Rees' Pieces

 

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December 2017 - Are we up to "equality"?

Are we coming of age? As a society are we starting to treat everyone as equal? I’ll suggest our track record in North America is not that good. For decades we have pointed our fingers at other societies where a class society is most visible; or dictators routinely eliminate anyone who has opposing thoughts.

Even though Canada, United States and other global powerhouses claim to be democratic they have maintained at least two levels of society: the rich and powerful, including politicians, and the remaining 99% of us who are less powerful and those who are at the bottom of society’s ranking.

Not much is required in the way of explanation, but look at the list: residential schools – organized and y sponsored by government and church; oppression of those with ethnic backgrounds that are "non-white" and "non-anglo-saxon"; women paid less, treated unfairly and used as objects whether sexual or otherwise and those suffering from disabilities, including mental and physical. The list goes on with the LGBT community. Think of all those who were ushered out of Canada’s military in the 50’s and 60’s and later because they were gay or bi-sexual. Most recently Prime Minister Trudeau is bringing some of these demonizing traits to the forefront by issuing an apology to indigenous people in Newfoundland and Labrador and soon issuing a similar apology to those exited from the military for gay and bi-sexual style of life.

Just this past weekend a four-minute social media was posted by a 19 y/o indigenous male in the Prairies who was constantly followed when shopping in his nearby Giant Tiger store. Previous complaints to store management and others did nothing. When the social media posting gathered over 300,000 views the store took action and issued an apology.

Let’s hope as Canadians we can rush to the forefront demanding practicing racism or demonizing those less fortunate stops immediately and those who make such occurrences public are treated as we like to treat those for heroic actions. We must, not only, be welcoming to all societies and ethnic backgrounds, but we must treat them with equality.

If we can achieve that, we’ll be the "most loved and appreciated" country on this earth. If we have 35+Million people working together our future to success will be unstoppable.

We must not stop with eliminating ethnic differences. We must strive to treat urban and rural areas the same. Far too often, not just in Nova Scotia but across this great county, politicians make decisions based on where there are the largest number of votes.

Let’s look at a couple of instances: Hospitals and health care facilities are concentrated in highly populated areas. If we practiced "preventive medicine", we would have less people needing acute medical care. Instead of having surgery like hip or knee replacements concentrated in HRM, perhaps moving some of these procedures to less urban centres would be advisable. Why make everyone go to Halifax? Why can’t some of those patients, go to Kentville, Bridgewater, Truro, Amherst, New Glasgow or Sydney?

Would it make sense to use health care facilities as economic engines to spread benefits around the province? Why should everyone in a rural area have to go to Halifax? I realize not every hamlet which has a doctor or clinic can offer specialized treatment. If someone needs specialized service why not send them to an area other than HRM? If government continues to put all specialty services in HRM, why not close down the rural areas, and make HRM a community of nearly 1-million people?

Similarly, government departments should be spread around the province. If Department of Natural Resources is to do an effective job, it doesn’t make much sense to put them in Halifax. Why not put them closer to the trees and lumbering operations? Likewise fisheries would be better in Yarmouth, Clare or Shelburne.

As we overhaul society to treat everyone with equality politicians in Nova Scotia, regardless of party affiliation, should come together to treat every region of the province as equals. That’s my thought for the month. - Maurice.


 

November 2017 - Unlevel Playing Field for Atlantic Canada

Before starting into my rant for the month, I want to make it clear; I am not trying to upset the environmentalists. However, I am trying to encourage, those who prefer a level playing field to sit up and take notice, and maybe, just maybe, take some action even if it’s just calling one of the 32-MP’s serving as a member of Trudeau’s team.

There are numerous, probably 100’s of examples of how Atlantic Canada has faced an unlevel playing field in Ottawa. The National Energy Board implemented new measures exclusive to TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline application, by announcing the pipeline needed to take into account all the Greenhouse gases created by the Oil Sands product from the time it was taken out of the ground until it was used.

Two recent pipeline projects recently approved, but not yet built…….. One to British Columbia and the contentious Keystone XL pipeline refused by President Obama, but permitted by President Trump did not carry such a burden. They were only accountable for Greenhouse Gas created from construction and maintenance.

Granted Energy East project might have been the least competitive of the three, but it should have been treated the same as the others. Only with level playing fields can each area of Canada feel treated appropriately. It is understandable if the decision to abandon the project was simply economic, because oil prices have dropped from $110, when first suggested to now hovering in the $50 range.

However, it will be most difficult for MP’s to maintain having our trust, because not one of them have mentioned the additional Green House Gas being expected of Energy East was a slight against Atlantic Canada.

Knowing that TransCanada Pipeline had invested over $1-Billion into the project, it is hard to believe their decision was based on previous economics and the recent regulations had nothing to do with their final decision.

I am not saying Atlantic Canadians should be upset because the pipeline is not going forward. However, we should be critical of our MP’s because they permitted Atlantic Canada to be treated unfairly. This is just another example of how Atlantic Canada continues to be treated unfairly with regulations and expectations exclusive to us and does not apply to others.

