1. Wage legislation
Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government yesterday introduced wage legislation. Explains Chronicle Herald reporter Michael Gorman:
If proclaimed, the bill would set four-year contracts for public sector workers with no wage increases in the first two years, a one per cent increase in the third year, a 1.5 per cent increase at the start of the fourth year and a 0.5 per cent increase on the final day of the fourth year.
Those are the same numbers in tentative agreements for civil servants, teachers, medical residents and Crown attorneys. Only residents have ratified the deal so far; teachers rejected it and civil servants delayed a vote until next month.
Bill 148 would impact 75,000 people. The biggest change between the tentative deals and the legislation is to the long-service award.
While the tentative deals put a freeze on the years accumulated for the payouts about 45,000 people are eligible to receive upon retirement, it would allow them to be paid out based on a worker’s salary upon retirement. Delorey’s legislation would see the award paid out based on a person’s salary on April 1 of this year.
The CBC has published a collection of union leaders’ responses to the bill.
The legislature has been debating the bill all night. The CBC’s Jean Laroche is live-blogging debate on Twitter.
We’ll see how this unfolds, but I think McNeil has overplayed his hand. He thinks he can simply impose his will by fiat, and maybe he can — he has a majority government and there’s no doubt that the legislation will pass.
McNeil says he will hold off on having the law proclaimed so that if unions reject the wage provisions through contract negotiations, he can later have it proclaimed and force the wage reductions on the unions. But there’s no way the unions will simply accept this. At the very least there will be lawsuits, and very possibly a winter of labour disruption.
McNeil has declared war, and the first rule of war is that it never proceeds as expected.
2. Joe Metlege’s “altruistic” conflict of interest
Halifax developer Joe Metlege was recently appointed to the Districts 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations about development applications to Halifax city council.
Yesterday, reporter Chris Benjamin asked whether Metlege’s appointment is a conflict of interest, and why don’t we know what businesses committee members are connected to?
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“The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) will be getting back thousands of dollars cut from its funding in the spring budget,” reports Haley Ryan:
On Monday, health department spokesman Tony Kiritsis confirmed the roughly $155,000 lost due to the cut has been returned through the health department.
“CNIB provides a unique and valuable service and government is committed to this organization, as we have been for many years,” Kiritsis said in an email.
The government smacked right up against the perverse logic of neoliberalism. Cutting money to an agency that helps blind people doesn’t make those blind people or their needs go away, disappearing from the political landscape forever. Quite the contrary. When the cuts were imposed, CNIB had to lay off staff and cut services. Immediately, the most sympathetic special interest group there is — blind people — said that if CNIB can’t deliver those services, then the government has to. Turns out, it costs a whole lot more for government to create a new bureaucracy and acquire the expertise to deliver those services than to simply rely on an established group that has honed those skills for decades. Once the numbers were in, CNIB funding was restored.
4. Pedestrians struck
From the police department’s end-of shift email to reporters:
Shortly after 6pm Halifax Regional Police received a call reporting a man was struck by a vehicle at the intersection of North Street and Gladstone Street in Halifax. When officers arrived they located a motorist and pedestrian who was being tended to by citizens. Officers interviewed witnesses and conducted an investigation into the incident. Subsequently a summary offence ticket was issued to the 53-year-old man for section 125 (3) of the Motor Vehicle Act (Pedestrian moving into the path of a moving vehicle when impractical for the vehicle to stop). The pedestrian was treated by Emergency Health Services and released from the scene.
Shortly after 600pm Halifax Regional Police received a call reporting a man was struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Robie Street and Shirley Street in Halifax. Upon police arrival officers located an 83-year-old female motorist and witnesses. The pedestrian had already left for treatment for minor injuries under his own power to the hospital. The subsequent investigation resulted in a summary offence ticket being issued to the driver for Failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
5. The dog eat dog world of Dartmouth
From the same police email comes this upsetting incident:
Halifax Regional Police attended a residence on Fourth Street in Dartmouth in response to an animal complaint. When officers spoke to the resident they were told an unknown dog had entered their home and grabbed their family dog and pulled it back outside where it was killed. Attending officers searched the area for a dog matching the given description and located the dog on a neighbouring street. Once the dog was secured in a police car HRM Animal Control was contacted and the animal was handed over to the responding investigators. The Halifax Regional Police will be cooperating with Animal Control as they continue this investigation moving forward.
