Mayors call for meeting on threat of catastrophic marsh flooding

Millions of dollars worth of goods travel on the highway across the marshes each day

The mayors of Sackville and Amherst along with the warden of Nova Scotia’s Cumberland County are calling on federal and provincial officials to meet with them soon to discuss the threat of catastrophic flooding across the Tantramar marshes.

In a letter dated November 1st, but made public yesterday, the mayors and warden warn that a flood which cuts off the TransCanada highway and the CN rail line on the Chignecto Isthmus could cost $50 million a day in lost commerce.

“The infrastructure across the head of the Bay [of Fundy] is a key part of an integrated trade and commercial system of ports, marine terminals, airports, border crossings, and road and rail connections,” the letter says.

“The extent of damage of a major flood event on the isthmus will ripple across Canada, hugely affect our two provinces, and will be devastating to local governments at both ends of the Tantramar marsh.”

The letter points out that a dyke system first built centuries ago is no longer adequate to hold back the Fundy tides:

“The aging dykes combined with documented rising water levels and increased frequencies and intensity of weather events — has led to new floodplain mapping. These [maps] clearly show that a flood that will breach the national Rail and Road networks is no longer a theoretical question — it is a matter of how soon it will occur.”

Meeting request

CN Rail also threatened by potential flooding

The letter calls on infrastructure ministers from the federal, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick governments to meet with the mayors and warden within the next four to five weeks to assess the flood threat and to begin working on plans “to protect the infrastructure of National importance across the Tantramar marsh.”

Amherst Mayor David Kogon said he obviously supports the letter since he signed it, but would prefer to leave interviews with New Brunswick reporters to Sackville’s Mayor John Higham.

Mayor Higham says he’s hoping other levels of government will respond now that they see how Sackville is dealing with its own freshwater flooding problems in the Lorne Street area.

“I think it allows other people to see that we’re serious and that we have the capacity to do it and that we could be good money managers,” Higham said. “Now we can turn to the bigger issue.”

He added that federal and provincial officials may not be fully aware of the potential economic impact of catastrophic flooding here.

“So, we’re trying to raise that very, very quickly for people to understand that this is the time to act.”

To read the full letter, click here.

For more scientific information on the flooding threat, click here and here.

Posted in Amherst, New Brunswick government, Nova Scotia Government, Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Rural Rides seeks financial support from Sackville after successful pilot project

Kelly Taylor (L) and Joanna Brown

Poor people in Sackville, Dorchester and Port Elgin badly need rides to out-of-town medical appointments judging by a presentation last night to Sackville Town Council.

Kelly Taylor, who manages the group Rural Rides, says the registered charity has recorded a much higher demand than expected in the first four months of a six-month pilot project.

She explained that in June, when it started offering transportation service in the Tantramar area, Rural Rides had a goal of attracting seven clients, but so far has served 26.

She added that by the end of October, its clients had received 120 rides with another 26 already booked for November, far surpassing the goal of 50 for the full six-month period which ends in December.

“So, as you can see…the pilot is a success,” Taylor told councillors, “and there is obviously a need for this service in this area going forward.”

Request for town support

Joanna Brown, a community co-ordinator with WA Action, a group working with Rural Rides, said she’s hoping Sackville will help support the ride program by contributing $4,100 per year, an amount equivalent to 75 cents per resident.

“We’d like to continue to run the service in your community,” she said, “but we’d also like your support and one way would be by providing that 75 cents.”

Taylor told council that Rural Rides charges its clients 70 cents per kilometre, but offers a subsidized rate of 25 cents for those on low-incomes.

“What we have found is that every single client to date has qualified for the subsidized rate,” she said. “What that tells us is there is a deep need for transportation for low-income families and low-income seniors in this area.”

Drivers needed

Taylor told councillors that when it started out in the Tantramar area, Rural Rides hoped to enlist five volunteer drivers, but now has eight, three in Sackville, two in Port Elgin and three in Dorchester.

She said drivers receive 35 cents per kilometre meaning that, so far, the service has been losing money on every ride.

