Rees' Pieces

 

Rees' Pieces - Archives - 2009

 


December 2010 - An anti-incumbent electorate.

Be careful what you wish.

For years politicians and political parties have bemoaned the declining turnout of eligible voters at elections at all three levels. In some elections, more than 65% of eligible voters did not support the winning party.

In the recent NB election, David Alward’s Tories increased their share of the popular vote by less than 3%, but doubled the number of MLA’s chosen to form the next government. Anger against the Graham Liberals increased voter turn-out by around 4%. 30% still stayed away from the polls.

Everyone has been scratching their heads how to increase the number of voters willing to make a trek to the polls. Prompting, begging and urging voters has not worked in the past.

However, today’s politicians, federally and provincially may have stumbled onto a solution to the turn-out problem. It called “ticking off the voter” and they will flock to the polls to oust you and elect someone else. It’s not that the other party is favoured, it’s just they are rebelling against you.

Why are voters rebelling? It’s because they are “ticked-off” and will not rest until they get what they want. As a result it seems a greater number of voters are rallying against “the anti-incumbents”.

At the federal level proroguing parliament, not once, but twice awoke the docile giant. Once awake, anger started to trickle down to provincial and municipal levels. Politicians, at all levels, continue to run afoul of the voter every day.
The sleeping giant is getting more hostile everyday, yet those in power haven’t learned what they need to learn.

It’s open season on incumbents. Only those who listen to their constituents have any real hope of being somewhat accepted in a door-to-door campaign. That’s good, but there is also a downside.

A snake-oil salesman with lots of personal appeal can rise to the top simply by telling voters what they want to hear. The voters may have gotten what they wanted, but there is no assurance fulfilling their wishes will bring good government.

Those already elected need to turn 180 degrees from past actions. Voters want someone who will listen to them; be honest and forthcoming; take their positions seriously; work for the best overall benefit of everyone and consult, consult and consult again.
According to Peter Stoffer, he changed his vote based on 62% public opinion from over 3,000 constituents. Publicly, he showed he was listing to his constituents. Shawn Graham lost the premiership of New Brunswick for a variety of reasons, but paramount of all, was not constantly consulting and not being forthcoming.

Howard Epstein upset the applecart of NDP caucus and HRM proponents by releasing information the new convention centre will cost $160-million. Prematurely, releasing the information sent everyone into a tail-spin.
Public opinion opposing the construction of the convention centre is running rampant and it has become more focused on the design than the costs, although the burden on taxpayers is of major concern.

Certainly, Halifax needs $500-million investment, but finding a compromise solution to the satisfaction of taxpayers may not be possible.
Whether a slip of the tongue or intentional, Epstein, at least, let the voter know the situation before decisions became final.

If the entire project including the convention centre will be as successful as proponents believe, the project should proceed. For the politicians walking the fine line to make it more palatable is their task at hand.

Now that the taxpayers are upset, every decision is going to be dissected. The electorate is going to continue to demand better government and pragmatic spending of taxpayer dollars.

Even decisions like keeping up to 1,000 troops in Afghanistan for non-combat roles will keep the pot boiling. Regardless of the magnitude of the decision, taxpayers will place it under a microscope.

Politics has changed. “Anti-incumbent” feelings will trickle down to Colchester County. Starting today, if they have not already done it, MLA’s and councilors need to access how they are conducting themselves when representing area residents.

Politicians who take action to reduce “anti-incumbent” feelings will be worthy of re-election. Newbie’s take heed and make sure you can meet the electorate’s demand.


November 2010 - “BEALS” Buy & Employ All Local Services

The announcement that the hours of service at the Community Credit Union, Bass River branch will reduce from approximately 32 to 12 hours further illustrates the problem being faced outside the urban core.

As young people leave the homestead, more families move out west, and “real” country folk continue to age rural areas are facing a dilemma, which if not curtailed, will see the end of rural life as we have known it.

It’s not a new trend; in fact it’s been happening for the past 30 years. Take a drive along the shore from Onslow to Advocate Harbour and note where houses once stood and families lived and survived.

Yes, there are families still living there, and enjoying it immensely, but everything is different. Highland Village, once a vibrant community is not much more than a signpost on Highway # 2. When you get off the beaten track and go to an area like Londonderry, you’ll see the remains of a community which at one time was one of Nova Scotia’s most prosperous.

Without any stores, or commercial services, the area’s vibrancy revolves around what is now known as The Thirsty Church.

Many who grew up in the area are now seasonal residents returning in the summer to enjoy the beauty and to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors. We enjoy them while they are here, but more than doubling the population over a four month period does not make a year. Without that four month peak, many of the businesses would have closed years ago.

Now let’s look at today’s situation.

Each year smaller rural schools close and children travel longer and further on schools buses; rural churches close or amalgamate faster than we want to accept; delivery of government services via offices located in rural areas is rare, if it exists; healthcare is miles away, except for a local doctor’s office.

