This is Tim Bousquet. I’m still vacationing and on the road, so this is an abbreviated Morning File. I just felt the need to jump in and say hello….
1. Chronicle Herald
Stephen Kimber writes:
It was Day 2 back on the job after an incredibly long, deeply bitter and divisive strike, and many among the Halifax Chronicle Herald’s two dozen returning reporters and editors feared management wanted to provoke them by forcing them to work alongside ex-scab reporters and editors. Inside what unfolded that day…
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall. Click here to subscribe.
2. Examineradio, episode #128
Guest host Maggie Rahr speaks with Diana Lewis about the growing interest in the Indigenous Studies minor program at Dalhousie University. Plus Maggie and Terra Tailleur talk about abortion doulas, David Hendsbee, Peter Kelly and the Oxford Theatre.
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3. The folly of chasing Amazon
Last Thursday, Amazon announced that it is going to build a second headquarters somewhere in the eastern half of North America, a complement to its existing Seattle headquarters. The new warehouse headquarters, says Amazon, will employ “as many as” 50,000 with an average salary “exceeding” US$100,000 each.
The company issued a Request for Proposals calling for cities, states, and provinces to compete with each other for hosting the new headquarters, and on cue, Canadian mayors — including our own Mike Savage — chomped at the opportunity:
— Mayor Mike Savage (@MikeSavageHFX) September 7, 2017
A tweet, of course, isn’t policy. But if Savage is serious that Halifax is “on it,” he’s saying that the city and province will now embark on producing a Request for Proposal, an undertaking that will cost us at least $100,000, and if it’s more than half-hearted feint, much more. That’s money that could instead be used to fill potholes or extend rec services or pay firefighters. Savage may as well stand in Parade Square and light $100 bills on fire.
My guess is that Amazon prez Jeff Bezos already has an exact location in mind for the company’s headquarters and has only issued an RFP to get the city in question to offer further tax concessions in response to offers from other cities. Amazon has long been extremely capable at pitting governments against each other for its warehouse locations; last year, for instance, the city of Fresno, California agreed to rebate 90 per cent of all property tax bills and 100 per cent of the city’s portion of locally collected sales taxes paid by Amazon — for the next 30 years — in return for Amazon locating a warehouse in that city. The average salary for workers at the warehouse is just $26,000, which is low even by Fresno standards.
Do I really need to say why Halifax would never win a competition for a new Amazon HQ? To begin, for Amazon to site a headquarters outside of the U.S. would be to slap Donald Trump right upside his jibbering jowly head. For sure, it would be great political theatre, but Amazon wouldn’t risk the political fallout unless the returns were enormous, far more than Nova Scotia could conceivably produce.
Beyond that, the very notion that Halifax could actually win such a contest is, well, dumb. Oh, and here comes Roger Taylor.
I won’t waste my time rebutting nonsense or explaining the practical problems with Halifax hosting the company; if you’re in need of the obvious, you can read this thread by Mike Smit.
My main issue with Halifax bidding on the Amazon warehouse isn’t the practical absurdity of it — a Halifax RFP would go down in flames without any comment from me — but rather philosophical. The point of Savage’s tweet (and dog forbid, an actual RFP produced by NSBI or whoever) isn’t to actually win such a contest, but rather to position Halifax as a tech-savvy, business friendly, “vibrant” city. And this, folks, is a huge problem.
See, when our government focuses on chasing businesses and their promised employment, even when that chase isn’t serious, it’s showing all sorts of embedded values: Business is the source of everything good, so therefore must be subsidized with tax breaks and serviced. A big corporation from abroad is better than a local small business, so the local small business must pay the taxes that fund the subsidy to the big corporation — even if, as is the case with Amazon, the big corporation will undermine the actual business of the local small business.
More broadly, Savage is signalling that the type of people who would be employed at a corporate headquarters — wealthy people, people of the technical and management class — are more valuable than the rest of us. Their high salaries make them better citizens, even if they’re not actual citizens right now: future, unknown high-salaried people are better citizens because they have high salaries.
Here’s an idea: how ’bout we build a city for the people who live here? Instead of making a “vibrant” city for the techno elite and the so-called creative class who will supposedly be lured to Halifax with corporate tax breaks, maybe we could, I dunno, make the buses run on time so people in Highfield Park can reliably get to their jobs, or lower rec fees so our kids can be a little more active. If Mike Savage has $100 bills to burn in Parade Square, maybe he can spare a few to pay the janitors at the Sackville Sports Stadium a few pennies more than starvation wages.
Yes, I know: We’re going to get to the promised Nirvana of shared wealth by bringing in the riches from Amazon or Butterfield or convention goers or whatever, and then use that dough to pay for better services for citizens and better pay for city employees. Except that that time never comes. Our government has been dumping tax breaks and rebates on big corporations for decades, telling citizens that Nirvana will come just after the next big corporation sets up shop in Halifax. And yet, in reality we get more austerity, more budget cuts, lower pay, crappier services.
Once we make the value decision that high-salaried citizens are better than the rest of us, that decision is set in stone: they’ll always be better than the rest of us — the better services and shared wealth never come.
Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (Monday, 4pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Bedford-Hammonds Plains Community Centre) — here’s the agenda.
Heritage Advisory Committee (Tuesday, 4pm, City Hall) — I’m just being lazy by posting these agendas without comment, but here’s another one.
Halifax & West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall) — and again.
No public meetings.
Senate (Monday, 3pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — the agenda.
Policy Matters: Is Nova Scotia Ready for the Atlantic Immigration Pilot? (Tuesday, 12pm, Rowe 1009) — A panel discussion examining demographic trends and opportunities around immigration in the region as key to growth.
Non-Locality, Contextuality, and Topology (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Kohei Kishida will present this, a joint work with Samson Abramsky, Rui Soares Barbosa, Ray Lal, and Shane Mansfield.
150 Years or More of Data Analysis in Canada (Tuesday, 7pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — David Bellhouse of the University of Western Ontario will speak.
In the harbour
7:15am: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, with up to 2,873 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York
7:30am: Rotterdam, cruise ship, with up to 1,685 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor
11am: Sarah Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Milne Inlet, Nunavut
5:30pm: Rotterdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Sydney
5:45pm: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
7pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
Back to vacation.