(Another) Letter to cabinet.

sdfsdfsdfsdf By evan on May 09, 2018

Dear Premier, Cabinet members;

The Internal Services response team clearly mislead police, and your party, in order to cover up a career ending mistake. It is no longer inference based on available information; it is now an indisputable fact since the unsealing of critical court documents.

Mr Premier, you do owe the wrongfully accused 19-year-old “hacker” an apology. I believe you honestly thought the province was hacked, because that’s what you were told, but that’s simply not true. This has been clear to everyone in the industry for weeks. As I’m sure you’re aware, the police dropped the charges.​

You have been manipulated by the bureaucracy. Nothing will change that, what matters now is that you rectify the situation.

Read this: https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/breaking-documents-show-how-provincial-employees-misled-halifax-police-in-the-foipop-security-failure/ . It contains excerpts from the documents used to procure information from the teenager’s ISP.

The Internal Services response team knew exactly who accessed the files, because a credit card was used. They accessed the site from their home IP address. These are not the fingerprints of a criminal. This is a Nova Scotian, whose government has failed him.

The police raid was clearly an abuse of power, but to be fair, they were lied to as well.

This is a gift. You have an opportunity to hold the response team, that is the Deputy Minister Jeff Conrad, the CIO Sandra Cascadden, and the CISO Robert Samuel, accountable for their actions in this case, and do so without adversely impacting the credibility of yourself and the Liberal party.

To be blunt: staff lied. The only alternative is they’re incompetent, but their professional credentials largely preclude that option. A Professional Engineer and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional have a responsibility to the public, to their profession, and to their code of ethics, that have all been grossly violated in this case.

Nova Scotians deserve better. You have a choice to make Mr Premier, you can hold them accountable, or you can continue to shield them and become complicit.

Silence is insufficient. I’m calling on you to do the right thing.

Evan d’Entremont

An open letter to the Premier and the Cabinet

sdfsdfsdfsdf By evan on Apr 13, 2018

Mr Premier,

I’m writing to you, and Cabinet Members, regarding the FOIPOP issue that’s been in the news. Based on the emergency debate today, and your responses in question period, I think it’s very clear that you have all been briefed incorrectly at best, and lied to at worst.

The issue at hand is not that the server was “hacked,” or “breached.” A server meant for publishing public FOIPOP documents was used for publishing *all* FOIPOP documents. At it’s core, this is a very simple and likely accidental leak of confidential documents.

Is it a crime to download publicly disclosed documents, from a public server, run by the Freedom of Information department, with no authentication, with no security, and with no access control? The answer is simply no. To be clear, the 19-year-old kid did nothing wrong.

It’s clear this person was somewhat technical, having scripted the download process. If they had any malintent whatsoever, they would have made some attempt to hide their identity. The fact that they were arrested so quickly based on an IP address means they didn’t.

Comments were made that this person *must* have been looking for personal information. Why would anyone assume that 4% of the documents on a public server contain confidential information?

The province is not the victim here. The citizens who entrusted their personal information to the government are. The kid who was charged with an offence under the anti-terrorism act for archiving public documents is.

Your government made a mistake. A serious mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. That should have been the only story here. Unfortunately you have taken an absurd position, and by doing so committed a grave injustice. I’m calling on you, as public servants, to do the right thing and investigate this issue for yourself.

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.


Evan d’Entremont

Halifax: we have a problem

sdfsdfsdfsdf By evan on Aug 27, 2017

I was curious about something the other day. Little did I know how far the rabbit hole would go. I was mostly wondering about Halifax vs “Other places I’d consider living” so left out Calgary, Vancouver, and a few others. They still came in above Halifax.

To be clear, I’m not looking at leaving immediately. That being said, I have no doubt that the next time I’m looking for a job, it won’t be here.

Using data from Numbeo and Glassdoor I compared “Senior Software Developer” salaries vs cost of living for a bunch of major cities in Canada. We’re number two from the bottom.

