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2017 Year in Review: January to March in Digby, Yarmouth and Shelburne counties

A candlelit vigil was held in front of Yarmouth town hall on Jan. 30, in memory of those who lost their lives in the Quebec City mosque massacre.
A candlelit vigil was held in front of Yarmouth town hall on Jan. 30, in memory of those who lost their lives in the Quebec City mosque massacre. Vigils were also held in Digby and Shelburne. - Carla Allen

Looking back at some of things events, issues and people that made the news in 2017.




The Sandy Cove Women's March on Washington. GARY WILSON PHOTO
The Sandy Cove Women's March on Washington. GARY WILSON PHOTO


Sandy Cove’s Women’s March on Washington goes viral


Size doesn’t matter and in Sandy Cove, Digby County, 15 people proved this. Their 15-person contribution to the international Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21 captivated a lot of attention considering that the population of Sandy Cove is only about 65 people. “When we got there and we had that many, people were shocked and thrilled and totally motivated,” said Melissa Merritt, one of the organizers. Millions of people, mostly women, took part in marches around the world. An estimated 500,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., one day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Fifteen people was a far cry from that. Still, the Sandy Cove march didn’t gone unnoticed, with messages coming in from other parts of the world, along with media attention.


Fish kill was likely caused by ‘some sort of environmental event,’ DFO official said

Just what caused the recent deaths of thousands of herring in southwestern Nova Scotia remained unclear, but those investigating the situation said it was not due to human activity, nor was there any human health concern. People were, however, being told, as a precaution, not to eat dead or dying fish found on shorelines. Fishermen, meanwhile, cited unusual weather and tides as contributing to the fish kill. As one fisherman put it, referring to the combination of tides, winds and temperatures, “everything is out of whack.” A DFO official later would say “some sort of environmental event” likely was the cause of the fish kill.


CRTC’s ruling on Internet access was good news for Western REN

The Western Regional Enterprise Network was among those welcoming a declaration by the CRTC that broadband Internet is a basic telecommunications service. “It’s just one of the most exciting decisions to come along in quite some time,” said Angélique LeBlanc, CEO of the Western REN, which already had been working towards bringing high-speed Internet to places that didn’t have it.


Bay Ferries was considering longer season in 2017 for Cat ferry service

Bay Ferries said they were looking at extending the sailing season of The Cat by a few weeks for the 2017 season. Company president Mark MacDonald said they might consider starting the season June 1 and perhaps go a couple of weeks or so deeper into October. Typically, this type of service would start June 1, MacDonald said. In 2016, The Cat had started its Yarmouth-Portland sailings in mid-June. The late start that year was attributed to several factors, including the late-March acquisition of the ship and the work needed to get the vessel ready.



On hand for the Jan. 14 announcement at the Digby Regional Hospital: Digby resident Maxine Connell, Health Minister Leo Glavine, Deep Brooke residents Joyce Anderson and Bill "Andy" Anderson, Premier Stephen McNeil, NSHA President & CEO Janet Knox and Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson.
On hand for the Jan. 14 announcement at the Digby Regional Hospital: Digby resident Maxine Connell, Health Minister Leo Glavine, Deep Brooke residents Joyce Anderson and Bill "Andy" Anderson, Premier Stephen McNeil, NSHA President & CEO Janet Knox and Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson.


Plan was starting for Digby dialysis unit, but Barrington area was still waiting


Premier Stephen McNeil announced the province was starting the design phase for a six-station satellite dialysis unit at the Digby General Hospital. The announcement for Digby – made Jan. 14 – came on the heels of a $9.1-million funding announcement to add a dialysis unit to the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville. The Barrington area, though, was still waiting for a dialysis unit of its own. Argyle-Barrington MLA Chris d’Entremont said the need for such a service in Barrington was likely to grow.


Province, NSTU reached tentative agreement

The province and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union reached a tentative agreement for about 9,300 public school teachers. The NSTU said its work-to-rule strike action would be “suspended and phased out” starting Jan. 23. Union members were scheduled to vote on the agreement in early February. This was the third time a tentative agreement had been reached between the province and the union on a contract. The two previous deals had been rejected by members. In late 2016, students had held rallies in support of the striking teachers, but many students also had expressed frustration over how work-to-rule was affecting them. When the vote was eventually taken, however, the teachers rejected the agreement.


