Rees' Pieces 2019 Archives


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December 2019 - Is a plague lurking in our schools?

As a parent or grandparent are you concerned a potential plague may be lurking in our schools?

Statistics show only 71.7% of students have been vaccinated thus creating possibility of tragedy. Even though New Brunswick boasts a vaccination rate larger than 87%, there was an outbreak of 12 cases in 2019.

A bill requiring all students be vaccinated or produce a legitimate medical exemption was introduced in the legislature by Tim Houston, leader of the Opposition. The fall sitting has ended so the bill will not pass.

I am not trying to promote hysteria, but rather give you the facts. If there is a potential of an outbreak, immediate action is required.

Concerned parents should do a lot of soul searching. Most schools have a Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Maybe it’s through that organization parents can find greater strength by tossing the ball to the PTA executive and membership to get things rolling.

If concern about a measles outbreak makes it to the agenda for discussion within a month (before the next PTA meeting) education officials or home room teachers can conduct an audit of their class and deliver a report to PTA members. Eventually a report must be sent home to all parents.

Once reports are received from teachers within a particular school, the PTA executive could consult with other PTA’s to determine appropriate action and how and to whom they will consult for a solution.

In 1998 measles was all but eradicated, but focus on the problem and due diligence has waned. Some family doctors are pleading with patients to ensure their children are vaccinated and have received the recommended booster shots.

In reality there are three concerns:

  1. No family or community should have to deal with a preventable death of a student, because others were not vaccinated.
  2. Students are the leaders of tomorrow and their potential contribution to their community must be considered.
  3. The 71.7% of students who have been vaccinated should not be placed in danger of catching measles from those non-vaccinated.

How forceful parents become is an individual decision. If they wish to talk with neighbours and bring the matter to the local PTA, they will find strength and wisdom from acting within a concerned group.

Should they decide to push the matter forward communicating with the general public is necessary. If a particular group’s actions starts to gain traction, others must be aware.

If the movement spreads province-wide, the Department of Education will be forced to take action. There will be a provincial election within two years. It could become an important item during a campaign.

On a much more positive note, congratulations should be extended to Craig Burgess, Director Recreation Services, Municipality of Colchester for being recognized as Recreation Nova Scotia’s 2019 Recreation Director of the Year. CONGRATULATONS CRAIG, it’s much deserved.

Municipal Elections will be held In October 2020. Those thinking of putting their name forward to become an elected municipal representative need to study the matter from all angles. Municipal politics is the grassroots of democracy, and quite often taxpayers "come to you" with provincial or federal matters, because you are more accessible and they know you better. The responsibility of elected office ist much larger than attending a couple of meetings per month. Serving in a municipal capacity can be rewarding, but also stressful at times.

All municipalities need the "best people available" serving as "elected". In the past few decades voter inaction has seen far too many acclaimed through Acclamation.

If taxpayers are engaged; asking questions, long before nominations open, there will be more candidates. The pathetically low turn-out for municipal elections goes directly back to taxpayers. It’s not that they didn’t vote, but primarily because they didn’t care enough to make it a matter of discussion throughout the previous year.

Taxpayers need to show more interest by listening; encouraging people to become candidates, possibly participating and then voting.

Elsewhere in this issue we have published Part 1 of 2 based on a comparison of Nova Scotia’s forest industry to how forestry is much more successful in Finland. Learn how Finlanders appreciate their forests. - Maurice





November 2019 - The ice is too thin

The trade war between USA and China will have very negative impact on Nova Scotia. The changing pattern for export destinations for Nova Scotia has been declining since the Age of Sail.

Our ancestors talked about Nova Scotia’s sailing ships sent to sea as soon as they were launched. Piled high with lumber they returned with molasses and rum from Jamaica. Built in rural Nova Scotia, our ships touched shores around the world. We were famous for shipbuilding expertise; captains who knew their way around the world and the ability to conduct trade.

Since WW II instead of global trade, we focused on north-south transactions. As trade with USA continued to occupy more of our time, we de-emphasized travelling the world.

Now we are in the cross-hairs of Trump’s battle with China.

The crippling result might not be critical for a few years.

However, here is where we are headed and why.

Trump is attempting to by-pass China by increasing trade and signing trade agreements with Asian counties such as Singapore, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and even Australia.

Another part of Trump’s battle with China is Huawei Technologies, which he has declared dangerous to national security. In forbidding USA companies to deal with the company, the US government is also pressuring trading partners to succumb to his request. The problem with this approach is most of the targeted countries, Asian, East Asian and South Asian, including Australia, have larger trading patterns with China than the USA.

If Trump sticks to his guns, he will draw Canada even further into the battle, as he has already done by asking for the extradition of Wanzhou Meng, 46, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies arrested on December 1 at Vancouver International Airport while changing planes.

Canada’s inability to un-ravel itself from the mess has already seen exports of wheat, soybeans, pork and other products banned from China. More embargoes from China on Canadian products are expected.

Nova Scotia fish and lobster exporters are very nervous expecting their industry might be next. Nova Scotia might have some say about Canadian exports, but we can only ask Ottawa to find a solution before it becomes a problem.

