They’re baaack! Jamie Irving to head Postmedia Board of Directors

Jamie Irving (News Media Canada)

Reports that the Irvings had given up their New Brunswick newspaper empire have suddenly proven premature with the appointment of Jamie Irving as Executive Chair of the Postmedia Board of Directors.

The American-owned Postmedia chain that dominates the Canadian (and now the New Brunswick) newspaper industry announced last week that Irving will take over as the Board’s Executive Chair on January 1st. He will also serve as a senior adviser to Postmedia’s President and its Chief Executive Officer.

Irving joined the Postmedia Board in April after the company bought the Irving-owned Brunswick News which publishes a string of papers in the province including the Moncton Times & Transcript, the Saint John Telegraph-Journal and the Fredericton Gleaner.

For Mount Allison Professor Erin Steuter, neither Postmedia’s purchase of the New Brunswick papers nor Jamie Irving’s elevation to Board Chair status are welcome news.

Steuter, who has studied the Irving media empire for more than 20 years, wrote in an e-mail to Warktimes that while some had hoped that Jamie Irving’s background (he has a journalism degree from Columbia University) would be good news for the development of professional reporting at the Irving papers, it didn’t always work out that way after he became publisher of the Telegraph-Journal in 2004.

She points, for example, to a series of unprofessional incidents including a false report that Prime Minister Harper had pocketed a communion wafer at a state funeral and the firing of a student intern for reporting criticisms of New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham. To read a CTV news report on both incidents, click here.

Steuter also points to former Saint John Mayor Ivan Court’s complaint that Irving and senior Telegraph-Journal editors threatened, during a private meeting, to continue the paper’s negative coverage of municipal politics unless the city agreed to lower taxes and replace the city manager. To read a CBC report on that incident, click here.

Background

After the New Jersey hedge fund Chatham Asset Management acquired a two-thirds stake in Postmedia in 2016, the newspaper chain cut costs by closing papers across Canada, laying off hundreds of journalists, cutting the salaries and benefits of those who remained and centralizing its news operations while paying its top executives millions of dollars in bonuses.

It also began directing its journalists to write and report from right-wing or “conservative” points of view. For details on this move to centralized editorial control, click here.

Mt. A. Sociology Professor Erin Steuter

“When the news media are owned by a capitalist enterprise,” Steuter writes, “the voice of the corporate world speaks loudly and alternative business models are ridiculed or ignored.

“The Irving papers regularly make the case for big business to own and operate the natural resource sector at a profit. They actively lobby for the government to cut deals that are in the best interests of industrial actors, without due consideration of the costs to communities and the environment.”

Meantime, the Globe and Mail reported last week that “the company Mr. Irving will soon steer is trying to make a difficult transition to build a sustainable digital business as revenue from print advertising and circulation declines.”

According to the Globe, Postmedia lost nearly $17 million dollars in the most recent financial quarter, but its digital revenues rose by $2.4 million.

For a comprehensive look at Jamie Irving’s early career, click here.

Posted in Media, Mount Allison University | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Prominent Sackville resident leaving town because of plastic pipe factory

Peter Smith behind his home on Walker Rd where he lives on more than 30 acres with his wife and 4 children along with his dog, several cats, 4 horses as well as chickens and turkeys

Walker Road resident Peter Smith says he’s decided to sell his house and land and move out of Sackville after town council cleared the way for a nearby plastic drainage pipe factory without notifying property owners in the area.

“We’re selling everything that we own in Sackville and moving out,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.

His decision to leave comes after a series of changes the town made without consulting or notifying residents in the area. Those changes began 14 years ago.

“We had no knowledge of the re-zoning until after it happened,” Smith said, referring to the town’s original decision in 2008 to re-zone 177 acres near the Walker Road exit on the TransCanada Highway.

“At the time when I was informed that it was re-zoned to industrial, even Walter my neighbour behind me said, ‘Well, they can’t build anything industrial here, there’s no services, there’s no water or sewer here’ and that left me with a sense of security that it would be a long time or we would hear a lot more, before any development happened,” he said.