After the flood: recovery work at Yarmouth hospital was expected to take months

Several weeks after a frozen pipe had caused major flooding at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital, recovery work was continuing and, while progress was being made, the work was expected to take months. On a positive note, hospital spokesman Fraser Mooney said they were getting closer to having the hospital’s MRI going again. The flooding had made it necessary to relocate some hospital personnel, including doctors. Some had been moved to other offices within the hospital. Others had been relocated elsewhere in the community.


African Nova Scotia community centre to be established in Digby area

A signing ceremony was held in Digby for the creation of a centre for the local African Nova Scotian community. Participants in the event included representatives of the Jordantown-Acaciaville-Conway Betterment Association, Acadia University, Université Sainte-Anne and Nova Scotia Community College. The community centre concept had emerged from a prior settlement agreement with the province’s education department stemming from decades of African Nova Scotian struggle within the school system. A site near the Acaciaville United Baptist Church had been selected as a location for the centre.


Proposed Mariners Centre expansion would cost $30 million, study found

A proposed expansion that would just about double the size of Yarmouth’s Mariners Centre was expected to cost about $30 million, according to a feasibility study. As envisaged, the expansion would include an aquatic centre and fitness facility, curling club and 300-foot walking track. The idea was that, if the project were to proceed, Yarmouth’s YMCA and curling club would close their existing facilities but would continue to operate within the expanded Mariners Centre.


Shelburne County lost two of its own in tragic accidents

January was a heartbreaking month for many in Shelburne County, with the passing of 44-year-old Jim Buchanan, who died after falling overboard while lobster fishing, and of 22-year-old Tori Brooke Symonds, who died in hospital after being in an all-terrain-vehicle accident. Buchanan was described as “a wonderful man with a heart of gold.” Symonds was remembered has having “a smile (that) brightened everyone’s day.”


5 other things that happened in January

1. About two dozen people turned out for a public session in Meteghan regarding N.S.’s Bill 59, the government’s Accessibility Act.

2. A company in Meteghan River – Riverside Lobster International Inc. – had lots of full-time, good-paying, year-round jobs that weren’t being filled. So it was looking for a way to fill these jobs.

3. How should the Municipality of Barrington’s money be spent? Council wanted to hear from its residents and held a public participation meeting for its budget.

4. A Shelburne County man was found not guilty of dangerous operation of a vehicle, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon in connection with an incident in 2014 in which his vehicle struck and injured two young men.

5. Search and rescue teams in communities throughout N.S. received a new piece of equipment designed to remove injured persons from rough terrain.



Digby group was brought together by Quebec City tragedy

A group of Digby-area residents was discussing ways to promote inclusivity and positive action regarding the region’s Muslim community. The group was planning two more vigils (Feb. 6 and 13). A vigil already had been held in late January, with dozens of people getting together as a show of solidarity with the victims of the recent shooting at a Quebec City mosque that had killed six people and injured 19. David Holborn, a member of the Digby group, said he joined because he wanted to promote social justice everywhere. “I don’t know of a better cause than this one,” he said. (Vigils in memory of the shooting victims also had been held in Yarmouth and Shelburne.)



['Teachers demonstrate on Starrs Road in Yarmouth on Friday, Feb. 17 during a province-wide NSTU walk out.']
['Teachers demonstrate on Starrs Road in Yarmouth on Friday, Feb. 17 during a province-wide NSTU walk out.']


Provincial government was legislating teachers back to work


Two days after teachers rejected a third tentative agreement, Premier Stephen McNeil announced he had requested that the legislature be recalled so the government could table legislation that he said “will bring an end to this dispute as soon as possible.” But NSTU president Liette Doucet responded by saying a legislated contract would do nothing to improve the state of schools “and will only further erode the trust between the teachers and this government.” Less than a week later, teachers staged a one-day walkout to protest the province’s back-to-work legislation (Bill 75).


Nova Scotia’s Jeux de l’Acadie were in limbo

Among those affected by the teacher situation were athletes hoping to take part in Nova Scotia’s Jeux de l’Acadie. The Acadian Games for Nova Scotia were scheduled for the third weekend in May in Clare. However, their fate was uncertain if teachers continued not to volunteer for extras in the school system, as had been the case with work-to-rule. Teachers were heavily involved in the games as coaches and volunteers. (In the end, the games would be cancelled, although organizers would try to arrange qualifying events where athletes still would get a chance to earn a berth in the Finale des Jeux de l’Acadie to be held in Fredericton.)


