Westcock residents gather to fight proposed quarry

Community meeting at St. Ann’s Church Hall, Westcock

More than 80 people turned out for a meeting Wednesday evening at St. Ann’s Church Hall in Westcock, where residents heard details about a rock quarry that Bowser Construction of Sackville wants to operate off British Settlement Road.

Everyone who spoke at the meeting expressed strong opposition to the quarry.

“It’s nice to see so many people here to show their support,” said Sharon Ward whose home at 221 British Settlement Road is only 25-35 feet from a right-of-way that the company is proposing to use as an access road for the quarry.

The quarry itself would be on land that Keith Carter owns a few hundred metres back in the woods.

“My husband and I spent 45 years building the equity in our home, which will be gone overnight with the opening of a quarry,” Ward said. “I know that having this quarry and right-of-way so close to my home will have a very detrimental effect on my way of life and that of my children and grandchildren,” she added.

No obligation to notify

Ward said that she was not notified of the January 23rd hearing during which the Southeast Planning Review and Adjustment Committee gave conditional approval to the new quarry.

She added that when someone put survey tape around trees on her property in late February, she telephoned the Regional Service Commission and was told authorities had no obligation to notify her because her home would be more than 100 metres from the quarry.

“When I asked for information and tried to explain that we were right next to the right-of-way, I was informed that it was none of my concern,” Ward said, adding she was told that if she didn’t agree, she should hire a lawyer and launch a civil suit.

Ward said she has been talking to a lawyer and is considering appealing approval of the new quarry to the New Brunswick Assessment and Planning Appeal Board.

Under the Community Planning Act, such an appeal must be launched within 10 days of a development permit being issued. However, planner Tracey Wade said yesterday that no permit has been issued because Bowser Construction has not yet met the conditions imposed by the committee. For a list of those conditions, click here.

Help from advisory committee

Cheryl Ward

Meantime, a group called the Sackville Parish Local Service District Advisory Committee is helping organize opposition to the quarry.

Cheryl Ward, who spoke for the group last night, said they’re concerned about how the proposed quarry would affect wells in the area.

According to the minutes of the planning committee meeting, Giles Beland of Bowser Construction said a study indicated that “any impact on groundwater supplies was extremely unlikely.”

However, Ward said that so far, her committee hasn’t been able to find the study or determine when it was done.

She said the group is also seeking answers from the provincial department of transportation about whether Bowser Construction can be given approval to use a right-of-way that is only 20 feet wide even though planning documents show its width as 20 metres.

Narrow access road

Garry Goodwin with neighbour Sharon Ward

Garry Goodwin, who owns land the right-of-way crosses, told the meeting his deed clearly shows it’s only 20 feet wide which means that if the quarry goes through, big trucks would be rumbling within 50 feet of his home.

He told the meeting the planning committee doesn’t have a clue about a residential area with children playing near where big trucks would be hauling rocks.

“For a bunch of jokers to sit up there around the table in Moncton and make decisions on a rock quarry down here, they’re idiots,” he said.

“They’re making decisions on the value of our homes and our way of life down here,” he said.

“We’re on a dead-end road, we live in a quiet community down here and now we’ve got this coming.”

Existing quarry

Margaret Hicks was one of several residents at the meeting who complained about damage from blasting at an existing quarry near St. Ann’s Church that has been operating  for decades.

“I had several cracks in my basement,” she said. “I had cracks in my ceiling, cracks in my living room wall.”

She added that at first, the company operating the quarry repeatedly denied responsibility.

“Eventually, they did fix it, but it was a racket to get anything done,” she said, adding she also had to replace all the windows in her home.

Barb Kaye

Barb Kaye, who lives across the road from the right-of-way on Garry Goodwin’s property, said her well collapsed requiring her to put a new one in last September.

“It was $10,000,” she said later during an interview. “Since then, which I’ve never had to do before, I had to put a filter system in the basement to clear the water because it was always clogging the washing machine (with) a lot of grit.”

Kaye said she’s especially worried since the proposed new quarry would be much closer to her home than the existing one.

