Anti-racism advocate cites survey to show racism exists in N.B. even though many deny it

Husoni Raymond in St. Thomas University photo

Anti-racism campaigner Husoni Raymond is questioning why a Mount Allison University professor used him as an example to support her argument that racism doesn’t exist in New Brunswick.

“NB is NOT racist,” Psychology Professor Rima Azar wrote in an online blog post on June 15, 2020.

“Canada is NOT racist. We do NOT have ‘systemic’ racism or ‘systemic’ discrimination,” she added.

Azar was commenting on a CBC report in which Raymond was identified as one of the organizers of a provincial Black Lives Matter chapter.

In her blog post, Azar asked why St. Thomas University would honour him with a trophy for strong leadership, “if NB is as racist as you are claiming.”

“Her argument is a bit ridiculous in the sense that one black person winning an award does not mean that there’s no racism,” Raymond said today in a telephone interview.

“One of the reasons why I won that award was because of my advocacy against racism within the institution and within society more broadly,” he added. “I just don’t get the connection.”

Mt. A. announced on Monday that it has launched an internal review after receiving complaints about posts on Azar’s blog “related to systemic racism, sexual violence, gender and colonization.”

Online survey

Raymond, who is now the anti-racism co-ordinator at the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, says an online survey the Council conducted in November shows there’s a wide belief that there is racism here even though some people in authority “are unwilling to recognize how deep-rooted racism is within our society.”

He says that links to the 30-question survey were distributed via social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and included in mainstream media reports.

Raymond acknowledges that the people who chose to complete it may have been especially interested in anti-racism efforts.

“However, we did get a large amount of people, over 900 responses from all across the province, various ethnicities, different age groups, different immigration status, so we think it does cover a broad demographic of people.”

According to the Multicultural Council, 95% of those who filled out the survey believed that there is racism in New Brunswick with 83.6% reporting that they had witnessed it firsthand.

Systemic racism

Raymond points out that 71% of respondents believed there is systemic racism in New Brunswick which the survey defined as institutional policies and practices that result in the exclusion or promotion of designated groups.

He said, for example, that racialized people are over-represented in the criminal justice system and earn less than other Canadians.

“Employers are about 40% more likely to interview a job applicant with an English-sounding name despite identical education, skills and experience,” he added.

Raymond says that as a black person himself, he has experienced racism in a wide variety of ways.

“A simple example is that a few months ago, I got my wisdom teeth extracted,” he said, adding that when he took his dentist’s prescription for pain killers to the pharmacist, he was told to take less of the drug because he was black.

“I was drowsy from the operation, so I did what she said, but throughout the night I was feeling pain so the next day, I decided to do some research,” he said, but added that he could not find any information to support the notion that black people are more sensitive to pain killers.

“What I did discover, though, was that black people, often in health-care contexts, are undiagnosed for pain or given less pain medication because they are seen as being more resilient or tolerant to pain,” he said.

“That’s a narrative that stems straight from slavery that is still within the health-care sector that leaves racialized people vulnerable.”

Posted in Health care, Mount Allison University | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Sackville Town Council hears proposal for permanent Farmers Market

Garth Zwicker

Sackville Town Council has been asked once again to help create a permanent, indoor home for the Farmers Market.

During a slide-show presentation earlier this month, Garth Zwicker asked councillors to lease land adjacent to the Visitor Information Centre and the Sackville Waterfowl Park for a token annual fee.

He indicated that a permanent building could be constructed using new or used shipping containers on 11,000 square feet of the land with plenty of space remaining for use by other groups including local theatres.

“It’s been 40 years we’ve been bouncing around from location to location to location,” Zwicker said.

He added that over the years, council has heard many presentations outlining plans for a permanent market.

“You’ve never seen anything this grand, on this scale, on this level of organization, on this level of research.”

Slide from Garth Zwicker’s presentation to council on Feb. 1

In one of his slides, Zwicker suggested the town needs an indoor Farmers Market that protects its vendors against winter cold, summer heat and rain.

