Rees' Pieces


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September 2018 - Turmoil – the Rising Tide

I can’t think of anyplace which is not suffering from turmoil. It has been a roller coaster month.

South of the border, it’s been a daily diet of revelations concerning numerous investigations of President Donald Trump by Mueller and legal entities in New York. Then massive wild fires in California, not to forget nearly 600 wild fires raging throughout British Columbia.

British Columbia needed help. Over 20 firefighters from Nova Scotia have gone west. This past weekend haze from BC arrived in Nova Scotia, causing the sun and moon to turn bright orange, and a strong smell of smoke in the air. I was amazed how strong the aroma has been in Maitland, especially in the evening.

The Conservative policy convention in Halifax, which attracted 3,000+ delegates got blindsided by Maxine Bernier, he quit the party and is starting his own. Bernier is not expected to gain many followers east of Quebec. Out west, especially in Alberta, there are many who feel much the same as Bernier on similar topics.

Not that they might follow Bernier, but if his activity gives them inspiration, there could be some discord which could splinter the Conservative movement in ways similar to what evolved with the Alliance, then Reform, then united with the Progressive Conservatives, under Peter MacKay, to form today’s Conservative Party.

Some Conservatives suggest, while he was Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have spent upwards of half his time and energy keeping the vocal splinter groups in check and focused on re-election. The same party members have yet to determine if Andrew Scheer has the same strength and capability.

One strong party member feels, if the election were held now, the best the Conservatives could hope to do is have four MP’s, in Atlantic Canada.

The thirteen or fourteen months to the scheduled federal election in fall 2019 is a lifetime in politics. There’s plenty of time for moods to change, or someone to make a costly mistake that follows them or the party to election day. Even though there is a somewhat established date for the election, legally there is nothing to stop dropping the writ earlier, if surveying reveals a weakening of the opposition.

At the provincial and municipal level the next election will be in 2020. With a volatile electorate and populist movements gaining momentum those who will be running again, or those wishing to run, there are warning signs.

Various levels of government have expressed concern about low-turnout on election day and not enough people are exercising their right to vote. Looking ahead to 2020 and what will happen in Nova Scotia, there might be much more engagement than recent past.

Nova Scotians are becoming much more vocal, whether it be clean up of Boat Harbour and events around the Abercrombie Pulp Mill; fishers becoming vocal and expressing concern about protection of the environment or activity related to tidal power in the Bay of Fundy. There is increased community engagement over healthcare; concerns about hospitals and of course the never ending vocal activity over education.

At the municipal level, people in Lunenburg are gaining traction on clean up of the harbour; in Bridgewater there is concern about the LaHave River. Province-wide there is concern about climate change and how our forests are being handled. These two topics are not the responsibility of municipalities, but they do become involved when their areas are affected from rising sea levels, or flash flooding in the rivers, which many claim is result of clear cutting.

A prime example of a volatile electorate is how quickly things "went to the dogs" in Colchester in just over a week. I’m not taking sides, nor do I wish to.

However, there is a message. For anyone who will seek re-election, or "wanna be" the next few months must be spent consulting, reviewing, and ensuring your next move will benefit the community or electorate.

If you hold public office, double check to make sure everyone on your team is committed to moving in the same direction putting constituents first, not your belief or welfare of your party. - Maurice



August 2018 - Department of Environment is to blame

Lunenburg, with its UNESCO designation, is an iconic destination. However there are two sides to the south shore town’s problems. In the July 11th issue of the Chronicle Herald the front page details the troubles of Lunenburg Harbour with regard to raw sewage, yet the front page of the business section talks about a development plan is near finalization for the provinces only UNESCO designated municipality.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not picking on Lunenburg. That assumption is far from the remotest of consideration.

In the story about Lunenburg’s harbour being in trouble, the opening line states, "Lunenburg Harbour will remain contaminated with sewage as long as there are no laws in place forcing anyone to clean up the pollution or to prevent it in the first place". The province is reported to be considering a coastal protection, but currently there is no provincial or federal act to regulate contamination.

To illustrate the severity of the problem, the Chronicle Herald article stated, "Health Canada states that levels of enterococci must be at or below 175 colonies per 100 milliliters of water to be safe for secondary contact, including sailing and fishing. The concentration falls to 70 colonies per 100 mL for swimming. The Inshore Fishermen’s Wharf was tested only once, producing 1,600 colonies per 100 mL, more than nine times higher than the standard for safe secondary contact".

