Kimber’s Nova Scotia
September 9, 2007
That clarifies the mud
Nova Scotia Liberal leader Stephen McNeil has waded into the waters of the controversy over a proposal to develop a new aquaculture farm on Port Mouton Bay — sort of. Actually, he just tentatively dipped a toe into the roiling waters, declared himself… concerned… and moved on.
McNeil and South Shore-St. Margaret’s federal Liberal candidate Dr. Bill Smith happy-handed their way through another late summer festival crowd at the Queen’s County SeaFest last week. Along the way, McNeil boasted about what he described as the renewed “excitement that’s been missing among Liberals across the province” while Smith prattled on about how he had “recently witnessed more meaningful discussions with the Liberals than I’ve seen in the last 10 or 11 years.”
Between rounds of self congratulation, they dissed their opponents and, oh yes, not to forget, pronounced themselves squarely on all sides of the controversial aquaculture farm plan.
Smith made a point of saying he had spoken to Darlene Norman, a member of the Friends of Port Mouton Bay, a citizens’ group lobbying to stop the development. But he was quick to add, according to the Queen’s County Advance that the Liberal party is “not opposed to aquaculture if it is developed in places that won’t hurt an area’s eco-system.”
McNeil, the newspaper noted, “echoed this sentiment.”
That’s good to know. Even if we don’t know what it actually means.
Speaking of happy-handing politicians
NDP Leader Darrell Dexter was in Mulgrave last week to tell the board of directors of the troubled, on-the-verge-of-closing Mulgrave Medical Centre exactly what it wanted to hear.
Board Chair Al England, who gave Dexter a tour of the facility, told the Opposition leader the centre used to have its own staff physicians, but they’re long gone and the board now needs $15,000 just to keep the building open. “If something doesn’t happen by the end of… September, we have to close up,” he said.
But England also said he believes the centre can still provide important community health services through nurse practitioners, or offering clinics for problems like smoking and alcohol abuse.
Dexter agreed. The provincial government should not only be supporting more preventive care facilities, he said, but it should also be doing so in local communities rather than concentrating such services in larger centres.
“The answers to these [health care] delivery questions,” Dexter explained, “are going to be rooted in the community itself. They know their community best, they know what the challenges are, so it’s got to be a collaborative effort.”
According to the Port Hawkesbury Reporter, “Dexter said he would listen to the concerns of the board of directors and consider what he could do to help make sure the government is aware.”
Translation: Don’t start planning your new clinic yet, Mr. England.
And more politicians on the prowl
The big news in Canso wasn’t that Premier Rodney MacDonald and Fisheries Minister Ronnie Chisholm had visited the town recently. It was who they didn’t meet with that created controversy
At the most recent town council meeting, representatives of the Inshore Fishermen’s Association tore a strip off Mayor Ray White for not informing them the premier would be in Canso Aug. 13 to meet with union reps from the ailing Seafreez fish plant.
“If the fishing industry was being discussed,” association manager Ginny Boudreau said in what the Guysborough Journal called “a passion-laden” address to council, “we should be part of those discussions. We represent 134 businesses in the community… It’s very difficult to be a part of the solution if you’re not involved in the dialogue to start with.”
Added inshore association director William Bond: “For years and years and years all of us felt like outcasts,” Bond said. “With no work at the plant, the offshore fishery is history. Now they’re forgetting about the inshore fishery.”
The inshore fishermen’s association wants the province and Ottawa to upgrade both the town wharf and the mothballed Seafreeze plant in order to meet the needs of a scaled-down fishery.
For his part, Mayor White said he understood their concerns but that the town hadn’t been involved in setting up the premier’s agenda. Still, he added: “The message came clear that if dignitaries are coming, remind them we’re also here.”
Are you listening Rodney and Ronnie?
First we harvest, then we build
Protesters may have won the battle to keep Gerry Fulton from transforming some King’s County farmland he owns into a 300-unit, $50-million residential housing development but Fulton says the municipal council’s decision to turn down his project this summer may ultimately make it more difficult to win the war to keep local farmland for farming.
Fulton says his fallback position will be to start subdividing some of the 1,000 acres he now owns and build single family houses on each lot — something he doesn’t need council approval to do.
