 6pm) — lecture and discussion with Ron Wickman.
Supporting Linguistic Diversity in Teaching, Training, and Facilitation (Wednesday, 10am) — online interactive workshop, $50
Adult learning environments in Canada have become increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse over the last decade. Linguistic diversity in the classroom – whether that means different languages, dialects, and/or levels of comprehension across the same language – can pose new challenges to the way we serve learners and also open new educational horizons and possibilities.
In this interactive workshop, you will learn a range of techniques, strategies and tools to support linguistic diversity in your teaching, training or facilitation context, and more effectively achieve learning outcomes for learners of all linguistic backgrounds.
Separating Home and Work Support Group (Wednesday, 12pm) — online session
Speak Truth to Power: First of the Firsts, Black Women Leaders in Public Service (Wednesday, 5pm) —Mayann Francis, Wanda Thomas Bernard, Yvonne Atwell, Lynn Jones, and Marelene Clyke
will provide an unapologetic rigor of our racial and gendered history and an assessment of the institutional and cultural structures that have shaped the way we operate in today’s world.
Reinforcing Sameness, Static Bodies, Static Interventions: Reimagining Diversity and Inclusion in Social Work Education, Classrooms and Practice (Wednesday, 5:30pm) — panel discussion via Eventbrite with Lana M. MacLean, Shirley Chau, Audrey R. Davis, Edward Ou Jin Lee, Marva Ferguson, and moderator Marion Brown. With closed captioning. More info and links here.
Dalhousie School of Architecture presents first pan-Canada lecture series (Wednesday, 6pm) —
The Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA) has initiated its first pan-Canada lecture series in response to COVID-related restrictions on traveling and large gatherings, inviting students and practitioners across the country to join the conversation.
The 12 schools of architecture agreed upon “diversity” as the theme for this year. The school are taking turns to present two lectures a month starting on the west coast and moving across Canada.
Speed‑Faithing Event (Wednesday, 7pm) — online Q&A with Dalhousie Multifaith Chaplains.
The Librarian Is In (Tuesday, 3pm) — virtual drop-in session to ask any of your library- or research-related questions
SMU in Action: Building Resilience During the Covid-19 Pandemic (Wednesday, 4pm) — virtual event featuring Robert Summerby-Murray, Tony Charles, and Crystal Witter.
No public events.
Rameau’s Nemesis: Music, Nature, and Society in the Writings of Rousseau (Wednesday, 7:30pm) — virtual MacLennan Lecture with Brandon Kornoval from the University of British Columbia
How did music contribute to the philosophical and critical projects of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)? As composer, professional copyist, and critic, Rousseau’s passionate preoccupation with music throughout his life inspired numerous texts, from his early proposal for a more ‘democratic’ system of music notation, through the Lettre sur la musique française, articles on music for the Encyclopédie and for his own Dictionnaire de musique, and his polemical exchanges with the leading contemporary French composer and theorist, Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764). These writings highlight key concerns raised in the two Discourses, along with the Essai sur l’origine des langues that originated with the Discours sur l’inégalité, revealing an intimate relationship between Rousseau’s interest in the origins and evolution of music, and in the origins of, and prospects for, civil society. Animating these accounts was Rousseau’s conception of nature and the natural (Konoval 2017), a critical concern that framed Enlightenment debates over the relationship between natural order and social order, and between art—especially music—and science.
In the harbour
05:00: MOL Maneuver, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:00: MSC Veronique, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
07:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
11:45: Ef Ava sails for Portland
15:00: MOL Glide, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
15:30: MOL Maneuver, container ship, sails for New York
18:00: BBC Edge, cargo ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
21:30: MSC Veronique sails for New York
I’m really looking forward to this event on Thursday night: Examiner contributor Evelyn C. White is hosting an online event, Anne and Aretha: Kindred Spirits, with the Halifax Public Libraries. Back in 2014, Aretha Franklin declared her admiration for Anne of Green Gables and said she wanted to visit P.E.I. to learn more.
I don’t know if the Queen of Soul ever got to see Anne’s island, but I’m sure White will have plenty of stories about her love of Anne.
You don’t need to register to take part. Just visit the link here on Thursday night. Bring your raspberry cordial and R-E-S-P-E-C-T.