Endorsement by Jay Matwichuk, Expat Canadian in Japan:
“I had the pleasure of working with Ned Milburn for approximately three years, in the early 2000s. At the time, were both in managerial positions in a large company in Japan, managing groups of foreign staff from various countries.
“One thing that made Mr. Milburn stand out amongst the managers was his high level of dedication in bringing forth the concerns of his staff to the company. Ned was very dedicated to standing up for his staff’s rights, and ensuring that they were treated fairly, and in accordance with the law. Each month, at the end of our 2-3 day meetings, when we had our final debriefing with the upper management, Mr. Milburn was always one of the most vocal managers in the room, getting more information from management, and regularly challenging them when the policies they set were either not reasonable, or against the law entirely. He would analyze contracts in detail, to ensure that they were both legal, and as ethical as he could get the company to make them. And often he would follow up his issues by doing further research and presenting it to the company, which resulted in actual changes for not just his staff members, but all foreign staff in our company across the country.
“I have met a wide range of individuals all across the world. Mr. Milburn stands out as one of the most ethical, earnest and responsible people I have ever known. If I were ever in a position to vote for him to represent me at any level of government, I would not hesitate a moment to do so, as I would be able to rest well at night knowing that he had my best interests in mind, and would work his hardest to represent those interests. In voting him as the Dartmouth Center candidate, you can do no wrong.”
Jay Matwichuk – Yokohama, Japan – Summer 2016
My response to a question from “The Coast”:
Why should residents of your district vote for you?
I bring informed vision through diverse experience. I have worked as an educator in a variety of settings. I have been an advocate and leader in structural reform and labour law compliance while employed as manager on an international team in Japan. I have brought about reform in accounting processes with a multi-million dollar seafood exporter after returning to Canada in 2005. I founded my own business repairing and building guitars, and I co-founded and co-manage an international business with my wife. I have proven my ability to adapt to and thrive in new conditions. I am an analytical and creative problem solver, who has proven his ability to achieve results and communicate effectively in a team setting. I have strong ethics and morals, and am never afraid to advocate for my community, even when it puts me in a position of personal detriment.
Personal motto: “Improving and cleaning up my little corner of the universe!”
I have lived a deeply interesting and diverse life so far, and it cannot be summed up quickly. I will attempt to review some of my life in the paragraphs below with the focus on showing the diversity of my social and work experience that relates to my ability to learn quickly and perform very effectively if elected as Councillor for Dartmouth Centre District 5 of the HRM.
Many people in Dartmouth and surrounding communities within the HRM know me as a “luthier” running my own business of guitar building, repair, and instruction. Presently I hold a designation of Master Artisan with the Nova Scotia Designer Craft Council. While I was learning my present craft in Toronto, I have had the honour and good fortune to have been able to repair guitars of two of my childhood icons – Bruce Cockburn and Gordon Lightfoot. Since setting up my independent business here in Dartmouth in 2009, I have had the privilege of building and repairing guitars for local professional and amateur musicians. Also, I am one of the founding members of the new Halifax Guitar Society.
But there is much more to me than simply guitars!
As the youngest of 5 brothers with science and math school teachers as parents, in some ways I was given more freedom to explore life in directions outside of the science world than my elder brothers. So, even though we five were all honours roll students in high school sciences, I am the only brother who decided to explore life through the humanities of Arts and Music. I achieved both a Diploma and Degree in Arts (Music) from St. F.X. University, and with this I jumped right into life in Toronto to see where fortune would take me.
During my 5 years in Canada’s largest city, as well as repairing guitars at Ring Music, I also taught music at Maria Montessori School and taught guitar at Eli Kassner’s “Toronto Guitar Academy”. Eli Kassner has just been awarded the Order of Canada for his extraordinary efforts in leading the classical guitar scene in Toronto. I learned the foundations of guitar building during this period, and was even invited with my former boss and friend, John LaRocque, to visit the Manuel Rodriguez guitar factory outside Madrid, Spain, in order to give quality control advice on their instrument production.
Socially, my Toronto years from 1995 to 2000 were extremely interesting, and I loved the multiculturalism I experienced. I took a great interest in people from many different parts of the world, and still to this day remember many of the stories of foreigners’ experiences after they moved to Toronto. I spoke with people about their home countries and what they liked about Canada. I learned more about languages and culture, and how they are interdependent. My time in Toronto left me more aware of the similarities amongst human beings, and the ways in which certain cultures deviate from each other. It also helped cement my understanding and pride for Canada as a nation, since I was able to see glimpses of a world view of Canada through a diaspora of newcomers’ experiences.
As much as I loved Toronto, I still wanted to explore a certain part of the world and the people in it. My interest in Japan – from the language to the people to the Tea Ceremony to karate – led me to transition to Japan in the spring of 2000. Due to my experience as a music educator and my interest in languages, I was able to transition smoothly into a role as an English teacher. I had begun learning Japanese 6 months before moving to Japan and volunteered teaching English to newcomers, and this helped me understand the specific differences between the English and Japanese languages, and the specific difficulties that exist when living in a new foreign land trying to learn its language.
Due to my experience in education and language, and the level of my work, leadership, and cultural understanding, I advanced to leadership roles within the main company for which I worked during my 5 years in Japan from 2000 to 2005. For 2 years of my work with this company – Chuoh Shuppan (Central Publishing) – I attended regular monthly management training sessions which focused on all aspects of leadership and management – with cross cultural problem solving as a large component. As District Leader and then Area Manager, I helped grow a district of 8 to 10 teachers with varying degrees of morale into an area with 22 teachers with a strong morale and work ethic. During my leadership and management work with Chuoh Shuppan, I also volunteered as a regular contributor to the company newsletter and by preparing and giving teacher training sessions on education and Japanese culture so as to create more positive teaching and cultural experiences for all.
