All posts by jordimorgan

Fall Back Up with Tareq Hadhad

On this episode I’m delighted to sit down with former Syrian refugee, medical student, entrepreneur, and Peace By Chocolate founder Tareq Hadhad.

In the election of 2015, then candidate for Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, pledged if his party won the election, his new Liberal government would begin effort to bring 25,000 Syrians displaced by the war to resettle in Canada.

Among the families selected were the Hadhads.

Tareq had been studying medicine when hostilities broke out in Syria and his father was running a well establish chocolate manufacturing business in Damascus.

After essentially losing everything they owned in ground fighting and airstrikes, the family fled to Lebanon and eventually were selected to come to Canada as part of the Syrian refugee program. They were sponsored by a community group in Antigonish.

peace by chocolate signTheirs is a success story by almost every measure. In fact, their hard work, investment, crowd funding project, and community support means has resulted in the construction of a full scale chocolate factory in Antigonish.

Their story was celebrated by the Prime Minister as an example of success in a speech to the UN Refugee Summit…

There are a great many aspects of the Syrian conflict that might be explored, however on this occasion I simply wanted to meet with Tareq to get a sense of his family’s experience and the resettlement process in Atlantic Canada.

I met him in the back of the original tiny chocolate making facility on the side of the road next to their modest family home. We sat down on a couple of squeaky chairs for a chat…

To listen to the podcast click here

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Fall Back Up with Don Bureaux

SHOW NOTES:

On this episode I’m delighted to sit down with the President of the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), Don Bureaux

As President of NSCC, Don Bureaux serves as the chief executive officer for the operation of 13 campuses, with over 120 programs, and approximately 24,000 students and 2,000 staff.

don convocationDon Bureaux has been president of NSCC since 2011 but his commitment to adult education spans over two decades working with adult learners at colleges and universities as well as professional designation granting organizations across Canada and internationally.

At NSCC, he works to bring the college’s vision – transforming Nova Scotia one learner at a time – to life.

Don holds a certificate in Adult Education and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Acadia University and an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. He’s Chartered Professional Accountant, Certified General Accountant and holds an international designation as a Certified Business Counsellor through the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

He’s been granted his Fellow Chartered Professional Accountant (FCPA) designation by CPA Canada and his Fellow Certified General Accountant (FCGA) designation.

In 2015, 2016, and 2017 Don was named one of the Top 50 CEOs by Atlantic Business Magazine and serves on the boards of many not-for-profit organizations in Nova Scotia.

I dropped into visit Don in his office at the Leeds Street campus of the NSCC in North End Halifax

During our conversation he references a book Road to Character by David Brooks. Click for the link and below, you’ll find a link to a YouTube video of a Ted Talk on one of his principle areas of discussion, the difference between resume virtues and eulogy virtues.

Don and I began by talking about his childhood…

To listen to the podcast click here

To watch the Ted Talk with David Brooks, click here

Alcohol taxes are going up, that is certain

Tucked away in a remote corner of the Budget Implementation Act (BIA) was a surprising new tax on alcohol. As Canadians, we’ve come to accept our sin taxes as dutiful penance for universal health care, and probably rightly so. If we are going to drink or smoke ourselves into a critical care unit, there’s general agreement there should be some upfront payment into the healthcare system through the purchase of those things with which we are slowly doing ourselves in.

However, a recent new measure to raise taxes on alcohol raised eyebrows across party lines and in the Senate. Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget bill included a 2 percent increase in the excise duty applied to the cost of wine, beer, and spirits. That may not seem like a big deal, but here’s the kicker, it will automatically increase every year based on the rate of inflation, starting in 2018. Forever.

The government says the cost will be minimal, only a penny on a litre of wine, seven cents for a 750-millilitre bottle of hooch, and five cents more for a 24 of beer. But, that’s just the start, the Senators also noticed when provincial markups and HST are applied on top of the excise duty, the price of beer will actually increase by roughly 12 cents, with the added benefit of never-ending, guaranteed, built-in hikes. All this without any need for the finance minister to bother going back to Parliament.

