Allain denies contentious Bill would erode local democracy as municipal leaders call for change

Local Government Minister Daniel Allain answers questions Friday in the provincial legislature

As New Brunswick moves further away from democratic decision-making in health and education, the minister of local government is defending proposed legislation that could override the powers of municipal councils.

“It’s important that people understand that we’re not eroding any people’s democracy,” Daniel Allain told a committee of the provincial legislature Friday.

“It’s the reverse. We’re actually investing in New Brunswickers by having a new, independent local governance commission.”

The minister was responding to widespread criticism from members of the opposition parties as well as the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick (UMNB) and two associations that represent cities and francophone municipalities.

A news release issued by all three municipal organizations Tuesday expresses “serious concerns” about Bill 45 because it would, among other things, give the minister of local government the power to repeal or amend any municipal bylaw.

“If adopted, this would be a significant erosion of municipal autonomy that would give unprecedented power to the minister,” the release quotes Andrew Black, president of the UMNB, as saying.

Black, who is also mayor of Tantramar, added that municipalities are concerned that “this provision undermines the legitimate roles of councillors duly elected by their citizens.”

‘Disappointed’ & ‘disrespected’

During five hours of committee hearings on Friday, Allain said he was not only “disappointed,” but also felt “disrespected” by the criticisms. He suggested that municipal representatives were spreading disinformation about Bill 45.

“This piece of legislation does not deserve to go in the gutter like this,” he said.

The minister defended the bill by referring to the government’s original commitment to establish an independent commission as part of municipal reforms in which former local service districts were merged with surrounding cities, towns and villages.

In its 2021 White Paper on municipal reform, the government suggested the commission would handle such matters as municipal conflict of interest complaints and review local cost sharing arrangements as well as requests for boundary changes.

But when Bill 45 was introduced on May 9th, it became clear the commission would be given unspecified powers that included reviewing complaints from property owners opposed to bylaw changes and that the minister of local government would be given the power to repeal or amend any municipal bylaw.

During Friday’s committee hearings, Allain described the five member commission, that the government hopes will be in place by January 1st, as “a new tool for municipal governments [and] for property owners to have an appeal process.”

He said property owners would no longer need to launch expensive and time consuming appeals to the courts when seeking to overturn municipal bylaws that interfere with the reasonable or traditional use of their land.

Allain went on to refer, for example, to Maple Hills, Irishtown and what he called “wealthy subdivisions” built because of poor planning  in a former LSD in his own riding next to a working farm.

“If the new municipality [passes] a bylaw on hours of operation, noise and the spreading of manure, that individual, that farmer’s been doing that for 100 years and then that bylaw comes in and says ‘whoof,’ can’t spread any manure anymore…a bylaw like that can have a consequence.”

‘Sacrifice zones’

Mt. A. Politics Professor Geoff Martin

A Mount Allison University politics professor says he agrees with the municipal organizations that Bill 45 would undermine local democracy.

“We need to assume that the powers granted to the commission will be used,” Geoff Martin writes in an e-mail to Warktimes, “and in the NB context likely to be used to back economic development against the will of local people.”

Martin, who served on Sackville Town Council from 1998 to 2004, adds that local governments won’t have much choice but to give the province what it wants on such issues as new school locations and nearby development proposals.

“Developers with influence will be able to get their own way,” he writes.

Martin points to the 12 rural districts covering 70% of New Brunswick’s land mass where residents can only elect advisory councils while the province continues to provide local services.

He writes that the rural districts are like “sacrifice zones” where local residents have no municipal representatives to oppose resource extraction and industrial development.

“This new legislation [Bill 45] has the power to turn existing municipal territory selectively into sacrifice zones even if this is opposed by citizens and their local council,” he concludes.

To view the news release from the NB municipal organizations, click here.

To read CHMA coverage of this story and to listen to comments by Andrew Black, click here.

To read Bill 45, click here.

Posted in New Brunswick government, New Brunswick politics | Tagged , | 5 Comments

New zoning application may rekindle debate about Sackville’s ban on more drive-thrus near TransCanada

The numbered company that now owns Sackville’s former Pizza Delight restaurant has applied for permission to build a drive-thru on the Mallard Drive property near TransCanada exit 504.

Rashid Tufail of Mississauga, Ontario, who is listed as the sole director of  734163 NB Inc., has applied for a zoning change that would lift the 22-year ban on more drive-thrus in Sackville’s Highway Commercial areas at both highway exits 504 and 506.

