New Sackville highway billboards coming soon

East and westbound travellers approaching Sackville on the TransCanada Highway will soon see billboards showing a photo of the Waterfowl Park and advertising a new kind of small town on one sign while the words “Home of Mount Allison University” will appear on the other one.

The two signs, expected to be installed within a month and a half, will replace ones from 2014 that depicted the Farmers Market at its former home on Bridge Street.

One of those billboards on the eastbound lanes near the Walker Road exit was destroyed last winter when a tractor trailer smashed into it during a snow storm.

Replacing it will cost about $36,800, but the town expects to recover all of the money from the trucking company’s insurance.

Design costs and replacement of the westbound sign will amount to about $4,200.

The billboard photo was taken by Terry Danks of Chester, Nova Scotia.

During Monday’s town council meeting, Councillor Megan Mitton said the new image is appropriate because the Waterfowl Park is an important feature of Sackville that motorists glimpse as they drive by on the TransCanada.

“It also seems fitting to feature the Waterfowl Park as this year, we’ll celebrate its 30th anniversary,” Mitton added.

She said planning continues for events on Saturday June 16th to celebrate the park’s anniversary.

Ambulance station

Also, during last night’s meeting, councillors agreed to consider changing the town’s zoning bylaw to permit construction of an Ambulance New Brunswick station on Robson Avenue near the Westmorland Animal Hospital.

The Nova Scotia company, Parsons Investments, is in the process of buying two chunks of land that border on Robson, Cattail Ridge and Bridge Street from Sackville businessman Percy Best.

Ambulance New Brunswick sketch for the new station

Parsons wants to build the station on about half an acre and lease the building to Ambulance New Brunswick. Parsons already owns the ambulance station in Amherst.

Councillors heard last night that the company now plans to build the station 50 feet from the road, the same distance as the animal clinic, instead of the 70 foot setback in its original plan.

Councillor Mitton said she favours the project because it would move the station out of the industrial park where ambulances could potentially be blocked by a train during an emergency.

She added that since the station would be on Robson, it would not interfere with a pedestrian-friendly streetscape on Cattail Ridge envisioned in a $27,000 plan put forward by Ekistics Planning and Design of Dartmouth.

Council passed a resolution at last night’s meeting setting April 9th as the date for a public hearing on the rezoning application.

Ammonia alarm system

Council was told that a safety system has been installed at the Tantramar Veterans Memorial Civic Centre arena to warn of an ammonia leak from the ice-making system.

Warning sign outside the rink at the Civic Centre

A blue light and a horn, connected to an ammonia sensor, have been installed under the score clock. The light will flash and the horn will sound if the sensor detects the colourless gas that can be fatal if it’s inhaled.

Last October, three workers died while performing routine maintenance at an arena in Fernie, B.C.

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton told councillors that signs have been installed at the Civic Centre telling people to leave the building immediately if the alarm system goes off.

He said the town acted before being required to do so by the province.

“We feel that safety’s important for staff and for the public,” he added. “The public will be well advised as to what to do [when the alarm system goes off] and staff will be directing people on what to do as well.”

Council briefs

(1) Councillors were told that the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DTI) has committed its share of funds to reconstruct 300 metres of Main Street between Union Street and Queens Road. The town plans to reconstruct the entire roadway replacing curbs and gutters, sidewalks and utilities, including a new storm sewer. The province will pay $411,ooo for curb to curb reconstruction with a $73,000 (15 per cent) contribution from the town. Since the total cost of the project is estimated at $856,000, the town will pay an additional $372,000 to complete it as shown in the chart below.

(2) Council awarded a contract for $48,374.75 to Maritech Construction for the installation of a poured concrete floor at the new storage building behind the Civic Centre and, a second contract worth $17,568.55 to Sackville Plumbing and Heating to supply and install an in-floor heating system. Council authorized construction of the $371,000 building last year, but decided to delay installing the floor and heating system until money became available. (For earlier coverage of this story, click here.)

(3) Council passed Bylaw 261 to formalize pay, benefits and expense allowances for the mayor, deputy mayor and councillors:

(a) Mayor’s annual salary: $9,589.84 (taxable portion) with an allowance of $4,794.92 (non-taxable portion) for incidental expenses, for a total of $14,384.76.

