1. Are we doing right by international students?

Some months ago, I asked Chris Lambie to explore the issue of international students attending Nova Scotian universities. There’s no denying that we’re chasing international students for their money, and there are issues of exploitation at every turn. But international students also contribute to the educational experience for native-born students, cultural diversity is valuable, and connections made at university can lead to all sorts of post-graduate collaborations that benefit students and the world generally. And then there are the small but complex issues of international students’ integration into Nova Scotian society.

Lambie came back with a sprawling 6,000-word article that touches on all these issues.

Click here to read “Are we doing right by international students?”

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2. Budget

Yeah, the government tabled a budget yesterday. For the Liberals, it’s the best thing ever; for the opposition parties, it’s the worst thing ever.

Whatever it is, it isn’t serious. It’s an election budget. No matter what happens — whether the Liberals win a majority government, or win a minority government, or lose all together — the actual budget that gets implemented won’t look anything like that thing everyone’s been writing about since yesterday.

3. “Social Enterprise”

YouTube video

“There’s a shift going on in Canada business, and it’s a shift towards the good, according to a group of Halifax documentarians embarking on a nationwide adventure to show you how,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro:

Three-fourths of the crew behind The Social Shift documentary — video producing twins Meaghan and Marie Wright and social activist Joseph Huyer — leave in just over a week to fly to the west coast, and meet up with Kevin Courtney, a Toronto videographer.

When they get there, they’re going to buy a camper van and hit the road, stopping in Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They hope to interview a few people at every stop, including social entrepreneurs, cultural promoters, professors, students, and even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

And what is “social enterprise”?:

“It’s mixing real impact, real value — whether that’s environmentally or culturally or socially — with business,” Marie said.

The twins said they were blown away by the realization that business doesn’t have to be, as Meaghan put it, “cut throat, make money, scale up, exit strategies and all that stuff.”

Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of that before? Thank the good lord that we three 20-something business school grads to lead us out of the woods!

Oh wait. A couple of hundred years ago there was a certain spectre haunting Europe, and then there was a labour movement, and then the Socialist and Social Democratic political parties that aimed to, ya know, place environmental, social, and cultural values above the desires of cut-throat, make-money capitalists.

It’s sad that these young people appear to have no knowledge of labour history, or of the fight against capitalism. And that’s what we’re talking about here. Let’s say it out loud: capitalism.

Look, I know a lot of people who consider themselves “social entrepreneurs.” Some of them are my friends. They’re basically good people, trying to live ethical lives, trying not to be assholes, trying to do something worthwhile in the world.

But without the historic, social, political, and economic context, without acknowledging that the last two centuries have been about the supremacy of capitalism, we’re left with this feel-good nonsense about “social enterprise” that will inevitably be a sort of velvet glove capitalism. This isn’t the fault of the basically good people trying to do something worthwhile with their lives. It’s a systematic problem, reflecting an economic order that reduces everything — not just goods and services, but also the environment, culture, social relations, and political systems — to a commodity, and so therefore to a monetary transaction.

This is why it disturbs me so much when non-profits chase supposed “charity money” put forward by insurance companies, or when governments sell naming rights to publicly owned facilities, or when the fucking phone company claims to own mental illness awareness. No matter how worthy or sensical these instances appear at the moment, they don’t  fundamentally challenge the underlying system of exploitation. In fact, they advance it.

And sure, we all live in the world we’ve been handed. I too think of myself as a basically good person trying to do something worthwhile in the world. And I’m a business person. But I guess I’m too old to be a hipster millennial social entrepreneur and the Halifax Examiner can’t be considered a social enterprise. I’m just some old fart trying to live as best I can in the world, like the thousands of years of old fart business owners before me who also thought of themselves as basically good people trying to do something worthwhile.

My real worry here is that the phrase “social enterprise” is the softer, feel-good end of the push for increased entrepreneurship, which is always promoted as good thing, no downside whatsoever. But there are lots of downsides. One is the risk: most new businesses fail, and very often their failure results in tremendous hardship for the owner. The bigger issue, though, is that entrepreneurship is being sold as the solution to declining living standards — don’t worry about there not being a job for you at graduation, or that if you do find a job it will be temporary contract labour at shit pay, you can start a business!

