There’s more weather.
2. Teachers strike
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union has called a one-day strike for Friday, issuing the following statement yesterday morning:
The complete lack of respect displayed by Stephen McNeil and his government towards teachers, students and their families has left NSTU members with no choice but to initiate a one-day province-wide walk-out on Friday, February 17.
“In the entire 122 year history of the NSTU, our members have never faced a more anti- education Premier than Stephen McNeil,” says Liette Doucet [president of the NSTU]. “The legislation he introduced yesterday limits teachers’ right to strike, erodes their ability to negotiate a fair contract and prevents them from advocating for reforms to improve learning conditions for their students. The result is the first province-wide teacher strike ever in Nova Scotia.”
Teachers will use the day to ensure government MLAs know the full impact of the McNeil government’s actions on Nova Scotia’s public education system and public sector workers in the province.
“We believe this legislation is unconstitutional and we owe it to our colleagues past, present and future to take this stand. Stephen McNeil says he wants to hear from teachers, so on Friday teachers will spend the day ensuring the Premier and his Liberal caucus get the message — his government’s bully tactics can no longer be tolerated.”
Protests continue outside Province House.
Jennifer Henderson will be reporting from Province House today, and I’ll take over later in the day.
h/t Redditor hopkindz for reminding me of the Simpsons vid.
3. Court Watch: mental illness and “not criminally responsible”
This week, in her weekly recap of provincial court matters, Christina Macdonald explores the “not criminally responsible” ruling in the Codey Hennigar case. You’ll recall that Hennigar killed his mother and grandparents last year, and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
As with Vince Li (now named Will Baker), the man who beheaded another man on a Greyhound bus, Hennigar will be released from custody when and if he is found to be no significant danger to the public.
Macdonald also discusses the legal issues of people who represent themselves in court, and the Markel Jason Downey decision.
Click here to read Court Watch.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
1. An 18th Century Moment
“This story has never been told before because it is geeky, difficult to communicate, and my photos are awful,” writes Stephen Archibald, so you know what follows will be wonderful:
In my last blog I talked about some buildings at the corner of Prince and Granville Streets which were demolished in 1983. I had gone downtown on a Sunday morning to take one last look and watch a big backhoe pull them down.
The building on the corner was wood but had a brick firewall separating it from the wooden structure next door. Because of several big downtown fires in the 1850s, the city outlawed new wood construction in this district after 1860 so these building predated that regulation. As the firewall was peeled away the silhouette of an even earlier building was exposed (follow the arrow).
When more was revealed, I realized that I was seeing the outline of a house that had previously been on the site. Nothing of it remained except the shadow captured by its neighbour.
There are more photos at the link, which Archibald explains in detail:
And here is what got me so excited: a two story building with a gambrel roof ( like many barns). I could also make out that at some point a lean-to had been added to the back.
But it is common to see older building shapes revealed during demolitions, why the fuss over this one? Because folks, this is the only time I’ve seen a gambrel roof preserved and I don’t recall any buildings of this form surviving into my long lifetime. Yet the earliest illustrations of Halifax, after its founding in 1749, show many buildings that must have been identical to my silhoutte discovery.
Archibald goes on to compare historic renderings of 18th century Halifax to the silhouette he momentarily glimpsed.
“The partisanship in the legislative chamber means nothing on the street,” writes Graham Steele:
To the contrary, it can come across as mean-spirited, even bullying.
As I’ve written before, the Achilles heel of the McNeil government is its hubris.
The McNeil government is composed of good people doing their level best with tough issues, but the hubris peeks out at the most inopportune moments.
Hubris peeks out from behind the legal language of Bill 75.
Bill 75 was always going to be a bitter pill for teachers to swallow, but the government could have helped it go down more easily.
All it had to do was incorporate the gains negotiated in the third round of bargaining.
Instead, Bill 75 rolls back those gains, most notably on the relatively meagre wage increases.
The premier’s explanation — that Bill 75 reflects the tentative agreement that got the most support from teachers — is utterly disingenuous.
3. Cranky letter of the day
To the Charlottetown Guardian:
Following the U.S. election, I would like to say a few words on the spreading use of the phrase, “state of the …” whatever, even here in Canada.
