Would-be Mt. A. president quizzed on university investments in fossil fuels

Jean-Paul Boudreau answering students’ questions Monday in Gracie’s

The sole candidate to become the next president of Mount Allison University faced what he acknowledged were “tough questions” Monday as he talked with dozens of students on campus during a pizza lunch in Gracie’s Café.

Jean-Paul Boudreau, who teaches psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, told the students he was wearing his Teflon jacket as he prepared to answer their questions.

When Shannon Power asked him what he would do to support students campaigning to get Mount Allison to scrap its investments in fossil fuels, Boudreau said he was fully aware of the issue in general, but didn’t know the specifics of Mt. A’s investment portfolio.

He said that as president, he would listen to students. In reply to similar questions about giving students a greater voice in running the university and helping them campaign for social justice, he added “I’m the kind of person who would like to have a conversation and dialogue…We’re in this together…I just want to hear what’s on your mind.”

Louis Sobol wondered what Boudreau would do if 50 students and 10 professors campaigning for an end to fossil fuel investments stormed Centennial Hall, barricading him in his office, a tongue-in-cheek reference to last year’s five-hour occupation of the administration building after the current president, Robert Campbell, refused to engage with students on the university’s investment policies.

“I’m not saying that kind of activism is wrong,” Boudreau replied. “I’m saying there’s a place for dialogue…before we get to locking me in my office.”

‘I love my students’

Earlier, when asked why he would leave Ryerson to come back to his Acadian roots in New Brunswick, Boudreau drew chuckles when he said, “I haven’t left Ryerson yet. I love my job. I love what I do and I love my students.”

He added, however, that he would be gaining a whole new family if he becomes Mount Allison’s 15th president, but cautioned later that he’s just a candidate for the job and that his employers at Ryerson don’t know he’s seeking it.

He then urged students to keep his visit confidential and not to broadcast it on their social media feeds.

Boudreau’s lively meeting with the students was one of several sessions he held with university administrators, professors and staff, during which he outlined general ideas for everything from mapping the university’s future, supporting scholarship, research and creativity, and attracting more students.

“I would like to be your champion as we collectively advance,” Boudreau declared Monday morning during the first of three meetings with faculty, staff and students.

Posted in Environment, Mount Allison University | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

King St. residents say no to more student housing

Pat Sheppard addressing council during public hearing last Monday

Sackville Town Council voted on Monday to delay considering a rezoning application that would allow more student housing on King Street after several neighbours complained about noise, garbage, excessive traffic and outdoor fires.

“It used to be a nice street to live on, but it’s not any more,” Pat Sheppard told councillors during a public hearing last Monday.

Sheppard, who lives at 46 King Street next to a student housing building, said she loses sleep some nights because of the noise.

“They’ve had a few parties back there where the parking lot was packed with vehicles and the police had to come and break it up,” she added.

Sheppard was one of four residents who spoke against a rezoning application that would enable property owner Sean Doucet to add another apartment building at 40 King Street.

The new, three-storey building would contain six rental units. There are already six units on the 1.5 acre property, one in a dwelling that fronts on King Street and five more in an apartment building behind it. Doucet also owns a one unit building next door at 42 King Street.

Reg Hanson, who lives across the street at 39 King, told councillors that at times he’s watched hundreds of students pouring out of the residences.

“I’ve seen this summer and this fall, five squad cars in there trying to control some things,” Hanson said adding, “We as taxpayers are paying for this extra policing.”

Existing 5-unit building at 40 King. The owner is proposing to add a 6 unit building on the property which is heavily sloped at the back

Margaret Hanson complained about the number of students living on the properties. Each of the six rental units at 40 King Street has five bedrooms.

“There is already 31 students on lot 40,” she said. “How many more students can we accommodate on that lot?”

Hanson also mentioned outdoor fires in spring and fall with no fire boxes to contain them.

