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What Halifax Businesses Need To Know About Wednesday’s Mayoral Debate

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HALIFAX — The three men vying to be Halifax’s next mayor took to the stage Wednesday afternoon for what was likely their only face-to-face meeting before the October 17 municipal election.

Max Taylor, Mayor Mike Savage, and Councillor Matt Whitman squared off in front of a largely virtual audience for the 2020 Mayoral Candidates Forum.

Hosted by a coalition of 14 business organizations and moderated by former CBC host Norma Lee MacLeod, the debate was the candidates’ best opportunity to sell themselves to voters. Each used a different strategy to try and accomplish that.

Throughout the debate, Whitman staked out his positions primarily by contrasting them with what he considers the council’s biggest mistakes.

Early on, he outlined what he felt those mistakes were.

“Spending taxpayers dollars on the CFL stadium, spending a ton of money snow plowing bike lanes for the 1.1 percent of HRM population that ride bicycles, the unenforced smoking bylaw, the armoured police tank that many of my colleagues did a flip-flop on… the paid statue task force to remove the Cornwallis statue,” he said.

The two-term councilor acknowledged the “wins” he and Mayor Mike Savage achieved together but said their major difference was spending, especially when it comes to the city’s Covid-19 recovery. He said he’d be “committed to watching the dollars” if he’s elected.

Savage, meanwhile, argued the city’s success over the past several years has been largely thanks to his leadership. He contrasted present-day Halifax to what he characterized as a failing city when he first took over the office.

“The city was struggling quite a bit. The population was not growing, the growth in the city was negligible, we had nothing happening in the downtown area, we weren’t preserving the lands that we should be preserving for generations to come, council was seen as widely dysfunctional. That’s the mantle when I became mayor and people went to work.”

Taylor, the latecomer to the race, pushed back against the idea that he was just a “TikTok candidate” and that his mayoral run is more publicity stunt than serious proposal.

“I did work for the city for two years, I did own a small business in Halifax last year, I have gone through the motions to understand how small businesses works. There’s a lot more to the story than people hear,” he said.

Taylor offered fewer policy specifics than his counterparts (he is the only candidate who hasn’t released a written platform) but spoke passionately about affordability, inclusivity, and access in the city.

He said Halifax’s future depends on the availability of affordable housing, more comprehensive transit options, and higher wages and that without major progress on those issues the city will struggle to attract new residents.

Over the course of the 90-minutes debate, the candidates weighed in on the removal of statues, defunding the police, diversity on city council, and the importance of environmental policy.

They also talked at length about these six key issues relevant to the city’s business community.

1) Covid-19 Spending

One good thing that has come out of Covid is now we’re going to start watching the bottom line better. We should have been watching it all along.” – Matt Whitman

One of MacLeod’s first questions to candidates was how well they thought the city had handled the Covid-19 crisis, particularly when it came to spending.

“There’s no guidebook” or “definitive solution to answer anything,” Taylor said.

Taylor complimented Savage on the “excellent” job he’s done managing the city’ Covid-19 response and proposed raising property tax slightly “on the top earners in the city” to fund Covid-19 relief initiatives.

Whitman was less generous in his assessment.

He pointed to mistakes he felt the municipality made in its response to Covid-19, lamenting lost revenues from waiving transit and parking fees. He said the city needs to tighten up its spending and suggested staff layoffs should have been deeper and happened quicker.

“One good thing that has come out of Covid is now we’re going to start watching the bottom line better. We should have been watching it all along,” he said.

Savage pointed out that the city cut $84-million from its budget this year. He pointed to what he believes were successful city initiatives like closing streets, extending patios, and waiving fees but said HRM “needs to do more from small business.”

He said he would lobby the provincial government to give some of the $380-million it made available for municipal financing to hotels as and restaurants as no-interest loans instead of giving it to municipalities.

2) Living Wage

If you’re a business that refuses to give a living wage, you’re a greedy business. That’s the way it is.” –Max Taylor

Savage also voiced strong support for a living wage in Halifax and argued the municipality has a responsibility to advance living wage initiatives.

“As a city, we should be a responsible employer. Minimum wage is not enough,” he said.

He argued HRM should give all its full-time employees a living wage, with small exceptions for students and part-time employees. He also floated the idea that the city should use its influence to ensure the companies it does business with are also paying their employees fairly.

“Even if it will cost the city some money I think we should do it,” he said.

Whitman argued that the HRM “already pays some of the highest wages in the municipality,” pointing to the city’s “overflowing” Sunshine List as proof.