In a submission supporting the zoning change, the company notes that the Pizza Delight building has been vacant for a while.

“We have been trying to partner with national/international franchise brands that have indicated [they would] be more interested in a drive-thru facility,” the submission adds.

“Based on the history of inquiries made on the property, there have been a number of famous brands that lost their interest for not having an essential facility of Drive-thru.”

The numbered company bought the Pizza Delight building for $550,000 from former owner Pierre Barthe last July.

In an interview with Warktimes in 2021, Barthe complained that the ban on more drive-thrus was blocking his sale of the building to a Dairy Queen franchisee.

“I’m very frustrated,” Barthe said at the time.

“I’m a common sense kind of guy and I can’t see any common sense in the bylaw banning drive-thrus.”

He argued that instead of a blanket ban on more drive-thrus, applications should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Report from town planner

A report on the zoning application from town planner Lori Bickford was included in the background documents for this week’s Tantramar council meeting.

CAO Jennifer Borne presented the report because Bickford couldn’t be there, but said any questions should be directed to the planning staff.

Mayor Black repeated that point adding that a resolution on the proposed zoning change will be presented at council’s next regular meeting on June 13th.

He said that councillors could decide then whether to start the process of public engagement if they wish to consider the zoning change allowing drive-thrus in the highway commercial areas or they could decide to kill the application outright.

Sackville town council imposed its initial ban on more highway-area drive-thrus in 2001 and upheld it in 2008 and again in 2016.

It also rejected Wendy and Kelly Alders’s application for a Robins Donuts drive-thru at the Ultramar Gas Bar on Cattail Ridge in 2016.

Traffic congestion, greenhouse gases

Arguments against more drive-thrus have focussed on issues of traffic congestion and the greenhouse gases emitted by idling vehicles.

This latest submission on behalf of the numbered company — included in the town planner’s staff report — deals with both issues under a heading that calls attention to the potential of electric vehicles:

Job ads for restaurant staff

Meantime, an online ad for two, full-time kitchen helpers has been posted for the Mallard Drive location by a restaurant chain called Indian Fusion. It appears to serve traditional East Indian cuisine.

Rashid Tufail, the numbered company’s director, has declined an interview with Warktimes until he hears more about how town council will deal with his zoning application, but says he would be happy to talk later.

Posted in Town of Sackville, Town of Tantramar | Tagged | 1 Comment

Mt. A. honorary degree awarded to former ambassador in spite of protest

Updated to include information about protests inside Convocation Hall: About 20 people, including professors, students and community members gathered outside Convocation Hall on the Mt. A. campus today to protest against awarding an honorary degree to Deborah Lyons, Canada’s former ambassador to Israel and Afghanistan.

The protesters waved a large cloth symbol of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation along with signs that read “honorary degree, dishonorary actions” and “dis-honor to Lyons.”

“I’ve just finished my fourth year — I’m graduating in the fall — and it’s really important that a university is very careful about who they give honorary degrees to,” said a student who identified herself only as Jamie.

“Right now they’re giving an honorary degree to someone who has been outspoken supporting Israel’s apartheid and settler colonialism,” she added.

Krista Johnston, director of women’s and gender studies, said she’s been encouraged by the response to an online petition she helped organize against awarding the honorary degree.

“There’s been great reaction from students and from the community as you can see,” Johnston said.

“Just this morning, the Jewish faculty organization in Canada got in touch to express their solidarity and to let us know that they are also sending letters, so that has been really heartening.”

As the academic procession approached Convocation Hall with the former ambassador near the front, the protesters chanted “Free Palestine, end The Nakba” a reference to the continued Israeli occupation as well as the displacement of Palestinians in 1948.

Inside Convocation Hall, everything seemed to go smoothly as Lyons received her honorary degree before delivering an address to Convocation that lasted just over 17 minutes.

Photo of student protest posted on Twitter

About 30 students stood up from their seats and turned their backs as Lyons began to speak.

“There are some students and faculty who aren’t so happy that I’m speaking to you today,” she began as someone shouted from the audience, “You’re a war criminal.”

After a pause, Lyons added: “It saddens me that my appearance at your Convocation has attracted this negative attention on a day that should be focused on you, the graduates and your achievements.”

The audience responded with a round of applause that lasted almost 15 seconds.

