A blast from the past
Rewatching that video, which publicly introduced the Examiner at its launch in 2014, the first thing I notice is how young I was.
The second thing I notice is that it’s all about me, and that bothers me. I couldn’t predict then to what extent I could grow this operation, but I always had it in my head that the Examiner could provide work for lots of people.
And the Examiner has done fairly well on that front. We have one actual employee — Iris, our “office manager” (we have no office) who makes everything work behind the scenes. Additionally, there’s a set of people who get paid for support work — Mark Pineo does tech work for the Examineradio podcast, for example, and there are a half dozen local vendors doing everything from website design to printing the T-shirts.
Most importantly, the Examiner provides a platform for a diverse group of writers. We’ve been able to bring on regular weekly writers Stephen Kimber, Erica Butler, and El Jones. And then there are regular contributors like Jennifer Henderson (see the first two articles below) and Rick Grant (you’re about to hear a whole lot from Rick Grant). I’ve been particularly happy to give voice to young writers — checking the “author” list just now, I see we’ve published 30 different people.
I lived for several years as a freelancer, and I know it’s frustrating. Multimillion dollar corporations dick writers around, and take months, sometimes years, to pay them. Sometimes the writers don’t get paid at all.
So it’s important to me that the Examiner pay writers well, and quickly. I believe the Examiner is among the best paying, if not the best paying, local media outlet. (We pay by the piece, not the word, so it’s a bit difficult to compare.) And we pay on publication — immediately on receipt of an invoice, via email transfer. No hassle for the writers.
Besides simply being decent to writers, it’s important to pay writers and pay them well because they are the backbone to any quality publication. Quite literally, you get what you pay for. That’s true for me as publisher, and it’s true for you as readers.
So please support well-paid writers and the quality journalism they produce by joining the Examiner team of subscribers. Your subscription makes all this possible.
1. When pigs fly: the uphill battle for a security deposit
“’Frustrating and confusing’” are the words Melanie Quigg uses to describe the convoluted process to retrieve her damage deposit from the property manager of a home she rented in Bedford,” reports Jennifer Henderson for the Halifax Examiner:
Quigg, a social worker, moved out last year, at the end of June, 2016. Sixteen months later, on October 25, 2017, she finally held in her hand a cheque refunding her $650 damage deposit.
The cheque actually came to $1,040.39. It included almost $400 to reimburse Quigg for the fees involved in the paperwork to take her landlord (Emily Edwards of California) to small claims court and to hire a sheriff to go to the bank where the property manager (David Kennedy of Top Flight Property Management) held her damage deposit.
“There seems to be no accountability whatsoever,” commented Quigg. “The process absolutely needs to change. If a landlord or property manager wants to return your deposit, they can. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to. It’s very easy to keep your money and it takes a lot of time and money on the tenant’s part to get it back. I thought once the Tenancies Board ordered the deposit be returned, that would be it. It wasn’t. I found out I still had to hire someone to enforce that order!”
2. Early intervention
“Rudolf Uher thinks it may soon be possible to prevent severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression in young people,” reports Jennifer Henderson for the Halifax Examiner:
The psychiatrist delivered that hope-inspiring message yesterday at a fundraising breakfast for the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation.
“These illnesses can be extremely disabling,” says Uher, who holds a Canada Research chair in Early Intervention in Psychiatry. “These are also some of the most expensive, chronic illnesses to teat. And early intervention could benefit everyone, from individuals and families to taxpayers and society.”
Unless nipped in the bud, one in 20 Canadians can expect to develop a severe mental illness at some point in their lives.
The Czech-born doctor and Dalhousie University medical researcher has been following more than 400 youth and their parents for nearly five years. Infants and young adults up to age 24 are part of his long-term study aiming to revolutionize the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness through early intervention.
