Today’s guest writer is Heather Dennis.


1. The Dragon’s Shadow

En route to the famous pilgrimage site of Taktshang, also known as Tiger’s Nest, Paro.

“For a couple of hours in the winter of 2014, I was transported from my seat at a round table in Halifax’s Keshen Goodman Library back to the lush sub-tropical hills of southern Bhutan,” writes Linda Pannozzo for the Halifax Examiner:

Narayan Dhungana had gathered together three other members of the Bhutanese refugee community and translated (from English to Nepali and visa versa) as they recounted stories about what had happened to them in the early 1990s when they fled Bhutan. They were stories they mostly wanted to forget. What they told me that day confirmed what I had read on the subject and also corroborated what I discovered for myself when I was stationed in Bhutan for nine months in 2010-2011.

Pannozzo goes on to explore the Bhutanese refugees and their history, and why they are in Halifax.

Click here to read “The Dragon’s Shadow.”

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Lorne Grabher’s licence plate is prominently displayed on the JCCF’s website for fundraising purposes.
Lorne Grabher’s licence plate is prominently displayed on the JCCF’s website for fundraising purposes.

“The Calgary charity which is taking the lead in supporting Lorne Grabher, a Dartmouth retiree fighting for his right to a licence plate with his name on it, hasn’t been on the legal scene for long,” writes Katie Toth for the Halifax Examiner. “But it is becoming an increasingly recognized name as it intervenes on a number of high-profile Canadian cases.”

Click here to read “Who is the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms and why do they care about Lorne Grabher’s licence plate?”

This article is behind the paywall. Click here to subscribe.

3. Thinking globally, gutting locally

Labour is the stuff we do to make money to put food on our tables and a roof over our heads. It’s a modern construct of a capitalist society which has tied our value as a human being to how much we contribute to society. The modern world of business has been successful in uncoupling the value of an individual with the success of the corporation.

Gone are the days of lifetime jobs, pensions, and bonuses. Welcome contract work, part-time jobs and outsourcing. Finance Minister Bill Morneau has repeatedly told Canadians that the days of full-time work are over and that we better get used to this new era of disruption.

Unions may be the last frontier of resistance. Unions were and still are an essential avenue of protection from corporate creep.

In a recent Canadian Press op-ed article published in The Chronicle Herald on Labour Day, Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, cites how unions have rallied, and lobbied for improvements to the Canada Pension Plan, which will come into effect in 2018. He says unions have also been successful in securing a ban on the importation and exportation of asbestos, blamed as “the leading cause of workplace-related death.” Both good things. The Canadian Labour Congress is currently lobbying for a national pharmacare program which will benefit all Canadians.

And then there’s Bill 148.

Here in Nova Scotia we have a government that has painted itself as our economic saviour and has leveraged the public’s lack of understanding of the role unions play into a full-court press against organized labour. They say they need to control costs, balance the budget, and prevent acceleration of our deficit should interest rates increase.

The legislature reopens on Sept. 21. And Premier Stephen McNeil, who campaigned in 2013 on the promise of respecting the collective bargaining process, will table Bill 148, which will impose non-negotiated wage settlements and unilaterally remove longstanding articles from collective agreements for 75,000 government workers.

It will impose a two-year wage freeze and then give a combined wage increase of three per cent in the remaining two years of the contract. This essentially amounts to a wage cut as the increases won’t even keep pace with inflation. Call it what you will. It’s not popular with public-sector unions. The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union says it is unconstitutional and hopes it won’t hold up in court.

The NSGEU cites an example of the government of British Columbia imposing similar legislation on the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. That legislation has since been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada. Six other unions announced Wednesday they want to join the court battle — the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, Unifor, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Service Employees International Union, Nova Scotia Teachers Union, and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, reports Jean Laroche for the CBC.

But Marco Navarro-Genie, CEO of the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, says in an interview that the case in British Columbia was “an outlier” and he expects the unions’ case will be quashed and Premier McNeil will be one step closer to pruning the public-sector purse.

Despite the cries that we need to be more innovative, we need to be bold. Most of all, we need to kick the austerity bus to the curb in Nova Scotia before every bit of the remaining social architecture of this province is cut, privatized, or made impotent through the advancing corporate system. This is the system that tells us we are all better off without regulation and we’re all especially better off without unions because they impose their “progressive beliefs” on society and limit “freedom” in the workplace.

In an article in The Guardian, Ed Pilkington writes….

The new assault is being spearheaded by the State Policy Network (SPN), an alliance of 66 state-based think tanks, or ‘ideas factories’ as it calls them, with a combined annual budget of $80m. As suggested by its slogan – ‘State solutions. National impact’ – the group outlines an aim to construct a right-wing hegemony throughout the U.S., working from the bottom up.

(The Guardian reprints the 10-page fundraising letter from the network in Pilkington’s piece. You can read it here.).