“I realize of course that sounds like really poor business practice,” Taylor said, “but the reality is that transportation is almost always subsidized and it’s never something that’s going to make a profit and we are a registered charity, so we are not in it to make a profit, we’re in it to meet a need that exists in the community.”

So far, nearly all of the rides have taken people on return trips from their homes to medical appointments in Moncton, Dieppe and Amherst, but Rural Rides also offers transportation for out-of-town food shopping and will likely expand the service to include other things such as social visits and recreational outings.

Town Council made no commitments to help with funding last night, but both Councillors Bill Evans and Megan Mitton spoke strongly in favour of the ride service.

CAO Phil Handrahan asked Taylor and Brown to submit their information to Treasurer Michael Beal as soon as possible for consideration in next year’s budget.

To register as a client for Rural Rides in the Tantramar area, to volunteer as a driver, or to make a donation, call this local number: (506)-988-2101.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Town finally settles with Louis Béliveau avoiding possible Supreme Court fight

Demolition of Sackville United Church, Sept. 2015

More than two years after demolition of the former Sackville United Church, the town and one of its most persistent critics have struck an agreement to avoid a potential fight in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Louis Béliveau has agreed to pay the town $5,443 of the $13,947 that the courts ordered him to pay as a result of his unsuccessful attempts to challenge his dismissal as a volunteer member of the Sackville Heritage Board in January 2016.

In return for the partial financial settlement, Béliveau has agreed to withdraw his appeal to the country’s highest court in Ottawa.

Incentives to settle

“On a personal level, this is a great outcome financially,” Béliveau said in an e-mail to supporters who raised money for the settlement at an auction and fundraiser in August.

“The likelihood of the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case was very small in reality,” he added.

For his part, Mayor Higham says town council has agreed to accept Béliveau’s offer to settle although one or two minor steps will be needed to complete it.

“Council decided that it was a good idea,” Higham said, “and it looks like it’s working its way through the system.”

The mayor added that an appeal to the Supreme Court would have cost more money so there was an incentive for both sides to settle.

Dismissal from Heritage Bd

The church as it once was

Town Council dismissed Béliveau from the Heritage Board after an investigator the town had hired accused him of misconduct. Moncton lawyer Kathleen Lordon published her findings in a $47,000 report that has never been released.

Court documents show that Lordon felt Béliveau should not have testified at a municipal appeal board on behalf of a citizens’ group. The group were seeking to overturn a permit allowing for demolition of the historic church.

Béliveau was a member of the Heritage Board when it issued the demolition permit in March 2015.

Members of the board had wrestled with the issue for about seven months as they and the developer, J.N. Lafford Realty, tried to reach agreement on a plan to salvage historic artifacts including the church’s unique stained glass windows.

Along the way, three board members resigned and others, including Béliveau, accused town councillors and municipal staff of interfering with their work.

A tale of two permits

Board members’ anger reached a boiling point after they thought they had voted for a demolition permit with salvage conditions attached only to find that then-councillor Ron Corbett had later signed and back-dated a revised permit with no salvage conditions. (Corbett was representing Town Council on the Heritage Board at the time and also acting as Board Chair.)

Béliveau said he decided to testify before the appeal board because he wanted people to know about the town’s interference.

In the end, the appeal board upheld the original demolition permit with salvage conditions attached, but when the church was torn down, some artifacts were lost including stained glass windows.

Court hearings

New Lafford building incorporates some church features

After council removed him from the Heritage Board, Béliveau challenged his dismissal in the Court of Queen’s Bench, but Mr. Justice George Rideout ruled that the town had acted reasonably and ordered Béliveau to pay the town $11,447.46 to cover some of its legal costs.

Last June, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal upheld Rideout’s ruling and ordered Béliveau to pay $2,500 more.

Judging from his e-mail to supporters, Béliveau seems relieved that town council has accepted his settlement offer, but he also seems bitter.

“New Brunswick doesn’t have a justice system. It has a court system,” he writes. “This is what really should get media attention in this story.”