Since the early 40’s there has been significant decline in the number of countries, which Nova Scotians could call a "favoured" trading destination.

Here’s some historical figures to consider as you try to determine what is ahead for Nova Scotia’s Exports:

  • From 2007 to 2012, value of Nova Scotia’s exports decreased at an average annual rate of 6.6%;
  • The province’s exports as a share of the value of Canada’s global exports declined from 1.2% in 2007 to 0.8% in 2012;
  • Nova Scotia’s exports decreased by 14.3% between 2011 and 2012.

In 2012, manufactured goods accounted for 83.9% of the value of Nova Scotia’s exports, with resource-based goods representing the remaining 16.1%. This composition had changed since 2007, when manufactured goods and resource-based goods accounted for 66.7% and 33.3% of the value of the province’s exports. (Next month: Forestry could pick up the slack on resource-based exports).

Nova Scotia’s highest-valued exports in 2012 were pneumatic rubber tires, crustaceans and chemical wood pulp accounting for 45.0% of the province’s exports. Nova Scotia’s pneumatic rubber tire exports increased from $746.4 million in 2007 to $984.9 million in 2012. Crustacean and chemical wood pulp exports decreased from $573.3 million and $168.4 million in 2007 to $572.7 million and $163.9 million in 2012.

In 2012, the United States was Nova Scotia’s most significant export destination, with exports valued at $2.7 billion. China, France, the United Kingdom and Japan were among the top five export destinations in 2012. Together, these four countries accounted for 10.0% compared to 7.1% in 2007.

There is not enough room here to illustrate what has happened since 2012. However you get a feel for the downward spiral.

We can’t turn our back on trade with the USA, but for our own preservation, we need to increase trade with other countries, including re-uniting with favourites from the Age of Sail.

Increasing exports is just one of the challenges facing our provincial leaders, but it’s critical. Do you have any suggestions? - Maurice


October 2019 - Bright future ahead

Recently when I started to think about the theme of this month’s column, in some ways, I felt like a frog on a lily pad. There were so many options I could not decide which one would be the best landing.

I could focus on: ongoing activities and apparent disrespect for USA residents; how the populist movement is changing UK politics; what might be the underlying themes of the Federal Election; the forest sector once outcome of Northern Pulp situations are finalized; why Colchester’s council voted not to meet with Bible Hill’s Commissioners, or official opening of Fundy Discovery Site Phase 1.

All potential subjects except Fundy Discovery Site would have negative overtones and I don’t like being negative.

Instead, I decided on several positive subjects very important to Cumberland and Colchester: Approval of the Cliffs of Fundy GeoPark application; impact on the economy when broadband initiatives are announced; Debert Airport becoming a regional hub and mobilizing communities for self-betterment.

Cliffs of Fundy GeoPark: This combined initiative involving both Cumberland and Colchester Counties is the one project capable of putting northern Nova Scotia on the world stage. Colchester and Cumberland areas will become an iconic provincial destinations passing Peggy’s Cove and Cape Breton. Once UNESCO designation is approved, serious planning will be required. Municipal governments combined with community group aspirations; businesses need for growth and citizen’s desires to welcome thousands of people from around the world will need to work together to develop a master plan.

Millions of people want to experience the marvels of the Bay of Fundy. Some geoparks have attendance of 3-4-million people per year. In the early years, if we can attract 50,000 per year (1%) we will be on the road to iconic success. Yes, it will take a lot of work, utmost co-operation and mega-millions of investment, but we can grow like no other area in Canada.

Expanded Broadband and Cell Service: Cumberland and Colchester came together like never before to choose an ISP provider following a Response for Proposals (RFP) selecting who they wanted. An application was submitted by June 30th. Everyone is waiting for Develop Nova Scotia to announce its approval. Should the joint-municipal proposal be approved, it will be the first Federal Constituency to implement fibre-optic speed equal to or better than urban areas.

When approval is received rural areas of Cumberland and Colchester will be far ahead of other rural areas, and can set their sights on becoming as competitive as Halifax Regional Municipality. Rural Canada is projected to see a population increase of 7% in the next decade. This could result in Cumberland-Colchester leading all rural Canada area.

Debert Airport: It is welcome news professionals from Halifax International Airport (HIA) are offering to help Colchester plan a larger role for the Debert Airport. HIA’s growth as a global centre will result in some business currently located there will be squeezed out and HIA executives want to find a home for them. Debert is seen as an ideal location for a variety of reasons: less occurrence of fog; centrally located to serve NB, PEI, and Cape Breton and an hour from Halifax.

With these natural assets, the future looks good for Debert. Council, staff and business interests must be ready for the long haul and ensure the proper planning and investments are times to when maximum results can be attained.

The future of Debert Airport has been on Colchester’s list for over three years, but to develop successfully, as a regional transportation hub, timing has to be right. The movement started to gain traction when Michelin purchased land resulting in the closure of Coldbrook airport. Debert wasn’t ready so the flying club relocated to CFB Greenwood.

With Debert on the radar screen it became a topic of conversation. If proper planning and patient investments can be made, Debert Airport will become an important spoke in regional airport infrastructure. It’s up to Colchester councillors recognize the need to think outside the box with completion in the next decade.