Environmental questions 

“I wonder if there’s really been any environmental studies studies done on this place,” said Norm Cole of Pringle Street referring to part of the property at 40 King that borders on the Sackville Cemetery and a fast-flowing stream.

Cole pointed out that the back of the lot is heavily sloped.

“This land does not exist as we speak, as far as usable land. It’s all over a bank,” he added.

Design meets town requirements

Town planner Lori Bickford

Town planner Lori Bickford told council that the proposed design for the new six-unit building meets town requirements given the size of the lot and the amount of land that is vacant.

She also pointed out that the proposal fits in with the Municipal Plan which encourages a wide range of housing options, directs high-density development to main roads such as King Street and also meets the town’s target for increasing the development of multi-unit buildings.

However, she recommended that the town impose conditions to ensure that the lot would have no more than 12 units; that there be access for fire trucks off Bowser Street and that a licensed engineer devise a plan to manage storm water.

Councillors vote for delay

After the public hearing, several councillors expressed concern about the rezoning proposal.

“It’s a residential area and it’s supposed to be a nice mingling of apartments and residential houses,” said Councillor Michael Tower.

He added that the town seems to be moving away from encouraging more single-family homes instead of apartment buildings and he also expressed worries about increased traffic.

Councillor Bruce Phinney moved motion for delay

“King Street is a nightmare for us right now,” Tower said. “It’s going to cost the town as it is right now to try to find a way to alleviate the issue on that street and now we’re going to add more to it. I think we’re looking at more trouble.”

Councillor Bruce Phinney, who proposed a successful motion to delay consideration of the rezoning application until next month, said he needed more time to look at the property, check with the fire department about safety, confer with the police about what’s been going on there and talk to local residents.

Not going to ruffle feathers

Meantime, property owner Sean Doucet, who did not attend the council meeting, says he hadn’t heard any complaints from residents about such issues as traffic and noise.

During a telephone interview, Doucet said he wanted to construct the new six-unit building on the property at 40 King because he doesn’t have any two-bedroom apartments, only five bedroom ones. He said some students prefer two-bedroom units and that building them would help the town.

“At the end of the day, it helps with the tax base in Sackville, it creates jobs, it creates sales for hardware companies while it’s being built,” he said, adding however, that he doesn’t want to get into an argument with the neighbours and that he realizes students do have a reputation for being louder.

“I’m not going to ruffle any feathers. If people are that upset about a new development, I just won’t go ahead and do it,” he said. “I’ll move on to something else.”

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Acadian Jean-Paul Boudreau in line to become 15th Mt. A. president

Dr. Jean-Paul Boudreau’s Twitter photo @Boudreau_Ideas

Dr. Jean-Paul Boudreau, who teaches in the psychology department at Ryerson University in Toronto, is the finalist candidate in the search for a new president at Mount Allison University.

Boudreau has been invited to visit the Mt. A. campus on Monday to talk to students, faculty, staff and members of the public who will be given a chance to comment on his candidacy.

The university’s governing body, the Board of Regents, is expected to decide in February whether to appoint him to succeed Robert Campbell whose current term as president expires on June 30th.

One finalist candidate

After a search that began more than nine months ago, a university committee invited two final candidates to visit campus this month.

But a note on the university’s website says that the other one withdrew and after reconsidering the list of qualified candidates who had previously been interviewed, the search committee decided to invite Boudreau to campus as the only finalist.

Boudreau’s background

His online biography says Boudreau 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.

The biography also calls him “a proud Acadian with strong Maritime roots.”

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

“Awesome” teacher

Jean-Paul Boudreau, Ryerson photo

The website Rate My Professors, which allows students to make anonymous comments, indicates Boudreau is a popular teacher with 21 students of the 24 who assessed him giving him an “awesome” rating. He’s described as caring, approachable and supportive:

Dr. Boudreau is a great professor who goes out of his way to help his students, giving his time and attention. I learned professional development skills that will always be useful. He gave practical advice and helpful feedback. He placed me with a lab that allowed me to get valuable experience. I learned a lot and am glad I had him as a professor.

