News

1. ServiCom

ServiCom has closed its call centre in Sydney, and laid off all 600 workers.

“ServiCom site director Todd Riley blasted the company’s executive team for misleading him and all employees at the centre,” reports Chris Shannon for the Cape Breton Post:

“Any time would be hard, but Christmastime? To me, it’s a very cowardly act. It’s something this business knew for a while it was going through and they lied,” he said.

“They lied to me and, in turn, I had to work with 700 people — to go in day in and day out to keep people on the phones encouraging them that things are going to get better.

“I am very, very disappointed in the leadership.”

For the last several weeks, due to the Chapter 11 filing in U.S. bankruptcy court in Connecticut, paycheques have been as much as five to six days behind schedule.

In a memo to staff in early November, Riley indicated it was his hope to get employee pays back on schedule for the Dec. 28 payday. Employees were also promised a so-called $250 “loyalty” bonus along with other financial perks for sticking with the company in the days following the bankruptcy filing. It was to be paid out Dec. 14.

The call centre lost about 50 to 75 employees after the Chapter 11 filing, according to Riley.

For those who decided to stay, no one will see their bonus or their regular paycheques. Employees last received a pay on or around Nov. 21.

“Justin Boutilier, who has worked at ServiCom for 14½​ years, says workers are owed about three weeks of pay,” reports Susan Bradley for the CBC:

“They got an extra three weeks work out of everyone and now everything goes to bankruptcy. That’s $1,500 I’m not going to get — I owe Eastlink, power. No one’s going to get EI before Christmas. It’s tough, I got two kids.”

About six police officers were also at the 90 Inglis St. site.

“People were going to be mad, but the cops were here before we had the meeting. People knew about this. They stretched every last minute … out of us,” Boutilier said.

It should be noted that ServiCom has received over $1.5 million in government assistance through the years, including:

Nova Scotia Business, Inc.
2009: $914,400 in payroll rebates

Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation 
2010: $500,000 loan for “Center Expansion – Technology Upgrade.”
2010: $138,360 loan for “Center expansion.”

2. CN wants to buy HalTerm

HalTerm

“Canadian National Railway Co. has put in a preliminary offer to buy the largest shipping terminal in Eastern Canada, in a bid to capture some of New York’s container business,” reports Rick Grant for the Financial Post:

In an interview on Wednesday, chief executive officer Jean-Jacques Ruest said the ambition with the potential acquisition of the 30-hectare Halterm Container Terminal is to create a “Prince Rupert of the East.”

Halifax is the fourth-busiest port behind Vancouver, Montreal and Prince Rupert, B.C. CN provides the transcontinental rail service for the Fairview Container Terminal in Prince Rupert.

Ruest said CN has a partner in its bid for the Halterm terminal, but didn’t disclose who it is. The railway was once a part owner of the facility, back when the company was a Crown corporation.

Halterm was sold to Australia’s Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, which bought the terminal in 2007 for $173 million. CN provides the rail out of Halifax.

Who knows if this will go through, but if it does, that about means the end of the Melford and Sydney megaport proposals, I would think. Also the end of any meaningful prospect that HalTerm will be shut down and the land turned over for condos.

3. New businesses & society registrations

I’ve been wanting to revive this feature for some time, and I think I’ve finally found the trick to it (basically, I do the work during what are otherwise dead times for me). In short, I’ll only post about businesses and societies that either interest me personally or that I think might have some wider interest. So this is not an exhaustive list, but only some of the new society and businesses that have registered in Nova Scotia over the past week.

This week, there seems to be a focus on dog-oriented businesses.

Click here to read “When fur flies: Making money from the love of dogs.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

4. Tufts Cove oil spill

Photo: Halifax Examiner

The Tufts Cove oil spill was caused by a corroded pipe, reports Alicia Draus for Global:

“We can confirm that the hole that formed in the pipe, it was a small section of pipe that was corroded,” said [Nova Scotia Power spokesperson Tiffany] Chase.

“Generally that pipe is covered in insulation, so we had previously undetected this portion of the pipe.”

“Why didn’t you do that sooner?” questioned Mark Butler with the Ecology Action Centre. Corrosion, he argues, is nothing new at the site and there should have been better practices in place.

Chase says the company has always abided by a pipe inspection program that is regulated in the province, but says a full analysis into the root cause is ongoing, though the final report will not be made public.

5. Plastic bag ban

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“With hopes of creating a jury-rigged province-wide ban, Halifax’s environment committee is recommending that regional council eliminate plastic shopping bags in the municipality,” reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax:

During a meeting on Thursday, the committee voted down the staff recommendation to work with businesses to reduce the number of plastic bags being used in Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), and voted instead for an alternative motion from Deputy Mayor Tony Mancini.

The committee recommended that regional council vote to direct staff to “collaborate with the 10 largest Nova Scotia municipalities to draft a bylaw for council’s consideration as soon possible, but no later than December 2019, to eliminate the distribution of single-use plastic bags, without first attempting a voluntary approach.”

6. Stadium PR push continues


Views

1. Maurice Ruddick

Maurice Ruddick (left). The LIFE magazine caption of the photo read: “COLORED MAIN EVENT of the Canadian miners’ trip to Georgia was gathering in Brunswick where Negro miner Maurice Ruddick (left) was introduced. He entertained by singing Aren’t You Sorry Now.”

