Kimber's Nova Scotia (Aug 26, 2007)

Kimber’s Nova Scotia

August 26, 2007

Forest for the trees

Thanks to a new by-the-books building inspector, two small saw mills in Falmouth, Hants County, have had to turn away two or three contracts a week this summer and lay off six workers. Richard Neily says he and his wife have already “lost this milling season for sure” and will need to spend $5,000 of their own money to take a lumber grading course in September if they want to salvage the next one.

The problem is that the previous building inspector, who died last year, didn’t enforce sections of the National Building Code requiring lumber from local mills to be graded by a certified inspector. When the new inspector insisted the law be followed, the mill owners initially asked the local planning department to at least allow them to fill orders already on their books, but got nowhere.

“The building inspector insists he’s just doing his job,” says Neily, “but it’s the way they did it. It was inconsiderate and, after 30 years of being in business, we’re up against it.”

Is there an actual problem with the wood they sell? Stephen Barker, a local contractor, says the lumber the local mills produce is “number one grade, no question,” adds anyone questioning its quality “just needs to look at the material; it’s the best lumber you can get to build with and the prices are very competitive.”

Planner Lynn Davis couldn’t talk to the Hants Journal about why the sudden change in enforcement and wouldn’t allow its reporter to interview the new building inspector either.

Chalk one up for the bureaucracy.

Cold water on hot air

When he gets up a rhetorical head of steam about tidal power, Premier Rodney MacDonald can be harder to contain than the Bay of Fundy on a stormy day. In fact, when our premier loftily boasted during a recent Council of Federation meeting that “we will champion the effort for world tidal power innovation,” he sounded a tad too much like one of his predecessors.

During the seventies, Gerald Regan promised so much and delivered so little on his own Fundy tidal power dream wags of the day took to calling it the Great Fundy Hot Air Project.

Now, Parsborro Mayor Doug Robinson fears MacDonald may turn out to be all talk and no action too. “We’re behind the eight-ball now, as far as I’m concerned,” Robinson told the Amherst Citizen recently. “We should be moving ahead with this.”

Though the province has issued a request for proposals — inviting developers “from around the world to help us find the best technology,” as MacDonald puts it — Mayor Robinson thinks the province may be just muddying the waters.

Nova Scotia Power representatives are also considering test sites in the Parrsboro area, and Robinson says he’s getting mixed messages from the government and NSP, not to forget from the departments of environment and natural resources.

“It sounds like Nova Scotia Power has the project, but now the province is saying it’s looking for requests for proposals, so it seems like a step backwards,” says the mayor. “It is confusing… You can make all the promises you want, but politics is politics.”

No kidding.

More hot air about wind

Promoters of yet another wind farm project — this one on Nuttby Mountain south of Earltown — held an open house in North River last week to pitch their plan to local residents.

Atlantic Wind Power —already embroiled in controversy over its proposed wind power project on the Gulf Shore — and Cobequid Wind Power hope to jointly develop the 15-22 turbine project, which will cost $50-100-million and be completed by 2009.

David Smith, who owns property in Nuttby and was one of the 60 residents who attended the open house, told the Truro Daily News “I think they have a perfect location.” He says there are a lot of old, abandoned farms along the mountainside.

But Amanda McRae, who says she was “shocked” to hear about the proposal, urged caution. “Why not try a few at first … to make sure the community’s OK with it?”

NSP is expected to make a decision on the proposal in early October.

Clear as mud

Dave Brush say he wasn’t looking to stir things up when he and his wife did some diving recently near a Port Mouton fish farm owned by New Brunswick’s Aqua Fish Farms Ltd. But what they claim to have found in waters near the fish farm — huge amounts of sediment and sludge, up to 34 inches thick — has definitely done just that.

That’s because Aqua wants to build a second plant nearby, and a local group called Friends of Port Mouton Bay wants to stop them. Friends claims the plant could endanger the local fishery.

Brush, who says diving conditions in Port Mouton Bay were the worst he’s ever encountered, believes the existing plant “seems to be devastating the area. It seems shortsighted to bring in an industry like this that could do so much damage.”

After his dive, Brush spoke with the citizens group, which didn’t help his credibility with the company.