Dr Boudreau is a wonderful professor who is incredibly passionate. Dr Boudreau is extremely helpful and willing to take the time to listen to students and answer any questions. Dr Boudreau provides his students with a valuable experience that they will use beyond school well into their professional careers. Highly recommended.

this is one odd duck BUT he cares a lot about his student’s success. If u show up, ask questions and do your readings, u will get B+ or A- easy, the exams are based on UNDERSTANDING the stuff not MEMORIZING it so if u don’t get something ask, he will answer until you get it. He is very helpful with assignments but u still have to put in the effort.

NOTE: Reached by phone at his office in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon, Boudreau said he was in the middle of a meeting, but promised to call me back later. However, he did not return my call or respond to an e-mail and after waiting more than five hours, I decided to publish this piece.

Posted in Mount Allison University | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Sackville councillors raise property taxes to close budget gap

Councillor Andrew Black

Property taxes will be going up in Sackville this year after a majority of town councillors voted Monday to approve a one cent hike in residential rates and a one-and-a-half cent increase for businesses.

The new rate of $1.56 per $100 of assessed value will mean that taxes will go up on a home valued at $100,000 by $10 this year, while a business with a similar assessment will pay $15 more.

Six councillors voted in favour of raising taxes to close a budget shortfall of about $60,000 after the province reduced the town’s tax base by $9.2 million.

Councillors Andrew Black and Bruce Phinney voted against the tax hike.

Phinney said that a lot of people could not afford even a small increase in property taxes while Black said raising municipal taxes on businesses goes against the town’s goal of strengthening existing businesses while attracting new ones.

“Sackville has been dealt a bad hand,” Black said during a council debate that lasted about 12 minutes.

“There is no reason to increase taxes to compensate, but rather cut spending to make ends meet, which is what most Sackvillians would do with their own personal budgets,” he added.

Black argued that council could delay some of this year’s capital spending to make up for the $60,000 in lost revenue.

Councillor Bill Evans

Councillor Bill Evans, who voted for the tax increase, responded that delaying spending wouldn’t help because a permanent reduction in the town’s tax base will mean continuing budget shortfalls in coming years.

“This is not a one-time problem,” Evans said. “If we don’t raise taxes now, the deficit that we face next year without the additional funding will be even greater and so, I don’t think that is an effective way to deal with the problem that we are faced with,” he added.

Maintain services and town assets

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken and Councillor Joyce O’Neil, who both voted for the tax increases, said that while no one likes to see taxes go up, the town must continue to maintain its capital assets and its services.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’ve come to our town because they enjoy our services and that we’re doing a super job on that,” O’Neil said. “So to turn around and cut those, what are we accomplishing there?”

Councillors Megan Mitton and Michael Tower also favoured increasing taxes to maintain services and capital investments. Tower argued that the town has spent its money wisely on such projects as improvements to Bridge and Lorne Streets as well as on the downtown park in memory of Bill Johnstone.

“I’m still unsure about what I am going to do here,” said Councillor Allison Butcher. “I’m struggling with this a lot,” she added. “If this was my personal issue having spent too much or thought I had to, I would cut something back.”

But when the vote came a few minutes later, Butcher sided with the five councillors who favoured raising taxes.

Capital spending

Old Sackville Quarry near the Mt. A. campus

Meantime, town council approved $950,000 in capital spending at Monday’s meeting with only Councillor Phinney opposed.

“Here we are raising taxes,” Phinney said, adding that at the same time, the town is committing itself to $25,000 in spending for a Beech Hill dog park; $25,000 for the establishment of new recreational trails and $200,000 for a project in the old Sackville Quarry that would combine a park with water retention facilities designed to alleviate downtown flooding. (The town has applied for a $1 million federal grant to help pay for the Quarry Project. The grant is administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities under its Climate Innovation Program.)

