Kimber’s Nova Scotia
November 11, 2007
Between a rock and an empty place
The Digby Courier is reporting what it calls “a noticeable increase in real estate for sale” in Digby Neck in the wake of last month’s joint federal-provincial panel report rejecting a proposed basalt quarry and marine terminal there.
An American company, Bilcon, wanted to develop the 120-hectare quarry to supply two million tons of rock a year for the next 50 years to New Jersey.
But the proposal badly split the community. Some supported it and its promise of close to three dozen fulltime jobs in an area already decimated by the collapse of the fishery. But others, with equal fervour, opposed the very idea, claiming it would ruin the environment and destroy their way of life.
Now that the review report has come down so unequivocally against the project, supporters are left with the fading hope they can pressure federal and provincial environment ministers — who have the final say on whether to approve the project — to just say yes.
They staged a two-hour “Start-the-Quarry” rally recently during which “car after car and truck after truck honked in support of the rally message.”
“I honestly can’t see how they can turn this quarry away,” longtime Centreville resident David Graham told the Courier, but then added: “To be quite honest, I’ve even been thinking about selling… If things continue getting worse, we’re not going to have anything around here.”
A final decision on the quarry is expected to be announced within the month.
This week’s health care alert
It hasn’t a good couple of weeks to get sick in a number of communities in Nova Scotia.
Last week internists who staff the intensive care unit at South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater withdrew their services to protest a recent deal with the department of health they claim doesn’t deal with their key issues: physician recruitment and retention, as well as compensation.
What that’s meant is that the hospital isn’t admitting new critically ill patients; they’re being transferred to facilities in Capital Health instead.
The week before, the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre was shipping its ICU patients off to Moncton or Halifax because of the same dispute.
The internists there decided to switch to a new, more restricted on-call schedule after they hit an impasse in negotiations with the health department.
Meanwhile, in Shelburne, the scene of numerous earlier emergency room closures, the illness of a doctor forced the Roseway Hospital to shutter its ER department for a day recently. And South West Health admitted it “anticipates that there may be an additional emergency department closures until such time as this physician is recovered.”
And in Pugwash, North Cumberland Memorial’s emergency department was closed during daytime hours three times recently “because no physician is available to provide the necessary medical coverage.”
No word yet on whether Premier Rodney MacDonald plans to introduce legislation outlawing doctor shortages.
If we build it, they will stay
Last year, residents of Greenfield, Queen’s County, feared that their desperately-needing-to-be-replaced, more-than-60-year-old elementary school — which served just three dozen local students — would have to close.
Knowing the province’s financially strapped Education Department was unlikely to ante up money for a new school, area residents decided to set up their own community non-profit society, fundraise for “a compelling out-of-the-box proposal for a community-built school” and build it themselves.
They’re doing just that. The foundation has been poured, the building framed in and crews are ready to begin work on the school’s interior. “We’re making really good progress,” reports project manager Pat Jones.
Though the school is valued at $1.25 million, the Greenfield Community Resource Centre Society Inc. — which is acting as its own contractor and is using donated lumber — hopes to complete construction for just $950,000. The province, in a unique arrangement, has agreed to lease the community-owned building for $72,000 a year for the next 20 years.
The two-classroom school is expected to welcome its first pupils in September 2008.
Tale of two ports
While Yarmouth tourism operators worry about their future in light of a disastrous 2007 season, officials in Portland, Maine, are preparing to open a “beautiful” new $20-million terminal in the heart of the city’s tourist district.
The new Ocean Gateway terminal is specifically designed to cater to cruise ships and international ferries like Bay Ferries’ Yarmouth-Portland service.
Two years after the Scotia Prince abandoned its daily summer runs between Nova Scotia and Maine because of what it called unacceptable conditions at Portland’s old International Marine Terminal, the city is clearly doing whatever it takes to keep the new operators happy.
And it is succeeding.
Portland is not only winning the battle of Maine ports with Bar Harbour — this summer, Bay Ferries reduced its number of sailings to Yarmouth from Bar Harbour — but Portland has also become the ferry’s supply centre of choice. It buys all its fuel and provisions there.
To rub salt in Yarmouth’s wounds, Bay Ferries’ schedule — departing Portland early in the morning and returning in the evening — now favours their hotel and tourist operators instead of the Nova Scotia town’s.
