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December 2015 - Start with a 1% Reduction

Before I start off on my tangent(s) about violence in the world; state of the economy, or how Trudeau might continue to have high approval ratings, let me mention something dear to our hearts in our downtime away from the day’s stress.

Many rural residents don’t have cable service, and the choice of television programming is limited compared to urban areas. Why couldn’t we watch Blue Jays baseball on at least one of the Canadian channels in basic cable packages? With regard to Blue Jays baseball availability, the CTRC needs to take matters in hand.

Yes a cable media conglomerate owns the Jays, but if Canada is to adopt them as "Canada’s" team, we need to follow their every move. The lack of choices for rural residents is not confined to Blue Jays baseball, the list is long and I’m not going to get into it now.

I don’t expect Trudeau’s Liberals to do much about it as they have other far more important to deal with, but a quick five minute conversation with the CRTC might start the ball rolling. Maybe a public "mandate letter" is in order, just as Justin sent mandate letters to cabinet ministers, then made them public.

Violence throughout the world is worrisome. Bombings in Paris; massive police investigations in France, Belgium and thousands of refugees fleeing Syria elsewhere is tragic. I don’t know the answer, but applaud Justin on maintaining his promise to remove fighter jets from the bombing missions. In France and Belgium, from what I gleaned from media reports, a major cause could be poverty driven by reports of marginalization, ghettos, and little employment for those of other ethnic origins.

If there was an emphasis on equal treatment, less poverty and more jobs, maybe a large number of those frustrated youth, who get paid to be terrorists, would not be so vulnerable.

As Canadians let’s welcome the 25,000 new people chosen to live in Canada with open arms and do our utmost ensuring relocation to Canada is a worthy experience, benefitting us as well as them.

We know our economy is in rough shape and the province’s debt load is so high it hinders expansion of the economy. Hopefully, Stephen McNeil can get all the labour contracts settled without strike or major financial impacts on our economy.

Nova Scotia receives major funding through equalization payments from other provinces, we need to keep our eye focused on what is going to happen in two or three years, when today’s downward economy impacts on other province’s ability to pay.

How can residents help solve the problem and improve the economy? For too long residents, businesses, community and industry groups have relied upon government to provide the cash. That must change starting now. The first step is to reduce our expectations of what we want from government.

Look around to notice how much money is spent on non-necessary items: fancier car, handful of lottery tickets, expensive vacations, houses and personal belonging far exceeding what most people in the world have or need. Instead of buying something larger, we should focus on reducing energy footprints; help save the environment, keeping more money in our pocket.

All of us could start the process by reducing our expenditures by 1%. On a $30,000 income it might only be $25 per month, but if everyone did it, consider the magnitude.

Simultaneously, we need to improve and use our entrepreneurial skills. CNTA is facing a major economic hit with significant amounts of funding being eliminated. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but considering the province economic situation, it probably is necessary. As long as all areas are treated equally, it could turn to be a benefit. Each industry group, whether tourism or forestry, can build stronger sectors by cooperating and bringing all partners together for a common cause.

You think there is no money around? Consider the $-Millions spent on "Chase the Ace" in Inverness. And they are doing it again. To correct economic woes, government has to create the environment; get out of the way and let individuals and communities work at the grassroots to do what is necessary.

Bottom up always works better than top down.


 

November 2015 - Were lessons learned?

Was the election campaign too long? Did the regulations passed by government and mandated for Elections Canada help in the voting? Was the electorate happy when they got to the polls?

To answer the questions posed above regarding the election. Yes the campaign was too long. It was difficult for all parties to engage the number of volunteers needed to provide true democracy and by voting day thousands of volunteers were too tired to really care. They just wanted it over.

If you wish to take lessons on how to make an already irate electorate even more frustrated and madder to the point they threw their ID card at those working the polls on October 19th just follow was Elections Canada was forced to do.

Tom Taggart’s situation with his elderly mother not able to vote even though she has lived in the community for over 80 years is shameful. Shame on Elections Canada for implementing what they were asked to do. Even more shame should be heaped on the politicians and public service that developed the legislation.

I worked the polls as Information Officer and never have I seen so many cynical, mad and irate people in one room in one day. In the two polls, which I worked, approximately 275 people cast their votes. I’m almost positive that 8-10% more votes would have been cast if the requirements were different. Voters showed up with only the card received in the mail telling them where to vote. Without proper ID they could not vote. Many in the community of Maitland have only their post office box showing on all ID including their driver’s license. Not acceptable even though they were on the voters list.

On the extensive list of proper ID, the first item was driver’s license. When showing a PO Box, that was not enough according to Election Canada regulations. In my mind, the requirements were confusing. After some discussion which included all those working the polls, we decided to accept a driver’s license even if it did not show a civic address. We were more or less forced into it, when several potential voters tore up the card received in the mail, threw it at the poll clerk, cursed and left.

