News
Views
Noticed
In the harbour
Footnotes


News

1. Line of credit

The Nova Star

Maine Governor Paul LePage is exploring a “legislative solution” to fulfil LePage’s offer of a $5 million line of credit for Nova Star operations, reports the Yarmouth Vanguard’s Tina Comeau:

“A legislative solution . . .  is now on the Maine 127th legislature’s timeline and will need the full support of the legislature for a successful outcome,” says Adrienne Bennett, press secretary to the governor. “We are not yet prepared to discuss details of this legislation.”  

This is a joke. There’s no way the Maine legislature will commit the money. Not in the face of recent layoffs at the Madison Paper Industries mill in Madison, Maine, which many Maine residents plausibly attribute to the Nova Scotia government’s extension of $125 million in subsidies to the Port Hawkesbury pulp mill. In the face of the Nova Scotian government subsidies for Port Hawkesbury, Madison simply can’t compete.

Turns out, the game of public subsidies has political consequences.

2. Pedestrian struck by vehicle

A police report from yesterday:

At 6:20 p.m [Thursday]., police responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision at the intersection of Connaught Avenue and Chebucto Road. A 31-year-old man crossing Chebucto Road in a marked crosswalk was hit by a minivan turning left from Connaught Avenue onto Chebucto Road. He suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to hospital by EHS.

A 52-year-old man was issued a summary offence ticket under section 125(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. This ticket carries a fine of $693.95 and four points on a driver’s license upon conviction.

3. Rotating holiday

The Liberals have made good on their promise to bring us a February holiday. It’s called Nova Scotia Heritage Day, and falls on the third Monday of each February. But there’s something that doesn’t sit right about having the holiday rotate among various honourees, instead of simply calling it Viola Desmond Day  (as it was on its inaugural year, this year) and leaving it at that forever. I mean, Joe Howe will be remembered no matter what, ya know? Anyway, here are the next seven honourees:

2016: Joseph Howe
2017: Mi’kmaq Heritage
2018: Mona Louise Parsons
2019: Maud Lewis
2020: Africville
2021: Edward Francis Arab
2022: Grand Pré

4. Whoops

Photo: Halifax Examiner

The streets and sidewalks were a mess yesterday, maybe the worst this year. I took the ferry across to downtown, and was the only passenger, had the entire boat to myself. Later, I took the bus back to Dartmouth, and came across this unfortunate scene, an articulated bus having spun out and into a snow bank while navigating the curve around the south end of the Bridge Terminal. I assume no one was injured, as the driver was still behind the wheel, looking sad.


Views

1. Heart-shaped box

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald continues his Valentine-inspired theme of all things of the heart, this time looking at objects around his house that are heart-shaped. Is there anything Archibald doesn’t have in his house? I’m imagining a giant gothic structure on a hill, each room filled to the rafters with boxes, knick-knacks, photo albums and newspaper clippings, a hoarder’s paradise.

Archibald also mentions almost in passing an NFB film from the 1970s called Encounter on Urban Environment; this feels like it might become the subject of a lengthy Examiner post. I’ll try to watch it this weekend.

2. Nova Star

“Too many things” related to the Nova Star subsidy, says Rachel Brighton, “are being done with a nod and a wink, and not enough ink.”

Brighton looked at the actual contract released with last week’s announcement of a further $13 million subsidy for ferry operations and found that:

[T]he published agreement between the department and the ferry operator makes no mention of how much money will be allocated in 2015. The agreement on the department’s website simply states the province will provide “additional funding” to Nova Star, based on monthly projections and reports. It also states a schedule of payments will be decided by the department, which will fund the ferry out of its year-to-year operating budget.

If the original funding deal for the Yarmouth ferry wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, this week’s agreement may not fare much better.

3. Carbon tax

Ralph Surette is in favour of a provincial carbon tax, which he says should be “modest one at first for a dry run that, for political reasons, should be mostly revenue-neutral.”

I think just the opposite: for political reasons, and more import, for reasons of social justice, the carbon tax should not be revenue neutral. In fact, it should sit outside the established tax regime entirely, and proceeds from the tax, every cent of it, should be used to fund a guaranteed wage. The money should be divvied up evenly, with each man, woman and child in the province getting a cheque of equal amount, regardless of their income, wealth, or status in life.

Humanity has two major challenges over the coming decades: climate change and the vast unprecedented unemployment levels that will come as human labour is replaced by computer technology. We all know about the threat of climate change, even if we avoid thinking about it, but the threat of the very impossibility of employment is entirely off the radar screen.

