|Volume 4. Issue 2.|
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Year of The Cat
by Scott Milsom
It looks like something out of a science-fiction film, and it tears through the water like nobody's business. Around Yarmouth, and across the Gulf of Maine in Bar Harbor, it's known simply as The Cat. And this summer and autumn, it's bringing a lot of people to southwestern Nova Scotia and is having a significant impact on the economy of the area. Boasting speeds of up to 50 knots, it has dramatically reduced the crossing time across the Gulf. It used to take the old Marine Atlantic ferry Bluenose six and a half hours to make the crossing from Bar Harbor: The Cat does it in just two and a half, at least when all goes well. There has been a rash of technical snags, and numerous crossings have had to be delayed or cancelled. And, on some crossings, passengers have complained of sea-sickness (although anyone who has ever suffered from this malady would be delighted to endure it for only two and a half hours instead of six and a half).
Far more serious than these problems, however, was a fatal accident that took place on the evening of September 4th, when The Cat, coming out of Yarmouth Harbour, collided head-on with the fishing dragger Lady Megan II, killing its captain, Cliff Hood. Federal officials are still investigating the causes of this terrible incident.
But that tragedy is still in the future as I board the vessel in Yarmouth on a sunny day in mid-August for a day-trip to Bar Harbor. The Cat was built in Tasmania, but it still comes as a bit of a shock to hear a recorded safety announcement delivered in a strong Australian accent. I'm hoping to see some sea-birds or other marine life, but by the time The Cat is out of Yarmouth Harbour the fog is so thick that visibility is limited to less than 100 yards. The fog, though, doesn't slow the vessel down, as it skims across a calm sea at breakneck speed. The only sea-bound life I manage to glimpse is a lone guillemot that seems utterly panicked to get out of the ship's path.
There is very little open deck space on The Cat, so I spend much of the crossing sipping coffee, talking to people about the catamaran-style ship, and watching gamblers at the small on-board casino. Although its powerful engines are moving the vessel at an amazing speed, with the calm sea and all the thick fog there is, in fact, almost no actual perception of motion for those on board.
Most people I speak with are impressed with the vessel. Dick and Shirley Anderson, of Pompano Beach, Florida, are typical: they were enticed to make the trip, in part at least, by the vessel itself. As Shirley says, "The Cat was a drawing card. We've been in Bar Harbor three or four times, and we always thought we'd like to go to Nova Scotia, but it was a six and a half hour trip across, and we never had the time. The speed of The Cat made the trip to Nova Scotia very attractive." The couple planned to spend some time in Yarmouth and then travel up to Digby Neck and Brier Island.
Elwin McMichael has a different opinion. He's a Pennsylvanian tour-bus driver who has made the Yarmouth-Bar Harbor crossing many times, and he misses the charm of the old ferry: "On the Bluenose, there was time to do things right. The meals were a real production. Here, it's just a snack bar. I liked the Bluenose better, for its old-fashioned elegance."
The Cat is owned by a Charlottetown-based firm called Bay Ferries, but it's generally known in the Yarmouth area that this company is a part of the Irving empire. (The first thing to emerge out of the fog as we approach the Bar Harbor wharf is an Irving truck waiting to re-fuel the vessel.) Although most of those who work on board are unionized, some are not. One worker I speak to had been a unionized employee on the Bluenose for 25 years, but now his catering services are provided by a non- unionized company that contracts with Bay Ferries. He enjoys his work and is impressed with The Cat, but, he tells me, "The money is less, way less."
Yarmouth native Randy Doucette is a young man in his 20s who works at the Nova Scotia Tourism Information Centre in Bar Harbour, and he feels his home town is reaping a huge benefit from the new vessel: "For Yarmouth, it's gone way beyond expectations. People put a lot of money into their businesses because of the hype before the service began, but it's paid off. The atmosphere in Yarmouth is phenomenal."
Indeed, it is. John Deveau is the rookie MLA for Yarmouth, and he's noticed an increase in business at local shops. "The shops are staying open later, hiring more staff," he says. "Shopkeepers are doing really well from The Cat. And the spinoffs are great," he adds. "It's the best thing that's happened to the area in years."
Dave Whiting of the Yarmouth Development Corporation also likes what he sees The Catdoing for the area, but is a bit more cautious: "Merchants who have looked at the demographics these are people 45 and older with no kids and lots of money to spend on high-end products are doing well. Those who haven't looked so closely at that market aren't benefitting very much. It's the same story as ever: good merchants are cashing in, bad ones aren't."
Nancy Kenney runs Home Sweet Home Gifts on Main Street and this summer has been a very busy one for her. "We've extended our hours," she says, "although that really hasn't paid off that much. But people come in in the evening and look around. Then, maybe they come back in the morning and buy something."
Jean Clulee is co-owner of R. H. Davis and Co., a long-established family business on Main Street that sells stationery, office supplies, and gifts. More than what it has done for her own business, she likes what the vessel has done for the atmosphere around town: "Last year, July and August were exceptional. July was down a bit for us this year, and August seems about the same, but when The Catis off for a few days [because of technical problems], we feel it, so that means that it is doing good for us the rest of the time. But, the economy aside, one of the best things about it is the excitement it has generated. With communities smaller than Yarmouth, it's not too hard to get everyone pulling together, but when you get just that little bit bigger, it's not so easy. With The Cat, the town has come together."
Perhaps the most enthusiastic fan of The Cat I meet in Yarmouth is Marianne, who'd rather not give her last name. "Everybody in town will know me," she says, "just say that I'm Marianne at the Voyageur Motel."
