1. No shame
The Liberals are moving forward with their plans to outsource the public registries now run by Service Nova Scotia — the land registry, joint stock companies registry, and even the motor vehicles registry. As I’ve written before, this is a betrayal of a fundamental role of government.
How are these decisions made? Paul Withers reports:
Land registries — first in Ontario and more recently in Manitoba — were outsourced to Toronto-based Teranet Inc.
In August 2014, Teranet hired Stephen McNeil’s 2013 campaign manager Chris MacInnes to lobby the Nova Scotia government on “government procurement,” “privatisation and outsourcing.” The file is still active.
According to the provincial lobbyist registry, lobbying targets include Service Nova Scotia which is handling the registry outsourcing review and the office of Premier Stephen McNeil.
Neither MacInnes — who also sits on the Liberal party of Canada national executive — nor Teranet responded to CBC News inquiries.
That’s right: MacInnes is getting paid to lobby the Liberal government while he’s simultaneously working for the Liberal party. I should note that MacInnes doesn’t currently get paid for his party work, but still, the lack of shame is astonishing.
I wonder who else is profiting privately from this outsourcing scheme, and what other outrageous conflicts of interest exist.
MacInnes, incidentally, is vice-president of the public relations firm Group m5; he took that position in August of 2012. m5 seems to be something of a Liberal clubhouse: after Mike Savage was turfed out as the Liberal MP for Dartmouth in the 2011 election, Savage went to work for m5 until he ran for mayor of Halifax in 2012.
Readers may additionally remember m5 for its failed attempt to lobby the city to hire its client to poison Dartmouth’s lakes. As the Examiner reported in February:
The city’s Environment and Sustainability committee yesterday rejected a proposal to use an herbicide to kill weeds in Dartmouth’s lakes, reports Chris Benjamin, but not before:
Councillor Lorelei Nicoll expressed dismay that the name of Jamie MacNeil — the m5 Public Affairs VP who recommended using herbicides — was made public in the staff briefing. MacNeil lives in Nicoll’s district. “It was very unfortunate to see the individual from District 4 identified in this briefing note,” she said. “When he asked to understand the process I did not say ‘are you OK with having your name made public?’ … I hope that never happens again.”
According to the briefing note, MacNeil had approached the council on behalf of an m5 client, Lake Management Services. Nicoll did not say why the public should not be fully aware of the involvement of either a herbicide company, its PR firm, or the PR firm’s VP. Regardless, the city’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mike Labrecque, apologized for telling the public the truth.
The committee’s recommendation to instead use annual mechanical harvesting of the weeds will next go to the full city council.
Whatever pull m5 thought it might have with the city thanks to its past relationship with Savage, it didn’t work. The city ultimately decided to use an underwater weed mower to address the lake problem.
But Labrecque committed the cardinal sin of showing how PR firms work behind the scenes to try to land contracts for their clients. The incident shows why we need a lobbyist registry for City Hall.
2. Bullshitter of the day: Mark Furey
Back to the registry issue, you’ll recall that I had awarded Finance Minister Randy Delorey “bullshitter of the summer” for his ridiculous comments on the “don’t call it a wage freeze,” and because:
The particulars of Delorey’s presentation [to union leaders] pretty much are bullshit defined. He has a “desire to move towards collaboration,” and expresses that collaborative spirit by dictating a wage freeze before negotiations even begin.
Yesterday, Service Nova Scotia Minister Mark Furey echoed Delorey’s bullshit. As the Chronicle Herald reports:
Furey told reporters Thursday in Halifax that the government has been transparent about its plans [to privatize the registries] and steps taken, and said the union’s campaign [against privatization] would have no impact on that process.
“We’ve been very open in communicating that process with government employees, as well as union leadership. We’ve invited them to the table to participate and share in that information.”
Where “participate” means “shut up and do as told.” For this, Furey is the bullshitter of the day.
2. Egg Films
Egg Films is closing up shop. In an unhinged rant on the company Facebook page, owners Mike Hachey and Sara Thomas blamed those nasty unions:
The question of Egg’s future is something we have long considered since the arbitrary Nova Scotia Labour Board ruling on the certification of our business over three years ago. Most people are sick and tired of our story, we get that – but we promise this is the last time you will hear of our plight.
Yesterday, Sara and I officially announced to all 20 of our employees that Egg Studios will be closing effective November 06, 2015. There will be no spin-off business and certainly no concerted effort to bypass the Labour Board ruling. We are done and saying farewell to Nova Scotia.
What started as a dream more than 10 years ago has become the worst nightmare of our lives. The fact we have been bullied and held hostage by crotchety labour academics, belligerent labour activists, pompous union lawyers, and politicians who care more about protecting their own jobs instead of fixing an outdated and unfair Trade Union Act, is enough for us.
To capitulate now in the face of a union movement that has done everything in its power to undermine the collective bargaining process is the easy thing to do. They have destroyed everything we have worked hard for, and while our departure may put smiles on the faces of our detractors, let it be known that we leave with our heads held high. They may have used the Nova Scotia Labour Board to win the war, but we will always be on the right side of fairness.
They continue on in the same vein for another dozen paragraphs or so.
But let’s just concentrate on one word: “arbitrary.” There was nothing arbitrary about the Labour Board’s decision. In fact, as Graham Steele points out:
There are two issues at the heart of the legal controversy around Egg Studios: whether Egg’s technicians are “employees”, and whether a bargaining unit can be formed from technician classifications. (If you think I got this summary of the issues wrong, I invite you to read the Court of Appeal decision at canlii.org.)