Machines have been replacing blue collar labourers for centuries, but what’s new is computers replacing white collar “knowledge” workers. Already, computers have displaced lawyers, the engineers who design computer chips, and much more. As Kevin Drum puts it:

Over the past few years, my guess about how soon truly useful AI will be available has gone down. Human level AI may still be quite a ways away (I don’t really know), but AI useful enough to create massive economic dislocations might well be no more than a decade away. Maybe two at the most.

There will always be some work for people to do, but very soon we won’t need the armies of paid workers that have defined the economy since they pyramids were built. This could very well result in an entire planet that has a Saudi Arabia-like labour scene, where the necessary work is done by machines (the imminent replacement for foreign transient workers), while most people remain unemployed.

Besides the social concerns of having an idle and potentially purposeless population, there’s the economic consequence. With no jobs, and therefore no pay cheques, there are no consumers; without consumers, what drives the consumer-driven economy?

We’re already facing unjust economic inequality, and concentrating wealth in increasingly fewer hands has its own worrisome effects. A carbon tax-funded guaranteed wage isn’t a perfect solution to all our problems, but it does eloquently address lots of different issues. Moreover, a carbon tax-based guaranteed wage is fair: fossil fuels are owned by all of us, part of the bounty of the earth that should be rightly shared by all of humanity. On the other side of the equation, the environmental effects of burning fossil fuels will also be shared by all of humanity. A carbon tax feeding a guaranteed wage gets at both sides of that equation.

In the short term, contrary to Surette’s judgment, once established it would be very popular politically — how could a monthly payment showing up in everyone’s bank account not be popular? In the medium run, a guaranteed wage would usher in new age of entrepreneurship, as the pitfalls of potential business failure aren’t so fearful when you know you’ll be able to cover your living expenses no matter what. More important, a guarantee wage would free people from the socially stifling effects of chasing the most secure, highest-paying job, and people could instead follow their hearts and social consciouses as they see fit, resulting in a flowering of arts and culture. In the long run, a carbon tax-based guaranteed wage could very well save the planet, and the social order along the way.

4. Darce’s dementia

Darce Fardy continues to chronicle his experiences with dementia.


Noticed

Source: http://i.imgur.com/WV1nMGy.jpg

I couldn’t find a corresponding map for North America, but my guess is that on a per capita basis, Halifax has more gingers than any other city in North America. I play a game when I get on the bus, counting the obviously natural redheads. I’ve gotten as high as nine. I don’t know what happens when I hit 10, but it will no doubt be spectacular.

No, this is not an obsession.


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9am Saturday. Map: marinetraffic.com

Zim San Francisco, container ship, New York to Pier 42.


Footnotes

Morning File doesn’t publish on Sundays. See you Monday.

Tim Bousquet

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

Join the Conversation

20 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. Rotating holiday: Nice to have another statutory holiday in Nova Scotia but I have already heard of at least one company that says that next year their employees will instead no longer get the (non-statutory) Easter Monday as a paid day off. I don’t think that sort of result was the intention when the province was given a much needed mid-winter break. I have heard that Nova Scotia is near the bottom of the list in the country when it comes to number of paid days off but the lists on-line seem rather confusing when trying to compare.

  2. Re Carbon Tax: The whole point of a carbon tax is to provide an incentive to get us off fossil fuels and, given the urgency of the climate change problem, the faster the better. This makes a carbon tax completely unsuited as a long term source of revenue to support a universal income. An appropriate use for a carbon tax would be to speed up the transition to renewable energy sources, while at the same time providing many jobs in energy efficiency and renewables. Studies have shown that investments in these areas provide many times more jobs than similar investments in the fossil fuel industries. These well paying jobs, mostly requiring skilled workers, could well obviate the need for a universal income, although I still support the idea of a universal income (supplement?), just not using the revenues from a carbon tax.

  3. A number of people who were engaged in the Encounter project are still around Halifax. I believe the NS Archives have materials on it, too; some might be in the papers from the Community Planning Association of Canada/Nova Scotia.

  4. Your article on a guarantee wage for everyone, taken from a carbon tax was one of your best in a long time. Please keep writing on that issue on a regular basis. I believe it will the way to save our society. Nothing else seems to be working with more work disappearing and more wealth accumulating at the top.