Have I made my point? Colchester and Cumberland have a great future. We need to ensure the proper implementation plans are in place. - Maurice.


September 2019 - We Both Have Major Problems

Canada and United States of America have major problems needing immediate attention to permit each country reach its greatness. South of the border faces historical problems involving racism, white supremacy, gun control and maintaining their influence in all corners of the globe rather than solving internal problems for their own 330-Million residents.

Canadians hated the government of the day causing cancellation of the "long gun registry", whereas the United States has problems concerning ability to carry guns. Within 24 hours two massive shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio 31 people died and 51 were wounded. There will be an internal political battle whether or not Trump will take decisive action including asking the Senate to enact legislation, already passed by Congress, for his signature.

I’ll take our dislike for the long gun registry any day.

Canada’s 37.06-Million residents are facing different problems. Too many communities don’t have safe drinking water; housing conditions up north, urban and remote communities need immediate attention; provinces are relegated to "have" and "have not" status and no government or leadership within our political parties are willing to "bash heads" and bring people together for solutions.

"Problem solving" at the coffee clubs at Tim Horton’s or other facilities are more logical than what comes from the mouths of political leaders, regardless of political party.

Decisions over coffee cups are by "wanna-be’s" who meet daily to solve global problems. They are politically correct because they have the common perspective of how any particular subject affects their community.

In zeroing in on Canada’s problems, let’s look at Atlantic Canada. Residents and businesses are drowning in high taxes, because governments of all political stripes failed to take action to provide solutions.

Many have said "we are over governed". The problem is not the number of elected, although there are too many, but rather two areas, which are explained below.

First, a 2015 policy paper by AIMS concludes in Atlantic Canada there are 31,686 pubic service employees, above the national average, of which there are 17,437 in Nova Scotia. Secondly, the wage gap is hurting the economy. In 2015 employees in the sub-national public (no federal) sector were compensated at a rate 47.5% higher than colleagues in the private sector - $68,600 compared to $46,500.

Nationally, the average gap is 26.5%. Median income for Colchester, according to Statistics Canada is $42,782 almost $4,000 less than the average for Atlantic Canada. Provincially income is listed at $44,931.

The 2015 policy paper outlines how much the "excess" public servants are costing Nova Scotians. There are 101 excess employees per 1,000 population, 18 higher than the national average, equating to 17,437 employees whose compensation totaled $1.027-Billion. The projected provincial budget deficit for 2015-2016 was $308-Million.

If provincial and municipal governments, current or previous, had worked hard to reduce 33% of the excess public servants there would not have been a deficit. Equally understandable if the province and municipalities established a 10 year program to bring the public service in line with the national average they would save taxpayers $-Millions per year.

Atlantic Canada could become one of the most prosperous regions in Canada, if the four governments embarked on a program to align the public sector to national average. In 2015, compensation for Atlantic Canada’s 31,686 excess public servants totaled $2.072-Billion, while the region’s provincial deficits totaled $1.699-Billion.

In 2015 the wage gap between public and private sector compensation was $22,100 per year. Compensation for 17,437 excess employees above the private sector compensation level of $46,500 totals $385.357-Million per year. If, over time, the gap could be cut in half, it would save $192.7-Million per year, without reducing staffing levels.

A 10-year program on two fronts – align employment levels through attrition, wage restraint, and other frugal management; plus reduce the gap between public and private sector compensation would save millions of dollars in each category.

Nova Scotia will have municipal elections in 2020 and a provincial in 2021. Deputy Ministers and municipal CAO’s need to be planning now.

How many elected or want-to-be elected individuals will embrace reducing the cost of the public service to bring it more in line with national averages?


August 2019 - Dog days of Summer are Coming

With some of the high heat and extreme humidity, we have already had a taste of what will be ahead during the annual infliction of "Dog Days of Summer". If it has been a while since you have heard the term, think back to how you felt for a few days a week or so ago.

Those are the required days in August to give field crops and our gardens the heat units and cooling overnights a quick rush towards maturity and can happen anytime once the strawberry season is over. The high temps and humidity with cooling overnight also contributes to why so many save their vacation until August. They are also a prelude to Nova Scotia’s hurricane season, if we are to experience one and a reminder "School’s In" is just around the corner.

We are a little over a month away from the "crazy" six weeks of a federal election campaign. I’m not going to comment on the possible outcome, because everyone has either a belief or hope. Political pollsters have been busy gearing up for the mad rush to determine who is up, who is down, and what is trending.

All I wish is campaigns stay as respectful as possible, and when it comes time to vote, Canadians will exercise their option to vote, which is not possible for millions of people around the world.

Residents, politicians and business leaders in Cumberland-Colchester are keeping their fingers crossed hopeful Develop Nova Scotia will approve the application made by the two-county chosen ISP provider. I know a bit about the background leading to the end of June $-multi-million submission, but have not been privy to the details now be explored by the folks in Halifax.

Nova Scotia’s approach to announcing or choosing an ISP provider to implement a province-wide rural high speed internet program by Develop Nova Scotia is a mammoth task. DNS is in the process of evaluating proposals submitted at the end of June.

