Sep 292014
  1. The Liberal government under Premier Stephen McNeil and Health Minister Leo Glavine are planning to introduce legislation on Monday which would deny health care workers the right to choose which union will represent them in collective bargaining, as well as dictating some of the terms of their contracts.  Solidarity Halifax opposes this union-busting legislation and the ongoing attacks on the labour movement by the Liberals.
  2. This legislation is illegal.  It violates freedom of association and the Trade Union Act by allowing employers to pick the union health care workers will belong to.  Workers have fought for generations for the right to a union of their choice and to not have the employers interfere in the question of representation.
  3. The Unions worked together over the summer and came up with a proposal for a bargaining association, which would allow workers to remain in the union of their choice, while simplifying the number of contracts in health care and streamlines the negotiation process.  This process has been used in British Columbia for several years and works well.  For Premier McNeil to suggest that this is the status quo in Nova Scotia is a deliberate lie.  Bargaining associations remain the best way to protect public health care and workers’ freedom of association.  This show of solidarity among different unions is to be celebrated and Solidarity Halifax supports the call for bargaining associations.
  4. This legislation is an attack on the entire labour movement and will undermine free and fair collective bargaining. Combined with Bills 30 and 37, which basically took away the right to strike from 40,000 health care workers around the province, and Bill 19, which weakened first collective agreement negotiations, the Liberals are trying hard to undermine the labour movement.  With a hobbled labour movement, income inequality and the gap between those of us who work for a living and the rich few on top will continue to grow.
  5. While the legislation will impact tens of thousands of health care workers, and four unions (The Nova Scotia Nurses Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, and UNIFOR), it is important to understand the goal of the Liberals in putting this legislation forward.  This bill is about breaking a single union, the NSGEU, which represents the majority of health care workers in the province and has regularly set the public sector bargaining pattern.  The NSGEU has taken hundreds of strike votes over the past 5 years, and has been willing to take wildcat strike action to defend its members’ rights.  The Liberals want to break one of the most activist unions in the province in order to cripple public sector workers bargaining power.  A strong labour movement helps put upward pressure on all workers’ wages and working conditions, unionized or not.  And in a province with the second lowest average worker incomes in the country, that is a good thing.  A weaker labour movement means increased downward pressure on wages and working conditions for all.
  6. This legislation also specifically impacts women disproportionately.  About 80% of the health care workers that would be covered by this legislation are women.  As women already make less money than men, this will significantly further increase the gender income gap.
  7. As an anti-capitalist organization, Solidarity Halifax supports workers struggling collectively for their rights, jobs and livelihoods.  We support an expansion of public services and support workers democratic control of the services.  Instead of attacking front-line health care workers, the Liberals should be focused on cutting the number of over-paid managers in the health care system.
  8. Under capitalism, public services like health care and education are constantly under attack by right-wing politicians and corporations keen to cash in on privatization.  Only by working to understand how the economic system of capitalism oppresses us can we work together to begin to consider the ways to dismantle it.
  9. With poor economic performance plaguing the province, the government needs a scapegoat and thus would have Nova Scotians believe that is the fault of the unions, and one union in particular.  In fact, Nova Scotia has long been a low-wage and low-investment ghetto, where employer failure to invest in capital, worker training and research and development maintains the status quo. Crippling organized labour will do nothing to improve, and much to perpetuate, that scenario.


Sep 262014

Solidarity Halifax member Larry Haiven speaks out on CBC against the NS Liberal government’s announcement to impose union choice in the public healthcare sector.

Larry Haiven is a professor at the Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University, a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia.

LISTEN HERE > CBC Information Morning Nova Scotia


Note: Statements by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Sep 192014

By Larry Haiven. Originally publised at The Halifax Examiner.

Larry Haiven is a professor at the Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University, a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia, and a member of Solidarity Halifax.

Back when I was in the MBA program at the University of Alberta in 1984, a wily professor put the cat among the pigeons. He asked us students to consider whether corporations should forget about charity and good works and simply…pay their taxes.

Businesses, he argued, were good at making money, not social welfare. The difficult decisions on which groups of needy citizens, domestic and foreign, to help out should best be left to elected officials (who could be turfed at the next election if we didn’t like their actions.) And, in the field of making life better for those in great need, governments employ people who actually know what they are doing. As I recall, the suggestion met with considerable support among my fellow business students. We were a pretty perceptive bunch back then.