It turns out one of the best places to live as a software dev is Sydney. It may seem surprising, but they have a ridiculously cheap cost of living (you can literally buy a house for under 50k; see here, here, and here.) Though their salaries are amongst the lowest… proportionally it’s on par with Kitchener-Waterloo. Also they have FTTH. If you’re working from home you’re one of the most well situated devs in the country.

The best overall by a wide margin is Ottawa. I haven’t dug into why that’s the case yet. I assume Government jobs, but I know they do have their share of tech businesses (shopify, etc.)

The equivalent salary column is most damning. You’d have to make slightly more in Toronto and St Johns to come out even. It’s an instant raise to move to any other city.

Sure Toronto’s rent’s higher. But when we’re paying more in taxes, in utilities, on food, and everything else.. it’s a 5% difference overall. It’s actually cheaper to live in our nations capital.  Even taking into account the cost of flying the family home every few months.. it’s a massive difference in disposable income (on average) to move. I have to assume this is causing massive damage to the local tech sector.

To be fair, tech salaries have come up in Halifax over the past few years. I know one person who specifically cited that as a reason for staying. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for the overall increase, I tend to attribute a lot of it to an implied cap on tech startup salaries that was dealt with a couple years ago.

Had I run these numbers 10 years ago, I’d have moved to Ontario in a heartbeat. Had I run them 5 years ago, I’d have stayed there. How many people already did? We hear about people moving “out west” to the oil fields. The new buzzphrase is “Data is the new oil” and I have a feeling nothing’s changed.

I used to joke that our largest export is young people. It’s not a joke anymore. I hear about the “tech labour shortage” all the time. No one can find people. Recruitment is impossible. Well, I think the issue is clear. There’s two ways to solve it: Drastically cut taxes and utility costs (ha!), or increase salaries by 10 to 20%. The latter happens to be a solution to at least 1/4 of the issues raised by the Ivany Report.

Ran the same numbers for the “average permanent hourly wages” from statscan for the same list of cities. That’s a reasonable proxy for “an average full time job” Halifax is actually at the very bottom. The rest of the list doesn’t change that much, other than Sydney going to the top. That’s the cheap housing again.

Let me know if you have comments or better sources for the data I used. I’m just presenting it as is, if there’s better data I’d love to use it.

Assigning Blame Accurately

sdfsdfsdfsdf By evan on May 09, 2017

As a followup to the last articles; CBC has today published a new take on the security camera incident at a Cape Breton School last week.

“We are actually going to be sending letters and reaching out the manufacturers in the very near future,” said Jennifer Rees-Jones, a senior advisor at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

The office wants all manufacturers to make devices that require users to change the default password when they plug the surveillance camera in. It also said the boxes the cameras come in should have strongly worded warnings about the privacy risks if the device is not secure.

These simple steps would make Canada a world leader in IoT security. They’re not without precedent though; in March of this year, a California Senator introduced a cyber-security bill. 

As WCSR reported just last month; the bill would require manufactures to design devices in such a way that they will

– … indicate to the consumer when it is collecting information
– obtain consumer consent (presumably through some form of user interface) before the device collects or transmits information

CBC spoke with experts again;

“Some of them have very strong security. Some have no security at all. Some have very weak and hackable security settings,” said Robert Currie, director of the Law and Technology Institute at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.

Tom Redford of Wilson’s Security in Dartmouth said … “If it’s just left at factory default, you’re leaving yourself susceptible to being hacked,” he said.

The default is transmit, with no password, and no authentication. It’s working as designed.  To call it a “hack” implies those viewing the public feed are at fault.

Redford suspects a lack of passwords may be to blame.

The lack of passwords is an issue, and was certainly relevant. The question is why were there no passwords? The user manual for the device in question recommends setting a password and protecting the video feed.

If the device had defaulted to password protected, as the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada requested in 2015; this may not have been an issue.

Nova Scotia’s privacy commissioner and the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board have launched investigations into how the security camera was left open to the internet.

School officials have not revealed the results of their inquiry, but are calling it an “isolated incident.”

From discussions with another school board; It appears likely that a hole was explicitly opened in the schools firewall to allow it through. That would imply there was a conscious decision to make the cameras available publicly.