On the technology side, high speed internet is being completed across the province, although there are still hundreds of families who are not so fortunate; cable TV is rare, but with about $400.00 in upfront costs, satellite service is available; along Hwy #2, there are almost as many “non-reception” cellular areas, as there were potholes before the road was re-paved the last couple of years.

Thank heavens the major road surfaces in West Colchester have improved. If you are an early morning riser, starting shortly after 5:00 am, up until about 8:15 it’s like a caravan as people hustle to town to work in complete darkness. The situation repeats itself in late afternoon, until dark.

How do we energize ourselves and convince elected officials more attention needs to be devoted to improving the living and business climate in rural areas? It’s hard to convince “young potential farmers” to stay, when the chicken and pork industries are a shadow of what they were five years ago, beef farmers are the next victims. It’s hard to convince young families to move to rural areas, when they have to travel for shopping, organized recreation, employment opportunities, and medical and government appointments.

We know lottery terminals and smaller NSLC outlets are about the only government controlled services penetrating rural areas in the last decade. Is that because there is so much tax revenue to be gained?


Could an increase in “home offices” for the public service employees to deliver service locally help restructure our economy? New Brunswick is now accessing the construction quality of all schools build prior to 1980. There are plenty of school buildings in rural areas, which still have construction integrity.

One way to stop the erosion of rural areas is to decentralize government. Maybe each time a school is to be closed, governments, federal, provincial and municipal should be forced to relocate government offices to fill former schools.

Considering the foregoing, it’s no wonder the Community Credit Union branch in Bass River is reducing to 12 hours of service to the public.

Rural erosion needs to stop. The “Buy Local” initiative needs to be expanded to “BEALS” – Buy & Employ All Local Services”. I wonder which party or municipal officials will step forward to help.


October 2010 - Biomass and Long Gun Registry – Are you satisfied?

If it hasn’t been the long guy registry, its been NSP trying to sway public opinion to gain support for the $208-million biomass electrical generation project for Port Hawkesbury. These are only two of the multitude of reasons why private citizens are disgusted with the way elected officials have let things evolve. There are several others which will rise to the top before they are taken off the table.

It causes me to wonder what is best and which end is up. What we don’t know is who is really behind each of the initiatives.

Look at the long gun registry. It will soon be back on the table again, probably as a major topic during the next federal election. I’m not emotionally involved: don’t hunt, don’t own a gun; not against hunting; have many friends who are avid hunters. All I ask of them is to respect regulations, observe safety, common sense and show respect for other people’s property.

What is disturbing: indications from government “we’ll come get you” to elected MLA’s who changed their vote. Traces of a bully in the sandbox causing an uproar, when he doesn’t get his way.

Public opinion started to change when it was revealed the National Rifle Association (NFA) was involved, behind the scenes. Considering it to be true a large number of people had second thoughts because an American lobby group was trying to direct traffic in Canada.

At the time of the vote, I was in PEI and learned that in last couple of weeks, a survey concluded over 2/3 of women were in favour of retaining the registry. It appears they feel safer as it assists police dealing with family violence issues.

Yes, we’re sick and tired of hearing about long gun registry, but rest assured, it will be back on the front burner before long. Yes, the program needs changes. However, if a license is needed to drive a car, or to open a business, it seems reasonable to me guns should be registered, even if just at the time of purchase.

Everyone should formulate their own opinion. Then let your elected representative, whether municipal, provincial or federal, know where you stand on the matter.

Now onto Biomass. Possibly using thousands of tons of biomass to generate electricity is another subject dividing Nova Scotia residents. Those not divided are totally confused.

Here’s an observation…….. on the way back from PEI last week, I followed a tractor trailer which contained logs, much larger than I have seen on hundreds of similar vehicles within Nova Scotia. Who would think of PEI having forests to grow large trees? Mostly we think about Anne of Green Gables, potatoes and marvelous beaches with warm water.

A couple of months ago, personally, I was totally against approval to have $208-million invested to burn biomass to generate electricity. Mostly because of NSP stating failure to get approval would significantly increase power rates. That’s fear mongering. Trying to sway public opinion to make it easier for the URB and politicians to approve the partnership with New Page.

I’m still not in favour of the project, because it appears NSP wants control of the boiler, so it can sell biomass generated electricity to whoever, maybe even stateside, should New Page not survive its debt load.

After talking and listening to a number of forestry experts, I do feel there is room to use biomass for electrical generation. Jim Verboom told me over 50% of Nova Scotia forests rot on the stump. Laurie Ledwidge, Enfield, says clear cuts are essential and in his operation, they plant areas, which do not self-generate, then a decade later they do spacing to let trees grow larger faster.
The problem is we have not “farmed” our forests. Had we started 20+ years ago, we would have private woodlot owners with managed forests. Managed cutting and silviculture practices would create jobs providing the biomass needed, if one listens to Jim Verboom.

If biomass is to generate electricity, maybe Northern Pulp, Bowaters and some of the private sawmills, should be given the opportunity. That way biomass could be sourced locally spreading the benefits and jobs throughout the province.

All I can say is let your elected official know your feelings.