What a long way we`ve come since. Now business schools fall over themselves vying for kudos in teaching “corporate social responsibility.” And corporations have nearly all jumped on the bandwagon.

I’m sorry to rain on parade, but I think we had it right 30 years ago.

Another thing dates back to the mid-1980s. The slashing of corporate tax rates. And that has made all the difference.

In 1984, the very year I was in B-School, the federal corporate income tax rate was 47.6 percent. Today it is 15 percent. The greatest cut occurred in 2000, when it dropped from 29.1 percent to the current rate. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Alternative Federal Budget estimates, very conservatively, that every percentage point increase in the general corporate tax rate would net the federal government $1.4 billion. (This takes into account tax shifting and economic and behavioural responses.) From that figure, another conservative estimate is that, by cutting corporate income taxes in all those years, the federal government has foregone about $400 billion in revenues.

And that’s just the federal government. The provinces, too, charge corporate income tax on top of the federal and most have cut those rates in the past decades. It’s not going too far out on a limb to suggest that governments, federal and provincial, across the country may have given up over half a trillion dollars in revenue from those tax holidays.

Now, let’s consider how much money all of the corporations in Canada have spent in “corporate social responsibility” over the same period. That is a very difficult calculation to make. But corporations would have to be spending at least 10 percent of their profits on those good works to even come close to how much they have gained in tax cut largesse. Imagine Canada, the non-profit promoter of corporate giving, estimates that the median contribution among larger corporations to “community investment initiatives” is one percent of profits.

Accordingly, we can be safe in concluding that the amounts that corporations are spending on “corporate social responsibility” are but an infinitesimal part of what they have saved in corporate taxes. And that doesn`t include at all the billions that the rich have saved in personal income taxes.

What could governments have achieved with only a small portion of those taxes foregone? A lot of “social responsibility,” that’s for sure. How about smaller classroom sizes, help for indigent families, a national pharmacare program, more generous foreign aid, and swimming pools, rinks, parks, and playgrounds? In short, all of the things that Canadian governments say they can now not afford to, and that Canadian businesses don’t even come close to, provide.


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Sep 042014

The Coast interviews Emily Davidson of Friends of the Khyber and member of Solidarity Halifax to ask why The Khyber is worth preserving.

With four million dollars needed in repairs, the future of the storied Khyber building is in doubt. City staff says sell it off and be done with it. The Friends of the Khyber think otherwise.

Friends of the Khyber’s public meeting is - September 4, 7pm, at Halifax North Memorial Library. - KALEY KENNEDY

Photo: Kaley Kennedy

  • Friends of the Khyber’s public meeting is September 4, 7pm, at Halifax North Memorial Library.

The Coast: Are you just trying to preserve a memory? Why keep the Khyber?

Emily Davidson: I think there’s a really good connection between the very inspiring history of the Khyber building and also the alive and exciting uses of the Khyber in recent years. It’s not as though the Khyber is only inspiring as a memory. It builds on that incredible community that has taken place in that building over the last years, but it is also a very contemporary and vibrant place.

Is $4 million too much to spend on one building?

I don’t think so. As a person who doesn’t personally have four million dollars, I also get sticker shock when I see that number. But, when I think about what the budget of the entire city is, that number in comparison to other things that the city spends money on is actually pretty low…I think also budgeting is about priorities, and we’re a group of citizens saying this is a priority.

Why is it a priority?

The Khyber isn’t just some building. It is and can be a vibrant hub of the arts and queer community. It’s a space that right now is publicly owned, and we want to have it stay publicly owned. We need something that’s alive and pumping in the downtown core that is a space that is for everyday people. We see some of the pitches for how to develop the downtown, and it’s about more and more tourism. It’s about people coming in for conferences. We want so see a benefit for people who live here, built by people who live here.

Would the arts community be better served spending that money on other projects?

That question kinda misses the point. We want to see an increased arts spending in a wide variety of ways. But I think if you play that off of, whether it’s this building or other arts funding, it wouldn’t come from the same stream. It’s sort of like comparing apples to oranges, in my opinion.

Council is set to decide the Khyber’s fate at next week’s meeting. What do you hope will happen?

I hope that city council would reject staff’s recommendation to dispose of 1588 Barrington Street. I would also like to see city council be true to their previous support for the Khyber building being a cultural incubator in the downtown. Council has already agreed to use that space in that way, so I want to see council hold true to those promises.

