1. You can have the right to strike; just don’t try to use it.
Yesterday, the provincial government showed its continued labour relations finesse — this time in its negotiations with crown attorneys. The crowns want a 17% pay increase over four years. The province is offering 7%.
Yesterday, while most of the prosecutors were in Dartmouth for a conference, the province introduced legislation that would remove arbitration as an option, give crown attorneys the right to strike — but also declare them an essential service, so that if they do go on strike some of them could be forced to continue working anyway.
Rick Woodburn was one of the Crowns who made the trip to Province House. He’s on the bargaining team that’s negotiating with the province and is the president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel.
“They don’t want an arbitrator to make a decision on their finances, so they’ll give you the right up until the point where you want to use it and then they take it away from you,” Woodburn said.
“So if they don’t like what’s going on, they take their toys and go home. You ask yourself, is that the kind of government that you want to look at and say I can trust?”
Are Nova Scotia’s crown attorneys well-compensated compared to their peers? Depends on which peers you consider.
The group’s proposed pay raise would put them in the middle of the pack for what Crown attorneys are paid in the country. The government argues that the provincial Crown lawyers are already the highest paid in Atlantic Canada and the pay bump would put them among the top third highest earners in the country. A senior Crown salary would increase to $160,000 from $149,149 under the Crown association’s proposal, according to the province.
I know, I know, cry me a river for the people making 150 grand a year. Regardless of what you think of the salaries, declaring crown attorneys an essential service seems to me to be stretching that term beyond any meaningful definition.
Rankin quotes PC leader Tim Houston on the dispute. Houston says, “It worries me because Crown attorneys are trying to bring justice to victims of pretty serious crimes.”
This leads me to think the leader of the opposition needs a civics lesson, because bringing justice to victims is not the role of prosecutors.
An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified Michael Gorman as writer of the CBC story. The story is written by Blair Rhodes.
2. Governments and mining interests
For the Examiner, Joan Baxter interviews Joan Kuyek, founder of MiningWatch Canada and author of the new book, Unearthing justice: how to protect your community from the mining industry.
Kuyek says mining is
the original environmental racism and it’s continued to inform everything we do. It’s enshrined in our laws. It’s enshrined in our institutions. And it’s enshrined in our political system. I go to a number of utterly desolate Indigenous reserves. I can’t imagine that that is happening by accident. That’s deliberate. They’re being constantly disempowered and dispossessed by the interests of mining and other extraction.
3. Mislabelled fish and drugs in fisheries
For years now, we’ve been hearing about mislabelled fish. A high percentage — in some markets, a majority — of the fish we buy is not what we think.
Now, there are numbers.
“Fish can be caught on the East Coast, sent to China for processing and then to the European Union for branding before coming back to Canada,” said Josh Laughren, Oceana Canada’s executive director.
“The fraudulent activity could take place anywhere along that supply chain. A lot of the time the person selling you the fish is just as much the victim of fraud as you are.”
Oceana Canada is campaigning for regulations that allow for seafood to be traced from the boat to the plate, as are in place in the European Union.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency Regulations, which came into effect this spring, haven’t proved successful at reining in seafood fraud.
You can read the full report here. Among its findings:
- 100% of fish sold as snapper was mislabelled.
- In Halifax, more than a third of Atlantic Cod samples were mislabelled. (Fish sold as Atlantic cod could be haddock, pollock, or Pacific cod.)
- 59% of fish tested in Toronto was mislabelled.
The report points out that mislabelling can have health implications and also affects perceptions of the health of fish stocks:
When a cheaper, more abundant fish is mislabelled as a more expensive, less-abundant fish, it can give consumers a perception that the stocks are healthier than they actually are. For example, the IUCN has listed red snapper as a vulnerable species. The current investigation found 29 examples of “red snapper” listed on menus, making it easy to believe the species is healthy and abundant. However, when those samples were tested, none of them turned out to be actual red snapper.
Now let’s move from fish to the people who catch them.
[Sources say] drugs ranging from cannabis to cocaine have become increasingly commonplace on fishing boats off Nova Scotia’s southwest coast.
Several industry sources interviewed by SaltWire Network describe an escalating issue with fishermen using drugs while working at sea.
They say the long hours, gruelling work and big paydays have contributed to the rise in drug use and addictions among some harvesters.
It’s a troubling trend in an industry that is already the most dangerous in the country by most measures, with worker fatality rates that continue to surpass other sectors.
Bundale says most people are not willing to talk about the problem publicly, and some captains say they have to turn a blind eye to drug use, because if they don’t they won’t find enough crew members.