However, on April 11, town council gave final approval to a bylaw change that would permit development in the Walker Road industrial zone without water and sewer services.

Soon after, Smith and his neighbours noticed heavy equipment felling trees at 318 Walker Road.

Atlantic Industries Limited (AIL) had been granted a development permit to prepare the site for a factory to manufacture and store high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe there.

Work underway in May at 318 Walker Rd. to prepare industrial site for proposed plastic pipe plant

“With the application for putting an industrial plant at the site at 318 Walker Road, we had no knowledge of that whatsoever and we didn’t know that they had also amended the bylaw so that they could build without town water and sewer,” Smith says.

Town council began discussing the bylaw change on February 14th and scheduled a public hearing for March 14th.

A public notice posted on the town’s website read:

The proposed amendment to the Zoning By-law is intended to remove the requirement that all Industrial development must be serviced by Municipal services and include provisions to permit development on Industrial zoned land that is unserviced.

There was no mention in the public notice that the bylaw change would clear the way for a plastic pipe factory on Walker Road and as a result, no one showed up for the public hearing.

“If I had known about the plans for a factory, I would have been at that meeting and I would have spoken against it,” Smith says.

“If I had an opportunity to stop it, I certainly would,” he adds.

“If we had an opportunity to speak to this, then I’m sure we would have hopefully convinced the councillors of our concern and that would have perhaps changed their position.”

Peter Smith addresses Sackville Town Council on June 7

Smith did show up to address council at their meeting on June 7th where he and other residents expressed concerns about the potential for contamination of their wells and surface water in the area.

Smith’s horses drink from a stream that runs through a section of his property and that eventually flows into Silver Lake.

He also told council that his property values could drop by at least $100,000. (He owns another 82 acres near Carriage Court as well as a four-acre lot on Silver Lake and a one-acre lot on Fairfield Road.)

Since he moved to Sackville in 2005, Smith has been active in a variety of local activities such as chairing the Board of Elders at Middle Sackville Baptist Church; launching the Tantramar Immigration Support Team to help Ukrainian immigrants; serving on the Executive Board of the Sackville Swim Club and helping to organize the annual Sackville Triathlon and Duathlon events.

“It’s a very friendly, very safe town and that’s why we wanted to settle here,” he told town council in June.

“It’s the best town I’ve ever experienced for raising a family,” he said. “I love this town.”

But on Wednesday, he said that although he hates to do it, it’s time to sell all of his properties and leave.

“We’ve decided to move and we’re in the process of negotiating on a piece of land to start over again,” he said.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 8 Comments

Province stands by decision to appoint Jennifer Borne, not Jamie Burke, as Tantramar CAO

Local Government Minister Daniel Allain

New Brunswick’s minister of local government reform has rejected an appeal for an independent review of the hiring process for the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) in the new, amalgamated Town of Tantramar.

In a letter to Sackville Town Council released today, Daniel Allain writes that he stands by his decision to appoint Dorchester CAO Jennifer Borne to the position.

“I trust that you will support this decision and will continue to positively support the implementation of local governance reform,” Allain writes.

He was responding to a July 13th letter from Sackville Mayor Shawn Mesheau, writing on behalf of town council, urging Allain not to appoint Borne until an independent review had been conducted.

Mesheau’s letter suggested that the hiring process may not have been fair, objective and reasonable and asked Allain to meet with town council to discuss it.

Instead, Allain met with Mayor Mesheau alone on July 18 where Deputy Minister Ryan Donaghy reviewed the hiring process in a bid to show it was fair.

