Rees' Pieces

 

Rees' Pieces Archives - 2019     2018    2017     2016    2015     2014    2013     

 

2012     2011     2010      2009       

 

 

 


 

 

June 2010 -  The Next Step

We have four months dealing with CoVid-19. Trudeau, McNeil and other leaders have been successful implanting forever the "do’s" and "don’ts" in our minds.

I don’t want to minimize any sector, or where we should prioritize our efforts, but we must prepare for the future. A lot of work is needed to help those at the bottom of the economic ladder. More assistance is necessary for employees in the service sector, hospitality and retail, who suddenly lost their livelihood.

Retail and the service sector, regardless of how much is invested will only come back in the proportions, which the general public is comfortable. One person I spoke with suggested within two years, there might not be much in the way of "fast food" sit-down restaurants. In fact it was suggested, as an example, McDonald’s will have none.

CoVid-19 has forever changed the way we will shop; obtain medical, banking, other services and what we will deem necessary to fulfill our needs. As a throwaway society there are a lot of things we will decide we don’t need and will not buy.

As terrible as the pandemic has been, upsides include: increased awareness for others; coming together of community of family and neighbours; greater appreciation of politicians; and what must do to help build stronger sustainable "local" communities.

An equally important function of what must occur is develop plans and how we will protect us against food and medical shortages and build a stronger economy.

Yes, there were many jobs lost in Colchester in 2019, but recently Intertape Polymer and Stanfields have identified new product lines; Northern Pulp’s closure requiring a new way of rebuilding the forest sector and rapid agriculture growth. CoVid-19 has caused us to view things differently to protect the environment and build local capacity. There are many positive things which can be done to provide sustainability.

There is an increased in gardening as Vesey’s and Halifax Seed are having the busiest spring seasons in history. Gardening can be a family activity, and carried through to its fullest will help reduce the grocery bill and ensure we are eating better. There has been a shortage of flour and yeast in grocery stores with increased activity in home baking.

I spoke with Jason Dickie at Dickie’s Meats outside Amherst and his 12 member crew is working dawn to dusk to fulfill orders and can’t keep up. Their business has gone primarily from wholesale to retailers, to a significant increase in orders for $50, 150 and more in family packs of meat products. In fact, they have a waiting list of orders. There is a shortage of abattoirs and meat shops. Laurie Jennings, Masstown had the vision to establish Masstown Butchery and Dairy to process local products for a demanding public. Maybe we should take some lessons from his vision.

The provincial government should immediately develop an initiative to encourage and provide "core" funding for clusters of farmers to establish greater capacity for provincial or federally inspected meat and dairy products. Department of Agriculture and Federation of Agriculture should be partnering to make it happen.

We need more capacity to process berries, field crops, apple juice, etc. Remember Larsen’s, Graves, Scotsburn Dairy, Jones Bottling, or Cook’s Dairy, Yarmouth? We could be providing "Made n Nova Scotia" juices, jams, pickles, dairy products, frozen fruits and vegetables. In terms of food processing, Atlantic Canada has McCain’s, Cavendish and Oxford Frozen Foods as leaders. Localized clusters, of farmer co-ops could be providing jobs, market penetration; increase "food security" and be the economic engine to grow the rural economy.

Similarly, emphasis on research and technology sectors is needed; more processing capacity for the fish and seafood and forest sectors to develop new products.

CoVid-19 brought our economy to its knees. It has taught us a lot.

How we use that knowledge could be our path to get the economy back on track, increase capacity and take advantage of a new mindset of what we need and how to achieve it. Municipal leaders and councillors, in collaboration with local interests, must be advocacy leaders. - Maurice


 

 

May 2020 - Three Great Leaders

Last month I complimented three elected leaders who I thought were doing an admirable job. In case you missed it, the three were: New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Stephen McNeil. In addition to all three delivering the hard cold facts, they don’t sugar coat anything; have a very calming, believable method of delivery what is amazing is they continue to do daily updates, or at least from Monday to Friday.

