Sackville set to save on garbage collection

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton

According to the town engineer, Sackville could save more than $20,000 on garbage collection next year.

Dwayne Acton told council last Monday that a bid from Miller Waste Systems came in at $246,161.18 for 2019 garbage collection, $23,619 lower than the 2018 cost of $272,207.00.

Acton said he will be asking council to approve a new five-year contract with Miller Waste at its regular meeting this Tuesday. He said that the town would have the option to renew the contract for an extra two years. The current Miller Waste contract expires on December 31st.

The only other bidder was Fero Waste and Recycling Inc., but Acton said that bid was rejected because of errors in the tender submission.

When Councillor Michael Tower asked about the errors, CAO Phil Handrahan said he would rather not discuss the specifics of the bid until the town has had a chance to review the matter with its lawyers. He promised to let council know of any new information that comes out of the review.

Lower residential costs

Meantime, Acton said Miller Waste’s lower bid for next year resulted from a reduction in the cost of residential pickup, not from elimination of the special summer collection for larger items. If council approves the new contract on Tuesday, Miller Waste will continue special collections in spring and fall as well as one for Christmas trees.

Acton said costs are based on a levy per unit. For example, the annual cost of residential pickup under the Miller Waste contract would be $87.29 per unit.

Apartment waste

Once again, Acton made it clear that the new contract would not include the collection of garbage from apartment buildings with more than four units.

He said that as far as he knows, no other municipality collects garbage from larger apartment buildings.

Garbage bin behind Sackville apartment building

He said apartment building collection would cost the town an extra fifty to sixty thousand dollars and that it would be difficult to integrate landlords, tenants and haulers into the three-stream waste system.

At present, landlords who use one bin for unsorted garbage, pay extra to dispose of the waste. The Southeast Regional Service Commission charges a tipping fee of $75 per tonne for sorted waste and $85 per tonne for unsorted garbage — a fee that is expected to increase year by year to encourage landlords to adopt the three-stream system.

Councillor Bill Evans said that while he is willing to vote for awarding the garbage contract without including apartment buildings, the system isn’t fair.

“The people who have been paying the property taxes on these apartment buildings have been paying and not getting the service,” Evans said. “[But] if we’re the only community doing it, it’s going to be too much of a challenge.”

Evans added that the Southeast Regional Service Commission has “got to crank up the tipping fees” on unsorted garbage to force landlords to adopt three-stream sorting.

Councillor Bruce Phinney said imposing new rules on apartment buildings would only hurt tenants.

“People who live in apartment buildings are living there because they can’t afford their own homes, they’re on a limited income,” Phinney added. “It is a problem that we’ve had around for as long as I’ve been on council, that’s been almost 15 years.”

Phinney said that’s why he would never vote in favour of forcing apartment building landlords to sort garbage.

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Pay cut for Sackville’s mayor and councillors

Councillor Allison Butcher

Sackville’s mayor, deputy mayor and town councillors will each start losing hundreds if not thousands of dollars on January 1st when the federal government starts taxing their full municipal salaries.

“The federal government is giving us a pay cut, which really stinks,” Councillor Allison Butcher said at last Monday’s town council meeting.

She was referring to the federal government scrapping a policy that has been in effect since 1953 allowing municipal and provincial office holders to escape paying taxes on up to a third of their salaries.

The tax-free allowances covered work-related expenses that did not have to be accounted for. But the federal government says the perk for municipal and provincial politicians isn’t fair to other taxpayers who do not qualify for such tax-free allowances.

Sackville allowances

In Sackville, the mayor receives $4,794.92 as a tax-free allowance on top of his annual salary of $9,589.84 for a total of $14,384.76, while the deputy mayor gets $2,838.42 tax free in addition to $5,676.84, for a total of $8,515.26.

Sackville councillors receive $2,518.62 tax free in addition to their annual salaries of $5,037.24, for a total of $7,555.86.

To see total council pay, benefits, expense allowances and expense claims, click here and here.

Butcher, who is a director and teacher at a non-profit children’s play school, said the new tax policy will make a difference to her. (Her tax bill is likely to rise by several hundred dollars.)

However, she added that after raising municipal taxes earlier this year, councillors can’t justify claiming more money for themselves to cover their higher income tax bills.

