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2017 Year in Review: April, May and June in Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby counties

Sally Hawkins as Maud Lewis.
Sally Hawkins as Maud Lewis. - © Duncan de Young

APRIL 2017

Expansion plan for Digby port deemed necessary for fishery, expected to benefit tourism

A new expansion plan for the port of Digby involved increasing the port size and the number of docks. Plans for expanding the current harbour had been announced and a new 10-year business plan was to follow soon. “There’s been a lot of excitement around our plans for the development of this port,” said Digby harbour CEO and manager Edwin Chisholm. More dock space was needed, he said, to accommodate a growing number of vessels. That newer boats were wider also made it necessary to have more space, he said. Dredging was needed too, officials said. Besides the fishing industry, the initiative was expected to benefit tourism.

 

Weymouth was included in pilot project for trails but Yarmouth County was not

Weymouth was one of nine communities being considered for a new pilot project that would allow off-highway vehicles access to certain highway stretches linking trails together. “This is something we’ve been working towards for a very long time,” said Kevin Lombard, president of the Sou’west Nova ATV Association, responding to the announcement from Nova Scotia Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan. “This news will make Digby County extremely happy.” The Yarmouth area, however, was left out of the project. Ron Day, chairman of the Yarmouth County Trail Development Association, said he was “very disappointed” when he learned Yarmouth was not included. Meanwhile as of the end of the year the pilot project in Digby had not yet started. Details were still being worked out.

 

 

Fran Crowell and her husband Byron Boudreau bought Toots in 1984. CARLA ALLEN PHOTO</p>
Fran Crowell and her husband Byron Boudreau bought Toots in 1984. CARLA ALLEN PHOTO</p>

 

 

 

Iconic Yarmouth store Toots was changing hands

A popular store in downtown Yarmouth had been sold. Toots had been operated by Fran Crowell and her husband, Byron Boudreau, for 33 years, but they were handing the reins of the iconic Main Street business to Genelle and Stephen Howatt, who said they planned to keep running the store as it was, with no changes planned.

Established in 1942 by Harold (Toots) Hatfield and his wife, Eileen, Toots became known for its large selection of candies, magazines and tobacco products.

 

Pubnico-area residents were wondering about ambulance service

Argyle-Barrington MLA Chris d’Entremont said he wanted Nova Scotia’s health minister to respond to concerns that had been raised about the ambulance service in Pubnico. Recent word that the status of the service there had changed had residents wondering about potentially longer emergency response times. D’Entremont said he had written to the minister and was planning to raise the matter again in the legislature. Despite the concerns, an official with Emergency Health Services said wait times in Pubnico were not an issue.

 

Province, FANE met to discuss electoral boundaries

Representatives of the province and Nova Scotia’s Acadian federation (FANE) met to discuss the electoral boundary situation, and while Acadian Affairs Minister Michel Samson said the session was positive, he wouldn’t elaborate. A few days prior to meeting with the minister, the federation had said it was prepared to go to court in an effort to restore the Acadian ridings that were abolished in 2012 by the NDP government led by Darrell Dexter. In January 2017, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal had ruled that the process the Dexter government had used to do away with the minority ridings was unconstitutional.

 

Town of Shelburne was looking to gain from growth after encouraging census figures

New stationery and letterhead were coming back from the printers boasting of Shelburne being the fastest-growing community in southwest Nova Scotia. While most towns in Nova Scotia had seen their population decrease, Shelburne had gained some people, according to the 2016 census. From 2011 to 2016, Shelburne had gained 57 residents (from 1,686 to 1,743 people), according to the census figures. A survey conducted by the town had found jobs were the main reason newcomers to Shelburne had moved there.

