Kimber's Nova Scotia (June 17, 2007)

Kimber’s Nova Scotia

June 17, 2007

Oh, that call centr


I think I may have finally figured out why our provincial politicians are so enamoured with the grant-sucking, low-wage, have-phone-will-travel call centre industry. Because the business is so footloose — opening up shop in one tax-forgiveness jurisdiction one day, shutting down and moving to an even more welcoming government giveaway location the next — politicians get to keep announcing new call centre “solutions” to the very same unemployment problem.

Take Rodney MacDonald, for example. On Friday, our premier was in Port Hawkesbury to proudly announce that Minacs Worldwide was setting up a “new” call centre at 24 Queen Street Extension, instantly creating 250 new jobs, and holding out the carrot that there’d be another hundred or so… somewhere down the yellow brick road.

But wait a minute. Wasn’t there already a call centre at that location?

Ah, yes. That one.

Back in 2002, Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner was just as delighted to announce that EDS, another global giant of the call centre biz, was going to open up shop in Port Hawkesbury, and would employ up to 600 people — with a little help, of course, from its friends in government.

Two years later, MacDonald, then tourism and culture minister, was in Port Hawkesbury to say that Nova Scotia was “proud to continue supporting EDS as the company grows and succeeds.” The occasion this time was that EDS was supposedly adding 300 jobs to its original 450 — no more talk of 600 — with the assistance of more than $4 million more in grants and payroll rebates.

Strangely, however, neither Rodney nor Roger was on hand earlier this year to grandly announce that EDS was leaving town.

But Rodney, of course, was front and centre again on Friday to declare once again just how proud he was to be supporting… what’s the name of this week’s call centre anyway?

Twinning’s “down the road’

Last month’s horrific crash on Highway 103 near Blockhouse has once again raised the question of whether the south shore highway from Halifax to Yarmouth should be completely twinned.

“Maybe [the accident] wouldn’t have happened” if the highway had been divided, a tearful Faye Robar told the Bridgewater Bulletin last week. Robar lost her son and granddaughter in the May 27 crash. They were among five people killed when a Halifax-bound Ford Taurus collided with two motorcycles heading the other way. Volunteer emergency responders called it one of the worst accident scenes they’d witnessed in 30 years.

A committee of south shore municipal councillors has been pressing the province’s transportation department to improve the highway, but “twinning is a ways down the road,” according to committee chair Don Zwicker. The committee’s priority is just getting funding to bring close to 80 km of the 300 km highway up to 100-series standards. Highway 103 still includes some sections of the old Highway 3.

That’s not to say the committee isn’t interested in highway twinning, Zwicker says. With a seemingly interminable twinning project on the 103 between Halifax and Tantallon finally completed last year and a next 20 km phase between Tantallon and Hubbards still just in the talking stage, the committee has “expressed its concern” about how long it will take to even reach the stretch of highway where the most recent accident occurred.

Zwicker, who’s also a Lunenburg municipal councillor, thinks it’s going to take some serious lobbying. “Unless we and the mayors and wardens of the South Shore all get together, we’re not going to move ahead.”

Given that Highway 104 highway between Truro and New Glasgow, the home of former premier John Hamm, was completely twinned recently, perhaps the smarter solution is to elect a premier from the south shore.

‘Booming’ Brickton

The mood at last week’s open house at 401 Mt. Hanley Road near Highway 1 in the Annapolis Valley was almost as explosive as the mysterious white container that had recently materialized on the property in rural Brickton.

Most of the 30 residents of the community who showed up at the meeting hadn’t heard that the 48-foot-long container will be used to store smokeless gunpowder — and they weren’t happy when they found out.

Peter Dobson of Lake Echo-based Hirsh Precision Inc. — which owns the property and hosted the event at the suggestion of local MLA Stephen MacNeil — tried to reassure them the gunpowder, mostly used by target shooters, including Olympic athletes, is safer than propane and would simply burn like a flare if ignited. If that wasn’t enough, he added, the container is a Type 1 storage magazine made entirely of steel exceeding standards for its intended use, and is virtually impenetrable.