Reps from Town of Yarmouth and Th’YARC were planning to talk

Representatives of the Town of Yarmouth and Th’YARC were planning to get together to talk about a new arts centre. The issue had been in the news lately with the town making motions regarding its desire that a new arts facility be built downtown. Others preferred that the new arts centre be located on the same Parade Street property as Th’YARC. Motions pertaining to the new facility – which were to have been voted on at town council’s Feb. 9 meeting – were deferred in order to give the two sides a chance to meet and discuss the matter.


New radio-thon for Yarmouth Hospital Foundation was ‘just a great day’

A new fundraiser for the Yarmouth Hospital Foundation was a big success, generating over $90,000. Organizers of the WE CARE Radio-thon on CJLS initially had set a goal of $35,000, with the money to be put towards the purchase of a portable ultrasound for the regional intensive care unit. The funds they ended up raising were enough to pay for the ultrasound - $50,000 – with the leftover money to go towards other things on the hospital foundation’s priority list. Jeff Little, chairman of the event’s organizing committee, said, “it was just a great day.”


Latest census figures drew attention to challenge facing rural areas

Concern was being expressed over the latest population figures for rural communities. While the population of Nova Scotia had gone up slightly (0.2 per cent), according to the 2016 census data, compared to 2011, the numbers were down in many rural areas, including the Municipality of Barrington, where the figures showed a five per cent drop. “We’ve all been aware in rural Nova Scotia that people are leaving to find better jobs, or just to find a job,” said Barrington Warden Eddie Nickerson. As another example, in the Municipality of Digby, the population had dropped by 4.8 per cent. Nickerson said the issue should be addressed at municipal, provincial and federal levels.


Municipality of Barrington was joining Western Regional Enterprise Network

The Western Regional Enterprise Network was getting bigger with the addition of the Municipality of Barrington. In late 2016, the municipality had formally requested to become a member of the Western REN. Now, after the last of the network’s existing members had agreed to Barrington’s request, it was all but official. Barrington’s membership was slated to take effect April 1. “We are thrilled that Barrington has opted to join our REN,” said Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood, chairwoman of the network’s liaison and oversight committee.


Province was looking into damage to Shelburne aquaculture site

The provincial government was looking into an incident of damage to an aquaculture site in Shelburne harbour following a recent winter storm. The company that ran the farm reported damage to one of its pens to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture Feb. 15. It was believed some of the salmon had been released from the damaged pen. Conservation officers with the Department of Environment were following up on the situation with the operator.


School athletic federation cancelled regionals, provincials in six sports

The impact of the teacher labour situation was still being felt, with the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation announcing that it was cancelling regional and provincial championships in six sports: hockey, basketball, snowboarding, skiing, curling and wrestling. “It wasn’t an easy decision by any means,” said NSSAF executive director Stephen Gallant. “It all came down to time.” Referring to the effort that went into making the decision, he said, “we looked at everything.” Locally, the Par-en-Bas Sharks boys high school hockey team was to have hosted division three hockey provincials. In late March the PEB and Yarmouth high school hockey teams teamed up to host a mini version of the Cook's Cup tournament, which had been cancelled in December to due to work to rule. 


Barrington couple celebrated Valentine’s Day with worldly love notes

A Barrington woman decided to spread the love for her boyfriend big time by having people from around the world – via a Facebook group – share photographs of love notes from her to her boyfriend from places throughout the world. Messages came in from New York, India, Spain and California.


4 other things that happened in February:

1. A unique knitting project saw members of the Yarmouth Knitting Guild produce temperature scarves that served as a colourful record of temperature fluctuation.

2. The Bear River Winter Carnival marked its 10th year.

3. Renovations were underway at the Rodd Grand Hotel in Yarmouth as part of a $2-million investment in the facility.

4. Tri-County Regional School Board said school bus schedules that were put in place in early December for work to rule would remain in place to the time being.


MARCH 2017:



Krista Christie and her children Hunter and Autumn squeeze in for a photo. Hunter has a form of leukemia and his mother said the lack of pediatricians at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital was stressful to the family, and other families as well.
Krista Christie and her children Hunter and Autumn squeeze in for a photo. Hunter has a form of leukemia and his mother said the lack of pediatricians at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital was stressful to the family, and other families as well.


Finding pediatricians was a top priority for Nova Scotia Health Authority


Pediatric recruitment for the Yarmouth Regional Hospital was an urgent priority, but those tasked with the job admitted recruitment had been difficult. The hospital used to have two pediatricians, but one had retired and the other had relocated, leaving no pediatricians at the Yarmouth hospital. Dr. Cheryl Pugh, head of obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics for the western zone, said she and her colleagues with the Nova Scotia Health Authority shared the concerns expressed by parents over the situation in Yarmouth, saying much effort was going into finding a solution.


