“The Nova Scotia Gaming Corp. paid thousands of dollars to fly three experts to Halifax to testify in favour of a government bill aimed at relaxing the rules of a program that bans problem gamblers from casinos for life,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:
A spokesperson for the Crown corporation said Monday that it expected to pay around $7,500 to cover the travel costs of Sue Birge, director of standards and accreditation for the Responsible Gambling Council; Jon Kelly, the council’s former CEO; and Jamie Wiebe, the council’s ex-director of research and development.
Laroche succinctly spelled out the problem in a tweet:
Highly unusual situation @NSLeg Law Amendments Committee. NS Gaming Corporation has paid people to appear before the committee to speak in favour of Bill 49. In essence, taxpayers are paying people to lobby its own government on a government bill. #nspoli
— Jean Laroche (@larochecbc) October 1, 2018
Sue Birge, Jon Kelly, and Jamie Wiebe are not listed on the provincial lobbyist registry, nor is Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, but under the regulations, “a submission to a committee of the House of Assembly that is on the public record” is not considered lobbying, so the testimony before the legislature’s Law Amendments committee does not appear to violate lobbying rules.
Still, it’s unseemly.
2. Solitary confinement
“Two former inmates of Nova Scotia jails have filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the province on the use of solitary confinement,” reports John McPhee for the Chronicle Herald:
The action was filed Monday by the Halifax law firm Valent Legal on behalf of proposed representative plaintiffs Robert Bailey and Caitlin Hill.
The claim alleges that the use of solitary confinement for consecutive periods exceeding 15 days constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in contravention of Section 12 of the charter.
“In Nova Scotia, solitary confinement under the title of ‘administrative segregation’ may be extended indefinitely,” a news release from Valent Legal said. “Administrative segregation is used to place prisoners in solitary confinement for reasons other than punishment of disciplinary infractions.”
Valent contends that prisoners with mental health challenges are commonly subjected to administrative segregation, “although they are among the most vulnerable to the often severe and lasting emotional, physical, and psychological consequences of holding someone for a prolonged period in a low-stimulus environment without meaningful human contact.”
Bailey said he believes that being subjected to solitary confinement has caused him lasting harm.
“I’m still suffering from the effects today,” he said in the release. “I hope that this lawsuit will create some much-needed change to the system.”
I suspect we’re about to see several similar lawsuits filed.
There’s been a renewed push for allowing Uber to operate in Halifax.
The pressure began to amp up in August after Corporate Research Associates (CRA) published the results of its “Urban Report” poll result, which found that 67 per cent of respondents in Halifax supported the introduction of Uber-like services. CRA did not say if Uber financed that portion of the poll.
Then, last week, Uber actively campaigned to get people to support Uber in a survey hosted by the city, reported Paul Palmeter for the CBC:
“We’ve used various ways, e-mail, social media, to let them know HRM is seeking their feedback,” said Chris Schafer, Uber Canada’s public policy manager. The deadline to complete the survey is Oct. 11.
Uber has sent that link to thousands of HRM residents who have used the Uber App in other places.
So much for a fair representation of citizens’ views.
But even without Uber placing its corporate thumb on the scale, it’s clear that a lot of people want Uber. But a lot of people want a lot of things; that doesn’t make them good policy.
I have no objection to Uber’s technology. Technology isn’t the issue here. (Casino Taxi’s app is great.) What’s at stake is driver pay and standards. On the latter, Globe & Mail editorialist Eric Andrew-Gee wrote a heart-wrenching account of the death of his friend Nick Cameron, who had used an Uber car to get to Pearson airport:
At first, the driver went the wrong way – east, away from the airport, all the way to Spadina. When he finally got turned around, he suggested taking city streets, rather than the highway. Nick and Monika urged him to take the Gardiner Expressway, by far the fastest route.
After a few minutes, the driver’s phone fell off his dashboard. He was using the phone’s GPS to navigate, so he pulled over. The shoulder at that part of the Gardiner, near Royal York Rd., is narrow — barely a car wide. People don’t pull over there unless their car has broken down.
When the driver had retrieved his phone, he merged back into traffic, apparently without checking his mirrors. A BMW smashed into them from behind. The rear left side of the Uber, where Nick was sitting, bore the brunt of the impact.
Nick was taken to the hospital without vital signs.
Andrew-Gee goes on to explain that safety training requirements for ride-share and taxi drivers have been abolished because Uber entered the market:
It turns out there isn’t any [safety training]. In the negotiations over Uber’s regulation two years ago, the city tried to placate cab companies worried about competition by levelling safety standards down, rather than up. That is, instead of imposing the same rules on Uber that the taxi firms faced, it eliminated most of the rules for everyone. A mandatory 17-day safety training course for cabbies was scrapped.