He indicated that the project, which he estimates would cost from $866,000 to $960,000, could be financed by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (50-60%); the province (20-40%); other grants (10 to 15%) and a capital campaign (5 to 10%).

The market would operate as a non-profit with its own board of directors and would be responsible for the design and construction of the new building as well as fundraising and operating expenses.

One of Zwicker’s slides identified what he sees as the town’s role in the project:

Zwicker acknowledged that his proposal could potentially lead to conflict with the present Farmers Market held Saturday’s from 9 a.m. to noon behind the Bagtown Brewery and the Sears building at Main Street and Wellington.

“I feel that what I’m proposing would give the town the market it never had,” Zwicker said.

In an interview later, he added that he served as the market’s manager for about six months in 2018.

However, he says he resigned in frustration because of a lack of progress in pursuing a permanent location.

Nearly a year ago, town council heard an appeal for support from the market’s current manager and two members of its board of directors.

For coverage of that presentation, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 2 Comments

Chief Electoral Officer says threats faced by Mt. A. student voters did not violate the law

Chief Electoral Officer Kim Poffenroth testifies before legislative committee

New Brunswick’s Chief Electoral Officer says she did not ask the RCMP to investigate “highly inappropriate” behaviour at the Sackville Civic Centre on the day of the September 14th provincial election because there was no indication an offence had occurred under the  New Brunswick Elections Act.

During testimony today before a legislative committee in Fredericton, Kim Poffenroth referred to the independent investigation her office comissioned that found a party worker warned Mount Allison students who were qualified to vote that they would be committing fraud if they cast their ballots on election day.

“I could not find a provision under the Elections Act in which that activity was an offence,” the Chief Electoral Officer told Green Party leader David Coon.

“It is admittedly highly inappropriate and not within the acceptable behaviour of a [party] scrutineer,” Poffenroth said. “Anyone is free to make a complaint to local policing authorities about any offence, but based on information I was provided, I had no evidence of an actual offence under the legislation.”

Her answer seemed to surprise the Green leader.

Green Party leader David Coon

“If that’s not an offence under the legislation, surely you would agree that it should be,” Coon responded.

“Otherwise it opens the door to voter suppression by political party operatives working as scrutineers in the polling stations,” he added.

“What’s to stop any political party from having their scrutineers trying to suppress the vote by giving out improper, false information and otherwise intimidating voters?”

Poffenroth agreed that perhaps the Elections Act needs to be revised.

She referred to Section 108 which hasn’t been amended since 1967. Under the heading Offences respecting undue influence, the law states:

Every person is guilty of the corrupt practice of undue influence who, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, makes use of, or threatens to make use of any force, violence or restraint, in order to induce or compel any other person to vote for any candidate or to refrain from voting.

“It clearly focuses on physical intimidation using threats, any force, violence and restraint,” Poffenroth said, adding that the party worker’s behaviour violated Elections NB rules which state that scrutineers “may not enter into discussions with voters in the polling area” and “may not do anything that would impede the voting process.”

She acknowledged, however, that Elections NB does not provide the rules to scrutineers, but sends them to the candidates running in the election. They are also available on the Elections NB website.

Aside from the actions of the Liberal scrutineer, dozens of Mount Allison students faced hostile questioning from poll workers, while others were turned away altogether.

And despite interventions by Poffenroth herself and the local returning officer, Mt. A. students continued to face problems voting until the polls closed in the evening.

During the legislative committee meeting today, David Coon suggested that changing the Elections Act to prohibit interference by party workers would be an essential step “to ensure that the right to vote, which is fundamental, fundamental to our democracy, is preserved.”

Posted in Mount Allison University, New Brunswick election 2020 | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Sackville mayoralty candidate calls for revival of citizen committees

Councillor Shawn Mesheau

Sackville Mayoralty candidate Shawn Mesheau is calling for restoration of citizen committees to advise town council on how to improve day-to-day services.

“Years ago when I first sat on council, we had a parks advisory committee, we had a recreation advisory committee [and] I’ve sat myself personally on a police advisory committee,” Mesheau said today during a telephone interview.