I was talking to an acquaintance who works in an IBM-related printer problem call centre and they mentioned the change in type of calls since President Trump released his three phases of guidelines of "Opening America up Again" on April 16th. The in-bound centre handles calls from all over North America and the surge in call types were from churches in the mid-west, who had computer printer problems and were in a mad rush to get printing projects completed for church services for the weekend of April 19th.

My colleague said the origin of the calls changed within minutes of Trump’s announcement. When he looked at the map of USA, he noted the majority of the calls were from Republican states who seem to methodically follow every word Trump utters.

Within a few hours I was speaking to another person extensively involved in Nova Scotia’s agriculture sector who mentioned the fear of what will happen this November if the USA goes ahead with its 2020 Presidential Election and Trump, for some reason, is re-elected.

The world is a changing place, but in the instance of USA, other than Trump most politicians have tried to stay away from politicizing the CoVid-19 pandemic. However as we get closer to the fall, perhaps starting as early as September, the gloves will come off and there will be lots of blame across the USA political field as who is most to blame.

You can already see some of it from media reports indicating Trump wasted four to six weeks in late January to March by downplaying the potential impact of CoVid-19 and failure to ensure orders were placed for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and ventilators, which at one point the State of New York indicated a need for 40,000 of the expensive machine when there was only approximately 10,000 in the federal government’s reserve stockpile.

Now to dwell on some of Nova Scotia’s immediate problems there is an urgent need for approval of immigrant workers for the agriculture sector. Three farms in the Great Village / Bass River area have requested approximately 400 workers for this season. As of April 18th only 47 had arrived and farmers have not been able to get reassurance more will be approved for late May and June arrival.

Total requirement province-wide is approximately 1,400, but only 200 arrived during week of March 16th. This coming week will be able to determine how much can be harvested, or if farmers have decided either not to plant or plow the plants into the ground.

With thousands of summer students out of work, and thousands other having lost their jobs with the provincial CoVid-19 shutdown, once could say the human resources are there to replace immigrant workers. However, the reasons we need immigrant workers is it has impossible to get Nova Scotians to do the work. It is a shame Canadians have lost the work ethic which was prevalent in the two or three previous generations of our ancestors.

Two other areas are going to suffer the wrath of CoVid-19. The first will certainly be the 2020 tourist season as many operators as of mid-March do not have approval or any indication if approval will be forthcoming to open this year. As of this time, it would appear only resident Nova Scotians will be permitted to do some "day-trips" which will be good for more rural areas as people will refrain from going into urban area, for obvious reasons. There will not be an large concerts many, including, Stan Roger’s Festival in Canso is history for this year. Soon we can expect the Wharf Rat Rally, Digby will announce its cancellation for this year.

2020 will be a year everyone will want to forget. - Maurice


 

April 2020 - Never before, never again

They say there are two things in life we can be sure about: death and taxes. Now we can add to the list – Covid-19. We have not seen anything like winter 2020 and we hope never to experience it again.

Another thing we learned, President Trump will never make the grade as a fortune teller. In a press conference the week of March 20th, he indicated Covid-19 would be over soon as he was hoping churches would be full for Easter Sunday.

Not sure why he projects things will be solved soon, other than he sees the virus having a negative impact on his re-election aspirations. For about three years he banked his re-election on a strong economy and was doing everything possible to get the stock market climbing higher.

As to the possible causes of Covid-19, Facebook and other social media platforms have been ripe with rumours and speculations. None of which are true, but rumours keep growing. Some have speculated it was a form of germ warfare testing gone array.

When I first hear the rumour of germ warfare, I thought about one of my favourite movies, a 2 hour 11 minute 1971 sci/fi thriller, Andromeda Strain. It’s based on a satellite crashing near a small Arizona town, bringing with it a deadly alien virus. This science fiction thriller based on Michael Crichton's novel. 

