“Some athletes in Nova Scotia are now exempt from minimum wage regulations following changes by the Nova Scotia government,” reports Steve Berry for the CBC:
The changes to the provincial labour standard code affect Nova Scotian athletes that are considered employees of their teams, such as Halifax Hurricanes or Halifax Mooseheads players.
“Paying minimum wage for all the athletes’ time, including practice or travel, would make it difficult for teams to operate,” Halifax Mooseheads president Bobby Smith said in a statement Monday.
So the Mooseheads have been able to stay financially viable for all these years by paying minimum wage but now suddenly the math doesn’t work? I not buying it. This is just another attack on workers.
Incidentally, Smith himself was paid a half million and change for a season way back in the 1990s.
Speaking of attacking workers, Bruce Campion-Smith of the Toronto Star reported over the weekend that:
The federal government is looking at whether Canada’s major airportsshould be sold off to private investors as a way to raise tens of billions of dollars in new cash to fund other infrastructure projects.
Transport Canada bureaucrats are reviewing the ownership structure of Canadian airports, now operated by not-for-profit airport authorities, to assess the possibilities of transferring them to for-profit enterprises — and collect a windfall in the process.
But airport operators are nervous, fearing that federal Liberals are in a rush to cash in on the potential value of Canadian airports without properly weighing the potential impacts on travellers.
And they warn that new operators under pressure to turn a profit could transform the airports for the worse.
Ah, the logic of neoliberalism: if the government sells off the airports, the costs of upgrading and maintaining the airports won’t show up on government budget sheets, and so viola! we have a fiscally responsible government.
As we’ve learned with the P3 school fiasco, privatization or semi-privatization doesn’t save us any money, it merely hides the real costs and makes private investors rich on our dime.
Airport managers in Ottawa and Vancouver interviewed by Campion-Smith sensibly noted that investors will want a return on their money. “It’s going to come from raising fees, investing less in capital or finding efficiencies,” said Mark Laroche, CEO of Ottawa International Airport.
“Efficiencies” mostly means paying the baggage handlers, janitors, and ramp workers less.
The Halifax International Airport Authority hasn’t come out against the plan, which probably means the execs figure privatization will be good for them personally, so screw the workers.
Toronto airport execs are also “studying” the proposal, reports Campion-Smith, which is telling as that airport is in the midst of an attack on its unionized workforce:
A series of contract changes last year resulted in hundreds of workers in the airport’s refuelling, wheelchair assistance and de-icing services being laid off and forced to reapply for jobs at much lower pay rates. According to the involved unions, at least 200 workers were never rehired. Parking attendants were targeted the previous year when the airport’s contract providers changed.
“In a completely, deregulated privatised scenario, this is what happens,” [Sean Smith of the Toronto Airport Workers’ Council] said.
“You end up with workers competing with each other for fewer and fewer well-paying jobs.”
Something has to give eventually, he warned.
“To give an example, at the bottom of the scale you’ve got minimum wage workers who work two to six in the morning for $40.
“Obviously, the turnover’s through the roof, and on the ramp it’s even worse because it’s physical work.
“The precarious model, it’s worse for seniors [experienced workers] too. The seniors are getting burnt out because they’ve got to do more work to carry the load which leads to worker-on-worker conflict.”
Should airports be privatized, this will be the norm across Canada.
“A large whale has become tangled in fishing gear off southeast Newfoundland, raising fears it will die before it can shed the equipment or rescuers can remove it,” reports Adina Bresge for the Canadian Press:
“This is what we call heavy fishing gear, it’s heavy rope, strong rope,” said Wayne Ledwell of the Whale Release and Strandings group in Portugal Cove – St. Philip’s, N.L.
“If it doesn’t shed the gear or if we don’t take the gear off, then it could probably die … (from the) stress and energy that it needs to carry around all this fishing gear, and not be able to feed properly and get into areas where it needs to feed.”
1. Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness
Yesterday was the deadline for people to submit comments on the proposed Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lakes wilderness park, and over 1,000 people did, reports Remo Zaccagna for Local Xpress.
And probably 50 of those people forwarded their comments to me as well. There are so many that I can’t begin to link to them or quote them.
