We’re now more than a week into 2018 and local political leaders are weighing in on what the past year has brought. They are also sharing their views on what they hope for this year …
Member of Parliament for Central Nova
As Canada 150 draws to a close, it is an appropriate time to reflect on our government’s progress in its first two years in office.
We remain focused on creating a bustling economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. In the past two years, the Canadian economy has added nearly 600,000 jobs and the national unemployment rate is at its lowest level in more than 10 years.
We have created the Canada Child Benefit which has stopped giving child care cheques to millionaires so we could put more money in the pockets of nine out of 10 Canadian families. This program alone delivers nearly $48 million annually to Central Nova and will lift 300,000 Canadian children out of poverty. In addition, we have raised taxes on the wealthiest one per cent of income earners and cut taxes for nine million Canadians.
For the working poor, we have boosted the Working Income Tax Benefit by $500 million to help those who work, but find themselves unable to get ahead.
The Liberal government has also reached an agreement with every province and territory that will see funds earmarked for the key priority areas of in-home care for our seniors and mental health. This deal will see $157 million and $130 million dedicated to these issues, respectively, in addition to the general transfer of funds from the federal government to the province.
We have made major investments in our seniors by enhancing the CPP, increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income single seniors, and by rolling back the age of eligibility for Old Age Security from 67 to 65.
Our efforts are focused on making a difference in the lives of Canadians. We have seen record investments in our National Housing Strategy, and expect to reduce chronic homelessness in Canada by 50 per cent. We are also making unprecedented investments in child care, and will be adding 40,000 affordable child care spaces to Canadian communities.
We have demonstrated our steadfast commitment to human rights and gender equality. We have adopted legislation that prohibits discrimination against people because of their gender identity and have introduced a national strategy to end gender-based violence in Canada, which is supported by a fund of over $100 million.
I’m most proud of how so many of our national programs are making a difference locally. We have seen projects like the NSCC Pictou Campus’ new $15.2 million Trades Innovation Centre, which put over 100 people to work during the construction phase and leaves our community with an asset that will train a skilled workforce for generations. We have seen a 20-year commitment to the continued operation of the PEI Ferry. We have seen serious improvements to local Small Craft Harbours for our fishers, job-creating municipal infrastructure investments, and new or improved local community facilities, such as ball fields, legions, fire stations and community centres.
We have also helped our communities celebrate Canada 150 by supporting events such as the Tall Ships in Pictou, the New Glasgow Riverfront Jubilee or the many Canada Day celebrations across Central Nova.
We have come a long way in two years, but we still have work to do.
MLA Pictou West
Along with my campaign team, this past May, we knocked on more than 5,000 doors. The kindness and respect that was shown to us was truly humbling.
On the doorsteps I often heard about the thinly stretched health care system. Unfortunately, the Liberal Government continues to deny there is a health care crisis. We need doctors! Statics Canada indicates that as many as 90,000 Nova Scotians are without a doctor. Also, Nova Scotia’s Physicians Resource Plan indicates the province needs to hire more than 1,000 family doctors. I will continue to speak publicly about this injustice.
As I continue to travel throughout Pictou West, Pictou County and Nova Scotia I am honoured to speak to so many who continue to show perseverance through adversity. With NS having some of the highest taxes in the country, Nova Scotians continue to show their creativity and innovation so they can remain in the province they love so much. We need to find a way to lower taxes and put money back in the pockets of hard working Nova Scotians. I am proud of the many local businesses that continue to give back to our community and to the new businesses who are taking the risk to show Pictou County is a fabulous place to do business.
For the third time in four years, I introduced the Clean Air Act in the NS Legislature. Sadly, again, it never passed second reading. A very similar bill was introduced and passed by all parties in NB in 1999. I dare anyone to say we can have a healthy economy without a healthy environment. I will not give up on this bill. I will re-introduce it again in the NS Legislature. I will continue to hold the Department of Environment accountable to prove to Nova Scotians they can do better.