As Bundale says, fishing is the most dangerous industry in the country.
4. Officer faces multiple charges
Constable Jennifer McPhee is facing seven charges, following her September 13 arrest.
The 42-year-old was charged Wednesday with careless use of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a restricted firearm with ammunition, unauthorized possession of a restricted firearm, contravention of storage regulations, theft under $5,000 and disguise with intent.
Police Chief Dan Kinsella will speak to the media this morning at 11 AM.
5. More on the Cory Taylor case
On October 2, Tim wrote about a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge ordering a new investigation of Cory Taylor’s complaint that he was arrested without cause, and that police used excessive force and injured him.
This morning, Aly Thomson covers the story for CBC, including an interview with Taylor and his mother, Wanda Taylor.
Taylor, who lived in Dartmouth, N.S., at the time of the arrest but has since moved to an area near Mississauga, Ont., said he was encouraged by the judge’s decision, and hopes the commissioner takes the reinvestigation seriously.
“I want them to be accountable for their actions and I want to prevent this from happening … the police abusing their authority and power over us,” he said.
“It left a big mark on my mind. It just doesn’t go away. I still relive the feelings and the moment. It’s pretty tough, but it’s getting better every day.”
6. WE Day
It was WE Day in Halifax yesterday. Everyone loves WE Day! The mayor loves WE Day!
WE Day Atlantic announced its lineup for the event in Halifax on Oct. 16. This year’s event includes Halifax’s Neon Dreams, as well as YouTube star Johnny Orlando, pop duo Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine, Margaret Trudeau, and Gizelle de Guzman, a young singer from Nova Scotia.
I attended the first couple of WE Day events with my daughter when I worked as the editor of a local parenting magazine. Honestly, the first event in 2013 was a pretty good time. Really, it was a concert for the kids. My daughter met a number of the acts performing and WE Day founder Craig Kielburger. But the second event was far more corporate and less entertaining. There were fewer bands and musicians and more VPs of whatever company on stage plugging their brands. I didn’t care about this, so I was sure a bunch of teenagers cared even less.
I also grew tired of the idea that in order to get young people to give back to their communities you have to give them a big party where they can take lots of selfies as a reward. I also wondered about the kids who weren’t there and if they felt left out of the experience. WE Day is an experience for the privileged and a competition about giving back.
There has been a lot of criticism of WE Day, its partners, and the organization that runs it, and I won’t get into them again here.
What I just can’t get over though is how the WE organization can waltz in with a bare-bones letter one month before their event, ask for $65,000 — and get it.
To be clear, the municipality has a process for applying for grants. According to the September 24 staff report:
HRM did not receive an application from the organization through the 2019/20 event grant application intake. However, WE Charity submitted the request in a letter received on September 16, 2019.
So, in order to approve funding, council had to
suspend the rules of procedure requiring the Audit and Finance Standing Committee to approve a withdrawal from General Contingency Reserve (Q421).
That must have been some bang-up letter they wrote, eh? Let’s take a look at it. It’s included as an attachment to the same staff report.
Dear Mayor Savage,
I hope this finds you well.
We are looking to another inspiring celebration of service in Halifax at WE Day Atlantic Canada on Wednesday, October 16th. The city of Halifax has been a tremendous supporter of the next generation of young leaders, and instrumental to bringing WE Day to life for youth across the East Coast.
After scaling back last year’s event to a smaller venue, we’re delighted to be hosting a traditional stadium-size celebration in October. We’ll be welcoming more than 8,000 youth to this year’s event at the Scotiabank Centre. To provide context, the students will represent 550 school groups and 179,000 of their peers in Atlantic Canada, with the majority coming from Halifax.
As we evolve the impact of our programs, we will support more young people across the East Coast year-round with new and innovative curricula and program offerings. For example, in the coming year, we’ll be introducing in Halifax school our WE Well-being program to empower youth and families with the tools and resources they need to promote their own mental well-being and the well-being of their communities [Hoo-boy, am I likely to have a lot to say about this later.] This program will also be prominently featured throughout WE Day.
We will also be joined by our incredible WE Day Co-Chairs and youth champions, Ken Power, Regional Vice President, TELUS; Sean and Crystal Murray, President, CEO and Creative Director of Media Operations, Advocate Printing & Publishing; and Doug Reid, Atlantic Managing Partner, KPMG.
