Sackville council members Black & Butcher urge people to run in Nov. 28 municipal election

Allison Butcher & Andrew Black discuss the Nov. 28 municipal election at Saturday’s Farmers Market

Deputy Mayor Andrew Black and Councillor Allison Butcher spent Saturday morning at the Sackville Farmers Market talking with a steady stream of people about the November 28 municipal elections.

“The province, in my opinion, has really done nothing to inform people that this process is happening,” Black told Warktimes, “and so, we wanted to set a table up to make people aware that there’s an election and please, please put your name in to offer for a council seat in the new Town of Tantramar.”

Both Black and Butcher say they fear the lack of information about the first election for the new municipality of Tantramar will lead to a low voter turnout and a lack of candidates.

“We’re wanting to make sure that people are aware, not only that the election is coming, but that the boundaries of our municipality have increased greatly,” Butcher said.

“We want to make sure that there are people running from all areas of our municipality because when January 1st happens, we’re hoping the new council will be able to hit the ground running,” she added.

The table that Black and Butcher set up displayed a map of the new municipality divided into five electoral wards that will elect one mayor and a total of eight councillors.

According to Elections NB, residents of each ward will vote for their own councillors, while everyone in Tantramar will vote for a new mayor. To view a map of each ward, click on its name and number.

Ward 1: includes the village of Dorchester and the areas around it. Voters there will elect one councillor to represent them on the new council.

Ward 2: includes the the communities of Westcock, British Settlement, Wood Point and Rockport. Voters there will elect one councillor.

Ward 3: includes Sackville and Middle Sackville. Voters there will elect four councillors.

Ward 4: includes the areas north of Silver Lake along Rte. 940 including Midgic. Voters there will elect one councillor.

Ward 5: includes Aulac, Mount Whatley and Point de Bute. Voters there will elect one councillor.

Sign at the Black/Butcher table on Saturday

Key dates

During their information session at the Farmers Market, Deputy Mayor Black and Councillor Butcher pointed out that nominations for those interested in running will open on Saturday, October 8th and close at 2 p.m. on Friday, October 28th.

For a list of key dates from Elections NB, click here.

Both Black and Butcher said they will likely run for the new council themselves, but that isn’t why they held Saturday’s information session.

“I think it’s important to get a council together, ready for January 1st when things start happening,” Black said.

“The next year, 2023, is going to be difficult, so to have a council that’s committed and interested in getting the ball rolling, I think is really important,” he added.

Posted in Town of Sackville, Town of Tantramar | Tagged , | Leave a comment

NB Greens gearing up for next provincial election, Coon says

Green leader David Coon addressing supporters at Open Sky where construction was underway on a new building

New Brunswick Green leader David Coon says his party has already begun planning for the 2024 provincial election.

“One of the things we have to do a better job at communicating across the province is why we are distinct from the other parties, why our program is unique,” he told a group of about 25 supporters earlier this month at the Open Sky Co-op in Sackville.

Coon, who is marking 10 years as leader, said Greens not only fight for things that would improve people’s daily lives, they also respect the natural environment in ways the PCs and Liberals do not.

“We’re different that way,” he said. “We work to defend the commons, land, sea and sky.”

Coon listed a number of the party’s achievements in the legislature when the Higgs Conservatives were governing with a minority of the seats and depended on support from opposition parties.

He said the Greens successfully pushed the government to provide free flu shots for everyone in the province and persuaded the PCs to index welfare benefits to the rate of inflation.

“[Inflation indexing] to protect that meagre income that people who are living in poverty have to try and get by on,” he said, “but unfortunately, we were not yet successful in getting income assistance raised substantially.”

Election gains

David Coon

Coon expressed optimism about building the party’s momentum.

“Look at the last election in 2020,” he said.

“I didn’t know how to run a snap election, so we were learning by the seat of our pants in a pandemic…but despite that, all three MLAs were re-elected and Megan and Kevin [Arseneau] increased their margins dramatically.”

Coon added that, aside from holding the three Green ridings, the party also made significant gains.

“We were New Brunswickers’ second choice in 15 ridings,” he said to a round of applause.

“We’re the only party that grew our vote in both Francophone and Anglophone New Brunswick in the 2020 election.”

Coon said that New Brunswick voters are increasingly looking to the Greens for policies that sustain families, communities and the environment.

Saving rural hospitals

“New Brunswick can’t, in my opinion, afford to have another majority government,” he said referring to the PC victory two years ago that gave the Higgs government a slim majority of the seats.

Before that, Coon said, the government was forced to abandon its plans to convert six rural hospitals, including Sackville Memorial in Mitton’s riding and Stella-Maris-de-Kent in Arseneau’s riding, into long-term care facilities for patients waiting for nursing home beds.

“In the minority government, we were able to convince the Premier to reverse his decision to abandon those hospitals, that was the Green caucus that did that,” Coon said.

“We were skeptical and I remember the day I had to get the Premier to come into our anteroom outside the Chamber and meet with Megan and Kevin to give them his word that that’s what he was going to do.”

Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton addressing supporters at Open Sky Co-op

During her speech at Open Sky, Megan Mitton said she’s proud of the Rural Health Action Group which has been fighting for full services at the Sackville hospital since Higgs announced the cutbacks in 2020.

