Fossil Capital: Nova Scotia Coal Edition

“A Simple Life, House 8 x 10 Mill Cove, N.S.” From Ian McKay, The Quest of the Folk: Antimoderism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia.

What happens when a community depends on fossil fuel extraction and the industry always calls the shots? Team Advantage digs into the history of coal mining in Nova Scotia, examining the role of the labour movement, deindustrialization and attempts at nationalization, the history of mining disasters, and the long-term effects of regional decline. What might Alberta glean from Nova Scotia’s experience?

Special thanks to Socalled for the intro track “Springhill Mine Disaster” (also known as the Ballad of Springhill).

[intro music begins (“Springhill Mine Disaster” by Socalled)]

Kate:  The Alberta Advantage is supported by listeners like you. Independent listener-supported media like this podcast is possible only thanks to the generous support of our listeners. If you think what we do is important, please head over to and support our work with a monthly donation.

[intro music ends]

Kate: Hello, and welcome to The Alberta Advantage. Today, we are going to be talking about a very, very specific phenomenon wherein a single party has been the provincial government for four decades and is in the pocket of the foreign-owned fossil fuel industry, this volatile resource that we depend on is now declining, and we don’t know what to do, but we can really bet on it coming back, and all we can do is to demand that Ottawa protect and bail out the industry because we’re going to claim that it’s in the national interest. And if you thought I was talking about Alberta, no; we’re actually discussing Nova Scotia in 1920. With the recent negative oil prices and the climate requirement to end fossil fuel extraction bearing down on us, it’s very difficult to, you know, not have a lot of apprehensions about Alberta’s future. You know, what are working Albertans going to be left with as a result of governments stubbornly refusing to seriously prepare for the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels? And has this happened before? So this episode is another entry in our occasional historical political economy series on the uneven regional development of Canadian capitalism, particularly with regards to resource extraction. Joining me on Team Advantage today to flesh out this topic is Karen —

Karen: Hello.

Kate: — Rory —

Rory: Hello.

Kate: — and Brendan.

Brendan: Hey!

Kate: We are going to look, as I said, at another region, and also at an earlier era of fossil capitalism in Canadian history, its legacy, and also the lessons that it has for Alberta. This podcast has talked a lot about oil and about wheat, but not so much about one of our true favourite commodities, which is coal. In fact, many people on Team Advantage, myself included, grew up in economically-depressed former coal mining regions, so we are all very, very excited to discuss it today — particularly Rory and Karen, who are actually from Nova Scotia.

Rory: So, for much of the 20th century, Nova Scotia — and, particularly, Cape Breton — was the most important source of coal in Canada, with hundreds of mines, tens of thousands of workers, and other spinoff industries like steel. This is all gone now, with only a single small open pit coal mine still operational at Stellarton. It’s not only a story of structural transitions in the economy, but also of violent class conflict. The struggle was not just over pay and working conditions, but also to wrest control of regional economic development away from extractive capital so it isn’t successively plundering area after area, leaving only social ruin in its wake. So, kind of the point of this episode is to kind of think: perhaps Canada can be more than a bunch of resource extraction companies in a trench coat masquerading as a country.

Kate: And to get this episode started, we should talk a little bit about what fossil capitalism is and what it has looked like in Canada. So, capitalism has this reliance on fossil fuels to power economic growth, and this is not a simple coincidence that is derived from the fact that, you know, coal and oil are resources that have useful physical properties. Instead, it’s really important to understand fossil fuels and capitalism as deeply intertwined and as part of, basically, twin processes that shape the way capital manifests, you know, in our society and in the world in general. Team Advantage, we’re really big fans of a book by Andreas Malm called Fossil Capital which has always been a really big influence on our analysis of, you know, the political present in Alberta, living as we do in a petrostate. And the crux of Malm’s argument in Fossil Capital is that he argues that the transition to coal as an energy source at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution was not just about its superior technological capacity, and in fact wasn’t really about that at all, but had much more to do with its superior ability to empower capital to subordinate labour. So coal-fired steam engines basically allowed capital to concentrate workers where and when they needed them, so instead of, say, having to build a textile mill on a particular stretch of river to use water power, a steam-powered factory could be placed in a town that has a ready-made pool of labour. It concentrates labour. It also divorces the energy supply from any kind of natural rhythms in the way that, you know, steam that is powered by water wheels is really reliant on natural rhythms, any kind of solar energy or any kind of natural inputs in terms of people and animals. Coal, and then, later, oil, in terms of fossil capitalism, are really divorced from that. This dynamic, basically, it continues to this day even more intensely with oil. The other text we’re really drawing on here is Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy, which is the idea that oil is basically an intensification of this process because coal is relatively bulky — it is extremely labour-intense to extract, and it also creates bottlenecks in a capitalist economy that is dependent on coal because it gives coal miners a lot of leverage if they’re organized, if they’re militant, and also the way it has to be transported in terms of rail, barges, things like that, gives those allied unions, also, a lot of power. So coal basically creates this network where there is extremely strategic nodes over which labour has a lot of power that labour and capital can fight over. And in Britain, at least, this gave them real political power, and this undergirded, you know, the mass parties of the Left, of the Labour party and of the trade union movement, and support of the construction of the post-war welfare state. The transition to oil breaks this political power — or is one of the factors that breaks this political power — oil requires much less labour to extract and to transport and it is produced and distributed in a much more decentralized and global fashion. Think about, you know, pipelines — this is a topic we talk about all the time in Alberta — there are obviously strategic points in terms of pipelines when you’re looking at things like industrial sabotage or when you are looking at things like blockades, as we’ve seen, but that is a different form of politics than the politics that underpinned coal as the main driver of fossil capitalism.

Karen: Canada is somewhat unusual amongst developed capitalist economies in that it transitioned from coal to oil while remaining a net exporter of fossil fuels. Other countries that industrialized on domestic coal became dependent on oil imports after the Second World War. Fossil capitalism in Canada can be periodized and regionalized. The first period in Canada is industrialization; it occurred between 1880 and 1920 and was primarily powered by Nova Scotia coal. Post-war growth to present has been fueled by oil, much of which has come from Alberta. Three provinces have significant deposits and histories of mining coal: Alberta, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. So Alberta actually has most of Canadian coal reserves, and Nova Scotia has the most significant history of mining. Coal mining companies were among Canada’s largest businesses through most of the 20th century. Nova Scotia’s DOSCO was Canada’s biggest private employer into the 1950s, and they were commonly vertically integrated with steel production, railroads, shipping, and — briefly — aircraft. The importance of coal mining even led to a decades-long period of state ownership in coal and steel that only ended in 2001. With oil now, we can certainly see the increase in state intervention in favour of the industry.