“It is also unfortunate that my work and actions as a Canadian ambassador and as a United Nations mission leader have been misunderstood and that they did not approach me to exchange views.”

Lyons went on to explain that diplomacy requires frank exchanges of views even with those you disagree with.

At the same time, she said that free expression is vital, especially at universities where ideas are tested in robust debate.

Lyons did not dwell on her work as Canada’s ambassador to Israel focussing instead on her role in defending the rights of women in Afghanistan, both as ambassador and as a UN representative.

“In late 2019 when political talks with the Taliban seemed inevitable, it was important to me that the UN leader negotiating with the Taliban, sitting across the table from them, was a woman and that Afghan women could trust that they had a sister representing their voice,” she said.

She added it took courage to face down the Taliban, to open the doors of her various diplomatic residences to support activists working for social justice and to lead Canada’s efforts to rescue hundreds of Syrian White Helmet volunteers and their families.

“All of these actions were not easy,” she said, “and each brought moments of self-doubt and demanded courage.

“Frankly, the last few weeks have demanded a little of my courage. But my advice to you is this: When life presents you with different paths, choose the one that takes the most courage because that’s the one where you will find more of yourself.”

To read previous coverage of this story, click here.

To listen to Lyons’s address, click on the media player below.

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DTI releases some info on Sackville bridge damage, but withholds details on repairs & costs

Concrete barriers have blocked one lane of Sackville’s Main St. bridge since one of its steel girders was damaged by a truck heading westbound on the TransCanada highway on Feb. 3rd

The provincial department of transportation and infrastructure (DTI) has released more information about damage to the Sackville bridge that crosses over the TransCanada highway near the McDonald’s intersection, but there is no indication about what repairs will be needed, when they will be undertaken or how much they might cost.

On Friday, DTI released photos of, and e-mails about, the damage to the 62-metre-long bridge in response to a  Warktimes request under New Brunswick’s Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (RTIPPA), but information about repair options was not included.

A letter signed by DTI Minister Jeff Carr received yesterday, but dated April 26th, says that under RTIPPA, project considerations and/or recommendations may be withheld if disclosure of such information could reveal “advice, opinions, proposals or recommendations developed by or for the public body [DTI] or a Minister of the Crown.”

The released documents include a darkened photo of a flat-bed truck that had been hauling what is described as an “over height load” that struck the underside of the bridge at 1:53 p.m. on Friday, February 3rd.

A February 7th e-mail to MLA Megan Mitton from Serge Gagnon, executive director of engineering services & chief engineer at DTI, says the operator of the truck had an “over height permit and should have been able to clear the structure.

“DTI is following up to determine height of load, clearance on bridge, etc…We are routing the truck that struck the bridge to the Salisbury scales where the height will be measured…

“At this time I do not have a timeline for repairs. This will become clear in the coming days/week once we start evaluating options and develop a repair strategy for this structure.”

The e-mails show that DTI hired Valron, a Moncton-based consulting firm to conduct an inspection and recommend options for repairs. (Valron had inspected the bridge the previous summer.)

In the meantime, DTI placed concrete barriers on the bridge to protect the damaged underside girder from traffic passing above it.

DTI photo shows crew inspecting damage shortly after the accident

Another internal DTI e-mail (unsigned) says a Request for Proposals will be prepared for evaluation of repair options, but the details are redacted.

The e-mail addresses Bruce Boyd, DTI’s senior bridge maintenance engineer about completing the repairs needed so that the concrete barriers can be removed:

“Bruce – We should get this work done this summer and not let the restriction go into the fall/winter.”

To read Minister Carr’s letter, click here.

To view the DTI e-mails and photos, click here.

For previous coverage, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville, Town of Tantramar | Tagged | 7 Comments

June 27 set for public hearing on 6-storey Lafford apartment building

Drawing of 6-storey, 71-unit apartment building John Lafford is proposing for the back portion of his property at 131 Main St.

Tantramar Town Council will hold a public hearing at 3 p.m. on June 27th to hear any objections to plans by JN Lafford Realty to build a six storey, 71-unit apartment building at 131 Main Street on property behind the historic Allison/Fisher/Fawcett House.

Sackville developer John Lafford has applied for two changes to the municipal zoning bylaw to make the building possible:

(1) the property (approximately 1.3 acres) would need to be rezoned to Urban Residential 3 (R3) to allow for a residential building with more than six apartments.

(2) height restrictions in the R3 zone would need to be changed from a maximum of 15.3 metres (50 feet) to 19.8 metres (65 feet).

