These building rules could be our climate salvation

Photo courtesy Cascadia Windows

You’ve probably never even heard of two of Canada’s more effective provincial and city-scale climate policies—and that’s probably not a bad thing.

The BC Energy Step Code and the City of Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building Plan are both building regulations introduced within the past two years or so by the Province of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver, respectively.

Not that anybody even raised an eyebrow. As conservative trolls drown the internet with disinformation on carbon pricing and cynical politicians force stupid and inaccurate stickers onto Ontario gas pumps, these regulations have been quietly working away in the background out west, driving down emissions in the communities that have been putting them to work.

Moreover, according to one recent report, they’re seeding the ground for a low-carbon economic bonanza.

If it’s not obvious by now, I’m a fan of these regulations. I’ve been writing about and advocating for climate and clean energy policies for close to a decade. I’ve produced dozens of reports on clean power and energy efficiency for Clean Energy Canada and other think tanks, renewable-energy industry associations, and others. And I believe these two policies will ultimately have as much of a positive impact on Vancouver’s—and British Columbia’s—climate leadership legacy and reputation as the much-celebrated carbon tax has had.

How the Regulations Work

But before we get too excited, what is the BC Energy Step Code, anyway? And what is the Zero Emissions Building Plan? And why am I such a fanboy?

Let’s start with the first one. British Columbia’s former Christy Clark government enacted the BC Energy Step Code mere days before calling the election that would eventually spell the undoing of her Liberal Party of British Columbia government. It did so after a team of industry, government, and utility experts hashed out the regulation’s core characteristics over the course of a year and a half.

In simplest terms, the provincial BC Energy Step Code regulation allows cities to require their builders to deliver a higher level of energy efficiency performance in new projects than is expected of them under the base building code. So far more than 50 cities are using it, and together they represent more than 70 percent of new residential construction in the province.

This graphic depicts the rate at which communities have adopted the BC Energy Step Code. Credit: Courtesy Energy Step Code Council.

To understand the BC Energy Step Code, it helps to picture it as a metaphorical staircase. Each step up the stairs represents a higher level of measurable energy efficiency. Cities that use the regulation—it’s optional for them, but not for their builders — move up this “staircase” at their own pace, one “step” at a time. Each time they move up a step, new buildings going up become more energy efficient.

The BC Energy Step Code is basically irrelevant to existing homeowners who live in a community that is using the regulation, unless they intend to tear down their place and rebuild it, or launch into major renovations. In either instance, their builder will be constructing a more efficient home than they would normally would be required to do so, because the construction has to comply with the level of the BC Energy Step Code that their community has adopted.

Those who may be in the market for a new house or low-rise townhome might ask city hall when their community will be adopting Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code. West Vancouver and both the city and district of North Vancouver are already there. Houses built to meet the requirements of Step 3 will be more durable and more comfortable, with better indoor air quality. And the owner or renter’s heating bill will be lower than it otherwise would have been.

The Zero Emissions Building Plan is similar, but explicitly targets greenhouse gas emissions instead of energy use more broadly, and it only applies in the City of Vancouver. But in both cases, new home buyers no longer have to think of energy efficiency as an optional “upgrade package”—competing for their attention with sexier items such as an all-granite kitchen or, God help me, a salamander broiler.

It’s built into the very DNA of the building.

But, but… What About the Cost?

Yes, thank you, I have heard about the housing affordability crisis.

In 2018, BC Housing, the provincial housing authority, updated an extensive study of the cost implications of the BC Energy Step Code. The building science experts who produced it ran the numbers on thousands of different types of buildings built to various steps of the BC Energy Step Code, then vetted the results with the industry.

It’s a very technical report, but the important bit is on page 37. That’s where we learn that in the areas of the province where most British Columbians live, “all buildings modeled were able to achieve Step 4 for less than a 3% incremental capital cost, and achieve Step 3 for less than 2.4%.”

Allow me to unpack that. First, a home built to meet the requirements of Step 3 or Step 4 will be substantially more durable, comfortable, and cheaper to heat than one built to minimum legal requirements. And, the researchers concluded, such a home can be built for 2.4 to 3% above what it would cost to construct it to the base building code. A series of real-world case studies subsequently confirmed the projections.

Three percent isn’t nothing, but it’s in line with what builders already pay to get up to speed each time there is a new building code update. And there’s another way of looking at it, too.