“I know I don’t trust the government, but there are efforts happening, there are some nurses being hired; they need to move faster on physician recruitment [and] there are still issues with our hospital,” she said.

“I’m going to keep fighting and I know people in the community are too.”

Mitton said she met recently with Minister of Health Bruce Fitch and sensed what she called “a lack of urgency” from the government on fixing problems such as recruitment and retention of health care professionals.

“They came out with a health plan last year that doesn’t have recruitment and retention as one of its pillars,” she said.

“I don’t know how you could do that.”

‘Bucket with holes in it’

Mitton, who serves as the Green party health critic, referred to the Vitalité and Horizon Health Networks’ appearance before a legislative committee this month.

“They were trying to paint a picture around recruitment and retention in the province, ‘Oh, we’ve got 270 new RNs (Registered Nurses) hired since April 1st’ and so I asked, ‘Well, how many have left?’ [and they said] ‘188 have left in that same time period.’

“That’s a net gain of 82,” Mitton said.

“That’s a really different picture to paint of what’s going on, you know, pouring water into a bucket that has holes in it is really what’s happening right now.”

She said it is especially important for her and other members of the community to continue holding Horizon’s “feet to the fire” as shortages of medical staff continue to force closures of hospital emergency rooms.

“We need change,” she said. “We need that sense of urgency.”

Posted in Environment, Health care, New Brunswick government, New Brunswick politics | Tagged | 8 Comments

Sackville councillor vows to challenge suspension of medical benefits

Councillor Bruce Phinney

Sackville Councillor Bruce Phinney says he’s considering the best way to challenge council’s two-month suspension of his life, health and dental insurance after someone added words to a motion that council passed in July to authorize it.

“I’m just not going to let this go because it’s wrong,” he said today during a telephone interview.

Phinney was in Alberta visiting family on July 12th when council unanimously passed a motion imposing sanctions against him for violating council’s code of conduct by publicly questioning the town’s hiring policies and suggesting university students who are not originally from Sackville shouldn’t be allowed to vote in municipal elections here.

The sanctions included:

Suspension of the remuneration paid to Councillor Phinney for a period of two months.

Phinney says he understood that his pay was being suspended, but had no idea his benefits were included until he visited a pharmacy on September 4th to have three emergency prescriptions filled and was told his card had been cancelled.

When he asked town officials what was happening, they e-mailed him a motion from the minutes of the July 12th meeting that read:

Suspension of the remuneration and benefits paid to Councillor Phinney for a period of two months. (Emphasis added).

“Someone changed that motion after the fact and that’s unacceptable,” Phinney says. “I’m not going to let them get away with this, at least not if I can help it.”

‘Too extreme’

When council met last week, Councillor Michael Tower said he would not have moved the motion sanctioning Phinney if he had known that his benefits would be suspended along with his pay.

Councillor Michael Tower

“The benefits were mentioned during our [previous closed-door] discussion,” Tower said.

“I didn’t agree with that part of it and when I got the motion to read and it did not include benefits [that] was the reason why I made that motion,” he told council.

“I wouldn’t have made it if I felt benefits were part of it.”

In a later e-mail to Warktimes, Tower explained that while he accepted an outside investigator’s recommendation to suspend Phinney’s remuneration: “No where in the report did it mention suspending benefits.”

He added that he’s especially concerned that Phinney was not notified about the suspension of his benefits.

“I think taking away health benefits is more of a personal action and too extreme,” Tower wrote in his e-mail.

“It concerns me, too, that after the motion was read and passed by council, the suspension of benefits was added to the motion in the minutes.”

‘A little error’

When questioned about the added words at last week’s council meeting, CAO Jamie Burke described it as “a little error in the minutes.”

He said he had talked to a legal representative who advised that “the commonly understood legal definition of remuneration includes benefits,” and added that the additional words had not changed the meaning of the motion.

Councillors Allison Butcher and Bill Evans said they understood that remuneration would include Phinney’s benefits.

To read previous coverage of this issue, click here and here.

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Higgs government lacks will to solve housing crisis, Greens say

Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton addressing supporters at Open Sky

Local Green MLA Megan Mitton says she’s afraid the housing crisis in Sackville and across New Brunswick is only going to get worse because the Higgs government lacks the will to fix it.

“We see what’s happened on King Street and we see there are other properties up for sale, people are being forced out of their housing and it’s all in the name of profit,” Mitton told a gathering of party supporters Saturday during a meeting at Open Sky Co-operative.

She was referring to the sale of a 16-unit apartment building at 15 King Street where tenants received notices that their leases were being terminated on July 1st.

Sunset Investments, the new landlord, has announced plans to renovate the building adding extra bedrooms for students and is now seeking to attract investors for half a dozen other apartment buildings here too.

The investment strategy, known by the acronym BRRRR, involves buying and renovating buildings to increase rental incomes. For an in-depth look at the strategy by CHMA’s Erica Butler, click here.

Ad on social media seeking investors in six other Sackville apartment buildings on Salem and Main Streets

Housing as a human right

Mitton told supporters Saturday that housing is becoming corporatized.

“Something that should be treated as a human right, a basic human right to have housing, is being treated as a commodity.”

She said that when she urged Mary Wilson, the Conservative minister responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act, to bring in greater protections for tenants neither she, nor her officials seemed to have any answers.

