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December 2013 - Let’s pay citizens to bring us jobs

Headlines and the flavour of the day regarding political subjects keep changing almost as much as Nova Scotia weather. Just when you think you’re heard everything there’s another angle to the senate scandal. If just doesn’t go away. Without a doubt by the end of December it will be chosen as the top political story of 2013.

Instead of hearing more about the economy, jobs and the "deal-in-the-works" with the European Union, Toronto surfaces on the front pages around the world and the introduction to many USA late night comedy shows with the Rob Ford circus. No wonder they want him resign, be totally out of sight, or at a minimum have less profile.

But there is an interesting side bar to the Rob Ford story. His approval rating increased after revelations about his personal life surfaced. Pollsters and media sources in Toronto say the Rob and Doug and their followers in Ford Nation are still a strong political force. One report and I’m not sure if on CBC or CTV stated Ford Nation playing a key role in the election of many Conservative MP’s in the Toronto area resulting in a majority for Harper.

The wheels of politics just keep turning and churning. Who knows where the chips may finally fall with regard to the Senate or Rob Ford and Ford Nation. 2014 is the year for Toronto mayoralty elections with 2016 anticipated for the next Federal trek to the polls.

However, there is a breath of fresh air. Received an email from Karen Casey entitled, "Changes are coming". Thinking she was delivering breaking political news on the provincial front, my enthusiasm sagged, when she was informing us that in latter part of 2014, we’ll all have to include the area code 902 when we are calling the other end of the province, or our neighbour across the street. For details on the new area code being planned, see her column on Page 5.

However, there is exciting news on the provincial front. The Maritime Link is not being given the "full steam ahead" by Andrew Younger and his fellow Liberals. They have suggested to the URB hearings some specific wording they need in the agreement before it will receive provincial approval.

Within a couple of months, The Ivany Commission is supposed to table its report on redeveloping the rural economy. Supposedly, this report is supposed to lay the groundwork for massive reconfiguration of rural economy. The report cannot bring the required changes by itself.

The only way the rural economy will improve is by a systemic change at all government levels, and most importantly by the people living in rural areas. Instead of complaining how bad things are in rural Nova Scotia, rural residents must take charge of their own destiny. This can be done by forming small committee of themselves, and explore where and how rural jobs can be created.

Almost every family has descendents who have moved away and become successful. After some sound planning at the local level, why not tap into these successful descendents from afar and see if they can use their contacts to bring jobs to Nova Scotia. If there was "hope at home" maybe some of these people will move back and create some jobs in their own community.

In a story on the front page the Municipality just increased the low income tax exemption to approximately $240.00 for a two person family. Might it make sense for the municipality to give similar awards to those who are instrumental in bringing new jobs to rural areas in West Colchester?

Maybe municipal council might pay a bounty on new jobs. What better way to immediately assist our rural residents if they could receive, let’s say, $100.00 for each new job they brought to the area. Similarly, there must be a meeting of the minds, sound planning and strong cooperative effort by the province, municipality and all the organizations within the First Nations to get the Debert Interpretive Centre under construction. Once consultant’s study suggest the Centre would attract upwards of 80,000 people each year to Debert.

Why are we waiting?  The answers rest with Premier Stephen McNeil, Mayor Bob Taylor and Millbrook Chief Gerald Gloade.

 


 

November 2013

There are so many topics which would make a great column and I’m not sure where to start. I’ve decided to provide a few words on each of them:

Students participating in the provincial election: It’s almost unbelievable the accuracy of 22,032 students who participated in a voting process within the schools, just prior to the provincial election. They predicted the Liberal win and Dexter’s loss. (See detailed story and graphs elsewhere in this issue.

Non-sensitivity toward Homeless People: Berwick residents are mourning the torching of a bus shelter which took the life of a 62 year old homeless person. Most of those who are homeless are suffering from a cause, which has resulted in being homeless. We need to learn how to recognize and react to those suffering various forms of mental illness. Instead of thinking of them as "homeless", we need to treat them as a human being without a home. Reach out and try to help them.

Spending Scandal involving Senators: It was last winter when we learned some senators may have abused their office, and inappropriately spent taxpayer’s money for benefit. Recently, we were amazed how one person could almost single-handedly bring the USA government to its knees. Now we are watching the best Canadian produced drama in decades: three senators retaliate "full bore" to save their jobs.

I’m not saying they should not be punished appropriately, but dismissing them outright, simply sweeps any ills under the carpet. Due legal process would follow constitutional the law. That way the taxpayer knows the full extent of what is happening in Ottawa; who is pushing the buttons or allowing the buttons to be pushed. Processing their punishment without due diligence and recognizing the basics upon which Canada was founded may simply mean the powerful don’t want us to know all, and don’t want to assure us all levels of elected and chosen people will spend our money as if it was their own.

