Kimber's Nova Scotia (June 10, 2007)

Kimber’s Nova Scotia

June 10, 2007

They can’t say they weren’t warned

Federal Tories couldn’t have been surprised when Bill Casey stood in the House of Commons on principle — and against his party — in last week’s budget vote.

In truth, the veteran Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP has been out of step with Stephen Harper (and in touch with his own constituents) from the day the former Reformer was sworn in as prime minister.

That grand occasion also marked the first day Casey publicly questioned the PM’s wisdom — for welcoming yesterday’s Liberal, David Emerson, into his cabinet. In February, Casey was deep in the doo doo again after he criticized Harper for currying favour with Quebec voters by handing out aerospace contracts to firms in that province when companies in his own riding didn’t get a whiff of the lucrative work.

All of this, of course, has always played much better in Casey’s home riding — where he’s been re-elected in four straight elections — than it does inside the Conservative caucus in Ottawa where leader loyalty is the sine qua non of promotion.

“Our association to a person is supporting Bill,” local riding president Scott Armstrong told the Amherst Daily News after Casey was turfed from caucus. “He’s been a wonderful MP for our riding and we support him.”

Others in the riding agree — at least if you believe to reader responses on the Amherst paper’s website.

“The Tories don’t realize what they have lost,” wrote Shawna Richardson. “I know that [I and] a lot of others voted for Bill, and not necessarily the party… Whatever party is in power makes no difference to me. But who represents my interests in Ottawa is very important and, therefore, as long as he is in politics… Bill will always have my vote.”

“Mr. Casey remembers where he comes from and, more importantly, who put him in Ottawa,” explained Jennifer Boyce from Pictou. “It wasn’t Stephen Haprer.”

Although he insists he’s made no decisions about his long term political future, Casey mused last week that “even I was surprised that I didn’t mind sitting as an independent.”

All of which raises an interesting question. How will Stephen Harper ever win his elusive majority if he keeps alienating his own supporters?

The answer. He won’t.

Mindlessly mind-boggling

Brian Cullen has a question. Why do people dump their garbage in the woods when they could place it roadside for free county pickup?

“It’s mind-boggling,” the Pictou County chief administrative officer marveled after county officials there discovered yet another illegal dump — filled with drywall, broken shelves, children’s toys, charred wood, burned papers, smashed computer monitors and enough junk to fill a house — in a forested area near Alma.

Although the site violates the county’s solid waste by-law, Cullen knows there’s little chance of identifying the culprits or prosecuting them. Last year, only one person was prosecuted for illegal dumping.

But he can’t help but wonder at the sheer stupidity of it all. “A lot of the material that is found in the woods or on sides of roads could be picked up at curbside,” he points out. “The landfill is open to the public. The programs are easily accessible, but people feel compelled to do this.”

Want to see what dumb-assed dumping looks like? The New Glasgow News has, as we say in the biz, film at 11:

But did they find my other sock?

A film crew from the reality TV series Rescue Mediums spent four days in Shelburne last week, prowling the third floor of the venerable Loyalist Inn for ghostly presences.

The quirky show, broadcast in Canada on the Women’s Network, follows two British (perhaps you guessed the British part already?), strangely psychic sisters-in-law as they travel from the world, meeting and interviewing other-worldly creatures, then “clearing” their spirits by “showing the spirit into the light.”

Jackie Dennison and Christine Hamlett — who claim to have helped the British police solve the “Moors murders” in the sixties and whose website offers such spirit-friendly advice as “Seven Ways to Cleanse Your Aura” — came to Shelburne at the invitation of the inn’s owner, Linda Deschamps, who says she’d sensed the existence of spirits that seemed to haunt the third floor.

While Deschamps would like to see the ghostbusters solve the mystery, she’s even more hopeful the show will create some this-world benefits by luring tourists to Shelburne.

The show’s producers were tight-lipped about what they discovered. “I’m not going to say what we found here because it will give the show away,” a producer told the Shelburne Coast Guard.

Cue the aura.

Dialing for docs in Digby

Digby residents are planning a “we-need-doctors” rally outside their general hospital next Tuesday (June 19) to draw attention to the health care crisis in their area. They’re hoping to put pressure on municipal leaders to apply pressure to Health Minister Chris d’Entremont to provide the funding necessary to keep the hospital’s emergency room open round the clock. Last month, the province said no to the hospital’s request.