“It stinks that it will mean a bit of a difference for us, but I can’t in good faith suggest to the taxpayers, who are now paying more this year, that they should pay me more,” she said.

Cost implications

Treasurer Mike Beal told council that it could cost the town up to $16,000 to make up the difference so that councillors would not take a pay cut.

He said it’s been over 10 years since Sackville’s municipal politicians received a major raise, although he noted that their salaries are adjusted every year to cover 90 per cent of the cost of inflation. He said, for example, that if the annual cost of living rises by two per cent, the mayor and councillors get raises of 1.8 per cent.

Councillor Bruce Phinney said he would like to see pay comparisons with other municipal councils including the one in Amherst, where pay rates are higher.

In 2012, politicians in Amherst approved an annual salary for the mayor of $34,580; $23,127 for the deputy mayor; and $20,438 for each of the five councillors. (The clerk was unavailable Friday, so it was not possible to ascertain this year’s exact salary figures.)

To see council salaries for the similarly sized community of Woodstock, N.B., click here and for Shediac, click here.

Fewer councillors

Councillor Andrew Black noted that Amherst has fewer councillors than Sackville.

“They operate with six councillors,” he said. “I think an easy way for us to do this is go from eight to six and then take the pay from the other two councillors and spread it out among six.”

Councillor Bill Evans

Councillor Bill Evans described the tax-free allowance as a loophole that the federal government is closing to raise more revenue to pay for programs that benefit all Canadians.

“I think that we are well compensated,” Evans added, referring to the health, dental and life insurance that members of council get.

“Nobody wants to pay more taxes, everybody wants to get more pay,” Evans said, adding, it’s “a pretty clear conflict of interest” for councillors to give themselves more pay.

“I think we do our bit like every other taxpayer and pay our taxes,” he said.

In the end, Mayor Higham said it seemed to him that there was no support on council for an immediate raise to compensate for the pay cut, but that town staff could gather figures to determine how Sackville’s pay scales compare with other municipalities.

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Mt. A. president noncommittal about shedding investments in Big Oil

MTA Divest member Hanna Longard (bottom right) summarizes student demands as university officials listen. L-R: Dan Nowlan, Chair BOR Investment Committee, Ron Outerbridge, BOR Chair, Jean-Paul Boudreau, Mt. A. president

Mount Allison students, who are members of the group Divest MTA, continued their four-year campaign Monday to persuade the university to shed its investments in big fossil fuel companies.

The students urged Jean-Paul Boudreau, the new Mt. A. president, to take a public stand on the issue by the end of the fall semester on December 4.

However, during a friendly, hour-long meeting, the students met some resistance from Boudreau and Ron Outerbridge, Chair of the Board of Regents (BOR), the university’s highest governing body.

Fighting climate change

The meeting began with MTA Divest member Hanna Longard saying that while individuals should take steps to fight climate change, institutions can have a much greater impact by withdrawing their investments in fossil fuels.

“At least 991 institutions worldwide have committed to fossil fuel divestment already removing $7.18 trillion from the industry,” Longard said. She added that the government of Ireland, the City of New York and Yale University are among the institutions that have shed their investments in big oil, gas and coal companies.

“Divest MTA is a student-led political group asking our university to remove its investments from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies,” Longard said, adding that in 2017, the university had endowment fund investments in 70 or more of these companies.

“As students, we were sold the idea of Mount Allison University as a progressive liberal arts institution,” she said. “We were disappointed to learn that our university is complicit in an industry that is harming people, the planet and our future.”

Longard also outlined the three main demands of the international fossil fuel divestment movement: A fast transition to renewable energy; no new fossil fuel projects anywhere and “not a penny more for dirty energy.”

Several other students spoke about the urgent need to fight climate change in light of the most recent international scientific report warning that if fundamental changes in all aspects of society aren’t made within 12 years, the world will face increased risk of catastrophic droughts, floods, extreme heat and poverty.

Boudreau responds

Jean-Paul Boudreau responded by thanking the students for their “multiple years of engagement on this issue.”

The new Mt. A. president said the university’s website lists many ways in which Mount Allison is committed to environmental sustainability and environmental activism.