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3. Stock photos
“Did you get that mailer about provincial budget 2017-18 this week?” asks Mary Campbell:
Did yours include a personal “note” from Sydney-Whitney Pier MLA Derek Mombourquette? Mine did. He told me about the budget but he also told me that Sydney-Whitney Pier was a “vibrant melting pot of culture, optimism and most importantly, opportunity.”
Strangely, for me, it’s actually not the text in the flyer I want to talk about (full disclosure: I didn’t actually read most of it) — it’s the photographs.
Perhaps I’m just being too sensitive, but when the Nova Scotia government sends you a shiny, full-color, photo-rich flyer about issues that really matter in your area — doctor recruitment, mental healthcare, jobs for youth, home care — wouldn’t you expect at least one of those photos to contain, say, an actual Nova Scotian?
It’s not like the Liberals were sending out a flyer about fjords or wallabies or the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in any of which cases, a reliance on stock photos would be entirely understandable. No, they sent out a flyer about the issues outlined above and still they resorted to stock photos.
Campbell goes on to detail how each of the photos, supposedly of Nova Scotians, has been used elsewhere for other purposes. My favourite:
Take our happy healthcare professionals, standing in front of what could be a hospital or could be an International House of Pancakes:
If these three are actually working somewhere in Nova Scotia, then I think I know why wait times are so long — they’re also working in a lot of other places, including this company, which wants to help diagnose your “Factitious disorder, formerly Munchausen syndrome“:
There are lots of experienced and qualified photographers right here in Nova Scotia, and they could sure use the work. Maybe we should offer government departments payroll rebates to hire actual Nova Scotians…
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4. Payroll rebates
It’s a bit far afield for the Examiner, but yesterday two news articles, from CBC New Brunswick and CTV, caught my eye. Both parrot an Opportunities New Brunswick (that province’s equivalent to Nova Scotia Business Inc) press release about “$830,000 in support” being offered to a company called Club Auto to expand its Moncton call centre.
What does that $830,000 get?
Here’s how the CBC explained it:
A government news release Tuesday said Club Auto will be eligible for $830,000 in payroll rebates from Opportunities NB, a Crown corporation.
The rebates are performance-based, and the jobs have to be maintained for one year.
The government estimated the new jobs will generate $2.41 million in provincial taxes over four years and add $21 million to the province’s GDP.
This provides no useful information by which to judge the value of the payroll rebates. How many jobs does the $830,000 bring, and at what salary? We don’t know.
The CTV article is more helpful:
There are 35 employees working in Club Auto’s Moncton office, which opened last month. The company hopes to expand its workforce to 75 employees by early next year.
The province says the creation of up to 150 new full-time positions is expected to generate an estimated $2.41 million in provincial taxes over four years and contribute $21 million toward the province’s GDP over that same period.
New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant says Club Auto is eligible for up to $830,000 in support from Opportunities NB, in the form of payroll rebates. He says the rebates are performance-based and will only be dispersed to the company once it has created and maintained the jobs for one year and provided proof of salary and employment.
Club Auto CEO Sean Grasby says salaries range from the high $30,000s to low $40,000s annually.
The GDP numbers are simply bullshit. And the tax revenue is up in the air because the figure offered doesn’t subtract out the payroll rebates, either for this year or future years, for which payroll rebates haven’t yet been announced, and assumes that if the workers don’t have these particular jobs they won’t work at all.
But I was still confused as to exactly how many jobs the $830,000 would return. Was it the 40 new jobs promised by Spring 2018? Or was in the 115 additional jobs that would increase the total workforce to 150 in five years?
So I called Opportunity New Brunswick spokesperson Eric Lewis to find out. Lewis told me that the $830,000 is for the entire 150-person workforce. Wait, that includes the 35 people already working there? Yep.
I don’t understand why Club Auto needs a subsidy to continue paying the people already on the payroll, but that’s how these things roll. The $830,000 amounts to a $5,533 subsidy per job.