No such terminology can be found on the BNA Act. Only the U.S. uses such terminology, since it is a union of various states.
For Canadian premiers to adopt such verbiage is just silly. (May we expect, “state of the unincorporated townships or neighbourhoods or whatever,” to follow? God forbid.)
Sadly, for our politicians to imitate our southern neighbours erodes the valuable differences shared between our neighbours and us.
And they are even now more to be valued when those neighbours have been so badly trumped.
Colman O’Hare, Charlottetown
Have a Calabash Nebula:
Community Planning & Economic Development (9:30am, City Hall) — Mayor Mike Savage wants the city to work with the United Way on an anti-poverty strategy.
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (4pm, City Hall) — I don’t know why they’re meeting, because there is absolutely nothing on the agenda. Maybe they can shovel the sidewalks around City Hall.
Fall River Water Service Extension Open House (6:30pm, Georges P. Vanier Junior High School, Fall River) — Rescheduled from February 13.
Public Information Meeting – Case 20401 (7pm, St. Peter’s Anglican Church Hall, Halifax) — more Bedford West rezoning.
No public meetings.
Cancelled: Resources (9am, Province House) — the Maple Producers Association would have been asked questions, but now they’ll have to unquestioningly enjoy their sugary goodness.
Law Amendments (8:30am–8pm, Red Chamber, Province House) — the public will have its say on Bill 75.
Undoubtedly there will be action on Bill 75, but the details have yet to be scheduled.
Note: as of publication, Dalhousie University has delayed opening until 10am. Check Dal.ca for updates.
Blind Date with a Book (11am, Killam and MacRae Libraries) — Apparently they’ve got some “discreetly wrapped books” sure to “quicken your pulse”:
If you’re looking for mystery, fantasy, poetry, romance, or… science fiction, the Killam and MacRae libraries are where you’ll want to be. Blind Date with a Book wants to set you up with the book of your dreams, featuring sharp and witty profiles better than anything you’ll find on Tinder. Just come to the lobby of the Killam Library (Studley Campus) or the MacRae Library (Agricultural Campus) on Valentine’s Day. Check out the display of discreetly wrapped books and peruse the descriptive tags. You’re sure to find one that quickens your pulse.
Chronic Disease (2pm, CHEB C140) — A mystery guest will speak on “Scotland – New Scotland: Advances & Dances in Research, Innovation and Health System Improvements for Chronic Disease.”
Public Policy and Environmental Advocacy (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Lois Corbett, from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, will speak.
Concerto Night (7:30pm, Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — the Dalhousie Symphony Orchestra and student soloists will perform popular concerti and arias. Fifteen dollars.
Welcome to Africville (10am, Africville Museum) — RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Analogue Inhibitors (1:30pm, Department of Chemistry) — Stephen L. Bearne will speak about “Designing Substrate-product Analogue Inhibitors for Racemaces and Epimerases.”
Cape Breton Gothic (3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Edward Michalik will speak.
Poetry Slam (7pm, The Muse Cafe and Pub, 1252 LeMarchant Street) — Rebecca Thomas hosts.
Brazil and Canada (1pm, Library LI135) — Rosana Barbosa will talk about her new book, Brazil and Canada: Economic, Political and Migratory Ties, 1820s to 1970s.
Nothing that we know about.
In the harbour
5am: NYK Constellation, container ship, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Rotterdam
9am: Hafina Malacca, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
10:30am: Yantian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
11am: ZIM Haifa, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
11:30am: Ningbo Express, container ship, moves from anchorage to Fairview Cove
2pm: Allise P, container ship, arrives at Anchorage from Rotterdam
3:30pm: Oregon Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
6pm: STI Virtus, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
I’m finally back in town. You folks got a lot of snow.
Between the snow and the battle between the teachers and the government, there doesn’t seem to be much more going on. Which is just as well, I suppose, as being stranded in the States has left me exhausted. Even with the miracle of the internet, it’s hard to stay on top of local happenings at such remove.
But we do have lots of things lined up for publication. They just take time (and in one case, legal review) to get to and today I’m playing catch up. We’ll get this ship up and running again…
It was a hoot to see that Stephen Archibald has been called out for his hubris by Graham Steele (the Examiner’s email note: “Graham Steele on Stephen Archibald’s hubris”). File this under “we all make mistakes”.