I am not suggesting Covid-19 is germ warfare, but there is a semblance of similarity about the possible outcome, not the source, if Covid-19 is not contained. If you are self isolatimg and want to watch a movie, this will cause you to really think.

You will be encouraging others to self isolate as it seems to be the only way we are going to beat it and bring life back towards what we used to think as normal.

I’ve been following Covid-19 coverage on CNN and listening to CBC radio at 12 noon and again at 3:00 pm. There are three public officials who have given the best information possible: New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Stephen McNeil. All three deliver the hard cold facts, don’t sugar coat anything, but do so with a very calming, believable method of delivery.

If we listen to their concerns, try to understand what they are saying and heed their instructions and requests, we will exit this sad state of affairs much quicker and with less carnage in life and economic reality.

It is unfortunate, because we will spend a lifetime paying the bills, but it is comforting to hear governments sparing no expense in delivering programs to soften the economic blow to citizens. Never has there been a hint about "this is costing too much". But rather they say, "we will do whatever it; takes". I was born after WWII, but I have never seen governments move as quickly as these three leaders get their staff mobilized.

As forthcoming as they have been it is the ones they are trying to help whom we must be concerned about. Thousands of employees whose paycheques suddenly evaporated; or single parents designated as "essential" workers and don’t have childcare and the list goes on. The economy has been turned on its head and until middle of April will be the hardest money-wise, until cheques start rolling. We must keep in contact with these people and if there is something they need we must step forward to help.

Congratulations to the Onslow-Belmont Fire Brigade and their colleagues in Stewiacke who are offering a free pick up and delivery service for those who are confined or don’t wish to go outside for prescriptions, groceries or other necessities.

Not sure of the process in Stewiacke, but Clair Peers from OBFB has provided the Shoreline Journal with two news articles and a picture of the process for OBFB to pickup and deliver. Thanks to Laurie Jennings and his staff, at Masstown Market, who assemble and pack the orders for OBFB volunteers to deliver.

In times like this it is great to live in a rural area, because unbeknown to us, somebody has our back.

Keep safe and six feet away from others. Maurice

 


 

Heavy Lifting is Just Starting

Finally after almost three years of persistence and hard work, Colchester has reached its goal of having a plan and approved funding to bring high speed broadband service to the municipality. The topic started when Colchester councillor, Tom Taggart brought the matter before council in 2017.

As things evolved through the process, Colchester teamed up with Cumberland to choose an ISP provider and work with Xplornet Communications in their application to Develop Nova Scotia. It might have been unfair in the opening sentence not to have mentioned Cumberland, but Taggart was the one to applied pressure and got the ball started. In his column printed on Page 5 of this issue, he reviews the process and importance of getting improved broadband service.

On February 7th, one week after last month’s issue forecasted a decision would be announced by January 31st, Develop Nova Scotia announced several provincial projects, which included Cumberland-Colchester’s $60.2-Milllion initiative with Xplornet Communications. Broadband has become a necessity instead of a luxury or "we want" service to ensure businesses are competitive, and students have the proper connectivity to further their education.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has released research which says implementation of 5-G broadband service, when available in Canada, would result in 250,000 jobs and billions in economic activity. See Taggart’s article for more information. He’s in the know because he sits on the national FCM board of directors and is privy to such information.

One problem which may evolve is the impatience of residents and business owners. Just because the announcement has been made, do not think the service will arrive as quick as the weather can change. Construction and build-out to provide the service to 22,000+households and businesses will take up to 3 years to complete. Even at the end of construction, approximately 2,300 addresses will not have fibre-op service, but will be serviced by satellite. This is not to be taken light-heatedly, and the download speed is equal to or better than speeds currently available in populated areas of the province, (i.e. Halifax, Sydney, etc).

When the project is finished, Cumberland-Colchester will be among the top rated areas for connectivity and speeds will rival what is available in urban areas. The program set the stage for the two municipalities to see significant increases in people relocating to the area, and businesses to be more competitive.

