This date in history
In the harbour
Teachers sure have thrown a wrench in the works, eh?
Everything was going as planned: The Liberals have been demonizing unions for the last couple of years, getting a large portion of the public on board with the hateful rhetoric. Even the union execs buckled under the pressure, and dutifully signed off on contracts that effectively cut pay and did nothing positive for workers. As Michael Gorman explains:
As one insider said, there’s a reason the government picked the teachers as the first group with whom to bargain, and it’s rooted in the union’s history of not being militant or having been on strike before. The expectation was the teachers would take the deal, the civil servants, offered an almost identical deal, would follow suit and a pattern would be set that would eventually bring the rest of the unions in line.
But teachers rejected the offer, giving the raspberry to union execs and creating the biggest crisis yet for the McNeil government.
Turns out, you can’t just keep punching public employees and expect that they’ll never punch back.
The teachers having broke the dam, now the NSGEU is rethinking scheduling a ratification vote on the contract its union execs recommended for the membership.
This could shape up to be a province-wide strike of all public employee unions, driven not by the imaginary union bosses running roughshod over the public purse, but rather by frontline workers who have simply had enough. They’ve had enough of being vilified, of having their professionalism questioned, of being used as a public enemy for cheap political purposes, of not being listened to.
Every now and then I ridicule and make fun of rich people and the people who run this province. When I do, I invariably get told to shut up because my words might hurt the rich people’s fee-fees, and if we don’t give proper deferential respect for rich people we will scare away more rich people who might want to move here, people whose mere presence in our corner of the world will make the rest of us gloriously rich.
I’m at this very moment remembering the lovefest for Joe Ramia.
But the entire power structure of our society — the government, the ruling party, the premier, the newspaper columnists, the soft belly think tankers on Twitter, etc. — think it’s perfectly fine to bash on union members and people just trying to make a living, put their kids through school, and maybe not have to rely on cat food for their retirement meals, and that vilifying those folks will have no reputational effect on Nova Scotia, will not result in any reaction, and will have no effect on our economy.
Who we celebrate and who we vilify matter. No, wealth doesn’t trickle down from the the Joe Ramias or visiting businessmen or drug dealers laundering their money through a hedge fund with a Halifax back office. Rather, wealth by and large comes from regular people working hard in thankless jobs doing the necessary work of society. When we vilify them, we are cutting the heart out of our economy.
If Stephen McNeil has said one good word about public employees, I’m not aware of it. Has he ever, even once, acknowledged their hard work? That they have struggles and hardships he can’t imagine? That even at his most hectic schedule, with the most pressing political issues on his desk, he has it far easier than a teacher with a load of students?
It’s too early to tell what’s going to happen with the teachers or the rest of the public employee unions. Maybe the teachers have made their point, and after a bit of back-and-forth some new contract will be negotiated and approved, then the NSGEU follows suit, and we hobble on and get a sort of ceasefire for a couple of years. Or maybe not.
As I see it, labour peace can only come once we stop attacking public employees. A little deferential treatment is called for. Some respect. An acknowledgement that they do important, nay, essential, work in the community. Only then can we have an honest discussion about contracts.
2. Carbon Laundering, De-growth, and Re-thinking the Economy
Yesterday, I published an excerpt from Linda Pannozzo’s forthcoming book, About Canada: The Environment.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. To purchase a subscription, click here.
3. God’s Own Time Zone
Nova Scotia, as we’re told, has the perfect time zone, so perfect, that Massachusetts is thinking about adopting it, reports WCVB out of Boston:
A Quincy man wants to shift Massachusetts into Atlantic Time — the same as Nova Scotia — during the period of the year that is now Eastern Standard Time.
Tom Emswiler, writing in the Boston Globe, said science supports his argument.
“The idea of defecting from our time zone might seem strange. Yet the emerging science and the geographic reality of life in New England make it an idea worth serious consideration,” Emswiler wrote.
Emswiler persuaded his state senator, John Keenan, to sponsor a bill ordering a study of the idea. Legislators were hearing testimony on the bill Tuesday in Holyoke.
I don’t like this messing-around-with-clocks business. If people want more daylight, they can wake up earlier.
Nova Scotia Business Inc tries to entice the managers of hedge funds, tax avoidance schemes, and money laundering operations, trying to get them to set up shop in Halifax, in part through the allure of God’s Own Time Zone. We have the perfect time zone, the argument goes, because you can get lowly paid university grads to wire laundered money back and forth between London and New York in the same trading day. Through the combination of laundering drug money, icy sidewalks, Nova Centre casting an eternal shadow on the Shoe patio, underpaid workers, and God’s Own Time Zone, we’re gonna get rich, rich, rich, and have prosperity forever, amen.
