Former Sackville mayor fears for future of home care, especially in rural areas

Former Mayor Pat Estabrooks urging members of Town Council to attend meeting on future of home care

A former mayor of Sackville is worried that New Brunswick’s extramural, home care program is on the chopping block.

Pat Estabrooks appeared before Sackville Town Council last week to urge local politicians to attend a meeting she is organizing this Saturday on threats to the future of extramural health services.

“I’m not asking you to stand up and wave your hands,” Estabrooks told councillors, “but it’s so important that you come to the meeting.”

She acknowledged that no one knows exactly what will happen when Medavie Blue Cross takes over management of the extramural program on January 1st.

“But we do have an office right in Sackville here that serves the Tantramar area and there’s that possibility it could move out,” she said.

She added that closing the Sackville office would mean that nurses and other health practitioners, who care for patients in their homes, might have to travel from a more distant, central location such as Moncton.

Later, during an interview, Estabrooks said that centralizing extramural services would be just the opposite of what is needed to serve elderly people, especially in rural areas.

“The extramural office here in Sackville has worked out exceptionally well and all the nurses know it,” Estabrooks said.

Meeting in Middle Sackville

The meeting, starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday October 21st at the Middle Sackville Baptist Church, will feature a presentation by Shirley Oliver, a retired registered nurse who managed the extramural unit in Sackville for the last 16 years of a career that spanned three-and-a-half decades.

“The extramural program was an efficient, effective way of treating patients and their families at home,” Oliver said during an interview.

“Extramural was so completely patient-focussed that I couldn’t think of a better way of finishing my career,” she said, adding that teams of professionals worked exceptionally well together in the Tantramar area.

Now, Oliver worries that handing the program over to private management will mean closing the local extramural unit and providing less of a personalized service.

“The government says that nothing’s going to change,” she said, “but that’s ridiculous.”

Seniors’ rights

The October 21st meeting will also feature a presentation by the Executive Director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights.

Cecile Cassista says that privatizing management of the extramural program and the 811 health advice phone line will make the provincial department of health less accountable to the public.

Under the plan, Medavie Blue Cross will manage home and phone care along with the paramedic service, Ambulance New Brunswick, that it has run since 2007.

Cassista fears that paramedics will be expected to make house calls as a way of cutting costs and streamlining extramural services.

But, with only 10-months training compared to the four-year university degrees nurses hold, she says paramedics aren’t qualified to care for patients at home.

“So what happens when paramedics are at the home of Mrs. Jones and get called out to an emergency?” she asks. “What happens to Mrs. Jones, then?”

Cassista points out that Ambulance New Brunswick is already short-staffed and under increasing criticism for slow response times.

And besides, she says, even the government acknowledges that extramural care has been working well.

“So, why are we tampering with it?” she asks.

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Sackville councillors take aim at glyphosate spraying, but stop short of calling for a ban

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken answers a question on glyphosate resolution during Tuesday’s meeting

Sackville Town Council passed a unanimous resolution Tuesday expressing its opposition to the “indiscriminate spraying” of the herbicide glyphosate, especially in areas where municipalities get their drinking water.

The resolution also calls on the province to “closely monitor” any changes in the scientific evaluation of glyphosate as a cancer-causing agent.

However, the resolution stops short of calling for a ban on spraying glyphosate in New Brunswick Crown forests — a ban advocated by various environmental groups and a coalition known as Stop Spraying New Brunswick.

Tilting at windmills on white steeds

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken, who wrote the resolution, said the town doesn’t have the power to ban glyphosate and since the province is unlikely to ban it soon, he suggested that calling for a ban now isn’t practical.

“That approach is more like tilting at windmills; this one, at least, raises the concerns about it and asks the province to monitor it,” Aiken said.

“We are kind of limited in what we can actually do,” he added. “It would be nice to sort of climb on our white steeds with our banners and go sailing off, but we just can’t do it.”

Aiken acknowledged that the town does have a bylaw banning the use of glyphosate, sometimes sold under the trade name Roundup as a “cosmetic” pesticide to kill weeds, but he doubted the bylaw could be enforced because the provincial Pesticides Act supersedes it.

Precautionary principle

In supporting the resolution, Councillor Megan Mitton acknowledged that the province regulates large-scale glyphosate spraying and so, it isn’t done randomly, but “indiscriminate spraying” can also occur, she said, “without careful judgment.”

She noted that an agency of the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” and so it’s important to keep monitoring further scientific studies.

