two hosts at their mics in headphones

Hosts Cate Newman and Gail Pope

It’s an odd feeling for a newsroom to end up covering a story you’re also living through at the same time — the Great Ice Storm of ’98 was one of those, as was (and lingeringly is) the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now we’re covering the strike at Carleton University by CUPE 4600, which includes teaching assistants and contract instructors we know well and work with.

The behind-the-scenes story to this latest one is that it meant two crucial members of our Midweek team weren’t with us for this show since they’re in that union, too — and the old song sure got it right: You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone!

But the show must etc etc, and so we muddled through to a pretty respectable result, all things considered.

We opened with a story about another show — Into the Woods, a new production by the Carleton Musical Theatre Society. Lauren Roulston revealed to us in her documentary what it means to the cast and crew to be able to once again get back on the stage before an in-person audience after three long years.

CUPE 4600 picket line near the entrance to the university

CUPE 4600 members and supporters picket at the Bronson Avenue entrance to campus. (Photo here and above by Devon Tredinnick)

Reporter Sember Wood then explained the background to the controversy about a proposed new hotel at Ottawa’s international airport and the Community Improvement Plan to which it’s connected.

(Pro tip: Don’t put a story called Woods and a story by Wood back to back in a show when the people who keep you organized are on strike. Trust us on this one.)

Then Lauren Roulston followed up on the hundreds of folks who gathered the night before our show at the Ottawa Carleton District School Board headquarters to counter recent signs of transphobic hate. She spoke with a member of Community Solidarity Ottawa who knows what it’s like to live in the shadow of that hate.

Midweek reporter Emily Vaz then took us live to the scene of a noisy on-campus demonstration by Carleton professors and others in support of their striking colleagues who belong to CUPE 4600.

As she reported, those who work at the university are represented by an alphabet soup of various unions, but those protesting outside the university president’s office were united in their call for a fair settlement to the strike.

three protesters with signs outside MP's local office

From left to right, Susan Rab and Elizabeth Houlding of Justice for workers, and Aimee Beboso of Migrante-Ottawa protest at Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi’s constituency office. (Photo by Sember Wood)

A big story of this moment is the startling success of 15-year-old Canadian swimmer Summer McIntosh, but success and international attention at such a young age can also be a burden. Midweek’s Anne-Marie Iemmolo spoke about this with a doctoral student at the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan who studies the mental sides of high-performance sport.

Speaking of burdens, there’s that darned Pink Tax … not glamorous like winning medals and setting records, just there, seemingly wherever you turn … if you’re a woman. Reporter Cate Newman spoke with an expert on how products intended for women are so often pricier than their equivalents for the male market, and what women can do to dodge this extra monetary cost for being who they are.

Then it was back to Sember Wood (the reporter, not the play), who took us to the office doorstep of Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi, where protesters gathered in the cold to call for clearer status for vulnerable migrant workers who often face exploitation and discrimination.

We checked back with our on-the-scene reporter Emily Vaz, who’d moved with the loud demonstration she was covering down to the entrance to the university off Bronson Avenue, but first we paused to put an individual face on the strike: Midweek’s Gail Pope spoke with an international affairs graduate student about the financial burdens faced by students who work as teaching and research assistants while they study, and her concerns about what a prolonged strike might mean to students in the courses they help to run.

And Gail ended our show, too, by getting the views of an environmental policy researcher about the new federal budget’s surprisingly robust funding and tax credit commitments to environmental initiatives, and especially green technologies.