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June 2024 - Significant Changes Coming

There are major changes happening, which will cause Colchester to be the undisputed leader of the pact, bar none. Colchester’s stock has been gradually rising as the most successful municipality in the province. Our geographical positioning, as HUB of Nova Scotia has always helped us when transportation became a factor. It has always been beneficial to be one hour and a half driving distance of 1.5-Million people in three provinces.

Onejk could speculate that should the three Maritime Provinces ever unite, Truro/Colchester should be the capital – not because it is the financial/monetary capital, but for other more efficiency and prudent reasons. Think along with me and we’ll list a few: Basically fog free; not a port city – less like to be bombed or invaded; less drug importation; adjoining Bay of Fundy coastal communities have UNESCO designation for a Global GeoPark; decommissioned army base comprising around 3,000 acres of raw land that also includes an airport – although upgrading is needed. Most of these are natural wonders, which nobody can take away.

However, in spite of all the upside, over the next five years Colchester is going to face its most difficult times. It will be a matter of capacity. How much more, we do; handle; build; afford to spend, where will we find them the tradesman and contractors what we need done now. If council thought they had a difficult budget period, think ahead 3-5 years. The first thing council and staff is figure out where they are going assist other levels of government to get their hands of $50-to $100-Million which will be needed for infrastructure. A new Hwy 104 interchange will cost at least $20-Million. New rail beds and sidings are equally expensive Sewer and waterline services are not cheap. Just look at housing. It takes $1-Million to build five houses. We don’t have enough housing for existing people to live. If through a combination of existing businesses independently or collectively expanded and required 100 new workers, it would take $20-Million to complete housing requirements and a lot of that is municipal infrastructure. If employment over the next year increased by 500 it will require a cool $100-Million.

The other side of the story is where will contractors find the trades people. Will local suppliers be able to get the building and construction supplies? Perhaps the first things municipal staff should do is take a true leadership position completing a study and publishing a report; then hold counselling sessions with construction and trades companies. Irving Shipyard held 100’s of supplier forums two years ahead of cutting steel. The provincial community college network must be advised if current economic expansion that appears to be coming our way happens, Colchester is going to need upwards of 3,000 new trade speople within five years and we need housing for all of them.

It’s nice for Colchester to be forging ahead on its way to be the province’s municipal leader, but it comes at a cost. To avoid having egg all over our face, we best be prepared.

With Scotia Port, forecasting 4,600 FTE jobs during construction and $470-Million in direct household income during the 20-year construction period it is a gigantic plum and is most welcomed. We could not be luckier. We must show our appreciation by proving we are up to the task of doing everything humanly possible to be a leader and get others up to speed even in providing accommodation and other levels of government deliver their services on time.

One last figure. If Scotia Port’s projection of 4,600 FTE jobs during construction is realistic and workers will be onsite for a long duration, it probably includes 10,000+ people when you think about family. Which brings us back to 4,600 residential units. If half were houses and half were apartments let’s use a construction cost of $200,000 for house and $100,000 for apartment, which is an average of $150,000 per unit. In the final analysis $1-Million will provide seven units. Mathematically, 4,600 residential units will require an investment of $600-Million to house the workers to build Scotia Port. Then it’s the Multi-millions required for Scotia Port. - Maurice


 

Rees' Pieces May 2024 - What a shock

It was totally unexpected when Colchester Council during an April 16th presentation meeting on grants for "not-for profits" to deny Scotia Pool at grant for $175,000. The decision to deny has sent shock waves through Bible Hill and then swimming community, particularly seniors who use the heated pool for its therapeutic values not available elsewhere locally.

Historically, Scotia Pool has received an annual grant of $75,000, but last year following its difficult time to recover from CoVid19, Scotia Pool’s operating Society asked for special consideration to raise the grant to $175,000 for a period of three years.

In 2023, the $175,000 was approved, but requested come back next year to let us know how you are doing.