You’d be correct in thinking that Bill 148 is some kind of random act of insanity or act of political suicide on the part of the provincial Liberals. However, it is really a part of a much larger and slower crusade to continue vacuuming the last protections and investment out of our social safety net.

4. Flies on the windscreen? Not so much

YouTube video

At this very moment I am sitting watching 20 or so spiders setting up their sticky traps on my front window. They are fighting with one another for territory. Some are big and fat with long creaky legs and others are smaller, nimbler and aggressive. There’s a big daddy longlegs in one of the webs that is being entombed in webbing.

The spiders start spinning their webs in the late spring and last until fall when the cedar waxwings fly through on their way south. The flock will teeter-totter on my browning mulberry tree and swoop in and pluck the big spiders off the window like ripe cherries.

Have you noticed there are fewer bugs around this summer? I hadn’t until I read an article in The Telegraph last week that cites a reduction in insect life due to the use of pesticides which it says are causing people to notice that the crusted windshields of past days when going for a highway trip are a thing of the past.

“(T)he fall in numbers of bugs in Britain has now reached such a troubling extent that even motorists are noticing that their windscreens are clear of squashed flies, gnats, moths and wasps,” writes Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph’s science editor.

“Where a trip in high summer would once have necessitated taking a squeegee to the front window, now the glass is largely clear, drivers are reporting.”

But alas, according to my friend Trish Bongard Godfrey…insects are alive and well in the middle of New Brunswick. After a recent drive from Nova Scotia to Toronto she said they had to stop halfway and go through the car wash because she  couldn’t see through the dead bugs crusting her windshield.

5. Celebrity shark tracking

New York filmmaker Abby Child readying herself for a swim in Rose Bay with hopes of capturing some footage of Hilton. Photo: Heather Dennis

Another interest of mine this summer has been tracking Hilton, the great white shark, off of Nova Scotia. He’s been swimming around Mahone Bay, not far from where I live, seeking seal snacks or perhaps a worthy suitor. I’ve always said it is ridiculous to think that these apex predators don’t swim in our waters, and thanks to social media and my Ocearch app I can keep track of Hilton’s whereabouts.

Hilton is a 3.7-metre-long Carcharodon carcharias. He’s mature and weighs about 600 kilograms. Since tracking began off of Hilton Head, S.C., he’s travelled more than 6,500 kilometres.

He’s surfaced a number of times on my Facebook feed and has made for interesting conversation. I have been a little more tentative about swimming in the ocean, but so far nobody has been eaten so I need to lay my fears to rest and hope for a few more days of warm salt-water swimming before fall.

And to my great excitement, Hilton pinged again last night somewhere off Cross Island, which is within sight of my house.


No public meetings.

On campus

No events.

In the harbour

5am: Atlantic Sun, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk

Serenade of the Seas. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Serenade of the Seas. Photo: Halifax Examiner

6:30am: Serenade of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,580 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Akureyri, Iceland
6:30am: Palena, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for the Suez Canal
7am: Zuiderdam, cruise ship with up to 2,364 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from St. John’s
2pm: Ile D Aix, cable layer, arrives at Pier 9 from Nuuk, Greenland
3:30pm: Zuiderdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for New York
4:30pm: Serenade of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Boston


Thanks to Tim Bousquet for inviting me to rattle on and give me a soapbox to do it on. Please subscribe to The Halifax Examiner. And thanks to Rick Conrad for editing my scribbles.

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  1. The Liberals are starving the DOT maintenance budget and making the workplace worse all the time. Roads are being abandoned steadily in rural areas, j-series, which makes it harder for people to move into these areas with lower property values. I bet we will see a proposal to privatize and we’ll then be fleeced even more by Liberal party donors.

  2. Thanks for publishing Linda Pannozzo’s fascinating piece on Bhutan and its Nepali refugees. A faraway part of the world and yet such a strong Halifax connection. I appreciated Linda’s many colourful photos.

  3. It amazes me how so many on the current “left” are actually Crypto-Trumpist Nativists in their economics. I’m old enough to remember when the left’s criticism of NAFTA was that it was a capitalist plot because it allowed for the free flow of goods, but not of people.

    The argument must surely work the same within Canada, then? It is a bad thing for Alberta or Ontario that so many Maritimers move there? They just consume resources in those places, like so many baby robins with their mouths open, without making any contribution to the economy?

    1. The Left opposed free trade, but loved the auto pact which screwed American autoworkers.
      The Left supported limits on pension fund investment in foreign markets.Now the union members have pension plans which benefit from, and rely on, using hedge funds and investing in foreign equities and foreign infrastructure.
      The Left loves CPP even though it is not a real pension plan. In a real pension plan you die and your spouse gets a reduced pension. In CPP you die and the payments end immediately.