“We need to use the precautionary principle,” Mitton said. “Sometimes studies and effects won’t be known until it’s too late and this has been shown with other pesticides in the past.”

Text of resolution

Here is the resolution that Sackville Town Council passed at its meeting on Tuesday. The resolution was moved by Councillor Bill Evans and seconded by Councillor Mike Tower:






For an evaluation of the scientific evidence that glyphosate causes cancer, click here.

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It’s unanimous: Sackville councillors say yes to ATVs on town streets

Councillor Allison Butcher moved motion to support ATVers

The New Brunswick All-Terrain Vehicle Federation won a decisive victory tonight as Sackville Town Council voted in favour of allowing ATVs to mix with regular traffic on Mallard Drive, Wright Street and the busy McDonald’s intersection at Main Street.

At their meeting last week, several councillors expressed strong safety concerns about adding more traffic to the already congested commercial strip near TransCanada Exit 504, but tonight they voted unanimously to support the ATV Federation’s request for access to town streets in the area.

Council authorized the mayor to write a letter supporting the ATV Federation’s application to the provincial government asking for an exemption from the law that prohibits all-terrain vehicles from operating on public roadways. In doing so, Sackville joined more than a dozen other New Brunswick municipalities that support allowing ATVs on local streets.

ATV culture

“We have a culture in this area,” said Councillor Allison Butcher, “of people who use off-road, motorized vehicles.”

Butcher, who moved the motion authorizing the mayor’s letter of support, pointed out that Sergeant Paul Gagné, head of the local RCMP detachment, had given his approval while the ATV Federation has put time and thought into ways of making it safe.

“It means that it will be bringing revenue into our community and they’re going about it in a way that’s making sure that they’re making it as safe for everyone as they can,” Butcher said.

“I’ve been conflicted about this,” said Councillor Megan Mitton, “and concerned about safety at that intersection by the McDonald’s.”

But she added that she got good answers to the questions she asked over the past week.

“We’re not expecting there to be much of an increase in traffic there,” Mitton said, noting that signs will be put up to guide ATV riders.


Councillor Bill Evans said that if the provincial Departments of Transportation, Justice and Public Safety give their approval, the town will still maintain control by passing its own traffic bylaw.

“If it turns out this is a really bad idea, we’ll be able to change our own local bylaw,” Evans said.

He predicted, however, that the ATV Federation will police itself because it has an interest in making the arrangement work.

“As someone who regularly uses their trails to walk on, I think a little reciprocity will be a good thing,” Evans added.

ATV Federation relieved

After the unanimous vote of support, Paul Branscombe of the ATV Federation seemed relieved that councillors who expressed safety concerns last week had now voted in favour.

“I’m very pleased that the federation was able to provide information along with the RCMP to persuade those people…to change their opinion and support that motion,” he said.

“I think if it had gone to a vote last week, it wouldn’t have passed,” he added.

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Will Sackville councillors say yes to ATVs on local roads? Several towns already have

If Sackville Town Council agrees to support the New Brunswick ATV Federation on Tuesday, it would join a growing list of New Brunswick municipalities who have said yes to allowing ATVers to ride on town streets with other local traffic.

An e-mail from Jacques Ouellette, the ATV Federation’s Development Coordinator, points out that so far, the province has approved the use of ATVs on roadways in seven municipalities and applications are in process or pending in seven or eight more.

As previously reported, the ATV federation is asking Sackville Town Council to write a letter to support allowing riders to use Mallard Drive, cross the McDonald’s intersection at Main Street and travel along Wright Street to and from ATV trails in the area.

If council agrees to support the proposal, the federation would submit its request to the provincial Department of Transportation as well as the Department of Justice and Public Safety.

“A motion in favour of our request is only a small step in acquiring final approval,” Ouellette says in his e-mail. “It may take between two to seven years as we see in many cases.”

Other municipalities

Ouellette lists the following places where, he says, ATV riders have been granted legal access to municipal streets: Edmundston, Bathurst, Saint-Quentin, Kedgwick, Shippagan in winter, Dalhousie and Tide Head.

He says other places that are supporting the ATV federation’s request include Blackville, Belledune, Memramcook, Neguac, Tracadie, Peticodiac, Bouctouche and Grand Falls.

Ouellette says that at first, there was opposition in Bathurst to sharing town streets with ATVs.

“For the last 4 years we have been using the three streets, police patrollers reported to us that they received very few complaints, nothing worth mentioning,” he adds.

