September 20, 2013 - No. 104
Nova Scotia Election October 8
Elections Called to Sort Out
Contradictions in the Ranks of the Rich
One of many anti-war actions in Halifax
opposes imperialist war and militarization of the economy. (Halifax Media Co-op)
• Elections Called to Sort Out Contradictions
in the Ranks of the Rich
• Irvings' New Halifax Shipyard and the
Militarization of Life and the Economy
- Nathan J. Freeman
• Halifax Weekly Anti-War Pickets
Nova Scotia Election October 8
Elections Called to Sort Out Contradictions
in the Ranks of the Rich
On September 7, the Dexter
NDP government in Nova Scotia
called a provincial election for October 8. This comes after months
of speculation in the monopoly media about the possible meanings of the
outcome, whichever party wins.
The content of those speculations is no secret. The rich
in Nova Scotia are deeply divided over future electricity supplies to
the province and the implications for power rates and utility
regulation. As CPC(M-L) has frequently pointed out, the rich call
elections precisely to sort out contradictions in their ranks
such as these.
The current NDP government
is leading the band calling
for the so-called undersea cable link proposal. This envisions linking
the province's electrical grid to Newfoundland via an undersea cable.
Emera/Nova Scotia Power would collect, use and resell power generated
in Labrador on the Lower Churchill River
at Muskrat Falls and surplus to Newfoundland's needs mostly into the
New England market in general and into the Boston area -- from which
Emera is currently absent -- in particular.
The opposition Liberals are favoured in some sections of
the monopoly media to more than double their current seat count in the
Legislative Assembly and win a majority government in these elections.
They want nothing to do with the Lower Churchill Falls power project
and seek instead some special arrangements
with New Brunswick Power and Hydro-Quebec to guarantee Nova Scotia's
current and future power needs from their surplus power generation.
Avoiding discussion of grand strategic visions,
meanwhile, the Conservatives seem to believe that the status quo up to
now can be rendered fairer to the ordinary householder with a little
tweaking of the power rates regulatory process at the provincial
Utilities and Review Board.
The workers urgently need to work out how to set a new
direction for the economy, failing which they are reduced to choosing
between the different future visions put forward by the current
government and the main opposition parties contending to replace them.
way, the Emera monopoly would be the main immediate
beneficiary. It is a
multi-national holding company active in the
eastern U.S. created in Halifax to operate Nova Scotia Power as one of
defence of First Nations' rights in
Happy Valley-Goose Bay opposes hydro development at Muskrat Falls on
the Churchill River.
In the case of the program advanced by the government,
Emera would likely gain access at last to the much-prized Greater
Boston market, comprising more than 4.5 million people (or almost five
times the population of Nova Scotia). Several financial combines on
Wall Street are very much on board with this.
The main argument summoned
in support of such a
development concerns the extent to which electricity would replace
reliance on fossil fuels as the main source of home and office heating
during the winter. The Morgan-Stanley group leads the Wall Street
interests pushing this apparent concern for lowering
the greenhouse gas burden that fossil fuels impose on the environment.
This group also just happens to be involved in managing the
ever-expanding brokerage of enormous supplies of refined petroleum of
all grades to the U.S. Department of Defence, i.e., the Pentagon war
machine of the American empire that has
been marauding Afghanistan and Iraq for more than a decade and now has
Syria in its gunsights.
For the last two decades, Defence Department studies of
U.S. armed forces' fuel requirements have repeatedly alluded to the
"slowness" with which the northeastern U.S. has been decreasing its
reliance on fossil fuels for winter heating. Data and studies published
by the Energy Information Administration of the
U.S. Department of Energy, meanwhile, have occasionally pointed to the
fact that the Pentagon remains the single largest buyer and user of
refined fossil fuels of all grades on the entire planet. Indeed,
analysis of these different data sources confirms that the northeastern
U.S. market is the last remaining regional
market in which fossil fuel is consumed mainly for civilian use.
If Newfoundland electrical energy entered the Boston
market, not only would Emera shareholders be dancing in the streets,
warmakers in the Pentagon would capture a windfall of refined
petroleum as Newfoundland electricity replaced it. It is a kind of war
profiteering, disguised as helping save the environment
from further greenhouse gas build-up. By the logic of maximum
profit in minimum time -- the logic that determines whether Emera
prevails or is defeated by competitors -- the energy supplies needed by
Nova Scotians would become hostage to Boston market demand.
What about the Nova Scotia
Liberals' strategy of some
special deals with Hydro-Quebec and NB Power? If this becomes the
province's energy policy, Emera's current yoke over the supply of power
to Nova Scotians would become more onerous. By the logic of might makes
right, even if other companies were
to be allowed to participate significantly in distributing these
imported sources of energy to homes and businesses, the provincial
regulator would allow rate increases principally to guarantee Emera's
profits. The power lines distributing the energy, after all, are
Emera's private property.