Letter writing campaign

During the meeting, John Haney, who lives on Rte. 935  in Wood Point, called on everyone to write letters to politicians opposing the new quarry.

He said later, he would be writing letters himself.

John Haney

“It feels to me as though this peninsula is under siege in terms of resource extraction,” Haney added.

“I’ve got two young boys and we have logging trucks roaring down our road perpetually and they’re just denuding the peninsula down there.”

Haney said while he’s a long way from the proposed quarry, he does worry about effects on groundwater, which doesn’t pay attention to property lines.

He added that there’s so much shale and sandstone in the area, there’s no need to put another quarry near people’s homes.

He suggested that too often, politicians bend over backwards to help private companies without observing proper safeguards and procedures.

“Environmentally, I feel like there’s so many red flags here, screaming red sirens and at the very least, there should be due process.”

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Residents west of Sackville getting set to fight proposed quarry

Sharon Ward and Randy Johnson live close to the proposed quarry off British Settlement Rd.

Residents in British Settlement and Westcock are gearing up to fight another quarry in their area — a quarry that they fear would destroy property values, jeopardize water supplies, endanger the stability of their homes and pose a threat to the safety of local children.

A group called the Sackville Parish Local Service District Advisory Committee has organized an emergency community meeting at St. Ann’s Church hall on Wednesday, March 20 at 7 p.m.

The group was reacting to news that Bowser Construction of Sackville received conditional approval from the Southeast Planning Review and Adjustment Committee on January 23rd to establish a rock quarry off British Settlement Road East near Green Road. Only six people whose properties are within 100 metres of the proposed quarry had received notices about it.

Residents opposed

Sharon Ward, who lives at 221 British Settlement Road, says she and her husband first got wind of the quarry in late February when somebody put survey tape around trees on their lawn.

Ward says Bowser Construction is proposing to use an old right-of-way only 25-35 feet from her home to gain access to the quarry which would be a few hundred metres back in the woods. She says it would mean huge, rock-hauling trucks rumbling along a narrow, 20-foot right-of-way beside her house and then turning onto a residential street not designed for heavy equipment.

“It’s going to change a lot of the way of life around the neighbourhood, not only my house but around the neighbourhood,” Ward says.

“The school bus lets the children off and they walk up and down the road,” she adds. “My grandchildren are used to being able to play right close to where the right-of-way is.”

Randy Johnson, who lives nearby, worries that blasting in the quarry would affect the quality of the well water he depends on to operate the East Coast Beef Jerky business he established about five years ago.

“It’s hard to find good water as it is,” he says. “My well is down 205 feet, so any blasting could ruin my water and then the business is done.”

Many concerns

St. Ann’s Church in Westcock where residents are holding an emergency meeting at 7 p.m. Wed. Mar. 20. (Wikipedia photo)

According to the minutes of the planning review committee hearing in January, Giles Beland of Bowser Construction responded to property owners’ concerns about water saying, that “a hydrology study indicated that any impact on groundwater supplies was extremely unlikely.”

The minutes note that the planning committee also received a letter from resident Garry Goodwin who owns the right-of-way that Bowser is proposing to use.

During a telephone interview, Goodwin expressed strong opposition to the quarry saying he will not be moving a shed that sits close to or even right on the edge of the right-of-way.

He also scoffed at the planning committee’s review.

“That bunch in Moncton, they’re just a joke,” he said. “They don’t even know where British Settlement is, they don’t know where we live.”

Goodwin said his home would be about 300 metres from the proposed quarry.

Existing quarry

“There’s already enough dynamite going off with the existing pits and we don’t need a new one,” Goodwin added referring to a quarry farther away from his home where rock blasting has been going on for decades. He said residents have had to cope with damage to their homes as well as collapsed wells.

He said he had to replace his well and pay $2300 to repair damage to the flue above his fireplace as well as cope with cracked windows and the cracked floor in his carport.

A letter from the Sackville Parish Advisory Committee to the provincial ministers of the environment and transportation earlier this month also points to “major issues” with the existing quarry including wells drying up, poor air and water quality, cracked basements and walls, houses shaking during blasting and lowered property values.