His e-mail says that Belledune has put aside $200,000 to help finance a $600,000 project to build a multi-use trail while Dalhousie has voted to allow ATVs to cross at a busy traffic light on Main Street. (Dalhousie renews its overall approval every year.)

In a telephone interview, Ouellette said that ATVers want to be able to travel along Mallard and Wright, not only to get access to their trails, but also to be able to use the restaurants, gas stations, the hotel and grocery store in the area.

He says the local Tantramar ATV Club generates $5 million in benefits to the local economy each year, a figure that could easily double if ATVers get legal, controlled access to town roadways.

“It doesn’t mean we will invade your streets and take them over,” he says. “We just want access.”

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Sackville councillors discuss allowing ATVs to cross McDonald’s intersection

Paul Branscombe, President Tantramar ATV Club

If town councillors agree, ATV riders could soon be driving legally from the parking lot at Sackville’s Visitor Information Centre along Mallard Drive, through the busy intersection at McDonald’s to the ATV trails at the far end of Wright Street.

At its meeting next week, Sackville Town Council is expected to vote on whether to support the New Brunswick ATV Federation’s request to allow all-terrain vehicles to operate on those two municipal roadways.

The federation is asking the town for a letter of support before it applies for permission from the provincial Department of Transportation as well as Justice and Public Safety.

Paul Branscombe, President of the Tantramar ATV Club and treasurer of the provincial federation, told councillors at their meeting this week that it’s better to allow ATVers to operate legally on those routes so that speed limits and other rules of the road can be strictly enforced.

“That’s the thing that we as an ATV Federation are saying, that we wanted control,” Branscombe said.

He added that allowing ATV owners to unload their vehicles at the Visitor Information Centre and to drive legally on Mallard and Wright would enable his federation to market Sackville as a destination for riders from the three Maritime provinces as well as Ontario and Quebec.

“There is a major spinoff for tourism,” he said. “Last year in February, the last week of February, we hosted a poker run, 50 rooms at the Coastal Inn, 45 of them were booked for two nights by ATVers.”

Branscombe said the federation has permission from McDonald’s and the Esso station for ATV riders to cross those properties on their way to and from the trails at the end of Wright Street.

Council concerns

While several councillors liked the idea of more business for local restaurants, gas stations and hotels, they also expressed concern about further congestion at the McDonald’s intersection.

“I drive through that intersection every day on the way to work and it is pretty bad,” said Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken. “We have people making illegal turns everywhere and to add, [I’m] not against the ATV group or anything, but just to add more vehicles there of a different kind…worries me.”

Councillor Michael Tower noted that he sees a lot of ATVers riding illegally past the liquor store on Wright Street and so he likes the idea of setting some rules. But he said he also worries about more traffic at an already busy intersection.

“I go through that a lot too and I know that people will push that light a lot of times,” Tower said, adding that he’s concerned about ATVs colliding with drivers trying to beat the light.

“I have my concerns also of the idea of ATVs flying up Wright Street because [of] the traffic that goes in and out of McDonald’s at that section and then the one that comes out of the liquor store, Foodland and then you’ve also got people who are coming out of the Coastal [Inn],” Tower said suggesting that a one-year trial period could allow the town to assess how increased ATV traffic would work in the area.

What will RCMP say?

Councillor Bill Evans seemed to sum up other councillors’ feelings when he said that while he’d like to be convinced that allowing ATV traffic would be a good idea, his support will depend on a recommendation from Sergeant Paul Gagné who has just returned to head Sackville’s RCMP detachment.

CAO Phil Handrahan said Gagné hasn’t had a chance to consider the matter yet, but promised that town staff would solicit his opinion before Tuesday’s council meeting.

For his part, Paul Branscombe of the ATV federation said that when the proposal was first discussed during a meeting with the town in April, the RCMP had no objections then to seeking council’s support for it.

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Sackville deputy mayor urges more restrictions on glyphosate to protect health

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken

Sackville’s Deputy Mayor is expected to propose a resolution at next week’s Town Council meeting urging the province to impose further restrictions on the herbicide glyphosate, sprayed by forestry companies to kill unwanted hardwoods and by farmers to get rid of weeds.

At Monday’s council meeting, Ron Aiken, who is a professor of biology at Mount Allison University, told fellow councillors he believes glyphosate, commonly sold under the trade name Roundup, can pose a threat to human health.

Aiken said he came to that conclusion after studying a one hundred page report from the The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which is part of the World Health Organization.

The deputy mayor noted that in 2015, the IARC reviewed more than a thousand scientific studies and found that glyphosate probably causes cancer even though the herbicide itself has low toxicity.