(b) Deputy mayor’s annual salary: $5,676.84 (taxable portion) with an allowance of $2,838.42 (non-taxable portion) for incidental expenses, for a total of $8,515.26.

(c) Councillors’ annual salaries: $5,037.24 (taxable portion) with an allowance of $2,518.62 (non-taxable portion) for incidental expenses, for a total of $7,555.86.

(d) Beginning January 1, 2019, salaries and allowances will be adjusted every year by an amount equal to 90% of the average increase in the Consumer Price Index, not to exceed 3%.

(e) Each mayor, deputy mayor and councillor is permitted to join the town’s life, health and dental plan in accordance with the carriers’ rules and regulations. If a member of council chooses not to become a member of the town’s plan, he or she will be permitted to receive re-imbursement of premiums paid to a private carrier (excluding deductibles paid for drugs, dental, etc.) up to a maximum annual cost of the town’s life, health and dental plan.

For further information on meal expenses, mileage allowances as well as the requirement for public expense and meeting attendance reports, click here.

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Acadian Jean-Paul Boudreau appointed 15th Mt. A. president

Jean-Paul Boudreau: Mount Allison University photo.

It’s official. Jean-Paul Boudreau is the new president of Mount Allison University.

“I am thrilled and deeply honoured to be named Mount Allison’s 15th President and Vice- Chancellor,” Boudreau says in a news release posted on the university’s website. “Mount Allison has earned a long-standing reputation as one of Canada’s best undergraduate universities.”

Ron Outerbridge, Chair of the Mount Allison Board of Regents, says the board appointed Boudreau to a five-year term during a meeting it held today.

When his appointment takes effect on July 1, Boudreau will replace Robert Campbell who has served as the Mt. A. president for the past 12 years.

New Brunswick roots

Boudreau, who teaches in the psychology department at Ryerson University in Toronto, grew up in Moncton.

His online biography says he served as chair of Ryerson’s Department of Psychology (2003 – 2011), and Dean of the Faculty of Arts (2011 – 2016) before his appointment in 2016 as Special Advisor and Executive Lead for Social Innovation at Ryerson University.

Boudreau’s psychological research focuses on the learning and development of infants. He is director of Ryerson’s Children, Health, Infancy, Learning and Development (CHILD) lab.

He holds a PhD from Tufts University in Boston.

Sole candidate

The Mount Allison presidential search committee invited Boudreau to a series of public meetings on the university’s campus in mid-January, where he talked to students, faculty and staff. (For earlier coverage, click here.)

At the time, the committee said it had whittled its list down to two candidates, but one of them withdrew leaving Boudreau as the sole remaining contender.

In an e-mail addressed to students, faculty and staff, Ron Outerbridge says Boudreau’s spouse is Dr. Irene Gammel, an English professor at Ryerson who directs its Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre.

Outerbridge adds that Boudreau plans to embark on a listening tour this summer to get to know people in both the Mount Allison community and the town of Sackville.

“I look forward to meeting with and listening to students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders and working together, build upon the foundation of Mount Allison’s liberal arts and sciences tradition,” today’s news release quotes Boudreau as saying.

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Developer seeks approval for new Sackville ambulance station

The proposed ambulance station (outlined in red) would be built off Robson Ave. next to the Westmorland Animal Hospital and across from Sackville RV.

A Nova Scotia developer is asking Sackville Town Council for approval to build an Ambulance New Brunswick station near TransCanada Highway Exit 506.

Parsons Investments Ltd. is in the process of buying land that fronts on Robson Avenue, Cattail Ridge and Bridge Street. The company wants to build the ambulance station on part of the property (outlined in red) next to the Westmorland Animal Hospital.

However, the land is not zoned for institutional use and councillors will be asked to decide next week whether to consider the company’s rezoning request and launch a formal process that would include a public hearing on the matter.

Exit 506 plan

Ekistics conceptual plan shows buildings near streets and sidewalks. The ambulance building is shown on the far left.