As Justice critic, I was thrilled this past fall session in the legislature to have a hands-on opportunity to work with Justice Minister Furey and his team in creating the first Cyberbullying legislation in Canada. There is still work to do, but it is a start to ensure and empower victims of cyberbullying to come forward and seek justice. Also, on the justice radar is the legalization of marijuana in July 2018. I am disappointed that Nova Scotia is the only province who has decided to sell marijuana and alcohol together. This decision goes against the Federal Task Force recommendations by Chief Medical Officers NOT to sell the two products together.
A highlight for me was when I was asked to speak at the Westville Remembrance Day Service. It is my hope that I can encourage more people to become involved with our local legions or visit with our veterans at the Northumberland Veterans Unit in Pictou.
I am proud of the PC team. Having seven new MLAs has certainly propelled us to have a strong opposition. And I am thrilled to no longer be the solo female. I am thrilled Pictou East MLA Tim Houston is running for leader. We are ready to form a diverse, modern, and dynamic party that will enable Nova Scotians to reach their full potential in the province they so dearly love.
Pictou Centre MLA
The year 2017 was special due to several significant milestones — the 75th anniversary of Dieppe, the 100th anniversary of Vimy and Passchendaele. Nova Scotians participated in large numbers on Remembrance Day. We are eternally grateful for the veterans who, at tremendous personal sacrifice, defended our freedom.
Entering 2018, our province will continue to have its share of challenges and concerns — health related issues, education, supporting the employment of people with disabilities, economy, declining population in rural settings, inadequate support for seniors, citizens living in poverty and support for our traditional industries such as agriculture, forestry, fishing and manufacturing.
We are blessed with wonderful and caring health care employees who continue to work diligently, often under very stressful situations, in our health system.
In late November, the Nova Scotia Auditor General warned that Nova Scotia needs urgent changes to health care. Our caucus members have talked to numerous front-line workers in the NS Health sector during the past year and have questioned the Liberal Government about their concerns. We have too many patients on wait lists and our province will need at least 500 new family doctors over the next decade.
The auditor stated that access to mental health care is inconsistent and a province-wide plan is needed; unfortunately, there is currently no such plan. He also stated that the government did not act on eight recommendations to address weaknesses in home care that were recommended nine years ago.
We are facing many serious problems in this province. Overdoses by opioid addicts continue to take too many lives in this province. There is a need for additional treatment programs. To compound the existing problem is the introduction of the lethal fentanyl-laced versions of opioids in our province.
Cannabis is expected to be legalized across the country by July. Will our police be provided the necessary resources and training to adequately address the concerns they have with regard to the legislation?
Hopefully, our economy will show improvements in 2018. Tourism in 2017 exceeded the 2016 numbers of 2.2 million visitors. Health-related occupations are expected to have the quickest rate of employment rate due to the demands of an aging population. Job growth in manufacturing is expected to increase in a variety of sectors. Computer and information system professionals should see a growth in potential jobs.
Access to quality internet service is essential for working and competing in a digital world. It’s a critical driver of economic growth because it gives Nova Scotia businesses the opportunity to compete and succeed anywhere in the world. Nova Scotia must attempt to have all areas of our province connected.
Traditional industries such as agriculture, forestry and fishing are expected to show growth.
It is beyond time to change Nova Scotians’ resistance to change and the comfort of the status quo. Attitudinal barriers keep us from changing long-standing structural problems with our rural economy. Government and existing businesses must provide the platform for numerous grass roots occupations to significantly change the current economic model.
The Progressive Conservative Party will be selecting a new leader in 2018. My colleague, Tim Houston, Pictou East, has all the qualities to make a dynamic leader. He will lead our party as we form government in the next provincial election.
MLA Pictou East
We are staring down significant challenges in this province, but we will be rendered useless if we don’t hold on to the optimism about our future.