When this bill hit the Upper Chamber, many Senators thought this was a terrible idea. At a time when many independent breweries and distilleries are trying to build a base, the federal government imposing a never-ending tax hike on their product seems, well, a little counterintuitive. Add to this the fact the Department of Finance admitted it didn’t do any analysis of the impact of the escalator and you have some rather poorly received legislation.

In addition, for some reason, nobody in the Department of Finance felt the need to talk to Spirits Canada, Beer Canada, the Canadian Vintners Association or any other group whose member’s livelihoods depends, at least tangentially, on the cost of liquor. Speaking to stakeholders might have been a reasonable place to start.

Supporters are saying it provides ‘certainty’ around increases. This, however, is not a particularly convincing argument especially given there is no economic analysis, no industry input, no market condition forecasts, and all other industrial factors are essentially ignored. The only thing ‘certain’ is taxes are going up.

Some of the ‘independent’ Senators put up a short lived fight, threatening to split this piece out of the legislation, however pushback from the government shutdown the resistance and with the majority of the Upper Chamber, the Liberal appointees passed it without amendment. The job now is convincing the government of the error of its ways, which is never an easy task. Rolling back Finance Department edicts takes powerful lobbying or changes in governments.

Small business has much at stake. Excise taxes are paid by manufacturers and while there’s been some speculation about how the tax increase will affect consumer prices, it is still unclear how manufacturers will be passing these costs along or how retailers will respond. What is clear is hospitality firms and consumers can look forward to an ever-increasing cost of alcohol, without the benefit of parliamentary oversight…that is certain.

Let’s Start Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis

In another 12 months, we’ll be dealing with the real world impact of the federal government’s legalization of marijuana. There are still lots of unanswered questions about how this will roll out. These are questions with huge economic and social implications.

While the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has conducted only one survey of its members so far on how recreational marijuana should be sold, comments from our members suggest there are still considerable divisions on whether legalizing marijuana is even a good idea.

While we have limited experience with cannabis per se, CFIB is a respected international leader on regulation, including how to get it right and what not to do. This includes considerable experience with liquor and tobacco regulation. The federal government has handed responsibility over to the provinces who will need to apply a laser focus on these key critical regulatory pieces.

Too often, governments examine a new area where regulation is needed and quickly expand the mandate to include every moving part. This automatically means proper enforcement is near impossible. We recommend focusing on a few critical regulatory priorities, such as preventing sales to minors, ensuring proper product safety information and rules, and prohibitions at work or while driving. Choose the most important aspects to regulate and then do them well. Leave the rest alone.

We also hope to see the same rules across the country. The provinces should be working together to ensure as much consistency as possible as legalization rolls out across the country.  As the new Canadian Free Trade Agreement works to undo the damage of multiple complicated regulatory schemes, the last thing we need is another patchwork quilt of rules in an emerging industry.

Additionally, while bringing recreational cannabis sales out of the underground economy will no doubt have positive revenue implications for the government (excise, sales, and corporate income taxes), there will be added costs for policing and health care. Government would be wise to resist the temptation to frame this as a giant cash cow.

That means getting the tax mix right. If taxes are excessive, particularly in early days, much of it will remain black market. High tax rates may discourage users, but they’ll also push sales into the underground economy. It is estimated that close to a third of tobacco sales are underground, often with links to organized crime.

Also, provinces would be wise not to let regulation get in the way of innovation. An above-ground private sector can stay much closer to customer preferences, the edibles market is a good example. It’s also a myth that only public sector employees can responsibly handle controlled substances. The private sector has held an important role in tobacco and pharmaceutical sales, as well as alcohol in some provinces.

CFIB is also recommending a central role for smaller, independent businesses within this emerging industry. We are already advocating for access to banking and payments services for smaller, independent businesses involved in legal cannabis retail and distribution as a measure to help achieve the goal of limiting the underground economy.

Even those who are involved in the emerging industry appear to remain unsure of where this is all going. A year out from implementation, we should be seeing some of the smoke begin to clear.