Engineering studies have been done, and more are planned, but it will take years to provide solutions. In short it’s bizarre for government to spend money on streetscapes, without having a plan in place to prevent fecal pollution. The provincial Department of Environment is to blame.

The department of Environment lacks broad-based public support for its lack of leadership on matters which have consumed the public for decades. In Colchester North, there was lots of criticism of the department for its lack of action regarding the OSCO quarry in Little Dyke.

Similarly, lines have been drawn in the sand in the Pictou area over the pending closure of Boat Harbour and how the Abercrombie pulp mill plans to solve the problem by discharging the effluent via a treatment facility and elongated pipe into the Northumberland Strait. With application of modern technology scientists say the problem will be fixed.

The Department of Environment is pivotal in all of this. Because of decades of perceived inaction and lack of expertise and enforcement, the public doesn’t trust the Department and would risk shutting down the mill than believing DOE officials.

McNeil’s Liberals are in a crunch of what to do. All political parties must share blame for a situation which has persists for almost 50 years. Since they all are party to the unfortunate situation, all provincial parties must work together with the federal government and community to find a solution.

Since 2015, particularly 2016 which saw the election of Donald Trump, the mood of the electorate has changed. Popular politics, the grants of the wishes of taxpayers has taken hold. The electorate is demanding their opinions be heard and heeded.

The situation in Pictou will be pivotal. There is no way the province, especially the forest sector, can permit the mill to close. Trust with DOE must be rebuilt. All parties must work together to consult with the public to make that happen.

Some way must be found to give the public assurances if the technology does not work, then activity will be stopped until a solution is found. In order for the public to be brought onside, they must have control to shut down the operation.

Times have changed. Doing politics the way it was done decades or even five years ago is history. The immediate role of all governments, provincial or federal, yes even municipal, must be to work hard to demonstrate they are representatives of the people, instead of having taxpayers financing government activity.

Premier McNeil must meet directly with residents of Pictou, and appoint them as "the board of directors" who ensure government departments implement regulations. If Premier McNeil can accomplish that, he will set the course for continued operation of the mill, and a road map to his party’s re-election in the next election. Maurice









July 2018 - Legions still have a meaningful purpose

Donnie Fraser was a happy guy on Thursday, June 22 when his name was drawn during the Debert Legion’s Chase the Ace weekly draw. The ace and his name were drawn and he took home $58,570. Chase the Ace initiatives have been the rage for the past few years and a great "local" fund raising source for many organizations. We all dream about winning millions in the 649 or MAX weekly lotteries, but there is no local content. When an organization such as the Debert Legion undertakes as similar event, not only are they raising money for their needs, but they are helping the community by hosting a weekly social event.

With the advent of social media, people are losing communication skills with family, neighbours and friends. Instead of having a face-to-face conversation some people will text someone in the next room, or even sitting in the same room. The long term prognosis is not good. That’s where organizations like the Debert Legion are continuing to help the community.

The aging of vets, even from the Korean War, and lack of interest by recent Armed forces retirees has eroded membership in many branches. Changes in society, "drinking and driving laws, which is a good thing, have made life difficult for legion branches to retain their prominence in the community.

Congratulations to Debert Legion executive for climbing aboard the "Chase the Ace" bandwagon and sharing proceeds with other community groups. It’s been a long while since the Debert Legion had as much money in the bank. Good wishes and heart-full thanks to those who played every week.

This proves, legions are still important and with some minor tweaking of their priorities, they have a long and necessary purpose to constantly be the gelatin to hold a small community together.

Now I’ll get onto another topic, which is holding back rural communities from reversing the population drain to attract residents and businesses. My gripe is the deplorable way all levels of government have handled the internet file. Governments have tried, spending millions of dollars and failed.

Instead of making decisions for today, politicians and bureaucrats need to take a few lessons from the history book and apply them in today’s society. Rural Canada built this great country. In the beginning, it was a massive expanse of forest, water and some good cleared agricultural land.

In Nova Scotia during the age of sail communities like Maitland, Great Village, Bass River and along water’s edge communities were thriving with shipbuilders, many of whom sent their larger vessels to Parrsboro for installation of masts and further outfitting. Nova Scotia is reported to have had the largest registered tonnage of all ships on the water – globally.