Earlier this year, with funding support from Natural Resources Canada and BC Hydro, I co-authored a report Lessons From the BC Energy Step Code. One of the sources I interviewed put the “costs” of energy efficient buildings into perspective nicely: “Just as with seismic standards, fire prevention and egress measures, and public health requirements, energy performance is not cost-neutral,” one interviewee said. “Rather, it is an investment for societal good.”

Some in Canada’s home building industry argue that energy efficiency measures must remain voluntary, and out of the realm of regulation. Unfortunately, that approach has not yielded a wave of high-performance, energy efficient, climate-fighting buildings. Instead, until these regulations came along, high-performance homes in B.C., and in most other places, were relegated to a niche product—pursued only by the most affluent home buyers.

Voluntary energy efficiency standards have effectively kept the many benefits of high-performance homes away from the broader market, from people like you and me. And they have only increased the retrofit burden we will need to deal with down the road as we eventually inevitably work to shift all building emissions to zero.

The BC Energy What Code?

The Province of British Columbia first made the BC Energy Step Code available to local governments in 2017, and it came into legal force at the end of that year. If you missed the hue and cry, that’s because there wasn’t one; all of the province’s largest building construction, and architecture groups helped put it together. No conflict meant no coverage.

The City of Vancouver’s regulation, developed through a similar process, enjoyed a similarly uneventful rollout. The media collectively yawned, and moved on to yet another story about pipelines.

Of the two regulations, only the Zero Emissions Building Plan explicitly targets carbon pollution. But Burnaby, Richmond, and Surrey have figured out how to use the BC Energy Step Code to advance their community climate goals. They’re making life a little easier for developers of tall buildings to install low-emissions super-efficient electric heating systems in their buildings rather than the default setup—boilers that burn natural gas, a fossil fuel.

And the BC Energy Step Code and the Zero Emissions Building Plan are significant on another level. They don’t just reduce energy waste in buildings; instead, they work to transform the industry from its very foundations. And along the way, it turns out, generate a lot of cash.

A $3.3 Billion Opportunity

Still with me? Good, because I’ve saved the best part for last.

This past spring, the Vancouver Economic Commission released a study examining how the BC Energy Step Code and Zero Emissions Building Plan might together boost demand for high-performance, low-carbon building materials and technologies within Metro Vancouver, and what that would mean for the region’s economy.

The agency concluded that between today and 2032 these two boring regulations could together drive a new market for technologies and materials to the tune of $3.3 billion.

“There’s a whole new segment of the market that is emerging in different product categories as a result of the BC Energy Step Code and the Zero Emissions Building Plan,” George Benson, who works with the Vancouver Economic Commission as a green-building market consultant, told me.

Benson says it’s likely too early to start seeing the impact of the policies on British Columbia firms. But a low-carbon building boom is clearly on the horizon, he says.

“The point of the study was to do some forecasting to give these companies a longer runway to make business decisions and prepare for the changes,” says Benson. “Those folks who are paying attention and thinking about where their business is going, yeah they’re expecting an increase in business for the high-performance products.”

Benson’s team was interested in the export market potential for British Columbia companies that develop high-performance products. “We think other jurisdictions will be adopting similar performance-based policies in the style of the Step Code,” he says. “That’s where our manufacturers, designers, and installers are really going to shine.”

Shunning the Limelight

The BC Energy Step Code and Vancouver Zero Emissions Building Plan are just two examples of the many nerdy technical regulations that are quietly working away in the background, driving the systemic changes we need to effectively respond to climate change.

Under an agency called Codes Canada, the federal government is working on a tiered or stepped “model” building energy code loosely based on the BC Energy Step Code. Technical committees develop these model codes for the government which then offers them to all the provinces and territories, many of which adopt them outright.

The feds have also ordered utilities to accelerate the phase out of coal power plants that still help keep the lights on in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia. Its Clean Fuel Standard—again, raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of it—will slash 30 million tonnes of carbon pollution each year by 2030. And Ottawa has directed oil and gas companies stop leaking and venting so much methane—a powerful and very dangerous climate pollutant.

Not that it gets much credit for any of this, at least not here at home. Certain Canadian environmental groups cannot stop talking about bitumen, and remain reluctant to offer any praise where it is due. (Meanwhile, just to the south of us, leading U.S. environmentalists have characterized Canada’s methane climate regulations as “globally leading.”)