Today’s letter to town council from Allain outlines the hiring timeline, but with less detail than Donaghy provided to Mesheau:

    1. May 26: both Dorchester CAO Jennifer Borne and Sackville CAO Jamie Burke were asked to confirm their interest in the CAO position for the Town of Tantramar.
    2. June 3: a hiring committee was appointed which included Sackville Deputy Mayor Andrew Black, Dorchester Deputy Mayor Robert Corkerton, Chris Milner, an appointed representative for the Sackville local service district (LSD) and Chad Peters, the provincial facilitator for local governance reform in Entity 40, now known as the Town of Tantramar.
    3. June 8: The hiring committee interviewed Jamie Burke and completed what is known as a “scoring matrix.”
    4. June 14: The committee interviewed Jennifer Borne and completed her “scoring matrix” and according to Allain’s letter, the hiring committee “finalized the evaluation of the candidates as well as their recommendation on the candidate most qualified for appointment” to the CAO position.
    5. June 15: Andrew Black resigned from the hiring committee.
    6. June 22: Jennifer Murray Consulting (JMC), an independent HR firm, which had been involved in the process from the beginning, provided information on reference checks to facilitator Chad Peters and the hiring committee’s recommendation was sent to Allain who then appointed Jennifer Borne.

Allain’s decision to reject Sackville’s request for an independent review is the latest in a series of defeats for town council since it wrote to the minister last December urging him to abide by his promise not to force the town into an unwelcome marriage with Dorchester, Point de Bute and surrounding LSDs.

For previous coverage, click here.

Posted in NB Municipal Reform, Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Sackville poets Marilyn Lerch & Geordie Miller launch their new, anti-capitalist book

Marilyn Lerch & Geordie Miller share a lighter moment at book launch

Sackville poets Marilyn Lerch and Geordie Miller warned an audience of about 35 people gathered outside Struts Gallery on Friday that we have less than a decade to save the planet and that poetry won’t be enough to do it.

“If things continue to go like this, [with a] system organized around the accumulation of capital, profit maximization, all of that, what we’re living through is incompatible with saving the human species and the planet,” Miller said.

“And that I learned from Marilyn’s work and from her poetry,” he added. “She writes about that a lot and quite sharply.”

Miller was responding to Lerch’s call for radical change.

“Something has to give,” she said.

“There has to be some kind of coming together of the peasantry who are affected by climate change and the proletariat, some kind of  massive international movement [and] I think it’s going to happen if we don’t destroy everything first.”

Disharmonies

The two poets made their comments during the official launch of their new book Disharmonies, a poetic conversation they began in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we knew that COVID was an X-ray of our society,” Lerch said.

“That it was going to show us the flaws, the inequality…all of that,” she added.

So, she said, without much to do during the pandemic lockdown, other than think about that, she wrote to her fellow poet Geordie Miller and they soon began a collaboration that resulted in a 37-page poetic dialogue.

Keagan Hawthorne, proprietor of The Hardscrabble Press, which published Disharmonies, described the book as a conversation against capitalism.

“Angry, honest, comradely, despairing, their lines belong to and look beyond a world organized to generate profit rather than satisfy human needs,” he said.

The poets read samples from the book including a dialogue that begins with lines from Miller, followed by part of Lerch’s response:

because poetry is not enough, no one has to decide how it will die.
less than a decade left so please not another lyric, not another interview, not another book launch, not another workshop. only words that lead beyond words, if possible. plus tactical imperatives like which Irving facility to target first…

Agreed: Poetry is not enough
even if there were enough of it
but no change without it…

Three kinds of people

Marilyn Lerch reads from Disharmonies as Geordie Miller looks on

In  response to a question from the audience, Geordie Miller noted that there are three kinds of people in the capitalist system.

“There are people who say that capitalism’s working great and it’s good for everyone,” he said. “That’s obviously a right-wing, reactionary position.

“There are people who say, ‘Capitalism is not working great, we need to fix it,'” he added. “And, that’s kind of a liberal position, to reform, to fix capitalism, to make it work better because of its effects.

“And, there are people who say ‘Capitalism is working exactly as it’s designed to do…and it’s horrific and it’s monstrous and it’s horrible.'”

He added that Disharmonies was written by two poets who belong in that third group although, he also pointed out that in his best moments, he feels hopeful about the future.

