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TRICOUNTY VANGUARD YEAR IN REVIEW: JANUARY 2018

A light shines on Eglise Sainte-Pierre in West Pubnico, just as a light shines from the hearts of those in Pubnicos who are always there to help and support one another. TINA COMEAU
A light shines on Eglise Saint-Pierre in West Pubnico, just as a light shines from the hearts of those in Pubnicos who are always there to help and support one another. TINA COMEAU - Tina Comeau

A sampling of some of the news from the month.

Firefighters were called to the Lobster Rock Wharf in Yarmouth the evening of Jan, 4 where the fishing vessel Fundy Commander was on fire. They were still on the scene the morning of Jan. 5. TINA COMEAU
Firefighters were called to the Lobster Rock Wharf in Yarmouth the evening of Jan, 4 where the fishing vessel Fundy Commander was on fire. They were still on the scene the morning of Jan. 5. TINA COMEAU

Firefighters fought Yarmouth fishing vessel blaze amid miserable conditions

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Yarmouth County resident Arnold Porter stood on the Lobster Rock Wharf amid howling winds and bitter cold for many hours, watching as firefighters tried to save his boat, the Fundy Commander, after a fire broke out shortly before 10 p.m. on Jan. 4.

Porter had owned the fish dragger just shy of two years but had never taken it out on a fishing trip yet. First built in Newfoundland for a fisherman from Digby, the vessel was later sold overseas, ending up in Holland instead.
Then someone from Newfoundland bought it during a foreclosure sale and was going to have it transported there. “But his wife passed away. He was 67 years old and just kind of threw his hands in the air and was done with fishing so I bought it from him,” Porter said. “So we went to Holland, put it on a container ship and brought it over.”

At the time of the fire the boat was being fixed up for sale. It was suspected the cause was electrical.

Amid miserable conditions – both from the weather and due to the location of the fire – firefighters responded to the fire as a winter storm blew through the area. By the following morning the heavily damaged vessel had sank alongside the wharf.


Praying for Pubnico reads the sign outside the Calvary United Baptist Church in Woods Harbour.
Praying for Pubnico reads the sign outside the Calvary United Baptist Church in Woods Harbour.
Praying for Pubnico reads the sign outside the Calvary United Baptist Church in Woods Harbour.

Heartbreak in Yarmouth County as 4 children died in Pubnico Head fire

'THIS IS A HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE TRAGEDY FOR ANYONE TO EXPERIENCE'

The year got off to a tragic start in Yarmouth County as a house fire in Pubnico Head claimed the lives of four children.

It was 12:13 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 7, when the RCMP received a call alerting them to the blaze. West Pubnico’s fire department was the first to respond – the fire was in their district – but other fire departments also responded.

“It’s very hard,” said Kathy Bourque, the area’s municipal councillor. “It’s like any community. We all know each other and when something like this happens, everybody is devastated.”

Different organizations were offering to help, including the Red Cross. Community groups, individuals and businesses were stepping up, doing what they could to support those affected by the tragedy.

Shelburne resident was being recognized with Order of Canada appointment

Shelburne’s Elizabeth Cromwell had been appointed to the Order of Canada as a member (CM) “for her contributions to black heritage preservation and education in Nova Scotia.” Cromwell was one of 125 new appointments to the Order of Canada recently announced by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette. Cromwell, a founding member of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, had been recognized in 2017 with an honorary degree from Dalhousie University, which described her as tireless in her efforts “to have the contributions and struggles of the black Loyalists recognized as a central piece of Nova Scotian and Canadian history.” Her appointment officially took place later in the year.

Town of Shelburne was considering getting police services from Bridgewater

Policing services provided by the Bridgewater police force would cost the Town of Shelburne about $100,000 less per year compared to the current cost for the RCMP, according to a presentation to Shelburne town council. The Town of Bridgewater and Bridgewater Police Service had been invited by Shelburne town council to submit a proposal outlining what an alternative policing contract for Shelburne could look like. Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall emphasized that the reason the town was considering a different policing option was “very specifically due to the unsustainable costs and rising costs of policing.” She said there were “still a lot of discussions to be had” if the town continued to explore the Bridgewater police as an option.

Panel said electoral boundaries commission should be able to recommend ‘exceptional’ ridings

A report on electoral representation for the province’s Acadian and African Nova Scotian populations said an electoral boundaries commission should be able to recommend exceptional ridings – or minority ridings, as they perhaps were better known – and it also said principles for setting electoral boundaries should be legislated.

The report made 29 recommendations aimed at helping to ensure that Acadians and African Nova Scotians were represented in the political process and in government. Among those welcoming the report was the province’s Acadian federation (FANE), although a spokesperson for the group said the report was just a step towards the federation’s ultimate goal of having Nova Scotia’s minority ridings restored.

Town of Shelburne was pleased with court ruling regarding Farley Mowat

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The MV Farley Mowat was still making news. Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall said the town was “certainly pleased” with a recent federal court ruling that granted the Town of Shelburne the entitlement to recover more than $140,000 from the owner of the Farley Mowat.

The money would be for outstanding berthage fees, cleanup costs, maintenance and security expenses and legal costs incurred during the almost three years the derelict vessel was tied up and abandoned at the Shelburne Marine Terminal. It had been a festive atmosphere in Shelburne the day the vessel was finally removed in the summer of 2017.

Clare municipal boundaries and council size were being examined

More than 60 people turned out for the first public meeting in phase one of the Municipality of Clare’s boundary review consultation process. Of those from the audience who shared their thoughts, some spoke in favour of having a smaller municipal council, but most expressed support for maintaining an eight-member council.