I strongly recommend reporters dig a bit deeper on this issue. For example;

  • Who requested the cameras?
  • For what purpose?
  • Who requested they be available publicly?
  • Did the IT department read the manual, and make appropriate recommendations?
  • If they did, were they overruled, and if so, by whom?
  • Who’s responsibility is the security of the devices attached to the network?

The Russians are Coming

sdfsdfsdfsdf By evan on May 08, 2017

Last week several webcams at a Cape Breton school were discovered to be broadcasting publicly, and indexed by a search engine, at insecam.org. The camera was taken down after the incident was reported; but CBC’s coverage by Susan Bradley and Jack Julian leaves much to be desired.

(Privacy Commissioner) Tully said passwords need to be encrypted and the length of time images are kept should be limited so they are less likely to be accessed.

The recommended practice is to hash passwords not encrypt them. That being said this advice is inapplicable to the issue at hand; and doesn’t address the issue that the device was using the default password, as evidenced by the screenshot that says change password.

Charlene Chaisson, a parent of two children at thea school, spoke to CBC:

“All I can add is that although it’s my son in the image and it’s alarming, I don’t blame anybody for it happening. Things get hacked all the time and hopefully now the cameras are secure.”

Nothing was “hacked.” One can find default passwords for most devices online in aggregated list of passwords, or in the user manual for the device. In fact, the manual for the camera in question details how to password protect the camera feed, and explicitly says to set a password for security reasons.

CBC did talk with a cybersecurity expert:

Daniel Tobok, a cybersecurity expert in Toronto, said the problem of webcam images being streamed around the world is common…

… He blames the way the webcams are connected directly to the internet.

With the ever-impending migration to IPv6, more and more devices will be connected to the internet. The issue is not connecting devices to the internet. IP security cameras are designed to connect to the internet, and restricting it with a firewall, would have only resolved this issue by rendering the device inoperable at best, or limiting the exposure to the school’s own network at worst.

Not once in the article did the CBC or the cyber-security expert mention ‘changing the default password’ on devices, which in 2014 Infoworld ranked one of the Top 10 Colossal Security Mistakes.

Insecam.org’s FAQ does tell users both how to fix their camera, and provide users with information on removing their camera from their site.

Q: How to remove my camera from this site
A: If you want to leave your surveillance camera public accessible but want to remove it from this site send the URL of your camera to email from contacts section. But remember that your camera still will be available to all internet users that use surveillance camera search software and sites like Shodanhq.com .The only solution to make your camera private is to set up a password!

As of May 4, it was longer linking to the Cape Breton camera.

Kris Klein, a privacy lawyer in Toronto, had this to say:

You don’t know who was looking at them,” Klein said. “It’s not to say that they were necessarily doing anything wrong, it’s just the fact that they had their own personal image broadcast and made available to the public at large via these shady characters.

Appeal to emotion aside, the feed was available only because the school board’s own IT staff didn’t read the manual. With accurate reporting of the issue, one realises the school board employees that set up the camera, are the “shady characters” whom made the broadcast public.

Makerspace Survey Results

sdfsdfsdfsdf By evan on Mar 18, 2016

I put together a survey and sent it to the HMS mailing list, reddit, linkedin, etc.

As of writing there are 81 responses, one of which is an obvious troll. The raw data is available here 

TL;DR: a space will never work for *everyone* but it can work for a lot of people.

Some key points:

  • Tech is far more popular than fine arts
  • 70% want there to be about 1000sqft, 80% want 1500sqft. The other 20% want more.
  • Dartmouth requires less people (~40) than Halifax or Burnside do to be sustainable (~53)
  • 70% of respondents have a car
  • 83% of respondents are over 22 years old (most students are <22)
  • There’s a clear willingness to pay extra for perks (like a locker)
  • People are interested in drop-in fees, like a gym
  • 9-5 Monday to Friday is not entirely necessary (and thus creates opportunities for shared space with business)
  • 20% of respondents want studio space, but want it at unsustainable rates.