Folklore in Maitland Hants County says on October 27, 1874 approximately 4,000 people were in Maitland to watch the launching of the W. D. Lawrence. 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 Nova Scotians could be global leaders 144 years ago, why can’t we be on a similar pedestal today?

Have we lost our way or is it a lack of leadership?

If today’s politicians, at all levels, put all shoulders to the wheel, we could re-gain our prominence. Rural residents are begging for high speed internet. The population drain of rural areas and increased competitiveness for rural businesses would immediately result.

Sure it will take $-millions, but the technology is there. Governments have to stop spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on consultants to develop reports which the contents are not share with all other government levels and those working to bring competitive internet service to rural areas.

It will take a combination of fibre, wireless and satellite technology to get the job done. In the past governments did not want to include satellite as part of the solution, preferring to deal only with large national communication companies. Now it’s reported they are realizing internet service in some areas is unaffordable unless satellite technology in utilized.

Once we rebuild rural Nova Scotia, as a province, we can be a global leader once again.

Let’s stop fooling around. Let’s get the job done soon. - Maurice.


June 2018 - Transparency needs to be # 1

Over the past couple of decades we have noticed a significant drop in the percentage of voters who actually cast their vote compared to who is eligible. It’s a concern across all levels of government and the drop is most noticeable at the municipal level. Ironic because they are the ones closest to the taxpayer.

Maybe changes are coming as the public become more engaged, from an increasing number of social media platforms, where many seem to climb on the bandwagon to voice their opinion. Most of the occurrences seem to be on the negative side, but maybe positive things will start to evolve as good things can happen at federal, provincial and municipal levels.

Historically, many people have expressed a dis-interest in politics, because they felt their voice or vote did not matter. For democracy to work properly every opinion is important and must be received with sincerity.

To achieve those levels of satisfaction transparency is possibly the most important component. Not only must transparency be done, it must appear to be done and treated as # 1 priority. I mention this as a result of an observation at Colchester Council during a public meeting on Change of Land use bylaws.

A thick package was provided in advance and given to the media well in advance of the meeting. A quick review of the documents contained only positive comments. Not a murmur of any opposition or comments of concern from the general public.

However, the question of complete transparency arose as result of comments from Dr. Short who lives near the proposed residential development in Bible Hill. During his presentation he made reference to a letter he had submitted, but was not contained in the package. During his presentation he quoted excerpts from the letter.

It didn’t take long for the letter to be retrieved and included in the minutes as part of the public hearing. My observation might be totally wrong and such submissions are not required to be included. However, if transparency is to appear to be done, I would suggest all submissions in support of; opposed to, or raising concern should be included.

Inclusion might not make any difference in the outcome. Staff and elected councillors would not be vulnerable for the public to feel and say their opinions were not considered or at least made public.

I’m not saying who is right or wrong, but to make an informed decision both sides of the matter must be included for public scrutiny and the public needs to be recognized. That is my conclusion on transparency. I’d appreciate written comments in support of my feelings, or from those who think I am "off base".

On another matter, Councillor Stewart is correct about dealing with tragedy. What will council’s decision be on dealing with tragedy suffered by 17 Bible Hill residents who lost everything in a fire which destroyed a 12 unit apartment building on April 27th? Simply nothing. Council can not use taxpayer dollars for every tragedy, large or small.

On another matter Councillor Taggart is getting more aggressive asking for residents and businesses to voice their opinion and explain their needs for improved internet service. Like many others, Taggart is of the opinion fiber speed internet will make businesses more competitive; students will have access to on-line educational services and for the rural economy to grow internet accessibility needs improving.

In his job as a realtor, Taggart says realtors, locally and nationally are having problems selling properties where there is no or very poor internet service and added some realtors have stopped listing properties where that occurs.

Nationally, Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) anticipates rural population will increase by 7% over a couple of decades as rural internet service starts to match speeds in urban centres. To illustrate his point, Taggart says he knows of one West Colchester professional who works from home, but has been quoted costs ranging in thousands of dollars to get appropriate speed internet.

If residents in rural Colchester need or want fiber speed internet, they must speak up. My suggestion is call oe email Councillor Taggart at: to help him build his case to go forward.



May 2018 - Wood for Heat

Can you remember back to your younger days, especially if you lived in the country, when on cold winter mornings, father got up, built a new fire, or stoked the hot coals, filled up the stove with seasoned hardwood, and soon the entire room was toasty warm?

I certainly do, and still remember occasionally water was frozen in the glass on the table, as a result I’ve always liked wood heat.

