Two candidates vying for NDP nomination

Provincial NDP leader Jennifer McKenzie will speak this Saturday in Sackville

For the first time in years, provincial New Democrats in the Memramcook-Tantramar riding will be choosing between two candidates for the party nomination in the New Brunswick election on September 24th.

Local NDP members will choose between Hélène Boudreau and Evelyne Godfrey during a meeting at 2 p.m. this Saturday in the Activity Centre at Sackville’s Bill Johnstone Memorial Park.

They will also hear from Jennifer McKenzie who was chosen as the party’s new leader in 2017.

Hélène Boudreau ran for the NDP in Memramcook-Tantramar in the 2014 election and was also the party’s candidate in the riding of Beauséjour during the 2015 federal election. She served as a municipal councillor in Dieppe from 2008 to 2012.

Evelyne Godfrey, who grew up in Sackville, recently returned here from England to teach in the anthropology department at Mount Allison University after a teaching career in Britain and the U.S. She’s an archeologist who specializes in ancient mining, metallurgy  and materials science. As for political experience, Godfrey says she’s been a long-time member of Britain’s Labour Party and she served as an elected Parish Councillor in Oxfordshire from 2011 to 2015.

In separate interviews, both Boudreau and Godfrey stressed the importance of electing NDP candidates as alternatives to traditional Liberals and Progressive Conservatives.

Hélène Boudreau

Hélène Boudreau wants to run again for the NDP

“For me personally, this election is about health care,” says Boudreau who has been a registered nurse for 33 years. During her career, she worked as an extra-mural, home-care nurse and as a nursing co-ordinator in a private, residential nursing home.

“When I saw that our provincial government, without the mandate of the people, privatized [the management of] extra-mural care to Medavie, being in there and knowing what efficiencies we could have done, I was appalled,” she says.

Boudreau adds that she attended meetings and news conferences during which Liberal cabinet ministers tried to explain why they handed management of extra-mural care to Medavie and she still can’t understand why they did it.

“It just does not make sense,” she says. “I think that’s why at this time that I’m putting my whole energy at least to make sure that we do have a proper health care system.”

Boudreau says she worries about the Liberal government’s plan to create up to 1,000 additional beds in 10 new nursing homes around the province.

Calling it “a plan that’s not a plan,” she questioned where the nursing home employees would come from and how long it might take before the Liberal promise becomes a reality.

Aside from health care issues, Boudreau says that she’s concerned about the need for federal-provincial action to prevent flooding in the Tantramar region and she promised to defend the historic Acadian Memramcook Institute against budget cuts in hard economic times.

“I think this time around, people want a change,” she says.  “I hear people every day now for the past five, six months saying ‘we want a change’ and this time, the way they’re saying it, I’m hoping… it will translate into that X at the box.”

Evelyne Godfrey

Evelyne Godfrey is contesting the local NDP nomination

When asked why she wants to run for the NDP, Evelyne Godfrey says New Brunswick’s education system is one of her main issues.

“Higher education is my particular concern and the policy of the NDP going into this election is that we would lower university tuition fees by 25 per cent,” she says.

She adds that the NDP advocates free tuition for community college students.

“I think that’s what’s seriously lacking especially here in Sackville. I think there needs to be more lifelong learning and continuing and further education for adults,” she says, adding she would like to see community college classes provided here for free.

Godfrey points out that she left Sackville and moved to England in 1989 because of the lack of training and job opportunities in New Brunswick.

She advocates job creation strategies and supports the NDP promise of a $15 hourly minimum wage.

Godfrey says N.B. Power should focus on renewable energy instead of aiming to generate profits selling power to the U.S.

“If they were to invest, for example, in more hydro-electric, wind and solar power, it would not only create jobs in New Brunswick, but it would also lower electricity bills,” she says.

Godfrey adds the NDP would push for more investment in home care as an alternative to nursing homes and says she strongly disagrees with the Liberal decision to privatize management of extra-mural care that will remain funded by the government.

“You’re spending the money, but you’re not in control is what it means,” she says. “You lose the scrutiny of what’s going on.”

When asked what she has to offer to the predominantly Francophone areas around Memramcook, Godfrey says she feels people there are well-provided for with nearby services in Dieppe and Moncton. On the other hand, she says English-speaking constituents on the other side of the riding around Port Elgin are relatively neglected and she would focus on their concerns.