Yes, carbon pricing will be helpful. Of course. But in the end, arcane regulations like the BC Energy Step Code will do much of the heavy lifting on climate change. They will carry us into a prosperous low-carbon economy, in British Columbia and everywhere else.

And ideally, nobody will even notice it happening. SOURCE

Downstream of oilsands, death by cancer comes too often

Warren Simpson died in November after a battle with bile duct cancer. (Facebook)

It’s been more than a dozen years since the metaphorical alarm was first sounded, and yet the residents of Fort Chipewyan still don’t know what’s killing them.

What they do know is that there are still elevated rates of cancer in the northern Alberta community. They also know that nothing’s been done to address the issue, despite community leaders asking for further investigation for years.

“It’s like a silent killer. You don’t know what it is that’s out there, what’s causing you to get sick,” said Chief Allan Adam, leader of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation since 2007. Adam was in Ottawa last week campaigning, once again, to get answers for his community.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation and the hamlet of Fort Chipewyan are all situated near the mouth of the Athabasca River, where it flows into Lake Athabasca, in the province’s upper northeast, after traversing more than 1,200 kilometres from its source in the Columbia Icefields.

On its route, the river flows through Canada’s oil patch, giving rise to the theory that the oil-and-gas industry is responsible for the illnesses, having poisoned people for years by contaminating the environment. Government bodies and researchers have challenged that theory, leading to a call for a new more conclusive health study that could provide real answers.

Thirteen years ago, Warren Simpson, a member of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, told CBC News how afraid he was that he’d die of cancer from living in that community. He said he’d been lucky enough to fight off cancer the first time he was diagnosed, but he worried that he wouldn’t be so lucky if there was a second bout.

“My dad, my sister, my aunt, a lot of my cousins have it, my friends’ families … A lot of them have died of cancer, and some of them are dying now of cancer,” he said in 2006.

Last month, he posted his first entry on his blog, outlining how he was losing his battle with a rare form of bile-duct cancer called cholangiocarcinoma, which is only supposed to affect one in 100,000 people, according to American statistics.

He wanted to write the blog “mostly to give awareness of so many damn cancers that we suffer in Fort Chipewyan,” he wrote on Facebook. “Love you all for your support, and let’s pray for all the people with cancer.”

Simpson died days later.

“It’s like a silent killer. You don’t know what it is that’s out there, what’s causing you to get sick,” said Chief Allan Adam, leader of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation since 2007.

Chief Adam says he wishes Simpson were an exception, but 10 other people have passed away in the last few months, and seven of them were from various forms of cancer.

Simpson only spoke to reporters about cancer in his community because a Fort McMurray family doctor started sounding the alarm in 2006. Dr. John O’Connor was worried about the number of cancer cases he was seeing in Fort Chipewyan — especially cases of bile duct cancer, or cholangiocarcinoma — as he treated patients there remotely.

After O’Connor raised concerns, the Alberta Cancer Board — supported by the province’s governing health authority, Alberta Health Services —​​​​​​​ conducted a comparative survey to see whether he was right.

Public attention waned as the cancer board did its research. When the findings were released in 2009, they showed cancer rates were indeed higher in Fort Chipewyan than what would be expected. In a community of roughly 1,200 people, the study found, you would expect to see 39 cases of cancer. Instead, it found 51 cases, a difference of 30.7 per cent.

Rates were particularly high in cancers of the blood and lymphatic system, biliary tract and soft tissue. MORE

Jane Fonda speaks to CBC’s Susan Ormiston

Actor Jane Fonda tells CBC’s Susan Ormiston who inspired her to protest again and what she learned from her earlier agitating years.

Image result for cbc: Jane Fonda speaks to CBC's Susan Ormiston


Jane Fonda talks protest, arrest — and why she wants another night in jail

‘It’s quite an experience to know that you are powerless’

Jane Fonda is arrested by U.S. Capitol Police officers during a Fire Drill Friday climate change protest Nov. 1. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Jane Fonda’s hoping for an unusual birthday present — another night in a Washington, D.C., jail.

The award-winning actress and businesswoman has decamped to Washington from Los Angeles to protest against climate change.

“I decided I needed to leave my comfort zone and put my body on the line, engage in civil disobedience and risk getting arrested because we need to step up with bolder actions. It’s a real crisis,” she told CBC’s Susan Ormiston.

Fire Drill Fridays were inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg. Since Sept. 27, Fonda has joined a group of protesters engaging in civil disobedience; she’s been arrested four times and jailed once, overnight.