But the Simpson’s clip really took the cake – hilarious encapsulation of the situation.
I noticed the new NDP TV ads with nice and cuddly Gary in a middle class home uttering substance free phrases.
Was hoping for some comments on the Premiers BS address at the chamber of commerce circle jerk yesterday. Just search #hccpremier on Twitter to see the ridiculous reaction from the halifax business community and “elites” in attendance. To sum it up, clap louder and everything will get better around here.
I am a union supporter. I know the value of a strong union to workers, even for workers not in a union. I know why we need unions and how the sacrifices of our grandparents and great grandparents have provided us with a better quality of life.
With that said, I can say that our unions in NS are broken and have no idea what they are doing. My union is all but silent on whats happening with teachers even though we are in negotiations with the same government. My union president has even saw fit to take a month or so off to take training in the middle of not only this crisis with our teachers, but during our own negotiations with this government. Today there was an email from my union about what we can do to help, like speak at the legislature or call an MLA. To use a Trumpism, Sad. Just sad.
The NSTU sends a release calling MacNeil the most anti-education premier in a bazillion years, but thats not true. He’s not anti-education. He’s anti-union. Hes anti-arbitration. He’s anti-truth, but hes not anti-education.
I have no doubt he is aware of every issue in the classroom, but he is so bent on being a tough negotiator he ignores it. Not because he is anti-education but because he doesnt like not getting his way. He refused to bargain in good faith because he felt he didnt have to. He knew all along that you would fall in line or be legislated.
I hear what you are saying; but one of the primary issues is that the sitting government was voted in with a platform that called for a balanced budget and taxation”… coupled with enhanced community services, investments in education, better transit connectivity, better healthcare, etc… notice that these are all services and improvements in all these areas will require money… taxpayers dollars. Your point that there are a large number of public service employee contracts under negotiation is well made and it is hard to see how any improvements in services can occur, plus wage & benefit increases for all employee contracts can occur without either significant cuts “somewhere”. Now back to the balanced budget and taxation; the public did not give the government a mandate to increase Provincial debt or significantly raise taxes… and the budget was not balanced when the Liberals came into power.
This is where the rubber meets the road, the government is not mean-spirited or anti-union per se; they have little to no real wiggle room when it comes to allocating existing funds to cover everything that the public has been demanding with respect to enhanced or just plain better public services. So when public service employee contract discussions occur, the unions need to recognize that the government already has their backs to the wall financially. Right now, it would not make any difference if one of the opposition parties were in power today instead of the sitting Liberal Government, because the amount of available budget dollars remains the same. When the next election occurs, if the winning party does not have a solution concerning where the money will come from to pay for all the increased expenditures that all the various public service unions are going to be asking for or should I say demanding, then they will find themselves in the same situation that faces the Liberal Government today.
The opposition parties all like to say they can do a better job than the party in power; but history has shown that is often not the case. The public has asked that the government to stay within its budget and that is really a no-win situation. If the public wants more and better services, then the public also has to agree that the public will have to pay to have those more and better services. At the same time, the public must also understand that if taxes cannot be increased, then some “not-so essential” services may have to be cut… someone is always going to be unhappy.
There are 2 potential sources of revenue to improve public services. Modest deficit financing and modest tax increases. Parties that promise improved services with no new taxes and a balanced budget are promising the impossible.
Modest deficits, as long as the debt to GDP ratio stays the same or goes down will not bankrupt the province as is too often claimed. Even David Dodge, a small c conservative former Bank of Canada governor has acknowledged this. Many economists have argued the same. In this era of long term low interest financing, we will not suddenly have a massive increase in debt if and when interest rates start to rise again.
The constant refrain that NS’ taxes are too high ignores that many highly successful jurisdictions have higher taxes and if NS wants to be highly successful it needs to raise the money to invest in excellent public services. Other Canadian provinces have recently raised their taxes a bit, so the gap between our taxes and theirs is even narrower than it was a couple of years ago.
We need sound public services, public education being one of the most critical. And that takes money.
Which taxes do you wish to increase ?
HST higher ?