Godfrey says she knows the Memramcook-Tantramar riding well from the years that she spent here.

“I would be very proud to represent the place where I grew up,” Godfrey says.

“I went away because I had to, there were no opportunities for me to stay here, but I think I can come back and contribute,” she adds. “I have the perspective.”

Posted in New Brunswick Election 2018 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Deputy Green leader says Mitton can win riding, just as Bob Hall did in ’82

Jo-Ann Roberts, deputy leader of the federal Green Party

The deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada says Memramcook-Tantramar is ready for a big change in September’s provincial election.

“I see this as a riding to win,” Jo-Ann Roberts told about 30 people today at the Sackville Commons.

“This is a winnable riding and you have to go out and tell people that.”

Roberts was speaking during the official launch of Sackville Town Councillor Megan Mitton’s campaign, her second as a local New Brunswick Green Party candidate.

Roberts recalled covering the 1982 provincial election as a CBC journalist when the old Tantramar riding elected Bob Hall, the first-ever NDP member of the legislature.

“Nobody saw it coming,” she said, “but there was an explosion of excitement and it happened here in Tantramar. This is a riding of change.”

Roberts added that the Green Party is gaining strength in the Maritimes. In New Brunswick, Green Party leader David Coon holds a seat, while on Prince Edward Island, there are two Green seats in the legislature.

Roberts urged party supporters in Memramcook-Tantramar to get out and tell people that Megan Mitton can win.

“This is where our province will come out ahead, if we have another voice in the legislature,” she added.

Change and hope

In her speech, Mitton said the riding can show that people are tired of politics as usual.

“We can show that we’re ready for change and full of hope,” she said. “I know we can win this campaign.”

Sackville Town councillor Bill Evans and deputy mayor Ron Aiken said they were attending the campaign launch to show their support.

Megan Mitton with Bill Evans who ran for the NDP in 2010

“I think the world of Megan,” Evans said. “I like her progressive views…God knows we need progressive alternatives to alternating between Conservative and Liberal governments.”

Ron Aiken said that after talking to Mitton about her positions on various issues, he concluded that the Green Party covers most of the things he believes in.

“First and foremost, the environment,” he said. “It’s going to take a long time, but we have to move away from the oil economy to a more sustainable one.”

Aiken said he also likes the Green Party’s grassroots approach, consulting with people rather than dictating to them as other politicians and bureaucrats do.

“I tend to vote for people over policy,” he added, “and Megan’s a person of very good character that I think is well worth supporting.”

Former NDP stalwarts

Dave Bailie said he voted NDP for years and worked to elect Bob Hall, but feels now that Megan Mitton and the Greens are in a better position to win the riding and make change.

“I talked to David Coon at a meeting in Moncton and I asked him, ‘How is New Brunswick going to get rid of the Irving influence?”’ Bailie said, “and he told me, ‘Vote more Greens in.'”

He added that he also likes Green policies and federal leader Elizabeth May.

Former Town Councillor Virgil Hammock, who like Bill Evans once ran for the NDP, said it’s his second time working with Megan Mitton and the Greens.

“I was impressed with her last time and I thought that the Greens match me better than the NDP,” Hammock said, adding that although he supported the NDP for decades, he found the party too dogmatic.

“When I ran, I couldn’t get them to listen to what I wanted to say, they were trying to tell me what to say,” Hammock said.

He added that many people think the Greens are only concerned about the environment, but the party champions many issues including health, the economy and forestry.

“I was very impressed in the last four years with David Coon’s performance in the legislature,” Hammock said, pointing out that in the last election, the Greens won more votes in Memramcook-Tantramar than the NDP.

” I would like to see us in the legislature at least with the balance of power,” he said. “That would be very nice.”

For earlier coverage of Mitton’s nomination meeting, click here.

Posted in New Brunswick Election 2018 | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Big Moon aims to generate tidal power at competitive rates

Big Moon will deploy its devices near Cape Split across from the FORCE test site

The country manager for Big Moon Canada is praising the Nova Scotia government after the province granted his  company two permits to generate tidal electricity on the north side of the Blomidon Peninsula near Cape Split.

“Nova Scotia will be seen in the not-too-distant future, like Denmark was with wind, as the leader and the industry head of tidal power in the world,” Jamie MacNeil predicted today during a telephone interview.