“It’s quite an experience to know that you are powerless, that you have been handcuffed and that you were completely in the control of the police,” she said.

“Because I’m white and famous, I’m not going to be treated badly.”

She said her jailers couldn’t believe she was there voluntarily. She admits the power of protest will not change policy overnight but she brings “celebrity,” which is important, she says, to motivate others to act on their convictions and get out to protest the climate crisis.

Watch an excerpt of Susan Ormiston’s interview with Jane Fonda:

Jane Fonda has been arrested four times in recent weeks for protesting climate change. “I’m following in the steps of young people,” she tells The National’s Susan Ormiston. 2:09

Jane Fonda has been arrested four times in recent weeks for protesting climate change. “I’m following in the steps of young people,” she tells The National’s Susan Ormiston. 2:09

Fonda is no stranger to activism. Over 50 years she’s demonstrated for women’s and Indigenous rights, and against the Iraq war and Alberta’s oilsands.

She was first arrested in the early 1970s for her opposition to the war in Vietnam. She was dubbed Hanoi Jane after posing with the North Vietnamese and later apologized. But back then, she was seen as a disruptor and was apprehended crossing into the U.S. from Canada.

“You know, the more they attacked me, the more I dug in my heels. If they thought I was some soft Hollywood starlet daughter of Henry Fonda and they could bully me, no, I wasn’t gonna let them get me. I just kept going,” she told CBC.

Does she still feel that way?

“Oh yeah,” says Fonda, “Only see, now I’m old and so I feel even more capable of standing up.”

She just might celebrate her 82nd birthday this Saturday locked up again.

Ottawa facing human rights tribunal battle over child welfare funding for remote First Nations

Report says child welfare agencies in northern Ontario First Nations underfunded by up to 68%

Children play in a playground in the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The federal government is facing another battle before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, this time over its alleged failure to account for the true cost of delivering child welfare services in remote First Nations.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), which represents 49 northern Ontario First Nations, filed a notice of motion in October seeking a non-compliance order against Ottawa for failing to adjust its funding formula.

A tribunal decision on the motion could have national implications and require Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to change how it determines funding for remote First Nations child welfare agencies — a change that could potentially lead to increased funding in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

NAN’s motion is supported by a report that found three northern Ontario First Nations child welfare agencies were facing funding shortfalls of up to 68 per cent because the federal government isn’t accounting for the added cost of service delivery in those remote communities.

The report, which went through three iterations, sprung initially from co-operation between ISC and NAN to solve the “persistent gap in funding for child welfare services in remote First Nations,” according to the notice of motion.

However, ISC stopped collaborating in March 2019 when the final report was filed with the tribunal, according to the notice of motion.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says underfunding of child welfare services at remote First Nations ‘impacts people’s lives on a daily basis.’ (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

“Unfortunately, at the 11th hour, at the end of March, when we had agreed we would submit this report jointly to the tribunal, they backed away. I can’t really say what happened, or why it happened,” Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler told CBC News.

“It’s not just a money issue; it impacts people’s lives on a daily basis.”

The federal government has until Feb. 13, 2020, to file responding affidavits.

“Canada hopes to resolve this disagreement without further litigation but respects NAN’s choice to pursue litigation and will respond to it respectfully and constructively,” said Leslie Michelson, spokesperson for ISC, in an emailed statement.

Michelson said the government continues to work with NAN to “develop mutually agreeable remedies for the remoteness issue.”

The human rights tribunal ruled in January 2016 that the federal government discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding child welfare services on reserves and in Yukon. NAN was given intervener status on the case in May 2016.

The federal government is currently before the Federal Court seeking to quash a compensation order from the tribunal for all children — along with some parents and grandparents — who were taken from their homes and extended families through the on-reserve child welfare system and in Yukon since 2006.

Report finds significant shortfall

Through a 2017 agreement endorsed by the tribunal between ISC and NAN, Barnes Management Group was selected to study the issue of service delivery costs facing remote First Nations. The firm’s report, filed in March 2019, found ISC’s funding formula for child welfare agencies was inadequate.

“Northern remote communities require many more resources than non-remote communities, with greater costs to provide services and greater community needs,” the report said.

Using a formula that quantified the cost of delivering services in remote areas and the unit costs of child and family services, the Barnes report concluded that the three agencies operating in NAN First Nations — Tikinagan, Payukotayno and Kunuwanimano — should get funding increases of 68 per cent, 59 per cent and 47 per cent, respectively.

