Kimber's Nova Scotia (Dec 16, 2007)

Kimber’s Nova Scotia

December 16, 2007

The lawyers’ Christmas present

There has been yet another flurry of new legal developments and even newer un-developments in the always developing, ever stranger-than-last-week saga of Nova Scotia’s development-promoting South West Shore Development Authority.

In one of the most recent incidents, the SWSDA’s executive finally struck a deal with Australian movie producer Steve Gilmour to sell him the former Shelburne military base at Sandy Point for use as a film studio.

But within hours of that agreement, Gilmour says SWSDA lawyers began piling unanticipated conditions on the sale — including provisions that Gilmour pony up a $50,000 non-refundable deposit and agree to close the close-to-$3-million deal within five days of the receipt of any other competing offer arriving prior to the planned end-of-January closing.

Gilmour isn’t amused. The former Australian MP says SWSDA boasts “the most toxic business environment I have ever witnessed,” and added that the new provisions effectively change “the terms of the agreement which is in place, with terms so onerous as to jeopardize any sensible negotiations on the sale.”

While dueling lawyers sort that one out, on another front, the SWSDA and its CEO are now threatening to sue Shelburne Mayor Parker Comeau and the Halifax Herald over published comments about the sale, earlier this year, of the former Shelburne Boys’ School — which was also in the care and keeping of the SWSDA — to a Halifax developer.

The mayor had suggested it may be time to call in the RCMP “fraud squad” to do a forensic audit of that deal and find out what happened to the proceeds from the $550,000 sale of a property that was, at one point, appraised at $20 million.

Meanwhile — OK, you can stop and catch your breath if you need to — there are reports the developer of the boys’ school, who just finalized that purchase this summer, is not only now trying to peddle two parcels of the property for $320,000 — “What a deal!” is the heading for the real estate listing — but that he’s also asked the local council to take over responsibility for road maintenance.

And, of course, there are those other unsettled lawsuits still floating in the ether, waiting to be dealt with.

Only in Shelburne, you say. Pity… for Shelburne.

Thanks for the snow

Kevin Thompson, the owner of Pictou County’s Best Christmas Trees, says he is on track to equal his best-ever tree sales season — which would be the 2,800 fresh-cut ones he sold in 2005.

Despite the growing popularity of fake trees — including ones with the lights already strung and ornaments already hung — and the flip-side proliferation of U-pick Christmas tree lots for those who feel the need to cut their own, Thompson says people are still streaming onto his lot outside the Aberdeen Mall in order to buy their own real but pre-cut and selected tree.

For that, he gives thanks to the season’s early snows. “It does help my business,” he told the New Glasgow News. “Who wants to go to the U-picks when there’s that much snow on the ground?”

Who wants to go out in the snow at all? Or is that just me?

They do, they do

Ski Wentworth opened for the season this weekend. Again, thanks to all that earlier than usual snow.

“This is one of the earliest opening days we’ve had in 10 years,” enthused Leslie Wilson, Ski Wentworth’s general manager, in an interview with the Amherst Daily News. She predicts the Sissy, Rosebowl, Bunnyhill and possibly the Beaver and Chickadee will all be operating this weekend for over-eager skiers and snowboarders.

The ski hills usually don’t open until after Christmas when the province experiences its first major snow storms.

Where’s global warming when you need it?

Bah, humbug.

Deck the Hall with Vince

Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s Vince Hall won’t be legally forced to resign as a municipal councillor following his recent second guilty plea for impaired driving. But Mayor John Morgan says council may want to take another look at paying Hall his $140 weekly “local” travel allowance.

Hall, who was fined $1,200 and banned from driving for two years for his latest driving offence, which occurred last spring in Halifax, is supposed to get the allowance for traveling within the municipality on council business. But Morgan says Hall not only works at CompuCollege in Halifax — five hours by car from Sydney — but that he also already had a spotty attendance record at council committee meetings.

So why should he get the travel allowance?

“There is a section in the Municipal Government Act that allows council to reduce salaries in circumstances in which committee [meetings] are not attended,” Morgan told the Cape Breton Post.

How much is the bus from Halifax anyway?

Zero tolerance

Three East Pictou junior high school students — aged 14 and 15 — are facing criminal charges of intimidation and assault in connection with what the RCMP says was a three-and-a-half week campaign of teasing, taunting and threatening a fellow student.

While Sgt. Law Power conceded “there was no big physical assault where someone got punched in the mouth,” the bullying involved “a number of pranks over a period of time… Individually, these pranks would have been considered minor in nature. But all the incidents combined make the offence much more serious.

”In general,” he added, “if there is an alternative solution to judicial action available we’ll exercise that. But in this particular case arresting these males was in the best interest of the victim and the school.”

The teens are scheduled to appear in court in New Glasgow next month.

Fish scraps and…

There is finally a company that actually wants to buy Canso’s shuttered Seafreez fish plant. The catch — it doesn’t want to use the facility as a fish freezing and processing operation.

In fact, Eastern Scrap and Demolition Services wants to dramatically transform the plant by scrapping part of it, installing a marine slipway and making the rest over into a marine salvage operation that it claims could employ up to 40 people.

Last week, council and local residents met with company representatives to discuss the proposal.

Mayor Ray White admits there are concerns: the environmental effects it would have on the waterfront and the harbour, for example, as well as how it would fit into the existing community and last, but certainly not least, how many jobs it might really eventually create.

The proposal hasn’t yet been finalized, he said, but added that the public will get the chance to have their say before any deal is done.

Oh, Christmas tree

Vandals in Argyle aren’t easily discouraged. But then neither are the residents.

On Dec. 2, the night of Argyle’s popular annual ceremonial lighting of its community Christmas tree, vandals tried and failed to douse the Christmas spirit by trying — and failing — to set the tree ablaze.

They did it twice more before finally succeeding in destroying the tree early last week.

But Argyle warden Aldric d’Entremont told this week’s municipal council meeting residents would not allow vandalism to ruin its Christmas spirit. So, on Thursday, th
ere was another tree and another ceremony.

Three young people are facing charges in connection with the tree torchings.

I’ll have a blue… lobster

Once in a blue lobster, it turns out, is a much rarer event than once in a blue moon. Blue moons — two full moons in the same month — happen roughly every two-and-a-half years. But only one in two million lobsters will turn out to be blue.

Now you know…

All of which may — or may not — explain why 45-year veteran Pubnico fisherman Réal d’Entremont was startled recently when he hauled up his traps in (where else?) Lobster Bay and discovered he’d caught a “perfect market-size” blue lobster, which was blue through and through. “Even the antennas,” he marveled to the Yarmouth Vanguard, “are perfect and blue.”

The good news for the lobster is that it’s enough of a novelty that it will remain in the fish tank at the seafood department at Barrington’s Atlantic Superstore — at least until the novelty wears off. The blue lobster will share swimming space there with another unusual specimen, a yellow lobster caught by a Cape Sable fishermen.

In the end, of course, their unusual natural colours won’t matter much. When they’re cooked, which they will be, the heat changes the pigments, releasing that lovely red we associate with cooked lobsters.

Makes the mouth water…

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.

SOURCES: Amherst Daily News, Cape Breton Post, New Glasgow News, Port Hawkesbury Reporter, Queen’s County Advance, Shelburne Coast Guard, Shelburne County Today,, Yarmouth Vanguard.

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