“I can guarantee you the sludge does not extend that far,” Aqua President Ian Hamilton insisted to the Liverpool Advance. “It’s unfortunate that [the Friends] continue to whip up support against the farm.”

Stephen still likes him

South Shore MP Gerald Keddy is reaping his rewards for taking one for the team. Last week, Keddy was front and centre in Shelburne to announce that Ottawa would be spending $175,000 to help scientists figure out why lobster harvests are down — Can anyone say overfishing? — and “develop new practices that will be shared with people working on the front lines of this important industry.”

The report isn’t expected to be ready until 2012, by which time it may not matter overmuch to Mr. Keddy, who will have to face the electors sometime before that.

Keddy’s hometown Bridgewater Bulletin, which had criticized him for voting with Harper and against the Atlantic Accord in the recent budget vote, took another shot across his bow last week when it made a point of noting the not-very-surprising fact that Keddy had been left out of Harper’s reshuffled cabinet “again,” and quoted him defending himself against allegations he has “no influence in the federal government.”


See you later…

What if they staged an anti-spray protest and no one sprayed? That’s what happened Monday when a dozen protesters, some carrying signs and wearing gas masks, occupied a planned pesticide spray site near Roslin, Cumberland County.

The North Nova Forest Owners Co-op had planned to begin aerial spraying of Vision in the area that day.

The province’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency says the controversial pesticide is safe, but the protesters dispute that.

Rick Cheeseman, a local organic farmer, says that if you ask the manufacturers, “‘Is this product safe for people?’ they will say, ‘Glyphosate is safe.’ They will never tell you and never talk to you about the inert ingredients… Isn’t it time we started asking what the whole product is and start testing for it?”

In the end, the forest owners “postponed” spraying and the protesters, who’d vowed to remain on the property as human shields for as long as it takes, went home.

Until the next

Bash this

The Halifax-based owners of the former Shelburne boys school — now known as Bowood, after Lord Shelburne’s historic English estate — plan to strut their stuff for the locals at an open house on the property Tuesday.

The MacDonnell Group, which purchased the facility in a controversial deal in June, will outline their plans — which include offices, seniors and student housing, commercial businesses, a security training centre and parkland — in hopes the locals will become interested in the project.

“We want to see the whole community come out,” Sarah Vander Meer of the MacDonnell Group told the Shelburne Coast Guard. To attract them, there’ll be commercial booths, children’s entertainment and even an exhibition baseball game on the newly renovated boys school field featuring the Shelburne Bashers team.

No word on whether their opponents will be Bowood bashers.

There are still plenty of people in town unhappy with the secrecy surrounding the MacDonnell deal, and with the involvement in it of Bowood president Ralston MacDonnell. He was involved in the unpopular privatization of the now falling-down Digby wharf a few years back.

Twelve divided by two, take away the Blue…

Pictou East MLA Clarrie “Joe Six-Pack” MacKinnon isn’t happy with the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission’s recent move to eliminate six-packs of beer in favour of eight and 12-container packaging.

"I always liked to pick up a six-pack,” confesses the NDP MLA, sensing a hot-button summer consumer issue, “but then we moved to the smallest you can get is eight. Now, we’re moving towards having 12 being the smallest."

He says it’s an issue of cost ("Lots of times, someone has $10 in one’s pocket that they could afford to buy six beer with. That person doesn’t have $20”) and consumption (“When you have 12, you’re more apt to consume more than when you have six”).

You do the math.

But a spokesperson for the NSLC says the larger issue is shelf space. “If there are multiple sizes of one product, [suppliers] have to make a decision. We can’t take all of them.” Besides, she adds, “if you were to buy a 12-pack instead of two six-packs, there’s a volume savings.”

Again, you do the math. Or just open a cold one. How many was that anyway?

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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  1. For the trees…

    Planner Lynn Davis couldn’t talk to the Hants Journal about why the sudden change in enforcement and wouldn’t allow its reporter to interview the new building inspector either.

    Sounds like the CPC convention in PEI, all that was missing were the RCMP.

    Twelve devided by……

    Hey bye’s does that mean there will no more of dem dare sample shots for sale in the racks near the checkouts like candy bars in food marts or even “Mickys” in our good old grog shops. Buy a case of 40’s and save on storage. Wow why not magnums of wine only instead while were at it?


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