To view the list of 2018 town capital projects, click here.

To read previous coverage of the town’s budget shortfall, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Ambitious plans for expansion of Sackville Waterfowl Park on its 30th anniversary

The Town of Sackville is planning two big extensions to its 55-acre Waterfowl Park this year as the park turns 30.

At his New Year’s levee last Monday, Mayor John Higham talked about the town acquiring a “significant portion of land” that is adjacent to the park.

Later, during an interview, he added: “It’s going to give us an opportunity to show broader elements of how waterfowl work [along with] other species in the area.”

Higham would not specify exactly where the land is except to say that it is a bequest that has been held up for various legal and technical reasons that have now been largely resolved.

The mayor said he expects the details to be announced fairly soon once the deal is complete.

Lund bequest

The Lund bequest of nearly 20 acres, next to the Waterfowl Park, lies between the TransCanada Highway and the homes on Princess St. bounded on the northwest by the TransCanada Trail and on the southeast by Squire St.

A Warktimes search of New Brunswick property records combined with other information reveals that the property in question was willed to the town by Daniel Lund who died in November 2013.

It consists of nearly 20 acres of marshy and wooded land that is bounded by the TransCanada Trail, the TransCanada Highway and Squire Street. (An additional seven acre parcel, not shown on the map, lies on the other side of the TransCanada Highway.)

Daniel Lund’s funeral home obituary noted that in his last year, “he worked on his plan for a final gift to the community of Sackville and died confident that it would come to pass even if he would not be there to celebrate it.”

Additional expansion

Diagram showing pond one south of Bridge St, two south of St. James St. and three south of the CN Rail line. (Click map to enlarge)

In his New Year’s address, Mayor Higham also mentioned the town’s plan to link the southerly portion of the Waterfowl Park with water retention ponds that are being proposed as part of the Lorne Street flood control project. (To read earlier coverage of this project, click here.)

Higham said the town is hoping to encourage visitors to the Waterfowl Park to come into the downtown.

“Where the TransCanada Trail comes out now onto Weldon Street, it’s only a short walk over to the Lorne Street trail,” he said, adding that if the flood control project receives environmental approval, people would be able to hike on trails in the areas around the ponds near Lorne and St. James Streets and the CN Railway tracks.

Warktimes has learned that the town is currently in the process of buying land from the proprietors of the Black Duck Café and the Marshlands Inn for a waterfowl pond east of Lorne Street and north of St. James. (It is shown on the map as Pond No. 1, south of Bridge Street.)

Town engineer Dwayne Acton told a public meeting in November that the town hopes Ducks Unlimited will construct and pay for that pond as an extension of the Waterfowl Park.

Waterfowl Park’s beginnings

Sandy Burnett, Chair, Sackville Waterfowl Park Advisory Committee

During an interview on Friday, Sandy Burnett, Chair of the Sackville Waterfowl Park Advisory Committee smiled as he remembered how a landscape design consultant from Sussex “appropriately named Jim Sackville,” first proposed a wetlands park in the 1980s.

“The town had commissioned a strategic plan for branding the town,” Burnett said.

“Jim Sackville suggested choosing a waterfowl theme and converting a tract of wet pasture into a nature park.”

Burnett recalled that the mayor and town council at the time were skeptical of the park proposal, but he and fellow enthusiasts Al Smith and Paul Bogaard managed to recruit support from various bodies including the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Chignecto Naturalists’ Club and Ducks Unlimited Canada.

“Council said, ‘if you can find the money, see what you can do,'” Burnett said.

Half of the land was leased to the town by Mount Allison University with the other half acquired from private owners including the Doncaster family.

Ducks Unlimited began construction in 1987 and the volunteer group presented town council with a Draft Management Plan in June 1988, the year the Waterfowl Park finally opened.

Thirty years later, Burnett is clearly pleased with how things have turned out.

“It began with a vision of bringing the natural world into the heart of Sackville,” Burnett says.