Xplornet will deploy nearly 700 kilometres of optic fibre to offer up to 100 Mbps fibre-to-home and fixed wireless services on their network, which will reach more than 21 700 currently underserved 16,000 households and 6,000 businesses. A further 2300 addresses will have access to improved satellite service that will reach up to 50 Mbps by the completion of the full network. The three-year project is aiming for 100% high-speed availability in Cumberland and Colchester.

Having said all the above and the benefits which could result a lot of work remains undone and a possibility successes will not accrue as hoped. The reason, the heavy lifting has just begun. Now that the announcement has been made and contracts are being signed, councils and business leaders must immediately switch gears to look three or five years down the road.

The possibility of not getting as much benefit from the investment of $60-2-Million could evolve because: tourism operators don’t work hard to benefit from the Cliffs of Fundy GeoPark – UNESCO branded initiative; business owners fail to ensure additional staff training is a priority and life-long learning interests fail to ensure people’s employment skills are improved.

An FCM study indicates populations in rural area will increase by at least 7% over the next decade. Professionals who work from home and prefer a county lifestyle should gravitate to Cumberland-Colchester. Both municipalities must ensure land or buildings are available for relocating or start-up businesses. Colchester’s Debert Business Park for a variety of reasons, including geographical location and highway network, should be among the success winners.

Both municipalities must ensure when construction is completed, training institutions have read the market and trained staff with the necessary qualifications. These things will go a long way towards the areas being an economic leader rivaling or bettering HRM - Maurice

 


 

February 2020 - A new decade, A new era

When I originally sat down to write this column I intended my opening question to be, "Are we entering a new Era? After a few words appeared on the screen, I changed it to "We have entered a new era!

Not only has Premier McNeil set the framework to transition the forest sector, he has changed politics. Who would have thought a politician would stand by their word and fulfill a five year old promise? McNeil’s announcement on December 20, 2019 surprised and devastated many people, but it is proof he placed more importance on integrity than making a political decision.

For decades people have been of the opinion, multi-national forestry companies were dictating to the government of the day; massive clear cutting was not appropriate; jobs mattered more than the economy and although things should change, no leader had the guts to make a tough decision.

On December 20th, Premier McNeil proved them wrong on all counts.

As difficult as his decision might be, he has taken the bull by the horns and shook it for the long term betterment environmentally, economically and his decision might help restore confidence in elected officials.

His decision was a call to action for everyone to participate to "transition" the province from where it is, to a better place. The closure of the Northern Pulp facility need not be the end of the world, although it will create two to three years of hardship.

We are all to blame for our situation – Nova Scotians have not appreciated the value of forest land owned by over 30,000 private owners and how it should be the primary economic engine of rural Nova Scotia.

In last month’s issue, we published a comparison of forestry in Nova Scotia Vs Finland. Before we go off blaming McNeil for short term economic disruption, let’s review some of the comparisons, which demonstrate Nova Scotia has not been a leader in forestry. We have not been reaping the benefits of "best practices".

Finland is five times the size and has five times the population. Nova Scotia has been under performing Finland which has 14 times the number of forestry related jobs; 17 times the annual harvest and 32 times the export value of its forest products. Additionally, Finlanders respect and value their forests. Finland has a management program and knows the inventory of private woodland and the state of the forests. They also know how much is harvested each year. We are not even close.

Harvesting yield is much higher in Finland. Finland has an annual harvest of 68-M cubic meters whereas Nova Scotia claims 4-M cubic meters. The data provided by a five person delegation of forest professionals following a 2016 study trip to Finland tells much more about Nova Scotia’s approach to forestry. None of their findings have found their way into or even a start to redevelopment of forestry practices and policy in this province.

Before we go into total depression suggesting not one tree will be cut in Nova Scotia, let’s look back 25+ years when we were running around like chickens with their heads cut off suggesting the Cod Moratorium would cause every boat to come out of the water and not one more fish come out of the water.

