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February 27, 2016

Zero and Counting

There are a ton of rather desperate efforts to re-envision the Nova Scotia economy, with sort of pathetically hopeful notions of Nova Scotia's future and their ability to change it.  It's like listening to Donald Trump without the bad language.  We're going to make Nova Scotia great again.

I do like to count things, and the little bios of the principals of each of these organizations make counting reasonably accurate.

I confess to stereotyping.  There's no way that a head shot and brief resume can reliably reveal people with disabilities, but having combed bios and pictures pretty thoroughly (and asked around),  I'm confident this table of the makeup of 4 organizations is accurate:

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Total MembersGenderRace/EthnicWith a disability
FemaleMaleWhiteAfrican CanadianMi'kmaqYesNo
EngageNS12481011012
OneNS184141611018
Ivany Commission52340105
Halifax Partnership197121810019
Total5417374833054
Percent of Grand Total100%31%69%89%6%6%0%100%
(with thanks to Contrarian)

The accepted figure for Nova Scotians with disabilities is 18%.  Like the other subgroups, participation in the labour force varies with age.  Overall, people with disabilities of working age have a somewhat lower employment rate (49%) than others (73%).  No matter how you slice it, people with disabilities are underrepresented on the commissions.  Zero is a small number.

I wrote before about the images presented on the OneNS website, and this table continues to document the complete exclusion of people with disabilities in planning their own future.  Zero out of 54.  Whether 31% representation for women is even remotely adequate is a question for another day.  Whoever said "Because it's 2015" is so last year.


Which brings me to today's topic.  The Halifax Partnership is hosting a Game Changer event at the waterfront Marriott on March 1.  It's a job fair.  Employers will be there, and hopefuls looking for work.  With luck, they'll connect.  From 3:30 to 4:30 there will be a Hiring Resource Workshop.  I don't really know what that is (no agenda available), but I'm guessing it's to explain how businesses can take advantage of government and quasi-government programs that encourage employment.  Elsewhere on the Game Changer website there is a list that sounds like possible presenters at such a workshop:
  • Business development agencies in Halifax 
    • Canada Business Government Services for Entrepreneurs
    • Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)
    • Blue Water Community Business Development Corporation
    • Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
    • Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development (CEED)
    • Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI)
    • Resource Recovery Fund Board Inc.
There's a remote possibility that one of these agencies might know something about incentives for hiring people with disabilities, but I strongly doubt it.

Taxpayers have a real stake in this.  Every time a person with a disability is hired, there are potential savings from community supports.  The Department of Community Services provides up to $10,000 annually to support people with disabilities who should really be in the labor force.  This could save Nova Scotia taxpayers over $100 million a year.  DCS also is the provincial signatory to the Canada-Nova Scotia Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities, which is the main source of incentives for training and employing people with disabilities.

Some presenter at the Hiring Resource Workshop may have a dog-eared copy of the terms and report of the Labour Market Agreement, but employing people with disabilities will not get the attention it deserves.  For employers, people with disabilities could represent a loyal and productive workforce.  If they knew that, and if they knew about the incentives, perhaps some of the endemic discrimination would disappear.  But it goes back to the makeup of the 4 organizations.  Who's going to say "Gee, let's do something on employing people with disabilities.  Maybe the Department of Community Services should be invited."?

There is an annual symposium on employment of people with disabilities given by something called the Collaborative Partnership Network.  They do good work, so not to include them in the Hiring Resource Workshop is a reminder that people with disabilities just don't appear on the radar of our futurists.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said this week that it is proposing a rule that would require federal agencies to work toward a 12 percent workforce representation rate for people with disabilities and a 2 percent representation rate for those with targeted or severe conditions including intellectual disability.  Imagine!

In Nova Scotia, the rule is "Never include people with disabilities in planning for their future"

Gus Reed

ps I'd love to be wrong on this, but it's unlikely.  You just can't underestimate Nova Scotia's approach to people with disabilities.

wcreedh@gmail.com


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