It is important for Nova Scotians to make themselves
aware of what is at stake. Support for the undersea cable-Muskrat Falls
agenda heightens the war danger. Support for the agendas currently on
offer from either government or the main opposition facilitates Emera's
picking the people's pockets. The option
supported by the third political party in this contest, which amounts
to keeping one's head buried firmly in the sand, makes no sense
whatsoever to anyone with social or political conscience.
The irresponsibility of the monopoly media in this
such that it remains silent about how the tentacles of the U.S.
empire are gathering Nova Scotians' future in its clutches. The outcome
of this election does make a difference and people must consciously participate in acts of finding out what is
going on in the energy sector and take a stand for an energy
policy which serves their interests.
1. There are other less
among the parties regarding how far and how fast to go in reducing
and/or eliminating dependence on coal and refined petroleum as the main
fuel sources in the province's power plants, and how far to substitute
wind-turbines and natural
gas as alternative sources of electrical energy in the provincial grid.
2. CTV News carried a report
that the Bank of Montreal
and some other unnamed financial institutions do not believe the
capital can be raised to complete the proposed undersea electric power
cable between the island of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and have told
Emera/NS Power so.
This position just happens to be the fondest
Hydro Quebec and the Quebec government. The news itself just happened
to break -- in an anonymous leak to CTV -- after Newfoundland Premier
Kathy Dunderdale wound up a meeting in Quebec City with Premier Marois.
CTV's scoop coincided with the release in
the election programs of the Liberal and Conservative parties. Liberal
Leader Stephen MacNeil crowed how this "proves" his party's
wisdom in rejecting any involvement in the undersea cable project.
Conservative Leader Jaimie Baillie used it as a
set-up to promote his party's platform to freeze provincial power rates
for the entirety of a term in government under his leadership -- i.e.,
for four to five years.
The interests standing behind the
Lower Churchill Falls power are unchanged, as are the strategic
imperatives of the Pentagon to command any and every source of refined
fossil fuel for purposes of empire.
Irvings' New Halifax Shipyard and the
Militarization of Life and the Economy
Blasting work has been
under way this summer at the
Halifax shipyard. This construction activity was announced as a
necessary stage of preparing before actually building some
newly-contracted naval vessels.
One resident of the neighbourhood telephoned the CBC to
announce that she and her neighbours have had enough.
The noise from the shipyard is just part of the problem.
People who live in the area also believe the work is driving rats and
other pests into the public housing community.
"It's been rough here. The blasting has brought out rats
and raccoons around our area. The blasting has taken pictures off my
walls and broken them. It's hard living on Barrington Street right
now," she said.
"One morning I got up to go in my yard to shoo a cat out
of my yard and the thing turned around and it was a rat and it wasn't
afraid of me. So I had to go back into my house to get a broom to shoo
it out of my yard. It was big. I thought it was a cat, I really did
think it was a full-grown cat and it just turned
around and it's teeth -- it was horrible."
Meanwhile, the shipyard's owner, Irving Shipbuilding, is
barrelling ahead with rebuilding the shipyard's offices and workshops
on modern lines.
"Modern" here has a double meaning.
The first meaning emerges from having almost doubled the
shipyard payroll from more then 400 to about 900 workers after the
winning of the multi-warship 20-years-plus-long contract was announced
in the autumn of 2011.
The second meaning emerges
from having set the previous President of Irving Shipbuilding Steven
Durrell the task of bullying
through a collective agreement absolutely unacceptable to the members
of the largest single unionized component of the shipyard from Local 1
of the Canadian Auto Workers (now UNIFOR). Durrell's
failure led to his departure at the end of June 2013, to be replaced by
"retired" U.S. Navy Vice-Admiral Kevin McCoy.
In addition to looking after
the interests of the U.S.
armed forces regarding the construction of this particular batch of
specially-tasked warships that will formally belong to the Canadian
Navy, president McCoy is tasked with completing the bargaining to reach
that unfinished collective agreement. He has jumped
into the task by supporting the layoff of about one-third of the
workers now in the yard.
To blow smoke in the workers' eyes, these layoffs have
been announced without any reference to the ongoing struggle over the
contract. On the contrary, we are supposed to believe that, suddenly,
the shipyard has to divert from starting actual ship construction to
first constructing "modern" office and workshop
facilities for managing and completing the eventual ship construction
The north-end Halifax community of Mulgrave Park is
immediately west of the shipyard. It is one
of several 40-plus-years-old mostly African-Canadian public housing
the Gottingen-Barrington corridor of the city's North End. Metro
civic agency responsible for maintaining these residential projects,
has become increasingly hard-pressed by government
budget cuts to keep these structures liveable and their communities
viable. Unlike the local vermin, Mulgrave Park residents have far more
limited re-housing options. Pictures have appeared online at the CBC
News website confirming residents' complaints about "rats the size of
cats" roaming the area.
