Students volunteering on the frontlines speak on their experiences during these difficult days

This article is a part of the Sil Time Capsule, a series that reflects on 2020 with the aim to draw attention to the ways in which it has affected our community as well as the wider world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been at the forefront for much of this year, even before it was officially declared as such in early March. It has affected every one of us in some way and has rightly dominated our news headlines. The pervasive nature of the pandemic has also drawn our attention to the indispensable but often unrecognized work of those who have been on the frontlines of this crisis.

Hospital staff are, of course, among this group, having been involved with the pandemic since the beginning. However, the crisis has drawn attention to essential work done by not just the nurses and physicians, but also the administrators, janitors, paramedics, screeners, security workers, social workers and x-ray technicians among many others.

The pandemic has also drawn attention to the essential services and workers beyond the hospital, including construction workers, firefighters, gas station and grocery store clerks, long-term care home workers, social services workers, teachers, transit operators, truck drivers and utility services workers. This list does not even begin to scratch the surface of how many frontline workers still go to their job each and every day in order to make our lives easier.

Prior to the pandemic, arguably many people took these services for granted and those working in these industries received little recognition for their work. Now, these individuals are at the forefront of the crisis, keeping our communities going during these difficult days. It has never been more apparent just how essential they are.

Before the pandemic, many students already occupied jobs that are now considered essential. In 2007, 61% of working full-time students were employed in the retail and foodservice industries. Heading into the pandemic, individuals aged 15 to 24 were more likely than other age groups to hold jobs in industries hit hard by the pandemic, such as accommodation and foodservice.

Fourth-year student Alyssa Taylor has been working at her café job for 2 years. When the pandemic hit, she continued to work.

“Working during the pandemic has been a strange time. Every shift I came into, especially near the beginning, there were new rules and protocols that were never really explained thoroughly. Everyone really got thrown into it and we had to figure things out for ourselves, much like the rest of the world during this time and it was difficult. Although there were many challenges, it was good for me personally because I began to get more hours, responsibility and seniority at work,” said Taylor.

"Every shift I came into, especially near the beginning, there were new rules and protocols that were never really explained thoroughly. Everyone really got thrown into it and we had to figure things out for ourselves, much like the rest of the world during this time and it was difficult," said fourth-year student Alyssa Taylor.

Many other students were prompted to help out in any way they could. Senior nursing students have continued to do clinical placements and many have also worked with community organizations in Hamilton on an initiative to provide homeless individuals and those at risk of homelessness with necessary personal protective equipment, such as masks.

Students have been involved in a number of other capacities as well. Some students have decided to make masks and other PPE for healthcare workers. Others volunteered in food services and healthcare settings. Shalom Joseph and Emma Timewell were among these students volunteering on the frontlines.

“We were like: “we need to do something, we need a job, we need to keep ourselves occupied” and then we noticed a lot of other students are doing the same thing. They were doing their thesis or they were just taking a semester off and they were working at the hospital. [There were also] a lot of [University of Toronto and Ryerson University] students, like nursing students even just generally working [at hospitals], giving their time back. And it was really nice to see that,” said Joseph.

Joseph volunteered as a COVID screener at a Toronto hospital emergency room. He was one of the first points of contact for patients arriving at the hospital and would ask them what has now become standard questions regarding symptoms and travel history.

Joseph volunteered as a COVID screener at a Toronto hospital emergency room. He was one of the first points of contact for patients arriving at the hospital and would ask them what has now become standard questions regarding symptoms and travel history.

Joseph felt that it was important to give back to his community which had supported him during his own difficult days. However, watching the pandemic unfold in this way has been extremely difficult and emotionally draining work.

“It's a role that's mentally daunting . . . it's really hard to stop thinking about the occurrences of an ER and the events of an ER when you don’t want to. You process these events and memories later on when you're ready to process them and that's not something that everybody understands. Not everybody understands that when you work a job in the hospital, or even anywhere that could have that sort of effect on you, that you need some time afterwards to relax and to form a community while doing that — it's very difficult because you have to focus on one thing at a time,” explained Joseph.

