Cyclist urges Sackville Town Council to consider 30 km/h speed limits on downtown streets

Harold Jarche says he has cycled more than 125,000 km since moving to Sackville in 1998

One of Sackville’s most avid cyclists is asking town council to consider lowering speed limits on town streets to 30 km/h to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, joggers, cyclists and skateboarders.

“In my 23 years in this town, I have been hit four times by motorists while on my bicycle, each time on Bridge Street, which is where I live,” Harold Jarche told Sackville Town Council during a presentation on Monday.

“Luckily I was not seriously injured as the collisions occurred at low speeds,” he said.

“But the speed limit on Bridge Street is 50 km/h and many drivers exceed the speed limit.”

Jarche, who runs his own consulting business, said someone hit by a car at 30 km/h has a 90% chance of survival, but survival rates drop sharply as speeds increase.

“A person, hit by a car at 40 km/h has a 60% chance of survival,” he said.

“Your neighbour, hit by a car at 50 km/h has a 20% chance of survival; your friend, hit by a car at 60 km/h has no chance of survival.”

Jarche said that being struck by larger vehicles such as SUVs or pickup trucks doubles the risk of death.

Jarche showed town council the one metre “pool noodle” he strapped to his bike on July 1st 2017

He pointed out that a provincial law named after a competitive cyclist, who was killed in New Brunswick, requires drivers to leave at least one metre of open space between their vehicles and a bicycle when passing a bike travelling in the same direction.

He told council that when “Ellen’s law” came into effect on July 1st, 2017, he marked the occasion by cycling around town with a one-metre “pool noodle” strapped to his bicycle.

“As I was coming down Bridge towards downtown, an oncoming motorist made a left turn across my lane and drove into me pinning me against the curb,” he said.

“Even with bright clothes and an orange pool noodle, he did not see me in the middle of the day.  Luckily, once again, his slow speed kept me from being injured.”

Jarche said many people are surprised at how wide a metre actually is. Photo courtesy Harold Jarche

“I would like to cycle another 125,000 kilometres in this town,” Jarche told council.

“But as the population grows and vehicles become bigger, safety is a critical concern. I know many people who don’t cycle because they’re scared.”

Jarche wondered if council would be willing to make roads safer for vulnerable road users by starting to lower speed limits.

He pointed out that most speeds are set at 40 or 50 km/h and that 30 km/h limits in school zones are limited from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Ask residents on each of our streets if they want speed limits reduced. If the majority want it, let’s give it to them,” he said.

“The city of Paris, population 2.1 million people, has just reduced speed limits on almost every single street to 30 km/h,” he added.

“If Paris can do it, I think Sackville can do it.”

Councillors respond

Councillor Bill Evans said he hoped council could do something to address Jarche’s concerns about speed.

“I’m on Squire Street and my neighbours lobby me all the time, ‘We’ve got to slow traffic down,” but just like with Pond Shore Road, speed limit is one thing, but enforcement is another,” Evans added.

Councillor Bruce Phinney said the town had done a study on some downtown streets.

“I believe it was Squire and Weldon [and] we found out that the people who were speeding, were the people who lived on those streets,” he added.

“So how do you get through to them?” Phinney asked. “The old saying is, ‘You can’t fix stupid.'”

“The old saying was people would keep drinking and driving,” Jarche answered.

“Until Mothers Against Drunk Drivers started really working on that and I think that’s what it takes.”

Jarche acknowledged that more public education is needed to change people’s habits.

“I just wanted to focus on one thing, which is feasible, which is lowering the official speed limit starting on various streets, but yeah, there’s a lot more that has to be done,” he said.

To read Harold Jarche’s presentation to town council, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 8 Comments

CUPE strikers show their ‘fists’ in Sackville

Dozens of striking CUPE members paraded in downtown Sackville today and stood at the Main and Mallard intersection to back their demands for higher wages.

“I hope the premier gets the message. This province cannot run without the public service essential workers that are putting their lives on the line everyday,” said Pat Lekas, zone shop steward for CUPE Local 2745, which represents school staff including educational assistants, library workers and payroll clerks.

Schools in Sackville were closed today because of the strike.

Lekas, who works as an educational assistant at Tantramar Regional High School, says CUPE members are fighting for decent wages.

“We haven’t had a raise in four years,” she says. “We’re the working poor, we’re the lowest-paid public servants across the country.”

She adds that inflation has eaten away at CUPE members’ wages.

“Wages are a real, big deal,” she says, “and we’re not asking for the world, we’re only asking for the cost of living.”

According to CUPE’s website, the union wants a 3% raise in each year of a four-year collective agreement, while the province is offering 2% per year in a five-year contract.

CUPE also says wages have been stagnant over the last 12 years for the 22,000 workers in 10 locals which are in a legal strike position. Seven of those locals are on strike today.

Pat Lekas, leader for CUPE strike headquarters in Sackville

Pat Lekas says members from three locals are picketing today in Sackville including ones representing school bus drivers, custodians and prison guards.

“We’re all working as a collective unit to bring change and fair wages, not just to CUPE members, but to all workers in New Brunswick,” she says, adding that better pay for government workers could serve as a benchmark for others.