“The … work we have done helps explain in numerical terms the shocking disparity between conditions in the North and conditions in the South,” said a Dec. 3 affidavit from David Barnes, of the Barnes Management Group, and Thomas Wilson, a professor and senior adviser at the University of Toronto’s Rotman Institute for International Business.

“The reality is … these communities are currently starting from a place of significant deficit.”

Tikinagan, based out of Sioux Lookout, serves 30 First Nations. Kunuwanimano is based out of Timmins and serves 11 First Nations, and Payukotayno, based in Moosonee, serves seven.

The Barnes report was reviewed, at the request of Indigenous Services Canada, by Martin Cooke, an associate professor of sociology and public health at the University of Waterloo. Martin was selected by NAN from a list provided by ISC.

Cooke said he concluded that the Barnes report led him to “have confidence in the accuracy of the models.”

The Barnes report model is currently being eyed by other First Nations organizations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, according to NAN filings. SOURCE


ISC currently uses a formula in Ontario based on how provincial gaming funds are distributed to First Nations that adds 10 per cent for additional costs in remote communities, according to NAN filings with the tribunal.

“ISC continues to rely on this formula. It did so most recently over the late summer and spring of 2019,” Bobby Narcisse, NAN’s director of social services, said in a Dec. 3 affidavit.

In a statement to CBC, Michelson said ISC is following a Chiefs of Ontario resolution passed in April 2019 that called for the department to use the gaming revenue formula for child welfare funding.

Narcisse’s affidavit points out that NAN chiefs passed a resolution in 2017 saying the formula doesn’t work for communities in northern Ontario and that Grand Chief Fiddler had written to ISC Minister Seamus O’Regan expressing “frustration” over the department’s refusal to change. SOURCE


Toronto mass shooting victims sue gun maker Smith & Wesson in $150m lawsuit

  • Two people died and 13 were injured in July 2018 attack

  • Lawsuit claims company created ‘ultra-hazardous product’

 The scene in Toronto in 2018. The weapon used in the attack – an M&P40 semi-automatic pistol – had been stolen from a gun dealer in the province of Saskatchewan. Photograph: Usman Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Victims of a mass shooting in Toronto have launched a class action lawsuit against gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson, alleging the company failed to implement key safety features in its weapons that could have prevented the 2018 attack.

The suit, the first of its kind in Canada, was filed in Ontario superior court on Monday. Plaintiffs are seeking C$150m in damages from the American company.

On the evening of 22 July 2018, Faisal Hussain opened fire on the city’s bustling Danforth avenue, killing two people and injuring 13 others. He killed himself following a shootout with police.

The weapon used in the attack – an M&P40 semi-automatic pistol – had been stolen from a gun dealer in the province of Saskatchewan.

The lead plaintiffs in the case are Skye McLeod and Samantha Price, recent high-school graduates and friends who were celebrating a birthday when Hussain opened fire. As pedestrians ran for cover, Price was hit in the leg and her friend, 18-year-old Reese Fallon, was shot dead. A young child in the area, Julianna Kozis, 10, was also killed.

The suit, which has not yet been certified by a judge, alleges Smith & Wesson created an “ultra-hazardous product” and delayed implementing technology that prevents unauthorized users from firing the weapon. The claims within the lawsuit have not been proven in court.

Often taking the form fingerprint sensor or a radio-frequency microchip, numerous “smart gun” technologies exist that can prevent unauthorized firing of a weapon. Gun lobby groups in the United States, led by the National Rifle Association, have fought for years against widespread adoption of the safety features.

“What we have right now, is a technology from the 19th century,” said Malcolm Ruby, the lawyer representing victims’ families, told the Guardian. “People aren’t still using rotary telephones any more. They’ve moved on. But this is an industry that has refused to modernize.”

Without the technology in place, the lawsuit claims it was “reasonably foreseeable” people such as Hussain could inflict widespread damage with a stolen weapon.

The suit also refers to an agreement between Smith & Wesson and the US government, dating back nearly 20 years, in which the company pledged to make smart gun technology a key feature in new firearm designs – but never did.

“Despite the agreement, in 2005 the defendant introduced the … model of the handgun used in the Danforth shooting, which failed to include smart gun technology,” the lawsuit read.