Now, ride-share chauffeurs in Toronto need only a regular driver’s licence, fewer than nine demerit points, no overdue by-law fines and no major criminal convictions or road infractions to their name.
Toronto’s peer cities all have more demanding safety regimes. In places as disparate as Montreal, Calgary, Chicago and New York, ride-share drivers have to undergo roughly the same combination of in-class safety lessons, written exams and road tests as taxi drivers. The length and stringency varies, but they all have some degree of training.
These cities have rejected Uber’s logic, which says the company offers lifts from friendly amateurs, not professional drivers, and that quality control can be maintained by a driver rating system that lets riders dole out stars for performance.
Nick’s case shows how flawed that thinking is. Being an Uber driver is demanding. You’re often working long shifts, during rush hour or at odd times of day; plying unfamiliar routes and navigating by GPS, which takes your attention away from the road; stopping and starting frequently to let out passengers; distracted by strangers in the back seat; and with the pressure of making good time to pick up the next fare. Given all these challenges, shouldn’t ride-share drivers be the best on the road?
I won’t detail the pay issues here, except to note that taxi driving has been the long-established route in particular for immigrants to gain a foothold in their adopted country; with Uber, that route no longer exists because the pay is shit.
I have friends and relatives driving for Uber. They think it brings a bit of extra income. I think they’re bad at math.
As I’ve pointed out before, Uber has offloaded all its costs — the drivers buy their cars and pay for their gas and maintenance. As contractors, there’s the issue of business insurance, or more to the point, the absence of business insurance, which may ultimately end up bankrupting many of them.
(This, incidentally, is why Uber’s hope for driverless cars is delusional, even if the technology somehow works out. Now, the company gets its drivers to pay for capital costs, maintenance, fuel, insurance, and labour. With driverless cars, the company itself will absorb all those costs and still expects to turn a profit. How does that make sense? If I could short Uber driverless car stock, I would. But I digress.)
It doesn’t make financial sense to drive for Uber except in the sense that you need money today, even if it means you’re essentially trading future costs for today’s income.
Sure, there’s a frightening large pool of desperately poor people out there who will take any work for even ultra-low wages, but surely we can do better than this.
Also, too, Uber is a horrible company.
4. Prompt payment
There’s a group called the Nova Scotia Prompt Payment Coalition, which describes itself as “a province-wide coalition led by the Construction Association of Nova Scotia and includes contractors, unions, suppliers, general contractors, trade contractors, and anyone else who is invested in working to convince the provincial government to enact appropriate payment legislation that would establish minimum norms for payment schedules.”
Yesterday, the group issued a press release:
“Our province needs a prompt payment solution that works for everyone including tradespeople, contractors, government and consumers,” said Tim Houtsma, member of the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction and a member of the coalition. “While this serious problem is being felt now in our industry, there is a risk to Nova Scotia’s competitiveness long-term if we do not take action to fix the issue.”
A 2018 survey of members of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia found:
- 77 per cent of respondents indicated delayed payments were occurring most or all of the time on their projects.
- 70 per cent believe the right legal framework does not exist to improve timeliness of payments.
- 94 per cent indicate delayed payment increases the cost of doing business.
- 67 per cent think delayed payment reduces their ability to bid work and expand their business.
- 75 per cent indicated delayed payment increases the cost of project delivery.
- 55 per cent agree or strongly agree that if paid in a more timely manner, their firm would increase the use of apprentices; while 53 per cent indicate they would hire more people.
“The existing law in Nova Scotia — the Builders Lien Act — is costly, cumbersome and inaccessible to 65 per cent of the construction industry,” said Duncan Williams, president of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia and another member of the coalition. “It addresses non-payment as opposed to delinquent payment and the lien rights of many in the industry will expire long before they realize they will not get paid.”
“We are asking that government immediately begin to work with our coalition to formulate and bring forward legislation before the end of 2018,” said Houtsma.
I have sympathy for contractors and workers waiting around forever having to go to extraordinary lengths to get paid. My perusal of court records finds scores of builders’ liens, reflecting that delays in payment is a regular occurrence, and seemingly standard practice — so common that even Dalhousie University and the Maritime Link project have had builders’ liens placed on them.