The events leading to the certification of a bargaining unit for Egg’s technicians occurred on a single-day shoot in March 2011. Ironically, it was on a shoot for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, for which I was the minister at the time. Believe me, the ALC doesn’t consult with the provincial ministers on much, and certainly not on the details of their advertising shoots.
IATSE applied for certification in March 2011, the Labour Relations Board held a hearing in July 2011, and in October 2011, issued an interim order recognizing the technicians as employees, and affirming that their classifications were an appropriate bargaining unit.
The Board’s order was upheld on judicial review in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. An appeal to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal was dismissed, with one of the three judges dissenting. An application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was dismissed.
Here’s the key point: The Board’s decision, upheld by the courts, is based on a statutory definition of “employee” that has been in Nova Scotia law since 1947. There was nothing new about the law. What was new in the Egg case was the way the Board applied that old language to Egg’s new business.
Egg has argued strenuously, and repeatedly, that the Board was wrong to interpret the statutory language that way. Fair enough. They made their arguments to the Board, and two levels of court, and they did not win. That’s the way the legal system works.
Egg’s rant about the “arbitrary” legal decision reminds me of Dean Del Maestro’s reaction when a judge found him guilty of three counts of election fraud: “that’s her (i.e. the judge’s) opinion,” said Del Maestro. “My opinion is quite different.”
The law is the law is the law. Just because you disagree with it, you can’t dismiss the entire judicial system as “arbitrary.” Sure, we’ve had bad laws. But there’s a process for changing bad laws. Steele continues:
An alternative was for Egg to get the legislature to change the definition of “employee”. Again, fair enough. Presumably they asked, and presumably the Liberals said no.
The anti-union rhetoric around the Egg issue has been as vociferous as I’ve seen in Nova Scotia. As I’ve said, the attitude is “if only everyone were paid less, we’d all be rich.”
But it appears to me that the Egg closure is a case of ideology trumping business sense. Surely the cost of taking this issue all the way to the Supreme Court (and losing at every turn) far exceeded the costs of simply recognizing the union.
This is kind of incredible.
Rather than deciding to negotiate with a union and pay out benefits in the realm of $10k-$15k a year Egg’s owners would rather spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers (whose advice they almost certainly ignored) and then shutdown and put all their employees out of work. IATSE was looking for union recognition and a pretty minor set of benefits (i.e. pay workers comp, some health and pension, etc.), not wage increases. What Egg spent fighting this probably would have cost less than a decade or two of the benefits costs had they just negotiated. This was purely emotional and ideological.
Egg chose to shut themselves down. Don’t buy their argument that unions or legislation shut them down. They did it to themselves. It is horrible that 20 full time jobs and thousands of hours of temporary work are being lost, but they’re being lost because two bosses hate the idea of unions more than they care about their employees. I just hope the employees can land on their feet.
1) Egg’s owners will attempt to re-open an identical production company in NB or PEI.
2) they will be shocked when they realize that doing so is going to be another violation of labour law.
3) Their anti-union allies like Michael Kydd will use this to try to further attack the rights of working people.
4. Destination: Halifax
Because nobody in Halifax could do the job, the Destination Halifax board of directors hired Saint Johner Ross Jefferson to be its next president. Who says Halifax doesn’t attract immigrants?
1. Those kids and their hippity hop and their…
A 2014 study by psychology professor Linda Henkel at Fairfield University in Connecticut suggests the more photo-clicking we do, the less we remember details of events later.
You know exactly where this is going.
2. Those kids and their hippity hop and their…
Beth Irvine in the Kings County News:
Have you noticed it — all of these teenagers walking around with a stoop, as if they were senior citizens instead of growing into the prime of their life?
You know exactly where this is going.
3. Cranky letter of the day
I recently had to buy a new land line phone and found out that these things are no longer carried by one of large local phone companies. When I did manage to find one, it was small and almost flimsy. Being a senior for some time now, I want something I can talk on, not a garage opener or camera or typewriter. And I want something big enough to hold firmly, not one like an oversized credit card.
Another problem, in addition to call centres, pollsters, and scammers, is that ubiquitous message, “I am not at my desk, but I am in the office… etc., etc.” I’ve made two calls lately. No one returned my call; they must have been at their desks in Timbuktu. When I was working, I answered calls. Nothing was left for the next day.
Either young people do not have a proper work ethic and their bosses don’t care or these places are understaffed. Something is lacking.
I have a message on my phone and anyone is free to copy it. I scan all calls and only answer when I know who is calling. If I do not recognize a caller, he gets the message: “If you are calling from a call centre, hang up. If you are a pollster or calling from an unlisted number, hang up. Other callers, please leave a message and I will return your call.”
Maxwell E. Pottie, Dartmouth
No public meetings.
On this date in 1800, Governor John Wentworth laid the cornerstone of Government House.
Nanodiamonds (1:30pm, Friday, Chemistry Room 226) — Jean-Cyrille Hierso of the Institute of Molecular Chemistry at the University of Bourgogne will talk on “From Palladium Chemistry exploiting Chloroarense and C–H functionalization in C–C and C–X bonds formation (X = O, S, F) to the emergence of nanodimanods organohybrid CVD materials.”
In the harbour
Goodwood, car carrier, arrived at Autoport this morning from Emden, Germany; sails to sea this afternoon
Akademik Sergey Vavilov, research vessel, Reykjavik, Iceland to Pier 27. Akademik Sergey Vavilov is a Finnish-built, Russian-registered research vessel that offers adventure cruises into the Arctic. The cruises are offered by One Ocean Expeditions, and the Akademik Ioffe has been to Halifax in the past.
Princess of Acadia, the former Digby ferry, Saint John to the old coast guard jetty in Dartmouth
Going to be a long weekend.