It was anticipated the matter would be back on the agenda for the April 25th monthly meeting. It certainly was and council had to make a decision, because documents were on the table to approve a balanced budget that evening.

During discussion on April 16th some councilors expressed concern they were being asked for large amounts of money, when Village of Bible Hill was not coming to the table with similar funding. Mayor Blair explained under the Municipal Governance Act (MGA) villages were prohibited from making cash contributions and could only support entities like Scotia Pool with "in-kind" contributions. She added Bible Hill performs its "in-kind" work through accounting / bookkeeping services.

Deputy Mayor Geoff Stewart did some investigative work and found several instances where some villages around the province have been giving cash to help a local entity. This changed the water on the beans at April 25th meeting.

Councillor Boutilier opened discussion on Scotia Pool stating council had to do something, because if more money in addition to the already approved $75,000 was not approved Scotia Pool would close late summer or early Fall, and that happened it would cost $10-20-Million to build a new pool. Hej also mention Bible Hill could possibly see a housing development started soon with plans for 3,000 houses and apartment units and there is other residential projects getting ready to start.

During the lengthy discussion amendments and amendments were made as council tried to find the place they should fit. Some amendments were defeated, but finally council voted to provide $50,000 with a condition withing 3 months Scotia Pool Society would ensure studies were completed including a business plan, sustainability and plan of action. Monies for the studies can be used from the $50,000, if they are unable to find external funding from another level of government.

During the April 16th budget meeting there was a lot of discussion the RECC does not have the capacity to handle all swimmers needs.

Many taxpayers outside the central core – such as Tatamagouche and West Colchester do not use the RECC on regular basis, except for attending special events. Most reasoning is distance; problems regarding parking. There is a general feeling the more remote areas are underserviced because RECC gobbles up a larger portion of the available funding.

No studies have been done, but it is assumed most users are within a 10-15 minute driving radius. If so, more than 50% of Colchester residents use the RECC for hockey games and concerts and major special events brought to the area as a result of major marketing.

Scotia Pool is an icon. It needs constant support to ensure it continues. The cost of annually supporting it is far less expensive than what it would cost to replace. In fact is Scotia Pool closed it would never be replaced, primarily because of cost.

Let’s make some comparisons. Yes, RECC is co-owned by the municipality. Scotia Pool is operated by a Society, which has a long-term lease with the province for the facilities. Scotia’s heated pool is favoured by those requiring aqua-therapy; rarely has reduced hours and turns people away. RECC’s pool often has shortened hours or s closed because of a lack of life-guards. Some residents complain they have driven almost an hour to get to the RECC to find the pool is closed.

Out of this situation will be a plan of how working together better programs for swimmers will evolve. - Maurice


 

Rees’ Pieces - April 2024 - A Worrisome Crossroad?

During the past five+ years Nova Scotia has been performing much better, and Canada-wide our economy has been out performing other provinces. This was particularly noticeable during the devastating CoVid years.

People from across Canada were purchasing their new-Nova Scotia home simply by viewing video footage from a real estate agent. Ironic as it might seem they weren’t buying where the lights are bright and neon signs are everywhere.

No they wanted small town, a peaceful rural area, or even farther remote, in areas where Nova Scotians would say, "we have to come out to hunt". It worked for them then and it worked for us, because on a Canada-wide basis, we developed a reputation based on: peaceful, friendly, less expensive and not overcrowded.

The positive attitude of Premier Tim Houston is one of the things that keeps us going today. He hasn’t gotten everything right, but he is not afraid to invest money to try to solve a problem, like healthcare, housing and other areas.

I must congratulate him on his opening paragraphs in his column on Page 5.

He writes, "Nova Scotia is a different province than it was 20, 10 and even five years ago. We are now seen as a province of opportunity – a place where young people can build their careers, and where businesses can thrive". I agree with him and could not have written it better.

If he had continued with another couple of sentences, I would have believed "he had read the tea leaves correctly". His next composition should have been, "Recently, there are looming very dark black clouds, which could be devastating for all non-urban and rural areas, and I am worried".