On Saturday, April 7th, while attending the Central Woodlands Conference in New Glasgow, these memories flashed through my mind as I listened to Ian Ripley, General Manager, Athol Forestry Co-operative, Amherst present his views on using Wood for Heat to the 120+ attendees. His concept seemed very practical, as he outlined how his colleagues at North Nova Forestry Co-operative and Conform Ltd have been developing a plan for better usage of wood chips; replace fossil fuels, and keep money within the province rather than continuing major purchases for fossil fuels and Middle-Eastern oil.

Ripley’s or their vision is to offer a "turn-key" program to install a wood boiler, supply seasoned wood chips to heat larger buildings or a collection of smaller downtown buildings with a district heating system. They are not concerned about the public’s negative feelings toward clear cutting or chipping hardwood, because woodlot owners or the woodlot owner-owned co-operatives would send good quality saw logs to sawmills, expand the availability of firewood. They intend to use low value forest products which may include both hardwood & softwood.

Part of Ripley’s approach to a turnkey wood for heat system is the small amount of woodchips required. He cited as an example the Tatamagouche hospital. Its fossil fuel consumption is probably about 100,000 liters. His estimate was the facility could be heated with approximately 150 cords.

(Separate from Ripley’s presentation, this writer knows of several outdoor wood boilers used to heat a workshop or a three bay auto garage are burning in 25-30 cords per year. Those who from Colchester and Cumberland counties, who are interested, or better yet, municipal leaders could ask owners of outdoor wood boilers, their level of consumption for a business that employs 5-6 people. If one then scales the size of the two operations in their mind, it’s not hard to see efficiencies).

While the woodlot owned cooperatives have been developing their program, the one thing which has hampered quicker progress is the difficulty to change the mindset of those in charge. Negative publicity about the volume of wood chips used to generate electricity to operate the Port Hawkesbury paper mill has been a problem.

The efficiency and total usefulness of that boiler is lost, because the large volume of hot water is not used. Some experts suggest the boiler probably generates enough hot water to heat every home and business in Port Hawkesbury if a district heating system existed. Although that would not curtail criticism about clear cutting and chipping, when there is evidence old growth forests and perfectly good saw logs are chipped rather than being used in higher value applications.

The cooperatives are developing a "turn-key" program to finance installation, install the boiler; and supply seasoned high quality chips, every 4-7 days, or as needed. They realize they need the first large building installation, which can be used as an efficient working model.

As they continue to work on a long-term plan, they are interested in inquiries from property owners about "Wood for Heat" for large buildings or a downtown core district heating system. Look for them to start making presentations to a number of municipal councils.

On another totally separate matter, it was interesting to see Deputy Mayor Bill Masters bring to council’s attention some of his observations on what the municipality and others in Colchester could to raise the municipality’s profile to encourage doctors to relocate here. Masters told council he saw one report about areas needing doctors and Colchester was not mentioned.

As a result of his observations, other councillors were in agreement, and decided to form a committee, seek participation from other Colchester municipal units. It’s only in the formative stages, but it’s probable once plans evolve, they’ll be appealing for the general public to climb aboard. - Maurice





April 2018 - $120-Million will certainly help

Premier McNeil’s March 15th announcement of $120-Million gleaned from offshore gas royalties to be used to solve problems related to lack of high speed internet service around the province is definitely good news, providing achievable solutions are sought.

It’s very understandable why some people will be skeptical. Since the original massive roll-out was announced with mega-$$$, there has been announcement after announcement problems would be solved.

Not only were subsequent mega-dollars announced, a lot of time and expense evolved for consulting studies with minor results. Might it have been more helpful if the message to residents, pleading for acceptable high speed internet service in rural areas, might have asked for their input and to find ways to get local community groups and municipalities involved in solution development and financing?

The lack of reliable, fast rural internet service has not gone unnoticed. The federal government seemed to lead the way announcing major funding for solutions. Real Estate agents have constantly pointed to problems selling rural property which did not have reliable service. In fact, it’s so bad many agents will not list a property unless acceptable, by today’s standards, there is existing internet service.

Reliable fast internet is essential for rural businesses to be competitive and students to be on equal footing with colleagues in urban areas, if they are to succeed scholastically. Then and only then is there a hope any level of government can realistically and economically rebuild the rural economy.