For her part, Marilyn Lerch urged everyone to try exchanging thoughts with another person as she and Miller had done.

“I wanted to hear words from him and then I just wanted to sit with him and we did, sometimes for days…We really took time to hear each other,” Lerch said.

“There was trust and I think where there is trust, there is hope and I’d wait for him to send me a few words and then I’d just think about them…and so, I would just write where it took me,” she added.

“I just urge people to do it, two people back and forth, back and forth, or maybe three.”

To learn more about Disharmonies, click here.

To read about it in Marilyn Lerch’s newly updated Wikipedia entry, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 4 Comments

Supporters donate to restore Coun. Bruce Phinney’s lost pay

Councillor Bruce Phinney

Several Sackville residents have contributed $1,461 so far to a GoFundMe campaign for Town Councillor Bruce Phinney.

The money is meant to replace the salary he is losing after his fellow councillors suspended his pay for two months on the recommendation of an outside investigator.

According to Phinney, Trisha Perry of the Saint John consulting firm Resonance Inc. called for the two-month suspension after finding he violated Council’s Code of Conduct by making unsupported comments about the town’s hiring policy as well as arguing that university students from outside the area should vote in the places they come from.

“I saw a comment where someone said if there was a go fund me they would support it and three others agreed so I thought why not let’s see what we can do to help Bruce,” says Wendy Alder who launched the campaign earlier this week.

“I feel that other councillors have made comments equivalent or worse than what Bruce said and don’t feel that he should have been sanctioned,” Alder added.

“I also don’t feel that council should be able to take pay away from a peer and then expect them to still have to work, that’s not legal in the workforce.”

Alder set up the campaign with a goal of raising $1,300 — a goal that was soon exceeded.

In her summary on the GoFundMe website, she wrote that Phinney himself, who is visiting family in Alberta, had no idea what she was doing to help him.

“Bruce has always been approachable even on topics that we may not agree upon,” Alder writes.

“He always feels he is looking out for the best interest of the Town residents.”

In an apparent reference to Wendy and Kelly Alders’ unsuccessful attempts to get town approval for a fast-food drive-thru at the Ultramar gas bar and convenience store on Cattail Ridge that they once owned, she wrote:

“Bruce supported our business when we lived in Sackville and was supportive of changes we tried to do to bylaws. As such, I’d like to support Bruce.”

To visit the Bruce Phinney GoFundMe page, click here.

Note: Under Section 15 of the Council Code of Conduct, Phinney may be prohibited from accepting the GoFundMe donations, although that’s far from clear. Under the heading, “Gifts and Benefits,” the Code says: “No Member shall show favoritism or bias towards any vendor, contractor or others doing business for the Town. Members are prohibited from accepting any fees, gifts, gratuities or other benefits.”

For previous coverage, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 13 Comments

Sackville Town Council seeks independent review of CAO hiring

Mayor Shawn Mesheau wants an independent review of CAO hiring process

Daniel Allain, the provincial minister of local government reform has agreed to meet with Mayor Mesheau to discuss the hiring of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the new Town of Tantramar, according to a e-mail message from his office that says a meeting “will be arranged.”1

Allain was responding to a letter from Mesheau asking for a meeting that would include other members of town council to discuss the recommendation that Dorchester CAO Jennifer Borne be appointed to the top Tantramar administrative post over the only other candidate, Sackville CAO Jamie Burke.

“I am writing to inform you of Town Council’s serious concerns at the process leading to this recommendation, and to request that you refrain from appointing Ms. Borne until we have had the opportunity to meet with you to express our concerns at this fundamentally flawed process,” the letter says.

“We are asking to meet with you to elaborate on our concerns and to request that you have the entire hiring process leading to the recommendation to appoint Ms. Borne reviewed by a reputable, independent human resources consulting firm,” it adds.

“If the process was flawed, this would allow for the matter to be addressed before irrevocable decisions are taken; if the review finds that the process was appropriate and reasonable, it would provide Town Council and the citizens who we represent with confidence in the appointment.”