Brendan: So now, just to get into the specific history of Nova Scotia: throughout this episode, we’ll be relying a fair bit on the work of a great Canadian labour and social historian Ian McKay, and he wrote a book called Quest of the Folk which provides a very useful way to frame the province’s history. And, basically, it’s a book about being so annoyed by the ideology of Tourism Nova Scotia commercials that a book-length Marxist takedown was necessary to destroy the ideology propagated in those.

Kate: And that’s an energy that we really respect here on The Alberta Advantage.

Brendan: [laughs]

Kate: Like, just pure spite is a great motivation for any kind of political work.

Brendan: Absolutely. So McKay argues that the image of Nova Scotia as a place of simple folk values with an idyllic rural history is something that’s constructed by tourism, by the cultural industries, and this image obscures a history of industry, capitalism, class struggle, and places working people in the past artificially into passive roles, stuck in what Marx in The Communist Manifesto refers to the “idiocy of rural life.” And he uses the example of a photograph from the 1890s showing a weather-beaten shack and its inhabitants, which is presented as a realistic depiction of what life was life. And McKay makes the point that, even in just looking at this photo, there are a number of different frameworks that you could look at it in, and he argues that you can see this just by discussing the caption that’s given to this image. So he says, “Transform, in your mind, the words ‘A simple Life, House 8 x 10 Mill Cove, Nova Scotia’ into ‘The Heathen Poor upon Our Coasts,’ and then change that to ‘Starvation and Suffering through Capitalist Underdevelopment.’ The meaning of the photograph changes, and it will actually bring out details that you might not have readily noticed.” What he writes is that these are not alternative captions chosen at random; they constitute the historically-existent alternative ways of seeing people such as these. So the obvious sort of poverty of the subject in the photo gets recontextualized from a pastoral idol to Victorian moralizing about their individual moral failures to passive victims of systems that they cannot control.

Kate: And this is something that is quite common in regions that are developed this way; this is a phenomenon that is also really common in Wales, where I was born, and it is this full colourization of past industry that really undercuts the agency of working-class people, as Brendan pointed out, but also, just, is flat-out false. You know, Wales often gets represented, and Nova Scotia as well, as somewhere really idyllic and pastoral and beautiful, and I don’t know how many of you have ever seen a coal mine, but they’re quite ugly. Or if you’ve ever seen a coal tip; they’re quite ugly. It’s not a nice thing to look at, to look at a slag heap, you know. It is an unpleasant kind of environmental factor, and this just gets completely whitewashed by folklore. And what’s really important to understand here, too, is that folklore as a genre of culture is a very modern phenomenon; it is very much, like, the invention of tradition, the invention of history, but in a way that’s quite false and quite controlled, because folklore gets presented as a collection of texts or stories or ideas that are pre-modern and basically dead, and then any contemporary continuing survival of these cultures is seen as an anachronism, but the process by which capitalist industrialization happens — so the process by which you get from A to B, even if A was never really real — is rendered, basically, historically invisible. So in the case of Nova Scotia, you know, the 19th century gets recast as populated by settler peasants, yet the final two decades of that century were periods of rapid industrialization and violent class conflict that would carry over well into the 20th century. So, you know, it’s a period that exhibited — it’s a lot of contradictions of capital, the contradictions of capitalist majority, that we know and love.  

Rory: In Nova Scotia, the development of the tourism industry parallels the deindustrialization in the middle decades of the 2oth century. So McKay puts the creation of this idea of the folk as between 1927 and 1960, which is a period when you see a lot of interest in Nova Scotia folklore by a number of different people. So the folk, or this idea of the folk, from the start is itself a capitalist commodity available for consumption by tourists, and, more importantly, it ideologically undermines the once-mighty Nova Scotia labour movement, which was already weakened by capitalist crisis from the 1920s onwards. So where Nova Scotian society was conceived of as a struggle of worker and capitalist over the all-consuming labour question, it’s now replaced with a unifying, regionalist folk conception that erases class politics. So this makes accurate historical work very important; a province’s current place in the global capitalist hierarchy stuck in regional dependency is a result of understandable forces if you look at the history. And, also, we need to recognize that people in the past had agency, and they struggled for alternative historical outcomes than what we got. So disposing of this idea of the folk is necessary to articulate a radical democratic politics, one that also includes women, people of colour, LGBT, etc, which tend to get erased by this particular white settler traditional peasantry which never really existed in Nova Scotia. So when you talk about society as this sort of single, holistic thing that this idea of the folk presents it as, there’s an obvious class bias to who benefits from obscuring actually existing social antagonisms. So we kind of have to create a new collective memory that reinstates events like the giant strikes of the 1920s in Cape Breton, and we’d have to reinstate back into history, and it allows us to imagine better futures that don’t involve economic underdevelopment and outmigration.

Kate: Yeah, I don’t want to overstate it by saying that folklore is fascist, but — [laughs] the idea of the folk as it’s used in this way is an extremely important building block of fascism. As far as I know, we derive the word in English from the German “volk,” and the idea of “volkish” was a very big part of German nationalism in the 20th century. And the reason for this that Rory has outlined really, really well is that it obscures any kind of class differences or any kind of antagonisms that we know exist in our society and that are produced, particularly, by the structure of our society to turning politics into, you know, an aesthetic struggle over who basically belongs to the folk, or an aesthetic struggle over who controls certain perceived or real levers of the economy or society.

Brendan: Coal has been mined in Nova Scotia since 1720 — which is the earliest documented coal mining anywhere in North America — and it’s mostly been mined in three counties, which are Cape Breton, Cumberland, and Pictou, with Cape Breton responsible of 80% of total production over that history. But industrialized extraction of it begins about 1830 and accelerates after 1870, and there’s a turning point that’s usually seen in this process around 1920, after which coal mining goes into a terminal, but very extended, decline — although there is still a single open pit mine operating today, so there’s still sort of a vestigial remnant of this. And the basic sort of socioeconomic and political economic setup here gives us a number of recurring themes that continue to shape the politics of energy in the region and down to the present, and those are: domination by external capital, corresponding internal political struggles over how these resources should be developed, very entrenched faith in the existence of a market in the United States (especially nearby in New England) that will provide a solution to these economic problems that develop, and — and this is something that I think people also have pretty strong contemporary resonance here, which is — excessive optimism over the potential of a resource. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that before.