When I ask Marianne about how The Cat has affected her business, she replies, "It's fantabulous! The Cat is the start of a transition for Yarmouth. With the Bluenose, the schedule had it coming in at 3:00 p.m. and leaving at 4:30, so people arriving drove off and headed for Halifax, while people leaving at 4:30 could drive from anywhere in the province the same day, then just come straight through town and onto the boat. Now," she explains, "the schedule's changed, and the arrival and departure times make it far more likely that people, both coming and going, will stay in Yarmouth. I've been full more nights this year than in the last three taken together. Last year, I ran at 31 percent occupancy, and 30 percent is the break-even point. This summer, I'm running at 95 percent. I've hired extra staff. Before, the number of hours I could give the staff meant that their pay cheques were little better than welfare. I'm glad now that I can give bigger cheques, and to more people than ever before.
"I've been here twenty years," Marianne continues enthusiastically, "and I see the good times coming back to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. With the dollar the way it is, I've never seen so many Americans, and they're all ecstatic, both with the ride across on The Cat and with the exchange on the dollar."
While enthusiasm is running high for The Cat in the Yarmouth area, over in Maine it's a somewhat different story. During July and August, four charges were made against the vessel's captains for speeding in Bar Harbor, creating a twelve-foot wake that caused problems, particularly for recreational boat owners. There is also a widespread feeling on both sides of the Gulf that Bay Ferries has handled its technical start-up problems with less-than-perfect public relations skills. These sour feelings were expressed on August 31st in a brief snippet on the editorial page of the Bangor Daily News: "It's been a bang-up inaugural season for The Cat, the high-speed Bar Harbor-to-Yarmouth ferry, to say the least: four speeding tickets in three weeks, extensive damage to other boats and painful injuries to other sailors. A spokesman for the ferry said company officials are very pleased' with operations so far, although the scuttlebutt is that The Cat's crew still needs to improve its sacking and pillaging skills."
In light of the fatal accident with the Lady Megan II in Yarmouth Harbour less than a week later, this editorial swipe at The Cat may seem to some people to have been an omen of what was to follow. But it can only be hoped that investigators are able to clearly establish the causes of the collision, and that steps are taken to ensure that similar accidents are prevented in future. Everyone I've spoken with in the Yarmouth area since the accident has expressed real sorrow over it, but they also hope that The Cat will, in future years, continue to bring the kind of benefits is has to the area in its first year of operation.
It's a part of the province that geography and transportation arteries have made a stranger to many Nova Scotians. For most people, it's not really "on the way" to any of the province's cities, or even its larger towns. So unfamiliar are many Nova Scotians with this area that there is even confusion over what it's called. Some refer to the shore-line communities between the New Brunswick border and the Tatamagouche area as the "North Shore." To others, the whole coast from Tidnish Bridge through to Cape Breton is the "Northumberland Shore."
Art Drysdale lives in Wallace, but commutes the 15 kilometres to Pugwash, where he works as Development Coordinator (North Shore) for the Cumberland Regional Economic Development Association. As his title suggests, he is one of those who uses the term "North Shore" to refer to the area from Tidnish Bridge to Tatamagouche, even though the border separates his "official" jurisdiction from Tatama-gouche itself, which lies just over the line in Colchester County. "The county line is a pain," says Drysdale. "If the North Shore is going to thrive, we have to think of ourselves as a region, and include all the communities, no matter where a border might be."
While he often works cooperatively with the development agencies across the Colchester County line, Drysdale's official area of responsibility stops at the border. His work is important, as the unemployment rate in Cumberland County is slightly above the provincial average. Two of the communities along the Cumberland shore are Pugwash, an incorporated village of about 770 people, and the unincorporated community of Wallace, which about 250 souls call home. The area's two major employers, a salt mine and a pewter factory, are both in or near Pugwash.
Today, the Windsor Salt mine dominates Pugwash's landscape. It is owned by the American-based Morton Salt Company and employs about 230 full-time workers. Salt, in fact, has a long history in Cumberland County: Canada's first salt mine was opened in 1918 near Mala-gash, and it operated continuously till 1959, when activity shifted to more accessible depo-sits near Pugwash that had been discovered earlier that decade. Most of the Pugwash operation's production is road salt, and the mine supplies all of the province's road-salt needs, as well as exporting to other parts of eastern Canada, and sometimes to the New England market. There's no sign that the Pug-wash salt deposits will become depleted any time soon, so the mine should remain a mainstay of Cumber-land County's econ- omy for some time to come.
Seagull Pewter, the area's other main employer, lies just outside Pugwash on the road to Wallace. A local success story, it began twenty years ago when co-founders Bonnie Bond and John Caraberis launched a three-person operation out of a small farmhouse, producing sterling silver jewellery. Their enterprise really began to grow after they switched from silver to pewter, an alloy of lead and tin. Today, Seagull Pewter runs a state-of-the-art factory that employs 360 people, most of them full-time, and exports pewter giftware to more than 23 countries. People come from as far away as Amherst and Springhill to work in the plant, and up to 40,000 people stop at Pugwash each year to visit a gift shop the company operates in the village.
But Seagull Pewter strives to be known as more than just an employer and private business. A charitable arm of the company, the Seagull Foundation, funnels ten percent of the company's profits to charities. Most of these, according to the company, involve "Trees, land, and children." Through the Foundation's efforts, more than a million trees have been planted in nine countries. Its beneficiaries have also included the World Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club, the British Columbia-based Friends of Clayoquot Sound, and the Native Council of Nova Scotia. As well, local children have received bursaries and scholarships, and the company also runs camps designed to make kids more aware of the natural environment around them.
