1. Equity stakes
Chronicle Herald reporter Patricia Brooks Arenburg takes a much-needed look at the provincial purchase of equity stakes in corporations as an “economic development” strategy. I’ll forgive her this one time for the throw-away quote from Kevin Lacey, the most over-quoted and irrelevant quote-maker in Canada. Just glaze over that paragraph and read the rest of the article.
Would it surprise readers to learn that governments in the US don’t buy into companies? Sure, they’ll give outrageous tax breaks to companies, rig the tendering system to favour, er, favoured companies, and lavish enormous subsidies to billionaire-owned companies, but straight-up buying into a company is a bridge too far. It bewilders me that the economic strategies of Communist China—state-owned companies—and the discredited Soviet Union—central planning—are embraced as business as usual in Nova Scotia.
There’s lots to say about this. I’m working on an article about one of the companies taxpayers own, which I hope to publish next week, so I’ll keep my comments here short. But the response Brooks Arenburg got when she quite reasonably asked what the actual current dollar value of our public investment of $96 million is says it all: “Releasing this competitive information could put the future of the companies—and our investment—in jeopardy,” said government spokesperson Sarah Levy MacLeod.
Who spends $96 million for something and has no idea what it’s worth? You do, taxpayer.
This is the height of the paternalistic, colonial mindset of Nova Scotian government. We’re not talking military secrets here. Telling the public how much a government investment in, say, an electronic voting firm is worth won’t be giving ISIS the keys to the water supply. It’s insulting not to have this information. Without it, we cannot assess how well the bureaucrats are performing. In fact, we can’t question the strategy at all. It’s outside the democratic process. You, citizen, do not have a say.
Does that bother you? Tough luck. You don’t matter here. Other people are running the show. And if those people have private agendas, if they make decisions based on nepotism, or racism, or who they’re sleeping with, well, you can’t know. They know best, after all.
2. King’s College
Students at King’s don’t like the plan to recruit dumb students to boost enrolment.
Farmer Aaron Hiltz has been fined $1,500 for having too many hens, but a crowdsourcing page has been set up to pay the fine. I can’t wrap my head around the arguments on either side of this issue.
4. Wild Kingdom
One albino deer is prancing around (deer prance, right?) New Glasgow, and three piebald deer (nearly albino) are prancing around Sackville. CTV says that a lot of white deer is a sign that the deer population is too high, so I think we should reintroduce the wolf to Nova Scotia.
Graham Steele outlines his idea for how to implement the Ivany report’s call for a “unity government.”
I joke that we’re all supposed to drink multiple shots of Jagermeister every time someone says “Ivany report” because the report is held up to support whatever political viewpoint any politician or commentator has, even if those viewpoints contradict each other. For example, Bill Black today makes a head nod to the Ivany report to support fracking, which it doesn’t. (And my abacus isn’t big enough to calculate how many pro-fracking editorials the Herald has run.)
This is the problem with Steele’s call for a unity government: What are we supposed to be unifying about? Steele says simply that “The Ivany report would, in its entirety, become a ‘unity platform’ for the peacetime coalition. It would anchor the government’s public-policy agenda.” But who gets to define what the Ivany report says? Bill Black says it supports fracking, I say it doesn’t—who decides? A while ago someone suggested that I interview each of the Ivany report’s authors separately and ask them specific policy questions and document how they disagree with each other. I think that’s a good idea, but probably they’ll refuse to answer direct questions about policy. It’s open to, ya know, interpretation.
In practice, a unity government means whoever wins the rhetorical battle to define what the shared purpose is gets to dictate what happens, and the rest of us are supposed to sit in the corner and shut up.
Reporters think about themselves too much, which leads to sometimes funny, sometimes sad, stuff. In no random order, there’s Shit Reporters Say, Overheard in the Newsroom, and the moribund Bureau Chiefs, who were behind the sadly no-longer-funny (what happened?) Fake AP Stylebook.
In the harbour
(click on vessel names for pictures and more information about the ships)
Crystal Serenity, cruise ship, Iles de la Madeleine, Quebec to Pier 22
Fritz Reuter, container ship, Lisbon to Pier 42
Maersk Penang, container ship, Montreal to Pier 41
Pearl Mist, cruise ship, Portland to Pier 23
Acadian, oil/chemical tanker, Saint John to Imperial Oil
Europa to Bar Harbor
Maersk Penang to Rotterdam
Pearl Mist to sea
Crystal Serenity to Bar Harbor
Fritz Reuter to Mariel, Cuba
I’m taking the weekend off. See you Tuesday morning.
I would echo the sentiments of Michael Colborne, and add that exploring this further would lead us to the recent provincial government decision to crack down on small-scale turkey farmers, including telling people that they can’t raise a turkey for their own personal consumption. The story of Aaron Hiltz and the growing numbers of turkey farmers paints a picture of government policy purposefully crushing farming in any form other than the most large-scale and industrial. I’m sure the many, many small scale farmers in the province are getting scared.
Tim, you make a good point when you say that whoever wins the rhetorical battle over the Ivany report gets to dictate what happens. I contribute author interviews to the New Books Network in the States and in a recent one, I talked to Jonathan Swarts who teahes political science at Purdue University in Indiana. His book “Constructing Neoliberalism” looks at how senior politicians and bureaucrats used rhetorical persuasion and rhetorical coercion to bring about the neoliberal revolution in Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia in the 1980s. Swarts argues that the neoliberal revolution was so successful that its central tenets inform what he calls our “political-economic imaginary” and the assumptions we bring to debates over public policy.
I notice that the Ivany report uses coercive language too — language that, if it succeeds, narrows debate and sets the boundaries for what is debatable or even thinkable. For example, phrases such as “now or never,” “urgent call to action,” “Yes, there is a crisis,” and “change and renewal” can be used to justify policies that cater to specific interests just as neoliberal policies like deregulation, cuts in business taxes and free trade were a boon to multinational corporations.
For its part, the Ivany report suggests making the premier into a Minister of Business “to provide a champion at the cabinet table” for the private sector. No wonder Bill Black likes the report. Here’s another example of an attempt at rhetorical coercion that excludes any possibility other than an economy based on growth. (I’ll put the words in quotes that the report shows in ALL CAPs and bold, blue type).
“There is a “CLEAR NEED” for Nova Scotians to “COME TOGETHER” and consider not only who gets what from our collective pie, but how we can make it “BIGGER” for “ALL TO SHARE.”
Here’s a link to the Swarts interview: http://newbooksinjournalism.com/2014/09/22/jonathan-swarts-constructing-neoliberalism-economic-transformation-in-anglo-american-democracies-university-of-toronto-press-2013/
Hi Tim: Thanks for the link to the Aaron Hiltz crowdfunding site; I sent a contribution. This is an important story and would be worth some of your time. Heavy handed marketing boards are crushing rural innovation, representing the interests of corporate agriculture over the little guy. And speaking of the Ivany Report, if it says anything, it says that creative rural entrepreneurs like Aaron need to be supported not penalised.
Excellent comment. One of the vendors at the Alderney Market a few weeks ago had a petition asking people to support their right to sell their fresh farm eggs as they have been doing for many years. Someone in government needs to rein in the petty bureaucrats.