Beauséjour Free Party candidate supports calls for suspending ‘experimental’ COVID injections & national inquiry into handling of pandemic

Free Party/Parti Libre Canada candidate Isabelle Sauriol Chiasson

Isabelle Sauriol Chiasson, the Free Party Canada candidate in Beauséjour says she’s never been all that interested in politics — at least not until she saw a video on Facebook last month.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a normal person,” Sauriol Chiasson says with a hearty laugh as she sits behind the desk in her basement studio in Dieppe.

She estimates that her aesthetics business, mainly treating nails and waxing eyebrows, has been more than cut in half by COVID-19 restrictions.

“I decided to join the Free Party because I just watched one video of Martin Gravel and he was asking people, ‘Do you want to join us?'”

Sauriol Chiasson says she found the Free Party leader’s message appealing because she agrees with him that our political system needs change.

“The democracy we have right now is not really a democracy, it’s more of a dictatorship,” she says, suggesting that elite politicians in Ottawa make decisions in their own best interests, not for the benefit of the rest of us.

Sauriol Chiasson points to the Free Party/Parti Libre Canada four-point program which calls for the immediate suspension of “the experimental Covid-19 injection for the entire population” and an independent inquiry into the management of the pandemic.

“We need to have our freedom back, so this is why I joined the Free Party,” she says.

“We need to stand up and say we are all human, we can choose what we want and we can decide because now, nobody really listens to what people want.”

Sauriol Chiasson says suspension of the injections and a national inquiry would allow more time for evidence to be gathered on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.

According to its website, the Free Party is running three candidates in New Brunswick, three in Ontario and 53 in Québec.

Direct democracy

The Free Party program also calls for an immediate start to “the process of establishing a direct democracy,” a system that could allow everyone a say in how the country is governed rather than delegating political decisions to elected representatives.

Sauriol Chiasson acknowledges that party proposals aren’t fully worked out yet because Parti Libre Canada is so new, but for her, listening is the key.

“Direct democracy for us is more to listen to what people want,” she says.

“If they go on our website, they can put suggestions on what exactly they want us to do with the Free Party,” she adds.

“If the people of Beauséjour have some suggestions for me, I’m here to listen.”

Environmental concerns

The first point in the Free Party program proposes to “re-establish a healthy, harmonized and balanced social climate with respect for all life.”

It fits with Sauriol Chiasson’s concerns about the effects climate change and pollution will have on her son and her daughter and the generations that follow.

“I’m very concerned because this is what I’m going to leave to my kids, right? This is where my kids are going to live and my grandchildren, if I have some,” she says laughing.

She says that’s why she’s not using plastic lawn signs, glossy brochures or business cards in her campaign.

“If we want to take care of the Earth and the environment, we have to start now because we know those signs are all going to go in the trash,” she says.

“If we start to make little changes, we can make bigger ones later.”

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Conservative Shelly Mitchell offering ‘change’ to voters in Beauséjour

Conservative candidate Shelly Mitchell at Waterfowl Park

On a sunny September day, Beauséjour Conservative candidate Shelly Mitchell is contemplating the beauty of Sackville’s Waterfowl Park as she watches dragonflies darting over one of its main ponds.

“This kind of environment is exactly what needs to be offered in every community,” she says.

“People need to have a place to come to walk in clean air and have clean water and nature all around them, it very much invokes peace.”

Mitchell is familiar with the park because she was posted to Sackville in 2003 as a newly minted RCMP officer.

“I worked in the area of District 4 which also included areas throughout the Beauséjour riding, places like Shediac, Cap-Pelé, Dorchester, Memramcook, all the way to the P.E.I. bridge.”

About seven years after arriving here, Mitchell joined the RCMP in Moncton and on June 4, 2014, she was the third officer despatched to a neighbourhood where someone called 911 after spotting a man dressed in camouflage walking down the middle of a road carrying what appeared to be military-style guns.

Three Mounties, armed only with pistols, died and two others were wounded in the gunfire that followed.

Medal of Bravery

In 2017, Mitchell was awarded a Governor General’s Medal of Bravery for commandeering a private vehicle to rush a wounded colleague to hospital.

But the whole thing leaves a bitter taste in her mouth.

“I think everyone who was on the ground that day deserves a medal of bravery,” she says.

In 2017, a Moncton judge found the RCMP guilty of failing to provide high-powered rifles and training to the officers who responded to the call.

Two years later, Mitchell and three colleagues launched a lawsuit accusing the federal government of negligence in failing to provide proper equipment and citing the severe psychological trauma and other medical ailments they had suffered.

Mitchell, who left the RCMP in 2018, says the lawsuit is still wending its way through the courts, but she is feeling a lot better now after a long, slow recovery.

“It did take some time to get myself back to where I feel like I can now get involved in my community again and move forward trying to help people,” she says.

Conservative candidacy

When rumours started flying in August that the Liberals were about to call a federal election, Mitchell decided to run for the Conservatives in Beauséjour.

“I felt like, you know what, the people of this area are looking for change, the people of this country are looking for change and we can see that resoundingly in the way that things are going with the election and the popularity of the Conservatives,” she says referring to polls showing her party running neck and neck with the Liberals.