It’s hard to tell someone "No you can’t vote", when it’s your neighbor, or you have known them most of your life. Let’s hope the new government makes voting a more pleasurable experience.

I regularly watch the US political maneuvers for their forthcoming 2016 presidential election. It’s amazing how much traction Donald Trump has gotten. Not going to comment if he will get the GOP nomination to go up against the Democrats, or if he would be a good president. However, he has been pushing the "right buttons" to lead in almost every poll.

Lately some have been saying he is the USA’s version of Canada’s Ron Ford. We are just done with an elongated federal election campaign, but think of our friends south of the border, they are in it for 15-18 months. This time next year we’ll be into municipal and school board elections.

But here is where I wonder if any lessons have been learned? Provincially, and federally we have known for some time even the Canadian electorate, as a whole, are not happy campers. The astute municipal councillors and mayors who wish to be elected need to take immediate steps to avoid the possibility of "Anybody but my Current Councillor or Mayor", (ABCC or ABCM) campaigns.

If they have not been respecting the electorate by full disclosure or consultation, they best change their ways. Voters will not be happy if they feel left out or used. A case in point is the way Colchester Council seems to be handling the Palliser Property.

Sure they have promised consultation on what will evolve there. Much better to ask residents and business leaders for their opinions, rather than spend thousands of dollars on a consultant developing a plan, then go to the public. Rather than being true consultation, it could appear to be asking them to "rubber stamp" on how an additional amount approaching $150,000 had been spent.

 


 

 

October 2015 - Consultation Lacking

Premier Stephen McNeil best rein in all is cabinet ministers and lay down the rules in caucus to be as committed and as transparent as he has indicated his government is going to be throughout his tenure.

For a year, the young government seemed to be doing just fine, and wrinkles were few and far between, but since the turn of the year it’s been one calamity after another.

Just to be sure "calamity" was the proper word, I Googled "calamity" and here is what popped up on the screen: ca∑lam∑i∑ty - kəˈlamədÁ/ - noun: calamity; plural noun: calamities. Meaning: an event causing great and often sudden damage or distress; a disaster.

I don’t think McNeil’s Liberals have lost touch, or are intent on creating disasters, but would prefer to think with the slowing economy; poor performance based outcomes in education based on national scoring; rising health costs, and burgeoning debt load, their plate is full. And they are trying to solve too much too fast?

Take for instance, Leo Glavine’s changes to healthcare. Voters were eager to see any changes, as much as we hate them, implemented successfully. The mediator didn’t do what he was asked. He continued to make rulings after removed from the position. Quickly, the plan failed to get implemented as scheduled. Voter faith and trust plummeted. Hence, the first wrinkle in the sheets.

Next rising to the shame podium is Finance Minister Whalen. Before proceeding, I agree a subsidy of up to 65% is perhaps too rich. Now here is where I find fault with her processes.

When she campaigned for leader of the party, her one big thing was to establish a "heritage holiday in February. She got her wish and we now have a Heritage Holiday in February. The cost of the holiday is far more than what she planned to save on the backs of movie makers. Taxpayers pick up the tab for lost production.

Then she devastates heritage and culture by implementing changes to the movie industry without consulting with industry. Unfortunately for Whalen, the public sided with the movie makers. End result, there’s "a lot of crow to be eaten". Now instead of a second wrinkle, there’s a large rip in the sheets. Credibility has been lost making it more difficult for the Liberals to implement major changes in other areas.

Problems created by Whalen could have been avoided, if there had been consultation. Industry would have accepted changes, if consulted and listened to.

We’re not done yet. There’s more to come. The Ivany Report called for doubling the tourism / hospitality industry to $4-Billion within 10 years. A mammoth task and everyone needs to be on board, and heading in the same direction.

Within the past week, I met with Glenn Squires, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS). Like me he feels the government is severely lacking in its capacity to consult with and listen to what industry has to say. The anticipated repeal of the Tourism Accommodations Act is going to cause even more trouble.

Squires told me, we’ve been consulting with them, but they are not listening. I don’t know what their agenda is, but they are not listening. I even called the minister responsible telling him, if the media asks me, "I’ll tell them I don’t support it".

You might know Glenn Squires. I met him thirty five years ago, when he was manager of the Holiday Inn, at the end of the MacDonald Bridge, Dartmouth.

Today he owns Pacrim Hospitality, Halifax, which owns or manages over 2,000 hotel rooms across Canada. He’s one of the larger hotelier’s, and in 2015 expects to build 8 or 9 more hotels, most of them in Atlantic Canada. Locally, the Holiday Inn, Truro is a Pacrim property and he just sold it interests in Super 8, Millbrook.

Apparently Episode 3 in the Wrinkles Saga is going to be the hospitality industry, unless McNeil acts quickly to consult and listen to tourism industry leaders. With an industry targeted to double to $4-Billion by 2024 and to be the backbone of rural Nova Scotia, the last thing we need is a dysfunctional industry. 