 

Nova Scotia Power was planning to build new Tusket hydro dam

A major project to be carried out by Nova Scotia Power in Yarmouth County over the next two years would involve the construction of a new Tusket dam and the demolition of an existing one. The work was slated to begin in July. Approvals were required from the province’s Utility and Review Board, as well as from the environment and fisheries departments. The plan was to build the new dam structure in front of the existing one, with the latter eventually demolished. The project was expected to cost between $10 million and $15 million. There was talk as well of perhaps replacing the bridge next to the dam.

 

 

It was announced April 23 in Shelburne that the tender for the construction of a new Shelburne Collaborative Health Centre would be issued April 24.
It was announced April 23 in Shelburne that the tender for the construction of a new Shelburne Collaborative Health Centre would be issued April 24.

 

 

 

Shelburne clinic was moving forward, with construction expected to start in June

Construction of a new health-care clinic in Shelburne was expected to start in June, as Shelburne County also welcomed two new doctors and two new nurses.

During an announcement at Shelburne’s Osprey Arts Centre on April 23, Premier Stephen McNeil said the tender for construction of the clinic would be issued the next day.

The new clinic would be made up of family physicians, nurse practitioners, a family practice nurse and support staff. The clinic would have four doctors, including two new ones who were expected to arrive in Shelburne soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

<p>Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins in a scene from “Maudie,” a feature film about renowned Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis shot in Newfoundland last year.</p>
<p>Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins in a scene from “Maudie,” a feature film about renowned Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis shot in Newfoundland last year.</p>

 

 

 

 

Maud Lewis movie opened in Yarmouth, birthplace of famous folk artist

The film Maudie became a box-office sensation in the spring of 2017, although there was some controversy – initially at least – over how soon the movie about famous folk artist Maud Lewis would come to Yarmouth. At first, Mongrel Media, the film’s independent distributor, had released a list of Nova Scotia locations where the movie would be shown that didn’t include Yarmouth, Lewis’s birthplace.

On social media, many questioned why some places were chosen to show the film ahead of Yarmouth. In the end, Maudie opened in Yarmouth April 21 and became a long-running hit.

In a May interview with the Tri-County Vanguard, Maudie director Aisling Walsh said about the film: "It's really what you hope for and more."

 

 

 

 

['Yarmouth resident Fraser Mooney Jr., with some of the research he’s collected about Jerome throughout the decades, wrote a book about the mystery man in 2008 and is still searching for answers about his life.']
['Yarmouth resident Fraser Mooney Jr., with some of the research he’s collected about Jerome throughout the decades, wrote a book about the mystery man in 2008 and is still searching for answers about his life.']

 

 

 

Jerome answers: Still searching for answers

No one knew what to make of the stranger discovered on a beach in Sandy Cove, Digby County, in September 1863. Both of his legs were amputated. He didn’t speak, except to eventually incoherently mumble something that people thought sounded like Jerome.

But was that his name? Where did he come from? How did he get here? What had happened to him?

In the 154 years since, the questions have never, with certainty, been answered – but not for lack of trying by those passionate, and curious, about unlocking the Jerome mystery.

Among them is Yarmouth resident Fraser Mooney Jr., who in 2008 published a book through Nimbus Publishing titled Jerome, Solving the Mystery of Nova Scotia’s Silent Castaway. In 2017 he said there were still answers he was trying to find.

 

 

 

There was a major blaze the evening of April 20 at this unoccupied house located at in the south end of Yarmouth at the intersection of Argyle/William/Forbes streets.
There was a major blaze the evening of April 20 at this unoccupied house located at in the south end of Yarmouth at the intersection of Argyle/William/Forbes streets.

 

 

 

MAJOR BLAZE IN YARMOUTH

With less than two feet separating an inferno from an adjacent home, Yarmouth’s fire chief said some “amazing” firefighting helped save that house, and other nearby structures, at the scene of a major blaze in Yarmouth on April 20. The fire involved an unoccupied building at the corner of Argyle/William/Forbes Streets. But Yarmouth Fire Department Chief John Verrall also said everything didn’t completely go their way at the fire scene at the intersection of Argyle/William/Forbes streets where an unoccupied home was destroyed on April 20. 