She says she was impressed with the thoughtfulness of the Conservative platform as well as the openness, honesty and integrity of party leader Erin O’Toole who served as a helicopter navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“The fact that he has served for 12 years tells me that he knows what a veteran is and he knows the sacrifices that veterans make in helping our country and protecting people’s lives,” Mitchell says.

When asked how Conservatives would bring change to the country, Mitchell refers to the five points in “Canada’s Recovery Plan” printed on the back of her campaign flyer.

She says all are important, but the fifth one is especially so.

“The biggie is securing the economy, so getting the economy back in shape when it comes to debt and spending; I would say that the Liberal government has run rampant for far too long,” she says.

“That means our children and our childrens’ children will be holding on to a bag of debt if we don’t put emphasis on repayment of debts.”

COVID measures

Mitchell acknowledges the importance of implementing measures to protect people’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic, but advocates a “balanced” approach.

“First and foremost realizing that yes, the vaccine is the best and safest way to protect ourselves against the virus and also in terms of transmission rates,” she says.

Mitchell advocates encouraging everyone to get vaccinated because scientists agree that vaccines are effective in keeping us safe.

“[But] when it comes to people possibly having health issues and concerns that they may not be able to have the vaccine, we have to be able to provide alternatives that will still keep people safe as best as possible and make sure that these people aren’t treated as outcasts or isolated in our society in such a way that they’re made to feel they can’t go places,” she says.

“We have to be able to achieve a balance.”

‘Sense of abandonment’

Shelly Mitchell at the Sackville Tim Hortons

Mitchell acknowledges that she’s facing a strong Liberal opponent in Dominic LeBlanc who has held the riding for the last 20 years.

But she says that in her door-to-door canvassing, she’s hearing what she calls a “sense of abandonment.”

“A lot of people feel in the Beauséjour riding that they haven’t been heard and represented in Ottawa,” she says.

She adds she decided to run for the Conservatives here because she didn’t think anyone else was going to.

“And I said, ‘that would would be a terrible thing not to offer people the opportunity for change.'”

This is the third in a series of reports on federal candidates in Beauséjour.

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People’s Party candidate in Beauséjour says Canada’s future is at stake because of COVID ‘conspiracy’

Jack Minor in his vegetable garden at his home in Memramcook

Jack Minor’s face lights up when he’s asked to describe himself.

“Who am I?” the People’s Party candidate in Beauséjour asks with a chuckle before giving a concise, but comprehensive answer.

“I’m a carpenter, a pastor, a father, I have four children and I have grandchildren, I’m a gardener and a farmer, I am not a fisherman,” he adds with a laugh.

“But I love to act and I love to sing. I’m a performer.”

When asked why he decided to run in the 2021 federal election, Minor has a ready answer.

“I think this is an incredibly important election,” he says.

“The future of Canada, in my estimation, is on the line and there doesn’t seem to be another party besides the People’s Party of Canada that is taking a real stand against the globalist agenda, which I think is catastrophic.”

Minor argues that international institutions such as the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organization along with individuals such as George Soros and Bill Gates are using “the so-called pandemic” and the COVID-19 vaccines to push their agenda.

“They’re about to achieve totalitarian, world government control and I know that sounds like a conspiracy theory, well I guess it is, but I think it’s a conspiracy fact that is relatively well established.”

Only one election issue

Minor says that local or regional concerns don’t matter in this election because there’s really only one issue.

“All of us across Canada are being equally oppressed with the vaccine mandate,” he says.

“The vaccine mandate is the number one issue for people. It creates an apartheid, a medical apartheid, it destroys our businesses and it’s based on really bad science, on faulty science.”

Minor contends that the vaccines are dangerous and unnecessary because the COVID virus is no more serious than a relatively mild cold.

“I’m not saying that there’s no virus. I’m saying it is not near as dangerous as it’s being marketed,” he says.

“It is nothing like it’s portrayed, the numbers are wildly exaggerated.”

Minor maintains that the test for COVID “is a worthless piece of crap,” and that hospitals are forcing doctors to declare deaths COVID-related when they’re not.

To make matters worse, the mainstream news media are peddling a constant stream of propaganda.

“That is a fascist agenda and the people of Canada cannot access the truth from our traditional media and that has never happened before in our history and it is the most critical factor in this election.”

He points to The Epoch Times as one example of a news outlet that does tell the truth.

When asked to explain in more detail how exaggerating the effects of the virus and pushing people to get vaccinated advances the “globalist” agenda, Minor replies that for one thing, it destroys or weakens national economies.

“It causes countries like Canada to go into outrageous debt; we’re over $1.3 trillion in debt now because of the pandemic, which makes us fragile and vulnerable to the world financial organizations.”

Official figures from Health Canada that Jack Minor says are wildly exaggerated

Knowing history

As the federal election campaign began in mid-August, Jack Minor wrote a four-page essay entitled: The Game’s Afoot. An encouragement to the Candidates of the PPC.

In it, he writes about the Acadians who gathered for their first national conference in Memramcook, near where he lives, on August 15, 1881 exactly 140 years before Justin Trudeau called the federal election.

