Fall Back Up with Saeed El-Darahali

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Saeed El-Darahali is the driving force behind the SimplyCast team, who built the company from the ground up to what is now an industry-leading marketing platform that serves clients in over 175 countries.

He has over 10 years of management experience in the IT industry, with an interest in strategic partnering, corporate financing, strategic growth, operations, and sales and marketing management.

Saeed, as you will hear, is passionate about technology and about helping people reach their goals.

He enjoys sharing his experiences with start-up companies, offering insights into growing a business and becoming successful.

Saeed holds a Masters of Business Administration, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, a Certificate of Human Resource Management and Minor in Economics, all from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Saeed is featured in the Sobey School of Business’s Success on My Own Terms campaign.

I met Saeed in his office in what he has dubbed.. Silicon Dartmouth

Click here to listen to podcast

Fall Back Up with Colin MacDonald

 

Colin MacDonald Clearwater

In the mid 70’s Colin MacDonald and John Risley opened up a small retail lobster shop on what was then, the outskirts of Bedford Nova Scotia. 40 years later Clearwater has grown into one of the world’s leading seafood companies. With a combination of enthusiasm and grit and a little help from their friends, the duo changed the face of seafood exporting in Atlantic Canada.

MacDonald grew up in Fairview, just down the road, in a family familiar with hard work and the rough and tumble of suburban Halifax. In this conversation, he explores his early days, dealing with adversity, the politics of the fishery and how he views both success and failure.

 

 

https://fallbackup.podbean.com/e/fall-back-up-with-jordi-morgan-clearwater-chairman-colin-macdonald/

Province’s tire policy flip-flop is a slap at small business

Tires have historically been environmentally problematic sources of waste. Recently, however, technological advancements have led to much more efficient recycling by manufacturing construction materials, developing tire-derived fuels (TDF) and repurposing.

When the province decided the direction for tire recycling, they chose the manufacture of Tire Derived Aggregate or TDA. It has a number of uses, such as foundation material for highway and railway beds, backfill, and other civil engineering applications. At the time, a tender was issued and a local small business, Halifax C&D Recycling, was given the contract.

They invested in the neighbourhood of $5 million in equipment to properly process used tires and for the last eight years have run a successful program. According to the folks at Halifax C&D, there have been no fires, no stockpiles of tires or TDA and no environmental issues.

To pay for all of this, as a consumer, you pony up a fee of $4.50 per tire at the point of sale. This goes to Divert Nova Scotia who in turn pay $2.00 per tire to Halifax C&D Recycling Ltd. to deal with it at end of life. Ostensibly, the other $2.50 is used for transportation, administration and other costs associated with its disposal or funneled off to pay for recycling of other products.

Ten years ago Rodney MacDonald’s PC government proposed using tire derived fuel. In response, Liberal opposition MLA Keith Colwell brought forward a bill to ban the use of tires as fuel. He was adamant in pointing out potential health risks and outlining what he saw as a sweetheart deal for multi-national concrete manufacturer Lafarge because they would be paid to burn the tires. The idea was shelved.

This month, in a stunning reversal, Nova Scotia’s newly minted Environment Minister Iain Rankin gave a green light to a one-year pilot for Lafarge to start burning TDF in its plant in Brookfield. So what changed in nine years? Not much. Lafarge will get $1.05 from Divert Nova Scotia for every tire it burns. It’s a great deal for Lafarge, which is getting a fuel subsidy, and for Divert NS, which gets a lower disposal cost. For Halifax C&D, not so much.

Remember, for eight years, Halifax C&D believed the Nova Scotia government would never permit burning and would focus exclusively on recycling tires. They built their business developing markets based on what they saw as a consistent policy direction of government and a reasonably predictable stream of used tires.

The science of burning TDF, some of which was developed at Dalhousie University, indicates health and environmental risks are almost non-existent. We could argue the relative merits of using TDF versus natural gas in the cement kiln, but it would miss the point. What is more troubling, with this reversal, the government of Nova Scotia has put at risk the future of a local family firm, which has grown and developed in alignment with environmental goals, in favour of mandating citizens to directly subsidize a large multinational’s fuel costs.

Meanwhile, the experience Halifax C&D developed as a tire recycler has allowed them to bid on and win a pilot project in Newfoundland and Labrador. While this is a good new business opportunity to export Nova Scotian knowledge, experience and business to another province, and to create more jobs, it will not replace what C&D are losing here at home.

The government, by reversing direction on tire recycling in favour of burning, has thrown a small business into chaos in favour of subsidizing the fuel costs of a large multi-national. For a government that purports to support small business in Nova Scotia, this is not the way to show it.

Jordi Morgan is Vice President Atlantic of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

This commentary originally appear in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, July 26, 2017

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

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.

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.

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.

What the parties are saying about small business in the Nova Scotia election

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As an advocate for small business, job one is getting issues in front of politicians. Prior to this election, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) presented each of the parties in the Nova Scotia election a small business “platform’ outlining key areas our 5,200 members in Nova Scotia have identified as priorities.

We sent out a survey to the leaders and they responded. While it wouldn’t be appropriate for CFIB to endorse any of the party’s positions during a campaign, it seems clear each of them understand the importance small- and medium-size business plays in the economy. It’s also clear their approaches differ, sometimes dramatically.