“Steele Auto Group has snapped up Colonial Honda in Halifax,” reports the Chronicle Herald. “Steele Auto Group, which has its head office in Dartmouth, now represents 22 brands at 18 auto dealerships and operates five collision centres across the Atlantic region.”
Er, is there a Canadian equivalent of the US anti-trust law? It sure looks like Steele has an effective monopoly on new car sales in Nova Scotia. No doubt the price of new cars is going up as a result.
Where are all the people who profess to care about the state of our economy? This is a clear example of Nova Scotians paying too much for a needed good, and the money spent on that good is not recirculating in the local economy but instead going straight to Bay Street and Wall Street.
Breaking the Steele monopoly on new car sales would single-handedly do far more for the local economy than holding a half dozen wankfests to try out new buzzwords and paying homage to Nova Scotia Power board member Saint Ray Ivany.
1. Parking lot
Stephen Archibald has had a not-so-silent hate-on for 40 years for the parking lot that will soon be developed on the Margaretta block.
2. Two economies
The Chronicle Herald today editorializes in support of the Liberal wage law, noting:
The province as a whole is dealing with a tough economy and slow income growth… Real growth in the provincial economy is now forecast to be one per cent for 2015 and 0.8 per cent for 2016, compared with forecast growth rates of 1.7 per cent and 1.5 per cent at the time of the budget last spring.
And yet just last week the business section of the Chronicle Herald reported that:
Federal shipbuilding contracts and offshore oil exploration will boost Nova Scotia’s economy by 2.3 per cent next year, the Conference Board of Canada says.
The increase in the province’s gross domestic product will follow estimated growth of 1.8 per cent in 2015.
Natalia Ward, economist with the board’s provincial group, said Monday the board is also predicting a 1.7 per cent hike in economic activity in 2017.
“Overall, Nova Scotia is looking at a very sunny outlook, much better than the province has seen just recently,” she said in an interview from Ottawa.
“Even though we do have the declines in natural gas production, everything else looks much better.”
I guess there are two sets of economic forecasts we can break out. When we want to slash workers’ pay, we break out the economic forecasts that say the economy’s in the toilet, and when we want to bolster our rah-rah boosterism credentials we break out the economic forecasts that say everything’s “rosy,” as the headline puts it.
Besides that, the Chronicle Herald has a distorted view of how the economy works:
Essentially, the province is taking in less because, compared with earlier forecasts, incomes are less, pay raises are less, profits are less, energy production and energy exports are a lot less, retail spending is less and even our use of that cheaper gas is less. That’s the reality the province must deal with. One way or another, public wage growth must be less, too. It can’t be divorced from the broader economy.
I agree: public service workers can’t be divorced from the broader economy. But that’s precisely what the paper is doing by suggesting we can simply cut workers’ pay and it won’t affect the broader economy. Those public wages drive the local economy — who does the Chronicle Herald thinks is paying those taxes and spending at retail stores? Yep, public workers who buy goods and services, invest in homes, and spend their money locally. Cut their pay and they’ll be doing a whole lot less of that, hurting the entire economy.
3. Cranky letter of the day
I am sure many readers have seen articles and news stories on the despicable acts of illegal dumping that occur in remote areas of Cape Breton Island.
We ponder how a person can simply pull up to an isolated spot and throw trash without a care for the environment or those left to clean up after them.
Well, imagine if you can pulling into your workplace parking lot and seeing this same vision on the doorstep and spread over a couple of meters on the parking lot.
Garbage; dirty, broken pieces of toys; soiled rotten stuffed animals; a smashed and filthy monitor screen; junk. In the end, nine filled oversize garbage bags that had to be dragged to the front of the Every Women’s Centre in Sydney to await Thursday’s garbage pick up.
Any time of year would be hard enough, but at this time of the year, when staff are working long hours and you come in early to get a start on the day only to face this kind of inconvenience and disrespect for the work we do, you shake your head and wonder what kind of person would drive to a place that strives to assist families in our community and dump their garbage. Then they drive away as if they have done you a favour.
This is totally not acceptable. Anywhere.
Every Woman’s Centre sponsors the largest Christmas Program on the island. Everything that goes into the program is new. This is Santa coming to children. Santa doesn’t bring broken, dirty pieces of junk. At this time of year we do not take donations of clothing or household items because we are working on the Christmas program. We never take donations of toys (other than new toys for Adopt A Family).