“The money that Higgs will eventually have to pay us goes right back into our communities, which supports all the families in our communities, all the businesses in our communities,” she says.

“So we want those other workers, who are not yet unionized, to get fair wages too.”

Posted in New Brunswick government | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Evans, Dietz urge Sackville Town Council not to lower property taxes

Councillor Bill Evans

Many Sackville residents are facing higher property taxes this year because the assessed market value of their homes has risen by an average of 7%, but Councillors Bill Evans and Sabine Dietz are urging their council colleagues to resist the temptation to give homeowners a break by lowering the property tax rate.

“Our job is to look after the interests of the whole community,” Evans told council on Monday night.

“I believe that a proposal to lower the tax rate might be popular but, for the reasons I’ve given, would not be in our best interests.”

In a statement he read to council, Evans gave three reasons for opposing a cut in the residential rate of $1.56 for each $100 of assessed property value.

  1. He argued that a tax cut would mean reductions in services
  2. He said it could cost the town hundreds of thousands of dollars while giving individual homeowners only a small monthly benefit
  3. And, he said a reduction in the tax rate would do little to help low-income residents including tenants.

Evans pointed out that people don’t like to pay taxes.

“And, it’s always tempting for politicians to say that they are against what people already don’t like,” he said.

“But, our job as councillors isn’t as simple as just doing what’s easy and popular. Our job is to do what is in the best interests of the entire municipality.”

Rising costs

For her part, Councillor Dietz said council had given town managers direction to maintain services in spite of rising costs.

She pointed out that the town and its unionized workers will be negotiating a new contract soon and that raises for the RCMP will also add to the town’s costs.

(Treasurer Michael Beal reported earlier that RCMP wages will rise $114,785 in 2022 and that the town would allocate an additional $120,000 next year to cover backpay retroactive to 2017. The RCMP salary increases were negotiated with the federal government as part of a collective agreement ratified in August.)

Dietz also argued that a cut in the tax rate wouldn’t do much for the poor.

“It will not help the people who need the help,” she said.

“There are two programs that the province has to try to offset the challenges of property taxes for low-income New Brunswickers,” she added.

Dietz said figures presented earlier by the Treasurer showed that cutting the tax rate would be of little benefit to homeowners.

In his presentation, Michael Beal said that a resident whose home is assessed at $100,000 would save $10.69 next year if the tax rate were cut by one cent; a two-cent reduction would save $21.39 and a three-cent cut would save a total of $32.08.

Beal said annual savings on a home assessed at $300,000 would amount to $32.08 (one cent reduction); $64.16 (two cents) and $96.25 (three cents).

Meantime, town revenues would fall by $70,000 (one cent reduction); $140,000 (two cents) and $210,000 (three cents).

Beal said that if the town wanted to completely offset the average 7% rise in property assessments, it would have to cut taxes by nine cents, a move that would reduce its revenues by about $630,000.

Mayor weighs in

Mayor Shawn Mesheau

“Growth will be our success in order to be able to sustain the services that we have come to expect,” Mayor Mesheau said as he concluded the discussion.

“If the expectations are to maintain the services that are in place, there’s going to be a higher burden placed on the residents of this community in order to tackle just everyday services,” he added.

Mesheau warned that municipal reform could impose additional costs if Sackville is required to provide services for neighbouring communities in local service districts.

He suggested that council has not been focusing enough attention on economic growth.

“When we have commercial infrastructure built, it, in itself, helps us reduce the residential burden and I think those are important things we have to look at as a municipality in the next year.”

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Sackville Town Council pushed to include more action on climate change in 2022 budget

Councillor Sabine Dietz

Climate change was a key theme Monday night as Sackville Town Council met to discuss preliminary proposals for next year’s budget.

“I know this is an emergency and not just a crisis,” said Councillor Sabine Dietz after suggesting that the town has not been taking climate change seriously enough in its budget planning.

“We can’t push this off,” she said. “Last year was a write-off because of COVID and I accept that, but it is really our responsibility to make the future safer for our kids and for our grandkids.”

Dietz added that the town has to act now.

“I don’t want climate change action, it’s a must, we don’t have a choice,” she said.

She noted that although proposals for next year’s budget would allocate $25,000 for climate change initiatives and $95,000 for an electric vehicle charger, there’s no overall plan, for example, to offset the effects of road paving or heavy equipment purchases or no plan to extend the town’s climate change co-ordinator beyond next September.

She suggested establishing a $100,000 climate contingency fund paid for by re-directing gas tax money, paring back other projects and if necessary, cutting the allocation for an electric vehicle charger.

“If we don’t take responsibility for moving the bar, supporting action and committing to action throughout our budget, then we are not doing enough,” she said.

“Basically, it’s time to put our money where our mouth is.”

Roundtable review

Dietz echoed many of the suggestions put forward earlier in the meeting by the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change, which gave a 23-minute presentation led by retired wildlife biologist Richard Elliot, Kirsti Mrazek, the town’s new climate change co-ordinator, and Mount Allison Professor Barbra Clayton.