The letter calls on the ministers to prevent another quarry in British Settlement.

“This is a beautiful area and we do not want it destroyed by heavy industry,” the letter says. “It cannot be reclaimed once the damage is done.”

Conditional approval

In its January decision, the planning committee imposed a number of conditions on the proposed quarry including the requirement that Bowser Construction obtain an Access Permit from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, submit a legal document identifying the use of a right-of-way as an access route and obtain approval for the quarry from the provincial department of the environment and local government.

So far, calls to Bowser Construction have not been returned.

To read the January 23rd minutes of the Southeast Planning Review and Adjustment Committee, click here.

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Hundreds of student strikers march on Sackville town hall to demand action on climate change

Student strikers marching to Sackville Town Hall (click to enlarge)

Hundreds of students in Sackville rallied in the academic quadrangle at Mount Allison University today before marching to town hall to demand that all levels of government take action on climate change.

Students from Salem Elementary, Marshview Middle School, Tantramar Regional High and the university were participating in a global education strike with young people in more than 100 countries skipping classes to participate in marches and rallies.

Students rally in the Mt. A. academic quad

In Sackville, students carried a wide range of protest signs including one that read “Capitalism Must Go To Save Our Planet” and another that said, “I’m Sure The Dinosaurs Thought They Had Time Too.”

Tantramar High students Kaylee Mikalauskas (L) and Severine Beisser-Jackson

As they marched east on York Street and then south on Main, the students shouted a variety of chants including “No more coal, no more oil. Keep the carbon in the soil.”

Many spoke of their fears for the future in a warming world.

“I am absolutely terrified,” said Mt. A. student Emily Steers as she spoke to the rally outside town hall. She added that when she read the latest UN report on climate change last October, she wept.

“We are in a crisis of our own making and we can stop it,” she said. “We can do this, but will we?”

Steers castigated politicians who are fighting against carbon taxes while pushing for more oil pipelines. She drew cheers when she called for a fundamental economic shift.

“Our economy needs to change right now away from an oil-based economy,” she said.

Mt. A. student Shen Molloy

Earlier, at Mt. A., environmental science and biology student Shen Molloy warned that Sackville and vicinity is especially vulnerable to climate change because of the potential for flooding that could cut off the TransCanada highway and the CN rail line, shutting down the daily movement of goods worth $50 million across the Chignecto Isthmus.

“It is fantastic to see so many kids here taking action against climate change. It gives me hope for the future,” Molloy said.

“Everyone is responsible for the conservation of the environment,” she added. “Ultimately the greatest threat to the environment is assuming someone else will save it.”

Meantime, Quinn MacAskill, a Grade 8 student at Marshview, spoke at both rallies, reciting a poem at Mt. A. and delivering a plea for change outside town hall.

“I wish to walk through the trees without fear they will soon be cut down,” she said. “I wish to lie on the beach and let sand sift through my fingers, not plastic.”

Marshview student Quinn MacAskill

MacAskill added that she also wished to breathe clean air and eat “food grown by loving hands in the familiar soil of my garden, not food grown by a machine thousands of kilometres away.”

She called on the town to update its Sustainable Sackville plan noting that the plan already calls for protection of both community health and the health of natural eco-systems.

“I believe in those words,” she said, “and I think Sackville has the capability to become a leader in the province and even in our country.”

The students presented a two-page letter to MLA Megan Mitton, Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken and Councillors Bill Evans and Allison Butcher.

The letter calls on the town to declare a Climate Emergency, an action already taken by such cities and towns as Halifax, Vancouver and Kingston, Ontario.

Mitton pledged that as the youngest member of the legislature, she would stand with the students in fighting for action on climate change.

Ron Aiken noted that town council has already taken a number of steps such as opposing the Energy East pipeline, banning single-use plastic water bottles at town hall and buying a hybrid car for the bylaw officer.

Aiken drew laughter when he said he’s so old that he participated in the first Earth Day in 1970. He added that his generation tried to do something about what they called pollution.

Mt. A. student and rally organizer Hanna Longard

“We failed, we failed utterly,” he said. “Don’t do what my generation did. Do something different, have a new idea and push it forward,” he added.