But, despite its reputation as a solid corporate citizen, Seagull Pewter became a subject of controversy a few years ago when it announced the opening of a small branch plant in the Caribbean, presumably to take advantage of the lower wages paid there. Some thought this action might signal the beginning of a process in which, bit by bit, jobs would be transferred from Pugwash to the Third World. Thankfully, though, these fears proved unfounded, and they were finally completely put to rest in September of this year when the company announced it was closing its Caribbean facility and creating another 100 new seasonal jobs at its Pugwash plant.
All this activity makes Pugwash a busy place, says Art Drysdale. "People around the village say there are as many as 1,200 people going to work here each day," he says. While Pugwash is the hub of economic activity along the North Shore, the fishery and agriculture are traditional mainstays, and there are also other things going on elsewhere in the area.
You can't spend much time in Wallace without taking note of Grant's, one of the few general stores remaining in small-town Nova Scotia. Grant's sells everything from potato chips to pitchforks, and it serves as the day-to-day, social hub of the community. Wallace Fisheries provides seasonal employment for up to 40 people, while monthly music concerts in the Wallace Community Hall attract crowds of up to 150 people.
Another success story, though smaller than Seagull Pewter, can be found in the Malagash area, at Jost Vineyards. In the 1970s, when Hans Jost found grapes growing on his land, it was the accepted wisdom that Nova Scotia was too far north to ever become a producer of quality wines. But that was before the development of hardier grape varieties suitable to the soil and climate of the area had been developed. Hans, and now his son, Hans Christian, have built Jost Vineyards into a thriving enterprise that produces a wide range of award-winning varieties. More than 40 acres of vines are tended by a workforce that ranges from just over ten in winter to more than twenty during summer, when thousands of visitors flock to Jost's on-site retail outlet.
A Prince Edward Island firm has recently proposed to establish a large-scale mussel farm in Tatamagouche Bay, and thereby create about 20 jobs in the Malagash area. Morell-based Island Mussels plans to use the proximity of the Halifax and Moncton airports to service the lucrative European market. The plan, however, has met with opposition among cottagers and recreational boaters, as well as among a number of lobster harvesters who fear the operation would foul their traditional grounds, or that the mussels would consume nutrients that would otherwise be left for lobster. Art Drysdale, though, is sympathetic to the proposal. "There's a pro- side to it," he says. "The buoys would be sunk ten feet, so it wouldn't interfere with boaters. And, it's just not true that mussels, which are bi-valves, eat the same thing as bottom-feeding lobsters. I think that boaters, cottagers, and the local people could co-exist just fine with this project." Whether the mussel operation gets off the ground will probably depend on the results of a series of community meetings planned for the area this fall.
Another project, near Fox Harbour north of Wallace, is going full-steam ahead. Ron Joyce, a Tatamagouche native who transformed Tim Horton's from a small operation into the giant that recently merged with the American fast-food chain Wendy's, is building an exclusive, luxury eighteen-hole golf course, landing strip, and marina. Initially, some speculated that construction might cause problems on the adjacent fishing grounds, but these fears have been calmed through a series of meetings between Joyce and local fish harvesters. "This project is providing a lot of short-term benefits," says Art Drysdale, "and it will also provide some long-term ones too. There is currently a needs assessment' being undertaken in the area, and part of that will identify the tourism initiatives that could add to that development."
The North Shore of Cumberland County may be "out of the way" to a lot of Nova Scotians, and it's not too often that we hear a lot about it in the news. But don't let that fool you: from salt to Seagull Pewter, it can boast more than its share of success stories, and, from mussels to marinas, it is no stranger to controversy.
FishAid: Great Weekend, Bad Headache
by Scott Milsom
Line up a whole whack of top-name performers. Find a huge cow pasture not too far from town. Hire a crew of people who have put on such shows before, and who know what's what. Advertise, and build a Webpage. Mobilize hundreds of people in the community who are willing to work as volunteers. Persuade local businesses, and even individuals, to put their money or services up front. Decide that, if there are any profits after it's all over, they will go toward researching and preserving the marine ecology that the community depends so much upon. Pray for sun, and work out a sort of "Statement of Purpose" that reads:
We are but one species on a small planet, yet we dominate like no other. This domination is recent, but brings a responsibility no less urgent than our own survival. Our oceans give life to the Earth, and their health is vital to our existence. The decline of the fisheries is a warning that all is not well. Help support marine research by attending the first annual FishAid Festival.
Sure, there were skeptics. Some people closely involved with the local fishery took the view that the environmental groups who were to benefit from the festival seemed to be more interested in the welfare of "cuddly" marine mammals than in the well-being of communities of local fish harvesters whose job it is to wrestle a living from the sea. Others thought a more modest project would be a better start to what, it was hoped, would become an annual event for the area, or that there wasn't enough time from when the planning started to properly lay the groundwork for a successful concert.
That was the backdrop to the FishAid Festival, held in Chebogue, near Yarmouth, on the weekend of August 14-16. In the end, the weather cooperated, and the result, for those who attended, was a wonderful event that took place in an atmosphere of shared enjoyment and celebration.
The event's backers set up an "Eco-Village" and provided free booths to non-profit organizations involved with environmental and coastal issues. On Thursday afternoon, I packed a banner reading "Coastal Communities Network: A Large Voice For Small Communities," grabbed a bunch of back issues of Coastal Communities News and other CCN materials, and set off down the South Shore to hold the fort at CCN's booth in the Eco-Village.
The first thing that struck me when I drove up the Cleveland Road to the site was how well organized things seemed to be. As would be the case all weekend, swarms of volunteers were busy answering questions, directing people to where they wanted to go, ferrying campers' gear to tent sites, seeing to the needs of backstage workers, ushering the performers about, and, in a casual yet efficient way, providing security. On Friday night, The Rankins were the headline performers, and they put on a dynamite show for 8,000 delighted people.
