1. Flights diverted
Via the Chronicle Herald and Canadian Press:
Two Air France flights bound for Paris were diverted to airports in Halifax and Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday.
Air France Flight 055, on its way to Paris from Washington, D.C., was diverted to Halifax at 10:15 p.m. Tuesday night due to a threat.
Halifax District RCMP searched the plane and luggage aboard with the help of service dogs and said in a 3:15 a.m. release that no explosive device was found. They also said their investigation continues.
Halifax’s fashion, style, and cultural quotient just jumped upwards exponentially.
2. Nova Star
“The operators of the Nova Star ferry say they are struggling to pay their outstanding bills because the province owes them $2 million, but the province says it has already paid its obligations,” reports the CBC:
In a news release issued Monday, the company said that when the province originally signed a contract with the ferry operator in November 2013, $2 million was to be set aside to cover a surety bond required by U.S. authorities to ensure there would be enough money to cover ticket refunds.
Nova Star operators later set up an escrow account to replace the surety bond. The company says the province did not then give it the $2 million.
The company says the $2 million has caused financial hardship for the company.
“If we had received the full $21 million that the Province has repeatedly said in public statements that it provided to Nova Star Cruises, we would have avoided the liens that have been placed on the ship, and most of the creditors would already have been paid,” Nova Star Cruises president and CEO Mark Amundsen said in a statement.
My guess is that the company is going to try to put off creditors until the spring, at which point the Nova Scotia government will be in a bind: It will want to start a new ferry to Portland operated by Bay Ferries, but it’s unlikely the Portland creditors will provide services like fuel and piloting until they get paid the money owed to them by Nova Star.
If the province really wants a Yarmouth ferry, it’s going to have to cave to Nova Star’s demands.
3. Melvin v Marriott
Vice got Mexico City-based writer Nathaniel Janowitz to write about Spryfield and the Melvin v Marriot saga.
It’s not clear that Janowitz ever stepped foot in Nova Scotia [update 10am: commenters tell me Janowithz grew up in Halifax and was here over the summer.] (psst, Vice, we’ve got writers right here!), and some of his characterizations are a bit off (Topix is a “popular Halifax message board”?), but it’s an entertaining read and we get to point and laugh at the Spryfieldians again, so why not?
4. The same old game
Yesterday, I discussed the problems young people in Nova Scotia have in finding jobs that pay a decent wage. I was completely unaware (hey, I’ve had things to do) that the Halifax Partnership was launching its “Game Changer” campaign almost exactly as I was publishing. And what’s the Game Changer campaign? Halifax Partnership explains via a press release:
HALIFAX, Nov. 17, 2015 /CNW/ – This morning the Halifax Partnership and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage unveiled the Game Changers Action Plan, challenging thousands of Halifax business leaders to hire youth and become Game Changers.
“It’s time to make a change and help more young people call Halifax home,” says Mayor Mike Savage. “Halifax’s business community and the public sector have a shared responsibility to make sure our youth have opportunities to work, live and succeed in our city.”
The Game Changers initiative is based on the Halifax Partnership’s Youth Retention study, released in October. The Partnership found that each year on net, Nova Scotia loses 1,300 young people between the ages of 20 and 29. This out-migration of talent costs the province an estimated $1.2 billion in lifetime after-tax income and an estimated $46.4 million in net future taxes.
For the next three years through Game Changers, the Halifax Partnership will connect businesses with the resources they need to hire, create co-op positions and help new graduates build professional networks in Halifax through their Connector Program.
“This is a huge opportunity to grow our our city, our province, our economy and our reputation,” says Ron Hanlon, President and CEO of the Halifax Partnership. “Let’s not let another year pass and lose the best and brightest talent to other provinces.”
There’s merit in trying to connect young people to potential jobs, so I held my cynicism back. Plus, they made a groovy video:
The Game Changer Action Plan explained that:
The Game Changer Action Plan will be supported by private sector sponsorship. It is a way to further engage investors in the Halifax Partnership, by attaching a specific program and set of deliverables to their support. The initiative is designed to allow for customization to meet the needs and objectives of individual sponsors.
Fair enough: if we’re going to get private companies to hire people, we’re going to have to get the private companies involved. Makes sense.
But… (you knew there’d be a but, right?) who are those private companies and what’s their employment track record?
Halifax Partnership tells me that the Game Changer campaign’s “partners” are RBC, Chronicle Herald, Marriott, City of Halifax, Dalhousie University and Clothesline Media.
Clothesline made the groovy video, and if they want to showcase their talent, all the better. I’ve got no problem with that.
The other companies, however, are, shall we say, problematic.
Let’s start with RBC, which in 2013 was embroiled in scandal. Reported the CBC:
Dozens of employees at Canada’s largest bank are losing their jobs to temporary foreign workers, who are in Canada to take over the work of their department.