Elliot noted that the Roundtable first reviewed the town’s capital budget two years ago using a “climate lens” summarized in a slide he showed to council:

Elliot reported that the Roundtable came up with four “overarching recommendations” after meeting last week with town staff:

    • Adopt a policy to convert town vehicles to electric and hybrid ones
    • Provide climate change awareness sessions for all town managers and staff
    • Publicly highlight efforts taken by the town to minimize the effects of climate change
    • Redirect next year’s $756,445 in federal gas tax money from road re-surfacing to financing such green projects as electric vehicle charging stations, bicycle lanes and trails as well as developing a water retention pond in the old Pickard Quarry and financing road re-surfacing using other parts of the capital budget

Among other suggestions, Kirsti Mrazek recommended that the town design a “low-slope parking lot” at Lilas Fawcett Park along with a catch basin or gravel settling strip to reduce sediment run-off into Silver Lake; incorporate grass buffers and trees to provide shade and consider installing nearby crosswalks for pedestrians and cyclists.

Barbra Clayton congratulated the town on its decision to purchase an electric Zamboni to clean the ice at the Civic Centre and recommended using it to advertise climate initiatives and attract sponsors. She also suggested replacing the town’s 1999 street sweeper with an electric or hybrid model that could be rented to or shared with other communities.

One of Clayton’s slides showed an electric fire pumper truck:

“We were excited to know that there is an electric pumper truck available in Canada,” she said, adding that at the moment, its $1.6 million price tag is “a bit prohibitive.”

She said that maybe the town could consider buying a hybrid model or other low-emissions alternatives perhaps with financial support from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Clayton noted, however, that the Roundtable did not have a chance to discuss its proposal with Fire Chief Craig Bowser.

Councillors weigh in

Councillors Bill Evans and Sabine Dietz thanked the Roundtable presenters for their ideas and research.

“When we passed the motion in 2019 saying we should set up [the Roundtable], this is exactly what I was hoping that we would get,” Evans said.

“You push us to do the right thing, you’re smart enough to acknowledge that we’re already starting to do the right thing and so, that’s great, but that’s not enough, you have to keep pushing,” he added.

Posted in Environment, Town of Sackville | Tagged | 10 Comments

Sackville tenants say town has been slow to respond to health and safety complaints

Building at 26 Queens Road has 8 apartment units, the one next door at #28 has 12

Tenants at an apartment building in Sackville say they can’t understand why it’s taking the town so long to respond to their health and safety concerns.

Warktimes has spoken to tenants at 26 Queen’s Road who say they’ve complained to the town’s bylaw officer about a wide range of issues including leaking pipes, defective plumbing, mould in bedroom and bathroom walls, faulty electrical wiring, inadequate lighting and sagging ceilings.

They say that as far they know, bylaw officer Corey Springer has not yet conducted a thorough inspection of the building.

Springer has confirmed that he did receive a complaint and his file on the building is open, but says he can’t say anything more because of the need to protect tenants’ privacy and for legal reasons.

“When files have the potential to proceed before the courts, we are not in a position to speak about them publicly,” Springer wrote in an e-mail to Warktimes.

He would not say whether anyone from the town has inspected the building to look into the tenants’ complaints.

Fire inspection

Claude Haché, a provincial fire inspector visited the building and the neighbouring one at 28 Queen’s Road on August 4th in response to a number of complaints including fire code violations, inadequate alarms, faulty electrical wiring and a lack of smoke detectors.

Haché told Warktimes he would submit his report to the landlord’s agents who would have 30 days to fix any problems he might have found, but would not say anything more.

He did respond to a telephone message today.

Lawyer James Goodwin

Meantime, the tenants have consulted Hicks LeMoine lawyer James Goodwin who has also pressed the town to enforce its residential properties maintenance and occupancy standards bylaw.

“The tenants don’t believe they’re currently living in a safe situation and are looking for some sort of authority to step in and fix this,” he says.

“Everyone’s entitled to a safe and clean home,” Goodwin adds.

Ownership change

The eight-unit building at 26 Queens Road and the neighbouring 12-unit one at #28 were owned by Barbara and Gordon Beal until July 5th when the Beals sold them for $2.1 million to a St. Catharines, Ontario company called R and R Real Estate Holdings Ltd.

Gordon Beal, who was 87, died on August 19th.

R and R Real Estate Holdings hired a company named Star Professional Property Management in Moncton to oversee the buildings and collect the rents.

One tenant stayed for a time in a tent inside this shed at the rear of the buildings because of mould in a child’s bedroom. The yellow extension cord provided electricity

According to tenants, the management firm told them to submit their rent via e-mail transfers and when some failed to do so either because they didn’t own computers or were unfamiliar with online banking, the company posted several eviction notices on apartment doors.

Although the issue was finally resolved, New Brunswick’s Residential Tenancies Tribunal has upheld the eviction of one of the most outspoken tenants who must leave the apartment on October 31st.

All of the tenants who spoke to Warktimes requested anonymity.

They say that although the management company has taken steps to resolve some mould issues, many health and safety concerns remain.

