News
Views
Government
On campus
Noticed
In the harbour
Footnotes


News

1. Stop the presses?

The 13 pressmen and industrial mechanics at the Chronicle Herald, who have been without a contract since June 30 of last year, are facing a potential lockout, says Ingrid Bulmer, president of the Halifax Typographical Union, the union that represents them. (The title of the position is “pressman,” and all 13 workers are men, but the job is open to women, assures Bulmer.)

The men, who work at the Chronicle Herald’s Bluewater Road printing operation in Bedford, have been employed “for quite a while” — most of them for decades, says Bulmer. The workers have asked for no significant wage increases — Bulmer says they’ll want a $1,000 one-time payment on signing a contract, a 1.5 percent increase in pay next year, and a three percent increase in the third year. Currently, fifth-year journeyman pressmen make $1,290/week, but people new to the job make half that. Management wants undefined “job-security concessions” and a four-year wage freeze.

But the company is playing hardball. Retired press workers and managers have been brought in to train “replacement workers,” she says, and the union is anticipating a lockout, a move management could take as soon as February 21.

In the wake of the elimination of 17 positions in the newsroom, morale at the Chronicle Herald is at “rock bottom,” says Bulmer. The company is regearing operations towards more profitable “custom content,” she says — “basically, advertorial,” but the union fears the reorientation is diluting the Chronicle Herald brand. “The custom content is where the money making is for the Herald,” says Bulmer. “But to take away from your core product doesn’t make a lot of business sense to us.”

2. Police commission

Linda Mosher was appointed chair of the police commission with no public notice that an appointment would be made.

Yesterday in the “government” section of Morning File, I mentioned that there was a police commission meeting yesterday afternoon. “Not a lot going on,” I wrote, having examined the agenda, “except the commission will look at next year’s budget as tweaked by council.” I typically go to police commission meetings, but with nothing much of interest scheduled, I passed. Somehow, however, even though it was not agendized, the commission voted in new chairs and co-chairs; specifically: Linda Mosher is now the Chair and Russell Walker the Vice Chair.

This is outrageous. Public bodies have meetings with agendas for a reason: to notify the public about what’s going on, so people can come and observe and reporters can chronicle debate and keep the public fully informed. Adding items to the agenda at the meeting itself — especially items as momentous as picking a chair — makes a mockery of the democratic process.

It’s also very problematic that Linda Mosher is now the chair of the police commission when she is contesting a ticket that was issued under circumstances that suggest she used her police connections for advice, if not more. That item is still in front of the court, and so nothing has been proven and the presumption of innocence rules, but for appearances’ sake, she should not even be on the police commission, much less its chair.

3. Rehtaeh Parsons’ wiki entry changed

Rehtaeh Parsons

Someone using a Department of Defence computer has been editing the wikipedia page about Rehtaeh Parson to edit details of the entry in unflattering ways. “I believe it’s a relative of one of the boys charged in her case,” Parsons’ father, Glen Canning, told As It Happens:

In late January, someone using a computer at DND even changed a quote from Canning that read: “The two boys involved in taking and posing for the photograph stated Rehtaeh was throwing up when they had sex with her. That is not called consensual sex. That is called rape.” The quote was edited to read “that is called consensual sex.”

4. Halloween candy tampering

As promised, I’ve asked the cops for an update on the (alleged) Halloween candy tampering investigation. It’s “still under investigation,” says police spokesperson Pierre Bourdages. “We are awaiting the results of some forensic work.” On CSI, an attractive lab worker wearing workplace-inappropriate clothing drops the candy bar in a gizmo machine dealy and it spins around and the poison is immediately identified, giving other lab workers with fast cars and guns time to rush clear across town and nab the bad guys before another candy bar kills a cute hospitalized eight-year-old kid, but I guess it doesn’t work that way in the real world.

5. Wild Kingdom

The highest and best use of social media is reuniting people with their pets. See, for example, Jenny and Joshua McEwen and their unfortunately named cat, Harley Quinn. The calico got lost four years ago when the couple moved from Jeddore to Dartmouth, and then on to Bridgewater, but:

Harley Quinn

A 13-year-old boy and his mother, Laurie Eisner, saw Harley a few times near group mailboxes earlier this month on Bisset Road in Dartmouth. They picked up the cat, contacted a Facebook group devoted to lost cats in Nova Scotia and took her to be scanned for a chip at a vet.

The scan showed the owner’s name, but the address was not current. With some digging, the McEwens were tracked down in a few days.


Views

1. Wong watch

Jan Wong sets the kitchen appliances aside and gets to a meaty story about the University of New Brunswick law school, where scandal is brewing. Newly hired dean Jeremy Levitt has taken a leave of absence and:

The turmoil involves at least five of 17 full-time law professors. The associate dean, Janet Austin, has resigned but remains a professor. Three other professors, all women, are on some form of medical leave.

Retired Supreme Court justice Gerard La Forest, for whom UNB’s law library is named, resigned as distinguished legal scholar-in-residence.