Fracking opposition and demonstrations: A recent event on what happened to opponents of fracking exploration in New Brunswick is a black eye on all Canadians. Violence and illegal activities should never be tolerated. If there were arms and ammunition in the encampment, there must have been a better and easier way to seize them. As the opposition spun out of control, it became clear elected officials in that province are not listening to the electorate.

Trust and Co-operation: With the RDA’s are being dismantled and a new form of Economic Development evolves, municipalities within Colchester have their work cut out for them. If participation in a larger body involving Cumberland, a portion of Pictou, East Hants and a part of Halifax County is not to Colchester’s liking, then leaders of Stewiacke, Truro, Millbrook and County of Colchester must start meeting to increase the level of co-operation and trust amongst themselves. Once they can agree of what it best for the area, then the movement spreads outward to include members of council and staff.

The act of listening permits me to move on to something unusual which happened in the most recent provincial election.

If you followed the election campaign closely you noticed negative advertising; putting the other person or party down and promises to win votes.

Many things contributed to the Dexter-led NDP being turfed out of office after one term, which is unusual in Nova Scotia politics. Dexter’s own style was a major contributor to losing his own seat. His initial reaction to MLA expenses fiasco and the fact he had charged his own barrister fees to the taxpayer probably was a major contributor.

Stephen McNeil’s frequent use of the word "trust" was one thing which captured the attention of the undecided and contributed significantly to his forming the government. The one word, "trust" by itself was strong but was made much stronger when it was backed up by something unusual in Nova Scotia politics.

He kept his mouth shut. Instead of talking he appeared to be listening. One thing voters have harped about for years is politicians don’t listen. They’d rather talk than listen. Stephen appeared to be listening and he won.

Whether listening was Stephen’s actual trait, or an election ploy, time will tell.


October 2013

A real true workable plan to regenerate growth in rural Nova Scotia will not happen during this election campaign. Sure we’ll hear a bit of lip service, but nothing of significance which will produce the results all of us in rural Nova Scotia need or expect.

The gradual division of Nova Scotia into two separate economies – HRM and the rest of Nova Scotia over the past 30 years, has only been garnering attention in the media. Sure there has been lip service to the plight of rural Nova Scotia really hasn’t got much traction in the current election campaign and probably won’t.

For years Halifax has been referred to as the "capital" of Atlantic Canada, for a variety of reasons, size being one and the other it had most of the regional offices, particularly in the financial sector.

What most people don’t realize is sure Halifax has an economy performing much better than the rest of the province, but it’s not the real true economic engine. Its economic success if the result of governments spending taxpayer’s money……… universities, lots of federal government office, oodles of provincial departments, agencies and thousands of staff, and the military. Add that Canadian Coastguard, BIO, and medical treatment and research.

Most all I’ve mentioned is government money. Taxpayer money. In fact taxpayers from every nook and cranny across this "could be" great province are paying to have Halifax prosper. Government expenditures are not "economic engines". Traditionally, throughout all of Canada, and even so in Nova Scotia, the economy has been driven by mining, agriculture, forestry, fishing, tourism and their related support networks. It’s those five key components by our forefathers, which made Nova Scotia prosper. Lunenburg and Yarmouth prospered because of fishing. Liverpool was made possible by the Bowater mill; Springhill gained it prominence because of mining, but started to collapse 50 years ago following the big bump. Sydney had the steel plant. I could go on with a long list of how our natural resources fuelled the economic engine.

Recently the inputs from rural areas have diminished: the forestry sector has taken much more than it contributed…..Bowater and the mill in Port Hawkesbury gobbles mega-millions; Yarmouth is a long way down, since the ferry was cancelled. That decision had provincial implications, because tourists failed to drive around in such great numbers. I could go on and on illustrating where rural areas in decay and could probably go back to pin point a reason why the decay started.

If the shipbuilding contract is going to be so beneficial to the provincial economy, a way must be found to provide the same level of support for rural Nova Scotia, if Nova Scotia is going to have a strong economy from Yarmouth to Sydney.

Unfortunately, rural Nova Scotia is suffering even during this election campaign. As we have been for the past 30+ years, we in rural Nova Scotia are getting shafted. It was our areas who built this province, but alas we are among the forgotten.

We are suffering because HRM or Metro, as we often call it, is the deciding point on who forms the next government. During the past 20 years, from a much smaller base, it has become the strength of the NDP and was responsible for their gigantic win in 2009.

The government has certainly lived up to taking care of its own, buy pumping mega-millions into the area which has over 45% of the provinces population and a rather robust economy. Not so in the remainder of "New Scotland". As Halifax has grown, the rest of the province has been receding.

From a political standpoint, neither the Liberals nor Progressive Conservatives are able to put the planks in the platform to rebuild Nova Scotia, because if they did, they’d lose all hope of gaining seats in Metro. The current NDP government, if it survives the electorate, will not be able to rebuild rural areas with investments of the magnitude it has provided metro, because it would be in danger of losing it city base.