Any guesses on Episode 4?


 

 

September 2015 - Dog Days of August

Weather-wise, it wasn't an enjoyable spring and early summer, but once summer heat decided to come our way, it came with a vengeance. When I was younger and we lived on a farm in Northwestern New Brunswick, it was this type of weather I dreaded the most, because high humidity and it was haying time.

I don't know why, but I remember a couple of days when it was 104F, and we called them the "dog days of August", when everyone was in poor humour.

It was just as hot and uncomfortable last Sunday at the 34th Annual Sussex Flea Market. I didn't check the temperature, but some people said it was 38 with the humidex - try that on for a Sunday afternoon, without any shade and dismantling a couple of large tents and packing up the van, with about 15 large boxes. It was unbearable.

What’s unusual about this summer is we have a Federal Election. Called about 40 days longer than the minimum of 37 days. All parties are holding back, fine tuning their team of volunteers, so we are not bombarded with a flurry of election advertising and teams of loyal party workers. Thankfully, the campaign won't really heat up until after Labour Day.

South of the border, the election will not be held until fall of 2016, but with 17 candidates vying to be the GOP’s choice to lead the Republican Party it’s the hottest news in town. Donald Trump, whom many thought of as a passing-fancy has turned the party upside down as he constantly increases his lead over the rest of the field.

What makes watching the USA political system squirm is Trump has brought to the campaign a daily dose of frankness which is appealing to a very mad and upset electorate. Whether or not he can win the Republican nomination, he has shown all candidates just how angry voters are.

What he has brought to the fore-front also applies to all levels of the Canadian political system. Yes, Canadians are in an election campaign, so far all of the candidates are sticking to their party’s talking points.

Maybe Nova Scotians hide their anger better than others. However, I assure you if someone spoke about Nova Scotia issues with Trump’s frankness, they too would gather a large following very quickly. Within 12 months of disposing of the federal election, we’ll be into the "grassroots" of Canadian politics - municipal elections.

With a worsening economy which many suggest will still be upon us this time next year, it’s my belief local voters will wait until next year to express their true frustration. That could lead to a flurry of new candidates who gather strength because they speak with some of "Trump’s Frankness". Regardless of which municipality, if someone comes out with the intention to build a broad, demographically and ideologically diverse coalition, constructed around personality, not substance, that bridges demographic and political divides, they will garner a lot of support. 

In the lead-up to the 2016 municipal election, the Palliser Property might be a central focal point of voter anger. Let me explain why.

Earlier this spring, Colchester Municipal council purchased the Palliser Property, without a defined plan, which is acceptable, but promised to consult with the public to define its use and start developing a plan. Since the initial flurry of activity, little appears to be done, except extensive property clean up, some paint on the visitor centre, and moving the lawns.

Where the Mayor, Councillors and staff may be vulnerable is not because they will have invested nearly $1-million before any construction activity takes place, but because they have been slack to consult with the public and business community.

There’s no honour in going to the public "with a plan" of what should be done with the property. The public deserves the respect of being consulted before there are any plans. Not all the public’s suggestions would be workable, but at least they would have the satisfaction of "being heard" and contributing to the development of a plan.

When will the public consultations take place? There should be one in each councillor’s district. - Maurice

 


 

August 2015 - I stand corrected and called to task

Rather than spout off on one topic, I’ll provide some comments on a variety of subject which have a direct impact on the Shoreline’s coverage area, with a few odd-ball items thrown in for good measure. First would be our weather. We are having an unusually non-summer weather for July.

Western Canada particularly British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan are on-file with an unusually higher amount of forest fires and an unusually drier than normal spring and early summer, while we are getting a lot of rain and very little heat.

I just got back from a three day trek to PEI for the first annual Summeride Motorcycle Rally. On all three days the weather was unpleasant; constantly changing from sunny Intervals to mist, then showers and torrential downpours and strong Northeast winds and almost freezing temperatures.

One person reminded me that PEI stands for "Potatoes Every Inch". Potato tops looks nice and green but the fields are soggy. Equally soggy was the grounds at a midway carnival in Summerside. Earlier in the week the ground was so wet they were laying down plywood so people didn’t have to walk in ankle deep mud.

The high volume of snow last winter followed by nontraditional weather for spring and on into mid-July causes me to wonder if we’ll get an extremely nice fall from mid-August into mid-November. Maybe climate change will move summer starting six weeks later from the start to the end.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the significantly high volume of traffic on the country roads compared to previous summers. Unofficially, my observation is the American tourist has arrived. I’ve seen more USA license plates on Class A and Class B motor homes so far this summer than in the entire summer of 2014.

Perhaps the 75 to 80 cent dollar will have a positive impact on the provinces tourism industry. Let’s hope so.