He also outlined his ideas in a news release that mentions the Age Friendly committee spearheaded by former Mayor Pat Estabrooks.

Mesheau says the committees consisted of four or five community members assisted by a town staff person.

“They became the outreach for the municipality,” he says. “Those folks were tasked with going out into the community and talking to people.”

He adds that the committees would bring recommendations back to council on community needs.

“Maybe we’re seeing future growth, residential growth in certain areas, so maybe the community should be looking at additional trails in that area, it’s that type of feedback.”

He said town council wasn’t involved in the police advisory committee that he served on.

“We did the leg work. We reached out to the Seniors’ Club, we reached out to the university, we reached out to the schools and we had those types of discussions of what do you foresee as policing needs,” he said.

“Then we brought that in and we broke it down and then reported back to council saying ‘listen this is what we’re hearing, this is what people are telling us, so here’s some suggestions and recommendations.'”

Mesheau says the citizen committees would help keep town council more in touch with residents.

“It keeps us in tune as elected officials to the community and the needs of the community.”

Posted in Town of Sackville | 9 Comments

Ombud sides with town on Warktimes complaint, but calls for ‘transparency’ & ‘accountability’

New Brunswick’s Ombud has ruled that provincial legislation does not prohibit municipal representatives from meeting with town managers behind closed doors to discuss budget priorities.

At the same time, the Ombud has reminded the town of the need for “transparency” and “accountability,” especially in budget deliberations and will also be raising the issue with the provincial department of local government.

The Ombud was responding to a complaint from The New Wark Times about a meeting on September 29th when members of Sackville Town Council and senior managers met privately to discuss the 2021 municipal budget.

There was no public notice of the online meeting and no record kept of what was said.

Warktimes complained to the Ombud’s Office after an open council meeting on October 26th when Councillor Shawn Mesheau asked whether the priorities determined during the private session could be made public along with the proposed budgets to support those priorities.

Treasurer Michael Beal replied then that information from what he called “a working group meeting” is not normally made public.

In his decision released today, the Ombud said: “While our Office has not found specific provisions within the Local Governance Act that would prohibit such a session, we have raised the importance of transparency and accountability with the Town, particularly in respect of budget deliberations. Our Office will also be raising this issue with the Department of Local Government and Local Governance Reform.”

The Warktimes complaint, filed on November 3rd, noted that provincial law specifies only three types of council meetings: special, regular and closed. The first two must be held in public while public notice must be given of closed meetings that discuss a narrow range of issues such as land transactions and legal matters.

The Ombud’s ruling says that the private working sessions that are held every year are meant to allow town staff to discuss budget priorities.

“They are organized by the Town Treasurer and Council members are invited to attend,” the ruling adds.

The Ombud’s Office declined a request to discuss the ruling.

“Please be advised that, other than investigations where a public report is issued, it is not our practice to provide comments to the media. Following the conclusion of our investigations, Complainants are offered a summary of our findings as was offered in the email below.”

To read that e-mail, click here.

For previous coverage of this issue, click here.

Posted in New Brunswick government, Town of Sackville | Tagged | 2 Comments

Canada Safety Council warns Sackville not to allow skateboards on town streets

Councillor Andrew Black introduced bylaw change to allow skateboards on streets

A spokesman for the Canada Safety Council is urging Sackville not to allow skateboarders to travel on town streets.

“From a safety perspective, this makes no sense,” Lewis Smith, the Council’s manager of national projects said in a telephone interview.

“Skateboarders should not be interacting with road traffic in any way. It’s a basic issue of safety,” he says.

At its meeting on Monday, town council gave first reading (preliminary approval) to a change in the traffic bylaw that would allow skateboarders on streets as long as they wear safety helmets and stay off sidewalks.

The change was proposed by Councillor Andrew Black, who serves on council’s policy and bylaw committee.

“Skateboarding is a risk,” Black acknowledged later during a telephone interview. “When you go out to skate you have to be careful, just as you would if you were biking or scootering,” he added.