“The government of Nova Scotia has taken a first step with FORCE and now through this process has taken the next step to bring in the next generation of tidal developers,” he added.

“The expertise now, with regards to our technology anyway, resides here in Nova Scotia and it’s going to be continued to be developed here in Nova Scotia.”

Selling power to the grid

The provincial minister of energy announced yesterday that Big Moon has been granted a five year, renewable permit to install up to 5MW of generating capacity and to sell its electricity to Nova Scotia Power (NSP) for 35 cents a kilowatt hour.

MacNeil says it will not be as difficult as first thought for Big Moon to connect to the power grid.

He explained that the company is leasing property from a farm that is already connected.

“We’ve been working with Nova Scotia Power and the grid connection will take place,” he said. “We’ll upgrade the lines from Scots Bay back in through to Canning.”

Working with fishers

MacNeil says Big Moon has been listening to fishermen in the Bay of Fundy and has already commissioned a comprehensive study that gathered baseline data on fish in the Minas Passage.

“And, we’re now in the midst of a lobster study, once again being done with participation from the fishers and others,” he adds.

“There’s no point in trying to produce supposed green power if, in fact, the incorporation of the technology into the environment is actually going to have a detrimental effect.”

 Older technology, new system

According to MacNeil, Big Moon is using a combination of older, but proven technologies.

Drawing of tidal barge showing red kinetic keel suspended between pontoons

A 150-foot-long barge fitted with a steel keel is attached to super-strength polyethylene rope wound around a big drum at the land-based generating station.

As the keel absorbs energy from the tides, the barge moves with the current and the rope made of lightweight Dyneema fibre turns the drum to produce electricity using a wind generator and its gears.

“We’ve incorporated old and proven technology like work barges and high modulus ropes and drums, gears and generators and we’ve put them together in a new system,” MacNeil says.

He adds that Big Moon is hoping its system will harness the power of the tides effectively over long periods of time.

Becoming competitive

MacNeil says Big Moon’s immediate goal is to get its devices into the water to demonstrate the success of its technology.

“Obviously, there’s a great resource here for the people of the province of Nova Scotia and quite frankly all of Atlantic Canada,” he says adding that the company wants to produce electricity at a price that can compete with other renewable sources.

“We’re very anxious to reward the faith that the government has placed in us and hopefully help to develop this tidal industry here in Nova Scotia,” he says.

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Big Moon Power gets Bay of Fundy tidal permits

Big Moon plans to test its tidal technology in the Minas Passage near Cape Split

Big Moon Power has been granted two permits to test its unique tidal generating system in the Minas Passage along the north shore of the Blomidon Peninsula near Cape Split.

The first permit allows the Halifax-based company to test a 100-kilowatt prototype for up to 14 months.

The second five-year, renewable permit will allow Big Moon to install up to five megawatts of generating capacity and sell the electricity to Nova Scotia Power (NSP).

Big Moon will receive 35 cents per kilowatt hour, considerably less than the 53 cent rate Cape Sharp Tidal was paid last year at the FORCE site on the opposite side of the Minas Passage. (The Cape Sharp turbine was removed from its test site last June and moved to Saint John, N.B. where it is undergoing repairs and testing.)

Meantime, the Nova Scotia government has set a cap on the amount of power that Big Moon can sell each year at the full rate, presumably to limit the overall cost to NSP ratepayers. After the cap is reached, the company will get an incremental rate. (The cap is blacked out in the permit documents.)

In today’s news release, Energy Minister Geoff MacLellan is quoted as saying that Nova Scotia is at the forefront in the development of tidal energy technology.

“Demonstration projects like this will help drive innovation, competition and ultimately lower renewable energy prices,” he adds.

Kinetic keel

Drawing of tidal barge showing red kinetic keel

Big Moon’s technology consists of an on-shore generator with a drum that has a high-strength marine rope wrapped around it.

The polymer rope is attached to a tidal barge in the water with a perpendicular piece of steel, called a kinetic keel, on its bottom.

When the tides ebb and flow, the keel moves with the current and as the barge travels slowly away and then comes closer to shore, the rope turns the drum to generate power.

Big Moon has already tested prototype devices in the Minas Basin and Bay of Fundy in 2016 and again, last year.

The provincial department of energy has imposed certain conditions on the testing projects including the requirement that the five megawatt one undergo an environmental assessment before it proceeds.