A representative from Star Professional Property Management responded to a phone message from Warktimes by saying the company was working to rectify any problems and that tenants should take their complaints to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal and not to the news media.

Chelsea, who refused to give her full name, said lawyers for the company would respond if the news media report incorrect information.

She also said that for privacy reasons, she could not discuss why a tenant was being evicted from 26 Queens Road.

Widespread problem

Meanwhile, lawyer James Goodwin says this is the second such case he’s been involved in this year.

The other was at a Beal-owned property on Main Street where tenants were re-housed after a judge ruled that their apartments weren’t safe to live in.

In that case, the town took an active role, but Goodwin says that hasn’t always been the case.

He also said the Residential Tenancies Tribunal has a very narrow scope and limited powers.

“There appears to have been very little enforcement in the last few decades in this town,” he says.

“The town has a large population of renters,” he adds.

“This has made a very lucrative market for landlords, but unfortunately without inspections taking place and without tenants knowing their rights, nothing’s happening.”

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Maple Leaf Rag: Mayor Mesheau, the Irvings and Thee

It’s believed George Stanley, inventor of the Maple Leaf flag, read the T&T daily, cover to cover and sometimes twice. It’s not known whether today’s full, front-page ad for auto parts would have interested him even though there’s a rumour going around that his Maktig pistol grip grease gun, now on sale for only $52.99, was a most-prized possession

Dear Warktimes Editor,

Finally, our town has a leader who understands politics, power and the press.

I refer to Mayor Mesheau, whose report to town council on Tuesday broke the news about high-stakes talks he’s been conducting with a member of New Brunswick’s First Family. The mayor explained things so eloquently that I really should quote him in full:

I also had the opportunity to speak with Mike Power and Jamie Irving with Brunswick News. We had a Zoom meeting here almost two weeks ago now to discuss additional dedicated coverage for Sackville and the area with the loss of the Tribune-Post. So those conversations continue to go on and see if there’s options to have additional coverage for Sackville in the Times & Transcript.

As you can see, Mayor Mesheau downplayed his big news, modestly choosing not to outline those “options” that will surely win us tonnes of ink in the the T &T, eagerly perused daily by at least a dozen or two Sackvillians.

One option, of course, would be the buying of ad space such as the good-sized one today on page A2 of the T &T.

Ad that appears on pg. 2 of today’s Times & Transcript

Fortunately, the steep rise in property tax assessments this year will give Sackville plenty of extra cash to buy ad space from the Irvings.

True, Sackville Town Council has sometimes been at odds with First Family Interests — glyphosate spraying comes to mind, as does the Energy East pipeline — but what the heck,  this is not an easy time, even for the 300 (or so) companies in a $4 billion (or so) Empire that is struggling to run this here province through the sheer genius and good humour of retired Irving Exec, Grandpa Higgs.

Flying flyers

Another way our good mayor could support the Empire would be to make sure that the tree huggers on town council don’t try to interfere with the dumping of pink-plastic-wrapped Irving flyer bundles in our driveways, on our front lawns, in the garden, on sidewalks, in the gutters, in the lilac bushes, on the manure pile, and just about everywhere imaginable here, (but not in Moncton where a stupid bylaw prevents it).

Without that last pink bundle, how would I have known about the $199 (reg. $299) swivel bar stool available at a certain furniture outlet on the King George Hwy in Miramichi? Not to mention the Queen Platform Bed with drawers for only $599 (reg. $869), even though I must hasten to add the mattress was not included.

Mayor Mesheau announcing ongoing talks with the Irving Empire during Tuesday’s council corn boil

Although I doubt that he has even thought of it, I’ll close this missive by pointing out that our mayor would do well to have the friendship of the Irving papers should he decide to follow in his brother’s footsteps and make the big leap into the provincial political fray.

Mind you, the Irvings will not likely be sending their reporters to actually cover Sackville Town Council, but they could continue their practice of calling our mayor up a day or two later to fill them in on the latest.

That way, the name “Mesheau” gets lots of ink while the tree hugging, fossil-fuel dissing, climate-change worry warts get none.

Hardy, har har. The Empire Strikes Back.

Yours truly,

XXXXXXXXXXX

Posted in Town of Sackville | 5 Comments

Sackville Treasurer seeks to hold the line on property tax rates, but many homeowners will still pay more

Treasurer Michael Beal delivers budget presentation to council

Sackville Treasurer Michael Beal says he’s hoping to avoid increasing property tax rates next year in spite of sharp increases in costs for such key items as insurance and policing.

During a budget presentation to town council Monday night, Beal said an increase in property tax assessments will likely produce enough revenue to offset a $200,000 increase in wages for the RCMP and a $20,000 to $50,000 bump in the town’s insurance premiums.

“I think I could safely say if we obtained a 3% to 5% increase in assessed value that we would be able to sustain those large increases in 2022,” Beal said.

He told council that the total assessed value of property across the province has increased by an average of 7.7% according to figures released by Service New Brunswick.

The province says that about 70% of property owners will see increased market value assessments largely because house selling prices have risen to record levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beal emphasized that he has not received exact assessment figures from the province yet, but expects to have them before he presents the first draft of his 2022 budget to council on October 18.