At its meeting last night, council set the date for the public hearing and also voted to refer the requested zoning changes to the planners at the Southeast Regional Service Commission for their comments.

Objections from neighbour

Earlier, councillors heard a presentation from Alexandrya Eaton who is part owner of the adjacent property at 135 Main Street.

She told councillors the owners take pride in maintaining their property in a quiet area of town with surrounding natural green space that provides habitat for wildlife.

Alexandrya Eaton addressing council last night

“It is therefore, of grave concern that a six-storey building, which would make it the highest building in town and with underground parking, so effectively seven storeys visible from the Waterfowl Park in the back, could be built just 10 feet from our property line towering over the existing single-family homes in the area,” she said.

Eaton went on to raise concerns about traffic and fire safety and argued that there are properties in Sackville better suited to such a development other than the historic area on Main Street.

“What we need are small, affordable, single-family dwellings suitable for young families and senior citizens similar to the co-op housing which will be the most drastically affected by this project,” she said, referring to the nearby Marshwinds Housing Co-op at 127-129 Main Street.

“You decide the bylaws, not developers,” Eaton said, “and you have the opportunity to firmly state that this development, in this location, is not what we want for our town.”

Later, Councillor Michael Tower said that although he appreciated Eaton’s presentation, council needs to hear more before it makes any decisions.

“By having this go to a public meeting, it gives everybody a chance to either, come to be here, or write letters to us so that we can really get feedback from the public as a whole,” he said.

For previous coverage, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville, Town of Tantramar | Tagged , | 21 Comments

Retiring Mt. A prof Robert Lapp delivers ‘last’ lecture on telling the truth in a time of climate crisis

Robert Lapp, retiring head of the Mount Allison University English Department delivers his last lecture at Convocation Hall

Every year, members of the graduating class at Mount Allison University choose a professor they would like to hear from one last time.

“This year we were excited to announce that Dr. Robert Lapp was selected,” said graduating student Erin Dumville on April 4th as she introduced the speaker for what’s become known at Mt. A as the “last lecture.”

“His passion for teaching has made him a beloved professor among Mount Allison students,” she said, adding that Lapp is retiring after 25 years at the university.

“I’m especially grateful for this honour,” Lapp began, “because it’s literally my last lecture.”

Then, after leading students through “a couple of deep yoga breaths,” he noted that the extra oxygen would help everyone think more clearly “because I want to take up that old and ancient theme, how to tell the truth.

“Now, as old as it is, this topic has become freshly relevant in our era of fake news and conspiracy theories and well, not to mention the current panic over AI [artificial intelligence].”

Lapp added that four years of university would have taught the students that the truth is rarely simple.

“In the English department, our instinct is always to turn to the writers and poets for wisdom on these issues,” he said.

Over the next 20 minutes, Lapp guided students through various ways of telling the truth as shown in poems by Emily Dickinson, Margaret Atwood, William Wordsworth, Siegfried Sassoon and “eco-poet” Craig Santos Perez whose “Love Poem in a Time of Climate Change” begins:

I don’t love you as if you were rare-earth metals, diamonds,
or reserves of crude oil that propagate war;
I love you as one loves the most vulnerable species:
urgently, between the habitat and its loss…

In an interview later, Lapp said that in the last few years, his research has focussed on eco-poetry, a genre that takes the climate change crisis into account.

“One of the things I discovered,” he says, “is that the role literature can play in mitigating climate change is to make the facts of climate change available to readers who need to feel it emotionally.”

He adds that climate scientists are restrained by their discipline of objectivity in presenting the facts in official reports devoid of emotion.

“Literature then can supplement the facts with the translation of those facts into emotional languages of poetry and of prose in order to make those facts, not only accessible, but to give them the proper impact emotionally,” he says, “to foster transformation and change and to inspire activism.”

Robert Lapp in his office at Mt. A

Lapp says his love of poetry and ideas grew as he studied at the University of Toronto in the 1970s with inspiring teachers like Northrop Frye.

After earning his Master’s degree in English, he says with a laugh, that he took a step in another direction.

“As Emily Dickinson says, ‘Success in circuit lies,’ so I did a circuitous route,” he explains as he began working for the Metropolitan Toronto Convention and Visitors Association helping large organizations book their conventions in the city.

“It was really exciting because it was in the 1980s and Toronto was just busting at that time with growth and with a new kind of identity within the world community of big cities,” he says.