“They asked me what I thought they should do,” Mitton said as her supporters laughed.

“Pass our bill,” Green Party leader David Coon said from the audience to more laughter.

Later, during an interview, both Coon and Mitton explained that the Conservatives had rejected two Green bills on housing as well as three amendments they brought forward last spring when a legislative committee was considering government proposals including a temporary 3.8% cap on rent increases.

The rent cap is due to expire at the end of the year, but the Greens want it made permanent.

One of their amendments also proposed putting the onus on landlords to justify renovations and imposed a ban on “renovictions” until the end of 2023. To read a CBC report on the Green amendments, click here.

Gov’t steps away from housing

“Most people probably don’t realize that the government has been out of the business of housing policy, ensuring there’s a supply of good housing that’s affordable since the year 2000,” Coon said during Saturday’s interview.

“That was the last year that any government department specifically had a responsibility for housing in this province,” he added.

Coon pointed out that in 1990, Liberal Premier Frank McKenna dismantled the New Brunswick Housing Corporation which was responsible for ensuring a supply of affordable housing including non-profit and co-operative housing.

“So, what the housing groups find is there really isn’t a right door to knock on any more in government if they’ve got a proposal for doing something,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a nightmare to line up all the various key people because there is no department or minister with a clear responsibility for housing.”

This is the first of two reports on the issues discussed at the Open Sky meeting.

Posted in New Brunswick government, New Brunswick politics, Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Sackville councillor opposed suspending colleague’s health benefits

Coun. Michael Tower reading July 12 motion to sanction Phinney

Sackville Town Councillor Michael Tower says he would not have presented a motion on July 12th to suspend Councillor Bruce Phinney’s pay for two months if he had known it would include Phinney’s life, health and dental insurance.

“The benefits were mentioned during our [previous closed-door] discussion,” Tower said during Monday’s council meeting.

“I didn’t agree with that part of it and when I got the motion to read and it did not include benefits [that] was the reason why I made that motion,” he told council.

“I wouldn’t have made it if I felt benefits were part of it.”

A tale of 2 motions

The motion Tower read during the July 12 council meeting said that Phinney was being sanctioned for violating council’s Code of Conduct and that his penalties would include:

Suspension of the remuneration paid to Councillor Phinney for a period of two months.

However, the minutes of the meeting read:

Suspension of the remuneration and benefits paid to Councillor Phinney for a period of two months. [Emphasis added]

CAO Jamie Burke

When asked about the discrepancy during council’s public question period on Monday, CAO Jamie Burke said the additional words in the official minutes were a mistake.

“We’ve talked to a legal representative on this and the commonly understood legal definition of remuneration includes benefits,” he said.

“So what’s happened I guess is we’ve got a little error in the minutes that were approved although the meaning of the motion doesn’t change.”

Councillor Allison Butcher agreed that the word remuneration includes pay and benefits.

She cited the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

“The definition of it includes all compensation of which the medical plan is one,” she said.

“So, it seems a bit redundant that in the minutes, it adds the additional medical plan.”

CAO cautions council

CAO Burke cautioned councillors about debating matters that were discussed during an in-camera or closed session.

“If council wants to debate whether or not benefits are included and have a fulsome discussion on that, that’s an in-camera item, so we would take a recess, discuss it and come out and discuss any further motions in a public forum,” he said.

Councillor Bill Evans agreed that council should not be talking about discussions in a closed-door meeting, but said that he understood when he voted on Councillor Tower’s motion, that benefits would be included.

Coun. Bruce Phinney

Councillor Phinney, who was visiting family in Alberta when the motion passed, says he was never notified that the suspension of his pay included benefits.

He was caught by surprise on September 4th when he went to a pharmacy to get emergency prescriptions filled after being treated at the Amherst hospital for a kidney stone.

Phinney paid $72.85 for prescription pain killers, antibiotics and medication to help him pass the stone after being told his health card had been cancelled.

“All of a sudden finding out that I’m no longer covered under the medical plan that was given to me as part of the benefits of being an elected councillor…It shocked me when I found that out,” he told Warktimes.

What did Phinney do?

In April, council hired independent investigator Trisha Perry of Resonance Inc., a Saint John consulting firm, after a fellow councillor lodged a formal complaint about two statements Phinney made last February.

First statement

During a town council meeting on February 14th, Phinney criticized the town’s new hiring policy giving the CAO the power “to appoint and employ, suspend, and dismiss for cause all employees of the town” without having to consult council.

Phinney said:

I’ll be voting against this Hiring Policy because I feel that we’re still using the same method we’ve been using for some time, and in the meantime during those, that time we’ve had a number of — it’s to me what I would call unfair hiring practice — that’s because of the fact that, some of the people actually even in the town feel the same way, where family members are being hired and then, also to me, there was one that I felt was a conflict of interest, so because of that, I think actually we should engage with a human resource management expert to turn around and help with the hiring, so that’s how I feel.

Investigator Perry found that Phinney’s statement breached Articles 4 and 19 of the Code:

Member Phinney’s public suggestion that Town staff engaged in “unfair hiring practices,” including one hire which was a “conflict of interest” is conduct that calls into question the integrity of the Town (Article 4) and is insulting to Town Administration (Article 19). Based on my investigation, Member Phinney’s opinion in this regard is based on speculation and innuendo — not evidence.

