Mayor Black calls Chignecto delays frustrating; defends speedy Lafford approval

Tantramar Mayor Andrew Black

Tantramar Mayor Andrew Black says he’s relieved the federal and provincial governments have finally agreed to share the costs of protecting the Chignecto Isthmus from flooding, but he still sounds far from happy.

“It has been utterly frustrating to get to the point where the feds have offered to pay for something and the provincial governments are just sort of bickering back and forth about who is going to pay for the whole thing, ” Black said today in an interview.

He was referring to news that New Brunswick and Nova Scotia will apply for federal money to pay half the cost of raising Chignecto dykes, but still plan to ask for a court ruling on whether Ottawa should pay 100% of the cost.

Funding delay

A government-funded engineering study recommended three options for protecting the Isthmus more than a year ago, but Black complains that nothing has happened since.

“Every year that passes by just makes it a little more scary,” he says. “We had a near miss with Fiona.”

He points out that the post-tropical storm veered to the east last September pounding northern Nova Scotia, PEI and Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.

“These places got absolutely pummelled,” Black says. “If that had come straight up the Bay of Fundy, the conversation right now would be much, much different.”

He adds that it’s “somewhat alarming” that the two provinces are now estimating that strengthening the dykes could cost up to $650 million, more than double the projected maximum cost of $300 million, but he’s not surprised that costs have risen as governments dithered.

Black says it’s crucial to start the five years of further study that will be needed followed by another five years of construction.

“In all of that time, another storm could come through and could separate Nova Scotia from the rest of the country which would be hugely detrimental to Tantramar and its residents, not to mention our agricultural supportive land in our community,” Black says.

“So, it doesn’t matter, the bickering or if there’s partisan politics, just somebody needs to pay for it and someone needs to get it started.”

Lafford building

Black’s comments came after a noon-hour town council meeting that lasted less than three minutes.

The special meeting was convened so that council could give final approval to the six-storey, 71-unit Lafford apartment building at 131 Main Street in Sackville.

Black says he called the meeting after John Lafford requested it. Otherwise, the developer would have had to wait for final approval until council’s next regular meeting on August 8th.

Once again, only Councillor Bruce Phinney voted against approving the zoning amendments needed for the building.

When asked if speeding up the process showed favouritism, especially since previous councils had twice rejected building proposals for that site from another developer, Black said every development application is different.

“Have we opened a door to this kind of appeal by a developer to rush something through?” Black asked.

“Maybe,” he answered. “Would we do it for one person and not for someone else? Possibly. But again, each development is different,” he said.

“Is it favouritism? Hard to say. He’s a developer who’s developed a lot in Sackville,” Black said, adding that the town doesn’t get many permit applications or zoning requests, but that the ones from Lafford show he’s investing here.

“So I would say, it’s not really favouritism, it’s just that he seems to have a sizeable market share in development in the town.”

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15 Responses to Mayor Black calls Chignecto delays frustrating; defends speedy Lafford approval

  1. Percy Best says:

    Great news that the Chignecto Isthmus Flood Mitigation Project is finally headed towards a physical start. Department of Transportation and Infrastructure NB has had the drawing of the proposed location of the Tantramar River gate system for approximately 8 years now.

    Once the new gates are constructed at the mouth of the Tantramar, between the Westcock Marsh and the Beausejour Marsh, then everything upstream of there will be freshwater and NON tidal. There will be no need for any aboiteau, such as AB-01 in behind Russel Metals of which the construction is yet to go to tender. There will be no need for any fresh water holding ponds such as that which is yet to be constructed near the Sackville Industrial Park, or the existing holding pond on St James Street or the recently constructed one at the Pickard Quarry.

    Storm fresh water in the future will be able to flow totally unrestricted from the town on a 24/7 basis and directly to the Tantramar River which will act as the ultimate retention pond. Places where aboiteaux are now will actually be able to become open ditches or large culverts. Carter’s Brook will have the 3 new aboiteau gates removed as well as the gates on any aboiteaux that are upstream of the proposed new Tantramar gates.

    I just wish that this Chignecto project had been initialized years ago instead of the taxpayers having thrown so much money at the Lorne Street Flood Mitigation project that now seems rather redundant in its scope.

  2. Ralston says:

    Pretty rich statement . A Liberal dumping on two con premiers. This should easily be funded federally as it’s all our tax dollars and it’s Canada they would be spending it on. I mean come on and just get it done instead of all the global funding with the taxpayers money. Dominic could care less about this part of his riding and it’s showed over the years, and with our current mla we’ve gotten absolutely nothing provincially.

    • Chris Harborne says:

      So in one breath you’re saying to not blame the province, but then saying that our MLA hasn’t helped. So should this be provincial? If you want to be “rah rah, my team does no wrong”, that’s your prerogative, however it’s not difficult to see through it. As for funding, both provincially AND federally it’s our tax dollars. You can for sure argue that borrowing for it at the federal level might make it a bit cheaper. But that’s not what either the feds or the province are arguing, they just want it as a line item on the other’s budget so theirs looks better. Realistically where it will end up is the feds will pay 50% allowing for cost overruns, NB pays 25% and NS pays 25%. It’s the compromise no one is happy with, which is why it’s the best one.

      • Ralston says:

        Yes. We get shafted since we have green non effective mla. Just look at what we’ve had since green mla. Tell me we’ve been better off! And keep rah rah ing for your buddy black. He’s a liberal so he will throw dirt on a conservative Govt. Wondering if he’s going to run against mitton next provincial election? Or wait for next one. The federal mp we have has done very little for the part of his riding that doesn’t speak his language, prove us wrong with an explanation.

    • Elaine MacDonald says:

      Rightly dumping on Con Premiers, to be honest. Though I see the point of pushing for the Feds to pay for the entire project, it’s also rather childish to think neither province would have gotten away with not paying some part of it.

      Yes, Dominic could care less about this area of his riding, that’s fairly provable really.

      As for the current MLA, that I disagree with. I think Meghan has been a great MLA, better than some of the more recent ones to be honest. I’ve seen more public interaction from her than the other previous MLA’s, and keeping us up to date on things going on.

      I think the fact that our MLA – or any for that matter – is ignored all because they don’t come from the “Right party” is proof that the system needs to change, more people of different parties need to be put into office and no more 2 specific parties controlling the rulership of NB with specifically who flip-flopping every few years.

      Our MLA being Green isn’t the issue. It’s the parties in power thinking only their members matter.

  3. Marc says:

    “So I would say, it’s not really favouritism, it’s just that he seems to have a sizeable market share in development in the town.” — Mayor Andrew Black

    The problem with this episode, regardless of how one feels about the merits of the project itself, is one of process and optics. In its issue of 28 June 2023, Wark Times quoted Mr. Lafford as saying “[W]hen this building goes up. And this building is going to go up, […] and I’m not being cocky and I’m not being foolish.” It’s perfectly clear who has been in control of the process, and Council “ain’t it.”

    Let’s look at it this way: Would Council hold a special, drop-of-the-hat, rubber-stamp meeting for just *any* Sackville resident with a pet issue? I rather doubt it! So the question then becomes, exactly what has to be on the table for Council to act in this fashion? What are the required terms?

    While Council has dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts, there remains a taint — a soupçon, if you will! — of illegitimacy that I suspect will plague both the developer and the town for many years to come. Process matters, since it confers legitimacy on outcomes with which not all may agree. And the *perception* of process — open, transparent, and equally applied to all — matters even more.

    The signs on the Trans-Canada leading into Sackville include the tagline “A new kind of small town” (or words to that effect). In the present case, well, not so much. When money talks, Council sits up and pays attention.

    • Sharon Hicks says:

      Marc has stated it very clearly – Process matters, and the Perception of Process matters most of all.

      Mayor Black’s lackadaisical replies to the serious questions about how this matter was handled actually reveal that there WAS no process in play.

      If they are going to treat every instance differently, then that signifies a LACK of Process.

      As Marc so eloquently pointed out, a true Process would apply equally to all, regardless of individual circumstances.

      What has happened in this instance certainly paves the way for future undue influence from developers on our Bylaws and Processes of Council.

      • Azi says:

        Very well said Marc and Sharon. But in my experience, the by-laws and Processes will remain and will be followed for other developers (meaning except Lafford s). Otherwise, there was no reason for many of the present councilors to reject previous proposals by another developer.
        I can only blame some chairs in the Sackville/Tantramar town hall. Next time, we should vote for new chairs, not new councilors or Mayors.

      • Elaine MacDonald says:

        I think in reality it’s like anything else.

        Money rules and right now, certain people have that money, which is why this is happening.

  4. S.A. Cunliffe says:

    Jobs in construction are coming soon to downtown again… and more housing…. an amazing 71 units! So let’s celebrate this activity and isn’t that a great message for the rest of the world to see about our cozy university enclave.. after all – not everyone has a comfy position in the field of government or education to pay their bills with.. do they? All the people complaining don’t mean anything when a man has got ownership of land in the core of the town to develop… and he’s John Lafford… believe you me.. he is gonna develop housing on it… nothing new here at all under the sun… so all the clucking sounds just like that “clucking” of barnyard animals with nothing better to do than complain their days away. Hilarious.

    • Jon says:

      “and he’s John Lafford… believe you me.. he is gonna develop housing on it… nothing new here at all under the sun… so all the clucking sounds just like that “clucking” of barnyard animals with nothing better to do than complain their days away.”

      – Saying Lafford is above the law and can do whatever he wants
      – Dehumanizing your neighbours by comparing them to farm animals

      What a great approach to dealing with differences of opinion in the community.

    • Elaine MacDonald says:

      “Great message for the rest of the world!”

      Depending on your view, I suppose.

      More housing at the expense of quite a few legitimate concerns, which shows that perhaps the town isn’t so “cozy” and “welcoming”, or have a “great message” after all.

      Maybe the message it has is “Money Talks”. Or “Being the right person” matters.

      • S.A. Cunliffe says:

        Money does talk Elaine… Mount Allison University gets lots of money for their charitable centre they operate in town … $36Million being the latest ‘gift’ for the library addition they felt they “needed” but meanwhile the overlooked Skatepark Project that I and others were advocating since 2013 here is a non-build due to “lack of funding” not lack of interest… it depends who you know when it comes to which projects are favoured here but I absolutely do think Lafford adds value to the town and creates housing so no matter all the whining and complaining by his critics he isn’t the bad guy here and those who will still continue to bash him after mayor and council gave their support really have zero compassion for people seeking housing – how does that happen… how to become so detached from reality?

  5. Drake says:

    Mostly curious why the mayor would decide to attend the RAMSAR conference on protected wetlands and how many times he was proud to bring up with his fellow attendees this major construction development he was about to green light right on the edge of ours.

    • S.A. Cunliffe says:

      Wetlands are protected – Lafford’s acreage property is adjacent to the park… please keep the facts straight here. If you are in fact interested in facts you would know that… there are lots of properties bordering the wetlands around the town including the Tourist Info Centre, and the Wildlife Centre in the woods, as well as farms, homes, care home, university, etc. etc. Stop making this a case of Black and Lafford = bad guys for building next to a sacred pond… it’s getting old on this story.. real old.

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