Kate: It is worth pointing out, though — there are some ways in which the political economy of Nova Scotia in the 19th century is somewhat unique. So in the world market, Nova Scotia was basically a dependent staples exporter that had quite limited industrialization, and, prior to Confederation, it was plugged into maritime trade. However, wage labour was very common in Nova Scotia among settlers, even if it wasn’t industrial or urban. So, the peasantry that was dispossessed — if we’re using that analytical framework — that had already happened by the 19th century through the process of settler colonialism in Atlantic Canada, and the domestic economy, interestingly, was also dominated basically by local merchant capital that operated many small-scale firms. And this really tended to impede labour organization because it meant that there wasn’t large employers which were a) strategically important, and b) just easier to organize. But on the other hand, you know, capital-intensive sectors like coal mining, these were the ones that were developed by external industrial capital, and these were the ones that produced large and militant labour organizing. So this creates a contradictory situation where there is conflict between workers, local merchant capital, and foreign industrial capital over the development of the region, and it also suggests something very interesting — and perhaps troubling — about the potential for organizing workers in Canada when you see how much easier it is to organize workers against foreign capital than domestic capital.

Kate: Prior to the 1820s, coal production in Nova Scotia was small-scale and artisan, with little export market in part because Britain didn’t want to stimulate industrial development in the colonies. In 1788, George III granted a monopoly on mining in Nova Scotia to his son, the Duke of York, but nothing came of that until he sold the rights, in 1825, to a group of London jewelry merchants to settle a debt. So that’s where it all began. They formed the General Mining Association, or GMA, with £400,000 in capital, hoping in vain to find copper. They would have monopoly mineral rights til 1858, and would be the province’s largest goal producer until 1900. Their access to foreign capital and favourable royalty rates meant a significant expansion in coal production. In the eight years prior to the monopoly of 1828, various companies mined 105,000 tonnes and paid £123,000 in royalties. In the next eight years prior to the monopoly of 1828, various companies mined 105,000 tonnes and paid £23,000 in royalties.

Kate: So the next eleven years after the monopoly, the GMA extracted 690,000 tonnes, but paid only £43,000. So we’re seeing very disproportionate royalty regime here, which I’m sure will be familiar to my fellow Alberta residents. And this caused an enormous amount of political turmoil in Nova Scotia politics, and GMA — the General Mining Association — agreed to end its sixty-year monopoly thirty years early, in 1858, in exchange for big cuts to their royalties. And their business model was really classically mercantilist, because it depends on the state-enforced monopoly. And what it also entailed was, basically, forcibly evicting small-time miners from coal seams and smashing those social relations that considered coal to be a resource that was owned in common by communities and was used in specific ways, and through that, the GMA really transformed how coal was mined — so things like using steam engines; building a railway in the 1930s; they employed 1500 men, which is an enormous workforce for the area, in 1840 — but this industrialization was really limited to, basically, export enclaves, and the only real market for coal was the USA, which had high tariffs and also had a nascent domestic coal industry. So it wasn’t a very promising market. And the end of this GMA monopoly in 1858 basically saw an influx of foreign capital into Nova Scotia coal, and while the industry did expand rapidly, it was still really reliant on export markets for growth, and the lack of local coal demand became, basically, a persistent political issue in the province; it played into political struggles over Confederation, and it was something that would remain divisive for decades after. So, again, this political conflict over export markets, and how they relate to a fossil capital resource, is, I’m sure, something that will be very familiar to listeners of the podcast.

Rory: Yeah, so with Canadian confederation in 1867, which Nova Scotia was a founding member of, the federal Conservative government of John A. MacDonald and his new Dominion pursued what’s called the National Policy, which basically was using protectionism and subsidies to stimulate Canadian industrial development. So Nova Scotia’s coal was kind of imagined as something they could feed into central Canadian industry, and maybe even use it to kick-start local industrialization, too. However, the impact of protectionism on the Nova Scotia trading economy was quite negative, which made the National Policy quite unpopular in the province. So, in 1882, there was a provincial election where the Liberal party won a landslide on a platform of threatening secession from Canada because of the National Policy. Obviously, they didn’t carry that out. So, the Liberals were close to the coal industry, which wanted more free trade with the United States. Premier W. S. Fielding believed that coal exports were the ticket to prosperity, and he pursued foreign capital investment in coal mining. And the Nova Scotia Liberals would be in power until 1925; the next 43 years, and covering, basically, the main period of coal development in Nova Scotia. So between 1880 and 1913, Nova Scotia annual coal production increased from 1.2 million to 7.2 million tonnes. By 1913, coal employed 14,000 people, up from 6000 twenty years earlier, so the industry was expanding quite rapidly. And in 1883, coal royalties made up 21% of provincial revenues, but by 1906, it was 46.2% of all revenue. So, I mean, I don’t think Alberta even came that close to having oil royalties pay the bills. This was in part because Nova Scotia relied on royalties to pay the bills and actually avoided any high income taxes at the time. And coal did stimulate some industrial development in Nova Scotia, particularly with steel production, which needed lots of coal. So steel works in Trenton, which is in Pictou County, and Sydney, in Cape Breton County, were in operation by the beginning of the 20th century, and between 1905 to 1913, they produced about 47% of Canada’s pig iron. Sydney’s population exploded from 2250 people to almost 18,000 between 1891 and 1911, while industrial Cape Breton, overall, went from 18,000 to 57,000 people. And by 1913, the year of peak Nova Scotia coal production, the province had experienced over 30 years of fairly consistent industrial expansion. So why didn’t it continue?

Kate: Well, looking at labour struggles in the coal mining economy gives us some clues to this, because, while coal miners and strikes appear to go together like bread and butter, the pattern of labour unrest in the Nova Scotia coal fields was somewhat unusual, and this was because mine ownership was primarily external to the region; it was producing for export, and it was mostly concentrated under a single company. So in Britain, for example, over a similar time period, mine ownership was domestic, it was less concentrated, and the mines produced primarily for domestic markets. So in Nova Scotia, you know, this created companies that were highly susceptible to dips in global coal demand, but also had enormous local power over communities. So miners became dependent on companies through what’s known as a truck system, or a company town, and companies took advantage of this to thoroughly dominate the lives of their workers. And what a company town is is basically when you live in company housing, and often a portion to an entirety of your paycheck is going to be in what’s called company scrip — so it’s a currency that you can only use to buy things at a company store, which is — it’s very interesting, I guess, that capitalism gives rise to this form because, on the face, it is the opposite of what capitalism should be because it’s basically subsuming the entire market under one owner, but I digress. And the big problem is often that the company store was unfair and ripped people off, and you get things like, in 1864, the GMA defeat a Cape Breton strike by evicting strikers from company housing. This is a really, really common tactic.