Sackville residential property taxes are $1.56 per $100 of assessed value, which means that a local property owner whose home is assessed at $100,000, paid $1,560 this year.

A 5% increase in assessed value, which would bring the home to $105,000, would result in a property tax bill of $1,638 next year, an increase of $78.

‘Sticker shock’

Councillors Sabine Dietz and  Bill Evans said the property tax notices they’ve just received show their assessments have risen by about 7%

Evans said increased assessments are good for the town.

“In the past, we have always been able to increase our budget every year and we’ve only raised our tax rate once since I’ve been on council because the assessed value goes up,” he added.

“As individuals, people are paying more tax even though the tax rate doesn’t change,” he said.

“But it’s good for us because our costs go up and people want the services we provide and this is how we pay for them.”

Mayor Shawn Mesheau

However, Mayor Mesheau said many people felt “sticker shock” when they opened their latest tax notices.

“It’s easy for us here as a council maybe to sit and say ‘OK, we can absorb 7%,'” he added.

“But there are folks out there who can’t.”

Mesheau urged councillors to keep that in mind as they consider next year’s budget.

“It’s important that we open our minds to the fact that this community is made up of a lot of different people and that as we think about the services that we provide, we have to ensure that we’re providing services that are affecting positively, the most people,” he said.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sackville mother questions long delay in getting her Lebanese husband into Canada

Rachelle Farah and sons Elias, 3 and Moussa, 7 months

A Sackville mother of two young boys says she’s frustrated and angry that she’s been waiting nearly four years to bring her husband to Canada from Lebanon.

“I’m really upset,” says Rachelle Farah.”I need him to be with me especially with two kids,” she adds. “He hasn’t even seen his youngest one.”

Farah, 31, says she applied on October 12, 2017 as a Canadian citizen to sponsor her 30-year-old husband Johny Saoud for permanent resident status, a process that usually takes about 12 months.

“This delay is way outside the normal range,” Farah says. “It normally takes one year, plus or minus a couple of months.”

She acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed things down, but points out her application was submitted more than two years before the pandemic was declared in March 2020.

Farah says that after her application was accepted, her husband underwent medical tests in January 2018. Canadian officials also requested a security check and she says Johny was interviewed twice by phone in Lebanon, but there’s been no word on why his permanent resident status hasn’t been granted.

She says she took her case to her local Member of Parliament, Dominic LeBlanc three years ago, but his staff apparently haven’t been able to tell her why there’s been such a long delay. (LeBlanc’s office did not respond to a request for information from The New Wark Times.)

“I just wish they (Canadian immigration officials) would tell us what the problem is,” Farah says, adding that her husband works for the Internal Security Forces, Lebanon’s national police and security agency.

Nicole Druckman, the Moncton immigration lawyer who helped Farah file her sponsorship application, notes that Johny Saoud is a police officer in Lebanon and she suggests Canadian security checks may be responsible for the delay.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Druckman says. “Keeping people apart like this is really painful for them.”

Family history

Rachelle, Johny and Elias together during a visit to Lebanon. Johny has never met baby Moussa (inset). Composite photo courtesy Rachelle Farah

Rachelle Farah emigrated from Lebanon to Sackville on December 14, 2010 where her father Moussa had already established the auto body shop he still runs on Stephens Drive, north of the TransCanada highway.

She and Johny Saoud had grown up in Cheikh-Taba, a town in northern Lebanon and they kept in touch after she came to Canada.

The couple got engaged in 2015 and were married in Lebanon on June 26, 2016.

Farah conceived their two children during visits to Lebanon. Elias was born in 2018 and Moussa in 2021.

“I’m having my kids like a single Mom, but I’m not,” Farah says. “I’m married, right, so I have a husband, but he’s in Lebanon.”

She adds that the separation is especially hard on Elias who, at age three, has started questioning why he can’t see his father.

“It’s getting him upset because sometimes I figure out that even at night, he wakes up and he wants to talk with his father,” she says.

“Even on his iPad, I put FaceTime and he knows his father’s name starts with “J” and he calls him sometimes at night and I find him talking with him.”

Health problems

Farah herself is on prescription medications for health problems that sometimes require hospital treatment in Amherst.

“I have bad health issues now,” she explains and adds that her husband’s absence has made things worse.

“Getting the babies without him or being in the hospital doing some treatments without him or without support, staying on the phone all the day, it’s really stressful,” she says.

“If he were here, we would have our own house,” she adds.

As a trained beauty specialist, she says her dream is to open her own spa, while Johny could help her father with his auto body work.

Farah says that while she’s grateful for the government maternity and child support benefits she receives, she and her husband want to work.

“If he could be here, he can work more, we can get more money [and] I’m not just sitting here waiting for the government to pay me. We like to work.”

Chaos in Lebanon

Farah says she can’t return to Lebanon to visit Johny because the country is going through a crisis sparked by sectarian violence and the effects of a collapsing economy that include severe food and fuel shortages.

“I won’t take my kids there in this situation,” she says.

At the same time, she worries about her husband’s safety.