Here are my cynical thoughts as to why all of this happened. It’s really all about the 2019 Federal Election and keeping as many seats as possible in each province. There are 139 Liberal MP’s in Alberta (3), British Columbia (17), Ontario (79) and Quebec (40). Alberta is happy because the pipeline to BC and Keystone XL to deliver oil to the USA. British Columbia is happy because of the additional boost to its economy, although there are many groups within BC still fighting the project.

The political territory which needs protection is Quebec. With the province adamantly against the project, keeping them happy might have been a very important component to the NEB decision. Keeping as many of the 40 existing Liberal Quebec MP’s to battle against the NDP’s 16; NDP’s 16; Conservative, 11 and Bloc Quebec’s 10 rivals might have been part of the long-distance planning.

Ontario, certainly would benefit from Energy East expressed some opposition, but it wasn’t voicing a strong opposition to the project. Ontario’s 120 seats is certainly the other battle ground. It’s doubtful the Liberals can hold onto the existing 79 seats and expect the NDP (8) and Conservatives (33) to remain at the same level.

By having the National Energy Board (NEB) implement new rules part way through the process many pundits will feel Quebec ruled the roost, as part of an invisible process, to ensure in 2019, the Liberals can come as close as possible to 167 seats to win a second majority government.

Interesting to note Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley, voiced an opinion the NEB treated the Energy East pipeline unfairly, but will focus her efforts on completion of the two recently approved projects.

I feel all Atlantic Canadians should be upset not because Energy East has been cancelled, but because other restrictions were implemented that did not apply elsewhere. Is it time for us to stand up and say, "Pease level the playing field and treat us as equals". Maurice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

October - Cooperation should be mandatory

For many years I have voiced my opinion our successes have occurred because of our tenacity, regardless of what others have heaped upon on. Most recently, I’ve alluded to the first of our downhill run started during Confederation talks back over 150 years ago, when Ontario and Quebec needed us more than we needed them.

From the beginning they set out to rule with an upper hand, perhaps that it was called, Upper Canada. There are more MP’s in the Greater Toronto area (GTA) than the 32 in Atlantic Canada. Sure according to population numbers, they should have more representation. However, they don’t realize we actually hold the winning hand, if we play it. They don’t realize because we have not told or shown them.

If you chat with tourists to visit the Atlantic region and really dig down into what they found amazing it is the sincerity, hospitality and friendliness of Newfoundlanders and Cape Bretoners, not to say anything about the rest of us Maritimers. We are too docile, not aggressive, and accept what other parts of Canada either say or dish out to us.

In the past 150 years Atlantic Canada should be farther up the ladder than we are. We have the ocean routes to the world; the fishery; lumber, and if it wasn’t for Atlantic Canadians, particularly New Brunswicker’s going to Oshawa in the 60’s and 70’s the automotive plants would have failed from lack of staffing.

(I am originally from Woodstock, NB and in the 60’s and early 70’s far too many young guys quit school and moved to Oshawa. About 9 months later they’d return home during summer plant shut-down for three  or four weeks with the flashiest and fastest cars around, and a wad of money to choke a horse).

Now 50 years later we lament about people going to Fort McMurray. The reasons and results are the same. Twenty or twenty-five years in the oil field those who managed their money; bought a home when they got there are now able to move back east at age 45-55, with enough money in their pocket to pay cash for their "back home" dream home and enough savings they really don’t have to work, unless they work to keep busy, or have a passion to start a business.

The brain drain should not have happened, but you can’t blame the ambitious well educated youth wishing to repay education debts and get ahead in life.

However, we can blame those of us who are one or two generations older. Blame must be shared by our forefathers, who didn’t dig their heels in demanding equality, or teach us to do it.

If we showed more backbone becoming radical can you imagine the economy of Ontario and Quebec, if we built causeway, or electrical dam across the shipping lanes of the St Lawrence Seaway?

We have the aggregates, other ingredients  and knowledge how to do it.

I am not suggesting we become that radical, but we flex our muscles demanding more from politicians. Residents and  business leaders must work to develop critical mass applying constant pressure, to ensure Atlantic Canada gets a better deal.

In some ways we are as inept as Donald Trump and his team. Republicans control all three administrative levels: White House, Congress and the Senate. They are failing to put a centralized and focused approach to what needs to be done. It doesn’t have to be Donald’s way, but it could be the way of the Congress and the Senate for betterment of all Americans.

In one way we are the Donald Trump’s of Atlantic Canada. All 32 MP’s in the region are on the government side. However, we have failed to improve our economy. Don’t blame the MP’s, look in the mirror and blame ourselves. We must demand more.

A proper place for unification and development of the pressure points, which could be most effective way for economic improvement, lays at the feet of First Nations communities throughout the region. If Eskasoni, Membertou, Millbrook and Indian Brook joined forces instead of going their solo ways competing with each other those four groups would change Nova Scotia’s future. - Maurice


September - We Need to Promote our Area

Sometimes, when you follow the news as much as I do, it’s a hard decision on what to focus on in this space. There are so many events I’d like to comment on, but bring myself back to reality and say to myself, "How does that impact West Colchester?"

