November Subscription Drive
1. Just how low, and how bad, can the Chronicle Herald get?
In a bid to restart negotiations between the Chronicle Herald management and its striking newsroom employees, the union sent the company a request for a meeting. But the company responded with a precondition for talks, writes Stephen Kimber:
Incredibly, during that last abortive non-attempt to make a deal, the Herald upped the ante yet again, demanding the union not only close LocalXpress — the reporters’ and editors’ strike paper — but also turn over the url and all content created during the strike to the Herald!
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
Meanwhile, the Herald’s annual Parade of Lights was held Saturday night. The rain managed to hold off until almost the exact start of the parade, and the deluge continued until the parade was finishing up, and then things miraculously cleared up.
Hey Mark Lever: The sky dogs are sending you a message!
More hilarity ensued Sunday morning, when the Herald posted parade photos with error-ridden cutlines. Teachers, here’s an easy exercise for your Grade 4 students…. find the grammatical and spelling errors:
To be sure, we’ve all made mistakes with plurals, possessives, and spelling (but rarely so many all at once), so maybe that can be overlooked. But, come on, they misspelled Santa Claus’s name —not once, but twice, while covering their very own Santa Claus parade!
This is what happens when you think you can run a newspaper without editors. Besides, you can’t fool me — there ain’t no sanity clause:
Incidentally, a reader points out that the Sean Previl who has been working for Global TV since November 14 appears to be the same Sean Previl who was scabbing at the Chronicle Herald up to November 13. If so, I don’t know what we do with that, but the Chronicle Herald work doesn’t appear on Previl’s LinkedIn page, so maybe he’s ashamed?
2. Living wage and city council
Over the weekend, union representative Mark Cunningham noted on Facebook that:
Last week, HRM Council unanimously voted in favour of signing a contract for a new company to clean The Sackville Sports Stadium. The company that has been cleaning the building for the past 13 years was out bid by Imperial Cleaners. In the staff report to council it was mentioned that it would cost double the cost to bring the work back in house so that was quickly rejected. Money seems to be everything to council and the people who provide the work don’t get a second thought.
Imperial Cleaners’ bid was $220,080 the first year, $225,240 the second year and $229,800 the third year. The bid called for having staff on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This also includes equipment and supplies. So either Imperial Cleaners is taking a loss on this contract or they are paying their workers minimum wage, with absolutely no benefits except what they are legally forced to provide under labour law.
I can only imagine how busy our new members of council are at the moment and all they have to learn in order to be confident in their new jobs, and so it is hard to blame them for missing something that just looks like a contract renewal. But we need to do better. Much better! We need to start looking not only at what the cost of providing all the different services the municipality provides but also at the workers who provide these services.
Signing a three-year contract for a company that is paying their workers minimum wage is not the direction I was hoping our somewhat new council would take. My hope is this was a mistake. If it was, fair enough. Like I said, I imagine they are overwhelmed at the moment with their new jobs. However, if this was not an oversight, and this is what we will be expecting in the future, then I’m afraid our new-ish council is looking a lot like our old council.
During the election, Tim Bousquet did a great job at getting some candidates talking about a municipal living wage policy. I was very surprised to see so many candidates actually saying they supported it! And some of those candidates are now on HRM council. Yet, when a motion was put in front of them, they all voted to keep workers working in poverty.
No one should ever have to choose between paying the rent and feeding their family. HRM council has a real opportunity to lift many people out of poverty. A municipal living wage policy would do this. However, we can also do it one contract at a time.
HRM council and our new CAO, I give you an F for approving this contract. I hope you can work towards an A next time.
One commenter confirmed that the Imperial workers are getting paid minimum wage, and another, Dennis Kutchera, pointed out that the city always seems to have money for things like a new logo and new signs, but never for workers, to which I replied:
Dennis, you’re right that we spend money on all sorts of things we don’t need to. As I’ve often said, we can afford what we want to afford: there’s money for consultants, etc, but never enough to pay regular working people a decent wage.
