Garth Zwicker, Santa’s elf at the opportunities table
Three kinds of hats symbolized Sackville’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities as a dozen residents gathered Monday night at town hall around tables loaded with balloons, candies, coloured markers and big sheets of blank paper.
Consultant Tyler Mattheis handed Sharon Hicks, the scribe at the “strengths” table, an orange hard hat while April MacKinnon donned a black pirate hat as scribe at the “weaknesses” table.
Mattheis said that opportunities are like gifts that need a little bit of help.
“Who gives help to the world’s best gift giver?” he asked. “Santa’s elf,” he answered, handing Garth Zwicker a red and white elf’s hat at the “opportunities” table.
Over the course of the next 90 minutes, the participants moved from table to table discussing and writing down their ideas as Mattheis, Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken and a trio of town managers mingled among them.
Consultant Tyler Mattheis
The exercise was part of a process to come up with a new business development strategy for the town.
Aside from Monday’s public consultation, Mattheis has been conducting research on the town, reviewing its organizational structure, talking with town managers, Opportunities New Brunswick and the group promoting development at TransCanada highway exit 506. He says he will be interviewing local business leaders before presenting a final report to town council in December.
Mattheis says that report will fit in with the town’s overall strategic plan adopted last year. “We’re not talking a huge document here,” he says. “We’re talking bite-sized recommendations that we expect the town to take some and not take some.”
What participants found
The 12 participants in Monday’s public consultation listed many town strengths including Sackville’s location in the centre of the Maritime provinces, its stable population with “easy-going locals,” cultural diversity and the presence of the university.
Weaknesses included flooding and climate change, lack of public awareness about the importance of supporting local businesses, lack of local support from the planning commission along with rigid zoning and high rents for commercial properties.
The participants found opportunities in marketing eco and agro tourism attractions in Asian markets, encouraging immigration, a multi-cultural food store, community artist studios and more collaboration with Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe.
Professor David Thomas at the launch for his new book
Many Canadians see Bombardier Inc. as a Quebec company that gave us fun outdoor machines such as Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft and muscular all-terrain vehicles.
But a new book by a Mount Allison University professor paints a darker picture of a global corporation that is now a giant in aircraft production and high-speed rail transportation.
“Most Canadians would view Bombardier’s work, especially something like high-speed rail, as being relatively benign, maybe even good for the environment…a good thing for Canada,” says the book’s author, David Thomas. “But what I’m suggesting is that a lot of the mythology around the benevolence of Canadian actors needs to be deconstructed.”
Thomas, who’s a professor of politics and international relations at Mt. A., deconstructs that “mythology” of corporate benevolence in Bombardier Abroad: Patterns of Dispossession distributed by Fernwood Publishing in Nova Scotia. He defines dispossession as the process of stripping people of land and resources so that others can benefit from them.
During the book’s official launch this week at the Owens Art Gallery, Thomas said the inspiration for it came from his longstanding interest in the actions of Canadian corporations overseas as well as the ways in which Canadians themselves are complicit in those actions.
“So, for example, when our companies are operating abroad, there are lots of different ways that the Canadian government directly and indirectly supports companies working overseas, using our money, our taxpayer public funds, to help companies gain access to markets,” he said. “Most of us are invested in one way or another in the companies either through the Canada Pension Plan or [other] investments.”
Bombardier’s ‘contested’ projects
Thomas’s book examines Bombardier’s involvement in three controversial high-speed rail projects in South Africa, China/Tibet and Israel/Palestine. He argues these projects have heightened social and political tensions partly by entrenching racial divisions in South Africa that favour the mobility rights of privileged white professionals over those of impoverished black workers and partly by denying Tibetans and Palestinians political independence and control over their own land.
“The Israel/Palestine case, I think is a fascinating case,” Thomas says. “The controversial part of the project is that the rail line, for six kilometres, crosses into the occupied West Bank.”
Thomas adds that the route through Palestinian territory raises questions about the violation of international laws and UN resolutions that prohibit an occupying power from confiscating land in an occupied territory.
