In the harbour
1. Outsourcing Service Nova Scotia
“The Nova Scotia government is looking at off-loading the costs of upgrading its registry services for motor vehicles, land and businesses by partnering with the private sector,” reports the CBC. “A call will be put out later this summer for input from companies interested in running the public registries and modernizing the associated technology.”
That’s right: they’re going to privatize the DMV.
This is horrible policy, an attack on good-paying jobs, the Liberals playing lick-spittle for corporations, and an affront to democracy.
Public information should be public. Providing that information is one of the primary jobs of government. It is the basis for commerce, for education, for research, for journalism, for voters. It’s as important as roads, or the fire department.
Today, I’ll talk about just one aspect of the proposal that affects me directly: the Registry of Joint Stock Companies. This is a resource I use multiple times a day, to better understand companies and registered non-profits, so I can better report on various issues. It’s not even 7:30am, and I’ve already used the Registry today, to quickly look up an organization I thought I’d write about this morning (turns out to be a bigger issue than I have time to devote to, but I’ll get to it later). While reading reports written by consultants for city council, I typically run the consulting companies through the registry to look for potential conflicts of interest. When Nova Scotia Business Inc drops some dough to some corporation, I check to see who the directors of the company are. And so on. The Registry of Joint Stock Companies is my #1 government resource. It’s invaluable. It’s fundamental to my work. Almost all of my reporting uses it in some capacity.
And now the government wants to lock it behind a paywall.
In the United States, all the states I worked in as a reporter make similar registries (they go by a variety of names) completely free to the public, so I was surprised to find the registries are behind paywalls in some Canadian provinces.
I first encountered the paywalls when I was doing some broad background research on a company connected to Trade Centre Limited. The president and owner of the company had previously owned a company in British Columbia, so I wanted to track that work, see if there had been complaints or lawsuits related to it, etc. But the corporate information was locked behind a paywall, and so it cost me something like $25 to perform just one search, as I recall. The cost was prohibitively high for me to do the multiple searches I wanted to do — I suspected the person in question was connected with other companies, and wanted to pull the records on those companies to see if she was listed as a director or officer.
More recently, in April, I discussed Gus Reed’s review of companies that had received money from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and I wondered about the Atlantic Wallboard Limited Partnership, which has received a whopping $42,405,000 in ACOA grants. A little internet research showed that Atlantic Wallboard is in Saint John, so I went to the New Brunswick Registry of Joint Stock Companies and looked it up. It required two searches, and cost me about 15 bucks. As far as records in the registry go, the partnership has skillfully hidden its ownership behind two shell corporations, so the search was futile, but I did eventually find a document presented to the Saint John city council that was signed by J.D. Irving, the president of the partnership.
This is just the normal kind of research I do. Like I said, I use the registry every day, often many times a day, sometimes many dozens of times a day. But a fee of $25 a search, or $15, or even $5 puts it off limits except for the most compelling investigations, and I don’t really know what those are until after I do the search. Moreover, it’d be irresponsible for me to not run a search on a company or non-profit before writing about them.
I don’t know exactly how many times I use the registry, but my guess is that were I to be charged $5 for each search I’ve run since I started the Examiner a year ago, I’d be out something like $10,000 now. A $25 fee would cost me $50,000. I don’t have $50,000.
So, effectively, privatizing the Registry of Joint Stock Companies and putting it behind a paywall makes my job impossible. And not just mine, but every other reporter’s job in Nova Scotia. It’s an attack on journalism, and because it limits the information available to the public, privatization is an attack on the public’s right to know, and therefore on an informed citizenry. It’s an attack on democracy itself.
2. Charges dropped
“The Crown has struck a deal with a Halifax man in exchange for his co-operation in the investigation into the February 2009 killing of Terry Marriott Jr.,” the Chronicle Herald’s Dan Arsenault and Steve Bruce report:
On Monday in Halifax provincial court, the Crown withdrew all charges against MacPhee, 34, in connection with a break-in in Bedford on April 15 and a violent home invasion in Upper Sackville on June 8.
