In the harbour
1. Tuition increases
Brian Leadbetter, the head of Dalhousie University’s PR department, tried to kick Metro reporter Zane Woodford out of a presentation on proposed tuition increases at the Dalhousie Student Union by the university’s Budget Advisory Committee.
Leadbetter famously doesn’t respond to phone calls from reporters — “Leadbetter is not available for comment” will be inscribed on his tombstone — and the Dal PR department he oversees can’t even figure out how to sensibly inform the public about university events. I don’t know what we pay the PR people for, but their job doesn’t appear to be about public relations — and if tuition rates aren’t a public matter, I don’t know what is. Rather, it’s as if the university is just a privately held subsidiary of Shell oil company, and not owned and funded by the people of Nova Scotia.
Meanwhile, over at Saint Francis Xavier, tuition is also going up, reports the Canadian Press:
The school’s board of governors has approved a tuition hike of 18 per cent over three years.
Students currently pay $7,195 a year.
That will rise to $7,626 in the fall, $8,083 in 2017 and $8,569 in 2018.
We’ve become a meaner, nastier society, and we’re shitting on young people.
2. LaHave River
“A 12-year-old girl from Dayspring, N.S. may be too young to vote, but she’s making it difficult for authorities to continue to ignore a decades-old ‘environmental disaster,’” reports Paul Whithers:
Stella Bowles’s elementary school science project has taken off on social media and it has helped drive a campaign to end the discharge of raw sewage into one of Nova Scotia’s most beautiful rivers.
“It’s pretty sad and disturbing,” Bowles said.
The Bridgewater Elementary student has been sampling the LaHave River since November and posting the results on a Facebook page and in the process garnering tens of thousands of hits, hundreds of shares and responses from all over the world.
“I would like to see change happen so I will be able to swim in my river,” she said.
The results — that enterococcus bacteria levels at four sampling locations exceed Health Canada guidelines — have been validated by a government laboratory. Samples posted by the Town of Bridgewater last week were too high to count.
Stella has a delightful Facebook page.
If Stella plays her cards right, she can land at a good university and end up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Somebody’s gotta feed the global financial industry.
The mink industry in Nova Scotia is collapsing, reports Michael Gorman in Local Xpress:
The downturn in the province’s mink industry has claimed 10 farms and hundreds of jobs, numbers the president of the association representing mink farmers expects to grow.
“In many cases, there is a $20 bill or greater difference between what mink are selling for and what it costs to raise one,” said Matt Moses. “Last year alone, we raised 2.3 million mink in the province; you start doing the math and there’s a lot of money being lost.”
The problem, quite simply, is that the price for pelts has bottomed out.
Just a few years ago, the federal and provincial governments dumped $1.7 million into the Nova Scotia mink industry.
There aren’t many government economic development projects that can be deemed successes. Better to spend that money on improving internet access. Speaking of which…
4. Get off my lawn
Tony Nader took to the CBC to complain about the kids today and their hippity hop and their interwebs and their phones:
The middle-aged man said he has a landline at his work and at home and if anyone needs to reach him they can call him, if he’s not at either of those places, his time is his own.
Nader said he’s never run into an emergency where he needed a cell phone and isn’t worried that he will.
“I think it’s an anti-social device,” said Nader.
I can’t imagine that anyone cares if Nader uses a phone or not. So what? But if readership of the CBC is anything like readership of the Halifax Examiner, more than a third of the people reading Nader’s anti-phone rant are doing so via their phones. The Examiner stats for readership are:
desktops & laptops: 49 per cent
phones: 38 per cent
tablets: 13 per cent
I’m old and going blind and have big ungainly fingers, so prefer to use my laptop, but the reality is I use my phone pretty much all day, at least as a hot spot for my laptop, but also to listen to podcasts, to check and respond to email while on the bus, and to ignore the text messages coming my way. It happens all the time — it will happen today — that I’m at the courthouse going through documents and I need to google something to figure out what I’m dealing with, and my phone is thankfully at hand. That’s the way my world works, for better and worse.
