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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)

Nova Scotia Election October 8
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.[1]

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. Either way, the Emera monopoly would be the main immediate beneficiary.[2] It is a multi-national holding company active in the eastern U.S. created in Halifax to operate Nova Scotia Power as one of its assets.

  Placard from December 2012 demonstration in 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, the 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 capitalist 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 election is 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 consequential contradictions 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 hope of 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 Halifax of 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 commercialization of 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.

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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.[1]

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 tasks.

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 projects in the Gottingen-Barrington corridor of the city's North End. Metro Housing, the 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.[2]

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?[3] The other side of the lying propaganda in the monopoly media about war and war preparations providing a source of "jobs" is an oppressive daily propaganda about the 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 resistance.

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.

Saint-Patrick's Alexandra School (Moira Peters/Mediacoop)
- 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 the 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.

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 of life!


1. The naval expansion project is being 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 aspects 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 against the 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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Halifax Weekly Anti-War Pickets

Oppose Imperialist Intervention in Syria and Iran
Friday, September 20 -- 4:00-5:00 pm
(weather permitting -- or replaced by action below)
Corner of Spring Garden Rd. & Barrington St.
For Information or to sign up for the No Harbour for War newsletter: noharbourforwar@hotmail.com

Emergency Anti-War Rally
The day any bombing of Syria starts -- 4:00 pm
Victoria Park, Corner of Spring Garden Rd. & South Park St.

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