Five candidates nominated to contest vacant seat on Sackville Town Council

Shawn Mesheau

Three men and two women are officially in the running for the vacant seat on Sackville Town Council, giving municipal voters a wide range of choices on election day, Monday December 10.

Three of the five candidates responded to my request yesterday for a photo, a brief bio and a statement outlining why they are running for the seat held by Megan Mitton, who resigned from council after being elected to the New Brunswick legislature last month as a Green Party candidate.

Former councillor Shawn Mesheau was the first to file his nomination papers with Elections New Brunswick.

Mesheau, who has already served three terms on council (1998-2001; 2001-2004; and 2012-2016) says he was considering running again in 2020 when this vacancy came up after the provincial election.

“With only 16 months until the next municipal election, it makes sense that my experience would allow for a smooth entrance to join the existing councillors and forge ahead,” his e-mail says.

He adds that while the town has done well in community development, “we are on life support when it comes to economic development.”

Mesheau, who has extensive business experience, says eight economic sectors need to be nurtured including business, retail, tourism, agriculture, the environment, culture and the arts, and the university.

“We are doing well at four of those and need to dig deeper when it comes to business development, retail, tourism and agriculture,” he concludes.

A news release issued on his behalf says Mesheau works for Blugenics Innovations in Sackville, where he is Key Account Manager for large national retailers.

To read Mesheau’s complete statement as well as the news release, click here.

Sabine Dietz

Sabine Dietz

A committed environmentalist with a PhD in biology and a Master’s degree in environmental studies will also be on the ballot in the Sackville by-election.

Sabine Dietz, who managed Megan Mitton’s successful provincial campaign, says in an e-mail that her extensive experience working with communities of different sizes across the province has made her aware of basic issues.

“I understand the immense challenges municipalities are facing such as flooding, helping our seniors, working with our youth, or protecting the environment,” she adds.

“I like the direction our Town has been heading, looking at and supporting innovative approaches to some of our challenges, despite some hiccups along the way. There is so much more we can do for us to grow and make us more sustainable, and I would like to be a part of it,” her statement says.

Dietz, who ran unsuccessfully for the Sackville mayoralty in 2012, has worked as a program and project coordinator on environmental projects since the mid 1980s. In 2013, she co-founded the Aster Group, a co-operative environmental consulting firm.

To read her full statement and brief biography, click here.

Dylan Wooley-Berry

Dylan Wooley-Berry

A former president of the Mount Allison Student Union is in the running for the vacant seat on town council.

Dylan Wooley-Berry also served as a student representative on the Mt. A. Board of Regents, the university’s highest-governing body.

In 2016, he was a prominent leader in the successful campaign against budget cuts that could have killed the Mount Allison Women’s and Gender Studies program.

In his e-mail to Warktimes, Wooley-Berry writes that after graduating from Mt. A., he moved to Ottawa where he worked for more than a year in the office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard before deciding to move back home to Sackville.

“One of the things I would like to see our town change is how it bills residents for water usage,” he says, adding that residents should pay for every litre they use, to encourage them to conserve water.

“The current minimum payment scheme is not environmentally friendly as it creates economic incentives to consume more water,” he says.

“Sackville is a great town, this is just one example of something that needs to be fixed.”

To read Dylan Wooley-Berry’s brief biography and statement, click here.

Brian Neilson and Julia Feltham

Two candidates, who ran unsuccessfully for council seats in 2016, did not respond to my request for a photo, a brief bio and a statement about why they were running.

Both Brian Neilson and Julia Feltham are heavily involved in Sackville community activities.

Neilson is a member of Sackville Schools 2020, the group lobbying for replacement of Sackville’s crumbling schools as well as adoption of new collaborative and experiential learning methods.

Feltham, who is a professional consultant and community developer, has worked for Renaissance Sackville and more recently with the Sackville Commons, an organization she helped establish.

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Sackville revises flood control plan, but mayor says town still at risk from heavy storms

Mayor John Higham

According to Mayor John Higham, Sackville is still vulnerable to flooding from heavy rainstorms in spite of the millions that have been spent so far on the Lorne Street flood control project.

“The water modelling shows 160,000 cubic metres of water could come down…in a 24-hour period under existing rainfalls that are measured in this area and that amount of water would flood Lorne Street significantly,” Higham said during Tuesday’s town council meeting.