The spectacular fire drew a huge crowd, Verrall said, and this hampered and threatened firefighting efforts early on.

“Things could have gone better,” he said at the scene. “When we arrived on the scene we couldn’t get to a lot of the hydrants because of all the cars and the people watching. One guy hooked one of our main water supply lines with his car and took it away, we had to replace that.” All of this, Chief Verrall said, cost firefighters time in trying to get at the fire, given the amount of parked vehicles and others driving to the scene.

 

 

 

MAY 2017

Additional teaching positions were welcomed by school board and NSTU

The Tri-County Regional School Board said an additional 16 NSTU teaching positions for the 2017-2018 school year was good news. To be more precise, it was 16.21 full-time equivalent NSTU positions. The board was looking at an overall projected enrolment decline of 161 students. Yet 18 of the board’s 22 schools would see no decrease in their number of teachers. The tri-county school with the biggest projected enrolment drop was Maple Grove Education Centre, with an anticipated 48 fewer students in 2017-18. The one with the biggest projected influx was Digby Elementary (51 more students) as a result of the closure of the Barton school.

 

Advance bookings on Cat ferry were up as new sailing season drew closer

With The Cat ferry getting ready to start its second sailing season, Bay Ferries said advance bookings were looking good. The company wasn’t going to predict how many passengers it might carry on the Yarmouth-Portland run in 2017, but they found the number of bookings so far encouraging. Bay Ferries president and CEO Mark MacDonald said his company, along with other tourism partners, had been aggressively marketing the service and the province to prospective visitors. For 2017, the ferry’s season was scheduled to go from May 31 to Oct. 15.

 

Bird strike grounded Aurora for days

An Aurora aircraft from 14 Wing Greenwood was heading back to Greenwood in early May, after repairs stemming from a bird strike that had occurred at the Yarmouth International Airport days earlier. The aircraft and its six-person crew landed without incident after the bird strike on the evening of April 26. However, the plane had to have a propeller replaced and it was not cleared to fly until all the checks and balances were carried out to ensure there was no other lingering damage from the incident.

 

‘Ripping my heart out,’ Shelburne resident forced to leave

Wednesday, May 3, was the day. It would be the last day Simon O’Rourke could hug his three kids, get them ready for school, tuck them into bed. He’d kiss his wife, Mandy Smith, goodbye for a final time as he boarded a plane, destined for his native England. It's not a trip he wanted to take. He was ordered to leave his Shelburne home by the Canadian Border Service Agency. O’Rourke moved to Canada from the United Kingdom after marrying Smith in 2008. He was not a permanent resident but thought because he was married, he was able to stay in the country with his wife and children. He was wrong. At year’s end efforts were still underway to get him back to Shelburne.

 

Health-care report card highlighted issues with medical services in Digby area

Mismanaged health care and lack of support for new doctors were among the top issues raised during the public release of a report card sponsored by the Digby and Area Health Coalition. The two graduate students who prepared the report interviewed 48 people and identified a number of major themes regarding health care in the Digby area, including a lack of family doctors, lack of quality care, lack of communication from the Nova Scotia Health Authority and an inordinate amount of travel required to get to medical services.

 

As SARMU turned 40, special show was held in addition to regular annual event

A popular Yarmouth County event showcasing young musical talent reached another milestone in 2017, as SARMU was held for the 40th year. To mark the occasion, in addition to the regular annual show, which was held May 14-16, a special 40th-anniversary show was held a few days later. Organizers dedicated the 2017 event to the late Joanne Surette-Muise, a local resident who died in late 2016 and who had been involved in SARMU in its earlier years. SARMU originated at the former Ste-Anne-du-Ruisseau (SAR) high school in the late 1970s. Organizers kept the name even after that school was closed in 2001.

 

 

New Guild Hall while it was under construction in Shelburne.
New Guild Hall while it was under construction in Shelburne.

