Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Fact Box

On September 18, the Cape Breton Post carried a short article under the headline, “Payroll rebates for Cape Breton metal fabrication company.”

The story — a reprint of a Nova Scotia Business Inc (NSBI) press release — explained that East Coast Metal Fabrication (2015) Inc (ECMF) had received a “business development incentive” in the form of a payroll rebate that could be worth up to $680,400 over five years.

NSBI photo accompanying payroll rebate announcement: Wanda MacLean, NSBI;Laurel Broten, NSBI; Joe Hines, ECMF; Sean Burke, ECMF (Photo credit: Steve Wadden)

NSBI photo accompanying payroll rebate announcement: Wanda MacLean, NSBI; Laurel Broten, NSBI; Joe Hines, ECMF; Sean Burke, ECMF (Photo credit: Steve Wadden)

The Sydport-based metal fabricator warrants the rebate, according to NSBI, because it “has the potential to create up to 80 jobs” over that period and if it does, it could spend “$9.45 million in salaries,” and those new employees would then pay provincial taxes worth $1.2 million and if they stood on each other’s shoulders, they would be nine miles high.

Okay, that last estimate was my own. What can I say? Estimating is fun.

The Post did append a “Fact Box” to its story, but it contained only facts about payroll rebates, not about ECMF, so I decided to find a few facts of my own and I stumbled across this (lengthy) 2015 profile of ECMF by Sue Roberts in Canadian Metalworking/Canadian Fabricating & Welding which begins this way:

East Coast Metal Fabrication Inc. in Edwardsville, Nova Scotia, is heavy into fabricating and investing. In the past three years the small company has made large investments in its facility, equipment, and people. Those investments are paying off … big.

Four local businessmen purchased a struggling fabrication company in 2012; christened it with its current name; added oceanfront property that includes 4,250 ft. of wharf with 20 to 36 ft. of water depth; and hired Joe Hines as COO, an industry veteran with an engineering degree and experience in the mining industry, heavy construction, and plant operation.

I then found this byline-free CBC story (headline: “East Coast Metal Fabrication making a name for itself in steel industry”) from 2015 that referenced ECMF’s mysterious “new owner” who had:

…bought the property on the Sydney Harbour two years ago from Laurentian Energy, a company that had landed only a few small contracts.

Curious as to the identity of these new owners, I turned to the NS Registry of Joint Stocks and discovered that the “four local businessmen” who purchased ECMF seem to be the same four local businessmen who already owned it — East Coast Metal Fabrications (2015) Inc was amalgamated from Laurentian Energy Corporation Inc and East Coast Metal Fabrications Inc in 2015. One new name appears in the mix — VP and COO Joe Hines — but otherwise, the names associated with the metal fabricator are quite familiar.

I contacted Hines and asked him if he could tell me who owns ECMF. He told me in an email:

East Coast Metal Fabrication is privately owned and operated out of Edwardsville, Nova Scotia.

He then suggested I send him my article prior to publication so he could “have a read through and clarify things” for me. I declined the offer, telling him I’d stick with what I found in the Joint Stocks Registry:


CompanyIncorporated and RegisteredRegistry IDPeopleRoleStatus as of 2019
Laurentian Energy Corp Inc 1998-01-123015097 James KehoePresidentAmalgamated as East Coast Metal Fabrication (2015) Inc.
Sean BurkeSecretary/Treasurer
Andre CoteDirector
Donald SivesDirector
East Coast Metal Fabrication (Inc)2007-09-063222118 James KehoePresidentAmalgamated as East Coast Metal Fabrication (2015) Inc, 2015-01-01
Joseph HinesExecutive Vice President & COO
Sean BurkeSecretary/Treasurer
Andre CoteDirector
Donald SivesDirector
East Coast Metal Fabrication (2015) Inc3286163 James KehoePresidentAmalgamated from Laurentian Energy and East Coast Metal Fabrication Inc, 2015-01-01
Joseph HinesExecutive Vice President/COO
Sean BurkeSecretary/Treasurer
Andre CoteDirector
Donald SivesDirector


Private company, public purse

Then there’s the question of those  “large investments” made by ECMF. Roberts notes:

Efficiency spiked in 2013 following a $1.5 million investment in new CNC [computer numerical control] equipment and a rearrangement of the shop floor to provide a smooth production flow from raw material delivery to finished-product shipping.

What she doesn’t mention is that, as the Chronicle Herald reported in March 2013:

A metal fabricator in Sydport Industrial Park has received $1.2 million in loans from the federal and provincial governments to expand production and buy new equipment.

Both governments have provided loans of $600,000.

East Coast Metal Fabrication Inc., whose directors include Jim Kehoe, Donald Sives, Sean Burke and Andre Cote, will hire 10 new employees, for a total of 24 workers at the Edwardsville, Cape Breton County, facility.

The federal loan took the form of a $600,000 “conditionally repayable” contribution from ECBC. I asked ACOA, which absorbed ECBC in 2014, if that loan has been repaid. Chris Brooks of ACOA emailed me a two-bullet-point answer on Thursday:

  • East Coast Metal Fabrication is in good standing with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
  • Specific information related to the terms and conditions of a contribution agreement, including the status of repayments, is subject to client confidentiality and cannot be disclosed.

Got that? Client confidentiality precludes the government telling us whether a company has repaid hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money.