Hanna Longard, one of the main organizers of today’s march and rallies, called on politicians and policymakers to take the steps students are asking for in their letter.

“If you say no to our asks, you’re saying no to our lives and the lives of those yet to come,” she said. “Don’t let the weight of our broken future sit on your shoulders. Take responsibility and use your positions of power to give us a fighting chance.”

To read the complete text of the students’ letter, click here.

Posted in Environment, Mount Allison University, New Brunswick government, New Brunswick politics, Town of Sackville, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

Sackville is changing the boundaries of its Waterfowl Park

The Lund property just west of Squire Street adds woodland to the Waterfowl Park

At its meeting Monday evening, town council gave approval in principle to a bylaw changing the boundaries of the Sackville Waterfowl Park.

The changes reflect the addition of nearly 20 acres of marsh, woodland and meadow bequeathed to the town as an ecological gift by Daniel Lund who died in 2013.

The Lund property increases the size of the existing 55-acre Waterfowl Park by about a third

Last August, town council approved spending $15,000 to create a small visitor parking lot just off Squire Street and to restore a cobblestone trail that Lund built. The trail will lead to a small cairn telling visitors about Lund and his gift.

Town manager Jamie Burke says staff began building the trail last fall, but the work was interrupted by the early arrival of winter.

He said the work will continue when the snow has melted.

In the meantime, the Sackville Rotary Club has agreed to finance a bridge that will connect the trail on the Lund property to one in the existing Waterfowl Park.

For earlier coverage including a brief history of the Waterfowl Park, click here.

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Sackville Town Council news: Joel Plaskett, future hotel tax, potholes & paving

It’s not quite a done deal, but it appears that singer/songwriter Joel Plaskett, one of Atlantic Canada’s best-known musicians, will be a headliner at Sackville’s Bordertown Festival in May.

At its meeting last night, town council authorized the mayor to sign a $7,000 contract with Plaskett for a performance at the Vogue Cinema during the festival, which is being held from May 23 to 26.

Joel Plaskett performing live on radio. (Cathy Irving/CBC)

“I just want to say, I’m super excited, I’d buy a ticket right now if they were available,” said Councillor Andrew Black.

“Joel Plaskett is a huge headliner,” he added. “He’s going to draw a huge crowd, the tickets will sell out super fast.”

Town manager Ron Kelly Spurles acknowledged that Plaskett’s $7,000 fee would put a big dent in the town’s festival budget of $12,500, but added that ticket sales would generate at least an additional $2,500.

He also pointed out the town gives financial support to other groups that want to perform at the festival.

“We were able to fund everybody who applied for a grant,” he said, adding that therefore, the payment to Plaskett would not short-change anyone else.

Kelly Spurles said Plaskett would draw people into Sackville generating lots of business activity.

The contract with Plaskett for his performance at the festival is expected to be signed soon.

Hotel tax?

Meantime, Mayor Higham reported at last night’s council meeting that the Southeast Regional Service Commission, the body that co-ordinates planning in southeastern New Brunswick, is moving ahead with a long-term strategy to attract more tourists to the area.

The mayor said he attended the commission’s meeting last month where he heard a series of recommendations based on studies conducted for the city of Moncton and the commission.

Mayor John Higham

The recommendations include creating a regional marketing organization governed by people in the tourism business to promote destinations in the southeast.

Higham said financing for such regional marketing would come from a four per cent tax on hotel rooms similar to one adopted in the Ottawa area.

He added that three-quarters of the tax revenue would finance marketing efforts with the rest going to improve tourism destination sites.

The mayor said tourism operators in the Sackville area favour a hotel tax, but he suggested much more planning needs to be done before regional officials can ask the province for legislation that would allow the four per cent municipal levy to be implemented.

Potholes and paving

Councillor Bruce Phinney read a report from the Engineering and Public Works Department that would not surprise anyone driving or cycling in Sackville.

“The harsh winter has taken its toll on the streets and roads around town,” Phinney said, “and we are experiencing a large number of potholes.”