Yes, many of those events are of concern to us, but in the local picture it won’t affect us unless we have similar things going on here.

Take for instance, the riots and one person dead in Charlotteville, Virginia, then how President Trump presented three different reactions in three consecutive major statements….Saturday, Monday and Tuesday when he went off script and spoke directly from the heart.

Regardless of what people say they expect of or from President Trump, the only thing consistent is he will say and do whatever he believes on the day he believes it.

But now let’s come back to focus on West Colchester. We have many assets, but we haven’t become aggressive in letting others know what we have to offer. Tourists visiting our area recognize the assets, and are eager to come back to enjoy them again. However, we take them for granted, don’t feel they are important hence we fail to develop a plan to let others know.

A prime example of not waving the flag locally has just occurred. Councillor Taggart, in his column, writes about how much of an attraction it is to others in other countries and regions. I’m going to talk about "Not Since Moses", attracting hundreds of people from around the world to run through mud on the ocean floor.

It is one of those most unique attractions, which attracts people, but it is not being promoted locally. We often complain the only tourism attractions promoted heavily are Peggy’s Cove and the Cabot Trail with an endless number of photos in and on provincial media on a consistent basis. However, Not Since Moses gets barely a mention. I’m trying to be illustrative and constructive here, but for two years in a row I have not seen a press release issued.

It is the type of event which should be publicized locally if for no other reason that to attract spectators to the shore, if not to encourage more Nova Scotians to participate in the run. It’s unique, and it’s world class. Yet not a word, locally. (We couldn’t even get a photo of the 2017 event).

Maybe the organizers are under staffed. Maybe there are so few of them they couldn’t handle any more people. If that is the case, they should say so, a year in advance so that others could step forward to help. Maybe they need a long term plan, with input from others, to grow the event with more participants and spectators.

Think of the missed opportunities for struggling local community groups, who could participate with fundraisers and additional activities keeping more spectators busy during the day and causing them to stay in the area longer.

Not since Moses could be much bigger. Let’s go back in time. When the W. D. Lawrence was launched on October 27, 1874, historians say approximately 4,000 people lined the shores in Maitland. She was the largest wooden sailing ship of her day, one of the largest wooden ships ever built and the largest sailing ship ever built in Canada.

If crowds that size arrived for an event 143 years ago, how big could the crowd be with today’s available modes of transportation, and social media to promote it.

Councillor Taggart is focused on ensuring "the shore" or West Colchester will have a strong presence at the yet to be developed Palliser site "tourism" infrastructure project. He’s also a big supporter of promoting to the rest of the world what the Bay of Fundy has to offer.

I’m sure he would like to see more people participating in and a much larger crowd of spectators on the shore during this fantastic event. Is there something you would like to do to help? Is there a way residents of West Colchester could lend a hand, and help grow this unique event into an even more successful world class attraction? - Maurice


 

 

August - 150 Years Experience Without

If there ever was a report about economic development, or lack of it, and what needed to be done it was the Ivany Report. The famed "Now or Never" report was blunt and direct telling us like it is. It also cautioned us that before implementing its recommendations, we first needed a change in attitude.

Nova Scotians are very negative when it comes to accepting, demanding or implementing change.

The Ivan Report has failed to gain traction to move forward as intended, because we have 150 years experience accepting the status quo, or letting others implement decisions on our behalf. In the first of a Chronicle Herald, four part series, Donald J. Savoie, a Research Chair at University of Moncton, explains why we are in our current situations.

From the inception of Confederation, Quebec and Ontario took us to the cleaners. It started when building of canals and waterways, backbone of commerce, were promised. Nine of them in "Upper Canada" were completed. However, the Chignecto Canal, the only one identified for the Maritimes was never built.

The exodus of labourers to Ontario and Quebec continued when all 32 Crown Corporations established to handle Canada’s War efforts were located in Upper Canada. Shipbuilding contracts, to build ships for Britain, were awarded to firms in Central Canada.

The bullying of the Maritimes did not stop with the war effort. It continues today with greater intensity. Before proceeding with additional examples, we must admit the reasons for the region’s lack of prosperity lies totally at our own feet. Since Confederation all elected representatives have failed us and continue to do so today.

We are solely to blame. We have failed to step up to the plate and demand they do otherwise. Municipal politicians are first in line. They have not pressured provincial governments to extract a better deal for the Maritimes from Ottawa. Federally, our MP’s don’t have a history of digging their heels in and demanding more.

We are hypocrites and authors of our own misfortune. For example, we lobby governments to ban fracking for shale gas, but are happy to receive transfer payments, via Ottawa from provinces which have used fracking as an engine for economic growth in Western Canada. As Savoie asked in his July 8th report in the Chronicle Herald, "How can we, on both economic and moral grounds, accept transfer payments from other regions that are generated largely by shale gas and oil developments and at the same time say no to shale at home?"