“It taught me a lot of skills…and made me feel like I was grounded in the real world by having to struggle and find my way through a career in a business like tourism.”

Eventually, his love of literature and ideas drew him back to university and with the financial support of his partner, Lapp enrolled in a PhD program at Dalhousie where he earned the qualifications needed for a 25-year teaching career at Mt. A.

He says he has mixed feelings about retirement and leaving the “intensity and joy” that comes from creating challenging courses and watching students rise to the challenges.

“I was thinking the other day of grading final papers. It’s like playing frisbee with really skilful players where they send a really good shot and you catch it and you fling it back in your comments on the essay in such a way that they can catch it and learn from the whole process. I love that and I will miss that, there’s no doubt.”

He says he’ll also miss his colleagues at the university.

On the other hand, Lapp says, it was time to leave, partly to create space for new faculty in the English department and partly to take the time to think about fundamental questions.

“What are the sources of creativity in the universe? These are the questions I pose for myself and I have little essays and notes  that I want very much to look into,” he says, adding that he’s also interested in how literary theory and eco-poetics could help with climate change.

“Right now I’m working with a book by Anna Tsing called The Mushroom at the End of the World,” he says.

“It shows how we all can work with the kind of broken pieces of our culture as we go through these difficult times and to reassemble them in ways that will create new possibilities,” he says.

“I don’t know, I could end up doing podcasts or blogposts or that kind of thing to keep my skin in the game and to respond to the challenge of remaining active in changing minds about our situation.”

To listen to my CHMA report on Robert Lapp’s last lecture, click here.

Posted in Mount Allison University | 3 Comments

Mayor pleased as province announces $2.4 million aboiteau to complete Sackville flood control project

Ducks Unlimited pond was included in Phase I of the Lorne St. flood control project along with a much larger pond south of St. James St.

Mayor Andrew Black says he’s happy the province has approved building a new $2.4 million aboiteau in Sackville’s industrial park to drain flood water into the Tantramar River.

“It’s the final step in completing one of the most ambitious and needed projects to protect downtown Sackville from major storms at a time when climate change will make them more likely,” Black said today. “I’m very pleased.”

The Tantramar mayor was referring to last week’s announcement that the provincial department of transportation and infrastructure (DTI) will install a new aboiteau in the dyke near Sackville’s main sewage lagoons.

“This project will replace the existing government-owned aboiteaux infrastructure with a new larger system to allow for the evacuation of inland flood waters captured behind the existing dykes that protect the town,” the announcement said.

It’s one of 73 projects worth a total of $47 million that the province is financing through its 2023/24 Climate Change Fund.

The $2.4 million is the last expenditure needed to complete the Lorne Street flood control project that began in 2017.

Aside from the latest announcement, all three levels of government have spent almost $13.9 million to protect Lorne Street and sections of downtown Sackville from fresh water flooding.

The project was designed in three phases:

Phase I  aimed to stop flooding on Lorne Street by replacing and upgrading water, sewer lines and storm drainage systems as well as sidewalks, curbs and ditches.

Phase II was designed to retain storm water in a large 40,000 cubic metre pond south of St. James Street until it could be discharged into the Tantramar River at low tide. A second smaller pond, built and managed by Ducks Unlimited, also retains water. Both ponds serve as habitat for birds, animals and plants with walking trails around them for residents and visitors.

Phase III to be built in the coming months will feature another large retention pond behind the community gardens on Charles Street with culverts, pipes and ditches to carry stormwater to the new $2.4 million aboiteau in the Sackville industrial park. Walking trails will also be built around it. In addition, a retention pond is being built in the old Sackville quarry to control stormwater that flows down toward Lorne Street.

Tantramar Treasurer Michael Beal provided the following breakdown for the costs. He notes that the municipality did not need to borrow for its share of Phases I and II and will not likely have to borrow for Phase III either:

Sign beside the small pond north of St. James St. The pond also extends Sackville’s Waterfowl Park

Posted in Environment, Town of Sackville | Tagged | 7 Comments

CFIA withdraws $6,000 penalty against Sackville farmer in calf’s death

Home surveillance video shows calf tumbling on road after falling from passing trailer on Dec. 30, 2020

Newly released documents from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) show that a $6,000 penalty against Sackville farmer Keith Carter was withdrawn last November about a month before the Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal was scheduled to review it.