Karen: Yeah. So the end of the GMA monopoly in 1858 benefited miners since multiple employers had to compete for their labour and wages rose, so that’s a situation you want to see. But events in the world market in 1875 saw coal demand fall significantly, and newer mines folded, leaving the established GMA dominant. In 1874, the GMA cut wages by 10%, and further 20% on January 1st of 1876, and stockpiled coal in an unexpected mine in the spring. A strike broke out at the end of May in Cape Breton — exceptionally violent compared to what had come before. The company attempted to persecute the leaders for conspiracy, and resorted to evicting people from company housing — so, as Kate said before. Strikers destroyed machinery, shot at scabs, and, on two occasions, a sniper nearly assassinated company executives. The strike was put down in the first week of August by the militia, and the company blacklisted workers who were involved. The strike provided a founding moment in the Nova Scotia labour movement.

Brendan: So by 1900, the GMA was superseded by the American-owned Dominion Coal Company, or DOMCO. And, by 1912, DOMCO owned most coal mines in Nova Scotia and accounted for 40% of Canada’s coal production. And so this is initially a period when exports to the United States are increasing rapidly, mostly because DOMCO had signed cutrate contracts with US buyers. But after 1908, it stopped being able to compete so easily with US domestic production and got into a situation where it was actually losing money. At the same time, increasing rail freight rates to Central Canadian markets meant that US imports were outcompeting Nova Scotia coal there, so they were sort of being squeezed out of markets on all sides. So alongside these changes on the corporate sides, you have, also, changes among the workers and the organizations of the workers. So Nova Scotia miners had been represented by the Provincial Workmans’ Association, which was first established in 1879. Then, in the early 20th century, you have the emergence of a new leader, James Bryson MacLachlan, who would have a long, storied career — we’re going to talk a lot about him, I think — who’d moved from Scotland — the real one, the original one — to Sydney mines in 1902, and he brought a wealth of organizing experience, and he pushed for Nova Scotia miners to affiliate with the international union, the United Mine Workers of America. And so the UMWA recognized a Nova Scotia district as District 26 in 1908, although not all miners joined until 1917. During the 1910s, and through slowdowns and more intense strikes also, during this period, the company was able to play the two unions against one another, with the older PWA functioning as a sort of company union and the UMWA painted as unreasonable radicals leading workers astray. And MacLachlan actually received this from all sides because the UMWA leadership in the United States also found District 26 too extreme and, at a couple of points, actually revoked its recognition.

Kate: Yeah, an interesting fun fact here and a fun connection to Alberta is that, at the same time this is going on in Nova Scotia, coal miners in Drumheller and in the Crowsnest Pass in Alberta are also unionized with the UNWA, and, similarly, they find the UNWA to be a bureaucratic, conservative craft union, and they actually disaffiliate from the UNWA and join the recently-formed OBU, or the One Big Union. So a similar phenomenon is occurring in Alberta, just with different results because the OBU was much, much stronger on the Prairies than it was in Atlantic Canada.

Brendan: Which is a good situation for a radical labour leader to be in, honestly.

Kate: I was going to say, that’s called the rank-and-file strategy, and it’s good.

Brendan: [laughs] We love the rank-and-file strategy. And MacLachlan, despite being a successful practitioner of it, was blacklisted from actually working in the mines himself after 1915, but he continued to be re-elected as Secretary-Treasurer of District 26. He wrote and published in newspapers of the workers’ movement, he was a respected leader throughout the community throughout the 1910s and 1920s, and he was also a staunch socialist and a really prominent figure on the Left in Canada at this time.

Karen: Yeah, I think MacLachlan just used it to do what he wanted, and occasionally people would check on and be like, “Whoa, what is going — okay, well, we’ll just leave them because it’s too far away to worry about at the moment.” They had a lot of other things going on in the United States, so.

Rory: Surprisingly, though, with the outbreak of the First World War, this actually made things worse for the coal industry. The cheap labour pool shrank as many miners joined the Army, coal ships — which were primarily used to export to Quebec — were requisitioned for the war effort, which hurt their ability to transport stuff to export markets. So production in 1918 was 27% less than it was in 1913, and, worse, the neutral US had picked up much of the slack in coal production. However, by 1918, on the labour side, Nova Scotia miners had gained collective bargaining rights and an 8-hour workday for their 12,000 members. Their UWMA branch was seen as the strongest in Canada. But, also, the end of the war brought a big round of corporate consolidation in Nova Scotia coal and steel. In 1899, the financially-successful DOMCO had created the Dominion Iron and Steel Company — or DISCO, many people used to refer to “working at the DISCO plant” at the time. So DISCO built a steel plant in Sydney to use the nearby coal, and, by 1921, they had merged and acquired all the other coal mines and steel works in the province, forming the British Empire Steel Corporation, or BESCO, which was financed out of Montreal. BESCO had a monopoly and was a massive, vertically-integrated firm.

Karen: The post-war slump hit coal and steel hard in Nova Scotia, and BESCO struggled to remain profitable. The mergers were part of a way to manipulate stock prices to benefit executives that had weighted BESCO down with debt. BESCO attempted to solve this problem in a classic fashion and made rounds of aggressive wage cuts. This would be a key contributing factor in the violent waves of strikes that would sweep Cape Breton through the ‘20s, and particularly in the 1925 strike.

Kate: The president of BESCO, Roy Wolvin — which is a great villain name, by the way, really only rivalled by Alberta favourite Peter Pocklington — imposed a 33% pay cut on miners in 1921. J. B. MacLachlan did lead a strike in this year, but also took time to work with striking steel workers in nearby Sydney in 1922 and ‘23. He also spent time in prison from 1923 to ‘24 in the aftermath of a libel charge involving everyone’s new favourite villain Roy Wolvin. And as we’ve mentioned, you know, the towns around Sydney, these are full-on company towns with the company owning workers’ houses, the utility companies, and the stores the miners shopped in. So pay was subtracted for rent, bills, and store credit, plus any other debts that they would have: things like travel; oftentimes if you lost or misplaced equipment or needed things repaired, this would be deducted from your pay. So during strikes, families could go hungry; young children got sick and died because whole towns would be denied basic needs. And these were the consequences that workers in Nova Scotia at this time faced for going on strike, but the strikes so often led to real material gains for these workers that they continued to engage in striking as a tactic year after year. And, between 1920 and 1925, there was a total of 58 strikes in the Sydney coal field, which is a very escalated area of industrial dispute and a very elevated level of industrial dispute. And Wolvin would brag, you know, about holding all the cards when he cut miners off from the company store, and as miners went on strike and continued to face near-starvation, this was the rhetoric that was coming from mine owners. While relief funds and supplies did come in from other areas of Canada and the US, it was still really tough going for families. The company imported scabs. They also hired private police, so the picket line was frequently a very violent place and a site of violent clashes, and the federal and provincial governments actually approved stationing the Armed Forces in the town for months on end.