When I'd first driven to the site I'd noticed that the home closest to the gate it couldn't have been more than about 200 yards from the stage had hundreds of lobster traps stacked in the front yard. I was curious how the inhabitants were coping with all the hubbub, particularly with the music, which went on till well after midnight, and about what the members of a household that obviously depended on the ocean for a living and was so close to the FishAid site might have to say about it. On Saturday morning, I discovered that this household had but one member, lobsterman Gregory Purdy. This is what he told me when I asked him what he thought of it all:
I don't mind the FishAid at all. The excitement hasn't bothered me. The music's not too loud at night, because the stage is faced the other way. People like to have a good time, and that's fine, so long as nobody gets hurt and nobody goes crazy. They seem just to be having fun. I had four tickets they gave me. I gave two away to young fellows on the wharf, the others to two girls who work at Tim Horton's. They'll tell me if it was a good time!
If there's any money left, it'll go to help the whales, the seals, the ecology. If it's good for the ocean, in the long run it'll be good for the fishery. I only wish they could put some money into helping to shut down the big companies and their drag-gers. They're the ones squeezing the smaller guys. And I'd like to see something done for the younger people. FishAid could help if it put some money into helping the small fisheries organizations.
This FishAid, if it helps the oceans, that's to the good.
During the day Saturday, a number of excellent but lesser-known groups entertained the crowd, which began as a fairly small group but swelled as the day went on. This was, after all, the evening when the biggest stars Bruce Cockburn and Jan Arden would strut their stuff. By supper time, rumours were circulating that, if about 15,000 people came through the turnstiles by nightfall, the event would be a financial success. (The acts set to perform on the following day were not big "draws," so the fiscal fate of the event would be determined by the Saturday night numbers.) Finally, around nine o'clock, Bruce Cockburn, who had been forced to cancel a prior performance in Saint John because of a sore throat, began his solo act.
Although it was obvious he wasn't at his best, the crowd, which continued to grow as Cockburn sang, was appreciative of his gravelly, simply presented renditions. (Cockburn's social consciousness is well known, as is his support for environmental causes, and it was widely held that it was only the cause of marine ecology that prompted him to perform, despite the obvious fact he was not at his singing best.) Just after eleven o'clock, Jan Arden, probably the "marquee" performer of the entire FishAid event, came on to thunderous applause and delivered a crowd-pleasing performance.
As predicted, the crowds on Sunday were smaller than they had been earlier, and rumours began to circulate that the financial health of the Fish Aid Society Association, the non-profit organization put together by the event's backers to stage the weekend, was less than good. Des-pite this, the atmosphere at the Eco-Village, and throughout the 60-acre site, remained warm and relaxed, as people continued to enjoy the music and camaraderie. Things wound up, relatively quietly (can you use the word "quietly" when writing about a pop music event?), on Sunday evening.
It wasn't until the next day, Monday, that it became clear the event had created a financial nightmare for its backers, and for others involved. Cheques written to suppliers some of them quite substantial, in the tens of thousands of dollars came back "NSF." Quite simply, not enough people had come to FishAid, and some people were in hot water.
Arthur MacDonald is Yarmouth's Town Planner, and he was the driving force behind FishAid. He had been to Woodstock II in New York State a few years back and thought a music festival might be good for the local econ-omy, and that the plan of directing any profits into research on marine ecology was a good idea. Unfortunately, he had never organized, or promoted, such an event before.
Despite the fact that FishAid was billed as a "benefit," all the performers were paid. The performance fee agreed to for both Cockburn and Arden was in the area of $50,000, while other performers received smaller fees. (A rumour making the rounds in the Yarmouth area suggests that Cockburn had agreed to return 80 percent of his fee because he supported the environmental ends of the organizers.) After the event, some of the performers were asked if they would take less than had been agreed to, but few did so.
Some who lost money have resorted to the courts. But at least one supplier who is still owed a substantial sum, and who asked not to be identified, holds no ill will toward Arthur MacDonald and the other people behind the weekend: "They meant well. Their intentions were all to the good. The one thing I wonder about is why they wrote those cheques on Monday. They must've known there wasn't enough to cover them. Probably, they just didn't know what else to do. I hope I'm never in that situation. I feel sorry for them."
Lee Stanley of Halifax-based Cherokee Productions echoes such sentiments. He served as Site Manager for the FishAid Festival, and saw early on that inexperience on the part of the organizers might be a problem: "They'd never done this before. They had very good intentions and were very sincere in the cause they developed, but they may have tried to go too far too fast. I wish them luck."
As of this writing, Arthur MacDonald still hopes to raise enough money to pay all outstanding debts, and even to make FishAid an annual event. "We have a recovery plan, but we can't speak about it to the media. We want to do this again. It was a great event, with people coming from all over the place, from Australia, from Wales, from Germany. You wouldn't believe the positive feedback we've had, what a great weekend it was."
Having been there, I do know what a great weekend it was. One can only hope that Mac- Donald and his colleagues can learn from their experience and that, somehow, the seeds of "FishAid II" can be found amid the ashes of "FishAid I."
Opening Closed Doors
by Amber Rutledge,
Good old Nova Scotian fog. It fills your nose, cleans the air, and surrounds you almost like a blanket. It's like a friendly reminder, even a comfort it's part of Nova Scotia.
But there is another fog that lurks about our rural communities, a fog that has less to do with our weather and more to do with our vision. This fog seems to fill our heads and block our vision. We stop trying to look into the future and desperately hold onto our past.
But there's one thing to remember about our weather if you don't like it, just wait a second and it will change. That's the beauty of Nova Scotia, its climate and its people. Our ability to adapt and change is what moulded our past, and it will determine our future.