Town Council spent more than 40 minutes at its meeting last night discussing how an ambulance station that would be set back at least 70 feet from Robson Avenue would fit with a $27,000 draft plan for the Exit 506 area that recommends set backs of no more than 20 feet.

Last month, Ekistics Planning and Design outlined its concept for a small village near Exit 506 that included an ambulance station along with restaurants, shops, apartment-style housing, new sidewalks, bicycle lanes and two parks. The planners recommended placing buildings near the street with parking at the rear to make streetscapes more inviting to pedestrians. Their final recommendations are expected to be presented to council in April.

Piecemeal development

Councillor Bill Evans said that, in general, he favours developments such as the ambulance station, but added that the whole idea of commissioning a plan for the area was to avoid what happened at Exit 504 where businesses were added in an ad hoc or piecemeal way.

Evans said he would be guided by how urgent or “time sensitive” the rezoning request was.

“But I’m also not comfortable saying ‘let’s act on something’ when we haven’t yet decided what we want our plan to be, the whole idea of plans is you have plans first and then you act consistent with the plan,” he added.

Councillors Andrew Black and Megan Mitton suggested that ambulances would need the 70 feet in front of the station for turning and that given the station’s location on Robson Avenue, setting it farther back than other future buildings on Cattail Ridge wouldn’t interfere with the streetscape.

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken agreed.

“I can’t see where people are going to be window-shopping in an ambulance set-up,” he said.


Parsons Investments Ltd. will take ownership of the smaller Best property (green) and about half of the larger one on March 17th.

Sackville resident Percy Best, who is selling much of the land he owns in the area to Parsons Investments, told council that Ambulance New Brunswick originally wanted the new station to be completed by January 1st.

He said his sale to Parsons will go through on March 17th and the company wants to break ground as soon as it can.

Earlier, Councillor Joyce O’Neil said council should do everything it can to enable the ambulance station to move from its present location in the industrial park on the far side of the CN Rail tracks that could be blocked during an emergency.

“I just think this has got to happen so we get them on the other side of the tracks,” she said adding that the ambulance station is a sure thing while other parts of the Ekistics plan are not.

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New study urges Atlantic Canada’s smaller communities to import less, produce more

Robert Cervelli in Shelburne last week (photo: screen capture from film of presentation)

A small, non-profit organization says Atlantic Canada could create thousands of jobs and rejuvenate its smaller communities by replacing some of the goods and services those communities import with locally produced ones.

The Nova-Scotia-based Centre for Local Prosperity released a 56-page study last week showing that in 2012, Atlantic Canada imported $11 billion more in goods and services than it exported to other places. New Brunswick’s trade deficit was about $1.4 billion while Nova Scotia’s was $4.8 billion.

“One of the analogies we use is small communities tend to be like leaky buckets,” the Centre’s Executive Director Robert Cervelli said last week in Shelburne, N.S. during a town hall presentation that has been posted online.

He added that money leaks out of communities when they buy imported goods and services instead of producing their own.

Cervelli showed a slide of a typical fast-food strip.

“We’ve all seen strips like this,” he said, “you’ve driven down them, all the big brand names, you know what they look like.”

He added that smaller communities have been quietly co-opted by international businesses like those on commercial strips as well as banks, insurance companies and big retail stores that are highly efficient at funnelling consumer dollars from local economies into their headquarters in faraway cities.

Cervelli said a statistical analysis conducted as part of the study showed that four out of every ten dollars that circulate in Atlantic Canada leak out of local economies this way.

The study found that if people shifted 10 per cent of their spending from imports to local goods and services, the four Atlantic provinces would gain 43,000 jobs, $2.6 billion in wages and $219 million in new tax revenue.

Focus groups

Slide illustrating leaky rural bucket

Aside from statistical analysis, the study on import replacement (IR) is also based on a series of eight focus group discussions conducted with local residents as well as business and community leaders in four communities: Miramichi, N.B., Shelburne, N.S., Souris, P.E.I. and the Burin Peninsula in Newfoundland.

Karen Foster, a professor at Dalhousie who specializes in rural economic development, said the focus group sessions showed that people understand the need to produce and buy more local goods and services.