For all its sins, NSBI publicly discloses what the minimum salary requirement is for payroll rebates — usually about $50,000 annually. But Opportunities New Brunswick will have none of that public disclosure stuff. I asked Lewis, What’s the salary requirement for Club Auto? “We can’t release that,” he told me. “That’s proprietary information that could affect their competitiveness… you could ask the company.”
Well, CTV did ask the company, and the CEO of the company told them “salaries range from the high $30,000s to low $40,000s annually.” Thing is, why should we believe him?
For one thing, the GDP figure announced by Opportunities New Brunswick — $21 million over four years — amounts to an average worker (including supervisors) in a 150-person workforce making just $35,000 annually over the entire four-year period.
(One reason the GDP figure is bullshit is that it supposes that each employee would simply not exist if they weren’t working for Club Auto — that they wouldn’t find other employment, or start their own businesses, or provide unpaid but real economic value as homemakers, stay-at-home parents, health support workers for elderly relatives, etc. But I’m surprised ONB didn’t throw in a multiplier just to make the numbers even bigger, because evidently nobody questions the numbers in the first place.)
Secondly, right now, the company is advertising 12 “Bilingual Customer Service Representative” positions at the Moncton call centre, starting at $16/hour. At 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, that’s $33,280 annually. Oh, besides bilingualism, the job requires an unspecified “post-secondary education.”
My guess is Club Auto decided to set up shop in Moncton because they could get call centre workers without paying much (if any) of a premium for their bilingualism. Get a $5,000+ per job subsidy on top of that, and it’s a sweet deal indeed.
5. 100% guilty
“A sailboat captain caught smuggling millions of dollars worth of cocaine into the country on Labour Day weekend has pleaded guilty to two charges in Halifax provincial court,” reports Steve Bruce for the Chronicle Herald:
Jacques John Grenier, 68, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of importation and possession for the purpose of trafficking.
I wrote about this case back in September:
After Grenier sailed the Quesera into the East River Marina, a CBSA agent named Sean Foster came to the marina but Grenier wasn’t there. Soon after, Foster saw Grenier drive up in a Chrysler 300, a rent-a-car leased by [Grenier’s co-accused Luc] Chevrefils, who was not present. Grenier was evidently cooperative. Foster saw that the car had six brand new hockey bags with the price tags still on them in the back, and asked Grenier if he could search the Quesera. Grenier consented to the search, and Foster found a false compartment in the aft of the boat that contained what looked like cocaine, and still more cocaine under a board in the forward interior of the boat.
The next day, RCMP Constable Michael Turco went to the marina, and Foster showed him the suspected cocaine. “The packaging appeared to be watertight and was heavily bundled and vacuum packed,” wrote Morrison. “He observed the words ‘100%’ and ‘pure’ on the packages.”
Grenier was interviewed that night and was surprisingly talkative. He said that people knew he was a good sailor and so had asked him to import cocaine many times in the past, but he’d always turned them down; however, circumstances had changed: “Grenier said that he needed a ‘nest egg’ and that he did not want the government taking care of him because he has skin cancer,” wrote Morrison.
In any event, as Grenier told it to his police interviewer on September 4, after agreeing to be a mule, he received a message on his PGP phone with coordinates and a time for the pickup. On July 21, he sailed to the location, which was in international waters off the coast of Venezuela.
“He was met by a large fishing vessel,” wrote Morrison. “The cocaine was transferred from the fishing vessel to his [boat] by a rope line. He was assisted by two males from the fishing vessel who helped him load the cocaine.”
Grenier said he sailed to Saint Martin to get supplies and fuel, then sailed on to Nova Scotia. When he arrived on September 3 “he was tired and dehydrated and forgot to check in with Customs,” wrote Morrison. “He stated the CBSA attended because he missed his check-in and that is when they found the cocaine.”
According to Bruce, the Chronicle Herald reporter:
Defence lawyer Brad Sarson told the court he plans to make a Charter of Rights and Freedoms motion that Grenier’s rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated by the authorities.