But still, I don’t even think we need to go there. This crazy race to the bottom is absurd. Yes, on a year-long bottom line basis, we “save” money by cutting workers’ pay — that’s simple math: we paid worker A $40,000 last year, so if we pay her replacement contracted worker $30,000 this year, we save $10,000! But this is short-term thinking and it ignores the greater economy.
When we pay people decently, they have long-term security and can do things like buy a house and spend money in restaurants and shops, etc. That spins off as increased property taxes and successful businesses that also pay taxes… It’s funny to me that we talk about “economic spinoff” when the government wants to fund some big project promoted by a rich connected person like a golf course or a convention centre, but we never talk about decreased economic spinoff when we cut workers’ wages.
I remind readers of how sitting councillors (then candidates) responded to my question about whether or not they support a living wage ordinance.
I do not believe anybody, especially someone trying to support a family, can live on a minimum wage. After the last election, I returned to the private sector. Within our group of companies, we are able to keep good employees by paying them well. With nobody making less than $15/hr, and many making much more. If elected, I would expect HRM contractors to do no less.
I support a Living Wage for all employees who are directly employed by the municipality.
This was a dodge on Austin’s part: you can easily get around the provisions of a living wage ordinance that’s limited to workers “directly employed by the municipality” by contracting out services to companies that pay shit wages.
Yes, recognizing that some summer student jobs and whatnot may not pay that wage, and that there is still some debate about what a living wage is. It sure is more than minimum wage!
I would support a living wage ordinance. I believe it’s important that those who work for our municipality, directly or on contract, earn a living wage. Looking at the recent example of the HRM parking enforcement contract, I was firmly of the view that the Commissionaires should have received the contract. Not only did they have the highest technical score on their bid, they pay a fair wage to their employees – mostly former military and police officers. As my grandfather used to day, you get what you pay for.
In short, yes. Here is why. The troika of Neoliberalism, runaway technological innovation (robotics/AI) and an accelerating environmental crisis are assaulting our way of life as never before. Social stability, how we make a living, the circumstances surrounding how we make a living, are changing. What were once considered to be stable jobs and careers are falling by the wayside. Manual labour, manufacturing, construction, depletion of natural resources, consolidation, and vertical integration all mean that traditional jobs are disappearing. Because of consolidation, globalization and international trade deals set up by giant multinational corporations for their own benefit, and rubber stamped by all levels of government, companies are able to shift production to parts of the world where there are no unions, wages are a fraction of what they they would be in Canada, and no environmental laws. Because of this we get to wallow in cheap goods manufactured on the backs workers in near slave conditions.
Neoliberalism is a mode of government where we assign a dollar value to everything, and take from the public and give it to the richest segment of society, hoping that some of the wealth trickles down to the rest of society. In reality nothing of the sort happens, The richest get richer, the middle class gets marginalized and the poorest disenfranchised. Government services like education, medical, communications, power, justice, and a host of other services get sold to the highest bidder, to create private monopolies, which we have as a society, created at great expense to the public purse through our taxes. These services get squeezed to the breaking point, to maximize shareholder profit and evade the very services they were intended to provide.
The massive wealth we as a society in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Canada, have invested in and created is now in the hands of a very few monopolies, while governments scream “fiscal balance” and increase taxes, and reduce and privatize services.
Living wage you ask? Hell Yes!
Yes. I support a living wage100% The benefits outweigh the drawbacks. It would lead to wage-led growth, reduced poverty, and less reliance on public support programs. Low-wage workers could become economic drivers in our local communities. With a living wage, business owners would see higher sales and lower employee turnover. I think a living wage is good for workers, good for businesses, and good for taxpayers.
Mayor Mike Savage:
I think a living wage ordinance is well worth considering, but, before commenting on it, I would want to better understand its implications, including on small-scale vendors and our tax rate, which could have a negative impact on some of our lower income earners, who pay property tax directly or indirectly through their rent.