And, I am optimistic. I choose to surround myself with those who choose hope over cynicism; those who believe that the challenges we are facing represent an opportunity for our best nature to reveal itself.
This is the message that shone through in what was the political highlight of 2017 for me: being returned to the Legislature with the highest majority in the province. Thank you for joining me, believing in me.
This past year in the legislature, I repeatedly challenged the government to fairly resolve the teacher contract disputes and aggressively pressured the government to back down from making dangerous changes to the Seniors’ Pharmacare Program. I also proudly introduced Cayley’s Law, a bill that would support struggling youth in need of help and was thrilled when we succeeded in getting the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Act passed into law.
There of course were the harder times; we fell short in the provincial election, but we can’t lose sight of the significant gains that were made. We welcomed seven additional MLAs to the PC Caucus, and thankfully increased the number of women around our table.
When Jamie Baillie became leader seven years ago, our party was in dire straits. We were fractured, disconnected and had lost the trust of Nova Scotians. After watching him work for the last number of years, I say without hesitation that Jamie deserved to lead this province, and Nova Scotians would have benefited greatly from his direction. We will miss him, but we also know he won’t be far.
This next year, 2018, promises to be another momentous year. I have put my name forward as a candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia. Yes, I have actually committed to another election in 2018!
My mother still finds it all so hard to believe. It’s true that I made no plans to run for public office at an early age but I disagree with those who say, “I don’t need to be doing this.” I feel very strongly that I should be doing this.
On the home front, our house is a little emptier with Paget away at university but Zachary, Calvin the rescue dog, Kitty the once-stray cat, and a small flock of chickens always ensure that things never get boring!
My passion isn’t politics — it’s people.
I want my children to grow up and be able to stay here should they choose; not so they can look after us in our senior years, not so they make us feel better about the choices we made to come back here but because it’s a place where their potential is realized.
A place where they can have the best of everything: good clean air, low taxes, great job prospects, great health care and so much more. This is not a journey with a final destination. We always need to strive to do better and government can be no different.
New Glasgow Mayor
Our hopes for our council as we enter a new year is to continue with engagement efforts in our community. We will be bringing forth the new draft Integrated Development Plan for our town so citizens can provide feedback on the proposed initiatives as discussed during the public community sessions held in 2017. We are committed to involving the citizens of our community in the goal setting and priorities for the Town.
We want residents, businesses and community groups to know they can approach us and that our citizens are welcome to attend the council and committee meetings. We encourage citizens to follow town projects and events on various social media platforms and the Town of New Glasgow website will be undergoing a redesign.
Over the past year, we were able to bring back the newsletters and it is our commitment to continue this effort. We will continue to ask ourselves — Are there other things we can do or improve upon? Are there efficiencies to be achieved in areas or new ways to do business on behalf of our citizens? Are there more or different programs, services or events people would like to see? We want an engaged and inclusive community.
In a changing economic climate we know we must be ‘open for business’ and investment ready while having lifestyle amenities that are appealing to employees so businesses can retain and recruit talent. We have a lot to be proud of in Pictou County, from our excellent educational facilities, our new modern Emergency Department and our multi-use Wellness Centre.
New Glasgow is a key strategic location within the Maritimes with a beautiful natural setting as a riverside town. We are the third largest town in Nova Scotia with the highest population density outside of Halifax. The Town has operated with a long standing philosophy of maintaining strong infrastructure for the delivery of municipal services … quality drinking water, good roads and pedestrian sidewalks to enable active transportation support community growth. We have dedicated volunteers, entrepreneurial leaders and many pursuing unique opportunities in the creative and knowledge economies. By working together with our community, New Glasgow can achieve great things.
We recognize the importance of having a thriving downtown core that is a strong business district and a hub of community gatherings and celebrations — all of these things are central to the growth and vibrancy of a community. The downtown has huge potential as we enhance the connections of our public assets such as the marina and farmers market to our shopping district, NSCAD Studio, Regional Library and Carmichael Stewart House Museum. The new businesses who have chosen New Glasgow as their location have brought new life and ideas to our community.
