December 23, 2007
They like us, they really like us
“It is a land of the great outdoors with breathtaking scenery: thousands of glassy lakes, pristine beaches and carpets of forest that draw tourists to see the autumnal reds and golds.”
That’s us that Britain’s widely read Telegraph newspaper is gushing on about. In a story in its property section last week, the newspaper — once owned by Conrad Black — claims that Nova Scotia (“the size of England, and yet with a population of just under a million”), is becoming an “increasingly popular and affordable destination [for] British second homeowners who crave tranquility.”
While touting our modest house prices and historic and psychic links to the mother country (Chester is “billed as the ‘Mayfair’ of Nova Scotia,” the paper explains, while adding delightedly that “there is even a town called Liverpool on the Mersey River”) and quoting happy British settlers (“I’d never go back to the UK,” says one. "Lunenburg has everything”), the article does offer a few cautions.
The weather, for starters. “Summer water sports are great,” says a Suffolk man who now calls Liverpool — the Nova Scotia one — home. “People are friendly and British people are welcomed, but a challenge can be the weather with heavy snowstorms in winter.”
We knew that.
And then, of course, there is that… tranquility thing. “It’s not a place for people who need to be constantly entertained,” explains Kilmeny Fane-Saunders of Second Home Nova Scotia, a new British-based real estate company catering to British buyers of chunks of Nova Scotia. Though 50 per cent of her clients are actually emigrating to the province, she says they need to be “outdoorsy, and crave peace and quiet.”
“Indeed,” adds the Telegraph’s reporter, “there is little in the way of cultural events or nightlife, aside from the odd ukulele festival.”
Uh… thanks for the kind words. And pass me my uke in which to…
Less cause, more effect
Nova Scotia’s Richmond County has a distinction it doesn’t want — statistics show the rate of kidney disease there is 10 times higher than the provincial average.
While researchers scramble to figure out the why, municipal councillors are more concerned with what Health Minister Chris d’Entremont will do to help them cope.
Researchers, who theorize Acadian families in Isle Madame are genetically predisposed towards high rates of kidney disease, are now in the early stages of a two-year study to determine precisely what causes the disease to be so prevalent among them. Residents have been providing the researchers with information on their family histories as well as DNA samples.
“We’ve identified a number of families and family members that have been diagnosed since we first started,” explains Cape Breton Regional Hospital nephrologist Dr. Tom Hewlett, “and the patterns we’re seeing are very suggestive of a genetic cause — there’s no question about that.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, local politicians are less interested in long-term cause than immediate impact. At their last meeting, Richmond municipal councillors voted unanimously to ask the health department for more dialysis machines as well as for better training for local nurses and doctors in how to deal with the disease.
The fire next time
When they last had a fire protection cost-sharing agreement three years ago, Cumberland County paid the town of Amherst $122,000 a year so its firefighters would respond to calls in the county. At the beginning of negotiations on a new deal, Amherst town council proposed upping that by a whopping $160,000 a year. The county countered with an offer of a measly $55,000 in total.
The two sides have been trading barbs and accusations ever since.
Some Amherst councillors now claim the county low-balled them because it wants to set up its own fire department “as a means of partially justifying the existence of its fire services co-ordinator position.”
Last week, Amherst council voted unanimously to stop providing fire protection to county residents effective July 1, 2008.
Currently 22 per cent of the calls the Amherst department responds to are in the county.
“If they want to establish another fire department, minutes from ours, so be it,” explained Amherst Coun. Ed Chitty. “If, on the other hand, they’d like to have a sensible, mature discussion about sharing real costs on some rational basis then we are up for that as well.”
Now that sounds like a starting point for …
Let the Capers freeze in the dark
Last week, a modern management tool — just-in-time delivery — smacked up against Mother Nature — an earlier, colder-than-usual winter — and created not only an immediate home heating oil shortage for Cape Bretoners but also a wake-up call for residents.
Imperial Oil, which now operates the island’s only distribution terminal, limited the amount of heating oil available for customers after one of its tankers was a day late in arriving with fresh supplies.
That, say critics, highlights the reality that the company’s just-in-time system — which is designed to keep inventories low — doesn’t maintain enough fuel in the tanks for emergencies. It also brings home the fact that Cape Bretoners are vulnerable because there’s no longer competition in the marketplace.
A dozen years ago, three companies delivered home heating oil to residents and businesses; now there is only one. Imperial, frets Liberal MLA Manning MacDonald, “could decide that Cape Breton might not be a priority at any given time if they’re experiencing a shortage themselves.”
But company spokesman Robert Theberge insists there was never an issue to begin with. “There were people who probably ran out of oil, and they had to get some, and the deliveries were not as large as they expected, but it’s something that happens,” he told the Cape Breton Post in an interview — from his office in Calgary.
New year, old problem
The Digby General Hospital is starting the new year much the way it finished the old — with another announcement of emergency department closures. During the month of January, the ER will be closed every Thursday as well as on one Monday and one Tuesday.
Residents are advised not to need emergency medical attention on those days.
Good news in the bad
Mahone Bay residents and businesses could be paying more for their electricity after April 1 — but still not as much as thee or me.
The south shore town is one of several in the province that operates its own electric utility. While the town normally passes along increases from Nova Scotia Power directly to its customers, this will be the first time since the early 1990s that it has applied for a rate increase of its own.
But Mahone Bay CEO Jim Wentzell told municipal councillors that even if the town gets the 4.5 per cent increase it is seeking, local customers will still be “paying less than those buying directly from the provincial corporation.”
How does that work?
The Strait Regional School Board still has a code of ethics — sort of.
Back in November, you may recall, the board reluctantly agreed to change its bylaws and code of ethics to conform wi
th demands from Education Minister Karen Casey. Casey, who wasn’t happy with the elected board’s decorum, had threatened to replace the entire board as she did in Halifax if it didn’t go along with her demands.
Immediately after that vote on the amendments, which barely got the two-thirds majority needed to pass, board member Brenda Gillis gave notice she would introduce a motion to abolish the code of ethics completely.
That has since sparked more procedural wrangling. West Guysborough representative Kim Horton called for Gillis’s motion to be tabled so the board could seek a legal opinion. Then East Antigonish board member Frank Machnik introduced a motion calling on the board chair to invite the minister to meet with them to explain herself, or at least hear what they had to say.
Superintendent Phonse Gillis, who says the board can eliminate the code of ethics with a simple majority vote if it chooses, isn’t keen on seeking a legal opinion. “It’s taking public money to use to get legal opinion to challenge the minister,” he pointed out, “and that may want to be looked at.”
Last week, you may recall, we told you the story of veteran Pubnico fisherman Réal d’Entremont, who had hauled up a rare, “perfect market-size” blue lobster — blue down to the crustacean’s antennas — from his traps in Lobster Bay.
We told you this was a rare phenomenon that occurs in only one of every two million lobsters.
Today, we are here to tell you about lobster two-million-and-one.
Jeffrey Leeman caught the pound-and-a-half blue lobster in St. Mary’s Bay. He’s already named it — Boy Blue — and says he hopes to find it a good home, perhaps at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg.
“We didn’t want to sell it and we didn’t want to let anyone eat it,” explains Leeman’s wife Sherry, who was fishing with him at the time.
Why so many blue lobsters all of a sudden? Perhaps Blue Boy heard that the last blue lobster caught in these waters is still swimming around in a tank of cold water rather than a pot of boiling water, and decided to spray paint itself.
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, DIGBY COURIER, PORT HAWKESBURY REPORTER, SOUTHSHORENOW.CA, THETELEGRAPH.CO.UK.