He was speaking during discussion of the town’s latest plan to build a large water retention pond in the marshy area east of Lorne and south of St. James Streets with a second, much smaller pond across from the intersection of Dufferin and Lorne Streets.

Water from the ponds would flow through pipes and culverts under the CN rail line and then under Crescent Street to an existing ditch that meanders across the marshland near the old railway station on its way to the Tantramar River.

The town is hoping that New Brunswick’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DTI) will deepen and widen that ditch along with others in the area, but Mayor Higham says even that would not be enough to prevent downtown flooding from major 50 or 100-year storms.

“The [new] pond will hold 40,000 cubic metres of water, that’s what the design is for,” Higham said, “and the potential of even a one in 50 [year] flood from that area is almost three times that.”

Original plan 

The town originally planned to build two large water retention ponds and a system of pipes, culverts and ditches that would carry storm water across the industrial park to a double-gated aboiteau at the river near the town’s sewage lagoons. But bids for the project came in at nearly double its $2.9 million budget even after the town had eliminated the second, larger pond.

Existing ditch on far side of Crescent St. near Armtec plant

Higham says the town is still hoping to go ahead with its original plan, but needs more cost-sharing money from the federal and provincial governments before it can proceed.

“What we’re doing now is all that we could afford to do with the money that was left. So, it’s not going to solve all of the problems,” Higham said, “and we’re in that budgetary situation where we don’t have much choice.”

The mayor was responding Tuesday to persistent questions from Sackville resident Keith Carter who along with others, including Percy Best, have long argued that the town should abandon its plans for expensive water retention ponds surrounded by walking trails and rely instead on deeper ditches that would carry storm water in a southerly direction to Carters Brook in West Sackville.

However, in September, Crandall Engineering consultant, Pierre Plourde told council the original plan is essential for long-term flood control.

Quarry pond

Plourde also outlined plans to build a retention pond in the old Sackville quarry to prevent storm water from flooding the downtown during heavy rains.

However, Town Engineer Dwayne Acton said on Tuesday that the quarry project could only be undertaken during the summer months, so it was not included in the latest tender package issued on November 6.

He added that the quarry retention pond is still being planned, but the town needs to consult with its funding partner, the federal Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, on the scope of the project.

Burger King drive-thru?

In other news, town planner Lori Bickford said during Tuesday’s meeting that the Burger King fast food chain has received a building permit to renovate the interior of the old Wendy’s restaurant at TransCanada highway Exit 504.

The Sackville Wendy’s closed on December 31, 2014, a couple of weeks after Burger King merged with Tim Hortons.

Councillor Michael Tower said Burger King has been interviewing staff for its new Sackville location.

Bickford indicated Burger King would be allowed to operate a drive-thru as long as it adheres to the specifications in the original development agreement with Tim Hortons/Wendy’s.

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Sackville set to save on garbage collection

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton

According to the town engineer, Sackville could save more than $20,000 on garbage collection next year.

Dwayne Acton told council last Monday that a bid from Miller Waste Systems came in at $246,161.18 for 2019 garbage collection, $23,619 lower than the 2018 cost of $272,207.00.

Acton said he will be asking council to approve a new five-year contract with Miller Waste at its regular meeting this Tuesday. He said that the town would have the option to renew the contract for an extra two years. The current Miller Waste contract expires on December 31st.

The only other bidder was Fero Waste and Recycling Inc., but Acton said that bid was rejected because of errors in the tender submission.

When Councillor Michael Tower asked about the errors, CAO Phil Handrahan said he would rather not discuss the specifics of the bid until the town has had a chance to review the matter with its lawyers. He promised to let council know of any new information that comes out of the review.

Lower residential costs

Meantime, Acton said Miller Waste’s lower bid for next year resulted from a reduction in the cost of residential pickup, not from elimination of the special summer collection for larger items. If council approves the new contract on Tuesday, Miller Waste will continue special collections in spring and fall as well as one for Christmas trees.

Acton said costs are based on a levy per unit. For example, the annual cost of residential pickup under the Miller Waste contract would be $87.29 per unit.

Apartment waste

Once again, Acton made it clear that the new contract would not include the collection of garbage from apartment buildings with more than four units.

He said that as far as he knows, no other municipality collects garbage from larger apartment buildings.

Garbage bin behind Sackville apartment building

He said apartment building collection would cost the town an extra fifty to sixty thousand dollars and that it would be difficult to integrate landlords, tenants and haulers into the three-stream waste system.