However, my worry stems from my observation Nova Scotia seems to be falling far behind New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. A delay will put businesses in a less competitive position with our neighbours also announcing plans for 5G ready service later this fall.

In an announcement on July 25th, Xplornet will invest $80-Million and the Federal Government will invest $40-Million to deliver 5G ready technology to 83,000 homes and businesses. Within the last year, both NB and PEI have made announcements selecting Xplornet to be the leader for province-wide high-speed rural internet service.

Nova Scotia is a Canada-wide leader in recycling and waste going into landfills which is a tremendous feat for environment concerns. However, the achievement rings very hollow if we can’t get our act together and develop a plan to ensure our rural businesses are competitive when it comes to internet service.

Great the province created the $193-Million Internet Fund, but it’s only useful if people who know and understand the needs of Rural Nova Scotians. There are many who feel DNS is trying to have a slower implementation plan, which would assist Canada’s largest ISP providers by parceling out the assistance at a pace which will match incremental budget increases of the "Big Boys".

Nova Scotia’s rural areas need 5G ready internet service as soon as humanly possible to build-out. Many internet savvy professionals feel our great province is quickly falling behind, and there is too much "micro-management" in play by staff who don’t know and understand the pressures rural areas are under.

If you talk to Tom Taggart, municipal councillor, real-estate agent, and member of the Board of Directors of Federation of Canadian Municipalities he will tell you studies show if rural areas had internet service almost equal to service in urban areas, rural areas across Canada will see tremendous growth within the next decade.

What many people don’t realize is with an increase in number of professionals capable of working from home; a more relaxed life-style, not to mention lower real-estate and housing costs, the only thing holding back a rural re-build is lack of internet service.

I’ve still got my fingers crossed, Cumberland-Colchester will have 5G ready internet service soon. -Maurice



July 2019 - I’ll stay away from negativity

This month I’ve more than doubled my efforts with regard to my column. I started early and was lamenting about the condition of health care in the province and how it is in shambles. The more I researched, the more I wrote. It became so long, you will find it elsewhere in this issue.

Now I am back at the drawing board, trying to figure out what words of wisdom, I can generate. I promise, in this version I will try to stay away from a lot of negativity.

However, I have one matter to get off my chest. It’s just over 100 days, when we will be marching to the polling booths to cast our vote in the Federal Election in mid-October. I know retirement of Bill Casey after 30 years service was a blow to Liberal aspirations, but I can’t figure out why they haven’t called a nomination meeting.

Time is a wasting. The conservatives chose Scott Armstrong, back when there was snow on the ground; the Green Party has selected Jason Matthew Blanch, who has carried the party flag previously. The NDP are still searching and licking their wounds after Lenora Zann, resigned her MLA seat to sit as an Independent in the provincial legislature. Within minutes of announcing her independent status at an anniversary party to celebrate 10 years as the MLA for Truro-Bible Hill- Salmon River-Millbrook she announced she was going to seek the Liberal Nomination to replace Bill Casey.

Whenever the nomination meeting is held she will be up against James Hardiman who announced his nomination candidacy in mid-May. Matthew Rushton, who was Liberal Candidate in Colchester South in the 2017 provincial election is rumoured to be seeking the nomination, but has not filed papers.

Colchester Council is watching closely the application for a Construction and Demolition Materials site for Middle Stewiacke to handle a large volume of Asbestos material. Citizens are out-raged and concerned about air-borne asbestos particles from many trucks travelling through their communities.

One has to concerned about the Department of Environment possibly giving approval to the site, when there already is the Waste Management Facility in Kemptown. When it comes to demolition of buildings, asbestos is a major concern. Maybe management at Department of Environment has not read the latest bulletins about Dangers of air-borne asbestos. Wonder, who knows who for them to turn a blind eye.

The Canadian Snowbirds surely turned on the after-burners as they put on a magnificent show in front of 4,400 attendees in Debert on June 19th. The turnout of a large crowd in mid-week even astonished organizers and those who track crowds for similar shows.

Not sure how official and reliable the information is, but I’ve been told, for the size of the host community, the June 19th event in Debert ranks amongst the largest crowd in Canada. Sure larger metropolitan areas would draw a larger crowd, but for community on just over 1,000 residents, Debert appears to be a record holder.

Maybe this will entice organizers to bring the show back to Debert in a few years.

We won’t know until mid or late July the success of the joint collaborative effort by Cumberland and Colchester Counties to be the first Canadian Federal Constituency to get approval for the installation of high speed Broadband internet service in one initiative. Staff of both counties and their chosen ISP supplier / contractor are putting the finishing touches on the proposal which is due in Develop Nova Scotia office on June 28th.

The initiative has been in the works for just over a year. The two counties are hopeful they will have a shore in the record books for their successes. They have already made history, simply from the standpoint how well they worked together and the speed at which it happened.

With this exercise under their belts, they should start looking around for other major projects which can be tackled jointly.

If their broadband project is successful, they will be provincial leaders and would make excellent "ambassadors" to show the rest of the province how to become the "most connected" province in Canada.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed. - Maurice



June 2019 - Congratulations Cumberland-Colchester for Great Collective effort

First things first.