Jack Minor campaign photo. Click photo for Minor’s PPC bio

Minor’s essay outlines Acadian history including their expulsion in 1755 and also describes the struggles of his Irish forbears to free themselves from British rule in the Easter Uprising of 1916.

He compares PPC candidates to the Irish militia then.

“There is little support for us. We are maligned on every side. We have no expectation of winning.”

But Minor notes that he and his follow candidates “have no moral option but to hurl ourselves against the barricades of globalism and their long range guns…

“I want to encourage you all and to remind you that ultimately it is the story itself, the tale of national courage that wins.

“And most importantly, I must insist that your particular part, within that story, needs to be ‘remembered’ and told, and perhaps even sung, over the flowing cups of future generations.”

This is the second in a series of reports on candidates in Beauséjour.

Posted in Federal Election 2021 | Tagged | 8 Comments

NDP candidate Evelyne Godfrey ties racist attack to need for immigration reform and better health care

Federal NDP candidate Evelyne Godfrey [NDP photo]

The federal NDP candidate in Beauséjour riding says a recent racially motivated attack on her campaign car shows that racism is on the rise and some people are feeling threatened by an influx of non-white immigrants since 2015.

“I’ve seen racism before, but this is different,” Evelyne Godfrey said in a recent interview.

“I’ve been hearing from other NDP members over the past year that they’ve been experiencing violence every time they leave the house and things like this and now they’re being attacked.”

Godfrey called the Sackville RCMP on August 22 after a man who lives on Queens Road slashed a tire on her car after shouting racial epithets directed at her and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who wears a Sikh turban. Godfrey’s grandfather was also Sikh and her mother is Asian.

“I grew up in Sackville and obviously, I’ve seen racism in the 1970s and 80s,” she says, “but what I’d never seen before was violence like this.”

Godfrey, who was going door-to-door seeking signatures for her nomination papers, says it was the man’s anger that stood out for her most.

“Just really, really angry racism where the man seemed completely overcome with hatred and it drove him to do something really irrational.”

An RCMP officer arrested the 70-year-old man who was later released and is scheduled to appear in court at a later date.

Immigration issues

For Godfrey, the incident illustrates a number of campaign themes including the need to make immigrants more welcome so that they choose to settle and stay in New Brunswick.

She says, for example, that better immigration policies could attract and retain health-care workers alleviating the chronic shortage of nurses and doctors that is shutting down hospital emergency rooms and other medical services.

“I hear from people who can’t get an appointment to see a doctor,” she says, adding that a friend who works as a registered nurse at the Sackville hospital has also been affected by staff shortages that have forced closures of the local ER.

Godfrey supports the New Brunswick Medical Society’s call for a $798 million increase in federal health transfer payments over the next decade to help the province support the needs of its aging population.

“If I was elected as MP, I would be fighting for the federal transfer money for New Brunswick,” she says. “That would be a top priority for me.”

She adds that more federal money could be used to improve the mental-health services that she sees as crucially important.

She also argues that top-notch health care would encourage immigrants, who do come to New Brunswick, to stay here.

Affordable housing

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is campaigning on making housing more affordable [NDP photo]

When asked why she’s running for the NDP, Godfrey mentions affordable housing first — a centrepiece in the party’s national campaign.

She says, for example, that low-income tenants in Sackville frequently have trouble paying their bills.

“The rents in Sackville are just shockingly high and I’ve heard that a lot of times from different people.”

Godfrey says she knows a tenant who is trying to get by on provincial disability benefits while paying more than $600 a month for an apartment in an old Sackville building.

“The amount that you get in social assistance means that he’s paying it all out for the rent,” she says.

“He’s having to go to the food bank now and that’s it, can’t afford a television, can’t afford anything else, so he’s just existing there.”

Godfrey advocates more federal support for community co-op housing that would give members a break on their rent and keep welfare money from lining the pockets of private landlords.

Decolonization and anti-racism

Godfrey, who is an archeology professor at Mount Allison, also serves as Co-chair of the New Brunswick NDP Decolonization and Anti-Racism caucus.

She says decolonization is a much broader concept than respecting the rights of First Nations people, although that is also a large part of it.

“I think that the federal government does need to be held fully accountable to the Indigenous people who had their lives blighted by the residential schools,” she says, “but [decolonization] is a lot more than that.”

Godfrey says school children should be taught about Indigenous history and archeology that dates from before the first Europeans arrived here.

“I would like to see Indigenous languages taught in schools out of respect for the cultural heritage of this place.”

Time for a change

Evelyne Godfrey campaign photo

Godfrey says her family moved to Sackville in 1970 where her father was active in the NDP.

She remembers Romeo LeBlanc getting elected in 1972 as a Liberal MP and then cabinet minister who served in the House of Commons until he entered the Senate in 1984.

His son Dominic, who is seeking re-election as a Liberal, has represented the riding since 2000.

“I believe it’s time for a change,” Godfrey says with a chuckle.

“I don’t believe in hereditary government.”

This is the first in a series of reports on candidates in the federal riding of Beauséjour.