“There’s definitely a risk for people to skateboard, but I think to not allow them because they could get injured, I think they should make that choice themselves.”

Safety concerns

Black was responding to questions raised by the Safety Council, a national, non-profit organization that tells skateboarders to stay away from roads and traffic.

“If you don’t put yourselves in those situations where you are at risk, then you’re diminishing the odds of something happening,” Lewis Smith of the Safety Council says.

“By town council modifying the bylaws to allow skateboards on the roads, it implies to skateboarders that it’s a safe activity.”

Smith argues that bylaws ban skateboarders from using sidewalks because their speed could endanger slower-moving pedestrians.

He says the same reasoning should apply in reverse to roadways, where cars and trucks are travelling much faster than skateboards, putting skateboarders at risk.

“I think it stands to reason that a helmet alone is not enough to protect someone against a heavy vehicle coming at them at 60 km/h.”

Skateboarding generally safe

But Councillor Black says skateboarding is no more unsafe than biking on streets.

“I guess there’s a worry that it would be unsafe, but I think skateboarding in general is not unsafe,” he adds.

“I think there are times where people might make possibly the wrong move or the wrong decision and get injured, but the same  thing could be said for biking,” he says.

However, the Safety Council’s Lewis Smith says the recognition that cyclists are vulnerable has gradually led to measures such as dedicated bike lanes to separate them from traffic.

In 2017, New Brunswick adopted a law requiring motorists to provide at least one metre of space when they pass cyclists travelling in the same direction.

“We know cyclists are more at risk; that’s why we’re taking steps across Canada to keep them less at risk,” Smith says.

“Putting skateboarders in a position where they are being treated as cyclists were [treated] when cyclists were first introduced to road traffic would necessarily result in increasing collisions and in increasing injuries and in increasing fatalities.”

Evans supports bylaw change

Councillor Bill Evans

Councillor Bill Evans says he supports changing the traffic bylaw to allow skateboarding on streets partly because it’s about sharing public spaces.

“I’m a big believer in peaceful co-existence,” Evans said in a telephone interview.

“If we allow bicycles, we have to be consistent. Many skateboarders are more in control than many cyclists,” he added.

Evans says that over the years, town council has heard arguments from skateboarding enthusiasts that they shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens.

Although he says he’s not a skateboard, ATV or snowmobile user himself, he doesn’t want his preferences to intrude on the rights of others.

“I’m a civil libertarian by default,” Evans says.

Next steps

Councillor Black says that before the bylaw change is given final approval, council will still need to pass it on second and third readings when safety concerns could be discussed.

“We’re not just blindly saying, ‘Yep, let’s allow it,'” he says, adding that the  Safety Council’s questions will have to be considered.

“I think the rest of [town] council should realize this as well before making that decision.”

To read the Canada Safety Council’s recommendations on using bicycles, in-line skates, skateboards and scooters, click here.

To read CHMA’s coverage of the skateboard bylaw story, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Aiken points to ‘seamless transition’ if he’s elected Sackville’s next mayor

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken

Ron Aiken says he’s hoping to be elected as Sackville’s next mayor on May 10th so he can continue in the job he’s been performing since October when John Higham left office.

“Obviously it would be a seamless transition,” Aiken said during a telephone interview.

“Given what we’re up against with health reform, municipal reform and all the other stuff, that’s quite useful. I wouldn’t have to sit down and re-learn a bunch of things.”

Aiken also points out that he has served on council for more than a dozen years, the last three as deputy mayor.

“I’ve seen a lot of things that can be done in the town and gained an appreciation of actually what we have to overcome to get things done.”

Health reform

Aiken points, for example, to the recent “vision statement” he submitted to the provincial health minister.

“Our main focus is keeping the hospital in its present state or even improving it,” he says, while the province seemed to be proposing last year to change Sackville Memorial into “some sort of glorified first aid centre.”

Aiken acknowledges that his suggestion to install an MRI machine in Sackville may have been a bad example because of how much it would cost.