2. Cranky letter of the day
The vote from the Pictou town council to remain in the MOU that took place Monday has come as a complete surprise to many, including its residents. Just like a zombie, the amalgamation discussion has come back from the dead following the decision made by the councillors and mayor.
After the plebiscite decision that saw the close vote of 51.82 per cent against amalgamation within Pictou, many thought the bickering was over and Pictou would withdraw from the proposal. This was not the case. The councillors of both wards within Pictou followed their constituent’s wishes and voted accordingly. This resulted in a tie vote of 2-2 with the tie broken by Mayor Joe Hawes who voted yes.
I say this is unacceptable. Throughout this amalgamation I have stayed neutral, voicing my frustration with the divisiveness of both campaigns but today I can say that I am angered by the mayor’s decision. This has nothing to do with the benefits or shortfalls from either campaigns, this is about democracy and representation.
While the plebiscite was non-binding and just a suggestion on the overall decision of the entire amalgamation, I believe that it played a crucial role on deciding what the people wanted, not just the elected officials themselves. While many councillors and mayors had been vocal on their decisions, when it came to vote they voted for what the people wanted – the same people they were elected to represent. Mayor Hawes however, is the exception. Hawes based his decision on “evidence and fact-based filing” while the plebiscite was “… based more on emotion – a fear of increased taxes and loss of community identity.”
To the four councillors and all councillors across the county who voted according to their people’s wishes, I commend you. To Mayor Hawes, I say shame on you. Shame for thinking that your people voted on an “emotional” whim. Shame that you go against the very people who elected you. Shame for silencing the decision of your town. Regardless of what side of the amalgamation you were on realize that today is the day democracy died.
To the residents of Pictou, welcome to dictatorship.
Dylan Lloyd, Westville
I spent the long weekend in Ontario, which on Thursday evening entailed driving with three relatives into Port Burwell, a tiny dot on the north shore of Lake Erie.
As we entered the town on Route 19, I could see a lighthouse and wharf ahead, and from the corner of my eye a submarine behind some buildings to my right.
A submarine? Odd, but our mission was supper. We landed at the Erie Cove Restaurant & Bar. In front of the restaurant, along the street, was a patio with seating for maybe 40 people. Inside, there were another 20-odd tables. Chandeliers hung above the tables, and old magazines and colouring books were stacked on a central table. It was 7pm on the evening before Canada Day, but we were the only patrons.
Our server was a helpful, talkative woman. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing out the window. “Oh, the wheelhouse,” she replied. “You can buy it for $25,000.”
This was no normal wheelhouse, but rather the George Barnes Memorial Wheelhouse, a recent acquisition of the Elgin Military Museum in nearby St. Thomas, which also operates the Museum of Naval History in Port Burwell. “More than 25 years ago,” explained the museum’s website in a release last summer, “Ron Bradfield, Chuck Buchanan, Tony Lama and David Mason had a dream — to bring a wheelhouse from a Great Lakes laker to the grounds of Port Burwell’s Marine Museum”:
The wheelhouse will be an unparalleled addition to the first-rate collection of Great Lakes shipping artifacts in Port Burwell’s Marine Museum and a wonderful new attraction for visitors to the Museum of Naval History.
The wheelhouse was the navigational control room on the laker ‘Fernglen’ during its seven decades navigating the Great Lakes. The two-storey steel exterior is 27′ x 24′ and features a tongue-and-groove fir interior with a built-in chart cabinet and gyrocompass. It will sit below the Port Burwell lighthouse during the restoration phase.
Whatever the initial high hopes for the wheelhouse, on Thursday it sat rusting behind a broken chain link fence beneath my window at the Erie Cove Restaurant & Bar.
“They didn’t try to make us pay for it,” said the server. “They tried to raise our taxes to pay for the submarine, but we finally beat that back.”
“The submarine” is none other than the HMCS Ojibwa, one of three of Canada’s 1960s-era subs. In 1998, the Navy bought ill-fated British submarines, and the Onondaga, Ojibwa, and Okanagan were decommissioned in 2000. They joined the training vessel Olympus, tied up under the Macdonald Bridge in Halifax Harbour, put up for sale as scrap.