Congratulations to Cumberland and Colchester Municipal governments for a high level of co-operation and a lot of planning and detailed work on to put together a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) for a massive Rural Broadband and Connected Communities Collaboration.

The RFEI was issued on May 24th and interested applicants must reply by June 7th. Timelines are tight but Mark Austin, the project coordinator for the two counties is adamant he will have a strong proposal submitted by June 28th to align with Develop Nova Scotia’s (DNS) deadline for applications.

The project has been in the works for just over a year, since senior representatives from each Municipality, along with selected provincial representatives, met at the Peg to explore working together and to learn about how such a massive undertaking could become reality.

If the application meets DNS approval and the economics are in line with expectations, Cumberland and Colchester Counties would become one of the most connected regions in Canada. They would be creating history by being the first two counties to throw their hat in the same ring, to get it done.

If the proposals come together as anticipated, and in line with a study done in the Annapolis Valley it might mean 85% of Cumberland and Colchester residents and business would have internet speeds equal to or greater than many urban areas.

Using the Annapolis Valley study as a base and I have no confirmation the Cumberland-Colchester would be similar or even close, the remaining 15% of connections could be based on satellite service. In the Valley, satellite was the only economical way to bring service to areas, which were very remote, or topography would not allow service to be developed from towers or buried fibre cable. The lack of population density was upping the cost per household to well over $100,000. Although not as fast as fibre-related installations, today’s satellite service delivers internet service much faster than currently available even in sub-divisions, which are close to an urban core.

By late June reviewers of the RFEI will know if it makes sense and economics are in order. What a feather in the cap of Cumberland and Colchester councils, especially to Mark Austin, if all this comes together. Nova Scotia is a global leader in recycling, what an honour to be at the forefront of Canadian municipalities and their respective communities to be held up as an example of how to do it; while doing it at a lower cost than anticipated.

Another area where Colchester and Cumberland are showing great strides of working together is ensuring a quality presentation has been prepared to obtain UNESCO designation for the Cliffs of Fundy Aspiring Geopark. The volunteer community workers, whom I have a relationship with and talk to often, can’t say enough good things and are amazed how the two municipalities blend together to get something done.

The two counties might not have the votes or number of seats, which political parties look for when they want to get re-elected, but they are at the top of the list when it comes to resourcefulness of its citizens. When you want to look at impact, go back 150+ hears and see how many Father’s of Confederation hailed from these rural areas. HRM might have the population and today’s financial strength, but how many of their forefathers were able to put it together to create Canada?

There are two additional things Halifax needs to remember, without the 20% of Canadians in rural area who would grow the food, or who has the resources – forest, water, minerals and many of the things needed for them to continue life?

The province certainly benefitted from Sable Gas and Deep Penuche, but HRM got a larger slice of the pie, but those projects are history.

Not that we are headed to fracking for natural gas, but Halifax needs to remember if we are short of energy and they decide on fracking, where will it come from? Never forget Cumberland Basin, Pictou and Hants County’s Kennetcook River Valley will able to save your bacon. However, it will be on "our terms". - Maurice

May 2019 Organ donation plan, the right move.

The past month has been full of twists and turns. Seems like everything is jumping all over the place. Along with varied weather we had high winds, which knocked down some magnificent barns, and flipped over some trailers, in between plenty of rain, and the occasional snow squall. Then next day everything was calm.

I was pleased to see the government bring in and pass "assumed approval", where it applies to organ donation. In 95% of the cases, I detest and am against assuming people’s approval. Remember the public’s uproar with the Telco’s and cable companies.

However, I feel where it comes to organ donation, it was the right move. Yes, some people were adamant in their opposition and I can understand why. Regardless how you feel, it is necessary to understand at the time of your death, nothing happens without approval from family members, so there is a "way out".

There is a shortage of donations, and some people succumb to their affliction as a result. My personal feeling is if I spend most of my life trying to help and be kind to people, then in death, if I can help someone with an organ donation, I’m all for it.

Probably, the remainder of this writing will be all over the place. So here goes.

I’m still seriously peeved at the process being used to bring quality high speed internet service to rural areas. In the beginning, when $195-Million provincial funding was announced, I was hopeful things might "gel" and we could see implementation. However, when people in urban HRM were appointed decision makers, I knew were in trouble.

My sources tell me Cumberland and Colchester Counties are getting their act together and an RFP is expected in a couple of weeks, with a closing in mid-June. I’ve been involved behind the scenes to some extent, and have an understanding of what could be possible. To deliver internet service, which would be G5 ready, to the two counties would cost upwards of $40-Million.

If Cumberland and Colchester each committed $1-Million, and the province and the Feds each contributing $6-7-Million, installation could begin as I’ve been told $$$ required for the remainder is a slam dunk.

If someone wants to know more about the inside scoop, call me. Professionally, I can’t reveal all that I have learned. However, call your MP, MLA, or councillor to apply pressure.

Three surprises came to the surface during the April 25th meeting of council. Each had several segments to them.

