This date in history
In the harbour
The CBC’s Rachel Ward reports:
Nova Scotia has missed — and is far from reaching — its goal to reduce waste in landfills.
The province set a target in 2007 to divert waste from landfills, reducing the per person amount to 300 kg per year by 2015. Instead, each person creates 380 kg on average, more than 25 per cent above the target set in the 2007 Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act.
That’s only a drop of five per cent from 2004 levels, where Nova Scotians produced 400 kg of average waste per person.
I used to track how we’re doing on the EGSPA targets every year. I should probably get back to that.
2. Examineradio, episode #42
This week we speak with local activist, writer and communications specialist Allison Sparling about her impending move to the Big Smoke and her regrets at leaving Nova Scotia in the rearview mirror.
Also, we bid adieu to Andrew Younger’s 2015 donair and wait for 2016’s civil unrest and new alien overlords.
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(Subscribe via iTunes)
Metro’s Zane Woodford spoke with Don Mills, who heads the ownership team for the rebranded Halifax Rainmen, now called the Hurricanes:
He said the team practices at the Canada Games Centre, does Olympic-quality weight training, is put up in “very nice” accommodations with “brand new” furniture and transported in a branded bus.
“We’re really trying to give them a really good experience, and I think, so far, so good,” he said.
Mills said the Hurricanes are a more professionally managed team, and that the group of 26 owners is more experienced in running a business — something he said former Rainmen owner Andre Levingston won’t be involved in, even though he is one of those owners, and the team’s general manager of basketball operations.
Yea, well, we’ll see. Somehow I think with Levingston still around, things are bound to go back to the way they were.
4. Jerry Blumenthal
Stephen McNeil has appointed former Halifax councillor Jerry Blumenthal to the Human Rights Commission. Also newly appointed was Cheryl Knockwood, the Governance Coordinator at Membertou First Nation. Each will be paid 100 bucks for each half-day at Commission meetings.
Blumenthal is a nice guy and all, something of a loveable clown, but I have no idea what expertise he has with human rights law.
Looking around for a photo of Blumenthal, I came across this picture and found it so damn funny I just have to share it:
The three councillors, standing in front of a white board with the words “The Future” written on it, are holding a mock-up of a proposed Halifax Stadium. That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!
1. The austerity agenda
Stephen Kimber lambasts the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies — “a.k.a. the Atlantic Institute to Comfort Its Affluent Corporate Sponsors While Afflicting the Rest of Us With Neoconservative Nonsense” — for its latest suggestion that Premier Stephen McNeil invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that his attacks on public employee unions cannot be challenged in the courts.
It’s fascinating how easily and quickly the government and its AIMS cheerleaders transformed a much needed discussion of our “revenue problem” into a rationale for still more cuts to exacerbate said problem.
After decades of slicing, dicing and chopping corporate taxes in the belief it would encourage investment and job creation, for example, corporate income-tax revenue plummeted another $45 million with few jobs to show. Trickle down? Torrent up?
Revenue from personal income tax is down, too. Some of that reflects the government’s decision — which AIMS cheered — to decimate the province’s film industry. Their shared wish list for 2016 includes privatizing profitable public-sector registries.
Combine that with frozen public-sector wages, reducing how much income tax people pay, reducing the amount they can spend, reducing government HST revenues … and you have a recipe for more of the same, only worse.
This is a point that can’t be stressed enough: Austerity never works. There has not been even one nation or other jurisdiction that has revived its economy in the post-financial collapse years by instituting the neoliberal austerity agenda. Not one.
In fact, while it wasn’t called “austerity” before the collapse, the same set of privatizations, tax cuts, attacks on unions, and globalized trade that was forced on the global south in previous decades by the World Trade Organization and the World Bank didn’t work either.
Concerns that imposing such austerity in already depressed economies would deepen their depression and delay recovery were airily dismissed; fiscal probity, we were assured, would inspire business-boosting confidence, and all would be well.
People holding these beliefs came to be widely known in economic circles as “austerians” – a term coined by the economist Rob Parenteau – and for a while the austerian ideology swept all before it.
Meanwhile, all of the economic research that allegedly supported the austerity push has been discredited. Widely touted statistical results were, it turned out, based on highly dubious assumptions and procedures – plus a few outright mistakes – and evaporated under closer scrutiny.
It is rare, in the history of economic thought, for debates to get resolved this decisively. The austerian ideology that dominated elite discourse five years ago has collapsed, to the point where hardly anyone still believes it.
It’s been three years since the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, explained:
that recent efforts among wealthy countries to shrink their deficits — through tax hikes and spending cuts — have been causing far more economic damage than experts had assumed.