Let’s look at more examples. Jobs are more important in Ontario than the Maritimes. Does anyone remember Elmer MacKay, father of Peter? He gave up his seat so Brian Mulroney could get elected. Then Elmer came back and got re-elected. That is not the example.

After re-election during the Mulroney era, he was promoting building light armoured vehicles in Port Hawkesbury area. We kicked up a fuss pressuring government not to proceed. The federal government granted us our wishes saying it was a moral decision not to move forward to build armoured vehicle for the Mid-East.

In 2015 we were asleep at the switch. We failed to mount a campaign to bring armoured-vehicle jobs east some 30 years later. We were happy with the status quo letting 3,000 jobs be created in London, Ontario. Yes, we have an aging population and we complain our youth and trained professionals relocate elsewhere to better their careers. Yet, we don’t do anything about it.

Are we going to continue to be happy with and demand increased transfer payments from other regions of Canada who have worked hard to have a booming economy? If not, and you feel there should be more prosperity in the region, we need to immediately start some "push-back".

There are two places to start: first with our municipal representatives to pressure Halifax; then secondly, pressure all MLA’s for performance. Then and only then can we say, "our attitude is changing" as we start pressuring MP’s to bring the jobs and recognition to this region.

It will be a mammoth task to change 150 years of attitude. Are you ready to start? - Maurice.


 

July 2017

It’s three days after the May 30th election. All election signs have not been removed; recounts in constituencies requiring them have not been held and there is already talk about major changes and probably at least one by-election. Jamie Baillie, who lead the PC’s to almost doubling the seat count has flown a test balloon, he’d lead the 17 PC MLA’s through the upcoming session of the legislature.

However, he’s also going to review his plans for the next four years. Essentially, he’s saying that by late summer, or early fall he’ll be resigning as party leader. Several party members expect since he lives in Halifax, he’ll resign as Cumberland South MLA.

The next 30 months or so will be interesting to see who is sending signals they will not re-offer, or might resign part way through their mandate. With greater emphasis on social media, the microscopes get larger and more intense, there are a number who are at the age and have served enough time they could move on to the private sector and not have long to wait for their MLA pension to kick in once they reach the age of 55.

Who’s in or who’s out is not of greatest importance. What is important, and no one has an answer, why the ratio of people voting continues to drop. This election at 53%, we had the lowest voter participation in history. I’m have been eligible to vote for 50 years. I can remember when voter turn-out was in the mid-70’s.

What’s in the budget; what program is going to be enlarged, or what might be eliminated is important for today, but the most critical situation is how can we increase voter engagement? The way we are headed, there will be less than 40% will vote within two decades. Not everything is perfect in a democracy, but there are millions of people around the world who are craving for or dying for what we are squandering away.

Experts have been unable to reverse the trend of dropping voter turn-out. I don’t have the answers either, but I’ll give you a bit of my perception:

  • Political parties are so similar, it’s hard to find a difference. Most promises are never fulfilled to

voter expectation.

  • Party platforms are not different enough to engage voters, who are feeling disenfranchised.
  • Politicians would be much more believable if they told us what they are going to cut to enable them to deliver their most recent promise.
  • Most MLA’s head to Halifax and "toe" the party line;
  • Very rarely, if at all, do members vote their conscience, or the wishes of their constituents;
  • Minority governments seem to work better. Parties have to work together, because no one wants to be guilty of causing another election.
  • In a majority government all party leaders work hard to keep members in line voting party policy;
  • HENCE, voters feel their opinions and voices are not heard, because party whips control how everyone votes not what voters want or need.

In Nova Scotia, we could get the voter participation up, if McNeil, Baillie and Burrill would implement changes to party policy. A good start would be to direct all MLA’s to have a set number of town halls in the ridings. It may drive up participation and create greater response to issues.

In tandem with town hall meetings an increase in the number of free votes in the legislature might help spur voter interest relating to issues affecting  different areas. These two changes could be implemented without any additional cost and would demonstrate MLA’s are consulting with constituents.

It would be helpful to increase the emphasis of teaching civics at all grade levels and given as a credit. School Boards should be mandated to request MLA’s make two or three presentations at a school assembly each school year to engage students which will indirectly engage parents.

My final suggestion is to have a good look at areas, where turn out is at it’s lowest to see if there are particular reasons: Perhaps it’s poll location, accessibility, economics, or local hot button issues where voters are feeling shunned.

Your thoughts? Please write to give me your thoughts. - Maurice

 


June 2017- Important Things to do

There are several things which we must be aware of and respect the importance of each with sincerity on a regular basis. They include: pay attention to health; protect family and loved ones; be a good citizen; know and protect the integrity of our county; do the best we can at work; respect the rights and freedoms of others.

In addition we must do what we can looking out for the welfare and betterment of seniors, youth, armed force members, veterans, law enforcement and those not as fortunate as ourselves. Yes, it’s a tall order but as Canadians that is who we should be.

Sound philosophical? No. It’s just being Canadian.

To be all of that there is just one thing we need to do. We need to vote on May 30th.