Covid-19 has meant serious belt-tightening at the HRM and the city can’t afford to pay extra to make sure other organizations are paying living wages.

“With Covid this would be the worst thing we could possibly do to stifle the businesses that are trying to survive,” he said.

“We need to buckle down, not spend more on our staff in particular,” he added.

Taylor pointed out that the very definition of a “living wage” is the amount of money someone needs to live and said paying one shouldn’t even be a debate.

“If you’re a business that refuses to give a living wage, you’re a greedy business. That’s the way it is,” he said.

3) Immigration

I think we’re past the time when people thought of immigrants as wealth takers and recognize now that immigrants now are wealth creators.” – Mike Savage

Several times during the debate, Savage pointed out that immigration has “fueled the growth” of Halifax over the past half-decade.

“I think we’re past the time when people thought of immigrants as wealth takers and recognize now that immigrants now are wealth creators,” he said.

He said he’s proud of the initiatives he’s promoted as mayor, and the partnerships with immigration agencies in the city, but said the city could do even more to make newcomers feel more welcome.

The biggest step, he said, would be to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections.

“People come here who own businesses, their kids are in school, they access the health care system. They are citizens in every regard except they can’t vote in municipal elections,” he said.

For Whitman, affordable housing and encouraging investment are two of the most important factors in promoting immigration into Halifax.

“You have to make housing affordable, you have to make it able so these new immigrants can take risks and invest their hard-earned dollars, reduce the red tape, make it possible for these folks to invest in HRM so they can raise their families here,” he said.

“I think we’ve done a good job of welcoming folks here, we’re told we’re very hospitable, but oftentimes are hospitality is thin.”

Taylor also flagged affordable housing as a barrier to attracting more immigrants into the city. People want to come to Halifax, he argued, but they won’t stay unless they can afford to live here and bring their families here.

“If we don’t have affordable housing solutions people won’t stay in Halifax,” he said.

4) Commercial Tax Rates

If we change the tax rates for one area than the dollars have to be found somewhere else from someone else.” –Matt Whitman

The provincial government has given HRM permission to tax different areas of the city at different rates, but candidates were, for the most part, hesitant to say if they would use that power.

“If we change the tax rates for one area than the dollars have to be found somewhere else from someone else,” Whitman said, calling taxation “one of the most difficult, ongoing conversation we’re going to have to have.”

He said the commercial tax system in the city “isn’t working” and that HRM will need to keep working with the province to decide if more changes were necessary.

Savage was equally evasive.

He said the city is trying to get to a “fair” tax situation, but that there is still some trouble attracting business development in certain parts of the HRM.

He said the city should try and find a way incentivize small and medium-sized businesses to open and that “marginally” increasing taxes on large “box” stores is “something that we should look at.”

“If you make less money you should probably pay less tax, regardless of where you are,: Taylor argued.

5) Red tape

I [followed] a long, hard process to start a little ice cream bike businesses that should not be as hard as it is.” -Max Taylor

Taylor said his experience trying to start a small business last summer proved to him that Halifax isn’t doing nearly enough to make it easy for young people like him to start a business.

“I [followed] a long, hard process to start a little ice cream bike businesses that should not be as hard as it is,” he said. “The reason there are not more businesses like that is that there are so many issues around building a business like that. You have to go through so many hoops, so many regulations, talk to so many people.”

“If it was as easy as going into an office and filling out ten forms we would have 1,000 more small businesses than we do in the city.”

Whittman agreed, arguing the city shouldn’t be making things more difficult by closing the offices people go to do business with the city.

Savage pointed out that he won the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses’ golden scissors award for his red-tape-cutting initiatives but acknowledged HRM “needs to do better” to reduce red tape.

6) Construction Mitigation

There are a whole host of projects coming down the pipe and we need to ensure that when we’re dealing with businesses… we’re doing it right.”- Mike Savage

With new developments happening across Halifax, many business owners have been asking to be compensated when construction projects hamper access to their businesses and cost them profits.

Taylor said small businesses in this situation should “absolutely” be compensated.

“Some of these construction companies could buy the small businesses a million times over. There’s no reason for them not to be compensated; for them not to be compensated is simply one word, and that’s greed,” he said.

Whitman argued it’s important to figure out if a business is actually being affected before handing out any compensation.

On Spring Garden Road, for example, he believes businesses were being hurt by construction and should be a program “where we can at least try to make good.” He believes the municipality should take money from the fees and permits paid by developers and put it aside to give it back to businesses affected by their activities.