New Glasgow is pleased with the work of the Young Leaders Action Committee and we look forward to engaging with more young leaders as they are the future of our community.
We will continue our commitment to ensuring municipal services are delivered in a cost effective manner and look to efficiencies wherever possible.
2017 was quite a busy year for the Town of Trenton. We have accomplished many things for the first year in our mandate. We are proud to be partnering with the Hemlock Group and bringing Trenton Park to its full potential with the $2.6 million project. There are many exciting things that are in the works such as a state of the art playground, Splash Water Park, and a proposed dog park. We hope to break ground in the spring of 2018. We are extremely pleased with the support we have received thus far from other municipalities, businesses and individuals. This is a wonderful opportunity for all of Pictou County.
In 2017, the Trenton Fire Department and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #29 made Trenton a destination every Sunday afternoon when the whole county was engaged in the Chase the Ace phenomena. Over $200,000 was awarded to George Vickers in July and these two organizations were able to do major renovations and also help out in the Community. They are now into a second chase the ace fundraiser with proceeds now over $12,000. Hoping to see another huge outcome so more community groups and events can succeed.
We were very busy with infrastructure projects this year; the final phase of our Storm Sewer Separation project was complete this year with a total cost of $1.5 million. Main Street was repaved and some areas of older sidewalk replaced at a cost of $400,000. Finally, the culvert at the entrance to town that carries Smelt Brook across Main Street was replaced at a cost of $1.1 million.
As we enter into 2018, we want to continue with new initiatives. As always, a priority for Council is to entice new businesses to town; we are working on ways to make this become more of a possibility.
The Town of Stellarton had a strong 2017. It was a year with many highlights.
We hired a new engineer, Blaine Murray. The engineer is a critical lead staff position within our municipal unit. Blaine joined the Town of Stellarton staff team on July 3. In the short time since, he has proven his competences to Council, and his leadership skills to the Public Works crew.
The Town, along with the other two levels of government, have made significant investments in infrastructure. These investments will pay dividends for many years into the future. We laid many lengths of new water and sewer pipe and there was over $1,300,000 worth of new asphalt laid on Stellarton streets in 2017.
The NSCC, long a big part of our small town, invested over $15,000,000 into the campus in Stellarton. Their state of the art facility is now complete, serving students and the community.
Our town recognizes the importance of recreation, and as such made improvements to existing facilities. We invested, along with the province, $45,000 into our ball fields in Evansville. As a result, they were a beehive of activity this year, and will be for many years to come. The Town purchased over $25,000 in new equipment for our Valley Woods playground. The nature themed playground equipment will be installed this spring.
The Town also allocated $10,000 for a new dog park, adjacent to the William M. Sobey Soccer Complex fields. The new dog park has been a welcome addition for residents looking for a safe place to take their pets for exercise.
And 2018 is shaping up to be even better.
All indications point to the fact that the cannabis production facility located at 114 Acadia Avenue will become operational in 2018. That would mean a new, major employer has come to town.
Adding to the economic optimism in Stellarton is new activity at the Albion Business Park. Council reduced the price per square foot in 2017, which prompted interest in new developments. There are currently six letters of intent for lots in the business park. Serious developers are looking at attracting national chains to our park. Council is considering utilizing Provincial Bill 177, which allows municipalities to phase in new commercial assessment increases over 10 years. Essentially, it provides tax incentives to new businesses that locate in one of our two business districts, the Albion Business Park or the Downtown. Stellarton Town Council is serious about trying to create economic growth in our town.
We will launch a new website in January. With the launch we are including eight videos that feature different aspects of our town (recreation, restaurants, business, etc.). Tony DeCoste produced the videos, and council is very proud of the final product. The main purpose of the videos is to attract tourists and potential new residents. The videos do a great job of showcasing our town.