Those who did not attend the session included the Clare warden and councillors. Warden Ronnie LeBlanc said they had decided – after discussing the matter with the Clare municipal CAO and the firm doing the boundary review – that not having council members at the public session might encourage a more open dialogue among those attending the meeting.

Review was underway of cancer services in tri-counties

The Nova Scotia Cancer Care Program – part of the Nova Scotia Health Authority – was conducting a review of cancer services in Yarmouth, Digby and Shelburne counties to determine the feasibility of adding radiation therapy services at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. It wasn’t the first time this was being looked at, but this would be the most serious examination of the issue, said Dr. Drew Bethune, medical director of the Nova Scotia Cancer Care Program.

Asked during a visit to Yarmouth what had changed, he said, “There’s been enough interest here that I feel it justifies a very thorough review.”

At the time, he said no other parts of the province were asking for radiation services. “Sydney has two machines, Halifax has six, and the people in northern N.S. go to Moncton,” Dr. Bethune said. “Yarmouth patients have to travel the farthest.”

Education consultant’s report recommended dissolving 7 English school boards

A dysfunctional education system was causing Nova Scotia students to fall behind their peers elsewhere in Canada, an education consultant warned in a report prepared for the provincial government called Raise the Bar. In it, Dr. Avis Glaze recommended, among other things, doing away with the province’s seven English regional school boards and have them replaced by regional education offices. She recommended that Nova Scotia’s French school board – the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) – remain intact.

Glaze earlier had acknowledged that everyone she had met in the education system was doing their best, “but the system is not working the way it should for students, parents, teachers and principals.”

Tri-County Regional School Board reacts to Glaze report. TINA COMEAU
Tri-County Regional School Board reacts to Glaze report. TINA COMEAU

Government accepted Glaze report, but critics called it bad for public education

While Education Minister Zach Churchill accepted the recommendations in the report from Avis Glaze, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union said the government’s acceptance of the report was bad for public education. It was a similar message from the Tri-County Regional School Board, whose members wondered who would advocate for students if the school boards were gone.

Said Tri-County board member Donna Tidd, expressing a sentiment shared by others, “I do it because I am concerned about the students in this province, that’s why I do this.” Churchill said he knew how committed school board members were. The problem wasn’t the people in the system, he said, but rather the system itself.

Michael Drew, the chair of the Tri-County Regional School Board, had harsh words about the decision to dissolve elected school boards and the Glaze report.

“We feel betrayed by who she presented herself to be from the get-go, and that this was a tactic to have us open up and feel that we were in a safe zone but we’re weren’t,” he said about consultant Avis Glaze. “The words we used, were words used against us.”

Drew said her report contained little research and was based more on anecdotal evidence. He wasn’t disputing the fact that there are areas of improvement for school boards. He said the energy that will go into dissolving them should instead go into more training and better clarifying the role of elected boards.


The 2018 women's march in Sandy Cove, Digby County, doubled in size from the previous year to 32 people. Like the first year it continued to attract attention. GARY WILSON
The 2018 women's march in Sandy Cove, Digby County, doubled in size from the previous year to 32 people. Like the first year it continued to attract attention. GARY WILSON
The 2018 women's march in Sandy Cove, Digby County, doubled in size from the previous year to 32 people. Like the first year it continued to attract attention. GARY WILSON

Small women’s march doubled in size, attracted attention again

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A women’s march in Sandy Cove, Digby County, once more had drawn widespread attention for its small size – although the number of participants had doubled from the previous year – but a spokesperson for the event said she hoped more attention would be focused on the issues the women were marching for (equality, women’s rights) than on the size of their group.

“Issues that people have in larger, urban centres are the same issues we have right here in Digby Neck,” said Gwen Quigley Wilson, an organizer of the Sandy Cove march. Thirty-two people took part in the 2018 march, up from 15 in 2017, when a video of the march had gone viral.

Given that Sandy Cove only had about 65 people, the number of marchers in 2017 had caught the eye of many people.


Josh Link goes under while taking the Live Well Challenge aboard the Cameron and Girls at the Newellton wharf last week. KATHY JOHNSON
Josh Link goes under while taking the Live Well Challenge aboard the Cameron and Girls at the Newellton wharf last week. KATHY JOHNSON
Josh Link goes under while taking the Live Well Challenge aboard the Cameron and Girls at the Newellton wharf last week. KATHY JOHNSON

Live Well Challenge by fishermen exceeded half million dollars in just over a week

READ THE STORY; BEYOND EXPECTATIONS

The Live Well Challenge continued to exceed expectations, with people taking the plunge in one way or another in southwestern Nova Scotia and beyond, raising in excess of half a million dollars for numerous charities and causes in just over the first week.

And the dollar amount continued to climb steadily as people continue to take the plunge and nominate others to do the same. Live wells are water tanks used to store lobster catches on boats.

The Live Well Challenge was initiated by Cape Sable Island fisherman Todd Newell on Jan. 17 on social media as a way to help the families of the Pubnico Head house fire that claimed the lives of four children, and to also help other local charities, causes and organizations.

“I never expected to get this big,” said Newell just over a week into the challenge. “I was confident we would raise $100,000, but to get this far, I never expected it.”


Yarmouth would be only NSLC site in tri-counties to sell cannabis

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The province had outlined its plans for cannabis sales and, according to the announcement, the product would be sold at nine NSLC sites, including Yarmouth, the only tri-county location on the list and, initially at least, the only one west of Halifax. (Three more sites would be added three months later, including New Minas and Bridgewater, bringing the total to 12.) Cannabis products also would be available online.

Justice Minister Mark Furey and NSLC president and CEO Bret Mitchell said the liquor corporation didn’t see cannabis sales as a profit-generating venture for at least several years. Said the minister, “We’ve said from the outset there are going to be significant costs to the provincial government to implement the legalization of recreational cannabis.”


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