"Not everybody understands that when you work a job in the hospital, or even anywhere that could have that sort of effect on you, that you need some time afterwards to relax and to form a community while doing that — it's very difficult because you have to focus on one thing at a time,” explained Joseph.

Additionally, Joseph mentioned that while he is grateful that he is able to do this for his community, he has found that it has made it more difficult for him to connect with other parts of his community, such as friends from McMaster. In part, because he has spent so much time on the frontlines, Joseph is well acquainted with the risks of coronavirus and has been very strict with regard to following social distancing guidelines and other pandemic protocols. However, this is something that many of his friends did not understand or agree with.

“So me and my friend groups [have not been] as close as we were. Some people in my life did take offence to that. They did say, “oh, you're being too worried about it" or, "you're taking it too far, we haven't seen each other in six months”,” said Joseph.

Timewell was on exchange in the United Kingdom when the pandemic was declared and chose to remain there rather than return to Canada. Over the summer months, she volunteered with a local food delivery program, packaging groceries and delivering them to members of the community who were self-isolating.

Timewell was on exchange in the United Kingdom when the pandemic was declared and chose to remain there rather than return to Canada. Over the summer months, she volunteered with a local food delivery program, packaging groceries and delivering them to members of the community who were self-isolating.

Though it was often difficult and demanding work, both mentally and physically, Timewell felt that her volunteer work had not only given her something to do during the lockdown but also, as someone new to the community, it gave her the opportunity to connect with people.

“Especially during the heart of the first lockdown, it really helped me feel a part of a community that I didn't even live in before the pandemic started. Because we're doing all these deliveries and stuff, I got to know the actual physical location really well. I've been to every square inch of this borough that I never lived in before and then also, I got to know a lot of people that I would never have met and not just young people [either]. There were a lot of people who had lost their jobs and so they were volunteering because they couldn't find a job at the time, or [people] who were retired who would come and talk. Or even on our deliveries, we got to have short conversations [with people in the community],” said Timewell.

Connections and community are so important during trying times and in many ways, frontline workers have been a rallying point for communities. People have come together to support these essential services workers, offering their help in a variety of ways from childcare to therapy.

Additionally, as Timewell mentioned, volunteering or working in these services can facilitate the formation of new connections, especially for students who are not able to connect with their usual community in the same way.

“I think it's been really difficult not being able to be on campus. I think it takes away a lot of the community . . . I think [volunteering] can be a great opportunity for a lot of people to have a little bit of social interaction at a time that isn't really built for that,” added Timewell.

“I think it's been really difficult not being able to be on campus. I think it takes away a lot of the community . . . I think [volunteering] can be a great opportunity for a lot of people to have a little bit of social interaction at a time that isn't really built for that,” added Timewell.

As we move forward into the winter months, our frontline workers are going to be increasingly more important and it is imperative that we continue to support them and each other now, but also after this crisis has passed.

By shopping local, consumers can use their economic power to mitigate the inequitable destructive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses

In the highly divisive political and social atmosphere brought about by the pandemic, one message has been almost universally applauded: shop local. It is no secret that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are distributed unequally.

Case in point: since the start of the pandemic, one in ten restaurants across Canada have permanently closed their doors while Canadian billionaires’ wealth has increased by over $53 billion dollars.

This is not a uniquely Canadian problem — the global debt to gross domestic product ratio has soared to a record 365 per cent, with emerging economies and developing nations bearing the greatest burden. Meanwhile, billionaires worldwide have seen their holdings mushroom by 27 per cent. A k-shaped recovery, indeed.

In Ontario, the unfairness of shuttering small businesses whilst allowing large retailers to continue to sell both essential and non-essential items has generated both confusion and outrage. However, appeals to Doug Ford’s government, such as a petition by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses seem to have faced silence.