The push for increased entrepreneurship and in particular the aiming of that message at young people is specifically intended to derail the labour movement. It’s no accident that the union-busting McNeil government is also heavily promoting entrepreneurship. (See also, union-busting Chronicle Herald prez Mark Lever’s celebratory promotion of the Ivany report.) And there’s a direct line from the privatization of services and the P3s to the policies of austerity designed to take money out of the pockets of working people and to give it to plutocrats.

The goal here is to privatize expectations. In a socially just world, we would have collective responsibility for, well, everyone. We would collectively — through properly funded post-secondary education, labour regulation, government social programs, and redistributive tax policies — help young people succeed in life, help them become contributing citizens with worthwhile lives.

But the push for entrepreneurship upends this: it’s all on you, kid. You want a university education? Pay for it your own damn self. You want to promote good values and have a decent standard of living as well? Then start your own business and good luck, sucker. Whatever you want, don’t be expecting anything from the rest of us.

3. Maritime Link

Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith, reporting for the CBC, explains how the 10-centimetre diameter, 170-kilometre long electric cable will be laid across the Cabot Strait:

The first end of the cable to be laid was threaded through a one-kilometre borehole, pulled through some casing and onto the Newfoundland shore. The second cable, which will be laid separately, is still in transit and is expected to arrive in Atlantic Canada from Japan, where it was manufactured, in mid-May.


Within about two weeks, the cable is expected to be pulled ashore at the Point Aconi site north of the power plant.

The cable is being lowered by the cable layer Nexans Skagerrak, which is in place off Port Aux Basques:

The cable layer Nexans Skagerrak (light blue dot) is stationed off Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland, starting to lay the Maritime Link. The dark blue ship icon is the passenger ferry; various container ships and an oil tanker are in transit farther out in the Cabot Strait. Map:


1. Pijinuiskaq Park

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald reviews Pikinuiskaq Park in Bridgewater.


No public meetings.

On campus


Robotics and Computer Vision (Friday, 11:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Sajad Saeedi of Imperial College, London, will speak on “The Future of Computer Vision and Machine Learning Systems.”

Nano-biochemical Fluorescence (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Mohsen Kompany-Zareh of Iran’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Science will speak on “Multi-way Study of Nano-biochemical Fluorescence Energy Transfer.”

In the harbour

The North Atlantic, Friday, 9:30am. Map:

5:30am: Kajin, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
6:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
9am: Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Fos Sur Mer, France
3pm: Margaretha, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 27 from St. John’s
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
5pm: Budapest Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York


More articles coming today.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. It says something to the theory of cultural hegemony when people can understand and see the problems capitalism causes, but only end up coming up with defeatist conclusions like green capitalism and myths about government being fundamentally incompetent.

  2. We need more entrepreneurship in the Maritimes. We have become a museum culture, with museums big and small highlighting industries and businesses we used to have back in the days when even villages produced numerous entrepreneurs. It’s pretty depressing even if you can remember back to the 60s and 70s, let alone what photos from 100 years ago show.

    You can see the difference in attitude and in activity in photographs from then and now, not just in the number of business and industries that no longer exist, but in the small indications of great attention to small detail by business, industry, and government.

    If Millennials are more entrepreneurial than the last generation – and from my personal observation I think there may be something to that thinking – then more power to them. Happy are they who are their own bosses, and happy are they who own their own means of production.

    You seem to picture an ideal state of everyone working for The Man, with a high paying union job with defined benefit plans, like it was in my hometown in the days of my youth. Even assuming those days will ever come again, you need entrepreneurs to create the small companies that grow into those large employers. You need those entrepreneurs to create the businesses that pay the taxes to support all the social goods.

    Even it the old days of the factory town (where I grew up) don’t come again, that isn’t necessarily bad. When the big industries closed in my home town, three in a row, it destroyed the community and robbed it of its youth, who moved away. It is better to have a lot of small enterprises than a few big ones, as people here are now realizing. And you need entrepreneurs to start them.