Posted in Federal Election 2021 | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Sackville says details in consultant’s report on fire dept. woes will not be made public

A consultant’s report on how to fix persistent bullying, harassment and the flouting of safety rules in Sackville Fire & Rescue will remain confidential, according to a statement posted today on the town’s website.

“The assessment provides a comprehensive review of the Fire Department’s operations,” it says.

“There are several areas that will require attention in order to address the 20 recommendations provided in the report. These actions will be implemented by the Chief Administrative Officer with the support of Council and will include dialogue and consultation with firefighters,” it adds.

The statement notes that both town council and members of the fire department have been briefed on the report.

“As to be expected, since the results and recommendations are human resources related, they will not be made public and will remain confidential,” it says.

Persistent complaints

In April, the town hired Montana Consulting of Moncton to review fire department operations after former and current volunteer firefighters accused town officials of ignoring their complaints about bullying, harassment, discrimination and favouritism in Sackville Fire & Rescue.

Those complaints became public after former firefighter Kevin Scott sent a copy of his resignation letter to Warktimes along with similar letters from several former colleagues who had given him permission to release them.

Scott says he counted 17 resignations over a period of four years with no response from the fire chief, two CAOs or members of town council.

Scott, along with about 30 current and former firefighters attended a two-and-a-half hour meeting Thursday evening during which the consultants asked that their recommendations not be made public.

Kevin Scott alerted the media to firefighters’ complaints

During an interview today, Scott said he would respect that request.

However, he added that while many of the recommendations were positive, he was disappointed that no one would be held accountable for the way firefighters were treated.

“I really want accountability,” Scott says. “I mean on the fire grounds, everything is around accountability, everyone has to be accounted for, everyone has a job to do, so accountability is a huge thing on the fire grounds…and I think accountability should have been held here as well.”

Current firefighter Laura Thurston, who attended last night’s meeting, said in an e-mail she would also respect the request for confidentiality.

“I am pleased with the work Montana Consulting has done. They were certainly thorough and took our conversations seriously,” her e-mail says.

Thurston told Warktimes in April that female firefighters faced discrimination from certain members in the department.

“I will say, it’s unfortunate that speaking out publicly was the necessary step to have action taken but I am very glad I/we did,” her e-mail adds.

She writes that the consultants feel the town is committed to developing an action plan to implement their recommendations.

“Personally I would like to hear that commitment directly from the CAO and Chief which I am hopeful will come after council has had time to also digest the presentation,” she adds.

“I feel we as firefighters deserve to be part of the conversation as well. I understand there is a lot of work still to be done and it will not happen overnight.”

To read the town’s statement, click here.

For previous coverage, click here and here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 6 Comments

Sackville town staff drop plan to define who is a journalist, but mayor imposes curbs on media questions

CAO Jamie Burke

Sackville town staff have withdrawn a controversial proposal that would have restricted the definition of journalists “accredited” to cover council meetings.

CAO Jamie Burke said staff made the decision after hearing from people opposed to a definition that would have excluded journalists who write for “personal, non-commercial or enthusiast websites.”

“We’ve heard from councillors here, we’ve had some letters from members of the public and media professionals,” Burke told town council on Tuesday.

“The indication was that there’s freedom of speech, the press or media shouldn’t be defined, you don’t do that, so we said ‘OK, fair enough, we’ve looked at things again,'” he said.

Burke was referring to a change in a town bylaw that staff proposed last month restricting the definition of “press” to “an individual reporting on behalf of an accredited media outlet including print, radio and television.”

At the time Councillors Bill Evans, Michael Tower and Sabine Dietz opposed that definition.

“Nowadays press, media includes the entirely online news outlets, bloggers, all of that. That’s what media is nowadays,” Dietz said after suggesting that the proposed definition be dropped from the bylaw respecting the procedure and organization of town council.

Participation in Question Period

Burke told council on Tuesday that staff originally felt the need to define “press” because journalists are allowed the privilege of going first during public question periods at the end of council meetings.

But he said staff had decided to eliminate the “press first” wording in the bylaw and now, it will be up to the mayor to recognize people who want to ask questions.

“We want people to be able to come and participate, so we’ll treat everyone the same,” Burke said.

“If a citizen wants to ask a question, it will be up to the chair…to determine which one of the individuals in the room get to approach the podium first,” he added.

Councillor Michael Tower

Councillor Michael Tower objected to abandoning the “press first” provision.

“I don’t think we actually consider press above the people,” he said.

“I think we use ‘the press’ because they would do stories on what we have happening in council and we’ve lost our newspaper,” he added.

Tower said people now tune in to listen to the news written and presented by Erica Butler on CHMA or read The New Wark Times.

“What they do as a service to our community is important, so I think we should always maintain that the media go first with their questions,” he said.

The issue of who gets to ask questions first was not resolved and may be discussed again when the bylaw changes come up for approval at future council meetings.

New restrictions

No members of the public were present to ask questions at the end of Tuesday’s meeting.

During media questioning, it became clear that Mayor Mesheau intends to strictly enforce a rule that says questions may only be asked for clarification about matters arising from that meeting’s agenda.