With that said, allow me to advance a couple ideas [sic] for your consideration:
- On-stage segment: We would love to welcome you on-stage at this year’s celebration to share a few words of empowerment with the youth audience — this would be the perfect way to show the community’s support of their efforts from the always-gracious host city of Halifax.
- Renewed support for WE Day: We’re grateful for the Halifax Regional Municipality’s past support of WE Day. May I ask if there might be an openness from the city to renew its support (at the previous contribution level of $65,000) to off-set the city-owned rental costs of the event?
Than you, as always, for your continued support of our work and, more importantly, for your commitment to empowering our young leaders to change the world.
Craig Kielburger, Co-Founder, WE
And that’s it. Have you ever written a grant application? Are you crying? Or maybe tearing out your hair? The letter is a bunch of buzzwords, an offer to get the mayor on stage, and a request for $65,000, with no indication of why that amount, what of any substance it’s buying, why one of the many corporate sponsors couldn’t come up with this money, and whether the event would be in jeopardy without it.
Good on Matt Whitman and Steve Adams for being the only councillors to vote against this farce.
1. The biomass boondoggle
Mary Booth, founder of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, has written an excellent and very detailed opinion piece on the biomass scam for the New York Review of Books Daily website.
Biomass — burning wood for electricity and claiming it is green energy — keeps growing in Nova Scotia. As Jennifer Henderson reported in the Examiner earlier this year,
Last month’s report reveals that in 2018, the biomass boiler located on Port Hawkesbury Paper property generated 188.8 GWh (gigawatt hours), compared to 152.6 GWh in 2017 — a 24 % increase. The boiler also ran at 50% capacity compared to 40% the previous year. Expressed in another way, the generating unit ran flat out for six months or at half-speed for 12 months.
The bill for buying biomass increased from $5.9 million to $8.4 million. Most of the fuel — 65% — came from sawmilling waste such as woodchips, bark, and sawdust. Low-grade wood accounted for 35% of what was burned in the boiler. It does not appear that any biomass was imported, as occurred several years ago.
In her NYRB piece, Booth writes:
The problem with this so-called green energy source is that instead of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, it increases the amount of CO2 coming out of the smokestack compared to fossil fuels, and the climate “benefit” is claimed by simply not counting the emissions.
While policymakers in developed countries (the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan, and Korea, among others) seem perfectly happy with this solution, scientists and activists are reacting with bewilderment and fury as entire forests are vaporized into the atmosphere in the name of renewable energy. Meanwhile, the burgeoning biomass and wood-pellet industries are dancing away with billions in renewable energy subsidies.
Booth notes that the EU has strict regulations on harvesting wood for biomass. That’s good, right? Well, not really. It’s only good for forests in the EU. She writes:
Much of the EU’s forest industry operates under strictures, with the result that, as demand for “energy wood” increased, so has harvesting in less regulated forests, especially in the southern US and Canada. There, the wood-pellet industry has grown exponentially…
Clearcutting is never pretty, but there is something especially sickening about seeing a forest annihilated for supposedly green energy.
I urge you to read the whole piece. The fact that tearing up forests, chipping the trees, and feeding the chips into a massive blast furnace is considered green energy is a farce I suspect most children would easily see through.
The impact of strict environmental regulations on other countries reminded me of the documentary Forbidden Forest, released by the NFB in 2004. I was the marketing manager for the film, which looked at the forestry industry in New Brunswick. As I recall, there is a scene in which an executive at a Finnish multinational which runs a paper mill in the province essentially says the company follows better environmental practices at home because they have to. Go lobby your own government to tighten up the rules, and we’ll follow them. (I suspect the company would be doing some lobbying of its own, mind you.)
Forbidden Forest, directed by Kevin W. Matthews and produced by the National Film Board of Canada.
On Tuesday morning, some unionized staff of the Canadian Labour Congress went on strike. (Two different unions represent CLC staff; one of them is on strike.) The CLC is a national umbrella group bringing together unions, labour federations and local labour councils. The striking staff are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Local Lodge 3111 CURL. They work for the CLC in Ottawa and in offices across the country, including Halifax.
(Disclosure: I have done freelance work for the CLC and know both unionized and non-unionized people in the organization.)
I confess that it first struck me as ironic that the staff of the largest labour organization in the company would be on strike. And then I wondered why that was. I mean, they’re employees and they have an employer, and there’s no reason to think employee-employer relationships are any different if both sides belong to the labour movement.
