Got French Acadian roots? Lots of people do. A few years after taking over mainland Nova Scotia from the French and founding Halifax in 1749, the British drove the Acadian settlers from the soil they had tilled for generations.
Some years later, many Acadians came back to Nova Scotia and lived quietly in remote communities, not calling much attention to themselves, making waves only at sea in their fishing boats. Over time, many of their descendants assimilated into the larger English-speaking culture.
In the last number of years, however, Acadian culture and language have been waking up. A province-wide French Acadian school board runs 21 Francophone schools throughout the province, and a network of organizations and community centres ensure that Acadian arts and culture enrich the fabric of Nova Scotia.
*Items are printed on demand in the USA by CafePress. In my experience, items printed on paper, fridge magnets and posters have come through the mail without duty. However, any clothing not made in the USA (i.e. most of it), mugs and certain other items require duty (18%, I think) as well as GST/HST to be paid at the post office. Your experience may vary.
Clothing made in the USA is clearly marked as such in the shop.
So Nova Scotia’s ships have finally come in with the announcement that the federal contract for combat ships, worth $25 billion over 30 years, has been awarded to Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax over a Vancouver yard, which received an $8 contract for non-combat ships, and the Davie shipyard in Lévis, Quebec, which lost out.
It’s fantastic news for Nova Scotians. Kudos to the federal government for the impartial procurement process, and to Irving Shipbuilding as well as Premier Darrell Dexter and other proposal partners for their successful bid.
The news story leaves me with a couple of questions.
Why did the feds make such a big deal about the impartial, non-political procurement process? And why did Irving Shipbuilding and the Nova Scotia government spend $1.4 million on their public relations campaign, Ships Start Here, even though it would have no direct influence on whether Halifax got the contract?
I don’t usually comment on political issues in this blog, but the answers I’ve come up with explain a lot about Nova Scotia and its relationship to the rest of Canada.
The federal government and the Navy have solid business reasons for wanting to choose the best shipyard for the job. You’d think that would go without saying, but it’s not always how things work in Canada.
In 1986, during the Mulroney era, a large team of technical experts recommended that an aircraft maintenance contract for CF-18 fighter jets go to Bristol Aerospace of Winnipeg on account of their superior technology and lower bid. Instead, the contract was awarded to Canadair of Montreal.
As well as a poor business decision, the turnaround was a bad political decision. It contributed greatly to widespread disaffection with Canada in the west, the founding of the Reform Party and the demise of the federal Progressive Conservatives.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay lived this history and don’t want to repeat it, I’m sure.
Then there was the submarine maintenance contract, by which the crippled second-hand subs Canada bought to Halifax from Britain (with loss of life) were shipped at great expense to a BC yard with no experience in submarines.
No shipyard in the country is currently equipped build the state-of-the-art ships that the Navy wants for the future. Canada will be investing in the capacity of the chosen shipyards. Over the years, this type of federal government investment has contributed greatly to Ontario and Quebec’s prosperity, leaving provinces like Nova Scotia in the dust.
No amount of equalization payments can compensate for the resulting discrepancy in industrial capacity and general prosperity. However, Nova Scotia simply does not have enough seats in Parliament to matter when big federal contracts are assigned to meet political goals. And notwithstanding, Nova Scotia does not have to be seduced with such contracts to remain part of Canada.
It must have been obvious to everyone – from anyone involved in the shipbuilding industry, to the Navy, to civil servants and politicians – that Halifax Shipyards were “the only guys left standing with a full-fledged, functioning shipyard in the country.” to quote the Chronicle Herald’s Marilla Stephenson. Shipbuilding is in Nova Scotia’s very bones, and symbolized by the image of Bluenose on the Canadian dime.
So why was there so much publicity about the process?
Because the big contract could not be awarded to Nova Scotia without making a big deal about it being a fair, impartial, non-political process.
The Conservatives with their new majority could afford to do the right thing – at least now at the beginning of their mandate. The political fallout is concentrated in Québec, but that’s not Harper’s problem. And it’s mostly going on in French. As far as the federal Conservatives are concerned, the NDP can deal with it.
So if Irving and Nova Scotia’s Ships Start Here campaign did not influence the results, as Defence Minister Peter MacKay so generously pointed out, what did the $1.4 million spent on the campaign accomplish?
I haven’t discussed this issue with anyone in the know (please feel free to comment if you have anything to add), but this is how I see it:
1. Most importantly, without directly influencing the results, the campaign held the feds publicly accountable for keeping the process honest, now and for the length of the contract. Again, this was done with the certain knowledge that Halifax was the best qualified shipyard and would win one of the two contracts available as long as the awards were made fairly. No doubt the memory of the CF-18 maintenance debacle was vivid. This indirect influence was something like insurance.
2. The Ships Start Here campaign let Nova Scotians know that something big was afoot so they would take the news to heart when the time came. It fostered a positive, can-do attitude among Nova Scotians that can only be good for the local economy. Optimism in a time of recession is a powerful thing. The campaign website is full of stories of how the award will impact ordinary people.
3. The campaign attempted to mitigate potential criticism of the award by pointing out that because of subcontracts, the Halifax bid would in fact spread the money across the country more evenly than would any other bid. The website makes such information readily available for media and commentators.
4. Recruitment is be one of the challenges to be met. The campaign served notice to skilled workers across the country that there would soon be jobs for them in Halifax. Many Nova Scotians working away will be able to return home and work here for the rest of their careers. Housing developers, health care managers and other sectors of the local economy are also taking the hint.
5. And of course, as cynics are quick to point out, it raised the profile of NDP Premier Darrell Dexter – and what politician wouldn’t enjoy that? I have no doubt that he personally paid close attention to this file. With his history as a naval officer and the son of a sheet metal worker, seeing this contract awarded to Halifax must be very dear to his heart.