“The result is a productive habitat for wildlife, an attractive destination for visitors, and a wonderful recreational resource for the town,” he adds.

“It’s a win in every way.”

Posted in Environment, Mount Allison University, Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Province says no to Sackville’s request for $60k to avoid property tax hike

Mayor Higham with poet laureate Marilyn Lerch at New Year’s levee

Mayor John Higham says the New Brunswick government has refused his request for nearly $60,000 to make up for its decision to reduce Sackville’s 2018 municipal tax base by $9.2 million.

During a speech today during his annual New Year’s levee at Town Hall, the mayor added that council will now have to decide whether to make up the budget shortfall by further reductions to the town’s budget or by raising property taxes.

“That will be the question,” Higham said during an interview later, “and someone on  council will make a motion for one way or the other and we’ll see how everybody votes.”

During a special budget meeting in November, all seven councillors who were present favoured closing the budget gap with small tax increases that would see residential rates go up by one cent to $1.56 per $100 of assessment and commercial rates rise by one-and-a-half cents to $4.545 per $100 of assessment.

Councillors are expected to discuss how to eliminate the budget shortfall at their next meeting on January 8th.

Higham says the province has agreed to discuss other changes that could improve Sackville’s financial outlook such as including Mount Allison’s student population in the calculations for provincial equalization support; fuller recovery of the costs when Sackville’s firefighters and police respond to emergencies on the TransCanada Highway; and, more compensation for the fire protection that Sackville provides to residents of local service districts outside its boundaries.

Mayor hopeful about Moloney Electric

Moloney Electric building on Bridge St.

Meantime, Higham says he’s hoping to hear soon about whether an Ontario-based company with  additional plants in Alberta and British Columbia will be able to buy Sackville’s Moloney Electric building to produce electrical transformers here.

About 60 workers lost their jobs when Moloney Electric shut down in 2016.

The mayor says Cam Tran, a family-owned company with headquarters near Peterborough, Ontario, has submitted an offer to buy the building and is expecting to receive an answer from the bankruptcy manager this month.

“They see this as the perfect addition to their national network,” Higham says adding the company wants to make significant capital investments here.

“They like the location, they like the skilled labour and they like the potential for sales both in the Maritimes and in export,” he says.

Poet Laureate pats town’s back

A highlight of today’s mayor’s levee was poet laureate Marilyn Lerch’s performance of “It’s Time To Pat Our Town’s Back & This Homely Poem Will Do Just That.”

Among other things, her poem praised Sackville residents for supporting the local hospital as well as the volunteers who are trying to improve the town’s schools with “their 20-20 vision.”

Lerch drew laughter and applause when she ended by flagging one of last year’s notable achievements:

Last but not least, as we shout hear, hear

There’s one thing about which we all can rave

After all those bumpy, rutted, flooded years,

Finally,                 we got Lorne Street paved.

To listen to Marilyn Lerch’s poem, which she read again later for The New Wark Times, click to start the player below.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Southeast Region mayors warn against shipping NB garbage to Nova Scotia

More than a dozen mayors in southeastern New Brunswick are urging the provincial government to deny a private company’s proposal to truck garbage from the Saint John area to a landfill in Nova Scotia.

At last week’s meeting of Sackville Town Council, Mayor Higham circulated a letter he had signed along with the mayors of several other cities, towns and villages, including Moncton, Dieppe, Memramcook, Shediac, Port Elgin and Dorchester, urging Environment Minister Serge Roussell to put a stop to the plan.

The Toronto-based, waste management company, GFL Environmental Inc., applied for a provincial permit in October to build a garbage transfer station in Saint John. GFL wants to use the station for shipping industrial, commercial and institutional waste (known as ICI waste) to a landfill the company owns in the Nova Scotia Municipality of West Hants, which includes the areas around the town of Windsor, N.S.