When all of rural Nova Scotia is history, will Halifax be able to cause the provincial economy to boom? Never.

We in rural areas will get our turn and save the province, but it’s difficult to say if it will happen over the next four years.

Please vote on October 8th. You do have a say.

 


September 2013 - Spending money, promises and an election

Everything is a buzz with an election expected to be called any day. Some had projected two weeks ago, then this last week, and others are saying sometime this week (August 26-31). The feeling is widespread that the government wanted to wait until students are back in school, because it would be difficult to garner the attention of those who were busy with all the back to school shopping, plus squeezing in the last few days of holidays.

They also wanted college students to be back somewhat settled, back on campus, and life into a more formalized manner as we prepare for the fall. The most recent speculation is the election will be held on Tuesday, October 1st.

Unless another shoe drops, it’s likely we will be going to the polls this fall, but some of the political columnists out of Halifax have a different view. Some have been giving some space to the fact there is a lot of discontent within the party about Dexter and he is so much of a liability, there might be a move to oust him, have a quick leadership campaign then go to the polls in the spring of 2014.

To me that is highly unlikely at this point in time, but if the level of dissent is high enough that it reached the rumour stage, the possibility of choosing a new leader might have more credibility if it was this time last year.

Bill Black, who ran for the Tory leadership in the last leader selection process has pointed out "It is a remarkable comment on the depth of the government bench that none of the MLA’s who are seeking re-election was trusted in either of (Steele’s latest) roles. He was referring to Steele taking over from Percy Paris, and then pinch hitting for Maureen MacDonald now that she is ill with the shingles.

Many wonder why most of the prominent NDP MLA’s have been almost invisible. For the second year in a row the Minister of Agriculture did not attend the opening ceremonies of the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition. I was at the exhibition all of last week, and there is not a lot of affection in the agriculture sector for the minister, nor his government.

They point to the small amount of dollars given to help agriculture, less than $1-million, when they have been doling out mega-millions of dollars to large companies. And the government is spending approximately $400,000.00 in interest forgiveness to loan $5-million to build another golf course in Cape Breton, then on the westward side of us, they hand over $260-million to Irving Shipyard. The one commitment of funds which is sorely needed and should have been done years ago is for the Yarmouth ferry.

The loss of the Yarmouth ferry a few years ago, has had a negative impact on the entire province. All tourism operators have been feeling the pinch. Many of those operators are an hour or so outside the HRM circle. Having them upset with you, is not a good thing. Add to that the way rural Nova Scotia has been neglected, and its bound to be an uphill battle, although metro-HRM has a lot of MLA’s. If you split most of the seats outside HRM in a 50-50 or 60-40 ratio between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives, NDP can almost pick up enough seats to form a minority government.

If either the Liberals or PC’s were almost wiped of the map, the winner could form a government without making inroads in HRM, which recently has been an NDP stronghold. The only other way either the Liberals of the PC’s are going to form a government, is they must make inroads into metro.

As Stats Canada, CMHC and other leading economists have pointed out Nova Scotia is two things a booming HRM, and the rest of Nova Scotia which is in decay.

If either the Liberals or PC’s can gain the further attention of rural Nova Scotia to add to their election platforms of pinning Dexter and the government to high power rates, they will gain the traction required. The Liberal languished in the polls until starting to gain traction over a year ago by connection Dexter’s NDP government to high electricity costs.

It will be interesting.


August 2013 - Where to start and what to write about?

There are so many topics, which need a few words, it’s hard to decide. When a topic comes to mind, I make a note. When it’s time to start writing, I review the list.

This month I could have chosen: Possible closure of Truro Raceway; NSURB conditional approval of the Maritime Link; parking woes at the new civic centre; pipeline to the east so Atlantic Canada has access to cheaper Alberta oil; how to re-build Nova Scotia as a tourism icon; has the provincial government abandoned rural Nova Scotia and how can we raise capital so Nova Scotians are investing in Nova Scotia.

I’m just getting into some research on a paper developed by a medical expert in the UK, who has demonstrated there is a link between chlorine and obesity. It may take me a while as it’s a complicated subject.

Now back to this month’s topic(s).

The URB’s decision did not confirm the Maritime Link is the best option and the least expensive source of electricity. It’s common sense if additional lower priced electricity is required to provide an acceptable blended cost, there is no rational to conclude the Maritime Link by itself provides the lowest price.

Here are two parts taken directly from the URB’s Summary of Board Findings:

  • Sect 9.0 (452):Taking into account all of the evidence, the Board finds, on the balance of probabilities, that the ML Project (with the Market-priced Energy factored in) represents the lowest long-term cost alternative for electricity for ratepayers in Nova Scotia. In the absence of Market-priced Energy, the ML Project is not the lowest long-term cost alternative.

