Sackville councillors debate who should be recognized as a journalist covering town council

Councillor Sabine Dietz

Sackville councillors debated a proposed addition to a town bylaw Tuesday night that defines the “press” as “an individual reporting on behalf of an accredited media outlet including print, radio and television.”

The definition says that those who write for “personal, non-commercial or enthusiast websites do not qualify as accredited media.”

“When I saw this, it reminded me of the Conservative years in Ottawa when the then prime minister determined what the press was,” said Councillor Sabine Dietz referring to Stephen Harper’s wide-ranging restrictions on journalists who covered his government.

“I feel highly uncomfortable with that approach to limiting who is defined as having access to politicians etc. or receiving information at a certain time,” she added.

“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.

Councillor Bill Evans

Councillor Bill Evans said he supported dropping the new definition because what he called “alternative media” are playing an increasingly vital role in making the public aware of what’s going on.

“In Sackville, with the loss of our traditional newspaper, we’ve had a vacuum, so I would say that our problem isn’t too much media, it’s not enough,” Evans added.

In an apparent reference to The New Wark Times, he said he welcomed alternative media coverage.

“It doesn’t mean I always like it or agree with it, but I think it’s hugely important and the more the better as far as I’m concerned,” he added.

“There could be legitimate reasons on how we acknowledge that or grant privileges to certain individuals so I’m open to this discussion, but I don’t want to do anything that limits, let’s just call it, alternative media,” Evans concluded.

Press privileges

CAO Jamie Burke responded that the “press” needs to be defined in the bylaw because reporters get to go first during council’s public question periods and the town clerk has now begun sending council documents to the media at 4 p.m. on the day of special council meetings.

That means that journalists will have the privilege of receiving the background documents before the public sees them.

CAO Jamie Burke

Burke said the town has a good relationship with Warktimes as well as traditional media outlets, but staff felt it was important to define the press in case of future trouble.

“If we get somebody who thinks they are the press and they could have a belief system that is fundamentally different to our strategic plan and our community beliefs, we don’t want to be treating them the same as we’re treating the CBC or CHMA or the Times & Transcript.”

Later, during the public question period, Burke suggested the bylaw definition of “press” would give council more control.

“If there was an individual, maybe it’s a blogger who’s using racist, sexist and other commentary as part of the regular reporting, how do we have the ability to push back a little bit?” he asked.

“Or if somebody wasn’t showing professionalism or respect with the way our meetings are conducted or how they’re respecting individual staff members or members of council.”

Earlier in the meeting, Councillor Michael Tower said the definition of “press” excluded Warktimes which, he said, is now serving as the town’s online newspaper.

He added that if problems arise in future, council could deal with them then.

“I just find it restrictive,” Tower said. “It opens the door so that we can slam it on somebody because we don’t like what they might have published or put on the Internet.”

Councillor Ken Hicks

Councillor Ken Hicks disagreed saying he saw value in the new definition of “press.”

“The difference between [an] accredited media outlet in my understanding and let’s say, a regular blogger is that the accredited person that’s reporting on behalf of the media, they have someone overtop of them that they report to, an editor or something like that,” he said.

“Where a blogger reports to themselves, so there’s considerably less accountability.”

Hicks added that he’s not saying bloggers shouldn’t be able to report on town council.

“Of course, there’s tremendous value in that, but I think it’s important that we have a guideline like this in place so that it’s not the Wild West in here, that there is rules, there is procedures to follow.”

In the end, council agreed to consider the definition of “press” as well as other changes to the organization and procedures bylaw again in September.

Here is the proposed definition: “Press” means an individual reporting on behalf of an accredited media outlet including print, radio, and television medium. (Personal, non-commercial or enthusiast websites do not qualify as accredited media.)

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 15 Comments

NS Election: NDP candidate Lauren Skabar pushes for higher minimum wage, permanent rent controls

Lauren Skabar poses with NDP campaign sign (Facebook photo)

Lauren Skabar says she’s been involved with the New Democratic Party for as long as she can remember.

“I would go with my parents to different events and different debates, [and] I’ve been a card-carrying member since I was 14, so over 10 years now almost.”

She says she has also been a volunteer on various federal and provincial election campaigns for more than a decade.

Skabar, who is now running as the NDP candidate in Cumberland North in the August 17 Nova Scotia election, is following in the footsteps of her father Brian who represented the riding for four years when the NDP took power in 2009.