Winning this contract is a bigger deal to Nova Scotia than it would have been to larger centres. It builds on the province’s traditional strengths, and will allow many homesick Maritimers to return home for well-paying jobs. The boost to the overall economy will be palpable. When I hear negative news about the world economy, surely I’m not the only Nova Scotian who thinks hopefully: “Nova Scotia will be ok. We’re building ships.”
What did you think of the contract award process? How will the shipbuilding contract affect you?
(Comments are moderated, so won’t appear immediately.)
Nova Scotia Power is bringing the power lines that march through the woods out to the road.
The lines will be easier to repair if they go down in a storm. And some waterfront properties will no longer have lines spoiling their view.
So we’re getting new power poles.
Poles made from a variety of wood species are used. Some come from quite a distance. Near the water they put cedar from the west coast. Further inland they use creosote-treated pine from down the Eastern Seaboard where pine grows taller, straighter and faster. They also use Douglas Fir. Apparently the Nova Scotian pine that was once prized for masts of sailing ships by the Royal Navy is no longer good enough.
Something else to add to our carbon footprint.
“Why can’t they just bury the power lines?” you might ask. The answer, as for many questions about rural Nova Scotia, lies in the low population density. It just costs too much for the number of people who live here. So lines criss-crossing the road are just a fact of life in rural areas. We might as well embrace them, even photographically, like the fog!
The same factors that make Nova Scotia a wonderful place to live also determine its limitations. C’est la vie.
Yesterday I went on a tour of Windhorse Farm, a sustainable farming and forestry operation located up the LaHave River from Bridgewater.
I was most curious to see their brush walls. When I first heard about Windhorse’s brush walls last winter, a light went on in my head. Here was the answer to several of my problems, including the strong north wind chilling the garden, and large amounts of brush available.
Windhorse’s brush walls are piles held in place by stakes 6 feet apart, making a thick wall. As the brush gradually breaks down, more is piled on top. Vines such as squashes and grapes are encouraged to climb over the brush, and in summer, the brush walls can be completely hidden by vegetation.
My picture also shows a higher brush fence that has been woven around taller stakes. In fact, it’s about 7-8 feet high, high enough to keep out deer.
The brush walls contribute greatly to the success of Windhorse’s garden. They enclose and shelter it, holding in heat. The decomposing brush adds to the fertility of the soil. And very importantly, the brush walls provide habitat for all sorts of wildlife, including the friendly critters that help control garden pests.
Don’t just visit her blog, though. Go eat! The restaurant which she started with her mother, sister and aunt a decade ago is still going strong with Jenny at the helm. She comes from a family of great cooks. More than that however; the food is far from your ordinary fare. It is healthy and local, made from scratch, creative and delicious.
The Wick Pub next door, part of the same establishment, is home to an open mic Kitchen Party on Friday nights, hosted by Jenny’s dad, singer-songwriter and soundman Don Osburn. It is also a concert venue. All this information can be found on the Union St. Café website.
Apple blossoms were blooming in Lunenburg last Thursday, which means they’re past their prime in the Annapolis Valley already. The Apple Blossom Festival will apparently be blossom-less. Usually the organizers hit the blossoms right on with their timing, but this year it is generally agreed that spring is 2 to 3 weeks ahead of schedule.
Not that we’re complaining … this is my favourite time of year, when the leaves burst forth. If it’s part of a long-term trend, however, it could be very disruptive to the natural balance of blooming and birthing, migration and munching, which governs the ongoing survival of many animals and plants.
Spring is early across Canada, not just in Nova Scotia, or so I hear. Is spring early where you live? Leave a comment below.
This has got to be one of the coolest webcam locations in the world. It’s in Halls Harbour, where you can see the fishing boats go up and down with the world’s highest tides on the Bay of Fundy. Here’s how it looked today, Sunday March 14, at high tide. Go to www.novascotiawebcams.ca/hallsharbour/ (will open in new window or tab on your browser) and compare what you see with this.
With thanks to my Facebook friends for their contributions.
The smooth, quiet brush of fresh snow under your skis.
The way ice breaks and cracks over rocks as the tide falls.
Empty beaches with shimmering vistas.
The mildness, softness and peace a snowfall brings.
Like the folks here, a winter is softness and gentility: quite well mannered, and departs when the welcome is worn.
A crackling fire in a woodstove making heat that penetrates to your bones.
Walking ON the bay in places we usually row, paddle or sail.
Sunlight sparkling off snow-laden branches.
Minas Basin ice shifting, buckling, making strange sculptures on the shore.
Magnificent bald eagles.
Watching the days get longer in the coldest part of the winter.
Shovelling the driveway with a helper who will clear up the last little bits: the sun.
NO mosquitoes, NO blackflies, NO no-see-ums!
The weather changes frequently: it’s fairly mild, and cold snaps are short, warm periods are also short. There’s something for everyone and no time to get bored!
The province is small but has a variety of microclimates. Want more snow? Ski hills are not so far away. Want less snow? Go walk a deserted South Shore beach.
Memories of crazy winter antics performed when we were young and immortal: descending hills at great speed, jumping from one ice floe to another as the frozen ocean broke up (some have memories of being rescued in these situations!), “getting towed on a sled behind my dad’s car on a snow-covered gravel road, riding my bike through the streets of Halifax when the snow wasn’t too bad,” ice boating, skating on thin ice….
Maple syrup made in the woods.
Patterns made by drifting snow.
Winter skies unlike anything you see in the summer.
Eating fresh snow.
Cardinals and purple finches at the feeder.
Getting insight into the life of rabbits from their tracks in the woods.
So there are some of the things we love about winter in Nova Scotia. What are yours? Leave a comment below.