The Actual Space

The first few questions were designed to find out what people wanted to use a space for, and how much space they think is needed. There’s a reason I didn’t specifically tie size to location, which I’ll get back to in a bit. What people think is needed and what is actually needed are two entirely different things. The former I can find out with a survey. The latter depends what people want to use it for.

Planned use
72% of 81 respondents want 3D printing and/or CNC. We’ll call that ‘Automated Making’ for lack of a better phrase.
65% want Soldering and Electronics.
58% want woodworking
44% Welding / Metalworking

on the other end of the scale,
17% want fine art and textiles,
8% want ‘other’, which a few included sewing.

How Often?
38% would use a space weekly,
33% biweekly,
23% monthly.

Just a few would use it daily.

Time of day
90.1% want access on the weekend during the day,
81.5% want access through the week in the evenings.

Compare that with
34.6% who want access 9-5 Monday to Friday.

This implies a business partnership or colocation could work.

Studio Space
One question that a board member had me add was ‘would you pay for studio space?’

21% of the 43 people that responded said yes. Of those, about half said what they would pay and for what, and answers varied wildly, but were around $0.50 to $1 per square foot (or about 5-10% of actual commercial rents)


50% of respondents would pay $10 a month for a locker;
16% would pay $20;
8.6% would expect one to be included.

43.2% of respondents would pay $25/month
33.3% would pay $50/month
6.2% would pay $100/month

Many of the write-in responses were $10/visit. Based on these numbers, and on the use numbers, tiered access is feasible. I would say modelling it after gym memberships isn’t a horrible idea.

Assuming people were charged exactly that; we can consider the average base income per person to be $41.90.


These questions were added early on and didn’t capture the first few respondents.

81.4% of respondents were male, 17.4% female, 1.4% were other.

Their age ranges are
15% 16-22,
55% 22-35,
28% 35-65%
0% 65+

This is entirely unsurprising as most of the 22-35 crowd are (statistically) living in apartments and have no space to work on projects or hobbies.

Only 10% of respondents have children that would participate. Of those, 7.5% are in elementary school.

50% of respondents have a university degree.
25% have a college or trades diploma
19.7% have some post secondary.



74% of respondents have a car.
18% of respondents rely on the bus.

The location was asked in the way ‘where are you willing to go?’

81% would travel to the peninsula
58% would travel to Dartmouth
53% would travel to Burnside.
49% would travel to Clayton Park
46% would travel to Bayers Lake

Sackville, Spryfield, and Cole Harbour are all around 20%.

It definitely seems to follow commute patterns, and is clustered. If someone will go to Cole harbour they’ll almost always go to Dartmouth, and if someone will go to Bayers lake they’ll almost always go to Clayton Park. People without cars generally choose the peninsula and Dartmouth. Nobody without a car chose Burnside.

Looking at only those who rely on transit, 65% are willing to go to Dartmouth.

I will admit, the data does show a measurable preference for the peninsula. Now the question is, is it feasible?

I’ll look at the numbers to break even on gross space costs here, suffice to say that’s only part of the story and doesn’t include internet, insurance, power, etc. This chart makes many assumptions but is a good starting point. It’s based on the number of people who *want* a makerspace, if 100 want one, and 19 of those wouldn’t go to halifax, I’m weighting the results by that percentage. As before, the average revenue per person was $41.90.

In short, it’s the bare minimum threshold at each size to have a viable makerspace.

500sqft / 5% 750sqft / 29% 1000sqft / 69% 1500sqft / 80% 2000sqft / 100%
Peninsula (~$22) 81% 916 / 27 people  1375 / 41 people  1833 / 54 people  2750 / 81 people  3666 / 108 people
Dartmouth (~$15) 58%  625 / 25 people  937 / 30 people  1250 / 41 people  1875 / 62 people  2500 / 82 people
Burnside (~$14) 53%  583 / 26 people  875 / 40 people  1167 / 52 people  1750 / 79 people  2333 / 105 people


Interestingly enough, even after weighting for ‘who would go there’, Dartmouth is feasible with less numbers.

Now, no one wanted a 500sqft or a 750sqft makerspace. Based on the intended usage; 1000sqft is probably fine and more is better as it grows.