We’ve celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge, which historians claim, although costly in terms of lives lost and thousands injured was the turning point in World War I and Canada became a Country.

Sacrifice of those lives contributed to freedom, we enjoy today. Think of the oppressed and somewhat homeless people who are fleeing their native land in search of what we take for granted. If for no other reason than to respect our forefathers, who gave so much, we need to get off the couch and vote.

It’s not as simple as going behind a screen, placing an "X" alongside someone’s name then wiping our hands saying, "I did my duty". We must place our mark with the one we feel will do their best to uphold Canadian values.

Look at what’s happening globally in recent years in some of the largest democracies. The electorate has become so volatile and frustrated, pollsters have not been able to get it right. The lack of concern being shown in the United States for parts of its citizens may be its undoing over time.

Before we look around the world, let’s have a quick peek at Nova Scotia’s voting patterns since 2003.The 59th Legislature of the General Assembly (2003-2006) was distributed as follows: PC’s, 25; NDP, 15; Lib, 10; Ind, 1 and Vacant 1. The 60’s Legislature (2006-2009) comprised: PC’s, 21; NDP, 20; Lib, 9; Ind, 1 and Vacant 1.

In 2009 Darrell Dexter’s NDP was elected to form the 61st general assembly (2009-2013) with the following seating arrangement: NDP, 31; Lib 14; PC’s, 12 and Ind, 1. The 62nd Assembly (2013-2017) began with Liberals, 35; PC’s, 10; NDP, 9 and Ind, 1. Standings at dissolution on April 30th, was Lib, 34; PC’s 10, NDP; Ind, 1 and Vacant 1.

Now let’s look around the globe at the electorate’s recent volatility surprising many: Justin Trudeau rose to power with a very large majority in 2015 gathering all seats in Atlantic Canada; the Brits voted to leave the European Common Market in June 2016; Donald Trump surprised the world with a victory over Hilary Clinton in November 2016; France just elected a 39 year old banker as president. Neither he nor the run-off candidate had previous political experience. In fact, none of the traditional ruling parties were in the final run-off.

Scotland is anticipated to hold a referendum to leave the United Kingdom to strike out on its own. Last week, BC’s long serving Liberals under Premier Christie Clarke were elected with a minority. The final outcome will not be known until mail-in ballots and recounts are completed. The NDP now rules Alberta, and Kevin O’Leary, until he withdrew, was leading to be the second leader of the federal conservatives.

At the time of this writing there is two weeks to go in the election campaign. No party has really gained any traction. Saturday, May 13th the running Corporate Research Associates (CRA) poll for the Chronicle Herald, conducted May 7-11, was suggesting: Liberals 41%; PC’s, 29%; NDP, 27%; Green Party, 2% and Atlantica Party, 0%. Of 501 Nova Scotians polled, 363 were decided or leaning; 19% did not know; 5% did not plan to vote and 3% refused to say.

Yes, I have my preference, but I’ll not tell you. Back to my opening message, in honour of veterans and forefathers, please vote on May 30th. - Maurice


 

 

May 2017 - Should they have? Yes? No?

April is always a difficult month for elected officials, especially municipal councillors. They are similar to university students cramming to get everything done. With busy schedules, plus dedication to municipal responsibilities, they have to work with staff to plan for summer / fall activities; review the previous year; look ahead to determine what else is needed; do some long range planning and set the budget for the coming year.

The budget process started with public meetings inviting the non-profits to make presentations on their grant requests. This year requests for non-profit grants from Colchester’s community groups totaled more than $500,000. A difficult position given the budget allotment was in the range of $100,000.

Then council scheduled "additions and deletions" meetings to review the applications, see what might have been missed, then allocate monies to a number of groups. Two evening sessions didn’t get the job done, so a third one was scheduled for April 20th. I was only able to attend the meeting on the 20th, when councillors were under pressure to complete the allocations and balance the budget.

Deliberations were done in a committee meeting and will not be ratified until council’s monthly meeting (tomorrow) Thursday, April 27th. Since all discussions form a recommendation to council, it’s not for me to reveal the results, and to be the first one to advise a community group of the decision. I can say some non-profit grants were denied, other were allotted significantly less than requested.

It’s conjecture, but from attending the final meeting, it appears in certain areas reserves have been used to get a job done and council deciding not to allocate as much to reserves as in the past.

Before balancing the budget, two motions were put before the committee to raise taxes, but were defeated. One called for an increase of one cent on each of residential and commercial. The second proposed a one cent residential and half a cent on commercial. With both motions defeated, council started looking where cuts were possible. They reduced budgets of three regular programs by $300,000 to balance the budget.

Long serving Deputy Mayor Bill Masters was emphatic reserves need to be constantly increased, and at no time should they be lessened. He sternly advised council, "I’ll tell you right here, if you don’t continue to increase reserves, this council will be in trouble in 10 years. I know I’ve been there, when we had to raise taxes".

He then introduced a motion to raise taxes by one cent on residential accounts with the proceeds allocated to increase the reserves. The motion was defeated.