At present, landlords who use one bin for unsorted garbage, pay extra to dispose of the waste. The Southeast Regional Service Commission charges a tipping fee of $75 per tonne for sorted waste and $85 per tonne for unsorted garbage — a fee that is expected to increase year by year to encourage landlords to adopt the three-stream system.

Councillor Bill Evans said that while he is willing to vote for awarding the garbage contract without including apartment buildings, the system isn’t fair.

“The people who have been paying the property taxes on these apartment buildings have been paying and not getting the service,” Evans said. “[But] if we’re the only community doing it, it’s going to be too much of a challenge.”

Evans added that the Southeast Regional Service Commission has “got to crank up the tipping fees” on unsorted garbage to force landlords to adopt three-stream sorting.

Councillor Bruce Phinney said imposing new rules on apartment buildings would only hurt tenants.

“People who live in apartment buildings are living there because they can’t afford their own homes, they’re on a limited income,” Phinney added. “It is a problem that we’ve had around for as long as I’ve been on council, that’s been almost 15 years.”

Phinney said that’s why he would never vote in favour of forcing apartment building landlords to sort garbage.

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Pay cut for Sackville’s mayor and councillors

Councillor Allison Butcher

Sackville’s mayor, deputy mayor and town councillors will each start losing hundreds if not thousands of dollars on January 1st when the federal government starts taxing their full municipal salaries.

“The federal government is giving us a pay cut, which really stinks,” Councillor Allison Butcher said at last Monday’s town council meeting.

She was referring to the federal government scrapping a policy that has been in effect since 1953 allowing municipal and provincial office holders to escape paying taxes on up to a third of their salaries.

The tax-free allowances covered work-related expenses that did not have to be accounted for. But the federal government says the perk for municipal and provincial politicians isn’t fair to other taxpayers who do not qualify for such tax-free allowances.

Sackville allowances

In Sackville, the mayor receives $4,794.92 as a tax-free allowance on top of his annual salary of $9,589.84 for a total of $14,384.76, while the deputy mayor gets $2,838.42 tax free in addition to $5,676.84, for a total of $8,515.26.

Sackville councillors receive $2,518.62 tax free in addition to their annual salaries of $5,037.24, for a total of $7,555.86.

To see total council pay, benefits, expense allowances and expense claims, click here and here.

Butcher, who is a director and teacher at a non-profit children’s play school, said the new tax policy will make a difference to her. (Her tax bill is likely to rise by several hundred dollars.)

However, she added that after raising municipal taxes earlier this year, councillors can’t justify claiming more money for themselves to cover their higher income tax bills.

“It stinks that it will mean a bit of a difference for us, but I can’t in good faith suggest to the taxpayers, who are now paying more this year, that they should pay me more,” she said.

Cost implications

Treasurer Mike Beal told council that it could cost the town up to $16,000 to make up the difference so that councillors would not take a pay cut.

He said it’s been over 10 years since Sackville’s municipal politicians received a major raise, although he noted that their salaries are adjusted every year to cover 90 per cent of the cost of inflation. He said, for example, that if the annual cost of living rises by two per cent, the mayor and councillors get raises of 1.8 per cent.

Councillor Bruce Phinney said he would like to see pay comparisons with other municipal councils including the one in Amherst, where pay rates are higher.

In 2012, politicians in Amherst approved an annual salary for the mayor of $34,580; $23,127 for the deputy mayor; and $20,438 for each of the five councillors. (The clerk was unavailable Friday, so it was not possible to ascertain this year’s exact salary figures.)

To see council salaries for the similarly sized community of Woodstock, N.B., click here and for Shediac, click here.

Fewer councillors

Councillor Andrew Black noted that Amherst has fewer councillors than Sackville.

“They operate with six councillors,” he said. “I think an easy way for us to do this is go from eight to six and then take the pay from the other two councillors and spread it out among six.”

Councillor Bill Evans

Councillor Bill Evans described the tax-free allowance as a loophole that the federal government is closing to raise more revenue to pay for programs that benefit all Canadians.

“I think that we are well compensated,” Evans added, referring to the health, dental and life insurance that members of council get.

“Nobody wants to pay more taxes, everybody wants to get more pay,” Evans said, adding, it’s “a pretty clear conflict of interest” for councillors to give themselves more pay.