    While I don’t agree with selling naming rights to public property, I see nothing wrong with business and industry making donations to various social causes nor (in most circumstances) to the causes accepting the money. It is pretty common in small towns for small businesses to do this. We should have more of it. The assumption that government should fund everything is fundamentally flawed I believe, because then government decides what effort is and isn’t worthy to fund. So if someone gets a charitable effort going in the community and can through their efforts find industry or business to make donations, more power to them. I view that as a strength, not a systemic weakness. For a guy who rails against the government so much, you sure have a lot of faith in its power to do goo.

    1. I’m not against government. What matters is *how* we use government. Right now, the powerful are using government to enrich themselves by looting the public wealth. We need to turn government to protect that public wealth and people who aren’t powerful.

      1. We’re in agreement that tends to be the case in the Maritimes at least.

        I am skeptical that this ideal government can ever be achieved. I don’t see the public will for it, or things would have changed years ago. People in the Maritimes want change as long as everything stays the same. Folks here always talk a good change game, but since real change would involve some radical, fundamental smashing and rebuilding of institutions, some smashing of idols and some kicking of arses, they find it too frightening and continue to support the familiar. It is the Same Old, Same Old, with the Same Old Usual Suspects. Innovation — ha! That’s a street near Port Mersey Commercial Park.

        Even if it can be change, I don’t believe that even a benevolent, well-meaning, well-run government will always set the right priorities or make the right choices. I see a perpetual need for private action that will necessarily involve the charitable actions including $$$ of private individuals, organizations, and yes, businesses. There is always going to be someone in need who is left out.

        I also think it is good for the private individuals involved to engage in this kind of grassroots work rather than leave it to bureaucrats, who always have their own agenda and their own set of priorities, even if well-meaning. I believe that the exercise of acting charitably itself is good because it creates empathy for others and a self-confidence in one’s ability to change things for the better.

    2. The problem with charity is that it is private and often comes with judgments, and decision about who is worthy of receiving their handouts. . They pick their targets – so women who have experienced violence at home are considered “innocent and worthy” but women being released from prison are perceived as having “made their own bed” and are less likely to get “charity”. We need governments to ensure that wealth is distributed in such a way that everyone has their basic needs looked after, either through work or taxes, or government support of some other kind. Personally I would do away altogether not necessarily with charities – if you want to donate feel free – but certainly with charitable income tax deductions. A university that does not allow gay students gets a charitable tax number in this country and environmental organizations trying to save the planet are not eligible because you cannot lobby, or do advocacy to change things, if you are a charity.

      1. Government picks its own winners and losers and leaves people out too I think government does exactly the things you say, possibly in different cases, but it does, and just as unfairly and just as based on biased value-judgements of morality. I can think of any number of instances of people relying on private charity because the government won’t have anything to do with their situation.

        I wouldn’t want to rely entirely on private charity, but I wouldn’t want to rely entirely on government either.

        I’d also expand, not reduce, the number of charitable deduction classes. We need way more, like they have the United States. However I wasn’t speaking necessarily of organized charities, so much as individual efforts in the community, many of which are case-specific and ad hoc.

        I’m surprised, really, at the number of people who still have so much faith in government after our experience in the Maritimes. I’d sooner trust the nice Nigerian prince who sends me emails.

        1. Is it that charitable if it’s done just to avoid taxes? Do the receipts for charity add up to significant revenue loss? Charities are a band-aid meant to help after something has already happened, like homelessness, hunger, lack of affordable medication/care and what they point to is an under-funding of government services. There should be no deductions for charitable donations because it incentivizes bad collective behaviour. Give your money, you’ll help someone who should have been helped already and then reap a reward that perpetuates the system. Prevention and preparation are things humans are woefully unequipped for, see climate change.

          1. If administrative/operational costs for a charitable organizations were limited to be 15-20% maximum, there would be a lot less charities around and a lot more charitable donations going to those who need charity, eh?

    3. Who’s fantasy do we want to live in?

      An Ayn Randian fantasy where everyone is a self directed, stone hearted entrepreneur living off of the fruits of their hard work and the weakness of others? The heart of capitalism is winners and losers. We all must compete or get eaten.

      I prefer the fantasy where we mitigate the worst instincts in humanity and provide EVERYONE a decent and respectable chance for success in life.