Now back to the question in the heading of this column, "Should they have? Yes? No? Nobody likes to see taxes raised, but with a very progressive council, a number of money saving, some even long term money makers, anticipated, it would have been a wise decision to slightly increase taxes allocating the money to reserves.

Just like maintenance on a vehicle, taxes should be increased slowly and by small amounts, as long as council ensures efficiency in all departments.

I will commend councillor, Tom Taggart, he has asked for a review to see if there is good "bang for the buck" for non-profit grants, expenditures on trails. Although he specifically didn’t reference it, I can see a request coming forward from someone to review all programs, over the coming months all.

It came as a complete surprise on April 5th when Cape Sharp Tidal announced they would have to remove the turbine in Minas Passage and take it to Saint John to repair the turbine control centre. About the same time it was discovered in seven weeks following it’s deployment in November until December 31st, NS Power had purchased 5.4MWh (5400KWh) of electricity produced by the turbine.

Immediately I went and checked electricity bills for my own house for the billing cycles of February and April 2016. My residential consumption over the two invoices totaled, 5,768 KWh, approximately 6.8% more than the turbine uploaded to the grid.

Most disappointing results for such a mammoth operation, even though it was in the commissioning phase.


 

April 2017 - Watch out for excitement from West Colchester

Within the past couple of week more and more people are referring to Kevin O’Leary as Donald Trump of the north. In last month’s issue, the Shoreline Journal printed an article with a graph showing O’Leary was near the front of pack, primarily because of his name recognition. Following remarks in PEI, it’s entirely possible, he is downgraded. If picked as leader, it will be a long time before the Conservatives elects many MP’s from Atlantic Canada.

We have a total of 32 seats and would swing a big stick by providing enough seats to determine who did form the government. An ideal place to be, with others looking to us for support.

I’m not trying to change the focus of the Shoreline to a national audience away from taking care of and pushing forward to point the needs of those in West Colchester and Cumberland South.

Back to the province or our area, it is anticipated we could be making a trek to the polls, before the June issue. Take notice of the special note near the top of Page 1 Briefs in this issue, as we might have to change the publication dates for the June issue.

Last week, the provincial Financial Condition Index (FCI) was released providing a report on each town and municipality. The FCI report combines a range of information into a single document and providing a platform where staff under council’s direction may wish to focus their efforts. Each report has three sections, with five categories in each section. The sections are Revenue Dimension, Budget Dimension and Debt and Capital Dimension.

Each municipality’s FCI report was colour coded with green indicating the municipality meets the Threshold and municipality average; Yellow indicates the municipality met the overall threshold, but did not meet the province wide average. A red indicator suggests a more serious position in that the municipality did not meet the overall threshold or average from around the province.

Overall Colchester, Truro and Stewiacke were in the thick of the pack when compared to other rural municipalities or towns around the province. The FCI report for Municipality of Cumberland was entirely blank because data was not provided in any category.

Of the municipal units in Cumberland and Colchester, the town of Amherst fared the best in that it did not have any red flags. It had seven green indicators and eight in the yellow category.

Of the 15 total indicators / flags for each municipality, Colchester received eight green indicators; four yellow and three red. Truro finished with eight green indicators, five yellow and two red. Stewiacke’s final tally was six green, five yellow and four red.

If your head is spinning you are probably asking what do all these figures mean? None of these flags spell trouble.

If there are areas which need attention, it would be in the red categories. In Colchester’s case to be on par with the rest of the municipalities and get rid of the red indicators, it needs to pay attention to the following categories: Deficits over five years, Un-depreciated assets and contribution to capital reserves. Meanwhile to get rid of its two red indicators, Truro needs to focus on changes to operating reserves, and make larger contributions to five year capital reserves. Stewiacke will get rid of its red indicators, when it reaches town threshold status on Commercial Property Assessment, residential tax effort, budgeted expenditure accuracy and un-depreciated assets.

While municipal staff and councillors review financial procedures to get rid of red indicators in the FCI index, everyone in Colchester needs to be prepared for the excitement and activities to improve community and economic development in West Colchester.

A number of dedicated people have spent the last year planning, organizing and preparing for the re-launch of revitalized West Colchester Community Development Association (WCCDA), which had its beginning in the early 60’s, but has be running on idle for several years. In three community open house meetings, over 80 people have stepped forward with ideas and offering to help improve community development, then go forward on economic matters.

A meeting will be held April 12 at the Bass River Fire Hall, 7 pm to set the date for a general meeting and give notice to by-law changes and establish a nominating committee. - Maurice

 


 

March 2017 - January and February Disasters

It doesn’t do any good to complain about it, but ask any retailer or small business owner and they will quickly tell you January and February were disasters. Not to dwell upon the negative, but might as well face reality and get it out of the way.

I’m not an economist or polling expert, but I do have a few suspicions as to why it happened the way it did. Other than one week in February, when we lost the whole week due to two severe storms and one day of a teacher’s strike, we can’t blame the weather.