In two small Palestinian villages in the West Bank — Beit Iksa and Beit Surik — residents have struggled against Israeli occupation and annexation of their land for many years. While the Israeli state has historically confiscated land around these villages to build illegal settlements and the separation wall, the most recent land seizures are for a different purpose — the construction of a high-speed rail line connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, promising to move travellers over the 56 kilometres between the cities in 28 minutes flat. (Excerpt from Bombardier Abroad: Patterns of Dispossession)
“Bombardier didn’t build the rail line,” Thomas says, “but they will be running their trains on that line.” He notes that even though it officially opposes confiscation of Palestinian land, the Canadian government is not questioning the Bombardier project.
Thomas rejects the company’s argument that its international business projects have nothing to do with politics.
“All of the projects in this book are deeply contested by local people,” he says, “and all of them involve very political concepts and ideas such as sovereignty, self-determination, territorial integrity and so, when the people on the ground are telling us that this project is political and this project is deepening existing political problems in the area, I think we need to reassess the idea that they’re just conducting business and it’s not political in any way.”
Thomas’s book argues that the railway projects in China/Tibet and Israel/Palestine are examples of what some scholars call “settler colonialism” in which indigenous people are displaced from their land and replaced, in these cases, by Chinese or Jewish settlers.
He notes that Canada itself is a settler colony.
“Because we live in a settler colonial state and because that is overall normalized in society and in government, then it becomes easier to justify our involvement in similar acts of dispossession and colonialism overseas,” he says.
Thomas’s book expresses the hope that it will awaken Canadians to overseas business projects that dispossess local populations and also make Canadians more aware of their own complicity:
As a settler on this land, my intention is not to deflect attention from, or abdicate responsibility for, contemporary forms of dispossession in Canada by focusing on case studies abroad. On the contrary, my goal is to highlight the fact the Canadian actors are simultaneously complicit in processes of dispossession both at home and abroad and that dispossession abroad is in some ways normalized because of dispossession at home.
L-R: Mt. A. professors Mario Levesque, Brad Walters, Geoff Martin
A trio of professors at Mount Allison University addressed a packed lecture hall today in Sackville as they strove to explain what happened in last month’s inconclusive New Brunswick election and what might come next.
Politics professor Mario Levesque predicted Liberal Premier Gallant will try to use this week’s Speech from the Throne to gain the support of at least five non-Liberal members he would need in order to survive a confidence vote expected early next month.
“Mr. Gallant going in, even if he elects a Speaker, he has to try what I would call a Hail Mary pass,” Levesque said, adding that the Liberals are unlikely to succeed. “I do think [PC leader] Higgs will get a chance to form the next government.”
In the September 24th election, the Liberals won 21 seats, the Progressive Conservatives 22 with the Green and People’s Alliance parties each winning three.
Levesque noted that before they can present their Throne Speech, the Liberals will need to elect a speaker, reducing their seat count to only 20 in a legislature in which 25 votes are needed to avoid defeat.
Levesque said that minority governments typically last about 18 months to two years, but in this case, an election could come sooner.
Politics professor Geoff Martin agreed.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the next election comes in the spring,” he said. “Blaine Higgs is so eager to get the reins of government, I’m not sure how well he’ll manage the situation.”
Martin suggested the Liberals are already positioning themselves for an early election.
“I think it’s fair to say that from Brian Gallant’s perspective, the election campaign actually has not ended,” he said, adding that the Liberal Throne Speech will be designed to appeal to Green, NDP and even People’s Alliance voters who care about rural areas.
Martin said the Throne Speech would send a message that Liberals are going to respect and invest in rural New Brunswick: “‘Unlike Higgs, we’re not going to close what little you have left in Service New Brunswick, in schools, in hospitals and so on.'”
He predicted the Liberals would seek to make a spring election a stark choice between the two old-line parties.
“So it’s going to be like, ‘Are you really going to vote Green or NDP and risk a Higgs government?’ I think that’s what the next election will be about.”
Will Green gains last?
Martin also warned the Greens that their breakthrough in this election might not last.
“The major parties will run better people next time,” he said. “It won’t be a tired old Bernard LeBlanc running for the Liberals.
“They’ll get a better candidate and they will go at it and if they can manage it, they’ll have the election when the students aren’t here to vote.”
However, geography and environment professor Brad Walters argued that a “political earthquake” is underway in Canada and the rest of the world, surprising pundits with the election of right-wing populist leaders such as Donald Trump on the one hand, along with progressive Green party members on the other.
“Some very big shifts in politics are underway and the story that recently played out in New Brunswick in many respects mirrors these wider national and international trends and so, needs to be understood in light of them,” Walters said.
“We’re entering, I think, a fairly unpredictable period and I’ll just mention Megan [Mitton] for example,” he added.
“It’s true the student vote pushed her over the edge, but I mean it represented maybe 10 per cent of all the votes she got so it’s not like the only reason she succeeded was because of students. She succeeded because she won remarkable support from across the riding,” Walters said.
He added that political scientists haven’t yet explained why habits are changing with voters switching away from traditional parties.
“The more people start to switch,” he said, “there’s a possibility it will encourage others to follow. So there’s also the possibility we could see further surprises down the road.”
Sackville by-election update
Elections New Brunswick announced last Friday that it will be holding municipal by-elections on Monday, December 10th to fill vacancies arising from the provincial election.
Earlier, Elections N.B. said it would postpone municipal by-elections until May because it may need to conduct another provincial election in the meantime.
However, it decided to go ahead with December by-elections after the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick expressed concerns about vacancies causing a loss of quorum on some municipal councils.
The change means that voters in Sackville will be going to the polls on December 10 to elect a replacement for Town Councillor Megan Mitton.
Nominations for municipal by-elections close at 2 p.m. on Friday, November 16th.
Thinking of running? Let The New Wark Times be the first to know.
Matt Pryde, the town’s manager of recreation programs, says the money will be used to design and install a swing set with a bird’s nest swing, a log jam climber and a play area for younger children called a sand kitchen.
Log jam climber
Plans call for the installation of the equipment this fall in Phase I of a $97,500 project to replace the metal and plastic playground equipment in the park next to Silver Lake.
At a council meeting in September, Pryde explained the concept of a natural playground.
“Natural playgrounds are a lot like traditional plastic and metal playgrounds in that there’s still climbing structures, there’s still slides, there’s still opportunities for kids to be active,” he said.
Bird’s nest swing allows kids to swing together
“But rather than be built out of the metal and plastic, they’re built out of more natural products like wood, boulders, rope, berms in the ground itself and that sort of thing.”
Pryde explained that Phase I will cost a total of $61,000. The money will come from a $22,500 provincial Regional Development Corporation grant, $7,000 from the town, $8,000 from TD Bank and $3,500 from the Sackville Rotary Club. The town will also supply $20,000 worth of in-kind contributions including installation of the new equipment.
In the meantime, the town is hoping to get a $35,000 federal grant next spring to complete Phase II of the project.
Town reworks 5-year highways plan
At its meeting on Tuesday, Sackville Town Council approved a revised five-year plan for work on provincially designated highways within town limits.
The new plan gives priority to improvements at TransCanada Exit 506 including the reconstruction of Cattail Ridge to Bridge Street as recommended in a $27,000 plan proposed by Ekistics Planning and Design that council accepted in April.
In the first year, the town is asking DTI to approve road reconstruction at Exit 506 that would cost a total of $310,000 with $108,500 coming from the town and $201,500 from DTI.
To view the town’s 5-year highways plan, 2019-2023, click here.
The new provincial Green caucus: party leader David Coon (centre) with Kevin Arseneau and Megan Mitton
Megan Mitton has formally resigned her seat on Sackville Town Council to pursue a new career as the Green Party member of the legislature for Memramcook-Tantramar.
In a letter read at the October 9th council meeting by Councillor Andrew Black, Mitton promised to use her experience in municipal politics to serve the people of Sackville at the provincial level in Fredericton.
She added it had been a pleasure working with the mayor, councillors, town staff and community members.
“Everyone is working hard to make Sackville such a special place and I will miss working with you at town hall,” Mitton’s letter said.
Black also moved a motion that received unanimous support accepting Mitton’s resignation and declaring a vacant seat on council.
Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken, who was filling in for an absent Mayor Higham, explained that the next step would be to inform Elections New Brunswick of the vacancy so that a by-election can be called.
Normally, a by-election would be held in December, but uncertainty at the provincial level will delay things.
Paul Harpelle, who speaks for Elections NB, says the by-election will be held on May 6, 2019.
“This was not a decision taken lightly by the municipal electoral officer,” he said in an e-mail, “however, given the resources required to prepare for the next provincial election where the date is uncertain, this was the most logical course of action.”
Splendour in the grass
Joyce O’Neill failed to get anyone to second her motion
Also, at Tuesday night’s council meeting, it finally became clear that Sackville will not be enacting a bylaw to control the height of grass and other vegetation on private, residential property.
Councillor Joyce O’Neill read a motion that would have directed town staff to draft such a by-law, but the motion died when no other councillor would second it. (Councillor Phinney, who has supported O’Neill on this issue in the past, was not present at the October 9th meeting.)
“I feel strongly on this,” O’Neil said, echoing concerns she first raised during a council meeting in August about long grass at a property on Bridge Street near her home:
“Our biggest fear out that way is that with all this dead grass, all you need is a cigarette flicked into that and the house is old, the grass has grown in underneath the verandah and to me it’s such a chance of that going up, catching on fire,” O’Neill said in August, adding that the lives of three small children are at risk in a house next door.
Few complaints, little support
After an 18-minute discussion during the August meeting, CAO Phil Handrahan promised that staff would look into the feasibility of such a bylaw and report back to council.
At its meeting on October 1st, council then heard from town manager Jamie Burke who gave a six minute report on the pros, cons and costs of such a bylaw.
He also reported that in the last two years, the town has received three complaints about long grass. However, during recent publicity about whether Sackville should follow Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe in enacting a by-law, Burke said the town received no letters in favour and four against.
To listen to Burke’s full report, click on the media player below:
Councillor Bill Evans seemed to sum up the opinions of the majority of councillors at the October 1st meeting:
“Do we really want to get into what is essentially an aesthetic rule about the appearance of people’s property?” he asked.
Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken along with Councillors Andrew Black and Michael Tower spoke against a grass bylaw with only Councillor Phinney speaking in favour citing concerns about fire safety. (Councillor O’Neill was not present at the October 1st meeting.)
So, Sackville residents will remain free to let the tall grasses grow and the wildflowers wave as long as their vegetation does not interfere with visibility at intersections. (To read what the town’s zoning bylaw has to say about corner sight lines, click here.)
NOTE: It appears that the town’s dangerous and unsightly premises bylaw doesn’t apply because the provincial local governance act does not appear to include vegetation under its dangerous and unsightly provisions. (To read what the act does include, click here.)
New bylaw officer
At the October 9th meeting, council also appointed Corey Springer as the town’s new bylaw officer effective October 29th.
Springer will no doubt be expected to take into account council’s decision not to enact a tall grass bylaw.
In August, Springer’s interim predecessor threatened a Sackville homeowner with a minimum $1,000 fine unless the homeowner chopped down vegetation on the property within 11 days.
The homeowner had been cultivating a permaculture garden with a variety of plants such as giant kale, wild strawberries, lupins, violets, wild evening primrose, clover (to attract bees), periwinkle and skirret, a type of heritage vegetable dating back to medieval times.
The homeowner’s property does not border on a town intersection.
The homeowner, who asked not to be identified, complied and chopped the plants down. Here is the hand-delivered letter the homeowner received with name and address removed:
It has come to our attention that the property at XXXXXXXXXXXXX, Sackville, New Brunswick, has become in violation of By-Law 209 “Maintenance and Occupancy Standards“, this has occurred by allowing the grass to grow past the point where animals and creatures could begin to inhabit the area.
Failure to maintain the grass and tidy the area will result in a fine not less than $1000, but not exceeding the maximum fine set by the Provincial Offenses Procedure Act for a category “F” offense multiplied by the number of days during which the offence continues, as well as any expense the town incurs to have the property maintained.
This letter is to notify you of the issue and to have the issue corrected by no later than September 7, 2016. [Sic]
I thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter. If you have any questions about this letter, or By-Law 209, you may contact us at (506) 364-4930.
By-Law Enforcement Officer
Town of Sackville, NB
Brooke Wilson’s defence
During a telephone interview, Wilson said she issued the letter after one of her summer student bylaw officers received a complaint from a “concerned citizen” about the homeowner’s property.
She added that town Bylaw 209 mentions that grass should not be allowed to grow past the point where animals and creatures could begin to inhabit the area. (I could not find those words in the bylaw.) Wilson suggested that the dangerous and unsightly premises bylaw also applies.
Just before our conversation ended, she said, “I shouldn’t be talking to you about this. I report to [Treasurer] Michael Beal.”
During the question period at last night’s council meeting, Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken said there is no bylaw regulating tall grass on residential properties other than the zoning one that refers to corner sight lines at town intersections.
There were no cheers — or tears — today in a windowless Moncton courtroom when Madame Justice Brigitte Robichaud finally confirmed that Green Party candidate Megan Mitton had won the riding of Memramcook-Tantramar by 11 votes in the September 24th provincial election.
The judge’s declaration came after a recount of 8,213 ballots that took more than two-and-a-half days.
The hand recount demonstrated the accuracy of New Brunswick’s voting machines which recorded 3,148 votes for Mitton and 3,137 for her Liberal opponent Bernard LeBlanc on election night. The recount also confirmed the machine tally for PC candidate Etienne Gaudet who received 1,518 votes and Hélène Boudreau of the NDP who received 410.
After the result became official, Bernard LeBlanc shook Megan Mitton’s hand and offered his congratulations.
“I’m glad the result is complete,” LeBlanc, who had requested the recount, told reporters later as he stood in the fall sunshine outside the courthouse. “The people down in our area wanted to make sure, since it was close, we wanted to make sure that it was proper. It has been done and it has been proven that the number hasn’t changed,” he said.
Sigh of relief
Megan Mitton at the court house
For her part, Megan Mitton said she was breathing a sigh of relief now that her victory has been confirmed.
“I’m feeling honoured that I did receive the most votes in Memramcook-Tantramar and I’m going to represent that riding in Fredericton,” she said.
When asked how she felt about the potential for the three Green members to hold the balance of power when a minority government is formed, Mitton suggested that her party’s three seats are not enough.
“It’s an interesting situation,” she said, “if there were four of us, then we would really hold the balance of power and responsibility, but as it stands, there are three of us and so ultimately, it will be a Progressive Conservative that would determine what happens, whether the Liberals are able to form government.”
Aside from the three seats held by the Greens, the Liberals hold 21, the PCs 22 and the People’s Alliance three. Any minority government would need the support of at least 25 members to govern in the 49 seat legislature.
Mitton said the Greens have “opened a dialogue” with the PCs, but she suggested it’s still too early for them to decide who to support.
On the other hand, Mitton’s Liberal opponent seems to have skipped door-to-door canvassing at least in Sackville with volunteers leaving campaign literature accompanied by a notice “Sorry we missed you,” even when voters were home. LeBlanc also skipped the first all-candidates’ debate on environmental issues and his Sackville campaign office was open for only for a few hours most days. While Green Mitton lawn signs sprouted up on Sackville lawns throughout the campaign, it was hard to find any Liberal ones. Premier Brian Gallant made one visit to the riding, but said little or nothing about Bernard LeBlanc. Aside from reporters, Gallant’s Memramcook rally was attended by about 25 Liberal supporters.
Mitton says she was able to build on her 2014 campaign by staying engaged in the community and getting to know the whole riding.
“I also think that there’s been a shift politically across the province to looking for different types of voices and different ideas in the legislature,” she adds, “and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Green Party leader David Coon has been in the legislature and shown what just one voice can do and now, we’re able to triple that impact.”
Mitton says she intends to set up constituency offices in both Memramcook and Sackville just as her predecessor did.
A tally of the 2018 results shows that the predominantly French-speaking areas in the 12 polls in and around Memramcook overwhelmingly supported Bernard LeBlanc who received 1,852 votes to Mitton’s 638.
The results were reversed in the predominantly English-speaking town of Sackville’s 12 polls where Mitton received 1,583 votes to LeBlanc’s 686.
To look at my own version of poll by poll results in Memramcook-Tantramar based on figures from Elections New Brunswick, click here.
To listen to Megan Mitton speaking with reporters after the recount, click on the media player below.
Click on the media player below to listen to Bernard LeBlanc speaking with reporters outside the Moncton courthouse.
Megan Mitton delivers her victory speech at the Sackville Commons
Green Party candidate Megan Mitton told a roomful of supporters in Sackville Monday night that she would probably cry during her victory speech.
“So get ready for some tears,” she warned just minutes after Elections New Brunswick officially declared her elected in Memramcook-Tantramar with a razor thin majority of 11 votes over her Liberal opponent Bernard LeBlanc.
The final count was 3,148 for Mitton and 3,137 for LeBlanc. PC candidate Etienne Gaudet came third with 1,518 votes while Hélène Boudreau of the NDP received 410.
For most of the evening, Mitton, who is a Sackville Town Councillor, led with a seemingly comfortable margin of more than 300 votes until a later poll result suddenly cut her lead to only 11.
Mitton and her supporters at the Sackville Commons waited for more than an hour as her victory seemed to hang in the balance with one more poll to come. When Elections N.B. finally placed a capital “E” beside her name, the room erupted in cheers — and tears.
“Wow, that was a stressful few hours,” Mitton said in her victory speech. “The last few days, I’ve been going around saying every vote is going to count…it’s going to be close,” she added. “I’m an honest politician, I meant it!”
Green leader David Coon gives televised victory speech after winning re-election in Fredericton South
Mitton’s speech was interrupted by a congratulatory phone call from Green Party leader David Coon who was re-elected in Fredericton South while a third Green candidate, Kevin Arseneau, also won the riding of Kent North.
“David, I can’t wait to join you in Fredericton, but I’m at the mike right now giving a speech, so I’m going to have to call you back,” Mitton said to cheers and laughter.
Voters ‘send a message’
“These results send a strong message to our leaders that we care about democracy,” Mitton said as she continued her victory speech. “We care about our local economy, we care about our forests, our seniors, our youth and our future.”
She thanked her family and supporters before mentioning her father who died last year.
“My Dad’s not here, but he inspired me to do this,” she said as she fought back tears.
“I grew up in a Liberal household, he once ran for the Liberals for MLA and we always talked about politics,” Mitton said, adding that when she told him she was running in the 2014 provincial election, he asked for which party.
“I said, ‘the Greens’ and he went, ‘oh really, but don’t you want to win?'”
Megan Mitton and her campaign manager Sabine Dietz celebrate narrow victory
Mitton gave special thanks to Sabine Dietz who served as her campaign manager.
“I remember meeting here last November and three people showed up, Sabine and I were among the three,” she said. “And now look, the room is full.”
Mitton said winning the riding involved canvassing door-to-door, dawn-to-dusk, in rainstorms and a heat wave while battling mosquitoes.
“It was a lot of hard work, but it was fun,” she said.
Note: Since Mitton won by fewer than 25 votes, there will be a recount to confirm the results.
To listen to Megan Mitton’s victory speech, click on the media player below.