In 2006, the Musée de la Mer de Pointe-au-Pêre in Rimouski, Quebec bought the Onondaga. The actual boat cost just two loonies (plus tax), but transporting it to Rimouski and turning it into a tourist destination brought the total bill to $2.6 million.
“Rimouski is not a big city and there’s not a lot of big tourist attractions, so there’s a lot of people who are convinced that this will be good for everyone,” Annemarie Bourassa, assistant director of the museum, told the CBC.
Economic Development Canada, which financed the deal, soon celebrated its great success:
On June 13, 2009, the Onondaga opened her doors to the first visitors. For over 40 days in a row, more than 1,000 people toured the submarine daily. By the end of the first year, the Onondaga had had 91,611 visitors, representing a 313% increase in site attendance, with more than $1 million in admissions. Not only has this increase in visitors benefited site activities as a whole but it has also bolstered economic vitality throughout the region. Tourists are extending their stays, much to the delight of merchants. There is even talk of an “Onondaga effect”! The direct and indirect economic spin-offs of this inaugural season, qualified as exceptional by the promoters, have been estimated at $15 million.
(I cannot find a reliable source for the number of visitors who have visited the Onondaga in subsequent years, but it appears to have dropped. The other two subs, the Okanagan and Olympus, were hauled to Port Maitland, Ontario where they were scrapped.)
A man named Dean Lewis looked on in excitement. Lewis had been a sonar operator and helmsman on the Ojibwa in the 1980s, and later wrote a book about his experiences, Submariners: Tales Truth or Fiction You Decide. Lewis, who retired to Port Burwell, started talking to the people at the Elgin Military Museum and the group hatched a plan: Let’s buy the Ojibwa and turn it into a tourist destination.
“Subs are no big deal in Nova Scotia,” said Ian Raven, executive director of the museum. “However there’s a heritage connection here through the military.”
The museum dubbed the proposed acquisition of the sub “Project Ojibwa,” and produced a business plan:
Our maximum theoretical capacity is based on the number of tours that can be completed in an hour and the maximum number of guests per tour. We propose a maximum group size of 10 visitors.
The tour duration is one hour, allotting 10 minutes for each of six stations, therefore, maximum throughput is calculated at 60 visitors per hour. Based on a 12-hour day, the maximum daily capacity is 720 (High Season) and estimated 540 (Low Season) the maximum annual capacity for the operation would be 141,840.
For the purposes of our plan, we assume an actual average of 5.5 groups of 10 visitors each hour of operation, with occupancy reduced by approximately 50% during the low season. Using these assumptions, the museum’s optimum annual capacity is calculated at 119,040 visitors and we have set our expected capacity at 100,000 tour admissions per year.
The submarine would be open for tours from 9am to 9pm during the summer high season, and 9am to 6pm during the spring and fall low seasons. The adjoining gift shop would stay open for an additional half hour. Tickets would cost $18.75 for adults, $13 for seniors and students, and $9.75 for veterans.
Those numbers were given to the Municipality of Bayham (in 1998, the towns of Port Burwell and Vienna were amalgamated into the Municipality of Bayham), and the municipality in turn hired the IGB Group to conduct an economic impact report, which found:
The introduction of the HMCS OJIBWA project could help strengthen the existing mix of tourism products/attractions in Elgin County and the Municipality of Bayham.
An estimate of $ 14.4 million in impact on Elgin County (direct, indirect and induced) was generated using the Ontario Ministry of Tourism’s TREIM model.
Well, gee golly, how could anyone in their right mind turn down $14.4 million a year?
And so the municipality guaranteed a $6 million loan from Royal Bank of Canada, with Economic Development Canada chipping in an additional $1.92 million. But “because the DND took longer than the group thought, they weren’t able to claim the entire [Economic Development Canada] grant — only about $400,000 of it,” reported the St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly Times.