  5. My mistake, there is also a film called “Encounter on Urban Environment” on Halifax/Dartmouth urban planning – made in 1971 (it is also a Challenge for Change film). It offers good commentary on the concentration of wealth in few hands. And it was ever thus…

  6. The “Encounter” film with Rocky Jones is called “Encounter at Kwacha House” – this was a youth centre on Gottingen. Jones is not identified in the film but that is him talking about activism and the systemic racism in the apartment rental market. You can stream the film for free on the NFB website: https://www.nfb.ca/film/encounter_at_kwacha_house_halifax

    One fascinating aspect of this film is that while Jones was participating in a film made by the state agency (the NFB), he was under surveillance by another state agency (the RCMP).

    This film was part of the NFB’s Challenge for Change series. You can read about this and other films in:
    “Challenge for Change” by Tom Waugh, Michael Baker and Ezra Winton, eds. McGill-Queens Press.

  7. Hey Tim,

    Employment is much more complex than technology simply making jobs obsolete, it creates jobs too.

    In 1930 John Maynard Keynes predicted that with technological improvements people would get paid the same for working less. There was talk about a 4 hour work day and a 15 hour work week. This never happened, but it’s worth pointing out because it’s an interesting idea.

    Employment + technology == less jobs

    Is an oversimplification of things, and is a bit of a straw man that plays on peoples fear of technology.

    The following article lays out the state of affairs as far a our post-modern economy goes much better than I could ever say.

    On the phenomenon of bull**** jobs – David Graeber
    http://libcom.org/library/phenomenon-bullshit-jobs-david-graeber

    1. There are definitely more BS jobs out there, but this chart is pretty telling. Two important dates are women entering the workforce in early 70s, and internet commercialization starting in ’96-’97. I cannot find any charts with a longer timeframe, but considering the removal of children from the workforce in the 1910s-1920s (lazy kids!), and the end of family farms, I estimate labour participation is at all time lows worldwide.

      http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CIVPART

  8. With the accidents and delay’s moving people from one place to the other (work, daycare, home, shopping); I would think it makes economical sense to put snow tires on the buses. But what do I know? I think it would make sense to invest in a commuter rail system that doesn’t rely on having the roads cleared of ice and snow by our present methods. It just isn’t working. The cost in missed time at work, business losses, accidents, the extra cost to health must add up enough to make a commuter train feasible. All those expensive “junkets” to Norway/Sweden with nothing to show for it. Did the foolish politicians not even notice how effective those countries were at moving people from one place to the other?

    “obviously natural redheads.” What does this look like for you? I’m curious.

    1. Heh.

      I mean, not henna, or whatever it is. Anyone can dye their hair red. Just not the same.

    2. On the first point, anyone who has DRIVEN through a few NS winters knows that there are «snow» tires and then there are «SNOW tires». On small, light vehicles GOOD ones can make a HUGE difference in traction both accelerating AND stopping. However, large industrial machines like Halifax Transit’s STUPID «California» double-length busses would still get in trouble supposing they were equipped with spiked steel wheels. The ANSWER, as you pointed out in your second paragraph is RAIL. Rubber tires are for NO SNOW climates. RAIL WORKS RELIABLY no matter the storm.
      [see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yja2VmZOfdA for irrefutable evidence!] Further, RAIL is more than 50-times more fuel-efficient than rubber-tired vehicles, and is the CHOICE of almost every progressive city in the world.
      I rest my case… Ayyyyy-men!

  9. “The money should be divvied up evenly, with each man, woman and child in the province getting a cheque of equal amount, regardless of their income, wealth, or status in life.”

    Easier said than done. Give a homeless man $10 vs me $10 vs NSBI CEO $10 vs John Sobey $10 and it’s a very different outcome. Last two probably won’t even cash the cheque.

    1. So? The point of giving everyone (including rich people) a basic income is that it is simple and fair. No massive government bureaucracy or constant political fighting about how X group does not deserve their basic income. If you’re a legal resident of Canada, you get it regardless of your income and net worth, with no qualifiers.

      Unfortunately, I would imagine that a carbon tax implemented at the provincial level would be too easily avoided by the very-rich.

      1. Nick, you’re right: the point of universality is that a guaranteed income is a birthright, or the right of citizenship. By means testing it, it becomes a “welfare” program, or a derided “entitlement.”

  10. Encounter on Urban Environment is well worth watching. There’s a great scene with a young, fiery Rocky Jones. Stephen Kimber wrote an interesting column about the film not too long ago too.

  11. That Encounter event in Halifax was an amazing group of community meetings. I look forward to your take on what you see in the film.