“For me the NDP has always represented something better for Nova Scotians whether that be better health care, better access to information, quality housing…higher minimum wage, it represents everybody in Nova Scotia and not just the higher-ups in Nova Scotia, not just business owners in Nova Scotia, but everybody,” Lauren Skabar says.

She adds that the NDP’s call for a $15 minimum wage, up from the current $12.95 per hour, is an example of the party’s concern for everyone and especially the poor.

Newly released figures from Statistics Canada show Nova Scotia has consistently trailed behind New Brunswick and PEI in average or median, after-tax family incomes in recent years ranking lowest among the 10 provinces in 2017 and again in 2019.

“The minimum wage we have right now is just disgusting,” Skabar says. “We need to implement a $15 minimum wage immediately on the way to a living wage, which in Nova Scotia is $18.95.”

Skabar adds that there’s no way people can cover their bills, afford child care, pay their rent or save up for a down payment on a house when they’re earning less than $13 an hour.

“During the pandemic, we were praising retail workers and grocery store workers and gas station attendants for being the heroes along with our health-care workers,” she says.

“If these are our heroes then why are we paying them poverty wages?”

Skabar says she’s also concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Cumberland North, adding that during recent door-to-door canvassing, she heard from one couple whose landlord sold the house they were renting.

“They had to move, but their rent doubled, so that isn’t right, there’s no reason that somebody who’s been living in Cumberland North for their whole life, who may not be able to afford a house, has their rent doubled in a month because there’s no permanent rent controls.”

Last November, the Liberal government announced a temporary two percent cap on annual rent increases during the pandemic, but then quietly dropped the cap for tenants moving into existing rental properties.

Library school

Lauren Skabar outside First Baptist Church in downtown Amherst

As we talk on Sunday outside the Four Fathers Memorial Library in downtown Amherst, Skabar remarks that the building is one of her favourite places in town.

Her four years of work as a summer student there led her to library school at Dalhousie University where she recently graduated with a Masters degree in library and information studies.

She says she’s currently using her research skills working for the federal NDP in Halifax.

Later, as we walk on Victoria Street, Skabar points to the First Baptist Church where she joined the youth group as a high school student.

“Some of the memories I hold dearest to me is that youth group,” she says.

“My acting career started and ended there,” she adds smiling. “Maybe one day, I’ll get back to the stage.”

Meantime, Skabar’s NDP candidacy in Cumberland North has landed her on the Nova Scotia political stage where she gets to talk about big issues such as climate change, health care, education and the need for ensuring quicker access to mental health counselling.

“Even though I’ve definitely been strongly influenced by my own Dad, when I look at the NDP platform now, there are so many things that I wouldn’t have thought about before and now that I see it in writing and I see what we’re going to do, I realize how important that is to me,” she says.

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NS Election: Liberal Bill Casey promises to fight for Cumberland’s special needs

Cumberland North Liberal candidate Bill Casey outside his campaign office in Amherst

Former federal Member of Parliament Bill Casey says he’s running for the provincial Liberals in the August 17th Nova Scotia election mainly because officials in Halifax do not recognize the special needs of an area that borders on a neighbouring province.

“People in Cumberland County feel like we’re not part of the province and I believe that I can help fix that,” Casey said on Tuesday during an interview in his Amherst campaign office.

“There’s 18 counties in Nova Scotia and it just seems to me that 17 have one set of rules and there’s a separate set of rules for Cumberland and I’d like to change that.”

Casey explains that Cumberland in the only county in Nova Scotia that borders on another province with a wide-range of differing tax policies and rules for everything from the sale of gasoline, alcohol and tobacco to regulations that govern trucking.

“When the gas prices go down in New Brunswick, Cumberland County residents will flock to New Brunswick and then when Nova Scotia prices are down, New Brunswick customers will flock to Nova Scotia,” he says.

“Other counties in Nova Scotia do not have to experience that and don’t feel it, but we do every day.”

Casey says the population of the three Maritime provinces is only the size of a big city so it makes sense to share services with perhaps, one department of transportation, one registry of motor vehicles and one liquor commission.

“It would save a lot of money and that way we would have similar regulations between the provinces so we wouldn’t have this difference.”

He points to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation as an example of inter-provincial co-operation that he says works well and benefits everyone.

“There’s not three different overheads and head offices and staff and different regulations,” he adds. “If you buy a ticket in Nova Scotia, it’s exactly the same as a ticket in New Brunswick and I believe that we should explore all avenues of government services to see how we could share.”

Highway tolls

Casey points to the Cobequid Pass highway tolls as another example that separates Cumberland County from the rest of Nova Scotia.