We know weather patterns have changed in the last five years. Recall, white Juan, wildfires, last July’s heavy rainstorm which washed out roads, flooded major areas, putting people in Bedford, Lr Sackville, Mount Uniacke and Windsor in great danger, then recently when all of Cape Breton, including Sydney received over 100 mm snow.

The worry, particularly for smaller towns and rural areas is how the print media world has been affected by social media platforms and two years of Covid. The real worry for those non-urban areas is the potential demise of the Saltwire publishing empire, with a debt load of $67-Million. They own all the dailies in Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland, plus all community newspapers in NFLD and most of them in Nova Scotia.

The real economic albatross is for rural areas. The dailies might be scooped up by an Ontario publishing group – speculation has Post Media, leader of the pact. the only prized jewel might be the Chronicle Herald, if the Saltwire team can’t find a solution. This could leave the weeklies and community newspapers among the ashes. Result: our largest towns, Amherst, Truro and New Glasgow without a newspaper.

It was 60 years last October when I entered this profession. The other day, I jotted down the names of almost 20 Nova Scotia Communities who proudly had a weekly / community newspaper. In New Brunswick, if I remember correctly there were 13 locally owned publications. I can’t remember all the names. At that time I knew all owners and senior staff by first name.

If you say, print media is dead, you are wrong. It is the only media, which delivers constituent provable results. If you were talking about the real big city media, they might have a shorter life span.

Rural areas need a local print media. Otherwise, they have no way to communicate with themselves or with adjoining communities to invite them to a church supper or know what is happening. Governments need local print media to communicate with taxpayers.

Imagine Truro without a newspaper to print photos of floats in the Santa Clause Parade.

Papers for rural areas can be profitable, but they have to be scooped up before the burn pile. Those who will force the issue are the rural residents whose concern will force governments, well healed business executives to make it possible so rural areas can be owners and make it work.

With fingers and toes crossed, here’s hoping. - Maurice


 

March 2024 - If unstoppable, let’s plan

Every month when I sit down to write, Rees’ Pieces, I have a multitude of topics in the back of my mind. However, this month, the idea factory has failed me. When I looked there was nothing there, so here goes. Guess this will be similar to going for a drive on a Sunday afternoon with no destination in mind.

In looking back at the last couple of months, things have been busy, but not hectic. For the first time in years, in fact decades, I did absolutely very little work between Christmas and New Years, then extended my idleness into the first two weeks in January.

When I did go back to work, I caught a cold, and the persistent cough lasted much longer than I wanted. Spoke to a friend, who says his cough has hung around for upwards of six weeks.

Many were talking about the flu or lack of energy. I was unaware how they were feeling, until about noon on a Friday. Just after lunch I felt a bit off kilter. Decided I might have a Friday afternoon since tummy was full from lunch.

OMG, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Without word of a lie, other than bathroom privileges and to get more fluids, I stayed in bed until 9 am on Monday. I was not sick to my stomach, but not in living memory, did I feel so weak, tired and unable to stay awake.

While I confined myself to bed, when awake, I had plenty of time for idle thoughts. The beauty of our countryside, whether NB, NS or PEi kept popping into my mind.

Then at one point instead of thinking of our beauty and inviting views of our countryside and seashores, I decided to look negatively for ways that rural beauty could be taken away from us and what would our situation be at that particular time.

Immediately, clear cutting of our forests came to mind. The problem with clear cutting it’s been around for 40+ years. Our leaders of tomorrow don’t realize the beauty of what our country side used to be like. Even today there is very little public outcry about continued clearcutting. Look at our countryside: wildlife habitat has been ruined forever; there is no vegetation or tree strands to hold back the water, which comes rushing down mountains and hillsides including Cobequid and Wentworth. More clearcutting in a area, nobody bats an eye.