Of course this assumes that even lower-paid workers in India can’t, you know, work at night and achieve the same purpose. Or, maybe India can adopt Atlantic Time too.
4. Cyclist, pedestrian, dog struck
A police release from yesterday:
Halifax Regional Police are at the scene of a vehicle/cyclist collision that occurred in Halifax this morning.
At 9:55 a.m., officers responded to a collision between a pick-up truck and cyclist in the 1900 block of Vernon Street. A truck, driven by a woman, that was travelling southbound on Vernon Street turned left into a driveway and struck a 27-year-old male cyclist who was travelling northbound. The cyclist was transported to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Last night, a man and his dog were struck by a car, reports Metro:
Police say a man and his dog were injured after a vehicle-pedestrian accident in Hammonds Plains.
Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, Halifax RCMP say a 52-year-old man was walking his dog on Terradore Lane in the Kingswood subdivision when he was hit by a motorist.
“The weather conditions were extremely poor as it was raining and foggy,” a RCMP release stated.
The man suffered non-life threatening injuries and was taken to the QEII hospital in Halifax by paramedics.
The dog was also injured and was taken to a local veterinarian.
CBC is following the story. We’ll see how this plays out in terms of the Irving Shipyard portion of the shipbuilding program.
Stephen Archibald has a pictorial history of his November, which is interesting in all sorts of ways. Along the way, he reminds us that the Stubborn Goat used to be a fire station. Remember when they closed that station and city councillors accused the fire chief of wanting to see old people die? Good times.
2. Rules for cyclists
Tristan Cleveland makes A Plea for Clear and Reasonable Rules for Cyclists.
3. Cranky letter of the day
May I add my voice to that of Bryan Reid, as expressed so movingly in his Dec. 2 opinion piece on “beleaguered” teachers? He works in the contemporary schools of Nova Scotia and tells it like it is for many teachers.
A society that regards teachers, nurses and other frontline workers as serfs is storing up trouble for itself. We lead by example, and the example set by government is bad. When students see how the establishment offers teachers no respect, why expect students to respect teachers?
Within a generation or so, society has swung from repressive to permissive. Yet the classroom teacher has only the tools of the past while expected to educate youth who grow up filled with self-esteem and entitlement, but lack effective social controls. Mr. Reid mentions “the dyke that cannot hold back the tide of change much longer.” I marvel that the dyke has held this long. It is a tribute to the teachers that the holes have been plugged until now.
Let those who cast stones at teachers spend several days or longer in a modern junior or senior high school. Have them deal, unaided, with the myriad problems and issues that affect our classrooms. Few would emerge from that experience feeling that teachers do not deserve more support and respect than they currently receive.
Meanwhile, let’s be appreciative of the Bryan Reids who have bought us time in which to come up with a better way. Remember, some of us hear the waters lapping against the far side of that dyke.
Terrence M. Punch, Halifax
Investment Policy Advisory Committee (noon, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (7pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Landing) — the council is talking about adding more boat launches on the Dartmouth waterfront.
District 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee (7pm, CIBC Auditorium, Goldberg Computer Science Building, 6050 University Avenue) — WM Fares wants to build a six-storey, 28-unit residential building at 6345 Coburg Road.
Legislature sits (1–6pm, Province House)
This date in history
On December 3, 1931, the Halifax city council voted not to open a “proper unemployment relief office in City Hall” to help deal with the “current emergency” — i.e., the Depression. Instead, the council allocated $1,000 our of a previously approved $25,000 allocation for unemployment relief to be directed for extra clerical help for the Welfare Bureau.
At the same meeting, council approved a $16,754 tender for a stone wall along Quinpool Road south of the Arm Bridge.
Thesis defence, Biology (10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Kerrianne Ryan will defend her thesis, “The Connectome of the Larval Brain of Ciona Intestinalis (L.).”
Thesis defence, Earth Sciences (3pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Sonja Bhatia will defend her thesis, “Fibre Optic Applications for Dissolved Carbon Dioxide Monitoring of Marine Geologic Sequestration Sites.”
Gender-based violence (4pm, Rowe Building, Room 1020) — Todd McCallum will speak on “Cosy, Cuddly, Armed and Dangerous: Gender-based violence as a political weapon.
Democracy Evolved (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Mark Coffin, of the Springtide Collective, will speak on Democracy Evolved: Designing a Resilient Political System:
Nova Scotia is known for being the first “responsible government” in North America. This is a point of pride for many who are engaged in politics in the province, but as residents of the oldest institutional democracy on the continent, we must also ask ourselves if our inherited institutions have maintained relevance over the centuries since their creation, and if not, what we can do about it.