Jordi Morgan is Vice President, Atlantic of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. CFIB represents the interests of 11,000 small and medium size businesses in Atlantic Canada.

Fall Back Up with Barb Stegemann

SHOW NOTES:

On this episode I’m delighted to sit down with author and social business innovator, Barb Stegemann.

Barb was born in Montreal, Quebec and holds degrees in Sociology and Journalism from the University of King’s College.

Barb built her own boutique PR firm while living in British Columbia and created innovative, award winning campaigns winning numerous marketing awards from the Economic Developers’ Association of Canada

After Barb’s best friend Captain Trevor Greene was wounded in Afghanistan in 2006, she set out to support his mission of economic empowerment creating a new business model that supports trade with nations experiencing war or strife.

Middle east peacewShe launched The 7 Virtues Beauty Inc., a company that began by sourcing essential oils distilled from legal crops to provide an alternative to the illegal poppy crop for farmers and began manufacturing perfume.

The fragrance line brought to reality the essence of her best selling book, The 7 Virtues of A Philosopher Queen; that women can flex their buying power to affect change and reverse issues of war and poverty.

Barb successfully pitched and landed a venture capital deal on CBC’s Dragons’ Den and has been building her company with mentor Brett Wilson.

Recently the story has been told in the documentary feature Perfume Wars which has won accolades at film festivals across Canada and the United States

She was named on of Canada’s one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, and received the Women Innovator’s Award from the US State Department for the Economy of Canada.

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She is one of the few Women in Canada to have been made an Honorary Colonel for the Royal Canadian Air Force and is the first female to receive this honour for her base, 14 Wing Greenwood…and was award an Honorary Doctor of Letter from the University of New Brunswick.

Barb and her partner, Mike Velemirovich, live in Halifax, which is where I met up with Barb to talk about her life…

To listen to the podcast click here

 

Fall Back Up with Bruce MacKinnon

Show notes:

On this episode I’m delighted to sit down with one of Canada’s best editorial cartoonists, Bruce MacKinnon…

Bruce has been nominated eight times for a National Newspaper Award (NNA), winning five times. He also received the NNA inaugural Journalist of the Year award for 2014.

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Among many other honours, Bruce has also been awarded 17 Atlantic Journalism Awards for editorial cartooning…including Journalist of the Year in 1991 and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000;

He’s been given an honourary doctorate by St. Mary’s University for his work in the field of editorial cartooning and is a member of the Order of Nova Scotia. In 2013 he received both an honourary Doctor of Fine Arts from NSCAD University and the Friend of StFX Award from St. Francis Xavier University.

In 2014 he won the World Press Freedom Award.

Bruce is also a very good musician. In 2015, he and his son, Jamieson (Jay), won The Coast’s Best of Halifax Reader’s Choice Award for Best Cover Band. You can catch them regularly appearing at Durty Nelly’s on Saturday afternoons in downtown Halifax.

Bruce and his wife Peggy live in Halifax, and I dropped by his house where he was finishing up one of his daily cartoons for the Chronicle Herald…

You can listen to the podcast by clicking here or on the picture above 

There are a few show notes to mention here. Bruce and I talk about some of the acrylic caricature work he’s been working on which is pretty fabulous. Here are a few examples and there are more great ones that have yet to make a public appearance.

Additionally, we did make reference to a small picture of Justin Trudeau which he keeps on his computer screen and he explains why it’s there…

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I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did…click here to listen

What if the results of the Nova Scotia election were declared unconstitutional?

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This was a question some of us were mulling over on election night.

The ambitious and dedicated folks at community radio station CIOE in Lower Sackville asked me to moderate their coverage on election night with a panel comprised of broadcasting legend Al Hollingsworth, former NDP MLA Michele Raymond and former Nova Scotia finance minister and Senator Bernie Boudreau.

