The Liberal government passed the third and final reading of Bill 75 yesterday afternoon. All 33 Liberal MLAs voted for the bill, and all 17 opposition MLAs voted against. Once proclaimed (no doubt this morning), a new contract will be imposed on the province’s teachers. As Michael Gorman reports for the CBC:
The new contract imposes a three per cent wage increase over four years and freezes the long-service award for teachers as of July 2015. Anyone hired since that date is not eligible for the payout upon retirement.
With inflation expected at about two per cent each year, a three per cent wage increase over four years is an effective wage cut of about five per cent.
We’ve been through this a thousand times, so I won’t belabour the point: You do not improve the fiscal health of the province by cutting wages. Teachers buy houses, shop at the grocery stores, eat at restaurants, drink in bars, enrol their kids in daycares and sporting events, buy clothes, and engage in all the other consumptive activities of our time. A wage cut, however, reduces the amount teachers will spend in the local economy, thereby reducing the value of goods and services they will purchase, which in turn means that companies will see decreased sales and less reason to increase their own payrolls. With fewer people working and companies selling fewer goods and services, tax receipts go down and we end up in a worse situation than where we started.
Austerity regimes have been proven an utter failure, time and again. Even the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank warn against austerity policies.
Government does not work like the proverbial household cutting expenditures in order to meet a limited income. In fact, actual households don’t work like that either: We invest in our children, even going into debt, in order to get future returns.
Our problem is not that we’re spending too much on wages. Rather, our problem is that the productivity and tax returns from those workers’ wages are being siphoned off by a tiny undertaxed minority who are stashing their billions in the Cayman Islands instead of putting it to productive use in Nova Scotia.
But at this point I feel like I’m beating a dead horse. Believing in austerity economics is simply willful ignorance. You either go to bat for the obscenely rich and powerful, or you support broadly shared prosperity.
(I posted the above photo by Local Xpress photographer Tim Krochak because I think photojournalists’ work should be highlighted and we should understand what we’re losing when companies like the Chronicle Herald lay off their photographers. See Krochak’s other photos of yesterday’s events here.)
2. Nova Scotian taxpayers funded technology being used by US tech startup
Margie Manning, reporting for the Tampa Bay [Florida] Business Journal, notes that a new firm, called BodiData Inc, has quietly emerged on the local business scene. Manning learned about the company through a stock offering filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission; BodiData is seeking to raise a total of US$5 million through the offering, and has already raised US$2.57 million in equity from its founding investors.
Why should we in Nova Scotia care about a start-up tech firm in Florida? Because BodiData is using technology that was developed in part thanks to CN$5.6 million ponied up by Nova Scotian taxpayers. That money came in the form of a Nova Scotia Business Inc equity investment in Dartmouth firm Unique Solutions.
As the Halifax Examiner has reported, Unique Solutions developed a “body scanning” booth that promised to allow shoppers to buy clothes that fit them without trying on the clothes. With the NSBI investment in hand, the company deployed over 70 scanning booths in shopping malls around the United States, but the venture was unsuccessful. The booths were removed from malls, almost the entire value of Unique Solutions’ stock was written off, and the smouldering remains of the company were rebranded first as Me-Ality and then as MeID Inc.
A Silicon Valley “angel” investor named Tuoc Luong was brought in to replace company founder Tanya Shaw as CEO, and having developed a “hand held scanner” version of the body scan booth technology, the company embarked on a last-ditch search for new investors, but folded in August. Although NSBI hasn’t officially written it off, it’s clear that the entire NSBI investment is gone.
And now BodiData pops up. Manning reports that two executive officers at BodiData — J. Bruce Terry and Luong — were both executives at MeID. Moreover:
BodiData appears to have many similarities to MeID. On Feb. 21, it was assigned a patent for an invention by Unique Solutions Design Ltd. for a handheld, multi-sensor system for sizing irregular objects.
The patent for the handheld scanner lists five inventors, including Kent Worsnop of Lawrencetown, who was Unique Solutions’ VP of Research, and Robert Kutnick, of Boca Raton, Florida, who was Unique Solutions’ Chief Technical Officer. BioData’s offices, reports Manning, are registered to a South Petersburg condo.
When MeID failed, debtors were left holding the bag for what I once estimated was around $100 million in company liabilities. Luong wrote a letter to shareholders explaining the bankruptcy process:
Senior secured creditors have outstanding loans of $US1.7 million and junior secured creditors have loans of more that $US31 million. Those loans take priority over the claims of unsecured creditors, which in turn rank ahead of Preferred Shareholders and Common Shareholders. The Preferred Shareholder’s priority claims represent more that US$8 million. Consequently the liquidation process will need to generate more than US$41million in order for Common shareholders to receive any form of distribution. We can offer no expectations as to the level of proceeds that may be realized from a liquidation process. However, we believe it is unlikely that material proceeds will be realized based on, among others, the general lack of interest in our most recent financing round.
In short, with too many investors expecting a stake in the company, and with too much other debt, MeID could not attract enough investment to keep the company afloat.
But through the liquidation process, company execs Luong and Terry picked up the Unique Solutions patent at fire sale prices, created their new company, BodiData, and went looking for investors who might be attracted to a new company offering the same technology but without the debt.
I wonder how Unique Solutions’ investors feel about that.
And isn’t it great the Nova Scotian taxpayers have funded the development of a technology now being used by a start-up operation in Florida? Some might call it an innovative approach to economic development.