The areas we focused on in the creation of the platform were tax relief, regulatory reform (or “red tape” reduction), spending restraint and support for SME innovation activities to increase productivity and competitiveness.

You can find our platform here, the survey for the leaders here and the responses we received on these issues from the parties, by clicking on their logos.

Atlantica  Green Party of NS nslplogo NDP  Progressive_Conservative_Party_of_Nova_Scotia_2016

If you operate a business in Nova Scotia and are still considering your vote in this final weekend, it might be worthwhile to have a quick look at these documents. You can glean from them the importance each of the parties place on the issues we presented.

CFIB establishes its advocacy agenda based on responses to the many surveys we do of our membership to ensure we are focusing on the priorities that are important to small business. It’s our hope that any government elected on Tuesday, will do the same.

The future of our region depends on the prosperity of our small- and medium-sized businesses. We are not only the engine that drives the economy but are also the first to be impacted by bad government policy. I would encourage you to take few moments and have a look at where each of these parties intends to focus should they be given the opportunity to govern.

Fall Back Up

This week, I have two more episodes of Fall Back Up for your weekend listening pleasure.

 

Bill CarrIn the first I talk with actor, commentator, motivational speaker, restorative justice specialist and now president of the Professional Speakers Federation, Bill Carr. I’ve known Bill for many years and we cover lots of territory in our conversation, from growing up in rural Nova Scotia and his athletic and theatrical career at Acadia, to restorative justice practice and how to give a better speech.

 

LisaAlso this week, entrepreneur, designer and philanthropist Lisa Drader-Murphy. After building a successful career in the textile business in Calgary, Lisa decided, along with her partner, to move their family to a renovated 18th century sea captain’s estate in Falmouth, Nova Scotia. I met her there to talk about why she decided to move to Nova Scotia and what it takes to build a successful business with no debt, on retained earnings and find ways to give back.

 

You can either click on the images above to go to my PodBean site or play the podcast directly from the Soundcloud players below. I’m still testing each of these platforms and if you have any comments on which work best for you I’m all ears…so to speak.

Again, if you have any suggestion of people you think might be good to interview for this podcast, just let me know on the contact me page up top…

Winter is Coming

Game of Thrones

Nova Scotia’s electoral Game of Thrones is in full swing and while it may lack the dramatic flair of the HBO series, it has one thing in common, winter is coming. Unfortunately, the parties are either unaware of it or are seemingly oblivious to a stark reality.

All of the parties have launched their offensives by flinging open the doors to the treasury, each with new and creative ways to spend our tax dollars with the greatest political efficiency.

The number one priority for CFIB’s 5,200 members in Nova Scotia, consistently, is a reduction of the overall tax burden and the clearest path to this is through alignment of public sector wages and benefits to private sector norms and an overall reduction of the size of the public service. In other words, reduce the cost and the size of government.

For those who argue we have already been dealing with austerity budgets, here’s the reality. Since 2007 Nova Scotia government spending has risen from $7.3 billion to $10.5 billion, an increase of 43 per cent. Additionally, we’ve seen a whopping 22.5 per cent increase in our debt from $12.4 to $15.2 billion over the same time period. All this with an increase of only 16 per cent in the CPI (inflation) and our population flat-lining at 1.5 percent. This is not restraint and certainly not “austerity” by anyone’s definition.

Spending restraint is becoming more important than ever before. Perhaps because the weather is warming our politicians are floating sunny prognostications but there is an inevitable, relentless sociological cold front headed our way. Stretching our Game of Thrones metaphor, let’s call it “The Wall”.

According to Statistics Canada, that “wall” can be found in baseline population predictions. In 20 years, those over 65 years of age will make up fully 30 per cent of our population. A great majority of those will be out of the workforce and needing higher levels of healthcare. Keep in mind, in 2013, that same cohort made up only 17 per cent of Nova Scotia’s population.

By 2038, the forecasts indicate our median age will be nearly 50 and our overall population is expected to decline to under 934,000.

So who will carry additional tax load? If you’re a voter in your 20’s and 30’s, have a look in the mirror.

While efforts are being made to increase immigration, and claims are being made about having the largest population “ever”, the fact remains, unless we make some fundamental and dramatic changes to the way our government spends, we will be faced with some very, very difficult decisions indeed.

Absent in all of the spending promises in this election is a discussion of any long-term fiscal planning to deal with this issue. By long term, we don’t mean 4 years out, we mean 25 years out. Intergenerational forecasts which will set sustainable spending patterns.

Where are the real plans to deal with the inevitable decline in revenues from a shrinking and aging workforce? While some creative gains are being made through immigration, they are incidental and the problem is not getting people to Nova Scotia, it’s keeping them here. More than half of those who arrive leave within five years.

It’s not much wonder as we’ve been struggling with economic growth and carry the some of the highest tax burdens in the country. Our public service is nearly 5 points larger than the national average and their salaries and benefits are completely out of whack with private sector norms. Is anybody connecting the dots?

Meanwhile, the front pages are littered with political spending sprees.

Small business owners want politicians to have the courage to not just stop the bleeding, but begin to fix the problem through an actual reduction in the size of government, lowering the costs of doing business and a putting laser-like focus on better regulation and more efficient service delivery.

If not, we are sentencing our next generation to a cold, bleak future, on the other side of the wall.

This originally appeared in the Chronicle Herald, May 13, 2017