“What I wanted to do is illustrate that Sackville could be almost a diagnostic centre or a triage centre for the bigger hospitals in Moncton.”

He adds, for example, that his statement also mentioned a CT-Scan — a cheaper machine than an MRI — that could be a useful diagnostic tool here.

“I wanted to get away from the notion that patients had to go to Moncton for everything.”

Municipal reform

Aiken says he gets the impression that the province isn’t sure yet where it wants to go in reforming local government.

Plans call for local consultations with a provincial discussion paper by the end of March, then further consultations and a more formal government white paper by the end of the year.

Aiken says that as mayor, he would not favour a centralized, regional approach such as the one proposed in the 2008 report by Jean-Guy Finn. That would have combined the town of Sackville with the villages of Port Elgin and Dorchester along with the nine rural service districts to form a single municipality in the Tantramar region.

“The province always seems to want to go to centralize things,” Aiken says. “To me, as soon as the control gets away from the local, then it starts to get less responsive to what the local concerns are,” he adds.

“There’s nothing cast in stone as far as I can see, the new minister Daniel Allain is a former councillor from Dieppe, so he has a real appreciation of what municipal affairs are all about,” Aiken says, adding that the minister has assured municipalities there will be no forced amalgamations of local governments.

Other issues

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken

Aiken says he would like to see further development in the TransCanada Exit 506 area now that the town has improved and widened the Cattail Ridge roadway and has installed storm sewers and sidewalks in the area.

He’s also hoping the province will approve the town’s application for completion of the Lorne Street flood control project including the addition of a second water retention pond behind the Charles Street community garden and a third one in the old Pickard quarry near Mount Allison University.

He says the province has intimated it will install a new aboiteau in the dike near the town’s main sewage lagoons, but even without it, the retention ponds and the old aboiteau should be able to handle floodwaters from major storms.

Research bent

Aiken says his previous leadership positions would be assets if he becomes Sackville’s next mayor.

He served for  six years as head of the biology department at Mount Allison and for one year as President of the Canadian Council of Biology Chairs, which involved lobbying in Ottawa.

“Professionally one of my big things was research,” he says, “so one of my bents is to go and look at problems and analyze them in detail.”

He points to his analysis of how the province calculates municipal equalization payments — calculations which, Aiken argues, have denied Sackville its fair share of provincial transfers.

“That took a lot of looking at the legislation, working out the problems with the formulas they use, and I’ve asked  them several times [and] they don’t have answers for me on why they’re doing it the way they’re doing it,” he says.

“I intend to bring that up again with the minister when we meet with him next week,” he adds.

“So, that’s the kind of thing I bring to the table.”

Aiken council highlights

January 2021: Aiken writes “vision statement” on health reform

November 2020: Aiken reacts to provincial statements about municipal reform

August 2020: Aiken expresses misgivings about new town sculpture

July 2020: Aiken opposes $80,000 dog park

December 2018: Aiken complains about lack of information on flood control project

August 2018: Aiken votes against hiring outside consultants to draft business development strategy

January 2018: Aiken votes for property tax hike to close budget gap

October 2017: Aiken calls for more restrictions on glyphosate spraying

February 2017: Aiken votes against 5-year strategic plan calling it “elitist”

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 3 Comments

Mesheau & Aiken in the running to become Sackville’s next mayor

Shawn Mesheau has served on town council from 1998 to 2004; 2012 to 2016 and from December 2018 to the present

Councillor Shawn Mesheau says the need for collaboration, consultation and citizen engagement will be key themes in his campaign to become Sackville’s mayor in the municipal elections on May 10th.

He’s also stressing issues such as health care, climate change and the need for a business development strategy.

Mesheau issued a news release on Tuesday formally declaring his candidacy.

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken announced last year that he would run as a mayoralty candidate in the municipal elections scheduled for May 2020 that were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aiken confirmed on Wednesday that he still plans to run. He agreed to an interview with Warktimes next week.

‘Big hill to climb’

During a telephone interview, Mesheau, who has served on and off as a town councillor for more than 12 years, said he considered running for mayor before, but feels that as he nears retirement, now is the right time to make that commitment.