September 2010 - Realty Vs Perception

Since I was a little boy, growing up on a farm in Northwestern New Brunswick, I was always counseled that what you do becomes the perception of you.

Not all that is real is basic about reality, but perception, more often than not, takes over all other situations and, for the most part, becomes reality.

That’s the reason it is ever so important to send appropriate vibes, as they often result in the “perceptive reality” of the situation regardless of what one has been saying.

Let me give you a few examples:

A while ago I was speaking with a community-minded person, who since retirement from an important healthcare position was talking about being asked to go to a consultative session about changes to certain aspects within the healthcare and justice systems. They recounted about how many people gathered for a four or five hour session, during which invitees broke off into working groups to come up with possible solutions to the problem.

After a couple of hours discussing the subject matter, the facilitator asked for a member of each working group to present their summations. Each group was given 90 seconds to do so. My discussion colleague said at that point he got up and left.

PERCEPTION: Two perceptions occurred. The first being the consultative session was a matter of going through the exercise of appearing to be consultative. Secondly, regardless of how hard each group worked and regardless of the appropriateness of their summary presentation, the public servant facilitator just sent the message that regardless of what evolved from the day’s session, the department had already made up its mind and would not be taking any of the solutions into consideration.

Throughout the entire world of politics, we see instances when government is under pressure; it appoints a commission or an investigative panel. The perception is they are listening and want to find out the answers. The reality is they “caved in”. How do we know that? It’s because they did not empower the investigative body to bring forth recommendations, nor did they make it mandatory that such solutions would be implemented.

Which brings us to another Reality Vs Perception situation. The public believes government will do whatever is necessary to save its skin, and then perceives government is always on its own agenda and will do whatever it wants rather than following through on what the public wants. As a result, we are constantly attracting fewer and fewer people to the voting booths.

During the summer it’s difficult to find a “hot topic” to comment on, but this summer has been vastly different.

Every week, there seems to be a new topic, which people get passionate about. Each subject could take up more space that allotted for this column. So let’s look back to last winter and see what is still hovering around us.

MLA expenses. Although steps have been taken and the public felt it had won the battle, the matter slipped backwards earlier this summer, when MLA’s were permitted to increase their advertising budget. Yet another backward step and an increase in public cynicism. Now people are convinced government will do whatever it wants.

PERCEPTION: Ever since he was named in the MLA expense situation, Premier Darrell Dexter appears to be most timid. For a while, some people thought he would bounce back to his previous level of confidence. Not so, each time I notice him being interviewed, he casts his eyes away from looking directly into the camera; he seems to be picking his words and the tone of his voice portrays a feeling of nervousness. It appears as if he is not answering the questions to the full extent of his knowledge or ability.

As we move forward to the summer months, which normally is the time for MLA’s, MP’s and Senators to spend time in their constituency, attending local fairs, exhibition and BBQ’s. But this summer is vastly different. We have certain states south of the border taking steps to avoid products made from “oilsands crude”; then we have the debate over the “long census form”; statements made that Canada is not taking care of our Veterans and there is more.

PERCEPTION: The public thinks nationally and provincially, we have been poorly governed for a long time. REALITY: The public is correct.


August 2010

Summer BBQ Circuit
Traditionally, politicians spend most of their summer going to, participating in, or hosting BBQ’s to see most of the voters who elected them.

The BBQ circuit is important for politicians to gauge the electorate’s feelings to determine what it will take to make their re-election easier. However, this summer is different.

At the federal level Jack Layton is keeping a low profile sticking close to home to rest from or get treatment for prostate cancer. Iggy, commandeered an election style bus, is making a cross Canada trip to establish a closer linkage with voters to demonstrate he can relate to voters and is here to stay.

Harper was busy entertaining world leaders at the G-8 and G-20 summits, which stirred up Toronto residents with murmurings of dislike on the chain link fence, traffic detours, congestion and police activities. Canada-wide voters were flabbergasted at the mammoth $1+-Billion cost. Most felt too much money was spent considering, previous versions in other countries, the costs were in the range of 90% less, coming in at not much more than $100-million.

Provincially, the Dexter government is in defensive mode due to elimination of funding for the “CAT”, which broke the link of Yarmouth being the province’s gateway to New England; the MLA expense scandal, which affected all parties and hiking the HST from 13% to 15% when it promised “no tax increases” during their election campaign.

Stephen McNeil’s Liberals are trying to get their house in order to demonstrate they are suited to be the next government. The Tories, reeling from being removed from power, are focusing on choosing their next full time leader.

Even though it’s summer, the political mood is much different than previous years. The electorate is angry and ready to pounce on all elected officials. The UK has a new government and emergence of the Tea Party in USA demonstrates the depth of the electorate’s anger.

Federally, another temptest struck the tea-pot, when it was revealed the 2011 census would not include the long form, which was imposed upon 20% of the population.

Opposition party leaders instantly voiced their disapproval and the electorate had a “ho-hum” response. The matter gained traction with the resignation of Statistics Canada’s CEO. Voters took notice, because his resignation was opposite to the governments pronouncements Stats Canada was onboard.