[Blanchard] studied the IMF’s previous economic forecasts. If a country is already struggling for other reasons, the forecasters are likely to have taken that into account. And what Blanchard found was surprising: IMF forecasts have been consistently too optimistic for countries that pursued large austerity programs. This suggests that tax hikes and spending cuts have been doing more damage to those economies than policymakers expected. (Conversely, countries that engaged in stimulus, such as Germany and Austria, did better than expected.)
Soon after Blanchard produced his economic models, the heads of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization condemned austerity measures:
Expressing concern about the weakness of economic activity and rising unemployment, the IMF’s Christine Lagarde, the World Bank’s Robert Zoellick and the WTO’s Pascal Lamy joined the heads of eight other multilateral and regional institutions in calling for policies to create jobs, tackle inequality and green the global economy.
“The world faces significant and urgent challenges that weigh heavily on prospects for future growth and on the cohesion of our societies,” said the statement by the global issues group of the World Economic Forum.
In addition to Lagarde, Zoellick and Lamy, the signatories were Mark Carney of the Financial Stability Board, Margaret Chan of the World Health Organization, Angel Gurría of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Donald Kaberuka of the African Development Bank, Haruhiko Kuroda of the Asian Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank, Josette Sheeran of the United Nations World Food Programme, and Juan Somavia of the International Labour Organisation. The forum said it was the first time the heads of the world’s major institutions had come together in such a way.
Reflecting the IMF’s concern about over-aggressive deficit reduction programmes, the joint statement said governments should “manage fiscal consolidation to promote rather than reduce prospects for growth and employment. It should be applied in a socially responsible manner.”
It occurred to me the other day that people under 40 don’t know a world without neoliberalism run amok — it’s simply taken as a truism that if we bow down to the market, give corporations free rein, cut regulations and taxes, weaken or destroy unions, and cheer on the globalization of trade, we’ll (supposedly) enjoy the fruits of the resulting prosperity. In fact, just the opposite has happened: we’ve created a meaner, less hopeful world, with rising inequality, little or no democratic control of economies, and the collective wealth, built up over centuries, has been privatized and shifted to the uber rich.
In a word, austerity is the economics of looting. For sure, those doing the looting benefit in the short run, but even they will suffer in the end. A world or a country or a tiny province on the edge of a continent that destroys its shared economy, turns its collective wealth over to the looters, and destroys its social safety net leaves no structures to build future economic growth on.
And yet, Stephen McNeil “vows to pursue [his] fiscal plan despite union battle,” Michael Gorman reports. McNeil’s not stupid. He knows exactly what he’s doing, how his austerity regime fits into the neoliberal agenda, and how that agenda has failed and will continue to fail. It’s simply that he’s made his choice: he is selling the future of the provincial economy to the highest bidders.
Stephen Archibald goes out into the Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse and breaks out his collection of vintage calendars.
3. Jane Kansas
Jane Kansas has re-started her travel blog. h/t Parker Donham.
4. New Scotland
David Farrell, who is a professional footballer in Scotland and writes travel documentaries for STV, came to Nova Scotia and discovered we’re exactly like Scotland:
The weather was grey and drizzly, so the first link with Scotland was strong.
In Halifax, I visited Pier 21, the Canadian Museum of Immigration, which was one of the ports many Scots would have come through to set up their new life in Canada.
Next stop was Alexander Keith’s Brewery which was set up by Keith, an entrepreneur from Caithness who came in search of a new life and went on to become one of the most influential figures in establishing Halifax and indeed Nova Scotia.
He was lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia when he set up the university.
A trip to the Citadel is a must. You can get a bird’s eye view across Halifax and the harbour, which is home to the Canadian navy.
The harbour is covered by two bridges – the MacKay & MacDonald bridges – which both have Scottish connections.
Yep, TV in Scotland sucks as much as TV sucks here.
4. Cranky letter of the day
It is safe to say that the realistic councillors, who predicted that nothing would change with snow removal this season, are more in tune than the sunshine councillors. Status quo it is, with far too many councillors pushing change after the analysis of snow removal operations in 2014-2015.
There are people with unrealistic expectations and others who complain to hear themselves speak. I don’t fall into either category as I make points about the two recent snowfalls.
Sunday/Monday: The plow went by our house three times, and after the last pass, the hardened snow was one foot from the curb. It is the first snowfall (moderate), and with three passes, they can’t get it to the curb? The Bobcat made two passes on the sidewalk, and on Monday morning it was an icy, lumpy mess with no sign of any traction material. Pedestrians will either not walk on the sidewalk, or risk injury doing so.
Tuesday/Wednesday: The plow went by our house four times. After the last pass, the snow was two feet from the curb. By morning, the Bobcat went by once, and after that the sidewalk was no better than Monday. Then the plow blocked in every entrance from street to sidewalk.