Yes, Nova Scotia is in for a couple of years of rough going.

Our ultimate success will be to change focus. Nova Scotia has some of the best forestry professionals. It’s time for them to come together; put the shoulder to the wheel and develop a plan which will help us reap more benefits than we have in the last century. I don’t know all the "ins" and "outs" but perhaps the most important first few steps is to find a market for the chips generated at the sawmills. A significant portion could be exported, while we find solutions to how to incorporate their usage into new value-added facilities. For others affected by Northern Pulp’s closure, it might be warranted to implement a strong silviculture program to grow better forests, when we are back up to speed. - Maurice

 


 

January 2020 - We are in the right spot

Residents of Colchester are among the luckiest people in Nova Scotia for a variety of reasons which includes: geography; among the lowest municipal tax rates in the province and a council who for the most part have made great decisions.

In retail, or locating a business such as fast food or gas bar, the fundamental rule is "location is everything". This holds true in Colchester’s case, as it is known as the "hub" of Nova Scotia. With over 50% of the 1.8-million residents in the Maritimes located within 90 minutes of the heart of the county, Colchester is positioned to reap the benefits.

Aviation is and will continue to be an important economic engines. Colchester is lucky to have the former CFB Debert airport in its midst. With Halifax International Airport busting at the seams, and focusing on the international global market it is growing so fast it is looking for ways to find alternative homes for some of the associated businesses. With "bigger fish to fry" - the global positioning – there is a consensus the handling small aircraft and other support operations could easily be relocated an hour away in Debert.

The fact professionals from the regions largest airport are constantly looking at expansion and infrastructure enhancements to grow Debert as a possible location to solve their overcrowding problems is a benefit of untold proportions. The added fact is some former Halifax Airport executives live in Colchester helps.

Even looking into the crystal ball, does not mean Debert’s airport is without its problems. In fact it has several major problems:

  • It’s about 20 years behind doing what should have been done. (If it had been up to speed, maybe the large FedEx terminal facility might have been located in Debert).
  • Several current councillors want to minimize the emphasis on Debert Airport and not commit any funds to study or planning.
  • Knowledgeable staff, who recognize the opportunities, are not pushing back and advocating a strong exploratory program.

A peak into a crystal ball might reveal if council in concert with staff recommended a "fast tracking" of exploratory study and consultation, the Debert Airport might be the key to rapid sustainable economic development. Council, especially those who have been on council for one or two decades, should reflect on some of the important decisions made years ago, which steered the county in the right direction and are still paying dividends.

With the input of local professionals, who know the business, and the encouragement of current professionals at Halifax International Airport there might be an extensive list of businesses who would be better positioned if located in Debert.

Looking ahead to the October 2020 municipal election, candidates vying for a position on council might have a very strong election platform if they advocated extensive analysis of Debert’s potential. It might result in substantial increase in the commercial tax base; extensive job opportunities and better use of an existing asset.

A much hidden or unrealized contributor to the economic betterment of the county came to light during the December 3rd presentation from Lisa Hartery, Executive Director, Nova Scotia International Student Program. Although the program has been in existence for 20+ years, its contribution to the local economy has been far below the radar screen. Currently there are 445 International Students from 29 countries attending classes at 22 schools throughout the Chignecto-Central school system.

In 2018, 27% of the international students remained in Nova Scotia to attend college or university. Two thirds of the students in the province are attending classes in rural areas or small towns. Over the 20 year lifespan of the program, the Colchester economy has had a collective input in excess of $200-Million. All this without hiring additional teachers, as the international students are occupying empty seats as a result of declining enrollment. Across Chignecto-Central system there are approximately 300 hosting families, who receive $625 per month for each student hosted. During the presentation Hartery said more host families are needed, and the size of the program is limited only by the number of host families.

What are your thoughts on expansion of Debert or the International Student Program? - Maurice


 

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