 

Celebration took place in Shelburne as new Guild Hall was opened

 

A grand opening was held for the new Guild Hall in Shelburne. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was part of a weekend that featured music, dance and more.

Julie Ferguson, special projects co-ordinator with the Town of Shelburne, said she hoped the launch would inspire the community by showcasing some of the ways the space could be used.

The original Guild Hall had been built in 1994 for use in The Scarlet Letter movie and, over the years, the facility had become a big part of the community. More recently, it had been closed after falling into disrepair and being deemed unsafe.

 

 

 

 

Shag Harbour UFO festival was still flying, thanks to ‘significant donation’

An anonymous donor had saved Shag Harbour’s UFO festival. The group that runs the festival had requested a $20,000 Canada 150 grant, but the request was denied. The Shag Harbour UFO Incident Society had been planning a big event to mark the incident’s 50th anniversary. Fortunately for them, someone involved in the study of UFOs and related phenomena (who wished to remain anonymous) had heard that the society’s grant application had been denied and had offered to make what a spokesman for the society described as a “significant donation.” The festival was scheduled for early fall.

 

Investigation of alleged lobster theft and fraud operation ‘complex and sophisticated’

Three Shelburne County men were facing charges in what the RCMP alleged to be a lobster theft and fraud operation totalling around $3 million. Supt. Martin Marin of the RCMP described the investigation as “complex and sophisticated.” Besides the Mounties, it involved other agencies and departments, including DFO, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada Revenue Agency and the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Said Supt. Marin, “The outcome of this investigation is significant as those charged had substantial reach and influence on the local, national and international seafood market.”

 

 

Zach Churchill with family, friends and campaign workers thanks voters after the election.
Zach Churchill with family, friends and campaign workers thanks voters after the election.

 

Two Liberal candidates, two PCs elected in tri-counties in provincial election

 

Three of four incumbents in the tri-county region were returned to office in the provincial election held May 30: Liberal Zach Churchill in Yarmouth, Progressive Conservative Chris d’Entremont in Argyle-Barrington and Liberal Gordon Wilson in Clare-Digby.

In the riding of Queens-Shelburne – where Sterling Belliveau, the NDP incumbent, had not re-offered – PC candidate Kim Masland was elected.

Provincially, the Liberals under Stephen McNeil won another majority, albeit tighter than the previous one in 2013. This time the Liberals won 27 seats, while the PCs had 17 and the NDP seven.

 

 

 

 

 

Concerns raised over environmental racism

A Shelburne resident and black advocate, Louise Delisle, a member of the South End Environmental Injustice Society (SEED) – a group which believes a dump that operated in the south end of Shelburne caused devastating health effects in the black population – raised concerns publically over the issue of environmental racism. From 1949 until 1990, industrial, residential and - at times - medical waste for eastern Shelburne County was brought to the dump. It was eventually used as a transfer station until it was shut down for good in December 2016.

The term "environmental racism," coined by groups like SEED, is used to describe the disproportionate location of toxic facilities to racial minority communities. The south end of Shelburne was a predominately black and poor working community located within the town, said Delisle, and fits the profile perfectly.

 

5 OTHER THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN MAY

1. It was announced that one of southwestern Nova Scotia’s best-known fiddle players, Gary Greene, would be inducted into Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame.

2. One of the region’s best-known seafood companies planned to add a new scallop-fishing vessel to its fleet. Comeau’s Sea Foods hoped to launch the new frozen-at-sea (FAS) vessel in late 2019.

3. Avoiding the construction happening on Yarmouth’s Main Street may be good for motorists, but it’s wasn’t working out so well for businesses in the area who said their traffic was down.

4. A “Flavours of Syria” public supper event at Conway Workshop community kitchen. The event featured Syrian chef and Digby resident Rima Kenaan, with help from her husband Shekrallah and their six children, and was hosted by Judy Green at the Conway Workshop’s community kitchen.