Allegations of nepotistic hiring practices are serious and, though we acknowledge Member Phinney had a duty as a public representative to raise his concerns if honestly felt, allegations of this nature, which by their very nature question the professional and ethical integrity of Town staff, should have been raised in a private setting.

Article 4 of the Code reads: “This Code provides a framework to guide ethical conduct which that upholds the integrity of the Town and the high standards of professional conduct the public expects of its local government elected representatives. This Code is intended to supplement and not replace existing legislation governing the conduct of Members.”

Article 19 of the Code reads: “No Member shall use indecent, abusive, or insulting words or expressions toward any other Member, Town Administration or any member of the public.”

Second statement

During a council committee meeting on municipal reform on February 24th, Phinney commented on Mount Allison students, who are not from the town, voting in municipal and provincial elections here.

Phinney said:

I guess actually my opinion on the fact of whether at large or wards, I would like to see four wards. I’d like to see the number, see who’s going to come out in those four wards to turn around and represent the people. I think it would be kind of interesting to see exactly a real mix up as a matter of fact. In relation to the students being counted, I have never agreed that the students should be part of it and the reason is 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. We saw that in the provincial election when actually the students were allowed to vote. Actually, it’s been said by many professors at the university the only reason Megan got in was because of the fact that the students were allowed to vote. Now that comes from experts, not me. So that’s how I feel about it right now and I think it would be interesting to see exactly what does happen.

Investigator Perry found that Phinney’s statement breached Article 9(d) of the Code:

Article 9(d) requires Members to “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.” A similar obligation is set out in section 48(6)(a) of the Local Governance Act which requires councillors to “consider the welfare and interests of the entire local government when making decisions.” In the context of municipal representation, students attending Mount Allison University may vote in the Town’s municipal election by virtue of section 14(2) of the Municipal Elections Act. The determination of voting rights is outside Member Phinney’s decision-making authority as a Member and suggesting certain residents, recognized by statute, should be excluded from the electorate by virtue of their temporary living status is an abrogation of the duty to be seen to serve the welfare and interests of the whole Town.

Article 9(d) of the Code reads: “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.”

To read the Council Code of Conduct, click here.

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Mt. A. prof’s new book examines corporate plunder in Canada and abroad

The Canadian state was built on the violent dispossession of Indigenous Peoples and the theft of their resources…

Given this reality, is it really that surprising that environmental and social harm caused by Canadian corporations abroad does not receive much attention in this country?

Capitalism & Dispossession: Corporate Canada at Home & Abroad

Mount Allison Politics and International Relations Professor David Thomas launched a new book last week that examines the ways in which Canadian corporations acquire and profit from marginalized peoples’ land and resources both in Canada and abroad.

“Half the book looks at cases in Canada and half of it looks at cases abroad, or global cases,” Thomas told about 60 people attending the book launch last Wednesday on the Mt. A. campus.

He said that the book tries to point out the deep connections between foreign and domestic land grabbing, resource extraction and plunder, and how those things are supported directly and indirectly by the Canadian government.

The book also examines the continuing resistance of local people who organize to protect their land, water, communities and ways of life.

Case studies

Capitalism & Dispossession brings together case studies written by 15 academic authors including Thomas himself, who co-edited the book with Veldon Coburn, a professor at the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Indigenous Research and Studies.

Professor David Thomas introduces the book at Mt. A.

“There’s a big body of literature on Canadian corporations abroad and then there’s a big body of literature on Canadian political economy and things happening here,” Thomas said, adding that these two facets of Canadian business are typically separated, hiding the deep connections between them.

“We tried to put them into one volume and then Veldon and I tried to weave some of the connections and threads together in the introduction and conclusion.”

Thomas said the foreign case studies include an examination of how a big Canadian gold mining company in the West African country of Burkina Faso is displacing local people engaged in small scale mining1 while Canadian nickel mining in the Sorowako region of Indonesia has driven some Indigenous people from their farms while offering low-paid, precarious work to others.2

The case studies in Canada include the displacement of the Ojibwe of Grassy Narrows in northwestern Ontario, from 142,000 square kilometres of land to a reserve of just over 41 square kilometres, clearing the way for mining and forestry and leaving the Indigenous people to subsist on fish and game even as the Dryden paper mill dumped nearly 10 tonnes of mercury into the English-Wabigoon river system causing widespread illness and death.

The book also examines the successful resistance of Mi’kmaw grandmothers to the Alton Gas project — a Calgary-based energy company’s plan to pump water from Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River to flush out underground salt deposits and create huge caverns for storing up to 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Canadian complicity

“Our entire foreign service is dedicated to the promotion of corporate interests abroad,” Charlotte Connolly told the audience at the book launch.

“A lot of people don’t know that,” she added.

Connolly, who is a research assistant with the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, is one of the authors3 of a case study on the Escobal silver mine in southern Guatemala — a mine that has received extensive support from the Canadian embassy there as well as Canada’s foreign service, now known as Global Affairs Canada.

“Essentially, the Canadian government promotes what it calls a ‘whole of government’ approach to the promotion and protection of foreign trade and direct investment abroad,” Connolly said.