“They are being brought in from India, and I am wondering how they got work visas,” said Dave Moreau, one of the employees affected by the move. “The new people are in our offices and we are training them to do our jobs. That adds insult to injury.”
Moreau, who works in IT systems support, said he is one of 50 employees who facilitate various transactions for RBC Investor Services in Toronto, which serves the bank’s biggest and wealthiest institutional clients.
In February, RBC told Moreau and his colleagues 45 of their jobs with the regulatory and financial applications team would be terminated at the end of April.
The scandal went national, and RBC took a huge reputational hit. Ever since, the company has been trying to improve its PR around employment issues by first saying it would no longer hire temporary foreign workers and then, evidently, by sponsoring job fairs like the Halifax Game Changer event.
Then there’s Marriott, which had its own temporary foreign worker scandal last year in Vancouver. It too could use a PR boost from co-sponsoring Game Changer.
Next on the list is the Chronicle Herald. The paper doesn’t use temporary foreign workers, but it is right this moment in the midst of a union battle. Says the union in a statement released Friday:
The Halifax-based company, which locked out 13 unionized pressroom employees in February, is demanding concessions that David Wilson, lead negotiator and representative for Communications Workers of America/Canada, termed “draconian.”
“The company wants to lay us off, cut back severance and contract out work. And the Herald wants to freeze the defined benefit pension plan that covers all 315 workers in the company,” said Ingrid Bulmer, president of Local 30130, Halifax Typographical Union.
The Chronicle Herald is cynically using the Game Changer sponsorship to suggest that it is working to improve the Halifax employment scene at the exact moment it is trying to cut workers and their pay.
And let’s remember that the government “partners” of Game Changer — the city and Dalhousie — are also battling their employee unions.
What about Halifax Partnership?
The Halifax Partnership’s “investors” are listed at the bottom of the page here. Many of the investors are government agencies, but there are lots of companies as well. It’s interesting to note which of those companies also appear on the list of companies who applied for and were granted permission to hire temporary foreign workers in 2012. The companies that appear on both lists are:
Nova Scotia Power
Westin Nova Scotia
Halifax Bridge Commission
The Prince George Hotel
Now there are legitimate reasons for a company to hire temporary foreign workers. I suspect that the Bridge Commission needed a foreign engineer because the expertise for the bridge reconstruction project simply didn’t exist in Canada. Some restaurants on the list (but certainly not the majority) are owned by immigrants who are bringing their family to work and hopefully immigrate. But most of the restaurants, hotels, call centres, fish processors and the like are simply getting around paying Nova Scotian workers good wages by hiring the TFW at low wages.
And sure, the Game Changer campaign is attempting to connect university grads to employees, and those graduates are unlikely to be competing for jobs as maids at the Prince George or lobster pickers at Clearwater. But those extremely low-wage jobs are the baseline from which all other salaries are set. This is why an increase in the minimum wage benefits all workers — as the pay scale moves up for unskilled or lightly skilled jobs, employers have to offer more skilled workers higher wages in order to compete. Better wages for people working in a call centre really do translate into better wages at the first career job for university grads, and just the opposite is true as well: when employers use TFW to cut their payroll, it lowers the pay scale for the entire market, including for university grads.
Maybe the Game Changer program represents a true shift in awareness for managers at companies that have been using temporary foreign workers. Maybe now Clearwater and the Westin and the rest now see the wisdom in hiring Nova Scotians to work Nova Scotian jobs. Maybe.
More likely, it’s just the same old bullshit wrapped in new packaging.
4. Of race and shoplifting allegations
Shandell McNamara, a mixed race woman, says the owner of the Shoppers Drug on Fenwick Street has falsely accused her of shoplifting, reports Metro’s Haley Ryan:
When McNamara said she hadn’t, the owner told her they had video footage of her stealing earrings from the store and she was banned for life. He also said she’d be charged with trespassing if she returned, McNamara said.
As he walked her out in front of customers and staff, McNamara said the owner told her he would be warning everyone she’s a thief and to “watch out” for her.
“It was honestly the most humiliating experience of my life,” she said.
Here’s the police response to the incident:
Halifax Regional Police spokeswoman Const. Diane Woodworth said stores are private property so owners can ban anyone, although it’s ideal to have something in writing so the person can be ticketed if they return.
“We would just tell the person go to another store,” Woodworth said about McNamara’s situation.
“It’s offensive, but there’s other stores and why would you want to give this place your business?”
Why? Here’s why: because racists deny people entry into their businesses based solely on the colour of their skin, and such practices are illegal and should be called out. That’s what the lunch counter sit-ins were about. That’s what Viola Desmond’s arrest was about. People have been blasted with firehoses for fighting this kind of retail racism. People have been killed.