The CFIA originally notified Carter on May 16, 2021 that he had violated regulations governing the safe transport of animals after a year-old calf weighing 650-700 pounds fell from the back of a trailer in front of houses on Cape Road in Dorchester.

Home surveillance video, included in the CFIA’s case brief and exhibits, shows a white pickup truck hauling a trailer passing by as the calf tumbles behind it on December 30th, 2020.

The documents, released in response to a federal access to information request, state that the truck driven by Farrah Carter stopped and that her father, Keith Carter, bled the calf out on the road to save the meat.

Photo shows blood on road after Keith Carter cut the calf’s throat to bleed it out

During an interview with Warktimes the next day, Carter admitted he was at fault.

“I forgot to put a pin in the tail gate. It was just an accident. I didn’t plan on a thousand dollar calf falling out of the back of the truck,” he said.

The CFIA also served Farrah Carter with a notice of violation warning, without any monetary penalty.

The documents show that both Carters asked for a review, but Farrah later withdrew her request.

Sharp internal discord

A heavily redacted CFIA summary of the case shows how the notice of violation and the $6,000 penalty came to be withdrawn a little over a month before the independent Canada  Agricultural Review Tribunal (CART) was scheduled to hear testimony during its review on December 14, 2022.

In a section labelled “Atlantic Area Record of Decision,” the summary refers to what appear to be heated internal disagreements and debates.

The CFIA document notes that the Lead Investigator, who isn’t named, recommended taking no action and simply closing the file on March 25, 2021.

The Acting Manager, also not named, disagreed and after “lengthy and contradicting exchanges” between them, the Lead Investigator “asked to recuse himself from the file; the Acting Manager accepted the recusal and took over ownership and responsibility for the file.”

But their disagreements didn’t end there.

“Multiple inconsistencies and conflicting opinions were exchanged between the Lead Investigator and the Acting Manager over the span of two months,” the summary says.

As the disagreements continued, the Lead Investigator and his Assisting Investigator served notice that they would attend the Tribunal hearing and ask to testify.

This means that the risks and uncertainties associated with oral testimony would be present if this matter proceeds,” the summary notes.

Apparently acting on the advice of a CFIA lawyer (which is redacted), Al Goguen, Manager of Enforcement and Investigation Services in the Atlantic region decided to recommend withdrawal of the notice of violation and $6,000 penalty against Keith Carter.

“Given the risks and issues listed above,” Goguen wrote, “we recommend that the Notice of Violation with Penalty issued to the individual of concern be withdrawn. As such, there will be no hearing on December 14, 2022 before the CART.”

To read the redacted Atlantic Area Record of Decision, click here.

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Mt. A profs urge university not to confer honorary degree on former ambassador

Canadian diplomat Deborah Lyons. Photo: Mount Allison University

Two Mount Allison professors are calling on the university to abandon its plan to confer an honorary degree on Deborah Lyons, Canada’s former ambassador to Israel and Afghanistan.

Politics and International Relations Professor Lara Khattab and Krista Johnston, Director of Women’s and Gender Studies, are gathering signatures for an online petition urging Mt. A. to rescind its decision to grant Lyons an honorary degree at this year’s convocation ceremonies on May 15th.

“Deborah Lyons is being honoured at a time,” Khattab said in an interview, “when Palestinians are being slaughtered, they’re collectively being punished and I cannot but think that this person has supported the agents of repression and dispossession and colonization of Palestinians.”

Among other things, the petition condemns the former ambassador for not speaking out about Israeli war crimes against Palestinians and for negotiating with members of the Taliban, including those who have been designated as global terrorists.

“In my Women’s and Gender Studies course this term, we did a lot of work around Afghanistan,” Krista Johnston says, “thinking about how those of us located in North America can be in meaningful solidarity with social movements in Afghanistan and this [honorary degree] is the opposite of that.

“This is celebrating someone who definitely backed some abhorrent practices in Israel, but who has also aligned herself with noted terrorists in Afghanistan. She has urged for negotiation with the Taliban while recognizing that they are the reason why girls and women in Afghanistan don’t have access to education.”

Israeli military

The petition accuses Lyons of encouraging Canadians to join the Israeli military in violation of section 11 of Canada’s foreign enlistment act which makes it a crime to recruit or induce “any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state.”