The former Stats Canada CEO waded into the fray by voicing his objection saying reliable data could not be collected under the new regime and not one felony charge had been laid against any individual who refused to complete the “long form”.

Mark Carney, Bank of Canada Governor added to the furor with his less than enthusiastic response saying he would keep a close eye on developments and the provinces are up in arms.

Government officials defending the change are on the defensive. If body language is any indication, when reporters ask probing questions, there is an air of having something to hide as to the reasons why the changes are necessary.

One has to wonder. Was this brought into the public realm at this time, hoping everyone was interested in BBQ’ing and would not notice, or if the real reason was to deflect attention away from IGGY’s cross-Canada tour?

Provincially, dislike continues with growing opposition to changes in forestry practices; presumption the NDP government will permit approval 650,000 tonnes of biomass feedstock to generate electricity in Port Hawkesbury; NS Power indicating a 12% residential and 18% commercial increase for electricity; if government will support $140+-million for a new convention centre in Halifax; selection of a site for a new jail, when promises had been made to Springhill and Antigonish and let’s not forget Halifax has a dysfunctional council, a questionable school board and is going Nowhere fast.

PEI has just announced $17.5-million for a new convention centre to accommodate 3,000 people. Does that mean Halifax’s proposed $140-million centre will accommodate 24,000 convention goers? If the project is so viable, should government inform developers and proponents, if your study forecasting a tax bonanza of $170-million over 10 years is believable, build it and we will give you the bonanza annually for 10 years?

With all this on their plate, the electorate is fine tuning its sights to remove from power current unwanted representatives.

Does this mean it’s “open season” on all elected representatives? Voters will decide. Who will be left standing?


July 2010

Normally, I can pick one topic, upon which I feel comfortable expounding. However, recently it has not been easy to focus on just one subject, as there are several equally important related topics vying for attention.

When I started to dissect several topics, I discovered numerous common threads, which appeared in many, but not all. Within the last three generations we have made significant changes within ourselves, which account for much of what is happening today.

Here is a sampling of the most common hidden agenda converted into words or phrases: NIMBY (not in my back yard); unwillingness to sacrifice; no one seems to care; greed; thirst for power, financial chaos, wastefulness and a shrinking work ethic.

So let’s start on this journey to see where we as a society might be heading.

During the past 20-25 years NIMBY has become more prevalent. It might be opposition to locating a landfill site, a half-way house, an apartment building, or a railway transshipment facility. Regardless of what someone wants to do, there is opposition. Some of the opposition is founded, other times it is idealism and lifestyle related.

Think back to how our ancestors suffered and sacrificed. I wonder how in such a short span of time, we have turned 180 degrees with many unwilling to sacrifice or work hard. (We want everything today). The financial turmoil of 2008 turned everything upside down. High unemployment has meant less people paying taxes, hence governments received less money.

When it is necessary for government to tighten the belt, we’re all happy with that as long as it doesn’t impact us. Eliminate all highway construction, but still pave my road. Cut back on healthcare services, but I still want my Emergency Room open 24/7, even if no one uses it after midnight.

Greed has beset itself upon all of us, we want higher wages, cheaper products, and to work less for the same or more money. Politicians are not immune to greed either, as evidenced by recent scandals. The shame is even those who were not involved and spent taxpayers money wisely did not push to increase transparency and efficiency. In essence they are partially guilty for keeping quiet and not putting the taxpayers first.

The financial chaos of 2008-2009 has severely changed the future of many from the loss of career, or pension plan, savings evaporated and some lost housing. It has caused many to become less tolerant of those to waste or try to control without a conscience. Society is angry.
Convenience and wastefulness is taking its toll many ways. We would rather buy prepared frozen foods, rich in chemicals, lacking in taste and less nutritional value than enjoy home prepared diets. Add to this, the wastefulness of packaging, gasoline and time to run around to get the best deal. No wonder we are becoming an obese society.

If we planted a garden and exchanged a few baskets of fresh produce from our garden with the chicken farmer next door, would that make a difference? Sure it would, and we would not need to join a fitness club to stay in shape.

Unfortunately, a majority of the public feels those in power want more power and will do whatever is necessary to keep or increase their strangle hold. Hence the power brokers try to keep at bay – the auditor general and others who look at the appropriateness of systems and transparency.

To top it all off, many elected officials have lost touch with what built this country - the rural areas rich in farmland and natural resources. Not to mention the great leaders who lived in the extremities of the province.

Out-migration to urban areas has been a major problem for over three decades and has sucked the life out of rural Nova Scotia. Let’s not forget everything in life comes full-circle. 250 years ago most of Halifax was uninhabited woodland.

Recently politicians have focused on the urban core at the expense of rural areas. They need to be mindful of increased public discontent. The public wants answers and action.

The result of all this is: Like never before, the public is changing from being cynical to “dam the torpedoes, we want action now”. Those currently in government need to be concerned. Those elected the next time best make the right promises, keep them and deliver what the public demands. Times have changed. Rogue politicians are an endangered species.


