“Here’s the deal,” writes Joan Baxter:
On Wednesday, May 14, an Australian gold mining company called St. Barbara Limited, with one gold mine in Australia and a second one in Papua New Guinea, agreed to pay $722 million for Atlantic Gold Corporation, which operates one open pit gold mine in Nova Scotia, has proposed three more along the Eastern Shore, and as of December 2018, held more than 13,200 claims in 200 active exploration licences in the province, a couple of them right up against the border with Kejimkujik National Park.
The Atlantic Gold board unanimously accepted the offer. Atlantic Gold’s major shareholder, Ryan Beedie, through Beedie Investments, which owns 27.7% of current issued and outstanding Common Shares, also agreed to the acquisition.
St. Barbara offered $2.90 a share, up 41.1% from the Atlantic Gold share value before the announcement.
It is all supposed to be finalized in July 2019.
That’s the deal — in a nutshell.
But if we are to try to figure out what it means for Nova Scotia, and what — if anything — is in it for Nova Scotia, first we need to take a peek at what’s going on underneath the nutshell … or shells.
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Relatedly, we’ve taken Joan Baxter’s March 15 article about a spill at the Moose River gold mine, out from behind the paywall.
“Atlantic Gold’s manager of environment and permitting, James Millard, calls it a ‘spill’ or a ‘loss of control’ caused by a ‘gasket failure,’” wrote Baxter:
By whatever name, the event happened on the night of January 3, 2019, at the company’s open pit gold mine at Moose River. It involved 380,000 litres of contaminant-laced slurry, which flowed from the processing plant where ore is crushed and gold extracted, and down a trench underneath the double-lined 500-metre pipe that should have been carrying the effluent to the tailings pond.
The leaked slurry flowed into a lined pond that Millard says was developed and designed for leaks.
During an open house that Atlantic Gold held in Sheet Harbour on Thursday to showcase one of three new gold mines that it wants to open on the Eastern Shore, Millard told me the incident was reported immediately to Nova Scotia Environment, as the amount exceeded spill limits. He said the department has inspected the site and been working with Atlantic Gold.
“We also worked with an independent consultant,” Millard said. “We’ve now excavated all the material and placed it in the tailings pond.” The main “contaminant of concern” is arsenic, he said, but it has all been contained.
There were low amounts of cyanide in the slurry, he added, but those did not exceed Nova Scotia regulations.
I sent questions about the leak to the Nova Scotia Department of Environment Thursday morning; as of publishing Friday morning, I’ve yet to hear back.
2. Street checks
Writes Evelyn C. White:
“Until you do right by me, everything you think about is gonna crumble.” Voiced by Whoopi Goldberg in her role as Celie in the film adaptation of The Color Purple, the line has recently wafted, repeatedly, through my mind. To be sure, the thought has been prompted by the magnificent production of The Color Purple musical (based, like the movie, on the 1982 Alice Walker novel of the same title) now garnering standing ovations at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax.
But the “curse” (it came to pass) that Celie placed on her abusive and fundamentally self-loathing husband also calls to mind the deliberate harm that Halifax police, Justice Minister Mark Furey, and the white power structure of Nova Scotia continue to exact upon the longest standing Black population in the nation. In doing so, white public officials, in stark contrast to everyday Nova Scotians, spit-shine and polish the province’s ignoble reputation as the epicentre of racism in Canada.
On the real side, Nova Scotians of every stripe have been tainted by the diminution of Blacks in the province. The frequently touted “friendliness” of its residents notwithstanding, Nova Scotia maintains a growing reputational stigma and stench.
Click here to read “‘Do right by me’: by not addressing the systematic racism of street checks, the white power structure is doubling down on Nova Scotia’s well-earned reputation for ignorance, stigma, and stench.”
3. Covering government butt
Writes Stephen Kimber:
As Justice David Farrar summed up the appeal court ruling in the Alex Cameron case: “It would be manifestly unfair to allow the province to hide behind solicitor-client privilege while at the same time impugning the conduct of its solicitor.” But that didn’t stop the McNeil government from trying. And trying.
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4. Mayor writes a sick note for hungover employees
Mike Savage wrote an open letter to employers, managers, and supervisors Monday, encouraging them to be kind to their employees who might be working at a “reduced capacity” this Thursday. Here’s the story from CBC. That’s because on Wednesday night, there are two big sporting events in Halifax: the Mooseheads are playing the Memorial Cup; and the Halifax Wanderers take to the Wanderers Grounds at 6 p.m.