Councillors defend Burke

Mesheau sent the letter after town council passed a motion on Tuesday authorizing him to request a meeting and a review of the hiring process.

“Jamie is extremely, Mr. Burke is extremely capable,” said Councillor Sabine Dietz, who moved the motion. “He’s done a lot for this town and poured his life into it,” she added.

“I am extremely disappointed. It will be Tantramar’s loss going forward and losing his knowledge, expertise, experience and understanding of the Town of Sackville’s operations is really going to be difficult for Tantramar,” Dietz added.

“I believe that from everything I understand, the hiring process used to make the decision to appoint a different CAO for Tantramar was flawed and neither fair, objective, justifiable nor reasonable,” she concluded.

Councillor Bill Evans, who seconded the motion, echoed Dietz’s concerns.

“The hiring process has been demonstrably if not deliberately flawed and the outcome, to put it mildly, was unreasonable,” he said.

Although he stopped short of spelling it out explicitly, Evans seemed to suggest that Burke was by far the better qualified candidate.

“This whole forced amalgamation process has been unreasonable and unfair from the beginning, but this latest imposition is a disgrace,” he said.

Hiring process

Deputy Mayor Andrew Black

Deputy Mayor Andrew Black provided some insight into how the hiring decision was made during council’s public question period and later, as he answered reporters’ questions.

He said the decision to recommend Jennifer Borne for the CAO job was made by a hiring subcommittee that received advice from an HR consulting firm and amalgamation facilitator Chad Peters.

Black served on that committee, but resigned on June 15 because he says he considered the hiring process rushed and deeply flawed. That left only two remaining subcommittee members, Dorchester’s Deputy Mayor Robert Corkerton and Chris Milner representing the Sackville local service district (LSD), which includes the communities of Westcock and Wood Point.

“I felt that it was an unfair process. I felt that it was fairly biased and it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t reasonable,” Black told reporters.

He says he raised his misgivings early on with facilitator Chad Peters who responded that keeping the Dorchester and Sackville mayors off the hiring subcommittee removed any bias and that in any case, the province had planned to follow this process and there wasn’t really anything that could be done to change it.

Black says that the province should have done the hiring rather than leaving it to three local appointees who did not have the necessary HR expertise.

Black says his initial concerns were confirmed after he started serving on the committee, “so I left.”

To read Mayor Mesheau’s letter to Daniel Allain, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | 16 Comments

Coun. Bruce Phinney hit with another round of sanctions under Sackville’s Code of Conduct

Councillor Bruce Phinney

Councillor Bruce Phinney is losing two months’ pay (about $1,300) and the right to travel on behalf of the town for violating sections of council’s Code of Conduct.

He will also be required to undergo “one-on-one coaching to discuss effective communications strategies.”

Town Council imposed these latest sanctions last night acting on recommendations from an independent investigator who was paid about $10,000 to look into complaints from one of Phinney’s council colleagues. The motion sanctioning Phinney passed unanimously. To read it, click here.

Confidential personnel matter

During last night’s council question period, Deputy Mayor Andrew Black declined to say who made the complaints and what Phinney had done to violate the Code saying such matters are confidential, human resources matters.

But Councillor Bill Evans pointed out that Phinney himself could give details and when reached by phone in Alberta where he is visiting family, Phinney said the complaints against him stemmed from two public comments he made in February.

During a council meeting on February 14, Phinney served notice he would be voting against a new hiring policy that gave the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) the power “to appoint and employ, suspend, and dismiss for cause all employees of the town” without having to consult council.

Phinney suggested town hiring practices were unfair “where family members are being hired” and added, “there was one that I felt was a conflict of interest.” To read a transcript of his remarks, click here.

Phinney said he did not name any names, but last night, town council accepted the investigator’s finding that he had violated Article 4 of the Code which “provides a framework to guide ethical conduct that upholds the integrity of the town and the high standards of professional conduct the public expects of its local government elected representatives.”