“People were not at all surprised by this idea of import replacement,” she said during the Shelburne town hall meeting. “They wanted to plug the leaks in their community…people understand the need to plug the leaky bucket.”

Foster said the one of the main barriers people in rural communities face when they try to start their own businesses is that government regulations are biased against small, locally owned outfits in favour of bigger businesses such as the chains that can be seen on commercial strips.

She also mentioned that small rural businesses can have trouble attracting enough workers and some, such as tourist operators, have difficulty getting insurance.

Success stories

Meantime, Cervelli said imported food and energy are the easiest imports to replace.

He pointed, for example, to ACFOR, a small company in Cocagne, N.B. that uses selective harvesting to produce wood chips for heating public buildings while restoring the Acadian forest. He also mentioned New Brunswick’s Farm to School project in which school cafeterias serve locally produced food.

The study outlines a series of steps local communities can take, such as setting up a broad-based group to work on finding ways to produce more local goods and services.

It says municipal and provincial governments can also help by buying more local goods and services, providing incentives for community investments and changing regulations and zoning restrictions that inhibit small businesses.

Gregory Heming

Gregory Heming, a municipal councillor in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis County and a founder of the Centre for Local Prosperity, told the town hall meeting in Shelburne that his municipality has set certain goals including producing 80 per cent of its own energy and food by the year 2050.

Heming, who holds a PhD in ecological studies, says the prevailing wisdom of economic experts is that businesses have to learn to compete on global markets. But, he adds, it makes sense for smaller communities to become more self-sufficient instead, generating local wealth instead of importing goods and services from afar.

“The more you can produce locally, the better off you are,” he said. “This study and this documentation gives me great hope in the power and strength of local people and local government.”


To view a six-page summary of the study on import replacement, click here.

To read the full study, click here.

To watch the town hall presentation last week in Shelburne, click here.

Note: The Centre for Local Prosperity says it plans to hold a series of regional meetings and workshops in the coming year to discuss its study on import replacement.

Posted in New Brunswick government, Nova Scotia Government | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Election platform: Expand social programs, restore public services and tax the rich


Geoff Martin and Lyne Chantal Boudreau holding copies of the new election platform

A group of New Brunswick unions and community organizations has issued a “progressive” platform for the provincial election scheduled for September 24th.

The platform, released today in Moncton, calls on political parties to promise to increase spending on social programs and public services while raising taxes on corporations and the rich.

“It is time to shift the balance back to government policies that express New Brunswickers’ desire to care for each other and live in a fair society,” said Geoff Martin, a part-time Mount Allison political science professor who also works for the university’s faculty union. (The Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations is one of the union groups backing the new platform.)

Speaking in French, Lyne Chantal Boudreau, President of Regroupement féministe du Nouveau-Brunswick, an organization that advocates for francophone women, said that instead of cutting or privatizing such public services as child care and home care, politicians should be promising to improve them while adding new services and social programs.

Poverty, women’s rights and child care

Among other things, the new platform calls on politicians to promise to eliminate poverty by increasing minimum wages and welfare rates while passing a pay-equity law that would raise wages for women who work in the private sector. It also calls for increasing the availability of surgical abortions while establishing a provincial registry of doctors and pharmacists available to prescribe the abortion pill

The platform advocates creating a Bill of Rights for residents of nursing homes and a Council on Aging similar to the New Brunswick Women’s Council. Noting that the New Brunswick Drug Plan covers fewer than 9,000 people, the platform advocates eliminating prescription drug co-payment fees for those under 18 as well as for adult students while expanding coverage to include dental and eye care for all with no increase in premiums.

The platform challenges the political parties to campaign on promises of a publicly funded, universal child care system for children up to 12 regardless of whether their parents work outside the home. It also calls for the elimination of all tuition fees for Canadian university and college students by 2023.

To read the full 15-page platform, click here.

Focus on fairness

“Thirty years ago, governments began focusing on reducing taxation for the wealthiest in the hope that it would make our province more competitive and that everyone would eventually benefit from businesses’ economic success,” Geoff Martin said.

He added that now it’s time for New Brunswickers to recognize that tax cuts for the better off did not lead to more jobs, higher wages, sustainable economic development or balanced government books.