“I think we do our bit like every other taxpayer and pay our taxes,” he said.

In the end, Mayor Higham said it seemed to him that there was no support on council for an immediate raise to compensate for the pay cut, but that town staff could gather figures to determine how Sackville’s pay scales compare with other municipalities.

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Mt. A. president noncommittal about shedding investments in Big Oil

MTA Divest member Hanna Longard (bottom right) summarizes student demands as university officials listen. L-R: Dan Nowlan, Chair BOR Investment Committee, Ron Outerbridge, BOR Chair, Jean-Paul Boudreau, Mt. A. president

Mount Allison students, who are members of the group Divest MTA, continued their four-year campaign Monday to persuade the university to shed its investments in big fossil fuel companies.

The students urged Jean-Paul Boudreau, the new Mt. A. president, to take a public stand on the issue by the end of the fall semester on December 4.

However, during a friendly, hour-long meeting, the students met some resistance from Boudreau and Ron Outerbridge, Chair of the Board of Regents (BOR), the university’s highest governing body.

Fighting climate change

The meeting began with MTA Divest member Hanna Longard saying that while individuals should take steps to fight climate change, institutions can have a much greater impact by withdrawing their investments in fossil fuels.

“At least 991 institutions worldwide have committed to fossil fuel divestment already removing $7.18 trillion from the industry,” Longard said. She added that the government of Ireland, the City of New York and Yale University are among the institutions that have shed their investments in big oil, gas and coal companies.

“Divest MTA is a student-led political group asking our university to remove its investments from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies,” Longard said, adding that in 2017, the university had endowment fund investments in 70 or more of these companies.

“As students, we were sold the idea of Mount Allison University as a progressive liberal arts institution,” she said. “We were disappointed to learn that our university is complicit in an industry that is harming people, the planet and our future.”

Longard also outlined the three main demands of the international fossil fuel divestment movement: A fast transition to renewable energy; no new fossil fuel projects anywhere and “not a penny more for dirty energy.”

Several other students spoke about the urgent need to fight climate change in light of the most recent international scientific report warning that if fundamental changes in all aspects of society aren’t made within 12 years, the world will face increased risk of catastrophic droughts, floods, extreme heat and poverty.

Boudreau responds

Jean-Paul Boudreau responded by thanking the students for their “multiple years of engagement on this issue.”

The new Mt. A. president said the university’s website lists many ways in which Mount Allison is committed to environmental sustainability and environmental activism.

“I have to say I’m really impressed with the efforts that have been made by this university, we punch well above our weight,” he said, adding that while there’s more work to do to offset climate change, “I think it’s important to pause and to appreciate the achievements that this university has done.”

Other ways to fight climate change

Ron Outerbridge, chair of the Board of Regents (BOR) said the 24-member board, which includes faculty and student representatives, is responsible for the university’s investments and is always open to a dialogue about them.

“I’m proud of Mount Allison and what we’ve done for environmental [issues] and climate change,” Outerbridge said. “It is a complicated matter and…trying to figure out exactly the best way to address it is a challenge.”

He added that while the BOR recognizes that “climate change is one of our most pressing issues,” there are many ways to address it including changing people’s behaviour, a point also made earlier by President Boudreau.

Outerbridge suggested that since climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions, it might make more sense to focus on the largest industrial polluters rather than the fossil fuel companies that produce oil and gas.

Dan Nowlan, chair of the BOR’s investment committee, promised that at the committee’s next meeting, likely before the end of the year, MTA Divest will be invited to give a presentation.

To read the university’s official position on climate change and responsible investing, click here.

Social licence

Later in Monday’s meeting, when Divest MTA member Naia Noyes-West said scientific experts recognize that divestment is a highly effective solution in fighting climate change, Robert Inglis, the university’s vice president of finance, wondered if divestment is a solution because it’s a political response or because it would change how the fossil fuel companies operate.

“I would say both,” MTA Divest member Catherine Turnbull answered. “We know that divestment works to take the social licence away from large industries or regimes like [South African] apartheid, like the tobacco industry,” she said, adding that divestment is therefore, both political and financial.

MTA member Adrian Kiva warned President Boudreau that Divest MTA would continue to press its demands for divestment from fossil fuels.

“You know that climate change is not going to go away and neither is Divest MTA,” Kiva said.

