Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Eyking (and Clarke!) in China

As reported in last week’s Fast & Curious, I requested a copy of Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking’s itinerary from his recent trip to China. I received a response from his office which I am pleased to share with you today.

Eyking’s assistant Elizabeth Arsenault sent me the itinerary with the following note of explanation:

The information attached is what I received from the Prime Minister’s office (based on the Prime Minister’s schedule). Everything they are aware of the MP attending is italicized, and note the addition on December 4 specific to the MP. It’s also important to note that the MP was invited to join the Prime Minister’s delegation because of his role as Chair of the Standing Committee on International Trade.

That December 4 addition to the itinerary is the best part: at 10 a.m. that day, Eyking attended a meeting with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited representatives. And do you know who else attended that meeting? CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke, who has yet to release any details about his own Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 China trip, which he made in the company of his executive assistant Mark Bettens, CBRM CAO Marie Walsh and Economic Development Manager John Phelan.

The whole CBRM gang was at that December 4 meeting, as were provincial Business Minister Geoff MacLellan and First Nations Chiefs Terry Paul and Leroy Denny. The meeting was about “potential funding on Sydney Harbour port development and rail.”

Can you think of a good reason why the mayor of the CBRM should not have had to report to council about that meeting? Because I can’t.

Here is the itinerary, which I have edited to include only those events Eyking attended:

(All times Local)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

9:30AM Depart Ottawa for Beijing

1:30PM Arrive in Vancouver for Prime Minister boarding

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Beijing, China

7:20 p.m. Arrive in Beijing, China.

VIP Terminal
Beijing Capital International Airport

Monday, December 4, 2017

10:00 a.m. Meeting with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited representatives about potential funding on Sydney Harbour port development and rail. Meeting attending by MP Mark Eyking, Min. Geoff MacLellan, Chief Leroy Denny, Chief Terry Paul, Mayor Cecil Clarke and CBRM delegation.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited Headquarters

4:30 p.m. The Prime Minister will participate in an official welcoming ceremony.

North Hall, 1st floor
Great Hall of the People

Note for media:

Open coverage

4:45 p.m. The Prime Minister will meet with the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Li Keqiang.

East Hall, 1st floor
Great Hall of the People

Note for media:

Photo opportunity at the beginning of the meeting

6 p.m. The Prime Minister will hold a joint media availability with the Premier of the People’s Republic of China.

Taiwan Room, 1st floor
Great Hall of the People

Note for media:

Open coverage

6:30 p.m. The Prime Minister will attend a dinner given by the Premier of the People’s Republic of China.

Golden Hall, 3rd floor
Great Hall of the People

Note for media:

Official photographers only

Tuesday, December 5, 2017:

10 a.m. The Prime Minister will participate in a roundtable with Canadian and Chinese business executives.

Beijing Ballroom I & II, 3rd floor
Four Seasons Hotel
48 Liangmaqiao Road

Note for media:

Pooled photo opportunity

12:45 p.m. The Prime Minister will hold media availability.

Beijing Ballroom I, 3rd floor
Four Seasons Hotel
48 Liangmaqiao Road

Note for media:

Open coverage

4 p.m. The Prime Minister will meet with the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Zhang Dejiang.

Reception Hall, 1st floor
Great Hall of the People

Note for media:

Pooled photo opportunity at the beginning of the meeting

5 p.m. The Prime Minister will meet with the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping.

Diaoyutai State Guesthouse

Note for media:

Pooled photo opportunity at the beginning of the meeting

6 p.m. The Prime Minister will attend a dinner given by the President of the People’s Republic of China.

Diaoyutai State Guesthouse

Note for media:

Official photographers only

Wednesday, December 6, 2017:

All times local.

9:15 a.m. The Prime Minister will meet with Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Yang.

Bai Yun Room, 1st Floor
Shangri-La Guangzhou Hotel

Note for media:

Pooled photo opportunity at the beginning of the meeting

10 a.m. The Prime Minister will participate in the Fortune Global Forum opening ceremony and special session.

Pearl River Ballroom, Ground Floor
Shangri-La Guangzhou Hotel

Note for media:

Open coverage for Fortune Global Forum (FGF) accredited media

10:30 a.m. The Prime Minister will deliver a keynote address at the Fortune Global Forum.

Pearl River Ballroom, Ground Floor
Shangri-La Guangzhou Hotel

Note for media:

Open coverage for FGF accredited media

6 p.m. The Prime Minister will participate in a commemorative ceremony for the victims of the École Polytechnique de Montréal.

Consulate General of Canada

Note for media:

Pooled photo opportunity

Thursday, December 7, 2017:

8:30 a.m. The Prime Minister will visit the Chen Clan Academy. 

Chen Clan Academy

Note for media:

Pooled photo opportunity

10:30 a.m. The Prime Minister will participate in an armchair discussion at the Fortune Global Forum entitled “Global Leadership: The View from Canada,” moderated by Nancy Gibbs.  

Guangzhou Ballroom, 3rd Floor
Shangri-la Guangzhou Hotel

Note for media:

Open coverage for FGF accredited media

 

Amazon in Ohio

Amazon has shortlisted 20 North American cities as possible locations for its second headquarters on this continent.

Halifax, our capital and all-round “world class” city, didn’t make the cut (although Toronto, God help it, did). All of which I am using as an (admittedly dubious) excuse for writing about recent revelations about Amazon in Ohio.