He then moved a motion awarding a $276,000 contract for “street asphalt patching” to the lowest of four bidders, Costin Paving and Contracting of Amherst.

It emerged during discussion, however, that Costin originally bid more than $325,000 to supply 700 tonnes of pothole-filling asphalt, the amount the town had specified in its tender package.

Town engineer Dwayne Acton

Town engineer Dwayne Acton explained the town had to reduce the asphalt to 552 tonnes to stay within budget.

Acton was asked whether all of the town’s potholes can still be filled.

“We’re going to do our best to stretch the patching as far as we can given the road conditions,” he replied.

“There are several things that we do look at. There are some areas that have small alligator cracks,” he said, adding that the town will focus on potholes and broken pavement leaving the smaller cracks for another year.

In the meantime, councillors approved using all of the money the town receives this year from the federal gas tax fund for paving projects.

That means that $367,359 will be spent paving 1,000 metres of Walker Road, 1,000 metres of Stanley Drive, 135 metres of University Avenue and 85 metres of Hesler Drive.

A report from Sackville’s treasurer shows that since 2014, the town has spent $1.9 million in gas tax funds on paving. Over the next five years, it plans to spend $1.9 million more.

For Treasurer Michael Beal’s breakdown on gas tax funds and how they were and will be used, click here.

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Mt. A. prof not surprised as Stephen Lewis calls out misdeeds of Canadian mining outfits

Mt. A. politics professor David Thomas

David Thomas, professor of politics and international relations at Mount Allison University says he’s not surprised at comments made last week by former UN ambassador Stephen Lewis.

During a speech in Sackville on Tuesday, Lewis accused Canadian mining companies of failing to pay decent wages and fair royalties in their African operations.

“In places like Tanzania and Zambia there is a very considerable effort on the part of the government to extract the royalties that should have been paid and should have been owing if the companies had not been so obstreperously arrogant,” Lewis said.

Professor Thomas, who documents specific cases of how one big Canadian company operates internationally in his recently published book Bombardier Abroad, says Canadian mining companies are present in dozens of countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and other parts of the world.

“Canada is really a global mining powerhouse,” Thomas said during an interview with The New Wark Times. “I’m not surprised at his (Lewis’s) statements the other night.”

Figures published by the federal government last month show that Canada is home to almost half of the world’s publicly listed mining and exploration companies and their Canadian mining assets (CMAs) abroad far exceed their assets in Canada. As of 2017, the companies were present in 101 foreign countries.

Professor Thomas says a number of academic studies, including one conducted by faculty at Osgoode Hall Law School, have identified troubling aspects of Canadian mining operations, including environmental degradation and human rights violations, especially in Latin America and Africa.

He points to a court case in B.C. in which security guards for a Canadian mining company are accused of shooting at protesters in Guatemala.

Last month, the Globe and Mail reported on two other court cases including one in Ontario in which a Canadian mining company is alleged to have been liable for rapes and murder at another mine in Guatemala, while the Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments in January about whether a case alleging the use of slave labour at a mine in Eritrea should proceed through Canadian courts.

“For decades, Canadian mining operations have wreaked havoc in developing countries. Villages have been razed, water supplies poisoned. Allegations of rape and murder have emerged,” the Globe reported.

Government support for mining

Professor Thomas says the federal government has traditionally turned a blind eye to such allegations.

“The Canadian government is a champion of its mining companies,” he says, “and it plays an important role in promoting the success of our Canadian mining companies.”

Thomas says the government does this partly through support from such federal agencies as Export Development Canada.

In the meantime, military journalist Scott Taylor wrote a report for Esprit de Corps magazine last fall accusing Canada of despatching peacekeeping soldiers to Mali to protect its extensive mining interests there.

“There are over 70 Canadian companies currently involved in extracting Malian gold,” Taylor wrote, adding that although the mission is being billed as an “altruistic effort to bring peace and stability to a poor African nation,” it’s more about “securing mining profits from the exploitation of the nation’s natural resource.”

Professor Thomas says that a year ago, the federal government promised an independent ombudsperson to enforce standards of conduct on companies that operate abroad, but so far has failed to appoint one.