Last month in talking about the CCRSB board’s decision to close Maitland, River John and Wentworth Schools, I spouted off saying "Three more schools have closed and there is no appeal process. I’m not suggesting all schools should remain open. Changes would eliminate the worry about many more closures and ensure school boards worked to find a way to keep a school open. It’s hard to blame the school boards as they are working within current financial parameters".

It didn’t take long for a reader to rake me over the coals for not providing another side to the story and a few days later for a few more concerned parents to rattle my chain. They were upset with my comment that you can’t blame the school board for closure of the schools on June 30, 2015.

Where I had gone amiss was I had totally forgotten that over a year ago, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister, Karen Casey had written the school board and asked them to delay a possible closure of the schools by at least a year. In addition to this major omission on my part, I was informed that the board did not vote on the proposals to establish "Hub Schools".

So I have to retract my statement, "It’s hard to blame the school boards as they are working within current financial parameters". The conclusion is the board members individually and collectively are to blame for the schools closing on June 30, 2015.

I understand there is some discussion or a "move afoot" to establish "charter schools". Charter schools are loosely defined as applying to the Province to take possession of existing schools; establish a "local" governing body for the community charger school; guarantee to follow the Department’s curriculum guidelines.

The real kicker is operating similar to a private school; they would hire teachers under private contract and also apply to the Department of Education to transfer to "the charter school administration" the amount of funding, on a per student basis, which is currently transferred to existing school boards.

If charter schools were established, it would be interesting to see how "charter school students" would rank in national testing within a five year period.

Finally, it’s nice to see two projects have been funded with provincial and federal funding: flood control remediation of the Great Village River and over $1-Million for expansion of the province’s low bush blueberry industry.


July 2015 - OH, what to do or think.

Some days things are so contradictory, one doesn’t know which way to turn.

Here’s an example. The province is bearing down on motorists texting or using a cell phone while driving, yet General Motors is running a television ad campaign promoting WiFi in some models. Does that mean GM is encouraging people to break the law?

Fracking for natural gas is prohibited in Nova Scotia. If you watch CNN, there’s a USA government ad stating it has become a global leader as a natural gas producer and exporter, because of fracking.

$-Millions are proposed to build LNG terminals in Guysborough area for export to global destinations, requiring reversal of the Maritime Pipeline to bring fracked natural gas from the states, since Nova Scotia has a dwindling supply from our offshore gas fields.

Supposedly, Nova Scotia has tremendous "on-shore" natural gas reserves. Not that the USA makes all the right decisions, but if fracking was a major contributor to revitalizing their economy is there a lesson there for us? Test fracking drilling was done in the Kennetcook area. Why not use that site as a pilot project to see if fracking would work for us?

The Ivany Report was heralded as a roadmap to a prosperous future, yet we oppose many of the things detailed on what we need to do. Rural communities are being hollowed out every day, forcing us to be like mice in the cupboard fighting over crumbs instead of halting rural decline and moving forward.

Three more schools have closed and there is no appeal process. I’m not suggesting all schools should remain open. Changes would eliminate the worry about many more closures and ensure school boards worked to find a way to keep a school open.

It’s hard to blame the school boards as they are working within current financial parameters. The rate of school closures would be reduced if the costs of that facility including maintenance, demolition and remediation of the site continued to be a part of that school boards budget.

Minor or major renovations are operational costs to be carried out within the board’s budget. However, a new school can be built and it does not affect the local budget until it is opened. If a school is closed, the cost of maintenance, demolition and site remediation becomes the responsibility of the municipality.

If repairs, like a new roof, on a particular school is delayed, the cost of renovations should not be permitted as part of the amount a community must raise to establish an "education hub". Because legislation permits an "easy way out decision" to get them off budget it’s difficult for staff to devote time and energy to work with the community to find a solution. Creativity would reign supreme if costs could not be transferred elsewhere. Keeping schools open should be an economic development initiative.

A number of the problems facing rural area would be eliminated if rules were changed so that an education facility stays within the school board’s budget until a new use is found, or it’s demolished and the site is remediated.

There is only one taxpayer. Do we wish our tax dollars to pay for education, keeping students in our community, or do we prefer our tax dollars to be diverted to demolition and site remediation companies?

If we wish to improve the rural economy we need to "save smaller schools".

If there are "endangered" areas, they should be identified 5-10 years in advance. Instead of a community investing all it’s energy, in a last minute panic, maybe an economic development team needs to work with the communities to encourage young families to stay or move there. It is more than relocating families. It is ensuring viable businesses exist to provide the jobs; internet speed needs to be the same as in an urban centre; office space should be available, so every provincial and municipal department can rent for a few hours to meet with local people.

A decade to implement a plan would eliminate some school closures and improve the rural economy at the same time. Then maybe the Ivany Report would be our solution.