My social and cultural experience in Japan outside of my work life was deep. I learned Japanese fluently, and I was able to speak with Japanese of all ages – from youth to the elderly – and speak about various things from social to political to international. These conversations helped confirm to me that “People are people, wherever you go!” I also often thought that it would be great to build a country with the best of Canada and the best of Japan all packed into one! This is why I believe it is so important to have experience from afar to bring back to one’s homeland in order to make improvements that otherwise may have been difficult or impossible to envision.
I was married in 2003 in Japan with a traditional Shinto style wedding. And as much as I loved Japan and the Japanese people, job security and lack of full employee benefits as a foreigner led me and my wife to the decision to move to my home province, Nova Scotia, to experience life in Canada before making a permanent decision on where to live. So in 2005, after an auspicious invitation to a job interview for a team management position in a translation company’s Halifax office, we sold off many of our possessions and packed up the rest for the journey to our future in Canada. Sadly, due to contract obligations in Japan, I was not able to meet the translation company’s time schedule for a new manager in Halifax. But I thought, “One invitation for one job application… The HRM I heard was thriving with energy and growing with new businesses… I should be able to land a job without too much trouble…”
How wrong I was…
After returning to Nova Scotia, my job hunt led me first to a few temporary positions. I was very pleased to work for a short time as an HR Assistant at the now closed Moirs Chocolate factory in Dartmouth. I helped with screening candidates for one of the last group hiring drives that Moirs had before it was bought out and closed by Hersheys. I learned from speaking with candidates that the job market was tough here, and several companies hired en masse but were only able to provide temporary and/or part-time work. After Moirs, I worked for the rest of the year with Global Santa Fe, an oil drilling company hired by Exxon Mobil to drill off of Sable Island. With Global Santa Fe, I had my first introduction into the manufacturing and machining economy that exists in Dartmouth in both Woodside and Burnside industrial parks. I also learned about the true fickle nature of “Big Oil”. I remember reading quotes by Exxon Mobil execs stating, “We are in it for the community! We are in it for the long term!!” And just a few months later, Exxon Mobile announced it would be completing its drilling off of Sable Island, and the local GSF office was forced to close. There was a direct loss of work – both at GSF and at their suppliers.
I was lucky that the week after my GSF job was over, I had an opportunity to fill in temporarily at Ito Trading, a leading frozen seafood exporter to Japan. Two weeks temporary employment turned into 5 and a half years permanent employment at Ito Trading!! My title was Operations Coordinator, but anyone who has worked in a small company (up to 10 or so employees) knows that roles tend to be malleable. Beyond standard job duties, I was our I.T. department, and looked after email servers, setting up a website, making our hardware and networking more efficient, and enabling Japanese language support on all our devices (this was just before iPhone and Android made this task easy!). I also became responsible for our invoicing, and updated the process from manual to automatic in order to save time and avoid errors. Bit by bit, I was given more trust and responsibility with the company’s banking and accounting system, and even though I am not a trained accountant, I was able to find accounting and banking efficiencies that saved the company both time and money.
Another role I had with Ito Trading was project leader of the development of new and unique seafood processing equipment. This further allowed me to use my creative skills, and led me further into my relationship with businesses operating within Dartmouth’s tremendous industrial parks. With this project, I led a team of seafood technicians and designer/manufacturers through the process of creating a functioning piece of portable food processing equipment. Again, I was in a position of leadership in which communication and care with budget and time lines were of great importance. Anyone who has worked in designing and manufacturing will know that it is not always a smooth-sailing process, but we were finally able to successfully achieve our goal – a functional portable food-grade seafood processing tool!
As with many things, what has a beginning also has an end. Ito Trading was preparing for a transition from the original owner, Mr. Ito himself, to ownership by my elders in the company, and though I would have been welcome to stay on with the new company, I felt fulfilled by the improvements and successes I had made in the company, and I was ready for new challenges.
This leads me to my present main occupation as a guitar luthier – building, repair, and instruction. My repair clients tend to be from the Dartmouth and HRM area, but are from as far away as Ontario, the Gaspe, Newfoundland, and PEI. My guitars are owned from Newfoundland to Ontario. I’ll be sending some guitars to the USA before our summer is over.
My work as a skilled artisan is rewarding in many ways. It gives me a chance to coach my children on concepts of personal integrity: “Always do your best! Try to avoid mistakes, but apologize and rectify when you have erred. Learn from your mistakes so as to avoid making the same error twice.” As well, my present occupation is fulfilling due to my diverse clientele. Guitarists run through all social demographics, so I get to see an interesting cross section of our local people through my repair business. I often become engaged in conversations unrelated to the guitar, and I get a sense of what people are thinking on a wide range of subjects, including issues of concern to all three levels of governance – federal, provincial and municipal.
I have a lot of fulfillment with my business; it is at the same time both challenging and fun. Many people have spoken wistfully of my work seeming to think it is somewhat idyllic. I suppose in some ways it is idyllic. And some people have even asked, “Why would you want to be Councillor? It’d be such a headache!”
My answer will be in the post titled: “Why me?”
(Stay tuned for the Post “Why Me?” For now, I’ve gotta sleep!)