Big Moon will also be required to conduct environmental monitoring and hold consultations with local people and the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.

To read the full text of the permits announced today, click here.

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Phinney opposes luxury apartment building

Councillor Bruce Phinney

Sackville Town Councillor Bruce Phinney voted last night to stop the development of a luxury apartment building in the downtown business core.

Phinney cast the only no vote. His seven council colleagues approved a resolution to move ahead with a rezoning application that would make the new building possible. The resolution sets Tuesday, May 15th as the date for a public hearing on the matter.

JN Lafford Realty Inc. has applied to rezone a small portion of the former United Church property at Main and York Streets to allow for construction of a third building on the site with up to 36 two-bedroom apartments as well as underground parking. The building would cater to tenants over 55 with monthly rents ranging from $1,250 to $1,700.

Dangerous traffic

Phinney opposed the development on the grounds that it would add to traffic congestion in the parking lot that has entrances and exits off Main and York Streets. Under the Lafford proposal, tenants in the new building would travel through the lot to gain access to their underground parking spots.

“I go there quite often,” Phinney said. “I have people telling me they won’t drive to go to Service New Brunswick because there’s no place to park down that way,” he added.

“I look at the fact, actually even myself going in and out of there, it’s dangerous.”

John and Joe Lafford have said that if they can’t persuade the town to rezone a small parcel behind the old cemetery, they could still erect a building on the site with above-ground parking. They say that the cheaper building would likely cater to students.

Phinney said that while he realizes the Laffords could go ahead with construction, he’s hoping that denial of their rezoning application would result in a smaller building and less traffic congestion.

Zoning ‘fluke’

Councillor Megan Mitton spoke in favour of proceeding to the next step in the rezoning application.

“The proposed use does fit the town’s plans to promote downtown development and have a variety of housing options, especially for seniors,” she said.

Both Mitton and Councillor Bill Evans said that when the Laffords bought the United Church property in 2012, nearly all of it was rezoned for high density, mixed-use development except for the small parcel behind the cemetery which retained its institutional zoning because the boundaries were unclear.

Evans called it a “fluke” adding that town planning staff would ensure that any new building would have to meet Sackville’s traffic safety and parking requirements.

“I’m confident that we have the proper rules in place and staff is capable of making that decision,” Evans added.

Oldsters drive less

Councillor Joyce O’Neil also spoke in favour of going ahead with the public hearing next month. She suggested that older tenants would not increase traffic congestion.

“I know that it means that there’ll be more vehicles,” she said. “But it’s certainly not like everybody’s going to be leaving at 7:30 or 8 o’clock to go to work and back in at 5.”

Meantime, town planner Lori Bickford assured Councillor Andrew Black that the new building would be at least 30 feet from the cemetery boundaries so there would be no disturbance of nearby graves.

Site plan showing existing phase 1 bldg off York St. at upper right; existing phase 2 bldg off Main St. (Service NB), mid-left and proposed new apt. bldg behind cemetery which is at lower left. Arrows indicate traffic routes. Old Town Hall/present United Church in upper left corner (click to enlarge)

Ambulance move

At its meeting last night, town council gave approval in principle to rezoning about half an acre of land beside the Westmorland Animal Hospital on Robson Avenue to permit construction of a new Ambulance New Brunswick station.

Drawing of new ambulance station

Councillors approved first reading of a bylaw amendment that would change the zoning from highway commercial to institutional use.

The Nova Scotia development company Parsons Investments is in the process of buying the land and a large chunk around it near TransCanada Exit 506 from Sackville businessman Percy Best.

Councillor Evans spoke in favour of amending the bylaw, but said that even though the station itself would be on high ground, Ambulance New Brunswick should be warned of potential flooding in the area that could cut it off from downtown.

Exit 506 final report

Council also voted to accept the $27,000 report it commissioned from Ekistics Planning and Design and directed town staff to come up with a strategy for implementing it.

The report, posted on the town’s website, recommends that the town spend more than $610,000 over a number of years to improve public facilities near Exit 506 including new sidewalks, bicycle lanes, parks and trails.

In response to a question from Wendy Alder, co-owner of the Tantramar Gas Bar, town manager Jamie Burke said some of the spending may be included in next year’s capital budget.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Sackville’s engineer seeks OK for high-tech gear to map pipes, drains and hydrants

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton

Sackville Town Council will be asked on Monday to approve an expenditure of just over $21,000 to purchase global positioning system (GPS) equipment that would help map the exact location of the town’s utilities including water mains and sewer pipes, storm drainage systems, valves, fire hydrants and even manholes.