June 2015 - Pride in self, then community

I was always taught if you didn’t have pride in who you were; what you have accomplished and what you are doing, there’s not much of a future ahead. Words were never truer than today. With regional wars in the mid-East; global security threats from ISIS activity; the insecurity about food safety; a slow growing economy where the rich get richer and the poor fall father behind and worries about climate change, it takes a lot of resilience to keep a smile on our face.

Before we start to smile broadly, we need to stop and think. In order for Nova Scotia’s economy to get back on track and to run smoothly, a lot, lot more changes are necessary. Naturally, we don’t like changes, but if we wish to have our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to have a future in Nova Scotia, it is important we take notice and work with government and them with us to affect the necessary changes.

As bad as things are, they are not as bad as they were in 1993. On one occasion, at that time, government officials were informed they did not have enough money to meet payroll due three hours later. Yes, today’s debt load is much higher, but today’s interest rates are at an all time low. If we would have had $15-Billion in debt in 1993, we could have never recovered. Our only salvation so far is lower interest rates. Our future will not be good, if all Nova Scotians don’t work together to reduce costs, improve efficiencies, expect less and learn to live within our means.

Premier McNeil has been steadfast, he will not sign any agreements which we can not afford. Later this year lies negotiations with nurses, teachers and others in the public service. What he can not do is "cave in" like the previous administration did.

His government was elected to right these wrongs and get the economy back on track. So far their decisions have been up to expectations, but they have fallen short on execution. Before he and cabinet get mired deep in negotiations, they need to review procedures to ensure there is no stumbling when hard decisions are implemented.

A lot of political capital was expended earlier this winter, when executing did not go smoothly. The public voted for change, and although it’s not their favourite topic, they will accept if there is thorough consultation and decisions are implemented according to plan if it’s in the best overall interests of the province.

If there is turmoil and focus is placed on bickering in the media, taxpayers lose confidence. Once confidence sags, it is much more difficult to continue the plan of making hard decisions and obtaining public support.

Voters across Canada are harbouring a distain for politicians or parties, who appear arrogant, portray "right of entitlement" or don’t appear to be listening to the taxpayer. Just look at the orange tide which swept across Alberta. Politicians of all stripes and all levels need to understand, if you don’t instantly do it the way the taxpayer wants, "the impossible" can happen.

Which brings me back to where this column started having pride in all that is around us. Nova Scotians have not been proud of the results of how students have fared in Canada-wide testing. Karen Casey is taking steps to restore pride with new initiatives on math and literacy and putting $65-Million back in the education budget, which had been removed by the previous administration.

The other level of Pride, I wish to mention: We need to take pride in the appearance of our communities. As a result the Shoreline Journal and t-shirtsrus.ca, with the support of Colchester Waste Management, the Clean Foundation, Big Dog & Cat Country, are asking you to clean up the ditches along your property frontage on June 13th. If you do it before, that is great. Make it a family event, or get your community involved. (See story on Page 1 of this issue).

If we start showing pride by cleaning up along the highways of our own property, maybe it will be the start of many positive things we can accomplish. If we care, we can do it!


 

May 2015 - Consultation Lacking

Premier Stephen McNeil best rein in all is cabinet ministers and lay down the rules in caucus to be as committed and as transparent as he has indicated his government is going to be throughout his tenure.

For a year, the young government seemed to be doing just fine, and wrinkles were few and far between, but since the turn of the year it’s been one calamity after another.

Just to be sure "calamity" was the proper word, I Googled "calamity" and here is what popped up on the screen: ca∑lam∑i∑ty - kəˈlamədÁ/ - noun: calamity; plural noun: calamities. Meaning: an event causing great and often sudden damage or distress; a disaster.

I don’t think, McNeil’s Liberals have lost touch, or are intent on creating disasters, but would prefer to think with the slowing economy; poor performance based outcomes in education based on national scoring; rising health costs, and burgeoning debt load, their plate is full. And they are trying to solve too much too fast?

Take for instance, Leo Glavine’s changes to healthcare. Voters were eager to see any changes, as much as we hate them, implemented successfully. The mediator didn’t do what he was asked. He continued to make rulings after removed from the position. Quickly, the plan failed to get implemented as scheduled. Voter faith and trust plummeted. Hence, the first wrinkle in the sheets.

Next rising to the shame podium is Finance Minister Whalen. Before proceeding, I agree a subsidy of up to 65% is perhaps too rich. Now here is where I find fault with her processes.

When she campaigned for leader of the party, her one big thing was to establish a "heritage holiday in February. She got her wish and we now have a Heritage Holiday in February. The cost of the holiday is far more than what she planned to save on the backs of movie makers. Taxpayers pick up the tab for lost production.