“Instead, we have seen increased disparities between the wealthiest and poorest citizens,” he said.

Change in direction

Martin acknowledged that the group had not worked out the costs of implementing its platform, but wanted instead to present it as a call for a change in direction.

“[It’s] as much [about] trying to start a discussion and, in a sense, leaving it to the political parties, who will directly face the voters, to cost what they see as the good ideas here that they want to draw on,” he added.

Political will

Jean-Claude Basque

Jean-Claude Basque, provincial co-ordinator for the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice said his group helped draft the new platform because of the steady erosion of  social programs over the last 30 years.

“This platform is saying to the political parties, ‘come back to what was there 30-35 years ago because that’s what’s working for society and for individuals and families,'” he said.

“It’s not a question of money,” Basque said, adding that recent revelations about the billions stashed by wealthy elites in offshore tax havens show there’s lots  of money for social spending.

“It’s a question of political will from government to decide what are their priorities and then implementing these priorities.”

More equal society

Johanne Perron

The Executive Director of the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity, another of the groups involved in writing the new election platform, said she’s hopeful about the response from the political parties.

“I am optimistic that it will help them develop their platforms,” said Johanne Perron.

“I don’t expect them to pick up everything that is in our platform, but I certainly hope that they will all look at it seriously,” she added.

“I truly believe that it would help get a more equal society and I dare to think that our political parties want that as well.”

Posted in New Brunswick Election 2018, New Brunswick government | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Planners recommend creating village near Sackville Exit 506

Drawing shows recreational trail and ambulance station at left, commercial shops and restaurants in two buildings on Cattail Ridge at the front as well as a commercial building, bank and mixed-use residential buildings on Bridge St. on the right. Parking is kept to the rear of buildings. A stormwater pond behind the residential buildings absorbs run-off from parking lots. (Click to enlarge)

A Nova Scotia planning and design company recommends creating a village near TransCanada Highway Exit 506 that could include stores, restaurants and coffee drive thrus, apartments or condominiums, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, an ambulance station, a hiking and biking trail as well as two new parks.

“It’s essentially a small little downtown cluster that happens in this one very small area,” Rob Leblanc of Ekistics Planning and Design told residents last night during a meeting to outline the plan at Sackville Town Hall.

“We can’t take credit for any of the ideas in this plan, they’re mostly ideas that came from the community,” Leblanc added after noting that 400 people had responded to an online survey and 35 had attended a workshop that discussed proposals for Exit 506.

Last November, Sackville Town Council awarded a $27-thousand contract to Leblanc’s firm to conduct a study of physical improvements that would be needed to facilitate economic development at Exit 506 and to lure more highway travellers into Sackville.

Leblanc noted that much of the area around Exit 506 is on a flood plain with some of it subject to flooding once in every hundred years.

He suggested that planners and developers would have to make provisions for 100-year flooding adding that his firm is not recommending development on the land in the area that floods regularly.

Two new parks

Drawing shows a new trail and two new parks,  a dog park at the end of Robson Ave. on the left and one named for artist Alex Colville at the end of Bridge St. near the Tantramar River.

Leblanc said a proposed new dog park could be built in an area off Robson Avenue where people already walk their  dogs.

The idea for one dedicated to Alex Colville originally came from retired Mount Allison music professor Janet Hammock who said the park could display some of the artist’s most famous paintings depicting scenes from the area by the river, bridge and railway.

“The history of the bridge, the old race track that used to be here, Alex Colville, all those stories could be told in that park,” Leblanc said, “and that would be enough to create the invitation for visitors to look at the tourism experiences, maybe get them to stay longer in the town.”

Leblanc said a look-off could also be built on the old bridge abutment to give people a better view of the river and marshes.

Cost of creating Exit 506 village

Drawing shows Alex Colville park with elevated look-off in the distance

Leblanc estimates the total cost to the town of creating a village at Sackville’s eastern gateway would be just under $600,000, but he said the work would not have to be done all at once.

He said he’ll discuss his proposals further with a steering committee consisting of senior town staff. Sackville town councillors will ultimately decide what to do about the recommendations.

Positive reactions

Residents who attended last night’s meeting seemed pleased with the proposals.