Budget: I anticipated a small raise in the tax rate. Council had held the rate the last couple of years, but it had to be this year. Not a good political move to wait until 2020/2021, as there is municipal election in October.

Policing: Council has complained about the cost of policing with concerns a number of RCMP assigned to the municipality were non-active for variety of reasons, including sick-leave. Without checking back to files from month’s ago, memory tells me there were four non-active members. There was discussion either get the human-power up or get a credit on the account.

I expected council to push for credit, but during budget deliberations they choose to ask for a reduction of three officers.

However, the big surprise, when it was indicated there’s a move afoot to consult with Truro Police Service about providing policing to the county. Maybe Colchester will go alone, but let’s see where this goes.

Code of conduct: This evolved two years ago when there was a major uproar. It wasn’t clear how loathe council was about adopting one. It took Mayor Blair to remind council Department of Municipal Affairs has mandated one must be introduced. Staff are to report.

The other shocker was a letter which Councillor Taggart asked to be moved from "closed" session to "open" session. It dealt with a request my Millbrook First Nation to have 943 acres of land they have purchased in 13 parcels be set aside to create Millbrook Indian Reserve 27D. (see the headline story this issue). Astonishing to see the initial comments around the table. Council is to reply by June 7th. - Maurice



April 2019 - $20,000 and Four Months Wasted

Of the hundreds of council meetings I have attended or endured since my first council meeting in Woodstock, NB in 1963, a few of them have caused the head to spin. Colchester’s council meeting on February 28th is one of those near the top during a span of six decades.

Not only was the presented consultant’s report poorly drafted; poorly presented; did not answer the original questions and contained inaccurate information of municipal population. Instead of spending approximately $20,000 a cup of coffee and thirty minutes with someone in charge of handling employee payroll would have provided concise accurate and understandable information.

At the time of this writing, 18 hours after witnessing the episode my head is still spinning. Here’s the backgrounder. In 2018 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) issued a ruling the total amount of money paid to a mayor, deputy mayor or councillor would be calculated as income. (Previously, in most municipal jurisdictions two thirds of a stipend was calculated as taxable amount with one third a "non-taxable" amount to offset expenses).

With everything being counted as income, councillors, rightly so, asked: "How much increase should be added to the stipend to ensure the amount of money councillors were taking home was the same as previous years?"

Not a difficult question. Most elected representatives are employed elsewhere, or retired with pensions. In Canada the marginal tax rate varies based on total income which is taxable. Councillors were not intending nor asking for coverage on their overall income, just coverage for what they received from the municipality.

Even the payroll department at the municipality could have provided the answer, and one would not need to buy someone a coffee.

On evening of February 28th, it took over an hour; tensions got heated and councillors expressed frustration at the lack of clarity. As part of the report, population stats of municipalities, province-wide, was used as a leading contributing factor to determine the stipend for elected representatives. That might have been fine, but to further illustrate how far off base the consultant was, the figures used for Municipality of Colchester was listed as 51,464, which includes populations for Town of Truro, (12,260); Stewiacke, (1,405) and Millbrook First Nation, (758) when it should have been approximately 38,000 for rural Colchester.

It appears similar inclusion of towns and villages went into comparative analysis of other data province-wide.

After the meeting, I contacted Roy Thompson, Thompson Accounting Services, Truro who graciously volunteered to provide a revised gross pay scale, so councillors, deputy mayor and mayor had the same "take-home" monies, after CRA’s new regulations were implemented. (His calculations are included elsewhere in this issue).

Let’s hope one simple thing was learned: "Upwards of $20,000 of taxpayer’s money and four months were wasted to provide non-adequate answers".

Now onto the remainder of this month’s submission.

As I have stated previously, I continue to be unimpressed how Nova Scotia is handling and proceeding to deliver "high speed" internet service to rural areas. Instead of managing the problem, implementing regulations and ensuring contractors are accountable. Develop Nova Scotia is trying to micro-manage everything from top down by pre-qualifying ISP contractors. Accountability and the ISP’s financial investment will ensure qualifications are in place.

Not only has Develop Nova Scotia been set up for failure. Impossible to deliver what rural Nova Scotia needs when most of the people making and implementing accountability are Halifax based and don’t know what Highway #2 river divides Cumberland and Colchester Counties. I am predicting, before completion: Cost $-Millions more than necessary: timetable to completion will extend beyond acceptability and smaller local companies will be overlooked.

Worse yet, is the public disappointment and business concerns about falling behind others in terms of productivity and competiveness. Rural Nova Scotia residents are asking why are we being held hostage?

Why can’t we keep up with New Brunswick and PEI? Both have obtained Federal Funding and signed contracts with private sector as investor partners to install 5G rated internet province-wide. Xplornet will deliver 5G services to over 20,000 rural homes in over 300 communities in PEI.

In NB and PEI Xplornet, as part of the contracts, is financing approximately 25-33% of the cost. Why are we being marginalized? - Maurice





March 2019 - Why are we "sitting on our hands"?

With a large variety of topics, I am passionate about, choosing this month’s theme is like being at a grandchildren’s birthday party and you get roped into playing "Pin the tail on the Donkey", while being blindfolded.