Bernie and I share a common failure. We ran in the 2000 federal election in Dartmouth. We both lost. Actually, former Buchanan era cabinet minister and now Senator, Tom McInnes was in the race too, so I was in pretty good company when we all failed to unseat incumbent NDP MP Wendy Lill. (I should point out, my ill-informed run failed much more miserably than the PC and Liberal candidates, mind you Bernie gave up his Senate seat to run, but I digress)

In advance of the provincial election night program in May, I asked Bernie if he would mind having a quick peek at the Reference of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal regarding the Final Report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC). We all felt it was an important issue, but it wasn’t getting much media attention.

The Honourable Justices Fichaud, Saunders, Oland, Bryson and Bourgeois were asked to provide opinion on the following; Does Section 1 of Chapter 61 of the Acts of Nova Scotia 2012, by which provisions the recommendations tendered by the EBC by its Final Report to the House of Assembly were enacted, violate Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by abolishing the electoral districts of Clare, Argyle, and Richmond?

The Court’s answer in late January? Yes.

Now I’m not a lawyer, but Bernie is and his opinion on this, which he freely shared on the radio, is the province could be in some pretty thick soup. If the EBC violated the Charter, does this mean the electoral boundaries are unconstitutional as the Acadian Federation asserts? How many? If the boundaries were illegal during an election, does this mean the result of the election is illegal? What would that mean?

Earlier in the spring, the Acadian Federation’s executive director Marie-Claude Rioux said, “I don’t think it is in the government’s best interest to call an election before this issue is resolved. It opens a whole Pandora’s box, and I don’t think the government wants to go there.” Well, they did.

So, the implication of this seems, at least on the surface, pretty serious and requiring some delicate unwinding.

The Liberals essentially said, our lawyers see it differently and the Premier can call an election whenever he wants. However, the loss of former Minister of Acadian Affairs Michel Samson’s seat in Richmond adds another layer of intrigue, as Samson was widely seen as one of Stephen McNeil’s senior lieutenants, and his loss in the election can be attributed, at least in part, to the redrawing of the boundaries.

Cape Breton Richmond

Progressive Conservative Alana Paon beat Samson in Cape Breton-Richmond by just 20 votes. In 2013, Samson got 50 per cent of the vote. Prior to the election, Tory Leader Jamie Baillie said the legitimacy of an election would be in question if the government doesn’t pay attention to the Acadian Federation. They picked up the Richmond seat, so what are they saying now?

The issue is apparently going to be resolved one way or another later this year, but it could make for some very interesting political posturing.

Fall Back Up with Rear Admiral John Newton

On this episode, the Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic, Rear-Admiral John Newton
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Rear-Admiral Newton began his career in the Navy in 1983, after trying his hand as a geologist out west.

He completed tours with the destroyer HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Preserver, and HMCS Montreal gaining a specialty in Canadian maritime sovereignty through countless fishery patrols and three Arctic sovereignty missions.
In 2000, he completed a year of Joint military studies at the Command and Staff College Toronto, followed by advanced military studies in 2004.

Rear-Admiral Newton has deployed on NATO missions of the Cold War, and UN peace support operations, including the Gulf War in 1991, Haiti in 1993, and the maritime embargo of the former Yugoslavia in 1995. He also served at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa as Director of International Plans in the Strategic Joint Staff.

Beyond professional duties, Rear-Admiral Newton focuses strongly on his family, strives to maintain a balanced work-home life in his home in Lunenburg. I dropped in to visit the Rear Admiral Newton at his office at the Navy Shipyard on Halifax Harbour…

Click here or on picture to listen

The New Phone Book is Here!

For people of my vintage, Steve Martin turned comedy on its ear. I was reminded this week of one of Martin’s best film moments from The Jerk when the new phone book arrives.

Earlier this week the new Halifax Index was released from the Halifax Partnership. Yay. For most, it might seem a little dry, but for people in the public policy world, it’s darn near exciting. Even for those not wonky enough to be enraptured with economic and demographic data, it tells a compelling story.

While there’s much to be pleased about living here in Nova Scotia (especially during warm, sunny weeks like this one past), there are also some sobering numbers provided in this year’s Index. The document is basically a diagnosis of our social and economic health. HP’s Chief Economist, Ian Munro does his best to avoid painting too gloomy a picture, but when you dig into the numbers, neither real growth nor public perceptions are anything to pop champagne corks about. Essentially, he says, we’ve got some good news and we’ve got some…well, work to do.

MQO2On the good news front, the population is increasing and apparently business optimism is up in spite of the fact underlying decision making around investment and innovation would suggest otherwise. The number of jobs inched up and the commercial property tax base has grown, City Hall’s fiscal picture shows very modest spending increases and the municipal debt is being slowly, but steadily chipped away.

There are, however, many challenges. While the population is growing, a considerable portion of that is the result of rural Nova Scotia shrinking and an increase in international students. While this growth is a good sign, longer term trends are not yet established and historically our retention rates are dreadful. It should be noted there is some cause for optimism with the establishment of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Project, which sets aggressive goals for attracting and retaining new Canadian to the region, but it has only just started and we need to be careful not to prematurely declare victory and set unrealistic forecasts based on very short term results.

MQO’s City Matters survey, released as part of the Halifax Index, did not paint a very pretty picture either. The survey asked people to rate Halifax as a desirable place to live. While it was characterized as mostly flat-lining, the numbers were either unchanged or showed declining opinions on a variety of metrics including; being a good place to raise a family, indoor and outdoor recreation, housing affordability, arts and culture, ease of getting around, and other quality of life indicators.

Construction activity and other major projects including Irving’s ship building and the re-decking of the Macdonald Bridge bumped to GDP growth to 2.2 percent which may explain the sense of optimism, but Halifax continues to dwell in the bottom tier of benchmark Canadian cities, and GDP only hit 0.3 percent per capita.

There’s a great deal more useful analysis in the Index and Ian Munro and his team at the Partnership deserve credit for providing a very useful document to spur discussion around the challenges facing economic growth and social satisfaction measures. While the partnership also sets targets for improvement, it’s up to the business community to put forward clear policy recommendations to assist decision makers.

The Halifax Index 2017 is a very useful tool as it serves as a warning that we cannot be complacent about advancing ideas around economic growth. We have a huge job ahead of us to make Nova Scotia a more business-friendly, competitive environment. Our tax and regulatory burden remain foundation problems and with the demographic trends outlined by this index and many other studies, policymakers need to get serious about establishing long-term forecasting mechanisms to get a clearer picture of the heap of trouble awaiting us 20 years down the road. While I was excited to see its release, given the results in the Halifax Index, I think I may have been a little happier getting the phone book.

Fall Back Up with Holly Carr and Allan Bateman

Today on Fall Back Up, I’m delighted to welcome Nova Scotia artists Allan Bateman and Holly Carr

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Holly Carr is nationally renowned for her colourful and whimsical silk painting and public installations.  She not only exhibits her work throughout Canada and designed for theatre, more recently

Holly has branched out into performance art, painting in real time with musicians and performers. This includes performances with world-renowned violinist Min Lee in Singapore, The National Art Center Orchestra in Ottawa, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra as well as her own production with Symphony Nova Scotia. She gives her time and art generously for fundraisers.

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Her life partner is Alan Bateman who is establishing himself as one of Canada’s finest realists.

Allan comes from a rich art background. His father is an internationally known wildlife artist Robert Bateman and his mother, Suzanne Lewis is a superb watercolourist.

Alan is a two-time recipient of The Elizabeth Greenshields Award. He has exhibited extensively throughout Canada, including shows in Toronto, Halifax, Hamilton, Edmonton and Victoria and several locations throughout the USA. Recently he finished a commissioned portrait of the outgoing president of the University of King’s College, Dr. George Cooper.

Both Holly and Allan received formal training at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in the mid-1980’s. I sat down with them in the dining room of their farmhouse just outside Canning Nova Scotia where they live, paint and manage their own gallery. Our conversation covered a broad range of topics from being artists as a business, to the controversial idea of un-schooling children and the role of art in education…