Charlotte Connolly speaks about Canada’s promotion of a silver mine in Guatemala

“Economic diplomacy forms one part of this broader strategy and it’s described by the government of Canada as quote, ‘the harnessing of all of Canada’s diplomatic assets to support the pursuit of commercial success by Canadian companies abroad.'”

Connolly said she and her co-authors sifted through thousands of pages of embassy documents they obtained under the federal Access to Information law.

“The Canadian government considered the Escobal silver mine as a strategic capital asset,” she said.

“It was the second-largest reserve of silver in the world, which is significant and results in a lot of returns for Canadian banks and investment firms as well as Canadian pension [funds],” she added.

The documents obtained through Access to Information showed, Connolly said, how Canadian officials successfully lobbied against the Guatemalan government’s proposals to take a bigger stake in mining projects while increasing royalty payments.

They also showed Canadian indifference to military and police repression of the Xinka Indigenous people and their neighbours who launched peaceful protests against the mining project because it threatened their land and water.

She read an e-mail from then-Canadian ambassador Hugues Rousseau celebrating the approval of the mine’s operating licence on April 3, 2013;

Everyone’s perseverance finally paid off today. We are expecting quite a backlash from the opposition groups that were probably taken by surprise. However, this time both the [Guatemalan] government and the companies are ready to defend themselves with an aggressive campaign on the benefits of responsible, extractive industry activity.

“That was one of the most shocking things I read,” Connolly said, “because the campaign was very aggressive.

“Between 2012 and 2014, over 100 community members were criminalized, over 10 were shot including a 16-year-old girl and her father,” she added.

Connolly said Canadian officials suggested that the death of the 16-year-old, who was actively opposing the mine, occurred because of “street fighting” during a local parade even though an e-mail from Canada’s trade commissioner acknowledged that “some individuals, who might be employees of the mining company” may have been involved, but she did not call for a full investigation.4

“This is really just one example of many other case studies, which demonstrate how Canadian economic diplomacy in Latin America and around the world has systematically thwarted the self-determination of Indigenous and campesino communities who contest mining projects,” Connolly concluded.

Elsipogtog protests

Patti Musgrave Quinn

“Are there any cops here?” Patti Musgrave Quinn asked as she began her presentation at the book launch.

Now serving as Mount Allison University’s Indigenous Affairs Co-ordinator, Musgrave Quinn took part in the Elsipogtog First Nation’s successful resistance to fracking exploration on their traditional lands.

Although it isn’t included as a case study in the new book, Musgrave Quinn said the Elsipogtog story is similar to the ones that are included.

She described taking photographs of hotel parking lots jammed with police vehicles in the Moncton area on October 16, 2013 and sending them to the Indigenous Warriors at Elsipogtog.

“We knew that tomorrow morning, we were dead,” she said.

Hundreds of police in riot-gear arrived that morning with dogs and snipers firing rounds of rubber bullets to enforce a court injunction against a Mi’kmag blockade that had been preventing vehicles owned by SWN Resources, a Texas-based energy company, from continuing its exploration for natural gas.

More than 40 of the protesters were arrested that day.

Musgrave Quinn said she herself was not there that morning, but watched live feeds of it.

She urged her audience to watch the YouTube video Rexton Raid showing events as they unfolded.

“That was an absolute horror scene,” she said.

“It took me a couple of years to stop crying; it took me a couple of years to drive without looking behind me; it took me a couple of years to not want to puke every time I saw a police car because I was really afraid,” she said.

“Capitalism is in bed with people that we’re supposed to depend on.”

***

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Queen Elizabeth’s death evokes mixed feelings in Sackville & abroad

The Queen visiting the Mt. A. campus in 1984 accompanied by Sackville Mayor Will Campbell with Premier Richard Hatfield (L) and Ruth Stanley (R). (Photo: Mount Allison University Archives)

As tributes pour in for Queen Elizabeth, there are mixed reactions to her death from around the world and here at home in Sackville: Heartfelt expressions of love, admiration and respect on the one hand, but also bitter reflections on the monarchy as a symbol of colonial violence, racism and plunder, on the other.

“She genuinely and sincerely takes an interest in whomever she meets,” says Marilyn Trenholme Counsell, who was the Queen’s representative in New Brunswick from 1997 to 2003 after serving as a local MLA and cabinet minister and practising family medicine here before that.

Today during a telephone interview, Trenholme Counsell remembered how she was caught off guard by the Queen’s questions during a friendly 35 minute chat at Buckingham Palace in 1998.

“She asked me, ‘Why did you leave medicine to go into politics?'”

Trenholme Counsell chuckled as she recalled her answer.

“I kind of took a deep breath and then I said, ‘Well, Your Majesty I felt it was another way that I could serve my people.’ ‘That’s wonderful she said, that’s wonderful.'”

Lieutenant Governor Marilyn Trenholme Counsell seated next to Prince Philip in 2002 at Old Government House in Fredericton during the first Order of New Brunswick ceremony

Trenholme Counsell says the Queen’s long, 70 year reign makes it hard to imagine the world without her.

“When I was at Mount Allison in 1953, I was chosen to represent the university at a student seminar in India,” she recalls.

“There were 55 students from all across Canada and we went by ship from Quebec City to Le Havre, France and then we went into Paris for two or three days and stayed in a student hostel.”