“I regret having to terminate my more than 65-year relationship with the faculty of law,” La Forest, 88, wrote in a Jan. 15 letter to faculty, staff and students.

Students complain that courses have been cancelled, professors have disappeared and some marks from last term haven’t been forthcoming. They fear the mess could hurt their chances of finding articling jobs.

New Brunswick is a news hole in Canada. The Irving papers mostly miss the biggest story in the province — the Irvings themselves — and like all monopolies don’t commit the needed resources to do the job properly. Meanwhile, the cash-strapped CBC races to catch whatever it can in the void. As Wong implies, CBC reporter Jacques Poitras does an excellent job, but he’s one reporter in a province that needs dozens of dogged reporters. Hopefully, Wong’s journalism students can rise to the occasion. The law school mess is the sort of story that will either demonstrate Wong’s tutorial abilities, or not.

2. Screwing the kids

John DeMont says something that very much needs to be drilled into the older generation’s heads: it ain’t like it used to be. When DeMont graduated from college, in 1981, in the middle of a recession, the future was bright:

In those long-ago days, if you had the paper, then, well, lucky you: something had to be really askew for a person with a degree not to be able to get a career going in the early 1980s.

[…]

What I’m saying, in a roundabout way, is this: a lot of us were not particularly skilled, or smart or ambitious. We were just lucky enough to have good timing.

For graduates today, however:

Good luck getting that entry-level job. They’re lining up for unpaid internships, to punch in at call centres and to fulfil their artistic side by making squiggles with milk in cappuccinos.

[…]

A pension? C’mon. Benefits? Don’t make me laugh. They’re lucky if they can afford to drive something with four wheels.

[…]

[M]y point is this: today’s young people don’t face a hard future because of some failing on their part any more than my classmates and I had a smooth start because of our shining virtues.

So let’s cut all the smug tut-tutting and figure out something concrete to do to help them launch.

Alas, having defined the problem, DeMont misses the most helpful thing we could do for young people: reduce the direct costs of their university educations and relieve them of the staggering debt loads that warp their lives right from the start.

I went to university in California, where for my first year tuition was $0. Yep, zero dollars. Local campus fees brought that up to about $200 a semester, and books were another couple of hundred on top of that. I lived in an old one-room apartment that had in the 1870s served as housing for railroad workers. Rent was $25/week. I easily put myself through school with a part-time job. I should note that then-Governor Jerry Brown (he’s governor again) oversaw what we considered outrages increases in tuition, and by my fourth year I was paying in the neighbourhood of $1,200 a semester for tuition, as I recall.

I recently found these numbers for the cost of university tuition, adjusted for inflation, for my alma mater.

Here’s how tuition costs have increased for Canadian students (chart is also adjusted for inflation):

And recent increases in tuition have come in the wake of the financial collapse, when families are unable to extend the support to students that they used to. Moreover, the cost of housing, especially in Canada, is through the roof. Also, as DeMont points out, the job outlook is bleak for graduating students, and the jobs that do exist pay poorly.

There are lots of things we can do around the edges, but they’re mostly missing the point: the largest issue students face is debt. We’ve got to reduce the costs of a university education.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Today

Tidal inlets (Tuesday, 11:30am, Room 3655, LSC , Oceanography Wing—Paul Hill will talk about “Time scales for clearance of suspended sediment from tidal inlets.”

Where am I? (Tuesday, noon, Room C300, C Building, Sexton Campus)—Description:

The GIS Centre’s Lunchless Learn Series is back for the winter term! These are hands-on tutorials, held around lunchtime, open to all on campus (without the food).

A GIS, or Geographic Information System, is “a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, integrating, manipulating, analyzing and displaying data relating to positions on earth’s surface.” In other words, it’s an easy and fun way to look at the world differently.

This series gives people a taste of what GIS is and how it can be used. We are offering the same session at different times and locations, so choose the one that fits your schedule best. These sessions are meant to be self-contained; after the intro session–take only the topics that are of interest to you.

This is the first of the series. Because so many people want to know where they are, they ask that you sign up for a session; to do so, email contact gis@dal.ca.

Faat Kiné (Tuesday, 5pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—a screening of the 2000 film by Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene:

A forty-year-old woman refuses to give into the stigma of unwed motherhood and climbs the ladder of success in a male dominated field.

Dirt Talk (Tuesday, 5:30pm, Milligan Room, 8th Floor LSC, Biology Wing)—Emeritus prof Marcos Zentilli will talk about “The Geologist and Porphyry Copper Deposits.”

Wednesday

Synthetic Antibodies (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link)—Bryce Nelson, Director of the Antibodies and Phage Display at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, will talk about ““Structure-Guided Design of Synthetic Antibodies.”

Conversation About Dying (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building)—rescheduled from last week’s snow day, but perhaps even more relevant in the wake of last Friday’s Supreme Court decision, Jocelyn Downie will talk about the law on assisted dying.

Double Indemnity (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—the 1944 Billy Wilder film.


Noticed

That’s every device connected to the internet. Here’s an explanation for how the map was created.