Savage suggests employers have lots of snacks and water on hand for employees who may have made “unwise” decisions the night before.
If you get a text along the lines of “bus broke down” or “gonna be late, dog threw up,” respond with a simple, yet understanding, “no prob.” Rest assured, this glorious day of sports in Halifax will be the stuff of legends. We all have a role to play in making it fun.
Most of the reaction at Savage’s official Twitter account was supportive of the letter, saying Savage has a good sense of humour. “This is about an elected leader with a great understanding for the heart, soul and spirit of the people he represents,” said Rodger Cuzner, MP for Cape Breton-Canso.
John Gallant commented, “How about warning women to take extra care if they are out on this night since those ‘unwise’ beverage decisions can lead to higher incidents of assault? How about encouraging people to be responsible citizens? That would be a better message to send from a supposed leader.”
4. Harassment and bullying at Nova Scotia prisons
Angela MacIvor at CBC Nova Scotia reports that employees at two Nova Scotia prisons say their workplaces are “toxic, dysfunctional and having low morale” because of harassment and intimidation from their managers.
CBC received workplace assessments from Springhill Institution and the Nova Institution for Women in Truro. Jacques Vanasse, who is retired from the Correctional Service of Canada, interviewed staff for the assessments. CBC also interviewed four employees as part of its investigation.
At the Nova Institution, about 30 per cent of its corrections officers are on extended sick leave. One employee interviewed says the workplace is a “cesspool.”
Toxic is too light and fluffy. It’s a cesspool in Nova Institution. It’s really, really bad and it’s been going on for several years and it’s just gotten worse.
Vanasse says problems at the prisons included nepotism, security concerns and fear.
They feel investigations are witch hunts seeking to blame employees, and that investigations are the only way management pays attention to [correctional officers].
When probed to find out if the fear was perceived or real, most responded that the fear was very real and cited examples of reprisal, bullying, intimidation and harassment in the work place,
According to the Vanasse’s assessment, one worker at the Nova Institution say inmates are not being supported.
How is that happening with the staff in there, when it is such a bad horrible atmosphere to work in? There’s harassment in there. There’s racist comments made, and bullying.
How are we setting an example to them when there are staff that are behaving that way, and managers that are behaving that way?
Vanasse’s recommendations included hiring conflict management experts, addressing the staffing issue at Nova Institution, and having investigations done by those not in conflict of interest situations.
Shelley Lawrence, a spokesperson with Corrections Canada, says they have launched a respectful workplace campaign and have a confidential tip line for staff.
We support the recommendations of these assessments and are taking steps to address the issues raised. Since the reports were shared with staff at the end of March, we have begun our efforts to appropriately address the issues specific to each institution
1. Employment in Nova Scotia: A work in progress
Two years ago this past Saturday, I lost my job and for the first time in years I didn’t have to go to work the next day. Losing a job is about more than losing a paycheque, though. Over the course of the last two years, I’ve thought more about work and what we value than I ever have in my life.
After spending some time with Netflix and too many cinnamon rolls, I got to work finding a new job and I already knew how I’d approach it. One of the best pieces of advice I got at journalism school had nothing to do with journalism at all. It came from Catherine Dunphy, a 25-year reporter at the Toronto Star and author of Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero. Dunphy was my professor in a first-year newspaper class at Ryerson University. She was giving our class some job-hunting advice and told us never go to HR to get a job because their job is to get rid of you. What she meant was when we were out pounding the pavement looking for work in the media business, go directly to the managing editor, executive producer, whoever, to find out about work. When I moved back to Halifax in 2002, I put that advice into practice from the get-go and landed most of my contracts that way. And I put it into practice again in the spring of 2017, looking for a new role in a new sector.
Meeting potential bosses outside of a traditional interview is eye opening. It’s a better way to look for work than networking in a crowded room, shaking hands with and giving your card to strangers. Really, you’re just having a chat with someone over coffee, telling them about your skills and goals and asking questions about them and their organization. There are none of those situational questions (“Tell us about a time…”) that can stump some of the best, but sometimes nervous, interviewees. Some of the people I met were very candid. At that time, I was looking for a very particular role I no longer want. Some of the women told me I’d have to work harder than the men. Some of the men said they got their jobs because they were lucky or they knew the recruiter. I liked many of them; others, not so much. I was living out that saying about men getting hired for their potential, women for their track record.
After about six weeks of searching and applying, I landed a new gig.