She says that Johny, who lives in their house in Beirut, happened to be in a truck under a bridge on August 4, 2020 when one of the largest, non-nuclear explosions in history shattered the port and much of the city killing 218 and wounding 7,000 more.

Farah says Johny suffered from concussion, but escaped serious injury.

“Thank God he’s still alive, other people suffered more, but for us, it was very bad.”

IRCC response

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC),  the federal department that oversees immigrants and refugees, says that for privacy reasons it can’t comment specifically on Rachelle Farah’s sponsorship application without written consent.

In an e-mail to Warktimes, IRCC says it has taken a number of steps to speed up the processing of applications.

We expanded our office in Sydney, Nova Scotia by 62 new staff to help reunite families faster. These will help us return to the one year processing standard for spousal sponsorship. We’ve improved technology and digitized more of our operations, and increased the amount of processing happening virtually. This includes our permanent resident landings process, which has now actually reduced the amount of time it takes to land a permanent resident compared to the pre-pandemic process.

While processing times for spousal sponsorship are approximately one year, COVID-19 has required us to make changes in our processing that have meant we can’t give accurate processing times for most applications at this time.

To read the entire IRCC e-mail, click here.

Message to LeBlanc & Trudeau

Rachelle Farah says she has been hoping to meet Dominic LeBlanc personally to discuss her application, but so far, hasn’t been able to arrange such a meeting.

When asked what message she would give to LeBlanc or to his close friend Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, she said:

“I want my husband with me here. That’s it. That’s it. I want him in Canada as soon as possible.”

Posted in Immigration | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Liberal Dominic LeBlanc takes aim at federal Conservative leader & his party during Sackville candidates’ forum

Moderator Mario Levesque (centre) Beauséjour candidates from left to right: Liberal Dominic LeBlanc, Green Stella Anna Girouard, NDP Evelyne Godfrey, Conservative Shelly Mitchell (Photo: Facebook screen capture)

Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was not present at Thursday’s candidates’ forum at Sackville Town Hall, but his name was mentioned at least twice by Liberal Dominic LeBlanc, who is running for re-election in Beauséjour.

LeBlanc’s drubbing of O’Toole and his repeated attacks on his party suggest the Liberals see Conservatives as a serious electoral threat now that the two parties are running neck-and-neck in national opinion polls.

When asked about abortion for example, LeBlanc began his answer by calling it a constitutional right upheld for decades by the Supreme Court and he said all Liberal candidates are in favour of a woman’s right to choose.

“All of our candidates would vote against legislation, for example, from Conservative backbenchers that seek to restrict a woman’s constitutional right,” LeBlanc said.

Liberal Dominic LeBlanc. (Photo: Erica Butler)

“Mr. O’Toole pretends he’s in favour of a woman’s right to choose, but allows 40 or 50 of his members of Parliament to vote regularly in Parliament in favour of laws that would restrict a woman’s right to choose,” he added.

LeBlanc said that he’s proud the Liberal government withheld federal funding from New Brunswick because of the provincial government’s failure to support access to abortions at Clinic 554 in Fredericton.

“We’ll continue to use the Canada Health Act, and in fact, go further and make it illegal to protest or harass people who seek to have access to health-care clinics or facilities including obviously, abortion clinics,” he said.

Conservative candidate Shelly Mitchell said the issue should be “de-politicized completely” because abortion is a private matter between a woman and her doctor.

“I feel like women should have a right to choose what they want to do with their bodies,” Mitchell said.

She added there should be more mental health supports for women who require “such a drastic procedure.”

The NDP’s Evelyne Godfrey also supported women’s right to choose.

“I am not in favour of limiting women’s rights in any way,” she said, “when it comes to anything to do with contraception or abortion or anything to do with their reproduction.”

Stella Anna Girouard said the Green Party supports a woman’s choice, but added one reason the Western world is at war with the Taliban in Afghanistan is that a girl is ready to bear a child as soon as her menstrual cycle starts.

She did not elaborate, but went on to wonder at what age a “soul-mate” develops feelings for another one.

“I think we need to develop the conscience of looking at a person who can feel what we feel and when you have that, you have a true soul-mate and then there’s no problem about abortion or whatever, it’s one thing between a mother and a father,” Girouard said.

Climate change

LeBlanc returned to his attack on federal Conservatives when asked about dealing with climate change, although this time, he did not mention Erin O’Toole by name.

“I think we all agree that tackling climate change is probably the most important task of the national government as we emerge from COVID-19,” LeBlanc said in response to a question about the best federal strategy to deal with climate change.

“Fifty-five per cent of the Conservative party wouldn’t vote for a resolution that said climate change was real so that’s a bit worrisome,” LeBlanc added before touting the Liberal carbon tax and legislation to reach “net zero” emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.

Conservative Shelly Mitchell (Photo: Erica Butler)

His Conservative opponent Shelly Mitchell framed her answer around the local issue of reinforcing dikes and other flood control infrastructure along coastlines.

“Climate change is a very real thing and the Conservatives are ready to get to work tackling his very important issue,” she said, adding that her party would reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially by 2030, ban the export of plastic waste and promote zero-emissions vehicles.