In 2012 Mark Coffin founded the Springtide Collective, an organization that exists to facilitate conversations around these questions, conduct research on the state of our democracy and provide thoughtful insight on how we can do politics differently. In this presentation, Mark will share the findings of three-years of solutions-oriented research on democracy in Nova Scotia, unpack some of the unsustainable trends surrounding our politics, and share a vision for a more resilient political system. With the help of friends and now-colleagues, Mark started the Springtide Collective to work to bridge what feels like a growing gap between citizens and our democratic institutions.
On the Side of the Road (7pm, Room 225 , Sobey Building) — Journalist and filmmaker Lia Tarachansky will be present for the screening of her film, On the Side of the Road:
This incredible award-winning film addresses Israeli society’s collective denial of al-Nakba (the Catastrophe), the historic injustice committed against the Palestinian to establish the State of Israel.
Lia is The Real News’ Israel and Palestine correspondent. Having grown in up in a settlement in the West Bank, she later on realized the inherent problems that belie the Israeli occupation and the history of Israel’s founding.
In the harbour
Eagle Madrid, oil tanker, Beaumont, Texas to Imperial Oil
Furuholmen, oil tanker, Montreal to anchor for bunkers
Atlantic Concert, container ship, Norfolk to Fairview Cove FVC
Macao Strait sails to Muriel, Cuba
Put “late and behind” on my tombstone.
Since unions are no longer relevant in the private sector those parties interested now work on the destruction of public sector unions.
We know which teat Mr McNeil and his ilk in provincial and municipal politics are suckling from.
Few tings (Scouse) burn me more than the refrain that the rich must be placated, otherwise they’ll pick up their marbles and leave town, and then we’ll all suffer. What abject wage slaves we become when we tolerate that shit. What the 1% have belongs to the 99% from whom they took it. We need to take it back. Period.
If you are in a DB pension plan you are the ‘rich’ 1%
Methinks I smell a revolt by union members against their leaders, and the leaders know it.
Yesterday I ruffled a few feathers because I said going on strike was a form of extortion.. it was a quick blurb and I should have added a couple more lines to be clear about where I’m coming from. First, I do not hate unions or collective bargaining, I hate one of the tools used in the process because it hurts everyone involved when it is used.
When a union goes on strike, or an employer locks out their workers, it is truly a form of legalized extortion. Consider the definition,
Extortion means: “the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.”
Sounds a lot like what happens when one goes on strike or locks out the employees, eh? Only legal because of our labour laws.
Collective bargaining works most of the time and when it fails at the table, it is time for facilitation and finally binding arbitration. Strikes and lockouts are like weapons of mass destruction, they do not just hurt the intended target, the whole economy is effected and collateral damage carries over into the public sector negatively affecting the friends and families of those involved as well as all the spin off businesses and endeavours associated with the parties on strike/lockout. Once the strike/lockout is over, the workers end up going back to a toxified workplace environment and the economy has to recover.
The collective bargaining process should shed the blunt instrument of bargaining that embraces strikes and lockouts. The collective bargaining process might have been needed when labour laws did not protect the worker and employer from unfounded abuse; but today, there is no requirement to rip the workplace and economic fabric apart by using strikes/lockouts to force a bargaining solution on one or the other party. Strikes and lockouts do not just do significant harm to the parties directly involved, they affect whole communities and the general public and private business sectors…. in this day and age we should no longer tolerate the spillover effect that strikes and lockouts cause… it is time for collective bargaining to clean up its act and get the job done through consensus first, facilitation second and finally through binding arbitration when all else fails. WMDs do more harm than good, wherever/whenever they are used.
To John Cascadden,
Your appeal to a less aggressive union stance to protect the “economic fabric from ripping apart” and from a general strike from “affecting whole communities” disregards the central fact that the slow undercutting of unions, their members and their right to bargain is itself ripping apart the economic fabric of our whole community. That’s why strikes are serious medicine and one of the only real cards they have left to play. Playing nice, as I guess you are suggesting, benefits only corporations and the austerity drunk headmasters of government. Yes, kids will miss school, and when nurses strike hospitals stall-out but isn’t that just the point. The fabric of nothing is ripped, here—but communities are inconvenienced, and the healthcare system becomes an emergency only enterprise. Things do grind to a halt on several fronts—that’s the point. It is legislated to be this way. Unions and their workers are crucial to a functioning society. So are steelworkers and millworkers.
I work in healthcare, and I don’t think any of my friends these days have anything but negative opinions of NSGEU and unions in general. It is not the public who are contriving this well-formed anti-union rhetoric, it is governments in league with corporations—because governments are now lobbyists for corporations. As fast as unions can be dismantled, corporations will decrease wages and Canada will become CanadaMart. The only one’s making money will be the rich owners of big companies. Super rich and very poor with a thin and thinning middle class. All this rhetoric against unions is created in boardrooms of people who want our money.