"Communities, businesses, and individuals must take charge of their own futures and constantly re- invent themselves," says Phyllis Collier, Project Coordinator of NovaKnowledge, a unique association that works with business, governmental, educational, and community leaders to open doors and effect change. "Not looking for new opportunities and not doing anything are decisions that we make. They both close many doors that could be open. We envision a flourishing, sustainable, knowledge-based economy in Nova Scotia, an econ-omy that offers a good quality of life for everyone."
NovaKnowledge recently published a report entitled Nova Scotia's Knowledge Economy Report Card, 1998. It identifies some of the issues facing rural communities in the know-ledge economy. It was put together by a group of volunteer, professional economists and consultants. After almost a year of number-crunching and data analysis, a picture of our knowledge economy, although somewhat incomplete, has begun to emerge.
There are three key ingredients for success in the knowledge economy: post-secondary education, access to information technology equipment and services, and telecommunications infrastructure. Between 1991 and 1996, 32,500 jobs were lost in Nova Scotia for people with a high-school education or less. However, during the same period, 35,600 jobs were gained for people with at least some post-secondary education. Presently, the proportion of people with a post-secondary education is lower in rural than in urban areas. This indicates a challenge for rural Nova Scotians. Without the right education, we cannot participate in the knowledge economy.
The good news is that telecommunications infrastructure has improved in rural areas, and is now comparable with other rural areas of North America. Community Access Programsites (funded by Industry Canada) and community networks continue to pop up in rural communities. These, along with public libraries, help improve public access to the Internet and train people in its use. As well, most Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) continue to examine technological opportunities for their regions.
As part of its programming, NovaKnowledge organizes an Assembly each fall focussing on the rural economy. They are organized in partnership with RDAs and community development groups. "We really want to speak to the rural business and community leaders. They are the key to attitude change and awareness," says Collier. "Hopefully," she adds, "people will leave our Assembly with an understanding of the knowledge economy and its issues. But most important, we want them to leave with an understanding of the opportunities open to them and their communities."
This year the NovaKnowledge Assembly will be held in Digby and will focus on helping rural Nova Scotians understand new resources and technological tools available to rural communities. Workshops will cover such subjects as financing, project management, and getting organized for the Internet.
"There are many opportunities open to rural and coastal communities," says Collier. "Just look at Isle Madame." When the cod fishery collapsed and 500 jobs were lost on that island, the residents formed the Development Isle Madame Associationto determine what they could do next. The island now has a call centre, a community television studio, a facility for training and caring for intellectually challenged people within the community, as well as the province's first Community Investment Cooperative. "You see, communities can create their own future. People just have to be willing to use all the tools available to them," Collier adds.
Many traditional, resource-based jobs are disappearing in our rural communities. As the fastest- growing employment sector in North America, knowledge-based work presents an opportunity for economic survival, so long as we are willing to grab the wheel, clear our heads, and take charge of our future.
For more information about NovaKnowledge, the Assembly, or Nova Scotia's Knowledge Economy Report Card, 1998, please contact Phyllis Collier at (902) 494-1391, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Reading the Fine Print
by Scott Milsom
While on an evening shopping expedition at a Sobey's store in the Halifax area a few weeks ago, I paid a visit to the frozen fish section, where boxed fish products are available. There, I noticed a number of small, round signs that on one side said "Produced for you by ATLANTIC CANADIANS" and on the other "Sobeys is proud to be Atlantic Canada's largest supporter of Atlantic Canadian Products." Well, I'd been down the shore a day or so earlier, so I had a look at some of the boxes to see if, perhaps, their contents had come off a wharf I'd visited. The first one I picked up read "English Style Fish'N'Chips" on one side of the box and "Packed in Arkansas" on the other. The next box I looked at read "Pacific Halibut" on the front and "Packed in Montreal" on the back. Some of the other boxes were, judging from what I could read, regional products, but those first two had those little round signs right above them, indicating that the buyer should be happy to know that he or she is supporting local producers when buying them.
What I knew of our local fishery included nothing about exporting raw fish as far as Arkansas for processing, and I was pretty sure that "Pacific" halibut wasn't likely produced by "Atlantic Canadians." I don't like to be a trouble-maker, but I couldn't help getting the attention of the person in charge it was, as I said, evening, so the Seafood Manager himself wasn't in the store and asking him about the little signs. "Oh, they're just put there," he remarked courteously enough, but indicating, I thought, that placement of these signs had little or nothing to do with the origin of adjacent products. I was a bit baffled by this, but went about my business of getting milk and tea, then went home and e-mailed Sobey's head office in Stellarton, telling them of my experience that evening and asking them whether there was a company-wide or store-by-store policy about the placement of those signs.
The next day, I happened to be in the same store again, and when I looked in the seafood freezer those little signs were adjacent only to products that were clearly from this part of the world. "Well, that's good," I thought to myself, "my intervention seemed to have a positive effect."
A couple of weeks later, I was in the same store again and was, inevitably, drawn to the seafood freezer. This time, there were only three of the signs, and underneath two of them were boxes of haddock fillets marked "Packed for Sobey's Ltd., Stellarton, N.S." No indication of where the haddock had come from, but I was willing to accept the possibility that it had come from local waters. The third product, a haddock-and-shrimp combination, was labelled "Product of Scotland." I spoke to the Store Manager about this, and he told me that each store in the chain sets its own policies regarding these signs, and that the situation in his establishment would be adjusted right away.
It's now almost a month since I sent that e-mail, and I've yet to hear from Stellarton on the matter. Next time you're in a Sobey's, or perhaps in a store that claims to be "Hometown Proud," take a careful look at the seafood freezer. You never know what you'll find.