June 2010 - It’s been hard to decide

This month, it’s been hard to decide what to include in this column. The variety of potential topics is long and varied. High on the list have been: MLA expense accounts; out migration from rural Nova Scotia; perception of having to hide something, because MP’s are blocking Sheila Fraser’s desire to open up the book on over $533-million spent by elected MP’s and staff.
Or, I could continue about a subsidy to trappers, or cast my opinion on Biosolids, which Tom Taggart said, would be the subject matter of his next column.

Yes, the potential list also included the dire state of the province’s tourism industry and lack of support to provide funding for student summer employment. On the bright side was the “Best of Colchester” initiative organized by the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce.
Instead of choosing one, I’ve decided to devote a sentence or two to each of the above. First I will deal with the positive.

Best of Colchester. A fantastic idea by the Truro Chamber permitting businesses and residents to feel good about the business sector in Colchester, which also includes Bible Hill, Truro and Stewiacke. It will be interesting when the people’s choices are announced at the awards ceremony on June 17th.

MLA Expenses. What an embarrassing situation. It was either deceit or stupidity that infected all parties. If deceit, all involved should not be above the law. If stupidity, this province is really in trouble, because a lack of judgment at that level causes voters to wonder how capable are those in power to lead this otherwise great province. The worry is the arrogant attitude has infected all parties. Let’s hope current leaders take a strong hand to rein-in all, including staff.
Out migration. The disappearance of young people from rural Nova Scotia to more urban areas continues at a rapid pace. Many can assume most political parties are abandoning rural areas. Might it be because there are more votes in urban centers?

Blocking Sheila Fraser. What a dumb move. Sure none of us like to be strip searched or to have a microscope planted on our private financial transactions. However, MP’s should remember it is our money, and they work for us. I’m not saying they did anything deceitful or used poor judgment spending our money, but blocking the efforts of the auditor general does nothing more than send the perception there is something to hide. I would have hoped each MP would have welcomed Fraser’s move. It will happen soon, the public will demand it before parliament ends for the summer recess.

Coyotes. I interpret this move as a subsidy to trappers. Now we have to wait until fall to donate $20 of taxpayers’ money. Within a week of MacDonell’s announcement, a coyote was seen on the main thoroughfare in Maitland, about 200 feet from my house.

Biosolids. I’m not experienced on the subject, but unless someone can demonstrate otherwise, I don’t want biosolids spread on agriculture land. Thank heavens; Atlantic Superstore has stated it will not buy produce grown on land that has been treated with Biosolids.

Tourism. If you talk to the operators, they are convinced this year will be another devastating year. Passports, the American economy and terrorism threats will not only keep the Americans away, but the high dollar will see a large number of Canadians spending vacations south of the border.

Student Employment. A large number of students will not earn the money they need to return to university or college this fall. Sure the economy is tough, but we need to invest in our youth. Maybe government should cancel future $42,000.00 press conferences.
It would be interesting to see the results if someone was able to provide a public opinion, website to gauge public opinion in Nova Scotia. I hear there is one in the works.

Even though, I don’t like to be negative, some of the above comments needed to be said. In closing on a positive note, go to the computer, log onto www.trurochamber.com and cast a vote for the 25 categories in the Truro Chamber’s “Best of Colchester” contest. If you feel so inclined, Vote for the Shoreline Journal. - Maurice


May 2010 - Pets, children, tourists or Coyotes?

Increases of coyote attacks on humans has captured a lot of attention recently and rural residents are concerned. Prominence started with the mauling death of Taylor Mitchell, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter by a pack of run-a-muck coyotes in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

To understand the problem, step outside at night. From you verandah you can hear coyotes calling the pack to a late night feast of recently killed wild game, farm animal or pet. So far only one human.

Coyotes have become more brazen and are often seen lurking around school property, or the shores of lakes in cottage country. To put it mildly, coyotes are everywhere.
The closest problem was in South Maitland. Susan Sinclair was taking a mid morning stroll along an abandoned railbed, which has become part of the walking trail system at the Fundy Tidal Interpretive Centre & Lookoff and the Visitor Information Centre at the end of the Gosse Bridge in South Maitland.

She was attacked by a coyote, which raced across a small pond up an embankment to grab her pants, leaving a large bruise on her thigh. Thankfully she was able to scare it off.
The site is important to the tourism sector. In 2009, the site recorded the second highest percentage increase in counseling tourists for all the Visitor Information Centres in Cumberland, Colchester and East Hants areas.

Natural Resources Minister John MacDonell has announced, starting this fall, a $20 bounty will be paid and trappers will be hired on an on-call basis for future incidents. Wildlife specialists within his department feel a bounty will not solve the problem.

One wildlife expert whom I spoke to says that the quickest solution will be to permit the carrying of centre bore rifles for the purpose of hunting coyotes. As of March 31st, only a shotgun can be transported in a vehicle. A shotgun is as effective in killing a coyote as a baseball bat.