Still, while I’ve adapted to the technology, it does have its limits. This morning the city issued a tender for internet voting in the fall election and subsequent byelections until 2020. The background for this is Dartmouth internet voting firm Intelivote is reportedly ceasing operations. Spanish firm Scytl is the largest player in North America, and will likely win the contract.
I think this is a waste of money and, worse, threatens the integrity of the election. I wrote about this at length in 2008, and my views haven’t changed. If anything, I’m even more skeptical of internet voting.
And experience has shown that internet voting doesn’t lead to increased voter turnout. Besides, it’s a red herring. We turn to gimmicks like internet voting in hopes of increasing voter turnout instead of working to create a politics that engages people. Easier to spend a half million dollars on internet voting than to challenge the abuses and biases that are built into the political system.
People are not staying away from the polls because it’s too inconvenient to take five minutes to walk over to the local church hall or elementary school; they’re staying away from the polls because they know that no matter who gets elected we end up with the same old neoliberal bullshit, the same old big money washing through campaigns with the same old predictable results, the same old broken promises of change, and the same old false populism that has characterized every election since the 1980s.
“Gates and gateways are powerful symbols in our culture,” writes Stephen Archibald. “Think of the gated community, gateway drugs, the pearly gates, or the Atlantic Gateway Project. Well maybe not the later but you get the idea. Gates are also attractive structures and it is surprising how many nice old ones we have around Halifax when you start looking.”
Archibald has been looking for a long time, and shows us a lot of local gates, including the above gates, which once marked the entrance to Oaklands, the Cunard Estate. Oaklands is long gone, but the gates remain — “That’s the picturesque gate house in the background,” notes Archibald.
2. Liberal Land, part 1
Ever since the Newfoundland Liberals swept into power at the end of November, Atlantic Canada has been Liberal Land — four provincial Liberal governments added to the 32 Liberal MPs from the region elected in October. Earlier this month a meeting in Fredericton provided a glimpse of how things are going to be in this congenial new world. It was not a reassuring sight.
The Fredericton meeting brought together the three Maritime Premiers (and a snowed-in Dwight Ball on the phone from Newfoundland) with a squad of federal cabinet ministers, led by regional MPs Scott Brison of Treasury Board and Dominic LeBlanc, the House Leader and long-time friend of Justin Trudeau. The first sign that legendary Liberal arrogance is back (if it ever went away) was the decision by the host Premier, Brian Gallant, to take advantage of the presence of all these Liberal heavy hitters on government business to conduct some party business — a $250-a-plate fundraising dinner featuring the Premiers as guest speakers. Although Mike Duffy is in more than a spot of trouble for similarly mixing up who should pay for party and official gigs, the advent of sunny ways seems to have had a cleansing effect all around.
According to a CBC report, New Brunswick cabinet minister Donald Arseneault mounted the following defense: “This is a unique opportunity, and if we want to give access to business stakeholders and whatnot to advance their projects, their causes, hey, rightfully so.” Now, the fact that the “business stakeholders” had to pay $250 a head to the Liberal party to “advance their projects” may differ from the liquor commission “tollgating” perfected by the Nova Scotia Liberals in the 1970s, but the distinction is not obvious.
Here’s CBC reporter Jacques Poitras’s account of the fundraiser, which I had somehow missed.
For Starr, however, the fundraiser was tangental to his main purpose, which is an extended discussion of health care transfers, and how the Maritime Liberal provincial governments aren’t pushing the federal Liberal government to act on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to reverse the changes Stephen Harper brought to equalization. At stakes are hundreds of millions of dollars that Nova Scotia cannot afford to pass up.
3. Cranky letter of the day
This is an open call to artists to stop using graffiti-style art to adorn businesses. Please consider the history of graffiti as a voice for the disenfranchised and an act of subversion.
Co-opting graffiti style for commercial purposes is equivalent to stealing from the poor; you are diluting the value of the medium if your message is simply “shop here.”
As Immanuel Kant said, “Concepts without percepts are empty, percepts without concepts are blind.” Philosophically yours,
Mod Lewis, Halifax
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (4:30pm, Office and Maintenance Building, Point Pleasant Park) — here’s the agenda.