“If today you say ‘no’ to Divest, you’re going to have to continue saying no to Divest every semester of your tenure, at every meeting where it comes up, every time when a journalist asks you,” he added. “If you say ‘yes,’ you only have to say yes to it once.”

Kiva suggested that members of Divest MTA share in values that the Mt. A. president had expressed, the values of sustainability and engagement.

“We’re here to make that offer for you to join us and be part of the structural battle against climate change,” he concluded.

Members, Divest MTA. L-R: Naia Noyes-West, Adrian Kiva, Julia Campbell, Sarah Gordon, Catherine Turnbull, Mark Nicol, Cara MacKenzie, Hanna Longard

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Firefighters tackle blaze at Salem Elementary School

Firefighters use aerial ladder truck to fight fire at Salem Elementary School

The Anglophone East School District says Sackville’s Salem Elementary will be closed Monday for repairs, but is expected to re-open on Tuesday.

The school closure became necessary after a fire today on the gymnasium roof.

Twenty-eight Sackville fire fighters were dispatched to Salem Elementary shortly before 2 p.m. after reports of flames and smoke.

Two Sackville pumpers along with an aerial ladder truck were on the scene before more personnel arrived from Point de Bute to assist with fire suppression.

Firefighters used a saw to get at the fire so they could put it out with water from a fire hose.

Aside from firefighters from Point de Bute, the Chief summoned help from Dorchester to cover other possible fire calls in the area.

He says the cause of the fire has not been determined and the Fire Marshall’s office will investigate.

Chief Bowser says the last 24-hours have been busy with high winds, downed power lines and at least one transport truck toppled by high winds on the TransCanada. The highway was closed to high-sided vehicles for several hours last night.

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Sackville postal workers stage rotating strike

Striking postal workers outside Sackville’s post office on Main St.

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) set up a picket line today outside the main post office in Sackville.

The postal workers are members of the CUPW Moncton local which began a rotating strike at 6 p.m. yesterday, one of several across the country.

The rotating strikes are happening as Canada Post and CUPW try to negotiate new contracts for the union’s two bargaining groups with the help of a special mediator appointed by the federal government.

The Urban Postal Operations and Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) bargaining units have been without a contract for almost a year.

Main issues

Linda Campbell, president of CUPW’s Moncton local, says excessive overtime and health and safety are two of the main issues.

“Health and safety is a big thing,” she adds. “We don’t want to be overburdened and we want a better quality balance with our work life and our own family life.”

Campbell explains that postal workers are routinely expected to work overtime.

“Canada Post is not hiring enough people for the workload that we have now due to the increase in parcels,” she says. “We have more and more parcels coming all the time and they don’t have enough workers to get everything processed and people end up working much longer days.”

Workplace injuries

CUPW accuses Canada Post management of refusing to deal with safety issues that arise from excessive workloads and overtime.

“People are working faster, working longer hours and the possibility of injuries due to that gets very high,” Campbell says. (CUPW’s National President Mike Palecek says that postal workers are experiencing a higher rate of injuries than other federal workers.)

Campbell adds that a third main issue involves pay disparities between different groups of workers.

“They’ve gone with a two-tier system for new hirees, temporary workers, so they’re paying them much less than their co-workers, but they’re doing the exact same job and all of our people who do the rural mail service, they do the exact same job as a letter carrier, but make less money,” she says.

“We’re looking for equality. We’re all the same and we all need to be treated the same.”

Management response

In a statement e-mailed to The New Wark Times, Canada Post says it’s working to address the union’s concerns.

“The Corporation has made significant offers to CUPW that include increased wages, job security, and improved benefits, and it has not asked for any concessions in return,” the statement says.

“We have also committed to work together to address employees’ workload concerns caused by parcel growth,” it says, suggesting that Canada Post is also open to improving rates of pay for rural and suburban workers while “moving to one uniform for all delivery employees.”

Canada Post profits

Canada Post 2017 annual report showing revenues, profits and labour costs (click to enlarge)

Meantime, CUPW Moncton’s local president Linda Campbell says most people don’t realize Canada Post is a profitable Crown Corporation that does not depend on tax subsidies.

The Corporation’s latest annual report shows that in the last five years, the Canada Post Group of Companies has made a net profit every year except 2013.

“They’re making money because of the increase in parcels,” Campbell says, “so when a company increases its productivity…don’t you think they would hire more people to be able to get that work done?”

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