The council motion sanctioning Phinney also said he violated Article 19 which decrees that “no member shall use indecent, abusive, or insulting words or expressions toward any
other member, town administration or any member of the public.”

Student voting

Phinney said the second complaint against him involved remarks he made on February 24 during one of council’s committee meetings on municipal reform.

He said then that he would like to see Sackville divided into four electoral wards, adding that Mt. A. students should not vote “because they are only citizens here for four years and sometimes some of the decisions that are made by them can influence us for a very long time.”

Phinney quoted professors at the university as suggesting that Megan Mitton won her narrow 11-vote victory in the 2018 provincial election “because of the fact that the students were allowed to vote.”

He says he was referring to a panel discussion that Warktimes covered, where professors agreed that the student vote helped put Mitton over the edge.

Phinney added during last night’s phone interview he believes that students who come from outside should vote in their home ridings in provincial elections instead of casting their ballots here. To read a transcript of Phinney’s remarks during the February 24 committee meeting, click here.

In sanctioning Phinney for his remarks about student voting, town council cited Article 9(d) of the Code which states that “members shall serve, and be seen to serve, the welfare and interest of the town as a whole and the community at large in a conscientious and diligent manner and approach decision making with an open mind.”

Phinney’s reaction

“I think council should have waited until I got back from vacation and had the opportunity to address them personally,” Phinney said last night.

However, CAO Jamie Burke has since confirmed that Phinney was invited to a closed-door meeting on June 27, before he left for his vacation, but says he declined to attend it. During that meeting the investigator presented her report and findings.

Phinney says he was informed of the meeting, but was given no details about the human resources matter that would be discussed and an e-mail request to town staff asking for more information wasn’t answered. He also says he told the mayor he couldn’t attend because he wasn’t feeling well. In any case, he adds, he needed time to prepare a response to the investigators’ report.

“The investigator took six weeks to write her report and I felt I would need at least a couple of weeks to respond to it,” he said.

Mayor Mesheau then invited Phinney to respond in writing by noon on July 5. But when council received no written submissions from him, it went ahead and imposed the sanctions the investigator recommended.

Previous sanctions

It’s not the first time Phinney has been found in violation of the Code of Conduct.

Town council decided that Phinney violated it during a telephone meeting on April 6th 2020 that was released to the public more than a week later with a note saying 37-seconds had been had been deleted “because of confidentiality concerns.”

Phinney is heard on the recording opposing the appointment of Jamie Burke as the new CAO.

“The reason I’m voting against it is I feel that the other candidates that we had were much more qualified,” Phinney said.

Warktimes reported at the time that it seemed likely that Phinney had referred to one or more of the other candidates interviewed for the CAO position during the 37-second gap on the recording.

Councillors approved a motion authorizing then Mayor John Higham to send Phinney a formal letter of reprimand for violating a section of the Code that prohibits the release of such information.

Council also approved a second motion calling on Phinney to acknowledge publicly that he breached the Code and to sign a statement affirming that he would abide by its provisions.

To read coverage, click here.

In December 2020, Phinney was ordered to undergo training after his colleagues found that he violated council’s Code of Conduct apparently by making derogatory comments about Jamie Burke.

Phinney was responding then to an e-mail from a Sackville resident that he sent by mistake to a member of town staff who apparently drew it to the attention of the CAO.

To read coverage, click here.

Posted in Mount Allison University, Town of Sackville | Tagged | 12 Comments

Tantramar CAO post goes to Dorchester’s Jennifer Borne, not Sackville’s Jamie Burke

Unofficial sources say Jamie Burke won’t be Tantramar’s 1st CAO

Warktimes has learned unofficially that Jennifer Borne, current Chief Administrative Officer in Dorchester, will become the CAO of the new municipality of Tantramar.

Borne, who has been Dorchester’s CAO for more than four years, was formerly a business development officer in the Town of Amherst.

A message today from the province said that a CAO for Tantramar has been selected, but did not mention her name.