  • Sect 9.0 (457): The Board concludes that the availability of Market-priced Energy is crucial to the viability of the ML Project proposal as against the other alternatives. More importantly, the Board finds that without some enforceable covenant about the availability of the Market-priced Energy, the ML Project does not represent the lowest long-term cost alternative for electricity for ratepayers in Nova Scotia.

When these findings are taken into consideration, statements from Premier Dexter and Charlie Parker hailing the board’s ruling as proving the Maritime Link is the best and least expensive, it proves how far from reality the government seems to be.

The rural economy has been eroding for decades. We can’t lay all the blame on the province’s first NDP government. However, we can blame them for accelerated decay for handing over $600+ million to a few companies, which have not produced an economic revival.

If this money would have been an investment, Nova Scotia taxpayers would have equity in the companies; or there would have been repayment stipulations without options for "forgiveness". Conversely, if these mega-dollars had delivered jobs to rural Nova Scotia, we might not have much to complain about.

My views are confirmed by Glen Hodgson, senior vice president and chief economist with the Conference Board of Canada, who recently stated Nova Scotia has two economies. He described Halifax as "humming along", and will show about 2% growth for the next five years.

When referring to the rest of the province he said, "Nova Scotia, if you take Halifax our, is not healthy". It’s a shame when it takes someone from Upper Canada to illustrate the points Nova Scotians have been saying for years.

Another failure of the NDP government is they’re stifling rural growth by putting local economic stimulation into fewer economic groups, by eliminating the RDA’s and going with 6 groups each covering larger geographical areas, which removes the "local" synergy and gives more control for decision making in Halifax.

We need to change the mindset across the province. Government, business, community groups and citizens in general must come together. If these groups "get their act together", we would see trade barriers eliminated, easier movement of goods, and a rebirth in the quality and viability of rural life.

The Truro Racetrack is a good example. It has major problems and may close. However, with local synergy, a good business plan and "buy-in" from all levels the site could be a boom to the areas bounded by Amherst, Port Hawkesbury and the corridor towards Halifax.


 

July 2013 - Provincial Economy in Rough Shape

It’s difficult to say, and I don’t want to be negative, but Nova Scotia’s economy, outside of HRM, is in rough shape. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned for rural Nova Scotia, with a few appearing for Halifax.

The first cloud appeared recently, when it was announced the province’s last oil refinery is closing, just as it appears pipelines might be reversed shipping Alberta crude or bitumen east to the Maritimes, within the next few years. Sure Halifax has the shipyards, but it’s my bet, the long term contract will not be as much of an economic stimulator as originally believed.

Halifax has been developing a reputation as the desired location for many call centres in the financial and insurance market. The jobs are providing employment, but they are not bricks and mortar. If global economic changes rained down upon us, it would be easy for these same firms to pick up and move elsewhere.

Provincially, too much money has been given to too few companies. On several occasions, I’ve voiced my opinion in this column, instead of providing a lot to a few, the provincial government should have been focused on providing the appropriate climate for rural and small town regions to prosper.

Recently, the real discouraging news concerns the tourism industry. The weather has not been conducive to travel, whether local or from afar. We can’t control the weather, but we can ensure infrastructure is open to serve the tourists when they do arrive and that’s not happening.

CBC radio carried a story about a yacht crew wanting to tie up at the moorings in St Peter’s prior to entering the Bra d’Or lakes. It was impossible. The facility was only open certain days.The sailing party would have to wait a few days.

Secondly, I was informed the centre in Grande Pre is not open every day. The facility has been closed on Sundays and Mondays. How ironic. Sunday is one of the most family travelled days of the weekend.

With all the cuts to Parks Canada, travel and visiting privileges have certainly been curtailed. For instance, Kejimkujik National Park, is closed from Oct 16 to May 15. I thought we were trying to increase tourism as a year round adventure in Canada’s Ocean Playground? Years ago, I remember camping in Keji in April. Do the people who make closure or funding decisions not realize there are thousands of people, who enjoy the outdoors and like year round adventure?

The two previous examples reflect how the federal government has impacted our viability, not to mention other cuts to military, economic development and Employment Insurance eligibility. Provincially, the situation is even worse.

When did you last hear about a major program announcement which would have a positive impact on rural and small town areas. The RDA’s are being disbanded in favour of trying to organize half the number of organizations with less money serving much larger geographical areas.

When is the last time you hear about a small town or rural business being permitted into the circle of firms, who are able to get payroll debates? Funding to volunteer tourism organizations has been reduced to the point they are only able to open a few hours week. Volunteers now have to do more fund raising to hire summer staff, in addition to the dollars they need for building and property maintenance.

