Oct 022014

Solidarity Halifax member Larry Haiven addressed the Law Amendments Committee yesterday to voice his opposition to the Liberal Government’s Bill 1 which will dictate union representation for healthcare workers. Originally published at the Halifax Media Coop.

I am a professor in the Department of Management, Sobey School of Business, at Saint Mary’s

I was last before this committee in April of this year over Bill 37, this government’s first attempt to hobble collective bargaining in health care.

And here we are again, as the government marks step 2 of the process.

At that time I said this, which is just as relevant for Bill 1: Practically everybody and ALL politicians say they believe in collective bargaining. It’s like democracy and motherhood and the tooth fairy. But collective bargaining is a fragile thing. It works only under conditions of voluntarism – it DOESN’T work when big brother puts his finger on the scale

I’ll use another analogy to describe what the Liberal government is trying to do with this legislation. Let’s say the government decides that the whole legislative representation thing is way too inefficient. It says we’re going to reduce the 50-odd constituencies in Nova Scotia to four. And, oh yeah, forget about this voting stuff – way too expensive and cumbersome. From now on the government will appoint your MLA. And so we still have a shell of representational government with the most important thing missing – democracy. This is just the type of thing that Joseph Howe would be in this building here railing against 150 years ago. And that’s what you’re proposing to union members as far as choosing the union that will represent them.

At least that’s the way it sounded last Thursday; the government had the pistol in its hand, fully-loaded, cocked and aimed at the temple of the health care workers and their unions. But wait; now the government is backtracking; proposing to hand the same fully-loaded and cocked pistol over to a third-party who will actually fire it. And wait, that third party will actually consult the unions about when and how the pistol is fired at them. And wait, maybe one of the unions will do what the government dearly wishes and grab the pistol and turn it on the other unions.

Anything so the government can say “We didn’t fire the pistol”

But it amounts to the same thing.

Pardon me for mixing metaphors; I’m a business prof, not an English prof. But this doesn’t sound like voluntarism to me.

In response to the government’s proposal to streamline health care collective bargaining, the four unions got together last summer and made an eminently reasonable proposal.

They proposed that the unions not be forced to give up their members but rather they would form bargaining associations for each of the four bargaining units where the unions would have a say in proposals but where they spoke with a single voice.

This kind of arrangement has been in operation for almost twenty years in British Columbia; and it works. Government spokespeople say this would simply be the status quo; this is not the status quo; this would be quite effective.

A second solution would be to have run-off votes where the workers in each of the four bargaining units would decide which union would represent them; that’s how it’s been decided in Nova Scotia in the past where hospitals, health districts and municipalities have merged; it’s not pretty, but it, too, works.

But the government didn’t want this either; WHY?

The only possible reason is this: under those two scenarios, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union would retain a position of dominance in health care ; under the government’s scenario, the NSGEU would certainly be decimated. It’s as simple as that, and it’s disgraceful. Machiavelli would be proud.

Nova Scotia has a myriad of economic problems, but making one union public enemy number one will not solve them.

One thing is for sure: unions have a penchant for rising to the occasion; or at the risk of using one more analogy; if you poke a sleeping bear with a stick, you’re in for trouble; whether it’s a Poppa Bear, a Momma Bear, an NSGEU bear, a CUPE bear, an NSNU bear or a UNIFOR bear.


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

Oct 012014

By Ben Sichel. Ben  is a teacher in Dartmouth and author of the P-12 education section for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Alternative Provincial Budget. Originally published at no need to raise your hand.


It’s Treaty Day in Nova Scotia, a day marking the Peace and Friendship treaties signed in the 1700’s between the Mi’kmaq people and the occupying British crown.

Treaty Day
Mi’kmaq Youth in the Treaty Day parade, 2012. (Photo: novascotia.ca)

Treaty Day parades and celebrations are led by the Mi’kmaq community, but it’s important for non-Natives in this province to mark the occasion as well. 

The most succinct way I’ve heard this expressed is in the phrase “we are all treaty people.” This is because a treaty is, by definition, an agreement between two parties. The treaties signed between sovereign Indigenous nations and the British in the 1700’s are just as relevant to the descendants of the British, and by extension anyone who lives in Nova Scotia today, as they are to the Mi’kmaq.

There’s a common perception in Canada today that treaties and treaty rights, such as the hunting and fishing rights many people are familiar with, are something that only concerns Indigenous people. But the British benefited from the treaties too: they gained the right to live unhindered on the land the Mi’kmaq had lived on for centuries. The British, and all other non-native folks who’ve lived on this land since the British took it over, have enjoyed that treaty right ever since.

The Mi’kmaq were supposed to be able to enjoy that right in perpetuity as well. Things haven’t quite worked out that way. A protest against  the dumping of brine waste in the Shubenacadie and Stewiacke rivers is perhaps the latest evidence.

Happy Treaty Day to everyone, and if you’re non-Native, let’s commit this year to getting our side to keep our part of the bargain.


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