Is this a sign of things to
become "normal" as part and parcel of the process of militarizing
the livelihood and lives of the civilian population? The other side of
the lying propaganda in the monopoly media about war and war
providing a source of "jobs" is an oppressive daily propaganda
war danger propagated and crafted to infuse a spirit of submission to
an illegitimately-asserted "authority." If and when the government
actually has to smash and take away hard-won rights -- to unionize, to
defend their wages and working conditions, to protest police brutality
etc -- the idea is that the police and/or
other guardians of "order" will meet only isolated pockets of
Map showing the location
of the Halifax Shipyard (A) and the surrounding areas. Click to enlarge.
Many features of daily life in the area around the
shipyard are already feeling the effects of "adjustments" being
inserted by private capital and government social agencies. These
adjustments are being imposed in the service of agendas that were
launched before the shipbuilding project was even a gleam in the
Irvings' corporate eye. Thus:
- During the mid-2000s housing boom, which eventually
imploded in 2007-2008 in the subprime mortgages scandal, developers in
Halifax eyed the Barrington Street corridor as an ideal zone in which
to develop high-rise buildings full of nothing but condominium units.
At the same time, the extremely low rate
of population increase in Halifax over the entire decade (compared to
greater Montreal or greater Toronto) determined the resistance of the
city's entire community of lending institutions to risking their
capital on such schemes.
- As government finances, even down to the municipal
level, were enabled to take higher levels of bonded debt onto their
books than ever before, the Halifax School Board took under
consideration various proposals to close a number of elementary schools
in the North End and consolidate their student bodies in
a single modern, geographically central institution. These closures
were widely opposed throughout the entire North End of the city that
was served by the existing elementary and K-9 schools.
- Back in 2010, the moment the prospect of Halifax
Shipyard getting any part of the Harper government's combined Coast
Guard and warship fleet construction projects became apparent, the
Halifax School Board entertained a motion to close the Saint
Patrick's-Alexandra K-9 School. Meanwhile, Jono Investments,
a local developer, began beating the drum for special exemption to
erect condo high-rises that would violate the city's ban
against buildings erected near the harbour that exceed the height of
view-plane from the top of Halifax Citadel. Many of the social
collectives of the greater North End community -- including an
extensive community health clinical services group,
social support organizations for impoverished youth and single women, a
popular church in the African-Canadian community and others -- have
joined the campaign to keep the school buildings and the property they
occupy intact. Meanwhile the developer
and his allies on city council have been unable to overturn an initial
court injunction stopping them from taking further action.
Alexandra School (Moira
The rights of the working class and people are being
challenged as never before by the growing militarization of the
Canadian economy. It must not pass!
Public right must not be permitted to be extinguished
though the expansion of monopoly right. The people in North End and its
associated communities are not disposable people. They are not
surplus humanity to be sacrificed on the altar of Irving's private
interests. A new direction is required for the economy! Monopoly right
no! Public right yes! No to the militarization of the economy and all
1. The naval expansion project
synchronized with the interests of the United States. McCoy's
installation as the President of Irving Shipbuilding marks a new stage
in the processes of
militarization extending into civilian society -- processes flowing out
of the shipbuilding contract. Already, however, as this latest news
about Mulgrave Park discloses, the superficial attractiveness of steady
employment for hundreds of tradespeople for tens of years into the
future is a veneer. The only new jobs for the moment are short-term
construction jobs unconnected with actual shipbuilding. The blasting
and vermin outbreak are just the latest
example of how the negative costs of militarization are shifted onto
the general population.
2. Throughout the 19th century, vermin
infestations in populated districts beyond the perimeter of Halifax's
port side areas were not uncommon. These were largely eliminated during
the "modernization" of the Port of Halifax as a North American base of
the British Admiralty during World War One. This summer
brought these infestations back for the first time since the end of the
Second World War.
3. During the Second World War, various
of civilian life across Canada were militarized. In central and western
Canada, this took the form of vigilance checks for "suspicious"
activities among communities incorporating residents of Italian, German
or Japanese descent. Internment camps for Japanese
residents of British Columbia were set up following the attack on Pearl
Harbour in December 1941. In eastern Canada, from the beginning of the
Battle of Britain in the spring of 1940 until VE Day five years later,
daily life would become subordinated to the demands of the Royal Navy
and Royal Canadian Navy
in the context of heightening civilian preparedness against possible
enemy attack. Thus in the urban centres and surrounding areas of Saint
John and Halifax, permanent vigilance was organized and promoted
possibility of attacks of Nazi U-Boat crews roaming close to the entry
to the Bay of Fundy, the mouth
of Halifax Harbour and the Cabot Strait between Nova Scotia and what
was then the British colony of Newfoundland.
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