Why hasn’t the provincial government taken some of the mega-millions they gave to a handful of companies and implemented a funding enriched program to work with local community groups to save the lighthouses in the province now being abandoned by Ottawa? A program of that nature would create a global tourism destination and preserve or create many more jobs than the handful of companies receiving around $600-million would ever generate.

Closing smaller rural schools, neglecting to provide high speed communications systems or province wide cellular reception and lack of good highway surfaces are not helping rural areas.

About the only message rural Nova Scotia is receiving from the bureaucracy in Halifax is, come live in Halifax, or Go West. Will we ever get a provincial government which will focus on preserving and re-developing rural Nova Scotia?

 


June 2013 Locally, they are professional

The month of May 2013 will probably go down in Canadian history, when there was a new crisis nearly every day. Never has there been so many big headline stories. I’ll deal with provincial and federal politicians simply by saying those involved in bathroom brawls, submitting inappropriate claims for taxpayer’s money should be removed and face the full effect of the law. Locally, we have a different breed.

Just as there were plenty of political stories coming out of Halifax, Ottawa and PEI, I must congratulate Colchester’s municipal council on handling a difficult situation carefully, logistically, and with fairness and understanding.

Of course, I’m referring to the sewage use bylaw more commonly known as the Fracking fiasco. In spite of being put into a difficult situation by the province and the feds whose legislation and approvals to permit fracking wastewater to enter a municipal sewer system, committee members under the leadership of Tom Taggart, Councillor District 10 stepped up to the plate and demonstrated to all Canadian politicians how to act in a professional way.

There was no messing around, no spin doctoring. The committee was a big help to fellow councillors to navigate through numerous presentations to council, a lot of criticism from the public as to why council approved the release of fracking fluids in the first place. According to the laws in place at the time of the application, the municipality’s director of public works had no choice but to approve. The only out would be a series of public meetings, which were arranged after council, updated and changed the by-law. As in most bylaws, an appeal process is part of the entire fabric. Once the mechanism was put in place to receive objections from the public, two nights of public meetings gave residents and opponents an opportunity to be heard. The committee must be complimented for the excellent way of handling of the matter.

Council needs a good pat on the back for working closely with the committee to arrive at the decisions they did. Their professionalism demonstrates how an appeal process should work. Regardless of one’s position, it would be impossible to criticize any members of council for a valiant professional process.

Hopefully, council’s decision will send a strong message to the provincial and federal governments they cannot continue to "run and hide" by downloading situations to municipalities. The order of approvals needs to change. Instead of "top down" all processes such as this should be "bottom up".

Colchester County has many things doing for it, and right now they have a council who works for the betterment of the citizens and the area. Sure they have and will continue to make mistakes, but in this one they have worked hard to protect the environment.

Their next challenge to protect the environment is to use their skills to find a simple yet effective way to curb illegal dumping. Tom Taggart’s comments on Page 5, about other municipalities having a problem with increased incidents of illegal dumping should send a message to all of us.

Nova Scotia has plenty of beautiful scenery and tourists comment about our pristine environment and beauty. We cannot allow the few who are engaged in illegal dumping to tarnish our image. At the same time, I recognize as a society, we don’t like to "rat on" our neighbours, but it is getting to the point, that we all need to do something.

Things we could all do. Take pictures and send to your local councillor, identifying where the garbage is located. Or send photos to the Shoreline Journal and we’ll publish, but send to the appropriate municipal staff member.

Here’s one way to put a damper of some future illegal dumping. Scan through the garbage and make note of any names or addresses. If refuse is coming from a business, another aspect of the law is they are supposed to shred all paper with names and addresses.

I wonder how people would feel if all the names found in illegally dumped garbage were published. It would not prove or indicate who did the dumping, but simply that person’s name was found in the garbage.

Is that a solution that would work? Maurice


May 2013 - A disturbing, embarrassing time

In addition to not having the fine weather we enjoy at this time of year, March and particularly April have been an embarrassing time to be a Nova Scotian. Of course the April 18th fire at the A.J. Walker building, which destroyed our store and put us temporarily out of business, did not help.

It’s a discouraging event to see your wife’s store being consumed with smoke and realizing if all the merchandise in there had been purchased, sales would have been in excess of $60,000.00. But those 3,000 pieces of apparel suffered so much smoke damage; they are not usable in a retail environment and will never enter our new store.

Within two weeks, we will be open again – just across the street at 914 Prince Street. A smaller space but manageable. Just about that time, our new online store, which will eventually permit customers to order on-line choosing from over 800 different designs, submit their own design or photo for a customized unique t-shirt, sweatshirt or hoodie.

But let’s get back to the root of my frustration and disappointment. First of all, my feelings are not solely based on the self-inflicted death of young Rehtaeh Parsons. From the examples I’ll use, you can see we are at the crossroads of situations going back nearly 40 years.