I do support Halifax as a test pilot site for a Guaranteed Annual Income, which is a different way of supporting the objective of poverty reduction. Both living wage and guaranteed annual income would be part of the consideration for the anti-poverty strategy I have proposed.
I can understand how the Sackville Sports Stadium contract was awarded without consideration of a living wage being paid by the contractor because there isn’t yet a living wage ordinance in place.
But there’s good news: This Thursday, council is meeting to discuss its “Multi-year Priority Outcomes.” As explained by the agenda for the meeting:
Over the last three municipal elections, Regional Council has established priority outcomes for their term and directed staff to develop annual plans to advance those outcomes. Consistent with this practice, staff is seeking Council’s direction on 17/18 Multi-year priority outcomes.
Alas, in the “Recommended Priority Outcomes” proposed by staff, the word “wage” does not appear.
Here’s your opportunity, new councillors: insist that a living wage ordinance be a priority.
3. Examineradio, episode #88
Also, Nova Scotia teachers agree to head back to the bargaining table in advance of their December 3 walkout date, Halifax is rocked by another series of shootings, and the city decides to level Citadel Hill and silence the Noon Gun just as soon as they finish filling the harbour with rubble.
4. Secrecy around the port of Sydney
“The Cape Breton Regional Municipality wants nearly $43,000 to answer a resident’s questions about municipal expense claims and contracts related to port development,” reports Joan Weeks for the CBC:
The request was made through Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, known as FOIPOP.
The CBRM said filling the request will take 16,000 pages of photocopying and 1,316 hours of work at $30/hr.
The person seeking the information does not want to be identified, but is represented by Sydney lawyer Guy LaFosse.
The request is looking at three bodies in addition to the CBRM — the Port of Sydney Development Corporation and Harbor Port Development Partners Incorporated and the Business Cape Breton Association.
Port of Sydney Development Corporation is responsible for managing cruise ship activity and business development for the port. The corporation’s board is chaired by CBRM’s CAO Michael Merritt and the mayor, deputy mayor and three councillors serve as directors.
The FOI request doesn’t appear to have been filed by Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator (because I think she would have said so, but who knows?), but she notes:
If I seem particularly het up, it’s because I’ve been reading a lot about the Ben Eoin Marina lately and I discovered something I hadn’t known before: Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation was nominated for the Canadian Association of Journalists’ 2013 “Code of Silence” award, an honor reserved for “the most secretive government or publicly funded agency” in Canada. ECBC got the nod for its fine work on the marina file but lost the award to Whistler, BC. (Note to self: nominate CBRM and/or Port of Sydney Development Corporation for 2016 award.)
It’s hard to keep track of all the agencies, but Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation was administered by ACOA until it “imploded” (Campbell’s word) in 2014. But the players in all the various agencies overlap and are basically the same names.
If you want a good primer on Cape Breton economic development fiascos, read Campbell’s recap on the Ben Eoin Marina: Part 1 and Part 2. I especially like the lesson Campbell wants readers to take away:
Question dubious assertions.
Sometimes, people trying to sell you on something will say anything. Questioning what they tell you is not just okay, it’s imperative — especially when expenditures of public money are involved.
She then list the specific dubious assertions made about Ben Eoin in hilarious detail:
In its “business plan,” the Ben Eoin Marina board argued that the marina, combined with the Birches at Ben Eoin Country Inn, the golf course and the ski hill would form the core of a “four seasons resort” on an Island that, famously, does not have four seasons. The “plan” provided not a shred of evidence to back the assertion that tourists would flock here 12 months a year while actively ignoring evidence suggesting they would not.
