Jan 272016

On November 25th, 2015, Solidarity Halifax hosted a public event examining the politics of childcare with guest speakers Tammy Findlay, Candida Hadley and Taylor Hansen. Find guest speaker bios below.

Care work is an important and often overlooked political issue. Our panel presents a critical analysis of current provincial policy, and develops ideas about what a truly just, liberating system of child care might look like.

childcareQuestions examined include:
How well is Nova Scotia’s current system meeting our needs?
What role does care work serve in a capitalist society?
Who performs most child care work and what are working conditions like?
What do policy alternatives based on feminist or socialist ideals look like?
What policies could better serve the needs of marginalized or racialized community members?
What work is unpaid and why?

Guest Speakers Bios:

Tammy Findlay [4:45] is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political and Canadian Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University. Her research is in the areas of gender and social policy, child care policy, feminist political economy, federalism, women’s representation, and democratic governance.

Taylor Hansen [25:00] is a full-time Early Childhood Educator or Child Care Worker (depending on who you ask) in Halifax. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Child &Youth Studies and holds an Honours Bachelor of Social Science Degree. She is passionate about challenging perceptions of care work and domestic labour rooted in Capitalist Patriarchy. She will speak to her experiences in the field and share her observations on how the current system is affecting practitioners and their families.

Candida Hadley [38:15] is one of the founding members of the Halifax Motherhood Collective. She is a mother of two, a Managing Editor with Fernwood Publishing, and a feminist. The Halifax Motherhood Collective is a group of mothers and allies who want to bring people together for discussions about patriarchy and about caring and reproductive labour, and to create change for mothers and children in our society.

Jan 212016

On October 5th, 2015, Solidarity Halifax hosted a public event examining the responsibilities and challenges in upholding the Peace and Friendship Treaties in Mi’kmaki.

Below is a video recording of the event preceded by a new introduction by Elder Bill Lewis. Further down is the event description and short bios for each of the speakers as well as a time marker to advance to each section.


BetweenNationsPoster-Final-Web2In the mid-1700s Britain signed a series of Peace and Friendship treaties with the Mi’kmaq nation. All who live on this land today – Native and non-Native – have a duty to uphold and live by these agreements.

More than a panel discussion: the event featured art by Indigenous artists, opportunities for participation and action, light refreshments, and the following speakers:

Moderated by Tayla Paul [26:35] and Jackie Barkley [17:40]

Ben Sichel [34:00] teaches high school in Dartmouth and writes on education, labour, racism and Aboriginal issues. He holds an M.Ed. in intercultural education and teaches students of all backgrounds the history of colonialism in Mi’kma’ki. He is a member of Solidarity Halifax’s anti-racism committee.

Naiomi W. Metallic [45:05] is an associate lawyer at Burchells LLP in Halifax. Originally from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation on the Gaspé Coast of Québec, Naiomi was the first Mi’gmaq person to clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada. She is a member of her firm’s Aboriginal and Litigation practice groups. She is also a member of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors, as well as a Commissioner with the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission.

Dr. Afua Cooper [1:01:55] is is the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies. Her research interests are African Canadian studies, in particular the period of enslavement and emancipation in 18th and 19th century Canada and the Black Atlantic; African-Nova Scotian history; political consciousness; community building and culture; slavery’s aftermath; and Black youth studies. She founded the Black Canadian Studies Association (BCSA), which she currently chairs.

Sherry Pictou [1:15:50] is former Chief of the Bear River First Nation; member of the Coordinating Committee of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples; Associate Staff with the Bay of Fundy Marine Resource Centre, and Interdisciplinary PhD Candidate, Dalhousie University.

Hosted by Solidarity Halifax in partnership with Halifax Public Libraries

Dec 232015

Sébastien Labelle is VP (Culture & Mayworks) at the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council and a member of Solidarity Halifax. This is his submission on Bill 148 at Law Amendments, on Wednesday, December 17.

I’m an actor, and am directly affected by the Liberal government’s damaging, imposed changes to the film industry. I’m also a teaching assistant at Dalhousie, and am directly affected by the Liberal government’s imposition of anti-union, anti-academic, and anti-student legislation in the post-secondary education sector. I’m a Nova Scotian citizen, and so I would also have been affected by the Liberal government’s illegal attempted changes to the healthcare sector, and will be affected by this new illegal legislation in the wider public sector – so too are my friends, and my family.

I’m tired of being here.

Every time I’ve been here in the past year, I’ve thought: well this one takes the cake. And, every time I’m alarmingly proved wrong by yet another piece of legislation introduced by this government. This government seems hell-bent – even after repeated blunders and humiliations – to wage an unrelenting attack against the working people of this province. An attack that disproportionately targets women, and that drives youth out of a province already suffering from population decline.