The metal fabricator also received a non-repayable contribution of $245,000 from ECBC in 2013 for a “human resource development initiative to grow [the] company.” If you divide $245,000 by 10 — the number of workers the owners expected to hire — that’s $24,500 per job.

Roberts continued:

The painting facility is next in line for an upgrade. Plans are to add a large tempered paint booth for more baked-on coatings and fine-detail coatings for offshore marine applications.

But again, she misses an important piece of information, which is that ECMF planned to finance the paint facility upgrade from the $1.2 million it made from the controversial sale of Sydport land to the CBRM in 2015 — land the CBRM bought from one private company then turned around and leased to another private company, McKeil Marine. (Hines confirmed the money was used to build a 7,500 square foot painting facility).

Add to this mix last week’s provincial payroll rebate announcement, plus the fact that ECMF is benefiting from a “unique” apprenticeship program involving the NSCC, Eskasoni and Membertou, and if there is a success story happening at the metal fabricator — where Hines says he now employs 65 people, 55 full-time — it’s thanks in no small part to government largess.

That’s a fact worth including in any story about the company.


John Be Gone Again

Former Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay. (I've used this picture of him as Defense Minister posing in the cockput of an F-35 fighter jet because it cost Canadians $47,000, so we should get our money's worth out of it.)

Former Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay. (I’ve used this picture of him as Defense Minister posing in the cockpit of a fake F-35 fighter jet because this photo op cost Canadians $47,000 and I feel we should get our money’s worth.)

A Frenchvale man whose name I refuse to publish was acquitted last week on a charge of communicating for the purpose of obtaining sexual services. He was one of 18 men charged in “John Be Gone: The Sequel” — the Cape Breton Regional Police Service’s SECOND ridiculous sting operation targeting “street level prostitution in downtown Sydney.”

I’ve aired my own complaints about John Be Gone previously in these pages: first back in May 2017 (in an article I recommend, it’s really interesting, if I do say so myself) and then again in 2018, after the police reprised the operation. So today, I will content myself with quoting Brenda Belak, a lawyer with PIVOT, a Vancouver-based sex workers’ rights organization, who spoke to me for that 2017 article. Belak, who has little use for sting operations like John Be Gone, told me:

We’ve seen a lot of stings over the past year under various operations, including Operation Northern Spotlight, in which police claim that they are using enforcement as a way to “help” women selling sex. This approach fails to appreciate that for those dealing with substance use or insecure housing, the income they get from selling sex is critical, and cutting off that source of income does not make their lives easier or better. A better way to support sex workers is to make non-judgmental services that meet their needs available in the community. When police harass sex workers and focus on arresting their clients, sex workers tend to work in conditions of greater risk, where they are less likely to have adequate time to screen clients properly and negotiate the terms of dates clearly. As long as buying sex is illegal, sex work is a crime, and the stigma associated with it affects sex workers in all aspects of what they do, from dealing with police to accessing health services to interacting with other members of their communities.

“A better way to support sex workers is to make non-judgmental services that meet their needs available in the community.”

In the wake of the first Sydney sting, the cops acknowledged that many of the women involved in “street level prostitution” were dealing with addiction and mental health issues. They also acknowledged that the majority were Indigenous which, in the wake of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) inquiry, makes the sad response of the province — which scraped up $40,000 for the Jane Paul Centre on George Street in Sydney to offer some of those “non-judgmental” services Belak was talking about — even sadder.

A year later, the Island’s five First Nations had to pitch in to help the organization make rent.

And yet, we’re still paying for John Be Gone, as this second batch of cases makes its way through the criminal justice system, costing us money and tying up our courts. Imagine if we directed even a portion of the resources we’ve put into enforcing Peter MacKay’s prostitution laws into providing non-judgmental services for vulnerable women?


Insistent spam

I’ve been receiving two very particular flavors of spam in my email inbox lately — one involves people supposedly sending me their resumes, the other people asking how much I charge to run sponsored content.

Both seem like pretty obvious phishing expeditions. The “job applications” — from Coren Hosley, Christel Koons and Yi Watkins, among others —  include copies of CVs and “passwords” to access them.

The sponsored content emails — from writers such as Otto Edkins — include links to samples of work.

But the sponsored content writers have added another twist in the form of angry follow-up emails demanding to know why I haven’t responded to their offers. I have to admit, there’s something entertaining about emails that purport to come from professional writers who admire your publication and want to create content for it but read like they were written by the late, great, Koko the Gorilla:

You answer me?

I know I must be strong, but it’s all I can do to keep from replying:

Me answer. You nut.

Then again, part of me is tempted to say “Yes” to all the content offers just to see how the resulting all-sponsored content edition of the Spectator would read.


Spit on asphalt

Speaking of effective use of language, a young Cape Bretoner, asked about climate change on CBC’s Information Morning Cape Breton on Friday, said we’ll be “sizzling” like “spit on asphalt” as the planet warms.

And to think, we were worried Generation Screen Time wouldn’t be able to communicate effectively.

The interviews were in advance of today’s Climate Strike marches, which, as I write, are already happening (if not over) in many parts of the world, like Mumbai, India:

And Torino, Italy:

And across New Zealand:

Here in the CBRM, there’s a Strike for the Earth action planned for the Civic Centre on the Esplanade in Sydney, starting at noon.