But after several months there, I had my first and only anxiety attack on a Sunday night, simply thinking about going to work that Monday. My colleagues were great, but the job wasn’t a fit for me for a number of reasons. I left a few weeks later. I decided then to get back to writing and freelance work and have been doing that for just over a year.
I was lucky to have a lot of support. The same day I lost my job in 2017, a friend and former colleague quit her job to work for herself. Over the last two years and through dozens of messages, we shared the ups and downs of self-employment. We talked about doubts in our own abilities, decisions and concerns for our futures, but also good news about contracts we got. We met for breakfast to vent and to just get out from working at home. I hired her for a project I worked on. Now, after working on her own for two years, she’s moving to Ontario in July.
I also found shared support in the most unlikely places. I started piano lessons a year ago and my teacher, a woman in her mid-50s, went back to school about a month after my first lesson. She had worked in low-wage jobs for years and while she loves teaching piano (and she’s very good), it’s not steady work and students come and go (I’m sure it’s also torture listening to me when I don’t practice). She’ll finish school in June and is planning to leave the province to find a job.
Once, an entrepreneur I know sensed I might be having a bad day and suggested we go for coffee and a pep talk. When you’re looking for work, freelance or otherwise, you find out quickly who your supporters are.
While freelancing, I still kept in the loop on the work that was out there and started noticing some horrible trends in employment in Nova Scotia. The first were the wages. I hadn’t looked seriously for work in maybe several years, but the wages seemed to be the same as the wages I saw (or earned) in similar jobs a decade earlier. Jobs with salaries between $30,000 and $35,000 are too common, with many jobs paying much less than that (check out this one Tim posted on Saturday).
While the wages remained stagnant, the responsibilities in jobs seemed to increase. In many cases, the jobs were four or five jobs in one. For example, many public relations jobs I saw listed required skills in writing, photography, marketing, graphic design, social media and website management, event planning, and sometimes even sales or fundraising.
And all of these jobs required at least one university degree, which costs about what these employers are paying annually, probably more. As someone mentioned on Twitter, the degree requirement keeps poor people poor (while keeping the universities full, I should add).
I started tweeting about what I found. Now, tweeting about the poor wages and long lists of requirements doesn’t really make a job-hunter an attractive prospect to employers. But I started to get messages from other workers who were equally frustrated and noticed the same trends. They were stuck in low-paying jobs with no room for advancement, sometimes working a second job or a “side hustle” just to pay the bills. Some of these messages were from people I know. Others were from strangers on Twitter. The stories were often the same: frustration with the lack of opportunities, the long list of requirements listed in job postings, including a degree, and, of course, the low wages. They often sent me job postings with long lists of requirements and low wages. People were telling me they were burned out and didn’t know where to go next. They were young people a few years out of school and Gen Xers like me. We were all in the same very leaky employment boat in Canada’s Ocean Playground.
Workers are often told to just work harder to get ahead, but that’s a myth. Sure, there are people who got where they are because of hard work, but there are lots of other reasons people get ahead and make the salaries they do that have nothing to do with hard work: gender, race, connections, money, and having a certain way of talking (ie. bullshitting and buzz words). And what does “work hard” even mean? A lot of people word hard at important jobs that go unnoticed and underpaid. If they stopped working hard, we’d notice their loss, but wouldn’t know who to credit for the work they did. I also recognize the incredible privilege I have in the workforce: I’m educated, have a lot skills and experience, a huge network of contacts, a healthy kid, and shared custody with a very supportive former partner. All of these factors make looking work easier for me. I’ve had the chance to do a lot of interesting work over the last two years, including writing for the Examiner (Thanks, Tim!). Honestly, I don’t know how some people get by. And that’s because often they don’t.
Tim has been writing about the living wage here at the Examiner for a long time. I wrote about it, too, here and here, as well about policies like basic income and allowing bar and restaurant staff to keep their tips. These are policies that would improve the lives of everyday working people. These are the ways to value what they contribute to our economy. Yet, often when a Nova Scotia employer complains about the lack of skilled talent for hire, there’s never talk of wages. The belief that you never talk about money means we are here now not earning what we deserve. But it’s bigger than that.
There’s a mentality in Nova Scotia that workers should take whatever they can get and be grateful for it. I’ve heard people say about terrible salaries, “Well, that’s good money for Nova Scotia.”
