Kimber's Nova Scotia (Oct 7, 2007)

Kimber’s Nova Scotia

October 7, 2007

Out of gas

Despite pleas from local residents, a pitch from internationally famed photographer Sherman Hines and even a brief stay of demolition by the Queens Municipal Council, Liverpool’s architecturally rare and historically interesting Petro Canada gas station is no more.

Demolition crews spent the week leveling the station, which was built in the 1920s for the Fina gas company and featured pillars and stonework throughout.

The company said the station had to be demolished so it can determine the extent of oil and gas contamination in the soil under the building and clean it up, but local residents claim there were other, less destructive ways to remove any contaminated soil.

Sherman Hines initially proposed turning the building into an automobile museum and later offered to cart away its bricks and rebuild the structure somewhere else, but the company spurned both suggestions.

Municipal council did its part too, ordering a delay in the demolition to see if residents could strike a deal with the company. They couldn’t.

“It’s a loss to the town and it’s a loss to the heritage of the town and anyone who cares about vintage heritage,” Hines told the Queens County Advertiser.

With the levelling of the Liverpool station, there are just a few service stations from that era left in the province, including a still-functioning one in Bridgewater and a former station that is now a collection of retail outlets in Mahone Bay.

That got their attention

When a South Shore Regional School Board member mused recently that the only way to get the provincial government to pay attention to the “woefully inadequate facilities” at Centre Consolidated School might be for students to stage walkouts and demonstrations, the department of education very quickly got the message.

The minister and deputy minister, along with department officials responsible for capital projects, all attended a hastily convened face-to-face meeting with the school superintendent and two board members, assuring them — in the words of a report from superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake — that it recognized “the need for an extensive renovation project at the school.”

The province has agreed to fork over $60,000 immediately to help deal with the most urgent issues — including constructing a barrier-free entrance and upgrading washrooms in the elementary section of the school.

The $60,000 will help, but it’s the barest of beginnings. The board’s director of operations, Paul Rand, told a recent school board meeting the school needs over $6 million worth of work.

No word on when that cash might flow. Can you say the next election?

Score one for Rodney

Rodney MacDonald’s plan to introduce legislation to take away the right to strike from the province’s health care workers has a new ally.

John Malcolm, the CEO of the Cape Breton District Health Authority who had previously opposed such legislation, says the threat of a strike in his district last year changed his mind. He’s not only changed his mind, he’s joined the Nova Scotia Association of Health Organizations $350,000 lobbying effort to convince the rest of us to support the controversial legislation

A strike, he told the Cape Breton Post’s editorial board last week, would have been “terrifying,” resulting in the closure of three emergency rooms, cancellation of elective surgeries and continued cancer treatment only for people already receiving treatment.

“It’s this and the changes I’ve felt in the system over the last five years that have brought me around to saying we’ve got to look at this differently,” Malcolm explained. “You have a disruption of services, you create a backlog. I don’t know how you ever get out of that.”

This fall’s legislature sitting — if Rodney ever calls it — will be interesting.

The burning question

If you haven’t already ordered your winter supply of firewood, forget about it, or accept the fact that you’ll probably end up with wet wood in your woodstove or fireplace.

That, at least, is what a number of suppliers told the New Glasgow News this week.

The problem, says Darcy Graham of Nodar Farms in Upper Stewiacke, is that much of the best wood is now being turned into chips and shipped to markets overseas. The problem has been getting worse over the past decade as demand for firewood goes up at the same time the supply goes down, but it’s reached a crisis point this year.

“I’m selling people wood that’s only been cut a month or two and I’m telling them that,” Graham explains. “They’re in a situation where they’ve got to buy because they can’t get wood anywhere else.”

Graham isn’t alone. David MacKay, who sells split firewood out of Truro, told the newspaper he’s down to just three or four weeks’ stock. “We won’t have enough wood to go through the winter; we usually do, but we won’t this year.”

Although both MacKay and Graham say they’re considering cutting and stockpiling more firewood in the spring, Graham points out that “it’s costly for us to hold onto it.”

The solution, they say, is to buy your wood for next winter in the spring. “I’m thinking next year my phone is going to be ringing off the hook in April or May,” Graham says, hopefully. “People are going to be getting their wood earlier next year.”


All’s well that ends well

The curtain is about to fall on a three-year soap opera at Parsboro’s Ship’s Company Theatre and — as happens more often on stage than in real life — the final act appears to include a surprise happy ending.

This real-life play began three years ago when the theatre company moved into a new facility and applied to Parsboro for tax exempt status as a cultural institution.

The town said no, designated 22 per cent of the building as commercial and dinged the theatre company for that share of its property taxes.

The Ship’s Company countered that it couldn’t survive the extra costs and, besides, other municipalities with theatre companies exempted them from property taxes.

Relations between town and theatre got so bad, reports the Amherst Citizen, that they were “barely [on] speaking terms” at the beginning of the summer.

But now, thanks to last minute negotiations, the town has agreed to tax the theatre on only 12 per cent of its property instead of the original 22.

“I’m thrilled, and you can put that in bold, capital letters,” Ship’s Company general manager Chuck Homewood told the Citizen. “This is a wonderful step in the right direction.”

The denouement should occur later this month when council holds second and final reading on the revised tax exemption bylaw.

No curtain calls, please.

Whose obstacle course

Former-gym-teacher-turned-premier Rodney MacDonald says he wants to remove the “obstacles” that prevent community groups from using local school facilities after hours. But critics say his own government’s failure to foot the bill for the required extra insurance is the biggest obstacle those community groups face.

The long simmering rural issue bubbled back to the surface during a recent meeting of a committee of the Tri-County Reg
ional School Board in Yarmouth. The commitee was discussing the board’s community use policy. Board members said they too wanted to open up their school rooms and gymnasiums — often the only large public gathering spots in rural communities — but their school insurance policies won’t cover such “non-school” activities. That means the groups often have to ante up hundreds of dollars to buy additional insurance just to hold one meeting or event. And, worse from the school board’s point of view, they end up blaming the board for forcing them to purchase the insurance.

Responding to those concerns, the premier told the Yarmouth Vanguard he’s instructed his ministers of education and health promotion and protection to figure out ways to make the province’s schools more accessible.

If he’s really serious, says school board vice-chair Ron Hines, the solution is simple. ”If the province is so determined to provide these facilities to the community they should have liability insurance that would cover the whole thing across the province.”

Back to you, Rodney.

Come in, the water’s warm

No one around Isle Madame had seen such a creature before. It was a six-foot-long, 60-pound fish with “large silver scales and a large, round mouth” that recently washed up on shore in an estuary of a brook in nearby Port Royal.

So they called the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. DFO sent out an officer to examine the sea creature. He confirmed the fish was, in fact, a tarpon.

A tarpon? Sometimes called the “silver king” and prized by sports fishermen because they put up such a good fight, tarpon are usually only found in the tropical and sub-tropical waters around the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and the West Indies.

How did it end up in Isle Madame? Good question? Can you say global warming?

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.


Amherst Citizen, Cape Breton Post, New Glasgow News, Queens County Advertiser, Port Hawkesbury Reporter,, Yarmouth Vanguard.

Available May 13, 2008

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