“I have to say I’m really impressed with the efforts that have been made by this university, we punch well above our weight,” he said, adding that while there’s more work to do to offset climate change, “I think it’s important to pause and to appreciate the achievements that this university has done.”

Other ways to fight climate change

Ron Outerbridge, chair of the Board of Regents (BOR) said the 24-member board, which includes faculty and student representatives, is responsible for the university’s investments and is always open to a dialogue about them.

“I’m proud of Mount Allison and what we’ve done for environmental [issues] and climate change,” Outerbridge said. “It is a complicated matter and…trying to figure out exactly the best way to address it is a challenge.”

He added that while the BOR recognizes that “climate change is one of our most pressing issues,” there are many ways to address it including changing people’s behaviour, a point also made earlier by President Boudreau.

Outerbridge suggested that since climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions, it might make more sense to focus on the largest industrial polluters rather than the fossil fuel companies that produce oil and gas.

Dan Nowlan, chair of the BOR’s investment committee, promised that at the committee’s next meeting, likely before the end of the year, MTA Divest will be invited to give a presentation.

To read the university’s official position on climate change and responsible investing, click here.

Social licence

Later in Monday’s meeting, when Divest MTA member Naia Noyes-West said scientific experts recognize that divestment is a highly effective solution in fighting climate change, Robert Inglis, the university’s vice president of finance, wondered if divestment is a solution because it’s a political response or because it would change how the fossil fuel companies operate.

“I would say both,” MTA Divest member Catherine Turnbull answered. “We know that divestment works to take the social licence away from large industries or regimes like [South African] apartheid, like the tobacco industry,” she said, adding that divestment is therefore, both political and financial.

MTA member Adrian Kiva warned President Boudreau that Divest MTA would continue to press its demands for divestment from fossil fuels.

“You know that climate change is not going to go away and neither is Divest MTA,” Kiva said.

“If today you say ‘no’ to Divest, you’re going to have to continue saying no to Divest every semester of your tenure, at every meeting where it comes up, every time when a journalist asks you,” he added. “If you say ‘yes,’ you only have to say yes to it once.”

Kiva suggested that members of Divest MTA share in values that the Mt. A. president had expressed, the values of sustainability and engagement.

“We’re here to make that offer for you to join us and be part of the structural battle against climate change,” he concluded.

Members, Divest MTA. L-R: Naia Noyes-West, Adrian Kiva, Julia Campbell, Sarah Gordon, Catherine Turnbull, Mark Nicol, Cara MacKenzie, Hanna Longard

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Firefighters tackle blaze at Salem Elementary School

Firefighters use aerial ladder truck to fight fire at Salem Elementary School

The Anglophone East School District says Sackville’s Salem Elementary will be closed Monday for repairs, but is expected to re-open on Tuesday.

The school closure became necessary after a fire today on the gymnasium roof.

Twenty-eight Sackville fire fighters were dispatched to Salem Elementary shortly before 2 p.m. after reports of flames and smoke.

Two Sackville pumpers along with an aerial ladder truck were on the scene before more personnel arrived from Point de Bute to assist with fire suppression.

Firefighters used a saw to get at the fire so they could put it out with water from a fire hose.

Aside from firefighters from Point de Bute, the Chief summoned help from Dorchester to cover other possible fire calls in the area.

He says the cause of the fire has not been determined and the Fire Marshall’s office will investigate.

Chief Bowser says the last 24-hours have been busy with high winds, downed power lines and at least one transport truck toppled by high winds on the TransCanada. The highway was closed to high-sided vehicles for several hours last night.

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Sackville postal workers stage rotating strike

Striking postal workers outside Sackville’s post office on Main St.

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) set up a picket line today outside the main post office in Sackville.

The postal workers are members of the CUPW Moncton local which began a rotating strike at 6 p.m. yesterday, one of several across the country.

The rotating strikes are happening as Canada Post and CUPW try to negotiate new contracts for the union’s two bargaining groups with the help of a special mediator appointed by the federal government.

The Urban Postal Operations and Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) bargaining units have been without a contract for almost a year.

Main issues

Linda Campbell, president of CUPW’s Moncton local, says excessive overtime and health and safety are two of the main issues.

“Health and safety is a big thing,” she adds. “We don’t want to be overburdened and we want a better quality balance with our work life and our own family life.”