Rory: Yeah, so my maternal side of the family’s all from Dominion, and my mom’s mother was born, basically, in 1925 during the strike, and while the family was starving and living in a tent. So my mom always swears that was why her mother died young, was basically because of that really, really rough childhood.

Karen: You could see it. If people were nearly starving, that’s going to carry itself through one’s entire life and lead to poor health.

Kate: And as the strike continued in early June, the union withdrew all maintenance from the power and pumping station at Waterford Lake. So, on June 10th, the company ordered a small group to restart the plant, and then, on the morning of June 11th, police and the armed forces were patrolling the streets, engaging striking miners and onlookers in a very intense and extremely unequal conflict. So the police, many on horseback, fired 300 shots into a crowd of approximately 700, maybe a couple thousand. One miner, William Davis — who was a union member and also a father of ten — was shot through the heart, and he died quickly. So over 5000 people attended Davis’ funeral, and June 11th is still commemorated as William Davis Miners’ Memorial Day in many Nova Scotia towns.

Karen: Right, so there was intense anger at injustice and months of skirmishes, raids on private homes, and inhumane treatments of families. These are things that people had been going through in the previous months and years. So at this point, the miners just decided to burn down all the company stores in the days and weeks that followed June 11th, and they never rebuilt them. So pretty good, actually.

Kate: And to that I say: rock on.

Brendan: Yeah, red salute to burning down the company store. Absolutely.

Karen: Yeah, we like that. There’s this very good book called The Company Store that that’s basically the framing of the restrictions on the miners’ lives up to the point where they just destroy this as a symbol and other folks had to come in and open stores up in the wake of that to provide people’s needs and, as we said, the touted capitalism “actual choice” of where to shop — or, at least, give people the basic goods that they require to live and be healthy.

Brendan: So this long period of crisis and conflict in the coal field led to the defeat of the long-reigning provincial Liberal government on June 25th, 1925. And the new Conservative government, obviously feeling pressure to solve these problems, was able to temporarily settle the wage dispute. And so they did something great, a great Canadian tradition — they had a royal commission about it. And the royal commission report that came out in early 1926 partly blamed the radical union leaders. At the same time, it did acknowledge that the workers were in real distress, they had legitimate problems. And after that, you do see more moderate union leadership leading the workers in this area in future negotiations and future strikes. And so while not strictly successful in terms of restoring the previous wage levels, the 1925 strike did strain BESCO to the point of collapse, and it drew national attention to the workers’ plight as a struggle on the scale of the 1919 Winnipeg general strike — which would, of course, have been fairly fresh in people’s memories in 1925. And MacLachlan, who was by this time a member of the Communist Party of Canada, remained active in the workers’ movement  until his death in 1937. There’s an interesting bit of the history of the Canadian Left and the workers’ movement that MacLachlan plays a part in here. So there was a long, complicated process when the Communist movement was established in Canada and figuring out how they would orient toward the unions. And this was also affected by the changing international directives of the Communist movement about how to relate to the labour movement. And so, at the end of the 1920s, the international Communist movement established this policy called the Third Period in which they considered capitalism to be on the brink of collapse, and, consequently, they considered reformists to be the main enemy, right? This is where the term “social fascism,” which is sort of to conflate social democracy with the fascists, was coined. And in most of the world, this has very, very bad effects, but in North America, it encourages the communists to form independent militant unions that they’re leading by themselves, and in the early period — which is sort of the worst period of the Depression — in both the United States and Canada, you have these communist-led unions that are basically the only people who are willing to lead strikes. And MacLachlan absolutely throve in that period, you know; that was the orientation of labour movement that he was advocating, he was very satisfied with that. And he was sort of the figurehead leader of the Workers’ Unity League, which was the umbrella for these communist-led unions in Canada. And then, in the mid-30s — partly relating to changes in the labour movement itself, and partly due to the international Communist movement’s new concern to form a broader alliance against fascism — you have the shift to what’s called the popular front policy. And, tactically, in North America, that involves going back into the mainstream unions, and MacLachlan refused to do that. And he was actually one of the very few people to leave the Communist Party over this shift. So over the course of his whole life, I think we really see an impressive sort of independent working-class leader who followed his own judgement and not that of any party, any central union leadership, and was able to carry a very significant working-class base along with him on that path.

Karen: Yeah, I really admired, when I read through, the various union formations and parties he was a candidate for, leftist political parties here and there when he was needed. And he never managed to win any of the things he was running for, but it was important to represent the seat and the party. But yeah, he was definitely going on principle and a set of ideas that I would find very admirable as well.

Rory: Yeah, the aftermath of these strikes — they didn’t just strain BESCO, they bankrupted it. And in 1920, its assets were reorganized as the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation, known as DOSCO. Basically, corporate ownership of the coal and steel in Nova Scotia is this alphabet soup of companies coming in and out. So DOSCO would actually be the last private owner of coal and steel in Nova Scotia, but it would be one of the longest-lasting. So by 1930, the coal industry had begun to receive provincial and federal support, something that would continue right through the end of private ownerships. The onset of World War II saw coal production, in 1940, actually reach the 1913 peak, but then it fell significantly, despite a near-unlimited wartime demand for coal. DOSCO had not invested much in improving  the mines, so they were antiquated, with low per-worker productivity, and exacerbated by the wartime labour shortages. The end of the war also saw the global expansion of petroleum as a dominant energy source. Coal, in fact, became so uncompetitive that, even in Nova Scotia, compared to oil, a 1966 study determined that it would require a $9.15 per tonne subsidy for a Halifax oil fire-generating station to use Cape Breton coal instead, so they didn’t, and the station’s still there, and it’s always been oil-fired. Miners had succeeded, by this point in time, in getting fairly good legal recognition for their unionization, but DOSCO’s poor financial situation gave them even more leverage because it could always threaten to pull out. And this is an example we’ll see in Springhill, Nova Scotia.