5. Former area residents, now living in Fort McMurray, reflected on the one-year anniversary of severe wildfires.

 

JUNE 2017:

 

 

Many Barton Consolidated students, including Layla Knevel, 10 and Emma Chisholm, 11, attended CeleBarton June 3 to turn a bittersweet occasion into a fun day full of lasting memories.
Many Barton Consolidated students, including Layla Knevel, 10 and Emma Chisholm, 11, attended CeleBarton June 3 to turn a bittersweet occasion into a fun day full of lasting memories.

 

 

 

 

‘CeleBarton’ event held at Barton school, chance to celebrate ‘lasting memories’

As the community prepared to say goodbye to Barton Consolidated School, people had a chance to share feelings about the closure at the local home-and-school association’s CeleBarton event. This had been held annually as a fundraiser for the association, but the students looked forward to it too, which is why it was held again in 2017, even though the school was to be closed for good at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

Local playwright Hal Theriault, a Barton alumnus, was among those attending the event. “

This was a great school and we are sad to see it go,” he said, “but we’ve built lasting memories here and that’s what today is all about.”

 

 

 

Rosalind Michie became judge during ceremony in Digby courthouse

A robing ceremony was held for Digby-raised Rosalind Michie, who had been appointed a provincial and family court judge. The ceremony was held at the Digby courthouse, where fellow judges, family and friends were on hand to see Michie take her oath and put on the judge’s robe for the first time. Michie thanked her family and said she was sorry to have to leave Digby for Amherst. “This building,” she said, referring to the courthouse in Digby, “is like putting on a comfy old sweater. It tears my heart out to leave this place, but I know it will be worth it.”

 

 

Mayor Karen Mattatall, MP Bernadette Jordan, Anne Miller Canadian Coast Guard and Keith Laidlaw Canadian Coast Guard pose on the government wharf on June 15 where the Farley Mowat currently is berthed.
Mayor Karen Mattatall, MP Bernadette Jordan, Anne Miller Canadian Coast Guard and Keith Laidlaw Canadian Coast Guard pose on the government wharf on June 15 where the Farley Mowat currently is berthed.

 

 

 

Coast guard stepped in to have vessel Farley Mowat removed

The MV Farley Mowat, which had been a thorn in Shelburne’s side since it was abandoned there in 2014, would be leaving.

Bernadette Jordan, MP for South Shore-St. Margaret's, announced the news to a delighted crowd that the government had ordered the removal of the derelict vessel.

The Canadian Coast Guard had given the ship’s owner until June 12 to develop a plan to address the threat of pollution the ship posed at the Shelburne dock.

When the deadline passed with no plan offered, the coast guard said it would issue a contract for the boat’s removal and disposal.

 

 

 

 

Yarmouth’s Zach Churchill was named Nova Scotia’s new education minister

Nova Scotia’s new minister of education and early childhood development said his priorities included improving classroom conditions and rebuilding the province’s relationship with teachers. Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill – who had been re-elected in the May 30 election – officially assumed his new portfolio during a ceremony that saw many cabinet changes. Churchill took over education from Karen Casey, who was now finance minister and deputy premier. The past year had been a tough one for education, given the labour situation with the province’s teachers, who, in the end, had a contract imposed on them.

 

Workers walked off job at Lockeport plant over health concerns

About 60 people walked out of their jobs at Clearwater’s Pierce Fisheries plant in Lockeport, citing unsafe working conditions. Debbie MacKenzie, who had worked at the plant 13 years, said she had seen people experience health and respiratory issues and said it could be due to an improper ventilation system in a recently opened new part of the plant. A spokesperson for Clearwater said they were working on the situation, both in the short and longer term. “The health and safety of our employees is our utmost concern,” said Christine Penney, vice-president of public affairs with Clearwater.