Evelyne Godfrey of the NDP referred to the “worst flooding in living memory” in 2010 in Port Elgin where she lives and said she’s witnessed much milder winters than when she was growing up in Sackville in the 1970s.

“I’m entirely conscious of it and I think we can do a lot to grow the green economy,” she said. “The jobs that we create in this province need to be environmentally conscious and sustainable.”

Green candidate Stella Anna Girouard. (Photo: Erica Butler)

Stella Anna Girouard of the Green Party said that we need to stop “aggressive forest cutting all over the world, especially Canada.”

She went on to call for well managed forests before getting into her own unique set of solutions.

“Plant a tree,” she said. “Use fertilizer on it, use human fertilizer on it,” she said before advocating building houses with hemp.

“You don’t need to cut a tree to build a house,” Girouard said.

Wide-range of issues

The hour-long candidates’ forum, moderated by Mount Allison Politics Professor Mario Levesque and sponsored by the Mt. A. Students’ Union, featured brief discussions about many issues.

They included affordable housing, the transition from fossil fuels to greener energy, economic recovery from the COVID pandemic and providing high-speed Internet to rural communities.

When asked about balancing the federal budget, Dominic LeBlanc mentioned the billions the Liberal government has spent to keep people working during the pandemic and then, launched into another attack on the federal Conservative leader.

“Mr. O’Toole pretends he has a plan not to cut any of the Liberal spending, add $78 billion of his own spending with a series of fake growth projections that are completely unrealistic and the deficit will magically disappear in 10 years,” he said.

“We think Canadians deserve a greater level of transparency around public finances,” LeBlanc added.

Conservative Shelly Mitchell pointed to Statistics Canada figures showing the deficit is growing by 4.1% and she said the economy is “spiralling downwards.”

She advocated economic stimulus spending to get businesses hiring again.

“We need to definitely energize the economy and get things back on track,” Mitchell said.

NDP candidate Evelyne Godfrey (Photo: Erica Butler)

“Now is not the time, as we’re trying to recover from this pandemic, to be focusing on deficit reduction because the danger is you cut public services just in order to reduce a number that is not really indicative of how people are living their lives every day,” said NDP candidate Evelyne Godfrey.

She called for a focus on “how we kick-start the economy and revitalize, especially here in New Brunswick.”

Green candidate Stella Anna Girouard gave a show-stopping answer that seemed to catch the moderator by surprise.

“It’s very simple,” she said.

“People like money so why not have a COVID lotto? Isn’t that simple? It would do a little bit of paying the debt that we owe, wouldn’t it.”

To watch the whole debate on Facebook, click here.

Note: Mt. A. student organizers excluded two candidates from participation in the candidates’ forum. Jack Minor of the People’s Party of Canada and Isabelle Sauriol Chiasson of  the Free Party Canada were not invited to attend. The Students’ Union  decided to apply rules developed by the national leaders debate commission, which excludes parties with no seats in the House of Commons or which receive less than 4% of the popular vote.

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Beauséjour Free Party candidate supports calls for suspending ‘experimental’ COVID injections & national inquiry into handling of pandemic

Free Party/Parti Libre Canada candidate Isabelle Sauriol Chiasson

Isabelle Sauriol Chiasson, the Free Party Canada candidate in Beauséjour says she’s never been all that interested in politics — at least not until she saw a video on Facebook last month.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a normal person,” Sauriol Chiasson says with a hearty laugh as she sits behind the desk in her basement studio in Dieppe.

She estimates that her aesthetics business, mainly treating nails and waxing eyebrows, has been more than cut in half by COVID-19 restrictions.

“I decided to join the Free Party because I just watched one video of Martin Gravel and he was asking people, ‘Do you want to join us?'”

Sauriol Chiasson says she found the Free Party leader’s message appealing because she agrees with him that our political system needs change.

“The democracy we have right now is not really a democracy, it’s more of a dictatorship,” she says, suggesting that elite politicians in Ottawa make decisions in their own best interests, not for the benefit of the rest of us.

Sauriol Chiasson points to the Free Party/Parti Libre Canada four-point program which calls for the immediate suspension of “the experimental Covid-19 injection for the entire population” and an independent inquiry into the management of the pandemic.

“We need to have our freedom back, so this is why I joined the Free Party,” she says.

“We need to stand up and say we are all human, we can choose what we want and we can decide because now, nobody really listens to what people want.”

Sauriol Chiasson says suspension of the injections and a national inquiry would allow more time for evidence to be gathered on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.

According to its website, the Free Party is running three candidates in New Brunswick, three in Ontario and 53 in Québec.

Direct democracy

The Free Party program also calls for an immediate start to “the process of establishing a direct democracy,” a system that could allow everyone a say in how the country is governed rather than delegating political decisions to elected representatives.

Sauriol Chiasson acknowledges that party proposals aren’t fully worked out yet because Parti Libre Canada is so new, but for her, listening is the key.

“Direct democracy for us is more to listen to what people want,” she says.

“If they go on our website, they can put suggestions on what exactly they want us to do with the Free Party,” she adds.

“If the people of Beauséjour have some suggestions for me, I’m here to listen.”