The Bank of Canada recently reported that one of the biggest threats to our economy is rising household debt for young workers due to climbing housing costs and stagnating wages. We’re seeing now the results across campuses of the “tuition adjustment” permitted by this government in a province where tuition costs are already among the highest. And with this current bill, we’re telling students graduating with huge burdens that what awaits them is wage stagnation from one of the province’s major employers. That and, you know, a crippled creative industry and public services in crises for our families.

Meanwhile the Liberal government doesn’t blink an eye handing out millions in subsidies to corporations worth billions – the RBCs, the Risleys, the Irvings – you know, people who are really hurting. The Liberal government is quick to throw money to the private sector, where overwhelmingly, job creation means low-paying, precarious work.

Where is this government’s investment in the people of Nova Scotia? Who is this government really representing? It’s not the hard working people of this province, surely.

Here are a few suggestions for real, long term, effective investments for the future of our economy:






Services for people with disabilities

Good job creation

Green economy

The arts

Things that would all help reduce household debt and make Nova Scotia a better place to be. I’m not sure it is right now.


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

Dec 212015

Larry Haiven is a professor in the Department of Management at Saint Mary’s University and a member of Solidarity Halifax. This is his submission on Bill 148 at Law Amendments, on Tuesday December 16.

Originally published at the Halifax Media Coop.

Rally against Bill 148 at the Legislature, December 16. Photo Facebook

Rally against Bill 148 at the Legislature, December 16. Photo Facebook

As we contemplate Bill 148, it’s never good to ignore history, so here are a few stories to refresh your memories or enlighten you. I’ll mention only a few, but important cases:

British Columbia 

Gordon Campbell led a Liberal government to power in 2001. Elected with a strong majority, part of his promise was to institute austerity, cut taxes, cut spending, and take on the public service unions, especially the Teachers Union.

There a great cartoon by our own Bruce McKinnon from January 2002. It shows Campbell in two panels celebrating New Years. The first panel says “2001: Tax Cuts All Round”. The second panel says “2002: Job Cuts All Round”

So Campbell took on the militant teachers union and for his troubles, precipitated three strikes in ten years. One of those, in 2005, was the longest teachers strike in Cdn history. It was illegal since the government had removed the right to strike and had also passed legislation extending the collective agreement. Nonetheless, or possibly as a consequence, the teachers voted over 90% for strike action. The teachers struck for 2 weeks; they continued on strike despite court injunctions making them stop paying strike pay. The provincial labour federation had one-day general strike in support.

Contrary to predictions, public support swung to the teachers and against the government. Even children’s entertainer Raffi came out for the teachers. Nobody likes a bully

Two times the B.C. Supreme Court pronounced that the province had violated teachers’ charter rights in 2002 when it removed hundreds of clauses related to class size and class composition from the collective agreement and fobade future bargaining on those issues. The courts ordered those clauses restored retroactively.

British Columbia 

In 2002, BC government introduced legislation with next to no consultation with health care unions. The legislation wiped ouit important provisions of collective agreements.

In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the BC government’s actions were a violation of the Charter and enshrined the right to collective bargaining in the Charter; it changed the face of labour law in Canada and led to further charter labour rights that I will mention presently.

Nova Scotia

In 2001, a number of health care bargaining units represented by NSGEU & NSNU entered collective bargaining. They reached agreements but those tentative agreements were rejected by the members – several times.

As the unions lay poised to strike (one unit actually went on legal strike briefly,) the Nova Scotia Conservative government passed Bill 68 making the strikes illegal AND imposing the terms of settlement on the unions. There was round-the-clock picketing outside the legislature and filibustering inside. As I recall, members of the present Liberal goverment supported the picketers. How quickly we forget!

The two unions practiced different strategies: NSGEU nurses signed letters indicating intention to quit their jobs en masse. The NSNU ran a series of killer ads on television and radio. Public opinion turned against the Conservative government; even its own supporters were furious at the government.

The government eventually backed down and agreed with the unions to arbitration for the outstanding disputes

And, of course, I needn’t mention the fiasco earlier this year where the present Liberal government attempted to gerrymander the union representation rules for health care collective bargaining. How well did that end up?


In 1983, the Conservative government passed legislation to end all health care strikes. There were large penalties for any infractions by the unions.

The United Nurses of Alberta (union) announced it would not be bound by that legislation and its members would strike if they saw fit

In 1988, amid the Calgary Winter Olympics, the union was as good as its word as 14,000 nurses hit the frozen streets

They went on an illegal strike. The strike continued even when the courts found the union guilty of contempt of court and fined it almost ½ million dollars. Then individual members received termination notices and fines of $1000 each for civil contempt. The other unions ponied up to help pay the fines.

What’s interesting is that prior to 1983 when strikes were not illegal, the union had always allowed its members to work at certain hospitals, in order to provide a kind of steam valve.

But in 1988, so angry were the nurses that they stopped work at every hospital, including the Children’s Hospital.

Government bullying resulted in chaos

The union refused to return to work until it had negotiated a settlement with which it and its members were content.