“If I sprayed you with glyphosate in the face right now, you’d get nose and throat and eye irritation, so it would be similar to spraying you with, I guess, lemon juice,” Aiken said.

“But the problem is, they don’t spray pure glyphosate around,” he added. “Any of these chemicals that are sprayed in agricultural fields…are a bit of a chemical cocktail.”

Precautionary principle

Aiken said that the makers of glyphosate aren’t required to say which chemicals are added to glyphosate, but some of the known ones are more toxic than the herbicide itself.

“At this point, I think it’s wise in terms of what we’ve seen historically with pesticides to go with the precautionary principle,” Aiken said, adding that if there’s a chance it causes harm, then it should be restricted.

He said his resolution supports further controls on spraying glyphosate and asks the provincial government to monitor it closely.

Aiken said it’s not known how much glyphosate gets sprayed in the Sackville area either by farmers or homeowners.

He noted that the town has a bylaw banning the use of “cosmetic” pesticides, but it couldn’t ban the sale or distribution of them.

“It’s certainly been used by individuals for spraying dandelions in sidewalks and so on,” Aiken said.

To listen to the deputy mayor’s five-minute presentation to council this week on glyphosate, click on the media player below.

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Mi’kmaq activist calls for broad alliance using treaty rights to fight climate change

Rebecca Moore

A Mi’kmaq woman from the Pictou Landing First Nation says indigenous treaties can be a key tool in the fight against climate change.

Rebecca Moore was speaking yesterday at the conclusion of a thinkers conference on climate change in Pugwash, Nova Scotia.

The last day of the conference coincided with the October 1st anniversary of the 1752 Treaty of Friendship and Peace between the Mi’kmaq and the British Crown.

Moore, who is a community energy campaigner with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, said the treaty can form the basis for an environmental alliance between indigenous and settler communities.

“We can use the position that indigenous people have the inherent rights to the land and to protecting the land,” Moore said, “to keep it safe and to protect it.”

She added, for example, that treaty rights can be used to challenge companies that damage the environment when they extract resources from Crown lands. Treaty rights can also be used, she said, to reclaim Crown lands for better uses, but the key is to use these rights as part of a broader alliance.

“I can go and assert my rights as much as I want, but without support from allies it’s probably too difficult to create the significant change that we would need.”

Drawdown project

Leon de Vreede

Moore was one of 22 participants at the three-day conference. Another was Leon de Vreede, who has worked for nearly 10-years as a sustainability planner for the Town of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

At yesterday’s closing session, he echoed Rebecca Moore’s message about forming environmental alliances as part of our “last chance” to avert the threat posed by climate change.

“The synergy that’s possible by having our mainstream Canadian society working hand-in-hand with our First Nations partners, the synergy that can arise from that, is really, really incredible,” de Vreede said.

He referred to the Drawdown Project, a global plan that outlines 100 solutions designed to reverse the buildup of atmospheric greenhouse gases within 30 years. (The Drawdown Project and the book based on it served as a framework for the Pugwash conference.)

“I also think that doing the Drawdown work may be our last chance to get some of our social justice issues right in our communities,” de Vreede said.

“We could actually liberate a whole bunch of resources and a whole bunch of energy, that if we design it right, can bring people to a more equal footing in our society,” he added.

Later, during an interview, de Vreede said Bridgewater has undertaken a wide range of projects designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions including a home energy program in which the town provides money for upgrades that homeowners can repay over a long period at low interest rates. (To listen to de Vreede’s full answer on what Bridgewater is doing, click to start the media player.)

60th anniversary

John and Cathy Eaton, grandson and granddaughter of Cyrus Eaton

This year’s conference was held to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the first conference at the Pugwash Thinkers Lodge. It was the brainchild of Cyrus Eaton, a wealthy American businessman who was born near Pugwash.

The 22 participants in 1957 discussed the threat posed by nuclear weapons to human survival.

Cathy Eaton, granddaughter of Cyrus Eaton who attended this year’s conference along with her brother John, said climate change represents another such threat. She added that the focus on community solutions at this conference made Pugwash an especially appropriate place to hold it.

“Back in 1957, the community of Pugwash made a huge difference in welcoming the people, inspiring them to trust each other and to have conversations,” she said.

“I think the whole idea of this conference is that you’re looking at the communities from the Maritimes to come together and make change and have conversations and know that…each community can make a difference and that there’s an awful lot to be done. If it isn’t done, it can spell the end of the world as we know it.”

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