Savage agreed that some businesses were being affected by construction and said the city has an “obligation” to communicate with them when this happens.

He pointed to a motion that will put 1 percent of project costs into a construction mitigation fund that will be doled out with the help of the city’s business improvement districts.

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Integrating circuits – How Nvidia’s purchase of Arm could open new markets | Business

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WHEN SOFTBANK, a Japanese technology group, paid $32bn for Arm in 2016, it was the biggest deal in chipmaking history. That record held until September 13th, when Nvidia, a big American chipmaker, announced its intention to buy the Britain-based chip-designer for $40bn.

Although they share an industry, Arm and its prospective owner are very different. Nvidia makes GPUs: pricey, specialised accelerator chips for gamers and artificial-intelligence number-crunching in data centres. Arm licenses blueprints for general-purpose chips used in everything from smartphones to cars and computerised gizmos that make up the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Customers ship more than 20bn Arm-designed chips every year.

Arm’s keystone position was SoftBank’s rationale for buying the firm. But it has languished under Japanese ownership. Revenues have stagnated, and the firm has made a small but persistent loss (see chart). Geoff Blaber at CCS Insight, a firm of analysts, blames a slowdown in the smartphone market, and low margins on IoT gear. Arm’s $40bn valuation is only 25% higher than when SoftBank bought it—and just 5% higher if you deduct the $1.5bn Nvidia has offered Arm employees to stop them from leaving and a mysterious $5bn cash or stock payout that SoftBank may qualify for under some conditions. Meanwhile, Nvidia’s market capitalisation, four years ago not much bigger than what SoftBank paid for Arm, now stands at $309bn. Its sales have surged.

One motive for Nvidia’s purchase is a desire to expand beyond its existing markets. Arm’s technology could help it build its own versions of the general-purpose processors that power the data-centre computers into which Nvidia’s accelerators are installed, a lucrative market dominated by Intel, the world’s biggest chipmaker by revenue. Nvidia, for its part, hopes that baking its GPU expertise into Arm’s designs will make them more attractive to the firm’s customers.

Those customers, which include Apple, Qualcomm and Samsung, have kept a stony silence. Arm’s business model relies on being what Hermann Hauser, one of its founders, has described as “the Switzerland of the semiconductor industry”—ie, not competing with its customers by selling chips or gadgets itself. Nvidia’s purchase will threaten that neutrality if it tweaks Arm’s products to favour its own goals, or gives itself preferential access to Arm designs.

Nvidia has vowed to keep Arm’s business model intact. Having given such public assurances, says Patrick Moorhead, a chip-industry analyst, Jensen Huang, Nvidia’s boss, is unlikely to risk the opprobrium—or possible lawsuits from aggrieved licensees—that could arise from breaking them. But other analysts point out that Arm’s licensing revenues are, by Nvidia’s standards, small beer. If the Arm deal can be used to vault Nvidia into new markets, then cold commercial logic may encourage Mr Huang to push his luck. Custodians of RISCV, a set of freely available designs, lost no time in noting that it remains independent and free of such conflicts.

Regulatory problems loom, too. Britain’s government is in an interventionist mood and is likely to attach strings, such as keeping Arm’s headquarters in the country. China may also object. It is already upset over American attempts to strangle its technology firms (see article). A takeover by Nvidia would bring Arm—a crucial supplier—firmly under American control. Even in normal times, says Mr Blaber, China might balk at such a prospect. It will be even less keen in the middle of a technological cold war.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “Integrating circuits”

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Eshkawkogan featured in Top 100 Magazine of country’s business professionals

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Kevin Eshkawkogan, the president and CEO of Indigenous Tourism Ontario, is featured in an issue of The Top 100 Magazine for Canadian business professionals. – Photo supplied

By Sam Laskaris

LITTLE CURRENT – Kevin Eshkawkogan had a simple request when he was approached to be featured in a prestigious magazine.

Eshkawkogan, the president and CEO of Indigenous Tourism Ontario (ITO), was asked to be in an issue of The Top 100 Magazine. The issue focusses on the Top 100 Canadian business professionals.

“They reached out to me,” said Eshkawkogan, a member of M’Chigeeng First Nation who lives in Little Current on Manitoulin Island. “They saw my name coming up in multiple places.”

Though flattered by the interest, Eshkawkogan stressed he was not interested in an article strictly about him. He wanted the focus to be on the ITO.