“To me, it’s a matter of fairness and this is one county that’s had to pay tolls for 25 years,” he says.

Liberal campaign ad showing Bill Casey watching as Iain Rankin promises to lift some highway tolls during a campaign stop in Amherst on July 20

“A student in Amherst who wanted to go to any university in Nova Scotia has to pay an $8 toll,” he adds.

“My daughter has to take her daughter to the IWK in Halifax, she has to pay an $8 toll and nobody else in Nova Scotia has to do that.”

Casey says Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin’s campaign promise to remove tolls on passenger vehicles with Nova Scotia licence plates is a step toward eliminating all the tolls.

“It’s the first time in 25 years that we’ve had any reduction in the tolls for anybody, so it’s a start and it’s again one way Cumberland County was treated differently than everybody else.”

When asked why voters should believe Rankin’s promise to remove tolls when Liberals made the same pledge in 2017 but never acted on it, Casey replies that now, there’s a definite date.

“They [the Liberals in 2017] had a vague time frame, but we have October the 1st as the date and I believe it’s going to happen. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be upset,” he says with a chuckle.

Historic sites

Casey says he’ll also fight to end provincial discrimination against Cumberland County for recognition of its history.

During his seven terms as a federal Member of Parliament for the Nova Scotia riding of Cumberland-Colchester, Casey succeeded in getting Beaubassin designated a National Historic Site.

Parks Canada installed a kiosk and panels outlining the history of the Acadian village that was burned in 1750 as England and France were battling for control of the Chignecto Isthmus.

When Iain Rankin visited Amherst earlier this month, the Liberal leader promised to explore ways of recognizing the nearby Chignecto Ship Railway.

Casey says the never-completed railway, designed to carry ships over the Isthmus between the Northumberland Strait and the Bay of Fundy, is one of two nationally historic civil engineering sites in Nova Scotia, both equal in historic value. The other is the Shubenacadie Canal.

“Talk about differences between Cumberland County and other counties,” Casey says.

“Shubenacadie Canal gets hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into it; Chignecto Ship Railway doesn’t get a cent,” he adds.

“I really believe in preserving our history.”

This is the first in a series of reports on the Liberal campaign in Cumberland North. We will also be providing additional coverage of Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin who is running as an Independent; Lauren Skabar’s campaign for the NDP and David Wightman’s candidacy for the Progressive Conservatives.

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NS Election: Independent candidate pledges to keep fighting for the people of Cumberland North

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin outside her Amherst campaign office

Political observers across the Maritime provinces are watching the riding of Cumberland North as Nova Scotians head to the polls in a provincial election on August 17th.

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is running for re-election in the riding as an independent candidate after being dumped last month by the Progressive Conservatives over her support for protests against provincial border restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith-McCrossin says she decided to run after receiving hundreds of messages on Facebook, by e-mail and phone asking her to continue to fight for her constituents.

“What people were sharing with me is that they were finally happy to see someone stand up for them and try to share their voices and their frustrations from being ignored by the provincial government for 16 months,” Smith-McCrossin said on Friday during an interview at her busy campaign office in downtown Amherst.

“Decisions were being made that impacted the lives of the people here, they were never consulted, neither Premier McNeil or Rankin ever came here to our border community to sit down and understand the needs of the people,” she added.

Smith-McCrossin says that after months of separation from their families in New Brunswick, people in Cumberland North were extremely upset on June 22nd when the Nova Scotia Premier suddenly announced the provincial border would not be re-opening as planned the next day.

Smith-McCrossin issuing Facebook ultimatum to NS Premier on June 22nd

That’s when she issued an ultimatum to Iain Rankin on Facebook warning that if the premier didn’t change his mind by 4 p.m., the TransCanada highway would be shut down in protest, not at the provincial border, but as it turned out, at Exit 7 about 30 minutes away.

Smith-McCrossin joined the protesters there at around 4:30 p.m.

She says the RCMP were re-routing traffic at Exit 7 and that as angry as they were, protesters were letting some cars through if they were carrying elderly people, children or those with medical conditions.

“The RCMP also assured me as MLA that it was a legal, peaceful protest because they were able to ensure that people could get around,” Smith-McCrossin adds.

She says that as darkness fell, she urged people to go home, promising that she would drive to Halifax the next day to speak with Rankin directly.

However, when Smith-McCrossin reached Halifax on June 23rd, the premier was out of town and as she continued to wait for him, protesters closed the provincial border blocking medical supplies and giving a platform to anti-vaxxers campaigning against COVID vaccines.