HRM officials, elected and otherwise, are breathing a sigh of relief, as all of the above occurred during a school break and half the city was on vacation. What a sad state after two early season snowfalls. You almost feel like the target of some twisted prank. The only thing that has changed since March and April is that HRM snow removal operations, contracted companies, the mayor and council cannot reach for the excuse bag, as it is empty. Nor can they blame Mother Nature.
Scott Cote, Dartmouth
Grants Committee (1pm, City Hall) — the committee is gearing up to handle grant applications for the Explosion 100th Anniversary commemoration.
No public meetings.
This date in history
On January 4, 1945, the German U-boat 1232, commanded by Kurt Dobratz, torpedoed the Norwegian merchant ship Polarland and the Canadian tanker Nipiwan Park near what is now Egg Island, off Clam Harbour. Explained Michael Hadley in U-Boats Against Canada: German Submarines in Canadian Waters:
Seventeen crew members on the Polarland died. Two men on the Nipiwan Park were killed.
Keith Grant has a book review of Michael Eamon’s Imprinting Britain: Newspapers, Sociability, and the Shaping of British North America:
Michael Eamon argues in Imprinting Britain that eighteenth-century residents of Quebec City and Halifax used the press and various forms of sociability to fashion a distinctive British identity. At a time when British Americans in the Thirteen Colonies were wrestling with the same questions with strikingly different results, the colonists of these two cities chose to express their commitment to British liberties alongside propriety, civility, and monarchy. While affirming their place in the British Empire, elites in Halifax and Quebec also participated in the British Enlightenment, that cultural and intellectual movement that emphasized reason, practical scientific knowledge, and the improvement of society—the British Enlightenment tending to be more moderate than some of its more radical, republican expressions. The colonial print community of Quebec and Halifax, then, managed to express their liberty while remaining part of “something larger”—the British Empire and its moderate Enlightenment.
Imprinting Britain is a meticulous study of every extant English-language newspaper printed in eighteenth-century Quebec City and Halifax (among other printed and manuscript sources). But it is not only a study of texts or readers in isolation: this is a book about print as sociability, as well as print and sociability. That is, Eamon explores how print facilitated a communal identity, and how print interacted with other sites of sociability—clubs, lodges, coffeehouses, and theatre—to define Britishness in these colonial capitals.
In the harbour
Siem Hanne, supply vessel, Flekkefjord, Norway to Pier 9
I’m excited to announce that starting this afternoon, the Examiner will be publishing a weekly article on transportation issues written by Erica Butler. Butler had been writing such a column for Metro, but that paper has discontinued her — not because she wasn’t doing excellent work, but rather because similar columns across the country weren’t pulling their weight and Metro’s one-size-fits-all model couldn’t accommodate Butler. She’ll have more freedom and more space at the Examiner, and I’m looking forward to where she will take this. She’ll be published every Monday afternoon.
If we want to employ quality journalists, we have to pay them, so Erica’s work will be behind the Examiner paywall.
I’ve been an extremely soft sell on the subscription front, but I need now to stress that all these things cost money. El Jones’ Saturday column, Erica Butler’s upcoming column, the weekly Examineradio podcast (produced by Russell Gragg), other freelance-written pieces… people deserve to be paid decently for their work. Your subscriptions make that happen.
As for myself, I’ve been extremely busy on a very large investigative project. This has been far the most time-consuming and in-depth project I’ve ever undertaken. I took a break from writing Morning File last week — and thanks to Erica Butler, Natalie Chavarie, and Russell Gragg for filling in! — so I could devote more time to writing the articles related to the investigative project. I’m happy to report that I made great progress, and while there are still a thousand details to attend to, if all goes according to plan I’ll start publishing a series of articles in about two weeks.
One thing I’ve discovered while working on this project is my time is limited. I’ve been falling behind on administrative tasks, so I very much must hire an admin person. That too requires money, obviously.
So please consider subscribing: click here to purchase a regular monthly subscription, or, if you have a bit more cash on hand, I’m renewing the special $100 rate for annual subscriptions, but (alas, sigh) I need to figure out how to make that work on the site — I’ll have it up tomorrow. I also accept email transfers, cash, cheques, and PayPal for subscriptions; contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
“McNeil’s not stupid. He knows exactly what he’s doing, how his austerity regime fits into the neoliberal agenda, and how that agenda has failed and will continue to fail. It’s simply that he’s made his choice: he is selling the future of the provincial economy to the highest bidders.”
Needs a bit more:
Thereby assuring his future on the gravy train.
“Revenue from personal income tax is down, too. Some of that reflects the government’s decision — which AIMS cheered — to decimate the province’s film industry. Their shared wish list for 2016 includes privatizing profitable public-sector registries.”
Sure. So are expenses, by the same amount or more.
Cherry picking data points isn’t cool.
How can income tax be down from an initiative that was introduced in 2015 when no one has paid their 2015 income taxes yet? What am I missing?
The reduction is in the lower income tax receipts from April 1 2015 to September 30 2015 and it is laughable to claim that reducing the movie subsidy has had much of an impact on income tax receipts in that period, that argument is a throw away line for the gallery.
Of far greater consequence, and rarely mentioned by media in Halifax, is the substantial layoffs in the Alberta oil patch.
A single person commuting from NS and working in the Alberta oil industry and earning $75,000 a year would pay $$10,988 federal tax and $8,611 provincial tax.
A worker making $100,000 a year would pay $16,912 federal tax and $12,842 NS tax.
I don’t know how many Nova Scotians commute to Alberta but I do know that Westjet has built a nice fleet carrying workers back and forth to the Atlantic provinces and it is safe to assume they have contributed far more in taxes to Nova Scotia government coffers than the movie industry; not to mention all the money oil patch commuters have spent on homes and vehicles.
Unfortunately it is too much to expect local media to cover the issue, it takes more than the 5 minutes to bang out a Metro column.
Income tax is largely pay as you go, either by payroll deduction or periodic estimated tax payments by the self-employed and companies. It’s only the filing that is annual.
Excellent analysis of austerity, Tim. For the hawkish 1%, it’s not failure but success. As the ship sinks they think they can set sail in their own self-contained capsule and go on living the high life. The dovish 1% (the ones you cite), on the other hand, see the “overaccumulation” problem as a threat to the capitalist economy itself, and therefore are increasingly calling for mild redistributive reforms. Nobody should be fooled. The problem is capitalism itself (as in Michael Truscello’s documentary “Capitalism is the Crisis”). I don’t pretend that getting rid of it will be easy. But with the planet’s survival (and not just the ship’s) at stake, to quote Margaret Thatcher, “there is no alternative” to doing so. Sharing with one another the many, many ways that this is currently being done would be a good way, I think, for us to see that “another world is possible” (David McNally). Here’s my two cents.
I’ve just heard about Rojava, a remarkable Kurdish “experiment” in “democratic confederalism” and invite fellow readers to take a look: http://marxismocritico.com/2015/04/20/rojava-must-be-defended/ . That the Kurds can do this in the midst of the Middle East’s civil wars (fomented by Western international terrorism) is just astonishing. The point is, though, that it can be done. (Supporting such endeavours is absolutely crucial, as there will inevitably be determined efforts to crush them; recall the fate of the anarchist collectives in the Spanish Civil War.)
I’d like to hear from others what’s being done here in Halifax.
Tim, Re subscriptions. Do you have a postal location to send a cheque?
Keep up the great work in ’16!
PO Box 463
Halifax NS B3J 2P8
As usual the trite phrase “it’s Nova Scotia so set your watch back 5 years’ is apt.
A policy that has long been discredited gains credence in our present misbegotten government.
As Tim has pointed out and is becoming clearer every day is that waning aggregate demand is at the heart of the economic malaise. In other words if we pay people less, we’ll all be richer.
Meanwhile those who are already rich become more so. Do as I say, not as I do.
The John Risleys and Mark Levers of the world love austerity as it allows them cover for their business dealings (they are the doers and dreamers after all) as they blame us regular folk for wanting decent wages for honest work and a compassionate society that wants all to prosper rather than just those with the ear of a morally bankrupt Premier.
Snow one foot from the curb? Two feet from the curb? ?
Yesterday when I checked the snow was plowed slightly under four feet from the curb where I live….their “winter norm” for plowing.
In a related vein….since the city (through Halifax Water) is now charging me for runoff from my driveway into the sewer system they seem to have established the principle that stuff that goes from one property onto another is worthy of charging the other party for. Does this mean that the three and four foot wall of snow that is regularly plowed into my driveway by the city plow is something I can start charging them for? Just wondering…..
Your article on austerity really caught my attention. I’m wondering Tim, who do you think is really steering the ship of the current provincial government, Stephen McNeil or the Chairman of the Board of Directors of AIMS – John Risley? I’ve heard numerous rumours that it is in fact Risley! If it’s true, we’re in deeper trouble than we thought! Remember it was Risley who was dead against any kind of fair deal for the film industry! It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall of the current government as they get their marching orders from AIMS! What a group of Austerians.
I have no idea of the exact mechanics of this. I used to think this was a nationwide Liberal party thing, but the national party, or at least Trudeau, seems at least rhetorically to have abandoned austerity. Maybe that’s a ruse…