What’s your back-up plan if the building is put up for sale?

I haven’t really got there yet. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Interview conducted and edited by Jacob Boon for The Coast.


Note: Statements by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Sep 032014

Artist and Solidarity Halifax member Emily Davidson shares her thoughts on the importance of the Khyber in our community. Originally posted at the Halifax Media Coop.


The Khyber can breathe life back into Halifax’s downtown. [Ilustration by author]

I’ve danced all night at the Khyber. I’ve watched my favourite bands at the Khyber. I’ve played in my own bands at the Khyber. I’ve seen art I loved, hated and everything in between at the Khyber. I’ve been to political meetings, programming meetings, and general meetings at the Khyber.

I’ve made out in the Khyber.

I’ve gone to plays at the Khyber and seen strange cinema at the Khyber. I have researched the building’s history at the Khyber. I’ve taught workshops and attended and delivered artist talks at the Khyber. I’ve organized queer cabarets and met my queer elders at the Khyber. I’ve snuck in under-age at the Khyber. I’ve literally covered the walls with my art at the Khyber. I’ve fought to preserve the very existence of the Khyber.

I’ve found my community at the Khyber.

The Khyber is a space that occupies the intersections between arts, music and queer communities. Words like hub or “cultural incubator” don’t sum up these intersections for me. Home is the only word that comes close. I am a person whose identity is matched quite perfectly to this intersection of art, politics, queerness and music. I see myself and my comrades reflected in the space. I’ve grown up in the Khyber and it has grown with me.

There’s something about the physical space of the Khyber that is irreplaceable.

Is it the echoes of the radical history of the building?

Is it the fact that they just don’t make buildings that beautiful anymore?

When the Khyber building was home to projects such as the Alternate Bookstore, the Turret Club, Wormwood Cinema, Echo Chambers recording studio, the Atlantic Filmmakers Coop, the Heritage Trust, the Khyber Arts Society and the Carbon Arc, it was a space for people to share resources, share ideas and build community. These projects have overlapped, co-existed and grown out of each other.

The history of the Khyber building is the history of people doing-it-themselves–people making space for their communities with the best of their abilities and resources. Part of the reason that I am so inspired by the history of the Turret Club (which operated between 1977 and 1983) is because it was a ‘community-run’ gay and lesbian social space.

It wasn’t the first gay bar in Atlantic Canada, but it was the only gay bar of its kind at the time: a social space run for and by members of the gay and lesbian community. The Turret used discos to fund the political work of the Gay Alliance for Equality (GAE), simultaneously creating a venue for political work, meetings, film screenings, cabarets and other vital points of contact for the queer community.

This do-it-yourself history runs strong in the veins of the Khyber Arts Society. The Khyber, as we know it, has seen more than its fair share of turmoil. There have been times when the relationship with the city-as-landlord has made running the Khyber unmanageable.

There have been times when the city closed access to parts of the building and there has been a seemingly endless train of consultation processes and empty political promises. Thankfully the plucky folks running the Khyber Arts Society keep picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and continuing to provide space for artists and musicians to come together, grow and thrive.

As I write this, community members are preparing for a public meeting on Sept. 4 to show support for saving the Khyber building. On Sept. 9, Halifax Regional Council will decide the fate of the Khyber building. If there is a silver lining, it’s that public ownership means we get to protest, sign petitions and speak truth to power when we are evicted and our building is put on the chopping block.

Regardless of the decision on Sept. 9, we need to keep fighting.

Our demands are far-reaching. Our dreams extend beyond reinstating the Khyber Arts Society into a status-quo, adversarial, head-butting relationship with the city-as-landlord. We want to see the city recognize the significance of this building and treat us, the arts, and the queer community, with the respect we deserve.

We want the city to renovate the building to have barrier-free access, and prioritize gender-neutral single stall washrooms (the kind they recently removed and replaced with a janitor’s closet), so that all types of people can feel safe in and enjoy this public space.

We want the city to follow through on their numerous commitments to having an amazing mixed-use, multi-genre cultural space downtown.

We want the city to let the space be used to its fullest potential.

We want the city to negotiate in good faith with the Khyber Arts Society and other arts as well as queer groups to shape future of the building.

We want to see the city take this opportunity to breathe some life back into the downtown instead of crushing community groups to continue lining the pockets of developers.

We want to see the city trust us to make this space for ourselves, knowing that we can build what our communities need.


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.