Sydney Success Story
For many years in Nova Scotia, reams of newspaper and magazine articles, television specials, and other media reports have gone to great lengths to describe economic horror stories coming out of industrial Cape Breton. There's been much less attention, however, paid to the area's success stories. And few of those success stories can match the performance over the past two decades of New Dawn Enterprises, Canada's oldest community development corporation, and certainly one of its most successful. Today, guided by its motto "Business for People," it has assets valued at $20 million. It boasts an annual payroll of more than $2 million, pays municipal taxes to the tune of $225,000 per year, and has 150 employees as well as another 30 to 50 volunteer workers. On any given day, it delivers services to more than 500 Cape Bretoners.
New Dawn's beginnings were far more modest than this. Father Greg MacLeod, the son of a Sydney Mines coal miner, was instrumental in its early days. In the 1960's and early 70's, he studied in Europe, Latin America, and Montreal. When he returned to Cape Breton in the mid-'70's, he found that its economy had more in common with Latin America than with Europe or central Canada.
At that time, theories of regional development were dominated by the "growth-pole concept," which was a favourite idea among many regional economists and with the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. Growth-pole theory predicted that, as Halifax grew, it would attract more and more economic activity at the expense of other parts of the region. When MacLeod asked himself what this meant for Cape Breton, he concluded that the island was on its own. In 1976, at a conference held in Halifax, MacLeod was introduced to the idea of community development corporations. For most of these, profit was the main motive, and although MacLeod accepted that the corporate organizational model was an efficient one, he believed that people could also be motivated by a sense of responsibility to their community. Following that Halifax conference, he returned to Cape Breton, and New Dawn Enterprises was born soon after.
One of New Dawn's early projects was responding to a local craft school's appeals for help in getting new premises. Through a bank loan and a mortgage, a building in downtown Sydney was acquired. Then, using federal employment grants and volunteer labour, the building was renovated, providing space for the craft school, as well as for a store and apartments.
Rankin MacSween, who has served as President of New Dawn for the past four years, points to that early project as typical of the way New Dawn approaches things: "First, identify the problem. Then develop a viable strategy to deal with it. We take the same approach, regardless of the problem or the project," he says.
Cape Breton faced lots of problems in the late 1970's, and one that New Dawn decided it could do something about was a shortage of dentists. In 1977, there were only two or three dentists on the entire island, so people had only two choices: wait two or three years for an appointment, or make a long and expensive trip to Halifax. Without a commitment from any dentist to occupy it, New Dawn built and equip-ped a clinic in Sydney. Then, it persuaded a graduate of Dalhousie's School of Dentistry to move to town and take possession. New Dawn then repeated the process. Word soon got around campus at Dalhousie that Cape Breton was a good place to set up a dental practice. Today, there are between 70 and 80 dentists on the island.
"That's New Dawn's way of operating," says Rankin MacSween. "Begin with a series of modest steps, then continue with more modest steps. Pretty soon, you're not so modest."
"Not so modest," indeed. Today, ten different companies are incorporated under the New Dawn umbrella, and, MacSween explains, they are of three different types. "There are the 'non-profits'. They're required to recover just their operating costs. Then there are the 'not-for-profits.' They recover both their operating costs and New Dawn's overhead. Finally, the 'for-profits,' most of which are partnered with the private sector, are meant to subsidize the less lucrative operations."
One of those "for-profit" operations is Pine Tree Park Estates, which grew out of a decision in the late 1980s by the Canadian Forces to close its radar base in Sydney. It planned to bulldoze the site, which contained a number of warehouses as well as residential housing. New Dawn had other ideas. It was asked to develop the site, and today there are seniors' housing and care facilities on the site, along with a mini-home park, residential housing, and commercial enterprises. "Pine Tree Park is a great example of the community, through New Dawn, taking an asset, then coming up with a plan to save and re-vitalize it," says MacSween. "About 100 people work there, and we're very proud of it."
MacSween divides the history of New Dawn into three phases. During the first, from the beginning in 1976 until the early 80's, the organization was finding its feet and setting its priorities. The second phase was the struggle to survive, of fighting to meet the payroll every month, and to generally keep things afloat. The third phase, MacSween explains, really only started about three years ago: "Now we can make multi-year plans," he says. "This is an exciting time for us."
New Dawn, through the Cape Breton Association for Housing Development, is one of the largest private landlords in Cape Breton, with more than 200 apartment units for low- and middle- income families. New Dawn Guest Home Limited is a state-of-the-art, 30-bed residential care facility. Senior Care Home Living Limitedoperates a small-options residential program for seniors and provides round-the-clock care in a home environment. Cape Care Services provides personal and health-care services to people in their own homes. Highland Resources is an accredited trade school that provides specialized training and educational programs. Other companies under the New Dawn umbrella provide snow removal and transportation services for seniors and coordinate the work of volunteers and volunteer programs.
New Dawn's current Board of Directors is made up of business people, a community worker, a trade unionist and mechanic, a teacher, a nurse, and a chartered accountant. "There has been some criticism," says MacSween, "that our Board isn't representative enough of the community, but you have to have people who have business and other experience. We try to have the Board represent a cross- section of the community. And we require gender equity in its make-up."
The Sydney area, like most communities, has in its history several instances in which the interests of a private company were at odds with those of the broader community. "New Dawn works hard to keep its focus on the community," says MacSween. "The community has been very good to us, but we're not really that well known. People think, Oh, New Dawn. That's the housing bunch.' While we try to make sure we're focussed on the community, at the same time we're aware that we have to make a profit on our overall operation or we wouldn't be viable."