Global eyes have been focused on us for a variety of reasons. Citizens have been dismayed and complaining about numerous things for many years. So now let’s have a look at a few things: A former Digby resident is taking Halifax and Ottawa to court for being wrongfully imprisoned for 37 years; Fenwick MacIntosh is a free-man because he won his appeal to the Supreme Court. His lawyers claimed the length of time it took to bring him back to Canada and face the courts did not permit justice to be carried out appropriately.

The death of Rehtaeh Parson’s, who claimed she was raped and then suffered an extensive bout of cyberbullying, is the straw which broke the camel’s back; enraged local citizens and caused the global media to focus on us.

We started to realize the magnitude of the situation, when within 24 hours for the Prime Minister to make a public comment. He then met privately with the family. Having the police say there was nothing they could do, and then re-open the case, along with education officials stating policy was followed, only caused the public to be further enraged.

It was like Nova Scotia’s pride about the beauty, opportunities, and our quaintness hit a brick wall, when the front page of Saturday, April 13th edition of the Globe and Mail featured Rehtaeh’s photo with about half of Page 3 dealing with the case.

A subsequent CBC national radio show interviewed another parent, whose daughter has requested to be transferred from the school because teachers and staff at the school did not protect the students. The mother referred to two vice-principles as "bold-face liars".

Premier Dexter took quick action to accompany the parents to Ottawa, the next day Canada’s Justice ministers met to discuss ways to change the laws. Legislation has been introduced and received at least the first reading at the Legislature in Halifax.

With publicity like this is it any wonder citizens are upset and discouraged about how taxpayers are treated? It’s not that one thing has happened, but it appears to become systemic over several decades. The public’s perception of legislators, public service staff, education officials and law enforcement are at an "all time" low. The public feels others have been slacking off; not enforcing existing legislation; nor going the extra mile to deal with the public’s concerns, then become reactionary when they are not perceived in a good way.

Right now all are under the taxpayer’s microscope. Part of the public’s disenchantment is these are well paid professionals, great employment benefits and eventually great pensions, yet the average citizen’s life is void of these situations.

The public always has the last say. It will be interesting to see what they demand as appropriate treatment for those who are not elected and who they choose to punish in the upcoming election.


April 2013

I believe Peter MacKay’s statement of March 1st that the navy will get the ships it needs. What his statement doesn’t elaborate on is that over the next 30 years, (life of the shipbuilding program) technology will change. New technology will be developed to protect Canada’s coastline, and the navy may not need the same amount of floating steel. Maybe there will be a focus on using pilotless drones for coastal surveillance.

Which means Canada does not have forward-thinking leadership.

I’m not an expert, but let’s look at how things have evolved over the past 25 years. Faxing was the elaborate way to communicate vast amounts of information and cell phone technology was embryonic. Cell phones came in a big box and costs was in the range of $3,000, albeit there weren’t many areas with good reception.

In the past decade, we have seen an explosion in cell phone technology, and now there are almost as many cell phones as there are people in Nova Scotia. Overseas, drones are being used fly reconnaissance missions and satellites have the capacity to recognize every movement of man or beast anywhere on earth.

In the same issue of the Chronicle Herald in which MacKay made his assurances about the navy’s requirements being met, two immigrant engineers in Cheticamp are looking for an initial round of funding to develop the "SkySquirrel" technology. For those who are not familiar with "SkySquirrel", it’s an unmanned airborne device similar to a helicopter that would be used to search for missing persons using on-board infrared heat sensing cameras to local missing persons, when the weather was bad, or initially before calling in regular helicopters, which cost many thousands of dollars per hour.

At the pace technology is developed and introduced; it’s hard to believe why our coastlines cannot be equally or more safe without as much floating steel as the Department of Defense now professes. That is not to say we don’t need a new naval fleet. Yes, we do. However, it’s my projection technology advances and the cost of cutting steel will mean less ships are constructed. Sure we’ll spend the same amount of money, or perhaps a bit, more, but we’ll have fewer vessels to show of it.

If Canada’s leaders want us to be on the "cutting edge" they should provide leadership in development of new technologies which will protect our coastline for a lot less money. Drug trafficking, fisheries patrol, illegal human trafficking, and search and rescue operations could easily be our surveillance way into the future.

The region’s aerospace industry could become a great manufacturing facility. If IMP Aerospace can keep all the large military aircraft repaired and flying, I’m sure they have the technology to be a leader for manufacturing drones. The aerospace facility in Lunenburg could be a major component supplier.

A marine drone program could breathe new life into airports in Yarmouth and Sydney. What about the airstrips near Liverpool and Port Hawkesbury, could they be used. One thing to notice here, each of those runway facilities are located in areas which are economically depressed or facing major challenges.

As rural areas decline in population and economic activity everyone needs to think of ways to build upon the assets in rural areas. We need to remember it’s the rural areas, which built this country.