Gratitude doesn’t pay the bills, but employers in Nova Scotia take advantage of this mentality, along with the “quality of life” we have here. And it’s not just employers. You’ll see it in the comments on those articles about complaining employers — fellow Nova Scotians complaining that young people these days won’t work for $12 an hour anymore. Why should they? Rent has almost doubled, childcare is expensive, and home ownership is out of reach for many. Low wages mean young people are delaying the milestones in life that boomers got easier.
A few weeks ago, I took my 16-year-old daughter to drop off her one-page resume at a list of places she wanted to work. A few days later she got a call for an interview. A week later, after choosing an outfit and running her through a list of potential interview questions, I dropped her off again for her first interview. Last week, she started her first shift.
That same day I got hired for a contract doing some important, interesting, and inspiring work that will pay me well. It was a good week for work here. But every day, I still think about work and what we value, and I’m rooting for everyone working to get ahead.
Workers in Nova Scotia deserve better. The systems already exist to make their work and lives better. They deserve living wages, benefits, and respect for what they contribute. So, my message to some employers in Nova Scotia: what you have to offer is still a huge work in progress.
1. Brookfield Golf and Country Club goes back in time to hire staff
Charlene Boyce and Todd Denton were in Brookfield this weekend and noticed this sign at the Brookfield Golf and Country Club. You can follow the discussion at Boyce’s Twitter account here.
First, never call a grown woman a girl. Rebecca Thomas wrote a very good piece on this for The Star back in March, recalling working in a restaurant where the chef referred to the female staff as girls.
The term “girl” is diminutive when referring to grown women. It clearly states that woman is lesser than, without power, and easily controlled.
Secondly, why can’t men work in this job? How is having a vagina a requirement for operating a drink cart? I’ve served drinks and don’t recall ever having some gender advantage over the men I worked with. We all carried the drink trays with our hands.
Brookfield Golf and Country Club, step up your game. This was wrong in the 1950s, and it’s still very wrong now.
Also, to the golfers at Brookfield this season, always tip the person working the drink cart.
2. Working the holiday
I must be one of those people who forget what’s open and what’s closed every Victoria Day, but stores, malls, and the NSLC were all open during yesterday. I did my grocery shopping in Bayers Lake at 8 a.m. on Sunday, and was surprised to see a sign stating stores would be open Monday. I really thought everything was closed for the holiday.
So, I looked up holiday hours for retailers at the Retail Council of Canada’s website. The council lists the rules for each province on its website. Here are the rules for retail workers on Victoria Day in Atlantic Canada:
In New Brunswick and in Newfoundland & Labrador, Victoria Day is a retail closing day but not a statutory holiday.
In Prince Edward Island, Victoria Day is not a holiday and shops are free to open.
Nova Scotia: Despite provincial tradition, Victoria Day is not a statutory holiday nor is it a retail closing day. This creates confusion in the province as many Nova Scotia businesses close for Victoria Day and some even provide their employees with a paid day off. Yet, under the law, retailers are free to open on this day and employees do not have the right to refuse to work.
I feel like retail stores in Nova Scotia used to close on Victoria Day. Notice that in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, stores were closed yesterday, even though Victoria Day isn’t a statutory holiday. Good on New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador!
The rules for retail closing days on various holidays at the Retail Council of Canada site are here. If you look at the rules for each province, it turns out Atlantic Canada and Quebec are the only regions where retailers must close on a certain holidays, except for Manitoba, where the rule applies to retailers with fewer than four staff, including the owner. Everywhere else, retailers can stay open, even on statutory holidays, but must pay their employees according to the law.
Looking ahead to the summer holidays, on Canada Day July 1, most retailers in Nova Scotia are not permitted to be open. But for Natal Day in Halifax, stores can be open, just as they were on Victoria Day; however, most stores can only be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is an exemption for retailers under the Retail Business Designated Closing Day Act. Again, in New Brunswick, retailers are not allowed to be open on New Brunswick Day, the province’s civic holiday on the first Monday each August.
Some other interesting highlights: Nunavut has the most statutory holidays at 11, although retailers can open their doors. Newfoundland and Labrador also has 11 stat holidays, although Regatta Day only applies to retailers in St. John’s and Harbour Grace. Retailers can’t open on those 11 holidays.
City Council (Tuesday , 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the rather light agenda; Tim is away and won’t be covering the meeting.
Accessibility Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4pm, City Hall) — the committee is having its kick at the Centre Plan can.