Even with all the positive prospects of 2018, the Town of Stellarton enters the New Year with a touch of melancholy, as 2018 will be the retirement year of town clerk, Joyce Eaton. She has been with the town for 48 years of dedicated service. Although we will never be able to replace Joyce, we do expect to find someone quite capable of leading Stellarton’s staff team.
Pictou, once again, celebrated its heritage, culture and friendly people with numerous celebrations and ongoing events this year.
The Tall Ships, a Canada 150 event, and the annual Pictou Lobster Carnival were highlights of the summer attracting large numbers of visitors. The services and attractions enjoyed a banner year and the town’s many volunteers continue to demonstrate what is best about our community.
Council continues to work on developing relationships and policies that promote investment in our downtown. The district is showing signs of growth and revitalization with the opening of new businesses and the expansion of existing enterprises. With the addition of Aphrodite Art and Fashion, The Art House and the Raven Gallery to our existing retail establishments and another expansion of Riva International, the town continues to provide high quality products and services to residents, visitors and international markets.
Our businesses are developing the opportunity for destination shopping in Pictou. It was wonderful to congratulate Eva Sutherland, owner of Ahead of Hair and Seaside Treasure Trove, on being named the recipient of the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce 2017 Women in Business Award.
Council has developed a long-term plan that will focus on commercial expansion and population growth for the next five years. The capital spending plan that includes completion of a new water treatment system and significant upgrades to water and transportation infrastructure is already producing visible results. The new water treatment plant is taking shape on Wellington Street while watermains along Haliburton Road have been replaced to ensure more than adequate water volumes and pressures in those areas. The much needed resurfacing of sections of the main arterial roads has also been completed.
In October, three lots of land at the roundabout were transferred to the Town by the Province of Nova Scotia. A request for proposals has produced numerous offers to purchase the lots for immediate development. We expect that work on a project or two could begin as early as spring, leading to increased services for both residents and visitors while providing much needed revenue for the Town.
Following a school review by the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, the configuration of public education in the town has undergone significant changes. Most notably, the institution of Pictou Academy has been moved to the former Dr. Thomas McCulloch School with the ‘care and control’ of the former PA building transferred to the town. We will maintain the building until a plan for future use can be determined. Consultation with community stakeholders will begin early in 2018.
A number of staff changes occurred in 2017. Town accountant Eldon MacDonald retired and has been replaced by Corey Smith. Debbie Smith is the new accounts payable and billings clerk and Kyle Slaunwhite returned to the town to assume project management responsibilities. All three are PA graduates and we are fortunate to have them as part of the administrative group.
In September, CAO Scott Conrod accepted the position as the CAO of Kings County after 10 years with Pictou. Dan Troke will assume the role of CAO this month.
The Town of Pictou, council and staff are looking forward to working with its citizens, businesses and municipal partners to ensure continuous growth and prosperity in 2018. We invite residents to contact us with your ideas and suggestions as to how we can continue to improve our town and serve our residents.
Mayor Roger MacKay
Town of Westville
This has been an exciting and busy year for the Town of Westville! In January we held our annual New Year’s Levee with a very large turn out and lots of food and entertainment, and of course our famous and delicious “Moose Milk” was served!
In February, Westville held its 1st Westville Winter Jamboree. It was a huge success with events that included a pancake breakfast, sleigh rides, hot dogs and hot chocolate at Acadia Park, skating, snow shoeing, curling, and a movie night. We are looking forward to celebrating again in 2018.
Our Volunteer Appreciation night was a great evening. Alfie and Mary Lou White were honored for their great work and community spirit. Their dedication to the youth of our community is an example for all.
Our annual Canada Day celebration was amazing this year with all the added festivities for the Canada 150 event. Events included the Mayors Ice Cream Social, Kidsfest, Concerts in the Park, Show and Shine and of course the spectacular fireworks display.