Based on these numbers, the same space would need 80% as many people to be sustainable in Dartmouth as it would on the peninsula or Burnside. Realistically, many of those that are willing to travel to Burnside are probably also willing to go to north end Dartmouth, especially along windmill and near the new bridge. To be fair, Halifax Peninsula is more desirable, but only really once we’re over about 80 paying members and only if a perfect spot were to come up, with parking for the 75% with cars, and substantial floor space.



The other part of this survey was about retail sales, looking at what people would be willing to spend on components / as markup.

Having quality parts nearby was more important than price, and in fact people are willing to accept a reasonable markup from as high as 100% on smaller items to 25% on more expensive items. There is definitely an opportunity for a space to derive revenue from component and supplies sales. 94% of people were willing to go pick up parts, be it at a makerspace or elsewhere. More people buy things locally than order overseas, and nearly as much as ordering domestically. 23% of people do mail order purchases.

A question that *should* have been asked, “how much do you generally spend on components and raw materials each month” unfortunately wasn’t, so I can’t derive an estimated revenue.

An Open Letter to the NS Liquor Commission

sdfsdfsdfsdf By evan on Feb 23, 2016

Re: http://novascotia.ca/sns/pdf/agd-liquor-sale-of-growlers.PDF

On what basis is there a regulation prohibiting the sale of growlers after 10:00 PM?

You can imagine my frustration at 10:15 PM hearing about this regulation for the first time. I hope you understand how ridiculous this is:

  • I can legally sit in the bar, drink beer, and then drive home (as long as my BAC is less than .08);
  • can drive to Dartmouth and fill a growler with a different brand of beer, from at least the Moosehead cold beer store if not others
  • I can’t buy the same beer, fill the same growler, drive it home, and drink it at home.

Of course, simply not buying alcohol is certainly an option, but an unreasonable one.

From a public safety point of view, it’s literally encouraging drinking and driving, by creating restrictions on the safe consumption of alcohol, after an arbitrary time of day.

If the intention of the regulation is to add red tape and/or prevent the legal, safe consumption of a regulated beverage, it has succeeded. Otherwise this regulation needs to be repealed.

Downtown: A pipe dream.

sdfsdfsdfsdf By evan on Feb 01, 2016

10636648_490576524413041_1907798131637067021_oWhy downtown?

Usually I’m told “because downtown,” “there’s better restaurants,” and “better shopping” That’s debatable, but I’ll get back to that.

I’m told I should sell my car and move downtown. Well, my (luxury) car + insurance + rent is less than the equivalent rent downtown. If I sell my car, I then lose mobility. This is arguably a car centric city, and province, contrary to what The Coast wants to think. So if I move downtown, I have to sell my car, make up another $200 a month, for a smaller apartment and losing the ability to travel and visit family.

Not going to happen.

Even worse, I’m technically ‘middle class’ and can’t afford to shop downtown. I’ll go to Walmart, thanks. If I want fancy food I can go to dhaba in Bayers Lake and pay the same thing for more, better food since their rent is lower.

Not only that, I don’t pay the parking tax. But of course, I’m just lazy for not wanting to walk two blocks. If only I could ever find free parking within 10. Oh but I should pay for parking. Why? When there’s a free alternative, why should I pay for parking?

Because downtown.

I’ve leased office space downtown. I worked downtown for several years… I noticed a marked decline in tenancy in those few years, I saw convenience stores closing because they had no customers. I saw the rents stay the same, or raise for the same 80 year old units crawling with mice, 25% vacancy rates, and borderline inhospitable heat in the summer. All the offices are owned by guys out of Ontario, they have no skin in the game. Supply and demand doesn’t even seem to apply. They’re happy to lose money hand over fist because lowering the rent would be crazy!

It’s caused massive outmigration to industrial parks. Hell, HRM’s own tax policy has driven people to industrial parks, they they own!

Back in the day, being ‘downtown’ and close to other businesses mattered. Now? No. Teleconferencing, remote work, email, technology, email…. You know; all those modern things that mean people can be anywhere and do the same or better work. The burbs are closer to highways, to the airport, etc. Many people even work from home!