  3. Capitalism has reached it’s nadir with the election of Donald Trump. The hallowed ground trod by Washington and Lincoln debased by naked self interest and unchecked avarice. The apotheosis of capitalism.

    The kleptocratic, nepotistic swamp creature will either break our illusions of vaunted institutions impervious to corruption or reinforce their resilence in the face of criminal greed and self dealing.

    Let’s hope we survive.

  4. Tim, if you claim to care about the Canadian worker, you might consider writing about the degree to which the TFW program is abused or the way the foreign “skilled worker” program is abused. There are companies in Halifax, many of whom receive large amounts of government subsidy, that abuse these programs on an incredible scale. I can assure you, that it’s trivially easy for a connected business in Nova Scotia, to say, hire an Indian with nothing but a bachelor’s degree from a middle-of-the-road institution in India (or any developing country) rather than an identically qualified Canadian The reason employers do this is because a TFW (or someone here on a work visa) cannot realistically quit their job, will not ask for a raise (there are 100 in India who will replace him) and cannot look for other employment in Canada.

    If you accept the controversial notion that the Canadian government should privilege Canadians above non-Canadians then these programs need to be mostly shut down or there needs to be a blanket $100,000/year compensation floor for those here on skilled visas to prevent abuse.

    Another problem with the liberal-capitalist model for “social justice” is that rather than say, paying Canadians to build housing then letting poor people live in the housing for free, the government simply redistributes money to poor people, who then pay rent to very rich people, and continue to prop up high housing costs in the process. Our fundamental model for helping the less fortunate is broken and disproportionately benefits the rich. The end stage of policies like this is Venezuela North. We can provide a decent life for every Canadian (and we should accept that some people are guaranteed to be useless fuckups and take care of them anyway, rather than moving goalposts to declare them successful). We can’t do it the way we’re doing it.

    1. Did you ever read the stories about farmers hiring people from the Caribbean to harvest apples and such? They get a better deal than people living here, if farmers gave people from here a place to live and some food I’m sure it would help with their employment woes. The effective wage would be far higher.

      1. I’m aware of that. I’m far more bothered, for instance, by going into a Tim Hortons or something and seeing it staffed by obvious TFWs.

        Employing TFWs is the closest you can come to legally owning someone in Canada.

        1. How many of the presently unemployed residents in NS would be willing to take the pay for the jobs that the TFWs take so readily. If our locally unemployed citizens were qualified and wanted those jobs, they would apply for them. If a TFW can make do on the wages that they are paid, why is it that our locally unemployed are not willing to do so as well? This is another example of market economy where one person’s un-valued employment opportunity is seen by another person as an opportunity to put food on the table and a roof over one’s head. TFWs recognize this… why is that so hard to understand? It seems today that many wish to be paid a starting wage that is higher than the value of the job being performed; many transitional and seasonal employment jobs should not ever be considered to equate to the value of a full time job requiring a higher value skill set, yet that is what some people think things should occur and thus they refuse this work and the TFWs benefit from the concept. The TFWs do not live off handouts, EI or public welfare resources… they are productive workers that fill the jobs that are often not deemed worthwhile by the locally unemployed.

          1. John, if there was nobody to say, pick apples in the valley for $10/hr, and it was impossible to bring in TFWs, then the price of labor will go up. Whenever people say “Canadians won’t do those jobs”, they forget the end of the sentence “for the price employers are willing to pay”.

            The larger the labor force the less power employees have. It’s really that simple. The goal is to shift power away from people who merely own things for a living towards people who actually work for a living.

          2. I don’t know, TFW’s return cash home where it is worth several times more than it is here.

  5. Tim you said: “Whatever it is, it isn’t serious. It’s an election budget. No matter what happens — whether the Liberals win a majority government, or win a minority government, or lose all together — the actual budget that gets implemented won’t look anything like that thing everyone’s been writing about since yesterday.”

    Just wondering whether you made that pronouncement after reviewing pre- and post-election budgets from previous governments?

  6. Maybe a new slogan will give you more hipster cred.

    Halifax Examiner – Artisinal Reoprtery

    Halifax Examiner – Ironic mustaches, non-ironic reportage

    1. Yes!

      Halifax Examiner – Handcrafted, True Tales.

      This is That did a great video on artisanal firewood.