The loopiest parts of the marina board’s “business plan” (I still can’t bring myself to drop the quotation marks) involve a number of imaginary developments that would be key to the success of the “four seasons” resort. They included a hilltop hotel and housing development (houses/chalets/condos), a zip line, an equestrian center, a life-sized replica of the Taj Mahal and an industrial-sized slingshot for propelling people into the middle of the lake (I made the last two up but I swear neither would have raised eyebrows at an ECBC board meeting).
Campbell makes the important point that the people behind Ben Eoin were the exact same people now pushing the ludicrous idea that Sydney could become an international container port:
And here, I’m going to turn things over to a familiar figure. Although her area of expertise these days is state-of-the-art automated container terminals and international shipping routes, in 2013, as acting CEO of ECBC, Marlene Usher specialized in resort development:
At a press conference last week, acting ECBC CEO Marlene Usher said that by building on Ski Ben Eoin, The Lakes golf course and now Ben Eoin Marina, they estimated that more [than] $58 million in new investment will be spent, with $30 million of that being tied to potential new residential development and construction of a hotel. [Cape Breton Post, 4 February 2013]
Of course, all that materialized was a $1.1 million (ECBC funded) access road to 16 building lots (one of which, apparently, sold, the rest of which are up for sale by Public Services and Procurement Canada, which inherited all ECBC’s property holdings when ECBC imploded in 2014; ECBC had expected to earn $70,000 to $100,000 for the lots which are now priced between $45,000 to $70,000).
Question dubious assertions — especially when the person telling you dubious things has told you a lot of other dubious things in the past.
Of course, the point of making it exceedingly difficult and expensive to get information through a Freedom of Information request is to make it impossible to question dubious assertions.
And don’t at all think I’m unfairly ragging on Cape Breton. Remember when a bunch of Halifax mucky mucks put forward the beyond-bizarre notion that Halifax could host the Olympic games, and then reformatted that proposal to hosting the Commonwealth Games, a bid that had to be aborted because a $700 million “right sized” games proposal morphed into a $2 billion self-enriching fiasco, and then we took the very same mucky mucks’ advice and built, or tried to build anyway, a convention centre?
5. Ships start in Denmark and Britain
“The Danish navy cancelled sending one its frigates to Halifax after the federal government indicated it couldn’t be involved with the visit since the vessel was of the type that could be considered in the competition for a new Canadian warship,” reports David Pugliese for the Ottawa Citizen:
The Royal Canadian Navy and federal officials were worried about the appearance of a conflict of interest surrounding the visit of the Danish warship HDMS Peter Willemoes. A Danish firm plans to submit the same ship design in its bid for the $26-billion Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) program.
The concerns raised by the Canadian government, which led to the cancellation of the Nov. 14-15 port visit, are in contrast to its reaction to the news that Irving Shipbuilding, which will play a key role in selecting the winning bid for the new surface combatants, was itself partnered with a British firm submitting a bid on that program.
But Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and government officials say they have no issues with that arrangement between BAE, a British company, and Irving.
Irving and BAE have joined forces to bid on an upcoming maintenance contract for the navy’s new Arctic patrol ships and supply ships. But BAE will also be bidding on the new CSC program; Irving, which will build the warships, will help select the winning bids on that project.
Officials with other companies considering bidding on the CSC have privately said that development is a blatant conflict of interest.
In other navy news, Canada is invading Cuba, reports the Canadian Press:
HMCS Fredericton departed for the Caribbean island on Friday. The ship had been taking part of a training exercise off the coast of Florida that wrapped up this week.
The Royal Canadian Navy frigate is expected to visit Havana and several other ports in the region, including Cartagena, Colombia — and Veracruz, Mexico.
6. “Stop and rethink” on transit
It’s More than Buses (IMTB) has issued a press release calling for “an immediate ‘stop and rethink’ to Halifax Transit’s network redesign plan.” It reads:
The group has serious concerns that the plan, as designed, will not meet the needs of residents and visitors in the region.
“This is a plan that disregards the key principles that Halifax Transit itself identified through years of public engagement and consultation,” the group said in a statement. “These are the same principles that were presented to and approved by Regional Council,” the statement continued.