Smith-McCrossin says she issued statements calling for the protesters to stop their blockade, but can understand why they continued it anyway.

“Before the June 23rd border blockade, the people that had set that up, they had been protesting every Sunday there for eight weeks before that and had shut down the border, the highway, on three different occasions trying to get Rankin to listen to them, trying to get someone from the government to pay attention,” she adds.

“It’s been very frustrating for people here; nobody shuts down a highway unless they’re at a point of frustration,” Smith-McCrossin says. “Why would you have grandmothers and business owners standing on a highway protesting?”

As she campaigns for re-election, Smith-McCrossin is clearly hoping that her call for the highway shut down on June 22nd and her refusal to condemn the border blockade the next day will continue to win her voter support.

She won the riding for the Progressive Conservatives in 2017 with 51.7% of the vote.

But this time, as she campaigns for re-election without PC support, she’s up against two opponents with name recognition in Cumberland North.

Veteran Member of Parliament Bill Casey is the candidate for the provincial Liberals, while Lauren Skabar, daughter of former MLA Brian Skabar, is running for the NDP.

So far, no one else is listed by Elections Nova Scotia as an official candidate. Nominations close in two days on July 28 at 2 p.m.

This is the first in a series on the Smith-McCrossin campaign. Warktimes will also be covering the other candidates’ campaigns.

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Sackville seeks to maintain independence, rejects municipal amalgamation in letter to province

The Town of Sackville has formally rejected municipal amalgamation with nearby communities in the Tantramar region.

In a letter to Daniel Allain, the provincial minister responsible for municipal reform, Sackville recommends retaining its independent status as “a new kind of small town.”

The letter states bluntly: “Sackville does not feel amalgamation is a realistic solution and would object to any forced amalgamation.”

Instead, it suggests that surrounding communities be incorporated into a regional government overseen by a county council similar to ones in Nova Scotia.1

“This model would allow incorporated municipalities such as Sackville to deal with an equivalent government on any form of shared services,” the letter adds.

It notes that the recent provincial Green Paper on municipal reform focuses on the lack of democratic representation in local service districts (LSDs), which do not elect a mayor and council, but are governed by provincial officials in Fredericton.

“The governance structure of unincorporated areas [LSDs] is presented as a major problem in the Green Paper,” Sackville’s letter points out.

“We strongly agree with this position and would suggest that some form of regional government be explored so that local representation can be established within these currently unincorporated areas.”

Although the letter does not name specific communities, there are nine local service districts in the Tantramar region that include places such as Midgic, Westcock, British Settlement and Wood Point.

In a comprehensive report on municipal reform in 2008, Commissioner Jean-Guy Finn suggested that Sackville join with the nine LSDs along with the villages of Port Elgin and Dorchester to form one municipality within a regional service district.

However, in its letter to the the minister, Sackville portrays itself as an independent regional centre with a hospital, university and a variety of cultural assets such as museums, galleries and creative artists.

The letter also mentions the town’s “innovative employers in the industrial sector.”

It adds: “We are a hub for the surrounding region and residents, who visit Sackville for groceries, banking, medical appointments and access to government services such as the Post Office, Service New Brunswick and the Southeast Regional Service Commission.”

At a special meeting last night, Sackville Town Council discussed a draft of the letter and authorized Mayor Mesheau to sign a final version that will include councillors’ suggestions for stronger language on the urgent need to take action on climate change and to respect the rights and status of First Nations peoples.

UPDATE: At the urging of Councillor Sabine Dietz, the final letter includes this reference to climate change under the heading Land Use Planning:

New Brunswick needs a provincial planning framework that addresses the most important issue facing our province, climate change. How we plan for climate change will impact other issues such as urban sprawl, coastal development, floodplains, health and built environment, infrastructure investments and transportation planning, resource developments and agriculture. All of these areas have a provincial interest.

The final letter also contains a sentence under the heading Other Observations that was suggested by Councillor Andrew Black:

We strongly recommend that the Province consider the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action as they move forward with Local Governance Reform.

To read the letter, posted on the town’s website, click here.

This is the first in a two-part series about Sackville’s latest position on municipal reform.

Posted in New Brunswick government, Town of Sackville | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sackville Town Council approves fireworks display during Fall Fair

Spider-shaped firework. Wikipedia photo: Dainan Kaplan

In a 7-1 vote, Sackville Town Council has approved a fireworks display during this year’s Fall Fair in spite of concerns about potentially adverse environmental effects.

