Kimber's Nova Scotia (May 20, 2007)

Kimber’s Nova Scotia

May 20, 2007

How many politicians does it take to screw up?

OK, how many free light bulbs will it take to cover the cost of gassing up the SUV for the 300-plus km drive from New Glasgow to Halifax and back?

That’s the question Pictou county residents were asking themselves last week after the dim bulbs at Conserve Nova Scotia grandly announced they had teamed up with Home Depot to provide every Nova Scotian with two free new energy-efficient light bulbs as part of its campaign to promote the government’s please-save-the-environment-so-we-don’t-have-to campaign.

The only problem? There are no Home Depot depots in Pictou County. Since you have to go to the store to get your free light bulbs — it is a Home Depot promotion after all — residents who want to take advantage of the time-limited offer from their friends at Province House will have to drive all the way to Halifax by close of business today.

And pay for the extra gas.

In order to save money on their electric bill.

This does not compute.

What did she say?

It began as an eagerly anticipated would-she-or-wouldn’t-she? moment and ended as yet another did-she-or-didn’t-she? episode of Karen confusion.

When Education Minister Karen Casey showed up at Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High last Friday and summoned students and staff to the gym for a special assembly, everyone assumed the minister would announce plans to convert the high school into a junior high. It’s part of a grander proposal the school board submitted to the province last year, whose ultimate goal is a new high school.

The speculation seemed warranted. After all, Cash-Carrier Casey has been traipsing around the province of late, showing up at other schools with good-news announcements of capital projects like Yarmouth’s that had somehow gotten left out of the provincial budget.

But then Casey seemed to waffle. She carefully described her speech as “an update and a message.” Instead of announcing the green light for a new school, she used weasel words: “a recommendation I am prepared to take to my colleagues in cabinet to ask for their consideration to make that happen.”

Uh, does that mean you’re going to build the school, Karen?

Officials sharing the stage, who were effusive in their praise of Casey’s “announcement,” certainly thought so.

But when Yarmouth Vanguard columnist Tina Comeau asked the minister directly whether the “recommendation” constituted an announcement, she became even less clear and more muddied.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an announcement,” Casey explained, “but it’s an update and a message.”

Oh yeh, right. Message received.

Sign here…

A federal student jobs program that traditionally provides summer jobs for 1,000 young people in industrial Cape Breton will generate just one-tenth that number this year, thanks to what Liberal MP Mark Eyking calls a “mean-spirited” attack on the island’s economy, culture and students.

Guess who he’s talking about?

The Stephen Harper Tories not only sliced $11.6 million out of the former Liberal government’s Canada Summer Jobs Initiative — which is specifically supposed to create summer jobs in areas of high unemployment — but they also changed the ranking system for deciding which public, private and non-profit employers get funded, and which don’t.

The result is that such highly profitable, well-heeled organizations as the Sydney and Whitney Pier day cares, the Glace Bay Miners’ Museum and Miner’s Memorial Manor, along with the United Way, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and dozens of other worthless public groups and private employers — many of whom depend on subsidized student employment to survive — have been told they don’t qualify for funding this year.

“I was totally shocked,” says the United Way’s executive director, Allister Taylor, who adds pointedly that he’s heard of local employers being told they can’t hire a single student while “there are organizations in Halifax receiving five students for the summer. It puzzles me.”

Three guesses again, Mr. Taylor.

Cary MacDonald, general manager of Sydney’s Saf-Way Auto Parts Ltd., which had been using the federal program to hire summer staff for the past four years but got rejected last week, is more than puzzled. He’s angry. He’s written a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, telling him just how serious the cuts will be for students. “Perhaps you can co-sign their student loans in the fall,” he added bitterly.

Three guesses on the answer to that one too. We don’t think you’ll need them all.

So will they demolish the airport too?

Call them disappearing signs of changing transportation times.

Kentville Town Council recently voted in favour of demolishing its historic railroad roundhouse.