Environmental concerns

The first point in the Free Party program proposes to “re-establish a healthy, harmonized and balanced social climate with respect for all life.”

It fits with Sauriol Chiasson’s concerns about the effects climate change and pollution will have on her son and her daughter and the generations that follow.

“I’m very concerned because this is what I’m going to leave to my kids, right? This is where my kids are going to live and my grandchildren, if I have some,” she says laughing.

She says that’s why she’s not using plastic lawn signs, glossy brochures or business cards in her campaign.

“If we want to take care of the Earth and the environment, we have to start now because we know those signs are all going to go in the trash,” she says.

“If we start to make little changes, we can make bigger ones later.”

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Conservative Shelly Mitchell offering ‘change’ to voters in Beauséjour

Conservative candidate Shelly Mitchell at Waterfowl Park

On a sunny September day, Beauséjour Conservative candidate Shelly Mitchell is contemplating the beauty of Sackville’s Waterfowl Park as she watches dragonflies darting over one of its main ponds.

“This kind of environment is exactly what needs to be offered in every community,” she says.

“People need to have a place to come to walk in clean air and have clean water and nature all around them, it very much invokes peace.”

Mitchell is familiar with the park because she was posted to Sackville in 2003 as a newly minted RCMP officer.

“I worked in the area of District 4 which also included areas throughout the Beauséjour riding, places like Shediac, Cap-Pelé, Dorchester, Memramcook, all the way to the P.E.I. bridge.”

About seven years after arriving here, Mitchell joined the RCMP in Moncton and on June 4, 2014, she was the third officer despatched to a neighbourhood where someone called 911 after spotting a man dressed in camouflage walking down the middle of a road carrying what appeared to be military-style guns.

Three Mounties, armed only with pistols, died and two others were wounded in the gunfire that followed.

Medal of Bravery

In 2017, Mitchell was awarded a Governor General’s Medal of Bravery for commandeering a private vehicle to rush a wounded colleague to hospital.

But the whole thing leaves a bitter taste in her mouth.

“I think everyone who was on the ground that day deserves a medal of bravery,” she says.

In 2017, a Moncton judge found the RCMP guilty of failing to provide high-powered rifles and training to the officers who responded to the call.

Two years later, Mitchell and three colleagues launched a lawsuit accusing the federal government of negligence in failing to provide proper equipment and citing the severe psychological trauma and other medical ailments they had suffered.

Mitchell, who left the RCMP in 2018, says the lawsuit is still wending its way through the courts, but she is feeling a lot better now after a long, slow recovery.

“It did take some time to get myself back to where I feel like I can now get involved in my community again and move forward trying to help people,” she says.

Conservative candidacy

When rumours started flying in August that the Liberals were about to call a federal election, Mitchell decided to run for the Conservatives in Beauséjour.

“I felt like, you know what, the people of this area are looking for change, the people of this country are looking for change and we can see that resoundingly in the way that things are going with the election and the popularity of the Conservatives,” she says referring to polls showing her party running neck and neck with the Liberals.

She says she was impressed with the thoughtfulness of the Conservative platform as well as the openness, honesty and integrity of party leader Erin O’Toole who served as a helicopter navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“The fact that he has served for 12 years tells me that he knows what a veteran is and he knows the sacrifices that veterans make in helping our country and protecting people’s lives,” Mitchell says.

When asked how Conservatives would bring change to the country, Mitchell refers to the five points in “Canada’s Recovery Plan” printed on the back of her campaign flyer.

She says all are important, but the fifth one is especially so.

“The biggie is securing the economy, so getting the economy back in shape when it comes to debt and spending; I would say that the Liberal government has run rampant for far too long,” she says.

“That means our children and our childrens’ children will be holding on to a bag of debt if we don’t put emphasis on repayment of debts.”

COVID measures

Mitchell acknowledges the importance of implementing measures to protect people’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic, but advocates a “balanced” approach.

“First and foremost realizing that yes, the vaccine is the best and safest way to protect ourselves against the virus and also in terms of transmission rates,” she says.

Mitchell advocates encouraging everyone to get vaccinated because scientists agree that vaccines are effective in keeping us safe.

“[But] when it comes to people possibly having health issues and concerns that they may not be able to have the vaccine, we have to be able to provide alternatives that will still keep people safe as best as possible and make sure that these people aren’t treated as outcasts or isolated in our society in such a way that they’re made to feel they can’t go places,” she says.

“We have to be able to achieve a balance.”

‘Sense of abandonment’

Shelly Mitchell at the Sackville Tim Hortons

Mitchell acknowledges that she’s facing a strong Liberal opponent in Dominic LeBlanc who has held the riding for the last 20 years.

But she says that in her door-to-door canvassing, she’s hearing what she calls a “sense of abandonment.”

“A lot of people feel in the Beauséjour riding that they haven’t been heard and represented in Ottawa,” she says.

She adds she decided to run for the Conservatives here because she didn’t think anyone else was going to.

“And I said, ‘that would would be a terrible thing not to offer people the opportunity for change.'”

This is the third in a series of reports on federal candidates in Beauséjour.

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