Nova Scotia’s problem with coyotes dates back over 20 years During that time, the province has lost about 80% of its trappers and a similar proportion of big game hunters. The coyote population could be seriously exploited if MacDonell would make it easy to obtain a permit to carry a rifle at this time of year. April and May are the birthing season for coyotes. A pregnant female killed at this time is equilivant to killing 8-10 coyotes at another time of year.

Trapping will remove about 2,000-2,500 animals per year. What isn’t stated about trapping is the number of pets who fall victim to the traps or snairs. Abandoned railways beds are a super highway for coyotes. They can travel long distances with ease as its also used by deer, rabbits and other prey.

If MacDonell was real serious about reducing coyote attacks on pets or humans, he would have encouraged 2009 long gun hunters to become involved. Readily simple to implement: Call a toll free number, provide hunting license number, rifle model, serial number and the area to be hunted. A confirmation number could be provided on the phone and the permit sent in the mail that day. Simple, easy and done within five minutes.

One wanna-be coyote hunter, I spoke to said he could easily hunt and kill about 100 coyotes a year. If we had 500-1000 long gun hunters involved, we’d drive the coyotes back from heavier populated areas.

We have about three weeks to get an upper hand on the problem, before females give birth. In Nova Scotia coyote litters range from 8-15 pups. If we can take out 1,000 females before mid-May, it’s the same as trapping 8,000-10,000.

The government is dealing with a “hot potato”. I hope members sleep comfortably. Essentially, their options are pets, children, tourists or coyotes.

If you agree stronger action must be taken, I suggest you contact your local MLA, and the district office of Department of Natural Resources.

If you do nothing the next incident could involve a family member, pet or livestock. If you wish, send me a letter or email and I will ensure your opinion is delivered to the appropriate people.
Emails can be sent to: maurice@theshorelinejournal.com 


April 2010 - It’s Harder to Trust.

This is going to be one of the most difficult columns to write since they started appearing 25 years ago. After 46 years in the publishing sector in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, for the first time in my life, I am near the breaking point in losing trust in a group of people so important to our well-being – MLA’s in particular.

Late in 2009, I began developing a list of topics for this space, which would highlight the needs and desires of living in small communities.

It began with realizing the NDP government seemed to be favouring Metro Halifax at the expense of rural Nova Scotia. Not long after I started the outline, other writers and columnists in the dailies and on television were expressing the same thoughts.

January focused on Community Spirit using the initiative of Amanda Langille and associates who promoted “The Thirsty Church” in a nation-wide contest for renovation and development funding through the AVIVA Community Fund.

February’s theme focused on difficulties for volunteers in “It’s the times we’re facing”. Here’s an excerpt from February’s column………. “There is a major difference between worrying the cupboard might be bare and realizing there’s not even a crumb to be had. That’s the position I suggest we are in. Budgets - personal, business and government have been stretched so far, elastic is all but not existent”.

March’s issue, written in early February, moved on to my version of how “Moving towards Sustainability” would be helpful to volunteers achieve goals for their community, whether maintaining a segment / icon of local heritage, or adapting with the times to keep the community vibrant and of interest to those with young families.

This issue outlined how community groups, church organizations, or a citizens group working to better their community should think outside the box, take charge, and convince themselves the community can and should own it’s own destiny.

To succeed community development is based on consultation, visionary planning and sustainability to get “buy-in” from the business community combined with networking with elected officials at three levels of government.

However, proposed subjects for this space got derailed.

First it was the high-handed decision by Prime Minister Harper to shut down parliament until early March, eliminating progress made on legislation on its way to passage through parliament and Senate. Then, closer to home it was the constant amateur decisions being made by a newly elected government, who seemed to be favouring metropolitan areas over rural Nova Scotia.
Provincially, we were promised and elected an NDP government on the strength they would do things better with increased transparency. Since Robert Chisholm almost became premier in 1999, we were slowly convinced they would govern differently.

The NDP were positioned as “squeaky clean” and would change the face of government by bringing it back to the people. Chisholm lost the election because he failed to “come clean” on a driving infraction.

In early February, Auditor General LaPointe released a report, which revealed many MLA’s spent money on things which the electorate found hard to accept. The report didn’t say so, but many voters perceived some MLA’s had been lining their own pockets.

Here’s a capsule of the the outcome to date: Nova Scotians are not seeing the level of change promised or expected; Premier Dexter’s brand has been severely tarnished and Karen Casey, who was not on the auditor general’s list, abandoned a run for the leadership. Karen was thrown under the bus, because it was perceived she did not “rein-in” or defended Richard Hurlburt, in the days, before his resignation as a sitting MLA. The abrupt unexplained resignation of Dave Wilson, MLA, Glace Bay will certainly provide scars on the career of Liberal leader, Stephen McNeil.

The reputation of all MLA’s is now suspect. The electorate is hopping mad, and will eventually make a decision on how they want to be represented.