IMTB proposes that, at the upcoming meeting on Tuesday, November 22, Halifax Regional Council pause the current plan and direct Halifax Transit to seek an external expert in transit network design to advise, assist, and review the network redesign process.
The current plan, called Moving Forward Together, identifies four key principles for the future of Halifax Transit: (1) increase resources allocated to high ridership services, (2) build a simplified transfer based system, (3) invest in service quality and reliability, and (4) give transit increased priority in the transportation network.
IMTB says the new routes that are proposed in Moving Forward Together are “largely a variation of the status quo and will not provide any significant increase in travel choices over the existing transit network.” In addition, they noted that “many of the routes overlap, thereby rendering them redundant, and do not run with enough frequency or speed to attract new riders.”
The group raised concerns about the lack of information and justification in the Moving Forward Together Plan, claiming that Halifax Transit has not provided enough evidence, such as travel time mapping and resource allocation figures, to justify how these changes could impact regional travel choices. Also noted was that the proposed five-year implementation of Moving Forward Together will make taking transit highly unpredictable as routes will constantly be changing.
1. “Conquered people”
After a lawyer representing the provincial government in the legal battle over the Alton Gas project wrote in a court defence that the Mi’kmaq are a “conquered people,” Local Xpress columnist John DeMont asked the allegedly conquered for comment:
When I contacted him Friday, Mi’kmaq historian Danny Paul said there’s not a single mention of surrender or land cessation in any of the mid-18th century treaties around which the province’s solicitor apparently based his case.
“The long and the short of the matter is that the mentality behind it is the continuation of British treacherous bullshit,” Paul said when I asked him about the Justice Department’s point of view.
That doesn’t sound like the member of a defeated people to me.
2. Cranky letter of the day
At a meeting last month in Little Narrows, officials from the provincial transportation department came to present three designs for a possible bridge to replace our ferry, and to hear the village’s response.
Most of the 20 people in attendance were eager to hear about the bridge. Many more would have agreed if the meeting had not been held during mid-week working hours. Only four who do not live in the village spoke against it.
Most residents would prefer a toll bridge to the ferry because they would be sure of crossing the water. For example, the ferry was shut down three days recently. Twice in recent years the cable has broken while oil trucks were sitting on board leaving them stranded, drifting in the middle of the channel. The night that our little store burned to the ground the ferry was sitting idle, but the operator wouldn’t let the fire trucks on board because the deck had been freshly painted. Before that the storeowners faced difficulty stocking the shelves because suppliers would not pay ferry fees to deliver canned goods.
Many people have considered buying houses in Little Narrows but changed their minds because of the continual clanging and banging of the ferry that can be heard kilometres away. Years back, our minister, Rev. Angus MacKinnon, moved to Glace Bay because he couldn’t put up with the ferry. We depend on the ferry every Sunday to get to church, but you can never be sure that you will cross.
Since I was a little girl, I have heard people say that the ferry is a drawback for our village. I spent 26 years driving the school bus to Baddeck and I had my fill of wasted hours struggling to get home again.
Some have said that the ferry preserves local jobs, but that is false. Only one person from Little Narrows works on it and she is part-time. A local man, hired as a spare, hasn’t had a shift in weeks while the regular staff comes as far away as Sydney Mines.
In the 21st century it is silly that we are still expected to cross a stream on a string. I am glad that the province is considering bringing us into modern times.
A bridge would save money in the long run and is long overdue.
Georgina MacLeod, Little Narrows
Accessibility Committee (4pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
No public meetings.
No events scheduled.
In the harbour
6:40am: Algoma Dartmouth, oil tanker, sails from Anchorage #1 for sea
8am: Spar Pyxis, bulker, arrives at anchorage from Port Cartier, Quebec for bunkers
4:30pm: Mary, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Cagliari, Italy