Originally built in 1912, the roundhouse — now the last of its kind in Nova Scotia — once serviced and repaired up to 10 steam locomotives at a time. During the golden age of rural rail, in fact, the old Dominon Atlantic Railroad employed one-third of Kentville’s entire workforce, most of them in its roundhouse.

Which is one reason the Nova Scotia Railway Heritage Society wants the town to support its bid to get Ottawa to declare the roundhouse a heritage property. They believe it should be renovated for contemporary uses; similar structures have been turned into everything from arts centres to microbreweries. But a consultant hired by the town says such a makeover would cost way too much.

Meanwhile in Liverpool, one of Nova Scotia’s last remaining old-style twenties’ gas stations is also facing the wrecker’s ball, probably within months.

Municipal council had agreed last year to give a citizen’s group time to negotiate with Petro Canada, which owns the now empty building, in hopes of turning the building into a car museum, but the company turned down the idea, and the building’s future appears to have finally run out of gas.

Now there’s a surprise

The consultant representing the still unnamed developer for the soon-to-be renamed Shelburne youth jail says his unidentified employers plan to change the name — as well as the uses — of the former youth detention centre.

As Ralston MacDonnell obliquely explained it all to Shelburne residents during a municipal budget meeting last week, “sometimes history has a way of defining the future.” Given the controversy over allegations of abuse at the school, MacDonnell suggested the facility needs “a substantial image makeover.”

Given the secrecy surrounding the development project, the property may not be the only thing in need of a substantial image makeover.

Where’s the fire?

A former — please note the former — Digby firefighter was handed a suspended sentence and ordered to pay $2,500 restitution last week after taking the department’s Rescue Six F250 Superduty pickup truck for a wild late night joyride last fall.

Ryan Chayko totalled the $60,000 vehicle — fully fitted out with sirens, light bar, strobe lights, radios, cap, winch, striping, sliding cargo bed and portable pump and generator — after losing control while trying to negotiate a turn at the end of Digby Neck. Oops.

The fine covers the deductible on the department’s insurance
for the vehicle, which has since been replaced.

In his victim impact statement, Fire Chief Robbie Morgan described the incident as “a big inconvenience and an insult, and embarrassing to have one of our own people steal something from us.” That may explain why he asked the court to also order Chayko to turn in any department gear he might still have. “The members were all agreed they didn’t want to see him around town wearing something that would indicate an association with us.”

Perhaps they should call Ryan

There’s more heat than light in Cumberland County this week as the county council and Westchester fire department squabble over how much the volunteer department should contribute to the cost of its new pumper.

In 2004, the department had asked the county to share the expense of a new vehicle, but that proposal was shelved and, according to a spokesman for the firefighters, council “wouldn’t talk with us” afterward, even though it provided other departments with fire trucks at no cost at all.

Now suddenly, the county says it wants Westchester to pony up $50,000 as its share of a new vehicle. The firefighters say the elected officials should get real.

“We are a volunteer department and are on call for our community,” Greg Bushen, the assistant deputy chief, said in a letter to the municipality.

County council privately agreed last week on its reply to Bushen’s letter, but Warden Keith Hunter won’t say what it is. “All we agreed to do in the open council session was to send the letter,” he explained to reporters. “We didn’t discuss what the letter would contain.”

Watch for the smoke signals.

They give prizes for this?

The town of Stellarton has a new distinction; it is now a member in good standing of the Cast Iron Pipe Century Club.

Say what?

A group called the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association presents these coveted Oscars of the plumbing netherworld to municipalities that have cast iron pipes, which are still in service 100 or more years after they were installed. Last week a representative appeared before town council to officially present it with a framed certificate marking the milestone.

In case you needed to know, Stellarton, which began using these particular 10-inch iron pipes to do whatever it is they do way back in 1893, is the 28th municipality in Canada to win the award.

Congratulations… we think.



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