Fulton, who claims he’s had “100 opportunities” to sell building lots piecemeal in the past — “the only one we’ve ever done was one for my son; that was the way I protected farm land” — admits he “feels sick” about having to go this route. But he says he has no choice. He has 49 employees he needs to keep employed.
He concedes council’s decision to reject his original proposal — after noisy protests from some locals — still rankles. “It annoys me,” he told reporter Sara Keddy of the King’s County Register. “Thirty-two thousand people can vote in the county, half of them voted last time and council listens to 20 of them.”
His first step, he says, will be to build two single-family houses on the McLean Road, the site of his original proposal — but not quite yet. “I’ve got a crop to get out of there first.”
Where’s the Vision?
The debate over aerial spraying of the herbicide Vision continues. The provincial Environment Department has approved the spraying and the federal pest management agency says it’s safe. But local residents’ groups — the latest being the Aylesford and Loon Lake Property Owners Association, which collected 300 names on a petition against the spraying — have their doubts.
Association chair Andy Bryski, whose group is trying to convince the municipal council to take up their cause with the province, argues that, “as an absolute minimum, council should debate the question of the need for aerial spraying… in the Kings County watershed.”
He points out that, even with government restrictions on spraying near waterways, studies have shown that up to 10 per cent of fish still die as a result.
“If it kills fish,” he says, “there’s some downside.”
The Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute and the Clean Annapolis River Project are teaming up on a project to enlist recreational fishermen in determining where and how many chain pickerel have managed to invade southwestern Nova Scotia’s rivers and lakes.
The pickerel, which was illegally introduced to Nova Scotia in 1945, is ni
cknamed the “water wolf” because it has a nasty habit of attacking and destroying other fish and native creatures. Scientists say their mere presence not only poses a threat to biodiversity but they could, if not controlled, wipe out the region’s economically valuable brook trout population.
The problem, explains researcher Kyle Hicks, is that the fish not only migrate along the province’s endless rivers and waterways on their own but they are also sometimes illegally dumped into new bodies of water by people, “so no one really knows the full distribution of these two species. In order to prevent their further spread into the remaining brook trout habitats it is necessary to know where they currently are.”
Hicks is looking for volunteer anglers willing to report any catches or sightings. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bridgewater Police Cst. Christine Bonnell has become so well known among skateboarding young people in Bridgewater that “I’ve had kids come up to me in the Superstore when I’m off duty and say, ‘Are you the policewoman who has those helmets I’ve heard about?’”
She is. It all began back in June after a police crackdown on skateboarders who weren’t wearing helmets prompted an email from one suggesting the reason they weren’t wearing helmets was because they couldn’t afford them.
“When I got the e-mail, I went out that morning and picked up one of the kids… and took him to Zellers,” Bonnell told the Bridgewater Bulletin. “I bought three of them out of my own money.”
Since then, the Bridgewater police department has given out almost a dozen helmets, most of them donated by Wal-Mart.
Vaughn Whynot, the 20-year-old emailer and a member of the group that oversees the local skateboard park, is pleased. “It’s great that they’re willing to help out rather than just slapping cuffs or fines on people.”
Ironically, Whynot himself usually doesn’t wear a helmet despite pressure from his new police friends to be a good role model.
“In every picture in a skateboard magazine, not anybody in any picture or ad has a helmet on,” he explains. “That makes it hard when the cops say you should be a good role model.”
More than 50 people attended the recent open house at Bowood, the controversial former Shelburne Boys School property, which Halifax developer Ralston MacDonnell is in the process of turning into what he calls a “creative community development.”
Visitors got to wander through the apparently well constructed and preserved “cottages,” and to wonder why municipal staff, as recently as a month ago, offered “alarming presentations… describing the facility in near-ruin and a prospect for demolition.” Another local company is suing the developer and the local development authority, claiming MacDonnell got the property for “grossly below fair market or replacement value.”
After the usual upbeat speeches from the usual suspects — the municipal warden and local MLA — MacDonnell took the podium to talk about his plans for the site and, he said, to answer any questions from locals.
But according to the website Shelburne County Today, MacDonnell didn’t bother to ask at the end of his presentation if there actually were any questions.
Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King’s College. His column also appears in Thursday’s Daily News.
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