1. Throne speech
“This is not at all going to war with organized labour,” premier Stephen McNeil told reporters, just moments after the throne speech outlined a war with organized labour. The speech spelled out the particulars: the government, not workers, will decide who represents workers, and public service work will be out-sourced to avoid having to pay union scale.
We’re all going to be rich once everyone is paid less.
McNeil has every right to pursue a tougher line with public employee bargaining units as part of his governing strategy. I’d disagree but, hey, he won an election. But something else entirely is going on here: vilifying unions in the throne speech is over-the-top. It’s the politics of division, us versus them, where the “them” is union workers and the “us” is implicitly the Liberals.
The rhetoric is one of Liberal solidarity with taxpayers. But union workers pay taxes, and a lot of them. Cutting the pay of the middle class is not going to increase tax revenue or help the economy—just the opposite, actually. We live in a consumer economy dependent upon people spending money; lower the wages of government workers and they won’t be spending as much in stores and restaurants, they’ll put off home repairs and other services, and won’t have as much to spend on housing, hurting all those sectors. Business owners will lose sales, won’t be able to hire as many people, won’t pay as much in taxes. It’s the downward spiral of austerity, the backwards policy imposed on most western democracies since 2008, with predictable results.
I went to Province House yesterday to watch the proceedings, and can’t say it was edifying. I shouldn’t have expected much on the opening day of the House, which is filled with traditional pomp and circumstance, but I was especially disheartened by the ritualized role of the reporters. I don’t know that legislative reporters have any choice: here are the prearranged scrums, where reporters ask prearranged questions and politicians give prearranged talking points as answers. Here’s the throne speech, given to reporters an hour before it was spoken, and we all quoted from it as if on cue.
A couple of decades ago, a cynical old fart with a wild unkempt beard—that is, Tim Crews, my friend and mentor, the crazed right-wing libertarian editor of the Sacramento Valley Mirror, which serves a rural population of about 10,000—told me that reporting on government meetings is a waste of time. “Everything is decided somewhere else,” he said. I don’t think that’s right when it comes to city government: I’ve learned a lot by watching events unfold at council meetings. But with the provincial government, especially a majority government, I think Crews’ advice is dead-on. What’s the point in covering a scripted ritual?
I haven’t yet given up on it completely. I’ll stop by the legislature occasionally, and especially Public Accounts sessions, and drop in on post-cabinet scrums when I have a reason. But the real journalism related to provincial government needs to be done elsewhere.
The Burnside jail has been in lockdown since Monday. Prisoners have gone days without recreational time or showers, and when they have had showers, they haven’t been given clean clothes. No reason has been given for the lockdown, the Chronicle Herald reports.
3. Macdonald Bridge
The Bridge Commission held a press conference yesterday to explain the rebuild of the Macdonald Bridge, but judging from news reports, not much in new detailed information was released. After the work is done, however, we’ll have better views of the harbour.
We’re preparing for war. The Undersea Warfare EDGE Innovation Centre opens Monday. We can afford what we want to afford: billions for war, sure. Decent salaries for civil servants, not so much.
5. King’s College
A report written by the Long-Term Financial Strategy Task Force for the university suggests freezing salaries and offering a dumbed-down version of the Foundation Year Program to attract students who may be dumber, sure, but they have money.
1. Andrew Scheer should resign
Paul MacLeod says the speaker of the house is a partisan tool.
2. Jury duty
Go, if only to eat the free muffins, says Lezlie Lowe.
No public meetings.
Legislature sits (9am, Province House)
My apologies, but a technical glitch prevents me from posting events at Dalhousie today. I’ll have that worked out by Monday.
Industrial Policy (noon, McNally Main 227)—Richard Kozul-Wright, from the UN’s Conference on Trade and Development, and Juan Carlos Moreno-Brid, from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, will speak.
The former NDP government was the victim of unfortunate timing. Darrell Dexter took office just as the global economy was collapsing, and just as production at the Sable offshore gas platform was petering out, removing the single largest source of tax revenue for the province.
In contrast, the Liberals and Stephen McNeil have come into office just as the Deep Panuke platform is coming online, and total gas production from both fields is now matching 2007 output from Sable alone. Here’s a chart from the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Board showing production levels over time:
Production at Deep Panuke will likely begin to peter off in about four years, so McNeil has a one-shot chance to make the most of the royalties from the wells. Undoubtedly he’ll use it for political advantage, but basing an economy on oil revenues is foolish, and doubly so when those revenues will dry up in a few years.
In the harbour
(click on vessel names for pictures and more information about the ships)
Algonova, oil/chemical tanker, Saint Jean, Quebec to Pier 27
Fusion, con-ro, Saint-Pierre to Pier 36
Zim Qingdao, container ship, Tarragona, Spain to Pier 42
Atlantic Huron, bulker, Saint Jean to National Gypsum
The Point Tupper generating plant opened on this date in 1969. The public owned it back then.
I’ll be on a journalist panel today on the Rick Howe Show, at 10:30am.