My second concern is Wildfires not because of Shelburne and outside Halifax which suffered $-billions of damage, but because of the thousands of acres of Fiona devastated forest land. There should have been a major public outcry to hold government accountable to clean up the mess. Timber could have turned into saw logs; 2 x 4 studs, chips etc. Thousands of jobs could have been created. Landowners could have been paid a premium price or a guaranteed market for the volumes they salvaged from the forests. I’ll bet the provincial government has done very little toward Fiona clean up or remediation. My concern is with all the downed trees spread across thousands of acres in Northern and Eastern Nova Scotia which could be a tinder box, awaiting for just one spark from a lightening storm.

There are two cases of severe ruination of our rural beauty and in both cases, the economic benefit compared to ecological and environment damage is questionable. For the past 50 years, we should have been tree farmers. Our economy and environment would be much better.

The third way our countryside may altered to some degree is wind farms. Mere mention of a new wind farm sends people rushing for a protest sign. Within the last decade forthcoming changes are unstoppable, and that includes green energy and what every is needed to produce it.

If it’s unstoppable, we need to bring everyone together, to find ways to extract the best deal possible for municipalities; community organizations, residents withing the shadows of the towers from the multi-national developers while preserving wildlife habitat, environment and beauty.

Government must lead, but the public needs to hold them accountable for benefits and bonds which will cover the cost of decommissioning. - Maurice


February 2024 - Bill Elliott Passing a Shock

The Fundy Shore was saddened and shocked to learn of the December 8th passing of Bill Elliott. Personally, I did not learn about the fateful event until early January. Not only will he be dearly missed buy Natalie and other family members but almost every resident, particularly middle age and up can recount many stories, out the Elliott’s were the most frequent and followed entertainers along the Fundy Shore.

To have someone from this shore perform across North America and opened shows for Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. Bill had planned to showcase at ECMA in Charlottetown on May 1-5, 2024

Now onto other more positive things.

Cliffs of Fundy GeoPark is going through a difficult time and is currently looking for a new Executive Director following a sudden departure from the position over the holiday period. Chair Carrie Goodwin and the executive moved quickly by appointing Devin Trefry as Interim, Executive Director.

Devin is well known in hospitality circles. Over a 15-year period he cut his teeth at Central Nova Tourism Association (CNTA). Recently, he has been filling a very important position in the office at the Municipality of Colchester. He’ll continue at the Municipality, while getting Cliffs of Fundy back on the rails.

The international GeoPark auditors / examiners / when they visited five years ago and gave final approval for Cliffs of Fundy to become a UNESCO GeoPark told several people two important things:

  1. Operated properly as a UNESCO GeoPark within couple decades, the Cliffs of Fundy could be the Number 1 tourism j attraction in the province outpacing Peggys Cove and Cape Breton Highlands.
  2. With its varied assets, Cliffs of Fundy GeoPark could be among the leaders if not Number 1 on a global basis.

Since its approval of have spoken negatively, not about the GeoPark or its possibilities to many board members including all three chair, Don Fletcher, Mayor Blair and current chair, Carrie Goodwin. My constant complaint has been if there was a communications plan, it stank, or was useless to the Cumberland, Colchester market where you need to build participation from local citizens and the business community, who will invest, staff, own and operate the business attractions and infrastructure to serve the thousands if not hundreds of thousands global tourists who will make special visits to the area.

My complains centered on old fashion handshake, ongoing community meetings, press releases for print, radio and television should be a priority. Emphasis on social media platforms will be more important once the infrastructure is in place to handle bus load after bus load of global tourists. Failure of a communications plan is not staffing, or monetary issue, it is an ideology.

Why try to build hype and support via the internet and cell phone the lowest of adequate service is not available. Poster on telephone poles and in corner stores would be much more effective. The board must take charge and develop a communications plan that will work in this area.

We are not where we should be with Cliffs of Fundy GeoPark five years in. Yes, disruptions were caused by CoVid, but that is an excuse not a reason. But that is only a lame excuse.

To have been able to see, where we should be, at this time, there should have been an investment, or shovel ready projects totaling about $10-Million. Yes, lack of money is a problem. Getting money and not spending it wisely is fool hardy.