Here’s one piece of advice for all party leaders: As a leader you must decide whom to serve. Defending one person can take you down, while looking out for 1000’s upon thousands of electors will propel you forward.


March 2010 - Working for Sustainability

In last month’s column, I focused on the problem community groups encounter with approximately $3.60 per hour wage differential between the amount community groups must pay summer students and the provincial government rebate.

I don’t need to explain how hard volunteers work to keep community driven initiatives alive. No matter how hard they work every year more obstacles are put in their way.

Personally, I know how it feels. Groups with which I’m involved are facing the same obstacles: college student wage rebate shortages; liability insurance premiums approaching $3,000.00 and the list gets even longer.

I’ve come to the conclusion unless government makes some drastic changes, community groups involved with the smaller projects will burn themselves out, trying to overcome obstacles dispatched from government.

Volunteer “burn-out” is a problem. Not because volunteers are expected to do so much, but because those not volunteering see what is happening and decline the opportunity to help better their community. As a result those few dedicated volunteers have to do more to keep the initiative on life-support.

All of this is because volunteer groups are dependent on annual renewal of grants to employ students; pay for the liability insurance, or a new roof on the hall. They would be much better served with a multi-year contract to deliver a service to the community.

If governments, municipal or provincial, are serious about wanting to ensure rural Nova Scotia thrives, they need to immediately level the playing field with a new approach. Granted times are touch and money is at a premium. However, this can be done without increasing annual expenditures.

When the community groups thrive, they can be rewarded with more money depending upon their success. We won’t stop on this analogy now. Hang on, there’s lots more.
With multi-year financial assistance to take care of the essentials, community groups are in position to proceed to even greater greatness.

A vibrant, but overworked community group with a great project should consider weaning themselves off government funding, by developing a plan to become self-sustainable within five years.

They need to start or purchase a business.

To succeed the business should be unrelated to the core community project and not be in direct competition to existing local services. Don’t start a convenience store, if there is already one. If the business is the only one of its type in the community, there aren’t many competitive feathers to ruffle.

Let’s look at rural Nova Scotia. Many are family business facing the problem the next generation is not interested, or have relocated to another area.

As a result, the multi-generation family business is in danger of closing. A community group can salvage the community icon, rejuvenate it and use profits to support community projects.
Broad-based community support gives it a better chance of thriving. Run successfully the business generates profits which are earmarked for the “core” community project which started the whole process.

However, there are danger areas, which need to be solved before they happen: A volunteer board of directors manages the business; staff delivers the services and residents need to support the business. Those same residents, who probably are shareholders must leave the day-to-day business activity to the staff, who report to the board of directors. If they don’t like what is happening complaints go to a shareholders meeting.

The biggest challenge is not raising the money, but rather getting community group volunteers to believe their group should be instrumental in having a profit oriented business associated with their group.

There are plenty of financial instruments to accomplish all of this. The Nova Scotia Co-operative Council with offices in Truro is a good place to start. They can explain a number of options and suggest operating and financing opportunities.

Investors can invest up to $50,000.00 per year and receive $17,500.00 credit on their income tax through the Equity Tax Credit Program.

Converting an overworked volunteer group, operating a interpretive centre or craft shop, to a sustainable community entity is needed to deliver services and survive beyond the next five years.

If you need some thoughts for your group, contact me.
Maurice


February 2010 - The Times We’re Facing

If we go back 24 months, who would have thought the economy would have tanked in late 2008? Would you have convinced yourself the Progressive Conservatives would be replaced with a strong majority for Darrel Dexter’s NDP? In the wildest of imaginations could you envision Obama’s approval rating would have sunk so low so quickly?

It hard to imagine that less than a month ago it would be warmer in Newfoundland than it was in central Florida? There are numerous other subjects we could question or debate.

I haven’t found the answers, so I chalk it up to ‘It’s the Times We’re Facing’.

With all the banking troubles south of the border, this time last year, we were nervous about how Canadian Banks would fare. Canadians were losing their jobs as the auto industry got refinanced. Many worried if they would be next to the EI office. We weathered the storm even though it was difficult.

It’s the immediate future which I find troubling.

There is a major difference between worrying the cupboard might be bare and realizing there’s not even a crumb to be had.
That’s the position I suggest we are in.

Budgets - personal, business and government have been stretched so far, elastic is all but not existent.

Even when government says the most is 1%, the strength or strangle-hold held by unionized workers, outside the Capital Region, permitted them to continue getting wage parity with colleagues in Halifax area.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting parity should have been lost.
However, I am saying, ‘What is fair is fair’. If 2.9% was there six months ago, it had to be there for the same colleagues in more rural areas.

Labour unrest will be in the headlines for months to come. NSGEU will be bargaining on behalf of its members. The line is drawn in the sand.
It will be interesting to see who blinks first.
According to economists and the Bank of Canada, the recession is over.
The economy is rebounding. Those at the economic bottom of the scale are still wondering what is next, and when will they see an improved economy.

Now that I’ve set the stage, here’s where I see troublesome areas of a province and its citizens going through all the hoops to rebuild the economy.