So far, Warktimes hasn’t been able to reach either Jennifer Borne or Sackville CAO Jamie Burke, who was a leading candidate for the top administrative post.

Mayor Shawn Mesheau hasn’t responded to a phone message asking for comment.

CHMA’s Erica Butler reported last month that the province had enlisted HR consultant Jennifer Murray Consulting to oversee the hiring process and it’s understood, the province has accepted the consultant’s recommendation to appoint Jennifer Borne.

Burke, who has been Sackville’s CAO for more than two years, served as senior manager of corporate projects for six years before taking over the top job from Phil Handrahan.

Borne will likely take office as Tantramar’s Chief Administrative Officer on September 1st.

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

Former Sackville firefighter ‘speechless’ over new town bylaw’s complaints procedure

Kevin Scott alerted Warktimes to firefighters’ complaints

Former Sackville firefighter Kevin Scott says he was speechless when he heard about the town’s plan to scrap an independent grievance procedure in the bylaw that governs Sackville Fire & Rescue.

“Basically, they’ve flipped me the bird,” he said today in a telephone interview.

Scott was among 17 volunteer firefighters who resigned from the department in recent years complaining of bullying, harassment, favouritism and persistent safety violations.

After Scott got permission from other firefighters to release their resignation letters along with his own, Warktimes ran a series of stories prompting the town to hire the Montana Consulting Group to conduct a workplace assessment of the fire department and recommend changes that have never been made public.

“I don’t know how many people knew how hard it was for us to come forward with our stories hoping that something would change so that firefighters had a voice and would be heard,” Scott said.

He was referring to a proposed new bylaw presented last night to Sackville Town Council that drops the grievance procedure in the old bylaw, one that was never actually implemented, and substitutes a complaints process that would require volunteer firefighters to complain to Fire Chief Craig Bowser and then to Chief Administrative Officer Jamie Burke.

The new bylaw complaint procedure directs aggrieved firefighters to the Chief with an appeal to the CAO

Many former and current firefighters told Warktimes last year that both the Chief and the CAO had ignored their complaints and that appeals to former mayors and town councillors had also gone unheeded.

During last night’s council question period, CAO Jamie Burke said the term “grievance procedure” is unionized language.

“The fire department is not unionized,” he explained. “So, we’ve used more relative and common-sense language that applies to our department in terms of how we operate.”

CAO Jamie Burke answering questions about new fire dept bylaw

When asked why firefighters could not appeal to their elected representatives, Burke said he hoped they would follow the procedures outlined in the bylaw.

“Ultimately, if an employee felt that they were being treated unfairly, they have due process under a workplace harassment and violence policy that if a complaint is found against me, it goes to the mayor,” he added.

Meantime, several current firefighters have also expressed concern about the new complaint procedure as well as restrictions on speaking to the media and the use of social media such as Facebook.

The new bylaw, which is expected to be given first reading next Tuesday, says that any requests for information or comment from the media must be referred to the Fire Chief and that firefighters are subject to the town’s social media use policy which bans any commentary that would reflect badly on how the town is run.

Kevin Scott, who now volunteers with the fire department in Point de Bute, says the $27,500 Montana report isn’t going to help Sackville’s firefighters.

“As the Montana recommendations continue to come out, people will see that the majority of them give more power to the Chief and CAO and less to the firefighters themselves,” he predicts.

“Instead of gaining a voice, they’re losing their voice.”

Fire Dept. updates

Sackville firefighters have long complained that they’re paid less than minimum wage for their work during emergency calls.

Treasurer Michael Beal reports that they’re paid between $12 and $14 per hour while the department’s secretary receives an additional stipend of $1,000 per year and the deputy chiefs receive an additional stipend of $4,000 per year on top of their hourly rates.

He says these rates haven’t been raised since 2014, but this year’s town budget provides for significant increases retroactive to January 1st.

Beal adds the exact amounts will be known soon when they’re presented to council for its approval.