Following a flurry of litigation against American gun manufacturers in the late 1990s, the companies are now largely shielded from claims of negligence in the US. But families of victims in the Sandy Hook shooting won a key victory last month, when the US supreme court allowed a lawsuit against gun maker Remington Arms to go ahead. There are no special protections for the manufacturers in Canada, said Ruby.

The lawsuit is open to victims of the shooting who suffered injury while fleeing the gunfire, as well as the families of victims. Smith & Wesson has stated it does not comment on the pending litigation.

“If you have a product that can harm people – you’re obligated to fix that,” said Ruby. “And we know these guns have caused widespread harm over the years – and will continue to do so.”  SOURCE

Coalition of Ontario unions to launch Charter challenge, vowing to defend the rights of all Ontarians with aggressive campaign to repeal Bill 124

Coalition of Unions 10

Four teacher unions announced their legal fight against Premier Doug Ford’s controversial legislation capping wage settlements last week.

TORONTO, Dec. 17, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Today, ten Ontario unions representing more than 250,000 thousand affected broader public sector employees, announced their intention to launch a coordinated Charter challenge against Bill 124. As well, the Ontario Labour movement, with the Power of Many, will be initiating an aggressive campaign to repeal Bill 124.

The joint Charter challenge announced today is being brought by a coalition of public and private sector unions that represent workers across the broader public sector. The coalition includes: the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); Service Employees International Union (SEIU Healthcare); United Steelworkers (USW); Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC); the Society of United Professionals (IFPTE) Local 160; Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE Ontario); AMAPCEO – Ontario’s Professional Employees; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 636; the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 175. Additional unions and organizations representing public sector workers in Ontario are expected to join this coordinated challenge or pursue their own separate legal challenges to Bill 124 in the coming weeks.

“The workers of this province, represented by their unions, will not allow Bill 124, which erodes the Charter rights of every worker in Ontario, to stand uncontested,” said Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Patty Coates. “The OFL stands in solidarity with the education unions that have recently launched their challenges to the application of Bill 124 in the education sector, as we escalate the opposition to this government’s continued attack on the Charter rights of all Ontarians. Together, we are launching an aggressive campaign to demand the Ford Conservatives repeal this unconstitutional legislation.”

Ontario Labour is united in their call on the Conservatives to repeal Bill 124, euphemistically named the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, which violates the Charter’s protected right to free and fair collective bargaining.

“In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that the freedom of association guarantee in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides constitutional protection for a meaningful right to collectively bargain, and for the right to strike”, said Steven Barrett of Goldblatt Partners, counsel for the union coalition.

“By failing to respect these fundamental constitutional rights, Bill 124 runs roughshod over free collective bargaining, and fails to respect what every experienced negotiator understands: the collective bargaining parties themselves are best able to negotiate agreements that reflect fiscal and workplace priorities and realities”.

As Barrett added, “these restrictions on free collective bargaining cannot be justified by the government’s manufactured fiscal crisis, or by its desire to cut taxes when Ontario already has the lowest social spending per capita of any province.”

“This challenge is about defending workers’ rights protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” stated CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. “When the Ford Conservatives demand that we must all do our part, instead of targeting working people the government should be taxing profitable corporations and the wealthiest in our communities.  Charter Rights matter, Human Rights matter, Workers’ Rights matter.”

Bill 124 allows the government to impose compensation caps, including for pension and health care improvements, on a variety of unionized and non-unionized public sector workplaces.

“For workers in equity-seeking groups – racialized workers, workers with a disability, Indigenous, and women workers, collective agreements are essential to ensuring fairness in the workplace,” said Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU Healthcare. “For the government to set limits on bargaining undermines the rights of workers who already face systemic discrimination across the board.” MORE


Unions escalate legal fight against Premier Doug Ford’s ‘unconstitutional’ wage-cap law

Marin floats idea of a four-day, 24-hour work week

Sanna Marin (SDP), the Minister of Transport and Communications, says she would like to see a shorter work week become a reality in the near future. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

Sanna Marin (SDP), the Minister of Transport and Communications, says she would like to see a shorter work week become a reality in the near future. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

SANNA MARIN (SDP), the Minister of Transport and Communications, made a bold working life-related proposal during a panel discussion held in conjunction with the 120th anniversary celebrations of the Social Democratic Party in Turku on Saturday.

Marin identified a considerably shorter work week as one of the objectives the party should incorporate into its agenda and pursue in the future.