Then she devastates heritage and culture by implementing changes to the movie industry without consulting with industry. Unfortunately for Whalen, the public sided with the movie makers. End result, there’s "a lot of crow to be eaten". Now instead of a second wrinkle, there’s a large rip in the sheets. Credibility has been lost making it more difficult for the Liberals to implement major changes in other areas.

Problems created by Whalen could have been avoided, if there had been consultation. Industry would have accepted changes, if consulted and listened to.

We’re not done yet. There’s more to come. The Ivany Report called for doubling the tourism / hospitality industry to $4-Billion within 10 years. A mammoth task and everyone needs to be on board, and heading in the same direction.

Within the past week, I met with Glenn Squires, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS). Like me he feels the government is severely lacking in its capacity to consult with and listen to what industry has to say. The anticipated repeal of the Tourism Accommodations Act is going to cause even more trouble.

Squires told me, we’ve been consulting with them, but they are not listening. I don’t know what their agenda is, but they are not listening. I even called the minister responsible telling him, if the media asks me, "I’ll tell them I don’t support it".

You might know Glenn Squires. I met him thirty five years ago, when he was manager of the Holiday Inn, at the end of the MacDonald Bridge, Dartmouth.

Today he owns Pacrim Hospitality, Halifax, which owns or manages over 2,000 hotel rooms across Canada. He’s one of the larger hotelier’s, and in 2015 expects to build 8 or 9 more hotels, most of them in Atlantic Canada. Locally, the Holiday Inn, Truro is a Pacrim property and he just sold it interests in Super 8, Millbrook.

Apparently Episode 3 in the Wrinkles Saga is going to be the hospitality industry, unless McNeil acts quickly to consult and listen to tourism industry leaders. With an industry targeted to double to $4-Billion by 2024 and to be the backbone of rural Nova Scotia, the last thing we need is a dysfunctional industry.

Any guesses on Episode 4?


April 2015 - Are We Brave Enough?

One has to wonder what the world is coming to and what will happen next. As Nova Scotians we all like to talk about the weather and to relish in doing things as they’ve always been done in the past.

In November and December we were bragging the rest of the winter we were going to be bragging we had moved closer to Florida, then things switched and we had a winter like nothing we can remember. Once the snow started, it seemed like it would not stop. In one of the several storms in March, Halifax received over 9 cm of snow per hour. In relishing the past, here we are at the beginning of April and in many places, if we walked the snow banks, we’d be above the telephone lines, which I can remember from the days of my youth in Northwestern New Brunswick.

Life is full of contradictions. Global warming is among us and initially we thought we’d live in a much warmer climate, but not necessarily so. Scientists are now telling us, we are in for more drastic weather changes than in the past.

According to some, we will experience harsher winters full of more frequent and more intense storms with above average snowfall accumulation and then a hotter drier summer. If that is the case the wider swing of the pendulum is also applying to things other than weather.

Take this into consideration. No sooner had the reporters filed their stories and editing was underway with television news clips about Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Premiers McNeil and Gallant trying to make headlines about cutting red tape and working together to eliminate barriers between the provinces to create a more sustainable regional economy, when Canada Bread announces it is closing Ben’s Bakery in Halifax throwing 105 people out of work to create 35 new jobs to consolidate operations in New Brunswick and we learn New Brunswick offered $240,000 in payroll rebates to create the new jobs. Opportunities New Brunswick is an organization charged to do the same for NB that Nova Scotia Business Inc is supposed to do for our fair province. Stephen Lund, the former head of NS Business Inc is now heading up Opportunities New Brunswick after he vacated his economic development position in Bermuda.

Give a bit of thought to this one. A few years ago Harper’s Conservatives made changes to how and what amount of monies was to be paid to veterans who had been seriously injured in the line of duty. Veterans cried foul saying the lump sum payment would not work, but the Conservatives forged ahead and implemented a new program.

Now the pendulum is swinging the other way. Word has it that by the time you are reading this the same Harper Conservatives are coming up with new program, which will provide additional substantial lump sum payments, again, to those most seriously impacted with major injuries. Speculation has it these new lump sum payments could be as high as $70,000 for the severest of cases.

We’ve just started to soften our position; we need to accept change and to accelerate how fast we can change things. In years gone by, it seemed to take forever for any level of government to make substantial changes. Probably because those we elected were timid and made changes slowly, not because it was best for the economy, but best for their own careers by getting re-elected again.

If the previous revised program to take care of our veterans was SO GOOD, why does it need to be changed so quickly? Might it be because veterans and their families were correct when they stated the new program would not work and an election is months away.

Could these two examples be part of the reason, we the electorate are cynical? Is there any validity to the reasoning politicians are opportunists and do things only when it is beneficial to them? Could we the electorate be guilty of "taking bribes"?

When will we develop a backbone and demand politicians of all political stripes implement programs which are good for the economy, rather than convenient for "their" careers?

Are we brave enough to demand politicians mend their ways instead of themselves and their party? - Maurice


March 2015 - Are we brave enough?