Why commute downtown for the sake of downtown when the benefits aren’t easily measured, but the downsides (higher rent, longer commutes, more noise, etc.) are obvious.

The people that want to be downtown are there. Those who get something out of it are already there.

To get more people downtown you need to convince me, and the other 100k people that don’t work downtown, and don’t want to, that it’s worth putting up with the commute, and worth paying the extortionate rents, because ‘the restaurants and shopping are better.’

Or change.

The only way that’s going to happen is rents dropping and a transit overhaul, both of which are pipe dreams.

NS Film Tax Credit: A rational analysis

sdfsdfsdfsdf By evan on Apr 09, 2015

Edit: I’m told this isn’t an proper analysis by one of the writers of the Ivany Report. He went to Harvard. I know this because he told me so. He never did get back to me with a list of issues.

It’s a blog post. Take it as you will.

The Preamble

I have been fairly vocal against the NS Film Tax credit for the past few weeks. I am happy to reconsider my position given evidence; but as of now I am firmly of the opinion that if everyone understood whats going on there would be outrage.

If you read anything; let it be this: We were losing $5M a year. After changing the tax credit it’s not only sustainable, the refundable portion is is still 12.5% to 16.3% of salary. For scale, the RBC payroll rebate is only 5%-10%.

The Debate

Invariably I’m met with one of two responses. “Save Sunnyvale” (an appeal to emotion)
and “But it brings in $140M” (a straw man.) I hope to address both of these and the underlying issues here.

Taxes and finances are a difficult topic to cover in 140 characters. To understand this issue you need a basic knowledge of accounting and refundable / non refundable tax credits.
I’ve been attempting to simplify it down to 140 characters and basic math but I feel that is adversely affecting my position at this point.

The truth is; it’s ignorance. I can assure you the industry is well aware of their sweet deal
and wants to hold on to it by any means necessary. If people understood the issue they’d be less likely to rally under the banner of a fictional trailer park. I’m not saying people are ignorant in general, but there are only so many times I can hear “Economics have nothing to do with a provincial budget.” before losing my mind.

The Economics

I’ve been told “it’s not black and white.” Hate to rain on your parade but it’s discrete math. It’s literally black and white. What is being discussed isn’t by definition a handout. It’s not a subsidy. It’s a tax credit.

As such, I believe we should talk about it in financial and accounting terms. If we want to discuss it on its merits, and look at the social implications of subsidizing film in Nova Scotia, we can and should stop treating it as a tax refund and treat it as a subsidy. We would still need to discuss whether or not we can afford a subsidy, but at least then we can have a fair and transparent discussion on the matter.

The Straw Man

For reference, a straw man argument is when one sets up a lesser argument then knocks the lesser argument down.

In the discussions around the film tax credit a common theme is that the province is spending $20M and generating $135M. On its face it’s really easy to look at that and say “Well obviously its bringing in $115M” and that’s where most people stop. While true, this is not the issue with the tax credit. This fallacy makes discussion difficult.

The issue is that the province is arguably losing money on the tax credit. The province spends $20M, which results in $135M in sales. The provinces return, in the form of tax revenues, is only about $15M. That’s a much less rosy picture. The province spends $20M and only makes $15M back? That means we’re losing $5M per year!

That’s right.

Think about it this way (coming back to basic math here.) If Walmart has a TV in stock, on sale for $550, and sells 100 of them that’s a lot of sales ($55000). But what is the return on that investment? We know what was spent; was it worth it? Did they see a return?

To know that we have to go further. What did Walmart spend on the TV? Say Walmart spent $600 per TV, sold them each for $550, and had $55000 in sales. Was that a good investment?

No. While they had spent $60000 ($20M) they sold them for $55000 ($15M)in sales losing $5000 ($-5M) in the process. That $15M is a fair estimate based on data available. In a perfect world with optimistic assumptions it still falls under $20M. If any industry or government representatives have figures on tax revenues, please send it to me.

My position all along has been that the tax credit is effectively a cash payment which has been rebuked by a few prominent members so I want to go over the actual differences between a cash payment and a tax credit.

