May 062015

Originally posted at the Halifax Media Coop.

On April 8 2015, Solidarity Halifax member Larry Haiven spoke among a number of presenters to discuss the impacts of the Nova Scotia healthcare restructuring on labour-management relations.

Moderator: Mayya Assouad, Reporter, Global News Halifax
+Larry Haiven, Professor, Department of Management, Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University. (Larry teaches industrial relations and has written extensively on public sector collective bargaining and dispute resolution.)
+Lana Payne, Atlantic Director, UNIFOR Trade Union. (UNIFOR is one of the unions involved in the Dorsey process and Lana attended the mediation and arbitration sessions.)
+William Lahey, Associate Professor, Schulich Law School, Dalhousie University (Former Nova Scotia Deputy Minister of Labour and Assistant Deputy Minister of Health)


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


May 042015

Solidarity Halifax member Evan Coole exposes the hypocrisy in Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard’s support of the NS Liberal budget. Originally published at The Chronicle Herald.


Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard should remember that her office’s “clients,” as her staffer referred to them, are also her constituents, writes Evan Coole. Photo: The Chronicle Herald.

Can you imagine having to gather a mountain of documentation before sitting in front of a panel of civil servants and an adjudicator to get your child a dental procedure? How about having to check with two government employees and go through months of meetings and arbitrary tests before applying for a job or training program?

I have seen this and more in my work advocating for people on social assistance, which is why I accompanied a group of Dartmouth North residents to Joanne Bernard’s MLA office to demand to know how she can support a budget that makes life worse for unemployed and disabled people. After this visit, we know her office is acutely aware of the problems, but she is choosing to support the budget anyway.

Minister Bernard’s office staff informed us she routinely sees people getting denied funding for essential health needs like diabetic diets and medical equipment. She echoed our sentiments that the burden the Department of Community Services places on people who are ill and disabled to prove they are ill and disabled is unfair and onerous.

Her staff also mentioned that an issue she sees frequently is people with disabilities having their rights violated by one of the many unscrupulous landlords in Dartmouth North. I would imagine this is the kind of issue People First, a self-advocacy organization for people labelled as having intellectual disabilities, would be happy to take on had their meagre funding not just been slashed by Ms. Bernard.

Throwing film workers out of their jobs, cutting health care and education, freezing social assistance, deregulating tuition fees and trampling workers’ rights — there is something in this budget to make everyone unhappy. Everyone except John Risley and perhaps the other handful of billionaires in Nova Scotia.

Being a billionaire in Nova Scotia entails receiving public benefits more generous than any individual on assistance would even dream of having access to — loans, tax breaks and outright handouts.

I would suggest they do as Finance Minister Diana Whalen said Nova Scotia’s university students should and be willing to “pay to play.” Instead, the poor are expected to suffer further so people like Mr. Risley can continue to enjoy his wealth.

While enrolled at Mount Saint Vincent University, Ms. Bernard accessed income assistance to support herself and her child while earning her degree. Because I provide legal support to people on social assistance, I can empathize with how hard she must have struggled to get by.

That said, the public benefits she received in the 1990s were much more generous than what social assistance provides now. She enjoyed lower tuition than any student coming after her, and important to note is that her ministry makes it much harder to access education while on assistance than during her time. I find it hard to understand why she supported a budget that further erodes what she enjoyed herself.

She should remember that her office’s “clients,” as her staffer referred to them, are also her constituents. If she won’t take a stand, I’m sure the low-income residents of Dartmouth North would be happy to find someone who will.

Evan Coole is a legal aid worker. He was the founding staff organizer of Nova Scotia ACORN, an organization of low and moderate income people, and is a member of Solidarity Halifax.


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

May 012015

Solidarity halifax

In the past few days, we have successfully proven that when the provincial government attempts to savage our economy with cuts to those on low incomes, students, the environment, public services and the film industry, it will not pass without a fight. From flash street parties to MLA pickets and rallies of hundreds of people, we have made sure there will be no peace if the government tries to make us shoulder the burden for an imaginary “crisis” which is not our making.