I mistakenly wrote yesterday that Monday’s Heritage Day holiday was focused on Joe Howe. That was 2016’s Heritage Day. This year’s Heritage Day was focused on Mi’kmaq culture.
And hundreds of people let me know I was wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m happy to acknowledge my mistakes, and I try to thank people who correct my factual errors, but I’m just so overwhelmed by communications I can’t get to everyone, or even a tiny sliver of everyone.
1. Mi’kmaq-made baskets
Stephen Archibald recalls his interactions with Mi’kmaq people through their baskets:
For years, baskets made of black ash splints by Mi’kmaq families were my only tangible connection with that community. I remember carrying a Mi’kmaq-made basket to the bakery in Bridgetown every summer in the 1950s. It was low and flat, perfect for pie. That basket is still around and now is taken into our garden in the cove when gathering vegetables for supper or flowers for bouquets. A carrier of memories, made to be used and made to last.
In the 1950s a Mi’kmaq family would camp every summer at the base of the North Mountain above Bridgetown. They came to make baskets, close to a black ash source, and we would see them on our drive over the mountain to get an ice cream cone at Hampton. At some point they would walk into town with a large bundle of brightly coloured baskets for sale and spread them out on the lawn if you wanted to examine the different shapes.
Over a lifetime there have been many changes in my understanding and appreciation of Mi’kmaq culture. I’m enriched by hearing contemporary Mi’kmaq voices telling their own stories. And fittingly the last basket we acquired, a few years ago, was sold in an art gallery, because that is where it belonged. And the creator was no longer anonymous (like the makers of the rest of these baskets). This was made by the late Chief Greg McEwen from the Bear River First Nation.
Special Events Advisory Committee (9am, City Hall) — the committee wants more tourists to come to town. Not just any tourists, but the kind that spend money.
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (5pm, Alderney Public Library) — the board will discuss weeds in Dartmouth’s lakes.
Police Commission (9am, Alderney Gate) — the commission is developing its own work plan.
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (1pm, City Hall) — Postponed from last week’s snowstorm. Mayor Mike Savage wants the city to work with the United Way on an anti-poverty strategy.
Special Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Committee (4pm, NSCC – IT Campus) — the committee is doling out about a half million dollars in grant money.
Public Information Meeting – Case 20589 (7pm, Meagher’s Grant Community Hall) — Lorna Snair wants to subdivide her late mother Mary Sibley’s property into six lots with no or reduced street frontage in Meaghers Grant.
No public meetings.
Reading week. Go read.
In the harbour
6am: ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
6:30am: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
10:15am: MSC Cristiana, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from New York
4pm: Spuigracht, cargo ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
4:30pm: MSC Cristiana, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
8pm: Spuigracht, cargo ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
8:30pm: ZIM Monaco, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.
I wonder if anyone asked shoppers if they preferred being in a glass cage in a very public area of the mall and being scanned by unknown electronic waves to walking down the hall to the store and trying the clothes on in the privacy of a fitting room?
I know which method I would choose. And trust.
Unstated in this is that the “sell” was to people with body-image problems. Supposedly, there exists this population that is so ashamed of their own bodies that they don’t want the self-humiliation of trying on clothes that don’t fit them. (That’s a paraphrase from some of the investor pitches I read.) I’ll leave it to others to critique that further.
Here’s a very positive article about a version of this used to create custom-tailored suits – very much aiming for the opposite: an “elite” experience for privileged folk. …and appears to imply that it’s been doing it since 2009. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/i-let-a-company-scan-my-naked-body-to-get-the-perfect-suit/
Re Heritage Day Correction.
At least you didn’t call it family Day.
Well, if we are going to piss tax dollars away on private businesses, I suppose I’d prefer it to be pissed away on local craft brewery investments than on body scanners for Florida.:)
The body scanning technology, like many other inventive concepts failed perhaps because it was before its time, or the targeted consumers were just not “into it” at that time. It resurfaced in a couple of other forms only to fade away. Now it is back again… surprising event, no; but will it succeed this time? Who knows. That NS tax dollars were spent on the initial R&D for the technology was not a bad thing…. we spend too little on R&D in NS and Canada as a whole… we also do to little to protect the intellectual property and patent rights when we do expend funds on R&D… perhaps that is one of the lessons to be learned from this story.
That’s true, but why not have the companies themselves pay for their own R&D, with their own money or money they raise from friends, loans, venture capitalists, etc.? You can now even legally crowd fund online, offering a real financial return on investment, in most provinces if you jump the right regulatory hoops. There are numerous market structures set up for this kind of private investment. I like to think tax money pays for schools and hospitals and things like that.
I agree though that having put up money, they should have secured rights in the IP for the public money, or held some kind of lien on the IP until the money was repaid with interest. Who knows but years later some technology thought useless might find a profitable use.
I need to find the exact citation, but airc, the vast majority of R&D funding in Nova Scotia (something like 75%) comes from government. We’re by far the highest in the nation.
btw, the NSBI investment was originally a loan, but it was converted to an equity stake. Speaking with the reporter in Florida yesterday, I had to explain the workings of NSBI. There’s nothing similar in the states: economic development agencies do not hold equity stakes in companies.
An in depth review of R&D initiatives that are funded through our tax dollars would be an interesting read. There must be a lot of R&D type projects occurring at our local universities and colleges; many would think that these initiatives should benefit the NS public if any were to bear fruit, so to speak…. but is that really the case?