 

 

Main Street re-opened after being closed for months for sewer separation work and the installation of bump-outs. TINA COMEAU
Main Street re-opened after being closed for months for sewer separation work and the installation of bump-outs. TINA COMEAU

 

Section of Yarmouth’s Main Street was reopened to traffic as infrastructure work continued

 

Judging by those who were there to see it, the re-opening of a section of Main Street in Yarmouth was perhaps one of the most anticipated street openings in quite some time. The section had been closed for almost three months as part of a project that involved replacing aging sewer and storm water infrastructure.

The work was now making its way along Cliff Street, where street disruptions would occur in stages over the next few months. The most talked-about aspect of the work, though, had been the installation of bump-outs.

Critics said the bump-outs made things too tight for traffic. (A few days after Main Street reopened, a motorcyclist was injured after hitting a bump-out near the intersection of Main and John streets.)

 

 

 

 

Former Digby mayor Richard ‘Dick’ Levy shakes hands with current Digby mayor Ben Cleveland who presented Levy the award.
Former Digby mayor Richard ‘Dick’ Levy shakes hands with current Digby mayor Ben Cleveland who presented Levy the award.

 

 

 

Former Digby mayor Richard Levy was honoured with Joe Casey award

The Town of Digby presented Richard ‘Dick’ Levy with the Joe Casey Humanitarian Award in recognition of his dedication to the town and his involvement in the local community.

Levy had served as Digby mayor from 1988 to 1991 and was involved in various events and organizations, including Scallop Days.

A Digby native who had lived away but had returned to his hometown to retire, Levy thanked his family for their support and spoke fondly of the late Joe Casey.

“I feel very honoured to accept an award named for Joe Casey, who I knew and respected very well.”

 

 

 

$1-million payout announced for Shelburne hospital privacy breach

A class-action lawsuit had set a precedent in Canada against snooping into medical files. “If you breach (a person’s privacy), you are going to pay for it,” said Raymond Wagner, a lawyer who represented 681 eligible class members involved in one of the biggest privacy breaches in Canada. The Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax ruled that Roseway Hospital in Shelburne had 40 days to pay $1 million in total. Each client/patient in the class action would receive a cheque for $1,000. In 2012, the area’s health authority had sent letters to 707 people saying their privacy had been breached after it was discovered an admissions clerk had inappropriately accessed hundreds of patient files.

 

New era officially began for HOPE

Six months after flooding forced them out of their old location and into a temporary one, HOPE officially opened its new building in Yarmouth’s south end. The interior of the new facility was pretty much finished. Outside, there was still some landscaping and groundwork to do. Linda Vickery, the HOPE co-ordinator, said everyone was happy with the new building. “You want to come to work because the place is bright, it’s clean, it’s cheery,” she said. “I guess your whole attitude changes because you’re in a better environment.” Plans for the new facility had been announced in early 2016, the project receiving an initial big boost thanks to local residents Doug and Elaine Thistle, who donated $200,000 for it.

 

 

Murray Ross stands in front of his Maud Lewis replica house in Digby Neck. FILE PHOTO
Murray Ross stands in front of his Maud Lewis replica house in Digby Neck. FILE PHOTO

 

Maud replica house draws a crowd

 

Murray Ross never imagined he’d learn so many stories about Maud Lewis from people visiting his replica house in Digby Neck.

Ross began building his replica of the Maud Lewis house in 1998 and finished one year later. He built it for himself and at first didn’t consider it might become an attraction for locals and tourists alike.

He said it was a nice surprise when it did, as interest in Maud Lewis grew with the release of the movie Maudie.

Ross met Maud as he biked past her house at the age of 10. She invited him inside and he was instantly hit with the smell of turpentine.

“It was something I wasn’t used to smelling. I’m glad she invited me in, because my 10-year-old brain really wanted to see inside,” he said.

 

READ OUR FULL 2017 YEAR OF REVIIEWS:

JANUARY, FEBRUARY AND MARCH

APRIL, MAY AND JUNE

JULY, AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER. NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER

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