New Dawn's growth may not have been noticed by everyone, but some sections of the community certainly have done so. "The banks, for one, treat us differently than they did years ago," says MacSween. New Dawn has accomplished much for industrial Cape Breton over the past two decades, but it's not about to rest on its laurels. "New Dawn has a very entrepreneurial culture," says MacSween. "It's always asking itself What's the next deal?' Well, I think the next thing we want to get into is software development, so we'll need to get people on the Board who know that field."
New Dawn may not be about to challenge Bill Gates' software empire, but given its track record, it might be a safe bet to predict that the Sydney area will soon be benefiting, yet again, from another New Dawn initiative.
DFO: A Call to Account
It might seem a bit like David and Goliath, but two South Shore fish harvesters who are suing the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) have a lot of allies. Shelburne County hook- and-line fishermen Tom McKay and Tony Cunningham appeared at a well-attended press conference in Halifax on August 10th to announce their legal action. The pair, along with the Canadian Fishermen's Defence Society, is suing the Department over its use of Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs) and Enterprise Allocations (EAs), claiming that DFO Minister David Anderson "does not have the authority to take what has been a public resource, namely the fish in the ocean, and turn them into private property which can be bought and sold." The legal action, filed in federal court on the day of the press conference, claims that DFO's use of ITQs and EAs are "not authorized by the Fisheries Act... or any other regulations thereunder, and is illegal... and null and void and of no force or effect."
Among those supporting the call for an end to ITQs are the Coastal Communities Network and more than 30 organizations of fish harvesters, environmentalists, and Native groups. They range from very local groups, such as the Digby Clam Diggers' Association, to national organizations like the Sierra Club of Canada and the Canadian Environmental Defence Fund.
Chris Milley of the Mi'kmaq Fish and Wildlife Commission says his organization supports the legal action because "DFO only looks at the economic aspects of the fishery and ignores the cultural and social side of things. So, ITQs are a quick fix for them, a way to privatize the fishery. And, as a management tool, ITQs don't address conservation issues. When something is a public resource, people are willing to accept Native rights. But when it comes to a private resource, people are more reluctant. The Mi'kmaq have a right to the resource that isn't taken into account by DFO when they deal with the question of allocation under an ITQ."
Mark Butler of the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre is another supporter of the Shelburne County pair. Environmental groups have long challenged the supposed conservation benefits of ITQs and EAs. The under-65-foot dragger fleet, for example, operates under an ITQ system, yet recent reports note that dumping of fish ("high-grading") remains a major problem in that fleet. "What is most disturbing, especially when stocks are so shaky," says Butler, "is that DFO officials acknowledge that the very policies they are promoting don't stop these destructive practices."
Sarah Huskilson, the Mayor of Lockeport and a spokesperson for the Defence Society, told the press that "ITQs and EAs are destroying the 400-year history" of the North Atlantic fishery, that "the outcome is no different than a game of Monopoly a few companies will end up owning all the fish in the ocean. But this is no game, this is destroying individuals, whole families, and coastal communities." She also pointed to the experience of people in Lockeport where, in 1989, National Sea Productsclosed a processing plant. As a result, she said, "28,000,000 pounds of fish left Lockeport and was placed on factory-freezer trawlers. ITQs and EAs will affect small communities the same way. Social and economic destruction like that is going on every day in our small communities."
McKay and Cunningham, along with their allies, hope the suit will be heard in federal court "before the 99 fishing season gets under way." They have secured the legal services of Bruce Wildsmith, a well-respected barrister and a professor at the Dalhousie Law School, who says, "There's a very reasonable case on the legality of ITQs to put before the courts. And, if we win the case, DFO will have to change its policies."
The legal action will, of course, cost money, and the Defence Society has received contributions from organizations as far away as British Columbia and Newfoundland that support the legal suit. Cunningham and McKay have also chipped in. DFO policies and attitudes are hurting small fishermen badly, says Cunning-ham: "I'm running in the red so bad, I'm not making out." Adds McKay: "I've been fishing for 40 years, and DFO still has to ask if I'm a full-time fisherman. Because of their policies, I only go fishing about four weeks a year now."
Huskilson stresses that "this is not about a couple of disgruntled fishermen upset about their allocation. There is deep and widespread concern in Canada that ITQs will spell the end of the small- scale, independent fisherman the very individual who uses the most sustainable fishing gear and is the very backbone of this country's coastal communities. Privatization is a major policy change, yet DFO is pushing it on the industry without any public consultation or discussion."
All those who support the legal move hope that, ultimately, it will lead to a wholesale change in the way our fisheries are managed. Says Huskilson: "The community aspect of fisheries management is very important. Local community input is necessary in a newly managed fishery. We need a new fishery management system, one that will sustain our coastal communities."
Goliath might not see the need for the kind of management system Huskilson hopes for, but there are certainly a lot of Davids who will watch the progress of this legal action with a great deal of interest.
The 21st: Parading the Orange
by Daniel P. Bernier
Canadian Council of Professional
Coastal fish harvesters are always the first to notice the decline of fish stocks and are first to raise the alarm. As stocks collapse around the world, they are asking when it will all stop. When will they be listened to?
Last year, their representatives met in India to found the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fishworkers, an international solidarity network dedicated to protecting the world's wild fisheries and the coastal communities that depend on them for their livelihoods. The delegates to the World Forum also declared November 21 as World Fisheries Day, a day to press for changes in fisheries management the world over.
The Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters a founding member of the World Forum will be holding a National Forum on the future of fisheries management in Canada to observe World Fisheries Day. Its purpose is to bring together fish harvester representatives from across the country for three days (November 21st to 23rd) so that they can outline their vision of how Canada's fisheries should be managed.
A new vision is desperately needed. On the Pacific coast, licencing changes that forced specialization on small boat harvesters a decade ago are now pushing them out of the fishery entirely. On the Atlantic coast, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' focus on specialist and corporate fleets for their initial partnership agreements has raised the spectre of fisheries privatization.