To help me understand if collective bargaining and labour relations are more complicated when you work for a labour group, I called Larry Haiven. Now retired from the management department at Saint Mary’s, he is an expert in labour issues. He has also worked for two unions. Haiven was a unionized staffer for the Canadian Union of Operating Engineers and General Workers and served as executive director of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (a union representing some health-care workers).
Haiven says clashes between unions and their employers can be “particularly difficult disputes.”
In a usual unionized situation, where you have a company or even governmental operation, there are pretty clear objectives — either to serve the public or make a profit. It very often boils down to money. But when you’ve got a union against a union, they’re both campaigning organizations. They both have a larger purpose, and so it gets very complicated at the bargaining table. And the unions that represent employees of unions expect the employer to do better than the norm. They have higher expectations.
Unions, Haiven says, tend to offer decent pay and benefits, so labour disputes often centre on other issues. In the case of the CLC, the main sticking points are changes to an anti-harassment policy, terms of the pension plan, and what the union calls “modest wage improvements.”
Another complicating factor, Haiven says, is that people in management positions in unions may be uncomfortable with the role of boss. “Unions can have hundreds of employees, and leaders do not see themselves as bosses — but they are.”
Haiven told me a story about one of his union colleagues who was fired, back in the 1980s. “My boss, the head of the union, fired him. But the way he did it was textbook how not to fire someone. The rest of the staff could see our boss did a very bad job, and the guy who was fired put in a grievance with the union that represented us and it went to arbitration.”
When you’re sitting across the negotiating table, Haiven says, things can get complicated when you’re on opposite sides, but ultimately you see yourselves as being “in the same business, together.”
Neil Giroux, on the other hand, says he doesn’t see negotiating with a union as all that different from any other employer. Giroux is an IAMAW grand lodge special representative. He says, “I don’t want to say there are more complexities. I approach it like we’re sitting across the table from any other employer. At the point we were at, they’re the employer and we’re the workers. Nobody wants to go on strike. We had a round of conciliation, we had a round of mediation, and up until last week we had offered binding arbitration.”
I told Giroux that a few years ago an acquaintance at a labour organization in the midst of collective bargaining with employees told me that each side had some of the best negotiators in the country. He said that it’s true labour negotations with union employers often involve “experienced negotiators on both sides. Obviously it’s more of a challenge. But like with any other employer we bargain against, the people sitting at the table are not necessarily the ones who make the decisions. They have a mandate, and whether they are great negotiators or good negotiators, or bad negotiators, they have to fulfill the mandate.”
I contacted the CLC for a comment and did not get a response. From what I understand though, the communications staff are among those on strike.
Community Planning & Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — Here’s the agenda.
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — Here’s the agenda.
Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Youth Power House, Bell Road) — Here’s the agenda.
Public Information Meeting – Case 22485 (Thursday, 7pm, Saint Margaret of Scotland Anglican Church Hall, 3751 Robie Street) — Application by Doug Hubley requesting to rezone lands at 3620 Highland Avenue, Halifax from R-2 (General Residential) zone to the R-2T (Townhouse) zone to allow the construction of a 4 unit townhouse. Details here.
No public meetings.
Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)
Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House)
How Molecular Imaging can improve the clinical translation of novel cancer therapies (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune Ballroom, VG Site) — Kimberley Brewer’s talk focuses on how a collaboration with IMV Inc. has used molecular imaging to evaluate the cancer immunotherapy DPX and improve its application for clinical trials. Register here.
Lysosomes and phosphoinositides: Good target for kidney cancer? (Thursday, 11:30am, Room 3H-01, Tupper Medical Building) — Sandra Turcotte from Université de Moncton will talk.
Recent developments in the numerical analysis of Volterra integral equations (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Hermann Brunner from Hong Kong Baptist University will talk. His abstract:
In the first part of my talk I will give a brief survey of the convergence properties of collocation methods (in spaces of continuous or discontinuous piecewise polynomials) for classical Volterra integral equations (VIEs) of the first and second kind (including equations with weakly singular kernels). The second part will focus on VIEs whose underlying operator is not compact (also known as cordial VIEs). Since such an integral operator possesses an uncountable spectrum, the existence of collocation solutions is not always guaranteed. A number of concrete examples will be used to illuminate various aspects of this problem.
Mini Medical School (Thursday, 7pm, Theatre B, Tupper Link Building) — Thomas Murray will talk about the “History of Dalhousie Medicine”, followed by Wendy Stewart with “Music, the Brain, and Wellness.”
Federal Candidates’ Panel Discussion (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — co-hosted by the College of Sustainability and Dalhousie Federal Student Voter Society. More info here.