The mayor did respond to a question about public release of the Montana Consulting workplace assessment on allegations of bullying and harassment in the Sackville Fire Department by saying that the report would remain confidential because it involves personnel matters.

But he refused to discuss the public statement the town says it intends to release about the Montana report.

Mayor Shawn Mesheau

“Mr. Wark, tonight the Question Period is regarding the information that appeared in the agenda tonight and for clarification, we’re not discussing the [workplace] assessment,” he said.

Mesheau pointed out that town council will be briefed on the Montana report at 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon with a briefing for members of the Fire Department at 7 p.m. that evening.

Earlier, he rejected Councillor Bruce Phinney’s request that he receive a copy of the full report before Thursday’s council briefing.

“Councillor Phinney we’re not discussing that this evening, OK, so if you want to raise that with the CAO afterwards, we’ll talk about that later,” Mesheau said.

During the Question Period, Mesheau would not answer a reporter’s question about whether town staff had met with RCMP commander Larry Tremblay to discuss problems getting through to the Sackville detachment, especially on evenings and weekends.

“There’ll be a report given by the public safety liaison [councillor] next Monday and that report has not been provided to council, council has not received any updates, so we will look to the liaison report next week in regards to any update to do with response time to phone calls,” Mesheau said.

CAO Jamie Burke also pointed out that journalists are free to call him anytime with their questions.

“I answered 13 questions last week,” he said. “I made myself available to get the questions [information] you need, so one would hope that you don’t need to wait until the council meeting to ask all the questions.”

Burke added that he spent “a considerable amount of time and research to pull that information together…and we do that all the time.”

Posted in RCMP, Town of Sackville | Tagged | 9 Comments

Sackville rally and walk to support front-line workers

About three dozen people, many waving yellow solidarity fists, gathered at Sackville Memorial Hospital Saturday before walking down Main Street to the Farmers Market.

They were taking part in one of several rallies and walks in New Brunswick to support more than 22,000 public-sector workers who warn they’re ready to go on strike next month to back their call for substantial wage increases.

Many of the workers, who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, have been without contracts for five years and are among the lowest paid public-sector workers in Canada.

They work in a wide variety of fields including in the prison and court systems as well as in transportation, tourism and education.

“I think the biggest thing is we’ve just got to stick together,” said Shelley Ward, a member of CUPE Local 2745.

She works as an educational assistant during the school year, but collects EI in the summer.

She says educational assistants have faced rounds of government cutbacks and there are too few supports to help them do their jobs effectively.

“We just need to stick together so that they know that we’re important and we’re not asking for a whole lot,” Ward said as people gathered in the hospital parking lot.

“We just have to show that this is important, and the hospital’s important, and that our jobs are what keeps everything going.”

Ward was referring to nearly 10,000 front-line, health-care workers in a wide range of fields including paramedics, licenced practical nurses, patient-care attendants, as well as members of hospital caretaking, maintenance and clerical staffs.

Their union, CUPE Local 1252, warned in a news release last spring that there are chronic shortages among hospital support staff including an estimated shortage of 200 licenced practical nurses as well as 100 vacant paramedic positions.

Meantime, the union that represents New Brunswick’s registered nurses estimated last month that there are at least 854 vacant nursing positions in hospitals and long-term care homes.

ER closed all weekend

John Higham after his speech today at hospital rally

“This is a mess, is the easiest way I could describe it,” former Mayor John Higham said during today’s rally outside the hospital.

“COVID made us understand how important health services were to us,” he added.

Higham, who has been part of a committee seeking to protect local hospital services, stressed the crucial need for enough staff to run the hospital and operate its emergency room.

“Today is a perfect example. [ER] closed last night, last minute, all weekend long. None of us knew anything about it. We didn’t get any notice of it,” he said.

“We understand there’s staffing issues,” he added. “That has to be overcome, but it should never have gotten this far.”

‘Fair contracts’

MLA Megan Mitton told today’s rally that successive provincial governments have failed to deal with shortages in nursing and among other health-care staff.

Megan Mitton with her new baby at today’s rally

“I can remember meeting with the nurses’ union in 2014 when I first entered formal politics and they told me that they’ve been warning governments for a long time that this is coming,” she said.

Mitton suggested providing more money to train nurses at New Brunswick universities and treating workers with more respect.

“We can make sure that fair contracts are signed and we’re not forcing nurses and health-care workers to take a zero when they’ve just put their lives on the line in a pandemic,” she said.

Mitton was referring to Premier Higgs’s plan to impose a zero percent raise in one year of a four-year contract with public sector unions and one percent raises in each of the other three years.

She said the Sackville hospital provides essential services to her whole riding.

“We need to fight back and make sure that we have service 24/7.”

Tearful thanks

Brandon Stone. (Photo by Lisa Snider)

Brandon Stone told the rally he started at Sackville Memorial in February where he works to ensure the safety and sterility of medical devices used in the hospital and its operating room.

He recalled working at the Moncton Hospital when the pandemic broke out.

“It was quite an ordeal when we first started this COVID,” he said. “It was emotionally draining, mentally draining.”

Stone teared up as he shared his experience.

“Having support from everybody, makes a world of wonder,” he said, his voice shaking with emotion.