Solidarity Halifax would like to invite all those who have been part of the ♯NSuncut coalition, and anyone interested in continuing to fight for a more just economic policy for Nova Scotia, to an event to celebrate our tireless week of actions and discuss paths to keep working together for a non-austere future. Join us on Tuesday May 5th at Alteregos, on 2193 Gottingen to keep our campaign moving forward. Hot drinks and beer will be available, and food will be provided. 


May 012015

The Liberal provincial government has worked itself into a lather trying to convince us that the province is broke and that drastic cuts are necessary.  But this is nonsense meant to continue the enrichment of the rich and impoverishment of the poor.

Is it true that Nova Scotia can no longer afford the services and programs we value?
Nova Scotia is actually far richer than it was 35 years ago.  Our wealth per person (GDP per capita) has grown by 50%, especially during the relative “boom” from 1991 to 2007.  We should feel 50% richer.  We should be able to improve, not cut, the programs and services that enhance our health, education and quality of life.

If that’s true, then how come I don’t feel richer?
While the province on the whole got richer, the average real (after inflation) weekly earnings of Nova Scotians DROPPED.  That’s right.  The average Nova Scotian is 3% POORER.  Even unionized workers, on the whole, haven’t done better.

Where DIDN’T all that extra wealth go?
It didn’t go into the pockets of average Nova Scotian workers.  In fact, the lower your income was to start with, the more it dropped in that 35 years.  And it didn’t go to government.  No, the proportion going to Nova Scotia governments has actually declined, as tax revenues (both personal and corporate) shrank.

So where DID the extra wealth go?
To the already-rich.  A study shows the share of wealth since 1991 going to those who work for a living dropped by 75% while the share going to owners of capital (employers and investors) rose by 140%!  Like others, our economy is now a gigantic siphon transferring wealth to the rich.  Profit margins of corporations in Canada are now at a 30-year high as they sit on the largest accumulation of “dead money” (not being used for investment) in the G7.

But doesn’t Nova Scotia have a deficit and debt problem?
Recent Nova Scotia governments have run deficits and the main reason is the recession.  And that was caused by the greedy financial sector almost crashing the world economy.  To avoid a total meltdown, governments of the day have had to borrow money to stimulate the economy, spending on infrastructure like roads, schools and hospitals and helping those thrown into poverty by the recession.  And yet our debt-to-GDP ratio (the most accurate measure of debt) is now 36.7% (down from 47.7% in 2000. That’s about the same as the federal government.  In Greece (to which some panic-mongers irresponsibly compare our province) the same debt-to-GDP is 157%!  The interest we pay on the debt has also decreased by half since 1995!

If governments try to cut deficits and debt too deeply and quickly, they risk strangling economic growth entirely, which will precisely worsen the situation.

So why are the government and the business community ringing the panic bells over deficit and debt?
It’s all about scapegoating.  Rather than point a finger at the real culprits – corporate Nova Scotia, they want to blame you and me.  They especially want to blame public service workers and those who, through unions, are fighting back – like nurses, teachers and health technologists.

The Liberal government’s rich cronies at the Royal Bank are slated to receive $22 million in government largesse.  But rather than target these expenses, they want to turn Nova Scotians against one another.  We are told to resent other regular Nova Scotians because they have pensions or decent jobs, when we should be going after the big fish.  As journalist Tim Bousquet says, the government’s ideology is “If only everyone were paid less, we’d all be rich.”

But, of course, it doesn’t work that way.  Every dollar we cut from somebody’s wage package, every penny we wrest from someone’s pension plan, every child care spot we eliminate, every civil service job scrapped, every union contract ransacked, will find its way onto the conveyor belt to the pockets of the rich.

Is there an alternative to austerity?
There are alternatives. Life doesn’t have to be like this. An alternative budget could stimulate the economy by increasing workers’ incomes and boosting household spending. Strengthening the public sector, especially in the provision of public services, would leave us less vulnerable to the huge costs imposed by private companies- especially in our energy bills.

In Solidarity Halifax, we believe that what is needed is more than just an alternative to austerity, but also an alternative to capitalism. Through of a mix of public ownership, workers cooperatives, and non-profit enterprise, we can build a sustainable economy and keep more of our wealth here in Nova Scotia, instead of sending it to corporate shareholders in Toronto and New York.

We need a government willing to break with this script and begin building a real future in Nova Scotia. If you are interested in building alternatives, contact us.

DOWNLOAD printable leaflet here.