Public Information Meeting – Case 22177 (Wednesday, 7pm, Maritime Hall, Halifax Forum) — WM Fares has put in a development application for an eight-storey (plus penthouse) building at the corner of Almon and Gladstone Streets that will supposedly look like that drawing above. The property is owned by a numbered company with four Ghosns (Justin, James, George, Jeffrey) as directors.
Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm, One Government Place) — questions to Sherry Spence, of the Financial Operations and Corporate Services Branch of Veterans Affairs, and to Sandie Williamson, of the Health Care Programs and Service Delivery Branch.
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — questions to Kelliann Dean, the deputy minister of the Department of Municipal Affairs, and to Paul Mason, the executive director of the Emergency Management Office, about “Critical Infrastructure Resiliency,” which was the subject of Chapter 4 in the November 2016 Report of the Auditor General.
Beyond GDP: International Experiences, Canada’s Options (starts Thursday, 9am, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Register now for a two-day workshop
that brings together Canadian and international academics, policy-makers, NGOs, and members of the public to share knowledge about “beyond GDP” measurement initiatives and discuss next steps forward. We have an exciting program with presentations by many leading researchers and practitioners, including a keynote talk by John Helliwell, professor emeritus in economics at the University of British Columbia and lead author of the annual World Happiness Report. Concluding sessions will discuss next steps in Canada and develop recommendations for governments.
Event is free; registration and more info here.
Thesis Defence, Nursing (Wednesday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Britney Benoit will defend “The Influence of Breastfeeding on Pain-Related Event-Related Potentials and Bio-Behavioural Indicators of Procedural Pain in Newborns: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”
Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Seminar (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Anastasiia Mereshchuk will talk about “Investigating Maintenance of the Yeast 2-Micron Family of Plasmids,” followed by Jeffrey Simmons talking about “Characterizing the Mechanics and Structure of Recombinant Pyriform Silk.”
Atlantic BIOCON 2019: Growing the Bioeconomy in Nova Scotia (May 27 to 29, various locations on campus) — [this bit was written by Tim] basically, the idea is
we’re all the connected people are going to get rich by cutting down Nova Scotia’s forests, releasing all the stored carbon into the atmosphere, and destroying the former forest lands’ ability to serve as a carbon sink, all while claiming the endeavour is good for the environment.
At least they named the event truthfully: BIOCON.
Now let’s count the bullshit words and outright lies from the website description of the BIOCON event, shall we?:
The Atlantic BIOCON Conference is a dynamic 3-day conference that sparks discussion and projects that transform our renewable natural resources into business opportunities. These opportunities are part of a vision for a sustainable future and circular economy where Canada’s biomass is used to its full potential. Responsible resource management practices, new innovative technologies, and research and development in our traditional industries are essential elements of this vision. This is the biobased economy.
Biorefining is a means to a sustainable future where we transform our natural resources into high value products like energy, medicines, bioplastics, and biofuels. Our natural resources are a valuable asset that should be leveraged sustainably and responsibly, and used in ways that yield the most positive impact for our society.
Atlantic Canada is positioned to be a leader in innovations for the bioeconomy, with dozens of private and public research institutions and hundreds of companies already innovating in the biosciences. Our vast forests, affordable agriculture land, and diversified coastal zones make this region an ideal playground for piloting and scaling up globally disruptive biorefining technologies.
Mount Saint Vincent
American Refugees: Turning to Canada for Freedom (Thursday, 4pm, McCain 105-106) — Tuesday is the last day to RSVP for the book launch and author talk with former Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies, Rita Shelton Deverell. From the event listing:
In her new book, American Refugees, Rita shows that from the Revolutionary War to the Underground Railroad through to McCarthyism and Vietnam, Americans have fled to Canada in times of crisis. When Donald Trump was elected President of the USA in 2016, the website for Citizenship and Immigration crashed overwhelmed by Americans interested in migrating to Canada.
In the harbour
06:00: Julius-S, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
06:00: Yantian Express, container ship, moves from Bedford Basin anchorage to Fairview Cove
07:00: Pearl Mist, cruise ship with up to 216 passengers, arrives at Pier 24 from Bar Harbor
07:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Portland
11:30: Ef Ava sails for Argentia, Newfoundland
15:15: Pearl Mist sails for sea
18:00: Julius-S sails for New York
A couple of Twitter followers and I organized a tweet up for Friday, June 7 at 4 p.m. at Stillwell Beer Garden. There are a lot of interesting people on Halifax Twitter, so I look forward to meeting them. If you’re not on Twitter, you’re welcome to attend, too.
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