Since last fall, the ER has had to shutter its doors on Fridays because of a lack of local doctors to do emergency room rotations.

That acute situation is set to get even more desperate at the end of this month when Dr. Roy Harding closes his 2,300-patient family practice.

His departure will put even more pressure on the system because many of his patients, who will suddenly find themselves without a family doctor — there are reports the closest town where physicians are taking new patients is nearly two hours away in Windsor — will end up going to the local emergency room for treatment or, worse, delaying treatment until their condition is so serious they too end up in the ER.

But which ER? Overcrowding and Friday closures in the under-staffed Digby emergency room could force patients to make the hour-long journey to Yarmouth to seek treatment there. But that might not solve the problem either. Shelburne is also losing one of its physicians, meaning patients there will be heading to Yarmouth’s ER for treatment too.

All of which prompted Harding — wearing his other hat as the hospital’s deputy chief of medical staff — to write to the mayor and warden, asking them to arrange a meeting with the health minister. In his letter, Harding suggested the province’s recent decision to turn down the hospital’s request for funding might have been different if d’Entremont himself had attended an April meeting between local officials and the health department.

It might also have been different if d’Entremont had had to spend a day or two waiting for service in an over-crowded emergency room.

‘Getting bombed at the prom’ no joke

Although bomb hoaxes may have become this spring’s prank pastime of choice for bored Nova Scotia students, police in Cape Breton are taking a detailed email threat to bomb Memorial High’s senior prom next week very seriously.

The person claims to be a former student at the school who was “mistreated when I was there.” In addition to planting a bomb, the emailer suggests other potential ways he or she could create havoc
at the Sydney Mines school, including using a “concealed knife, gun, stuff like that,” or unleashing a lethal poison cocktail made from household cleaning solutions.

While school officials try to decide whether to go ahead with the always eagerly anticipated grad dance June 23, police are scrambling to get a handle on who the person could be. They’ve brought in psychologists and information technology experts to help them identity whoever emailed the warning to local media outlets and police.

“We have no profile on the subject yet,” Staff Sgt. Paul Jobe told a news conference Tuesday. “That’s what we’re currently working on.”

He conceded police officials are torn between alerting the public to the threat and encouraging copycats.

No kidding.

Smart bomb, dumb parents

Meanwhile, the principal of a Yarmouth junior high school managed to turn his school’s “Grove-will-blow-up-on-May-30-and-all-of-the-students-will-die” prank threat into a teachable moment.

Two weeks ago, someone found a threatening note in a school desk at Maple Grove Educational Centre. Before calling police, principal Svein Ravlo did a little sleuthing of his own. He checked to find out who’d been sitting at the desk that day and quickly narrowed the suspects to one. The boy “’fessed up” — “I just wanted the day off school” — after Ravlo asked for a writing sample but well before he brought out the rubber truncheons.

Last Tuesday, the school held an assembly at which the student — accompanied by his mother, school administrators and an RCMP officer — apologized to everyone for what he had done and officials talked with the students about the seriousness of the “joke.”

“We know students at this age are very impressionable and I think it’s important that they see the process play out,” Ravlo explained.

Though he didn’t want to get into specifics, Ravlo added that the student had been “dealt with severely,” in addition to his assembly humiliation/teaching moment.

Ironically, however, even though school officials quickly determined the threat was a prank and dealt with it transparently — even sending a letter home to parents explain to what had happened — the Yarmouth Vanguard reports that many parents still kept their kids home from school on the day the supposed threat was supposed to be carried out.

Go figure.

But can… er, will they read it?

The Western counties regional library is forwarding petitions from its patrons urging the province to increase library funding to all its local MLAs. And municipal councils in the region are writing their own similar letters to the provincial government.

The province’s rural libraries have been whacked with a double whammy this year — StatsCan reports of declining rural populations coupled with a provincial library funding formula directly tied to the numbers of people in a district. So the libraries’ operating costs continue to increase while funds fall, creating a crunch when it comes to buying new books for its shelves. Which, after all, is what libraries do.

The Western counties library system had decided to take money from its reserve fund — which is supposed to finance new branches and cover contingencies — to get them through this year’s crisis.

But that’s a one-time-only solution, says library chair Gary Anderson. “It is not large enough to do this again.”

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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