“We’re going to have a big hill to climb in the next few years because we’re dealing with the current pandemic and I want to be a part of climbing that hill, I want to help get us over that hill and into that post-pandemic world.”

When asked what he would do to help Sackville recover from COVID-19, Mesheau said it’s something that everyone in town needs to discuss.

“It’s not just my vision,” he added.

“A big part of what I believe is important is collaboration and there’s a lot of different folks who have different voices and thoughts in our community and I think we need to pull that together to determine what’s next for Sackville.”

‘Citizen engagement’

Mesheau stressed the need for what he called citizen engagement.

“Folks need to be a part of the decision-making process,” he said, adding that town council needs to listen more to what people are saying.

He also said town staff should be providing councillors and the public with more information.

“We’ve seen vast improvements over the last little bit. We’re actually getting some opportunity now for questions after discussion groups,” he said, referring to a new procedure that allows members of the public to ask questions after special council meetings that are held near the beginning of each month.

Mesheau also noted, however, that the public is still not being given all of the information councillors refer to at those meetings making it harder for people to ask informed questions afterwards.

And, he suggested that council sometimes feels rushed.

“Research is important; understanding the topic that we’re talking about is important and if we have to take our time making a decision, then we should take our time making that decision.”

Key issues

Councillor Shawn Mesheau

When asked what he sees as the big issues facing Sackville in the coming years, Mesheau mentioned the need for a business development strategy and a co-ordinated effort to deal with climate change.

For him, those two issues go hand-in-hand.

“It’s interesting to look at this,” he said after mentioning the progress being made by the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change.

“One of the things that is a challenge right now is funding for a [full-time] climate change co-ordinator,” he added.

“I believe that if we work at things like economic development, that will build our tax base and build our population so that we’ll be able to afford…a full-time, climate co-ordinator.”

Mesheau also advocates easing the town’s ban on more coffee drive-thrus near the TransCanada.

“If you have highway commercial zones that are built to attract business off the highway, what are the needs of those travellers?” he asks.

“I think there can be a compromise. I think there can be collaboration in making it work right.”

Keep hospital services

On health care, Mesheau made it clear that he opposes cuts to services at the Sackville hospital such as closing the emergency room overnight and converting acute-care beds into ones for longer-term patients.

But he says the pandemic has shown that health services can also be provided in different ways such as through patient/doctor phone consultations or through nurse practitioners supplementing the work of doctors.

Mesheau says medical staff within the health system need to have a greater say in any changes that are made.

He emphasizes too that while issues such as health care, business development and climate change are important, something else is even more vital for him.

“My main focus is the focus of everyone needing to come together at this point in time to move us forward; it’s the collaboration component, the compromise component, the understanding-each-other component — it’s a challenge, but I’m up for that challenge.”

Mesheau council highlights

December 2018: Mesheau wins seat on town council

February 2019: Mesheau calls for delay in accepting Cougar armoured vehicle

April 2019: Mesheau questions recreation master plan

May 2019: Mesheau votes against allowing ATVs on town streets

May 2019: Mesheau opposes more spending to remove contaminated soil from Lorne St. flood control project

June 2019: Ron Aiken defeats Mesheau in vote on deputy mayor’s position

September 2019: Mesheau and CAO Handrahan clash over evaluating budget information

October 2019: Mesheau opposes removing charcoal drawings from Sports Wall of Fame

December 2019: Mesheau votes against approving town budget

April 2020: Mesheau suggests delay in hiring new CAO

August 2020: Mesheau speaks in favour of new town marketing plan

November 2020: Mesheau questions RCMP quarterly reports

December 2020: Mesheau votes to approve rezoning for Crescent St. abattoir

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 2 Comments

New study urges big public spenders in Atlantic Canada to buy local

Robert Cervelli. Photo:

A newly released study suggests that public institutions such as Mount Allison University and the Town of Sackville could generate greater wealth in Atlantic Canadian communities if they bought more of their goods and services locally.