Amazon became one of that state’s biggest employers faster than you can say, “Same-day shipping,” and now has over 6,000 workers in Ohio with plans to hire more soon at three big warehouses.

But as Policy Matters Ohio, a progressive policy group, reported on January 5, Amazon has also shot up the ranks of another Ohio list: that of big employers whose workers require food stamps:

In August, the average Ohio family receiving SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] contained just more than two people. Based on that average, more than 700 Amazon workers received benefits that month, or more than one in every 10 of those Ohioans employed by the company. Figures include both full- and part-time workers, and it is likely mostly part-time workers who qualify. While the firm operates data centers, wind farms, and Whole Foods outlets in Ohio, the largest number of employees are at two big warehouses near Columbus (it also has a smaller sorting center in Twinsburg).

Help in feeding its employees is just the latest in a string of government subsidies Amazon has been given to locate in Ohio. Reports Bloomberg:

Under the deal the company negotiated in 2015 with local officials and the state’s private economic development agency, JobsOhio, it’s paying no property taxes to Licking County for 15 years. As part of a two-warehouse deal, the state gave Amazon $17 million in tax incentives, and JobsOhio handed over $1.5 million in cash, funded with income from the state’s liquor monopoly.

But it gets even worse.

That Bloomberg article goes on to explain how often emergency responders in Licking County are called to the Amazon warehouse:

The emergency responders of Licking County, Ohio, are under strain. At least once a day, a medical unit from West Licking Fire Station 3 makes a run to the Amazon.com Inc. warehouse 3.1 miles away, in the township of Etna, about 20 miles east of Columbus. The calls for routine medical issues that occur in grueling warehouse jobs come at all hours, says Steve Little, the fire district administrator. Shortness of breath. Chest pains. Myriad minor injuries. During the busy holiday season, he says, the warehouse sometimes issues multiple emergency calls a day.

Call it another subsidy for the firm which, because it pays no property tax, is not supporting the fire department:

The new facilities are “almost a million square feet we have to protect, but we get no extra money,” Little says. “We have no voice in these deals, and we get no cash. Our residents are being forced to pay instead.” In November, voters in Little’s district will be asked to approve a five-year, $6.5 million property tax levy to keep the fire department operating.

While most big companies extract tax breaks from states and municipalities where they’re looking to expand, in Ohio Amazon has become something of a poster child for incentives that make it tough for public services to accommodate the added strain its facilities bring. In four deals struck through JobsOhio since 2014, the company has received at least $123 million in tax breaks, plus $2.9 million in cash grants. The terms of a fifth agreement, which Republican Governor John Kasich announced in September, haven’t been disclosed because the deal hasn’t yet been signed by the state’s Tax Credit Authority, a five-person panel composed mostly of local business leaders.

The most amazing part of the Ohio story, however, is actually not related to Amazon per se but to JobsOhio. It’s an economic development agency that Governor Kasich privatized, arguing that “a private company staffed with seasoned, well-paid executives could negotiate better than a public agency would.” Kasich also established a funding scheme for JobsOhio — he sold the state’s liquor monopoly, which had put $250 million per year into state coffers, to the agency for $1.4 billion, “mostly in payments to bondholders.” And then he ensured the agency did not have to tell the public how it was spending that money:

In 2013…Kasich pushed a bill through the state legislature stripping public officials of the right to audit the agency’s books. A private auditor now conducts an annual review, which is partly redacted before publication.

Since 2013, JobsOhio’s annual salary costs have risen from $2.5 million to $11.5 million. The 83-employee agency’s president, John Minor, has a salary of $445,000, three times Kasich’s.

Hmmm…that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? An economic development agency that spends public money but isn’t accountable to the public? Where have I seen something like that before? Oh, I remember!

I guess we can just be grateful the CBRM didn’t empower Business Cape Breton to make a bid for Amazon.

 

The Rose

Kenn Crawford (l) and Dan Yakimchuk (r).

I know nothing of filmmaking, but always suspected, given the length of the credits that follow even the shortest of films, that they entail a lot of work. So getting one from the drawing board to the big screen always strikes me as a remarkable feat.

It’s a feat about to be accomplished by Sydney’s Dan Yakimchuk — educator, instigator, blogger, now film writer/producer and (full disclosure) friend of the Cape Breton Spectator.

Yakimchuk’s short, sci-fi film The Rose, will be presented at the McConnell Regional Library in Sydney on Thursday 1 February at 7:00PM. Yakimchuk says the 12-minute film is about “a man travelling back 40 years in time to meet his younger self during a pivotal moment in his life. The film has a positive message but deals with youth suicide, addiction, redemption and recovery.”

Director Kenn Crawford has written an interesting account of how The Rose came to be made and why he, personally, decided to be involved in the production:

When I originally read [Yakimchuk’s] screenplay I told him that it was exactly the type of screenplay I tell new screenwriters to try and write to save on production costs and to keep from getting overwhelmed – a simple yet deeply powerful story that only has two or three characters and one or two locations. Dan’s screenplay had all the right ingredients, but the reason I agreed to direct The Rose was the underlying subtext – it held a powerful message that needed to be heard.

Following the screening with the cast and crew will be a panel discussion featuring Yakimchuk, Crawford, actor Aiden Lee-Dadswell and a panelist who will field questions on youth suicide/mental health issues in Cape Breton.

The McConnell Library is located at 50 Falmouth Street in Sydney.

Further information about The Rose can be found on the film’s Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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