Campbell explains that postal workers are routinely expected to work overtime.

“Canada Post is not hiring enough people for the workload that we have now due to the increase in parcels,” she says. “We have more and more parcels coming all the time and they don’t have enough workers to get everything processed and people end up working much longer days.”

Workplace injuries

CUPW accuses Canada Post management of refusing to deal with safety issues that arise from excessive workloads and overtime.

“People are working faster, working longer hours and the possibility of injuries due to that gets very high,” Campbell says. (CUPW’s National President Mike Palecek says that postal workers are experiencing a higher rate of injuries than other federal workers.)

Campbell adds that a third main issue involves pay disparities between different groups of workers.

“They’ve gone with a two-tier system for new hirees, temporary workers, so they’re paying them much less than their co-workers, but they’re doing the exact same job and all of our people who do the rural mail service, they do the exact same job as a letter carrier, but make less money,” she says.

“We’re looking for equality. We’re all the same and we all need to be treated the same.”

Management response

In a statement e-mailed to The New Wark Times, Canada Post says it’s working to address the union’s concerns.

“The Corporation has made significant offers to CUPW that include increased wages, job security, and improved benefits, and it has not asked for any concessions in return,” the statement says.

“We have also committed to work together to address employees’ workload concerns caused by parcel growth,” it says, suggesting that Canada Post is also open to improving rates of pay for rural and suburban workers while “moving to one uniform for all delivery employees.”

Canada Post profits

Canada Post 2017 annual report showing revenues, profits and labour costs (click to enlarge)

Meantime, CUPW Moncton’s local president Linda Campbell says most people don’t realize Canada Post is a profitable Crown Corporation that does not depend on tax subsidies.

The Corporation’s latest annual report shows that in the last five years, the Canada Post Group of Companies has made a net profit every year except 2013.

“They’re making money because of the increase in parcels,” Campbell says, “so when a company increases its productivity…don’t you think they would hire more people to be able to get that work done?”

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Sackville residents list strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for new business plan

Garth Zwicker, Santa’s elf at the opportunities table

Three kinds of hats symbolized Sackville’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities as a dozen residents gathered Monday night at town hall around tables loaded with balloons, candies, coloured markers and big sheets of blank paper.

Consultant Tyler Mattheis handed Sharon Hicks, the scribe at the “strengths” table, an orange hard hat while April MacKinnon donned a black pirate hat as scribe at the “weaknesses” table.

Mattheis said that opportunities are like gifts that need a little bit of help.

“Who gives help to the world’s best gift giver?” he asked. “Santa’s elf,” he answered, handing Garth Zwicker a red and white elf’s hat at the “opportunities” table.

Over the course of the next 90 minutes, the participants moved from table to table discussing and writing down their ideas as Mattheis, Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken and a trio of town managers mingled among them.

Business strategy

Consultant Tyler Mattheis

The exercise was part of a process to come up with a new  business development strategy for the town.

In August, councillors awarded a $17,020 contract to Mattheis’s Nova Scotia consulting firm, 4/L Strategies, to develop the new business plan in partnership with Lions Gate Consulting of Vancouver. Mattheis is also Director of Economic and Business Development for the Municipality of East Hants in Nova Scotia.

Aside from Monday’s public consultation, Mattheis has been conducting research on the town, reviewing its organizational structure, talking with town managers, Opportunities New Brunswick and the group promoting development at TransCanada highway exit 506. He says he will be interviewing local business leaders before presenting a final report to town council in December.

Mattheis says that report will fit in with the town’s overall strategic plan adopted last year. “We’re not talking a huge document here,” he says. “We’re talking bite-sized recommendations that we expect the town to take some and not take some.”

What participants found

The 12 participants in Monday’s public consultation listed many town strengths including Sackville’s location in the centre of the Maritime provinces, its stable population with “easy-going locals,” cultural diversity and the presence of the university.

Weaknesses included flooding and climate change, lack of public awareness about the importance of supporting local businesses, lack of local support from the planning commission along with rigid zoning and high rents for commercial properties.

The participants found opportunities in marketing eco and agro tourism attractions in Asian markets, encouraging immigration, a multi-cultural food store, community artist studios and more collaboration with Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe.

Strengths




Weaknesses

Opportunities

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Mt. A. prof’s new book takes aim at Canadian complicity in colonialism and dispossession

Professor David Thomas at the launch for his new book

Many Canadians see Bombardier Inc. as a Quebec company that gave us fun outdoor machines such as Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft and muscular all-terrain vehicles.

But a new book by a Mount Allison University professor paints a darker picture of a global corporation that is now a giant in aircraft production and high-speed rail transportation.

“Most Canadians would view Bombardier’s work, especially something like high-speed rail, as being relatively benign, maybe even good for the environment…a good thing for Canada,” says the book’s author, David Thomas. “But what I’m suggesting is that a lot of the mythology around the benevolence of Canadian actors needs to be deconstructed.”

Thomas, who’s a professor of politics and international relations at Mt. A., deconstructs that “mythology” of corporate benevolence in Bombardier Abroad: Patterns of Dispossession distributed by Fernwood Publishing in Nova Scotia. He defines dispossession as the process of stripping people of land and resources so that others can benefit from them.

During the book’s official launch this week at the Owens Art Gallery, Thomas said the inspiration for it came from his longstanding interest in the actions of Canadian corporations overseas as well as the ways in which Canadians themselves are complicit in those actions.

“So, for example, when our companies are operating abroad, there are lots of different ways that the Canadian government directly and indirectly supports companies working overseas, using our money, our taxpayer public funds, to help companies gain access to markets,” he said.  “Most of us are invested in one way or another in the companies either through the Canada Pension Plan or [other] investments.”

Bombardier’s ‘contested’ projects

Thomas’s book examines Bombardier’s involvement in three controversial high-speed rail projects in South Africa, China/Tibet and Israel/Palestine. He argues these projects have heightened social and political tensions partly by entrenching racial divisions in South Africa that favour the mobility rights of privileged white professionals over those of impoverished black workers and partly by denying Tibetans and Palestinians political independence and control over their own land.

“The Israel/Palestine  case, I think is a fascinating case,” Thomas says. “The controversial part of the project is that the rail line, for six kilometres, crosses into the occupied West Bank.”

Thomas adds that the route through Palestinian territory raises questions about the violation of international laws and UN resolutions that prohibit an occupying power from confiscating land in an occupied territory.

In two small Palestinian villages in the West Bank — Beit Iksa and Beit Surik — residents have struggled against Israeli occupation and annexation of their land for many years. While the Israeli state has historically confiscated land around these villages to build illegal settlements and the separation wall, the most recent land seizures are for a different purpose — the construction of a high-speed rail line connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, promising to move travellers over the 56 kilometres between the cities in 28 minutes flat. (Excerpt from Bombardier Abroad: Patterns of Dispossession)

“Bombardier didn’t build the rail line,” Thomas says, “but they will be running their trains on that line.” He notes that even though it officially opposes confiscation of Palestinian land, the Canadian government is not questioning the Bombardier project.

Thomas rejects the company’s argument that its international business projects have nothing to do with politics.

“All of the projects in this book are deeply contested by local people,” he says, “and all of them involve very political concepts and ideas such as sovereignty, self-determination, territorial integrity and so, when the people on the ground are telling us that this project is political and this project is deepening existing political problems in the area, I think we need to reassess the idea that they’re just conducting business and it’s not political in any way.”

‘Settler colonialism’

Thomas’s book argues that the railway projects in China/Tibet and Israel/Palestine are examples of what some scholars call “settler colonialism” in which indigenous people are displaced from their land and replaced, in these cases, by Chinese or Jewish settlers.

He notes that Canada itself is a settler colony.

“Because we live in a settler colonial state and because that is overall normalized in society and in government, then it becomes easier to justify our involvement in similar acts of dispossession and colonialism overseas,” he says.

Thomas’s book expresses the hope that it will awaken Canadians to overseas business projects that dispossess local populations and also make Canadians more aware of their own complicity:

As a settler on this land, my intention is not to deflect attention from, or abdicate responsibility for, contemporary forms of dispossession in Canada by focusing on case studies abroad. On the contrary, my goal is to highlight the fact the Canadian actors are simultaneously complicit in processes of dispossession both at home and abroad and that dispossession abroad is in some ways normalized because of dispossession at home.

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