To do so requires some differentiation. There are two types of tax credits. The first is a “nonrefundable” and the second is a “refundable”. The biggest difference is that the former cannot lower your taxes owed below zero. The latter can. A refundable tax credit can and often does push taxes owed below zero. When someone owes -$500 in taxes, they recieve a cheque for the difference.

In that way, a refundable tax credit and a cash payment have the exact same effect on a balance sheet. The province has less revenue, the business has less expenses. To claim that the tax credit is a credit, not a payment, is a semantic difference at best.

The Appeal to Emotion

As if one logical fallacy wasn’t enough, there’s another in play. The “appeal to emotion.” This is when someone uses emotions to win an argument without debating relevant facts. This happened in two ways. Save Sunnyvale, and threats to leave.

The film industry are masters of manipulating emotions. It’s their day job, to act and convince the viewer of the story. They got big names like Snoop Dogg, Carrot Top and Axl Rose to show support. They’re performers. They performed.

It’s a smart move. Honestly people like the trailer park boys more than bankers or ferry crews. It doesn’t mean they’re right. What do they do though? Threaten to leave. No one likes lost jobs. No one likes unemployment. We need to keep young people in NS. This isn’t what the Ivany Report suggested though. Young people shouldn’t threaten to leave, to create The Sudbury Park Boys, if they aren’t being paid to stay.

As soon as the tax credit cuts were preliminarily announced a concerted social media campaign was begun by industry leaders. The Trailer Park boys being some of the most vocal and even being interviewed in character.

Responsible journalism was found shuddering in a wrecked Trans Am when the CBC literally put fictional drug dealers on TV to discuss the merits of a tax credit.

The Cut

The actual budget was released today, with a film tax credit.

The industry is still threatening to leave.

Here’s the thing; It’s not the exact same tax credit but very similar. It’s still worth 50%-65%. The difference is it’s 75% non-refundable.

Remember those negative tax payments from earlier? Now only 25% of the 50%-65% can be paid out as (effectively) cash.

Lets run some numbers again.

Say a film company brought in $100,000 and paid $90,000 in salaries. As of yesterday they’d owe $3,000 in tax, and get a refund of $45,000 for a total negative tax payment of -$42,000.

In the new budget, that same company would bring in $100,000, pay $90,000 in salaries, owe $3,000 in tax. Only $11250 of the credit is now refundable. The difference that will “kill the industry” and they are threatening to leave over is now that 75% of a negative tax payment.
Granted, their books aren’t as rosy. But they are for profit businesses, and we were losing money subsidizing them. It wasn’t sustainable. Now, it actually is. The province should break even or slightly better which makes the credit worth it.

The Reality

An inevitable response to dissent regarding the tax credit is “But we gave RBC money”

OK. Two wrongs doesn’t make a right, but was that even wrong? Looking at it, again as a financial investment, not a subsidy, what is the return on that investment? Lets look at how much we’re giving RBC and compare it to the post-change film tax refunds.

The RBC credit is up to $22M over 10 years for up to 500 employees. Do the math.

$5M / 500 people / 10y means a refund of $4400 per person. To put that in perspective the NSBI business plan says that payroll rebates are between 5% and 10%.

The NS Film credit is 25% refundable of 50-65%. That’s 12.5% to 16.3%

Lets reiterate those numbers. The RBC credit is between 5% and 10%, the Film credit after the reduction is 12.5% to 16.3%.

The film industry is planning on leaving because we’re only giving them twice as much as it took to coax RBC to come here. After cuts.

The Conclusion

The response scares me. It means we need to either spend more money on education, or at least spend it more wisely (As we all know, mirochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.)

Even today, after the cuts were revealed to be reasonable, people responded with “I’ll never vote again!” Since when did ignoring an issue resolve it?!

We can afford the tax credit now. It’s still a very good return for the film companies. It’s certainly more than most industries. If you feel my analysis was wrong, I encourage you to show me otherwise. I really do welcome rational and reasonable debate.

As it was we were losing money. We were spending $20M a year to get $15M which is a fairly poor investment. Debt can be a good thing. But not without the means to pay it back. By doing so we are borrowing from our future.