      1. Mr. May. I have good news for you. You don’t need to continue saying that the CPP does not have survivor benefits.

        The CPP website states:

        “The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) survivor’s pension is paid to the person who, at the time of death, is the legal spouse or common-law partner of the deceased contributor.” The amount received depends on a number of variables that are clearly explained on the website under the “Survivor’s Pension” section. For example, a survivor age 65 or more will receive “60 per cent of the contributor’s retirement pension, if the surviving spouse or common-law partner is not receiving other CPP benefits.”

        It further says: “Note the following restrictions to benefit amounts:

        – The most that can be paid to a person eligible for both the disability benefit and the survivor’s pension is the maximum disability benefit (which is more than the maximum survivor’s pension).
        – The most that can be paid to a person who is eligible for the retirement pension and the survivor’s pension is the maximum retirement pension (which is more than the maximum survivor’s pension).
        – The total amount of combined CPP benefits paid is adjusted based on the survivor’s age and other benefits received.

        “In other words, you cannot receive a full survivor’s pension while also receiving a full retirement pension or disability benefit. The combined benefit is not necessarily the sum of the two separate benefits.”

        The surviving spouse needs to apply.

  4. Its a fact that I am not a big fan of Unions. The latest craze is for them to wrap themselves in the mantle of being the pro-Pharmacare champion. It sort of reminds me of when Big Tobacco sponsored sporting events and how Big Oil likes to show its “good side” by funding Green Energy research and development projects.

    We really do not need Unions today, or rather we do not need Unions as they operate today. Collective bargaining is not a bad thing, just the way it is implemented using methods that are no longer required in this day and age.

    What we really need is an overhaul of our Canada Labour Laws so that employment contracts can be negotiated in a fair unbiased manner without the so-called need to resort to “work to rule” initiatives, strikes and/or lockouts. The results from such an overhaul would lead to greater productivity, greater economic wealth for all stakeholders and a lot less stress in the workplace… that would be a good thing.

  5. Tim, the point is that there isn’t infinity resources to do work on. Immigration increases GDP but the gains are unequally distributed. Back before the left devolved into neoliberal bootlicking or Marxist or Maoist LARPing people like Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky wrote about this stuff. Globalization/immigration benefits capital, not labour. It’s the gigantic capitalists that immigrants rent from and largely work for that benefit. There are numerous employers in HRM who grossly abuse foreign workers to keep employment costs low.

  6. We are becoming an investment economy.

    Those that have money prosper in it, those that don’t, well it’s their fault for not being able to afford to invest.

    Crazy people who thought they could earn a living by working are daft. Go out and figure out a lucrative ponzi scheme, be part of a start up and sell out to Facebook. Do anything but don’t look to get a job, support your family and pay a mortgage.

    Stephen MacNeil knows.

  7. You can’t seriously discuss labour issues without addressing the million or so people who move here every year as citizens, permanent residents or on long term work visas. To quote Sanders “open borders are a Koch brothers proposal”.

        1. That’s a stupidly short-sighted argument. Immigrants create demand for goods and services. They help the economy, not hinder it.

          1. That’s the broken windows fallacy.

            It takes real resources, of which there are a finite supply (except in neoliberal or neocon bootlicker economics) to provide services for people.

            You’re just repeating rentier capitalist propaganda.

          2. The foundation of any economy is work, value added to natural resources. All workers, including immigrants, including unpaid social work provided by (typically) women, etc, are the source of all value in any economy.

          3. If adding 1 worker added more than one job, the series would never converge. We would have infinity jobs, because if every new worker added 1.00000001 jobs, there would always be more jobs than workers. Instead, every worker adds 0.X jobs, and the system converges to a certain level of unemployment.

          4. Call me stupid all you want. All I know is that my friends, ranging from NSCC auto mechanic grads to masters degrees in engineering, have largely left Nova Scotia.

            My grandfather was an auto mechanic. Except for a few dicey years where he did not speak English or French very well, he supported a family of five, including multiple trips back to go see the home country. His home, where my grandmother lives, is worth more than half a million dollars.

            My best friend is an auto mechanic. He makes $15 an hour. Together with his girlfriend, they can afford a shitty apartment,rented from the Killam family.

            This is the problem.

  8. I didn’t see a single June Bug this year. I hate the bloody things, and fear that there is a cycle that means there will be a double supply next year. But I have wondered if there is a troubling explanation for their absence around the area I live in.

    1. You are right that next year there could be an abundance of June Bugs in your area. They lay their eggs in the ground and the larvae can live 2 to 3 years under ground feasting on plant roots before surfacing as the June Bug for which we are most familiar. So the cycle in your area could just be in a sort of lull-state, waiting to give you a bumper crop of June Bugs next year. I chased about 10 out of my house in Lewis Lake area this year, so they are not gone for good, IMO.