Most certainly the closure of smaller rural schools is not the way to rebuild the rural economy. Why doesn’t the province direct the school boards to consult with rural areas asking for their input and direction on how to make smaller rural schools more economical. A recent example is the announced closure of the 100 year old Bass River Elementary School. According to residents they were not consulted on ways to reduce costs.

I project it will cost more to renovate WCCS to accommodate elementary students than will be saved by the school closure. The school board probably isn’t as concerned, because, in all probability, the renovation funds will come from Halifax instead of being a drain on their operational budget.

In Nova Scotia we sometimes have a weird way of determining costs. We look at today’s cost instead of the end result. When will Nova Scotians develop a back bone demanding what’s right for them be done?


March 2013 - Are you feeling marginalized?

It’s not much wonder those living in rural, especially remotely rural areas of Nova Scotia feel their interests are not being fully addressed by any level of government. Each revelation of inconsiderate use of taxpayer’s funds causes them to believe even more they are being marginalized.

Three years ago certain MLA’s were in the news, but the government changed the rules for allowable expenses, and ensuring transactions were documents. Taxpayers were saved a bit of money, when the $45,000 tax free transitional allotment to outgoing MLA’s was eliminated.

Feeling a sigh of relief as provincial Auditor-General Jacques Lapointe reported he has not found any errors, along comes accusations certain senators are possibly inappropriately claiming housing expenses of $21,000.00 per year.

Here’s other reasons rural Nova Scotians are feeling marginalized:

Recently, I learned when a school is closed; declared surplus, it’s responsibility shifts from Education to the local municipality which becomes responsible for its "hot idle" maintenance until final disposition. If demolished those costs and site remediation are faced by the municipality.

Maintenance costs and small scale retrofits come out of the local school boards budget. However, if a new school or major addition is constructed the funds come from another area, i.e. provincial coffers.

There is only one taxpayer. Shifting from one department to another or another level of government is simply shirking responsibility.

If municipalities are truly concerned about marginalization of their populace, one simple decision would change the momentum and reduce school closures, while at the same time demonstrating they are working on behalf of their residents.

The rate of school closures and elimination of other services would recede quickly if municipalities through the UNSM were to inform the provincial government they will not become responsible for ongoing costs and disposition of closed schools or other property.

Closing a school is a death sentence on a community. Municipalities should insist a school, whether operating or closed, should remain within the school board budget until the building’s final disposition and the site is remediated. Keeping these schools within their budget will cause education officials and school board members to think outside the box to partner with other groups, and make a school more meaningful for any community.

It seems unfair costs can be off-loaded elsewhere if it’s a closure, but they can drive a nail into the heart of a community to use the same taxpayer’s money to build or enlarge a school elsewhere, and then bus students.

Maybe the support groups for all rural schools should petition their councilor, MLA’s and Department of Education to keep all costs related to a school within the school board and further ask municipalities through UNSM to advise the provincial government they will not accept responsibility for costs


Division by Fracking

Earlier this month I started gathering information and my thoughts to develop this column on electricity rates. My intention was to contact the Utilities and Review Board (URB) to determine the process for The Shoreline Journal to represent residents and businesses in West Colchester by becoming an intervener in upcoming hearings about the Maritime Link.

However, mid-month that plan was put on hold when another community situation started to consume all of us. It’s called Fracking.

If there was a decision to proceed, it was my intention to ask residents, community groups and businesses in the area to submit a one or two page response, which would be included as part of the intervention for presentation to the URB. The Shoreline Journal would simply be an ambassador expressing your opinions in a public regulatory hearing process about power rates and how increased costs affect you.

I’m still accessing the idea. I’d appreciate calls, letters, emails or faxes to gauge your opinion if we should advocate on your behalf. Please send your opinions by February 15th.

Now to deal with the issue at hand. I had a general idea what fracking was and what it entailed, but I decided to look for more professional definitions. Here are the first two definitions, I found:

Definition of "Fracking" - A slang term for hydraulic fracturing. Fracking refers to the procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, from where it can be extracted. Fracking has resulted in many oil and gas wells attaining a state of economic viability, due to the level of extraction that can be reached.

Investopedia explains "Fracking" - Petroleum engineers have used fracking as a means of increasing well production since the late 1940s. Fractures can also exist naturally in formations, and both natural and man-made fractures can be widened by fracking. As a result, more oil and gas can be extracted from a given area of land.

So far, fracking has certainly lived up to its activity – that of division of petrochemicals from rock and sediment. Debert and most of West Colchester are being fracked – divisions that may never be healed are starting to develop.