Kate: So after Confederation in Springhill, the town really boomed because railway access made it profitable to extract from the quite rich coal seams that were in the area, but by the early 1950s, there were only two mines operating in Springhill: the older Number 2 and the newer Number 4. And the opening of Number 4 had been welcomed by the community as the Number 2 mine had been in operation since the 1970s, and instead of expending capital in sinking new mines to reach further coal seams, DOSCO was basically just digging the Number 2 coal mine deeper and deeper and deeper. So this made workers very concerned about their safety in an old and extremely deep mine, and it is a really good example of how the demands to accumulate capital actually impact the physical structure of coal mines themselves and the way in which work is carried out within them. If you look at a coal mine, you can see, in the way it is structured, not only the generation it is from — from the type of technology that was being used — but also the capital restraints; basically, the amount of capital that companies or the state was willing to invest in the mine. It is much safer to dig new shafts and sink new coal mines to reach these seams, but of course it costs more money, so they simply kept digging the Number 2 deeper, and this was making workers very concerned about their safety. And on November 1st, 1956, there was a coal dust explosion in the Number 4 which killed 39 men, and what happened is the explosion damaged the slope and the level surface infrastructure that was at the head when the blast wave reached the entrance. So, extremely, extremely large explosion. And the number 4 was closed, but basically what happened is the community felt that the company was looking for an excuse to pull out entirely, abandoning the $1,000,000 worth of equipment in the mine and, also, the rail line. So this left this, as aforementioned, very dangerous Number 2 mine in operation, which, thanks to DOSCO seeking short-term gain, was now the deepest coal mine at 14,300 feet. And the situation made the community unwilling to push DOSCO on opening new mines other than relying on this single increasingly deeper one. And it created a really unusual mine: so, you’ve got these upper levels that reflect the room and pillar mining from the 1870s — which is very, very dangerous, and was actually used in Alberta until the 1920s — and then the bottom using modern long wall techniques. Long wall techniques didn’t really come into vogue until the 1920s or so. But because of marrying these two types of styles, and also because of the depth of the mine, this makes it much more susceptible to a bump, which was something that was not lost on the miners that were working there. A bump is a pretty well-known hazard of coal mining where coal — or other adjacent strata in the earth — suddenly burst outwards into the mine, but it’s not an explosion. And what’s happening is that, because digging a mine creates empty spaces underground, the pressure of all of the earth that is on top of the mine has to be transferred into, you know, supports, and also into the surrounding strata of the earth. And because coal is soft — you know, compared to other things that are underground — and full of gas pockets, faults, etc, it can be really hard to predict exactly how much stress the seam can bear before falling; and, of course, making this effort was costly, and DOSCO, as I’ve said, was cutting corners. What impacts how fast a bump is is the hardness of the coal. In Alberta, where we have sub-bituminous coal primarily, it’s not as hard, so these bumps would actually occur slow enough that, if you were fast enough and close enough to an entrance, you could get out of the seam before it collapsed, but in Nova Scotia and in most of the UK, the coal’s much harder because it’s bituminous or anthracine. So you cannot get out of there fast enough. It’s extremely, extremely dangerous, and miners who’ve survived bumps have described them as basically extremely sudden, and they’re accompanied by a loud bang. So without warning, the coal face can project out several meters; it can bend steel machines, it can literally tear the flesh off bones. And what happens is the floor rapidly rises to meet the ceiling — as I’ve said, the speed of that depends on the hardness of the coal. And miners developed their own warning systems and their own set of knowledge production around this, such as evacuating when they could no longer hear the coal groaning, as that meant the normal weight had shifted, but it was still an extremely dangerous and common phenomenon.

Karen: By the 1950s, the frequency of the bumps had increased, and relations between the company and the union had deteriorated. More modern and scientific methods allowed the company much greater control over the miners’ work processes — so the processes that Kate mentioned that might be more developed through working. The union is also pursuing a strategy of labour peace focusing on wages and benefits and accepted collective agreements that left the methods of operation entirely in the company’s hands. So, again, not great to have that not left to the people who are doing the work at that exact moment. These methods were not meeting accepted standards for avoiding a bump. In response to union protests, DOSCO could dangle the threat of mine closure to squash a strike, and it did that in September 25th 1958. Throughout the fall of 1958, miners complained that the distance between floor and ceiling had been steadily shrinking, and the mine had gone unusually quiet — so, pretty bad signs. At 8:06 pm on Thursday, October 23rd, 1958, residents of Springhill heard a loud noise and felt the ground shake. 174 men were working underground when the long-expected bump occurred. And it was a big one. The search to rescue miners and recover bodies over the next few weeks would turn the disaster into one of the first live international TV events. People around the world would watch and sympathize when this happened to Springnill. However, DOSCO hired a slick PR firm to help them control the narrative around the disaster, and media coverage of the company’s safety record was slim. The rescue of the trapped miners after it was thought no survivors were left helped to fuel a media narrative of jubilation, and much focus was made on the unity and courage of the townspeople, but little of their anger at the company.

Kate: One of the things that’s most interesting to me about what you just said, Karen, is about how this desire to pursue labour peace means that the unions were willing to leave the fundamental structure of the way work was carried out unchanged or unacknowledged. And this is a theme that has actually come up throughout the pandemic in some of the industries that we’ve examined here in Alberta, whether it’s meat packing or continuing care, where, because of the relative weakness of the labour movement in both of those industries — despite some great strides in a couple of places — means that workers are unable to negotiate meaningfully over what is ultimately one of the most important things about your working life, which is the structures under which you are carrying out work and the way in which work is actually experienced by you as a worker. So it’s very interesting that this phenomenon seems to arise out of the pursual of labour peace and the subsequent defanging of trade unions in the post-war era.

Brendan: I think it’s really interesting that the media narrative after the disaster — I think it almost corresponds to this sort of folk idea that we were talking about earlier, where you can talk about the people in this community being strong and going through adversity, but what you’re not talking about is the fact that they are workers that are trapped in, you know, this exploitative industry and this underdeveloped region, and that that’s what created the situation for this tragedy to happen in the first place, and that there is real anger at the company, which is actually an agent in this situation. And it can be turned into something that’s a lot more palatable.

Karen: Yeah, because definitely, the communal knowledge — like, if everyone has their husband, their son, whomever, working in the mine, they definitely knew all of these things; but, again, the media and the company, insofar as they could control it, chose not to broadcast any of this and just to concentrate on coming together after the event rather than the fact that everybody knew this was going to happen and shouldn’t have happened.