The letter, signed by the mayors, is from the Southeast Regional Service Commission also known as Southeast Eco360, the body that oversees the regional garbage disposal system. It operates the regional landfill site as well as recycling and composting facilities.

The letter warns Roussell that GFL’s plan would set a precedent that could eventually undermine the financial viability of New Brunswick’s entire garbage disposal system leading to job losses, higher taxes and a reduction in services.

Disposal fees

The mayors’ letter makes it clear that the disposal of ICI waste in the regional landfill pays for other services that Southeast Eco360 is required to provide including recycling, composting and the disposal of household hazardous waste.

Gérard Belliveau, the commission’s executive director, explains that ICI waste, which includes garbage from apartment buildings, supermarkets, restaurants, stores, hospitals and factories, makes up about 70 per cent of the total waste stream. (That total amounts to between 170 and 180 thousand metric tonnes each year.)

Recent fee increases will require companies to pay $99 per metric tonne for disposal in the landfill if their ICI waste is not sorted and separated for recycling. (ICI garbage often contains recyclable or compostable materials such as paper, cardboard and food wastes.) If the ICI waste is sorted, the disposal fee is reduced to $75 per metric tonne.

Belliveau says the fee structure encourages companies to sort their ICI waste diverting garbage away from the landfill.

“Putting it in a hole is not a solution,” he says.

But, he worries that if companies could dispose of their ICI waste more cheaply by shipping it to a landfill in Nova Scotia, they would have less incentive to sort and separate it. And, the southeast regional waste disposal system would lose revenue that pays for recycling and composting services.

To read the mayors’ letter to Environment Minister Rousselle, click here.

Fundy sounds an alarm

Concerns over GFL’s plan to ship garbage to Nova Scotia arose in October when the Fundy Regional Service Commission first urged the environment minister to deny the company’s application for a permit to build a transfer station in Saint John.

Fundy Executive Director Marc MacLeod says GFL collects about 10 per cent of the Fundy region’s ICI garbage and that’s what the company wants to ship to Nova Scotia.

It would mean that Fundy would no longer collect disposal fees on that ICI waste — fees that help fund the recycling and composting facilities that divert materials away from its Crane Mountain landfill in Saint John.

“I don’t have a problem with private industry,” MacLeod says in a telephone interview.

“I just have a problem with the fact that these guys can put profit in their pocket at the expense of the [waste] diversion programs,” he adds.

“If the government would let us just bury garbage, we could do it cheaply too.”

In his letter to Serge Rousselle, MacLeod warns that if GFL gets a permit allowing it to export ICI waste, other private-sector competitors will follow suit depriving the regional disposal system of even more revenue leading to job losses at its recycling and composting facilities and increasing costs for New Brunswick taxpayers.

To read MacLeod’s letter to the minister, click here.

GFL and partnerships

GFL’s Joey Warwick outside Sackville’s Tim Hortons

The business development manager for GFL Environmental says the company is seeking partnerships with New Brunswick’s regional waste disposal commissions.

Over coffee at the Sackville Tim Hortons, Joey Warwick, who is based in Saint John, says waste disposal facilities in the Maritimes could be used more efficiently.

“We’re not the enemy, we want to be a partner,” he says.

“Our company is very interested in working with municipalities in developing long-term strategies for recycling diversion, composting and landfill.”

Warwick adds, for example, that GFL trailer trucks hauling ICI waste from Saint John to the company landfill in Nova Scotia, could return with a full load of recyclable materials that could be processed here creating jobs in New Brunswick.

“For us, this is a win-win. If we get the permit, we’ll begin transferring waste. If we don’t get the permit, we’ll create discussion on how private industry can help utilize resources.”

Meantime, a spokesperson for Serge Rousselle e-mailed a one sentence answer to my request for the minister’s response to the letters from the regional service commissions asking him to deny the GFL application.

“I can confirm that the Department of Environment and Local Government has received an application from GFL and it is currently being evaluated,” the e-mail says.

Posted in New Brunswick government, Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment