Confidential report recommends improvements in Sackville-area health services

Margaret Melanson, Horizon interim president and CEO

The New Wark Times has filed a Right to Information request for a confidential report that recommends improving access to primary caregivers such as family doctors and nurse practitioners in the Sackville area.

The report also calls for improving mental health and addiction services as well as the provision of long-term care.

It has not been released to the public.

Margaret Melanson, interim president and CEO of the Horizon Health Network outlined some of its recommendations to Tantramar Town Council on April 3rd.

She described it as “an in-depth review of current health care services in the Sackville area, with an analysis of gaps and opportunities.”

The report, submitted to Horizon last fall, was compiled by retired professionals including nursing consultants, a doctor and a marketing executive, all volunteers with the Rural Health Action Group, co-chaired by former Sackville Mayors John Higham and Pat Estabrooks.

The volunteers’ work, which included interviews with health professionals, was supported by Horizon staff.

Melanson told council that recommendations included improving what she called “team-based practice,” a reference to a health clinic that could provide services from a variety of professionals including, for example, a mental health practitioner, a social worker and a dietitian.

She also mentioned a potential partnership with the Drew Nursing Home modelled on the Nursing Home Without Walls program in Port Elgin that provides a variety of services to help old people remain in their homes.

Warktimes has been told that those who participated in compiling the report signed a confidentiality agreement promising not to disclose its contents publicly.

When asked for a copy, Pat Estabrooks said I should ask Horizon for it, but the Health Network has stopped responding to repeated requests that began on April 6th.

Unless it seeks additional time, Horizon’s 30 business-day deadline for responding to my RTIPPA request is June 1st.

To read CHMA’s report on Margaret Melanson’s presentation to Tantramar council, click here.

Posted in Health care, Town of Tantramar | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Mt. A. conference discusses Indigenous treaty rights and the legacy of Donald Marshall Jr.

Anthropology Professor Jane McMillan, who fished for eels with Donald Marshall Jr., leading to landmark Supreme Court decision on Indigenous treaty rights

Nearly 25 years after the Supreme Court upheld the Indigenous treaty right to fish for a moderate livelihood, many contentious issues remain to be settled, including the definition of moderate livelihood.

That was one clear message from a two-day conference last week at Mount Allison University called “Rough Waters: The Legacy of the Marshall Decisions.”

Another clear message was that Donald Marshall Jr., the man at the centre of the legal struggle for recognition of treaty rights, paid a heavy price for his involvement.

The Mt. A. conference included Indigenous leaders and scholars, historians, lawyers and economists who gathered to discuss the implications of the landmark 1999 Supreme Court ruling that dismissed charges of illegal fishing against Marshall.

“J.R. wanted nothing to do with the Canadian legal system,” Jane McMillan, Chair of the Anthropology Department at St. Francis Xavier University told the conference.

She explained that Donald Marshall, whom she calls J.R., was more than fed up with Canadian justice after serving 11 years in Dorchester Penitentiary for a murder he did not commit. A 1989 Royal Commission report on his wrongful conviction exposed gross incompetence and systemic racism in the Nova Scotia legal system leading to fundamental reforms in the administration of justice.

“You can only imagine how crushing it must be to live the life of a wrongly convicted person,” McMillan said in an interview with Warktimes. “Taking 11 years for the Canadian justice system to believe his truth was an exhausting effort.”

‘Liberating times’

McMillan and Marshall met in 1991 at the Misty Moon, then, a well-known night spot in Halifax. It was the beginning of  their 13-year relationship during which they moved to Marshall’s home in Cape Breton where they began fishing for eels. Later, they transferred their nets to Pomquet Harbour in the Paq’tnkek Mi’kmaq territory on mainland Nova Scotia.

“The solace and the joy and the peace that he found in harvesting and being out on the water and being on the land and being with his friends and living in Mi’kmaq ways, was really regenerative, it was healing,” she says.

McMillan told the conference that for Marshall, earning a livelihood after years in prison, instilled a sense of purpose and self-worth.

“These were liberating times in so many ways,” she said, adding that eels are a traditional food, especially among Mi’kmaq elders, and Marshall was glad to share them whenever he could at weddings, funerals and other ceremonial occasions.

On August 24, 1993, Marshall and McMillan were on the water when a boat carrying armed Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers pulled alongside theirs.

In her 2018 book, Truth and Conviction: Donald Marshall Jr. and the Mi’kmaw Quest for Justice, she describes what happened when a fisheries officer asked to see their eel fishing licences.

Donald said he was Mi’kmaw and did not need a licence to fish.

“‘Everyone needs a licence,” the officer replied.

“‘I don’t need a licence. I have the 1752 treaty,” Donald responded.

Treaty rights

McMillan writes that Marshall believed his treaty rights were in full force because of a 1985 Supreme Court ruling that upheld a Mi’kmaq hunter’s rights under the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752. In addition, Section 35 of the 1982 Constitution Act recognizes and affirms existing aboriginal and treaty rights.

But authorities thought otherwise and laid charges for fishing with illegal gear, out of season and without a licence against both Marshall and McMillan. She said the charges against her were later dropped, but that it would take 2,222 days of on and off legal battles before the Supreme Court finally dismissed the case against Marshall and upheld the Mi’kmaq treaty right to hunt and fish for a “moderate livelihood.”

“It was a tremendous relief,” McMillan says, adding that Marshall recognized his case was a significant milestone for Indigenous people in Canada.

“His relief was abundantly clear, but then, with the outbreak of tensions and conflicts, he became very stressed,” she says, referring, for example, to violence between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Burnt Church and other places.

“He really wanted peace on the water, he wanted unity through the nation and he wanted leadership through the nation,” she adds.

Jane McMillan addressing the Rough Waters conference

“When people were ramming each other with boats and [there was] that violence, he was very, very concerned that somebody would die and he would somehow get the blame,” McMillan says.

“That was a giant concern of his.”

McMillan writes that the wrongful conviction and the official inquiry that followed as well as the protracted court battles over fishing rights took their toll on Donald Marshall’s health.

In 2002, he suffered a respiratory collapse and was told he would die without a double-lung transplant.

Although the transplant operation itself was successful, Marshall’s heavy regimen of anti-rejection drugs produced side effects.

“In some cases,” she writes, “the immunosuppressant medications can trigger psychiatric reactions. Normally soft spoken and fairly calm, Donald became extremely erratic and stressed.”

McMillan’s book tells how Marshall’s erratic behaviour led to more legal troubles and a period of confinement for psychiatric assessment in the East Coast Forensic Unit of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.

“I think a lot of indigenous people’s encounters with the law are a result of ongoing systemic discrimination, racism, surveillance by the justice system,” McMillan says.

“He was a well-known figure with a target basically on him and that leads to heightened conflict.”

Marshall’s health deteriorated in the following years because of complications from the double-lung transplant and, on August 6, 2009, he died at age 55.

Legacy of Marshall case

The Mt. A. conference heard a recorded video message from John G. Paul, executive director of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs highlighting some economic benefits of the Marshall ruling.

Paul said the economic value of the First Nations fishery had risen from $3 million before the Marshall ruling to $1.7 billion in 2019.

He also mentioned that seven Mi’kmaq communities in Atlantic Canada hold a 50% stake in Clearwater Seafoods, one of North America’s largest seafood companies.

Ken Coates, of the University of Saskatchewan, who has written extensively on the Marshall decision, also cited the Clearwater acquisition as one example of many successful Indigenous business partnerships across the country.

Coates said that although the Marshall decision was significant for recognizing Indigenous economic rights, it did not extend them beyond fishing and hunting to areas such as mining and forestry.

He mentioned that in Saskatchewan, municipalities with dwindling populations have successfully invited Indigenous First Nations to set up urban reserves helping to reverse the economic decline of dying towns and villages.

“Expanding First Nations’ rights benefits everybody,” Coates said, “both morally and economically.”

However, an economics paper presented by Barry Watson of the University of New Brunswick and co-authored by Stephen Law of Mount Allison and Burç Kayahan of Acadia University, found that the Marshall decision had only a modest effect on the overall economic well-being of First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada.

When the three economics professors studied Statistics Canada census data, they found mixed and limited results when it came to measuring improvements in income, unemployment rates, housing and levels of education.

Professor Patrick Augustine from the Faculty of Indigenous Knowledge, Education, Research and Applied Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island told the conference that any economic benefits are unevenly distributed on First Nations Reserves.

He said many Mi’Kmaq continue to live in poverty with young people resorting to drugs and alcohol to ease their pain.

“I don’t think [the] Marshall [decision] did us any favours,” he added.

The conference ended with a keynote address by Graydon Nicholas, former Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick and a Wolastoqey Elder, who serves as Chancellor and Chair in Native Studies at St. Thomas University.

Nicholas, who as a lawyer, was involved in several Indigenous treaty rights cases, emphasized that treaties are always “nation to nation” even though non-aboriginal politicians often have trouble understanding that.

He said a modern-day treaty would have to incorporate provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as all 94 Calls to Action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“It won’t be done overnight,” he predicted.

L-R: Keynote speakers Graydon Nicholas and Ken Coates with Mt. A. Politics Professor Mario Levesque who organized the Rough Waters conference

Posted in Indigenous affairs, Mount Allison University | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Tantramar Town Council hears resident complaints about high taxes & few municipal services

The spectator gallery was crowded Tuesday night as more than 50 residents showed up to watch Tantramar Town Council discuss several controversial topics including the thorny issue of tax rates.

Former Sackville councillor Ken Hicks, who lives in Frosty Hollow, spoke on behalf of residents living within the boundaries of the former Town of Sackville who complain that they’re paying high taxes while receiving few municipal services.

“I just want to be sure that council understands that we’re not here talking about the amalgamation, we’re not here talking about the New Brunswick government’s tax assessment, we’re talking strictly about services that the town provides and the tax rate that’s levied against them,” Hicks said.

Ken Hicks speaking for Tantramar residents who feel they’re overtaxed

“When it comes to sidewalks or things like that, drainage and what not, yes those are important things that everyone would like to have, but we’re talking about the core items, water, sewer, things that have been promised in the past through the annexation that have never been followed up on,” he added.

Hicks was referring to promises he said were made in 1975 when the provincial government extended Sackville’s boundaries to include areas to the west as well as Middle and Upper Sackville.

At the time, the Sackville Tribune-Post quoted Mayor Percy Trenholm as saying that residents in the amalgamated areas would not pay town tax rates until they received the same level of municipal services.

“Despite having nearly 50 years to install infrastructure to provide access to these services, the town of Sackville failed to do so,” Hicks said.

“And now [they] deliver the excuse that these are ratepayer services,” he added, referring to the fact that residents who do receive water and sewer services pay separate utility rates for them in addition to their property taxes.

He argued that it means that he and his neighbours must pay for and maintain their own wells and septics, while paying the same tax rates as Sackville residents who do have access to core services, a situation that also applies to Ward 4, which includes Upper Sackville.

“We can conclude that the challenge to extend services is not a focus for the town,” Hicks said, adding that the taxes he and his neighbours pay have been used to upgrade and maintain services in the town core that is now part of Ward 3.

Meantime, aggrieved residents have set up a Facebook page named “Over Taxed and Un-serviced in Tantramar.” A flyer they distributed recently to about 250 homes points out that residents west of Sackville, who are within the old town boundaries, are paying $1548.40 on a home assessed at $100,000 while their neighbours across the train tracks in the former Sackville local service district pay $924.

From the flyer distributed recently west of Sackville

Council reaction

Mayor Andrew Black responded to Hicks’s presentation by pointing out that the 2023 tax rates were set by the province as part of the amalgamation process, but since it officially took office on January 1st, Tantramar council now has that power.

“We now have full authority to make any changes to taxation rates that we wish,” Black said.

He added that council can discuss the five different rates in the three former LSDs as well as Sackville and Dorchester when it sets the 2024 budget.

Other members of council agreed.

Councillor Barry Hicks, who represents Ward 2, sparked a few outbursts from spectators when he focussed most of his response on municipal/provincial sharing agreements for snow plowing.

Ward 2 Councillor Barry Hicks faced some heckling

“Ward 2 needs the taxes looked at some time or another. It will be next year, we can’t do anything this year,” he began.

“Some of Ward 2 is being maintained by the town, it’s being plowed, it’s [having] ditches done, the roads are being paved, they’re being patched, their lines are painted and some of Ward 2 has nothing, nothing’s being done, it’s still being plowed by DTI [provincial department of transportation and infrastructure],” Hicks said.

Mayor Black called for order as one resident shouted objections.

Councillor Hicks, who worked for many years in Sackville’s public works department, then continued to talk about the complicated municipal/provincial sharing arrangements.

“So, the ones that are being plowed by DTI, that was traded off years ago when the town amalgamated. Before, the town plowed some DTI roads and DTI plowed some of the town ones, so when you see a DTI plow going by your house, it doesn’t mean the town is not plowing it,” he said as members of the audience murmured objections.

“So, some of Ward 2 is plowed by the town and some is plowed by DTI. So, there’s two different systems there for Ward 2,” Councillor Hicks concluded.

Ward 4 Councillor Matt Estabrooks

Councillor Matt Estabrooks, who represents Ward 4, said his property and the one where he grew up are included in the higher Sackville tax rates.

“It is difficult,” he said, “and I’ve heard a lot of confusion, that I hope will be cleared up, around the fact that the electoral wards are just that.

“I think there was an assumption out there that tax rates would be tied to the electoral wards…and it is a concern,” he said.

“I think that we will have to take a look, I feel we should probably take a look. We have five individual tax rates and as Mayor Black has said, we do have the opportunity next year going forward to potentially address or adjust, but this year the rates were set by the provincial government.”

Meantime, Ward 3 Councillors Allison Butcher and Michael Tower, who live on Walker Road, pointed out that they too have no water and sewer services.

“I live within Sackville,” Butcher said, “but we have never had services.”

Councillor Allison Butcher

She added that the tax problem is one that is not new to amalgamation, but more people are now affected by it and council will have to deal with it in the coming year.

“I think it would be lovely if we could figure out a way that the tax rate would be based more on what services you actually get,” Butcher said.

“How we do that, I don’t know, but right now we’re stuck with what the province has given us.”

“I live in a two-bedroom bungalow and my taxes are over $5,000 a year,” Councillor Tower said.

“I don’t have water and I don’t have sewer,” he added.

“Then, you go to West Sackville, [and] a person who doesn’t have water and sewer, he lives the same distance from the fire hall I do, so if there’s a fire, we’re both going to get the same kind of service, but his taxes are half of mine, for what reason?” Tower asked.

“This is a serious problem and it’s going to be a difficult one, but I think we have to deal with it.”

For an earlier story on Tantramar tax rates, click here.

For Erica Butler’s CHMA story on the Greene family’s call for fairer taxes, click here.

Posted in NB Municipal Reform, Town of Tantramar | Tagged | 1 Comment

Tantramar council votes not to remove Dorchester’s sandpiper statue

Sandpiper Shep will stay on her perch in Dorchester’s village square after Tantramar council voted unanimously tonight not to remove her.

At the same time, council directed the town engineer to confirm that Shep was installed safely “with the understanding that the statue is not a municipally owned asset at this time.”

“I  want to make it clear that leaving the statue in place increases the town’s risk,” Mayor Andrew Black told council.

“It puts the Town of Tantramar at an insurance and liability risk.”

Black said that in his opinion, protecting the public purse and lessening or mitigating risk are two of the most important roles of members of council.

He was commenting on the fact that the sandpiper statue was not commissioned either by the village of Dorchester or the town of Tantramar and was installed Saturday on municipal property by private citizens without authorization.

CHMA reports that Robin Hanson, the Oromocto artist who created the new fibreglass Shep, says he was approached by former Dorchester Mayor Debbie Wiggins-Colwell acting on behalf of local volunteers who later raised the money to pay for the $9300 statue.

During tonight’s Tantramar council meeting, Mayor Black said “it sets a precedence of a lack of respect for the decision-making process.”

He also said it threw the process for requesting proposals and quotes for municipal projects “out the window” in violation of laws such as the provincial procurement act and the town’s procedural bylaw.

“Normally, something like this would go through a process and we would in fact own that piece of property, but we don’t, so we had to try to figure out the best way to approach that,” Black told reporters after tonight’s council meeting.

Meantime, Councillor Wiggins-Colwell said she could not comment at this time.

Dorchester resident Bill Steele told Warktimes on Saturday he has filed a formal, municipal code of conduct complaint against her.

Posted in Town of Tantramar | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sandpiper Shep returns to Dorchester perch amid questions & controversy

The new fibreglass Shep with epoxy finish stands almost 8 ft high and weighs nearly 300 lbs

After a three year absence, Shep, the world’s largest semipalmated sandpiper, returned to the village square in Dorchester on Saturday, even though Tantramar town council has not approved installation of the giant statue or allocated money for it.

“I’m calling it The Dirty Bird,” says Bill Steele, who operates the Dorchester Jail Bed & Breakfast, only a stone’s throw from the statue.

“I mean it’s a great tourist draw and that’s good for me, but it’s being done without following proper procedures,” he says. “The village council didn’t commission the artist and never approved the project.”

Steele points out that when Dorchester was amalgamated with Sackville and three rural local service districts, the province drafted a budget that had no money in it for the sandpiper statue and the new town of Tantramar hasn’t approved any for it either.

“The statue was municipal property taken without any permission – repaired – and reinstalled without any public money,” Steele wrote in an earlier Facebook message.

He says he has filed a formal municipal code of conduct complaint against local Councillor Debbie Wiggins-Colwell raising “questions behind how our public asset got in the hands of private citizens with no authority in place.”

Dorchester resident Bill Steele outside his jail bed & breakfast

When reached by telephone, Councillor Wiggins-Colwell said she hadn’t heard about Steele’s formal complaint against her and emphasized that citizens were overwhelmingly behind the effort to get the statue back in the village square.

“I can say this has been an ongoing project for two years and finally Shep is here in a bird-friendly town where tourism is so important,” she said, referring further questions to Kara Becker, a former deputy mayor in the village who has been leading efforts to reinstate the statue.

“There’s a lot of community support,” Becker said during a telephone interview. “We’ve raised enough money to pay for Shep three times over.”

She notes that she appeared before Tantramar council on March 14th asking it to collaborate with citizens so that the statue could be restored in time for this year’s Sandpiper Festival and the return of the migrating shorebirds to the Bay of Fundy in August.

Kara Becker addressing Tantramar council on March 14th

Although Mayor Andrew Black said he understood the economic importance of the statue and the desire to get it back, Becker complains that there was no follow up from the town and when she e-mailed later to ask about citizens donating to the project, she received this response from CAO Jennifer Borne:

At this time Tantramar is not able to accept financial donations or any donation that requires a tax-receipt post-reform as a result of the formation of a new entity.  In addition to this, Tantramar Council has not accepted this particular project.

“So, we just went ahead and put the statue back because it’s so important to us,” Becker says. “It’s pretty much the only thing we have.”

Meanwhile a report from the Canadian Press news agency quotes an e-mailed statement from Mayor Black:

The municipality of Tantramar and its council did not commission this work to be done nor request or approve the installation of this statue on municipally owned land.”

The news agency report, carried by Global news, adds that when Black was asked if the statue would be removed, he replied that the matter won’t be discussed until municipal offices reopen on Tuesday.

“I predict it will be taken down in the next few days,” Bill Steele tells Warktimes.

But Kara Becker warns that protesting citizens would be out in the streets waving placards to defend it.

To read the full report from the Canadian Press, click here.

For an extensive CHMA background report as well as information about Oromocto artist Robin Hanson, who created the $9300 statue of Shep, click here.

Posted in Dorchester, Town of Tantramar | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Fire destroys landmark restaurant leaving Mt. A. students & university staffer homeless

Joey’s Italian restaurant & bar reduced to rubble

An early morning fire destroyed one of Sackville’s best-known and most-loved restaurants Friday while leaving four Mount Allison students and a university staff member temporarily homeless.

Joey’s Pizza, Pasta, Bar & Grill had been a fixture on York Street for decades until fire broke out in the Hanson Block that housed it around 9:30 a.m. The students and Mt. A. staffer were tenants in second-storey apartments.

No one was injured in the fire.

The university said about 20 other students living near the area had to leave their apartments because of the smoke and it wasn’t clear when they would be able to return to their homes.

Mt. A. set up an area in its on-campus chapel to accept donations of gift cards, clothing and other necessities for the homeless students and promised to provide free food and accommodation for them as well.

The sister of one of the students set up an online GoFundMe campaign to receive donations for the students.

Firefighters hoisted to roof

Sackville Fire Chief Craig Bowser says the fire started at the rear of the 96-year-old building and the Fire Marshall’s office is investigating its cause.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, they encountered heavy smoke and began fighting the fire in the rear. Around 10 a.m., firefighters were hoisted to the building’s roof as smoke began billowing out of it.

Later as flames became visible and thick smoke blanketed the downtown, about 50 firefighters from Sackville and the surrounding fire departments in Point de Bute, Dorchester, Memramcook and Amherst fought to prevent the fire from spreading.

Chief Bowser says a local contractor was brought in to demolish part of the Joey’s building to contain the fire.

Facebook photo

Photo: Josh Goguen

The town closed off streets in the downtown to traffic as fire trucks, with sirens wailing, roared up and down Main Street to Silver Lake for water to supplement downtown hydrants that draw from Sackville’s three wells and its water tower.

Chief Bowser says the system worked well in delivering the required high volumes of water.

He says the fire was out by about 2 p.m. with only a few hot spots remaining.

Although part of the Hanson Block is still standing thanks to a fire wall, Bowser says it sustained water, smoke and fire damage.

Facebook post from Joey’s expressing gratitude that no one was injured in the fire. The restaurant is owned by Leeya Hicks of Amherst who bought it from Anna Zappia Mann in 2017

Sackville’s fire chief says he’s proud of the work that volunteer firefighters performed in fighting today’s fire.

“Kudos to our members,” he says. “All departments worked well together in our mutual aid agreement. We’re very pleased with how it went.”

To read Tantramar Mayor Andrew Black’s eyewitness account of the fire on his Facebook page, click here.

For a history of the Hanson Block and its architectural significance from Tantramar Heritage Trust, click here.

Posted in Sackville Fire & Rescue, Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Councillor’s 16-hour wait in Moncton ER lends drama to meeting with Horizon CEO

Councillor Bruce Phinney spent more than 16 hrs waiting to see an ER doctor in Moncton

Councillor Bruce Phinney’s recent 16 hour and 20 minute wait to see an emergency room doctor in Moncton gave a sense of drama to Tantramar Council’s meeting yesterday with the interim president and CEO of the Horizon Health Network.

“I’m sorry you waited 16 hours,” Margaret Melanson responded after Phinney asked when round-the-clock, seven-day ER services would be restored in Sackville.

“I would say that we are not close in the immediate future,” she said. “I would say we are months out.”

She explained that Horizon is looking for at least two more full-time doctors to help staff the ER.

“I really don’t want to re-introduce additional hours and then have to retreat again from that,” she explained.

Eight hour ER service

The Sackville ER is open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The restricted hours began nearly two years ago in June 2021.

“Our next leap would hopefully be that we would be able to be open until at least midnight and then from there, look at what will be the model for an overnight service availability,” Melanson said.

She added that Horizon is pursuing a few expressions of interest from ER doctors.

“But, I couldn’t give you a date today as to when we would be ready to introduce that [24-hour service] again, but I will tell you, absolutely, that is our goal.”

Margaret Melanson, Horizon interim president and CEO

Earlier, Melanson told council that the nursing staff at Sackville’s hospital is now at full strength with the hiring of two additional, full-time ER nurses and six, additional, full-time nurses for the 21-bed Brunswick Unit that provides acute and longer-term care.

When Phinney acknowledged that there are emergency room delays all across New Brunswick, Melanson agreed, but said things are improving.

“We are doing much better than we were and we’ve also increased a great deal our efficiencies within the emergency departments,” she said.

For his part, Phinney said he felt the long wait was worth it because of the care and attention he received from hospital staff.

“I applaud the people that work there,” he said. “They deserve medals, what they had to put up with and how they performed their services was just unbelievable and they should be commended every day for what they do.”

All-night wait

Phinney said later he went to the Moncton ER about two weeks ago on a Saturday with what he suspected was an infection in his swollen right eye.

“I had to go all the way to Moncton because the ER was closed here,” he said. “It shows why it’s so important to have an ER in Sackville that’s open 24/7.”

Phinney arrived in the Moncton ER at 5:08 p.m., was triaged at 5:25, and then waited until 9:15 Sunday morning to see a doctor.

“I was worried about losing that eye. My face was swollen. It was aching and pretty painful,” he says.

During his long wait, staff came around regularly to check on patients and take their blood pressure.

He says staff also had to deal with disturbances caused by loud and unruly patients.

“I can’t say enough about how good the staff were and the doctor,” he says. “I can’t thank them enough.”

Posted in Health care, Town of Tantramar | Tagged , | 3 Comments

10 firms vying for Tantramar logo & branding contract worth up to $60K

Assistant Clerk Becky Goodwin (L) hands envelope containing one of the branding proposals to Clerk Donna Beal as town managers Kieran Miller and Michael Beal look on

The Town of Tantramar has received proposals from 10 companies hoping to win the contract to design a municipal logo and help the town develop its “brand.”

Clerk Donna Beal opened the boxes containing the proposals at 11 a.m. today and read out the company names that were later posted on the Tantramar website.

The town has set aside up to $60,000 for the branding contract which will be submitted to council for approval after the proposals have been evaluated by town staff.

On March 8, the town issued a request for proposals (RFP) stipulating that aside from designing a logo, the successful company would be required to create key marketing messages, submit recommendations for names on highway signs and provide residents with a chance to have their say on the creation of  “a new visual identity for Tantramar.”

To read the RFP, click here.

Here are the companies that submitted proposals:

1. Cinnamon Toast Marketing Agency based in Ottawa and Hamilton, Ontario. It’s website says: “We passionately protest mediocrity. By capturing moments, illuminating ideas, and mobilizing stories in a distinct and memorable way, we propel our clients’ purpose, intensify their impact, and exceed their expectations for best-in-class creative services.”

2. The Details Design describes itself as a “full-service design and strategy agency based in Fredericton, New Brunswick. We help business and organizations elevate their brand and connect with their audiences.”

3. Trajectory Brands Inc. of Toronto says: “We work with purpose-driven organizations to fuel their success through holistic brand strategies, compelling stories, stakeholder engagement, experience design and powerful community-building tools.”

4. Portfolio Solutions Group based in Moncton describes itself as “not your typical consulting firm, management consulting or marketing and communications agency. We deliver on that USP with our results-driven work. We are issue identifiers that think it through, strategy experts that understand that you can’t execute successfully without it and flawless executers of all of the above for clients across the globe.”

5. Cossette Communications Inc. has offices in Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver. It’s website says: “We are a strategic partner, gathering experts across all disciplines to offer integrated brand experiences unlike any other. We play with powerful, high-potential brands, and act local, with global impact. We’ve led the way in the Canadian marketplace for nearly 50 years.”

6. Peach Marketing based in Dieppe says it is “a branding, design and production agency that helps brands define their stories. Our speciality lies in creating brands together; either from the ground up or when bold creativity is needed to help clients tap into their potential.”

7. Marmalade Advertising of Halifax designs hats, apparel and packaging. Its website says: “The quality of your merch & design is tied to your brand’s reputation…Hats and apparel are great with branded logos, but they’ll fly off the shelves with a custom, unique design. With a combined 30 years of design experience, we’ve got you covered.”

8. Sitch Agency of “no-fixed-address” describes itself as “a brand-centric marketing agency for forward thinkers.” Its website says it was founded by two agency veterans who have worked together for more than a decade. “Whether you want to carve out a unique position in the market, improve your digital platforms or communicate more effectively, we’ve got you covered.”

9. Sequence (also called CQNS) is based in Dundas, Ontario. Its website says it provides “Strategy, Design and Marketing for Economic Development” and that its partners blend all these skills because “traditional agencies, while well versed in marketing and design, lacked the specific subject matter expertise required to develop economic development strategy and content that drives results. And Economic development consultants, despite their deep industry insight, are not good marketers.”

10. Posh Media describes itself as “a Canadian company made up of diverse talent from coast to coast.” Its website says: “posh media is more than a full-service bilingual marketing firm. It is a meeting place of strategy, design and experiences. We build growth strategies for established businesses and emerging brands to help them win in a digital world.”

Posted in Town of Tantramar | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Tantramar council approves $3.8 million capital budget with $185K electric Zamboni

Zamboni smooths ice after lunchtime skate today at Civic Centre

The plan to replace the old, propane-powered Zamboni at Sackville’s Civic Centre with a new $185,000 electric one was one of the highlights as Tantramar Town Council approved a 2023 capital budget yesterday of just over $3.8 million.

Council authorized just over $2.5 million in potential borrowing mainly for water and sewer projects in Sackville and Dorchester as well as an $800,000 fire truck in Dorchester.

Almost $1.3 million in capital spending will be paid for out of tax revenues. Aside from replacing the Zamboni, $200,000 has been allocated for a new sidewalk plow in Sackville with money for paving projects and fire department gear in both Sackville and Dorchester along with building maintenance, including development of a new fire hall in Dorchester and remediation of the village offices there, closed because of poor air quality.

But in the long list of storm sewer upgrades, culvert replacements and equipment purchases, replacement of the propane-powered Zamboni stood out.

Acting Treasurer Michael Beal

“It has reached its end of useful life,” Acting Treasurer Michael Beal told council. “It was purchased in 2004 when we opened our Civic Centre, which is nearly 20 years ago.”

He added that a new $185,000 electric ice resurfacing machine would fit with the municipality’s ongoing green initiatives.

But Councillor Bruce Phinney, a persistent green skeptic, had questions.

“I’m curious to know, how much is the cost of a regular Zamboni, propane-wise, as compared to $185 (thousand) for the electric?” Phinney asked.

Todd Cole, manager of parks and facilities, answered that propane ones are approximately $25,000 to $30,000 cheaper than electric Zambonis.

“It’s not good for the environment, so we’re certainly looking at switching to electric,” Cole said, adding that the town is looking at everything it buys in light of climate change.

“I’m asking because of the fact that the power rates are going up,” Phinney said. “So, what’s the trade-off in the cost of electricity as compared to propane?”

Michael Beal answered that propane costs fluctuate too.

“The other aspect I would say with that as well, we’re burning propane on the inside of a closed-in facility, so the fact that running an electric machine versus the propane fumes would be a benefit,” Beal added.

(A Health Canada study concludes that in arenas across the country, electric ice resurfacers are the most effective way of eliminating deadly carbon monoxide as well as nitrogen oxides linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.)

Other municipalities

Councillor Bruce Phinney

When Phinney asked if town staff had looked at other places with electric Zambonis, Todd Cole answered that he learned at a recreation facilities conference that a lot of rinks, including the one in Amherst, have switched to electric.

He said that some municipalities have gone past first-generation electric Zambonis to second-generation ones with much improved, longer-lasting batteries.

“Quispamsis, for example, I was speaking to them and they’re very impressed with the new Zamboni,” Cole added.

(CBC reported recently that although electric Zambonis are more expensive to buy, they’re  cheaper to operate and maintain and are therefore, easier on municipal budgets.)

Michael Beal said the town would evaluate whether to send the propane-powered Zamboni to replace a much older machine that resurfaces the outdoor rink in Dorchester.

“The Dorchester one is about 40 years old,” he said, adding it might make sense to send Sackville’s Zamboni to Dorchester where it would be used less frequently.

Former LSDs

So far, the former LSDs have not been included in this year’s capital budget except for $85,100 that is being set aside in a reserve fund for the purchase of a new fire truck for Point de Bute in 2029.

However, Beal pointed to an extra $73,935 that Tantramar will receive from the federal gas tax fund because of amalgamation.

“What are the projects within local service districts that we could spend that money on other than roads because roads are a provincial responsibility?” he asked.

“We’re going to put our thinking caps on, if anybody has any suggestions or recommendations, then bring them forward,” Beal said.

“We will look to that over the next month or two and bring back [a] recommendation as soon as we have something on that.”

Posted in Environment, Town of Tantramar | Tagged | 1 Comment

New play about weathering COVID-19 premieres in Sackville marking pandemic’s 3rd anniversary

Writer, director Charlie Rhindress

On the third anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tantramar residents are being invited to a free performance of Charlie Rhindress’s new play, We’re  Still Here: Tales from 2020 and Beyond.

The premiere is happening at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, at the Sackville Legion on Lorne Street. It’s a collaboration between Festival By the Marsh and Live Bait Theatre.

“When I was first asked to do the show, I thought to myself, is anyone going to really want to come and see a show about COVID?” Rhindress asks with a smile.

“We just lived through it, you know, it’s stressful and depressing.”

But, when he met with the seven actors in the play to talk things over, he was surprised at how the pandemic triggered memories.

” I think there’s something really valuable in reliving the experience,” he says.

Interview transcripts

Rhindress, who has written more than a dozen plays including The Maritime Way of Life and Flying On Her Own about singer Rita MacNeil, explains that We’re  Still Here is partly based on two dozen interviews with Atlantic Canadians.

Festival by the Marsh received a federal grant to hire students to conduct the interviews starting in May 2020 shortly after the pandemic began.

Rhindress and his cast used the 600 pages of transcripts to create a play that is at times both moving and funny.

“In some ways, I think we follow the path of COVID. It starts out quite serious and people are kind of scared and then people are learning to open up again and to reconnect and I think the show follows that journey,” he says.

“There’s a section about a woman who lost her brother…It’s quite a moving monologue that she delivered during the interview, so there’s stuff that’s kind of heart breaking and then there’s stuff that’s frustrating…and then, there’s other stuff that’s funny.”

COVID words & conspiracy theories

Actors Andrew Ennals (L) Ron Kelly Spurles (C) and Paul Brisk Jr. (R) rehearse a scene about COVID words. Actor James Hand appears in the background

In one scene, the actors joke about the terms people learned during the pandemic including CERB, social distancing, flattening the curve, co-morbidity, quarantini, a.k.a “Papa stay-sane-juice” and essential worker, “that’s the staff at the liquor store and the bartenders at Ducky’s.”

Another scene reflects concerns expressed in the interviews about COVID conspiracy theories.

“A lot of people were disappointed in the people they knew well who weren’t willing to go along with the science,” Rhindress says.

“[They] were shocked at the people who didn’t believe it.”

A character in the play asserts confidently that there’s a proven link between COVID and 5G cellular networks as other characters listen skeptically.

Mainstream media won’t talk about how the 5G causes brain cancer and they can use it for mind control. This whole thing started in Wuhan, China. Did you know that’s where the first 5G towers went up?…

Oh yeah, you gotta get on the Internet, do your research, it’s all there. That’s why they locked us up, so we wouldn’t see them puttin’ up more 5G towers…

They’re tryin’ to decrease the surplus population.

‘Hands, washing hands’

Heather MacIntyre (C) and Carley Varner-Joudrey (R) with Erin Lewis rear (L) and James Hand

The play also includes an emotional COVID song — Sweet Quarantine — set to a famous tune.

“Actually, Neil Diamond took his song Sweet Caroline and early in the pandemic, went online and did a version where he talked about washing hands and so we actually took that, the Neil Diamond thing, and changed a few more words,” Rhindress says.

Hands, washing hands

Reaching out, don’t touch me

I won’t touch you.

Sweet Quarantine

I’ve been confined

Just within my neighbourhood…

Rhindress feels his play ends with an inspirational message.

“I didn’t make any of this up,” he says.

“The last lines of the play are from an interview and someone said something about, you know, we’re human and we’re creative and we survived because we’re resilient and that’s what we do and that’s the note that the show ends on.”


After its Sackville premiere on Wednesday, the play moves to CCUBIC on Ratchford Street in Amherst on Friday, March 24 followed by admission-free performances in Fredericton on Saturday and in Miramichi on Sunday, March 26.

For more information or to book free  tickets, click on Festival By the Marsh or call (506)-940-2248.

To listen to my CHMA radio report on Charlie Rhindress’s new play, click here.

Posted in Arts, COVID-19 | 3 Comments