Posted in Sackville United Church, Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Cape Sharp Tidal announces delay in deploying another Fundy turbine

Cape Sharp’s 300 tonne turbine sits on a 700 tonne base with the Turbine Control Centre attached to it

Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. has announced it won’t be deploying another turbine in the Minas Passage, near Parrsboro, N.S., until sometime next year “when the weather is calmer and more predictable.”

A news release issued yesterday said the company is planning its next deployment sometime before next summer.

“The next Cape Sharp tidal turbine that will be deployed is the second or ‘dry’ turbine, which hasn’t yet been in the water,” the company adds.

Work to improve efficiency and reliability

Cape Sharp deployed its first OpenHydro turbine at its test site in the Minas Passage a little less than a year ago on November 7, 2016.

Although the massive device generated some electricity for a few months, it was disconnected from the Nova Scotia Power grid on April 21, 2017 for retrieval, onshore upgrades to its Turbine Control Centre and other repairs.

However, it took Cape Sharp nearly two months to raise the turbine because of a mooring line tangled around its subsea base.

Both Cape Sharp turbines are at Saint John Harbour and no date has been set for re-deployment of the first one.

The company says work is underway to improve the “efficiency and reliability” of the second turbine.

Stacey Pineau, who speaks for the company, refused in an e-mail to specify what the work entails.

“The specific improvements we make are part of our confidential intellectual property,” she writes.

Faulty monitoring devices

Pineau did say, however, that devices to monitor the presence of fish and marine mammals within 100 metres of the turbine are being repaired or replaced.

Cape Sharp’s latest report on its environmental effects monitoring program, released on October 18th, reveals there were many problems with these devices in the five months before the turbine’s data cables were disconnected in preparation for retrieval:

  • one of four hydrophones (underwater microphones) operated only intermittently, while another failed shortly after deployment
  • acoustic devices called imaging sonars were pointed at the sea floor instead of capturing fish and marine mammal movements in the mid-water column; electrical interference caused interruptions in data transmission to shore-based computers interfering with analysis of the data
  • a video camera mounted on the turbine was damaged shortly after deployment and failed to record any footage

In the period between April 21, when the turbine cables were disconnected and June 15, when the turbine was successfully retrieved, there was no underwater monitoring at the turbine site for the presence of marine life.

Problems being fixed

Cape Sharp spokeswoman Stacey Pineau says the various problems with the monitoring devices are being fixed as a result of all that the company has learned from its first deployment.

But Darren Porter, a weir fisherman who speaks for the group Fundy United, questions why the turbine was allowed to operate in the Minas Passage for seven months when so many of its monitoring devices weren’t working properly.

Porter also points to this week’s report from Nova Scotia’s Auditor General which concluded that the provincial government is failing to monitor many environmentally sensitive projects.

Although the auditor’s report did not deal specifically with the development of Fundy tidal power, Porter says it points to the government’s general attitude toward such projects.

“The government wants it (tidal power) even more than the companies do,” Porter says.

“The politicians want it for jobs.”

Posted in Tidal Power | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Opposition grows to privatizing management of extramural home-care services

About 80 people attended a meeting this month at Middle Sackville Baptist Church to sign petition

A petition containing about 200 signatures is on its way from Sackville to Premier Gallant’s office in Fredericton.

Petition organized by Pat Estabrooks (click to enlarge)

The petition, organized by former Sackville Mayor Pat Estabrooks, calls on the Liberal government not to sign a contract with the private company Medavie for the management of extramural home care services.

It will also be sent or given to Health Minister Benoit Bourque, Minister for Seniors and Long-Term Care Lisa Harris and local MLA Bernard LeBlanc.

“My gut feeling is that our Ministers and MLAs have no idea how efficient this [extramural] service is or what services are offered to  our seniors,” Estabrooks says in an e-mail to The New Wark Times.

“To me, it is an excuse to contract out with no responsibility to government,” the former mayor adds.

Among other things, the petition says that “extramural services has been an enormously popular health program, a crown jewel of our public health-care system and if it is not broken, why are we trying to fix it?”