There were skeptics from the start. Tom Marks, the mayor of nearby Port Stanley, rejected an early plan by the museum to bring the Ojibwa to that town. “The submarine has nothing to do with Port Stanley’s past,” he noted:
Instead, he said, the port should be celebrating its “upscale restaurants, shops, beaches,” the commercial fishery and its history as the place where Guy Lombardo regularly performed.
With Port Stanley out of the competition, the Ojibwa was destined for Port Burwell. Real estate speculators took note, reported Kristine Jean in the Mitchell Advocate:
Over the past few months there have been indications that business opportunities are opening up and starting to flourish thanks to HMCS Ojibwa and anticipation of its arrival.
“Just as you drive into Port Burwell, there’s a couple of businesses that have had for sale signs,” said Bayham Mayor Paul Ens. “They’ve been sold and they’re in the process of being fixed up or the properties are being addressed in ways. There’s definite business enthusiasm happening — people are starting to buy properties that are interested in creating business opportunites there.”
Ens pointed to another example in Port Burwell.
“At the very end towards the lighthouse there’s a restaurant that’s been in the works for a number of years,” he added. “I think this (Project Ojibwa) has really spurred that person on and his restaurant is just about ready,” Ens said of the brand new restaurant that supposedly will hold up to about 150 people, has been slowly in the works for the past several years.
“He (the owner) actually took me on a tour of it about a week and a half ago and it’s just about set to go.”
This was the Erie Cove Restaurant & Bar, where I ate supper Thursday. Jean continued:
Tom Southwick, Bayham Councillor for Ward 1 agrees with Ens and said that potential is there and business is already starting to pick up prior to Ojibwa’s arrival, which is now expected in late September or early October.
“I understand that a long empty commercial property in Vienna has been sold and that’s supposedly going to open in the spring as a family restaurant. That’s what I hear,” said Southwick adding that there’s already been an impact of the coming changes in Port Burwell felt this summer.
“I’ve been talking to some of the businesses also about the increase in customers this year in comparison to last year. They already attribute it to the coming of Ojibwa,” he added.
In addition to businesses in the food and restaurant industry, others such as those in the tourism and hospitality are expected to do well. Southwick said there could be future craft, souvenir and retail shops opening up in the future.
It’s an exciting time for Port Burwell and the entire municipality said Southwick, pointing to the many reasons why more people will come to visit and enjoy the town and surrounding communities.
“The Ojibwa really would just introduce people to the area. Once they get here, they’re going to find out there’s all kinds of things to do – go camping, hiking, fishing and boating.
“As of right now a lot of people don’t know that exists. It’s just a matter of people discovering it,” said Southwick.
“The possibilities for this area seem endless.”
Even before the July 2013 opening of the submarine to tourism, restaurants in Port Burwell were booming, reported the St. Thomas Times-Journal in an article headlined “Ojibwa already paying off for Port Burwell.”
On the day the sub arrived, “crowds huddled shoulder-to-shoulder Tuesday on Robinson St. to watch the Ojibwa off-loaded from its towing barge,” reported Nick Lypaczewski in the Times-Journal:
After the submarine was completely on land around 2 p.m., the crowd let out a thunderous cheer, with the hope it won’t be the last time they’re cheering for the Cold War-era submarine.
The expectation is the 295-foot Ojibwa will be the catalyst for more businesses opening and tourists visiting Port Burwell, an area they said has been hit hard economically.
RN Mary Spicer, a port resident, said she’s been to the dock area every day since the submarine’s arrival last Tuesday.
“I think it’s exciting for the town to have something, to look forward to something,” she noted.
“Hopefully it will bring spin-off business, more stores opening and more work around locally.”
Vienna resident Al Soper said he hopes the submarine not only brings people to Port Burwell but the entire region.
“I am very interested in this for the area and for it to do something for our area and promote more business,” he suggested.
“To get it back to where (Port Burwell) can be part of the country again rather than go to nothing.”
London resident Chuck Ronson said he left Port Burwell in 1960 but often returns to his hometown to visit family.
“We need something to rejuvenate the town and hopefully this will do it,” he stressed.
“When I was kid, (the sub’s resting area) was filled with coal and rail-lines and we had three trains a day coming in here. When I was a kid, it was a booming town.”