“It’s nearly impossible to assign a numerical value to the impact that the fireworks could have on our environment,” Recreation Manager Matt Pryde told council on Monday.

He said most of the research relates to large-scale events in the U.S., India or Australia.

“That said, fireworks are technically an explosion and when an explosion goes off, there’s smoke and when there’s smoke, there’s the potential for particles and toxins and chemicals to get into the air,” Pryde said, adding that chemicals can stay airborne for days before falling to the ground where they can get into the soil harming wildlife and plants.

Pryde said town staff also received information from the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change about the potentially damaging effects of loud explosions on wildlife and domestic animals.

He said that in future, the town could consider replacing fireworks displays with light shows using lasers and drones.

Pryde’s report came in response to concerns raised at an earlier meeting by Councillor Sabine Dietz who thanked staff for conducting this latest research.

Councillor Sabine Dietz

She said she would be voting against holding a fireworks display during the Fall Fair, but acknowledged that more conclusive evidence would be needed to make a fully informed decision.

“I know our town needs to do a lot of stuff and the expense for fireworks based on my knowledge that it is an environmental problem, fireworks in general, I will vote against the motion,” Dietz said.

“I’m going to vote in favour,” said Councillor Bill Evans, “but that doesn’t mean there aren’t arguments against it.”

He added that he was glad council was discussing the issue.

“It’s not just the environmental concerns; I know people have PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and I know people who have dogs who leave town when we have fireworks, so there are things to consider,” Evans said.

The Fall Fair fireworks display will be held at the Lorne Street soccer field on Friday, September 24th with a rain date scheduled for Saturday, September 25th.

For a detailed 2019 CBC report on how fireworks can affect human health and the eco-system, click here.

Posted in Environment, Town of Sackville | Tagged | 4 Comments

Local business owner questions Sackville’s $1.8 million RCMP contract

Kevin Read, owner of Sackville’s Glowing Embers heating store, addressing Sackville town council

Sackville businessman Kevin Read is questioning whether the town is getting good value for the more than $1.8 million it spends every year on the RCMP.

“My main question is if we’re paying this kind of money, why everybody in town doesn’t feel safe right now,” Read said Monday during town council’s public question period.

He referred to recent fires that destroyed three houses just outside town limits in Upper Sackville threatening the lives of Brian and Marlene Doncaster who were asleep in their home on Pond Shore Road when it went up in flames in the early morning hours of June 5th.

“When you have something in a line of arson, attempted murder,” Read said, “and it takes an hour for RCMP to respond to something like that when the office is right here,” he added, pointing downward to indicate the RCMP offices on the main floor of the town hall.

“There is many, many nights in this town, there’s nobody on duty,” he said, adding that he’d like to know why the RCMP detachment is not staffed at all times.

Read said that when he had an accident some years ago in downtown Sackville, he waited 25 minutes for the RCMP to come from Memramcook.

Response times

Mayor Mesheau responds to Read

Mayor Mesheau and CAO Jamie Burke responded that under Sackville’s Municipal Policing Service Agreement with the RCMP, up to 10 officers are assigned to the town’s detachment.

Burke said he would have to check with Sgt. Paul Gagné on whether there is any data on how long it takes the detachment to respond to specific calls.

“I’m just assuming here, which we probably shouldn’t be doing, but it all depends on the circumstances of the day and where their resources need to be mobilized,” Burke said.

“We can check with Sgt. Gagné and see if there’s any details with respect to those individual response times within the municipal boundary,” he added.

“Thank you for your answer, but I don’t accept that answer,” Read replied.

“We are paying for protection and response times,” he added. “Three hundred and sixty days of this year at least, there should be one person on call and we should have a response within 15 minutes to anything because that’s what a taxpayer is paying for.”

Mesheau repeated that the town needs to check with the RCMP.

“You’ve indicated that there’s no response time, there’s no coverage at certain times,” the mayor said.

“That’s not information that necessarily has been made available to this council or to staff,” he added. “We need the opportunity to ask the sergeant in charge to provide that information in order to get clarification.”

Read said later that although he’s concerned about the fires in Upper Sackville, his main point is that the RCMP should be available in town at all times to serve and protect vulnerable people here.

Praise for RCMP

One of two burned houses on Upper Aboujagane Road. Power lines in the background mark Sackville town limits

Meantime, a resident who lives in the area where the three houses burned, says he has nothing but praise for the RCMP even though they did arrive after the fire department when the Doncaster house burned.