In response to questions, Leblanc said existing homes and businesses would not be affected by the plan.

He emphasized that any coffee drive-thrus would have to be carefully built to avoid the congestion that happens at Exit 504. He said, for example, that drive-thrus would have to accommodate at least eight cars on private property to avoid back-ups on streets and drive-thru windows would not be allowed to face main streets.

When asked about train whistles disturbing apartment dwellers, Leblanc said there are things that can be done.

“King’s Wharf in downtown Dartmouth was built literally on the train line and they blew their whistle every morning 5 a.m.,” he said. “The city, the developer and CN worked together to figure out a way to deal with that and they’re trying to work through that. So, I think even CN can be creative sometimes when they work with communities,” he added.

Some concerns

Sackville environmental consultant Sabine Dietz expressed concern about greenhouse gas emissions from idling vehicles at drive-thrus. She added that Leblanc’s overall plan did not incorporate concepts, such as the use of renewable energy, to mitigate climate change.

Dietz also wondered whether it’s realistic to expect significant new commercial development at Exit 506 when the population of Sackville isn’t growing and the downtown core is struggling.

“Wherever you go in small communities, as soon as you have commercial development outside the core, the core is impoverished as a result,” she said, adding that increasing shopping on the outskirts might split Sackville into three pieces with the downtown pitted against the two highway commercial zones.

“I’d be the first to advocate [that] the strongest way to strengthen a community is to invest in your downtown,” Leblanc responded.

He said that both the downtown and the highway commercial zones have a role to play in development.

“Investing in the downtown is going to be really important moving forward as well,” Leblanc added.

To view a slide presentation on the Ekistics plan, click here.

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Sackville councillors urge feds to restore Via Rail service before it’s too late

Via train picks up passengers in Sackville on a snowy Sunday

Sackville Town Council voted unanimously last week to support the campaign to restore Via Rail’s Ocean passenger service that runs through Sackville on its route between Halifax and Montreal.

Councillors asked Mayor Higham to write a letter to the federal minister of transport supporting the group Save Our Trains in Northern New Brunswick, which is campaigning along with Transport Action Atlantic, for restoration of the six-day-a-week service that was cut to three days in 2012.

“I feel it’s a no-brainer, we really have to go after this,” Councillor Joyce O’Neil said when council first discussed the issue on February 5th.

“When you stop and think about it, if we lose the Via going through our town, our only other option is you’re either going to fly or bus or drive yourself,” O’Neil added. “This has been something that I’ve seen go all my lifetime and I’d hate to see us lose it now.”

“I think it’s a no-brainer too,” said Councillor Bruce Phinney. “We do need it. It’s a source of transportation for people who can’t afford a car or can’t afford other means.”

Report urges major investments

The background information package that councillors received before their meeting contained a copy of the report Riding The Ocean’s Next Wave by transportation consultant Greg Gormick.

The report, commissioned by the Save Our Trains group, was released last August.

It warns that Via’s Ocean train service will die without restoration of six-day-a-week service which it says would require an investment of about $266 million in new passenger train cars and track upgrades. It also recommends spending an additional $30-$40 million to restore Via’s Chaleur service on the Gaspé Peninsula.

“Direction and funding from Ottawa will enable VIA to begin the process of restoring the Ocean and the Chaleur as effective providers of local and long-distance public transportation, and as major contributors to regional tourism development,” the report concludes adding, “Failure to act soon will doom the Ocean quickly and ensure the Chaleur never returns.”

Sackville’s historic station

Sackville’s historic train station

As part of the cuts in 2012, Via Rail closed Sackville’s train station built in 1907-08 of locally quarried sandstone. The station is a nationally designated historic site.

It’s not clear, however, whether Via Rail would reopen the station if passenger service were restored to six-days-a-week as town councillors hope.

None of the councillors at last Monday’s meeting specifically mentioned the station, although those who spoke made it clear they felt Sackville residents should continue to have passenger rail service.

Councillor Megan Mitton argued train service is important for environmental reasons as did Councillor Bill Evans.

“We have said that [environmental] sustainability is important to us,” Evans said. “Public transit is a huge component of supporting sustainability.”

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