“Residents,” reported the Annapolis Spectator, “almost laughed at the idea that the container was impenetrable and within minutes had devised simple methods of break and enter.”

Since the open house was pro forma — the company has already met all government rules and regulations for storage — MLA McNeil suggested it was up to the locals to lobby the company to make the container even more secure than it now is. “It’s your job to put pressure on them,” he said.

Funny. I thought that was his job.

You gave it away… now buy it back

Nova Scotia’s Fisheries Minister Ronnie Chisholm wants Ottawa to buy back the “deplorable” Digby wharf it privatized eight years ago and put its management back in local hands.

Chisholm wrote to his federal counterpart Loyola Hearn late last month, complaining “the state of the wharf today is hurting the fishing industry and the town,” adding “the time has come for the federal government to resolve this unfortunate situation.”

In 1999, Ottawa turned over the wharf and $3 million to a private company that was supposed to maintain it. But a Transport Canada inspection three years ago made it clear the wharf is still in sad shape. The situation became so bad this spring local fishermen had to chain a section of the wharf together just to keep it from falling apart.

Despite his moral support for the Digby fishermen, Chisholm isn’t offering to contribute any provincial money to make the buyback happen.

Meter-free parking… for now

The good news for Truro residents is that they still don’t have to pay to park downtown. The better news is that, even if they do over-stay their two-hour welcome, the fine is just five dollars if paid within seven days.

The less good news is that that may change, thanks to a few scofflaws.

Last week, town council accepted Police Chief Ken MacLean’s recommendation “to stay status quo” and keep downtown a meter-free zone, but it also asked for a report on better ways to enforce the time limit.

“It’s hard to believe the status quo is the right answer,” said Coun. Sharron Byers. “It’s not working.”

“There are not a lot who abuse the system, but some who do, abuse it often,” MacLean replied, pointing to business owners who use the street as a five-dollar-a-day parking lot. He will look into whether increasing fines or using the Motor Vehicle Act to deny licence renewals to those who owe parking fines might force the naughty to be nice.

Council will revisit the situation in six months.

Don’t hold your b

Queen’s County has not one but two Stanley Cup connections. Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jean Sebastien Giguere, who once played for the Halifax Mooseheads, is married to the daughter of Doug Fawthrop, White Point Beach Resort’s managing director. Their wedding was held at White Point.

And defenceman Kent Huskins, it turns out, is the son of a long-gone Queen’s County resident who now — unfortunately — lives in Ontario but who once worked as a summer desk clerk at White Point.

So will Lord Stanley’s cup make it to the resort? Or Queen’s county? Don’t hold your breath. Each player gets the cup for a day, but Giguere, suggests his father-in-law, is more likely to show it off back in his own hometown of Blainesville, Quebec, while Huskins’ Queen’s county connection is sketchy at best. His grandparents are deceased and Kent… well, he hasn’t been back to the family homestead in “quite a few” years.

Peace… what peace

The Pugwash Peace Exchange is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the first famous thinkers’ gathering this July with a four-day conference “featuring the most influential gathering of experts on nuclear war since that first conference.”

Nova Scotia-born industrialist and philanthropist Cyrus Eaton staged the first of what would become 275 Pugwash-style conferences — bringing together the world’s most important thinkers on peace and nuclear disarmament to figure out how to save the world from itself — at his summer estate in Pugwash in the summer of 1957.

The highlight of this summer’s event will be a “peace dinner” in Pugwash featuring Foreign Affairs Minister Peter “I-can-do-more-from-the-inside” MacKay and Premier Rodney “just-say-no” MacDonald. Luckily, Senator and retired general Romeo Dallaire will be there to keep the peace. Or not.

Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King’s College. His column also appears in Thursday’s Daily News


  1. Hi Stephen – I’ll be out next month for the Tall Ships and Schooner Race week (July 10 – 24) – we should get together for a coffee or a beer.


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