MacPhee was released from custody after appearing in court.
The details at the link are an interesting, albeit disturbing, read.
Arsenault is the last true crime beat reporter in Halifax, and he’s doing a fine job.
3. City council
Later today, I’ll try to write something intelligent about yesterday’s city council meeting.
1. St. Pat’s
Stephen Archibald takes a last look at St. Pat’s High School before it is demolished.
2. Canadian Geographic
“Former employees say the nature magazine became a paid mouthpiece for oil companies and others,” reports Jesse Brown at Canadaland in a two-part (so far) series about Canadian Geographic. Read Part 1 and Part 2.
2. Cranky letter of the day
Many thanks to the Cape Breton residents who took the time to give us directions every time we got lost. The tourism map is so minuscule that neither us nor the residents could read it. However, the residents knew where we wanted to go and gave exact directions. A special thanks to the following who said, “Just follow me and I’ll take you there.”
1. The woman in the grey car with her daughter and a Rottweiler in the back seat, who guided us to church.
2. The couple in the silver Volkswagen convertible who led us from church to the shopping mall.
3. The woman we met in Glace Bay, who led us out to Dominion Beach and gave directions back to Sydney.
Without the assistance of all these wonderful people, we would have packed up and left for home early and missed some of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada.
Shame on the Tourism department for its pitiful maps. Also, the municipalities seriously need to improve the street signage so people can see the cross streets, not just the street they are on. Some signs were even hidden behind electrical poles or omitted. Surely there must be an ambitious cartographer or imaging professional who can improve the deplorable maps (perhaps even apply for a government grant to remedy the situation).
Barbara, Antoine Hagge, Whitby, Ont.
Investment Policy Advisory Committee (noon, City Hall)—yes, this committee’s name sounds like a yawner, but it’s the one city committee that actually has an interesting reading list. I typically read the recommended articles.
No public meetings.
In the harbour
Atlantic Companion, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove East this morning, sails to sea this afternoon
Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, Saint-Pierre to Pier 36
ZIM New York, container ship, New York to Pier 41, then sails to sea
ZIM Qingdao, Valencia, Spain to Pier 42, then sails to sea
NS Stream, oil tanker, Paldiski, Estonia to Imperial Oil
Berlin Express sails to New York
It’s annoying how little there is to write about this morning. I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm, with a bunch of dead air, I guess.
Absolutely an attack on democracy but also of a piece with the neoliberal attack on unionized jobs starting with the nurses, teachers, the film industry and universities–for instance the firing of admin support staff at nscad along with the replacing of unionized janitorial positions with contracting out, a pattern that I expect will continue at other institutions. What does it mean: a few old boys continue on the graft, big corporations get their grease, and the masses fight each other for the crumbs.
Well said! All while governments depend on citizens not paying close attention, not raising a loud and public outcry, not realizing/remembering/considering the societal cost of their touted “improved economy” at election time. The pattern repeats itself over and over, with each successive regime covering for its predecessor and the true state of the province.
The CBC article mentions polling to indicate people want attention to “core” government services, health and education. This is perhaps true, but these are not “core” government services. Government is. Legislature, courts, police, and the bureaucracy, tribunals, inspectors. Even the evil tax man.
Of course people don’t consider, let alone talk about these when talking to candidates at their door, or pollsters on the phone. We might bitch about having spent 3 hours of our lives out in BLIP at the in-Access Nova Scotia, but except for the most militant freemen-on-the-land crazies, we mostly accept that it mostly works and is a necessary evil.
That said, the devil is in the details. If, as alleged, the data remains government property, and the service catalog and prices are set by government… and (this is the critical part) set to maintain current-or-better accessibility, it could work.