Being Human in the 21st Century (Thursday, 7pm, Room 105, Weldon law Building) — Brett Frischmann from Villanova University will talk. From the listing:
Every day new warnings emerge about artificial intelligence rebelling against us. All the while, a more immediate dilemma flies under the radar. Have forces been unleashed that are thrusting humanity down an ill-advised path, one that’s increasingly making us behave like simple machines?
In this wide-reaching, interdisciplinary talk, Brett Frischmann will examine what’s happening to our lives as society embraces big data, predictive analytics, and smart environments. He will explain how the goal of designing programmable worlds goes hand in hand with engineering predictable and programmable people.
Through new frameworks, provocative case studies, and mind-blowing thought experiments that you’ll find hard to shake, Frischmann reveals hidden connections between fitness trackers, GPS technology, electronic contracts, social media platforms, robotic companions, fake news, and autonomous cars. The powerful analysis provides much-needed resources for imagining and building alternative futures.
Noon Hour Piano Recital (Friday, 11;45am, Room 406, Dal Arts Centre) — students of Peter Allen will perform.
Si in Ligand Design: Novel Structure and Reactivity Involving Transition Metal silyl Pincer Complexes (Friday, 1:15pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Laura Turculet will talk.
“Mid Way Betwixt Slaves and Men”: Mary Ann Shadd Cary and the Race Politics of Becoming Provincial Freeman in 1850s Canada West (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1107, Marion McCain Building) — Melissa Shaw from Queen’s University will talk.
The Order of Things – L’ordine Delle Cose (Thursday, 6pm, Theatre B, Burke) — presented in Italian with English subtitles.
What is Sports Journalism in the Age of Simulation? (Friday, 2pm, in the theatre named after a bank, in the building named after a grocery store) — Brian Kennedy from Pasadena City College will talk. More info here. (Philip here: I read the description of this event at the link and still don’t understand what the lecture is about, but Kennedy sounds like a pretty interesting dude.)
Mount Saint Vincent
No public events.
Overcoming white supremacy through teaching with narrative disclosure (Friday, 7pm, Multi-purpose Room, Rosaria Student Centre) — Stephen D. Brookfield from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota, will explore ways of teaching about race. From the listing:
In his recent book Teaching Race: How to help students unmask and challenge racism, he notes the following (points which will also underpin his talk at MSVU):
We live in a time of rampant racism.
If unchallenged, racism will continue to extend.
Racism damages everyone.
Roots of racism lie in the ideology of white supremacy.
Racism is learned.
Racism is structural, not individual.
The point of teaching race is to prepare students to take action to confront racism.
A discussion and response will follow, led by Sylvia Parris-Drummond.
In the harbour
03:30: Dalian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
05:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
06:00: Celebrity Summit, cruise ship with up to 2,100 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Sydney, on a 14-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
06:00: Ef Ava, container ship, sails from HalTerm for Portland
07:00: Seaborne Quest, cruise ship with up to 540 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Bar Harbor, on an 11-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
07:30: Regal Princess, cruise ship with up to 4,271 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
08:00: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney, on an 11-day cruise from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale, thus ending this season in Canada
16:00: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
16:30: Atlantic Sun sails for Liverpool
17:45: Regal Princess sails for New York
18:00: Ardmore Sealifter, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
18:00: Celebrity Summit sails for New York
22:00: Seaborne Quest sails for Charlottetown
There is a day-long “extinction meditation vigil for climate crisis” on Monday at Grand Parade.
Organized by Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia, the Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia and PEI, and the Shambhala-based Eco-Dharma Action Group, the event’s Facebook description invites people to
meditate on the climate crisis, support one another in our grief for the planet, and demand government take immediate steps to avert a climate catastrophe.
Why come together in this way? The climate crisis is the biggest existential threat humanity has ever faced, and as we become more awakened to it, it often feels overwhelming. When we share our fears and feelings in community, we gather much needed support and strength for the important work we’re doing—or must do—to raise awareness and fight for climate action and climate justice.
I don’t know what the Anglicans are doing in terms of substantive change, but I’ve certainly noticed a lot of signs outside Anglican churches referring to the climate crisis.
I’ll confess that when I first decided to write about the meditation vigil I was going to be snarky. I mean, really? Is this really a way to effect meaningful political change? Let’s get a bunch of people sitting still for awhile. That’ll really help.
But change happens in many different ways, and so does solidarity. If people can bond through the experience of sitting quietly together, and if that spurs further action, who am I to judge? I am guessing some of you will have some thoughts in the comments.