In fact we have been very lucky, with really only three storms this winter. Granted the snow was piled high after the storms from the 15th to the 22nd, but with a few days of moderating temperatures, bright sun during the day and fog overnight, it’s amazing how quickly the snow piles have been reduced and even some fields are showing lots of stubble from the corn stocks.

Business does not like uncertainty and there was lots of it in the first six weeks after the holidays. First there was concern about what the Trump presidency would affect our economy, because at that time softwood lumber was a topic of great discussion, especially on the West Coast. Of course anything softwood causes shutters on the east coast. Then there was disruption in the education system, with ongoing negotiations, then teachers rejecting the third contract proposal.

Of course let’s not forget work to rule; interscholastic sports being cancelled; graduating students not being able to get letters of recommendation necessary to enter university or college.

However, we have most of those negative oriented things behind us, and Prime Minister Trudeau paid a visit to Washington and reports are the trip resulted with much more positive news than we feared. Maybe what we have done is lumped together most of this year’s negativity into the first two months, so we can push forward for the next 10 months feeling much better.

Here’s a few things we can look forward to: Basically winter is behind us, although we can still get an occasional nasty storm in March; Easter is not far away and that holiday causes us to believe spring is around the corner; furnace fuel has been down in price, so our pockets are not as empty as they were a couple of years ago.

As we really start to gaze toward summer, our dollar is trading at a level which will help the upcoming tourist season. This is an off-election year for or friends south of the border, and will political confusion over there; the level of our dollar, and so far our almost clean record on terrorism, we could see a major influx of American tourists this year.

Provincially we will probably be making a trek to the polls this spring, but that will probably be over by the middle of May.

Here’s my highlight of positivity for the month and I’ll move toward it slowly.

How many times have you felt or heard your friends complain about all levels of government doing things you did not approve and you felt like they were not listening? Many, many times, I bet.

In fact that probably played a large part in Trump’s election victory. He struck a raw nerve of the voter and the more he listened to them, the larger the crowds he attracted. And he didn’t let go. Although he’s doing a lot of things in ways, I do not agree, I will give him credit. He has gone full steam ahead delivering on exactly what he said he would do.

Even in Nova Scotia all of us could cite examples where municipal governments have overlooked the wishes of their constituents. If Colchester Council has done that in the past, they have done an about face.

On February 15th they tabled a motion to build a sidewalk until a public meeting was held with affected residents. A week to the day, the meeting had been held. The next day on February 23rd, council overturned a staff recommendation and did exactly what the residents wanted – a 270 metre sidewalk on the East side of Carter Road in Brookfield.

Congratulations to Colchester Municipal Council for listening to the taxpayers. Keep up the good work. - Maurice


 

February 2017 - Voters flexing their muscles

In 2016 we witnessed a few unexpected events in traditional democratic countries with most prominent being England’s BREXIT vote in favour of leaving the European Common Market and the American decision to put Donald Trump into the White House. Both are evidence the electorate has become tired of "same old, same old" and have flexed their muscles by voting "their way".

A similar trend occurred in Canada in 2015 when Justin Trudeau was swept into power with 39.4% of the popular vote to attain 184 of 338 seats. Perhaps 2015 was the first demonstration of voters voting their conscience. If so, it’s a trend that has barely gained any traction.

In Nova Scotia’s October municipal elections several long-serving municipal politicians were removed in favour of those who voters felt best represented their feelings. Even though in many cases, municipal representatives were returned to office by acclamation, it does not mean all is well.

It going to take a few years for the electorate to become more satisfied and settle down. They have a variety of feelings: not enough is happening to increase economic activity in their area; they’re feeling squeezed and some feel they are not getting enough value for their tax dollars, while others in rural areas feel marginalized because of poor cell phone coverage; lack of high speed internet and a variety of other factors.

To his credit after being elected in 2013, Premier McNeil has stayed the course saying he will not sign any labour agreement which Nova Scotia can not afford. It’s certainly causing him problems with teachers, nurses and NSGEU demanding costly financial and other employment considerations.

To set the stage, of what we are facing and what needs to be done to improve economic viability in Atlantic Canadad, I refer to an Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIS) "The Size and cost of Atlantic Canada’s Public Sector" study from September 2014. Here’s a few facts pulled from the 12 page report:

  • Public sector employment in Atlantic Canada is higher than the national average. Nationally, in 2013, 17.8 per cent of all jobs were in the civilian public sector. By comparison, in the Atlantic provinces, this figure is 22.6 per cent, nearly five percentage points above the national average.
  • Public sector employment rates in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick also exceed the national average of 18 per cent, accounting for 21.8 and 20.4 per cent of all jobs.
  • Some object measuring the size of the public sector relative to the employed workforce is not the best way to measure government employment because all residents–not just those employed in the workforce–make use of government services.
  • There are 84 sub-national public sector employees per 1,000 residents in Canada. Closely aligned with this level of employment is New Brunswick, at 85 employees per 1,000 residents. In each of the other Atlantic provinces, however, sub-national employment is at least 10 per cent higher than in the country as a whole. In Prince Edward Island, there are 95 sub-national public employees per 1,000 residents, and in Nova Scotia, 99 per 1,000 residents. Newfoundland and Labrador has 109 public employees per 1,000 residents–nearly 30 per cent higher than the national average. In total, relative to population, Atlantic Canada’s rate of public sector employment is 14.3 per cent larger than that of the country as a whole.
  • If public sector employment rates matched the national average in Newfoundland and Labrador, there would be 13,253 fewer public sector workers than is currently the case, which would have reduced the province’s wage bill by $880 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
  • In Nova Scotia, there would have been 14,127 fewer public sector workers, reducing the wage bill by $836 million.
  • The corresponding figures for Prince Edward Island are 1,686 public sector workers and $112 million, and for New Brunswick, 834 public sector workers and $58 million.
  • To put these figures into perspective, the regional provincial-level budget deficit was $1.08 billion in fiscal year 2012/13, and aligning public sector employment rates with the national average would have reduced the total sub-national government wage bill by $1.89 billion in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
  • If provincial governments in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island could cut the gap in half, or even reduce it by a quarter over a ten-year period through attrition, wage restraint, and other frugal management options, they would save hundreds of millions of dollars, with significant positive implications for their fiscal outlook.
  • The governments of all four Atlantic provinces face the stark reality of large debt loads and the risk that debt-servicing costs will rise should interest rates increase.
  • we have shown that one source of pressure on provincial budgets in Atlantic Canada is the public sector wage bill.
  • Due to high rates of public sector employment in the region, and a compensation gap between private and public sector employees that is wider than the Canadian average, the four Atlantic provinces face the largest public sector wage bills relative to labour income in the country.

Since public sector wages and benefits are the single largest expenditure for these governments, restraining the growth of the public sector wage bill is a necessary condition for maintaining fiscal stability in the years ahead.

 


 

January 2017 - Can we afford the costs?

It seems like one step forward and three steps back, when it comes to Colchester and Truro moving ahead. However, that won’t last forever. Hopefully, things will resume moving forward at a steady pace.

There are two recent activities which are positive and over time, bring positive results to Colchester as a whole.

The items are final approval for a Regional Economic Network (REN), which involves Colchester four municipalities: Truro, Stewiacke, Millbrook and the municipality. The other positive move forward is council’s agreement to become pro-active on development of the Debert Airport.

Of course one item, like a lump of coal for Christmas, is the engineers report advising Colchester and Truro council’s must spend $532,000 to dehumidify the RECC centre to preserve the building and create an enjoyable experience for spectators.

Those are the major items concerning Colchester, but there’s a lot happening on the provincial scene, which is troubling and could be an expensive fix for taxpayers. Of course at the top of the list is the "work to rule" and government’s attempts to resolve issues to put the education system back on track. Opinions are varied and those who have poked up their head in support of government actions have been subjected to a lot of social media ridicule. Let’s hope it’s solved soon.

Some people have suggested they don’t have a problem with salary levels for the various teacher classifications, but many teachers are over qualified for the positions they are now employed. For example a science teacher with the highest qualifications should not be teaching grade primary.

One suggestion, which seemed a practical approach to keep costs in line, yet still pay teachers the going rate, would require each school to post level of qualifications, subjects and grade for teaching staff. The suggestion was teachers with better qualifications could apply for the positions, but would only be paid at the rate for the posted position.

Many business people are of the opinion, it is ridiculous to have an abundance of overqualified teachers in certain positions. In their business they identify how many and what level of qualifications they require and use those tools to develop the required levels of expertise.

I realize passing along the suggestions of others on this subject will send ripples or tidal waves through the teaching profession, but the education system must get back on track and students having the full scope of school activities at their disposal.

Running almost parallel is the overwhelming vote to strike taken by NSGEU members. The McNeil government will have a rocky road in the early part of 2017. McNeil has been consistent claiming he will not sign off on an agreement, which Nova Scotians cannot afford.

Yes, professionals in the public service, education, or healthcare must be paid according to similar positions in other provinces, but they must also recognize there is only one taxpayer, and most of the taxpayers are not in that earning category.

Over and above salary costs is the underlying costs of years of service and pensions, which does not exist in private business. One colleague told me about his brother retiring to a good pension, and upon retirement also received a "Years of Service" payment of $38,000.00. Costs of pension contributions, pension plan top ups, etc is a situation of major concern to management and elected officials.

Word being leaked out about UNSM member municipalities is the cost of pensions is a major concern and more downloading is being done from other levels of government. As of press-time, I was not able to get the exact figures for each category of annual contributions for employee payroll and pension costs. However, I was told it was going to cost one municipality in excess of $10,000 annually for each employee. That would amount of approximately$1.4-Million each year.

The other disappointing reality is Colchester and Truro Councils are going to have to deal with a humidity issue at the RECC, which engineers say will cost $532,000 to fix. Operating and energy costs have far exceeded, what professionals stated would happen. The humidity topic alone should make for interesting January council meetings.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. - 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