The Cobequid Pass highway does more or less work, and while the tolls are annoying, it did allow it to happen 10, 20, ∞ years sooner than if it was paid for out of government cash. I’ll throw in also the Cormorant “in service support” contract. DND gives the birds only gas and crew, and the hundreds of metrics that the provider is paid, fined, and bonused on keeps everyone in line. (It is curious, the contracts guys are not DND themselves, the mediation between an org who wants to make money and commanders who are used to *ordering* birds around, paperwork be dammed, must be interesting.). Both sides care deeply about the contract, so the contract is absurdly detailed.
I know I’m supposed to hate NS Power, but I don’t. 9% profit is high, and there have been specific examples but except for that, the regulator process more or less works. The paperwork that came out of the valley not having power for a week was voluminous. Again, here both sides care deeply about the service, and the regulations and metrics are absurdly detailed.
On the other hand, I’m right at the age where things like public or university school cafeterias went from being run by school employees, doting old bluehairs who did as much for learning (f not education) as any random teacher, to being profit centers for private companies. Here, the schools just DGAF, and if the contract was longer than a napkin, I’d be shocked. Since only one side cares, the consumer gets fucked.
If – and that is a big if – we treat this privatization of service *delivery* like the self-contained PPP Cobequid Pass group, or the absurdly intricate and managed ISS contract, or the UARB driven NSPI, we might be OK. If we treat it like contracting out a cafeteria for a high school, we are fucked.
Surely our government officials know better than we plebes what is good for us. Why ask questions anyway? Why be curious?
Maybe just sit down at the local Starbucks, check your Facebook feed for the latest Trump happenings and take the dog for a walk.
Life is so much easier when we let greater minds than ours do our thinking for us and control what we should and should not know.
It is a very bad idea. Especially when buildings collapse and the developer has a very questionable history.
Clark Wilkins luck may have run out now that his expansion of a rooming house on Lucknow Street has collapsed. He’s well know amongst contractors.
A search of the Registry of Joint Stocks shows he has registered 7 businesses of which 3 have been revoked for non-payment of fees, 1 struck off, 1 revoked by request and 2 are active.
He was a slum landlord when owning properties at the bottom of Victoria Road in Dartmouth and eventually demolished the properties after HRM ordered him to secure the then empty buildings.
In June his proposal for a mixed use development of 5 and 6 storeys on the corner of Portland Street and Portland Hills Drive drew 100 opponents to the information meeting at Woodlawn library where his sole supporter was a real estate agent who said he knew Mr Wilkins and praised his previous projects as ‘top quality’.
Privatizing public services to “cut costs” is like pimping out your kids to help with your household debt.
Except (in this case) you own the debt and your kids own the house 😐
Re:Joint stock registry
Here’s what I plan to do, email my MLA and ask him for the following:
– please define your understanding of what public data is
– please identify where the funds to operate the RMV, the JSR and the Land registry are coming from (public or private sources?)
– please provide your understanding of what one is entitled to when one pays for something (eg. How much of a doughnut are you entitled to if you paid for the whole thing?)
– please state whether you are aware of the public ownership of government (that one’s just a joke)
I encourage everyone to ask their MLA similar questions and get their responses in writing. There’s nothing that makes a (by default) egoic politician squirm more than stating something in writing
I’d like to know what kind of modernizing the registries supposedly need.
The ability to function more fully online. Instead of govt making the effort to evolve and become more web savvy, apparently it’s easier to use our money to pay a company to charge us for govt’s inability to change.
My understanding is that the RMV and RJSC both need huge new software systems built for millions of dollars over the span of a decade by the lowest bidder.
Don’t forget about the need to shift accountability
Putting the Joint Stocks Registry info behind a paywall is bad public policy. If that is how the government expects to save money through privatization of the service, it should drop its plans right now. It also smacks of opportunism. The government mandates that Nova Scotia companies register, then sells access to the information. Is the Nova Scotia Government channelling Google and Facebook?
The Hagge’s should get a smartphone.