The announcements for more stimulus project funding will soon cease.
Money to complete the projects will be spent, but the tap has been turned off. The next move is up to the private sector.
But that is not all. The worst is yet to come and come it will this summer.

Community groups rely on governments to approve funding for Summer Student positions. Colleague students working at tourist bureaus, museums get life support employment courtesy of government funding to the local community group.

For the past 15 years, I’ve been involved in numerous groups who applied for and received summer student funding. Deadline for application is January 29th. That is not the problem.

The caveat is the following wording: ‘Applications will be accepted for positions paying a minimum of $10.50 per hour plus 4% vacation pay and employer costs’.

I don’t have a problem paying students $10.50 per hour.
The problem exists in that the program wage reimbursement is $8.50 per hour. Local volunteers must find the other $2.00 per hour, plus approximately $1.60 in payroll overheads.

The estimated increase in wage costs for 4 summer students for 8 weeks is approximately $3,200.00. In order open a tourist bureau, the 12 volunteer members will have to fund raise the funds. $3,200.00 is a lot of bake sales or 50-50 draws.

According to my sources most summer student funding is directed to employment in rural or semi-rural areas. With the tap turned off on the stimulus projects to larger municipalities is there a move afoot to penalize rural areas even more? Does the Department of Tourism not want to see tourism thrive in rural areas?

How much harder do volunteers have to work to keep a community initiative moving along? No point in complaining, ‘It’s the Times, We’re Facing, but we will eventually have our say.


January 2010 - Community Spirit

History has repeated itself in Londonderry. In 1949 a group of local women, known locally as the “Cheerful Stitchers” completed a two year drive to raise money to build a church. In the fall of 2009, many descendents, friends and former residents of the “Cheerful Stitchers” community ended a two month drive by ensuring the community’s church finished in the Top 25 of the AVIA Insurance Community Fund initiative to receive funding to rejuvenate the church into a much needed community centre.

As Maritimers, we always have a strong sense of community spirit and it always seems to come forth in abundance at Christmas time. We’ve got a global reputation of being the most generous of all Canadians not only of our time, but also forking over money for causes for those less fortunate than ourselves.

However, there is one recent initiative which best demonstrates what people have been saying all along. The Thirsty Church initiative from Londonderry Station is the best example in recent history.

On October 21st, Amanda Langille, and a small group of supporters entered the Londonderry Station Community Church in a national competition organized by AVIA Insurance. For the next six weeks this project put many lives on hold, as the Thirsty Church started to capture national attention.

AVIA Insurance set aside $500,000.00 to be awarded by a panel of judges to community based projects which at the end of public on-line voting succeeded as being the Top 25. The Thirsty Church entry was covered in the Shoreline as the headline story in the December issue. The initial phase of the competition was to reduce hundreds of entries down to 63 for the semi-final round which would accept online voting for a two week period until voting ended at midnight on the night of December 16th.

To the amazement of many, the Thirsty Church gradually gained momentum, and towards the end appeared to be the entire focus of life. When voting ended Thirsty Church did what it needed to do, finishing in the 25th position with 19,030 votes. Not bad for a community of 100 people. Organizers and supporters must now wait until a panel of judges decisions are announced on January 25th.

The Thirsty Church dream is to dig a well, install running water, a wheelchair ramp, and finish the basement complete with modern kitchen facilities in building which was constructed 60 years ago.

Initially, the church was constructed as the result of community spirit of local women who organized, “Cheerful Stitchers” who with their own hands produced enough handcrafts to raise the money to buy the lumber to build a church.

Many of those, who maneuvered the recent initiative into the Top 25, were immediate family descendents of the original creators. Others were former residents of the area, or those who have roots in the immediate area.

In an online comments section of the Thirsty Church entry a total of 1138 comments were posted not only to support the drive, but also to reconnect. To update the church with running water, washrooms, wheelchair ramp and a modern kitchen is estimated to be in the range of $100,000.00.

The “Thirsty Church” project demonstrates what can happen the entire community comes together. It is not anticipated the AVIA fund would pay for the entire repairs, but the momentum created by the contest could be perceived as being the catalyst ensuring the repairs will be completed.

Governments and other organizations can take a lesson or two from the Londonderrians, who have amassed a lot of publicity for the province and particularly West Colchester. It just shows what happens when communities are engaged.

Amanda Langille should receive special recognition for conceiving the idea and seeing it through to an exhausting end. Her dedicated volunteers come a close second. However, it is important to mention three public officials who stepped up to the batters box when needed: Karen Casey, MLA; Tom Taggart, councilor, and Colchester Mayor Bob Taylor. These three strategically made moves, which helped push the project into the Top 25.

Congratulations to all Thirsty Church supporters, who await the January 25th decision from the judges.


 

Maurice & Dorothy Rees, Publishers
The Shoreline Journal
Box 41, Bass River, NS B0M 1B0
PH: 902-647-2968; Cell: 902-890-9850
E-mail: maurice@theshorelinejournal.com