“While the international human rights community and organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the UN Special Rapporteur, found that Israel is guilty of apartheid and of settler colonialism, Mrs. Lyons continued to white-wash Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the petition states, adding that during her term as Canada’s ambassador (2016-2020) the Israeli military killed 233 Palestinians and wounded more than 8,000 in Gaza.

“Mrs. Lyons should have condemned human rights violations and war crimes as a high-ranking Canadian diplomat. Instead, she chose to engage in the settler colonial erasure of the plight of Canadians and Palestinians and to white-wash Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism,” the petition says.

“As scholars, students, and human rights advocates committed to critical perspectives grounded in uplifting the dispossessed, marginalized, and repressed at home and abroad, and as scholars who are committed to decolonization, anti-racism, human rights, social justice and the self-determination of Palestinians, and Indigenous nations at home, and abroad, we demand that Mount Allison immediately rescinds its decision to grant Lyons the honorary degree at Convocation 2023,” the petition concludes.

‘There will be disruptions’

Mount Allison convocation procession. Photo: Mount Allison University Facebook

Khattab and Johnston warn there will be consequences if the university goes ahead with its plan to award the honorary degree to the former ambassador on May 15th, a date that coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the day that Palestinians mark as the destruction of their society and homeland.

They point out that plans also call for Lyons to speak at the ceremony.

“There will be disruption at convocation, absolutely,” Johnston says.

“We have many student organizers who are really enraged, there are alumni, there are community members, there are lots of faculty who have signed our petition who are also enraged, so there will be disruptions at the convocation. I don’t know exactly what it will look like yet,” she adds.

“This doesn’t end at convocation,” Johnston says. “She may well get this degree on May 15th, but she won’t keep it.”

Meantime, a spokesperson for Mt. A. said there would be no immediate statement today from the university on the petition.

And, a communications officer at Global Affairs Canada, said in an e-mailed statement that for privacy reasons, he could not provide contact information for Deborah Lyons.

Jason Kung added the following:

Canada is committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. In keeping with Canada’s long-standing position, it is important at this time to reiterate our commitment to a two-state solution and self-determination of all peoples. Our position remains that this can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties. We urge the parties to create the conditions for such negotiations to take place.

You may also consult our Statement on punitive measures taken against the Palestinian Authority by Israel and Canadian policy on key issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict website.

To read the Mount Allison University biography of Deborah Lyons, click here.

To view the online petition against awarding her an honorary degree, click here.

To read about a similar Mt. A. protest in 2010, click here.

Posted in Mount Allison University | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

NB Power seeks to install 3 fast EV chargers in Sackville

Climate Change Co-ordinator Brittany Cormier

NB Power is seeking permission to install three fast 100kw electric vehicle chargers at the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) near TransCanada Hwy exit 504.

Brittany Cormier, Tantramar’s Climate Change Co-ordinator told town council on Monday that NB Power is seeking to expand its network of EV chargers and has identified the VIC as a high value location because of its proximity to the highway between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

“The existing direct current fast chargers (DCFCs) are in high demand resulting in frequent line-ups during peak times,” she said, adding that the NB Power fast charger at the Irving Big Stop in Aulac is among the most heavily used with motorists there waiting up to three hours during peak times to use it.

Cormier said NB Power also wants to supplement its slower, level 2 charger at the VIC with these level 3s.

She explained later that charging times vary depending on the vehicle, but charging takes from 20 minutes to an hour with level 3s, while the level 2s can take from four to six hours.

Level 2s, however, are still useful because they can charge batteries in hybrid vehicles that often can’t use level 3s.

Cormier said that NB Power would install the fast chargers at no cost to the town although Tantramar would be responsible for keeping them clear of snow in winter.

(Council was told that the town already plows the VIC parking lot.)

The new, fast chargers are tentatively scheduled to arrive in August with installation in September.

100kw EV charger and the one at the Big Stop in Aulac. Photos: Town of Tantramar

Cormier said NB Power is considering adding up to two more fast chargers, possibly in the downtown parking lot between Goya’s Pizza and the Post Office where the town is installing its own level 3 charger this spring.

For the moment though, NB Power’s strategic priority is to focus on installing them near highways, she said.

NB Power charges fast charger users $15 per hour billed by the minute. It says that “total costs are determined based on the total time connected to the station, not the duration of the charge or the total energy transfer.”

Council will be asked to approve the agreement to install the three fast chargers at its next regular meeting on May 9th.

Meantime, the CBC’s Robert Jones reported today that although EVs accounted for only 1.7% of new vehicle registrations in New Brunswick last year, the 571 registered were more than the previous five years combined.