“There’s really been very little, if any movement, on the Canadian government’s side to try to monitor, let alone enforce any kind of regulations,” Thomas says.

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Mt. A. president’s series: Stephen Lewis on Jane Philpott, HIV/AIDs & climate change

Stephen Lewis

A veteran Canadian activist and former United Nations ambassador told an audience at Mount Allison University Tuesday night that the resignation of Jane Philpott from the Trudeau cabinet represents a huge loss.

“The country has lost one of the best cabinet ministers that has emerged in Ottawa in decades,” said Stephen Lewis.

“That, of course hurts in feminist terms and it hurts profoundly in indigenous terms because she was the minister whom the indigenous community most frequently looked to.”

Lewis, who was delivering one in a series of addresses sponsored by Mt. A’s new president, was referring to Philpott’s resignation this week in the ongoing turbulence over the SNC-Lavalin affair.

He said that when Philpott worked as a doctor at a Toronto-area hospital, she oversaw raising millions of dollars for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which helps HIV/AIDS victims in Africa.

Then, as federal minister of health and later, minister of indigenous services, Lewis said Philpott supported his efforts to take action against the high rate of tuberculosis among the Inuit in Nunavut.

He added that he has rarely worked with someone as principled as Philpott whom he believes was on track to become Canada’s first female minister of finance.

“It’s such an unusual moment historically in any country where someone of such prominence and of such decent motives decides she can no longer work with a certain leader,” he said. “I’m filled with admiration.”

HIV/AIDS pandemic

Lewis’s comments came during an impassioned, hour-long speech that covered a wide range of topics including the continued spread of HIV/AIDS as governments and private foundations cut back on their efforts to fight the disease.

Lewis himself is co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World, an organization that tackles the root causes of the global pandemic.

“There are 37 million people living with the virus today,” Lewis told his Mt. A. audience. “There are 15.2 million people living today with HIV who do not yet have treatment and they’re struggling to get the treatment because access to drugs is still so difficult and the drugs can still be so costly,” he added.

“There are nearly 5,000 new infections every week in young women and girls between the ages of 15 and 24. In 2018, there were nearly two million infections overall and nearly a million people died,” he said.

“How can anyone say that the pandemic is over?”

Lewis scoffed at a recent report that an AIDS victim has been cured based on stem cell research. He said that even if a cure has been found, it will be available only in rich countries while victims in poor countries continue to go without the drugs that would prolong their lives.

Climate change

Mt. A. President Jean-Paul Boudreau (L) presents gift to Stephen Lewis

Lewis called climate change the “single, most calamitous issue” facing humankind today.

“God knows how we’re going to get through the next generation without some kind of self-immolation,” he said.

“It really requires brave and courageous and unswerving leadership, which is not yet to be found,” he added.

“Everything is going haywire,” Lewis said, adding that sea levels are rising, oceans are warming and the poles are melting with more frequent hurricanes, floods and droughts all related to global warming.

“And the world sits back and watches,” he said. “A hundred and fifty countries got together in Paris and signed an accord which was utterly voluntary and they are not even meeting the voluntary targets that they established and by the way, one of the worst culprits is Canada.”

Lewis accused Justin Trudeau of following in Stephen Harper’s footsteps in avoiding action on climate change, although he said there is much more “rhetorical self-indulgence” from Trudeau.

“I know rhetorical self-indulgence,” Lewis said as the audience laughed. “I do it all the time.”

What students can do

When asked during the question period what students can do, Lewis said he always gives this piece of advice: “I urge them to choose one issue, the issue that they care most about.”

He added that the issue he cares most about is climate change even though he’s working in an organization seeking to get at the root causes of HIV/AIDS.

He said students can work for organizations such as UNICEF or other UN agencies or such groups as the Suzuki Foundation, CARE or Amnesty International.

He said he often talked to students when he taught at Ryerson University in Toronto.

“I was always amazed at the sense of urgency on the part of the students who wanted to get their education over with and go out into the world. This was particularly true of the young women,” he said.

“The young women, overwhelmingly in any class I’ve ever been associated with, wanted to go out and change the world.”

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