I could easily spout off about political musings in Ottawa about SNC-Lavalin; refusal of the provincial government to reveal costs associated with the now Yarmouth-Bar Harbour ferry; reducing meetings of the provincial Public Accounts Committee from 30 meetings to monthly and restricting the topics to be covered. I have enough information to compose two columns on Stats Canada revealing the industry categories that resulted in the Northern Region losing 2,500 jobs in 2018.

Another topic which is dear to every one’s heart, is the restrictions invoked by Develop Nova Scotia to deliver modern high speed internet to rural areas, now that a $190-Million Trust Fund has been established.

However, I have chosen to allocate most of available space to ask questions and seek answers why the RCMP commissioned a study in 2004, which eventually revealed three important "don’t do" items and they ignored all three. I’m speaking about the decision to move 55 high-paying jobs from its Communication Centre on Prince Street, Truro to Dartmouth.

Bill Casey, MP has been fighting the possible decision for nearly three years, with very little outcry from the electorate. Let’s face it, if this situation was occurring in Cape Breton, there would be a mammoth public outcry and "all hell to pay". I’m as sure as I am still alive, the Cape Bretoners wouldn’t let it happen without public outcry and potentially public demonstrations at RCMP headquarters.

The electorate in Colchester and Truro haven’t mounted any public campaign against the move. Seems like they are "sitting on their hands" and saying, "Oh, well".

In Cape Breton there would be many calls asking for RCMP officials to appear before CBRM council, and probably councils from adjoining municipalities.

I must ask. What have council’s from Colchester, Truro, Stewiacke, commissioners from Bible Hill and Tatamagouche and Millbrook First Nation done? To my knowledge other than perhaps a letter, or some private discussion, not much.

Who or which group(s) are going to challenge the RCMP’s decision? Maybe organize a public meeting. The RECC or CEC should be large enough to hold a crowd who would wish to attend unless they wish to be an invertebrate. For those not familiar with the "invertebrate" term: "More than 90 percent of all living animal species are invertebrates. Worldwide in distribution, they include animals as diverse as sea stars, sea urchins, earthworms, sponges, jellyfish, lobsters, crabs, insects, spiders, snails, clams, and squid. In otherwise no backbone. Eels and snakes are in similar category.

In Bill Casey’s column starting on Page 5, his original request for a copy of the report was denied. He then filed an Access to Information, which by law they had 45 days to respond. RCMP stalled for 730 days until Bill complained to the Information Commissioner.

Bill believes, the reason for the reluctance by RCMP to provide the report became very clear when he reviewed the material. Here are three quotes from this RCMP report:

  1. "the RCMP (should) not locate their primary OCC within the Halifax Regional Municipality",
  2. "the OCC Primary service delivery site be outside of HRM due to risks of placing 2 largest police communications centers in close proximity to each other".  
  3. "It is not recommended that the two largest police communications operations in Nova Scotia be placed within the same metropolitan area." 

This report was commissioned by the RCMP. The warnings in these statements could not be clearer. Yet the RCMP has decided to disregard their own report and locate the two largest police communication centers together in Dartmouth. (For more details on Bill’s column see page 5). This plan should be stopped.

If the job loss can’t be stopped that is 2019. However, if the municipal governments in Colchester and electorate do nothing, the shame will be on them for not visibly trying. Where are the MLA’s? Are they supposed to be leaders?

We’ll help, but can’t be the lead. - Maurice




February 2019 - Rural Nova Scotia an Endangered Species

Before you read any further, please understand, I am not abandoning my position of the urgency improved internet and cell services for rural areas. However, there are a few things, which must be solved immediately prior to and are part of resurrecting the rural economy.

The build-out of any area for internet service is 24-30 months, and up to five years to complete provincially. There is greater urgency to solve matters inhibiting improving the rural areas.

So here goes the list then I’ll expand on each one:

Rural Job losses: Stats Canada reports in 2018, HRM increased employment by 9.600, while the entire province created 6,900 new jobs. Simple math shows collectively there was a loss of 2,700 jobs in remaining areas.

Healthcare employment reduced: If you are wondering why people are complaining about healthcare, Stats Canada 2018 reports 3,600 fewer people employed in healthcare and social assistance categories than in 2017.

Resource industry declines: The resource industries including Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying and oil and gas, which are so important to rural areas showing a decrease of 1,100 jobs. However, agriculture showed an increase of 500.

Northern Pulp Mill: The government has mandated next January, Boat Harbour will close and nothing else can be added.

I’ve listed four problem areas, let’s look for solutions. Politicians and political parties constantly look at the "next vote". Granted HRM with 234,200 employed compared to 455,900 throughout the entire province represents 51.3% of the entire workforce.

However, focusing on something that is successful is foolish. You can’t take your foot off the accelerator, but you must divert more resources to failing areas. If school teachers spent most of their attention on the top students, what type of education system would we have?

When was the last time you witnessed, cabinet members and other MLA’s going to rural areas, holding town halls with the invitation, "I need volunteers, from this community, who will form a committee, and tell me what you need? Form you committee, let me know when and I’ll come back and spend a day with you looking for solutions."