“We’re going to utilize the GPS equipment to be able to go out into the field and pick up our valves and manholes, catch basins, hydrants and even curb and gutter,” Town Engineer Dwayne Acton told council at its meeting on Tuesday.

He explained that the information would be gathered by town staff and summer students and downloaded into a huge database that will someday contain up-to-date information on all of the town’s capital assets.

Acton said the new equipment would also be useful in future road reconstruction projects similar to the recent one on Lorne Street.

“We go out and survey the roads and streets and we get elevations and we get locations of existing curbs and so on and we then use that information to do our reconstruction and our design,” he said, adding that in the past, the town was forced to contract out such survey work because it lacked the necessary GPS equipment.

Acton said the town invited proposals from the four companies in the Maritime Provinces that supply Global Navigational Satellite System (GNSS) equipment.

He added that after he and two other staff members evaluated the proposals, they chose the TOPCON GNS system supplied by Brandt, a technology company with offices in Fredericton. The town had budgeted just over $22,000 for the equipment, so Brandt’s $21,000 pricetag came in slightly under budget.

Big project

Mapping town utility locations is only one step in establishing a comprehensive plan for managing all of the town’s capital assets.

Municipalities across Canada have agreed to draft comprehensive asset management plans in order to continue receiving more than $2 billion every year in federal gas tax funds.

The money flows to each province and territory and is then distributed to local communities to help pay for capital projects.

This year Sackville will get $409,866 in gas tax money. To see how the town compares with other New Brunswick municipalities, click here.

Sackville has already invested in ArcGIS software to help construct its asset management database and last fall the town received a $48,000 grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to help with the costly asset management project that will take many years to complete.

Waterfowl Park

At their meeting last Tuesday, councillors were told about the expiry of the town’s $1 per-year lease on land in the Sackville Waterfowl Park.

Town manager Jamie Burke told council that Mount Allison University, which owns about half the land in the park, is proposing a new 15-year lease agreement with the town.

He said the town is doing a routine check with its insurance company on the liability provisions in the lease and unless the company raises a red flag, council will be asked to approve it on Monday.

A smiling Councillor Evans said he had a question.

“Did you try to improve the terms of the amount that we’re paying?” Evans asked.

Burke’s reply drew laughter.

“We haven’t started those negotiations yet,” he said.

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Sackville Town Council hears about plans for luxury, downtown apartments

Artist’s drawing of proposed Lafford apartment building

Sackville town councillors heard publicly tonight about JN Lafford Realty’s plans to build a luxury apartment building on the former United Church property at Main and York Streets overlooking the Mount Allison campus, the Swan Pond and the Waterfowl Park.

John and Joe Lafford are asking town council to rezone a small parcel of land at the rear of the old United Church cemetery on Main Street so that the development can proceed.

Mayor John Higham clarified a key point with town planner Lori Bickford: that if council decided not to rezone the land, the Laffords could still erect a smaller building on the site and use the parcel behind the cemetery for parking.

At the moment, the Laffords are proposing to put the parking underneath the larger, 44,000 square-foot building that would cater to tenants over age 55 able to pay monthly rents ranging from $1,250 to $1,700.

Joe (L) and John Lafford on the site of the proposed building

Councillor Bill Evans spoke in favour of rezoning the small parcel from institutional to mixed use — a designation that permits higher density developments in the downtown area.

He pointed out that when the Laffords bought the United Church land in 2012, town council decided then to rezone most of it as mixed use, but wasn’t sure of the boundaries, so a small part remained institutional.

“For me, this is a fairly easy one to justify,” Evans said. “It’s consistent with the other use of that whole area, it’s consistent with our municipal plan and zoning bylaw that we would do this.”

Evans said that after The New Wark Times published a story about the proposed development, there was a lot of excitement.

“People have come up to me and said, ‘How do I sign up for this?'” he added.

“I know people of a certain age, some of them, and this is an attractive option, the location is ideal, so I got no problems with this, this makes sense to me.”

Council is expected to decide at its next meeting on Monday whether to proceed with the rezoning application and then, schedule a public hearing on the matter.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , | 14 Comments