No public meetings.
Thesis defence, Engineering (1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Seyyed Vahid Farajkhah will defend his thesis, “Effect of 3D Simulated Welding Induced HAZ, Residual Stress and Distortion Fields on Ultimate Strength of Aluminum Stiffened Plates.”
Thesis defence, Biology (1:30pm, Room 429/430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Alana Westwood will defend her thesis, “Conservation of Three Forest Landbird Species at Risk: Characterizing and Modeling Habitat at Multiple Scales to Guide Management Planning.”
Ryan Meili (5pm, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building, Theatre A) — Meili, the Executive Director of Upstream and a family doctor in Saskatoon, will speak on “Health Care Teams Addressing Poverty and the Determinants of Health.” You gotta RSVP via Eventbright, but of course the highly paid PR professionals at Dal don’t provide a link to the Evenbright page where you can RSVP, so I don’t know, just crash the event.
The Politics of Fear and the Power of Failure: Why Terrorism Succeeds (7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Frank P. Harvey will speak.
Alternative Economic Futures (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Peter Victor, author of Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster, will speak.
In the harbour
The guy at the Pilotage Authority is either sick or drunk or kidnapped, and hasn’t updated the harbour comings and goings since noon yesterday. Sorry.
We’re recording Examineradio today.
Internet voting orchestrated by a private company for profit? What could possibly go wrong?
Thanks for the ’08 piece in the Coast. Outstanding reportage.
Any thoughts on mandatory voting? The naysayers in Australia claim that real turnout is only 80%. Actual is 94% of registered voters. Looks good to me…
I’m surprised that nobody mentioned anything about the mink having a piece of its head missing. Maybe it’s not truly missing. Is that it on the cage floor?
Yes. Looks like all four of them are dead.
It is ironic that Universities provide training and hand out degrees in Business Administration when they seemingly have no viable business plan of their own. They have no ability to cut costs, make outlandish decisions to continue to pay Presidents long after they retire, and instead lean on government and students for revenue to cover their inability to manage their business. What will they do when the students and government cannot pay any more, and the foreign student revenue dries up?
Which suggests that you really don’t understand how impoverished universities are in Nova Scotia, when it comes to resources and salaries, compared to other jurisdictions in Canada. The exception, as you noted, is in senior administration salaries….apparently they’re not subject to the same economies as other university employees (who have mostly, and mostly across the board, received yearly increases below the rate of inflation — and below that of other public employees — for 2 or 3 contracts now).
Tuition at comparable American institutions (say, the equivalent of Dalhousie….not the low-level “state” institutions, but something at Dal’s level) would be $40-50k/year. And Americans pay it. So, would you prefer that “business plan”?? If you prefer the “low tuition” and “low government support” plan then you’re guaranteeing that Nova Scotia will have universities whose quality is non-existent….because why would someone come here to teach and do research if they can make $30k or $50k more a year in a lower tax jurisdiction like, oh, Ontario. And if you don’t know this, that is very close to the position that Nova Scotian universities are in. One department at Dal that I know of has lost 4 senior researchers in the last 3 years to other parts of Canada. They cannot sustain that much longer and remain viable….which is ironic because those individuals each brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars of research grants yearly considerably exceeding any salary increase that might have kept them….but now they’re elsewhere enriching that province with their grants [this, btw, is the same government logic that was applied to the film industry funding here].
Here’s the reality: You can’t expect someone to go to school and do post docs for 15+ years, not having anything that is really a salary in that time, accumulating debts that take decades to pay off (I *just* finished paying off an undergrad degree last year, at the age of 53, that I did at Dal in the late 80’s), not buying a house (which would increase in equity over that time for other people), expect them to work 60 hour weeks (go on, check the stats on what most profs do work-wise), and pay them below the level of a teacher for the first 10 or 15 years of their career until they’re in they’re in their early to mid-40’s. Nope, you can TRY doing that, but don’t be surprised if they quickly figure out that the high tax regime here, and the terrible benefits at most universities, make it smarter to go to another province. That’s a recipe for disaster w.r.t. the quality of universities in this province.