As the numerous inequalities are spelled out in red, we are left to determine if the uneven financial impacts of COVID are more a product of the realities of a pandemic or the discretionary actions of government. Frankly, evidence points unmistakably to the latter.

In Ontario, the harshest lockdowns prohibit indoor and outdoor restaurant service and only stores providing essential products or services are permitted to remain open. However, big-box stores that are allowed to stay open because they sell essential products are thereby able to continue selling non-essential products, wielding an unfair competitive advantage over small businesses. Why can I walk into Costco and buy clothes, but at a regular clothing store I need to order online and pick them up curbside? 

However, big-box stores that are allowed to stay open because they sell essential products are thereby able to continue selling non-essential products, wielding an unfair competitive advantage over small businesses. Why can I walk into Costco and buy clothes, but at a regular clothing store I need to order online and pick them up curbside? 

In Manitoba, this injustice was addressed by government regulations ordering that any store permitted to remain open could only sell essential products – anything else would only be available through curbside pickup. To ensure compliance, stores had to remove or rope off the non-essentials.

In November, Costco was hit with a $5000 for defying the government regulations. And in Ontario? Doug Ford assures us that he consulted with the Chief Executive Officer of Walmart Canada — but not thousands of small business owners — and concluded that forcing big-box retailers to comply with restrictions on the sale of non-essential items would be a “logistical nightmare,” so it wasn’t worth the trouble.

With the government refusing to address the inequity of closing some businesses and not others, consumers must take it upon themselves to level the playing field. This is the ethos behind “buy local.”

There are myriad benefits to shopping at local businesses: supporting the regional and national economy, ensuring the integrity of supply chains (it’s more than a little disconcerting to go to the grocery store and see empty shelves) and promoting the development of a middle class.

Unfortunately, buying local is expensive. For many people, the effort to support community businesses has become more about virtue and status signalling for the wealthy than a feasible economic alternative. Furthermore, buying products for a substantially higher cost than is necessary undermines one of the central tenets of our economic system: competition.

The benefits of marketplace competition manifest themselves in its corollary: economist Joseph Schumpeter’s creative destruction. The idea is that businesses unable to cope with current market conditions will die off and be replaced by newer ones, thereby ensuring a healthy and vigorous economy that benefits businesses as well as consumers.

The fear is, then, that the economic burden of buying local will be overly-taxing on consumers and will create an uncompetitive local economy that will impair post-pandemic recovery.

However, COVID-19 can be seen as a time of “created” and not creative destruction. Government shutdown regulations and not changing consumer preferences have altered the consumer marketplace to suit the very specific and very temporary economic conditions of the pandemic. Thus, buying the cheapest and most easily available product is not bolstering an efficient economy, it is exacerbating the unfair advantages enjoyed by large corporations in an artificial marketplace.

Post-pandemic, the government regulations will end, but the effects of our consumer behaviour during the pandemic will endure. Therefore, those who can afford to shop local should — nothing less than the long-term economic health of our communities is at stake.

Photos by Matty Flader / Photo Reporter

Recently, Hamilton has seen an influx of craft breweries establishing themselves around the city. With craft beer on the rise, MERIT Brewing Company is one of the industry leaders, brewing locally in their space on 107 James St. North. 

Co-founder of MERIT and McMaster alumnus, Tej Sandhu, wanted to create a communal, welcoming space by combining a tap room, brewery, kitchen and bottle shop. 

“Really what we hope it is, is a space for community around [MERIT]. So much of what we built this place to be is to facilitate conversation, facilitate our community, and facilitate a great experience for people around these things that we love producing . . . in a space that is easy to get to, that is accessible, that’s inclusive, that is open and that is friendly and warm. Those are things that we had as our goal for what we wanted the space to be but for what we keep as our goals for everything we do as well,” said Sandhu.

MERIT Brewing Company on James Street North.