In previous decades, migration to urban areas was perceived because of the bright lights and better job opportunities. Recently, the reason seems to have switched to the lack of acceptable or desired internet service, whether for personal or business use.

At a recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) board of directors meeting, it was revealed when high speed rural internet service is achieved, rural areas will benefit from an increase of approximately 7% population growth.

An important role of any level of government should not be confined to implement, but to create the environment to ensure it happens. All too often government throws a lot of money at something, only to have it fail or the outcomes were far less than the original hype.

Across Canada or around the world the most successful Community Economic Development (CED) initiatives have occurred when grassroots driven or they are significantly involved. Provincially, a good example is New Dawn Enterprises in Cape Breton. They have decades of success and are still hard at it delivering achievable results.

It will not be acceptable for Nova Scotians to sit back and assume "We’ll get high speed internet service soon. The government is going to make it happen". That is what happened in the past and look where we are, at least a decade behind urban areas.

If you live in rural Nova Scotia and need or want high speed internet service it is incumbent upon you to get involved. I don’t mean just calling local elected representative to deliver the message, "Make it happen soon".

No, you have to be willing to invest some time and energy to develop the appropriate plan for your community. Call your local elected and say, "What can I do to help make it happen? What can our community do to help?".

For a rundown of community driven success take a look at New Dawn Enterprises, Sydney, or the actions taken by County of Annapolis council in holding 65 community meetings, developing a plan and then agreeing to borrow $14.8-Million of municipal funds to drive a county-wide high speed internet program. Since they are the first, it has taken about a year longer to finalize a contract, but it’s expected to be signed soon with installation completed in about 300 days.

Colchester and Cumberland councils should meet to develop a two county initiative and how to get grassroots involved in the beginning.

I’ve talked to Bill Casey, Cumberland-Colchester, MP and he’s onside and hopes planning will start soon. All rural residents are encouraged to organize community meetings answering the questions, "What can we do? How can we help?"

Start preparing and organizing now! - Maurice



March 2018 - Be Prepared: Get Less, Pay More

The spat between Alberta and British Columbia, unless solved soon, will affect all Canadians and Nova Scotians should get prepared. It might evolve into a Constitutional crisis, or the break-up of Canada as we know it today.

If the three Green party members, who are keeping the British Columbia NDP party governing the province aren’t convinced to back off there could be a 2018 BC provincial election, less than a year since the Liberals gave up governing.

We might not realize two provinces squabbling over an approved pipeline to carry Alberta bitumen through the Rockies to a BC port for shipment overseas will have much of an impact on the east coast. However, it would have an significant impact and sooner than we want to think about it.

As I see it one of two things will happen, maybe both and a whole lot more. If the two provinces can’t find a solution harmony between other provinces could be adversely affected. Instead of a "mostly unified" working relationship between provinces, we might be facing a lack of co-operation with provinces or regions setting up barriers and refusing to co-operate on trade across provincial borders.

I realize "pipelines" are a contentious issue, and there are many here in Colchester and Cumberland Counties who are against them. Canada has the highest concentration of natural resource assets including oil, natural gas and bitumen. It’s a global commodity which the world needs. Although we might not like how it’s done, or how it gets to market, we must insist all government ensure there is "responsible natural resource development".

If Alberta is not able to get oil products to market, its economy will suffer even more than it has during the energy price slump. If that happens they will be angry and not inclined to work with other provinces or regions. The result would be a breakdown in coast to coast provincial co-operation.

How would you feel if a provincial passport was required to travel outside a region of cooperating provinces, should you wish to travel to the Pacific Coast? Probably never required, but the hatred would amount to the same.

How could this affect Nova Scotians so we had to pay more and get less? This is the easiest to explain. Canada’s "have" provinces contribute large amounts of money to the Federal Treasury, which is then distributed to less wealthy Canadian provinces to equalize the provinces' "fiscal capacity" — their ability to generate tax revenues. The program began in 1972. In 2008–2009, six provinces received $13.6-Billion in equalization payments from the federal government. Until the 2009–2010 fiscal year, Ontario was the only province to have never received equalization payments; in 2009-2010 Ontario received $347-Million, while Newfoundland, which has received payments since the program's creation, because of offshore oil and gas success is now a so-called "have" province, and is now a net contributor and does not receive payments.