In addition to needing a workable communications plan, which can be developed at no cost. Implementation will have costs.

To get us on the right tract, the board should also focus on getting funding for a "Needs Assessment" so every resident from Truro to Parrsboro and beyond will be strongly encouraged to attend community meetings to build the infrastructure in each community to service GeoPark tourists.

Without any planning let’s set target of 50,000 unique GeoPark tourists travel from Parrsboro to Truro vis tour bus in 2024. With 41 tourists per bus that requires 1,219 buses/yr.; or 23 buses/week; or 3.35 buses per day.

Do the math. See the Opportunity. - Maurice

 


 

January 2024 - Basic changes needed

If we learned one thing from the last five years it should be how we must learn to adapt to and enact basic changes from what we historically did. It would appear CoVid was the instigator of rapid changes and our need to adapt.

Primary areas of massive changes have been: attitude toward work; aggressiveness toward rate of pay; populist attitudes toward global situations and our tolerance toward one another – basically disrespect and lack of decency.

Let me start with more precise examples: since monthly CoVid payments began, we grew accustomed to receiving approximately $2,000 per month for sitting home and doing nothing. That resulted in wanting large increases in wages, when it was time to go back to work.

CoVid also caused us to have a totally different attitude to work, or the type of work we had been doing. Some left their traditional job and were seeking something else offering the "ultimate". A change so rapid there is nothing comparable since WWII.

The foregoing exodus resulted in certain job classifications without a supply of workers. Imagine coffee shops having to pay $5.00 more per hour for someone to operate the drive thru window. Not that I am against higher wages, but 33% increase in less than a year.

Maybe wages should have been at that level, but without CoVid the momentum for change would not have been there. Another strain on the economy is government is getting tough on demanding certain corporations and individuals repay the CoVid loans extended in time of need.

Currently, everyone is blaming "inflation" as the root of our massive contempt toward anything unpopular or costly. I’ll confine by thoughts to three areas:

Mortgages: For years, we overplayed our hand. Personal greed and desire to climb the social ladder, we forgot to factor in the devastating results if interest rates would rapidly climb from $2% to 6-7%. Because we thought ourselves as non-destructive, we bought more expensive properties than we necessary. Instead of buying property in the same classification of real estate, we decided to be more elegant. Had we stayed in the range of where we were we could probably handle the increased payments. (Example: buying property $100-150,000 less)

Petroleum: Government greed for more taxes and oil company greed have driven pump prices higher than when crude oil prices were $100+ per barrel, than current pricing. What is the justification for pump pricing being significantly higher at $75.00 per barrel, than seven years ago when per barrel prices were a bit over $100?

Housing: I can understand price increases due to supply shortages. But no executive would have the intestinal fortitude to massively increase prices beyond the norm. Other than "populist attitude" aggressiveness, there is no justification to doubling rents from $800 for one bedroom to $1700-1800 for similar property. Landlords have become brazen and greedy. Governments have failed to take action.

None of us advocate for government to become more involved, but thing have reached the stage, where on existing properties landlords should have to apply to increase rents beyond 2-3%. (They should have to apply demonstrating show/prove increased costs - taxes, heating, utilities, repairs, etc.) If improvements / major renovations are involved, the costs should be amortized over 7-10 years. This would eliminate most of the reno-viction.

New construction would be exempt, because what the market would bear would determine the pricing. With homelessness becoming rampant, we need to make basic changes there. Those who are homeless should be registered, and placed on list to be prioritized for municipal / government employment according to their ability and qualifications – taking into account: health, addictions, not wanting to work, down on their luck, etc. Where they are lacking skills, enroll in courses to upgrade and make employment ready.

If we think outside the box, a job can be found, or created for almost every case. Such programs might not be socially acceptable at the moment and would not help grow the economy, and in fact could cost more, but overtime, we would have built a society ready to work, and realize in order to receive you must contribute.

Are we ready to kick butt and make it happen? Maurice

 


 

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