“I was worrying about people getting burnt in the house and not worrying about when the police were coming, it was quite hectic here, five o’clock in the morning,” the resident said in a telephone interview.

Warktimes has decided not to use the person’s name because of ongoing threats and safety concerns.

“A lot of people got a hate on for the RCMP, but we don’t,” the resident said. “We’ve dealt with them a lot between the fires and all this stuff going on.”

The resident says the RCMP presence in the area, which is outside town limits, has been constant even though their resources are stretched thin.

“You get into the middle of what we’ve been through in the last year, you gain a little more respect for them, they’re doing their best, I know they are.”

The resident had a brick thrown through a window in April and since then has installed shatterproof glass along with cameras, emergency lights and burglar alarms.

“For awhile, I’d go to bed at eight and get up at midnight,” the resident said while another person in the house would go to bed at midnight so that someone would always be awake.

“What they’ve been doing is throwing a cocktail through the window and when it hits the floor, the gas and fire just go everywhere,” the resident  says.

“The police stayed out here for 10 or 12 days every night watching our house and they’ve been giving 110% most of the time, I can’t say anything bad about them.”

The RCMP did not return a call from Warktimes seeking more information about police staffing levels and response times.

For the latest CHMA story on the fires in Upper Sackville, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 4 Comments

Sackville resident disputes police claim that Pond Shore speeding is not as bad as people think

Sgt. Paul Gagné answering questions about speeding on Pond Shore Rd.

A 26-year resident of Pond Shore Road is disputing claims by the head of the local RCMP detachment that speeding in her neighbourhood isn’t as bad as it seems.

Laurie Ann Wesselby was responding to statements by Sgt. Paul Gagné during Monday’s Sackville town council meeting.

“Visually I think it sometimes looks like people are going faster than they are,” Gagné said in response to a question about speeding on Pond Shore.

“I’m not saying there’s no speeding, I’m just saying that if somebody is going 10 over the speed limit there, it may look like to somebody there that they’re going like 20 or more.”

He added that RCMP members who patrol the area tell him, in his words, “there isn’t as much speeding as people may suggest.”

Wesselby, whose home office overlooks Pond Shore Road, strongly disagrees.

“I understand that our perception of a car driving by may appear faster,” she says.

“However, when you see cars and motorcycles literally going so fast that you can just barely see them; I sit here in my office and watch motorcyles come off the road, he’s going that fast, he’s scaling and just flies,” she adds.

Wesselby says the RCMP drive by occasionally, but rarely set up radar traps to enforce the 60 km/h speed limit or even monitor what’s happening on the road.

“I’m not saying every single car that goes by here speeds, but there is a concern, otherwise the citizens would not be bringing it up.”

No data

Pond Shore speed sign showing approaching car travelling 75 km/h in 60 zone. Blind hill appears in the distance

Wesselby and two other residents voiced their concerns to town council in April during a meeting at which Town Engineer Dwayne Acton recommended that the town install a second radar device to tell motorists how fast they’re going and to record speed data that could be shared with the RCMP.

In an e-mail to Warktimes, Acton writes that the town hasn’t been able to install that second speed sign yet because it needs replacement parts, but once the sign is repaired, it will be placed beside the southbound lane heading into town.

More than a year ago, the town installed the first sign beside the northbound lane, but wasn’t able to retrieve speed data from it for many months.

Acton writes that after working with the manufacturer, the town can now download the information.

“However, we have not been able to evaluate the data at this time and we have not shared this information with RCMP yet, but plan to the first opportunity we get,” he adds.

High speed, hit and run

Charles Bourque’s wrecked car in Facebook photo from December, 2019

Laurie Ann Wesselby says she lives directly across Pond Shore from Charles Bourque, the victim of a high-speed collision in December 2019 that sent the elderly man to hospital suffering from severe shoulder and back injuries, cracked ribs and whiplash.

Bourque was turning left into his driveway at the crest of a blind hill when he was struck from behind by a northbound pick-up that sent his car careening off the road into a wooded area as the truck driver sped away.

Wesselby says her neighbour is still suffering from the effects of the crash.

“Even today you go out and walk and there’s still little pieces of debris around where the accident was on the road, sometimes you’ll see a little piece here and there and it shows you how hard he was hit.”

Wesselby says she was involved in a collision herself in 2000 as she came out of her driveway at the crest of the blind hill.

During Monday’s council meeting, Sgt. Gagné seemed to suggest the main problem may lie with motorists coming into town on what he called a “feeder road,” but Wesselby says excessive speeding is equally apparent in both directions.