Trenholme Counsell remembers going to a big department store that sold television sets to witness the Queen’s coronation, the first time she ever watched TV.

“We watched this in awe seeing television for the first time and of course, it was a momentous occasion.”

Six year old Erin Campbell presents flowers to the Queen during her 1984 visit to Sackville (Photo courtesy Campbell family)

“When I heard the news of the Queen’s death, it was a shock,” says Sackville artist Christian Corbet.

He notes that just two days earlier, the Queen had sworn in Liz Truss as Britain’s new prime minister.

“When the photos of that came out, I thought to myself she had lost a lot of weight and I thought that she reminded me of my grandmother and I didn’t expect that she would be around much longer.”

Corbet says that when he happened to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2013, the first thing he thought was, “Wow, she’s tiny.”

He had been commissioned to create a bronze bust of Prince Philip and spent several days in the palace making sketches.

“I believe almost 100% that if it wasn’t for the monarchy, I wouldn’t have the same career that I have today,” Corbet says.

His association with British Royalty began in 1989 when the Queen Mother admired one of his pieces at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

Later, she commissioned him to create a portrait for her 95th birthday.

“I feel as though ever since that point in 1995, that my career has blossomed and flourished because the public are well aware of the monarchy and if the British Royals say you’re OK, then you’re OK.”

Corbet says the Canadian Portrait Academy asked the Queen if they could commission him to create a portrait of her as a gift for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, her 60th anniversary on the throne.

Instead, the Queen suggested he mentor younger artists and so, he ended up working with special needs students at the Queen Elizabeth School in Moncton to create a bust that is now on display in the Lieutenant Governor’s residence in Fredericton.

Corbet, who serves as official sculptor for the Royal Canadian Navy, says he’s been asked to put together a video honouring the Queen’s legacy with the navy.

“So, I’ve got a lot to work to do,” he says with a chuckle.

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1951 with Moncton Mayor T. Babbitt Parlee and his wife Evelyn. (Photo: Mount Allison University Archives)

“If you look at the news over the last day or so, there tends to be this overarching narrative of grief and the loss of this magnificent person,” says David Thomas, a professor of politics and international relations at Mount Allison.

“But if you look around the world today, people were reacting in all kinds of different ways and there are a lot of people who are not sad at this loss because what the monarchy represents to many people across this world is colonialism, imperialism and in some cases, terror and destruction of life and homelands.”

Thomas explains that by terror, he means, for example, the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya that began in the 1950s during the Queen’s early reign.

He points out that the British suppression of the rebellion included murder, torture, mass incarceration and theft of property.

Thomas says it’s important to listen to the voices of those on the receiving end of this kind of violence.

“Whether it’s South Africans or Kenyans or people from Yemen or India or Indigenous people in this part of the world, I think it’s important for us to listen carefully to what they have to say because these are people who suffered the consequences of British imperialism.”

Thomas acknowledges that the complicity of British monarchs in the crimes of empire is open for debate.

“The Queen herself didn’t necessarily order massacres of Kenyans during the Mau Mau rebellion and other things like that,” he says.

“I think it’s probably safe to say that as the head of state and as the symbol of British colonialism and imperialism, at the very least, the monarchy has benefited and continues to benefit from centuries of conquest,” he concludes.

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Sackville councillor shocked over suspension of medical benefits

Coun. Bruce Phinney

Sackville Councillor Bruce Phinney got a nasty surprise on Sunday when he visited a local pharmacy to get three emergency prescriptions filled and the clerk told him it looked like his medical insurance card had been cancelled.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he says. “This was a complete and utter surprise.”

Phinney paid $72.85 out of his own pocket for prescription pain killers, antibiotics and medication to help him pass the kidney stone that had kept him up the previous night before he drove to the Amherst hospital where he received an X-ray and CT scan along with the prescriptions.

When he phoned Sackville Treasurer Michael Beal to ask about his town-issued medical card, Beal told him council had suspended it for two months along with his pay for breaching the municipal code of conduct.

“I thought it was only my pay that I was going to be deducted,” Phinney says.

“All of a sudden finding out that I’m no longer covered under the medical plan that was given to me as part of the benefits of being an elected councillor…It shocked me when I found that out.”

Council sanctions

Coun. Michael Tower reading July 12 motion to sanction Phinney. He did not refer to any suspension of medical benefits

During its meeting on July 12, while Phinney was visiting family in Alberta, councillors voted to suspend Phinney’s pay for two months, but there was no mention then of any suspension of benefits.

The motion read by Councillor Michael Tower said the sanctions against Phinney included “Suspension of the remuneration paid to Councillor Phinney for a period of two months.”

However, the official minutes of the meeting now read: “Suspension of the remuneration and benefits paid to Councillor Phinney for a period of two months.” [Emphasis added]

Phinney says he has received nothing in writing from the town about the sanctions that were imposed after he publicly questioned town hiring practices and said Mt. A. students who are not from the town shouldn’t be allowed to vote here during municipal elections.

For previous coverage of the sanctions and more details about what Phinney said, click here.

Support for Phinney

Phinney supporter Wendy Alder organized a GoFundMe campaign that raised $1,461 to replace his lost pay when she learned about the sanctions against him.

In an e-mail to Warktimes today, she expressed surprise.