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Tuesday. Map:marinetraffic.com

Atlantic Compass, con-ro, Liverpool to Fairview Cove West, then sails for New York
Stella Flora, bulker,Sept-Iles to anchor for bunkers
Oceanex Sanderling, con-ro, St. John’s to Pier 36
Cipper Marlene, general cargo,Rio de Janeiro to anchor for bunkers
Aias, tanker, Saint John to anchor for bunkers

Asphat Sailor sails from the McAsphalt Dock.


Footnotes

Um, Tuesday.

Tim Bousquet

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

Join the Conversation

13 Comments

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
Cancel reply
  1. There is a CBC interview with Jacques Poitras about absent UNB Law School dean Jeremy Levitt that is interesting not only because it includes statements about UNB’s interest in Levitt’s background in human rights law & conflict resolution theory, but also because it includes audio of a University of New Brunswick “public relations” official shutting down a CBC interview with a law school administrator.

    Not only does the university “encourage” “students” to muzzle themselves – a tactic that will backfire eventually as it breeds remorse and resentment in the student body – but the university employs a “public relations” bully to impede the free flow of ideas, revealing that yet another university has adopted a strategy of chilling speech on campus. Check it out:

    http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Local+Shows/Maritimes/ID/2651045527/

  2. In his letter resigning as “distinguished legal scholar-in-residence” at UNB, Gerard La Forest – “Retired Supreme Court justice … for whom UNB’s law library is named” – said he is going to write up the Law Faculty at UNB in his memoirs, which he is in the process of completing.

    Jacques Poitras published the letter on Twitter.

    https://twitter.com/poitrascbc/status/560960789335789568

  3. Regarding the Rehtaeh Parsons Wikipedia story, why is opinion of any kind even on there? Its an encyclopedia, not an editorial page. Admins should have removed both versions.

  4. I think if we have too many students skip out on university, we will suffer as a society. Teaching people to think is never wasted. Tim is right — funding needs to be improved. Funding has been slashed, and hasn’t been maintained at the levels previous generations enjoyed.

    1. Some people — Peter, for example — will do well no matter what course they take in life. Not most people, however. Most of us are middling sorts, and the constraints put upon us determine how life unfolds.

    2. CLEAR THINKING should be well-established LONG before even a Bachelor’s degree! North America’s education systems are notoriously weak, and made even worse by the drivel-saturation of commercial television, inane time-wasting electronic games, and addictive, manipulative, and propagandizing internet and social media. Even worse, «Campus Life» in North America is measured and defined by the number of drunken bacchanalia one has chalked up, and by which «university» [sic!!!] has the «winningest» football team — not by any kind of civilised, gentlemanly or lady-like activity or the world-changing achievements of its alumni. Further, the level of ILLITERACY and linguistic INCOMPETENCE demonstrated by too many our media mavens is evidence enough of what a poor job our «universities» are doing. Even Faculty and Administration can be heard every day on radio and TV destroying the language in a machine-gun garble of missing adverbs, conjunctions mistaken for prepositions, and egregiously mis-matched subjects and verbs— and THESE are the supposed teachers and models!

      Yes, there IS a place for deep academic pursuits but the American model of PhD programs in Basket-Weaving and Jockstrap-Washing is an unforgivable waste of resources and leaves hoards of credulous young people holding worthless pieces of paper, with huge impossible-to-repay debts, and unable to do anything more useful than slinging hamburgers.

      Peter Ziobrowski is absolutely right. Just try to find a decent electrician or auto mechanic. Their scarcity is on a par with heart surgeons and honest politicians.

  5. University Education still maintains its high social status, however it has become a commodity – everyone has a Bachelors, so people go out and get masters degrees, and doctorates and end up massively in Debt. Since there are tons of Degrees out there, its no longer a differentiator, and has lost its value to employers.
    I would suggest that most people who go to school to get a job would be better off spending 2 years at NSCC, at half the time, and 1/4 the cost of a Degree. They will likely be more employable, and have much less debt to pay off. once you get established in a field, then go and get your degree.

    That’s what i did. My 2 years of college pays the bills. I blog about my degree @ http://builthalifax.ca

    1. Can’t agree more. One could reasonably argue that a BA doesn’t make one *over* qualified to make “squiggles with milk”, but *anti* qualified. A 19yo who wants to sling coffee at least demonstrably wants to face the world.

      Someone with a BA has only proven themselves willing to sink $150k into… what, exactly?

      1. Someone who has completed a BA has proven that they can read and interpret information critically and write in a professional manner. They can likely analyze issues from social and cultural perspectives. These are rarer skills than you’d think.

        The problem with telling everyone to go to the NSCC to take whatever’s “hot” is that eventually that subject is no longer going to be “hot”. Would you have liked to be a IT grad in 2000, or a trades grad now?

        1. >Someone who has completed a BA has proven that they can read and interpret information critically and write in a professional manner.

          I’m much, much less convinced of that than I used to be.

  6. That Internet map looks like it could be from an appendix called “Oceania’s Surveillance Network” in Orwell’s 1984