“This COVID has hit everybody in every way and it’s just great to have the support we need so that we can keep going and keep trying.

“Thank you to everybody for giving us this support.”

Posted in COVID-19, Health care, New Brunswick politics | Tagged | 6 Comments

Beware federal voters: Only one poll really counts

NS Premier-designate Tim Houston grins as he makes fun of pollsters & pundits on election night (YouTube-CPAC)

In his election night victory speech, Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative leader (now, Premier-designate) Tim Houston gleefully referred to opinion polls in the spring that showed the Liberals with a massive lead.

“As recently as the end of May, the pollsters and the pundits, they had us back 28 points in the polls. It was going to be a historic Liberal landslide,” Houston said before delivering his punch line accompanied by a trademark, toothy grin.

“As for those so-called experts, they were all writing us off. Well, I wonder what they’re writing right now.”

Houston was obviously enjoying the fact that in the one poll that really counts, the PCs had won a comfortable, 31-seat majority in the Nova Scotia legislature.

An online CBC headline read: “Progressive Conservatives surge to surprise majority win in Nova Scotia election.”

Yes, to the pollsters and pundits and, to the journalists who like to read the tea leaves, otherwise known as opinion polls, the PC victory was truly surprising.

But maybe reading tea leaves isn’t always the best way to forecast election outcomes.

And now that a national campaign is in full swing, let’s see what federal voters could learn from the polling in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia’s last poll

The Toronto-based firm Mainstreet Research conducted its final campaign poll in Nova Scotia on August 14-15, just a couple of days before the August 17th election.

First, here’s the good news — at least for the pollsters. In its survey of 502 “decided and leaning” voters, Mainstreet Research accurately predicted the percentages of votes the three main parties would win within the +/- 4.3 percentage-point, standard margin of error for a sample that size.

Mainstreet awarded the Liberals 38% and sure enough on election night, the official results show they scored 36.67% well within the plus or minus four-point margin of error. Hooray, the poll accurately predicted that outcome!

Mainstreet gave the PCs 36% and sure enough on election night, they scored 38.43%, again well within the margin of error. Another accurate prediction.

Mainstreet awarded the NDP 21% and on election night, the N-Dippers scored 20.94%. Yes, that last minute poll sure got things right.

The not so good news

Now, here’s the bad news for ardent tea leaf readers.

In its summary of findings, Mainstreet reported: “In our final poll before the election tomorrow, we find the Liberals with a narrow two-point lead over the Conservatives.”

Oh dear.

That finding might lead unwary tea-leaf readers to conclude that the NS Liberals would win, with a minority maybe?

But wait. That two-point Liberal lead doesn’t mean much when you factor in the margin of error.

OK, so Mainstreet gave the Liberals 38%, but since the small sample size of 502 voters carries a standard 4.3-percentage-point margin of error, the Liberals could have scored as high as 42.3% on the plus side and as low as 33.7% on the minus side.

In other words, polling results always show a range and not just the fixed numbers that the pollsters release and the media report.

Now let’s look at the PC range with a high of 40.3% and a low of 31.7%.

Obviously, the two ranges overlap, but on election night, it was the PCs who came in about two points ahead with 38.43% while the Liberals were back at 36.67%.

That two-point lead was enough in a first-past-the-post electoral system to win the Progressive Conservatives 31 seats while the Liberals came in with only 17.

On analysis, the Mainstreet poll — accurately forecasting percentages of votes won — told us everything — and nothing.

Based on the small sample size of 502 and the correspondingly wide margin of error, it’s not possible to tell from those polling results which party was leading and which one might win the election.12

Perhaps the Mainstreet summary should have read:

“In our final poll before the election tomorrow, we find we can’t tell whether the Liberals or Conservatives are ahead or behind and by how much since our sample size was so small and our margin of error so wide. We strongly urge all tea leaf readers to wait for tomorrow’s actual outcome to see whether it’s a win, lose or draw.”

Posted in Federal Election 2021 | Tagged | 1 Comment

Re-elected Cumberland North MLA pledges to work with Nova Scotia’s new gov’t, but won’t seek to re-join PC caucus

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin on Facebook yesterday urging Cumberland North voters to cast their ballots

Re-elected Independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin says she has no immediate plans to try to re-join Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative party which won 31 of the 55 seats in yesterday’s provincial election, enough for a comfortable majority.

“Right now, my focus is representing the people of Cumberland North,” Smith-McCrossin said today in a telephone interview from her campaign office in Amherst.

“I was elected as an Independent and that’s where I plan on staying for now,” she adds.

“There’s absolutely no reason for me to make any changes that way. As an opposition MLA, I worked effectively with all the other parties and I will continue to do that as an Independent MLA.”

Smith-McCrossin was expelled from the PC Party after leading a blockade of the TransCanada highway near Exit 7 on June 22nd and for refusing to condemn a second highway blockade at the New Brunswick border the next day.

“I’ve said all along, I have no regrets,” she says referring to the highway protests against Liberal Premier Iain Rankin’s sudden decision not to re-open the provincial border as planned on June 23rd.