“When you come around Silver Lake by the bridge and you’re heading up Pond Shore,” she says, “as soon as they hit that corner in this straightaway, you can hear them revving up, especially motorcycles and the cars that have the loud mufflers and you can hear the same in my office on the other side; there’s the two straightaways on either side of the blind hill.”

Wesselby suggests it’s as though some drivers are playing a game.

“It seems like it’s a straightaway and it’s like, ‘let’s rev up and we’re going to speed up and see how fast we can scale that hill.'”

Lower speed, safer road

Sign beside the inbound lane on Pond Shore Rd.

Wesselby says the speed limit on this narrow section of Pond Shore should be lowered to 50 km/h and the RCMP should enforce it more.

She also says something needs to be done to make the road safer for pedestrians because in some places the shoulder is so narrow that people are forced to walk on the pavement beside speeding vehicles.

“You drive around town and you start looking at sidewalks,” she says “and upgrades that have happened, there’s not a whole lot past Silver Lake.”

Pond Shore Rd. resident Laurie Ann Wesselby

She acknowledges that residents have the nearby TransCanada walking and bicycle trail.

“Yes, we have the bike trail, but to get to that bike trail, we still have to walk on the road,” she says, “and if you have a stroller with small kids in it, it’s pretty hard to feel safe.”

Near the end of the 18-minute phone interview, Wesselby reports on an incident she has just witnessed from her office window.

“I just watched four bicycles literally went by the house here right now and a car was passing them and one cyclist pulled right over and stopped,” she says, suggesting that the car was uncomfortably close to him.

“He pulled over and stopped and got off his bike, the others were just in front of him and I didn’t see what they did because there’s a tree,” she adds.

“That right there is a prime example,” Wesselby says.”I wish I had got a picture of it.”

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Sackville firefighter calls on town council to get involved in fixing troubled fire service

Sackville Firefighter Laura Thurston addressing town council

Sackville Town Council has been asked to take a more direct role in solving persistent personnel problems within the town’s fire department.

During a presentation to council last night, volunteer firefighter Laura Thurston requested that council ask to see the final report from the consulting firm that is assessing allegations of bullying, harassment, favouritism and discrimination against women within the fire service.

“To help avoid a potential conflict of interest and ensure the integrity of the information, I’m asking council to consider meeting, discussing and approving obtaining the full, detailed workplace assessment report and recommendations directly from Montana Consulting for both Sackville Fire & Rescue and the employees of the town,” Thurston said.

She also said that when she asked the consulting firm who would receive their final report and recommendations, she was told they would be provided to CAO Jamie Burke.

“As an official within our direct chain of command, this potentially could create a conflict of interest,” Thurston added, especially if council relied on a summary of the report prepared by the CAO.

Thurston told Warktimes in April, that both Burke and former CAO Phil Handrahan declined several times to meet when she tried to bring problems within the fire department to their attention.

“They wouldn’t even sit with me; they wouldn’t listen to what I had to say,” she said.

Action plan

During later interviews last night with Warktimes and CHMA News, Thurston elaborated on her calls for everyone, including members of town council, to work together to solve the fire department’s problems.

“I expect to see an action plan coming out of this report,” she said.

“We’re all in this for a common goal, to make the fire department better, to make it the place that we all know that it can be because the work that we do there is something that we’re all very proud of,” Thurston told CHMA’s Erica Butler.

Mayor’s response

Mayor Shawn Mesheau

Mayor Mesheau responded to Thurston’s request by saying that council will wait until the workplace assessment is complete before it decides on any next steps.

“Council will determine at that point in time if anything further needs to take place based on what comes through the CAO,” the Mayor said later during the public question period.

“I think we’re getting ourselves ahead of things here,” Mesheau added.

“Ultimately, we have to let this process see itself through and council has indicated in the past that they’re committed to seeing this process through and we’ll eagerly await to see what comes from it.”

Thurston says that while she didn’t expect an answer from council last night, she was disappointed that the mayor said council would wait to see what comes from the CAO after the workplace assessment is complete.

“To me, I feel that’s unacceptable,” she told CHMA.

“I think that my request to get that report independently themselves is there and I would simply expect an answer as to why they don’t feel that they can do that.”

To listen to Erica Butler’s radio interview with Laura Thurston, click here.

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Premier’s Task Force calls for improving status & economic security of New Brunswick artists

Graphic novelist Patrick Allaby at work in his Sackville studio lettering a page for an upcoming project. Photo submitted

Writers and artists in Sackville are welcoming newly-released recommendations for improving the economic security and professional status of New Brunswick’s creators.