The first anniversary of the release of the Ivany Report has just passed, and some people are starting to get restless. John Bragg a very important contributor to development and release of the report is unhappy with the apparent lack of moving forward and feels if something doesn’t happen soon we may have missed the short window of opportunity afforded by the report.

Bragg also stated the public service should be reduced by 15%. In an interview the other day on CBC Radio, Ray Ivany was a bit more conciliatory, but you could tell he is getting concerned, as all of us should be.

Some sympathy for McNeil’s Liberals is needed, because they needed to get their ducks in a row. If the newly elected government had marched forward full force, they would have faced two problems: an internal revolt larger than what John Savage faced and the general populous would have been so angry McNeil’s crew would have been the province’s second consecutive "one term" government with Dexter’s NDP being the first.

In my estimation, the government has been slowly planning its strategy and letting all the pundits and media making sure the Ivany Report was thoroughly dissected and everyone has had time for its importance to sink in. The prescription for cure will be painful. Painful might not be the correct word, but Nova Scotian’s don’t like change.

The painful part will come in getting people to change their physiology. To turn the ship around as a result of the Ivany Report is going to be a long slow process and probably not possible if the government, employees and general public are not receptive to change.

McNeil’s cabinet started making changes where the most money is spent – Healthcare – by reducing the number of district board to two, the province and the IWK and collapsing the number of collective agreements from approximately 50 to four. Next probably will be education as McNeil says he will not agree to negotiations we cannot afford (see last issue). 2015 could be a tumultuous year regarding labour negotiations and getting this ship back on the right course.

The provincial government’s hands are tied. Dexter’s NDP made an agreement making layoffs almost impossible. To achieve John Bragg’s call for 15% of the province’s 10,000 civil servants, many obstacles might be overcome.

If McNeil keeps to the course he is projecting of standing up for the taxpayer, I can see a disrupted civil and if education follows healthcare the 2015-2016 school year might start late and teachers would not be paid over the summer. If McNeil digs his heels in and the teachers are not eager to settle, I could see him making them a final offer, which if refused he’d pull the plug and call an election asking for a mandate to get tough with teachers.

I’ve mentioned that to a few very political people (none of them Liberals). Their response was there would be no sympathy for teachers and he would win a mandate larger than in the last election

I found it interesting that Bill Black’s article in the Chronicle Herald on February 22, he referred to John Bragg’s call for 15% reduction. In this column in the October issue, I reported on the size of the civil service (not including federal employees) base on the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), which concluded if governments in Atlantic Canada adjusted the provincial and municipal staffing levels to the national average, based on population, annual savings of $1.9-billion would be achieved. The combined deficit in Atlantic Canada was $1.1-billion on 2012-2013.

Keeping federal employees out of the calculations, and calculating only on local and provincial staffing there 84 employees per 1,000 population nation-wide; 96 in Atlantic Canada, while Nova Scotia tops the list with 99 per 1,000 population.

Most of Nova Scotia’s deficit could be solved by reducing the size of the civil service for provincial and municipal governments.

Are we brave enough to cut McNeil loose to do what is necessary to eliminate the deficits and get us onto the road to economic growth? Time will tell.


 

 

February 2015

 

On the way home from a Municipal Council presentation session, I was hyped by all the possibilities. Granted there is much wrong and negative in the world, the Middle East is devouring itself, Paris under attack, Belgium having problems with militants determined to wreak havoc on anything that smells, looks or feels like Western Culture which follows the United States standards. Canada and many other countries have been warned, they are coming for us.

However, I was hyped because there is so much positive in Nova Scotia, particularly in Colchester. Provincially we have big deficits, an underperforming economy, high taxes, and if we don’t have something to complain about, we can always talk about the weather.

Regardless, we have peace and tranquility, governments which are not corrupt; trying to persuade us they are taking their lumps for trying to make a better place for us to work, live and play.

You might inquire, what has happened in the last couple of weeks, to cause a positive feeling? For starters, our winter has not been that bad, even though temperatures can rise or fall 20 degrees in 24 hours. Gasoline prices are down and it costs about $30.00 less to fill up the van each week.

Beyond that was Premier McNeil’s address at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast. It was not just in what he said, but the way he interacted with attendees in a very sincere, honest way. Many there, even those of opposite political stripe, remarked they liked what he said and hope he can achieve what he focused on doing.

The night before was the Colchester Council meeting with things seemingly going along quite well. From all reports Colchester is one of the better performing municipalities in the province. That in itself is positive.

However, the pinnacle of the positive axis was Municipal Council’s presentation session on Tuesday, January 20th, when three groups made presentations. First was Ms. Bower from Scotia Pool who reported the pool society has completed a lease agreement with the province; efforts of staff and volunteers, operations have been improved. Although not finalized, councillors seemed to feel comfortable about releasing the remaining budgeted $50,000 to the society and were not overly negative on the society’s request for $100,000 operational funding and $25,000 for capital allocations in the next budget year.