In recognition of the effort that went into acquiring the sub and establishing the visitors centre, the Elgin Military Museum was awarded the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario “Innovator of the Year” award. “This is a very exciting thing for us,” said Executive Director Ian Raven in a press release. “We were up against some pretty tough competition.”
Alas, the big tourism numbers never materialized.
In Elgin County’s 2013 Year in Review report, Warden David Marr wrote that “approximately 28,000 people visited the submarine in 2013 with the bulk of those visitors coming in the first 2 1/2 months.” The Year in Review reports for 2014 and 2015 don’t provide the number of visitors to the Ojibwa.
Whatever the numbers, in March 2015, the Elgin Military Museum defaulted on the $6 million loan from RBC.
“The fact is that the project failed and did not generate the expected economic impact,” reads a Municipality of Bayham staff report on the defaulted loan. “A number of reasons can be developed as to why the Elgin Military Museum failed to succeed with Project Ojibwa, the main fact appears to be that the Elgin Military Museum did not generate enough attendance to generate enough revenue to fund all expenses, specifically debt obligations.”
As for the museum, “it seems likely that the Elgin Military Museum will be stripped of its assets by creditors through the legal system and will be unable to function.”
In response to the news, the museum said that the estimated cost of moving the sub was “vastly exceeded when the final invoices arrived”:
Other work was found to be required that none of our experts had anticipated, generating more cost, and other circumstances beyond anyone’s ability to control (such as the impact of Hurricane Sandy) also contributed to substantially increase the final cost.
Otherwise, the museum seemed like it was business as usual, even going to far as to contemplate buying a hippopotamus:
[Executive Director Ian] Raven was quick to quash expressions of doubt by stating, “This great beast has many similarities with Oberon class submarines such as our own HMCS OJIBWA, indeed Hippos are related to whales and dolphins. A hippo would also make a fine companion for the two kangaroos we already own and the close proximity of the Jumbo the Elephant monument only adds to the interest for the visitor.”
While the military museum was pondering the purchase of a hippopotamus, the Bayham council, which had already investigated selling off municipal assets — including community centres — to pay off the loan, last month went to court to seize the museum’s assets. That likely explains why I can now buy the George Barnes Memorial Wheelhouse for a mere $25,000.
When I was in Port Burwell Thursday, the museum was still offering tours of the submarine, albeit the tours stopped at 5pm so I didn’t get the chance for a look-see.
The town is evidently reeling from the collapse of its dream. Thursday, the main street was nearly deserted and several of the restaurants were for sale. One of those was the Erie Cove Restaurant & Bar, where my relatives and I dined alone.
I had wondered about the “& Bar” part of the establishment’s name, as the beer selection consisted of a few bottles of Budweiser and nothing much else, but as I was leaving I saw stairs going to a basement with a sign reading “bar” at the basement entryway. The stairs, however, were roped off, with a “closed” sign hanging from the rope. Several dirty, wet bar towels lay on the floor of the landing.
“We broke a pipe and it’s a mess down there,” said the server, who explained that the bar once included a deck that looked out over the Ojibwa.
What are we to make of all this?
We drove around Port Burwell and found an attractive town with beautiful views. The Internet tells me that Port Burwell has 7,000 residents; if so, they were hiding — I saw maybe 30. There were a handful of people on the main drag; the rest were at an old two-storey motel that had been converted to apartments. Men were smoking on the balcony, children playing in the parking lot. A woman walking a dog on the grass across the street waved hello. If there is discord or anger in Port Burwell, it wasn’t evident.
We live in a cruel age that has burned the social contract and then condemns people for the poverty that isn’t of their making. But as Chuck Ronson told the reporter, not so many decades ago there were three trains a day coming into Port Burwell, and the town was booming. It’s simply not the case that one day in 1978 the townspeople suddenly woke up and decided to be less industrious and let the place go to hell. Rather, a new economic order, promoted by the rich and powerful who wanted even more riches and power, reworked the global economy in such a way to game every transaction.