“I can indicate that at this point in time the defence intends to bring a charter motion with respect to the search of the boat,” Sarson said. “It’s not in an effort to exclude evidence, obviously, because there have been guilty pleas, but an effort to argue for a reduced sentence.”
If he can establish there was a charter violation, Sarson said, there is case law to support such a remedy.
Community Planning & Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — a light agenda.
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — the committee will take up the Vernon-Seymour and Allan Oak bikeway corridors Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler discussed last week.
Resources (Thursday, 9am, Province House) — just the per diem-collecting “organizational” meeting.
Standing Committee on Community Services (Thursday, 11am, Province House) — also a per diem-collecting “organizational” meeting.
No public meetings.
Canada-Israel Collaboration for Brain Studies (Thursday, 9am, BRC Boardroom, Life Sciences Research Institute) — kick-off meeting for a Collaborative Research Partnership between Dalhousie University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Listen to presentations from both Universities on their research, and join the conversation about collaborative research in the important area of the brain. Details at brainrepair.ca.
The Shape of Information: Constructing a Thesis (Thursday, 12:30pm, Room HB4, Medjuck Architecture Building) — Richard Kroeker will speak.
Thesis Defence, Process Engineering and Applied Science (Thursday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Marcia English will defend her thesis, “Interactions of Native and Modified Clupeine with Escherichia Coli K-12 and Salmonella Enterica Serovar Typhimurium 14028 Cells and Model Biomembranes.”
The Politics of Bottled Water (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, Marion McCain Building) — Andrew Biro from Acadia University will speak.
Mini Medical School (Thursday, 7pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — Constance LeBlanc will speak on “How Doctors Make Decisions,” followed at 8:15pm by Gordon Gubitz on “What You Need to Know About Medical Assistance in Dying.”
The Halifax International Security Forum: The Future of Global Leadership (Thursday, 7pm, McInnes Room, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — the panel comprises Bessma Momani from the University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs; General Petr Pavel, Chairman of the Military Committee, NATO; Jonathan Tepperman, Editor-in-Chief, Foreign Policy magazine; and Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate and Founder of Women Journalists Without Chains.
Piano Recital (Friday, 12pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — students of Peter Allen and Lynn Stodola will perform.
Exploiting Reversible B-O Bonds in Organocatalysis and Chemical Biology (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Dennis Hall from the University of Alberta will speak.
Routine Infanticide (Friday, 3:35pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Gregory Hanlon will speak on “Death Control in the West: New Research on Routine Infanticide in Northern Italy from the 16th to the 18th Century.”
Prostate Cancer Quality of Life Research (Friday, 3:40pm, Room 5620, Life Sciences Centre) — Gabriela Ilie will speak.
Race in a Glass Nation: Fragility and Dissent in the University and Beyond (Friday, 6pm, Alumni Hall, New Academic Building, University of Kings College) — Sunera Thobani, from the University of British Columbia will speak on the implications of talking about race in the 21st century, with a panel discussion to follow. Onsite childcare available.
No public events today.
The Impact of Demographic Shift on Future of Work and Housing (Friday, 8am, in the theatre named for a bank in the building named for a grocery store) — speakers include Deputy Minister Simon d’Entremont of the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors; Suzanne Cook of York University; Martha MacDonald of Saint Mary’s University; and Karen Foster of Dalhousie University. Tickets: https://housingandwork.eventbrite.ca.
Thesis Defence, Business Administration (Friday, 1pm, Room 171, Loyola Building) — PhD candidate Catherine Anne Fitzgerald will defend her thesis, “The Construction of Canadian Business Schools’ Occupational Health and Safety Curriculum.”
In the harbour
5am: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
6am: Don Carlos, car carrier, moves from Pier 31 to Autoport
7am: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
4pm: Don Carlos, car carrier, sails from Autoport to sea
We’re recording Examineradio today.