The spillover effect of disarming and blunting unions, disavowing their social value and emasculating their right to strike engenders a society where wages are dictated by the shareholders of the businesses that have escaped unionization. They will pay workers whatever they want and government will have helped that happen. That’s the bottom line.
If there is any socialism left in Canada, and by that I mean our tendency to share our wealth to help each other and to even the economic playing field through a course of social and fiscal adjustments and services, then it should be plain that the the criplling of unions, the softening of unions, the domesticating of unions is just really the death of unions. As it stands, collective bargaining with teeth is a right guaranteed by law. Once those teeth go, John, there’s nothing to protect anyone from being treated like corporate/governemnt slaves.
Your pension plan is invested in the very corporations you seem to despise. Your pension plan insists on higher profits, lower costs and higher dividends,
Your pension plan gives money to those ‘horrible’ hedge funds in the expectation the hedge fund managers will force corporations to reduce costs.
You are in league with the corporations.
You are the 1%
I did not say to dismantle the unions. I said the unions and employers should got to the table and first try to reach a consensus, failing that the secondly enter a facilitation phase and if that too fails, then binding arbitration should occur. You think strikes are productive and I know they are destructive. When you say once the teeth go, then you reinforce the concept that strikes and lockouts are really legalized extortion… and that just should not be acceptable in this day and age. There are no slaves working in Canada today that I know of, nor can I see how such a work environment would be tolerated in the future; that is a gross exaggeration. Strikes and lockouts do more harm than good. But a strike or lockout could be acceptable if an existing workplace environment deteriorated to a toxic level; then a Canada Labour or criminal investigation would ensue. What protects employees today are the existing and future labour laws; the time has come to retire strikes and lockouts at least from a collective bargaining point of view. I guess we will have to disagree on this one.
Spoken I assume by someone who does not work in the public sector. Well, if, as this government has attempted (Essential services legislation takes the teeth from health and social services and civil service does not have the right to strike) strikes are outlawed or made even more un-attractive than usual, there are two ways to go — illegal strikes where even emergency services will not be protected (as in Alberta where they have had more nursing strikes where outlawed than we had in NS while they were allowed but any strike was organized and provided emergency services) or we simply will not have enough teachers and nurses, for example. We are already bringing in “travel nurses” at $75/hr plus expenses because we do not have enough nurses in NS. reduce their pay (PEI AND NS nurses are the lowest paid in the country) and every year of zero is equivalent to a pay reduction if wee have any inflation or increase in CPI. So you can make the strikes go away but good luck next time you need a medical procedure getting an experienced nurse or a really good teacher for your kids. Not keeping up with the other provinces (and we are not) will mean that families have to leave, not just for work, but also to get good education and health care for their families.
I wish I could be more articulate on the issue of bashing public servants. But all I can say is that I have worked with a lot of public servants, I know a lot of teachers, and my kids have had a bunch of teachers, and they deserve much more respect than they get.
Piling on here, Ken, but I can state that the greatest issue with the public servants I interact with is that WE DON’T PAY THEM ENOUGH! We cannot complain about any of them, because we don’t pay them market rate salaries. Period.
Wow, those decisions by Council in 1931.
Well said Mr. Bousquet. I would only add that I can see the possibility of a general strike in the very near future. How long can a government comprised of inept, poorly educated, know nothing politicians continue to demonized everyone except the so called “business leaders” who depend on government largesse for their success. Whether it is direct cash like the 160M. given to Joe Ramia for the Nova Centre, or through payroll subsidies for low wage call centres or grants or and “forgivable” loans to carpet baggers from away, our politicians have this bizarre idea that somehow throwing money at these people will create prosperity before the next election. Darrell Dexter’s NDP did it and the Conservatives did it before them.
Yes, unions have been demonized, but so has everyone else who wants to make a living in this province. Artists, film makers, health care professionals, social assistance recipients, small business owners and ordinary, non-union working stiffs. It’s not that Stephen McNeil and is band of unqualified cabinet ministers are evil. They are just not capable of critical thought, so when deputy ministers give them bad advice or they get a call from one of the movers and shakers they just never ask why. They just do it. When officials say that privatization of the registries is the way to a balanced budget before the next election Stephen McNeil says, “I have a friend in Ontario who can do that, let’s call him”. After all, the private sector does everything better – for the private sector. The Bragg family is celebrated as great Nova Scotian entrepreneurs and yet, they are quite happy to move processing plants to New Brunswick if they can get a better deal.
I think we are nearing a tipping point in this province and it may not be pretty. If anyone actually thinks that Stephen McNeil is smarter than he looks, consider what is on his schedule today: While world leaders (and other provincial leaders, for that matter) are in Paris trying to come to grips with the most important issue of our time, our premier is attending a tree lighting ceremony in Boston. He didn’t sign up to save the planet – or even the province – he signed up for things like tree lighting ceremonies.