Rory: The recovery effort — they stopped that on November 6th, which was about two weeks after the bump, and 75 men were determined to have died in the disaster, which was the second-deadliest single coal mining accident in Nova Scotia. The first deadliest was also in Springhill, which was in 1891, which was: 125 men and boys were killed. Springhill mines were actually quite well-known for being very bumpy mines. So six days after the end of recovery, DOSCO announced it was closing the mine and ending all operations in Springhill. The 1959 inquiry largely absolved the company of any fault; it laid the blame on the supposedly unpredictable nature of bumps and recommended further research into their causes. This was not done. The closure was economically catastrophic for Springhill, and, by 1961, it had lost 20% of the population it had had in 1956. By 2016, the population was less than half of the 1956 peak, and the current main employer is a federal penitentiary which opened in 1967 to reverse the decline. And, basically, Springhill is the Drumheller of Nova Scotia, because, also, Springhill is nearby to a big dinosaur museum, has a giant federal penitentiary as a make-work project, and is a former coal mining town.

Kate: Yeah, two points here. One is that the way that the prison-industrial complex has been used to reverse trends of deindustrialization is really quite an astonishing pattern when you look for it. So, in towns across North America, when major industries and major employers in the area went under or were closed, you often see the corresponding rise of some kind of prison, a federal penitentiary, a provincial correctional facility, something like that, in order to replace lost jobs; but, I mean, there’s two things there. One is: prisons are evil in a way that coal mining isn’t necessarily. At the very least, prisons are much more evil to other people. They are also much more racist, so it precludes, in general, the formation of more real bonds of solidarity, of a more multiracial solidarity. And it also never completely replaces the jobs that were lost in the process of deindustrialization, and mass incarceration, in many ways, is a response to the rising crime that accompanied deindustrialization, so it is really two bad tastes that taste bad together. The second thing, too, about Springhill, is that — when you were talking about this folklore process, Brendan, I was thinking about the fact that this incident gave rise to a very famous song, “The Ballad of Springhill,” which I actually heard in Wales and in the UK all the time; it’s a very common song in the workers’ movement there, particularly among the miners. Like, I’ve heard it at the Durham Miners’ Gala and at The Big Meeting. So I was thinking about — the way in which the disaster was folklore-ized in the aftermath by the TV companies was almost like this removal of class. But there’s also this tandem process of it becoming a folklore object that occurs in a transnational coal mining-oriented working class, and in institutions limited and in decline as they are, that arose around that. So that’s the only real way I can think of to explain how I, someone who has never been to Nova Scotia and wasn’t living in Canada at the time, was so familiar with this as an incident.

Brendan: Just moving forward a bit: so, eventually, all of the subsidies and tariffs and preferential freight and various other measures that were put in place to create a protected environment for DOSCO were no longer enough. Concerns about the economic disaster that had befallen Springhill repeating on a larger scale in industrial Cape Breton were very much on the minds of locals, who pressed governments to prevent it. Communities pushed hard for a say in future development, which is one of the themes here — we’re talking about the agency of people who make up these communities. And in this context, in 1967 DOSCO said that it was getting out, and the federal government nationalized the mines as the Cape Breton Development Corporation. And nationalization of industries where private capital is no longer willing to do something is something that we like, even though it’s not nearly as good as just nationalizing things when they’re doing well. The federal government nationalized the mines as the Cape Breton Development Corporation, and the steel side of things was the Sydney Steel Corporation, and the intent was to phase them out while new industries were developed in the interim. Unfortunately, this is not what ended up happening.

Karen: So the 1973 oil crisis encouraged the federal government to revisit the intended coal wind-downs, so a bit of a change of plans. Seeing coal as a  strategic national energy source, the federal government decided to expand production and open new mines in the 1970s and 80s. In conjunction, the public utility of Nova Scotia Power opened several coal-generating stations to use with this increased production, locking in the province in highly-polluting electricity to this day.

Rory: DEVCO even installed surface infrastructure and dug a mine at Duncan, but then mothballed in the late 1980s without putting it online, and it was briefly operated from 2017 to 2020 by a private company whose billionaire owner died in a helicopter accident recently. We can only hope it was punishment for his numerous safety violations. And just to briefly talk about some of the industrial diversification efforts: much public money was spent with little apparent effect. Maybe it was because of the difficulty of reversing global capitalist trends or lack of political courage on the part of governments; I couldn’t really find a clear answer to that. One of the more unusual experiments was the construction, beginning in 1963, of two heavy water plants in Cape Breton used for CANDU nuclear reactors. The plants were huge sinkholes for public money, and the Mulroney government closed them in 1985.

Brendan: DEVCO and SYSCO were very rarely profitable, and the threat of closure was constantly looming over them. And this background of economic decline is sort of what sets the context for another really, really tragic incident, which is the Westray Disaster, which is the subject of an excellent and very, very powerful, very moving, NFB documentary that came out about a decade after the event, and it basically tells the story of a mine that should never have been built. It was sort of this state capitalist kind of monstrosity where somebody had the political connections to get something built, and this dream of prosperity and economic stability returning to this very, very depressed area near Stellarton was sold to people — they were going to have a mine for 15 years, that was the idea. But, basically, the mine was being operated in an area that was incredibly unsafe, and it was also operated in a variety of ways that just sort of disregarded the necessary safety practices of the industry that we’ve been talking about a little bit. And it led eventually to an explosion in which 26 miners were killed, which then led to the mine being shut down, everyone else who had worked at this mine and survived not even getting severance for years after that, and a very, very long and more or less unsuccessful legal and political battle for justice and some kind of accountability for this. So it’s a really appalling story of the violence of capitalism and its disregard for human life.

Rory: Yeah, it was in May of 1992, and I remember it pretty vividly because I grew up about an hour and a half away and my uncle worked there. Fortunately, he was fine — he worked in the coal wash plant aboveground — but yeah, he had moved there and finally had a good job, and then the mine was in operation for a year and it blew up, and there was no real justice.

Kate: Yeah, capitalism is an extremely cruel and inhumane system with which to organize our lives.

Karen: Yeah. So, just to wrap up with DEVCO and SYSCO in Cape Breton: both were closed down in 2001 with devastating effect on communities. As far as I can see, they haven’t really been replaced by anything; there is a park where the steel plant was, parts of the steel plant were sold to India, the mines were closed, there’s a museum in Glace Bay — very interesting, worth a visit for sure — there’s not something that just came along instead, that’s kind of the end of the story for resource extraction in those areas.