The problem isn’t restricted to the building industry. I work in media; most publications string freelancers along for many months, sometimes years, before paying them. And as freelance writer Luke O’Neil reported, some media companies are now using something called “FastFunds,” which in effect penalizes freelancers for getting paid quickly:
WorkMarket, the third party service that the Huffington Post and all of the Oath properties — Yahoo!, AOL, TechCrunch and others — uses to manage its accounts payable, was providing me the option to get paid earlier than I would normally, through something called FastFunds. That would be after forfeiting an ~8% cut, or around 195% APR to be clear. While that’s not quite the typical 400% a payday lender might charge — where the cost of borrowing $100 is between $15-30 if you manage to pay it back on time — it’s not that far off. If I preferred to wait another few weeks on top of the month plus I was currently waiting I could receive the full $700.
While WorkMarket insists that this is not the same thing as a payday loan, it’s not exactly clear how it differs in spirit. True, there are no penalties or debts assumed by the worker for late payments, but on the other hand the penalty is just moved to the front of the transaction.
WorkMarket was acquired by ADP, the financial services giant with $12.4 billion in revenue in 2017, earlier this year.
I have friends who work in accounts payable departments for a wide range of industries, and they assure me that a three-month or more delay in payment is common practice everywhere.
I understood delay in payment back in the days of high interest rates. It was still wrong, but there was a logic to it: keep the money in the bank as long as possible in order to maximize interest paid. But with interest rates so low today, delays seem to be simple dickishness: fuck you, make us pay you.
The captains of industry are horrible people.
City Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — I’m flying to Toronto this morning on a secret mission, so I’ll miss the meeting.
We’ll have guest writers for Wednesday’s and Thursday’s Morning Files. I always look forward to the varied voices, and they never disappoint.
Anyway, I wrote about what’s on the council agenda yesterday.
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm, BMO Centre, Bedford) — the Seventh Day Adventists want to expand Sandy Lake Academy.
Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)
Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)
Whose nation? Navigating a new era in Crown–Indigenous relations (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1011, Rowe Building) — from the event listing:
Indigenous communities have long sought political recognition and nationhood, but only recently have the affairs and governance of Canadian Indigenous peoples been recognized for containing some of the most pressing policy questions of our time, including questions about water governance, health practices, and self-determination. In May 2016, Canada officially removed its objector status to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, indicating the Crown’s intention to reset its relationship with Canadian Indigenous peoples. A new relationship, created on the principles of Nation to Nation governance, must be supported by a strong policy framework. In the coming years, Indigenous and Crown leaders will navigate through law and policy to determine how to address issues concerning resources, identity, autonomy and culture. This discussion focuses on some of the obstacles and opportunities decision-makers face as they try to reform our system of governance.
G.R.I.T. Resilience Training (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1198, McCain Building) — sounds like some woo-woo nonsense to me.
Thesis Defence, Pathology (Wednesday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Dudley Chung weill defend his thesis, “Evaluating the Role of the COP9 Signalosome and Neddylation During Cytokinesis and in Response to DNA Damage. ”
The BRIC NS Student Seminar Series (Wednesday, 2:30pm, Room 266, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Isaac Bai will talk about “Primary care prescribing patterns for patients on chronic and high dose opioid therapy: an observational study using electronic medical record data.” Brianna Richardson will talk about “Parental Prevention of Newborn Pain: Exploring educational strategies for promoting parental involvement in infant procedural pain management.”
Gaining control over a bacterial endosymbiont – The long way from endosymbiont to organelle (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Eva Nowak from Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf will speak.
From Africville to Alton Gas: A Pop-Up Book Launch for There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities (Wednesday, 6pm, Halifax Central Library) — launch of Ingrid Waldron’s new book.
Miriam Toews (Wednesday, 7pm, The King’s Co-op bookstore) — she’ll discuss her latest book, Women Talking, with Pauline Dakin.
In the harbour
5:45am: Serenade of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,580 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Boston; the Serenade is on a seven-day round-trip cruise out of Boston
6am: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
6:30am: AS Felicia, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Miami
6:30am: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
7am: Disney Magic, cruise ship with up to 2,456 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Baie Comeau; the Disney Magic is on a seven-day cruise from Quebec City to New York
7:30am: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, with up to 2,873 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Bar Harbor; the Norwegian Gem is on a nine-day cruise from New York to Quebec City
11am: Barge John J. Carrick, sails from McAsphalt for sea
12:30pm: Coral Queen, bulker, arrives at anchorage from Becancour, Quebec
2pm: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
3:30pm: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
4:30pm: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
5:45pm: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for Sydney
6:15pm: Disney Magic, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for New York
6:30pm: Serenade of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
7pm: Coral Queen, bulker, sails from anchorage for sea
8:30pm: AS Felicia, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
A short Morning File today as I’m off to the airport. I hope the plane doesn’t crash.