How dare the cops shrug off that social and historical context with “just go to another store”?
Look, banning people from a store because of the colour of their skin is illegal. Those “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” signs are shorthand for “we don’t serve black people or natives,” and the practice is likewise illegal. No, Constable Woodworth, a store owner cannot “ban anyone” — opening your business to the public means that you must abide by laws that prohibit discrimination.
We don’t have all the information in McNamara’s case, but what she’s asking for — to see the claimed videotaped proof that she shoplifted — is entirely reasonable, and the cops shouldn’t be brushing the incident aside.
1. Mid-Century Architecture
Stephen Archibald gives us a tour of Halifax’s mid-century buildings, starting with “the old Zellers on Barrington St (Discovery Centre). It was built in 1939 at the end of the Great Depression, a time when not much at all was built here. Straight on it is surprisingly formal (I’m not sure I would recognize it without the sign).
The distinctive view is of the champhered corner that energizes the building. It’s been called the best Art Deco building in the city.
Archibald goes on to look at seven other mid-century buildings and, in his fashion, draws our attention to the detail and delight of the buildings we pass every day without really noticing. Alas, several of them (including the Zellers) will soon be torn down.
Emily Williams has written an excellent piece on the current refugee crisis, reminding us about the MS St. Louis, the ship with 907 Jewish refugees that was refused entry into Canada. Hundreds of the passengers subsequently died in concentration camps. (There’s currently a display about the St. Louis in the lobby of the Central Library.) “Right now,” writes Williams, “we are watching this generation’s version of North America telling Jewish refugees to turn their boats around.”
Williams then turns her attention to American and Canadian politicians who suggest that only Christian Syrians be allowed in as refugees:
Demanding that desperate people pass a religious test to prove that they are worthy of our compassion is disgusting. To even entertain the thought that we should send people back to the hellscape that is present-day Syria because they believe in the “wrong” God is abhorrent. Furthermore, it is the exact inverse of the tenets of the religion to which all these Christian politicians claim adherence. And finally, refusing asylum to people because their religion is the “wrong” religion is a familiar story whose ending is already written. How short our memories are.
On the point of Christian beliefs about refugees… I don’t claim to be a theologian, but I did spend 12 years in Catholic schools, and some of it stuck. The Christian bible is a mishmash of imagined history, incorrect science, abhorrent social theory, fabulistic teachings of dubious merit, but also, here and there, some things worthy of praise. As I remember it, caring for those most in need is high on the list of Christian tenets, maybe even higher than damning gays to hell or obsessing about fetuses.
3. Cranky letter of the day
Now that 40 per cent of Canadians have taken the Liberal Kool-Aid, we quickly see what we have for leadership. One of your readers was impressed by the eloquent speech our PM made at the G20. In 2008, the Americans chose a young man as their president who was equally eloquent. Now we all have a do-nothing leader of the free world who cannot or will not make any tough decisions to lead the free world against a growing danger to us all.
The Liberals want us to go back to the old days of Pearson’s peacekeepers, but no one can keep peace until it is created. Our soldiers are at greater risk on the ground than flying jets, but Mr. Trudeau blindly insists on his decision to have them train Kurdish fighters. A leader who won’t adapt to changing events is a dangerous leader.
Dorothy Clifton, Kingston
Shorter Dorothy Clifton of Kingston:
Audit and Finance Committee (10am, City Hall) — I’ll be there. Here’s the agenda.
Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Special Advisory Committee (3pm, Nova Scotia Community College – IT Campus, Room B239, 5685 Leeds Street) — the commemoration is speeding towards the bend in the track, the passengers crossing their fingers.
Halifax & West Community Council (6pm, City Hall) — the committee is looking at more zoning changes in Bedford West.
Public information meeting (7pm, Beaver Bank Kinsac Community Centre) — Windgate Village is a gigantic subdivision proposed for nearly 400 acres in Beaver Bank.
Legislature sits (1–5:30pm, Province House)
This date in history
I’m forever impressed with the depth of knowledge of Examiner readers, so I’m just throwing this out there. The usual history websites I check tell me that on November 18, 1963, the last segregated, all-black school in Nova Scotia closed. I understand that the school was in Halifax, but that’s it.
Rotary ATPases (4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link) — John Rubinstein, from the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, will speak on “Electron cryomicroscopy of rotary ATPases.”
Altered States (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — Ken Russell’s 198o film:
William Hurt plays a scientist whose experiments turn Darwin’s theories of evolution backwards, as he regresses to a primal state in which instinct overcomes reason.
In the harbour
Green Dale, car carrier, Davisville, Rhode Island to Autoport, then sails to sea
ZIM Monaco arrived at Pier 42 this morning; sails to New York this afternoon
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, arrived at Pier 36 this morning from St. John’s
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm, with Metro’s Stephanie Taylor.