But most of all, we need to start thinking rationally. We’re living in the aftermath of the boomers borrowing from us, and if we do the same there will be nothing left.

Save the library; Its our only hope

sdfsdfsdfsdf By evan on Feb 25, 2015

Update: I ended up hearing back from Waye Mason right away, and Savage a month later saying the information in The Coast was inaccurate.


Dear Mr. Mayor, Councillor Watts, and Councillor Mason,

Regarding this news article: http://www.thecoast.ca/RealityBites/archives/2014/12/09/volta-labs-wants-the-old-library

Halifax, as I’m sure you’re aware, is bleeding population. Our past is dying of old age, and our future is moving out west; to Ontario, to Alberta. There is one industry that isn’t running away as fast as they can. Tech. As I’m sure you’re aware, even Google has recognized Halifax as a (as much as I hate to say it) world-class city.

Up until just last week, I was planning on leaving Halifax forever. I didn’t particularly want to, I had no choice. I’m having a child in a month, and want to do whats best in the long run. I got lucky, and found a very good job at the last second here in Halifax.

There are hundreds of people with million dollar ideas, but don’t have the opportunity to flesh them out. A million dollar idea without the ability to follow through is worth less than the paper it’s printed on.

Mayor Savage, every time you speak at a tech or startup related event, you make sure to mention how important the tech industry is, how you support it, and how you want people to succeed. Ever since the very first Apps4Halifax hackathon at Volta.
Volta is basically at capacity right now. There are far more applicants than can be housed. The companies are also limited to a small office, with little to no infrastructure other than a couple of boardrooms and a common area. This is great for those software companies that can get in. Hardware unfortunately, not so much. There are many people in Halifax who are at the forefront of hardware development.  We have a huge ICT student population, we have dozens of IT companies. We have military contractors, biomedical companies.. Did you know one of the designers of the Commodore 64 works in Burnside?

Yet we have a city that claims to be on board with “open data” yet stonewalls any attempt to use it to the citizens benefit.  we have a community workshop, Halifax Makerspace, that can barely sustain itself and is at the whim of discretionary spending by quasi-governmental organizations. Mayor Savage, I’ve sat in an audience at least three times in the last year and you made it clear you want the tech industry to succeed.

I want you to live up to that.

I recently traveled to Waterloo, Ontario. What I saw there was a tech mecca. Not only is the ICT industry encouraged, it’s actively supported by the local and provincial governments. Things that programmers do for fun in Halifax, are well funded startups in Waterloo.  Google chose to make it’s home there. Facebook is moving in. Twitter is moving in. There are billions of dollars of investments going into the city. In two days there, I was approached about employment no less than three times. I’m still getting calls, asking me if I’d move there. In those same two days, I saw the bleeding edge of tech in North America. Canadian Tire, TD, Manulife, all of these companies are pouring money into R&D.

Why not here?

Waterloo is only the size of Dartmouth, but with four hundred tech companies. They have not one, but three startup incubators, (Communitech, Communitech Hub, and Velocity Garage, which specalizes in hardware). They are easily 15 years ahead of us right now, and I truly believe we can do better.

The old library is a huge stepping stone. It would provide Volta the opportunity to expand into hardware, to bring in more companies, and to better support the local ICT industry. Plus, from my understanding, the plan is to have the hardware lab and common areas open to the public. This is a $200,000 hardware lab that would make the Makerspace look like a playschool. The only thing they need is a place to set up shop.

Why tear the building down to build a park? This could be game changing! We have parks. In fact, we have a lot of parks. But I can’t think of a single multi-million dollar company started in a park. I can’t think of any high paying jobs created in a park. Volta was founded by self made men. They started with nothing, and turned their knowledge into millions.

People aren’t going to come back for a stroll in yet another park downtown. They’re going to come back because they can support their family. Waterloo doesn’t have any innate advantage over Halifax. They just have support. People want to move here, but they don’t have opportunities. People don’t have a future here.

Mayor Savage, I ask that you give them that future.

Evan d’Entremont