“Travelling near Springhill recently, I thought about Stacey Abrams, the Georgia politician who, in a bitter gubernatorial race against a white male opponent, lost her bid to become the first African-American woman to lead a state,” writes Evelyn White for the Examiner:

The annual dispatch of a Christmas tree from Nova Scotia to Boston commemorates the province’s ties to Massachusetts residents who provided aid in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion. But quiet as it’s been kept, Nova Scotia also holds a historic link to the state that saw Abrams disparaged (along with a flurry of “n words”) as a candidate who “white women can be tricked into voting for, especially the fat ones.”

For it was exactly sixty years ago on this Saturday (December 8, 1958), that LIFE magazine ran a Georgia-related feature story about Maurice Ruddick, an African Nova Scotian coal miner and central figure in the October 23, 1958, Springhill Mining Disaster.  The widely read weekly magazine was then one of the most prominent periodicals in North America.

It was not a nice scene.

Click here to read “60 years ago, Springhill Mining Disaster hero Maurice Ruddick went to Georgia, where he couldn’t stay with his fellow white miners.”

2. Acadian terminal terminated

Photo: Stephen Archibald

“On the Twitter and Instagram I’ve been noticing photos and memories of the old Acadian Bus Lines terminal on Almon Street, that has been knocked flat to make way for more new housing,” writes Stephen Archibald:

I was late to the party, but for the last ten years or so I’ve been a fan of the building and have often paused to admire its mid century modern charms. This is what the Almon Street facade looked like in recent years, long after it had ceased to be a bus terminal.

Archibald goes on to provide lots of historic photos of the old terminal, and then some delightful photo bombs by Acadian buses.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thesis Defence, Mechanical Engineering (Friday, 9am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Usman Ahmad will defend his thesis, “Novel Multilateral Teleoperation and Cooperative Control Approaches for Multiple Manipulators​.”

The Statistical Mechanics of Hydrogen Bonding at the Liquid Water Interface(Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Adam P. Willard from MIT will speak.

King’s College

Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. talks Printing & Civil Rights (Friday, 7pm, New Academic Building) — hosted by Katherine Victoria Taylor and El Jones.


In the harbour

07:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
14:00: Tidewater Enabler, offshore supply ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
15:00: Berlin Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
15:00: YM Moderation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
15:30: Lake Kivu, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
16:30: ZIM Shekou, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea


Footnotes

It’s been a long but fruitful week.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. I live in Prince Rupert now, so the idea of Halifax wanting to become the “Prince Rupert of the East” is adorable. Prince Rupert has its logistical advantages – the port has steady clients who presumably need to balance speed and cost-efficiency. You can land your knickknacks here and get them even to the Gulf coast of Texas by train quite competitively. There’s one last level crossing across the Yellowhead along the Skeena River between here and Terrace and it’s not uncommon to wait more than 10 minutes for a trainload of containers to roll upriver.

    But I have my doubts that the port will bring prosperity forever, amen here. First of all, they don’t really pay municipal taxes – they make a payment in lieu of taxes as a courtesy, but the Government of Canada is constitutionally exempt from paying any taxes on property it owns. Any provinces that joined Confederation presumably signed up for that. The city traditionally thinks the port should pay more, and the port traditionally thinks they’re paying fairly considering the economic activity they bring to the city.

    And another thing is that there aren’t really all that many jobs to be had from the shipping activity. Stuff comes here and then it’s whisked away by modern machines. You might get some crews of bulk carriers coming ashore from their anchorages to buy groceries and amuse themselves for a few hours. But those crews are very small.

    The population of Prince Rupert has shrunk dramatically in recent decades. In 1996 there were 16,714 people. From then on it’s been nothing but down, to 12,220 in 2016. At least the rate of shrinking is shrinking.

    Halifax is a provincial capital and has complete colleges and universities (here you’re lucky to get a teleconferenced class from UNBC a couple of times a week), major hospitals and shopping, and has a large cachement area to draw from. Prince Rupert is an hour and a half’s drive over treacherous frequently-substandard 2-lane arterial through totally uninhabited land from the next significant dot on the map, Terrace. Driving this in winter, you will find yourself not only waiting for trains, but also to get through the snowier parts that are down to single-lane alternating traffic. Not that cars or trucks drive for the conditions. Going up to Prince George in February (that’s the nearest Costco, by the way – an 8-hour drive!), I had two chips in my windshield before I even got to Terrace.

    I don’t know what this city needs. There’s a lot I like about it. I was able to get a good job here in part because I wasn’t competing with so many other educated millennials. But Halifax definitely should not be looking to Prince Rupert as a model for anything. If private interests want to expand shipping in Halifax, that’s all well and good, but I wouldn’t expect much to come of it.

  2. I know Melissa, but was unaware of her book about Springhill. She is a superb writer. Thanks for the info.

  3. There is a wonderful book about Maurice Ruddick. “Last Man Out” by Melissa Faye Greene, a National Book Award-winning Georgia political writer details the incredible story of how the Springhill Mine Disaster became entangled with Georgia State politics via the Ed Sullivan show. It’s a real gem, and still available on Amazon: The rescue was a huge international story. A national contest named Ruddick, “Man of the Year,” with unhappy results for him in Springhill .

    Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster

    https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1402536267/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_STQcCb2JFVZMA

  4. Our experience in NB with call centers is that they take the subsidies and eventually close up and leave.

  5. Sorry Stephen Archibald but I don’t see the charm in that bus terminal building at all. It looks flimsy! To me it’s as bland and soulless as a strip mall, built solely for function with zero consideration given to aesthetics. The facade of the Killam looks downright seductive compared to that.

  6. Official oil spill summary:

    1. It was a small spill.
    2. It was caused by a small hole.
    3. There’ll be a big investigation.
    4. The investigation report will be a big secret.