The NSTU obviously has a communication problem. They took 3 contractual offers to their members, which in theory means the offers were the “best” that the union could get a that time. But when they presented those offers to their members, either they lacked the skill to communicate that these were the “best” deals available, or they gave the teachers the impression that a “better” deal was possible. If the issue was that the union did not ask for the “right” things when negotiating the new contract, one has to think there must be a high level of incompetence if the union was still not bargaining for the things that the teachers say they want. Every time I hear the phase that the other side did not bargain in “good faith”, what I really hear is that the other side would “not give in” to one’s demands. But is that really what bargaining in good faith means… some times the best deal offered, is just that.
So did the union bargain for the right things? If not, then why were they sitting at the bargaining table wasting everyone’s time and is that also “not bargaining in good faith? If they did ask for the right things, and the government negotiators proposed an offer that the government was willing to support…. is this considered bargaining in bad faith? I think not! If the union did not ask for the right things, and the government negotiators proposed an offer that the government was willing to support… is this considered bargaining in bad faith? Likewise, I think not! If the union did not feel they had the best offer in-hand; why did they take it back to the teachers? Once might be forgiven, twice is an embarrassment; but three times taking an offer back to the union membership without the ability to close the deal is a significant failure on the union’s part, not the governments. Almost every time that a proposed contract is not accepted by the union membership, everyone seems to want to blame the employer; but the union negotiator’s job is also to “realistically” manage the expectations of the workers they represent and that clearly has not occurred during the recent contract negotiations.
There were two parties at the negotiating table and so far most if not all the finger pointing has laid blame at the feet of the employer… after three failed offers, I think it is time to recognize that the union negotiators and the union leaders have either failed to realistically represent the teachers or they did not realistically manage the teacher’s expectations; or both.
Was it the same negotiating team and same executive each time? I don’t know. I’d have resigned after the second rejection.
A new president (and I believe some but not all of exec) came in near the end of negotiations for the second tentative agreement.
I think the union exec understood what members wanted, although perhaps not how strongly their feelings were (at least initially), and were asking for the right things. As I understand it the first “negotiation” was a take-it-or-leave-it offer from the government with a lawyer from each side — no negotiating team.
At each stage the exec said this is the best we can get at this time (correctly) and the members said it wasn’t good enough (also correctly, in my opinion). By the final vote most teachers I spoke to knew they were unlikely to get anything better and expected a legislated contract that could be (and is) worse. Self interest (particularly on the financial side) would have said to take it, but teachers took a stand and said they would rather have a bad deal imposed on them than appear to accept it.
And fair negotiations in good faith shouldn’t mean asking more and paying less, and shouldn’t be done with the threat of legislation hanging over them.
The primary issue is and always has been the McNeil governments refusal to bargain in good faith. When you pass legislation to impose a wage package of your sole choosing, refuse to move on it, and refuse to address classroom conditions you’re not negotiating at all.
Attempting to put equal blame on the NSTU is more than disingenuous, it’s flat out bullshit of the highest caliber. Let’s just go with that thought experiment though – What if the NSTU had not taken back any offer for ratification? What if after the first failed ratification vote the NSTU said ” Sorry Karen Casey, unless you change your position and negotiate in good faith we’re not taking anything else back”……. Then what? Does the situation we’re in now change at all? Of course not, because McNeil’s bargaining position ( or lack there of ) will not and has not moved.
“If the union did not ask for the right things” – Seriously? What you mean to say is “If the union did not ask for the right things as outlined within Bill 148” isn’t it? Because that was THE offer, and oddly enough it looks as though THAT offer as outlined in Bill 148 is going to be the basis of the new contract.
The big picture, look at it. I realize that most Nova Scotians are not used to dealing with this level of PR bullshit coming from a provincial government, but that’s exactly what that is – A PR talking point, just like comparing the salaries of teachers to that of the average Nova Scotian, just like the 500 million dollar figure the government put on the NSTUs proposals, just like when the government labeled the NSTUs proposals as “demands”, just like when McNeil goes on camera and claims he’s made three deals with the NSTU…….. It’s propaganda, it’s talking points, it’s PR, it’s bullshit, and it’s being created by top tier journalists who are paid to do precisely this.
Ghost of gambrel roof needs a twitter account.