It’s really easy to yell and scream that universities are profligate in their spending habits, but I’ve been here over a decade and I sure don’t see it. The reality is that they’re so frugal in most areas that they can’t offer what other jurisdictions do for their students. Perhaps the issue is that we have too many universities? Well, please feel free to argue to the province that one should be closed….student #’s certainly support that argument….then try and figure out the political mechanism for which such a decision could be made, and then what government would actually do it. Universities in Nova Scotia are “boxed in” financially by past government decisions that were ineffective and misguided but which were made for political expediency. I understand the source of your irritation, but I think it’s misdirected towards both the wrong individuals and the wrong institutions.
Bravo, Michael Bowen.
Even with the reported increases, tuition here remains at levels that harken back to the late 1970s in the state universities of the US, which is why I find it hard to get excited about it.
As to Evan d’Entremont’s “Let’s go back to 1920 where the rich went to university, and the poor got along just fine without,” wow. I dearly hope he was joking, though I suspect he wasn’t. The poor never get along just fine, by definition; they’re poor. Not to mention, in 1920, very few women and people of color went to college or university, so one can only speculate about the rest of Mr. d’Entremont’s concept of the ideal society.
There certainly has been a decline in the quality of education – and not just at universities, but all the way down to elementary school – and it is a complex problem arising from a number of causes. Solving it by cutting off access to the vast majority of the population is an idea hardly worth discussing, let alone proposing, there are so many things wrong with it – not least, the rather devastating impact on the economy it would produce, by choking off the supply of professionals and qualified personnel across every sector.
I stand to be corrected but from Mr. d’Entremont’s commenting history, I believe his perspective is that attempts to redress systemic wrongs have resulted in overwhelming disadvantages for and injustices to white men.
I welcome Mr. d’Entremont’s clarification if I have misrepresented his views.
It is an interesting concept for the union to try to “poach” the freelance journalists from the Chronicle Herald and hire them to write for the online news media resource that the union has set up as a result of the strike.
But I wonder what the union will do for those freelancers once the strike is over? If the Herald does not take the freelancers back because they sided with the union, will the union continue to support the freelancers, or will they kick them to the curb once they become redundant pawns once the strike has ended?
I understand why the union has opted to try to “hire” away the freelancers, but I am not sure the union has considered the ultimate end result of their actions in this scenario.
Just when pot finally becomes legal, University kids won’t have any money to afford it. WTF?
When it comes to PR I think the universities, the city and the province see a wonderful business model perfected by the private sector.
This is the byproduct of running government like a business. Control the message, mitigate risk and treat citizens like consumers.
A wonderful recipe for a dystopian future if I ever envisioned one. Now I want the apotheosis of this to hit Canada.
I want my own Donald Trump!
Have to quibble (as in, not disagree totally) about the internet voting thing. I work with a bunch of folks who are disabled and I know it’s a challenge, given the notaccessibus and etc, for them to get out when they want to. The bus would take them to the voting booth and then leave them for hours until it could get back.
Internet voting might help them be able to have a voice in the election. Even if it seems like a choice among same.
In the last provincial election there was an option for ill/infirm people to cast a ballot at home. The same option in the municipal election would be just as convenient as internet voting and much cheaper.
I’m convinced tuition isn’t high enough.
Make university $50k a year, with ample grants and bursaries for those with the marks to back it up. And cut off the government backed student loans.
For the record I said university, not college. NSCC is actually useful.
That way we don’t have student assistance subsidizing and inflating rents, we don’t have retail stores demanding university degrees, we don’t have insane levels of student debt, etc.
University has become the de facto ‘Grade 12’ and this is having extremely negative effects on an entire generation. Let’s go back to 1920 where the rich went to university, and the poor got along just fine without.
Close to the truth. Maybe the high cost of tuition should be viewed as saving young people from the wasteland of higher education. A system without proportional benefits in all too many cases.
Are you nuts? My grandfather grew up in the 20’s and they were fighting the rich for scraps and the right to be safe at work. By all means tighten up access to university and allow the province to slip into a feudal state of serfs and lords. Nova Scotia will definitely be doing well nationally by that.