The Forum will be an opportunity for fish harvesters to examine the current Canadian management regime to identify what works, and what doesn't. The Council is also hoping that fishing communities will show their concern about the state of Canadian fisheries management by organizing local World Fisheries Day activities.
Under the theme of "For the survival of our fisheries and communities," the Council will be working with local schools to produce bright orange "survival" banners. They will be flown from the masts of boats and car antennas to draw attention to the emergency situation facing our fisheries.
For information on how you and your community can participate in World Fisheries Day, please contact the Council at:
The Nova Scotia Connection
Arthur Bull is active with the Fundy Fixed Gear Council and also serves as Chair of the Coastal Communities Network. He was among those in New Delhi last year for the founding of the World Forum, and he is now looking forward to attending the National Forum in Ottawa this fall. He believes it will provide "a great opportunity for Nova Scotia's inshore fishermen and their communities to stand up and show their solidarity with their counterparts around the world." He also thinks that the World Forum could become "the main vehicle for a global coalition in years to come."
Whaling in the Modern Age
Economists tell us that tourism is the engine of economic growth. Tourism specialists tell us that eco- tourism is the cutting edge of the industry. And, there is little doubt about which eco-tourism activity has enjoyed the most growth in Nova Scotia in recent years: whale watching.
Although you can go on a "whale-watching" expedition out of many ports along Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast, in two areas of the province the marine mammals are so abundant that, at the right time of year, sightings are almost guaranteed: off the northwest coast of Cape Breton and in the Fundy waters that separate Grand Manan Island from Digby Neck, Long Island, and Brier Island. In these areas, whale watching has become an alternative for some fish harvesters who have suffered from the collapse of fish stocks.
Off Cape Breton, although larger species are sometimes sighted, tourists will most likely see relatively small pilot whales (6 metres, 3 tonnes). It is only off Digby County that, on any given day between mid-July and early October, whale watchers are apt to spot the far larger humpbacks (16 metres, 65 tonnes), as well as the endangered Atlantic right whale (up to 18 metres, 56 tonnes), of which only about 300 individuals are thought to survive.
And so it is that whale watching has become central to the tourism economy of the communities of Digby Neck, and Long and Brier Islands. Many of the visitors, says Marilyn Walker, who runs a gift shop on Digby Neck, come from far away. "Not that many of them are Canadians," she says. "A large percentage of them seem to be Americans or Europeans."
In an effort to avoid the type of overcrowding that many observers believe caused whales to abandon Cape Cod Bay several years ago, all the operators in the area have agreed to a "Code of Ethics" designed to limit the impact of whale-watching activity on the animals. Among other things, it limits both the number of boats that can come within 100 metres of a whale and the amount of time spent there.
"Everybody has signed onto the Code," says Diane Theriault, who, along with her husband, Harold, runs a whale-watching business out of East Ferry. "If we don't regulate ourselves, somebody else will." She also thinks that future economic opportunities in the whale-watching business will be land-based. "I don't think there's room for any more operators," she says. "What's needed, though, is more accommodations being offered in the area. Most people come from Digby and treat it as a day trip. We need to keep them in the area longer."
To reach Westport on Brier Island, you drive to the end of Digby Neck, take a quick ferry trip, drive the length of Long Island in about twenty minutes, then take another brief ferry. This community of about 325 people is Nova Scotia's "whale-watching capital," with several outfits offering daily cruises during the season. It is, of course, also a living fishing community, and the largest employer on the island is D. B. Kenney Fisheries. Its President, Dan Kenney, is generally happy to see so many visitors in the village each summer: "With all the tourists using the ferries, it can be a pain when we're trying to get a truck out, but we do all we can to help. We get along very well with the operators, and all our boats report to them when they see whales. There haven't been any conflicts."
Roland Swift cooks at his parents' establishment, the Westport Inn, one of only three places visitors to Brier Island can spend the night, and he thinks whale watching has reached its peak. "The shine has worn off," he says, working over his grill. "Whale watching is on the decline. Business is way down this year. There's 40,000 people who come to Brier Island every year, and only three percent of them stay. The tourism people in Digby tell them it's just a day trip."
Diane Theriault's business is also down, but she doesn't think it's because fewer visitors want to see whales. "This summer, the fog has just been lying over the water," she explains. "We've had to cancel a lot of trips out. We've made just about half the net income compared to last year."
Many people in the area are concerned that there are several attractions other than whale watching in the Digby Neck and the Islands region that, with all the focus on marine mammals, don't have enough attention paid to them. There is a waterfall and lots of hiking trails, most notably the Balancing Rock on Long Island, a wildly improbable geological formation that looks as though gravity is on vacation. And, because it lies on a major migration corridor, during spring and fall the area is a huge attraction for birders.
Katherine Feiel is one of many people in the area who depends on the visitors. She fills orders at Seaside Lunch, a snack bar in a trailer at the ferry landing in Tiverton. "About 40 percent of our business is tourists," she says, "and there are other things than whale watching that bring them here. About 200 to 400 people do the trail to the Balancing Rock at peak times, but there's only one bed and breakfast, and a campground, on Long Island. We need more accommodations, so people will stay longer and see all that there is to explore."
Norm Mills, from Ottawa, waits on a foggy day in the line-up at the ferry that will take him to Long Island. "I came here to do the trail to the Balancing Rock," he says, "but I hope the weather clears up and I can go whale watching too." All that afternoon the fog hugs the shore and whale-watch operators in Westport and other communities are forced to cancel their scheduled sailing. In the summer of 98 on Digby Neck and the Islands, it's an all-too-typical summer day.
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