“A four-day work week, a six-hour workday. Why couldn’t it be the next step? Is eight hours really the ultimate truth? I believe people deserve to spend more time with their families, loved ones, hobbies and other aspects of life, such as culture. This could be the next step for us in working life,” she stated.

She added at the beginning of her response that she hopes the proposal becomes a reality in the near future. Full-time employees typically work five days a week, eight hours a day in Finland.

The Left Alliance has previously proposed that a six-hour workday be trialled in Finland.

Marin’s proposal was shot down by members of the political opposition. Arto Satonen (NCP) reminded that the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (Etla) has identified the working time extension as the most effective of the measures to promote competitiveness in recent years.

“Is the SDP living in the real world?” he asked.

Etla reported last week that the 24-hour increase in annual working time has accounted for 40 per cent of the employment impact of the still topical competitiveness pact. Adjusting working time, it explained, promotes employment and competitiveness when it either reduces labour costs or increases labour productivity.

“An eight-hour workday and a 40-hour work week have been good ideas since way back when,” Satonen told Aamulehti.

He reminded that people would not get by if their wages were reduced in accordance with the reduction in working time, meaning that the proposal would be feasibly only if wages stayed unchanged.

“But that’d raise employer costs so much that the cost of labour would become impossible,” he added. SOURCE


husking roselle.jpg

It’s re-imagining our lives to be more resilient, more abundant and more luxurious, while also being gentler on the Earth. Sound impossible? It’s not! My little family of four utilizes appropriate technology to lower our homestead’s carbon footprint, and it makes us happier, healthier and better connected to our community. Check out what we’re doing to learn how.

Solar Dehydrator: A Very Appropriate Technology

Some of our modern tech is inappropriate. Rude. Too gaseous for the air, too messy for the planet.

But some technologies are easy on the Earth by nature, leveraging the existing energy flows that surround us. Personally, it’s the hand tools, the solar tools and the things that work all by themselves that bring the most value to my life. There’s no substitute for a mattock and a couple of good shovels, which leverage human effort into great effects with a negligible environmental impact. I love the wood stove, the solar shower, the solar oven, the laundry rack, the ceiling fans and most especially, my new solar dehydrator.

The best tool isn’t one that just promises to make a job easier or faster, it’s one that makes a job possible, where before it was impossible. It’s so humid here even in drought conditions that I have a terrible time getting my home-grown hibiscus tea, hops and corn dry enough so they won’t mold in storage. The solar oven works too well for dehydration; it just cooks stuff. How on earth was I going to dry apple rings or tomatoes?

I could get an electric dehydrator for a hundred bucks, pay to run it, and then pay for extra AC to cool the house back down. No thanks.

It turns out, two of my homeschooling/homesteading friends were having similar thoughts. We got together with these free plans from Appalachian State and made our dehydration dreams a reality. Working together is wonderful partly because it’s fun, partly because teenagers provide built-in babysitting, and partly because you can pool your extras.

The plans specify about $300 worth of materials, but I think we spent about $200 total to build three dehydrators. Somebody had some plywood and hinges lying around. Somebody else had extra chicken wire that could sub for the specialty metal in the heat collector. Somebody found some close-enough-sized windows at the ReStore for $6, instead of ordering new plastic. My neighbor gave me exterior paint in return for tractor work.

Home-made solar dehydrator

My home-made solar dehydrator incorporates lots of salvaged materials: metal roofing off the old farm house we took down, cheap windows from the ReStore, reclaimed lumber and some paint that was sitting in my neighbor’s basement

My home-made solar dehydrator incorporates lots of salvaged materials: metal roofing off the old farm house we took down, cheap windows from the ReStore, reclaimed lumber and some paint that was sitting in my neighbor’s basement

Inside a home-made solar dehydrator
Drying roselle for hibiscus tea and chili peppers for warm spicy winter meals. Note the screen above the trays that lets warm air through the dehydrator. That screen was leftover from the soffit screens on our house.
After some trial and error, I’m pleased with how the dehydrator functions. I still didn’t get many dried tomatoes, because it never rained again after our June flood so the plants yielded poorly. I did some excellent tests on fruit from the local orchard, though, and lots of herbs and hibiscus and hard corn. Then I learned my beloved green bean can be eaten as dry beans, if only they can be dried enough to pulverize the husks and get the beans out. Impossible without the dehydrator. With it, totally possible. It’s a huge step forward in my family’s journey to eat more ecologically. MORE