Meantime, Chief Craig Bowser says new recruits should be joining the department soon once their paper work is completed.

At the moment, there are 34 firefighters on the roster, well below the full strength of 43.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 7 Comments

Next NB election may see big change for Tantramar voters

Electoral map showing boundaries of Memramcook-Tantramar with the town of Sackville, centre left, the village of Memramcook, upper left, the village of Dorchester between them and the village of Port Elgin to the right (click to enlarge)

English and French-speaking voters in what is now the riding of Memramcook-Tantramar may be getting a divorce before the next provincial election if the newly-appointed electoral boundaries commission follows through on a commitment made in 2015.

The province announced today that a new six-member commission would be redrawing riding boundaries before the election expected in 2024.

A news release from The Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick (SANB) says that’s good news for the province’s Acadian population because it appears there will be no reduction in the number of ridings.

“This represents a victory for Acadians and Francophones in New Brunswick,” the release adds.

The last redistribution in 2012 united the predominantly English-speaking populations of Sackville, Port Elgin and Dorchester with the predominantly French-speaking one in the Memramcook area.

It shifted French-speaking voters there from a riding where they represented 68% of the electorate to Memramcook-Tantramar where they make up only about 29%.

In 2015, Acadians called off a court challenge when the province adopted a regulation requiring future electoral commissions to take English and French-speaking communities into account when drawing new boundaries.

“The factor of effective representation of linguistic communities is not a factor like any other,” SANB President Alexandre Cédric Doucet is quoted as saying in today’s release.

“It is a factor that must be taken into account, given the constitutional status of language rights as well as the obligations arising from the Act Recognizing the Equality of the Two Official Linguistic Communities in New Brunswick and section 16.1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Aside from the electoral imbalance in Memramcook-Tantramar, the SANB is also counting on the new boundaries commission to correct the situation in the riding of Miramichi Bay-Neguac where French-speakers make up only 35% of voters.

To read the SANB news release, click here.

To read the announcement of the new electoral boundaries commission including bios of the commissioners, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | 2 Comments

Sackville issues $560 in fines for violations of flyer bylaw

Flyer bundles continue to appear in Sackville driveways in spite of town bylaw

Residents of Middle Sackville awoke to another illegal offering this morning: fat bundles of pink, plastic-wrapped advertising flyers that had been tossed onto their driveways in spite of a town bylaw that requires them to be placed in mailboxes, on doorsteps or in special tubes or receptacles.

After the bylaw took effect in December, the driveway flyers kept coming, especially in Middle Sackville, courtesy of Brunswick News. That company is now owned by Postmedia, the country’s biggest newspaper chain.

“When the bylaw was approved by council, we began with education with the company responsible for the delivery of the flyers,” Treasurer Micheal Beal told councillors on Tuesday.

“We went through months of education, reported things that we had seen that went against the bylaw,” he added.

“We then indicated a few months back that we would begin enforcement of the bylaw and issuing fines.”

Beal said that so far, Brunswick News has been issued four, $140 fines and after the latest one, the company promised to hold another meeting with its drivers and to conduct “route audits” to make sure the bylaw is followed.

He said that the company has also indicated that, if it needs to, it will change carrier drivers to ensure compliance with the flyer bylaw.

Beal added that the company has been warned that if the bylaw infractions continue, town council may decide to ban residential flyer delivery altogether.

Moncton issued dozens of fines in the year after it passed a similar bylaw in 2020, but Austin Henderson, the city’s manager of communications, said today there have been only 18 complaints so far this year.

Meantime, Mike Power, Vice President of Editorial and Sales Operations for Brunswick News, says the company is doing everything possible to make sure its delivery contractors comply with Sackville’s bylaw.

“We acknowledge that the bylaw is there and we give instructions to our contractors about what we are obligated to do,” he said during a telephone interview.

“We are making our best efforts.”

Power says the company distributes just over 2,000 flyer bundles in Sackville each week.

He declined to discuss how much the flyer contractors are paid.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 10 Comments