“Wow! There’s nothing in what I recall from the meetings that referenced benefits being cancelled,” she wrote.

Alder added she can’t believe that Phinney was sanctioned for what he said.

“The whole thing is unfair IMO, it’s bullying at its best.”

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 25 Comments

NB gov’t releases slew of documents on Sackville’s AIL pipe plant

Sign beside the Trans-Canada advertises AIL pipe plant that is under construction behind it

The New Brunswick government has released more details about its decision not to require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the plastic pipe factory now being built on Walker Road beside the Trans-Canada highway.

The information is contained in 132 pages of documents that the department of environment and local government (DELG) released yesterday in response to a Warktimes Right to Information request made on August 11th.

Among other things, the documents outline the commitments made by Atlantic Industries Limited (AIL) on how it will operate the pipe factory as well as the conditions the government imposed on July 21 when it notified the company that an EIA would not be required.

For example, in an e-mail to DELG on June 1, AIL CEO Mike Wilson said the factory would be using only “a small fraction” of the 50 cubic metres of water per day that would have automatically triggered an EIA.

Wilson outlined plans to install a well pump with a maximum capacity of 7.5 imperial gallons per minute.

In response, DELG is requiring AIL not to exceed a pumping rate of 7.6 gallons per minute and to provide confirmation of this to provincial officials.

DELG is also requiring the company to adhere to its commitment to transport any holding tank waste the plant produces to an approved disposal facility.

Solar panels

The documents show AIL is planning to offset its electricity costs by installing solar panels, but does not know yet how much power they would produce.

NB Power has a limit of 100 kilowatts in generating capacity under its net metering program that allows customers to produce their own electricity to offset their consumption while remaining connected to the grid.

An internal DELG e-mail indicates that AIL is trying to persuade NB Power to raise the limit to allow for larger solar installations and is hoping to get its panels installed next year.

For its part, DELG says AIL must generate less than three megawatts of its own electricity.

Air emissions

DELG says it expects “no significant air emissions” from the pipe factory after receiving assurances from AIL in response to questions about “how the plastic off-gassing process is expected to occur.”

An internal government document says that the company responded by indicating that, “Under normal operating conditions the plastic won’t be heated enough to generate any odors or fumes so the exhaust fans would be just for emergencies. Even under these emergency conditions, odors would only be released for 10-15 minutes until the process is brought back in line.”

Factory description

“The primary use for this facility will be to convert high density polyethylene (HDPE) pellets into culvert/drain pipe used in various industries throughout North America,” says an AIL document submitted to DELG.

It adds that any scrap pipe will be reground and re-used to ensure minimal waste while “finished pipe will be stored temporarily in the gravel yard before shipment to our customers.”

The company says its annual peak output could reach 17.5 million pounds produced in a 20,000 square foot “shop space” with 6,000 square feet of office space “housing a projected 25-30 personnel.”

Concerned Citizens

The government documents, released yesterday, show that DELG received e-mails from Sackville residents worried about the pipe factory including from members of the Concerned Citizens group that had asked town council to reconsider its approval for the zoning change that cleared the way for the AIL plant.

An e-mail from Provincial Planning Director Paul Jordan to senior officials in DELG said he had spoken to Sackville’s CAO and that although the town had approved a zoning text amendment to enable development to take place without water and sewer services, “Council didn’t approve this particular development as it is already permitted in the industrial zone that covers this property.”

Jordan adds that town council had no role to play “since the development officer has the authority to issue the development permit and the building inspector has the authority to issue the building permit. Therefore, Council cannot stop the project which is what the people are requesting.”

Jordan’s e-mail adds that if town council did decide to intervene, it would risk being sued by the company.

“As this is a private development on private land, Council is no[t] obligated to provide any information to the public. As this is a new business with local competitors, the company wishes their business plans to remain confidential.”

Jordan concludes by pointing out that members of the public do have an opportunity to appeal the issuance of a development permit to the NB Assessment and Planning Appeal Board.

To view the building permit for the pipe factory, click here.

To view the development permit, click here.

Note: The NB government sent the documents to Warktimes in electronic form with some redactions (blacked out information). To read the cover letter explaining the reason for the redactions, click here. To read the documents themselves, click here.

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Expert calls Sackville’s whistleblowing policy ‘unworkable’

Pamela Forward

An expert on whistleblowing says Sackville’s volunteer firefighters are unlikely to report new instances of wrongdoing in the fire department under procedures town council approved this month.

The procedures require firefighters who see activities they consider to be illegal or unethical to report their concerns to the fire chief, the chief administrative officer or the mayor if their concern is with the CAO.

“People who are experts and informed in conflict resolution know that this is unworkable,” Pamela Forward, executive director of the Whistleblowing Canada Research Society, said during a Zoom online interview Monday from her home in Ottawa.

She added that whistleblowers who fear reprisals should not be required to report their concerns through an existing chain of command.

“If you don’t feel comfortable going to your boss for various reasons, there should be an option to go somewhere else,” she says.

“Most people now, who really are serious about wanting to get feedback from their employees, will ensure that there is some independent person to go to,” Forward adds.

“There needs to be an independent, impartial person who is seen as independent and impartial.”

Consistent & simple

CAO Jamie Burke

When asked about the lack of opportunity for independent reporting during the town council question period on August 9th, CAO Jamie Burke replied it was important to keep the whistleblowing procedures simple and consistent.