“It’s money that stays in the economy and works in the economy,” says Robert Cervelli, executive director of the Nova Scotia-based Centre for Local Prosperity.

“It helps regenerate the economy by keeping that money circulating.”

The study, called Assessing the Potential for Local Procurement as an Economic Engine, says that every dollar a public institution spends buying goods and services from a locally owned business creates a multiplier effect of two to four times more jobs and other economic benefits than a dollar spent in a similar, non-locally owned business.

“Even a 10% shift [in procurement spending] can have a significant effect particularly when you look at the multiplier effect,” Cervelli says.

Colleges and universities

The study, financed by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, assessed procurement spending by two medium-sized, post-secondary educational institutions with average student enrolments of 6,486. (The educational institutions are not identified in the study.)

The post-secondary institutions, from two different provinces, each spent an average of $27.8 million in 2019-20 procuring goods and services with 59% of that money going outside their provinces and 22% outside Atlantic Canada.

The study says that a 10% shift to local procurement would generate an additional $2.8 million invested in their local economies and a total economic stimulus of $3.5 to $4.8 million when the multiplier effect is added.1

Municipal spending

An analysis of procurement spending by two unidentified municipalities in different provinces with populations in the 17,000 to 23,000 range showed similar results.

Each spent an average of $18 million buying from their top suppliers with 25% of that money going out of their provinces and 21% outside Atlantic Canada.

The study says a 10% shift to local procurement would generate an additional $1.8 million in local economies with an overall economic benefit of $2.2 to $3.1 million when the multiplier effect is taken into account.

‘Procurement culture’

The study points out that in the past several decades, public institutions’ procurement policies have shifted to an emphasis on achieving cost savings through centralized buying from fewer and larger suppliers. International trade agreements have reinforced this trend to non-local procurement.

“There’s an impression by a number of procurement professionals that you really can’t legitimately purchase locally,” Cervelli says. “But when you take apart things, particularly the trade agreements, you’ll see that there’s a lot of flexibility in there.”

Cervelli adds, for example, that public institutions can add criteria in their tendering processes to include local economic benefits.

“It doesn’t matter where a supplier is located, they could be in the U.S. or anywhere else, as long as they can demonstrate providing some degree of local benefit, then they could be awarded the contract.”

Taxpayer value

Cervelli says that public institutions such as municipalities have been concerned about getting the best value for taxpayers when they buy goods and services.

“It tended to be defined just as the lowest cost, [so] you’re getting the most widgets, for example, at the lowest cost.”

But he adds that the concept of value is starting to be defined more broadly.

“Taxpayer value comes down to how well are you keeping wealth in the economy and building local wealth,” he says. “So, lowest cost does not always translate into best value.”

The study mentions the provincial government’s New Brunswick First Procurement Strategy as an example of public institutions working toward building local wealth.

“They realized that the more procurement that they can do within the province of New Brunswick, the better off it will be for the New Brunswick economy,” Cervelli says.

Earlier study

The Centre for Local Prosperity’s study on local procurement grew out of an earlier one that showed Atlantic Canada imported $11 billion more in goods and services in 2012 than it exported to other places.

That 2018 study said that money “leaks” out of communities when they buy imports and that if there were a 10% shift in spending to local goods and services, the four Atlantic provinces could gain 43,000 jobs, $2.6 billion in wages and $219 million in new tax revenue.

“So, then the question became, as a follow-up to that study, how do you start plugging the leaks?” Cervelli says.

“It became quickly obvious that the most gains can be had by working with the bigger spenders which are the public-sector institutions because they’re each spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars every year and the question becomes where does that money go?” he adds.

“So, that’s why we looked at localizing procurement in public institutions.”

Posted in Mount Allison University, Town of Sackville | 6 Comments

Opinion: No future in fossil fuels, Trudeau should act now to protect workers

By Vallie Stearns-Anderson

Dear editor,

In response to US President Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, economist Jim Stanford made an interesting statement. Stanford said: “it is now undeniable: fossil fuels will disappear from most uses in the foreseeable future. And fossil-fuel industries will never again be an engine of economic growth and job creation in Canada.”