After seven years of work, the Premier’s Task Force on the Status of the Artist issued a comprehensive report last Friday calling for a wide range of measures.

They include more government financial support for the arts such as increased funding for arts programs in schools.

The task force, appointed by Conservative Premier David Alward in 2014, also recommends legislative changes that would give artists better EI coverage, increase their Canada Pension Plan benefits, provide stronger copyright protections, make written contracts for their services mandatory and establish minimum fee scales.

One of the report’s 24-recommendations calls on the province to explore implementing a guaranteed annual income that would benefit all low-income and economically insecure workers including artists.

“If these recommendations were implemented, it could really change things and make it a lot easier for artists to live in New Brunswick,” says Sackville graphic novelist Patrick Allaby.

As a writer who has just published The Water Lover, a book about being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes while he was studying in the fine arts program at Mount Allison, Allaby strongly supports the task force recommendation that the province explore ways of allowing workers to carry the benefits of employment health plans from paid jobs to self-employment.

“For someone like myself who works for awhile and then pursues art in between jobs, I essentially end up trying to stock up on as much insulin as I can when I have a job,” he says.

“It gets me through the lean months of not having really good health insurance because employer-based insurance is so much more comprehensive than anything that could be privately offered.”

The task force calls this a “portable benefits system” with health and pension benefits that are “connected to an individual, rather than a particular employer, and so they can be taken from job to job without interruption in coverage or loss of funding.”

Taxing tech giants

Writer and retired Mt. A. professor Virgil Hammock

Virgil Hammock, retired Mt. A. professor of fine arts, also welcomes the task force report.

“I’m delighted,” he says. “It’s been a long time coming, the arts are an important part of our economy.”

Hammock, who is past president of the Canada section of the International Association of Art Critics, says that while he likes the way the report reads, its words won’t mean much without provincial government backing, including more money for artists’ grants through the New Brunswick Arts Board (artsnb) and for exhibitions at public art galleries.

He says he supports the task force recommendation for increasing taxes on technology giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Netflix as long as the added revenues go to support the arts.

And Hammock also favours the recommendation that visual artists receive 5% of the sale price of their work whenever it is resold.

“Artists that I know, we’ve had long conversations about this,” he says. “Once their work is out of their hands, that’s it, the art work can re-sell several times over and they never see a penny of it.”

Transition committee

A news release issued on Friday said the provincial government has agreed to establish a transition committee to analyze the task force report’s recommendations.

It will include representatives from ArtsLink NB, artsnb and the Association acadienne des artistes professionnel.le.s du Nouveau-Brunswick as well as staff from several government departments.

“Our artists contribute significantly to our province’s economy, rich culture and quality of life,” the release quotes Premier Higgs as saying.

“I thank the representatives on the task force for their significant work on this initiative.”

To read the Report of the Premier’s Task Force on the Status of the Artist, click here.

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Dead dog? Better notify town hall to avoid $100 fine

Warktimes mascot Lexi’s sudden death in July 2020 brought a stern, warning letter from the town

A retired public relations professor says the town of Sackville could show a little more empathy when it sends warning letters to pet owners who have not renewed their dog tags.

Trudie Richards, who taught in the communications department at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax for 18 years, was commenting on a stern letter the town sent dated May 21st.

“Dear Resident,” it begins. “Please be advised that dog tags in the Town of Sackville are now past due, effective April 1, 2021.”

The letter warns residents, who had a dog registered with the town in 2020, to purchase this year’s tag by June 21 to avoid a minimum $100 fine.

“If you no longer own a dog(s), just give us a call…and we will quickly update our records,” the letter says.

PR expert Trudie Richards, who does not live in Sackville, says the town needs to recognize that dog owners grieving the death of their pet would not be thinking about tags.

“We are not talking about tax evasion here,” she says.

“If someone’s pet has died, advising the authorities that a dog tag will no longer be necessary would be about the last thing on their minds. It is fine to issue a reminder, but a stern tone has no place in such correspondence.”

During last week’s town council meeting, Treasurer Michael Beal said those who fail to respond to the May 21st letter will receive another one in July with a $100 ticket from the bylaw control officer.

He suggested, however, that residents who receive the ticket could get it voided if they visit town hall within 14 days to report the death of their dog.

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that all animals are registered, that rabies vaccinations have taken place for the safety and welfare of our citizens,” Beal said. “It’s not about issuing tickets, but if need be, that is the last step.”

 

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