Right now, the Northern Pulp Mill has the most urgency. If the mill closes next year, all sawmills from around the province will close within a month. Government needs to find a solution to the mill’s continuance, or find a solution for local sawmills to have a sustainable market for bark, chips and residue. Secondly, government must ensure sawmills have a reliable source for saw logs.

A solution must be found for forestry cooperatives to have a market for the product which is harvested from their approximately 1,500 woodlot owner members. The mill in Abercrombie is just a cog in the wheel.

If we can send a man to the moon, surely technology can find a solution to Boat Harbour.

Looking at the employment chart elsewhere in this issue, I wonder if we have our priorities in the right place?

Information, culture and recreation showed an increase of 2,300 jobs, yet healthcare and social assistance lost 3,600 positions. Granted recreation might help make us healthier, but to that amount? Go figure. Did government money finance these positions?

Solving healthcare is another matter. Somehow, the sector needs an overhauling. For decades we’ve complained about primary healthcare, but it is inconceivable to understand the rationale of 3,600 less jobs in 2018 (68,400 positions) than 72,000 jobs in 2017. To make it even worse, we reached a peak in 2016 when 74,900 were employed in healthcare and social assistance.

Surely, the 2018 drop of 3,600 positions is not due to doctors retiring or leaving. I’d bet at least 3,300 lost jobs were from employment categories with less skills yet providing much needed services.

What needs to happen, is all MLA’s, regardless of party, must direct and ensure the mindset in government offices change to "Rural Nova Scotia is an endangered species. This must be corrected immediately".

I can’t solve the problems, but if residents complain loud enough changes will happen. If changes are to occur, you will make it happen.

The ball in your court. - Maurice



January 2019 - I am disgusted and disappointed.

Two things have upset me to no end and I’m not sure what I can do, or what should be done.

First, I have been following with great interest the province’s initiative to develop a $500-Million program dealing with Electronic Health Records (EHR).

The second is the recent approach develop Nova Scotia has recently announced to bring High Speed Internet service to rural and under serviced areas of the province.

In both cases its my opinion recent approaches have not been grassroots oriented, and may not be in the best interests of rural Nova Scotians needed improved internet service. With regard to EHR desires, which is a good idea, but I’m fearful there will be significant cost overruns, or the technology might not be advanced enough to permit Doctors to use with ease and efficiency.

I’ve been following several media reports, which on the face of them, indicate there has been favouritism in choosing potential suppliers / develops, along with other situations, which question the competence to manage and see the $500-Million project to a successful conclusion. In one report, a similar system in British Columbia has suggested there are failures and major cost overruns, not to mention what has happened in the United Kingdom.

I don’t feel I am alone in my thoughts. Taxpayers who want and require the utmost efficient use of taxpayer dollars, should do their own investigations. From what I have been able to determine, the best bet for Nova Scotia would be to find a way to have a "court ordered" stoppage on the project until the outstanding or questionable aspects surrounding the project are substantiated.

If you have been following the editions of the Shoreline Journal for the past two years you are well aware of my pleading for high speed internet service to rural areas of Colchester and Cumberland Counties, which are currently underserviced.

I thought we were on the road to successful implementation across the province when the ruling Liberals announced they had put $193-Million into an Internet Trust Fund. I started to worry when it was announced, the Waterfront Development Corporation (Halifax, Dartmouth and Lunenburg) was being rebranded as Develop Nova Scotia.

My immediate concern was all members of the Board of Directors were from Metro, with the exception of one member from Lunenburg. I was waiting for an annou7ncement to announce a realignment of the board, or at least an advisory council for the Internet segments, with all members after the shake-up would be rural based. Christmas has arrived and Santa-Stephen hasn’t taken care of the rural areas.

Instead Develop Novas Scotia announced last week, it is implementing a plan to pre-qualify service providers. The result is "metro" interests are going to tell rural area what is going to happen in their area. I wonder if people based in Halifax are the proper choices to make decisions for rural Nova Scotia.

Indications Develop Nova Scotia is proceeding to be POWER HOUSE, by controlling the agenda and issuing and managing RFP’s for around the province. Are they on a power trip and against community-based or municipal initiatives, which could have evolved through consultation? Government has spent $-millions, and issued contracts to large internet providers yet they have failed to service rural Nova Scotia.

Many business and some municipal leaders are developing the feeling those in charge don’t recognize anything outside HRM. Look at the amount of money invested in cultural centres; large concessions to multi-nationals. How many payrolls rebates have been issued to companies more than an hour outside Halifax? Sure larger companies are located in Metro, but rather than looking a larger job creation projects, perhaps there should be a focus on smaller, yet successful rural companies, who through persistence have carved out a niche.

If you wish to get a sense of the feelings in rural areas, just ask farmers. At the recent meeting of Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture member farmers expressed their concern and even make a direct approach to Keith Colwell, Minister of Agriculture.

Time will tell what happens. When will we develop some backbone as say, (Enough is Enough?" Comments welcome.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - Maurice.


MMaurice Rees, Publisher
The Shoreline Journal
Box 41, Bass River, NS B0M 1B0
PH: 902-647-2968; Cell: 902-890-9850