That new economic order came in with a bang in the 1980s with the Reaganites and Thatcherites and their willing cohorts in Canada and elsewhere. And it hit rural Ontario hard. It disrupted the local economy, threw people out of work, destroyed the little merchant towns like Port Burwell that dotted the map. This was ground zero for Fred Eaglesmith, the troubadour of despair, who wrote about the Sweaburg General Store, just 20k up the road from Port Burwell:
And it oughta be a law
It oughta be a crime
That’s what they’re saying on the 19th Line
We took it for granted, how were we to know
The Sweaburg General Store is closed
Eaglesmith’s heroes are hard-working farmers who have lost everything to the monied men in Toronto:
In “Go Out and Plough,” Eaglesmith sings;
Drinking don’t take the place
The banker does with an empty face
He tells you ’bout a job up the road
Leave the keys in the mailbox when you go
It’s a good thing she ain’t here
To see the bitter tears
Spill down his coveralls on to the floor
It’s a good thing she ain’t alive
To see how they’ve taken his pride
And turned it like a crop beneath the soil
God bless this house the kitchen says
And even when the bills aren’t paid
Be thankful for the things that you have
Even just the shirts on your backs
And he’d go out and plough
But the tractor’s broken down
The day is almost spent, anyway
He pours himself a drink
Sets on the porch to think
And how are people to react to such economic dislocation? Rural Ontario worked for generations. It was a predictable and mostly true moral tale: work hard and you’ll do OK; don’t and you won’t. But thanks to the ascendance of neoliberalism — globalization and the financialization of every god damn thing — it no longer worked. Everything was upended. Working hard wouldn’t get you squat. But figure out an angle, get in on the grift, and maybe it’ll work out.
The story’s the same whether it’s in Elgin County, Ontario or a Ohio factory city or an Oregon mill town or Cape Breton or Halifax. The new order doesn’t work for those places. And the local mucky mucks won’t name the problem for what it is because they want to get in on the grift. They won’t say that neoliberalism has fucked the global economy; rather, they’ll complain that workers haven’t properly retrained themselves and people have a bad attitude. They won’t explain that local capital produced by hard work has been siphoned off by financiers in New York and London, but they’ll tell you you can get a piece of the action if you’re “innovative” enough.
And so, time and time again we find the too-clever-by-half appealing to desperate people by promoting some bullshit scheme — a submarine tourism attraction, a convention centre, a heavy water plant, a megamall, whatever — because addressing the true problem means addressing the neoliberal agenda, including those locals who ride it for the spoils that come with it.
Most of the times these schemes will fail. As Eaglesmith explains in a song placed in Jericho, Ontario:
I guess I’ll go back to where I come from
To where my Daddy sits
On a little porch
On a little farm
In a little town
That they call Jericho
He always told me
Son, you should know
The walls always tumble down
Just when you’re sure that they won’t
And there ain’t no easy road
Doesn’t matter who you are or who you know
There’s just one thing I know
There ain’t no easy road
It won’t be easy easy reestablishing economic common sense. This isn’t a matter of quick gimmicky fixes, servicing the wealthy in hopes of snatching a few crumbs. Instead, we have to do the hard political work of fighting the rich and powerful who are stealing the fruits of our labour.
No public meetings.
Veterans Affairs (2pm, One Government Place) – Lindsay Peach, the VP of Integrated Health Services, Community Support Management at the Nova Scotia Health Authority, will be asked about Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial Hospital
No events scheduled.
In the harbour
Overnight: Hollandia, general cargo, arrived at Pier 31 from Mariel, Cuba
8am: Sichem Mumbai, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage for bunkers from Port Alfred, Quebec
10am: Maule, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
4pm: Hollandia, general cargo, sails from Pier 31 for Rotterdam
8:30pm: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
10:30pm: Maule, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
5am: Vermont Trader, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
6pm: Cygnus Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
6pm: Vermont Trader, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
I took a true vacation. Sure, it was only five days, but I mostly stayed off the internet. I drove around and hung with friends and family. I watched a ballgame. Looked at a submarine. Slept, like nine hours one night, even. Hopefully this means I’m rejuvenated and can get back to work in a serious fashion. We’ll see.
I cannot thank Lewis, Russell, and Iris enough for minding the shop while I was out of town.