On Oct. 1, the Ontario Craft Brewers, a membership trade association that represents local breweries in Ontario, participated in a government roundtable in the Niagara region. The OCB represents the voices of approximately 30 per cent of craft breweries around Ontario

“We participated in the roundtable to provide our perspective and make sure the voice of local brewers is heard on potential changes to the alcohol system, which are critical to our future growth and success,” said the OCB via their Twitter account

(1/2) The Ontario Government is currently consulting on potential reforms to Ontario’s beverage alcohol sector. As Niagara is home to many craft producers, the govt hosted a series of roundtables this weekend w/ reps from craft wineries, distillers, cideries, and breweries.

— Ontario Craft Brewers (@OntCraftBrewers) September 29, 2019

(2/2) We participated in the roundtable to provide our perspective and make sure the voice of local brewers is heard on potential changes to the alcohol system, which are critical to our future growth and success.

— Ontario Craft Brewers (@OntCraftBrewers) September 29, 2019

The association also shared photos with Sam Oosterhoff, a Progressive Conservative member of provincial parliament from the Niagara-West riding. Oosterhoff has claimed that he wants to remove abortion rights. Additionally, he has actively opposed Bill 128 — the All Families Are Equal act, a piece of legislation that removes the words "mother" and "father" in favour of gender-neutral terms allowing all parents to be treated equally. He continues to defend his socio-political beliefs when confronted by the media. The tweets promoting Oosterhoff with the OCB were taken down after being posted.

The original tweets posted by Ontario Craft Brewers following an event with Sam Oosterhoof and Ontario breweries. This tweet has since been removed off of the OCB Twitter account.

 

Ontario Craft Brewers tweeted this photo with Sam Oosterhoff at a roundtable event. The photo has since been removed off of the OCB Twitter account.

Although not an OCB member, MERIT Brewing Company released a statement about the OCB’s event via their Facebook page on Oct. 1. 

“MERIT was not part of this discussion, nor are we members of the OCB, but we would like to say that we are unequivocally against the views of MPP Oosterhoff and outraged over the OCB’s decision to promote their work with him as some sort of gain for the industry or brushed off as part of their responsibility to work with the government,” said the statement.

MERIT turned their attention to the community that was being affected by the OCB’s statement.  The team reflected on their values of creating a welcoming, diverse space but found that the industry association that indirectly represents them was doing the opposite.

“While working together with the government is a good thing — when there's someone whose beliefs, outside of beer . . . are directly attacking not only owners of the businesses but staff members, people who are our guests and our consumers, that really strikes a chord as something that . . . the OCB did without thinking [about] what the implications are,” said Sandhu. “. . . We were angry because even if you're not an OCB member, the OCB indirectly represents our industry. They are the only association that we have. Their stance [on] promotion and their communication is reflective of our entire industry in Ontario.”

The OCB has issued an apology on Twitter

pic.twitter.com/g7kOYq48PY

— Ontario Craft Brewers (@OntCraftBrewers) October 1, 2019

Sandhu emphasized that MERIT, and all members of the OCB, had the responsibility to hold higher organizations accountable for their actions. 

While MERIT had voiced their concerns on an industry level, Sandhu also reflected on local level concerns in Hamilton. 

On Oct. 1, as a part of Hamilton’s “Fast 40” initiative, local and fast-growing businesses were recognized for contributing to the city’s economic development. MERIT Brewing Company was one business amongst many to receive the award given by mayor Fred Eisenberger.  In light of tensions between Eisenberger and the LGBTQA2S+ community, while MERIT claimed their reward, they left shortly before a photo opportunity with Eisenberger.

Merit Brewing Company has recently been recognized by the City of Hamilton for contributing to the city’s economic development. 

“There has been a ton of conversation internally about the handling of the LGBT community, the mayor’s response to the concerns that have been raised and the threat to our staff that are part of the community as well. [Our] action wasn’t meant to be a massive ‘F-U’ to the mayor, it was a way we could ask for accountability. It was something that was small that we thought would have, at the very least, an impact on showing our staff and our guests that we are standing up for them and not standing with someone who isn’t protecting them,” said Sandhu.

MERIT Brewing Company does not see themselves as a voice for marginalized communities, but rather as a microphone that allows their voices be heard. MERIT felt that their action was a step towards greater accountability among local leaders.

Regardless, you don't take a picture of brewery owners smiling and raising a glass with this guy. It's horrible PR. pic.twitter.com/W7njlY6jMu

— Robin LeBlanc, from work (@TheThirstyWench) September 30, 2019

Eisenberger has asked to sit down and meet with MERIT. While the company did not confirm a meeting before this article was released, Sandhu hopes to open a door for members of the community to start communicating with the mayor.

“Conversation is not enough; action needs to follow a conversation . . . You still need to have conversations to get to action . . . We’re trying to do our part. It’s inherent and embedded in what MERIT’s about, from why we are called “MERIT” to what we strive to do here and have be our experience. This is something that we feel is not only our responsibility, it’s our privilege to be able to speak out on these things and it’s something that we are doing because we’re passionate about it,” said Sandu.

Local businesses like MERIT Brewing Company are lending their voice to members of marginalized communities in hopes of not only starting a conversation but also demanding action. 

The Silhouette has reached out via email to Ontario Craft Brewers and the office of MPP Sam Oosterhoff for comment; however, we have not received a response.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

On Oct. 23, the provincial government officially scrapped Bill 148, which had called for a rise in minimum wage to $15 in 2019, in addition to a number of protections for workers. Premier Doug Ford claims that Bill 148 was “too much, too fast” and a “job killer.”

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has opposed the labour reforms and further minimum wage hikes, arguing that the recently instituted higher minimum wage has hurt small businesses and the overall economy. However, the government did say that the minimum wage will stay at $14 an hour for 33 months.

Fight for $15 and Fairness, a prominent province-wide labour rights advocacy group, has strongly opposed this announcement. The organization’s McMaster chapter has been active in raising awareness about the current situation.

Fight for $15 and Fairness McMaster organizer Chloe Rockarts said that having a relatively high minimum wage has been beneficial both for students and for university workers such as food staff.

Rockarts also stressed that if the bill is scrapped, there will be more consequences beyond just affecting minimum wage workers, citing the “equal pay for equal work” principle and paid sick day provisions as examples.

“For those that are not necessarily in those workplaces where people are getting paid minimum wage do not see it directly affecting them, but what we would like to do is focus less on the ‘15’ aspect and more on the fairness,” said Rockarts.

McMaster labour studies professor Stephanie Ross echoed many of the same concerns, adding that the minimum wage increase has resulted in an improved economy.

“We see job growth in those provinces that increased their minimum wage,” said Ross. “The negative effects of repealing Bill 148 will be serious for Mac students, as people most likely to work in minimum wage jobs and who are struggling to make and save money for tuition and living expenses.”

To push back against the minimum wage freeze, Fight for 15 McMaster held a rally at Jackson Square as part of a province-wide “day of action” to support Bill 148 and the scheduled wage increase. The next day, they held a bake sale to promote discussion on the topic.

“We are just trying to raise awareness around all of these things right now,” said Rockarts. “Generally, a lot of the campaign work that we do is focused on outreach.”

Beyond outreach, they are planning on contacting local MPPs to urge them to support the bill.  

The bill was planned to be fully implemented in 2019. In January 2019, certain scheduling protections for employees along with the minimum wage increase were scheduled to come into effect.

Despite the sealed fate of Bill 148, Rockarts is feeling optimistic about Fight for 15 McMaster’s campaign this year so far.

“This is our third year and we are only getting bigger and doing more,” said Rockarts, who notes that the group has seen increased engagement since the implementation of Bill 148 and the election of Doug Ford.

“Because it has been in the news so much, and because people are being directly affected at work, people are way more interested and way more willing to engage,” said Rockarts.

While the provincial government goes forward with their plan to cut Bill 148, it remains increasingly clear that they face immense opposition.  

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The so-called gig economy is the new reality for millennials and it will take its toll.

An ad for Fiverr, a website that connects freelancers to paid opportunities, made the rounds on Twitter recently because it promoted the ridiculous lifestyle that many fresh graduates face. The text read: “You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”

This ad reeks of the prevailing wisdom found in both the comment sections in every article about millennial employment rates and in many boardrooms across the country. The belief that all you need is “hard work and a positive attitude” to get a job is equal parts wrong and insulting.

A CBC article from March 12 headlined “The millennial side hustle” outlines a common experience for university graduates: precarious work, multiple jobs, no benefits, and underemployment. Someone who is both bartending and walking dogs is probably not fulfilling the baby boomer’s definition of “hard work” because there isn’t the same amount of physical labour involved.

Their work is taxing though; the uncertainty that weighs on a debt-ridden graduate is hard to quantify, but the rising number of mental health issues with 20-somethings is a good place to start.

Keeping a positive attitude is a rich suggestion and probably comes from someone who hasn’t had to look for a job in years. The modern job search system is set up to beat the optimism out of you. When you click through jobs in LinkedIn or on McMaster’s job posting portal, you can see how many people have viewed or applied for the job.

I’ve been looking for entry-level communications jobs and the number of applicants for just one of the job boards is usually in the hundreds. Start to do the math and your optimism fades fast.

It is time that the older generation starts to embrace the facts: compared to 1976, education levels have risen, yet unemployment rates for people aged 17 to 24 have stayed the same and full-time employment rates have dropped. If this demographic achieves full-time employment, it is more likely to be temporary work. These numbers come from Stats Canada.

Lamenting the state of today’s youth isn’t going to solve the impending problems that come with a workforce that is underemployed, struggling to pay off debts and unable to afford a home.

Millennials have proven to be an innovative group that will solve problems when they can. (Seriously, just go to a party where the keg tap breaks and there’s a quarter of the beer left. Somehow, we will find a way to get it open.)

The harsh economy is not something we can solve on our own. We need older generations to step up and create change. If they don’t, everyone will lose out.

By: Grace Kennedy

Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, was released last week, fittingly right before a crowd of 300,000 rallied to draw attention to climate change in New York City. In response to Klein’s book, Globe and Mail editorialist Margaret Wente disparaged it as a case of “childish form of magical thinking.” Wente is a predictable member of the camp that quickly condemns grassroots movements. For example, she frowns upon Aboriginal protests against pipelines and hydroelectric dams and Greenpeace initiatives, as folks who just don’t understand the imperativeness and functioning of the global economy – as if the literal economy, and not the earth, is our lifeline. Wente charges Klein with ignoring the presumption that China and other developing nations are unwilling and unlikely to be harnessed into emissions agreements, and that therefore, Klein and other activists “should do themselves a favor and grow up.”

What Wente seems to be feeding on is the apparently impervious claim that if we stop extracting oil or decrease our demand in the global economy, it will be found or demanded elsewhere. Right. But Canada is geographically a large country with substantial resources, a population that for the most part lives comfortably within first-world conditions, i.e. a socio-environmental situation where we can afford to reduce our footprint. Trucking on with the rest of the world is not a better alternative. We are talking about the economy here. It’s not a person, it’s not alive – we know it’s not as free a market to support any neoliberal arguments, and it’s not on its way there either. It is altered in un-free ways now via the world’s largest oligopolistic corporations, trade bloc agreements, nationalism movements in some countries, etc. So what’s the harm in altering it in more ways, ways that benefit the earth – our real lifeline?

Last week, in an interview with the National Post, Klein said that her lifestyle has changed and that she only flies “one-tenth as how much” she used to. She also argued that the “environmental movement has overstressed the consumer side of it.” It’s easy to agree that change needs to come in the form of legislation shaping corporate practices that are admittedly a major part of the solution, but I disagree that the consumer side is overplayed. Sure, I get that each plastic bag I don’t take home from Fortinos isn’t making a big difference; consumers don’t have as much effect on matters as we are feigned to believe. However, unless we – consumers – change our lifestyles to adapt to a world that uses less fossil fuel, and grow to enjoy taking public transit, riding bikes, shopping local and not buying out-of-season produce – we are going to be poor accompaniments to the fight against climate change. We are not going to elect governments that create the necessary policies if we don’t like how our lives will be altered. I think everyone makes the mistake of reducing situations in order to find an easy answer, but to reiterate a point from Canadian author, John Ralston Saul, in these cases, which revolve around ethics, there is no easy answer.

Saul writes about the imperative of individual compromise in relation to ethical choices, in this case, becoming environmentally conscious. Don’t think that green activists absolutely love cycling to work during torrential downpours. Fresh berries in the winter are nice – but could we substitute some fruit preservative from the summer?

A mindful attitude with the freedom to do what we should and not what we always want, while evolving our sustainable philosophies and techniques, will make us better citizens of the earth.

Economics is an ideology, and to borrow another point from Saul, “it is promoted as if it were civilization’s first item of importance…[requiring] common false sense, because it is built on inevitabilities and demands passivity”.

I reiterated this to a friend over a pint last night and he replied that climate change is another ideology just the same. Fine, call it that, call it whatever you want. But the image of polar ice caps melting is inarguable evidence of a phenomenon that needs more ingenuity from people like Klein and less ignorance from the Wentes of this world.

Photo credit: Peter Dean

For two summers during my undergrad, I worked at an office in the Hamilton downtown core. I took the bus from Westdale Village every morning, and rode the HSR home every afternoon. And every day, I resented having to pay for a service I used endlessly for a small flat-fee during the regular school year.

Call me entitled; in many ways, that’s an accurate description of my attitude towards the absence of a summer bus pass. But when McMaster graduate students have a year-round agreement with the HSR and the summer pass is only available to Mac undergraduates enrolled in summer classes (and still only saves students $16 a month), my disappointment in the current MSU agreement is warranted.

Now that the MSU-HSR contract is up for renegotiation before renewal, I hope to see some changes.

David Campbell (MSU President) and Jeffrey Doucet (MSU VP Finance) have been pushing hard on the student transit issue since August, and an announcement regarding a new agreement is expected for next week. Major points the new agreement is expected to address include summer service and expanded hours of service through campus to cater to late-night student activity.

I hope the powers-that-be sit up and take notice of the argument that summer and late-night service is important not only to student life enhancement but also to stimulating the Hamilton economy.

Graduate rentention in a city notorious for appearing heavily unattractive to prospective McMaster students, and for those students then staying within the “campus bubble” while at school, is an important issue for the City to address.

One step towards keeping educated, energetic grads in the city is to make Hamilton more welcoming when they are students, be that encouraging them to stay and work through the summers or to simply explore the city at all hours.

Hopefully the new MSU-HSR agreement reflects students needs and the potential students have for rejuvenating the Steel City.

 

Jeff Doucet
MSU VP-Finance

Last week, Stephen Harper flew to Brussells to sign a Free-Trade agreement with the European Union. After Harper secured the support of all ten Premiers, Canada has reached an agreement in principle to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with our viagra and canadian European peers. The full-text of the agreement has yet to be released, but the agreement has already been supported in principle by both the Liberal and New Democratic Party.

This is remarkable, as it was only twenty-five years ago that Free-Trade was a divisive election issue. However, since the Mulroney government’s implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement brought nation-wide economic growth and diversification, all federal parties now support free trade.

While we have yet to find out the finer details of the agreement, we know enough to start talking about its benefits and what it means for our local economy in Hamilton. When hearing about government initiatives such as CETA, it is easy to hear large, broad statements such as “12 billion annually” or “80,000 new jobs” and not really know what it means.

While the industry has taken a hit, Hamilton has remained a local economy supported by a manufacturing sector. Contributing billions of dollars to the national economy, Hamilton’s manufacturing sector makes up roughly 4 per cent of the province’s GDP. Several major industries such as automotive parts dominate the local economy while other important industries are growing rapidly. Green automotive technology in particular has the potential to grow and produce innovative, exportable products. The federal government and McMaster University demonstrated this commitment to green automotive technologies with the recent opening of the McMaster Automotive Research Centre. The research centre will collaborate with the private sector to develop, design, and test innovative hybrid technology.

With our globally recognized research-intensive universities, Canada has the ability to pair local industry with Post-Secondary Education and deliver commercial and economic success.

We all know that large-scale, simplified manufacturing has left North America for good. Other countries with lower wages and lower environmental standards will continue to hold the advantage in mass producing simplified goods. Because of partnerships like MARC, Canada will continue to hold the comparative advantage is in the advanced manufacturing of complicated, innovative technologies. But here is the thing: on a global scale, the Canadian automotive sector is relatively small. If you are a company that is producing technology that will one day be hidden under the hood of a car, you need unrestricted access to the global market to truly prosper.

The EU is the world’s second largest producer of automobiles, producing over 16 million cars, trucks and vans in 2012. To put this in perspective, last year Canada nearly produced 2.5 million automobiles. While Canadian auto-parts companies can currently sell their product in Europe, they face barriers to entry. CETA will eliminate EU tariffs on auto parts, which currently run up to 4.5 per cent. With the implementation of CETA, local companies in Hamilton will have an important leg up over competitors in other countries. Volkswagen while assembling a car in Germany could can now use Canadian technology at a lower price.

This example of how our local economy will benefit illustrates the importance of CETA, and the impact it will have on other industries and local economies. As tariffs as high as 22 per cent are lifted on our industries, Canada will continue to grow as a world leader in the trade of our unique goods.

Whether these goods are lumber exports from Northern Quebec, shrimp from the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, mineral production in Nunavut, or software technology in British Columbia, local economies across Canada stand to benefit from increased access to five hundred million consumers in the European Union.

Ruth Tshikonde

The Silhouette

On Tuesday, Oct. 12 McMaster hosted a conference entitled “Stop Stealing our Steel: The Struggle of the Steelworkers”.

The conference, organized by McMaster’s Labour Studies Student Association, and sponsored by OPIRG, began with an introduction by Brendan Sweeney, from the Department of Labour Studies. Sweeney explained the importance of labour studies in today’s dynamic society.

The brief introduction was followed by a thought-provoking speech by Lisa Nussey, spokesperson and volunteer for “Hamilton for Steel”.

Nussey gave the audience a brief introduction to well-known controversy between the owners and employees of US Steel.

Nussey proceeded to discuss the controversy that had erupted when the owners of the Hamilton based factory, Stelco, now known as US Steel, had breached their part of the agreement when the company was sold to them under the Investment Canada Act.

She explained that owners of US Steel wanted a two-tiered pension plan, yet the employees were not willing to settle for it, this thus led to ongoing negotiation between both parties.

Nussey also spoke about the “Hamilton For Steel Association,” about which she explained, “everybody’s fight on the issue of standard of living in our country.”

She further stated that through the years they had been able to accomplish many things in order to show support for the Hamilton steel workers and their families with initiatives such as the Billboard Project.

The Billboard Project granted permission for four billboards to be posted throughout City of Hamilton in order to raise awareness for the issue plaguing the lives of those impacted by the demise of the steel industry.

The meeting was followed by a brief viewing of the documentary entitled “Defying the Law,” which took the viewers back through the events and issues of that particularly hot summer in Hamilton when everything erupted. It also showed the dynamics of our current economic, social and labor challenges for the steel industry.

The evening was concluded with a brief question and answer session, at which time it was established that fighting for the steel worker is a key issue that should not be left until all is fair for the workers, their families and anyone else who is an affected by this issue.

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