The point of this letter is to shed light on a problem faced by many organizations. We depend on the support of the community to be able to offer things to those in need throughout the year. It is always best to call and ask if certain things are needed. We ask that nothing be left on the steps as it defeats the purpose of the donation when it is left out in the elements.
We also ask that should you see someone pull up anywhere and begin to toss things from their vehicle, call the police or at the very least get a license plate number.
Every Woman’s Centre
The Oval — maybe it opens today, maybe it doesn’t. Updates here.
Legislature sits (12:01am–11:59pm [i.e., all day], Province House)
Human Resources (11am, One Government Place) — “Appointments to Agencies, Boards and Commissions,” i.e., an excuse to collect committee pay.
This date in history
On December 15, 1902, Peter “Lordly” Verigin arrived in Halifax, on his way to points west.
Verigin’s story is an odd bit of Canadiana:
During 15 years of exile, first in Shenkursk, near Archangel (Arkhangel’sk), Russia, and then further north in Kola, near Murmansk, once more in Shenkursk, and finally in the Siberian village of Obdorsk (Salekhard), Verigin underwent a great deal of soul-searching. Influenced by his encounters with exiled revolutionaries and anarchists, as well as by his wide reading, including the works of Count Tolstoy, he laid new emphasis on a long-held Doukhobor tenet that violence, along with other human vices, was to be rejected at all costs. His ideas were conveyed back to the Caucasus by followers who paid him frequent visits and brought him money to supplement his earnings, allowing him some comfort and permitting him to feed the poor. At the end of 1893 he sent his adherents a manifesto. It called on them to refuse military service, divest themselves as much as possible of personal property (thus reviving an earlier tradition of communal holdings), and abstain not only from the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, but also from eating meat. This last directive led to a serious schism of the Large Party into Fasters (postniki) and Meat-eaters (miasniki). The Meat-eaters, sometimes known as the Middle Party, continued to acknowledge Verigin as their leader, but declined to accept his more radical views. Verigin also called on his flock to practise celibacy during the period of instability (this exhortation would be rescinded on their emigration to Canada). He proposed a new name for the group, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB), which would become the official name of the Doukhobor community in Canada.
During Verigin’s exile the Doukhobors’ plight had come to the attention of interested outsiders – especially English Quakers – in large part through Verigin’s correspondence with Tolstoy, who had come to see in the sect’s pacifist, communal, and vegetarian lifestyle a practical embodiment of his own philosophy. Articles published in western papers by Tolstoy and his followers met with a sympathetic response from Prince Kropotkin, a Russian anarchist who had travelled extensively in Canada. Prompted by letters from both Tolstoy and Kropotkin, James Mavor, a professor of political economy at the University of Toronto, made enquiries of the minister of the interior, Clifford Sifton, as to the feasibility of bringing the Doukhobors to Canada. As a result of his negotiations, some 7,500 immigrants, mostly members of the Large Party, arrived during the winter and spring of 1899. They were granted homesteads in two colonies in the District of Assiniboia (another one was added later in the District of Saskatchewan). In a letter to Tolstoy on 16 Aug. 1898 Verigin had declared that he was opposed in principle to emigration, but resigned to it if no better option was available. At first prohibited from joining his followers, he was finally allowed to leave Russia in July 1902, when his last term of exile ended.
In October 1924 the hatred directed against Verigin from both disaffected CCUB members and Freedomites led to tragedy when a bomb exploded in the train on which he was travelling from Castlegar to Grand Forks. His death was generally viewed as an assassination, although the culprit was never found, and Verigin has continued to live on in Doukhobor memory as a martyr to their ideal of a Christian life. His exalted place among members of an otherwise egalitarian sect made him an unusual and controversial figure, especially in the Canadian context. Endowed with a natural ability for leadership and surpassing his brethren in intellectual achievement and ideological development, he remained one with them in spirit and community of purpose. In addition, his striving for inner development and moral and spiritual self-perfection made him a powerful religious figure.
I haven’t had time to check if any of the local papers made note of Verigin’s arrival in Halifax.
In the harbour
Toreador, car carrier, arrived at Autoport this morning, sails to New York this afternoon
OOCL Washington, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove this morning from Cagliari, Italy; sails to sea this afternoon
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, arrived at HalTerm this morning from St. John’s
Primus, container ship, Lisbon, Portugal to Pier 41, then sails to sea
Balchen, bulker, Charleston, South Carolina to National Gypsum
Trying to write today.