“We’re a small municipality,” he said. “Given our size we felt it was more appropriate for a consistent approach to what our full-time staff, how they would report a similar type of incident.”

He explained that firefighters are now considered town employees rather than just volunteers and therefore, whistleblowing policies for both groups should be consistent.

Whistleblowing benefits

Forward says it’s important to implement workable whistleblowing procedures both for the benefit of the public and for the town itself.

Warktimes reported in 2021 that over a five year period, 17 volunteer firefighters had resigned from Sackville Fire & Rescue because of persistent harassment, bullying and favouritism.

That reporting was based on whistleblowing testimony from former and current firefighters.

“Anytime an employee feels they have to go public, that’s a demonstration of an organizational failure,” Forward says and she suggests the new whistleblowing procedures won’t correct it.

“It’s kind of sad that the people in the organization don’t see that this is a reflection — and not a good reflection — on their approach to management, which is more about defending the status quo as opposed to learning and being reflective and being conflict friendly, seeing conflict as an opportunity to learn and maybe to learn how to do things better.”

To learn more about the Whistleblowing Canada Research Society, click here.

To read about the need for whistleblower protections from the Centre for Free Expression, click here.

To read Australian Professor Brian Martin’s free book Whistleblowing A Practical Guide, click here.

Posted in Sackville Fire & Rescue, Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 3 Comments

‘It’s big!’ Sackville OKs support for ‘monument’ to commemorate its foundries

Massive steel press that punched out parts for Enterprise products. Photo: Tantramar Heritage Trust

Sackville Town Council voted unanimously last week to contribute up to $7,000 worth of labour and materials as well as up to $15,000 in cash to support plans for a massive steel monument to commemorate the Fawcett and Enterprise Foundries and the thousands of workers who toiled in them manufacturing such products as stoves and heaters, furnaces and fireplace grates as well as enamelled sinks, toilets and tubs.

Councillors were responding to a request from local historian Susan Amos who has just completed a book in honour of the 170th anniversary of Fawcett’s, Sackville’s first foundry, and the 150th anniversary of the Enterprise Foundry.

In her presentation to council earlier this month on behalf of Tantramar Heritage Trust, Amos listed various events being held this year to commemorate the foundries including her book launch on September 17th, two dinners and a play about some of the people whose lives were connected to the foundries.

“But what happens when this year comes to an end?” she asked.

“How will we commemorate our foundries, which contributed so much to our community for so many years?

“Well, what about a monument?”

Other sculptures

Local historian Susan Amos addressing town council on Aug. 2nd

Amos pointed out that the sculpture of George Stanley, seated on a park bench outside the Post Office, honours the designer of Canada’s flag while the Chignecto Balance installation beside the Lorne Street flood control pond reminds people about the effects of climate change.

“Why not a sculpture to commemorate the foundries?” she asked.

“The good news is, we already have one,” she added, pointing to a slide showing the massive steel press that sat in the shop at Enterprise for many years punching out parts for the foundry’s products.

“It’s big!” she said. “Fourteen feet high, eight feet wide and six feet deep.”

Amos said Mt. A. has already agreed in principle that the steel press could be installed on the former site of the Fawcett Foundry where the university now has its King Street parking lot.

She said Danny Bowser of Bowsers’ Construction and his family have agreed to donate the huge steel press while Tantramar Heritage Trust plans to apply for a federal legacy grant to help finance the monument.

“The catch here is that the dollar value of the grant must be matched by the community, either in dollars or in-kind contributions,” Amos said before asking the town to help in site design and preparation that would include pouring a concrete pedestal.

She said that if Tantramar Heritage Trust is successful in getting the federal grant, installation would begin next spring.

Some concerns  

Jon Eppell, Sackville’s new town engineer said he had a few concerns about the project that would have to be dealt with by others, not by the town.

He said, for example, that there could be contaminated soil on the site, the steel press itself may be covered with lead-based paints and there could be petroleum fluids inside it.

Town Engineer Jon Eppell

“We suggest that it should be cleaned up properly before being moved, make sure that it’s emptied of fluids, make sure there’s no lead paint,” Eppell said.

He added that perhaps the surface could be blasted and repainted or a clear coat applied to preserve it.

He also expressed concerns about safety.

“It’s 14 feet high, there’s lots of handholds, there’s lots of bolts and nuts that protrude from it so that if a child did choose to climb it, there is the potential that their clothing could catch on it, so we’d be interested to know what the measures are that would be proposed to discourage climbing or eliminate those catch points.”

Eppell emphasized that the town would neither own nor maintain the monument and that depending on its exact location, lighting may need to be installed.

Treasurer Michael Beal also pointed out that since the monument would be on university property, the town would have no legal liability for it.

Council support

Councillor Bill Evans thanked town staff for expressing concerns, but voiced his own strong support.

“Let’s find a way to say yes that is both prudent [and] supports a worthwhile initiative, but is careful in limiting our liability, our exposure, our costs, so I like the fact we’re being careful,” he said.

“I like this project,” Councillor Bruce Phinney declared.

“It’s got 150 and 170 years history behind it and it certainly will be supported by the people of the town.”

Posted in Mount Allison University, Town of Sackville | Tagged , , | 7 Comments