Heyhowareya passengers. Sarah (@sarahkrichel) here, still alive. Isn’t that something? 

Today we’ve got: the laydown on why schools shouldn’t have to debate a winter break extension in the first place; Manulife adding some gender-affirming surgery to its coverage; how Canada’s provinces are divided among those who beat COVID-19 and those who refuse to; an enjoyable little rage-read.

Provinces Are Choosing Between Education And Safety

In recent days, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have considered extending the winter break for schools further into January due to rising COVID-19 infection rates. Earlier today, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced it’s no longer in the cards there. But it’s still very much possible in Quebec and B.C.  

Schools certainly aren’t doing so hot right now. Schools in Quebec account for 20 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in each of the past two weeks. Meanwhile, B.C.’s government maintains that transmission has been low, but parents have criticized health authorities for being vague and not reporting new cases quick enough, so they’re taking on reporting the data themselves.

I can almost hear the kids’ excitement over the prospect of a longer break. I’d be excited too if my government was forcing me to risk my life by entering crowded classrooms every day. 

However, extending winter breaks would present some challenges.

If kids left school early, parents would have to arrange for caretaking services for those extra days off. But Quebec and British Columbia suffer from child care privatization. B.C. parents have to deal with a broken system that demands nearly $1,000 a month on average; Quebec is converting privatized daycare spots into subsidized ones, but they’re doing it very slowly.

Youth mental health has also struggled immensely as a result of the pandemic. Going to school is good for the development of kids and youth, and would also take the stress of caring for them off parents’ backs.

Governments do want schools to stay open, as they help ensure regulated behaviour rather than opening the possibility of unsafe play dates and maskless trips to the mall with mum. But choosing between education and safety didn’t have to be a dilemma in the first place. Back in August and September, advocates from teachers to staff to parents in these provinces begged for more investment in smaller classrooms. 

We may be approaching the end of this pandemic, but the possibility of another pandemic is terrifying given the precedents set by our governments this time around.

Manulife Added Gender-Affirming Coverage For Some Surgeries

  • Manulife has added coverage for some gender affirmation surgeries and treatments for trans employees in the United States and Canada. This coverage includes surgeries such as Adam’s apple reductions, cheek or breast augmentation, and treatments like voice training.
  • Most provinces and territories’ provide funding for some gender-affirmation procedures through their coverage, but many of these procedures aren’t actually available in certain provinces, according to the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health.

  • From Bloomberg: “The addition of benefits for transgender employees puts Manulife in a rare and shrinking group of employers who cover such procedures. Only about 7 per cent of U.S. employers pay for gender reassignment surgery, according to a 2019 study from the Society for Human Resource Management. That’s down from 10 per cent in 2017, echoing a decline in other coverages geared to specific groups such as bariatric weight-loss surgery and in-vitro fertilization, the group said.

Mandatory Masks and Strict Isolation Works. Trudeau, What’s Good?

  • Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Atlantic Canada and the North have effectively combatted COVID-19, reports a study from the NGO Global Canada Initiative.

  • New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador were impressive in forming “a larger bubble that has maintained close to zero transmission with strict quarantines for all incomers.”

  • From The Tyee: “Why has Canada ignored its own successful Atlantic model? University of Ottawa health expert Amir Attaran offers a blunt answer: ‘There is a conceit in the West and Central Canada that dumb Maritimers could not solve any problem. That’s why the success has been ignored … And because Canada lacks a national policy mandating Go for Zero measures, each province — except for Atlantic Canada and the North, felt pressure to emulate others who were coasting. Now we are reaping the results.’”

ICYMI: Howard Levitt — Stop 

According to Postmedia writer Howard Levitt and the soggy Ferrari he rode in on, working from home is leading to an “insidious trend — time theft by employees.”

Levitt argues in all his vague glory that “telltale signs” of time theft while working from home include late responses to emails or background noise during phone calls. He suggests employers keep an eye out for time theft by comparing an employee’s pre-pandemic work to their work now.

Tamara Khandaker, former host and producer of Global News’ podcast Wait, There’s More, tweeted that Levitt accused her of “surreptitiously” working 500 overtime hours. 

“Being laid off so suddenly was shitty. But the suggestion when I tried to claim the overtime afterwards that I deliberately worked longer hours to make more money was so absurd and insulting, it made me see red.” — Khandaker

The reality of our new work-from-home culture is actually a good one, Howard: It can make a life-changing difference for employees who experience chronic pain; it can stand in the place of menstrual leave which still doesn’t exist in Canada; it can let a worker stay home, just because they want to some days. Seriously, why can’t Canadians dream a little?

As much as I could sit here in your inbox all day debating labour lawyers, that’s all for today, Passengers.

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