This is something that the climate movement and Indigenous land defenders in Canada have been saying for a very long time but, now, we’re hearing it from economists too.

For some reason, however, the message still hasn’t reached Prime Minister Trudeau and politicians like Jason Kenney who remain convinced that there is a pathway toward building this project.

Instead of trying to save this doomed pipeline, maybe Canadian politicians should get to work in service of the workers they claim to support. In the 2019 election, Trudeau promised to deliver a Just Transition Act that would support workers through the transition to a green energy economy with new jobs and retraining programs. It feels like this would be a good time to follow through on that promise.

Vallie Stearns-Anderson
Sackville NB

Note: This is the first letter to the editor Warktimes has published. Readers usually express their views in the comments section. Occasionally however, readers may wish to comment on topics not covered in a previous article and in such cases, a letter to the editor would be appropriate.

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Retired Sackville doctor welcomes consultations on health care

Dr. Ross Thomas addressing rally against cuts to Sackville hospital services in 2020

A retired doctor is welcoming the newly released provincial discussion paper on health care because he feels it touches on the main issues facing the system.

“I think those (main issues) are there and I think that’s a good starting point for sure,” says Ross Thomas who practised family medicine here for 31 years before he retired in 2019.

During a telephone interview, Thomas mentioned the discussion paper’s focus on a number of key issues such as:

  • improving primary care and mental health services
  • reducing wait times for surgeries
  • moving long-term patients out of hospital beds into nursing and special care homes

Excerpt from provincial discussion paper

Hospital cuts not the solution

Last year, Thomas opposed cuts to services in six rural hospitals, including at Sackville Memorial, that the government and the regional health authorities argued would help solve some of the problems in the system.

The province said closing overnight emergency rooms, for example, would allow family doctors to see more patients during the day and that converting short-term, acute-care beds into ones for patients awaiting placement in long-term facilities would free up beds in the bigger hospitals.

In addition, the province and the regional health authorities announced that a nurse practitioner would be hired in each of the six rural communities and that community clinics would improve mental health and addiction services.

“Part of my disdain about the proposed changes that were made last winter was that these things weren’t looked at closely,” Thomas says. “There were no clear plans made, it was very poorly thought out, it was cuts without any plan and without any consultation.”

Thomas adds that instead of converting rural hospitals into nursing homes, it makes more sense to create beds in facilities specifically designed for long-term care.

He says the additional nursing and special care homes could be paid for by reducing the overall number of hospital beds.

“Theoretically, if you take 30% of the patients out of the Moncton Hospital, that will free up huge numbers of beds that aren’t presently being used for acute care,” he adds.

Group-based physician care

Table in provincial discussion paper

Thomas welcomes the discussion paper’s focus on group-based family care with doctors working together instead of on their own.

The paper mentions Family Medicine New Brunswick which operates nine clinics as one example.

Thomas says the province began encouraging this model of care a number of years ago in response to public demand.

“People want better access to primary care and I agree with that,” he says. “If you look at other countries’ health-care systems, they’re far more responsive to clients’ needs than ours is.”

He says patients should be able to see their doctors more quickly.

“Only half of patients can see their doctor within five days, I don’t think that’s acceptable,” he adds.

“I think you have to be careful not to blame physicians for that because the way they practise is largely driven by the way governments want them to practise. So, if you have the fee-for-service system that we have, it doesn’t reward, in any way, people being seen promptly.”

Thomas says that since the province pays for health care, it has the right to implement gradual changes.

“They could say within five years, all physicians need to be in group practices and if they’re not, they’re not going to be paid as well.”

Public response

Thomas says he’s glad the province is not proposing its own solutions, but is seeking the public’s ideas on reforming health care.

In addition to the discussion paper, the provincial minister of health is planning a series of online community consultations including one in Sackville.

Meantime, people can respond with their own ideas for improving the health system by e-mailing:

Excerpt from provincial discussion paper (click to read the full paper)

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