“I was elected to represent the people and be their voice and that’s exactly what I did,” she says.

“Unfortunately, not everyone agreed or understood the challenges that the people here in our border community have faced since the beginning of this pandemic,” she adds.

“But the people here know, the people here know exactly the truth and that’s why I believe you saw them come out and support me to continue to be their MLA for Cumberland North.”

Smith-McCrossin won more than half the ballots cast to defeat her nearest rival, Liberal Bill Casey by 1,747 votes.

Elections Nova Scotia graph showing final results in Cumberland North

Health care a key issue

Smith-McCrossin says she’s not surprised that the PCs won a majority in yesterday’s election campaigning on a health-care platform that she, herself, helped write.

“Health care is a huge issue here and across Nova Scotia, so the win for the PC party was not a surprise to me because I’ve seen what’s been happening in health care — the lack of available ambulance services and the lack of family physicians.”

Smith-McCrossin says the Nova Scotia health system deteriorated badly during the eight years the Liberals were in power.

“As recent as last week, we saw our surgical unit being shut down because of a lack of registered nurses and I know first-hand that it’s due to bureaucratic red tape,” she says referring to the Liberals’ decision to replace nine regional health authorities with a centralized one in Halifax.

“Our local hospital cannot hire nurses directly, nurses have to apply through Halifax and I’ve had situations where nurses have applied for jobs here and they haven’t even had anyone respond for over three months.”

Smith-McCrossin says she helped draft the PC plan promising to restore more local decision-making in health care and she’s looking forward to working with the new government on reforming the system.

She’s says she’s also looking forward to removal of all tolls on the TransCanada highway, another key PC promise.

“That will be a day that I will be celebrating along with the people here,” she says.

“Removing that physical, psychological barrier as well as financial barrier that the people here have had for over two decades.”

Posted in Amherst, Nova Scotia election, Nova Scotia Government | Tagged | Leave a comment

NS Election: PC David Wightman battles ‘heavy guns’ in Cumberland North

PC candidate David Wightman in his Amherst backyard

The Progressive Conservative candidate in Cumberland North says his campaign got off to a slow start in the August 17 Nova Scotia election after his party expelled the sitting MLA, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin.

“There was no Conservative candidate in Cumberland North for a few weeks while everybody was kind of going, ‘What are we going to do next? What are we going to do next?'” says David Wightman.

“I made a couple of phone calls and had a couple of interviews and to make a long story short, I ended up as the candidate.”

Wightman says he’s had strong support from provincial party headquarters in Halifax including plenty of signs, campaign pamphlets and communications advice, but he acknowledges that local support is not as strong as it could be because many PCs in the riding are working to re-elect Smith-McCrossin, who is running as an Independent.

“Locally, I’ve got a little support team in place here,” Wightman says. “It certainly isn’t what it was because of the incident that happened at the border.”

He was referring to Smith-McCrossin’s expulsion from the party after her apparent refusal to condemn those who blocked traffic at the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick border on June 23rd to protest against Premier Iain Rankin’s sudden decision to keep the border closed longer than planned.

Smith-McCrossin herself was in Halifax that day in a futile attempt to meet with Rankin after leading a highway blockade herself near the TransCanada highway toll booths the day before.

“I don’t think there’s any going back, it’s time to move on,” says Wightman who still hopes to retain the riding for the PCs by campaigning on issues such as the need for improvements in a local health care system beset by chronic shortages of nurses and doctors, crowded emergency rooms and too few long-term-care beds.

When asked about the need for health-care reform, Wightman refers to his own experience as a volunteer with the Amherst Fire Department.

“Being a first-responder with the fire department, we’re looking after patients on the side of  the road while we wait for the ambulance to show up,” he says, adding that ambulance paramedics are often busy elsewhere.

“They can’t unload the ambulance fast enough because the ERs are backed up with people and then the wards are backed up with people that perhaps should be long-term care patients and it’s just one domino after another.”

Wightman says a Conservative government would try to solve the shortage of medical staff  by increasing spending on training nurses and by recruiting more foreign doctors and then, expediting their entry into the Nova Scotia health-care system through university upgrading and certification programs.

“You hear about this doctor and that doctor, he’s driving a taxi, it’s just foolishness,” Wightman says.

Long-term care

He adds that the Conservatives have a plan to empty hospital beds occupied by elderly patients who should be in nursing homes.

Volunteer announcing in Amherst radio helped David Wightman’s recovery from a stroke

“The Conservative party under Mr. Houston has advocated that there will be 2,500 new or renovated long-term care beds in Nova Scotia within three years,” he explains.

Wightman says he has first-hand experience with the health-care system after suffering a stroke in 2009 that forced him to retire from his career as a corrections officer working with inmates in Springhill and at the women’s prison in Truro.

The stroke impaired his reading and speaking abilities, but he says his work as a volunteer announcer at CFTA, the community radio station in Amherst, helped him recover.

Fixing roads

Wightman is also campaigning on the PC plan to fix rural roads.

“I had one conversation with a gentleman in Wallace just a few days ago and he was a motorcycler, originally from Ontario, and he usually brings down 20 or 25 of his friends for motorcycle tours,” Wightman says.