“It worked out very well for us,” understates Portland’s Transportation and Ports Director Captain Jeff Monroe.
He’s currently in negotiations with Bay Ferries on a long-term contract to use their new terminal.
Which raises the question: What are provincial tourism department officials doing to counter Portland’s new-found aggressiveness?
No apple for Karen
Karen Casey, Nova Scotia’s chief schoolmarm, gave her unruly students, the members of the Strait Regional School Board, a one-week extension to complete their assigned homework. But then warned them there could be consequences if they didn’t do as they’re told.
They listened… sort of.
Last month, the education minister sent a letter to the board, pointing out that it “is not behaving in a manner in keeping with the best interests of students,” and admonished them to “show respect for others [and] not pursue a procedure calculated to embarrass another board or staff member.” She then issued five directives designed to improve their deportment.
If they didn’t comply, she waved the big stick: she had the authority, she pointed out, to “appoint a person who shall carry out such responsibilities and exercise such authority of the school board as the minister determines.”
Though it was not lost on board members that the courts had recently upheld the minister’s right to fire the Halifax school board last year, five of the 12 board members still initially voted against complying with the minister’s order. By this week’s meeting, however two of those nays had become yeas and the motion — to change the board’s bylaws and code of ethics —received the required two-thirds majority to formally approve it.
But the issue isn’t over yet. Later in the meeting, board member Brenda Gillis announced she
intends to introduce a motion at next month’s meeting to abolish the code entirely.
“I think we’re being stifled, and I think we’re allowing ourselves to be stifled,” Gillis said.
Oh, no, not them again
Truro town council, which refused to fly a gay pride flag from its flagpole this summer, is now saying no to a request from the Northern AIDS Connection Society to raise an AIDS awareness flag this month — even though it had previously agreed to do so.
Council said yes in July but then — after the gay pride flag flap — hastily came up with a new, cover-their-butt policy to reserve town flagpoles for municipal, provincial or national flags only.
So no AIDS awareness flag.
Councillor Raymond Tynes, who also, ironically, heads up the town’s affirmative action human rights committee, was unrepentant. “I’ll stand behind any decision I’ve made,” he declared.
Whatever that means.
Al McNutt, the chair of the AIDS group, told the Truro Daily News the town is “going backward. With all the hoopla and the chaos over the gay flag, they’re just going to start this over again.”
In my backyard please
While residents in other parts of the province debate whether they want wind farms — and just how many kilometres from their own homes they want them located — a Masstown farmer is installing wind turbines in his backyard.
Glen Jennings, whose poultry farm boasts 12,000 laying chickens producing 10,000 eggs a day, eventually hopes to generate enough wind power to run his farm, his house and his father’s house. So far, the three turbines — costing $20,000–$28,000 each —are generating 75 per cent of the farm’s electrical needs.
“Twenty years ago a project like this would have been inconceivable,” Nova Scotia Power’s Margaret Murphy told those attending the turbines’ official turning. Now, thanks to dropping turbines costs, skyrocketing oil prices and growing environmental concerns, “projects like this one will inspire others.”
Jennings own inspiration? “If I had a quarter for every time I chased this hat across the field I’d probably be retired,” Jennings told the crowd gathered to celebrate the launch.
A Nova Scotian soldier, who was wounded in Afghanistan last year, is home in River Hebert talking with local school children and attending today’s Remembrance Day events.
Master Corporal Mark Brownell, who joined the army after graduating from River Hebert District High School, served as a Canadian peacekeeper in Bosnia before being deployed to Afghanistan in 2006.
On Aug. 3 last year, he suffered shrapnel wounds in a grenade attack that killed three of his comrades in one of the bloodiest days of that conflict.
He was to speak to the students about “the culture and kids of Afghanistan,” as well as the Canadian mission there. His message, as he earlier told the CBC: “The people of Afghanistan need us over there … if we’re not there, it’s going to get worse.”
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 CITIZEN, AMHERST DAILY NEWS, ANNAPOLIS COUNTY SPECTATOR, CAPE BRETON POST, GUYSBOROUGH JOURNAL, PORT HAWKESBURY REPORTER, QUEEN’S COUNTY ADVANCE, SHELBURNE COAST GUARD, SOUTHSHORENOW.COM, TRURO DAILY NEWS, YARMOUTH VANGUARD.