Avalon Rare Metals was planning to open tin-processing plant in 2018

Twenty-five years after the closure of Rio Algom’s tin mine in East Kemptville, another tin-processing operation was being planned for the site of the former Yarmouth County mine, using an improved method of extraction. Avalon Rare Metals said the small-scale development they were looking at would require about 25 full-time staff, as well as numerous support services and contracting needs. If everything fell into place as hoped, production could start before the end of 2018, the company said. The former Rio Algom mine had employed over 200 people before its closure in 1992 due to low tin prices.


Road conditions were concerning, frustrating for Shelburne County residents

Heavy snowfalls followed by quick thaws had left some unpaved roads in Shelburne County impassable. One man had walked seven kilometres to his home on the Upper Clyde Road after his four-wheel-drive pickup got stuck. He described the situation as “a nightmare ... we are completely cut off.” Brian Taylor, a spokesman for the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, acknowledged many gravel roads can be a challenge at this time of year. “Crews will continue to work on localized issues, weather dependent,” he said, “but in the end it will take some time for the roads to harden enough to properly repair them.”



Josh Hopkins pictured with his younger brother, Jacob.
Josh Hopkins pictured with his younger brother, Jacob.


Eleven-year-old was being recognized for quick thinking while lost in woods


A Shelburne area youth who had stayed calm after getting lost in the woods on Boxing Day 2016 was being recognized for his smarts. Eleven-year-old Josh Hopkins was to receive a certificate from the minister of the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office. Josh hadn’t panicked after realizing he was lost the day after Christmas. Using his cellphone – which was almost out of power – he managed to get his co-ordinates and text them to his mother. Josh later credited things he had learned from Richard d’Entremont, Barrington and Area Search and Rescue co-ordinator, for helping him stay safe and calm.


No highway twinning, no tolls, said most people attending public consultation session in Digby

There was little support for highway twinning and even less for highway tolls at a public consultation session in Digby. One local resident drew applause from others in the room when he said, “current conditions of highways across Nova Scotia need to be improved before we think about upgrading these roads by twinning.” As for tolls, several speakers expressed doubt that tolls would be temporary. (The day after visiting Digby, the provincial panel conducting the twinning consultations held a session in Shelburne.)


Wild winds rocked region, resulting in power outages, downed trees etc.

A late-winter storm brought winds topping 100 kilometres an hour in many parts of the province, resulting in multiple power outages. On social media, as the storm was passing through, people wrote about downed trees and shingles being blown off roofs, among other damage. There were many reports of downed power wires. Some expressed amazement that they still had electricity. As one person posted on the Vanguard’s Facebook page, “Unbelievably no loss of power as it sounded like a freight train going through the backyard earlier this evening.”


Part of Yarmouth’s Main Street was to be closed for a while for sewer work, bump-outs

A portion of Main Street in Yarmouth would be closed to traffic for an extended period of time starting March 22 as construction continued on a sewer separation project and construction began on a bump-out project. The section of Main Street to be closed was between John and Cumberland streets and it was expected to last about two months. “They’re hoping to be off of Main Street in June, so before tourism season,” said Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood. Some of the sewer separation work had taken place in 2016 from Water Street up along Brown Street. The bump-outs were among the downtown streetscape improvements identified by the town in 2014 as priorities for downtown rejuvenation.


New doctors, nurse announced for Digby, but Weymouth-area residents skeptical

Three new doctors and a new family care nurse were coming to Digby’s health clinic. The plan was that these new health professionals would provide satellite services to communities, including Weymouth, Bear River, Barton and Digby Neck. The new nurse was expected to be in place in the spring, with the new doctors slated to start in September. While it was welcome news, some residents of Weymouth – which had been without a family doctor since November 2015 – expressed skepticism at the March 23 announcement, wondering if it would have much effect on their community. “There’s still much work to be done,” Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson acknowledged, “but we made it clear today that Bear River and Weymouth play a key part in delivering health care.”


Blueberry growers were losing longtime harvester in Bragg Lumber Company

High inventories, dropping prices and growing competition in the wild blueberry industry were some of the reasons behind Bragg Lumber Company’s decision to pull out from Yarmouth County. For many years, the company had sent equipment to manage local blueberry fields, then harvest and transport the crop, paying property owners a price per pound. Local growers still would be able to sell to the company, but they now would have to harvest the berries themselves and get them to Collingwood in Cumberland County.








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