Kate: My shownotes here say “personal reflections on growing up in the aftermath of deindustrialization,” and what I can really say is, honestly, it absolutely sucks. Deindustrialization is a very technical-sounding word for what is honestly a very violent phenomenon that tears communities apart, and there’s really — I was born in 1995, there’s really this sense of being born kind of after everything happened, just being born in the end of history; really, being born in Thatcher’s Britain, and growing up in Thatcher’s Britain, that was always the big sense that I had. And, you know, with regards to the trade union movement, growing up — not only in the aftermath of deindustrialization, but also growing up in the aftermath of the loss of the great strike — I really, really believe that things would be very different today if the miners had beat Thatcher in the great strike in 1984, 1985. So there’s really this sense of persistent decline and sort of this sense of being born into, and living in, a world of decline, and that that is just what the world is, is just this decline towards nothing and this move away from any kind of real community or sense of place that you could have.

Karen: Yeah, so like Kate, I moved around a lot as a child — not quite as far, not across continents, just around the Martitimes — but it was kind of a knock-on effect of the industrial decline, because my father was a United Church minister, so I’m a preacher’s kid, and the churches kept closing, so as communities declined, people moved away, they chose not to raise their families — or I guess “choice” is kind of a strange word here, but they weren’t able to do that — so I would have to move every five or six years to find a new community that would have a congregation where my dad could work. So Rory, who is also on this podcast, and I ended up in Alberta for the same reasons: finishing college and looking to have a job in the skills that you are trained in necessitated moving 5000 km away. So I can definitely relate to a lot of the things that Kate said of the feelings that you would get from home, but then you get the strangeness of living in a place that you didn’t grow up, and some of your friends did, and others are from other places, but it just basically makes your whole life kind of strange and traumatic.

Kate: It also presents a real challenge for having any type of social cohesion or organizing base in Alberta because of this phenomenon of — people just move here from other provinces for work because of deindustialization in those provinces, so, you know, if you’re a public sector worker and you’re from Atlantic Canada, and the government, say, tries to privatize your job or cut your wages, you’re just going to say, “Fuck it, I’m out of here,” because our society’s become escatingly more and more atomized, and deindustrialization is a part of that. So, you know, you’re living in a place where you are atomized, you are isolated, you are lonely, and it makes it much more difficult to have any kind of coherent political base or to do a lot of political work because there’s a real sense of transience among a lot of people who live in Alberta that I think is really related to deindustrialization,.

Karen: Oh, for sure. But then, in turn, there’s a sense of: where can we all go? Because if we just keep moving to places where different forms of capital are in slow decline, it’s like, where are you going to end up next, and is the same thing going to happen? So it’s a worry.

Rory: Yeah, where will the next site of fossil capital extraction be after Alberta? Where will I have to go to next?

Kate: To find work, yeah.

Rory: Yeah, I mean, growing up, my dad was a public sector worker, so it was pretty stable in that respect, but to grow up was to go away because there was nothing for you if you stayed. So there’s very few people between the ages of 20 and 50 where I grew up because they’ve all left and gone to Alberta — including me. I mean, I got into my car with no money and drove 5000 km cross-country to find work, and here I am. And I’ve been here for almost a decade, so.

Kate: And now we all live in Alberta, and we like it now.

Karen: Yeah, it’s a weirdly — it has that effect.

Rory: Yeah, I think it’s important to say that Alberta doesn’t give equalization to the Maritimes as some form of generosity, nor are the Maritimes some sort of sponge; because, honestly, Alberta receives the workers being drained out of the Maritimes as a kind of reverse equalization labour payment to help its industry and economy, so it’s — particularly the changes that the Harper government made to unemployment insurance during the height of the boom also really accelerated the outmigration from the Maritimes because it was more difficult to collect seasonal unemployment if you worked in seasonal industries like tourism and fishing.

Kate: So if this history that we’ve outlined is any guide, things don’t look good for Albertans. Alberta’s oil industry is certainly in decline, and climate change means that we have to transition away from fossil fuels. And the environment was barely a factor in the decline of the Nova Scotia coal industry, even though we know now — and many people knew at the time — that coal was extremely, extremely damaging for the environment. And when you’re looking at the question, you know, can we avoid a similar fate in Alberta, I think there’s definitely some things working against us. We don’t have as militant of a labour movement, and a state-owned winddown of the industry honestly just seems incredibly old-fashioned these days as sort of a state response to a capitalist inadequacy. That said, though, the Kenney government is certainly following the old playbook of Nova Scotia coal extraction — so, policies that pay off in the short term for investors — but for companies that are built around this extraction, like many are in Alberta, they want long-term economic stability, and the oil industry just cannot provide that anymore.

Rory: The later decline and continued regional dependency on external capital isn’t an issue of mismanagement of natural resources, but it’s a consequence of letting the capitalist market determine development. This is not inevitable. History shows — as we’ve kind of demonstrated in this episode — that working people fight to control their own destiny. We can too. Or we could privatize our public parks with the apparent intent of opening new coal mines in the Rockies, as this government seems like it wants to do.

Kate: So we could live in a slightly better society or we could live in hell. Fortunately, this is Alberta, so it’s not really a very suspenseful decision process. One thing I think is really important to reinforce when we talk about fossil capitalism in Nova Scotia and look for its parallels in Alberta is that this wasn’t a disaster or an aberration, you know. This is the logical outcome of capitalism operating within its own parameters. When you set up a society around the drive to accumulate capital, what is going to happen is that firms are going to make money out of resource extraction for as long as is profitable, then they are going to make money off of state subsidies to investors in the short term for as long as possible, and then when the disasters and liabilities pile up, they are going to shut down with absolutely no care for the people and the workers and the communities that relied on these firms to, in some way, organize their way of life. And I really think this is a way, and an argument, for socialist planning that resonates in a particular type of Canadian history. You know, you can have an economy that isn’t just shuffling between favoured and ruined or developed and underdeveloped regions of a country; you can manage the decline of an industry. It’s difficult, but it’s absolutely not impossible, and it’s something you can do with the scientific and democratic planning that we here at the Alberta Advantage believe in as socialists. And I think we really have to emphasize the point that capitalism is not only cruel, but it is also a massive waste of resources, and it misallocates resources away from people who need them in order to accumulate capital, and a good society — a socialist society, a scientific and democratically-planned society — would allocate resources according to our needs and according to a type of real democracy that allowed us to have control over the world that we live in. And that is the world that we want as socialists. So we hope that this was an illuminating example of fossil capitalism, and it was very enjoyable for us to get outside of Hellberta for a little bit and talk about Nova Scotia. On  behalf of everyone here at The Alberta Advantage, thank you so much for listening, take care, and goodbye.

All: Bye!

[outro music plays (“Springhill Mine Disaster” by Socalled]

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