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland have contributed to the program so that in 2017–2018 year, the following provinces received the following equalization payments: Quebec, $11.081-Billion; Manitoba, $1.820-Billion; Nova Scotia, $1.779-Billion; New Brunswick, $1.760-Billion; Ontario, $1.424-Billion and Prince Edward Island, $390-Million. Canada's territories are not included in the equalization program. The federal government addresses territorial fiscal needs through the Territorial Formula Financing (TFF) program.

If an expansion of the turf warfare continues and provinces not contributing, a lot of things will change. Looking at oil rich Alberta, if they are not permitted to get bitumen to market, their economy will nosedive and they will not be sending gobs of money to Ottawa. That would directly affect how much money available to send to good ole Nova Scotia in the way of transfer payments.

With the recent Nova Scotia Atlas suggesting there might be $$$-Billions in onshore gas, other provinces might force us into development. Consequently it might be prudent for the province to first enact "responsible" natural resource development programs. We might not like it, but we could be forced into fracking just to keep ourselves afloat. Within a couple of decades we might become a "have" province and send some money to Alberta. - Maurice



February 2018 - Revolution 2018

Late last fall a long range weather forecast suggested Eastern Canada, particularly Nova Scotia would be milder this winter and instead of an abundance of snow, we’d get milder fluctuating temperatures, with possibility of freezing rain due primarily to a warmer Gulf Stream.

Early in January with several days of frigid cold weather we were in tune with the rest of Canada, with many provinces setting many coldest days of the year records. One day I thought the early fall milder weather forecast was out the window.

However, things have changed. Temperatures are milder, and the southern part and Eastern Nova Scotia sure have been getting their fair share of freezing rain. Cumberland and Colchester have been spared freezing rain. Although we have had lots of rain, winds continued after the rain stopped so we avoided major icy road conditions.

2018 is the year to realize we can get storms in other ways. Normally, we think of a tsunami something that follows an earthquake, with coastal countries crippled with property destruction and loss of life. However, in North America it’s been a different storm affecting USA and Canada. Not even "lil ole" Nova Scotia has been spared.

In case you are wondering what I am building up to, it’s Revolution 2018. We got a preview of it in fall of 2017, when more women started coming forward with allegations of sexual, personal and workplace harassment. Remember Howard Weinstein, then a tidal wave that resulted in some of USA’s most prominent actors, media hosts and politicians resigning or being fired.

This was followed by several women renewing their complaints about now President Donald Trump. Several movie and show awards have fanned the flames. The #MeToo movement has gained strength. More women coming forward has given confidence to others to take the plunge. My observation is a lot of hesitation to speak out occurred, as we watched defense lawyers practically destroy the reputation and life of a rape victim.

Once sensitivity training for judges and legal community happened things changed. It took Oprah Winfrey and others to speak out and "give a breath of hope".

Just this weekend, a billionaire casino executive, who also was serving as the chief fundraiser for the Republicans and a friend of Trump; then Chief of Staff for Marco Rubio was fired within 24 hours.

For years many have felt those in power rich business executives or powerful politicians were equally as guilty but no one was coming forward.

In the reality of life Nova Scotia’s weather comes up along the New England seaboard. I don’t know if confidence for women came in on one of the storms with high winds and turbulent tides, but Nova Scotia was caught up in the same situation, then it quickly spread to Queens Park, Toronto and the House of Commons.

On Wednesday, January 24th, Jamie Baillie quickly resigned as PC leader and Cumberland South MLA. Within hours it was revealed sexual harassment of a much younger female internet in the Party office lead to his downfall: nest day he leader of the PC’s in Ontario followed by a minister in Trudeau’s cabinet.

Or course these will not be the last revelations. If it has been going on for decades, we have only seen a tip of the iceberg. I predict more announcements for the next few months.

Instead of being upset each time we turn on the news, we should be thankful abused people are finally getting the strength to come forward. Donald Trump had the slogan, "Clean out the Swamp", which we must now embrace, We need to rid society of such activity and soon.

If someone comes forward we should embrace them with kindness and support. In fact, if anyone knows of such activity, encourage the victims to speak out or take action to make it happen.

I don’t care who or where they are, but we must expose these people and treat everyone properly. If you know anyone who claims to be a victim, show them support and help them come forward.

This activity is unacceptable in government, business or life in general - Maurice



January 2018 - A Solution to Iain Rankin’s Tight Rope

The attitude of North Americans, including decisions to become more vocal and stand up against the establishment, is changing quickly. In the almost 15 months since Donald Trump was elected president, more and more people are coming forward with accusations they have been abused.