“They wanted to do the story on me, just as an individual,” he said. “But the work I do is not for my well-being, it’s for the community good. I didn’t think it should just be a celebration of the work I do. It’s a celebration of the Indigenous tourism work we do.”

Besides being a member of M’Chigeeng First Nation, Eshkawkogan also has plenty of connections with a pair of other First Nations on Manitoulin Island.

His mother is from the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation, which is also where his current business office is located. And his father is from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, while his stepfather is a M’Chigeeng First Nation member.

As of this year, the ITO had more than 550 Indigenous tourism business members. The association also has about 300 members that represent non-Indigenous tourism businesses.

Eshkawkogan admits the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been a tremendous blow to many ITO members this year.

Restrictions forced many of those businesses to close their doors for months. And even many of those that have been able to recently open up again are facing significant losses and financial difficulties.

“Businesses are still closing, basically daily,” Eshkawkogan said. “We’re crossing our fingers some of these will be temporary.”

Indigenous tourism businesses in Ontario cover many sectors, including restaurants and businesses offering cultural experiences, camping, hotels, lodges and tours.

Eshkawkogan believes there is and will continue to be a great need for Indigenous tourism businesses in the province. And he’s confident that one day, the industry will once again be a booming one.

“Indigenous people are very resilient people,” he said. “And Indigenous tourism businesses are resilient. We’ve got a great recipe to come back even stronger.”

As an example, Eshkawkogan mentioned Anishinaabe/Algonquin chef Johl Whiteduck Ringuette, who closed his popular NishDish restaurant in Toronto recently.

“He’s very much a forward-thinker,” Eshkawkogan said. “I know they’re going to come back.”

Eshkawkogan realizes, however, it is going to take some time for the Indigenous tourism industry to recover in the province.

ITO has created a five-year strategic and COVID-19 recovery plan.

“We will be back, stronger than ever,” he said.

Eshkawkogan added the ITO officials have realized since March how much of an impact the pandemic will have on the Indigenous tourism industry in the province.

The ITO released information on the potential economic impacts the pandemic would have in both March and April. And ITO released its recovery plan in June.

“We’re proud of the work we do with Indigenous tourism businesses in Ontario,” he said.

Eshkawkogan is also heavily involved in hockey. He is currently the District 7 council director for the Northern Ontario Hockey Association.



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Bruce Power recertified at highest level by Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

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Bruce Power has been awarded a Gold level certification for the third time by Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) for excellence in Indigenous relations.

This is the highest level of recognition offered by the CCAB. Bruce Power was awarded gold in 2014 and 2017, and the company is one of only 18 in Canada to have received the designation.

“We’re honoured to have received this recognition for a third time, and we are grateful to Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business for its recognition of our efforts,” said David Abbott, Bruce Power’s Director, Indigenous Relations and Business Partnerships. “We’ve spent many years forging a strong relationship with the Indigenous communities which host our site upon their traditional territories. We have listened to and learned from each other, and have collaborated on many projects that will have lasting benefits for Indigenous communities.”

The Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) Program is a comprehensive initiative offered by CCAB that supports improvement and best practices in Indigenous relations. A gold-certified company means the PAR criteria is ingrained at all levels of the business, driven through policy, strategy, mature processes and innovative enhancements over a number of years. A gold organization has a high level of appreciation of the significance of positive Indigenous relations. They are a role model for Indigenous relations with a continuous-improvement philosophy, with positive results and good support from Indigenous communities.

“We are thrilled that yet again, Bruce Power has demonstrated its commitment to Indigenous prosperity and economic reconciliation supported by our PAR program,” said Tabatha Bull, president and CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. “This gold certification demonstrates the company’s dedication to Indigenous relations through all aspects of their business.

“Congratulations on your hard work, Bruce Power.”

Bruce Power submitted its PAR application in June, the details of which were then verified by an independent third party in August. Bruce Power’s outcomes and initiatives in four performance areas – employment, business development, community investment and community engagement – were reviewed by a jury of Indigenous business people before the gold designation was granted.

“I want to congratulate Bruce Power for its third recertification by CCAB for their exceptional relationships with Indigenous communities across the province,” said Greg Rickford, Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs. “Bruce Power continues to develop meaningful partnerships with Indigenous businesses and communities across the province, helping to build a robust nuclear industry and supply chain here in Ontario.”

To learn more about the CCAB visit www.ccab.com. To learn more about Bruce Power’s Indigenous Relations program, visit www.brucepower.com/in-the-community/community-programs/indigenous-relations/.

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