SANB organizes petition too

La Société de L’Acadie du N.B.  (SANB) is also organizing a petition that can be signed until the end of November.

The SANB petition objects that the government decided to contract out management of extramural and the tele-care 811 phone services to Medavie without soliciting tenders from other potential providers and apparently without commissioning a scientific study showing that privatization would deliver a higher quality of health care for patients.

Click here to read the petition in both official languages and to see how many have signed so far.

Newspaper ad calls on people to sign petition against privatizing operation of home care

On Saturday, the SANB along with the New Brunswick Francophone Seniors’ Association and the group Égalité Santé en Français sponsored a full-page newspaper ad in the French-language daily newspaper  L’Acadie Nouvelle accusing the New Brunswick government of acting without public consultation and in spite of strong opposition from Vitalité Health Network, the elected regional health authority.

Hector Cormier, a long-time advocate for seniors, warns that the Liberals should be worried about losing support in the next provincial election.

“Citizens in New Brunswick are up in arms against that ridiculous move on the part of government,” Cormier says in an e-mail sent to warktimes.

Ambulance New Brunswick under fire

The growing opposition to privatizing the management of home care comes as the Telegraph-Journal, New Brunswick’s largest newspaper, continues its series of reports on the apparent shortcomings of Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB), the paramedic service that Medavie has managed since 2007.

In its latest article, published on Saturday, the newspaper reports that ANB is continuing to try to block requests for information about how often ambulances are out of operation because of paramedic shortages.

The Telegraph-Journal first filed a request last March under New Brunswick’s Right to Information law, but has yet to receive the statistics it is seeking.

On Saturday, investigative reporter Michael Robinson wrote about how ANB’s latest attempts to block the release of information came after the newspaper published another story showing “how family members in Northern New Brunswick were forced to place their 78-year-old relative on a makeshift stretcher and transport her to the hospital in the back of an SUV when an ambulance didn’t arrive within the government-mandated response time.”

Robinson’s report adds that the newspaper obtained documents showing “there were no paramedics available to operate the community’s lone ambulance that night.”

Continuing reports about slow ambulances have been cited by those who argue that the management of extramural home care should not be contracted out to the same company that already operates Ambulance New Brunswick.

Posted in Health care, Home care, New Brunswick government | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sackville councillors hear plea for TransCanada pedway before someone dies

Ross Thomas (centre) poses with Councillors Andrew Black (L) and Bill Evans

Sackville Town Council heard another plea Tuesday night for a pedestrian/bicycle crossing over the TransCanada Highway.

Ross Thomas of the Tantramar Outdoor Club pointed out that the pedway project has been talked about on and off for nearly 20 years.

“It would connect both sides of the highway,” he told council, “and if it got built in time, would not have to be named the memorial pedway.”

Thomas was referring to the hikers and cyclists on the TransCanada Trail who risk life and limb crossing the highway instead of taking a lengthy detour through the busy commercial zone off Mallard Drive and then across the bridge at highway exit 504 where there are no bike lanes.

“Having a pedway there with some nice, wrought-iron artwork on it would be really quite dramatic,” he said, “and it would be a great safety feature and a great incentive to use the trail system.”

He added that doctors are always recommending more exercise and hiking and biking are great ways to get it.

Written brief

In a written presentation to council, Christina DeHaas and Tim Reiffenstein point out that the well-known artist and naturalist William Lishman suggested a design for the pedestrian bridge in 1999 and when that first initiative dwindled, a new group came up with an affordable design in collaboration with Atlantic Industries Limited (AIL) of Dorchester. (A 2015 report in the Sackville Tribune-Post says that AIL offered to build the pedway at cost with the work to be completed in 2017.)

Sign warns trail users not to cross TransCanada highway. (Note the well-worn path on the left)

DeHaas adds that when she and Tim use the trail, they drive first to the high school parking lot avoiding the temptation to bike across the highway where 14-thousand cars and trucks speed by the Waterfowl Park every day.

“Many in Sackville just cross it anyway, risking lives,” DeHaas writes. “I witnessed seven folks at different times this summer crossing with their bicycles.”