In 1999, an NDP government passed legislation to try to end a strike by nurses. The union refused to comply despite fines and other penalties. The nurses continued on strike until they reached a settlement. Not surprisingly, public support, initially hostile to the nurses, grew throughout the strike.

There were several other health care strikes in subsequent years, but the NDP government seemed to have learned its lesson. A few years later technologists went on strike and Premier Lorne Calvert had this to say:

This is not the first time health care workers have withdrawn their services, let’s not all panic here…. The vast majority of our health care agreements have come to negotiated settlements, and as a result I believe we’ve had a better work place for our health care providers.

But then the Saskatchewan Party led by Brad Wall was elected in 2007. Shortly afterward, that government introduced a law setting out a so-called “essential services” regime, where it so harshly limited the right to strike as to render it meaningless.

The unions challenged the law. It eventually wended its way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled earlier this year that the right to strike was protected under the Charter. By the way the work of Dr. Judy Haiven and myself was cited in those decisions.

Justice Rosalee Abella said in her majority judgment:

This Court has long recognized the deep inequalities that structure the relationship between employers and employees, and the vulnerability of employees in this context. While strike activity itself does not guarantee that a labour dispute will be resolved in any particular manner, or that it will be resolved at all, it is the possibility of a strike which enables workers to negotiate their employment terms on a more equal footing.

The Supreme Court ruling does not say that governments can’t take away right to strike. However, they must replace it with a reasonable substitute. That substitute is binding arbitration.

So here’s the rub (to quote an article I wrote recently comparing Nova Scotia’s Finance Minister Randy Delorey to Henry VIII’s fixer and hatchet man par excellence Thomas Cromwell):

Delorey’s Cromwellian dilemma is that most of those workers, from doctors to teachers to crown attorneys, engage in some form of collective bargaining. The Supreme Court of Canada says collective bargaining and the right to strike are essential to democracy, protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That means governments have to sit down and negotiate in good faith, not just pretend. And if you want to take away the right to strike, then you need to substitute something meaningful — like binding arbitration. The Liberal government doesn’t seem to want to do collective bargaining. Witness the shotgun negotiations with the teachers. And it certainly doesn’t support the right to strike. But it also doesn’t want to risk arbitration, where a third party just might agree with some of the workers’ proposals. Like many governments, it would like to suspend the whole messy business and impose a settlement by divine right in the tradition of Henry VIII.

Collective bargaining is indeed a cornerstone of our democracy, but it is that not only to inconvenience governments. It’s there to help the parties reach settlements that are not only fair and equitable but are SEEN as fair and equitable.

In conclusion, may I repeat several points, ladies and gentlemen: Nobody likes a bully. Public opinion can switch very quickly, especially when a bully is perceived. And the courts, deferential as they are to the interests of capital, value collective bargaining.


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

Dec 172015
  1. Solidarity Halifax opposes Bill 148, introduced by the NS Liberal government to impose wage restraint on 75,000 public sector workers. We support free and fair collective bargaining and oppose government attempts to legislate contracts unilaterally.
  2. The Liberals are trying to blame teachers, nurses, civil servants and other public sector workers for the so-called financial crisis in the province. It is not the wages of public sector workers that have caused financial problems.
  3. In 2008, the big banks crashed the economy through their constant pursuit of profit and greed. The Occupy movement made the issue very clear—this is a struggle between the 1% and the 99%—the ruling class and the working class. Blaming public sector workers for these problems is a bold-faced lie from the Liberals.
  4. Nova Scotia’s economy is doing better than the Liberals claim. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is lower than Ontario and Quebec. The deficit is a mere 2.5% of the provincial budget. The sky is not falling.
  5. In the past thirty years, Nova Scotia’s real wealth (in GDP per capita) has grown by more than 50 percent.  In the same period the real median wage for workers has declined by 10 percent. Where has the extra wealth gone? To owners of capital. The only groups who have resisted that trend are credentialized and professionalized workers. They’ve managed to resist it through collective bargaining and this legislation is meant for them.
  6. The Liberals are trying to confuse the public about the real problems facing our province. Our hospitals are understaffed. Our classrooms are overcrowded. University tuition rates are skyrocketing. There is a housing crisis because rents are increasing rapidly. Our environment is being impacted by climate change. Fewer and fewer families can afford nutritious food. Electricity bills continue to rise. Unemployment remains high. Instead of addressing the real issues facing the province, the Liberals are trying to distract us by picking fights with public sector workers.
  7. There is plenty of wealth and resources in Nova Scotia. Our province’s economic output is $39 billion per year! This is enough for everyone to live a good life. The real problem with our economy is that wealth and resources are concentrated in the hands of the 1%. Nova Scotia has five billionaire families who basically run our economy – the Sobeys, the Braggs, the Jodreys, John Risley, and Ken Rowe.
  8. The root of Nova Scotia’s problems is capitalism. We will never be able to provide excellent public services, eliminate income inequality or address climate change without moving beyond capitalism.
  9. Solidarity Halifax believes another world is possible. If you agree, join us and help build a better Nova Scotia.