And the poor are still fighting the rich, only it’s gotten worse as the rich have gotten richer. There’s no case to be made that having a university education is a breakwall against these forces. As we’ve become more ‘highly educated’, the country has become more socially unbalanced. Go figure.
You want the true value of a university degree, read this:
It’s our corporate institutions of ‘critical thinking’ (hahaha) that are truly dumping on young people.
Way to confuse cause and effect, based on unsupported, vaguely stated premises!
Wherever you went to school, you evidently didn’t acquire very good analytical skills.
Speaking of unsupported, and vaguely stated premises, read your two sentences.
As a matter of fact, the people of Nova Scotia don’t own Dalhousie University. Common misconception. The only post-secondary institution “owned” by the province is NSCC. The rest are private institutions.
Having said that, the provincial government (i.e. the people of Nova Scotia) is, by far, Dalhousie’s largest source of revenue. In 2013-14, Dalhousie’s revenue from all sources was $638.5 million. Just under one-third of that, $207.4 million, came from the province. Tuition, the next highest revenue source, is only $144.8 million.
Tuition is only part of the cash grab. Students account for 50% or more of revenues at every university when you add in other student fees (not regulated), bookstore revenue (always exorbitant), housing and meal plan fees (not regulated and WAY above market). That’s before the tuition deregulation – err, I mean ”one-time tuition reset’ – takes effect.
Expected costs far outstrip many students’ ability to pay, particularly students from low-to-middle income families because the student aid system doesn’t provide enough to meet the up front costs. Something has got to give.
They’re not “owned” by the province, but they are still public institutions and responsible to the public….otherwise why would my salary be publicly available? I think you’re splitting hairs too finely here. The reality is that universities are both “public institutions” responsible in their operations and overall direction to the public, and also institutions that need independence from the public controls (such as direct government interference) to achieve those responsibilities to the broader public….but that doesn’t mean that they can kick reporters out of events at universities, because the “press” itself has responsibilities to the public (which it too often abrogates these days, which is probably why PR people react in that fashion).
The truth is that universities have done a poor job of educating the public about what its societal roles are, and the poor funding they now receive is their comeuppance for that. Too much of a “business perspective” is infused on campuses these days….too often students are referred to as “clients” who are supposed to feel ‘happy” and “satisfied” not just in five years after they’ve engaged in the discipline, but five minutes into the class when they’re learning about theory they see no immediate need for (but which is important to understand to critically think about issues in their chosen field). But just arguing that tuition is too high, which I’m pretty certain is where that reporter would go with their story, is just low hanging fruit. We need a more in-depth societal conversation about the role and purpose of universities, and that’s where the local media in particular is letting us down. We need someone writing about universities the way you (i.e., Graham) write about government.
A lot of truth in Michael’s response. It suits the universities and government just fine to conceive of these institutions as quasi-public at best. Government’s views on the matter change to fit it’s purposes.
When there’s credit to be taken, universities are public. When there’s blame to be shouldered or bills to be paid, universities are independent, autonomous, and responsible for setting their own fees. This is an oversimplification but close enough to the truth.
For their part, universities more or less play along so long as revenues are increasing, year-over-year. (They are businesses after all.) They talk big game about innovation, looking for cost savings, limiting tuition growth, etc. but they’re always just waiting for a friendlier government to come along (with more money or less fee regulation).
At some point, the demand for university will start to dry up with increasing cost and we will all be worse off for it (the benefits are still real, if diminishing in monetary terms). As always, the backroom crowd will express surprise at the outcome and offer bandaid solutions to prop up a broken system.
And round and round we go.
The percentage of support for universities has shrunk over the last three decades to the point where government money no longer has the leverage it once had. The big elephant in the post secondary education room here in Nova Scotia is that we have way too many degree granting institutions and way too many bloated administrations with massively compensated presidents and VPs.
Since i’m no longer employed by a student organization, I can freely say that I agree with you. Good luck getting any of the key stakeholders to agree.