“These people come down here and they actually love motorcycling around Nova Scotia, ‘Best province in Canada,’ they say, ‘for biking,'” he adds.

“They have the greatest time and they’ll drop four or five thousand dollars in 10 days, but  the one thing they hate is the quality of the roads, so if we want to keep that aspect of tourism coming in, and we better, we need some money to fix the roads.”

Wightman accuses Premier Rankin of playing politics by promising to remove the TransCanada highway tolls on passenger vehicles with Nova Scotia licence plates.

He says a PC government would remove the tolls on all vehicles, including trucks hauling blueberries and maple syrup, because consumers only end up paying more to cover the extra costs anyway.

Heavy artillery

As PC candidate, David Wightman is running against an NDP candidate with name recognition.

Lauren Skabar is the daughter of Brian Skabar who served as MLA for Cumberland North when the NDP was in power from 2009 to 2013.

But Wightman clearly sees Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin and veteran MP Bill Casey as his two main opponents.

He acknowledges that Smith-McCrossin is popular in the riding and a force to be reckoned  with.

Wightman says he was shocked when he heard that Casey was running as a Liberal.

“I just said, ‘Mr. Rankin has brought in a heavy gun to deal with a heavy gun,” he adds.

“You know, they’re bringing out the heavy artillery here to see who’s going to walk away with this seat, and I’m certainly not a heavy gun in this election,” Wightman concludes with a chuckle.

Posted in Amherst, CFTA, Nova Scotia election | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Backgrounder: What Sackville residents want from the RCMP and what they’re paying

Sackville Town Council’s decision to move monthly RCMP briefings back behind closed doors seems doubly ironic from a public relations perspective given results of the latest town survey.

According to a graphic posted on the Town of Sackville Facebook page, “policing services”and “transparency” were the top two areas needing improvement in a survey based on the opinions of 323 people. (The town is now seeking more feedback in a follow-up survey that closes on August 14th.)

Judging from concerns raised repeatedly at town council, it appears that Sackville residents complain most about the RCMP’s perceived failure to enforce traffic laws such as speed limits.

And residents seem concerned too about how hard it is to reach the Sackville detachment by phone to report incidents, especially during evenings and weekends.

Those issues came up again during Monday’s council meeting.

Councillor Sabine Dietz said she hoped council would receive a report next month about what’s being done about speeding on Pond Shore Road.

She also pointed to ATVs travelling illegally on streets in Middle Sackville.

“Honestly, over the 15 years that I’ve now lived here, it’s increased considerably,” she said.

“There’s a number of people who go slow and they are there for work, I know that because I know where they’re going, but most of them are recreational and they’re not going slow.”

Councillor Sabine Dietz

Dietz said that she tried repeatedly to report incidents to the RCMP in Sackville, but would get diverted to Shediac on weekends and then not hear back from police, or if she did, the response would take at least a day or two.

“We need to know who to call when and how quickly will this actually get followed up because I gave up, it’s too slow,” she added.

Councillor Andrew Black said the issue of getting through to the RCMP was discussed recently during a liaison meeting on public safety.

He added that Sgt. Paul Gagné, head of the Sackville detachment, said the RCMP did not have a lot of staff for answering calls, but residents could get in touch with Larry Tremblay, Commanding Officer of the Mounties’ New Brunswick division with their concerns.

Councillor Andrew Black

Black noted that town staff were already in touch with Tremblay and would be discussing the issue with him soon.

He also reported on the RCMP response to complaints about ATVs on streets in Middle Sackville.

“The RCMP know about it, they monitor it and it’s their opinion that for the most part, people who use ATVs on public roads, even though they shouldn’t be, are doing it reasonably safely.”

Black added that the RCMP feel people should call them with a complaint if they see ATVs operating unsafely.

RCMP priorities

The Sackville detachment’s latest quarterly report places enhancing road safety “by targeting high-risk areas” at the top of its list of priorities.

The detachment has 10 full-time members, but it’s not clear how many are available to carry out that top priority at any given time.

The contract for RCMP policing services, signed by the town and the federal minister of public safety, states that members will not be replaced when they’re attending training courses or off on vacation or sick leave unless their illness lasts more than 30 consecutive days. [Article 5.5]

The contract also specifies that the federal government will pay 30% of Sackville’s policing costs, a subsidy designed to keep them relatively low.

Annual policing costs in Sackville are $352 per capita, well below the national average of $423 in 2019.

The $1,876,721 that the town has allocated to policing this year is the single largest item in its operating budget, but accounts for only 16% of the total $11,465,061 that the town is spending.

By contrast, annual policing costs in Amherst, which has its own police force, are $4,554,907 or $483 per capita and 24.5% of the town’s operating budget.

Sackville’s costs are expected to rise now that the union representing RCMP members has negotiated its first contract with the federal government, but so far, no details have been released.

RCMP figures show that a constable now earns between $53,000 and $86,110, while a staff sergeant’s pay can range from $109,000 to just over $112,000.

Big city police officers in Canada, who have been unionized for decades, earn substantially more.

Posted in RCMP, Town of Sackville | Tagged | 2 Comments