On one side you have some opponents, almost fanatical about their beliefs, and with reports of some non-factual statements at a public meeting on January 15th, it’s unknown to what extent they may go. In the middle you have the non-informed resident. On the other side you have the regulators, of which the municipal council and local councilors are front line; trying to wade through piles of data to make a decision based on fact; what is best for the environment, residents, business interests and the area.

There’s a feeling some municipal officials are talking both ways…. want a decision based on fact, good for the residents and the corporate world, but regardless in no way do they want fracking fluids going into the Bay of Fundy. That’s straddling the picket fence. Just be sure one foot doesn’t slip. Coming down hurts and damages credibility.

Whatever action municipal council takes and changes they make to by-laws, it won’t be an easy decision. They must have the wisdom of foresight, as they must not put future economic development in jeopardy.

The energy sector has turned Newfoundland into a "have" province within 20 years, while manufacturing rich Ontario has been relegated to "have not" status. While researching this article, I learned in the United States, 1.75-million jobs have been created in the last two years; billions are being spent as they believe their economic recovery will be primarily built upon fracking for gas and oil and they will become a major exporter of natural gas within 10 years.

I’m not saying yes to fracking. I am saying there are appropriate solutions.

Maybe council’s best decision will be to seek input and $$$ from Halifax and Ottawa to create a Centre of Excellence fluid treatment facility, which would handle fluids from Ontario eastward. Today’s society will never get rid of such fluids, so why not be unique and treat ours and others. Create a major economic engine for the area.

Come on council, be brave. Find a solution other than NO WAY.


 

 

January 2013 - Is Dexter In Charge?

 

Before I start this month’s writing let me make a full disclosure. I was a member of the first board of directors when the Hants Regional Development Authority started many years ago. I served the maximum six years concluding my last two years as Chair. As a result, I follow economic development and really focus on community development.

Provincially, there are so many contradictory messages, I wonder if Premier Dexter is in charge, or are there forces within caucus or the public service to hang him out to dry, ensuring he is the first and one-time NDP premier.

It seems like Premier Dexter finally realized the magnitude of taxpayer disapproval at his government’s handing out millions of taxpayer dollars to some very large corporations, while neglecting the "common folk" in small town and rural Nova Scotia. A series of articles in the Chronicle Herald earlier this year exposed the devastation and out migration from rural Nova Scotia, to larger Halifax or greater opportunities out west.

Before I start to give examples, I have to ask two questions:

  1. Does Premier Dexter expect us to believe he can implement the long term commitment stop out-migration and correct what is wrong in rural and small town Nova Scotia?
  2. Do elected officials at the provincial level or those whose income is derived from government coffers, have the solution or commitment to implement what is needed, or will we end up looking like HRM’s Barrington and Gottingen Streets have for the past 20+ years?

Let me give some examples of activities in Truro. The downtown core has been gutted by government action. The new Colchester Hospital, as nice as it is, might as well is located adjacent to the Halifax airport, for those who don’t have transportation. Let’s hope the Rath-Eastlink Civic Centre never holds a monster bingo. There won’t be enough parking places. The locating decisions, made upwards of a decade ago, required substantial investments in water and sewer upgrades.

However, flying in Dexter’s face about his seriousness to rejuvenate or re-build rural and small town Nova Scotia comes with the late summer announcement, Access Nova Scotia and all those services offered under its umbrella will be removed from Truro’s downtown core. If he is serious, he best show he’s in charge by reversing that decision and for other town’s existing services will remain downtown.

Last week of November brought the announcement 12 RDA’s will be disbanded to be replaced by 6 Regional Enterprise Networks (REN’s). For northern Nova Scotia the REN will cover from the New Brunswick border to the edges of Halifax international airport; half way to Windsor then extend into the Musquodoboit Valley.

What a farce for rural and small town development.

I have a lot of time for Ray Ivany, starting when he was president of NSCC. Now he’s heading into mine filled lands. Will he be scapegoat Ivany, similar to the electoral boundaries commission, whose findings were rejected by Dexter’s cabinet?

Mayors Taylor and Mills are absolutely correct to question the logistics. Cumberland and East Hants officials should make similar comments. Colchester County which has 60% of the population base is being asked to pay 60% of the $200,000 expected from municipalities with a similar amount being offered by the province. My advice to say NO.

If Colchester is forced to say YES, it should do so only with 60% of the directors.

Take the local tax dollars, go it alone develop one economic development department with a small marketing staff, whose income is based on a percentage of new tax revenue and a formula for new jobs created. Then Colchester should find some dollars to provide a stipend to numerous individuals, probably 12, who will work with clusters of community groups at the community development level. Those stipended individuals could provide the secretarial, form completing duties and paperwork, which volunteer community groups find so difficult.

It would be nice to see a consensus of the all municipal governments in the suggested area. Municipality of Colchester, Truro and Stewiacke have the power to derail a proposed 6 member REN network.

Say NO REN. Go your own way, let there be five. We will be a lot better off.


 

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