According to the CBC, the province projects that EVs will account for half of new vehicle registrations by 2030.

Jones quotes Julia Kent of the Canadian Automobile Association’s Atlantic Division who worries that the network of EV charging stations isn’t big enough to meet demand.

“We see this as a huge problem in Atlantic Canada,” Kent told CBC. “For the number of EVs on the road today, public charging across Atlantic Canada isn’t up to where it needs to be.”

Meantime, the New Brunswick government is offering a range of rebates on new and used EVs, hybrids and, on home charging stations.

For a previous story on the debate over the EV charger in downtown Sackville, click here.

Posted in Environment, Town of Tantramar | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Tantramar Councillors question developer’s plan for 6-storey apartment building on Main St.

Drawing of 6-storey, 71-unit apartment building John Lafford wants to construct at 131 Main St.

Sackville developer John Lafford is seeking changes to the municipal zoning bylaw so he can construct a six-storey, 71 unit apartment building at 131 Main Street, but judging from their initial reactions, Tantramar councillors have many questions and concerns.

Town planner Lori Bickford told town council today that for his plan to go forward, Lafford would need the back portion of the 2.3 acre property rezoned to Urban Residential 3 (R3) to allow for a multiple-unit building.

She said he would also need an increase in the maximum height permitted in the R3 zone from 50 to 65 feet.

“The development is proposed to be of non-combustible materials, so concrete construction versus wood, and it would contain a sprinkler system,” Bickford added.

Town Planner Lori Bickford

She said the historic Allison/Fisher/Fawcett House at 131 Main Street would remain on the property and retain its Residential Historic Commercial (RHC) zoning.

Bickford’s background report on the proposed development outlined further details:

A variety of units are proposed to offer a mixture of accommodations which include: 24 – 2 bedroom units with a den (~1400 sq ft) (corner units), 12 – 2 bedroom units with a den (1,087 sq ft), 17 – 1 bedroom units with a den (898 sq ft), and 18 – 1 bedroom units (682 sq ft). The smaller 1 bedroom units are being proposed as affordable housing options. A gym area is proposed on the ground floor for the residents. The building will also be serviced with an elevator…A combination of underground parking (54 spaces) and surface parking is proposed for the development.

Bickford noted that Sackville Town Council voted against rezoning the property when the late Gordon Beal proposed to construct a two-storey, 10-unit building in 2009 and again in 2014, when he sought approval for a three-storey, 18-unit building.

She said council could decide at its next meeting on May 9th if it wishes to consider Lafford’s rezoning applications and set a date for a public hearing or whether to reject his proposals.

The first thing to consider, she said, would be lifting the height restriction because without that, the project would not be viable.

Council’s response

“My first question is, what has changed from the two previous zoning (applications) to now?” asked Councillor Josh Goguen.

Councillor Josh Goguen

“From what I understand, it’s in the middle of a flood plain that could, especially if you’re putting parking down in the bottom, that could flood,” he added.

“What’s the definition of affordable? Is it 50 bucks off? There’s just so many questions.”

Goguen also expressed concerns about how close the development would be to residents in the co-op housing apartments on Main Street.

“Ms. Bickford, I think you know how I feel about this project,” said Councillor Bruce Phinney.

“I’m going to go back to what I said when I refused back in 2014 and 2009. I think it’s the wrong place for this project,” he added.

“The height makes no difference to me…but it’s the place where it’s being built and the impact that I feel that it will have on the people that live around there,” Phinney said.

“Do I like the idea of having 71 more units throughout the town? Definitely. But I also would like to know, what are the apartments going to cost and the…apartments that are supposed to be affordable, what’s the price of those?”

Bickford promised to seek more information on rents after Councillors Michael Tower and Matt Estabrooks echoed Phinney’s concern.

Barry Hicks was the only councillor to express wholehearted support.

“Obviously we all know, there’s a need for apartments in the town,” Hicks said.

“A developer’s not going to build a 71-unit apartment unless they know that they’re going to be able to rent some of it and I feel the more apartments they get around, it’s going to drive the price down on the older ones,” he added.

“I don’t see a problem with the site.”

To read Lori Bickford’s background report on the Lafford proposal, click here.

To read previous coverage on the aftermath of Gordon Beal’s 2014 application for rezoning, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville, Town of Tantramar | Tagged | 15 Comments