We are very excited about our ongoing partnership and work with the other municipal units to form a Regional Enterprise Network (REN) in Pictou County.
We are still moving forward with the day-to-day operations of the Town and this year we have added a new backhoe, 1 ton and ½ ton trucks, as well as a new police vehicle to our fleet.
The highlight of our year was the construction and commissioning of a new Splash Pad in Acadia Park. The first of its kind in the area, it was celebrated and used by families from all over the county right up until the water was turned off in October. It will be so exciting to see the crowds again next summer spending the day outside at Acadia Park.
Pictou County joined together to celebrate the Trans Canada Trail which just happened to coincide with the grand opening of our Splash Pad on August 26. We had a great crowd at Acadia Park. We estimated that we had between 250-300 people come to Acadia Park to celebrate both events.
September was a busy time with all the kids getting back to school and the start-up of our Police Youth Corps Program. Our program in both Westville and Stellarton is a great way to engage our youth and give them the opportunity to experience the policing career.
October saw a big celebration with the Pictou Landing First Nation community. As part of the Canada 150 Celebrations and Mi’kmaq History month, the month was filled with celebrations including Elders Teas (held both in Westville, and Pictou Landing), school visits between Walter Duggan and Pictou Landing School, and finished the month off with a Family Fun Day that hosted dancers, drummers, hayrides, crafts, and great food. We are very excited to build on this relationship and continue to work with Pictou Landing First Nations.
We rounded out our year with the Social Committee’s Christmas concert on December 6 which was a great success raising over $740 for the Pictou County Fuel Fund. This is a clear declaration of the generosity of the people of Westville.
Warden, County of Pictou
Our Municipal Council met in a strategic priority planning session for eight hours on December 15 and 16. Out of that session came five priority goals for 2018. Other priorities were either ones to work together on with all Pictou County municipalities or ones that will make the list as some of the first five are completed.
Number 1 on the list is to improve communication service to our residents in terms of broadband (high speed internet and cell service). The planning and budgeting of this initiative will start immediately under the leadership of our Ad Hoc Communications Committee. Council foresees this being a multi-year project.
A second goal also involves communication. We want to better communicate with our residents so they better know and understand what we are doing and they can more easily inform us of their concerns and issues. One approach is our newly revamped web site and a social media presence. We will be looking seriously at having at least a part time staff position devoted to communications. Council is also exploring the televising of all council and committee meetings that can be live streamed, all aimed at better informing the people who are paying the bills.
A third priority is a complete revamp of our recreational strategy for our rural communities. Both our physical and mental health, not to mention simply enjoying country life are closely related to recreational opportunities close to where we live. Our demographics are changing, with many of us slowing down a bit, and recreation takes on a different look at all age levels. Our Ad Hoc Recreation Committee will be looking at all these factors over the winter months and council will decide what is doable at budget time.
Tied to recreation and what directions are decided on there, Council has prioritized reviewing our grants policies, including Council Grants, Municipal Services Grants, and Recreation Grants. The aim will be to decide if sufficient dollars are available and if they are evenly available in all geographic areas and between various sectors of activity. Council may consider a separate budget line to look at grants that are a shared responsibility with neighbouring municipalities.
Our other priority that made the “Top 5” was to have a series of bilateral meetings with the other five municipalities in Pictou County, one council at a time. An invitation will go out and an agenda drawn up of issues or projects that the rural county may have in common with our urban neighbours. The hope is that by getting to know the councillors from the towns better, we will find some cost saving opportunities and also get to know each other better so that if we hit a rough spot we may be better prepared to solve it. We can be good neighbours even though we prefer to live in our own house.
Some of the joint efforts that did not make the “Top 5” as we need agreement of others to move ahead include the RENS for economic development, Viola’s Place to provide shelter and more for homeless adults, and various shared recreational opportunities.
Our New Year’s resolution is to keep our residents well informed on how we are proceeding with these priorities.