The second presentation was from the Chamber of Commerce outlining their vision for regional economic development for all Colchester County areas. The partnership is modelled after Moncton and Halifax, differing from CoRDA in that 52 county businesses have committed $87,000 over the three years. Stewiacke and Millbrook have committed to $15,000 each over three years, and Town of Truro is onside with $105,000 over three years. Colchester Municipality is being asked for $195,000 for three years. Truro and the Municipality are being asked to cover the salary of their Economic Development officers, who would work under an Executive Director. A nine member board, comprised of one representative from each municipality and five business people is proposed. The presentation was received with staff to report to council at a later meeting.

The third and most interesting presentation was lead by Wayne Wamboldt, from the municipality’s Kemptown Balefill facility who introduced Endurance Wind with a proposal for one or two 50 KW small wind turbines in a 20 year contract under the province’s COMFIT program. Financial projections, even if financed at 100%, one turbine would show a profit of $3,946.00 each year for the first 12 years; two turbines $13,808 each of the first 12 years. Once the turbines were amortized over 12 years, the remaining eight years of the contract would see annual profits at $62,256 for one turbine or $128,911 for two turbines.

It’s comforting to see a Colchester staffer driving an initiative, which could net the municipality $1,405,473 (1 turbine) or $2,738,675 (2 turbines) over a 20 year period.

If council can see it’s way to approve, such a project, why not install three or four turbines? Create profits so the municipality can use some of the proceeds as incentives to fill up Debert Industrial Park creating hundreds or thousands of jobs.

What would you do?

 

 


January 2015

 

I am not going to presume that dropping gasoline prices are going to solve many of our problems, but it sure has provided some temporary relief at the pumps. Being able to save $12-15 on each fill up, leaves a bit more change in my pocket.

Now if furnace oil prices would drop as much, the savings would be even greater. Early this fall, it took over a $1,000.00 to fill up with furnace oil. If over the next couple of months, a similar drop (30 cents a litre) on furnace fuel would come our way, we’d be saving approximately $250.00 or more on a 900 litre tank. Now that’s real savings.

Now that we are running an $.80-$.85 CDN dollar, improvement in the export sector is already visible. Exports over the years have been our backbone. Many sectors in the export community have been improving since early fall, but the jury is still out on what will happen to all the tar sands jobs.

If there is a long downturn in tar sands work, many of those who went west might drop the keys off at the bank and head "Downeast". Those to commute might not be making the fortnightly flight back and forth as often.

However, back in Nova Scotia, there are many other concerns and problems to be fixed. Overall the attitude is not good. Healthcare workers are horribly upset at, Health Minister, Leo Glavine. School Boards are in a mess, with rising costs and poor outcomes on the quality of student marks.

We’re all being squeezed as if we were grapes up in Malagash.

The Ivany Report and other consultants efforts since then have laid out what they think is the road to recovery. However, the bookies are betting there isn’t enough political will to follow through and make things happen.

If we wish to fix things for decades, the education system needs a major overall, starting at the minister’s office. Notice I did not say the minister. Minister Casey has a life long career in education, prior to politics and is the appropriate one to do the job, but she has to start just below the deputy minister level.

Education is the crucial problem. In two decades those now in high school will be poised to be our leaders. Looking forward to 20-30 years, we have only two or three years of fixing to educate future leader correctly.

Many comments from over 19,000 people who provided input complained management top heavy and not enough troops and assistants on the front lines. Upon receiving the report Minister Casey was not a happy camper with the state of the system and she expressed it clearly.

One story told to me. Five to seven years ago, the purchasing department consisted of one person and an assistant with some part time help form within the office. Now the department comprises at least eight people and the manager is working harder to keep the staff busy. It is situations like that which must be eliminated.

Here are my suggestions to the minister:

  • Principals and superintendents should not be educators.
  • They should be professional managers.
  • If the curriculum is designed properly; operational and policy manuals are up to snuff, an educator is not needed to run the ship.
  • A professional manager can read, and knows how to implement policy and deliver results.
  • More autonomy needs to be given to the local schools to seek local professional trades people for minor repair and maintenance work. Probably less expensive and supports the rural economy.
  • Do we need regional boards?
  • Would Charter Schools deliver better results for less money?
  • Can some of the existing schools be retro-fitted for better energy and operational efficiency?
  • Bus some of the students from a bustling community to a nearby existing under-utilized school.
  • Eliminate the capital budget for new schools and save $-Millions, otherwise impose an "area tax rate to pay for the new school.
  • Make the teachers pay for their own upgrading, or deduct the cost of upgrading from their increased pay scale.

That’s all I have to say at this point. Merry Christmas, Maurice


 

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