It might not be totally visible in Colchester County but there is a trickle down affect, which probably will become more prominent in months to come. So let’s go back and review a few things. In fall of 2016 the "Hollywood tape" in which candidate Trump made statements of what he was able to do as a culmination of being prominent and powerful did not deter others from electing him as president.

Then early fall 2017 things changed quickly when accusations were made against Howard Weinstein. He was quickly removed from the company he co-founded with his brother. Immediately, women started coming forward with accusations against many other movie giants, television - radio hosts and additional politicians. Two senior politicians were forced to resign or retire.

As women became more comfortable coming forward, a few of Trump’s accusers have started re-applying pressure. Yes, I watch a lot of CNN and always try to imagine how movements in USA might be affecting things in Canada. Already, we’ve seen female MP’s become more vigilant in making accusations against other Members of Parliament in the House of Commons.

Locally, a Halifax female fire fighter has been issued an apology after she waged a 12 year battle. Others are becoming vocal about being refused treatment and career opportunities not just by themselves, but family members are speaking out about refusals for treatment, court attitudes and other things effecting them and loves ones.

As the trickle-downs stars to gain momentum, it’s interesting to note the battle which has been raging for nearly 50 years in Pictou County concerning the former Scott, now Great Northern pulp mill. The matter has started to gather traction, prominence and lots of press. The community might be divided, but for the first time, there’s a strong movement or rallying around those who have expressed concerns about Northern Pulp’s attitude towards the community, even though it is an important part of the economic engine of the much of the province. As society in North America changes, and the threat of global warming rises, a lot more people are starting to become vocal maintaining the environment is more important than the "almighty dollar".

Letters from current and retired mill employees and management to book stores caused cancellation of a book signing event by "The Mill Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest" author, Joan Baxter. However, the operators at Pictou Lodge came to the rescue by hosting the book signing.

Pictou Lodge’s offer came after Northern Pulp cancelled this year’s staff Christmas party after Pictou Lodge’s, Wes Surrett went public on December 9th with his beliefs the Abercrombie Mill has continued to display an arrogant "we can do whatever we want" attitude, which he says is detrimental to the community.

According to reports, the party cancellation cost the Lodge well in excess of $10,000 and also caused many staff to lose work time. Surrett indicated it hurt, but he still stood behind what he believes.

Pictou County is very closely knit, even though not everyone agrees all the time. It didn’t take long for a fisherman’s association to decide they would hold an event to show support and help the Lodge. Their reaction was primarily because Northern Pulp’s solution for Boat Harbour appears to be run the effluent through a longer pipe and dump it into Northumberland Strait, which fishermen say will destroy the fishery.

As provincial residents become more vocal, it’s going to be interesting to see how Iain Rankin, NS Minister of Environment, walks a tight rope. Earlier this summer, he gave approval for LaFarge to burn tires in its Brookfield kiln, which created headlines an existing tire shredder in HRM would be negatively impacted and probably would have to reduce staff, because tires would not be available.

Prior to Rankin’s Ministerial approval LaFarge was courting municipalities requesting a deal to take their low grade plastics as feed stock to the kiln. (See Letter to Editor on this page). Now with tire burning approval, LaFarge is not interested in low grade plastics.

The story becomes more complex, because municipalities can not send their low grade plastic to China, because it has imposed a ban effective December 31st. Colchester currently has thirteen 40’ shipping containers of low grade plastics in storage and HRM has a lot more as do other municipalities. By law, NS Department of Environment refuses to let plastics be land-filled. Most municipal governments are asking for guidance from DOE and the Premier.

Minister Rankin and the Premier could easily solve the problem and create a lot friends, while at the same time eliminate a major problem for all municipalities, not only in Nova Scotia, but the entire Atlantic Region.

My solution is rather simple: Cancel LaFarge’s tire burning permit; which would add some economic stability to the HRM- based tire shredding operation; twist LaFarge’s arm, if necessary, to change their plans and take all the low grade plastics from the municipalities, who previously shipped all they had to China.

If Nova Scotia can’t supply enough plastics as feedstock, seek the required quantity from other provinces starting with New Brunswick and PEI. Create some friends in other provinces.

What a great Christmas or New Year’s gift for municipalities. With that problem out of the way, next is to solve the Pictou County problem to the satisfaction of local residents. Two great ways to "Ring in the New Year".

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to everyone. - Maurice


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