She adds that the town should put the pedway project in its budget as a way of attracting other financial support.

“We are making this request because we would like to see all levels of government work to facilitate smart infrastructure in our region,” her brief says.

Cost estimates

Councillor Bruce Phinney, who has served on council since 2004, recalled that the pedway project was initially supposed to cost about $3 million, but that estimate later fell to $1.5 million when AIL offered to contribute construction materials at cost.

Councillor Bill Evans said the project would fit well with town goals to promote healthy living.

“You’ve sold me on the pedway in my heart,” Evans told Ross Thomas, “I just have to find a way with my head and my wallet to go for it too.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether council will find any money for the project in the coming year.

Town Treasurer Michael Beal said last night that the provincially imposed property tax assessment freeze could cost Sackville up to $250,000 and town managers have been told to keep that in mind as they submit their 2018 budget proposals.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Liberal reps get earful at Sackville meeting on plans for privatizing management of home care

Hector Cormier, seniors’ advocate

An advocate for elderly New Brunswickers warned provincial Liberals today that if they don’t want to be defeated at the next election, they’d better start listening to people speaking out against changes to the extramural home care program.

Hector Cormier, past president of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights, made his comment during a meeting at the Middle Sackville Baptist Church also attended by the local Liberal MLA Bernard LeBlanc and the provincial minister responsible for seniors and long-term care, Lisa Harris.

To sustained applause from about 80 people in the church gymnasium, Cormier pointed to overwhelming opposition at recent public meetings, including one this week in Moncton, to the government’s plan to contract out management of the home care program to Medavie, a private health-care company headed by former premier Bernard Lord.

“Are we all wrong?” Cormier asked as he pointed to an editorial in the French-language newspaper L’Acadie Nouvelle arguing the Gallant government has misjudged public opinion on its plan to consolidate management of extramural home care with the 811 health advice telephone line and the paramedic services of Ambulance New Brunswick.

Cormier pointed to the Newfoundland government’s decision to cancel a contract for private ambulance services in Labrador and assign them to the local health authority instead.

“It’s not working with the private [sector], the private is just there for profit,” Cormier added, referring to recent stories about slow ambulances in New Brunswick, where Medavie has run paramedic services since 2007.

To read Hector Cormier’s thoughts on the public meetings he has attended so far, click here.

No public support

Sackville Councillor Megan Mitton

During the two-hour meeting, one member of the audience after another spoke out against the government’s plan to privatize management of extramural home care.

One of them was Sackville Town Councillor Megan Mitton.

“I’m shocked to hear that this is happening,” she said, adding that she studied similar issues in university.

“And basically every example of public services being moved into the private sector, it pretty much always goes wrong,” she said. “It ends up costing more and services suffer.”

Mitton added that her father died of cancer earlier this year and received “amazing care” from extramural services while he was at home.

“I have a lot of criticisms about our health-care system, and extramural is pretty well the only thing that was great,” she said. “Extramural was the only medical attention that felt like care.”

Mitton, along with other speakers, wondered why the government was tampering with home care, especially since there seems to be no public support for such changes.

Liberal reps respond

Lisa Harris, provincial minister responsible for seniors and long-term care

Throughout today’s meeting MLA Bernard LeBlanc and provincial cabinet minister Lisa Harris defended the decision to consolidate the management of extramural services. They argued that Medavie has the advanced technology needed to integrate the 811 help line with extramural and ambulance services.

Harris argued, for example, that paramedics from Ambulance New Brunswick could supplement the work of extramural nurses by conducting assessments of patients in their homes.

“That’s why we say that this is not about saving money,” she said. “It’s trying to add to the care that we have, because we want people to be able to remain home, in their homes, as long as possible.”

Audience unconvinced

Few, if any, at the meeting seemed convinced that the New Brunswick government is on the right track.

Former Sackville Mayor Pat Estrabrooks, who organized the meeting, urged people to sign a petition calling on the government not to privatize the management of home care services.

“I’m going to send it to the premier,” she added, “and I’m hoping he’s going to listen.”

Posted in Health care, Home care | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments