1. Liberals double-down on IBM deal they criticized four years ago as a “huge clusterfuck”

Back in 2012, I reported on the then-NDP government’s decision to outsource the province’s SAP operations to IBM:

By handing 73 union jobs to the notoriously anti-union IBM, Nova Scotia’s NDP has turned its back on its core support in the labour movement.


What we’ve been told is this: the province has entered a 10-year deal outsourcing SAP operations to IBM, starting at $8.4 million a year, which is said to be the exact cost to the province of operating SAP with unionized government workers. That annual payment will increase using a “cost of living index” used by the IT industry, says the Finance Department. 


The province has contracted for a specific set of services, at a price which supposedly matches the current cost to the province for the same services. But the fear is that as technology evolves and as new products become available or desired, IBM will charge more for the delivery of those products and services, far beyond the cost the province would pay by developing them in-house.

“They make all the money on change orders,” says Andrew Younger, a Liberal MLA who criticizes the IBM deal. “That’s how construction companies make their money in government contracts, too.”

Younger characterizes the IBM deal as “a huge clusterfuck.”

Yesterday, the Liberals announced they are doubling down on the “huge clusterfuck” they criticized four years ago. A Nova Scotia Business Inc. press release:

Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) has approved an amendment to the existing IBM business development incentive agreement, which began in November 2012.

Four years into its eight-year payroll rebate agreement IBM is ahead of its plan to create 500 positions.

With the amended agreement the company is projected to create up to 250 more jobs in the province, for a total of 750 jobs over the eight-year span of the agreement.

From its growing Nova Scotia client innovation centre IBM serves more than 30 clients around the world. Nova Scotia employees work on projects such as helping design the cognitive car of the future and helping sports teams evaluate player and team performance.

Today 50 per cent of IBM’s Nova Scotia employees are recent graduates from local educational institutions and young professionals.

The amendment includes an agreed-upon focus of continued hiring of new graduates and new Nova Scotians, as well as higher agreed-upon average salaries required to earn a rebate.

Based on the new maximum growth forecast of the amended eight-year payroll rebate agreement, NSBI estimates IBM would spend a total of $251,397,422 in salaries and benefits. These IBM employees would pay direct taxes of approximately $29,264,000. As a result, over the amended eight-year agreement, IBM would be eligible to earn up to $22,633,683 through the payroll rebate, including this new extension.

IBM would be eligible for a smaller rebate if it creates fewer than 750 jobs.

I’m actually surprised IBM is taking advantage of the payroll rebates; my understanding is that the reason most other firms are not fully utilizing the payroll rebates offered to them is because they can hire university grads through the provincial immigration fast track program and pay them a hell of a lot less than the $50,000 minimum salary mandated through the payroll rebate program.

But, NSBI spin aside, the entire point of the IBM deal, for both the company and the union, is to bust unions.

On the company’s side of things, about 20 years ago IBM set out to move nearly its entire U.S. operations out of the country in order to slash its labour costs. That effort succeeded last year, reports the Register:

The sole unionised outpost trying to give a voice to IBM workers Stateside has frozen campaigns, citing sustained job cuts and a resulting drop in membership as the reasons.

Alliance@IBM was set up in 1999 to organise protests against redundancies as Big Blue started to move more roles, particularly in manufacturing and services, to lower-cost overseas operations.

Lee Conrad, national coordinator for the Alliance@IBM, yesterday wrote to its brothers and sisters, telling them the “union organising campaign at IBM has been suspended”.

“Years of job cuts and membership losses have taken their toll. IBM executive management steamrolled over employees and their families,” he added in the missive.

In the 1980s, IBM had 230,000 staff based in the US but this figure has fallen to 71,000, the union claimed. The company hasn’t provided clarity on its local headcount for roughly five years.

On the government side of things, the savings come from not having to pay union wages for the SAP work.

So once again, we’re all going to get rich by paying everyone less.

Incidentally, here’s what the province has been paying IBM over the last five years:

2011/12: $1.78 million
2012/13: $5.80 million
2013/14: $15.57 million
2014/15: $26.50 million
2015/16: $24.67 million

Figures for the 2016/17 fiscal year, which ends March 31, won’t come in until July.

2. Armco

Yesterday, on a 13-4 vote, Halifax council approved the scheduling of a public hearing for proposed bylaw changes that will allow the construction of a 20-storey building at the corner of Robie Street and Quinpool Road.

This is a bit confusing, but the vote is a victory for those opposed to the development of an even taller 29-storey building on the site that Armco developments wanted.

Did David Hendsbee write this letter?

It was a strange council discussion, as councillor David Hendsbee argued that a taller building casting a longer shadow on The Oval in the wintertime would be a good thing because the ice wouldn’t melt as fast, and councillor Stephen Adams said that when he played baseball on the Common as a boy, he looked forward to the nearby buildings casting a shadow on the ball diamonds because they kept the sun out of his eyes.

In the end, however, most councillors agreed with local councillors Lindell Smith and Waye Mason, who argued that a 29-storey building was just too imposing for the site.

It remains to be seen how much opposition there will be to a 20-storey building or, if approved, whether Armco will be interested in building one.

During the meeting, staff said that the long-delayed Centre Plan, which will impose HRM By Design-like planning standards on the entire peninsula and Dartmouth inside the Circumferential Highway, will be completed later this week.

The Centre Plan will place a height limit of 20 storeys for all new construction outside of the downtown core.

3. Divest Mount Allison

Students occupy the Mt. A academic quad. L-R: Lily Falk, Claire Henderson-Hamilton, Catherine Turnbull. Photo: Bruce Wark

Mount Allison students began an occupation of the campus quad Monday morning, demanding that the university divest from fossil fuel companies, reports Bruce Wark:

“We’re demanding that the university consider the ethical concerns that its constituents have,” said student Catherine Turnbull.

She added that Divest MTA has the support of a large number of students as well as many members of faculty and staff.

“We see a really drastic divide between the interests of the administration and the concerns of students and faculty who they are supposed to be representing,” she said.


Last month, more than 40 Mt. A. students conducted a “die-in” protest in Tweedie Hall where the Board of Regents was holding its regular meeting. The students lay down on the floor, feigning death to represent the victims of oil and gas exploitation. The protest ended the Regents’ meeting, but did not result in a promise to move toward disinvestment in fossil fuels as the students had hoped.

Members of Divest MTA say this latest occupation is designed to step up the pressure for divestment.

Die-in’ protest last month in Tweedie Hall. Photo: Divest MTA

Yesterday, several professors expressed support to the students at a teach-in at the occupation:

“Im really glad you guys are all out here,” Economics Professor Stephen Law told the students.

“Too many people think that nice people shouldn’t make a fuss. I think it’s essential that it’s the nice people who are making a fuss — a nice fuss.”

Law went on to criticize  federal and provincial governments for cutting university funding while letting the rich and powerful escape paying taxes.

“We live in a province which is characterized by robber barons, under-taxation and corruption,” he said. “So, what do we get? We get refineries and not refinement.”

4. Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly. Photo: Tim Bousquet

“The provincial municipal inspection of Westlock County [Alberta] is finally underway,” reports the Westlock News, which goes on to give the background for the review:

The inspection follows a series of incidents over the last few years, at least several of which stem from former chief administrative officer (CAO) Peter Kelly — currently Charlottetown, P.E.I.’s CAO.

In particular, Reeve Don Savage noted that there had been upheaval over the Horizon North deal.

“There was people coming in from the citizens to save Westlock County,” Savage said. “Consequently from Peter Kelly’s leadership, there was many questions unanswered and they’re still unanswered. So (Coun.) Dennis Primeau insisted on a municipal review and Mr. (Coun. Bud) Massey made the motion that we have a municipal review.”

Between Sept. 2014 and Feb. 2016, Kelly approved more than $375,800 worth of work to prepare an eight-acre industrial park belonging to Horizon North without council’s approval.

Three months after his departure, council learned the county owed over $202,000 due to development costs and lost market value from the Horizon North deal.

In June, an eight-page legal opinion from Reynolds, Mirth, Richards and Farmer Barristers and Solicitors found Kelly had breached his duties as administrator and was liable for damages. Those breaches range from selling the lots for below market value, expending unbudgeted funds, withholding information from council, continuing to deal with Horizon North after his tenure as CAO and failing to maintain appropriate paperwork.

Kelly is the former mayor of Halifax Regional Municipality.

You can read the eight-page legal opinion here.

A report on the Westlock matter should be made public by mid-summer.

Folks in Westlock got riled up by the Kelly matter, says the Westlock News:

Tensions within council bubbled to the surface when Coun. Dennis Primeau punched then-Reeve Bud Massey prior to an April 19 policy meeting.

Primeau was charged with assault and signed a peace bond in Westlock Provincial Court May 25 and issued a public apology in council chambers June 14.


1. Bus stops

A bus stop in Baltimore shows what a little creativity can do to brighten up a streetscape.

“The time is ripe for considering the street-level real estate of the transit system: its bus stops and shelters,” writes Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:

I think its time for a home-grown, Halifax version of what a bus stop can be…

And since Halifax’s draft Centre Plan includes a policy directive to “encourage the use of design competitions for public works to seek design excellence and promote public interest,” I suggest we throw out this challenge to the city’s architects and designers. Give them the geometrics of this stop, hold a meeting or two to get input from the public, and let them have at it. To make it extra challenging, ask them to work within our usual shelter budget (around $6,000 for a single shelter) to construct the thing.

Click here to read “Gimme Shelter: It’s time to experiment with Halifax bus stops.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Charlottetown Guardian:

The insensitive use of headphones has become rampant in our community. It is something that is almost becoming irresistible in our community in Charlottetown. The worst thing is that people tend to use earphones anywhere, anytime. 

Even in the libraries where students come to read for tests or final exams when concentration is required yet students cannot put aside their earphones. It is not surprising these days if you see all the people in a library with earphones in their ears.

Of course, I respect privacy and peoples’ choice of listening to whatever they want to listen in a respectful manner without distracting the person next to them. However, this seems to have gone quite beyond the limit. These are electronic devices which can harm the user’s delicate hearing. It takes long to recognize but once damaged it is permanent. Some of the widely used devices warn users against damaging their hearing and I quote “Listening at a high volume for a long time may damage your hearing.” This caution is ignored by many.

Most affected by this improper use of headphones are the young generation and students. Due to the excessive use of the headphones, the young generations are at risk of losing their hearing and in large numbers and the students apart from the hearing defects cannot concentrate on their studies as expected.

It is the high time that people should try to do some proper changes to the ways they use headphones.

Mohamed Abdinasir Ali, UPEI student




Open House/ Public Information Meetings – Case 20594 (Wednesday, 1:30pm and 5:30pm, Gordon R. Snow Community Centre, Fall River) — GFC Management wants to build a retirement home on the old Carr Farm. More info here.

Halifax & West Community Council (6pm, City Hall) — a lot of not-so-controversial issues on the agenda, including Councillor Shawn Cleary’s motion:

That Halifax and West Community Council request a staff report regarding the opportunities and challenges related to implementing a policy ensuring applicants in a land use matter must have no arrears in municipal taxes on a subject property prior to and during consideration of an application.

Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Prospect Road Community Centre) — agenda here.


Community Planning & Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — a full agenda I don’t have time to dive into right now.

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — that snarky thing I said about Jerry Blumenthal a couple of days ago happens today. I think whoever has been putting together the city’s event calendar has been messing things up — yesterday’s council meeting happened three hours later than calendared, and this meeting is happening two days later.

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — a couple of interesting-looking presentations: one from Ali Shaver, the Healthy Built Environment Coordinator at Public Health, on “Active Transportation Indicators”; and the second from Eliza Jackson of the Ecology Action Centre and Kelsey Lane of the Halifax Cycling Coalition on a “Minimum Grid Bike Lane.”

Public Information Meeting – Case 20401 (Thursday, 7pm, St. Peter’s Anglican Church Hall, Halifax) — more rezoning in Bedford West.



Public Accounts (9am, Province House) — Kelliann Dean, deputy minister at Municipal Affairs, will be asked about financial oversight of municipalities. Expect lots of questions about King’s County.


Resources (Thursday, 9am, Province House) — DNR reps will be asked about the Forest Fire Prevention and Protection Strategy; the plan seems to be that we won’t have so many forest fires if we cut down all the trees.

On campus



Step Away from the Equations (Wednesday, 12:30pm, MA 310) — Christina Pagel, from University College London, will speak on “The Softer Side of Mathematics – Stepping Away from the Equations.”

Lipids (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Scot J. Stone will speak on “Acyltransferases and Lipid Storage.”

Putting Arts to Work (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Room 1009, Rowe Management Building) — Panelists include Courtney Hebb, Robert Chisholm, Jenny Benson, and Alexander Campbell.

YouTube video

The Seventh Continent (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of Michel Haneke’s 1989 film. Every preview I’ve read of the movie is a spoiler, so if you go, don’t read about it first.


Collaborative Innovation (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building)  — Toke Moeller, who is a sort of Danish version of Tim Merry, will speak on “Hosting Conversations that Matter: Leadership for Collaboration.”



Sharing with Strangers (Thursday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, King’s College) — Kwame Anthony Appiah, from New York University, will speak on “Sharing with Strangers: Compassion Through Arts and Humanities in the Age of Globalisation.”

In the harbour

CMA CGM La Scala. Photo: Halifax Examiner
CMA CGM La Scala. Photo: Halifax Examiner

4:30am: CMA CGM La Scala, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
6am: ZIM Luanda, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
7am: Atlantic Shrike, cargo, moves from Pier 9 to Irving Oil
10am: NYK Rigel, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
10:30am: NYK Demeter, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
10:30am: Atlantic Pioneer, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Mariel Cuba
10:30am: Atlantic Shrike, cargo, sails from Irving Oil for sea
10:30am: Agios Minas, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
Noon: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
Noon: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Autoport
4pm: ZIM Shanghai, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
4:30pm: ZIM Luanda, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York


I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm. Before then, I’ll be working on a project so won’t be reachable.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. “I’m actually surprised IBM is taking advantage of the payroll rebates; my understanding is that the reason most other firms are not fully utilizing the payroll rebates offered to them is because they can hire university grads through the provincial immigration fast track program and pay them a hell of a lot less than the $50,000 minimum salary mandated through the payroll rebate program.”

    Broten said yesterday that IBM is required to pay an average salary at the Bedford office of $73,500, and it was $50,000 under the NDP deal. While I don’t know what the government employees who were replaced by IBM were paid, they would be a small fraction of the 750 employees, and $73,500 is a pretty decent average salary (though it would be great if the deal included floors for salary, and minimum number of employees above a series of salary levels, but I digress).

    Note that the above does not constitute any sort of support or lack thereof for this deal or the payroll rebate strategy.

  2. Re: IBM

    I am infuriated to the point of sputtering over the latest bit of corporate welfare handed out to IBM, a multinational whose executive travel expenses are probably the size of Nova Scotia’s total operating budget. For all the reasons that our current Premier used to cut the Film Industry Tax Credit and establish a “pick-a-winner” poorly used fund, he is now using to say why the IBM handout is a good deal. the “smiling bastards” are still running the show, stifling innovation and funding companies based on how charismatic the high paid front men present their silly business cases. And all that is because they want to outsource what used to be good, secure, and value added government employment. Shame, shame, shame.

  3. The sublime and the ridiculous at council last night.

    The usual suspects for the ridiculous – Hendsbee and Adams and the sublime, thankfully, from one of our newest councillors who apperently knows that council exists for the public good and not to guarantee profits for real estate developers.

    Bravo Councillor Smith. Bravo!!

  4. An applicant in a land use matter is often an architect or employee of a architectural/engineering company and therefore the issue of non-payment of property taxes is irrelevant. And I don’t think there is any legal ability for HRM to refuse to deal with an application when the required fee has been paid.

    New Brunswick has refineries ?

      1. Read the question again. And again. And again.

        Your link is to a refinery, one that I have known very well for over 40 years. Back in the early 80s I tried to interview Arthur Irving for Oilweek whilst at an announcement in Pictou and he told me to call him in Saint John. When I tried to nail a date and time he told to ‘Eat the strawberries and cream’, which I did. The interview never took place but his quote appeared in my article for Oilweek.